Monogamous Polytheism: More Common Than You’d Think

So, it seems that the PPP is at it again, with giving voice to some of the more ill-informed and ridiculous ideas swirling around the pagan community. This time, it’s how Polytheism and Polyamoury are just somehow a natural combination.

I’ve said dozens of times before, even on this blog, that I have little issue with polyamoury, on paper. As an ideological concept of romanti-sexual relationships, there are some really well-written pieces explaining it and how, in theory, it could work for just about anyone. In theory. The reality is, when even Oberon Zell-Ravenheart has said, in a video interview (so you can see [if you can see, that is] the words literally coming from his mouth) that he thinks that serial monogamy might just be the human default, that’s saying something about how polyamoury is no more a universal truth than, say, the belief of “All are One”.

…and yet Patheos Pagan gives voice to the belief that monogamy goes against our nature. One of the most influential voices in both the polyamourous and pagan communities has said that he believes that serial monogamy is just as natural an orientation for relationships as polyamoury, but hey, Melissa Hill is going to get one of the most widely-read platforms in the pagan community to tell us all that monogamy is against nature.

First off, monogamy is not “against nature”. Contrary to what many writers on polyamoury have said (especially the earlier writings), many non-human species form lifetime bonds with only a single partner, and only a handful of these have shown any evidence that any offspring are sired by a male unmated to the female. Even then, non-human animals seem to have a better understanding than we do that “sex ≠ love.” Polytheists seem to understand better than most people than non-humans can, and do, feel great affections toward others, even something that we as humans would understand as “love” — yet still, many polytheists have a problem with anthropomorphising non-humans and attaching our social connections of love and sex into animal sex.

As a lifelong cat person, and one who’s actually read extensively about their behaviours and biology, let me tell you, sex is not the most enjoyable experience for the female cat, cos the male’s penis is barbed, and tears her up on withdrawl (this does serve a reproductive function, and at the very least, discourages the female from mating again before his sperm can fertilise her ovum). Cats don’t have sex for fun or other social purposes, like humans, dolphins, and bonobos do. Cats fuck to breed. They may bond very closely with another and seem to have a very loving relationship with other cats (contrary to common belief among arimal rights sorts, the house-cat is actually much closer to its wild Matriarch species than the domestic dog is to the wolf, and even without human intervention [such as feeding] will form complex social colonies, where these relationships have also been observed), but fucking, for a cat, is very utilitarian, in nature.

Love ≠ Sex

Furthermore, polygamy, as has been practised by certain groups (usually monotheist, though there are certainly others that to this), are not the same as a “poly” person’s group marriage. These are examples of often political and social alliances formed, a display of power and status (in Islam, the Q’ran states that a man can take as many wives as he can support, emotionally and financially — tell me how that’s not going to be turned into treating women as a status symbol, and I’ll give you a cookie), and generally less about “love” than they are about increasing the potential for a “legitimate heir”, which is basically big fancy talk for a son who will get the lion’s share of inheritance. It’s basic intellectual dishonesty to even point to the soap opera of marriages, divorces, concubines (legitimate affairs), illegitimate affairs, and hetarae of Greco-Roman Antiquity as if it’s somehow legitimate evidence that “polyamoury works” or is somehow “more natural” than monogamy; sex is not love, nor is love sex, and if bonobos have been observes having clearly consensual sex with each-other as conflict resolution, to form alliances, and just blow off some steam, why the need to constantly frame human sexual relationships as being only a display of loving affections?

Love in Greco-Roman antiquity was seldom recorded, all things considered, while it was generally accepted that sex was just as much (if not more so) about power, status, and basic biological needs, as it was about affections. Just because Hypothetical Upper-Class Theban was noted to have put his weiner in a dozen or so people of various genders didn’t necessarily mean that he was in love with all, or any of them.

The practise of “stoning women for adultery” isn’t about love or enforcing monogamy — after all, in Ms Hill’s example of attributing this to Islam in the Middle East, polygamy is common, when it’s one man and multiple women. This is also a culture that, in spite of their “holy book” asserting the autonomy of women in several passages (but don’t take my word for it, get yourself a copy here, I did, just to see what all the fuss was about in late 2001) has retained a stance that women are chattal, and exerting a patriarchal blame on the woman in not just adultery, but also in rape.

Love ≠ Sex

Speaking of, the crime of rape has only a short history of being about sexual autonomy. In English, it shares a root with “robbery”, and as recently as the mid-Victorian, “rape” could include situations of legitimate love and consensual sex, but the kids eloped, and so the young man had “raped” her arranged betrothed (or her parents) of the girl’s dowry.

The history of the word “rape” has more to do with treating women as property than it does with consent or sexual autonomy.

So why do polyamourists, more than most of my fellow serial monogamists (at least in my experiences) seem to have the poorest understanding of how love and sex are not one-in-the-same?

This is not something that I can answer, to be frank — but even in Zell’s defense of serial monogamy, he phrases it in sesxualised terminology, with “but they just can’t get it up for that other person any-more”, suggesting that this is a widespread issue in that community (or at least as observed by his outsider), if even one of the most respected and prominent names in that community can’t help but sexualise love in polyamoury.

Sex is not love.

Sex can be very loving, but it can also be violent, or it can just be a thing to do when there’s nothing good on the telly. Sex and violence can be consensual, or it can be the modern definition of rape. No matter how you slice it, sex is not love; sex is hat happens when two animals do things with their genitals that make squishy noises, and it can be as good or as bad, as loving or as hateful, as those engaging in it intend or even just perceive it to be.

It perplexes me how many polyamourists, especially in the polytheist community, will regard many kinds of deities, and concede to the existence of many kinds of relationships (hopefully one doesn’t have the same kind of relationship with one’s mother as one does with one’s sexual partner/s — it can put your eyes out!), but will be unaware that they are conflating romantic love and sex / sexual attraction as two things inexplicably linked, an ideal that many apparently don’t question of themselves.

Now, I haven’t always had the greatest understanding of the asexual community (and as much as some may protest the notion, yeah, sometimes there can be an underlying medical reason for a low or non-existent sex drive — other times, yeah, it’s just a thing that happens, and either way, as long as people are happy and there is no threat to one’s being, then it’s all good), if anything, I’m closer to the hyper-sexual end of the spectrum, but ironically, it seems that a community of people identified by their lack of sexual attraction are somehow better able to understand this concept:

Love ≠ Sex

Sexual attraction is just that: You’re attracted to a person in a way that gets your junk all a-tingly.

Romantic love is something else: It’s a love born from an attraction that can idealise another person — sometimes in a mature way that helps both parties grow, sometimes in an immature or destructive way that breeds dysfunctionality.

This is how romantic love differs from sexual attraction.

And sexual attraction isn’t necessarily hand-in-hand with sex drive, which is arguably more basic and biological, though can be triggered in ways that have been socialised into a person.

“I think monogamy is the more difficult choice,” says Ms Hill in the comments — and maybe it is, for herself and many other polyamourists, but sor someone who’s a monogamist because it’s just what works for them and feels most natural, even though they are truly supportive of polyamoury in theory, it’s not a difficult choice, at all. For me, polyamoury would be the difficult choice!

Then there’s the fact that A LOT of “polyamoury for everyone!” sorts of posts floating around the blogosphere often fall victim to the Geek Social Fallacies of Sex. Seriously, trying to plod my way through The Ethical Slut (which i didn’t attempt until I was in my thirties, which might be saying something about the sorts it appeals most to — much like people who are able to read Ayn Rand with a straight face), which was long before I was shown this post, much of the fallacies listed went through my mind — especially the fact that, no, people generally cannot control their emotions with regards to sex.

Sex seems rational on paper. Explaining its processes can be painfully dull, without even trying, and when you get to my age, kinky stuff is only really exciting when you’re doing it, not thinking or reading or writing about it.

GSFS is also especially pervasive, at least from an outsider’s perspective, regarding the polyamoury community. As an outsider with a shit-ton of friends in that community (seriously, at one time the “bipolypagangeek” LiveJournal community had at least half my friends-list in their ranks), I think I can be a little more objective about a lot of things with regards to polyamoury cos I’m not personally attached to that identity.

The fact of the matter is, jealousy abounds in that community, but people make attempts (poorly) to suppress it in order to prove that there is no jealousy in polyamoury.

The fact of the matter is, there is no shortage of people using polyamoury as a last-ditch attempt to save a failing relationship by bringing in other people to either distract each-other or to buffer out the break-up and hopefully (though seldom successfully) make it easier on everyone.

The fact of the matter is, “polyamoury”, in spite of the “it’s NOT NOT NOT poly-fuckery!!” contingent (cos to some people, I guess it’s all just TWOO WUV!!!), really is just as much, if not more so, about sex as it is about love and romance.

The fact of the matter is, there is absolutely zero evidence that successful ideal polyamourous relationships are any less rare than successful ideal monogamous relationships — and not to mention that there isn’t even a consensus on what the “ideal relationship” for either model really is. For me, as a serial monogamist, even if i go into a relationship knowing it’s going to be short-term, if we both know that and still enjoy it for the time it lasts, then it’s successful, but others want only that “one true love” that lasts a lifetime, as in a fairytale, or the relationship is unsuccessful. Some polyamourists will only consider a Triad or Quad relationship, where three or four people each have a romance and/or sexual relationship with everyone else involved, a successful one, but others will be perfectly happy with a primary partner and two or three on the side.

Love and sex are not the easiest things to navigate, and what “works” or is “ideal” is just so subjective to individual experiences — and more than that, the socio-political history of love and sex make it pretty much impossible to make any kind of generalisations about what “works” on a large scale, and yet Patheos gives voice to one of the most ill-informed voices on love and sex and goes forward with publishing her article on love and sex while attempting to give it spiritual validity. Ms Hill’s article is just ridiculous when her casting of monogamists as being in the same play as the patriarchal oppressors who’d “stone women for adultery” (neglecting to acknowledge the same mentality is displayed in the pseudo-polyamoury corollary of the harem), and other broad-brush generalisations isn’t infuriating.

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.

Hedonist priorities….

Thoughts consume me, so I took put every variety of incense I own, libated some Perrier, and asked to use one of the bargaining chips I was offered at the beginning.

might seem petty to some, but the sensual feeds the ascetic. Inhn spite of some of the recent hardships, I am happier now than I have been in a long time, but last week reminded me that I missed something.

You see, the sensual feeds the ascetic.

I want this. I hope I don’t need reinforcement.

Beauty is pleasure.

Pleasure is wisdom.

To possess beauty is to touch Life.

I will pray daily for this, even after I have it, for it will be proof to me that Life has touched me and wanted me whole.

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.

experience = knowledge ≠ truth

All we can ever truly know is what we experience. Even observations become things that are done to us, but what about truth?

Truth largely escapes us because we cannot know and understand every potential factor of what was behind the experience. My cat cannot possibly have a full understanding of what motivates me to clip his claws, just that I tend to do it every week or so and I give him treats immediately after, so he puts up with it. To him, he may be putting together that this is to keep him tidy (he seems smart enough to figure out doorknobs open doors, and will tap them to command me to clear this obstruction from his ability to do his duties as a cat and explore and check shit out), or he may just think it’s some bizarre ritual I’ve concocted because I’m weird; my abilities to communicate this desire to keep him tidy directly to him are limited to what he can understand of my verbal and physical language (and cats are far more visual in their language abilities than verbal, this is 100% true, no matter how much your cat vocalises at you, he is vocalising more for your sake than his own), so I have a duty to keep the motion as smooth as possible — for his pleasure as well as my own — even though the truth of the situation may, indeed, be forever elusive to him.

We get hints of truths, but the whole truth of any situation tends, indeed, to forever evade us. Truth isn’t what one makes of it, necessarily, but it’s a folly to assume that one’s knowledge, especially if coming from admittedly limited sources, is ever sufficient to cast irrevocable judgement. There is always room for more experiences and more knowledge; to shut off oneself from potentially gaining further knowledge, no matter how seemingly small the area, is to betray one’s moral failing with regards to the topic of Truth. Hedonists, especially, have a moral obligation to keep the door open on Truths, be they of the physical or spiritual worlds.

Refusing knowledge serves only to create rough motions, pain, in one’s life. It serves Strife in the worst possible ways — not the side of the Goddess that challenges us, but the Eris Who furthers our hardships and suffering. Only accepting knowledge can break the cycle and truly serve Hedone and, ultimately, Eros.


“I am being purpled by this blanket.”

We may appear to be in agreement that the blanket appears purple, but what even is that? What in the world does that even mean? Is it the colour we think it is? If you’re ill, you may see it more as red than purple, and only agree with me because you believe you saw the same blanket before, and you cannot possibly know that I’m telling you the truth, but it makes sense to you to agree with me in the situation, for whatever your reasons may be. The reality is, you know you saw a purple blanket once before, and you know you see a reddish blanket now that bears an otherwise striking resemblance to the purple one, but even if it can be otherwise proved to you that it’s the same as the purple blanket you saw a week ago, from where you currently sit, this is merely a similar, but red, blanket — your immediate knowledge has changed the facts of this blanket, and they may change in the future, so the truth of the blanket will ultimately be elusive since now you know that one’s knowledge can change one’s perceptions of the truth.

To further complicate matters, I could point out that neither one of us could even really be seeing a blanket, this could very well be an illusion.

But the conundrum of the colour is still in need of address:

Even if we’re both healthy, we cannot be certain that we both see the same colour 100%, double-triple-quadruple checked certain that my purple is your purple is Frankie’s purple is The One True Ultimate Purple of This Blanket, so what is there to do? And if one sees a different colour, one may or may not be sick, one may just be colourblind. “Objective reality” does not exist in any meaningful way to mortals, because the tools used to observe this, our own senses, are themselves variables, and consensus on those observations from a group cannot be trusted because there is too much room for variance in intent of what we mean by what we say when we say “purple”, because the more people added to the committee, the more likely a variable in consensus will be hidden.

Do we thus offer complete honesty and risk the rough motion of an argument? This is not an issue for Hedonists, as the Hedonist will accept that there are potentially infinite variables that may alter one’s own or another’s perceptions. Outside of that scope, it’s harder to say.

Experiences are inevitable, and knowledge is an obligation a life lived for its pleasures, but truth, even at its best, is elusive.

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.

Though I am not in any position yet to teach it. …

Though I am not yet in any position to teach others, not for almost ten years still, I have been compelled by my Teachers, to spell out a few points on Erotic Hedonism, lest some skim a Wikipedia article on the Cyrenaic school and assume I am learning things that I am not, or not learning things that I am:

* Though Erotic Hedonism may be described as Neo-Cyreniaic, as that is our starting point, it differs in some key ways:

1. Though academia seems to overwhelmingly claim that the Hedonist schools of Hellas and her colonies were borderline or outright atheist, there can simply be no question that Erotic Hedonism holds that the reality, plurality, and autonomy of the Theoi is not only self – evident (and that the ancient Hedonists belief in Them is also self – evident), but that the Theoi are to be actively worshipped and praised for all of life’s pleasures. The Theoi are real, multiple Divine beings that Erotic Hedonists actively worship.

2. Though the Cyrenaic school is certainly our starting point, Erotic Hedonism also incorporates the wisdom of the Cynics, the Atomists, and the Pluralists, as well as those of the modern eras, including Oscar Wilde, Derek Jarman, Beau Brummel, Lydia Lunch, and others Who will become known.

* Though Erotic Hedonism places no limits on the gods one may worship, within the Erotic Hedonist tradition, the deities held in highest esteem are, in no particular order: Eros, Nyx, Hedone, Psykhe, the Moirai, the Khairetes, the Moisa, Apollon.

* A Devotional path is not mandatory for the Erotic Hedocist, except for those who are teaching others Erotic Hedonism. Of course, not all Erotic Hedonists living a Devotional path are necessarily compelled to teach.

That is all, for now.

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.

Erotic Hedonism

In ten years, should I choose to, I am told that I will be ready to teach others what I am learning. Mark this date: 19 February 2025. This new school will be founded on the anniversary of the passing of a great Hero of Ours, one who lived in beauty and for pleasure and love.

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 Brief Personal Knowledge of Food

When I was six years old, my favourite film was… Actually, it was Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, launching a lifelong love affair with kitsch culture and Tim Burton, but that’s completely irrelevant, here. Second in line, though, was the original Doctor Doolittle film, the one that’s actually based on the books, and starring Rex Harrison. I don’t remember if this was the first I’d ever learned that meat came from animals, but I remember I had vowed to become a vegetarian “when I grow up”, because of reasons, including: I was six and my parents ultimately decided what I ate, I was six and I didn’t really grasp the concept of using book-smarts to best my parents in an argument, and I was six and a lot of things seem like a great idea when you’re six (in this case, I’m referring to “caving in to the parental units”, something I had abandoned by the time I was eleven).

When I was twelve, I made my first rebellious stand for vegetarianism, mainly because I had watched my half-sister Ruby, who had always been overweight for various reasons (including a thyroid condition complicated by adolescent-onset depression, plus her mother had severe chronic depression and tended to self-medicate with food, and so Ruby naturally picked up the habit) balloon from a fairly small (for her) 300lbs to double that in the course of a year. It was a corpulentaphobic, and ultimately problematic, reason for doing it, but I tried. Because I still had to eat the school lunches and what my parents cooked, I resorted to picked out the meat of things that were served to me. I lasted maybe three weeks before I started getting loopy from iron deficiency, and gave up when my step-mother’s period started up and she had her customary blue steak, which she tended to have at that time of the month because she, like a lot of post-menarchic and pre-menopausal women (and some trans men not on HRT), goes mildly anaemic when menstruating, except in her case, it’s a little more than mild, but not enough to medicate with pills; the smell of charred meat was a tipping point in my brain and the rest of my body that basically told me I needed what I wasn’t getting from an almost-vegetarian diet. At that point, I resolved that I probably couldn’t go completely vegetarian for any significant amount of time.

The idea that I couldn’t go strict vegetarian became apparent in other ways, all related to health concerns that simply kept cropping up: I was borderline anaemic, and to get the iron and protein I needed, meat was simply more efficient in many ways, like how smaller portions of meat necessary to get the same amounts in vegetarian substitutes (though not as filling as the veg*n-friendly alternatives, 2oz of red meat has the same iron as in 8oz of brown rice or 6oz of spinach by weight; in an emergency situation, that 2oz proves far more efficient to keep one going than what would otherwise be supplemented by constantly eating or stopping to eat, in comparison). I also developed symptoms that led me to conclude that I have a soy allergy (which, in my case, while this allergy is relatively mild in symptoms, it’s proved immensely important to eliminate from my life in terms of managing the rest of my allergies). These two things, especially, make living completely vegetarian, much less vegan, practically impossible, especially on my budget1.

While I applaud those who choose to live vegetarian or vegan as a point of ethics, I also have, in recent years, developed some serious issues with those who make any serious plea that the entire world eat the ways they do:

Ableism

This is at the top of my list, because it’s both the most pervasive and the most overlooked from others who have developed issues with the notion of a vegan world. Anyone who has lived on a vegetarian or vegan (henceforth “veg*n”) diet for more than a few moths does so for one simple fact: Their bodies are able to.

Unfortunately, many veg*ns are all-too-willing to throw people with food allergies, deficiencies, including various types of anaemia under the bus in the name of “living ethically”. It’s practically impossible to find veg*n proteins, especially anything pre-packaged, that does not contain some combination of soy and/or nuts and/or wheat. Now, most people have no issue eating those things, hell, I can eat two of the three I just listed, but may the gods help you if you’re trying earnestly to live strictly veg*n and have an allergy to any of them.

Furthermore, while your basic anaemia is fairly easy to manage on even a strict vegan diet, it’s apparently very hard for the 1 in 500 people of African ancestry living with sickle-cell anaemia (that’s a number roughly on-par with Lynn Conway’s estimate of TS/TG prevalence), due to the way the body processes iron coming from relatively soft muscle fibres verses iron that the body has to break down tough cellulose to even get to.

It’s also been recently theorised that Pythagoras’ aversion to beans in his school and his own life, may have perhaps been a result of hemolytic anemia, which can be onset from consuming fava beans (which was, coincidentally, a bean he seemed especially averse to).

The sickle cell difficulties with veg*nism, though, brings me to:

Racism

Pretty much no-one without even the tiniest amount of African ancestry on both sides has sickle-cell anaemia. If the “dream” is “for the world to go vegan”, that’s clearly a world that will ultimately eradicate a lot of black people! And when you consider that it’s a recessive gene and it needs to be present on both sides of one’s biological family line to inherit it, and even then it’s still a crap shoot, it’s awfully hard to determine who will and will not pass it on. The only way to guarantee that “the world” can “go vegan” and stay that way is to eliminate anyone who has and may potentially pass on health issues that make a strict veg*n diet of any sort difficult. Sorry, Black people, seems you’re not a part of the “dream” that a lot of veg*ns have.

Classism

It’s possible to avoid a lot of the issues with a veg*n diet and dietary restrictions due to allergies but only if one can afford it. Can’t have soy? Well, there’s seitan and Quorn (a patented food product made from mushrooms) and nuts as your sources of protein, but the latter two can get incredibly expensive, and seitain only costs a little bit more than tofu (on average), but that’s if you can find it in a form that isn’t processed or packaged with soy (which is in so much packaged foods that there are even meat and dairy products that I can’t have due to soy content). Allergic to tree nuts? Well, tough titties, it’s apparently in almost everything veg*n.

Then there’s the fact that, in the under-developed parts of the world (and I specify this for a reason), it’s been studied that children on solid foods who get even a few tablespoons, maybe two ounces by volume, tops, of meat per week (that’s far less than most Americans eat in a day, or even a single meal!) tend to have higher cognitive developmental rates from children who do not get that, because it turns out that growing bodies are especially in need of fats and cholesterol for brain development, which you get far more easily and efficiently (and in some parts of the world: least-expensively) from eating meat. Now, I specify “the under-developed parts of the world” because these problems are largely non-existent amongst Western veg*n families for the simple fact that Western veg*n families have far easier access to veg*n-friendly options to get their children those needed nutrients (and yes, I know there are exceptions of Western dumbasses thinking they can feed their kids a strict veg*n diet without reading up on childhood nutritional needs nor how to meet that in a veg*n diet, but they’re so rare they become national headlines when it happens).

…now let’s move on to the issues that tend to be far more of a concern for spiritual people with animistic beliefs:

Plant Sentience

The science behind plant sentience is growing. They can communicate with others of their own species, and there is growing data to suggest that some species even recognise members of their own species that are related to them, directly. While true that plants lack what is currently under the definitions of brains, neurons, and central nervous systems, so do scallops, which are inarguable animals and banned from any good veg*n’s diet (and when confronted with this information, that bivalves lack neurology and thus any “pain and suffering” perception that relies on a definable neurology, usually the ban on eating bivalves is justified on environmental grounds). They communicate kinship, and a desire to live and to thrive — the most basic definition of sentient life.

It’s a sentience altogether alien to us, as complex mammals, sure, but as any spiritual person, especially with animist beliefs and a tendency to see and/or feel spirits everywhere: just because a sentience is not fully understood does not make it invalid.

It’s easy to read the desires to live and thrive of animals, even a worm wrigggles in an attempt to get away from the bird. We, as a species, are only just beginning to brush off the dust from the bookcover of plant sentience. I have no doubt that even further strides to opening that book will be made in my lifetime — the sine might not even come close to getting cracked in this lifetime, but any steps closer will prove necessary in supporting the notion that the world is filled with spirits.

Now add Ethics

When considering plant sentience, even as a theoretical idea that may or may not hold water (which would betray a lack of reading, but it’s not the point here), one thing soon comes to light: the only parts of the plant which are freely given, and typically most-beneficial to the plant to be eaten are the fruits and nuts. Ergo, the fruitarian diet is, by leaps and bounds, the most ethical dietary lifestyle. That said, very few people have proved an ability to thrive on a fruitarian diet, and all have been adults. Even leading veg*n nutritionists advise against raising children strictly fruitarian because of risk of B12 deficiencies (which can be avoided with B12-fortified nutmilks and cereals in a less-restrictive veg*n diet), but I’m sure there’s someone out there who thinks that it’s cos those veg*n nutritionists are getting their pockets lined by the heavily-subsudised and multi-billion dollar soy industry. (As an aside: I’m always curious why so many veg*ns are quick to accuse non-veg*ns of “being duped by the meat [and dairy] industry!” when the fact of the matter is, soy is BIG BUSINESS, heavily subsidised about as much as corn and it’s evil high-fructose syrups, if not more, and is in nearly everything that comes in a tin or a box, unlike meat and dairy….)

The next best thing, all things described above considered, even consulting divination, is that a spiritually-minded semi-vegetarian diet, as close as possible to the diets of the BCE Mediterranean to one’s budget and tastes, is what’s best.

Pleasure

As a Hedonist, Pleasure is the greatest good, and the ultimate ethical determination of whether or not to take an action. As one starting this journey from the Cyrenaic school, I’m the only one who can know what is most pleasurable to myself, and the sensual/bodily pleasures are to be considered before ascetic pleasures of the mind; the body will feed the mind and the soul as it needs to. Now, I’m unusual from what is most-known of the Cyrenaic school in that I consider the gods and spirits far more than fragmented knowledge surviving of the Cyrenaics suggests they may have. I please myself by pleasing Eros and those nearest to Him (and vice-versa): Nyx, Psykhe, Hedone, the Erotes, the Khairetes….

My knowledge of these gods and others has led me to the belief that literally everything has a spirit of some sort. It’s impossible to eat without harming or outright taking a life and sending some spirit or another upset. We can make this upset more pleasurable an experience by simply asking before we eat:

Ask the carrot to let its spirit bless you with the nutrients you need from it.

Ask the apple to forgive if, if you cannot spread its seeds after feasting on its meat.

Ask the chicken to flutter onto the barge and take its place among the asphodel on the other bank.

Ask the gods of the agriculture to the meal with you, because without Them, you’d probably starve.


1: In case you were curious and haven’t checked in with me on FaceBook in a while, I’m still, at the time I write this, only getting $16/month in food stamps, which NOBODY can live on. My disability cheque, while getting the annual cost-of-living increase, still totals only $680/month, and Etsy is currently only averaging me about $250/month, so after rent, bills, cat expenses, bus pass, medications not covered by Medicare, and any money that has to go back into my shop (Etsy fees, parts, bubble mailers, printer ink), I did the maths, I have exactly $94 *for the entire month*. My DreamHost bill is currently behind because my cat needed his FeLV vaccine done right. I can’t afford to *finally* make my own ding-danged name legal in March when I’m finally eligible again, and to add insult to injury, I can’t afford to eat much more than rice and beans and pastas, at home (if you’re watching on Instagram, yeah, I eat a lot of pizza-by-the-slice, cos I have friends, and it’s cheap). If you value this blog, please contribute to my Patreon fund

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.

Hedonist priorities

I’m sure there are going to be people who think this is evidence of some majorly borked-up priorities, but I’d rather go with less or without in some area or another, for myself, than to make my cat, my friends / A2/Ypsi Gothic Gatherings, my work DJing at WCBN, or my gods, go with less or without, from me.

By bettering the beings and situations around me in any way I have even a modicum of control over, I’m actively working to increase beauty, joy, and pleasure in my own life. Hedonism, by its nature, is pluralist in that the only one in a person’s life who can define and measure where pleasure derives and which smooth motions (pleasures) can outweigh any rough motions (pains), is entirely up to that person. Granted, the extant fragments on the Cyrenaic school placed “earthly” pleasures of the senses over the more ascetic pleasures of the Epicuran school (let’s put aside the ancient notion that Epicurus practically plagiarised portions of his teachings from the Cyrenaic Theorodus “the Atheist”), if only because experience is placed as the source of all knowledge; while ascetic pleasures certainly can be a knowledge of experience, it is one of those great ineffables that is practically impossible to teach, and by some arguments may be best found after a period of earthly indulgences.

There have been times where I’ve had less than I currently do (if you can imagine that), and there was a time when I basically had a millionaire’s trust-fund at my disposal. Sure, I’d be lying if I said I prefer poverty (after all, I’m not some hipster who thinks it’s a trait that makes people more interesting), but if i think about what I enjoy, what I really find most pleasurable in both experiences, it’s never been the times where I’ve had more for myself if those I hold dear can’t enjoy in it, as well. It’s always been the times when I can do what I can with what I have to share the gifts of Hedone with others; maybe it means I can buy a round for literally everyone at the bar, or maybe it means I have to pack a sandwich or tightly ration my dry goods another week so that I can pick up a new card game to play with my friends or make sure the Khairetes can have that statue I’ve had my eye on.

And if the Gods help those who help themselves, then by seeking the pleasures that matter most to me, surely They will find a way to make sure that I have what I need when I need it most.

Hedonism is only about selfishness and greed if that’s what a person is bringing to it. Such people tend to see little growth, regardless of what schools of thought they find easiest to latch onto. But when one brings to it a desire to fulfill the pursuit of sensual pleasures through shared experiences, then it’s hard to describe that as inherently selfish.

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.

Response to an email via the Contact page

Name: Becky
Email: b*******@yahoo.com
Comment: Can you imagine being in a small cage, isolated your entire life? You have got to go beyond murder. If I am ever caged like livestock, euthanise me. Spinach has a better quality life.
Subject: You suck

Can you imagine being ripped from the very thing that has fed you and sustained your very life? Can you imagine being mutilated, having everything that wasn’t 100% necessary for sustaining your life ripped and cut from your body, and feeling it happen over and over again, for the duration of your life, which may be hundreds of years? Can you imagine making screams that all other living things have insisted for millennia don’t even exist because it’s at a frequency only you and your own kind can hear? Can you imagine actually BEING A LIVING THING, but not even afforded the dignity of being regarded as LIVEstock?

I’m guessing that you can’t, but such is the fate of the spinach you claim lives this “better” life. To me, that sounds rather nightmarish, but in spite of the mounting studies confirming the sentience of plant life, we very seldom hear people pondering the life of the carrot or the lettuce or the herb.

I’m guessing that you’re responding to this post, and making an appeal to my sense of compassion for the living, but the thing is, I have been vegetarian at points of my life, and my own soy allergy aside (making even a full-time vegetarian diet prohibitively expensive on my budget, much less a vegan one), and it no longer holds compatible with my sense of compassion.

Even plant sentience aside, the evidence continues to mount that a veg*n diet is not a sustainable, compassionate option for everyone. The fuel necessary to keep the population of every major city fed on a veg*n diet, even if that was the only people who went vegetarian or vegan, would be detrimental to the environment, and not to mention the constant need for farming and harvesting living plants to feed those people all year round would radically change the temperate through tropic climates and their landscapes. As it stands, the necessary daily protein for an adult human of any sex is contained in 2oz of beef –but in a whopping 6oz by volume of dried beans or 10oz of brown rice. Meat bay be too expensive to eat every day, but the volume of protein per ounce renders meat the most nutritionally-economic choice for it and other nutrients; the amount of veg*n protein options to feed the current populations of even only major cities *would*, indeed, radically change the landscape of too many places to be truly compassionate.

You’ve made a choice to go veg*n, cos that’s what works for you at this time. That’s great. But it simply can’t work for everyone; at least not until the VHEMT movement takes off at a wide scale, but you’d figure that if we can, indeed, return to a pre-historic human population, not only will the factory farming argument become irrelevant (no need for it with such a small population), so will many veg*n arguments against the consumption of animals for “compassionate” reasons.

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.

Merry Kitsch-mas

Yeah, i know that evergreens have a long-standing place in many pagan and polytheist traditions, and there are certainly some pine and fir species native to Greece and Her ancient colonies, but damned if I can find much suggesting that either are specifically sacred to this time of year. And let’s check the weather in modern Thespiai for this time of the year; not very analogous to Ypsilanti, MI, is it?

…but I love the kitcshy metallic decorative trees, I do, and adapting to the local ways is, at least to some extent, a part of the ancient tradition —and for certain definitions to “local”, kitsch is very much a part of U.S. culture that I can respect (just look at how many John Waters films I inflict on unsuspecting friends). So I adapt the kitschy tree to celebrate the new year, and reflect my Boeotian and Hedonist religion.

I pick out my ornaments very carefully: Birds for Eros, Butterflies for Psykhe, and Jewels for Hedone. The colours are a little less meaningful; purple is my favourite colour, and I’ve come to associate blues with Eros, and the two compliment each-other well. The arrangement is also made with an aesthetic quality in mind (and frankly, while I liked making cheesy little ornaments as a kid, I always HATED the appearance of the typical “family tree”, with a lot of sentimental ornaments, and no sense of appearance in mind –I remember asking my mother several times why we didn’t have those gorgeous, colour-themed trees decorated with gossamer ribbons and coordinated ornaments in the displays at the stores and in some magazines, and she never gave me a straight answer and always added “when you grow up and get your own tree, you can decorate it however you like”. Good. I will. And it’ll be a better tree! With blackjack! And hookers!)


Want to help me pay my post-holiday electric bill? Take a look at my Nocturnal Spirits or OddModOut Etsy shops; if you see nothing you like, there, please consider donating to my Patreon fund-raiser.

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.

“We can never be certain of the Gods” –this argument is irrelevant

From a recent convo with Aine Llewellyn on FaceBook:

How do we know that anything we do for the gods is what they for sure definitely totally 100% want double triple quadruple-checked? Can we stop with the obnoxious excuse of ‘we can’t be sure the gods REALLY want this’ argument? It provides nothing, as it can’t actually be argued against, nor is it itself a coherent argument. It adds nothing, nothing, nothing, to any discussion I have seen it brought up in. All it does, is shut discussion down.

…to which I responded:

We also can’t be sure that when a couple says ‘I do’ at a wedding, that they really, truly, 100%, double-triple-quadruple checked meant it. Seriously, we can’t be 100% certain of anything in our lives other than ‘do I feel what I’m experiencing as real?’ …and even then, we can’t be sure of every factor that played into our experience of it, we can only be sure of how we feel of it at the time we experienced it. Thus the whole ‘we cannot be certain of the gods’ argument is, inherently, useless –cos if one wants to play that game, I can play it better.

Someone once said to me on the Internet, that they had more evidence from experience of the existence of their gods than they had of my own existence —which makes perfect sense from an empirical standpoint. For all they knew, I could have been, at most, a ‘fake’ person created by some one else to RP with online, or even an elaborate sock-puppet troll —at most. I could’ve also been a really odd mass-hallucination shared by them and several other people that the first person knew to exist and, at least sometimes, post to an email list under certain email addresses. If you want to get technical, i could’ve also been their own hallucination from a comabed they mightn’t have left for years, all the while completely unaware that they’d ever had an accident that put them there. It was that logic that actually helped bring me around to Hedonism, cos it’s technically correct —which, as I’m sure you know, is my favourite kind of correct.

And in all seriousness, how can we be certain that my ntural hair colour ISN’T L’Oreal’s 2.1 Onyx Sheen, and the “dying process” I perform every month is actually just an unveiling to release the true colour from the outgrown false one? Sure, we can say that the empirical evidence suggests that I’m adding colour onto the outgrowth of my natural auburn, but how can we be certain that what we’ve observed is what is true? Because we’ve seen it? The wealth of evidence that the human mind is very good at playing tricks on itself suggests that we can’t be. Because it’s what others observe, as well? Unfortunately, mass hallucinations are also a fairly common phenomenon, and we can only truly be certain of that which exists in ourselves, in other words: Do we feel it to be real? Does it meet our own criteria, which exists only for us, for something that is real?

My friend Phaedra had once remarked that her hair had been candy-red for so long, that for all intents and purposes, it was her real haircolour, and the process of changing it from her own auburn to a candy red was simply a “revealing” ritual. (Of course, last we Skyped, it seemed she’d switched to Black, but that’s irrelevant.) Every time I’ve changed my hair colour, I’ve essentially changed my reality —not just in how I look, but also in how I feel, and how people treat me. Reality isn’t merely what’s observed, reality is what’s experienced and known from that experience to be real.

The topic seemed to have dovetailed from a debacle of several weeks concerning the nature of sacrifice and the appropriateness of animal sacrifice.

True, I haven’t made any statements here on that topic, ever, but I’ve said enough in comments elsewhere that I think it should be well-known what my feelings are, but for the sake of completeness, I’ll say something about it here:

On all ethical grounds, I really have no problem with blood sacrifices; after all, while my default diet lately has been “semi-vegetarian” (if only cos meat costs too much to eat every day, much less with every meal, as many Americans believe is necessary), I do eat meat, and in my mind, an animal raised for the purpose of sacrifice to the gods tends to have a measurably better life than one raised in factory farming for the sole purpose of becoming meat.

The argument that we’ve come far enough as a species and/or a culture to no longer need either meat, blood sacrifice, or both, erases the experiences of those in the culture with certain food allergies who are also too poor to supplement their diet with the veg*n options necessary to make up for a complete lack of meat and/or dairy —in other words, it is an ableist and classist argument. Since the meat eaten in a feast following the relatively humane slaughter practises from a ritual sarcifice has had a measurably better, more humane and comfortable life than the factory-farmed animal, blood sacrifice therefore become the most-humane option for consuming meat —this still may not be a feasible option as the only meat one eats, and i’m not going to pretend I have any insights into how that may be balanced, but it’s like the poor gay kid shopping at Salvation Army thrift stores: They’re an incredibly homophobic organisation, but if that’s one’s only option for clothing and furniture, then one isn’t doing oneself any favours by depriving oneself to make a statement (that said, if one’s statement is more important to oneself than being properly clothed, that’s certainly a decision that one is free to make).

Furthermore, the argument that white people practising religions with pantheosn Whose worship originated in Western Europe and certain areas of the Mediteranean shouldn’t practise blood sacrifices, but that dark people practising religions of Africa and the applicale diaspora should be free to do all the animal sacrifices they please is an inherently racist argument. It’s not racist because it is an argument that implicitly forbids white people from a freedom that is extended to black people —it is racist because (especially when juxtaposed alongside a “we’ve come so far….” argument) it simply plays into the old “savage” archetypes and tropes of Africans and suggests that those of the African diaspora are an inherently “primitive” people. Basically, it’s a patronising sort of racism that really has no place in civilised discussions, especially from a group of people (being pagans, the Pagan community, and polytheists) that tends to fancy themselves as being inherently unracist. While true that forbidding such practises to the African diaspora (AD) and others is a product of colonialism (which, in some respects, is closely related to racism in ways that it can be difficult to tell one from the other), the apparent motivations behind allowing AD and other groups while forbidding it to white people is born of the same kind of racism that produces exotification and the “noble savage” tropes. If one doesn’t support white people practising polytheist religions that have a history of blood sacrifice traditions to actually practise those blood sacrifice traditions, but one supports blood sacrifices when practised by darker people practising traditional and syncretic religions that utilise blood sacrifice, then one must ask oneself why, and re-evaluate the inherent validity of that belief.

Furthermore, the argument for the sentience of plant life becomes more and more compelling with each new observation and study in the field. While this in no way diminishes what has already been known of animal central nervous systems, perception of pain and suffering, and inherent sentience, the average ethical argument against the practises of blood sacrifice do tend to absolutely ignore the very real matter of plant sentience, and even the basic fact that the average vegan diet relies on the deaths and mutilations of billions of plants. If all life were truly equal to such people, then frankly, they’d be fruitarian and eat only fruits and nuts, the only parts of the plant which are freely given and (especially in the case of fruit) is actually best for the plant to be eaten, than to be left to rot. To fool oneself into believing, in light of evidence for plant sentience, that excluding animal life from the deaths needed to sustain one’s own existence, is an adherence to a principle of “least harm” is to make a pact of intellectual dishonesty and speciesism. To me, the lettuce sacred to Adonis is no less worthy of its life than the cow sacred to Hera.

To bring this back around to what the gods want, the fact of the matter is that if one believes in the multiplicity, and also the inherent individuality and personal autonomy of the gods, then it is perfectly logical that different deities may have different opinions, and especially permissive deities may not care if one group or selection of individuals practises blood sacrifice, while another group does no, and each group conducts each practise in that deity’s name. If not one of us can be certain of the wants and desires of the gods, then logically that argument must be applied to all groups and individuals performing ritual, including sacrifices, to the gods. When someone counters an assertion of a divine request of blood sacrifice with “oh, but no-one can really be certain of the wants and desires of the gods”, then logically, that person can no more be certain that the first person is wrong, either; if the second is to foolishly add on “…and it’s been requested of me by [x-Deity] to only perform bloodless sacrifices…” or “and [x-Deity] doesn’t mind that my sacrifices are bloodless…” then the same argument of “we cannot be certain of the gods” works just as much as it would work against the person performing a blood sacrifice. “We cannot be certain of the gods”, as true a statement as any, applies to everyone, regardless of what, exactly, they are doing in a Deitie’s name —to assert that truth whilst implying that one’s own position may be a favoured one is not only inconsistent with the asserted statement, it is hubristic.

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.