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There is a desperation in how I fight the Filter now. I am aware of that. There didn't used to be. There was grit, determination, focus, but not vicious desperation. Over the past few months it changed, something in me changed and quite recently someone asked me what that was. It's simple really. My ancestors threw me into the direct experience of the sundering of our traditions. I stood in the flow of it and shared their experience and emotions. Then at the same time that was happening, the blogosphere erupted into a volcanic debate between polytheists and non-theistic pagans. why was this so significant to me personally? Why did it impact the place from which I fight the Filter? Because it showed me how bad off we truly are. It showed me the lay of the land and how deeply the damage went. It showed me how far we were from any coherent foundational roots. Until this past May and June, I had truly thought that more people were in ongoing devotional relationship with their Gods and dead, that more people were doing the work. My eyes have been opened. I see well now why the Havamal warns that no man is happy who is over-wise.
This epiphany hit me hard, harder than I care to admit. I came very close to seeing the restoration of our ancestral traditions as hopeless. So I did what I try always to do when I am in such a painful and demoralizing place: i took it to my ancestors, my Gods, and the Orisha. You see, it was becoming difficult for me to think of even the idea of 'community' with anything but contempt. Community? Really? I kept thinking "It's people like we have in our "community" who are the reason our traditions were destroyed in the first place and obviously not much has changed." Such bitter anger is not good for the work. It may be justified. It may be understandable but it prevents coherent strategizing and makes it hard to keep one's work clean, and it's so important that the Work be clean. Not to mention, it's difficult not to alienate allies and friends when one is in such bad headspace. So I stepped back and put it before my ancestors and Powers.
They began by reminding me that no one said this work would be easy. This was presented with some humor and it did at least get me to smile. No, if it were easy it wouldn't need to actually be done. We knew this was going to be difficult and grueling work from the get-go.
Secondly, they showed me all the ways our world is fragmented, all the ways that we all suffer because of it, all the ways that 'religion' has been used to condemn and destroy our humanity. Is it any wonder the idea of a "God" or "Gods" is unwelcome to some, why the lure of putting humanity in Their place is so strong? Look what's been done in the name of "God" both individually and globally. Look at how the Filter has worked that. Then look at how we've been conditioned to want our spirituality served up to us neat, in bite size easily digestible portions. Nothing in our society prepares us for it to be difficult, wrenching or even to require ongoing *work*. It does too, just like the cultivation of anything else, the cultivation of a strong spiritual life, a strong connection to the ancestors and Holy Powers takes ongoing care, attention, and work. It can be *hard*. Moreover, nothing in monotheism prepares us for the type of devotional partnership and reciprocity the Gods and ancestors offer. There's one hell of a learning curve.
Finally, I carry warrior medicine. This is my wyrd. This is my ashe. This is my work. It is part and parcel of a warrior to defend and work for the betterment of a community without ever actually being a full part of that community, or enjoying its benefits. i can admit to a bit of struggle with the unfairness of this. But we're the ones who do what no one else wants to, who take the blows and hold the line, and then mask ourselves as much as possible so the medicine we carry doesn't freak those we love out when we come back into the community enclosure. We're outliers even when we're in the midst of community celebration. The "village" is not a place in which we find shelter. It's a place that our work ensures exists as a shelter for others.
I'm not altruistic. I"ll be the first to admit this pisses me off and frankly on a personal level I wouldn't bother with any of the work I do but, here's the second part of that warrior wiring. It doesn't matter how I feel about my work. It doesn't even matter how I feel about building our communities, all that matters is that this is the job I have been given. I will do this even when I'm really not feeling the community love, because I love the Gods and my ancestors and moreover because it is my job. it is my duty. I can act out of duty when my emotions are a tangled mess. Do I love the community: um. no. really. no. But I love what the community has the potential to be.
One other thing was shown to me and it had me in tears before my altars. Every single person is crucial in this work. Not everyone carries warrior medicine, and not everyone can do devotional work as a warrior would but we can all do devotion. It is going to take a concerted effort from both sides of the equation: living and ancestral to shift the balance of our world. Building a tradition isn't a warrior's job. We clear the space so the seeds can be re-planted. We hold that space so the seeds have time to grow. Tending, watering, pruning….those things require gentle hands, loving hands, committed hands; warrior hands too but not only warrior hands and not primarily. Every single person has a part to play there and it begins with individual devotion. It begins with one person pouring out an offering to their ancestors. It begins with one person connecting to their Gods. One by one and consistently. That restoration isn't going to happen with any metaphysical fireworks. It's going to happen quietly in the secret fastness of our hearts, one by one. There are no small acts. Gandhi said once that "almost everything you do will seem insignificant, but it is important that you do it." He was, I staunchly believe, right.
I'm back from sabbatical now and over the next few weeks, I'll be sharing several of the articles that I wrote while i was away, including a multi-part series on the Norse Moon God Mani. The focus as always, renewed and refreshed, will be devotion to the Gods and ancestors and an ongoing discussion of poly-theology: building polytheisms that value and focus on just that and how to do that well. Happy Lammas, folks. Happy harvest and let us welcome the slow turning of that seasonal tide.
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