[This month, we sit down with author Ryan McClain. Here, he discusses his new book on the Celtic Goddess, Abnoba; resources on Gaulish polytheism; and his upcoming projects.]
ev0ke: How do you define your personal spiritual path? Does it have a name, or is it more intuitive and eclectic?
Ryan McClain: I would not necessarily say it has a specific name, but intuitive and eclectic does really cover all my bases. I go through various periods of time where my path is greatly influenced by different cultures. When I wrote Abnoba I was in that Gaulish Polytheist headspace. At the time I was content to say that most of my practice revolved around Gaulish deities. It still does to a certain extent, but I am also heavily influenced by various Germanic forms of polytheism as well. If people ask, I tend to simply say I am a polytheist and animist.
ev0ke: Which Deities, powers, or other spirits do you honor in your tradition?
RM: Aside from Abnoba, the Norse goddess Frigg probably plays the biggest part in my practice. Various other deities receive occasional offerings as well. For instance, Damona, the Gaulish healing and cow goddess, seems to show up particularly when I need to focus on my health. I tend to honor several deities and at times it feels like they pop in to see what I need to work on. However, I am sure it is the opposite and I see areas that need attention in my life and on some level begin seeking them out. As an animist I find that over time it has become more and more common for me to honor various plant and animal spirits as well. All of this is in addition to the honoring of my ancestors.
ev0ke: You just released Pagan Portals: Abnoba. First, congratulations! Second, how did this book come about? Did you approach Moon Books, or did they come to you?
RM: Thank you so much! I always wanted to be a writer, but I must admit that I felt for quite some time that it was out of my reach. I am the one who approached Moon Books. As my practice with Abnoba really grew I found myself writing more and more and before I knew it, I had written the book. I am quite a fan of many of the Moon Book titles, so I was familiar with what they produced. As my book started coming together, I thought to myself that this may fit in with what they are doing. Lucky for me they agreed!
ev0ke: Why a book about Abnoba? How is a Goddess of the forest and wilderness relevant today?
RM: I must admit to being quite powerless when it came to choosing to write about Abnoba. The whole process occurred rather abruptly, and I was basically done with the book before I had much time to contemplate it. I feel that she wanted her name out there and known. If for no other reason than to call attention to our rapidly declining forests. As a goddess of the wilds, I think she can help to remind us of the important part that the forests continue to play in our lives and how vital they are to our existence. Something else I reference in the book is the importance in finding the wilds in our cities. We need only to visit a local park or see the birds flying about and squirrels scurrying around to see that the city hides many pockets of the wilds as well.
ev0ke: What is a good, simple way for someone to reach out to Abnoba? A means to start building a relationship?
RM: Truly I feel that there are a couple ways one could go about reaching out to Abnoba. The easiest way is to offer a simple prayer to her. Maybe even make a physical offering to go along with that. Spring water is something easy to offer and I feel she seems to respond well to it. Another method is to locate a place where you feel safe outside and meditate under a tree for a bit of time. I usually recommend prayer first because it is so much easier to do. I personally have a rough time getting into the right headspace to effectively meditate, but with some patience I do occasionally have success with this method.
ev0ke: What sort of research went into this book? Stacks of books? Long hours online?
RM: I definitely had to dive into some books but the vast majority on the research end was spent online. There is not a lot of information available on Abnoba. What we do have in the way of evidence are the inscriptions that others left in dedication to Abnoba. It was important for me to include these as accurately as possible. Languages are not my area of expertise, so I did rely on the translations by other authors for that. In addition, I offer several epithets for Abnoba in my book. For the Gaulish translations of those names I had to rely on some help with those. I wanted the book to feel as authentically Gaulish as possible and I think that language is such an important tool to understanding any cultural framework.
ev0ke: What interesting historical or cultural tidbit did you absolutely have to include in the book?
RM: In my research the most interesting piece by far was the statuette of Abnoba. Knowing the names of Gaulish deities is great but we have so few of them that are known to us from depictions. Abnoba happens to be one of those deities. In the statue she is pictured in a short tunic and wearing boots with a quiver tied to her back. Unfortunately, while we are lucky to have this image it is not without its limitations as it is missing its head. Still, the image is incredibly similar to some of the Roman Diana. This is interesting as we know that the dedicators in a couple of instances gave Abnoba the epithet of Diana, further linking these two goddesses.
ev0ke: There are few solid, reliable resources about Abnoba and other Celtic Deities. Which books or websites would you recommend?
RM: For those just starting out on a Gaulish path I would have to recommend Ancient Fire by Segomâros Widugeni. As for websites, Gaulish Polytheism is probably your best source. They have a lot of resources available for people looking to go down that road. From books to websites, they just about cover it all. Another great site is Nouiogalatis. This is a group that is really dedicated to celebrating not only Gaulish deities but the culture as well. There are a lot of great people involved with both sites and they contain many talented and intelligent people involved in the community. They are a very welcoming and inclusive group.
ev0ke: Which book fairs, conventions, or other events do you hope to attend in the foreseeable future?
RM: Unfortunately, I do not have any specific special events in the works. I suffer from agoraphobia. This makes leaving my house very difficult. If I must leave, I am almost always with a close friend or loved one. This makes coordinating any events logistically challenging. I am working on this though and I have high hopes that I will become more active in the future. I am so excited to put this book out there and I really hope that it resonates with people. I look forward to the opportunity to discuss it in person.
ev0ke: What other projects are you working on?
RM: The promotion of this book is first on my agenda. I am so new to this whole world of publishing and marketing, so I am really hoping to get a better grasp on that. Aside from this I just completed my second Pagan Portals book that has been approved and is currently going through some editing. This one is on the goddess Frigg. After writing about Abnoba I started getting the itch to write more and I knew it would have to be about Frigg this time around. It is my hope that I will continue from there. So many deities have come into my life over the years, and I love to research so I am sure there will be other books down the line as well.