Something of A Personal History or Praefatio ad Librum De Operum Officio

The following developed from the original entry that I composed as an introduction on the tribe ‘Spells’. I opted in the end for a briefer intro., but thought that I’d supply this here if anyone was interested. There is of course much more, but I’d rather post this and come back than wait and never post it …

I’ve struggled for almost 24 hours now to figure out how to introduce myself to this tribe after Brigit agreed to admit me. I suppose the best way to do so is to simply present examples of what has worked and what has not. My experiences have been almost entirely exploratory, and some of my earliest memories are of events that I only came to regard as strange once I found that they were not ‘normal’ (a term I have come to detest more than income tax. Income tax shackles our bank accounts, but the concept of normalcy shackles the soul). I remember once when I was four, flying around my room one night – though I couldn’t say if I was bodily flying, astrally flying or dreaming. At nine and without actually looking for them, I could locate eggs hidden in the tall grass of our field by our hens, and the ghost who dwelt in our house had a certain affinity for me.

About the same time I asked my mother to buy me a particular book on runes; just a $8 paperback, but it ignited something in me as though I’d been handed a great tome of ancient wisdom (I don’t remember the title, but there was a picture of a raven sitting on top of a runestone). After a little time my excitement waned, not as the simple passing of my fancy to some other diversion, but because I took my religion quite seriously and, being raised Methodist by my mother, I was deeply disturbed by the references to gods other than that of the Christian god. When I asked my mother about this she answered that God listened to all forms of prayer: a tolerant answer but one that did not allay the misgivings that finally blossomed into a full blown crisis of faith at the mature age of nine, for while my desire was for the purity of my family’s confession of a monotheistic faith, my heart was incessantly drawn to the polytheism of the older religions. I must impress again that this entire drama was played out almost entirely in my own mind and was laid to an uneasy rest by a pure force of will. After decades devoted to Christianity and after a forced review of my life, the effective reality of my personal history was a pattern uninformed by the principles I held as central to my life.

Now, I want to be absolutely clear about this. It was not that I merely failed to live up to the Christian ideals that I had formed through decades of reading scripture, but my very instincts seemed informed by an alternate set of ideals imperfectly aligned with those that I consciously held. At the time and indeed every time that I failed to live up to my Christian ideals (myriad and manifold as they were) I always ascribed it to the natural failing of a soul plagued by the operation of a will turned from the divine even before its manifestation in this present form. Indeed this is what the Christian paradigm expects — that we have a tendency toward evil and away from the divine and godly. Why then did my actions seem to evidence a set of ethical principles cohesive to themselves and privileging certain goods while denying others? If my character was predisposed toward subversion and dissolution, then why was I intrinsically and invariably inclined toward cultivation and synthesis in some contexts and likewise constant in my disregard and antagonism in others? In reviewing this system of ethics apparent in my actions a cohesive image of an ethical system began to emerge: one that fired my imagination and provided more than solace but inspiration; but it was definitely and utterly non-Christian. Thus my essential dilemma remained.

While pursuing my graduate studies in the Gaelic side of my past (by far the largest but nevertheless accompanied by Latin and Germanic tributaries), I found some relief with the marriage of pre-Christian and post-conversion culture exemplified by the Acallamh na Senórach, but nothing succeeds like success, and I found myself suddenly confronted with the awareness that all my misgivings were buried within my own perception and devoid of practical reality. I was chasing shadows assuming that my own reason could discern the spiritual truths that surrounded and yet eluded me. The narrative of Elijah, who tested the efficacy of the Canaanites’ Baal by seeing whose God could light the sacrificial pyre without the aid of his followers, ending as it does with the bloody finality of four hundred throats slit beside the river, threw into stark relief the myriad failures of some prayers and the strange, somehow unpredictable successes of others. What truth was I missing?

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