Category Archives: Misc.
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“Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.”
–G. K. Chesterton
I don’t often write about movies but I watched this one recently with my housemate (my husband having fled to his office the moment we put it on, ha ha) and it led to a rather extensive discussion about how elements of pre-Christian religious belief, ancestor veneration, and proper protocol for engaging with all manner of spirits are often embedded in fairy tales. Cinderella is no exception to that. Now I’m not a Disney fan. I’m definitely not a live action Disney princess movie fan but my friend Tatyana talked me into watching this one against my better judgment and I actually found it quite lovely. Then Tat. read me a couple of the negative reviews and I thought, ‘God damn it. Now I have to write something.’ So, here you go.
Our stories are important. They tell us who we are. They distill the most essential qualities of our lived experience, the best of who we are as a people. Fairy tales are even more a condensation of certain eternal and essential truths, all wrapped up in magic, beauty, and sometimes terror. They inspire us to be and do better. A story like Cinderella is, under its many, many layers, the story of the power of our ancestors to see us through the most difficult and challenging of times, and a story about the importance of remembrance (1).
I never liked the Disney cartoon of Cinderella (except for the cat, Lucifer. He was awesome. In fact, my only complaint about the live action movie with Lily James is that Lucifer the cat didn’t have a larger part). She always seemed like such a doormat. Having read several of the reviews of the recent movie, I know I’m not the only one to feel that way in general about this story. But, also having read several versions of the story (I like the most gruesome ones the best, no surprise there), and now having watched the live action movie, I’ve revised that opinion (2).
Please note, there will be spoilers below.
I think there are qualities of nobility of character, loyalty, and goodness in Cinderella’s nature that are really highlighted in the Lily James movie (hereafter whenever I refer to “the movie,” I will be referring to this version alone). Cinderella’s mother dies when Cinderella is a child and her last words to the girl are “have courage and be kind.” Several reviews of the movie criticized this, but it’s excellent advice for developing character and personal virtue, especially because the two complement and balance each other. An excess of one or the other isn’t good, but if you balance them true strength can take root. Cinderella lives by this rubric as best she can and in the movie, articulates why she chooses to remain in the home later, after the death of her father, when her stepmother and stepsisters behave so foully to her. It is her home. She feels a connection to the land, a responsibility, and wants to honor that, and the memory of her parents in their home. She makes a conscious choice to stay – maybe not the choice I might make (definitely not) but it’s her choice, made from a position of strength and integrity. She could, after all, have left and found work anywhere given her kind nature and domestic skills, and this is evident throughout the movie. In fact, a friend urges her to do just that. She chooses to stay for her own reasons, and the dismal treatment doesn’t touch who she is inside. This is also an important lesson.
In one review that my friend read, the writer complained vociferously about what a poor example this was setting for her daughter but I do not think ‘have courage and be kind’ is a bad example, nor is the hospitality and courtesy that Cinderella maintains throughout the movie. It’s tested several times too: when she receives news of her father’s death and again when her step mother tears up her mother’s dress the night of the ball and the fairy godmother comes to help. Cinderella doesn’t take her pain out on those around her, but does her duty (hospitality and courtesy, kindness) as she perceives it to those outside the family first. There is nobility of demeanor, which has nothing to do with blood or wealth, but in the world of fairy tales like life, everything to do with character.
What we see is that no matter what one’s circumstances, even if those circumstances are terrible and outside of one’s control, one may still choose how to respond. It doesn’t have to make one cruel or bitter, or twist one out of true. That’s an important lesson, I think. We have a choice in how we respond to hardship. That means we have agency and control, maybe not over externals, but certainly over ourselves.
I think this is something fairy tales really bring home: personal agency and responsibility. Yes, Cinderella is couched in the story of a sappy romance, but the real story is what happens before and around all that. The romance is just part of the social trapping to make it palatable to children and childlike adults. Hospitality and courtesy recur repeatedly as important themes and life lessons and inevitably in these stories are rewarded in some way by non-human forces. There is duty and protocol, right action and right relationship external and immutable to anything happening in one’s life. Doing those things under duress is a sign of good character in the world of fairy tales and fairy godmothers.
We can learn from these stories if we’re willing to take them as they are. Too often when modern writers decide to twist them out of true to accommodate modern “values” and mores, they lose the essential wisdom embedded in these tales. Like so many of the stories we read, there are doorways to very sacred things contained in some of these children’s stories. They’re meant to imprint an awareness of what is right behavior in those listening or reading, to help us learn to choose wisely that which will shape us as adults. That’s not a bad thing. In fact, that’s a very, very good thing. We need those stories, now more than ever.
What are your favorite fairy tales and why?
- In the original version of the story, Cinderella plants a tree on her mother’s grave and goes there, making offerings and praying every day to the spirit of her dead mother. It’s her mother that helps her, not a fairy godmother. It’s really interesting how often ancestors and the fair folk are elided, especially in Northern European lore, but that’s an article perhaps for another day.
- It’s been a while since I’ve read the original Grimm version of the story but I believe the stepsisters cut off toes and mutilate their heels to fit into the slipper and at the end, ravens peck out their eyes.
The two (Polytheists and Spiritworkers) are not the same thing, I know, but I’ve had a couple of requests lately on both fronts for good movie recommendations and after my initial response of “Good friggin’ luck,” I realized I do have a shelf of movies that I often recommend to students so I’ll give that to y’all here with the caveat that it’s hardly a full list, and my taste runs toward the macabre. It goes without saying, parents, watch these first on your own before letting your kids watch them. Many of them probably aren’t appropriate for small children.
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This is NOT the movie with Brandon Lee nor in any way affiliated with that franchise. It’s an independent film that takes place in the Welsh countryside. The Morrigan, though unnamed as such, casts a strong shadow throughout the movie as does the God Bran and it shows what it means to have a contract with the land and what constitutes appropriate justice when one breaks such a contract. It also really, really shows what it’s like for some spiritworkers. It’s a brilliant movie and we couldn’t believe it as we were watching it. It wasquite an unexpected find. Plus it has Terence Stamp in one of the most awesome outfits ever.
Heh. This is such a creepy movie. Firstly, the spirit-worker figure is deaf, which is fascinating as it plays into the way he hears spirits and communicates with them and I really liked that a lot. He’s also pragmatic in a very uncomfortable way and the whole movie shows that sometimes you have to bargain with spirits in ways that forever color the soul. There is no good ending in this one, but the best possible ending capable of being negotiated by the spiritworker. Definitely worth a watch. Again, it shows a reality of the Work with spirits sometimes people want to ignore.
The Wicker Man (original only)
I find this is a beautifully compelling movie. It’s about sacrifice and devotion and doing right by the land and a community. It’s probably my favorite movie, hands down, on this list. I won’t say more than that (though I’d be surprised if most of you haven’t already watched it. This one is well known). It’s a polytheist rather than spiritworker recommendation. To avoid confusion, you want the version with Christopher Lee, not Nicholas Cage.
The Sorceress (1987)
In French with English subtitles, this movie is based on an extant account of the medieval cultus of St. Guinefort, a cultus that survived, I believe until WWI when tanks leveled the saint’s holy spots. The cultus was extremely Pagan and animist, and quite probably a hold-over from pre-Christian practice. Attempts to curb it, however, were largely unsuccessful. There’s also a fascinating book, The Holy Greyhound by J. Schmidtt about this cultus too. Highly recommended.
This is a strange and haunting movie. I started watching it one night after my husband went to bed and then 20 minutes in dragged him down to watch it because the Dionysian echoes were just far, far too strong. This is about the dead and debt, and pain and revelation, and most of all liberation and art.
A strange but very kind young man sees monsters and sometimes fights them. Again, this one is a good spirit-worker movie, though not necessarily of any relevance to polytheists. It’s a heart-wrenching performance by the late Anton Yelchin.
This one is awesome for adults AND children. It’s all about honoring the dead and doing right by them. I have seen this at least half a dozen times and cry every damned time. It’s a beautiful movie.
What do you do if you’re a child, a spirit worker, and very gifted? What do you do if you’re obviously being called to service by Thor? While I thought the very ending puttered out a bit, backing away from the reality of spiritwork in favor of “normal” (why, why, WHY?), up until that point, it is an absolutely brilliant movie with a fierce young female protagonist.
I hated this movie the first time I watched it. It wasn’t until over a decade later, after having been a spiritworker for many, many years, that I sat down and watched it again and realized that it was all about knowing your inner landscape and claiming power – both things spiritworkers are required to do no matter the cost. It’s also a visually stunning film.
I’ve saved one of the best for last. This is a movie about a magician and wyrd-worker. It presents spiritual reality with an overlay of sci-fi/fantasy but the inherent principles and message it tells about the consequences of choice are terribly important.
So, there you are, that’s my list. Of course, While this was meant to be a list of the top 10 films, I have to also mention two entries more familiar to Northern Tradition polytheists. I adore the 13th Warrior with Antonio Banderas, the film creates an original story loosely inspired by sources such as Beowulf, and selections from Ibn Fadlan‘s journey among the Viking Rus. And of course the more recently buzzed about Midsommar (which I reviewed last summer here). Enjoy!
What are some of your favorites?
This is a very good article on the desecration of Thor’s sacred Tree by Boniface.
This man was a piece of shit. He did his desecration backed by the military forces of Charles Martel (I believe it was Martel.). In case you’ve always wondered why the Heathens didn’t fight him — the asshole had an army present and protecting him. There is a similar story of St. Martin of Tours. Both accounts read as though the “saint” were alone when they destroyed the shrines. No one mentions the armed, Christian military force also present.
Now hagiography is not history but i think sometimes we have to look at these depredations – religious and cultural genocide– as an accurate portrayal of how our polytheistic ancestors were reduced to a subaltern people and then their religious traditions erased: at the end of an ax blade and a bible.
I’d like to see that statue that marks the spot where Boniface acted put to the ax. and in general, it’s about time we polytheists were the ones bearing the axes in defense of our traditions because while there are good Christians who would be horrified by such actions as Boniface represents, there are also those like the evangelicals in Brasil, who are murdering pious priests and practitioners of Candomble when the latter won’t desecrate their shrines. Monotheistic barbarism continues.
And this type of desecration of sacred places, what monotheism did in its spread across europe was religious and cultural genocide. It starts with trees and ends with people as any study of Charlemagne’s war on the Saxons shows.
Don’t think this is one bit different from what the Taliban did to those Buddhist statues. It’s the same psychopathic impulse embedded in monotheism. Monotheism isn’t just the belief in one deity, it’s the eradication of all others.
Christians, Jews, and Muslims should absolutely have clean space to practice their religions to the best of their ability. Everyone should love and honor their Gods as best as they possibly can; however, the moment they start encroaching into polytheistic spaces, we need to rise up in defense of our Gods, traditions, and ancestors with pen, paintbrush, or ax, if the situation requires. Because now, as in the time of Boniface, shrines are being desecrated and polytheists are dying.
So, my household decided to adopt a lemur. Partly this was done in honor of my adopted mom, whose nickname was “lemur,” but partly because lemurs are just really cool (and terribly endangered).
Duke Lemur Center runs a program where people can “adopt” a lemur – one has a choice of various lemur species –we chose a Coquerel’s sifaka—and then the funds go toward care of that lemur.
Here is our lemur. Her name is –and we did not choose this. The lemurs are assigned randomly.—Pompeia Plotina. She is a Neo-Platonic lemur lol. The handout on her says “She was named for a Roman Empress who was renowned for her interest in philosophy, and for her virtue, dignity, and simplicity. Our Pompeia lives up to her namesake as she is a dignified and lovely lemur.” Sadly, she is part of a breeding pair with Charlemagne (who had to do backflips to get her to notice him) but one does what one has to do for the good of the species. 😉 Hopefully he’s not as bad as his namesake!
Check out this video below. This is where I learned about the Lemur center and it’s funny as hell.
Right now, I bet some of you are asking yourselves, “what the hell is a glory box.” (the rest of you, get your minds out of the gutter. LOL). It’s an Australian term for a dowry chest or a trousseau. I grew up calling them ‘hope chests’ but I really, really like the term “glory box” the best. I had one and someone was asking me about it over the holidays so I decided to write this article.
Traditionally, a dowry chest (or glory box ^^) was a large, occasionally ornate chest in which a young girl collected items in preparation for her marriage. It could be a sign of wealth and status, though even the poorest in many places tended to have simpler ones. It belonged to the woman, and contained items to help her start her new household. In Germany, sometimes a cupboard was used instead of a chest. I’m absolutely in favor of this custom.
I’m a generation away from arranged marriage and technically, have an arranged marriage myself (I would not be against this custom at all provided the couple had the final say so on whether or not to marry. No one should be forced and I wasn’t nor were my Lithuanian grandparents.). Now I had already set up a household for many years by the time I married and I have to say, having a glory box was a godsend. I did not have to scramble to get a running house together. Obviously, I favor this not only for marriage but for a single woman setting up a household too. By the time I bought my home, I had linens, blankets, pots, pans, kitchen knives, silverware, a tea set, and two sets of dishware–you name it, most of it neatly tucked away for safekeeping while I lived in an apartment. If I had a daughter, I would absolutely get her started early putting together a trousseau and should we ever have functional polytheistic, tribal communities, I hope this custom is one that is carried over (suck it, modernists. I also support dowry and bride price – gifts from bride’s family to the groom and groom’s family to the bride). It is eminently practical. I remember when I visited Lithuanian as a teenager and met one of my cousins. Her family already had her entire wedding ensemble and a goodly portion of what she’d need to start a home tucked away for her, even though she wasn’t currently seeing anyone. It’s practical.
Of course, with the glory box, goes a knowledge of household skills: cooking, maintaining a home, sewing, basic first aid, finance and budgeting and I very much think this ought to be taught both at home and in school for both boys and girls. These are essential skills. I wish that along with Civics and Government ( and I personally think we ought to have to pass both before we’re allowed to vote just like one has to pass Drivers Ed before being allowed to drive), Home-Ec and Shop ought to be required for everyone and the former ought to include budgeting and basic finance. It’s a horrible thing to go out into the world with absolutely no idea of how to function as a competent human being. You can have all the stuff in the world but if you don’t know how to function and care for yourself and those you love, the stuff isn’t really worth much. (I can cook and handle finance and first aid like a boss but never learned to sew, something I deeply regret. I can embroider quite well and do basic repairs, quilt a little by hand, but that’s about it. I also wish I’d had more training on how to handle basic repairs around the home).
So, my friend was asking me what typically went into a trousseau. In the medieval and renaissance periods, it could involve the woman’s entire wardrobe but I don’t see the point of that today. I think it should be and remain practical (though during the renaissance, that WAS practical!). Now this isn’t meant to be compiled all at once and some things one will want to wait until closer to the point where the woman sets up a home to acquire (like a medicine kit – I’m a firm believer that one should have more than basic first aid skills as an adult) but many of these things can be acquired and tucked away from the time a girl is small. Traditionally, a young girl made many of the linens and such herself and if one can, I think that’s great. I’m a firm believer in teaching children young, giving them chores, and helping them to acquire life skills. I have very little patience with modern child rearing methods, but that’s an article for another time.
What goes into a trousseau? – this was the question my friend was most curious about so I’ll tell you what went into mine (and again, this was acquired over more than a decade. This isn’t an ‘all at once’ purchase!).
- Quilts and blankets, comforters, comforter covers
- Table cloths (I inherited some lovely ones), dish towels, bed linens, towels (I think I had two sets, though I ended up hating the color of one set—one’s tastes do change)
- Two pillows (I had four)
- Household medical kit (this I purchased as I moved to my house and I update it regularly)
- Full tool kit (I’ve continued to add to mine)
- Basic dishes (I had one regular set and was gifted with a fancy set)
- Silverware (I’d get this close to the time one is set to move either out on one’s own or into the marital home. Tastes and styles change. I inherited a set.)
- A couple of cooking pots of varying sizes
- Measuring cups and spoons
- Mixing spoons, spatula, whisker, a good set of mixing bowls
- A good-sized cast iron pan
- Bread pans (this is all assuming one knows how to cook. I really do think both boys and girls should by the time they leave home).
- Basic set of glasses and cups
- Crock pot
- casserole dish — i inherited a couple.
- I had a rice cooker gifted to me when I moved into my home and I have to say: OMG this thing is amazing. Get one. Lol
- Tea set (teapot, sugar and cream bowls, tray, now I’d include an electric kettle. These things are awesome)
- A good apron
- Salt and pepper shakers, a butter dish
- A good sewing kit (I’ve continued to add to mine as I learn new skills, use up the threads, etc.)
- Any heirloom jewelry (this was a traditional part of a trousseau. I had a few pieces when I set up my home)
- A good recipe book or box containing family recipes and enough to get you started cooking for yourself and your family (when my brother married, his wife wanted to be a housewife but hadn’t had much experience cooking. I took index cards, hand wrote all my favorite recipes and filled up a recipe box for her. That was one of my wedding gifts).
- Hand mixer
- A good set of kitchen knives (at least a butcher knife and a paring knife. I mostly use my butcher knife for everything – I took some cooking classes when younger and that’s what the chef suggested and it works for me—but it’s nice to have a utility knife, a paring knife, a bread knife, etc. too. I’ve not included weapons here, because frankly, I think every householder should know how to defend him/herself and should have at least a hunting knife and a shotgun in the home as a matter of course).
- Money. If one is encouraged to tuck away part of one’s allowance, holiday monies from the time one is young, and a tiny part of one’s salary as a teen and adult, this takes care of itself. A money market account or CD, as well as a bit of cash tucked away in the chest itself (always good to have a bit of cash on hand, but not too much: money should be put to work for a person. Keeping too much at home means it’s not earning interest) is an incredibly useful part of a glory box. It becomes an emergency fund. Tuck it away and forget about it. This, by the way, is why I think most weddings are insane. Why on earth spend thousands of dollars on a one-day ceremony when that money could be put in a CD and the married couple start their lives solvent? Wedding/engagement rings and honey moons are awesome – it’s the only parts of the wedding nonsense I’d keep, but a wedding dress that costs upwards of five thousand dollars, expensive reception, crazy ceremony…it’s financial lunacy. (Of course, I also favor a marriage contract as part of the marriage negotiations…). I think part of a good trousseau is a savings account and a bit of cash carefully tucked away, money that belongs to the woman only – as an emergency fund, as padding, as a nest egg, as whatever it needs to be used for. It gives one options. I wish I’d been better at doing this as a young person. This is one it took me awhile and no small degree of pain to learn.
The first three items, if one is handy with a needle can be made by the girl herself. I didn’t have those skills (I can make pillow cases, pillows granted, basic nine-patch quilts. I could probably do an afghan if I had to – I don’t enjoy crochet. At the time I moved into my home though, I didn’t have those skills, only basic embroidery). I always think home-made items are best. I don’t think quality in commercial items is necessarily what it used to be and I’d much rather have something hand-made than commercially bought. It shows both skill and industry.
Also, obviously not all of this fit into a hope chest. The larger items were kept in boxes in my closet. I still considered them part of the trousseau though. I suppose these days, wedding showers are supposed to provide some of this stuff, but really, why not prepare to be a competent, functional adult ahead of time? (And no, mine was never as fancy as the chests pictured here — i wish!. It was a large Lane Cedar Chest).
There, that’s my fluff post for the day. I’m off to do some academic crap and also to prepare for a day of rituals on New Year’s Eve. Have a good holiday, folks. I wish you all well.
I’ve been talking about pop culture a lot this past week on social media and there have been a few good discussions and a few not so good and I find myself moved this morning to post about it here. Two things prompted this. Firstly, I watched last week’s “American Gods” and posted the following:
“”American Gods” is beautifully shot. Parts of it are intensely profound but in the end, it is peppered with pollution, the attitude clearly stated that the Gods are dependent on us, that humans are greater than the Gods, and the typical screed of modernity. I am so disgusted. It does show the danger of modern culture but…I wonder how many people are seeing that underlying message of disrespect? The same scenes and same story could be told without the line “humans are greater than gods” and yet they just had to put that in. Gaimon et al couldn’t help themselves.”
You would have thought I’d kicked someone’s dog. Many people were deeply bothered by the fact that I criticized Gaiman and this work. Let me be clear, I enjoy the show. It’s beautifully shot and beautifully directed but, because I enjoy it, it’s all the more important to criticize it, to be critical of it, because this show like so many others, presents our Gods in ways that are deeply problematic. I’ll come back to this in a moment.
The second thing that happened today was that my friend Wyrd Dottir posted a review on her fb of the new “Wonder Woman” movie and again, apparently, the Gods are the villains. (I’m disappointed to hear this. I loved the WW television show as a child and I was looking forward to the movie but I won’t be wasting my money on it now). It was at this point that I felt pushed to write something for my blog.
I’ll state right up front that while I may abstain from media like this, I am not actually advocating not reading a book or watching a movie because it is disrespectful or impious. Everyone has to make the choice of what they give space to in their heads, what they indulge in during their free time, and what they expend energy on for themselves. I am, however, deeply concerned about how uncritically polytheists will immerse themselves in media and pop culture without giving it the slightest bit of thought.’ I enjoy it, so it’s ok’ seems to be the rule of the day.
What we watch has the power to affect us. It sets up programming in our minds, unconscious attitudes that then influence how we approach our world. It patterns us to accept or not certain things as normal. What we expose ourselves to has the power to change our inner landscape and thus the way we process and relate to the world at large. It programs us. That’s why I find the attitude (across the board in pop culture) of the Gods being less than humans, or of humans being able to defeat the Gods, or of the Gods being childish and less evolved than we so problematic. This is the attitude enmeshed in modernity and pop culture and it’s polluting because it is everywhere unquestioned. I know works like “Wonder Woman” or “American Gods” are fiction and yes, it saddens me that our cosmologies are up for grabs this way. For most Pagans, these attitudes will pass by most unrecognized and unquestioned and frankly, on a large scale, I think they pollute and entrain the mind to dismiss the Gods when they are accepted without question.
People will argue that in the ancient world poets and dramaturgists often wrote in similar fashion of the Gods but I would counter that there was a cultural context deeply rooted in piety and respect for the Powers that counter the damage this might have done (and it wasn’t accepted unquestioningly. There were discussions in the ancient world about the propriety of presenting the Gods in such a liberal fashion. Certain philosophers actually condemned the practice because of the potential for impiety). We have neither that cultural context, that embedded polytheism to shape us, nor the willingness to challenge those things we enjoy. THAT is why it is so deeply problematic.
Others argued when I first talked about this on facebook that movies and television series like this are good even if they present the Gods poorly because they might bring people to the Gods and it’s a good way to spark and interest and learn about Them and Their stories. Maybe but I would counter that there were no records when the first people honored these gods. They had dreams, visions, the gods come through in ritual. They had piety. The lore is a map, not the territory. It’s a check, a useful tool, a reference point, it can teach secrets but nothing takes the place of direct encounters with these beings and that is a thousand times harder than it has to be when we approach them with unconscious attitudes of hubris.
Someone else said that shows like ‘American Gods’ were just an ‘alternative viewpoint’. Well, how is it an alternative viewpoint when the other side is never presented? Popular media only ever seems to present stuff that minimizes and attacks the Gods and devotion to them. Show me movie or television series that has pure, clean piety. (Please…I’d love to know of one). Show me one that isn’t 80% ok but 20% crap.
I reiterate that we need to approach our media critically because this plants seeds in our heads and grows the world inside us and one should be careful of that and learn to filter out the stuff that’s inimical to piety, which we can’t do if we refuse to even recognize it.
Lykeia rightfully points out:
“In terms of pollution if we consider that one can become unclean from entertaining exposure that which is contrary to our spirituality, a case for pollution (vis a vis media) can be made. Of course it can be entertaining while acknowledging it is spiritually polluting. One can be entertained and enjoy aesthetically things while recognizing a need for cleansing if choosing to indulge in it. Myself such things tend to deter me. I prefer not having that enter my spiritual space.
In polytheism conduct towards the gods and our relationship with them is an important issue (although perhaps not to the “wider pagan community which is one reason out of many I don’t affiliate to such). It is part and parcel to proper etiquette in developing relationships with our gods. A seed planted that the gods are dependent on us and thus leaving us in a position of power taints this relationship potentially which is why many polytheists treat it so gravely. We are virtually surrounded by popular media saying our gods are weak and encouraging hubris ( a huge no no). This is not an issue to this novel only but a common trend in media and so there is a need to be mindful of it and guard against it if necessary.”
Kenaz Filan writes, “We need to figure out how to teach people that everything we are and everything around us is rooted in the Gods, not vice versa. That may be our greatest task in re-establishing a Polytheism for the modern era.” And this is true. Every single argument and controversy in some way comes down to the question of do we prioritize the Gods or man, do we venerate the Gods, or ourselves. Do we value devotion or have we eaten the poisoned fruit of modernity wholesale and without question?
The question raised by American Gods, the nonsense about humans being greater than the Gods isn’t something to allow to slip into our minds unchallenged. To again quote Kenaz Filan,:
“If the Gods are the wellspring and foundation of Being, we exist as part of Their plans and Their actions. If the Gods are the creations of men then they (small t) are tools by which we understand the material universe until they are supplanted by a more accurate understanding. (Once upon a time we believed lightning was Zeus or Thor throwing thunderbolts: today we know better). They are aspects of the Overmind which connects humanity together the way the Internet joins computers. They are symbols which we use like letters in algebra and calculus to answer problems. All those things are centered in humanity. By centering Being in the Gods, we move closer to a worldview where humans are not “lords over earth and its dominions” but part of an intricately connected system created by the Gods for Their purposes”
There is nothing in the community more important than developing a sense of respect and piety toward the Gods. I think we need to seriously consider what kind of foundation we want to create for our traditions. If we can watch something that presents such a skewed view of our Gods and the act of devotion itself, without critically analyzing it, without even acknowledging that it’s perhaps not presenting us with the best example (at the very least), if we can’t look at our world and see the results of such doggedly entrained disrespect, then what hope is there for the future of our traditions. I think we need to be the most critical of those things we most enjoy because it’s what we watch when we’re relaxed, what we uncritically enjoy that’s going to creep by our mental censors. It’s those things we blindly consume that will do the most damage.
For me it comes down to not wanting to give space in my head to that which does not bring me closer to my Gods. I don’t want to give space within myself to that which doesn’t enhance my devotion. I don’t want to waste time on that which doesn’t nurture my piety no matter how much fun it may be. I’m not asking polytheists to go on a social media or pop culture fast but it would be nice if people could be a little bit more critical, a little bit more thoughtful of the media they do consume. We’re bombarded every day by messages that are deeply deleterious to polytheism. These things matter.
So having a discussion today with someone who is very much in support of NOLA taking down any monuments of the Confederacy (according to this guy, that’s not ‘destruction’). I’m very much against removing any historical monuments. I don’t think visible erasure of our history is a way of dealing with that history or of healing its wounds and I’m sick of seeing people accommodating this PC agenda. I question what’s next: desecrating the dead by removing their monuments? oh wait, that’s already happened in Confederate cemeteries.
Now I am no fan of the Confederacy. the history of slavery and human trafficking in this country makes my stomach lurch when I sit and think about it. it’s one of the most shameful periods of our history BUT it’s our history and I don’t think anything good ever came of denying one’s own history. We don’t learn by white washing and pretending things never happened, and we don’t learn by desecrating monuments to the dead.
I would be all for setting up monuments commemorating emancipation, the triumph of the Union, free black communities (NOLA had a thriving free black community since at least the eighteenth century) in the same locales but to erase history well, that leaves us with a generation that doesn’t know where it came from and so can be very easily led to where someone else thinks it should go. I’m never against adding more memorials. It’s the taking away that bothers me.
Someone asked me in one of these discussions whether we shouldn’t prioritize the needs of the living over the dead and I said absolutely not. The dead should and will always take precedence with me. A culture and a people’s worth is determined by how they tend their dead and here’s the thing, if you’re tending your dead rightly and well (which includes holding them accountable for the shit that they did), it will transform how you engage with the living. But in no world should the dead, our ancestors, take second place. Being a functioning human means being in right relationship with the ancestors, the Gods, and the land spirits and that impacts every other living interaction. We don’t achieve that by pandering to a group of PC fanatics who have no long term vision and preach only to sentiment and emotion.
If these monuments are being used by white supremacists to advance their agenda (real white supremacists, not people who refuse to feel guilty for being white), then address that, but don’t think it’s addressed by pretending that history never happened. If you don’t remember your history, you’re guaranteed to repeat it. We’re seeing that in the daily news. These monuments serve as much for warning as they do commemoration.
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I want to say right off the bat that I voted a straight democratic ticket. While I’m actually more conservative than most democrats, there are a few issues I just can’t compromise upon, so believe me when I say that I was less than thrilled with the outcome of yesterday’s election. That being said…
This is not the end of the world.
Many of my liberal friends were absolutely and utterly convinced that Trump could not and would not win. I wasn’t so sure. In fact, I’ve had a sickening feeling for weeks now that the results were going to turn out pretty much as they have done. Last night, following my facebook feed, I saw people well and truly terrified: that they were going to die, that they would lose their health care, that they would be rounded up and sent to concentration camps, and even a few who are seriously contemplating suicide (please, please talk to someone) because they are so incredibly frightened. To all these hurting, scared people, I want to say, “breathe.” I do not think this is going to be quite so bad as you fear. In fact, many of the things that you’re afraid of now, are things conservatives feared when Obama was elected (no joke, and something I’d forgotten until a friend reminded me).
Two things are important now, well, three actually:
- Grieve. I realize for many of you this was a horrifying shock. It’s natural to have an emotional response to that. It’s normal. Let it run its course and seek out whatever support you need.
- Don’t let fear rule you. The truth is that we don’t know what Mr. Trump is going to be like in office. There are many, many democrats still in powerful positions, and our governmental system was designed on a system of checks and balances. I understand that you are afraid, but breathe; and finally,
- Start planning for mid-term elections. If you don’t like the way this election turned out, start looking ahead at midterm elections, campaigning, writing your representatives, etc. Get more involved in the political process. The world is not going to end. We are not all going to die.
Now for the less popular part of this piece…
I want to say a few words about why I think Mr. Trump won. His victory didn’t surprise me. Part this is because I’ve traveled in middle American, away from the cities within the past three months and I’ve seen the support that he garnered and partly because I don’t just watch mainstream news sources. I watch those news outlets, but I also watch conservative and foreign news outlets. If you only watch mainstream news, then of course it’s easy to think that Trump is the devil, Cheetoh-Hitler, and that this is the collapse of liberty. A broader perspective might be in order.
I think it’s easy when living in a city (like New York, for instance where I work) or working in a largely liberal setting (like academia) or talking only with friends who think similarly to assume that our political views are the correct ones and I see people guilty of this all the time (I see it in myself in the utter contempt in which I hold anti-choice advocates). It’s easy to ignore the other sides’ concerns and I think that’s a good part of what happened. I think that many liberals are convinced that they are morally superior and that if everyone were as educated and enlightened then of course they would support the liberal position. That attitude fosters neither dialogue nor understanding (and let’s be fair, it’s not much better on the other side of the equation). I saw a lot of contempt flying on both sides of the election and I saw very specific concerns not only left unaddressed by the democrats, but treated with outright contempt. As one of my teachers once told me: the moment your contempt shows, you’ve lost.
I’ve been hearing a lot of people saying that a vote for a Trump presidency is a vote for misogyny, racism, and homophobia. I don’t actually think that’s true, though I do certainly see those things in a percentage of his voters. I simply don’t think that Hillary addressed concerns over illegal immigration and Muslim terrorism, two key areas of concern I see in my very conservative friends. I also think that a vote for Trump was a vote against a radical SJW agenda. Let’s just say that riots caused by BLM did not help the democratic cause. Things like this and this and this really did not inspire confidence. I’ve seen consistent concerns about a threat to free speech and personal liberty, concerns that I absolutely admit to sharing, in conservatives and Hillary’s campaign not only refused to address that but mocked it.
My point is not to assign blame. Someone asked me today what good if any do I see able to come from these election results and I think that it’s a good opportunity to consider our differences and the way we approach them, to look at the bigger picture and what serves our country best in the long run. Where were mistakes made and how can that be corrected in the future?
Maybe first, to believe that there is a future and that there are things that we can do.
I’m horrified at the level of raw terror amongst so many within our communities, fear of loss of life and liberty. Now more than ever is the time for dialogue with those on the opposite end of the spectrum, and coming together within our own communities and groups. I don’t fear a Trump presidency. I’ll admit to fearing a Pence Presidency but I think we have it in our power to stop that in the future.
Other things to consider: almost immediately Trump dropped any “pro-life” statements from his agenda. His acceptance speech spoke of improving our infrastructure and tending to the cares of veterans (I’m not sanguine ever about any politician fulfilling campaign promises, but it’s significant, I think, that he did not mention God, family values, or any of the buzz words that insane evangelicals cling to, not even to give a passing nod to that group). Most of the states that went for Trump also legalized recreational marijuana. There were several important wins, including a first time Latina Senator and the first openly LGBT governor in OR. I don’t think things are quite as bleak as we may initially have supposed. I do think this is a wake up call for a liberal party disconnected from working class American concerns. Until a few years ago, Trump was a card carrying democrat. I think it’s important to remember that we don’t know what he really thinks on many issues and we may end up surprised.
I’ve had several relatives ask me how I could vote Hillary, when I don’t particularly like her and my answer is simple: this isn’t the quest for the holy grail. This isn’t some sublime mystical experience, it’s the very practical act of choosing the candidate that one believes will move this country toward the goals one wishes to see enacted. We make the best reasoned choice from the candidates given us. I don’t expect any politician to be lily white. If they weren’t corrupt, I suspect they wouldn’t have gotten as high in their political parties as they did. I’ve read political narratives from the ancient world through to our modern era and nothing ever really changes there. The ones who want power probably shouldn’t have it handed to them! We must, however, make do with what we have.
I read an interesting comment from a FB friend LF re. the Gods and this election. LF said that she couldn’t pray for the outcome of the election because the election of a country’s leader was something of the human realm. It was the responsibility of human beings – us—to do wisely and well. It wasn’t something in which the Gods should get involved (I’m simplifying her argument somewhat). That really stood out to me and I thought ‘yes, this is our job.’ Maybe we can use this election to consider how to approach that job well. I will say this, out of all the elections that I can remember, this one seems to have had people most furiously engaged. That’s a good thing: we should be invested and engaged in the future. Maybe with this election behind us, we can learn how to do that more effectively.
I’m going to end this with a quote by C. S. Lewis that a reader posted earlier today, food to consider, for those disappointed with this election’s outcome. It certainly made me reconsider:
“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. “
I haven’t done one of these in awhile but just the past couple of days I’ve been reading too many thought provoking pieces to ignore, so I figured I’d share them all wit you here in one go.
- First we have Kenaz Filan’s brilliant analysis of Ryan Smith’s most recent assed up piece at Patheos. I know for the Marxist zealots in our midst this is a difficult thing to understand, but we really should be making ourselves relevant to the Gods, not the other way around.
- Next, there is a nice article on Gaulish ideas of sin and miasma by Segomaros Widugeni. I may have to write something similar about Heathen practices.
- Here is a rather thought-provoking piece on Islamic Apologetics that looks to Hindu scripture to explore the rationale for opposition. I don’t agree with everything in this article (especially the nonsense about sacrifice) but it still provides a different perspective to what I’ve seen coming out of the Pagan blogosphere.
- This article touches on the use of ‘religious freedom’ statues by secularists as an insidious means of forcing conversion from one’s indigenous polytheisms. Worth considering here, and yet again highlights why I think proselytizing and missionary work should be classed as a human rights violation and punished accordingly. This is an important piece and shows just how the attack on polytheisms has not in the least ceased with the advent of the modern state. It’s just gone underground: if monotheists can’t force the destruction by violence, they’ll do it by legislation and claim religious freedom as they do.
- Finally, my favorite site of all of these, an article devoted to the Skull cultus in Naples. It showcases pictures and describes the cultus (and Catholic oppression of it). I’m not quite sure if one can visit this site, but if so, I would just love to go and make offerings. We need more of this.
Here’s another piece a friend just sent me. Apparently a druidic woman at a pagan festival had her hair cut while she slept, without her permission. This, is assault, folks. This is a complete lack of respect and boundaries. This is disgusting and…not surprising in the least, unfortunately, at a pagan gathering. I could say more on this, but I think y’all know my feelings.