Posted by: aediculaantinoi | December 13, 2013

A New Aion–Or, Should That Be “Aeon”?

While matters such as this are always a matter of (often seriously flawed) interpretation, I would like to state the following for the record:

I think we are, literally, at the dawn of a new age, and that yesterday saw a gigantic shift in things, the implications of which will not be known for a long time.

Let’s start with some basic things.

This year is 2013. “Thirteen” is considered an unlucky number by some people. And, today is Friday the 13th, the unluckiest day of all in the view of many, in the final month of 2013. It’s bound to be a bit odd, perhaps for those reasons alone.

At college yesterday, a student that works in the bookstore commented to me, “This year wasn’t supposed to happen,” in reference to the notion that December 21st, 2012 would be the “end of the world” according to the Mayans (which is wrong, as explained here). Now, of course, that’s nonsense, because if is a deterministic universe and this year wasn’t “meant to” happen, it wouldn’t have happened…and yet, I suspect there is a larger zeitgeist of the uncanny that is afoot in the world at present, for all sorts of reasons…

And, I think that my college sort of felt it pretty intensely this quarter, for reasons yet unknown to me. Even by the end of September, I heard professors and students at the college saying it was a “weird quarter.” And, this weirdness persisted throughout it. Today is the last class day of the quarter, and I still have large piles of grading ahead of me to do this evening and over the weekend (it’s all due Monday morning). Two twin students died in a car accident on Hallowe’en night (on the road my bus travels each day coming and going from work for me), which was an accident that was talked about on the news for a few weeks after it happened. Several faculty members had close family members die.

And, of course, death has been something that has been on people’s minds a lot lately, with Nelson Mandela, and with some pagan-specific individuals like Sancta Lady Olivia Durdin-Robertson and Colin Wilson, the parents of some dear friends and co-religionists, as well as many others…

We had a significant “first” yesterday at college as well, though. There was an end-of-quarter holiday (read: Christmas) dinner for the advisors and officers of all the college’s clubs at a local fine-dining spot I’d never been to. I advise two student groups, the newest of which is the Pagan Student Union, and it was only the officers of that which were able to attend the dinner. I mentioned my advisorship of the group to several people in the course of the day yesterday, and while there was perhaps some perplexed reaction from some of them (including at the dinner), there was no outright hostility, happily. It was an enjoyable event altogether, and a good “first official” function of the group (though there have been a variety of unofficial ones as well over the last seven months).

And, it was also literally an “end of an era” in greater Seattle-area pagan history with the departure from our region, state, country, and continent of Erynn Rowan Laurie, who has arrived safely in Italy as of the typing of these words. She was toasted several times during dinner yesterday.

But, since the birth of Aion was celebrated yesterday, this morning arrived and on a divine level, quite literally, a “new age” was born. Thus, with the arrival of the New Age, I would like to inform all of you that this blog will now only be available on subscription for $45 a week. No, no, no…not that kind of “new age”! ;)

There were some other random and strange occurrences for many people with whom I spoke yesterday. My phone up and died (though not permanently) for no logical reason, and thus I was not able to contact anyone most of yesterday (generally not a problem, other than I had to walk to dinner rather than get a ride, which wasn’t as pleasant as I’d hoped, but oh well!); and, there were intermittent network outages with my college’s system, thus I couldn’t get as much grading done as I’d have hoped.

The internet was working for the most part, though, and I was on it, and checking this blog and responding to comments, rather frequently…and I had one of my highest page-views during the day to date, with almost 1,000, and nearly half of them on this post, which was linked to on The Wild Hunt, and where there is some very useful conversation still happening today. I don’t mention this to “brag” or anything, but instead to just express surprise, because as frequently as I’ve been quoted on The Wild Hunt, general posts like that one have tended not drawn as much attention as that one did. And, I think there may be something in that.

I was speaking with my Anomalous Thracian colleague last night, at the end of what turned out to be a very long day for each of us, filled with more internet activity than either of us expected, and he observed something that I suspect hasn’t been discussed in the open much, if at all, in relation to a great many things that have taken place in the pagan and polytheist communities over the last nine months, and even several years. He pointed out that as long as many of us have been doing polytheism–myself for more than twelve years as a more strict polytheist, and more polytheist than anything else for about nine years before that–few if any of us really felt the need to say what that really means, or to discuss what we mean by it, because we didn’t think we had to discuss it. That’s a deceptively simple, but rather heavy in its implications statement, and one that I have thought about quite a bit since he said it. It’s actually been a bit difficult to concentrate on other things meanwhile.

Just as our gods are different, separate, and distinct, so too are we as polytheists different, separate, and distinct from many other forms of modern paganism, and even from many people who use the term “polytheist” as a self-description. I have no opinion on “good,” “bad,” “better” or “worse” where any of this is concerned; only “different,” and also “the best way for me at present.”

I truly wish that such caveats and conditions did not have to be stated every time one gives an opinion in modern paganism, but there we are.

While it has been building for the last few years more and more, I wonder if we have not, at last, reached a kind of definitive “breaking point,” so to speak, where polytheism and general paganism can no longer realistically say that they’re at all related.

Now, of course, there are people who are still “involved with both,” so to speak, and that’s fine. Also, there are many traditions that are analogous to paganism but which are not modern paganism that freely interact with pagans and paganism all the time–the various ADR and ATR religions, Shinto, Gnosticism, forms of ceremonial magic, and a variety of non-western indigenous traditions, for a start–and even have a crossover in membership, in occasional practices and technologies, and a variety of other things. Polytheists will still freely interact with pagans, and we’ll still end up presenting at a number of pagan conventions. Many pagans are polytheists, but it seems that fewer and fewer polytheists are also pagan.

Even if this great aeonic shift is nothing more than that–well, that’s still pretty big, in many respects.

Or, it could just be that the end of the strangest quarter I’ve yet taught has everyone on edge, and we all need a break. Who knows?


Responses

  1. Salve Verius Lupus,
    First– I like this article and found some material for thought in it.

    This post, however, comes from reading a number of your articles, on this blog and in other venues. I would like to know what you and others mean when you say, in various ways, that polytheists are not pagans? I believe I am working with a basic definition that almost necessitates polytheists being included in the category of pagans. (An aside to state that I am excluding the negative meanings of “pagan” that reconstructionist polytheist may have which excluded themselves from being pagans.)

    When I first saw an article of yours that said polytheists were not pagans I was stopped in my tracks, and went back to reread the section to see if I missed something. I think I am still missing something.

    I’m asking you because I’ve run across your named attached to a number of things that have impressed me, I respect your work and believe I would understand, with a little illumination.

    Gratias
    Bene vale,
    C. Aelius Ericius.

    • Salve Ericie!

      Thank you for reading and commenting!

      A lot of what I wrote in this particular piece comes as a result of the (huge!) thread of comments that occurred on my post from a few days ago called “Sorry, I can’t approve of this…” If reading that doesn’t help (and, you may very well not wish to read it, as there’s a lot of comments to trudge through), perhaps I can clear it up a bit here.

      Traditionally, I’d entirely agree that “polytheists” should certainly be included under the term “pagan.” It seems obvious, natural, and even almost demanded based on the history of late antiquity–or so it would seem.

      However, the tendency now is that many people under the pagan umbrella and who consider themselves “pagan,” and who often even think of themselves as (at least partially) “polytheists,” in fact are also monists, or pantheists, or naturalists or humanists, or a great variety of other things. To a strictly polytheist individual, some of those terms might be negotiable, or allowable in some variety or other. But, for example, since monism as it is usually understood now ultimately means that “all is one,” and that every individual deity is simply a “form,” a “mask,” an “emanation,” an “incarnation,” an “archetype,” or in some other way “just a facet/aspect of” a greater and all-encompassing “Deity/God/Spirit/Divine Force/Oneness/All,” it kind of flies in the face of the experience and the theologies of polytheists, who see the gods as independent, separate, individual beings.

      As these conversations are getting longer and longer, it is becoming more and more clear that a great many mainstream modern Pagans, whether they include “polytheist” in their labels, self-identifications, or theological schemata or not, are often monists as well, or possibly ditheists/duotheists, who see that “all gods are one god, all goddesses are one goddess”–and, from my viewpoint (not just as a polytheist), that sort of leaves a number of gods who don’t have binary genders out of the mix, and further reifies gender dualism as a cosmic constant, if you like. As a dyed-in-the-wool polytheist, I can’t really accept that, and certainly can’t accept that “polytheist” can exist happily alongside “ditheist” or “monist” without diluting “polytheism” entirely.

      More and more polytheists are encountering this, it seems; and, now many Pagans are saying to us that we’re “appropriating” the term “polytheist” from them, when in fact their position is in fact “polytheist-monist” (and I’m sure you see what the difference there is!), and that we’re ahistorical and against the “majority” of worldwide histories of religions and traditions that have been monistic polytheists. (The comments on the post I mentioned earlier have a lot of that from a few individuals in particular, should you choose to look at them.) The difference between these things is night-and-day…or, more like “night and closet organizers,” i.e. they’re not even in the same category; from a polytheist view, that’s the case, but of course from a monist view, it’s just “two different ways of expressing the same thing” (of course it is!).

      As this is becoming more and more apparent, and more and more irreconcilable, it is seeming to many of us that trying to stay under the Pagan umbrella is becoming less possible, less feasible, and less appealing. As much as we should have the right to the word “pagan” (and more so to “polytheist”!), we’re sort of fighting against a majority that we can’t possibly make any impact upon, try as we might. So, we can either continue to try and make nice with them and do what we can together (while always staying true to our positions), or we can say “feck it all” and leave the pagan umbrella. I’m honestly conflicted on it myself, and at the moment more so than I’ve perhaps ever been…and yet, I’ve thought of myself as “pagan” in the most literal sense (I’m rural and rather simple ultimately, not only by my origins and my history but by my nature) for more than twenty years (and thus more than half of my life), and I have a sentimental attachment to the term; but, based on what many pagans say and do and think and practice, I have as much in common with many of them as I have in common with Christians religiously. So, I don’t know what I’m going to do about this personally at this stage…but, it’s something I’ll have to ponder over for a while.

      I hope that helps to make things a bit more ordered and expanded upon; if not, let me know.

      Thank you once again for your compliments and for your comments!

      Gratias ago tibi et bene vale,
      P. Suf. Viri. Lup.

      • What would you say to those of us who are both (neo)Pagans and polytheists? I’ve been lurking on polytheist blogs for about seven months and I’ve been remaining silent because I’m not sure how I can add to the conversation. I am a Pagan and have been for over 15 years. However, I’m also a polytheist and while reading various blogs I’ve struggled to determine if I feel the same disconnection between my neopagan practices and my polytheistic understanding of the world and I haven’t found it. I’d like to say that I’m confident enough in my self to simply accept that what others experience doesn’t have to be my own, but I’m not. And articles like this strike me to the core and make me question the choices I’ve made and my very identity. Maybe the label Pagan is fluid enough to provide enough overlap for people like myself, but I worry that if the chasm between polytheists and Pagans continues to widen that people like myself will get lost in transition.

      • Those core-striking questions are ones I’m experiencing myself as well at present. I don’t have any answers on them, and as I just commented to Jason, this is mostly a “thinking aloud” post (or at least parts of it are–some of it is “just write this shit down to capture it, because weird!?!”).

        My attachment to the pagan label is pretty strong–and, I’m going to speak in favor of attachment here, despite the fact that many modern pagans (under the influence of Buddhism and Hinduism) praise it as a far better quality to be non-attached–which means I’m not likely to give it up or withdraw my connections to it without a major fight (internally, mind you!).

        I do get something out of associating with other pagans, and it’s more than that many people who become interested in Ekklesía Antínoou matters come from that wider pagan population (it’s more likely to “make sense” to a pagan than it is to someone who is non-religious, Christian, or any other religion)…and yet, I’d be lying to an extent if I said that the fact of our successes in finding interested people within the pagan population isn’t a major reason why I keep having rituals and other events at PantheaCon. It’s not huge numbers of people that end up asking “I’d like to know more,” but some of the personal connections that have come specifically at PantheaCon have been important and powerful.

        So, I don’t know if it “helps” at all to say this, but I’d definitely be someone in your same boat, of falling between these two signifiers and fearing that there would be something very must lost–and a valuable loss at that–which might take place if polytheism ends up having to jettison connection to the pagan label/community/etc.

        None of it has happened yet, at least for me, so there’s no certainty or finality to anything written here. As with the “dawn” of any new era, only time will tell if it really is a new era or just a weird period amidst an old one or not.

      • Re-reading the above it sounds more demanding than I intended. Sorry for the commanding voice in the first sentence.

      • No worries–I didn’t take it that way at all!

      • Honestly, that makes me feel a better. Often, I’ve encountered the writing of people who articulate what appears to be a somewhat mutually exclusive relationship between polytheism and Paganism. There’s a lot of overlap, I’ve found, especially offline where our many and varied words seem to have little impact on those members of our community who don’t involve themselves in our mental wanderings.

        I guess the question is then, what can we do to try and build better bridges and do so more effectively?

      • Indeed…

        Although, another question might be: if we build such bridges, will they get to anywhere we’d like to be?

        These are matters that are necessarily uncomfortable, unsettling, and are far from settled, as I mentioned before. But, just because a question isn’t comfortable doesn’t mean we shouldn’t ask it and sit with it for a while.

      • Salve iterum.

        I’ve had my own hassles with the term “pagan”. Among those who term themselves Cultus Deorum Romanum, and many who use the label Religio Romana, it is rejected for several reasons. It was applied by the newbie religion of Christianity to the followers of the traditional practicioners, who were in the country, the Christians were mainly in cities. The term meant “hick”, “hayseed”, and the like. The contemporary Cultores reject it as being perjorative. I have always sort of liked the word “pagan” and have taken pleasure in calling myself a Pagan at times. My own main problem with it is that I am a city kid born and raised. As much as I enjoy, and have adapted to rural and wilderness when I have lived there, I always end up back in the city. Also the urban in Roman tradition and history has been gratifying to me. That urbanity is my main problem with saying “I’m a Pagan.” But in the matter of larger world definitions I would have to admit I fall under the label “Pagan”. Until now. At the least I believe that pagan refers to non-Christians, as defined by Christians (who sometimes have trouble defining themselves). Hindus, Buddhists, Shinto, and First Nations are excluded because there are enough of them to make their refusal of the ter stick. (My opinion after searching for some other reason that holds water. I’ve known Xtian Fundamentalists who not only include the previous but also Moslems and Catholics.) Still this would have polytheists within the definition. But some in the contemporary pagan movement are defining “polytheist” as not being pagan. Okay. I’ll try and remember that.

        Building bridges. It is nice to not only have others of your beliefs to associate with, but to connect with increasing numbers of people who do and each and everyone to know that we are not alone. It is not uncommon for differences to be highlighted in the process. Bland pap as that is, I wanted to say it. Whenever I have gotten fed up with “grouping” I am still with my gods. My relationship with my Deities is what it is all about.
        [and once again I end up on an unfinished cantilever of shakey verbal construction. I've aged several English instructors this way.]

        Bene valete,
        C. Aelius Ericius

  2. I’m all for individuals, groups, and groups of groups, having power over how they label themselves, and what alliances they want to make. Solidarity only works if everyone wants to be there (and if everyone is clear on what the shared goals are). I want no part of shutting down dissent for the appearance of unity.

    • One of the lurking questions behind all of these issues is: if we are “banding together” for a “common cause,” what cause is that, exactly? And, are we likely to achieve it by banding together?

      If “intrafaith” can’t be used of modern Pagan matters–as some of the comments on my post a few days ago seemed to indicate–and it is instead an “interfaith” matter, then that is a kind of game-changer. “Interfaith” initiatives can exist, but the appearance of unity is pretty much impossible, and while good feelings and such can exist between interfaith groups, the likelihood that the Catholic bishop will just turn up for Friday Shabbas services at the local synagogue is close-to-zero; thus, we shouldn’t expect that anyone not of a particular tradition will even want to attend a ritual or other event of another, no matter how loudly people say that we’re pluralistic and so forth.

      I don’t know…I’m mostly thinking aloud with parts of this post, but these have been thoughts I’ve been having for a while now. Nothing is settled, no decisions have been made…

  3. So much good stuff has already which I will not attempt to re-state except to express a profound Thank You, Ver. Vulpus, for this presentation which moves both my soul and mind. (In Italian, a closing: Sentiti Saluti! Ciao!)

    • Thank you for reading and commenting!

      Though, it is “Virius Lupus,” not “Verus Vulpus”–the latter is a cool name, certainly, and I have great love for the vulpines, but I am not one of them. ;)

  4. I’ve been enjoying the posts you’ve made lately. I’ve typed up comments to a few, but then realized I rambled on as usual so deleted instead of posting. But I would like to note they were enjoyed, they inspired thought, and I thank you for that.

    You know, 2013 has been one of my roughest years, at least health wise. It’s been that way for many that I know. I’ve had a few conversations about a shift occurring. It’s in the air for sure. At this exact moment I can’t state with a surety which direction I think it’s going to swing. Some days it seems one way, then the next BAM! I know where my own hopes hang their tap shoes. I also hope it doesn’t end up being all about location, location, location.

    Slightly changed identity. I am hopeful that doing a public dance will encourage my feet to explore some new steps.


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