What is this Paganism/Polytheism thing?

I am now up to 200 followers! A lot of new folks who have signed up have an interest in my mental health and autism posts, and I thought some might be unfamiliar with my religion when I discuss it here- indeed I sometimes encounter people who think Pagan or Heathen means atheist or unbeliever, which I suppose it can it some contexts but that’s in lowercase ;) While not perfect, I still find Pagan Pride International’s definition to be a pretty helpful description-

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.

Caelesti/Mariah’s Spiritual Path:

I myself fall between agnostic and polytheist theologically (basically like Fox Mulder, I “want to believe”!) focusing on Irish/Scottish polytheism and Germanic/Norse polytheism- which is more commonly called Heathenry. I am a member of ADF, Ar nDraiocht Fein, an international public tradition of Druidism- that’s mainly Celtic, but we are pan-Indo-European, so we include Germanic, Slavic, Greek, Roman and Vedic- (that’s early Hindu) cultures. I’m also a Unitarian Universalist, which is a post-Christian, non-creedal Protestant denomination that includes people of many beliefs and practices who share common values in common. Phew! Can you see why I often just say “I’m Pagan”?!

Theological Lingo:

Polytheism- belief in, reverence of many gods

Animism- belief in, reverence of many spirits (or belief that a spirit resides in everything)

Agnosticism- belief that the existence of god(s) is unknowable- as I and many others use it, to mean uncertainty of belief

humanism- lowercase, not how other people use it see: Humanism Can Include Theism

Useful/Relevant Posts:

Pagan/Neo-Pagan Definition List

Odinism, Asatru, Heathenry

A Polytheist Among Unitarians

Inclusive Polytheism 

October 23, 2014 at 3:15 am Leave a comment

A Montana Girl’s Thoughts on Animal Sacrifice

I was born in Montana, and only lived there til I was three, but still have relatives who live out there, as well as in Wyoming. In both Montana & Wyoming, there’s a lot more cattle than humans, and its dry and scrubby out there, so they are beef cattle. Some of these cattle are lucky and get better treatment in how they are raised and slaughtered, others aren’t so lucky and go through great suffering before they end up on your plate.

I also have several uncles who enjoy hunting- both birds, antelope and deer, and an aunt and uncle who were rangers in Yellowstone Park. Like many kids, I got the “oh no, hunting is bad, that mean hunter killed Bambi’s mom!” view, but that was soon corrected. Without hunters, the deer population would outgrow the available food and some of them would starve. Hunting (while following local hunting regulations) is a way to responsibly maintain the natural equilibrium.

I am putting all this personal back story in, because I understand many of my friends and colleagues having spent all their lives in the city or suburbs and their idea of “animals” is- my pet dog/cat/”fur-kid”, meat, milk and eggs that magically appear in the supermarket, and Romanticized Innocent Bambi in the woods threatened by Scary Rednecks. Well, to be fair most people I hang out with aren’t that clueless, but a few of them are. Like my vegetarian friend who refused to use wool, because shearing sheep “is cruel!”. Actually *not shearing sheep and making them suffer through summer heat* is cruel, and I also notice she has plenty of leather shoes and boots. Don’t get me wrong, there are many vegetarians, vegans and people who carefully choose meat that comes from humanely treated animals that think out their lifestyles a lot more carefully and consistently, and I greatly respect them for that. Not everyone is able to be that careful, due to their financial, time and sometimes geographic constraints, but I applaud the efforts of those who try.

Anyway, this is all a long lead-up to a controversy among some Pagans and polytheists over the issue of animal sacrifice. Some people have knee-jerk reactions to it, assuming that it must be cruel, is unnecessary because we can buy meat at the supermarket, and this isn’t the Bad Old Days, we’re modern, civilized people! There are even more messed-up ideas bound up with the assumptions of “civilized vs. savage” but I will set that aside for an additional post. OK so here we go:

1) If you’re vegetarian/vegan, for health, spiritual, bio-ethical and/or environmental reasons, that’s fine, I have no problem with that. What I do have a problem with is people claiming that veg*ism is automatically more ecologically and economically sustainable when this is not always the case, or claiming that it is always ethically or spiritually superior lifestyle, along with sometimes implying that other religions and cultures are inferior to your own. (Likewise, the same sorts of arguments that Everyone Must Be Meat-Eaters, are just as wrong)

2) If you’re concerned about animals being raised and slaughtered humanely, great! So am I! Most meat that you can buy in America or Canada today comes from animals who were treated quite poorly. People who practice slaughter in a religious context should be trained to treat the animal humanely and do so in a way that is sanitary and does not threaten human and other animals’ health. Some polytheist religious leaders (Afro-Caribbean, Heathen, Hellenic), do indeed get this sort of training and insist that others who want to practice animal sacrifice do so as well. Though their worldviews/theologies are different, our Jewish and Muslim neighbors do this in kosher and halal slaughter as well, and have been doing so for thousands of years.

3) If you just don’t believe in the whole concept of sacrifice, that’s also fine- there are plenty of other religions that do not involve sacrifice! Feel free to join them!

4) If you think modern Western societies are not ready to culturally deal with the idea of ritual animal sacrifice taking place in public, you’re probably right! Most polytheists and followers of indigenous religions do not kill cows and chickens in the public square for this reason. There are indeed, many laws and regulations governing slaughter that we need to be aware of. In ADF, blood sacrifice is forbidden in *public rituals*, however this does not preclude what we do in private rituals where everyone understands the reasons and cultural/spiritual context. Similarly, I doubt animal sacrifice will be likely to take place anytime soon in a CUUPs or Unitarian Universalist setting.

5) Even in polytheistic religions that may include animal sacrifice, not everyone is going to feel called to practice it, or be in the right circumstances (city mouse vs. country mouse, issues of health/physical and mental) to practice it. That’s OK, there are plenty of other items we can offer to our Gods, Spirits and Ancestors! If some of our co-religionists are doing this practice with proper training, we can respect the skills and services that they offer to their Gods/Spirits and their community, even if we don’t want to attend their rituals or participate ourselves.

6) For polytheists, Pagans and others who practice hunting and or fishing, this can also take place within a spiritual context. Prayers for beginning the hunt, encountering the animal and killing it can be said, and thanks can be given to the spirit of the animal as well as the spirits and gods of the hunt.

References:

Thracian Exodus- Let us find a better way (or: “we are not the monsters under your bed, I promise”)

The Trouble with Bambi: Walt Disney’s Bambi and the American Vision of Nature

Review: American Dad: “Buck Wild”

October 22, 2014 at 10:26 pm 3 comments

Wait, Which Christianity?

One of the things that drives me nuts that Christians, atheists, Pagans and Pastafarians alike seem to do is to make statements like “Christians believe….”, “Christians think…” “X is a Christian movie/book/musical album/chicken restaurant” “That was very Christian (nice/generous/hospitable) of you” or conversely “Sheesh, now you sound like a Christian (mean, close-minded, prudish), eww”.

Take a step away from that, and remember you are talking about billions of people around the world, and hundreds (maybe thousands) of formal sects and churches, and well as individual people’s idiosyncratic theologies, ethics, and religious and ethical practices.

There is no Generic or Typical Christian, any more than there’s a Generic Human. There’s a huge spectrum of beliefs, practices, cultures, languages included here.  The problem is that everyone seems to have a pre-conceived archetypal “Christian” that they are imagining when they talk about Christianity, whatever form they happen to be most familiar with, raised with etc.

When I lived in Iowa, people who sometimes ask me, “Are you Christian or Catholic?” which I found rather baffling. “Uh, last time I checked Catholics were Christians. But I’m Protestant, Methodist to be specific to answer your question.” I later realized that these questioners were some variety of evangelical who didn’t view Roman Catholics as genuine Christians. Chances are, they didn’t consider me a legit Christian either. Oddly enough, the people who most often come to my door to tell me about God, Jesus and the Bible are either Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons, who often aren’t considered Christians because their beliefs aren’t in line with the Nicene Creed, or whatever other yardstick you’re using.

Since I’m not Christian, it’s not my job to worry about watering down the definition of Christian. To me it’s more of a cultural identifier than a matter of theology.  (Heck, I could say the same of “Pagan”!) What matters me to is determining whether they are the sort of Christian I can have a civil but honest discussion about religion, or the sort of Christian with which I have to keep myself on guard so I don’t set them off like a trigger-happy car alarm. Come to think of it, a lot of Christians actually have to deal with this as well, deciding whether it’s worth it to tell cousin Shelly that in fact, they are not Her Kind of Christian.  I also just can’t relate socially to, and frankly have a lot of trouble respecting on an intellectual level people who never question anything they are taught. Or heck, people who never read or seek out information since they graduated from high school. This is not a class thing- poor people can go to the library!  I politely tolerate them, but that’s as far as it can really go.

What I commonly do is what feels like coming halfway out of the “broom closet” by explaining that I’m Unitarian, without mentioning Paganism, and I talk about that if the person seems open-minded enough and has a long enough attention span (it’s already pushing it by explaining UUism!) Most people tend to think UUism is “Christian enough” for them to not be scared away (though they may not be aware that we let in riff-raff like atheists and pagans!) I wonder if it’s dishonest and cowardly, or if it’s just being pragmatic.

October 22, 2014 at 1:55 am Leave a comment

Black Friday (the Service not the Sale)

Recalling a conversation from several years ago….

“They’re having a Black Friday service”, I told my Lutheran boyfriend about my church.

“Wha- but they’re Unitarians, I didn’t think they’d observe Good Friday, and besides, it’s the wrong time of year.” he said.

“No, honey not Good Friday- Black Friday. The day after Thanksgiving, when all the big sales start. It’s a special service to protest consumerism.” I explained

“As much as I hate holiday consumerism, it’s not really a spiritual occasion, is it?” He furrowed his brow, both puzzled and bemused by those goofy Unitarians.

No, it isn’t. Which is part of why I’m not going. Besides, I don’t need to be lectured about the evils of consumerism when I am actually working the Black Friday sale! After all, it’s the entire reason I had this job at Jo-Ann Fabric in the first place- excess consumerism during the holidays. The extra irony, was Unity encourages people to either make gifts or re-use stuff they have or buy used items, and here I am working in a craft and fabric store. I know they mean well, but this is one of those things they just don’t get.  Voluntary simplicity is nice idea, but I don’t need to go to a workshop to learn about it. Try mandatory simplicity that is my life, that is a lot of people’s lives, even more so than my own.

Last year while working at Macy’s I was thinking it might be nice to have some type of contemplative type service for people who have to work for the Capitalist Grinch Who Stole Christmas. Something to numb the pain- isn’t that what religion is supposed to, at least a little? I didn’t get things together enough to do it, but I think I will make the suggestion this year.

Last year, I got a call from an organization I work with, that was having a protest by Target (right in my neighborhood) for being open on Thanksgiving, and boycotts were called for against the stores that were doing it including, Macy’s where I was working, and had volunteered to work overnight for some extra pay. So, instead of protesting that people are being expected to work on Thanksgiving, just in general ask why are these people not paid more? Why do they not get good benefits- whether from their employers or the state? Why isn’t good quality affordable childcare available in this country? Why do people go to work sick? Why are so many disabled people who want to work unemployed? We love convenience- our 24 hour 365 days a week open stores, when one of them in closed for a day, oh no, how will we survive?

Well, how is it that America’s workers are surviving? So yeah. Live simply so that others can simply live- keep on with liberal do-gooding, I’m all for it, sure. But we can’t all work for non-profits, we can’t all be teachers and lawyers and all the Following Your Truly Meaningful Vocation type jobs that Unitarians and other liberals approve of. When you consider which charities to donate to this holiday season, and the whole year for that matter, consider also investing in businesses that are pay and treat their employees well, value life/work balance, that recruit and train people with disabilities, people with criminal histories that want to be a part of society, single parents, people who may have less education but still have plenty of skills and experience to offer, older workers, immigrants, young people who want a real start in their lives. Help build sustainable jobs and hold employers and investors accountable and we can build a community! Because without good jobs, we can’t donate to the church, or to save the rainforest or do any number of important things. We can only take care of ourselves and our families, and survival is not selfishness.

October 21, 2014 at 1:14 am Leave a comment

Visions of Vanaheim: Book Review

Visions of Vanaheim by Nornoriel Lokason

Available on: Amazon, Createspace, Etsy

V of V was previously published in 2009 under the name Svartesol, in its new edition it has been greatly expanded with information gained from the author (and others’) personal spiritual experiences astrally travelling to Vanaheim. However it is made pretty clear throughout the book what information is from historical sources and what is spiritual experience.

While the term Asatru, meaning true to the Aesir is sometime used generically to mean a Norse polytheist (esp. reconstructionist) religion, a growing number of people have come to see Heathenry as including three pantheons- the Aesir, the Vanir and the Jotuns. While most Heathens focus on the Aesir (assuming that this includes at least some of the Vanir- Frey, Freya & Njord), others have come to focus on the Vanir, calling themselves Vanatru, and the Jotuns or Rokkur, Rokkatru. Lokason believes that the Jotuns are the oldest pantheon, the Vanir branched off of them and the Aesir came in later on. He goes through a timeline of archaeological evidence in Northern Europe and interprets it through this theory.

There are chapters on both the deities traditionally seen as Vanic- Njord, Nerthus, Frey and Freya, as well as deities named in the lore that the author and other Vanatru believe to be Vanic, such as Idunn and Eir, and beings that Lokason has learned about or encountered through his spiritual journey.

The Eshnahai (which is what the Vanir call themselves) are a race of elves (the distinction between elves and gods being minimal) and Lokason shares with us details of the 24 Eshnahai tribes, named after various animals that they can shape-shift into, aspects of their daily life and spirituality. The holidays of the Neo-Pagan Wheel of the Year have their equivalent in Vanaheim, and descriptions of how they are celebrated there as well as how they might be here in Midgard by a solitary or a group are given.

I will admit that I am a rather unlikely reader for this book- I tend to be skeptical when I hear of information gained from shamanic journeying, channeled from spirits and the like. However, this is how religions are formed- from visions, from extra-ordinary claims of miracles. To truly explore religion means that at some point, you will have to open yourself up to possibilities of the uncanny. So while I’m still not sure if I am necessarily a True Believer in all of Nornoriel’s Lokason’s experiences, I am keeping an open mind and enjoying the ride.

I think this book would be enjoyed by non-Pagans who enjoy mythology and fantasy fiction, by Pagans who otherwise might not be interested in Heathenry, but are open to a more visionary perspective on it. Heathens who want to explore further their relationships with the Vanir, elves, connection with nature and practice of magic and seidhr would also find a lot of value in the book.  I also think Celtic Pagans and Druids would find a lot of that resonates within these pages.

Above all, you can see the love and devotion with which it was written. There are a couple of errors in the text, unsurprising for a self-published work, but not enough to take away from the reading experience.

This is the first book in a planned series of four- the next one entitled Voices of Vanaheim is set for release in November 2014. It will be a collection of stories told from different perspectives about the history of Vanaheim and the Eshnahai.

October 20, 2014 at 11:30 pm Leave a comment

Helpful Videos on Autism and Disability

Thanks to Youtube, educating yourself about the autism spectrum and disability in general is easier than ever! Be warned that there also a lot of bad info online so be careful- avoid anything with language like “epidemic” “tragedy”, find things from the perspectives of people with disabilities themselves rather than people who claim to speak for us! Note: I tried to put this roughly in an order of basic to more complex ideas about autism and disabilities.

How Aspies Communicate: Literal Thinking & Bluntness

Ask an Autistic: What is a Meltdown?

Can We Stop Saying “High-functioning”? What are the problems with using high vs. low-functioning autism labels?

Ask an Autistic: What is Neurodiversity? Truths & misconceptions about the neurodiversity movement. Lots of links listed below video!

Undiagnosed Autism/Asperger’s in Adults- It’s often misunderstood that autism is a new “epidemic” when actually people with autism have existed all along, often struggling to get by. I feel all too this goes ignored by the broader autism community that is very child-centric.

Sh!t People Say to People with Disabilities and here’s a 2nd

S#!T Ignorant People Say to Autistics- Danger: satire and truth ahead!

Stella Young on Inspiration Porn & Objectification of Disability- Stella Young wittily explains how we have all been mislead (heck, lied to!) in our understanding of disabilities. (This is not literally about pornography)

Autistics Speaking: Self Advocacy in a Culture of Cure (Part 2 here)

Jo Case on Asperger’s Syndrome: Identity or Illness- a woman with AS with a son with AS explores changing views of the autism spectrum.

Ask an Autistic: What’s Wrong with Autism Speaks? Why many autistic people and their allies oppose Autism Speaks

October 20, 2014 at 11:23 pm Leave a comment

Fanfiction Fridays: Hogwarts School of Prayer and Miracles ) by proudhousewife

caelesti:

Just in time for your not-Halloween Harvest party- The woman who wrote this fic says she doesn’t own the original JKR books, but doesn’t mention whether she read them or not. I suspect she may just be going off of general pop culture knowledge that’s filtered down even inside her little bubble. I couldn’t help reading it out of curiosity, it is hilariously bad and preachy. I doubt it will convince anyone that isn’t already of this lady’s mindset.

Originally posted on Lady Geek Girl and Friends:

MadameAce: So for those of you who haven’t yet seen it in all its glory, there is now a Christian-safe version of Harry Potter that you can enjoy. Our author, proudhousewife, wanted her children to be able to read Harry Potter, without the fear that the story would turn them into Satanic witches. And let’s face it: this is a pretty legitimate fear. After I read the first couple books, I immediately bought myself a wand and ran around screaming “Avada Kedavra” at people. Clearly, the devil has taken hold of my soul.

My face when I first realized that.

My face when I first realized that.

If only there had been a Christian-friendly version of the books I could have read back then. One that preferably condescends to small children, teaches girls that being both beautiful and in the kitchen is what glorifies God, insinuates that non-Christians and Catholics are incapable of love…

View original 1,368 more words

October 18, 2014 at 1:01 am Leave a comment

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