Broken Lines

Broken lines run through many animist and polytheist religions.  In some places, those lines are fairly stark.  In others, the division between what was and where we are is sometimes bridged by practices and beliefs based in the old ways.  At least for Americans, most of us are completely divorced from even the lived folk ways and folklore that remained with pir Ancestors due to successive generations assimilating, by force or choice, into monotheist and then US culture.  We lost connections to where our Ancestors came from, their language, and their ways along with it.

I was never taught any folklore or folkways from Germany, England, Ireland from our family.  No songs, no stories, no practices, and only a few recipes collected from family members.  I was taught a smattering of German words.  There was nothing left by the time I was being raised.  I was raised a Catholic, which at least taught me virtues of regular prayer, piety, an appreciation of the Ancestors that came before me, and an appreciation of ritual.  Still, by the time I was being raised every vestige of any animist or polytheist inkling had been wiped out of my family.

So, when I felt the call from my Gods, I did what anyone would do in this situation: I read about Them.  As I read about Them and learned how to make offerings, and what kind of offerings specific Gods might like, I started to do prayers, to make offerings, and learned how to divine so I could better understand Them.  I had to reforge links with the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir through trial and error.  Only after a few years of being a Northern Tradition and Heathen did I finally have an Elder to look up to, ask questions, and seek guidance from, and it dramatically changed my life.  She had done the same in her own turn before me, and I benefited from that.  There was so much I was able to grasp and explore because I had help in filtering things through a sift of experience, someone with the ability to separate ice cream from bullshit.  It helped me to grow in the religion, and it helped me to better understand myself, the Holy Powers, and my place in things.  While we are having to work with a broken lineage to our ancient, polytheist past, having Elders and co-religionists to rely on now helps to ease the burden of the journey.

I do not believe we would struggle as much in terms of basic dialogue, understanding, walking these paths, or learning about and from our Holy Powers if our lineages were still intact.  What is facing many animist and polytheist religions now is how to navigate these lines of separation.

I see these as issues that directly relate to most polytheisms having broken lineages, and being actively addressed now:

  • A basic lack of familiarity with the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir of a given tradition. Not everyone needs to know every God or Goddess, but there are more than a few Gods who often get short shrift when, because of cosmological function, community function, or relationship with everyday life, They ought to be better known. For instance, Gerda.
  • A basic lack of familiarity, understanding of, and engagement with religious protocol. Things like the implications of the guest/host relationship factor really big into polytheist religion, and it ought to have more of an impact on how we frame our relationships given how these ideas influenced and continue to influence, when they are known, the lives of those who engage in reciprocity and guest/host relations in a way that is respectful to both and upholding of reciprocity between them.
  • A basic lack of familiarity with ritual purity. These don’t have to be elaborate. These can be simple things, like washing the hands and face before offerings, or taking a shower before holy day celebrations.
  • A basic lack of piety. The very bedrock of how we engage with our Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir need not be all bowed heads and uttering long prayers, though for some that may be the expectation and it is on the worshiper to fulfill it. A basic lack of piety means that even reverence at a shrine is not tended to. Things like the offering cups are cleaned on a regular basis, or you don’t just offer when you want something; you maintain a good relationship with a God, Ancestors, or vaettir. It would be like inviting Grandma over, not having cleaned or even prepared a meal for her after not seeing for a year to hit her up for cash.
  • A basic lack of understanding core principles of a polytheist path, such as the aforementioned reciprocity, guest rights/host rights, where one’s place is cosmologically and in relationship with the Holy Powers.

There’s so much more, but on a baseline we would have these things taught to us and modeled for us as a matter of course as part of being in polytheist societies.

Since our Ancestors did not stay the course, whether by sword, torture, starvation, and/or their choice of conversion, we can only speculate so far as to what they would have done.

Reconstructing and reviving the animist/polytheist religions requires us to do what we can as we can to revive, reconstruct, and/or revitalize the religions and cultures we are engaged in with the help and/or direction of the Gods, Ancestors, and/or vaettir. Where there are unbridgeable gaps in knowledge, we ask Them to help us fill in the holes, to create a whole, healthy religion and spiritual understanding in which They are tightly wound.  There are several factors worth thinking on in how we reconstruct, revitalize, and/or renew these religions.  A good overview of this, written by Caer, and exploring the ideas of antiquity and modernity in the context of these conversations can be found here.  One of the major factors being considered by a lot of folks is on modernity, and whether it is a help or hindrance to this.  I am firmly of the view that modernity is a deep hindrance to understanding and embracing a polytheist worldview.

Looking at life and the world now, there is little room for my Gods. Where would I look for my Gods in modernity when so much of it is built on the bones of sacred places and their worshipers? Where would I look for my Ancestors ways’ in this world when the holy sites of the old countries these cultures hailed from (now often tourist attractions/traps) have to be fought for just so they aren’t paved over or removed? Where would I look in modernity for the vaettir when companies gleefully bulldoze 10,000 acres of old growth forest just for 100 years of unfettered limestone mining?

Modernity demands my silence in one hand and pretty looking shackles in the other. It promises to spare me from direct shackles that others bear on my behalf so that my computer can be built, the electricity runs, the Internet and all the various apparatus that keeps it afloat keep on running. It’s colonialism by other means, with all the ‘externalities’ bought and paid for with the blood, sweat, tears, misery, and lives of other people. Part of my work in service to the Gods is to sever that cycle when and wherever I can. Modernity is a poor substitute for a religious teacher.

Polytheist religion informed by ancient cultures which were based in Europe is not synonymous with modernity’s Eurocentrism. Rather than encourage such a mindset, if we were to pay close attention to our Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir, and live in better concert with Them, it would be quite a revolutionary act. It would discard the largely Eurocentric-based and upheld myth of evolution which placed Christianity, then later atheism or agnosticism at the top of the proverbial heap. It would discard the notion that animist, polytheist, and similar religions were backward, misguided, or that what was found within these religions was something better relegated to a bygone period.

Animist and polytheist religions generally embrace living with and within a world we inhabit with our Holy Powers, where their considerations are taken into account. To my mind this is part of piety and reciprocity. It is a powerful, subversive, and revolutionary thing to regard a stream, lake, piece of land, one’s home, or wherever one goes to be full of spirits, and potentially a home to the Gods and/or Ancestors in addition to the vaettir who call that place home, or ARE that place. It is no small thing to consider that the rights of such a place to be free from damage is part of the rights of the land itself as the land itself is a vaettr (spirit) and/or collection of vaettir (spirits), or it may Itself be a God or many Gods.  It also demands that our religions live in the now, and not be ossified in the past, bound only to what the lore, or what archaeology can tell us.  Most reconstructionists will tell you this is generally what happens in reconstruction anyhow.  It’s a methodology for how to take in and work with information, rather than a religious model itself.

I had to tackle this head-on when I became a priest of Anubis.  There was no temple structure.  I was learning from someone outside Kemetic orders, traditions, etc., and all I had to go on was what they taught, and my ongoing spiritual work and communication with Anpu when they left my life.  There’s a lot of reinventing the wheel that goes on in modern Pagan, animist and polytheist religions, at least in America, because infrastructure is so lacking, very often all we have are books to look to.  If you are lucky enough to have a local community, you may have one or two folks somewhere in your wheelhouse who want to do ritual with you.  If not, it’s a loner’s game.

What I do not mean to say is that infrastructure, hierarchy, etc. is the only way for polytheists to do things moving forward.  Some folks simply don’t work well within such things, and that is fine.  For others, belonging to a hierarchy is actually at odds with their path for religious reasons, such as a taboo, what role(s) they may serve within a community, etc.

For a lot of folks, though, there’s a deep desire to have functioning communities.  Some people would like these with temples, structures, community events, festivals and celebrations, and so on.  This requires some kind of hierarchy to organize and to keep going. At the very least if one is part of a polytheist religion where the heart of the culture stops and starts in the home, a hearth culture, someone needs to teach the other family members the religion, and/or help keep devotional work, offerings, and so on, on a regular basis.  At the other end of the spectrum, a full-on temple could require things like dedicated temple staff who are the only ones to care for the icons of the Gods within an inner sanctum, with some staff dedicated either on a full-time, part time and/or volunteer basis to do maintenance and care for the temple.  While more hearth culture forms of animism and polytheism may not require much in the way of financial support, more complex and elaborate forms like the temple complex example above, absolutely do.

Each animist and polytheist in each animist and polytheist religion will be affected by these choices, and it will affect how future generations receive and understand their religion and culture.  In repairing our broken lines, we have to ask ourselves which lines we are able to repair now, which ways we accept may not be reparable, and what new lines we will make with the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir.  How these broken lines are worked with, repaired, or made new will determine what religions future generations inherit, contribute to, and pass on, or whether future generations receive a grounding in the religions to begin with.

Advertisements
  1. January 11, 2016 at 4:17 am

    There’s a lot here to stimulate conversation and further consideration, so thanks for all that!

    As someone who knows for a fact that strictly “virtual” communities and such are really not “where it’s at,” I’ve been trying to get more in-person interactions. Unfortunately, what the formation of communities in modern polytheism (and paganism) runs directly up against–despite its obvious not only importance but fundamental essential quality in all of the indigenous groups, now and in the past–is two things: 1) the individualist streak in Western, and particularly in American, culture, which is suspicious of “group think” (i.e. anything larger than oneself and perhaps one’s own immediate relationships with family and/or friends) and regards communitarian values as antithetical to individual welfare; and 2) the fact that almost all of us who got into polytheism (or sometimes paganism) did so against the grain of the majority of our families and friends, and it is thus seen that because of our individuality, our quirkiness, our idiosyncrasies, and so forth, that is how we have been lead to/rediscovered and reconnected with our Deities, which then seems in jeopardy if we have to hash things out with a wider community.

    Of course, in situation #1 above, community values do not need to be at the expense of individual concerns and welfare–it is because Western Christian/capitalist values have subordinated and abused the rights of individuals (especially those who are different–other races, genders, sexual orientations, etc.–or have different needs–e.g. the disabled, those with cognitive differences, etc.) that we tend to assume such, and thus paint “all communities” as acting in the manners which the most commonly encountered dysfunctional communities operate. (And, sadly, sometimes that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy when we do then attempt to form communities.)

    However–and this is the part that I think both doesn’t get recognized when it does occur/has happened, and doesn’t get taken advantage of in terms of “this is a tendency that seems pretty natural and ingrained, so let’s let that happen and work to support it rather than trying to undermine it”–the experience of many pagan communities, covens, and so forth tends to demonstrate that these communities can be formed (even when dysfunctional), and that they are beneficial to their members (at least for some of the time), and that larger networks and ideas and thoughts then tend to solidify in them which create cohesion. Humans are cooperative creatures and are naturally social animals, and indigenous societies tend to not only understand this, but then also use it to the advantage of the group by making sure each individual within it is able to lend their talents and skills and the joys they take in these to the larger group’s benefit. Paganism tends to hate the idea that people getting together might start to believe the same things and hold similar views, and thus rather than allowing for this to happen, it necessitates that people constantly question and undermine their own viewpoints (despite what it may say to the contrary on some occasions). Paganism outwardly praises diversity and dissent, but then doesn’t actually allow it in relation to many matters. Paganism recognizes egregores, and even realizes how they can be created and used effectively, but then undermines them as things which are out-of-control and mind-controlling menaces, and all that might accompany them (especially ones they do not create themselves) are undermined and critiqued and assailed. As a result, when polytheists come into their midst, we often find that we’re wading into communities where group-think and so forth (no matter how dysfunctionally) are in full operation, and because we have ideas that are different and that we feel are important and essential, we don’t ever really fit in to certain degrees, which is fine–except then the larger pagan communities often still try to include us (often against our wills) to exert some degree of control over us, and if we instead make the sensible move of wanting to form our own communities, all of that negative baggage from the dysfunctional communities, and our own suspicions and reservations about such communities, get carried with us, and it ends up ruining our efforts.

    Yes, these are vast generalizations, but I see things being pulled apart at the seams (even if the seams were never fully fastened together), and it appears to me very obvious why this is. Until more people start realizing that all communities aren’t bad, and that new one should be able to form on their own without interference from others, then these problems are going to continue self-perpetuating, I think, for the foreseeable future…and in 50 years, if anyone is still alive on our planet to have these conversations, it will have gone no further than it has at this point.

    (There’s more to say, but I’m running out of steam…!?!)

    • January 11, 2016 at 7:17 am

      You are welcome! Thanks for coming over and commenting! I hope it does stimulate quite a bit of conversation. I think these are as needed as any we can have, and are pretty important.

      “As someone who knows for a fact that strictly “virtual” communities and such are really not “where it’s at,” I’ve been trying to get more in-person interactions….1) the individualist streak in Western, and particularly in American, culture, which is suspicious of “group think”…2) the fact that almost all of us who got into polytheism (or sometimes paganism) did so against the grain of the majority of our families and friends…”

      In regards to point 1, in communitarian societies there tends to be a rejection of the individual as important, or importance placed especially on one’s community above the individual. Individual actions mattered, but in how they upheld one’s society, in how one lived one’s life being a boon to one’s society. Aside from the sheer lack of numbers, this is so at odds with American society that I’m not very shocked a lot of folks are still solitary or working with small segments of people.

      As to point 2, that is a really good observation. I think this is a pretty significant difference in how a lot of ancient polytheists would have seen themselves, i.e. we are Roman, Suebi, etc. rather than Christian vs. Northern Tradition and Heathen polytheist. There was no need to think of oneself as ‘polytheist’ because the concept was more or less assumed, much like how a lot of folks I run across, even after seeing my valknut, may still assume I’m Christian.
      I think you’re right to pointing out how individualism and how conversion in the U.S. tends to hurt the process of community building.

      “However…“this is a tendency that seems pretty natural and ingrained, so let’s let that happen and work to support it rather than trying to undermine it…which create cohesion.”

      That’s, I think, the sad part of it. This is a natural tendency for folks, whereas strident individualism as a societal landmark is relatively young, immature, and poorly developed. I also see no evidence for it out of the literature I have read, or in my studies as anything other than a temporary blip which is made possible by hordes of people toiling in an off-stage-out-of-mind manner that allows the ‘individual’ to think themselves important and alone in securing themselves and what they own. Peak oil and climate change issues emerging now will not only challenge the rugged individualist, I believe it will outright rip the notion to shreds if folks want to survive. Same with the economic challenges. I know more young folks than not either living with parents or who are living together with non-romantic partners for saving money on housing. With wages still flat since the 70s, more high-paying jobs being held by folks in older age brackets, and with underemployment higher than ever, I expect this trend will keep on going, and may be settling into becoming a norm.

      “Humans are cooperative creatures and are naturally social animals, and indigenous societies tend to not only understand this, but then also use it to the advantage of the group by making sure each individual within it is able to lend their talents and skills and the joys they take in these to the larger group’s benefit.”

      This understanding of ‘we all benefit when we all benefit from our talents and skills’, a pro-social model of caring for one’s community is actively denigrated by the overculture, as are any means of supporting one’s community. With the eschewing of tithing for public temple spaces, or other forms of Gebo that allow them to operate, I wish I could say I am shocked that more have not become built. Couple this with the issues I have mentioned about hierarchy, and you about individualism, and its no small wonder groups have a hard time with getting started, let alone having lasting staying power.

      “Paganism tends to hate the idea that people getting together might start to believe the same things and hold similar views, and thus rather than allowing for this to happen, it necessitates that people constantly question and undermine their own viewpoints (despite what it may say to the contrary on some occasions). Paganism outwardly praises diversity and dissent, but then doesn’t actually allow it in relation to many matters.”

      I think actually that Paganism is internally consistent if we understand what we do about the individualism that plagues it referenced above. If community is subsumed in importance to the individual, then diversity and dissent is everything in terms of identifying one way or the other. Going with the grain is selling out, or indulging in group-think rather than being part of a cohesive community. Certainly, not all Paganisms are this way, but if we agree we are speaking in generalizations then this would actually fit with what we’ve said already. If one questions and undermines one’s views, up to and including one’s worldview, when it begins to fit with others or when the specter of group-think raises its head, it is very hard to create, let alone maintain anything lasting.

      “Paganism recognizes egregores, and even realizes how they can be created and used effectively, but then undermines them as things which are out-of-control and mind-controlling menaces, and all that might accompany them (especially ones they do not create themselves) are undermined and critiqued and assailed.”

      I think that this another case of taking what was once good cautionary measures to an extreme, which seems to be a pretty big feature in American culture as a whole right now.

      “As a result, when polytheists come into their midst, we often find that we’re wading into communities where group-think and so forth (no matter how dysfunctionally) are in full operation, and because we have ideas that are different and that we feel are important and essential, we don’t ever really fit in to certain degrees, which is fine–except then the larger pagan communities often still try to include us (often against our wills) to exert some degree of control over us, and if we instead make the sensible move of wanting to form our own communities, all of that negative baggage from the dysfunctional communities, and our own suspicions and reservations about such communities, get carried with us, and it ends up ruining our efforts.”

      To no small part, polytheists have very clear identifiers for what makes a person part of the particular in-group. To be a polytheist is to worship and/or believe in many Gods. To be a henotheist is to worship one God/dess while believing in many. From there, a Northern Tradition and/or Heathen polytheist is a person who worships and/or believes in Gods from certain region(s) of the world. Going deeper from there, a continental Germanic Heathen is one who worships and/or believes in Gods from a very particular area of the world. If one identifies as a reconstructionist, reconstructionist-derived, or non-reconstructionist, this refines one’s identifiers (namely the methodology one takes in how to understand and integrate information in regards to the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir one worships) but takes nothing away from the basic understanding that a polytheist is one that believes in and worships many Gods.

      Generic Paganism (without qualifiers, and very often without hierarchies or even many words that would give the word meaning beyond vague notions) suffers because the language that has developed around it is emotional more than prescriptive. It evokes good feelings in that it is open and welcoming, but that openness and welcome has little utility in terms of identity or helping people navigate how open/welcoming to be. There are no boundaries inherent even in the term in how it is used right now. Contrast this with the identifier polytheist, and the difference between basic terminology, and what unfolds from that, is fairly clear.

      It also is not helpful that there are polytheists who identify as Pagan, and their identity is seen as bound up as one in the same. It isn’t that I view this necessarily as a bad thing; such a thing was normal when I became Pagan, even if the polytheist part of it was duotheism at its core, as the norm. What is problematic is that the lines are blurred to such a degree between disparate parts of communities that have little in common with each other. My problem, boiled down, comes to language being unclear, and this making it hard to have conversations in and around these topics without causing offense, hurt, etc. If we separate Paganism and polytheism, there are some folks who feel caught in the middle, whereas others see it is a necessity if polytheists are going to develop further in theology, our own communities, etc. as these folks already see them as separate, and others still who see Paganism and polytheism being separate and see it as a good thing if we, in our turn, went our own way.

      “Yes, these are vast generalizations, but I see things being pulled apart at the seams (even if the seams were never fully fastened together), and it appears to me very obvious why this is. Until more people start realizing that all communities aren’t bad, and that new one should be able to form on their own without interference from others, then these problems are going to continue self-perpetuating, I think, for the foreseeable future…and in 50 years, if anyone is still alive on our planet to have these conversations, it will have gone no further than it has at this point.”

      I agree, but as someone who is relatively young as a polytheist, with 12 years total between the Pagan and polytheist communities, I have been told these things run in cycles. After being told about long-running community dialogues that occasionally blow up, recede, and can come back again, I have come to look at them kind of like economic booms and busts. I’ll be honest in that I’m not as interested in contributing to booms and busts, which is why I am trying to find ways to exit the general economy as much as I can. Similarly, this is why I write my blog the way I do even if I do occasionally (or sometimes for great stretches of time) speak on things when they are reaching a fever pitch. I cannot not be involved in some kind of economy, just as I cannot not be involved in the larger talks going on through the communities I am part of unless I take myself out of the economy/dialogue. There are times where such a thing is prudent, but I tend to think this more when it comes to economics than dialogue.

      “(There’s more to say, but I’m running out of steam…!?!)”

      I hope to read more on what you have to say on these things!

  2. January 12, 2016 at 4:44 am

    You’ve covered a lot of ground here 🙂 I have to say I agree with most of it. I find my struggles with being a polytheist in modern Western randomly kick to the front of my mind on occasion, usually when something particularly irritating comes up, like when I’m busy running around doing errands and don’t have the time/energy to disengage/reingage with the wights of each place I’m in, nor do I particularly want to stop and explain to my non-polytheist friends and family each time why I would even need to do this. It’s been a great relief to finally start building my own mixed-polytheist community where I live now, and have some regular interaction with polytheists, even if we aren’t all is in the same tradition. It’s also a relief to be dating another polytheist, as I don’t need to go into a long backstory to explain, for example, why I need to go to the rounds of the local familegravs and visit my dead relatives *yet again*.

    So, I think community building is the way to counteract the “modernity” which I feel you are describing. Community can be a double-edged sword, however. I personally feel as the general “Pagan” movement has gotten older, and the various reconstructionist groups have gone through a variety of growing pains,and the communities *have* grown significantly, or so it feels, in the last decade or so–I think these are all working to our advantage. I think mainly it comes down to meeting people, forming connections, building groups, and doing it all over again, ad nauseum, all while assuming goodwill but keeping an open and observant mind. (Several Havamal passages come to mind 🙂 .) It sounds simple and easy in theory, but it’s a lot of in-the-trenches work, or so it feels. I’ve found blogs to be a great way to discuss these ideas and build common ground; thanks for sharing your ideas so regularly and thoroughly!

    • January 12, 2016 at 5:34 am

      “You’ve covered a lot of ground here.”
      I try!

      “I have to say I agree with most of it. I find my struggles with being a polytheist in modern Western randomly kick to the front of my mind on occasion, usually when something particularly irritating comes up, like when I’m busy running around doing errands and don’t have the time/energy to disengage/reingage with the wights of each place I’m in, nor do I particularly want to stop and explain to my non-polytheist friends and family each time why I would even need to do this.”

      Maybe having something on your person for a quick, simple offering like a packet of herbs you can just pop into from a pocket, purse, bag, etc. would help? I keep a bag with a pouch of tobacoo, a bag of mugwort, a lighter or two and book of matches in my trenchcoat for that. That, and I keep a pipe on me so if I feel like They want something more, or if I’m visiting a graveyard, poof, smoke offerings.

      “It’s been a great relief to finally start building my own mixed-polytheist community where I live now, and have some regular interaction with polytheists, even if we aren’t all is in the same tradition. It’s also a relief to be dating another polytheist, as I don’t need to go into a long backstory to explain, for example, why I need to go to the rounds of the local familegravs and visit my dead relatives *yet again*.”

      I bet! That is pretty cool. Yeah, being married to another polytheist it cuts out a lot of the background info I would have to remind, info dump, etc. when I needed to go do things. Same with having a polytheist community to speak with. Considering some of the dialogue around these things I have been reading online, I would count myself damned lucky to have even a small community with which to interact, let alone worship with.

      “So, I think community building is the way to counteract the “modernity” which I feel you are describing. Community can be a double-edged sword, however.”

      How so? I am curious how you see community as a double-edged sword.

      “I personally feel as the general “Pagan” movement has gotten older, and the various reconstructionist groups have gone through a variety of growing pains,and the communities *have* grown significantly, or so it feels, in the last decade or so–I think these are all working to our advantage.”

      I would agree. From what I have been told, there is a lot more acceptance of ‘woo’, and even folks who may have once actively, vocally denigrated folks for worshiping certain Gods are getting less traction even while in some sectors the volume for these folks is louder.

      “I think mainly it comes down to meeting people, forming connections, building groups, and doing it all over again, ad nauseum, all while assuming goodwill but keeping an open and observant mind. (Several Havamal passages come to mind 🙂 .)”

      Agreed, and this is one of the hardest things about meeting and forming connections. Intimacy of any kind requires vulnerability. Vulnerability to being hurt, being joyous, being asked to do hard work, or to take a back seat so someone else can. Those Havamal passages are damned insightful and useful.

      “It sounds simple and easy in theory, but it’s a lot of in-the-trenches work, or so it feels. I’ve found blogs to be a great way to discuss these ideas and build common ground; thanks for sharing your ideas so regularly and thoroughly!”

      It does sound easy because that, I think, is really the way a lot of things of this nature go. It’s one thing to say to someone “Make an offering to a God once a week, on a certain day and for a certain amount of time, pray to them.” It’s way harder to keep that schedule of regular offering and devotion when life throws you curve balls. Yet, that discipline and rigor is one of the key factors I see as needed in order to produce lasting, healthy communities. That discipline and rigor cannot just be confined to one group of people or another. Everyone needs to be doing this.

  3. January 12, 2016 at 11:01 pm

    “Maybe having something on your person for a quick, simple offering like a packet of herbs you can just pop into from a pocket, purse, bag, etc. would help?”

    Yep. That’s a habit I’ve been meaning to get into. Tobacco never seemed very Heathen to me, but I know a number of people who use it for Heathen things. And certainly, it would keep better than the food or drink I would normally offer wights, ancestors, and deities.

    ” Considering some of the dialogue around these things I have been reading online, I would count myself damned lucky to have even a small community with which to interact, let alone worship with.”

    Yep. I got to experience this first hand this past year, going from a very vibrant community to a place where there was no community, and helping the various individuals and groups come together to build a new community. It’s been a very eye-opening experience. Keep in mind that the reason I moved to CA to begin with, and stayed so long, was to be in a place where there were a lot of active Heathens and other pagans.

    “How so? I am curious how you see community as a double-edged sword.”

    Oh, community. The problem with communities is that they are filled with people.

    Communities can have a myriad of problems. For example, in my current area, the pagan community had been *so* dysfunctional for over the past 30 years that many seekers (as well as established pagans) who tried to join it stayed only short while, realized how dysfunctional it was, and left, vowing never to return again. Or stayed and got burned in some way, shape, or form. I’d like to say that it was just a few of the the pagans I’ve met in this area who were exaggerating about this, but at this point *every single pagan* (Heathen, Wiccan, or just “seeking”) that I have met in the course of this past year have *all* told me *exactly* the same thing. And they can’t pin it on one individual or group, really; apparently it was the “Pagan community” in general that was the problem. /shrug And so at least part of what has been drawing people to anything I run now is that I provide a friendly, drama-free event that people feel safe attending. (Community building: there’s a reason a bunch of us have been kicked from the nest, as it were, and sent to far-flung parts of the US recently.)

    I’ve also personally been in groups that imploded in bad ways, and in communities that had some really unhealthy boundaries. So I’ve seen a bunch of ways in which communities either messed up individuals and/or gave Paganism or Heathenry a bad name.

    My best analogy is that a community is like a family. Families can be amazing centers of support and love, or they can be the source of the worst abuse humans can dole out to one another. It really depends on who’s involved and what’s allowed, behavior-wise. We see this on internet communities, definitely; and I have to say that unfortunately it’s not any better in person. There’s just no guarantee that any community will be healthy, no matter what the underlying premise or belief system is. Hence the “meeting people, forming connections, building groups, and doing it all over again, ad nauseum, all while assuming goodwill but keeping an open and observant mind” comment I made earlier.

    Anyway. That’s probably a bit more long-winded than you were expecting.

    “From what I have been told, there is a lot more acceptance of ‘woo’, and even folks who may have once actively, vocally denigrated folks for worshiping certain Gods are getting less traction even while in some sectors the volume for these folks is louder. ”

    So I hear. I’ve been lucky in that whatever the problems in the communities and groups I’ve been involved in, none of them pooh-poohed any particular God or UPG that badly. Everyone’s got opinions. I personally don’t have a lot of tolerance for people who are so secure in their opinions that they need to shove them down my throat, so I tend to stay away from those groups.

    “Yet, that discipline and rigor is one of the key factors I see as needed in order to produce lasting, healthy communities. ”

    That’s where it would be useful to be a good 60-80 years into the Heathen or polytheist movement, when (hopefully) we’d have more standardized training and methods, instead of being where we are now, which is still discussing and creating those methods. C’est la vie. But yes, having a diligent personal practice is the key to this whole polytheist thing.

  1. January 12, 2016 at 5:29 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: