Praxis: On Cruel Gods

In my recent post contributing to the ongoing discussion of miasma, I mentioned that I take a particularly orthopraxic and pragmatic approach to my spirituality, which has often placed me in the position of defending why I even have a religious practice in the first place. If the gods do not care about my day to day well-being, if I hold more vitriol towards them than adoration, and if my acts of devotion fall on deaf ears- then why would I worship such gods?

The simple and easy answer is that I was called to it- but that’s not completely true since I wholeheartedly believe that I could walk away from it if I chose to. That’s not to say I would not be massively negatively affected by this choice- but the choice is still mine to make. The more accurate answer is that I may have been too strongly influenced by Dune, Conan the Barbarian and Lord of the Rings as a child. It was very easy for me to look into the ether at a deity who would probably never know my name. I was more comfortable with that.

“Crom, I have never prayed to you before. I have no tongue for it. No one, not even you, will remember if we were good men or bad. Why we fought, or why we died. All that matters is that two stood against many. That’s what’s important! Valor pleases you, Crom… so grant me one request. Grant me revenge! And if you do not listen, then to HELL with you!” –Arnold Schwarzenegger as Conan; Conan the Barbarian (1982)

As I got older and learned the traditions of my Grandmother and made the decision to follow the traditions of my lineage but not the praxis, since I was removed from Home and it wouldn’t make sense- I found myself gradually drawing closer and closer to those primordial voices. Creatrix voices, entropic voices. And those voices were so old and hard that I couldn’t really understand them- though I did understand myself. A few years ago, a follower on my Tumblr had asked me to expound on what I meant when I spoke of gods who don’t care:

Cruel gods are proud, they demand nothing less than everything within you. When your knees give out and your chest aches from sobbing your prayers through clenched teeth, then they are satisfied. Understanding of the divine comes from agony. They are silent, always looking on, always watching the roads before you as you choose and choose again, until you no longer can understand which path is easier or which path is kinder. All roads are narrow and dangerous and eventually the stones will stop cutting your feet open.

Cruel gods smile when you fail, because they know that in the blink of an eye you will remember who you are and see the strength in your shoulders rise up. They did not teach you suffering for nothing.

They demand sacrifice of the most dear. Sometimes never to be returned because if it was something that you could live without, then it wasn’t as necessary as you believed. And while the hunger twists your belly and your heart into knots you could never hope to untangle, they are subtly sharpening the blades in your bones. Sometimes the best choice is to cut it loose.

Cruel gods point you to the places to test you, the places where you prove yourself again and again. Cruel gods look on as you pray, because they know that you have taught yourself how to survive and that your prayers are reminders to yourself more than anything else.

-V. C. Ulfgrim, “Cruelty in Ecstasy”

I am reminded of the Ecstasy of St. Teresa of Avila, a story that ultimately led to one of the most iconic Renaissance sculptures that Bernini ever created. In one of the most sexually charged accounts of a saint communing with the Holy Spirit, Teresa describes a vision that occurred with regularity during her meditations:

“It pleased our Lord that I would sometimes see this vision: very close to me, on my left, an angel appeared in human form… In his hands I saw a golden spear and at the end of the iron tip I seemed to see a point of fire. With this he seemed to pierce my heart several times so that it penetrated to my entrails. When he drew it out, I thought he was drawing them out with it, and he left me utterly consumed ecstasy-of-saint-teresaby the great love of God.

The pain was so sharp that it made me utter several moans; and so excessive was the sweetness caused me by this intense pain that one can never wish it to cease, nor will one’s soul be content with anything less than God.”

-An excerpt from Teresa of Avila’s autobiography.

Despite many popular New Age, pagan, and polytheist authorities and their vehement rage against “monotheist” religious beliefs- St. Teresa is an interesting figure, especially in her work as a female reformer within the Catholic church. One could learn quite a lot about religious devotion from her compiled works.

For myself- devotion is a physical act. To quote Robert E. Howard again concerning his Cimmerian warriors (which were strongly influenced by Viking, Pict and Gaelic groups of similar eras):

“When a Cimmerian feels thirst, it is a thirst for blood. When he feels cold, it is the cold edge of steel. For the courage of a Cimmerian is tempered: he neither fears death… nor rushes foolishly to meet it. To be a Cimmerian warrior, you must have both cunning and balance as well as speed and strength.”

While I can look at more metaphysical methods of spiritualities and understand them in a scholarly sense, I cannot bring myself to hold to them or really understand them in any way that I would be able to make use of them. Just as the Ulfhednar, the Berserkr, the Fianna, the Gallowglass and generations of warrior cults that came before them: every act of my physical development or change is a devotional act to my gods. If I’m making a sacrifice, it is in blood. And everything is tallied and accounted for, nothing that I cannot see or touch will suffice. Words and intentions are useless and empty. Gifts that I purchase or do not come from a place that I have to make the decision to give it up are paltry pleasantries.

There are many who would disagree with these sentiments- but to that I only say: you don’t walk my path. If you did, then you may be able to understand.

Gods Recruiting: Closed Culture: Native American

A fantastic perspective of religions from closed cultures. And if I say so, a very interesting point to be made as to why I do not generally hold with people calling themselves Shamans.

Neptune's Dolphins

(I wrote this before Brain Fog came.)

Many people are attracted to Native American Religions, but not because Native American Gods recruit (because They do not). Rather it’s because people are seeking spiritual fulfillment and believe that these religions will satisfy their longings. Unfortunately, this becomes a matter of people seeking the Gods of a closed culture.

From the 1980s, people have sought out those who claim to be Native Americans to teach them how to be one with nature and to follow the “Red Road.” Furthermore, many of these “Native Americans” promoted their books and workshops to attract followers and make money. In response to this “selling of Native spirituality,” many Nations issued statements telling these “Native Americans” to cease and desist. Moreover, tribal authorities stressed that their religions belong only to their particular Nation.

Given the amount of material that is written about Native American beliefs, people feel…

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Gods Recruiting: Open and Closed Cultures

Neptune's Dolphins

Another in my on-going series of Gods recruiting followers.

Various Westerners find themselves called by or attracted to Gods of a culture that they are not a part of. This can be dicey since they need to set aside Western ideas about that particular culture. They also have to understand how that culture’s values differ from their own. Meanwhile, Non-Western cultures are of two minds – some want to keep their religion to themselves, while others are pondering the ramifications of outsiders worshipping their Gods. Either way, Westerners have to tread carefully when venerating Gods of a different culture.

People of many Non-western cultures have stressed to Westerners that to enter their religion is to give up the notion that all religions have a core unity. Instead, outsiders need to discover how their religion is actually practiced and lived. This means setting aside Western ideas such that all religions are…

View original post 471 more words

Praxis: Miasma and Why I Don’t

The subject of the week has been Miasma, a word used in Hellenismos to describe a spiritual pollution that affects an individual in a negative way and ultimately could end up disconnecting them from their gods. It also exists in the common lexicon:

“Miasma” carries the connotation of taint, sickness and contagion: witness its common use in English:

pconqcesdyjyfeprhfxea vaporous exhalation formerly believed to cause disease; also :  a heavy vaporous emanation (see emanation 2) or atmosphere: miasma of tobacco smoke

an influence or atmosphere that tends to deplete or corrupt: miasma of poverty — Sir Arthur Bryant; miasma of fear — The Times Literary Supplement(London)

(I am taking this from PolytheismUncucked‘s post because my temporary computer is not handling formatting through multiple windows at the moment.)

The entire spark of this off was my attempt to engage in a conversation on a post by Galina Krasskova, that was ultimately a fruitless effort, though the lovely writer of PolytheismUncucked  realized that what I was trying to discuss was a difference of worldviews and not that miasma didn’t exist, or that there wasn’t a need for spiritual cleansing in some practices. I had referenced sin-eating as well as my own personal practice, which led to an interesting discussion about Postmodernism (it’s an excellent read, especially if you get all up in arms about Postmodernism in general like I do.)

Ultimately, what I came down to in a discussion with Anna, who is an Irish Polytheist (IriPol from here out) about spiritual pollution and the ideas that ritual purification and “accumulation of miasma” are necessesary- is the fact they they simply don’t exist in some worldviews.

There’s something important here to note. I do not necessarily disagree with any of the assertions made by PolytheismUncucked or Krasskova. I may find the language imprecise because I, like Anna, believe that we should be using proper terminologies as applicable to our worldviews. Now, that being said- as a “catch-all” term, miasma does function and so while it may may my jaw twitch because I’m a particular old cuss, it’s really not worth my time to get up in arms about. It is also important to note, for me, that I consider Nothern Tradition Shamanism to be a “denomination” of Heathenry. There are different approaches to the same gods, and the fact that those differences exist does mean that we will inherently disagree about praxis.

To that end, when I attempt to have a discussions about those differences, I’m doing so in an attempt to challenge and further myself rather than to convert someone to my way of thinking or prove the opposing belief incorrect. That’s a useless waste of my energy and time.

PolytheismUncucked, in their most recent post about miasma addresses the root of this conversation and why my perspective is so hugely different.

First you must recognize that there is a problem: you cannot deal with spiritual pollution until you acknowledge that it exists.  If you are reading this essay there is a good chance you’re ready to take that step. Perhaps you are still on the fence. You know in your heart and in your gut that something is very wrong, but you’re not quite ready to entertain silly superstitions about invisible magic muck.  Taboos, shunning, and charges of impiety evoke images of theocratic dystopias. Surely we’re far too civilized for such nonsense. We know “Gods” are just symbols and “miasma” merely a convenient metaphor for our personal distastes.

I will not seek to dissuade you from those preconceptions.  I will simply ask that you engage briefly in what Coleridge called “the willing suspension of disbelief.” Imagine that miasma is a real and tangible thing and that your vague disquiet is a healthy response to being in the presence of spiritual pollution. Now follow that thought to its logical conclusions. What are its ramifications and what are your possible responses? Nothing is required save a few minutes of your time: you may conclude this whole idea is nonsense and be none the poorer for your efforts. Or you may decide this hypothesis fits the facts better than any of the other available explanations.

I think this is a very well-spoken and valid argument about the existence of miasma. So why don’t I hold it to be a part of my practice and worldview? Simple. The entire premise is based on the idea that the world is full of spiritual pollution and the Postmodernist, Christianholdover from pre-conversion is affecting ones ability to look at the world from a polytheist perspective so therefore, that needs to be changed. Personally, I don’t disagree, though I do find the anti-monotheist dialogue disturbing. (That’s not a value judgement of those that are as people, it’s just my perspective on the matter, especially as a Heathen.) With that, the premise itself starts to fall apart when someone, like myself, doesn’t have those holdovers.

I don’t reject “purity” as something to rebel against, I just define it differently. Just as I believe that the world is in an absolute tailspin, but I don’t think of it as polluted (outside of greenhouse gases and spilled oil tankers and all that environmental jazz) because life is cyclical. Things grow, die, and change. And just as I will eventually grow old, die, and maybe be turned into a pile of ash- so will the world. It may sound apathetic, but survive at all costs is the core of my theology. (That’s a gross minimization but bear with me as I’ll be addressing it this weekend.)

The analogy used by Krasskova and PolytheismUncucked was to describe miasma like putting your hands in dirt or preparing food, if your hands or body gets dirty, then you would wash them. This is in opposition to the original assertion that the need for cleansing is completely irrelevant. I don’t deny that keeping ones body clean is an absolute necessity…hell, I’m Norwegian and Irish. Some of the prissiest, “brush and braid my hair everyday” groups that ever walked the earth. However, the fundamental difference here is that I separate what affects my body, soul, spirit, and psyche into three groups: things that I can affect, things I cannot, things I cannot explain.

The things I can actively change or alter? Those have nothing to do with my gods because I believe in self-reliance above all else. To that end- it is staying up with my hygiene, eating healthy, exercising, not participating in things that would harm my body or mind- if I do those things, it’s not because it would please my gods to do so, it furthers my survival and ability to function. And that is what they are concerned about, my well-being is ultimately irrelevant so long as it does not impede my ability to serve and fulfill the role I’m given. So I don’t pray when I brush my teeth in the morning, why? Because my gods don’t care. And while, yes, I can agree that if I don’t brush my teeth or put deodorant on in the morning, it’s going to make the world look at me funny; it’s not an all encompassing change that will affect me for weeks after I realize the infraction and rectify it.

Things I cannot change, like the behavior of others towards me, situations out of my control like death, illness, natural disasters, or accidents. Those got back into column 1: things I can change. I cannot change that what happened, but I can address how it’s going to affect me in the future. If that’s therapy, medications, a change in routine or job, giving up something I want to do. Again, my gods don’t care about those things. If it doesn’t interfere with my service and devotion, then it is irrelevant to them. If I let what is affecting me start to affect other people, then I’m being irresponsible- but it’s not because of a spiritual taint: I’m just being a narcissistic asshole who needs to give myself a reality check and remember that the world isn’t all about me.

This comes down to the final thing: that which I cannot explain. And this is where I’ll quote PolytheismUncucked because they made a good point:

Do you feel vaguely nauseated and uneasy around a person, place or situation? Do you get a sense of wrongness, an air of nastiness, an aura of (for lack of a better word) yecccch? You may very well be in the presence of miasma. First impressions are frequently correct: instinct often knows immediately while reason lags behind.  Instead of tripping over yourself to overcome your prejudices, maintain a polite distance until you can better suss things out.

This is something that I often reference as “it doesn’t smell right,” and would be the thing that makes my metaphorical hackles rise, though if I needed to- standing my ground or investigating is going to be my instinctive reaction rather than maintaining a distance. At this point, yes, I absolutely do believe that miasma as a thing exists. I generally choose to use more specific language to describe things based on my observations and investigations of such which is why I tend to say “it doesn’t smell right,” because I don’t like using the word. That’s a personal preference, though.

If you find yourself unable to escape miasma, spend more time on cleansings and protections until such time as the situation changes or you can change your situation. Intuition, like everything else, gets stronger with regular use: as you rely more on your gut you will find your instincts grow sharper and your hunches more reliable.

This is where things break down for me. I was raised with a Sami cultural influence from my grandmother, from my childhood, I was taught to trust my instincts and I have lived my life doing so. There was never a need for me to adjust or learn or “protect” myself because I was always picking up everything around me like a radar (which goes back to ulfhednar) and since it was simply a reality, I just learned to shrug it off. If it didn’t actually follow my home and attack me, then it didn’t affect me any further once I left it alone than a simple shudder and shrug.

In that, is where I have to address what I mean by eating something. In the practice I learned (and I have to begin being vague here because it is familial and not to be shared outside of bloodlines or adoption) things that have a spiritual “ick” to them can be consumed. Rather than banishing something harmful or dangerous, you’d eat it. The individual who engages in this practice does not “purify” themselves before or after because the idea is that their body is reinforced to break down such things. Much in the way of eating food. Eating rotten food will obviously make you sick and the analogy breaks down because of legitimate dining concerns like sepsis and botulism, but lets instead suggest food that tastes bad or is unpleasant- like spicy, or something that is too salty, or sweet, or burnt. It won’t actually hurt you more than giving you a stomach ache or making you throw up if it’s really that distasteful, but it can be consumed and then the body will break it down into fuel just like it does with regular food. In that worldview- I’m not tainted by the things I do or investigate or allow near myself. In one way or another, they are gone.

And to disclaim, at the end of this, I’m not trying to win followers to my point of view. But I am lucky to be involved with several fianna, berserkr, ulfhednar and assorted warrior groups that all have a distinctly similar worldview and assessment. And I think it’s an important perspective to offer for those who may feel uncomfortable with the alternative but also don’t fall into that Postmodernist category.

 

Praxis: Some Thoughts on Miasma

The lovely folks over at Polytheism Uncucked published this article today about the currently ongoing “brouhaha,” as it was well put that we’re seeing on the WordPress Pagan Blogsphere. It’s a distinctively less charged version if the discussion that was attempted on Galina Krasskova’s blog and I think it’s an important perspective, even though it doesn’t fit inside of my practice.
 Postmodernism and Miasma II: All Else is Commentary – http://wp.me/p7QniX-XN

Praxis: Some Thoughts on Piety 

My dear friend, Anna, over at Sweet Delicate Thing has always been a sounding board of sorts for me and I have been blessed in that I have had the opportunity to help guide her down her own path and find footing in a practice that she probably never would have approached but for my entry into her life.

We are both oathbound to The Lady of the Frozen North and it was an amusing series of circumstances that she was called to step foot onto the rocky path I tread. To that end, we have very similar ideas about piety and devotional praxis and she posted this today after some conversations we’ve been having over the nature of devotion and how far one is willing to take that devotional practice.
The Demands of Piety – http://wp.me/p6Ug7j-4v7

Virtue Mine Honor: On History and Context

I had originally intended to post something relating to wolf cultus and on rage as a devotional act, but I found something in my reader feed that I feel needs to be addressed in a large scale because it’s a common sentiment in neo-pagan circles and it reeks of inflammatory, ill-informed, racist and anti-Semetic rhetoric.

For this to have the true weight that it needs to, you need to know a few things about me. I am Sami, and I am actively involved in my community though I’m located in the US and far removed from my people. I was raised with an inherent cultural shame born out of the marginalization that was inflicted on them and I have had to fight long and hard against a secondary “white shame” that I battle against since my skin color affords me a certain amount of privilege in the current climate of the world. The reality is that the Sami are one of the most disinfranchised indigenous groups that no one knows about and it’s hard for us to even enter into the liberal “POC” discourses because our skin is “white.” I’ve linked the Wikipedia article above, because I’ve edited it myself and know for a fact that it is accurate and well-sourced. To that end, I have my family traditions that I grew up with and the cultural worldview that I still hold. Of anyone in the world, I’ve got a bone to pick with Christian conversions- especially since the Lutheran Church in Norway was attempting in 2014 to make our traditional dress and singing illegal. On the other hand, I know my history.

The Christianization of the Western World is not this story of oppression and hatred that neopagan groups are so fond of spouting off. Especially inside of “anti-monotheistic” sentiments. The conversion of Ireland was spectacularly peaceful, because Gaelic polytheism is an elevated form of ancestor worship and Patrick was able to align Christian theology with their existing practices and fold into it. The “myths” about St. Patrick driving the snakes from Ireland are more akin to mythopoetic epics like Beowulf, The Illiad or The Epic of Gilgamesh. The true story of St. Patrick is actually pretty interesting and inspiring, even if you have an anti-Christian bias. His influence on the Gaelic conversion to Catholicism bred a very interesting form of Christianity that still included the old gods as saints, and kept the pagan practices intact right up until the Reformation, in which the political body of the Church built an idea of cultural shame that pushed those traditions away. The Carmina Gadelica by Alexander Carmichael, published originally in 1900 has a very interesting perspective on this and I strongly encourage anyone following a Gaelic path to read it.

So, now that we’ve established that I come from an indigenous group that has every right to be anti-monotheistic, here’s the second clincher. I am an Ashkenazi Jew. Yep! That’s right. A Jewish Heathen. My family came to the US slightly before WWI and changed our name to something more officially “Austrian” sounding in order to escape discrimination. We stopped practicing and moved on in order to hide from the dangers that existed for us in Europe. That was my great-great-grandfather. My great-grandfather, who was a just under pre-teen, when we immigrated became a surgeon and then enlisted in the Army Medical Corps as a trauma surgeon to go serve at the hospital base in France for the last 4 years of WWII after the Allies took it back. At the same time, my grandfather (who had no idea about his heritage) was 19 years old and serving in the Navy on the Japanese front. His sister passed away this year and left me all of the documentation of this saga which really cleared up some confusion and concern that I had had when I discovered an Nazi SS officers sabre tucked into a closet at my grandparents house when I was 15. It’s been kind of an interesting experience to have had one cultural experience and then to find out that I have another incredibly unique one from a completely different perspective.

That being said: lets talk about Judaism. It is one of the the oldest monotheistic religions in existence. It was established (this is a general estimation) around 1800-2000 BCE. The first Jewish temple was destroyed in 587 BCE in Babylon. This puts Judaism existing in similar spheres with the Epic of Gilgamesh (which shares a similar set of mythos and my dear friend Banshee has some fantastic articles about the developments of Judaism) and the polytheistic practices of the Mesopotamian Crescent (technically speaking Zoroastrianism predates even Judaism and it is a monotheistic faith as well.) What that means is that there have been monotheistic practices in existence long before the Gaels, the Picts, and the Norse even became cohesive societies. That’s not to suggest that there were not hunter-gatherer protohistoric groups in those areas, but historical record in Ireland doesn’t begin until 400CE. Which is almost a thousand years after the first Jewish temple was destroyed. The Viking Age didn’t even begin until the Middle Ages. (as an aside, Judaism actually was at least duotheistic with worship of the Asherah, but this gets into Zionist Judaism which is not something I’m generally prepared to discuss or debate currently and it’s ultimately irrelevant to the discussion that I’m having since the sentiment remains the same. To get that information and perspective, I recommend my dear friend Banshee.)

By that logical and historically proven record: it’s pretty clear that monotheistic traditions have existed in conjunction with polytheistic ones at least as long as we have had recorded history.

So when I see rhetoric like the commentary that Ms. Krasskova dictates, from my cultural perspectives- I am offended by both ideas. It marginalizes the legitimacy of people who have been on the earth longer than the ones who worship the gods that she is devoted to. In the long history of Jewish marginalization, it is the kind of rhetoric that led to the US turning away Jewish refugees seeking asylum in WWII that led to the massive eradication of millions of people. Don’t get me wrong, there were other victims of the Holocaust. But the very pointed purpose of Hitlers actions was to eradicate the Jewish race. And lets be quite honest, his Teutonic fixation with a “true race” was strongly born from Henrich Himmlers obsession with Nordic mythos and ideals. As a practicing Heathen, I’m never going to suggest that our faith is inherently racist, but we are very responsible for the way that we speak on the subjects that we do.

It is arrogant, irresponsible, narcissistic, and foolish to snip about ancestor worship and tinge it with an anti-monotheist bias. If anything it strongly suggests that the individual speaking has no concept of legitimate historical record or they are intentionally white-washing (and I’m using this in the dictionary definition, not the race-based one) history in order to absolve themselves from an “ancestral sin,” while being able to look down their nose at others. To me- that is an insult to every ancestor we have ever had as humans. And it is a personal affront to me, given my cultural and family history and ties. It is not a matter of opinion about the offense I take to this rhetoric.

It is factual. It is provable. And I’ll distinctively choose not to use the buzzwords of “bigot” or “racist” because they’re incendiary and that is not the point that I’m choosing to make here. I am pointing out the Neopagan inclination to hold to a singular tangent of discourse that is based on sensationalized and incorrect history built by individuals like Gerald Gardner who cut and pasted pieces of mythologies without context into a religion that he created which has since run absolutely amok in polytheistic communities and poisoned any ability for them to grow because the leaders in these communities are completely hung up on their anti-Christian sentiments.

And ultimately, to victimize oneself or to vilify ones ancestors for “converting” to “aggressive monotheism” because of a bias and anti-Christian agenda is to ignore the responsibilities of ones own polytheist ancestors who committed the same acts of war and violence against a singular monotheistic group. There has been no culture so demonized and attacked as the Jews. So, this conversation no longer becomes about “bigotry” or “racism” or arguing about whether or not “folkish” practice is problematic or not: It is anti-Semetic pure an simple. Anti-Semitism has been a norm for my people for thousands of years, and you’d really think that someone claiming a Norse practice after the horrors of WWII would be a little more aware of that reality.

Ethics in The Wider Community: On Discourse

Today has been a relatively interesting day for me. I make it a point to follow people that I don’t necessarily agree with, as well as to keep up with the general goings on in the pagan blogospheres because I feel it relatively important to be informed, though I do my best to stay uninvolved. I have my own opinions on many subjects but I prefer to discourse them rather than to enter into the kind of “call-out” culture that has become so rampant across social media. All of that being said, since it is a fact of public record, I’m not going to intentionally mask what I’m writing about.

Galina Krasskova is a relatively well-known pagan author and blogger. Like most well known people in the pagan sphere, there are people that dislike her and people who like her. There are people that find her behaviors and what she teaches to be problematic, and there are people who don’t. My opinion here is irrelevant, how I personally feel about the practice or conduct of a peer does not have anything to do with the fact that they are, indeed a peer, and since I’m an academic who heartily believes in purely academic discourse, the experience I had today on her WordPress blog has left me somewhat dumbfounded and a little disappointed. 

I could have originally been more “quote” and respond in my initial comment, but given that Krasskova and I have never interacted before, I made the assumption that any questions I posed or concepts I challenged would be met with the same academic mindset I hold (especially given her background) and instead I was met with such a level of anger and frustration that I honestly couldn’t figure out how to respond. In following attempts to defend my thought processes, I did have the lovely experience of meeting a few other bloggers that I’m going to be following and staying up with. Unfortunately, this was when Krasskova’s husband got involved and I found the things that followed to be somewhat along the lines of twitter flame wars. Where groups will team up on the one person they disagree with and no matter what one could do to defend themselves, there was one more person to come back at them.

After working in academic and corporate environments for so long, I’m used to getting intellectually cornered and put in places to defend myself, especially in the sense that I’m either defending an idea to prove my credibility or defending my credibility as someone able to complete a job, take on a large project or take a management position. In both of those very patriarchal worlds, I have learned (as a woman) to shutter my emotional responses (as low as they may be in the first place) and to respond with pragmatism.

Situations where this isn’t reciprocated and the emotional game is insistently being played either for a purpose of making oneself out to be a victim, or to simply villianize the opposing party are both frustrating and irritating to me. I don’t generally care what someone may say about me, but I do like good manners. And being polite. (There is some kind of joke about me being more like Hannibal Lector than I’d be comfortable making here.) I’ll be the first to admit that the matter-of-fact blunt approach I have can be off-putting and callous, but it is most certainly never emotional and I don’t have feelings that could get hurt.

I just strongly dislike people being rude and nitpicking conversations rather than understanding things as a whole. It’s counterproductive to any kind of growth or experience, and its unfortunate that this community at large seems to be rampant with this kind of back-biting, victim-baiting behavior. Needless to say, I will not be interacting with Ms. Krasskova directly again unless necessary in the hands of some kind of project that puts us together in the future.

I will, however, continue to critique and be critical of the events, writings and postings within this community. Because without conflict, how do we grow?

Ethics in a Wider Community

This is a bit more of an editorial post than the kind of content you’re usually going to be seeing from me, but I find it distinctively relevant today as I had a member of one of the smaller communities I am heavily involved with come to me for some advice and help. As I tend to pride myself on being somewhat of a Mother Wolf (1. I’m old and 2. I’m protective) I got involved in a professional capacity because the situation deemed it necessary. The role of a mentor or teacher is to assist and shore up their students. We have the professional background and experience. This is not an act of saving everyone around them, but it becomes important to see the distinction, lest one find themselves carrying the entire world.

From personal experience, that’s not a position I’d like to find anyone in.

I have been present in different online pagan/polytheist communities since about 2009 in varying iterations and names, though my practice has stayed very much the same. When I joined Tumblr in 2011- I found it very easy to get involved in the community and for some time I quite enjoyed myself. But there is a tendency on Tumblr start a kind of intellectual circle-jerk where people are just biasing and re-biasing the same unfortunate ideas, or just flat out plagiarizing research, practices or concepts and then claiming them as original.

For someone like me, who has traveled extensively and spent quite a lot of my life and money in pursuit of the research that I built my practice around- this kind of behavior becomes offensive and disrespectful. Not because I’m unwilling to share my ideas or allow someone else access to them- but because they lack the context for how that practice was built. It is impossible to completely understand the full meat of something without at least giving credence to its conception. In a religious identity, a simple phrase is never just that.

Those of us, especially the women of these communities have a responsibility to each other. The women, like me, who follow a warrior’s path are even moreso bound. We are all working together to challenge ideas that are unpopular because they are uncomfortable. We should be braver and more honorable than to engage in academic backstabbing to further an agenda or some kind of fame. We may not be mothers in the classic sense, but we should be standing together and not with a half-eye over our shoulder waiting for the next person to take a bite from our back.

We are all capable of working together in our concept building. There is no shame in quoting someone else, or even in asking for their directed input. That does not make one any less of a valid practitioner or presenter. It actually makes you better. Polytheist and pagan communities are not bound by the same social laws of true Academia, and to be quite honest with you- I find that something to mourn. Our reputations should be built on our own work, and then how we respect the work of others- not by a verification built from popularity.

My advice for any who keep silent for fear of their work being picked apart? Do not be. Learn your copyright laws, keep reciepts of conversations and research. Communicate in emails rather than instant message conversations. Record interviews (with permission.) Prove every step you take so that you can stand proud and in ownership of your work. You have all earned the right to do so. Now claim it.