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~

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Epilogue…maybe?

reconciliation-speech-bubble-1

I’ve just read some marvelous posts which I’ll link to in a moment. I’ve been anxiously awaiting since PantheaCon ended on how the “Wiccanate Privilege” discussion(s) were going from the Polytheists who have attended. So, let’s begin in some sort of chronological order…or at least I think it is. It might not be, but these are the numerics as I read them when they posted to my e-mail, and before reading my blog I highly recommend you going to these links and reading what these brilliant people have to say first.

1. T. Thorn Coyle started it off by discussing her opening prayer that she presented at a “Pagans and Privilege” discussion panel the aftermath of it. Personally, I love Thorn and I enjoy her posts which I see on Facebook. I also admire her listening skills. You can find her report here.

2. Anomolous Thracian was the next one to come through. He also attended PantheaCon, and was honored to be a part of Ekklesia Antinou’s Sancti ritual for two recently deceased members of the Community. You can find that report here.

3. Next came PSLV’s blog report in which e** participated in the “Wiccanate and Privlege” panel discussion. The report, which is both informative and sad, is here.

4. John Halstead’s PantheaCon report is here, and mentions my legal name (Luis A. Valadez) as well as links to two previous blog posts of mine. Thank you John for the nod.

5. In response to some of John’s personal views on hyphens in Polytheism, Galina Krasskova has her blog post located here.

Needless to say, it’s been quite the busy week post-PantheaCon 2014, and the discussions and opinions which have formed within the Polytheist Community will no doubt reverberate for a long time to come. I hope you honestly took the time to read those blogs before reading my own, otherwise it’ll be like jumping in the middle of a sentence or coming late to a discussion and not contributing anything worthwhile with your opinions (what I will now lovingly refer to as “Starhawking,” and if you’ve read the blogs, you’ll know why). Everything is taken out of context with shouts of “But there’s more important things in the world! Waaaaaahhh!!” Moving on…

Pagan Pride Day – First, Apologies
So for the past several posts I have covered what’s been going on between my Temple and the committee in charge of an approaching Pagan Pride Day event slated for this Fall south of where I live. Not only has the discussion taken place with my blog, but also in the comments section as well. It has also taken place off this blog within Facebook messages. Before I update everyone on what has taken place, I’d like to take this time out to say something:

I would like to apologize to the Local Coordinator of the approaching Pagan Pride Event. Her name is Kasha. I identify her because she identified herself on my blog comments which you can find here. So, just to be clear, she is the one who identified with her name and job description, not I. We spoke off of the blog posts and in Facebook where she stated that she was disappointed to see quotes from the closed Pagan Pride Day forum on Facebook from people. She thought it was neither kind nor respectful of me to do such a thing. The quotes have no names attached to them. However, for the sake of peace I willingly extend an apology to those people who did not expect their quotes extracted. I apologize to them for posting without their permission.

Pagan Pride Day – Second, Confrontation
But, while I have apologized (and I do mean it sincerely), there is another problem. The problem stems from Kasha’s husband/significant other Ray who posted on the PPD Facebook forum, my comments, and also seemed to stalk the blog-o-sphere wherever my name was mentioned to throw a tirade and twist the truth of the matter. Sigh. Well, here’s where the problem lies:

First, Ray’s own comments on my blog are quite a bit, but one stands out to me the most:

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.

I like this comment, I really do, and here’s why. It reveals everything I need to know about this guy and the people in charge, whom I liked. Kasha, the LC and spouse, has said nothing about what Ray has done. Nothing at all. It’s especially important considering Ray is an Administrator on the Facebook forum and openly insulted me by telling me I was here to get my ego stroked, and that to have pride was to have hubris.

For those of you who do not know, I am disabled. I have a traumatic right brain injury and all the nasty side effects that go with it: memory loss, memory retention issues, unbalanced coordination, seizures, insomnia, flooding, and the like. I sustained this injury in August 2012 when I was in a car accident, and I have talked about my subsequent struggles with depression and suicide from this incident in the links which can be found below:

Faith in Times of Crisis.”

“Coping with Depression: Learning to Dance with the Sacred Twins.”

But according to Ray, my brain injury is “alleged.” In other words, I’m lying. Great way to get some more support there, Ray – attack the disabled. *clap* *clap* *clap* He also calls me manipulative and a cult leader, and claims I have a “keen memory.” That one hit low, because I used to have a photographic memory until my brain injury occurred. Now, I have trouble remembering a lot which is why I write incessantly as often as I am able. I have calendars and “To Do” lists on my walls and fridge so I can be reminded to do the littlest thing. Even bathing is something I forget to do! Ew. Needless to say also, that Ray’s comments pissed off my husband, my girlfriend, my immediate family, my friends, as well as my own Temple members.

Pagan Pride Day – Third, Damage Control
If everyone reads the comments and blogs, you’ll note that even when I am talking with Ray, none of my questions or issues are being addressed. So what happened in the land of Facebook? Well, Kasha did the only thing she could do: damage control. She subsequently kicked not only me out of the Facebook forum, but also each of my Temple members in turn. Here’s the problem: only two actually posted their issues on the entire comments section, and everyone was very cordial and professional. The other 3 Temple members said nothing and because of their own lives only were able to read everything going on last minute before they realized they were blocked! Why would my entire group be punished for something I am personally talking about on my blog? Why would they be kicked out?

What’s worse is that the resolution to this entire matter was that I was told to come meet with the Local Coordinator and other people who had “impressions” of me from their interactions online. Um, seriously? These people don’t even know me, and I’m supposed to sit down like a scolded schoolboy in the principal’s office to listen to other people and their “impressions” like I am in an intervention? What kind of good management is this? This is anything but healthy conflict resolution, instead making the entire matter worse. I haven’t even been apologized to by Ray or Kasha regarding Ray’s attacks and accusations upon me. It’s sad. But, why I am bringing any of this up in the first place?

Pagan Pride Day – Fourth, Resolution
It seems that at PantheaCon everyone was defensive. I mean Pagans. PSLV talks about eir experiences on the panel when people assumed and spoke about eir temple’s beliefs and practices. One even went so far as to shout that the PantheaCon panel wasn’t interfaith, it was in-TRA-faith!

No folks, it’s all INTERFAITH. It always has been. Any Pagan event that is held which welcomes people from different Temples, cults, devotees and Traditions is bound to be interfaith, because we all come from different spiritual and ethnic backgrounds. We all have different philosophies and cultures, not to mention different Gods and spirits that we work with. We also all use different paradigms: Traditional Wicca, Neo-Wicca, Feri, Heathen, Celtic Recon, ADF, Hellenic Polytheist, Strix Craft, Druidry, etc. And in turn many independent devotees, solitary practitioners and groups may amalgamate ideas from different religious belief systems such as Hindi sects, Buddhism, or even Christianity. We are all so very different from each other it’s not even funny. In the Greater Pagan Community has been the joke, “Ask a Pagan 3 different questions and you’ll get 6 different answers,” or something to that effect.

So, in a way, we’ve always acknowledged each other’s differences. We’ve always respected that no one person can speak for all Pagans. Our Community has shunned anything remotely defining or dogmatically implying that there should be a definition of “Pagan.” Yet, with all of this anarchic-type of behavior which has defined our movement since its inception, we have an issue getting along with Polytheists who are devout to their Gods and spirits and whose ritual facets drastically differ from the American Neo-Wiccan “norm.”

Let’s be honest here: it isn’t Wicca’s fault that so many have copied the ritual frameworks of Traditional Wicca because it was Trad Wicca which came out first and has a heavy history behind it. Pick up a book on Paganism and it will be Wicca inspired. That’s awesome, despite the continued protests of many within the Traditional Wiccan community that American Neo-Wiccans co-opt their systems. But I’ll post that in another blog. For this one, we should be clear that Wicca is the “Pagan Norm.” And my Temple and Tradition is not Wiccan.

We are Hellenic Polytheist. Our Gods are independent Beings with Their own desires, tastes, loves, and stories. I don’t need to defend Them. I don’t need to fight for Them. I don’t need to justify Their behaviors within the Myths. I worship and serve. I pray and offer. I uphold my covenant with Them. I cannot emphasize this enough:

My ways are different than your ways!
My beliefs are different than your beliefs!
My culture is different than your culture!

Pagan Pride Day – The End
Because of the kerfuffle created, as of now my Temple will no longer participate in the approaching Pagan Pride Day event, which in and of itself is sad. We had a chance to network and share our spaces and to respect our differences, yet the end result is one of defensiveness and pointing the finger that I am the one in the wrong while I am trying to defend my tradition. Not the Gods, but my Tradition: the ways in which I have been revealed by the Gods on how to connect with Them through the lifeline that is the format of our Temple’s devotional cultus.

So to move forward, I am banding together with my fellow Polytheists and am planning on attending the Polytheist Leadership Conference. I’m going to find out the cost from where I live to its location in New York. Once I come up with the cost, I will be creating a specific blog post with a link to ask for donations. Honestly, I can’t make it there on my own folks. And if you’d like to send me there, I’d be really grateful. If you believe I have something worthwhile to give to this growing Community, I’d love to meet you there.

My girlfriend will probably be accompanying me, and I’ll work on trying to cover those costs as well. Honestly, because of my disability I need someone familiar with me the whole plane ride there and back again. Plus, she’s a member of my Temple and an intelligent young woman that I know can contribute as well. So I’ll be registering shortly here. Let’s see what Work we can do for our Gods and for our Community. Let’s see what new strides we can do together. We probably won’t agree on a whole lot (or maybe I’m wrong and we will), but if anything we’ve learned, it’s healthy conflict resolution and how to have discussions like able adults.

To this, to you, I raise high my glass in honor of my Beloved Dionysus, and bless you all. I look forward to seeing you at the Polytheist Leadership Conference.

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

**PSLV is metagender, and so certain pronouns will fit better than traditional binary gender ones. I pray I was able to reflect PSLV’s identity and preferences in this blog. Any mistakes I ask for eir forgiveness.