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WTF USA?

So, it’s a bad day in the US today. 

  1. SCOTUS shot down Roe V. Wade so now abortion goes back to the states. In about half the states across the country, women are going to be denied access to abortion. Seems like our Supreme court has no problem defining what a woman is, at least 8 of the 9 of them, and especially when they want to remove rights.  Medical care should not be a political issue. A woman’s access to abortion should not be impinged upon by Christian nutcases. Your religion has no right to reduce any woman to the status of chattel slavery, which, imo, is precisely what forced pregnancy does. Thing is, women let this happen. You want a right, you fight for it. If you’re not willing to fight, well, too fucking bad when you lose it.

Access to Plan B/morning after pill is being cut off by Amazon and other online providers to states that have anti-abortion laws set in motion by this ruling. Therefore, women can’t even order online. I have maybe half a dozen packets (haven’t checked my medical kit in a while – I keep a fairly well stocked med kit at home) that I’m happy to send to any woman in one of these states but maybe what we need to be doing is putting together a USPS underground to get abortifacients to women in need.

2. The Senate passed a bipartisan gun safety bill. I’m against any restrictions to the second amendment whatsoever. Let’s blame guns for everything instead of providing competent health care and mental health care to our citizens. *sarcasm* I’m particularly against “red flag” laws. Who gets to decide what or who is dangerous? I fully believe that the only requirement for anyone 16 and over to purchase and carry a gun, concealed or otherwise, should be a training course and a set number of hours clocked at a range (and not a training course like the one-day workshop the NRA offers, but an actual multi-week course). Without the second amendment, we can kiss the rest of our rights goodbye…which we seem to be doing, and quickly. I expect this stupidity from liberals (just as I expect foolishness on abortion from conservatives) but any conservative who signed this law is a fucking coward who ought to be removed from office. Midterms are coming, motherfuckers. Midterms are coming. 

3. Finally, SCOTUS limited the courts’ ability to enforce Miranda. Read the story here. If you have to deal with the police, the ONLY word out of your mouth should be “LAWYER.” https://www.cnn.com/2022/06/23/politics/supreme-court-miranda-rights/index.html

EDIT 1: And I just read that Clarence Thomas wrote a concurring opinion with the Roe decision stating that SCOTUS should “reconsider” Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell” – those are the rulings that allow, respectively, contraception, the legality of same-sex relationships, and same-sex marriage.  This comes as no surprise. I said months ago that if this court went after Roe, the next on the list would be Griswold and then they’d just work their way down. 

On a single positive note, JP Morgan announced that it would pay for its employees to travel to states that allow abortion should the need arise. 

Happy Pride Month @_@

I apparently celebrated by being spat on and called a “D*ke” as I was coming out of the post office today. The guy who yelled it was on a motorcycle and sped away before I could respond. Ironically, I’m probably more conservative than he is. I’m just not an asshole. All of this reminded me of when my mom and I were traveling abroad and were nearly gay bashed because we were walking arm in arm and we both had short hair. That was in France, by the way, so this type of random foolishness and prejudice isn’t just an American thing. In that instance, I scared the guys off, but it could have ended quite differently. 

On a more positive note, Saturday, I was offered a discount on antique ephemera because “I see from your short hair that you are gay.” (I declined the offer because I am not in fact gay and did not want to take a discount meant for someone else. I got a discount anyway because when he asked my profession (theologian), I then correctly answered a theological question he put to me). I would like to note for the record that having really short hair does not make one gay. It is not like an initiatory mark to a special club. My short hair has no impact at all on who shares my bed. I am happily married to a man much hairier than I. lol. He has hair enough for both of us. I keep my hair cropped as a religious discipline to honor the military dead. 

On an ironic note, I mentioned this to a friend of mine, and she is bi and has slept with women (and told me to include this note here lol) and is beautiful with long flowing blond hair and very feminine and she is always pissed that no one thinks she could ever be gay or bi. So, stop judging by hair, people. It’s stupid and makes you look like fools.

This all makes me wonder what my lesbian, gay, and bi friends are going through on a day to day as our country grows more polarized. It was a word today, it could just as easily have been a rock. I’m really sorry for whatever suffering you may be enduring, and I stand in solidarity with you, not just this month but all year long. Be strong, stand together, and don’t let shit like this get you down. 

courtesy of Emory University History dept found here: https://scholarblogs.emory.edu/lgbtflags/history/

New Book: “Loki and Sigyn” by Lea Svendsen

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On the up side, this book gives interesting etymological information on Loki and Sigyn’s respective names. I actually quite enjoyed reading this part. It was informative and pointed me in directions that I hadn’t considered with both Deities. The book is not a bad introduction for a beginner. Also, the  cover is gorgeous and would make a lovely devotional icon in and of itself.

On the downside, the author makes a show of giving a seemingly comprehensive history of Loki and Sigyn in contemporary Heathenry. That would be fine, save that she ignores the work of those like myself, who not only wrote the first extant devotionals to Loki and Sigyn individually, and to Their family as a group, but who frankly, were the ones who, with constant harassment over the issue–including some from at least one person quoted in the book–moved the center in Heathenry so that the idea of honoring these Gods is far less controversial now than it was when we started talking about it two decades ago. 

Also, and far more egregiously, while omitting any reference of the first devotionals ever published to Loki and to Sigyn (my own, published in the period between 2004-2014), the author has no problem quoting bynames for Sigyn that my own mother developed and wrote about, and that I first put into print, specifically “Lady of the Staying Power” (the name, not incidentally, of the first devotional to Sigyn ever written in 2009). It’s poor scholarship and were this an academic text (the author tries so hard to sound academic in parts), it would not have been published by any peer reviewed press due to this lacuna and borderline plagiarism.

My books (this doesn’t count the numerous articles I’ve written over the years) on Loki and Sigyn, all available here

“Our Lady of the Staying Power” now in second edition.

“Honoring Sigyn”

“Consuming Flame”

“Feeding the Flame”

“Heart on Fire”

“Hymns and Prayers of a Polytheistic Household” (includes prayers to both Loki and Sigyn)

 “Essays in Modern Heathenry”

For many years I’ve largely been silent when people have done things like writing me out of my own religious history, plagiarizing my work, harassment, bullying, slander, and lies. No more. Every time it comes to my door, I’m going to be calling it out. When I came into Heathenry in the early nineties, a devotee of Odin and Loki, one could not mention Loki in many, many circles without open hostility and in some cases (usually Theodish) threats of violence. It was my work and the work of many of my colleagues who changed that. If that’s too hard to swallow for people like Svendsen then maybe grow a set and admit it, instead of pretending innocence while practicing erasure. When you don’t publicly cite someone, but you draw upon their work in any way, that’s called PLAGIARISM. Plagiarism is theft. Scholarship means coming up with your own ideas, or correctly citing the work of others as you engage. It doesn’t mean copying someone else’s ideas and passing them off as your own without attribution. Not citing extant sources is theft and appropriation. That’s it’s definition. It’s also cowardice and poor scholarship.

And now the Apostate has defenders.

I suppose it’s indicative of Heathenry that a wife-beating apostate has defenders, because way too many Heathens respect neither women nor the Gods. This misguided person is doggedly defending Swain Wodening on both counts, blaming his ex wife for her own abuse, excusing Swain’s apostasy as though it were nothing but a momentary error. He dismisses any criticism of this piece of garbage by asserting that those of us criticizing him are acting on hearsay.

Actually, those of us criticizing him knew Swain and his ex wife, we worked with him when we were Theodish, and saw first hand what a mewling, characterless cretin he was –and obviously remains (constantly blaming everyone else for his own missteps is just the beginning). We’re not acting on hearsay at all. Nor is his mental illness an excuse. There are PLENTY of people in the world diagnosed with General Anxiety disorder who don’t behave in the fashion swain did.

Do I blame his wife for anything? Maybe for not shooting the son of a bitch the first time he attacked her. But then the laws in this country don’t always support women who do the right thing in such situations, and she had children to care for. She made choices congruent with keeping her children safe. Brava to her. She survived and I am glad to know that she is living a good and happy life now– far away from Swain. It disgusts me that in every case I have seen in our communities, where a well-known male figure is guilty of some sort of assault, those he assaulted get blamed (I saw the same thing happen in the Wiccan community with pedophile and wife beater Kenny Klein, may he rot in hell).

Even putting aside the spousal abuse, Swain says his “conversion to Christianity was a mistake.” no shit. A leader, as Swain was within Theodish Heathenry, who turns his back on his Gods and *publicly excoriates Them* has no right to expect return. He is garbage, living garbage. He committed apostasy of the highest order. A “mistake?” Yes it was and mistakes have consequences. In a proper community he’d be driven out, not defended. But then a proper community would care about the quality of its leaders, and integrity before the Gods. Swain has neither quality nor integrity and yet these fools defend him. His personal integrity – – if he came back, why would he be seeking public position in stead of just worshipping quietly? If he’s coming back to try to reclaim his public position — oh hell no. There is no excuse for what Swain did. He apostatized and wants to come back as though that never happened and didn’t matter AND as on every other fault, not only blames everyone but his own lack of character and poor judgement, but apparently has other men doing the same. Grow the fuck up, Heathens. This man is polluted garbage, poison. There’s no place amongst decent, devout people for his kind. This man’s deeds are to beat his wife and publicly turn his back on his Gods. He and his family popularized the maxim “we are our deeds.” Well, to quote another maxim, “it is by one’s deeds that we shall know them.”

As I said before, it’s one thing for laity to apostatize. They struggle with our spirituality and it can be very hard. There’s going to be movement and sometimes even syncretic practice. That’s fine. That’s not Swain. Swain was one of the most well known of Theodish leaders and, might I point out, according to the interview linked above, he’s not taking responsibility for his apostasy either. He says, ‘I never fully accepted the [Christian] doctrine.’ Great. So you’re an apostate twice over. (Nor, might I add, did Swain ever criticize Theodism as the article asserts. If he did, he was awfully quiet about it). Also, his belief “But the core of my beliefs, that good deeds not faith get you into Heaven are what I truly believe” is heresy both in most Christian denominations and Heathenry. It’s one fucking step away from prosperity gospel bullshit.

Swain didn’t just hold Christian views, but wrote a book on it trying to capitalize on being a covert from Heathenry. They finally see through your Bullshit, Swain? Is that why you’re back? Hoping a new generation of Heathens won’t know what a piece of shit you truly are? Did you get kicked out by Christians AND Heathens? wow. Maybe try Wicca next. Their standards might be more flexible. After all, many of them defended Kenny Klein and Isaac Bonewits and probably Marian Zimmer Bradley too so you’ll be in good company. But fuck off out of Heathenry. You have no place here and every time your name comes up, we should spit that foulness out of our mouths, and speak aloud your unending list of transgressions against your family, your tribe, and your Gods. None of us who knew you during that time, will ever forget. And forgiveness without recompense is not part of our tradition.

After all as the Havamal says, “When you see evil speak out against it and give no truce to your enemy.” A man who beats his wife, terrorizes his children, abandons his faith and publicly apostatizes will always be my enemy.

What Makes a “Mystery Religion”?

With Swain Wodening/Berry Canote rearing his head again, trying to creep back into our communities, I’ve been reading up on various online critiques of Theodism, the denomination of Heathenry from which the Wodenings arose (1). One of the pieces I found was this blog post. The guy who runs it is a complete asshole (2) but the piece itself gives an online trail of websites and information that show how Theodism, is an egotistical boys’ club that cares far more about preserving (or hiding) the lack of honor, integrity, and character of the men involved than speaking the truth, taking an ethical stand, and definitely more than venerating the Gods. I worked in Theodism for maybe ten years and venerating the Gods properly was always much farther down on the list than stroking the mens’ …um…egos. But I digress…

In the article above, the fool who wrote it, calls Theodism a “Mystery religion.” He bases this on the fact that Theodism has a hierarchical social structure in which most newcomers begin as “thralls” and earn higher social rank as they learn Theodish customs and ingratiate themselves with their higher ups (3). He also uses the term “Mystery religion” as though it is a negative thing. The dude has no idea what a mystery religion is, or he’d never use the term for Theodish Heathenry, and it is that question: “What is a Mystery Religion?” that I want to discuss here. 

The word “mystery” comes from the Greek μυστήριον. It means ‘mystery’ and refers to ‘secret rites,’ religious mysteries, particularly those associated with a specific Deity, and those things revealed by a particular Deity—theophany or revelation—during the enactment of that Deity’s rites (4). It was used in ancient Greek polytheism, Roman polytheism, and even early Christianity to refer to certain rites and practices. The term “Mystery Religion” could refer to a broad range of traditions and rites but there were certain aspects of cultic praxis that traditions under this rubric generally shared (5): There was some type of initiatory rite in which the initiate, having been properly prepared, experiences and receives sacred knowledge from a Deity; these rites were secret and definitely not open to the entire community; they permitted the initiate to “share in symbolic (sacramental) fashion the experiences of the God” (6); they may serve a cleansing or even piacular function; they carried soteriological and possibly even eschatological impact. Obviously, the a priori position from which such mystery traditions worked was that direct experience of the Gods was possible and the initiate could be prepared to (more or less safely receive this) via preparation through particular levels within that tradition. 

Mystery religions were separate things from civic religion, or from common and public veneration of a particular Deity or family of Deities. One could honor any Deity without participating in a Mystery tradition. Usually the mysteries were developed (or received) within a cultic context centered around particular veneration to a specific Deity, but they existed within the larger religion. Participation in a mystery cultus was not required to be good polytheists.  A tradition could be commonly open to everyone but contain within it a Mystery cultus, or even more than one, (7) that had rites and initiatory procedures that were restricted.

The word μυστήριον itself was even used by the early Christian Church to refer to its rituals, particularly baptism, which was viewed as a type of initiation, available only after extensive preparation. It did what any initiatory rite was believed to do: created an ontological change in the initiate’s soul, thus moving that initiate from one state of being to another (8). Now, if we’re looking solely at the idea of moving from one state of being to another, then I can see why the author of the aforementioned blog [incorrectly] attributed to Theodism status as a mystery religion. A thrall can rise through the social ladder to “thegn” for instance. But this doesn’t actually make Theodism a mystery religion. That elevation in status has nothing to do with cultic rites to any Deity. It is a purely social practice within Theodism. 

Moreover, not only does theodism not possess any expectation of rituals involving theophany, but they are also openly hostile to the idea. Devotion and the logical extension thereof of mystical experience are not things valued in this tradition. There ARE Heathen denominations that I would say are mystery traditions (I myself work within one). There are other polytheistic traditions that I would say are or contain Mystery traditions (9). Theodism isn’t one of them though. A “Mystery Tradition” is centered around direct experience of a Deity’s mysteries usually through some sort of initiatory experience mediated by others who have been initiated. The point is the direct experience of the God. The point is that ontological change that takes place in the person’s soul, a transformation that affects everything from that point on, especially what happens to that soul after death. Going from thrall to thegn does not change the status or nature of the person’s soul. Nor are Gods involved. Now, when I was in Theodism there was a warrior “cultus” (10), but it was a social transition not a religious one effected. 

Now, in my opinion, Mystery Traditions are the heart and soul of any functional, sustainable religion, as important – if not more so—as the essential balance between good, pious laity, and well trained specialists (spirit workers, shamans, priests, mystics etc.). For a religion to be healthy in its relationship to the Holy Powers, that gifting of mystery to the initiate, and the initiate carrying that back into the regular community, standing as an example and a carrier of holy power to the group is absolutely essential. It requires a community to be focused on the Gods and to understand what constitutes right relationship – what the Romans might have termed pax deorum and what our Heathen ancestors quite likely included under the term frith (11), and in understanding it to allocate to it the highest value across all demographics of the community. It is here that true unity in a group is achieved: that prioritization of piety, of maintaining right relationship with the Powers, and of understanding that it takes each and every one of us working together to properly nourish it.  If any of that is present in Theodism, then it’s something that’s surely changed quite a bit since I was there in the early oughts. 

Notes:

  1. I will give credit where credit is due. Theodism has done more to restore proper blòt than any other denomination. They did a remarkable and praiseworthy job there. That is pretty much the only area in which I will ever say this. 
  2. His critique of Theodism was good enough that I mistakenly assumed he had critical thinking and close reading skills. Also, he’s been deleting comments from both me and my husband, likely so he can twist his fictional narrative to his own ends. Still, the critique of Theodism itself provides useful links to that denomination’s more appalling dirty laundry.
  3. The term ‘thrall’ is ugly, but it must be noted that what this means in practice within Theodish communities is that the person may be present, participate in most rituals, and be part of the community events but have no voting voice in how things are run. It does not mean that such a person is misused or treated like well, a thrall. It signifies a time of learning the ritual and social customs, rules, practices, etc. where mistakes are expected, and no onus will be attached to the person for any gaffe. It’s a watch and learn, participating in light carefully mediated ways entry into Theodism. It’s not that different than numerous other cultural traditions around the world, for instance religions like Lukumi also differentiate between newcomers and those steeped in the tradition, and the former are not permitted at every rite. 
  4. See https://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/morph?l=musthrion&la=greek#lexicon.
  5. See Martin Luther King, Jr’s early work on Mystery Traditions in the ancient world: https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/king-papers/documents/influence-mystery-religions-christianity.
  6. Ibid.
  7. The word cultus comes from the Latin colo, colere, colui, cultum which means ‘to till or tend,’ as in tilling or tending a field. When I use this term to mean “a system of veneration directed toward a particular Holy Power,” to paraphrase the definition given by the OLD. The register in which I am writing utilizes it as a neutral term, with this classical definition. If I am using it to refer to dangerous, fringe religious groups, or a dangerous “admiration for a particular person” (Again OLD)  which is a modern, usually negative connotation, I will say so. 
  8. Μυστήριον became the word Christians used for “sacrament” by the very early medieval period. See https://research.library.fordham.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1003&context=theology_facultypubs. The term is used twenty-seven times in the New Testament, often for something ‘secret,’ or more commonly for revelation of the Gospel and/or the Incarnation itself. See:https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Catholic_Encyclopedia_(1913)/Mystery (yes it’s wiki but it’s really a reproduction of a Catholic Encyclopedia entry).
  9. Ironically, BT Wicca would qualify as a mystery tradition. There are levels in which everyone may participate, but then there is also an initiatory structure where mysteries are conveyed…religious mysteries. 
  10. This was a group that excluded women and had the most pathetic initiation rite that you could ever imagine—I’ve done more challenging rituals in my first year as an ordeal master ffs. I should also note that not all mystery tradition initiations change the afterlife. They may change your status in relation to the Gods Who then offer special protection. Still, the change involves Gods. It involves a theophany, a direct encounter of some sort with the Holy and then your subsequent relationship with that Deity is transformed.
  11. Though both of these terms are polyvalent and have relevance in ways large and small within a community. Frith particularly refers to the right relationship between all parties and may be used in social relationships as well. Pax Deorum had civic and political implications for the Roman Empire.

Initiatory traditions and mystery traditions are not necessarily the same thing. Mystery traditions have initiatory aspects but there are groups that have initiation that don’t have deeper mysteries or a focus on theophany.

Resist

It’s really interesting to me that the majority of the people crying “fascist!” at everyone in the community with whom they disagree (and they’re doing it to people on the left and the right, mind you) are…atheists. They are people who have forced their way into polytheistic traditions, who may have once believed in and venerated the Gods, but are now atheists who refuse to leave our traditions alone, who are working from the inside to destroy them. They are randomly attacking teachers, elders, clergy, devotees who have faith, piety, and devotion…perhaps because they themselves have none. Guess their progressive politics don’t elevate their souls quite as much as they thought. *sarcasm*

How much weight should we be expected to give the words of the godless? Exactly why are we letting those without belief dictate the future of our traditions? Resist.

New Texas Abortion Law is Brutal, Misogynistic, and Insane.

The Supreme Court just upheld one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country.  This law bans abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, at about six weeks. While the Supreme court ruling allowed the law to go into effect but kept open the possibility of abortion providers and perhaps even individuals challenging the law in court in the future, for now, this is a crushing blow to women’s liberty in the lone star state. 

Here are some observations and questions based on what I’ve read so far. 

An abusive spouse may report his or her wife to the police for having an abortion (even if she hasn’t) and receive a 10K (Ten thousand) dollar reward. 

Even by the time a heartbeat is detected, there is no viable human being present in the clot of tissue that will later become a person. 

Apparently even mentioning abortion as an option to a woman can now have legal consequences. 

The prison sentence for a woman seeking an abortion will be longer than that of a rapist. 

What happens to a woman who leaves the state to have an abortion? Will she be arrested on her return? 

More importantly, how will the state know? Are women’s medical records now to be opened and available to scrutiny? Will this law be extended retroactively? 

I am very pro-choice. I not only believe abortion should be available on demand, I think it should be legally required in some circumstances. There is never, ever a time where I would limit a woman’s right to bodily sovereignty (even though I think abortion should be mandated in certain circumstances, I’d be very, very hesitant to make any laws to that effect. This is personal business, not something in which the government should involve itself). That’s what any abortion restriction is: an assault on bodily sovereignty. 

Do I believe abortion is murder? Yes. I believe the fetus is a life. Do I think that’s a relevant question? Not in the least. The only life that matters in this situation is that of the woman because until that fetus is pushed through her vagina in a flood of blood and pain, it is nothing more than a parasite, depending upon the mother for its continued existence. Carrying a fetus to term, has long term, potentially devastating physical effects on a woman’s body. 

I think Roe V. Wade is a bad ruling. Abortion was legalized on privacy grounds. There are stronger grounds upon which to allow women basic civil liberties (is there a single medical procedure for men that is put before non-medical, government and political groups like abortion? No there is not). 

Let’s start with the 13th Amendment, you know, the one that abolished slavery. Any time someone has no control over their bodily sovereignty, particularly where forced breeding is concerned, we have something quite akin to slavery. Forced breeding was always part of the experience of slavery in this country, particularly after the trans-Atlantic slave trade was abolished. Control of fertility (for both women and men, though the greatest burden always fell on the woman) was a significant part of the experience of the enslaved in the US. Apparently, it still is. 

Then we have the 14th Amendment, the first part of which states: 

“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

Or let’s talk about self-defense. I would have preferred to see Roe V. Wade legalized on grounds of self-defense and bodily sovereignty than privacy. I think those are much, much stronger grounds. 

Within our religious traditions, abortion is not prohibited. In fact, at various times and places amongst our Heathen ancestors, newborns were not considered properly ensouled until nine days after birth. If we’re looking at Roman religion, it was when the father picked the newborn child up and acknowledged it. Furthermore, we have many Deities Who may be called upon to protect women who choose to have abortions. Freya, for instance, is a Goddess of sexuality, of personal choice, of bodily sovereignty (and many other things). I think one may call upon Her, or the other Vanir, for protection and blessing if one is seeking an abortion. Now, the Vanir are also Deities of fertility. We have Heathens who are pro-life, and they may choose to call upon the Vanir to protect life and bless women choosing to have children. (I also think it is important to be very, very careful about ascribing our personal desires onto the Gods. We may say, “I think Freya would bless this choice,” but to say outright, as if we can ever fully know, “Freya likes/doesn’t like X” is deeply lacking in integrity. We may assume, conjecture, but can never truly *know* because the Gods are so much more than we ever can be). Any abrogation of personal choice is an abrogation of personal power and as such, I think this would be quite problematic from a Vanic point of view. Certainly, in our lore, Freya never allowed her own power to be so infringed. One may thus extend the lesson.

There is the healing Goddess Hlif, ever a help to women. She is usually called upon for anything pertaining to OB/GYN issues. While She is a Goddess of birth, as She also tends to all things gynecological, I see no reason why She could not be called upon here as well. We are not animals, slaves to our biology. We have wyrd, and thus the capacity for conscious, individuated choice. That doesn’t suddenly disappear because one possesses a uterus. 

Then there is Gerda, the wife of Freyr. This has ever been a union of opposites in so many ways and my particular branch of the Northern Tradition holds that because Freyr came to Asgard as a hostage for peace (one of the hostages exchanged to guarantee peace between the Aesir and Vanir, the other being Njord), and because this would extend to His children too, He and Gerda have no children. Not all denominations of the Northern Tradition hold to this, but ours does. Because of this Gerda maybe sought out by those who have had miscarriages, those who use birth control, and those who have abortions.

You know what this issue never was amongst our ancestors? A matter for public scrutiny. It was women’s medicine and women’s business, a private thing known to the woman and her midwife or healer. Of course, in ideal circumstances within a family, it may have been a matter of discussion between spouses but in the end, it was a choice the woman herself made. 

Modern America is not so enlightened. Laws like this are not about protecting potential life. They’re about criminalizing sex and pleasure and keeping women in a place defined by a most pernicious evangelical Christianity with a healthy helping of the Victorian cult of motherhood to boot. It’s revolting. This is not about “women being unable to control themselves” (as I recently saw stated on twitter and by a woman no less).  It’s about basic human rights and human dignity – not to potential life, but to living, breathing women here and now. It’s about trusting that women are actually capable of determining for themselves when to become pregnant. 

I actually wonder if those who are so incredibly anti-choice realize what it’s like to have one’s body turned into an incubator. My earliest memory as a child was of doggedly, most definitely, and under no circumstances ever wanting a child. I was maybe 2 ½ and I knew I found the whole thing utterly disgusting, dehumanizing, and permanently disabling in some circumstances. My opinion on the matter hasn’t changed. I would flat out rather be executed than forced to carry a child. So, I have made sure never to get pregnant, however, if I did, I’d have had the abortion clinic on speed dial. Other women want children, but not at a given time, or they want to do the financially sensible thing and space their children in a way that allows for economic independence. Or…many other reasons. Really the only reason a woman needs to not be pregnant is “I don’t want to be.” 

What these laws really are is about criminalizing sexual pleasure and criminalizing women’s independence. I’m all for modesty and continence but come on. Birth control fails all the time. Accidents happen. Moreover, rape and incest happen (cases where I think abortion should be required as a matter of common sense personally). Women don’t need big daddy government telling them what to do with their bodies. There’s no consistency in these laws either. If pro-lifers were really worried about loss of fetal life, then male masturbation would likewise be a source of legal concern. But we’re not seeing that. We’re seeing, as always, the onus of these laws placed on the woman. Nor can women easily get a tubal ligation which would solve the problem completely for some – paternalistic doctors will say she doesn’t really know her own mind, or might marry someone who wants children. Even now. (In 2019 a young woman in UK sued the NHS for just this reason and won the right to be sterilized. But note, she had to go to court. Men seeking vasectomies don’t have this issue). All of this is a violation of bodily sovereignty in every respect. So when someone is coming out prolife, what they’re really saying whether they realize it or not is this: I not only don’t trust women to make the right decisions for themselves, but I don’t think they should legally have the right to do so. We are rendering women as less than full civic partners in American social and political life. What’s next? Is birth control going to be made illegal? Will a woman’s testimony only be worth half that of a man’s in court? Maybe we’ll go back to the days when women couldn’t own a credit card or put a down payment on a house without a male relative’s consent (as late as the 1970s in the States). 

So, here is my solution. TX has fairly decent gun rights. I think women ought to avail themselves of those rights because this is an attack on women’s freedom, bodily sovereignty, and personal integrity. It’s disgusting. When someone tries to enslave you, the only appropriate response is armed resistance. Hoist the black flag and get on with it, ladies (and the men who love them). Or watch your freedoms get chipped away ever more. 

To those anti-choicers out there, you are welcome to hold whatever opinion on the matter you want and to apply that to your own person. The moment you step to me or anyone else with demands about what we can and cannot do with our own bodies, the moment you attempt to force fertility, weeeelll, see the paragraph above. 

EDIT: not actually advocating violence. But I am advocating that both men and women get off their asses in TX and forcibly fight this law. It’s a bad law –even if one is pro-life. It has long term, far reaching consequences that could easily be expanded and applied to many other aspects of private life, for everyone.

WHY Do Atheists Do This?

I have no problem with atheism. Do your thing. I have a huge problem when atheists come into religious spaces (especially when it’s our religious spaces), and aren’t there as respectful guests but attempt to take on leadership positions. It’s polluting to the tradition and disrespectful to the Holy Powers and community both. It also twists the tradition out of true alignment with the Holy. 

I cannot count how many Heathen kindreds I have heard of or personally encountered that allow atheists to take on leadership roles, including that of Goði or even spaekona. Obviously, these groups don’t give a flying fuck about the Gods or simple common respect. 

Today, a friend sent me this article. 

Apparently this isn’t just a Heathen, Polytheistic, or Pagan problem. This is a problem across traditions. Harvard has just appointed their new “chaplain” and guess what? The fucker is an atheist. Like what even is the point? This is modernism, secularism, and the woke in action and it’s just revolting. I’d long ago written Harvard off as a serious school but this just proves it to me. 

General PSA on Teaching within our Communities and Taking Apprentices

If I were a kinder person, a better theologian, a more patient priest I would probably approach this less bluntly, but today is not that day. I have a wonderful apprentice now of sterling character and deep piety and she asked me recently (now that she herself is getting close to the point where she will likely take a student or two under supervision) what to look for when deciding to take on this responsibility. While the sarcastic bitch in me wanted to respond, “Xanax,” her question is a necessary one and not a conversation that my own teachers ever had with me. This is not to their discredit.  It simply wasn’t the way things were done then. We were all young and some lessons are hard, very hard learned. So, speaking to the question of apprentices and students within one’s religious community (1), here we go. 

Cowardice is pandemic in our communities. When someone asks me what to look for in a group, a teacher, or when a teacher/priest asks me how to vet potential apprentices and students, this is the first thing I tell them: look first for virtue and character. Over and above anything else, that has to be there. If it’s not, do your best Usain Bolt imitation and run as fast as you can the other way. Also, if there’s not a willingness to prioritize devotion and the Gods, even when it’s uncomfortable, or arouses hostility in the community, or causes inconvenience: run. You cannot fix this in a person. It doesn’t matter how much you may personally like that person or how otherwise gifted he or she is: run. 

One thing that I have learned in over thirty years of teaching, writing, leading rituals, etc. is that when taking an apprentice one must look first and foremost at innate character. If character is lacking, that is terminal spiritual damage. It cannot be fixed.  I’ll give you an example. Many years ago, a young man became my apprentice. I did not particularly want to take him on. He had, with almost no training, been engaging in deity possession and using that to engage in sexual improprieties bordering on coercion with at least one woman to whom he was attracted. In conversation with my own elders we took his word that he hadn’t realized what he was doing, or how great a blasphemy it was. We assumed on good faith that he was redeemable with a little teaching, with strict mentorship, with a chance to learn and cultivate virtue and values, to build character, to devote himself to the Gods without having to worry about being called upon, far before he was ready, to step into a leadership role in his community (which had been part of the pressure and problem, or so we figured). We were all wrong and bad character remained bad character, egotism and vainglory (the need to be liked and to receive accolades, to be held up as top of the class, so to speak) only now hidden behind a façade of piety. This was compounded by the fact that the work of necessity was done long distance where it was difficult to accurately gauge progress. Just don’t. If even once this type of behavior is noted, shun that person one thousand percent (2). Also, with very rare exceptions, I do not think I would ever take a long distance apprentice again. The work is intense, demands such deep, often painful and challenging internal processing, that I just don’t think it can be effectively done (or monitored for problems) at a distance. 

Here’s a second example. Many years ago, farther back than the case of the man I mentioned above, I took as a student an incredibly gifted young woman (one of the most gifted students I have ever had). She was also utterly without character, which I didn’t realize until much later. She was actually my first serious student and thanks to her, I know some of the things to look for in gauging potential students from here on out. What we took as vivid exaggeration and a gift for story telling was really an addiction to chronic lying. What we took as struggling piety, was really a desire to garner all the attention in the room by pretense of ecstatic revelation. Had we looked harder (I and the fellow priest who helped train her), we would have seen lack of responsibility in her life, constant disorder in every area, endless making of excuses, dangerous promiscuity, poor decision after poor decision, and vanity. There was extraordinary giftedness but a character dependent on those around her. When she was with us, she was fine. She mirrored what was dominant in those around her. When she was not with us, her character did not hold. Instability on every level surrounded her life. Eventually it led to a psychotic break and a descent into trouble. We mandated psychotherapy. She agreed and then lied about going. She was a parasite. So, for those of you intending to start a spiritual house, a kindred, a coven, an Iseum, a Thiasos, or other group, look deeply into those you allow into your spiritual world. If there isn’t base line character, you will fail in aiding in their spiritual formation. That’s what the work of a spiritual teacher and priest is: spiritual formation and that takes cooperation and hard work on both sides. 

Also, you’re a priest or teacher, not a psychologist. We can do so much with those who come to us, but we’re not psychotherapists. Learn where that boundary is and don’t allow a disordered student to push you past it. Also, the teacher-student/teacher-apprentice relationship should be one of loyalty and respect, commitment and support mutually for life. I would go to the wall for many of my students and my current apprentice. When that relationship is violated it affects the luck and wyrd of each party on a grossly violent level. It is polluting in a way that is very difficult to cleanse. The obligations on both sides are enormous. Likewise the curse on those that take what they have learned, half-assedly usually, and set themselves up as competent spirit-workers is a stain on the soul that will taint and corrupt every bit of the work such nithlings do. 

I hear a lot of complaints in the community about lack of elders and teachers. Well, folks, they’re there. They just get sick and tired of being shat on by students, neophytes, and apprentices who don’t want to step up and prioritize devotion and do the work. We are not great cosmic tits that you can drain dry with your mommy and daddy issues, your authority issues, your unwillingness to address character flaws or develop virtue. We’re not there to hand over the mysteries of our tradition to the untested and untried. You want an elder or a teacher to guide you, show some fucking respect. 

Then there’s the cowardice. It is, as I have said, pandemic in our communities. I have a number of readers and twitter followers and those on facebook who smile to my face and then turn around and support those who slander me and (more importantly) my work. You’re cowards. Pick a fucking side.  

I’ll also add, that when you meet someone who wants to drag the Gods down into morass and pollution of human politics, in an effort usually to garner praise, and in ways that exclude devout men and women from worship, step back and take a hard look at why.  What pat on the head is that person getting? Whom do they serve? What do they actually value and where do the Gods and devotion and piety figure in that value system?

Veneration to the Holy Power is the thing that should be lifting us up beyond all our human shit. It should be the thing that encourages and incites us to elevate our souls, to throw ourselves into devotion, to transform our internal world and sometimes our external world to through the power of that adoration. When that is twisted out of true by ungrateful apprentices who lacked the spiritual fortitude, commitment, and virtue to stay the course, it’s an ugly, ugly thing. So beware.  

Notes: 

  1. This does not apply to academic teaching at all. This is a totally different animal. The work we do in training apprentices and students within our religious communities is emotionally and spiritually intimate and steeped in a shared cosmology and hierarchy that would not in any way be appropriate to transfer over to secular teaching. 
  2. Now don’t accept gossip. Of all the evil spirits, that of gossip is THE most dangerous and destructive (see the book “Osogbo” by Ochani Lele). There should be clear proof and/or witnessed offense. Spectral evidence my friends, ain’t evidence at all. 

Pope Significantly Restricts Latin Mass – A Polytheist’s Response

When I logged online yesterday, I discovered that Pope Francis (of whom, for many reasons, I am not a fan) had recently restricted the use of the Latin mass. You can read here, here, and here about that. I am so very sorry for my Catholic friends and family members who are already suffering under a watered-down liturgy and the results of Vatican II. I found myself disturbed enough by this move from the Vatican though, that this morning I was still thinking about it and it took me a bit of time to parse out why. 

Ritual and liturgy are part of a religion’s tradition. They don’t sustain themselves. These things are given to us within our own religious traditions to nourish, nurture, and protect. Traditions in general and ritual in particular are part of the alchemy that continually reifies the moment of creation, the most sacred mysteries of that tradition and thus keep our world clean of pollution and protected from evil. When one religion decides to shit on its rituals and pollute its own tradition, that affects the world’s balance as a whole – at least that’s how I and my House view the issue. 

The RCC has been shitting on the very traditions that were given to it to guard since at least Trent (and that’s not taking into account the use of those traditions to encourage forced conversion and genocide, not to mention the sexual abuse occurring within the Church hierarchy and noted from at least the 4th century). Vatican II, an attempt to reconcile with protestants, feminists, and modernity by performing a hatchet job on one’s tradition in the dubious name of “progress” (someone explain to me how a fucking guitar mass is progress?) was the start of what I personally think, was an all-out, internal attack on their tradition. I may not care overmuch about modern Catholicism in particular (academically, I study its origins, which are fascinating), but I do care about religious traditions in general, because I think to some degree, what happens in one tradition has the potential to affect us all (1). Also, there’s a general rule of liturgy that I was taught ages ago (ironically by a Catholic priest): if you don’t know what something is for, don’t change it. Or, to put it another way: if it ain’t broke, don’t “fix” it. Someone should have informed the pope. 

There are a few key differences that I’d like to talk about between the Latin mass (TLM) and the vernacular one. Now, I’ll preface this by saying that liturgical studies are not my cup of tea. Still, one picks up a few things here and there in the course of one’s studies. Firstly, in TLM, the priest does not face the congregation. He faces the eucharist. This may seem like a throw away, but I think it’s actually very, very important. When you face the congregation, you are, for better or worse, performing. When you face away, you are leading your congregation in veneration of your God. Psychologically, there is a huge difference here (2).

Secondly, with the use of Latin, not only are the congregants connected to a key See with all its history, but they key into a groove of the sacred by dropping into something used for two thousand years sacrally. I’ve seen Latin-English mass books and they are just as easy to follow as mass books in the vernacular. You have the Latin on one side and then matching vernacular on the other. Better yet, many religious schools would naturally teach Latin, which as far as I’m concerned only betters a person’s intellectual potential. Plus, my understanding is that there are certain prayers to ward off evil (like the prayer to St. Michael, and also at least one prayer to Mary) that were offered during TLM that were expunged from the vernacular mass (one of the things that Vatican II tried very hard to do was quash saints cultus and Marian devotion…unsuccessfully I guess, but the council did dampen it down quite a bit). I think the use of Latin and its formality increases the sense of solemnity, which is not a bad thing when (according to a Catholic relative of mine) today you have congregants on their cell phones and/or chatting as the priest is walking down the aisle to begin Mass!

Thirdly, Gregorian chant. Why, in the name of all that is holy, would anyone with any sense (not to mention an ear) replace centuries old tradition of Gregorian chant with hippy guitar masses or congregations singing off key to poorly trained organists doing abominable things to their instrument? Ritual should transport one into an altered state, creating a certain liminality of mindset wherein one has the capacity to properly and relatively safely (as much as it ever can be) encounter the Holy. It should create a sense of awe that shakes us out of our quotidian headspace. Music does this better than any other sense save perhaps smell. Now of course, I’m focusing on aesthetics because as Lo said in Art and Numen, aesthetics is cosmology writ large. I’ll take that one step farther: remove bits of the aesthetic willy-nilly and you risk shattering the architecture of the cosmology, closing any door or window by which your people can connect through liturgy, to the Divine. 

I’ll leave the theological issues inherent in the newer translation of the Mass to others to discuss. The way a religion treats the aesthetics of its ritual (and its sacred spaces) is enough for me to know whether they truly value their Gods or not. 

And this is one of the biggest issues I have with Francis. He doesn’t seem to care about preserving his church. He certainly doesn’t care about liturgical integrity. My wish for my Catholic friends is that he is removed from the papacy quickly and replaced with a hardline traditionalist who not only restores the Latin mass in toto but rolls back Vatican II completely. Hell, I’d roll it back to Trent.

Finally, and this is my key point: there is a huge lesson here for those of us engaged in restoring our own traditions. It doesn’t just happen and restoration once “done” will necessarily give way to preservation and protection. It is the grace and burden of each succeeding generation. If we forget that, even once, we’re likely to find ourselves facing the same challenges the Catholic Church is today: dissolution, degeneracy, and destruction. We’ll deserve it too, just like the Catholics (3).

Notes: 

  1. This is all the more so when we are still primarily a religion of converts. My whole point of this article should emphasize the need to raise children in their faith, educate them wisely, and instill in them a respect and reverence for the traditions they will inherit. 
  2. I can’t help but remember one of the liturgies I co-officiated at when I taught at an interfaith seminary. We were just about to begin and I was officiating with a Catholic priest (he had long since left the Catholic Church and belonged now to a break away sect). I had set up the altar table in a way that allowed me to stand in front of it facing away from the group. When my back was turned, his man, thinking I hadn’t gotten around to moving the table to the correct place yet, moved it so we were facing the congregation. I turned around to begin (we were that close to the opening of the rite) and was stuck doing the ritual facing not the Gods as is proper, but the people. It was disconcerting and we had words later. Now, I’d have stopped and insisted we not begin until things were arranged to my specifications but it so took me by surprise, I didn’t respond quickly enough, and the man’s actions had been well-meaning, not intending to cause impiety. 
  3. This is why one of the most important things a polytheistic couple can do is have children and *raise them as polytheists*. Families are sacred. Raise children in your tradition. This is the ONLY way our religions will survive, sustainably, into the next generation. Those of you who, like me, do not want children, find other ways to contribute to the long-term survival of the tradition: support your specialists, teach, pray, pray, pray, pray, do whatever is within your warrant to create sustainable communities. These are the two things we need desperately. The hostility amongst Pagans for raising their children in their traditions boggles. It is the most self-defeating thing we can do. Each child should be raised with an awareness that he or she is inheriting a great gift, grace, but also a burden, an obligation: a tradition to nourish, sustain, and protect. This is what we are here for, our birthright, but also our duty to our Gods. It’s what being an adult is all about and if that’s too difficult for some people, well, too fucking bad. Get out of the way.