Category Archives: Misc.

“American Gods,” “Wonder Woman” and the Need to Think Critically About Our Media Consumption

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.

Whistling Dixie While the Country Burns

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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Post Election Thoughts – Or Why We Shouldn’t Panic

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:

  1. 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.
  1. 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,
  1. 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. “

Miscellaneous Round-Up

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.

  1. 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.
  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.
  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

Edit:

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.

 

Just in case you haven’t noticed…

In case you haven’t noticed I’m something of a controversial figure within our communities because of the uncompromising stances I take on a lot of issues.

For instance, I’m against raping children:

This is not a grey issue. There is no “let us understand why they believe as they do.” No. Just no. It is the duty, the god damned sacred duty of a community to protect and nourish its most vulnerable members: it’s children. A community that can’t do that frankly has no right to exist.

As well as those who defend and cover up such despicable acts:

In pretty much every case, when those victimized attempted to out their abuser to the community, to get help and protection in the past, they were demonized, told it was their fault, told they were creating drama, told to back off and be silent, told they were bitter and had an agenda. Some of that is still happening now as they come forth again to tell their experiences. This doesn’t just happen in cases of abuse, by the way. I”ve seen it happen in various Pagan and Heathen communities when folks objected to bullying. Suddenly they were ‘over-reacting” or “attacking” said bully. Suddenly all such egregiously foul behavior was “justified” and it was the victim who was in the wrong. Furthermore, when I hear – as i have been in this particular case– of priests and priestesses who *were aware* of a person’s proclivity toward abuse, but who chose to do nothing because they didn’t want to have to deal with it, I consider those “clergy” to be every bit as culpable as the abuser him or herself. It is the job, the primary fucking job of a priest to create safe and sacred space. It is a job of a ritual leader to ensure that those least able to defend themselves (children, those new to the community, young people) are protected. you know what isn’t our job? Turning a blind eye to sexual predation.

I have organized fundraisers to benefit the victims of rape:

So I was talking with my friend Elizabeth (who is going to be part of the ground crew for the Polytheist Leadership Conference) the other day about Kenny Klein and the Frosts and how sexual predation and child abuse are still important issues even if folks would rather talk about the latest controversy out of Patheos. I mentioned that I was going to be auctioning off some of my paintings at the end of the month with the proceeds going to benefit RAINN and how I was really looking forward to the panel on sexual ethics that would be happening on Saturday at the Conference since we’ve got a lot of speakers with experience and interesting perspectives on the topic lined up.

I stand against human trafficking:

One of the books I’ve been ploughing through the last couple of days, mentioned an activist nun, a bad-ass woman Sister Joan Dawber. Her ministry involves helping to free women who have been sold into slavery—and in NYC alone, recent estimates point to upwards of twelve thousand people, mostly women who are survivors of human trafficking. That’s only those who have survived. It doesn’t take into account those who are living in degrading, painful, abusive, humiliating, and dehumanizing conditions against their will now.

And sexism:

He’s teaching his daughter to limit her world, to be afraid. He’s teaching her that she can’t get hurt and get up again and conquer. He’s teaching her to not be bold or curious or adventurous, not to push herself to her limits and beyond. He’s teaching her that she needs a man to rely upon in scary situations, that she can’t problem solve, and he’s teaching that boy that the girl is so much more important, that he is expendable in relation to his sister (and if you don’t think that message has a part to play in man on woman violence, think again).

And homophobia:

before writing “Please, Master,” Ginsburg had been locked up in a psych ward for being gay and had been subjected, against his will, to electroshock therapy and that perhaps a poem like this was his fucking declaration of independence. I might have asked them how LGBTQI people are treated socially today, and Gods know there are enough news articles about discrimination and death that I could have brought to the table with just a cursory internet search to bolster the discussion. Hell, a comparison of contemporary Russia and the US would have filled a class.

And transphobia:

I find myself more aware of those around me when I’m going to the toilet (and I have OAB – I go to the toilet a lot so I have quite a bit of time to contemplate the bathroom insanity in this country). It’s not lost on me that not only are those bathroom laws transphobic, but they also force feminization on women, a very particular 1950s brand presentation. It’s utter bullshit. (And let me tell you, the first person to accost me for using the ladies room is going to get the crudest, grossest, rudest response I can muster – and they’d better hope I’m not menstruating at the time—such bigotry deserves no less and I can be amazingly crude when the situation calls for it). I have been accosted in the past because people have assumed I was gay. The most egregious occasion occurred in Europe. I was walking arm in arm with my mother. We both have short hair and apparently that’s all that’s needed for a certain type of small-minded bigot to make assumptions. We were nearly attacked. I stood my ground against the three attackers while my mother went to get the police and fortunately they backed down but it was very close and I never again went out with her without keeping one eye peeled for potential violence. That changed the way that I look at all of this. These bathroom laws are about forcing a specific gender compliance, nothing more. It’s not only trans folk who are being harassed, but there have also been cases of women with short hair (longer than mine, I might add), and cancer patients having been harassed too. This is about forcing men and women to dress and comport themselves in a certain way, a way that the fundamentalist Christian right finds appropriate. Well, fuck them. THEY are the problem, not trans people who need to pee.

I oppose using threats and other forms of intimidation against women:

Basically, we have a self-styled “elder” (though I can hardly think of anyone who deserves that appellation less and he’s certainly no one of worth, let alone an elder, in any tradition that I practice) Christian Day who recently ‘outed’ a number of witches in an online forum for working under pseudonyms. When one of these women contacted him pointing out that she was being stalked and harassed to particularly dangerous levels and that she used a pseudonym for her safety, he not only dismissed her comments, but went on to say that he hoped her stalker was successful and that she should call out his (Christian’s) name when she was being raped.

(Especially the kind of murder, rape, torture, and imprisonment regularly employed by Marxists.)

And I condemn genital mutilation:

I studied FGM in fair depth when I was doing my first graduate degree (a good deal of my coursework dealt with women, religion, and violence) and i thought seriously about posting photographs of exactly what this entails here, but I”ll spare my readers. It isn’t ‘circumcision’ as it’s so often called but outright mutilation on girls sometimes younger than five. I learned about it when I was six or seven — i accidentally stumbled across a book my aunt was reading, a novel that begins with the female protagonist undergoing this torture at age five. I was disturbed and then later when i really understood what i’d read, horrified. I’m no greater fan of male circumcision. I don’t believe personally that it compares to FGM. Sorry, just no. that doesn’t mean, however, it isn’t also a form of mutilation. I love penises in all shapes and sizes: cut and uncut but I would personally object to having a child circumcised. if a man wants to do so when he is of age, that’s great. that’s his choice, but that’s not my choice to make. it’s irreparable. I have a friend who’s a nurse and she described during training witnessing a circumcision (and almost got kicked out of nursing school for vociferously protesting the lack of anesthesia–oh, you didn’t know? Doctors then and quite often now don’t anesthetize babies undergoing male circumcision, the attitude being that children don’t feel pain like adults. let’s just think about the dehumanization of that for a moment, not to mention that the boy’s first experience of his genitals is going to be one of aggravated violence). She said the newborn was taken a few days after birth and strapped down to a cold metal table, with his legs strapped apart and the doctor came in with a clamp and would cut him, sans anesthesia. I was nauseated. As I said, no problem if a man wants this done as an adult but I don’t think we should be cutting bits off our children as a matter of course.

You know what? I’m going to keep doing this no matter how unpopular these views are or the lengths people go to try and shut me up.

If you don’t like my beliefs or how I express them – too fucking bad.

Some Info on WWI

We are currently in the 100th year anniversary of WWI, a war that I think often gets forgotten in the wake of the horrors of WWII. I recently read a couple of things that showed me exactly how little knowledge there is not only of this war, but of history in general. I thought it might be helpful to post a couple of simple, straightforward videos on the origins of WWI. These are not painful to watch and in fact are actually quite entertaining. Maybe it will help increase readers’ knowledge base. I agree with the narrator of one of these videos: WWI was the seminal event of the 20th century. We should know what caused it and what happened.

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Here’s a discussion (quite an entertaining one no less) on factors that led to the start of WWI:

Here’s another (love this series):

(There’s one error: it wasn’t Alexander the II who was forced to accept an impotent parliament, it was Nicholas the II. I think it was just a slip of the tongue on the narrator’s part. The creators of the cartoons own up to errata here and also provide interesting and random facts that didn’t make it into the main videos. I particularly like the conclusion he comes to at the very end. Watch all the other videos first though before watching this one.: ).

Here’s part II:

and part III (they’re very short):

and the final part IV:

I particularly like the second video in that it points to the long range, inter-generational impact of WWI – not just that it led to WWII, but that the entire face of the 20th century up to and including our generation would likely have been completely different but for this war. It changed everything.

Take a Moment, Folks…

I spent most of the day watching the news about Munich and then I found out about an attack on an indigenous holy site (by Christians) and an attack on a Wiccan Church and I actually felt as though the chaos and hatred were seeping into my veins. Every time we turn on the news it seems like there’s another attack. I think that we should be aware and engaged, but I also think we need to take care that we tend to ourselves as well, otherwise we will be consumed by the poison. It is poison, pollution, I would go so far as to say miasma. That being said, I know that I need to be much more careful how much time I allow myself to read the news. I’m only now realizing how much of an issue this is. Let me tell you a story.

Someone recommended a book to me last week. I got it and read it in one sitting and it infuriated me. It was the story of a girl who fled poverty and a bi-polar mother and alcoholic father (at the very least in terms of diagnoses) to the city only to have them track her down to “reunite the family.” it angered me so much I wanted to string the parents up and inflict upon them he same type of brutality they had inflicted upon their child through their own incompetence, unacknowledged mental health challenges, and unresolved issues. The story was autobiographical to the author which gave it that much more power. I was just wrathful after reading it and after I’d raged for awhile, Sannion told me to go do a cleansing. He’s got really good instincts so I did and afterwards I realized I’d absorbed miasma from the story that I’d been exposed to. It’s almost like virulent second hand smoke. The ideas, images, and emotional impact got in even though I was just reading words on a page. It shifted my internal world, my emotions and psyche around in a way that I was no longer centered or clean. I was no longer in a state of proper spiritual receptivity. I had to do a cleansing. If reading a book — however good and evocative it might be–can do that, how much more so can the constant barrage of hate and violence that is filling our world: black men being shot, cops being shot, terrorist attacks in major cities the world over, destruction of sacred places, and more on and on and on every single day. We can be affected by what we take in.

Tonight, I ended up getting my ass offline and going to dinner and a movie with my husband. I needed to cleanse my mind of the violence that I was imbibing. I had a ton of work I wanted to do, but having that moment where I could reset myself was more important. I can’t do clean work if i’m not clean myself. I can go back and read the news and ponder these things and write and engage later but for my own spiritual health, i needed to step back. I think it’s important that we do that from time to time. Get offline, read a book, watch a funny movie, go spend time with family and friends, go make offerings to the Gods, go for a walk in the woods — whatever restores your soul.

I also think that we can do something else. A long time ago, Sannion posted his “laws of Sannion” and I was amused and read them and thought ‘damn, that’s pretty good advice.” One of them is to redress the balance. How can we do that when there is so much horror in the world? I don’t know what answers each of you will come up with, but for me, i’ve decided that every time I see or read or hear something horrible, I’m going to go out and do some unexpected kindness for a random person. It’s a small thing, but it is a way of redressing the balance in myself and in my world at large — my territory if you will. I think that these things create ripples and those ripples expand outward, circles within circles and they do affect the wyrd.

That is all. Just…learn from my experience and don’t internalize the fear and hatred. We can address it most thoughtfully and efficiently if we do not in the end bow our heads and hearts to it, and that takes constant effort. 

 

Misc. Musings

I’ve been on the road most of today with my friend Allen. (My husband is cheerfully holding down the home front. I told him to enjoy the quiet. I return Saturday lol). We just got into MA where I will be teaching a series of workshops tomorrow and Saturday morning. There’s been a nice uptick in work lately and I”m looking forward to meeting all the students with whom I’ll be working over the next two days. 

We had a bit of luck too on the way up. I’d forgotten about the Traveller’s Book Cafe in  Union, Ct…you can eat (very good food) and buy used books. I love this place. Every time I visit my friends in MA, it’s the highlight of the road journey. I just happened to remember it and mention it to Allen as we hit Union and we were able to stop there for lunch and i found *treasure*. Oh my Gods, I love books. I have since I was a child. They bring me such satisfaction and joy. Inner peace for me is a library. (well, my library. I”m not so much into giving books back. heh). I even found two new books by an author I used to read years ago, whom I thought had stopped writing. As i said: treasure. 

The hotel is better than I remember it (it’s been taken over by Hilton) and I have plenty of time to prepare. I made a quick update in my patreon supporter posts and I’ll have a few hours to work on the Eir novena booklet. It’s strange being here. So many important milestones in my spiritual life involved me straggling back to this hotel in various states of shock and awe. It feels, as these things so often do, like a lifetime ago. Maybe, in some weird way it was. 

I know I owe a pacel of you emails…I’m afraid I have to ask for a bit of patience. It was a rather rough week pain wise and I fell behind again. I shall, however, be catching up this weekend….and so it goes. 

I don’t know what to call this

I’ve been wanting to write about the recent shootings of young black men by police, and then of Dallas police by a young black veteran but I simply haven’t known what to say. I still don’t know what to say or what to do to help. In the last week, we’ve had at least two horrible shootings Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. The latter particularly tears at my soul. I can’t speak to Mr. Sterling’s death. I didn’t follow the papers as closely as I ought to have there, but Mr. Castile’s death horrifies me. I cannot imagine what it is like to have black fathers, brothers, sons, friends and to know every time they go out, there is a chance — not one we like to think about perhaps, but a chance — that they won’t be coming back because they’ve been shot by a cop. 

Then I heard about Dallas and just sat stunned in my living room watching the footage until I had to trudge up to bed and my dreams were filled with death.

I can’t imagine what it is like to be a young officer today, wanting to uphold the law, perhaps protect and serve and drinking in so much fear and prejudice from within their own. 

I wish that America were an errant teenager that I could grab and slap and shake and say “what the fuck is going on with you? ” and maybe send off to boarding school until they grow up. Instead, I think America is reaping the cost of decisions made in 1776, when we had a chance to reforge this nation in freedom and instead chose to re-affirm slavery. That isn’t just something that harms african-americans, it diminishes us as well, all the more so when we’d rather cling to our fear and hatred as a nation instead of growing up and addressing that hate. 

Now I’m off to light candles for the dead again. I’ve been lighting an awful lot of candles lately. 

food for thought