Variations

The most common offensive against accepting regional variations is the concept of patrioi nomoi, which is best translated as, “the way of the fathers”. The idea that the one’s ancestral ways are the best ways is an idea that is present within most religions, polytheistic or not. While the idea of one’s parents’ religion being the best religion is steadily falling by the wayside, not more than 100 years ago the spirit of the idea was present in the minds of the Christian West. In ancient Athens patrioi nomoi was used as justification for many practices and ways of doing things, and in the Roman Empire things weren’t so different. Yet the concept of patrioi nomoi is ultimately stifling and dangerous for polytheistic religions trying to rebuild themselves. Foremost, the idea neglects the fact that things don’t really fall stay with the ways of the fathers forever. New festivals are instituted, practices change, and ideas change. This change or idea of change is underplayed or denied altogether but it is present in every culture no matter how conservative they are. On top of this, colonies usually neglected many of the festivals and rites which their fathers performed due to their new location(s). Clearly the concept of patrioi nomoi was applicable for a certain citizenry and only in the context of that polis. Separations of time and distance resulted in changes.

Patrioi nomoi has yet another significant issue embedded within it, inevitably it creates a closed off and potentially racist religion. It justifies current practices and modes of thinking through an appeal to the ancestors participating in these modes of thinking. Right now we are only the first, second, or third at most, generation of polytheists in our modern context. And guess what? Patrioi nomoi is already becoming an issue. It manifests itself as racism within Heathenry, Hellenism, and sometimes Kemetism that insists that in order to practice [x] religion you have to be Northen European/Greek/Egyptian/etc or else the gods really won’t listen to you. While many of the people espousing these views don’t explicitly state patrioi nomoi as their justification, the spirit of the idea is there. They justify their practices through an appeal to their [greatx100] grandmother/grandfather’s practice of the religion and, covertly or overtly, state that if you don’t share in that lineage you shouldn’t share in that religion. This is only after maybe 3 generations. If we continue to instill the spirit of patrioi nomoi in our communities we run the very real risk of creating communities which are racist in many of their justifications at worst and at best we trap ourselves in a box with no room to grow. Patrioi nomoi may have been a great concept and worked to bind the city together in ancient times but for modern polytheists it has little place outside of maybe being a personal justification and not one which should apply to the larger community.

The other big argument for the abhorrence of regional variations in our various polytheistic faiths seems to be a fear of personal and interpersonal disunity. In our highly mobile societies this fear is a bit understandable, if an individual moves from Texas to California they are going to have to adjust to a new climate, new regional culture, new laws, and new flora and fauna. Adjusting one’s religious practices to the local community, or even to the new climate can be a daunting task already in the face of so much newness. It is easier then to simply take the stance that all inspiration and execution should stick as close to possible to the source material. On the other side of the coin the individual may actually be rather adept or unafraid of adapting their practices to their region but much more worried about not knowing the rites or ways of the new community into which they will integrate. Briefly, even if the individual has decades of experience, they will be the “new kid” who will inevitably reminiscence about the way the did things at their old school, err, in their old community.

These are understandable fears but like all fears they need to be done away with. Jews, Catholics, Protestants, and Hindus all have to put up with regional variations and reintegration into new communities and they are much more institutionalized than we are, which slims down many of those regional variations, but regional variations still inevitably exist. So we need to lose the fear and lose the malice towards people who do things a little bit (or a lot) differently from place to place, state to state, nation to nation. Within Hellenism these variations are going to be even more pronounced and more frequent due to the wealth of source materials we have to draw upon and our lack of any real institutionalization of the religion.

Ultimately I find variations to be a source of strength and the surest sign of a truly lived in religion. Adapting festivals to one’s region, such as the Thesmaphoria or Anthesteria, and creating new, carefully thought out, rituals as a reaction to your land, environment, strengths, and illnesses in your society is not some sign of perversion or subversion. It is just the opposite. It is a sign of strength, of vitality. It is a demonstration of our iron will to press ever onward and ensure the survival of the worship of our gods for the next generations. The real perversion, insult, and shame lies in the elevating of archaeological records and texts to the status of some holy books which must not be erred from instead of treating them like the tools they are. They are informative, helpful, and enlightening but yes, they are still tools. They are not the beginning and end of our religion and our rituals. They are only our beginning. They are suggestions and not decrees.

Our Hellenism, our religion, in the end will be a vastly different one from the practices in classical Athens. But then again, the practices in classical Athens were vastly different from the practices that existed in Byzantium.

Variation is not a dirty word.

Rant

By this time, I hope to the gods above that you’ve heard about the injustice that was the Michael Brown case. If you haven’t I highly recommend that you turn on the news and/or use Google. Recently even more cases of excessive, and lethal, force being used on unarmed Black men have resulted in indictments. Eric Garner was put into an illegal chokehold by an officer and killed. If you listen to the audio he reportedly exclaims that he can’t breathe. What you are hearing is a man being murdered. Tamir Rice was a young 12 year old boy who was shot by police because he had an airsoft gun. The cops were caught on tape. Tamir was killed within 2 seconds of them pulling up. These aren’t isolated occurrences. Per one million people, Black men are killed 21 times more frequently than White men.  The system has been stacked against Black folks and if you think otherwise you need to wake the fuck up and listen to Black folks when they talk about stuff that wounds them, hurts them, makes them fear for their fucking lives.

It is by being white that I’m able to be outraged instead of scared for my life. But here is the sad thing, more White folks seem to have been up in arms about the death of Brian the dog from Family Guy than they are about the murders of Black folks by those who are sworn to protect us. Maybe it is due to this being painted as a liberal vs conservative issue among Whites but the death of a character from a shitty and frequently misogynistic TV show shouldn’t generate more outrage than a 12 year old boy being gunned down because he had an airsoft gun.

Stay with me here, I’m changing gears for a second.

There was also an intentional release of chlorine gas at a furry convention that injured 19 people. Sadly, the media has not been treating the con-goers as actual, you know, human beings because “furries are weird”. One news anchor cracked up laughing when she learned what furries are, the reaction of the general public has been mixed but most folks are choosing to crack jokes about the fact that somebody tried to kill folks. Because furries fall so far outside of the mainstream, socially acceptable, forms of geekery; people feel like the can make fun of them under any and all circumstances. Fucking unacceptable. If there had been an attack with chlorine at almost any other convention people would have been treating the event with the seriousness and horror that it should have elicited. Instead they choose to act like children and show with their actions that eccentrics like these, maybe its okay to hurt them. We won’t find you, we’ll just make jokes about those weirdos.

I found the furry community when I was about 15. I had just begun to realize that I was gay and was having a hard time accepting it. I grew depressed from hearing my family members constantly talk about how evil and horrible gays are and I began to wonder if I really was an abomination who shouldn’t be alive. One late night I tried to take my own life. Being scared of blades and simply not knowing what I was doing resulted in nothing more than a bloody wrist, on which I still bare scars, though faint, that remind me of that pain. A couple weeks after this I found a furry board and found some folks who actually made me feel okay with being gay. They provided support that I couldn’t get anywhere else and eventually my young self was able to come out to some kids at school. Since then, I’ve been active, on some level, within the fandom and have met a lot of really awesome, supportive, and kind people.

Before this event, I was planning to attend my first ever con, Furry Fiesta, in 2015 (assuming I could afford it. . ). After reading about all this and seeing everyone’s reactions to it, I got scared. I started second guessing doing anything with other members of the fandom. If something happens, would we get help? Would we be handled with dignity and respect or would we be shown contempt because we’re a bunch of oddballs? Thinking about it made me feel just a flurry of emotions. Frustrated that I can’t participate without that seed of fear being present. Wounded that even professionals cannot muster up compassion for us. Angry that we are being targeted for not being a part of the norm.

I can be mad, frustrated, and hurt about this right? So if this queer White dude can be upset about members of his fandom being targeted why is it such a fucking surprise that Black folks are DEEPLY hurt by the media’s treatment of the Black men who have been gunned down by police. How is it so shocking to white-bread Americans that Black folks would react with deep hurt, outrage, distress, and sadness. These are deep wounds. These are feelings not rooted in one attack but in a history of violence, oppression, subjugation, slavery, and hatred against the Black community.

Now make no mistake, I didn’t bring up the furry story to make some kind of sick equivalency between this ONE incident and the history of torture, slavery, and oppression that Black folks have been subjected to in our country’s history. I did it to juxtapose.

I only have to be a bit worried any time I choose to go to a convention and I can choose not to go.

Black folks can’t wake up one morning and go “I think I’ll be White today”. Their Blackness cannot be stepped out of. And the fear of being hurt or having a loved one hurt is omnipresent for many. I can’t understand that life. I can’t understand that fear. I won’t even begin to pretend that I understand what that’d be like but the outrage, the fear, the riots, the hurt, the distrust, those things aren’t out of place.

I’d say lets stand up, lets defend, lets do what we need to do but the fact of the matter is that I’m a fucking coward whose stomach gets sick at the idea of having to confront the cops. So I won’t say “white folks do that”. I will say this, full out.

Listen to Black voices, Crystal Blanton‘s work is a great place to start and she highlights many other Black voices as well Examine and reflect upon your own actions and biases and try to make your space welcoming to everyone and not just White folks. Combat racism in your own traditions (and if you are of the recon sort it overfloweths). If you are brave and not a sniveling coward like myself, protest.

BUT DON’T SAY “Whoa buddy, calm down pal, why are you so angry guy?”. Not only does it show a completely lack of empathy it completely ignores that, I dunno, lives are being lost. Systemic racism is real and terrifying for its victims.

Above all, actually listen to the suggestions of Black activists. They know this stuff, they know what to do, and they can very effectively give you the tools to help others.

So there, I’m done flapping my gums. Just do something.

Potluck

I awoke with a fire in my chest
A journey from East to West
A journey from West to East
Renewed, a directive towards pleasure

I saw the mountains and I longed for them
I saw the mountains and I desired them
I had you with no longing
I had you with no desire

A dangerous attraction
A tiny menagerie of crystalline dreams, wishes
Smashed under your gravity, melted and reforged
Cracks filled in. Destruction made useful.

“Let me entertain them, let me teach them”
I am a spear and a shield
I am the clay upon the potter’s wheel
I am thread to be woven
Complete independence is a foolish fiction
That is what we’ve come to know

BlizzCon 2014 (Alt Title: Video Game Cons can be enlightening)

During the days of November 6th to November 11th I was in Anaheim, California with my partner for BlizzCon 2014. The two days that it occurred (November 7th and 8th) were the most fun I’ve had in a very long time.10806191_10205251172778502_2720432978706784672_n

Firstly, the opening ceremony was really freaking awesome. When the countdown started the crowd became absolutely electric. Then the co-founder of Blizzard, Mike Morhaime took the stage. After making a few introductory statements and announcements he did something that took me off guard, publicly spoke out about Gamergate and in case that leaves you any doubt, here is another link with Mr. Morhaime confirming that he was referencing Gamergate. At this statement my partner shouted “DOWN WITH GAMERGATE” louder than I knew he could shout. Needless to say I was thrilled.

After that there were a ton of panels, an expansion pack for Hearthstone titled “Goblins vs Gnomes” was announced, Blizzard announced “Legacy of the Void” for Starcraft II and teased us a bit more with WoD. They also announced a TF2 style game called “Overwatch”. The crowd went wild for the last one/

The art section was also really cool. When we first went to it my partner and I saw a completely blank wall and said to each other “I bet that is for the upcoming Hearthstone expansion”. Nope, it was for Overwatch. The character designs were phenomenal but instead of bombarding you with info, I’ll just show you my favorite.

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There are a ton of really neat character designs though (including what appears to be a cyborg who has achieved moksha) and a lot of very interesting concepts in their combat styles. This game has a lot of potential and goes into closed beta pretty dang soon, so keep your eyes open if you want to play it.

I also got a lot of really cutesy plushies and FUNKO POP! figurines when I went, and some really cute pins. A few were free and some of them Josh bought for me (without me asking, he just thought I’d like them). I also got to see some amazing cosplaying and fanart while I was there. Some of the costumes were ridiculously elaborate and well crafted and just in general creative. One of my favorites was the women I have dubbed “Orc Mama” she was really nice and let me take a picture of her.

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The Con when taken as a whole was organized by a particular business to promote their products, yeah I get that. However, (and not to sound cheesy) it is a thing that is pretty well driven by the fans. The fans were what made it great, between the costumes, the friendliness, the chatting, and the cheering, without my fellow WoW, Starcraft, Heroes, Hearthstone, and Diablo players this convention would not have been as fun as it was. Without their enthusiasm none of us there would have felt a sense of belonging. Yeah, it boils down to us playing video games, but for those two days I belonged. I felt like I was part of a community of folks who shared one thing in common, a love of Blizzard games.

This got me thinking of course. If something as simple as a few games can bring people from hundreds, and in the case of the Chinese, Japanese, and Korean players thousands, of miles and get them pumped up, surely there is hope for Pagans to build communities. This idea has renewed me, reinvigorated me, made me a bit more. . .optimistic. Of course it means that we all have to put in work. Some players put in months of work on costumes and the art they submitted and really enriched the feeling of the con through no guarantee of fame or glory. The game developers provided platforms and topics for the players to gather around and discuss and engage with each other in. Some of us (myself included) merely added to the atmosphere and were voices in the crowd, there to experience and engage but not necessarily provide the means for discussion or step into the limelight. Every single person who attended had a part in making this con great, and really I think the same thing can be said for the Pagan and Polytheistic communities. We have our writers, poets, artists, priests, diviners, laity, journalists, and discussion facilitators. I think we can band together and build things, organizations, communities that can truly last. Folks just have to be willing to put in the effort and resources to make it happen. Being solitary is fine, but it isn’t where the lasting stuff is going to happen. Communities build, individuals participate.

BlizzCon happened because a group of people made it happen. BlizzCon happened because of video games.

Pagans and Polytheists have a duty to make things happen. We will make things happen because of devotion to the Gods, I know we can do it.

And it doesn’t have to all be serious, painful, or a struggle. Not everyone needs to do the nitty gritty work. Some of us will participate and be content. Add electricity to the air, so to speak and there is nothing wrong with that.

It is okay to be like the majority of folks at BlizzCon. Happy to participate, experience, engage, and most importantly support.

I was just happy to be there.

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