Pagan Piety Survey Answers

About this post, “BNPs” and pagan drama:

Well, I was all ready to post this.  Then Sannion declared that piety was going to be the next big pagan brouhaha.  And I was like, didn’t we just do that last month?  So I trashed it.

I love Sannion for the work he’s does for Dionysos, and because many of his poems and essays helped me immeasurably when I first encountered our God.  His projects are hit and miss with me – though I hardly think he has become the evil thing he’s being accused of.  (Hear that?  You need to try harder.)  I admit I enjoy watching him stir up shit, in a voyeuristic way – I’ve got a thing for internet drama and train wrecks.  It’s not something I’m proud of.  

(I actually can get behind this week’s stated purpose for the drama.  I wonder how I’ll feel about next week’s.  Sannion has begun to remind me more than a bit of the Joker explaining how he got his scars.)  

Apparently, though he’s gotten a bit under my skin this time.  And to hell with that.

So I thought WTF?!  And I restored it.  

So I emailed my responses to Elizabeth, but I figured I’d post them here (with some minor editing to accommodate this format.)  Since I’m asking you all to share, it seems only fair that you get to see what I had to say on the subject:

1. Name (real or “Craft name”)

– Agathi

3. Age, gender, geographic location (country, state/province, and/or city).

– 42, F, Northern California

4. How long have you been Pagan/polytheistic?

– 20+ years

5. What is your tradition (i.e. Wiccan, reconstructionist Heathen, eclectic, etc.)

– “Polytheist/pagan with strong Hellenic influence, valuing both the techniques of reconstructionism and personal inspiration ”  Or, just, “eclectic.”

6. Do you have any patron gods/goddesses or deities you are especially close to? If so, who are They?

– Dionysos

7. How do you define your own relationship(s) to the gods? For instance, do you view one or more of Them as your beloved or spouse, or are They more like parents to you? Do you consider Them friends, allies, mentors? All of the above? None of the above? How does this differ between various gods?

– All of the above?  None of the above?  The relationship is fluid.  I consider Them Gods.

Right now Dionysos seems a bit like the really cool kid I had a crush on in high school who occasionally deigned to notice me – but that says more about me than Him.  I’m hoping that relationship will continue to grow and change.  Or more like a really awesome teacher I have a crush on, who will inevitably end up getting fired by the administration for teaching the kiddies all the “wrong” things.

8. How do you define “piety” as it relates to Paganism/modern polytheism?

– Giving the Gods what They are due.  Actively practicing one’s faith.   Understanding one’s place in the relationship.

9. Do you find this to be a useful or relevant term concerning your own relationship with the gods? Is it relevant to Paganism/modern polytheism in general?

– I think piety is a relevant term for me.  I struggle to be more pious.  I think a lot of pagans find it irrelevant and that saddens me.

10. Is it possible to be pious without an established dogma or authority? Why or why not?

– I believe this is absolutely possible.  In the end my relationship with the Gods is between me and Them.  They are the authority.  They’ll let me know if I’ve gone astray.

11. Is there anything you consider impious (i.e. behavior, modes of worship)? Why?

– For me, personally, all the online fan-girly gushing about dates with Loki etc (to use a common example) strikes me as impious.  Not “Godspousery” (<- is that a word?) itself – that’s an intense form of devotion that I have great respect for – but those who act as if they are gossiping about their wonderful new boyfriend.  It makes me question the nature of the relationship, if it even exists at all.

But that’s me looking from the outside.  It would be impious for me to behave that way, but I freely admit I can’t know what their Gods ask of them.

12. Are you for or against the establishment and observance of rules about piety in your particular tradition and/or within Pagan/polytheist religion in general? Please explain your response.

– I don’t have a tradition, so I can’t answer the first part.

As for the second, absolutely against it.  Pagan/polytheist religion doesn’t exist.  Pagan and polytheistic religions are so diverse that to try to have one rule for all would be absurd.  I have no problem with the establishment of rules about piety or, you know, beard length or whatever, within individual traditions.

13. Further comments, thoughts, observances?

– I’m right in the middle of this debate.  On the one hand, I believe every individual’s relationship with their Gods is unique, so I try not to judge it from the outside.  On the other hand, some practices seem so absurd I simply cannot take them seriously.

I see something like Galina’s recent blog post about the elaborate meals she prepares as an offering to her Gods and I applaud her piety and devotion.  And yet I disagree with her demands that we all do the same.  We could all be more pious, yes.  But we are not all cut out to be priests and mystics and to dedicate the majority of our time and resources to religion.  Modern pagan and polytheistic religions need to have room in them for “lay pagans.”  They will never survive and grow otherwise.


On the Great Christopagan Debate of 2013

So far I’ve remained silent on the Great Christopagan Debate of 2013 because I figured I had nothing of substance to add.

I do have opinions on the subject, relatively strong ones, but I don’t think the internet needs yet another blogger saying what amounts to “I agree with bloggers A, B, and C, understand but disagree with X, Y, and Z, and basically think H, Q, and θ have gone round the bend.”

Turns out though, I do have one thing I really need to say on the subject:

Christians are not my enemies.

Moslems are not my enemies.

Neopagans are not my enemies.

Reconstructionist polytheists are not my enemies.


Fanatics are my enemies.

F – Facing the World As It Is (PBP Week 12)

The entire pagan community mourns this week for the death of a woman that most of us were unaware of until she was gone.  Yana was a Syrian pagan who was brutally murdered by rebels after her own brother revealed to them that she was not Muslim.  People all over the world, myself included, have been moved to tears by her terrible fate and some consider her a modern pagan martyr.

(Now comes the part where I piss people off.)

Something’s been bugging me.

I am horrified and grief stricken when I imagine what this poor woman went through.  But my heart also breaks for the thousands of other people dying horribly in the clusterfuck that is today’s Syria, and in many other places around the world.  People are being murdered in Syria because they are Christian, or Jewish, or not the right kind of Muslim.  Women are killed because they aren’t dressed properly, or dare to be in public without a proper male escort. Or for any other reason they don’t conform with someone’s particular interpretation of Islam.

Why does the fact that Yana shared a label with me (and not even a religion, paganism being what it is) make her more important that them?  Why is this what it takes to wake us up to the fact that people are dying over there?

We tend to empathize with others in direct proportion to how much they remind us of ourselves.  But is that really empathy?  Or some kind of reflected self-preservation instinct?

I don’t know.  I’m as guilty of this as anyone.  It’s a human thing.

I mourn for Yana.  I pray that her Gods look after her soul.

I am not saying that her death was unimportant.  I’m saying no one’s is.

If this horrible crime has awakened you to what is going on in the world, please use this knowledge well.  Do something with it.  Support Doctors Without Borders or the Red Cross/Red Crescent or Amnesty International. Do whatever you can think of to make life a little better for those who aren’t as safe and privileged as you are.


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Words, Words, Words…

I really like the word “majik.”

I mean, I like the aesthetic of those letters in that order.  It feels mysterious, like something transliterated from an exotic Arabian dialect.

I don’t, however, have any idea what it’s supposed to mean.

People tell me it’s supposed to have something to do with using occult/psychic forces to achieve concrete effects – but we already have a word for that, “magic.”

“Magick” at least makes some sense if one is into numerology (the 6, 11 thing), or referring to Aleister Crowley, Thelema, or the kind of art they practice.  “Majik” has no real use that I can think of.

In the old days I would have referred to myself as a “grammar nazi”, before it was pointed out to me that this trivializes the atrocities committed by actual Nazi nazis.  So, since I’m not planning on invading grammar-Poland or murdering millions of grammar-innocents, I’ll just say I’m a stickler for language.

Ironic, I know, since my grammar and spelling are hardly perfect.  I am a frequent user of neologisms and Whedon-speak.  But I’m not talking about honest mistakes or even playing with language for amusement.

What bothers me is sacrificing clear communication in favor of pretentiousness or political statement.

Back in the 80’s (I don’t know if this is still happening, but I sincerely hope not) there was a movement within feminism to remove the sexism from language by experimenting with alternate spellings, etc.  We could no longer be called “women” because that word was derived from “men.”  (I don’t know how correct that etymology is, this is just how it was explained to me at the time.)  We were now “wimmin” or “womyn” or what not.

Now, there is sexism inherent it language.  I’m all for pointing it out and making changes when possible.  Referring to a female writer as an “authoress” instead of simply an “author” makes her gender an issue where it shouldn’t be.  It is too easily understood as saying “she’s as much of a writer as a mere woman can expect to be.”  Simply using the term “author” remains within the realm of clear communication, and takes the sexual politics out of the equation.

Similarly, referring to the person who delivers one’s mail as a “mailman” could imply that only men are qualified to do the job.  The gender neutral “mail carrier” makes perfect sense to me.  But if you insist on calling that person a “postal carrier” because “mail” sounds like “male,”  I have an issue with you.  Choose your battles, sisters.

I’ve come to a point in my life that when I see the word “wimmin” I think “superficial feminist”.  When I see the word “majik” (after my initial “ooo pretty”) I think “superficial pagan.”  This may be an unfair bias on my part, but I really don’t think the people using these words are doing themselves any favors if they want to be taken seriously.