Oh No New Things

I woke up today to this post over on A Forest Door. (Okay, I lied; I woke up to dishes and then read the post.) I brought up the posts linked to, which can be found here and here, and settled in to read before work.

I knew going in I would disagree – I’m a pop culture guy, a fangirl, the kind of boy who grew up on fanfic. I’ve got geekery all over my practices. I thread my religious ideas into my fanfiction. I skip back and forth, teeter and watch and wait to see if something useful will bloom. I like drawing connections and asking questions. I like finding that story that makes everything click into place.

I also know I’m a bit odd. I don’t just follow a historical path, though my practice with Antinous isn’t pop culture-y. (Actually, it’s rather ‘tame’, since the gods are historical and my practice is a very clear devotional relationship and it doesn’t seem that will change. Not much there for people to get up in arms about. If I talked strictly about that, my blog would be a lot calmer. Antinous makes me calm. My practice with him brings me joy.) I have my devotional relationship with Antinous and friends.

And then I have the new gods I worship. The Four Gods and their related spirits, gods I would sometimes very much like to shut off because they’ve brought more frustration into my life than I ever thought they could, but, hey, they’re gods, this is real to me, and I’m honestly glad I’m stuck with them. I’m glad to have encountered the spirits I have and to be challenged every day.

Then there is my very playful and meditative practice with various fandoms. Most of the time that practice is meditative, focused on internal work, crafting myself into a better tool for the gods and spirits through lessons and ideas that can be presented in fandom and fiction.

Fly Me to the Moon by =Vashtastic

Most of the time. Except when a spirit adopts a face I know, or when a phrase keeps being brought up because it’s an accurate name for certain spirit phenomena, or when weird stuff just happens and it’s more offensive to tell a spirit, “You’re not real,” than it is to work with them on their terms.

Discernment is great. Offending a spirit because they wear an unexpected face or challenge your assumptions is not so great.

But you know, reading through the posts I linked to, what really got me was the superiority. Oh, I’m just not brave enough to really give my life over to the spirits, that’s why I involve fiction and fandom into my path. Obviously I’m just not strong enough or smart enough or dedicated enough to my real super real really real real spirits. I mean, let’s ignore that I do work with spirits and gods; there’s this super weird, strange practice that I have that totally makes me ridiculous and means I’m ‘playing pretend’.

Yeah, that’s nice, but I actually have a practice to go do – you know, one with your ‘real’ ‘legitimate’ spirits and, surprise, my own, which sometimes draw on pop culture!

There is this weird – really weird, mind-baffling even – phenomenon where I can’t control what the spirits do, and sometimes what they do is appear to me in masks.

I probably don’t get the whole super offended thing because I’m not a Hellenic polytheist. Heck, I’m not all that concerned with historical messes. I’m basically over here in my corner with my new gods, tinkering with my new spirits, learning a listening ear to them and doing my best to serve. There really is a lot I want to address in the posts that were written – how fictional characters can’t do anything real (heal us and such), how cinema isn’t an experience, so on and so forth – but then…I decided to think it over a bit longer.

Cause this is a subject that deserves a lot more words and a lot more focus than I can give today.

(But I’d love to hear more about how I’m not a ~true believer~ because I think spirits change and grow and are born in a variety of ways, I really would.)

Edit: Actually, I have to add, I’m really weirded out that people who gladly talk to me about my new gods are fawning over these latest posts. Clearly there is a lack of respect for me and what I do – which is fine, but I prefer knowing that upfront rather than finding out later after dialoging with someone.

Pop Culture Meditations
Moving Forward
Why I am a Polytheist
Basics: the Clarene (Relationships)
About Aine

Aine Llewellyn is a 20 year old girl creature currently mucking about in southern Arizona. She enjoys the winters and rain but can’t stand the heat. She is a difficult polytheist that natters on and on about her faith.

  • DverWinter

    I want to just say, I have no problem with seeing the sacred in Story, and in seeing one’s gods and spirits in the characters from powerful stories. Sure, sometimes They come to us in strange masks. That, to me, is a far cry from actually worshipping a fictional character AS IF they were a real spirit, because one can’t tell the difference, or worse, because one doesn’t really care about the difference because one doesn’t really believe in the spirits to begin with in any meaningful way. Which is sadly what I think is going on with some people. (Not with you.)

  • http://www.patheos.com/Pagan Christine Kraemer

    My thoughts:


    I would love to see you write more about how working with fictional characters can help you to form relationship with local spirits, and how you do discernment.

  • Refr

    Sometimes, yes, Gods and spirits are using characters as masks.

    Sometimes characters gain sentience from all the attention, devotion, energy, and emotion directed at them and they are actual spirits in and of themselves. You are being dismissive because you find the idea ridiculous and because you have not personally experienced it.

    How often have your own beliefs and practices been dismissed because individuals following more “mainstream” religions find them ridiculous and because they haven’t had similar experiences?

    Moreover, what happened to all the fuss about using Columbia as a Goddess? http://krasskova.weebly.com/1/post/2011/09/guest-contribution-the-goddess-columbia.html Argue that Columbia is a genius loci if you want – she was coined as a code-name to represent a place, although the specifics shifted around. But she is also a pop culture creation. Is she more legit because she was personified more than 100 years ago?

  • Aine

    I’m going to tell you what I’ve told other pagans: I don’t need your approval. So…thanks for saying you don’t think I’m doing something that you find ~not meaningful~, but I wouldn’t care if you did think that. I’d point out its none of your business, and that your perception of what spirits are ‘real’ or not has no relevance to what /I’m/ doing.

    Why should I care if you think I’m too stupid to tell if a spirit is real or not? What are you going to do, go hunt down every fictionally-birthed spirit I work with and see if they’re ‘really real’?

    I think spirits can be born from fiction. You guys don’t. That’s fine, but it sure as heck doesn’t make me less of a spirit worker just because I do something that makes you guys uncomfortable – and I’m gonna point that out, not cause I need your approval, but so other people realize they don’t either.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1542692508 Peter Dybing

    It seems to me what is lost here is a sense of what has meaning for the individual. Within our community there is great diversity of belief. Having deep respect for someones spirtual workings extends that same respect to ourselves. Aine is making a great point and is correct, we should care little if others endorce or believe in what we do. It is the fact that the practioner finds value in the pratice, that is what is most meaningful.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=514264967 Bianca Bradley

    Coyote medicine and Coyote healing, may be something you want to read. I liked the author, don’t know much about him personally other then his bio he shared. He’s a mix(Native and some other nationality) He’s a psychiatrist and Shaman, so he’s doubly a Coyote(which apparently is a term in Native speak, according to the book) dunno

    Figured I’d toss it out.

    Tossing the amazon link out, ONLY so you can see the author, http://www.amazon.com/Coyote-Medicine-Lessons-American-Healing/dp/0684839970

  • DverWinter

    Whoa, defensive much? I wasn’t assuming you needed my approval, I was clarifying what I originally said, since you had reacted so strongly to it and seemed to think I held certain opinions that I don’t (including thinking that I was dissing what you do in particular, so I was again just clarifying that I wasn’t). If you don’t want comments (even positive ones) on your beliefs, don’t make a public post about them.

    Again, though, you don’t seem to be really listening to what I’m saying, just reacting. I never said you – or anyone else – were too stupid to tell if a spirit is real or not – my issue is with people who *don’t bother to discern the difference*. People can disagree about whether a spirit is real – it’s a different matter to not even think that’s a relevant issue to consider. And I never actually said I don’t believe a spirit can be born from fiction. I’m talking about people who don’t care of it’s become an independent entity, and equate *any* fictional character they happen to just like or admire with actual gods.

    No one needs my approval for anything, of course. I am going to call it out when I see polytheism going in a direction I think is not so good, but that’s just to get people thinking about these issues, not because I expect anyone to change just because I said so.

  • Aine

    Alright. I’ll remember not to talk back then.

  • DverWinter

    Yes, you’re right. The problem is entirely that you dared to contradict me, and not that you’re overly-defensive, reacting rather than listening, and getting upset over things that weren’t even said. So glad we could have this reasonable discussion on an important topic.

  • Aine

    And the issue isn’t at all that practices were being called ‘make believe’ and ‘pretend time’; if you hold the opinions you stated here, why didn’t you address the problematic parts of Galina and Sannion’s posts?

  • elorie

    I am with you up to a point. But when you say it’s no one’s business, you are contradicting yourself. You at least open it up to other people making it their business by posting about it on the Internet. Writing down one’s thoughts for public consumption, or creating any piece of art that you put out there is an attempt to engage with other people…and they are going to have opinions about it. Some of them are going to be wrong-headed from your point of view, or unexpected, or just generally not what you had in mind. That doesn’t matter; your audience is not just the people you were thinking of when you wrote, but the world, at least in potential. If you are really not interested in that, write a newsletter and send it only to the people who sign up. But if you do so, you miss the opportunity to have productive conversations with people who don’t already agree with you. I don’t know how I feel about fictional characters as divinities, myself…I can see some merits, but also some pitfalls. As a writer, I can get on board with the idea that my characters take on lives of their own, and my notions about creativity are actually quite historical (inspiration is a divine, magical power). But people can already be kind of crazy about characters they love, and adding religion into it seems like trouble.

    That said, I do think that the impulse to police other people’s experiences, and their expressions of same, is shall we say not coming from a good place. Galina Krassokova in particular has a tendency to forget that the phrase “critical thinking” has two words. The superiority you are speaking of comes from a need to assert oneself as an authority without doing the hard work of laying out the case for one’s ideas on their merits. A genuine critique wouldn’t just pooh-pooh the idea of fictional characters as gods; it would engage meaningfully with questions such as, what does it mean to say that gods or divine heroes can be created? Can they be destroyed? Are all fictional characters independent spirits, or only some? What’s the difference? If we accept the idea, then what is the difference between historical deities and modern culturally created ones? the passage of time, or something else? and so on.

  • Aine

    Hm, you’re right. I do open myself up to dialog and critique when I write. I didn’t write very /well/, clearly. I am interested in dialoging with people who have a variety of opinions – what I’m not interested in is being disrespected because I do something different. Which…is what I got from the articles I was reading. “Play pretend” “imagination” etc etc.

    The articles were definitely not about meaningful questions about new deities or spirits – but instead ‘well we do REAL religion’. Which, thanks, but no thanks? I would point out that is problematic from other religions and groups, so I’m going to point out that is problematic when it’s coming from voices I otherwise like.

    Anyway – thank you for calling me out.

  • elorie

    I agree that “we do REAL religion” is pretty useless as a statement, especially when the same people’s definition of “real” often boils down to “the way I do it.”

    I think it also betrays a certain unease, a suspicion that what they themselves do is just “playing pretend.” Otherwise they wouldn’t need to expend so much energy differentiating themselves. Methinks they doth protest too much.

    What intrigues me personally is that for me this leads squarely back to highly interesting questions about what an artist really is. If fictional characters are gods, or gods in potential, then as a writer what am I? And how can I get better at it?

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  • Sunweaver

    I find it utterly fascinating how we get “the gods aren’t real” out of “derives spiritual value from superheroes.” Because those statements are not the same thing by a long shot. If someone were to ask me, I’d say that the gods are real to me in a tangible, visceral way. I look forward to reading more of your posts on pop culture. It’s a big topic.

  • Aine

    Well, when you’re convinced you’re the most brilliant polytheist in the world, it’s hard to see people doing something different, I suppose *shrugs*

    (I mean, I know these people are big names, but I didn’t know they actually were leashed to their egos…)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=514264967 Bianca Bradley

    Context and devils advocating. Krasskova has seen a large share of people getting into Lokeans by way of the Marvel franchise. It gets annoying after a while.

    But on the other side, The Gods call who they will, how they will and Loki can take care of himself. Plus they aren’t static nor is the ability to become a God static.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=514264967 Bianca Bradley

    Sannion, Krasskova are fairly honest folk. I’m pretty sure that they have done the due diligence to make sure they aren’t playing pretend. It’s less of a protest to much and more of a Recon vs complete UPG argument.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=514264967 Bianca Bradley

    Taps you on shoulder. Might I suggest you try a different tactic? Ummm you are using snark, on experienced snarkers, you don’t have the experience and they know how to read buttons.

    Might I suggest you take a walk and not be so defensive? Maybe ask Sunweaver what they mean their statement. Cause ummm, while the whole claw vs claw will be interesting to watch,and I’ll go pop popcorn, it aint gonna do a whole hell of a lot.

  • elorie

    I don’t think you are following the conversation.

  • elorie

    Ah, nope. Because I’ve seen Krassokova try to exert self-appointed authority over a historical deity she didn’t actually know very much about. And even if it WERE Recon vs UPG…it’s actually possible to say “that’s not what I do, and this is why” without being disparaging and dismissive.

    I notice you’re all over this thread, defending them. How do you know them?

  • Aine

    …so? So what if new Lokeans are coming in through the Marvel franchise? Doesn’t that give us an opportunity to have an interesting discussion about Marvel!Loki, how he is very critically different from myth!Loki, and how Marvel!Loki is similar to other spirits and gods? Like, I guess the appropriate response to new converts is to hiss at them for not being legit, but I would think it would be to educate them.

  • Aine

    I’ve heard the ‘sannion and co are experience snarkmasters’ and various iterations – as well as how they are so ~real~ and ~legit~ – a few times now, and it didn’t impress me before, so it’s not going to now. You can bring your popcorn, but I don’t see why. They’re going to keep doing their stuff and I’m going to keep doing mine, and they’re going to keep writing and so am I. If you’d rather I bow my head and go “oh yes i agree with everything you say” you maaaaaaaaaaay want to go elsewhere.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=514264967 Bianca Bradley

    I know Sannion via livejournal, not as a friend, but someone I’ve talked to a lot. Krasskova, I’ve run into a bit in the Lokean communties, but I know Sannion more.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=514264967 Bianca Bradley

    See my second paragraph, and in the Lokean community usually that is what is done. However Lokeans are Lokeans and we don’t always like each other. And people are humans and sometimes you just get plumb irritated.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=514264967 Bianca Bradley

    1. Do point out where I said you have to bow your head and do everything I say?

    2. I know Sannion is an experienced snarkster, but he isn’t here. Nor do I see Krasskova, I see Sunweaver being serious and sarcastic. I see you acting like you have to defend something and you are taking stuff very very very personally, which leads me to wonder why.

    3.You are so defensive, you aren’t listening, and therefore you are putting words in peoples mouths.

    4. How much experience do you have in debate, and receiving critiques? How much experience do you have with people disagreeing with you, who aren’t kicking you? Because right now, you are getting light disagreement and I see you acting like a kicked dog, ready to bite at almost anyone.

  • http://www.patheos.com/Pagan Christine Kraemer

    Sunweaver and Aine are agreeing with each other. I think you misread.

  • http://www.patheos.com/Pagan Christine Kraemer

    The questions you’re asking at the bottom are the ones I’m most interested in.

  • elorie

    I want to re-read “On the nature of the gods” and maybe some stuff about how the Greeks and Romans viewed personal deities (daimones and genii). People don’t realize how diverse ancient attitudes towards the divine actually were, and how much their debates sound like ours. You definitely had people scoffing at “new” “ridiculous” “superstitious” practices as well. The thing is, I don’t think that the notion that new gods could be born from inspiration would sound all that outlandish to them. They would in any case take a “proof is in the pudding” attitude about it….If you ask a boon of this deity, does it deliver? Which is not so far from my own, actually, though my focus is more on what kind of person the practitioner becomes via their practice.

    I might also point out that this is relevant to Faery theology in a couple of ways…but that’s a conversation for elsewhere.

  • Christopher Scott Thompson

    There’s a Gaelic folk tale from the oral tradition about a trickster who turns out to be Manannan MacLir. So it’s a surviving pagan myth, right? Except that earlier textual versions have been found, and in those versions the trickster isn’t Manannan. In fact the story was originally written as a humorous fictional piece about a deck of playing cards and the trickster is the joker. Over a period of a few centuries the story morphed from fiction into myth. In my opinion, a lot of gods were discovered by visionaries who saw them in dreams and then told stories about them. And some may have started as outright fiction before becoming myth. Spirits shapeshift and wear different faces all the time. I doubt there are any limits on which faces they might wear.

  • Sunweaver

    Tone is so hard to read in text sometimes. I do my best to be respectful of others in discussions and hope I haven’t come off poorly. Aine and I are more or less agreeing, I think.

  • Aine

    We are agreeing – I find the responses by the big names (Galina and co.) to be problematic, mostly since they’ve (at this point) proven that they’re reacting against discomfort to new things than actually interesting dialog.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ki.brosius Ki Brosius

    I have never read your blog before (was linked here by a friend after a discussion in a group), but I pretty much wanted to say rocked the fuck on.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ki.brosius Ki Brosius

    Whomever writes the blog A Forest Door is full of themselves on a lot of issues, from what I’ve read.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ki.brosius Ki Brosius

    Marvel!Loki is a nice in for Loki, since, you know-widespread recognition of that fact that his is a god. If Tyr had been in the last Avengers movie don’t you think there would have been an upsurge in his following? The Gods get their foot in the door the easiest way possible, IMO.

  • Bianca Bradley

    Entirely possible. But your killing my know it all reputation. :P

  • Bianca Bradley

    Personally, I can see Loki generating power via Marvel, but I really don’t see an resemblance in Marvel to how I know him personally. But he is quite capable of dealing with people himself.

    Though, honestly, Recons will be much easier to deal with, then a grumpy God, who lost his patience.