Five Years Ago

•06/28/2017 • 2 Comments

This has little to do with polytheism and is more of a personal post, so if you’re only interested in polytheistic religion-related posts, feel free to pass this one by.

 

In a couple of days, it’ll be a year since I moved out of the Friends House and 5 years since I moved to Boston. It’s been on my mind, so I’m processing that by writing about it.

 

When I moved to Boston five years ago, I was recovering from surgery that literally saved my life.

 

My kidneys failed in 2010. I was on dialysis for two years.Then in 2012, I had a transplant. It gave me new life.

 

After my kidney failure, I tried to convert back to the religion I was raised in, Catholicism. It’s not that I specifically believed in it or knew it to be true. Rather, I was in love with the culture of devotion. I was in love with monasticism and wanted to be a monk. I had fallen in love with the traditions that had been kept alive in monasteries. Life would be easier. Catholicism has traditions that are 1000 years old. I could find a place there, certainly. Hell, there’s a shortage of monastics. Today’s monks are older, less active. Many monasteries are closing down.

 

I applied to monasteries and to friaries. Even interviewed at one. It wasn’t the right place for me.

 

After some soul-searching. I couldn’t do it. I knew in my heart that I was not a Catholic. I couldn’t say the Apostles Creed and mean it. Once again, I became a Pagan but I still had a very vague sense of what that meant to me. Also, despite not being a monk, I still wanted to live in a community. I searched online for various intentional communities around the country.

 

Eventually, I found a community whose values I agreed with. Beacon Hill Friends House. It’s a Quaker-run intentional community in the heart of Boston. I interviewed and got accepted. For four years, I lived with 20 other people of various backgrounds in a mansion from around 1803-4.

 

While it wasn’t very much like a monastery, it ended up being exactly what I needed at the time. Though it was expected that one adheres to Quaker values (Silence, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality, etc.), one did not have to be a Quaker to live there. In fact, I think that as a Pagan, I brought a religious diversity that had not been there previously.

 

I still craved devotion in my life, but I had no real sense of direction. I knew I wasn’t Wiccan. I knew I wasn’t a druid or a recon. I’ve had an on-again, off-again relationship with Sri Ganapati for years but I knew I didn’t identify fully as a Hindu.

 

About half a year after I moved into the Friends House, I met and fell in love with my amazing partner. She’s not a Pagan but has her own non-Christian religious practice.

 

Through the Internet, I explored more and found out about this new “polytheism” movement that was burgeoning. My interest in this led to me eventually going to California for my first PantheaCon. I got to see old friends there, meet people I’d known only online for years and years. I also got to visit the Temple of the Morrigan which was set up in the hospitality suite of a group called Coru Cathubodua. They were very new then but I felt something. Her presence. I have not been called to worship the Morrigan but it led me to believe that I was on the right trail. That people were engaging on a deeper and more devotional level with their deities. People were taking their religion seriously.


This is what I’d been waiting for.

 

However, the Friends House was not ideal for doing that. Though my religion was accepted there, I had to navigate sharing a room with another person, which made setting up worship space challenging. I was also navigating being in a relationship after having been single for years. I was also starting work again since becoming sick.

 

As much as I loved living there, the Friends House was full of complications. For a cheap room and dinner cooked five nights a week, we had to participate in House meetings twice a month, do chores once a week, serve on dishcrew for House dinner, be on committees. It was a lot but eventually I made all of these things work out.

 

I made some amazing friendships with people I probably would not have met otherwise. It really helped restore my faith in humanity. Unfortunately, the Friends House has a term limit of four years. So I had to move out. Last year, I moved into a place with my partner and it’s been largely amazing.

 

Prior to my illness, I’d been working seven nights a week on the overnight shift. My skin was practically translucent. My entire social contact was online. I was unhealthy and thoroughly depressed.

 

Five years later, I’m much healthier and happier. I’m engaging in religious community through this blog, through Facebook, and in other places online. I have an amazing partner whom I adore. I’m developing relationships with deities, with spirits, and with ancestors. I have many friends.

 

It’s easy to get disheartened when I look at the news and see the country teetering on the edge of an abyss. But there is so much to love about my life and when I think back on how my life was five years ago…or even six, when I was sick and on dialysis three times a week, it’s so easy to be grateful.

Pagan/Polytheist Social Club

•06/21/2017 • 5 Comments

In years past, there have been many discussions regarding the idea of creating permanent space for Pagans. Often, the idea comes up that we should have our own temples like our ancient polytheistic predecessors. I know it’s something I’ve even mentioned that I wanted to see. 

 

For various reasons, I don’t see this working out currently. Many Pagans and polytheists have their shrine and practice their religion in the privacy of their own home. There’s not really a need for many folks to have permanent ritual space elsewhere.

 

Additionally, we’re just far too diverse of a community. The religion of a Heathen differs massively from the religion of a Celtic reconstructionist. Both differ massively from Wiccans.

How does one decide what a permanent ritual space should look like or function like?

 

What I think is a better model is the idea of a social club for Pagans or polytheists.

 

Social clubs seem a bit outdated now but they were immensely popular in my grandparents’ and parents’ generation. They’re clubs that are open to members only. Sometimes (as in the case of the Freemasons) they have their own rituals and culture.

 

Others are oriented towards ethnicities (the Ancient Order of the Hibernians) or religions (Knights of Columbus, Jaycees) or community service (Elks, Eagles, Moose, etc.) Some are for veterans (the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars). They often include a lot of charity work but also function as a place to meet and socialize with people of similar values.

 

So my idea is a social or service club for Pagans and polytheists of all varieties, regardless of political affiliation. Perhaps best started in major cities, these can function as meeting places around the country for people like us.

 

No need for rituals or passwords or secret handshakes or robes to be a member.  You pay a yearly membership fee and you’re a member, giving you rights to use the space and access the bar. Additionally, it gives you the right to visit all branches of the organization in various cities.

 

Each will have a hall which is available for rental by members for public rituals or parties. Or perhaps the hall can be rented by Pagan authors or musicians for touring. There can be space for classes for Pagan 101 type classes.

 

There can be a “Witches Ball” type celebration yearly around Samhain for the Wiccan types.

 

There can be programs for kids. There can and should be family-friendly events.

 

A library of books and resources for people.

 

If people want to run events celebrating a holiday either closed to the members or open to the public, they can do so.

 

If you’re a Heathen and you want to run Heathen rituals, you can do. Maybe some can even have some land out back for outdoor rituals.

 

If you’re a Hellenic polytheist (or any other type of polytheist) and you want to educate other Pagans or polytheists about Hellenic polytheism, you can do so. If you have enough people interested, you can do rituals for the various holidays.

 

The club can do various charity work in the area based on what members decide is important. Though I do think there should be an effort to be politically neutral. These clubs cannot be allowed to be whites-only or straights-only. Or even feminists only.

 

I think there should also be attempts to keep it from becoming Wiccan-centric as many Pagan communities are.

 

Each club should have a pub-type area where people can socialize. (Where legal, people can share their home-brewed mead. Maybe we can even have brewing classes.)


There can be monthly potlucks as well for people to eat together.

 

Due to our differences in religion, a temple itself seems like an unrealistic idea. But a social club can bring us together and allow us to have some sort of space where we can be ourselves and network with people like ourselves in a community.

 

Granted, this idea isn’t going to be for everyone. Some people really have no desire to interact with others. That’s OK. But as our religion grows and gets older and more mature, I think we need to focus on building some sort of community despite our differences.

 

So what’s wrong with this idea? Money, first of all. Convincing Pagans to spend money on any sort of infrastructure is difficult. Many Pagans do not have money to spare and those that do perhaps are not interested in such an idea.

 

Then, there’s the possibility of drama and gossip. This isn’t something specific to Pagans, of course, but it definitely occurs once Pagans get together in large groups. If a club becomes too Wiccan-centric, which is liable to happen due to Wiccans being the largest Pagan religion, then it’s likely that non-Wiccans won’t have much of an interest in joining. Particularly polytheists. If it becomes too much of any one thing (say, Heathen), it’s likely to not attract people outside of that in-group.

 

Having Pagans and polytheists get together without politics getting in the way is going to be a challenge, especially in today’s politically-charged climate. While the club will be open to both conservative Heathens and feminist Goddess-worshippers, what happens if the conservative Heathen is folkish and does not believe in allowing non-whites into their rituals? Or a TERF (trans-exclusive radical feminist) that does not believe in allowing trans women into female-only full-moon Dianic rituals?

How will it work to have individuals that believe in strict traditional gender roles (such as males being ‘manly’ mix with Feri types that believe strongly in flouting traditional gender and are often openly queer?

 

These are issues that will have to be dealt with.

 

Right now, it’s just an idea borne out of my frustration of not having a Pagan/polytheist community outside of the Internet. Perhaps it’s something others are interested in as well.

Aphrodite Ritual

•06/16/2017 • 1 Comment

I haven’t been writing a lot about my worship lately. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been doing it.

I’ve been worshipping Aphrodite every Friday.

 

After I shower in the morning, I make khernips (lustral water) to rid myself of miasma. I wash my hands in it and sprinkle the khernips water on my face and body. I light candles (including a beeswax candle) and an olive oil lamp. I dab some holy anointing oil that smells of rose made by local Franciscan friars on my wrists and head.

 

I offer Her cold fresh water, mead, the lamp/candles and myrrh resin incense over charcoal. Sometimes I’ll play tracks from Layne Redmond’s album “Invoking Aphrodite”. Especially the title track (or the dance track version) and/or “The Call” (which is a repeated litany of Her names).

 

I’ll read the Orphic Hymns devoted to Her.

 

Then I talk plainly, thanking Her for Her presence, making requests, if any.

 

I sit and listen for a bit to see if I hear anything. Sometimes, I think I do.

 

I’m also looking to erect an altar to Dionysus and an ancestor altar. I’m currently reading Galina Krasskova’s book on ancestor worship for opening steps in that direction.

 

I know what to offer family members that I was especially close with but not older ones that I never knew well or only knew as a child.

Munchies: The Cider That Came From Beyond the Grave

•06/14/2017 • Leave a Comment

I really enjoyed this article on Munchies about cider.  It’s got nothing directly to do with polytheism.

But as a fermenter, it resonated with me.

 

Gods In Our Media

•06/12/2017 • Leave a Comment

Recently, Galina Krasskova posted about how movies like “Wonder Woman” and TV shows such as “American Gods” that tell stories of or depict our beloved deities were impious.

 

My comment was as follows:

 

I have complex feelings about “American Gods”, the TV show.

I loved the book when it came out but I was much more of a Neo-Pagan than a polytheist back then. (I had previously loved the author’s graphic novel series “Sandman” because it had excellent storytelling and featured gods and beings from ancient religions.)

I was very excited when they announced the show. I think the casting is excellent but there’s just something about the show that I’m not liking. It’s too ‘stylistic’. Rather than presenting the story in a straightforward manner, there’s all sorts of artistic embellishes which takes away from the series a bit for me.

Additionally, I think the blood and gore is over-the-top. It’s like an artsy Peckinpah. Knowing the story, I understand that blood and sacrifice are an essential aspect of the plot. So yeah, I expect some blood. I’m not offended by blood. I just think it’s treated in an almost pornographic way here, which takes me out of the reality of the show.

Having said that, I think the beginning of Episode 3 where we first see Anubis is probably one of the best depictions of polytheism in popular culture as of yet.

As far as whether or not these pieces of media are pollutive, I think American Gods..like Wonder Woman…are intended to be interpretations of popular pieces of media (Gaiman’s book and the Wonder Woman comics, respectively).

Does it impart a respectful polytheistic attitude towards the gods? No. But I think art such as these gets one’s foot in the door, so to speak, for people to potentially seek a relationship with the gods. From there, it’s possible that people will seek more information about the gods and find modern polytheistic religions and respectful information about how to have a pious relationship. Or perhaps they’ll open the wrong door and end up on tumblr.

How do most people born into this polluted monotheistic culture end up finding our way the gods? Yes, for many of us it was because we read mythology as a kid. Or saw the classic “Clash of the Titans”. But for some people, the entry point is going to things like the Thor movies. Or American Gods. Or Wonder Woman. Or comic books.

Though maybe these pop culture versions of our gods do not impart a healthy or respectful attitude…but if it gets people interested in polytheism in the long run, I support it.

I wrote that before I saw “Wonder Woman”. But then, when I saw the movie Saturday, I audibly made a noise of disapproval near the beginning when it was revealed that Ares killed off all the gods but Zeus.

Not only is that horrible from a religious perspective, but also from a comics fan perspective. I was hoping to see the gods be more involved in Diana’s heroism.

But even after watching the movie, I still stand by the belief that such media helps to function as an entry point into the gods, which is sorely needed. Especially if it inspires children to get into mythology.

That said, there’s an awful lot of bad depictions of the gods out there. Between “Wonder Woman” and “Thor” (which again, to be fair, are depictions of the comic book characters), “American Gods” (depiction of the book), the Percy Jackson books and movies, and “Clash of the Titans”, there aren’t any GOOD depictions of the gods.

I definitely appreciate Krasskova’s perspective. I have a deep respect for her writing on devotional polytheism and on ancestor work, but rather than criticize these depictions for being impious, I think it’s more constructive to focus on a well-done depiction. I would love to see an animated series (perhaps on YouTube) of the Hellenic mythos. To keep those stories going for the generations.

If I were an artist, I would work on this myself. I’m not.

One of the advantages of the Internet and online media is that anyone can create something and post it for the world to see. My prayer is that polytheists with a love of the ancient myths and the stories of our beloved gods that have talent in art are inspired to create such projects.

Ancestor Worship

•06/07/2017 • Leave a Comment

Lately, I have been feeling the pull of ancestor veneration. That’s probably pretty obvious considering my recent posts about my heritage.

 

I went down to NJ to help my father move out of his old house during his 70th birthday this weekend. He was going to get rid of all of our old photo albums and other personal effects that it hurt him too much to be reminded of. (My mother passed back in 1999 but it’s still painful for him to look at those photos.)

 

Naturally I took as much as I could, including photo albums, my mother’s old artwork, wall-hangings from the house I grew up in, a painting by my great-great-grandfather, and the afghan my great-grandmother knitted for my mother.

 

I wish I had had more time. I wanted to do some grave visitings. I feel like a bad descendant sometimes because I pretty much never get to Jersey. There are even some graves I’ve never visited.

 

I haven’t seen my paternal grandmother’s grave since she passed (though I saw it often as a kid after my grandfather passed). I haven’t seen either of the great-grandmothers that I knew. I’d like to change that.

 

The photos will help me start on this path. This, to me, seemed like an excellent omen. As if the gods were opening up this path for me.

Of Axe and Plough-The Realization of Polytheism

•06/02/2017 • Leave a Comment

Excellent post by thelettuceman over at Of Axe and Plough.