A Rather Bad Sign

For one of my classes, I recently had to read Robert Orsi’s Between Heaven and Earth. In one of the chapters, Orsi discusses the impact of Vatican II on devout Catholics. Now, I personally think that Vatican II was one of the biggest mistakes the Catholic Church ever made (pandering to Protestants in the name of ecumenism, excising devotion, Marian cultus, saint cultus, and embodied devotional practices, putting the mass in the vernacular, easing up on regulations binding priests and especially nuns, devaluing the latter almost all together) and we in other traditions can learn quite a bit about what not to do from it as we engage in our respective restorations. It was a surrender to secularism and modernism and the end of the Church as a functional entity. It was also an outright attack on devotion. That being said, as part of his work, Orsi discusses several interactions with clergy on the matter of lay devotion and it’s that which I wish to discuss.

One chapter discussed a priest, post Vatican II, who was so against any aspect of devotion that he talked about the immense disgust and rage that he had whenever he saw statues of the saints or Mary, or any old school devout Catholic practice. He told Orsi that he wanted to destroy the statues and sacred images and spewed an immense amount of vitriol toward the very idea of actual devotional practices. This is a priest saying this, someone who ought to be encouraging devotion. It was striking and one of the most polluted things I’ve had to read this year. The account involves a Father Grabowski and occurs on p. 56-57 where we have a priest encouraging desecration and sacrilege — in the name, of course, of progress. “’The urge to destroy…haunts me’” Father Grabowski confesses” (57). He is talking about seeing statues of saints, and in the same paragraph, a statue of the Virgin. Time maybe to call an exorcist.

Disgust, aversion, and especially rage toward things associated with devotion or the sacred is one of the first signs at best of spiritual pollution and at worst of demonic obsession or even possession. What so many Catholics would term the demonic, I tend to see as an extension of what some of us term “the Nameless.” Evil exists, evil being that which is categorically ranked against the order that our Gods have created and that They work to maintain. It doesn’t matter what it’s called. It is insidious. It is the thing that we must ever and always guard against in our spiritual lives. It may have only the openings we give it, but it is very, very good at conniving to have us give those openings.

When holy things, devotion, and other sacred things begin to cause a reactive response of rage and disgust, an urge to destroy, that is a serious warning sign. I’ve gone through this myself, time where being in the presence of the sacred has been like razor blades down the skin of my mind, and every single time it has been an attempt to derail my work, to put a wedge between me and the Gods, to pollute. I have regular cleansing practices and this is one of the reasons. After the first time I noticed this, once I took care of it, I heightened those protocols to prevent just such a thing. With those cleansing practices in place, it’s much easier to recognize this state of spiritual emergency and deal with it as soon as possible. That’s exactly what it is too: a spiritual emergency. In better times, I might feel sorry for this Father Grabowski that he lacks appropriate spiritual direction to overcome this, but with things being as they are now, I’m just disgusted. It’s not just that one person may feel disgust, part of their poisoned state is a desire, no, a needto spread that poison as far as they possibly can, and to destroy devotion wherever it might be found.

This isn’t something that only affects specialists either. Lay people are every bit as susceptible. This is one of the many reasons why having a good prayer practice is so incredibly crucial. It realigns us every single time we choose consciously to engage, even if we do so imperfectly. Sometimes we must fight our way to the Gods inch by bloody inch, against the press of “progress” that would cast our devotion as superstition, against “modernity” that would urge us to abandon belief and practice, against evil.

About ganglerisgrove

Galina Krasskova has been a Heathen priest since 1995. She holds a Masters in Religious Studies (2009), a Masters in Medieval Studies (2019), has done extensive graduate work in Classics including teaching Latin, Roman History, and Greek and Roman Literature for the better part of a decade, and is currently pursuing a PhD in Theology. She is the managing editor of Walking the Worlds journal and has written over thirty books on Heathenry and Polytheism including "A Modern Guide to Heathenry" and "He is Frenzy: Collected Writings about Odin." In addition to her religious work, she is an accomplished artist who has shown all over the world and she currently runs a prayer card project available at wyrdcuriosities.etsy.com.

Posted on November 19, 2018, in devotional work, Lived Polytheism, theology, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 36 Comments.

  1. I don’t think Vatican II was “all bad” in terms of how it opened the Catholic Church to pluralism in terms of respect for other religions (and thus the opening for not entirely demonizing polytheists, and definitely for not doing so with Hindus, for example)…but that isn’t the prime concern here.

    It baffles and horrifies me that there are Catholic priests who are against devotion in the manner you described from the quotes above. Iconoclasm has no place in Catholicism–if you want that, go join the Baptists and their ilk.

    Once and only once, when growing up Catholic, was I ever at an event where actual eucharistic devotion took place (with a monstrance–which most Catholics these days don’t even know what one is, when it is used, or what it would be for, and have probably never seen one), and it was profoundly moving, and has influenced some of my views on these matters going forward once that religion was well in my rear view mirror.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m not sure I think a religion should be opened to pluralism, not if it means the diminishing of its own devotional practices. and at least we knew where they stood before that…now we have to contend with faux progressivism that isn’t.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I think it opened the church to universalism. I was reared as a post-Vatican II Catholic and found my desire to seek mystery thwarted by the simple fact that there was nothing uniquely Catholic left.


  2. Edward P. Butler

    Maybe the Church has to weaken in order for our traditions to have space to revive, however. Otherwise they would keep absorbing all the devotional impulses in the society, and they are so much better positioned to draw people in and retain those they have.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Excellent point…

      Few people today in mainstream white America who are Christian have the appreciation for ritual that current and former Catholics do, and given the continued de-ritualization and “low-church”-ing of Catholicism (in comparison to high church Anglicanism, the Vatican’s most solemn masses of the year look a bit under-done!), perhaps polytheist traditions that are strongly ritualistic and devotional will be more likely to take up some of the slack from that.

      I know my mom–who was not a lifelong Catholic, but a convert when she got married to my stepfather–loved it for all of the reverence and ritual, which is why she ended up taking to Shinto so well when I introduced her to that. For some humans, ritualism can be so effective…and even some atheists admit that’s the case, but I don’t know if that is an addition or a subtraction to this discussion! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  3. As a former Catholic with a fascination toward devotional expressions of religion, I have mixed feelings about Vatican II. On the one hand, when it comes to the devotional aspect, I feel like Vatican II really did a number on traditional Catholicism. I love the cults of the saints and of Mary. I love the old Latin Mass. I love the ritual of it. I love the various expressions of devotion that was once part of everyday life among Catholics (and still is for some older Catholics). I hate seeing the eroding of these traditions. The 1500+ tradition of Latin in the Church is dying off. I dislike seeing the Church become essentially like namby-pamby Protestantism.

    I used to work in what was the Italian section of Boston, which a couple of old Italian Catholic churches and the various societies of the saints whom they’d process around the neighborhood during their various feast days. It’s beautiful and reminds me of similar celebrations in Hindu religions. (Southern Italian Catholicism with all of its various cults of the Madonnas and the Saints looked awfully similar to polytheism prior to the Council of Trent.)

    However, as someone who is progressive, I am glad to see female altar servers. I’m glad that post-Vatican II Catholicism toned down on their bullshit anti-Semitism. I would even love to see female clergy and married clergy. But that’s way too radical for the Church. What’s an even bigger issue is their consolidation of power and how they used that to move molesting pedophile priests around from city to city using their power and influence to shut people up.

    Catholicism is dying a much deserved death. While I mourn the dying of traditions and the beauty of the devotion, this is a criminal organization.

    I only wish that polytheist religions had the means and wherewithal to purchase some of the Catholic properties and form our own chapels, churches, convents, monasteries, and institutions.

    It won’t happen in my lifetime, sadly.


    • i’m not sure that if i were Catholic, that i would support female priests. I’m on the fence with it. Surely I support female clergy in our traditions — I am one– but I think that Catholicism has a valid theological argument for not ordaining women. Likewise, I’m not a fan of female altar servers since that position is traditionally to prepare boys for the priesthood. That being said, there are many roles women can play at the altar and also, nuns and sisters should be recognized as holy orders (it’s not, even now, considered holy orders). My biggest issue with female priests in catholicism is what I all too often have seen amongst breakaway catholic sects like the OCCA, which commonly ordains women. Suddenly it’s all about being a woman at the altar, and not about being a priest. it gets twisted out of true — though perhaps that is a matter of it being a new thing. *shrugs*.

      Married clergy i’d support — it was not against church law until the 13th c. and then only for inheritance reasons, though early ascetics always balked at marriage.

      as to buying up property…i personally think if it comes to it, we should acquire it the same way they did. *coughs*. This did not involve equal exchange of funds.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hmmmm…I wonder if you’d want to write a book about this, sort of a polytheistic manual for spiritual warfare/defense against the “Nameless”?


  5. Deuteronomy 12

    “2 You must demolish completely all the places where the nations whom you are about to dispossess served their gods, on the mountain heights, on the hills, and under every leafy tree. 3 Break down their altars, smash their pillars, burn their sacred poles with fire, and hew down the idols of their gods, and thus blot out their name from their places.”

    Just one of several exhortations to the same in the Old Testament.

    Exodus 20

    “4 You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, 6 but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.”

    That is pretty clear. Icons and statues are no exception. Sacred trees, pillars, rocks, and even local shrines are forbidden in the Deuteronomic code. Holy wells, saint shrines, devotional items at home, all should be forbidden. Don’t make offerings anywhere outside the Jerusalem temple, that is a constant injunction. No offerings without a priest, there is another. Merely burning incense on a hilltop or on top of a brick in a backyard is enough to get Yahweh so angry that he wants to force people to eat their children after he starves them.

    This finally caught up to the Catholic Church. You can’t actually follow the Bible while worshiping Mary in varied forms as goddess substitutes, or worshiping angels and saints as demigods and lesser gods. Those cathedrals and basilicas are merely idolatrous temples. If that priest Grabowski wanted to smash a statue of Mary, he would be just like Moses or Joshua. If their theology matters to them so much, they have to believe their god doesn’t change his rules. They do claim to have the inside track on objective morality. If he hated idols back then, he hates them now. Classifying their idols as acceptable and different from pagan idols is just hypocrisy and deception.

    Pagan worship at groves or water places was always painted as superstition by the Catholic writers. The early Christians attacked the myths, symbols, and rites of pagans, ridiculing them for believing such silly things. They did this as they espoused a belief system around worshiping a dead rabbi that was supposed to come back and resurrect his dead followers from the grave so they could rule the earth. Once they looked at their own beliefs more objectively, it was inevitable that they would end up abandoning them bit by bit.

    Liked by 1 person

    • it’s problematic in th ehistory of Christianity – pre Reformation anyway — to give too much credence to the OT. there was a great deal of debate and discussion (and at least one heresy) around whether or not to incorporate the OT into Christian canon. Eventually, as we know, it was but that wasn’t without conflict.

      still, the aversion to the sacred holds across religions I’ve found. If it’s there, it’s a red flag.


    • It’s no wonder that towards the end of the middle ages, with the increasing activity of universities (ironically supported by the Church) as well as a rising intellectual class, some scholars would look into Christian or monotheistic texts and argue them just as much as they had argued Aristotle and Plato, making discoveries and noting contradictions. I like to think of Martin Luther as a reincarnation (albeit peculiar) of Widikund; there is something very pagan in his resistance towards Rome.


  6. Catholicism was and still is bound to decline because of its universalism (and indeed its history of suppression), and gladly so for polytheism, but as others have pointed out, it is alarming that tradition in general, including the Catholic, is under threat from modernity. We polytheists have quite a delicate path to tread, striving between opposing monotheism and opposing modernism. It may well be worth supporting Catholics temporarily in order to protect tradition as a notion.


    • we have more in common, I think, Melas, with a devout Catholic than with 99% of Pagans.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Alas, you may be right, but I hope this can change. What a difficult time it is for tradition in general, and our traditions in particular. Sometimes I am prone to wish for the quick subversion of all monotheism, but even if we strongly hope for weeds to be removed, we can’t allow the soil to be corrupted. Atheism might seem an easier opponent (because atheists still choose spirituality and even so are often empty, which Carl Jung predicted), although the opposite might happen. Somehow polytheists must strive and endure, building our own traditions as best as possible, shining a light in the shadow of the greater conflict between atheism and modernism. On the other hand, I don’t know if the following research is better or worse news for us. It supports your point but it means we will have more rather than less to contend with in the coming years: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/04/07/why-people-with-no-religion-are-projected-to-decline-as-a-share-of-the-worlds-population/


      • I cannot feel the same way about the statement of Grabowski because I do not regard images of Mary and the saints as holy anyway. I don’t regard the Catholic church as holy. If it were an altar to St. Olaf or St. Boniface, how would you regard it? I think Grabowski was just animated by the same drive at the bottom of all the Abrahamic religions. Unless there is something in that book that confirms it was just hatred of what he considered “sacred”, I would stand by that.

        Devout Catholics regard us as demon worshipers. I have also heard “tree worshiper” and something about “sky fairies” from Catholics, not just from Protestants or atheists. Kind of hard to get past that barrier. That we are more similar to them than to the Protestants, I admit. I grew up hearing Catholics disparagingly referred to as “pagans”.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. OH i hate LUther though. He had some legitimate grievances but he went all out against monasticism, devotion, mysticism, ritual, aesthetic beauty in ritual…all the things that enrich a tradition.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is funny that Luther made such a radical exception for music. “He who sings, prays twice” was a saying he was fond of.

      He was obsessed with it, as are most Lutheran congregations today, the majority of their budget expenditures going towards music programs.


    • Certainly. He had a pagan spirit on one hand, and a very monotheistic mind on the other. The only way to resist Roman domination at the time was by using religious arguments, in this case “purifying” monotheism. It was schizophrenic, but it was inevitable. If we think about it in a Machiavellian manner, perhaps we owe a great deal to Luther that so many Protestant countries today (I mean in Europe because the U.S. is quite a different story) are ripe for polytheism and tolerant about its spreading, whereas in Southern Europe, polytheism is still a matter in the shadows. It’s only *after* Southern Europe becomes more like Northern Europe (which is happening now) that we will hear of toleration to polytheism. So, it seems the good end of Luther’s protestantism (at least partly) has justified the ugly means.


  8. K. i very much consider Mary holy…I think She’s allowed many different Goddesses to use Her form to continue receiving worship…but more to the point, i think She’s been the saving grace of Catholicism for two millennia. Regardless of how Catholics regard us — and i love how everone is focusing on that, rather than the actual point of my piece — aversion to the sacred and holy is a red flag that something is deeply, deeply wrong.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The red flags you talk about – it wasn’t something I believed in until recently.

      When I was younger, I would have said “oh, that person is just ignorant – or maybe they experience the sacred differently than I do. Maybe they have never found cause to believe in spirits or holy powers. I’m sure their intentions are good”
      I think as pagans and polytheists, we get so used to being called evil for our beliefs that sometimes we hesitate to apply the concept to anyone else’s behavior.

      Then, in the last few years, my work has brought me into contracts with many church and temple organizations, and I did pro-bono and volunteer work with local pagan organizations. And I found in these places many people who were just openly hostile to the spiritual experiences of others.

      It wasn’t ignorance – and it wasn’t indifference. It was just a desire to destroy, to limit, to desecrate. People who are ignorant or who have had little experience or interest in ritual often still have the instinct to treat it with basic respect, or at the very least, to give it space. But people who are polluted in some way work tirelessly to pollute others.

      I found that the same people that balk at giving offerings, that harass newbies for trying to participate, that ridicule devotional practices and altars, that litter in sacred places, that talk over or stare at cell phones during ritual – these same people are often toxic in general. They also seem to complain about things like persistent home hauntings, bad trips (whether trance or drug induced), and odd, hangover-like physical reactions during ritual.

      Some of the people I’ve met who fit this description have been pastors, priestesses, or clergy of some other variety. They seemed to revel in using their position of power to control other peoples’ access to ritual and sacred space, in a harmful way. Like Father Grabowski in your example.

      So….I got off topic a little bit, but the point was that I appreciate what you are trying to say. Some people react to genuine and authentic devotion like vampires to sunlight.

      I used to try to hear their side of things, to try and reason out why these people were hostile and understand their point of view. Now I just get as far away from them as possible….because experience has borne out that 10 times out of 10, something IS deeply, deeply wrong.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Galina, perhaps a distinction can be made between substance and form. As in, Mary has a holy substance (insofar as she contains elements of polytheistic Goddesses), but her form as “Mary” is unholy in that she was deliberately *shaped* against polytheism and in opposition/competition to said Goddesses. I don’t think Mary was appropriated at all from polytheists, and therefore we can appreciate her elements & the idea she carries (which is already familiar to us), while criticizing the misshapen form she was given. The same could be done with Jesus and Yahweh.


      • I actually don’t have any issue with polytheists who venerate Jesus, Yahweh, Mary, etc. NOr do I think that Mary’s form qua Mary is unholy or necessarily shaped against polytheists. I think She was the saving grace of Christianity, and Her story a powerful one. what I do think is obscene is the doctrine of monotheism itself that takes Deities an holy Powers and create around Them a system that is destructive to all that is holy. These gods were betrayed by their people precisely through the codification of monotheistic religions.

        Liked by 1 person

      • So, it would seem you advocate for a Mary and a Christianity that is preceded Constantine (his councils codified everything) or even more accurately that existed in the 3rd century and before. Alexander Severus (an emperor of Syrian origin) is known to have venerated Jesus, if I’m not mistaken. Meantime, in Arabia, Collyridianism syncretized native Goddeses with Mary. It’s hard to state my position on this. I had rather see Mary “broken up” back into Isis, Hera, Asherah, Juno, Dea Matrona, etc etc. She may have been forced into taking over other Goddesses (i.e. it wasn’t her choice) but I’m not sure whether this matters to us, precisely because we *won’t* be able to convince many Catholics to adopt our balanced & tolerant position about her, and respect our Goddesses in return. I’ll change my opinion if they do, but I’m sure they will declare war on us for polluting or degrading Mary by placing her among pagan “competitors”. So, I would say the holy must be defended, certainly, but it also must be purified. As much as I don’t like the Christian interpretation of heresy & unorthodoxy, I think a different form exists for our traditions. Having said this, I won’t at all support an atheist like Hitchens or Sam Harris when they use Christianity to attack “Iron Age religion” (I’ve heard this term several terms from them) in general, because I know how that can hurt us. My support for atheists comes when they, for instance, attack the violent character of “Yahweh” in the Old Testament or condemn the Crusades and Jihad as absurd, etc.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. I think that Mary is deserving of veneration in Her own right, as is every other Goddess listed and I very much resist the idea that we are able to “force” the Gods to do anything. I don’t have any interest in convincing Catholics of anything…save maybe practicing their own religion better. I wouldn’t take a Christian’s view of my religion, why should they accept ours. that’s irrelevant.


  10. It is my firm belief that the majority of Monotheists actually worship the Nameless and serve its agenda unknowingly. That rabid loathing of sacred images and NEED to destroy any act that remotely looks like ‘idolatry’ can only have come from the force trying to rid the world of the Gods’ influence and blessings. Monotheism is HIV of the soul and it is more virulent and deadly than smallpox ever was. Why? Because those it infects become obsessed with spreading their disease to others, and given half a chance will turn to violence in order to do so. The best inoculation against Monotheism is frequent, honest devotion.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. This has generated a wonderful dialog. Raised Lutheran (how I despise that man!) led me to the Odinist faith. I have nothing against Catholicism, and I have met many mystics among Catholics whose devotion is beautiful to me. I still include Jesus and Mary among the Sacred Beings I venerate, but a regular “Christian” monotheist would hang me by the crosshairs!


%d bloggers like this: