Skip to content

An Interview with Athelia Nihtscada (Part Three)

October 15, 2015

Interviewer: Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Numbering: Issue 9.A, Idea: Outliers & Outsiders (Part Five)

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Web Domain: http://www.in-sightjournal.com

Individual Publication Date: October 15, 2015

Issue Publication Date: January 1, 2016

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: Three Times Per Year

Words: 3,228

ISSN 2369-6885

Athelia Nihtscada

Abstract

An interview with Athelia Nihtscada. She discusses: Basic Deity Types (1997) from Kondratiev in relation to the purpose of gods and goddesses, and the panoply of deities in druid initiations, rituals, traditions, and worship services; and Kuno Meyer in The Triads of Ireland (1906) in relation to the ethics of druidism and paganism to bring social and cultural cohesion for druids and pagans.

Keywords: Athelia Nihtscada, deity, druidism, Kondatriev, Kuno Meyer, paganism, rituals, traditions, worship.

An Interview with Athelia Nihtscada (Part Three)[1],[2],[3]

*Please see the footnotes and citation style listing after the interview, respectively.*

14. In Basic Deity Types (1997), Kondratiev describes some of the generalized deities within the druid world including land and tribal deities.[4] What purpose do the gods and goddesses, and the panoply of deities serve in the druid initiations, rituals, traditions, and worship services?[5]

The purpose depends on the individual, of course. Some Druids see Druidry as a philosophy that can either be incorporated into another religion (e.g.: Christianity, Buddhism, etc.) or followed with no religious context at all. For this question, I am answering for myself who practises Druidism is a religion on its own.

I am quite far away from the deities of my ancestors’ land and culture and personally do not know or identify with deities indigenous to the land I actually live in. Local deities have not made themselves known to me, but certain deities from the lands of my ancestors have connected with me as “patrons”. I believe a lot of Druids in North America or in lands outside of Europe also have found connection with European deities in a similar fashion.

Practitioners of “Druidcraft”, a hybrid of Druidism and Wicca, may be duotheistic in that all Gods are aspects of one God and all Goddesses are aspects of one Goddess: the Lord and Lady. For me, each God and Goddess is an individual with his or her own personality, preferences, wisdom and reason for connecting with me.

When I first started on my path and read about the various Gods and Goddesses in the Welsh and Irish pantheons, I found that certain ones seemed to invoke that tug in my heart; much like the one I felt when I discovered Druids in the first place. I also began to notice certain omens, such as seeing crows everywhere, as well as dreams of meeting the deities. Like my father had said, the best connection with the Divine is the one forged for oneself. I opened myself to their wisdom and was then “called” by the ones who wished to connect with me. I had never felt that kind of feeling before and was happy to finally feel this divine connection that so many of my friends in Catholic school had claimed with their God. Over time, I learned how to “tune in” to each one’s presence and knew whether I was making the right offerings, learning the right lessons, or not. For me, it was like befriending someone important and those relationships have grown over time. I am not one who subscribes to the practise of calling upon certain deities based on correspondence charts in order to get what I want. A relationship with deity needs to be respectful, mutually beneficial and consistent. If I need something, I may ask my patron deities for help finding a direction or strength to make it happen.

When I founded Awen Grove, certain deities also made it clear that they were going to be “patrons” for the group itself. Each member found themselves connecting with those deities in their own way. This purpose would be very similar to tribal deities.

In short, I believe the various deities’ purpose is to guide us, teach us, and help us along the way toward spiritual and personal growth and development.

15. Kuno Meyer in The Triads of Ireland (1906) states:

“One of the most important things that defines a people as a distinct social and cultural group is how they act toward one another; what they expect from each other socially, what their rules of conduct are, and how they deal with those who step outside the boundaries of what their culture considers “proper behavior.” These social rules, whether “don’t stare at strangers” or “thou shalt not kill,” are among the cultural guidelines to ethical behavior within any given group. Ethics govern not only these social interactions, but also what is acceptable in religious ritual, and the whys and whens of the appropriate use of magic. Without an ethical structure of some sort, religion and magic become self-serving, meaningless beyond the single individual. Magic can easily become manipulative rather than transformative, serving only the needs of this moment rather than the needs of a lifetime, or of an individual rather than a community. Religion and social interaction become a minefield where killing your neighbor because you want tomatoes from her garden is as valid a method of obtaining your dinner as trading for them. Within many public NeoPagan organizations there are no agreed upon ethics, no generally accepted rules of conduct. While individual freedoms are a good thing…Without trust between individuals, there can be no tribe. Groups with known and expressed ethical guidelines seem to be spared the worst aspects of this kind of struggle. People know where they stand and what the boundaries of interpretation are. Trust develops more easily, and community becomes more than a group of people who claim they believe similar things…Celtic Reconstructionist Paganism recognizes the need for a set of ethical guidelines and bases its structure upon that of the ancient Celts…Knowing our ethical history allows us to intelligently modify those beliefs into modern applications for Celtic Reconstructionist Pagans.”[6],[7] [Emphasis added.]

How do the ethics of druidism and paganism bring about social and cultural cohesion for druids and pagans?

Ethics has always been an interest of mine because it is a paradox of simplicity and complexity. Some people feel that ethics are the same as morals or laws of virtue, which can be forced upon others. Morals and laws of virtue can be unmovable, or at least some sort of debate or process will need to be undertaken to change them. These are usually decided by more than just one person and are external.

For me, ethics are fluid and personal. We all have values and personal codes of conduct, which are the cornerstones of our ideas of right and wrong. In normal situations, we have a pretty fair idea of what we would and would not do. Throw in an unusual situation or factor which doesn’t really fit within that framework of values. What if something deeply challenges a value and causes one to rethink it? What if one has always said they would do something a certain way, but when push comes to shove, they find themselves torn? This is how an ethical dilemma starts. No one can take ethics away from a person or impose their own ethics on another, because the human being has the free will to choose what to do in any given situation. We make choices based on our own personal code of conduct and we must take responsibility for the consequences of those choices. Can we stand by those choices? Do we feel they are right? Are the choices aligned with our values and morals?

Bring that concept to a larger picture, such as a group setting, and one is now dealing with other people who have their own internal codes of ethics. Each person has their own idea of what is “right” and what is “wrong”. It is useful to discuss these differences as a group and come up with ethics that will guide the choices of individuals and the group in general.

Reading Kuno Meyer’s quote, I am in complete agreement with the need for social and cultural cohesion as well as a well-defined set of ethics. Without those standards of conduct and ethics, things do become very self-serving and manipulative in the magical and social sense. We are not exempt from society or its rules of conduct. I have been witness to many attempts to come up with some sort of unified statement of ethics in groups and with Paganism in general. Usually, these attempts arise from some sort of scandal, such as a pedophile claiming to be a Druid, or just out of general interest of having such a unified statement. There is much debate and then it sort of fizzles out, never to be discussed until the next person raises the subject. Why is this so difficult?

Phillip Carr-Gomm makes an interesting observation as to why this is such a difficult undertaking in his online article, “Ethics & Values in Druidism II” (http://www.druidry.org/druid-way/what-druidry/ethics-values-druidry/ethics-values-druidism). “…little has been written about ethics in contemporary Druidism since most Druids are keen to avoid the problems caused by dictating a morality to others. So much suffering has resulted throughout history because one group of people have decided that it is good to do one thing and bad to do another. Just as most Druids have avoided dictating which type of theology someone should adopt, so too have they avoided telling each other, or the world, how to behave.” I believe this might be one of the main reasons behind the lack of ethical standards of conduct: the fear of dictating behavioural standards due to past experiences with other religions.

This is the main reason I started Awen Grove in the first place. I did not want to ‘dictate’ a moral code, but I wanted ethics to be one of the cornerstones of the Grove. It took us about 2 – 3 years to come up with a unified statement, but it was done. Granted, most of that time was spent researching other codes of conduct with the goal of rewriting the original Statement of Ethics that I had written in 2003. It took only a handful of meetings to actually come up with a Statement of Ethics we could all agree upon, and it was not a difficult process at all. That statement is quite simple and is as follows:

We believe:

  • In following a sincere Path of Service
  • In upholding the Truth – Starting withourselves
  • In upholding the respect and dignity of each of us and our Community
  • In maintaining a healthy balance of personal, professional, environmental and spiritual priorities
  • That abuse of any sort is unacceptable and will not be condoned

Awen Grove has been in existence for the past 12 years, with very little drama. Why? Because we took the time to come up with a standard of conduct that we could all agree upon and work with.

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Founder and Arch Druid, Awen Grove; Member of the Third Order of the Reformed Druids of North America; Member, Order of Bards Ovates and Druids; Member, The British Druid Order; Member, Henge of Keltria; Member and Past Regional Coordinator, Druid Network; Member and Past Regional Druid of Western Canada, Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship (ADF).

[2] First publication on October 15, 2015 at www.in-sightjournal.com.

[3] Photograph courtesy of Athelia Nihtscada.

[4] Please see Kondratiev, A. (1997). Basic Deity Types. Retrieved from http://www.draeconin.com/database/deitytypes.htm.

[5] Kondratiev, in Basic Deity Types (1997), states:

“The Celtic “Mercury”…The Celtic “Mars”…The Celtic “Jupiter”…The Celtic “Silvanus” or God With Antlers (Karnonos/Cernunnos)…The Celtic “Minerva”…Because horses played such a large part in the Celts’ military successes in Europe, the horse was a symbol of sovereignty and political power (as opposed to cattle, which were a symbol of the Land and of material wealth). Thus the goddess who gave legitimacy to the power of the tribe was portrayed as riding on a horse, or as a mare herself. This (Epona, “Great Mare”) was a particular aspect of the sovereignty goddess, distinct from, say, Rosmerta, who gives rulers the intoxicating drink of flaith/wlatis. The Celtic “Minerva”, on the other hand, was a more general representation of goddess-energy, who could be invoked in a far greater range of situations: she gave the energy of rulership to rulers, but also provided every other kind of energy wherever it was needed….The Hindu model can be very useful in helping us understand the Celtic view of goddesses, which was quite similar. For Hindus, goddesses are sources of energy, and they are often referred to collectively as simply Shakti (which can be personified as Durga, the supreme virgin goddess who is the source of all energy in the universe). But when the energy is applied to a specific purpose, the goddesses become differentiated: as Sarasvati (culture and creativity), Lakshmi (fertility and wealth, material comfort) or Kali (destruction and rebirth)…’Sucellos’ (“Good Striker”). (i.e. giving death with one side, life with the other). This is evidently the same god-type that became known as the ‘Dagda’ “Good (=Efficient) God” in Ireland. He is often chosen to represent the trifunctional tutelary god of a tribal territory (‘Toutatis’). His consort is the territorial river goddess. In southern Gaul he was sometimes interpreted as “Silvanus” (both he and Cernunnos had cauldrons)…’Maponos’ (meaning “Superboy”, essentially!)…The Divine Twins. The only literary survival of these important Indo-European divinities consists of Nisien and Efnisien in the Second Branch of the Mabinogi…The Celtic “Apollo”.”

Please see Kondratiev, A. (1997). Basic Deity Types. Retrieved from http://www.draeconin.com/database/deitytypes.htm.

[6] In full, Meyer states:

“One of the most important things that defines a people as a distinct social and cultural group is how they act toward one another; what they expect from each other socially, what their rules of conduct are, and how they deal with those who step outside the boundaries of what their culture considers “proper behavior.” These social rules, whether “don’t stare at strangers” or “thou shalt not kill,” are among the cultural guidelines to ethical behavior within any given group. Ethics govern not only these social interactions, but also what is acceptable in religious ritual, and the whys and whens of the appropriate use of magic. Without an ethical structure of some sort, religion and magic become self-serving, meaningless beyond the single individual. Magic can easily become manipulative rather than transformative, serving only the needs of this moment rather than the needs of a lifetime, or of an individual rather than a community. Religion and social interaction become a minefield where killing your neighbor because you want tomatoes from her garden is as valid a method of obtaining your dinner as trading for them. Within many public NeoPagan organizations there are no agreed upon ethics, no generally accepted rules of conduct. While individual freedoms are a good thing, and one which should be supported and striven for, it is also useful to have a groundwork upon which we can assume that one person will not lie to or about another, that oaths will not be falsely sworn, and that the organization’s land fund won’t be used to buy the group treasurer a new pickup truck. These things may indeed be generally deplored by individuals in the group, but without stated guidelines objections become irrelevant and the cause of the objection is often lost in the ensuing muck-throwing contest, while the group debates what actually constitutes a lie, whether or not theft is actually theft, and whether any act is ever legally or ethically actionable. Where there are no standards of behavior, it is difficult for community and trust to develop. Without trust between individuals, there can be no tribe. Groups with known and expressed ethical guidelines seem to be spared the worst aspects of this kind of struggle. People know where they stand and what the boundaries of interpretation are. Trust develops more easily, and community becomes more than a group of people who claim they believe similar things. Known guidelines don’t guarantee absolute compatibility and social cohesion, but they certainly make it easier to determine the boundaries of acceptable behavior, make it possible for minor and major breaches of those codes of conduct to be pointed out, and create a starting point for dealing with those situations when they inevitably arise. Clear group ethical models also offer something for people to build their individual ethics upon. Ethics can be based upon ancient or modern models, derived from some philosophical source or created by mutual agreement and discussion. Celtic Reconstructionist Paganism recognizes the need for a set of ethical guidelines and bases its structure upon that of the ancient Celts. This is not to say that our ethical structure is identical to that of the early Celts, or directly derived from early Irish or Welsh laws. Many things laid out in those laws and illustrated in the tales are distasteful to us as moderns, no longer either acceptable or legal within the overculture under which we must all live. Trial by ordeal, death by exposure in pits and slavery for forfeiture of contracts are some of the more blatant examples of things that our Celtic forbears did which we would find abhorrent. Knowing our ethical history allows us to intelligently modify those beliefs into modern applications for Celtic Reconstructionist Pagans.”

Please see Meyer, K. (1906). The Triads of Ireland. Royal Irish Academy, Todd Lecture Series vol XIII, Hodges, Figes & Co., Dublin

[7] Please see Laurie, E.R. (2010). The Truth Against the World: Ethics and Model Celtic Paganism. Retrieved from http://www.seanet.com/~inisglas/ethics.html.

Appendix II: Citation Style Listing

American Medical Association (AMA): Nihtscada A. and Jacobsen S. An Interview with Athelia Nihtscada (Part Three)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal [Online]. October 2015; 9(A). Available from: https://in-sightjournal.com/2015/10/15/an-interview-with-athelia-nihtscada-part-three/.

American Psychological Association (APA, 6th Edition, 2010): Nihtscada, A. & Jacobsen, S.D. (2015, October 15). An Interview with Athelia Nihtscada (Part Three). Retrieved from https://in-sightjournal.com/2015/10/15/an-interview-with-athelia-nihtscada-part-three/.

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): NIHTSCADA, A. & JACOBSEN, S. An Interview with Athelia Nihtscada (Part Three)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 9.A, October. 2015. <https://in-sightjournal.com/2015/10/15/an-interview-with-athelia-nihtscada-part-three/>.

Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (16th Edition): Nihtscada, Athelia & Jacobsen, Scott. 2015. “An Interview with Athelia Nihtscada (Part Three).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 9.A. https://in-sightjournal.com/2015/10/15/an-interview-with-athelia-nihtscada-part-three/.

Chicago/Turabian, Humanities (16th Edition): Nihtscada, Athelia & Jacobsen, Scott “An Interview with Athelia Nihtscada (Part Three).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 9.A (October 2015). https://in-sightjournal.com/2015/10/15/an-interview-with-athelia-nihtscada-part-three/.

Harvard: Nihtscada, A. & Jacobsen, S. 2015, ‘An Interview with Athelia Nihtscada (Part Three)’, In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 8.A. Available from: <https://in-sightjournal.com/2015/10/15/an-interview-with-athelia-nihtscada-part-three/>.

Harvard, Australian: Nihtscada, A. and Jacobsen, S. 2015, An Interview with Athelia Nihtscada (Part Three)’, In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 9.A., https://in-sightjournal.com/2015/10/15/an-interview-with-athelia-nihtscada-part-three/.

Modern Language Association (MLA, 7th Edition, 2009): Nihtscada, Athelia, and Scott D. Jacobsen. “An Interview with Athelia Nihtscada (Part Three).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 9.A (2015):October. 2015. Web. <https://in-sightjournal.com/2015/10/15/an-interview-with-athelia-nihtscada-part-three/>.

Vancouver/ICMJE: Nihtscada A. and Jacobsen S. An Interview with Athelia Nihtscada (Part Three) [Internet]. (2015, October); 9(A). Available from: https://in-sightjournal.com/2015/10/15/an-interview-with-athelia-nihtscada-part-three/.

License and Copyright

License

In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at www.in-sightjournal.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen, and In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 2012-2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen, and In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  All interviewees co-copyright their interview material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Advertisements

From → Chronology

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: