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.

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P – Pagan Piety (PBP week 32)

Piety gets a bum rap these days.

When someone is described as “pious” the intention is usually derogatory.  It is taken to mean that they have a holier-than-thou attitude or are hypocritical – faithful in action, but not in spirit. Also, because it is usually used to refer to members of the majority faith (Christianity in the US), members of the pagan minority who have had bad experiences with that faith or it’s members can sometimes react negatively to the word, even when it is intended to be complimentary.

Yet in pagan religions that place a large emphasis on practice, piety again becomes a real virtue.

To use the ADF definiton, piety in a pagan sense is “correct observance of ritual and social traditions; the maintenance of the agreements, (both personal and societal), we humans have with the Gods and Spirits. Keeping the Old Ways, through ceremony and duty.”

I like this definition, though I would prefer one that also addressed intent, (though not belief.) Because most neopagans come from cultures heavily influenced by the monotheistic faiths, we often bring with us their idea of pious intentions in addition to pious action. This may not be historical, but I believe it is a good addition. A proper relationship with the gods begins in the mind and heart of the individual.

As for societal traditions and agreements, that’s complicated.

In ancient times, piety was an important civil obligation, not just a religious one. The success or failure of the society as a whole depended on every member maintaining their proper relationship with the gods.

Today it is different. Worshippers of the old gods are a tiny minority in their communities. In the west, our societies are either purely secular or are under allegiance to the god of Abraham. If I believed that I was responsible for maintaining the agreements that my society has made with the divine, I’d be obligated to be Christian and to follow the rituals and traditions of that faith.

So how to be properly pious in a social sense? A few ideas come to mind. We can define our society more narrowly – taking on the obligations of our family, coven, or other group. We can, in the course of honoring our ancestors, try to make good on obligations that they weren’t able to fulfill. We can also partake in the religious festivals of the community in which we live, as much as outsiders are welcome to. Because of the pluralist nature of much polytheism, many pagans have no issue attending rituals for deities that they do not personally worship. For those of us comfortable with the idea, this courtesy could be extended to the God of Abraham – for example, by attending mass on Christmas and Easter without participating in communion.

I think the most important aspect of piety for modern pagans is the reminder that we should be actually practicing our religion. It is easy for so many pagans, myself included, to get wrapped in study, in learning what the ancients did (and then blogging about it). But it cannot end there.

A religion that exists only in the mind of the believer is not a religion.

And, to borrow a Christian aphorism, the road to Hel is paved with good intentions.

 

(Post written and originally published 9/29/12.  Backdated to reflect PBP due date.)