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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in polytheism

Title: The Legend of Bold Riley

Publisher: Northwest Press

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Last modified on

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

A few months back, I posted my suggestions for great science fiction with strong Pagan/polytheist themes; or, at least those that are Pagan/polytheist friendly.

Well, since then I have found one more book that can be added to the list: The Wreck of the Nebula Dream by Veronica Scott. Think of this as the Titanic in space. But with aliens. And a hot Special Forces hero. And a tattooed priest/assassin. And the characters are all polytheist. :)

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

Romance as a literary genre is only slightly easier to define than science fiction or fantasy. To paraphrase Wikipedia, the genre focuses on the relationship and romantic love between characters, with an "emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending." Though most popular in English-speaking countries, romance is gaining in popularity around the world as more and more titles are translated into other languages. The genre has also splintered into a dozen or more subgenres (depending on where you draw the lines). Someone looking for happily-ever-after can find it in an urban fantasy setting, or the far future, or the recent past, or via time travel, or with witches and angels thrown into the mix. Romance has also evolved from its original heterosexual, monogamous (usually Caucasian) character set to feature same-sex protagonists, menage a trois, aliens with unusual body parts, shapeshifters, cyborgs -- well, you name it.

Unfortunately, a solid Pagan subgenre has yet to develop. Sure, there are lots and lots and lots of romance novels and novellas and short stories out there which feature magical protagonists. Just type "paranormal romance" into Amazon or B&N and you'll see what I mean. Just because a book features a witch or a lightning bolt-wielding God, however, does not make it Pagan- or polytheist-friendly. I have read far, far too many romance novels in which the Wiccan main character could not recite the Wheel of the Year, the magic was ridiculously flashy and over the top, the Gods were gigantic jokes, and the theoilogy nonexistent. Too often, references to "The Goddess" or "The Gods" are just throw away lines with no real spirituality or faith behind them.

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Last time, I talked about how Jungian archetypes, far from being mere metaphors for natural and psychological processes, can accurately be described as "gods".  In this post, I want to discuss how the experience of Jung's archetypes closely resembles Polytheists' descriptions of their encounter with the gods. 

It is not uncommon for Pagans to draw on Jung’s concept of archetypes to explain the nature of Pagan deities.  Polytheists*, however, often reject Jungian or archetypal explanations of the gods because they seem reductive, and such explanations do not seem to account for the Polytheistic experience of the gods as “actual beings with independence, volition, and power”.  When Polytheists hear the gods described as archetypes, they may hear the speaker telling them that it is "all in your head".  In addition, talk about “archetypes” can seem abstract, which is inconsistent with the Polytheists' experience of the gods in all their specificity.  For example, the "Mother archetype" may not evoke the same devotion among Polytheists as the goddesses Demeter or Kali do. 

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • B. T. Newberg
    B. T. Newberg says #
    >Jung's concern, like in the others in the psychoanalytic school, would be with something influencing our behavior that we are not
  • John Halstead
    John Halstead says #
    Jung said it is the project of several lifetimes.
  • John Halstead
    John Halstead says #
    I didn't mean to imply that he thought it could be avoided, just that the point is to work toward ever greater levels of conscious
  • John Halstead
    John Halstead says #
    "I suspect the danger, for Jung, is in lack of control in such an experience?" That's a good question. I don't know if it's so m
  • B. T. Newberg
    B. T. Newberg says #
    >“The essential thing is to differentiate oneself from these unconscious contents by personifying them, and at the same time to br

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Honoring City Spirits - Part II

One of the first things I realized when I started honoring city spirits actively was A) how varied and individual their personalities are and B) there is a protocol for engaging with them, particularly as the relationship is first being established. Now that first point should have been a given for me; after all, as an animist it makes sense: spirits are individuals. I don't know why it came as such surprise to me that talking to New York City was different from talking to Paris who was different again from Venice or Washington or Berlin or Köln but it did. I suspect in my case, it was largely a matter of not having had much facility for sensing city spirits for a very long time and then suddenly finding myself able to engage. There was a real moment of cognitive disconnect to realize how much NYC had taken care of me and watched out after me when I'd been all but oblivious to his presence. Then there was the awareness that sometimes there isn't just one governing spirit in a city. New York City for instance has at least two: a spirit of NYC that I experience as male, and the spirit of Manhattan, a very angry (and justly so) Native spirit that reads to me as  female. We'll come back to that in a bit. Then of course each borough has its own spirit and each neighborhood within that.  It's a general rule of thumb in doing this work that the name of the spirit is the same as the name of the city, the name of the borough spirit is the name of the borough and so on.

 

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs

Recently, P. Sufenas Virius Lupus created some online controversy by arguing that one of the “points” of modern Paganism is to “bring back the gods”.  Lupus’ post was written in the context of a wider discussion about the place of Polytheism within contemporary Paganism, which began when several prominent Polytheists decided to disassociate themselves from the term “Pagan”.  (For more on this see here and here.)

Part of the reason for the antipathy of many Polytheists for Paganism is the perception that for Pagans the gods are personifications of natural forces or Jungian archetypes, whereas for Polytheists the gods are, in Lupus’ words, “actual beings with independence, volition, and power”.  Polytheistic practice, according to Lupus, “presupposes a definite being with volition and consciousness on the other end of the interaction.”  In contrast, Jungian archetypes are often understood by Pagans as mere metaphors of of natural or psychological processes.  A Polytheist who understands the archetypes in this way might well wonder why would anyone worship the creations of their own mind.

In the 1960s and 70s, Pagans seized onto Jung’s conception of archetypes as a way of legitimizing Pagan polytheism in the face of the crumbling claims to historical authenticity.  In the process though, the gods of Paganism became psychologized, and they lost their numinous quality.  (Numinosity refers, in part, to the mysterious “otherness” of an encounter with the divine.)  The Pagan gods had become archetypes, but Pagans had lost the sense of the archetypes as gods.  In reaction, many Polytheists in search of communion with numinous Others rejected Jungian Paganism in favor of a radical (or “hard”) polytheism which treats the gods as beings existing independent of the human psyche. 

I believe that this rejection of Jungian archetypes is the result of a misunderstanding by many Pagans of Jung’s concept of archetypes.  Jung would say that, while the gods may be a part of us, we must remember that they are also other than us, if by “us” we mean our conscious mind or ego-self.  Thus, Jung could say that “the world of gods and spirits is truly ‘nothing but’ the collective unconscious inside me”, and in the same breath say that “the collective unconscious is the world of gods and spirits outside me”.  This is why Jung called the archetypes “gods” and compared the psyche to an “Olympus full of deities who want to be propitiated, served, feared and worshipped”. He wrote that moderns congratulate ourselves

"imagining that we have left all these phantasmal gods far behind. But what we have left behind are only verbal spectres, not the psychic facts that were responsible for the birth of the gods. We are still as much possessed by autonomous psychic contents as if they were Olympians. [...] Zeus no longer rules Olympus but rather the solar plexus."

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • John Halstead
    John Halstead says #
    Chas Clifton reports that Robert Anton Wilson published an article in the old Llewellyn Publications magazine Gnostica, involving
  • John Halstead
    John Halstead says #
    "And if so, is it than 'my' unconsciousness where they reside or perhaps in the unconsciousness of that other place or person." T
  • Janneke Brouwers
    Janneke Brouwers says #
    This is very interesting and I am curious how P. Sufenas will respond to this one. In any case it will lead to a more productive d

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Honoring City Spirits - Part I

 

This is going to be a two, perhaps three part article series on honoring city spirits--something that's become a significant part of my own practice of late. In fact, having just recently taught a class in honoring the Holy Powers of the Northern Tradition, it struck me powerfully that in the end, so much of it comes back to honoring the ancestors (into which the Gods may, technically fit) and honoring the land. These little epiphanies are amazing--I find myself wanting to smack my forehead and wondering why on earth it took me so long to grasp what seems, in the end, so essential. I can't help chiding myself for not seeing these things sooner! I'm sure we've all been there at one time or another. Anyway, I've been doing quite a bit of work recently with city spirits and I wanted to talk about some of that with you, my readers.

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Recent comment in this post - Show all comments
  • Hugh Eckert
    Hugh Eckert says #
    I can't remember whether I've recommended this song to you... it seems very relevant to your post... "The Local Gods" by Shriekbac

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