A Failure to Communicate (And Hope for the Future)

Sometimes I look around the Pagan Blogosphere and simply shake my head, unsure of what to say. Today is one of those days. It would be easy to describe Modern Paganism as a hydra, one creature with many heads, but that’s not probably going far enough. Today’s Paganism is more like many hydras, each of those with countless heads. As long as there are Pagans there will be disagreements among Pagans.

Disagreeing with someone is not a horrible thing, nor does it have to be adversarial. I usually learn more about myself when talking with someone who believes differently than I do. It forces me to think about my own arguments and to reason out-loud why I believe what I believe. I enjoy being challenged, and to those I disagree with, it’s not personal. I don’t dislike someone because they think differently than I do.

Today I read an intelligent and articulate blogger respond to a peer with the phrase “Fuck off, John.” I couldn’t believe it. This writer* then blamed the individual she disagreed with for intra-faith communication not being better:

The Holy Powers may be nothing more than ideas to you, or mental constructs or whatever the fuck you pretend to believe, but some of us actually do right by Them . . . . Seriously, THIS is why we simply cannot have effective intra-community dialogue.

There are lines in both my writing and spirituality that I refuse to cross. I would NEVER mock someone for their beliefs, no matter how different they might be from my own, and most importantly I would NEVER accuse someone of pretending “to believe.” I used to think that standing under the Pagan Umbrella meant that those around me would accept the validity of my beliefs, even when disagreeing with me. Apparently that ideal is not shared by everyone.

Right before reading this “how to” in poor communications Christine Kraemer (managing editor here at Patheos Pagan, hi boss!) had just announced Pagan Tea Time, an initiative to promote face to face discussions in the Pagan Blogopshere. If you haven’t heard about Tea Time yet, here is Christine’s vision:

So here’s my proposition: during the month of February, if you write online, make a date to have a cup of tea (or food or drink of your choice) with another writer or commenter. Even better, be daring, and make it someone you’ve argued with. Those of you who are attending PantheaCon will have numerous opportunities to eat and drink and talk together in person, and I hope you will take them! But for those who won’t be there, I invite you to take a risk: e-mail someone (or more than one!) whose voice you’ve never heard before and ask them for an hour of their time via video chat (or failing that, phone). Get a glimpse of their pets or babies or partners. Show off your altar or your book collection or the way the sunlight slants into your kitchen. Put away your debates for a while and take the time to talk. Debates can come later.

How do I grow Pagan intellectual culture?

I form relationships. Won’t you join me this February?

Reading this nearly alongside a post accusing someone of “pretending to believe” made me wonder if it’s all too late. Has the venom gotten to the point where certain segments (and individuals) in our community are just incapable of speaking to one another as adults? I hope that’s not the case, but at this point, I’ll admit to being unsure.

Even with my doubts, I love Christine’s idea. It becomes harder to curse and mock people when you’ve actually spoken to them, even if it’s just on Skype. I believe that the majority of us are reasonable folks and that online communication simply stinks sometimes. Keyboards are just incapable of reproducing sarcasm and comments made in good faith are misinterpreted resulting in miscommunication and anger. I’ll be happily to come out from behind the keyboard anytime someone’s interested, I promise no profanities or insults either.

I couldn’t really find a good place for this in the article, so I decided to include it as a post-script.

When someone writes something disagreeable there are various ways to respond that don’t involve the word “fuck.” Here are some of my favorites:

1. Ignore the whole thing. Why give something you disagree with more exposure?

2. Argue with the content not the individual. If you really disagree with something point out why it’s wrong. Keep the personal out of it.

3. Write a private note explaining your concerns. Most Pagan bloggers are not out to offend, a little private correspondence can go a long way.

*I have decided not to name the bloggers in question. You can easily connect the dots on Google because I’ve given you a whole quote, it will pop right up. What’s most important to me is the idea that adults don’t respond to something they disagree with “Fuck off.” We can do better.

~Note~ I have decided to turn off the comments for this particular post. After a promising start things kind of got out of control. The point of this post was not to argue over the definition of polytheism but to examine the ways we communicate with each other publicly. That seems to have gotten lost.

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  • 1. Ignore the whole thing. Why give something you disagree with more exposure?

    Unfortunately, when that “someone you disagree with” is a popular pagan blogger (for some reason) who has made their way onto a popular “interfaith” website, this option reads as letting the wrong words and/or behaviour go unchecked. If it was simply about a personal disagreement about a subjective topic (like the best toppings on a pizza –which everyone should know is anchovies and garlic, by the way), then sure, “ignore them” is a great solution, but when a popular pagan blogger is trying to undefine your religious identity by claiming your language of that identity for oneself, that’s not “personal opinion”, and it’s not subjective. It should not be given a pass.

    2. Argue with the content not the individual. If you really disagree
    with something point out why it’s wrong. Keep the personal out of it.

    Again, a nice idea, but not always realistic. Especially if it’s a case of the aforementioned popular pagan blogger co-opting the vary language of one’s religious identity to make some kind of point. Now, I’m not saying that the issues faced by pagans are at all comparable to those faced by Indigenous Americans, but would you dare tell a Shawnee woman not to make it personal if some white person tried to redefine her very existence out of what makes one a member of the Shawnee tribe? This is not “simply” some theological disagreement between people of two different religions “under the pagan umbrella” as much as it’s a matter of said Popular Pagan Blogger co-opting the language of a religious community he’s NOT a part of and un-defining it so as to exclude people who are a part of splinter group.

    People take their identities very seriously, and can take it very personally when some one else, especially someone who is not a part of that community identity (Indigenous people, GBLTs, religious minorities, etc…), steps up to a podium and basically says “I know [this identity] better than the community who has united under that identifying language, and let me tell you, Internet….” I imagine you, yourself, would get very agitated, maybe eventually take it personally, if some-one repeatedly told you that you’re not what you think you are, that you don’t get to say you are what you know you are because “those words don’t belong to you” and that anyone could claim them for any reason they like. Yeajh, that might not change what you are, but I assure you, as a member of that community (and doubly so as a person of TS/TG status), it gets very trying to be told, ad nauseum, that you don’t get to say that you’re X cos “you don’t own that identity”, and it’s perfectly understandable if some-one who’s being bullied with those words lashes out –maybe it’s not the ideal thing to do, but they have every right to do it.

    3. Write a private note explaining your concerns. Most Pagan bloggers
    are not out to offend, a little private correspondence can go a long

    And I refer back to my response to Item 1: This can easily give the wrong behaviour a pass. If one is communicating in the public forum with no success in reaching a compromise with one’s opponent, then what incentive does one have to take it to e-mail? And if one takes a chance on taking it to e-mail, then what? When should one’s words about the matter become public, if only to be heard by others? There’s a time and place for private communiqué, but I doubt this is a situation where it’s at all useful.

    • Guest

      …but when a popular pagan blogger is trying to undefine your religious identity by claiming your language of that identity for oneself…

      That’s not what he did. He did not invalidate (or “undefine”) anyone’s religious identity by calling himself a polytheist. To the world outside of the Polytheist Community (TM), ‘polytheist’ still means “someone who believes in a plurality of gods.” And look at that, he says that he does believe in a plurality of gods. He’s not redefining anything, he’s using the common definition of the term. He’s not telling anyone that they are not what they think they are, he’s utilizing the conceits of the editorial style to express his opinions and beliefs.

      As has been pointed out, there are different kinds of polytheists — soft polytheists, hard polytheists, devotional polytheists, etc. I myself am a devotional polytheist, which is something Halstead doesn’t claim to be. Him calling himself a polytheist doesn’t invalidate my faith, nor does it redefine me out of my faith. I’m still a polytheist, though of a very different sort than Halstead.

      The Polytheist Community tends to only value their variety of polytheism in a rather absolutist fashion, but we do not have a monopoly on the term “polytheist.” We never did, and we never will, and to pretend otherwise is doing exactly what you are claiming — redefining people out of their faith, dictating to them how they can and cannot identify in a morally unjust way.

      • Is this your first visit to this discussion? Did you read that post thoroughly? Cos he alleges there are “many kinds of polytheists”, including something under than umbrella he calls “Jungian polytheists‘, which essentially means one believes in a plurality of “deities” that are not deities, but archetypes. He very well *does* undefine the term “polytheist” by undefining its root of “theos” to include anything and everything that may or may not actually be theos. This is what’s called “using the language of polytheism”, but it’s not actually polytheism in the most literal sense, it’s only figurative polytheism.

        • Guest

          Did you read my comment, wherein I also assert there are different kinds of polytheism? And thus, different kinds of polytheists? Literal polytheism and figurative polytheism are both still polytheism, just of a different sort.

          I had not seen or read that article, but I also don’t think it butresses your position as well as you think it does. He paints a picture of entities that are gods (if a little fuzzy), even though they are not the gods of a historical pantheon. And there are a plurality of them. “Jungian polytheism” then, seems to be a sort of soft polytheism, with a pantheon of gods matching the archetypes of Jung. That’s rather contrary to my own beliefs, but it also doesn’t negate my own theology in any way whatsoever.

          I do object to his use of captial-P Polytheism, because that has come to represent a specific community that he doesn’t have the authority to speak for (and his footnote shows he is aware that fact). But he’s still not “undefining” anything. Even if he is speaking of gods in a different way than the common conception, the fact that he has to make the distinction shows that there is still a common concept that he has to delineate his usage from.

          • If it’s not a deity you’re giving reverence to, but a “thought-form’ or “archetype” that you’ve simply chosen to call a god, then it’s not polytheism. When I say, figuratively, that my best friend is my squishy penguin (our for-real pet-name for each-other), I know she’s not a squishy form of flightless Antarctic waterfowl, it’s a nonsense term that she and I have called each-other for thirteen years that we feel gives an adequate and wholly metaphorical summary of our friendship; ergo, when some-one who lacks belief in literal deities calls oneself “a kind of polytheist”, one is not calling oneself a polytheist in any meaningful sense.

          • Guest

            What makes something a god, or not a god? In my theology, the boundaries between gods, spirits, & ancestors are fuzzy at best, and imaginary at worst. Is Medb a goddess, a hero, or a tutelary spirit? Is Danu a goddess, or a translation error? Was Brighid a local goddess, or a wide-scale cultural one?

            Jung conceived of his archetypes in a specific sense, but they might well also be spirits in their own right. If Halstead considers those spirits as gods, how are they so different from *my* gods, whom I am only familiar with through the error-filled writings of Christian monks? Who were gods to some, and merely spirits to others within the same living culture?

            If he believes that they are gods, and he believes in a plurality of them, then he is indeed a polytheist in a “meaningful” sense. Even if his definition of “god” is looser than you would like.

          • I’m not trying to split hairs between gods, spirits, and heroes –I’m stating, very clearly, that there’s a difference between a superhuman being that ostensibly exists outside the self, has agency in the world, and is deigned worthy of worship (“a deity”), and an idea of human cultural creation (“archetypes” and “thought forms”).

            Abraham Lincoln once said, “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.” Likewise calling an archetype a deity does not make it so.

      • PegAloi

        Well stated Jason!

  • At this point, I have no reason to believe that Halstead has no idea what he’s doing nor of the part he plays in all of this. People have explained to him, over and over again, what he’s doing wrong, and how he’s rubbing people the wrong way (check his comments over the last year and some for ample evidence of this). He’s not stupid, and I have no idea how he keeps, repeatedly, getting away with this act he’s pulling.

  • Good thing then that she’s decided she’s not really a part of the pagan community anymore, eh?

  • Except this isn’t about “pagans telling other pagans” anything, his is about a Neopagan who has decided he’s going to co-opt the language of the polytheist community -a good two years after many of us had decided we were DONE with the Pagan community- so that he can double-speak and now “pagan = polytheist = whatever you want it to be”.

    • Let me amend my statement, then.

      I’m getting tired of ANYONE telling ANYONE they’re not whatever enough, or what they’re allowed to call themselves. If someone calls themselves Pagan, that’s what they are even if it doesn’t line up with my Pagan practice. If someone calls themselves polytheist and wants nothing to do with the Pagan label, that’s great, I respect that. If someone wants to call themselves Pagan and nontheist, that’s also great, as it is when someone wants to be Pagan and polytheist or anything.

      Point being, I’m tired of people trying to define what other people can and cannot be or call themselves when they have no right to do so.

      • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

        Personally, I like dictionaries and accepted definitions.

        If someone calls themself something, and I feel that they do not meet the criteria for the definition, I will point that out to them.

        It is not about elitism or about arrogance, it is about language and the ability to coherently communicate with others.

        • I like dictionaries and accepted definitions for most things, too.

          But we’re not talking about dictionaries, here. We’re talking about living people, and their personal spiritualities. This is one of those times when being rigid not only isn’t respectful to others, it’s not worth what it lost. (I suppose it might seem that way for the people who want to define everyone else’s spiritual experience, because they’re not losing anything, but the people who are being told they can’t call themselves something can feel like something is being taken from them.)

          If we focus on rigid definitions, we ignore more important things, like service, devotion, and the human beings that make up all our groups.

          You do not get to define me or my spirituality. I do not get to define you or your spirituality.

          We can coherently communicate with narrowly defined concepts, but it won’t matter much when we’re all sniping at each other and hurting each other until any sense of community is utterly destroyed.

          Personally, I don’t care what anyone else says. I’ll call myself what I am, whether it fits anyone else’s definition or no. It would be cruel for someone to tell me I can’t be Pagan because, for example, my allergies mean being outside makes me completely miserable, thus I can’t spend much time outside. Cruel as it is, though, it’s also not true. Pagan is what I am. No one can take that from me.

          • This is one of those times when being rigid not only isn’t respectful to others, it’s not worth what it lost.

            What’s lost by asking people to describe themselves more accurately? No-one is saying that one cannot practise with people in the other community, or take value in what people in that other community have to say. People are simply saying “this is where we draw the line between your community and ours, if you can respect that, they we can be allies and friends, but if you cannot, then we don;t need you.” Nothing is really being lost.

          • Guest

            What’s lost by asking people to describe themselves more accurately?

            What’s lost by letting people self-describe their faith? No-one is saying that you must practice with those that label themselves the same way you do, or ascribe to what they have to say. He’s simply saying “this is how I view my faith; if you can respect that, we can be allies and friends, but if you cannot, then I don’t need anything from you.” Nothing is really being lost by letting him describe his faith as he will.

          • Guest

            Apologies for the double-post on this one; I was posting from my phone.

          • Well, for starters, a clear communication with others is lost. Words don’t mean things for ourselves, words mean things for the benefit of communicating our thoughts, desires, needs, life events, and even the very essence of who we are to others. When someone wants to twist a word to mean something that doesn’t hold true to its roots, etymology, and common usage, one is inviting confusion and thus losing a clear line of communication with others.

          • Words do mean things for ourselves when they are words we use to describe who we are, important parts of our identities and our lives. As I said in another comment to another commenter, I am not opposed to having a definition of the word “Pagan,” I am opposed to having that definition decided by a small group within the larger community, and used to exclude others from that definition.

            Clear communication is good, I agree. We just need to remember that there actually are people involved here, too, and for many of those people, even people with vastly different practices, these words do have personal meaning and value that could be lost if the definition of those words were decided by someone else.

            Also, I think it’s important to note that language is constantly evolving. Common usage of words evolves over time. See “hysterical” for one example.

          • Words do mean things for ourselves when they are words we use to describe who we are, important parts of our identities and our lives.

            That’s a really nice idea, but unfortunately, it stands at clear odds against the purpose of language. Language only exists “for ourselves” as far as it can be used to communicate to others. Those important parts of our identities exist even without the language to describe them, and they (typically) existed even before we had the words to describe it As an example, I was transgender before I even knew that word, because my experiences have considerable overlap with people in the community that unites under that word; if the word “transgender” did not exist, we would unite under some other word, or in a non-verbal and non-literate society, we would still have a way of communicating those experiences to each-other (like a form of sign language).

            Words don’t exist for ourselves alone, they only have meaning in context with societies and communities that give them meaning. The experiences and identities exist without the words. The words only exist so that we can communicate more easily with others, and to communicate more complex and nuanced ideas that may be harder to communicate without words.

            Also, I think it’s important to note that language is constantly evolving. Common usage of words evolves over time. See “hysterical” for one example.

            I certainly agree –I have an English Master’s education, after all. On the other hand, in Language Arts fields, etymologies, root words and so on are constantly referred back to for many reasons: A more specific nuance (Morrissey is probably the most popular “master” of this, at least off the top of my head when sleep-deprived –his verse, as a lyricist, can seem sloppy, as he’ll sacrifice metre for a specific word that, in the context of its roots and etymology, has the more-specific meaning he wants to use, even if a more popular word might “basically mean the same thing”, it’s that very specific nuance contained in that word alone), a more-accurate root word for the purposes of what’s being written, or a tighter and more illustrative metaphor (or other figurative statement). While words technically have no absolute static meaning, fixed for all time, understanding the history and roots of one’s language actually helps to improve creative writing and other communications –thus words have a concrete meaning, from the Latin, concretus, condensed, compacted together, as the meaning words have is the sum of their histories and most-common usage (which is typically defined by dictionaries), and like the physical substance also known as “concrete”, their meanings can be chipped at and refined, but if we alter things too much, meaning crumbles and falls apart —which doesn’t aid communication at all.

            There’s a greater etymological precedent for “polytheism” to refer to a literal belief in multiple deities, and not“archetypes” or “thought forms” or other ideas of figurative consequence. At this point “pagan” means… well, something perhaps, but even considering the sum of its etymology, I’m far less attached to it than “polytheist”. I have no issue with certain people who lack a belief in literal, multiple deities simply using the language of polytheism in their practises, but that alone is not enough to make it polytheism in any meaningful sense.

            Calling a dog’s tail a leg does not make it so.

          • “What’s lost by asking people to describe themselves more accurately?”

            Nothing, when it’s actually asking. When it’s asking that person to define themselves, and not pushing a definition–or lack of one–on them.

            What I am opposed to is when people don’t ask, and instead say, “You can’t be Pagan, because you don’t [insert practice here].” Or “You can’t be Pagan because you also [insert practice/belief here].” Or, when they do ask, and then proceed to protest that person’s lack of Paganism anyway. Or lack of polytheism, or Heathenism, or Buddhism, etcetera and so forth.

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            Define “Pagan”, as if you were inserting it into a dictionary.

            The reason for that is so that others who are not Pagan understand what the term means.

            Here, let me try with Heathen:

            Heathen (noun): One who advocates a way of life informed by Germanic spiritual culture.

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            You use words. Use them properly. This is not about spirituality or devotion. It is about semantics and correct usage.

            I am not saying that you are not Pagan. I’m saying that, without a concise definition, the word has no actual meaning.

          • It is about spirituality and devotion when you’re talking about defining words people use to describe their spirituality and devotion.

            I don’t oppose the word “Pagan” having a definition. I oppose that definition being decided by a small portion of a very large community and used to exclude others from said community AND definition.

            Because your words are now beginning to “sound” (being relative over the Internet) insulting and condescending (“You use words. Use them properly.” “Here, let me try with Heathen.”), and also because I’ve seen you around and I know that no amount of commenting on my part will change your mind or make you leave me alone, this is the last comment in which I will engage with you.

          • Why is it such a challenge for anyone to ask people to use words in a way that is accurate, and fosters respectful communication to those who use those words as identifiers?

            If you do not believe in many Gods you are not a polytheist. This is not elitist, but the dictionary definition’s use of the word, common use of the word, and as Mr. Halstead pointed out in his blog, probably the better definition for it.

            Given that a lot of Pagans have taken the stance that self-definition as a Pagan means you are a Pagan, many polytheists have thrown our hands up and said fine.

            The reason Paganism has been shifting from a religious identifier to a subcultural one is because having a religious belief no longer is an identifier of being a Pagan for many Pagans. Why spend our time trying to define ourselves within in a community that will not work to define itself or set boundaries?

            My problem comes when a word we use as a primary self-identifier is then being twisted to mean something it is not in either dictionary definition, common nomenclature, or by those who primarily identify AS polytheist.

        • Kim Martin Bannerman

          FYI-I’ve gotten no less than 30 notifications in the past 24 hours just on this thread alone. Wow people.

          @Leoht If someone calls themselves what? A specific type of pagan? In my opinion, unless said person claims a lineage/coven line/group line to which they aren’t allowed to claim, it’s not our “job” to point out why they are/aren’t what they claim to be. In a situation like a discussion or someone seeking to define their beliefs, sure. Certainly not open flame waring with them in an online forum about how they are this & not that and/or not enough “checked boxes” to call themselves X type of Pagan.

          To general forum:
          I honestly wonder if folks that openly debate these types of things all over the interwebs with such ferocity and venom have a real life outside of the computer. You know? Hold real jobs. Have real friends? If you’re that angsty about putting people into boxes, labeling them and sorting them-please by all means become a professional organizer, write a book, lead a group to try to attract folks that believe what you do, volunteer.

          My point? There are much better ways to vent frustrations you have in a positive way. And guess what? What if *you* are the one that is wrong? Maybe look inside of yourself and repair what is missing there.

          Please stop giving all of us a bad undercurrent of negativity in the Pagan world.

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            I am not flaming anyone, nor am I saying that such-and-such is not a Pagan.

            Concise terms are important when talking to people. That is my only point. When a word loses definition, it loses usefulness.

  • (sometimes with bullying or online harassment/stalking)

    Citation needed.

    I see a lot of people insisting that Galina &co, “bully”, “stalk” and “harass” people, but I’ve yet to see any evidence. I’ve yet to see anything more but the vaguest allegation of something someone heard “from a friend-of-a-friend” (who no-one can ever name) that’s from at least six years ago. If you can’t cite it, then stop saying it.

    I ask for citations because making these statements in an open forum (as you have done) is pretty easily argued as libelous, if one can’t provide evidence. I wouldn’t be surprised if one day she finally got sick of people saying this and pressed charges for defamation of character —of course, I also wouldn’t be surprised if she never does, because she’d figure that’d be giving people what they wanted, with regards to all these accusations of “bullying” and “harassment”.

    • Well, when you’re not tech-savvy enough to even try to hide your IP while you’re spending hours (sometimes days) just waiting and reading through blogs of people you supposedly don’t have time for (and writing attacks against their character, on sacred holidays)…yeah, I’m not too worried about being libelous.

      (Also…Galina and her friends aren’t the only bullies in the Pagan and polytheist communities. It’s not all about you.)

      • When you say, as you did, that people who didn’t particupate in “Silent July” were threatened for that alone, yet I myself did not and was not, and I can certainly name you others of similar experiences, you can’t expect me to believe you weren’t talking about Galina and Sannion. When you bring up “bullying” and “harrassment” yet again in the comments of a blog post about Galina &co, you can’t expect me to believe that she wasn’t at least one of the people on your mind when making that allegation.

        Again, citations needed. Preferably something from the last year or two. If you can’t produce this evidence, then I honestly believe it says more about you than the people you’re attacking with these statements of alleged fact.

        • Amazingly – since Jason didn’t name people in his post, and I don’t read Galina’s blog, I didn’t realize he was talking about Galina until someone pointed that out to me privately a few days later. (I was glad that someone did though, because it puts a different perspective on the interaction Jason’s talking about.)

          I don’t mind if you think it says ‘more about’ me than the ‘people I’m attacking’. Partially because you’re one of the people that harasses others – aka, one of the people I’m ‘attacking’.

          • Well, good thing for you that you can’t prove a negative, I guess. [eyeroll]

            And thanks, I’m flattered. It’s good to see that you can’t tell the difference between someone asking you to prove what you say and someone who is actually harassing you.

    • PegAloi

      You have yet to see any “evidence”? Really? That brouhaha that preceded the “month of silence” didn’t do it for ya? Many people have seen the “evidence” and the fact that you’re demanding to see proof of it in this thread (as if people are just making it up or over-exaggerating it) doesn’t mean many of us don’t remember the horrible things that were said and the crazy spin-doctoring that happened afterwards. Galina used the word “horseshit” in reference to my own spiritual beliefs at least a dozen times, in blogs and on Facebook. Others had their beliefs and practices similarly disrespected and insulted. Please don’t be naive enough to think that your protesting this “lack of evidence” will lead anyone to think it’s all in our heads. I am tired of this whitewashing.

      • She actually has a tag category for “humanist horseshit”! 🙂

        • PegAloi

          That doesn’t surprise me in the least.

        • So? That’s neither bullying, harassment, nor stalking. It’s an opinion.

          You’re not stupid, stop pretending to be.

          • PegAloi

            When someone uses profane, crude, insulting terms (like referring to another’s spiritual beliefs as “horseshit” or saying “Fuck you” in response to another person’s neutral commentary) in a discussion in a public forum, where previously the level of discourse had not been profane or insulting, they are attempting to belittle and ridicule that person, to humiliate them, to cast them in a bad light in front of others. That is bullying 101.

          • I’m sorry, but you’re watering down the definition of “bullying” into complete meaninglessness. Bullying necessitates that the bully be in a position of power over the target and to *repeatedly*, over a clear long-term period of time, to threaten, intimidate, dominate, and personally (even if not physically) or professionally harm the target –.hurting your feelings even a few times on a personal blog doesn’t meet that criteria.

            Furthermore, the legalese splits hairs between “cyberbulling” as an act performed by children and teens, and “cyberharassment” as an act performed by adults –and frankly, Galina’s words and actions have met the criteria of neither.

            I know words don’t actually have meaning here on Patheos until Ms Kraemer says they do, but in the real world, they mean things, often very specific things. And hey, if you *really do* feel that you have sufficient evidence that I just can’t access, then why not end the cycle, gather it up, and do something about it? Wouldn’t that be more productive a use of your time, or is it just more convenient to make vague allegations against another woman’s* character because she said something that upset you?

            Saying upsetting things once, twice, or even a few times does not constitute “bullying”; an on-going feud between two people doesn’t necessarily constitute “bullying”, either; there has to be clear damage done to one’s person, profession, or emotional well-being as a result of the repeated, on-going, and relentless actions of another, and if you can prove that Galina or anyone else did that to you, then believe me, I *will* stand by you, but because that’s such a serious allegation, it’s going to need some proof –extraordinary claims, and all that jazz.

            (*I’m assuming you, like Galina, are a woman based on your name –feel free to correct me, if I’m wrong.)

          • I didn’t say it was. I just thought it was funny. She obviously has a penchant for the word.

      • You clearly maintain a far broader definition of “bullying”, “harassment”, and “stalking” that most other people, including a majority of those who have been bullied, harassed, and stalked, simply don’t use.

  • Guest
  • Hell, just read any one of Jack Chick’s comics about Catholics. He certainly doesn’t believe Catholics are in any way Christian.

  • Well said.

  • No, but I think there’s a language barrier you’re failing to see:

    There are “polytheists”, including those who are monistic and/or essentially atheistic and merely using the language of polytheism cos rituals and stuff, or whatever they reason it with in the pagan community.

    Then there’s the “Polytheist Community”, which has been essentially splintered from the pagan community in some form for years –it very easily can be argued that it began with Heathens in the 1970s and ’80s, and continued with Celtic and Hellenic recons in the 1980s and ’90s (contrary to what Halstead likes to claim about this not even being a thing until the late 1990s), and it continues today, albeit in a much more public manner, especially as more and more people become discontent with more-or-less “mainstreamed” Wiccanate paganism, convert to traditional polytheism, and realise that there’s no longer a place for them in the pagan community. The Polytheist Community doesn’t just use the language of polytheism, but has a de-facto pluralistic view of the deities of the pantheon they worship, and often enough of all other pantheons. There is considerable overlap of beliefs and practises between cultural traditions, even if the particulars make it all look very different.

    This is essentially two different communities, but *one person* who is clearly of the former has appropriated more particular language of the latter simply because he’s decided to feud with a prominent person in the latter community and, to be frank, annoy the piss out of her. This goes back about a year, and can be easily observed in his backlogue on his own blog.

    • StyrrErnstson

      My only concern there is that I can’t see how we can justify owning the language of polytheism and defining how people can identify with what they call deity. Sure, John doesn’t believe in the literal existence of gods like (I presume) you and I do (my apologies if I’ve put words into your mouth), but if he defines his beliefs as a form of polytheism, unique unto itself, then I don’t see how you or I could tell him otherwise. In his own words, he says his archetypes are gods to him and that makes him a polytheist as far as I can tell. If he uses the words associated with polytheism to define his own polytheism, then again, I don’t see how we can feel marginalised or attacked or otherwise abused.

      I simply can’t see how any polytheist owns the language of polytheism simply because they identify as a polytheist, particularly seeing as there are clearly several ways to be a polytheist.

      • …but if he defines his beliefs as a form of polytheism, unique unto
        itself, then I don’t see how you or I could tell him otherwise.

        Again, I’m not trying to say that the two groups are at all facing the same level of issues (indeed, I find comparisons like this rather tacky, but it’s also a convenient way to illustrate a point, at times), but what would you say about Grey Owl? How do you regard a hypothetical heterosexual who insists that he’s gay, even though he’s never been attracted to or been with another man, has only ever been attracted to and dated women (and is specifically calling himself “gay”, not the debatably vaguer “queer”)? I mean, is that cool, too? Was Grey Owl just First Nations “in his own unique way”? Is Hypothetical Het Man just somehow “a form of gay unique unto itself”? Cos where I stand, they do not have that right to those identities –such people may, indeed, identify with those cultures, in their own unique way, but they also face a whole other set of issues, and there are also other issues completely foreign to their experiences because of their “unique” position, relative to the rest of the community that self-identifies with those terms.

        The polytheist community sets itself apart from the pagan community because after decades, it’s clear that the differences in culture really are that strong –and unlike what some “hardline recons” may want others to believe, it’s not even all about political differences. It’s something deeper, philosophically, and more ineffable, but at the same time clearly observable (apologies for starting to sound a tad too much like T.S. Eliot’s famous children’s book set to stage by that little troll who works with Tim Rice a lot). There’s a clear cultural divide between the pagan community and the polytheist community, that even people who strictly stick to a single cultural pantheon, say CRs and Hellenists, tend to find more in common with each-other than they do when venturing outside the polytheist room into the rest of the Big Pagan Community House.

        As best as I or anyone else can tell, Halstead doesn’t really get that. All he seems to get is that there are ways that he sees the polytheist community talking about themselves that he likes and has decided to take it on for himself for reasons (possibly similar to his reasons for identifying as “pagan” in the first place). Again, to make a tacky comparison, it’s like when a white girl decides to get henna designs on her hands and then starts going on about some half-understanding of the Indian custom that’s composed partly of things she heard while getting the designs done, and part things she’s concocted from something she overheard her brother watching on the NatGeo Channel while she was baking.

        Sure, in theory he can identify with whatever words he feels like, I guess. He can announce two hours from now that he’d prefer we call him fe and fyr, cos his true self/form/gender is a delicious bowl of fruit salad (as a TS/TG person, myself, I’ve heard odder things from people), and it really wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest, at this point –but the rest of the world (or at least the tiny population of said that reads his blog, even if only in passing) will wonder why he’s doing this and what he’s getting out of it. Maybe a few people will take him seriously, on the principle that “we don’t get to dictate his identity to him”, but I doubt very many would. If he decided tomorrow that he’s the next Grey Owl, I’m sure even fewer would take him seriously.

        The polytheist community is under no obligation to take his claims of a polytheist identity, when it’s clear that he’s merely using the language of polytheism. Do people in the polytheist community have the right to take him seriously, if they so choose to? Sure, why not?

        The thing is, identity isn’t just about how we feel about ourselves -it’s also about the people we tend to communicate with best, share a large amount of experiences with (even if by only 51% overlap on the Venn), and generally feel we understand on some deep, ineffable level. The community can also arbitrarily decide what traits matter most to that identity overlap on the Venn. While it’s certainly natural to want to experiment with one’s identity at times, and I’ll even wager than most people have an identity that’s fairly fluid throughout one’s lifetime, most people don’t maintain identifying labels with groups they can’t get along with or who at least tend to hold views that are at odds with one’s own –I very briefly (in the scope of my years on this planet) identified myself as a Satanist (LaVeyan) and a Libertarian –but that didn’t work out because as I learned more about those ideologies and myself, I was at odds with them and had to shed those identities for something more accurate.

        I question Halstead’s motives because he’s being steadfast in his insistence on this identifying language in spite of many people in the polytheist community saying “dude, stop; you’re talking things clearly at odds with what we stand for”. I thus question his sincerity in this identification of himself as a “unique” form of “polytheist”, cos as best as I can tell, he’s seeing Galina’s reactions to his desire to cling to this language as a big game of “poke the bear”. It’s unfortunate that I don’t see him stopping any time soon, if only cos Galina is clearly one of those personalities who can’t ignore things that she believes to be wrong or incorrect –which is just going to feed the perverse glee he gets from this, and basically encourage him to keep going.

  • This is true, but you certainly would also agree that it is perfectly understandable that people hold the language that defines their identities very dearly, and understandably have very personal feeling about it when people put that identity to question, wouldn’t you? (If that made no sense, I apologise, I haven’t slept yet.)

    I wouldn’t call it “marginalisation”, but it’s certainly uncouth for one to put another’s identity and the vary language they use to define it to task. How we identify ourselves is, in essence, our way of telling others who we are and what we’re about, and we get very attached to the language we use to do that, and tend to take it very personally when we see others attempting to redefine that language for their own purposes.

  • I encourage everyone to pray for this person in her struggle to overcome her Tourrets[sic].

    Can you STOP with the ableism? I highly doubt you’d say this shit if you actually knew anyone with Tourette syndrome (like I do). That’s not a fucking punch-line. Are you actually trying to be full of Fail this week?

  • I think polite society encourages us to imply that people are unwell rather than that they’re simply being mean, even if the latter is the truth.

    You come from a very different version of “polite society” than I do.

  • Yet another failed attempt by this overly-privileged Pagan to lighten the mood. 🙁


    I think you know exactly what you’re doing and threw just ableism out there to see what else the Patheos Pagan community will let you get away with.

  • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

    They really do. How they interpret and act on those beliefs is a different matter.

    They all believe that living according to the teachings of Christ is a “good thing”.

    Just because people say that one sect/cult/denomination is not “real Christianity” does not change the facts.

  • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

    Pretty much.

    I wouldn’t describe Paganism as sub-cultural. It is a holding pen. A place where baby religions are reared before being released into the wild.

  • Guest

    What’s lost by asking people to describe themselves more accurately?

    What’s lost by letting people self-describe their faith? No-one is saying that you must practice with those that label themselves the same way you do, or ascribe to what they have to say. He’s simply saying “this is how I view my faith; if you can respect that, we can be allies and friends, but if you cannot, then I don’t need anything from you.” Nothing is really being lost by letting him describe his faith as he will.

    • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

      What is lost by letting people self describe their faith? Communication, possibly.

      If I decide that I like the term “Jew”, as a religious identifier for my particular religious outlook, can I use it as such? Even though I am identifiable as Heathen, by most standards?

      I would say no. “Jew” has a commonly accepted definition and, if I make the claim that I am a Jew to others, I will likely get told that I am not. I would like also get called some rather unflattering names.

      • PegAloi

        The Jewish faith has thousands of years of history. Reconstructed polytheism of the type being discussed here, barely a decade. So there’s THAT.

        • Try about four decades, that can be easily documented. If YSEE can be believed, the “Stratioti tradition” many of its members practise can be traced back to the 15th Century ( https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/Hellenic_Recons/conversations/messages/4855 ) –I take that claim with a grain of salt, but if one believes that self-identity and personal beliefs about the very essence of one’s religion is sacrosanct, then wouldn’t it thus follow that traditional polytheism, for some cultural groups, is indeed far older than even the last four decades on record in the Anglosphere?

      • Guest

        “Polytheist” also has a commonly accepted definition — a person who believes in a plurality of gods. Everything that comes after that is a matter of specificity.

        And conveniently, in an article that Halstead has written that Ruadhan links to below, he calls himself a “Jungian polytheist.” So there’s the additional specificity on top of the commonly accepted definition of polytheist. He believes in a plurality of gods, and his gods happen to bear a striking resemblance to Jung’s archetypes.

        I fail to see how clear communication is lost here. In fact, it seems as if communication is enhanced by the specificity he provides.