Polygamy Decriminalization and Polyamorous Pagans

Our modern society is both fascinated and repulsed by the practice of polygamy (multiple-partner marriages), particularly the practices of fundamentalist Mormons, who allow polygyny (one husband, many wives), and who have been given both sympathetic (Big Love, Sister Wives) and critical (any number of documentaries and news reports) treatment by mainstream media. While the custom of monogamy has been called “ridiculous” by some, and perhaps even unnatural by others, non-monogamous relationships have been generally been portrayed as either lurid fantasy, inherently abusive, or yet another step on a slippery slope towards cultural ruin (particularly within the context of the same-sex marriage debate). Recently, Mormon polygamists have been fighting to decriminalize what they see as a consensual relationship model, arguing that allegations of abuse within these structures should be dealt with separately from the issue of multiple-marriage. In Canada a high-profile decriminalization case is currently before the British Columbia Supreme Court, and now the multiple-partner family behind  Sister Wives has filed suit to challenge Utah’s law against bigamy.

“Attorney Jonathan Turley told the Associated Press that he believes the family’s case represents the strongest challenge to the criminalization of polygamy ever filed in federal courts. It builds on a 2003 case in which the Supreme Court struck down Texas’ sodomy laws as a violation of privacy. “We only wish to live our private lives according to our beliefs,” Brown said in the attorney’s statement.”

As this issue over polygamy, and whether or not it should be decriminalized, heats up, some Pagans are wondering how these developments will affect our interconnected communities, and whether our general acceptance of non-monogamous relationship models will cause reverberations we can’t predict. While polygamy is not a common practice within contemporary Pagan religions, polyamorous groups can often be found. Polyamory is a consensual multiple-partner relationship model that rejects the patriarchal, and sometimes abusive, forms of traditional polygamy that most people envision (polyamory widely values transparency and honesty, along with what’s known as “compersion”). Several prominent Pagans are polyamorous, including Oberon and Morning Glory ZellRaven Kaldera (author of “Pagan Polyamory”), Phaedra Bonewits, and her late husband, the author Isaac Bonewits. Around 30% of poly families identify as Pagan according to one survey conducted in 2002. So as polyamory gets drawn into the polygamy decriminalization battles, it seems likely that poly Pagans will play a role, whether chosen or not. Already, Pagan families and clergy in Canada have filed affidavits of support in the decriminalization case there, and Craig Jones, lead attorney for the B.C. Attorney General’s office, made very clear that polyamorous families would be treated like polygamous families in the eyes of the law.

When multi-partner, conjugal relationships are like “duplicative marriages,” Jones said they are criminal regardless of whether the individuals are heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered. Although he said ‘duplicative marriage’ need not be “exhaustively defined in advance,” Jones said all conjugal relationships involving more than two people are criminal if they go beyond “mere cohabitation” and have some form of imposed consequences related to entering or remaining in the relationship.”

In talking with several polyamorous Pagan individuals for this article I found some apprehension and mixed emotions about being seen as allied with polygamous Mormon groups. While some, like Natalie Smith, think that if “people on the ‘outside’ were to see two opposite groups like Mormons and Pagans working side-by-side towards a common goal, it is more likely to help someone think.” Others, like Jonathan Korman, feel conflicted about making common cause with polygamists.

“I can conceive of legal efforts which serve both groups’ interests, but I have difficulty imagining it politically. The movements have different cultural aims and have different relationships with the society at large. People in each movement tend to find the practices of the other distasteful, making any alliance fraught. Both groups would hesitate to focus only on tactics which support both groups. Both groups may fear that it will compromise their efforts if the public foresees benefits to the other group.”

That said, all the polyamorous Pagans I talked to supported decriminalization, and were in favor of creating a legal framework for legal multiple-partner marriages. Storm Faerywolf, an initiate of the Feri tradition of Witchcraft, noted that “adult individuals should have the right to enter into whatever contracts they choose,” while Pagan podcaster and metaphysical shop manager Devin Hunter emphasized that “in a perfect world this would not even be a question. The rights of a minority group should never be in the hands of the majority. Plural marriages should absolutely be legal within the system, and at the very least it should become decriminalized.” While none of the individuals I talked to held much credence with the slippery slope arguments put forward by figures like Archbishop Timothy Dolan, one respondent, David Shorey, did point out that the “dominant paradigm still revolves around a polar perspective,” and “those who have adopted the polar perspective will see two men or two women fitting into that.” In short, any relationship that exceeds two partners breaks the mold many are comfortable with.

Shorey’s musings on the “polar perspective” seems to tie into some further comments made by Korman, who broached the question of if this issue of multiple-partner marriages touches on a much larger question of the current legal limitations in defining relationship models outside what some may be accustomed to.

“The law currently supports a very limited vocabulary of personal relationships with enforced rights and obligations. We have legal rules for blood relations, for adoptive parents, and for married couples, but almost no other legal support for personal relationships. I believe that many people sense that this gives us too limited a vocabulary for dealing with the complexity of people’s lives but lack a framework for thinking about it. Many people who reach for same-sex civil unions as a compromise may feel open to more sophisticated ways of thinking about how the law addresses our relationships.

Polyamory constitutes a direct confrontation with questions about how we define our relationships. It says that we should not accept that our loving relationships must conform to a single standard. From that rejection of the cookie-cutter relationship standard follows hard personal and cultural questions about how we want relationships to work. Cultural conservatives find these questions frightening; without the standards they know and recognize, they fear that we would have no ethical standards at all. But many other people feel that the conception of marriage offered to them does not serve their needs but cannot imagine alternatives. Perhaps same-sex marriage has opened the door to more people thinking about these questions, creating an opportunity for a broader cultural conversation about the cultural and legal implications of polyamorous families. We may see a growing fascination with poly families coming, as people respond to them as a way to talk about the questions they encounter in their own relationships.”

As this conversation moves forward, can polyamorous Pagans bring more complexity, nuance, and new ideas to the table? So far, the lion’s share of attention has been on contrasting monogamy with abusive forms of polygamy, but shouldn’t there be room to consider that there are other models of multiple-partner families, and that blanket laws against polygamy also impact their lives as well? In defining polyamory, the poly Pagans I talked to described it as “the admission that honesty is more important than monogamy, “ that “each individual member among the relationship shares in responsibility equally,” and is “focused on the individual and their ability to have mutiple loving relationships.” This seems a far cry from the abusive compound narrative often presented when talk of decriminalizing polygamy comes up, and should not be ignored as this debate continues to gain attention.

Whether Pagans wish it or not, the coming polygamy decriminalization fight will have ramifications that will need to be addressed. Many Pagan clergy members bless multiple-partner marriages, many polyamorous families are Pagan, and in Canada, it has been made clear that distinctions between polygamy and polyamory won’t be recognized should the relationships evolve beyond mere “cohabitation.” While the Utah “Sister Wives” case may be something that Pagan communities in the United States can largely avoid, that is no promise the issue will remain dormant, especially if the Canada legal case ends up in the Canadian Supreme Court and results in polygamy being decriminalized. Many of the polyamorous Pagans I talked to said that the time for more vocal activism on this issue was now, for Devin Hunter “the time has come to become even more vocal, “ while Natalie Smith, when asked about being vocal, said that “the road to equality lies through the fields of visibility.” The question is whether Pagan leaders, clergy, and organizations will be willing or able to join them on that road.

About Jason Pitzl-Waters
  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=687696001 Cheryl Essary Nesselrodt

    I highly doubt there are any more ‘abusive’ situations in polygamist/polyamorous relationships than there are in heterosexual legal marriages. No one ever wants to look at traditional marriage and its problems, including divorce and abuse, as well as the children who are torn apart in these situations.

  • http://www.patheos.com Star Foster

    As a feminist, I personally feel it is necessary to support legalization of polygamy in order to remove “outlaw” status from women who cannot discuss their lives or live openly. Enabling women to talk about their lives would prevent and bring to light abuse which has thrived by labeling polygamy illegal.

    As a Pagan, I get the reservations. These are people who are very, very different from us, and neither faith tradition approves of the other. Yet, it can be seen as yet another opportunity to prove that despite our differences we can work together to protect our common rights.

    In a post-”Big Love” world, polygamy is seen differently and polyamory is far more well-known than it used to be. The “mere cohabitation” thing is a straw man, as those parameters fit platonic roommates as well. I think change is coming, change is inevitable and I welcome it.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_PMTLR3IIGKPHZ2YNU3PDXWK4WA Kenneth

      I think we can draw that distinction between common cause for legalization and support of some unhealthy polygamist practices. Within many of those groups, you have middle aged guys taking numerous underage wives, raising children they can’t support and leaving many young men as social outcasts. On the other hand, legalization will bring these things out of the shadows so that they can be dealt with. The big technical challenge will be to re-tool the entire body of family and divorce law which is built entirely around monogamy and its assumptions. Sorting out things like property rights and visitation and custody will be much more complex, but it can be done.

      • Baruch Dreamstalker

        For once I agree with Kenneth: Retooling the body of family law — in particular what happes to kids in a divorce or separation — is a necessary precursor.

        • Christine

          I also concur. Until these issues are worked out, the only legit argument one could make against legalizing Poly marriages is from the standpoint of logisitics.

          What happens if there is a speration or divorce. Do all parties have to disolve the union or can the one just leave. What if there are children? What if biological parentage is unknown and the mother wants support on her exit or the exit of the assumed father? If they’re not a biological parent, what of visitation? How are assets divided? What about inheirentance. If a member of the union dies with no will and the others within the union start infighting over the estate how does one determine who’s entitled to what part of the estate? What constitutes adultry. Can a person have poly marriages and NOT tell thier other partners, or do you need permission of each partner to continue marrying? If you find out that somebody has been doing this, what are the conconquences?

          And the more people involved in the union, the more complicated and involved these questions get.

    • Fritz Muntean

      I’m not so sure that Mormon and Pagan are as ‘very, very different’ as most of us would like to think, especially in regard to the issue of poly-sexuality. Heinlein’s ‘Stranger in a Strange Land’ was enormously popular among the founders of several now-venerable traditions of N American Paganism, at least one of which was intentionally modelled on it. Although none of these worthies, AFAIK, were at all aware that the theological foundation of MVS’s ‘Martian Religion’ had been lifted holus-bolus from early Mormon doctrine.

      Ask if you want details . . .

      • http://www.patheos.com Star Foster

        I know Mormons. Culturally we are very different. Oberon and Morning Glory’s polyamory and the influence Heinlein had on them is a side story and not terribly relevant to whether or not we are like Mormons. The Mormons who practice polygamy and the Pagans who practice polyamory have nothing in common except plural marriage, regardless of any sci-fi six degrees of separation.

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_PMTLR3IIGKPHZ2YNU3PDXWK4WA Kenneth

          True. I’ve read some god-awful science fiction in my day, but that doesn’t make me a Scientologist! We have nothing in common at all with Mormons apart from the fact that both groups sometimes color outside the lines of monogamy. Mormonism is one of the most patriarchal variants of Judeo-Christianian religion ever devised. Their reasons and concepts of polygamy are utterly alien to paganism.

          • Fritz Muntean

            Patriarchy is a more subtle and insidious force than one would hope. See Jone Salomonsen’s ‘Enchanted Feminism’ (Routledge, 2002) for an critique of Starhawk’s Reclaiming collective. According to Prof Salomonsen, Reclaiming has just replaced one form of patriarchal spirituality (Judaeo-Christianity) with another (Ceremonial Magic). Likewise, virtually every public iteration of polyamory that I’ve known of well enough to map its power vectors, from CAW to the Kerista Community, has, like the Mormons, been devoted to the (often literal) deification of the charismatic male leader. Rhetoric to the contrary notwithstanding.

          • Thriceraven

            Wow… charismatic male leader?!? As someone living a poly life, I think you’re tarring a lot of people, my multiple female/multiple male mixed family and the several wholly lesbian polyamorous groupings I know with a rather bizarre brush.

          • Fritz Muntean

            Sorry, ‘Thriceraven’, that was clumsy of me. I was referring only to poly groups (like the ones I cited) that became large enough and lasted long enough to be the subject of careful study.

            All of these with which I’m acquainted devolved into orgs controlled by a single charismatic male leader in which everyone got to do ‘his’ thing.

            I’ll also confess that it’s been nearly a decade since I’ve read any further studies of this phenomenon. Can anyone cite more recent examples that challenge this theory? Think ‘tribe’ or ‘trad’ size, not ‘family’ size.

          • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_PMTLR3IIGKPHZ2YNU3PDXWK4WA Kenneth

            That’s just the point. Within paganism, polyamory is family-sized. We are not comparable to the Mormons precisely because we do not, so far as I know, have any sizeable trads or tribes which revolve around a single charismatic male leader. I think you’d have to search far and wide to find any pagan women who would go for that arrangement.

          • Fritz Muntean

            [Kenneth]: Within paganism, polyamory is family-sized.

            [Fritz]: That does seem to be what everyone here is saying. And maybe that’s the right way to go, considering how Mormon-like the larger poly orgs I’m referring to here used to appear to be structured.

            [Kenneth]: We are not comparable to the Mormons precisely because we do not, so far as I know, have any sizeable trads or tribes which revolve around a single charismatic male leader.

            [Fritz]: Such things certainly do exist under the rubric of Paganism. Surely everybody here knows about CAW, aka the Church of All Worlds. And the Kerista Community, aka the Kerista Family Circus? It’s true that both these orgs are now very nearly or completely moribund, but they (esp CAW) were enormously influential in Contemporary Paganism’s formative years (CAW published the ‘Green Egg’). To an old-timer like myself, a lot (thought not by any means all) of the rhetoric and ideology that appears to be informing 21st century polyamory does clearly seem to have its roots firmly planted in CAW’s soil.

            [Kenneth]: I think you’d have to search far and wide to find any pagan women who would go for that arrangement.

            [Fritz]: That’s certainly not how it played out. Not too long ago, at virtually any large Pagan event, you could hardly miss the CAW paterfamilias, sailing along trailing an impressive number of adorning women.

        • Fritz Muntean

          Culturally yes. But theologically? Not so much.

          • Aine

            Excuse me, but where the heck do you get that we are similar to Mormons theologically? I, at least, have serious theological differences between all of my Mormon friends.

          • Fritz Muntean

            Sorry, I lost the thread there. I was referring to the near identity between early 19th century Mormon theology and that propounded in Heinlein’s book — particularly in regard to the supposed ability of men to become literally divine by having sex with large numbers of women. I’m citing this as an influence (subtle) on Pagan theology in general (“Thou art God”) and Pagan polyandry in (unacknowledged) theory.

          • http://miniver.blogspot.com/ Jonathan Korman

            Looking at your comment below about “the supposed ability of men to become literally divine by having sex with large numbers of women,” I have to wonder if you’ve ever actually read “Stranger.” It is full of any number of peculiar ideas, but that is not among them.

          • Anonymous

            Heh, you beat me to it – and in all honesty, Heinlien’s “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” does a much better job of expounding on poly families, considering they are the norm in Luna Free State. ;)

          • http://oldmoonsisterstars.wordpress.com Apuleius Platonicus

            “The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress” = Awesome Book.

      • Ceinan

        Just had to say, “Hi Fritz, nice seeing you here!”
        Signed,
        Your Kali-Flower

        • Fritz Muntean

          Bless my heart. Merry met. I owe you an email. Check your in box tomorrow.

  • Dragonlady

    I agree. I tend to think that if torn apart, the standard model of what “regular” marriage is will open a Pandora’s box of issues that no one of the “moral community” wants to see. They tend to wear blinders when it comes to spousal abuse, rape, child abuse, etc. This is going to make them take a very good look at themselves and they don’t want to do that.

    It takes a very large hammer to break some molds. I, for one (of many, it seems), can’t wait for the breakage.

    Why is all the talk about a man and many wives/women? I would love to hear if there are more Pagan women like me, who has two men? :) Why should the guys get all the fun?

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_PMTLR3IIGKPHZ2YNU3PDXWK4WA Kenneth

      If it makes you feel any better, my wife has her own regular guy and we always keep things pretty equal in that regard. Maybe the poly folks here can enlighten me on this point: what does polyamory encompass as a term? I’m clearly on that spectrum, but we do not live with our other partners or keep a household or raise each others kids or anything like that. Is polyamory simply anything other than monogamy or does it usually imply multiple partners with more traditional wife/husband standing?

      • WarriorPrincessDanu

        My understanding is that polyamory encompasses a wide variety of forms of consensual non-monogamy that focus on relationships (as opposed to swinging, where the main focus is recreational sex).

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Lamyka-L/649965363 Lamyka L.

          WarriorPrincessDanu were you ever on Goddess.com? Do you remember me? If not then oh well, wrong person :P

          • WarriorPrincessDanu

            Nope, I’ve never been on that site. I’m the WarriorPrincessDanu who sent PCP a ton of questions and got my own episode. :)

      • http://www.facebook.com/popefelix Kit Fenderson-Peters

        The definition of polyamory I’ve always gone by is “multiple concurrent and consensual romantic relationships”. There’s no requirement for cohabitation – for example, I live with my wife but not with my girlfriend, and my girlfriend does not live with her OSO’s (other significant others). Thus your situation is definitely polyamorous in nature. :)

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_PMTLR3IIGKPHZ2YNU3PDXWK4WA Kenneth

          At the very least, I’m “at risk” of polyamory! :)

      • http://www.facebook.com/geminiwalker Kate Walker

        Don’t forget that it is more often than not married men who utilize prostitutes – and I’m not so sure two men would be “more fun” or just “more work” LOL. I think it may be awhile before I find something that works for me – but polyamory makes a lot more honest sense than anything else I’ve seen or experienced.

        • Rua Lupa

          I’m with you on the “more fun” or “more work” question. LOL

    • Thriceraven

      Hi Dragonlady,

      • Thriceraven

        Gah… sorry about that…

        Hi again! I am a poly pagan woman. I have two wonderful male partners. My partners both also share another female partner and one of them has a third female partner as well. If you count, that makes five adults. We cohabitate and are raising 3 wonderful kids. We’ve been living and loving this way for 6 years now, and are going strong. Equality and and decision by consensus are hallmarks of our family.

        Nice to know there are others out there…

        • Dragonlady

          It’s just us three. My husband and I, and my boyfriend. He’s my husband’s best friend ( and mine) and unfortunately, due to work issues, he doesn’t live with us but we visit when we can. Unlike swinging, our relationship is based more on love and respect. Sex is a perk, but our love is more grounded on support and caring. We’ve been together now for two years and I can’t look back. I feel complete now. My two kids are accepting and happy so all is great. Cohabitation is in the works…we just have to find jobs together. Sigh.

          • Rua Lupa

            Best of luck! :D

    • Ceinan

      Pagan, female, and living with two men here. I’ve been legally married to my husband since 1993, after a year of dating, then living together. We have been in a closed Triad since 2002 now, with me as the pivot. My legal husband is nominally Christian, while my other husband (’cause that’s what I feel he is, though the law disagrees) is undeclared, but they both come to some of my Sabbats and pretty much to most of our Initiation after-parties, or any other non-initiatory or non-ceremonial events; can’t get any more Pagan-friendly than that! =)

      Both the guys are prior military, so for years we were undercover. No more now. We truly pretty much don’t give a hoot. Everyone in my Church/coven knows it, so do most people at their work (and they both work for the Gov’t as civilians)

      And, as I assume you know all too well, Dragonlady, It is most def NOT all fun! Takes twice the amount of effort to keep this going, and we have had our damn great times, some just ok, some very bad and some good, and all in-betweeners. The important things, in a mono-, plural-, linear- or poly- relationship are brutal honesty and continued effort on all our parts. So no, you are not alone, and blessings! =)

      • Dragonlady

        No kidding. I’m definitely not in this relationship for the “fun and games.” LOL It takes quite a bit of work to maintain the relationships and keep everyone from feeling less than the others. I make it a point and try very hard to make sure that both my guys know they are loved and respected. I’ve been legally married to my husband since 1990, after knowing him for 7 years and dating a year. My husband is the one that initiated this relationship three years ago, but we’ve only been a solid Triad for 2 years.

        My husband is Pagan, as are our children, and my “other” husband (I, too, consider him so and my family recognizes that label) is an ex-morman (with letter from church elders releasing him from their grasp) with Christian leanings but is very, very open and respectful of the Pagan history and religion. He is very comfortable with us and enjoys how we let people hold their beliefs without judgement.

        But, yes, there have been some amazing times, some “what the heck did I get myself into” times, some just ok times, but I wouldn’t give any one of those days up for anything.

        Right now, our biggest hurdle is economic. My “other” husband is living in another state due to his job and it makes us sad. The three of us are looking into who’s job can relocate and deciding where we want to live so we can cohabitate. Mostly, it relies on our youngest’s graduation from high school and move to the military. Once that is done, we are free to move anywhere. (We promised our son that we’d stay put until he graduates..fortunately, he’s Class of 2012).

        Sacrifices, risks, economics…none of those care what kind of relationship you are in. They will nail you no matter what.

        • Thriceraven

          I too refer to both of my male partners as my husbands. They even refer to each other as ‘husband’, though mostly in fun, though they are not romantically entangled.

          Which brings me to another question for everybody here… what do you call your lover’s lovers that you are not romantic with? I am about as close to my husband’s other female partners as you can be to somebody without sleeping with them, and so are my two guys to one another. We share a house and coparent, and are all mutually committed, even those of us who are not lovers. Metamour seems too distant, implying they are just my ‘lover’s lover’ and not vitally important to me. ‘Other adults in my household’ is too long. We do sometimes use the collective ‘spice’. Anybody else got a good word?

          Oh, and I am the only outright Pagan in my grouping, though all are Pagan-friendly and have participated in ritual. We have chosen Beltane as a particular family holiday and are essentially raising the children Pagan, since we decided we wanted to give spiritual tools rather than any dogma. My other partners are a couple of agnostics, one who was raised in a family who followed a Hindu guru, and a recovering fundamentalist Christian who has broken with the church but not with Christ.

          • Fritz Muntean

            When I was doing this sort of this, back in the ’70s (when I was in my 30s) the male members of my group used to refer to each other as ‘husbands-in-law’. As in: “Fritz? Oh, he’s my husband-in-law.”

            Thought maybe you’d enjoy that.

            More ’70s poly-humour — Q: Why don’t Southern gals like poly play parties? A: Having to write ALL those thank-you notes is SUCH a bore!

          • Thriceraven

            Nice!

            And thanks for the clarification in the thread above… my family certainly isn’t anything like trad or such — just a oddly shaped family.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Lamyka-L/649965363 Lamyka L.

      I wish all the stories here by poly Pagans were in a book or collection of some sort. It’s hard to talk smack about a topic when it has a human face, real families, and real love.

      • Dragonlady

        I agree. One of the first quotes I ran into when I first found this path was “there are more of us than you think.” I find that quite true with poly-Pagans as well. A collection of stories of who we are and why we love like we do would be lovely. A true tribute to romance. Le Sigh. Hmmm….ideas are churning in my head now…. :)

        • Rua Lupa

          Now the question is, a paper book or e-book? I’d love to read something like that. How would you title it?

    • Anonymous

      One woman, three men here. I’ve apparently attracted the attention of another woman as well. >.>

    • Quinsha

      4 of us here, 2 men, 2 women. I am one of the women.

  • http://twitter.com/KulkulkanX Thomas Valdez

    So, according to the law, as long as you don’t call it marriage it isn’t illegal to live in a poly-amorous manner, but call it a marriage, well look out! I though social conservatives were all for the benefits of marriage. Although I can barely tolerate one person living with me, it is absolutely none of my business what others do as long as all partners give free consent and there is not abuse. Besides, I’m would be remiss if I didn’t recall the many Old Testament guys and Muslims even unto this day who did likewise…cultural norms of our day should not be enshrined in the law of the land. “Do as thou wilt” and all…

  • SonneillonV

    Ironically, I was just writing about this. To sum up: when adults form strong, lasting bonds with each other, our society is strengthened at the foundation level. When children have these bonds to rely on, they are healthier, happier, more likely to have access to education and medical care, and less likely to live in poverty. More parents means more income, more attention, and more protection for children. And anyone who’s going to stand there and tell me that, for a member of a poly relationship or a child, having MORE people who love you is somehow a bad thing, is going to be disappointed when I’m not interested in that bridge they’ve also got in Brooklyn.

    • http://www.facebook.com/geminiwalker Kate Walker

      Thanks! I’ve read Lesbian Polyamory and The Ethical Slut; but there is always more to learn – and I have yet to meet someone on the same path as I. All in good time, I suppose. (That’s not me in the photo, it’s my sister and Dad – I’ve changed my profile pic but for some reason it’s only showing up in my profile and home page).

  • Anonymous

    This whole subject is quite fascinating, and both forward and backward looking. I say this because I’m currently reading “Sex At Dawn” which is busily shattering the long-held myth of sexual monogamy and nuclear pair-bonding in human families. I highly recommend this book to all of you- it is very supportive of our natural tendency to engage in larger group bonding.

    • Elnigma

      It’s been many years since the nuclear family presented before the 60′s been the norm rather than a slightly antiqued ideal. Many people have grown up where a family that stayed intact was the exception.
      I think if people looked at what makes works for them personally instead of continual concerns about fitting in or pleasing their parents or their religions, polyamory wouldn’t be the only better accepted situation. Singleness (sologamy?) and single parenting wouldn’t be assumed to be as ‘lacking” or “lonely” in comparison to marriage/s. People, women especially, have over the years been made to feel like they aren’t complete without a partner, and reality is showing that is not true. Also someone not wanting partners for more than an occasion would be accepted. I think it’d be helpful when people are able to be honest with others over what they think they want out of their relationships or encounters or if they don’t want any. I don’t think monogamy is going to die out. If someone doesn’t feel like marriage-bonding with more people or having others on the side, that’s a preference. Any kind of relationship can require a lot out of a person.
      Whatever the dynamic someone chooses, my opinion is “good” relationships don’t involve coercion, misleads, omissions, lies, or abuse.

  • http://www.magickal-media.com Alice C. “A.C.” Fisher Aldag

    From a conservative prospective, legalizing polyamory would be a good thing, as spouses will pay for their own children, and insurance companies would pay for co-spouses’ and children’s health care, rather than the state (taxpayers) absorbing the cost. It’s also beneficial in that one spouse can stay home with the children, while the other spouses (spice?) go out and work.

    • Anon

      It would be a good thing if insurance companies agreed to it. I’m going to guess that they would have to “adjust” rates to cover poly-families.

      • Kitsune

        Actually, the only “adjustment” that would be needed would be to cover the third or fourth (or however many) spouse as a rider on the policy, if life/health insurance is wanted for them. The company I work for can very easily do this, and has before. They arent going to inflate the price just because it is a “non conventional” method of marriage (btw, non conventional my behind! IMO polyamory is just as natural as monogamy, and probably even more so). Large families can also opt for the Group Insurance option.

        I look forward to poly being decriminalized. It is my belief that consenting adults can do as they please, without government intrusion.

    • http://twitter.com/lunamoth42 Luna

      I gave this a “like” just for “spice” as plural for spouse. :)

      • Dragonlady

        Ditto. I like the new vocabulary. :)

    • http://chrysalis1witchesjourney.wordpress.com/ Pax

      I rather like the coinage of “spice” as the plural of spouse, if for no other reason that it brings a number of delicious new layers of meaning to the saying variety is the spice of life…

      • Baruch Dreamstalker

        “Spice” as “plural of spouse” is at least 40 years old.

  • Samwagar

    The only Wiccan clergy person to put in an affidavit as a Pagan cleric on this issue was moi, after the Congregationalist Wiccan Association of BC (www.cwabc.org) Board adopted a policy favouring a variety of relationship options, explicitly including poly relationships. I addressed the religious discrimination issue (as a legally licensed person, through CWABC, able to perform marriages in BC, I am subject to separate criminal charges if I perform a marriage with more than two persons, or a “marriage like ceremony – eg a handfasting – and I have been required to back out of several such). I don’t like getting in bed, legally speaking, with the Patriarchal and unpleasant FLDS cult, but they are, as we always knew they would be, the folks being targetted.

    I was a little surprised that I was the only out Pagan to put in an affidavit in the case, but the enthusiastic pursuit of “respectability” at the expense of our customary religious practices (ritual nuudity, Initiatory lineage, coven structures, sex magick etc) is already pretty far along in most areas of the Pagan community.

    Blessed Be

    Samuel Wagar (Maphis 3rd)
    Priest, CWABC

    • Mhaoillain

      Actually Sam, there was a Pagan Poly family in Edmonton who also put forth an affidavit with the BC Supreme court, but they have since dissolved the relationship. My question is, where were the Muslims, who many of which also practice a form of poly? This case seemed to focus solely on the Bountiful families and abuses within their family structures. A little political maneuvering perhaps?!

  • Wendy

    I fully support adult consensual relationships. But the firestorm that can be expected from changes in this arena won’t only be focused on religious/moral arguments. There will also be serious challenges to laws regarding life and health insurance, social security, child custody, taxes, divorce, etc. – things that become more and more important as one ages.

    For one small example: In the US, if you are divorced but were married for a minimum of 10 years and your ex retires, you are entitled to 50% of your ex-spouse’s social security. Your ex gets the full amount, but you can also claim the equivalent of 50% of it and the government gives it to you, depending on your age. That worked really well for the old model where a wife may have had an interrupted career pattern due to child-rearing and no pension of her own. But can you imagine the outcry in the case of legal polygamous marriages?

    Legal changes in multiple partner marriages would have profound economic effects that need to be thought through very carefully. I’m not saying that it shouldn’t happen, just that it is much more complicated than it looks.

    • Kitsune

      Well, like I was saying above, there are already viable options for poly families for health/life insurance right now at least. There is talk about social security not lasting in the next decade, child custody can be awarded very simply by either negotiations or a DNA test, divorce can be also negotiated or the property/money/estate/assets shared equally either per person or by the one leaving and the ones staying. Besides, arent poly families way more willing to stay together or have less situations that cause divorce than monogamous couples? By taxes I guess you mean filing with the IRS. Poly families should be in the same tax bracket as other married persons, with the same amount withheld, or maybe slightly more because more people are bringing in income.

      Sure the details will need to be hashed out, but overall, the change wont have that much of an impact. Solutions can be thought up pretty easily.

  • ShanEda Lumb

    I am Canadian and Pagan & Polyamorous (Polyfidelus Triad).

    I have been following the BC polygamy case and I am very disappointed in the conclusion that polyamory will be treated the same as patriarchal/ religious based polygyny.

    We need to educate people about the difference between polyamory (consenting, responsible, equal adults) and the assumed abuses of power in patriarchal/religious based polygyny (women without ‘much’ of a say in when, who and how they marry).

    • Anonymous

      I dislike the automatic equation of polygamy with polygyny, and that’s part of the issue. Give polyandrists some love, society!

  • Anonymous

    @ Kenneth:
    I have an awesome diagram of the polyamorous experience. I hope it brings enlightenment as well as a smile!

    • Krystal H.

      That IS an awesome diagram! It made me smile.

    • Dragonlady

      That’s an amazing diagram…for everyone. :) Thanks for the smile.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_PMTLR3IIGKPHZ2YNU3PDXWK4WA Kenneth

      Good grief! If I knew in advance I needed to be a systems analyst to pull this off, I would have stayed monogamous – with my right hand! :)

      Cool diagram though!

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Lamyka-L/649965363 Lamyka L.

      Made me smile, sharing it :-)

    • Rua Lupa

      I think I’ll just have to save this for extensive future reading.And maybe even make it into a poster/place-mat for a conversation piece.

  • http://moma-fauna.blogspot.com/ Moma Fauna

    I was born & raised in Utah. I believe in religious freedom & have always felt unsettled about the government dictating the lifestyle of the FLDS, on principle. However, these television programs everyone mentions are nothing like the real thing. The women are not free or liberated & even if the practice was legalized, they would still live under an iron fist. I still spend half of my year at our home in Southern Utah, the hive of the FLDS (& other LDS splinter groups). The children are oppressed, the mothers are oppressed, it breaks my heart.

    I just recently spent some time living in a hospital support home w/an FLDS mother who was unusual in that she was not born into that system, so she was educated & had married later in life. She was very sociable (until her husband or sister wives showed up). Her baby was in the NICU, like mine, but this was her 13th child. The baby had several holes in his heart, Down’s Syndrome, pneumothorax, etc. Despite this, and despite her age, I do not believe this will be the end of her childbearing years.

    I mention this because when I think of my Pagan polyamorous friends, I see no similarity other than they live in a family/relationship structure outside the established “norm.” I do not think that joining forces with the FLDS (or other LDS polygamist groups) is wise, even if they were willing to join forces *which they would NEVER do.* (In my experience, most polygamists will not speak to you unless necessary, even a child. My 4 year old son has tried to speak to their children in the stores countless times — he gets shunned 99% of the time.)

    It isn’t my intention to speak ill of the polygamist families in Utah, I just feel like people romanticize them because of what they see on television. Yes, there are more modern, progressive polygamist families like the television families, but they are the exception. That system is rife with problems, corruption & criminal activity. Not an ally I would choose.

    That said, I wish them the best in their pursuit of religious freedom. If nothing else, it will take one of the myriad of legal issues off their shoulders. As for polyamory, I hope that someday this family system will see freedom too, but there is a long hard road ahead & I wonder what ruts the polygamy battle ahead will leave behind.

    • http://www.patheos.com Star Foster

      Our similarities are not cultural, but legal. Plural marriage is a legal issue affecting both the FLDS and Pagans. You legally cannot separate them, regardless of the cultural divide.

      • http://moma-fauna.blogspot.com/ Moma Fauna

        Oh, I agree, but in the battle, the cultural with inevitably get blended into a muddy slurry w/the legal principles. I am all for the legalization (and yes, they are the same legally), I just wanted to point out that we are at cultural extremes & this will get muddied in the discourse.

        • Elnigma

          I think it’s a great point to make.
          A online friend once said something (or something similar to this) that I’ve found true: “The enemy of my enemy may still not be anyone I’d want in my living room”.
          Pick your friends and allies with taste.

          • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_PMTLR3IIGKPHZ2YNU3PDXWK4WA Kenneth

            Bonewits said something to that effect in regard to Satanists, whom he did not feel belonged under the pagan umbrella. “The enemy of your enemy is sometimes just your enemy’s enemy.”

            That said, we don’t have to become hand-in-hand-allies with the wild desert mormons or anyone else to advocate for the issue. We don’t have to serve in the same organizations as them or intermingle our dollars if we don’t want.

            We can file our own friend of the court briefs defining the issue in our own terms etc. There may be times when it’s strategically smart for our lawers to confer with theirs. We could also take care to draw distinctions between us in media campaigns etc. to show how our theological basis for polyamory is very different from theirs.

          • Elnigma

            The easier way of not getting associated or confused with a Mormon group that has nothing to do with paganism would be to not combine forces or associate with said commonly abusive, ideologically oppositional group.

      • Kat

        Cultural hurdles aside, trying to envision the legal logistics makes my head spin. Legal marriage as it stands now is basically a boilerplate contract; and for a contract which involves only two individuals having an easily-defined relationship to each other, boilerplate makes sense. Poly relationships, on the other hand, do not follow a single template: you’ve got triads, Vs, larger groups who may all be married to each other, or only certain individuals in that group married to one or more other individuals in that group. How do you create a boilerplate for that? If the boilerplate requires that all in a group be married to each other, those in a V structure will be unhappy, and vice versa. Who inherits property after a partner’s death? Who are the legal parents of the children? Are you allowed to make healthcare decisions for *everyone* in the group?

        I don’t have an answer for this. I don’t think it’s *possible* to create a boilerplate marriage contract for plural marriages, without ending up in a similar place as we are now. Someone’s not going to be accounted for.

        While I don’t think people should be penalized for living their private lives as they wish, I’m not seeing how legalization could work. (I would support any group wishing to draw up their own contract that suits their individual needs, however.)

        • http://www.patheos.com Star Foster

          That’s the point: there shouldn’t be boilerplate contracts. The ancients had many types of marriage contracts. Today we have many types of pre-nuptial contracts. It’s a private matter between individuals. Why would plural marriage contracts be any more complicated than a Hollywood pre-nup?

        • http://www.patheos.com Star Foster

          That’s the point: there shouldn’t be boilerplate contracts. The ancients had many types of marriage contracts. Today we have many types of pre-nuptial contracts. It’s a private matter between individuals. Why would plural marriage contracts be any more complicated than a Hollywood pre-nup?

          • Kat

            Of course, but my point is that legal marriage (at this point) IS a boilerplate contract. Drawing up your own relationship contract is *something else,* legally speaking. For example, same-sex couples have always had the right to draw up power of attorney, living will, etc. documents that legally granted rights and responsibilities to their relationships. Those in plural relationships already have this right, too — you can grant power of attorney to whomever you want, if you’re willing to pay the legal fees. But legally this is not considered marriage, and LGBTs have fought and are fighting for actual same-sex marriage, because drawing up your own contracts is complicated, costly, and doesn’t cover all the bases anyway (tax breaks, etc. granted only to legally married couples).

            If you want marriage to be legally defined as a contract that all individuals have to draw up amongst themselves with no boilerplate, that’s one thing, but the consequence of that is that you’d be completely throwing out the current system and starting from scratch. I don’t imagine that that would be easy to accomplish, if only out of sheer inertia (nevermind people who would be actively opposed to it).

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_PMTLR3IIGKPHZ2YNU3PDXWK4WA Kenneth

          The property rights aspect of it could be handled by a corporate charter of sorts delineating who is entitled to various shares upon divorce etc. A state could certainly set limits to ensure fairness etc. Child custody I suppose would, as now, grant a strong presumption in favor of biological parents but with an eye towards the big picture of what’s best for the child’s well being. It’s a complex issue, but certainly not among the toughest our race has ever taken on.

          • Elnigma

            The custody concerns would probably be about the same as in any situation involving step-parents, custodial grandparents, etc.

        • Baruch Dreamstalker

          Kat, the boilerplate monogamous contract is why the cries that gay marriage is changing the definition of marriage are bogus. Just extend the boilerplate to a new kind of couple and you’re home. It alters the scope of marriage, not the definition.

          Polyamory, though, introduces variations that send us back to the drawing boards. I don’t mean when everything is going well; I’m delighted at all the testimony here from poly Pagans in good situations, and wish them good weal. It’s when the situation goes sour, and there are minor children involved, that my worry bump starts itching.

          • Kat

            I agree, and going sour can mean not only divorce / dissolution of the relationship, but also “one partner got hit by a bus, is in a coma, and who has the right to decide whether to terminate life support?” Or who has inheritance rights after a partner’s death? It can be messy even when there IS a will.

        • Maggie

          From my perspective, it looks like one of the issues surrounding the whole debate about ‘what’s marriage’ is this notion that the present state of legal marriage is somehow a ‘one-size-fits-all’ uniform contract. But it isn’t.

          Not only are the rights of married persons different in different countries, they can be different in different states of the US.

          In some states there may be statutory law about real estate, debt, and such child-rearing decisions as where the children attend school — who makes those decisions, if the couple has a conflict who wins, what ownership rights one person has in property acquired by the other.

          Jewish couples sign a Ketubah, a marriage contract, which spells out the specific promises they are making, and which may be as ‘boilerplate’ or as original as the couple would like it to be except in the most orthodox congregations and the youngest people of legally-marriageable age.

          And no matter what you think you promised at the altar, you don’t find out the fine print of the contract you are in until/unless you hit divorce court. In some states the residency requirement is measured in weeks, in others it’s years. In some states the divorce may be granted in 30 days after filing, in others it may not be granted until the couple has been living apart for two years or more. States have varying laws governing child support, child visitation, custody arrangements, alimony, and even grounds for divorce.

          So please, let’s not pretend that monogamous heterosexual marriage in America is a uniform contractual arrangement. As near as I can tell the only part of the marriage contract that is the same in every state is the part where the federal government tells you who you can take as a dependent, who you can file a joint tax return with, and who you can’t be forced to testify against. Everything else is up for grabs.

      • Kat

        Cultural hurdles aside, trying to envision the legal logistics makes my head spin. Legal marriage as it stands now is basically a boilerplate contract; and for a contract which involves only two individuals having an easily-defined relationship to each other, boilerplate makes sense. Poly relationships, on the other hand, do not follow a single template: you’ve got triads, Vs, larger groups who may all be married to each other, or only certain individuals in that group married to one or more other individuals in that group. How do you create a boilerplate for that? If the boilerplate requires that all in a group be married to each other, those in a V structure will be unhappy, and vice versa. Who inherits property after a partner’s death? Who are the legal parents of the children? Are you allowed to make healthcare decisions for *everyone* in the group?

        I don’t have an answer for this. I don’t think it’s *possible* to create a boilerplate marriage contract for plural marriages, without ending up in a similar place as we are now. Someone’s not going to be accounted for.

        While I don’t think people should be penalized for living their private lives as they wish, I’m not seeing how legalization could work. (I would support any group wishing to draw up their own contract that suits their individual needs, however.)

  • Charles Cosimano

    If I were a lawyer I would be salivating over the billable hours a poly divorce would bring in.

  • Charles Cosimano

    If I were a lawyer I would be salivating over the billable hours a poly divorce would bring in.

  • Kilmrnock

    it may sound odd , star ,but most pagan men are feminist , by definition . i am a 55 yr old druid pagan man and consider myself a feminist . and just for the record i completly support legalisation of polyamory/polygomy on reigious/social freedom grounds . altho i too believe the abuse issues need to be dealt with. Kilm

    • http://heathenhall.blogspot.com Joseph

      I personally do not consider myself a feminist, and am a pagan man. FWIW.

      That said, I just can’t get worked up about gay marriage or polyamorous marriage one way or the other. On the one hand, I’m in favor of equal treatment for consenting adults. On the other hand I am against a government stamp of approval for any particular lifestyle.

      Ideally, I suppose, I’m with Penn Gillette. Get government out of the marriage business altogether.

      • Souris Optique

        Why do you think men are superior? …Or are you just using the fake, right-wing redefinition of feminism?

        • http://heathenhall.blogspot.com Joseph

          So you go from “I’m not a feminist” to “I think men are superior” in one leap? You’re obviously just trolling, and I’m not going to indulge you.

          • Anonymous

            Feminism is the belief that people should not be treated differently because of their gender. The creepy misandrist “feminazis” out there are not feminists in the traditional sense.

            As a feminist, I believe misogyny and misandry are equally wrong, and that you can’t have one without unconsciously having the other.

          • Souris Optique

            Since the definition of feminism is that men and women should be considered equals and afforded equal rights, and you say you are not a feminist, what else should I think?

            You say that you don’t think women and men are equal, and then start calling names when I ask you to explain yourself?

        • Baruch Dreamstalker

          Souris, my wife doesn’t think men are superior, but she’s not a feminist. She belives in (and practices!) radical equality, but she heard the bitterly anti-male feminisms of the Seventies and Eighties, and decided that didn’t speak for her because she doesn’t dislike men that much.

          I do call myself a feminist, because I came to it in 1969 when the bumper sticker “Feminism is the radical idea that women are human” pretty much summed it up. That’s the feminism that melted its way into my brain, but that’s not what it means to everyone.

          • The Bony Man

            This is more what modern feminism is about. The idea of the scary woman wielding an ax and saying that men are inferior is mostly gone in feminist circles. For the most part, modern feminism is just what you said, and therefore I consider myself feminist, because not to is just odd… to me at least.

          • Souris Optique

            Misandry has it’s own word, it doesn’t need to suck up “feminism” to mean the same thing as well. :P I’m with you in your definition of feminism.

            I came of age in the ’90s, and while Rush Limbaugh and the like have constantly pushed the whole “feminists hate men!! ballbusters!! OMG!!!1″ attitude, I’ve never actually met one that did. I’ve met a few misandrists, but they didn’t consider themselves feminists, either.

          • Souris Optique

            …though, thinking back, I read a good bit of ’70s feminist literature, and I didn’t pick it up there either.

            I think rigid gender roles/requirements are ridiculous and damaging to everyone. Male, female, or inbetween.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Well, I came of age in 50s and went through all the contortions in the 70s and 80s as an adult still finding my way in the gender minefield. I didn’t feel, as a man, that I could counter with my own definition of feminism until I became grounded in the Goddess, and that wasn’t until 1987.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            The feminist anti-pornography movement flourished in the 70s, an open attack on literature read by men — erotica to which women responded was deliberately defined as something else. And the feminist theories of male psychology that began with rape would have been properly described as hate literature if applied between ethnic groups rather than genders.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002162704205 Lori Dake

          I don’t call myself a feminist, either, and I’m a modern Pagan woman who works in a Man’s World ™.

          • http://oldmoonsisterstars.wordpress.com Apuleius Platonicus

            Feminism is a lot like Paganism. People use both words in all kinds of ways, and with all kinds of agendas. But both words have very simple definitions.

            Feminism is the radical notion that women are human beings.

            Paganism is the worship of the old Gods.

          • Souris Optique

            I agree wholly.

  • Thalia Ravenstone

    I’m all for the legalization of consenting adults getting together and having multiple partners if they want them. While I personally wouldn’t be okay with a polygamy relationship, there are different strokes for different folks. Even in the light of my own personal discomfort of the idea for -my- personal life, who the fuck am I (or anyone for that matter) to tell three or more consenting adults what they can and cannot do in a loving and respectful manner?

    While a Polygamist or polyamorous relationship may not be for everyone criminalizing those relationships does nothing to solve the possible abuses that could occur within those situations. It seems really, REALLY hypocritical monogamists to go about saying that poly relationships are more likely to involve abuse when monogamist relationships tend to hold the highest rate of abuses no matter the sexual orientation.

    I think a very good friend of mine had a good point when he said “…criminalizing all poly relationships only makes the potential for abuses worse, because in order to tell anyone about the abuses, the abused would essentially have to admit guilt to being in a poly relationship…”

    Evan after all the debate put forward the only thing my friend and I can really sum the idea of Mormons and Pagans being on the same page with polygamy/polyamorous is the following: “The Enemy of my Enemy is my Friend.”

    • Elnigma

      “The Enemy of my Enemy is my Friend.”
      That’s only true if you actually like said people, and they like you back.

  • Kilmrnock

    Joseph , my freind ……………that is why i said most , lad . no matter what i said there will always be exceptions . always is Kilm

  • Anonymous

    So Faerywolf and Hunter are such experts on the topic that they are now considered quotable sources? Seriously? And what relevence to this topic does Faerywolf’s tradition have that it needs to be named, as if he is an authorized spokesperson?

    • http://www.wildhunt.org/blog/ Jason Pitzl-Waters

      They aren’t “experts” simply poly people who agreed to be interviewed. If you’ll notice, I also interviewed three other poly folks. All of whom were quoted just as much. I mentioned that he was a Feri initiate because it is a major part of his posted online bio, adding a descriptor doesn’t make someone an authorized spokesperson.

      • Anonymous

        Sorry, but the way you wrote it leaves the impression that Faerywolf’s opinion should matter more just because he’s an initiate. It also comes across as free advertising.

        • http://vermillionrush.wordpress.com Vermillion

          Free advertising for who, Feri?

          My impression of Jason stating Storm Faeryworlf’s tradition was so we knew it was Pagan perspective and not I dunno…Angelican.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=589403517 Alley Valkyrie

          And the way you wrote your post leaves the impression that you are using your own beef with Faerywolf (which I have a funny feeling has nothing to do with his experiences in polyamory) as a platform for which to attack this article. The chip on your shoulder is obvious (especially from a Feri perspective) and does not serve you in this context, nor does it serve the communities or the topic in question.

        • http://www.patheos.com Star Foster

          If it had been free advertising it would have stated Storm is a teacher, author, merchant and founder of his own lineage of Feri who also provides reiki, tarot readings and consultations. Oh and mentioned you should check out his new cd.

          That is advertising. Quoting someone you dislike is not.

          • Thelettuceman

            AND if you order in the next twenty minutes we’ll send you not one but TWO! TWO for the LOW LOW price of seven easy payments of 39.99!

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Devin-Hunter/100000168453308 Devin Hunter

            Star, just for this, you are getting a free copy! :P However, lets plug Me too! lol

          • Anonymous

            The link for Faerywolfs online ‘store’ seemed like pretty blatant advertising to me. I think you covered most of it, too.

            The more important point, though, is that the reference to the Feri trad was deliberately included to give unnecessary weight to what is honestly a fairly typical opinion among poly folks.

            The Wild Hunt seems to be going in a direction of greater sensationalism, which is disappointing. I wish there would be more attention given to quality of opinion… there are too many Christian Day-style attention hounds already.

          • Aine

            I think the reference to the Feri trad was because, well, Faerywolf -is- an initiate of Feri.

            I don’t see you protesting the inclusion of the Amazon link to Kaldera’s book ‘Pagan Polyamory’. (Nyeh, I still need to read that thing…)

  • Anonymous

    From the Ravenhearts Polyamory FAQ sheet:

    4-Q: What is the greater social context in which the Ravenhearts operate?

    4-A: The founding members of the Family have been significant founders, movers and shakers for decades in the emerging Neo-Pagan religious community, which is one of the fastest-growing religions in the Western World. Oberon and Morning Glory especially have helped define the very nature and values of this community. As a polytheistic religious movement, the Neo-Pagan community is dedicated to the celebration of diversity in all its myriad manifestations. Thus all forms of relationships and sexual orientations are honored in the community, though not necessarily personally embraced by all individuals.
    Historically and mythologically, polyamory and polygamy have always been considered viable options among Pagan peoples, for those who so choose them, and such relationships are honored and supported today within the worldwide Neo-Pagan community, where approximately 50% of contemporary Pagans polled have stated polyamory to be their ideal relationship choice. And beyond the Pagan community, Liza is an organizational founder and highly-respected networker in the national grassroots, volunteer ecumenical sexuality and spirituality movement. We feel that having a larger social context which accepts and supports one’s personal life- and relationship patterns is essential to living a healthy and integrated life.

    5-Q: What is your vision for the role of polyamory in the world?

    5-A: We believe that the first syllable of the word polyamory, “poly,” is a post-modern paradigm of great value; and that “Polyamory” is one expression of it. We live in a POLYmorphous POLYverse, in which even many scientists seem to understand that our world emerges out of chaos and the order we perceive feeds and thrives on the chaos that is beyond our understanding. Where one linear idea once lived in human culture, a diversity of notions have grown.
    We believe that Polyamory is a very important new relationship option whose time seems to have arrived. Where once we thought every family should consist of a monogamous man and woman with their 2.5 kids, we now consider a family to be any small group of bonded people who claim that connection with one another. Most families no longer fit the conventional description. The much-lamented “breakdown of the American family,” and the need to reclaim “traditional family values,” are manifestations of the 20th Century’s transition from village life and extended families to the modern “nuclear family” units, which often reduce down to a single mother trying to raise and support children she hardly even interacts with.
    A century ago, the typical American family consisted of three generations (parents, children and grandparents) living together in a large house, along with lateral relatives such as Uncles and Aunts, and even at least one unrelated live-in “servant,” such as a nanny, butler, cook or housekeeper. The “Traditional American Family,” in fact, looked pretty much like “The Addams Family!”
    With each generation of the last century, we have become increasingly isolated and alienated. Ever-increasing numbers of American children are growing up with no brothers or sisters, hardly any parental interactions, and no adult role models for parenting or other relationships. Their interactions with other children occur in hostile environments, such as schools and the street, where they are subject to ever-rising levels of teasing, harassment, bullying and violence. They retreat to the world of television, video games, and the Internet—none of which provide real-life interaction with actual flesh-and-blood human beings.
    But deep within each of us is our genetic ancestral memory of the Tribe, the Clan, the extended Family. Such rich relationships nurtured and sustained our ancestors from the dawn of time, and it was within that context that we became fully human. We require and crave such connections and relationships in our deepest heart-of-hearts, and we seek them in clubs, gangs, fraternities, cliques, parties, pubs, communes, churches, nests, covens, and circles of close friends.
    And for an increasing number of us, we are learning how to create such complex and deep bonding relationships through extended networks of multiple lovers and expanded families. “Polyamory,” implying multiple lovers, is both a new paradigm for relationships and a vision for healing the pathological alienation of individuals in modern society.
    We now know that the biodiversity we value in nature, as the biologist Bruce Bagemihl points out, is valuable in sexual and bonding behavior also. And although Dr. Bagamihl is talking about animals, we are also animals and this applies equally to us. Polyamory is not “the answer.” Diversity and choice are the answers–and Polyamory is one of the strands in the decentralized network of diversity and choice with regard to human bonding, intimacy, and family.

    6-Q: Do you find that American society in general these days is more accepting of alternative lifestyles such as polyamory, as compared to a generation or two ago?

    6-A: We think the answer would have to be “yes,” in general. The increasing acceptance of various types of diversity has been a major thrust of US culture over the past few decades. This has been especially due, we think, to the efforts of such as the gay community, the Pagan community, the Black community, the rise of feminism, the “New Age” movement, the influence of Hollywood and TV (such as “Star Trek”), science fiction & fantasy literature, comic books, Harry Potter, etc. The entire “Cultural Creatives” phenomenon is a growing demographic that comprises something like 25% of all Americans, and includes many of the brightest and best-educated.
    The international breakdown of the family and other community ties requires that we examine alternatives; and no human being is exempt from this project or its implications. For the last five years the Ravenheart family has been consistently newsworthy in the national media. People want to know about what we are doing, and how we are doing it. The more people know, the more they want to know. In our lectures and workshops on Polyamory, it is clear from the change in our audiences that more people are practicing Polyamory. Four years ago our audiences were mainly people who were considering trying it. Now they are mostly people who are immersed in this lifestyle and have practical questions.
    Of course, there is also the inevitable backlash. Pat Robertson and other Fundamentalist Right-Wing Christians have declared that there is a “Cultural War” going on in the country for “the souls of Americans.” Clearly, they see folks like us as on the opposite side from them. But so far, we have not experienced directly much impact from this “war”… We really aren’t actually trying to make people “see the light” of polyamory. We’re just trying to make ourselves more visible and hence more available to those out there who would naturally identify with all this, and would be greatly relieved to know they are not alone. But in no way are we trying to “recruit” or “convert” anyone. We’re perfectly happy to leave everyone alone to follow their own bliss, just as we wish to be left alone to follow ours. We all have different needs and desires, and polyamory is certainly not for everyone!

  • http://www.facebook.com/farrell.mcgovern Farrell McGovern

    This will definitely be a major cross-boarder issue…and based upon history and the politics of Canada and the US respectively, I expect very different outcomes. I fully expect that it will become legalized in Canada, and continue to be banned in the US.

    The one thing that might derail this is some of the more extreme Mormon variants appear to practice a very coercive system where families, and the sect itself, follows a dictatorial hierarchy. This system gives the male heads of the families and of the group itself the ability to decide who gets married and who doesn’t, which leads to the outcasting of “extra” male offspring and child-brides being married to the patriarchs. This gives the appearance of a bunch of aging old men keeping harems of young child-brides, managed and trained by the older wives. This image *can* derail this debate. And remember I am not saying this about mainstream Mormons.

    Barring that, Canada’s legal framework pretty much ensures that poly* relationships will become legal. This starts from the age of consent being 16 for consensual sex in most provinces, and one of the most influential Canadian Prime Ministers, Pierre E. Trudeau stating “”There’s no place for the State in the bedrooms of the Nation.” He later brought in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms upon which the challenges to the polygamy laws are based upon. Canada is a much more permissive society than the US, as evidenced by the further fact that same-sex unions have been legal in various provinces for almost a decade, and nationally since 2005.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1127101530 Alan J Sheridan

    The polyamory and polygamy discussions always confuse me. Not because they’re difficult concepts, I read just as much sci-fi as the next pagan and am intelligent enough to grasp the concepts.

    But… how in the world are people finding *that* much love/romance? Finding *one* compatible, interested person is hard enough! And I’m not joking, or being sarcastic – I really wanna know how the poly folks are making love connections with multiple people.

    The idea of living with multiple people in a loving interwoven web of relationships sounds blissful, honestly, although I know there’s work involved in maintaining the relationship. It just sounds worth the work.

    • Anonymous

      There’s alot of awesome people in the world. Polyamory is not for everyone, and polyfidelity is for even fewer, but for the right people, it for everyone involved.can be a rewarding & fulfilling experience. As for *that* much love & romance; keep in mind that love is not a zero-sum equation. You don’t run out if you spread it too thin, you just have more. There are traps of jealousy & misunderstandings that may be more common than in mono relationships, but for people prepared to do the serious relationship work, poly relationships are worth the trouble.

      • Mhaoillain

        Exactly! Does a mother of 10 kids run out of love by the 2nd, or 3rd? Of course not!

    • http://oldmoonsisterstars.wordpress.com Apuleius Platonicus

      One simple answer (to Alan’s question) lies in reincarnation. Most people who accept the concept of multiple lifetimes believe that many of our relationships in any given lifetime are a continuation of relationships from previous lives. And a lot of people believe that these relationships go through various permutations so that a best friend in one lifetime might be a sibling in another life and a lover in another and so forth. As these cards are getting shuffled, it’s not terribly surprising if we end up with more than one lover.

      This isn’t the most common way of looking at it though, or at least that’s the impression I get. The more common view is that of monogamous relationships that persist over multiple lives.

    • WarriorPrincessDanu

      Some of it has to do with a paradigm shift. When you’re in a monogamous relationship, you generally won’t see your friends and acquaintances as potential romantic partners. Being in a polyamorous situation changes your perspective so that you see possibilities that you didn’t see before. For example, let’s say Jill is romantically compatible with Jack and Bob. If Jill is in a monogamous relationship with Jack, she may not recognize her romantic compatibility with Bob, or she may interpret it as just a good friendship. If she does recognize it, she will likely not pursue it because Bob is “off limits.” But if Jack and Jill are polyamorous, that barrier is removed. Jill no longer has the expectations of monogamy preventing her from seeing/pursuing her compatibility with Bob.

  • Anonymous

    Rebuttal to Polygamist Propaganda

    Polygamy is an adult choice?

    We polygamist born children were taught from birth we had to live polygamy or lose our salvation. Only polygamists were accepted on our family, our society and by our God. To not live polygamy was to be damned. Our choice in marriage was confined to polygamy. Some had a choice between one of two older married men to be “spiritually” married to, but choosing any man outside of the polygamist culture was not a choice.

    If we chose not to live polygamy, the basic doctrine of our “religion” said we would be “destroyed”and blood atonement to save our souls was sanctioned by God, even if the leaders chose not to carry it out. Some of us, like myself, had friends and family murdered in the name of “blood atonement”, the same blood atonement all fundamentalists’ polygamists include as the word of their “prophets”. To choose to not be obedient can be a dangerous choice in fundamentalist Mormon and Islamic polygamy.
    There is no adult choice. Children are indoctrinated with fear to force them into polygamy.

    Polygamy is voluntarily maintained?

    Women stayed in polygamy because we had children when we were children. We were never allowed to think for ourselves or to learn to provide for ourselves, yet we had a houseful of children to provide for. Many women stay in bad marriages because they can’t support their children. Polygamist women have a double problem; few of them know how to support themselves. They stay because they don’t know any other way to survive and keep their children. Most of them are threatened if they try to leave and take their children. Fundamentalist polygamists teach that the children belong to the men.

    Single mothers are often attracted to polygamy, believing it will be easier to provide for their children with the help of a sister wife. What they fail to realize is that the number of children to provide and care for will increase, not diminish. The emotional, financial and educational rescores will diminish. This attributes to the fact that polygamist women by percentage do not live as long as other women. Is this “voluntarily” maintained life style what they want to decriminalize as an adult choice?

    There is no adult choice. The glue that binds them together is poverty and fear. They don’t believe they have a choice. The pathetic reality finds that those enslaved by fear soon perpetuate the same lack of choice onto their own children. Those who don’t understand this have not experienced the devastation and the life style most polygamist women experience. Polygamy is not an adult choice. When CHILDREN are indoctrinated with fear from birth to accept polygamy and have CHILDREN, to perpetuate polygamy. The fact that it involves the lives of CHILDREN makes it NOT AN ADULT CHOICE. The non coerced adult choices in polygamy are the male converts who have not been indoctrinated, but see an opportunity to expand their narcissistic behavior. If they are married, their wife has one choice; accept polygamy or be abandoned. For the wife, it is not an adult choice. It is a coercive threat.

    The statement that men can choose another sex partner if one wife is unwilling, is a side show to distract attention away from what is going on in the main tent of polygamy’s “circus”. In the main tent, he always has all the sex he wants. Women are the ones who are lonely and unfulfilled. He is not a lover, he’s a breeder. He cares only about his own satisfaction. In his mind he’s a “cowboy” who thinks an eight second ride makes him a champion. Women are capable and entitled to sexual fulfillment but that’s against his religion. Fundamentalists teach women that sex is for propagation only. We were taught that it must be accomplished without lust. ( We were too uneducated to know that was a physical impossibility). His needs are “God’s commandments”, her needs are “weaknesses to over come”.

    All humans find it stressful and emotionally painful to share their mate. Narcissistic men force women to share their mate, but they would never tolerate it for themselves. Women are not sexually inferior. If men had the sexual capacity of women, polygamist men would be prostitutes instead of polygamists. Polygamists justify their breeding practices by blaming the nature of bulls in cattle breeding. If they want to blame nature they should check out the life of a male sea horse. He is the one who carries the baby sea horses. Check out the black widow and the praying mantis. Some species have a built in responsibilities that go with breeding. Blaming animal behavior for human behavior is greed justified through ignorance. The right to breed carries a responsibility. Polygamy produces lots of people, but comparatively few responsible adults.

    Polygamy offers career and a sister wife to help with the children?

    The odds of a career for a polygamist woman are rare indeed unless you consider working as a cashier, house maid, or any other low paying job a career. I’ve seen many polygamist women work out of the home for long hours and little money and return to a home bulging with children where they try to fill in the gaps of motherhood which couldn’t be filled by the exhausted sister wife who tried to manage on the domestic front.

    The economy of everyone living in the same house is not an asset of polygamy. Go down to a day care center and spend the day. Imagine four or five times more children in the room than were actually there. If you can imagine this, you get some idea of the joys of polygamy. My mother moved into a chicken coop with no heat, in Utah, because she had to be alone (with her six children). Massive numbers of people in the same quarters is difficult at best.

    Polygamy does NOT help financially; on the contrary, it creates poverty. It is a financial disaster for the family and the nation. Polygamy creates an unusually high percentage of demands for Government funds, bankruptcies, and other means of assistance. Polygamy produces more children than it supports. In all countries where polygamy flourishes, poverty isn’t far behind.

    Most polygamist women are poor. The big houses you see on TV don’t compute with the income levels. Follow the money trail and prepare your self for a shock.

    Polygamy is a “pyramid” scheme. The one at the top is wealthy and the wealth spreads out and dwindles down, diminishing as it goes, until it reaches the wide base at the bottom which consists primarily of women and children who live below the national poverty level. Yet they are the base, the foundation upon which the pyramid stands. They are the means of its expansion. Women constantly produce more workers, tithe payers and believers into the system.

    The one at the top (the prophet) receives 10% tithing from the wages of each person below him, plus the dedicated free labor they donate to ( him) God. Followers are encouraged to build their homes on church land ( held in title by the prophet, not the parishioners) and many also create businesses on church land, which puts them in a position of great lose if they question authority. Many men have lost their wives, children, homes and land when the “prophet” finds them “unworthy”.

    Polygamy is a system that “fleeces its own sheep”, becomes a parasite to government coffers and violates the human rights America stands for. Polygamy is not a democracy. It is a dictatorship. When you are told you have freedom of choice and blind obedience, you can be sure your choices will be limited to what they tell you to do.

    Polygamy and freedom don’t exist together. One inhibits the other and that fact remains true in every culture, every nation and in any century.

    The concept that “traditional norms” of historical and modern polygamy, should vary across continents or centuries, is incorrect.

    Polygamy carries the same percentage of dysfunction regardless of its place in geography or history. One fact of cause and effect remains constant; the degree of abuse is always in direct proportion to the degree of distance between the powerful and the powerless. Polygamy ALWAYS has a higher percentage of abuse than monogamy because it is a system based on inequality. In all human relationships, those who have no equality receive more abuse. This fact alone creates more abuse in polygamy.

    Polygamy is notorious for propaganda. Propaganda and truth are not the same. Knowing the difference can determine your freedom or the loss of it. Our nation would be wise to educate itself about polygamy.

    • http://www.patheos.com Star Foster

      Yet polyamory is based on honesty, trust and love. Not all polygamy or polyamory is religiously based or abusive.

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      98984, I’m going to posit that you are telling the truth, and say I’ve very sorry you had such a hellacious childhood. I hope you are recovering, and I point out that other polygamy “veteran” women may be a resource for you. (Not the ones who promote it, of course.)

      I’m going to step past the differences between your experiences and voluntary polyamory among adults. That’s not what you need to hear right now.

      What draws my attention is the blood atonement aspect. Did this actually happen to somone you knew, or is this a second-hand story? The reason I ask is quite self-interested: Pagans have been tarred with rumors of Satanic ritual child murder (although most of us do not even follow Satan) and the rumor-mongers often seem sincere, but the evidence of any such practice is lacking. This polygamy blood atonement claim is parallel enough to get me wondering.

      So I ask again: Are there people you know whom you could name who were killed under this belief? Did the authorities notice and, if so, what did they do? Or was this a story told you when you were too young to fact-check it for yourself?

      May you know healing.

      • Anonymous

        Yes, Dr Rulon Allred and Joel LeBaron were killed in what Ervil LeBaron called a ‘blood atonement murders.( as well as 20 something other people) Look it up on the web. The Allreds and the LeBarons are my own family. Dan Lafferty killed his siter in law and her baby in a “blood atonement” because she didn’t want her husband living polygamy. Fundamentalist polygamists all teach “blood atonement” as the words of Brigham Young ( allegedly) as follows. ( If you are a fundamentalist you already know this. If you are not, you should know this.)

        Justifications to kill, cont.

        Journal of Discourses ( index in new books remains unchanged ) Under BLOOD ATONEMENT ) are;

        Blood Atonement; Adultery and other conditions demand;
        Salvation of depraved men may be gained by
        Suggestions of for depravity

        Vol. 4 page 49;
        :I say that there are men and women that I would advise to go to the president ( of the group ) immediately , and ask him to appoint a committee to attend to their case; and then let a place be selected, and let that committee SHED THEIR BLOOD.”.”

        Vol. 4 page 51;
        Brethren and sisters, I want you to repent and forsake your sins. And you who have committed sins that cannot be forgiven through baptism, LET YOUR BLOOD BE SHED, and let the smoke ascend, that the incense thereof may come up before God as an atonement for your sins, and that the sinners in Zion may be afraid.”

        Volume 1 page 108;
        “If you want to know what to do with a thief that you may find stealing, I say KILL HIM on the spot and never suffer him to commit another iniquity…….”

        Sandra Tanner makes her living compiling the “OLD SCRIPTURES” which include more evidence of blood atonement killing in other literature. Her web site is http://www.utlm.org

        There are 26 volumes of the Journal of Discourses. I did not send you all the information available.
        This is for your personal use if it helps.

        • Baruch Dreamstalker

          I googled both names and they came right up. Wikipedia says they were murdered in rivalries between polygamous Mormon spin-offs, not due to apostacy from polygamy.

          • Anonymous

            Ervil LeBaron – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

            Although Rena Chynoweth was tried and acquitted for Allred’s murder, she …. Cult Insanity: A Memoir of Polygamy, Prophets, and Blood Atonement (2009). …
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ervil_LeBaron

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Thanks for the link, but all these murders seem to be over rivalry, not apostacy from polygamy, as your original post claimed.

          • Anonymous

            We are both right. Ervil was a nut. He believed he was the rightful leader and those who didn’t follow were in a state of apostasy. Read about him on the web. It’s in there. I don’t agree with him or any other nut. The point is, there will always be those who will act with self imposed justifications to teachings as harsh as those in the Journal of Discourses quotes. I don’t believe those teachings are from God, and I don’t believe any just God requires blood atonement. I believe doctrines that refer to it as part of their basic doctrine, coerce people to follow through fear, not faith. Following under a threat of fear in not freedom of choice.


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