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.
This shows everything NOT to do when you want to work effective magic, up to and including insulting the city and land spirits.
How utterly pathetic. If you want to be competent, do the opposite of what you see here.
I’ve been watching a lot of videos and seeing facebook posts and various responses to the street theatre clusterfuck masquerading as a magical operation: i.e. self-identified witches and pagans trying to hex our President.
As a polytheist I want to make it clear I and the majority of my co-religionists have no part in this.
Whatever one thinks of our President, he is our president and harming him is going to harm the country. More to the point, there’s going to be backlash, and not just fundy Christian prayer warriors attacking. This is a guy who has never encountered criticism without making a petulant display of a response.
Good job, folks. You stupid fuckwits have managed to undo thirty years of work to legitimize your “spiritualities” in one go. Polytheisms are going to be tarred with the same brush that blackens you unless we clearly distance ourselves from this stupidity. And it is stupidity. Most of these people couldn’t magic themselves out of a paper bag, as is evident by the incompetent ritual that has been proposed as the center piece to this.
I guess actually growing up and becoming engaged in the civic process is too hard for these precious snowflakes. Don’t expect any of us with real religions to put our lives on the line for you. And heads up from a magician: when you do something like this, first rule of thumb: shut the fuck up about it.
A gay, Jewish journalist gives interviews while in hiding as a rioting mob calls for his blood in the streets below.
This isn’t Berlin 1939, it’s Berkeley 2017. It’s not the Nazis we need to worry about; it’s the SJW cultural Marxists.
The social justice left is the biggest threat to freedom in the US, more than anything else, including president Trump and his cabinet. Their willingness to use violence to silence anyone with whom they disagree, their hysterical fear mongering to prevent differing viewpoints from being aired, their slander and libelous attacks on anyone who doesn’t tow their party line, their lack of patriotism, their obvious contempt for America and its constitutionally protected rights, and their obvious indoctrination with cultural Marxism make them a clear and present danger to the security of this nation. We should all be concerned about this and yet, and yet, otherwise intelligent people will look at the political violence, designed to prevent free speech and consider it a good thing. Wake up, folks.
Today there are riots in Berkeley, CA. Fires have been lit, rocks thrown, buildings looted, and an immigrant speaker had to be spirited away by a security detail because of threats to his safety. Berkeley—ironically with its history of defending free speech, you know, the right enshrined in the First Amendment that underpins all our other rights and freedoms—is now the site of riots that are making world news.
Watching this is so surreal because these are the exact same problems we’ve been dealing with in our communities for the past couple of years, just on a large scale and far more dramatically. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s a quick refresher). What’s the common denominator? Marxism, always and inevitably. It goes after our fundamental freedoms (especially religious freedoms). And given that we have a generation of students subjected throughout their entire academic career to unthinking cultural Marxist indoctrination (we let all those communists and hippies go into education…bad idea that. They shouldn’t have been let anywhere near academia), they’re ill prepared to connect the historical and ideological dots.
It’s time to get woke, as the left would say, but we need to educate ourselves and wake up to the absolutely nihilistic, ahistorical, anti-theistic, unpatriotic, anti-family, anti-tradition dogma behind their rioting. Social justice? Not hardly. Social justice is a perversion and a mockery in its name. It doesn’t seek actual justice but the enslavement of the masses and if our traditions have any hope of survival, we need to crush this now, inexorably, or they will crush us.
And if you think this is hyperbolic, consider the history of Iran. In the 1950s it was a progressive, modern culture with Western values, women in education, medicine, law and prosperity was high; they had a bright future. Then they started having protests just like this on college campuses, which turned into riots, just like this. Khomeini came to power and now they’re a backward, impoverished, totalitarian state. And the women, their future there isn’t looking so bright. (They sure don’t go around with pussy hats). I could draw similar parallels all the way back to ancient Rome but we don’t need to: this is happening here today. You can either allow it, or stand and resist it, stand in support of our fundamental freedoms as Americans. Drive this communist trash out (with your words, your humor, and your commitment and engagement with the political process – while they go around muttering about punching Nazis and the more delusional among them actually acting on it). I am so deeply ashamed to be an American right now. I have never been more disappointed in this country than I have been today.
Here’s a full news report along with one of those aforementioned interviews:
I am not an ethicist. Firstly, I belong to Odin; secondly, I find many of the accepted ethics of modernity questionable, so I find it rather amusing in an ironic sort of way that over the past few days I’ve found myself having discussions on just that: ethics, discussions in which I am in the position of defending Enlightenment values. Oh well, I’m sure the denizens of Hell are enjoying their winter sports.
This past week the internet has been cheering the antifa smackdown (literally) of white supremacist Richard Spencer. I’ve found myself in multiple debates with people about whether or not this was an appropriate action. Responses range from “He was a Nazi, we hit Nazis to keep the Holocaust from happening again.” To expressions of delight and the hope that this will become a thing “like the ALS challenge” to various musical remixes being made of the newsclip. Let’s be clear: however vile Spencer’s politics may be, he did not actually physically assault anyone. An Antifa protestor ran up and punched him [at least twice] without any provocation other than Spencer holding an ugly political opinion. Spencer was going to dinner with some reporters when he was sucker punched.
People are arguing that it is ok to do physical violence to those who hold different opinions. Think about that. Think about that for a very long time. That’s not only a violation of free speech, but it’s one hell of a slippery slope.
Let’s be fully honest here: that’s not a principle we should want to establish – just from a practical standpoint. I really don’t think some SJW with a pussy hat and skinny jeans really wants to go up against some average skinhead enforcers. But even if that were not the case, using violence to silence someone because you dislike their opinions is morally reprehensible. It shows the inherent deficiency of your own argument: you can’t persuade someone with your words and reason, instead you have to resort to your fists.
Let’s turn the trope around.
Several years ago, some Heathens publicly stated that I should be raped by a horse and have a gun barrel applied liberally to my temple because they disagreed with my theological opinions. Is that ok? I have opinions that are vile to them, like Loki is worthy of veneration and shamanism is a thing. Guess it’s ok for them to be heading to the stables. It’s open season on Galina. I better not go to the track any time soon. *sarcasm*
Or maybe I should run up and randomly sucker punch the next Muslim guy I meet. I mean after all, he himself may not have ever cut off a woman’s clit, thrown a gay person off a building, or driven a truck into a crowded Christmas market but plenty of his co-religionists have. So if we’re lumping people in and believing in group guilt (hey, who else espoused such a notion? Oh wait, that was one of the central tenets of Nazism) then the poor Muslim dude who just wants to go to dinner and have a nice night out with his family, who happens to practice a monotheistic religion that also includes people like Daesh, well, he’s gonna have a bad night. Is that ok? Guess I should go get my SAP gloves ready.
In case you are struggling with the answer: NO. NO. NONE OF THAT IS OK. Jesus fucking Christ.
What’s the difference in every one of these situations? Ethically: there isn’t one.
Let me now turn this on its end again and make it even more uncomfortable and require a bit of self reflection from some of my readers:
Let’s be perfectly honest here, all of you sitting there gloating and watching these videos of Spencer getting punched over and over again are no different than the Nazis who got off when their mobs would attack Jewish businesses and they would endlessly laugh about it and do cartoons in their newspapers, gloating that these people were finally getting what they deserved. (I’ve heard “well, Spencer and his ilk are calling for our extermination.” Nazis believed the Jewish people were doing the same thing with equally groundless basis and fuck it I can’t believe I’m defending Spencer. I find his politics disgusting but I find this collective madness even more revolting and dangerous).
You guys are the Nazis here, regardless of what political position you actually happen to espouse: you are behaving in the exact same manner as that which you revile. Read your fucking Nietzsche, people. If you can’t look yourself in the mirror now and change this, you’re going to be led down a much darker path in the future, when things really start falling apart. Let us not become the monsters we seek to hunt.
A good article on the ethics of this situation may be found here.
Or “I don’t believe in Gods because polytheists are mean. Muh feelings. Muh feminism. The patriarchy.”
My husband is a bit of a provocateur. He often sends me articles of which he thinks I ought to be aware. Today was one such example, though I think he mostly does this to wind me up and get me going. Sometimes I even allow that to work. Like today. I woke up to find this piece of steaming horseshit in my inbox. Because my husband cares.
Ah what the hell. I haven’t gone on a good tear in awhile.
So the author of the aforementioned piece begins by announcing that she has “god-fatigue.” Makes me wonder what the Gods have with us sometimes but oh well, let’s look at the piece paragraph by paragraph. cracks knuckles
“After taking a couple of weeks off from blogging, and then being gently informed by my editor that those couple of weeks were actually six months, I realized that I’m burned out on gods.”
Yes, that’s called acedia, and reams of paper have been expended with advice on how to combat its degenerative effects on one’s spiritual life. It’s certainly not something to indulge, nor is it something of which to be proud.
Generations of Christian theologians have written about this particular spiritual vice with a goal of preparing people to combat it. It was once considered one of the eight deadly vices, which Gregory the Great compressed into the seven deadly sins. Acedia is spiritual negligence but it leads to a listlessness and torpor in attending to spiritual duties. John Cassian referred to it as a ‘persistent and obnoxious enemy’ and Psalm 90 calls it the ‘noonday demon.’ (1). It can afflict anyone engaged in spiritual practice and the generally accepted “cure” for this affliction is work: lack of idleness, consistent prayer, more spiritual engagement.
Evagrius of Pontus in his text Praktikos also talks about Acedia and Cassian was deeply influenced by and indebted to this earlier theologian:
The demon of acedia—also called the noonday demon —is the one that causes the most serious trouble of all. He presses his attack upon the monk about the fourth hour and besieges the soul until the eighth hour. First of all he makes it seem that the sun barely moves, if at all, and that the day is fifty hours long. Then he constrains the monk to look constantly out the windows, to walk outside the cell, to gaze carefully at the sun to determine how far it stands from the ninth hour, to look now this way and now that to see if perhaps [one of the brethren appears from his cell]. Then too he instills in the heart of the monk a hatred for the place, a hatred for his very life itself, a hatred for manual labor. He leads him to reflect that charity has departed from among the brethren, that there is no one to give encouragement. Should there be someone at this period who happens to offend him in some way or other, this too the demon uses to contribute further to his hatred. This demon drives him along to desire other sites where he can more easily procure life’s necessities, more readily find work and make a real success of himself. He goes on to suggest that, after all, it is not the place that is the basis of pleasing the Lord. God is to be adored everywhere. He joins to these reflections the memory of his dear ones and of his former way of life. He depicts life stretching out for a long period of time, and brings before the mind’s eye the toil of the ascetic struggle and, as the saying has it, leaves no leaf unturned to induce the monk to forsake his cell and drop out of the fight. No other demon follows close upon the heels of this one (when he is defeated) but only a state of deep peace and inexpressible joy arise out of this struggle.(2)
While Evagrius was writing specifically for monastics, it was understood that acedia wasn’t just something against which monks and nuns had to guard. It could afflict anyone. It’s spiritual laziness, spiritual torpor…I might even go so far as to call it a spiritual depression and it requires treatment. Monks had an advantage over the lay person in that they had a systematized access to teachers, spiritual directors, superiors, etc. Pagans and Polytheists can suffer from acedia too and unlike monks, we don’t generally have access to competent spiritual direction. Our communities just aren’t there yet (as this article so clearly shows. Commentators on the piece are more interested in spewing pseudo-feminist claptrap about “the patriarchy” than offering advice on how to overcome spiritual depression). Acedia is horrible and it can be wrenchingly difficult to haul oneself up out of the pit into which it can thrust a person.
The author of the piece goes on, declaring:
“I never came to Witchcraft for the gods,”
and that says it all right there. But you stayed, you know, so you could do your part in preventing any actual spirituality from happening.
Still further, we’re told:
“…but mythological deities–you know, the ones whose stories you can read at your local public library–hold such a fundamental place in modern Paganism that they quickly seeped into my practice. Starhawk’s writings center on nature, the immanent Goddess, and the horned God; Reclaiming Witchcraft centers on gods from world mythology and folklore to the point that–and this is a very gentle, loving critique–we hold rituals in Redwood forests and on dramatic beaches and give only the most cursory nod to the abundant spirits around us, focusing instead on gods and stories from faraway cultures. I stepped back from my local ritual planning circle in part because we invoked gods even for business meetings, and I was tired of elaborate, theatrical invocations for deities I didn’t care about. Other Reclaimers find deep meaning in the gods they work with, and I’m happy for them. But I eventually had to admit that it wasn’t for me.”
Wow. So you’re shallow and it just rubs you the wrong way that people participating in a RELIGION want to actually focus on Gods (though I agree: nature spirits should also be given their due, especially when in their domain).
I also question the term ‘work with Gods.’ Do we work with Them or honor Them, venerate Them, praise Them, celebrate Them? I know that this term is in common usage and I’ve used it myself in the past but more and more it rubs me the wrong way. What message are we sending when we talk about working with Gods? If it’s the sense that we are in Their employ, well ok. I can see that. Too often though it comes across more as though They are pieces in some game that we’re playing, an attitude that sets my teeth on edge. I think it’s important to be mindful of the language we use in discussing the Gods and in discussing our relationship with Them and I’m aware there’s a learning curve here for all of us. It can be sometimes difficult to find comprehensive terminology for experiences and Beings that seem so far beyond the power of language to adequately describe. It’s important to try though.
Asa continues: “This isn’t to say that I’ve never had good or powerful experiences with gods. I have, and I continue to. It’s just taken me a long time–an embarrassingly long time–to realize that the antlered god I love so fiercely is older and wilder than the embossed silver figure with the Roman name; that statements like “the Morrigan is the goddess of sovereignty” currently accomplish nothing except to carve off and lock away swaths of the Morrigan’s infinite potential; that it really is ridiculous to take stories recorded and adapted by Christians and try to pound them into Pagan orthodoxy. (All the dogma thrown down by thin-skinned BNPs, all the shrieking and squawking between hard polytheists and atheist pagans, haven’t helped, either.)”
The names don’t carve off and lock away anything because actual devotees realize that a name is just that: one way of calling on a tiny part of an enormous Force. They allow us a means of engagement, of interaction but no one with any sense thinks that a single name encompasses the fullness of any Deity.
And all those hard polytheists? They’re engaged in something called theology and tradition-building which is important to people who care about their Gods. It’s how traditions grow and become something that lasts beyond one generation. It’s how we develop praxis that actually keeps the Gods central instead of tangential to our traditions. It’s how we develop theology.
Beyond that, you really shouldn’t be giving people on the internet power over your religious practices and beliefs. If it’s that much of a problem, disengage from the internet and focus on your Gods and spirits. If you don’t think land spirits are getting enough attention, well, work on that, because that’s important. Spirits of the land, spirits of our cities, spirits of place often don’t get the attention or the offerings they deserve. It’s only been in the last seven or eight years that I’ve seen our various communities really grasp the importance of honoring the ancestors. I don’t think as groups that we’re really there yet with land vaettir.
“What is the purpose of this post, exactly? I’m not sure. Partly it’s to explain where I’ve been all these months. And partly it’s to hold myself accountable to the heart of my practice, which I found breathtakingly articulated by Peter Grey when I first discovered his writing:
‘Witchcraft is quintessentially wild, ambivalent, ambiguous, queer. It is not something that can be socialised, standing as it does in that liminal space between the seen and unseen worlds. Spatially the realm of witchcraft is the hedge, the crossroads, the dreaming point where the world of men and of spirits parlay through the penetrated body of someone who is outside of the normal rules of culture. What makes this all the more vital is the way in which the landscape of witchcraft is changing. Ours is a practice grounded in the land, in the web of spirit relationships, in plant and insect and animal and bird. This is where we must orientate our actions, this is where our loyalty lies’.”
well, accountability is good. It is the heart of any spiritual practice so maybe, just maybe, there’s hope for you yet. Certainly polytheism is deeply relational. It is all about that interconnecting web of relationships: with Gods, ancestors, land spirits, elders, one’s community, one’s family, one’s country, one’s world.
“For many Pagans, working with named and storied gods reinforces their connection to the land. That’s beautiful and vital and life-giving, and I’m glad that it’s happening.”
…those relationships should be reinforcing relationships with the Gods. Engaging with the Holy Powers shouldn’t have to be a step toward something else, something more human, more oriented to our world for it to be considered valuable. Ever and always it seems the Gods get short-changed.
“For me, though, those names and stories have proven to be a distraction.”
It shouldn’t be. Story is powerful and transformative. If it’s a distraction then perhaps it’s not being engaged with properly. The stories are only the beginning, not scripture, not end-points. This article began by neatly dismissing ‘myth,’ which shows rather a lack of knowledge about what ‘myth’ actually is. μῦθος is story, speech, that which is worthy of being recorded and retold. It has purpose, design, and power. It has the ability to transform the listener. It is a container for Mystery. We can remake ourselves through the power of Story and re-ignite and remake our relationships with our world and our Gods. To dismiss our myths as distractions shows a remarkable lack of both clarity and creativity.
But let us continue, “When I write about deities in public, I find that some readers’ comprehension stops where a god’s name begins (Oh, yes, that god, I’m already an expert in that god, no need to listen further), and accusations of “unverified gnosis” (can you think of a sillier, more pointless term?) take the place of any semblance of theological discussion.”
Well, shame on those readers and yes, I agree UPG is the most idiotic expression ever to come into being. It’s often used as a means of shutting down discourse, especially theological discourse. All religion, if we want to think about it academically, might easily be termed UPG. Lack of comprehension on the part of readers is an incitement to better clarity not a reason to stop engaging.
“When I call to them in private, the names veil everything around me in a vague demand for reality to conform to some myth. I mean, not all the time. When I see Venus, I smile at Inanna in the sky. I pray to Sophia and to Shekhinah. I pour milk and whiskey for Anu and the Bucca. But it’s a matter of calibration, of catching the moment when the name and the prayer stand in for actual contemplation, when we swap modern Christian hegemony for the hegemony of some other wealthy priesthood from the past.”
Ah, I forget sometimes when dealing with Marxists that anti-theism is at the core of Marxist theories so of course it all eventually comes down to hegemonic structures with them. So sad. Is it any wonder depth of engagement is difficult? It’s actually not a matter of catching the moment when it comes to devotion. It’s a matter of learning to put oneself in the appropriately receptive head and heart-space for engagement to occur. There is an element of surrender there, and the accountability of personal preparation. But I guess Marxists are only good at getting other people to submit.
To continue, “What I’m saying, I suppose, is that despite (because of) Very Serious High Priests and impassioned flame wars, concepts like “Morrigan” or “Cernunnos” have started to feel like brightly colored illustrations in a picture book to me. We can do better with our theology, opening up possibilities instead of shutting them down. (Demands to “verify” gnosis serve only to stamp out any insights that don’t serve the most powerful voices.) Meanwhile, in my own practice, I’ve gone back to my roots, finding the exact same gods I left behind–only older and wiser, with names that are unpronounceable.”
First of all, THEY’RE NOT CONCEPTS. Maybe that’s your problem. Start approaching Them like Beings and not concepts and you won’t have a spiritually empty life. This is what we can learn from our ancestors. But oh, I forgot: Marxist. Ahistorical. I guess following a belief structure (Marxism) that once encouraged throwing shamans out of planes to see if they could fly (and in reality to break the religious structures of indigenous peoples) does put a “fly in the ointment” so to speak, when it comes to serious engagement.(3)
Finally, she concludes, “As I write this, it’s raining in Los Angeles–a precious event that may actually have a chance of pulling us out of our six-year drought. The gratitude coursing through me at the sound of water, the sense of peace I feel when I look out at the winter clouds, is what brought me to Witchcraft. Witchcraft, to me, is keeping my eyes open to the countless spirits and oracles all around me.”
But not Gods apparently. Fuck them I guess.
- See Cassian’s Institutes, Book 10.
- Evagrius Ponticus, The Praktikos & Chapters on Prayer, tr. John Eudes Bamberger, OCSO (Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian, 1981), pp. 18-19.
- See here. It was actually Soviet policy in the early years of the Soviet Union to attack shamans and spiritual leaders int his way.