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~

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7 thoughts on “Return from Hiatus: Polytheist Leadership Conference and Other Goings-On

  1. G. B. Marian says:

    You make a good point. I guess I just don’t care what happens at Pagan Pride Day events as much because (1) my particular cultus is so specific, I can’t really expect it to mesh very well at such things, and (2) I never get to go to those things anyway. For me, it makes more sense for Pagans and polytheists to stick together for largely political reasons. It’s easier for us to defend ourselves from everyone else if we just put aside our differences and gather strength from our numbers. When it comes to differences in pistis and praxis, I tend to not care as much. Also, no one speaks for me but me, whether it ‘s a Wiccan leader or a Kemetic leader or whomever.

    • luisvaladez says:

      G.B. – Thanks for your comment! No one speaks for me either. I don’t play well with others in any event because I have a distrust of authority figures (and not without merit). I tend to view a lot of organizations as places where Group Think will occur and since my life experiences have shown that I nearly always dissent from the majority, I become a threat and illusionary power plays ensue. In any case, my own praxis is, like yours, so specific and unique it would be impossible for anyone to think that they could understand my ideologies or philosophies. Although for the most part it seems that a lot of the Polytheists I am networking and communicating with are the ones I come rather close to.

  2. G. B. Marian says:

    Oh and also, I forgot to mention that I’m sorry you have to go through the transition process with your new medication. That sort of thing is always rough and I hope you get through it as quickly and painlessly as possible. Best wishes!

    • luisvaladez says:

      Thanks so much! It’s been rough causing a lot of insomnia lately, which isn’t good for my epilepsy. So thus I started taking to writing again. Unfortunately I made the oopsie mistake of misunderstanding some of what Lupus wrote because it was 3am when I began. But I really, really, needed to write. C’est la vie. Sigh. Hopefully I’ll become used to the medications soon. Blessings to you!

  3. I agree with much of what you’re saying here, but there are a couple of clarifications that should occur, too:

    1) I am not a “he”; I am metagendered, and my pronouns are Old Spivak, which you can read more about here.

    2) You wrote “Lupus groups all Polytheist religions beneath one umbrella in and of itself, when in reality that isn’t very simple.” Nope, I am not doing that, and have never done that; in the blog post you linked to and quoted, I’m only including the people who showed up at the PLC in what I was discussing. It’s those folks, among whom there are many that have been called the “Piety Posse,” that I think some of our critics in the wider pagan communities might decide to call an “echo chamber.” (E.g. “the polytheist echo chamber grows ever-more insistent after having a little conference in New York,” etc.)

    3) I have identified as pagan for more than twenty years; as a simple adjective, it is certainly very descriptive of me in every literal and historical sense. However, the general phenomenon of the modern pagan socio-cultural scene–which is the reality, even if not everyone in that movement has realized it, and thinks instead it is a religion–is something I’m questioning my own (and some wider polytheists’) association with, since one of the “rules” of that sociocultural grouping is, in their own words, “there are no rules.” There are some things going on in modern paganism on that sociocultural level that are as inimical to polytheism and a polytheist practice and theology as some of the elements in Christianity, in my view, and thus I think a distancing from those aspects might be useful. It has been in distancing ourselves from those aspects over the past year that we have come under that much more fire from them…and thus, I think that holding the line is going to be necessary more and more, until they get the idea that even if we do share some similarities in outlook and other matters, we have to be taken seriously as different and distinct from their viewpoint, and they don’t get to dictate the terms of those identifications. (As I’m sure you agree and I know you have experienced first-hand!)

    Otherwise, I agree with much of what you said, especially at the end here.

    • luisvaladez says:

      Good afternoon my friend.

      First, I’m so absolutely apologetic to you for the lack of metagender pronouns. I knew to use them, but at the time when I was typing this morning I honestly couldn’t remember HOW to use them. Whenever I’ve referred to you in the past, I have used them. But my brain was blank about it. I should have tried to go back and look it up, but it’s the reason why I attempted to reword my sentences so as not to refer to the metagender pronouns because I just could not remember. It was a brain quirk from this morning, so I apologize for offending you in that regard.

      Second, thank you for clarifying. I was sure I was missing something, which is the reason I linked back to your original post just in case there was a sort of misunderstanding. You bring up a point, though i that critics will certainly begin to refer to the people who attended as a sort of “cabal” of rebels who probably won’t sit quietly and just mesh. “Paganism has been fine for nigh half a century and now you lot come out!”

      I, too, am questioning. Actually I have been on more than one occasion in previous blog posts whether I should term myself Pagan or Polytheist. It’s been a matter of self-identity since, prior to all of the hullabaloo I encountered, my philosophical stance was in support of a cohesive definition of Paganism. Basically, I was a kind of Sam Webster dude (whom I just recently discovered). That I now DISAGREE with nearly everything he talks about shows a marked change in my stance.

      I didn’t realize how much consternation the distance would cause within the Greater Pagan Community, but then I didn’t realize how many people misapply the label of “Pagan”:to everything that is “non-Christian.” I’ve had a lot of learning myself to do these past few months: my place in my spiritual community and that of my Temple. It’s an ongoing process for me in any event.

      • On the pronoun thing, it’s perfectly acceptable to default to “they” and “theirs”, if you don’t know or recall a person’s preference.

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