Posted by: aediculaantinoi | January 15, 2013

Is Somebody Talking About Me?

Yes, apparently, they are…and, most of it is good!

First off, Sannion just did a review of All-Soul, All-Body, All-Love, All-Power: A TransMythology, often known around these parts as “the Tetrad book,” which you can find here. It is physically and mentally difficult for me to take praise of this caliber, so I thank him for honoring me with his words and his endorsement! He didn’t quite get my gender correct, but otherwise, it’s a much appreciated effort! I hope to return the favor in the not-too-distant future once I’ve read Strange Spirits, and look forward to the opportunity to do so!

(Also: I wonder if I should start compiling reviews of my books on The Red Lotus Library’s page? I may just do that in the not-too-distant future…)

However, the thing which is garnering a lot of attention elsewhere is the recent Patheos.com Pagan Channel “Queer I Stand” column that I did, “Bringing Back the Gods.”

First up, Christine Hoff Kraemer did a kind of response to it on her Patheos.com blog, Sermons from the Mound, which can be found here. This is a resoned and important response, and perhaps I will address some aspects of it in a future post…we shall see.

I also got a mention (perhaps my first?!?) in Chas Clifton’s blog, Letters from Hardscrabble Creek, in a discussion of Gerald Gardner’s relationship (or lack thereof) with polytheism, which can be found here. It is, thus, interesting and timely that the discourse on the place of polytheism in modern paganism comes with a discussion of the fact that Gardner, the founder of the most prominent form of modern paganism, Wicca, was not himself a polytheist to make the point that marginalization of a polytheist viewpoint in the wider discourse of paganism is, in fact, a problem, and one that may indeed stem from the religious viewpoint of the founder of the religion!

And finally for the moment: as everyone who actually knows me realizes right off the bat: I’m a total Nazi fundamentalist. Yes, it’s true–that is, if you read the blog post and comments found here. I’ve rarely seen a more deliberate attempt to obscure, misunderstand, and misread something I’ve written, Godwin’s Law notwithstanding. In any case, if you feel the need to comment there, please don’t be as ignorant of what I actually said as the original poster or the subsequent commenters have been, and try to play as nicely as possible in doing so–while reasoned argument may not win out in the end, one can at least try.

There may be others, but these are the big ones that have come to my attention lately. If there are more in the near future, I’ll try and note them here, too.


Responses

  1. I seriously wish that people would drop the phrase ‘Pagan fundamentalist’ from their vocabularies; it’s so incredibly inaccurate and mostly petty. It’s even worse that I’ve seen the likes of Ronald Hutton throwing the phrase around. Fundamentalist is one of those terms that, technically speaking, has a very specific meaning- mostly in regard to particular forms of Christianity- but is quickly descending into meaninglessness because of over-use. In that way, it’s like ‘Nazi’, an epithet people throw out far more casually than they should.

    • Very much agreed…

      I have no notion whatsoever how “acknowledges gods as actually existing” equates to “fundamentalist.” I thought, for most forms of polytheism, that was just sort of “normal,” or even “baseline” in certain respects.

      I guess, being I’m a horrible Nazi, I just can’t possibly understand how wrong I am, but anyway… ;)

  2. Did any of the people who commented and agreed with the post in that last link actually read your article, or did they just nod yesyes to the blog pot criticizing it? Somehow, I think it’s the former.

    • Indeed, I think that’s exactly it…

      It’s sort of the equivalent of saying “Well done, sir! I have no idea what you just did, or why I’m congratulating you, but there we are! Cheerio!” (I don’t know why I’ve gone immediately to Python-esque Upper Class Twit of the Year with this, but the level of ignorance in each seems appropriate, at least to me, at present…!?!)

  3. You’re a fundamentalist? What?! Why didn’t you ever tell me?!

    (I really wish keyboards supported interrobangs. It would be entirely useful here.)
    ;)

  4. “… Gardner, the founder of the most prominent form of modern paganism, Wicca, was not himself a polytheist … marginalization of a polytheist viewpoint in the wider discourse … may indeed stem from the religious viewpoint of the founder of the religion!”

    I think Clifton’s point was to point out little influence Gardner had on the development of Wicca and, later, Paganism. Doreen Valiente, the Farrars, and for that matter, Robert Graves, probably had more of an influence — and polytheism (of one form or another) is prominent in all of their writings.

    Both in this post and your earlier one, in which you suggest that Paganism was (self-)characterized as a “nature religion” to avoid the stigma of (hard) polytheism, you seem to imply that hard polytheism was significant in the early years of Paganism (1940’s-50’s is we’re talking about Wicca, or 1960’s-70’s if were talking about Neopaganism). But everything I have read indicates that the growth of hard polytheism in the Pagan community really began in the 1990s and took off in the last 10 years or less. I think this is indicated (but not proven) by Adler’s work as well as the dearth of polytheistic publishing until the last six or so years. What is your impression on this?

    • I wasn’t implying that at all, and I’m not sure how you’re finding that implication.

      The polytheists that I was referring to, from whom many modern pagans take their inspiration, were figures like Julian the Apostate, Plutarch, Plato, Hypatia, and really anyone from the ancient world that wasn’t Christian (or Jewish).

      I don’t think of many of the figures from the 1940s-1970s as “inspirational” figures in that way–which is not to say that they can’t be inspirations to people, or that their lives and work weren’t inspiring, nor were they and their works incapable of inspiring others–but instead I think that most modern pagans look to those figures as the founders of their lineages. Sure, oftentimes people are inspired by the founders of their lineages or traditions, but I don’t think people on the whole look to them as “inspirational” in the way that many of them look to, for example, Marion Zimmer Bradley as inspirational, or Leland’s Aradia, etc. Valiente, Graves, and others might be cited as inspirations for people these days, as you mentioned; but, I doubt that Gardner, Alex Sanders, and a number of other lineage founders would be cited, even by people within those lineages, as great spiritual inspirers, exemplars, or people whose written works they’ve thought over and cherished and enjoyed. Do you see the distinction there?

      Very interestingly, the people who are arguing against the validity of hard polytheism are usually monists of some degree or another, when in fact there is ample precedent for hard polytheism in the ancient world. (And “syncretism” is not the same thing as “soft polytheism,” incidentally…) Read Edward Butler’s work on this; also, read a recent blog post and its comments on the Pagan Reveries blog (or, at least, it’s recent on that blog, but was actually written in November or so, if I am not mistaken), which you can find a link to in my blogroll to the right, on Proclus, who–despite being a Platonist that many of these monistic-leaning pagans would cite as an inspiration and a spiritual ancestor–felt it was not only good but also necessary to praise every god he came into contact with from any/every culture he encountered. That’s a harder polytheism than most self-identified hard polytheists today would adopt, since most today prefer to stick to one pantheon, or as small a number of pantheons as possible, and very few honor all of the gods of any pantheon.

      I suspect the growth of polytheism in the past decade or so is not so much a growth (although there is certainly more of it than there had been previously) as it is greater visibility due to blogs and small or self-publishing efforts on the part of polytheists, who know that their works won’t be published by Llewellyn or Weiser. We’ve become a vocal minority in this regard out of necessity, because we have not felt our viewpoint has been accepted (in the “social acceptance” sense) despite big-tent and diversity-embracing rhetoric amongst the larger pagan community. The more extreme reactions against merely voicing my viewpoint on this issue over at Patheos last week have demonstrated how very hostile many in the larger community are to this viewpoint still. I stated in my article that I think “bringing back the gods” should be one of the goals of modern paganism–and, again, for emphasis, I note, one of the goals among many others that are worthy and important and which are already getting a lot more time and attention put toward them. And, for saying this, I’ve been called a Nazi and a fundamentalist, for merely suggesting this should be one goal among many. Is there any other religion operating in the world today that would have any member of its broadest umbrella community react that harshly to someone making this sort of suggestion within another context? While it’s possible, I suspect not.

      I do very much appreciate your civil tone and keeping things reasonable. Would that others might learn from your example. ;)

      • Darling, dear, I do believe that you’ve misread a critical word in John’s statement above, namely that of “influence”. He’s not saying that Valiente, Graves, and the Farrars were considered “inspirational” figures (though they very well may be!), rather that they were “influential” in the “structure” (and here I’m referring to your reply to my comment below) of Wicca. Gardner may have laid the foundation, or was an ideas guy even, but Valiente ripped up that foundation and laid her own, fundamentally altering not only the ritual structure of Wicca but the liturgy for it as well (the authentically influential AND inspirational Charge of the Goddess being her most well-known gift to Wicca). So what we’re saying is, even though Gardner has his name all over Wicca, whatever “influence” his not being a polytheist had on future generations of Wicca was greatly diminished by the work of not only Valiente but the Farrars as well, who were in fact polytheists.

      • I don’t quite get the idea of modern Pagans denying polytheism because they might be monists, pantheists etc, since, in the ancient world- as you point out- these things weren’t mutually exclusive. Even if I were to concede that on some level of reality the separateness of everything begins to disappear and blend together; that doesn’t invalidate that, on a conscious level, we all exist in a state of separation. A monist doesn’t walk around in their every day life treating everyone they come across as inseparable from themselves; so why should the same not be true with the gods? For all that some people can trot out examples of monism in the ancient world, the people espousing such views were usually functionally polytheistic.

  5. Reading comprehension is a lost skill… You must look dashing with a tight SS uniform…Grrrr

    • Indeed, Hugo Boss designs some very flattering attire.

      Crikey…

  6. It’s very possible that Gerald Gardner wasn’t a polytheist – I don’t know, I actuallly haven’t read many of his writings. However, Doreen Valiente most definitely was, and I would argue that she had a much bigger impact on the evolution of Wicca than even Gardner, so I’m not so sure about this idea that modern paganism’s marginlization of polytheism has it’s roots there.

    • That was probably overstated on my part…I haven’t read anything Gardner actually wrote, so I can’t say for sure.

      Nonetheless, the fact that he’s the founder of this thing called Wicca, and thus in many people’s minds the originator and thus sine qua non of modern paganism, and he may not have either had any religious experiences of the gods, nor thought them important, sort of makes it more obvious why, structurally, for some forms of modern paganism, the gods are optional, and can be forgotten, marginalized, or de-emphasized. Maybe. (The latter is on the why-ness of this theory, not on the fact that some people do de-emphasize the gods–there is no “maybe” about that particular issue; and while I still question that stance, I’m certainly not interested in talking other people out of that stance, nor am I in a position to do so, despite Nazi fundamentalist accusations to the contrary.)

  7. It really is a shame that one can’t express a strong opinion without it being assumed that one is trying to force that opinion on everyone else — like expressing an opinion is in itself a coercive speech act. It helps to speak in the first person, certainly, but it still seems like many readers are easily threatened by editorials. The generally low level of reading comprehension doesn’t help. Even in my academic writing, I’ve been resorting to emboldened section headers and italicized statements, just to make sure the point gets across.

    • Yes–and, that seems to be the trend all over (and Star spotted it a long while back, too). Why is it that as soon as someone states a personal opinion in modern Paganism, and someone else doesn’t agree with it, they start yelling “Fascist! Dogmatist! Creedalist! Fundamentalis!” rather than going “Well, I don’t agree, but that’s all right,” particularly since they often come to those statements of perceived attempts to coerce from a position of “Everyone should be able to have their own opinion”? I don’t understand the cognitive dissonance in that, and the frequency with which it occurs in modern Paganism (and, from my experience, not just on the internet) really makes me think there may not be much of a future for critical and informed discourse within this group of religions unless part of general coven training and Pagan 101 books becomes that emboldened, bullet-pointed style of instructions detailing how to “play nice” and how not to over-react when one encounters a contrary opinion.

      This is all the more flooring a fact to me considering how often I invite dialogue and dissent in almost all of my work. It does demonstrate that those who are throwing the accusations are, sort of, trolls who are just begging for attention by throwing stones, but it also demonstrates how totally unfamiliar they are with what my work is and who I actually am…which has all sorts of implications for how some of the general Pagan populace is even less accepting of diversity than we feared, in many respects. Everyone in Paganism, it seems, can agree to be open to other races (usually), genders and gender expressions (mostly), sexual orientations (on the whole), socioeconomic backgrounds (as long as someone isn’t either destitute or super-rich), and people with disabilities (unless it involves having to make accommodation for them); but as far as actually having theological opinions is concerned, which is something that has always been a part of having any religious viewpoint, apparently no one can do that unless they check with everyone else and make sure they all agree first. That’s sort of “reverse dogmatism” or something…or maybe just outright dogmatism disguised as defending freedom…? To be sure, it’s odd, and I don’t see it occurring in any other religion, now or historically.

      • HOW DARE YOU QUESTION MY OPINIONS THAT ARE EQUALLY AS VALID AS YOURS EXCEPT WHEN THEY’RE NOT?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

      • Oh, I know…

        Fundies are the last ones to identify as fundies in some religions. It’s almost like the reverse is true in modern paganism: the first person crying “fundie!” at someone else’s ideas is often the one whose exclusive truth-claims are being threatened by the mere existence of other opinions. What in the names of all the gods is that all about? :/

  8. I know we already had out our discussion and clearing the air and so forth over on my blog (http://therioshamanism.com/2013/01/16/a-caution-against-pagan-fundamentalism/#comment-4760) which I really, really, really appreciate. But I did want to reiterate that I do consider you the antithesis of whatever “fundamentalism” may arise in paganism–I mean, FFS, syncreticism is antithetical to fundamentalism, and you’re one of the people who demonstrated to me what that actually entails!

    • Yes, and thanks again for your important caveats! I knew you weren’t calling me one, but that other post and its comments, including suggesting that I might wish to outlaw Egyptian deities since they are animal-headed, was pretty ridiculous, even as a “what next” hypothetical, considering me and what I do…?!? The depths of ignorance astound, even amongst those who claim open-mindedness as their outstanding virtue.

      but, that’s the intertubes for you!


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