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.
Over breakfast this morning I was having a lively chat with a colleague about our respective requirements for our formal students and apprentices (and by formal student, I do not mean someone who signs up to take one of my online classes, but rather someone who has formally contracted with me to be taught within one of the lineages I carry). My friend was surprised when I told her that one of the first things I do now is require my formal students and apprentices to delete any tumblr accounts they may have and to stay off tumblr completely for the duration of their training. I used to make this a strong suggestion, but over the last year it’s become pretty non-negotiable for me.(1)
Over the past year, I’ve had the opportunity to watch those ensconced in the tumblr community interact devotionally. I’ve seen the nonsense coming endlessly out of these sites (more so than on any other type of social media including Facebook and Twitter): the reification of pop culture as proper polytheism, the often complete lack of critical thinking, the shallowness, and the lack of reverence (and let’s not forget the tumblr wives of Loki…or Kai lo ren because you know, over there, they’re basically the same thing anyway. Sorry Tom Hiddleston. Sorry). I think that last – reverence or lack thereof– is what made me finally come to my decision: pretty much without exception of those I have personally experienced, I find that the tumblr pagan and polytheist communities encourage a lack of reverence.
Nor do I mean that this is something that is occasionally a side effect of participating in tumblr, I mean it is actively encouraged. The result is people who cannot maintain themselves in sacred space without feeling the need to crack jokes, to lesson the ambiance of reverence, to reduce to the lowest common denominator, the protocols of veneration.
I want to be very clear about something, and this is something that I try very hard to lay out to prospective students and apprentices before taking them on via contract, those of us working in our respective polytheisms – in my case Heathenry and cultus deorum, a little Starry Bull on the side—are not seeking to develop in ourselves the outlook, perspective, worldview, ethics, and morality of our current popular culture. We are looking to develop a polytheistic worldview in tandem with how our ancestors, born and raised in polytheistic cultures, would have approached the Gods, ancestors, and devotion. We are seeking to ensconce ourselves in a polytheistic perspective, to develop polytheistic ethics, and to grow in reverence and awareness of our proper place before the Gods. Anarco-leftists and co. , tumblr, and others can rail and rant and rave about that all they want. We will not be moved. We are not seeking to create ourselves in a post-enlightenment, post modernist image. We’re seeking to restore the values and traditions of our ancestors. It’s precisely the cultivation of those values and that worldview that I think tumblr most effectively damages. It panders to the populist voice of the lowest common denominator and to be clear: lie down with dogs, as the saying goes, one does wake up with fleas.
I believe (as did Aristotle) that it is important to cultivate relationships that encourage right behavior, that help us develop habits of reverence, of piety, of excellence in our devotional work. These things are habits. They are things that lie within our control, that we may develop or not. It is very, very difficult not to be affected by those with which we associate every day, and most of us are online an awful lot. I would venture to say that for the average pagan or polytheist, the online venues that we each frequent are a vital part of our community experience – sad but true, and true for almost all of us. I hear from people every day who are spread out across the country, across the globe who have no one else in their immediate area who is also a polytheist, or if they do, it may not be their particular polytheistic religion. It’s natural to want fellowship. I think we just have to be rather discerning about where we find it and one thing that tumblr won’t cultivate is just that: discernment.
- I realize that there are artists who use tumblr solely for artistic sharing and such, and normally I would say ‘sure, that’s fine’ but more and more I think with a level of pollution such as I typically see on tumblr, it’s best to just cut that shit off cleanly, and not allow any means whereby it might infect. Any doorway is a possible hazard. So apologies to my artist friends out there!
They folks, for those interested, the piety possum buttons are available. I’m charging $3 a button, plus $2 shipping and handling. I’ll have them up on etsy soon but in the meantime, feel free to contact me at Krasskova@gmail.com if you want one. There is a limited supply.