erynn: Gaelic merman image (ow. Robertson Davies)
So I went to the VA early and talked to the supervisor about the whole travel thing. It turns out that the co-pay is probably the one thing in the system where being rated at 100% doesn't actually benefit you. The co-pay is taken out if you get above $X per month, and I'm above that cutoff. Okay, I can handle that. Would have been nice, but so it goes.

Group today was actually pretty good and I had a good time, but the wait down at the travel office was kind of fucked, it was raining when I got out, and I was just too tired to face human beings by the time I was done, so I came back home straightaway. I fixed myself some dinner and something booz0rz-like and tried to relax but, as Patrick promised, I hurt like hell today. I actually tried to go lie down for a while around 9:30 or so and that helped my shoulder, but I couldn't feel sleepy. I played some Plants v Zombies and read for a while and now I'm back up again. Had a wee bit of chocolate pudding as a snack and will probably head back for bed shortly.

I bought tickets for myself and [ profile] gra_is_stor for Metropolis. I don't think she's seen it before, and this is probably the best possible introduction to the movie I can imagine. I'm very excited about taking her to see it. (I just hope she likes it...)

Teo Bishop posted a blog today asking "What is the point of your religion". It's a thoughtful post and has generated some interesting discussion in the comments. I know I want to talk about this at some point, but today wasn't a good day to focus on it. If I have time and brain bandwidth tomorrow, I might do a response post over on Searching for Imbas. I'm just hoping I'll have enough momentum to actually write it, rather than getting bogged down in my physical stuff and losing the thread. I'm keeping the tab open on the browser until I deal with it, though.

It seems that one of my Vancouver friends is going to be down in the area for the better part of May. Among other things, he'll be teaching a class on herbalism, and wants to talk to me about Airmed, whom he's been working with for a while now. He says he'll be splitting his time between Olympia, Bellingham, and Seattle, and I told him that he could stay here for a few days if he'd like, which would give us ample opportunity to talk. He's one of the poets who is also included in the Mandragora anthology, and I'd suggested he submit his work to them, so we might both have a physical copy to squee over when he gets here.

I know I have some comments to reply to from yesterday, but I'm still too achy to focus much on that right now. I'll get to everything tomorrow at some point.

In news on Circle of Stones, I've got one of the review blurbs back, and two outstanding. I've forwarded the first one to my editor and publisher and told them I was waiting on a couple more. They should arrive soon, I think. I haven't yet seen the cover, aside from the graphics base, but I should be seeing a draft of it soon. And tomorrow I need to do the check of the edited galley proof, as I'll have more time than I did today. Last night I barely slept (turned out the lights around 3:30am, woke at 8am, after having not slept much), so I'm feeling extra rocky today and hoping to get at least a little rest tonight.

On that note, back to bed to try to actually rest. I wish there was something I could actually take that would make a dent in this pain. Have taken tylenol, and also took some of the valerian and feverfew I often use for migraines. It's helped slightly, but not anywhere near enough. That was a few hours ago, so I'll try a tramadol before I get in bed and see if that will do anything for it.
erynn: Gaelic merman image (1901 A Space Oddysey)
Today I finally got some more progress done on the queering the flame essay. I shoved in a few paragraphs, and tossed in a quote from one of the references about a guy being zapped by St. Molaise for wanting to desecrate the hearthstone of a former perpetual flame on Inishmurray, which kind of demonstrates that it's not the gender of the keepers that makes a difference so much as the ill intent toward the flame (or the hearthstone) itself.

After that I shuffled off to the Navy support complex to pick up [ profile] alfrecht after his class today. We made a brief stop back here for him to steamify himself, whereupon we got ourselves down to Seattle for the Time Travelers Bazaar in time to spend about an hour there checking out the rummage sale stuff and catching up with friends in the community.

I found a Chief Yeoman's jacket for $15 (missing some buttons) and will see about getting it altered slightly (it's very large on me) and replacing the buttons entirely for my Steamcon togs, given that the theme this year is 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Talked to a bunch of folks and met up with [ profile] sebastian_lvx. We had pho afterwards and then headed over to Travelers for a few minutes to get a chai before the show.

Studio Seven was packed for the concert. I think it was a sold out house by the time the show started. The first band up was an expanded version of the Tin Can Tobacco Band, with some horns and a ukelele added. The ukelele player seriously looked like a (much younger) T. S. Eliot. I was getting my literary geek on something fabulous. They were a lot of fun. Abney Park sounded fantastic, and the horns played with them, too. Trombone and trumpet, which really added a lot to their stage sound. As usual, there were technical difficulties. [ profile] robert_from_ap's bouzouki crapped out and he couldn't play it, which meant some of their playlist had to be chucked and other songs replaced, but they carried on with their usual good humor. They did an acoustic version of Breathe that was absolutely gorgeous with one of their old guitar players. Between AP sets, there were a couple of aerialist acts.

AP will be doing a show in Port Angeles in mid-August, for which I already have my ticket. I might be joined by [ profile] alfrecht and I told Caylean that if she wanted to come out, I'd give her a ride too. She seemed pretty happy about the idea and said she'd check into it. She wasn't able to come to the show tonight because she was helping out with a friend's fashion show.

I ran into some folks I met at the show in Spokane, who had driven out from Idaho to see tonight's show. We talked a bit. They may be coming to Steamcon so I'll probably see them there as well.

I had a fantastic time at the show, danced my dupa off, and am now all creaky, but damn it was worth it. I love those guys. Sadly, we did not get our requisite end-of-show hugs from [ profile] nathanfhtagn because he was buried under a bazillion fans wanting autographs, so we left him to it and headed north. I'd got a hug from him before the show started anyway, so I wasn't lacking.

Tomorrow, probably quietness at home and some episodes of due South. I am tired and creaky but happy. Hope you had an excellent Saturday as well!
erynn: Gaelic merman image (Genius Signal)
CALL FOR PAPERS: Demons in the Academy? Renouncing Rejected Knowledge, Again.

Hosted by Phoenix Rising Academy
Coordinators: Sasha Chaitow and Amy Hale
Date: TBA (either 18th or 19th November, 2011)
Venue: San Fransisco, California, in connection with the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion. (precise venue TBA)



Demons in the Academy?
Renouncing Rejected Knowledge, Again.

Many scholars of Western Esotericism support that its validation as a field within mainstream academia lies in the application of empiricism as the primary research method. Yet this perspective disregards a defining constituent of the object of study, namely, the symbolic perception which might also be termed imaginal epistemology. Pejoratively termed “religionism,” carrying connotations of inadequate scholarship, this formative element of esoteric thought has become the new pariah of the academic study of the field broadly termed Western Esotericism in its current form.

The concept of symbolic perception and interpretation is rooted in Western intellectual history, and its significance has been highlighted by a number of respected scholars who have proposed integrative models and approaches that combine scholarly rigour with imaginative and sympathetic engagement. Other scholars have called for channels of dialogue and mutual understanding to be developed between scholars and practitioners in order to better understand the application and potentials of such epistemologies. However, this perspective is frequently repudiated, and scholars calling for more interdisciplinary approaches often find themselves marginalised, meeting with varying degrees of censure among their peers.

This approach is taking the field in a reductionist direction, with disquieting implications. More alarming still is the near- demonisation of such areas of inquiry in influential scholarly circles. Such interdictions have no place in centres of intellectual inquiry, and to support them with claims of “academic legitimacy” is to perpetuate the very reductionist and rationalist thinking that led to the separation of the sciences from the humanities and consigned the study of esoteric and initiatory philosophy to the backwaters of cultural and intellectual inquiry for the last three hundred years.

Even the most etic of approaches is not immune to subjectivity, and this begs the question of its adequacy for a subject whose very texts and images are directed towards inner, transformative work. Integrated approaches have been long established in many other areas of the humanities and social sciences, from art and performance, to ethnographic and behavioural perspectives. Thus the proscription of all but the most critical and rational methodologies necessarily fails to do justice to such a topic of study.

Phoenix Rising Academy wishes to explore the transdisciplinary options that may lead to more balanced and integrative approaches, while drawing attention to the very real dangers that we perceive in the insistence on objective and disinterested empiricism as the sole acceptable method for the study of these topics. To this end we invite interested parties to submit a proposal, or to join us for the discussion session at our symposium in connection with the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion (AAR) in San Francisco, California, November 19-22, 2011.

Symposium Format

Five 15-20 minute keynote presentations [1.5 hrs]
Two video-link presentations [30 mins]
Up to eight five-minute statements [1 hr]
Panel discussion [30 mins]

Discussion tracks

Legitimate ways of knowing: the place of experiential knowledge and/or symbolic perception as a form of research.
What can we learn from each other? Bridging the practitioner-scholar divide
The esoteric polemic and rejected knowledge: a valid concern or a baseless claim?
Why are history and discourse analysis not enough?
Paradigms for integration and applied transdisciplinary methodology
Guidelines for proposal submission

Two keynote spots remain open, as do all the ‘statement’ segments. Precise timing will be kept, and speakers exceeding their allotted time will be asked to stop, regardless of whether they have completed their talk or not. Please help us to avoid this by ensuring that you do not exceed the allotted time.

Keynote lectures should not exceed an absolute maximum of 17 minutes.
Statements should not exceed an absolute maximum of 6 minutes.
Statements should consist of a clearly framed thesis and an outline of supporting detail relevant to the symposium topic.
Audience members will be invited to prepare one written statement or question during the symposium. These will be handed to the symposium coordinators during the intermission, and a selection will be read out during the discussion session.

With your submission please include the following:

1. Presenter information (name, mailing and e-mail addresses, phone number)
2. Type of presentation (keynote or statement)
3. Title and affiliation (institution or organization)
4. Proposal or abstract (in English, not to exceed 250 words, in PDF, or Word, or Office)
5. Biographical data (in English, not to exceed 200 words)
6. Selected track, or four keywords

Please email all submissions to by July 15th 2011, marking “PRA Symposium” in the subject line. All submissions will be reviewed promptly and you will be notified of the academic board’s decision within a maximum of one week after the deadline.
erynn: Gaelic merman image (Sarasvati)
I spent several hours today filling out the questionnaire for the polytheism survey that someone was doing. I'd posted the call for participants a month or so ago. The questions didn't seem problematically biased (to me, anyway) as some studies are, and tended to focus more on experience, though there was one question about "faith," which you might expect from a questionnaire on something religious or spiritual. I managed to answer most of the questions in some depth and had a pretty good time thinking about the whole thing as I did so. It's nice to have something interesting to consider, particularly on a topic so near and dear to my heart.

I talked about things like how Sarasvati, as a river goddess, taught how people can approach worshipping these entities when one lives far from where the physical river resides -- the river Sarasvati disappeared centuries ago, and her many other aspects came to the fore during that process. Now she's worshipped globally by Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains, as well as by western Pagans without a connection to her culture of origin. I think that's a pretty powerful statement of how religion and deity changes with time and the shifting of geography and circumstance. If she were only the spiritual manifestation of the physical river, she would not have been able to make that transition or to travel to distant continents.

Certainly when we think about deities like Bóann and Sinann, who are strongly associated with particular rivers in Ireland, we can see how this is important information and a useful model. There are many ways to approach these issues, and I think one of the most useful ones for those of us who dwell on continents far from the origins of the deities we follow is to look at what they do that is not solely specifically linked to particular features of land and water. Understanding that we can access those places in Otherworld realms is also important and powerful. We are neither the first people who have had to deal with these things, nor will we be the last.

Among the other moments of my day was a quiet making of peanut sauce. It's not the best peanut sauce ever, but it's pretty tasty, and at the moment it sits atop a mound of rice, long beans, and chinese broccoli. It is, therefore, the best peanut sauce in the house!

Last night I was feeling ill again, though I think it was just the tomato sauce with the sardines, which I had two days in a row. I'm going to have to lay off them in the evening, I think. Acidic stuff is still a problem for me.

The check from the contractors arrived today! I emailed to let them know, and the secretary was astonished by the swiftness of the local postal service. She thanked me for my patience regarding the situation. If I'm up to getting out of the house tomorrow, I'll wander down to the Safeway and deposit the check in my account. There are moments when money gods do actually get to be useful. Today's email also brought notice that my new Brigid statue had been shipped, so it should arrive fairly soon. I'll be redoing the Brigid altar when it arrives. It's well past time I did so.

When I finish up the renovations, I'll probably post a picture.
erynn: Gaelic merman image (get pagan sinfest)
Attention Polytheists

Wendi Wilkerson, a polytheistic Pagan with a Ph.D. in Folklore from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, is currently undertaking scholarly academic research on polytheism and faith. She is seeking interviews for thoughtful input about the nature of faith for a polytheist drawing on personal experiences. Dr. Wilkerson is specifically interested in discussing those moments that reified your faith and brought it home that this was all real, true, and right.

The point of this project is to increase awareness of, and respect for, polytheism as a faith tradition and as a religious practice, and to promote good-faith scholarly inquiry into contemporary polytheism as a legitimate religious tradition. Dr. Wilkerson also hopse to encourage polytheists who may otherwise not feel comfortable discussing their faith experiences to connect with each other and share their stories.

The interviews conducted for this project may be published. If you want to share your story but are uncomfortable having your real name associated with this project, you are free to use a pseudonym.

If you are interested in contributing to this project, please email Wendi Wilkerson at wendiwilkerson-AT-gmail-DOT-com.

Passed along from the ReconInterfaith email list.
erynn: Gaelic merman image (Liberty & Justice OTP)
Gender and Transgender: A Statement of Solidarity
March, 2011

I stand with my trans friends in their demand for equality and full acceptance in ritual and in our communities. They will never be turned away from my work.

My primary spiritual practice is a Celtic Reconstructionist (CR) path. Many of the founders of our movement are queer, and some are transgendered individuals. As such, we have generally been open and accepting of the diversity of the human condition. I do not speak here for the CR movement as a whole. No one does. I speak only for myself and for my own actions and rituals.

Recent events have highlighted ongoing tensions about gender, identity, and participation in ritual within our Pagan communities. Some traditions restrict participation to people of certain genders, while in other traditions only some rituals or roles are gender-restricted. A problem arises when one person attempts to define another person's gender without their consent; this is particularly problematic for transgendered individuals, who have historically been excluded from rituals and, often, from all facets of community life due to various issues including prejudices against them within our communities, and the denial of their gender by those who do not understand or refuse to accept the complexities of medical and biological reality.

CR rituals are not usually restricted to particular genders, but are based more on the celebration of community and the seasons, honoring our deities, and communing with the denizens of the Otherworlds. Some rituals are predicated on identities such as "warrior," "adult," or "poet," which are bound by action and affinity, not by gender.

I will not participate in ritual that excludes transgendered people because they are transgendered. No class I teach, no group I organize, no ritual I officiate will ever exclude transgendered people because they are transgendered. My work strives for inclusiveness and is generally completely unrelated to gender expression or concepts of gender "polarity" as popularly understood in many parts of our Pagan communities.

In my Brigidine work within the CR community, I am a founding member of Brigid's Irregulars, a community of flamekeepers and other Brigid devotees. While flamekeeping within the Catholic Brigidine tradition – we do not know the pre-Christian context – was historically a woman's ritual, in keeping with CR's stated emphasis on equality, the Irregulars are open to anyone who has been called by Brigid to keep her flame, regardless of gender. Gender-restriction may be traditional, but the CR movement has never been afraid to reject those traditions that we consider harmful or unnecessarily restrictive; rejecting slavery, human sacrifice, and trial by ordeal or combat are not questioned so I see no reason to question the rejection of any traditions that support and perpetuate prejudice and inequality. We look to the past for our inspiration, but we are building our communities and traditions for the future and, for me, that future includes equality of treatment and of access.

I invite you to join me in solidarity as we all create that inclusive future.
erynn: Gaelic merman image (It's raining)
I woke still quite tired this morning and ended up getting caught up in a twitter chat about writing until about 1:30 this afternoon, so I didn't make it out to Seattle for the play, but that was okay, because I actually really enjoyed talking with the other writers about why we write and how we do it.

I've been having some problems with TweetDeck, though, with the program freezing randomly, for the past several days. It was suggested that I uninstall and reinstall, which I did, and that seems to have helped. I'm hoping it won't freeze again; I had to restart at least seven times today, which I find immensely annoying. I started having Safari crashes in the past few weeks as well, and switched over to Chrome for my browser; I haven't had a crash since. I have no idea what's been going on with my computer. It's not acting like it's contracted a virus, at least as far as I can tell.

I was asked this week if Hex Magazine could reprint several of my online articles. I made a few inquiries to make sure they were on the proper side of the Force and was satisfied with the responses I got, so I sent them an email allowing them to do so. They'll be sending me copies of the issues my articles appear in. I think they wanted two or three of them, so that's a total of at least five things I've got coming out in print this year without ever having written something new in 2011 as yet. This never quite ceases to amaze me.

The weather warmed up appreciably today. Instead of snow, we had drizzle all day. I found that vastly preferable to yesterday's events.

The other thing I did today was watch a documentary series from the mid-70s called "Altars of the World," which was a misnomer. It was a summary of a number of world religions; it covered several more than I would have expected for a 70s documentary. Needless to say, the largest amount of time was dedicated to Christianity, but it did spend considerable time on Buddhism and also included a few surprising things, like Zoroastrianism, Shinto, and Jainism, given their relatively small populations globally. There were the inevitable monotheistic/monist biases but, again, it was made in the 70s by an obviously at least nominally Christian culture. There was an earnest male narrator, no indigenous or Native religions were addressed at all except to call them "idolatry" (of course), and Pagans who happened to be in the areas eventually conquered or assimilated by the various religions discussed were generally referred to as unenlightened savages. It was an interesting series, but ultimately unsatisfying for a variety of reasons.

I would genuinely love to see an examination of world religions from a non-monotheist point of view, either as an in-depth book or as a documentary series. I know it's unlikely, but it really is deeply needed to counter so many of the assumptions we see in the overculture of the west. It would be refreshing and encouraging to see this dealt with from a polytheist and animist viewpoint, as what we do and what we believe are grounded in an entirely different perception of reality. We don't all believe that there is a singular underlying spiritual reality, or that everything is all just part of the same god called by different names, and it would be nice to see that acknowledged now and then. I don't mean this at all in any special snowflake way, but simply as an alternative to the monist Borg collective that dominates spiritual discourse in much of the world, particularly in the west.

I think Michael York made a stab at it, though I will admit I didn't think it was a particularly successful one from my perspective, given that he generally tried to shoehorn all Pagan spiritualities into the same basic model in his Pagan Theology: Paganism as a World Religion, which I reviewed here a few years back. My criticisms were primarily as a reconstructionist not working within the model he described for Neopaganism, but I think they fit into this discourse as well. I'm a little too tired to dive into it at the moment, but I'll just conclude by saying there's an immense amount of work to be done, and it really would be a new and valuable perspective for most people to look at.
erynn: Gaelic merman image (Default)
My essay "Polypraxy: A Multitudinous Future" was published today on the Patheos website. Drop on by and give it a peek.
erynn: Gaelic merman image (Default)
I dropped by the Patheos website today to look at some of their articles on the future of Paganism. Our own [ profile] alfrecht has done a lovely bit on niche religions and local specificity, an excellent discussion of the ways in which Paganism's individualist tendencies echo ancient practices and may in fact be the great strength of the movement as it advances into the future.

On the brain-dead side of the equation, Ellen Evert Hopman goes spiraling into unfortunate overstatements and downright misunderstandings in her essay on modern Druidism, asserting that there are "Sanskrit words embedded in Celtic languages" for a colossal dose of WTF. Given that Ellen is one of the leaders of the Order of the White Oak, this sort of high-level misunderstanding can only be expected from the organization. When basic errors like this are being publicly promulgated, I can only shake my head and walk away. This isn't the first time I've seen her make statements that have left me shaking my head in absolute disbelief, so I have to admit that I've come to expect it.

I know I've made errors and misstatements in the past, but I try at least to correct them publicly and to learn from them. Knowing I can be a dipshit helps keep me humble.
erynn: Gaelic merman image (Default)
A while back I was involved in a conversation with someone about whether one could convert to Hinduism. I can't remember if it was here on LJ or on the Recon Interfaith email list or elsewhere, but I had cited a book by an American-born convert to Hinduism titled "How to Become a Hindu." The book was not taken terribly seriously because it was by a caucasian, not by a Hindu born in India.

On that topic, I found an article today by that same author, citing a number of different Hindu authorities from the 19th century forward and noting the conversions of the Bactrian Greeks of Alexander's army, among many other affirmative answers to the question. From the article: Dr. Atulchandra S. Thombare from Pune, India, noted, "A man can change his nationality, and even his sex, why not his religion?"

I think that's a reasonably enlightened attitude. Here's the article itself, for further reference: Does Hinduism Accept Newcomers?

Oh, and here's [ profile] mythworker from [ profile] thewildhunt with 100 words on Who/What is God?.
erynn: Gaelic merman image (Default)
Although [ profile] joyful_storm was unable to be with us this evening, we held our scheduled discussion of personal practice and needs in the group. She asked if we could record each person's session -- given the number of people and the two-hour timeslot at Edge, we allowed ten minutes for each of us. A few of us didn't go to ten minutes, several people did. We all, I think, had more to say but we knew we needed to allow time for each of us to simply speak and be heard. We did end up recording everyone's talks and, during the course of them, I noted that a lot of common threads were coming up.

All in all, I'm pretty pleased with how things went. There were no interruptions by anyone; we were all listening respectfully to each member as they spoke about what they do, what they need, and where they're coming from as a part of this small local community.

Several things were reiterated a number of times. We all want to figure out what our collective cosmology is. We're all very concerned with dealing with landspirits here, where we live, as a large part of our practice. General consensus is that four high days and the two solstices are important to most of us, with individual dates scattered throughout the year that we can work with. Calendar-date is expressed as being less important than seasonal change, to reflect the land where we live. We all seem to want a stable structure for our seasonal rituals, though not necessarily scripts for all parts of them. There's an interest in ritualizing some of our monthly meeting time to match more with our sense of the sacred. And we want to learn things with and from each other.

These are all positive goals. We had a fair amount of agreement on things like the three realms being important, the symbolism of wells, fire, and trees, and a need to work toward what works for us now rather than attempting to push ourselves back into the iron age. The concept of shrines is more relevant to the majority than the concept of altars. Several of us are working with the same land spirits; Tahoma as our great mountain is a powerful presence for us. Salmon and corvids and other local animals are a spiritual presence in our lives that we feel a connection to and a need to honor.

Our concerns are more about what we need to do for ourselves as a small community, and enhancing that community in various ways, than worrying about what the larger CR community is doing or whether we agree with or conflict with other groups or factions within it. We are not, after all, interested in building a regional, national, or international organization. We're interested in doing what works here, for us, and how we express those needs in relationship with the various Celtic deities we each honor.

People asked for guidance on learning new things, on sources to read and ways to apply this learning. Some people are already doing what other folks want to learn, and it will be good to hook them up with each other outside of group time to work on individual necessary skills and interests. We need to learn to hear the heart of what's being said, rather than running with words that we all use but don't all understand in the same way. This goes back to things like shrines as more expressive of our needs and concerns than altars, or figuring out what we mean by "meditation".

I was heartened by the points of connection we have woven together, even though we all know it's not perfect, or not always serving everyone's needs as yet. I will admit to having been concerned that after all this time we might not be on the same page; we seem closer than I anticipated. We have yet to hear from [ profile] joyful_storm, but we'll have time for that soon.

Another thing that was brought up at tonight's meeting was the possibility of inviting one of the VA chaplains to Arlen's warrior's return ritual. Everyone in the group seems open to this and Arlen sounded like he thought it was a good idea. The warrior rituals are something I've been talking about to both my shrink and the Tibetan Buddhist chaplain who coordinates the Tuesday spirituality groups. I don't know if VA regs will allow her to do this, but the invitation can now be formally offered. She was quite impressed by the ritual scripts, but to see it in action and to participate in the ritual is very different than just reading about it. If she's able to come and participate, I think it could have a profound impact on some of the discussion around the topic at the Seattle VA's chaplaincy department. From there, it could make its way to other VA systems adjusted to fit the needs of other veterans in other spiritual communities.

The idea is quite an exciting one. We created these rituals to serve specific needs within our own community, but so many people are in need of this kind of work. To demonstrate that some communities are working toward this kind of integration is really profound. Even if our group never did anything again after Arlen's return ritual, I think we would have done something important for members of our community and for Pagan veterans generally. The need for the rituals was unexpected but the results are deep and far-reaching. I would never have predicted this as one of our contributions to the CR movement, but I think it's a good one.

Here, at the two-year mark for our group, we're reevaluating and working toward getting what each of us needs, both as individuals and as a group. I'd like to think that this signals a new commitment to working with what we have and to our ability to change according to our needs. All of us together need to take up the responsibility for sharing our skills and knowledge with others, and for asking others to help us with what we want and need. We're definitely going to miss [ profile] alfrecht while he's gone but I think that this will allow others in the group to find their own authority and pursue their own interests as seekers and researchers and teachers.

This is not the end of the discussion by any means. It is a beginning. I think it's a good one.
erynn: Gaelic merman image (Everything Hurts)
Went down to [ profile] agatheringgrove again today, only to find myself in the midst of their Earth Day celebration. I shoved some stuff aside at a table that wasn't being used for more than stuff-storage and got down to some poetizing, the result of which I posted earlier.

While I was there I also did the opening section for my essay for [ profile] brandywilliams's women in magic anthology and am pretty much done with it now aside from a few edits and some footnoting. Thanks to [ profile] alfrecht for doing the footnotey lookup bits for me. The essay is titled "His Mother's Whole Body Heals: Gender and Ritual in the Ekklesía Antínoou". It's about four pages long and currently at 1827 words. I doubt it will be more than 5 pages when finished. I'm not really developing huge theological explorations here, though I do rage against gender essentialism in most Neopaganism and talk about how much of a relief it is that the Ekklesía doesn't construct women as wombs either in ritual or in theology.

It was kind of a surprise to get the bulk of the writing on this one out of the way so quickly but I guess there's some part of me that really wants to encourage other folks to get involved, particularly if they're women or transfolk who can't get behind the whole heteronormativity of most modern Paganism, and who don't have much interest in either men's spirituality groups that tell you how to be men and wag your penises or women's spirituality groups that focus on the big mommy in the ground.

I'd do more work on the essay tonight but I'm dealing with a serious migraine on the right side of my head at the moment. Tylenol just isn't helping a bit. Usually it's the left that gives me trouble, so this is doubly annoying. At any rate, more expansion tomorrow. Yay me.
erynn: Gaelic merman image (Whitman: not all who wander)
Over the next week or so I'll probably be doing a short series of posts about some of the things I did at PCon this year. I wanted to start with the Ekklesía Antínoou Lupercalia ritual. There were vasty numbers of people in attendance -- 60 or so, in contrast to the smaller numbers last time, and the tiny rituals we do here in Seattle with usually 10 or fewer people. Ave Antinoe! )
erynn: Gaelic merman image (writy medievalist)
Recent news in the Pagan blogosphere has had a lot of discussion about a couple of Pagan podcasters who have moved from Paganism into atheism after much thought and heart-searching. Opening discussions were on The Wild Hunt, [ profile] mythworker's blog, here and here. [ profile] northwestpass discussed his experiences as a university lecturer on philosophy and a Pagan at his own LJ here. More nattering below. )
erynn: Gaelic merman image (Mercurius from Harmonia Macrocosmica)
In a private entry on a friend's LJ a week or two ago, she asked about how others deal with the idea of synchronicity in magic, commenting as well about her views of deity, and I responded:

I tend to believe in deity as external to "us" but not to the universe itself. I don't think anything is outside the universe, really. That said, when it comes to synchronicity, I try to just surf that synchronic wave and let things take their course. In that sense I suppose that some of my practice is deeply influenced by Taoism and the concept of wu-wei -- doing by not doing, or just letting things be once a particular magical act is set in motion. I've found that the less I interfere, the better things will tend to go for me.

She asked in response:

Yes, I suppose nothing would really be external to the universe, would it?

You work with deity quite a bit, though, yes? How do you conceive of them and your relationship to them? No small question there.

Incipit scéala Erynn anseo. )
erynn: Gaelic merman image (xanphibian's all your books!)
The Deities Are Many: A Polytheistic Theology by Jordan Paper is one man's encounter with polytheism through Native American culture and through the polytheism of his Chinese wife and her family. He's also studied Afro-diasporic traditions to some degree, and has written on feminist theology in the past.

This book, in my opinion, falls somewhere between Michael York's Pagan Theology and John Michael Greer's A World Full of Gods: An Inquiry Into Polytheism in usefulness and relevance to the Pagan community. Paper doesn't really touch on Paganism per se in his book, but does delve into the problems of western and monotheistic attempts to discuss polytheism and Pagan theologies. He addresses deities, culture heroes, ancestors, and other classes of divine and semi-divine beings in a more in-depth way than Greer has, giving an interesting feel for various categories of the sacred. His chapter on semi-divine beings also addresses creation myths, and he makes an important point that I've often felt is overlooked in Pagan theological discussion. Paper reports that there are, in fact, many societies in the world that do not have "creation myths" per se -- no singular creation of the world -- until after they've been in contact with monotheistic societies, and that most of these creation myths were imposed by outsiders rather than being an organic part of the cultures in question.

In cultures with cyclic rather than linear concepts of time, there is no need for a creation myth, for "creation" and the world were already here. They have, instead, re-creations after periodic catastrophes, or localized creations of features, pretty much exactly as we see in the Irish Dindsenechas. I've always maintained that we don't have an Irish "creation myth" because there probably wasn't one. The world was here, and various deities defined its features. The migrations incorporated into the Book of Invasions are as much a product of Paganism as of Christianity, and migration myths are apparently quite common as "origin mythology" in polytheistic societies, which are more concerned with how we got here than with whether the world had one, singular beginning and/or ending.

Paper also offers a critique in several places about York's work, and how it is steeped in his own monotheistic, western academic worldview. In fact, it was York's attempt to homogenize Pagan "theology" into one overarching system that grated on me most. I still think that Greer has a better handle on modern western Pagan polytheism, but Paper gets the global stuff where Greer has less experience. Paper also insists, along with many Reconstructionist traditions, that language is the key to understanding a culture's worldview, and says that without learning the language a religion is expressed in, it will be impossible to truly get into that religion's headspace. On the down side, he generally insists on sky/solar deities being male and earth/lunar deities being female, though he does acknowledge there are exceptions. He talks about the difference between mythology as theology, and mythology as ritual, stating that in most polytheist societies, mythology and ritual don't necessarily have anything to do with one another, whereas in monotheism, mythology is enacted in ritual far more often.

Paper states frankly and openly from the outset that his book is a personal take on polytheistic theology, rather than a strictly scholarly approach. With that in mind, there are no footnotes or endnotes, though he does offer reading suggestions for each chapter. He speaks candidly of his own experiences with deity and numinious beings, and carefully does not mention particular entities by name in respect for the traditions in which he was trained. He points out, rightfully, that most books about Native American religions are written by Native elders raised in Christianity and instilled with that theology forcibly, overlaying a monotheistic gloss over an originally polytheistic system, pointing out when and where "the Creator" and "the Great Spirit" were absorbed into those cultures and mythologies.

His final chapters, 6, 7 and 8 are, in my opinion, the strongest and most generally useful for modern Pagan polytheists, in which he addresses culture heroes and tricksters, the misconceptions of monotheism, and the general tolerance of polytheism as a worldview. I'd highly recommend this book for those chapters alone.

Four and a half numinous beings out of five.
erynn: Gaelic merman image (Default)
I just finished John Michael Greer's theology book, A World Full of Gods: An Inquiry into Polytheism from ADF Publishing. I'll be talking about that one, and Michael York's Pagan Theology: Paganism as a World Religion.

Yep, damned good book )


erynn: Gaelic merman image (Default)

September 2013



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