V – In Vine Veritas (PBP week 44 replacement)

His touch – taking my hand, innocent – or as innocent as He can be – is ecstasy.

His touch is like that perfect moment of intoxication:  when you’ve drunk just enough wine to feel wonderful, perfect and free. When you feel you can do anything. When you WILL do anything.

Any more and it’s drunken stupor – idiocy or sleep. But left alone it will fade. If you are able to think clearly you know it won’t last and you try to keep drinking just enough to keep it going, but it never works.

Except with Him, it lasts.

I am transformed. Wild, but at the same time more beautiful, grace full.

(A spontaneous attempt at poetry, inspired by last night’s dream.)

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X – Xena, Warrior Princess, or “Gee, I hope my Gods Have a Sense of Humor” (PBP week 47)

I have a confession to make.

I am a huge fan of Xena: Warrior Princess, despite its horrific history and its ridiculously inaccurate costumes.  Even despite its questionable to horrifying portrayal of the Gods.

So, I sincerely hope the Gods have a sense of humor about stuff like this.  They’ve been portrayed badly in pop culture long before this show came along and I don’t remember any reports of mass smitings going down, so maybe I’m OK.  I take comfort from the Odyssey, and its scandalous tale of Ares and Aphrodite told for amusement.

The characterizations of the Gods in the show range from refreshing (Hades), to questionable (Athena, Ares), to horrific (Aphrodite.)

Ares is the deity that appears most often in Xena, and I don’t imagine He would mind His characterization much at all, despite being the chief villain.  He’s pretty much used to that, I’d think.  He is shown to be a serious badass (though, of course, Xena always gets the best of Him) and He gets all the best lines.  On top of that, the actor Kevin Smith (no, not THAT Kevin Smith, this Kevin Smith) is one big hunk ‘o’ tasty.

When I envision the real Ares, it’s this image that comes to mind.  Haven’t noticed any objections so far.

Hades, too, comes off pretty well compared to other modern interpretations.  He is a little on the wimpy side, what with getting His helmet stolen and losing control of His realm and all, but He is refreshingly not evil.

Athena’s characterization isn’t too bad either.  She’s sympathetic, but cold, and in the end completely daddy’s girl.  She cares about humanity, but when it is “Us vs them” She unashamedly takes the side of the Gods.  The actress, Paris Jefferson, is gorgeous and has the most amazing grey eyes.

I can’t imagine Her being at all happy about that outfit, though.

The same is true of Artemis, costume wise.  All that skin cannot be good.

I haven’t seen the episodes She appears in – they are part of the “Twilight of the Gods” storyline which makes me incredibly uncomfortable (even my fangirlishness has its limits.)

So I can’t speak to how She is portrayed, except that the actress is too old, but I have no problem seeing Artemis in this image.

Cupid is shown as a teenage momma’s boy and Discord, well… Discordians may approve of Her portrayal, actually, though she is a bit petulant.  Dionysos, called Bacchus, appears in one episode “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.”  I honestly don’t remember how they wrote Him, as I was too busy being alternately horrified and amused by the demonic vampire maenads.  Many other Gods make appearances in the series and I haven’t seen them all.

Now comes the real trouble.  The second most divine appearances in the show are from Aphrodite.  I really, really hope Aphrodite has a generous sense of humor.I suspect She does.  Otherwise the regular portrayal of Her as a lingerie clad air-headed mean girl would have resulted in some serious smiting.  (*Note to self:  see if you can find out how Sam Raimi’s, Alexandra Tydings‘, and Lucy Lawless’ love lives have been going.)

Then there’s that whole “Twilight of the Gods” story line I mentioned earlier.  Xena gets the power to kill Gods and does so with abandon, in order to protect her daughter Eve (this is when the show decided to throw Christian mythology into the mix.)  Ares and Aphrodite survive, having become mortal (temporarily) but that’s about it.  There’s more to it than that, but as I said even my fangirlishness has it’s limits.

And yet, I can’t resist Sam Raimi‘s ridiculously campy style, I adore Lucy Lawless and Renee O’Connor, and I am delighted by the occasional appearances of Bruce Campbell as Autolycus.

Most of all I love the story of love and heroism among women.


So still a fan, even though I watch it less than I did before becoming a follower of the Greek pantheon.  And even though occasionally when I do watch, I sometimes feel I should take a shower to clear away the miasma and then make conciliatory offerings.

Are your Gods often portrayed in fiction?  If so, how well?  Do you approve, ignore it, or take offense?  Do you disapprove and watch anyway?

W – Wimmin’s Religion (PBP week 46)

There’s been a lot of controversy in the pagan world about inclusion and exclusion and if one’s identity is defined by genetics, physiology, or something more elusive.

This all stems, as I’m sure some of you know, from a Dianic Wiccan group’s rituals at Pantheacon the last couple of years. In a public ritual, advertised as for women only, some women were turned away for not meeting the group’s criteria of womanhood. (It actually stems from deeper problems with our community, but this is what seems to have gotten the pot bubbling this time around.)

This is all old news, I guess, to many in the pagan blogosphere. But I’ve been thinking about it a lot, as I’m of two minds. I figure it’s time for me to speak up and add my voice to the fray.

First, and most importantly, I believe that gender is a useless descriptor – a false dilemma created by society to tell us which roles we should play based on what shape our bodies take. I believe that we have four equally important elements that make us who we are: heart and soul, body and mind. Of these, only the body has a sex and that biological sex is much more complicated than it appears on the surface. Even on the most basic chromosomal level, not everyone is XX or XY. One just can’t put people into convenient little pink and blue boxes based on outward impressions.

But I get that I’m in the minority opinion when I say gender is meaningless. I get that it could very well by my privilege that allows me to see things this way. I am a cis woman which, for those unfamiliar with the term, means that though I have many “masculine” traits as well as “feminine” ones, I am psychologically OK with the gender assigned to me. This gives me the privilege of being able to ignore the issue if I choose. The social norm is with me. But there are a lot of people who don’t have that option. The women turned away from the Pantheacon rituals, for example, were trans*. Meaning their anatomy at birth, and thus the gender assigned to them, was different from what they knew themselves to be.

Gender identity is important to the vast majority of people. While it is a social construct, it is one that is impossible to avoid. And it can be a life or death matter for those who are constantly being told their identity is at best mistaken, at worst a lie.

What all that boils down to for me is the fact that I believe the people running the rituals in question were being bigoted. Neither they, nor I, have the right to tell someone else who she “really” is. If someone tells me she is a woman I’m going to trust her word – she knows herself far better than anyone on the outside can.

But.

I also believe in a group’s right to set limits on who participates in their rituals. In fact, I think exclusivity is not only permitted, I believe it is absolutely necessary in many cases for meaningful spiritual experiences.

I am a devotee of Dionysos, who famously had rites dedicated to Him that were forbidden to men. Pentheus and many others suffered terrible death for daring to view what they should not have.

Dionysos is also the most gender fluid of the Gods. While undeniably masculine in many ways, in others He plays with the idea of gender in ways that had to make the defenders of the status quo very uncomfortable: wearing female garb and hairstyle, taking a receptive role in some sexual encounters, and basically not seeming to care a whole lot about being “manly.”

Dionysos likes to liberate us from these assigned roles. He gave women who were housebound for most of the year the freedom to run wild on the hillside. He gives those of us who spend our lives trying to live up to what others want of us be the freedom to relax and be who we are truly meant to be.

So what about Pentheus?

It is my belief, and I have absolutely no evidence to back this up, that if a trans* woman were to join in the Bacchic rites, the God would have no problem with it. The other women, however, might not have been so accepting. I suppose it could have depended on whether they knew her, saw her living her life as a woman – which was unlikely as this would have been even more dangerous then than it is now – or whether she was a stranger to them, or someone who was closeted. It’s likely they would have been like the Dianics at Pantheacon and sent her packing. But the God, I believe, would have been welcoming to Her.

Pentheus, on the other hand, was not a woman by anyone’s definition. He was, in addition, a representative of the status quo the rites were rebelling against and an enemy of Dionysos. He did not belong.

Exclusivity, in my opinion, is necessary when dealing with religious mysteries. A mystery is something that one can only understand through experience, and not everyone can have every experience. If when someone speaks of “women’s mysteries,” they only mean menstruation, childbirth and menopause, they need to be clear about that. There are a lot of women who would get nothing from such a ritual.  (I personally think it’s an unfortunate definition that limits all of us to our reproductive biology.  Something women have been trying to get away from for a very long time.)

If they just say their ritual if “for women” then I’m going to assume they are addressing the myriad of experiences unique to being female in a world that places more value on maleness.

I’m all for exclusive rituals for women, for trans* people, for people of color, for GLBT* people, for diabled people, for any group that shares unique experiences that they wish to explore.  (I’ll even support the right of privileged groups to come together and celebrate their privilege, though I wouldn’t approve.  Free speech and assembly and all that.)

I think maybe a large public gathering focused on inclusiveness and pagan ecumenicism, like Pantheacon, is the wrong forum for such a thing.

To all my friends who voted for Romney:

I know there are a few of you: whether Tea Partiers, fervent supporters, or those who quietly cast their vote for what they believe in. I just wanted to say: I sincerely sympathize.

I remember how disgusted and frightened I was when Bush was elected. And re-elected.

I won’t ask you to stop complaining. I know I didn’t stop for about 8 years.

But the thing is, even if things do go very badly (as they did under Bush), you get to try again in four years.

Two actually – mid-terms don’t get the attention of a presidential race, but they are just as important. Congress actually has more power to change things for better or worse in many areas.

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that its an election. One that didn’t go your way. It’s really NOT Armageddon, I swear.

So please, take a keep breath and calm the fuck down.

If you want, prepare for next time. I know I will be.

That’s how democracy works.

V for Vacation (PBP week 44)

I got nothin’.

It has been a crazy roller coaster of a week.  So I’m taking a little time off from obligations, including this one. And I guess that’s an important lesson too – whether in spiritual practice, or hobbies like blogging:  knowing when to take a break, rather than letting yourself burn out and lose something important (or at least enjoyable.)

I’ll have a serious “V” post later.  I’ve got one planned and everything, I’m just not able to write it right now.  In the meantime, there’s this to enjoy:

Voilà! In view, a humble vaudevillian veteran, cast vicariously as both victim and villain by the vicissitudes of Fate. This visage, no mere veneer of vanity, is a vestige of the vox populi, now vacant, vanished. However, this valorous visitation of a by-gone vexation, stands vivified and has vowed to vanquish these venal and virulent vermin vanguarding vice and vouchsafing the violently vicious and voracious violation of volition.  The only verdict is vengeance; a vendetta, held as a votive, not in vain, for the value and veracity of such shall one day vindicate the vigilant and the virtuous.  

Verily, this vichyssoise of verbiage veers most verbose, so let me simply add that it’s my very good honor to meet you and you may call me V.

                                             – V for Vendetta