Monthly Archives: July 2015
We began our journey in Krakow and right from the start I want to give major kudos to my friend MAG. She was ready for anything and more than willing to follow me off to ossuaries, bone churches, and the like without ever a single complaint. It made what was, at times a physically grueling trip for me (chronic pain is a bitch), a delight. It’s a blessing to be able to travel with a friend.
Anyway, we landed in Krakow on July 5 and got to the hotel with plenty of time left to sight-see a bit. We ended up spending three days in Krakow. One of the things that I realized after the two week residency, which was held in a small suburb, is that I really, really prefer cities. I don’t like being in the country, or in sleepy little suburbs no matter now pleasant they may be. I like the energy and aesthetic of cities. It’s something I’ll remember when next I travel.
Anyway, we were staying at a lovely hotel right on the main square in the Old Town so that first night, we mostly just walked around and did a bit of shopping in the cloth market. (Amber is relatively inexpensive there and unfortunately for my purse we were right across from the Amber Museum – and shop. I’m half Lithuanian. I may not particularly like amber, but I can’t pass it up. It’s in the blood lol.). I was tired and made a major mistake in protocol: I didn’t immediately make offerings to the city spirit. This left me with a sense of deep agitation and discomfort, almost claustrophobia until I remedied it properly the next day.
The city spirit of Krakow is a dragon, which on every possible level I find really, really awesome. There’s a statue of the Wawel dragon by the castle (that spits fire every five minutes) so that is where I eventually made my offerings. Then, I was able to enjoy the city properly.
We saw quite a bit of Krakow and more churches than I can count, the Jewish quarter, (I did divination which told me that I should not visit Auschwitz, so I did not do that….good thing too. When we were, a week later, driving to Czerna, we passed within twenty miles of it and I was physically ill—didn’t know why I’d gotten suddenly ill until I saw the road sign pointing the way), the castle, etc. etc. None of those things, however, are what stood out for me in Krakow.
What stood out for me the entire time I was in Poland was the piety of the people, a deep, instinctive, organic, fervent devotion. It permeated everything. It really kind of blew me away at first. I hadn’t been expecting it at all. It was the thing that I found the most nourishing about this pilgrimage. I sought it out and drank it in like someone dying of thirst.
The churches were always filled. There were worshippers of all ages, all walks of life. Even in St. Mary’s Cathedral in Krakow square, part of the church was blocked off to tourists, with a separate entrance for those who wanted to pray. Several of the places I went, I went to pray rather than as a tourist because tourists were simply not permitted (the Black Madonna at Wawel castle for instance). I did pray too fervently.
I saw more than one person kneeling on cobblestones outside of churches, when the church was locked but the person wanted to pray before that altar, or that icon. I saw people lined up on their knees outside of a chapel to Mary because the chapel was full of people praying and they wanted to pray too. I had drivers cross themselves when driving past churches. Icons are everywhere, and images of Mary and the saints, worked into nooks in building walls. There are roadside shrines that are very well tended, predominantly to Mary (at least in the areas I was visiting). People adore certain saints and you can’t go anywhere without seeing images of them (particularly John Paul II) or having guides tell you about their special places. Mid-day churches were full of worshippers. I gave an image of Mary to a woman at the artists’ residency I attended – MAG and I had visited a cathedral and picked up some cards and were looking at them. I had four of one image and the woman in question came over—she immediately said the prayer on the back, began crying and hugged and kissed me fervently. And then prayed again. The cemeteries, consistently, were some of the best kept and well tended that I have ever seen. There was piety, devotion, and respect. My friend MAG pointed out that in Poland, the Catholic church was the ‘good guy.’ They helped with the fight for freedom, helped preserve the language, helped maintain national integrity during communist occupation. It shows. It was a powerful experience for me, one that really jump-started my entire pilgrimage.
All of this powerfully impacted my painting. I had intended to paint nudes during the residency but instead, found myself painting icons. The land, rich with piety, with devotion seeped into its very pores impacted my art in completely unexpected ways. This happened when I was in Taos too: all of a sudden I started painting Native dancers, when I’d never done so before, and probably will not do so again. My art is a dialogue between myself and the spirits of the land on which I work. I’d not realized how powerfully that was true until Poland.
That is all for now. After three days in Krakow we went to Myslenice for the two week residency. During that time I made my first visit to a bone chapel. Krakow was the beginning of my accidental Marian pilgrimage though, something I”ll also be writing about more over the next few days.
(all images, except my two icons at the end, in this post are courtesy of Mary Ann Glass.)
Ognjena Marija: “Fiery Mary,” Serbian Folk Religion, and the Powers Prevailing Over the Destructive Heat of Summer
Marvelous article about Slavic folk religion and the survival of pre-Christian elements behind the guise of the saints. really awesome piece.
So, based on a conversation going on as a result of my last post (about my travel journal), here are two pics of my ancestor shrine. The first is one third of my shrine (it covers nearly three walls) and the second shows a close-up of the Marian shrine that is part of my ancestor shrine (by specific request of several of my dead).
I posted another sneak peak image from my pilgrimage here, for my Patreon supporters. I’m going to start recounting the Krakow portion of my trip later today. In the meantime, one of the things I want to share is the travel journal i kept from the moment I left Beacon.
I got this idea from a fellow artist, Rosemary Busnell, who attended the Taos Residency that I was also at in May. I’ve kept journals when I traveled before, but just quick recap of whatever I did during the day. This was more elaborate and much more FUN. It’s also given me an absolutely treasure. It’s the one thing from my trip that I all but hand carried back.
Instead of just writing about my experiences, or rather in addition to writing about them, I painted, collaged, pasted and had a damned good time. The day I arrived at each new place, I’d paint little color smudges, just smudges of all the dominant colors in the city. It’s simple, but gave me an immediate visual overview of the color palette of a particular place. This is also where I first got the idea to do collaged icons like this:
This is my interpretation of the icon at St. Thomas church in Krakow. I liked the icon but didn’t want to take a photo — the church was full and people were praying and photography seemed disrespectful in the moment. Still, the icon affected me so deeply that I was moved to tears. (the original icon has Mary holding the baby Jesus, but that wasn’t working for me in the collage so I gave Her flowers instead). I’ve since expanded these little collages for images of our Gods too and it’s something I intend to keep doing. For instance, inspired by a woodcut by artist Pete White (wonderful and gracious artist), I did this image of Odin on the Tree:
Mr. White’s original woodcut (which he gave me permission to use here) is this (stunning work. unfortunately by the time i found it, he was sold out. Woodcuts always have limited runs because of the process itself):
Here are two of the other Madonnas I did (all gifts):
I suspect I’ll be making these to sell in the future, as well as incorporating this style of art into my mail art. (I’ve had requests for them already and one of the partners at the gallery i co-own asked me to make some to sell). They’re a lot of fun and while they can be rather complicated, they seem to work a different part of my brain from actually painting. I’m no good at all at abstract collage (I’ve seen masterful work and know that I’m not even in the ballpark!) but this sort of collage i can do: reproducing a specific image. The only problem I had was that by the time we hit Cologne, I’d run out of the nice paper I brought with me! I had to improvise (candy wrappers, if they are gold or silver paper, are godsends lol)
It’s completely changed the way I look at keeping a journal now. I took post cards and cut them up and collaged them (or when really lazy, just pasted them in and decorated around them — sometimes i wanted to keep the image as is). I painted in the book, I kept a nice written narrative as well. It seemed to make the experience more *mine* in a way. I figure the same thing can be applied to a regular journal.
Here are a couple of pages to give you an idea of how and what I did:
Coming over one of the bridges into Prague, I kept seeing this pink building with the black cupola (i’m fascinated by those onion domes–brilliant idea, a real pain in the butt to draw). I love the play of colors so i painted it quickly. The page on the right here was originally a watercolor. I was pretty sure it sucked though so i just collaged over it. LOL.
That was the thing that really struck me about Prague, btw: the colors. In Krakow, the dominant colors were a rust red, black, and ochre. Coming into Prague, there was this glorious riot of aqua and pink and yellow and ochre, and light green, and oranges and it was beautiful. Krakow was beautiful too but in a different way, a quieter way.
Then there was the ossuary in Sedlec, in Kutna Hora. I let the cards stand (better than any of my photos) and did this as a memorial piece. I’m going to be writing quite a bit about my visit here — it was one of the most singularly powerful places I’ve ever had the privilege of visiting.
Finally in Prague we visited the Church of Our Lady Victorious where there is both a Black Madonna and also (the reason for my visit), the famous statue of the Infant of Prague. This particular image is often syncretized with Ellegua. 🙂 When I said all the many circles of my religious life came full circle on this trip, I meant it! Maferefun, Ellegua!
This particular statue, by the way, has over 180 dresses. *G*. There’s even one that was made and donated by a local girl scout troop and I think that’s marvelous. St. Nicholas Church, mentioned in this page is located right across from the music conservatory. We went to a concert there, with an organist and a soprano and OMG the acoustics were amazing. I wanted nothing more than to lay down on the parquet floor and let the sounds and vibrations wash over me (but I didn’t–figured i’d get thrown out!).
Anyway, I have been tremendously resistant over the last couple of years to keeping any kind of journal. I used to do it religiously but somehow fell out of the practice, perhaps because so much of my work involves writing. This has renewed my interest in journaling again and given me new and different outlets for my art other than simply painting. Best of all, there’s no pressure. I work with what i have and don’t expect every page to be a masterpiece. It’s something for myself and it’s immensely enjoyable and sometimes I do, as with the pages I shared above, come out with something that inspires all the rest of my artistic work.
So that’s it for now. I’ll be posting more later but for now i need to get offline and deal with a plumber.
*waves* to all my colleagues currently at Many Gods West. I wish I could be there with you! (good thing i’m not ,woke up to a leak in my living room. would have been a mess to come back to lol). I hope the conference is a great success and I’m sorry to be missing both seeing folks and attending some of the rituals and workshops. Have fun, folks. It’s a good day to be a polytheist. 🙂
When: July 31, 2015
In remembrance of the over three hundred ancient and in many cases holy sites destroyed by Daesh.
In grief and terror over the damage to and potential destruction of the UNESCO city of Palmyra, and the Temple of Ba’al Shamin.
In silent protest against the attack and forced eradication of even the vestiges of polytheism across the world.
This is not a Syrian issue. This is not a Muslim issue. This is a world issue. It is a human issue. Daesh is purposely targeting memory. They’re targeting their history, and their own *physical* connection with their polytheistic ancestors. It is done to demoralize, terrorize, and desecrate.
We polytheists who have the freedom to practice our religions without fear of our lives (regardless of how much Christian hatred we may experience) have the opportunity to unite ritually, magically, spiritually in mind and will, with hearts and spirits in a cross-community day of ancestral reverence and remembrance.
Over sixty Deities were venerated at Palmyra alone, from multiple traditions: Canaanite, Mesopotamian, Arab, Greek, Phoenician, and Roman, as well as local and ancestral gods. Deities given cultus there included Bol/Bel, Yarhibol (god of justice), Malakbel (god of the Sun), Aglibol (god of the moon), Astarte (Phoenician Goddess of love and power), Ba’al Hamon, Ba’al Shamin, Ba’al Hadad, Atargatis, the Sumerian Nabu and Nirgal, the Arab Azizos, Shams, and Al – Allat, the native Gods Gad Taimi and Arsu, and even Dionysos.
What to do? :
Print out this graphic or copy it onto a piece of paper.
Meditate for a few moments, focusing on all the destruction, desecration, and damage, on the sacred places that have been destroyed, on the erasure of these ancient polytheistic spaces, and all the other horrors Daesh have committed.
Offer this prayer:
“May the holy places of the Many Gods remain inviolate for all time.
May the hands of the enemies of the Many Gods of be smashed and their efforts come to naught.
May the worship of the Many Gods flourish in many lands once again.
May those who hold true to the Many Gods be preserved and strengthened.”
Burn the paper in offering.
5.make whatever other offerings you wish.
If possible, do this NINE times throughout the Day.
Feel free to share about this experience on facebook, blogs, twitter – this is an act of evocation of all those Gods Whose sacred places have been destroyed and Whose people are being violated. The internet is a perfect way to keep this evocation going.
This is a way of holding space for polytheism, ancient and modern, it is a way of drawing a line in the sand and declaring to the world that we stand in solidarity with those whose voices once rang out in praise to a plenitude of Gods and Goddesses. It is a statement that for every stone of every temple destroyed, we will restore that cultus a thousand fold. It is an act of evocation, execration, and magic. We’re still here.
(art by M. Gage. The logo is one of the symbols of Ba’al, heavily stylized. It seems particularly appropriate with Palmyra. Divination was done to ensure that it was ok to use the image for this purpose).
My partner just sent me this link. I had to sit for a very long time before reading it. I”m sickened and disgusted beyond words.
The Gadhimai Temple in Nepal just announced that due to pressure from “activists,” that they were ending the Gadhimai festival. This is a Hindu festival performed every five years at which thousands of animals are sacrificed. It’s not exactly clear from the article, but it sounds as though this may be a ban on sacrifice.
While I realize that many people are celebrating this, I’m sick to my soul. Devotional practice, proper adherence to ritual, and holy sacrifice have been dismissed as ‘superstition.’ To curry favor with the West, and in some misguided sense of altruism, the ancient rites of the Goddess Gadhimai have been interrupted. She has been denied Her due. The piety of 2.5 MILLION Hindus has been rendered meaningless.
Before you start celebrating, consider this and carefully consider all the implications:
World-wide NON-polytheist sensibilities have had direct and deleterious affect on polytheistic practice.
That to me is a HUGE problem. We should be mourning this. Better that the temple should close than water down its rites like this, especially to curry favor with Western opinion.
I hope the festival in 2019 doubles the sacrifices. I hope this year sacrifices spring up all throughout Nepal in Her name. Let the people find a way to honor their Goddess in the way that She requires. Let the blood of holy sacrifice flow and most of all, do NOT let the West, or any non-polytheist for one *minute* influence our practice.
My heart goes out to all the worshippers who promised Gadhimai offerings and are now forcibly forsworn. My heart goes out to all those who came to Nepal to perform proper veneration of their Goddess only to be spat upon by the very temple authorities that should be supporting them. A curse upon all those who thought it their right and their due to impinge upon these rites.
What’s next? which polytheistic tradition is going to garner the ire of the monotheist or secular majority next? Which one of our ways will the the target? More importantly, how will we respond when our turn comes?
EDIT: Jonathan Mertens posted a good recap of the situation here. I recommend reading it too.
I don’t usually take something written on Facebook and turn it into a blog post but i”m making an exception in this case. Why? Because over and above the individuals involved in this discussion, and the comments made, the attitudes — diametrically opposed as they are—pretty much highlight what I consider to be a major schism in Heathenry. It highlights why it’s such a god damned struggle to build a stable, organic, pious tradition, and why it is so very crucial that we not give up the struggle.
Yesterday I came across an article about ‘atheist pagans,’ and commented on my Facebook about it. Obviously, to anyone who knows my work, I find the very concept an oxymoron: people desperate for community and the benefits of contact with the sacred, without the peskiness of Gods, who are willing to debase the very traditions they’re trying to eke their way into. As with the idea of ‘humanist pagans,’ it’s something I think we need to watch very carefully. I’ve already seen certain patheos authors trying to claim a monist identity as valid polytheism (um, no. it’s a step away from monotheism), and the idea of polytheism as meaning something other than “many Gods.” I’m not sure why, really, there would be such a play for this terminology but it’s something to watch very carefully. We must guard our definitions carefully because, like many minorities, we should know well the dangers of allowing others to define for themselves who and what we are. We know what can happen when our very self-definition is co-opted, watered down, and rendered meaningless. It’s happened before. Such a rhetorical trick is one of the ways early Christians managed to gain the upper hand in Pagan-Christian discourse. It was a brilliant move, and a devastating one. What seems like a simple semantic game really isn’t. Shepherding the meaning of polytheism through these minefields is a matter of carving out space for our traditions, protecting that space, and giving those traditions room to thrive and grow and let me tell you, it is an uphill battle.
So in the course of the conversation, with many people expressing their surprise or disgust at the idea of atheist pagans and what this might be doing to our traditions, I pointed out that what we’re seeing is a failure of our society. I mean, if people are seeking religious communities, and as one woman commented, hiding their atheism to fit in because they want so much to be a part of a community, then what we have is a failure as a society, because in a healthy society there should be many other ways to gain a sense of community outside of religion. One shouldn’t have to fake it, or try to shift the religion into something more suited to atheist or humanist perspectives. So in the course of this, someone named Jeff Atwood, apparently an Uppsala trained academic jumped into the conversation with this gem:
“I can’t disagree with you more, Galina, about this suggestion that “explains” the problem of religion. The lack of a philosophical integrity in psychotic superstition is what usually inspires the fantasies of charismatic movements, both religious and political. These movements are more influential because of the emotional aspect the movement, stimulated by charismatic leaders.
Willful ignorance is not going to build a solid religion but it will feed an emotional illusion. The lack of “tradition” has empowered superstitious religiosity (a lingering aspect of Medieval Christianity) in the common mind to assert itself as a false authority over our heritage.
The mad rush to define an urban “Heathen tradition” today has SOOOOO many problems that I wonder if it’s even possible to save the movement to bring back the Old Way.”
and then later:
“Honestly, I believe this entire argument is a bit idealistically ignorant. During the Viking Age there were people in the community known as “Godless Men” who actually insulted Freya and Óðinn.
Superstitious religiosity is usually VERY theistic. Projecting a will into an identified “entity” (which doesn’t mean it ACTUALLY exists in a real physical sense) is the process of illusion and fantasy.
When heathens stop seeing Old 1eye as an ACTUAL sentient being then they come to the realization that Sensation is NOT an ego, but rather a universal process of a Mind in a physical, sensational vessel. Vili is the Will that puts all the sensations in a relatively orderly Paradigm of subjective reality. Vér acts accordingly. Yes, action speaks louder than words because Holiness (Vér) is action.
Then there is the common holy action within the Word! Feel-Think-Speak…THAT is the trinity of the creative process, just like Buddhist Yamāntaka (Conqueror of Yama/Ymir…Æsir/Asuras, “Jealous Gods” because they have a “golden” possession to horde and compare with OTHER creators’ gold).
Gnostics say that seeking Wisdom was competing with the gods for their gold. Indians say Indra smashes the skulls of men who try to enter the divine world. We have our bridge, the ring of fire, to keep low level spirits from rising too high.
Ancient Atheism is highly misunderstood by today’s willfully ignorant “Atheists”. Willfully ignorant heathens are no better. The real theological masters in Scandinavia left the Christian society, either by sword or simply disappeared. Some remained and buried treasures in the new social wave of Medieval Europe. Snorri was the last major drop of wisdom from that era, thanks to his Foster Father.”
So….leaving aside the absurdity posited above, the atheist notion that the Gods are not actual beings (had i read that more fully, I would have simply deleted the man from my Facebook—someone that degenerate in their thought isn’t worth arguing with—but I focused on his dismissal of devotion as “superstitious religiosity” and later ‘psychotic religiosity” instead and wasted forty minutes). It’s always interesting, if a bit nauseating, to see how hell-bent some people are to re-cast our ancestral traditions as atheist. It’s almost masterful in its reductionism. (Jeff kept poking around to find out where I was educated, hoping, I think, to find that I lacked graduate degrees, but he was sorely disappointed on that score. I guess the NYU and Fordham education has finally paid off. *sarcasm*. Glad I didn’t go to Uppsala if this is the kind of “theologian’ they turn out).
So, because i’m still pretty jet-lagged,I’m just going to copy and paste my initial responses here and y’all can read and judge for yourselves.
“Ah, Jeff, I’m so glad you posted. Often when discussing this issue, it is difficult to give specific, concrete examples of the type of pollution we’re fighting but you’ve been kind enough to provide that in abundance and I thank you.
Firstly, that you disregard piety as “superstitious religiosity” is a problem right there. You talk about heritage and the Old Ways but seem to want them without the Gods. Why Heathenry, Jeff? Why not just become a nice, staunch protestant and join a reconstruction society like the SCA. If it’s reconstruction of some pre-urban, pre-industrial culture you’re seeking, without the pesky nuisance of Gods and obligations, or indoor plumbing, hey, they are doing it better than we are. What exactly is it about our traditions that appeals to someone who considers devotion and piety ‘superstitious religiosity?” Do answer, I’m terribly curious.
Any tradition rooted in anything other than devotion to the Gods is not a tradition that, in my very strong opinion, should be restored. What’s the point? Go join the SCA. Have fun. I would rather deal with a thousand Christians, devoted and committed to their “superstition”, Christians who think nothing of kneeling on cobblestones outside a locked church so they can pray before a specific icon for instance, than the average Heathen. Those of us committed to polytheistic restoration not as a heritage movement, but as a religious tradition have more in common with them, than with people who espouse the ideas you so graciously shared here.
Devotion…what you call “psychotic superstition” …does not lack philosophical integrity. Hell, many of the ancient philosophers were deeply pious (@Edward Butler, I’ll leave you to comment on this if you wish; you’re more qualified than I!). It is the most organically logical of mindsets.
what it comes down to is that those who are rooted in devotion, who are polytheist because of the Gods, not some inane notion of turning back the clock and re-creating pre-urban traditions and calling that faith, are having experiences and sharing an outlook that is diametrically different and in many respects opposed to any that reduces the Gods to abstractions, irritations, and devotion to psychosis and superstition. Attitudes like this are a huge part of the problem we face in this restoration.
You talk about the Old Ways but exactly what old ways do you mean? Were there impious men and women who mocked the Gods amongst the Pre-Christian Heathens? yes, and they were often brought up on charges and punished for it. You write as though impiety were the law of the land when nothing could be further from the truth…unless of course one takes documents written by Christians (you know, the medieval lore we all love so much) as gospel truth. There is plenty of evidence for Heathen piety. It just doesn’t fit with a worldview that would rather deny the importance of the Gods, that would rather turn religion into a masquerade of historical reenactment.
Calling oneself Heathen and eschewing the Gods is no better than that civil rights activist who, while being white, disguised herself as a black woman. She might have the best intentions in the world but the truth of the matter is that there are crucial experiences that she will never have, because she is not part and parcel of the community she’s trying to build. It makes a difference.
You are right in one respect: we should not allow the burden of our devotion to rest on our feelings. I see too many people who disregard the Gods because they don’t *feel* a connection, instead of maintaining proper rituals — you know, that superstitious psychosis you speak so readily of—and doing the work of devotion. We put far too much on our feelings. Instead, we should be using a clinician’s logic to explore and examine our worldview, and how we’ve been taught to approach the sacred, and the pollution that we have imbibed like mother’s milk each step of the way.”
(We went back and forth for quite awhile and Jeff never did tell me what attracted him so to our traditions, and why a historical re-enactment society wouldn’t do just as well. Pity. I’d have liked to hear that answer).
“Heathery and paganism in general have shallow theological cultivation. Magic is not religion, but can be part of a religious practice.
The problem, IMO, is the way “religion” is perceived in today’s mind. It is a personal thing, and tangential to “normal” social life because we have many religions living together.
We have a very unnatural religiosity, being a choice people make rather than simply something you realize you live in, like in a native tribal setting. This unnatural practice of religion is what drives people to appropriate another culture’s practices/ideas/language.
Yet, the use of the word “appropriation” is also contemporarily dependent because appropriation was once called “learning something new”. Imagine I’m a trader in a port, talking to a fellow trader from another land. In a casual conversation we describe our realities to each other. Something sounds interesting and seemingly understood do to correspondent details, and is incorporated into my subjective reality. I go back home and he does too. Somehow, that conversation expanded our minds.
(Galina: the difference is that one of those traders hasn’t devastated and committed genocide on the culture of the other, Jeff).
We bring this “water” back home (see Thiassoi of Theos Hypsistos, with the bearded horseman raising a horn to an eagle in a tree) to bring Life to our “field” of social Reality. Mind is Laguz. A still Mind is a clear mirror of Heaven, but a disturbed mind distorts the picture in the water. In this disturbed picture all sorts of demonic fantasies (phantoms) ignite an existence, like the shadows on the walls of Plato’s cave. The ignorant BELIEVE the shadows to be real, but they are just projections of darkness as ignorant minds block the light. The shadows are the people themselves, yet they insist the shadows are autonomous entities.
Today’s opinions about appropriation come from a spiritual materialism that derives from the loss of cultural identity from domination from an outside force, instituting the foreign culture by trying to destroy the native one.
The modern mistake is to segregate, isolate and misrepresent traditions because all the focus on DIFFERENCES in order to distinguish one from another. This is an ego trap of illusion, however, fostering the superstitious understanding.”
Now I actually agree with Jeff on magic and religion. They are two very different things, though they can at times intersect. I also think a huge part of the problem our communities face, is the lack of intergenerational transmission of our traditions but there is where our ideas part ways. You see, for Jeff, it seems tradition is a human centric thing, whereas for me (and other polytheists like me), it is a container for Mystery, a container of the sacred, a way in which the Gods are able to engage with Their people relatively safely. Any tradition not centered around acknowledgement of the Gods is simply not one that personally, I think should be restored. After all, we’re not restoring pre-medieval society; we’re restoring a living, breathing religious tradition. If we can’t agree on that from the beginning then maybe we are indeed doomed to failure. I’ll tell you something though, I’d rather we fail than see Heathenry or any other polytheistic tradition restored along the lines Jeff posits above.
Now i’m not posting this to bash Jeff. I”m posting it because everything he said are things that i’ve seen cropping up in the Pagan community and in Heathenry too (different parts at different times). It represents a mindset, a way of looking at the world that not only excludes the Gods but renders devotion to Them as psychosis. Is it any wonder that there is so much antagonism toward devotional work in Heathenry, or actual active belief in the Gods in Paganism? These things aren’t just words.
My response to the above was a bit more concise:
“yes, i actually agree that how we approach religion is NOT organic. that’s exactly part of the problem. we’re very self consciously recreating and restoring but that’s a result of a devastated tradition, of generations of disconnect from our ancestral ways, and of mental oppression. it’s very, very difficult to come back into looking at the world the way our ancestors did. maybe it’s not even possible, but I think we must try. That does not mean throwing devotion and piety out the window. one of the things that christianity actually got very right (at least folk christianity) was the expression of very embodied piety. there is something there, something that I would go so far as to say we have lost. there’s a discomfort with religion amongst many of us….with opening oneself up to the sacred. it’s easier to fight and argue amongst ourselves, or reduce everything to the sum of the human community. I don’t see the solution to dissolve the boundaries between traditions, however. I would rather see the individual traditions growing and strong, and communicating with each other; and yes, I agree with you that we have shallow theological cultivation. It’s an uphill fight. I’ve noticed it in my own writing. When I do write heavy theological pieces, it’s crickets. People do not know how to respond. The level of discourse isn’t there yet and part of that rests on the discomfort with the very idea of the Gods that permeates Heathenry, and part of it rests on the fixation of “the lore”. it’s not just that it’s shallow, but that there is a deep, and deeply ingrained resistance to it becoming anything but; and for that, I have no answer.”
Jeff in his brilliance responded:
“Your desire for “superstitious religiosity” reveals your desire to embrace illusion. You don’t seem to even want to understand the meanings of God names and how they actually represent the only truth that all life is about a mind in a physical body. The stories we tell ourselves and others are all fantasies, with truth somewhere inside. If you choose to praise differences over commonalities then you are cultivating an environment for conflict and domination. This is the thing you complain about as well, so I find you interestingly hypocritical to your own “idealism””
So He wants truth and humanity and seems to consider anything not human to be illusion. I think that’s beyond absurd. I also think it’s a perfect example of modern mental corruption, a distancing of ourselves from any sense of the sacred, and a reduction of the Holy Powers to meaningless concepts and names. He really doesn’t get it…and after a few rounds of insults from Jeff, I deleted him so that those of us who actually venerate the Gods could get on with our work.
THIS is a perfect example of the monotheistic filter at work. It’s a perfect example of what our contemporary culture teaches, what academia reinforces, and how we are all infected with a distrust of devotion. it’s there and it’s exchanges like this that make me see how deeply those anti-piety currents run. Perhaps this exchange with Jeff wasn’t one of my shining moments as a theologian. It is disheartening, however, to find these ideas ever present as we trudge forward in this work.
Issue #3 of Walking the Worlds is now accepting submissions. The focus of this issue is “Magic and Religion.” Please contact me at krasskova at gmail.com if you are interested in submitting articles or essays. Full submission guidelines can be found here. Deadline is November 1.