While I see the point in maybe highlighting some of the vulnerabilities in pagan and polytheist communities to New Right ideologies and thus potential infiltration, naming and all-but-naming specific groups of well-established sects, factions, and specific groups of pagans and polytheists is highly problematic (at best), because it subconsciously associates those broadly-defined (and specifically named) groups with the New Right and other forms of Fascism with the reader.

Rhyd’s piece is not completely devoid of value, but his willingness to make an implicit association of pagan groups like Trad Wicca, ADF, Northern Tradition, and more loosely-defined movements like reconstructionism (of which there are formally-associated groups, like Hellenion in the US, and several Celtic groups I know of, but am brain-farting on the names of) and devotional polytheism — that speaks volumes to the notion that he’d constructed this article with a personal agenda in mind.

As i said the other day: He’s smart, and he’s always very careful of the words and phrases he chooses, I have no reason to think that he didn’t know exactly what he was doing with this — especially considering that he made it clear that he was excluding OBOD (a group he’s associated with), Feri, and Reclaiming (groups others in the core G&R team are associated with) from this vague non-association via vulnerable traits. I took note the other day that John Beckett, also associated with OBOD, seems unable to figure out how Rhyd is reasoning that OBOD is somehow “egalitarian” in its set-up, but more like a benevolent “dictatorship” — which is kind of the exact opposite of an egalitarian group, much less a fiercely egalitarian group.

He’s taking digs at great swaths of people for what I can only guess are personal reasons, and he’s couching it in a necessary article. That’s just not cool on so many levels.

I’m all for highlighting vulnerabilities that a group may have, so that we can see what may make it attractive to certain vile political factions, if only for the sake of being on the look out, but the issue comes with listing out specific groups and factions in the manner he did: The juxtaposition of such a list following a clear list of those who are individuals and organisations associated with the New Right. He can add as many disclaimers around the second list as he feels like, he’s already created an association in the minds of the reader.

As much as I appreciate Rhyd’s latest piece on Patheos, which made several clarifications (many unnecessary, for me, but apparently others need it), that doesn’t exactly excuse an ostensibly competent magician from including a section in the offending piece that seemed arranged with little more purpose than to incense others —including myself, and I’m far closer to his part of the political spectrum than I am to that of my other friend, Galina Krasskova. At best, the inclusion seems naïve or ill-thought —I know Rhyd well enough from our (admittedly limited) interactions to know that he is neither.

As several comments on his Patheos follow-up suggested (including members of the G&R writing staff), I’m also of the opinion that what is a relevant, even necessary message, got lost in a sloppy execution. I don’t disagree with him, I disagree with the way in which he put it forward — which distracted a lot of people, making it harder to immediately recognise the New Right from the Distracted Left in his dissenters.

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.

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…

4967008

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.

Anyone want to do a divination exchange?

I’m still trying to familiarise myself with the Hellenic Alphabet system, and I could really use a bit of Divinely-guided advice for 2-3 days of the week I could set aside to paint.

See, I cut a deal to land this place in downtown Ypsilanti, MI, and the deal was that I had to start painting again. While I totally intend to keep up my end of the deal, I’ve been having issues with budgeting my time for it, and while I’ve got another deal with Hedone to finally get around to doing many of the things I’ve been wanting to do for years (but just didn’t for lots of reasons), I gotta hold good on the deal to paint, cos I’m seriously starting to suspect that there’s a Divine conspiracy hatching to keep me away from the radio station so I have no choice but to paint. This is going on my second week in a row where I’m going to barely be at WCBN, which I’m not liking, so I want to see if my suspicions are correct, or if this is just one of those fortnights where everything just coincidentally happened. Either way, it’ll get me on a schedule to paint a few days a week, so I can plan most other things around that.

So if you think you could use some practise with a new system, or if you want to do a divination for me in exchange for an otherwise-free Hellenic alphabet divination from myself, let me know. I just want to know which two or three days a week would be best for painting, and I’m hoping to take up to four people’s divinations for this and take the top two or three days –meaning I’ll give an otherwise-free HAO divination for up to four people. I’ll get at least three days that should be good for painting, and I’ll get a bit of practise in for this system.

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.

The only real arguments in favour of polytheism meaning polytheism

…I read in the comments by Keith C. McCormick on Halstead’s blog:

“polytheism” doesn’t require hyphenation in the case of multiple deities. It is only in the case of a belief that deities are not independent beings that such clarification is necessary. From an anthropological standpoint, polytheistic societies acknowledge multiple independent godlike Powers, regardless of the underlying cosmology. Plenty of traditional polytheistic societies have a concept of “oneness” (and plenty don’t), but in those cases, the “Oneness” is rarely the focus of veneration- it’s simply a cosmological idea, not a theological practice.

Perhaps one of the reasons that the “devotional” or “hard” polytheists are so adamantly defending “polytheist” as meaning only traditions in which the gods are real and distinct is because, from a historical perspective, that is true. I can’t think of a traditional religion in which shamans or priests to say “I ask Spirit”- no, they generally ask “the spirits”, “the ancestors”, or “the gods”. Any tradition that reduces the cosmos (or even just divinity) to a single entity is supposed to have “mono” in the title somewhere. Describing Athena, Frigga, and Amaterasu as archetypes or undifferentiated faces of a single Power is a belief in “one”, not a belief in “many”.

To describe such a “mono” religion as “poly” is the linguistic equivalent of calling one person drinking a martini a “cocktail party”. One might as well call a rainstorm by the name “water”. It is philosophically possible to defend such a position, but it not particularly useful in most circumstances. Why then do so many people so strongly object to a small group of people (Do we call them “Person” now?) insisting on a more precise, historically-accurate use of a term (“polytheism”) that until recently had a fairly precise meaning: belief in many gods?

Can’t we just cook up new terms for the hyphenated stuff? Polyarchetypicalist? Polyfaçadal Monist? Eclectic Jungian? I mean, monism gets to have a separate term from monotheism- why not let the people who believe in multiple, literal GODS keep the term they always had? Let’s just find a new term for people who address Unity through multiple faces.

Oh, I absolutely understand the emotional weight on both sides. But to my mind we need to be guided by our awareness of privilege (my anthro is showing, I know…) in the same way that we would for an indigenous society. I seem to recall that some of those elder pagans fought for Reclaiming of traditional definitions. For instance, “Witch”- an indigenous term colonized by Christian invaders.

It always falls to those in positions of power, prestige, or privilege to make space for those who would reclaim traditional practice by yielding the name. Adler, et all were not the first to be described as polytheists, it was a term that described a fairly specific kind of theology practiced by “others” (at the time). Now that people are becoming visible who more closely fit that definition, it is appropriate to allow the historical definition to reassert itself in the same way that “Witch” does not inherently mean an evil green lady riding a broom.

Why then is interpreting “theos” in the historically correct sense considered by many to be a dangerous and/or shameful belief? The difference here is not one of equally valued meanings but a choice between one interpretation that is “safe” and one that is “dangerous”, with those in positions of privilege deciding that their definition is “safe”. It seems that people like PSVL are trying to defend and resacralize the word “theos”- a word that many today seem bound and determined to divorce from its original meaning.

Your example of reclaiming Christ from Catholicism is flawed in that in it you are introducing a wholly new definition, not reclaiming an old one. I would be just as wrong to declare that Paganism is solely worship of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. The example is in no way similar to a situation in which a few decades past some people redefined a word to suit their purposes and are today upset that another group insists on using the term in its original, historical context.

In this situation, neither the “hard” polytheists nor the “hard” theists are the newcomers, rather they are the newly acknowledged. In such cases, it is the responsibility of those in positions of power and privilege to force themselves to reflect on their own appropriation of language and to yield terms back to those who use them in their original context. This was the case with “witch” and it should be the case with “theos” and “polytheism”.

Unless we are willing to add new words to our language to accommodate new concepts while preserving the meanings in old words, we run the risk of confining our ability to conceive of concepts newer still.

Oh, Keith, make sweet, sweet love to me.

(Posted here because neither I nor my cat, Nigel Prancypants, are allowed to post to Halstead’s blog –and you know, to anyone who still entertains ideas that I am not “savvy” enough to be aware of IP-logging, actually, I am, I just didn’t give a shit enough, cos really, if i did, I would’ve at least used a pseudonym that’s not easily tracable back to myself.)

If you don’t believe the gods are gods, you are not a polytheist in any meaningful way —and you therefore should be the one with the “hyphenations”, not polytheists.

Your feelings, Margot Adler’s feelings, and anyone else’s pweshuss fee-fees don’t matter. Think about when people of certain Native American tribes say “no, totem is our word, and you’re using it in a way that demonstrates a clear misunderstanding of the concept, use a different term” –and people who really do care about proper reclaiming of terms start calling what they do “spirit animals” or “animals guides” or something else and they let the Natives have “totem”. Because “totem” meant something before a bunch of people who didn’t really understand the concept decided to use it for something they were doing.

“Polytheism” means, as many have said before me in this discussion “[belief in] many gods [as gods]”. If you don’t believe gods may actually exist, but you find archetypes a useful thing to give honour to or to aspire to, then call yourself an “archetypalist” or “archetypal polytheist” or anything else you’re comfortable with, but calling yourself a “polytheist” without any modifiers in that case is the very definition of intellectual dishonesty.

Redefining the “-theos” to mean something other than theos in any form of theism, including polytheism, is atheism.

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.

[review] Goth Craft: The magickal side of dark culture by Raven Digitalis

Goth-Craft-Digitalis-Raven-9780738711041Title: Goth Craft: The magickal side of dark culture
Authorship: Raven Digitalis
Publisher: Llewellyn International
Year Published: 2007, First Edition
ISBN-10: 0738711047
ISBN-13: 978-0738711041

This book is pretty much a mixed bag and while I kinda get why some things are said the way they are in this book, my experiences won’t really let me sit on my hands about a few of its problems, which would likely seem relatively minor if I were some-one without my experiences.

First off, this book starts off with a chapter introducing people to the Goth subculture –for those who are very new, those who know some stuff but not a lot, and for nerds like me who fact-check everything like an annoying pedant (by the way –that line is foreshadowing the review: I will be an annoying pedant, for the most part, but I am an annoying pedant because I care). There’s a bit of a history which is mostly correct; I have a feeling that I could nit-pick Digitalis’ etymology lesson (he seems to just gloss over the rich literary “chapter” of the etymology, and subsequent cultural influence of the term “gothic”) and his stylistic choices in the differentiation between the Germanic tribes known as Goths and the current Gothic subculture here or there, but he goes into a fair amount of detail and frankly, he doesn’t just seem to make shit up in this chapter on a factor of “truthiness” or “feels”, like a pretty blatant etymological error in Kaldera & Schwartzstein’s Urban Primitive, which still annoys me that it even got a pass.

While the facts about the etymology and origins of the goth subculture are generally correct, he also falls victim to a LOT of sugar-coating on some of the “ideals” touted by goths for about three decades now (more-or-less) when juxtaposed alongside the reality of the situation. He says about as much as there being no such thing as goths who are sexist, racist, queerphobic, and so on, and let me tell you, Internet: I have been in and out of the goth subculture for nearly twenty years (granted, I could make the argument that I’ve been interested in Mod subculture aspects and tropes for longer, like one of my favourite bands as a small child was The Who, but it’s safe to say I’ve had an active role in both subcultures for literally decades), there are relatively few, still puttering around here and there, who are more “elder” than myself (most of whom, like myself, are no longer limiting themselves to the label of “goth”, except when it seems suiting), and while certain attitudes are prominently frowned upon by many, especially the artists who are often credited with building the subculture (or at least giving it its foundation), there is also no shortage of racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, classism, and so on within the Gothic subculture. Hell, most of the fashions necessitate either a bourgeoisie income if one lacks some hell of DIY skills. I’ve seen just as many goths (though, to be fair, usually young ‘uns) throw around “The Big N” in Los Angeles as I did in Virginia, a friend of mine who’s a Goth/Industrial DJ semi-recently cross-posted a blog entry from Coilhouse lamenting how the average Industrial music show, and specifically naming Combichrist and their fans as some of the biggest offenders, as little more than a bunch of dudebros in black clobber objectifying women and crying “No homo!” as they smear on marketed-as “guyliner” —after all, can’t use anything with the same debossing on the pencil as your girlfriend uses, lest someone think you’re queer! (as an aside, Digitalis, factually, points out that Industrial is a genre of dark alternative music that evolved alongside and often crossing-over with Gothic rock –something I see very few “purists” who favour deathrock or gothic rock ever acknowledging, though I think it’s more plain ignorance than revisionism — it was certainly a degree of ignorance when I was a dumb kid who insisted that “Industrial and Gothic/deathrock never had anything to do with each-other until some time in the 1990s”), there was once a YouTube account by some relatively popular Denver-area goth-industrial guy who –while his videos were pretty well-made little short films– were steeped in thinly-veiled homophobic commentary, especially his anti-Emokid series in three parts which seriously went so far as to “jokingly” advocate curb-stomping “those fags in Death Cab shirts riding Vespas”, (I don’t know if the account still exists or if the videos are still up anymore, and frankly, I found it so disgusting at the time that I have no interest in looking it up again). If you’ve been reading this shit I write here for forever, then you’re probably aware that when I came out as FTM, every friend I lost was from the Goth scene, and no, not all of them were in or from Michigan, when you have a relative “big name” NYC goth/deathrock DJ telling you “can it, Lady” after you explain in a LiveJournal comment to please use male pronouns, and an ex-friend from an LA band that’s existed in several forms since 1987 is sending you several MySpace nastygrams to tell you that you’re basically garbage over this, and you hear from the grapevine that yes, there’s a certain Midwesterner who decided to try and add that to their smear campaign against you (which few people ever took seriously, but still…), then you start to realise that the goth/industrial/deathrock scenes are NOT wholly anti- all these assorted “-isms” that it’s ideally supposed to be. Hell, I recently found a Tumblr dedicated to calling out shitty behaviour, it’s far from perfect (and arguably “ableist”, seeing as how much of that blog is in text-images that are impossible for someone with computer equipment for the blind and low-vision to read —cos we all know there are never goths with visual impairments, am I right? [coughs]), so clearly I’m not the only ass-hole who recognises this problem.

Frankly, I know the gothic subculture to have some pretty widespread problems that while, ideally, would not go unchecked by anyone in the scene, and would certainly become a big black mark on someone who seemingly has gained such “cred” as to have a recognisable name within the scene, and when I worked my way through that chapter, I couldn’t help but think that Raven Digitalis, as well-meaning as I understand this was intended to be, was just sugar-coating it all for the sake of appearances (like I said, I’ve been into this since the early-mid 1990s, I remember the Columbine shooting [which yes, in reality had nothing to do with Goths, but we sure as hell felt the weight of the world in its aftermath], and Fairuza Balk’s character in The Craft, and I’m conscious enough of current media to acknowledge that the relatively “positive” or at least sympathetic media portrayals of the Gothic subculture from the last twenty years can be counted on one hand, and the negative portrayals still outnumber by several times as many) and thus giving the bad behaviours in the scene a pass to go on as usual, since only maybe a handful of overzealous SJW kids on Tumblr want to even address these problems, and I’ve never seen a single one of them address it in a manner that will actually make the more reasonable people reflect on not just their own potential for bad behaviour, but that which they might’ve let slide for fear of rocking the boat or hoping that some-one else would call it out (don’t confuse this with a “tone argument”; there are seriously ways to say things, even without clear anger, that will absolutely shut down any reasonable discourse with people –like, any “reductio ad Hitlerum” comparison that more often than not paints the speaker as histrionic and simply failing to understand the nuances of human experience). I mean, I guess it’s nice that, as a white, cisgender guy in the goth scene, especially as a relatively prominent DJ and photographer in one of the “flyover states”, he has been the ideal person he expects the scene to be, and presumably to the best of his knowledge, so have others in the scene that he knows, and it’s nice that he’s writing this in hopes of explaining this ideal to people who may be relative nubs, but I dunno, I’m just a little bothered by what I see as a failure to address the fact that there ARE these problems in the scene that need to be called out rather than given a “No true Scotsman” sort of pass that absolves people of the responsibility to calling it out: After all, if Jacob von Eldritch throws around “The Big N” and says that trans people aren’t the gender/s we say we are, then he’s not really a goth, so true goths have no responsibility to call out his bad behaviour —cos that’s how that fallacy is often applied, when you bring up the genocides and conversion by sword commited in the name of Christianity, there are always way more vocal Christians going “oh, well, see, no true Christian would do that sort of thing, so I don’t have to address it!”. We all know that’s BULLSHIT.

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About Ruadhán McElroy

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

Sometimes I think about Danny Thomas

Danny Thomas was a Lebanese-American comedian and musician, probably best known to Baby Boomers and every later generation (including mine) for The Danny Thomas Show/Make Room For Daddy, a sit-com loosely based on his home life that ran from 1953 to 1965, making it one of the longest-running half-hour television comedies ever; he’s also the father of actress Marlo Thomas, possibly best known for That Girl, and to people who were between the abes of five and ten any time between 1972 and 1986, she was the primary brain behind Free to Be You & Me, a spoken-word LP (and 1974 telly special) about how it’s OK for kids to reject gender stereotyping, and it’s OK for girls to get dirty and for boys to play with dolls, and all that. Danny Thomas was also a lifelong devout Catholic from Toledo, Ohio, who, when he was still struggling to keep the rent paid playing at whatever clubs would book him, he still made regular offerings to the saints, and cut a deal with St Jude, best known as the patron saint of Lost Causes and Impossible Hope. From that bargaining, he became a household name, and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, world-famous for taking in children battling terminal illnesses and not charging families a dime (relying solely on philanthropy, the occasional grant, and regular donors).

Danny Thomas sounds like he was a great guy, eh? That’s cos he was. He was warm and caring and sensitive and his show was one of only a handful of its era that’s still funny (unlike maybe half of Burns & Allen’s sit-com, or Betty White’s short-lived Life With Elizabeth, both of which date poorly).He was a lifelong Democrat, but even Republican President Ronald Reagan gave him a medal for philanthropy, for St. Jude’s.

…but there are still people who dislike Danny Thomas. Maybe some don’t find him funny –that’s fair enough, after all, his sit-com was full of self-deprecating humour, especially directed at his Near Eastern features and ethnicity, and he had a lot of creative control on his show, so he was clearly OK with it, and that might upset some people. Maybe others disliked his political affiliation or his support of his daughter’s feminism.

One day maybe a year ago, I found a blog post for some fluffy entertainment rag, and there was a very short article about an interview Marlo Thomas gave on some telly show, and in that interview, her father came up. Naturally, some of the comments were about Danny Thomas. One of those comments really stood out at me: This was a comment from a woman who seemed to have an axe to grind against Danny Thomas.

The woman explained that when she was a teenager in the late Sixties, a family member of hers owned the house next door to the Thomases, in California. One day when she was visiting during the summer, she saw Danny in his own back yard from over the little wall that divided the properties. She asked him for his autograph. He, allegedly, suddenly looked very annoyed and went inside. This woman told her story under the guise of “exposing Danny Thomas’ true nature”.

Mmhm.

The first person to respond to her said “This does not surprise me in the slightest. Democrats have always been the most hateful of people”

I see.

I think one other person said something vaguely anti-Catholic, (I’m actually surprised at the lack of racist comments), but most of the comments responding to the woman’s “exposé” explained to her that she simply had no grounds for making such a harsh judgement of his character, much less holding such a ridiculous grudge for over forty years, because of reasons.

While I know that that this doesn’t make a perfect allegory in light of recent events, I can still use it to explain an important Cyrenaic truth: While we’re never wrong about what it is that we experience, we can never have complete knowledge about all elements that made that experience. This woman only knew that a beloved celebrity turned away her request with no explanation –she didn’t know anything about his day or week or any potential stresses that Thomas himself may have been experiencing. She apparently was unaware (for over forty years) that she breached general Los Angeles county etiquette, which says “when you live next door to a celebrity, do not bother them with your fandom”. She had no idea why no-one taught her this. She had no idea if maybe Thomas and this neighbour were feuding over something that made Thomas less likely to want to honour her request. All she knew was a cross look and a silent rejection of what she knew to be an innocent request –but for all Danny Thomas knew, this was a breach of etiquette from an unmannered and immature adolescent.

It’s easy to judge the actions and words of others, and this becomes an easier habit when we’re convinced that the evidence is in our favour, but what do we really know about what this person or another means with their words or actions? Do we really know their motivations, their characters, their hearts? Or do we simply know what we’ve seen, read, witnessed, and the ways we can fit it into our own personal catalogues of information we use to make snap judgments –a human trait which, itself, is not a bad thing, but can simply be used unwisely.

Maybe Galina Krasskova really is planning to become some polytheist Rainbow Family matriarch. Or maybe people are reading a line or two that they don’t like and jumping to a worst possible scenario that isn’t even, but which they believe to be perfectly rational.

All I know is that when I challenge these people to back up their allegations, they tend to give me nothing –at best, I might get something that, when I read it, sure doesn’t seem to say what they believe it does.

I also know that if a struggling Danny Thomas, from the same part of the world as myself, could still find a few pennies for his Saints to have a candle (remember, this was pennies in the 1930s and ’40s before American money was worthless green paper) while he was trying to pay the rent and feed three kids, I can certainly tear off the corner of some toast with peanut butter and honey and scoop a teaspoon of water from the top of my glass for my own gods, if only because being devout and building a relationship with one’s holy powers means actions as well as beliefs.

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.

[PBP2013] Words

Words don’t exist for ourselves as individuals. They exist so that we can communicate things, events, and ideas to others. Like it or not, what you think a word should mean is less important than what your audience thinks it means. If your audience is unfamiliar with a word, then sure, you may owe it to them to define it for them, but don’t be surprised if, when you fail to do so, they seek a definition elsewhere and embrace one you dislike, or never intended.

Humans use plenty of words figuratively, metaphorically. When one says “Johnny Depp is a god”, incredibly few literally mean that Johnny Depp stepped down from Olympos to look sexy and act the hell out of whatever character Tim Burton suggests to him; what they mean is “Johnny Depp has qualities that most other people don’t, qualities that are almost or borderline god-like, and is worthy of being looked up to by others in his field”. What a “god” is, in the most literal sense, is an idea that is easily understood by most people –a “god” is a superhuman being that has power over humans and even nature itself and deserves to be worshipped by believers, and so to compare Johnny Depp to a god is generally assumed to be highly flattering. It’s also generally understood that, due to the overwhelming empirical evidence that Johnny Depp is a human being, that to refer to him as a “god” is a use of figurative language –you’re using a word to represent a feeling more than an empirical fact. Figurative language does not change the literal meaning of the words used figuratively; if anything, it reinforces the meanings by making the audience think of what is being figuratively represented in that description of Johnny Depp as a god.

(Of course, Johnny Depp may also be a literal god taking a completely human form and his hypothetical nature as a god may be completely undetectable to modern technology, but that’s irrelevant.)

Now let us take the word “god”. If one would rather un-define “god” not as a superhuman being independent of the human consciousness, but instead as a metaphor itself for an ineffable something within the collective of human experience, one has not eradicated the existence of the gods, nor has one eliminated the idea of what a god is from the human consciousness.

How many legs does a dog have if you call its tail a leg? Four. Calling the tail a leg does not make it so.

(Hypothetically) Un-defining “leg” as “any appendage that is not a head” so as to include the tail (you know, to be more-inclusive, and show the tail that it is welcome amongst the legs, I guess –in spite of the fact that it really was always welcome amongst the legs, the whole time) does not change the characteristics of the tail or any of the legs. The tail is still a tail, and serves the functions and purposes of the tail. It will never become a leg, no matter how little the word “leg” comes to mean. The structure and purpose of a leg and a tail are so different, that to list all the differences is not only an objective fact, it’s an empirical fact –if one lacks sight, one can even feel the differences between a dog’s tail and its legs, so broadening the definition of “leg” to include any appendage that is not a head is not only confusing, but potentially dangerous.

Broadly-defined “umbrella terms” serve no purpose outside of political goals, and even then, the empirical observations of many is that there will always be dissent amongst members of the same political groups –TS/TG people may support the Human Rights Council (HRC) in its current primary goals to forward the agenda of same-sex marriage1, but those TS/TG people may still be quick to point out that the HRC’s advocacy of TS/TG interests is incredibly lacking. “The GBLT community” doesn’t account for the vast differences between the subcultures of drag, Bears, butch/femme, twinks, gym bunnies, and so on, but all are accounted for under the umbrella, and maybe only a handful of individuals from each subculture have any intimate knowledge of any other subculture under the umbrella.

“Pagan” has been so loosely defined for so long that it’s an adequate “umbrella term”. On the other hand, “polytheism” means something because it’s a compound word and its components mean something rather specific, when put together.


1: No matter what you might have read on Tumblr or other such echo-chambers for utterly ridiculous people, same-sex marriage (SSM) rights ARE RELEVANT TO THE TS/TG COMMUNITY. Think about it: Not only are there GBL-identified TS/TG persons, including those who may become both legally recognised as the gender they live as and desirous of marrying a now legally same-sexed partner, but there are also literally hundreds, thousands of TS/TG people who are both heterosexually-identified (trans women who exclusively date men, trans men who exclusively date women), and are unable to have their birth certificates legally amended, or the letter on their driver’s license or state/government-issued-ID changed, in order to meet the requirements of the state in order to marry hetero partners –legally, their state recognises them as a same-sex couple. Maybe they were born in Ohio, or Idaho, or one of the other two States that still won’t let trans people amend our birth certificates, no matter how much surgery is had? Maybe they can’t have “the surgery” (for either financial or medical reasons, or, if you’re Anna-Verney Cantodea, you might have spiritual reasons to abstain from surgery) in order to meet state requirements that would allow for their birth certificates to be amended? Maybe some-one isn’t seeking any medical transition at all, not even hormones, but is still able to live full-time (or most of the time) as their preferred gender, but due to being “non-transitioning”, from a medical standpoint, are thus barred from getting their certificate amended or their ID letter altered? Furthermore, within the United States, marriage rights are determined by each State, individually, and there is seriously not a single married TS/TG person in the entire US who, if they were to move to a state that did not recognise SSM, would not have their marriage questioned, come tax season, cos some States won’t recognise a birth certificate that was amended in another State or other “technicalities” –it happens at an alarmingly regular basis, and is such a common occurrence, it rarely makes the news in even the local gaypers. The most pragmatic way to circumvent these laws is universal recognition of SSM. As a trans man, myself, obviously I think that making strides to loosen up on recognition of genders outside the cisgender binary is a good thing that should be striven for, but we’re a lot closer to achieving SSM rights across the Anglosphere than we are to making sure none of those hoops a trans person has to jump through for an ounce of government recognition have to be on fire. I’m also a bit of an outlier to the community in that I think that some hoops at all aren’t necessarily a bad thing.

About Ruadhán McElroy

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

On the Reality of the Gods

Are They Real? Can They, and do They, ever suffer? This is where I’m at odds with things like “Pop culture paganism” or the so-called “Jungian polytheism”, which really isn’t polytheism, because if it were, the gods would be seen as something alive as you and I and our cats and the trees out back and the planet are all alive —maybe not in literally the same way (perhaps not unless your religion has a mythology where the gods can and do and will die, and even then, the nature of Their life surely is inherently different to our own), but in a way far more real than, say, Luke Skywalker, or Batman, or Homer Simpson.

Thinking about my own beliefs in the Gods, especially those I feel called to devotion to — no, I don’t believe that one can literally strap down Hedone or Adonis or Nyx or Eros to a chair and flay their skin with fishhooks while playing “My Heart Will Go On” on a loop, or at least make them watch Boogie Nights, but the gods can and sometimes do literally suffer. As independent entities with their own agency in the world, the events of the world can pain them in the same ways that it pains humans.

I believe that They were born, some sexually, some asexually, some parthenogenically, and the oldest among Them formed independently, and completely by chance, from the self-existing and everlasting Kosmos, and Khaos is merely the hypothetical state of Kosmos as it might have been before the Theoi formed. I believe that, on some plane of reality, They are corporeal, but not on this one where we are, and I believe that the nature of Their realm versus our own puts Them in constant contact with us, and we need only listen for them, meditate on them, or other techniques that have been used for literally thousands of years, and They will be receptive. As a result of this constant contact, They can suffer from world events, personal issues of Their devotees, or simply knowing that the descendents of those who loved Them for centuries have since been taught to hate them. They can become happy and excited and amorous and jealous and lonely and pained.

Is Their suffering LITERALLY the same as ours? No, but it’s felt just as much, if not more strongly. I guess maybe some people might believe that maybe the suffering of the gods isn’t quite on par with ours; I don’t get it, but it seems reasonable if one genuinely believes that the gods are really real. It is genuinely contradictory, though, to believe that gods don’t suffer AND maintain a belief in Their reality, at least as something alive, rather than as a character in the cultural consciousness.

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.

[PBP2013] Polytheism

noun: the belief in or worship of more than one deity. [OxfordDictionaries.com]

deity (noun): a god or goddess in a polytheistic religion [OxfordDictionaries.com]

god (noun): in polytheistic religions – a superhuman being or spirit worshipped as having power over nature or human fortunes; a deity [OxfordDictionaries.com]

These are specific words, especially “polytheism”, which is a compound of ancient Hellenic words, a very specific dialect, when compared to English.

If you think the gods are aspects of our inner selves — you are not a polytheist.

If you believe the gods are archetypes of a cultural consciousness — you are not a polytheist.

If you don’t believe that deities actually exist as a superhuman entity with Their own agency outside the human mind and experience — you are not a polytheist.

Now, you can pull some lame-ass,”oh, but Ruadhán, you’s an English major, don’t you know that language changes?” Well, yeah, in theory the words we use daily are subject to morph in nuance, or in the realm of slang, take on a whole new meaning (thus why, in formal writing contexts, “faggot” means “a bundle of kindling sticks”, but in informal and slang uses [yes, they are two different things], “faggot” is regarded largely as a pejorative for a homosexual man), but here’s the thing: Language is a social construct that exists to ease communication of needs, wants, and more complex ideas amongst people. In theory, I could start saying “wort” instead of “deity”, and intend to mean the exact same thing that “deity” means, but who is going to find that easy to follow? Especially since there is already a perfectly good word to convey what I intended to with “wort” in that hypothetical.

Furthermore, there is already a perfectly good word to convey what “atheist pagans” might honour instead of deities: It’s called an egregore, a thought-form. It’s a loan from occult terminology, but it works. It’s not a deity, and its etymology implies an origin in the human experience.

Furthermore, as has been previously said by PSVL: Traditional polytheists have always been a rather tiny minority in the Western neo-pagan community. Pantheists, panentheists, monotheistic goddess-worshippers, christo-pagans, and even atheists tend to outnumber us many timesover. Also: The neo-pagan community has a massive problem with appropriation of terms that don’t really convey the concepts they want the words to (like “karma”), or are specific to cultures that have nothing to do with the religion one practises, but I guess it just sounds “cooler” than the more-generic term (like “totem”, when “animal spirit” will suffice). I don’t see a huge difference here, with the insistence of such oxymoronic, contradictory nonsense as “archetypal polytheists” and the other bored, educated stupid white kids who think that Silver Ravenwolf, or whatever other Llewellyn-published hack has any sense in defining “karma” any more than some-one raised in religions that created the concept.

“Polytheism” is a practise of people who worship deities, not people who honour archetypes and / or thought-forms, and unless you worship actual deities, you have no right to contribute to the definition of the word, on any level. It’s just not your say.

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.