“What are your cultural influences?” is the topic of this week’s Witchy Wednesday.
The easy answer is UK Celtic – mostly Irish and a bit of Welsh. My ancestry (both sides) traces back to Ireland with a bit of England and Scotland tossed in for flavour. In fact it was Irish mythology that drew me to Paganism in the first place.
The longer answer is that I have drawn influence from a great deal of places over the years. The very first book that I picked up that talked about gods that weren’t the Christian god was a book on Greek mythology for kids. The Olympians hold a lot of sway in the secular world, and there are some stories that I love and stay with me even though I have never really worshipped Hellenic gods. The story of Eris and the Golden Apple is a particular favourite of mine. I even have a golden apple that I keep near my little altar (such that it is) – the apple itself is brass, and I keep it on the window sill because its safer up there. Apples are a big deal symbolically for me – more on that in another article … maybe.
My brother is very strongly heathen influenced, and some of those influences have made their way into my practises over the past several years. Which isn’t all that hard to believe, considering how much Saxon/Germanic traditions hold sway in British customs. I am in the process of getting a hold of a set of runes — runic magic is something I have wanted to study for a long time, but other things always got in the way. There is also the correlations between Odin and the Holly King/Santa/Leader of the Wild Hunt, etc. We are a family that loves our myths and stories. It’s an Irish thing. ;)
Then there is, of course, Canadiana. I love virtually all things Canadian — from Native art to hockey to Tim Hortons to the good old maple leaf, if you can put the Canadian stamp on it, I love it. Speaking specifically of Native art, I grew up just outside of a town that was located partially on Native Reserve land, and so coastal Native art and culture were hugely influential there. I believe that the town still goes by “The City of Totems”.
In a lot of ways, coastal Native art styles have informed some of my own artwork. I have a couple of pieces in the works that meld spirit animals in both Native and Celtic styles – sort of an expression of the similarities I have found along the way, and an expression of my own journeys to find a place to call home. I should probably get back to work on those at some point — actually, that just gave me an idea for another project I am working on (hmm, vagueness is vague.)
Back to the topic — my cultural influences. One thing that I loved about living in an area as multi-cultural as the lower mainland in BC is being exposed to so many different people and their cultures, and foods, and celebrations. With Lunar New Year coming up, I am remembering years ago a spur of the moment trip to Chinatown that found us in the middle of a huge street festival with fire works and lion dancers and the best food you’ve ever tasted. I think that is one of the things that city living has over living in the countryside. Your experience is broadened and you learn new things and make new friends. And while I have come to learn that city living really isn’t for me, I don’t think I would give up those experiences for the world.
I think that the more we can be exposed to varied and different cultures, the more it informs our spiritual practises in subtle ways. We allow ourselves to be more open and less rigid, and it helps us to find a harmony in our lives and our communities.
Next week, we talk mythology — which I think I already touched on here. Maybe I’ll link a couple of my favourite stories.
Header image is © Jonathan Hagey – Flickr Creative Commons