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


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.

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.

Just when i thought I’ve seen the stupidest thing I’ve ever read, I go and read the stupidest thing I’ve ever read….

So, I want to make this clear, that I’m not now (nor have I ever, just for the record) *directly* violating anyone’s implied trust or etiquette; that’s on someone else, who is also not the person who forwarded this item to me. The following is from FaceBook, someone whose friends-list I am not now nor have I ever been on, and as best as I can tell, nor has the person who forwarded it to me –as I’m at least three degrees removed from this, I feel somewhat safer from any implied breach of etiquette than someone else should.

Todd Jackson “ ‘Made to penetrate’ is an awkward phrase that hasn’t gotten any traction.”

Maybe because the idea is laugh-out-loud stupid.

“It’s also something we instinctively don’t associate with sexual assault. But is it possible our instincts are all wrong here?”


” We might assume, for example, that if a man has an erection he must want sex”

Well, yes!

Ten out of ten times, when I have an erection I want sex. I’m not looking for a place to hang my wet laundry so it can dry. I’m not looking to provide a chin-up bar for neighborhood children who need to work on their triceps. No, no, no.
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Todd Jackson If I were a woman I think I’d be pissed off by this.
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D Knowing an adult male that went through something very similar, I understand the article.
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Todd Jackson Did he go through it *as* an adult male, or as a boy?
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D Boy
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Todd Jackson That’s different.
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D Teens also have a lot of problems discerning sexual issues.
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E I am sorry, but some people can get erections for a variety of reasons, technically you do not even need actual mental cognition. Not to mention the whole psycho-sexual analysis behind it. I do not think we should dismiss men who might have had semi or full on erection, if I might speak blunt and freely, as really wanting it then. Anymore then we should be of women who were not as anti-aroused at the time…
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M Todd. Don’t let your biases cloud your judgement. You say that men who have erections automatically want sex? Want to be taken advantage off? Do you not have boners during your sleep, and sometimes wake up with morning wood as it’s so eloquently put in English? Do you not sometimes have surprise boners at the most inconvenient of times? Is that because at that moment you really want to have sex, or just because your body is being a dick (no pun intended) and doing things without your conscious involvement? Just like women who are raped by men can experience sexual arousal despite not wanting to have sex – which by the way is a source of endless guilt feelings of victims thinking they somehow must have wanted it, something that perpetrators and victim blamers often exploit – so can men have involuntary physical reactions, against their own conscious will. Just like when a women says no – even if she is legitimately aroused – so men can say no despite arousal, and if someone else then forces them despite their refusal, then that is called rape. Physical processes and reactions of the body do not necessarily reflect any conscious want of the person in question, be they male or female. In short, NO means NO.
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Todd Jackson Not buying it, [M].
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So basically, according to Todd Jackson, who (last I checked) was neither a medical doctor, nor a psychologist specialising in sexual abuses or human sexuality, nor even Annie Sprinkle who has a Phd in Human Sexuality –Todd Jackson, an easily-proved non-expert on sex and sexuality and the psychology of human sexuality and sexual abuses, thinks he knows more about the human body and sex than victims of sexual abuse.

He also purports to know how women would feel about the subject of men who are raped, when one of the leading feminist blogs on the Internet even admits that 1 in 20 men have claimed to be forced to penetrate.

Now, nonsense like this is no news to me, and the fact that Todd Jackson doesn’t know what he’s talking about has been non-news to me for years, but what I find offensive about this is that this man and his betrothed seem to fancy themselves priests and mouth-pieces for Apollon. Frankly, Apollonians don’t need people like this in positions of power within the community –I get enough crap from people on Tumblr who need an etymology lesson on linguistic drift of the word “rape”, especially with regards to Hellenic myth, I don’t need to see people who claim rape doesn’t happen or that consent doesn’t actually exist being treated as if longevity alone is enough to warrant respect.

I had already considered Kyklos Apollon to be tainted to the point of association with it being miasmic, and Todd just seems intent on digging himself an even deeper hole of polluted thinking.

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.

Smooth Motions: Giving and Community

We need people. Even the most introverted personality types still, at least on occasion, want the companionship of others (if not, you’re not exactly an introvert, you’re a misanthrope, but that’s another story for another time). There are loads of psychological explanations for how a sense of community benefits and shapes us, and how lacking it also shapes us but in a manner harmful to our psyches.

The modern Pagan community (note “large P”) has been shaped, in no small part, by science fiction fandom via Tim “Oberon” and Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart. Of course, clearly preferring R.A. Heinlein over Gene Roddenberry, this created a massive sense that “individualism” and the pursuit of doing for oneself before all else that has lousied up Paganism every moment since.

Hedonism is often misunderstood as inherently selfish, and some ancient characterisations certainly don’t help much on the matter, but Hedonism is about creating pleasure over pain: smooth motions over rough. In a certain light, this *is* argueably self-centred, because Aristippus argued that the self and specifically the individual’s experiences are the only reference points one has for relating to the world and making decisions.

That said, Aristippus was also known for binging on money-raising efforts to throw lavish parties. When his critics accused him of being in a love-affair with money, he pointed out, factually, that the money was now gone, and he’d be begging or teaching tomorrow, because the experience of the party meant more than having the money, and his guests certainly seemed to be in agreement. When you have experiences of pleasure, which Aristippus compared to a “smooth motion” on a water’s surface, all the money in the world cannot replace that; it is also worth noting that Aristippus’ experience of that party depended upon, at least the appearances of, pleasure in others (after all, he was on no place to judge what they were truly feeling, and admitted that).

Hedonism thus offers a philosophy that shows the Individual and the Community as symbiotes: When we create pleasurable experiences for others, we can create pleasurable experiences for ourselves, and we cannot create experiences for ourselves without affecting those around us, so it is to our benefit to maximise the potential for smooth motions. Pain is characterised as “rough motion” on the water; sometimes it’s necessary, but when at all possible, we need to be mindful to minimise this –in ourselves, first and foremost (as we’re our own most-reliable reference points), but secondarily in others.

The recent “debate” over whether or not it is wise to give to people’s crowd-funding efforts for things —whether it be a trip to Newgrange or a ding-danged funeral (and ask Aine Llewellyn, who watches me on FB, I don’t pull out the double-d-word over just anything)— is ultimately a rough motion, and ultimately frivolous nonsense: Not only are these people creating, for themselves, unnecessary discomfort by being offended at crowd-sourcing funds, a rough motion, but that careless thrashing in the pool ripples back against everyone else. What strikes me the most about this backlash is that it’s wholly unnecessary.

While I still disagree with her decision, for her (in)famous Kickstarter tour with a different local band in every city, to only compensate the particpating musicians with “beer and conversation” as something that sets a potentially dangerous precedent in a world where musicians are too-often talked into playing “for experience and beer” when they’re trying to make the rent, or at least afford toast to go with their rice and beans, I also can’t argue with Amanda Palmer’s claims that, to those who participated in that tour with her, that the exchange was fair (see “The Art of Asking”); who am I to judge the pleasureable exchange, and thus perception of fairness, that another feels in an act, when I myself would find the same circumstances unfair? As my only reference point is my own experiences and sense of smooth versus rough motions, I simply cannot make that judgement for another. What’s fair to me might seem excessive or even unconscionable to another —I’ve certainly found myself in rough positions in a conversation while trying to raise money for The Tomb when people cannot see how my refusal to budge on either venue to how much to pay the band and DJs isn’t at all unreasonable.

While I can understand the Pagan community ideal that “life shouldn’t be about money”, at the same time, there are points where the need for money are going to rear their ugly heads, and there are points where, yes, money may be a rough necessity for an ultimately smooth motion, like Aristipppus’ parties, or a pilgramage to Newgrange, or a loved one’s funeral expenses. Only a handful of us, relatively speaking, are in a position where either we ourselves can, or we have families where “everyone” can afford to pitch in to pay for a thing that will bring smooth motion to ourselves and our communities. The rest of us have to turn to the community.

Turning to the community for everything from a religious pilgrimage, to funeral expenses, to basic daily needs like food and shelter, has a long history, especially in religious communities, and it’s a traditon that *so* far pre-dates Christianity that it pre-dates the implementation of the money system. Those who have less have turned to those who have, and who have more –they have turned to the community– to get. This has often (until very recently in human history) created or at least fostered a sense of duty in those who have less to foster community and give back in ways that we can. For millennea, we, the have-lesses and have-nots have been the artists, musicians, performers, and holy persons of communities –the notion that the Arts and spiritual pursuits are merely a hobby for trust-fund brats has only really existed since 20th Century America reared its ugly head, and even then, it’s only ever been true for a rather tiny percentage of those of us in the arts and pursuing spiritual endeavours; for every Mozart who enjoyed a period of wealthy patronage (regardless of how deeply impoverished and indebted he died), there have been hundreds of folk musicians playing in public houses while their assistant, friend, or lover passes the hat, and there have been thousands of buskers on the corners of every street, relying on the assessment of the passers-by that their music is worth a few small coins. Not only is playing music and other arts hard, physical work, it’s also thankless and traditionally amongst the lowest-paid, especially relative to the pleasure it gives back.

This is not necessarily a defense of crowd-funding efforts, after all, it’s the same basic principle that buskers and street artists have employed for centuries, just optimised for the Internet and thus potentially reaching a wider audience. No-one needs to defend it any more than they need to defend buskers and independent artists who, traditionally, for millennea, have relied on gift-money given freely by members of the community who not only see the value in the art, but who can and want to support those who make it.

I do, though, feel that those who put down the practise in their words are incredibly short-sighted and, at least temporarily, unwilling to see the bigger picture: The experiences we enjoy and, too-often, take for granted in this world, experiences of music, reading the freely-distributed writings of bloggers, and so on…, these are thankless jobs taken on by people who not only can, but want to, and do it well-enough that others enjoy. And clearly those who do it well-enough have a higher potential to become well-enough connected to hold successful crowdfunding for things they need or want to do, things that will make their continued services to their art(s) all the more pleasurable to the community, and all the more easier for the artists, writers, and musicians to accomplish.

This isn’t even considering the fact that there are dozens of charities (at the very least) built around funding religious pilgrimages for young Jews and Muslims, and hundreds of charities designed around funding young artists –and where most people bringing those up fail is to mention that a lot of hose charities and scholarships ultimately have to turn a lot of people, many of them worthy, due to being unable to fund everyone, and most of those scholarships only partially cover costs, so money for these things still has to come from somewhere. This is where crowdfunding, especially for the arts and relatively tiny religious communities, and especially for people over the age of 25-30 (which, last I checked, was still well over half the population in the developed world), is actually ideal; it’s unfortunate that, to make crowdfunding work, at all, one has to be well-known or at least well-connected, but truth be told, “success” has always been about who one knows more than how skilled one is –and that’s not just what I tell myself to explain why people still read Star Foster’s blog, it’s the truth (though, unfortunately, I can’t find the Cracked artile about this).

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.


From my GoFundMe page update:

Nigel likes to watch....

Nigel likes to watch….

I am signing the lease on MONDAY!!! I know I’m just over halfway to my goal, but i *need* the amount for a security deposit –and unfortunately, because the low-cost vaccine/microchip day is only one day a month (and Nigel really needs the chip and his FELV vax; if one of these other cats isn’t up on their shots, or something were to happen and he got out, it really is his best protection), which is the day before I go back to A2/Ypsi, this means I NEED to raise a lot more by then! They said they can accept part of it when i sign the lease and the rest on move-in day (the 25th), but I’d rather it look better for me and get it in asahp! CAN WE MAKE THIS HAPPEN???

So what do you say, can we? We just breached the halfway mark a couple days ago, and I just updated the maths –if every single person who’s subscribing to this blog via WordPress.com (WP.com reader and e-mails, combined) donated just $28 (my lucky number!) then I’m in the clear! C’mon, if BNP, TWH’s JP-W1 can donate $20 to the cause, surely you can do that or better, right? (If you can’t, why not? Aren’t we polytheists at a war with pagans? Do you really want to let the pagans win??2

Can’t find the little progress bar widget thing? Can’t be bothered to go to the frontpage of this blog where it is practically all over? Here you go!

1: translation – “Big Name Pagan, The Wild Hunt’s Jason Pitzel-Waters; don’t mind me, all the initials just entertained me for a mo’….
2: in case you couldn’t tell, I was being funny. I’m hilarious; a laugh-and-a-half. My mother said so. Are you calling her a liar? If so, that’s cool –I was a caesarian birth, so it’s not like you’re saying I came out of a liar’s vag or anything….

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.

Just did some maths

So, I’m still not quite halfway to my goal for moving expenses, so I decided to do some maths. Did you know that if everyone who is subscribing to this blog via WordPress.com (either reading via the site or email notifications –that’s all of 20 people) donated $35 after reading this post, I’d have enough money to move on? This would include:

* First month’s rent plus any applicable security deposit
* any potential need to rent a van
* petrol for my humanoid meat-based housemate’s Aztek (it’s TARDIS-lue! That’s gotta count for something with you people)
* all non-optional remaining cat expenses
* any miscellaneous expenses and covering GoFundMe’s fees (and maybe a wee bit left over for porno and candy!)

knowing it’s that little, what do you say? Can we make this happen? If you can’t do $35 (it would be too much for me to give, if the situation were reversed), can you spread the word to enough people to make up the difference? Like, say you can only give $5, if you tell six other people who then also give $5, it’d be just like giving that $35. 🙂

Come on, what do we say?

Did i mention that I also send a personal thank-you note to everyone who’s donated, so far? GoFundMe makes it easy for me to do that, so I usually get to it by the next day.

I already have Nigel’s ESA paperwork and I got him his own carrier just the other day (it was even on clearance!), and Sunday the 10th, I’m taking him to PetCo for the vaccine and Pet Cyborgification clinic err… and his microchip! (And also a new collar tag with just my cell number –but that’s $8 and I was intending to do that out-of-pocket, anyway). After that’s done, like the carrier and ESA papers, check it off and on to the rest of the things.

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.

Does anyone actually know?

I’m trying to figure out who actually coined the term “devotional polytheism” as it’s been used in polytheist and pagan circles this last five years. In response to Cora Post’s entry he-ah, I have the current comment awaiting moderation:

(such as the one who coined the phrase Devotional Polytheism and those that contributed to the comments on Sannion’s blog post in question).

You’ve found who coined that phrase? Cos it wasn’t who I thought it was, and at least one of the people you implied to have done so (or so I’ve gathered, since you did not actually name a person or people) has clearly stated that he did not do so.

I’m genuinely curious as to who coined the term “devotional polytheism” as it’s used in polytheist & pagan circles, cos I can’t find the culprit.

This is like when people allege that I invented the term “Wiccanate Neopaganism”, in spite of the numerous times that I myself, and others, icluding folks like John Halstead have said, “No, Johnny Rapture did, see?” I picked up the term from (guh) Star Foster, and clearly I had a hand in popularising that term, but I did not invent it.

Similarly, Cora Post implied (she implied all over the place) that Sannion or at least some-one else in these comments “coined the phrase Devotional Polytheism”, when I first remember seeing it from Dver years ago on the Neokoroi elist (and note her absence from that thread allegedly containing people who “coined the phrase”), and she has even said she got it from some-one else. As it’s unlikely that PSVL or Rhyd or TPWard are the person or persons she’s referring to (just based on the favt that people tend to get offended by those two chaps and that Bearer of the Fabulosa Fez considerably less), and I find it at least a tad improbable that the phrase originated with Ganila Krasskova (I think she’d’ve owned it, by now, if it had –she seems to do that sort of thing with frequency), it’s kind of bothering me that this misinformation is continuing, unchallenged and unretracted by those supporting it.

So does anyone actually know who first used it?

Hey, did you stumble upon this non-troversy somehow? Do you just want to stop seeing this thing in the footer? Please at least consider donating to my moving expenses, or my service animal and i will be out on the streets.

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.

Donations Update


So, I’m still not even halfway toward what I need, so far as donations go, and it’s been lingering there for about four days. (just as I was making the post, I got a kind donation from one of the long-time Hellenion ladies –thanks so much!)

Yes, I’ve decided to take care of my cat’s stuff, first, cos I do best when i plan for worst-case scenarios, and say I get approved for this apartment, if I can’t pay the first month’s rent and any applicable deposit, guess what? Nigel and I are going to be couch-surfing until another split apartment in my price-range becomes available. This worst-case scenario really isn’t ideal for a number of reasons —I’d probably have to temporarily close my Etsy shop, if it came to that, which means I’d have even less money. My humanoid meat-based housemate and his cunt girlfriend (a term I do not use lightly, but when I’m having a breakdown as I’m literally watch my late cat, Vermin, die a slow, painful death from cancer in her jaw, and you think that means I need to be in a group home and am just not worth the effort to be friends with anymore, fuck you, that’s a term that qualifies, and I’ve got no shortage of people backing me up on that), they would seriously rather see me on the streets than give me any leeway on finding my own place, if i have neither apartment approval nor the money to move. The housemate has offered to help me haul my crap back to Washtenaw County, but whether that’s to my own place or to store in my friend Jeff’s basement while I’m essentially homeless, it doesn’t matter to him.

Yeah, I’ve got Big Name Polytheist™ friends, even a couple who are argueably Big Name Pagans™ (I haven’t said much about this, but I might be working with a Llewellyn author on a second edition of a book, if that ever comes to pass), and I have a reasonably successful Etsy shop, but the former two and $2.50 will get me a latte, and the latter has just barely reached a point where I can afford my cat without my humanoid meat-based housemate or applying to pet charities. Remember, kids, I’m on disability allowance, which is not a living wage, and it is downright IMPOSSIBLE to save any reasonable amount of moving expense on my own, that’s without help from friends, those I choose as family, and any kind strangers, while living on that.

Yeah, I know, I came down on Star Foster pretty hard for her own begging, but last I heard, that woman was not an unemployable mess —just a drama queen with a penchant for showing her arse and burning her bridges and then protesting with the whole “why me??” schtick that gets old quick. I have a Way2Save account at my bank (Wells Fargo) with barely $150, and if I have to drain that to move, then I have to, but between that and the current accumulated donations, I still won’t have enough to move in on.

And I seriously hate doing this. Especially this short after the Polytheist Leadership Conference barely over two weeks ago AND Convergence XX in April –which I don’t regret attending, at all, but I know some people must think that this must not be that dire, for me, if I was able to cull some donations for that. After all, surely a Responsible Adult™ in his thirties would have the sense to realise that moving expenses are a little bit more necessary than the annual alt.gothic-sponsored weekender and a first-year conference for not-pagans. The funny thing is, I do realise that, or rather I realise that’s how it usually works, but I also had social and spiritual connections to re-kindle and make for the first time, at least in the off-line world, and as someone who’s relatively extroverted, that’s just as important to me, especially given my whole three years prior —wherein I threw my back out several times trying to erect a garden, and what I was able to do the city of Lansing demanded be cut down, I lost a few people I thought were friends for various reasons that never made any sense to myself or others, I lost my thirteen-year-old cat and my housemate lost his twenty-year-old cat [who I’d known at least twelve or thirteen of those years] in the same winter, which just intensified my usual bout of seasonal depression tenfold so that I nearly killed my ten-year-old laurel from neglect, and this most recent winter, the gods-damned polar vortex had me practically bedridden from back pain, and to top it all off, I just can’t connect with the local gods and spirits here they way I can at other places, and my arts have stagnated. Maybe it wasn’t the most “financially responsible” thing, to basically take two vacations in under three months, but trust me, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, that much travel was necessary to remind me that I can still do this and that and those other things that are so important as to still be a major part of my very identity.

So if you can spare $10 (as several have) or even just $5 or $1 (I don’t know how low GoFundMe will let you donate to a thing), please do so. If you’d rather not donate from GoFundMe (they do take a fee), you can PayPal me directly at oddmodout@hotmail.co.uk. If you’d rather not do either, you can send a money order (made out to “E K McElroy”) or well-concealed cash (I did recently have a birthday) to my P.O. Box (which I should be able to pick up the contents of again at least by 11-12 August, when I plan on being back in the area to [hopefully] sign a lease, or at least check out more places, and definitely continue networking through my TS/TG group and leave offerings at the “temple” at Island Drive park) at:

Ruadhán J McElroy
P.O. Box 7313
Ann Arbor, MI 48107

…and if you want to send other things I might need, like gift cards for PetCo, Walgreen’s, Target, Jo-Ann, Trader Joe’s, etc… (please not Wal-Mart, they treat their employees horribly –I’d also be reluctant to use a Whole Foods gift card, cos their owner is a Libertarian dickbag, but at least the employees at his stores are treated well), or maybe just unload some old candles or incenses that need a good home, I can surely put it to good use.

[as an aside, yes, I did indeed add a couple “hopeful” items to the GoFundMe “wish list” thing that I did not include in my budget outline —these are low on my priorities, especially as Nigel’s papers are in, and his carrier is paid for, and he just has to get cyborged/microchipped and a new ID tag, and he should be good —but I can’t take the fountain with me cos my roommate’s cat, Chunk, fears change of any sort (note, this was just a new STATIC DISH that was freaking her out), so she gets to keep the current fountain while I just might be able to get Nigel one just like it, AND his girlfriend thinks the cat tree is “too filthy” to move with them, but seriously, it just needs the damned hose from a RugDoctor rental rubbed over it to suck the dearly departed Fat Bob and Vermin’s essences out of it (and on the plus side –hey, otherwise free cat tree!). If I can’t afford these cat items right away, I’ll get to them when I get to them.]


I’m also selling a few things on GothAuctions.com. Currently I have DVDs, but this weekend I intend to finally post some comic books.

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.

Polytheism Just Is

Oh my shit, this is a non-issue, but maybe throwing my stick in the fire will get just enough attention to boost my donation drive for moving expenses? Here’s hoping….

I’m not trying to say that people are necessarily wrong for identifying with any particular terms they feel is important to identify their practise with, I’m simply saying it’s unnecessary. You don’t need to give your friend a birthday card to wish them a happy birthday, but if you feel that it’s important that you do so, then you do it, right? Good.

I don’t know who first called it “devotional polytheism”, but I have a vague recollection of Dver maybe tossing it out there on the Neokoroi list about six or seven years ago, as a distinction from those in the recon community from those whose primary focus was philosophy, but I also find myself second-guessing and thinking that Thista Minai first proposed it, or maybe it was someone else. I first really took notice of its use in relation to the polytheist blogosphere last year when Gus Gus first started showing his arse on Patheos. I noticed that there were those who, like deZerega and John Halstead, who gave it somewhat disparaging tones. Most importantly, I noticed tgat most of the people using “devotional polytheist” and related terms, were using it to refer to other people because of the notion that “there are all kinds of polytheists”, and those of us who actually worship the gods as individual, autonomous deities took exception to being called “fundamentalist” or “dominionist” polytheists. Regardless of whether or not it was actually once a self-identification amongst a handful of people on the Internet of not, it quickly became a means of warping what “polytheism” actually means by making a linguistically, etymologically fallacious divide of “polytheism” so as to include monism, archetypalism, and all manner of belief and practise that basically does not acknowledge the gods as being separate, autonomous beings, but as something else that on all linguistic grounds means that the person in question is simply not a polytheist.

A polytheist is on who believes in (and implicitly worships) many deities. If it’s not actual deities, but “cultural archetypes” that one is worshipping, then one is not a polytheist because one does not believe in deities.

Then there’s practises. This is where the vague recollection I have of an initial, independent development of “devotional polytheism” versus “philosophical reconstruction” was important: The latter emphasised a focus on philosophy to (supposedly) the neglect of worship through ritual and other action, the former emphasised worship via ritual and other acts of devotion. Depending on one’s religion, what constitutes “devout” may vary, but basics generally exist. Now, contrary to some fairly common ideas wandering around the polytheist blogosphere, the root of of “devotion” simply means “dedicate by a vow, sacrifice (make sacred) oneself, promise solemnly” and the Latin Wiktionary expands on this. It’s not about battfields, and it’s not about exclusion; sure, the Roman “devotio” existed, but that’s not something on the immediate minds of anyone using the words “devotional”, “devotee”, “devotions” or “devoted” in the English speaking world, and even by that last BCE century, the very word “devotio” had taken on more generalised definitions.

The best that I can tell, this minor trends in a corner of the polytheist blogosphere toward the term “immersive polytheism” doesn’t seem to suggest that anyone self-identifying with that term is actually doing anything from those who identify as simply “polytheists” or even the tiny handful of people who self-identify as “devotional polytheists” in spite of the implications of “crazy fundie polytheists who think gods are Real Gods” that the term has taken on at Patheos and other Neopagan spaces. Polytheism is a religion of practises, practises that become inseparable from one’s daily life; from morning and evening votive prayers as outlined by Hellenion and libations with meals and a shower prayer to Asklepios and Hygaea, to charitable activities and how one eats and walks in the cemetery or park, polytheist religions are about what one does for their gods.

Whatever adjectives you choose to prefix to it, polytheism is about doing things for our gods –from the Hindu family living in the Deshnoke Karni Mata “rat temple” as a devotion to Durga, to the Heathen maintaining graves of fallen soldiers, to the Hellenist lighting candles at key university buildings, to… That long thing PSVL describes eirself and eir religion with in one breath. You can call that “devotional” or “immersive” and cite all the bad etymology one likes, but it doesn’t change the fact that polytheism just IS.

Did I mention yet that I still have moving funds to make?

Please help, so I don’t have to panic.

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.