Many years ago, before I even became a pup, I developed an interest in shamanism – primarily Celtic shamanism. It grew out of an enthusiasm for King Arthur lore… which led me to Arthurian scholar John Matthews. He was the primary consultant for the King Arthur film that had the oh-my-gods-sexy Keira Knightly's Gwenevere… *panting and drooling*
One of the greatest movie lines ever is…
Lancelot: It’s alright to be afraid. There’s a lot of lonely men out there.
Gwenevere: Don’t worry; I won’t let them rape you.
Damn! Sounds like something my Owner would say… only Shdwkitten would add, “Unless I can watch.”
Sorry, where was I? Oh – John Matthews. Right, so he’s an Arthurian scholar who has also published widely on Celtic paganism, mythology, bardic poetry… all interests of mine. One of his books in particular first introduced the concept of Celtic shamanism: Taliesin; the Last Celtic Shaman (1991). It examined the poetry of the sixth century Welsh bard Taliesin for traces if shamanism. Taliesin is named in the Welsh Triads as one of the three great bards of ancient Brittan – the other two are Myrddin Wilt and Myrddin Emrys… the former being another historic bard of the sixth century, the latter is probably the remnant of an ancient, Celtic, solar deity – “emrys” being Welsh for “immortal.” (These two Myrddins were rolled together in legend, and the name was changed to Merlin… possibly b/c the Arthurin stories were first chronicled by French-speaking
Normans and the Welsh “Myrddin” sounds a lot
like the French word for “shit.” Myrddin
is actually not a personal name at all in Welsh but a place – literally “the
fort by the sea.”)
But I got distracted again – oh, Shinny! – The point is that Matthews used this sixth century Welsh poetry to introduce a very convincing argument that the primary religious practice of the pre-Christian Celts was shamanism (“traveling” through hallucinogenics and/or trances into the “spirit world”) w/ a heavy emphasis on animal totems (spirit animals) and theriomorphism (animal shape-shifting)… very closely resembling the religions of Native America. Traces of these practices can be found in the later myths and legends of the Christianized Celts… “Arthur” for instance, means “Bear,” “Gawain” is derived from “Falcon,” and Cuchulainn (one of the most famous Irish heroes) means “Hulainn’s Hound” (a reference to the year when the young hero lived as the human-wolfhound of Hulainn the Smith).
Shamanistic practices involving animal totems and shape-shifting are man’s oldest form of spirituality. The Paleolithic cave paintings of 30,000 years ago were once mistakenly believed to have related to ceremonies of “hunting magic”… but now experts generally agree that they are depictions of spirit animals, the first artists were shamans nailing down visions they saw in trace, and the underground caves were the physical counterpart to the spirit-world. The famous “Sorcerer of Tois Feres” is 15,000-year-old depiction of a shaman in theriomorphic mode.
In Celtic myth the spirit-world became the Otherworld, the land below the lake and the sea, Tri-Na-Nog, the Sidhe, the fairy land. By the way… believe it or not, Pup Emrys actually grew up in a town named “
I’m from Fairy
Land . Fairy
Well, I want to write about how all of this relates to puppy play and being a pup, but I see we’ve run out of time…