Friday, June 22, 2012

Ancestor Veneration Doesn't Mean Just Pagan Ancestors

With St. Patrick's Day passing by in March, I found myself saying the above a few times in discussions. Ancestor veneration includes all those you consider ancestors regardless of their religious beliefs. Those beliefs don't make them any less worthy of acknowledgement and respect as any other ancestor one may have. While there is a struggle in the pagan community with this particular day for various reasons which I won't go into here, I did come to realize the extent of this sentence a few days after my own acknowledgment of St. Patty's Day. A discussion about the eight ADF high days would have me thinking even farther back in my ancestry than I would have considered prior. 

As ancestor veneration doesn't solely apply to our pagan ancestry, I have also come to realize that it doesn't just apply for my Irish Celtic roots either. In the Celtic sense, a shared gnosis between many Celtic pagans is that the tribes honored four main harvest festivals. Some local tribal celebrations may have incorporated other special days, but the four days that seem to run through all the remaining Celt specific information we have points to Samhain, Imbolc, Bealtaine, and Lughnassadh being honored (though the name may have varied by region). This is further addressed in the Irish legend of the Wooing of Emer when she states to Cú Chulainn,"No man will travel this country who hasn't gone sleepness from Samain, when the summer goes to its rest, until Imbolc, when the ewes are milked at spring's beginning; from Imbolc to Beltine at the summer's beginning and from Beltine to Bron Trogain, earth's sorrowing autumn."

Because of this, I was having a hard time reconciling adding four celebrations to my own calendar of acknowledgement because I am, after all, an Irish Celtic pagan. It was however, recently brought up that around 3000 BCE (long before the Celtic influence came to Ireland) the early Irish inhabitants built the megalithic mounds. The mounds, including Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth, have been studied quite a bit by the archaeological community in the last 50 years. What the archaeologists have been able to understand is that these megaliths were built in their specific locations because of their correlations with the sun as dictated by the solstices and equinoxes. 

The theories range from ritual caverns to, at the very least, large seasonal clocks. Regardless of the usage, this early group of people felt that it was significant to build these mounds in these specific areas to alert them to the placement of the sun. When this discussion came up, it was almost as if someone was pushing my own words into my face and that little light bulb (or fire if you will) went off in my head.

With this in mind, I figure I can find some way to acknowledge the solar celebrations while specifically focusing on these early inhabitants. I'm still entertaining ways to acknowledge the solstice and equinoxes with those ancestors in mind, but I feel like I have at least broken the mold by deciding to "put my money where my mouth is." Ancestor veneration doesn't mean solely my Iron Age ancestors anymore than it excludes my Christian ones. Now to see where that leads me. 

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