Spiritual Wayfinding

So, the Tumblr experiment was a bust. Try as I might, nobody really seemed to pay attention to it enough to like or dislike it. As it goes, c’est la vie.

Honestly, it never really stopped feeling awkward for me. I might keep updating it, but it and my blog are once again trading priorities. So Ithildin Goddess on Tumblr will now be the secondary source, which I think suits it well enough. I’ll still try to keep it posting useful notes, helpful tips, or just some appropriate images aggregated from around the witchy side of Tumblr, but essays and thinkpieces are going to move back in here to be the bread and butter of this blog going forward.

I guess that concludes what they call “old business”.

New business!

I’ve been reading up on the Picts recently. Fascinating stuff, really. It had occurred to me a month or two ago that I have a TON of Scottish ancestry. I’ve known this for a while, but I never really focused on it in any aspect beyond the odd reference here and there in conversations that veered towards that topic. And then it really hit me this year. I have Scottish. Ancestry. …And therefore probably also Pictish ancestry. At the end of the day they were a mostly illiterate confederation of tribes and clans and didn’t keep records of that sort though, so really it’s anyone’s guess. It’s probably true, but I have no way of pointing to documentation that could conclusively prove it.  But probably.

And really, the things that drew me to my Norse heritage are also largely true for the Picts. Or rather, they should have been. They were a set of proud and fierce peoples who in their own manner beat the Roman Empire. I should know everything there is to know about them. I should fixate on that place and time in history, and the people therein, no less than I did the Norse. I should be knowledgeable about their spirituality, their gods, their heroes.  And yet I know more about the Irish, with whom I have far fewer historical blood ties (not to say they aren’t there, but far fewer of them), and even for them I don’t know more than a handful of names and stories. So that was kind of sad.

Here is this group of amazing people who literally defined the course of Scottish history, and therefore that of my family, for several centuries that I know functionally nothing about. So a month or so ago, I elected to fix that. A few cursory web searches convinced me that this really isn’t a topic I could just skim. I had to read up. So I bought some books and I’ve begun digging into this heretofore unknown (at least to me) period of history. If you’re thinking that I’m gonna do a book review, you are absolutely goddamn right I’m gonna do a book review.

Just not today.

I haven’t finished it.

But this has reminded me of a huge part of paganism’s role in my life. Wayfinding. Far be it from me to not place a reference to Disney’s Moana at an opportune moment.

Quoth Maui:

It’s not just sails and knots. It’s seeing where you’re going in your mind, knowing where you are by knowing where you’ve been.

Knowing who we are by knowing who we were played a huge part in life for all my ancestors, who partook in ancestor worship, and I’m willing to bet the same was true for yours. It helps us feel our place in history, and understand and appreciate ourselves, our parents, and our children. But it’s more than just boring knowledge, of the sort that might help you ace a school exam or go far at a pub quiz. Paganism helps connect me to my family history more than words on a page ever could. It makes the connection spiritual rather than simply prosaic academia. My Norse ancestors believed that theirs –what would be my ancient ancestors– were on their side, taking an active role in guiding them to greatness, or failing that, a good life. I don’t think our ancestors ever stopped doing that. We just forgot how and when to ask for that help. But if those who have lived our family stories are really in our court as much as the Norse believed, surely we lose nothing and gain much by adding to that spiritual familial support team as much as possible. And if we are to do that, we need to know who we mean to add.

Know who came before you. Understand what they did and why. Appreciate all the help they stand to offer, both direct and indirect. If they could make it, you can too. In fact, it’s not limited to merely a weakly worded and bog-standard “you can make it” self-help line. Far more than that. You owe it to your past family to survive and forge your own link in the family chain. Because one day, you might find yourself in the hereafter, looking at those who came after you, and they will need your help just as you needed the help of those who came before you.

Know where you are by where you’ve been. Know who you are by who you’ve been.

And then blaze the trail further.

To me, that is what ancestor worship is all about. That helps me to give a damn about all of this. That’s a big part of what Paganism does for me.

Spiritual wayfinding.

So go out and find yours.

Gods (and ancestors) guide you.

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