Facts Are Stubborn Things

Hekate Triformis

Hekate Triformis

Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.
-John Adams, 1770

President John Adams was correct: facts are stubborn things. Of course his quote is extracted from the speech that he gave while defending the British soldiers that shot people during what Americans now tout as the “Boston Massacre.” But let’s leave that bit of American History for another forum, shall we? What concerns me here is the legitimacy of what President Adams spoke, and how this statement continues to be true even today. One of the arenas I frequently encounter this issue of facts vs. wishes is on many NeoPagan and Witchcraft forums. Whether it is the origins of Traditional Wicca (another blog post) or the someone’s “grandmother” stories about being trained in Irish Witchcraft called Witta, many times I find that people eschew critical thinking skills in favor of some fantastical idea about their romantic notion of Witchcraft. Why lack of critical thinking skills seems to be rampant in the modern Pagan Community is beyond my thinking, because these same people by and large will turn around and attack Christians and Political Conservatives for being “sheeple.” They’ll accuse them of following pastors and evangelists blindly. They’ll howl and rave about how the “Christians stole our holidays” and other such nonsense. In short, they’ll point a finger at everybody, but forget that while they are doing that three fingers are pointing back at them. Nowhere is this hypocritical cognitive dissonance and lack of respect about their faith more evident than when it comes to the nature of the Gods and Goddesses of our ancestors.

Robert Graves
In 1948, a former Oxford English and Literature professor by the name of Robert von Ranke Graves published The White Goddess (formerly titled The Roebuck in the Thicket). The third son of Irish poet and Gaelic scholar Alfred Perceval Graves, Robert had quite an upbringing in a scholastic-oriented family. An educated man, Graves also had quite the passion for poetry and story-telling, as exemplified in his books such as I, Claudius, King Jesus, and The Penny Fiddle: Poems for Children to name a few among the dozens of works and collaborations in his name. Graves’ works on Mythology were also essential in the revival of modern Wicca and Paganism, laying the groundwork for much of the schema many groups today still have. One of the best known works, of course, is The White Goddess. Perhaps no other poetic interpretation of Myth has had such a substantial impact on modern Wiccan and Pagan thealogy as this one. While writing some works on Greek Myth, Graves was instantly seized with inspiration and worship of what he called his Muse. Professor Hazel Hunley from the University of Omaha in her studies of Graves writes:

Ironically, Graves’ research as a novelist led him to his poetic truth and the White Goddess or Mother-Muse…On retracing the journey of Jason and Argonauts, he noted that Goddess worship was prevalent throughout the ancient Mediterranean world in many cults. The Goddess was already familiar, at least, intellectually to Graves, the classical scholar, from the Homeric epics, Sir James Frazer’s The Golden Bough, Apuleius’ The Golden Ass, and the anthropological findings of Jane Harrison and J.J. Bachofen.

Professor Hunley continues that while charting Jason’s journey, Graves had a sudden epiphany to read the Welsh tale of The Battle of the Trees. This epiphany is what fueled his comparative Mythos studies, finding a bizarre underlying unity evident only to him between Insular Celtic and Greek Myths. This quite unorthodox pairing was explained by Graves as him simply paying homage as a true poet to his Muse Goddess, whom he believed in objectively. As a poet, Graves felt he was qualified to recount the connections since the poet was the receiver of the Mysteries. No matter where he looked, Graves inevitably wrote feverishly that, buried within the Myths he studied and wrote, lay the matriarchal White Goddess to whom a passionate love affair should be kindled by Her devoted poets: seers of Her choosing. This is important to take into account, that while Graves was indeed a scholar in his own right, he was also at heart a poet who took lavish license with his writings. They were never meant to be taken scholastically.

The Modern Triple Goddess
One of the most iconic forms that Graves gave to the modern world was the revivification of the Triple Goddess caricature. In his works, Graves outlines the Triple Goddess forms as:

Mother/Bride/Layer-out
Maiden/Nymph/Hag
Maiden/Mother/Crone

Graves’ poetic correspondences to the Triple Goddess include “the birth, life, death and resurrection of the God of thee Waxing Year; the central chapters concern the God’s losing battle with the God of the Waning Year for love of the capricious and all-powerful Threefold Goddess, their mother, bride and layer-out.” He continues:

As Goddess of the Underworld she was concerned with Birth, Procreation and Death.  As Goddess of the Earth she was concerned with the three season of Spring, Summer and Winter: she animated trees and plants and ruled all living creatures.  As Goddess of the Sky she was the Moon, in her three phases of New Moon, Full Moon, and Waning Moon. […] As the New Moon or Spring she was a girl; as the Full Moon or Summer she was woman; as the Old Moon or Winter she was hag.

This Mythos, or poetic interpretation rather of Mythos, can be found readily in any book you pick up on these days. His schema of the Sacrificed King devoted to the beloved Triple Goddess of Maiden/Mother/Crone is found in many of his works including King Jesus. Graves cites sources for evidence of the Triple Goddess in antiquity, but unfortunately his citations and subsequent interpretations are two very different things. This is something that many today do not take into account.

The Parcae

The Parcae

The Ancient Triple Goddess
I wrote in another blog post that among Indo-Europeans, “3” was a sacred number. In many Indo-European cultures such as India, Greece, Rome, the Arabian Middle East and Ireland, the motif of Triple Gods and Goddesses can readily be found. For example, we have the Goddess Brighid who is the Triple Goddess of the Smiths, the Bards and the Healers. Greece had the Three Sons of Kronos, the Three Consorts of Poseidon, the Three-Headed Kerberos, and the Three Muses. More examples can be given but I think you get the idea. The presence of the number 3 in the various Mythologies of our ancestors is very prevalent. But the evidence for the Triple Goddess does not automatically mean that the theme of the Maiden/Mother/Crone (from here on shortened to MMC) is applicable. A famous modern example that is given for the MMC in ancient times is that of the Three Fates: Klotho, Lakhesis, amd Atropos. While not specifically named as MMC, respectively, nonetheless some descriptions are pulled to assert that the Three Fates embody an ancient concept of the MMC. It is believed that because Klotho rules over birth, Lakhesis over life, and Atropos over death, that these are a perfect embodiment of the MMC caricature. Nothing, however, could be further from the truth. The ancient world was much more complex than we care to admit, and it is perhaps our Linnaeun efforts at over-analyzing and attempting to neatly create a Holy Trinity of Pagandom that perhaps is the reason for the modern Pagan Community’s stubbornness. In essence, I guess we also want a very neat “Father/Son/Holy Spirit” equivalent.

The Three Fates, or Moirae, weren’t always three in number. We have to keep into account that there was never such a thing as a pan-Hellenic Mythos. Ever. Mythologies differed from cultus to cultus and region to region. This may be a shock to many who have studied Classical Greek and Latin literature, for example. But, bear in mind there existed other Hellenic regions besides Athens. Pausanias, for example, states that at Delphi only Two Moirae existed, which was odd to him since he knew that elsewhere the Fates could be counted as Three:

In the temple has been built an altar of Poseidon, because Poseidon too possessed in part the most ancient oracle. There are also images of two Fates; but in place of the third Fate there stand by their side Zeus, Guide of Fate, and Apollo, Guide of Fate. (Pausanias, Descriptions of Greece, Book XIV, circa 2nd century CE).

Ovid wrote that, rather than the Moirae (Parcae in Latin) being separated into three functions, all three shared in one function – that of spinning and cutting the thread of life:

You, too, dear father [Chiron], immortal now and by the law of your birth created to live forever: A time will come when you will be in agony from the poisonous blood of the vicious Hydra that has entered your body through a wound, and you’ll wish that you could die; and then the Gods will release you from divinity and give you death, and the Three Fates will cut the threads of your life. (Ovid, The Metamorphoses, circa 1st century CE)

And still earlier than these sources Plato writes that the Moirae each shared in the spindle:

The Moirai, daughters of Ananke, clad in white vestments with filleted heads, Lakhesis, and Klotho, and Atropos, who sang in unison with the music of the Seirenes: Lakhesis singing the things that were, Klotho the things that are, and Atropos the things that are to be. And Klotho with the touch of her right hand helped to turn the outer circumference of the spindle, pausing from time to time. Atropos with her left hand in like manner helped to turn the inner circles, and Lakhesis alternately with either hand lent a hand to each. (Plato, The Republic, circa 4th century BCE).

The descriptions of the Moirae are also contradictory of the MMC motif. A Latin poet by the name of Catullus writes that the Parcae (Latin equivalent of the Greek Moirae) are all aged:

Then the Gods seated Their limbs at the white benches, at tables richly heaped with various foods, while, moving their bodies in trembling dance, the Fates (Parcae) began to utter their prophetic song. Quivering seized their bodies, their white ankles wholly covered by the red hem of their dresses, and a red headband circling their white hair, and their hands were busy, as ever, at their eternal work. (Catullus, The Complete Poems: Poem 64, circa 1st century BCE).

UPG
It has often been stated by many people within the modern Pagan Community that our Mythic images are “evolving,” in the sense that somehow the purview of the ancients is less developed than us more advanced and enlightened folks. This progressive hubris – for that’s what it is – demeans the very Souls and Songs of the ancestors whom we claim our Mythic heritage from in the first place. It is almost as if we have grafted our consciousness onto the Christian-infused mentality that “primitive peoples” knew nothing about the world they inhabit, and instead we must rely on our Pagan Colonialism to impart the Unverified Personal Gnosis of the Gods as we individually see Them. Let’s forget for a moment that important word: unverified. Let’s forget that other important word: personal. Let’s instead focus on the third word: gnosis, which I think hearing in conversations about UPG makes me want to give myself another brain injury by slamming my head onto a hard wooden surface because the sheer overwhelming use of the word escapes the user. I feel like Inigo Montoya: “That word, I do not think it means what you think it means.” (If you don’t get the reference you need a life).

The word Gnosis is used in common parlance in these kinds of topics (such as UPG) that it is equivalent to the phrase, “I go by what I feel.” The person who states this many times loudly proclaims that they eschew Traditions, Lineages and even the knowledge of our ancestors in an attempt to reinvent the Mythic Wheel. They tout that no one can tell them what to do, that it doesn’t matter how they practice. Why, if they want to have Hekate or Persephone as a Crone, then by golly that’s what they’ll do. If they want to cast a square and mix Kali-Ma with Herne, then there you go. If they want to call the Morrighan a War Goddess capable of kicking ass and helping them deal with their low self-esteem, then that’s alright too. It’s “gnosis,” after all: you can’t be authoritative and tell them how to worship and what to do. … In a way, they’re right: no one has the right to tell others how to believe or be dictators of conscience. But, on the obverse, when you enter the world of Myth and the faith of our ancestors and you eschew the Gods and spirits for poetic licensing because you just want to be an anarchist in the wrong sense of the word, you and I will have words.

Gnosis, if you do your research, is actually rooted in tradition. The various Gnostics in the early centuries of the Christian Era wrote down their sacred scriptures and built on the spiritual traditions that were flooding the Near East at the time (the discovery of the Nag Hammadi library confirms this, as well as other Gnostic works such as the Corpus Hermeticum). Rather than a discombobulated movement, the Gnosticism which is portrayed by writings and archaeological evidence supports the assertion that it was a much more unified movement that reacted against the growing orthodoxy and establishment of the Early Church. The main goal of the teachings within Gnosticism was to break from the need to join an institution to find salvation and instead look within to attain Enlightenment. Thus, it was a complete system that was workable and made sense: it wasn’t just an eclectic mishmash of whims and fancies. It was a careful and select synthesis. Although there were and are various schools of thought within Gnosticism, nonetheless a coherency and thread can be traced. (For further information as a starting point I encourage Gnosis: The Nature and History of Gnosticism by Kurt Rudolph).

In this rationale, UPG makes no sense. Gnosis is the equivalent of Enlightenment: liberation by finding Unity. It is a process that takes discipline and intense training to gain a “Holy Fuck!” moment that can neither be described nor transcribed. It is unique to the oriental systems which pollinated into the West. So with that being said, I repeat: the term UPG makes no sense. None. Gnosis is a spiritual experience rooted in a cohesive system designed to kick the living shit out of you in order to laboriously push through the suffering in this world and the illusion of matter and achieve the long sought for Unity of Self with Godhood. That’s bullshit when it comes to viewing Hekate as a Crone. You know what that is? That’s spiritual laziness. That’s slothfulness. That’s disrespect, pure and simple.

Entropy
The MMC motif as proscribed by Robert Graves was his own poetic reinterpretation of the Myths that he studied. Graves was a poet at heart, and this is important to keep in mind in order to separate his classical scholarly studies with his poetry. Although his poetry is beautiful, it isn’t Myth. Myth, or Mythos, is a sacred story traditionally passed on from one generation to another. It is rooted in the collective consciousness and morphogenetic fields of a clan, a tribe, a people. The Myths teach and impart to the people how to become better human beings, how to link with the Gods and spirits of their culture, and preserve the sacred identity that is inherent within their community. The Gods and spirits of our own ancestors are complex in nature, and are like the proverbial square peg in the round hole when it comes to the MMC images. For example, the Goddess Persephone is not only the Maiden Kore, but She is also Queen and Nymph in Her cult at Lokri. Demeter is both Mother of both the Earth Harvest as well as possessing chthonic qualities. Hekate is always a Maiden. Selene is a Maiden. Artemis is a Maiden. All of these Goddesses that people try and fit into MMC are robbing these Deities of their own Personalities and Characters in order for them to make some sense of Them that fits into their narrow mindsets. Do you know what this reveals? It’s not about the Gods; it’s about them. It’s not about accepting Them, it’s about changing Them to fit a mortal’s paradigm. Hence, it’s a form of hubris, and it’s no wonder these are the sorts of people that have little value of knowledge and would rather remain stuck in their ways. They don’t critically think and examine. They sloppily eat up and then regurgitate what everyone else has written. They claim that they are evolving, when in fact they are entropic to the core.

Eirene kai Hugieia!
(Peace and Health!)
~Oracle~

The Blessing of Dionysus

Dancing Maenad

Dancing Maenad

It’s interesting what Dionysus blesses you with, because unless you come to grips with His notion of Reality, everyone is liable to view His blessings as a curse. Or a series of curses. That’s why His calling isn’t for everyone. If it were, this world would be more fucked up than it already is. Even Dionysus, in His place among the Olympians, has to give way to Order and Civilization. Or some semblance of it.

The journey of my Blessing begins on August 21, 2012. If you’re interested in the entire story, you can read it here. In short, I was involved in a serious car accident in which I drowned. I also came away with a traumatic brain injury to my right side, frontal and temporal lobes. I have had a lot of negative affects from it to say the least: chronic depression, anxiety, memory loss, slower processing speed, epilepsy, an inability to distinguish certain types of pain levels and temperature changes, abnormal proprioception,  some slight asphasia, mood swings, ADHD, and exacerbated behavior on the Autism Spectrum. These are just some that I can currently recall. I am continuing cognitive rehabilitation and neurological visits, and various medicinal cocktails to try and help me live as much of a normal life as I can. Or at least functional.

How is all of this a Blessing? I’ve had many people tell me:

-It happened for a reason.

-Be thankful for the little things.

-God has a plan.

-You now know about the important things in life.

Do you know what my answers to these are?

Fuck you.

That’s right, fuck you and you’re philosophies. No, that’s not what I mean by a Blessing. As I said earlier, if you’re not Dionysian, then you’re looking at His Blessing as a curse.

The Dionysian Blessing
Dionysus bestows two kinds of madness: Lyssa and Mania.

Dionysus (left) watches on as King Lykourgos of Thrake attacking his wife (center). The winged daimon Lyssa hovers above.

Dionysus (left) watches on as King Lykourgos of Thrake attacks his wife (center). The winged daimon Lyssa hovers above.

Lyssa is related to the Greek word leukos, which means “white.” Lyssa was personified as a daimon of rage and rabid frenzy; it was sometimes used as a synonym for rabies. Lyssa was the daimon sent by Herakles to curse him into a fit of rage when he killed his family. This tragedy led to his Twelve Labors. Upon the impious Dionysus sent Lyssa, and the onset of the affliction is described by the winged spirit herself as a “scorpion’s sting.” (Aeschylus, Fragment 85 Xantriae (from Photius, Lexicon 326. 22) (trans. Weir Smyth) ).

The madness I am referring to is Mania. The Greek word mania is related to the Greek word mainesthai, which means literally “to go mad.” Mania itself is considered to be a type of otherness that is bestowed by a Deity upon a vessel. Four types of mania (theia mania) were outlined by Plato in his Phaedrus:

1) Mantic Mania (Mediumship): Apollon

2) Telestic Mania (Ritual Trance): Dionysus

3) Poetic Mania (Musical Passion): Muses

4) Erotic Mania (Passion, Love): Aphrodite, Eros

In regards to mania, Plato wrote:

…our greatest blessing comes to us by way of mania, which indeed is a Divine Gift.

Shamanic Mania
Enthusiasmos – literally, having the God within you – was a state of intoxication in which Dionysus revealed Himself in such a manner that it was overwhelming. A Dionysian broke free from the societal norms of the time to enjoy a liberated life, and that taste of liberation continued even after the ritual state was over. A Manic Dionysian – for one cannot have the God without being Manic – was a prey by choice, hunted to the brink where his sanity was captured and brought down by the God. Sanity is the sacrificial offering that the God takes when He anoints you. Sanity is the balanced state of the Ego when the Self is attempting to harmonize with the Greater Community that the Self is a part of. It is attempting to reach self-actualization by identifying with the Community one is a part of. Humans, being primates, have evolved to be social creatures. In order to maintain that social order, we have developed complex rules of behavior and hierarchy. And, no matter how many rebellions occur or anarchic movements occur, inevitably we come back to our natural instinctual behavior of social rule.

But a Dionysian is a type of shaman who lives in miasmic territory. Miasma was considered impurity by the ancient Greeks, and many things were done to ensure that such impurity was always cleansed. But a Dionysian, based on my personal experience, lives in miasma. We’re rule breakers. We dwell in the tombs and caves. We wander about the lands, with sacred sex polluting the people. We’re not fit to be part of the social order. Why? Agents of chaos. We remind society of its ills, its forgotten people. Dionysus is nothing if not a God who takes the oppressed and empowers them. Women, bound to serve their fathers or husbands in a man-ruled society, left the confines of the polis and found refuge in the remote forests and mountains to experience the ekstasis of the Raving One. Liberation came not through wars or laws, but by the God within.

The Brain-Injured Blessing
My brain injury, as I said before, brought me a lot of weaknesses that keep me from being in pace with the world around me. People have to slow down for my sake in many ways. But, the brain injury also exacerbated my behavior on the Autism Spectrum: thus, when I speak to someone, I pay very close attention to their body language and nonverbal nuances. I also log discrepancies and contradictions in their speech and behavior, something that most people do everyday without awareness. The Mania that was bestowed upon me in this net of mental illness is that I am actually more sane than the rest of the world. Watching at a slower pace, I can pay more close attention the details that escape the observations of others in our increasingly fast-paced world. This condition has enlightened me to the depths of my core, shattering the notion of Self I was attempting to build up through my identity with my job and my friends rather than my identity with the God within. It is Dionysus who defines me – no one else. It is Dionysus who shapes me, molds me, and gives me the lens by which I can view the insanity of the world. People do the strangest things to achieve their lives: this is Lyssa in action. People are enraged, rabid and hostile, ready for conflict at anytime. I don’t move at society’s leisure; my whirlwind dance is in keeping with the cyclical rhythm of the Cosmos. But while I dance, I am not paying attention and knocking everything over into a sordid mess. But how can creation occur if destruction does not happen first?

The Manic Jester
I’ve often bemoaned the fact that I am a Heirophant and Kurios (High Priest and Guardian) of my Tradition, because I think a Dionysian Jester is absolutely the worst kind of leader in many respects. I don’t even follow my own rules half the time, because some things are changeable. I dispense advice to my members that I don’t even go by, because I live in a different dimension. But an Oracle, such as I am, ironically is of help in a manic state. Plato wrote of the Pythia that she was not helpful to anyone when she came to her senses; it was her induced mania – taking leave of her senses – when she was able to help out world events. It’s for this reason I can also be viewed as a trouble maker, because I just tend to have that personality clash with people who like a certain type of order to look at me and say, “Yep, you’ll be trouble.” Whether it’s self-inflicted or not, the end result is that trouble follows me. For many people who are in power positions, they view this kind of aura as antithetical to their visions. And, they would be right. However, it has been my experience that what people in power need is a Jester, an appointed Fool that will mock the hierarchy. That was the position of the Jester after all – to help the Powers that Be not take themselves so seriously, and point out the flaws in their otherwise self-centered egos.

Having a brain injury (and I can only speak for myself here) on the day of my accident conferred a type of spontaneous trance-like state that brought on a crisis in my life. Crisis, in Greek, has several meanings, including: selection, judgement, to be separated, to be decided upon, an election. The term is a legal one that spoke of a decision reached by a tribunal whose judgement would affect a person’s place within that society. It was usually used in the sense of a punishment and condemnation. But for a Dionysian, what society deems a punishment, I see as a gateway to enlightenment. The Fool, after all, is perhaps the one who is more at peace than everyone else.

I may not be able to walk with my community how others do. I may not be as fast in processing as everyone else. I may need to use communication and sentences, breaking them down into minute building blocks that may form a different message than the sender intended (or am I reading something hidden that shouldn’t be revealed?). But a krisis is exactly that – a separation unto the Lord of the Vineyard. A turning point when I become His Wine and Intoxicant. So many people think that Dionysian mania is rooted in being drunk and horny. Oh, my friend, if you only knew the real conveyance of the unction of the Bull-Horned Liberator.

Eirene kai Hugieia!
(Peace and Health!)
~Oracle~

 

Return from Hiatus: Polytheist Leadership Conference and Other Goings-On

My model of Hekate

Hekate

Hi all,

This blog has been quiet for awhile, and I’d like to apologize to all of my readers for that. It’s been a tough few months for myself, both financially, spiritually, and physically. Just as a reminder, I suffer with a traumatic right brain injury and all of the side effects that come with it, including epilepsy. I was on one medication, but it seemed to have exacerbated some nasty stuff like vivid hallucinations. In addition, I had 2 or 3 episodes. So now I am weaning off of that one and starting on a new one. Taking both are currently affecting my energy levels, but still I intend to restart my blogging. I need to. Writing is my creative and cathartic outlet for many things, and also my way of remaining in touch with the goings-on of the blog-o-sphere. In addition, I get to share any major events happening in my side of the country as well as with my Temple.

For starters, the Summer Solstice came and went. It was magnificent. Our Temple honored Dionysus Dendritos and the Nymphai. The Solstice is significant in that it signals in our Calendar the end of the Bull Half of the Year and the start of the Wolf Half. That is, the Great Festivals give way from cultus to Dionysus to Hekate. Our Temple is named after Her, after all: Temple of Hekate: Ordo Sacra Strix. So I’ll be writing more about Hekate and how we at the Temple honor cultus to Her in forthcoming blogs.

Our Bomos during our Summer Solstice Festivities.

Our Bomos during our Summer Solstice Festivities.

Polytheist Leadership Conference
Now, as some of you may recall, I was trying to attend the Polytheist Leadership Conference which took place this past July 11 – 13. I missed out on it and told Sannion as such that I would. Sadly, I had other things to attend to. It would have wonderful had I been able to join this historic Inaugural setting, but I’ll work on ensuring that attend future conferences as best as I am able. In the meantime I have this blog. But from what I’ve been reading, it was excellent. You can read about the goings-on in the following areas:

Sannion doesn’t talk about any specific details of the Conference as of yet, but there are some tidbits in a question raised by someone following the Conference. You can read it here.

Galina Krasskova kept some continuous updates at her blog here. Just scroll down and take your pick, folks. There’s a lot to take in, as there should be. I’m jealous.

The Thracian will have some follow-ups coming along at his blog here.

PSLV (aka Lupus), as always, has detailed journalistic entries here. As with Galina’s, scroll down and take your pick. I’m salivating and very sad that I couldn’t attend. “Next time,” I keep telling myself. “Next time.”

Finally, Ruadhan McElroy pens some interesting experiences here and here.

I’m positive there are many more links and blogs talking about the Conference, but since these I follow I figure I’ll post them here. Like you all, I will be following in the days to come.

Impact
What are the ramifications from the Conference? What is it that we, as a people, are being asked to do? What have those who have gone and set themselves up as leaders of Polytheism planning to come forth with in the coming days, months and years? What are the plans for our respective Communities? Do we who did not attend agree on major points, or are there points to disagree on? Now, with the latter questions I tend to try and be careful on, because I’ve had my fair share of criticisms with people who are “armchair debaters.” They feel it is their task to not do anything at all while others do a lot of hard work. And then, they sit back and critique everything down to the last iota. Yet they never contributed anything. I’d hate to be viewed as one of those people, because I didn’t attend. But, we all have voices, and I take a small comfort in that my Work here with my Temple may be enough to let me have some allowance. I also consider myself pretty objective, yet passionate about my views. I don’t tend to take sides in debates very easily, but neither do I make the mistake of always seeing a “third road.” Sometimes the middle way is no way at all, and a side must be taken. Anyway, enough said. I say all of that to say this:

Lupus brought up something interesting, which I’ll quote some of it here. Hopefully it will not be taken out of context. For the full blog, please go here, where he posts a follow-up regarding the Thracian’s appearance on Wyrd Ways Radio. Here’s the issue/question/matter:

And the question is this: have we created a “polytheist echo chamber”? Despite our many disagreements, there is a great deal that we do agree on, and that we have found “unity” of purpose over as a result of all this. That’s a great and powerful thing, and in fact it’s the origin of the term “syncretism,” which I’m unsurprisingly in favor of heavily–!?!–and yet, Fox News is an echo chamber, and various other groups that are not looked on very charitably (with good reason!) are also echo chambers.

Are we at all in danger of becoming an echo chamber? While I don’t think so, realistically, I know that our newfound sense of common purpose and our enjoyment at having had such a great experience will likely prompt those of our critics who already find us distasteful and erroneous for various reasons to say that we’re only interested in our own opinions and hearing them agreed with and supported by like-minded folks. (And that makes us different to EVERYONE ELSE how, exactly?)

I’m beginning to move to the point of thinking that Wicca, Christianity, and all of these other things are perfectly fine for themselves, because they’re entirely different religions than our own. That is obvious, needless to say. I think that it might be more necessary, though, for us as modern polytheists to withdraw from the wider pagan community and umbrella in various ways because our religion and theological viewpoints are so vastly different to most of those, which will then allow us to preserve our autonomy and not be interfered with by their wishes for our conformity. If they can begin to see us as different religions, rather than as being under their umbrella, then there will be no reason for them to try and regulate our rhetoric, our practices, or anything else, in the same way that Hindus don’t do that and pagans don’t do it to Hindus, Buddhists don’t do that and pagans don’t do it to Buddhists, and some Christians don’t do that and pagans don’t (usually) do it to Christians, even though some of them do and would like to on both sides of that issue…

I don’t know…what do you all think?

Polytheist Religions
I don’t think there is any one simple response to this, as I don’t think there should be. What Lupus is asking is very relevant, and something that everyone should be careful of: the dreaded Group Think. Everyone starts to feel like they are so like-minded that suddenly the group becomes a place where ideas and innovations stagnate in the face of hardened dogma, and there lies a potential danger even for historically reconstructed Polytheist groups. Thankfully there are questioning Dionysians like myself who love nothing more than to enter an echo chamber and cause a little mayhem and chaos in order for people to see the systems which they have in place will always contain a flaw of some kind, and it’s necessary at times to ensure especially when Old Systems need to die for New Systems to arise. That’s just the cycle of energy: evolution and entropy. In my Temple, our teachings tend to illustrate this cycle between the Forces of Aphrodite and Ares: Love and Strife. In order for Creation to occur, Aphrodite brings forth Desire for the Four Elements to dance in rhythmic Harmony. This rhythmic Harmony is at the heart of all things. But lest matter implode upon itself, Ares must come forth and wield His weapon to separate the Elements into their pure states. However, by separating them into their pure states, destruction of matter occurs. It’s a constant flux and flow dance.

I say all of that to say this: I think there’s a flaw. Lupus groups all Polytheist religions beneath one umbrella in and of itself, when in reality that isn’t very simple. For example, taking the term by itself, Polytheism can be found among Christians and Wiccans. But I guess since most official denominations regard themselves as monotheist, perhaps we can’t include them? I don’t know. It seems weird that we ourselves (or perhaps me) can’t study some Christian denominations like Mormonism and Catholicism and say, “Yeah, despite what they say they are Polytheist.” I mean, we study other cultural faiths and do it all of the time. I don’t think Western religions should be exempt just because they try and say otherwise. Traditional Wicca, for the record, isn’t a religion. It’s a priesthood of initiates dedicated to specific tribal Gods and spirits of those Traditions. Neo-Wicca is a vastly different creature, but I don’t think I have space for that right now. I’m trying to focus on Lupus’ question, and giving an answer that I’m sure plenty will disagree with. Honestly, I’m okay with that! I really hope people do, because we need honest dialogue about these kinds of things. Now, while perhaps the vast majority (I’m guessing) of Polytheist-labeled faiths group themselves as “historically accurate,” there may be Temples and groups which will rise up and revive the worship of the Old Gods in their own way. There may not be any historical precedent for what they do, but they may claim to be Polytheist nonetheless.

As an example, many cults and groups of Sanatana Dharma (or what we Westerners call “Hinduism”) are considered more orthodox in their approach to the Vedas and other Scriptures. But there are cults and groups that fall under the umbrella of polytheism, henotheism, etc. within Hinduism and yet may not be considered “orthodox” by the majority. There may be gurus or saints that have their own revelations about the Gods, their own teachings about how they approach them, and so forth. (I need to stop here and say I honestly hope I am making sense and that I didn’t make a mistake in my insomnia to type this at 4am and it’s all gibberish). I guess what I’m trying to say is that I think rather than pull completely away from Neo-Paganism, we should find ways to have our own dialogues with our local Communities which may include Neo-Pagans. The problem I think is that Neo-Pagans have had a start since the 1960s, so inevitably now they are going to host gatherings under their label, whether large or small. But as Polytheist-labeled groups can start their own momentum, we need not exclude anyone. We can have our Conferences, Festivals and Workshops and be inclusive as well. We’re siblings anyway, worshiping the same or similar Gods but perhaps in vastly different ways. Not all Neo-Pagans are Deists, just as not all Polytheists are historically accurate. There are still some people, such as myself, who hold the label of a Neo-Pagan and a Polytheist. My Temple is labeled as Polytheist, however, because it’s important to distinguish that unlike the Neo-Wiccan groups in the area that are a venerable free-for-all, we carry structure, hierarchy and dogma. We even have our own set of sacred Scriptures that detail our own Mythology unique to our Temple. Thus, we are very different.

Getting Out from under the Umbrella
But just to make sure I’m saying something correct and not misreading, I agree with Lupus that insofar as the Greater Pagan Communities are concerned, there are organizations that tend to speak for the Communities as best as they are able (i.e. Pagan Pride, Cherry Hill Seminary, Circle Sanctuary, etc.), and they don’t speak for us. Or, speaking for myself, they don’t speak for me (I apologize to any Polytheist who enjoys those organizations and feels they do speak for them). We just need to be careful, I think, that again while having our own gatherings that we do not totally separate. It’s a precarious dance. Some of us, like I said, will walk in both worlds at the same time, being neither here nor there. Lupus in a blog entry described a brief presentation by the Thracian in which the latter spoke about regional cultus in modern polytheism. According to what I can gather (I’m sure more details will come later), the viewpoint that modern Polytheists can do is to look at different people, cults and Temples from how they worship Deities and if their approach to similar/same Deities are different, it’s because of regional variation. No one can speak for anyone. That’s how the ancient world practiced. We must keep in mind that Polytheism means plurality: a kaleidoscope worldview that makes room for many different universes and possibilities. For every fragment of the ancient world that has survived, perhaps hundreds are lost that we may never know of. We can never be truly sure how one person or group approaches the Gods is not an approved way. Neither can we speak for the Gods. Well, I can’t, short of blasphemy going on. Even though as an Oracle They choose to speak through me, I can’t just assume something. It doesn’t Work that way. I hate that.

Why All the Fuss?
If the aforementioned is true, then why all the fuss about rituals in Pagan Pride Day events? Why all of the kerfuffle when it comes to the differences between Polytheists and some Neo-Pagans? Here’s my honest answer, for what it’s worth: it’s because our ways are being questioned and threatened with exclusion, not the other way around. It’s because many Neo-Pagans desire Magick and to walk with the Gods, and yet when it’s in front of them, they fucking stomp on it because it doesn’t mesh with their semblance of reality. They only recognize it when they see pseudo-shamans who charge exorbitant amounts of cash for a weekend retreat to pound a few drums, paint their faces, find their Wolf/Bear/Eagle totem, and then suddenly they think they’re a fucking shaman. It’s because they don’t know the meaning of sacrifice – only reward. It’s because they think all rituals are the same, and everyone is the same, and we’re homogenized with them against our wishes. It’s because no one wants any controversy in the Pan-Pagan Movement. Traditional Wiccans get enough flack for being secretive and keeping their Mysteries to themselves. People want to come in, be a 3rd degree without any sincere training of what it means to touch the spirit world, and then claim a title without knowing just what that title entails. They see the gold tiara, not the thorns. They see the shiny fetishes as an excuse for their hoarding problem. They disrespect themselves, so how can they possibly respect the Unseen Powers they desire to know so much?

That’s why there is a fuss. I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: we are different cultures, different tribes, different peoples. We’re not all the same, and that’s okay. We need to have:

Unification in Diversity!!!

Fuck. I missed a great Conference.

Eirene kai Hugieia!
(Peace and Health!)
~Oracle~

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sexual Abuse, Healing, and Survival

The Abduction of Persephone

The Abduction of Persephone

In light of recent current events, I’d like to expose people to my first two posts published by the Witches’ Voice.

The first one is From Victim to Survivor: How the Craft Taught Me to Overcome Sexual Trauma (Part I).

The second is From Victim to Survivor: How the Craft Taught Me to Overcome Sexual Trauma (Part 2).

Since then I have learned a great deal more in my walk and Work with the Theoi. So I might do an update. In the meantime, I hope these essays help fill people with hope.

Eirene kai Hugieia!
(Peace and Health!)
~Oracle~

 

In Memoriam: Donald Michael Kraig

Donald Michael Kraig (March 28, 1951 – March 17, 2014)

Donald Michael Kraig (March 28, 1951 – March 17, 2014)

 

It’s been a hectic time for me on a personal level since my last blog post. I began new anti-seizure medications that had severe side effects, including intense drowsiness. I found myself sleeping nearly 15 hours per day. Include that with some other personal issues with my sister, my family, and trying to keep a Temple going, and I just did not have the time to be on the blog-o-sphere as much. I did keep up with current events however. This blog post is dedicated to an individual that I just met, barely knew, and yet had a significant impact on me.

Donald made a blog post on February 8, 2013 with a title, “I Want You To Write!” It was just before he was scheduled to attend PantheaCon that year. I made a comment (as I sometimes did on his blog posts), and shortly afterwards I made contact with him. Like many within the NeoPagan Community, I was a fan in my early days, and later a critic, of Llewellyn Publications. I honestly didn’t know where to stand half the time, because when I began to make contacts within Traditional Craft lots of people were seriously against this publication for various grudges and political reasons that went back to the 60s, including the writings of controversial authors and material in the 90s. Situations which I’ll leave out of this blog post.

But I knew one thing: I wanted to write. I had so many thoughts and issues I wanted to address. I began to write a few articles on Witchvox, but it wasn’t steady. I also did not have a lot of time to devote myself to writing. Not until after my car accident. Keeping it short, I’ll say that my correspondence with Don was encouraging. In fact, this blog was born because of his influence. He encouraged me to put my name out there and build an audience. His exhortation, the inspirational seeds he planted within my conscious, soon flowered into what we have here.

Don died recently. I mourned his passing along with other people. His books started me on my serious adventures into the Occult World. But his influence upon me reverberated way more than outside of our personal communications. I made friends with mutual people. I am writing. And this, following below, is my last letter that I would have written Don. Call it closure. Call it a memorial. I may not have known him as well as other people. But the briefest meeting and the subsequent results prove what a great man Donald Michael Kraig truly was. So Don, wherever you are, I hope you’ll read what I have to say below:

“Dear Don,

Thank you very much for your time, your friendship, and your mentorship. I don’t think I had an opportunity to say that. Or I mean, I did several times when you answered all of my questions individually, and again when you steered me in the right direction with submitting a manuscript, or how I would put together my pictures and such. I mean, seriously, you were a great help. But honestly, that’s not all I want to thank you for. You changed my world. Literally. I guess you would personally argue that you didn’t do anything: you wrote the books, and it was up to me to put them into practice. I changed my own world is what you would have said. But no, you did. Don’t take away the praise that you deserve.

By your writing, you also developed a network of fans and students who all soon grew up and became comparable magical practitioners in their own right. People like Tony Mierzwicki. I made mutual friends like Alfred Surenyan. And, more than anything, your spirit was with me the entire time I began to seriously dive into the Occult World. It was a personal dream come true when we began to correspond, and you took my project seriously.

With you gone, so many are mourning. I know I am, and I hardly knew you. But I hope you’re proud of me, because I am writing. I am building an audience. I am putting my name, my beliefs, and what I stand for out in the world. I am taking a risk like other authors. You’re in the Spirit World, and you are still inspiring me. You’re awesome.

My project isn’t done. I will write that book. I will continue to pass on what you have taught me writing is all about – teaching, growing, legacy and building bridges for future generations of writers. Thank you for teaching me the business side of book companies, and for opening me eyes. I’ll never forget what you told me. You said, ‘If you think you can write a better book, than write it!’ I realized then and there I was part of the problem, not the solution. I hope I will always continue to be part of the solution. I hope I bring honor to what you have shown me.

Always In Your Debt,
Luis A. Valadez
~Oracle~”
 

Polytheist Leadership Conference

Polytheist Leadership Conference

So I’ve been away for awhile here because I had medical needs to attend to. My sister had eye surgeries and I myself have some neurological testing approaching. In any case, I’m hoping to return to my sacred space here and post my thoughts, thealogies, rants and ravings. You know, like a good Dionysian. But in any case, the Polytheist Leadership Conference is approaching and I am very excited. But, I am not above asking for help, because in my current financial situation I cannot afford any of it. So, I calculated the cost for 2 people to go (myself included) and it’s going to be, with fees included, about $700.

I need your help.

I would raise money to just take myself, but with a traumatic brain injury and other neurological issues, going alone would not be the best thing. I’ve created a gofundme account so that I can raise the money to send me and one of my partners there this Summer. I’m looking forward to seeing what our respective Communities can accomplish, and hopefully having faced needless drama from the surrounding Pagan Communities, perhaps we can take these lessons with us and forge a path of cooperation and alliance. Here’s my motto:

Unification in Diversity!

We are a growing network of temples, cults, devotees and traditional tribes in the making that can a significant difference as Spirit Walkers in all of the realms we touch. I’m excited so far to hear the scheduled speakers. More than anything, making new friends and creating networking opportunities is what I love. We also have an opportunity to create history…a legacy that will ripple throughout our budding communities for time to come. Light the fires, call the dead, dance with revelry: what more could anyone ask for?

Okay I’ll stop rambling. Below is the link to my Gofundme account. I’ll be posting it with every blog post I submit. Any amount will help tremendously. Donating costs you NOTHING, except the investment you’re willing to do. In advance, thank you for reading, thank you for commenting (whether we agree or not on things), and thank you for helping me out with this trip. I drink to you all!

My Gofundme account:

http://www.gofundme.com/77i08c

Eirene kai Hugieia!
(Peace and Health!)
~Oracle~

Polytheism, or Do We Really Need to Elaborate?

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So, I went and reread John Halstead’s blog wherein he discussed Pantheacon’s “Wiccanate Privilege Discussion,” and something caught my attention. Having a TBI, it takes my brain a while to process what I am reading and interpreting that information. So while some will say “Duh,” it’s not for me. Yeah, I don’t get the obvious. Anyway, moving forward…at the bottom of the article, John has a subsection entitled “Polytheistic with a Hyphen.” In the article he referred to Lupus’ discussion of the word polytheism and the nuances which can cause confusion and, thus, conflict when using a word which may mean different things to different people. John encourages people within the Greater Pagan Communities who identify as “polytheists” to perhaps use prefixes which differentiate their particular polytheist thealogy (i.e. devotional, hard, soft, Jungian, etc.). Galina responded to John’s suggestion of the hyphen usage here, and it’s a great write-up. I strongly suggest reading those articles before reading my own thoughts on the entire matter below.

Theos
Let’s start with the basics. Polytheism is rooted in two Greek words:

Polu – “Many”
Theos/Theia – “Divinities.”

But there is much more than just the simple definition given above. Ancient Greek carried with each word an entire cultural milieu that had a specific set of visual associations which pertained to the semiotics of the word. Thus, “theos” came with a shared cultural understanding of a phenomenon. That phenomenon sharply contrasts with our modern Western Christian-infused concept of “God.” For modern people within our Christian-majority environment, “theos” or “God” comes with a specific set of synonyms and adjectives including the notion that the Sacred is separated, or transcendent from, the mundane. Humanity, as part of the mundane sphere, cannot be privy to the sphere wherein lies the Divine Concept but through the sacrificial acknowledgement and belief in the expiation of Jesus. But more than this, “theos” has come to insistently mean “One.”

One God, One Being, One Power, One Force.

And even where the Christian Trinity can be clearly cited as an example of Polytheism, yet the Christian doctrine emphasizes repeatedly that the paradox is that it is “3-in-1.” So, no matter how separated the various Beings are, invariably They are One. The monistic concept of the Trinity has bled into our Pagan/Polytheist outlooks, with evidence around that people simply have trouble abandoning their Christian doctrines in the face of even the apparent contradiction that the Church enforces its believers to adopt. When we say that the world is filled with spirits and a host of Celestial Immortals, those still entrenched in Christian philosophy cry out “No! They are not independent Beings but simply ‘Many-in-One!'” The plurality of polytheism is surrendered for a desired homogenous state that exists only within the utopic minds of its adherents. The works of Joseph Campbell in his “Monomyth” and Frazer’s “Archetypal Sacrificed God” have also served many modern Pagans to give notice to the “Mono” over the “Many.” While the works of both have brought many people a wonderful foundation into modern Paganism, the unfortunate side effect is that people try to find in our practices how the variety of Temples, Cults and Traditions are similar before meriting an agreement of “Hey look! We can have a festival together!” The differences are excluded in favor of false conformity.

A World of Spirits and Beings
To the ancient Greek mind (and, cross-cultural comparatively other pre-Christian cultures both ancient and modern) there existed no word like “religion.” Instead, a concept that comes closest to that word is theon timai “Honors to the Theoi.” The honors given to the Theoi are encapsulated within the ethos in how we live, what we practice, how we serve cultus, and the festivals which we celebrate. In other words, polytheism is not simply about faith, but it is more so directly tied into action and works. Again, our Christian culture has bled its teachings of “By faith and not by works” wherein people have tons of altars and shrines without ever feeding or giving attention to the Deities in question. Statues are mere decorations, and rituals are more concerned with the participants attending and the facilitator’s skill at drama and timing (so as not to interfere with the feasting!) over the specific acts which touched our ancestors with the spirit world. But Polytheism is about honoring the Theoi (or insert pantheon here) with action and works which ripple into our very lives. These actions and works are important because “theos” itself implies a “third objective power.” (L.A. Wilkinson, Socratic Charis: Philosophy Without the Agon). It refers to a specific presence that carries a weight and validity to the people who are within Their sphere.

Otiose
“Otiose” is a word that means “Leisure,” or even “Serving No Practical Purpose.”  The word has come to be used in anthropology circles to describe polytheistic faiths such as Hinduism, some sects of Buddhism, and aboriginal tribal beliefs that do espouse a “One” Spirit that created everything or was responsible for creating the host of Beings and Spirits that inhabit a particular Cosmos, but the One itself is Unknowable, Untouchable, and Unconcerned with the world as-is. That’s why He/She created the Spirits in the first place: to run things. Think of a CEO playing golf and away from the company, never visiting or knowing what’s going on even with the daily worker. No, it’s the lead workers, the department managers, the operation supervisors and such within the company’s hierarchy that are concerned with the daily welfare of the corporation and its people. That’s us folks: we humans are the people at the bottom of the Cosmic rung in many ways. My Tradition’s teachings have a “One” as well: an otiose Protogonoi that cannot be touched or fathomed because S/He is everywhere. Yet S/He is unconcerned with anything at all except Hirself, and in the Grand Cosmic Scheme of things that’s all that matters really. So just because we have a “One” concept doesn’t mean we’re monotheistic. No, we’re Polytheistic. We work with the Divine Beings and Spirits that inhabit this world, and our temple’s power rests upon the honors that we bestow upon Them through our ritual actions and works.

Emic vs. Etic
Abundant evidence of polytheistic practices demonstrates that for many in both the ancient and modern world, rituals are tied specifically to a spirit or Divinity. As Jan Bremmer writes, “It is neither practical nor advisable to study the two entities separately.” (J. Bremmer, Ed., The Gods of Ancient Greece: Identities and Transformations). But the problem with modern Polytheism in general is that arguments against Polytheism are coming from those who are outside the Polytheistic scope. They are brandishing themselves “polytheists” without the complex understanding that the word in and of itself entails: the honoring, through ritual action and works, of many individualized and supra-powered Beings. In cultural anthropology, the contrasting view between studying the innards of a paradigm from a person within that culture as opposed to an objective observer who is an alien to that paradigm is known as emic vs. etic, respectively. The problem with etic observers is that they come with a template of biases which cloud what they are attempting to document and understand. They have a limited background that is not rooted within the Polytheist Model. If you want to approach Mythology and the Theoi (or insert pantheon here) via the Jungian School of Thought, you are not a Polytheist. You are a lay psychologist, a Jungian, or perhaps a Pan-Deist. But you are not a Polytheist.

It surprises me that we even need to have this argument of “hyphens” and prefixes. Polytheism is what it is. I reverence the Ancestors, the Heroes, and the Theoi of my Temple. I am a Polytheist. They are independent of me, and ritual is my lifeline to Them. It is also how I feed my spirits, those to whom I am aligned to. I probably could have just come out straightforward and made these statements, thus making the blog shorter. But honestly, I think some backstory was needed; research, if you will. Polytheism is not a term for anyone to use – in my opinion (lest I get angry messages about being too authoritative and…ah fuck it!) ….

Polytheism is NOT a term for ANYONE to use unless they are serving Spirits and Beings which are viewed as independent and volitional Beings in Their own right – NOT figments of the imagination or caricatures of the human psyche.

Go ahead, send the e-mails.

Eirene kai Hugieia!
(Peace and Health!)
~Oracle~

Sources:

Bremmer, J., and Erskine, A. (Eds). (2010). The Gods of Ancient Greece: Identities and Transformations.

Wilkinson, Lisa A. (2013). Socratic Charis: Philosophy Without the Agon.