So I guess Margot Adler died recently?

…and since no-one asked me to say anything about the passing of Mary Daly, Labrys Ruiner1, either, I figured I’d throw in my 2¢:

Margot Adler placed people before the Gods. This is not intended to be a harsh judgement, but a statement of fact. After all, there’s record of her statement that, had there been Hellenic polytheists known to her, she would have done that, instead. Hey, we all have what drives us, and clearly her calling was human-centric rather than deity-centric.

Margot Adler was not a polytheist. She had also said that, had she actually come across other Hellenists in the 1970s (which, if she looked hard enough, she would have, cos we existed then, too), her goal was not to worship but to “become” one of the Hellenic gods. She has said, in favourably quoting another, “the Gods are not to be worshipped”, in spite of all historical evidence and the empirical knowledge of others that points to the contrary.

Margot Adler was not transphobic –at least, if photos of her with Selena Fox can be believed.

Margot Adler was not a big fan of history and facts. Aside from the curious quote showcased in The Wild Hunt’s obituary, anyone remember her participation in this infamous artifact of paganism in the 1980s and ’90s?

She was clearly well-loved and respected by many, and in some ways she deserrved this, but she was never that important to me. She wasn’t transphobic (or least not during her final years), but aside from that, her life and work wasn’t that important to me. She made some comments peripherally related to Hellenism, so I felt compelled to say something about her when I noticed this.


1: If you want to take back the labrys from Daly and her ilk, after all, it’s closely associated with the Minoan Goddess has been anthropologically linked to Wadjet/Isis, who loves All, and Ariadne, wife of gender-fucker god Dionysos, feel free to give me delicious monies.

About Ruadhán McElroy

Ruadhán has been a traditional Hellenic polytheist for about a decade, and has also maintained devotions to Eros and Apollon most of that time; his status as a devotee of Nyx is more recent. He also paints, makes music, makes jewellery, and writes novels set in the Mod Revival (UK) and Swampie (Oz) subcultures of the 1980s. He also gets a lot of odd little experiences that he jokes will forever render him an insufferable Goth.

A Polytheist and Pagan Guide to Privilege

Almost everybody has some sort of privilege, somewhere in their lives.

Are you white? Are you a gender-normative male? Can you at least pass for “gendernormative heterosexual male”? Do you eat least identify with the gender you were raised as? Did you at least attend university? These, and more, are Mainstream or Overculture Privileges. It’s not bad to be any of these things, but it does tend to mean that there are things that you’ll (almost certainly) take for granted. As most of the “job creators” in the Western world are of some sort of North-Western European descent, you can probably get just about any job you’re qualified for and assume that you earned it for all your hard work to gain those qualifications. If you’re a gender-normative male, you probably don’t think anything of it when people assume you know what you’re talking about, even if you’re lying your arse off, and it probably will be more likely to make you laugh than ruin your day if the cashier at the grocery store, should you be there during an especially busy hour, accidentally calls you “Miss”. Hey, nobody’s faulting you for that, we’re all raised, to some degree or another, to accept that as just the way it is. But here’s the thing: It doesn’t have to be. A great way to help break this system is by further developing your sense of empathy, and listening to people when they talk about their experiences is a great way to start. Listen, try to reference a point in your life that brought out a time you felt that way or similar, and relate. If you can’t relate, then own that, admit that you can’t even imagine what that must be like, and go from there, try to make a human connection.

Smaller communities often end up mirroring Overculture Privilege AND creating their own idiosyncratic systems of power and inclusion/exclusion.

In the pagan community, there is no shortage of people of colour who regularly state that they experience racism even amongst other pagans, who often believe that they’re better than that. This is privilege brought in from the overculture at play. I’m sure many people don’t even realise that they’re doing it, but here’s the thing: If other people are saying it happens to them, especially if multiple people and well-respected people are saying this, then maybe you should think back and really ask yourself if you’ve contributed to that –even if you don’t think you have, be sceptical of that memory, ask yourself if that’s really how it happened or if your privilege got in the way or your good judgement. After that, do better; educate yourself and don’t be afraid to ask for assistance in that, if you don’t know where to go to do that. It’s not going to happen overnight, no-one is seriously expecting it to.

A community also creates its own system of privilege when there’s a clear hierarchy of one group within that community getting All The Cool Shit, like recognition and visibility and an air of “legitimacy” from both the overculture and the subculture, and other groups have very little or practically none of the “Cool Shit” in comparison. In the Pagan community, it’s safe to say that Eclectic/Popular Wiccans (as opposed to Trad Wiccans), and those whose religion has practises innate to Pop Wicca (the Wiccanate) get the most Cool Shit, especially with regard to visibility and airs of legitimacy in and out of the subculture. There is evidence of this: Go to any bookstore that at least has a section for books on Paganism (it might even be labelled “Occult/Metaphysical), grab any book that looks like a “Paganism 101” sort of primer. There will probably be a chapter that gives a very brief (and occasionally accurate!) description of up to ten different pagan religions and occult traditions, while the rest of the book gives a very generic description of Ecclectic Witchcraft/Pop Wicca, and many of its most-common practises and ideas. The book is also very likely to use words like “witchcraft / the craft”, “Wicca”, and “paganism” virtually synonymously, regardless of whether or not they clarify early on something like “all Wiccans are witches and just about all witches are pagan, but many pagans are not witches, nor do they even necessarily use magic”.

Now, i could go on a tangent on how many of these practises and ideas that became American/Western Ecclectic Witchcraft are misappropriated from other, more racially marginalised groups of people (like just about anything that a “pop-culturised” version of something from Dharmic religions), but that’s another story for another time. What’s important is that about 90% of that book discussed only one religion and barely gave lip-service to a very small selection of others. No-one is expecting every book about paganism to be all things to all people –I know I certainly am not– but these books tend to take for granted that only one, loosely-defined, pagan path is merely the most popular (especially in the United States and Canada), ignoring that that one path simply cannot be at all representative of paganism as a whole. By even unwittingly taking this for granted by speaking largely about a single path while under the guise of speaking broadly about paganism, these writers commit an act of privilege.

Historical revisionism is a tool of privilege.

You could argue, as others have, that the popularity and broad accessibility of Wiccanate paganism and the steep slant of information about it is just because Wiccans have been around longest and worked hardest to have their voices heard, and while that certainly seemed true in the 1950s and ’60s, when Wicca was a very new-to-the-public religion with a murky history that some claimed to go back centuries, if not millennia, was it really true?. Did you know that Neodruidry goes back to the 18th Century? Were you aware that Romuva, the indigenous polytheism of Lithuania and other Baltic people, was revived during the Romantic period of the 19th Century, after a relatively brief suppression (maybe a few hundred years; the indigenous religion remained the state religion until about the 15th Century, though there is no shortage of evidence, especially among smaller ethnic groups, including the Sami, retaining its practice even longer)? And furthermore, Hellenic reconstruction goes back at least as early as Thomas Taylor (1758 – 1835), in the Anglosphere, and if you trust V Rassias of YSEE, the Stratioti Tradition that many members of YSEE practise goes back to the 1500s or 1600s (source, Hellenic_Recons yahoo group –search the archives for “Stratioti”). According to sourced statements on Wikipedia, Heathenry or Germanic pagan reconstruction/revival, as a serious religious practise, can be dated as early as the 19th Century Romantics, and the same can be said of Celtic religious revivals (though a lot of that history is blurred with Neodruidry). Now, there are reasons that a lot of these other religious movements didn’t get the momentum that Wicca did in the 1950s and ’60s:

Neodruidry was only very loosely organised until the founding of certain organisations in the 1960s. Some early attempts to organise also were loosely based on Freemasonry, but that’s another story for another time. For much of its early history, it seems like the earliest days of Neodruidry may have largely been Christopagan, as well, but my sources are limited.

Romuva had to remain underground for decades, during Soviet rule.

Hellenic polytheism, in Greece, was actually criminalised until 2006, and thus had to survive underground prior, with only small groups taking risks to promote it that started to emerge in the 1960s. In the English-speaking world, Hellenism and Heathenry were also seldom taken seriously as religious movements, but commonly regarded, in spite of clear devotional practises of many, as little more than an “intellectual hobby” for eccentric academics.

Also: Television didn’t get invented until 1939, and really took off as a household staple in the mid-1950s. Gerald Gardner published Witchcraft Today in 1954, and yes, Gardner utilised both television and radio interviews (radio remained a staple of household media in the UK far longer than it did in the US) to promote Wicca:

Many early Wiccans and supporters of Wicca as a religious movement were more PR-savvy than a lot of people today realise. This romantic notion that Gardner and others just popped out here and there, but otherwise contented themselves to developing their spirituality is just as much a “sacred mythology” to many in modern paganism as Murray’s more fantastic ideas about the witch-cult hypothesis or the notion of “9 million women burned during witchcraft hysteria“, in spite of the fact that neither claims have significant (if any) evidence as being literal fact; the witch hysteria of Europe during the 1300s-to 1700s certainly resulted in many deaths, and mostly women (though in a handful of countries, the gender ratios were even, and i think even a few towns executed more men –but these were exceptions), but most estimates based on heavy research of court records state 60,000-100K unjustly executed is a more fair estimate, and at best, the “witch cult hypothesis” is better off refined to an hypothesis of pagan survival, but it’s still best to assume that, at absolute most, less than half of those executed were actually non-Christians of any sort.

Many early public Witches basically utilised the media to spread the word (and not to mention the comparatively tight organisation of the coven model), while other movements were either un-organised, in comparison to Wicca, or were underground by necessity. Wicca hasn’t actually been around any longer, and even the most generous estimates place Traditional Wicca’s origins as no earlier than the 1920s, and Popular Wicca or American Ecclecticism being no older than the late 1960s (arguably starting with Dianic movements), making Wicca as a whole, in reality, among the youngest of the pagan religious movements.

Wicca did not “earn” its privileged position by age and hard work so much as Wicca arrived to it by happenstance: Wiccans came out publicly at the right place and right time, and with the right people who were just media-savvy enough to spread the word.

Again, no-one is faulting Wiccans in the here and now for this. No-one is even faulting Gardner for being a remarkably savvy old coot (a term I use affectionately; you really can’t watch or hear him in action and not think he worked that “eccentric old coot” image to his advantage —just look at him!), but for all the Humanism (both secular and religious) that’s popular and influential in the pagan community today, many people practising Pop Wicca or American Eclecticism and other pagan religions remain completely unsceptical of the common notion that “Wicca has been around longest and done the most”, they take its alleged factuality for granted, and thus end up (often unwittingly) committing historical revisionism that privileges Wicca and other paths derived from it. You can combat this by questioning every “truth” you might believe about paganism and the religious movements often thrown under its umbrella (often whether said religions like it or not), by educating yourself and searching for where certain ideas came from.

Privilege held in one area doesn’t go away just because you’re disadvantaged in another.

You’d think this would be easy, what with stating early on in this piece that just about everyone has some degree of privilege or another, but I dunno, some people seem really quick to try and play Misery Poker with the hand they were dealt and hope it beats the other person’s, cos Person A misspoke and ended up mooning the whole room with their privilege, and Person B said, “er… that’s not cool.” It often goes a little like this:

Tasha: [white, Wiccan, tries to speak for Black Afro-Caribbean religions]
Geordie: [is actually Afro-Caribbean and practises an AC religion] Tasha, please stop, you don’t know what you’re talking about and you’re letting your privilege show.
Tasha: What would you know about privilege!? I’m a transgender butch female and functionally autistic and my grandmother was Mexican, so I’m bi-racial too, and you’re just Black and cisgender het male!

No, seriously, this kind of thing happens ALL THE TIME. Even in the pagan community. If you think it doesn’t, then you’re not paying enough attention. And it doesn’t have to happen ALL THE FREAKIN’ TIME. If the topic was transgender, or gender-normativity, or feminism, or neurodiversity in the pagan community, yeah, Tasha could probably teach Geordie a thing or two, and being Black wouldn’t suddenly become a way to absolve him of the need to show those people in the pagan community the basic dignities they say they deserve. Hopefully, Geordie knows that. What Tasha doesn’t understand is that while there may be a similarity of experience between different marginalising traits, being Wiccan, or a trans woman, or a butch woman, or functionally autistic, or a quarter Mexican doesn’t tell her fuck all about being Black, or being Afro-Caribbean, or being one who practises an Afro-Caribbean religion. Tasha needs to sit herself down and LISTEN, EMPATHISE, and GROW.

Please don’t make it about you.

We all go there, at least once in a while. Yeah, sometimes you do have a point in doing so, but most of the time people are reminding you that it’s not about you, you’ve probably done this all too human thing:

Prioritised your own feelings over what’s being said.

We all have feelings, but there are times and places to share them. There are times and places where it’s beneficial to share them, and there are times and places where sharing them is more detrimental.

It would be nice if any time and place was a safe space to share one’s feelings, but that’s not how it works. When tensions are high, it’s best to take your feelings out of the room and share them elsewhere –if you’re on-line and the comments on a blog post are affecting you, either go to another forum or turn your computer off, or Skype with a friend or *something* to remove yourself from the situation so that the simple act of airing your feelings won’t contribute to a hostile climate; make a final comment excusing yourself, if you must, but keep it brief and keep your feelings out of it, cos it’s not about you.

The thing about this is, especially in spaces where, say, pagans of colour are discussing how that affects them and makes them feel, if someone who is apparently privileged in that area talks about how this line of discussion is making them feel, then suddenly the room feels like it just turned into one more place where the feelings of white people are prioritised over the feelings of people of colour.

Most spaces in this world are assumed to be “safe spaces” for those with the most privilege to talk about whatever they feel like, and those who lack privilege have long felt safest in expressing our own experiences and feelings in smaller, often temporary spaces. Gay bars and TS/TG or autism support groups are some of the ways these “safer spaces” have developed as a means to temporarily give oneself the sense of freedom to express oneself without threat of judgement or violence. In a world where people are increasingly recognising the need for people to be who they are without fear of judgement or violence, more and more people are opening up dialogues, at in-person discussions and on blogs. Unfortunately, because of the problem where the overculture still often creates a hostile climate for people to express themselves without fears, this creates a need for those interested in social progress to prioritise the disadvantaged in discussions about issues that most-affect them.

As a bonus, it’s only logical to prioritise the feelings of people most-affected by, say, the presence or absence of wheelchair ramps, or the presence or absence of Santeria at Pantheacon, or policies on gender in women’s groups, simply because the most-likely “worst case scenario” for anyone else is a minor inconvenience, and absolute “worst case”, either you find a new place or do some remodelling or (gods forbid!) a rule change in the event’s or group’s constitution or revision of its mission statement. If you can walk, how is wheelchair accessibility harming you? It’s not, so you really have no qualified opinion on its necessity. If you’re an Ecclectic Witch, and not a Santeria practitioner, why would a Santeria event at Pantheacon bother you, especially where there are going to be at least half a dozen other events going on at the same time, most of which are catered to those like yourself? It doesn’t, so just move along and go to other events. If a women’s ritual has nothing to do with menstruation or childbirth, then what is the point in barring trans women, and if it *is* about “menstrual mysteries”, then why not ban all women who have never and will never menstruate, and stop singling-out trans women? If you’re not a woman, cis or trans, then you automatically have no qualified opinion on the presence or absence of trans women at any particular women’s rite (though if you’re bigender, and one of those is Woman, then obviously that would be enough, I’d think, but your mileage may vary).

Yes, sometimes people may end up saying things that hurt your feelings, but address that to them, personally, and be tactful; you won’t make things any better by trying to spin it around to make the conversation about you and your feelings that are essentially assumed privileged in all other conversations.

Cos it’s not about you.

From the position of some-one who lacks privilege in a certain area, most spaces are spaces where the comfort and convenience of those possessing privilege are prioritised. If you take a minute to step outside yourself and empathise, it’s easy to see where these ideas are coming from, cos it’s usually true; sure, things in certain especially specific areas (like the acceptable expression of emotions based on a person’s gender), things can get weird and it may be easily argued that no-one is clearly “privileged”, but that handful of very specific things is not reason to ignore the wealth of areas where the model of privilege applies. This necessitates the need for “safer spaces” where people lacking privilege in areas can speak up and be heard. Discussing the finer factual details may seem important, but should only really be offered if the person is specifically seeking advice, and any advice offered should be offered tactfully and with any applicable privileged dynamics in mind.


Did I mention that I’m giving away free Germanic goddess prayer cards?

Were you also aware that I’m raising money for moving expenses? These two things are completly separate, but please tell your friends about both so that I don’t have to do as much.

About Ruadhán McElroy

Ruadhán has been a traditional Hellenic polytheist for about a decade, and has also maintained devotions to Eros and Apollon most of that time; his status as a devotee of Nyx is more recent. He also paints, makes music, makes jewellery, and writes novels set in the Mod Revival (UK) and Swampie (Oz) subcultures of the 1980s. He also gets a lot of odd little experiences that he jokes will forever render him an insufferable Goth.

On Polytheists & Pagans

(This was originally a comment from PSVL’s blog.)

It’s like the “wife and mother” status. Some women are both, but some are only one or the other, and some from the latter group were both, at one time, but then things happened and now they are only either “wife” or “mother”.

Yes, some women who are others believe that it’s a lifelong position, and some of them even feel that position is inseparable from being a wife, but the fact of the matter is, some women get divorced, some women try being mothers, but for varying reasons give that up to pursue othef thibgs, and some women never were nor ever will become mothers for the simple fact that some just don’t want to.

If Jane is a wife, but not a mother, never was nor ever will be, it’s not a personal attack on motherhood, nor evidence of some kind of schism amongst women when she shares her experience as a woman who is wife but not mother, no matter how much Kayla thinks that the positions, by her experience, are inseparable.


Remember that I’m giving away Heathen/Northern goddess prayer cards.

I’m also raising money for moving expenses. The two things are unrelated, of course, but might as well mention them.

About Ruadhán McElroy

Ruadhán has been a traditional Hellenic polytheist for about a decade, and has also maintained devotions to Eros and Apollon most of that time; his status as a devotee of Nyx is more recent. He also paints, makes music, makes jewellery, and writes novels set in the Mod Revival (UK) and Swampie (Oz) subcultures of the 1980s. He also gets a lot of odd little experiences that he jokes will forever render him an insufferable Goth.

[insert my ‘alright, that’s it, spankings all around’ face]

gothpagans001

I’m about ready to give up on the “Goth Wiccans, Pagans, & Spiritualists” group on FarceBorg, but it’s the occasional stuff like this that makes me think it’s worth staying, just to counter misinformation.

About Ruadhán McElroy

Ruadhán has been a traditional Hellenic polytheist for about a decade, and has also maintained devotions to Eros and Apollon most of that time; his status as a devotee of Nyx is more recent. He also paints, makes music, makes jewellery, and writes novels set in the Mod Revival (UK) and Swampie (Oz) subcultures of the 1980s. He also gets a lot of odd little experiences that he jokes will forever render him an insufferable Goth.

It’s Not Raining All the Time -or- Why We Need Extra Categories

I understand the desire to look at something, or learn a little bit about it, and say “OK, that’s X”: “pagan”, “transmasculine”, “genderqueer”, and so forth and so on. It’s tempting. Sometimes I’m even tempted to say “Henotheism = Polytheism”, cos it only really works within an inherently “polytheist” belief system, but with the distinction that one (usually oneself) only really needs to honour and work with one deity. As Kaldera, Hardy, and Tenpenny’s presentation at the PLC on Friday pointed out, Henotheists in Hinduism may technically “honour Ganesa”, or at least appear to, and other Hindu deities at certain festivals, but if their deity is Sarasvati, they’re going to go to Her for things even Ganesa would normally take care of; henotheism requires that one at least recognise other deities exist, in some way, shape or form, but it differs from “polytheist with extreme devotion” by the fact that the Henotheist honours one deity to the exclusion of all others (maybe with some hair-splitting on what that may actually mean); it’s more like Henotheism is a method of worship than a theology (cos henotheists themselves didn’t coin that term, but Christian colonists in India trying to make sense of a distinct practise of certain Hindus). But I digress:

We basically see similarities in a thing, and try to relate that back to something we’re more familiar with, or understand better, in an effort to try and understand what the person is talking about. It’s useful, at least in the first few minutes, cos it tells us that this concept is not all that unusual, after all, it’s similar to this other thing we already knew about. Which can be, and often is more than is not, quite awesome.

Unfortunately, a lot of people stop there. By stopping there, by only seeing the similarity between the thing you just learned about and the thing you already knew about and understood better, you’re homogenising.

Homogenisation is great if we’re talking food safety, but it’s not great if we’re talking about basically depriving ourselves of seeing and experiencing diversity.

Finding some common ground is excellent, from that we often learn that we’re too similar to really necessitate fighting about relatively trivial things. That said, celebrating our common ground should never be at the expense of truly honouring and respecting diversity.

There’s a trend I’ve noticed in certain pockets of the Internet, where people of Colours, often African Americans, are becoming very angry with the very white liberals who were seen as allies through the 1970s and ’80s, with shit like “Free To Be You And Me” and Sesame Street teaching kids that we’re really not that different from each-other and we shouldn’t hate or exclude our classmates over trivial things like skin colour. The anger isn’t over that lesson, which is still very necessary, but because there is now a generation or two of white people who were basically raised with this idea of “colourblindness” that ignores the still very real struggles of many African Americans, Native Nations people, Asian Americans of all stripes, and non-white Hispanic and Mediterranean peoples (and not to mention the lack of social “whiteness” still denied many Eastern Europeans). The socio-political homogenisation of racial colourblindness is creating a problem: People (typically white people) who now believe that the racial struggles are a thing of the past, in spite of all evidence to the contrary.

It’s a task, really, to manage to celebrate the common ground (when it’s important to do so) and still acknowledge the differences that make diversity happen.

Now, I’m not going to go as far as the crypto-fascists and say that diverse cultures need an emphasis on separatism in order to maintain that diversity –if one’s culture or religion really does necessitate separatism to maintain its unique identity, I think your culture or religion has some serious problems that even separatism won’t solve (and if one can accomplish that separatism, have fun with that Hapsburg lip in a few generations –I’m just saying!). Nay, it’s the intermingling of cultures that actually promotes diversity in unique ways, but emphasis on finding that “common ground” or “unity” puts one at risk of homogenisation –which I think is a huge reason that we’re seeing polytheists drift away from the “pagan umbrella”.

When I brought this up at the panel on Sunday at the PLC, moderated by PSVL, Tamarah Suida said that, while the umbrella terms may be useful “it’s not raining all the time”.

In certain instances, being included under “the pagan umbrella” is useful for polytheists and other religions: There are social and political concerns that most people in both the pagan and polytheist camps seem largely interested in and / or supportive of, both pagans and polytheists have many of the same legal concerns, and whether we’re inclined to admit it or not, most of us polytheists, frankly, shop at the same kinds of stores that pagans tend to –not just metaphysical booksellers, but food co-ops, alternative/non-Western healing, etc….

That said, I’ve long been coming to the conclusion that The Anomalous Thracian has been at and PSVL has recently come to: Paganism is a social and cultural movement, and polytheism is a theological and spiritual category and a true religious identity. While I certainly respect those who assert that their only religious identity is “pagan”, I do note their apprehension at actually defining that identity in terms that would let others understand what, exactly, that’s supposed to mean.

I was calling myself a “polytheist” before I was aware of people who distanced themselves from the pagan community; I think I first used it in the mid-1990s to describe my interest (and failed connection to) the Gods of the pre-Christian Irish peoples. While I hold no animosity toward pagans, i think I’m long passed due time to wean myself off of the word, as a self-description; it’s lost all meaning for me, and frankly, if people like Gus-Gus diZerega, who can’t even tell the difference between a convention and an ostensibly religious festival are to be included amongst the “pagan elders”, I have to ask one simple question: Why? For the love of all that is holy, WHY? I mean, come the crap on, his response to a woman who has just told him, ad nauseum that she, and nearly every other woman she knows, has experienced some level of sexual harassment at practically every pagan group (especially in NoCal) that she’s been a part of? “Go find another group” –that’s dismissive, for starters, and it really betrays his ignorance in his inability to see past the end of his nose. Why so many people still continue to see that pompous ass-hat as a “respected elder” is beyond me.

The pagan movement has obviously been of great importance to many people over the last several decades, but I think it’s reached a point where the continued reluctance to define what it actually is, has made it kind of a more useless than a parody of itself. When feminism needed to continue its relevance, it adopted and adapted and continued, and still continues, to re-define itself while still remaining relevant to principles long-held –many principles held since they were the Suffragettes and Free-Lovers (and can polyamourists stop appropriating that term for their “rah! rah! all the sexual partners!” movement, yesterday, please?); the Second-Wavers are the sad old biddies left in the dust to now form alliances with people they never would have dreamed of doing so with thirty years ago, because of the simple fact that their ideologies are no longer relevant to progress. I’m failing to see where paganism is still relevant in the way that it was in the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s; ecological movements are getting along just fine without necessitating the inclusion of pagans, social justice movements are thriving (in some places better than in others) without necessarily including pagans, and the theological movements of polytheism and animism are pretty much separated from paganism, at this point, which really shows how unnecessary the pagan community is to non-Abrahamic theological movements and alternative religions in the West.

If paganism, as a social and cultural movement, continues this resistance to defining itself, I doubt it’ll be useful to others beyond the occasional party.

About Ruadhán McElroy

Ruadhán has been a traditional Hellenic polytheist for about a decade, and has also maintained devotions to Eros and Apollon most of that time; his status as a devotee of Nyx is more recent. He also paints, makes music, makes jewellery, and writes novels set in the Mod Revival (UK) and Swampie (Oz) subcultures of the 1980s. He also gets a lot of odd little experiences that he jokes will forever render him an insufferable Goth.

Teach your children…

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About Ruadhán McElroy

Ruadhán has been a traditional Hellenic polytheist for about a decade, and has also maintained devotions to Eros and Apollon most of that time; his status as a devotee of Nyx is more recent. He also paints, makes music, makes jewellery, and writes novels set in the Mod Revival (UK) and Swampie (Oz) subcultures of the 1980s. He also gets a lot of odd little experiences that he jokes will forever render him an insufferable Goth.

Theism that Humanists have a bone for

So, I had hoped to respond to Ms Cell Machine’s comment here, but apparently Halstead is still afraid of my knowledge, wisdom, and/or cock, so here it is:

Reconstructed Polytheism is ‘new’ but not as ‘new’ as many Wiccans, Wiccanate Neopagans, and others want people to believe. Sannion gave a decent taste of the recon timeline, but only a taste: http://thehouseofvines.com/2014/01/24/and-people-wonder-why-theres-conflict/ I’ve been working on something more thorough.

The problem is, Reconstructed Polytheism shares many traits that Zell describes in his ‘paganism’ that pre-dated the arrival of Wicca in the States and shares much of the ‘legacy’ that Halstead is claiming for ‘Neo-Paganism’, while sharing a clearer connection to the ancients than either, especially by those among us who put the Gods and Goddesses first. Reconstructed Polytheism isn’t a ‘Humanism enhanced with the language of Theism’, it’s more a ‘Theism that Humanists have a bone for’ as evidenced by the very clear desire of atheists and secular humanists to paint extremely pious ancient figures, such as Pythagoras, Epicurus, Socrates, Hypatia, etc… as one of ‘theirs’.

As for the ‘reclaimation’ of the term ‘Neo-Pagan’, certainly that would be the birthright of Classicists, especially the agnostic and ambiguously theistic, including Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Oscar Wilde, and the Uranian poets, non? After all, such were, indeed, the first such sorts to be called that, and clearly had a better understanding of the gods than most of the people using the term and applying it to their piss-poor understanding of Jungian psychology.

About Ruadhán McElroy

Ruadhán has been a traditional Hellenic polytheist for about a decade, and has also maintained devotions to Eros and Apollon most of that time; his status as a devotee of Nyx is more recent. He also paints, makes music, makes jewellery, and writes novels set in the Mod Revival (UK) and Swampie (Oz) subcultures of the 1980s. He also gets a lot of odd little experiences that he jokes will forever render him an insufferable Goth.

Another Thread Alone In a Tapestry of Bullshit -or- LOLbertarians and Rampant Classism on Patheos

So, I get back from Convergence XX in Chicago, and what the hell do I get? Well, OK, I got a massive allergy attack after an extended weekend away from these blasted pollens, a sore throat that I may or may not have gotten from a friend who turned out to have viral laryngitis, and three loads of laundry whilst being out of fabric softener –but that’s just the pedantic bastard hat talking. So what the hell else did I get? Another fucking stupid Patheos Pagan post that can’t even make the point it alleges to. If I had selective amnesia, I’d start waxing nostalgic about the days of Star Foster in charge, cos well, she may have sipped from the LOLbertarian Kool-Aid when alleging that people on disability get thousands of dollars a month, but at least she understood that words mean things, and if you’re going to claim discrimination, back it up with more than AynRandian double-speak and circular reasoning.

Let’s start by making one thing quite clear: To “discriminate” against a population or demographic of people is to treat them with prejudice. If La’Keisha has gobs of cash and wants to hold a free event so that even people with very little money can attend, you may believe that is misguided, you may think that’s creating an unfair power dynamic, or you may even think that’s just stupid all you like, but if you’re going to claim that La’Keisha is “discriminating against the poor” you really have to illustrate how, exactly, that is an action of prejudice against those with less money than her. if you cannot illustrate how that is a decision of prejudice, and thus discrimination, then it’d do you well to not call it discrimination.

Next off, why I think this is just LOLbertarian nonsense.

Now let me make another thing very clear: While I think even the better-educated Libertarian is still wrong-headed (I’ve even met a few who regard income taxes and social safety nets as “necessary to keep society functioning”, imagine that), I watch The Hobbesian on Teh FarceBorg, where the term “LOLbertarian” seems reserved for the kind of Libertarian he likes to troll –the pot heads who defend child porn, tax-dodging professional whiners, and the sorts who read Atlas Shrugged and masturbate until they’ve got sores (I knew someone who did that —not to Atlas Shrugged, I hope, but what the hell, dude, break out the Lubriderm); wannabe-political gadflies who’ve never had an original thought in their heads and prove this repeatedly by only really parroting Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, and other nonsense factories lampooned on The Daily Colbert.

In other words, LOLbertarian is less about your politics and more about whether or not you’re an idiot. But I digress….

So basically this strikes me as LOLbertarian nonsense because it’s an argument that rests entirely on the notion that pagan events will only be “equal” if everyone pitches in an equal amount of cash, and that this can empower the poor to put on events that we otherwise wouldn’t be able to.

That’s a cute idea, but it just isn’t true.

See, events are more than just a stack of bills. They’re all manner of public drama, behind-the-scenes drama, sweat and blood and tears and fucking WORK. If you paid $10 or even $100 for admission to an event, you did fucking NOTHING in comparison to those who secured the event space(s), booked the speakers and entertainment (if applicable), did the advertising necessary to populate said event, made the party favours (if applicable), and volunteered their time to help keep things running smoothly as they tend to (having worked and volunteered at many events, I can tell you that there’s always something that goes wrong, ALWAYS, but at the best events, this is usually inconsequential when weighed against everything else that went right).

Furthermore, depending on the scope of the event, your admission price, in the most likely scenario, only deferred costs to those who threw it together —they most likely put it all together at a loss, even if only a small loss (something the truly poor [and not just the “struggling to stay in a middle-class income” who tend to fancy themselves impoverished] just cannot afford to do, especially those of us who have children or at least furbabies). Most “successful” events are lucky to break even, and they rarely turn a profit, yes, even —nay, especially those events that charge admission.

So now that we’ve established that it’s actually very hard for someone with very little to throw an event by simply making it something people have to pay to attend, let’s look at the false notion of egalitarianism at events:

Not only is this is entirely based on disregarding the ancient virtue of hospitality, but it’s just unrealistic nonsense, if you really look at the reality of the situation with regards to throwing events. There is someone, or more often a small committee of people, who do the organising, and then there are those who speak and entertain, and those who volunteer their time so that most people can just goof off and enjoy themselves in the most carefree manner possible. If you’re not doing any of those things at an event, newsflash, Spanky: Paying an admission fee will not make you equal to those who do shit, and until you actually do something besides throwing money at it, you will NEVER be equal to those who do shit.

You know what empowers people, even the poor? Doing shit. People who do shit don’t have to pretend that throwing a little money around empowers them or makes for an egalitarian situation. Doing shit is more powerful and far more empowering than a stack of increasingly worthless linen paper ever will be (thanks, inflation rate!), because doing shit is more valuable to the outcome of an event than the money charged for tickets to defray the costs to the organisers. You know what an event with an egalitarian spirit would look like? An event where everyone had to pitch in some actual time and effort, and not just money, to make it happen —but that’s never going to happen, because some people will insist that they can’t pitch in time and actual work due to their schedules, or abilities, and so on (which is fair enough, and I can’t really fault anyone on), and then there are going to be those who’ll just complain because it’ll feel less like a “fun event” and more like “actual work” (cos I guess they think that the people, like myself, who actually do shit think that spending hours on phones to secure a venue, or make the arrangements to ensure the speakers and/or entertainers’ needs are met, or spend over seven hours on their feet folding and passing out t-shirts at the registration desk, think all of that that is just funner than pooping…).

So what now? After all, if egalitarianism in our events is an impossibility due to that pesky reality, why not just give up? I mean, if there’s going to be an unequal relationship where the event organisers are top-teir, followed by speakers and entertainment, then volunteers, and everyone who just paid for a ticket is now “just the guests” of the top-teir and their speakers, entertainment, and volunteers, then what good could that possibly be for pagans as a whole?

You know, I wonder if, since the idea that a power structure existing is somehow equal to “discrimination” and stigmatisation against the poor in Ms Aradia’s eyes, if she’s a fan of parents or if she thinks that teacher/student and other such unequal relationships are at all akin to “discrimination” in her eyes? Does she only stay at hotels when she travels, or does she couch surf with friends (or even strangers from couchsurfing.com)? The world is full of situations where there are going to be power exchanges –sometimes you’ll be mid- or top-tier in the situation, but sometimes you’ll just be there, and of no especial consequence to the situation, you’ll just be there for the experience of being there –and that is perfectly fine.

I always make an effort to volunteer for events when I can –I don’t always get an assignment, but I genuinely love it when I do, because even though it’s work, it’s work I’m glad to contribute. That’s not everyone’s cuppa, and I don’t fault anyone who would rather not do the all-too-often thankless work that is necessary to keep things running smoothly. but what I find ridiculous is anyone who entertains the cockamamie notion that throwing around a little money is at all an equalising action in the face of actually doing shit. it’s a perfectly valid pursuit to only seek the experience of event with the least amount of effort on your own part, I’ve done that plenty of times, myself, but don’t insult my intelligence.

Don’t insult my intelligence by trying to pretty up your LOLbertarian nonsense as a way to stick up for the impoverished. The poor know well enough that sometimes costs need to be defrayed, and tickeg prices are the most reliable way to do that.

Don’t insult my intelligence by equating the power structure of an event with being discriminated against, especially if you can’t even kinda-/sorta explain how that shit’s supposed to fly.

Most importantly, don’t insult my intelligence by insisting that paying an admission price puts you on a closer-to-level playing field of those who do shit.

If a party organising the event can afford to make it free, all the better. It harms no-one, it exercises no prejudice to do so, and it especially highlights the expectation of hospitality that guests can measure the organisers by –an expectation even ticket-holding guests would have, regardless of the illusion of “egalitarianism” afforded by a stack of worthless linen papers. if the organising party breaches that hospitality, then people who were once guests still have the power to react. Considering all this, I’m even further failing to see the alleged “discrimination against the poor” by hosting free events versus charging admission –the rights and expectations of the guests are still in place, only this time, they get to keep their money and the hosting party is arguably at a greater social and even SPIRITUAL obligation to hospitality –if the bonds of xenia are not upheld, then the host party is not only offending their guests, but even the gods.

Yeah, some people don’t appreciate things unless they have to spread around a little worthless linen paper for it. Sometimes it’s necessary to charge a ticket price not just to ensure that the aforementioned handful appreciate it, but to ensure that the event’s bills get paid without bankrupting the organising party, and thus ensuring future events. These are both wonderful points to remember, but as witb Star Foster’s “Square Gods” post, that thread of decent point got lost in the tapestry of bullshit that Ms Sable Aradia wove it into –and bullshit, dare I say, that Ms Foster can only begin to dream of. This is bullshit that’s make P.T. Barnum wish he thought up bottling and selling –after all, there’s no discrimination, but she’s managed to get people to agree that there is; there is a power exchange in nearly every interaction in our lives, but she’s managed to get people to think that this one is “bad”; and throwing a little money at an event isn’t any more empowering than actually doing shit (especially when everyone else is giving the same amount), but if you want to turn your brain off before reading that LOLbertarian nonsense, you might just walk away thinking that it is.

[ETA 6 May 2014 @ 23:51EDT]
Another bit of nonsense that really bothers me about Ms Aradia’s piece is this quote:

Attempting to include everyone by making events free gives undue power and influence to those who can afford to front everyone else, and requires everyone to be their guests rather than their coreligionists[sic].

This bothers me because it’s kind of the epitome of the fallacious logic her entire piece employs: The False equivalence. In this passage, she is suggesting that being someone’s “guest” is somehow mutually exclusive of being their co-religionist. In the real world, this is easily demonstrated as false; a “guest” (rather than tithing member) of a particular Roman Catholic church (at least in the States, and depending on the particular church) may receive Communion on good faith —it will be accepted “on the honour system” that one is a Catholic and thus co-religionist of the host church to which one is a guest. Most Quaker meeting houses have no problem accepting that members in need (who cannot afford to make contributions to the maintenance of the meeting house) are also Quaker, even if by Ms Aradia’s logic they are “merely guests” without making a financial contribution. Non-denominational Protestant churches are even more relaxed about this sort of thing. I’ve also never met a Hare Krishna devotee or Buddhist who demanded that all co-religionists be dues-paying members of their temples.

Clearly it follows by basic logic that if a party is hosting a pagan and/or polytheist gathering, that the guests will largely be one’s co-religionists, as well. A status that is mutually exclusive of “guest” is “host” –not “co-religionist”. A status that is mutually exclusive of “co-religionist” is “non-co-religionist”, not “guest at an event for co-religionists”. The implication that one cannot be both “co-religionist” and “guest at an event for co-religionists” is a flimsy argument, at its very best, but for some dumb reason, some people are taking the paper cup of LOLbertarian Kool-Aid.
[/ETA]

So how does classism play into this?

Well, when you endorse the notion that free events discriminate against the poor, what about those poor who can’t even take in enough bottle returns to get their admission? Either they don’t attend or they’re forced to subject themselves to the kindness of others –by the very logic in Ms Aradia’s piece, charging admission doesn’t actually help those who are truly impoverished, but she’s clearly too pig-headed to see that; by making the event free (gods willing), no-one needs to worry about finding a patron to pay their admission, because “free to everyone” removes the restraints of economic class that will either put one in a truly subservient position, or artificially elevate their status by affording one the ability to throw extra money around and not actually do anything. if it’s bad to put one at the “mercy” of another one’s hospitality, then it logically follows that ticket prices reinforce the necessity of the hospitable nature of others and thus their “mercy”, which is bad. hrmmmm…. If the only people who can go are those who can afford to and those with friends who can afford to give or lend them the admission price, then clearly only a certain class of attendees are allowed, which logically makes it classist —which typically implies discrimination.

Basically this is trickle-down Reaganomic hogwash with a crescent moon tiara, as if that’s supposed to make it acceptable.

Again, don’t get me wrong, more often than not, a ticket price is necessary, or only the richest people would ever put on events, but don’t fool yourself into thinking that this reality actually empowers the truly impoverished. It’s just another one of the lies concocted by the status quo to allow people to feel good about the role they play in a shitty situation —like when a vegan turns a blind eye to the small animals killed in harvesting equipment (and not to mention on the roads as needed to ship fancy foodstuffs all over the world to accommodate a modern vegan diet), an estimated higher number per day than all cows and chickens and pigs killed each day in slaughterhouses, because it’s a necessary lie to cling to when one’s ideals are at odds with reality. Charging money for a ticket isn’t going to empower the poor in the pagan and polytheist communities –it’s just going to make sure the bills get paid on time.

About Ruadhán McElroy

Ruadhán has been a traditional Hellenic polytheist for about a decade, and has also maintained devotions to Eros and Apollon most of that time; his status as a devotee of Nyx is more recent. He also paints, makes music, makes jewellery, and writes novels set in the Mod Revival (UK) and Swampie (Oz) subcultures of the 1980s. He also gets a lot of odd little experiences that he jokes will forever render him an insufferable Goth.

Judgements, Processes, and Adolescent Sex

I’ve recently been proved wrong about someone who I don’t actually know (and probably never will), but have been quite fond of most of my life. Apparently a judge penned a 33page document on the issue of whether or not Mia Farrow and her daughter Dylan’s allegations against Woody Allen, and he found that Allen did have an inappropriate fixation on the then-eight-year-old. Now, Woody Allen and Mia Farrow, as people my age and older might recall, had a very ugly split (I don’t believe they were legally married, but whatever, they acted married, so a lot of people refer to it as a divorce) in the early 1990s, and one of the many reasons for this was Allen had professed to having fallen in love with Farrow’s adopted daughter (adopted with a previous partner), Soon-Yi Previn, who had just turned 18. This is not the first time Woody Allen had been romantically linked to a “barely legal” young woman, when filming Annie Hall, he was involved with a then-17-year-old actress (whose scenes had been cut from the film). Both he and Soon-Yi insist nothing sexual ever happened between them until she had turned eighteen, and frankly, given Allen’s height of about 5’5″, skinny frame, and admittedly nebbish personality, it’s easy to believe him when, in the midst of their ugly, and very public separation, Mia accused him of molesting her other adopted daughter, Dylan. It’s especially easy to side with Allen when Mia, to this day, still refers to the incident as “her [Dylan’s] truth” rather than “the truth” –it sort of feels like Mia Farrow wants people to believe it because Dylan Farrow is saying it did, and not because it actually happened, but I’m sure Farrow has her reasons for choosing her words the way she has, regardless of how curious I find them.

The “news” (well, it’s about twenty years old now, but it’s news to me) that a judge decided there was sufficient evidence that Allen had an inappropriate fixation on the girl that led to “fondling’ (judge’s word), at the least, has me very conflicted. I’m assuming this judge knows how to weigh various evidences and all, after all, he was appointed this position for a reason, but there’s a part of me that always identified, in a way, with Woody Allen: His public image and his self-insert character in many of his films is a physically small, bespectacled man with anxieties and neuroses, fairly intelligent but lacking the character to do much with it and finding relationships, especially romances, hard to manage in spite of his desire to keep one. Hell, many people feel like “the Woody Allen character” at various points in their life, which is probably why a lot of his work endures the way it has. It’s also hard to hate someone with poignant wit as his. I don’t know if I ever could hate his work or his wit, but I’m seeing some things in a different light now, and the shock to my emotions to learn that there was, indeed, sufficient evidence for a judge to put that mark on Allen’s record –hell, I’m even having a hard time saying “Woody Allen molested Dylan Farrow”– is a process that shares some traits with the grieving process. There is certainly shock and denial, a bargaining between my feelings for his work and my feelings between right and wrong, and an anger with myself for feeling blindsided by his talents as a writer/director and humorist where I end up saying things that, if another were saying them, I’d be quick to point out it’s dangerously close to making excuses or victim blaming. Hell, I’m even hoping and praying that Dylan Farrow was an isolated incident in Allen’s history –controversial as it may be, he’s managed to keep his known relationships with very young women in the realms of legal, and I hope Soon-Yi isn’t too blinded by her love him or intimidated by his celebrity to notice if he’s developed an unhealthy fixation on either of the girls they adopted together.

For this reason, I’m starting to have some sympathies for Klein’s supporters. It is definitely a process, dealing with this kind of news about someone one likes or admires. Even T Thorn Coyle has recently (as in yesterday, just around the time I started writing this) published a three part post about Gavin & Yvonne Frost and her personal conflict between liking them, as individuals, and finding their infamous book worthy of the controversy it’s garnered (read her statement: Part One, Part Two, Part Three).

While I am certainly sympathetic to what Klein’s supporters must be dealing with, I still contend that there are healthy and unhealthy ways to deal with this sort of news. A healthy way to deal with it is to recognise the feelings, talk about them with yourself and others, and recognise that it’s a process to deal with it. It’s unhealthy to think about how this makes the community look, or accuse those testifying to Klein’s abuses as “rumormongering”, or go on and on about how “well, we just don’t know!” as if it isn’t already an established fact at this point that Klein was arrested after a sting operation of several months and as one in a ring of over forty child pornographers and confessed to owning the computer and trading the images on it. It’s healthy to come to concern for Klein’s accusers –and it’s also healthy to try and see what facts can be verified and what cannot, but when the facts come up as his accusers say they did, to at least some degree, then it’s unhealthy to continue to cast doubt on the accuser and blame Klein’s victims for not saying things sooner (especially cos most have said that they did, and no-one believed them), or not going with their gut (especially considering how often the pagan community preaches tolerance and open-mindedness, which can make people question their gut feelings), or whatever else. It’s also kinda healthy to hope and pray it was an isolated incident but only until more facts come to the fore that say it wasn’t –and needless to say, the facts against Klein are pretty damning.

Also in light of this, I’ve seen a handful of pagans and polytheists make some posts about sexual ethics, especially with regard to young people. This is great, but a lot of the posts I’ve seen fail to recognise a lot of things.

First off, the law, with regards to sex and young people, is not as clear-cut as a lot of people with blogs like to think it is. In the US, age of consent laws are not “18 and over only”, as Lydia Crabtree and PSVL have said in their otherwise great posts. US age of consent is determined at a State level, not a Federal level, and is generally between 16 and 18, depending on the state, and most states say 16+, and a small handful say 17+ (though as recently as 1980, in Utah the age of consent was 19 and in Kentucky it was 12), and contrary to popular belief, even when the age of consent is 16, there are not necessarily clauses that require the older partner be within a certain age –in fact, most of the time, the additional clauses are related to people under the age of consent, even when age on consent is under eighteen. In Michigan the AoC is 16, and the only restriction is that an older partner may not be in a position of authority in the young person’s life –this would certainly include school teachers, foster parents, and employers, but may likely extend to positions like dance tutors and people who oversee volunteers and also certainly those recognised as spiritual leaders. In Minnesota, sex between adolescents as young as 13 is permitted as long as the oldest partner no more than 48 months (four years) senior, and adolescents 16 or older seem to be under no restrictions on potential partners. In Illinois, the age of consent is 17, with the exceptions of the eldest partner being in a position of authority of the 17-year-old. In Washington State, the age of consent is sixteen, with some pretty particular restrictions, but mostly with regards to those under the age of sixteen. Furthermore, in Canada and the UK (between them and the US, making up a majority of the on-line Anglophonic pagan community) the age of consent is 16, age of consent in Australia is also 16 except in New South Wales and Tasmania, where it’s 17, making Crabtree’s and PSVL’s claims about age of consent laws false for many people who may read their blogs –as the great Stephen Patrick Morrissey once said, America is not the world, and even if we assume it is the “world” for which their blog posts are speaking, they are not protraying the age-of-consent laws of the US accurately for most of the country (age on consent is 18+ for only eleven out of the fifty states in the union, and in DC, and most territories, the AoC is 16)

Now, I’m not saying this because I think we should go out and start boinking people as young as the laws allow us to; just to be clear, I don’t think that at all, but because i think we should be familiar with our local laws, and also think about how this affects the sexual ethics people are proposing.

I also understand the reasoning that Coyle is using with regards to what she suspects might be a major underlying factor in Gavin and Yvonne Frosts’ most controversial teachings: For many years, reaching a critical mass in the 1950s and early ’60s, North American culture especially suffered from a most vile sexual repression and body shaming. The history of that goes back at least to the mid-Victorian and the creation of the modern sense of childhood, which I’m tempted to go on about in-depth at some point (but that’s another story for another time), but by about 1964, the sexual repression of society reached a breaking point, and by the end of the decade, basic standards were eroding quickly within various countercultural movements, and thus the birth of the pagan community’s “anything goes” ethos. Some people sought to re-invent the standards in a way that would be “positive” toward bodies and sex, even for young people who are trying to figure themselves out as their hormones bounce back and forth.

Even throughout the 1970s and 1980s, people, especially Queer activists, were still writing and fighting against a system that is broken toward sexuality and young people. Pat Califia, back when “Pat” was still short for “Patricia”, even wrote a piece I can’t find on-line (and while I know I have a book that has it [Public Sex, I believe], I’m certain that book is in an unmarked box in my basement), that has had passages taken out of context by people as vile as NAMBLA; the piece itself, which is certainly thought-provoking and potentially controversial (as most of Califia’s writing has always been) basically carried the jist that teenagers are dependent on learning about sex and their own sexuality from adults, and this is especially so in the Queer communities; Califia has since noted that he regrets having written the piece the way it was, if only cos he has had to repeatedly make it clear that he does not believe that meaningful consent can happen in certain age disparities.

(c) James Bidgood

(c) James Bidgood

One of the most undersung iconic photographers and one-time director of Pink Narcissus (who released it anonymously, at the time), of this 1960s / early ’70s queer culture world, James Bidgood (many of whose photos I’ve used in posts here), is renowned for his fantastical erotic, sometimes nude, and often mythically-informed photographs of young, and young-looking men, often appearing ambiguously aged in this vague 16-22-years-old range. Bobby Kendall, the star/subject of Pink Narcissus, was allegedly a “teenage runaway” when he met and moved in with Bidgood in 1962, the year before Bidgood began filming Pink Narcissus in his tiny apartment; I can get no confirmation on Kendall’s year of birth, but Bidgood was at least ten years senior. Even one of my idols, Derek Jarman, in his many volumes of published diaries, largely written in a swirling poetic prose that would (and likely has) made Storm Constantine envious, would wax nostalgic about sex amongst schoolboys and himself as an adolescent with older men and vice-versa, sometimes we’re not even sure if Jarman is writing of his own experiences or a friend’s or a dream about Shakespeare, in a completely non-judgemental manner, because that’s just what things were like, at the time –there was consent, explicit and ostensibly implicit, but youths of sixteen with men twice their age just happened. (And it still does, even in places where sixteen is regarded as “too young”.) Furthermore, Califia and Jarman wrote of (and during) a time when homosexual intercourse was subject to sodomy laws and thus essentially illegal, even between people who were otherwise at or even far above the local age of consent. Also consider that especially in the 1960s and 70s, it was still fairly common for homosexuality to be pathologised and treated as a mental illness (some, especially effeminate homosexual men, were even coerced by that system into transitioning to female –which certainly played a part, among other more obvious abuses of power and authority, in a 1970s scandal of high suicide rates among trans women in transition [in the States, trans men were not recognised by the APA, and thus almost never given treatment within the US until 1977] through the now-defunct gender clinic system). It’s certainly arguable that for a period that ended between fifteen and thirty years ago, the only affirmation of normalcy queer teens were getting, “normalcy” in the sense of it being OK for boys to like boys and girls to like girls “in that way”, was from otherwise consensual sexual contact with adults in the gay and lesbian communities –contact that would include what could be defined as “statutory rape” by current standards, in at least certain parts of the world. That sense of normalcy is something quickly being taken for granted by people about my age and younger, people who know nothing of the history of sodomy laws and psychological abuses at a widespread institutional level that extended far beyond a few “kooky” churches.

Hell, even in Immanion/Megalithica Press owner Storm Constantine’s most popular works, her Wraeththu series, it’s easy to forget that we’re introduced to one of the main characters, Pell when he’s fifteen, and is soon “seduced” away (a term used variously by both the character and critics of the series) from his family’s home on a farm in a distopian world much like a future version of our own, by Cal, who is around nineteen or twenty. While their relationship is ostensibly consensual throughout (and for in-story reasons doesn’t consummate sexually for what seems to be some months), I’ve seen this as a sticking point for the series’ critics: “It’s like every negative stereotype about gay men, ever –these androgynous men will steal your young boys and transform them!” Yes, this is a fantasy setting in a world with harsher realities, but it could certainly be easy to see how people may twist the ideas, even in work clearly marked as fiction that is not intended to represent current real-world ethics and morality, into something repugnant. For this, and also the frank depiction of queer realities of the 1960s and 70s by Jarman and Califia, I can certainly understand Coyle’s defence of the Frosts and her speculation on their state of mind when writing their most controversial work.

This is a difficult topic, and uncomfortable for many people, if only because since the creation of the modern childhood, it’s become especially uncomfortable for adults, especially parents and others of authority in the lives of children and adolescents, to acknowledge emerging sexualities in young people. I’d even wager that it’s that discomfort that makes it easy for people to promote an ignorance of age-of-consent laws by white-washing it as an across-the-boad “18+ only” –if one can believe that the law universally doesn’t recognise varying sexual maturities of minors, then people in real-life authority (or potential authority) in the lives of young people –both adolescents and legally recognised adults– don’t have to, either. Which doesn’t fix the broken system Coyle hopes that the Frosts, very poorly, tried to address. (Not knowing the Frosts nor having read their book, I’m not forming a real opinion on them yet, but I do certainly acknowledge their controversial standing in the pagan community.)

I don’t even know how to propose a solution or add to any of those already proposed. Not having kids of my own, nor really feeling the urge to work with young people any more (I entertained the notion, pre-transition, but I’ve since decided against it, superficially for appearances but specifically because I don’t think I have the emotional strength to balance public Eros devotion as an effeminate queer man of trans history who would also be working with adolescents and the potential for criticism, smears, and harassment that might bring out of people), I also don’t know if anyone in those positions would be inclined to take me seriously.

This said, I do hold that consent is important –that no means no and yes means yes, and (as someone familiar with the BDSM community) anything in-between is best left to people who trust each-other and have long negotiated what various in-betweens actually mean.

I also believe that the pagan and polytheist communities should constantly be working toward making their spaces safer for potential victims to come forth and share without judgement. I believe that it is important to establish the facts of any incident, but that we cannot establish those facts when we’re letting emotions and personal feelings about a person or their work get in the way.

I do also believe that sexuality is a sacred thing, or rather, it was given to us as such and there are times when it is especially holy and times when it is especially primal, times when it can be full of emotions and times when it can just be a release. I also believe that there are those who pervert sex into something evil –rape and paedophilia– and we should remain aware of this, and the fact that anyone, especially in a position of power and influence over others, has the potential to be an abuser and not above investigating, should accusations of abuse surface.

I also believe that laws do not necessarily reflect real sexual maturity. In most cases (at least going by myself and the people I have known, personally), there is very little difference in the physical and emotional maturity between a sixteen-year-old and an eighteen-year-old, and I’ve known people in their twenties and thirties who clearly weren’t mature enough to handle sex. Furthermore, there are places in the world (including the Americas) where the age of consent is as young as 13, and there is a huge difference in a person’s body, especially one with an ostensibly female physiology, between the ages of thirteen and sixteen, seventeen, or eighteen –such a person is at a greater physical risk, should they partner sexually with an adult, especially if the thirteen-year-old in question is at risk of pregnancy; such a precocious pregnancy can stunt further growth and physical development, and is especially risky to the foetus, as well, and not to mention can wreak havoc on emotions. While I do not condone breaking the laws of any lands, I also feel we owe it to ourselves and our communities to not only be aware of the laws, but also to be self-aware and learn how to develop a decent gauge to assess the potential maturity in others.

In theory, I also have no problem with treating one’s first sexual intercourse as a rite of passage, but it’s something that should take not only the age of consent laws, but also the individual’s personal maturity into account –after all, in some still-existing tribal communities in the underdeveloped world, passages into maturity as one recognised by an adult of the tribe tend to have a minimum age, but some communities recognise no maximum age to take part in the ritual, you can be recognised by the tribe as a man at fourteen, or as a child at thirty. I don’t think it’s at all necessary to treat sexual intercourse as a rite of passage, but without a major change to the culture (and even then, it’s still likely that people will mature differently), it certainly seems abusive to make that an initiatory, compulsory step in a person’s growth.

Lastly, I agree wholeheartedly with PSVL’s statement that Greco-Roman pederasty was a characteristic of a different time and place and certainly different degrees of acceptable sexual conduct and sexual ethics. Because of that, it is, as Neitzche warned, unfair to judge those relationships by current standards –hell, it’s unfair to judge Califia’s old essay, or Jarman’s menoirs, or Bidgood’s art, or Constantine’s speculative fiction by current standards and current laws. And because it’s unfair to judge by current standards, it’s also disingenuous to present those ancient or otherwise outdated standards as a template for reshaping current culture. The way it was is not the way it is, nor is it the way that it has to be in the future.

Note: I’m finishing this up on the tablet, so apologies for the few links, at the mo. I’m making myself a note to fix this later.

Also: If people think I’m at all unclear about anything here, please ask and allow me to answer before assuming. Thanks. 🙂

About Ruadhán McElroy

Ruadhán has been a traditional Hellenic polytheist for about a decade, and has also maintained devotions to Eros and Apollon most of that time; his status as a devotee of Nyx is more recent. He also paints, makes music, makes jewellery, and writes novels set in the Mod Revival (UK) and Swampie (Oz) subcultures of the 1980s. He also gets a lot of odd little experiences that he jokes will forever render him an insufferable Goth.

On Kenny Klein

You know, I understand the call for some degree of compassion, but at the same time, it’s not the community’s responsibility to fix people who are broken in that way –and the notion that they even can be fixed is something that doesn’t seem at all promising. There are some things more important than inclusivity –including people regardless of sexuality, ethnic background, gender, ability, and so on, are perfectly commendable, but sometimes a line has to be drawn in the sand. If some-one comes up in a background check as a sex offender, ask “why?” Yeah, in some states, sex offender registration is broken and you end up with people who are on there for public urination or (as is the case with one of my high school classmates) cos an 18-year-old high school senior knocked up his fifteen-year-old sophmore girlfriend –but it’s easy to see on at least some of those lists who’s a rapist, who’s a child molestor, and so on, and especially who’s a repeat offender. And yeah, sometimes the evidence and testimonials are sketchy or coming from sketchy people –but even then, I still wouldn’t have let my hypothetical child go to the Neverland Ranch without me, cos why take that risk?

Mental illnesses don’t absolve people of the responsibility to address them and seek help for them. If Klein is mentally ill, he should have recognised that and taken care of it –and if his illness is just bad enough that he can’t realise he’s ill and needing help, then why is that not a sign to some people that it’s not worth the risk? If you wouldn’t let your kids go to the house of someone who you knew to have bubonic plague that isn’t being treated, why should the pagan community be any more compassionate to a shitty folk singer who wrote some books, just because his hypothetical illness is mental and he doesn’t even realise he needs help?

If we want to play the mental illness card, why not treat it like we treat physical illnesses? Healing energies are great and all, but when that’s not all that’s needed, then what? You take a cough drop, or you take your medicines, or you remove yourself from others until you’re well. Paedophiles can’t be fixed with a cough drop, and chemical castration is not only not always an option, it doesn’t really work on everyone (one of my best friends has a “horrors of Craig’s List” story about that –she thought she was meeting a nice, normal trans woman for coffee, but when she got there, she met someone who admitted [hey at least they admitted it] to being a registered serial rapist who was put on chem-cast, started growing depo-breasts, and decided it was a huge turn-on –thankfully she high-tailed it out of there). If physically ill people sometimes need to quarantine themselves off for the safety of others, then yeah, sometimes mentally ill people need to be separated off for the safety of others. Why think of it as “evil ostracism” when we can instead think of it as “quarantine”?

I also contend that not only are those who still keep crying out “Let’s stop calling Klein a pagan — think of how this must make us look to the EEEEBIL XTIANS!!!!” are not only enablers of abuse, but are worthy of ostracism on the grounds of caring more about appearance than about basic right and wrong. After all, for the last thirty-some years, people in the pagan community have cared about the public perception of paganism more than the potential victims accusing potential abusers of abuse –and look where it got us.

Yeah, I’m not saying that every accusation is always true –in one of the small towns near where I went to high school, a pair of 11yo girls got six months of probation after falsely accusing a junior high principal who was also a math teacher of inappropriate touch, and only after he committed suicide (don’t ask why they only got that, or why it went that far –I’ve since lost a lot of the details), and one of the people on my step-mother’s caseload as a social worker was mentally handicapped woman who was also a schozophrenic who accused a worker at her group home of rape, even though the security cameras absolved him of any guilt– but when it gets to a point where several people are now accusing Klein independently, and timelines can be verified that he was at least in those cities at those times, and spans several years, then that’s enough smoke to think “housefire” rather than “cigarette”.

That said, I think it should be clear that there is a difference between the kinds of accusations that run around the pagan community about certain prominent people. I have not seen anyone actually claim “Raven Kaldera did this to me…” or “I saw Christian Day do more than that video of the binding ritual against Charlie Sheen” and even the ONLY person who made such a claim against Galina Krasskova is known to a small number of people to have both a financial incentive to do so, and a dubious grip on reality. That’s not what’s going on with Klein –his ex-wife has made several statements, in public and private, though apparently restricted by a gag order that, until more recent years, violation of could have removed custody of her son and placed him back with Klein (during which was presumably the time she asked friends not to say anything). His own son has come forth to speak of abuse his family endured. Other potential victims, independent of each other and with apparently nothing to gain, have come forward with similar stories of Klein behaving inappropriately, at best, and pulling most known ploys of child molesters (some so basic, like persistent unwanted touch and giving alcohol to the underaged, that it’s been on “very special episodes” of sitcoms since at least Diff’rent Strokes), short of going into graphic detail of molestation and rape. These people are all saying “Klein did this to me” not, “I heard from someone I don’t remember that Klein did X to someone I’ve never heard of.” You’d think that much would be obvious to people, but still people, mainly (to my witness) Peg Aloi and Christian Day, are making tacky comparisons to the SRA hoaxes, vaguely accusing people of false accusation or even outright lying, and “backing kt up” with the dubious claim of “well-known facts of false testimonies” in the face of statistical evidence that less than 1.6% of sexual abuse allegations being false, and peer-reviewed estimates that between 40% and 60% of sexual abuse goes unreported, likely due to social stigmas and the idea, often proved fact, that people, especially loved ones and trusted authorities, won’t believe the accusors.

And some people have the nerve to say that rape culture doesn’t exist.

On one hand, I get what Aloi’s said about being careful about what we say and repeat from others, but she’s saying this in the face of several people saying things that point to immensely inappropriate behaviour on Klein’s part, at the very least. I can also be somewhat sympathetic to those who are concerned about how this might look to outsiders, but at the same time, wouldn’t it look worse if we knowingly swept child abusers and rapists under the rug for the sake of appearances?

I have also seen a clear difference network the way that the “general Neopagams” are handling this, and the way the polytheist community is handling this. With few exceptions, the Neopagams are stressing forgiveness of the abuser, “Klein wasn’t a REAL pagan if he really did this”, “but what if he DIDN’T! “, “how is this going to make us look to Christians?”, worthless Change.org petitions so pagans can pledge they will never, ever, ever rape children and or have sex with minors below the age of consent (apparently unaware of the fact that Change.org is supposed to be for issues of potential Presidential concern) and so on. Very little regard for the victims. The defacto polytheist leaders have all come forward stating outright “I’m concerned for the victims and potential victims, the accusations and evidence against Klein is damning and his abuses have been a blight on the pagan community, and I am taking a stand”. Anyone worth their salts would find that rather telling.

ETA:

I just noticed someone in the comments on Sannion’s blog note a striking similarity between the way certain people are reacting to this and the way certain other people in the Neopagan community react to the topics of privilege (from Wiccanate to White, from cisgender to male –and don’t tell me, in the face of people who STILL are willing to dismiss Tzipora Katz as Kenny Klein’s “psycho ex making baseless accusations”, in the face of enforced rape culture for the sake of appearances, and other examples that this Klein scandal is spotlighting, that women are at a privilege over men in the pagan community, as many seem to contend): “are you sure? Maybe you misunderstood ?” “Think about what you’re saying and how it makes people look.” “Why can’t you see it this way? Why do you have to stir up trouble?” “Stop causing drama, this is just how things are and it doesn’t mean anything.”

I’m not saying that everyone with privilege over another is an abuser, but that the dynamics of unchecked privilege are practically the same as the dynamics of those who enable abusers –though the statistics of abusers who are in a privileged position over their abusers is certainly telling of these dynamic similarities, as well.

About Ruadhán McElroy

Ruadhán has been a traditional Hellenic polytheist for about a decade, and has also maintained devotions to Eros and Apollon most of that time; his status as a devotee of Nyx is more recent. He also paints, makes music, makes jewellery, and writes novels set in the Mod Revival (UK) and Swampie (Oz) subcultures of the 1980s. He also gets a lot of odd little experiences that he jokes will forever render him an insufferable Goth.