Tuesday, July 23, 2013

(Not) Alone in the dark

I've written before about the sort of ennui which can accompany belonging to a minority religion or theistic perspective in the face of a dominant religious/cultural paradigm. This sense seems to have followed me to within the sanctum of our small little community as well, because I have never come across another devotee to Donn. Ever.

It is not at all surprising, given the relatively little mythology and folklore which has been written about him. Given the lack of grand narrative. Given the functional, and lets face it understandably depressing, role of lord of the dead. Even the allusions to him are scarce and you have to be looking out for them to really notice at all. Yet, for all of that, there is an almost universal (as small a universe as it may be) consensus of Donn being a definitive example of a pre-Christian god, and not just a literary invention.

Having said that, it ought to be mentioned that the scant amount is scant only when compared to more luminary mythic figures, especially those who are generally counted among the Tuatha De Dannan. To have information, and a fairly concrete mythology to boot, however, is in itself a rare thing when it comes to the mythic texts. Donn is unique in that he is not counted among the TDD, yet is none the less recognized as a deity. The exemplar of a deified ancestor, albeit there is nothing said about his own line (whether he had sons or daughters), but the line of his brothers did indeed continue. With folklore holding his residence as the destination of all the Gaels after death, it is certainly reasonable to view it as such. The interesting thing about this, is that the ancestral nature is not used to justify anything in the present (contemporary) accounts; no one gave Donn as their ancestor to legitimize their rule, the same way that say Nuada has been utilized.

I suppose that, given all this, Donn still lacks the star power of An Morrigan, Lugh, Brigid or An Dagda; then again Cthonic deities are seldom seen in the light, let alone the limelight.

On the other hand, if the gods are in the habit of reaching out to us (and personal and anecdotal evidence certainly support this conclusion), then perhaps Donn is simply a very selective god? Wow, that must make me really special and unique...

The Dark Lord Favours Me!!!
...or, more reasonably, perhaps the relationship between function and worship overlaps in such a way that few (and this is based on anecdotal, Internet sourced research. Who knows, maybe there is a full blown cult of Donn out there somewhere, and they just shy away from the Internet?), if any other GRP's find themselves in a similar place as myself. Then again, a lot of people (swarms, it seems at times) have written about their experiences with deities like An Morrigan (and Babd, Macha, Nemain, Annu, etc.), and seem to lack functional associations one would normally expect with a goddess known primarily for slaughter. On the other hand, I'm not a devotee of An Morrigan, so can only speculate. Perhaps the functional aspect is not something which many others find particularly compelling or the basis of their association with a god or goddess.

It makes sense that from "our" end, the deities with more interesting or compelling stories are the ones people seek out, and inversely are the same who seek "us" out. It is an interesting theological line of inquiry, that there is an observable correlation between the popularity of a deity, and the size of its devotee's/worshippers. Well, actually that isn't interesting, as much as its blatantly obvious. No, the interesting aspect is that because the relationship is (supposed to be) a two way street, that the more popular deities are also the more extroverted ones. So judging from the litany of UPG and SPG detailing these personal or shared experiences, and taking them at face value, the gods are reaching out to us in a very real, arguably observable way.

I expect this to be somewhat disconcerting because lets face it, GRP's (and CR's in general) are a rational lot and (my own biases definitely showing) the idea that we are actually being sought after by deities can be, well overwhelming to say the least. I posted the image above in jest, because it is all too easy to fall into delusions of grandeur and self importance. Yet there is something very comforting in the realization that the gods want us to seek them out, and they seek us out in return. We are not just praying, singing or screaming into the void. We are rebuilding something precious, something sacred, and it is difficult to articulate the significance of this in words alone...

The night may be long, and full or terrors, but we are not alone.


  1. "Then again, a lot of people (swarms, it seems at times) have written about their experiences with deities like An Morrigan (and Babd, Macha, Nemain, Annu, etc.), and seem to lack functional associations one would normally expect with a goddess known primarily for slaughter. "

    "But I stand up for myself and fight my inner demons and that's what being a warrior is REALLY about! Oh, and I play war in the SCA!"

    Actually, I know a few who are devoted to her who are soldiers and/or LEOs. Some of us not in those professions actually have found ways to, well, work on it as a vocation...after all thee are aspects of modern service which do not fit other aspects of the war bands of old. I also think a case is made for seers following Her, as well, although seer-warrior seems even more appropriate. And by 'seer" I don't mean "oh, I do tarot readings on occasion."

    On the other hand there are others, yeah...well....*blink*

    I think the vocational aspect is one that needs more exploration. I have often boggled at how it's often ignored when some are so clear. I suppose a case could be made that anyone following Lugh is pretty safe on finding a connection. However, I often have wondered why some have gravitated to a particular Deity who seems to have no connection to their life, when another so clearly does.

    Oh, LOVE the photo/caption combo. ~:)

  2. "Donn is unique in that he is not counted among the TDD, yet is none the less recognized as a deity."

    Interesting stuff. This is the perspective I take on my primary deity, too - Bhearra (sometimes called Cailleach Bhearra, but as soon as I add that epithet to her local name, people start going "oh, *the* CAILLEACH, I know her" and talking about someone that I'm not sure I've ever had interactions with). Bhearra in her Munster form is really unique, and my UPG is that she's not a member of the Tuatha De Danann, though of course that's hard to prove. I've certainly never met another person who attempts to honour her in her older, very local, Co. Cork form. She's incredibly difficult to find out reliable information about, and I didn't really get to know her until I started honouring her in her own landscape.

    So, it's good to hear from someone else who honours a lesser-known and lesser-worshipped deity. :) I have my 'star-quality gods' too, but knowing that Bhearra isn't widely worshiped does help me to connect more closely with her.

  3. I can sympathize with this, too. Though not a devotee, per se, I honor Flidais regularly as I work in emergency veterinary medicine and my own UPG says that domesticated animals kept as pets fall under Her jurisdiction. I've only ever met a few people that have even heard of Her, let alone knew much about Her. Granted, literary sources are scant, but still. I felt Her pull for YEARS before I ever heard or read Her name, and yet She was there. On top of generally feeling isolated as a religious minority (even the other Pagans I know are generally Wiccan-ish), I feel alone in my focus. Manannán and Lugh play heavily in my life, as does Brighid (which I find understandably common), but sometimes it would be nice to connect on that most personal level.

  4. Hey Gorm, someone pointed me your way and specifically linked me to this post, because, well. Hi, I'm a fellow devotee of Donn. Nice to know we're not alone, huh? :]

    I don't really use blogspot so I'm not likely to see any replies to this, but if you want to get in touch you can find my contact info on my about page on my tumblr.