B – Brighid (PBP week 3)

Imbolc is approaching, and it is one of the only neo-pagan holidays I still celebrate.  This is because of its relationship to Brighid, and the special place She holds in my heart.

If Odin was the first pagan deity that I had direct experience of, Brighid was the second.  And it was a far more pleasant experience.

Several years ago, I had decided that I needed to strip everything down and go back to basics.  My soft polytheistic theology wasn’t working for me any more.  I realized I had come to think of the Gods as unique individuals, or perhaps I always had and was only then comfortable with going my own way.  Either way, I needed to work this epiphany into my faith and practice.

When I started re-reading mythology with an eye towards finding a deity to approach, Brighid’s name just jumped off of the page, and I had what I think of as a “well duh” moment.  I had studied Celtic mythology years earlier – thought it would be a good fit, since so many of my ancestors were from Britain and Ireland – but it didn’t resonate with me.  I didn’t feel a connection with any of the Gods.  Except Brighid.  So here I was, years later, and the same Goddess was speaking to me.

I decided to start worshiping Her.  I set up a small shrine and burned candles and incense to Her nightly.  I learned prayers in Irish that I would say throughout the day as needed.  I joined a flame keeping cill.

And, unlike when I called to “the God” or “the Goddess,” I felt something respond.  I never really saw an anthropomorphic image of Brighid in my mind, but I came to know Her presence – a feeling akin to the heat of the sun, or of a forge.

Time went on and I was feeling very good about the way things were going.  I began to seriously consider becoming a devotee, pledging myself to Her.

That’s when things got weird.

Brighid had became more distant.  Though She still responded to my prayers, I would often find my thoughts directed to the Roman goddess Minerva, then the Etruscan Menrva, and finally to the Greek Athena.  (At this same time, and completely unrelated to my spiritual practices, I had been developing a strong interest in Roman history and culture.  I blame James Purefoy and Ciaran Hinds.)

At first I was confused – it almost seemed like She was trying to direct me back to the “all goddesses are one” perspective.  Except the experiences I was having with each of these goddesses, brief as they were, showed me entities with very distinct personalities.

I finally guessed what was going on was that Brighid didn’t want me as a devotee.  I didn’t belong to Her.  She was basically taking me by the and, and step by step, through my Roman interest and paths that I would understand, was showing me where I did belong.

Remembering my childhood love of Greek mythology, I tried meditating on that pantheon, Athena in particular.  The response I got from Her was welcoming, but a little stand offish.  As though She were saying “No dearie – you think you’d be mine, wouldn’t you?  A studious little girl like you?  But no.  Have you met my little brother?”

And that, as they say was that.

I suspect I’m not the only one who had this sort of experience with Her.  Brighid is extremely popular in neo-paganism.  I think, perhaps, one reason might be that She has taken it upon Herself to welcome many of us into the fold while we become acquainted with how polytheism works.  Just speculation on my part, but it’s a comforting idea.


X – Xena, Warrior Princess, or “Gee, I hope my Gods Have a Sense of Humor” (PBP week 47)

I have a confession to make.

I am a huge fan of Xena: Warrior Princess, despite its horrific history and its ridiculously inaccurate costumes.  Even despite its questionable to horrifying portrayal of the Gods.

So, I sincerely hope the Gods have a sense of humor about stuff like this.  They’ve been portrayed badly in pop culture long before this show came along and I don’t remember any reports of mass smitings going down, so maybe I’m OK.  I take comfort from the Odyssey, and its scandalous tale of Ares and Aphrodite told for amusement.

The characterizations of the Gods in the show range from refreshing (Hades), to questionable (Athena, Ares), to horrific (Aphrodite.)

Ares is the deity that appears most often in Xena, and I don’t imagine He would mind His characterization much at all, despite being the chief villain.  He’s pretty much used to that, I’d think.  He is shown to be a serious badass (though, of course, Xena always gets the best of Him) and He gets all the best lines.  On top of that, the actor Kevin Smith (no, not THAT Kevin Smith, this Kevin Smith) is one big hunk ‘o’ tasty.

When I envision the real Ares, it’s this image that comes to mind.  Haven’t noticed any objections so far.

Hades, too, comes off pretty well compared to other modern interpretations.  He is a little on the wimpy side, what with getting His helmet stolen and losing control of His realm and all, but He is refreshingly not evil.

Athena’s characterization isn’t too bad either.  She’s sympathetic, but cold, and in the end completely daddy’s girl.  She cares about humanity, but when it is “Us vs them” She unashamedly takes the side of the Gods.  The actress, Paris Jefferson, is gorgeous and has the most amazing grey eyes.

I can’t imagine Her being at all happy about that outfit, though.

The same is true of Artemis, costume wise.  All that skin cannot be good.

I haven’t seen the episodes She appears in – they are part of the “Twilight of the Gods” storyline which makes me incredibly uncomfortable (even my fangirlishness has its limits.)

So I can’t speak to how She is portrayed, except that the actress is too old, but I have no problem seeing Artemis in this image.

Cupid is shown as a teenage momma’s boy and Discord, well… Discordians may approve of Her portrayal, actually, though she is a bit petulant.  Dionysos, called Bacchus, appears in one episode “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.”  I honestly don’t remember how they wrote Him, as I was too busy being alternately horrified and amused by the demonic vampire maenads.  Many other Gods make appearances in the series and I haven’t seen them all.

Now comes the real trouble.  The second most divine appearances in the show are from Aphrodite.  I really, really hope Aphrodite has a generous sense of humor.I suspect She does.  Otherwise the regular portrayal of Her as a lingerie clad air-headed mean girl would have resulted in some serious smiting.  (*Note to self:  see if you can find out how Sam Raimi’s, Alexandra Tydings‘, and Lucy Lawless’ love lives have been going.)

Then there’s that whole “Twilight of the Gods” story line I mentioned earlier.  Xena gets the power to kill Gods and does so with abandon, in order to protect her daughter Eve (this is when the show decided to throw Christian mythology into the mix.)  Ares and Aphrodite survive, having become mortal (temporarily) but that’s about it.  There’s more to it than that, but as I said even my fangirlishness has it’s limits.

And yet, I can’t resist Sam Raimi‘s ridiculously campy style, I adore Lucy Lawless and Renee O’Connor, and I am delighted by the occasional appearances of Bruce Campbell as Autolycus.

Most of all I love the story of love and heroism among women.

So still a fan, even though I watch it less than I did before becoming a follower of the Greek pantheon.  And even though occasionally when I do watch, I sometimes feel I should take a shower to clear away the miasma and then make conciliatory offerings.

Are your Gods often portrayed in fiction?  If so, how well?  Do you approve, ignore it, or take offense?  Do you disapprove and watch anyway?