Polytheism in a Pagan World

I was eclectic Pagan at one time. Ritual for me was a pain in the gluteus maximus, and I didn’t consider it my responsibility to understand the mechanics because I gave two shits about Circle Casting. Generic Pagan formulas were the way to go, and we tried to keep everyone happy and comfortable.

Except, I think we managed to piss off some Gods and spirits along the way with our ignorance.

In Polytheism, ritual isn’t about the people. It’s not about chanting and raising a cone of energy over a cauldron while you ask your Deities to give you your every wish. Fuck no. Ritual is about responsibility and duty. It’s about becoming part of a cycle of exchange between your Gods, your spirits, and your mortal community. It’s about keeping your obligations fulfilled, and understanding what each God and Goddess wants that is unique to Their tastes and likes. More than that, it’s about hearing Their Voices, and going through the bloody mess that is redoing an entire ritual if They weren’t happy to begin with. If it means chanting for hours or days, depriving yourself of food and enduring extreme blood, sweat and tears to call upon the Gods, then so fucking be it!

My Temple, the Temple of Hekate: Ordo Sacra Strix, is a Temple that blends aspects of the Western Mysteries and Classical Hellenic Polytheism. As a Polytheist Temple in a Pagan-majority area, we are struggling to find cohesion with our Pagan community when it comes to the finer aspects of ritual. There’s a planned Pagan Pride Day approaching in our area, and it seems that most of the folks are comfortable with catering to the assumed stereotypes of the masses as to what constitutes a “Pagan Ritual.” But I have disagreed vehemently. I feel that Pagan Pride is about our Community, and fuck everyone else. I mean, as a good friend of mine brought up, you don’t see Gay Pride events watered down to appease the right-wing hetero masses. Hell nah! You get asses in your face, skimpy underwear, colorful banners, drags, and the entire Dionysian Mardi Gras thrown in yo’ face! That’s right mother fuckers: you get PRIDE!!!!

And that’s exactly my problem. Originally, I wanted to volunteer my Temple to do the main ritual event in our style. My idea was to allow the people hosting the Opening Rite do it their Welsh Wiccan style, and then the main event could be done Strix Hellenic Polytheist style. Why? Because we are NOT the same! My motto is:

Unification in Diversity!

But instead, we are being told it would be “too confusing” for non-Pagans. A “general Pagan format” should be better. Why? WHY THE FUCK WHY?!?! In Polytheism, ritual is NOT ABOUT YOU! It’s about the Gods I love and serve, and I refuse to enter into a space where my Gods and the Spirits of the land are disrespected in the name of conformity. This is the problem, and why Polytheists in the Recon/Revivalist Camps are struggling to find anything similar with their Pagan kin. I understand, and I am just as frustrated as any of them. I want to be proud to be Pagan. I want to be proud to stand with them and educate everyone – Pagans and non-Pagans alike – as to what it means to be one of us. Paganism, like Hinduism, is filled with different solitary devotees, sects, Temples, organizations and cults. And while a generic format may have worked back in the 70s, 80s and 90s, this is the 21st century. We are entering a new world where diversity is who we are. We are different, but we CAN stand TOGETHER to show the world PRIDE!

Yes, we can!

Eirene kai Hugieia!
(Peace and Health!)


25 thoughts on “Polytheism in a Pagan World

  1. Kurt Granzow says:

    First off, I really appreciate this blog post. You make some valid points. And I’ll start off by saying that I’m not a polytheist. I’m a Neopagan. Specifically, I’m Wiccan. Even more specifically, I’m Brit Trad. I’m also a Gnostic. So my theology is based on an emanations model. Ultimately, I believe in a nondual reality. However, I feel that my approach to ritual and practice is similar to that of many of my polytheist friends. I favor that approach. So sometimes I say I’m a polytheist in practice. But realistically, I’m not really a polytheist. Our theological approaches are different.

    Having said all of that, I think it’s ridiculous that any NeoPagan, Wiccan, generic Pagan, or what have you, would invite a tradition/path/group to participate in something like Pagan Pride Day and NOT let them present the ritual in their style of practice. Isn’t that the whole point? If I had asked the ADF to participate, I want to see an ADF ritual. If I had asked the Gardnerians to participate, then that’s what I want to see. If I asked the local Shinto temple to come, let’s see a Shinto ceremony. Screw generic crap. Do we really want to send the message that all Pagans are just one big generic amalgamation? No, of course not. Personally, I think it makes our community stronger if we can say to the public, “Look, our community is very diverse and has lots of different ways of doing things and thinking about things. Check out how cool these different practices are. And isn’t cool we can come together in an event like this?” We don’t do ourselves any favors by making the public think we are just a shallow gobbeldygook of generic practices.

    Anyhoo. I’m rambling. Again, thanks for the post.

  2. culinarychiq says:

    Wow! Don’t be true to your faith and belief system because it would be confusing to non-pagans? Talk about disrespectful! Confused pagans and non-pagans alike should do some research and immerse themselves in further study if they’re confused. The More You Know! Knowledge is Power! Am I the only one who learned ANYTHING from the 80s? Seriously though that is just ridiculous! It’s like Hispanic Heritage events being told to limit themselves to serving Taco Bell, wearing sombreros, riding donkeys and trying to peddle bags of oranges because that’s all non-Hispanics understand. I half expect to find organizers running around in robes, pointy hats and waving wands as they scream Expecto Patronum! Or women slathered in green makeup with warts on their faces hovering over massive cauldrons while cackling and mumbling about eye of newt. There’s a LOT about paganism that can confuse the non-pagan. Where do we draw the line?

    • As a fellow child of the 80s, who got a Ph.D. because I thought it would be a good way to not only do “The More You Know” to the max and to get a job (and I was only right about one of those), I feel you here. 😉

  3. Ray says:

    Why are you involved with people you clearly have no respect for?

    • luisvaladez says:

      Incorrect Ray: I am involved with them as a Pagan with a Temple seeking solidarity. I totally have respect, but what I am finding is that diversity is not being respected. This is the 21st century. We have no such thing as a “Generic Pagan” ritual anymore, and we never did! We have Wiccan rituals, ADF rituals, Polytheist rituals, etc. All I am asking for is unification in diversity.

  4. Ray says:

    So by diversity… Do you mean as long as we do what you want?

    • luisvaladez says:

      Ray: I think we’re having a perception clash that is building to a conflict that is not intended. So I’d like to begin this dialogue by asking: what is it that you think I am asking for, specifically? 🙂

      • Ray says:

        It seems as though you want to do the ritual at the PPD, and there is one way that you are willing to a ritual.

      • luisvaladez says:

        You’re probably going to get frustrated with me, but I ask for your patience and to bear with me as best as you are able. The reason is because we have never met before (this sounds like we’re on a magician’s stage), so therefore we have no way of judging our motives, perceptions, tones, or body language. We have no familiar ground at all, and this is a travesty especially for me because I have nothing with which to frame a good prediction on what is in your mind regarding certain associations. Just being honest. 🙂

        So, I have to ask another question to help with further clarification: when you say “…and there is one way that you are willing to [do] a ritual,” what are you picturing in your mind? And do you think that’s a bad thing, considering that, logically speaking, anyone who does a ritual will do it their way?

        For the record: originally I *was* planning on volunteering my Temple for the rite. My experience has been that a ritual is written out and timed to be within a certain length and keeping with a “theme,” whatever it may be. Then the Committee accepts it or asks for changes. No big deal there. But with all the talk of “generic Pagan,” being told I “don’t get it,” and the unusual hostility I garnered near the end, I bowed out. So we’re coming on February 22nd to meet everyone and see what else we can do to help. 🙂 So yes, it seems that I do want to do it, but not anymore.

  5. Cafe Witch says:

    I understand what you’re trying to do but unfortunately I have to disagree with you when you say that Pagan Pride is not just about “us” Pagans. In fact, the mission of the Pagan Pride Project is to foster pride in Pagan identity through education, activism, charity and community but not just within the Pagan community but outside of those boundaries as well. It serves at a bridge within Pagans and Non Pagans. Many of the people that attend these events are not Pagan and when you expose someone who’s never attended anything Pagan to an elaborate ritual even with the best intentions, you might not end up with the results you expected. That’s like throwing someone who’s never learned how to swim in the deep end of the pool expecting them to figure out to swim and not expecting them to have a traumatic experience. Yes, Gay Pride events are very elaborate and in yo’ face but they weren’t always like that. The first one’s that came out were very tame because they wanted to show everyone else that they were just like everyone else and not to be afraid of them.

    Pagan Pride Project also has a set of rules in place regarding the rituals that are presented at the events for specific purposes. I’m all for attending diverse rituals because it gives me an opportunity to be exposed to different kinds practice. Until people outside of our faith gets a better understanding of who we are and know that we’re not all the same, keeping it simple would be a better approach.

    • luisvaladez says:

      Thank you very much for your response to this post. If I may respond in kind:

      I believe that the Pagan Pride Project is more for us to celebrate our faith, however much we do so. While education should be present with non-Pagans in mind, it is not the Pagan Education Project. It is Pagan Pride: plain and simple.

      While I understand the format for rituals to be simple because they are public, I do not agree with the notion which was told to me that it should be a “generic Pagan ritual.” There is no such thing as a “generic Pagan.” We are a diverse lot, and if a group or Temple of a specific path is asked or volunteers to do a ritual, then I believe they should be allowed to present a public rite according to their format. Each ritual should be presented to the Committee to ensure that it is within an acceptable time-frame and in keeping with the PPD “theme,” whatever it may be.

      But to say that it needs to be “generic” is ridiculous. How can we foster pride in Pagan identity if we strip Temples/organizations/covens/groves of their unique identity and attempting to lump them into a label which is not wholly accurate? It makes no sense to me at all.

      I also don’t agree that we should keep things “generic” for the sake of the public. If it’s a Neo-Wiccan rite, call it that. If it’s a Gardnerian Outer Court rite, call it that. If it’s an ADF rite adapted for the public, call it that. The public deserves to know we are a diverse lot, and not kept ignorant with the false notion that we are a similar and simple lot. It doesn’t work that way. That’s not education, that’s censorship for the sake of base conformity.

    • Though, you’d be surprised as well how often what some people think is the “deep end” is actually just a wading pool, and an inflatable kids’ one at that.

      At every ritual the Ekklesia Antinoou has done at PantheaCon, what often happens is that the attendees enter to a Latin hymn being sung. Even if they have never done anything in Latin before, and don’t have any idea what is being said, nonetheless, by the end of the four-minute hymn they’re all singing “Ave Ave Antinoe” along with the people who have known it for years, and there’s no problem. No, what we do isn’t to everyone’s tastes, and so we never see some of them again; but, we’ve had more and more attendees each year, and more and more regular ones, so something must be working.

      Easing into things for utter and total beginners is a good idea, generally; but, our overculture has become too much a proponent of thinking that others don’t know how to adapt to things and that feeling a bit awkward, lost, or confused for a short while is an experience to be avoided altogether rather than something that can be a profound teaching opportunity in itself. Humans learn best by doing, most of the time; explanations and such can come later, and given that pagan religions are religions of experience far more than they are of creed or dogma, they are best demonstrated by doing rather than by explanation, or handing out fliers and talking to people and having an information booth.

      Doing a ritual on invoking our past lives and then clearing the karmic imbalances from it as an introductory ritual at Pagan Pride would be a really bad idea, definitely; doing an honoring of the elements or an introduction to one particular deity or a small group of deities, however, is something that I can’t envision being a difficult experience for anyone, other than those who think that trying anything new EVAR is the most intimidating and daunting and impossible task that could be imagined.

  6. Cafe Witch says:

    I understand. I usually don’t conform to much but I do believe in having a middle ground or compromise to things.

    I, again, believe PPD is for both. Other events such as FPG, PhoenixFyre Fest, Beltane Fires, and other events alike, are more for Pagans as a whole where they offer more variety and depth in workshops and rituals to all Pagans. Everyone is free to commune with each other and build community.

    From what I’ve seen through friends that have participated in PPD around the country, the majority of the Pagan Pride rituals presented are presented by certain traditions. I am a member of ADF and many of the Pagan Pride rituals were presented as such and stated as such. Perhaps, being that this is the first time this area is presenting a rite publicly, they’re testing the waters in their presentation. As for knowing who we are, what we are about and that we’re not all different, this is where groups come in a set up space and show who they are and what they represent. Who knows, maybe if this event is successful and receptive, there are more opportunities for groups to present rituals in their tradition every year of the event.

    Just my two cents. I’m not here to persuade my point of view or deny yours, but just presenting a different angle.

    • luisvaladez says:

      Oh no! I take no feedback as being argumentative whatsoever. 🙂 I fully and sincerely appreciate the dialogue and the presentation of various points of view regarding the matter, believe me.

      My blog post was very much what it was: a rant. Mind you, a rant perhaps without much of the details entered in, but that’s what happens when I post something public and needing to vent my anger about a situation.

      For the record, I did mention in the original conversations that occurred that whatever the Committee decided, we would gladly conform. I just didn’t quite understand WHY our community would cater to the public instead of addressing the much-needed unity that our own Community needs currently. We are more divided than many people care to pay attention to, and unfortunately disagreements are often viewed as an opportunity to ostracize the one disagreeing as the culprit who is purposefully being divisive in the first place. I don’t know why, since I just wanted healthy dialogue to begin with.

      I guess it was more the way of how I was dismissed and the attacks which came afterwards from a couple of people accusing me of being egotistical and filled with hubris, as well as being a child and brat that got to me more than anything. It’s sad, because I honestly think we could all do some good here. I also disagree with the notion of “generic Pagan” label. But again at this point I am merely repeating myself.

      For what it’s worth, your presentation of the difference in viewpoints is worth looking at, and perhaps this was the original intent of the people in charge. But it was lost somewhere in the conversation methinks.

      Thank you as always!

  7. Ray says:

    The perception that I, and would guess others had after reading your replies on the PPD group, and in this blog was that you only see one way to do ritual, and that’s your way. Which is fine for you and whoever practices with you. The PPD event is not the Luis show, or the Hellenic show when working with a group that is diverse no one specific tradition is proper IMO. Doing something generic we look for elements of ritual that are common to as many traditions as possible and include those elements. It is not an abstruse concept, but one that seems to have eluded you. I proposed the ADF ritual as a framework from which to build, which you poo pooed. Since you no longer have an interest in presenting the ritual that is moot though.

    • luisvaladez says:

      You still haven’t answered my question as to what’s wrong with someone doing a ritual in their unique format? I mean, if an ADF method is used, then it should be identified as such (“An ADF ritual formatted for the public”). If a Druid group did theirs, announce it. If a Heathen group, announce it. So I am not entirely sure why I am being singled out here, since logically I would be doing what anyone would be doing.

      Also, please note I have a traumatic brain injury, so I don’t follow metaphors. I have no idea what you mean when you said I “poo-pooed.” I’m looking at that literally. For the record, though, I never said anything was wrong with the ADF ritual itself. I was simply taken aback that another organization’s format is being considered while my own is being dismissed.

      And Ray, you don’t know me. You never met me. So don’t presume to think that I want a “Luis show.” I have done my best to be professional on these comments. Any insinuations you are making about me are speculation at best on your part.

      Insofar as doing something “generic,” again I repeat ad nauseum: there is no such thing. The Traditions which widely exist are invariably built on Wicca or even Druidry to an extent. My Temple is neither (although I am a Trad Wiccan as well). My Temple is Classical Hellenic Polytheist. ADF has little in common with Wicca, or Kemeticism (of which there is a huge population in the area), or other faiths. If a ritual is going to be performed, then let it be performed by calling it what it is. A Wiccan-style ritual is not me, and neither is a Heathen or CR. If this event is about education, then why not educate the public and stop singling me out in the first place for simply presenting some facts which are unavoidable?

      • Ray says:

        No one is singling you out, You were confrontational on the PPD discussion and brought a private discussion into the public. I get that you are unable to perceive a generic ritual, just because you don’t get it does not mean that is is not possible. While I don’t know you personally I have an idea of who and what you are. You are very bright boy, who has a keen memory, you are somewhat charismatic, and manipulative which are all assets for a cult leader but you also feign victimization and try use an alleged brain injury to your advantage. You have a tantrum when you don’t get your way, and then rather than trying to resolve issues you blog about how terrible other people are. Grow up dude.

        With regard to your posts on Don Frew, the guy has been working to further the Pagan cause since the 80’s, which may have been before you were even a smile on your daddys face. Have some respect for your elders, if not your elders your betters.

        This will be my last reply to your blog, if you wish to communicate with me further you can email. Reading your blog was kinda like watching my feces go down the drain after I flushed but now its getting kind of ridiculous.

      • luisvaladez says:

        It’s not a private discussion if it’s on social network, and lots of people can read it. Also, I think you should do more research on people who have traumatic brain injuries. It’s clear you really, REALLY do not know me. I won’t even go into the details of where you are wrong, but one thing you are right about: I have a charismatic personality. 🙂

        I’m a 33-year old man, not a “boy.” If you disagree with my stances that’s one thing, but repeatedly you’ve resorted to ad hominem attacks. You have no idea who my Elders are, and Don is not one of my Elders. I give respect to certain people I designate as “Elders,” because not everyone deserves the title (and I think that’s something nearly everyone can agree on – age means nothing).

        There’s nothing more to say at this point, because you aren’t answering any of questions, and I can’t imagine anyone communicating continuously with an individual who accuses me of an “alleged brain injury.” I dealt professionally on the PPD forum the entire time, even when you insinuated that had hubris and that I was here to stroke my ego. It’s clear that either someone is probably sharing false or exaggerated information about me to you, or else you have a God-complex and believe that your intuitions must be SOOOO correct.

        So thank you for your posts and comments. And thank you for not responding anymore. Hopefully if we meet one another in the flesh, we can finish discussing this over tea rather than simply over the internet where you feel you can bully and target me without any firm ground on who I really am.

        Eirene kai Hugieia!
        (Peace and Health!)

    • Having just been at PantheaCon, in a discussion with Don Frew and many others on Wiccanate Privilege, the majority opinion (of Wiccans and Wiccan-derived traditions) was that everyone should present a ritual in their own way and with their own format, as authentically as possible, no matter what that tradition is. They say that is the best format for interfaith situations, and likewise it would be the best format for pagan gatherings of any sort, too–someone does a ritual, and does it in their own way, and if it doesn’t appeal to others, that’s their own choice or judgement, but it shouldn’t prevent someone from doing a ritual their way.

      I think, Ray, you are being very unfair and hostile toward Luis, and are speaking on behalf of others (like Don) who don’t need nor want you to speak for them.

      • Kasha says:

        Lupus, I really enjoyed your contribution to that discussion and thank you for what I learned there. What I heard Don Frew say that afternoon is that, in the development of Interfaith Communities, there are phases of engagement, beginning with getting to know each other and very little theological discussion or work beneath the surface. The next step when folks gather for prayer or ritual is typically something general, using terms like “all that is sacred” or “divine mother” or something of the sort, and then at the highest level evolve to ritual or prayer specific to the presenter’s practice, which is where the most education and understanding take place. There wasn’t any discussion that I recall about what would or wouldn’t be most appropriate about Pagan Gatherings of any sort, and there were even some comments about a articular Tradition specific prayer said to close a Pcon panel that some found exclusionary or in some other way uncomfortable. Such a challenge to make everyone feel included and satisfied. I think its important to consider audience, group history and dynamics, location and purpose of the event before applying generalities, but that most event organizers strive for inclusion while trying to balance other factors.

      • luisvaladez says:

        In my opinion, I really believe that it’s okay to recognize that there are things which make us all mutually exclusive, while sharing certain values or other common denominators such as the right to practice our faith, the right not to be discriminated on the basis of our faith, as well as the right to be involved in our communities (however we define such parameters). We are different but have shared goals, and that’s fine. We have to accept that’s fine, that we can’t be inclusive. We might have been able to be back in the 70s, 80s or 90s, but with the explosive growth of new Cults within our Pagan and Polytheist umbrella, we have to adapt our outlook. There’s nothing wrong with saying “What we are about to do/pray/perform is based on the XYZ Tradition/Path/Temple/Coven/Grove, etc. We invite you to join us in our ways of worship and reverence.” By doing such a thing, we can give people wiggle room to accept or politely decline…or else find a middle ground unique in their worldview. Where we fail is when large group settings try to be inclusive, because broad brush strokes lead to false generalizations which can and will alienate people.

        I would be more respectful of a ritual or performance if I knew it was something unique and different from my own, celebrating within the sacred ground as a guest. I wouldn’t be comfortable if someone tried to do present something and said “This is for you, too” and it was a far cry from how I practice and believe.

  8. […] fall a little bit south of where I live.  (You can actually follow my posts in chronological order here, here, here). Sannion brought to my attention the fact that my experiences were being totally […]

  9. “I mean, as a good friend of mine brought up, you don’t see Gay Pride events watered down to appease the right-wing hetero masses. Hell nah! You get asses in your face, skimpy underwear, colorful banners, drags, and the entire Dionysian Mardi Gras thrown in yo’ face! That’s right mother fuckers: you get PRIDE!!!!”

    Oh, if only this were true everywhere! Here in Seattle, the major Pride celebration has been moved from Capitol Hill (the classic gayborhood) to City Center (which is pure tourist; we’re talking about the foot of the Space Needle), and the organizers insist on parade participants being “family friendly”. No more asses hanging out, no more leather daddies or leather dykes.

    There ARE still celebrations on the Hill (which are the only ones I attend), but the big parade and the big money are not. It’s a deep divide in the queer communities here, and a lot of controversy and conflict has flowed from it.

    I’m not, I admit, a big fan of pagan groups mimicking LGBT activism and traditions — Pride celebrations, phrases like “coming out of the broom closet” — but certainly any Pride celebration should be about the community and represent as many parts of the community as possible.

  10. […] Ray’s own comments on my blog are quite a bit, but one stands out to me the […]

  11. […] “ten thousand things”.  I think the wider Pagan community might take a page from the polytheists and consider seeking unity in diversity, or better yet, unity through diversity.  This is like […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s