“Respect rather than politics; relationality rather than ethics; interpretation rather than scientific facts.”

An excellent post by P.S.V.L. on the purpose of religion from a polytheist viewpoint, and how it’s all too common to “[mistake] the separate fields of science, ethics (a branch of philosophy), and politics for religion, when in fact none of these are synonymous…”  A lot to think about here- it’s long but well thought out and worth a read.  I’m going to have to give it a good re-read at some point…  It’s certainly going to inform part 2 of my thoughts on the so-called “Maxims of the Fianna”

W&P #32 – Polytheism

I just finished reading the Polytheism issue of Witches and Pagans, and it’s a winner.*  As well as a mind-expanding essay by Edward Butler and good solid pieces by Gus DiZerega, Galina Krasskovka, Niki Whiting and Silence Maestas, there was an excellent letter from John Beckett on what makes religion work.

* Of course, I’m also happy that there’s a review and a poem by yours truly in it… 😉

Many or One

Many or One

Her hand turns, the wheel (Her cross) spins,
And Mystery revolves into view.  Many Faces
Of one Power?  Many Voices in one Choir?
I do not, cannot know.  All I can say is:
Each Name- Healer, Warrior, Muse, Midwife,
Smith, Hearthkeeper; Exalted and Keening,
Flame and Well, on and on into mist and flicker-
Is unique, yet each is also Brigid.  No
Choice of mine which way the chance falls,
But Hers to decide; the road of approach,
The easy and the hard paths all are
Hers in this; and if after I pass from Time
To Her embrace I am indulged by Her and
She chooses to whisper the riddle’s
Answer to me, that’s enough- I will wait.

Shameless Self-Promotion

Just wanted to give everyone a heads up here:  I’ll have a book review and a poem published in the June issue of Witches and Pagans magazine.

I’d be excited about this issue anyway- the theme is Polytheism: Many Gods, Many Paths, and there looks to be some really good stuff in there.

You can pre-order through the link… or check with your local Pagan/Esoteric/etc. store to see when they’ll be getting it in (or give them a mournful, pleading look if they tell you they don’t carry it 😉 ).

Hierarchy

Soo, apparently there’s this article on Radicals with Gods (John Beckett’s apposite name for Gods and Radicals) about “confronting the New Right”.  In general, there’s a lot to agree with about the dangers of the New Right… but the author goes too far in giving a whole list of Pagan and Polytheist traditions that are “vulnerable” to its cryptofascist insinuations.  It’s a classic piece of trolling, complete with deniability, and is especially insidious when you know that RWG has its own leftist/anarchist touchstones and “if you aren’t with us, you’re against us” stance.  A lot of others have already called them out on this in detail, so I don’t need to here.

However, I want to go into one point they made:  apparently, Devotional Polytheism is vulnerable to the New Right because it “emphasizes hierarchical relationships” (gasp!) “between human and god, priest and devotee”.  Beckett (in his article linked above) ably explains how hierarchy within human relationships is necessary and important in some cases, but I want to go a step further.

The Gods are not human.  The Gods are greater than humans- in power, in knowledge, in vision, in perspective, in so many things.  Of course we’re in a hierarchical relationship with them!  I firmly believe that we retain our agency and sovereignty in dealings with them (and I for one believe that if we didn’t, They wouldn’t want to have relationships with us), but still… They are greater than us.  Does recognition of that make us somehow more vulnerable to hijacking by the New Right?  No.

Interfaith Challenges – “Common Ground” Isn’t

An excellent discussion of interfaith in Pagan contexts. Hospitality is a much better basis than “common ground”.

EmberVoices: Listening for the Vanir

Much of my work is interfaith either deliberately or incidentally. Representing small, mostly-modern, polytheistic, animistic, sex-positive, radically inclusive faith traditions in a context where most folks are at best quietly politically moderate, and almost entirely monotheistic, presents a number of challenges.

You’d think the biggest would be the polytheist vs. monotheist gap, and I suppose it could be if I pushed the polytheism more in those contexts, but mostly I don’t. I’m well aware that it takes more than explanations to get someone’s brain to flip that particular switch, and I don’t see any reason why they should be obliged to understand, as long as they aren’t rude when they don’t. Most aren’t rude – or are least not intentionally.

What I find to be the biggest conflict is actually the constant push to find “Common Ground”. It’s pretty easy for Christians to find common ground amongst themselves, and not…

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Poem

[Something I wrote a couple of months ago…]

We cannot do this: see the world as They do-
Somewhat removed from time, suspended in
A suffusing, after-storm light, wet gold
In the west; a renewal even at sunset,
A promise more freighted with subtle awe
Than a rainbow; a pregnant peace, cloud-
Formed magic on high meeting the damp below.

Or as She sees it, as all Muses do-
All things as words to a poem, parts
To the greater work, fuel or tool or
Metal ready for the forge; gems to set
Just so, refracting; the shape emerging
Under patient hands, carved or pulled
Or picked out by paint, shaded into life.

But They cannot (choose not?) to touch direct
The world of hours; upswing, downfall,
Chrysalis-change; our senses are the ones
To take in this dust and delight, our hands
The only to mold the mortal; They may guide, order,
Even drive our actions, but our blood, brains,
Will and thews are the means of making.

Prayer to Brigid

Your hands on mine, Your flame surrounding me,
I ache with the sunlit joy of Your presence.
Bright Star of the Morning, teach me to be still,
To be steady, to faintly follow Your path
Heralding the dawn, drawing up the sun
From the gentle mantle of the night.
Let me find the ways to be aidful in places
Of pain, whether strength of arm or back or will
Is needed; or instead (deceptively simple) to be
Silent, calm, standing there steadfast,
A guidepost, a mirror, a warm hand in darkness
Or cool water from the well on lips or brow.

History, Paganism, and St. Patrick

I happened across this very interesting article the other day:

Pagans, Polytheists, and St. Patrick’s Day

The author raises some very valid points about the rise of Christianity in Ireland, and how it (from a historical perspective at least) doesn’t seem to match many narratives provided by myth, legend, and (it must be admitted) by the Pagan  community itself.  They go on to point out that the historical Patrick is hardly an inquisitorial boogeyman or fire-and-brimstone crusader.  I can also agree with the need to reconcile my polytheistic self with my monotheistic ancestors.

But the author underplays the role of Patrick in the Christian myth of Ireland.  Whether or not you buy into the “casting out the snakes = casting out the Druids/Pagans”, the mythic and symbolic function of Patrick is that of the foe of Irish paganism, an overthrower of idols, a curser of kingdoms. The author says that this is outweighed by the cultural role of Patrick in holding together the Irish diaspora.  If this was just a matter of culture, I would agree… but religion is not just (or even mostly) that, at least not for me.  I’m not a reconstructionist, I’m a relational polytheistic Pagan, and the mythic weight of Patrick means that he doesn’t work for me as a symbol.

Besides, the historical Patrick wasn’t even Irish.  Brigid, who with Her holy fire bridged the gap and exists in both Pagan and Christian worlds, is a much better path of reconciliation.  My devotion to Her is already known to anyone who reads this blog, so I admit my bias- but do not apologize for it.

They make masks

They make Their masks from us-
Our deepest thoughts, words
New-forged in our souls’ fires,
Kindled by Them in our heads.
We change; how dare we say
That They do not (or cannot)?
It is not we who alter Them-
They choose anew the parts of us
To make Their faces, add and
Subtract us as They will, while
We learn to hold still, stop
To listen and see, to prise
Open the least peephole into
The camera obscura, that Their
Chosen image may be printed
Upon us, catching dustmotes
In a beam too bright to bear.

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