24 August 2014

More incense

First, a reminder: If you are in the Greater NYC Area and would like to come to a meetup, please view this post for details and fill out the Google form. I will send out a logistical email to people who have responded closer to the date!

I described in a post earlier this year the boxes of incense in my apartment and how I needed to use them up in devotional rituals before buying any new incense. The two exceptions to this rule are the incense that I purchased solely for offerings to Poseidon related to hurricanes and the incense that I purchased for honoring Persephone.

Earlier this month, I finished going through the incense backlog, so I ordered more incense. It was good. I now have the incense that I enjoy burning, Shoyeido. It involved ordering a large amount of frankincense. They gave me an incense sampler, too.

Typically, I light incense for one or more gods in the morning, and I burn more incense before I go to bed. I feel like I continuously say this, but I love the flexibility of coreless incense because I can measure off the amount of incense I need very easily. Some of the other scents are not traditional, but I have heard that storax has a vanilla-like scent, so I bought vanilla incense. An incense called Peace has myrrh in it, but I did not buy that this time due to my desire to experiment with shino-nome and kin-kaku.

Other offerings I make to gods include filtered water, hard cider, and occasionally nuts, seeds, or gluten-free grains. (I don’t keep barley in my apartment even for religious reasons, as I avoid touching gluten-containing grains and gluten-containing grain products due to not always being mindful of not touching my face. I don’t want to accidentally ingest any of it.) As I am an academic professional and it is the beginning of the fall semester, most of my devotional contact involves offerings fit for brief ritualistic check-ins.

I save the hard cider for special occasions. ;-)

31 July 2014

Let's Do A Meetup!

So, one of the outcomes from the Polytheist Leadership Conference is that there are a lot of us Hellenists in the NYC area, and we want to keep the conversation going.

Let's do this! I'd like to propose a meetup on September 6th at 2:00 PM at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. If the weather is nice, we can meet in front of the museum. If it’s not nice, we can meet just inside (before one purchases tickets).

We can do several things:

  • Go to galleries of mutual interest in the museum and visit statues of gods.
  • Talk and interact socially with an ideologically diverse group of Hellenists (and associated polytheists).
  • Maybe grab something to eat afterward if the conversation and camaraderie still has momentum.
If you would like to come, please use this Google Form so I can contact you a week or so beforehand with details. 


26 July 2014

Community Is Important: A Post-PLC Comment

During the radio discussion about the Polytheist Leadership Conference, atheism came up. I didn’t actually say anything during that part of the discussion, but there are some thoughts I would like to communicate based on others’ words.

First off, I am a polytheist. I am not an atheist. There is no dancing around this fact, and due to this difference, I intrinsically believe that the atheistic position is wrong. Ideological relativism and multiple points of view break down when deeply-held thoughts regarding the ultimate nature of reality and gods come head to head.

My belief that the position is wrong does not mean that I respect a person who is an atheist any less, or that my opinion of their wrongness means that we cannot have meaningful and deep interpersonal interactions. (I also believe that Abrahamic monotheism is an untenable position, and I actually have more problems with it than I do with people who are religiously apathetic or nonreligious.) Does this mean that I think atheists should abandon their ideas and become polytheists? No, because I don’t proselytize, and one of the fundamental components of respect is not harping on others’ behavior unless the behavior becomes annoying. Not everyone needs to hear recitations of Sallust’s On the Gods and the World, section XVIII, because it’s just not appropriate.

Which brings me to my next point.

I think that everyone who went to the Polytheist Leadership Conference loved being in an environment where everyone else, despite our radically different beliefs in some cases, identified with the term polytheist enough to go to Fishkill, NY, to have fruitful and engaging discussions. Human beings have an intrinsic desire to feel like they belong and to feel validated by the group because we are social animals (although, admittedly, everyone experiences this in a different way due to personality). We had the chance to experience this, and it was fantastic.

Atheists are also human beings, and I can definitely understand the desire to engage with people who have similar viewpoints about the nature of reality. Atheists have every right to build their own nonreligious communities, and I don’t think that their atheism makes them any less capable of discussing human nature, our place in the world, and other intensely deep philosophical topics. It’s just going to be a very different discussion from the ones that we have in polytheistic circles due to the different assumptions about initial conditions. A community they establish does not have less value.

The problem is, of course, proselytizers. One example: A subset of evangelical atheists trolls the Internet making horrible comments about people with religious beliefs, such as that we should all be sterilized, or that raising children in a religion is a form of child abuse that should be prosecuted. And I’m not lying. I have seen multiple instances of this on the Internet. Instead of focusing on positive philosophical commonalities, these individuals have created the negative god that someone mentioned during the radio broadcast. This doesn’t mean that they worship anything. It means that the atheist community they have chosen to build focuses on conversion and tearing down outsiders. Creating a sense of belonging through identifying a common enemy is a pretty widespread and intrinsically human thing to do, but communities that don’t move beyond this will fall apart. In the case of proselytism in atheism, the antagonistic position really threatens to redirect attention from that antagonist’s own philosophical development. I think that effort would be better spent exploring big questions from within the system of atheism. To put this into context, the reason why I rarely talk about my discomfort with Christianity on this blog is that I think energy spent on such activities takes energy away from contributing to my own religious community, and so of course I will recommend that others manage their time and energy in the same way.

I think it is possible (and, in fact, demonstrably factual) that there can exist an atheism that does not proselytize. There are models for this in other types of communities, and it’s not like one needs to proselytize to recruit. Most paganisms and polytheisms grow by word-of-mouth and interest. Even the things that have historically proselytized, such as the Orphic and Bacchic mystery cults, do not necessarily do so in their modern incarnations. People make information available. They organize events and let interested parties make their own way into the communities.

This is easy with the Internet. Ideas spread like arrows flying swiftly to their targets, and people will always find the community they need if they are hungry enough for engagement, regardless of their core ism.

And, to add: It’s far more important to me that people explore life philosophically and live with integrity and authenticity than it is for them to agree with me about gods.