I’m a part of what weaves my story, but there are sudden bursts of searing insight which remind me that I am not the only who weaves it, nor are my choices ever only my own.
Shall I explain? How can I, really, except to impart fragments just as I view them–not shattered, but patch-work glimpses of glittering reflections strung along by fascinating threads.
First of all, did you know gods-worshippers are a fantastically radical lot? Not just strange or queer, but good gods do they seem to exist with a burning fire ready to torch the darkness. And funny, as I forgot this of myself, that what I want to tear down is a hedge between here and Other.
I met a particular person today, an occasional Pagan writer, a gods-worshipper, and a ferocious activist whose whole form and persona vibrated with what could only be called a sort of divine delight. Her work is known to many, including enough people where she lives to find her personal life and impending move to another city mentioned in the local alternative paper.
This person, Alley Valkyrie, mentioned the same goddess had demanded social justice from her as who has done so for many others. A goddess who demands those who worship her go out and fight injustice, particularly related to the homeless. That is, a radical goddess.
Against the (Paralyzing) White Light
A topic in our conversation particularly fascinated me. We’d spoken of a certain passivity within Paganism when it comes to matters of environmental damage, war, and other human calamities. That is, “meditating” for peace or carbon reduction; similar to another thread of thought that suggests “changing oneself” will change the world.
I read a post by another Brigid-worshiper awhile back regarding how certain tendencies within Paganism are not only unhelpful but actually tend to result in harm to victims of very real things. There is a kind of optimism which isn’t optimism at all, but rather a denial of human suffering which sustains injustice.
I intend to track a bit more of this in my book, but this sort of thing isn’t Pagan at all, but rather a colonization of a certain Capitalist/Liberal logic within Pagan which cripples its revolutionary potential. It’s parallel to why certain folks find discussions of tolerance revolting, which makes them sound unfortunately reactionary. It’s also why our discussions of privilege are going nowhere.
Liberal discourse defangs radical acts and discourse by offering itself up against a great void, presenting itself as our only hope against the throngs of witch-burners, fag-haters, fundamentalists, and totalitarians, and it does so by giving us inadequate tools to understand our oppression and un-freedom. Amongst these is one of the more preciously-held tenets of Paganism, an inherited Universalism that we’re all, essentially, out for the same truths on our own individual paths and therefore all worthy of respect and affirmation.
The defense contractor, the multi-national banker, the polluter, the small-minded local business tyrant, and the gay-basher aren’t worthy of respect, affirmation, or tolerance. Nor is meditating for world peace or an end to homelessness anything more than a pathetic masturbatory exercise. I say “may there be peace in all the realms” during my druid rituals, but I’ve no illusion that my words alone change anything, anymore than voting changes anything.
This is why the position of so many gods-worshippers is a radical one, a severe one, an awfully serious one. Sacrifice and actions matter more than words or intent.
Some might know of an earlier dispute between some gods-worshippers on the necessity of social justice, and now that enough time has passed over the issue I feel it’s worth mentioning something that didn’t seem to get addressed.
Some gods are out to save the world. Some aren’t. But I think both sorts of gods benefit greatly from the acts of the followers of each. It’s seems so obvious that it’s probably awfully easy to miss: both sorts are doing precisely what their gods demand of them.
Those of us who worship a gods and goddesses who demand we do stuff in the world for them need the ones who worship those who demand contemplation, ecstatic worship, and ponderous ritual. It’s from them that we even have any clue what other gods are up to in the world, and they’re the ones developing for the rest of us tools and oracles and methods to interact with our own gods and the spirits around us. They’re the mystics (whether they see themselves as such or not) who sacrifice an awful lot of their time to the gods so the rest of us learn how to.
And on the other hand, the mystics need the ponderous intellectuals who are working on the larger implications of what this means, or the valiant and whimsical street-warriors to bring the gifts, given by their gods to them, given then by them to us, to wreak upon the realm of the material and social the will of the gods we all revere.
If gods are real (and they are), then they affect the world. And what’s particularly fantastic about their effect is how they do it, how they wield some of the most glorious, fantastic tools to enact their wills into the world. Some tools are pretty useless at some things but perfectly suited for others. I’ll a pretty decent writer, but I’ve got a two-beer limit before I take my clothes off and really can’t get ecstatic for the life of me, so my mystical communions are pretty limited to walking myths and occasional visions.
But I’m okay with this, as there are others doing it damn well and teaching methods to help the rest of us.
Likewise, I’m pretty good at politics and fighting on behalf of others, but good gods I’ll never quite be like the fantastic person who bought me tea this afternoon.
Neither of these are excuses for not trying, and trust me–the folks I know whose devotion is staggering do nothing but inspire the fuck out me, be they the activists or the mystics.
I mostly bring this up to point out that us gods-worshipers are a pretty fierce, burningly radical lot, are united by our physical, very-real actions for our gods, and are rather likely to reforge the world, precisely as our gods intend.
And this makes my radical, god-worshiping heart pretty damn thrilled.