Consent might just be a thing.

It’s like polytheism is a young woman at a fraternity party and Halstead is the entitled jock who won’t take no for an answer. 

I suppose this would make his rhetoric the equivalent of rohypnol…



(see, I can use unwarranted rhetoric too. This is precisely how I view the humanist/atheist/nontheist incursion into our traditions. It is a gross violation. How many times must we say no? ) Reading this several hours later, I’m ashamed I posted it. It was crossing a line, no matter how fiercely I’m committed to protecting our traditions. I’m letting it stand, because i wrote it and that can’t be undone, but I do apologize to my readers.


Posted on March 18, 2016, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. This analogy makes me very, very uneasy and I think it goes too far. Halstead is a jerk but implying he’s a rapist helps nothing.


    • Or rather, like a rapist. I hit enter too fast.


    • ganglerisgrove

      i’m not thrilled about it but I very much see what he and those like him are attempting to do to our traditions in exactly this light. It is a gross and uninvited violation.

      I view our traditions as living things with whose care we are tasked. I don’t know where we went wrong, where we opened the door to allow someone like this and those with whom he is allied to feel so comfortable ignoring our every objection, but somewhere we failed to hold the line and i am both angry and frustrated.

      Perhaps my rhetoric does go too far here…as does his quite recently.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. It was a rough and brutal metaphor, however what he is doing is so offensive that it’s still fitting in expressing the umbrage we feel by his carelessness.

    Liked by 1 person

    • ganglerisgrove

      thank you. I probably did cross a line with this but for now, i’m letting it stand for exactly the reason you note (save that i don’t think it was carelessness. I think this is a concerted attack. why? I have no idea save that he can’t seem to stand a group of people having something to which he is not given immediate and unrestricted access. Thing is, if he’d adapt himself to the traditions,I’d have no problem with him. Of course that would mean actually humbling oneself to believe in the Gods as Gods, venerate them, etc. to bow to the exigencies of the tradition instead of expecting it to bow to you).

      I was thinking about how I feel as a polytheist having to constantly defend our traditions not just against Halstead — he is one person, this is bigger than he is–but against constant aggressions and attacks from pagans, atheists, non theists, even sometimes other polytheists. I’ve been doing this for 30 years and I’m looking ahead at what kind of body of traditions i want to see rooted and strong, two, three hundred years from now and…i despair.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This is ridiculous and shameful.

    You have written and posted on Facebook frequently about freedom of speech and religion and how important those values are to you. That should apply to John Halsted just as much as it applies to you. He has just as much right as you do to write about whatever he wants, and believe and practice whatever he wants within the legal boundaries we all work within.

    I have personally experienced sexual assault from a religious leader. I find the use of a rape metaphor to be deeply offensive when applied to mere words from someone who just disagrees with you.

    This is also not how someone who holds themselves out as a spiritual leader should act. Words and acts like this do nothing to build or create community (which we are a part of on the internet to the extent that we all choose to interact with each other and read each other’s posts) and instead creates divisiveness, in-groups and out-groups, and worthless catfights. This is not how we will create a future, shared or otherwise.

    Liked by 2 people

    • ganglerisgrove

      I was very angry and I did write a brutal metaphor unwisely. I’ve been sitting with this today and realized that I need to step back and focus on building traditions. I crossed a line here that even i wasn’t comfortable with.

      I experience polytheism as a living thing…not metaphorical but something i sense and feel and almost can touch. I have a palpable sense of each of the many traditions within that umbrella as vital and vibrant fruits within this great tree, and everyone who is part of that, priest or laity, elder or newcomer is a glowing thread. It’s maybe a spirit-worker thing. I don’t know but it’s the thing that keeps me going with all of this. It’s a vision that sustains me and also causes me tremendous pain. It hurts more than I have words to say, on a visceral, very physical level to see it attacked and potentially corrupted. Halstead has a right to free speech but he does not have a right to attempt to define our traditions. He is not polytheist. This would not be ok with any other religion or religious community. Why is it ok here? Our gods don’t need us to defend them but our traditions do…our our sakes. I think there are better ways to do that than my stooping to this level though. I was trying to frame it with brutal rhetoric (that reflects how i experience what he’s doing) using the idea of consent, because it is something that i think we can all agree is fundamental to human interactions.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I have struggled to decide how to respond to this, because references to sexual assault and religion are very triggering for me. But I respect you responding to me, and choosing to leave the entire post up rather than remove it.

        Consent would be an appropriate metaphor if John Halsted were physically coming to your rituals uninvited and you could do nothing to stop him. Consent is not an appropriate metaphor when someone is writing online, and you can choose not to read what they write, you can unfriend or block them, you can ban them from your blog, or easily just stop seeing everything they write. I am not going to rehash or relive my experiences of being assaulted here, but this seems to be a misunderstanding of consent to me, especially when there are so many options online so you don’t have to interact with him if you find him so disagreeable.

        Fragmentation and internal dissent is a normal part of every religion. Before I sought the old Gods I was raised Christian, and even within each denomination there are those who challenge the orthodoxy. I saw several churches grow and split before I turned eighteen. This is the nature of religious faith and human belief and relationship with the divines. I was one of those who challenged what I was taught to believe because it did not match with my personal experience, and I was repeatedly shunned for it.

        The only thing that John Halsted is defining for those of us who identify as polytheists is a space where we can challenge ourselves to think more clearly by discerning what we believe and what we don’t. Ad hominem and personal attacks do no service to anyone, and show that everyone has lost their heads. I understand the desire to protect something you love dearly, even to the point of over-reacting. I’ve done it many times myself, trying to explain what I believe to outsiders. But at some point, it can become about ego and self, and not about protecting what is truly loved and valued. So I would ask at this point- is it still really about polytheism, or is it a battle of egos between both of you? While I don’t agree with all the things he writes, his perspective is valuable because theological diversity creates sharpness- without contrast and difference, how will any of us know what we think?

        Other religious traditions and communities do have their dissenters and internal conflicts. To represent any religion as a monoculture is to misrepresent it. Protecting your traditions and practice is an honorable thing. I hope that I will be able to teach my religious practice to any children I have, so I understand the importance of protecting the transmission of culture and knowledge. But I question whether John is actually coming close to harming your specific tradition, and whether “polytheism” is the hill worth dying on. I’ve met many polytheists who would each define the word differently for themselves, and questioning their faith never crossed my mind.

        It is up to each of us to define our own relationship with the gods, because that is ultimately our life’s work. We are still young in our faith communities, but I think spiritual formation is an area where we are lacking. We could all learn how to play well with others. Additionally, culture is not static. We have not inherited unbroken traditions and we do not live in the same world that our ancestors did, which makes unity in the goals that we can share all the more essential, when there are so few of us.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. ganglerisgrove

    “We have not inherited unbroken traditions and we do not live in the same world that our ancestors did, which makes unity in the goals that we can share all the more essential, when there are so few of us.”

    for me, this is a crucial point and why it’s all the more important to protect our traditions from outsiders. All religions have their schisms and dissenters, but john Halstead is not a polytheist, has never been a polytheist. It’s a different thing when someone from outside of the community attempts to define its core tenets away. It’s a colonizer’s mindset. and the only reason that I respond to any of it at all, is because ideas are powerful things and I don’t want to see his gaining purchase in our traditions and warping them out of true before we realized what has occurred. It’s not as simple as simply not reading or unblocking him. His ideas are still out there spreading and influencing those new to polytheism. i don’t see value in his perspective because he’s not part of the polytheistic community. it would be like me showing up at a Catholic conference and demanding that my opinions on their theology be given equal weight to one of their own.

    I shouldn’t have resorted to what was borderline ad hominum though. I was in part attempting to use a rhetorical technique of Gorgios, who wrote the ‘encomium of helen’….when i came back a few hours later, i was appalled at what i’d written. I’ll attack his ideas happily but aside from the ugliness of the metaphor i used, it was very close to a personal attack and that’s not where i want to go. He’s not important like that; it’s his ideas and dogged determination to bring them into polytheism that is the problem and that’s bigger than him, bigger than me, bigger than any of us.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve only just encountered John Halstead through an essay on WItchvox, of which I am a lifetime supporter. So far, I’ve found that many of his thoughts are consistent with my own. Also so far, I haven’t seen John attempting to co-opt anyone else’s belief system, just forming a community around his — a natural enough act. Maybe I’m wrong about that and if so, I’ll find out soon enough.

    If his ideas might distract some possible “catches” away from the hook you’ve cast into the lake of potential polytheists, so what? We’re all on journeys here. Paths intersect, straighten out, intersect again. If you’re meant to meet people, you’ll meet. Why the need to go on the attack? Ignore Halstead if his ideas don’t suit you and continue on your own journey. Allow others to hear him out and make up their own minds. Otherwise, you pollute yourself with hatred that benefits no one, least of all yourself.

    I pulled myself out of the NeoPagan community years ago because of tribal conflicts like this. It makes me terribly sad to see that it’s still going on. Oh well. Maybe I will discover that John Halstead and others in his orbit are not my dish of tea. If so, I won’t lose any sleep over it. We NeoPagans (or whatever we want to call ourselves today) are an opinionated lot, usually intelligent and well-read, deeply devoted to our spiritual ideas. Many of us were originally called to this path in search of a way to express our innate sense of the divine that didn’t involve punitive rules and needlessly destructive internecine warfare. Some of that Abrahamic baggage managed to make the trip with us and that’s a shame.


    • ganglerisgrove

      therein lies a core disagreement. We’re not on a ‘path;’ we’re building traditions. We’re not on a ‘journey;’ we’re restoring our ancestral ways. All traditions have rules, standards, boundaries and if one refuses to adhere to them, then one is simply NOT part of that tradition. What Halstead and others like him are doing is attempting to steal from us our Gods and the future of our traditions giving us instead politics and psychology; and they’re doing it I suspect because they view polytheism as an open field where they can insert themselves, garner authority and prevent the traditions from rooting themselves in ways that would challenge that authority. Just one problem with that: there are teachers and clergy and elders and specialists in polytheisms that will resist that to their dying breath because in the end, Halstead and his crew are simply not polytheist. Odd you should bring up Abrahamic traditions—when what they’re doing so precisely represents the colonialist mindset at the heart of monotheism. It doesn’t matter to them that the inheritors and protectors of the various polytheistic traditions are telling them to back off, Halstead and those like him will insist on trying to define us out of existence. Polytheism is not an open field. Like many other traditions that have intergenerational transmission of lineage and roots in antiquity, there are rules (we don’t have that unbroken intergenerational transmission yet…we did once, but we don’t today but we’re working on it). The only time “warfare” happens is when outsiders attempt to pollute our traditions. It’s not in this case internecine…Halstead and many of those working with him are not part of any of our traditions. (Halstead identifies I believe as humanist Pagan, and is in reality at best a monotheist). That is what many of you don’t seem to grasp: he’s not part of our traditions so what the hell is he doing trying to define them?


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