Monthly Archives: August 2016

Not in my Paganism

There has been a few recent things that have grabbed my attention, and I wanted to say a few words about these. I don’t feel I can stay silent in good conscience. At very least, I have to stake out where I stand on these things.

Perhaps some of you are aware of some of the controversies surrounding the Asatru Folk Assembly? And as of today, there is some new “uncuckery” about…

Lupa wrote a few words on this issue HERE. It inspired me to hammer out a few words of my own. Speaking generally, I am the kind of person that likes to keep my head down in these kind of things. Most days I am content to be a passive observer. In addition, I try to keep my mind open, and try not to draw a lot of hard lines. I really don’t enjoy divisive, polarizing rhetoric, and I prefer to keep myself ideologically flexible.

That being said, I do have a few hard lines, and I tend to push back when I feel they are crossed. I think that Lupa did a great job tearing into the AFA, whose recent statement is blatantly and unapologetically racist.

In my worldview, all persons (human or not) are inherently worthy of dignity and respect. This means that there is no place for prejudice, racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia; or bigotry of any sort in my paganism. That is just not how I do things.

Let’s be clear about a few more things. The idea of “whiteness” is steeped in a history of racism and bigotry, and that kind of toxicity is not doing us any favors. I really have no time and no tolerance for that kind of thinking.

In addition, this extends to things like Islamaphobia and general hatred towards monotheisms as well. It is a point of fact that monotheisms make up about 2 billion people on this planet. I cannot in good conscience believe that all those people are “evil” or “out to get me” in some way or another. Do I have deep philosophical differences? Of course.

The fact is that there are shitty people in every group (Christian, Muslim, Heathen, Pagan, whatever), and we cannot condemn a whole people based on the actions of a few. But we can condemn those few; for being shitty humans.

In fact, the idea of “Europe for Europeans” is just as bad as saying “America for Americans”, or “Make America White Again.” As far as I am concerned, you can take that shit and go, and try not to let the door hit you on the way out.

There is something I want to say here about ancestry. I have made no efforts to disguise the fact the I practice ancestor veneration. I do not see anything inherently wrong with wanting to honor the ways of your ancestors. However, when that becomes an excuse for bigotry is when there is a problem. No amount of ancestor veneration is a reason for bigotry.

The reason for this is that ancestry is really, really complicated. If my series “Walking with the Ancestors” has demonstrated anything, is that I am a lot more than my nationality, or my ancestors nationality. I have hundreds if not thousands of known ancestors in my research, and across the board there are Germans, Norwegians, People of Color (our earliest ancestors likely had dark skin), Muslims, Christians, LGBT folks; gods you name I probably have it…

Just for the record, one nation = one culture is bullshit. National “purity” is also bullshit.

I am a mutt, a global citizen of a multicultural world. I am a multicultural pagan (ect ad nausem)… To be honest about ancestry,I would pretty much have to claim all nationalities. If, as some have claimed, I need to be my nationality, how about you tell me who I am supposed to be?

This is why I advocate for inclusiveness, for tolerance. Because at the end of the day, to be a bigot is to insult a member of the human race, and a distant, or not so distant, member of our own family.

Thanks for reading.


My Polytheism

I read a fair bit, and when I stumbled across numerous posts concerning “My Polytheism”, I was inspired to write my own piece. In many ways, I have become a little disenchanted by “polytheism” as it is developing. I feel like there isn’t a place for people like me in it.

In addition, it feels like it getting really polarized. I am really turned off by a constant “us vs them” sort of rhetoric and mentality. Yeah, polytheism is diverse, and some disagreement is necessary and even healthy. But there is a huge difference between healthy boundaries, and wall building.

Which leaves people such as myself feeling caught in the middle and openly wondering if I have any place in polytheism, since some of what I read just sounds a lot like “no true polytheist…” Ugh.

As I have said many times before, I consider myself an animist first, and a polytheist by proxy. The reason for this is because in my world view, there is more than enough room for the gods. The logic is pretty straightforward; to me the world is full of people, most of which are non-human, and that we live our lives in relation to one another.

And it follows from this simple statement, that some of these persons might be what we call gods. It also implies, that the gods are persons, with all the free will, individual sovereignty, and agendas that may go into that. In addition, as persons, the gods have the inherent right to be treated with dignity and respect.

To put this another way, the gods are those concerned with our well being, and who are in a role with the influence to do something about that. There is so much more I could detail here, but I exempting for brevity. The implications of these few basic statements are huge, and cannot be understated.

Relationships

One of the basic tenets of my worldview is that life is lived in relation with others, and this too applies to the gods. My relationship with my gods is kind of unique, and there is no reason that another’s relationship should look exactly like mine.

Many of my friends are mutual, but we don’t all share the same relationship to one another. Some are best friends, some are close friends, and some are Facebook “friends”. The demands and obligations to each are incredibly variable, just as is my relationship to the gods. As such, others experience may vary, and that is okay. The work my gods have set out for me, may not be the same as someone elses. The same with how I interact and engage with them.

Just as a general example, most of my gods don’t really call for a lot of pomp and circumstance. The don’t seem to mind a little “dirt on the boots” so to speak, and so my standards of cleansing and purity are not the same as someone elses.

Having a sleepover at a friend’s house does not have the same standards as a Fancy Dress Party. If you are expected to look the part, you might want to make the effort. But that is all in the nature of my relations.

Or for another example, my gods might not ask me to put them first, or might ask me to engage in things like conservation, or building a better society, or engage in the retrofitting our machines and industry in order to build a more sustainable future.

The point is that working with the gods can take a lot of forms, and really that is between me and the gods. No one else gets to dictate the “true way” to do that. It is a dynamic and adaptable thing, and there is a near infinite variability in the relations between persons.

This variability is a great bridge into my next point.

Plurality and Diversity

Let me spell something out for you. I generally conceive of the gods as guardians of their respective species. At last estimate, there are some trillion + different species on this planet. Assuming a purely one to one basis, that could imply that there over a trillion gods on this planet.

And I think the “one to one” assumption is a bit faulty. Each species could have its own pantheons and numinous gods, just like the various cultures of humanity. I really don’t have the information to speculate.

This implies a huge amount of variance among the gods. The sheer plurality alone is enough to make my head spin. Trillions of gods, with trillions of unique personalities, with variable relationships between themselves and others. Each with different wants, needs and desires.

We are talking exponential plurality and diversity here. I don’t have the mental or computing capacity to give you an estimate of the kinds and numbers of gods, much less the dynamic and ever changing relationships they may create among others.

Which can be used to state bluntly and pointedly, there is no “one true way” to do this folks.

This is why I have a real problem with polarized rhetoric, and the “us vs them” mentality. It’s monochromatic, it’s binary, and it’s really quite simplistic. The world is a lot more complex than any black/white ideology can encompass. I get real tired of “hard liners” claiming we should all fit in neat little boxes. If we keep drawing lines and building walls, we may all find ourselves in solitary confinement.

I can distill it down to a few basic implications. What the gods ask of me may not be the same that they ask of you. They can change their mind and the nature of the relationship at a future time. Your relationship now may change over time. We should be mindful of changing contexts, and that the gods are both very diverse, as well as quite dynamic.

Oh, and context matters.

Modern Times, Modern Contexts

Let’s not deny the past it’s just due. It has given us so much in the form of knowledge and wisdom, and it is our task to carry this forward. But let’s not kid ourselves for a second. We live in very different times than our ancestors. We are not ancient Viking or Druids (though some of us are Druids to be sure*) , and that the context in which we have to frame those assumptions have changed quite a bit.

Let’s face facts, the world is a lot smaller than it once was. It is multicultural, and dynamic and really mindnumbingly complex. The same is true of our gods.

At no time in the past could our ancestors hop on a plane and be around the world in a few hours. They did not have trains, cars, or nuclear power, and this says nothing about the very neat things on the horizon.

Yet, this doesn’t mean our world without challenges. Our ancestors also didn’t have to worry about things like climate change (at least man made) or global pollution either. These are obstacles that none of us can tackle alone. As much as we all have our differences, we are all in this together.

With the gods at our sides; I like the odds.

Thanks for reading!

*Stated somewhat tongue in cheek.


Thoughts on Cleansing and Shielding

Earlier today I read the piece that John Beckett post here.

It prompted a response on my part on the Book of Faces, and I wanted to recapture some of that here, because I want to explore it all a little deeper. There has been a great deal of talk about purity and other related topics in the pagan blogosphere. I have some of my own thoughts on the matter.

To recap my comment, I said this on Facebook;

“I think of spiritual purity very “naturally.”

Spiritual dirt is like real dirt. Probably not going to kill you, and comes off pretty easy. A little bit of dirt is normal, and perhaps even healthy.

Spiritual pollution is a similar to rolling around in sewage. Might actually make you sick, and will take more than a shower to deal with.

Spiritual toxicity is like living with nuclear waste. Will likely kill you, and is best avoided unless you like melting flesh. If it can be dealt with, is going to need some high grade cleansing.”

I wanted to elaborate on all this a little bit. The way I have come to understand them, cleansing and shielding are two sides of a the coin. One is to get “clean” away spiritual detritus and contamination, and one is to prevent it in the first place. Let’s run with some of the metaphor’s I brought up.

Spiritual dirt happens, just in the same way that regular dirt happens. It accumulates in our houses, and on our bodies whether we like it or not. Wearing clothes helps a little of this. It is the reason we should change our underwear every day, or why I wear an apron while at the forge. The point being, is that such articles help to keep some of the everyday dirt away from my body. This is basic level shielding, which is good for the day to day stuff. I keep a “basic” shield on my at all times, just like clothes. I change it out every so often for the same reasons.

But just like changing clothes won’t keep me clean indefinitely, neither will a basic level shield. I have to shower at least once in a while. The same applied for cleansing. Just like you have to wash your clothes as well as your body, the same principle applies to your spiritual self as well. Whatever your chosen method, basic cleansing such as sage or incenses help to keep the spiritual body and laundry tidy.

I make no judgement about negative/positive good/bad or otherwise in regards to spiritual dirt. It is something that happens, but that should be cleared away once in a while less you get “stinky”. More on that in a minute. The point being that spiritual dirt is pretty normal.

Also, as a side note, I do think our spiritual selves are similar to our living body in many ways. As such, I do think we have a certain level of intrinsic shielding, kind of like the body’s own immune system. It fights off what it can without a lot of maintenance. That is also something to keep in mind. Some dirt is actually healthy for the physical immune system, and overall, I would argue that a little bit of dirt is healthy for the spirit too.

The next level, is what I call spiritual pollution. This is more than just the everyday “dirt” that builds up. As I mentioned above, it is like rolling in sewage. There is a good chance it is going to make you sick. In physical term, it is like the rough analogy of getting something rather mundane like the cold, or something more series like the Flu or pneumonia. It can range from the spiritual equivalent of a “headcold” to something a lot more serious. Think hospital time in the real world.

There comes a point where, without regular cleansings, everyday “dirt” can start to become “pollution.” Think if you got really dirty without taking a shower or changing your clothes, or got into something like sewage with a lot of nastiness in it. Spiritual pollution can make you sick in your spirit.

And unlike dirt, it probably isn’t going to go away with just a shower (cleansing). Just like your physical body, if you get really sick you might want to see a doctor or go to the hospital. With spiritual pollution you might also want to consult a specialist.

On the shielding part, everyday clothes won’t protect you from the biohazard that is sewage. People that work with such pollutants typically have specialized suits so they don’t get sick or worse. That is another level of shielding, which takes a little more time, care and maintenance to create effectively. In my own practice, the “mid level” shielding is more heavier than my everyday work.

Which brings us to the last point. The worst of the worst to me is what I call spiritual toxicity. In practical terms, I made the analogy to nuclear waste. Long term exposure will probably kill you, or at very least make you really sick, like long term cancer sick. Overall, I think this kind of thing is best avoided, or if you must encounter it, you better go prepared. Nuclear waste workers often wear full environmental/hazard suits. They also go through decontamination both before and after exposure.

Shielding and cleansing should be treated the same way. I don’t think I can stress enough, if you are going to deal with toxic things, you need to be prepared. Nuclear waste crews typically have entire institutions and countless regulations behind them.  A simple saging or incense won’t do the trick here. Like cancer gets in your body, spiritual toxins infect your spirit. This kind of things needs specialist, and expert level shielding and cleansing. I have what I call my “advanced” level shielding, and it has taking me many years to shape. It take a lot to work and maintain, but it’s all about that preparation thing.

Some of you may notice that I mix organic and techno-industrial metaphors. While they may not be right on point, they convey what I am trying to get across. Something between the technological and the organic.

And that dear readers, is today’s lesson in spiritual cybernetics.

 

 


Angry Dead, Toxic Dead – Follow Up

When I wrote “Angry Dead, Toxic Dead”, I didn’t exactly expect it to become the topic of another discussion night at the local metaphysical store; The Wandering Owl. However, that is exactly what happened, and I found it it be an enlightening experience.

Several things came up that I feel deserve to be expanded upon.

I want to elaborate a little bit on my current understanding of the nature of the spirit, and about death. I have pretty complicated views on both these things, and I think both deserve a little more exposition.

As I understand it, the spirit is not one singular entity, but more of a unified whole composed of numerous parts. It is analogous in many way to the physical body, which is composed of countless numbers of discrete cells, organs and systems. Overall however, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The level of organization in my body is something greater than any individual cell or organ. And, as is the nature of cells, they multiply, and are swapped out when the cease to function.

The spirit is similar in many ways, at least in the way I conceive it. “How many parts?” is a matter of some debate, because honestly I don’t know. That is one of the things that defines my view of the spirit, is that is dynamic and adaptable. The overall number of “parts” changes over time, based on a variety of factors. Sometimes parts drop away that are no longer needed. Sometimes new parts are added as a marker of some measure of spiritual growth. I suspect the number and kinds of parts of my spiritual “parts” is very different than ten years ago, and will be different ten years from now.

Obviously, there are all kinds of implications and nuances that go along with this. Certain parts can be isolated and healed. Others can rot, and have to be stripped away, for the health of the whole. As was a big thing in shamanic communities in the near-past, some spiritual parts can be “lost”, and might have to be retrieved. Just as a generality, I would argue that some measure of “soul loss” is natural, and might even be healthy. The fact is, I am not the person I was ten years ago, and my spirit reflects this. Sometimes “outgrowing” our proverbial skins could be a good thing.

In addition to this, spirits don’t exist in isolation. We leave spiritual “pieces” all over the place, as do other people. That is part of the process of how we shape meaning in our lives. Our homes and objects are dotted with little bits of ourselves. The things we create, the people we come to know, all of them are touched with pieces of spirits. It is also a two way street, and the people we know and the meaning in our lives does the same thing to our spirits. Connections are made, and bonds as well as spirits are shared.

It’s like countless little drops of water suspended in a spider’s web.

Death, in light of this model, is a “breaking down” of all the spiritual parts we have at the moment we pass away. Some parts live on as ancestors, or ghosts, or some other form. Some are lost forever, and some are recycled into whatever comes next. Some parts of us live on in our loved ones, and in the things that we leave behind. But just like the cells in our body once we die, the spirit starts to break down as well.

It is a completely natural process in this sense. I touched upon this kind of thing in the last post, so I am not going to detail it all here.

As such, I want to circle back to one of the points raised in discussion. In the last post, I talked about violent death, traumatic death, as leaving behind angry spirits (pieces). If left untreated (through rites, mourning, what have you), some spirits can go bad, and become the kind that only wish to inflect suffering on others. These are no longer the angry dead, but the toxic dead. They are polluted, and poisonous.

The question that came up in discussion was; what can we do about the angry dead and/or the toxic dead?

Caring for the Angry Dead

Several different people at the discussion group weighed in on this topic, and I thought their responses were nothing short of fantastic. I wanted to recap a few of the ideas here.

1) I briefly hinted at this in my last post, but I wanted to reiterate here. “Rest in peace” is not just a quint platitude, but is often the motivation behind burial ceremonies and mourning rites. The idea being, to help placate and “heal” the angry dead, and help them work through unresolved issues so they don’t become toxic.

Death ceremonies are also for the living. Like I mentioned in the last post, violent deaths hurt/wound the living too. The connections we share with the dead (especially loved ones), are torn away, and “tear out” pieces of our spirits too. In the case of violent death, healing is for both the living and the dead.

2) Offerings and placations. The idea being to help the angry dead come to terms with what has happened. To help “calm” them, and to help heal them. This can be a lot of work, and a lot of negotiation. They fact is, like many angry people, the angry dead might not listen, or might not accept what has happened to them. There are a lot of different forms this can take.

3) Holding space for them. The idea here being, creating a space or environment that gives the angry dead proper space and the time to work through their unresolved anger, so that it doesn’t become toxic. It might involve any or all of the things listed above. The way I understood it, the point is to make the angry dead “comfortable” and “sage”, so that they have the time to calm down and work through their death in a more constructive manner.

4) Banishing. Sometimes, the angry just don’t listen, and you can’t get them to calm down no matter what you do. Sometimes those feelings of anger might go unresolved, or the dead may openly refuse to face them. What do you do in that case? One of the points that was raised was to “take all their energy and get rid of them.” The point I think is if the angry dead refuse to be cooperative, sometimes the best thing to do is to protect yourself and those around you. To “diminish” the angry dead, and send them away, minimizing both the harm to yourself as well as others. This can apply to the toxic dead too.

Caring for (dealing with?) the Toxic Dead

One of the questions that was raised during the discussion is; what do you do about the toxic dead? Keep in mind we are talking about a whole other level of nasty here. While it is in some way normal for the dead to be confused, or even angry (in the case of violence), the toxic dead are what happens when that anger and hatred goes unacknowledged and untreated. To use a rough analogy, it is what happens when deep wounds go untreated, and become infected.

When the anger is left to fester, the hatred left to ferment, and the calls for vengeance and the sufferings for others becomes the only motivation, that is when you get the toxic dead. And speaking frankly at this point, there is little else anyone can really do for them at this point. In my own experience, they don’t tend to listen to reason, or even want to be placated. They want to stay angry, and they want to hurt people. I don’t much care for dichotomies, but the toxic dead may be a case of the truly evil.

I would say once the dead become toxic, there is little left in the area of diplomatic solutions. Only two real options are left for dealing with the toxic dead.

1) Banishing: As I raised this point previously, I am not going to harp on it all that much. The idea being, is diminishing the toxic dead so that they can cause little harm to others, and sending them away. This can be a lot more difficult with the toxic dead, for reasons I will detail in a minute

2) Pulverizing: This might strike you as an odd word choice, but hopefully you will see what I mean. As I said before, death is a kind of “breaking” of the spirit into various parts. Violent death is more of a “shattering.” However, it is some of these pieces that remain behind that become the toxic dead. They can be “broken/shattered” again. In other words, the dead can die again. They can be shattered to the point that they are practically nothing, or have been pulverized into something else. I imagine it as a kind of spiritual entropy.

Perhaps a good analogy is a clay pot. For most of its life, it could be considered whole. But then it falls off the table. Smash! In effect, the pot has ceased to be a whole pot, just as the dead have ceased to be living. But the parts still remain. If you had the reason to, you could keep smashing those shards until they are nothing but fine clay sand. That is a far cry, and quite distinct from being a whole pot.

All analogies aside, I feel a certain disclaimer is in order. I feel “don’t try this at home” doesn’t really convey what I am trying to say here. Inevitably, there is going to be that person that reads this and goes off to hunt for the toxic dead.

Don’t. For the love of whatever you cherish, Don’t. I do not have heaps of experience with the toxic dead, but the ones I have encountered are nasty. As in don’t ever try this by yourself kind of nasty. This was a point actually raised during the discussion. These sorts of spirits are really bad news. Like one person taking on an armada bad news. You would be the one, of course. Unless you brought an army, which is kind of the point. Don’t deal with these things alone, and specialists in nasty things should probably be among them. Allies are important. Also, so it a crapton of heavy caliber cleansing. In my experience, not only are they singularly nasty, they also have a habit of polluting other things, infecting other people. They like to spread that shit around.

Think of Nago the boar demon from Princess Mononoke. Think of the pollution monster voiced by Tim Curry in Fern Gulley. Seriously, don’t try this at home.

Military Dead

All of this could imply that there are very serious implications to not only being killed, but the taking of other lives as well. I speak as a hunter here, and as I mentioned in my last post, taking a life does something to your own spirit.

This is some thinking out loud, but something I also mentioned in the discussion. I wonder about soldiers, not just ours, but everyone’s. Regardless whether “enemy” or “friend”, most soldiers either have taken lives, or had their own taken from them.

I wonder about those military dead that still linger.

But I also wonder about those that came back, the ones that lived. Righteous or not, they still have the dead on their hands. Would they come back with broken spirits, carrying the weight of the dead? I would think so. I would also say there may well be a deep spiritual component to things like PTSD.

I do not think anyone can be that intimate with violence and death, and not be effected by it.

How many military dead still linger? How many broken spirits came back?

Native Americans

Which leads me to my next session of thinking out loud. Here in America, we built our country on the genocide of Native Americans. The bodies of those dead are under our feet. How many of those people have been left unattended, left to fester?

Hell, when you drive away and kill the people that care for them… Would it be a surprise if they were left untended?

You always see how bad things get in movies when a house or something is built on a Native American burial ground. What about a country?

Do those of us still live still bear the scars of the deeds of our ancestors?

In some way, I think we all carry the burdens of the dead.

 

Wow, that got heavy… Thanks for reading!