Polytheism, or Do We Really Need to Elaborate?

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So, I went and reread John Halstead’s blog wherein he discussed Pantheacon’s “Wiccanate Privilege Discussion,” and something caught my attention. Having a TBI, it takes my brain a while to process what I am reading and interpreting that information. So while some will say “Duh,” it’s not for me. Yeah, I don’t get the obvious. Anyway, moving forward…at the bottom of the article, John has a subsection entitled “Polytheistic with a Hyphen.” In the article he referred to Lupus’ discussion of the word polytheism and the nuances which can cause confusion and, thus, conflict when using a word which may mean different things to different people. John encourages people within the Greater Pagan Communities who identify as “polytheists” to perhaps use prefixes which differentiate their particular polytheist thealogy (i.e. devotional, hard, soft, Jungian, etc.). Galina responded to John’s suggestion of the hyphen usage here, and it’s a great write-up. I strongly suggest reading those articles before reading my own thoughts on the entire matter below.

Theos
Let’s start with the basics. Polytheism is rooted in two Greek words:

Polu – “Many”
Theos/Theia – “Divinities.”

But there is much more than just the simple definition given above. Ancient Greek carried with each word an entire cultural milieu that had a specific set of visual associations which pertained to the semiotics of the word. Thus, “theos” came with a shared cultural understanding of a phenomenon. That phenomenon sharply contrasts with our modern Western Christian-infused concept of “God.” For modern people within our Christian-majority environment, “theos” or “God” comes with a specific set of synonyms and adjectives including the notion that the Sacred is separated, or transcendent from, the mundane. Humanity, as part of the mundane sphere, cannot be privy to the sphere wherein lies the Divine Concept but through the sacrificial acknowledgement and belief in the expiation of Jesus. But more than this, “theos” has come to insistently mean “One.”

One God, One Being, One Power, One Force.

And even where the Christian Trinity can be clearly cited as an example of Polytheism, yet the Christian doctrine emphasizes repeatedly that the paradox is that it is “3-in-1.” So, no matter how separated the various Beings are, invariably They are One. The monistic concept of the Trinity has bled into our Pagan/Polytheist outlooks, with evidence around that people simply have trouble abandoning their Christian doctrines in the face of even the apparent contradiction that the Church enforces its believers to adopt. When we say that the world is filled with spirits and a host of Celestial Immortals, those still entrenched in Christian philosophy cry out “No! They are not independent Beings but simply ‘Many-in-One!'” The plurality of polytheism is surrendered for a desired homogenous state that exists only within the utopic minds of its adherents. The works of Joseph Campbell in his “Monomyth” and Frazer’s “Archetypal Sacrificed God” have also served many modern Pagans to give notice to the “Mono” over the “Many.” While the works of both have brought many people a wonderful foundation into modern Paganism, the unfortunate side effect is that people try to find in our practices how the variety of Temples, Cults and Traditions are similar before meriting an agreement of “Hey look! We can have a festival together!” The differences are excluded in favor of false conformity.

A World of Spirits and Beings
To the ancient Greek mind (and, cross-cultural comparatively other pre-Christian cultures both ancient and modern) there existed no word like “religion.” Instead, a concept that comes closest to that word is theon timai “Honors to the Theoi.” The honors given to the Theoi are encapsulated within the ethos in how we live, what we practice, how we serve cultus, and the festivals which we celebrate. In other words, polytheism is not simply about faith, but it is more so directly tied into action and works. Again, our Christian culture has bled its teachings of “By faith and not by works” wherein people have tons of altars and shrines without ever feeding or giving attention to the Deities in question. Statues are mere decorations, and rituals are more concerned with the participants attending and the facilitator’s skill at drama and timing (so as not to interfere with the feasting!) over the specific acts which touched our ancestors with the spirit world. But Polytheism is about honoring the Theoi (or insert pantheon here) with action and works which ripple into our very lives. These actions and works are important because “theos” itself implies a “third objective power.” (L.A. Wilkinson, Socratic Charis: Philosophy Without the Agon). It refers to a specific presence that carries a weight and validity to the people who are within Their sphere.

Otiose
“Otiose” is a word that means “Leisure,” or even “Serving No Practical Purpose.”  The word has come to be used in anthropology circles to describe polytheistic faiths such as Hinduism, some sects of Buddhism, and aboriginal tribal beliefs that do espouse a “One” Spirit that created everything or was responsible for creating the host of Beings and Spirits that inhabit a particular Cosmos, but the One itself is Unknowable, Untouchable, and Unconcerned with the world as-is. That’s why He/She created the Spirits in the first place: to run things. Think of a CEO playing golf and away from the company, never visiting or knowing what’s going on even with the daily worker. No, it’s the lead workers, the department managers, the operation supervisors and such within the company’s hierarchy that are concerned with the daily welfare of the corporation and its people. That’s us folks: we humans are the people at the bottom of the Cosmic rung in many ways. My Tradition’s teachings have a “One” as well: an otiose Protogonoi that cannot be touched or fathomed because S/He is everywhere. Yet S/He is unconcerned with anything at all except Hirself, and in the Grand Cosmic Scheme of things that’s all that matters really. So just because we have a “One” concept doesn’t mean we’re monotheistic. No, we’re Polytheistic. We work with the Divine Beings and Spirits that inhabit this world, and our temple’s power rests upon the honors that we bestow upon Them through our ritual actions and works.

Emic vs. Etic
Abundant evidence of polytheistic practices demonstrates that for many in both the ancient and modern world, rituals are tied specifically to a spirit or Divinity. As Jan Bremmer writes, “It is neither practical nor advisable to study the two entities separately.” (J. Bremmer, Ed., The Gods of Ancient Greece: Identities and Transformations). But the problem with modern Polytheism in general is that arguments against Polytheism are coming from those who are outside the Polytheistic scope. They are brandishing themselves “polytheists” without the complex understanding that the word in and of itself entails: the honoring, through ritual action and works, of many individualized and supra-powered Beings. In cultural anthropology, the contrasting view between studying the innards of a paradigm from a person within that culture as opposed to an objective observer who is an alien to that paradigm is known as emic vs. etic, respectively. The problem with etic observers is that they come with a template of biases which cloud what they are attempting to document and understand. They have a limited background that is not rooted within the Polytheist Model. If you want to approach Mythology and the Theoi (or insert pantheon here) via the Jungian School of Thought, you are not a Polytheist. You are a lay psychologist, a Jungian, or perhaps a Pan-Deist. But you are not a Polytheist.

It surprises me that we even need to have this argument of “hyphens” and prefixes. Polytheism is what it is. I reverence the Ancestors, the Heroes, and the Theoi of my Temple. I am a Polytheist. They are independent of me, and ritual is my lifeline to Them. It is also how I feed my spirits, those to whom I am aligned to. I probably could have just come out straightforward and made these statements, thus making the blog shorter. But honestly, I think some backstory was needed; research, if you will. Polytheism is not a term for anyone to use – in my opinion (lest I get angry messages about being too authoritative and…ah fuck it!) ….

Polytheism is NOT a term for ANYONE to use unless they are serving Spirits and Beings which are viewed as independent and volitional Beings in Their own right – NOT figments of the imagination or caricatures of the human psyche.

Go ahead, send the e-mails.

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

Sources:

Bremmer, J., and Erskine, A. (Eds). (2010). The Gods of Ancient Greece: Identities and Transformations.

Wilkinson, Lisa A. (2013). Socratic Charis: Philosophy Without the Agon.

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.

Stars Clothed in Flesh

Orpheus (1896) by John Macallan Swan

Orpheus (1896) by John Macallan Swan

Our traditions may have been broken, but our Visions are renewed.

Our ways may have become historically lost, but our Memory is strong.

Our customs may have become nearly eradicated, but our Spirit is eternal.

Our languages may have become dead, but our Tongue can still speak the Sacred Names.

Polytheism is not just a return to plurality. It is not limited to reconstructionism, revivalism, or solitary devotees of any path. It is a word which encapsulates the responsibility and obligations with which our Elders are returning from their home in the stars to come down in flesh and bring back the worship and cultus of the Old Gods and Heroes. Many years ago as I sat in contemplation, I was granted a Vision by my Queen, Hekate, as She began to open the Gate of Souls and allowed the Souls of Old to come and walk among us again.

Yes, we Europeans, North Africans and Middle Easterners have our own Elders, our own Ways, our own Tribes, Temples, Gods and spirits that we once served. And with the Old Ones crying out for Their sacred fires to be lit once more, we have mistaken many times that the Gods and spirits call whom They will. Perhaps They do…but I’d like to think that They touch the ones who knew Them, who adored Them of Old, and who were teachers, priests, iatromantoi, magoi, strixoi, backkhai and more.

What does this mean for us? For you?

It means that you have the Power of Memory. Memory is palpable, tangible. Memory is your lifeline to the Gods and Spirits. Memory becomes manifest in your rites and cultus. Memory is what you carry deep within the constellation of your soul, proof that you have tasted the Well of Memory. But you thought you would stay among the Stars forever? You thought you would remain in eternal joy with nectar and ambrosia?

No, my friend, my brother, my sister, myself.

You must return. You must come back, because we need you. We need our Elders to teach the young of the world again. We need our stars to be clothed in flesh, to remind us of the Once Ways in which we walked one with our Gods of place and temple. Because our Gods need us, though They exist beyond our own confines or imagination. They exist, yet Their Fates are tied to the world in which we exist. And so it is that as the world needs us, it is our Gods who need us too. We cannot exist one without the Other. This is the Law of Ma’at, of Themis, of the Pax Deorum. This is the Sacred Exchange between the Golden Deathless Ones and the mortal world. This is the sustenance which drives all of our known existence within our purview to continue as we know it.

The Elders are returning. They are becoming reborn and walking among us, forged in the fires of trauma and pain so that They might have the mettle and fortitude to go past their ordeals to rise and fight for the preservation of our Ancient Ways. They are here to remind us of the paths we once knew, of the glades we once worshipped and frolicked, of the spirits whom we once touched.

And it might be you. Welcome back.

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

Interfaith and Polytheism

coexist

Don Frew’s article on Saving Lives, “Wiccan Privilege” and Interfaith was put up by the Covenant of the Goddess website on Facebook (I read it around 1am). Sannion’s response is here.

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?

*headdesk*

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:

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.

CONCLUSION:
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~

Polytheist Ritual: Why We’re Different

Ancient Greek kylix-krater from Apulia (c. 380 - 370 BCE). Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Ancient Greek kylix-krater from Apulia (c. 380 – 370 BCE). Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Polytheism simply means “Many Gods.” The term encompasses the belief and worship of many Gods and spirits, something which was quite common with our ancestors (and with many contemporary indigenous societies). But this belief implies much more than the simple matter of how we view the Divine, because belief is something that is rooted with our emotional center. It is anchored in the central nervous system, thus dictating how we view and interact with the world around us. Polytheism is plurality: the way we appreciate the diversity of color, race, ethnicity, philosophy, and the Gods. People these days try to say “I see no color,” hoping such rhetoric will make them as non-racist as possible. But by not seeing color, we are robbing people of who they are and trying to create a comfortable umbrella – a facade – of what they are not. we are attempting to pigeonhole all of us into a monochrome vision that overlooks our uniqueness, our worth as an individual, and what we mean to the world around us.

Polytheism is a return to seeing the color and luster of each person, and creating a paradigm whereby they are seen for WHO they are, and WHAT they are. We may have things in common, but we are who we are without allowing those similarities overshadowing that our DNA has worked in making sure that no two humans are completely alike. Even twins have some differences, however subtle.

The Gods, in our approach, are beautiful. They are awesome, and They are terrifying. They are beyond our comprehension, and yet even in Their sphere They are limited. I understand that my Gods are NOT omnipotent, NOT omniscient, NOT omnibenevolent, and NOT omnipresent. I also understand that my Gods are NOT the same, but unique and different. How dare I rob Them of who They are?

Hekate is NOT Diana.

Apollo is NOT Lugh.

Epona is NOT Rhiannon.

Cerridwen is NOT Ishtar.

Aphrodite is NOT Inanna.

Zeus is NOT Thor.

Poseidon is NOT Manannan Mac Lir.

But what They are is for each person to experience themselves. And herein is where my approach to ritual is quite different from other peoples.

Ritual is Love

When I was eclectic, ritual was a pain in the gluteus maximus. I had no idea what I was doing or why. Sure, some books tried to tell me about the intricacies of circle casting, calling the quarters, and invoking Deity. Some more “advanced” books tried telling me about the Occult energies that streamed through and why the circle was cast the way it did. But no one told me WHY we did ritual. What was the purpose? “Walk Between the Worlds?” What the fuck did that mean? I’m sure it has merit for someone somewhere to do ritual mechanically like that, and to make sure the altars have every correspondence that you need so we know what Sabbat we’re celebrating and why. Such is what I all the “Neo-Wiccan” approach to ritual, or even “eclectic Pagan.” Although, to be fair, I think everyone is eclectic in some form.

But as I have personally grown and changed in my faith, I have become a polytheist: a believer in the Gods of my own Temple, and those of others. While I might not necessarily serve cultus to other Gods, I have my own that I have fallen in love with (even if They don’t love me back, which I’ll explain in a later blog post). So my rituals are my love letter to my Gods.

Yes, my love letter. Every symbol in the center of my Temple is meant to convey a reminder of Who THEY are, and what I can offer to Them in return for Their awesomeness. I have no shame in my love letters: the perfume of my incense rising, the burning of the offerings which I have painstakingly taken time to create, the ikon on our shrines being just a flirtatious image of the unparalleled beauty which They behold, but can somehow tease something from me: a point of connection between the two of us.

My Gods are alive, They are real, and They are more than I can ever say. In my desperation to feel a glimpse of Their daimon, I will often starve, deprive myself, cry, bleed, sweat, and cry guttural tones of ekstasis. I want to go back to the Time of my Sacred Ancestors, and dance for Them. I want my joy to overflow like intoxicating wine, and I want Them to be pleased with what I have before me for Their unrivaled Glory. The auguries and oracular possessions are Their mercies poured out so I can but taste Their whispers in my ear.

In my love letters, I ain’t stirring, summoning and calling up shit. I am asking, offering, asking, flattering, offering and worshiping. I worship because They are worthy of worship. I have no issue groveling on the ground before Them, because They are mightier than I. They have rulership over spheres I can scarcely imagine. They are my passion and my yearning.

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

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!)
~Oracle~