I’m excited to be a part of The Gaelic Roundtable both as a contributor and as one of the people behind it. The lovely Radha, a good friend of mine, brought up the idea last year during a private discussion on how to encourage community building and growth among Gaelic Polytheists, and we’re happy to announce that it officially launched on the 1st of this month- kicking off with the Topic of Journeys.
Tell us a little bit about your practice; what kind of Gaelic Polytheism do you practice? Is it Historically Oriented or Eclectic? Are you a member of an Organization like OBOD or another one? Do you follow the Irish, Scottish, or Manx beliefs- or maybe a combination of the three? And more importantly, how did you wind up at Gaelic Polytheism? What drew you to our faith and made you start practicing?
It’s not really a secret that I would up an Irish Polytheist on accident; it was a happy accident, but it was still an accident nonetheless. I’ve never really spoken about how that accident occurred, though. With the topic being Journeys (specifically the journey we took which led us to our faith) this month, and my own one year anniversary having just passed, I figured it was a good time to revisit that subject in slightly more depth than I have previously on my blog.
Alternative title: I have incredibly conflicting emotions about Cass being an asshole.
Alternative alternative title: Cass is generally the worst but I love her too much.
Alternative alternative alternative title: It’s all Cass’s fault.
My early religious experiences were pretty standard, though they differ pretty greatly from what the Pagan Community generally professes to experience; most come to Paganism because of trauma or some similar reason, but that wasn’t the case for me. I grew up with a Mormon Mother and a Lutheran Father, but my sister and I were never forced into any specific path. Instead, my parents always let my Sister and I choose our own religions, and were always incredibly supportive of our decisions concerning them. I’ve also never had negative experiences- either with the Churches or the communities I got involved with; overall, my experiences were always incredibly positive and I still hold a bit of a soft spot for the Abrahamic faiths.
For a long time I thought that the religious path was Mormonism for me. I started attending our local Latter Day Saints facilities when I was about 9 or 10. At 11 I began my year long study that preceded Baptism- and at 12, I was formally Baptized into the Mormon Faith in accordance to their rules. Before my Baptism, though, I had started having doubts about it. Those doubts that I was having ultimately led me to researching what other religions were out there. Eventually I started practicing your typical, ever pervasive forms of Witchcraft on the side when I wasn’t studying the Bible and Book of Mormon for my upcoming Baptism. Still, When it came time for my Baptism I went through with it regardless of the doubts I had. I felt like I had to follow through with the commitment because I had made it- and it didn’t help that the Missionary I had chosen to Baptize me was attractive even to my 12 year old self.
The fit wasn’t right, however, and I knew that the second I hit the water in the Baptismal Pool. I never returned to Church after that, and last year I formally resigned from the Mormon faith altogether and had my name withdrawn from their records (something I was unaware that you were even able to do until that point). After leaving the Church, though, I continued practicing Witchcraft; I was a member of a small local “coven” for a while, and generally went about my merry way studying various religions. Eventually I graduated, moved around, wound up in some bad relationships, and then ended up on Tumblr.
While I can say a lot of incredibly negative things about Tumblr? One positive thing I can say about it is that it opens you up to a wider range of information that most people simply don’t have access to otherwise; that site taught me more about Pagan diversity in two weeks than I had learned from any “Pagan” or “Witchcraft” resource I had read since I was 11. Of course it wasn’t always good or accurate information, but it opened my world significantly. It’s also where I met Cass; Val Ulfgrim (or “Cass”) and I have been good friends since roughly 2013, when we met on Tumblr for the first time and she pestered me into being her friend.
When we met, I had been on Tumblr for a couple years already. At that point I was working my way through the historically oriented Polytheist religions that Tumblr introduced me to, studying whatever I could and trying to find that space that I belonged in. I believe the flavor of research at that point was Kemetic Orthodoxy, but ultimately it was she who eventually stuck me on this path by introducing me to Cailleach. The idea that she simply introduced me to Cailleach, though, is a bit of a misnomer. More correctly, she accidentally conscripted me into service to the Hag. The process through which she did it are private and involved her practice at the time. As such, I’m not entitled to speak about what happened in that regard- or how… It suffices to say, however, that person-to-person bindings are not something you want to do on accident. Ever.
It wasn’t so bad, though, since most of the time that service included holding Cass accountable for her worship of the Hag. In other words, when she’d slip on this or that promise it was me that would get pestered- all the way up until I was annoyed enough to harass Cass just so that Cailleach would leave me alone. And while that sounds like something straight out of the Twilight Zone, I promise that there is no other conceivable reason why an alarm should go off once an hour, every hour, for weeks, on a wristwatch whose batteries were dead (and had been dead for years in the first place)… And then mysteriously stop the moment Cass did whatever it was she was supposed to do; I looked for an explanation for damned near a complete month before finally giving in and accepting that the Hag is actually a pretty effective troll when she wants to be.
Over time I did start to developed a sort of relationship with her that was separate from what Cass had accidentally bound me to; Cailleach was always a stern but willing figure in my life. Whatever I asked, she gave so long as I held up my end of the bargain. If I didn’t uphold it, though, she made her displeasure known in ways that would likely be seen as rather cruel by outsiders. Still, she was always there for me even if her help was never quite given freely; there was always something that she wanted from me in return for what help she gave.
Mostly our relationship was in the form of petitions- such as when I needed help getting out of an abusive situation and made an Oath to her (which I would eventually break). Eventually, though, Cass left Irish Polytheism behind and began working more with her Indigenous Spirituality and the Northern Gods. The pestering finally stopped around that point, but our relationship didn’t really end. Instead, I continued to work with Cailleach in terms of Shadowork- including a rather in depth rebirth ritual twice a year. It was actually during one of those rituals in January of last year, that I received quite a clear message that the price for her help this time would be the one thing I had vehemently avoided for years: Joining Irish Polytheism and becoming a Dedicant- not just to her, but to a Deity I had no prior experience with.
I say “vehemently avoided” because I did; modern Neo-Paganism and Wicca based faiths had completely put me off of dealing with Irish (or any form of Celtic*) faith- and of all the religions I had studied and tried to find my place in over the years, it was the one path I had refused to study until I met Cass. Even after we became friends, though, I still felt a sort of repulsion toward it. Yet in the moment that Cailleach demanded it from me, I knew that I’d finally found that space I’d been searching for… And so I took the leap and did it.
I thought that Cass- as well as other friends of mine who followed the Irish figures- would be upset about it. We’re all big proponents of thinking over Oaths and taking them seriously for what they are, and none of us like seeing people make Oaths without consideration for their importance. Cass would later humorously tell me, though, that what I had been doing the whole time (my personal beliefs, my methods of practice, and practically everything else I had been doing) had essentially been Irish Polytheism in the first place- and that it was “about damned time” that I recognized it.
So here I am, a year later: A Historically Oriented Irish Polytheist, blood oathed to Cailleach and Brighid… And I still couldn’t be happier with where I wound up despite the outright weird journey I took to get here.
For a list of IriPol resources, including those I used to inform the opinions mentioned in this article, please view this page here.