Posts filed under ‘Blogjects’

“Breaking Tradition” is Redundant

This is Part 2 of Modernity vs. Tradition in the Topics in Polytheism series. The previous part was about the concept of Modernity.

When I see historically informed Pagans & polytheists talking about breaking with tradition, or reclaiming/going back to tradition or being a traditionalist, they really need to clarify what they mean. Which tradition, how do you define what it is, or is it really just your projected idealized concept of Ye Olden Days? Which parts of Ye Olden Days, be they real or imagined are you trying to revive? An ecological matriarchy? Feudalism & monarchy? Gender roles & family structures? Food & clothing and other necessities that you & your village grew & made yourselves? Which parts of postmodern life & thought are you considering to be not authentically spiritual/culturally pure enough in the Decline/Decadent/Degenerate Formerly Great White West?

It’s OK if there’s some romanticism and nostalgia mixed in with other motivations, I admit that’s the case for myself. It’s just important that we admit it & examine our biases critically. I’ve long ago accepted that my religious-cultural reclamation and revival projects would always entail a long list of problematic faves. Every individual and group will need to decide what we are comfortable with, and where we draw the lines.

Even before we talk specifically about polytheistic religions, just with my cultural upbringing there are so many layers of tradition broken long before I was born, and my inherited culture is a patchwork quilt, as it is with most other Americans, and many of them inherit far more frayed and tattered quilts than I do, many with the trauma of colonialism, genocide, slavery and war.

Many people who started the country in the first place wanted to return to an idealized & likely non-existent original pure version of Christianity. Or they were radicals trying to break away from traditional social/economic/political structures. Or some combination of the two, like the Quakers.

There’s being from the Western United States specifically, having that conscious sense of being different from the East, a tendency towards informality, it’s an accelerated version of some general American tendencies of rugged individualism. It reminds me a lot of the assumptions certain American Heathens make about self-reliance, like they are project Thoreau back into the Eddas. Many of those notions are in fact, quite wrong, lots of collaboration was needed between pioneers and yes sometimes with American Indians- most of such interactions were negative, but some were positive or at least neutral. Likewise, an individual surviving on their own in Viking Era Scandinavia is highly unlikely, in fact abandoning criminals in wilderness was a standard punishment. I think what they really mean is a local community striving towards self-sufficiency and each person pulling their own weight. But I’m not Heathen so I won’t further try to decode their intent.

At any rate, as the child of liberal Baby Boomers from long assimilated families, most traditions are long gone and not passed down to me. Even in the case of both sets of my grandparents, several of them moved or had parents that had moved from another part of the country (or in my grandfather’s case, from Canada) so their roots in the area weren’t very deep. And all of them had the major disruption of World War II. Much as we Yanks might idealize how much easier it would’ve been to have been born or raised in the lands of our gods’ origins, for most Europeans of course both World Wars were huge disruptions that caused huge changes in what even Americans think of as “European-ness” and related ethnic nostalgia. Not that it’s really one big cultural blob, but just for simplicity’s sake. So we’ve all inherited different sets of mis-matched cultural & spiritual furniture and dishes.

Relevant older posts of mine for additional context/clarification:

Reconstructionism and American Culture

Authenticity: What’s Traditional Anyway?

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September 14, 2018 at 12:02 am 1 comment

Topics in Polytheism: Race/Ethnicity

Topics in Polytheism #7 Race/Ethnicity

First view: Neither ethnicity nor “race” are important in polytheism, because religion is a matter of spirit and practice and toleration

Second view: “Race” is not so much a social construct as a reality, and therefore necessary in polytheism. Ethnicity is less important and reliable, because it can change or overlap.

Balanced view: “Race” is a rather useless word, but ethnicity is an indispensable concept in polytheism that needs to be redefined* in today’s troubled, modernized and global world.

To begin with not all forms of polytheism are based around a specific culture or ethnic group.  There are newer polytheist religions like the Otherfaith and the Fellowship of the Phoenix which have their own pantheons.

One can also be a polytheist within many different religions and philosophies that include different theologies such as: Wicca, Thelema, Discordianism, Unitarian Universalism, ADF Druidry, Revival Druidry, Core Shamanism, the women’s spirituality/Goddess movement and theistic Satanism/Luciferianism. In addition to of course, un-interrupted polytheisms-  indigenous Asian, African, North & South American religions/spiritual traditions. The so-called “polytheist movement” or “polytheist community” doesn’t always reflect this, making it seem as though all polytheists in the “Western” cultural sphere are reconstructionists, revivalists or traditionalists of some type. We need to be careful to say what we really mean when we say polytheist, who are we including or excluding? I find conversations with polytheists from other culturally focused traditions very illuminating, but I also enjoy conversations with polytheistic Wiccans, Druids, Thelemites etc. Of course many of us have multiple affiliations and spiritual/cultural identities. That’s one of the great things about polytheism, after all! 

For those of us drawn to culturally based religions I would tend between the first view and the third view. Rather than ethnic ancestry however, I would define it more by cultural upbringing since many of us are far removed from the cultures of our ethnic ancestors, if indeed we even know who they are. Certain people (typically some folkish Heathens) are prone to claim Heathenry or Asatru as pan-European and the label “Celtic” is often defined so loosely that anything vaguely resembling nature spirituality regardless of cultural or historic origin gets lumped in. I know many people who have made a serious effort to connect with traditions that they have ancestral connections to, or believe they have connections to with not much success, while instead stumbling across a connection to cultural tradition that they are not related to. Some of these people were later able to more easily connect with their roots after exploring another, non-ancestral tradition either temporarily or in addition to their ancestral tradition. Many people also honor their own ancestors within their adopted tradition- indeed it is often a requirement of their tradition!

The ancestry doesn’t matter at all stance goes too far. I’ve seen some polytheists become so concerned about racism and nationalism that they discouraged even mentioning or honoring ancestors as part of their practice. In particular I recall a Heathen group in Austria that had that policy– they didn’t honor ancestors in their rituals. That is going way too far. Veneration of ancestors and the dead is key component of any traditional cultural polytheism, and I also think it’s important in other forms of polytheism, simply because we’re all human, we don’t live a long time, and remembering our past and where we come from either by familial or adoptive descent or other kinds of lineage is key part in knowing who we are. In fact, I believe that instinct is the most basic ingredient of religious reverence, we can see it in our Neanderthal cousins, as well as intelligent species such as elephants. Another Pagan, NeoWayland has a unique take that some might find more approachable. Here’s another post I’ve written about different types of ancestors.

 

July 19, 2018 at 8:03 am 2 comments

Which “Modernity” Do We Mean?

When polytheists & pagans discuss and debate the role influence of modernity on our worldviews, which “modernity” do we mean?  And what are we contrasting that with?Because historians have a couple of definitions of when the modern era begins, it’s also different if we’re talking about art history or philosophy. A couple years ago people were talking about this on blogs and their modernity was not mine, I can tell you that much. Caer, Galina and other folks were equating the rise of the modern era with the dominance of Christianity. Or what some call the Axial Age of religion. So I want to clarify for the Topics in Polytheism series (#2 Modernity) that this here in this video, is more what I mean by the modern era- pretty big and not very specific right? More specifically I usually mean at least Industrial Revolution or after. I think as far as religion goes specifically, I’d tie the modern era of religion to the Protestant Reformation, which is believed by sociologist Max Weber to have connections to the Industrial Revolution. Everything else in sociology cites Weber, so I haven’t read him yet. 

 

June 29, 2018 at 10:25 am 4 comments

Intuition

August Gaelic Roundtable Topic- Gnosis

How important is Personal Gnosis to your practice? What emphasis do you place on it when reconstructing, reviving, or generally creating your faith? Do you enjoy hearing others’ Personal Gnosis, or tend not to seek it out? How does hearing others’ Personal Gnosis hinder or help your faith? And finally (if you are willing to share), what is some Personal Gnosis that you hold that is considered “unconventional” to the greater Gaelic Polytheist community?

imbas (Old Irish) iomas (modern Irish) intuition

aisling – daydream, hope / ambition

What I’ve gotten is intuitive feelings and associations I’ve made rather than a profound dream or visionary experience.   I do enjoy learning other people’s insights, some of them sound “right” to me, others I’m not sure about. I try to not let it totally bias me in any particular direction, especially when it comes to the personality or visualization of deities and spirits. There are certain stories of experiences people have had that I find powerful enough to be convincing especially if the person’s anecdotes have an even tone to them, as in not every story they have is amazing.

My main way of cultivating this is through looking for art, music and writing that feels spiritually inspiring to me and creating my own. I’ll make a list of such items, both general and specific to particular holidays, myths, deities and spirits.

August 29, 2017 at 1:47 am Leave a comment

Lore, Lit and Canon

July’s Gaelic Roundtable topic is Lore. Before I tackle that, I need to figure out what the heck even to me counts as “lore”.

Folklore is stories, customs, shared among a group of people- rather than attributable to any one person. It is generally shared orally, but especially with the Internet there is now a lot of written and pictorial folklore, such as conspiracy theories and memes. There are several kinds of folklore that I see as relevant. One is folklore that is so old that it is intermixed with literature, the next category. Another is folklore collected into books or recorded. It’s important to considered selection bias on the part of which people were available and willing to be interviewed, what stories, sayings and songs were included by folklorists and archivists, and what has or hasn’t been changed. Sometimes there were social and political motivations for collecting the folklore and that impacts what is included. Some of this folklore is in the home countries themselves, others can be found in various parts of the Irish and Scottish diaspora.

Literature– many of the texts such as the Book of Invasions, the Book of Leinster and so forth, I think are more accurately described as medieval literature rather than folklore or mythology per se. However some of the texts draw on folklore as well as history and it is often hard to tell what is what. Other literature that we might not see as being religious per se, but has cultural importance and influence such as works by W.B. Yeats  can also be part of this category. Since our mythologies are very fragmented, finding inspiration in modern fantasy novels can serve as a sort of midrash.

Canon is the collection of texts considered authoritative by a religion- or a fandom! The primary example of course, being the Bible. Though Gaelic polytheism is not really a text-based religion, there are some texts that are seen by most as more valid than others. Some of us might include more Celtic Christian or Celtic Twilight era texts. And since we (quite rightly!) have no central authority there is no Irish, Scottish, Manx or pan-Gaelic canon. But I think an individual or group could have a personal canon. These distinctions could be useful in our discussions of comparative practices.

July 8, 2017 at 12:24 am 4 comments

Wanderings of a would-be Gael

Gaelic Roundtable for the March 2017 topic of Journeys (summer catch-up!)

I have been a Pagan of some sort for about 20 years now, which sounds more impressive than it actually is! I’ve had a tendency to be more of an armchair philosophical Pagan than much of an active practitioner, but I’d like to change that. I’d like to weave my spiritual practice into my everyday life, so it does not just feel like something walled off in a corner. I have primarily been focused on Irish culture, but am also branching into Scottish traditions as well. I am especially interested in learning more about how customs and cultures have evolved in both diasporas in Minnesota and other parts of North America and adapted to a modern urban working-class setting, rather than an pastoral aristocratic or peasant setting that tends to be the bias of medieval Irish literature and later folk customs.

During my college years I studied with two different Irish Reconstructionist groups- Tuath Choilraighe, led by Aedh Rua (who now goes by the name Segomaros Widugeni) and Temple of the River, led by Andrew Jacob (who now goes by the name Andre Solo) I have also been an on and off member of Ar nDraiocht Fein, and also studied and practiced with the Mists of Stone Forest, a druid grove that branched off of the Henge of Keltria, in turn a branch of ADF.

I am now a part of Northern Roots Grove, which is an independent syncretic Druid grove, with members of RDNA, ADF and OBOD involved. And of course, I’ve done lots of studies on my own, and gained a lot of knowledge along the way.  I have also been studying the Irish language with Gaeltacht Minnesota.  I am also a member of Clann Bhride, a gender-inclusive Brighidine online devotional group with a focus on social justice.

Druid ABC soup:

RDNA– Reformed Druids of North America

ADF– Ar nDraiocht Fein

OBOD– Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids

For a good comparison of these different druid groups see Susan Reed’s summaries here.

 

 

July 1, 2017 at 8:23 am 1 comment

Hellenic Polytheist/Pagan Blogs

I have sections on my blogroll for Celtic/Druid and Germanic/Heathen, but the rest are blobbed together in Pagan & Polytheists. I’m renewing an interest in Greek & Roman stuff (back when I was more into Hellenic stuff, it was the heyday of Livejournal & Yahoo-groups.)  Making note of what deities/cultus they focus on, location if known, and other spiritual interests. Please let me know if you want to be added. This list includes Hellenic polytheists & pagans of varying traditions, levels of reconstruction etc.

Aspis of Ares– Pete, SE Michigan

Baring the Aegis– Elani Temperance in the Netherlands, Elaion member

Beloved in Light– Lykeia in Alaska- devotee of Apollon & Artemis, Shiva & Parvati

Bull-headed follower of a Bull God– ADF Dionysian

Drinking from the Cup of Life– Lon Sarver, Dionysian in Bay Area, CA

The Dionysian Artist– Australia

A Forest Door– Dver, spirit-work & multi-trad polytheist, see also her website BirdSpiritLand for a nexus to all her sites.

Greek Revivalist Mommy

Hellenic Hearth– Lena, devotee of Hera & eclectic kitchen witch

Magick from Scratch– Thenea, ceremonial magic/mysticism in Hellenic context- not Recon

The Minoan Path– Laura Perry (not recon, but cool ideas!)

Mists to Open, Mists to Bind– Jan Avende, Hellenic Druid & ADF Priest

The Modern Hellenist– Alejandro, Boston, Mass.

Oaken Scrolls, 4 of Wands– Melia Brokaw, ADF Hellenic, devotee of Zeus

Of Thespiae– Ruadhan J. McElroy, Ann Arbor Michigan, devotee of Eros, Boetian focus, hedonist philosophy

Necropolis Now– Caroline Tully, Ph.D candidate at the Centre for Classics & Archaeology at the U of Melbourne, Australia (Greek, Egyptian and other content)

Never Unmindful– Alexei, local focus, social justice

Queen without a Court– Apollon devotee

Soneillion V

Soul Bites– Mysticism & Craft

Strip Me Back to the Bone– Jolene, Poseidon devotee

Suz Muses

Temple of Athena the Savior– Amanda Artemisia Forrester, Greco-Egyptian Pagan, Alexandrian witch, homesteader & templekeeper

True Pagan Warrior– T.P. Ward, devotee of Poseidon & Ares, Friend/Quaker

Under Two Trees– Mestizo paganism in multi-cultural, post-colonial Manila, Phillipines, Greco-Roman focus with indigenous Filipino, Hindu, Buddhist and other influences

Tumblogs– Gah! why does this have to be pink text on white background?

Hellenic groups

Elaion– Quite active!

Halls of Hera– Dedicated to the worship & study of Hera- Oakland, CA

Hellenion– U.S. based, mostly online

Hellenic Round Table– Discuss monthly topics with other Hellenists!

Neokoroi

Neos Alexandria– Greco-Roman-Egyptian syncretism

Pandemos– San Francisco Bay area collective of practitioners from diverse backgrounds, approaches and communities, united for the purpose of honoring the Hellenic gods and celebrating Hellenic culture.

Treasury of Apollon– Devotional order for Apollon

Archived Blogs (Year of last post listed)

Ariadne in Exile– 2016, Aridela Pantherina, Bacchic Orphic tradition

Boukoleon– 2015 Starry Bull Thiasos- Magna Graecian (southern Italian Greek colonies) Orphic Dionysian cultus

Flaming Thyrsos– 2014 Kenn, in Coventry, UK , a devotee of Hekate,  Dionysos & Prometheus

Frankincense & wine– 2015, British, interested in lay monasticism

Hestian Lily– 2014 Lily, a devotee of Hestia & witch

Smoke from the Temple– 2014

Sightless Among Miracles (2013) , and Executive Pagan– Erik Dutton’s blogs- Longtime online acquaintance- from back in the days of Beliefnet Pagan forae- he was one of the people that came up with the idea of Religio Americana

Tending the Hearth of the Gods– 2013  Nom de Internet: Patch

Obey the Gods– 2013

Aithaloeis Theos– 2012 A space dedicated to Hephaistos

Pagan Reveries– 2012- some good stuff about poet ancestors/heroes

A Twisted Kind of Ingenue– 2012-Had to add this one after seeing this on about page: The ingenue is most interested in disability rights, the autism acceptance movement, anti-kyriarchy (the patriarchy is so passe), trans rights and acceptance, neurodiversity, young adult literature, simple living, paganism, fusion and tribal bellydance and avoiding medical bills.

Memories of Pain & Light– 2011

January 17, 2016 at 5:57 am 2 comments

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