When I awoke today, there was a heavy feeling in my home and in my heart. Cernunnos is silent today, and He is in mourning. The house is quiet and somber. He shall not be celebrating St. Patrick’s Day today, and neither shall I.
Besides the fact that it’s been a year now since my beloved abuelo passed away, today marks a day where celebration partly revolves around a story of St. Patrick “driving out the snakes from Ireland.” In truth this is a description of driving out the old, evil pagan ways and traditions from Ireland – of converting Ireland to Christianity, which meant not only killing pagans but pagan traditions as well.
Pagan gods. Our gods. My gods.
The ramifications of such actions plague us as polytheists. They weigh heavy on us as we try to return to Them, to return what was stolen from Them. Our great loss is the leash that pulls back tightly on our necks as we struggle forward to be in right relationship with the gods, to be able to leave behind a legacy for polytheism, to be able to worship rightly. Hell, to be able to understand the world from a purely polytheistic perspective is near impossible, simply from the cultural, social, moral, and religious presence of monotheism deeply engrained into our lives.
When we work with the gods, we do so with the sorrow and emptiness of having had traditions and beliefs erased – robbed from us and from the world – for the sake of a “better” religion. We do this knowing little of the traditions of our gods, and the little that has been saved is rife with Christianization (prose and poetic eddas included as well as Beowulf). We do this knowing that, today, Daesh vows to destroy all remnants of polytheism from the East (sound familiar with St. Patrick?) – do we celebrate this, too? We do this knowing that all of that culture, history, tradition has been lost. And we do this knowing that our traditions and our framework of polytheism has for centuries been dragged in the mud as an inferior philosophy, something that no educated person could truly espouse. A lesser mind, a lesser capacity for intellect, is the only logical reason why anyone would return to paganism. “Only stupid people can be polytheists. Only inferior people can really believe in the gods. Forget the Fae, too.”
Paganism is just story. Paganism is anything goes. And the gods are just stories, archetypes, forces. Never allow us to be reminded that these gods are real, and that They were worshipped as People. As gods. I see and hear this all the time, and all of this enrages me.
In the face of all of the troubles that we as polytheists have right now in developing our traditions; in the face of a cultural climate hostile to polytheism; in the face of our religions and spiritualities being demonized; in the face of a theology and belief never taken seriously; in the face of the reality of witch-burning and paganism considered to be actual crimes that merit death in many counties, and St. Patrick’s day celebrating the deaths of pagans and druids that refused to convert; in the face of people who read the myths of the gods and see them only as stories and archetypes to simply explain natural experiences alone (as if our ancestors were so primitive); and in the face of a true impossibility to bring back the fullness of history from the dead, I cannot celebrate this day.
I see it in the way that the Fae are treated as some sort of tinker-bell spirits, and people are so quick to call the Unseelie as “evil, malicious” Fae (where, truly, there is barely any information on the Unseelie Court). I see it in the way that people try to approach the gods as pagan converts from monotheism – not pagans. I see it in the way that our gods are reduced, simplified, posited as “here for our service” and unable to do no wrong – to never have complexity or sentience of agency. I see it in the way that people stare at us, in that way that tells us that we’re either devil-worshippers or deluded.
I don’t think people understand how much hurt this brings – to us, to our gods, and to what we are struggling to make for paganism and polytheism as movements and established traditions. We have no traditions to fall back on. People don’t take us seriously because, well, anything goes in paganism, right? Our community is rife with drama, back-stabbing, and ridiculous nonsense that truly holds us back. Our community has the idea that piety is for losers and that our gods don’t really give a shit about having had their cultures beaten down by others. Our community has the idea that tradition is equivalent to dogma, and immediately becomes defensive the moment someone tries to say something worthwhile and constructive. “You don’t own me! You don’t tell me what to do! I don’t do that!”
And what of our gods?
Cernunnos is a title in Latin – “cornu” from “horned or antlered” forming the word “the horned one.” All we have are depictions that were not erased. All we have of a great and flourishing worship to this integral god is gone. We know that He was worshipped (and widely so!) and yet there are no temples, no remains, no legacy. The face and person of my god was demonized by Christians into the devil as a way to invalidate the beliefs of the Celts and to force them into Christianization. And for all of the information on the internet and in books, we have NOTHING on Cernunnos.
NOTHING. Not even His name. We do not even have His name. All we have is a title from the language of the Romans – not even His name in His language. I do not even know the name of my most beloved god, my Husband.
The fact that I cannot even know His name, that I cannot ever speak His name, that I can never murmur it, or sing it in a hymn, or scream it, or love it, or write it down… that, to me, is heartbreaking.
The fact that we only know of Cernunnos from the side of a cauldron devastates me.
This has happened to countless other gods, spirits, entities. (And many Others have not been so lucky). This, to me, stands amongst the greatest crimes of all time.
And our gods live, and I rejoice in Them daily. The snakes are not gone, and They are coming back stronger than ever, and I know that They are here to stay.
But massacred people, murdered traditions, and forgotten gods have never been cured with joy. And they never will be; reality hurts, doesn’t it. All I can do is offer Cernunnos a drink, hang my head in mourning, and continue my Work.