How did Fascism break the Polytheist Blogosphere?

If you know, let me know, cos I have no fucking idea. The cause is not necessarily as *important* at the fact that suddenly all my blog subscription alerts are all of a sudden all:

“Nazi, Fascist, Nazi, Nazi, Nazi, New Right and Fascists, Neonazis, Donald Duck and Walt Disney, crap n stuff, Henry Ford, Racism in polytheist groups — it’s somehow everywhere and barely anywhere — and did you know about this thing called Nazis? PS: Svastika – Nazi or Buddhist? Who can tell!?”

It’s like some of you people know, instinctively (even those who seem to barely seem to pay any attention to me on Teh Farceborg), that i fell off my bicycle, busted up my knee, and can barely leave the apartment, and i’m already tired of watching Netflix and Hulu, so all i have left to do is READ BLOGS. (Yes, I could probably re-read a few books, or re-watch a few DVDs, but let’s get real, kids…)

First, let’s go to Patheos Pagan’s article from Megan Manson, back in January(!!), which is suddenly in my Disqus Daily Diget comments feed, again, When Hitler Stole Our Symbols. On Facebook,I had this to say:

If you still think the svastika (“manji” in Japanese) is somehow an indefensible symbol if racism and fascism, you are a part of the problem — and I’ll even wager that you’re willing to let the white supremacists win by advocating the suppression of non-white practises, by advocating COLONIALISM, just to make white people more comfortable.

Seriously, I have a brass plate I use for offerings at my Apollon shrine, [it was] salvaged from some stuff a Hindi family at an old apartment complex I [lived] at nine years ago threw away [or rather, they left it in a small box near the building dumpster, apparently unable to take it to one of the local charity shops (for reasons that I’d imagine were ultimately racist and xenophobic), but unwilling to actually throw it away —an act which speaks volumes about the reverence given to the svastika to Hindus]. It has a svastika on it, along with other solar symbolism.

Silent film star Clara Bow, ca. 1924(?), long before the rise of the Nazis.

Silent film star Clara Bow, ca. 1924(?), long before the rise of the Nazis.

The symbol was used by the Boeotian peoples in ancient Greece — its implications and meanings in pre-Christian religions, and as a pre-WWII talisman [and benign decorative symbol] are often [clearly conveyed] in the specific use (how it’s drawn, any accompanying symbolism, any culturally-specific uses that should be clear — especially anywhere in Asia), which is a far cry from the Nazi hakenkruz. Needless to say, I kinda hate explaining this brass plate to anyone who remarks on it (which, so far, has totalled maybe 50% of everyone who’s been in my apartment [which is practically everyone who has actually seen it]), but I’m still going to, because, just like Makoto Watanabe (quoted in Cme Manson’s piece), I believe in education before suppression.

I find it just awful that Japan has seriously considered kowtowing to colonising Westerners who might be uncomfortable with the idea of learning shit about the world around them, such as the real history of a symbol they’ve been propagandised into believing is a universal symbol of hatred due to cultural appropriation. I also find it hell of ironic that a lot of white kids who talk big about how cultural appropriation is just awful will concede to giving white supramicists the solar cross “well, you know, COS NAZIS!!!” —even when it can be clearly demonstrated that the Nazis neither created, nor are the only people continuing to use an equilateral cross with all arms bent in a continuous direction.

By the way, did anyone remember how I went on about the svastika some months ago, right on here and everything? 😀

So, onto other news…

Apparently this happened, last night, and I’m apparently already late to the party with giving my two cents.

While Rhyd (who practically admitted authorship in the comments of John Beckett’s post, which Galina Krasskova was kind enough to highlight here, along with several other bloggers who got to commenting on this before I did) *did* attempt to clarify that none of the named segments of Pagans and Polytheists he names are inherently a part of the New Right he rightly states is necessary to call out from our communities, as John Beckett said in response (on his own blog, not in the G&R comments), Rhyd should know well enough to know that magic (which Rhyd practises) in specific, and people in general simply don’t work that way. One can put all the disclaimers in the world on whatever cockamamie statements they like, but the take-away the reader absorbs is still…

4967008

Beckett is being generous in suggesting that maybe Rhyd didn’t intend this take-away — and I’d be inclined to believe that, if not for the fact that I know that Rhyd is all about social justice movements — hell, one can barely skim through Gods & Radicals for a post by any author without coming across at least a sentence about the importance of gains in the social justice movements — statements I whole-heartedly agree with. That said, again, I find it hard to believe that Rhyd didn’t intend to imply all over the place that Goddess spirituality movements,1 Reconstructed polytheism, devotional polytheists, Druid-influenced groups including ADF(!!!)2 and somehow explicitly excluding OBOD, Feri, and Reclaiming, a group of which Rhyd openly has very close associations, and nearly every Heathen, Norse pagan, and “Northern Tradition” practitioner (the latter being a term just anout anyone with more than a passing familiarity with the Germanic polytheist splintering, even non-Heathens, such as myself, are aware is a term used near-exclusively by Raven Kaldera and his co-religionists — and I can say with confidence that Kaldera is as much a Fascist as he is cisgender), and not to mention a majority of witches (and also somehow more-immune to Fascist vulnerabilities are Feri and Reclaining, groups of which other core members of the G&R writing team have close, well-known associations), for the simple fact that, a common call-out in social justice circles all over the Internet for going on twenty years is this:

Good intentions do not make bad effects magically disappear.

Rhyd is very careful about his choices of words and phraseology. Plus there’s the fact that Rhyd is a smart man — I’ve not just observed this in his blogging, but also in real life, when I met him at the Polytheist Leadership Conference a couple years ago. He knows good intentions are no excuse for implicitly smearing others in this way (including others who have gone out of their way to support him, give him voice, and recognise the value in much of his words), regardless of the importance of the message that this smear is couched in.

Make no mistake: With the clear political message he’s conveying, I’ve got no real argument, though I think it would’ve been best to explain exactly what it is about things like hierarchies that make religious movements which acknowledge them more vulnerable to fascism. I pick on this point, in particular, for good reason:

Hierarchy actually is a foundation of the natural learning process, as Beckett explains. As I’m learning the philosophy of Erotic Hedonism for my position, I’m not at all on equal ground with Eros, nor ios Eros on equal ground with Nyx, nor Psykhe, nor Hedone. All these tiers have importance, and that importance is relevant when it’s relevant, but let’s be real for a minute:

A small child learning to read isn’t on equal ground with the ones teaching that child to read — hypothetical child can’t just decide that “cat” is pronounced like “floop” because someone let them believe that everyone is on equal ground in all ways, meaning Child gets to decide how “cat” is pronounced because their opinion is equal to Teacher’s.

That’s what hierarchy is, at its core: the root comes from the Greek, hierarkhia, “rule of a high priest”, hierarkhes, “leader of the sacred rites”, and ta hiera, “sacred rites” or “the sacred” — in the modern secular sense, it’s a formal recognition of authority, at its core. We recognise authority in all walks of life, and even in the anarchy endorsed by Rhyd Wildermuth, there are still rules, and the youngest and least experienced who wish to learn more about this from him, even if just by reading his writings online and off, recognise him as an authority on these matters.

It’s the perversion of hierarchy from a sacred order of rites to a pyramid of power and pecking-order within Catholicism, in order to keep the peasants in line, and within Capitalism, in order to keep the peasants in line, and within the more recent advent of Fascist movements, in order to keep the peasants in line, that has made it a “dirty word” in certain socio-political circles. I don’t believe that in clearly political matters, that Capitalism and systems that enforce it, at the only way. I am abhorred by the (many and varied) ideologies of Fascist movements. Having grown up Catholic, and even I can barely understand how the pecking-order of priesthood works, and am far more repulsed by their history of conquest, Colonialism, and suppression of the people in all meaningful ways, there is, though a place for hierarchy —especially in the ancient Hellenic sense of hierarkhia, hierarkhes, and ta hiera, and it’s within my religion. It’s with great apprehension that I’ve taken on the role offered to me of leadership within the school of Erotic Hedonism, because i see what kinds of ship that formal and de-facto leaders in pagan and polytheist communities get, so my primary “silver lining” in taking that is the knowledge that it’s a school of philosophy, which depends on discussions with the students to thrive, though the skeleton of the school is clear and plain to retain its identity, and if a bone breaks, we repain it, with knowledge that new bone tissue much form to hold it back together. Hopefully the distinction between a school of philosophy, mystery cult, and “loosely-defined devotional sect with the strongest voices acting as de-facto leadership”, will make whatever shit I’m destined to put up with minimal, in comparison — in comparison.

…but I digress…

I generally agree with Beckett’s statements that a good portion of Rhyd’s argument is presented fallaciously, and in a manner disturbingly reminiscent of McCarthyism.

Furthermore, the article itself strikes me as an all-but-verbatim transcription of Amy Hale from this old Wild Hunt podcast interview, almost exactly four years old (seriously, what is it about the Vernal Equinox time of year that gets everyone in the polytheist blogosphere talking about Nazis?); the primary difference that keeps Rhyd’s piece reading like a practical Cliff’s Notes of Hale is that he’s included a list of broadly-defined pagan and polytheist movements that are especially vulnerable to Fascism (with an exclusion of groups associated with writers of G&R).

While I absolutely agree with the importance of Rhyd’s message, I find his execution an intentionally infuriating level of ludicrous.

…but that may just be his goal, you know? Maybe he’s just looking for infuriating statements he can make that’ll go viral, drawing G&R a ton of “grassroots word-of-mouth” and give him an even wider audience, no matter how close he gets to borderlining libelous?

I’ve liked Rhyd for a long time; I don’t necessarily agree with everything he says on a lot of topics, but as we all know, we have to pick our own battles, and sometimes it’s just better to shrug and move on. It saddens me that I’m not sure how much longer after this that I even can like Rhyd —not because everyone knows many of the people he was implicitly aligning with Fascist tendencies (even though he was careful to name few names), and i know several people as friends, but because I, as anyone else who’s even a fraction as loud as I am, just have no idea when I’m going to be targeted in an upcoming unnamed attack like this.

I’ve liked him for years, but this has made for a serious breach of trust and respect.


1: practically as a whole, including those who have explicitly separated from the Zsuzsanna Budapest schools on any combination of several ideological grounds
2: He also describes ADF as a “smaller group”, which strikes me as incredibly odd, as it’s literally the biggest pagan and polytheist group in the Midwest, as best as I can tell, considering that, at any pagan gathering I’ve been at, of those affiliated with a group, at least half of them are in ADF, and practically everyone there is at least somewhat familiar with ADF. Maybe it’s just the circles I run in, but calling ADF a “smaller group”, especially a “smaller group” that’s implied to be especially vulnerable to fascism, is very odd —and not to mention, absolutely incendiary.

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And Who is Nyx?

She the mother of contradictions
The mother of Life and Death
The mother of Love and Strife
The mother of Light and Darkness
The mother of Friendship and Deceit
and Night Herself is the mother of Day.
She is the mother of the “dark”
The mother of Fears
The mother of Doom and of Criticism
The mother of Distress
The mother of Aging
and of Fate
and the Stars
She is the lynchpin of the Kosmos,
the order of the Theoi
that emerged from the death of Khaos
a phoenix of black flame

[What’s That?] Miasma

So, Dver made this recent post about miasma, and I want to repeat something from it that seems very much worth repeating:

“Someone explained it to me once as a way of ensuring that we were fully engaged in worship; if we just experienced death, or birth, or even sex, our minds were probably occupied with ideas related to that and we weren’t giving our due respect and attention to the gods.”

That might seem like a nice thought, that once again makes it all about us and our internal landscape, but it has little basis in historical evidence. Miasma is not about how we feel about things. It’s a spiritual pollution, a FACT that happens regardless of our feelings. That spiritual pollution is anathema to many of the Hellenic gods. You may not like that, but it doesn’t change anything. Many of our gods tend to put a lot of distance between Themselves and the stink of mortality – which is most stinky during transitional times like birth and death. If it was just about our preoccupation, then there’d be no taint of miasma if someone close to you, but who you cared nothing for, died – but that’s not the case.

That’s one of those modern notions that just never sat well with me, because it just doesn’t follow logically.

This seemed like a minority notion about seven / eight years ago, when I first got into the community, and now seems a very close second to that disinfo of “miasma = lacking personal hygiene” that seemed to really take off with Pope No-Life and His Talking Butt-Plugs about five years ago. The idea that “miasma is that which distracts us from the gods and” seems pretty popular now, and I have to agree that it really lacks historical basis.

Now, I’ve probably just kind of passively went along with that in the past –in fact, I’d say my post about menstruation really does give a passive permission to the notion that miasma is at least sometimes about how we feel, when that just doesn’t fly with the history.

Miasma is spiritual pollution. If it’s there, it’s there whether we “feel it” or not. Your feelings may also be giving you a false positive –in other words, Judeo-Christian indoctrination about how your menses is dirty when (pardon the pun) bleeds over into your own personal feelings doesn’t suddenly give you a taint of miasma, nor will cramps and headaches. Your feelings might also give a false negative –maybe you’ve just had sex and now all your thoughts are on Aphrodite, or Eros, or Dionysos, well, unless you’ve been given a pass on that, too fucking bad, break out the khernips before approaching that shrine.

In general, the rules about what does bring miasma is pretty specific, almost absurdly so. If you’re a devotee, spouse, or slave to a certain deity, you may get a pass on some things, but not others, and you may have some additional taboos (one woman I know who is devoted to Artemis has been forbidden by her goddess from marrying, and though sex seems permitted, I get the impression that she needs more than a sprinkling before entering the temple room), but chances are still good that, if worshipping in an historically accurate Hellenic context, you’re still not going to be allowed to scrap all pollutive taboos.

Furthermore, what survives concerning miasma seems to at least mostly concern temples and public shrines, which are regarded as homes for the Theoi here on the face of Gaia. It’s also easy to interpret Hesiod’s taboos from Works & Days, as an extension of what counts as miasma for household worship –which makes sense, as the hearth basically functions a shrine to Hestia.

“Blood on the hands” or contact with blood is pretty much one that everyone agrees is miasma, but not all blood was the same, historically. Animal blood clearly was not a pollutant to the temples, or else there wouldn’t have been so much animal sacrifice —the mystery cults that maintained bloodless sacrifices being a noted exception, but the thing is, they are an EXCEPTION, not a part of the general inclusion. Furthermore, it takes more than just some khernips to wash out the stench of a murder from your soul, though getting your own blood on you (and maybe a co-workers, at most) the every-day abrasions from work in the fields, or at a tavern, or so on, as best as I can tell from what I’ve read, various ritual cleansings at the entrance of the temples probably took care of that –but if you lost a leg in battle, or a scythe accident or something, you obviously needed to heal to a sufficient degree first, and likely needed a more intense ritual. Killing in self-defence or in battle probably required a bare minimum at a temple of Ares (I gotta admit, i just don’t know much about this one), but to worship at a shrine to Eirene, you might need to do more than that before you had properly cleansed yourself. That said, as I’ve said before, there are apparently no historical taboos against menstruation in Hellenismos. If some-one tells you there were/are, they’re full of shit.

Sex, childbirth, and death also carry spiritual pollutants, in general, but there are exceptions. In some regions of Hellas, if a woman died in childbirth, it was standard practise to sacrifice the clothes she wore at the time at the local temple of Artemis / Eileithyia —this flies in the face of the general convention, but again, is an exception. The fact that funeral processions were a big thing in Hellas, and a pretty widespread practise, may seem to fly in the face of the conventional miasma associated with death, but the procession and funerary rites were outside the temple, and I can’t help but think that it’s a sort of ritual enactment of the soul’s journey via Hermes Psychopompos, one of few Theoi that aren’t believed to shun the dead. Miasma, again, is typically a taboo to temples and shrines.

Illness was also generally considered miasma to most temples, but it was common for people with certain kinds of sicknesses to leave an offering at shrines to Asklepios.

Lastly: Miasma has nothing to do with personal hygeine. I really have no idea where that little bit of disinfo started, but it needs to stop, like, yesterday. (ETA – 16 April 2013) OK, so upon reading a bit more, I seem to have a fair hypothesis on wher this confusion might stem from. See, for centuries, there was this belief that “poisoned air”, or similar, caused sickness; around the 19th Century in the UK, maybe as early as the 18thC (CE, of course), this collection of practically worldwide belief of “bad air = cause of certain diseases, like cholera” became colloquially known as “miasma theory”, in a similar manner that the worldwide phenomenon of spirit-workers became known as “shamanism” or animal guides as “totemism”. This re-purposing of the word “miasma” basically took it out of a spiritual context, and in the 19th and early 20th Centuries, the “poison air” hypotheses basically became replaced with the current “germ theory”, that is, diseases caused by foreign bodies, from the bacteria on unwashed hands to an assortment of vira. “Miasma as disease theory” has NOTHING to do with the spiritual miasma of ancient Hellas, and conflating the two is no less ignorant than nonsense like “Artemis and her consort, Apollon”, or something. (/ETA)

The act of ritually washing the hands and face before entering the temple, or before approaching the household shrine, has practically nothing to do with bodily cleanliness. Khernips is all about a physical ritualisation of spiritual clean-up. It’s preparation of the soul through a ritual on the body. At some temples, you wouldn’t even get a personal khernips bowl, an image popularised via dramatisations on The History Channel, but sometimes a priest or even a neokoros would just toss water, or do other purfication rites on people in the procession into the temple –yes, even people who’d clearly just finished up some manual labour and couldn’t make it to the baths in time. If miasma was simply about “personal hygeine”, then surely these temples were committing great blasphemies, non? Of course not, don’t be silly. Logically, if the ancient Hellenes knew the religion better than the average nub on the Internet, then clearly those temples knew what they were doing with regards to miasma.

Now, you’re certainly free to say “I don’t care about religious reconstruction, this is all irrelevant to me”. On the other hand, if you DO care about reconstructed practise, you can’t just go picking and choosing which rules of miasma you like and which ones you don’t —reconstruction is about rebuilding from existing evidence, and you need a fair knowledge and understanding of the evidence before you can evaluate whether or not it applies to your practise. When you know what does and does not qualify religiously as miasma (pro tip: I’ve only given the most common situations and a few exceptions), only then at some later stage can you really evaluate the subject.

To recap:

Miasma has nothing to do with what’s on your mind, or whether or not you feel spiritually prepared enough to approach the Theoi. Miasma, if present, will exist regardless of what’s on your mind, and regardless of how you feel about it.

Miasma has nothing to do with your personal hygiene. Miasma is spiritual pollution. Rituals to cleanse miasma are there to ritualise the cleansing of ordinary pollutants from ourselves before entering ritual space. The fact that the most common of such rituals is to wash the hands and face (and sometimes feet) still doesn’t make it about personal hygiene, and the fact that we just washed ourselves is merely a byproduct of the spiritual cleansing.

Miasma rules, as they existed in ancient Hellas, mostly pertained to temples.

Miasma rules were not monolithic in ancient times, there is no reason to see them that way, now.

Certain devotees might have more or less taboos, similar to (though not necessarily the same as) miasma; this is a matter between them and their gods.

If you don’t care about historical accuracy, religious reconstruction, etc…, you’re perfectly welcome to scrap the idea of miasma altogether —but if reconstructed practise *is* important to you, then it really makes no sense to pick and choose.

Honey badger don’t give a shit about your miasma.


(ETA on 27 July 2014)
Cos this has been recently referenced in places, I figured I’d take advantage of this opportunity to inform people reading this for the first time that I’m raising funds for my upcoming move back to the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti area.

I’m also giving away Heathen goddess prayer cards.

[PBP2013] Gaia-Kybele

So, I had this idea to make this great new post, but for the most part, i’ve already said a lot of perfect things in this older post. Here, let me quote you something:

Many modern Pagans and Polytheist have this ridiculously romanticised vision of “nature” and the “natural world”. This idea that an untamed forest is a place of kindness, that the planet will just “give” everything needed to Herself and the creatures that live on Her surface. They forget that Gaia throws tantrums — or, if those fits are acknowledged, it’s always with the adage that “we humans deserve it” — forgetting the ill impact these fits have on other living things. While Gaia tends to eventually sort out Her droughts, and blights, and hurricane devatstations, these events still have impacts on plant life, animal life, human life, and even Her own face. It seems only logical to me that Gaia and Kybele are the same soul — They’re clearly a Goddess of opposites.

The bits before and following that bit are pretty good, too, though some of the latter portion has changed in the nearly two years since I wrote it.

Here are some other interesting bits that I’ve found:

  • According to Theoi Project (and implied in Burkert’s Greek Religion, by lack of any real index points for Gaia, properly), there was very little in the way of Gaia worship that was clearly indistinguishable from Demetre, or other Goddesses.
  • Gaia’s sacrifices, in ancient times, included black animals; more typical of Khthonic deities than Olympians. If you’re of the (thankfully not apparently all that widespread) opinion that Khthonoi are “spooky” and Their worship should be avoided, think about that —and the above fact.

Also, here’s a lovely fragment from later antiquity, but not necessarily irrelevant, as it seems to be in line with Boeotian tradition:

Suidas s.v. Ge (trans. Suda On Line) (Byzantine Greek Lexicon C10th A.D.) :
“Ge (Earth): Since the earth is a seat of every city, as, supporting the cities, her image is that of a tower-bearer.”

[What’s That?] Altars and Shrines

Pagans and polytheists, at least in my experiences, differ in this way (amongst others): The former mostly maintains altars, the latter mostly maintains shrines.

BUT RUADHÁN, AREN’T THOSE JUST TWO DIFFERENT WORDS FOR THE SAME THING?

No.

Here’s why:

An altar is a place where you practise your religion; a shrine is where a Deity, or several deities, have Their own space in your home or the community. A shrine is like a permanent or semi-permanent guestroom for a deity, or several deities, where one has created a space in one’s home specifically for Them. For purposes of space, a shrine may have a “threshold” area where one practises rituals, or at least lights a candle and incense daily or weekly (depending on how one’s religion honours the deity in question), but the rest of the area is usually left untouched, save for periodic days during the month or year when you perform maid service (still running with the guest room analogy), or when you get little gifts for the Deity and arrange them artfully in Deity’s space. On the other hand, an altar is assumed to be for you, the whole space is yours, and there is (usually) nothing on there that you don’t use at some point when practising your religion. The two things are very different in intent and purpose, so conflating the two as one in the same is to betray one’s ignorance.

Shrines are often more-or-less “permanent”; if it’s a fixture of the home, its location is often chosen very carefully (usually dependent on deity) and after the location is designated for a shrine, it’s not moved unless special circumstances (like ritual cleaning, or a move) require one to. An altar might require a special location or direction to face, depending n the religion, but it is, at most, assumed to be a “part time” placement, the lease can be cancelled at any time; it can be moved or taken down when not in use (even if one doesn’t, out of convenience or just plain laziness) and I’ve never heard of a religion that requires special reverence for taking down a mere altar that could be easily compared to the treatment of a shrine that needs cleaning or has fallen into disrepair.

Common fixtures of small indoor shrines include a representation of the deity, a dish for offerings like wine, a candle or two, a receptacle for incense, and (depending on how long one has worshipped the deity) lots and lots of items that are gifts for the Deity, such as coins, food items, or just trinkets and baubles made of or bearing images of stones, flora, or fauna sacred to the deity. Common fixtures of altars often include a candle or two, a receptacle for incense, a representation of a deity or two, and various ritual tools —which may be (but may not be limited to) blades/athames, wands, a goblet or chalise, etc…. Large “outdoor” shrines that are basically the size of a tiny house that can have standing or sitting room for a few people tend to have an altar inside them for the placement of offerings and candles and holding small rituals of reverence, but the aura of such an altar is less like leaving gifts at the threshold of a household shrine, and more like bringing a gift into another’s house as a guest; it’s the Deity’s altar at one of their many Earthly homes, not that liminal space at the borderline between your space and Theirs. Because there is some overlap in the characteristics of a small household shrine and a household altar (candles, incense, representations of Deity), people who don’t know or understand the differences between altars and shrines may confuse the two.

SO, RUADHÁN, SINCE YOU THINK YOU’RE SO SMART, HOW DO I TELL THE DIFFERENCE?

Well, aside from my description, I also thought to provide a visual aide. First, a couple photos from a search for “Wiccan Altar” on Bing.com:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Wiccan_Altar

There is nothing on either of these altars that is not, or at least cannot be intended to be used in a ritual. Even the statue in the second photo might be ritually turned to face one direction or another, during the course of a ritual, be it before, after, or while all other tools are being used.

So here are now a few images of shrines:

my Eros shrine, 01-08

Dver's "Dionysos shrine" (image links to Flickr gallery)

Dver’s “Dionysos shrine” (image links to Flickr gallery)

Dionysos shrine from Flaming Thrysos

Dionysos shrine from Flaming Thrysos

Very little in these pictures (though one is erroneously referred to as an “altar” by its maintainer) is intended for use by human hands. These are places for their respective Deities to be most-present and welcomed into the household; these are not areas where the primary purpose is for humans doing rituals (though occasionally rituals may take place at the shrine’s threshold).

Similarly, the springs to the city nymphai of Boiotia, and other springs sacred to locally important nymphai, and other parts of the city or villiage considered important to local mythos, would often serve as shrines to the nymph in question. If a traveller wanted the good graces of the local deities, gifts would be left at the city shrine(s) —similar to the continued tradition of dropping a coin in a fountain “for luck”. Then there’s the Greek tradition of roadside shrines:

Greek-Roadside-Shrine

While some of these shrines are, like the various roadside shrines seem in the American Midwest, created by surviving families at a location near a fatal traffic accident, a lot of times, the Greek roadside shrines are just erected by some-one giving thanks and praise to an Orthodox Saint (and, on occasion, alongside an ancient deity) for some joyous event in one’s life; some of these shrines are said locally to have been standing and maintained since ancient times, perhaps with the pre-Christian commemoration only thinly veiled. Their purpose is for a short prayer and/or reflection, and (as with the roadside shrines around here, which commemorate tragedy) small trinkets and candles may be left by local people. Some Greek roadside shrines are big enough to be miniature chapels, big enough for two or three people to stand in prayer or conduct small ceremonies, but the fact that those shrines can have that function is secondary to the purpose of creating a space sacred to a Deity or Saint, where one is encouraged to pause in reflection of said Divine figure, perhaps have a small prayer or light a candle, and then go about one’s business.

While some shrines maintained by modern polytheists (as those pictured) may take form on and around a table-top out of necessity (like lacking a means of enclosure of the shrine area) or personal preference (as these are indoor shrines, and protection from elements is already taken care of, or so the reasoning may go), the purpose is still clear, often just by looking at it as a person who understands the difference. Some altars may also be set up in a niche in a wall, of on a bookshelf, or perhaps it’s a portable thing barely bigger than a CD jewelcase, but again, the intent is clear of its function simply by its form.

In paths one is unfamiliar with, or deities one has not previously seen a shrine to, the purpose may not be clear. A shrine to Ares may contain a short military dagger, and depending on the age or originating military, it might be indistinguishable from a Pop Wiccan’s athame. One may be practising a self-invented path of lesbian witchcraft that simulates the “great rite” of Wicca by rubbing two cowrie shells together, so the altar might appear more shrine-like, lacking blades and wands. If you know noting about the person’s religion, it never hurts to ask, but at the same time, it’s also perfectly fine to kindly explain that shrines and altars are not one-in-the-same, and that one “preferring” one term over the other doesn’t necessarily make it true.


Apologies to the previous publication of this without the rest. I was touching up the post on the tablet, and well, I’ll add this to my ever-growing list of why touch-screens are the work of Typhoeus.

Also: I do intend on making a series out of these sorts of posts.


(ETA on 27 July 2014)
Cos this has been recently referenced in places, I figured I’d take advantage of this opportunity to inform people reading this for the first time that I’m raising funds for my upcoming move back to the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti area.

I’m also giving away Heathen goddess prayer cards.

Another Year, Another Hellenistai Wiki

So, just out of curiosity, am i the only one who’s noticed that the Wiki at http://wiki.hellenistai.com has been unuseable for a couple months? Yeah, didn’t think so (but if I’m wrong, please say something).

Long story short, DreamHost offers several site software packages as “One-Clink Installs”; in theory, the installation of these software packages onto a website is fully automated and requires the DreamHost user, such as myself, only “one click” to install it. Well, that’s a great idea, but unfortunately, MediaWiki —the software developed by Wikipedia developers and the software that I’m using to run the Hellenistai Wiki— does not work that way. Seriously, it’s far more complicated than i have patience for, and updating it requires me to log in through a client with the site’s IP, and doing all these things, and maybe I gotta read entrails or something, too. I’ve tried several times to complete the update of the software, only to get incredibly frustrated at the first or second step, cos something that sounds simple turned out to be incredibly complicated, and fuck that.

I’m still holding out hope that my humanoid meat-based housemate, who does this sort of thing for a living, can make it work, but I’m not going to rely on that. Fortunately, Wikia, a popular community wiki site that hosts a lot of fandom wikis, does all the backend stuff for me, and I can just be all “la-lalaaa!! I’m updating the wiki pages and that codey stuff works cos sprites and pixies!”

So the wiki is now HERE:

http://hellenistai.wikia.com/

…and I’m going to be grabbing as many pages off the Digital Archive Wayback Machine as I can over the next couple of weeks, reformatting it all manually (cos of the way the private wiki was set up, to only take updates from users with certain permissions, has cut off the edit pages from my access), and if anybody wants to volunteer their time to help me out, that’d be great! Great, great, GREAT!!!

Oh yeah, and did I mention that the forum is back open? I know I did.

Pagans Against Personal Autonomy

I noticed this when Drew Jacob made his (in)famous post proclaiming that he wasn’t pagan. And now I’m dealing with it on a forum I generally respect, and admittedly at a much lower level (cos I guess I’m just not as desirable —or maybe cos this blog just gets less traffic?).

In my quest to see if “pagan” still means anything, and perpetual contemplation over whether it ever meant anything, at all, ever, I’ve stumbled upon this curious phenomenon:

Pagans, as in those who self-identify as pagans, talk a big talk about following one’s bliss and doing as thou wilt, and how everything is cool as long as you aren’t hurting others. Until, of course, somebody who fits the negative definition of pagan espoused by the dictionary puts their foot down and states that they are not pagan. Basically, personal autonomy is all well and good, until one makes the autonomous decision that their religion, and they themselves, are not pagan.

Now, to an extent, I can understand where people might be coming from:

Maybe they assume there’s all kinds of societal pressures to not be pagan, and that simply proclaiming oneself not to be is evidence that one may have been “bullied” into choosing to divorce oneself from the term. That would make sense, if not for the fact that the overwhelming majority of “Not Pagans” on the Intertubes are polytheists —and let me tell you, being a polytheist doesn’t get you any special privileges just for eschewing the self-definition of “pagan”.

Or maybe they think that by proclaiming oneself a “Not Pagan”, it’s cos of some kind of self-closeting. This would make sense if not for the fact that this is often said in response to some-one’s post on a blog, so clearly this person is “out” to at least that much extent. Sometimes the blogger’s real name is even easily accessible. So, OK, that’s not a good hypothesis.

I do often see the claim “well, Abrahamists can’t tell the difference between what you do and what I do”. OK, I’ll play along: Abrahamists also can’t tell the difference between what I do and what Hindus do, and Hindus often get a free pass to be Not Pagan, though likely because the average self-identified pagan is, frankly, rather pale, and probably doesn’t want to come off as Patronising Whitey, trying to save brown people from themselves (except, of course, the pagans who care neither heads nor tails about that, and will outright state that, no matter what the millions of Hindus might say to the contrary, they’re “pagan too”, cos negative definitions trump autonomy). Hell, to certain Evangelical Christians like Jack Chick (and in case you were unaware: He is dead serious, not a parody —though his comics do often get a parody treatment), they can’t tell the difference between what I do and what Catholics do —and all things considered, I’ve met very few pagans who seriously believe insist (remember: pagans can’t believe in things!) that Catholics are “pagan, too!” So, why should I submit to a word I don’t identify with because some people are too stupid to tell the difference between what I do and what, say, Uncle Bucky’s Big Blue Book teaches? That’d be like telling trans women and men that we’re “really drag queens and kings” because some people are too stupid to tell the difference, and therefore we must submit to terms we believe are inaccurate, because it’s more convenient to coddle stupidity than to treat people as if they’re intelligent enough to discern the differences, or at least can understand the differences if they make the effort to learn.

I see the whole “solidarity” and “strength in numbers” thing a lot, too, but here’s the thing: I can stand in solidarity with you without needing to be one of you. Ask any one of my heterosexual and cisgender friends if I’ve expected them to make themselves be gay or trans in order to support me in that. Hell, I’ve been to a TS/TG group where bringing cis friends, relatives, and partners was a common enough thing, because sometimes people are more comfortable with some-one they know —and don’t get me started on how often het women go to gay bars, and without ever a problem (until, of course, they prove to be a nuissance, like holding their bachelorette parties there). The original (real) Black Panther Party had lots of Caucasian supporters, and some of the first nightclubs to play rap and hip-hop music in the late 1970s were punk clubs, which are more often frequented by white kids than any other racial demographic. Socio-political solidarity does not necessitate one be part of an oppressed demographic to support the issues that affect that demographic the most.

OK, so obviously, one doesn’t need to be pagan to stand in solidarity with pagans on socio-political issues of especial interest to the pagan community. After all, all of these issues also affect plenty of other non-pagans in the world, so it would be silly (to put it politely) to say “only pagans can be at the Pagan Issues Table”. Clearly, one need not identify with the word “pagan” to support issues of general interest to the pagan community.

So what reason is there to call oneself a pagan? Well, I can’t think of any, really, but then, I’m not personally attached to the term (and as I’ve said many times before, I’m becoming less enamoured with it, as I age), so I’ll leave the “reasons to call oneself pagan” to those who actually enjoy identifying with the term, cos here’s what my list of reasons would look like:

Reasons to Call Oneself a Pagan:
1) Because one’s spirituality is rural-based.
2) Because one is defined by one’s bookshelf.
3) Because one is happy to let other people tell them what they are.
4) Because one would rather submit to the pressures of a quasi-religious Neo-Hippie social group than think for oneself.
5) Because one doesn’t know what else to call oneself or one’s religion.
6) Because one doesn’t know what else to call oneself or one’s totally-non-religious lifestyle that lacks beliefs.
7) Because one never outgrew the adolescent desire to piss off Christians.
8) Because one doesn’t understand what Folk Christianity is.
9) Because what one isn’t is more important to oneself than what one is.
10) Because personal autonomy is low on one’s priorities.

And none of those apply to me.

My spirituality is urban. Defining myself by my bookshelf makes me a fag into graphic novels, 1960s pop culture, ancient Greece, and a weakness for bad erotica. I’ve never been happy with letting other people tell me what I am. As much as I like a lot Neo-Hippie things, I submit to none of it. I do know what to call my religion. My secular subculture interests even has a name. I got bored with pissing off Christians when I was eighteen. Folk Christianity is irrelevant to my life. What I am is more important to me than what I am not, and I really dig personal autonomy.

If I say I’m not a pagan, don’t tell me I am.

Not even if I mention that I occasionally resign to the word because some people in this world are seriously too stupid to work out what “polytheist” means.

Not even if I go to PPD events, or do tea readings at a pagan bookstore, or save up enough money to go to Pantheacon.

If you respect me at all, you will call me what I call myself. If you don’t, you will call me “pagan”, in spite of knowing I call myself a Hellenic polytheist.


Edited to add:

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