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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Yet More on Piety


In a comment to my previous article, Anne Niven wrote: 

"But anytime we start getting into defining "piety" I start to twitch. I believe that there's absolutely no "right" way to serve the gods. Why? Because I believe that only personal gnosis can impart that information. And personal gnosis is just that -- personal. Which is to say, what's pious for you is, indeed, pious -- for you. But it might not be pious for me. In fact, what's pious for you might very well be *impious* in my relationship to the very same deity."

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  • Tannim Wolfkin
    Tannim Wolfkin says #
    Just finished writing a paper on hubris for my English class and came across this post. Wish I had read it before finishing the da
  • Galina Krasskova
    Galina Krasskova says #
    Thank you, Laura. I think you may be on to something with the way our society devalues service. In Heathenry, part of it is also t
  • Laura P
    Laura P says #
    Thank you again for writing about piety, a subject all too often overlooked in modern paganism. To me piety means respect, love an
Ritual, Monotheism, and Again with the Piety

 Seriously, folks, argue and disagree with me all you want, but do so based on what i say, not the misinterpretations you project onto what I say. I find it particularly interesting that in the course of the comments to my two articles on ritual (both those posted and those I received privately), quite often I'm being accused of everything BUT promoting piety and respect in ritual. Why is that such a difficult and challenging concept? It certainly wasn't for our ancestors. Piety was a central concept to the majority of ancient polytheisms, though of course the words used to describe this behavior varied from culture to culture. Plato, for instance, wrote an entire dialogue ("Euthyphro") in which the definition of piety was the central issue under discussion. The ancient Romans considered it a necessary and sacred virtue and one simply cannot read writers like Cicero, Pliny, or Seneca (to name but a few) without finding exhortation after exhortation to pious behavior both within one's temples and without. Why is it so difficult for us moderns? Because it is. I don't quite know why, though I have my suspicions, but it really is.(1) 

Unlike Plato, who had his character Euthyphro define piety in part as 'what is dear to the gods,' i would, in addition, define it as 'right behavior toward the Gods.' Piety is a curb and a guide to our behavior.  Of course, right behavior implies precisely that: that there is a right and wrong way of behaving, that there are standards. Standards do not imply tyrannical theocracy. They imply behaving properly and mindfully as the occasion and interaction demands. Now I've written about the opposite of piety here: http://krasskova.weebly.com/1/post/2012/05/pagan-blog-project-i-is-for-impiety.html for those who might want to take a peek. I'm going to let that stand and speak for itself, because there actually is a right way of doing things and it's not that difficult to figure out.  You know what else? The Gods and ancestors are more than capable of telling us what it is if we do the work and listen. Of course that might lead us to a reordering of our priorities but c'est la vie.

Piety, by the way, is a far, far different thing from orthodoxy. In nothing that I wrote on ritual, did i demand any particular orthodoxy beyond piety and respect.  I did not mention what Gods people should honor.(2) I did not exhort readers to any particular ritual style or practice. It's not about any specific action or belief. It's about attitude and awareness, about the way we approach our Gods and ancestors. By exhorting piety, i'm not demanding that everyone become a mystic. I'm saying that we should behave with proper decorum and respect when in the presence of the sacred. What it comes down to, I suspect, is that many people simply don't *want* to be pious. They don't want to be respectful. They don't want their spiritual world to revolve around anything but themselves. Otherwise instead of bitching when I mention piety, we could start talking about ways to show it; because really,  if right behavior toward the Powers isn't valued in our communities, then what is? That's the seed from which all good things flower. 

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  • helmsman of inepu
    helmsman of inepu says #
    I think you're right about "the filter." You even see it operating with "Evangelical" atheists- it's not enough for them not to be
  • Ainslie
    Ainslie says #
    Paganisms of the world are diverse. Galina's a particular person doing particular work in a particular context. Some of that conte
  • Anne Newkirk Niven
    Anne Newkirk Niven says #
    Oh dear. I really wasn't gonna jump back into this, but feel I've been pulled in by reference. So I'll speak up and say, "me, me!

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
More on Ritual Praxis


So my recent Heathen Heretic article and its reception  (both of which you may find here: http://www.witchesandpagans.com/Pagan-Paths-Blogs/beltane-offerings-not-the-post-i-intended-to-write.html)  led me to a certain epiphany with regard to the way so many of us approach ritual. Let me begin by saying that I'm always surprised when people purposely, or so it often seems, miss the point of my articles. A colleague recently pointed out that much of my writing provokes people past their comfort zones and that too rather surprised me: that people would draw lines against experience and narrow their worlds down to such small, grey places. Oh well. we do and everything in our world encourages us to do this so I guess i shouldn't be surprised. Still, there is nothing in my practice that should be radical to someone engaged in deep devotion with their Gods. Nothing. 

So when my call for respect and piety as part of the ritual process raised such a din, I was rather surprised. Then I realized, that as with so much else, it all comes down to what one determines is the purpose of ritual. It's more than just determining to place the Gods at the center of the experience, though that is a huge part of it, rather it's understanding why we are doing any of this ritual "stuff" in the first place. What's the point? Whom does it benefit? Obviously I believe it's if not crucial, at least desirable or I wouldn't be doing it. I think we forget that there are two sides of the equation in any ritual process: the human side and the Other (Gods, ancestors). The ritual itself is a conversation, ideally a dance between those two factions. It's a means of communication and experience. I suspect that's what makes rituals that are focused on the Gods so threatening to some: they put something greater than we above the sum total of our limited human experience. They connect us with that Other. 

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  • Candi
    Candi says #
    "Why does this imparting their own morality or decision making process as a mean to judge others need be a negative? If experience
  • Candi
    Candi says #
    I forgot to mention that there are rituals out there that don't involve the Gods. They involve personal transformation. That b
  • Tim Schneider
    Tim Schneider says #
    "That being said, when I see or hear the words "[blank] should be [x]," a red flag goes up. I respectfully wish to relate that whe
Beltane Offerings- Not the Post I Intended to Write

I recently posted a question on my Facebook, asking what recipes and dishes folks would suggest be made as offerings to Freya for Beltane. Cooking for the Gods, cooking up offerings is such a sacred rite in and of itself, and I can't help but wonder if our ancestors didn't have certain traditional foods or customary dishes (beyond roast pig)  that were prepared for the various Powers. If they did, of course, we've lost that knowledge, but that doesn't mean that over time we won't regain it through the wisdom of our ancestors and inspiration of our Deities nor does it mean that we shouldn't give thought to what might please the various Gods and Goddesses the best right now. I very strongly believe that it's by engaging in devotion and working hard to strengthen the tradition and restore the lineage that such knowledge will be returned to us.  Devotion is a powerful teacher in and of itself. So as I'm planning my House's Beltane celebration, I wanted to find out what foods other people customarily made for Freya at this time of year.


I had hoped (expected even) to get suggestions of specific dishes and some folks did come through to some extent. I came away from the conversation with a number of ideas that I wouldn't otherwise have had and which I"ll share with you at the end of this article. Unexpectedly, however, the conversation also highlighted yet another aspect of the devotional deficit so prevalent in contemporary Heathenry. I was really bowled over, though I suppose I shouldn't have been.

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  • sannion
    sannion says #
    I think you're misunderstanding my point, which is very easy to do with this imprecise medium of communication. So, to clarify,
  • Theresa Wymer
    Theresa Wymer says #
    I have a fairly new practice and am still working out a lot of things. It's very helpful to have writers like Galina and Sannion g
  • Laura P
    Laura P says #
    Why is it so controversial to love and respect the Gods and put the proper emphasis on the need to serve them well? It baffles me,

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