How did Fascism break the Polytheist Blogosphere?

If you know, let me know, cos I have no fucking idea. The cause is not necessarily as *important* at the fact that suddenly all my blog subscription alerts are all of a sudden all:

“Nazi, Fascist, Nazi, Nazi, Nazi, New Right and Fascists, Neonazis, Donald Duck and Walt Disney, crap n stuff, Henry Ford, Racism in polytheist groups — it’s somehow everywhere and barely anywhere — and did you know about this thing called Nazis? PS: Svastika – Nazi or Buddhist? Who can tell!?”

It’s like some of you people know, instinctively (even those who seem to barely seem to pay any attention to me on Teh Farceborg), that i fell off my bicycle, busted up my knee, and can barely leave the apartment, and i’m already tired of watching Netflix and Hulu, so all i have left to do is READ BLOGS. (Yes, I could probably re-read a few books, or re-watch a few DVDs, but let’s get real, kids…)

First, let’s go to Patheos Pagan’s article from Megan Manson, back in January(!!), which is suddenly in my Disqus Daily Diget comments feed, again, When Hitler Stole Our Symbols. On Facebook,I had this to say:

If you still think the svastika (“manji” in Japanese) is somehow an indefensible symbol if racism and fascism, you are a part of the problem — and I’ll even wager that you’re willing to let the white supremacists win by advocating the suppression of non-white practises, by advocating COLONIALISM, just to make white people more comfortable.

Seriously, I have a brass plate I use for offerings at my Apollon shrine, [it was] salvaged from some stuff a Hindi family at an old apartment complex I [lived] at nine years ago threw away [or rather, they left it in a small box near the building dumpster, apparently unable to take it to one of the local charity shops (for reasons that I’d imagine were ultimately racist and xenophobic), but unwilling to actually throw it away —an act which speaks volumes about the reverence given to the svastika to Hindus]. It has a svastika on it, along with other solar symbolism.

Silent film star Clara Bow, ca. 1924(?), long before the rise of the Nazis.

Silent film star Clara Bow, ca. 1924(?), long before the rise of the Nazis.

The symbol was used by the Boeotian peoples in ancient Greece — its implications and meanings in pre-Christian religions, and as a pre-WWII talisman [and benign decorative symbol] are often [clearly conveyed] in the specific use (how it’s drawn, any accompanying symbolism, any culturally-specific uses that should be clear — especially anywhere in Asia), which is a far cry from the Nazi hakenkruz. Needless to say, I kinda hate explaining this brass plate to anyone who remarks on it (which, so far, has totalled maybe 50% of everyone who’s been in my apartment [which is practically everyone who has actually seen it]), but I’m still going to, because, just like Makoto Watanabe (quoted in Cme Manson’s piece), I believe in education before suppression.

I find it just awful that Japan has seriously considered kowtowing to colonising Westerners who might be uncomfortable with the idea of learning shit about the world around them, such as the real history of a symbol they’ve been propagandised into believing is a universal symbol of hatred due to cultural appropriation. I also find it hell of ironic that a lot of white kids who talk big about how cultural appropriation is just awful will concede to giving white supramicists the solar cross “well, you know, COS NAZIS!!!” —even when it can be clearly demonstrated that the Nazis neither created, nor are the only people continuing to use an equilateral cross with all arms bent in a continuous direction.

By the way, did anyone remember how I went on about the svastika some months ago, right on here and everything? 😀

So, onto other news…

Apparently this happened, last night, and I’m apparently already late to the party with giving my two cents.

While Rhyd (who practically admitted authorship in the comments of John Beckett’s post, which Galina Krasskova was kind enough to highlight here, along with several other bloggers who got to commenting on this before I did) *did* attempt to clarify that none of the named segments of Pagans and Polytheists he names are inherently a part of the New Right he rightly states is necessary to call out from our communities, as John Beckett said in response (on his own blog, not in the G&R comments), Rhyd should know well enough to know that magic (which Rhyd practises) in specific, and people in general simply don’t work that way. One can put all the disclaimers in the world on whatever cockamamie statements they like, but the take-away the reader absorbs is still…


Beckett is being generous in suggesting that maybe Rhyd didn’t intend this take-away — and I’d be inclined to believe that, if not for the fact that I know that Rhyd is all about social justice movements — hell, one can barely skim through Gods & Radicals for a post by any author without coming across at least a sentence about the importance of gains in the social justice movements — statements I whole-heartedly agree with. That said, again, I find it hard to believe that Rhyd didn’t intend to imply all over the place that Goddess spirituality movements,1 Reconstructed polytheism, devotional polytheists, Druid-influenced groups including ADF(!!!)2 and somehow explicitly excluding OBOD, Feri, and Reclaiming, a group of which Rhyd openly has very close associations, and nearly every Heathen, Norse pagan, and “Northern Tradition” practitioner (the latter being a term just anout anyone with more than a passing familiarity with the Germanic polytheist splintering, even non-Heathens, such as myself, are aware is a term used near-exclusively by Raven Kaldera and his co-religionists — and I can say with confidence that Kaldera is as much a Fascist as he is cisgender), and not to mention a majority of witches (and also somehow more-immune to Fascist vulnerabilities are Feri and Reclaining, groups of which other core members of the G&R writing team have close, well-known associations), for the simple fact that, a common call-out in social justice circles all over the Internet for going on twenty years is this:

Good intentions do not make bad effects magically disappear.

Rhyd is very careful about his choices of words and phraseology. Plus there’s the fact that Rhyd is a smart man — I’ve not just observed this in his blogging, but also in real life, when I met him at the Polytheist Leadership Conference a couple years ago. He knows good intentions are no excuse for implicitly smearing others in this way (including others who have gone out of their way to support him, give him voice, and recognise the value in much of his words), regardless of the importance of the message that this smear is couched in.

Make no mistake: With the clear political message he’s conveying, I’ve got no real argument, though I think it would’ve been best to explain exactly what it is about things like hierarchies that make religious movements which acknowledge them more vulnerable to fascism. I pick on this point, in particular, for good reason:

Hierarchy actually is a foundation of the natural learning process, as Beckett explains. As I’m learning the philosophy of Erotic Hedonism for my position, I’m not at all on equal ground with Eros, nor ios Eros on equal ground with Nyx, nor Psykhe, nor Hedone. All these tiers have importance, and that importance is relevant when it’s relevant, but let’s be real for a minute:

A small child learning to read isn’t on equal ground with the ones teaching that child to read — hypothetical child can’t just decide that “cat” is pronounced like “floop” because someone let them believe that everyone is on equal ground in all ways, meaning Child gets to decide how “cat” is pronounced because their opinion is equal to Teacher’s.

That’s what hierarchy is, at its core: the root comes from the Greek, hierarkhia, “rule of a high priest”, hierarkhes, “leader of the sacred rites”, and ta hiera, “sacred rites” or “the sacred” — in the modern secular sense, it’s a formal recognition of authority, at its core. We recognise authority in all walks of life, and even in the anarchy endorsed by Rhyd Wildermuth, there are still rules, and the youngest and least experienced who wish to learn more about this from him, even if just by reading his writings online and off, recognise him as an authority on these matters.

It’s the perversion of hierarchy from a sacred order of rites to a pyramid of power and pecking-order within Catholicism, in order to keep the peasants in line, and within Capitalism, in order to keep the peasants in line, and within the more recent advent of Fascist movements, in order to keep the peasants in line, that has made it a “dirty word” in certain socio-political circles. I don’t believe that in clearly political matters, that Capitalism and systems that enforce it, at the only way. I am abhorred by the (many and varied) ideologies of Fascist movements. Having grown up Catholic, and even I can barely understand how the pecking-order of priesthood works, and am far more repulsed by their history of conquest, Colonialism, and suppression of the people in all meaningful ways, there is, though a place for hierarchy —especially in the ancient Hellenic sense of hierarkhia, hierarkhes, and ta hiera, and it’s within my religion. It’s with great apprehension that I’ve taken on the role offered to me of leadership within the school of Erotic Hedonism, because i see what kinds of ship that formal and de-facto leaders in pagan and polytheist communities get, so my primary “silver lining” in taking that is the knowledge that it’s a school of philosophy, which depends on discussions with the students to thrive, though the skeleton of the school is clear and plain to retain its identity, and if a bone breaks, we repain it, with knowledge that new bone tissue much form to hold it back together. Hopefully the distinction between a school of philosophy, mystery cult, and “loosely-defined devotional sect with the strongest voices acting as de-facto leadership”, will make whatever shit I’m destined to put up with minimal, in comparison — in comparison.

…but I digress…

I generally agree with Beckett’s statements that a good portion of Rhyd’s argument is presented fallaciously, and in a manner disturbingly reminiscent of McCarthyism.

Furthermore, the article itself strikes me as an all-but-verbatim transcription of Amy Hale from this old Wild Hunt podcast interview, almost exactly four years old (seriously, what is it about the Vernal Equinox time of year that gets everyone in the polytheist blogosphere talking about Nazis?); the primary difference that keeps Rhyd’s piece reading like a practical Cliff’s Notes of Hale is that he’s included a list of broadly-defined pagan and polytheist movements that are especially vulnerable to Fascism (with an exclusion of groups associated with writers of G&R).

While I absolutely agree with the importance of Rhyd’s message, I find his execution an intentionally infuriating level of ludicrous.

…but that may just be his goal, you know? Maybe he’s just looking for infuriating statements he can make that’ll go viral, drawing G&R a ton of “grassroots word-of-mouth” and give him an even wider audience, no matter how close he gets to borderlining libelous?

I’ve liked Rhyd for a long time; I don’t necessarily agree with everything he says on a lot of topics, but as we all know, we have to pick our own battles, and sometimes it’s just better to shrug and move on. It saddens me that I’m not sure how much longer after this that I even can like Rhyd —not because everyone knows many of the people he was implicitly aligning with Fascist tendencies (even though he was careful to name few names), and i know several people as friends, but because I, as anyone else who’s even a fraction as loud as I am, just have no idea when I’m going to be targeted in an upcoming unnamed attack like this.

I’ve liked him for years, but this has made for a serious breach of trust and respect.

1: practically as a whole, including those who have explicitly separated from the Zsuzsanna Budapest schools on any combination of several ideological grounds
2: He also describes ADF as a “smaller group”, which strikes me as incredibly odd, as it’s literally the biggest pagan and polytheist group in the Midwest, as best as I can tell, considering that, at any pagan gathering I’ve been at, of those affiliated with a group, at least half of them are in ADF, and practically everyone there is at least somewhat familiar with ADF. Maybe it’s just the circles I run in, but calling ADF a “smaller group”, especially a “smaller group” that’s implied to be especially vulnerable to fascism, is very odd —and not to mention, absolutely incendiary.

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.

Pagans Against Personal Autonomy

I noticed this when Drew Jacob made his (in)famous post proclaiming that he wasn’t pagan. And now I’m dealing with it on a forum I generally respect, and admittedly at a much lower level (cos I guess I’m just not as desirable —or maybe cos this blog just gets less traffic?).

In my quest to see if “pagan” still means anything, and perpetual contemplation over whether it ever meant anything, at all, ever, I’ve stumbled upon this curious phenomenon:

Pagans, as in those who self-identify as pagans, talk a big talk about following one’s bliss and doing as thou wilt, and how everything is cool as long as you aren’t hurting others. Until, of course, somebody who fits the negative definition of pagan espoused by the dictionary puts their foot down and states that they are not pagan. Basically, personal autonomy is all well and good, until one makes the autonomous decision that their religion, and they themselves, are not pagan.

Now, to an extent, I can understand where people might be coming from:

Maybe they assume there’s all kinds of societal pressures to not be pagan, and that simply proclaiming oneself not to be is evidence that one may have been “bullied” into choosing to divorce oneself from the term. That would make sense, if not for the fact that the overwhelming majority of “Not Pagans” on the Intertubes are polytheists —and let me tell you, being a polytheist doesn’t get you any special privileges just for eschewing the self-definition of “pagan”.

Or maybe they think that by proclaiming oneself a “Not Pagan”, it’s cos of some kind of self-closeting. This would make sense if not for the fact that this is often said in response to some-one’s post on a blog, so clearly this person is “out” to at least that much extent. Sometimes the blogger’s real name is even easily accessible. So, OK, that’s not a good hypothesis.

I do often see the claim “well, Abrahamists can’t tell the difference between what you do and what I do”. OK, I’ll play along: Abrahamists also can’t tell the difference between what I do and what Hindus do, and Hindus often get a free pass to be Not Pagan, though likely because the average self-identified pagan is, frankly, rather pale, and probably doesn’t want to come off as Patronising Whitey, trying to save brown people from themselves (except, of course, the pagans who care neither heads nor tails about that, and will outright state that, no matter what the millions of Hindus might say to the contrary, they’re “pagan too”, cos negative definitions trump autonomy). Hell, to certain Evangelical Christians like Jack Chick (and in case you were unaware: He is dead serious, not a parody —though his comics do often get a parody treatment), they can’t tell the difference between what I do and what Catholics do —and all things considered, I’ve met very few pagans who seriously believe insist (remember: pagans can’t believe in things!) that Catholics are “pagan, too!” So, why should I submit to a word I don’t identify with because some people are too stupid to tell the difference between what I do and what, say, Uncle Bucky’s Big Blue Book teaches? That’d be like telling trans women and men that we’re “really drag queens and kings” because some people are too stupid to tell the difference, and therefore we must submit to terms we believe are inaccurate, because it’s more convenient to coddle stupidity than to treat people as if they’re intelligent enough to discern the differences, or at least can understand the differences if they make the effort to learn.

I see the whole “solidarity” and “strength in numbers” thing a lot, too, but here’s the thing: I can stand in solidarity with you without needing to be one of you. Ask any one of my heterosexual and cisgender friends if I’ve expected them to make themselves be gay or trans in order to support me in that. Hell, I’ve been to a TS/TG group where bringing cis friends, relatives, and partners was a common enough thing, because sometimes people are more comfortable with some-one they know —and don’t get me started on how often het women go to gay bars, and without ever a problem (until, of course, they prove to be a nuissance, like holding their bachelorette parties there). The original (real) Black Panther Party had lots of Caucasian supporters, and some of the first nightclubs to play rap and hip-hop music in the late 1970s were punk clubs, which are more often frequented by white kids than any other racial demographic. Socio-political solidarity does not necessitate one be part of an oppressed demographic to support the issues that affect that demographic the most.

OK, so obviously, one doesn’t need to be pagan to stand in solidarity with pagans on socio-political issues of especial interest to the pagan community. After all, all of these issues also affect plenty of other non-pagans in the world, so it would be silly (to put it politely) to say “only pagans can be at the Pagan Issues Table”. Clearly, one need not identify with the word “pagan” to support issues of general interest to the pagan community.

So what reason is there to call oneself a pagan? Well, I can’t think of any, really, but then, I’m not personally attached to the term (and as I’ve said many times before, I’m becoming less enamoured with it, as I age), so I’ll leave the “reasons to call oneself pagan” to those who actually enjoy identifying with the term, cos here’s what my list of reasons would look like:

Reasons to Call Oneself a Pagan:
1) Because one’s spirituality is rural-based.
2) Because one is defined by one’s bookshelf.
3) Because one is happy to let other people tell them what they are.
4) Because one would rather submit to the pressures of a quasi-religious Neo-Hippie social group than think for oneself.
5) Because one doesn’t know what else to call oneself or one’s religion.
6) Because one doesn’t know what else to call oneself or one’s totally-non-religious lifestyle that lacks beliefs.
7) Because one never outgrew the adolescent desire to piss off Christians.
8) Because one doesn’t understand what Folk Christianity is.
9) Because what one isn’t is more important to oneself than what one is.
10) Because personal autonomy is low on one’s priorities.

And none of those apply to me.

My spirituality is urban. Defining myself by my bookshelf makes me a fag into graphic novels, 1960s pop culture, ancient Greece, and a weakness for bad erotica. I’ve never been happy with letting other people tell me what I am. As much as I like a lot Neo-Hippie things, I submit to none of it. I do know what to call my religion. My secular subculture interests even has a name. I got bored with pissing off Christians when I was eighteen. Folk Christianity is irrelevant to my life. What I am is more important to me than what I am not, and I really dig personal autonomy.

If I say I’m not a pagan, don’t tell me I am.

Not even if I mention that I occasionally resign to the word because some people in this world are seriously too stupid to work out what “polytheist” means.

Not even if I go to PPD events, or do tea readings at a pagan bookstore, or save up enough money to go to Pantheacon.

If you respect me at all, you will call me what I call myself. If you don’t, you will call me “pagan”, in spite of knowing I call myself a Hellenic polytheist.

Edited to add:

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.