I can’t help but feel that many of us have gone off track in recent discussions…
I love the following song–Sasha Allen’s version was her entry into public stardom in the last few months–and so I’ll play it here.
I’m sure this is how many of us, on all sides of these interrelated debates over the past few weeks, are feeling.
I don’t know if it is time to “make nice” for anyone else, but it is for me.
No, I am still a polytheist, and always will be. The gods are real and important, and because of that, it is incumbent upon me to do what I’m about to do.
We have argued amidst all of this over the past few weeks that our biggest priority as polytheists is the gods and our devotions to them. And yet, speaking only for myself, I have written in the neighborhood of 10,000+ words on these various debates here in this blog, as well as in the comments in diverse other places on the internet (to which I am not going to give any links so as not to exacerbate this situation). While 10,000 words is barely enough space to say “hello” for me (!?!), it is 10,000 words that I have written that could have been written for any of my many gods; it takes time to write that many words, time that I could have spent doing any number of other things that would have been far more useful for my gods. It is time that I cannot get back, and while I do not feel that anything I’ve written has not represented my position, at the same time, I know that some parts of it could have been written better, or more specifically, or more deliberately on some points, or in ways that perhaps would have made some people less on the defensive when they read those words.
And, it is not so much that people on the non-polytheist sides of this debate have felt offense that has bothered me; it is that as a result of this, some very good and dedicated polytheists have now come to view modern polytheism as a vitriolic mess. I can’t blame them for seeing it that way; and, I can’t apologize enough to those people (they know who they are) for how badly this has degenerated.
I do not regret saying that my gods are important to me, nor do I regret feeling that those who wish to disparage their existence are doing so in our spaces in an inappropriate manner. But, I do regret that some of the things I pray on a regular basis have not been actualized in my conduct over this entire set of encounters. To Antinous, on a regular basis, I pray the following lines (which are part of a larger prayer, the “Prayer Against Persecution”):
May you give me the strength to not curse those who wish me harm;
May you give me the peace to not be troubled by those who would persecute me….
May I never succumb to the temptations of hatred, spite, and violence….
May my mercy and compassion and forgiveness extend to all, and may the love of the Beautiful and the Just pour out over me in my difficulties….
One of the names that has emerged in my own practice for Antinous is the “God of Peaceful Connections.” And, I have been neither peaceful nor connected to anyone but my polytheistic co-religionists during this entire debacle. Hadrian is known as a warrior, and also as a wall-builder, and thus one might assume that his influence has been felt in terms of strengthening our boundaries and our definitions as polytheists; but, he was also a bridge-builder, and there were always places where one could cross those boundaries that he made in wood and stone along the northern frontiers of the Roman Empire.
And, someone brought up Hanuman in the comments on one of the posts, and while that person did not understand the nature of Hanuman, my speaking of his own grounding in devotion to Lord Ram made me realize that I have been deficient in my own grounding in devotion amidst all of this.
It was not until I had three things happen that made me realize how off-track we’ve become in all of this:
1) I was writing poems yesterday, for Finn mac Cumhaill and to Antinous, and–wonder of wonders!–it felt good to be doing devotions like that, and to be using my time directly at the keyboard for words of praise and beauty and devotion rather than for explanation and debate and further division. It is posts like that which I hope that people read and comment upon and discuss, not these theological debates (and this isn’t even a theological debate, it’s a shouting match between two different things that are ultimately not similar enough to be considered a proper “theological debate”) which go nowhere; and yet, today, almost all the largest page views I’ve had on this blog have been for those posts from the last few weeks, and not these poems. That means that something is wrong…
2) I had a discussion in a few e-mails back and forth between myself and a younger colleague that demonstrated to me how badly things have become. I won’t say more on that, other than to comment that we’re not doing the younger generations any favors in a great deal of this, and we have disgusted many would-be polytheists with some of our rhetoric.
3) This afternoon, one of my students came to me. She was not feeling well emotionally, and so I listened and sat with her. She needs your prayers because she has had multiple bereavements that are hitting her very hard at the moment. She is a devotee of Hekate and Sabazios, and while those are not my main gods, they are part of my wider pantheon (and the pantheons of Antinous), and thus not only as a person for whom I am worried, but as a co-religionist and as a polytheist, I needed to do whatever it was that I could for her. In the course of our conversation, she said that she had no name for what she was besides “Wiccan” or “Pagan” before, but now she knows what she is because of who she worships and what she does due to my influence. It was a humbling moment, and one where I felt that I had actually done these gods a service…and all of this occurred in her total ignorance (and not in a negative way) of the debates that were currently raging amidst our various communities.
Thus, I’ve seen the best I can do, and the worst that can be done, in a very short period of time, and I am upset by the worst and heartened by the best. And, I want more of the latter and less of the former NOW, NOW; QUICKLY, QUICKLY…
So, let me offer a theory, and then offer my attempts at a solution.
A few weeks ago, I linked to the video below. No matter what you think about the individuals involved, I’d suggest giving it a watch, because it crystallizes something which I think is very important.
My theory, thus, is that we’ve all been caught in a very bad and self-destructive part of what Galina, Sannion, and Laura discuss as “The Filter” in this video, a part that tries to destabilize communities that would attempt to think outside of the institutional bounds allowed by monotheism, and which actively seeks to destroy them from within, no matter how that is accomplished. People are throwing monotheist terms like “fundamentalist” and “dominionist” around in ways that have nothing to do with the behavior of some people; and likewise, the level of respect that some have attempted to maintain for conflicting viewpoints has descended into some seriously derisive terms. The result is that no one is winning allies, and in fact many potential allies (including ones who hold pro-polytheist positions) have been alienated. That isn’t a good outcome, and I’m not happy about it.
And, I am likewise sorry for what I’ve done to exacerbate this situation with all that I’ve written in this blog, which is a virtual shrine to my gods, and which has thus dishonored them–Antinous the God of Peaceful Connections, and Panprosdexia, whose name means “All-Acceptance,” in particular. No matter how accurately I may have outlined my viewpoint, even allowing this sort of strife and divisiveness into their shrine was a gigantic mistake on my part, and I should have never done that.
As many of you know, I’m a cultist of Sterculinus, who is–among other things–the “god of doing useful things with shit.” We’ve got a great and mighty pile of shit here, so let’s do something useful with it…
Now, here is my proposed solution to this problem:
Make Theological Lemons Into Devotional Lemonade!
But, how, PSVL, you might be in the business of wondering, does a person do that?
First off, I want people who have been involved in this debate to do two things on the present entry:
1) If at any point you have felt personally offended (or, for those who are polytheists, you feel that your gods have been offended) by anyone on any of the various sides and in the various factions and of the various viewpoints that have made their rounds in this series of arguments, then please print the line “I feel offended” in a comment here. DO NOT post links to what post offended you; DO NOT give a quote or an excerpt of lines that offended you; and most certainly, DO NOT NAME who offended you, or what faction or viewpoint offended you. I honestly don’t want to know (though in many cases, I may already know), and I honestly do not care–I do care very deeply, however, that people have been offended. Likewise, I do not care what sides or factions or viewpoints anyone who posts “I feel offended” comes from, as I have said repeatedly throughout these proceedings, I also do not care what your own personal theological stances are: those are between you and your gods, and in the present situation, might be better kept as such. And finally, if you do feel that your gods were offended, and you are therefore offended on their behalf, you should still write “I feel offended,” because you do feel offended on their behalf; if they have been offended personally by any of this, they can get in touch with me directly–my godphone and my divinatory lines are open to hear their complaints directly, and I will most certainly respond to them if I get a call to do so.
2) After you write “I feel offended,” then I want you to write me between one and four names of gods, depending on how badly you feel you’ve been offended: one for “slightly offended,” two for “offended,” three for “very offended,” and four for “extremely offended.” These can be your own most favorite gods; these can be gods you just had a passing fancy and wanted to mention; these can be gods that you know are worshipped by people you see as your “adversaries” in this whole mess; they can be gods you’ve never heard of nor have had any contact with before that are simply selected at random. And, they can also be heroes, ancestors, Sancti, egregores, land spirits, and even archetypes (who, as I’ve mentioned previously, I consider to be rather simple and impersonal gods)…really, any divine being that you know, personally, to actually exist.
What I will do with these lists of gods and divine beings generated is write each of them a poem between 10 and 20 lines long, depending on how well I know them, and how much they do or do not respond to my poetic activities. I can guarantee nothing as far as the qualities of the poems go; but, what I can and will guarantee is that the poems will be written between June 26th and 30th of this year–all of them, whether I get six requests or six hundred.
3) I am going to be in financial straits again at that point, so if you have felt offended to an extreme degree, or would just like to help me out financially, you can also pay me $20 and name FIVE gods/spirits/etc., and I’ll write about them. If that isn’t enough for you, then you can pay me $40 and name TEN gods/spirits/etc.; and if that still isn’t enough for you, for $50 I’ll do 15 of them for you!
Those are the rules. You must make your comments here (and your payments) by midnight, June 21st, 2013 to have the above take place.
If you write the names of people who offended you, or say anything more than “I feel offended” and the names of some gods in the comments here, your comment will be deleted. If you decide to use this entry, or any other on this blog from here on out, to prolong the arguments that have already taken place, your comments will be deleted. (If you are asking for genuine clarification, or are continuing in a “positive” and agreeing or approving fashion here or elsewhere, your comment will be taken seriously.)
The point of this present matter is not to prolong the debate, or to make anyone (including and especially myself) feel any worse about all of this–there would be no winners or losers if it is prolonged, only bruised egos and unclean words and idle threats and bad blood all around, and I don’t want that, nor do I think that the gods I serve want that…we are all much better people than that, and those of us who worship various gods should try and show how awesome they are and how great a force they are in our lives by doing things which are virtuous, I think. So, this present effort is one to hopefully re-focus our attentions on what is most important to us as polytheists, i.e. devotion to our gods. We cannot have a grand expiatory sacrifice in a huge temple for all of this, so a huge stack of poems that are devoted to the gods that people actually acknowledge and worship will have to do instead.
And, just to make sure I’m on the right track with all of this, I just checked in with the Ephesia Grammata, and asked if I was taking the right course of action here. The answer I got was LIX, i.e. “earth,” and therefore “on solid ground” or “a firm answer” (i.e. “a-firm-a…tive”!?!), so I’m going with this.
I look forward to serving your poetic needs, and to serving the gods that you serve in doing so.