Chas. Clifton continues the discussion about religion, politics, and the Gods on his blog here. He also offers what I find a quite profound comment about living as a polytheist:
“That is the polytheistic view of life. The world is a mess. The world is beautiful. The gods are eternal (or as good as). The gods work at cross-purposes, and sometimes humans are caught between them.”
This is something that our ancestors knew, I think, but that we have forgotten. Anyway, his article is worth a read.
Today on facebook I saw an image that had an heroic looking warrior on it and the words ‘There are no Nazis in Valhalla.’ I stopped and looked at the image for a very long time. I do appreciate where the artist is coming from – the rise of political insanity (both right and left I might add) of late is terrifying and bodes ill for our future as a cohesive nation. I understanding wanting to reclaim space from anything smacking of neo-nazism. That being said, from a theological perspective, I think the image is, at best, misguided. It might make us feel good now, pointing out that Heathenry is nota haven for white supremacy and that most of us find neo-nazism disgusting and vile but if one looks at the purpose of Valhalla theologically, I’m afraid I would have to make the argument that yes, there probably are those who were Nazis in life, in Valhalla. The question is why?
Valhalla is the hall of Odin. Its name literally means ‘Hall of the Slain.” Staffed by Valkyries and peopled by warriors slain in battle, it is where Odin collects the best of the best [fighters] in preparation for the inevitable battle of Ragnarok. That preparation is to battle and stave off the destruction and unmaking of the order the Gods have carefully created, a destruction far worse than anything of which humanity can quite conceive. That is Odin’s primary goal: protecting the order of creation. That is His primary agenda and nearly everything He does throughout our mythos is designed to further His ultimate success. In furthering that particular agenda, Odin is absolutely ruthless, as His particular stories clearly show.
To fill His hall, Odin sends His Valkyries out to collect those skilled and brave fighters who fall in combat. Half the slain goes to Odin and half to Freya (the result of an agreement the two of Them made – note that Freya has nothing whatsoever to do with the Valkyries). To think that this God would put any political affiliation ahead of fulfilling His goals goes against both common sense and His essential nature. There is no specification given in anything written about Valhalla in the surviving lore that points to Odin excluding valiant fighters on the basis of their political affiliation. It would be foolish, in light of the purpose of Valhalla, to do so and one thing Odin is not, is foolish.
Given Odin’s goals and the nature of Valhalla, it may be expected that He will snatch up anywarrior of mettle regardless of that warrior’s living allegiance. Death is, after all, a great equalizer. There is no reason whatsoever to think that Valhalla is peopled only by soldiers who share our favored political stances. The only point of discrimination indicated in stories of Valhalla, is that of skill in battle. The only requirement, that one die in combat.
To assume, moreover, that the Gods share our political affiliations is incredibly narrow minded and naïve. It might help motivate us to become involved politically, it might allow us to feel a certain connection to whatever Gods we venerate, it might even make us feel better but it is a terribly humanizing view of Powers that are well beyond our factiousness, or the limitations of temporality and human foolishness. It’s really a shame that we insist on bringing our Gods down to our short-sighted level (and I think we all do this at times).
The purpose of Valhalla is to prepare for a war beyond the scope of human imagining. Death relieves those warriors there of any political allegiances they may have had in life and they become part of the Einherjar, the warriors of Odin, ever-training to protect that which the Gods have wrought: creation. A God as ruthless and far-seeing as the All-Father would be, I think, unlikely to pass up an able addition to this group solely on the basis of politics. Everyone has the right to honor the Gods, and I think it’s a grave mistake to project onto those Gods a political litmus test, or to use Their stories to further our agendas. We can fight for what is good and right, I think, without doing that.
I’m keeping this short because I have a headache (had way too much fun today – hung out with friends for hours in an impromptu polytheist salon ^_^). Anyway, I’ve already noted that I abhor the censorship inherent in TWH’s decision to remove and apologize for a recent article. News isn’t meant to be comfortable or uncomfortable, it’s meant to convey information in as neutral a manner as possible. That’s apparently too much for people in our community (like MadGastronomer, who found the original post lacking but was incapable of clearly detailing howit was so. Oooh it doesn’t adhere to my opinions and feelings so it must be baaaad. Yeah, not how journalism works, sweetheart). That I’ve already commented on here and on fb. What bothers me even more is a thread that I’ve seen in our communities for quite a while now, the idea that every tradition must be inclusive of everyone, that traditions should have no borders, no standards.
This, more than anything else, explains what is so wrong in our communities. ALL traditions have boundaries. What’s more, traditions have a right to set whatever boundaries they wish. If one disagrees with a particular boundary then find another tradition. In addition to the censorship here, this is what pisses me off. I find the “pussy church” utterly ridiculous and theologically lacking but I don’t have to join them. My tradition has firm boundaries and I’m thankful for it. any tradition worth its salt does. Why is this so threatening to other people? Outsiders have zero right to demand entrance into any tradition.
Everyone who is disappointed by this move on the part of The Wild Hunt, should remember it the next time TWH is doing a funding drive. Many of their ads say that Polytheists and Pagans won’t find unbiased news in other media outlets. Well, we’re not getting it here either.
Excellent documentary for anyone interested in and concerned about the loss of free speech. I’m posting a trailer from youtube below, but the movie itself is available on amazon prime.
I saw someone on Facebook today opining that the tattoo they’d gotten so proudly to honor their Gods was now being taken over by a neo-Nazi group. No. Many things can be corrupted and coopted but it doesn’t change the inherent nature of those things. It may alter our perceptions, yes, but othala remains othala, a conduit to a rune spirit of tremendous power, one that has nothing to do with our contemporary politics. It is only lost to hate groups if we allow it to be.
This rune is the rune of lineage and tribe, of tradition, of connection to our forebears, of right order. By that latter, I mean sacred covenants (with Gods, ancestors, land) in place and active. It is a rune of protection, of nurturing and nourishing the family, community, and all tribal bonds. It is that which keeps a community healthy, hale, and whole. Those are all good things. We should be working to keep our families, our communities, our tribes if we had them anymore, safe and secure, healthy, we should be maintaining healthy boundaries and working for overall abundance and well-being. Othala is the transmission of knowledge and in a sacred context mysteries from one generation to another. It is one’s active connection to one’s ancestors and lineage, complete with all the obligations that entails made manifest. I think this is perhaps why it is a favored rune for white supremacist groups. It speaks to tribe and culture, tradition and lineage but what they miss when they co-opt it, is that it speaks to that for each group of people. It doesn’t just speak to that for those with white skin. It speaks to the goodness and necessity of connection to one’s forebears, and protection of one’s family for every tribe and people. That is contained in its nature, encoded in its DNA so to speak. This is what it holds, what it is. How do you make a people strong? How do you ensure that the next generation will be healthy and hale? How do you ensure clean transmission of tradition from generation to generation and what does it mean to do so? All of this is contained within this rune.
Generally, when I work Othala, I find that it connects very strongly first to the ancestors and then to Odin. For the former, it is very much about the active relationship with one’s honored dead, the give and take now as it immediately impacts one’s daily life. It’s about healthy transmission of knowledge, and daily maintenance of those sacred covenants. When it is more Odinic in its manifestation, it speaks to the obligations of sacred hierarchy, of kingship, of sovereignty, and the give and take between king and vassal, or in modern parlance, the necessary work to keep those covenants healthy and functioning properly. It speaks to the need for good boundaries, for self-knowledge, and for being able to look ahead – like Odin on Hlidskjalf— beyond the morass of daily emotions and Sturm and Drang of living to the problems that may face a family or community or tribe down the road, it speaks to the necessity of preparation, and of conscious piety being part of the best prep.
Most importantly of all, Othala is our connection to our folk. I hate that term ‘folk’ because of how it’s so often used, but it is our connection to those ancestors who were functioning polytheists. It is the bridge between what we have now as we work to restore, and what once was and as such it is a reminder of our obligations to be vigilant and strong in our work toward restoration. It reminds us that our ancestors hold the wisdom we need and with their help we can bridge the gap between what was, what is, and what we very much wish to create. Othala is the citadel, under protection of the Gods and dead that has never fallen and will never fall so long as we continue fostering right relationship with the Powers, including our own communities.
I too grow angry when I see hate groups mis-using our sacred symbols, all the more so when it is people who clearly have no devotion to or veneration of the Gods and spirits in question. It angers me greatly. It is not theirs by right. It is not theirs to corrupt. It is not theirs to smear their pollution upon. (I feel the same way when I see Wiccans or Pagans handling the runes without any thought to the Mysteries behind them. I feel the same way when I see Marvel misusing the Valknot or other symbols. It’s appropriation. It’s disgusting. I do understand very much the anger and disgust such misappropriation can evoke). But that they do this does not change the inherent nature of the rune or the rune spirit itself and I think it’s important to not let people’s mis use cause us to abandon these things that are in fact the right of all those steeped in the Northern Ways, or bound to its Gods, or called by its spirits. To abandon that which is ours by right is as great an error as to claim that which is not. We simply have to be louder in proclaiming our traditions, in showing the rune in the proper context, in working as we have each been called to work for the restoration of our traditions. In the end, if the Gods will and our work is successful, those traditions will stand and their ignorant usurpers will be nothing more than a pathetic blip in the march of history. Othala is about preserving and building, not tearing down and not hate.
This morning on Facebook, I was in a brief comment thread about the AFA. They made a Mother’s Day post that got some people’s pussy hats in a twist (which of course, now one cannot read because FB has deleted their page). I don’t care about the AFA, but so much time and energy was being expended in whining about their praise of Aryan Mothers, that I interjected essentially asking “why? Why waste all this time bitching about a group that doesn’t care and isn’t going to change and was willing to boot out a major member, an honorable and devout man because he had a transgender child?” Do you think sending memes to them is going to change their minds? None of us hopefully are that deluded.
Someone fired back that many people assume Heathenry, in all its denominations, is racist because of groups like the AFA. So here are my thoughts on that. Firstly, so what? Are we to define ourselves by the uneducated assumptions of outsiders? Secondly, and more importantly (and what I posted on fb):
It all comes down to how much space one wants to give them in our heads/minds and practice. They’re going to be doing their thing, but I’d like to see other branches of Heathenry being organized and louder, if that makes sense. what rituals are you doing? What are you reading? How are you living your faith, etc., writing about that, showing through practice that it’s not a racist religion, because in the end, if they take up too much space in our minds, then all we’re doing is giving them more power. I don’t want my practice to be a response to theirs. I want it to be a response to the Gods and my relationship with them. The AFA is irrelevant to that.
(Not the Aryan mother the AFA was looking for?)
I deplore victim and safety culture. Of all the issues facing us as a nation and culture, I think this one is one of the most destructive. This is an excellent mini-lecture by moral philosopher J. Haidt on the topic:
So having a discussion today with someone who is very much in support of NOLA taking down any monuments of the Confederacy (according to this guy, that’s not ‘destruction’). I’m very much against removing any historical monuments. I don’t think visible erasure of our history is a way of dealing with that history or of healing its wounds and I’m sick of seeing people accommodating this PC agenda. I question what’s next: desecrating the dead by removing their monuments? oh wait, that’s already happened in Confederate cemeteries.
Now I am no fan of the Confederacy. the history of slavery and human trafficking in this country makes my stomach lurch when I sit and think about it. it’s one of the most shameful periods of our history BUT it’s our history and I don’t think anything good ever came of denying one’s own history. We don’t learn by white washing and pretending things never happened, and we don’t learn by desecrating monuments to the dead.
I would be all for setting up monuments commemorating emancipation, the triumph of the Union, free black communities (NOLA had a thriving free black community since at least the eighteenth century) in the same locales but to erase history well, that leaves us with a generation that doesn’t know where it came from and so can be very easily led to where someone else thinks it should go. I’m never against adding more memorials. It’s the taking away that bothers me.
Someone asked me in one of these discussions whether we shouldn’t prioritize the needs of the living over the dead and I said absolutely not. The dead should and will always take precedence with me. A culture and a people’s worth is determined by how they tend their dead and here’s the thing, if you’re tending your dead rightly and well (which includes holding them accountable for the shit that they did), it will transform how you engage with the living. But in no world should the dead, our ancestors, take second place. Being a functioning human means being in right relationship with the ancestors, the Gods, and the land spirits and that impacts every other living interaction. We don’t achieve that by pandering to a group of PC fanatics who have no long term vision and preach only to sentiment and emotion.
If these monuments are being used by white supremacists to advance their agenda (real white supremacists, not people who refuse to feel guilty for being white), then address that, but don’t think it’s addressed by pretending that history never happened. If you don’t remember your history, you’re guaranteed to repeat it. We’re seeing that in the daily news. These monuments serve as much for warning as they do commemoration.
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I cannot believe the brouhaha over VP Mike Pence’s comments that he won’t dine alone or meet alone with women in order to protect his marriage. Gods forbid a man make choices that support his personal and religious ethics and commitment to the woman he married. I wasn’t planning on writing anything on this, but having been in two discussions and recently seen the mess at Patheos Pagan portal, I felt moved to weigh in. Pence doesn’t need “consent culture” as Beckett so naively assumes, but maybe Pagans need to develop a sense of traditional values.
While I disagree with almost every point of Pence’s political policy, I fully support the respect and mindfulness with which he treats his marriage. This isn’t a matter of having little respect for women, or of thinking himself incapable of control. It’s a matter of simple common sense. He is refusing to put himself in a situation where A) he might be tempted to break his vows (temptations happen, we’re biological creatures) and B) where he might be perceived as unethical or worse falsely accused. Frankly, given the insanity of the left I don’t blame him one bit. I would never want to put someone I loved through that.
But moreover, this is common policy in some fields. I teach and my supervisors have always told us not to meet privately with students of either gender. We were counseled to always crack a door open and to meet in the department when and where other professors were present. This protects not only the faculty member, but the student too. It’s also not an uncommon practice across religions. This is every day for devout Muslims, Orthodox Jews, and many denominations of Christians. I do this to some degree. Since I married I don’t meet with male clients privately. My work-around is having studio space where someone else is almost always present and I schedule those client meetings when the CPA in the next office over and his receptionist are going to be present. It’s a matter of respect and avoiding the impression of impropriety. (For the record, my husband doesn’t care whether or not I do this and finds it old fashioned and amusing).
The question that I would ask VP Pence, and that I’d drill hard for an answer is this: what are your work-arounds? How do you ensure that these practices don’t unfairly discriminate against your female co workers?
I have quite a lot of religious taboos and I can tell you that there are always work- arounds. There are always ways of accommodating one’s secular work while adhering to one’s religious principles. It takes a bit of thought and sometimes a bit of creativity but there are always ways to accommodate both (or almost always).
I don’t know why everyone is getting so worked up over this. This is their personal choice, the way they respect their commitment to marriage. The only ones who really have a say in this are Pence and his wife and yet even having or presenting a traditional marriage based on values is so shocking in this day and age that all these people need to jump in and tell them that maybe Mrs. Pence should be doing a slutwalk instead. Have any women come forward alleging discrimination by Pence because of this? Would they be happier if his career was mired in the kinds of scandals that Bill Clinton and Anthony Wiener have? Would they be happier if some poor aide was coerced into a sexual situation with him because that’s the norm in DC today? The culture has fallen so low that they can only wallow in degeneracy, promiscuity, and lack of willpower. The idea of holding to a standard is ‘triggering’ to them. It’s not surprising that many of the Pagans speaking about this were the ones who defended Kenny Klein and attacked the family that he abused. This kind of permissive, anything goes attitude, which is in stark contrast to the values of our ancestors, is going to ensure that there is no future for these communities.
Finally, if you value something you make both choices and sacrifices to preserve it. Virtue doesn’t just happen. As any of our ancestors would tell us, it takes thought and constant vigilance. It takes cultivation. Why is it always about sexual permissiveness? If one really values consent, then that includes the decision to abstain from fucking everyone and everything on the planet; it includes the decision to honor one’s commitments. But no, the person with values is always the one attacked because in the end, they don’t want us to have values because values lead to traditions and culture and the ability to see through hardship.