Bubble Talk

Seriously now, Jason Mankey?

While I can certainly see his food intentions in “Beyond The Bubble”, and I guess it’s nice that he closes with an assurance that he calls out bigotry, there’s a big difference between a white, cis, ostensibly able-bodied, het-passing male who galena to be pagan declaring that he’s friends with Trump supporters, especially with talking about the assumed necessity needed in order to work with others, and the implications that this is a task all us grown ups should take on, and the reality faced by those of us who don’t share those privileges with him standing up and leaving the room because we just don’t feel safe there.

I cannot remain friends with someone who thinks it’s OK for another to say queerphobic, racist, sexist, ableist, and so on, because even when it’s not things that would directly affect my safety, it would threaten the safety of others I hold dear.

It’s great when someone wants to be a mediator, but we all have personal lines in the sand that we have to draw as a matter of protecting our physical, emotional, and spiritual health, and it does no-one any good to chide others for “living in a bubble” because they’re doing what they need to do to take care of themselves.

While there is certainly something to be said for breaking out of one’s comfort zones, it’s only a decision you can make on your own, not because some guy on the Internet with a lot more privilege than most pagans says it’s self-defeating to “live in a bubble.”

Respectability and the Convert Identity

First of all, I want to congratulate Bekah Evie Bel of Hearth Witch Down Under for her adept dismantling of John Halstead’s blog response to my comments —his own post basically translates to “I’m not trying to police people’s behaviour, but let me give you a textbook justification of respectability politics.”  Feel free to see for yourself, and then judge whether or not his rodomontade seems at all in line with the inagural Gods&Radicals essay by Jason Pitzl.

I also feel I should expand from Bel’s thoughts, as well as another FB friend’s, to springboard the rest of the post.

Halstead goes on at length about how we should respect ourselves to get respect, implying all over the place that folks like Phelan MoonSong seem to lack this self-respect that Halstead alone is the judge of.  I’ll have to disagree with that, and here’s why:

First off, it takes a lot of self-respect to maintain such a flambouyant appearance for the many years MoonSong has claimed.  Someone without much self-respect tends to care very little for their personal appearance, and MoonSong obviously cares a great deal for his own.  A person lacking in self-respect has a hard time asserting their rights – again, MoonSong has demonstrated that he is dedicated to asserting his rights.  Clearly, self-respect is something that MoonSong either possesses, or is very good at faking (though I doubt he’s faking it).

Furthermore, the idea that respect from others will be a given when one has sufficient self-respect is just preposterous.  Nothing in this life is a given, and it reeks of victim-blaming those who are routinely disrespected for nothing more than being true to himself.  That’s the kind of attitude that blames Matt Shepherd for being murdered (“if he’d just stayed in the closet!”) or the countless trans women on the annual Lists of Our Dead whose only crime was existing (“if only they didn’t just rub that lifestyle in everyone’s face!”)  The proper response isn’t to suggest that the status quo lacks respect for the pagan movement because of the weirdoes, but to challenge the status quo to be more tolerant of the weirdoes.  It is pure folly to believe that the oppressed have ever gotten the respect of their oppressors by mimickry.

Also note how absolutely no-one supporting Phelan MoonSong is saying that all pagans and polytheists must dress flamboyantly, unless that’s what one feels compelled to do to be true to oneself.  We’re not playing the No True Pagan game.  We’re not saying those pagans and polytheists teaching at universities in suits and ties and Fred Rogers sweaters are making us “look bad.”  In fact, we’re saying the opposite:  We’re saying to be true to oneself – if that means taking the call to modify one’s appearance as an act of dedication to one’s god/s, awesome, and if that means teaching Philosophy at a prestigious university, that’s also awesome.

Commenter kenofken made a comment on Bel’s post that I think touchesw on some important things in this latest pagan blogosphere debate, though:

Basically what John Halstead and the other respectability politicians want, what they feel entitled to, is to reorder the Pagan movement into affirming, Safe For Work, socially progressive, Moral Therapeutic Deism churches. They want us to be goddess-haunted versions of the United Church of Christ or Presbyterian Church. They don’t want real-life Pagans. They want the sanitized Disney version. They don’t want to be labeled as the blue noses and advocates of conformism they are, so they couch their crusade in terms of “It’s time to get serious and act like adults.”


and also…

it seems to me that the most vociferous and dismissive criticism of Moonsong seems to come from non-theistic Pagans, if not outright secular humanists. They have no experience of the gods nor even acknowledge their existence as substantive beings. Of course it’s very easy for them to dismiss the idea that a deity would command a man to wear goat horns on his head 24/7, or that any sane or serious man would heed such a call if it came. Those of us who identify as “hard polytheist” do not find Moonsong’s assertions so hard to believe. We know that gods and goddesses interact with people in highly individual ways. Moonsong’s relationship to Pan or his ministry may indeed not be typical, but neither is it beyond the pale.

Those of us who dedicate ourselves fully to a god, or are chosen by one are not infrequently commanded to things FAR more arduous or inconvenient or silly than wearing goat horns. If you value your relationship with that god or goddess, and trust them, you do it. The fact that that deity is not known to routinely command that thing from his or her followers has no bearing on the legitimacy of that calling. Only the one follower knows whether it’s real or not, and even that can take some hard discernment. The rest of that god’s followers and Pagandom generally is free to reject, accept or ignore the situation.

It’s worth noting that this is in no way unique to Pagan religion. Every prophet and most saints in the Christian tradition were individually called to do things which were bizarre and uniquely bizarre. In the 4th Century, a Catholic monk named Simeon decided regular monastic life was too soft for him. He ended up in Syria, where he climbed a 20 foot pillar of rock, built a one-meter square platform and stayed up there praying and doing his thing for 40 years until he croaked. I was raised Catholic and I was a pretty good theology student, and I can tell you that nowhere in the New Testament or Canon Law or anywhere else in Catholic tradition are followers commanded nor even encouraged to sit on top of a rock for four decades. By your measure, Simeon must have been nothing more than an attention-hungry fruitcake. And some thought he was, including his original religious order. The church evidently saw something deeper in it as they made him a saint…


Now, this topic also reminds me of something The Dionysian Artist pointed out on Facebook:  It is common for pagans to make some attempts to make even the slightest modification to their appearances upon conversion.  This is not a phenomenon unique to pagan religions – it’s been noted amongst all manner of religious conversion that the converts often (note: not universally) attempt to one-up those who were raised in the religion.

Think about it – whether it’s something as simple as wearing a triquetra or pentagram pendant, a subtle tattoo easily concealed, or just being more mindful of what one eats and wears, or even taking up yoga.  It’s fairly common for pagans to mark outselves in all manner of ways.  It’s almost impossible to throw a rock in any direction at a pagan gathering without hitting someone wearing an ankh or pentagram, or Thor’s hammer, or Celtic knot on their person (in some form).  Considering those who undertake in ordeal rituals, glue-on goat horns is actually kind of tame, even if he wears them full-time, and the scars from ritual suspension are often easily concealed by the average t-shirt, but the amount of ordealists who blog about their own, even under their legal names, makes it hard for those in-the-know to think that goat horns are all that strange.

To mark myself as a spouse of Eros, I’ve tattooed His name in Greek letters across my right knuckles and have made an effort to wear a nose chain frequently (though not daily).  As the first teacher of Erotic Hedonism, I’ve tattooed a Luna moth (Nys and psyche) sitting atop a purple thread (the Moirai) wound about a an arrow with heard-shaped head (Eros) on my left forearm, and for Apollon, I have ravens on my shoulder (though this also expands on an old “Nevermore” tattoo I’ve had since I was 22).  As an Hedonist devotee to Adonis (Who is said to have laid as a woman with Apollon) and Eros Diphuēs, I’ve been forbidden to cut my hair, and compelled to transvestism, including keeping my nails as long as I can manage.  These all are at risk to respectability – tattoos visible outside what’ve covered by the average t-shirt are still given pause, even on men, and especially on the hands.  The effeminate and even high femme appearance puts a further divide between myself and other trans men – even in jeans and a polo (during my brief “I’m not a Goth anymore” phase), something still struck a  of trans guys as incredibly femme about me, which pissed them off, and certainly met me with several disparaging comments from questioning my gender identity to even accusations of how being a femme guy, “if” I manage to transition to male (gee, it’s almost like they expected me to be gatekept – joke’s on them, I’m having my hysterectomy, next month), I’d just make the rest of them look like girls who want a dick, and not like men.

My Erotic Hedonism tattoo is subtle, and most people just think it’s pretty and, since it’s a luna moth, that it’s just a pretty goth tattoo.  The Eros tattoo hasn’t gotten much comment in the local community, but the local meet-up (now on hiatus) had one of those elusive African American Wiccans, so knuckle tattoos are obviously not what everyone is finding so remarkable.  The transvestism juxtaposed with a FTM history is more contentious in the trans community than the local pagan community.  Still, though, I certainly look weird, and am used to others using my unconventional appearance to question my “seriousness,” as an “adult.”

Devotional polytheists and pagans are far more likely to take our mark further than a pendant or subtle generic-pagan-symbol tattoo.  Whether Phelan MoonSong identifies with the devotional movement or not, he’s certainly made himself a visible representation of those in the devotional movement within paganism who have been compelled by our gods to, let’s be frank, look weird.

To him, though, it’s not “too weird,” it’s a fair and justified display of reverence to Pan.  Why that is “too weird” for some people, but my tattoos and transvestism barely get a mention seems a completely arbitrary reflection of the overculture – tattoos have become more-acceptable, and cross-dressing isn’t something I clearly engage in daily, so why bother saying anything about it, right?  Thing is, twenty years ago, that was not the case, and those who see little issue with my own appearance, but object to the publicity Phelan MoonSong has received would certainly have, in the mid-1990s, be having the same objections to my own hypothetical publicity:  A cross-dressing goth with tattoos on his hands?  That makes “us” look bad!  Just so silly, he’s doing it for attention!

Thing is, though, literally every way we visibly “mark” ourselves to show religious reverence – even something as simple as a necklace – is done so knowing it’ll almost certainly get us attention for it.  When those “discrete, concealable” pentagram charms wriggle out of our shirts, other people notice, even if we aren’t asked.  Same with the Thor’s hammers (which, in many circles, don’t necessarily signify Heathenry, but White Supremacy), the Tree of Life, and even Triquetra knots.  When we dare to say what is “too silly” for the pagan religious movement, not only are we suggesting that “paganism” is some unified religion that it is not, we’re setting up a precedent that just about anything is going to be “too much” to fit in with the status quo.  That’s the trap of respectability politics:  Ultimately, nothing we do is conservative enough to fit in, until we abandon our religions and start going to church.

No-one has the right to tell another person what self-respect looks like.  Visible tattoos are becoming normalised not by removing those with them from view, but by saturation.  Most employers no longer bat an eye at blue hair, because it’s been gradually normalised over the last thirty years.  Both of these examples have been disparaged by critics as somehow signs of “no self-respect,” and now are increasingly part of everyday life in the West; they became that way not by kow-towing to the status quo, but by challenging it to tolerate these things.

It greatly disappoints me that people who should know better are obstinately giving platform to someone who endorses and defends respectability politics, essentially further normalising it in their allegedly anti-Capitalist movement.

When Your “Traditional Polytheism” Isn’t

  • When you ignore the historical, archaeological, and even genetic evidence of not just trade, but intermarrying between pre-Christian societies dominating Europe, and frankly everyone they traded with.
  • when you make shit up, and pretty transparently so. Like, what even is this shit? Especially when it’s so easily disproved, and, frankly, ludicrous. (See also this page from Viking Answer Lady, who has done a lot of research, for a more conversational tone.)
  • When you say shit like “white / European heritage” — there is literally no such thing. Even today, even with the European Union —a formalised political alliance, not unlike formalised alliances of ancient times— there is no such thing as this mythical “European culture” that is simply a code for white supremacists / separatists to identify eachother and attempt to veil their own racism. There is Greek heritage, French heritage, Welsh heritage, Albanian, Icelandic, Spanish, Basque, and so on. Frankly, even before WWII, most people of European nations were far kinder to those of the African diaspora, especially African Americans, than those in the US; singer, actress, and dancer Josephine Baker emigrated to France in the 1920s, and rather swiftly entered high society, marrying (white) Frenchmen. The idea of keeping “races” (which has a tellingly different definition to Americans than it does pretty much everywhere else in the world) separate is born of white supremacism.
  • When you make claims of wanting to emulate how things work with polytheists in European countries, but a modicum of research into even the reconstructionist groups in Germany (for example) show, no, you’re a LOT more racist, and so is your group.

Feel free to recommend me other items to this list. I’m sure there are other examples I haven’t thought of.

A Contradiction

“Nontheistic theism” literally means “a belief about gods without gods”. No amount of doublespeak can make that anything but a contradiction. Ergo, to call “nontheistic polytheism,” in any way, “polytheism”[1][2][3 is a gross display of intellectual dishonesty, at most, or just a case of stupidity via “special snowflake” syndrome, at least.

While many words are, by nature, flexible, they still mean things. While a living language must remain relevant to remain, there’s a phrase relatively common to English:

Don’t keep your mind so open your brain falls out.

“Nontheistic theism” is therefore a performance of doublespeak to confuse and control.

One is either a nontheist or a theist. It’s like claiming to be both a giant and a dwarf, simultaneously; it is literally impossible to be both at once. While one could, hypothetically, cite the extraordinary case of Adam Rainer, the only person on record to’ve been, as an adult, classified first as a dwarf, and then as a giant, by his doctors, he never existed as both, simultaneously — first he was a dwarf, standing 3’10½”, then he was a giant at 7’8″. I have a mild form of acondroplasia, resulting in slightly disproportioned limb-to-torso size proportions, a distinct form of spinal curvature, and a bowing to my knees — but at 4’11”, I am literally an inch too tall to be a dwarf, and I am a far cry from being a giant; to call myself a “giant dwarf” may be a cute oxymoron I might say in jest amongst friends who know of that condition I have, the reality is that I am neither, but I’m closest to being the latter half of that phrase (dwarf), as I have one of the conditions commonly associated with dwarfism.

I get that polytheism is all cool and stuff, right now (and having been interviewed through a handful of pagan and polytheist outlets, I wouldn’t be surprised if my name had a tiny spark in fostering that, though there are absolutely bigger names than mine, in that regard), and certain people desperately want to be a part of our movement — can’t say that I blame them, we’re cool as shit, but like dwarfism to myself, they’re technically not polytheists, though they may use certain language of polytheism in their own spirituality (I hesitate to call a practise without real theism “religion”, but given the common euphemistic uses of “doing a thing religiously”, I’ll give people who would call it that an understanding). Hopefully, like Hot Topic in 2005, they’ll discover “the money” is in something new and different, and drop their appropriation and misuse of our movement for something else, as they acknowledge that their heart wasn’t as much into polytheism as it was into grasping for relevancy attached to their name within the greater pagan social movement.

It was meant to be

A friend of mine is childfree. He doesn’t want children for a number of reasons, most important being, he doesn’t like them. He made the choice some years ago (well, at least a decade-plus, now) to have a vasectomy. He has several members of his family who are very fundamentalist Christian, and believe it’s everyone’s good Christian duty to procreate, at least enough to replace themselves; whilst he and I have no issue with this belief, in and of itself, as long as people don’t try and push it onto the unwilling, but we both believe that it is, to varying extents, irresponsible to bring more children in this world than necessary when the population is reaching critical mass — but this is a philosophical point that is, of course, another story for another time. When he’s been at reunions with his family, there’s always at least one person who tells him that he’s going against “[their] God’s will” by having had a vasectomy.

Now, my friend, let’s call him Bill (it’s a variant of his name, though he doesn’t go by that), went out to have his vasectomy, but there was a co-pay on his insurance of a couple hundred dollars. He had no issue paying this, but they were going to send him the bill later. His bill never arrived, but the late notice to pay it, with late fees, did, so he sent out the cheque. A month or two later, he noticed that his cheque never cashed, so he called the hospital to see if there was a problem. The person he’d talked to said that their records showed that he’d paid in full, on time, and was actually due a refund for overpayment.

This is relevant, because he brings up this story every time a wacky Christian family member decides to tell him his vasectomy is against “god’s plan” — clearly some god or another had decided that Bill was correct in his choice not to put any children on this world, and thus offered to reward him.

Now, I bring up Bill because when I first started transitioning — hell, even still, my primary income is Social Security Disability Income (SSDI), and he knows that pays just enough to keep a person off the streets — if one is lucky to get even that much. When I first started, while he’d known for years that this was a long time coming, his concern was for my finances, so I pointed out several facts about my own transition:

  • Prior my chest surgery, my bra size was 38K. Standing at 4’11” with measurements, at the time, at about 62-28-38, this made them roughly the size of my own head. Medicare covered this surgery under a loophole necessitating that it be billed as a “breast reduction” and performed by a surgeon willing to do FTM chest recon whilst billing this as the essentially identical (save for the amount of tissue removed, the basics of the procedures are identical), but covered, procedure. I paid nothing out-of-pocket. Not even for my nipple revision
  • For some reason, Medicare was covering my ‘mones before Medicare officially covered ANY trans procedures. I still don’t know how that happened, but getting a ten-dose vial approximately once every other month, since October of 2007, my Medicare D co-pay had been $1.20/vial, has totalled $64.80 — this has been over the course of nine year, and he first brought up this concern to be about three years ago, when it had cost me a total of $43.20.
  • Over the last two years, I’ve also discovered that while Michigan’s legal name-change would cost in the area of $350, out-of-pocket, being a disabled person whose primary income is SSDI, this is covered by the State, for certain qualifying reasons — including gender confirmation. While I technically still had to pay the fingerprinting fees, my lawyer, who is doing this as a pro-bono assignment, decided to reimburse me the $15 fee out of petty cash.
  • About two years ago, Medicare finally approved gender confirmation procedures. This means when I’m finally up on the waiting list for my hysterectomy and vaginectomy, this, too, will be covered, as well as any genital reconfiguration I may choose, after that.

To date, I haven’t even paid $75 for my transition, even during the six or seven years, in theory, nothing was being covered.

I then reminded Bill of his vasectomy, and how, due to hospital error (and potential Powers That Be), he actually got paid to get it done. Since my own transition was carefully documented on government forms, it’s unlikely anyone will be paying me my $65 back, with interest or whatnot, but still, clearly this is something that –even at a time it “shouldn’t have been covered– I paid almost nothing for it.

He conceded, suggesting, “well, you being [polytheist] and all, there’s clearly Someone out there Who wants you to do this, so I guess I stand corrected.”


With all the talk of TERFs making the rounds in the Pagan and Polytheist blogospheres, again, I just hoped to add a positive story.

May Hermaphroditos, and also The Great Mother and Her consort, Pan1, continue to see me through this.

1: This is Boeotian tradition, not appropriative appropriative revision of mythology.

The Swastika -or- How Cultural Appropriation Hurts

I know I’m a little late to the party in addressing Tom Swiss’ claim that cultural Appropriation does not exist from a couple weeks ago. While I do still stand by my comments that dreadlocked hair is a poor example of “cultural appropriation” of African-Americans (a claim which allegedly instigated his post), as locked hair does occur naturally on the Indian subcontinent and certain Eastern Europen populations, in addition to the African diaspora (it’s even been suggested that locked hair is the real-life origin of the Gorgon mythology of Hellas), I wanted to blog about possibly the most widely-known symbol appropriated in a harmful way by white people that very few people even acknowledge as appropriation:

Artemis as Mistress of the Animals, Boeotian vase, circa 650BCE

Artemis as Mistress of the Animals, Boeotian vase, circa 650BCE

The symbol of the swastika is literally thousands of years old, with the oldest example on ancient artefacts going back to paleolithic Ukraine, about 15,000 years, in a maiandros (“Greek key”) pattern on the torso of a bird figure alongside phallic symbols, suggesting it as a fertility symbol (thus it’s clearest relevance to this blog). Most of the history of the symbol has been relatively benign: It’s apparently decorative or ornamental, showing little indication of strong meaning.

Most defenders of the symbol point to Hinduism, where the Sanskrit name “svastika”, is often translated as “Be Well”, and used as a symbol of austerity, peace, happiness, positive spiritual power (especially when associated with Ganesha). It’s also been given solar associations, and in the States is often acknowledged as a symbol used in some Native American tribes. It probably entered use in Hellenic art from the cultural descendents of the Vinca.

The swastika has also been associated with the triskelion and triskele, common symbols in Pagan circles, with the Triskelion especially prevalent in Sicilian and Manx communities, as it’s a feature on their flags.

Greek Boeotian Kylix

Greek Boeotian Kylix


While it’s been a long-established that the swastika is practically universal in its use, and one that has been established for having positive meanings and as a benign ornamental design for literally thousands of years, one thing that often gets ignored in defences of the symbol, is the fact that it’s only become so controversial in the West because of cultural appropriation. This fact is also often ignored in discussions of cultural appropriation and how it hurts.

While the symbol is practically universal to humankind, its use by the Third Reich was directly appropriated from its use in Hinduism. This is based largely on a bastardisation of linguistic connections between German and Sanskrit, and inherently racist misinterpretations of Sanskrit literature of the Arya. Hitler took the symbol most-directly from Indian culture as a symbol of political and military power, and with likely occult connotations that don’t actually exist in Hindu literature.

This is the very definition of cultural appropriation: Taking a symbol or cultural item from another culture, and inserting misunderstood, bastardised, or wholly invented meanings into it that the item did not possess, often while penalising the culture of origin.

In German, the Nazi symbol is referred to as the hakenkreuz, and I posit the use of this word to differentiate the Nazi symbol from the correct, traditional uses of the swastika, gammadion (“gamma cross” — a common name in the Anglosphere from the Victorian through 1920s, based on its resemblance to conjoined members of the letter Γ), and menandros symbols, and out of respect to Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain people, who successfully petitioned the EU to drop all plans to ban the swastika in its 25 nations — much like other polytheists have used the title “Daesh” to refer to the terrorist organisation out of respect to Kemetics, Graeco-Aegyptians, and others who honour the goddess Isis/Aset, Whose domains includes love and fertility, and Who is regarded as welcomming of all people, especially the persecuted. For the remainder of this blog, from this post onward, I will use this differentiating terminology.

The hakenkreuz was used less than thirty years as a symbol of Nazi power — less than thirty years! This is after centuries of use of the swastika by Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains as a sacred religious symbol and good luck amulet. This is after centuries of use of the Whirling Log on Navajo blankets, and by other Indigenous tribes of the Americas for a wide variety of positive and benign meanings. This is after centuries of use of the gammadion and meandros borders in Hellenic and Graeco-Roman art. This is after centuries of use of the fylfot in heraldic European customs. In less than thirty years, Western people are willing to cave to cultural appropriation, take a symbol from its origins and meanings, and give it away to white Fascists.

This surrender to cultural appropriation is most glaring when the Navajo, Apache, Tohono O’odham, and Hopi tribes of the Americas issued this decree in the early days of WWII:

Because the above ornament which has been a symbol of friendship among our forefathers for many centuries has been desecrated recently by another nation of peoples.

Therefore it is resolved that henceforth from this date on and forever more our tribes renounce the use of the emblem commonly known today as the swastika or fylfot on our blankets, baskets, art objects, sandpainting, and clothing.

This was referenced to me, earlier today, as a decree of solidarity with the Jewish and Romani and others persecuted by the Nazis (and implicitly made by “all” Natives, though a basic websearch has revealed that only four tribes had representatives sign this decree, but you know, people with white privilege making “Native monolith” racist assumptions are nothing new, to me), but in reading this decree, the populations persecuted by the Nazis are not mentioned. All that is stated is that a few hand-picked representatives of a tiny handful of tribes were going to relinquish the symbol and surrender it to cultural appropriation.

This is how cultural appropriation is so insidious: Reading the background on this decree, it’s said that white tourists to Navajo and Hopi and other reservations became nervous and apprehensive at the symbol on blankets and other items for sale. This was financially penalising Native tribes for their use of a symbol that they had used for centuries, that they had joyfully sold to those same tourists only a few years before, because the symbol had been bastardised in just the wrong way by powerful white people! The tribes were left with little choice BUT to surrender the symbol for their livlihoods!

Surrenders of the symbol to cultural appropriation are not limited there; Wikipedia has a very lengthy section of their page on use of the swastika in the West specifically about efforts, largely in the United States, to remove the swastika from historical structures. A search for “Hindu Swastika news” turned up an article about privileged soccer moms of Orange County pressuring a museum to remove a Hindu tapestry, lent by a local family, even though there was a plaque explaining the history of the symbol and its meanings in Hindu culture.

This is EXACTLY the thing that many have talked about over the last two weeks about the definition of cultural appropriation — penalising members of the culture(s) or origin for use of the appropriated symbol.

While it would be disingenuous to not acknowledge that, yes, the hakenkreuz continues to be used by Neonazis and Fascists (and the meandros even appropriated by Greek nationalist fascists), it is equally disingenuous to ignore the fact that it is cultural appropriation when they do so. The fact remains that cultural appropriation is a tool often used by racists, and side-swiping or even ignoring the fact that the Nazi hakenkreuz has been appropriated from Hindu symbolism is, at best, ignorant “accidental racism”, in that it’s giving preference to the white appropriators to the symbol that they stole!

When people reach a point where they are flat-out committing racism to avoid criticism of their ignorant opinions of the swastika, which they’ve decided is the same thing as the Nazi hakenkreuz, the surrender to cultural appropriation has become so insideous that I just don’t have words.

And, to make matters worse, in the West, that surrender to appropriation is so prevalent, that people who should know better, like people in the Pagan community, will avoid calling it the cultural appropriation that it is, either out of ignorance, or out of a useless sense of “white guilt” and fear of being accused, themselves, of being racists, when anyone with any sense will acknowledge that it’s the exact opposite.

The push to acknowledge that cultural appropriation does cause real harm to the cultures stolen from is, at its heart, a movement to avoid this again, but it really cannot be usefully addressed without acknowledging the appropriation of the swastika to the Nazi hakenkreuz as the most glaring example of how cultural appropriation is a tool of institutionalised racism that hurts people on an individual level and entire cultures outside of mainsteam Western whites.

By failing to defend the proper use of the swastika, and by failing to differentiate it from the Nazi hakenkreuz, one continues to surrender the symbol to cultural appropriation, and thus continues an act of institutionalised racism so insideous that one will fight tooth and nail to defend that racism.


Monogamous Polytheism: More Common Than You’d Think

So, it seems that the PPP is at it again, with giving voice to some of the more ill-informed and ridiculous ideas swirling around the pagan community. This time, it’s how Polytheism and Polyamoury are just somehow a natural combination.

I’ve said dozens of times before, even on this blog, that I have little issue with polyamoury, on paper. As an ideological concept of romanti-sexual relationships, there are some really well-written pieces explaining it and how, in theory, it could work for just about anyone. In theory. The reality is, when even Oberon Zell-Ravenheart has said, in a video interview (so you can see [if you can see, that is] the words literally coming from his mouth) that he thinks that serial monogamy might just be the human default, that’s saying something about how polyamoury is no more a universal truth than, say, the belief of “All are One”.

…and yet Patheos Pagan gives voice to the belief that monogamy goes against our nature. One of the most influential voices in both the polyamourous and pagan communities has said that he believes that serial monogamy is just as natural an orientation for relationships as polyamoury, but hey, Melissa Hill is going to get one of the most widely-read platforms in the pagan community to tell us all that monogamy is against nature.

First off, monogamy is not “against nature”. Contrary to what many writers on polyamoury have said (especially the earlier writings), many non-human species form lifetime bonds with only a single partner, and only a handful of these have shown any evidence that any offspring are sired by a male unmated to the female. Even then, non-human animals seem to have a better understanding than we do that “sex ≠ love.” Polytheists seem to understand better than most people than non-humans can, and do, feel great affections toward others, even something that we as humans would understand as “love” — yet still, many polytheists have a problem with anthropomorphising non-humans and attaching our social connections of love and sex into animal sex.

As a lifelong cat person, and one who’s actually read extensively about their behaviours and biology, let me tell you, sex is not the most enjoyable experience for the female cat, cos the male’s penis is barbed, and tears her up on withdrawl (this does serve a reproductive function, and at the very least, discourages the female from mating again before his sperm can fertilise her ovum). Cats don’t have sex for fun or other social purposes, like humans, dolphins, and bonobos do. Cats fuck to breed. They may bond very closely with another and seem to have a very loving relationship with other cats (contrary to common belief among arimal rights sorts, the house-cat is actually much closer to its wild Matriarch species than the domestic dog is to the wolf, and even without human intervention [such as feeding] will form complex social colonies, where these relationships have also been observed), but fucking, for a cat, is very utilitarian, in nature.

Love ≠ Sex

Furthermore, polygamy, as has been practised by certain groups (usually monotheist, though there are certainly others that to this), are not the same as a “poly” person’s group marriage. These are examples of often political and social alliances formed, a display of power and status (in Islam, the Q’ran states that a man can take as many wives as he can support, emotionally and financially — tell me how that’s not going to be turned into treating women as a status symbol, and I’ll give you a cookie), and generally less about “love” than they are about increasing the potential for a “legitimate heir”, which is basically big fancy talk for a son who will get the lion’s share of inheritance. It’s basic intellectual dishonesty to even point to the soap opera of marriages, divorces, concubines (legitimate affairs), illegitimate affairs, and hetarae of Greco-Roman Antiquity as if it’s somehow legitimate evidence that “polyamoury works” or is somehow “more natural” than monogamy; sex is not love, nor is love sex, and if bonobos have been observes having clearly consensual sex with each-other as conflict resolution, to form alliances, and just blow off some steam, why the need to constantly frame human sexual relationships as being only a display of loving affections?

Love in Greco-Roman antiquity was seldom recorded, all things considered, while it was generally accepted that sex was just as much (if not more so) about power, status, and basic biological needs, as it was about affections. Just because Hypothetical Upper-Class Theban was noted to have put his weiner in a dozen or so people of various genders didn’t necessarily mean that he was in love with all, or any of them.

The practise of “stoning women for adultery” isn’t about love or enforcing monogamy — after all, in Ms Hill’s example of attributing this to Islam in the Middle East, polygamy is common, when it’s one man and multiple women. This is also a culture that, in spite of their “holy book” asserting the autonomy of women in several passages (but don’t take my word for it, get yourself a copy here, I did, just to see what all the fuss was about in late 2001) has retained a stance that women are chattal, and exerting a patriarchal blame on the woman in not just adultery, but also in rape.

Love ≠ Sex

Speaking of, the crime of rape has only a short history of being about sexual autonomy. In English, it shares a root with “robbery”, and as recently as the mid-Victorian, “rape” could include situations of legitimate love and consensual sex, but the kids eloped, and so the young man had “raped” her arranged betrothed (or her parents) of the girl’s dowry.

The history of the word “rape” has more to do with treating women as property than it does with consent or sexual autonomy.

So why do polyamourists, more than most of my fellow serial monogamists (at least in my experiences) seem to have the poorest understanding of how love and sex are not one-in-the-same?

This is not something that I can answer, to be frank — but even in Zell’s defense of serial monogamy, he phrases it in sesxualised terminology, with “but they just can’t get it up for that other person any-more”, suggesting that this is a widespread issue in that community (or at least as observed by his outsider), if even one of the most respected and prominent names in that community can’t help but sexualise love in polyamoury.

Sex is not love.

Sex can be very loving, but it can also be violent, or it can just be a thing to do when there’s nothing good on the telly. Sex and violence can be consensual, or it can be the modern definition of rape. No matter how you slice it, sex is not love; sex is hat happens when two animals do things with their genitals that make squishy noises, and it can be as good or as bad, as loving or as hateful, as those engaging in it intend or even just perceive it to be.

It perplexes me how many polyamourists, especially in the polytheist community, will regard many kinds of deities, and concede to the existence of many kinds of relationships (hopefully one doesn’t have the same kind of relationship with one’s mother as one does with one’s sexual partner/s — it can put your eyes out!), but will be unaware that they are conflating romantic love and sex / sexual attraction as two things inexplicably linked, an ideal that many apparently don’t question of themselves.

Now, I haven’t always had the greatest understanding of the asexual community (and as much as some may protest the notion, yeah, sometimes there can be an underlying medical reason for a low or non-existent sex drive — other times, yeah, it’s just a thing that happens, and either way, as long as people are happy and there is no threat to one’s being, then it’s all good), if anything, I’m closer to the hyper-sexual end of the spectrum, but ironically, it seems that a community of people identified by their lack of sexual attraction are somehow better able to understand this concept:

Love ≠ Sex

Sexual attraction is just that: You’re attracted to a person in a way that gets your junk all a-tingly.

Romantic love is something else: It’s a love born from an attraction that can idealise another person — sometimes in a mature way that helps both parties grow, sometimes in an immature or destructive way that breeds dysfunctionality.

This is how romantic love differs from sexual attraction.

And sexual attraction isn’t necessarily hand-in-hand with sex drive, which is arguably more basic and biological, though can be triggered in ways that have been socialised into a person.

“I think monogamy is the more difficult choice,” says Ms Hill in the comments — and maybe it is, for herself and many other polyamourists, but sor someone who’s a monogamist because it’s just what works for them and feels most natural, even though they are truly supportive of polyamoury in theory, it’s not a difficult choice, at all. For me, polyamoury would be the difficult choice!

Then there’s the fact that A LOT of “polyamoury for everyone!” sorts of posts floating around the blogosphere often fall victim to the Geek Social Fallacies of Sex. Seriously, trying to plod my way through The Ethical Slut (which i didn’t attempt until I was in my thirties, which might be saying something about the sorts it appeals most to — much like people who are able to read Ayn Rand with a straight face), which was long before I was shown this post, much of the fallacies listed went through my mind — especially the fact that, no, people generally cannot control their emotions with regards to sex.

Sex seems rational on paper. Explaining its processes can be painfully dull, without even trying, and when you get to my age, kinky stuff is only really exciting when you’re doing it, not thinking or reading or writing about it.

GSFS is also especially pervasive, at least from an outsider’s perspective, regarding the polyamoury community. As an outsider with a shit-ton of friends in that community (seriously, at one time the “bipolypagangeek” LiveJournal community had at least half my friends-list in their ranks), I think I can be a little more objective about a lot of things with regards to polyamoury cos I’m not personally attached to that identity.

The fact of the matter is, jealousy abounds in that community, but people make attempts (poorly) to suppress it in order to prove that there is no jealousy in polyamoury.

The fact of the matter is, there is no shortage of people using polyamoury as a last-ditch attempt to save a failing relationship by bringing in other people to either distract each-other or to buffer out the break-up and hopefully (though seldom successfully) make it easier on everyone.

The fact of the matter is, “polyamoury”, in spite of the “it’s NOT NOT NOT poly-fuckery!!” contingent (cos to some people, I guess it’s all just TWOO WUV!!!), really is just as much, if not more so, about sex as it is about love and romance.

The fact of the matter is, there is absolutely zero evidence that successful ideal polyamourous relationships are any less rare than successful ideal monogamous relationships — and not to mention that there isn’t even a consensus on what the “ideal relationship” for either model really is. For me, as a serial monogamist, even if i go into a relationship knowing it’s going to be short-term, if we both know that and still enjoy it for the time it lasts, then it’s successful, but others want only that “one true love” that lasts a lifetime, as in a fairytale, or the relationship is unsuccessful. Some polyamourists will only consider a Triad or Quad relationship, where three or four people each have a romance and/or sexual relationship with everyone else involved, a successful one, but others will be perfectly happy with a primary partner and two or three on the side.

Love and sex are not the easiest things to navigate, and what “works” or is “ideal” is just so subjective to individual experiences — and more than that, the socio-political history of love and sex make it pretty much impossible to make any kind of generalisations about what “works” on a large scale, and yet Patheos gives voice to one of the most ill-informed voices on love and sex and goes forward with publishing her article on love and sex while attempting to give it spiritual validity. Ms Hill’s article is just ridiculous when her casting of monogamists as being in the same play as the patriarchal oppressors who’d “stone women for adultery” (neglecting to acknowledge the same mentality is displayed in the pseudo-polyamoury corollary of the harem), and other broad-brush generalisations isn’t infuriating.