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“Twenty seconds of insane courage”

Back in 2015 I wrote this piece on exploring the concept of courage and bravery in a culture of fear.  It was strange reading it as I was becoming a different person back then.  I’ve grown since and become a lot more sure of myself.

I had taken the title quote so inspirational that it has actually become part of my being.  Back in that year, I was so sick of being scared that I leapt at every chance I was presented with, sometimes the courage paid off, other times…. I hurt people.  

Courage alone is of no use unless it is reflexive to do something in that moment.  Where there and then you can make a difference.  Courage sprung from lying to yourself and impatience is stupid; it ends up with other people being hurt and you being a dick! 

However, courage born from something to make a difference or to put right a situation where inaction and silence will lead to something worse is worth those twenty seconds of crazy! 

Very recently, I dared to ask a complete stranger out for a date. 

I was looking at a food menu through the glass window of a sandwich shop when, in my peripheral vision, a customer walked in then a few moments later stuck her head out of the door telling me to “Come in, it’s lovely!” Invitation by a cute blonde wearing hipster glasses? How could I resist? So I went in and placed my order.  Blonde Hipster Girl turned around and flashed me a smile (she was very cute) and I started conversation by asking if this was her regular place to go.  She told me she used to come here all the time until she got fat.  She wasn’t fat at all, curvy, sure- I love curves on a woman! And so I laughed along with her, thanked her for her advice, collected my order (hers was taking longer to prepare) and went for the bus to get me to work.  It wasn’t until I reached the bus stop and was halfway through eating my sandwich I thought to myself: “You idiot! You should have said ‘Fat? No way, you’re as cute as hell and I want to ask you out for dinner.’  So I kicked myself over that Friday morning encounter as a missed opportunity. 

Over the weekend, I made a plan. 

On Monday I went back. 

With a letter in an envelope labelled “To The Cute Blonde With Glasses.” In it, I explained that I was thankful for her giving me the push to go into the shop, that I wanted to ask her out for a date and that her next meal at the shop was on me (I paid for it in advance) and signed it with my name and mobile number.  This I passed on to the ladies behind the counter.  Job done, and like a spell once cast….. I let it be.  It’ll either work or it won’t. 

She replied the next day! 

Through the medium of Whatsapp, I received a message from the ‘Cute Blonde With Glasses’ kindly explaining she had just started seeing someone.  She also told me the letter was cute and that things like this only ever happened in movies, and I should keep doing what I do as it made her year.  Oh, and that she gave the money back for the lunch I bought her as she felt guilty. 

And you know what?  I was fine with that.  Totally and truly.  It wasn’t the outcome I was hoping, but I knew it would be one of the few that came to mind.  I’m still glad I took the chance and feel the better for it.  What happens now?  Simple, I let it go and should I come across another opportunity, you can be damn sure I’ll give in to those crazy 20 seconds.  It all comes down to the fact if you don’t ask, you don’t know.  Would I rather have left it and wondered what would have happened if I never did something about it?  I’ve wasted far too much of my life making that mistake.

Go out there step out of your comfort zone and do something amazing and even if it doesn’t work out, you’ll feel great for daring to take a shot! 

Image from pinterest.com

Indiana Took and the Isle of Calypso

The week before had seen sunshine and wonderfully warm weather in the UK.  Typical then that on the week me, the Parental Units and Bro flew out, the grey clouds had returned.  But, whilst waiting for our flight at Manchester Airport, we saw the scarlet Sun rise from one bank of grey and fade into another….. As if it was on an elevator in the sky.

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Manchester Sunrise

And off we flew to Malta then caught a ferry to Gozo.

Gozo is an island of mainly farmers, limestone houses and a laid-back and friendly demeanour.  It also has history mixing of Phoenician, Roman, Arab, Christian (Knights of St. John), French, Sicilian much like the Maltese language.

It is also home to the Azure Window down at Dwerja near San Lawrenz.  It is a limestone arch formed after two caves collapsed.  Hurry and see it whilst you still can…. It only has another 1000 years or so before it collapses completely!

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Azure Window
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Fossils and flowers!

The second day we were there, we saw the horizon surrounded by a haze, being British we just took it for granted this was a cloudy morning that will surely be gone by the time the Sun is at its peak.  Not so.

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Is that cloud? It's cloud right?.....

We were informed by an ex-pat resident that the haze was in fact sand being blown across from the Sahara Desert, I mean wow! And yes, after paying attention, you could see it settling on everything.  Windows were closed and doors shut, but the shops, bars, cafe’s and restaurants whose doors were still open were forever sweeping and wiping tables down.  “Have you seen the discarded wings dotted around?” Say what now?
It turns out, when the sand is blown across, the flying ants drop from the air and detach their wings in order to burrow into the ground.  How cool is that?  Not so cool when you’re spending an evening in a nice restaurant, trying the local dish of rabbit and you have ants dropping on to your table!

Sister Madly, if you ever read this, remind me to send you the recipe for Gozitan Rabbit!

Doing some research, I had found out that Gozo, is supposedly the island residence of the Nymph, Calypso.  It is thought to be Ogygia, where Calypso kept Odysseus for seven years.  At the falling of dusk and the waxing crescent moon in the sky, I offered my respects to the spirit of the land, even if it wasn’t Calypso.  Either way, I didn’t feel any connection.  The spirit of the land was either too alien for me to interpret, or it simply wasn’t interested in me giving libations, or…… It had given way to the Christian belief set of the Gozitan people.

And yet, there are tales of Giants!  The main attraction for me were the Ggantija (Giant’s Grotto) Temples.  They are supposedly 5800 years old, which makes them younger than Göbelki Teppe and older than both the Egyptian Pyramids and Stonehenge.  One local myth has it that they were built by a giant who had a child by a common man, she built the temples whilst carrying the baby and eating only black beans and flax.  The smaller of the two temples was preserved quite well, it also supposedly had a groove made by metal before the rest of Humankind had discovered the revolutionary material.  The larger one was surrounded by scaffolding and tourists.

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Ggantija Temples
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Entrance to smaller temple
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Smaller temple int.

We did nip across to Malta for one day, seeing the catacombs at Rabat and the ‘Silent City’ of Mdima.  There are parts of this city where you could forget you are in the 21st Century.

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Entrance to Mdima
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One of Mdima's long, winding streets

The catacombs were quite humbling as they were dug into the rock, more than a few of them were for children, which brought to mind the reality of mortality.
There were a mixture of native, Roman (Pagan), Christian and Jewish, some were even credited to the Phoenicians.

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Children's tombs
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Guild plaque
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Depths of the catacombs
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Info plaque, Pagan symbolised by bull "Hrah!"

My favourite moment? Standing on a cliff, the arid gravelly soil beneath me, the vibrant sea before me, the Azure Window to my left, down below.  And an open blue sky holding aloft both the sun and the moon in the late afternoon.

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Gozitan Sunset.

The Masculine Principle in Paganism part 5: Conclusions

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Pic, unknown artist, http://www.reachingcampus.com

When Western Paganism was ‘outed’ back in the 1940s and 1960s, it came with a trend towards going back to the Goddess.  There were people then as well as now who broke away from the conventions of the Patriarchal God and sought (or heard) the calling of The Goddess, The Earth Mother, The Mother of All.  And that was no bad thing.  The only down side to this is when people took this as a knee-jerk reaction, a rebellion if you will, and see any form of the God side of things as anathema.  Misogyny is a two bladed sword, it turns out.  And when there is so much material and Modern Pagan practice that focuses already on the Goddess, the God became…. less.  Until eventually He is only recognised as an image, a symbol.  No doubt there will be readers thinking “Ha! Well that’s what happens when you take the power away from Women and the Goddess…..”  And in many ways, they are right.  However, that particular stance isn’t going to do anyone any favours, all that’s going on there is focusing one sort of sexism for another and is counterproductive.

What we think we need is balance, what we actually need is harmony.

What have we learned from the Masculine Principle?  What does it teach us?

  • To have courage in all that we do.
  • To do the right thing when no one else can.
  • To draw strength from our ‘Bands of Brothers’ or our spouses or both.
  • To express wisdom as well as learning it from others.

It taught us an important lesson for all, that reason can be clouded, be it by fear or anger.  If we take the time to think, then we don’t have to go into a situation all guns blazing.

It also teaches us that to be kind-hearted is not weakness.  In another story, Niall was the only one of his Band of Brothers to kiss the hag guarding the well for the water they so desperately needed.  Doing as the hag requested transformed her into a beautiful young woman who gave him sovereignty to become king.  The warriors have their part, so do those who have gentleness.

So what is the Masculine Principle?  It is the animalistic part of us that wants us to survive, not only us but our ‘family’ in whatever form that takes.  It’s the part of us that wants to declare our territory, to take action when a situation presents itself, to defend our friends and claim our mates as ours.  Its bestial, it’s tribal and it’s in all of us.  In fact, throw the labels out of the window we all have the creature inside.

Masculine Principle, Feminine Principle, we are capable of both their qualities, we have all seen men cry and show love, we have seen women take charge and fight.  The Quest isn’t for the Masculine Principle to become an effeminate dandy like some might misinterpret; it’s to find our place in the world.  Whoever and whatever we are.  If we are talking masculine and feminine qualities in all of us, then we all have them in various degrees within ourselves.  Men can be camp, women can be butch.  There are those who identify with one bunch of qualities more than the other and there are those who don’t identify with ANY of them.  These people, you, me and them, we are what we are and there is nothing wrong with that- they all natural.  We are all capable of being emotional, of being logical, of being strong in our characters as well as our physical muscle.  I have written this entire series in a certain way because I wanted to show how these principles apply to everyone.

When I write we need harmony, it’s because there is so much focus in the Western world on equality that we forget one simple thing:  Not everyone is equal.  Not everyone can read, some have dyslexia, not everyone can walk, not everyone is good at public speaking, not everyone is suited for physical labour, but everyone is good at something and like the aspects of the whole genderised spectrum within ourselves, we can harmonise these to the best of what and who we are and what we can do.  Like our individual skill sets, the sex we are born with, the gender we identify with we must seek to harmonise all of them.  The principles aren’t and shouldn’t be limited to simply binary, the degrees into how we are more like one thing and another are wide and vast, just like all of Humanity.

The question isn’t ‘What is the Masculine/Feminine Principle?’ the real question is ‘What is the HUMAN Principle?’

The Masculine Principle: Part 4- The Quest

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Questing Knight, artist unknown, but I get a Games Workshop vibe….

The Quest

Cormac was probably expecting he and his men to travel all the way to the West, the direction of death and the Blessed Isles, that’s where he’d find Tir na n’Og.  There he’d find The Stranger and his family.  He was more than likely all fuelled up on adrenaline and anger as he prepared for the long journey from his fort.  He must have been quite surprised, once the fog had cleared, to find he was in a strange land.  Stranger still must have been the sights before him as he steadily rode on in wonder at the horsemen putting feathers on a roof only for them to blow away, at the young man who kept refuelling the fire as it burned its insatiable appetite for wood.  He must surely have realised he was no longer in his own realm as he approached the pool surrounded by nine hazel trees, this pool was only ever heard of in legend!

It is not without irony that Cormac, after drinking from the pool gained understanding, as was revealed later, the pool he drank from was the waters of the heart.

Cormac’s quest had actually led him to himself.  As most quests do.

Quests are great plot devices to move a story forward.  They are an entertaining way for us to follow the protagonist as they go and look for something or someone.  An adventure to be had as the audience is taken on a journey of the search for some MacGuffin or the rescue of a person (not always a lady, this could be a family member or someone who can help the main character in some way- provide a cure for instance).  For some quest’s that’s all there is to it.  The monster is dead, hero gets made leader, marries, the end.  For others, the protagonist often discovers something about their self or from their tribulations manages to become more in themselves in some way.

The Welsh Peredur leaves his mother in order to become a knight for Arthur, only for him to go on a series of adventures where he sets out to right the wrongs that are occurring in the land.  In so doing this he discovers, through his own innocence, that he is better in strength and bravery than any of those knights he sought to become.  He also learns that some of his acts had been engineered in order for him to fulfil a prophecy of avenging his uncle’s death.

The Scottish hero Diarmuid, a member of the war-band known as the Feans (Scottish version of the Irish war-band the Fianna) is summoned to the underwater realm of the Fomorii in order to use his healing skill on their princess.  To retrieve the healing cup she needs, Diarmuid travels to the Plain of Wonder.  It is with the help of a Brownie he gets to the Plain of Wonder, but he uses up the power of the Cup of Healing in order to heal the gatekeeper he killed.  The Brownie helps him again and takes him to the Waters of Healing on the Island of Death.  The Brownie also gives Diarmuid the advice of refusing whatever the King of the Fomorii offers as reward for healing the Princess.  Once this is done, he asks for only a boat to take him back above water.  In all of this, Diarmuid discovers that pride clouds reason, that a true heart can make friends in any realm, that his skill is to be given to the world, not traded for, and that what seemed like three nights for him was but minutes for his companions!

Cormac rode with his men only to be separated in the fog until he alone emerged in Tir na n‘Og.  His quest was one of self discovery.  Diarmuid’s quest was not for himself, but for helping his friend.  Although it was only his skill of healing that qualified him to take part.  It was for him to learn the lessons he discovered which he would not have done if his band had been with him.

Sometimes, we must undergo the quest to find ourselves and this can only be achieved alone.  Once we get past the cloud of fear and doubt, if we take the time to listen to our own hearts do we know what we really want or need.  To go onto the quest for ourselves is to have an outcome in mind, but we must not take this quest lightly.  For by the end of it we will emerge a changed person. And the outcome might not be what we expected.  To be a more complete and whole version of ourselves- that is the quest.

The other tales and their protagonists had people helping them and giving advice along the way, in another tale, Culhwch and Olwen, Culhwch would have failed miserably if not for the help of his friends.  Culhwch’s story teaches that a quest need not be one taken alone.  He acquired a band of brothers.

 

Band of Brothers

At times, we need others we can fall back on.  Others we can confide in and trust to have our backs when we need them; to keep us going when we cannot.  This is where the Band of Brothers comes in.  For Culhwch, it was a handful of Arthur’s knights and a cousin.  For Arthur it was his knights and Merlin.  For Robin Hood it was his ‘Merry Men’.  For Diarmuid it was his fellows of the Feans.  For Bendigeidfran it was his brother and step-brothers.

The Band of Brothers isn’t simply a gang to beat seven levels of crap out of anyone who looks at you wrong, but a fellowship of support and faith in each other.  It doesn’t have to be a seasoned group of warriors, ex-soldiers or gangsters.  Your own Band of Brothers can be your friends, family members, and people with a common interest that trust each other.  My very own ‘Band of Brothers’ includes women in it and others I can trust to help me when I need it, as well as who I trust to turn around and tell me when  I’m being a dick!  There’s that saying that ‘True Friends will tell you exactly what you don’t want to hear.’  Stop right now.  And think.  Who in your life do you trust implicitly?  Who do you turn to when things go wrong? Who tells you the truth even though you didn’t want to hear it? Who are you there for when they need you in return? These are the people who can be regarded as your ‘Band of Brothers’.

Cormac was separated from his soldiers to go on his quest alone, but his band wasn’t his men.  His band was his family, they were his heart.  Cormac learned they were his true source of strength and his true wealth.  Cormac wasn’t a raging warlord, he sought peace and negotiation (let’s not fool ourselves into thinking there were never any ‘aggressive negotiations’) and at the same time he was strong and wise.  It was a moment of folly that took him to learn what was most valuable to him; there are times in all of our lives where a moment of folly takes place.

Cormac was prepared to do whatever it took to get his family back.  His rational and calmer side now gone, it could be said he went on the quest for his Feminine Principle.

 

The Quest for the Feminine Principle

 If we go along with the idea in Part 3, that the Masculine Principle needs the Feminine Principle to balance and compliment it, then this is the real deep meaning of The Quest:  It isn’t about rescuing a damsel in distress, it isn’t winning the girl’s love and affection, it’s about coming into contact with something within that makes us whole.  We know what happens when the Masculine Principle becomes too much: It becomes base, shallow and aggressive.  It will assert itself any damn way it wants and if you don’t like it, it’ll tear your gods-damned head off and stick it on a spike!

I could say that by touching the Fairy Branch (Phallic device, anyone?) it had already ignited the fire of over ‘manliness’ in Cormac.  So much so, that he abandoned reason altogether and never thought to ask what the price would be.  Only when it was too late did he regret his actions, spurring him on to make things right…. in the headstrong, avenging manner.

The Quest took him onto a journey of discovering what it meant to be a good king, a good person: to not be led by his own vanity, to not burn out all of his energies for others and to look into the heart of things by paying attention to the world around him.  It was with patience in listening to the small company and what truths they shared did he finally say aloud the truth of himself: He was a vain fool and would only be happy once he had his wife and children back.  That was when he was reintroduced to his family.  That was when he was reconnected with his Feminine Principle, and we can see this in the last gift that ever so crafty Manannan Mac Lir gave to him: The Cup of Truth (Vaginal device anyone!?)

So, am I saying that for a mortal man to become the best at what he could be, it took the orchestrations of a masculine deity of a feminine energy (God of the Sea) to teach him how?

Yes.  For Cormac to become the High Chief, the King he was meant to be, he had to find the harmony of both Principles in himself.

The quest to seek either the Masculine or Feminine Principles is the quest to find the truth about ourselves, what is our strength? Where are our values? What gives us meaning?

To follow the Masculine Principle is to follow our heart; from it we know our own truths.  It is also to know your inner strength (once you have found it) for it will give confidence, fortitude, discernment and resolve.

 

The Masculine Principle in Paganism- Part 3: The Life Force

 

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The Life Force is what is in each one of us; it is in all living things.  Not just animals and plants, but down to our cells and all of them reproduce.  They pass on what they are to the next generation, or in some cases, simply replicate each other.  I could have just labelled this particular post as ‘Sexuality’ but that’s not just what this post is about.  Ok, I lied.  It is!

When talking about the Life Force as procreation, most species do require male and female parts in order to procreate.  There are other species that do not.  Cells replicate their DNA asexually, as does bacteria.  Some species such Earthworms are hermaphrodites, beings that don’t require sexual partners because their biology enables them to create their own offspring.

For the sake of this blog series, I shall be referring to the Human Condition, already aware of how complex that already is.  Yes we as a species require a sperm and egg to fertilise in order to reproduce, but not everyone who is born identifies with the simple male and female categorisations.  It does indeed appear that the Human Condition is not as binary as we originally thought, but does need binary Humans in order for the Human Race to continue.

And reproduction was seen as the basic manifestation of the Life Force.  The model of Sky Father and Mother Earth for example is something that was big in olden times.  The sunlight and rain make the Earth fertile and grow millions of flora and fauna, feeding and housing countless species around us.  Interesting then that in some cultures the Sun is seen as female (The Irish name for the sun is Grian, a feminine word.  The Norse mythology has the sun and moon as sister and brother respectively as Sol and Mani.  In the Japanese Shinto it is the deity Amaterasu).  To counter this, some Neolithic monoliths have phallic features carved into the rock, the phallus of the earth pointing to the impregnable sky.

We also see this in ancient statues, the Venus type, for example showing the round image of a pregnant woman.  In some cases images like these were carved to include phallic shape in order emphasise the male parts + female parts = life.

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Two lovers carved into a phallic object, the Ain Sakhri Lovers

 

Ritual & Magic:

In the Western Magical Tradition, this union of masculine and feminine energies is one of the most powerful acts of magic.  The act of placing the wand into the chalice is extremely symbolic of the penis entering the vagina in order to create a magical outcome.  Not every magical act requires this as there are thousands of ways to make a spell without any sexual connotations or symbols.  That’s right, faithful reader, anyone who practices magic isn’t just going around shagging everyone and nor should they.  Sex can be used in magic with consenting adults or just between a couple and not just limited to heterosexuals.

Modern Paganism is filled, saturated even with sexual celebration, even if only metaphorically.  The ceremonial wheel of the year, for example, sees The Goddess bloom until the God has grown into adulthood, they marry and have sex as the Summer goes on until the God begins to wither and dies as Autumn turns to Winter, the Goddess gives birth during Midwinter after which she takes on her Crone aspect until she is reinvigorated at Spring.  The Modern Pagan version of Beltane would have us believe that May is a time of sexual awakening and the whole of summer is about the celebration of the growing energy in our part of the world.  This, despite that Human Beings don’t have a set mating season, but it’s all in the cosmology and symbolism of the Modern Pagan view of the awakening world around them.

Of course not all Pagan spirituality follows this imagery as there are different paths and interpretations of the seasons.

This imagery happens once again in the relatively recent personification of the Green Man entering his Oak (another phallic device, just think of the shape of an acorn) phase and as Spring grows into Summer he brings his Life Force into that of the Earth so everything comes alive.

The Elements

Even in the Alchemical Elements we have examples of the Life Force split into masculine and feminine in the energies of Air, Fire Water and Earth.  This is most regularly seen in the Tarot:

Air:  Masculine:  Represented by the Swords, a piercing (phallic?) device with warlike connotations.  The realm of air is normally associated with logic, thought and ideas.  Supposedly these are the traits of the intellectual MAN.

Fire: Masculine:  Represented by the Staff or the Wands.  A more obvious phallic device, especially when the fiery qualities of dynamism, determination, passion are thought of as traits of MAN.

The staff has more phallic imagery behind it when we identify Bile (Tree) as being the name of the Irish father-god, the consort of the watery mother-goddess Danu.

Water: Feminine:  Represented by the Cups or Cauldron.  The watery world of emotions, of dream, of the heart has been assigned to the qualities of WOMAN.  The Cup has been used as a device of the vulva and the Cauldron as the womb.

Earth: Feminine:  Represented by the Stones, Coins or Pentacles, although not sexual in imagery, the stone is symbolic of the Land.  And with the land comes Sovereignty.  Mother Nature, the Mother of All: She gives and she takes.   This is the realm of the physical; the malleable and tactile.

Interestingly, given the masculine attributes of the symbol of the sword it is in Arthurian Legend we find the sword as being temporarily given to man.  It is loaned from the Lady of the Lake and must be returned before the user dies.  The sword known as Excalibur originally came with a scabbard (vaginal device?) which protected the user from harm, but this was stolen from Arthur by Morgana La Fey.  In the story of Balin and Balan, a sword of power was drawn by Balin, a knight of Arthur and Camelot.   He was supposed to give it back to the Lady of the Lake, but in his hubris he kept it and beheaded her!  His life was then cursed until both he and his brother died fighting each other.  A prime example of the Masculine Principle being too out of flow with the Life Force and not heeding the request of giving the power back to its source, the feminine.

Being a part of the Arthurian world, which takes its themes from the Celtic myths and legends that came before, the Lady of the Lake not only represents the Divine Feminine, she is also the Goddess and guardian of Sovereignty.  In the Celtic stories, Sovereignty could only be passed on to the chief by the Goddess.  In other words, it could not be taken, the women chose the men to give it to!

Ultimately, when talking about the Alchemical Elements, Air, Fire, Water, Earth or even the universe itself:  Planet Earth, the moon, the sun, planets, stars….. None of these have gender.  It is only us, the Human Beings that assign such things to them.  Yes, it is fascinating when different cultures have different names for the sun or even different genders for it, but at the end of it all it is a great big star in our sky.

What we have to bear in mind here is that this particular system of Masculine and Feminine energies became widespread among the known world during  medieval times, of which the mindset was utilised by the Church and saw Masculine as dominant and the Feminine as submissive.  Because my main spiritual focus is of the Pre-Christian peoples of this land, I can share that they saw things differently.  Both men and women could be chiefs and warriors and they could also be hunters and Druids.  Quite often in the old tales, it was the women who would initiate courtship or sexual relations.  Even the gods shared similar powers but there is one thing women could do that men could not: bear children.  For that reason alone, for the mothering of future generations, can we see why the Celts traced their blood through their mothers?  As previously mentioned, women could give their sovereignty to a man of their choosing making him chief.  Indeed, it was normal for the chief to marry the goddess of their land.  This was an act that our Celtic ancestors shared with our Germanic ones.  Our Germanic ancestors even had a magic called Seidr which was said to be for women only.  It involved speaking to the ancestors, healing and divination and was priestess led.  It was considered taboo for a man to learn this and any man who did was considered feminine.  Curiously enough, Odin, the Germanic All-Father god in his quest for wisdom learned this.   I am no expert when it comes to the Germanic lore, and if I have got this wrong, then that is my own ignorance.

So what have we learned about the Masculine Principle in the Life-Force? According to this particular paradigm, it is but one part of a whole in our species.  The example of Balin shows what happens when the Masculine Principle becomes too dominant, it becomes aggressive.  Without the temperance and sustaining rationale of the Feminine Principle to balance the cold, hard logic and powerful dynamism, it becomes destructive and harmful.  One half is needed to balance the other, without both halves, the whole dies out.  Ok, that’s a bit dramatic, but you get the idea.

Cormac had already lost his wife and children to The Stranger who had exacted his price, it wasn’t just his woman or his legacy that he had lost; it was what completed him.  His reason to keep going, his cause to be the best chief he could be.  Yes, he had material wealth, but what is that without his family to share with?  Only too late did he learn this, and so he went in search of them.  Not just in a rescue, but a quest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Masculine Principle in Paganism- Part 2: The Stereotypes

Before we delve into understanding what the Masculine Principle is what do you think of when I write the word Masculine?  It’s ok, take a few moments to think about it, write them down if you want and see what you come up with.  And what do you think of when I write the word Feminine?  That’s alright, you take as long as you need, write them down if that helps and compare the two.

How many positive and negative connotations are there attributed to masculine?  How many positive and negative are there attributed to feminine?  Are they equal?  Does one have more positivity than the other?  Chances are the masculine has a more negative bias.

In 20th Century magical tradition, the masculine side, the male side is seen as a driving force.  It is dominant, powerful, dynamic as well as destructive.  The feminine side, the female side is seen as a birthing force.  It is receptive, gentle, creative and healing.  Or so we are led to believe.  I am of course working on stereotypes here.   And that’s what this particular post will be all about.

There was a podcast episode that had Penny Billington (OBOD’s Touchstone editor) give a story of a man at a Pagan Camp.  Music was being played and as he danced, a woman said to him “You’re very in touch with your feminine side, aren’t you?”  To which he responded with “I just like dancing to the music, what’s my feminine side got to do with it?”  So, like the preconception that masculine is forceful, there was a preconception made that assumed the man MUST have feminine qualities because he danced.  What is the definition of masculinity? According to Collins Compact English Dictionary, Harper Collins Publishers, 1998:

Masculine adj 1 possessing qualities or characteristics considered typical of or appropriate to man; manly.  2 unwomanly; not feminine.  3 Grammar denoting a gender of nouns that includes some male animate things.

Uh oh.  There’s that word.  Gender, I was hoping to avoid it, too late.

Ok, let’s go with the idea that masculine is already laden with gender based terms, i.e ‘manly’.

The early 21st Century man is stereotyped as being successful, rich, and dominant in his world, has all the latest gadgets and cars, loves getting his own way and is basically a spoiled child grown up.  He is Mr. Cocksure and women love him.  Supposedly.

cocksure

Mr Cocksure as represented by Fight Club’s Tyler Durden.  Pic from washingtonpost.com

 

The other, Mr.  Hardpec, is perhaps not so affluent, but loves going to the gym and with that stern jaw line and those huge arms, his tall well built frame puts the fear of the gods into you just by looking at him.

macho

Mr Harpec….. was very tempted to put my own head here! Pic from play.google.com

Then there’s Mr. Sensitive, he’s funny, he cares, he wishes he could be like Mr. Hardpec, but that’s way too aggressive and people like him scare Mr. Sensitive because Mr. Sensitive feels less masculine when Mr.  Hardpec is around.  Mr. Sensitive bitches about Mr Cocksure but secretly wishes he had Mr. Cocksure’s confidence and arrogance.  Well, just enough of the arrogance to have a spine.

academichelp.net

Mr. Sensitive, nice hair! Pic from academichelp.com

It appears that to be a “man”, we must treat everyone like shit and have the body of Adonis.  When I gave the example of Mr. Cocksure in a talk, one man said out loud “But he gets all the girls”.  Sure, if all you think you need to prove your worth is solely based on getting laid.  And no matter who or what you class yourself as (in terms of gender or sex, or none at all), confidence goes a long way.

You’ll recognise these ‘manly’ examples as we see them all the time in our media, magazines, posters, television shows, games and movies.  And in all of them, Mr. Sensitive is usually the comic relief.  Guess which one I identify with?  The Masculine Principle has become, in our modern society either something to despise, something to fear or something to laugh at.  It seems that in our 21st Century society we are pushed to being one or the other, realistically the best way would be to have the confidence of one, the inner strength of the other and the openness of the last.

Cormac was a man who had everything, he was the High Chief of all four provinces of Ireland, had a wife, children, an entire court to himself, he wasn’t a typical draw swords now and ask questions later sort of guy.  But he was foolish enough to trade his wife and children for a cool thing.

Seeming that we are already discussing stereotypes, let’s break these down into archetypes:

The Provider:

In the Western Magical Tradition, the masculine principle is there to copulate with the Feminine Principle in order to recreate himself; he is fated to die- but shall be reborn again.  In this aspect the Masculine Principle is the provider.  And this covers a whole range:

Hunter, fisher, farmer, survivor, teacher, thinker, philosopher, devisor, entertainer, storyteller, creator, builder, as well as more I can’t think of right now.   We also see this in the characters of Horus, Jesus Christ and later, John Barleycorn.  Even the quite recent mythology of the Oak and Holly King’s can fall into this category.  In short, the Masculine Principle is to be sacrificed in order for others to live.

 

The Warrior:

Perhaps, this is the most renowned aspect of the Masculine Principle.  We see this often enough in our literature, movies and computer games in more of the Hero guise.  The warrior, sadly, is needed to fight wars made by people, mostly men.  The Warrior can also cover: hunter, defender, survivor, explorer, healer, physician amongst others.  According to Anne Ross (Pagan Celtic Britain, Cardinal 1974), in the British Celtic culture, the Warrior could also be the healer as well as fertility principle.

And we aren’t just limiting ourselves to simply men here.  It’s been found recently that women joined in the hunt for killing creatures for food.  This makes perfect sense, especially when in Celtic culture women could also be warriors.  The Morrigan, Medbh, Scathach, are all examples of warrior goddesses, queens and teachers of the martial arts.  As anyone knows, nothing is scarier in the world as a woman who is angry….

 

The Ruler:

Someone’s got to be in charge right?  The Animal Kingdom has its Alphas, its bulls, its studs, its kings…. Fact is we are a social animal and if we can’t make the hard decisions, we look to those who can.  The Ruler can be made, elected and even born, but depending on the type of person who is the ruler, lies the fate of the tribe.  A more instinctual and emotional ruler might be a warlord, desperate to save his position or his people.  A more rational ruler might be a peacemaker or one who knows how to play the game to keep in his favour.  A benign ruler might be generous and loved by his people, but will others see this as weakness?  Arthur, Cormac, Hannibal are a few names for the many types of Ruler as are Julius Caesar, Genghis Khan, Uther Pendragon.

The downside of the Masculine Principle is, again, what we see a lot in the media and tabloids, he is the thief, the murderer, the rapist, the abuser, the tyrant, the zealot, the warmonger…. need I go on?

It could be argued that the negative side of the Masculine Principle is the bestial side of the Life Force.  Our Human Animal uncontrolled in its urge to reproduce as well as claim territory: ‘What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is yours, but if I want yours I’ll make it mine.’ To emphasise this, we can even look at the Greek Myths, where the characterisation of the predatory, rapacious and aggressive side is represented by the half-man, half-beast creatures: Minotaurs, Centaurs, Satyrs, etc.  With this in mind, perhaps there is more to the reason that the image of Cernunnos has come to represent strength, fertility and the hunt?   In ancient British cosmology, horns represent the solar aspect to a deity, and to be in touch with his animalistic side is to be fertile.  The phallus again can be represented here, have you ever seen the images of the god Freyr?

Freyr_idolPic from http://www.hurstwic.com

 

In Modern Paganism we have the paradigm of the Maid, Mother and Crone to represent the three stages of the Feminine Principle.  Realistically, Humans are a little more complex than to be simply clumped into three types (what about infancy, childhood or even senility?).  The Masculine Principle can therefore be treated in the same way:

Seeker– Is the young man going out into the world to make his mark.  He has much to learn and wants to find his place in the Universe as well as who he is.

 Master- Knows who he is and what he has accomplished in life.  By now, he has become the ‘King in his own Castle’.  He has found his way and his place in the world, or he is on his way to making it happen.

 Sage– Been there and done that, this one has achieved what he needed to.  He is the wise one who teaches others what they need to know and can enjoy his legacy at best.  He is the cynical old geezer who should know better and yet doesn’t at worst.

Why use stereotypes and archetypes at all?  Its how we, as an animal acknowledge the world around us.  We put names to things, at our most basic this is identification of what we can eat, drink, what is a threat to us and who we choose to mate with.  One question we hear a lot nowadays: “Why does everyone and everything have to be labelled?”  Because, it’s how WE work.  We might not agree with it or identify with what we have been labelled with, but labelling is how we see the world:  That’s a chair, that’s a car, that’s a monkey (regardless of type) and so, when we see another Human Being we will ALWAYS on an instinctual level look at someone as either a friend, a threat or a mate.  Yes we have thoughts and emotions, but we forget that Homo-Sapiens is a creature too.  Instinct and emotion?  Yikes!

Stereotypes help us to form a picture of a type of person.  In the worlds of story a character that breaks the stereotype becomes much more memorable and fully rounded.  They become believable and someone we can identify with.

With looking at the stereotypes of the Masculine Principle, we gain the imagery in our minds of the strong, the brave, the gentle, the wise, and the creative.

When it comes to the glamorised image of the types of male imagery there’s this illusion that we have to be one of them.  We are in fact all of them in many different degrees.

 

Cormac found himself alone in his hall once he had awoken. Tears welled up in his eyes.  The anger, the rage built up inside him, how could he have been so…. stupid?

The Stranger had taken his son, his daughter, his Wife! HIS Family.  Never mind the dishonour he had made, his blood boiled within and he felt the hard wood of the Fairy Branch in his whitening grip.  If only The Stranger was here now!  He would stab it right through the silver-haired bastard’s skull.

“ENOUGH!”  Cormac roared.  His nobles came rushing through as he barked the orders for his horse, his armour and his sword.  The rational part of him knew it was his fault; it implored him to listen to reason and ask his advisors what to do next, where to go.  But there was something inside that was hurt and that something was in control.   Cormac would get his family back, even if it meant claiming them back by force.

Prince of Thieves- At The Maze

2016 has, so far, seen many a demise of our favourite performers.  One of these being Alan Rickman: Professor Snape to some, Marvin the Android to few, Hans Gruber and Metatron to others and The Sheriff of Nottingham (George) to many.

To commemorate his death, The Maze here in Nottingham decided to host a public viewing of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and serve mead.

It was free entry and because of popularity you had to ‘book’ in advance in order to get a seat.  Costumes were optional and some had turned up in head gear, re-enactors tunics, cloaks and head dresses.  There was even one fella with a wooden spoon giving out impressions of Rickman’s Sheriff.

I hadn’t seen the film in years and it was Greyeyes’ idea to go…. Plus she had NEVER seen it before.  She was put off by the Bryan Adams song that was played almost constantly back in 1991. It was like No.1 for 16 weeks or something like that. I don’t think either of us were prepared for the interaction that followed.

The audience loved it! They jeered as the film came on, laughed in all the right places, called out Rickman’s lines (as well as adding many others to various parts of the film) “…and cancel Christmas!” Brian Blessed impressions from the Black Adder TV series were bounded out as well. 

Yes, we know Nottingham isn’t anywhere near the white cliffs of Dover, neither is it 5 miles away from Hadrian’s wall.  The Nottingham accent is neither American or West Country, but that didn’t matter.  It all added to the joy of seeing this version, my generation’s version of the Robin Hood story.  Costner’s Robin was brave, cheeky and seemed have a permanent smirk on his face as though toying with his enemies.
We laughed as The Sheriff repeatedly punched, walked away and punched his guard some more. We shusshed as it came to Robin and Marian’s romantic scene then laughed when someone shouted out “Slip her the tongue!” We cheered when Robin Errol Flynned his way into the chapel; we booed as the Bishop made his appearance and howled as the witch said the infamous line “Something vexes thee?” Then we cheered when she was killed by ‘The Painted Man’.

Not even the film jarring twice stopped our enjoyment, they were taken as ‘More Mead!’ breaks and added to the camaraderie felt in the club.  The mead did run out however as the bar had underestimated how popular it would have been.  Not their fault, especially when mead isn’t a drink they usually serve.

What really made the night for me was the audience, it was like something out of The Rocky Horror Show, I got the feeling that this was what it must have been like going to the theatre back in Shakespearean times.  Waiting for your favourite bit, cheering on your favourite character (mine, incidentally, was Morgan Freeman’s Hasim; a really wise, deep and brave man…. Especially when he was praying to Allah as Robin was in trouble, genius!) and laughing at the comedy.  It wasn’t just watching a movie, it was enjoying it and going with all the Hollywood mistakes of this English legend, it was theatre.  Bawdy, raucous theatre for the 21st Century.

And almost everyone stayed and sang the song at the end.  Bloody good show!