I never, ever thought I’d be writing something supporting the AFA. I’m not a member and I’m not folkish but over the last couple of weeks as more and more people in our communities dogpile on them, I’ve been watching from the side lines growing more and more concerned. Then yesterday, I saw this article and that the not so aptly named Camp Courage had, at the last minute, caved to pressure from HUAR and others who were calling in and refused to honor their contract to host an AFA harvest gathering. The AFA was left scrambling to find a new venue, which I’m told they did. That’s when I decided I had to say something.
Why are more people not up in arms about this? Seriously. Do you not see what is going on?
A group made a statement articulating its values. They never said that they spoke for all of Asatru or Heathenry. They specifically said they don’t monitor what their own members do or how well they adhere to these values. They made a statement about their core values on their own facebook page, to their own members. Whether or not you agree with that statement is beside the point. They have both freedom to speak and freedom to assemble in this country. Moreover, groups and traditions have the right to make decisions about their values and membership. If one doesn’t like the result, well the adult thing to do is to find a group or tradition more suited to one’s own values. That of course, predictably, is not what happened here.
Now, I rather expected the Troth to take a run at them. There’s been long standing tensions between the folkish and universalist camps within Heathenry and they are after all competing for the same demographic. There was never any expectation that the Troth would take the high road. (For the record, I am most adamantly NOT a member of either the Troth or the AFA. I have theological issues with them both). As you can see from the link, they’re not even responding to what the AFA actually said; they’re responding to what they would like us all to believe they said. What I didn’t expect was for everyone else to unthinkingly jump on the outrage brigade with them.
No one seems to have given a thought that this is polytheists attacking another group of polytheists – and not just verbally but with real world consequences; or more troubling, to the long term effects of such behaviors. I am old enough and have been a polytheist long enough to remember when gatherings were kept secret, when groups didn’t post about things, when there was a veil of secrecy over who was doing what and where, and on the way this stifled the growth of our traditions. Is that what we want to go back to?
Those attacking the AFA are doing so thinking that they are perfectly justified in doing so, and may even think they are doing a good thing. After all, these people think differently. They don’t tow the leftist party line. They don’t give a rat’s ass about what HUAR, Rhyd, G&R, tumblr or any other group of people might think. They have to be brought down. Well, it’s the AFA today but I think HUAR and co. are testing the waters, just as they were doing when they tried to brand me a racist for posting a video critical of rape gangs (really people, read my blog and make up your own mind there). They’re doing this to see A) how people react and B) if they can whip the communities up into a frenzy and take down this organization. What’s next? Are they going to go after John Michael Greer because he disagrees with Rhyd? Or will it be some poor group of Dianics who just want to be left to practice their tradition in peace? (I happen to think Dianics are ludicrous but you know what my response is to that? I don’t try to attend their gatherings). Whose livelihood are they going to destroy next? They’ve already managed to get a teacher at Cherry Hill to resign. It’s no longer enough to say “I disagree with their position on X and here’s why,” now the opposition has to be demonized (regardless of what their position actually is, mind you. Let’s call them far right, fascist, racist, homophobic, transphobic insert charged term du jour here). It’s no long enough to have one’s own space, now opposition must be silenced and brought to heel until they confirm ideologically.
Think about that. While you’re patting yourself on the back for protecting diversity, think really hard about that.
Think about who might be next. Think about your own gatherings disrupted because someone doesn’t find you ideologically pure enough. Think about the phone call to your boss outing you as Pagan, Heathen, pseudo fascist (even if you’re not). Rhyd is going around (most recently on John Beckett’s patheos column) talking about how there is no witch hunt from the anarcho-Marxist left. He’ll still be saying that I’m sure, when they come for you
GK: I’m seeing an undercurrent seeping into the community (courtesy of the G&R cabal) of devotion, living a life of devotion, and focusing on devotion to the Gods as being an act of ‘privilege.’ Now obviously I disagree and in many cases this idea is being supported by individuals with a history of giving themselves excuse after excuse for why they cannot do the most basic acts of devotion to their Gods – which is ironic, considering the person who is speaking the loudest about privilege is currently on a European vacation paid for by his readers. So I understand that in some cases, there’s a self-serving motive here, a desire for an acceptable loophole. Excluding those cases, why do you think this narrative is otherwise gaining such traction? We saw the beginning of this a couple of years ago in the Pagan-Polytheist arguments about offerings. Those of us talking about making offerings (even something as simple as a shot of water) were damned as elitist and classist (despite the fact that many of us in favor of offerings — and moreover of not consuming offerings given to the Gods and ancestors–were ourselves at one time very poor). I think that was the beginning of seeing the language of oppression being used to justify abrogating devotion, and not just that, but of attacking those who were talking positively about offerings and devotion. This was the beginning of all of us being termed the Piety Posse (still cracks me up. I’ll happily bear that accusation. It’s a hell of a lot better than the opposite). What do you think is going on here, other than the obvious use of this argument as a red herring to distract attention (or perhaps even to justify it) from the G&R attacks on polytheism as a whole? Obviously it’s tapping into the insecurities of parts of the community. What do you think is going on?
KF: Haitians building enormous creches for the lwa in the poorest Port-au-Prince neighborhoods are exerting their privilege? Working-class Mexicans setting up enormous shrines for their ancestors on Dios de los Muertos are being elitist and classist? They are reaching, aren’t they?
First of all, I think “privilege” started out as a very useful concept. It explained how you might miss injustices that your class, race, etc. shielded you from. But instead of using that knowledge to fight injustice, privilege became the secular world’s original sin. It also became a great debate tool: you could disregard anything that came from the mouth of somebody “privileged.” It’s no different than their efforts to link spiritual purity to Nazism and ethnic cleansing. If you throw enough mud some of it sticks sooner or later. And when you’re working within theo-economic systems like Communism and Capitalism of course “rich and privileged” and “poor and powerless” become synonyms for “good” and “evil” — the only disagreement is on which is which.
GK: why is there such an attachment to a poverty narrative within polytheism? There’s nothing wrong with being poor. There’s nothing wrong with being well off. What any of this has to do with honoring the Gods escapes me. Do you think it a hold over from a Protestant work ethic narrative? Though that would lend itself more toward contempt for those who were poor, as it ties in with the Protestant idea that if “God” favored one, then one would be wealthy and successful (which in turn places financial gain as the pinnacle of ‘success,’ which…I would not, nor would many people that I know and which has devolved today into the ‘prosperity gospel’). I do know it’s a narrative being manipulated by our Anarcho-Marxist buddies. It brings me to something though that I’ve seen an awful lot, this idea that we honor the Gods to get things. that we pray to ask for things. that every level of engagement devotionally is mercantile and if we are talking about furthering devotion then we must be getting something out of it on a tangible, financial level, that devotion then becomes synonymous with greed. I know that the idea of ‘do ut des’ underlies the sacrificial paradigm, but that was less about acquiring gain than maintaining right relationship, an ongoing exchange of gifts that kept the contours of that relationship strong. I find it curious that many of the G&R people, but not only they, are eager to project on us this mercantile ambition when it comes to the idea of furthering devotion. It’s as though they are incapable of comprehending doing something because it is the appropriate thing to do, or doing something out of love for the Gods, or doing something out of piety and for no other reason than because we are engaging with Gods. I’m trying to parse out the influences in this incredibly mechanized, dehumanizing vision of relational engagement.
KF: The poverty narrative is one part reaction to the Protestant work ethic and several parts cultural Marxism again. To be wealthy means you are stealing from the poor; to be powerful is to be an oppressor; to be successful is to be a sell-out. And when Marxism meets millennial entitlement you get people who pride themselves on their poverty whilst thinking the world owes them a living, otherwise known as the couch-surfing antifa activist who keeps eating your vegan leftovers. As far as any inability to see Human/Deity relations in any but mercantile terms, that’s not surprising at all. Both Communism and Capitalism reduce all human experiences and interactions to economic terms: neither Marxist polytheism nor capitalist Plastic Shamanism can see the Gods without thinking of price tags.
GK: Also, I think there is a level of hubris, of contempt for the Gods in our opposition that I simply cannot fathom.
I was just reminded of something that happened to a colleague recently: who wrote an article on why we shouldn’t name pets after the Gods and was challenged to prove our Gods are real? While in that case, it was a generic atheist, I’ve seen the same type of attitude within the anarcho-marxist and humanist pagan groups and I think that bespeaks a level of hostility and growing contempt for the Gods that I find appalling. And these people wonder why we are so concerned about miasma.
KF: So true. I read that article and some of the responses made me cringe. As L. said, we’re in the Kali Yuga. Even a simple example of devotion like “don’t name your pet after your Gods” gets met with hostility and push-back. They think that they’re escaping the Monotheism filter by getting away from “Christian ideas” like devotion and piety. But all they’re doing is feeding it: they’re buying into the idea that only Christians can be devoted to their Gods and only Christians can be pious. Rome knew about pietas centuries before Christ and St. Augustine’s City of God is very clearly modeled on the Roman Empire. And some devotional practices coming out of the Indus Valley predate not only Jesus but the Pyramids.
They can’t stand the faintest hint of reverence, of piety, of suggesting the Gods might in any way be above us. Which leads us to the question they never answer: if our ideas are so silly why do they make you so uncomfortable?
In case you haven’t noticed I’m something of a controversial figure within our communities because of the uncompromising stances I take on a lot of issues.
For instance, I’m against raping children:
This is not a grey issue. There is no “let us understand why they believe as they do.” No. Just no. It is the duty, the god damned sacred duty of a community to protect and nourish its most vulnerable members: it’s children. A community that can’t do that frankly has no right to exist.
As well as those who defend and cover up such despicable acts:
In pretty much every case, when those victimized attempted to out their abuser to the community, to get help and protection in the past, they were demonized, told it was their fault, told they were creating drama, told to back off and be silent, told they were bitter and had an agenda. Some of that is still happening now as they come forth again to tell their experiences. This doesn’t just happen in cases of abuse, by the way. I”ve seen it happen in various Pagan and Heathen communities when folks objected to bullying. Suddenly they were ‘over-reacting” or “attacking” said bully. Suddenly all such egregiously foul behavior was “justified” and it was the victim who was in the wrong. Furthermore, when I hear – as i have been in this particular case– of priests and priestesses who *were aware* of a person’s proclivity toward abuse, but who chose to do nothing because they didn’t want to have to deal with it, I consider those “clergy” to be every bit as culpable as the abuser him or herself. It is the job, the primary fucking job of a priest to create safe and sacred space. It is a job of a ritual leader to ensure that those least able to defend themselves (children, those new to the community, young people) are protected. you know what isn’t our job? Turning a blind eye to sexual predation.
I have organized fundraisers to benefit the victims of rape:
So I was talking with my friend Elizabeth (who is going to be part of the ground crew for the Polytheist Leadership Conference) the other day about Kenny Klein and the Frosts and how sexual predation and child abuse are still important issues even if folks would rather talk about the latest controversy out of Patheos. I mentioned that I was going to be auctioning off some of my paintings at the end of the month with the proceeds going to benefit RAINN and how I was really looking forward to the panel on sexual ethics that would be happening on Saturday at the Conference since we’ve got a lot of speakers with experience and interesting perspectives on the topic lined up.
I stand against human trafficking:
One of the books I’ve been ploughing through the last couple of days, mentioned an activist nun, a bad-ass woman Sister Joan Dawber. Her ministry involves helping to free women who have been sold into slavery—and in NYC alone, recent estimates point to upwards of twelve thousand people, mostly women who are survivors of human trafficking. That’s only those who have survived. It doesn’t take into account those who are living in degrading, painful, abusive, humiliating, and dehumanizing conditions against their will now.
He’s teaching his daughter to limit her world, to be afraid. He’s teaching her that she can’t get hurt and get up again and conquer. He’s teaching her to not be bold or curious or adventurous, not to push herself to her limits and beyond. He’s teaching her that she needs a man to rely upon in scary situations, that she can’t problem solve, and he’s teaching that boy that the girl is so much more important, that he is expendable in relation to his sister (and if you don’t think that message has a part to play in man on woman violence, think again).
before writing “Please, Master,” Ginsburg had been locked up in a psych ward for being gay and had been subjected, against his will, to electroshock therapy and that perhaps a poem like this was his fucking declaration of independence. I might have asked them how LGBTQI people are treated socially today, and Gods know there are enough news articles about discrimination and death that I could have brought to the table with just a cursory internet search to bolster the discussion. Hell, a comparison of contemporary Russia and the US would have filled a class.
I find myself more aware of those around me when I’m going to the toilet (and I have OAB – I go to the toilet a lot so I have quite a bit of time to contemplate the bathroom insanity in this country). It’s not lost on me that not only are those bathroom laws transphobic, but they also force feminization on women, a very particular 1950s brand presentation. It’s utter bullshit. (And let me tell you, the first person to accost me for using the ladies room is going to get the crudest, grossest, rudest response I can muster – and they’d better hope I’m not menstruating at the time—such bigotry deserves no less and I can be amazingly crude when the situation calls for it). I have been accosted in the past because people have assumed I was gay. The most egregious occasion occurred in Europe. I was walking arm in arm with my mother. We both have short hair and apparently that’s all that’s needed for a certain type of small-minded bigot to make assumptions. We were nearly attacked. I stood my ground against the three attackers while my mother went to get the police and fortunately they backed down but it was very close and I never again went out with her without keeping one eye peeled for potential violence. That changed the way that I look at all of this. These bathroom laws are about forcing a specific gender compliance, nothing more. It’s not only trans folk who are being harassed, but there have also been cases of women with short hair (longer than mine, I might add), and cancer patients having been harassed too. This is about forcing men and women to dress and comport themselves in a certain way, a way that the fundamentalist Christian right finds appropriate. Well, fuck them. THEY are the problem, not trans people who need to pee.
I oppose using threats and other forms of intimidation against women:
Basically, we have a self-styled “elder” (though I can hardly think of anyone who deserves that appellation less and he’s certainly no one of worth, let alone an elder, in any tradition that I practice) Christian Day who recently ‘outed’ a number of witches in an online forum for working under pseudonyms. When one of these women contacted him pointing out that she was being stalked and harassed to particularly dangerous levels and that she used a pseudonym for her safety, he not only dismissed her comments, but went on to say that he hoped her stalker was successful and that she should call out his (Christian’s) name when she was being raped.
(Especially the kind of murder, rape, torture, and imprisonment regularly employed by Marxists.)
And I condemn genital mutilation:
I studied FGM in fair depth when I was doing my first graduate degree (a good deal of my coursework dealt with women, religion, and violence) and i thought seriously about posting photographs of exactly what this entails here, but I”ll spare my readers. It isn’t ‘circumcision’ as it’s so often called but outright mutilation on girls sometimes younger than five. I learned about it when I was six or seven — i accidentally stumbled across a book my aunt was reading, a novel that begins with the female protagonist undergoing this torture at age five. I was disturbed and then later when i really understood what i’d read, horrified. I’m no greater fan of male circumcision. I don’t believe personally that it compares to FGM. Sorry, just no. that doesn’t mean, however, it isn’t also a form of mutilation. I love penises in all shapes and sizes: cut and uncut but I would personally object to having a child circumcised. if a man wants to do so when he is of age, that’s great. that’s his choice, but that’s not my choice to make. it’s irreparable. I have a friend who’s a nurse and she described during training witnessing a circumcision (and almost got kicked out of nursing school for vociferously protesting the lack of anesthesia–oh, you didn’t know? Doctors then and quite often now don’t anesthetize babies undergoing male circumcision, the attitude being that children don’t feel pain like adults. let’s just think about the dehumanization of that for a moment, not to mention that the boy’s first experience of his genitals is going to be one of aggravated violence). She said the newborn was taken a few days after birth and strapped down to a cold metal table, with his legs strapped apart and the doctor came in with a clamp and would cut him, sans anesthesia. I was nauseated. As I said, no problem if a man wants this done as an adult but I don’t think we should be cutting bits off our children as a matter of course.
You know what? I’m going to keep doing this no matter how unpopular these views are or the lengths people go to try and shut me up.
If you don’t like my beliefs or how I express them – too fucking bad.
With Many Gods West coming up this coming weekend, author PSVL offers good, solid advice here.
“Miasma is unavoidable when going through life; but the miasma which is created by deliberate negligence and impiety is something else entirely, whether you think it is or not. Even if you have no part in creating that miasma, it can impact you. This has been the case in most polytheist cultures, from ancient Greece to modern Shinto, and we ignore it now at our peril.”
Well said, PSVL, and good for you for writing this. The suggestions for attendees are solid across the board here.
Here is an excellent piece by P.S.V.L. who really points out how the current “your religious space must be political” is inherently ill thought out and obsessively anti-theistic (among other things). This is a long, thoughtful piece. Stick with it folks. It’s gold.
We are so very fortunate to be polytheists, to be awake and aware of the many and varied Holy Powers, to be aware of the rightness of veneration and respect for Them. We are so incredibly lucky to be able to take part in the restoration of our traditions here and now, and to be setting our feet once again on the path of devotion and piety to our Gods and ancestors. That is no small thing. It is the most important work we will ever do.
I feel very sorry for people who find putting devotion to the Gods first within religions complicated, people who would rather spend their time attacking devotion, attacking polytheistic traditions, pushing an anti-theistic, humanist, and political agenda. Since the advent of monotheism, polytheisms have been under ongoing attack by the polluted, the impious, and the ignorant or by people too full of themselves to leave any room for devotion to the Gods, people with a clear agenda: corrupt what they cannot destroy; destroy what they themselves cannot corrupt. Nothing has changed except now we’re being told that if we don’t prioritize some political agenda, or social justice agenda, we’re “privileged.” Yes we are. It is both a privilege and an honor to be pious.
Let me repeat that.
It is both a privilege and an honor to be pious.
When people try to tell you otherwise, shame you into supporting their political agendas or social fixations over the Gods (and do this specifically in religious space most of all), understand that they are walking miasma. Purify yourself and get on with the business of venerating the Gods.
Anything good and sacred will always attract bottom feeders. It is our task to ensure that our traditions are clean enough, solid enough, focused enough on the Gods to resist any attempts to tear us down. Understand: it is our privilege and honor to be pious. It is this that elevates us and this to which our lives should be given.
Our polytheistic ancestors knew this well.
“My good man, the evil force that now moves you and prompts you to steal from the holy is neither of human origin nor of divine, but it is some impulse bred of old in men from ancient wrongs unexpiated, which courses round wreaking ruin; and it you must guard against with all your strength. How you must thus guard, now learn. When there comes upon you any such intention, betake yourself to the rites of guilt-averting, betake yourself as suppliant to the shrines of the curse-lifting deities, betake yourself to the company of the men who are reputed virtuous; and thus learn, partly from others, partly by self-instruction, that every man is bound to honor what is noble and just; but the company of evil men shun wholly, and turn not back. And if it be so that by thus acting your disease grows less, well; but if not, then deem death the more noble way, and quit yourself of life.” (Plato, Laws 854ac)
So the humanist and Marxist “pagans” over at G&R apparently seem to think that our Gods are dead. In a recent post one of their authors completely reduces Dionysos to an accessory, using the name as a prop for mis-managed, poorly researched entheogen work. It makes a difference how we talk about our Gods and doing so doggedly in the past tense likewise makes a powerful statement. “Dionysos was….” well, no, children. Dionysos IS but if you actually were to put it in the present as it ought to be you’d have to deal with the fact that you’re co-opting and appropriating the Gods, images, and symbols of a living cultus to which you do not belong. Tsk. Tsk. What would the social justice warriors think?
Of course it’s clear by Rhyd’s response to being called out on this by a priest of Dionysos that he clearly doesn’t care. The Gods simply aren’t important to these people and neither are our traditions or our communities. How can they be when G&R is so clearly pandering to the humanists and atheists (ally with them and you’ll outnumber actual polytheists won’t you? Fortunately for us, we court quality over quantity every time). Can’t have the reality of pesky Gods messing things up. Apparently can’t have consistency or respect for living traditions either.
I posit that G&R in general and Rhyd in particular have a vested interest in making sure that our traditions cease to be LIVING traditions and become merely fronts for his Marxist garbage. This article is just one more vivid example at their game of erasure: of our Gods, our traditions, and our polytheisms. Piss on them.
The rumor-mill is in full effect with certain people associated with a certain site implying that I or my husband are responsible for this:
I’m not going to speak for my husband beyond saying that I asked him and he just laughed and said, “Not my style.” We’re different people with different ideas and if he considers this an important enough matter he’ll make his own statement.
But for myself, I would like to emphatically state that I did not do it, I don’t know who did it, and if I did I’d tell them to take that shit down because it’s not funny. (FFS, people. Satire takes subtlety. I’ve been accused of many things in the course of my working life, but that has never been one of them). That’s the kind of thing people try with me all the time so why would I turn around and do that to someone else? Or have you guys forgotten about this sickening site:
I don’t have to resort to such cheap rhetorical tricks – merely holding a mirror up to the horrible things these people say and do is enough. I can read. That is why I always provide links, so you can go and read too and make your own judgments as opposed to just taking my word on something. Maybe you don’t know me well, but I am not a shy and soft-spoken woman. I don’t hide and take pot-shots at people from the sidelines – I wade right into the thick of it. Say what you will of me, you always know where we stand with one another.
So whoever is responsible for these sites – do you honestly think you’re helping? (and as to who might actually be responsible and whether or not they want to ‘help,’ I think we really should be asking the eternal question: cui bono? Because I read the first site, and it was written by an insider, or someone with an insider’s knowledge of Rhyd and his work). This situation has gotten bad enough without you throwing more gas on the fire. If you can’t out-argue the other side using truth and reason, you don’t deserve to win.
Come on people, we can – and should! – be doing better than this.