Posted by: aediculaantinoi | March 26, 2014

A Funeral for Pagan Intrafaith

The major holy days for March are finished as far as the Ekklesía Antínoou calendar is concerned; but, on these last days of the month, there’s still plenty to talk about here, as well as do devotionally and practically…So, here’s a thought that has been going through my mind the last few days.

Whether anyone else thinks so or not, I think I’m in mourning now over the concept of “pagan intrafaith.”

[I'm also amused that my automatic spellchecker/corrector here doesn't believe that "intrafaith" is a word, and keeps trying to correct it into "interfaith," which is what polytheists are now saying is the reality of polytheists and many more mainstream pagans doing anything together is--and I've said that myself recently.]

What I’m still confused over is not so much the mourning or the death itself, I’m confused over what “pagan intrafaith” was, and how it met its end: in other words, was it an adult that lived a full life, a young person that died too soon, or was it a developing fetus that was miscarried or aborted? I’m not sure…and that, too, is sad.

Hearkening back to this post from December, I’ve discussed on certain occasions how the very idea of “intrafaith” within a pagan context has been somewhat dismissed on occasion, which at the time I felt was really unfortunate. If there is such a thing as the “Pagan Umbrella,” then the obvious diversity of groups and traditions and individuals beneath that umbrella needs to be accounted for in some fashion or other, and intrafaith seemed a sensible way to do it and a sensible term to adopt for the types of conversations that need to happen. The advantages of doing so seem obvious as well; the disadvantage to those who might have dismissed the need for this would be that doing so would acknowledge the diversity and the differences involved, and therefore the necessity of such engagements in the first place.

However, I’m finding on reflection that the exact opposite can also be true. When the Wiccanate Privilege discussion occurred at PantheaCon, and I said at the beginning of it that the occasion was one of interfaith dialogue, I was corrected in a “loud whisper” by some woman in the room who said that “No, this is inTRAfaith!” To me, on that occasion, where I was clearly in the minority in that group in terms of how I understand polytheism, it seemed more sensible to me to understand my religiosity to be different in kind to that of many of the other people present in the room, and thus approaching it from that acknowledgement of difference would have been more productive in that case. The insistence by the loudly-whispering woman (and likely others in the room as well) that it was, “in fact,” intrafaith rather than interfaith–strangely enough–is an erasure of the differences, and an assumption that all of our different varieties of paganism constitute differences in degree against a background of sameness.

I’ve seen a number of recent calls for everyone who is pagan to focus on our similarities rather than our differences, and that doing so will allow us to work together on a variety of different projects in a spirit of understanding and cooperation. Unfortunately, that is going to be doomed to failure for a variety of reasons. The most important reason is that the erasure of differences means that difference is not accounted for, nor can it therefore be understood or respected, and thus no effort has to be exerted towards people actually understanding one another. If all we focus on is our similarities, and especially how “we’re all human” and so forth, that may mean that we don’t have a lot of conversations about what we really do, who we really are, and what is really important to us from our different personal and tradition-based viewpoints; and while that might do something in terms of making things less likely to result in misunderstanding, offense (and, yes, some people’s theological differences can, will, and quite frankly should cause offense–and I mean that knowing fully well that my theological understandings are entirely offensive to other pagans just as much as some pagans’ theological understandings are offensive to me…but, we can still talk about them, and in fact I think it can be useful to do so!), and–heavens forfend!–“being uncomfortable,” it also means that we’re not actually engaging with each other on any sort of deep or significant level.

If we all assume that we should all just show up to dig holes and talk about nothing but digging holes while we’re digging, that is one thing; but what we’re being asked to do in these cases is to show up and dig holes, and understand that in digging holes, we’re actually all family. Sorry, but family–whether chosen or biological–amounts to more than doing the same things together; it involves a lot of mess, sex and birth and afterbirth, arguments and making-up and courtships, disastrous dinner parties and fun wedding receptions, accidentally walking in on someone in the bathroom and being apologetic about it, having to point out that someone has broccoli stuck in their front teeth, awkward conversations and awkward situations and awkward-but-still-good celebrations, and more often than not reaching a point of mutual respect while still agreeing to disagree, and actually having the conversations that lead to being able to do that in full honesty and integrity rather than fear and silence and shame.

If all we are to focus on is our common humanity with others, then why deal with other pagans at all? Why not our neighbors, who may be of any and every or even no religion at all? Indeed, that is a very good and useful thing to do.

If I am to have good relations with fellow pagans, then I think it’s not unreasonable to do so as pagans, and in order to do that honestly and authentically, then we need to understand why it is we are different before focusing on what it is that makes us similar. I try not to make assumptions about other people (and often fail), but it’s harder to do that if I don’t actually know what is true about the other person, and there are only two ways that I can find out what is true about another person: ask them, or they tell me without me having to ask. If they assume that we’re similar, then they’re not going to tell me, nor ask me about anything, so that tends to put the burden on me to both ask and tell in many cases.

The assumption of sameness is exactly what leads to the majority of misunderstandings between any group of people and another. It’s one of the reasons why I think the Silver Rule is far superior to the Golden Rule, because it’s far more likely that both you (whoever YOU happen to be) and I dislike the same things rather than like the same things: I don’t like to have my toes stepped on, I don’t like to be force-fed foods that I don’t like (or even foods that I do like!), I don’t like being made fun of, I don’t like being deliberately mislead, I don’t like being stolen from, I don’t like being misquoted, and I certainly don’t like being beaten up, so I don’t do those things to other people…and those things aren’t that hard to do, frankly!

That being the case, I enter almost every situation understanding that I don’t know this other person and they’re not like me, and therefore I should gather what information I can about them based on what they do and say, and then ask for further information if there are still areas that I don’t know about. I can only safely assume that their commonalities with me are that they don’t like to be hurt, abused, or offended, and so I try my damnedest not to do any of those things to them, and sometimes I fail (usually only on the third of those matters).

So, I think intrafaith is dead, not just because no one seems to want to have the difficult work of engaging in these tough conversations about what makes each one of us different, and learning to understand and respect those differences, but because in the insistence that we are in fact intrafaith, that allows the assumptions of sameness to then erase differences altogether, which leads to a shallow relationship dynamic that will ultimately prove to be meaningless unless it starts to account for and acknowledge those differences, even if it involves some major fuck-ups between people to understand those differences. As various panelists at the Pagans and Privilege discussion said, there is an art to screwing up gracefully, and it’s an art that not enough people have studied nor appreciated the need for within paganism on-the-whole. The latter is still the death of intrafaith, in my opinion, even though the word gets used, because it is a kind of undead zombie-like intrafaith that only looks like it is supposed to, but inside it is rotten and only wants to eat brains. (!?!)

I suspect this might be my last post on these sorts of things–even I know when a dead horse has been beaten too severely, and this horse is looking pretty bad indeed at this point. Let’s do ourselves a favor and bury it, shed a tear for it, and learn to get on now without it, if indeed we really even knew it at all before it was buried.


Responses

  1. Ding dong the witch is dead … and good riddance! Our only hope for understanding (let alone peaceful coexistence) is beginning with an acknowledgment of our fundamental differences, especially when you are dealing with a group like neopagans who are so conditioned by their position of dominance that they can’t even really conceive that there people out there who don’t agree with them and when confronted with their existence deal as poorly with them as people like Christine Kraemer, Allison Lilly, Gus diZerega, Don Frew and Aiden Kelley have. As long as they keep behaving in such an aggressively entitled manner they are only going to continue sowing seeds of ill-will and discord.

    • I do give credit that Don Frew actually showed up to one of our rituals, took part, asked questions, and even bought a book so he could find out more. I have not seen anything by him since PantheaCon, so I don’t know if he has said anything about all of this since then…

      I did have hope that Gus might have come to a different understanding, but based on his most recent post at Patheos, he hasn’t. Oh well…

      • I’m mainly disappointed that yet another white cis dude is essentially saying ‘privilege is uncomfortable so don’t use that word’. Whoosh, there goes the entire point of privilege…

      • *nods so vigorously head looks to fall off soon*

        That kind of reminds me of the whole thing that has been seen all over the place about “Don’t just go throwing around that word ‘racist’ [or 'homophobe,' etc.], because it just shuts down dialogue.” Uhh…but if you do racist or homophobic things, then, guess what? That’s what you are! Gus has pretty much admitted he doesn’t like the word “privilege,” and several others that Sannion named in his comment here pretty much go “Nuh-uh” about it existing in this situation. What they’re all failing to see is that even if they don’t like the word, or they think some other word is better or more appropriate (and notice that those who are saying that still can’t decide on something because it all makes their side sound too negative, e.g. “dominance,” or even “majority,” which they never let us forget when they’re talking about these issues!), the mechanisms that are operative in every other situation of privilege are the same ones operating here, often in word-for-word correspondence to each other…but, no, it can’t possibly be that, because I was fired from a job for being Wiccan, so I don’t have privilege. Maybe not amongst other religions or mainstream culture, but within this religious subculture, you certainly do.

      • I find it especially interesting how every single time someone disagrees with Gus, he brushes off their concerns as ‘not worth the time’ or some variation of that. It’s telling how he handles dissent – in a way that assumes he is right, and that if he can’t get people to ‘see his way’ they aren’t worth his time. But…it’s clear that there are a number of people in our communities that think and speak exactly like this, and even when they’re insulting or degrading others they complain that those people are ‘playing the victim’.

        I just wonder how people cannot see how utterly and completely fucked up that is.

      • Yeah…he just did that to me there, too.

      • I’ve pretty much written off Gus diZerega at this point. I’m resolved to never read his blog again, much less comment on it. Just when I think that his obtuseness can’t get any more obnoxious, it does.

      • Yeah, I purposefully tried to keep a lid on myself over at DiZeriga’s blog and he’s still lost his shit toward me, even though one of the other posters who supported him engaged in a perfectly fine discussion with me. The guy’s not dumb, but for some reason he’s gotten so invested and dug-in with denying that there are any valid points coming from the various complaints and criticisms that he’s lost perspective entirely on the matter (if he ever had it in the first place). It will always baffle me that some people can’t accept the simple criticism that, “the Pagan community isn’t living up to its claims of diversity and inclusivity.”

      • That’s what has me confused as well…and then his reaction just proves that very fact.

      • I agree entirely.

  2. You brought up asking about differences, and it struck me that, since the Otherfaith is tiny and new and a little baby bird of a religion, I’m always asking people ‘what do you practice’ and ‘how do you do that’ and such questions. It’s normal for me. Even when people come to me about the Otherfaith, I try to keep that attitude: “what do you expect from this religion?” and such. Because…everyone’s got something different going on.

    And I can really only have an awesome, engaging, fun talk with someone when I’m willing to listen to them on their terms. Which, I dunno, seems to me a large part of the issues we’re seeing? The refusal to accept someone’s experiences as real or to just listen to someone honestly. Julian Betkowski wrote about this on his blog a little bit ago…

    • Yes, I agree…

      I think that the Dana Corby comments in some parts of Gus’ post are really illustrative. Her opening salvo is that what everyone who uses the word “privilege” really means is “we want everything NOW so GIVE IT TO US,” and then when I offered a different picture of what’s going on, her next salvo is “Well you don’t make the rules at our tables,” failing to understand what the point of what I was saying happened to be entirely. I’m going to reply some more, but it’s probably really useless…

      The problem is: they say we’re welcome and diversity is important and so forth, so we do show up, but not-as-many people attend our things (and there’s always a million reasons why they say they don’t, some of which might be legitimate), we are often disrespected because how we do things is different to their methods or ideas, we get (rightfully!) upset at some of the situations created by this and then don’t want to participate in some of their events, and then get told we’re being babies for not sticking with it, etc. We ask for clarity of definitions, but no one wants to actually define paganism or limit it theologically; then when someone attempts to do so and it erases or marginalizes polytheism and we object, then we’re told off yet again for “trying to control the discourse” and so forth.

      (Gus said that I’m trying to make my reading of this situation “dominant” in one of his comment replies on his post…I explained that I would just like our thoughts on these matters, and on our traditions in general, to be granted the same thing that pagans seem to grant every other religion–except Christianity in many cases–i.e. “your not wrong.” That doesn’t require agreement with our viewpoints, but it does recognize and respect differences, which they seem to say is a great thing…It’s always interesting to mark what the limits of universalism and relativism actually are, because they’re always there, despite any statements to the contrary.)

  3. Yeeeaaahh, I suggest we start ignoring DiZeriga. Stop visiting his blog, don’t reply to any comments he makes on other blogs, etc. Who’s with me?

    • Makes sense to me.

    • Honestly, before this more recent drama in the past few months and diZerega’s taking his grumpy old man stance about it nonstop, I don’t think much of anyone ever read his Patheos blog.

      • I did, actually; but, that was back when I thought we were still at least friendly toward one another; it turns out he didn’t even know that I was someone who knew him and met him personally and was friendly toward him until AFTER the discussion at PantheaCon…and then the next day, when we talked further at lunch, things seemed to be pretty amiable. After all that, I guess not…

  4. This death is not surprising. I am curious though if the umbrella itself will split? As polytheists we are under the Pagan Umbrella for the most part, weather we like it or not. but what interests me is if this umbrella can support all of us polytheists, but also -should- it? I might do some more thinking on this.

    • I think the split has already happened, personally.

    • “As polytheists we are under the Pagan Umbrella for the most part, weather we like it or not.”

      Speak for yourself, mate, some of us have had quite a fine time keeping ourselves out from under the umbrella while keeping ourselves dry in our own way. Now I of course can’t control if those types keep insisting I’m Pagan, if that’s what you mean, but I’ll keep arguing against it all the same.

      • Well, some of us may, personally, be far from the pagan umbrella, as is the case with many Heathens in the Anglosphere, and many Hellenic polytheists in Hellas, but the fact still remains that many pagans, and many academics with a specialty in ancient and modern “pagan” religions (whether they practice or not), do still lump Heathenry, Hellenismos, and other traditional polytheisms under the umbrella term of “pagan religions” –thus the adage of “whether we like it or not”. We have very little, if any say, in whetber or not other people consider our religions “pagan” or not.

      • Sure, none of us can control the terminology or jargon academics and others use, I’m with you on that, but I’ll keep arguing and fighting against it when it comes across my path until they relent or I die of old age. The origin of the word is as a Christian slur and academics uncritically adopted the term. I think it’s worth telling them to reassess their usage at least as it relates to modern religions.

  5. Part of my split with my former kindred in California was over how I feel strongly that we don’t need to “community build” with the local fluffy bunny Wicca coven. In fact, I was strongly in favour of shunning anyone who came to us from it unless they were coming as a refugee who was actually interested in the Norse gods.

    I have a longer rant about that panel, but a lot of it is directed personally at someone, so I’m going to move that to e-mail.

  6. Okay, I’m going to go ahead and start the rant here anyway. Starhawk. I will never think of her in any kind way again after her little exclamation of how we shouldn’t even be having this as a conversation because environmentalism is SUCH A MORE IMPORTANT ISSUE. I happened to look at her website yesterday and was flabbergasted by how she is involved in a program to grow food in the inner cities–because this is a good way to channel anger and energy when we can’t do anything about the MUCH MORE IMPORTANT ISSUE of climate change! Privilege? Starhawk is SOAKING in it.

    • I see. Yes…

    • As I’ve said before, about this and other issues, just because X is an important issue that objectively affects a very large population and Y is an important issue that empirically affects a relatively small number of people does not mean Y is unimportant. There are ways to deal with both issues, and the acknowledgement of Y’s importance in no way diminishes X’s, or vice-versa. It’s sad that Starhawk has forgotten this.

    • I was beginning to wonder if I was the only one offended by Starhawk’s dismissal of the purpose of the discussion. If she doesn’t think it is important, she doesn’t need to spend her precious time on it. But attending a presentation just to tell the participants that what they are doing is not as important as other issues is plain rude.

      • Thank you for reading and commenting!

        Yes, that really did surprise me…and the fact that she showed up late and didn’t even hear all of my statement (or Don Frew’s before me), speaks even less for her motives in being there. This whole thing that seems to be highly valued in those sorts of communities, of “listening,” didn’t really seem to apply to her (or a great many others present) on that occasion, sadly.

  7. I hate to see valid concerns of social exclusion being dismissed. That said, I think there are problems with how the word privilege gets used in general among social justice activists- see here: http:www.disabilityandrepresentation.com/2013/12/05/privilege/ and Gus is making similar critiques. Maybe my experience is unusual, but I’ve been a non-Wiccan Druid or polytheist recon of some variety for almost all of the 10+ years I’ve been involved in the Twin Cities pagan communit(ies), and while I have felt a slant towards Wicca/Witchcraft, I have not felt excluded. I’ve felt more excluded by events being held by places being held in non-bus-accessible locations (or far away), and people dismissing me when I brought it up. I could say that they had “car owning privilege” but I wouldn’t gain many points with the people who do own cars but can barely afford them. I’ve had other people who have listened to me, given me rides etc.

    • I do think we need to be aware of how we are using the word ‘privilege’ and how it can be used to beat up and silence people – but I don’t think that conversation can come from the top-down. I don’t think it’s appropriate for DiZerega to dismiss it. It has to come from bottom-up, or else it ends up just being another way of ignoring valid concerns.

      • Agreed

    • I did at least kind of agree with that much in DiZerega’s post –bug as I’ve said before on another topic entirely: A single thread of a good idea does not outweigh the tapestry of bullshit it’s been woven into.

  8. “What I’m still confused over is not so much the mourning or the death itself, I’m confused over what “pagan intrafaith” was, and how it met its end: in other words, was it an adult that lived a full life, a young person that died too soon, or was it a developing fetus that was miscarried or aborted? I’m not sure…and that, too, is sad.”

    It occurs to me that it’s not so much of a death, as a development into a higher complexity. It’s like a plant splitting from a single shoot into myriad branches. The Polytheist branch is just growing farther away from the Wiccanate branch.

    This disturbs the folks who don’t want to lose contact between the branches, and folks who want all the branches to fit inside the big tent, and it most especially disturbs the folks who don’t want to acknowledge that there’s more than one branch at all.

    Personally, I revel in our differences. I don’t have to be a member of someone else’s tradition to appreciate their rituals, nor to I have to agree with someone else’s theology to understand that’s how they see things. We can work together on areas of common interest without agreeing on everything, as long as we respect our differences.

    • But that’s the problem: no one wants to look at the differences, and therefore they can’t (and often won’t) respect them. I just got told off by Gus for using “polytheist” as a term that actually means what it says self-evidently, but because that’s not good enough for that crowd, I’m apparently “wrong” for using it without further qualification when it doesn’t need any in my usage and understanding (and the usage and understanding that has prevailed with it for centuries).

      • I honestly don’t understand how your use of polytheist is offensive to Wiccans, but…I don’t think we’d get an actual explanation from DiZerega either if we asked. (And I got banned for pointing out that he was being rude, so.)

      • At the PantheaCon discussion, I got told off by the whole room pretty much because almost everyone in it said they’re polytheists. I also got told off by the moderator, Jeffrey Albaugh, because he said that me identifying solely as a polytheist is like him identifying solely as a man, i.e. it’s not a complete picture. What they were suggesting, thus, is that because they’re all polytheists, but also monists and panentheists (or some other such combination), that they were more complex and therefore somehow “more right” than I was to think of myself strictly and literally (and gods forbid anything be literal in religion!) as “just a polytheist.” So, they said that I should call myself a “hard” polytheist (which I won’t do because I don’t like that term) or a “devotional polytheist” in all of these discussions. I kind of agreed, including in writing here…but now, I’m inclined not to, because clarifying something for an audience that is already ill-disposed toward me and my viewpoints seems to be making a concession that I don’t think is useful to my own ends any longer…

        …Especially considering that their side (and, let’s face it, it is a situation of definite sides now) won’t even concede that there is any kind of problem at all with how they’re doing things. Hello, all of the symptoms of privilege in black-and-white playing out but the privileged not recognizing it nor admitting it!

      • I remember that moment from the Wiccante Privilege discussion. Basically, there was a room full of folks who like using many *names* for whatever their conception of their divine powers is, who want that to be included under the definition of polytheism. They seemed to feel that Lupus insisting on Lupus’ usage was telling them they shouldn’t identify as polytheist, which set off the “you can’t tell me what I am” reaction.

        I’m not certain the horse isn’t out of the barn on that argument. For a generation, modern Pagans have been using “polytheist” in a much broader sense that Lupus or most of the historical sources have.

      • I would argue that in reality, they’ve been using “polytheist” with other things to describe their overall theological positions. That’s fine, and I have no problem with that; but, the notion that I use polytheism to only mean “acknowledgement of many gods” and I don’t really have anything else (except perhaps animism) to describe my theological position is therefore “wrong” and therefore “not inclusive of them” is as ridiculous as (to use an especially ridiculous conceit) them saying they watch ABC, NBC, and CBS, whereas I say I only watch NBC, and me saying that and identifying as an NBC-watcher excludes them because they watch other channels. Words do actually mean things, and this insistence that my definitions must include and defer to theirs is utterly ridiculous at this point.

  9. Yeah, that erasure of differences thing? Is 100% of my experience of “pagan intrafaith”. Having conversations with other pagans about the similarities and differences within our religious traditions, our shared presence in the for-lack-of-better-word subculture or movement, and our similar experiences as non-mainstream religions does not require not recognising that those are still interfaith conversations.

    • I wonder if there’s a bit of the Geek Social Fallacies going on here. Mistaking erasure of difference for making common cause, and reacting so stridently when difference stubbornly refuses to go away, seems to be a reaction against ostracization for being different.

      Folks who felt like lonely freaks until they found modern Paganism may find an insistence that their big tent isn’t big enough to imply a threat of the place they finally felt at home falling apart.

      • Very likely…

      • The pagan community has been lousy with geek social fallacies since at least the 1990s.

    • Yes…

  10. […] post forks off of P. Sufenas Virius Lupus’ post from yesterday in which e mourns the apparent death of discussion between (Wiccanate) pagans and […]

  11. There’s one part of Lupus’ comment I wanted to react to—namely that the two sides have little in common besides what they have with with the whole of humankind. That got me thinking that surely we share more than that, but my response was too long for a comment, so I’ve posted it here: http://deomercurio.wordpress.com/2014/03/28/pagan-intrafaithinterfaith-what-would-we-have-to-say/ . Part of the subtext is my idea of the long game that non-creedal religions should be playing in the context of the deep and growing popular disaffection with the Abrahamic religions in North America and Europe. (Mostly a tangent, since I already don’t follow Gus’s posts, but there it is.)

  12. […] a really interesting conversation going on in the comments to a recent post by my Bithynian […]

  13. I dunno. I think that it’s been a matter of interfaith for a while now. I believe that you and I may have discussed that before. So long as we keep trying to approach these Wiccanate religions as though they were even similar to those of polytheists, we aren’t going to get anywhere, because they aren’t similar. I think that part of the confusion comes in because the Wiccanate religions are aggressively eclectic, taking what they like from other religions (such as the concept of polytheism) and leaving the rest, like a religion salad bar. And that’s fair practice, don’t get me wrong. One could argue that it is the natural religious expression of Modernism and Postmodernism. However, some of us seem to prefer a different approach, rejecting the Modernist and Postmodernist project.

    Anyway, one wouldn’t say that Wiccanate religions are intrafaith with Dharmic ones because they use the term “karma” (however imprecisely), would one? Then why would one say that they have any serious relation to us? They already concede that their gods, even if they may have similar names and functions in some situations, are not the same as ours. The differences in practices are obvious. They have a different ethical basis, a different jargon, different philosophical basis (as noted above), different cosmological assumptions… I am having a difficult time coming up with something that they actually hold in common with us. Oh, they took some of the festivals from some traditional cultures that probably (or in some cases demonstrably) developed those festivals initially during their polytheist eras (but the Wiccanate religions then imbued them with entirely different meanings).

    I submit that the desire to treat the project as an intrafaith one is rooted in mere sentimentality, as many of us initially approached polytheism through neopagan, Wiccanate religions. Casting off that sentimental desire, we should be better able to engage on an interfaith basis. Likely, we will garner more respect, as well.

    At some point, too, people are going to have to come to a deep understanding that, even though they are more numerous in population at the moment, mystery religions (as Wiccanate ones have specified for themselves since Gardner) are a subset of polytheism, not the other way around. But that is part of a larger project, involving upsetting the millennia-long project of the exclusivist cults to define themselves as Natural Religion (as though picking one point of view for all people could be seen as anything but forced – and look at the way that exclusivist cults have exploded in number once freed of the shackles of state authority, each giving a different set of characteristics and values to its god or gods).

    • While I agree with pretty much everything you’ve written here, I suspect that the points in your last paragraph especially will NEVER be conceded by these people, and that they’ll forever keep saying that we as polytheists (with some other modifier they insist upon) are a subset of their better, polytheism-as-part-of-a-multifaceted-and-non-literal-theology-that-presupposes-monism-and/or-panentheism-and-can-also-include-archetypalism-for-those-who-don’t-like-bowing-their-heads-nor-worshipping-or-even-acknowledging-something-external-to-themselves-or-in-which-their-own-contribution-is-not-an-essential-part, etc. With that in mind, I really do like the simplicity and even linguistic moderation and minimalism of the term “polytheist”: what more does one need, especially when one is of our particular viewpoint? (Except possibly animism, but anyway…!)

      • And, as I repeatedly note, there is no real-world polytheist religion (perhaps excepting some recently manufactured ones) that is not also animist, so separating the two concepts seems artificial as well.

      • I agree entirely…

        I may be more assiduous in the future about calling it what our Thracian colleague does: polytheanimism.

  14. Once again you’ve handled yourself with more grace than I could have and given more compassion than was deserved.

    It’s extremely telling that this conversation has degenerated into Wiccans getting defensive when they have as much to gain from examining Wiccanate privilege as any non-Wiccanate person. I have to question whether some of these alleged “interfaith experts” really have any fucking clue what they’re doing. And can we all agree that the moderator of that panel should not be moderating panels? Or at least take some lessons…

    I think that there are a lot of people in this discussion (not unlike the other discussion) who are in positions of leadership and who, as individuals, really do know better. When you-know-who accused you of implying that Wiccans aren’t really polytheists I nearly fell off my chair laughing. Clearly some PhD programs teach better reading comprehension skills than others. And the whole “radical” polytheist thing? When I see polytheists who believe in silly things, like you know, ACTUAL gods mowing down school children with semi-automatic rifles then we can fucking talk about “radical” polytheists.

    Until then the people who apply words like “radical”, “fundamentalist”, or “intolerant” to polytheists who simply believe in and worship the gods need to grow up, get a hobby, or get over themselves. Come on now.

    And professional academics doing that? As far as I’m concerned they’re building their careers by pissing on the minorities they claim to be at least studying “objectively” if not also privately supporting and/or being a member of. And they should be fucking ashamed of themselves. But what do I know?

    And I wrote off Starhawk (and lost a lot of respect for the Pagan community has a whole) when “phase one” of her vanity project garnered more than double the financial support Haiti did in the same year (2011, I believe). I’m not saying we didn’t do good or that we can’t do good and have nice things. But honestly? It feels like a slap in the face when, when the time comes for your religious community to put its wallet where its supposed values are they choose the wants of one white woman over the needs of a whole country of black folks. And why is Paganism so white again? Hmmm…

    But then the Goddess Herself decides to come down off her pedestal to lecture us poor savages about priorities? Give me a fucking break. I guess we should be grateful she showed up at all even if she was late, uninformed, and attempted to derail the whole discussion. Stay classy Pagan elders.

    And sorry if I’m being too much of a jackass in your space, Lupus. But I’ll be damned if people haven’t been pushing my jackass button lately. :P

    • A thousand times yes to all you’ve written here. My jackass button has been worn to a thin wafer by the end of this…You’re not a jackass here, and never have been. ;)

      • I’m about ready to make the Gods of war roar with pride and jealous rage myself…

    • Considering that I was explicitly taught that British Traditional Witchcraft (aka WIcca) is _more_ monotheistic than Christianity, because they have the Trinity whereas, in BTW all derives ultimately from Drychten. its hard to see why Wiccans would be taken aback by the implication that they are not polytheists. I’ve never agreed with the above, since my instincts are polytheistic. But it is definitely an extant teaching of certain lines of Wicca.

      • As I was taught (in Central Valley Wicca, an offshoot of Gardnerian), the Drychten is not a personified entity, but rather the mystical wholeness of everything. The god and goddess are persons, as close to the Great Mysical Whatsits as humans can perceive. I was also taught that the god and goddess of any given Wiccan line were individual persons, different from the two venerated by another line, but having the same relationship to initiates of their line as ours had with us. There are many gods and goddesses, but each line has a particular pair they descend from.

        This makes Wicca not a monotheistic faith, but a kind of monist-henotheist affair. Still not Polytheism in the way we’re talking about here, but not really monotheism, either.

        Possibly relevant, the Star Goddess/God Herself of Feri is similar to the Drychten, in that she’s the embodiment of All, and the various individual gods are her children. More monist-polytheist.

      • Yes, exactly! And yet, I hear all of these people disavowing the “all gods are one god,” etc. stuff as “Oh, that’s just Dion Fortune stuff, and she wasn’t Wiccan,” etc., when I know I’ve read about this Dryghten (or however it is spelled) stuff before as a kind of core tenet of a huge part of Wicca. *shrugs*

      • Lupus, there being only slightly more orthodxy among trad Wiccans than in general Paganism, there’s a great variety of emphasis put on any one aspect. Different lines and different teachers transmit the religion, well, differently.

        The main place I recall the Dryghtyn/Drychtyn mentioned prominently is in the Blessing Prayer, which is an enumeration of the spirits sacred to Trad Wicca. The emphasis was placed on the god and goddess, with everyone else mentioned as needed but not front-and-center.

  15. […] Something interesting with the interfaith question was that the rabbi said that a Reformed Jew marrying a Conservative Jew is an interfaith situation; I found this statement to be intriguing, considering that most people would call that an “intrafaith” matter…and yet, if he said it, it must be so, and should be respected as such. I had a ready memory of the discussion at PantheaCon in February in which I heard someone in the room loudly whispering after I had said that it was an interfaith discussion that “No, it’s inTRAfaith!” That I was in the room with John Halstead and Starhawk–and fair play to both of them for being there and for doing what they do (though more the former than the latter on those points)–kind of made it obvious to me that there is very little that our respective religious traditions, practices, and (here’s that word again!) beliefs have in common, and to call our different practices “under the same umbrella” in anything other than a general religious subcultural fashion would be to paper over an immense number of differences, much less “different rooms in the same religious house,” so to speak, as the term “intrafaith” tends to imply. (My, how things have changed since 2013 for me!–and I’ve said so previously.) […]


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