Also, of note and interest, the Thracian has written a brilliant piece on the disturbing trend of humanist relativism into the praxis of Pagans and Polytheists.
Here are my thoughts on Don’s position:
My Temple is thinking about becoming involved with the Covenant of the Goddess. Why? We want to represent Hellenic Polytheism and open up dialogue between ourselves and our fellow Wiccans and Neo-Wiccans. I am a Trad Wiccan myself, and I love networking. I think I have had a wonderful time with some folks, and a problematic time with others. When I was reading Sannion’s response to Don, all I could think of was “Yup!”
Traditional Wiccans have done a lot for the Greater Pagan Community. In fact, it’s safe to say that without them leading the charge, we wouldn’t be where we are at today. They had to come out of the broom closet first; they had to deal with charges of satanic ritual abuse; they had to band together and overcome a lot of odds when they were threatened. Oh, the history of modern Paganism and Wicca is fraught with personality cults, “bitch wars,” and ego clashes that caused many groups to split and implode. Rinse, repeat. So believe me, I am NOT ignorant of what my predecessors and spiritual Wiccan family have accomplished in the name of furthering our rights.
At the same time, from my personal experiences there is a disturbing reaction to Polytheists in general. In Trad Wicca, there isn’t any of that fuss, because the focus is on orthopraxy, or “right ritual.” In other words, it’s learning the fundamentals of the practices, training the group mind, growing the egregore, and doing the intra-coven Work which is of paramount necessity. How a Wiccan defines their religious experiences is up to them. You can have a whole coven filled with pantheists, atheists, and polytheists all focusing their magico-religious Occulture on the nature of the Rite, because that is how Wicca is built. To add, modern Paganism is also highly anti-dogmatic, and has inherited many of the “if it feels right, just do it” attitudes and behaviors from the modern New Age.
Here’s the rub: more and more there is a growing number of Polytheists (such as myself) that are not only inheriting something, but we are adding to. And we are adding the personal gnosis and academic foundations inherited in the types of rituals that our Ancestors once did: treating ritual as if it was our lifeline to our power and worth as spirit walkers. So for myself, I can’t simply walk into a circle and say, “Hey! That looks great! Now when do we eat?” Are you shitting me? That’s the kind of fucked up logic which causes spirits and Gods to get angry! And THIS is the dogmatic attitude which is being rebuffed against Polytheists, a dogma which is at the very core of WHY we are Polytheists in the first place.
In general, I think many have become divorced from the Sacred, because orthopraxy isn’t just about doing rituals the “traditional way” (despite some claims from Neo-Wiccans against the “elitist” Traditionalists). Orthopraxy is about Right Responsibility, Right Action, Right Choice, and Right Execution. It’s about Piety, bitches. So let’s get back to Don’s complaint that no one shows up:
I want my Temple to participate in a local Pagan Pride Day that’s approaching. But, we are being told that a “generic Pagan” ritual is the way to go. Why? Because non-Pagans think we’re all the same. A polytheist ritual would be “too confusing.” And someone suggested that we should be inclusive, so they suggested the ritual format of another organization called ADF. So: be inclusive, be generic, but a suggestion was made to use the ritual format by an existing organization. How does that make sense?
Pagan Pride: proud to be Pagan! Maybe? It’s as if nearly everyone I’ve met is happy to shop at an occult store, wear a pentagram, and be anti-authoritarian. Here’s the other rub: these people are good people, but I just cannot simply understand WHY in the axis mundi does anyone want to conform for the sake of the public? COG’s website has this on the Pagan Pride Project:
“Through education, activism, charity and community, the project promotes tolerance and understanding between people with different belief systems. If you are a Pagan, the project can help you find pride and confidence in your path. If you are not a Pagan, the project can help you understand your Pagan friends, coworkers, and family members.”
Here is the defining Mission Statement:
- Air: Education
We’re never going to be able to practice our spiritual paths openly if we don’t give the public accurate information about what we do and do not do. (emphasis mine)
- Fire: Activism
People aren’t necessarily going to go out of their way to find out what Pagans really do. We have to have the courage to act on our convictions and do what we need to do. (emphasis mine)
- Water: Charity
We know that what we do returns to us. We need to demonstrate this by offering compassion to our communities where it is needed. When we share our own abundance, we show that we trust the Gods to share abundance with us in return.
- Earth: Community
We’re never going to be able to practice openly if we don’t know anyone else in our local Pagan communities. We need to weave networking webs in our cities, in our towns, in our rural areas. We need these webs to support one another. That support will also show those who would restrict our practice that we are not just a few isolated wackos, but are a growing congregation of people who adhere to a faith that, while different, is as valid as their own.
Beneath that is COG’s PPD Project definition of Paganism:
A Pagan or NeoPagan is someone who self-identifies as a Pagan, and whose spiritual or religious practice or belief fits into one or more of the following categories:
- Honoring, revering, or worshipping a Deity or Deities found in pre-Christian, classical, aboriginal, or tribal mythology; and/or
- Practicing religion or spirituality based upon shamanism, shamanic, or magickal practices; and/or
- Creating new religion based on past Pagan religions and/or futuristic views of society, community, and/or ecology;
- Focusing religious or spiritual attention primarily on the Divine Feminine; and/or
- Practicing religion that focuses on earth based spirituality.
It also has this to say on its values of respect:
We respect individual spiritual beliefs and backgrounds, and recognize the importance of spirituality in everyday life. Membership is open to anyone who defines him or herself as a Pagan or allied spiritual path (see our own (very broad) definition of Paganism) who agrees to our event policies and Code of Expected Ethical Conduct (emphasis mine). No commonality of belief, practice, or rites is implied by membership in this organization. Membership is solely to provide the resource advantages of a larger group, while remaining autonomous in our personal practices. No commonality of belief, practice, or rites is implied by membership in this organization. Membership is solely to provide the resource advantages of a larger group, while remaining autonomous in our personal practices.
In other words, we Polytheists fall under this branch. We deserve respect for our beliefs and we deserve to be heard. We deserve to say “No, we are not like you. We are different, and if you invite us to help then do not complain or try ad hominem attacks because we are standing firm on the convictions of what it means to dance with our Gods and our Ancestors.” We deserve to be different and deserve to show the public that we are (here’s my motto: wait for it!):
Unified in Diversity!
Eirene kai Hugieia!
(Peace and Health!)~Oracle~