Archive for March 17, 2014

Friendships Beyond Faiths

I attended Paganicon this weekend- a conference held by Twin Cities Pagan Pride– which is why this post is so late, but the experiences I had there inform the post.

I went to various workshops- which I’d be happy to further discuss, but my favorite part of Paganicon was having informal conversations with people, and making new friends and re-connecting with old ones- both local and from around the country (and Canada too) The interesting thing in retrospect, is that I don’t think I had any in-depth discussions with anyone who I would say really shared my tradition or spiritual focus. No, I’ll scratch that- I talked to several people briefly who shared a devotion to Brighid. All from different types of paganism.

I didn’t attend the workshop on Kemeticism, but still learned a lot about it from several people that I knew from the Cauldron Forum– about open statues, the misinterpretation of Set and the myth of Osiris and Isis by the Greeks and later Christians and modern Pagans. I learned about the Kami of Misfortune from a Shintoist. I witnessed a procession and installation of a golden calf idol of Ba’al.

I reconnected with old friends and acquaintances from the Wiccan Church of Minnesota (thanks to Neva & John for the rides!)  and Standing Stones Coven, and various other pagans I’ve known a long time from hanging out in the community. I hadn’t seen many of them for a long time- I mentioned to some of them that I’d fallen away from spiritual practice and was trying to re-connect and find my place. No one really seemed to judge me for that.

And all the online fighting about “Wiccanate privilege” and what “real” polytheism is, and all that jazz just seemed so stupid.  I’ve had my problems with pagans. But funny thing- most of the pagans I’ve had problems with- weren’t Wiccan. They were recons or polytheists or Druids of some kind. (Though I’m sure if I had been more involved with the Wiccan groups, I would’ve had other problems.)

Twin Cities Pagan Pride, for the most part does a pretty good job of including a variety of paganisms. Do their events still to tend to have more Wiccans and Wicca-based programming?  Somewhat, yes, but that’s based on numbers of people who show up and get involved. Yes, some of us are busy with building our religions, devotions to our gods and so forth. That’s fine. Some of us don’t feel we have much in common with other pagans, and don’t feel the need to identify as pagan. That’s fine. Yes, some polytheists have experienced social exclusion (not the same thing as discrimination) at supposedly pan-Pagan events. So have various other groups (racial minorities, trans people, gay people, etc) We need to believe others when they make these claims- or at least give them the benefit of the doubt, and address things accordingly. We probably can’t do an opening ritual that will make everyone happy. (Maybe we just shouldn’t have one!) But we can be more inclusive.

March 17, 2014 at 4:23 am 2 comments

A Polytheist Among Unitarians

After joining my local UU congregation some years back, I have struggled with figuring how I fit in, socially & spiritually into UUism. I sought out Unity for many reasons- a major one being that I wasn’t finding the social stability I needed in Pagan groups. I’ve belonged to, or attempted to help organizing, multiple Pagan groups that failed (it wasn’t just me, I swear!) I occasionally enjoyed attending chapel services in college, the worship service structure was psychologically familiar, and I like singing along with consistently good music- certainly music & chanting in pagan rituals can be good, but there is a lot less practice & professionalism. Having trained clergy with no other “day jobs” is also nice.

As a whole, I wonder how compatible polytheism is with Unitarian Universalism. Unitarianism is after all, a movement that started to try to make Christianity more monotheistic- by rejecting the very notion of the Trinity and emphasizing the Unity of God. The traditional Unitarian view of God emphasized his transcendence (even more so as the Transcendentalists came along) and took a liberal non-creedal form of Christianity, viewing Jesus as merely human, discounting belief in miracles in the Bible- Jefferson Bible anyone? When attempting to explain my church to others, I often call UUism “the church of Enlightenment values”. Reason, freedom, equality, science.

Neo-Paganism, on the other hand is a child of the Romantic movement- which was an earthy, emotional artistic reaction to the perceived stodgy and dry Enlightenment.

In spite of its broad philosophical/theological inclusiveness, Unitarian Universalism does have a distinct worldview, which emphasizes several “meta-narratives” large over-arching trends- The Myth of Progress and the Perennial Philosophy- which I will focus on for now.

The Perennial Philosophy is one term for the general idea that “major world religions” such as Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism all teach the same perennial truths. Proponents of this idea like to use metaphors like “we are all walking different paths up the same mountain” or tell the old story about the blind men and the elephant. That’s an old standby in UU Sunday school.  I also wonder if some blind people would find the story offensive? I used to find these metaphors more useful when I was back in high school, but my studies of religions have led me to the conclusion that their similarities are often over-emphasized to the point of oversimplification. Even Christianity and Judaism are much more different than they appear. Christianity is focused on salvation by faith in Jesus. Judaism is mostly focused on living a good life. The afterlife is not very emphasized in many forms of Judaism, but it is central to most forms of Christianity. Hinduism is hugely diverse, and I get the impression that certain types of Hinduism- those that focus on unity rather than multiplicity are favored over others in the Perennial Philosophy. Polytheistic religions don’t mesh into the Perennial Philosophy very well- Teo Bishop actually has a post on this, and after reading it I was not surprised that he returned to Christianity.

(I started this post way back in December, and have periodically been adding to it- time to release it into the world!)

March 17, 2014 at 3:43 am 2 comments

Favorite “E” PBP Posts

Eclectic(ism) Sulischild tries to balance an eclectic path while being aware of cultural appropriation, and also ponders views of disability in ancient Celtic cultures. Australis Incognita on using red brick dust (a tradition from New Orleans voodoo)

Ehwaz– Musings of Huginn & Muninn

Eithne– Caer writes about the mother of Lugh

EldersDonald Reese-Engstrom “I have noticed that we are of a variety of opinion on this topic. Therefore, I encourage us all to closely examine our own understandings of the roles of an ‘elder’ and then to engage in dialog with one another with clear eyes, open minds, and compassionate hearts.”

Elsewhere– Refreshing to see a skeptical (yet open) look at otherworldly/astral travel

Enheduanna– Mistress of the Hearth writes about a talented Sumerian priestess

Entitlement– Cave of Night (I considered writing about this myself!)

Eolas– Scathcraft shares insights on the pros and cons of oral and written tradition (in French, translation link on site)

Eostre– Aiwelin on the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring and the dawn

Erlkonig– Cry of the Cicada writes of a German song by Schubert poem by Goethe based on Danish folklore of the Erlkonig (Elf/Alder King) a luring personification of Death

Eriu- Goddess of Ireland by New Pagan

Ethics: Beyond the Intersection of Non-Harm & Return– Ci Cyfarth challenges the assumption that all pagans believe in the Three-fold Law of Return (or karma or something similar) and proposes alternative ethical ideas.

Eye of the Needle– Magickal Pen uses the metaphor of sewing tips on maintaining a balanced spiritual practice

March 17, 2014 at 3:22 am Leave a comment


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