The Household Gods – John William Waterhouse
After the past while of reading and watching things concerning these wonderful terms, I’d like to talk about some of the thoughts I’ve had about them. I’d really like to thank Camilla over at Foxglove & Firmitas for prompting all the wonderful discussion over the following terms she’s brought to light.
This is a long one, guys, so grab a cup of tea and get cozy 🙂
This is something that really clicked with me, and allowed me to stop fretting about choosing the either/or of Reconstructionism and Eclecticism. I gather that this is probably something that many people battle with because in Paganism, as much as we are influenced by the past, we live now, and our Ancestors had been disconnected from their Gods and religious practices for far too long. Not even mentioning the factions that like to break off and say their way is “best”. Yes, best for whoever chooses that path.
There is no unbroken line of authentic pre-Christian faiths and religions of the past, much that our Ancestors knew is lost. Much of what has been preserved has been so from a non-practitioner’s point of view, or even after the conversions had taken place.
We don’t know with 100% surety how people practiced or regarded their religions.
Let’s say that perhaps the conversions didn’t happen, that the people were able to continue practicing the religions of their Ancestors, do you think our practice today would look exactly the same? With all of this technology, with all of this science, with all of this access to information? I don’t think it would, which is why Reconstructionism doesn’t work for me.
I think that we wouldn’t be having to put in so much work at this point in building community, discovering the reality of the Gods and Spirits, and (especially coming from a Christian background), working through a lot of doubt. I think it would be just natural, and who knows where we could be if we had had all of this time to continue evolving practice, evolving the way people interact with all of Them?
Alas, we do not live in that world in our universe. Our ties have been cut, and there are remnants to give us clues. Now it’s up to us to pick up those ties, and start weaving with them again in the now and for the future.
I also think that even if we had been able to practice our ancestors’ faiths all this time, the Gods would not want or expect the same things as They did 2000 years ago, nor would They really be exactly the same personality as They were. They are living, They also evolve, and though I don’t believe They experience time linearly as we do, They are all They will become, They just have not revealed that to us yet because we are probably not ready for it. Everything in its time.
This also works itself into my idea that for each evolution of humankind’s culture, and general ease of simply living and surviving (in terms of being well nourished, free of disease, life-expectancy, and at peace with surrounding countries/city-states), the Gods change Their faces to be best understood by the people of whatever time they happen to live in. This doesn’t mean that Their other faces are irrelevant, but in a more general sense, more people will come to the Gods when Their personality that is currently being experienced by the masses appeals to the current attitudes, philosophies, and culture of the time.
As an example, human sacrifices aren’t necessarily what They want right now in the 21st century, seeing as there is not a huge amount of us in active relationships with Them (whatever that may look like). This requirement would simply be illogical for Them, as They need those of us who interact with Them to help others come to Them. There is also still a lot of work to be done in our world for polytheism (and all things that are not part of the monotheism-or-else culture) to be accepted, not treated as taboo, as sin, as evil, as other, so that those who are called to these paths can feel comfortable that they will not be discriminated against.
When we get to the point where everyone is free to choose, and we see masses returning to the roots of their Ancestors’ religion, who knows what the Gods will want from us then.
Until Camilla spoke about identifying as a Revivalist, unfortunately there was a bit of a back and forth argument happening in my head. As much as I know and really believe there is never an either/or to anything, sometimes my brain just doesn’t want to heed that idea. Let’s call that the unfortunate side effect of living in a culture highly influenced by Abrahamic faiths where even if something doesn’t involve any hint of religion, there is always only a right/wrong answer.
So for a while, though the internal struggle wasn’t overly terrible or causing me much turmoil, it was still there.
“Do I go whole hog and try to reconstruct?”
“No, Mia, just because They’ve connected with you, doesn’t mean that the culture They were worshiped within in history necessarily needs to be recreated here at this point in time. Besides, there isn’t enough information to do that completely.”
“But what if They don’t like anything I’m doing for Them? What if I offend Them?!”
“You can just ask Them, Mia. You know very well you can. They are not some distant God who can never be contacted by the likes of you. They chose you for a reason, and if They were not interested in helping and working with you, They wouldn’t have come in the first place.”
Yep. When you work with the Gods and Spirits, They’ll let you know what They don’t like, what They do, and there are plenty of tools to use to divine what They do want. It’s not all about the interactions when you Journey, if that is what you can do.
So getting to extinguish this little nagging fire was nice for me. Another “coming home” moment.
So at the end of the day, for me, revivalism works as a term to describe who I am spiritually and how I practice. It is about finding out what you can about how our Ancestors practiced their religion, the way they viewed the Gods, but also realizing that we live in a very different world. That we have very different lives of abundance (at least here in North America) compared to our Ancestors. We also are not constantly fighting for our lives against other people who would take our land from us or whatever else they could want.
Why would the Gods show the same faces which appeals more to people of the past than to those who live now?
It also works for me because of the fact that the term “Revivalism” communicates that I am creating a living religion for myself and my future children. I am reviving my Ancestors’ religion, but allowing it to fit better with who I am and how I live my life today in the 21st century. The Gods and Spirits will show me what They want as proper protocol as They see fit to.
Disarblot – August Malmström
This is the other term which I absolutely adore, and reflects my practice more than any other combination of words out there at this point.
Every minute of my day, everything that I do, however mundane it may seem on the outside, I am constantly meditating on my Gods and Ancestors, sometimes interacting with Them, pondering over Their lessons, how They affect my life. There really is not much that is not coloured by thoughts of Them.
When I am cleaning the house, I connect with my Ancestors who for so long performed the same duties in the household. When I am in the garden, I connect with those who tended their own land, toiling much harder than I currently need to for food. I also think on the Gods Whose domains are concerned with what I am doing. When I watch a television show, or a movie, I see lessons or elements of certain Gods’ stories. When I interact with my family and friends, I think on the hospitality of my Ancestors, and how They along with my Gods would want me to behave towards others.
I often make it a point to offer up whatever song I am singing around the house or in the garden to Whomever comes to mind for it, Whoever moves me in that moment.
There is nothing that the Gods and Spirits don’t touch in my life.
But let’s look at the grander idea of Immersive Polytheism, which also works with the Revivalism, because, well, aren’t we trying to revive the religions of our Ancestors?
I absolutely agree with Camilla in her latest vlog about wanting to immerse her child in Polytheism. This is, in fact, where she came up with the term. And I think, how wonderful will it be in the future to see my kids, and their kids, and perhaps their kids raised completely immersed in their spirituality as they are each called to it? I’m not saying that my descendants have to be Polytheists of any particular cultural background, or anything else for that matter. But I would like to see them be able to come to their own conclusions and not struggle with themselves over how to do things. It would be second nature, and they would know to simply ask the Gods and Ancestors and Spirits what They would all like instead of self-doubting and feeling not of worth.
Now I feel I have been lucky in that I knew for a while before I knew about Paganism and officially called myself Pagan at 13 that I was not Christian like my family and lots of my friends. I was really lucky in that I had no problem with this fact. It was not something that I struggled with in the slightest except for one blip early on of wanting to please a friend who was very Christian (not that they were adamant about me changing my heathen ways).
So for nearly the entirety of my Pagan life, I have been able to be immersed in my spirituality. Moreso in the past few years since there’s been quite a bit of initiation and transformation going on in my life.
But I do realize there are still too many people coming to Paganism/Polytheism having been raised in another religion, which means things just simply do not come naturally to them. This is especially true if they have problems with their previous religion, because the tools which were given in a previous religion can be tools that would work for them, but there can be the need for the complete rejection of it all. So people come without any tools, already with plenty of the self-doubt that our culture likes to propagate within each of us, and that makes for some difficult times in discovering how to do this ourselves without the constant worry of doing it right according to other people.
So as you can probably gather, I am definitely going to be teaching my kids to ask Them what They want when my children are unsure. It’s kind of basic relationship tending, communication is key. I also will be teaching them some common practices, but will emphasize that whatever moves them intuitively to do something they feel will be well received is also very important and so very valuable.
My practice/beliefs will not look exactly like yours, but if we both serve and please the Gods, Ancestors, and Spirits, who are we to judge each other?
And as we Polytheists/Pagans become more and more widely accepted and sought out as time moves forward, we will grow and learn how to tend to our communities in whatever ways we are called to. Keep in mind in order to keep us all moving forward, we need to be open for discussion, we need to share our insights, hard as that can be sometimes. We need to not attack each other, because aren’t we all working towards the same kind of future?
Again, my practice/beliefs won’t look like yours, nor does they need to. How can we be taken more seriously if we are constantly infighting over semantics? Over whose spiritual penis is bigger than whose?
As much as it is about immersing our own selves in our practices and religions, it is also about helping others who would do the same. Community immersion. And this requires that we have people who are called to perform certain roles for fellow Polytheists to begin learning and figuring out how to do that. We absolutely need a Polytheistic ministry to help those who are dealing with hard stuff, as well as provide local leadership. We need to come together and decide how this needs to work.
Why even have these labels? Aren’t labels bad? Don’t they box us in?
As much as I am usually against labeling and tiny boxes, these labels are seeming so far to be much more inclusive than others. Sometimes this comes down to the exact meaning and origin of words, and sometimes this comes down to the people who shape the way something comes to mean in the greater community.
Immersive Revivalist Polytheist encompasses anyone from any particular tradition. It doesn’t matter Who you worship, or how you perform your rituals.
Words drive so much of how we learn today, on our computers, on our phones, on our e-readers, books, everything. There’s much more reading than there is actual physical talking and sharing of information. The written word can be more clear as we can spend more time ensuring we are using the correct words and the correct tones. This isn’t to say that it is better than speaking and sharing aurally, each have their merits, but it is how we generally seek, learn, and work today.
So we have these words people can search for on the internet, and as more people continue to use these terms and normalize the lingo, the information becomes easier to access. The community grows and the ideas and real world implications grow. Those who are new to it or even new to Paganism/Polytheism can find it, and expand their own understanding of the different paths one may take, whether or not they apply it to themselves.
Words are how we communicate, and that means our interactions with the community at large. When we have the information needed to easily be circulated (and hopefully continuously improved upon as we learn more), we can create basic rites easily recognized all around the world. This doesn’t negate our own personal festivals, rites, and observances we create for ourselves, no, but it allows us all to be connected to each other no matter the background we come from.
If that means we all know handfasting/parting, funerary, birth, and life milestone rituals from a few different traditions (Celtic, Northern, Roman, Greek, Egyptian, African, etc), then you can count me in. I want to be able to support fellow Polytheists, and be part of a larger community which can pull together to begin the changes that desperately need to happen in the world concerning the general view of religions that are “other” compared to what is the current cultural norm.
We shouldn’t be fracturing ourselves just because I don’t worship Who you worship, or because my tradition and practices look different than yours. Again, open discussion, and a willingness to hear others out without becoming offended is very much needed. We need our words, we need some labels so that in the future, they don’t have to be so necessary, where everyone is comfortable just being who they are and doing what they do because we relaid the groundwork down.
Where to Find the Discussions
As of August 11, 2014
Intro To Revivalism
Why I Don’t Call Myself a Devotional Polytheist
Asklepieion: My Big Dream
She discusses a dream for a community building project.
Some Thoughts on Immersive Polytheism
VR to Camilla Laurentine – Revivalism and Immersive Polytheism
The Gods as Individuals
Immersive Polytheism: A Few More Thoughts
Immersive Polytheist Revivalism – A VR to Camilla Laurentine
Discussion of Immersive Polytheism and Other Fun Things
Response to Camilla Laurentine – Terminology
Characteristics of Devotion
Open Forum Discussion
Where people got together to discuss how our current practices in community (also involving the discussion on Immersive Revivalist Polytheism) in dealing with one another can be destructive.
Thoughts on Community