Notable and quotable 23

I opened the WordPress app on my phone after a bit of a hiatus and found three top quality posts that I wanted to share. I hope you will appreciate them as much as I did.

Nimue Brown writes on Druidry’s attitude to pain, with reference to Celtic mythology:

What the mythology tells us about Gods, punishment, suffering and learning is that it’s all very personal. It is the deals you personally made that you will be held to. It’s breaking your personal taboos that will land you in trouble. There’s no bigger system. Pain is personal too, and it may well be the price tag for a glorious, memorable life.

It isn’t noble to suffer. It doesn’t reliably make us better people. A bit of suffering can be good for improving empathy and compassion for others who suffer, but there are no guarantees. Pain can be a teacher, but only if you choose to accept it as a teacher and only if you have enough resources to be able to work with it on those terms.

Nimue Brown, Druidry and Pain

As both Maslow and the Buddha pointed out, you can focus on creativity and spirituality when your other physical needs are satisfied. Physical needs in my book would include not being in huge amounts of pain.

I suppose mental pain (such as grief) can teach us whether our spiritual framework will sustain us through difficult periods — but I’d argue that one exercises those mental muscles whilst not in pain, and then uses them for support during the lean, dry, difficult periods.

The River Crow writes on how to deal with with difficult ancestors at Samhain:

I expect I’m not the only LGBTQ+ person within Paganism who had a difficult relationship with their family and find ancestor veneration a challenge. And no, just because someone who was a pretty awful person in life is now dead, it doesn’t absolve them or make them any less awful.

So what do I do?

The River Crow, Dealing with Difficult Ancestors

I think it is perfectly reasonable to exclude problematic forebears from your ancestor altar.

The Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids also talks about three types of ancestors (blood family, spirit ancestors, and ancestors of place), so I think it’s pretty widespread in Druidry. Spirit ancestors being the ones you feel connected to as kindred spirits.

There’s been some great ritual work done over the last few years with the Transgender Rite of Ancestor Elevation, where LGBTQIA people get together to honour the transgender dead, and elevate them to the status of ancestors (hence the name of the ritual).

My beloved dead altar includes LGBTQIA ancestors. We can definitely count LGBTQIA people of the past as spiritual ancestors.

My take on the question of what would my immediate ancestors think of their photos being on a Wiccan altar is, they presumably have a different perspective where they are now. I hope so! They were not around to react to my nascent bisexuality so there’s no immediate reason to exclude them from my altar.

Then I finally got around to read Enfys Book’s wonderful review of How to Understand Your Gender by Alex Iantaffi and Meg-John Barker. It certainly sounds like a book that everyone should read, regardless of whether you’re nonbinary, transgender, or cisgender.

I expected this book to be aimed solely at people who are questioning their gender identity, based on the title. Instead, as I was reading, I kept thinking, “I want literally everybody to read this.” Of course, I want my trans, nonbinary, and questioning friends to read this book, but I also want my parents to read this book. I want my partner to read this book. I want every cis straight person in the world to read this book. This book is the most incredible resource to help guide people through the concept of gender and gender identity, and get them to think about what their gender means to them, even if they’re totally comfortable in their gender identity. I rather wish the title were a little different, because unfortunately I think the likelihood of my cis/hetero relatives picking this up is pretty low. (Maybe the authors could create a subterfuge release of the book with a cover that says 101 Great Touchdowns in Football or something.)

Enfys Book, “How to Understand Your Gender” should be required reading for all humans

It was a real pleasure using Enfys’ new name in this post.

8 thoughts on “Notable and quotable 23

  1. Thank you for including me in this, and for sharing those other excellent articles as well! I had not heard of the Transgender Rite of Ancestor Elevation but having followed the link and read more about it, I will take part in it this year.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That sounds a little like what LDS do, baptising their ancestors into the church. I tend to consider my ancestors to be the entire tree of life, all the way back to the first common proto-cellular ancestor of all life 4 billion or so years ago. So if a few of my more recent ancestors were dicks, what do I care? And if I hate someone in my family for no reason I can rationalise, I feel less of a dick myself.

    I’m quite pragmatic about pain. It’s nature’s way of telling us that something is threatening our very existence, best pay attention and find a way to fix it. I’ve not ever found that ignoring it helps. Does it make you stronger? I don’t know. You do develop strategies to deal with it, and it can motivate you to take better care of yourself. But I wonder how much of my hard won toughness is actually just thick scar tissue?

    Here is one of our ancestors(or distant cousins) with some lessons to show about sheer hardiness..

    I like to imagine him as a kind of one eyed seer for the clan, when he was to decrepit to do much else of anything. But who can ever really know him after all this time?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes the guy in Shanidar Cave must’ve been an amazing person, but his story also shows that the Neanderthals cared for the disabled people among them.

      And yes, ancestors are the entire tree of life, but when focusing on recent ancestors, these questions arise.

      Regarding pain: pragmatism seems a very good approach to it, and I think that’s the opposite of trying to read it as some sort of spiritual lesson or ordeal, as some people try to do.

      Regarding ancestors with a different perspective— I’m not trying to retrospectively “baptise” them into Paganism, I’m just saying that they have probably got over the limited perspective they had on the subject in life.


      • No worries, that’s not really really what I meant. It just seemed like an interesting comparison, that’s all. There’s definitely less baggage when dealing with ancestors that you have no living memory of, and there are certainly vastly more of them, and anyway, why should one matter any more than any other?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Less baggage, very true!

        The ones I knew personally definitely matter to me in the sense of feeling the loss of them. With the ones I never knew, any sense of loss is more abstract.


Comments are closed.