Archive for January 13, 2016

Diasporan Polytheism

Diaspora is a Greek word meaning to scatter, usually referring to ethnic groups which have been scattered forcibly by expulsion, persecution, genocide and other not-fun thing humans do to each other. The most famous example which often gets the capital D is the Jewish Diaspora, the Irish and African diasporae are other well-known examples. A diasporan religion is one that is practiced around the world far from its origin- Judaism, once again, as well as African and Afro-Caribbean, Chinese folk religion, Shinto and Hinduism. How does the concept of diasporan religion work differently for broken traditions such as European polytheisms in the Americas, Australia et al.? It is tricky to call them “broken” per se, as there are folk customs of honoring land spirits, saint cults with possible pre-Christian roots and magical practices that have been carried across the oceans. Typically these have survived more strongly in rural areas, the Ozarks, Appalachia, Nova Scotia and Deitsch areas being good examples.

This is one of the difficulties of the Irish diaspora in the United States- a mostly rural people became one of the most urban. People even identify their origins by what city they are from- as I sometimes explain to folks that my father is “Philly Irish” (Philadelphia) rather than St. Paul Irish. Then of course we discuss what counties we know our ancestors came from. According to Wikipedia- in depth research I know- Philadelphia has the second largest Irish-American population, Boston being the first.

Like Sarenth discusses here (Broken Lines), there was very little in the way of ethnic cultural traditions that were passed down to me. Then again, I realize there was in way- this would make my father cringe but we are pretty culturally Anglo. It just tends to not be recognized as “ethnic” as its the Wonderbread of American culture (and German culture to some degree, just spell it Wunderbrod) And on the other side, various forms of resistance to dominant Anglo-American culture, including the assertion of Irish identity, trappings of hippie-dom and such. Perhaps it’s not surprising then, that I often find British Druids easier to get along with, while the few Irish-in Ireland people I encounter online seem a bit hostile to American Irish polytheists/pagans/New Agers  being concerned that we don’t care about the living culture, only the old stones of the past, think Ireland is stuck in an endless time loop of the Quiet Man, and we made their lives suck by funding the Irish Republican Army. And using their culture to promote white supremacy.  I understand and empathize with many of these concerns, except maybe the IRA one. WTF? Interesting essay about Irish assimilation here. I guess my dad’s take on Irish identity was the opposite of Sean Hannity & Bill O’Reilly- he saw supporting the Civil Rights movement as a moral duty- both as American citizens and in memory of the challenges our ancestors faced. It’s very interesting to compare the similarities and differences of these three diasporae, adding more in of course- I highly recommend Ronald Takaki’s book A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America, as well as PBS’ 3 documentaries- the Irish in America, Africans in America, and the Jews in America. There is also now one on Italians but I have not seen it yet, so I can’t vouch for its quality either way.

Polytheisms as Diasporic Religions

Vodou F*cks Everything Up

 

January 13, 2016 at 2:29 am 6 comments

Clergy/Laity & Community-Building

Interesting conversations happening…

On Pagan Clergy, Layfolk & the Struggle for Selfhood– by Keen

“Basically: what’s with the tense, almost love/hate relationship between pagan clergy – to use this as a shorthand – and laity?

Why is it always clergy who talk about the importance of “hoeing onions”, or doing the proverbial gruntwork of being a lay follower?

Why do lay followers seem to glamorize clergy, and the responsibilities involved in occupying those positions, and rarely, if ever, speak of the merits of simply being laity?

I think it’s more complex than just being a case of the grass being greener on the other side, and actually has a lot to do with the concept of social capital.”

Thoughts on Clergy, Laity, Hierarchies & Roles in Polytheist Religions by Sarenth (a response)

I’ll re-iterate that I’m more of a fan of the concept of “general practitioners” vs. “spiritual specialists”. Both traditions I belong to, ADF and UU have formal clergy but very active laypeople, who frequently lead groups. My druid grove is a “haptocracy (hapto is one of the Greek verbs for ‘work’) – the theory that the people who are doing the greatest work to do something get the most say in it.”- concept coinage by Jenett Silver.

We should also think about the factor, that many people find in our religions ways to re-invent and express themselves in ways that they don’t have the opportunity to in broader society. How many people become herbal healers when they would never go to medical school, or scholars when even if they could get a Ph.D., there would be very few options for an academic career in religion, mythology or ancient history?

A third post related to this is by Allec, in which she discusses beginning a blog o’ resources on Gaelic Polytheism (yay!) and many people offered to help, then later questioned “Am I good enough/knowledgeable/experienced enough to help?”

Thoughts on Community

January 13, 2016 at 12:37 am 3 comments


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