Hi I saw your rant about Arianrhod and saw you have a Masters in Celtic Myth. Do you have any info on Elen on the Ways and/or the Green Lady? Everything I've come across seems to be so heavy steeped in neopagan fluff.
Alas, Elen of the Ways, a horned goddess who's usually depicted like this:
is entirely neopagan nonsense of the absolute highest, most stratospheric degree.
A fair marker for neopagan wankery is that if anything starts talking about Celtic horned gods / goddesses, it's almost certainly modern and completely inaccurate piffle. The idea of a horned deity / horned deities is attested in the historical record; there's a handful of iconographic depictions of such deities, but none are specifically named except for one, Cernunnos, who is named a grand total of once. Nowadays, a lot of neopagans witter on about how Cernunnos was a horned god of fertility who encompassed the whole quote-unquote Celtic world, but alas, Cernunnos may be the name of a very specific local deity, but he's certainly not a pan-Celtic fertility god.
This is a Danish example of a horned deity figure from the Gundestrup cauldron, but Cernunnos it ain't, although try telling that to the uwu Celtic crowd.
Although we tend to speak of 'Celtic culture' nowadays, that's a bit of a misnomer. For a start, it tends to encompass primarily Welsh and Irish myth, and sometimes Gaulish, which are absolutely not the same thing, nor are they interchangeable versions of each other. Even within those more discrete groups, deities were usually highly localised and linked to specific areas. So, like Cernunnos, the idea that there's a pan-Celtic / pan-British horned goddess called Elen is, alas, complete and utter shite.
Elen of the Ways is the name of a deity invented by Caroline Wise, a white neopagan 'priestess of the Fellowship of Isis,' who says she had a series of visions about a 'long-forgotten British goddess' and eventually 'found', presumably through pseudo-shamanism and definitely-real-deity-email-correspondence, that her name was Elen of the Ways. She also believes that Elen of the Ways is deeply linked to Celtic 'shamanic practices', which are vehemently not a real thing, and the flow of 'kundalini currents', which sound quite a lot like what happens when I eat too many lentils. Honestly, I would suggest that Caroline Wise needs to eat less cheese before bed, or at the very least stop ascribing complete bullshit to other people's cultures.
She attests that, because an Elen appears in the Mabinogi, she must therefore be a goddess. I've debunked that notion previously here, but in a nutshell, attempting to reconstruct Welsh religion based on the Mabinogi is a bit like trying to reconstruct a seven tier cake from a piece of one of the eggshells. Add that to the fact that apparently Elen is a horned goddess because 'female reindeer have antlers, just like male reindeer', and you have a whole extra level of arsery, because reindeer are not native to Wales.
It's also worth noting that the notion of 'the Ways' is not attested in actual Celtic myth, narrative or culture. There's a vague concept of the Otherworld as a realm which exists outside of our own, and which may also be a sort of Underworld or realm of the dead; in Welsh myth, for example, it's Annwn. The Otherworld is a sort of nebulous land which can only be accessed at certain times or via liminal spaces, such as the mouths of caves or bodies of water, and using specific ritual practices. If you try and access it without invitation from those who actually dwell there, then you're asking for a world of trouble, and you're likely to end up displaced in time or just good ol' dead. 'The Ways' as a series of ancient soul-paths, however, is not one of these Otherworld highways. The Otherworld isn't the sort of place you can access if you just learn the way there. In fact, one of the defining features of almost all depictions of the Otherworld is that you can't just rock up there of your own volition, no matter how well you might know the way.
Similarly, the Green Lady is almost entirely neopagan. Another good notifier of pseudo-Celtic sources is if they bleat on about nature and fertility and whatnot. Actual Celtic myth isn't like that at all. I say 'almost' for the Green Lady because there's some folklore, primarily Scottish but also very occasionally Welsh, which attests to a ghostly spirit which some refer to as the Green Lady (in Gaelic, she's the Glaistig.) However, it's folklore and not myth; it mostly dates from ghost stories of the 1800s at its earliest. There are multiple folk tales of 'Green Ladies' as a kind of riff on the Fairy folk, but any notion of the Green Lady as a goddess figure is, for most of the reasons described above, a load of old poo.
The reason this rankles so much for me is because there's such a fucking plethora of horse shite (and not just the 'Rhiannon was a horse goddess!' fuckery) out there about Celtic culture that it's almost impossible to learn about the real thing, without the colonial veneer of romanticised bumf and pseudo-theology. I absolutely hate the fact that most of what people 'know' about Celtic culture is reconstructed from the work of a couple of English dudes in the early to mid 1900s, and that most of it was gleaned through the genuinely offensive practice of mapping the few shreds of extant 'Celtic' culture onto the much more extensive existing record of Greco-Roman myth or other cultural corpuses. This idea that you can reconstruct a whole culture and mythos by just comparing what remains of it to other cultures and filling in the blanks is colonialism at its most infuriating; it's cultural erasure through revisionism, and I have absolutely no time for any of it.
Other dogwhistles for rooting out neopagan bullshittery from actual reliable sources:
if it mentions 'shamanism', it's wank. Shamanism is not an attested Celtic practice, and honestly, in most neopagan contexts it's an entirely offensive and homogenised representation of multiple appropriated and colonised cultures. The idea that modern neopagans can just do 'shamanism' and not bother to learn how it differs from culture to culture is white fuckery.
if it talks about mysticism or psychic practices, then it's absolutely wank.
if the only source is something like 'feministgoddessland', 'celticforestsprites' or 'ancientgoddesstribe' (not actual examples, but you get the gist) then it's absolute wank. If you can't find a single source for something beyond those neopagan sites, then it's because it originates in neopagan practice and doesn't have any historicity to it at all.
if it relies on Marija Gimbutas as a source, it's wank. Gimbutas' Mother Goddess / matriarchy theory is complete and utter anti-intellectual shite which I've debunked previously, but it's so fucking pervasive and it makes me want to throw things out of a window.
on a similar note, if it mentions Robert Graves and the White Goddess, it's unadulterated wank. If it mentions Druantia, it's wank. If it mentions the Celtic calendar / the tree calendar, it's wank. Any mention of Graves and his 'work' (I use the word very loosely) should set your alarm bells ringing so loudly that you fall off your chair.
if it talks about uwu fertility / nature / empowerment / female divine energy, it's modern girl-boss shite, and thus wank. Ancient Britain wasn't a matriarchy. Soz, all.
if it tries to homogenise all Celtic culture into one flat affect, then it's wank. Welsh =/= Irish =/= Gaulish, and so on and so forth. There's no such thing as pan-Celtic deities, and any source which speaks about deities as though they were worshipped throughout the entire perceived 'Celtic world' is talking through its arsehole.
if it has weird 'indigenous white people' undertones, then it's wank. Alas, a lot of Celtic myth, much like Norse myth, has been co-opted by white nationalists and supremacists, often to talk about an Ancient Britain ('Britannica', they like to call it) and how our little island should really only be inhabited by their descendants. In order to bolster their claim, they like to make up a load of shit, including myths about how Celtic people can, like, feel the land in their blood, or how the land calls us all back via our super Celtic nature deities. It's racist, and it's wank.
I've previously compiled a list of actual sources here.
Basically, a solid 95% of what's on the Internet about Celtic stuff is wank. Arianrhod isn't a moon goddess. Rhiannon is just a magical horse girl. Elen ain't real. Celtic people didn't use soul magic and crystals. From one tired Welsh person to you all, I beg of you, stop romanticising a culture you know precisely nothing about because you like the artificial aesthetic, and stop posting uwu girl-boss TikToks showing off your sage and crystal altar to your 'pan-Celtic moon goddess', who's actually just a very crotchety Welsh woman who jumped over a magic virginity stick and then had two babies plop out of her coochie.
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okay I didn't expect 'Spider-Man: Valley of the Lizard' to be high quality literature but by the hoary host of hoggoth--
I'm a little under half-way through and so far 80% of it feels like a sheltered 40 y o white guy's travel blog from the late 90's and the syntax alone makes me want to scream.
Yet I keep on reading. Chalk it up to morbid fascination and a dash of masochism. If you ever wanted an absolutely perfect picture of why various writing 'rules' like "don't use so many gosh-darn adverbs" exist, check this badboy out babey. *slaps roof of audiobook* It's a masterpiece production of What Not To Write in almost every way.
To be fair the main reason I'm cringing so hard is because I used to make all these mistakes and hearing them from someone else is really just slapping me in the face with how badly I used to write. Okay, how badly I still write... sometimes.
Here's my main takeaway so far--
DON'T TREAT YOUR READERS LIKE IDIOTS, IDIOT !!!!
Don't slap readers in the face with descriptors and other info that could've been implicit. Don't repeat the same plot points a dozen times by rephrasing them without adding any new info. Don't use five different names for the same thing in a single paragraph--call a lizard a lizard! Don't tell readers how to feel by overstating POV character reactions. Make them feel it by writing. Hey, take it easy on the 11th grade vocab words too, especially during fight scenes.
and uh, lay off the 'noble savage' trope I guess but hopefully that's less of a problem for anyone reading this on tumblr in 2021.
✨ Weird audiobook reader tangent below the cut. ✨
The non-writing related thing that's been bugging me is that the audiobook reader sounds like he has a north-western American accent. Pretty sure it's the same guy who read the Spider-Man book by Jim Butcher (the reason I started down this grim literary spider-man rabbit hole). Couldn't get a New Yorker to voice Spider-Man---FINE, but jeeze guys, at least get another British guy who can fake a decent north-eastern American accent! If I hear Peter Parker pronounce 'won' as 'waahn' one more time I'm gonna let a horse step on my headphones.
POST GOOGLING ADDITION TO THE ACCENT TANGENT: The reader is some guy named Tim Paige who read the book in 2020 and apart from the distracting accent he does great. His Twitter says he's living in NY so I'm willing to consider that I may not know what a New York accent actually sounds like... but I swear it doesn't sound like that???? Different guy did Jim Butcher's but they have the same accent, which is somehow more concerning.
ONE MORE GOOGLE LATER: Okay yeah Jack Meloche who read the Jim Butcher one is from Michigan, so that tracks with the vaguely Canadian sounding vowels. On some level I'm right to be annoyed lol. Tim Paige definitely doesn't do a New York City accent. I guess Syracuse is far enough north that people sound like Canadians up there too. I wouldn't know, I've never been farther north than NYC. 🤷
I also found out 'Valley of the Lizard' was written in 1998. The way they talk about cell phones would've given it away if describing Corpus Christi as a quaint rural town hadn't. If you're wondering what Spider-Man is doing in Corpus Christi, he isn't. It's Dr. Connors. Why is he there? To write a dull & culturally ignorant travel blog apparently. K bye. Back to slowly dying of facepalming. Cheers pals.
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