A friend sent me this quote today and it really speaks to me. This…this is precisely what preserving and nurturing our traditions is about.
“Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.” — Gustav Mahler
“You should never ask a man to spit on the graves of his ancestors. Anyone who would accede to such a request is beneath contempt…” Eugene Genovese (quoted in an article about Shelby Foote)
“Show me the manner in which a nation cares for its dead and I will measure with mathematical exactness the tender mercies of its people, their respect for the laws of the land and their loyalty to high ideals.”
—attributed to William Gladstone
“The erosion of traditions everywhere harms everyone. ” –Sannion
(Said in response to a conversation I was having about the watering down of Catholic traditions. I don’t have a horse in that race but I have opinions on it and this is why. Everyone has been entrusted with their traditions and that’s a small piece of the whole and when that becomes corrupt or broken, something vital is lost. Everyone plays a part in keeping those traditions whole: clergy, laity, specialists, et al.
This in particular reminds me of the situation faced by the Stellinga, polytheists warriors who rose up in response to the felling of the Irminsul and other sacred trees. For them, the felling of those trees was the destruction of their world, values, and way of life and the worlds of the ancestors because in Germanic cosmology those trees are what hold up each of the worlds and those worlds need to be distinct and contained to be healthy. With the dissolution of boundaries and everything blurring and crashing together, the loss of tradition, the loss of meaning, everything dissolves into chaotic nothingness and that’s the Ragnarok that they faced. It’s also the Ragnarok we’re facing today. Don’t think of these as one time events but as the result of the corruption and destruction of our traditions. With every tradition lost a world collapses.
We need to fight all the harder for the restoration and preservation of our traditions or we’ll be swept into the chaos of the Void).
“When you center everything in humanity and the human condition you inevitably sink into impietas and a loss of connection with the Gods. And when you forget your ancestors, you forget yourself.” — Kenaz Filan
In suppliciis deorum magnifici, domi parci, in amicos fideles erant.
(They were, in offerings to the Gods, lavish, at home frugal, in friendship
If a good man sacrifices to the Gods and keeps Them constant company in his prayers and offerings and every kind of worship he can give Them, this will be the best and noblest policy he can follow; it is the conduct that fits his character as nothing else can, and it is his most effective way of achieving a happy life.
(Plato, Laws IV, 716e).
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A friend just asked me what I was planning on reading in between school terms and looked positively shocked when I answered. LOL. Before the term ended (and after some of the crap that I dealt with here) I reached out to my friend Edward Butler for suggestions on what I should read to give myself a crash course in Plato and Aristotle (because I’m taking a course this coming term in philosophy — Intro to Augustine–and because, as previous posts have noted, it’s becoming more and more relevant to my theological work). He recommended some texts which I’ll share in a moment. An academic colleague and I also decided we’d each read the other’s favorite Euripidean play (mine is the Bacchae, his was Medea and talk about it when term starts again) so I’ll be doing that too.
I just want to say, before I continue, that it is crucially important for us to reclaim our philosophical traditions. Philosophy, Literature, the Sciences, Medicine, these things were born in the polytheistic world. In an effort to appropriate them, Christian scholasticism attempted to erase the Gods from the inventors and proponents of these disciplines. We see that in academia today with the dogged insistence by those who should know better that of course men like Plato and Socrates were atheists. Of course they couldn’t possibly believe in the Gods … when we have ample evidence that they did, quite piously in fact. There is an ongoing agenda of erasure and appropriation here and it’s high time we step up and stop it. Edward has been doing powerful work as a philosopher for years and years now (shout out to you, Edward, for your inspiring work). I”m sure there are others too. This year my goal is to better educate myself so that I can likewise do my part. For those of you unfamiliar with Edward’s groundbreaking work, check out his book here. He also has an academia.edu page and recently had a piece published for the general reader in “Witches and Pagans” in their issue on polytheism. go. read. This work is awesome.
Now the texts I’ll be reading over the next two weeks, for those who likewise might want to join me are (aside from Euripides’ “Medea 😉 ):
“Aristotle and the Theology of the Living Immortals” by Richard Bodeus
“Aristotle’s Metaphysics” translated and with commentaries by Hippocrates Apostle
“The Doctrine of Being in the Aristotelian Metaphysics” by Joseph Owens
“Plato’s Gods” by Gerd Van Riel (there are some translation issues with this one, just minor things that annoy me, like translating τέχνη as ‘technique;’ and at one point he insists that the Greeks didn’t have a commitment to personal belief in religion (p. 12) and then spends the next six or seven pages contradicting that rather reductionist statement, as the evidence clearly DOES contradict it. That being said, it’s still a really good book).
Aristotle’s “Poetics” and Plato’s “Timaeus” (been a good 20 years since i’ve read either) and probably ‘Ion’ and ‘Euthyphro’ in the original Greek.
If anyone wants to add any suggestions, by all means do. I’m not a philosopher and I’ll admit to being rather nervous about taking a philosophy course this term, but it’s unavoidable for anyone wanting to work in theology and if this past term taught me nothing else, it taught me that immersing myself in Plato and Aristotle and really understanding them as polytheists is essential going forward.
i’m going to end with a quote from Plato’s Laws that I just love:
If a good man sacrifices to the Gods and keeps Them constant company in his prayers and offerings and every kind of worship he can give Them, this will be the best and noblest policy he can follow; it is the conduct that fits his character as nothing else can, and it is his most effective way of achieving a happy life. (Laws IV, 716e).
“Holy places are dark places. It is life and strength, not knowledge and words, that we get in them. Holy wisdom is not clear and thin like water, but thick and dark like blood.”
— C.S. Lewis, “Till We Have Faces”