Commitment 07.23.2020

I lecture at a local Unity church which has an interfaith format and welcomes speakers from different religious backgrounds. We are all given a specific topic to speak from. Because I am a Neopagan, a witch, and a Hellenic Polytheist, I approach the given topic from that point of view. This lecture is on the topic of Commitment. Enjoy!

Forgiveness 06.11.2020

I lecture at a local Unity church which has an interfaith format and welcomes speakers from different religious backgrounds. We are all given a specific topic to speak from. Because I am a Neopagan, a witch, and a Hellenic Polytheist, I approach the given topic from that point of view. This lecture is on the topic of Forgiveness. Enjoy!

StrixCraft

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Darkness 04.23.2020

Darkness for VIdeo

I lecture at a local Unity church which has an interfaith format and welcomes speakers from different religious backgrounds. We are all given a specific topic to speak from. Because I am a Neopagan, a witch, and a Hellenic Polytheist, I approach the given topic from that point of view. This lecture is on the topic of Darkness. My father passed away early in April, and this lecture’s topic really took on a personal interpretation. Enjoy!

StrixCraft

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We are Aradia!

Gaston_Casimir_Saint-Pierre_-_Diana_the_Huntress

The Goddess Diana by Gaston Casimir Saint Pierre

Yes, your witchcraft is political. It always has been. I wrote about Dionysos and Ares here and here, respectively. Many witches look to Aradia for their inspiration of the Craft. In fact, in many circles, when the Circle is cast to establish sacred space, Aradia is called upon to help lend her energy.

Aradia is an important character in witchcraft. Whether she actually lived or was a legend in Italian folklore doesn’t matter. A messianic figure of sorts, she is supposedly the daughter of the Goddess Diana and her brother Lucifer and lived in the 14th century in Tuscany, Italy.

In the High Middle Ages (1000-1250 BCE), the Goddess Diana was touted by papal Rome as the Goddess of the witches, who were able to fly on nocturnal journeys to join the Goddess Diana at her Sabbats (also known as the Tregunda). In some writings at the time, Aradia had another name: Herodias.

Aradia was sent to Earth by her mother Diana as the “first of all witches,” and was to teach the secret art of witchcraft to the poor and downtrodden. In “Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches of Italy,” her story is told. The book tells us that at the time the poor and subjugated were under the cruel heel of their noble masters. Many escaped their lords and hid in the forests, becoming outlaws.

Aradia taught a different religion than that of the corrupt Catholic Church at the time. The church grew fat on the backs of the poor, thus deserving the arts of witchcraft against them. The arts included the classic witches’ arsenal of using poisons. Curses also were thrown at the church and the nobles. Aradia cursed the God of the church as well:

And when the priests or the nobility Shall say to you that you should put your faith In the Father, Son, and Mary, then reply:Your God, the Father, and Maria are Three devils…For the true God the Father is not yours; For I have come to sweep away the bad, The men of evil, all will I destroy!’

Aradia then went on to teach the Craft of the Witch:

 

The Civil Strife of Ares

Ares

Ares the God of War, Rebellion, Civil Order, and Anger

Ares is a God who, in some circles, isn’t understood very well. He is viewed mostly as a symbol of pure rage and frenzy, as well as an icon of unbridled toxic masculinity. The latter confuses me, as anyone who worships Ares and does their research will understand that this is far from fact. Ares is a God of Civil Order and Rebellion, and it is this aspect I want to focus on. This is a necessary message for our times.

Civil strife and disobedience is not a very well-known aspect of his. Under his epithet of Laossous, Ares is known as “He who rallies men.” Note that Ares is a God who rallies ALL men, not just a select few because of the color of their skin and sense of superiority over others of a different skin color. ALL MEN. This means that Ares is a God who also transcends societal boundaries, much like Dionysos. In fact in Thrace he was worshiped alongside Dionysos. Herodotus in his “Histories” writes:

They (the Thracians) worship no Gods but Ares, Dionysos, and Artemis.

But if you think that only men are capable of channeling Ares, you’re wrong. Women have had a lot of dealings with Ares as well. ALL WOMEN. In Tegea, one of the most ancient and powerful towns in Arcadia, Ares had an icon in the marketplace. According to Pausanias in his “Description of Greece:”

Carved in relief on a slab [Ares] is called Gynaikothoinas (Feasted by Women). At the time of the Lakonian War, when Kharillos king of Lakadaemon made the first invasion, the women armed themselves and lay in ambush…When the armies met and the men on either side were performing many remarkable exploits the women, they say, came on the scene and put the Lakadaemons to flight. … The story goes on to say…that the women offered to Ares a sacrifice of victory on their own account without the men.

To add, Apollonius Rhodius in his “Argonautica” states that Ares was the God of the Amazons, a group of female warriors. It was said that they founded many temples in his honor. Apollonius calls the Amazons the daughters of Ares. As you can see, Ares does not discriminate, but he is very well-favored by women especially.

Ares, as the God of Civil Unrest as well as Civil Order, is not a contradiction within himself. Ares is glorious in his campaigns to bring Justice to civilization, and to speak up for the downtrodden who are killed beneath the boot of the oppressor. Ares is an ally of Themis, the Goddess of Divine Order, Law, and Right Judgement.

What does all this mean?

Currently with all of the unrest throughout the nation, we are seeing boundaries shift. As a God of all men and women (especially the latter), Ares is the spirit of sedition: destroying the Old Order to make way for the New. When civil order is no longer order but oppression, it takes rebellion to stoke the fires in order to restore real divine law in our land.

Ares stands with the ill-treated. He defends the defenseless. He gives anger to those who have been beaten down and left for dead. Ares is the shout of civil strife. Women are minorities and were subjugated in many periods of history. How much more so in this day and age for any minority?

In StrixCraft as I teach it, there is the lesson of the Doctrine of the Four Elements and their oversight by both Aphrodite and Ares. Aphrodite (Unity/Love) brings together the Elements for Creation. However, Ares (Strife) separates the Elements for Destruction. By separating them, they return to their natural, pure states. This creates the potential for new beginnings. Expansion and Collapse are the ways of our Cosmos, and follow the natural law of Themis. Ares, as the aforementioned ally of Themis, attempts to bring that pattern to the microcosm so that civil order is always in a state of flux and flow, but the purpose is always Harmony.

As patron of sedition, Ares is there to upend society. Before anyone tries to claim that Ares is for white supremacy and the earlier rebellion of the Confederacy, I remind you that slaves, as the oppressed, are under the oversight of Ares. Violence against their masters is his blessing. Do not try and claim a God who does not side with you.

Violence, Anger, and Rage are found in the uprisings which take place. But I must also remind you that in that anger, Ares also helps us to control that anger. In the Homeric Hymn to Ares it is written:

Ares…Restrain also the keen fury of my heart which provokes me to tread the ways of blood-curdling strife. Rather, o blessed one, give you me boldness to abide within the harmless laws of peace, avoiding strife and hatred and the violent fiends of death.

There is always anger when you have been maltreated by the Powers that Be. There is always going to be pure rage. This is as it should be. But take care to focus that anger upon the Powers, and not be blinded  by it to indiscriminately wage a war upon the innocent, who are also under the purview of Ares.

Remember: your uprising is to create a new society. It is to restore what has been lost; or else make what has never been there. It is to fight for your rights. All of this is Ares guiding you. Ares is with you. Do not be afraid to fight for a better day. When all is said and done, a newer society of civil order will be born. May Ares guide you.

Eirene kai Hugieia!
(Peace and Health!)
Oracle

My book is now available for pre-order! It will be released October 8, 2020!
Thank you for your support. 

The Spirit of Madness: Dionysos and the Riots

Jim Morrison Dionysos

Jim Morrison as Dionysos by Eva Reid

Dionysos is often viewed as simply a wine and party God, but that is not Dionysos. He is a God of Ecstasy, the Wild, Frenzy, Madness, Drama, and a patron of the Queer Communities. He is also the spirit of the downtrodden – those who are cast aside or controlled by a society that attempts to chain people down.

In his entourage, Dionysos had satyrs, leopards, maenads, as well as the daimons Lyssa and Mania. Lyssa is the daimon of mad rage and fury, while Mania is the daimon of ecstasy and divine madness, to an extent. Usually it is Mania who is sent by the Gods to inflict its power upon mortals who dare to defy the Gods, or else need to be awakened to their weaknesses. Often there was more than one daimon of Mania, and together they were called the Maniai.

In ancient Greek tellings, divine madness was often inflicted on certain people by various deities for their own agendas: agendas which demonstrate the glory of the Gods or else expose the individual’s weaknesses, bringing them to a place where they must seek restitution for what they have done under the influence of mania. For example, Herakles was inflicted with madness (mania) by Hera. He ended up killing his family. When he became sober and grieved, he was tasked with penitence and performed his infamous 12 labors.

The question of rage and blind fury among the protesters across the nation for the murder of George Floyd and others have caught my interest; not least because the riots and protests are classic examples of Mania: divine madness. The Powers that Be have controlled every aspect of our lives with fear. Fear is a barrier that keeps boundaries intact, especially with struggles for power. Fear is the shield which Dionysos breaks in order to induce chaos for order to be restored. One of his epithets is Eleutherios, or the Liberator. It is also this name of Dionysos that I serve as devotee.

The question of the Gods and politics is a hotbed in many Neopagan and Witchcraft circles. But what many seem to forget is that the daimons of the Gods are involved in every aspect of our lives. The daimons carry the personifications of what we as a people seek out and experience. Dionysos approached kings to declare his divinity, and when they attacked him, he caused his enemies to be afflicted with his daimons and they would lose themselves to their passions. An example is King Pentheus. The king forbade the worship of Dionysos, not allowing women to participate in his rituals. When Dionysos appeared before the king, Pentheus had him locked up. The chains which bound the God, however, fell off, and the jail doors opened. Disguising himself as a woman, Dionysos led Pentheus to the mountains where his wife and daughter were, joining in the revelries of the God. When Pentheus was spotted (he was hoping to catch a glimpse of an orgy), he was brought down off a tree and ritually dismembered. It was only when Dionysos lifted the mad daimon that Pentheus’ wife and daughter realized what they had done. This rending and tearing of the king was a sign Dionysos was sending: the powerful can be brought low, and dismemberment of the “natural order” of society could easily be toppled by the God in his desire to free the oppressed.

Dionysos as a God is neither all good nor all bad. He is a God, and his domains are concerned with freeing the spirit of humanity in order to demonstrate his power. He empowers the persecuted, and lifts up those who have fallen beneath the boots of powerful government.

Social constraints were his specialty: in some parts of ancient Greece (like Athens), women were chattel. They were under the authority of their father, brothers, and later husbands. They had zero power except at certain festival rites, especially those invoking Dionysos. Unlike some other Mystery cults, foreigners and slaves were liberated in rituals which had spirit possession. Outlaws found a home with his Mysteries as well. Dionysos took the marginalized of society and helped them find liberty. Once their spirits tasted liberation, they knew they could never go back to the status quo ever again.

With everything going on in the country right now, I cannot help but see the beauty of Dionysos’ energy in everything. The downtrodden are angry. Marginalized groups are finding solace in their wrath, tearing down a broken system which – for far too long – has kept them beaten under the heels of their masters.

This type of mania is blessed by Dionysos. The ancestral wounds of many folks in this day and age have festered for far too long. This kind of holy delirium has long been overdue, and the murder of George Floyd is the final act of a drawn out fight between the oppressor and the oppressed.

Socrates, the great Greek philosopher, criticized Athenian democracy and frequently was compared by Plato to a gadfly. Just as a gadfly pricked and annoyed, so, too, was Socrates the “prick” for judging the societal conscientiousness of Athens. He was also in touch with his daimon directly without the interference of the Gods in an act called “nympholepsy,” or possession by the nymphs in order to heighten his spiritual awareness. This caused the Athenians to also accuse Socrates of blasphemy and impiety. Socrates was aware of his inner divinity. For this disruption to the natural order in Athens, he was tried and convicted. He was killed by drinking hemlock. Yet it was this criticism which needs to be channeled, and the people of the Old Order must be challenged.

One of the greatest examples of a slaves’ connections to the cult of Dionysos is Spartacus. He was a Thracian gladiator whose revolt against Rome led to him having tens of thousands of followers. Plutarch, the writer and theurgist who dwelt at the Temple of Apollo, wrote that Spartacus’ wife was a prophetess of the God. She was an initiate of the Thracian cult of Dionysos (he had different manifestations of his cult throughout the Greek world). One morning Spartacus woke with a serpent coiled around his head (the Agathos Daimon?). From this omen, his wife stated that he would become great. Her ecstatic trances, combined with popularity of the cult among slaves and the poor, drew crowds to Spartacus’ cause. His victories against the Romans solidified his memory, and Italy was shaken by his revolts.

In the end, I contemplate this revolutionary style of fighting for justice as the spirit of the God being unleashed upon our society to tear down the broken system that we have. It is imperialistic in its spirit and oligarchic in its manifestation. This must be brought to the ground if a new awakening is to occur. The Gods are calling us; they are moving us to find our spirits and free ourselves.

Your ancestors all fought for a variety of reasons. Somewhere in our past, we were all warriors. It is there. And we must ask ourselves during this time of upheaval whether we shall be a part of the Old Order, or the New? Will we allow ourselves to have him possess us in holy mania so that we experience the Oneness of Enlightenment? Or will we remain purposefully blind to our own shackles? You cannot control Dionysos. He will free us from chains and open up the prison doors of our minds. It is his ecstatic glory that will find its way into our spirits, a serpent coiling above our heads.

Choose wisely.

Eirene kai Hugieia!
(Peace and Health!)
Oracle

My book is now available for pre-order, to be released October 8, 2020!

 

Patron Deities

Horned-God-Moon-Goddess-Herm-Altar-Statue

The Goddess and the Horned One

I often get asked about patron deities a lot. Who has chosen me? How do I start? How can I find out my God and Goddess? What do I do once I know? Allow me to delve into this topic a bit more.

Wicca
In the 1950s a religion cropped up which became known as Wicca, although it was simply known as Witchcraft at the time. It was spearheaded by a man by the name of Gerald Gardner. In his writings (and those of later authors), Wicca as a whole had two patron deities: the Horned God and the Goddess. The Horned God is the embodiment of the Sacred Masculine, an archetype consisting of an amalgamation of Pan, Cernunnos, Gwyn ap Nudd, Donn, among others. The Horned God is a God of the Underworld, the sacred hunt, Nature, Sex, and the Wild, the Sun, and sacrifice.

The Goddess is the other half of the Craft’s deities. She is the embodiment of the Sacred Feminine. She is the Lady who is the Triple Goddess of Maiden, Mother, and Crone. She is connected to the green earth, the stars, the Moon, fertility, and the sea.

Both the Horned God and the Goddess are viewed as a pair which invoke the power of polarity; that is, as opposites, the Sacred Masculine and the Sacred Feminine come together for the purposes of creation, Magic, death, rebirth, and fertility. Wicca is viewed as being duotheistic: only two deities who embody all of the Gods and Goddesses. Some Wiccans take the occultist Dion Fortune’s words literally:

All of the Gods are one God, and all of the Goddesses, and there is but one Initiator.

This imagery has lasted in Traditional Craft for a very long time. It works for some Wiccans. However, I am a polytheist; I believe in the existence of all individual Gods and Goddesses, each with their own story and personality. They exist outside of ourselves, and so therefore I am not a duotheist.

When Traditional Initiatory Wicca spread here in the States from England in the 1960s, many Wiccans began to create their own covens because the demand for initiations and the eagerness of wanting to join a coven outnumbered how many covens actually existed. Many began to find whatever they could and started to “self-initiate” to the Gods. They started their own covens and sacred Traditions. They copied what they could from existing writings written by Wiccan initiates, and started their spiritual path.

However, this Wicca was do-it-yourself, and as a result the oral lore which was passed down in Traditional Initiatory Wicca was missing. DIY Wiccans took hold of the Horned God and the Goddess and insisted (in a way) that their witches individually had a patron God and a patron Goddess.

Side note: Some today use the word “matron” for the Goddess, but this is incorrect. Use patron, which is equally valid for both deities.

The Rise of Polytheism
Many polytheists then and now feel uncomfortable in Wicca, with its seemingly duotheistic philosophies. They yearn to experience connections with more than one deity. This is where I am at.

Early on in my studies I read the books which informed me of the need to pick a God and Goddess. I tried to think of some, and I couldn’t. When I started learning Druidry, the idea of a patron God and Goddess were foreign; other paths I followed didn’t have this duotheistic concept, such as Sicilian-Continental Craft and StrixCraft.

When I became initiated into Alexandrian Wicca (a “denomination” of Wicca, for lack of a better term), I already had Hekate and Dionysos whom I followed. Hekate was my original Goddess, and it just so happened that she led me to Dionysos, with whom I devoted myself to. So the presentation of being encouraged to have a God and Goddess was not necessary for me. That being said, others were exhorted to do so as a fundamental part of their training. But how would they find out? Some just picked a couple at random who they felt made sense. Others just didn’t have them.

Polytheism in Wicca
I am involved in Hellenic Polytheism as well as Wicca. I have also had the privilege to meet other Wiccan polytheists who didn’t follow the dying-and-rising God mythos. The Sabbats – celebration holidays for Wiccans – are dedicated to multiple deities who represented the cycles of Nature during that time. This contrasts with your average Wiccan Sabbat (whether DIY or Trad Craft), where usually Sabbats are routinely dedicated to a specific God or Goddess, or else follow a story of the God and Goddess throughout the year.

For polytheism, rituals have a different meaning. Sabbats can be for any number of deities and daimons. This isn’t limited to Hellenic Polytheism in Wicca mind you. There are Celtic Polytheists, Norse Polytheists, and Germanic Polytheists in Traditional Initiatory Craft who are changing the face of Wicca from being duotheistic to polytheistic.  Duotheism may continue to exist on some level since the Horned God and the Goddess may be viewed as the default patron deities of the Craft itself. Individuals, however, may have their own which aren’t limited to two.

Patron Deities
So how do you find out your patron deities? The answer is that you don’t have to know that. Some witches and other spirit workers stick to working with their ancestors and their daimons, not worrying about deities except MAYBE to worship. I say maybe because I know some people who do not acknowledge deities period.

But if you are so inclined, I’d suggest perhaps looking at what you do and who can become a patron that matches your vocation. For example, artists may turn to Athena; doctors and health professionals to Asklepios or Apollo; metal workers to Hephaistos; sailors to Poseidon or Manannan Mac Lyr; and so forth. When in doubt, I also recommend seeking out a competent diviner who will be able to guide you.

However, do not be surprised if more than one deity or daimon calls you to their attention. While now DIY Wicca is more duotheistic in teaching than Traditional Initiatory Craft, one does not need to approach Wicca as merely a gateway to a God and Goddess. If you are drawn to two patrons, there isn’t anything wrong with that, so don’t feel like you need multiple ones as well. I just want you to know that you never need to limit yourself to be called by one or two deities or daimons. Keep in mind that this is an individual journey, and where you walk may ultimately find you journeying with more than two companions.

Devotions
Once you find out who your patrons are, I suggest beginning to worship them. One can do this by simply talking to them. Pray. If you have the space, build a small altar. You can use a flat surface or a cabinet. Light a candle; write your own poetry or hymns; light some incense; print out imagery if you can’t afford a statue; pray. As you research more, I’m sure your imagination will take over and you’ll be able to add stuff as you wish. These are devotional examples which will draw you closer to your deities.

Conclusion
Discovering your patrons is an individual journey. Some people have only one deity. Others have two or more. That’s fine. But don’t feel pressured that you need to have exactly two to reflect the Masculine and the Feminine. For many, this polarity is outdated as more intersex and transgender folks join our Craft and ways. They, too, are on a path and follow it wherever it may lead. Sacred Androgyny is also paramount. Some traditions of the Craft are reflecting these changes in their philosophies and thealogies as it continues to meet the needs of more people. Some continue the polarity schema, but again it isn’t the end all be all. Just be open to your intuition and research as your walk continues. May the blessings of the Gods be with you.

Eirene kai Hugieia!
(Peace and Health!)
Oracle

My book is now available for pre-order!

 

The Azure Flame

Blue Star Fire

The Azure Flame is an important component of StrixCraft as I teach it. In my forthcoming book, “StrixCraft: Modern Greek Magic for the Modern Witch,” I introduce the Azure Flame to the reader, and it is a vital link between the individual and their Magic. In a previous post I briefly mention the Azure Flame and the link to daimons. Here I will expound on it just a bit more.

Nyx
In StrixCraft, Nyx is First Mother. She is power incarnate. Nyx is the First Oracle. There is a poem we can use to honor Hir*; it was inspired while meditating on Hir one evening. She is dark and beautiful; sequined and crowned with a over a billion blue stars. She is the Source and Dweller of the Original Fire, the seed of the Cosmos. It all begins and ends with Hir.

That being said, the Flame she possesses (and is) is wild, erratic, dangerous, and overpowering. It is the composition of a million billion suns, and from Hir the Cosmic Flames, in its purest form, is the germination of darkness.

The Cosmic Hearth
Hestia, the Goddess of the Hearth Fire, took the wild flames of Nature and domesticated the spirits with her presence and power. She is the overseer of the very fire she is also said to dwell in. Hestia’s name means “hearth,” which is the central flame in an oikos (household); it is a kind of fire pit lined by stone or brick where the central activity of the home is done. In many dwellings it is the mantle fireplace.

However, as below, so above:

According to the Pythagorean Mysteries, Hestia was the Goddess of the Central Fire. It is Fire that is the center of the Cosmos, not Earth. Here Hestia reigns, surrounded by 10 celestial bodies – the dark Earth, Earth, the Moon, the Sun, and the Five Classical Planets (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn), along with the sphere of the fixed stars.

Prometheus
In the mythos I teach, humanity was without the power of Fire for a very long time. Fire was a phenomenon belonging to the Gods only. Nyx foresaw the tool of Fire and how beings would use it, both for creation and destruction.

Passing this oracle to the Titans and then the Gods, Zeus felt it was too early to entrust humanity with this power. We were too selfish, greedy, paranoid, and violent. Zeus felt that the Fire would be granted to us when we were ready, if ever.

Prometheus, however, the Titan of Forethought (for that is his name), was convinced otherwise. He, too, saw humanity’s potential with Fire. But rather than keep it hidden, Prometheus – a trickster who sought to outwit Zeus in this game – decided to steal the Fire, feeling that humanity also deserved this power.

Prometheus sought out the Graiai, the first Strix, to discover how he might steal the sacred flame. So it was that under cloak Prometheus journeyed to the Fields of Fennel, took a fennel’s stalk, and then journeyed to the Cosmic Heavens. Here he took blue flame from Hestia’s hearth, and brought it down to Earth. A woman Strix took the flames; she harnessed the star flames, and she was taught by Prometheus how to harness the cooler fires in the Mysteries.

The Azure Flame was born.

The Good Serpent
In StrixCraft, the Azure Flame can manifest as a serpent. As a result, serpents are sacred in our tradition. This was the first presence of the Agathos Daimon (“Good Spirit”), the dominant life force of humanity and their link to the Starry Body. The Azure Flame is alive in its own right, but it is also tethered by the Starry Body to humanity.

The Agathos Daimon – in Strix Craft – is a quickening energy which keeps alive Awareness, Conscience, Behavior, and Forethought. It is also the key to Magic. In fact, in the old Mysteries, how to make fire was our first Magic as a people.

The Azure Flame
It is seated above the crown of the head, incorporating the “crown chakra” and “third eye.” The Azure Flame is the highest energy center, and locks with the Divine. By worshiping the Azure Flame, meditating on it, and working with it in our growth, we awaken new sensations, thoughts, Magics, and experiences. We may use it to create filters, raise energy, open psychic awareness, gain a better hold on our psychic skills, do trance work, perform healings, and seal our Initiations from life to life. The Azure Flame is a powerful tool, and it has much to offer witches who desire to connect with our Strix current.

*Hir is used by some Strix as a way of communicating the gender neutrality of Nyx, being both male, female, and neither.

Eirene kai Hugieia!
(Peace and Health!)
Oracle

My book is now available for pre-order! 

Hail the Victorious Dead!

Pentacle

Pentacle, the sacred symbol of Wiccans

In the United States, today is Memorial Day, a day in which we as a nation mourn and remember our fallen soldiers. Interestingly enough, while homage has been paid towards them, there is still discrimination for many when they aren’t wearing uniforms and look like everyone else in the military. The stereotype of our everyday fighting men and women is that they are Midwestern or Southern Christians who love their country. Their parents have the American flag waving on their front porch, and they come from a conservative background. This background has taught them the fundamentals of God, country, and family.

What is left out are the many people in the military who are LGTBQIA, Neopagan, Witches, and Heathens. There are also plenty of our servicemen and women who embrace other religious faiths such as Islam. Along with that, there are many who are liberal and progressive. But there is an erasure in the minds of many Americans that these soldiers would even exist to begin with. Liberals and progressives are often viewed as conscientious objectors or anti-war protesters, burning the flag and are viewed by many conservatives as nothing more than traitors who don’t belong in the country because of their dissidence.

For Neopagans and Witches, there was a lot of religious discrimination in the military affiliate-wise. For many years, they have opted to have “No Preference” or “Other” on their dogtags in order to hide their identities (not that much choice was given to them). Witchcraft itself was not viewed as a religion but rather as a satanic cult (apologies to Satanists out there; you guys are awesome!).

1990’s
I remember in 1997, Fort Hood in Austin, Texas, gave their permission to support an open circle called the Fort Hood Open Circle, a religious meeting for Wiccans. It wasn’t a large gathering as I recall, but merely a couple of dozen maybe. Well, okay, that is a large Neopagan gathering, especially on a military base, where people choose to come out of the broom closet and share their values and beliefs. Soon after, Wiccan circles popped up in other bases.

Rep. Bob Barr objected to Neopaganism and Witchcraft in the Armed Forces. He was a Republican from the state of Georgia, and is most famous for being the prosecutor against then President Bill Clinton during his impeachment trial. He is also famous for writing the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a law which prohibited same-sex marriages from being federally recognized. Barr heard about the Wiccan Circle, and immediately wrote a letter calling for the sacred spaces to be taken down. He vehemently disagreed with non-Christians being in the military, especially Witches. In fact, I also remember getting the news from TBN (Trinity Broadcasting Network) that organizations like the Family Research Council and the Christian Coalition were calling for people to NOT join the military until this was taken care of!  

Barr and his allies felt that Witchcraft in the military was an oxymoron, and that the military had zero right to the First Amendment. Of course, the irony is that if this were really the case, then Christian chaplains and church services would also be banned. But they weren’t, and it was a clear act of discrimination. Although the case dropped eventually, George W. Bush – a governor at the time for the state of Texas  – stated famously that Witchcraft was not a religion and that the government needed to reassess their decision.

Sgt. Patrick Stewart
On September 25th, 2005, Sgt. Patrick Stewart was killed in Afghanistan. His Nevada Army National Guard Chinook helicopter was on its way back to base when it was shot down from the sky by a rocket-propelled grenade. He was 34 years old and a practicing Wiccan.

Sgt. Stewart was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal and the Purple Heart. However, the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) did not recognize Wicca. What’s interesting is that the VA must approve the symbols, and at that time about 30 were known…even one for atheists. But Wicca seemed to be another creature altogether. No one wanted to deal with witches. The emblem waiting to be approved was a pentacle, and his widow, Roberta Stewart, wanted that on his gravestone.

Just shy of one year later on September 13th, 2006, then-governor of Nevada Kenny Guinn gave permission for the state to allow the pentacle on Sgt. Stewart’s grave in Nevada. The states had the right to make those decisions if the fallen soldier was buried in a state’s veteran cemetery. On the weekend of November 16-18th 2006, the headstone with the pentacle was installed.

I didn’t remember the specifics of this one; what I do remember were the national headlines featuring the Americans United for the Separation of Church and State (AUSCS) filing a lawsuit against the government. Representing Roberta Stewart, the AUSCS stated that the federal government was not upholding the First Amendment by deliberately excluding the pentacle on a veteran’s gravestone. The military had a list at that time of 38 accepted signs; even doing that was considered discriminatory.

Finally in 2007, the VA and the AUSCS came to an agreed settlement: the pentacle, moving forward, would be placed on all gravestones, plaques, and markers issued by the VA for Wiccans. In later years other symbols followed, such as the Awen for Druids and Mjolnir for Heathens.

Captain Don Larsen
The situation seemed to simmer down (at least publicly in the media) when another event took place in 2007. A Christian chaplain by the name of Captain Don Larsen had decided to leave the Christian religion; more specifically, Pentecostal Christianity. I admired him because I left the Pentecostal denomination as well for Witchcraft several years earlier. It is never easy.

Captain Larsen was stationed at Camp Anaconda in Iraq, and was a frequent evangelist to his fellow soldiers. But after much contemplation and dealing with mixed feelings and beliefs, he became Wiccan. When he did, he attempted to become a Wiccan chaplain. Unfortunately, it was denied. Captain Larsen was also removed from Iraq and any future chaplaincy service.

When I read Captain Larsen’s story, I am reminded of myself. Although I am younger than he is, I have followed a similar path of publicly doing one thing and privately another. So I strongly empathize with him. I don’t know if Captain Larsen is still active with the military or what has become of him, but it would be interesting to compare religious notes. At least to me.

Conclusion
Sometimes we are granted rights. Other times they are implied. And still at other times, we have to fight for them even if documents say we are granted them. While symbols on headstones seem trivial for some, it is actually fighting for your identity both in life and in death. One deserves to be remembered and honored for who they were, not for who they hid themselves to be. Authenticity is a must in our times – any time in fact. But especially now with the rise of right-wing extremism in certain countries, or the genocidal atrocities made in others because the majority feel threatened by a minority.

My blog post today was written to give you a sense of what happens when we need to fight for being recognized, even when we serve and die for the love of our nation. At times our own people and leaders will vilify what we do and who we are. We continue to try and do the right thing, hoping that in the end at some point we will be rewarded with recognition.

But that isn’t always the case. For many of us, history is written by the winners (which are oft the majority in power). Minorities like the Chinese, LGBTQIA folks, Sikhs, Witches, Neopagans, Heathens, Palestinians, Tibetans, Yazidis, Native Americans, Australian Aborigines, Jews, Afro-Diasporic religious practitioners, and others face day-to-day persecutions and bias in many places around the world. The world is fraught with right-wing extremism rising up and even in power in many places around the world. Nothing has ever been simple, especially when battling for your right to live as true to yourself as possible.

Remember: hail to those who have gone before you to forge the path you now walk!

Hail to those who continue to pave the way!

Hail, to the Victorious Dead!

Eirene kai Hugieia!
(Peace and Health!)
Oracle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Against the Monotheists

M v P

Apologetics (Gk. “Speaking in Defense”) is something which I love. When I was a Christian, apologetics were taught in an effort to justify our beliefs as opposed to that of “sinners.” Witchcraft, Satanism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Muslims, Roman Catholics: it didn’t matter. I enjoyed lively debates which, I hoped, would have led to conversions. I read the works of some of the Church Fathers who wrote constantly of the defense for Christianity as opposed to the “pagans.” With that in mind, I’d like to write this post as an attack on monotheism and the defense of polytheism.

Monotheism in the West: A Brief History
Many of you will be made uncomfortable by this topic. After all, we lot tend to be very tolerant of other religions and religious practices. The last thing many of us want is vitriol. However, I feel this is important, not least because of how much monotheism around the world and throughout history has been violent.

Monotheism means “One God.” It first arose with the Hebrew tribes who united to create a single nation. It was not without violence and theocrasia, or the blending of different deities into one main one. The Canaanites as a whole were all polytheists. They worshiped deities named Asherah (a female Goddess), El, or El Elyon (the Most High), El Shaddai, Elohim, and others. Eventually, the Israelites compounded the El of the Canaanites and their YHWH to became a single deity. The inspiration there was one single omniscient and omnipotent Creator was unique. The Goddess, Asherah, was worshiped alongside YHWH for centuries. In fact, you can read about the condemnation of her worship by the Hebrew prophets in the Bible, so popular was she.

In Egypt, the Pharaoh Amenhotep IV raised a solar deity into the Supreme Deity named Aten.  By his orders, all idols were forbidden and so was polytheism. He changed his name to Akhenaten, and declared that Aten was the sole deity of Egypt with him as the intermediary between the God and the people of Egypt. In fact, Amenhotep IV wrote a hymn which states:

O sole God, like whom there is no other!
Thou didst create the world according to thy desire…

After Amenhotep IV’s death, polytheism returned and cartouches of the Pharoah were destroyed.

When Christianity began as a religious movement, it was divided into different sects which all had various views on God. The New Testament makes it seem like there has been a good stream of monotheism throughout the early history of Christianity, but that wasn’t the case. Christian groups like the Arians (popular among the Germanic tribes), believed that there was one God, and that Jesus did not exist until he was born. This effectively undermined the work of the Trinitarians, who espoused the belief that the Christian God was 3-in-1.

In the year 325 CE, when the Roman Emperor Constantine I (the Great) assumed the throne, he was baptized by an Arian bishop. Hoping to bring the different groups together, Constantine called for the first Ecumenical Council held in Nicaea (a town in modern day Turkey). Everyone argued about which doctrines were correct. Christianity pushed doctrine rather than practice, something the polytheistic religions were known for.

Christian bishops wanted a clear orthodox (“right teaching”) which defined their creed. As a side note, they also argued when to celebrate Easter. Anyway, the Council of Nicaea came up with what is now known as the Nicene Creed; a creed which represents Christian orthodoxy. Among the most important beliefs was where Jesus stood in regards to God: was he non-existent before being born? In other words, not God? Was he God always and just merely an essence, or extension, of God? And what of the Holy Spirit?

At the Council, these questions were answered by declaring that God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, were all in eternal existence and made of the same substance. The Trinitarian view was subsequently affirmed in later Councils as well. However, the Trinitarian teaching was rejected by Judaism and later Islam as proof that Christianity was not monotheistic, but polytheistic.

In Islam, monotheism is believed to set this religion apart from Christianity. This teaching is known as a tawhid, or “oneness of God.” A central tenet in Islam, God is the only being in the Cosmos; submission is to him alone. Islam recognizes Judaism as a fellow monotheistic religion. However, Islam as a whole rejects Christianity for their doctrine of the Trinity, which smacks of polytheism. God in Islam is fully transcendent; that is, God is separate from his creation.

Why Monotheism Fails
As you can see, the definition and defense of monotheism by Judaism, Christianity, and Islam has a long a sordid history. The teaching that there is as single, transcendent deity who is all pervasive creates in the mind of humans a strict dyad, the fallacy of everything in black and white. That there can only be two choices for a human, one resulting in punishment and the other in a paradise. This feeds into a narrative in which judgement reigns supreme, a superiority complex that upholds a monotheist’s emotional connection to their strong beliefs, rather than an understanding of multiple viewpoints.

Monotheism, by introducing the singular Divinity, erases critical thinking skills, a pluralistic worldview, and contradictions in the functions and thoughts of that deity. For example, a singular divinity is said to be omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, and omnibenevolent. But these cannot co-exist with the reality of our world and Cosmos. In truth, our world is a violent one: earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, venomous animals, limited resources, and extinction level events.

Can monotheism explain evolution? Can monotheism explain why for millions of years no humans existed, and yet we are meant to believe that we are the only animal in need of salvation? The transcendent God – the one removed from the world after Creation – is by default unconcerned. They cannot be omnibenevolent and still allow violence to overtake and cause pain, misery, and suffering for humans from natural events. I use the Nature argument as opposed to the fanatical Human argument, which places the blame of murder and genocide squarely on humans. Monotheists will claim that we did this to ourselves by falling from grace. Then again, the Nature argument will also be debated by a monotheist stating that all violence in this world is the effect of falling from grace and out of favor with the single God.

In human history, monotheism has been the singly greatest cause for murder and genocide. It is a tenant which must be believed, rather than allowing the mind to see the beauty of plural truths in our world. By taking this belief system and fighting over which one is the true doctrine, differences of opinions have led dissenters of these monotheistic teachings to harass and kill these “heretics,” while destroying their relics, statues, and committing cultural genocide.

Modern examples include the burning of women and children in Uganda, where Pentecostal churches are making a major political impact with support from American Pentecostal megachurches. In the United States, religion in right-wing Christian groups have been pushing to take away the rights of LGBTQIA people, along with pushing holy wars with the Islamic Middle East. In Brazil, Pentecostal churches lead the way as cultural genocide and murder are committed against Afro-Diaposric religions such as the adherents of Palo. In the Islamic Middle East, Wahhabi (orthodox) Muslims wage violent jihad against Baha’i and other Islamic sects for being heretical. The Yazidi people are called Satan worshipers and murdered.

There are of course also the historical narratives of Christians, Jews, and Muslims committing atrocities against polytheistic peoples. Canaanites, Arabic polytheists, Germanic polytheists, and others have faced the sword of monotheistic belief systems. Indigenous peoples have suffered under the might of monotheistic belief systems invading their lands.

In Favor of Polytheism
Wars were committed under polytheistic societies, this is fact. However, wars were fought over land and resources, not belief systems. When we are born and we grow, we discover the wonders of diversity in our world: multiple colors, multiple shapes, multiple ethnicities, multiple animals, etc. The world is an enchanted place. We all carry different opinions, truths, and a myriad of different experiences. This diversity is naturally going to be applied to how we view deity and spirits.

In some beliefs such as those of folk Catholics, saints replace the Old Gods as people seek out different beings over different influences. Polytheism is realistic in its approach to the world: there are separate peaceful and violent spirits which exist in our world. Yes, polytheists have faith and prayers to their deities and spirits, and oftentimes they are not answered just like in monotheism. But that is a human issue, not a divine one. Polytheists make no mistake that the world is a giant contradiction in its diversity, and so therefore our spirits are extensions of how the world and the Cosmos work.

Our deities and spirits are also limited. They are not omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, or omnibenevolent. They are limited in their scope. That is fine. We humans are also limited, and Nature is as well. Some people assert that polytheism is merely a primitive way to explain the world prior to the “truth of [insert monotheistic religion here].” But one can also argue that point with monotheism. So that argument, in my opinion, is moot.

But an all-powerful deity cannot be all good and all knowing and all powerful at the same time. That is a contradiction. So monotheists will inform their followers that they must rely on faith, because those contradictions make no sense to the human mind. Polytheists, on the other hand, also have faith, but are more concerned with Right Behavior, Right Choice, and Right Action. It is an orthopraxy (“right practice”). Atheists existed in the ancient world as they do now. Rational thought is a positive approach. As a polytheist and a person of Reason, I am not ashamed to say that those go hand-in-hand. Parmenides, the Father of Western Rationalism, was presented with the rules of Reason by his Underworld journey to the Goddess Persephone. Secular Reason and polytheism can co-exist side by side.

Conclusion
I am glad that there are many Jews, Christians, and Muslims who have rationally and honestly looked at their religion’s past and have adapted over the ages, becoming more secular and progressive. They don’t allow their facts to deprive them of their faith. At the same time, this poses a danger to many strict monotheists whose worldview only allows for one way and one truth. The perennial problem of evil in the world has no justifiable answer in monotheism, because their God is supposed to be all good. In polytheism, however, we face this issue with knowing our Gods and Nature can be inseparable (not that our Gods and spirits are sole expressions of natural phenomenon).

In the end, we view the history of humankind and that of evolution as an issue for human thought. However, monotheistic loyalty to their “true God” continues with more questions for the ages. Who is the true God? Which heretic was right? Which one was wrong? It is only a human’s authority which proclaims such things, along with the belief that the “right people” are in sole possession of knowing the Mind and Will of God. They KNOW. But in polytheism, there is nothing wrong with philosophical contemplation. We worship, we practice: we CHOOSE. The Gods and spirits will not rain down wrath because we choose not to worship. It comes down to that simplistic of teachings: free will.

Our free will is in danger when monotheism is permitted to define our national frame of mind. We can exercise it without the fear of being punished, whether here or in the hereafter (which is again a choice to believe in polytheism). I encourage my “soft” monotheistic friends to hold their monotheistic comrades, churches, and masjids (mosques) accountable when their ways endanger our fellow polytheists, such as in Australia, Africa, India, South America, and here in the United States. When our allies do so, we can then face the world together.

Eirene kai Hugieia!
(Peace and Health!)
Oracle