My second installment in a series of posts for International Pagan Values Blogging Month.
As a Kemetic polytheist, I have many reasons why I will not choose to join a temple or related group. Petty politicking, cults of personality, differences in Egyptological interpretation or approaches in practice. In addition, I am a being that walks always on the edge and the outskirts of things. It is part of my path. I find holiness in the taboo, in the borderlines. Like my Patron, I seek ever to be the Edgewalker, between worlds, bridging gaps, passing between boundaries, pushing limits, encouraging others to do the same.
At the same time, I can also be an opinionated person, with passions and a temper that could only be described as Setian in nature. Trying to balance this is a constant feat of self-control, a balance in it’s own right. To find balance between striking down the falsehoods, and respecting differences of opinion, is not always a clear-cut task for me.
Through the course of my travels I have encountered people who claim to interact with the same deities I claim. Sometimes I find this indeed a hard thing to wrap my mind around–their descriptions of them, and interactions thereof, seem to fly in the face of my understandings of them, and even mythological and archeological records of them. I begin to wonder if we are both speaking to the same deity. How does one draw the line between striking down falsehood, and promoting peace and unity, if such a thing can honestly be attained? For the most part, I’ve never engaged in some of the serious, but yet petty, arguments and discussions relating to paganism and polytheism on the internet. Part of this is my avoidance of group settings, another is that I am a private person, I am for the most part, as my name states “solo” in much of my habits and actions. A hermit, in every mythological sense of the word.
That won’t, however, stop me from witnessing certain arguments, or holding a strong disagreement against a certain thing. And you know, when I hear mention of occult-type gatherings where “cuddle piles” are occurring, or some perky and bubbly Kemetic proclaiming “Squee! Seth is my daddy, I’m so much like him, and he loves me soooo much!” it’s going to be very hard to relate to them, or to take them very seriously. This goes beyond the simple fact that I am a very hands-off person when it comes to physical contact or affection, and am not one prone to bubbly, fannish behavior. Then again, I never was one to treat my spirituality as a fandom, but as a way of being, incorporated in all areas of my life.
That would be where I’d define “fluffy”. On the other hand, there are many areas occultists and other pagans would think me a bit fluffy: I identify as an otherkin/therianthrope, I believe in reincarnation, just to name a couple examples. To use the term to strike down a belief structure is, I feel, limiting and closeminded. On the other hand, one should not be so openminded that their head falls completely out of their skull, that commonsense is chucked out the window. No one questions, no one encourages further learning. People take what they are given by self-proclaimed gurus handing them out on silver spoons, or try to warp the deity to fit their own paradigms, until it reaches a point to where they no longer resemble the deity of myth, or the deity of my understanding.
This kind of reminds me of earlier discussions on UPG. My view on this is that it very much has a place in one’s spiritual practice–to strike down UPG as “fluffy” is to deny the creative and individual experience of the sacred. If one adheres slavishly only to what is written in mythology and archeology texts, it grows stale, soulless. Spirituality is an organic experience, and even back in the old days, it grew and evolved and transmuted itself, even on the individual level. Again, as a borderline person, I strongly recommend a balance be struck: the UPG and the VPG (Verified Personal Gnosis), or the CPG (Confirmed Personal Gnosis). Walking this middle line isn’t being wishy-washy, to me it’s only personal balance.
I don’t think that the uneducated, the willfully ignorant, or the otherwise “fluffy” should be suffered. But one has to wonder what is there to be gained by needlessly waging war with such people. While one is out “fluffy buny hunting” as I’ve heard the term used, couldn’t that time be spent in other areas, maybe educating yourself, or otherwise developing important metaphysical skills, occult knowledge, spiritual union with the divine? How much of it are you spending in actually learning? Although I’m not what one would call a pacifist, I’ve lately taken the approach of combating the cotton candy through example, through writings, through research. I can’t be bothered to engage in long debate, or to constantly correct people, no matter how much I think they’re right and they wrong, or what the books tell me otherwise. It’s not to say that I won’t do it, but what I suppose I’m trying to say is that I’m beginning to pick my battles more and more, especially since there are things in my life that carry greater weight than what some person who I feel is a fool is spouting off about on the internet.
On top of all that, maybe I just don’t know enough about a person, especially on the internet, to tell if they’re going through a moment in their life–did they involve themselves with the wrong person or group of people disseminating the wrong information, are they just starting out, or other factors? I had experiences walking out of an abusive, cult-like situation. I also had my early start like everyone else, and said and did some dumbfuck things in the past. I still do. Shit happens.
My point, I guess to boil it all down is: are people willing to learn from their mistakes, or not? I’m not anyone’s daddy, I’m not going to wipe anyone’s asses. I’m still going to write, and share my experiences, or those I am able to share. The rest is up to whatever persons in question, or whatever gods or spirits out there watching over them.
Unless you’re completely stupid, you’ve probably figured out by now that I’m not Christian. But yet, I have no trouble celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day. I don’t celebrate it for the same reason Catholics do–in fact, even before I walked away from the church, the primary gripe in the church was that St. Patty’s day had lost it’s original purpose, instead devolving into a day of decadence and partying.
Then again, even as a kid, I always thought Saint Patrick was a pooper. I mean c’mon. What’s there not to love about serpents? Later on, when I figured out that the serpent-thing was a metaphor, it didn’t really change my opinion of him much.
But really, why all the Pagan outrage?
For one thing, it’s a fact of life that religions subjugate each other all the time. The conquering religion forms a festival around it. Ancient Pagan festivals were rife with that sort of thing. You could argue that St. Patrick’s Day shouldn’t be celebrated because it recognizes the subjugation of one religion over another, but really. Nowadays people who celebrate that holiday aren’t even Christian, let alone Irish. All they care about is luck, shamrocks, green food dye, Irish heritage and Boondock Saints. And really, what’s not to love about that?
On the other hand, I don’t go around yelling at Muslims for celebrating Ramadan, for instance. So, let the Catholics have their holidays. As long as they don’t go out of the way to put a stinker on my festivals, then I’m not too concerned. Of course, one could say they would like to try–but I’m typing from a America-centric perspective here. America is ass-backwards when it comes to quite a lot of things, but in the end, we are relatively free to do as we please. The Religious Right doesn’t just go around trying to ruin a pagan’s good time.
Just the other day, I had someone add me on Twitter who listed “spiritual tolerance” as an interest, and yet updated for the day that she was “Busy pissing the non-pagans off”. How this classified “spiritual tolerance” was beyond me. And yet this is a prime example of quite possibly why we aren’t taken as seriously, and why we need to work on mutual tolerance and respect. My fiancee, who is European, frequently reminds me on how shocked he is that people in this country are allowed to be so openly rude to each other on the basis of religious affiliation. No, I’m not just talking about the Christians here. Everyone.
Now granted, there are religious groups I, quite simply, do not agree with. But for the most part I ignore them, choosing the “live-and-let-live” principle. Unless of course someone openly comes out to harass me or compel me to convert (Jehova’s Witnesses at my door, for example). I don’t busy myself with pissing anyone off simply because I do not agree with their way of thinking. To be honest, I have better ways to spend my time.
This is precisely why I don’t choose to get upset about St. Patrick’s Day. I simply choose to reclaim it for myself–a celebration of my Irish ancestry, good beer, good movies and friendship. I do not agree with the Catholic spin on it, so I simply choose to ignore it, and reroute it for my own uses. When the Catholics celebrate St. Patrick’s Day they aren’t beating us out with sticks or preaching at us–they’re probably at church, waiting for the priest to finish the homily so they can spill out into the bars (well, if they’re Irish at least). Pretty harmless, in my book.
I’m also not saying we shouldn’t forget the past, or what happened. But what you make of it is a choice. People can choose to be offended by it, or people can redirect it and turn it into a celebration. Paganism isn’t one religion but a conglomeration of many religions. If everyone stopped to focus and be offended by every religion that suffered a blow in the past by every other religion, we’d just spend the whole time sitting around being pissed off at each other. Remember the past, but learn from it. Don’t repeat it. Talk to a Catholic friend, get their perspective. Donate your time to a Celtic Reconstructionist group. Know what it is, and why you’re getting passionate about a thing.
Personally, my day was spent running around like a chicken with my head lopped off at work, followed by a fun evening with my fiancee watching the Boondock Saints and listening to the Dropkick Murphys. Good stuff.
Something I’ve been kicking around in my head lately, and was recently reminded of. Kind of rambling, disjointed and off-the-cuff, so bear with me here.
In my experience, the shamanic spiritual worldscapes are much similar to our tangible, physical one. They aren’t safe. You don’t always have control over things. This is a fact of life. No matter how one would like to think otherwise. No matter what world you’re in, there is always someone or something out there bigger, wiser and nastier than you. There are also always going to be places you don’t know how to navigate. Take an average inner city guy out of his apartment and stick him in a yurt in the middle of Mongolia. Chances are, it would at the very least take him some time to figure out his asshole from his shoe-sole.
People approach shamanism and these worlds with their own preconceived notions, their own insecurities, assumptions, attitudes and beliefs. These affect not only how they see the worlds they traverse, but if they access them at all, let alone the entities and beings they interact with. If you lack social skills in the “real world”, chances are, your interactions in other worlds may not go as swimmingly either. There is also certain cultural bounds to consider in this, too. Mileage may vary to a degree–but granted, if you have poor social skills in one country, chances are your behaviors will offend someone else in another country, too.
Just like any other aspect in life, learning is about taking risks. Some people take more risks than others. Some people were subjected to more risks and dangers outside of their control. Some are more sheltered than others. In the end however, dealing with more than the physical world you interact in has its risks, burdens and responsibilities–and isn’t for everybody. But this is my personal opinion on the matter. Not everyone can, or should take, the shamanistic path. But that’s me.
The animistic world of shamanism, and the tangible world of matter should be handled in balance. The verified and the unverified. The subjective and the objective. Too much leaning on any one side, you lose the big picture. You either sit in your own fantasy-world, or you cut yourself off from the bigger picture.
Shamanistic practice, in my experience, is all about balance. And it’s easy to fall flat on your face if you don’t know what you’re doing. I’m by far no expert, merely one that’s taken a few falls in the past myself.