The other day, I posted this documentary on facebook with the comment that I wish our communities were as committed to intergenerational longevity and growth as the Jewish communities depicted in this documentary seem to be. Part of that, I noted, indeed one of the most crucial parts, is firmly being unwilling to marry outside one’s faith and being absolutely committed to raising one’s children within one’s faith. The inevitable pushback to these ideas never ceases to amaze me. Yet, it’s the only way that any type of sustainable restoration is going to happen. This is one of the reasons I think it’s so important that we establish in-person, geographically distinct communities where we can practice our traditions and raise our children in ways that reinforce our religious and cultural values. Religion doesn’t happen without culture and right now, we’re all living and working in a post-modern culture deeply antagonistic toward the very idea of Gods and devotion and especially toward challenging the status quo in the way that true restoration would do.
One of the biggest push-backs I get on the subject of marrying within one’s faith is that the pool of viable mate-material is sadly very small and scattered. This is true. See my point above. In the facebook conversation about this documentary, someone also mentioned the sad fact that finding a “Pagan” man/woman who isn’t an “utter loon” can seem a downright impossibility. (Maybe it’s time good, devout polytheists reclaimed the word ‘Pagan,’ away from non-theists, new agers, atheists, and the terminally confused). That it is difficult does not change the fact that it is essential. It’s less of a problem when one is not planning to have children, though even there being what some Christians term ‘unequally yoked’ can be problematic; but when one plans on having children, issues of religion and religious upbringing that may not have seemed a problem when it was just the couple, quite often become a divisive issue. I’d go so far as to say that if one must marry a non-polytheist, have a pre-nup that specifically states the children will be raised polytheist. I’m a big fan of marriage contracts. So many issues can be countered by a well thought out marriage contract.
I think it also challenges us to re-evaluate what we think the purpose of marriage might be. In a tribe, a unified community with a shared tradition of piety and faith, it’s not just about the happiness of the two people involved (though that is an important factor to consider). Marriage is the building block of a healthy civilization and it ensures uninterrupted transfer of one’s tradition to the next generation. It’s there to unify houses and strengthen the community, to provide for the next generation, and to be a stabilizing force within the community. In a healthy community, I’d actually support arranged marriages (provided no one was forced. That arrangement would, of course, involve consultation with elders, diviners, senior family members, careful evaluation of compatibility, goals, working out of the dowry, etc. and the marriage contract). This is not to say that everyone must have children – far from it. Those who choose to remain happily child free have important roles to play within the community as well. I would think that even if one was not planning to have children, one would not wish to be unequally yoked to a non-polytheist if one could help it. Our generation may have no choice but I’m thinking ahead to future generations, to fully functioning communities, to the restoration of tribes and traditions and what it will be like then. Furthermore, the non-polytheist (in polytheist-monotheistic marriages) must submit to polytheism. After all, unlike monotheism, there’s nothing in polytheism that says they can’t worship their Gods but to reject the Gods wholesale is to challenge the very foundations of a community and that community is more important than individual needs and happiness.
The other issue brought up was that there are different polytheisms and then the question arises of which one gets elided. This is easy to answer: neither. There are more parallels between the various polytheisms than there are between that and secularists or monotheists. I think that within polytheism, if we look at how it was practiced in the ancient world, there was zero conflict in honoring the Gods of two different *polytheistic* traditions. Neither would have to be diluted. but there’s a huge breech between polytheism and monotheism in outlook and an even bigger one between that and secularism. It’s a question of shared worldview rather than specifically shared Gods, one of shared worldview and religious values.
That being said, when it comes to polytheism vs monotheism, all religions are not the same and frankly, we should consider our own to be the best and most necessary. They’re not interchangeable. If we are devoted to our Gods and committed to practicing our traditions for those Gods then it should, in a rightly ordered mind, be absolutely unthinkable to raise one’s children any other way.
I think the push back against these two ideas really shows us how far we still have to go in building communities and restoring our traditions. There is a necessary shift in worldview that happens when one is rooted fully within one’s polytheism. That polytheism becomes the lens through which everything else is viewed and the thing that delineates our priorities. It’s a very different way of living than what we’ve been raised with in monotheisms within a secular state. We will never have proper restoration and reconstruction until this is no longer an issue, until it will be unthinkable to either marry outside polytheism or raise our children outside of it. We struggle now because we lack intergenerational transmission of tradition, well, this is precisely how that intergenerational transmission happens: by marrying within the religions and by raising children within them. There is no other way, short of conquest and forced conversion, and I don’t think anyone wants to do 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.
“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).
Apparently Emily Kamp, this month’s “Polytheistic Voices” interviewee, is getting a bit of harassment on her tumblr page because she was interviewed by me. Really pathetic, folks, but unsurprising (though I constantly marvel at the lack of nuanced reading comprehension in some of my critics. Wow. There are resources that can help you, folks, really. I’d look into that if I were you. I can hunt up a list of organizations that focus on increasing literacy if you like).
At any rate, one of the criticisms is that I apparently “devalued the Holocaust” by comparing it to “willing conversions.” Firstly, buttercups, I never said anything about the Holocaust. I said, if I recall correctly, that the destruction of our traditions, the destruction of our shrines, temples, groves, and sacred places, the forced conversion and religious genocide that occurred as a consequence of monotheism, specifically of Christianity marching through Europe and later Islam through the middle east (and for a time into Europe) was a holocaust. I stand by that statement. The destruction of these sacred covenants with the land, the ancestors and the Gods, the destruction of our traditions and the corruption of the world into monotheism was a terrible holocaust, one from which we have yet to recover. The word, my dear readers, existed long before World War II. A simple search of the term on dictionary.com yields the following:
- a great or complete devastation or destruction, especially by fire.
- a sacrifice completely consumed by fire; burnt offering.
3.(usually initial capital letter) the systematic mass slaughter of European Jews in Nazi concentration camps during World War II (usually preceded by the).
4.any mass slaughter or reckless destruction of life.
If I were to give a sacrifice to Odin, and after slaughtering the animal, commit it to full immolation that would, technically be a holocaust. The ruthless destruction of our traditions and those who practiced them is likewise a holocaust. Isn’t it interesting how context, indefinite articles, and capitalization (or lack thereof) actually matters grammatically? English is neat that way. (The emphasis in the above dictionary.com quote was in the original. It was not mine).
Secondly, if anyone actually thinks that Europe converted willingly, you all need to read your history a little more thoroughly. Moreover, if you think our polytheistic ancestors abandoned their traditions and Gods so readily then why are you even bothering to practice any type of polytheism now? Those who saw the rise of Christianity did not, in fact – despite generations of Christian propaganda to the contrary (including a deeply embedded idea of hierarchy of religions that places monotheism or atheism at the top)– go gently into that good night. I often wonder what it was like for the generation that was forced to bury their sacred items and images, or give them over to the bog in order that they might not be desecrated by Christian hands.
Let’s see, off the top of my head:
We all know about Hypatia, the philosopher tortured to death by Christians, but have you bothered to read about Olvir of Egg, a Scandinavian martyr tortured to death by Olaf Trygvasson (may he be ever damned) because he would not abandon the Norse Gods? How many of you know about Charlemagne’s continued persecutions against Saxon Heathens, culminating in the massacre of 2500 of them? Or the forced conversion of the Orkneys – let’s round up all the children while the men are out working and threaten to kill them if the village doesn’t convert? So Christian. So very, very Christian.
Then there’s Raud the strong, also tortured to death by Olaf Trygvasson, again for refusing conversion. Likewise there’s a Norwegian chieftain and priest – unnamed I believe in the sources – who was tortured to death by –guess who—Olaf Trygvasson again for attempting to protect the sacred images of Thor and the temple in Maeren when Trygvasson destroyed it.
We have the Stellinga, still practicing their polytheism under duress in the ninth century. There’s Eyvind Kinnrifi, tortured to death by…wanna hazard a guess? …Trygvasson again, for refusing to convert. No wonder the Christians canonized this fucker. He sure kept busy butchering the pious. May we be as efficient in restoring our traditions as he was in destroying them – and preferably without all the bloodshed.
Saints’ lives are always sickly entertaining reading, if one wishes to see what polytheists faced during the spread of Christianity. Take the life of Martin of Tours for instance. I can barely stand to read it (and I’ve had to multiple times in various theology classes). Just from memory, I recall he interrupted a Pagan funeral procession, desecrating the ancestral rites because he wanted to make sure the Gods weren’t being venerated. He destroyed multiple temples and shrines, and chopped down trees holy to the local Pagans. Each time, people protested up to the point of riots. This is not an isolated series of incidents. This was standard operating procedure for these missionaries and each time there is recorded resistance.
My favorite account is the wonderful resistance by the Pagans at Lyon in the second century who, frankly, were just sick of Christian bullshit. (Eusebius writes about this in his Ecclesiastical History and of course it’s framed as persecution of Christians. Yes, defending one’s ancestral traditions, refusing to abandon one’s Gods, and driving out the people who are desecrating one’s holy places is persecution, but monotheists coming into a place engaging in wholesale destruction of sacred spaces and attempting to force conversion isn’t? Obviously, these early Christians had the same literacy problems as some of my tumblr readers).
Blood was spilled to defend our Gods and our traditions. That Christian writers later presented conversion as inevitable and willing does not mean that it was in fact so. It was anything but.
Intrepid tumblristas are also protesting that I support human sacrifice. Obviously, this is ludicrous. What I’m not willing to do, however, is condemn our ancestors because it was occasionally practiced. They lived in a very, very different world and had reasons for doing what they did, reasons that we may now find abhorrent. I’m not suggesting we return to giving human sacrifice, but neither do I think we’re more advanced than our ancestors. We may have better technology but we’re so much more disconnected from the land, the dead, and the Gods that in no way do I think we’re particularly evolved. So take that for what it’s worth.
I do think it would be a good and holy thing if we were able to lay ourselves down before our Gods in offering and die in sacrifice to Them if that is what we wish, (you know, consent matters in some things) and how we wish to die but given the state of euthanasia laws in this country, that’s not going to happen in any of our lifetimes so what I think on this matter is largely irrelevant. Likewise, if I were a soldier, I would, in fact, dedicate my kills to my Gods. Why not? I belong to a God of war and I’m not wasteful. But you know, that’s all contextual, theoretical, and nuanced as opposed to blanket support for human sacrifice. No wonder my tumblr readers found it confusing to digest. (Though let’s be honest: given how our society treats its most vulnerable, the blanket callousness and cruelty with which we treat our impoverished, the pointless wars in which we’ve been engaged for what? Almost 20 years now…one wonders if we don’t’ have a culture that supports human sacrifice wholesale and for far less relevant a purpose than honoring the gods. In fact, I think we have very little room to condemn our ancestors when we have turned the world that we inherited from them to shit).
Remember, folks: reading is fundamental.
One of my friends and students sent me the following story, which I found so relevant that I asked for the link which I now share with you here.
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Wyrd Curiosities at Etsy
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One of my apprentices asked me this question not too long ago. Since then the topic has come up a couple of other times and I thought I would answer it here. It’s important.
A lineage-carrier is one A) to whom the Gods have entrusted the burden and weight of a tradition and/or B) who has been initiated into the Mysteries of specific Gods within specific traditions. Initiation then carries with it certain obligations to the tradition itself and often to one’s elders as well.
Initiation moreover, brings one into the Mysteries, rewires and reworks one’s mind and soul so that one may be deeply immersed in carrying those Mysteries, and so that one may be tied into the Tradition directly, carrying both its beauty and the twin obligations of protection and transmission. Connecting to the Tradition in this way makes one a part of that Tradition’s lineage.
Before I go farther into what a lineage is, I want to first touch on what a Tradition is. I think it’s far too easy to think of a Tradition as just the particular flavor of polytheism that one might practice. Sure, it’s that but it’s much, much more. It is a living container for the Mysteries of the Gods Who Themselves shaped and created the Tradition. It is a conduit from the ancestors and from the Gods to us – to those who will take up their positions within this tapestry. It’s not inactive or static or un-alive. It is sacred, ordered space, a nexus where we and the Powers meet. It overlays our world and when thriving and strong imprints the traces of our Gods upon it. It sacralizes and shapes our perceptions in ways that continuously repattern us to receive the Gods. Even if you haven’t been initiated into any Mysteries, when you make the commitment to begin honoring specific Gods, you are entering into the outer chambers of Their specific traditions. You’re doing your part.
Lineage is what flows through and sustains a Tradition. It is the living conduits—those people who have worked and lived their lives centered within their Traditions’ borders. It is all those ancestors who venerated these Gods and carried these Mysteries, us now working to restore and properly root these things, and all those who will come after us into the Mysteries, into the Tradition, into the sphere of the Gods. (The same Gods may be part of multiple traditions, there may be regional variants…there may be multiple threads within a single tradition, as different elders initiate their students and receive different parts of the whole). None of this is metaphorical. It is a blistering, heavy, often painful reality. It consumes the entire sensorium at times. It is as palpable as the earth under our feet.
A Lineage-Carrier, particularly an elder (one who has received the push to restore a tradition, refound a tradition, who carries it, teaches it, and is authorized by the Gods and possibly other living elders to initiate) carries the tradition on his or her back, in the heart, bears the voices of the Gods and dead in memory and mind. It is not metaphorical. One in this position is directly tied into the flow of past-present-and future of the Tradition. It’s a constant companion, a mandate, and obligation. Those on whom the burden of the Tradition rests (including now the burden of restoration) are directly responsible to the Gods for planting the seeds of restoration, nurturing that seedling, for protecting the Tradition from those who are ill prepared, impious, who would twist and pervert it for personal gain, they are likewise responsible for passing it on to those who are prepared. Ultimate loyalty must always be to the Tradition itself, over and above any personal sentiments. This is something so much bigger than any individual person.
To be a lineage-carrier is to live for the Tradition: to sleep it, eat it, breathe it , to be bound to it mind, body, and soul. It is to wake in the middle of the night with the screaming of the ancestors filling your mind, shrieking in your head. It is to feel the push of the Gods constantly to do more. It is to know that your every action must be one that restores a little more, strengthens a little more, builds integrity and character – not as we think of those things today, but as our Gods and ancestors think of them. We cannot restore a tradition without also recommitting to and restoring the values and cultural awareness that shaped our ancestors who were born, lived, and died within these Traditions. It means throwing oneself willingly into a complete reordering of one’s inner life. Everything comes to serve the Tradition and more importantly to serve the Gods.
The result is that this changes everything about the way a lineage-carrier moves in the world. It changes everything about how he or she prioritizes interactions and the things of this world. We become connected to the flow of the Tradition itself and that has a tremendous impact on how one prioritizes. There is always something bigger like a cosmic sword of Damocles hanging over one’s head: how is an action taken today furthering the Tradition tomorrow, or a week from tomorrow, or a year, or ten years, or twenty? We have to see that.
It’s dizzying after an initiation to be dropped into this. Suddenly ‘lineage’ isn’t just a word. Suddenly there’s a palpable sense of thousands upon thousands of people, a whole tribe at one’s back and they may or may not be happy with you (the paucity of values and foundation and comprehension that we have as moderns is often quite vexing to them. There was a basic foundation that even the most ill prepared person coming to a Tradition in the ancient world had, by virtue of growing up in a polytheistic culture that we lack and this is a real problem). What they definitely are is there. Likewise, for those who had the Gods drop a lineage on their backs with the mandate to see it flower, there is a constant awareness of that weight. Eventually that weight might be shared as others become lineage-carriers but even then, for those who are by default elders the fire of having one’s world remade by that living ordered space into which one has been tied can be overwhelming. Those of our lineage living before our traditions were destroyed (by monotheists) lived in cultures that to some degree or another support these Traditions and all that they teach. That is not the case with us today. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
This is how it was put to me a very long time ago: We are pearls in a gleaming thread that stretches behind us as far as one can possibly imagine and before us also as far as one can possibly imagine. We hold that space and hold that space and hold that space. In aeternum.
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I was perusing a couple of sites to see if anything of significance happened in WWI or WWII military history today – because I’ve been feeling very aware of my military dead of late—and in my various meanderings through history sites, I came across a reference that on July 25 in 326 C.E. Emperor Constantine formally and publicly refused to perform proper sacrifices to the Pagan Gods and in fact outlawed them. (1) In doing so, he struck at the heart of Roman polytheism and set the stage for the eventual destruction and dismantling of our sacred ways.
It is a day for mourning yes, but also a day for deep reflection. I don’t think the Pagans of Constantine’s time realize what was going on until it was too late (and it is likely sacrifices continued privately) but suddenly time was running out and Rome was on a collision course with monotheistic take over. It really points up how dangerous it is to mix politics and religion too, or to rely on the insight of one man, even a leader who was none too sacral and was far more interested in bolstering his own power and political position than in rightful service to the Gods. Rome as a power was beginning her slow, ugly decline and it must have been a confusing, exciting, and at times terrifying time in which to live. I think it must have been very challenging to know how to move forward in devotion. The idea that one day—a day not too far in the future no less—such devotion might be against the law, temples destroyed or repurposed, and all the generations old adorations to their Gods suddenly fallen silent. I can’t help but wonder what it was like for the devout polytheists who lived through that transition and what it was like after.
Our polytheistic traditions are sacred things, a gift, a sacred trust given into our hands to nourish and protect, and ultimately to pass into the hands of the next generation. I think days like this call us to be mindful of that obligation in our hearts and minds and spirits. To remember that we carry the weight of ancestral obligation, the tears and horror of thousands upon thousands of our polytheistic dead who watched their devotional worlds be torn to shreds, knowing it was far too late (even with the momentarily light that was Julian) to stop it. We can right that wrong. Every time we work at our shrines, or pray, or pour out offerings we are, in some small wyrd way restoring and righting the desecration done. I think it’s important to let that inspire us in this work because it is hard sometimes, challenging, alienating, frustrating but also joyous and satisfying. It’s important to remember that they are in their way handing off the tattered ends of these traditions to us and we can run with that, together, and make those traditions flourish once more.
As I was thinking about this, I can across this site. I don’t know why it came up in my feed and I don’t know the author of the site but I really like this idea and I think I’d like to encourage everyone to do this for August: thirty one days of devotion to one of your Gods. Here are the questions:
1. WriteaA basic introduction of the deity
2. How did you become first aware of this deity?
3. what are some Symbols and icons of this deity
4 .Share a favorite myth or myths of this deity
5. Who are Members of the family – genealogical connections of this Deity.
6. What are some Other related deities and entities associated with this deity
7. Discuss this Deity’s Names and epithets
8 Discuss Variations on this deity (aspects, regional forms, etc.)
9. what are some Common mistakes about this deity
10 .what are common Offerings – historical and UPG
11 Talk about Festivals, days, and times sacred to this deity
12. What are some Places associated with this deity and their worship
13. What modern cultural issues — if any—are closest to this deity’s heart? (this is a question that i”m not overly thrilled with. It presupposes that the Gods give a rat’s ass about our “cultural issues” but maybe some of Them do and if They don’t, we can talk about that too, always with the caveat that it is insofar as we as individual devotees have sussed out).
14. Has worship of this deity changed in modern times?
15. Are there Any mundane practices that are associated with this deity?
16. How do you think this deity represents the values of their pantheon and cultural origins?
17, How does this deity relate to other gods and other pantheons?
18 How does this deity stand in terms of gender and sexuality? (historical and/or UPG) (again, a question about which I could not possibly care less, but I suspect the answers might be interesting).
19. What quality or qualities of this god do you most admire?
20. What quality or qualities of them do you find the most troubling?
21. Share any Art that reminds you of this deity
22. Share any Music that makes you think of this deity
23. Share A quote, a poem, or piece of writing that you think this deity resonates strongly with
24 Share Your own composition – a piece of writing about or for this deity
25 Share A time when this deity has helped you
26 Share A time when this deity has refused to help (i really like this question).
27. How has your relationship with this deity changed over time?
28. what are the Worst misconception about this deity that you have encountered
29. What is Something you wish you knew about this deity but don’t currently
30. do you have Any interesting or unusual UPG to share?
31 Any suggestions for others just starting to learn about this deity?
I’ve done something similar to this for Odin a long time ago, so I’m not yet sure what Deity I’ll talk about come August 1, but I’m thinking about it and very much looking forward to seeing what you, my readers, come up with. (and to the owner of the luxettenebris site: thank you!).
That is all. Let us maintain our devotions staunchly and steadfastly and remember the example of those ancestors who desperately tried too late to do the same.
We had the privilege of meeting a delegation from Ysee at the Polytheist Leadership Conference in 2014. Below, are some wise words from allies in the fight to restore our traditions.
I’ve been musing a lot about Heathenry the past day, what it was, what it is now, what it could be. I think we’re very lucky. For one thing, I think there is something profoundly powerful in throwing off the yoke of Christianity and/or secularism and seizing the threads of our ancestral traditions. It’s a beginning, a renewal, and a restoration and I think that is a good and holy thing. It’s the first step, a necessary step toward restoring our Gods to sovereignty in the world.
Yes. I said that. For all that I am severely critical of Heathens who use the lore to block and control their experience of the Gods, I do think we should allow ourselves to be inspired by our ancestors, by the stories in the Sagas and other lore. We should be ravening berserkers in driving back the filth of monotheism, in honoring our Gods, in offering to Them, and most of all in rebuilding our traditions. The lands of the north once belonged to Odin and His kin and they should again. I’d like to see sacrifices every holy tide in every major city in Northern Europe, and in Heathen communities in North America. That’s my dream anyway. It would be a start, a resanctification of the land and our relationship with both it and our Gods.
I remember a conversation my mother and I once had on esoterically warding our homes. She didn’t. She was ferocious in tending her space because she looked at her house as likewise the home of her gods. She said that nothing malignant could exist in her home because she made the environment one (by prayer, devotion, and quite practically and literally cleaning every day—she was what in German is called a ‘Putzteufal’ or cleaning devil) that was so hostile to filth (of every kind) that nothing spiritually impure could exist there. I wish we could make ourselves and our traditions the same, not through thought-policing, but through carefully tending to our devotions, encouraging the inter-generational process of offering and veneration, and protecting the Mysteries of our Gods’ cultus—all those things that comprise our “traditions.”
There are many Heathens that I disagree ferociously with about how Heathenry should be practiced. That’s ok. We have different traditions within Heathenry and I would stand shoulder to shoulder even with someone I utterly detested to defend our Gods and our right to practice unmolested. The traditions are more important. Seeing them thrive is more important. Re-mapping our world with a renewed awareness of our Gods is most important of all.
I want a Heathenry that doesn’t just obsess about the folk now but on where our traditions can be in a hundred years and how to best get there. It’s important to remember, crucially important I think because this is a bleak and dirty fight at times, that things can change in the matter of a generation. Our traditions were undone in the span of one or two generations. We can reverse that process. We are reversing it. We need to keep on changing it.
Midgard is a very special place. It is not that the Gods can’t simply work Their will here, but that in creating Midgard, They have given us a world where our voices and choices matter too in the forming of things, and I think They took a chance, those three creator Gods when They (perhaps foolishly) breathed life into this thing called “humanity.” I think we have been given a say in how Midgard unfolds. It was certainly the poor choice of some of our ancestors (and of others under coercion) to abandon our traditions a thousand plus years ago. We can choose differently now. I think maybe it’s part of our wyrd and if we choose to welcome the Gods, if we choose to burn down fiercely anything that would keep Their voices from shaking every inch of this world again, then we can bring those traditions back every bit as strongly as they were before, on the broken backs of those who would destroy them again if need be.
I care about one thing and one thing only: venerating the Gods, seeing our traditions restored, returning the world to polytheism. I want to see our world infused with the Gods at every level. I don’t know how to achieve that, but I do know that devotion and a commitment to our traditions is key. Maybe the Gods will help us with the rest.
So when you read things like this, put it in context. It, and so much else of the garbage floating around, is written by someone hostile to the very idea of Gods. What have they to do with any of our traditions?
(I like the mood evoked by “The Vikings.” It may not be 100% historically accurate but it inspires nonetheless.)
My husband and I were having a conversation about a couple of the pieces that I wrote yesterday on my blog at a local diner this morning when I noticed his gaze was fixed on the family in the booth across from ours and he was grinning. It took me a moment to notice what had caught his attention but when I did we both burst out laughing. The couple had given their toddler a butt-plug shaped toy to play with. I’m sure (pretty sure: our town has had a large influx of hipsters) that it wasn’t, and I’m equally sure that only a small percentage of the customers in the diner would have looked at that and had their minds go the places ours did. Which, as my clickbait title suggests, led to an insight about the ongoing debates within our communities – though not really John himself. He’s just a metaphor, a symbol expressing a certain set of ideas to which I’m opposed.
And I’m opposed to them because polytheist isn’t just a word for me; it’s a culture built on shared experiences of the Gods. I wrote about that here yesterday.
That shared experience is what makes things like humor possible and I think it just makes more sense for people to gravitate towards others with similar values and worldview and culture. These are not insignificant things. That is in part what helps to create a cohesive tradition. It’s not the only thing, but it is an important one. This of course begs the question of what is the shared experience of polytheism. I would hope that it is the experience of the Gods as Gods. That’s the thing that brings us all together despite our individual traditions and positions within the polytheist rubric. It’s the baseline that impacts everything else, every decision, and certainly our way of being in the world. I’ve seen John talk about having experiences with what we would call Gods but, in his own words, interpreting them differently. Ok. That’s a crucial difference. He’s having experiences but lacks the relational framework of a polytheistic understanding and perspective. He is not a polytheist, and that’s ok. Someone outside of the tradition can if they wish, become a good ally (of course part of being an ally isn’t trying to guide or define the development of the tradition, but that’s a different post).
Years ago, oh, maybe two decades now, I had an experience with a Holy Power that I’m pretty sure most of my Christian friends would call Jesus. It was cool, very cleansing, and my Gods were likewise very present. (I was dealing with a very wounded Christian client at the time – sometimes one must approach one’s client’s Gods). When that was done, I got on with the business of honoring my Gods. I told this to a Christian friend once and she simply could not wrap her mind around it. To her, it was a ‘born again’ experience but I was still a polytheist and still had and wanted nothing to do with the cultus of Christ. She could not comprehend. For me, the answer was easy: at best this is one of many Gods and not mine. What’s the big deal? For her, it was a mind blowing and paradigm challening thing. I lacked her framework of interpretation. Since I had zero desire to come into her religious world and space, in the end it didn’t matter but had I been trying to position myself as a member of her church, there would have been – and should have been—problems. My approach would have been corrosive and corrupting to their tradition.
That’s why I fight so hard to hold the line. Because when that’s compromised, meaning becomes diluted and confused. It’s not that I think people like John don’t have a right to exist, or to do their atheist thing (however incomprehensible that may be to me) – it’s not because they’re horrible people. Look, I don’t know John Halstead the man, only the character he plays on the internet through his various blogs. Nor has it been my intention with the majority of my writing to attack him personally. I want very much to attack and gnaw on his ideas and words. Ideas spread and have corrosive power. That being said, we really should hold ourselves to the standard of arguing ideas not people (and I fell short of that standard yesterday with one of my posts, for which I apologize. I got swept up in the argument and severely missed the mark).
Maybe in the time of our polytheistic ancestors, a tradition could grow and thrive by itself. It was a different time and a very different world. It was a world where everything in the dominant culture was also polytheistic. In our world, everything in our dominant culture is diametrically opposed to polytheism, either openly or, as some of my Hindu friends have experienced, more insidiously. There is nothing that supports the traditions we’re attempting to build. If we’re not dealing with a Christian influenced culture, we have humanism and atheism held up as normal and progressive. For them, maybe they are, but not for us, and opening the door to those things as polytheists is a problem. Those things have and deserve their own spaces. Likewise, we deserve ours. Each tradition needs uncontested space in which to grow and develop without external interference.
In the meantime, folks, please don’t give butt plugs to your children. Eostre is right around the corner, give them some chocolate eggs instead. 😉