More Local Cultus Resources

Walking the Worlds: Journal of Polytheism & Spiritwork- Vol 1, No.2: Building Regional Cultus (international)

Heathen cultus (international) You can add content on tumblr with the tag #heathencultus, check it out for more specific tags

American in general-

Intro to Modern American Polytheism– Janet Callahan

Philosophy of Modern American Polytheism

U.S./American Pantheon

American Cities/Regions

Michigan- Detroit Writings on American Gods from a Gaulish polytheist 

Pennsylvania- Philadelphia- Book of Bell and Key (this blog is interested in contributors)

I could make a giant list of doom, but what I’d really like to see is collaboration between folks in various regions- and perhaps specific people can “adopt” their region or city, and work on compiling lists. Then I’d be happy to link to them to help refer others. That already is happening of course, I’ve seen a lot about the Cascadia/Pacific Northwest region, and across the seas in Australia, up north in Canada, etc.
I know lots of Pagans locally, but not their blog presences necessarily. So Upper Midwest folks, come out, come out wherever you are.

I also want to point out that this project, at least as far as my involvement in it is concerned, is inclusive in theology and practice. So long as you are respectful of others, it doesn’t matter to me if you’re a cultural polytheist like myself, a Reclaiming witch, a pantheist, animist, Hindu, or naturalistic pagan that talks about the “spirits of place” more symbolically. Folk Catholic practitioners who are Pagan/magic friendly are also welcome, otherwise if you’re not sure, you can always ask! It also would be cool to link up with local art devotional or “spirit of place” art projects and environmental and charity projects.

December 1, 2015 at 7:44 am Leave a comment

Pagan Thoughts on Unitarian Sources

In a comment on her blog, my blogging colleague Trellia asked me what UUism is like- how does it fit for a polytheist when it tends to be based in monotheism?

Here’s a short answer from a UU joke-

After the secular humanists came along, we said that UUs believe in One God – at Most.
Now, what with the 6th Source and the pagans, we say that UUs believe in One God – More or Less.

I made a comment about the generic Divinity of UUism being rather like that in Alcoholics Anonymous- what I meant by that is that in AA there is this concept of a “Higher Power”, and while it tends to skew towards evangelical Christianity in its “default setting theology” officially they emphasize that the Higher Power can be whatever works for you and helps you in your recovery, the point is just to believe in Something.

Traditional Unitarianism was a Deist style of Christian theology- God was there, but very transcendent. Jesus was a wise teacher with moral teachings, and we should follow in his footsteps- but not the son of God or savior. Humans are born with an “original blessing” so to speak, and redeem the world themselves- the world isn’t seen as “fallen” so much as imperfect, our mission as our Jewish friends would say is tikkun olam- to repair the world. Transylvanian Unitarianism still holds this theology, and it is one of the sources of our tradition.


  • Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life;

(To me this kind of implies a “there is one God/Force/Divine Source, and many paths to God” which is a recurring motif in many UU sermons and teachings, but it also says “an openness to the forces (plural) which create and uphold life” This second part can be seen as fitting with animism and polytheism.

  • Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love;

This includes both religious and non-religious prophets- in Celtic/Druid traditions this overlaps a lot with the role of the bard or fili

  • Wisdom from the world’s religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life;

We do encourage mindful & respectful cultural exchange/interaction, not cherry-picking and pirating!

  • Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God’s love by loving our neighbors as ourselves;

Note that as with the Abrahamic religions, most polytheistic religions place an emphasis on hospitality- gods wandering around disguised as beggars motif pops up in many mythologies

  • Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit;

Worth mentioning that many humanist teachings have their roots in Greco-Roman philosophy, as did the beginnings of scientific thought. To me the idolatries of the mind and spirit part warns about becoming so stuck on a certain idea, ideology, practice or belief that you miss the bigger picture, and possibly neglect other areas of your life.

  • Spiritual teachings of Earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.

This is the sixth source mentioned above, as women’s spirituality and environmentalism became influences in UUism, Paganism made its way into the UU tent. I will add though, that I often see an oversimplified Paganism = Nature is Sacred mentality promoting both within greater Neo-Pagandom and UUism. Earth-based or Earth-centered is a common self-identifier for many UUs, and this overlaps with, but is not the same as Pagan.

I would say that UUism gives me an ethical & spiritual philosophy that deals more with humans in a modern pluralist society while polytheism gives me a practice, a mythic cosmology, older but timeless virtue ethics and cultural roots.

December 1, 2015 at 4:05 am Leave a comment

Religion as Art

I think of different schools of philosophy or theology as like different schools of art & music criticism. We don’t typically have wars over disagreements in how to interpret art or music, even though those things are definitely very powerful and human beings find a lot of meaning and put a lot of creativity into them much like religion…but like religion they can’t be measured in a “rational” way.

Creating a religion (or reviving it- which is a kind of re-creation) is like creating a work of art. You are reaching for something outside of yourself, as well as something within. You might do it on your own, but the ideas you have are likely influences from the world around you. You might co-create with others, but each individual will view the art differently. You might disagree with how it should be displayed or performed, if it’s OK for people to take it apart and use pieces of it and re-combine them with other things. Should it remain in a private collection or be shared with the public?

There’s a great comparison between music and  revivalism/reconstructionism here, as well as one between religion and fandom. These examples are both from the Kemetic communit(ies) but they apply well elsewhere.  I’ve seen others write about this- some in a pejorative way, others in a positive way, as in *yes, I take both my fandom & my religion seriously and not-so-seriously!

We certainly have our debates about authenticity in the Irish and Scottish cultural communities!

November 19, 2015 at 3:30 am Leave a comment

Humanist, Naturalist and other Definitions

I’m not interested in jumping into any religious debates currently, but I thought I’d shed some light by trying to sort out some definitions.

Atheist– There is/are no god(s)  Theoretically could believe in an afterlife, magic, divination or other non-scientific proven things.

Agnostic– Knowledge of god(s) is unknowable- many people use it in the sense of “I’m not sure” or “I don’t care” which would be an Apatheist. More about the a/gnostic & a/theists axes here.

Skeptic– person who uses critical thinking, reason, and logic, though they may not be consistent in how they apply these tools! Could include religious people but communities of skeptics typically don’t. Skeptics originally were a school of Greek philosophy

Freethinker/Freethought– one who thinks freely, especially in matters of religion and philosophy- originally this was used for Deists and people who questioned the doctrine of the Trinity, but has been mostly taken over by nontheists.

“None”– demographic rather than a self-identifier, person who has no institutional religious affiliation. This could include some Pagans.

Spiritual But Not Religious– many “nones” describe themselves as such, many Pagans do so as well, though I find the assumptions behind the division of “spirituality” with “religion” to be rather tiresome, I think we should listen SBNRs define this for themselves individually rather than just writing them off as flaky, which many mainstream religious folks and atheists alike often do.

Nontheist– includes atheists, agnostics. Depending on how you want to define things, a pantheist, deist, animist or ancestor venerator (with no deities) could also be nontheists. This isn’t typically a self-identifier, but I use “nontheistic pagans” as a broad term for pagan-identified folks who are less deity-focused. (If I ever get someone’s identity/label/tradition wrong please let me know)

Humanism– philosophy or life-stance that focuses on human needs, this life, a positive view of the body and the world, humans making the effort to improve themselves and the world, reason, critical thinking and the scientific method. Typically a humanist is at least agnostic or not focused on questions of the existence of gods, spirits and the afterlife.

An older definition of humanism (pre Humanist Manifesto) that is still used particularly in educational settings, is of Renaissance humanism, belief in the value of individual freedom of expression, education in the humanities, exploration of what it means to be human. This is the sense that I might use it for myself, but it requires so much explaining and disclaiming that I don’t usually bother!

Secular Humanist– pretty much the same as the first definition of humanism.

Religious Humanist– Humanists who want to have rituals, celebrations of rites of passage and/or the seasons, possibly buildings/organizational structures similar to churches, and sometimes humanist celebrants and chaplains who officiate at ceremonies or provide ethical or spiritual counseling. Religious humanists can be found in Unitarian Universalism, the Ethical Society/Ethical Culture, Sunday Assemblies, Jewish humanist groups, and various forms of Paganism, Buddhism- Secular Buddhism, Nontheist Friends (Quakers) and various people who attend church services because they like the community/music/etc. even if they aren’t sure how much of it they believe in.

Religious Naturalism– viewing the Earth, universe in a reverential manner, as a mystery, way of seeking meaning, based in scientific inquiry. This may be the “new” religious humanism. Spiritual Naturalism is another version.

Anti-theist– one opposed to belief/worship of God(s), who wants to convince religious people to leave religion behind. Please note that not all atheist activists, even those who actively criticize religion are necessarily anti-theists. Often it’s hard to tell though since they typically conflate all religion with fundamentalist Christianity and Islam. I would typically exclude these guys from humanism, whether secular or religious, since they treat most humans with such disdain. Interestingly, I’ve mostly seen this used pejoratively, but I’m starting to see people self-identify with it. Another person I know uses it as “I believe gods exist, but I want nothing to do with them!”.

Pantheism– seeing God/the Divine as the same as the Universe/nature

Universal Pantheist Society-includes pantheists, panentheists, cosmotheists, religious naturalists etc.

World Pantheist Movement– scientific/natural pantheism, broke off from the UPS and is now larger

Panentheism– sees God/the Divine as both pervading and transcending the Universe

Secularism– Not the Same as Atheism! In an United States context it can mean separation of church and state- state secularism. A secularist may advocate for the rights of nonreligious people, and ending forms of religious privilege, dissuade religious influence over political decision-making and public discourse- they can be religious or non-religious on a personal level. Christian fundamentalists/evangelicals in the United States often claim that advocacy for separation of church and state and loss of Christian privilege is “creeping secularism/secular humanism” and is an erosion of their religious freedom. Seriously, for years I didn’t know secular humanists were a real group of people, because they just sounded like Jerry Falwell’s imaginary bogeymen!

November 17, 2015 at 7:11 am 6 comments

Christian-Pagan syncretisms: the Why

One recent search term that brought up this blog was “Is Christo-Paganism safe?” I’m guessing that was in reference to concerns about the use of magic, or possible punishment by YHWH or other Gods who may not get along with him. I’m going to take a step back from this first-

Why do you want to combine Christianity and Paganism? What is your understanding (not your parents/guardians, teachers or ministers- but yours) of Christianity, its teachings, how the Bible should be interpreted, the nature of Jesus and so forth?

What is your understanding of Paganism? Don’t worry at this point how broadly, or narrowly Paganism should be defined- after all, I’m a longtime Pagan, and I’m not really sure on that either! What aspects of Paganism interest you? Are they things that also can be found within Christianity?

I’m not asking any of these questions because I want to get you to stay “within the fold” of Christianity, become a full-fledged Pagan (however defined) or combine them in some way. But I have met a lot of folks over the years who became Pagan that had a rather narrow understanding of Christianity based on their upbringing. In order to see the Divine as feminine as well as masculine, find social/spiritual gender equality, view sexuality and the body as positive, or view nature or the Earth as sacred or divine, they felt they needed to become Pagan. Many of them remained Pagans, and lived happily ever after. For a few others I’ve known, Paganism was a sort of gateway that led to more options- liberal/feminist/ecological Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, atheism. Others I know have a Pagan practice that includes elements of Christianity.

Now, since I’m not a Christian, I am not going to tell this or that belief or practice is theologically and Biblically OK or not OK. There’s a zillion individual personal and institutional interpretations. You’ll have to decide for yourself what and who is a trustworthy authority about these questions.

More questions you might have- (assuming you are an independent adult who is free to make these choices) I may write something more specifically for teenagers, with the understanding that I cannot directly advise you via e-mail or in person without parental or guardian permission.

Should I still go to church if I’m exploring other religions? If you feel comfortable doing so, then sure. Depending on what church it is, there may come a time when you need to decide if some forms of participation are still appropriate- such as reciting the Apostle’s or Nicene Creed or taking Communion (particularly if you are Roman Catholic or Orthodox)

OK, I’m stopping this for now because I realize my answer to every question is “it depends on the church”! To be continued…

October 29, 2015 at 3:19 am Leave a comment

Gadflies in the Ointment

Source: Gadflies in the Ointment

October 28, 2015 at 8:55 pm Leave a comment

Labels, Identities and Boundaries

Hey, y’all! I have moved this post to my Witches & Pagans blog, Way of the Sacred Fool. I realized something rather odd. It seems when I specifically set out to write a post for W & P I end up getting stuck, but then I’ll fluently write out something for this blog. I think I need to *just write* without worrying which blog whatever I’m writing fits into and then publish accordingly!

October 28, 2015 at 1:35 am Leave a comment

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