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.



So I guess Margot Adler died recently?

…and since no-one asked me to say anything about the passing of Mary Daly, Labrys Ruiner1, either, I figured I’d throw in my 2¢:

Margot Adler placed people before the Gods. This is not intended to be a harsh judgement, but a statement of fact. After all, there’s record of her statement that, had there been Hellenic polytheists known to her, she would have done that, instead. Hey, we all have what drives us, and clearly her calling was human-centric rather than deity-centric.

Margot Adler was not a polytheist. She had also said that, had she actually come across other Hellenists in the 1970s (which, if she looked hard enough, she would have, cos we existed then, too), her goal was not to worship but to “become” one of the Hellenic gods. She has said, in favourably quoting another, “the Gods are not to be worshipped”, in spite of all historical evidence and the empirical knowledge of others that points to the contrary.

Margot Adler was not transphobic –at least, if photos of her with Selena Fox can be believed.

Margot Adler was not a big fan of history and facts. Aside from the curious quote showcased in The Wild Hunt’s obituary, anyone remember her participation in this infamous artifact of paganism in the 1980s and ’90s?

She was clearly well-loved and respected by many, and in some ways she deserrved this, but she was never that important to me. She wasn’t transphobic (or least not during her final years), but aside from that, her life and work wasn’t that important to me. She made some comments peripherally related to Hellenism, so I felt compelled to say something about her when I noticed this.

1: If you want to take back the labrys from Daly and her ilk, after all, it’s closely associated with the Minoan Goddess has been anthropologically linked to Wadjet/Isis, who loves All, and Ariadne, wife of gender-fucker god Dionysos, feel free to give me delicious monies.


Christian Privilege Checklist

I originally found this piece here, at It’s Pronounced Metrosexual, and I’m cross-posting it here with some edits and explanations.

1: You can expect to have time off work to celebrate religious holidays.
Don’t lecture me about how “nuh-uh!!!!” Look, buddy, Ann Arbor, and Ypsilanti, Michigan is an historically progressive region of a blue state. I have lived in this state among some of the highest immigrant populations in the Midwest, and not all that far from THE highest Muslim population in the United States, and the highest Jewish and Hindu populations in Michigan, and the further West you go in the state of Michigan, the more conservative and Christian it gets, but that’s still nothing compared to some of the allegedly centre-left parts of the South I’ve been exposed to. There is practically NOTHING except the 7-Elevens, and a handful of Chinese restaurants and Cineplexes and maybe a few call-centres for the cable company or LiquidWeb, and obviously the ER are open on Christmas Day in Michigan —this is just as true of Ann Arbor and Ypsilnti as it is of Grand Rapids, as it is of Detroit, as it is of Lansing. Are there some places open, in the United States, Canada, the UK, Australia, New Zealand? Sure, I imagine so, but here’s the kicker, those places are so few and far-between, when taking in the entirety of the Anglosphere, that it amounts to little statistical relevance. Now, Easter, sure, I’ll give that it’s easier to find places that are open on Easter —which I always thought was odd, considering that Christianity is little more than a death cult, so you’d think the day of their god-man’s death would be more important to honour— but who has ever had an employer raise an eyebrow over requesting Easter off? In my experiences, people with children tend to be offered that time off, whether they’re known to be Christian or not. The point is that it’s expected that people will want those days off work, and (especially if they’re privileged in other areas, as well) they’re rather often given that time off.

And don’t lecture me about how “everybody has Christmas off! Even non-Christians!!!” Cos that’s not the point. I’m sure many Jews, Muslims, Atheists, Hindus, polytheists, and so on, who work at Barnes & Noble or Kroger or other places would gladly work Christmas Day if that day was available for them to work in exchange for having their own religious holidays off, but it isn’t available to an overwhelming majority of them, because Christian holidays are privileged. And getting a paid day off for Christmas while being forced to use unpaid time in the event that a Hindu might actually get offered Diwali (for example) off is kinda bullshit.

2: Music and television programs pertaining to your religion’s holidays are readily accessible.
Now, I admit that I have something of a guilty pleasure for Christmas music —I also have a guilty pleasure for the films of Burt I. Gordon, but then, that’s what a guilty pleasure is: Something you know is devoid of any real substance, meaning, or skill, or is just plain bad (to be fair, Gordon’s visual effects were pretty good for his day, and many are still used, even in high-budget blockbusters, simply cos they’re cheap and they work, but overall, his films as a whole are pretty stinky), but you know this and you like it, anyway. What can I say? I’ve kind of gone beyond being an aficionado of cheese, and am something of an addict, needing a minimum maintenance dose, and even Velveeta will do, in a pinch, and Christmas music is to pop music what that “nacho sauce” dispensed at convenience store spigots is to cheese: Believe it or not, that stuff is often made with real cheese in there, but you really can’t believe it, to look at it.

That said, find me a radio station that will play a Kharitesia song, and I’ll give you $100. Find me a television station playing a film about the story of Hop-tu-naa, and I’ll give you $150. The fact of the matter is that there is no shortage of Christian media out there. There are entire radio stations (at least two in the Lansing area, alone) dedicated to Christian music, and only in the most-progressive areas will a college station get away with, say, a Hindu music hour without at least a sad attempt at public protest. Pagan and polytheist media is pretty much only bought, sold, and traded on the Internet and tiny little bookshops that have to sell overpriced chunks of quartz to keep the rent paid. While the Internet is certainly more-mainstream than it was when I first logged on around ’95, it still isn’t the “gold standard” for media the way older media outlets are still treated. So yeah, you can easily find pagan music CDs and downloads on or Rhapsody, and if you live in a sufficiently large or progressive area, you likely can find at least one pagan bookstore in addition to Kosher and Halaal grocers, and maybe even a Hindu temple or two, but I’ll bet you dollars to doughnuts, for every one of those places, in the same town you’ll find at least two Christian bookstores. There is likely at least one sad AM radio station in your area playing exclusively Christian music. You can go to Target in December and find clearly religious Christmas cards mixed in with the “secularised” cards featuring reindeer and snowmen, and the Channukah stuff is, at best, regulated to a tiny endcap, if you’re lucky. You’ll have a one-in-ten chance of finding Eid greeting cards on an endcap (that stat is based on personal experience) –and good luck finding anything non-Judeo-Christian at Wal-Mart. Don’t hold your breath on finding Hindu or polytheisr religious media or greeting cards at any mainstream store in North America, and Christian media is by far yhe easiest religious media available.

3: It is easy to find stores that carry items that enable you to practice your faith and celebrate religious holidays.
Doing a search for stores that sell polytheist, pagan, or “new age” items in the Lansing area gives me one place: Triple Goddess. Their selection for Hellenic stuff is…. Well, except for herbs and incenses (which is kind of all-purpose for polytheist and most “pagan” religions) their items for Hellenists is pretty much non-existent. I also get a better price on herbs at the food co-op, but I pretty much have better luck on-line, meaning that I have to plan stuff weeks in advance. On the other hand, finding Christian bookstores is far easier (at least five in Lansing that I pass by on a regular basis, alone), and at the big booksellers, the “religion” sections are big, and pretty much completely Abrahamic; non-Abrahamic religions aren’t even “religion” by the bookstore categories, they’re “Metaphysical/Occult” or “New Age”.

4: You aren’t pressured to celebrate holidays from another faith that may conflict with your religious values.
I have been straight-up told that I *should* celebrate Christmas. “But I’m not Christian” –oh, it’s not just for Christians! “‘Christmas’ is a contraction of ‘Christ’s mass’, so yes, it is implicitly Christian, and I find the secular aspects of Christmas to be far more offensive to my values than the religious aspects” –you just don’t get it, it’s about peace, and family! “There are other holidays I’d rather celebrate that don’t sully the values of ‘peace and family’ with messages of greed and waste.”

I have been having that conversation, in some form or another, for about fifteen years. DO NOT DARE tel me that non-Christians aren’t ever pressured to celebrate holidays they may very well (believe it or not) have no interest in.

5: Holidays celebrating your faith are so widely supported you can often forget they are limited to your faith (e.g. wish someone a “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Easter” without considering their faith).
Contrary to popular belief, the trend of wishing some-one “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings” is not new, and only in recent years has it been something made policy of at retailers and among government employees. That said, Fox News lied to you: Absolutely no-one has ever been fired over wishing a customer “Merry Christmas” rather than “Happy Holidays”; it may get an occasional customer complaint, but it’s never once been something anyone has been fired over. I don’t think anybody has ever even gotten more than a write-up over it, if only cos it’s so common that most people, including non-Christians, don’t even notice that the cashier uttered “Merry Christmas” rather than the more-inclusive “Happy Holidays”.

6: You can worship freely, without fear of violence or threats.
What’s that? You’re a Christian and sometimes people make fun of you? You’re a Christian and you think that the enforcement of “separation of church and state” is some kind of personal attack on your beliefs? Suck it up, kiddo, cos with precious fee-fees so fragile, I imagine you would have had a meltdown by the age of sixteen if you were me.

When I started looking into paganism and polytheist religions in junior high, I was beaten up DAILY. Not only class-mates, but occasionally older siblings and one kid’s father made death-threats regularly. There were a lot of reasons my father gave me an ultimatum to either go to mass with him, or to meeting house with my step-mother, but no more of this “pagan” nonsense. In some areas, Muslims have had it worse than even I have.

So yeah, boo-fucking-hoo; a few Christians (usually of the right-wing or otherwise anti-science variety) get a few minor insults and that hurts their fee-fees. Cry me a fucking river.

7: A bumper sticker supporting your religion won’t likely lead to your car being vandalized.
Somebody in the comments of the original post I’ve taken this from said something about Christian bumper seeing stickers that have been “scratched off”. For vandalism, that’s pretty petty, to be honest. I doubt that any civil court would even allow such a suit to be treated as “vandalism”, cis bumper stickers get damaged and come off all the time, under all sorts of circumstances. Furthermore, what was the history of these cars? Maybe they were purchased used, from a neighbour, and this was all of the bumper sticker that the new owner could remove in a hurry? Hell, maybe it wasn’t even intentional, maybe a student driver just scraped your car at the Meijer car park, and Christian Juggalo has a fucking persecution complex. I’ve also seen some pretty hardcore vandalism —like, somebody smashing windows out, and then writing “Jesus saves” in the dust on the door of cars that just had a “CoExist” sticker with all the religious symbols. “Darwin fish” emblems are notoriously vandalised, to the point that the company sells then offers replacement feet and even full replacement policies. If you’ve only lost a sticker, you’re lucky.

8: You can practice your religious customs without being questioned, mocked, or inhibited.
As an institutionalised privilege, this is completely true. If you attempt to inhibit a Christian prayer group in the park in any way, especially if they have a shelter permit, you’re going to get a citation; perusing the archives on The Wild Hunt suggest that this is not always true for polytheists or the “pagan” community, even if it’s just a Pagan Pride Day with no public ritual, interrupters have to cross some pretty major lines before their disruptions are taken seriously by authorities.

9: If you are being tried in court, you can generally assume (and usually be correct) that the jury of “your peers” will share your faith and not hold that against you in weighing decisions.
Considering that most people in the Anglosphere are Christian, yes, this is absolutely true. There is no guarantee that non-Christians will not have their religion held against them by a jury. If you search the archives on The Wild Hunt and WitchVox, you’ll see that non-Abrahamic religionists quite often have that held against them.

10: When swearing an oath, you will place your hand on a religious scripture pertaining to your faith.
Now, this is a situation that’s kind of improving, but only in the sense of “you have to out yourself as a non-Christian to get out of it”. See above. If this is happening in a jury trial, your choice is to either swear on a book that means nothing to you (lie) or out yourself, and potentially have a jurist or all of them weigh it against you. Good luck with that.

11: Positive references to your faith are seen dozens of times a day by everyone, regardless of their faith.
Yes, this is true.

From “God Save the Queen” to the ALTERED US Pledge of Allegiance to the talking heads of Faux News to billboards pitching that new megachurch as so awesome and welcoming. All have the same implicit (and sometimes explicit) message: Christianity is awesome, and if you don’t agree, there is something wrong with you.

12: Politicians responsible for your governance are probably members of your faith.
The exceptions to this in the US and UK combined, I can count on one hand. “Well, of course that’s true, the overwhelming majority of people in those countries are Christian! That’s not a privilege! lawlbuttslawl” Actually, yeah, it is. It’s a privilege because these are the people responsible for why the Ten Commandments are displayed at courthouses in the US. It’s a privilege cos those are the people who caved to the Catholics in the Knights of Columbus and added “under God” to the pledge of allegiance. It’s a privilege cos those are the people who have ultimate say in courts.

13: Politicians can make decisions citing your faith without being labeled as heretics or extremists.
While there have certainly been a handful of extremists in recent years, there have also been many more who are not. Democrats and Centrists regularly cite Christian scripture and other writings and it seldom reflects poorly upon them, at most you might see Faux News claiming said people are somehow only making attempts to appear Christian.

14: It is easy for you to find your faith accurately depicted in television, movies, books, and other media.
This is true for Christianity. While individual sects may not be equally represented, there is no shortage of fair, generally accurate depictions of Christianity’s beliefs and individual, modern Christian depicted in the news and entertainment media. Now, historical Christians are seldom represented accurately, instead to be represented favourably –which is a very obvious christian privilege (see this post and the section on historical revisionism).

15: You can reasonably assume that anyone you encounter will have a decent understanding of your beliefs.
Again, this is generally true. Yes, certain sects may be portrayed inaccurately and perhaps unfavourably, and extremists of any religion are generally portrayed unfavourably, but the thing about Christianity is that all the sects are typically regarded to be of the same religion because they share more in common with each-other than, say, Buddhists have in common with Muslims, for example. Sure, there’s a bit of common ground in most religions, but not enough to make people forget that they’re not the same thing with some variance by sect.

In general, Christians believe in the sacredness of the books of the Old Testament and they believe in the “New Testament” mythology of the Christ figure including that said figure was both Divine and Human in nature. Christians also generally believe in The ten Commandments, The Golden Rule, and in virtues such as humility and self-sacrifice –true, in the US in the 2010s, there aren’t many people who claim to be Christian and who would be described as pious or devout to the ideals and virtues outlined in The Holy Bible, but these are the universal, or nearly-universal beliefs of just about all Christian sects, as observed by myself and many people who’ve read it all far more recently.

16: You will not be penalized (socially or otherwise) for not knowing other people’s religious customs.
Again, no-one is ever fined for this, and people have been *VERY RARELY* penalised, socially, for lacking a modicum of familiarity with another’s non-Christian religion.

17: Your faith is accepted/supported at your workplace.
Does your employer have reduced hours, or are they perhaps closed completely on Sundays? Is Christmas an automatic day-off? Is Easter given off to most (if not all) those who request it (assuming your employer has any hours at all on Sundays)? Can you wear a fancy crucifix necklace or an overtly Christian t-shirt without being accused of “making a scene” for those accoutrements, alone?

Guess what that means?

18: You can go into any career you want without it being associated with or explained by your faith.
Again, generally true. Jews are stereotypically associated with banking. Yoga instructors with Hinduism and pop-Dharmic New Age movements (though to be fair, there’s a clear reason for that, even though Western yoga is comparatively “secularised”). Anyone working at a food co-op or feminist bookstore is generally assumed to be some sort of neopagan.

19: You can travel to any part of the country and know your religion will be accepted, safe, and you will have access to religious spaces to practice your faith.
Again, generally very true. There are still parts of the US South where you don’t want to be Jewish, and in more of the South you absolutely don’t want to be Muslim. While there are pockets of acceptance of Dharmic, polytheist, and pagan religions throughout the South, Midwest, and Rockies, you really don’t want to venture too far from those areas if any of those religious groupings apply to you.

20: Your faith can be an aspect of your identity without being a defining aspect (e.g., people won’t think of you as their “Christian” friend)
Yeah, sure, if you’re friends with a sizeable group of non-Christians, they may regard you that way, but surely you know that’s not the norm, right?

21: You can be polite, gentle, or peaceful, and not be considered an “exception” to those practicing your faith.
Again, an exception to this would be if you have a considerably large-ish group of friends who are explicitly non-Christian.

22: Fundraising to support congregations of your faith will not be investigated as potentially threatening or terrorist behavior.
This happened when Muslim groups made fundraising efforts after 11 September 2001. If you search The Wild Hunt archives, you’re also sure to find at least one instance where a pagan group met that treatment.

23: Construction of spaces of worship will not likely be halted due to your faith.
Churches go up all the time, and no-one really does anything. Maybe once every thousand churches, some Atheist fuck-noodle will make a sign in hopes of seeing himself on the news, but that’s not what’s important.

In contrast, Park51, the Muslim community centre that was proclaimed “a mosque at ground zero!! skerry!!” by sensationalist headlines has been stonewalled. The Maetreum of Cybele has won several court cases to maintain their facilities, but the town where they operate seems on a mission to run them out (read about it on their site).

24: You are never asked to speak on behalf of all the members of your faith.
It’s not necessary for Christians to do so, because even those who are not of a Christian religion still maintain enough of a general familiarity with it. Again, specific sects (especially the ones that are regarded as “extreme’ or “wacky”, like Jehovah’s Witnesses, Menonites, or Mormons might still get people who expect ‘Joe, their Mormon friend” to ask as a Mormonism spokesman, but only because it’s so far removed from mainstream sects of Christianity.)

You can go anywhere and assume you will be surrounded by members of your faith.

25: Without special effort, your children will have a multitude of teachers who share your faith.
Also generally true of the especially mainstream sects, and the “frienge” sects can still generally assume that there will be a shared or mostly-shared mythology and some of the more basic virtues.

26: Without special effort, your children will have a multitude of friends who share your faith.
Yes, even if you send them to public school.

27: It is easily accessible for you or your children to be educated from kindergarten through post-grad at institutions of your faith.
Also very true.

28: Disclosing your faith to an adoption agency will not likely prevent you from being able to adopt children.
You’re on the Internet, use your search engine. This is especially an issue with many private agencies, as opposed to most state-run facilitators of adopting children.

29: In the event of a divorce, the judge won’t immediately grant custody of your children to your ex because of your faith.
Also search The Wild Hunt archives

30: Your faith is taught or offered as a course at most public institutions.
Yeah, “Pagan Studies” is a budding field, but “Christian studies” is offered at every major university, and most of the non-major ones. There is no shortage of universities to study Christianity at.

31: You can complain about your religion being under attack without it being perceived as an attack on another religion.
Also very true. When Christians (mistakenly) believe that their religion is under attack, they’re just whiners. When people of other religions make the (significantly more valid) claim of their religion being under attack, even when it’s couch in the most civil tones, even that person’s co-religionists will often perceive it as just an excuse to attack Christianity, even when it clearly is not.

32: You can dismiss the idea that identifying with your faith bears certain privileges.
If this wasn’t evidence of Christian privilege, it simply would not be on the list.

33: You can critique Christianity and extremists or even mainstream Christians and be considered “objective” rather than “biased”, and practically no-one will think you “just have an axe to grind” or similar.

Share more in the comments below!
Yes, feel free to do so!

Since this post was literally MONTHS in the making (if was in my Draft queue for about six months, mainly cos I’d get distracted with other posts, occasionally cos i didn’t feel the need to attract undue attention from, well, stuff like #33, why not show some appreciation by donating to my moving expenses? If you’d rather get something out of the deal (or at least if stuff is one of your weaknesses), I have an Etsy shop full of badges and even a book! Book! It comes highly recommended by Edward Butler, and last I heard, he was even anticipating the forthcoming stories! If everyone’s favourite radical Platonist loves my stories, surely you will, too!

I’m also still giving away (free to anyone!) Heathen/Northern goddess prayer cards! If you or someone you know would like to have any of these, drop me a note via the Contact form. ANY CARDS I STILL HAVE LEFT ON MONDAY (which at this rate, might still be all of them) WILL BE LEFT AT CRAZY WISDOM BOOKSTORE AND TEA ROOM IN ANN ARBOR, MI, IN AN ENVELOPE ON THE CORKBOARD IN BACK, MARKED “FREE TO GOOD HEATHENS, TAKE ONLY THE ONE(S) YOU WANT”!! I’m seriously afraid that if I keep them longer than this, I may lose them and be unable to give them away until after I’m settled back in the A2/Ypsi area (and not simply in A2/Ypsi couch-surfing with my cat until we have a stable home).

Heathen / Northern Goddess prayer card give-away!

If you were at the Polytheist Leadership Conference, you may be aware that, upon realising that Io had a little more money than i expected to, I made a bid at the silent auction for RAINN for some prayer cards I barely even took a look at, with the intention of giving them away. Yes, I’ve been back nearly a week, but I *just* found the book I put them in and officially finished unpacking last night, so here are the ones i have left-over after giving some away at the conference:


L-R top: Var, Gefion, Fulla
L-R bottom: Gna, Snotra, Syn

If you or one of your Heathen/Northern trad friends wants any of these, just drop me a message via the Contact form (include the name of the card/s you want and your name and address)! First come, first served!

This give-away is absolutely FREE! I know I’m raising money for moving expenses right now, but donations are totally optional; if you want a prayer card and let me know, you’ll get a prayer card! Don’t worry about reimbursing me for the stamps, I buy them all the time for all sorts of reasons (but if you want to donate the approximate price of a book of stamps, I obviously won’t be complaining).

I only have one of each, so only six lucky people will get a freebie!

As I said, if you want a card or two (please not all six, leave some for others!), you can just have them, but if you want to make a completely optional donation toward my moving expenses, I will not complain! Hey, wouldn’t it be nice if I had condoms for that date tomorrow?

It’s Not Raining All the Time -or- Why We Need Extra Categories

I understand the desire to look at something, or learn a little bit about it, and say “OK, that’s X”: “pagan”, “transmasculine”, “genderqueer”, and so forth and so on. It’s tempting. Sometimes I’m even tempted to say “Henotheism = Polytheism”, cos it only really works within an inherently “polytheist” belief system, but with the distinction that one (usually oneself) only really needs to honour and work with one deity. As Kaldera, Hardy, and Tenpenny’s presentation at the PLC on Friday pointed out, Henotheists in Hinduism may technically “honour Ganesa”, or at least appear to, and other Hindu deities at certain festivals, but if their deity is Sarasvati, they’re going to go to Her for things even Ganesa would normally take care of; henotheism requires that one at least recognise other deities exist, in some way, shape or form, but it differs from “polytheist with extreme devotion” by the fact that the Henotheist honours one deity to the exclusion of all others (maybe with some hair-splitting on what that may actually mean); it’s more like Henotheism is a method of worship than a theology (cos henotheists themselves didn’t coin that term, but Christian colonists in India trying to make sense of a distinct practise of certain Hindus). But I digress:

We basically see similarities in a thing, and try to relate that back to something we’re more familiar with, or understand better, in an effort to try and understand what the person is talking about. It’s useful, at least in the first few minutes, cos it tells us that this concept is not all that unusual, after all, it’s similar to this other thing we already knew about. Which can be, and often is more than is not, quite awesome.

Unfortunately, a lot of people stop there. By stopping there, by only seeing the similarity between the thing you just learned about and the thing you already knew about and understood better, you’re homogenising.

Homogenisation is great if we’re talking food safety, but it’s not great if we’re talking about basically depriving ourselves of seeing and experiencing diversity.

Finding some common ground is excellent, from that we often learn that we’re too similar to really necessitate fighting about relatively trivial things. That said, celebrating our common ground should never be at the expense of truly honouring and respecting diversity.

There’s a trend I’ve noticed in certain pockets of the Internet, where people of Colours, often African Americans, are becoming very angry with the very white liberals who were seen as allies through the 1970s and ’80s, with shit like “Free To Be You And Me” and Sesame Street teaching kids that we’re really not that different from each-other and we shouldn’t hate or exclude our classmates over trivial things like skin colour. The anger isn’t over that lesson, which is still very necessary, but because there is now a generation or two of white people who were basically raised with this idea of “colourblindness” that ignores the still very real struggles of many African Americans, Native Nations people, Asian Americans of all stripes, and non-white Hispanic and Mediterranean peoples (and not to mention the lack of social “whiteness” still denied many Eastern Europeans). The socio-political homogenisation of racial colourblindness is creating a problem: People (typically white people) who now believe that the racial struggles are a thing of the past, in spite of all evidence to the contrary.

It’s a task, really, to manage to celebrate the common ground (when it’s important to do so) and still acknowledge the differences that make diversity happen.

Now, I’m not going to go as far as the crypto-fascists and say that diverse cultures need an emphasis on separatism in order to maintain that diversity –if one’s culture or religion really does necessitate separatism to maintain its unique identity, I think your culture or religion has some serious problems that even separatism won’t solve (and if one can accomplish that separatism, have fun with that Hapsburg lip in a few generations –I’m just saying!). Nay, it’s the intermingling of cultures that actually promotes diversity in unique ways, but emphasis on finding that “common ground” or “unity” puts one at risk of homogenisation –which I think is a huge reason that we’re seeing polytheists drift away from the “pagan umbrella”.

When I brought this up at the panel on Sunday at the PLC, moderated by PSVL, Tamarah Suida said that, while the umbrella terms may be useful “it’s not raining all the time”.

In certain instances, being included under “the pagan umbrella” is useful for polytheists and other religions: There are social and political concerns that most people in both the pagan and polytheist camps seem largely interested in and / or supportive of, both pagans and polytheists have many of the same legal concerns, and whether we’re inclined to admit it or not, most of us polytheists, frankly, shop at the same kinds of stores that pagans tend to –not just metaphysical booksellers, but food co-ops, alternative/non-Western healing, etc….

That said, I’ve long been coming to the conclusion that The Anomalous Thracian has been at and PSVL has recently come to: Paganism is a social and cultural movement, and polytheism is a theological and spiritual category and a true religious identity. While I certainly respect those who assert that their only religious identity is “pagan”, I do note their apprehension at actually defining that identity in terms that would let others understand what, exactly, that’s supposed to mean.

I was calling myself a “polytheist” before I was aware of people who distanced themselves from the pagan community; I think I first used it in the mid-1990s to describe my interest (and failed connection to) the Gods of the pre-Christian Irish peoples. While I hold no animosity toward pagans, i think I’m long passed due time to wean myself off of the word, as a self-description; it’s lost all meaning for me, and frankly, if people like Gus-Gus diZerega, who can’t even tell the difference between a convention and an ostensibly religious festival are to be included amongst the “pagan elders”, I have to ask one simple question: Why? For the love of all that is holy, WHY? I mean, come the crap on, his response to a woman who has just told him, ad nauseum that she, and nearly every other woman she knows, has experienced some level of sexual harassment at practically every pagan group (especially in NoCal) that she’s been a part of? “Go find another group” –that’s dismissive, for starters, and it really betrays his ignorance in his inability to see past the end of his nose. Why so many people still continue to see that pompous ass-hat as a “respected elder” is beyond me.

The pagan movement has obviously been of great importance to many people over the last several decades, but I think it’s reached a point where the continued reluctance to define what it actually is, has made it kind of a more useless than a parody of itself. When feminism needed to continue its relevance, it adopted and adapted and continued, and still continues, to re-define itself while still remaining relevant to principles long-held –many principles held since they were the Suffragettes and Free-Lovers (and can polyamourists stop appropriating that term for their “rah! rah! all the sexual partners!” movement, yesterday, please?); the Second-Wavers are the sad old biddies left in the dust to now form alliances with people they never would have dreamed of doing so with thirty years ago, because of the simple fact that their ideologies are no longer relevant to progress. I’m failing to see where paganism is still relevant in the way that it was in the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s; ecological movements are getting along just fine without necessitating the inclusion of pagans, social justice movements are thriving (in some places better than in others) without necessarily including pagans, and the theological movements of polytheism and animism are pretty much separated from paganism, at this point, which really shows how unnecessary the pagan community is to non-Abrahamic theological movements and alternative religions in the West.

If paganism, as a social and cultural movement, continues this resistance to defining itself, I doubt it’ll be useful to others beyond the occasional party.

If you came here looking for Aloma Shamanatrix and Matthew Miracle:

I seem to be a victim of mistaken identity.

It seems this post I made after watching the hot mess of a NatGeo Taboo episode they were featured in, I’ve gotten a lot of hits from people searching for them. In fact, in some searches, that post goes back-and-forth between the #2 or #1 spot on a search for them.



Click on the purple text directly above this very line —I know that you can.

This blog has nothing to do with either of them; DO NOT use my contact page in hopes of reaching them to tell them you love them, cos it won’t reach them. Aloma’s email is clearly given on the frontpage of their website —use that. Remember how to use e-mail? I know it takes a little more effort to go back to your email, type an e-mail address into the proper line, think of a subject line, etc…, but oh well, that’s how they do it. She also has added Twitter and FaceBook contact options.

That said, because of my nice blog post saying nice things about them, I’ve since become a friend of Aloma’s, so I do not in any way condone sending them nasty letters and hate mail any more than I approve of you mistakenly sending hatemail to me that is intended for them. If you have nice things to say to them, please tell THEM, not me; they were very disappointed with the Taboo eppie, and have very mixed feelings about people contacting them because of it, so if you liked them, READ THEIR SITE (Taboo left out a LOT of what they’re about), and send kind words and energy their way. If you didn’t like them? Seriously, get a new hobby. I acknowledge that Discord’s energy has a place in the world, but these are two lovely people I’m proud to think of as friends (though regretfully not very close) and they DO NOT need discordant energy.

So let’s recap:

  • I am neither Aloma nor Matthew. I’m a casual friend of theirs, I plan on eventually meeting them, but my name is Ruadhán J McElroy, and I do completely different things, and have a completely different calling. I may love them, be inspired by them, and share some common ground with them, but I’m a completely different person, living in a house, with cats, writing stories about the Mod subculture and making badges (not making improvisational tribal music), eating meats and drinking absinthe…. I’m *so* not them.
  • Aloma and Matthew have THEIR OWN WEBSITE, and also their own E-MAIL, and FACEBOOK, and TWITTER, that can all be used to contact them. Using MY CONTACT PAGE will only annoy me, I will most likely reply to you as if you are quite simple, I will forget to forward your e-mail, and later, when I think about maybe forwarding your e-mail, I will remember my nasty reply to you and assume I’d only be making them look bad by association. IN OTHER WORDS: Don’t use my contact page in hopes of reaching Aloma and Matthew, as it may never reach them.


Aloma Shamanatrix & Matthew Miracle

(be warned: Site has embedded muic player that defaults to “On”; you can turn it off, if you like)

Thanks to the magic of television, I have just learned about this amazing couple based in San Francisco. They’re fruitarian, freegan, artists, and urban nomads and just amazing.

At least 80% of their possessions are scavenged, and according to their own website, most of what they do buy is purchased second-hand. Even the episode of National Geographic’s Taboo I first learned about them in, one of the academic panel brought in for a professional analysis of the behaviour, just commended them for their scavenger lifestyle, verbally applauding even the tiniest dent that they can make in reducing waste in this society.

I had to see if they had a website before the episode even ended, and I’m glad I found it. Everything they eat is scavenged. Most of their clothing is scavenged. They’re into ritual music and dance, and also energy and herbal healing, but will accept that modern medicine is an acceptable avenue if and when ritual and herbal medicines have failed. Their musical instruments are most, if not all scavenged —either as-is or scavenged and repaired or created.

The fruitarian thing was not a new concept to me. In fact, I’ve said that if it weren’t for the fact that I’m anaemic, and I physically cannot eat that much in one sitting without getting ill, I’d be not just veg*n, but fruitarian. I don’t see a huge difference when evaluating the life of a spinach alongside the life of a cow — and considering how many more spinach need to die to get the same amount of nutrients from a cow, it’s argueably more ethical to eat the cow, if one wants to bring up that whole “least harm principle”. And don’t try and lecture me about central nervous systems and sentience, either; animism is not only an historically valid aspect of Hellenismos, what with nymphai literally connected to every plant imaginable, thus meaning is a cow has a sentient spirit, so do the flowering plants, like broccoli, but recent studies published in peer-reviewed journals suggest that there is a scientifically measurable sentience in plant life. Thus, even if one is to remove spirituality from the equation, the only truly ethical diet is fruitarianism, eating that which a plant gives freely, as it’s designed to be eaten —and not just from centuries of genetic modification by human hands, but because that’s just how it is —shitting out seeds from eaten fruit is a far better fertiliser than simply letting the fruit rot where it falls. But, like I said, I have a lot of medical issues, and as of now, I’d rather take fewer pills and supplements than I’d need to to maintain myself on a strict fruitarian diet, even though I clearly believe it’s the most morally sound choice of diet.

Their scavenger lifestyle, I gotta admit, is something I both greatly admire, but am reluctant to. I’m in admiration for what should be obvious reasons, at this point, but my reluctance is very much tied to my own history. As I’ve said before, my father was a rag-n-bone man by trade, and this involved a lot of dumpster-diving —that’s right, hipsters, my father was doing that long before you decided it was “cool”. At some point, he decided that, while diving for scrap he could sell, might as well get anything else that was good. This is how my family had a microwave in 1987, on my mother’s RN salary, while my father was between construction gigs; he looked it over, realised it needed a bolt to keep the door on, tested it out in the garage, and then brought it into the house. A fair amount of the household’s furniture was salvage, either intact, or repaired, or built from salvaged bits. During any given week, between 20% and 70% of the groceries were dumpster-dived; we made a lot of preserves and had two huge chest freezers to accommodate any surplus. As much as I admire the salvage now, for ethical reasons, as a kid who’d already been branded “weird” on personality alone, this was just one more weird thing about me and my home life. Now, at first, I didn’t realise it was something that was so weird, I think I realised that most people didn’t scavenge (cos really, if everybody did, what would be left to scavenge?), but I was under the impression that it was generally accepted practise; I remember mentioning something about it at school, and in addition to unintentionally grossing out some classmates, my teacher that year decided it was something to be concerned over, and called social services to investigate the household, and after that, I got a pretty good talking-to about why I should never, ever, ever talk about the family’s dumpster diving again, or my sister and I would get taken away and put in foster homes or something. So yeah, it was pretty embarrassing, and I’m still trying to get over it. I think I’m at a point where, if I tried it myself or with a friend, I would finally be over it, but the nearest dumpster is behind a liquor store at the corner, and the cops are regulars at that corner due to prostitution, and most days, I’m in too much pain to mosey on over the the good spots all by myself.

The Taboo eppie stressed their matching outfits a little more than I can see on their website, but if memory serves me, Aloma did regard it as an important aspect of their relationship, as it gives visual aide to their connected spirits.

Just watching them, you can see so much love, like one soul in two bodies.