Archive for July 12, 2014

No, Thanks: Gods/Heroes I Avoid

One important thing to realize about polytheism is- you don’t have to worship all the Gods of a particular pantheon- or Heroes or Ancestors. Or even certain Nature Spirits- certainly I’ve already given the mosquito enough blood sacrifices! This has been hard for me, because there certain deities that are regarded as So Important and popular that I felt there must be something wrong with me and my attitude. I think we are all drawn to different gods for different reasons, and we need to respect that, and its also important to revisit those reasons now and again, our relationships with gods as with humans change, begin and end and wax and wane.

The Morrigan– the Irish goddess or complex of goddesses of battle and sovereignty. She’s super-popular, I am always seeing people discussing their powerful relationship with Her, the strength she inspires in them. I’m not surprised that she’s popular- people are looking for a strong female role model and woman warrior, and they find it in her, from mere artistic inspiration, psychological archetype, to intense devotion as a priest/ess. She is also one of the most well-attested goddesses in Irish literature who plays a major role in the myths. But reading myths about the Morrigan does not inspire worship or devotion in me. This is a powerful being who revels in the death & destruction of war. Why on Earth would I want to worship that?  I finally felt better about this after reading John Machate’s post about why he does not worship Her. John in a long-time Celtic Recon, and follows a warrior/Fenian path, and a U.S. Air Force veteran.  He’s no fluff bunny, and he has actually experienced war- which is exactly he’s not among Her worshipers.

Zeus– I’ve long had an interest in Greek mythology and religion (since I was a child- guess how I started down this path!)  But Mr. Must Fertilize All Beautiful Women (with or without consent) has been an impediment to exploring that interest further. I decided to anyway, figuring maybe I was too stuck on modern biases but I think it’s understandable for feminists or gender egalitarians (whatever) to have a hang-up on Zeus, and a lot of other Greek gods. I feel like Hellenic polytheists tend to be way to dismissive of these concerns, and assume that anyone who has them is just Z Budapest with their head filled with Edith Hamilton. I’ve been realizing however that I am really a Northern European creature, not a Mediterranean one- and by that I don’t necessarily mean ancestry- that’s part of it, but it’s mostly I get this Not My Tribe feeling from Greek and Italian culture- whether ancient or modern. It’s interesting, and I enjoy learning about it, and maybe participating in a ritual when I have the opportunity, and it’s possible the Theoi still do have a place in my life, but it will be in a different cultural context. Perhaps kind of the reverse of what the blogger at Golden Trail (name of human?) is doing with his Romanized cult of Ingvi-Freyr.

I like Sunweaver’s take on Zeus here.

Founding Fathers/Presidents who were Slave-Owners/Indian massacre-ists etc. 

I’ve talked in the past about honoring Founding Fathers (George Washington, Thomas Jefferson et al.) as Ancestors of Place, as part of an American Hero/Ancestor cultus. I think we need to acknowledge and be honest about our history, however painful and uncomfortable that maybe.  Honoring historical people does mean realizing that they were people and so were imperfect, a product of their time and sometimes made bad decisions. This is the usual justification for why will still honor leaders who were slave-owners, who ordered the murder and conquest of Indians, and various other Definitely Not OK things. I think we can do better. We can acknowledge that yes, this people Did Important Stuff, but there are other people that led better moral examples that Did Important Stuff too. People we often forget about, who don’t have buildings and holidays named after them or their faces on dollar bills. The Ekklesia Antinou- a community devoted to Antinous, the deified lover of Emperor Hadrian- has a good model of honoring Sancti- which is too complex for me to re-explain- so go read what the good Doctor has to say about it!  Galina Krasskova also has a great list of Pagan & Heathen Heroes & Martyrs– both ancient and contemporary.

Who are your heroes and ancestors? (by blood or spirit)

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July 12, 2014 at 9:08 am 2 comments

Nationalism: Playing with Fire

Many polytheistic and animistic religions have a focus on the sacred nature of fire- the hearth-fire is central in Gaelic, Hellenic and many other traditions. We use fire to cook our food and keep us warm, but also to bless our homes, give sacrifices and to celebrate. We guard closely our flames of freedom of religion, speech and other rights here in the United States, but we have to be careful not to smother them, or let one person or group’s freedom burn away another’s. We celebrate Independence Day with fireworks and sparklers, but playing with fire can be dangerous!

As we move away from the celebration of “America the Awesome” on July 4th, coming up are a couple of holidays celebrated in Europe which also illustrate the double-edged nature of nationalism. It’s like fire- it can be useful and necessary but it can get out of control easily. To a oppressed people, nationalism can be the “jet fuel” needed to kick a revolution into high gear. Revolutions can get out of control, however and sometimes after the revolution emotions continue to boil over. Also when nationalism is embraced by historically dominant groups, their triumphs are rubbed in the faces of oppressed groups, and old embers of conflict are re-kindled. How far should this freedom go? Leaders and regular citizens in Northern Ireland are asking themselves this- as members of the Orange Order prepare to march on July 12th in celebration of victory in battle of a Dutch king over a British king. Why would they celebrate the defeat of their own King?  ” The truth is, they are really celebrating the defeat of Catholicism. James II was a Catholic and when the Dutch king defeated him, Protestants were granted great wealth and positions of power. It opened the door for instant change – one that Protestants in the area have enjoyed for centuries.”- Roghnu Glas.

An Irish-American discusses this on her blog, with a little confession I can very much identify with:

Now I have no real right to talk about the Troubles. I have not lived through them. I know a whole lot about them and have studied Irish history for most of my life but I’m just too far away from the reality of them to have a truly valid opinion. I often wonder if that distance allows for the emotional detachment necessary to be logical, or if it just makes me more insensitive. I also know that I’m about to dip my toes into something that may label me that dumb American or “Plastic Paddy” again.

I know of American Pagans/polytheists who have traveled to Ireland, to be asked “Are you a Protestant or a Catholic?” Those who answered honestly were sometimes met with “Well, then are you a Protestant Pagan or a Catholic Pagan”. This just goes to show how this is as much of a political and tribal division as a religious one. It’s weird for me, because as a Unitarian, I’m technically a sort of Protestant heretic! (and Unitarianism is sooo culturally Gaelic- not!)

The other European holiday in July I was thinking of is Bastille Day on July 14th- just called National Celebration in France.  This commemorates the day the prison Bastille was stormed, and the prisoners were freed.  “Besides holding a large cache of ammunition and gunpowder, the Bastille had been known for holding political prisoners whose writings had displeased the royal government, and was thus a symbol of the absolutism of the monarchy. As it happened, at the time of the siege in July 1789 there were only seven inmates, none of great political significance.”- Wikipedia

The local Covenant of the Goddess typically has a Bastille Day BBQ every year (I suspect in part because people are either busy with family or Convergence around Independence Day) but maybe there is a French connection I’m unaware of.

It’s rather arbitrary, the days we choose to celebrate our countries. It seems they are more based on emotion and what’s popular than what might make actual historical sense.  In the U.S. we celebrate the day Thomas Jefferson & co. signed a letter that basically amounted to “F.U. King George” We don’t actually celebrate the day (whenever it was!) that we actually won the war of Independence. Similarly while we raise a glass of cerveza on Cinco de Mayo, it is not Mexican Independence Day! “Cinco de Mayo—or the fifth of May—commemorates the Mexican army’s 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War (1861-1867). A relatively minor holiday in Mexico, in the United States Cinco de Mayo has evolved into a celebration of Mexican culture and heritage, particularly in areas with large Mexican-American populations.” Kinda reminds me of St. Patrick’s Day….

July 12, 2014 at 5:28 am 1 comment


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