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.

Ezili Freda

Disclaimer: I’m not a vodouisant. My experiences with the lwa have been primarily in the context of Global Spirits ceremonies. Anything I say in this post is based on those experiences and on UPG, and is only tangentially relevant at most to Haitian Vodou practice or belief.

Ezili Freda is a lwa concerned with love, beauty, abundance, the feminine, and many other things. She has been part of my spiritual life for some years now (how this happened is a subject for another post), and when she shows up at UToS services, she almost always interacts with me.

Anyone who knows me should not be surprised that I wrote a poem for her:

Freda

Surrounded by a thousand splendors, she weeps
(Heart stabbed with a jeweled dagger),
And all the riches we heap at her feet
Cannot hold back the storm. Not so much
For what we offer (or how we fall short)
But for what is not- all the lost gems,
Sparkling teardrops, moments and hours,
Caresses and words that never manifest;
Beauty or truth or love withered or unspoken,
The wonder that could be, if only, if only…
That is enough reason to fill each hot salt drop,
Yet her heart breaks, too, for us-
Our turned backs, closed eyes, shuttered hearts.
She sees, in vivid, almost painful glow,
The true wonder we mostly miss. Her tears fall
For herself, for the world- and for us.

9/30/2009

A common aspect of a Freda possession, if it goes on long enough, is that she begins to weep, to sob inconsolably, as if her heart is breaking. I’ve seen it, and it is truly affecting… It’s that sort of crying that makes you want to do anything to make it better, to make her feel better. But you can’t. Nothing can stop the tears, and she sobs until the possession ends.

One meaning of this is that nothing is ever good enough for her, that she wants a perfection we can’t achieve. The goalposts keep moving. The last time this happened at a ceremony, I had a sudden realization: this is similar to the way I feel when dealing with my beloved’s depression- I can’t fix it, I can’t help. We had been going through a particularly bad patch around that time, and the revelation broke me for a bit. Freda saw this, and immediately shifted gears; she held me and comforted me while I cried, and somehow it was better. I have learned now that I can call on her to help me when I’m backed into that sort of corner.

For me, there’s also what I was trying to say in the poem- that she is weeping for all the love and beauty that never makes it, or that we miss because “the world is too much with us”. And there is another important lesson here:

Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

If we get bound up with making every last detail exactly right before we do something, we may never do anything. If we get hung up on everything being photo-realistically the way we planned it, we will not be ready when the inevitable randomness of the world intrudes. If we try to control all our experience, we will distort it. And in the end, we will end up weeping in the midst of riches that we can’t see through our tears.

The secret is to do. Get everything as lined up and prepared as you can, certainly; do the best that you are capable of doing, absolutely. Push outside your comfort zone- “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp — or what’s a heaven for?” But at some point you need to say “Enough”- to go ahead, and trust in the spirits and in your path, and accept the downpour and the falling petals as part of the whole. And always, always, remember why you are doing what you do.

And because we, the lwa (and all the Powers), and spiritual truth itself are all multiple and multifaceted, all three of the above interpretations (and many more) are all real and right at the same time. Isn’t that beautiful?

Aye Ezili Freda! Ayibobo!

Guest post – good questions about cultural appropriation

My lovely spouse, Monster Alice, came across this thought-provoking article:

Cornrows, Kwanzaa and Confusion: The Dilemma of Cultural Racism and Misappropriation

– and asked a number of even more thought-provoking questions.  I got her permission to cobble all of this together and post it here:

More

Helping the victims

http://blog.dianarajchel.com/2014/04/24/how-perfectly-nice-people-contribute-to-rape-and-molestation-triggerpalooza-kids/

(as noted in the URL itself, kinda triggery)

Some wise words*, especially good advice on helping the victims.  Good collection of links at the end, too.

(found this on Facing the Fires Within)

*although I agree with Ember’s comment about non-professionals staying out of investigations…

Predators in our community – Monday blogging

Very good post, relevant both to the current situation and to the topic in general.

LEAN IN TO JOY with BONEWEAVER

There is so much to say and so little coherence in me right now. Recent dredging up of past events because of current ones is not a bad thing if used as an example for how to correctly have conversations going forward about abusers in our community. Getting stuck in the quarreling over that past event is counterproductive and rarely moves that conversation forward.

That doesn’t mean everyone should shut up about it. It means finger pointing backwards in time at those you believe didn’t do enough or did too much when there was no template in place for how to speak of abuse in our community doesn’t promote the conversation we need to have. There was no template for accountability when legal authorities weren’t involved (or yet involved)  and the rehashing of blame only stalls the conversation at the point of the past crisis. Stalled means we stay where…

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Some wisdom from Pope Francis

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/frame_game/2013/09/pope_francis_interview_forget_homosexuality_and_birth_control_he_s_a_flaming.html

Even allowing for translation issues, this article is quite fascinating (and gives me some hope).

Also, some words of wisdom to be applied to all faiths (Paganism included):

If the Christian is a restorationist, a legalist, if he wants everything clear and safe, then he will find nothing. Tradition and memory of the past must help us to have the courage to open up new areas to God. Those who today always look for disciplinarian solutions, those who long for an exaggerated doctrinal ‘security,’ those who stubbornly try to recover a past that no longer exists­—they have a static and inward-directed view of things. In this way, faith becomes an ideology among other ideologies.

Just substitute “Pagan” (or whatever subset of Paganism you choose) for “Christian”, “they” (or the pronoun you choose) for “he”, and “the Gods” (or whatever term you choose to use for the Powers you follow) for God… and think about it.

Poem

Somewhat relevant to my comment on my last reblog:

Easy, far too easy to flip the switch-
Black to white or night to day or
You to us.  Poison comfort, the smooth,
Swift, foot-worn fall, no finish
But impact; well-traveled but only safe
As known end on the butcher’s block
Is safe.  The mad surge down the
(Self-made) one-way desolation road
Ignores the real, the many and multiplying
Unstable lights and shades of the cycling hours,
The myriad colors manifesting the restless world,
The danced flow of discourse, mind to mind,
Heart to heart; hand touching hand, accepting
Humbly, that truth cannot be reduced:
Is single, is plural, is static and shifting,
Layer on layer, webbed with wonder.

 

9/22/13