In a recent patheos article, John Beckett opined that he wasn’t seeing much devotion from polytheists online. Well, John, maybe we got sick and tired of anti-theistic, humanist and/or Marxist trash coming into our online spaces attempting to pollute them (1). Maybe, sweetheart, we took the bulk of our devotion offline, where that contamination isn’t happening. Maybe we’re just not sharing it with you. No one, after all, is entitled to a bird’s eye view of our devotional lives. Some of us are still blogging, because it’s part of our spiritual Work, but you won’t mention that, will you?
For years now, I’ve taken the high road when it comes to the bullshit thrown my way in the community, thrown not just at me, but at devotional polytheists across the board who won’t bend the knee to the current pollution du jour. Expect that to stop as of now. There is not a single Pagan news outlet that accurately reports Heathen and/or polytheistic news (2). There are only scared, weak, pathetic people who can’t stand the fact that some communities are doing just fine without them.
I am frankly tired of the arrogance of people like Beckett, who assume just because they aren’t seeing something or haven’t been invited in, that “something” isn’t happening. Just because you’re not seeing people discussing their devotion on twitter or facebook, don’t assume it’s not happening. Maybe they’re on different social media sites (I personally have been using slack-chat quite a bit), or maybe, as I said above, some have just stopped publicly blogging.
Moreover, our traditions aren’t trends or fads. Fuck you, Beckett. We aren’t here to entertain or validate you and we are under no obligation to put our relationships with the Holy Powers out there for assholes like you to gawk and mock.
- I have no problem with atheists. Rock on. I have a tremendous problem with anti-theists who come into our community demanding leadership positions.
- And by the way, John, well before I came along, the majority of Heathens did not generally like the “Pagan” label. I really don’t think that has changed, unless you’re only counting as Heathen those who agree with your politics. We, after all have both Gods and ethics, something I see very little of in the generic Pagan community.
The woke brigade strikes again. To preserve their precious feelings and further indoctrinate children with their utter lack of values and virtue, a group #distrupttexts has successfully gotten one of the cornerstones of Western literature banned from a school in MA. Read the full story here.
I read an article earlier about this and “teachers” were proud of this ban. Personally, it would be better if they closed the school, and any teacher that advocates for banning books isn’t fit to teach. They’re so eager to virtue signal their “wokeness” *gags* that they are denying this generation’s children a proper education. Homer’s “Iliad” and “Odyssey” are core texts for understanding pretty much all of the literature that came after it. I suppose these woke “teachers” don’t want to have to be bothered to explain different values and customs or, you know, do their jobs and teach.
I suppose stories about heroism, cleverness, virtue, and fidelity (especially in women) are difficult to teach when the people teaching it have none of those qualities. Those pushing this ban referred to the “Odyssey” as “trash.” I have yet to see their accomplishments, other than denying the children placed in their care a proper education.
Personally, if you haven’t read the “Odyssey” and the “Iliad” by the time you graduate high school, you’re not ready for college. I only lament that high schoolers aren’t reading them in the original Greek these days.
The only way these days to guarantee that your children are getting a decent education, one that will render them thinking, literate, historically aware adults is to homeschool. This trend toward banning the best books of world literature, of classic literature is a perfect example of where public education is going. Object to this, parents. Object strongly and never, ever apologize for challenging this censorship. Your children deserve at least that.
We don’t have to agree politically. I’m seeing a lot of articles espousing the idea that all Heathens have to be leftist to be Heathen, that if one doesn’t replace devotion with politics, one can’t call oneself Heathen. On both counts, this is utter, unmitigated garbage. A religion is a space wherein one learns to properly honor the Gods. Period. You can hold whatever political opinions you want and still be Heathen. Why? Because your religious identity is not defined by your political position. It’s defined solely by whether or not you venerate your Gods and ancestors.
I’m not surprised to see leftists trying to take advantage of recent events to force their political narrative into Heathenry. People are scared. We’re seeing our religion dragged through the mud and many of us are afraid that this is the first in what will turn into a crusade against Heathenry in the near future. I am afraid though that there are those who are taking advantage of that fear and anxiety to push a particular political position. While I agree we should be calling out white supremacists in our midst – because that garbage does not need to be the face of Heathenry (aside from being complete and utter bullshit too)—I likewise think we should be resisting radicalization by the left. Both are evil.
Moreover, you do not have to be active politically to be a good Heathen. Heathenry is about ONE thing: venerating the Germanic Gods, one’s ancestors, and the land. Of course, that bleeds out into other ways that one lives one’s life: cultivating family, civic engagement, etc. but politics is not religion and one should never, ever be mistaken for the other. This is yet another attempt by those with no piety to destroy our traditions, and shame on them. It’s a pretty pitiful and pathetic thing to do.
I hate seeing our religion equated with white supremacy. I find it disgusting. I hate seeing our sacred symbols used by Neo-nazis. I find that revolting and nauseating. However, and it kills me to say this because I really, really want to follow the herd on this one and espouse the opposite: one can be deeply religious and politically wrong. Their political identity, as much as we may wish it otherwise, doesn’t rule out possible Heathenry, as comforting as it might be for us to say it does. Now, I’ve been Heathen for thirty years and I know that the white supremacy problem is not as pandemic in Heathenry as the media thinks it is. We’re just a juicy target (probably more because of our family values and piety than the symbols we use, or any particular politics, to be honest). It is, however there on the fringes. I would like to see more work done to educate those in our community who hold those views, to help them move away from the hate. It’s not that difficult to make a theological argument countering such prejudice. Since this is a religion and not a political party, it’s to the theological we should turn.
I suppose when one’s political identity is all one has, when one hasn’t bothered cultivating any type of devotion to the Holy Powers, it must really seem like everything is political. It’s certainly less frightening to twist Heathenry into a political movement than to sit at the feet of our Gods in awe and terror. Cowards. That’s what so many of you are. You pander to whatever is easiest. That’s what these incessant calls to politicize Heathenry are all about. Never a thought to religion, piety, or the Gods, just human bullshit. Because we never cease to try to pull the holy down to our level so we can drag it through the shit and justify our own laziness. Cowards. If white supremacy is wrong – and it IS—call it out. Don’t pollute our religion by pretending it’s all about politics though. Devotion is already an uphill battle for most people – and a far more valuable one than all the politicking in the world. Maybe reorder your priorities.
Predictably Patheos Pagan is on a roll again. If you want to learn how to do any type of polytheism poorly head right on over. I’m still shaking my head at what was read to me this morning. Apparently, people are freaking out because some polytheists (iirc, the conversation is about Celtic polytheism, but Heathenry was mentioned too) choose to A) honor Gods of multiple traditions or B) NOT honor Gods of multiple traditions. If you do B, you’re a racist (and maybe acting like the Heathens do! *gasp*) and if you do A, you’re doing it wrong, or some such. The lack of logic, sense, and piety gets kind of hard to follow sometimes.
Get ready to have your minds blown, folks: either one can be proper and pious. Either one. It depends on the devotee, the Gods, their wyrd, their tradition, and any number of things. This is between the individual devotee and his or her Gods, and any sensible polytheist would get his butt to a good diviner, preferably one within his tradition (who is therefore familiar with that person’s primary Deities) to find out what his Gods want, if his can’t sort it himself. You’re not racist if you choose to only honor one particular pantheon (and unless that pantheon is Germanic, it doesn’t make you Heathen. Know what? Being Heathen is not synonymous with being racist either, and it’s just flat out hate-speech to claim otherwise). You’re not a bad polytheist if you honor more than one pantheon. Actually, the latter is probably closer to what many ancient polytheisms looked like.
Here’s the thing, and if this bunch actually read books, studied history and theology, and had one wit of sense among them, they’d know this: there was hardly ever any expectation of exclusivity in pre-Christian religion. One honored one’s household and ancestral Gods, the Gods of one’s city or town, and was free to initiate into any mystery cultus he or she wished that would take them (just because we might want initiation, doesn’t mean we are owed access after all). If one did not wish, that was fine too. There are a lot of problems we face as modern polytheists working to restore our respective traditions. This bitch ain’t one of them. It shouldn’t be one of them, and really, there are better things to do than invent problems.
My caveat, and I say this working in a blended tradition, is that each family of Deities should be honored according to Their own customs. I would not advise mixing and matching ritual styles. That’s a matter of politeness and respect. Our polytheistic ancestors crossed pantheons all the time. Here again though, if there is any confusion, an elder, priest, spirit worker, or diviner can help you sort it out. If you are called to honor only one pantheon, that doesn’t mean you’re not hearing your Gods rightly (yes, this was one of the comments made on Patheos: if you honor certain Gods exclusively, you’re not hearing Them). There could be reasons you can’t even comprehend for why They might put that restriction on you, and it’s hubris for some pissant second rate blogger over at Patheos, or anywhere else, to imply that it is hateful or wrong. Likewise honoring across pantheons.
You can find a million reasons not to do devotion but in the end it’s a choice. Every choice creates opportunities and closes off others. We have to work that out – in fear and fucking trembling – with ourselves and more importantly with and before our Gods. You know who doesn’t count in this equation? Some blogger on the internet whom you will never meet, and whose opinion matters to no one.
I just ran into a “scholar” on twitter (it was I passing and I don’t recall his handle) who said “well, they” meaning polytheisms “weren’t contemporary for very long. Christianity took care of that. They were very successful.” Um…as I did in response to twitter, let me explain how Christianity took care of it: by first passing religiously restrictive laws, then eventually (usually sooner rather than later) butchering religious practitioners, desecrating sacred spaces, destroying holy objects, spreading like a pollution over the land via intimidation (backed by military force), violence, bloodshed, the martyrdom of devout polytheists, destroying temples, and cultural and religious genocide. They’re still doing it (India, Brasil, Haiti, various countries in Africa, anywhere they think they can get away with it). You know what though? We’re still here. Polytheism is still here. We’re growing. We never disappeared fully so Christianity was not as successful as it thinks it was. It did not win. So, you, dear scholar, can suck it.
Seriously, it’s gross to be gloating about the effects on real bodies, real people, real traditions, real places of colonialism, conquest, and genocide. Toward no other group would this be acceptable.
As many of you know, I get called a nazi pretty regularly. I’m not; in fact, I find Nazism and white supremacy vile (as I’ve articulated numerous times in my work for years), but that doesn’t matter. I even come from a military family with close relatives who fought actual Nazis in WWII and that doesn’t matter either. The only thing that matters is that I won’t be swayed from whatever theological position vis-à-vis our traditions that I’m holding by emotional blackmail and clumsy sophistry, positions that have nothing at all to do with politics.
Because it probably needs to be restated yet again, racism, white supremacy, homophobia, transphobia are gross, ugly, and have no place in our traditions. Our Gods are there for those who love and venerate Them. Our traditions are there for those willing to take up the privilege of learning these sacred protocols. But I digress…
This all got me thinking tonight about how many people in Heathenry and in other polytheistic traditions stay quiet on religious matters about which they care deeply because they are afraid of being termed a ‘Nazi.’ Mind you, there are places in the world where people are dying for their Gods and their ancestral ways, places like Brazil for instance where Pentecostal terrorists are murdering Candomble practitioners who refuse conversion and who refuse to desecrate their shrines. Even here in America people can lose their jobs, or custody of their kids for being outed as Polytheists or Pagans. Yet, while devout, committed people fight for their religious freedoms we have anti-theistic Wiccans, Neo-Pagans, and assorted eclectic playgans for whom it’s all make believe (of course, this is not all Wiccans, or all Neo-Pagans but I think you know who you are). We are literally not speaking the same language, practicing anything approximating similar traditions, or even moving in the same intellectual worlds.
So, I wonder how many people are afraid to practice Heathenry or to speak out when these outsiders come into our traditions trying to erase not just basic piety but the polytheism itself at our traditions’ core. Because when those same people cannot “win” a debate by means of fact, and when their emotional blackmail doesn’t work, inevitably cries of “Nazi,” “Racist,” “Patriarchy,” etc. will come next, along with other assorted ad hominems.
Let those things come. At this point, those terms are pretty much meaningless. Such hysterical people have been debasing the intellectual currency of those words and giving openings for actual evil people to prosper. When people who have worked their entire public careers fighting this stuff get labeled “Nazi,” well, when an actual neo-Nazi does, they can just shrug it off. How will interlocutors tell the difference? Every time you call someone a Nazi undeservedly, you’re actually helping the white supremacist movement erode and infiltrate our community. Good job, assholes.
As to my readers, you know what you believe. Any decent person that knows you, knows what you believe and will stand by you knowing such slander to be false. Those that don’t are cowardly parasites and you don’t need them in your life. If people insist on attempting to demean you by such insults, that speaks to their character, not yours. Let them show who they truly are.
Our Gods, our ancestors, our traditions, our communities deserve better and we can be better, do better, and cultivate moral courage in the face of this utter nonsense, because that’s all it is: people with arid theologies, incapable of reasoned debate, oppressed by differing views, and upset that we hold our Gods and traditions more highly and more precious than their feelings. They’re like little yapping terriers that have never been house trained; and that’s about as much import as we should give them.
Don’t be afraid of the words people throw at you. Stand for what you believe in and never let your voice be silenced.
I’m having two simultaneous conversations on twitter right now.
In the first one I’m talking about how vile it is that neo-nazis have appropriated othala and how sickening it is and how we as Heathens have an obligation to speak out against this.
In the second, I’m being called a nazi apologist and people are using articles where I denounce loss of freedom to prove my nazihood.
…all because they’re butthurt that I won’t proselytize, I understand the difference between emotional blackmail, reasoned argument, and fact, and I don’t want to teach a religion I don’t practice! wooooooo
WTF is going on? It’s too early in 2020 for this level of clownery.
In our previous discussion, Neptunesdolphins hit the nail on the head perfectly, so perfectly, that I am pulling her comment out to highlight it here:
“Sigh, once more modernity and Monotheism strikes again. I know lots of Pentacostals and Catholics who take exception. How else are you slain in the Holy Spirit or see the Mother Mary, unless you engage with God?
Problem is that living in monotheistic culture is that all Gods are false except for the “One True God.” If the Gods and other Divines are treated as fiction, then engaging with fictional characters is considered mental illness. Unless it is pop culture Deities.
The other is that monotheistic thinking flattens the world into human, and only human. Since there is a singularity of life, people cannot imagine engaging with a plurality of Beings. It is beyond their imaginings.
The other thing about tumblr which highlights problems in Paganism – the Deities are smaller than people. People are the Deity. There is no Other, there is only them and themselves.
And of course, Progressivism as it is practiced is a religion. What is happening in Paganism is that everything is being homogenized by Progressivism. So we have the preoccupation with who is a Nazi and who should be thrown out for impolitic thoughts. Monotheism in action – thought crimes and the flattening of thought.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself. I would also emphasize that the attitude expressed on the tumblr page I was discussing yesterday is not limited to Polytheisms. I know plenty of devout Catholics, Orthodox, etc. who have run up against it too. Thing is, their traditions’ structures are able to support and deflect this nonsense far better than ours. We have people taking it in wholesale and building a hollow practice around it and wondering why they’re getting nowhere.
I’m afraid I’m going to be very blunt here, because in thirty years of teaching and serving as clergy, I have never seen such utter garbage spreading like wildfire throughout our respective communities as I do now, not even when I first became Heathen (and believe me, the level of bullshit in the Heathen community at that time was a thousand times worse than it is now – and that’s saying something). Part of the problem is the pseudo-progressive contingent on tumblr, and part of it just the sad lack of adequate education in North America today. It’s sometimes hard to see where one begins and one ends.(1)
When someone tells you that actual engagement with the Gods is wrong, that being able to sense or hear Them is mental illness—even one single moment of theophany, that one cannot be claimed by a Deity, called as a priest, function as an oracle, that being a godspouse is mental illness, not only are they completely willfully, and egregiously ignorant of the history of their religion, but they are speaking impiety and attempting to do violence to the pious. They are butchering the religion to fit their own misguided ignorance and attempting to damage those actually building up their traditions. The best advice I can give when encountering such filth online is this: Avoid the impious. Ignore them. Also, consider their motives (2).
Inevitably these people will say “we’re all of equal importance”. Well, no, actually we’re not. Equality is a myth they tell themselves to excuse their own mediocrity before the Gods. We are all unique in our devotional relationships. If, by equality, one means that we are all valued and loved by our Gods then yes that is true; but if by equality one means that we are all exactly the same and that no one has any deeper devotional relationship or more talent in a particular area of religious specialty, then that is nonsense and should be ignored (3). Moreover, it smacks of Protestantism, where demonstrated virtue is a sign of being “elect.” The corollary of course, is that if one doesn’t have a vocation or any of the signs of being “elect” then it means one is of less importance to their God. Well, we’re not Protestant and it’s time we stopped behaving like half-assed Calvinists. Our polytheistic ancestors honored and respected their specialists: those called by the Gods, mystics, clergy, shamans, diviners, oracles, spiritworkers – technicians of the sacred known by different names in different traditions. Why is basic piety so damned hard for us?
We need to strongly resist the push of people more concerned about virtue signaling and politics than venerating the Gods when they attempt to excise from our religions the natural life of devotion. Basically, if it’s on tumblr, it’s probably inaccurate, wrong, and possibly impious. Always, always consider the source. Consider what they contribute. Go to your Gods, go to prayer, and don’t be afraid to tell such people to take a running leap off the nearest cliff (4).
- Religion is not the place for politics. It is about honoring the Gods. Religion is a set of proper protocols for engaging appropriately with the Gods and ancestors. Be as political as you want, but don’t mistake your civic impulse for religious cultus. Social and political engagement is what we do as adult human beings. We shouldn’t need our Gods and religion to make such engagement licit.
- It’s not surprising that these things would be condemned, after all, if we’re actually engaging with Gods and ancestors, if we have the benefit of good priests, competent oracles, if we honor our mystics and godspouses then we’re less likely to listen to their political bullshit when they attempt to bring that garbage into our sacred spaces.
- There is a lovely anecdote in St Therese of Lisieux’s “Story of a Soul,” that was told to her by her sister Pauline. As a small child she asked her sister if God loved saints more than regular people. The sister took a thimble and a wine glass and filled them both to overflowing and asked the child, “Which is more full?” The answer: they were both full to utmost capacity and so it is with the love of one’s God as well.
- This does not, of course, absolve us from developing spiritual discernment, from questioning ourselves, from doing the work, including the work of therapy if need be. Piety, however, is not mental illness nor is being called (κλῆσις)to a vocation.
I just returned from a conference at Villanova this past weekend. The Patristics, Medieval, and Renaissance (PMR) conference is one of the leading theology conferences held every year just outside of Philadelphia. It’s really my favorite conference, the one I really, really try to do every year. It’s a lovely group of people and I always learn so much when I attend. This year the panels were so good (they pretty much always are) and I feel I have new things to gnaw upon, so much productive feedback to integrate into my work, and so many new books to track down and read. I can’t wait for next year (and for me to say that about any conference is miraculous. I might enjoy them but they generally wear me out. This one, well, I was sorry when it ended).
This year I chaired a panel and presented a paper. Usually I work in Patristics. My ongoing area of interest is developing a cultural poetics of the eunuch, looking at early Christian sources and the way ideas of the self and the holy were mediated through the figure of the eunuch. Because this conference covers more than just late antiquity, however, I was able to present a side project, one that is rapidly becoming a major secondary area of interest for me. I first gave an iteration of this paper, titled “Ravens in the Mead-hall: Rewriting Faith in the Wake of Charlemagne and the Saxon Wars” at last year’s Kalamazoo Medieval Conference and in between then and now, I’ve tweaked it considerably. This paper discusses Charlemagne’s war against the Saxons and their consequent forced conversion through the lens of post-colonial theory. It utilizes the Heliand, the 9thcentury Saxon translation of the Gospels as a lens through which to explore the re-positioning of the Saxons as a subaltern people, and the ways in which their indigenous religious traditions remained vividly relevant within the framework of Christianity. It gets a little darker than this implies, discussing things like forced child oblation, genocide, and the erasure of indigenous religious cultures too (and these darker threads are things I intend to continue exploring with this line of research). It was remarkably well received.
This is partly my way of holding space as a polytheist for our ancestors. Yes, it is useful to go to professional conferences. It’s a chance to explore these side topics, to get valuable feedback, in an atmosphere that – at least in this case – is fairly relaxed and congenial. Yes, I really want to look more closely at the ways post-colonial theory can be applied to Charlemagne’s atrocities. The more I learn about forced child oblation, forced exile, forced conversion and all the various ways the Franks impeded on and erased Saxon religious culture, the more I’m convinced that it’s here specifically that structures were first put in place that came to be used throughout the conquest of the New World, six hundred years later. Before all of that, however, I am holding space for the dead.
This is important. This is part of our history as contemporary polytheists. This is the story of our traditions, what happened to them, and why we are in the position we’re in today of having to reclaim, rebuild, and restore. If we do not understand what happened and where we came from, then we will never truly appreciate the importance of that restoration, of holding staunchly to our traditions, of cultivating piety and respect and reverence for our dead.
Why do I do this? Let me give one small example: during the Q&A, one of the attendees, a senior scholar who herself later presented a fascinating paper on a piece of Arthurian lit., said to me very earnestly, “I think it’s important to remember that the Franks had good intentions.” When I picked my jaw up off the floor I responded, “I’m sure that makes all the difference to the five thousand plus Saxons butchered at Verden.”
I’m sure that makes all the difference in the world to the men, women, and children who fought to maintain religious and cultural independence and instead ended up exiled, impoverished, with their children forcibly interred in monastic “schools” where they were Christianized and denied a Saxon identity religious or otherwise. Are you fucking kidding me? That is like saying Hitler had good intentions too. Who the fuck says that? Yet here we are in 2019 and I’ve an intelligent, educated scholar in all earnestness urging me to remember: the Christians had good intentions. That’s why I do this, because that attitude is everywhere in academia. It isn’t genocide if it occurred before the 19thcentury and was blessed by the cross.
Of course, not everyone thinks that way and most of the scholars that I work directly with would be equally appalled by such a thoughtless comment, a comment that erases the religious and cultural genocide of a people. Still, there are enough who do not question the narrative of the goodness of conversion, of Christian expansion, who do not realize that such expansion came with a heavy price, writ in blood, who do not realize it was forcibly done against the will of numerous peoples, or who do not care, that it is important to hold the line openly and at times vociferously. The evidence is there for those scholars who care to look. It is my obligation to do so. The intentions of those who destroyed our traditions really don’t matter. The results speak for themselves.
For those interested in reading my article in full, it will be coming out in the next issue of Walking the Worlds.