Ivy Vine at Polytheism Without Borders has graciously agreed to re-post some of my writing on their blog, starting with ‘Nuff Polytheist Street Cred. Check out their site for other interesting essays on polytheism, and their forum- which could use some more action!
I’m impressed with myself that I’ve managed stay on top of the Pagan Blog Project (it helps that my work schedule gives me a lot of free time!) I feel I’m not really connecting with the Cauldron Blog Project, but I’d like to try the 30 Days of Deity Devotion meme (original link here) for Fionn Mac Cumhaill- technically a hero, but hero-cults are a rather neglected aspect of modern paganism. I am typing up notes from a book about him I read back in college called “Wisdom of the Outlaw” and will be using that material a lot. This will not be a continuous 30 days, but as with PBP I’ll try to write at least once a week. I’m interested to see what others are writing for this project, so I have made a list here of participants. Please comment if you would like to be added, and I will add you after you actually post a couple times. You can also come back and write about another deity if you like.
I have also added links on the Blog Challenge page to a couple others, 30 Days of Druidry and a devotional polytheist meme that is for spiritual practitioners more advanced than myself.
Eloquence was held up as a great virtue by the Celts, whether it be for Druids leading ritual, princes inspiring their men before entering battle, a satirist publicly shaming a stingy king, or a poet reciting the king’s ancestry. Poetry is often seen as an effete “extra” in modern Western culture, but in oral cultures, poetry is used to remember history, myth and other types of knowledge. Even in this era of the pervasive written word we still do that – Khronos knows how often I mentally check “Thirty days Hath September” when I don’t have a calendar in front of me. (Actually I usually do recite it aloud- as those who know me well can attest my internal thought processes don’t stay very internal!)
There is a misconception that some people are just really good speakers, and the rest of us aren’t. While there may be some that have a natural talent for eloquence, like an “ear” for music, it is a talent that must be constantly honed and practiced. Most politicians, ministers, actors and comedians start out as nervous public speakers and improve with time, practice and usually coaching.
How is eloquence a virtue? Having a talent is a personal trait, but not one we typically think of us moral. Well, that’s how virtue ethics differs from conventional morality- it’s not just about being honest and kind. The stuff they taught you in kindergarten, those aren’t really virtues. Eloquence is a virtue both for its own sake- its intrinsic beauty, its reverence for the spoken word, and the powerful social role that it can play.
A leader who continually bungles speeches is seen as a bad leader by the public, even when he or she makes good decisions when off-camera. And a leader who makes bad decisions for his or her people can still be seen as a great leader if he/she is a fantastic orator. Playing your social role well helps maintain the social order, which is a part of the cosmic order. This is the underlying basis of virtue ethics in Indo-European cosmology- it can most clearly be seen in the concept of dharma in Hinduism.
Toastmasters- this is a secular service organization whose members dedicate themselves to the craft of public speaking
Ar nDraiocht Fein- in general and in the Bardic & Liturgists Guilds in particular, eloquence is greatly encouraged in ADF. There are great articles on speech and ritual performance in our magazine, Oak Leaves, workshops at our festivals and discussions about it on our lists.
As I’ve discussed before, I do celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, as a celebration of Irish culture. I’m curious what other Celtic Pagans/Polytheists are doing for alternatives to conventional St. Pat’s Day? This year I’ll be attending Paganicon, from the 14th-16th, and as the 17th will be on a Monday I’ll be going to Irish class as usual in the evening.
Years back I remember reading Dancing With the Sun, a book on Witchcraft by Yasmine Galenorn, in which she suggested celebrating Liberalia, a Roman holiday for Bacchus that happened to fall on March 17th. I thought, sure, that’s Pagan, but it’s not Irish. Well, Lupus came up with an interesting idea- e pointed out that like Bacchus/Dionysus, in Irish myth Cuchulainn was born twice, so it would make sense to honor him on that day. Lugaid & Caer are going to be doing that (as well as honoring him on other days)
I’ve long had the idea of simply honoring the personification of Ireland- Eriu- or Hibernia, Kathleen ni Houlihan- or a sovereignty goddess associated with a part of Ireland that you feel a spiritual connection with (travel, ancestry etc) So please, share your ideas!
This is the post I spent so much time fussing over, but didn’t end up using for Pagan Blog Project. I decided to post it after all before I spend any more time on it that I could on other things! Another very insightful post about a broader perspective on privilege can be found at the World of Dust & Bones Blog: Paganism & Privilege Part 1: How We Talk about it (which in turn was a response to this post by John Halstead)
Note: I’m going to discuss religion and privilege in the United States specifically because I can better understand & explain it, I would be greatly interested in hearing viewpoints and experiences specific to other countries.
Some “privileges” are really rights that everyone should have, while others are simply unfair advantages that no one should have. Everyone should have the right to practice their religion freely, (or not practice any religion) in a way that does not interfere with others’ rights. Christians in the United States and many other countries have this right, but it is more protected and unquestioned than it is for those of minority faiths. Christians in the U.S. also sometimes misuse their privileged status to get favorable treatment for their religion that other religions do not get. These are facts that most Pagans would agree, and most Christians that have any self-awareness at all. (I.e. not the ones who think this was founded as a “Christian nation”.)
On to Wiccan(ate) Privilege
Wicca, and pagan religions, that closely resemble it, are like it or lump it still the largest group of self-identified Pagans. Anytime a group has been around longer and is bigger, it is typically going to get social privilege along with that.
The status of Wicca and Wicca-like forms of paganism within broader interfaith pagan settings (8 sabbats, use of magic, Goddess or God/Goddess theology etc) is similar to the status of Protestant Christianity within monotheist religions. Talk about God and religion in the public square- “civil religion” historically reflected this, and excluded Catholics, Jews and Muslims. The Catholics and Jews are *kind of* more included, and the Muslims are slowly starting to be, though they face an uphill battle of xenophobia and anti-terrorist paranoia. Then there’s all kinds of wrestling over who’s “really” a Christian, as we saw in the 2012 election with a Mormon and a *suspected* Muslim running for President.
After Wiccans, Druids and Heathens/Asatru are the most commonly known pagan religions. If you’re a pagan of some sort, you probably know of all three, and likely specific traditions and organizations that fall within them. If you’re a monotheist or atheist in the broader U.S. culture, it’s likely you know of Wicca, think of Paganism in general as “Wicca-like” or the same, and may have vaguely, in passing heard of Druids and Heathens.
Druids are usually considered “close enough” to Wicca to benefit from some types of Wiccan privilege. As in, we typically celebrate the same 8 holidays, consider ourselves nature/earth-based. British-style revival Druidry such as OBOD is even closer to Wicca. (Ross Nichols, its founder was good friends with Gerald Gardner after all) And as with Wiccans and their close cousins, many Druids have interest in movements like feminism, environmentalism, peace, some kinds of New Age spirituality and magic.
Ruadan: “And ADF really seems to have more in common with Wiccanate paganism than it has with Celtic Reconstruction than some people want to really believe, even though it does seem to generally be a recon-friendly group.” Spot on. As someone who is part of both, I think that is very true. We celebrate the 8 “standard” holidays and have a ritual structure that be adapted for various pantheons.
Heathens worship some of the same Gods as Wiccans, and celebrate some of the same holidays (like Yule) But in general the Heathen community has less in common with secular aspects of Wiccan subculture. (link to the Hammer & the Pentagram article) The Heathen community has developed a very distinct identity from Wicca-centric Greater Pagandom, and the positive interactions they have had are much due to the efforts of people like Diana Paxson, who was Wiccan before becoming Heathen, intermarriage and friendship between the two and so forth. To the Heathen’s advantage, the United States has major English & German cultural influences- secular holiday customs, and various other customs and social mores that we are familiar with not to mention the English language itself.
Further afield, we have Roman, Greek, Egyptian reconstructionists/revivalists/polytheists. Other pagans may be familiar with Roman, Greek and some Egyptian God names and mythology, but the ritual practices, calendars, and cultural worldviews are likely to be very foreign to them. And the knowledge many pagans do have of these cultures is often superficial and distorted by outdated Victorian or feminist scholarship, and Western occultism. (Actually the knowledge people have of Celtic cultures is usually pretty superficial too, but that doesn’t stop them from thinking they know all about it.)
More posts on the subject:
Baring the Aegis: On Interfaith & Privilege- this is one of the most moderate polytheist responses that I feel closest too.
Unity & Diversity by Helio Pires, Golden Trail blog
Conor Warren- Division Conor hopes for an amicable division between pagans and polytheists.
When people get too serious and grouchy- online or off, I often find one of the best ways to respond is with humor. In the spirit of Druidic satire with a modern twist, Alison Leigh Lilly has lightened the mood with a Polytheist Rap Battle.
On the more serious side, there was a much-needed discussion about Wiccan(ate) privilege at Pantheacon, Finnchuill & Lupus both describe their experiences. Unfortunately it didn’t seem to go as well as it could have, but it’s a start that the different factions agreed to meet and talk about it in person. There was a lack of understanding about what Wiccan(ate) privilege really is among many of the people there and so it was not truly recognized as being a problem. Anyway read their accounts, I wasn’t there.
Recons & polytheists typically know more about Wicca and similar religions than those adherents know about ours. Even those of us who didn’t go through a eclectic Neo-Pagan or Wiccan phase before settling on our current tradition still get a lot of exposure to it from other Pagans and the media. Whereas, unless you make an effort to learn about our religions, it is easier for other Pagans to be blissfully unaware of them. Lupus mentions making many attempts to invite others to rituals, read books, blogs etc. about Lupus’ religion, Ekklesia Antinou and Celtic Reconstructionism without getting much response.
Earlier on Ruadhan made some suggestions for etiquette and hospitality at Pan-Pagan events to be more inclusive of polytheist and reconstructionists- I think they are quite reasonable. I observe all of the etiquette that I am aware of or that is explained to me at Wiccan rituals, it is perfectly fair to expect the same in return.
I think at this point we are going to need allies within Wicca and similar faiths- there are some recons/polytheists who also identify/belong to such traditions, they would be natural bridge-builders. Also, those of us in ADF- an organization with a unique place between Neo-Paganism and reconstructionism, can do a great to help as well. Diplomacy is a traditional role of Druids after all.
Dagaz- Huginn & Muginn’s musings
To Dare- Super-Duper Space Witch on activism
Dán- Seeking Imbas
Druid Bird- My Relationship with Deities
Seeker Sight- Divinity: a guide for seekers to concepts of the divine
Scathcraft- Divinities (in French, Google translate link on site)
Mistress of the Hearth- Devi, the Great Goddess
Deity Communication- Witch of Valenwood “I am not a Pagan because I have chosen a priestly path to non-Abrahamic deities, and I don’t believe that communication with deities is integral to a Pagan identity. Your pagan beliefs may allow for such communication to occur, and the praxis of your pagan beliefs include such a thing as a goal, but it is not obligatory. I believe in the gods, I love a few of them, and I believe that occasionally I can feel their presences. But my praxis is to live in a way I believe will please them and make offerings in their names. Whether I pray to them or not, they exist, and I am wary about meddling in the affairs of gods, for they are subtle and quick to anger. My love and respect for them is too sincere.” -That’s piety, my friends.
Specific Deities: Miach Rhys writes about Dian Cecht, an Irish God of Healing
Seeking Imbas- The Dagda and his epithets (actually the name Dagda itself is an epithet meaning Good God)
Dependency- Leithin Cluan
Devotion/Devoted/Devotional- Strip Me Back to the Bone: “Devotion is, I believe, ultimately a private affair that can not reliably be measured empirically by outsiders — and in this case, outsiders means anyone other than you personally”
Spirit Stitch- A Place Where All Forces Come Together
Isleen - Daily Devotion to the Divine
Echtrai “In addition, it has been the experience of many polytheists that you do not choose a god. If they desire a devotional relationship from you, they’ll come knocking. Imagine if someone walked up to you on the street and said “I’m going to marry you.” Wouldn’t that be weird?
Abgeneth- Unlikely Devotionals: Everyday Things in My Life I Find Brought Me Closer to the Gods
Delight in Doing the Work- Grave Moss & Stars “Doing the Work is a common phrase used to indicate doing the hands-on, occasionally tedious work that is related to or directly causes a sense of personal and/or spiritual fulfillment.”
Delightism- Donald Engstrom
Discernment- Red Menace “Discernment, I find, is a topic that is strangely absent from a lot of pagan books I’ve read. I’ve seen books go on at length about the clair abilities, the various methods of divination, but there never seems to be a discussion on training yourself to understand when the divination is coming from an external force, and when it’s you seeing only the patterns you want to see. “
Disillusionment- from Thorn the Witch
Disney & Callanish Stones- Knot Magick on the standing stones depicted in Disney’s “Brave” and information about them in the real world. I hadn’t heard of these stones before reading this post, so thanks to the writer and Disney from bringing them to the fore (even if Disney just happened to find them convenient Scottish scenery)
Disting- and other Heathen Holidays in February Pagan Grove
Division- Conor hopes for an amicable division between pagans and polytheists
Domovoi- Witch’s Journey- domestic spirit in Slavic folklore
Domatites (Poseidon) Strip Me Back to the Bone “The biggest reason early on that I decided I was not and could not be a Hellenic pagan was because Hestia would not be my hearth; Poseidon was. Poseidon would remain so. Fast forward years later. Just last April I was reading through Pausanias’s Guides To Greece, as one does, and I stumbled upon a reference to Poseidon Domatites – Poseidon of the house, or, more specifically, of the rooms.” I vote that she can jolly well call herself a Hellenic pagan or polytheist if she wants. You don’t need to strictly follow “Old Stones, New Temples” to be one.
Doubt- Baring the Aegis
Draugadrottin- Wytch of the North (she is doing a series on Odin’s epithets/titles) This one basically means “King of the Zombies”
Drawing Down/Drawing In- In general I wasn’t interested in posts on Drawing Down the Moon, but Raven Scribe has her own meditation loosely based on it, to help her deal with seasonal depression- asking help from Brighid (so of course I couldn’t resist)
Druids/Druidism- Philosophical Pagan- Allec, on why she doesn’t call herself a Druid
Ci Cyfarth untangles a mess of historical Druid definitions
Duir, the Mighty Oak at Raven & Oak
One of the most important concepts in sociology in relation to modern Paganism(s) is that of social deviance. There’s a lot of argument over what “pagan” means but one commonality is that we are all deviant. Deviance means not following social norms- rules- whether official or unwritten. That’s one reason some people do not like the word pagan, is because of its emphasis on deviance – difference from the Judeo/Christian/Islamic dominant paradigm. Efforts to distance paganism from particular kinds of deviance are a defensive attempt to manage the stigma of being a member of a non-standard and sometimes misunderstood religion. Guess what- it doesn’t work. We will never be respectable or normal enough for some people. We can learn a lot from the gay rights movement about this. The feminist movement tried to distance itself from lesbians (calling them the “lavender menace”) The Mattachine Society, an early gay rights group was founded by Harry Hay, a Communist. Later gay rights activists tried to distance themselves from communism. The Stonewall Riots were led by drag queens/kings, transgender and bisexual folk, only to later be swept under the rug and marginalized by gays and lesbian leaders of the movement.
Now, am I saying let’s be tolerant of all types of deviance? No. But when we don’t really have a cohesive community, that leaves us vulnerable to “anything goes”. The solution is, as individuals we need to clarify our values and principles, and then find others who share those principles. I share some of my values with polytheists, with atheists, with Christians. Some people who have otherwise similar beliefs and practices to me, have values that conflict with my own. Those are the sort of people I’m not interested in being in community with. At minimum, I live and let live, at best I try to engage in open dialogue and try to get them to come to a compromise or change their views. If this fails, and they are actively furthering negative values/agendas, I oppose them.