When Your “Traditional Polytheism” Isn’t

  • When you ignore the historical, archaeological, and even genetic evidence of not just trade, but intermarrying between pre-Christian societies dominating Europe, and frankly everyone they traded with.
  • when you make shit up, and pretty transparently so. Like, what even is this shit? Especially when it’s so easily disproved, and, frankly, ludicrous. (See also this page from Viking Answer Lady, who has done a lot of research, for a more conversational tone.)
  • When you say shit like “white / European heritage” — there is literally no such thing. Even today, even with the European Union —a formalised political alliance, not unlike formalised alliances of ancient times— there is no such thing as this mythical “European culture” that is simply a code for white supremacists / separatists to identify eachother and attempt to veil their own racism. There is Greek heritage, French heritage, Welsh heritage, Albanian, Icelandic, Spanish, Basque, and so on. Frankly, even before WWII, most people of European nations were far kinder to those of the African diaspora, especially African Americans, than those in the US; singer, actress, and dancer Josephine Baker emigrated to France in the 1920s, and rather swiftly entered high society, marrying (white) Frenchmen. The idea of keeping “races” (which has a tellingly different definition to Americans than it does pretty much everywhere else in the world) separate is born of white supremacism.
  • When you make claims of wanting to emulate how things work with polytheists in European countries, but a modicum of research into even the reconstructionist groups in Germany (for example) show, no, you’re a LOT more racist, and so is your group.

Feel free to recommend me other items to this list. I’m sure there are other examples I haven’t thought of.

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.

The Swastika -or- How Cultural Appropriation Hurts

I know I’m a little late to the party in addressing Tom Swiss’ claim that cultural Appropriation does not exist from a couple weeks ago. While I do still stand by my comments that dreadlocked hair is a poor example of “cultural appropriation” of African-Americans (a claim which allegedly instigated his post), as locked hair does occur naturally on the Indian subcontinent and certain Eastern Europen populations, in addition to the African diaspora (it’s even been suggested that locked hair is the real-life origin of the Gorgon mythology of Hellas), I wanted to blog about possibly the most widely-known symbol appropriated in a harmful way by white people that very few people even acknowledge as appropriation:

Artemis as Mistress of the Animals, Boeotian vase, circa 650BCE

Artemis as Mistress of the Animals, Boeotian vase, circa 650BCE

The symbol of the swastika is literally thousands of years old, with the oldest example on ancient artefacts going back to paleolithic Ukraine, about 15,000 years, in a maiandros (“Greek key”) pattern on the torso of a bird figure alongside phallic symbols, suggesting it as a fertility symbol (thus it’s clearest relevance to this blog). Most of the history of the symbol has been relatively benign: It’s apparently decorative or ornamental, showing little indication of strong meaning.

Most defenders of the symbol point to Hinduism, where the Sanskrit name “svastika”, is often translated as “Be Well”, and used as a symbol of austerity, peace, happiness, positive spiritual power (especially when associated with Ganesha). It’s also been given solar associations, and in the States is often acknowledged as a symbol used in some Native American tribes. It probably entered use in Hellenic art from the cultural descendents of the Vinca.

The swastika has also been associated with the triskelion and triskele, common symbols in Pagan circles, with the Triskelion especially prevalent in Sicilian and Manx communities, as it’s a feature on their flags.

Greek Boeotian Kylix

Greek Boeotian Kylix

Appropriation.

While it’s been a long-established that the swastika is practically universal in its use, and one that has been established for having positive meanings and as a benign ornamental design for literally thousands of years, one thing that often gets ignored in defences of the symbol, is the fact that it’s only become so controversial in the West because of cultural appropriation. This fact is also often ignored in discussions of cultural appropriation and how it hurts.

While the symbol is practically universal to humankind, its use by the Third Reich was directly appropriated from its use in Hinduism. This is based largely on a bastardisation of linguistic connections between German and Sanskrit, and inherently racist misinterpretations of Sanskrit literature of the Arya. Hitler took the symbol most-directly from Indian culture as a symbol of political and military power, and with likely occult connotations that don’t actually exist in Hindu literature.

This is the very definition of cultural appropriation: Taking a symbol or cultural item from another culture, and inserting misunderstood, bastardised, or wholly invented meanings into it that the item did not possess, often while penalising the culture of origin.

In German, the Nazi symbol is referred to as the hakenkreuz, and I posit the use of this word to differentiate the Nazi symbol from the correct, traditional uses of the swastika, gammadion (“gamma cross” — a common name in the Anglosphere from the Victorian through 1920s, based on its resemblance to conjoined members of the letter Γ), and menandros symbols, and out of respect to Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain people, who successfully petitioned the EU to drop all plans to ban the swastika in its 25 nations — much like other polytheists have used the title “Daesh” to refer to the terrorist organisation out of respect to Kemetics, Graeco-Aegyptians, and others who honour the goddess Isis/Aset, Whose domains includes love and fertility, and Who is regarded as welcomming of all people, especially the persecuted. For the remainder of this blog, from this post onward, I will use this differentiating terminology.

The hakenkreuz was used less than thirty years as a symbol of Nazi power — less than thirty years! This is after centuries of use of the swastika by Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains as a sacred religious symbol and good luck amulet. This is after centuries of use of the Whirling Log on Navajo blankets, and by other Indigenous tribes of the Americas for a wide variety of positive and benign meanings. This is after centuries of use of the gammadion and meandros borders in Hellenic and Graeco-Roman art. This is after centuries of use of the fylfot in heraldic European customs. In less than thirty years, Western people are willing to cave to cultural appropriation, take a symbol from its origins and meanings, and give it away to white Fascists.

This surrender to cultural appropriation is most glaring when the Navajo, Apache, Tohono O’odham, and Hopi tribes of the Americas issued this decree in the early days of WWII:

Because the above ornament which has been a symbol of friendship among our forefathers for many centuries has been desecrated recently by another nation of peoples.

Therefore it is resolved that henceforth from this date on and forever more our tribes renounce the use of the emblem commonly known today as the swastika or fylfot on our blankets, baskets, art objects, sandpainting, and clothing.

This was referenced to me, earlier today, as a decree of solidarity with the Jewish and Romani and others persecuted by the Nazis (and implicitly made by “all” Natives, though a basic websearch has revealed that only four tribes had representatives sign this decree, but you know, people with white privilege making “Native monolith” racist assumptions are nothing new, to me), but in reading this decree, the populations persecuted by the Nazis are not mentioned. All that is stated is that a few hand-picked representatives of a tiny handful of tribes were going to relinquish the symbol and surrender it to cultural appropriation.

This is how cultural appropriation is so insidious: Reading the background on this decree, it’s said that white tourists to Navajo and Hopi and other reservations became nervous and apprehensive at the symbol on blankets and other items for sale. This was financially penalising Native tribes for their use of a symbol that they had used for centuries, that they had joyfully sold to those same tourists only a few years before, because the symbol had been bastardised in just the wrong way by powerful white people! The tribes were left with little choice BUT to surrender the symbol for their livlihoods!

Surrenders of the symbol to cultural appropriation are not limited there; Wikipedia has a very lengthy section of their page on use of the swastika in the West specifically about efforts, largely in the United States, to remove the swastika from historical structures. A search for “Hindu Swastika news” turned up an article about privileged soccer moms of Orange County pressuring a museum to remove a Hindu tapestry, lent by a local family, even though there was a plaque explaining the history of the symbol and its meanings in Hindu culture.

This is EXACTLY the thing that many have talked about over the last two weeks about the definition of cultural appropriation — penalising members of the culture(s) or origin for use of the appropriated symbol.

While it would be disingenuous to not acknowledge that, yes, the hakenkreuz continues to be used by Neonazis and Fascists (and the meandros even appropriated by Greek nationalist fascists), it is equally disingenuous to ignore the fact that it is cultural appropriation when they do so. The fact remains that cultural appropriation is a tool often used by racists, and side-swiping or even ignoring the fact that the Nazi hakenkreuz has been appropriated from Hindu symbolism is, at best, ignorant “accidental racism”, in that it’s giving preference to the white appropriators to the symbol that they stole!

When people reach a point where they are flat-out committing racism to avoid criticism of their ignorant opinions of the swastika, which they’ve decided is the same thing as the Nazi hakenkreuz, the surrender to cultural appropriation has become so insideous that I just don’t have words.

And, to make matters worse, in the West, that surrender to appropriation is so prevalent, that people who should know better, like people in the Pagan community, will avoid calling it the cultural appropriation that it is, either out of ignorance, or out of a useless sense of “white guilt” and fear of being accused, themselves, of being racists, when anyone with any sense will acknowledge that it’s the exact opposite.

The push to acknowledge that cultural appropriation does cause real harm to the cultures stolen from is, at its heart, a movement to avoid this again, but it really cannot be usefully addressed without acknowledging the appropriation of the swastika to the Nazi hakenkreuz as the most glaring example of how cultural appropriation is a tool of institutionalised racism that hurts people on an individual level and entire cultures outside of mainsteam Western whites.

By failing to defend the proper use of the swastika, and by failing to differentiate it from the Nazi hakenkreuz, one continues to surrender the symbol to cultural appropriation, and thus continues an act of institutionalised racism so insideous that one will fight tooth and nail to defend that racism.


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.

i did this other thing

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The Muse Whispers to Hesiod

I’m thinking of punching a few small, unobtrusive holes along the bottom and selling it with a printed calendar. I’d include four sets of Command strips to post it to the wall without damaging it. After the calendar is over, the painting itself would be suitable for framing.

ETA: You can’t tell from the photo (I’m going to wait until it’s completely dry to scan it), but the Muse’s colours are all mixed with an iridescent/sparkly medium, so She shimmers. I hope it shows up better in the scan, tomorrow.


If you love my art and want to see me be able to continue, please consider becoming a Patreon donor.

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 story about the power of sacrifice

So, Wyrd Ways Radio just cut off for the fortnight, and there was a special treat on tonight’s show, if you missed it, live: I called in! I called in at about quarter before the end (in part cos i decided to take a day off from volunteering at WCBN, mainly from being tired, and I was sorting buttons, which, by the way, you should buy some from the Religion & Magic section, so i can buy a link on The Wild Hunt).

One of the things that Sannion and Galina brought up this fortnight was how secularised Protestantism has lousied up so much of Pagan culture, and that people will often (and I’ve seen many say as much, as well) practically wince at the idea of actually sacrificing to the gods in their personal practises. I called in to relate a story that my friend Jeff at PJ’s Used Records shared with me and one of the other customers this last Monday:

When Alexander was a child learning from the tutor at the palace, at one moment, he was being taught the proper method of sacrifice to the gods. His teacher showed several other boys, with Alexander at the end of the line (with the intent that Alexander would learn from the mistakes of others). The tutor and all other boys took a pinch of frankincense, a pinch of myrrh, and a pinch of storax, and sprinkled each into the sacrificial fire. When Alexander came up, he took huge handfuls of the frankincense, myrrh, and storax. The teacher was horrified, but held his tongue, but apparently still showed on his face.

Many years later, after several conquests, Alexander sent to that teacher huge cartfulls of frankincense, myrrh, and storax, and a note about how giving freely to the gods will mean the gods will freely give back.

This isn’t exactly as i gave it on Wyrd Ways, and it’s not exactly as Jeff gave it to me, but the important parts are all there and the lesson stays the same: When we give, not what seems appropriate to our sensibilities, but what we genuinely can, and give that freely and without reservation, the gods will give back.

The distinctly modern notion that ritual sacrifices are somehow “wasteful” is, indeed, a scurge on the pagan community and one of the distinctions I point to between the differences between the pagan and polytheist communities. While true that we carry with us a lot more cultural baggage into the religions we’ve converted to than we may realise, it’s only by shedding certain things, one at a time, that we truly open up our lives to the gods we honour.

One cannot be stingy with the gods. It’s not about giving beyond our means, it’s about giving freely of what we can; if all we can give at a time is a tablespoon or two of water, cos we’re just that impoverished, then we should give that, and give it freely. No-one has ever said that we should bankrupt ourselves for the gods in hopes of a greater return, but if we have it in our budgets to give more, then we should give proportionately to what we have, and give it freely.

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 International Women’s Day, apparently…

…and Bing.com’s daily search related to this was Hypatia.

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 quick thought on trans spirituality

The most transphobic people I know are often other trans people. So distasteful do they find their own TS/TG reality that they idealise cisgender privilege to the point of other convincing themselves of an uncomplicated identity, in spite of their own personal histories often proving rather complicated gender relationships, to one extent or another. This is not merely cissexism, as their actions require the erasure of of their own trans histories, just as much reconstructed TS/TG history of pre-Twentieth Century transgender people had been erased, and so they turn the transphobia inward, on themselves, and maintain a status quo of projecting the cissexist ideal outward.

This becomes most unfortunate in pagan and polytheist circles, where the 20th and 21st Century “ideals” of uncomplicated TS/TG people is introduced into pagan and polytheist communities, and the self-hating TS/TG individual expects to be given the exact same options as the cisgender individual. To be fair, yes, often the denial of trans women, in specific, to various “women’s mysteries” is an act of cisgender people actively hating transgender women, but the fact still remains: Most women experience menarche, a mystery no trans woman will ever endure. A man who will never emit seed will, too, be unable to touch that particular mystery. The transgender individual, on the other hand, does have her and his own mysteries, and these can be offered in certain sorts of circles to shed additional light on a the mysteries of manhood and womanhood, because the TS/TG individual does live in that liminal space that, even if as socially uncomplicated as “man” or “woman” as possible, is physiologically in-between, and the physical and spiritual are so thouroughly interconnected that to deny the effects of one on the other is to practically invite spiritual sickness, which may very well manifest physically, in some.

For an overwhelming majority of trans pagans and polytheists, to present oneself as a uncomplictedly male or female is to present oneself as spiritually unwell, unstable.

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.

[What’s That?] A Brief History of the Witch-Cult Hypothesis and Its Eventual Dismissal

I've also seen noting genuinely biographical stating she was anything but a supporter of Wicca, though not a Wiccan herself.

I’ve also seen noting genuinely biographical stating she was anything but a supporter of Wicca, though not a Wiccan herself.

Contrary to what you may have been told by Wicca’s critics (invariably the people I have seen make this claim) Margaret Murray did not invent the infamous Witch Cult Hypothesis, she’s just the writer of the most popular 20th Century book on the subject. In the possible (but likely improbable) event that you’re reading this and are completely unaware of what I mean when I say “witch cult hypothesis”, in short, the most popular version of the Witch Cult Hypothesis is the idea that, once upon a time, practically all of Europe was united through two things: A matriarchal society, and a cult of witches/witchcraft that goverened society. The hypothesis typically goes further to claim that the witch cult, in some form, survived not only the eventual patriarchal societies that were clearly in place by the dawn of recorded history, but the eventual dominance of Christianity and continued for at least a few hundred years after that. If you don’t know much about ancient history, it seems plausible –and certainly, the nature of secret societies makes it seem plausible that such a society can remain undetected for centuries without any evidence surfacing over the hundreds of years. tumblr_lfns8gyCT51qa6x5yo1_400 Unfortunately, a lot of what makes sense about an ongoing matriarchal witch cult surviving underground for centuries, if you really think enough about it, you realise how implausible it really is –and moreover, while there certainly were ancient matriarchal societies, including Crete, and sufficient evidence to suggest that there were certainly at least a few more prehistoric matriarchal societies than what survived to the age of history, there was hardly a single, politically unified matriarchy spread all over prehistoric Europe. Furthermore, the idea of a widespread and somehow unified secret society of witches that is or was allegedly “all over Europe” for centuries just seems preposterous, considering things like language barriers and cultural differences.
This was seriously one of the first twenty pictures in an image search for "dianic pagan" that I just did.  This is one of the reasons why Dianics are seldom taken very seriously.

This was seriously one of the first twenty pictures in an image search for “dianic pagan” that I just did. This is one of the reasons why Dianics are seldom taken very seriously.

This was seriously one of the first twenty pictures in an image search for “dianic pagan” that I just did. This is one of the reasons why Dianics are seldom taken very seriously.[/caption] Now, it seems pretty obvious to me why this apparent “bad archaeology” to recons and academic pagans is more a “sacred mythology” to, say, Dianics, but it’s also fair to keep in mind that fewer and fewer who do hold spiritual value in the witch cult hypothesis are taking it literally any-more, though in spite of this, as recently as 2010 (that I know of), during the annual “Pagan Mediatoberfest” every October on cable, at least one in the family of History Channels runs a “Witchcraft” episode of one of their signature documentary series (I forget which one) that presents the witch cult hypothesis as ostensibly historical. John_William_Waterhouse_-_Undine

As I said before, Margaret Murray was not the first to posit the witch cult hypothesis, her version is merely the most popular. The first to write something suggestent of a hypothesis that would lead to the “witch cult hypothesis” would be Karl Ernst Jarcke, a German professor of the early 1800s; though I haven’t read the original German, it seems what he actually hypothesised was that the victims of the witch hunts in Europe were largely part of some degree of pagan survival that the church decreed to be “satanic”. Now, this is something that others have suggested since, at least in some areas, and the idea of an extremely widespread survival of indigenous polytheism essentially all over Europe isn’t a sieve, it does hold some water, just perhaps not as much as some people might want it to. Bouguereau_Pandora-large

The witch hunts largely targeted women in most areas, which actually helps the hypothesis a bit. Especially amongst the lower and working classes, where working mothers have been common since ancient times, women still end up doing the majority of the child-rearing and homemaking. A friend of mine who is an archaeologist once explained to me a practically worldwide phenomenon that when one culture conquers another, marries the women of the conquered people and so on, food traditions remain, and the “conquering” culture ends up changing, in usually subtle ways that are directly related to childhood development –indeed, one of the ways that China ended up eventually “conquering” a culture that, militarily conquered them was by women preserving the culture, basically raising the younger generation with a Chinese cultural identity. If a pagan survival was to happen amongst people who put the child rearing largely, if not completely onto women, the women pose a genuine threat to the Christian status quo. Where the hypothesis of an especially widespread pagan survival loses water is in the fact that a large amount of surviving testimony from the accused is of basic Christian subversion, or of people who were clearly having something of a property dispute, or it was clearly class-based, and so on, with more cases where another explanation is clearly the best one, based on evidence —Occam’s razor, often misunderstood as “the simplest answer is the best / correct answer” is actually an assessment of probability and means nothing in the event that further evidence nullifies the “simplest answer”. gage

After Jarcke, Franz Josef Mone, a staunch Catholic, reworked Jarcke’s hypothesis as being both Satanic and Hellenic in origin, and was also the first writer I’ve found to claim the inclusion of human sacrifice and orgies, which is basically in line with the accusations during the witch trials. Next is the French writer, Jules Michelet, who first seriously entertained the notions of classism and sexism in the witch hysteria, and hypothesised that it was women of the lower classes who maintained a pagan survival, and this seemed to influence late 19th Century Native American activist, abolitionist, and feminist writer Matilda Joselyn Gage, who added the notion of widespread pre-historic matriarchy (as an aside, Gage was the mother-in-law of L. Frank Baum, author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, amongst dozens of others, and Baum’s biographers generally believe that Gage’s interest in the witch cult hypothesis was an influence on his witches of Oz). Aradia-title-page Lastly, Charles Leland, an American folklorist, wrote Aradia, which he presented as a sacred text of the witch cult in Italy, but has since been determined to be a composite, including some material that’s likely of Leland’s invention.

Margaret Murray was a British Egyptologist who, at the time she basically consolidated the above ideas, was unable to do field work in Egypt. In spite of a clearly academic background, a lot of historians, including Ronald Hutton, consider her works on the witch cult hypothesis to be unprofessional and discredited. On the other hand, there are a handful of other historians who’ve basically taken out some of her more ridiculous claims (like certain individuals in history, including devout Christians, like Jean d’Arc, were willing human sacrifices of the witch cult), and refined the hypothesis into a hypothesis of incomplete Christian conversion in Europe, which the “witch trials” served a partial function in “correcting” –again, this is assisted by the fact that some of those put on trial were clearly herbalists practicing a craft passed down for generations, but again, this doesn’t amount for everything, and in many cases, the issue is clearly more an iron-fisted quashing of more subversive Christians or “folk Christianity” that, though indisputably “Christian” by modern standards, retained clearly “pagan” elements.

More Isadora Duncan --I can't get enough of this woman.

More Isadora Duncan –I can’t get enough of this woman.

Murray wasn’t completely talking from her arse, and as I recall, she was clearly a fan of Gage, and she certainly had the opportunity to be aware of the precursors to her own version of the hypothesis (though she denied previous familiarity with Jarcke’s and Michlet’s take on the hypothesis, in spite of the fact that her own version mirrors elements of both of theirs –but it’s also not all that uncommon for people, even in academia, to fail at giving credit where it’s due) but her more fantastic ideas seem more like something out of a tract by a conspiracy theorist and slipped behind the wiper on a car’s windscreen than history, by today’s standards, and this has certainly overshadowed the more realistic elements that her supporters in current academia prefer to stress and build from.

So what about “The Burning Times”? Well, later in the 20th Century, a Canadian documentarian, Donna Read (not to be confused with the funny and [actually quite subversive, for the 1950s] Donna Reed) made a film about the witch cult hypothesis and the witch trial hysteria. In spite of facts already established that suggest, overall, the hysteria was rooted in class and subversive takes on religion as much as sexism (though the main reason may have varied by location), in an spite of the fact that, in some parts of Europe, men were just as likely (and in one particularly peculiar town, far more likely) to be tried and executed as “witches”, the film concentrates on women as the ultimate victims and sexism the ultimate reason, with one interviewee going so far as to call the witch hysteria “the Women’s Holocaust”, and even made its own fantastical claims, like “nine million witches executed”, when the historical data suggests a minimum of 60,000 and a max of 100,000 were executed over the 200-300 year course of the witch hysteria. Just a basic look at world census estimates for the period (and of course adjusting to largely consider only Europe and also North American colonial populations) reveal that executing “nine million women” throughout Europe between approximately 1450 and 1750 would have been impossible —at some point, there would have literally been entire cities with absolutely no women left! Considering that there is no such record of even the tiniest villages rendered all-male by witch hysteria, the more conservative, academic estimates based on extant historical data and adjusted for potentially lost records is far more likely, and it’s fair to assume that, at the height of the witch hysteria, not even a quarter million people (much less a quarter-million of just women) were executed throughout the 300+years of mass hysteria.

Unfortunately, this “documentary” that is only loosely based on the actual history, still manages to be enduring through the pagan community, in part from featuring prominent Neopagan women at the time, including Margot Adlet and Starhawk, and also a soundtrack featuring Loreena McKennitt.

Damn, Ruadhán, you talk a lot. TL;DR version, pls? kthxbai!

* Contrary to the most common assumption I have personally seen in the pagan community, Margaret Murray WAS NOT the first person who suggested the witch cult hypothesis. The witch cult hypothesis pre-dates Murray’s work on witchcraft by about a hundred years in academia, and the idea may possibly have floated around earlier only to be formalised in the very early 19th Century.
* Murray wrote the most popular version of the witch cult hypothesis, and it incorporated elements of previous versions of the thesis. Some of these elements were more realistic than others. Murray also added some elements, possibly from her own imagination, that are easily regarded as, to use professional terminology, complete nonsense.
* Not everyone discredits the witch cult hypothesis, in its milder form, which is essentially a hypothesis of Europe incompletely “Christianised” prior the “witch trial hysteria” redubbed “The Burning Times” by a popular, though not completely factual, Canadian documentary of the same name circa 1990. There are reasons for and against this “extended pagan survival” hypothesis, and even if it is assumed to be that the hypothesis is a complete theory, considering the known politics of the witch trials, it’s highly unlikely to be a universal theory for every person accused of witchcraft during that time, just one that would be true for some instances and potentially more likely for some regions than others.
* That said, it should go without saying that there was never a Paneuropean matriarchy with an equally Paneuropean witchcraft religion in any historical sense; the closest hypothesis taken seriously in anthro-archaeology today is “PIE society”, which, being a hypothesis, is barely more than coincidence, and has no real evidence of being inherently matriarchal. On the other hand, some Dianics have refined the pre-historic matriarchy of Gage’s imagination into a mythos in its own right; this is no less valid a mythology than Hesiod’s ages of humankind (we’re in the Bronze age, by the way), or the Garden common to Abrahamic religions.

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.

The False Dichotomy of Sexual Orientation

(If you like, you can consider the following post a follow-up to this one.)

You’re either into men, or you’re into women.

Well, except when you’re into both, then you’re bisexual.

Well, except if you’re potentially into anybody, regardless of whether they’re of a classical gender or the ever-growing list of “other” genders. Then you’re pansexual.

If you’re a man into [cisgender] women and trans women, or a woman into [cisgender] men and trans men, you’re heterosexual. If you’re a woman into [cis] women and trans women, you’re a lesbian; if you’re a man into [cis] men and trans men, you’re gay.

On the other hand, if you’re into cisgender women (or men) but not transgender women (or men), then you’re transphobic, no matter how much you may actually see trans people as the gender/s we say we are. If you’re into cis men and trans women, or into cis women and trans men, you’re also transphobic, because your very orientation is only the result of a deeply socialised belief that trans women are “really” men and trans men are “really” women.


What if I told you everything above is false?

The longer I live, the more I think about these things, and the more I realise that the ancients were absolutely correct about one thing: There is no such thing as a sexual orientation. Granted, that statement is only implicit because the ancient Hellenes simply didn’t have a concept of sexual orientation; sexuality just IS. You’re into who you’re into, and while the sexual acts you may with to participate in have a name, and may reflect something about your nature, and certainly says something about your sexual tastes, your sexuality just IS.

The subcultures that have grown up around certain sexual tastes —men into sex with other men (almost) exclusively, women interested in sex with other women (almost) exclusively— and the stigmas attached to those tastes and their respective subcultures are certainly an invention of post-ancient society and may be newer than some self-styled GBLT historians push forth. The pride in these cultures coming out from underground status and hushed tones has certainly been theraputic to many. The tastes are real, the subcultures are real, the benefits of banding together in solidarity against a hostile society is absolutely real.

On the other hand, the idea of a static, lifelong sexual orientation is a modern invention that has proved, time and time again, to be false. Even Kinsey noted the existence of women who were perfectly happy heterosexual housewives to a point, never with any doubt of being both attracted to men and in love with their husbands, and later in life, simply fell out of love with their men, and deeply in love with women. The idea that, every once in a while, an ostensibly homosexual man really does genuinely fall in love with a single woman has been silenced by GBLT leaders in spite of decades of evidence of the phenomenon, at the very least. While ostensibly heterosexual cisgender men are definitely the most prominent population of people sexually attracted to trans women are are currently pre- or non-op below the waist, there have also been informal surveys online (also: a quick web search produces far more threads from the same and similar indexed fora, in addition to some blog polls, as long as you’re wiling to scroll through a plethora of Yahoo!Answers posts of “m i ghey 4 liking shemaylz? lol”) and off that make it very clear that not only are bisexual-identified men clearly in a majority of people consuming “shemale porn”, but yeah, men who would otherwise describe their sexuality as “gay” do sometimes like women, so long as the girl has a cock.

The compartmentalisation of sexuality as a preference for PEOPLE rather than a preference for ACTS has reduced people to sexual objects and has created unnecessary hurt in the process. Only in a post-orientation society can the hurt truly end, and can sexual dignities return to all genders.

The ancient Hellenes certainly recognised those who had preferences for men or women, but this was typically phrased as one who prefers performing certain acts with people of a particular gender. The emphasis was on the action, not on the partner. Respect for one’s partner cannot truly happen with a mindset that interprets one’s sexuality as dependent on a particular gender —no matter how deeply hard-wired into one’s neurology it might be— one only truly respects one’s sexual partners when one thinks of them as simply a partner in an act of sex.

This is not an impersonal matter to myself, and my sexuality is not as simply as some of the words I’ve used to describe it in the past may have made it seem. Ultimately, I am only aroused when thinking of and / or performing certain rather specific sexual acts; these acts are ultimately dependent on partners with certain body parts of varying degrees of functionality —I only hope that my partner is perfectly comfortable and able to enjoy these actions with their body as it is. No, certain instruments sold at stores like SheVibe don’t fulfil me if I were to treat a partner’s dildo the way I might treat his penis, if he had one; they don’t excite me when I use them that way, and if I’m not enjoying what I’m doing, I’m doing a great disservice to myself and my partner. I admit, it is far easier to find partners who are men that meet such a preference, and that’s fine, but I’m just as likely to find women possessing other characteristics I tend to find attractive. I’m not opposed to adopting the “bisexual” or “pansexual” labels, but I find the emphasis that those labels implicitly place on gender unnecessary, and ultimately objectifying; “queer”, on the other hand, still connotes a nuance of its classic definition of “unusual” and is probably the better, if vaguer term to describe my sexuality: I reject the notion of a gender-based sexuality. Sexuality is less about gender and more about action, those sex acts may be easiest to perform with some-one of a specific gender, or one’s personal preferences in the action may, indeed, restrict one’s preferences to include only partners of a specific gender, but ultimately sexuality is far less about gender than it is about activity.

There are many ways to love. There are dozens of ways that one can find another attractive. Most of them have nothing to do with sexual intercourse. The inherently conservative (by modern standards) GBLT agenda of defining GBLT sexuality as a matter of “love” is nothing more than kowtowing to Christian sensibilities. Of course gay men love women as well as men —they love their sisters and mothers and friends and daughters— but that kind of love is not linked with a desire for sexual acts with them. Sexuality isn’t about love or attraction, not completely. Certain kinds of love and attraction can certainly benefit sexuality, and certainly enhance the details of one’s sexuality. But sexuality isn’t about gender or love or attraction, it’s about desiring something and doing something. Experiments will happen, preferences will form, but that doesn’t remove the act of sex from one’s sexuality.

The problem with “pansexual” is it’s intended use. See, I used to be under the impression that the thing wrong with the pansexual label was the fact that there are many people who misunderstand it and end up using it as a shorthand for “I’m especially attracted to trans people”, which is incorrect. The intended use of “pansexual” is “I am attracted to people regardless of what their gender might be”. That’s a problem because it still falsely places the responsibility of sexual attraction on gender itself; it highlights the same old foolishness that sexuality is some sanitised, squeaky-clean aspect of our lives that is only enhanced by the actions of sexual intercourse, whatever forms that may take —it basically says “my sexuality is like everybody else’s, it’s about the emotions and aesthetics of genders —any genders!— and not about that sticky, sweaty, messy business in bed.”

In reality, sexuality IS about the sweaty, sticky, messy, matted hair business in beds —or on coffeetables, or in the shower, or bent over the bonnet of one’s car in the furthest corner of the lot in the middle of the night. It has fuck all to do with gender. A specific gender may be more likely than another to trigger the hard-wiring of one’s libido, but defining one’s sexuality by the gender/s most likely to switch on one’s sexuality is, in essence, to make one’s sexuality a paraphilia: a sexuality about doing things to objects, not about participating in activities with people. The homosexual/bi(pan)sexual/heterosexual dichotomy is false; at its best, it can give a “Big Tent” and incredibly vague description of one’s sexuality while still saying nothing particularly useful, but the reality is that it ultimately does more harm than good when used as social labels.

I find it unfortunate that so many other trans people insist on buying into the lie, given our unique positions that may argueably give us greater opportunity to see that it’s a lie. I suspect that some do this out of a misguided notion of hoping to increase potential “passability” as the gender one says one is. While the desire to be taken seriously as a man or as a woman is certainly noble, one’s desires cease their noble pursuits when the desire allows one to refuse others their dignity.

There is no shortage of trans people who insist that any pleasure derived from the genitals one was born with is either “faked” or nonexistent, and if one is ever to make clear, in no uncertain terms, that yes, they do derive real pleasure from their natural-born genitals, suddenly one’s entire identity is called into question by the kinder folks, and the less-kind will outright insist that the other person is just playing around and somehow making a mockery of “real transsexuals”. Now, to be fair, there is more than one type of person who falls under the “trans” umbrella, and yes, that means sometimes you’ll be talking to a transsexual woman who didn’t start transitioning until she was fifty and so she’s less likely to appear typically feminine, and other times you’ll be talking to a middle-aged man in a dress who just doesn’t care about looking all that feminine. On the other hand, there is also more than one way to be a transsexual woman or man.

The fact that transsexuals, those who completely identify as the gender “opposite” that which they were determined to be at birth (or, in the cases of IS trans individuals, the gender that was assigned to them during infancy), even exist is all the evidence necessary to really grasp the concept that genitals have fuck all to do with how gender develops mentally. While genitals are certainly still given a social status as “proof” of one’s gender, nature herself tells us that the social convention is a fantasy of our own design. While the medical technology certainly exists to create a reasonable facsimile of a phallus and vulva with interior vagina for transsexual men and women, and said people are certainly free (more of less) to decide if they need that surgery to be happy with their gender, “the surgery” is not a necessary path for many TS individuals, and many assert that they are perfectly happy with their genitals as is, regardless of how often the trans narrative party line seeks to covertly silence such people (such as by constantly pointing out that some “non-op” individuals are simply “unable to afford the surgery” or “sex workers hoping to stay in business” and so on).

Upon realising that sexual orientation is little more than an urban legend, and sexuality is about an interest in activities, it’s clear that trans women who keep their penis are simply women physically suited to perform certain sexual activities, like receive fellatio or even penetrate her partner below the waist (often dependent on how her body responds to HRT). Cisgender women and many transgender men may be able to do much of the same with a dildo, but not everyone who enjoys fellating a partner’s flesh-and-blood body is going to enjoy simulating the act on a dildo. Likewise, a transsexual man who makes use of the vag he was born with is then simply a man with a body physically suited to performing certain sexual activities, like receive cunnilingus or be vaginally penetrated. When gender is irrelevant to sexuality, and only the activities all involved parties are interested in matter, it indeed can be far easier to accept trans men and women as men and women, fullstop. The only difference is what one may be able to do; it’s then more on par with any other sexual incompatibility. When a lover’s gender is no longer given a neurotic, paraphilia-like status, but instead “vaginal penetration” and “sex with dildoes” (for example) are just another pair of activities one is simply not interested in, the idea that one’s sexuality is somehow inherently “transphobic” seems utterly preposterous —indeed, other sexual activities may still be engaged in, but if Johnny Transman prefers penetrating his partners with a dildo, and Georgie Cisgender is not at all interested, the issue is not about whether or not Johnny is a “genuine man” who can “TRULY satisfy” his partner, the issue is about long-term sexual compatibility.

Gender-based sexual orientation is one of the great lies of our time, and it could have only been born of the repression endorsed by mainstream Christianity.

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.

Eros is NOT the Reason for the Season

©Pierre et Gilles

©Pierre et Gilles

I really have to abandon the inertia I seem to have adopted toward removing myself from a certain e-mail list. This owner/s of the list in question, in spite of repeated issuance from members, including myself, of correct information that points out the Feast of Eros is a springtime festival —not mid-winter— still maintain a calendar that places the Feast of Eros as a replacement for St. Valentine’s Day.

While there is very little surviving information about the Feast in question, there is enough to place this as a springtime festival. Furthermore, there is nothing about Eros’ symbolism that is specific to winter, and plenty that makes a springtime festival seem more appropriate —the cockerel, the hare, eggs, birds, youth.

by Erte

by Erte

Furthermore, the ancient, pre-Christian origins of St Valentine’s Day are well established. Daidala (Attic: Gemalia), the wedding of Hera and Zeus is traditionally held around the time of mid-February. Rome’s Lupercalia, celebrating the bitch wolf that suckled Romulus and Remus. Eros has nothing to do with either day. I’ve explained this at great length before. Yet the pinhead/s in charge of that list still insist “it’s a modern syncretism in line with the ancient practice”.

What ancient practice? There is NO “ancient practice” that can easily link Eros with any mid-February festivals, and the “love” portrayed in the Catholic St Valentine mythology was closer to agape than eros. The “love” we see in the Lupercalia mythos is compassionate, not erotic.

"Winter" by Erte

“Winter” by Erte

The union of Zeus and Hera, even as per the mythology, was one less of passion than of politics.

That said, I acknowledge that people are going to do whatever they want to, anyway, no matter what makes sense or not. Oh well. If you want to celebrate Eros on 14 February, have fun with that. On the other hand, when you call it “The Feast of Eros” you are inviting confusion with the ancient festival. When you insist that “it’s a modern syncretism”, you not only demonstrate a misunderstanding of what syncretism actually is, you demonstrate a gross misunderstanding of the ancient calendars.

I’m willing to make a post like this every fucking year, so that people who are genuinely interested in the ancient practice can learn that this idea of a mid-winter “Feast of Eros” is just borderline eclectic nonsense based more on medieval softcore subversion of Christian mythology than on pre-Christian Græc

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.

Athene & the Elephant

(This just sort of came to me a couple days or so ago, and so I wrote it down. As best as i can tell, I can’t connect it to ancient ideas and [dare I say?] beliefs, so take this as you will. Though, by sheer coincidence, just before posting this, I took a chance on a search for ‘elephant athena”, and found this –interesting, eh?)

Hermes watched carefully as Alexandros of Makedon followed his own gilded thread of fate into India, and just then, Athene peered over His shoulder.

“Ah, my sister, I was just watching, wondering if he was going to make it. It is better than a play, to me.”

“The Dread Sisters are never wrong, though. I hear that even if They ever are, They have ways of fixing it so that only the Protogonoi would know, and few Olympians would ever suspect.”

“It’s still fun to watch, when I haven’t anything better to do. It’s like the mortals with their mythology, telling Our stories, even the same way, and knowing how it’s going to end, well, watching it on stage is different from knowing the outline of the plot.”

“Fair enough, dear half-brother.” She took down Her helmet and adjusted a pin holding her hair together. “So, when Our people make contact with the Hindu people, they’re going to make some associations.”

“When will they learn that other gods are individuals?”

“They feel it’s complimentary, Hermes. ‘The Gods of Hellas are the Gods of civilisation,’ ergo, even civilised people outside of Hellas worship the same Gods, just with local names. Or so goes the logic, at least.”

“This political turn is starting to bore me. Which animals only previously know to the Hindu people do you want?”

Without hesitation, Athene pointed to the elephant.

“Oh, that’s not what I expected. I mean, the owl is stealthy and patient, and it hunts. That pachyderm is big and tramples the foliage, and all it eats is foliage. It was also relatively easy for them to tame.”

“This is all true, but it’s certainly the wisest creature on this continent, after mankind.”

“And you say so, because?”

“It’s tamed because it wanted to be. It’s big, but only violent when provoked beyond reason, because it knows that’s the only time it needs violence. In the wild, when it is allowed to behave naturally, it is the only beast that truly knows to honour the gift of life the gods have given all tribes of man and beasts –just look.”

Athene pointed Hermes to a small tribe of elephants in the jungle, carefully having laid a burial mound over their matriarch, now stood vigil. Infants of the pack wailed -like Greek women at a funeral. Each animal waited its turn to take a little water before returning to the three day vigil among the elephant burial grounds. She then pointed out another pack of elephants outside a small village in Africa, in a region of the continent yet unexplored by Hellenes; the village had just been visited by a fearsome storm, and a man and his dog who had been unshielded by a house, lay dead, and the elephants covered him with a burial, out of respect.

“It’s a simple form of religion,” the grey-eyed and unowned one pointed out, “but for a creature so far from man’s genetic material, they have been granted the wisdom to know the gods, and so not only do I favour them, but I believe our father will, as well.”

“But what gods do they honour?”

Athene thought for a moment, and then suggested, “they clearly honour the gods of the earth, and of intelligence. They cannot speak the names of these gods, so they could never ask the gods their names. They know only some basic vocabulary of any language of man, so formulating a question on paper or in the mind is outside their abilities. They therefore honour whatever gods will accept them. The Hindu people treat them with honour, so those amongst the Hindu honour Hindu gods. Those there, amongst the Maasai, if the elephant is tame, it worships the Maasai people’s gods. Why should they be any different from human beings? There are several species of elephant, with dozens of tribes, each.”

“You were able to see all that?”

“Of course. My vision is finely attuned to scouting out the wisest creatures, and the wisdom of these creatures is like the brilliance of the sun when compared to the twinkle of a star.”

“Stars are really whole galaxies, just as the humans see them from Gaia, you know?” Hermes pointed out.

Athene slapped the back of His head in that sisterly way, and said, “I know that. It’s the metaphor that’s important —and you know that, too,”

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.