Category Archives: community
A friend sent me a clip from an article that had me just shaking my head. In it, a Pagan was talking about pollution and why she never “needed” to do any cleansing work. Doing so, the misguided author said, would imply that she was dirty.
Um…yes, buttercup it does but this is not a moral judgment. When you take a shower in the morning or a bath at night, is that some grave moral judgment on your inner sense of self? Or your character? Your identity? When you wipe your ass, are you saying your butt is bad? One would hope that you actually do take those showers and wipe. I mean really…and if you clean your ass, as my friend quipped, you can take the time to clean your soul.
This is going to be an ongoing theme. I’ve had a lot of questions lately about miasma. I’ve gained a few insights through my own deepening taboos around purification, been thrown for a few unexpected loops, and I’ve been seeing a lot of really screwed up pieces, like the bit I quoted above making the rounds. I’m not even sure where to begin here.
Miasma is a thing. It exists. It is not a statement about the character or worth of any given person. In fact, in most cases, it’s no more personal than spilling something on yourself and having to wash it off, or tracking mud inside, and having to clean it up. To say that one doesn’t need to cleanse is exactly as sensible as saying one never needs to bathe, that is not at all.
Miasma is a type of spiritual pollution. One can pick up miasma by exposing oneself to things that are antithetical to the Gods and Their traditions. These things can shift a person’s head and heart space out of receptivity and reverence for the Gods. They can also leave a taint. Over time, it destroys our ability not just for any discernment with the Powers and spirits, but even our ability to tell what is good and holy from that which is not. That’s one of the dangers of pollution and our world is riddled with it.
Sometimes though one falls into miasma through actions or experiences that are good: for instance there is a particular miasma associated with the dead. That’s why if one touches a dead body, cleansings are necessary before approaching one’s shrines. Well, visiting the graves of relatives is a good and pious act sanctioned by the Gods. The moment one does so, however, one is in a state of pollution and should really cleanse after returning home. Likewise, there is miasma associated with childbirth. Does that mean that everyone should stop having babies? Of course not. It means one learns the appropriate protocols within one’s tradition and uses them.
These purification rites can also be a form of psychological catharsis, helping one to make transitions back into ordinary life. Imagine how much better off our soldiers would be if they had these kinds of transitional and purifying ceremonies to guide their entrance back into civilian life? Instead, we just leave them in the gutter.
Proper piety is important. It is what enables us to maintain right relationship with our Gods. That’s a huge part of why we should want to be clean! Moreover, extended miasma can cause mental, emotional, and even physical problems, not to mention damaging one’s luck. Of course, this presupposes that one values being in right relationship with the Holy. This is where it starts. It presupposes that this is a priority, that we’re willing to examine our culture and society and interactions and influences and take action when miasma is present.
Now just because a thing causes miasma, does not mean it has to be avoided. Some things are only miasmic with certain types of worship, and with certain deities, or for roles and types of work (ancestor work vs plant work, shaman vs. seer vs. laity—there will be different taboos and requirements). Sometimes when you’re called to work with certain Powers and do certain work, that cuts off certain opportunities. That’s too bad. That’s just the nature of devotion. It’s possible to appreciate from a distance without being able to engage.
Sometimes what we read or watch may cause miasma. It affects our headspace. It puts us in headspace that’s not conducive to interaction with the Holy. This is a bit trickier. No one should tell you not to watch or read something. That’s a decision you have to make for yourself with your Gods and ancestors. Divination can help with this. We don’t want to be, after all, like the Abrahamists who fence themselves off from life and authentic experiences with all their rules and regulations, afraid to read a novel for fear it will destroy their faith. Sometimes also, depending on one’s work, one might have to read things or watch things or go places that put one in a state of miasma. Here, it’s important to sit down maybe with a diviner or priest and suss out how to cleanse oneself, what rituals and prayers to do, to restore oneself to cleanliness. (Just because a particular book or movie might put you out of alignment, doesn’t mean it’s ‘bad’. It might not affect someone else the same way, especially if they’re working with very different Powers and traditions. The key is mindfulness and being willing to consider that even things we like may be problematic and require those extra ritual steps or even forgoing gratification in service to something Higher).
Now I’ve noticed something about the people chirping the loudest about how cleansing isn’t necessary. All of the ones I’ve encountered have been anti-theist or humanist ‘Pagans.’ I think that is perhaps the key here. This is a clash of cultures and traditions. Do you serve the ancestors or political ideology? Do you want to reverence the Gods with your entire life or some human economist? Is this real or is it just something people make up in their heads? Do you value the Holy, or are you hell-bent on convincing the pious that it doesn’t exist (generally by trolling them online)? Those espousing a disdain for cleansing and purification are more often than not, those expressing a similar disdain for the Gods and everything else associated with Them. I’ll let y’all do the math. (If Stalin says that 2+2=5, the party believes that 2+2=5).
What I know is that cleansing is crucial. There is a caution here: against what Christians call scrupulosity. We should attend to all the proper rites and rituals for dealing with pollution, but not fall into obsessiveness or excessive anxiety over it—what the Greeks termed δεισιδαιμονίᾳ.
“It is apparent that superstition would seem to be cowardice with regard to the spiritual realm. The superstitious man is one who will wash his hands and sprinkle himself at the Sacred Fountain, and put a bit of laurel leaf in his mouth, to prepare himself for each day. If a marten should cross his path, he will not continue until someone else has gone by, or he has thrown three stones across the road. And if he should see a snake in his house, he will call up a prayer to Sabazios if it is one of the red ones; if it is one of the sacred variety, he will immediately construct a shrine on the spot. Nor will he go by the smooth stones at a crossroads without anointing them with oil from his flask, and he will not leave without falling on his knees in reverence to them. If a mouse should chew through his bag of grain, he will seek advice on what should be done from the official diviner of omens; but if the answer is, ‘Give it to the shoemaker to have it sewn up,’ he will pay no attention, but rather go away and free himself of the omen through sacrifice. He is also likely to be purifying his house continually, claiming that terrible Hecate has been mysteriously brought into it. And if an owl should hoot while he is outside, he becomes terribly agitated, and will not continue before crying out, ‘O! Mighty Athena!’ Never will he step on a tomb, nor get near a dead body, nor a woman in childbirth: he says he must keep on his guard against being polluted. On the unlucky days of the month– the fourth and seventh– he will order his servants to heat wine. Then he will go out and buy myrtle-wreaths, frankincense, and holy pictures; upon returning home, he spends the entire day arranging the wreaths on statues of the Hermaphrodites. Also, when he has a dream, he will go to the dream interpreters, the fortune-tellers, and the readers of bird-omens, to ask what god or goddess he should pray to. When he is to be initiated into the Orphic mysteries, he visits the priests every month, taking his wife with him; or, if she can’t make it, the nursemaid and children will suffice. It is also apparent that he is one of those people who go to great lengths to sprinkle themselves with sea-water. And if he sees someone eating Hecate’s garlic at the crossroads, he must go home and wash his head; and then he calls upon the priestesses to carry a squill or a puppy around him for purification. If he sees a madman or epileptic, he shudders and spits into his lap.” (Theophrastos, On The Superstitious Man)
Being a polytheist isn’t about having the right hashtags or even necessarily about believing in many Gods. Believing in many Gods is the baseline, the fundamental definition, but we should aspire to so much more. Being a polytheist is also about cultivating in ourselves the type of awareness and character that the Gods would find pleasing. To do that, first and foremost, we must cultivate purity and an awareness of the nature of miasma and a willingness to attend to it. Then and only then, can we begin to cleanly and properly commune with the Holy.
A gay, Jewish journalist gives interviews while in hiding as a rioting mob calls for his blood in the streets below.
This isn’t Berlin 1939, it’s Berkeley 2017. It’s not the Nazis we need to worry about; it’s the SJW cultural Marxists.
The social justice left is the biggest threat to freedom in the US, more than anything else, including president Trump and his cabinet. Their willingness to use violence to silence anyone with whom they disagree, their hysterical fear mongering to prevent differing viewpoints from being aired, their slander and libelous attacks on anyone who doesn’t tow their party line, their lack of patriotism, their obvious contempt for America and its constitutionally protected rights, and their obvious indoctrination with cultural Marxism make them a clear and present danger to the security of this nation. We should all be concerned about this and yet, and yet, otherwise intelligent people will look at the political violence, designed to prevent free speech and consider it a good thing. Wake up, folks.
Today there are riots in Berkeley, CA. Fires have been lit, rocks thrown, buildings looted, and an immigrant speaker had to be spirited away by a security detail because of threats to his safety. Berkeley—ironically with its history of defending free speech, you know, the right enshrined in the First Amendment that underpins all our other rights and freedoms—is now the site of riots that are making world news.
Watching this is so surreal because these are the exact same problems we’ve been dealing with in our communities for the past couple of years, just on a large scale and far more dramatically. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s a quick refresher). What’s the common denominator? Marxism, always and inevitably. It goes after our fundamental freedoms (especially religious freedoms). And given that we have a generation of students subjected throughout their entire academic career to unthinking cultural Marxist indoctrination (we let all those communists and hippies go into education…bad idea that. They shouldn’t have been let anywhere near academia), they’re ill prepared to connect the historical and ideological dots.
It’s time to get woke, as the left would say, but we need to educate ourselves and wake up to the absolutely nihilistic, ahistorical, anti-theistic, unpatriotic, anti-family, anti-tradition dogma behind their rioting. Social justice? Not hardly. Social justice is a perversion and a mockery in its name. It doesn’t seek actual justice but the enslavement of the masses and if our traditions have any hope of survival, we need to crush this now, inexorably, or they will crush us.
And if you think this is hyperbolic, consider the history of Iran. In the 1950s it was a progressive, modern culture with Western values, women in education, medicine, law and prosperity was high; they had a bright future. Then they started having protests just like this on college campuses, which turned into riots, just like this. Khomeini came to power and now they’re a backward, impoverished, totalitarian state. And the women, their future there isn’t looking so bright. (They sure don’t go around with pussy hats). I could draw similar parallels all the way back to ancient Rome but we don’t need to: this is happening here today. You can either allow it, or stand and resist it, stand in support of our fundamental freedoms as Americans. Drive this communist trash out (with your words, your humor, and your commitment and engagement with the political process – while they go around muttering about punching Nazis and the more delusional among them actually acting on it). I am so deeply ashamed to be an American right now. I have never been more disappointed in this country than I have been today.
Here’s a full news report along with one of those aforementioned interviews:
Why Couldn’t Cybele Just Restore Attis’ Dick? This is an actual conversation that I’m having with a Christian relative. (#polytheistproblems). This relative asked to read the papers that I’d written over the last semester so I printed them up, per her request and sent them off. Foremost amongst them was my recent article in issue 5 of Walking the Worlds: “Ecstasy and Identity in Catullus 63. This piece talks about Attis sacrificing his manhood in devotion to Cybele and what that meant to him (her?) as a Roman.
Here is the email I received in response:
“G., I just finished reading this paper. It is a wonderful example to everybody to avoid the occult. Messing with the so-called gods (actually demons) is dangerous physically and spiritually. Attis totally destroyed himself in his
ill advised “devotion” to Cybele.
If Cybele is such a great and powerful “goddess,” why could she not have restored Attis’ manhood? A devastating and true statement: You cannot go home again. I believe that in many situations.”
(the rest of the email talked about another paper on Augustine so I didn’t quote it here. Nor did I point out to her that her comments about the Gods being demons isn’t even biblical. The bible after all, acknowledges other Gods.).
Now, this relative knows that I’m a polytheist but it’s like some mental tick. They just can’t help themselves from calling our Gods demons. Interfaith work at its finest, isn’t it? Interfaith work just has a polite veneer over this, but it’s still there.
So what did I respond?
“You took the article where I did not intend. I think it’s a powerful example of devotion. May Cybele be venerated forever.
It also tells you that it’s a terrible thing to fall into the hands of a living God.
As to why Cybele couldn’t restore his manhood: obviously She didn’t want to. That is the price of initiation into Her priesthood and Attis, despite his later existential pain, paid it willingly.
Nor was Her religion “the occult.” It was an international religion openly practiced. It’s still practiced today — there’s a Cybellan monastery not far from me (well, three + hours).
My article was not in any way meant to imply that She should not be venerated, but to point out that all transformations come with a price, that we must understand this when we plumb sacred Mysteries: that they transform, irreversibly.
Asking why Cybele didn’t restore Attis’ manhood is like asking why Jesus didn’t save all the martyrs. Did he not have the power to do so? Did he not care? Or was it more a case of not invalidating their sacrifice, devotion, and faith and the example they provided for the rest of their community. These are mysteries. It’s pretty foul to denigrate them.”
We disagree but I’m not going to suddenly punch this poor relative in the face. One can have decorum in such disputes. Still, this is the type of mental brainwashing with which we all must cope when we engage in interfaith dialogue. Here it is, in black and white. (#checkyourmonotheistprivilege). I have said before that I consider monotheism to be something of a mental illness. It eradicates a person’s ability to see reality and to function in a healthy society. You want to change all these problems we’re dealing with today? Reject the secular (which is really just monotheism taken to its natural conclusion) over-culture. (#fighttherealpatriarchy).
If you have any doubt about this, the situation going on with patheos right now is a good example of what happens when you’re around ‘tolerant’ Christians. They’ll keep you around so long as you’re making them money through your click bait titles and engineered community conflict but the second you turn on them and question their motives you’re gone.
It doesn’t come with a cool pussy hat, but this is the real revolution. (#makinghashtagswontbeenough)
I am not an ethicist. Firstly, I belong to Odin; secondly, I find many of the accepted ethics of modernity questionable, so I find it rather amusing in an ironic sort of way that over the past few days I’ve found myself having discussions on just that: ethics, discussions in which I am in the position of defending Enlightenment values. Oh well, I’m sure the denizens of Hell are enjoying their winter sports.
This past week the internet has been cheering the antifa smackdown (literally) of white supremacist Richard Spencer. I’ve found myself in multiple debates with people about whether or not this was an appropriate action. Responses range from “He was a Nazi, we hit Nazis to keep the Holocaust from happening again.” To expressions of delight and the hope that this will become a thing “like the ALS challenge” to various musical remixes being made of the newsclip. Let’s be clear: however vile Spencer’s politics may be, he did not actually physically assault anyone. An Antifa protestor ran up and punched him [at least twice] without any provocation other than Spencer holding an ugly political opinion. Spencer was going to dinner with some reporters when he was sucker punched.
People are arguing that it is ok to do physical violence to those who hold different opinions. Think about that. Think about that for a very long time. That’s not only a violation of free speech, but it’s one hell of a slippery slope.
Let’s be fully honest here: that’s not a principle we should want to establish – just from a practical standpoint. I really don’t think some SJW with a pussy hat and skinny jeans really wants to go up against some average skinhead enforcers. But even if that were not the case, using violence to silence someone because you dislike their opinions is morally reprehensible. It shows the inherent deficiency of your own argument: you can’t persuade someone with your words and reason, instead you have to resort to your fists.
Let’s turn the trope around.
Several years ago, some Heathens publicly stated that I should be raped by a horse and have a gun barrel applied liberally to my temple because they disagreed with my theological opinions. Is that ok? I have opinions that are vile to them, like Loki is worthy of veneration and shamanism is a thing. Guess it’s ok for them to be heading to the stables. It’s open season on Galina. I better not go to the track any time soon. *sarcasm*
Or maybe I should run up and randomly sucker punch the next Muslim guy I meet. I mean after all, he himself may not have ever cut off a woman’s clit, thrown a gay person off a building, or driven a truck into a crowded Christmas market but plenty of his co-religionists have. So if we’re lumping people in and believing in group guilt (hey, who else espoused such a notion? Oh wait, that was one of the central tenets of Nazism) then the poor Muslim dude who just wants to go to dinner and have a nice night out with his family, who happens to practice a monotheistic religion that also includes people like Daesh, well, he’s gonna have a bad night. Is that ok? Guess I should go get my SAP gloves ready.
In case you are struggling with the answer: NO. NO. NONE OF THAT IS OK. Jesus fucking Christ.
What’s the difference in every one of these situations? Ethically: there isn’t one.
Let me now turn this on its end again and make it even more uncomfortable and require a bit of self reflection from some of my readers:
Let’s be perfectly honest here, all of you sitting there gloating and watching these videos of Spencer getting punched over and over again are no different than the Nazis who got off when their mobs would attack Jewish businesses and they would endlessly laugh about it and do cartoons in their newspapers, gloating that these people were finally getting what they deserved. (I’ve heard “well, Spencer and his ilk are calling for our extermination.” Nazis believed the Jewish people were doing the same thing with equally groundless basis and fuck it I can’t believe I’m defending Spencer. I find his politics disgusting but I find this collective madness even more revolting and dangerous).
You guys are the Nazis here, regardless of what political position you actually happen to espouse: you are behaving in the exact same manner as that which you revile. Read your fucking Nietzsche, people. If you can’t look yourself in the mirror now and change this, you’re going to be led down a much darker path in the future, when things really start falling apart. Let us not become the monsters we seek to hunt.
A good article on the ethics of this situation may be found here.
I hate identity politics. I find them utterly inane and it appalls me to see how much they’re seeping into the fabric of our communities. I was thinking about this today as I was studying and contemplating our communities and the Gods. Identity as anything other than a servus or serva deorum (to borrow and slightly amend a term from late antiquity) is, to my mind, both short sighted and sad.
The only identity that should consume us, drive us, define us, envelop us is as a devotee of our Gods. Anything else is irrelevant, limiting, shallow. What does it matter what gender, orientation, race, size, etc. someone is? These things are variable in comparison with the soul. These things can change. These are things of man. The only identity that matters is whether or not we’re in clean service to our Gods. Be one laity or clergy or somewhere in between, we carry our Gods and Their mysteries with us. We are carriers of Their Mysteries. We carry Them and it’s incumbent upon us to do it well.
I support indigenous cultures, and the right of each of us to participate in the restoration of our indigenous polytheisms because those are specific expressions of the Mysteries of the Gods. They are containers, sacred and beautiful for those things the Gods may give. Maintaining them is part of being in right relationship with our Gods. They are important but to obsess over genitalia or with whom someone might choose to partner…not so much. Those things are fluid. What do you do then if the Gods tell you to change those things? The flesh is beautiful, pleasurable, sacred, and sometimes even holy but all things of the flesh are transient. It is the Gods that are eternal and immortal.
Our society, our world more and more is becoming narcissistic, shallow, secular, and soul-warping. Why? Perhaps because when people are like that, they’re easily manipulated. Obsession with identity politics is part and parcel of that. If you have no grounding in anything else other than your ‘identity,’ you can be sold products, you can be divided into opposing camps, you can be rendered irrelevant. Having a grounding in nothing else makes it that much easier to spit on the sacred.
I’ll give you a perfect example. A few days ago Wild Hunt posted an article about the suicide of Pagan artist and shaman Seb Barnett. A “regular commenter,” some foul piece of shit by the name Damiana decided to use this memorial piece as the venue to attack Barnett’s memory. Why? Identity politics (and apparently lack of compassion, piety, sense, and the ability to form a critical argument) to violate this memorial space. It was disgusting to read and very sad. Instead of remembering this poor kid’s death, someone desecrated and dismissed it. Their priorities were not the sacred, not remembrance, not propriety but mindlessly chanting their identity politics to the world (while challenging the opinions of those who are actually of the identity Damiana purported to be defending, at one point even questioning whether or not a commenter was actually Native…because they disagreed). THIS shows exactly what happens when you prioritize identity politics, human nonsense, anything not only above the sacred but also above common decency. One shouldn’t have to be told to respect the dead and the space in which others remember and grieve. If you do, I not only question your identity but your right to call yourself a human being.
The only thing worth one iota of our fervor is the Gods. There’s a wonderful quote by Catherine of Siena, which I’m slightly pluralizing for obvious reasons: “Be what your Gods meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” This world of products, prefabricated identities, and gross irreverence needs to burn. Putting the Gods first would be the truly revolutionary act.
It is no surprise to anyone that i’m not a fan of the current social justice movements impacting our communities. It’s not that I think inequalities shouldn’t be addressed (I very much think they should be effectively addressed) but rather than i question the tactics of harassment, bullying, and attempted intimidating of anyone who doesn’t buy into certain opinions wholesale. I’m very much a fan of free speech, discourse, and discussion.
Imagine my amusement then when I began receiving emails about my etsy shop from a “concerned community member.” My refusal to remove certain items has led to veiled threats like
“I just want to make sure that I’m correctly understanding you so that I can accurately convey your answers to the others who are concerned about this!”
You know, with the undercurrent of ‘bow to our demands or we’re going to fuck with you.’ I’ve about half a dozen, maybe more emails from the same person about this, even though I have indicated that their discomfort is their own issue, and I”m not changing my etsy site and even though I have requested that communication cease.
Let the games begin. I have had better people than these come at me. It’s almost laughable that someone would try to intimidate me like this. I did point out that perhaps if they are so concerned about social injustice they should stop harassing me and get out there and do something worthwhile to change the inequalities that really are twisting and corrupting our world, to which I was assured
“that online work has its place in the landscape in which we live today, as part of a larger strategy of coalition-building — but I understand that there are disparities along many lines of differences between us in how that tends to play out.
I’d say that my working group is primarily focused on advocacy and activism, but we sometimes entertain fantasies that our larger spiritual community might be a place where we could all care for each other and protect each other from micro- and macroaggressions and harm. (That’s why I’m the one messaging you, as a fellow white person!)”
You know what i entertain fantasies of? A community that prioritizes veneration of the Gods and actual religion. Maybe a community that doesn’t feel the need to demand group think. Definitely a community that doesn’t pull such assed up passive aggressive attempts at emotional extortion. This is the worst kind of slacktivism that I’ve seen in awhile and I’m sure these people entertain notions that they are equivalent to Martin Luther King and Malcolm X because they sent some emails and tweeted footage of actual people out there on the streets trying to make a difference. Come for me. I”ve been Heathen probably longer than y’all have been alive. Have at it.
Rhyd’s call for an anti-fascist witch hunt hasn’t resulted in any witch hunting but his friends on tumblr haven’t seemed to have caught that memo.
EDIT apparently some people think i agree with this horse shit (the article linked below). I do not. I find these tactics repugnant. I posted to alert people as to the depths to which some will sink in order to silence free speech and to prevent our traditions from rooting and growing.
I particularly like these leaps in logic (and law):
2. Trap them. Catch them doing or saying something illegal and record it. Anonymously notify the correct authorities. If he’s racist he’s probably also a raging misogynist, here is a pretty high percent chance he beats women. Bust him for that.
3.Sabotage. Sabotage everything. Their protests, their social events, their rituals…their relationships. Sabotage them physically, sabotage them magically. Block them at protests. Blast distractingly loud noises in the vicinity of their rituals. Curse them liberally.
NO pun intended, I’m sure.
I guess freedom of speech really isn’t free. or a thing. anymore.
Is this the community you want? Are these the tactics of which you approve? Your silence makes this possible.
Over breakfast this morning I was having a lively chat with a colleague about our respective requirements for our formal students and apprentices (and by formal student, I do not mean someone who signs up to take one of my online classes, but rather someone who has formally contracted with me to be taught within one of the lineages I carry). My friend was surprised when I told her that one of the first things I do now is require my formal students and apprentices to delete any tumblr accounts they may have and to stay off tumblr completely for the duration of their training. I used to make this a strong suggestion, but over the last year it’s become pretty non-negotiable for me.(1)
Over the past year, I’ve had the opportunity to watch those ensconced in the tumblr community interact devotionally. I’ve seen the nonsense coming endlessly out of these sites (more so than on any other type of social media including Facebook and Twitter): the reification of pop culture as proper polytheism, the often complete lack of critical thinking, the shallowness, and the lack of reverence (and let’s not forget the tumblr wives of Loki…or Kai lo ren because you know, over there, they’re basically the same thing anyway. Sorry Tom Hiddleston. Sorry). I think that last – reverence or lack thereof– is what made me finally come to my decision: pretty much without exception of those I have personally experienced, I find that the tumblr pagan and polytheist communities encourage a lack of reverence.
Nor do I mean that this is something that is occasionally a side effect of participating in tumblr, I mean it is actively encouraged. The result is people who cannot maintain themselves in sacred space without feeling the need to crack jokes, to lesson the ambiance of reverence, to reduce to the lowest common denominator, the protocols of veneration.
I want to be very clear about something, and this is something that I try very hard to lay out to prospective students and apprentices before taking them on via contract, those of us working in our respective polytheisms – in my case Heathenry and cultus deorum, a little Starry Bull on the side—are not seeking to develop in ourselves the outlook, perspective, worldview, ethics, and morality of our current popular culture. We are looking to develop a polytheistic worldview in tandem with how our ancestors, born and raised in polytheistic cultures, would have approached the Gods, ancestors, and devotion. We are seeking to ensconce ourselves in a polytheistic perspective, to develop polytheistic ethics, and to grow in reverence and awareness of our proper place before the Gods. Anarco-leftists and co. , tumblr, and others can rail and rant and rave about that all they want. We will not be moved. We are not seeking to create ourselves in a post-enlightenment, post modernist image. We’re seeking to restore the values and traditions of our ancestors. It’s precisely the cultivation of those values and that worldview that I think tumblr most effectively damages. It panders to the populist voice of the lowest common denominator and to be clear: lie down with dogs, as the saying goes, one does wake up with fleas.
I believe (as did Aristotle) that it is important to cultivate relationships that encourage right behavior, that help us develop habits of reverence, of piety, of excellence in our devotional work. These things are habits. They are things that lie within our control, that we may develop or not. It is very, very difficult not to be affected by those with which we associate every day, and most of us are online an awful lot. I would venture to say that for the average pagan or polytheist, the online venues that we each frequent are a vital part of our community experience – sad but true, and true for almost all of us. I hear from people every day who are spread out across the country, across the globe who have no one else in their immediate area who is also a polytheist, or if they do, it may not be their particular polytheistic religion. It’s natural to want fellowship. I think we just have to be rather discerning about where we find it and one thing that tumblr won’t cultivate is just that: discernment.
- I realize that there are artists who use tumblr solely for artistic sharing and such, and normally I would say ‘sure, that’s fine’ but more and more I think with a level of pollution such as I typically see on tumblr, it’s best to just cut that shit off cleanly, and not allow any means whereby it might infect. Any doorway is a possible hazard. So apologies to my artist friends out there!
They folks, for those interested, the piety possum buttons are available. I’m charging $3 a button, plus $2 shipping and handling. I’ll have them up on etsy soon but in the meantime, feel free to contact me at Krasskova@gmail.com if you want one. There is a limited supply.
GK: moving away from the topic of miasma, I read a conversation thread today wherein someone was freaking out because some polytheists practice “dual tradition.” I’ve never understood why this was so concerning. Many if not most ancient polytheists did the same thing. One practiced the religion of one’s ancestors, of the state cultus, and then whatever cultus one might wish to initiate into–it was always flexible and fluid, with the caveat that one honored each set of Gods appropriate to Their traditions and rites. In many respects, honoring the Gods of one’s neighbor was an act of hospitality, especially when so many of these populations were mobile and connected by economic and political agreements. What are some of the issues in doing this and how do you think it can be done respectfully?
KF: I think they are reacting in part to the “Initiation Shopping” common to plastic shamanism. You buy a trip to Peru to drink Ayahuasca; you travel to Nigeria to get made in Ifa by an “airport babalao”; you go to Hawa’ii to become a Big Kahuna. And in each case you’re buying an experience and a title without any real knowledge of what goes with that title or how you should incorporate that relationship into your spiritual practice. Then there are the Tumblr godspouses with their retinue of “deities” doing what comic book heroes usually do and the “Norse Wiccans” or “Celtic Pagans” who use a tradition for its trappings and props rather than engaging with it.
The secret to practicing multiple traditions is to approach each tradition with respect. Understand the responsibilities that go with the title you are seeking: if you are incapable of meeting them then don’t seek that title. (I did this early on in my Vodou career. I received elekes but decided learning Vodou was a full-time job: trying to master Lukumi alongside that would do a disservice to both paths). If you serve the Gods of any tradition with respect and mold your service to Their requirements rather than expecting the Gods and the priests to make accommodations for you, you’ll be just fine.
Another thing I’ve found is that most people who successfully practice dual traditions have a solid relationship with their Deities and spirits in both paths. I’m a Lokean who also serves the lwa: I’ve been working with Loki for almost fifteen years and with the lwa for a few years before that. I’ve been able to work within both paths with little conflict — other than the conflicts which inevitably come with Loki, of course 🙂 And I would note you have a rock-solid relationship with Odin and advanced degrees in the Classics: you take your duties to the Gods seriously no matter what Pantheon you may be honoring. Playing “mix and match” games or treating multiple traditions with equal disrespect is just going to get you into trouble.
GK: I have seen many monist and pantheist apologists point to the syncretism to justify their anti-polytheist claims of ‘all gods being one.’ Likewise, I’ve seen many (ill read) anti-theists point to examples of agnostics and atheists in the ancient world, to justify their attacks and incursions into contemporary polytheisms, which is especially offensive because just because something existed in antiquity doesn’t mean it was a good thing — they had pedophilia, slavery, etc. Not to mention these views were always the minority and often soundly criticized. What is your reasoned response to this misuse of our history?
KF: Syncretism certainly happens: I’m thinking of Zeus Amun, whom Egyptians honored as the Kemetic God Ammon and Hellenics as a praise-name for Zeus. (Given the structure of many contemporary African religions I might even compare that relationship to the various “caminos” of an Orisha or the various Ezilis, Ogous, etc. in Vodou). Polytheism doesn’t just involve many Gods, it involves many theologies and many different visions of the Universe: sometimes those visions will be conflicting and downright contradictory. That’s because the Universe is a big, messy, conflicting and sometimes downright contradictory place.
But while there were questions as to the nature of the Gods, there was very little debate as to their existence. Agnosticism was generally a theoretical exercise: atheism was a crime in most of the ancient world and considered the most dangerous sort of impiety. When we look at ancient writings from agnostics and atheists we also need to remember there was then as now a marketplace of ideas. And of course our worries about belief and the individual’s interior life are largely a product of the Reformation: the ancient world was more worried about what you did than what you thought. It was certainly possible to speculate on the existence or non-existence of Gods, so long as you continued to perform the required rites in accordance with your civic duty. When you shirked those duties, or encouraged your countrymen to turn from the Gods, that was a whole different kettle of fish.
Archetypal Monotheism looks more welcoming at first than hard Monotheistic traditions like Islam or Christianity. But it’s ultimately just as corrosive. If all Gods are one God then all faiths are really one Faith and any disagreements or differences between traditions must be chalked up to misunderstanding or human error. What results is a bunch of Gods who are all saying the same thing, a bunch of supposedly disparate “traditions” all aiming at the same goals, and a big warm bland steaming pile of culturally-blended and homogenized mush.
You also raise a very interesting point regarding slavery and pedophilia. Polytheism is a work-in-progress.
GK: well, I don’t raise it. I don’t really care. I’m educated in history. I’m not one of the ones using these things to muddy the discourse. I have however seen it coming up from the more ahistorical amongst us.
KF: Social mores change and what was acceptable in one generation may be condemned in another. Human sacrifice and cannibalism were roundly condemned by Hellenic practitioners of the Classical era despite earlier rituals. Even in the Old Testament we see HaShem telling His people not to pass their children through fire (sacrifice them) in His name — and generally you don’t issue “Thou Shalt Nots” unless people are actually doing the things you condemn. We can look to the past for inspiration without slavishly copying it: in the spirit of Reconstructionist Judaism we can give tradition a vote but not a veto. And people who say otherwise or who assume honoring the Gods must invariably lead to human sacrifice and theocracies are willfully or unknowingly stirring up trouble over nothing.
GK: Of course they are – I think that they’re willfully doing so to cripple the restoration so you actually give some of these people far more credit than I do. With some of them at least, I can see clearly the religions from which they’ve come. We’ve talked about how many people bring Christian baggage and wounds and trauma into their new religion. We can clearly see the difficulties this causes in our communities today. How would you address this? Conversion is a multi-layered, difficult process and in a community that damns its elders and refuses to accept standards of training and rules of behavior — even something so simple as miasma– how can newcomers move past these issues? What tools can we provide them with?
KF: One way to get past the Monotheism filter is to recognize it and open yourself up to alternate interpretations. Instead of falling back on the “All Gods are One God” explanation, consider addressing those “faces of God” as individual discrete Beings. You don’t have to make a decision immediately on it, but be open to the explanations Polytheism offers. If you have to tell yourself “this is just a thought exercise” do that — but exercise your thought.
You also need to distinguish between the Monotheism Filter and any personal authority issues you may have. If you grew up in an abusive Christian cult you may associate any kind of hierarchy with that abuse. And while the Gods don’t expect you to grovel before Them and abase yourself — by and large They would much prefer you live a virtuous and honorable life — They are greater than you and deserve and They demand respect. There is a difference between bending your knee and superstitious groveling in fear: if you can’t or won’t understand that Polytheism is not for you.
When you come into a functioning spiritual community you have to understand that they have a way of doing things and a way of addressing the Gods. If you are a guest in that community you are expected to acknowledge their routines and to honor them: if you wish to join that community, you will need to learn its standards and expectations and shape your behavior accordingly. And, again, if you can’t or won’t do that then you need to avoid that community for your sake as well as theirs. Nobody is asking you for unquestioning obedience, but they may be asking you to pour out libations for their Gods, to prostate yourself before Their shrine, or to refrain from participation for one reason or another.
For example, you cannot salute Damballah if you have your period. This has nothing to do with misogyny: it is simply that Damballah finds the smell of blood offensive. If you insist on saluting Him despite this because you want to reclaim menstruation or prove that Haitians are just being superstitious when they uphold this silly taboo, you are guilty of grave disrespect. And if you don’t understand that and feel instead that Vodou should reshape itself to better suit your interpretation of feminism then you have no place in a hounfor or at a fet lwa.
GK: well said. Yes, yes, and yes. Our own limitations should never, ever be the standard to which we hold our practice, our tradition, and our Gods. Might we discuss the problem that many of us see arising in the community i.e. the lack of a decent education, of historical knowledge, of critical thinking ability, and lately I’m beginning to assume basic reading skills, because I think that’s part of the reason this is so cognitively hard for some people.
KF: I think we’re actually dealing with a perfect storm. First there’s good old fashioned ignorance and lack of education. American literacy has declined precipitously and fewer and fewer people have even basic critical thinking and research skills. That makes it difficult to distinguish between solid scholarship and crap: it also makes debate difficult, as not many people care about things like logical fallacies or internal consistency anymore. You also have to worry about being called out as an intolerant bully when you call out wrongheaded ideas and bad behavior. (Unsurprisingly, the worst bullies have learned the lingo and will happily accuse their critics of “shaming,” “bullying” and “oppressing” them at the drop of a hat — and since critical thinking is in a death spiral, they all too frequently get away with it). Spiritual communities are expected to be “Safe Spaces” where everyone is made to feel valid and warm and affirmed. (Loki and Odin may be called many things, but “Safe?” Naah… ). And what results is that the unqualified, disrespectful and flat-out impious are coddled to and tolerated while those seeking to protect the tradition and the Gods get forced out.
GK: Exactly. I couldn’t have said it better myself.
KF: Every Polytheist must of necessity engage with hir community: frequently that includes political action. There is nothing un-Polytheistic favoring one candidate over another, with donating to the political causes of your choice, with writing essays in support of your political position. The problem begins when you start telling me all Polytheists must favor your candidate or cause, or try to make Marxism, capitalism or any other creed the Official Political Position of Polytheism. I strongly suspect most of the people who don’t get this distinction are being willfully obtuse a la “Spiritual Purity = the Holocaust!!!” or similar rot.
GK: I don’t think they’re being willfully obtuse. I think they know exactly what they’re doing: obfuscation, poisoning the well, and other nasty rhetorical tactics because they can’t get their way and they want to take down those who are engaged in the restoration and in affirming healthy boundaries.
I think there is a real resistance toward restoring our traditions because with traditions come rules and sooner or later, someone is going to feel inadequate because they refuse to meet them (with the corollary that they then expect the tradition to accommodate their lack, instead of themselves working to be better. I mean, “I’m an idiot and can’t tell my God from a time traveling fictional character but yeah, I should be a licit voice in this revival and even though I”ve made excuse after excuse for my failure to do the least thing my Gods have requested of me ad nauseum, I’m a role model”. Um, no sweet-heart. I don’t think so. You’re fit to be something but I’m pretty sure that’s not it and the fact that we’re the only ones calling foolishness like this out points to the devastating state of our communities. People like this are bringing so much shit into the communities that it’s going to take the rest of us working together a generation to clear it all out again. I sympathize with Herakles cleaning the Aegean stables).
KF: We will never have an egalitarian relationship with the Wellsprings of Being: They are more powerful than us and more powerful than we can imagine. We will never have a safe relationship with them: They can turn our lives upside down at a moment’s notice and not infrequently do just that. Anybody looking for safe, egalitarian Gods needs to look outside Polytheism: our Gods are Gods in all Their glory and terror.
GK: I think these people are small and they want our Gods to be too, to reduce the Heavens to the size of their own limited intellect and hearts. Pity for them it doesn’t work that way.
Me? I want the Gods to render us in our smallness, stripping away everything that does not serve.