Monthly Archives: December 2014

Home is Where the…

Have you encountered any obstacles as a result of your religion?

If you’re asking whether or not I’ve faced oppression from the mainstream world because of my Paganism, the answer is, “Surprisingly little.” Really, even when I lived in Iowa, I encountered confused looks more often than angry glares. When the police came by because someone had reported suspicious looking people cavorting in the park at night, they were actually pretty relaxed about things, once they saw that we weren’t hiding bodies, doing drugs, or setting fire to the trees.

Sadly, the majority of problems I’ve encountered as a result of my Paganism have come from other Pagans.

There were the “you’re doing it wrong, but we won’t tell you how to do it right” folks, back when I was a baby witch and just starting out. When it was just me, two friends, a couple of books, and the internet, for every one person who was willing and able to help a new kid out, there were six who clearly didn’t know any better than I did (which didn’t keep them from writing volumes on it), and three who would tsk and tut disapprovingly, but refuse to help.

The numbers are better now, with maybe three helful folks, four clueless folks, and one disapproving voice out of every ten.

Then there were the one-true-wayists, the Pagan fundamentalists who would show up at our meetings and argue pointlessly about how we were ignorant because we didn’t already agree with them. The fact that we weren’t doing it the right way was proof that we were posers who had no contact with the gods, because if we did, the gods would have told us to do it the way the one-true-wayists did it. Honestly, I have had fewer problems with Christian fundamentalists than I have had with the Pagan/Polytheist variety.

These people are still around, mind you, and they’re on all sides of the debate. Just read back over the last year’s “debates” over Polytheism, wiccanate privilege, and Humanist Paganism.

The worst are the ones who use their religion (whatever that religion is) as an excuse to justify their bad behavior. In the Pagan community, this is the sex offender who claims that the rules don’t apply to them, because all sex is sacred. This is the wounded veteran who and wraps up in a cloak of Born Warrior Macho Aggression when the flashbacks get too painful. This is the old guard priest/ess who uses a position of trust and authority to spread hate when the next generation goes to follow their own dreams, rather than those of the old guard. I could go on, but you get the idea.

Strangers are relatively far away, and not usually in a place to generate conflict. It’s my neighbors who have the greatest opportunity to rub me the wrong way.

My lover Ember and I have decided to go through Galina Krasskova’s Devotional Polytheist Meme questions together, over the next several months. We encourage our friends to follow along, and welcome links to other people’s answers in our comments, as well as your thoughts on our answers. Ember’s answer can be found at her blog, Embervoices.

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We Need a Dionysian Revolution

Let me be clear. There can be no “business as usual” until justice is restored.

Those who rule this land–the few, the obscenely wealthy, the kingmakers whose cash buys elections and appointments–have made clear that they value money and property more than either the quality or the preservation of human lives. Indeed, they are more than willing to use fear and force to make some people hurt and kill other people, in order to prevent windows from being broken.

Windows will be broken. Cars will be burned. Stores will be looted.

These things will happen because the ones who stole justice from us care more about things than about people. They have made the possession and distribution of things the foundation of their house, and so if their house is to fall, it is things that must be attacked.

Dionysos sent the women of Thebes mad because the King repressed the god’s revolution. He broke open a prison by visiting an earthquake on the city. I have no doubt he would smash windows, inspire unrest, and otherwise disrupt “business as usual” to redress injustice and bring liberation.

Whatever revolution there may be cannot succeed by attacking people, it must attack the base of their power. They don’t care about people. People are cheap; they can always buy more. Besides, every time one of the people who serve them is harmed, they turn that person into a martyr for their cause, a distraction from targets they really value.

This is, in fact, why they encourage their people incite violence. It’s why they glorify violence with the media they own. They take advantage of fear of the Other, the one who is different, the one who is not-white, not-straight, not-mainstream in order to keep us fighting each other instead of fighting them. It’s why “anarchist,” “socialist,” and “feminist” are made into insults and defined in ways that have nothing to do with their actual meaning.

We don’t need a Dionysian revolution to get high and get laid; we had that one, it served its purpose.

We need a Dionysian revolution in what we value, what we desire, in what matters to us. We need a Dionysian revolution to burn away the preoccupations with race and class and “acceptable” behavior that they use to keep us too separate to unite against them. We need a Dionysian revolution to bring us to value people more than things, experiences more than commodities, authenticity more than status.

We need a Dionysian revolution to allow us to feel the pain of living under the dominion of those who value property over life, to give us the courage to feel that pain rather than numb it with consumption and petty hatreds. We need a revolution to free in us the joy in living, in being, in doing. A revolution to teach us that breaking windows is better than breaking heads. That losing privilege is better than keeping racism, sexism, and the structures that hold some of us as worth more than others.

We need a Dionysian revolution to undo the habits learned by being forced to grow up living by their rules. Because if we don’t have that revolution, then any other will just replace the names at the top of the list, and change nothing.


Wrath Management

How does your tradition handle wrathful, savage and destructive divinities?

Are there any other kind? Perhaps there are, but even Jesus would snap a whip and flip a table, on occasion. Just look at my lord Dionysos: He’s been known to strike entire cities mad, and on occasion inspire mothers to dismember their sons.

And his extended extended family… These are powers who will curse you, your children, your grandchildren, and your great-grandchildren if they think you’ve dissed them. If they aren’t trying to rape someone, they’re turning them into a spider or a tree or what-have-you, or inspiring them to go to war. These beings have quick tempers, long memories, and wicked imaginations.

And those are the ones who are on our side.

I’m not saying this is a good thing, or that it’s the way I would have designed the world. I’m saying that it simply is. When an earthquake hits, there’s no use charging up to the fault line and demanding the Earth pay for repairs to your house. Shouting at the rain won’t keep you dry.

If you live long enough, everyone you love will die.

But while we’re here, life can be glorious. We can fill our world with as much life and love as we can. We can live lives that people will remember when we’re gone. We can leave this world a better place than it was when we came into it, and, with luck, our descendants will have a slightly easier time of it than we did.

If there are gods, and they are like I believe them to be (I could always be wrong about this), then part of living glorious, love-filled, memorable lives is living in harmony with them. And to do this, we must always remember:

The gods are not moral exemplars. They are not there to demonstrate how humans should live human lives.

So the first answer I have for the question is:

Don’t emulate them.
Really, Zeus may decide to strike someone with lightning because he doesn’t like their taste in hats, but it’s not like the police are going to haul him in for it. You or I, on the other hand, not only risk prosecution, but (unless one of us is practiced in throwing punches) will possibly hurt ourselves in the process. An ugly hat just isn’t worth the pain and legal fees.

Our ancestors came to know the gods by observing the world. They noticed that the rain falls on the just and unjust alike, and that seaside cliffs will crumble under your feet regardless of how much you give to charity. They did not believe that these events were random, but they were certainly willing to believe they were arbitrary or capricious. Well, maybe, which brings me to my second answer:

Don’t give them an excuse.
Don’t tempt fate, in other words. The gods can be touchy and easily offended, whether you meant it or not. They’re also very big, and very strong, and not always worried about collateral damage. They’re wise (most of them, except the ones who aren’t), but that doesn’t mean they don’t make hasty choices or ill-considered plans. They’re also bound by fate, perhaps more than mortals, and they can’t always fix what they’ve broken. Not tempting fate generally comes down to two things:

Stay right with the gods.
I’m not saying you can buy your way out of trouble with good deeds. At least, not easily–remember the horseshit Heracles had to deal with? However, chances are that your gods (whoever they are) have expressed some idea of how mortals should relate to them. At the very least, mythology can be instructive as to what not to do.

Our relationship with the gods is reciprocal, but not necessarily quid pro quo. Some gods like haggling and favor-trading, others do not (consult your manual or local expert for details), but basically the idea is to give to them that they may give to us, and to refrain from offending them that they may refrain from harming us. It’s not a guarantee, but it can’t hurt. See the bold text, above. Sometimes, a god (or other power, like the land you live on or the spirits of your ancestors and so on) will be offended by some little thing you didn’t know you did. If you’re on the good side of the rest of them, though, they might be inclined to intervene on your behalf. Which isn’t to say you’ll never have problems, but things should usually even out, over the long haul.

Stay right with everyone else, too.
Gods play favorites. Maybe you’re the favorite of one or more gods. If so, good for you. Remember, though, it works the same for other people, too. The gods that favor them will sometimes punish those who wrong their favorites; more often, they’ll give their favorites what seems to you to be an unfair advantage. So be good to your friends and family, be fair to strangers, and be cautious with enemies. Take responsibility for your actions, and their effects. Don’t leave others to clean up your messes.

You know, Don’t be a dick.

As with staying right with the gods, there are no guarantees, and you’ll never make friends with everyone or get through life without offending someone. Still, if most of the people you interact with come away with a good impression, you will probably have more friends (mortal and otherwise) than you know. That’s never a bad thing.

Finally…
Some days, you just can’t get rid of a bomb.
Face it, we’re mortal. There’s a lot we can’t do, and there are a lot of forces in the world we can’t do anything about. Above all else, cultivate an attitude of being grateful for your good fortune, and grateful that your bad fortune wasn’t worse. Move on, as best you can, and get help when you need to.

Bad things happen. It doesn’t help to give up and wallow in the horseshit.

My lover Ember and I have decided to go through Galina Krasskova’s Devotional Polytheist Meme questions together, over the next several months. We encourage our friends to follow along, and welcome links to other people’s answers in our comments, as well as your thoughts on our answers. Ember’s answer can be found at her blog, Embervoices.


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