Gael Ùr

Discussing Gaelic culture, advocating Pagan story, honoring the Earth and the beings who share it with us.

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C.S. MacCath

C.S. MacCath

C.S. MacCath is a writer of fiction, non-fiction and poetry whose work has appeared in Strange Horizons, Clockwork Phoenix: Tales of Beauty and Strangeness, Murky Depths, Witches & Pagans and other publications. Her poetry has been nominated twice for the Rhysling Award, and her fiction has received honorable mention in The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Sixth Annual Collection.

Ceallaigh's first collection of fiction and poetry entitled The Ruin of Beltany Ring has been called 'wonderful, thoroughly engaging, always amazing', a book of 'tiny marvels' and 'well-worth reading'. At present, she's working on a science fiction series entitled Petals of the Twenty Thousand Blossom and a second collection of fiction and poetry.
 

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Vegan Pagan: Interstice the Second

As before, I've been following the Facebook conversations around my vegan blog entries, and this time I've noticed further discussion around the idea of plant sentience. Some of you have argued that plants are no different from animals and so the eating of plants and animals should be considered on equal footing.

How very animistic of you. I would expect no less from my Pagan community.

It's an interesting question and one deserving of its own space, so I've decided to offer a vegan perspective here in advance of my next major blog entry in the series.

For the sake of argument, let's presume that plants possess independent minds and thoughts of sufficient complexity that they can deliberately communicate with the world. From this premise, a plant-based diet would still represent the most ethical choice and the path of least destruction, because every single animal life requires the consumption of many plant lives. There are a number of peer-reviewed studies explaining feed to meat conversion ratios, but here's a handy chart from NPR that shows the amount of grain, forage and grazing land required to produce a quarter-pound hamburger:

Resources required to make a quarter pound hamburger.

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  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor says #
    In the 1990's an attendee of one of Swami Satchidananda's yoga workshops pointed out that scientific instruments had detected the

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Vegan Pagan: Interstice the First

I've been following the Facebook conversation around my first post in this series, and I'd like to address a few things here that I hope will help to facilitate a more congenial conversation around this topic going forward.

First, to my fellow vegan Pagans: If you've allowed yourself to be baited into flaming on Facebook, you're not helping the animals, the Earth or yourself. Difficult as it is to do, you need to remain calm when you address non-vegans in cyberspace, even when you're treated unfairly. Remember what you believe in, and let your ethics guide your responses, not your anger. Thank you.

Second, to my fellow omnivore Pagans: Many of the arguments you've made on Facebook are addressed via the links I provided in my first post, so I would encourage you to peruse them. I would also encourage you to remember that I wrote my introductory post for the very reason that I was concerned about the possible tone of the conversation around this topic.  So please think carefully before you comment. Thank you.

Third, to Witches & Pagans: I understand the need to foster a balanced environment around difficult topics, but I ask you to remember that I have not yet made an argument of any kind. When I do, it will certainly be appropriate to point interested readers to "the opposite argument". Further, I hope to provide the sort of pro-vegan information you can point to for balance when others write anti-vegan blog posts. Thank you.

Finally, to the peaceable Pagans who commented thoughtfully in the aforementioned Facebook thread: Vegan or omnivore; thank you, thank you, thank you.

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  • Lee Pike
    Lee Pike says #
    As a fellow PaganSquare writer I'd like to welcome you! The Facebook community for Witches & Pagans is very large and for that re
  • C.S. MacCath
    C.S. MacCath says #
    Hello Lee, and thank you for your thoughtful comment. You know, I hadn't really considered (until I drafted this piece) that many
  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor says #
    Hi, my friend. I complained to Anne about Facebook a couple of months ago, saying that most of those people were responding withou
  • C.S. MacCath
    C.S. MacCath says #
    Hello, Ted! Thank you for your counsel on this. I'll certainly consider it, though I am hoping my post here will help smooth the t

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Vegan Pagan: Introduction

In the next several weeks, I'll be discussing intersections between veganism and Paganism. As a long-time vegan, animal rights activist and wildlife rescuer, I believe I can bring a perspective to the discussion that might be helpful to vegans and non-vegans alike. But before I do that, I think it's important to lay some groundwork, and that's what this entry is all about.

First, I'd like you to check in with your body and your emotions right now. Take a breath and ask yourself if reading the last paragraph left your neck, shoulders or any other part of your body feeling tight or tense. Consciously release those muscles. Give 'em some love. Now ask your mind, heart and gut if they've thrown up any defenses to the topic at hand. Acknowledge those defenses, if they exist, and remind yourself that you are ultimately in control of your body, your mind and your words. You don't have to let anything in that you don't want to explore, and you don't have to let anything out that hurts others. Now take another breath. Thanks, and good on ya.

I began with that exercise because many people have strong, negative reactions to veganism, and that's okay. It's a mighty challenging subject. That said, I don't want for this space to be about offense and defense. Yes, I believe in what I'm writing about, and yes, I'll be writing about some challenging things. But I'm first and foremost a fellow traveler on the path, and I'm not here to pass judgement on your plate. I'm also not here to be the recipient of reactionary discourse. So let's be kind to one another around this topic, even when we disagree.

For those of you who plan to comment on this series, there's one other thing I'd like you to do. You might not know this, but vegans are asked the same sorts of questions all the time, so often that there are many articles on the Internet devoted to listing and answering them. So before you ask a 'What about...?' question in the comments, please peruse the fine selection of links below. No disrespect, but I won't be answering those questions here if they should pop up.

Song A Day #810: Vegan Myths Debunked WATCH ME FIRST!
Simple Answers to Vegan FAQs
A response to typical comments vegans hear from non-vegans.
Vegan Outreach - Frequently Asked Questions

Above all, I ask that you hang in there with me while we have this discussion. Pretend you're in my house eating an awesome chocolate chip cookie and drinking the finest tea my prodigious tea cabinet has to offer. Pretend you have strong opinions and I have strong opinions, but we want to keep eating these cookies and drinking this tea because they rock and we want to be friends. Thank you.

Last, but not least, I offer you the beautiful, inspirational and amazing "Vegan Pagan Prayer" written by one of our fellow travelers on the path, Dianne Sylvan. Go read it. You won't be sorry.

I'll see you next month.

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Interstice: Appropriation Looks Like This

This is just a quick, interstitial post about a thing I found online today. The attached meme tells us that the word 'tenalach' is Irish and 'describes a relationship one has with the land, air and water, a deep connection that allows one to literally hear the Earth sing'.

According to my Irish dictionary and the researches of several Irish-speaking commenters on the original post, this word does not exist in the language. In fact, it violates a basic principle of Irish spelling.

Folks, this is what cultural appropriation looks like. It matters less that the spiritual concept is gorgeous and fulfilling than it does that Irish language and culture were inappropriately overlaid upon it to lend it legitimacy. Irish deserves better than that and so do the people who speak it.

 

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  • Greybeard
    Greybeard says #
    This reminds me of the 1990s when a long poem about saving the environment attributed wrongly to Chief Sealth (the guy that Seattl
  • C.S. MacCath
    C.S. MacCath says #
    Thank you for your thoughtful comment. I agree it's best to object to these sorts of things whenever we see them, both for the sak

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Culture of the Imagination, Part 3

Last month, I wrote about the psychological dynamics behind the sacred spaces we create together and the ways we might utilize the power of sacred space to create a better world. This month, I'll be writing about what happens when the people to whom we have given power abuse it, and in doing so weaken both the internal and external cultures of the imagination we've worked so hard to build. Specifically, I'll be writing about the work of Marion Zimmer Bradley (MZB), its influence upon a generation of Pagan women and the destructive effects of the recent pedophilia allegations against her.

The younger Pagans among you might not recognize the name, but if you're a Pagan woman of a certain age, you'll remember that MZB is the author of a much-beloved novel called The Mists of Avalon. This novel tells the Arthurian story from the point of view of its women and follows the life of Morgaine, otherwise known as Morgan le Fay. It was released in 1983, just a few years before I left an abusive family of Jehovah's Witnesses to live with my grandmother, who was also a Christian conservative. An avid reader, I found the novel in 1986, and it changed my life in ways that echo even now. It was the world I wanted to live in; a place where women existed in community with one another, where they wielded the ancient power of the divine feminine, where the sacred was protected from the mundane. Because of that book, I was drawn to Western European Paganism, and then to Celtic Pagan spirituality, and then to a degree in Celtic Studies, and then to Cape Breton. In a very real sense, The Mists of Avalon shaped my own culture of the imagination and helped make me the woman I am now.

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  • C.S. MacCath
    C.S. MacCath says #
    In hindsight, it sounds uncomfortably like what Moira Greyland has written of her mother. Interestingly, that passage struck me a
  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor says #
    C.S. and Carol: I actually have found a paragraph from one of the Avalon books which could, in a certain light, be construed as a
  • Anne Newkirk Niven
    Anne Newkirk Niven says #
    In re: Diana Paxson and the MZB situation, please see Diana's public statement here: http://www.diana-paxson.com/writing/avalon/ma
  • C.S. MacCath
    C.S. MacCath says #
    Thanks for this, Anne.
  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor says #
    Thank you, Anne. Good enough for me, too.

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Culture of the Imagination, Part 2

Last month, I wrote about hiraeth, the cultures of the imagination we create as a Pagan community and the empowerment that occurs when we cultivate sacred spaces together. This month, I'll be expanding upon that theme with a discussion of the psychological dynamics behind this process and some suggestions about what we might do with the power inherent in it.

"I think the search for community, be it within the traditional cultures in Alba Nuadh1 or the various pagan cultural communities, is the proof of how crazy global consumerist culture has made us and, indeed, how wrong it is for us. We are instinctively looking for what felt right. I don't think that a homeland of the imagination is better than an actual community of people who see and speak to each other, but perhaps it can form a useful bridge to sustain isolated cultural thoughtful pagans during this period of global cultural and environmental decline." - Sylvain Grandcerf

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Culture of the Imagination, Part 1

Recently, I saw a photo of an old, Pagan friend on Facebook. He was wearing a great kilt and a body full of blue paint, likely woad. His arms were crossed, and he was laughing at something off-camera. Behind him, a woman in jeans and a sweater walked down a garden path with a sword in her hand. There were tents and green trees in the background. I remembered his laughter as it had been when I knew him and missed the days when I could sit with kilted friends on American hillsides and talk of a Scotland that never was.

Two years ago, I was visiting Toronto for the World Fantasy Convention and met with another friend in Dundas square; a Pagan Celt and hospital chaplain who wears a torc I don't believe he ever takes off. Like me, he's a graduate of the Celtic Studies program at the University of Toronto, and he introduced me to two other graduates who went with us for chips and a pitcher of beer. We talked about the intersections of our educations and our spiritualities alongside a liberal smattering of pre-Christian references in early texts. It was an evening with people for whom no explanation was necessary, and I remember it fondly.

There is a Welsh word, 'hiraeth', which has no direct English translation but refers to a deep longing for homeland that might not exist or have ever existed. Dion Fortune surely touched on this idea when she referred to Glastonbury as the 'Avalon of the Heart'. Some feel this longing more deeply than others, and I think many who do find their way to Paganism, where there is a sympathetic welcome for refugees of places none of us can ever visit in our bodies. I'm certainly one of them, having felt this longing since I was in my early twenties, having built my life upon it, having earned a Bachelor of Celtic Studies, traveled to Ireland, immigrated to Canada and settled in a Gàidhealtachd of the Scottish Gaelic language because of it.

I still haven't found that homeland, by the way. It wasn't at the University of Toronto, though I did find many of the old stories there. It wasn't in Ireland, though the bones of that place played me like the instrument I am. And least of all, it isn't here in Cape Breton, where there is Gàidhlig culture aplenty steeped in the Catholic and Presbyterian religious ideologies of insular Celts who have less interest in enthusiastic newcomers than they claim1. Do I still support their efforts to preserve their unique heritage? Of course. Do I feel at home here?

I felt at home in the world of my friend's photograph. I felt at home in the pub where I sat with fellow Pagan Celts and sacralized the histories we love. I have felt at home wherever there were people like me, answering the call of similar places in their souls. Together, we've created a culture of the imagination, where we could recognize in each other what we had not found in the world, what may never have existed in the world until we created it. There are those who would belittle that culture because of its origins in us, but I think it's useful to remember that all cultures are products of the imagination. Some are just older or perhaps have a better established lineage than others.

And this culture nourishes us, doesn't it? When we come together, we create a home for each other where we can explore what it means to be human in the contexts of our Pagan spiritualities. For awhile, no explanations are necessary, and there is power in that. So I'm  a great fan of circles, covens, groves, festivals and conventions; where we share the meals, rituals and realities we have created. Yes, there is conflict in those places sometimes, but the good we can do for each other and for the world far outweighs the potential for negativity. For my part, I'll be attending the Aegis Pagan Gathering and Spiritual Retreat later this summer, and I'm really looking forward to it. I hope you'll take the time to connect in person with your community as well. Pitch a tent, build a fire, cook a feast and invite your fellow Pagans to help create a culture that empowers you all.

Next time, I'll write a bit about what we might do with all that power.


1. 06/01/2014 19:19 ADT: I've been thinking about this sentence all afternoon, and I really feel I need to qualify it. Every word is true, but I realize it's possible to misconstrue what I've written as a condemnation of the Gàidhlig community here. That isn't my intention at all. I do have many Gàidhlig friends and acquaintances in Nova Scotia, and I value them greatly. However, integration into an insular, minority community is a complex process, and my own journey has certainly reflected that complexity. It's worth noting that many of us here who 'come from away' have similar stories to tell.

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  • Rebecca Kinney
    Rebecca Kinney says #
    You have just described, in the most elegant way, exactly how I feel. That overwhelming sense of just not quite belonging where I
  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor says #
    Excellent post. The memories we have are not always of this world; they may come from alternate realities which were no less real.

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