09 November 2014

Defining Polytheism and Paganism

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Back in 2011, when Drew Jacob announced he wasn’t a pagan, but a polytheist, a lot of emotions happened all over the pagan/polytheistic blogsphere. There were feelings of solidarity, feelings of betrayal, and everything in between.

One of the things I remember saying (or at least thinking) during that period is how much I wished that the arguments that came out of this discussion would trickle down into the other demographic that we have: the pagans and polytheists who, for whatever reason, don’t engage in pagan and polytheistic media on the Internet. Individuals make choices about where they spend their time, and it may involve nonreligious Internet communities or not using the Internet for its community-building aspects.

I remember thinking that regardless of what happened online, if people in local, face-to-face groups never heard about the important conversations about religious identity in modern polytheisms and paganisms, we would never see any real change. In 2011, I remember attending some of the open events in my mom’s coven when I visited on school breaks, and I wondered if they even knew that I considered the phrase, “Oh, tell me about your pagan path,” a bit insulting. Today, I participate in a lay-led Unitarian Universalist congregation in my town, which means that every few months, the people there must hear me talk about something. Usually Anthesteria.

This morning, though, I gave a service about these identity crises within the pagan and polytheistic movements. I quoted the “Where Do You Fit In?” section from Drew Jacob’s post, a statement in 2013 from Jason Pitzl-Waters on the idea of solidarity across communities, and Sannion’s arguments with Gus diZerega. I talked about the past few years of controversy, the Polytheist Leadership Conference, and defined terminologies that have come out of the discussion over the past few years.

Ultimately, I think that some of this crisis can be attributed to a lack of interfaith expectations within the face-to-face group setting. Anything that moves beyond a single tradition or a single polytheistic religion necessitates articulating (respectfully) differences so that there is not miscommunication about the values of the broader community network. Ritual language varies. Ethics vary. A whole host of things can fall apart if too many assumptions are made.

It also comes down to vulnerability. When anyone says, “We don’t want you to say we’re one of you anymore,” it can easily be mistaken as saying, “I don’t value you, so I am going to leave.” Vulnerability and insecurity can be terrifying, and we all have that voice in the backs of our heads terrified that we are secretly unimportant and not valued by others.

Three years later, I am extremely happy that I had an opportunity to talk about this in a real-world setting that extended beyond polytheists (or even polytheists and pagans). The outcomes of the conversation were great, and it’s really made me hopeful that disseminating what happens online among the interested-yet-uninvolved can make these conversations better.

24 August 2014

More incense

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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.