Pagan Paths

A polytheanimist Thracian perspective on creating, rebuilding, and embodying ancestral religions as living traditions in the 21st century. Religion as life, life as spirit, spirit as being.

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Gods of Consequence

Gods of Consequence

In the various debates that have been coming up of late, about the further differentiation of polytheism from other paganisms (especially humanist paganism, “self-centered” paganism, super-hero-worshiping-archetypalism, and so forth), I have noticed something. Obviously both sides of the various “lines” being “drawn” are having trouble coming together in agreement around a great many things, and both sides feel very misunderstood by the other. (That's what disagreement frequently leads to...) However, in all of my talks with polytheist colleagues, theologians, and co-religionists, none of “us” seem to be confused by *what* the archetypal-and-superhero-folks are saying about their beliefs or practices. We may be dumbstruck by some of their statements – generally when they are comparing their thought-forms to our gods in direct and offensive to us ways – but overall I don't sense a disconnect of understanding in that particular direction. (Agreement is another matter entirely...)

However, I have sensed a tremendous disconnect in understanding, and a great and wild mischaracterization, in the other direction. Polytheists are being called fundamentalists, are being called ontologically cowardly, are being called extreme to the point of instability, are being called delusional, and so on. All because we engage with our gods as beings great and powerful and worthy of holy veneration *outside of our own unconscious*; beings that are wholly and fully separate from us, who were no more born “inside” us (or “for” us) than that tree over there, or the air that I am breathing. They are not manufactured to suit our needs (like the apple-juice I am about to add whiskey to) nor are They engineered or tailored to “fit” us. There is no monism, and certainly no atheism, in polytheism.

The disconnect seems to be that the humanist side of the issue doesn't seem to realize the excessive “boxing” and “labeling” and ultimately conformist-based actions that it appears to be taking with regard to (or even against) some polytheist practices. That they are generally doing this with less openly aggressive (and occasionally blatantly passive aggressive) and far more gentle language does not change the fact that it is still being done. Whereas many polytheists, who are admittedly quite ready to be honest with their frustrations and emotions (read: more obviously aggressive in tone), are actually writing from a place that has no demand of conformity on humanists, because the polytheist paradigms ultimately have room for things like archetypes. It just also differentiates archetypes from actual gods. What I mean by this is that polytheist theology does not necessitate the exclusion of humanist or archetypal engagement, whereas humanist and archetypal engagement *do* exclude polytheistic process.

Example: If one airplane seats 100 humans and 50 tigers, and another airplane seats 100 humans and zero tigers but provides a tiger video accompaniment as a complimentary in-flight package, these airplanes are not the same. The first airplane ("Air Tiger") is inherently "more", in that it includes space for 50 tigers. 50 actual tigers. It may also include in-flight video accompaniments; nothing about the space for 50 tigers interferes with the ability to also have a video of tigers, or of giraffes, or of dirty NYC detectives, or of child models. The second airplane ("Air Human") is inherently "limiting" (not less, however, in terms of value), in that it by its own definitions and mechanical specifications does not include space for actual tigers. The presence of actual tigers would upset the seating arrangements of a full flight on “Air Human”. The video of tigers does little to change this phenomena.

So the problem is that the executives of Air Human are saying "But we DO have tigers! We just installed all of these video displays! We have a THOUSAND CHANNELS of TIGERS! On Satellite! And and and! You can even buy TIGERBALM for your sore neck from your in-flight console! And TIGER BARS for your snacks! And our pillows are made of dead tiger kittens! Our blankets are Tiger Skin! We even hand out Tiger Kidneys! WE HAVE TIGERS! Rawr!"

Meanwhile the executives of Air Tiger are sort of sitting back and saying, "But, um… those aren't tigers. Those are images of tigers, moving pictures of tigers, products unrelated to tigers but named for them, and then also the desiccated remains of murdered tigers. That is not the same as tigers. That is actually quite the opposite. You are defining your airline by the absence of tigers and then compensating with simulation and bad marketing techniques to try and imply or suggest tigers. We actually just made room on the upper deck for.. tigers."

And then all of the tiger-enthusiast passengers trying to book flights are confused as the two companies go back and forth. However, one of those companies is sort of lying (sorry, guys) and limiting the accessibility of resources (tigers) to its passengers, while the other is being honest and totally not limiting anything, as it actually has space for tigers, and in addition can absolutely provide all of the other stuff too (with the exception of the inhumane murder products) for anyone who wants them.

In truth, the problem isn't so much that Air Human is trying to be dishonest to its market demographic, but rather it is more that they don't believe in real tigers, anymore. They think that they're already extinct. Or maybe they didn't really exist to begin with. (Just like jugglers. See below for the truth about jugglers.) Air Tiger, on the other hand, is trying to provide a presentation that by definition offers “more”; the plane is bigger to accommodate actual tigers, and the seating arrangements for humans doesn't run the risk of spacial overlap with giant four-legged feline apex predators, and the in-flight options can include all the tigers – or any other animal conceivable, including the honey badger! – and so forth. There is no requirement onboard Air Tiger that every passenger go up and hug a tiger, or ride a tiger, or feed a tiger, and in fact these are probably best left for those who know how to do these things. But all of them are invited to look up at the cabin ceiling above them, through the transparent viewing glass, and *see* the tigers above them. From awkward up-shot angles. (Unless the tigers are in a zero-gravity cabin, in which case, maybe they're floating upside down and the angle is less awkward.)

Ahem. And then this brings us back to the issue of “belief”, and who has it, or who doesn't, or who needs it, or whose whole identity is shaped by it, or what the word even really means, and so forth.

Polytheists do not require “belief” (although for many of us it is there as a useful tool on the side) anymore than I need to “believe” in the presence of black bears in the California mountains when deciding where to store my food on a campsite. (That I *do* believe in bears is irrelevant to their belief of entitlement to my food; you don't need to believe in a bear to find yourself uncomfortably between it and a roast pork sandwich.)

And therein lies a major difference that I have seen: the self-described “self-centered” or humanist or archetypal pagans are engaging with powers and so forth which are by their own definitions of no greater consequence than their own (collective, at times) unconsciousness, and no matter how much you glorify and believe in the great and sacred power of internal cognition and transcendent psychology, these things are not going to maul you to death in the woods.

And the thing is? Our gods will.

Guns fire bullets that can kill, ripping through flesh and bone and sinew. Power-saws can slip from timber and take off a hand. Cars, airplanes, baseball bats, whiskey bottles, and juggler's flaming bowling pins; all of these things have tangible consequence when they are not approached with the proper respect. The respect that they are due. The respect that they demand, not based on some flimsy made-for-us fabricated belief system, but because steel, brass, iron, lead, glass, hickory, and fire are elements of consequence. And humans? They are soft, meaty, fragile creatures.

Gods are greater than guns, faster than cars, bigger than airplanes, wield more concussive leverage than a bat and hold far more spirit than a tempered glass whiskey bottle. Gods are the source of fire. And bowling pins. (And jugglers.) Approaching the deities with respect and deference is not a thing of belief, but a thing of necessity.

This is an intrinsic difference between polytheists and archetypal-or-humanist “self-centered” pagans, spiritual-seekers and so forth. Unless you view the gods as having the power to rip your arms off and beat you to death with them, or take the face of your lover while turning your skin inside out and dropping you in a pit of jello and alligators, we're not talking about the same thing.

I use the above imagery to communicate dramatic (perhaps over-dramatic) points, although none of it is exaggerated. (Except the bits about jugglers. We all know that they come from unholy powers, nothing sacred about it.) This is not at all the only expression of, or way of relating to, our gods. But it is there. Always. No hunter, butcher, lumberjack, soldier, archer, wood-chipper-landscaping-specialist or nuclear physicist would ever try to suggest that there was nothing viscerally dangerous or tremendously destructively powerful about the tools of their trade, and this is not different with religion. The “tools of my trade” are dangerous. They are great. They are powerful. And They are much beloved by me, and if I am reading the signs correctly, I am of Them as well. (They are also not tools; this is a metaphor, before I get misquoted as comparing my gods literally to woodchippers or rifles, and so forth. Critical thinking, people...)

My devotions are not about self-development. I do not rely on my gods to be a good person (I take responsibility for that myself) and I do not rely on my gods to be a good brother (I take responsibility for that myself) and I do not rely on my gods to be a good son (I've never been a very good son, truth be told), and I do not rely on my gods to be a good partner (mainly because I am single), and I do not rely on my gods to be a good father (as my raven will attest, I probably suck at this as well). I turn to my gods when I struggle, yes, but not so that They can “make it better” or “make it go away”; I turn to Them for support, not for co-dependence. I find comfort in the protection that They offer me – and I am very well protected, as any of my enemies could attest – and I find inspiration at Their touch, and I find myself elevated and lifted in Their presence, even (and especially) when I fall to my knees in reverent, deferent praise.

But They are not a self-help book, or an internal model for “how to not be a dick”.

Philosophies of moral theory and ethics have informed much of my exploration of “how to not be a dick”. Finding elders in my communities who are not dicks? That taught me how to not be a dick. Finding elders in my communities who *are* dicks? That taught me how to not be a dick. Being a dick? That also taught me how to not be a dick. I am not always not a dick. Sometimes I am a dick. Being a dick and being a bad person are different. Sometimes I find myself compelled to be a dick. But I am always a good dick. My gods have very little to do with whether or not I am being a dick. My religion does not exist to stop me from being a dick, or to inform me of how to be a good person; those are things that generally speaking are in my court to take responsibility for. (When I am a dick, I don't blame my gods for it. When I am a good person, I praise Them for giving me the space to find that within myself.)

They also don't care all that much, so long as I get the job done. The work that They have given me to do would be sort of impossible to do if I were a dick all the time. So I also have compassion. Not because They gave it to me, but because They demand that I do what I need to do to complete the tasks assigned. To do this, I must also have softness, tenderness, receptive qualities and embracing qualities and I have hope and I have visions of a better world. Those visions are not born of my mind, of my unconscious, of my intellectualism or blah blah blah. Those visions are the visions of my gods. Those visions are the blueprints of my job here in this world; the schematics that I am seeking to navigate.

Some people spend their lives and their religious engagements seeking the divine, seeking understanding, seeking meaning, seeking something outside (or inside) of themselves. I am not seeking those things. I already have Them. That does not mean that I have *everything*, however, for I still seek – daily – to learn the better place foot to earth with the right balance of righteousness and humility, to learn to better place bat to skull when the circumstances call for it, to learn to put the bat down when they don't. To learn to use my voice to bring not just change, but change that leads to realized vision, received from gods and blessed dead. I am seeking, always, to better calibrate my own human baggage, to embody it when needed or shift it aside when not, to better see the fulfillment of the will of my gods brought through into this world.

Because my gods have a plan. It is a good one. I've seen it. I am living inside of it.

But They can also rip my arms off and beat me to death with them, or fill me with the ability to do my work with no arms at all, across any distance, if only I have the strength to trust in Them that much more than I already do. And so I fall to my knees and I praise Them.

My religion is a religion of consequence. The day to day maintenance of human existence and so forth? That is on me. There are tools provided in the whole “polytheistic package” for assistance in those pursuits, such as divination, oracular work, healing, blessing and so forth, and my gods encourage the use of these as needed. But these are provided to compliment the human investment – the effort to be a good person, to practice and execute acts of good character inside and out, to engage with my world in a progressive and constructive and hopeful way, to encourage empowerment and compassion in those around me and lend what I have to the building (or rebuilding) of healthy and cohesive community – rather than to replace it. I am strictly forbidden from turning to my gods for aid if I have not first tried to resolve a thing myself, not because They won't help me, but because They've already given me many blessed tools. Thumbs, for example, and a brain capable of many great things, and a voice that can range in delivery between “don't you dare touch that child or I will kill you” intensity to “it is okay, dear, the scary man is gone” in gentleness.

My gods are gods of consequence, not abstractions torn from the back of my mind. Don't get me wrong. The unconscious is powerful, potent, and is the landscape of internal revelation. It provides the language through which outside influences can communicate meaningfully with us. The unconscious also provides the interface for us to communicate with ourselves, and “do our own work”. But my gods do not dwell there, are not born there, and don't generally give a flying feck what color the wallpaper is inside. They're from outside of it all, outside of me, you, and everyone else: that is what makes Them gods. (And yes, They're inside of us, too. But They're not from *from* inside.)

My job is to do my work and to live in this world, embodied and realized as a human-formed being, and to know myself inside and out well enough that I can put myself to the side and as far out of the equation as possible when the situation calls for it. My religion is here to provide me the tools and structures not for developing myself, but for using myself to see Their will realized in this world. My religion provides me the rules of engagement, the process of negotiation and the technology to do it all safely, sanely, cleanly, and efficiently. Looking back at my career as a spirit-worker, as a priest, as a teacher? I have done a good job. I have done good in this world. There are people alive today because I was there, because I submitted to the will of my gods and saw that will enacted through me. There are people who could have done harm who were rendered unable, not at my intervention but at the intervention of my gods acting through me, because I knew enough to step aside and let Them speak, and act, and be.

One of the concerns that I hear from a lot of people who are not polytheists in this sense, is that this all sounds like a scary “cop-out” of personal responsibility. That it sounds like an “abrogation of personal accountability”. To this I say, it could not be further from those things. To open myself up to the gods, those forces who I serve and praise outside of myself, who I adore with all of my being, is to likewise embrace a deeper accountability and sense of personal responsibility than I have witnessed in any other around me. We should be afraid of our gods, but we should not be afraid to lose ourselves to Them... for we are nothing without Them. My humanity exists as a tool for Them, as my religion exists as a tool to engage fruitfully with Them and see Their plans unfold through me in this world.

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A temple priest, shaman, and spirit-worker in the Thracian tradition, Anomalous Thracian lives in a van in the Northeast United States, with a crazed raven from Africa. He teaches foundational spiritual principles and results-oriented mysticism, with a focus on anchoring ancient nomadic wisdoms and values in contemporary reality. A Thracian mystic reconstructionist, he leads an initiatory tradition and facilitates rituals, traditional rites of passage, various methods of divination and temple functions appropriate to the needs of the community. In all of his doings, he attempts to honor the ancestors, the gods, and his living relations in this world and the rest of them, while focusing also on further understanding and addressing contemporary issues of race, gender, and sexuality.


  • Byron Ballard
    Byron Ballard Friday, 07 June 2013

    I liked the tiger part. Excellent analogy.

  • Laura P
    Laura P Saturday, 08 June 2013


  • Dver
    Dver Saturday, 08 June 2013

    no matter how much you glorify and believe in the great and sacred power of internal cognition and transcendent psychology, these things are not going to maul you to death in the woods. And the thing is? Our gods will.

    This was my favorite part, but this whole piece was fantastic. I thought this point about "gods of consequence" was excellent the first time you made it (in an earlier post I think) and am really glad you expanded upon it here. Plus the tiger metaphor was awesome.

  • Rebecca Buchanan
    Rebecca Buchanan Saturday, 08 June 2013

    Jello pit filled with alligators. *snerk*

  • Stifyn Emrys
    Stifyn Emrys Saturday, 08 June 2013

    I appreciate your insights into your beliefs and practice of polytheism. However, I don't understand the disparaging labels applied to other belief systems ("self-centered" paganism). You state that others are "comparing their thought-forms to our gods in direct and offensive to us ways." Why is it offensive to you that someone else believes differently than you do? No one is telling you what to believe - at least, I hope they're not, because THAT would be offensive. But merely presenting a different belief shouldn't offend you. You can take it or leave it. No harm, no foul. I personally see no reason for the conflict between polytheism on the one hand and other forms of paganism on the other. Personally, I don't believe a Tiger deity is going to maul me from out of nowhere, but I'm not going to start calling you "selfish" for believing such a thing could occur. I think the key is to stop taking offense at one another, try to understand each other's perspective and work together toward mutual respect. Why can't we have differences, acknowledge them and respect them rather than taking offense at them?

  • Galina Krasskova
    Galina Krasskova Saturday, 08 June 2013

    This is not about me or you or Anomalous Thracian, or even our generation. It's about the restoration of a tradition, a body of traditions, about picking up threads of wisdom and power and knowledge that were wrenched brutally from teh hands of our ancestors. It's about restoring those traditions, bringing them alive into the here and now in a way that is vibrant and sustainable. You don't build a house on a faulty foundation. Neither can a restoration such as some of us are tasked by our Gods and ancestors with doing be accomplished on a foundation full of horse shit. Believe what you want. practice what you want, but don't define it as polytheism or even Paganism. You ask for meaning: what do your ancestors tell you about this? What do your Gods tell you? neither Anomalous nor I nor any other spirit worker weighing in on this topic I'd warrant is speaking metaphorically when we ask those questions. Anything that attempts to veer Paganism or Heathenry or Polytheism or any of these traditions in the process of being restored away from those indigenous roots is something to be resisted.

  • John Halstead
    John Halstead Saturday, 08 June 2013

    Regarding the "self-centered" label -- which I identify with, and which I use to distinguish earth-centered and deity-centered Paganisms -- it should be capitalized (to distinguish the "Big Self" from the ego-self), and also I have started using the term "Self-centric" instead of Self-centered, so it will not be quite so easily confused with a synonym for egotism.

  • Anomalous Thracian
    Anomalous Thracian Saturday, 08 June 2013

    "Self-Centered" Paganism isn't my language, that was coined by a (?) humanist and self-applied, as opposed to "deity-centered" or "nature-centered" and "community-centered".

    As to why it is offensive, let me say it this way:

    To a polytheist, the gods are not concepts or ideas or hypotheticals. They are real. More real to us than you are, just as real (as I point out) as a bear in the woods. They are real, and They are outside of us. One of the very first things that is done to psychologically terrorize and break down prisoners, hostages, and victims of human experimentation is to deny their individuality by assigning them new names, or (worse) identification numbers, or (worse still) a single term applied broadly to all of them. In the experimentation camps run by the Japanese Imperial Army from the late '20s into the collapse of the Axis in WWII, located in mainland China and called Unit-731, rural Manchurians were killed by the tens of thousands in the some of the worst documented cases of human atrocity and experimentation on record, period. These victims were stripped of their individual names and called simply "Maruta" by their captors, which was a sick joke. Maruta means "lumber" or "logs". When the Japanese first invaded, they contracted the local peasants -- their later victims -- to construct sprawling compounds for them which were explained to be lumber yards, for funding the Japanese army's mounting military enterprises. Instead, they were medical experimentation concentration camps. The prisoners, the ones who had built the facilities, were called "Maruta" because it was "funny". This sick humor, however, served a more insidious purpose than merely insulting the victims: it stripped away their humanity, their individuality. This is the first step taken in all efforts to break the spirit and mind of a person or a group.

    To strip away the autonomy and the individuality of the gods who I love and cherish is to measure an assault upon them in this way. I am not saying that the gods can be enslaved by us, but rather, that Their traditions can be stripped of majesty; this is what the humanist entitlement has done to the mystical since its inception.

    Yes, I just compared the humanist machine and the trend of what I see as humanist entitlement to human experimentation and gross atrocities of war.

    "No harm, no foul" is a bunch of crap. There is harm. To us. To anyone who would answer the call to their gods and reach for support and instead of finding actual theists, wind up with.. what? Humanist propaganda that tells them that the gods are just thought-forms in their heads? That the "sacred" exists as a state of transcended consciousness with humans at the center? What if this person's call was bigger than the humanist machine could contextualize? What if their communion with their gods was deeper, in the "mauled in the woods at night" sort of way, than their humanist "elders" could handle? No harm, no foul, until somebody gets mauled on your watch, or snatched up from this world by something they didn't understand, because nobody taught them how to engage with powers outside of themselves. Powers of consequence.

    Further, to use another human parallel, how often have we known people -- or *been* people -- who engage with others not as authentic autonomous social beings, but as reflections of their own projected unconscious? By this I mean, how many times *daily* can you observe a person objectifying another person based on preconceived notions or assumptions about them based on their mode of dress, the size of their breasts, the color of their hair, the circumference of their biceps, the length of their beard, the color of their skin? How often do humans as a species relate to one another not as true individuals, but as convenient "models" of what they would like to see? How often do we run into conflict with other humans -- even those to whom we are "very close" -- when our expressions of individual sovereignty do not align with their perceptions/projections of what we should be? (In other words, how often are human relationships formed not based upon mutual respect for each other's true individuality, but instead upon convenient or comfortable projections of expectation?)

    Example: When somebody is socially resilient and strong and perceived of as the "rock" for their peers or family, they often are met with emotional backlash when they themselves are vulnerable or in need of support. This is because others looked to them to satisfy a certain social archetype. Their individual needs -- e.g. their autonomous expressions that exist outside of that other person's spheres -- are perceived by those close to them as a "betrayal". They were relied upon (unfairly) to be inhumanly supportive/stable. People, whether they mean to or not, came to expect this of them, to the point where they were not really relating to that person as an individual, but instead as an archetype, as a model, as a projection, as an *iconified* version of something that they themselves needed to have near them. When the iconified human fails to meet that unfair and unreasonable expectation by, say, needing a hug now and then, or getting sick, or having a breakdown around tax-season, those who had first lofted them up (in their own minds) to that status feel the weight of that "betrayal" and frequently lash out or merely turn away in rejection, abandonment.

    And so obviously it is better to relate to other humans, insofar as we are able, as individuals.. not as unrealistic models or objectified icons.

    To a polytheist, this is true of our gods as well. Because They are not merely "icons" or "models"; They are real beings, with real agendas, real personalities, real engagements. To call them otherwise, to treat them otherwise, to describe them otherwise, is to call them "Maruta".

    It is an offense to Them, it is an offense to our relation to Them, and it is a danger to anyone who comes along trying to answer a call, young or old in age, from their gods... only to be fed from the trough of humanistic, reductionist poison.

  • Stifyn Emrys
    Stifyn Emrys Saturday, 08 June 2013

    My difficulty lies not with your belief, but with the apparent view that your definition is the definition of these beings. If one of the gods you revere were to walk up to me and tell me, "Hey, this is who I am," I would, out of respect, take the person at his/her word. This has yet to happen to me. What has occurred, instead, is that people who have certain beliefs about these individuals tell me secondhand, who they are. I have no wish to contradict your experience - it is yours and, as such, I am in no position to judge it. Since I am not, I do not understand why it would offend you. However, I am not simply going to accept anyone's word who claims to be making definitive statements about a third party. I wouldn't do that about any personal being capable of speaking for him/herself, whether that person be a human, deity or some other life form. You seem to be taking issue with people defining individuals (in this case, deities) in ways you believe are inaccurate and offensive. What I think is more to the point is whether the individuals themselves are offended by different characterizations. I'm willing to listen to them, but I have difficulty accepting the word of people who claim to act as their representatives without some affirmation from the individuals themselves. I have the same problem with representatives of any deity, whether it by Odin, Allah, Christ or Krishna. It's easy to speak in behalf of a god; it's far more difficult to determine whether that speech is sanctioned by the god whom the speaker claims to represent.

  • Galina Krasskova
    Galina Krasskova Saturday, 08 June 2013

    actually, it's not that difficult. That's what divination is for, oracle work, elders, and a dozen other ways to confirm signal clarity. It's really not that difficult at all.

  • John Halstead
    John Halstead Saturday, 08 June 2013

    I think Stifyn makes a good about the authority of polytheists to define the gods. And this gets to the crux of it for me: the lack of intra-subjective agreement. I don't see the kind of agreement among polytheists regarding the character of the gods that one would expect if they are all talking to the same divine person. This came to my attention in a post by Star Foster who told how she had to turn down an invitation to edit a devotional anthology to Hephaistos, who she worships, because the other submissions "bore little relevance to my personal relationship to him.” Really?! She couldn't relate with any of the submissions? What happens when two people who worship the same deity meet and realize that they have very different conceptions of the deity? Usually it means that one person's experience has to be invalidated. And who gets to decide that?

    I wrote more about this here:

  • Stifyn Emrys
    Stifyn Emrys Saturday, 08 June 2013

    I enjoyed reading your blog. I found the references to "Who Mourns for Adonis" and "American Gods" particularly interesting. The latter was the only Gaiman book I started that I couldn't finish - for purely literary reasons; it just didn't hold me. I find your suggestion that it gave rise to "hard" polytheism interesting and would like to hear more about your reasoning. If true, it would be ironic that an obvious work of fiction by someone who doesn't seem particularly religious should help fuel a "hard" religious movement.

  • Galina Krasskova
    Galina Krasskova Saturday, 08 June 2013

    I think it comes down to those who honor the Gods and those claimed and taken up by Them. There's a difference and I would always look to the one actually claimed by teh Deity over the devotee who may or may not be able to put their own shit aside to do the work the Gods have given.

    Also, the Gods can be very different from person to person. relationships even with the Gods are individual and unique. I expect that other Odin's people will have different relationships with HIm, but I know His scent and that is what i look for. If i dont' sense that mark, then that's when i question the relationship.

  • Stifyn Emrys
    Stifyn Emrys Saturday, 08 June 2013

    I didn't realize that "self-centered" was not your language. My apologies for misreading that. In most common parlance, it's used as a disparagement, so I concluded (incorrectly) it was being used that way here, too.

  • Galina Krasskova
    Galina Krasskova Saturday, 08 June 2013

    re. "American Gods', rest assured many of us were hard polytheists long before we ever heard of Neil Gaiman. Not all of us depend on pop culture for our religious leanings.

  • Galina Krasskova
    Galina Krasskova Saturday, 08 June 2013

    Humanistic, reductionist poison. I couldn't have said it better myself. We are building a tradition, resurrecting a lineage, and honoring the Gods we love and serve above all else. To do that and to have any hope that our traditions will be restored in any matter whatsoever approaching the fullness of what our ancestors experienced we absolutely will hold the line against such garbage. The line needs to be held and strongly.

  • Laura P
    Laura P Saturday, 08 June 2013

    Brilliant. There can be no whitewashing the fact that secular paganism is trying to define true polytheism out of existence by pretending there is no difference between our practices and those of their ilk. Our Gods are not thought forms or archetypes. Our Gods are not sanitized for our protection and will not be neutered to make the humanists feel less angsty.

  • John Halstead
    John Halstead Saturday, 08 June 2013


    First of all, you are mistaken if you believe that the misunderstandings are not flowing in both directions. I have seen plenty of over-simplified characterizations of the archetypal approach to the gods, i.e., "they're just metaphors." (Although I appreciate that your post is not an example of this.)

    But turning to the point of your post, "gods of consequence", I disagree that archetypal gods are not consequential and even dangerous. As Jung explained:

    "Even if a neurosis had no cause at all other than imagination, it would, none the less, be a very real thing. If a man imagined that I was his arch-enemy and killed me, I should be dead on account of mere imagination. Imaginary conditions do exist and they may be just as real and just as harmful or dangerous as physical conditions. I even believe that psychic disturbances are far more dangerous than epidemics or earthquakes. Not even the medieval epidemics of bubonic plague or smallpox killed as many people as certain differences of opinion in 1914 or certain political ideals in Russia.” (CW 11, PP 16-17).

    In fact, in his "Essay on Wotan", Jung describes the disastrous events in Germany in the 1930s in terms of a nation "possessed" by the archetypal storm god.

    You've try to distinguish gods from archetypes on the basis that archetypes will not "rip your arms off and beat you to death with them", but I defy you to show me one verifiable instance, ever, in the history of the world, where a god literally ripped someone's arms off and beat them to death with them.

  • John Halstead
    John Halstead Saturday, 08 June 2013

    Also, how do you account for those self-described polytheists who believe that the gods *do* come from within us, but then take on a life of their own outside of us, thus becoming "real", i.e., thought-forms or egregores? This is not a humanist, or even necessarily an archetypal, perspective. I think polytheism is more diverse than you suggest.

  • Anomalous Thracian
    Anomalous Thracian Saturday, 08 June 2013

    I don't put nearly as much stock in "self-described" anything as a lot of progressives.

    This is because my definition of "progressive" is a literal one, in that it implies literal progress, which itself implies literal value judgement. Without a value judgment, nothing can be improved upon (progressed) because nothing is "wrong" an all things are "equal". Well, no. Things are wrong. Nothing is equal. And progress means judgment. So I am literally progressive, and I find that "self identification" is complete crap at least as often as it is self-affirming and empowering, socially or otherwise.

    I don't much care if somebody "self-identifies" as polytheist if they're by definition not polytheists. If I went around calling myself a tree, and identifying as literally an elm for example, that would not change the fact that I was not in fact a tree. If I tried to say that I had the spirit of a tree, or that I was a dead elm reincarnated as a human-formed creature thing, that'd be a different case and would need to be qualified in different terms. "Elm-spirited human" is a lot different than "I am an elm tree, people".

    And before you ask, "well who do you think should determine what these terms mean?", I think starting with dictionaries and moving on from there into theology is a good starting ground. These conversations we're all having are helpful and necessary as well, in these pursuits, as they outline the discrepancies and the wildly different conversations we're all having.

    Citing Jung is great (I love the work that he did) but sort of irrelevant in a religious and theological discussion. His work was incredibly important to counter other science-themed views of religion and skepticism, and I tip my hat to him for that, but that doesn't mean that they should be embraced in place of.. actual religious thought. Jung > Freud on the subject of religion, yeah, but that doesn't mean that the Psychology of Religion is the same as the Study of Religion.

    This is a major critique many theists (of all sorts) have: the psychological "deconstruction" of theistic engagement, belief, practice, and so forth. Nobody is saying "don't study religion from a psychological or sociological perspective", or at least I am not saying this, but there is a strong encouragement to "not mistake the psychology of religion for the same thing as religion".

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