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American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting - I

November 2014

San Diego, CA 

Day One: Friday

The Pacific Surfliner Amtrak train arrived in San Diego at 1:00 a.m. on Friday, having boarded the Coast Starlight in Emeryville at 6:10 a.m. on Thursday.  Due to confused arrangements for lodging, I had no place to stay.  Took cab to home of my niece Ally and crashed on inflatable mattress in their living room.  The good news is that I got to spend a little time with her, her spouse Lisa, and their darling little Rockwell, aged 19 months, on Friday morning.  I taught him a new word.  He was identifying animals in one of his picture books.  He liked to go “hoo, hoo” when he saw owl.  He could say something approximating “sheep,” but didn’t have sheep’s sound.  I said “baaa, baaa” in a really croaky sheep voice, and he cracked up.  Now he has another word in his vocabulary: “baaa.”  Meaning I blew off the early Friday sessions I’d planned to attend.

Ally dropped me off at a hotel where I was staying for one night, thanks to my friend Megory Anderson of the Sacred Dying Foundation.  Checked in and made my way to the colossal San Diego Convention Center, where I picked up my nametag and bag.  (Purple this year, and sturdily made.)

Feeling a bit lost in the vastness of this convention center, I headed for familiar territory and found myself at the Forum on Religion and Ecology, Yale University, annual luncheon.  I decided to stay for a while because the luncheon was headed by John Grim and Mary Evelyn Tucker; John Grim and I had participated in The Biodiversity Project[1] Spirituality Working Group[2] at a small retreat near Madison, Wisconsin, in 1999.  The first person I encountered whom I knew was Bron Taylor, headed for this luncheon.  I was fortunate to have a little time for one-on-one with Bron, when we shared optimism about the emphasis on climate change at this AAR, and considered more recent changes in radical environmental activism with the death of such notables as my friend Sequoia in 2008.  I chatted with some of the organizers for a while because we were early, and learned that one of them, a man from Vermont, has a son who is a grower in California.  You never know.

Soon we were joined by Graham Harvey, Doug Ezzy, and others.  As I listened to every person in the room -- I would guess more than 100 -- introduce her or himself and say something about where they were working (universities, graduate students, NGOs, et al.), I was pleased to hear all the references to ecology, nature, climate change, and the like.  Of course, some went on and on explaining what they were doing, and that had to be checked so there was time for everyone else to speak.  I said I was from Covenant of the Goddess and Cherry Hill Seminary, indicating that CHS was the first and only Pagan seminary and that it operated in cyberspace (green, ya know), and that I lived in a county in a metropolitan area that, thanks to some far-seeing wealthy environmental activists and not to me, is zoned 70 percent open space.

I wasn’t able to stick around for very long because I left for a tête-à-tête with a Pagan pal from Colorado before the conference got too crazy.

Here are examples of a few of Friday’s sessions that intrigued me but that I couldn’t attend 

★      Religion and Media Workshop, “The History and Materiality of Religious Circulations,” a day-long seminar “designed to foster collaborative conversation at the cutting edge of the study of religion, media, and culture…[exploring] the history and materiality of religious circulations.”

★      Dharma Academy of North America (DANAM), “Polytheology: The Vision of Plural Divinities,” featuring, among others, papers on “Conceptualizing Divinity: One, None, or Many”; “Conceptualizing the Divine: How Hindu Deities Are Presented in High School World Religions Courses in Canada”; “Devotions of Attachment and Detachment & the Myriad Divinities of Jainism”; ”When Hanuman Became a Jain: The Miraculous Story of Babosa”; “Deities, Bodhisattvas, and Buddhas: Nontheism in a Theocratic Universe.”

       

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Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Deific Multiplicity.

Before the blog entry proper, Id like to state that the ideas proposed are still in a somewhat incubatory stage. That said, I invite your criticism and thoughts on the topic. Still needing to flesh out the ideas and needing better metaphors, I offer up the discussion here for better ways to express these thoughts. Thank you.

 

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  • Al
    Al says #
    All good points. Personally I think that the truth lies somewhere between elevated ancestor spirits and archetypes when it comes t
  • Travis Crockett
    Travis Crockett says #
    haha pardon domesticality*
  • Travis Crockett
    Travis Crockett says #
    Al, that's a brilliant analogy! You articulated what I fumbled with in less than stellar language. What I feel like will will be a
  • Al
    Al says #
    I'll take a stab at this. First, the 'facets of divinity' approach might be missing the point by not further defining 'divinity'.

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Perspectives on Deity

 

Perhaps central to Neo Pagan practices is the petition of Deity. The crudest of formulas for Neo Pagan ritual would be: create a sacred space, invoke deity, pay homage and/or petition, and dismiss. Though some petitions might be spontaneous and overlook some elements of space or decorum ( i.e. Penczack’s “instant magic”), the desires and force of will are almost always necessarily in conjunction with some form of request to a higher power. Linguistically, one could simply put it as; “to petition”, a subject must have an object to call upon.  Even in the instance of petitioning the self, drawing forth some sort of believed, hidden energy from the depths of the practitioners psyche, the petitioner is calling upon an “other” to change or work with the “self”.

 

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Devotional Q&A #1

 

Last week, I promised my readers that if you sent me questions about devotional work or polytheism I would answer them to the best of my ability. Well, you haven't disappointed and I have at least a dozen or so questions (maybe more---I haven't actually counted) sitting in my inbox. They're' all good questions and thought-provoking so over the next few weeks I am going to take them one by one in the order in which they were received and answer them here (or maybe on my other blog depending on my mood). 

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs

House Sankofa is a mixed House. I think from what I've already shared about our House that it's pretty clear what that might mean, but to be fair I'll explain. In the founding of the House, our goal was to create a sanctuary, a welcoming devotional space where all the Gods and ancestors were welcome, and where They would each be venerated and honored according to the customs and protocols They preferred. To date, we have very strong Norse, African, and Mediterranean lines. What that means in actual practice is that slowly but surely we're all growing fluent and, i hope, fluid in moving from one religious language and set of protocols to another. I am purposely avoiding the use of the word 'eclectic.' It's come to have such a pejorative sense in the various Pagan communities that I do not think it furthers dialogue and, as we've already established in previous debates, words and their meanings are important. Rather, let's call this polytheism as our ancestors would have done it. 

Were I living several centuries before Christianity was a blip on the timeline of religious history, I would have naturally been polytheistic. I would have lived in a society, a community, a culture that was also polytheistic. It would have been the default setting for how we all viewed, engaged with, and processed our world. I would have honored my ancestors in whatever way was customary in my native culture; I would have honored my ancestral Gods, the Gods of my forefathers and foremothers.  I would also very likely have honored other Gods, possibly foreign ones, whose cultus were popular in my city. Were I to visit neighboring tribes, villages, or cities, it is not inconceivable that I would participate in foreign religious rites as well, honoring the Gods of the land in which i lived and moved. Then of course, there were whatever mystery cultus I may have initiated into. All in all, my personal practices and devotions may very well have been a diverse patchwork based on a number of factors. Ancient polytheisms were, in many ways, defined by their diversity. 

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  • Betty Prat
    Betty Prat says #
    Great article!
  • Galina Krasskova
    Galina Krasskova says #
    I would definitely like that.
  • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus
    P. Sufenas Virius Lupus says #
    I hope one day to do Communalia with House Sankofa on behalf of the Ekklesía Antínoou.
  • Ashley Moore
    Ashley Moore says #
    "The Gods are communicating with each Other. I'm not the only spiritworker to sense this. They're communicating with each Other an

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
All About Mani: the Norse Moon God

I love the Norse Moon God. There isn't very much information on Him in the surviving lore, and yet slowly but surely over the past decade His cultus has been restoring and rebuilding itself. This is a joy to see and it's an equal joy to be a part of such growing devotion. I've found He is a very hard God not to love. His Presence evokes longing and brings with it aching beauty twinned with the hint of ancient power. He touches the heart like no other Deity, and it often seems He moves with an exquisitely calculated sensuality throughout our world. Mani is mystery and in like fashion evokes the hunger for mystery. 

We don't actually have very much concrete information on Him. He's the God of the moon and guides the moon across the night sky, always chased by the wolf Hati. His sisters are Sunna and Sinthgunt and He is of the House of Mundilfari, the Time Turner. He is sometimes said to travel with two children, a boy Hjuki and and girl Bil whom He rescued from neglectful parents. He is the nephew of Nott, or Night. That's what we know from lore. From direct experience of Him, not just by me, but by many of His devotees, we know that He is fascinated by humanity and the process of embodiment. He watches over abused children and notes every tear, every wound, every scar. He is a special protector of those affected by emotional pain and mental illness, and once, He was very fierce. 

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  • Theresa Wymer
    Theresa Wymer says #
    Hail Máni! Thank you for this series. I'm really looking forward to it.

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Warrior Medicine

 

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. 

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  • Betty Prat
    Betty Prat says #
    Loved this article and I honor and appreciate the work you do, Ashe!
  • gary c. e.
    gary c. e. says #
    Hi Galina just want to say i really and deeply appreciate your posts - i may not be where your at personally but nevertheless i'm
  • Christine L Berger
    Christine L Berger says #
    Good to see you back. I had a small lesson today to cause me to realize the small daily devotions I make in the morning are more
  • Liza
    Liza says #
    I think it is important to build relationships, connects, and supports here, as well as Elsewhere. Not all humans are warriors, an
  • Byron Ballard
    Byron Ballard says #
    Welcome back. There's much to do.

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