Posts tagged ‘path-forging’

Midsummer Musings

I typically don’t celebrate the Summer Solstice formally, because Dan & I usually go camping around that time. A couple times when I was at home, I performed an ADF style Hellenic ritual for Helios. For a while my cultural foci were Gaelic and Hellenic, now it’s Germanic & Gaelic. In the Gaelic tradition, the solstices and equinoxes are less important, though there are some associated customs, particularly in Scotland where there is more Norse influence. American style Asatru & Heathenry tends to lump everything into a pan-Germanic blob, albeit with a Norse/Icelandic, slant but I’ve been trying to sort out where the different holidays come from, and what people added in- like “Vali’s Day” instead of Valentine’s Day. Altogether, the customs of Midsummer are very similar across the British Isles, Scandinavia and even in Baltic and Slavic countries- bonfires, herbs and flowers being gathered and believed to have magical properties for health and fertility, wearing flowery wreaths, dancing and mock weddings being performed.

I think there are some holidays that work OK for solitary practice- Samhain for example can be rather quiet and contemplative. But clearly summer holidays are not like that! But we do have community festivals coming up- the following weekend will be the Twin Cities GLBT Pride festival. Totally secular and modern of course, but I can’t help seeing a lot of the same themes, just in a queer-er form. I’m not sure if there will be bonfires, but surely there will be barbeques- this is America after all! Certainly we’ll be having them on Independence Day. People will definitely be having sex, even if it’s less prone to baby-making! Cross-dressing is associated with some holidays- more so with Beltaine & some versions of Samhain, and that will certainly be going on. Drag is a performance, a ritual of sorts, and theatre comes from ritual. Fairies and witches are believed to hang out on Midsummer’s Night.

Aine- the Irish goddess of the summer sun, is also a fairy queen (there may be more than one Aine)

Sol, the Norse sun goddess has Afrodull as one of her epithets, which can be translated as Elf Splendor, Elf Shine or Elf Wheel (more info here- this page is about Yule, but has a lot of speculation about Sol) To me the idea that the Sun goddess was more important at one time in Norse religion rings true, and the author suggests we can see echoes of that in Idunna, Freyja and others as well as a stronger sense of who she is from their Baltic neighbors to the east, as Saule.

In Deitsch lore, it is told that Oschdre (cognate with Anglo-Saxon Eostre) created the colors of the world. Oschdre could be another sun/dawn goddess.

The rainbow flag originally had eight colors representing hot pink for sexuality, red for life, orange for healing, yellow for the sun, green for nature, turquoise for art, indigo for harmony and violet for spirit. Since the colors pink and turquoise weren’t easily available (the first flags being hand-dyed by Gilbert Baker, who created the flag in 1978) the colors were reduced to a standard six, but I love the symbolism behind the original flag.

So these are my weird brainstorm-y ideas. I’ll sleep on it & see if I can make a ritual out of it- I’m thinking one that’s for the purpose of blessing the GLBT community, with particular emphasis on bi/pan & trans/genderqueer folks.

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June 18, 2015 at 8:57 am 2 comments

Yes, Virginia Americans Do Have Our Own Culture(s)

American Culture? by Camilla Laurentine “I cringe a little when I’m told Americans don’t have a culture or worse yet our culture is Consumerism. Yes, modern mainstream American culture holds plenty of consumerism and plasticity, but you guys… We have culture. Historically as a melting pot, we have lots of culture. We may not have quite as long a history as our European brothers and sisters as a nation, but those of us with European ancestry do, in fact, share parts of their culture with them. But as Americans, we do have a distinct identity, and you can either spend your time being apologetic about the not so great things about it or you can decide to embrace the good parts of it and actively work to help change the things that you don’t care for.”

Mariah’s thoughts: Whenever you are tempted to say “generic” i.e. white Americans don’t have a culture, remember all the things you have to explain when you go abroad, or have a foreign visitor. There is also no single “white American” culture, anymore than there is a single American culture. Potlucks are remix of potlatch, a gift-giving Northwest Indian ceremony. Barbecue comes from a Taino word (indigenous Caribbean people who were mostly killed by the Spanish) and entered into both Spanish & French languages. BBQ is the central ritual of most American holidays- at least during the warm months- (Memorial Day, Mother & Father’s Days, Independence Day, Labor Day) I see African-American, Latino and Asian-American families in parks having their own BBQ ritual feasts, with their own twists- eggrolls, tamales etc.

American music in all its diversity, cultural borrowing, outright stealing, blending, glory and tragedy. Complete with icons, fallen idols, pilgrimage sites like Graceland and so forth. Debates about the “true heir” of this or that musical tradition or genre swirl, theories about the tragic deaths of young rock stars abound. The Greeks had a goddess of fame- Pheme, or Klymene the Romans called her Fama. She was also the goddess of gossip. Boy, does she ever have a cult here or what!

Who Are Our American Gods? by Camilla Laurentine “What do I call the God of the railroads that were the lifeblood of the West, which rose in greatness and then fell into obscurity…  And yet this Midwestern Spiritworker living in the heart of Katy Country can’t help but feel the chill run through her as she watches a train cross across the fields of corn in a river bottom.  There’s a God there.  What is Its name?”

April 8, 2015 at 9:44 pm Leave a comment

Looking at Pop Culture Paganism

After writing about how non-traditional deities and spirits may or may not fit within my concept of polytheism, I was curious to learn more about the ways it manifests. Plus as I confront the truth, that really I am not all that culturally Celtic, I need to ask the question what is my culture, and how might I draw from it? 

Myriad Ways of Pop Culture Paganism– Answers from Vanaheim blog-

Pop Culture Paganism may include any of the following:

(I’ve bolded items that I feel open to exploring)

  • Using words and phrases from pop culture in ritual (for instance, “So say we all” instead of “So mote it be”, calling the quarters using Hogwarts Houses, etc.)
  • Using a picture or other representation of a character to represent a traditional deity (ie. using a picture of Yue from CardCaptor Sakura to represent Mani or another moon god, in this case, it was because the character looked like how I pictured Mani)
  • Using fairy tales, Arthurian legends or participating in the Hail Columbia! project in ritual and/or magic (all of these examples are examples of popular culture that is very old being used by modern people)
  • Related to the first, but practicing pop culture magick (as in Taylor Ellwood’s book on the subject, Pop Culture Magick)
  • Creating tools based on pop culture artifacts for use in ritual and/or magick (designing a tarot spread based on a character in a book)
  • Participating in and creating religious organizations/ritual and/or a sacred calendar based on works of fiction (Church of All Worlds, Storm Constantine’s Grimoire Dehara)
  • Traditional deities using pop culture entities in order to communicate with followers
  • Seeing a pop culture entity as an aspect of a traditional deity
  • Working with pop culture entities as archetypes
  • Working with pop culture spirits as egregori or constructs
  • Honouring pop culture entities as deities and/or spirits in their own right (this includes from one’s own work, although some prefer the term “modern culture Paganism” for this practice (Jack of Dreams uses “fictional reconstructionism” for this)

This feels silly but also fun. I feel like I’m taking off the corset of reconstructionism, and I can finally breathe. One of the things I love about paganism is the role that imagination can play in our faith.  

Ideas to explore:

*Jack from English folklore, the Fool as archetype in general (I see Fool distinct from Trickster) Robin Hood (I see him as a folkloric cousin to Fionn Mac Cumhal)

*Finding depictions of deity in pop culture- either explicit or ones that I associate- one idea I saw suggested (in a Llewellyn Witches’ Calendar from the earlier 2000s that I haven’t been able to find since) was Brighid linked with Rosie the Riveter in her blacksmith aspect, and I also thought of Betty Crocker as the hearth aspect. Any ideas for the poet?

*Using a story (from modern fiction, fairy tale, film etc) as a ritual narrative, psychological healing tool (particularly “Girls Underground” stories)

*Research local folklore/history (I’ve been talking about doing that for how long?)

Problems/Issues of Consideration:

*If it’s a live action TV show/movie, I have trouble mentally separating the character from the actor. Not as much of a problem with animation, unless it’s a celebrity voice actor whose character essentially embodies the celebrity. I was thinking about this in relation to Jareth, the Goblin King from Labyrinth, whom I’ve heard is popular with PCPs. Very cool character, easy to connect him up with older faerie lore, but yeah can’t separate him from David Bowie. 

*I’m more comfortable with older things that are out of copyright. It’s not so much concern for getting in trouble for infringement, though depending on what a person did (such as a public ritual) it could be a problem. It’s more that it’s something that exists primarily so some corporation can make money and it will change it as it sees fit.  So one’s personal vision will get screwed with. But with King Arthur & Robin Hood for example, people can do endless new creative things with, and there’s no one actor or depiction that necessarily sticks out in your mind in a way that’s distracting. 

*With stuff that is more recent, I’m more comfortable with things in books or static images than in TV/film. It’s easier to imagine it yourself rather than having the TV/movie version stuck in your head. 

Past posts that are related:

When the Gods Become Real,  Archetypes vs. “Real Gods” 

Snow Queen, Snow MaidenSpirits of WinterJack the English Trickster/Fool

August 15, 2014 at 3:42 am 11 comments

Inclusive Polytheism

So with various discussions of “devotional polytheism” vs. “immersive polytheism” going on, I find myself puzzled by what these terms mean and if I personally relate to them at all. Once again the Unitarian Universalist in me is saying “Who cares what someone’s theology is if they act like a jerk?”

Now I think theology does matter in helping us find others who have enough in common with us spiritually to create in-depth and meaningful worship. I do enjoy and find meaning & beauty in UU worship, but it’s more about sharing with others the sacredness of Life, the Universe and Everything than expressing devotion to specific divinities and spirits. From a polytheist/animist viewpoint, UUism’s strong point in the piety department is towards ancestors and heroes, particularly individuals important to UU history and various social justice movements. I believe this is an area that we can keep building on theologically and liturgically, in a way that is still very inclusive of UUs of different belief systems.

So here’s my idea of “inclusive polytheism”- by inclusive I do not mean anything goes, I do not want a lowest common denominator definition that paganism now has, I want a meaningful definition.

  • Functional ritual polytheism– treating gods or spirits as individual beings in ritual & prayer
  • Expectation of reverence & respect for deities and spirits by ritual participants (if not literal belief) thus balancing obligations of guest & host
  • Soft agnosticism (gods might exist, leaning toward belief/treat them ritually like they exist even if belief is uncertain), polydeism– many gods that are less directly involved in the world and straight up polytheism, primarily philosophical polytheism and primarily magical polytheism as parts of a theological spectrum/cluster
  • Animism, a belief in many spirits (or that everything has a spirit)
  • Whether service to the Gods is “more important”, less or equally important to helping fellow humans is up to the individual, and has no bearing on whether they are a “true” polytheist
  • Reconstructionism is a methodology, not an end to itself. Not all polytheists are reconstructionists.
  • Inclusion of syncretism, eclecticism and following more than one tradition. Practicing blending & mixing of religions is like playing with a chemistry set: sometimes it blends together well. Sometimes explosions happen.
  • Patron and godspouse relationships happen but are not a requirement, people who have more intense relationships with deities/spirits are not necessarily “better” or “more spiritual” than others, they just have a more specialized path/role. Same with being a temple/cult priest/ess. If you don’t recognize them as being a Real Legit Thing within your tradition, cool. It’s not your tradition.
  • Nontraditional deities/spirits (that people may have channeled, created, discovered in popular culture/history/legend/their imaginations) happen in polytheism. However, Tinkerbell/American Gods theology (if I believe it, it exists/has power if I stop believing, it doesn’t) is bad polytheistic theology.
  • Archetypes, eregores and magical “thought constructs” might be Things in your path, but they are not gods.
  • People with polytheistic theologies/practices may or may not primarily identify as polytheists. They may prefer calling themselves Pagans, Heathens, Witches, Wiccans or other more specific terms.
  • Polytheists do not all adhere to any one political ideology or party, apart from most likely, supporting religious freedom and impartiality towards a variety of religions and non-religious people. (As for separation of church & state- this may very by country)
  • Question: is a “polytheist community” one in which participants primarily identify themselves as polytheists, or people who happen to be polytheistic, regardless of self-identification? 

Notes: the reverence & respect portion is an opinion I came to after reading this interview by Jason Mankey with Amy B., an atheist pagan who says she does ritual (as a priestess!) for “entertainment purposes”. Understandably, many Pagans and polytheists were offended, and other humanistic pagans like John Halstead were “horrified”. The second portion was inspired by writings on PSVL’s blog about hospitality in ritual. Can’t find the post!

The statement about theological diversity, is I think much more reflective of the reality of ancient polytheism than the way some have promoted polytheism in modern times. Some people in both ancient and modern times were/are more focused on the pursuit of philosophy, ethics, truth and knowledge, others focus more on magical practice and occult knowledge, and may do so while still being legitimate polytheists, though they likely won’t call themselves devotional polytheists, or use the term polytheist much at all.

I’ve also seen several people assert that they consider serving the Gods to be higher priority than helping other humans. As a humanist and a polytheist, I don’t take that position (it seems a false dichotomy!), but I do consider it one of many ways of being a polytheist. I can see there being a place in community for a small number of individuals whose primary calling is serving the Gods/Spirits directly. However for most of “serving the Gods” is going to be part of a long to-do list!

August 12, 2014 at 12:36 am 7 comments

Classical Humanism and Unitarianism

As I’ve discussed before, I’m not always sure how polytheism fits in with the cultural milieu of Unitarianism. I’ve always seen my participation in Unity as being pretty separate from my polytheistic armchair philosophizing (I would be mis-representing myself if I were to say practice!)

Here and there, I have conversations with other Pagans/polytheists that make me realize how UUism gives me a distinctive outlook. I come across forms of paganism which don’t seem compatible with UU ethics and philosophy. Other times, I wonder about the classical roots of the Enlightenment & Renaissance philosophy that heavily influences UUism. How might we re-emphasize those roots, and bring a more pagan/polytheist ethos into UUism? Because for the most part, Neo-Paganism has seemed more like yet another religious movement that UUism has broadened to include.  Feminists exploring Goddess theology, and people interested in eco-spirituality brought it into the fold. This brings an emphasis on immanence, rather than the more traditional deist transcendence of UUism. The Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPS) is a sub-group within the UUA and individual congregations, I don’t know how typically well-integrated elements of Pagan liturgy and theology are into general services at these congregations. I’ve never been especially interested in forming a chapter because UUism is already so broad and generic enough, that I don’t want another super-broad watered down Pagan group. And all this touchy-feely emotional ritual stuff seems often out of place in a tradition that otherwise seems to be all about the mind, the logic and reason of humanist atheism or deism.

I’ve been finding myself moving away from Hellenismos due to simply feeling very culturally and temporally out of place in the tradition. I’m familiar with the mythology, but the customs and practices feel all too strange to me. I could say the same about any Pagan or polytheistic religion really. I need my religion to be personal, I need it to be relevant to my urban American life.  We all do. In looking at ancient Greek and Roman religion and philosophy, could we find some of that relevance, and perhaps find some compromise between the awkward gulf between theists and atheists?

To be honest, I haven’t studied philosophy formally much. It tends to give me a headache. Heck, so does theology after a point. Theoretical questions are interesting to ponder sometimes, but I need practical philosophy. For those of you who are more familiar with this area of study, do you have any suggestions?

 

August 5, 2014 at 2:14 am 9 comments

Other Models of Heathen Ethics

I found some more models of Heathen ethics that could possibly be part of my Self-Care Virtues project, Harrison K. Hall has an excellent series of posts, beginning with an examination and critique of the Odinic Rite’s Nine Noble Virtues. He comes up with his own list, the Ten Guiding Tempers, which are designed to balance each other out.

Heathen Ethics Part 1: Nine Nearly Useless Virtues

Commentary: Personally, I think *most* of the virtues can be good principles depending on how they are interpreted- unfortunately all too often they are interpreted in a very “might makes right” manner. The main problem as I see it is that this set is rather unbalanced and incomplete. Several concepts, like “discipline and perseverance” are very close and arguably redundant. Self-Reliance, Discipline and Industriousness have to be *seriously* modified and qualified for people with disabilities, and all too often are used to shame them.

Part 2: Racism & Heathen Taqiyya

Taqiyya is a “loophole” in Shiia Islam that if a Muslim’s life is in danger for revealing his/her beliefs, the person can pretend to be a non-Muslim (and violate the faith) without being guilty of blasphemy. I understand the point he’s making here about the hypocrisy of racist Heathens. But  I thought use of “taqiyya” would be more directly relevant in the case of Heathens who pretend to be Christian out of fear of discrimination.

Part 3: AFA’s Nine Noble Virtues (the “honor is better than dishonor” one)

“The best of the bunch, to my mind, is “Realism is Better Than Dogma”.  It’s probably the only one of the virtues that I can appreciate without conditions, because it balances two things that can both be considered valuable in the right circumstances.   You can use tradition and scripture…but all things being equal, chose the most pragmatic option.”

Part 4: Social Consequence

Hall makes the point that following “traditional” Heathen virtues have different social consequences and impact in a as a tiny minority in a non-Heathen modern industrialized society than in an ancient Norse feudal/tribal society.

“If you are willing to weaken the entire strength of a community for the sake of your own ego?  You shouldn’t belong to a community.  You can be Heathen, Asatru, or whatever; these aren’t terms that any one person gets to bestow upon or remove from another person.  A community, however, requires a certain amount of sacrifice for the greater good.”

Part 5: Modern Virtues

OK, so if this other stuff isn’t working, what factors should we consider in constructing modern Heathen ethics?

1) Anthropological Sources Cannot Be the Primary Source for the Material

I think we should look at history to help give us an idea of the worldview of our spiritual ancestors, but being too wed to the past makes it difficult to make it relevant to modern realities.

2) No Mystic Hangups– ethics aren’t mystical, there don’t need to be nine of them

3) Nothing Included that Speaks to Politics and/or Racism, One Way or the Other

I think if we construct our ethics carefully enough, anyone who is actually honorable won’t be using them to justify some form of oppression or discrimination. If they are, then why the Hel are they in our community?

I also think ethics definitely have political implications, but what those implications are and what policy ought to be pursued as a resulted should be left up to the individual.

Part 6: Taking it Back– discussion of the “We Are Our Deeds” concept

Part 7: Ten Guiding Tempers

Part 8: Your Ancestors, My Ancestors

Aren’t all of our ancestors sacred and worthy of reverence?

Other Heathen/Germanic Ethics Models

Urglaawe Virtues– There’s a great article here (it’s on a PDF, didn’t want to give a direct link so people didn’t get a “surprise download”) about contemplating the virtues of Urglaawe, the Pennsylvania Deutsch Heathen tradition on the 12 Nights of Yule.

Rokkatru Ethics & Values– I realize Rokkatru, the tradition/path that focuses reverence on the Jotuns, may or may not be considered “Heathen” but I think it’s worth a look.

Further analysis of these ethical systems will be forthcoming, for now I will continue working on the lists I began with!

July 29, 2014 at 3:58 am 3 comments

Clarifying Callings

Part of the reason I wrote that long post on Functions of Clergy was to develop ideas on what role(s) I feel called to play in my communities. Among Pagans, there is sometimes an assumption that anyone who is a “serious” spiritual practitioner has the goal to be clergy. In Wicca, getting a 3rd degree initiation generally means you are considered a priest/ess, and it was once assumed that was the goal for all Wiccans, but it’s not necessarily the case these days. It’s even trickier when your entire religion is rather misleadingly named after an elite caste of educated clergy/judges/magicians etc- Druids. ADF has a clear definition and training system in place for our clergy, and we have many other roles that are greatly valued within our organization. We have the Guilds- Bards, Warriors, Brewers, Artisans, Scholars, Liturgists, Magicians, Seers, each has its own training program. We have Orders that focus on particular deities and mysteries. You need to go through the basic Dedicant Program to go on to these other types of training, but we try to be clear that the DP is not required to be a good upstanding ADF member.

Anyway, back to me- after my numerous attempts at involvement in Pagan ritual groups, I’ve found that leading and participating in them doesn’t seem to be working out. There may be a right situation, with the right people that comes along, but I am not going to force it out of desperation for community if that community is dysfunctional or just doesn’t fit with my schedule/transportation needs.  This situation reminds me a lot of being single but open to relationships that arise (quirkyalone), vs. compulsive dating even when you’re burned out because you feel like you “have to” be in a relationship. Or staying in bad relationship for the wrong reasons.

I am interested in being possibly being involved with broader groups like Paganicon and discussion/meetup type groups (a friend of mine is thinking of starting one up) I am interested in helping with projects in ADF and various polytheist groups. I am interested in working one on one- or in small groups to help seekers and solitaries learn more about various polytheistic religions. This may involve teaching a class or leading a workshop. In other words- peer solitary ministry. Because guess what: 80% (or more?) of Pagans are solitary and lack access to many of the social functions that organized religion provides- then again so do most Pagans who belong to ritual groups.

My biggest interest right now though, is to help empower other adults and teens on the autism spectrum.  To help them live happy, full successful lives- and by success I mean as they define it, not as hyper-capitalist society defines it. Pursuing their interests, connecting with other people in healthy ways (friends, romantic partners, family) finding work that is economically, emotionally and intellectually sustainable, stable housing, healthcare etc. And finding a spiritual path and perhaps community, if that is what they seek, that suits their needs as an autistic person. To do this work I will need to partner with many different types of communities and organizations. I would love to use my skills and experiences as an autistic adult to help people in Pagan, spiritual and geeky subcultures because I believe there are many people with autistic traits who are not getting the help that they need. Many of these people are not identified or do not identify as autistic, and I do not consider it my place to label them as such. I will educate other folks about autism, and ways of coping and working with it, and if people recognize traits in themselves or others, and they see solutions that might help them or their loved ones, then awesome. If they need services and accommodations that require a documented disability, then I can help refer them. But for some folks recognizing, “I’m an introvert, or have trouble with non-verbal communication, or sensory issues- and that’s OK! There’s nothing wrong with me, I’m just wired a little differently, and here are some ways I can deal with a world that isn’t designed for people like me.” is a huge first step.

 

April 8, 2014 at 12:35 am Leave a comment

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