A Note On Cancel Culture in Our Communities

So, the topic of cancel culture came up in an early morning conversation with a reader. For those who may not know what this is, it’s a type of group think where those who support a particular ideology (usually leftist) respond to those who question said ideologies in any way, by attempting to “cancel” them, i.e. block venues for their work, get them fired from jobs, harass anyone who works with them, burn their books (oh wait, we haven’t gotten there yet? Give it time). It’s a form of politically based bullying, against anyone who doesn’t follow the new secular religion of social ‘justice’. I already have a religion thank you, and I think it offers better answers to the inequities plaguing our world than anything new. 

Mind you, the people in our communities promoting this will “cancel” polytheists, even random laity who exhibit any capacity whatsoever for independent thought, but don’t give a damn about pedophiles and perverts and those they harm (I remember well the Kenny Klein fiasco and the way Pagans rushed to both defend him and demonize his victims). It’s moral authoritarianism, a means of shutting down any conversation, and it’s an attempt to transform our religious communities into hotbeds of (usually) Marxist thought. It’s disgusting. But it also just isn’t that important. 

Why do I say that? Well, firstly, look at who is doing the cancelling. They lie. They are not interested in reality and truth but in promoting their own ideological agenda. That being said, when someone criticizes me, I listen to that criticism, weigh it out, consider it. If someone impugns my character, even if it comes from a nasty, biased source, I’ll consider the criticism because even a shit stain can have a moment of clarity. There have been times where I’ve thought, “well, I don’t much like so-and-so but they are correct here” and then have done the internal work to correct myself. So, definitely take stock when you’re exposed to criticism. Don’t, however base your personality, your ethics, your conscience, your decisions on what other people think. Public morality today isn’t very moral. Moreover, people who engage in cancel culture will purposely and incorrectly reframe your words and arguments. They cannot be reasoned with because they are not moving from a position of rational thought and reason. They are a raving mob in mentality if not in numbers. 

I realize, not having grown up in a culture defined by social media, that this may actually be something that many of you haven’t considered. You don’t owe these people anything. Their attempts to cancel you don’t matter. Consider the following things: 

A). Who are you doing your work for? Is it for your own aggrandizement or is it for your Gods? Now as a polytheist and theologian, my answer to that is my Gods. When They cancel me, then I’ll worry.  If you are being “cancelled” at your job, get a good lawyer because the likelihood is that if your employer is bowing down to this external pressure, they’re probably breaking a few HR laws. Go to town. 

B). The small group of yapping fools that pull this, are just that: a small percentage of the people in the world with whom you may interact. If you have friends who are trying to bully you into any ideological position, against your conscience, and who attempt to violently shut down discourse and discussion, find better friends. 

C). You will survive. I’ve often said sarcastically that one just has to outlive the bastards but it’s true. I’ve been Heathen for thirty years. This isn’t my first time at this rodeo. I’ve seen various ideological purity tests come and go and it doesn’t matter. Even if they don’t go, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you do your work with integrity for your Gods according to your own conscience. This is, tangentially, why developing virtue (in the classical sense) and character is so very important. Give it a go. 

It may be deeply unpleasant when cancel culture comes for you. It may hurt. It may make you angry.  It may feel like your whole world is tumbling down. There may be a cost to keeping true to your conscience but that has always been the case. What do you value more: integrity and clean service to your Gods or the opinions of the yapping few?

It takes courage to stand up against this when it defines your entire social world. That’s why C.S. Lewis defined courage as the most important moral virtue: precisely for reasons and times like this. 

Finally, if this is happening to you, reach out to your real friends and know that you are not alone. Most importantly of all, you are not as you have been defined by others. 

Coming Soon…

Very Odinic Song

Movie Monday: Captain Fantastic

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I waited a long time to watch this movie and I really, really wanted to like it. I thought initially it was about a father homeschooling his children (and to some degree it is) and I very much support homeschooling. These days, I think as polytheists, if it’s at all possible given one’s family circumstances, to do anything other than homeschooling one’s children is unfortunate. Turning children over to public schools is turning them over for indoctrination into a modern, secular culture that is actively hostile to religion, to the development of virtue (in the classical sense), to common sense, not to mention just terrible from an educational perspective.

More and more families of all class, racial, and religious backgrounds are choosing to homeschool – and were well before Covid. I recently learned that the biggest reason people homeschool isn’t actually either of those things (Covid or religion), surprisingly, but rather because of bullying in schools (that, I might add, is rarely dealt with effectively by administrators). There are two main worries I hear constantly about homeschooling, that as an educator myself, I want to put to rest and then I’ll get into the movie. The first is that it’s more difficult for homeschooled children to get into college. That actually is not true at all and I work with several successful Phds who were homeschooled right up to their first year of undergrad. They took the SATs, the GREs and had no problem at all. Statistically, homeschooled children tend to score higher than average on these tests. The second concern is socialization. One does have to take care to provide opportunities for socialization for one’s child when homeschooling but there are homeschooling leagues and afterschool programs, hobbies, and activities (just like with any other regularly schooled child), and like anything else, it takes proper time and care. For those wanting more information, here is a link to the HSLDA, which gives state by state guidelines on homeschooling and requirements. Now, onto the movie.

So, this movie starts with a father and a passel of children (I think six – a lot). For the first half of the movie, I loved 90% of how he was raising them. They learned survival skills, self-reliance, languages, math, science, music, literature all at very high levels (at one point, we learn his kids speak six languages fluently)—his eldest son gets into like half a dozen ivy league colleges. The parents taught them how to hunt, live off the land, fight hand to hand and with weapons, and plan strategically. They lived well away from civilization. They also lived well off the grid and sans social media. There is a wholesomeness to their lifestyle. The father even did a sort of initiation rite into adulthood when the eldest boy killed his first deer (with a knife). At one point, he gifted all his children with weapons. It was beautiful and absolutely how I think children in a proper community should, in part, be raised.

As the movie progresses though, we see the downside. They aren’t as disciplined as they should be and freely argue with their father far more than I find appropriate. They’re being raised without religion, (and in fact, the father at least articulates opinions that are openly hostile to religion,) which I personally consider a step away from abuse. They’re being raised in a way that allows the children to explore Marxism and communism (though at least the father points out that genocide is as likely to happen under communism as under any other system. Historically, we know under communism genocide is even MORE likely). Most concerning of all, they aren’t socialized and we really see that as the movie progresses with the eldest son and especially with the father’s response to learning the son has applied to college. We also see the Buddhist wife’s Christian parents violating her wishes and behaving in ways that would have had me personally sending the one of them to the ICU. This is not an easy film to watch.

I won’t give away too much of the plot. I will say that I was sick, physically sick at the end of the movie because it ends with the father betraying his children by sending them to school. It angered and sickened me. My husband pointed out that it really highlights how necessary it is to have a focused, committed community when raising healthy children, that a single parent can’t do it all him or herself and that once the mother was no longer in the picture, the family’s way of raising the children wasn’t sustainable. I can see that but I disagree. I think the father caved. I think there were plenty of other ways to engage with the world and socialize his children than subjecting them to what is inevitably a subpar education. I don’t think one should compromise on the quality of education for one’s children, and it seemed by the end of the movie that the two youngest weren’t going to receive the type of focused life and survival training of which the eldest four had benefit and it made me nearly vomit. The public-school system in this country is designed to create mediocrity, not nurture excellence. It’s a travesty. The viewer is given a clear comparison of the more or less healthy (minus the points I noted above) way the father is raising his kids versus a typical American middle class upbringing when the six homeschooled children encounter their two soft, “normal” (and poorly educated and shallowly brought up) cousins. The contrast is really quite something to see:

Obviously, I have strong feelings about this movie. It evoked quite a bit of conversation in our home. I will say that the comments on homeschooling made in the movie are not accurate, at least not in the states in which I have lived and I encourage people who are interested to do their own research.

To Those Starting School…

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Breathe. If no one else has told you this, let me say it now: you belong here. You may not feel like it and that’s ok. This is a big transition, whether you’re going from high school to college or undergraduate to graduate work. It can take some time to find your footing and imposter syndrome is a real thing. I guarantee you everyone else in your cohort is feeling just as nervous, anxious, and maybe a little confused. Give yourself time to adjust.

You belong right where you are. It may feel like others in your year group know more than you do, but I’m betting they don’t, or if they do, rest assured you know just as much in your own area of expertise. I remember when I was doing my first MA, I kept thinking that everyone knew more than I did, and sooner or later they’d figure that out and realize I didn’t belong; and then one day I overheard a couple of students talking in the bathroom and I realized none of us knew what the hell we were doing. We were each finding our way. So, relax and trust the process.

Yes, the language of academia can be weird. Think of it like its own dialect. That’s one of the things you’re learning and no one expects you to speak it fluently from day one. When you come across books or articles by scholars and you really like the way they’re written, save them and try to read more by that person. The more you read, the better a scholar you will be, not just because you are reading more information, but because this is one of the ways you will develop your own academic voice. That takes time and a lot of practice.

If you haven’t found it already, go buy the book “The Professor is In,” and check out the blog by the same name. This is the book I wish to Gods someone had given me when I started graduate school. It’s been tremendously helpful.

Do not leave your required language exams until the last semester. You will hate your life. Get on those things from day one.

Be present in your department for social things now and again. It makes a difference and you’re all in the same boat after all.

Most of all, try to enjoy what you’re learning. The world will not end if you get a bad grade. Don’t be afraid to approach your professors. They’re human, they’ll talk to you. For those starting their undergrad or graduate careers via zoom, I know this isn’t the academic world you expected, but try to make the most of it. Hopefully next semester we’ll all be back to in-person learning again. Most of all, welcome back to school. It’s exciting regardless of whether we’re in person or not. ^_^

Update: Poison Plants and Bones in my shop

Dver is offering a couple of interesting things in her etsy shop and also from her site. Check this out and contact her if interested.

via Update: Poison Plants and Bones in my shop

How to Construct a Ritual (part I)

One of my students is slowly learning to lead rituals on her own – an intimidating prospect for most people (of any faith tradition, I’d warrant). I remember how nervous I was the first time I was tasked with this, during my clergy training. It took a very long time for that nervousness to go away (of course the opposite, doing it all on autopilot isn’t good either – a little nervousness can be helpful!). I was very blessed to have received extraordinarily rich and really, really good ritual training through Fellowship of Isis and the Iseum of the Nine Muses/Lyceum Urania Celeste. Throughout my entire working life as a priest and spirit worker, even well after I became Heathen, I have remained tremendously grateful to the gifted women who set my feet rightly on the path of ritual. It was years before I realized that this isn’t something everyone is taught, and boy does it sometimes show! So, as I work with my student, as she learns more and more about ritual, edging toward taking her vows as a priest of Freya, I’ll share tidbits here too, for those who may find them helpful.

A ritual is a formalized series of actions done with sacral intent. It’s a ceremony, a performance of actions, prayers, etc. by which one is able not only to reverence the Powers, but to enter into a more receptive headspace vis-à-vis the Holy. A priest may lead a ritual because there are certain ceremonies the Gods request, he or she may lead rituals as part of his or her obligation to a community (however large or small) to help them maintain right relationship with the Powers, or it may be more personal, a devotional rite to honor a Deity, or performed in a desire to establish a devotional relationship with a Power, or a thousand other reasons.

A good ritual is like a well written essay (as an aside to students, please dispense with the five paragraph essay you were taught in high school. It is the bane, the absolute bane of college professors everywhere! This has been your public service announcement. Read academic articles. Read essays you like. READ. That is all, but no five-paragraph essay. They suck.): it has a beginning, a middle, and an end. It is organized. No matter how free flowing it may seem, a good ritual is organized with a clearly defined scaffolding. Within that scaffolding, one may include many different things – the toolbox of useful techniques and practices available to a ritual facilitator is huge and often crosses religious traditions (chant, meditation, prayer for instance are used by numerous religious traditions the world over and always have been) but the supportive architecture is still there, creating continuity and holding it all together. A ritual need not be complicated either. It can be incredibly simple, but there is still structure.

The purpose of the ritual leader, usually a priest, sometimes a spiritworker but not always, is to A. create sacred space. For those worshippers, this is the point where the priest performs actions that create a palpable change in the cognition of those attending, perhaps from a performance perspective, an ontological change in the space in which they are all gathered itself. You’re almost pathwalking: moving into a different time, a different space, a different headspace. It’s what I’ve heard ritual specialists call Kairos – ritual time, the righttime, as opposed to Kronos chronological time (and I never spell these right * sigh *. My apologies if they’re wrong here. I can’t spell in any of the languages I read). The space becomes its own world in which the process of the ritual is allowed to cleanly unfold. Then, B. the ritual facilitator is there to guide those attending into that sacred space, hold that space while the ritual happens so that those attending can have the possibility of experience, and then bring them back to mundane headspace again. There are transitions into and out of that must occur for which the ritual specialist is responsible.

After the actual act of creating sacred space, I might go so far as to say that facilitating those transitions smoothly is the number one responsibility of the ritual leader. How one goes about that will change, depending on whether one is leading ritual for a small group (2-6 people), a middling size group (7-20), or more. For instance, I might hold a ritual where I pass a horn around to the participants, allowing each person to individually pray and honor the Deity or Deities of their choice. This is a standard part of a Heathen rite. I would only do this however, if I had less than ten people present. To utilize this type of practice with more people than say ten would slow down the TEMPO of the rite far too much, which in turn would negatively impact those points of transition. In ritual, tempo and rhythm are everything. This is how the facilitator manages those transitions and, essentially, manages to create an altered state in those present (the purpose of which is experience of the Holy in some way), finally, it’s how the facilitator will bring everyone back to grounded, mundane headspace again when the ritual is concluded.

This is also something that is very, very difficult for someone just learning to lead rituals to pick up on intuitively. When one prays or performs a ritual alone, tempo and rhythm don’t matter so much; or rather, a conscious awareness of tempo and rhythm don’t matter. The devotee is able to work at his or her own pace and doesn’t need worry about anyone else. That’s not the case for a ritual facilitator. When one is leading the ritual it’s no longer about one’s own experience of the Holy. In fact, the ritual facilitator’s personal experience of the Holy during the ritual is THE least important part of the entire process.

What this means in practice is that the ritual leader cannot go into as deep an altered state as he or she facilitates in the others attending the rite. (This also means, that if a person is planning on carrying a Deity via possession, there really should be a second priest present to facilitate the ritual, at least from the point of Deity possession onward). This was a huge surprise to my student, and she reminded me as I was writing this to be sure to include it here. I’m grateful for that reminder, because it isn’t something I would have thought to point out otherwise.  The ritual leader must be observant and keyed into the headspace of every single attendee: that’s a matter of paying attention to energy levels, rhythm, and tempo. There are also physical cues when someone is struggling to get into a receptive headspace, when they’re deeply attuned to the Gods in ritual, and when they are coming back up out of an altered experience. A good ritual facilitator learns to observe all of this and learning to recognize and track all of that just takes time and experience.

Sometimes I think the hardest thing is just not rushing. Because one is on the outside of the experience of the attendees, it’s easy to think one is taking too long in establishing the groundwork for the ritual experience, or in guiding the attendees down into ritual space. Err on the side of more, not less. Ideally, the ritual facilitator will have training and more experience than the laity in attendance, and he or she may find it very, very easy to drop into an altered state (which is really what ritual headspace is) quickly. I know this is the case for me because I’ve just been doing this for so long. It’s a professional competency developed over a couple of decades. That’s not the case for the average lay person. Don’t assume those in attendance will move through those transitional states as quickly as you yourself might. This is where an established protocol really comes in handy and I’ll write more about this in the future as I continue these practicum posts.

Of course, learning to speak up, to project one’s voice, to chant or sing without shyness or hesitation is a sizeable learning curve for many. The only advice there is that one has to grab that bull by the horns and just do it. It gets easier eventually but even after all these years, I still get a tad nervous before leading a ritual and I think that’s good. One shouldn’t ever be complacent about the Gods.

Finally, make sure that the rite has a clear purpose. For most polytheistic services, that purpose is first and foremost honoring the Gods, or a specific Deity or group of Deities. Everything in the rite in some way, shape, or form refers back to that purpose. Nothing is extraneous. Keep the dilly dallying and chatter to a minimum (not just out of simple respect, but again, because such things will negatively affect tempo and rhythm, which in turn will negatively impact those transitions into and out of ritual headspace). What happens then in the body of the ritual should, if at all possible, appeal to the entire sensorium: taste, sound, sight, smell, and feeling. We’re corporeal creatures and the more that something engages our sensorium, the greater the impact it is likely to have on us, and the easier it will be to engage.

 For those of you who are just starting out learning how to lead rituals, or who have fumbled and wonder why, what questions do you have about this process? Hit the comments section and let me know.

Movie Monday: 300

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Ὦ ξεῖν’, ἀγγέλλειν Λακεδαιμονίοις ὅτι τῇδε
κείμεθα, τοῖς κείνων ῥήμασι πειθόμενοι.(1)

I love this movie. I got my start in Classics, and stories of men and women like those depicted in this fictionalized account of Leonidas and his defense, with three-hundred fighting men, of a pass called Thermopylae (the “hot gates”) never cease to inspire. While the movie is somewhat fictionalized, the event it depicts actually occurred. In 480 B.C.E., Greece was facing invasion and erasure by Xerxes I and the Persian empire. There was no unified Greece at this time, only independent city states many of which (like Athens and Sparta) were relatively hostile to each other. They came together, in part inspired by the battle of Thermopylae, to repel the Persian threat.

This battle stands as one of the defining moments of Greek (and Roman heroism), even though it was in and of itself a bloodbath. The story of the 300 is just that: a story of heroism, and we need those stories. They inspire us in cultivating the same virtues of patriotism and courage, valor and honor in ourselves. They inspire us to preserve our culture and our traditions, to value what we have created, to work hard to sustain it. They unify a people across boundaries and differences, and they teach us the necessity of sometimes sacrificing for something greater than ourselves. Those are good things, necessary things where the cultivation of virtue is concerned. These were the stories passed down to our grandparents, great grandparents, and beyond. They helped form the cultural and moral consciousness of the “greatest generation” that saved Europe from [actual] Nazis – and in 1941, allies defended Thermpylae again, this time against Nazi invasion– and maybe that shared cultural and moral heritage is precisely why stories like this are now under fire in our morally incomprehensible world today. But I digress.

The movie “300” is an adaptation of this story (a loose adaptation I grant you) from a graphic novel and it does take liberties. It is told from the perspective of a veteran of Thermopylae, rallying and inspiring later troops to fight the Persians. Because of that, the Persians are exaggerated in their presentation so that the valor of those that stood against them, may likewise be highlighted. It’s an excellent tale (though I think the original is even better! The most accessible account is probably Herodotus’s Histories,Book VII) (2).

Several people have asked me lately out of the blue, what some of my favorite movies are, or what I’m watching (most recently “Lovecraft Country”) or reading (a lot of Jane Austen atm). So, for those interested, I’ll try to do a post each Monday on a wholesome (by my definition, keeping in mind I really like action and horror – you have been warned lol) movie. I might miss a Monday here and there as school is just starting back up, but I’ll try to recommend some good things. Here’s your first:

better 300
Notes:

  1. “Stranger, tell the Spartans that we lie here, obedient to their laws.” In the 2007 movie, Frank Miller uses this translation, which I like, “Go tell the Spartans, passerby: that here, by Spartan law, we lie.” There are multiple translations of this epitaph. Cicero even translated it into Latin: Dic, hospes, Spartae nos te hic vidisse iacentes | dum santis patriae legibus obsequimur. Tusculanae Disputationes, 42.101.
  2. Diodorus Siculus, Plutarch, and Ktesias (among others) also mention it.

Final Issue of WTW is Out

The final issue of Walking the Worlds should be sloooowly winding its way to subscribers. USPS has been excruciatingly slow the past few weeks, so please be patient. I only received my own copies today. For those overseas subscribers, I will be sending your copies out this week (they’ll go out Tuesday), as the platform upon which WTW was published ceased allowing copies to be sent directly overseas. grrr.  

At any rate, we are going out with a bang. This is a rich issue, with a new translation of a Russian story about Baba Yaga, three articles by P.S.V.L., an article on Viking age jewelry making, and an article on the shared symbolism of the fig in late antique religious communities in Jerusalem. I’m very pleased with it. We had always privately intended to stop after ten issues (five volumes). That seemed respectable. We received enough material that we ended up doing two extra volumes so I can’t complain. I’m very grateful to the editorial team for their ongoing committed and hard work over the last few years. All previous issues are and will remain available on amazon for those interested in purchasing them. 

Thank you everyone who supported this journal since its inception. It’s been a pleasure.

wtw

The Lowest Bar Possible

Today my household cancelled its Netflix subscription. They are promoting a French film “Cuties,” apparently, a movie about the dangers of oversexualizing children.  The movie isn’t the problem. Netflix, however, chose to promote it in ways that grossly oversexualize children (and by children, I’m talking eleven year olds). When called on this by customers on twitter, email, and elsewhere, they doubled down, refusing to condemn pedophilia, refusing to condemn the hyper-sexualization of children, and saying only that they “respect all religions and cultures.” Bullshit, Netflix. Bullshit. Child abuse isn’t culture.

In addition to the over-sexualization of children, they also advertised this movie as one in which the heroic child “defies her family’s traditions” (not something I find admirable. In this case, it’s clear that Netflix meant defying religious protocols and morality). Maybe they meant the tradition of not prostituting their kids. The movie itself is condemning exactly this type of thing. It’s the story of a young Senegalese girl age eleven who finds something she likes (hip hop) and then sinks further and further into inappropriate, sexualized behavior when she starts getting online attention for this, and pimping herself out on social media. It’s intended to expose the societal dangers inherent in such over-sexualization of kids and inherent in unsupervised social media access. Thanks to Netflix’s marketing strategy the movie is now under fire, and there are calls for boycotts. Don’t boycott the movie. Boycott Netflix.

This type of thing matters. The media we expose ourselves to matters. It conditions our behavior. It slowly shifts our moral center. It influences what we consider appropriate and acceptable even when we don’t realize it. It inures us to things that should be considered, at best, inappropriate.

A friend told me today that in “Pagan” circles, he was routinely called “reactionary” for insisting that where sex was concerned, “consenting” and “adult” were non-negotiable.  He recounted an incident on facebook wherein someone posted a meme, showing a disgusted kid staring at a naked guy in a cowboy hat. The overwhelming response from “Pagans?” They didn’t understand why a child shouldn’t be exposed to nudity. “It’s non-sexual after all,” was repeated again and again.  What they were really saying, as my friend so eloquently articulated was this: “Why should a ten-year-old be disgusted when I give him an uninvited view of my dick?” Well, right thinking people consider this borderline sexual abuse of a child. THIS right here is precisely the type of degeneracy – there is no other word that I can find that is quite so appropriate as this—that fills so much of the “Pagan” community, and it’s precisely the reason so many Polytheists eschew them.

It’s a really, really low bar, people: don’t fuck children. Apparently, it’s a bit too high for some.