Saturday, January 14, 2012

Manuel Araujo

Hello and Happy Saturday!

I wish to thank Heather Cardin for her very interesting and informative interview last week. Thanks so much for sharing with us Heather!

Today we have a new interview so please welcome Manuel Araujo. Manuel is a Polytheist and I know you'll enjoy his interview as well!

Here Is Manuel Araujo's Introduction:

Hello! My name is Manuel Araújo, I’m 20 and I’m from Portugal. I am studying to become a Law Technician (something the Portuguese government came up with) at university and I’m almost finishing my first year.
My major hobbies are gardening, writing, reading, drawing (nothing too fancy), going out with my best friends and playing with my cat.
I am quite distanced from my family, with absolutely no regrets, and I plan to live alone once I finish my degree and gather enough money to be able to sustain myself. Before someone wonders, my family has no knowledge of my Polytheistic/Pagan "tendencies". I would like to eventually return to my parents’ home, once they’ve departed, to establish a Nemeton (a sacred grove), which I have already started planting in the large field that’s behind the house.
I occasionally take some time, at least three times every month, now that I have exams every week, to write on my blog – - that has detailed my religious and personal progress, for the year and a half.

1) What religion do you practice? 
I am a Gaulish Reconstructionist, a subgroup within Celtic Reconstructionism (CR for short) denomination. To put it plainly, I attempt, to the best of my abilities, to reconstruct the religion and culture of the Gaulish tribes. I do this according to archaeological evidence, written records, comparative religious studies (between the Indo-European cultures) and some Unsubstantiated Personal Gnosis (UPS). I am also trying to learn how to speak (and write) Gaulish.
I worship a total of 30 Gods and Goddesses - some carefully selected according to my "tribal preferences" and others due to natural affinity - honour various Spirits as well as my blood and cultural Ancestors.

2)Are you a convert/revert or were you raised within this religion? If you converted, what did you need to do to convert? And what did you practice prior to converting? 
I am a convert. It’s a long story, so I’ll try to put it short. I grew up in a Catholic family and I kind of believed in the Christian God and all of that, though it never made much sense to me that one deity alone could create and manage everything. I wondered why people didn’t worship many Gods and Goddess like the Egyptians and the Hellenes...
Eventually, at the age of 9, I became an atheist and remained so until I was 13 (2004) which was when I discovered Wicca. Curiously enough, Wicca filled a void in my life that I did not even noticed before I found it. But I was cautious enough to learn as much as I could before actually getting serious about it. I converted, or better yet, celebrated an Initiation ceremony, in 2008, when I was 17.
I did not predict that I would ever leave Wicca, but the more I tried to uncover about the ancient religions, the more my view of the cosmos began to change – I was going down the road to hard polytheism. At first I didn’t take such changes seriously, but at a certain point I knew that my views did no longer go according to the Wiccan traditions.
After some inner searching I realised that the Celtic culture (in a pan-Celtic context) was the one that I felt most drawn to, and so I began researching about the various Celtic peoples. But in the end, the Gaulish culture was the one I favoured the most, and here I am, almost a year after my "conversion"; I use quotes because there really isn’t a need to convert, all you need to do is to believe and be loyal.
3) Within your religion are there degrees of observance (ie. Orthodox,conservative, moderate, liberal)?  What are the defining differences between the degrees of observance?
As far as I know, there can be practising CRs and non-practising CRs. The first ones are those that actually conduct ceremonies in honour of the Gods, Spirits and Ancestors alone or with a group. The latter ones are those that only do research, whilst believing in the divine form a Celtic point of view. Be warned that I am only guessing, because I have never actually met a non-practising CR.
There also is a distinction according to where the entities you worship are from. Hence, you can be a Gaulish Reconstructionist, like yours truly, a Brythonic Reconstructionist, Gaelic, Celtiberian, Lusitanian and Gallaecian (probably Manx as well, but I’ve never heard of one).
I’m not sure, but I think Gaulish and Brythonic Reconstructionists would be willing to divide themselves, during rites, according to the ancient sacerdotal functions of druid (druits), ovate (vátis) and bard (bardos).
Aside from these three things, there are no literal degrees, like in Freemasonry, Wicca, etc.

4)Within your religion what degree of observance are you ((ie. Orthodox,conservative, moderate, liberal)? Why did you choose this degree of observance?
Well, according to my previous answer, there are no degrees, but I am a practising, solitary CR. Do I fit in the old traditional priest roles? I try to do the same things, but I wouldn’t dare to call myself a druits, vátis or bardos. I have nowhere near as much knowledge as they would have had.

5) What is the Afterlife within your religion?  For example:  what happens when a person dies? Are there places for reward/punishment? (such as a Heaven/Hell concept)
Though there is little evidence of what the Gauls believed in terms of afterlife, most people think that their concept was similar to the Brythonic (and later Welsh) one.
To better explain the Other World, I should explain the cosmos from a Gaulish point of view. I believe that there are three realms, all connected by a massive and cosmic world tree (an oak).
The upper one, called Albios, is where the celestial deities –Taranos (thunder and storm), Granos (Sun), Arduina (moon), Sirona (stars and night), Vintios (wind) and Brigindona (dawn, amongst other things) - live. It is situated atop the skies and mountains.
The middle one, called Bitus, is where we all live, along with all other living beings, as well as the Spirits, some Gods and other less pleasant beings.
Finally, the lower realm, known as Antumnos, is the land where the dead travel to feast and rest for as long as they stay there. Though it is beneath the earth and the deepest waters, it is a splendid place, where it is always summer – a land of endless prosperity and youth.
As to what happens when a person dies, I think that there must be a deity that is responsible for picking up the souls of those whom have died and to lead them to Antumnos, which can be entered through caves and rivers.
There is no place of punishment in the Gaulish conception of the cosmos, nor in the other Celtic cultures. That might be because the tribes’ ruling classes were responsible for punishing those whom acted against the law and as such, all required punishments would be suffered whilst being alive.

6) In your opinion, does everyone make it into heaven/paradise? If they do not, why?  
Yes, I believe everyone makes it to the Other World, but since I believe in the existence of many Gods and not just the ones I worship, where other people end up is up to them to determine.

7) What makes your religion a good fit for you?  
I’m very inquisitive and I love history, so I think it makes sense for me to follow a path like this. Above all, of course, I love the Celtic culture, especially the Gaulish one. I’m also very fond of the concept of tribal union, though I will probably never experience it from a CR point of view. The closest I can get is when I’m with my best friends, who I love as if they were my brothers and sisters.

8) What are your holy days and what do you do to celebrate them?
I have so many holy days I won’t even bother to describe them all for the sake of maintaining your interest. The most important ones are equivalent the famous four pan-Celtic quarter-days: Trinoxtion Samoní (April/May), Lugonascetis (July/August), Sébronoxtion (October/November) and Ambiuolcia (January/February).
Apart from these, I celebrate the Solstices and Equinoxes and, in a way, the phases of the Moon, which indicate when certain celebrations must be held. As such, there is a considerable number of holy days in a single month.
In fact, the Gaulish calendar is regulated primarily by the Moon and the stars and secondarily by the sun, since it’s lunisolar; and the 24-hour period is considered to begin when night falls.
The ways of celebrating vary considerably, but the primary method of worship is sacrificing (no killing of animals involved) and leaving offerings to the entities honoured in that particular time period – some holy days are actually many days long.

9) Do you consider people of other faiths to be your friends?
It depends. Their faith won’t instantly make them my friends or my enemies – unless they are prejudiced enough to think that I’m evil, or something -, their personalities and deeds will.

10) Would you ever join people of another faith to celebrate one of their holy days? Please explainwhy?
It would depend on what they would be celebrating. If it were something like Easter or Christmas, I certainly would not join them because of the great cultural gap... and it would be far too awkward for me. I have, however, attended a funeral mass in honour of one of my "sisters’" grandfather. She knew that I wouldn’t be praying to the Abrahamic God and Jesus, but to my own Gods, but she didn’t care. All that mattered was that I was there for her.
So would I attend another polytheistic/pagan holy day celebration? Almost certainly, but it would depend on the sense of comfort in the presence of another culture and other Gods. I would, for example, most likely attend a Wiccan rite and a Norse blót...

11) What are your thoughts on the burka, and Shariah Law?  
I don’t know much about the Shariah, but I think I can comment on the burka subject. Honestly, I think it’s a cultural matter that ought not to be challenged by those whom are not part of the Islamic culture.
I’m not saying that it should be obligatory, I’m saying that if change is needed, then it is those who are part of the said culture that ought to do something if they have the need to.
I think the same of the swastika. Some countries wish to prohibit the use of this symbol because the Nazis used it, but dozens of cultures used it long before, often as symbol of a deity. Just because some think that something needs to change doesn’t mean it really has to.

12) Are women allowed to hold religious office (priest, minister, rabbi, iman etc) in your religion and how do you feel about it?
There is no evidence of the existence of female druidos (druids), vátés (ovates) and bardí (bards) – there isn’t even a feminine form for these words -, but there are some records of figures akin to the Norse volur, though with less shamanic traits.
However, I think that CR groups usually have no problem in accepting a woman as a priestess. I know no other Gaulish Reconstructionist but if I belonged to a modern toutá I would definitely accept a woman as a fellow priestess/celebrant.

13) Does your place of worship segregate? If yes, how does this make you feel? 
I’m a solitary, so it obviously doesn’t.

14) How much does your religion affect your daily life and how much thought do you give it when making a decision? Does it affect in any way your decision on abortion, gay marriage, etc?
In a way it does, because the Gods are everywhere – from the water I drink, to the words I utter every day. Being so, I try to be as respectful and thankful as I can for each gift that they grant me. They don’t affect my decisions per se, but they do help if they want to.
About abortion, gay marriage, and other "difficult" matters, my faith has absolutely no influence in me when it comes to that. I fully support freedom of choice and the right to be happy.

15) How would you react/feel if your child wished to marry outside your religion?  I don’t even consider that as an option since I’m not interested in having children or a wife. But pretending I do, I would gladly accept my son or daughter’s decision – I’m all for freedom.

16) In your opinion, if someone is not of your faith, will they go to hell?
I don’t believe in such a thing as hell, so that’s up to them to know if they go there or not, in case they believe in it or not.

17) Who do you think is not a practicing Gaulish Reconstructionist in your religion and why? ie who in the public domain claims to speak for your religion? Do you agree with them or not?  
Probably someone that does not perform sacrifices, leave offerings, pray... I don’t know and I’ve never bothered to wonder, in fact. I’ve never met another Gaulish Reconstructionist and probably never will.
There is no central authority, but those who choose to expose themselves and their beliefs to the world are kind of speaking for my religion, but, more precisely, for their own practises. Hence this kind of exposure should be done carefully in order not to create misconceptions.

18) Have you ever been the target of a hate crime? Please explain.
In a religious way, no, I have not. The closest I’ve been to being a victim of a religious "hate crime" is having some religious items thrown, by my mother, to the rubbish bin (which I later got hold of again). She doesn’t know I’m not Christian, but she’s not fond of candles and incense and quickly associates them with the Occult. I have, however, been bullied in the past, though not for religious reasons – very few people know about my faith.

19) Do you ever feel like your religion devalues you?
It certainly does not. Though it doesn’t give me any extra value as a person, I think that it has helped me grow up mentally/emotionally, as I established bonds with some of the Gods and became more immersed in the Gaulish culture.

20) Does your religion give you peace of mind? 
It gives me some peace of mind, but not in a absolute way. My Gods are not omni-everything so they can’t control every aspect of my life, and I seriously doubt they would want to. As such, other mortals such as myself don’t allow me to have much peace of mind. But in terms of fear of death and all of that, I’m fine.

21) Do you believe in reincarnation? Why or why not?
I believe it because it makes sense to me and because it’s a common belief amongst the Celtic peoples. As I’ve said, I believe that when someone dies (a modern Celt, at least), they are taken to the Other World and they stay there for unknown period of time – unknown, at least to me – feasting in the company of their Ancestors and resident Gods. When the time comes, we are born again. I’m not exactly sure how that may work, but I think that our souls are taken to a new body.
Something I personally believe – and that I’m not too happy with – is that we reincarnate in the same family. Being so, I may reincarnate as the grandchild of a cousin, for example. (if I die first, of course). I like to think that I’ll eventually meet my current "siblings" again in my next incarnation, since they’re my "emotional kin", but that’s not up to me to know

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