And now, I mourn

Four days, I will fast, wear rags, and maintain minimal human contact.

One of my cats has died.

On Monday, I shall resume bathing and clean the apartment, as is tradition.


Hedonist priorities

I’m sure there are going to be people who think this is evidence of some majorly borked-up priorities, but I’d rather go with less or without in some area or another, for myself, than to make my cat, my friends / A2/Ypsi Gothic Gatherings, my work DJing at WCBN, or my gods, go with less or without, from me.

By bettering the beings and situations around me in any way I have even a modicum of control over, I’m actively working to increase beauty, joy, and pleasure in my own life. Hedonism, by its nature, is pluralist in that the only one in a person’s life who can define and measure where pleasure derives and which smooth motions (pleasures) can outweigh any rough motions (pains), is entirely up to that person. Granted, the extant fragments on the Cyrenaic school placed “earthly” pleasures of the senses over the more ascetic pleasures of the Epicuran school (let’s put aside the ancient notion that Epicurus practically plagiarised portions of his teachings from the Cyrenaic Theorodus “the Atheist”), if only because experience is placed as the source of all knowledge; while ascetic pleasures certainly can be a knowledge of experience, it is one of those great ineffables that is practically impossible to teach, and by some arguments may be best found after a period of earthly indulgences.

There have been times where I’ve had less than I currently do (if you can imagine that), and there was a time when I basically had a millionaire’s trust-fund at my disposal. Sure, I’d be lying if I said I prefer poverty (after all, I’m not some hipster who thinks it’s a trait that makes people more interesting), but if i think about what I enjoy, what I really find most pleasurable in both experiences, it’s never been the times where I’ve had more for myself if those I hold dear can’t enjoy in it, as well. It’s always been the times when I can do what I can with what I have to share the gifts of Hedone with others; maybe it means I can buy a round for literally everyone at the bar, or maybe it means I have to pack a sandwich or tightly ration my dry goods another week so that I can pick up a new card game to play with my friends or make sure the Khairetes can have that statue I’ve had my eye on.

And if the Gods help those who help themselves, then by seeking the pleasures that matter most to me, surely They will find a way to make sure that I have what I need when I need it most.

Hedonism is only about selfishness and greed if that’s what a person is bringing to it. Such people tend to see little growth, regardless of what schools of thought they find easiest to latch onto. But when one brings to it a desire to fulfill the pursuit of sensual pleasures through shared experiences, then it’s hard to describe that as inherently selfish.

The only real arguments in favour of polytheism meaning polytheism

…I read in the comments by Keith C. McCormick on Halstead’s blog:

“polytheism” doesn’t require hyphenation in the case of multiple deities. It is only in the case of a belief that deities are not independent beings that such clarification is necessary. From an anthropological standpoint, polytheistic societies acknowledge multiple independent godlike Powers, regardless of the underlying cosmology. Plenty of traditional polytheistic societies have a concept of “oneness” (and plenty don’t), but in those cases, the “Oneness” is rarely the focus of veneration- it’s simply a cosmological idea, not a theological practice.

Perhaps one of the reasons that the “devotional” or “hard” polytheists are so adamantly defending “polytheist” as meaning only traditions in which the gods are real and distinct is because, from a historical perspective, that is true. I can’t think of a traditional religion in which shamans or priests to say “I ask Spirit”- no, they generally ask “the spirits”, “the ancestors”, or “the gods”. Any tradition that reduces the cosmos (or even just divinity) to a single entity is supposed to have “mono” in the title somewhere. Describing Athena, Frigga, and Amaterasu as archetypes or undifferentiated faces of a single Power is a belief in “one”, not a belief in “many”.

To describe such a “mono” religion as “poly” is the linguistic equivalent of calling one person drinking a martini a “cocktail party”. One might as well call a rainstorm by the name “water”. It is philosophically possible to defend such a position, but it not particularly useful in most circumstances. Why then do so many people so strongly object to a small group of people (Do we call them “Person” now?) insisting on a more precise, historically-accurate use of a term (“polytheism”) that until recently had a fairly precise meaning: belief in many gods?

Can’t we just cook up new terms for the hyphenated stuff? Polyarchetypicalist? Polyfaçadal Monist? Eclectic Jungian? I mean, monism gets to have a separate term from monotheism- why not let the people who believe in multiple, literal GODS keep the term they always had? Let’s just find a new term for people who address Unity through multiple faces.

Oh, I absolutely understand the emotional weight on both sides. But to my mind we need to be guided by our awareness of privilege (my anthro is showing, I know…) in the same way that we would for an indigenous society. I seem to recall that some of those elder pagans fought for Reclaiming of traditional definitions. For instance, “Witch”- an indigenous term colonized by Christian invaders.

It always falls to those in positions of power, prestige, or privilege to make space for those who would reclaim traditional practice by yielding the name. Adler, et all were not the first to be described as polytheists, it was a term that described a fairly specific kind of theology practiced by “others” (at the time). Now that people are becoming visible who more closely fit that definition, it is appropriate to allow the historical definition to reassert itself in the same way that “Witch” does not inherently mean an evil green lady riding a broom.

Why then is interpreting “theos” in the historically correct sense considered by many to be a dangerous and/or shameful belief? The difference here is not one of equally valued meanings but a choice between one interpretation that is “safe” and one that is “dangerous”, with those in positions of privilege deciding that their definition is “safe”. It seems that people like PSVL are trying to defend and resacralize the word “theos”- a word that many today seem bound and determined to divorce from its original meaning.

Your example of reclaiming Christ from Catholicism is flawed in that in it you are introducing a wholly new definition, not reclaiming an old one. I would be just as wrong to declare that Paganism is solely worship of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. The example is in no way similar to a situation in which a few decades past some people redefined a word to suit their purposes and are today upset that another group insists on using the term in its original, historical context.

In this situation, neither the “hard” polytheists nor the “hard” theists are the newcomers, rather they are the newly acknowledged. In such cases, it is the responsibility of those in positions of power and privilege to force themselves to reflect on their own appropriation of language and to yield terms back to those who use them in their original context. This was the case with “witch” and it should be the case with “theos” and “polytheism”.

Unless we are willing to add new words to our language to accommodate new concepts while preserving the meanings in old words, we run the risk of confining our ability to conceive of concepts newer still.

Oh, Keith, make sweet, sweet love to me.

(Posted here because neither I nor my cat, Nigel Prancypants, are allowed to post to Halstead’s blog –and you know, to anyone who still entertains ideas that I am not “savvy” enough to be aware of IP-logging, actually, I am, I just didn’t give a shit enough, cos really, if i did, I would’ve at least used a pseudonym that’s not easily tracable back to myself.)

If you don’t believe the gods are gods, you are not a polytheist in any meaningful way —and you therefore should be the one with the “hyphenations”, not polytheists.

Your feelings, Margot Adler’s feelings, and anyone else’s pweshuss fee-fees don’t matter. Think about when people of certain Native American tribes say “no, totem is our word, and you’re using it in a way that demonstrates a clear misunderstanding of the concept, use a different term” –and people who really do care about proper reclaiming of terms start calling what they do “spirit animals” or “animals guides” or something else and they let the Natives have “totem”. Because “totem” meant something before a bunch of people who didn’t really understand the concept decided to use it for something they were doing.

“Polytheism” means, as many have said before me in this discussion “[belief in] many gods [as gods]”. If you don’t believe gods may actually exist, but you find archetypes a useful thing to give honour to or to aspire to, then call yourself an “archetypalist” or “archetypal polytheist” or anything else you’re comfortable with, but calling yourself a “polytheist” without any modifiers in that case is the very definition of intellectual dishonesty.

Redefining the “-theos” to mean something other than theos in any form of theism, including polytheism, is atheism.