So I mentioned earlier in the week that some changes were coming. Some of you may have read my most recent post on relationships and picked up a couple hints.
But, this was the day on which I was given permission to be fully out, open, and public with it. I have exited out of a devotional relationship with Athena. I’ve had diviners confirm this and my final reading came in and cinched it for me. What I want in my life and what Athena would require of me simply don’t line up. There was a period of negotiation and testing, but our agendas simply did not align. Naturally this hurt. . .a lot. It still hurts. I was devestated. And I had to do some serious questioning. Was I in Hellenism for Hellenism, or was I just doing it for Athena?
After some serious questioning, mediation, thought experiments, and advice, I decided that for better or worse Hellenism is the place for me and for my eventual family. I understand the symbolism, I understand the ways of doing things, and I do love my gods despite the doubts this experience has generated.
I’m still dedicated to Aphrodite and Hermes and still hope to build a temple (or at least a temenos) some day.
I will be keeping my Patheos column the same as long as it remains a bi-weekly column. If I ever move to a personal column over there I’ll change the name. As for the name here, I do plan on changing it. . .but I’m not in a rush. Despite the way things went Athena still did a lot for me and I doubt I’d be where I am without her guidance, support, and blessings.
But relationships change and all this is for the best.
Things always change. Divine relationships are no exception to this. I am no exception to this.
Sometimes, things have analogues in the human world. Sometimes things just end for reasons that you are unaware of or don’t really understand at the moment. But you think, maybe through all of this and through marching on I’ll understand why what happened, happened. You cannot allow yourself to regret how much of you you put into it all. You cannot allow yourself to regret a single second spent, because you are regretting a part of what made you, you. It made you who you are.
I have entered a state of uncertainty. . .unknowability. The past year and a half I have found my future getting blurrier and blurrier, plans more and more uncertain. But you can’t fight change. Even if you don’t understand why things must change. The course of events can be difficult to undertake, but they are going to happen.
So I guess that’s why I’m writing this to anyone who follows or reads this blog. I have some big changes coming. I don’t know what precisely. . .but I do suspect that there will be some changes to what I write about, talk about, and think about. For better or worse.
The name of this will almost certainly change.
Thanks for reading,
I thought I knew you
I thought we cared
But when the fire started creeping
We fled, nothing was shared
Life was creeping in
Through the cracks
Life was seeping in
Behind our backs
A single drop of oil
And then your gone
Was I ever worth keeping?
Or did I get strung along?
Whatever the story
That’s our circumstance
We both take deep breaths
This is our final dance
As some may or may not know I am a Furry. To gauge “how much” of a Furry I am is kinda pointless to me. In my younger years participation in the fandom saved my life. As noted before, I grew up in a very conservative and homophobic household. Not just household, but family too. Being a gay was frequently equated with pedophilia and I was even told by an Uncle that if I ever turned gay he’d castrate me if I came into his home. I came to realize that I was gay around the age of 15 and, due to my circumstance fell into a deep depression. I thought I was a horrid monster unworthy of love and that I was going to go to hell. I tried to kill myself but due to my incompetence and ignorance of how do it I wound up with nothing other than a wrist that became a bloody mess. I remember there were very few things that kept me going, the first was theatre and the second was the Furry fandom. Discovering the fandom was one of the few sources of influence that I had that told me it was okay to be gay, that didn’t make me a monster. I was okay as I was. I found people that supported me and helped me through the tough times. The fandom saved my life.
Getting into Paganism and Polytheism has also saved my life. Encountering Athena got me through one of the rougher patches in my life. So, when I entered into the Pagan community with its crystsals, Spirit Guides, drum circles, and patchouli I never thought I’d have to be overly concerned about a Furry Pagan being accepted or for participation in the fandom to be looked down upon. I rapidly found out I was wrong.
My first clue came when I posted this image
Some of the comments (which are no longer on the original photo) guffawed at how awful it would be to be surrounded by furries or were otherwise derogatory towards us. As I’ve been involved longer I’ve seen more and more derogatory language casually hurled at furries in general. Some of the complaints have some legitimacy to them, such as the sexualization of deities like Anubis, Horus, or Bast. While I don’t necessarily agree with the logic or intensity of such objections I can entirely understand where they are coming from. (But please note, I’m not defending these depictions nor am I condemning them.) The ones that really baffle me are those people who just condemn furries wholesale referring to them as “strange”, “freaks”, “fucked-up”, “sick” or “perverts” all of which I have seen a Pagan say *at least once* towards the Furry fandom. Beyond outright disdain there seems to be a lot less overt jabs and rejection being made usually on the basis of the “weirdness” of furries. The justification for the dislike usually lies in us simply being “weird” and thus falling outside of the mainstream conception of normal.
And herein lies a deeper and troubling trend in contemporary Paganism; that of being seen as normal no matter what the cost. This takes a variety of expressions, sometimes it is simply declaring another fringe out-group as being “weird” and making derogatory comments towards them. Sometimes it comes in forms that are more internally damaging such as calling those who participate in animal sacrifice sociopaths or calling their gods evil, morbid, or unworthy of worship. Sometimes it comes in the form of casting polytheistic belief and societies as primitive or superstitious or calling those who use ritual attire “LARPers” or the like. Regardless of what form it takes the damage that the insistence on normality creates is very real.
I get it. We want acceptance by the mainstream society. We want people to not give us the side-eye when we tell them our religion. We want a white picket fence with butterflies and Bar-B-Ques and all that fun bullshit, but none of that is worth the cost of our soul. And I’m not saying that disliking furries is going to cost Paganism to lose its meaning and its worth. Rather, the dislike of other fringe groups in an attempt to appear (consciously or subconsciously) more normal is symptomatic of something that will cause us to lose our being. What kind of Pagan you are doesn’t matter. Heathen, Hellenist, Druid, Wiccan, Witch, it doesn’t matter. If you get wrapped up in conforming to the bulk of the mores present in middle class white America then you run the risk of losing the essence of what makes us us. We wind up being like an enamored youth desiring for their flesh to meet with someone it never will. It is destructive.
In my own circles I see this trend playing out to disastrous effect. In a desperate attempt to distance themselves from those “weird”, “strange”, or “fluffy” Wiccans many Recons wind up crafting a narrative that simply isn’t accurate to the archaeological record and is decidedly not beneficial to our modern communities. I’ve seen time and again (through lurking and watching mostly) people who have some real genuine talent. People who could have some real talent as liturgists, magicians, diviners, or healers who are never even given a chance because of their perceived woo-woo and eclecticism. I’ve talked to some of these folks after the fact. Some aren’t eclectic, just new. And some are eclectic but who the fuck cares because what they do works. It isn’t done out of a genuine care or concern for Hellenism or the theoi, though some may try to frame it as such. It is done, almost always, out of a deep fear that we might be perceived as deviant, strange, or unacceptable.
So next time you think about speaking ill of a strange fringe group (maybe one that really digs anthropomorphic animals) think about why you are doing it and if maybe you have internalized some values that are ultimately destructive.
As for me, I’m going to continue happily being a part of a community that has given me so much over the years. I only hope that next time you see a Furry, you think of me and my powerful thighs and say “Even though I think it is weird, I’m not going to be a jerk. For the good of Paganism.”
“You are a Hellenic Polytheist? What’s that?” His eyes are filled with curiosity, which excites me. Someone wanting to learn more, to know more, to understand us more! Then his mouth opens and those five dreaded words roll out “You must be pretty interesting!”
“I’m not” is my short reply. “I’m boring, boring, boring. Most of my time is spent reading or playing video games or studying. I’m really not that interesting.” And then my spiel about Hellenism begins, with careful emphasis on hitting some common values and worship styles as well as emphasizing the very real belief in multiple gods. But those five words always leave me a little bothered, concerned that by the mere fact of my religion I become “interesting”. Part of me understands the fascination. It is rare to meet a polytheist in this country, in particular meeting one who was born and raised here. Part of it surely strikes certain groups of being subversive and their interest is piqued for that reason alone. But being exociticized effectively renders you a side character in another’s view, someone who will never be realized in the eyes of another as a full human. Your essence becomes that which makes you “interesting” to them and even after having made your acquaintance for a number of years they will never see you as being any more than a “Hellenist” or a “Muslim” or a “Jew” or “my Chinese friend”. You are a side character to them at best and a sideshow diversion at worst. So every time I’m declared “interesting” on the basis of my religion alone I cringe and insist I’m boring, not because I think it is true. . .but because I don’t want to be reduced to that one core aspect of my being. If someone wants to know me. . .I want them to know me.
The side-character reduction isn’t only done by those who wish to be our friends because we are “interesting” though. Being an out polytheist also means having to deal with becoming a side-character in someone else’s “mission” to save souls. To them, you end up representing the ultimate degradation of humanity and the highest expression of foolishness. They vehemently insist that there is only one God and try to make you fear Hell if you don’t agree with them. You represent the possibility that they are wrong. After all, you likely began life as a Christian and you’ve left to worship many gods, this opens up a strong avenue of doubt for these people and so you become the side-character that serves as a point of action for their divine mission. If they decide not to repeatedly target you (through e-mails or facebook) for their evangelizing effort they will certainly use you to publicly demonstrate their (rather twisted) version of piety whenever they encounter you in public. You become a prop, a tool for the telling of their spirituality and faithfulness. When they fail in their evangelizing efforts they will grow angry with you or act as if you have done something unforgivably offensive if you attempt to fight back against them. These people represent the other end of the spectrum of typical American reactions to a polytheist presence in the United States.
I’d like to say that the distribution for these reactions operated like a bell curve but my experiences don’t reflect that. Most of the people who have given me neutral reactions are people that I’ve been acquainted with for years and their interest in my religion is because they want to know more about a part of my life, they’ve never reduced me down to my faith as my essence. Most of the people who I’ve interacted with as an out polytheist really follow a bimodal model with younger folks tending to fall into the first camp and older folks tending to fall into the second camp. I find that as time goes on I avoid more and more interfaith settings, not out of fear of ridicule, but out of frustration. Growing up as the oldest, geekiest, and wimpiest sibling, I’m used to ridicule. I’m sick and tired of being misunderstood or having people project their desires to experience a more subversive worldview onto me simply because of my religion. Make no mistake, I’m aware that many expressions of polytheism are truly subversive to the mainstream culture. I’d just prefer them to see me in a dress and heels before they make that call and not simply make it because I worship Athena.
There isn’t a lot that we (polytheists) can do to move people from this bimodal distribution, but folks who find themselves reacting in one of the two described ways can do something. Realize that this person is a fully developed human being, with hopes, fears, worries, loves, and hates. Realize that many of us have worked very hard to be where we are at and that the knowledge we share with you was likely gained through intense study and practice. Ask us about stuff outside of our religion, be our friend, have a beer with us and really get to know us. Not only will you make a friend (who likely knows how to have a good time. . .) but you’ll learn more than you would by treating the individual like an exotic outsider. You’ll get invited to festivals and household celebrations and be able to understand a little better how all of this integrates into a person’s life. You’ll be deeply surprised at what you could learn.
And for those who are seeking to convert us, fuck off.
-my newest post is up in which I dip my toes into the pool of theology.
-my IndieGoGo campaign was a success with 975 dollars being donated to the campaign. After IndieGoGo took their cut I came out with 850 dollars, enough to get me to the conference and back and to have a buffer in case any emergencies pop up.
– Look for an announcement about an exciting new endeavor within the coming weeks. I’d also start reading my Lettucey friend
THINGS I’M DIGGING
Miss Fame’s new single “Rubber Doll” has me tingly in all the right ways [NSFW]
Many people who wish to reconstruct a ritual or revive a holiday often are at a loss as to where to start. This is especially true for newcomers to Hellenism. Reconstructing a rite is a multi-step process, you don’t simply look at one book and one source and just do a 1:1 transfer. You gotta feel it man. What follows is my own method for reconstructing a rite and it is by no means the only one.
STEP 1: Identify the holiday you want to reconstruct. And focus on it.
Maybe this step seems kinda self-evident to many folks, but you have to start somewhere. The second part is especially important, y’know the whole ‘focusing’ thing. I know I personally have a problem with getting too excited/ambitious and trying to reconstruct six billion holidays all at the same time. Focus is important, if you don’t focus you wind up with a lot of unfinished ritual and holiday proceedings that really just aren’t worth anything. Without focus you waste time and energy.
STEP 2: Locate sources which speak about your holiday.
This one is one that a lot of people end up accidentally skipping. Not because they don’t have any reference material. . .but because they only use one reference instead of acquiring multiple sources to synthesize. The more information you have the more fleshed out you are going to be able to make your observance. That being said, it is astoundingly easy to get obsessed over having as many sources as possible and instead of reconstructing the rite you just kinda research. . . forever. I recommend at least 3 sources if possible. I put a personal cap at 6 to prevent myself from getting crazy but you should set limits that work for you, as long as they utilize more than one source.
STEP 3: Discern what the essence of the holiday is.
Before you begin putting the meat of ritual action it is very important to discern the “spirit” of the holiday and its essence. While it is true that some holidays were basically sacrifices done with a little more umph and pomp (pun intended) many had an underlying theme beyond being an extra polis wide sacrifice for a special reason. As outsiders to the culture (and this includes everyone alive today. No one has an emic perspective on a culture that existed 2500 years ago) this may prove a bit challenging but we can at least get the gist of what they were driving at and translate it into something meaningful for the modern person.
STEP 4: Look at what they did and ask “can we?”
Look at what the ancients did to observe. By this point you should have read your sources (or at least the section containing your holiday) at least once. What actions did they take? In which ways were these actions exceptional? In which ways were they standard? Do actions which appear exceptional occur in any other holidays or are they unique to only this one? Some examples include the inversion roleplaying done on Kronia or the washing of Athena’s statue on Plynteria.
The hard part is deciding on what you should bring back. You cannot do everything that the ancients did. Most of these actions we simply do not have the space, resources, or manpower to do as much as we wish otherwise. And while it may be tempting to reconstruct a rite for a group far larger than what you have access to, think of things in terms of what you currently have. If it is only you and some non-Hellenic friends who may not understand the intricacies or subtleties of what you are doing, work with that. If you have a group of ten Hellenists you should probably start playing the lottery, that is damn good luck, but you should also construct the celebration with that in mind.
At this stage you should also look at what they did for the offering and sacrifices on the day and see which events and actions were done immediately before, during, or after the ritual so you can determine timing for them. Many holidays have a central sacrifice and other activities performed on the day (races, theatre, games, etc) that do not necessarily occur in direct conjunction with the ritual.
You will likely find that most stuff you will need to modernize. Chariot races are kinda hard to do now, so what other competition could you do instead? We have access to a plethora of competitive activities in the modern West, including but not limited to board games, video games, foot races, touch football, target shooting, well you get the idea. My point is, even if we can’t do the exact same thing, we can still capture the spirit of the activity in the modern age. Most of the times these activities are suitable replacements, but it never hurts to have a diviner double check.
STEP 5: Construct the ritual
As previously mentioned, most holidays will have an associated ritual. You should have at least a bare bones idea from your gathered sources on what your ritual should look like. You’ll also notice a general pattern in most rituals. I notice it going something like Pomp/Procession –> Purification –> Initial evocations and offerings –> Hymns –> Prayers –> Offerings –> Eating and Closing. Sometimes there are more than two sets of offerings done, sometimes there are additional elements but when in doubt this is the pattern I use and it has served me to great effect.
Again, you will likely not be able to perform the ritual exactly as the ancients did. In addition to writing the actions, prayers, greetings, hymns, etc, you will need to make a list of what offerings you are giving. I suggest you also make a list of why that particular offering is being given to that particular deity. Does it have symbolic importance? Has it been revealed through a diviner or through your own divination that you need to give that offering? Does it fit in with the spirit of the holiday? If you just chose it at random you might want to reconsider that choice unless you can find a good reason for including it.
As you are writing, consider how many people you will need. What is the minimum? What is the maximum? Are these numbers realistic? What happens if you can’t meet your minimum? These are very important questions to consider as you write your ritual.
Also consider what you are going to serve to guests as refreshments after the ritual and keep in mind whatever planned activities you had for the holiday. Make sure people are aware of these after ritual activities so they don’t feel pressured to join in on something they are uncomfortable doing.
If you expect there to be a lot of people there make sure there is some way for them to get involved in the ritual. Rituals that don’t allow for non-officiant participation will likely not get return visitors.
STEP 6: Decide where it will be held.
Will the ritual be held at your house? At a park? At the UU Church? Where works for the ritual and activities you have planned? If you can’t find a space suitable for your ritual, what can you revise to make due with what you have? Finding space can be difficult but not impossible, many UU Churches will lend space. Heck, I’ve even heard of Presbyterian and Episcopalian Churches lending space to Pagans as bizarre as that sounds. After you decide the location and have permission from relevant parties, send out invitations for folks you’d like to have attend. Make sure there is some way for them to RSVP so that you have a vague idea of how many will show, and count on a quarter of those who have RSVPed to not show up. Don’t be offended or disappointed, this happens with any and every event. And remember, it is better to be oversupplied than undersupplied in terms of food, refreshments, and offerings.
STEP 7: Sweat the details. . .but only a little bit.
Many people who choose to reconstruct rituals from ancient sources obsess over every single detail being as historically accurate as possible. This is unwise. When you fail to account for what is necessary for modern living you can easily end up with a ritual that feels less like an act of devotion and spirituality towards the gods and far more like a mere historical re-enactment, akin to something one might find in a “Taste of Ancient Greece” re-enactment village. Or something. The details are important, but getting every single detail in line isn’t necessarily going to make for a more fulfilling ritual experience. In fact, it might detract from it or even cause you to forgo performing the ritual altogether. Every person or group who reconstructs a ritual will have their own variations, their own quirks and idiosyncrasies and that is okay.
We are many people worshiping many gods in many places, doesn’t it only seem natural that variations should arise?