Monthly Archives: June 2014

How Great is a God?

Every now and again, I hear (or read) someone debating whether or not the gods are greater than us. Whether they’re more valuable, more important than we are, as if such things had an objective value. This often comes up when people debate what it means to worship the gods.

For many, the word “worship” carries unfortunate connotations of self-negation, cultural baggage from some mainstream monotheistic religions. It brings to mind an image of a self-abasing sinner, grovelling before an infinitely superior God.

Many people who came to Paganism stayed because so many of our traditions encourage us to stand proud before the gods. Some even encourage us to approach them as near-equals, at least in terms of adults dealing with their parents, and in opposition to the idea of being little children or slaves or chattel before God.

But are we near-equals to the gods? They’re bigger, older, certainly. Hopefully, they’re also wiser. More powerful, yes, but their power is subtle and wide. I have never seen (and do not expect to ever see) obvious divine interventions, flashes of lightning striking down unbelievers and that sort of thing.

I think that, in a sense, their human-like faces and human-speech names are only the smallest part of what they are. They’re the entry points we have for connecting with the vastness of whatever they are when we aren’t looking at them.

Dionysos is the feeling of being drunk, He’s the diziness and sweat of hours of dancing, He’s the transcendent experience of having one’s mind completly blown by orgasm. He’s the grape growing on the vine and the yeast turning fructose into alcohol and the flavor of the wine. He’s the terror that hounds the detoxing addict, the bugs under the skin, and it’s His wrath that throws a person to rock bottom. He’s the swell of power a performer feels on stage and the awe of witnessing a great performance and the electric thrill between the two that fills the hall.

He’s all these things. The somehow masculine yet effiminate yet gender ambiguous young man with the panther robes and the bottomless amphora of wine and the mad, passionate, purple eyes I see in visions and the gentle voice that rings in my head are the smallest fraction of what He is.

To worship a god, then, is to make a companion of that small part, so as to surround oneself with the whole. I worship Dionysos-the-person not because He’s some super-human to whom I owe something. I worship Dionysos-the-person because it’s the way I make myself part of all the larger things that Dionysos-the-divine-spirit is.

It’s not about making myself worthy. It’s about how I make myself big enough for him to fit into.

A Gift from the Dead

I’ve been talking a lot about the ancestors since I started this blog, which is nominally about my relationship with Dionysos. I hadn’t planned it that way, but it seems to where my work is, lately. It makes some sense, because I do believe that a good relationship with the ancestors is part of a a good polytheist practice. After all, at core, polytheism seems to be about having strong personal relationships with the beings that move behind the various parts of the world we live in, yeah?

I took it as a sign that I’m on the right track, when I was given several things while I was away last month. I’d traveled to the Midwest to see my son graduate from high school and visit family in the area. While on that visit, my sister and brother-in-law gave me a box of stuff left for me when my dad died, a few years ago. It had been sitting in a closet, waiting to be shipped to me, but until I started doing ancestor writing on this blog, it had been forgotten.

I don’t know how closely my family reads this blog. Maybe my sister was reminded of the box when she saw me going on (and on) about the ancestors. Maybe They nudged her, once They noticed I was paying attention (finally). Either way…

The box contained a lot of stuff. Old sketchbooks and photos and such from my childhood and twenties that I thought were lost forever. High school yearbooks of mine, and my mother’s, and my father’s. Other random bits, including some of my mother’s writing I’d never seen.

The big thing was the photo book. It was probably made several years ago, for my grandfather’s memorial. Within it are reprints of old family photos, names and dates included, and a story about where my grandfather came from. My family tree, on my father’s side, going back four or five generations is in those words and pictures. Names half-remembered from family stories I’d forgotten. Information on where the family had lived before my father’s father and mother moved to the city after World War Two.

Things I thought I may never know, given to me from a forgotten box in a closet that had once belonged to my father.

The ancestors are always with us. They’re listening. If you ask them, the dead will tell you their stories, which are the prologue to your story.

Support Pagan Authors

Support your community, so your community can continue to be of support to you.

Morpheus Ravenna, of Banshee Arts and the Shieldmaiden blog, is writing a book on the Morrigan, and devotion to her in history and in modern polytheism. Morpheus is an artist, scholar, and priest of the Morrigan with a solid grounding in history and current practices. She’s been working with Coru Cathubodua to bring this devotion to modern Pagans.

It’s called The Book of the Great Queen, and she has an IndieGoGo page for it. The campaign reached their first funding goal within 72 hours, and now they’re working on their stretch goals. If you’re at all interested in the Morrigan, in Celtic paganism grounded in reality, or in the growth of modern polytheism, you should consider tossing a few bucks her way.

When I was working in an occult bookstore, customers kept asking us where they could find “advanced” books. This is where the advanced books come from: individuals of passion who are willing to forgo more steady-paying work in order to try and share what they know with others. And seeing as one can’t pay the rent with draft copies of one’s devotionals, they sometimes need a little help to keep things going.

Pagan and Occult publishing is a very small market, and while there are plenty of folks who want more, there aren’t enough who are able to pay for it. So the big (relative to the market) publishers keep the lights on by turning out 101 books, spell recipe books, and so on.

There are an increasing number of small presses taking advantage of the technology available for e-books and small-run, print-on-demand services to meet this need; Concrescent Press, who will publish The Book of the Great Queen, is one. We’re so used to the benefits of economies of scale that we sometimes forget about them. When the costs and risks of publishing can be spread across hundreds of titles and sold to thousands of readers, it becomes easier for a publisher to carry a wide variety of titles, and for them to use the sales of widely popular mid-list titles to subsidize the smaller runs of more specialized titles.

Modern Pagans lose sight of how few we really are. According to one source, there were only about 768,400 of us in the United States in the year 2000. We’ve been growing fast, but I’d be surprised to find that the number is more than two million now. This is still less than one percent of the national population, spread out over the whole country. We’re just not big enough for economies of scale to kick in to the extent that we can just expect that someone, sometime, will get around to publishing what we need. On our scale, this means that our publishers can’t pay the kinds of advances that allow authors to take time off and focus everything on finishing their books.

It means that we have to give these authors and these publishers more support than just being willing to pay the cover price when something eventually gets published. It means that we have to chip in a bit of effort, a bit of cash, and a chunk of gratitude. We have to support our authors, so our authors can afford to write the books we need.

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