Archive for May, 2014

Men need to decide if they want to stand up and be allies, not ask us to make it easier for them.

— Morpheus Ravenna

This. A thousand thousand times, this.

Dude, it’s not about you.

The “NotAllMen” bullshit is pissing me off. In a conversation about the oppression of, and systemic erasure of, the rights and safety of, women… the “feels” of men, any men at all, is irrelevant. There is a time and a place for men to discuss men’s issues. For men to talk to other men about being allies, about reclaiming masculinity for the positive — not this ugly fucking misogynistic bullshit, or whining about misrepresentation. Because it *isn’t* misrepresentation, when the broken and sad and awful and violent and dismissive and hate-fueled and fucking dehumanizing ways that women are permitted to be viewed and processed in the dominant male cultures around us are pointed out. It isn’t misrepresentation. And if that makes a man feel uncomfortable, THAT IS THE FUCKING POINT. It is supposed to.

We should not be comfortable with this state of affairs. We should be mortified, sickened, repulsed, sullied, shamed, and shattered by this revelation. And we should be fucking *silent* during the discourse, unless what we are saying is appropriately platformed in the public vehicles of the exchange in allied support of the calling out of the *awful realities* being named.

Discussions of the rampant misogyny and related ugly qualities in masculine culture — and the degraded and perverse state of masculinity in popular expression more generally — is NOT the time or place for men to “voice their feels”, unless those feels are disgust with the issue and support of the YesAllWomen discourse.

I think that some of it is about making it be okay for there to be more than one conversation. There needs to be a place where folks can talk about their pain and frustration and anger…  I believe that there is absolutely a place for men to talk about their own pain and frustration. Patriarchy isn’t a person, it’s a structural issue. It is a baseline assumption that informs structures. All of us individuals are embedded in and affected by that structure, men included. [C]hoosing carefully and mindfully who to process this stuff with… helps.
— Bari Mandelbaum (emphasis mine)

So when is the time, and where is the place? For starters, it is NOT when women — the group targeted with crosshairs in our culture every day — are voicing these issues and naming these conditions. It is NOT when those feelings would or could be used to leverage silence against an *already* silenced group. Men SHOULD have feelings, and realistically NEED space to be able to sound them out, but that space is NOT here, and that time is NOT now. Men’s issues are the source of this problem, and so are not likely to be the solution, and they are OUR responsibility, as men.

Finding the “right time” and the “right place” is OUR responsibility; we shouldn’t be looking to women and demanding that our issues or feelings on this matter be considered as equal to theirs. Men don’t have crosshairs on them at traffic-stops, at shopping malls, at grocery stores, at college campuses, on sidewalks, at bus stops, on every single form of public transportation anywhere in this country; women do. #YESALLWOMEN.

So right now it is the responsibility of men, be they considered and conscious allies already or not, to shut the fuck up, sit the fuck down, and open their fucking ears. And you know what? We are human beings with the cognitive and social capacity to be in charge of our emotional responses — executive functioning, anyone? — as well as the ability to fucking multi-task.

If a discussion in Place A — say, a Facebook wall thread or a news-article on misogyny — causes us as men to have emotions which we feel that we MUST discuss or share or process, we are fully capable of finding a Place B for that, which does NOT actively silence women or force a “competition of voice”. We should not be grabbing for microphones on this one, we should be unplugging and fucking listening to the acoustics of righteous fury and fervor’d push against the constraints of social disempowerment, of the fear that lives in broad daylight in our streets, because THIS IS AWFUL AND UGLY AND REAL and it is fucking EVERYWHERE.

One of the many things that allied men can and should be doing more actively is not only nodding along to the YESALLWOMEN discourse, or reposting and reblogging things — although that is a good start — but also taking it the next step and actively engaging with OTHER MEN who maybe are having a harder time with their feels… or their cognitive and emotional dissonance around the issue, because there IS and WILL BE dissonance and confusion at this… if there wasn’t, we wouldn’t be needing to advocate for change!

We need to be actively engaging not just with our sons but with our brothers, with our fathers, with our friends; actively positioning ourselves in ways that we can as allies to women become LEADERS amongst men.

In the studies of systemic prejudice we know that the change MUST come from the dominant group through systems of alliance, of listening, and of education.

There’s even a formula:

Step 1: Men are confronted with an ugly truth.
Step 2: Men become allies.
Step 3: Men-as-allies support the discourse on the issue, ala #YESALLWOMEN.
Step 4: Men-as-allies actively engage with other men to try and see that change, and those revelations, made real and realized.
Step 5: Whiskey.
Step 6: REPEAT.

Further Reading: Systems and Effects: by T. Thorn Coyle

Lets Call Isla Vista Killings What They Were: Misogynist Extremism by Laurie Penny

The Problem With “Not All Men” And Why You Should Stop Saying This, by Brenda Wambui

#YesAllWomen, by Phil Plait Dude, It’s You by John Fucking Beckett

Thoughts About Being A Man, by Satyros Phil Brucato

On Advocating for the Devil:

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Edits: Fixed some formatting issues and a cited quote. Also, special thanks to John Beckett for subtitling this article “Dude, It’s Not About You”, and giving me permission to add that in here. Also, special thanks to Morpheus, Bari, Corvus, and others on Facebook whose conversations (in both public wall spaces and in private dialog) helped me to make sure I was saying what I thought and meant to be saying. I want to also reiterate something that I said on Wyrd Ways Radio the other night: as a man, I do not think that it is my job to decide what the definition of misogyny is. For the airing and naming of such concerns I defer to those targeted and impacted objectively and atrociously by these system issues and patterns of encultured permissive violence and disregard; women.

I would also like to point out that nearly every university, community college and local outreach community center should be able to offer or at least refer people to local resources, workshops, and even training curriculums on the subject of “being an ally”, AS WELL AS FINDING SAFE AND CONTROLLED ENVIRONMENTS FOR “PLACE B” discussions, as mentioned in the article above. “Safe Race Dialogs” for example are organized events where people can discuss safely and in a controlled, moderated setting established by professionals and moderated by cooperated mutual agreements with one another, the emotions, feelings, confusions, concerns and general issues around race, identity, and prejudice. Similar groups should be available to men on the issues of misogyny. Many areas also offer training in conflict resolution and mediation. For example, the San Francisco Bay Area Peninsula houses an excellent program called Peninsula Conflict Resolution Center, which provides trained and licensed volunteer resolution teams for solving and settling local (San Mateo County) conflicts of all sorts.

Disciplining Discernment

Posted: May 9, 2014 in Uncategorized

There is often a great deal of resistance in Pagan, Polytheist and (in general) “independent religious or spiritual tradition” discourse to the idea that religion or spirituality are disciplines which require discipline to perform. The word “discipline” carries with it an inherent meaning of submission to instruction and process. In the context of describing a field or topic (e.g. “divination by runes is a discipline”) it refers to branch of specialized knowledge and skills which were obtained generally through the submission to a disciplined approach of learning and training. This is why fields of medicine are referred to as “disciplines”, and why academic avenues of study which draw from different platforms or lenses of examination and intent are referred to as “interdisciplinary studies”. A “field of discipline”, or merely “a discipline” for short, is an area of pursuit covering a breadth of knowledge and performance-based skill which are honed through the submission to rigorous instruction, regimented training, and ongoing maintenance evaluations (such as ongoing medical training, continuing professional training, peer-review standards, and so forth). The field and pursuit of religion (and religious community, for that matter,) is similar, although certainly not necessarily limited to academic avenues of structuring, and achievement within these realms must be measured in terms of submission to disciplined standards.

Too often our communities, especially in today’s rapid-speed broadband blogcentric network-driven-yet-still-way-disconnected post-internet age, “discipline” is seen as a thing that we don’t need to bother with. Those who speak about discipline (or, gasp, standards of any kind) are often branded as exclusive tyrants, fascists, or fundamentalists, regardless of what these terms actually mean and how poorly they fit the profiles of those to whom they are applied. As a result to of the “anti-discipline” approach that seems so prevalent, even those in our communities who did submit to training and have a place of achievement and placement or platform earned by rigorous efforts and skills built and honed, often have trouble recognizing that their own skills must be constantly exercised and re-honed and that education is an ongoing thing. Those at the “top” are even more strongly required to continue to develop their discipline through rigorous daily practice and critically driven pursuits in order to remain useful at the level that they have reached.

An example I will give is a hypothetical that I have seen play out a dozen times. Some guy — we’ll call him Kelley di Dude — has an experience with something during his daily [meditation, journey, trance, mushroom trip, whiskey binge, office-chair-spinning-competition], which he is very [excited, or terrified, or aroused, or indifferent] about, so much so that he shows up at his local [Neo-Pagan, Heathen, Hellenic Reconstructionist, Celtic Revival, Omntheistic Pleromist Salon] to chat it up with others and gleefully tell them about his experiences. He sits down and at the earliest opportunity begins to speak in excited tones about his experience. He tells them all that [insert very popular or obscure deity here] contacted him for the first time, and that They were giving him [knowledge, downloads, messages, sexual advice, real estate tips] and as a result of this he was pretty sure he needed to [start a fight with the group he’s sharing with right now, buy into questionable real estate propositions, become a lion tamer] because the gods told him to. A valid question at this point in the telling should be, but rarely is, “How do you know that it was [deity] who was contacting you?”

Very few people ever seem concerned with asking this (unless they are just being trolls seeking to put-down the person speaking, or use that person to leverage a greater statement against Polytheists-who-talk-to-gods), despite it being an incredibly important point. If Kelley di Dude is new to communion with spirits — or maybe can’t tell the difference between external deities and internal archetypes — it may not occur to him to question an experience of this sort. Yet, it is the act of questioning the experience — not necessarily the entity or spirit itself! — which allows one to have the beginnings of a deepened relationship with said being, as well as with the path and avenue of discipline in the first place. So if this discernment process is so important, why are so few people willing to ask the question of Kelley (ignoring the trolls who will do so only from a place of scorn or shaming flames) when he (somewhat naively, neophitishly) recounts his experiences and conclusions? My observation is that the reasons vary, but ultimately come down to one form or another of personal, social, or devotional insecurity.

In part, many people seem concerned because they might not have practiced their own preaching on discernment when it comes to their own relationships with deities in the dark of their own private experiences, or perhaps haven’t dotted all of their own i’s and crossed their t’s sufficiently to feel inclined to bring up the questions of discernment with somebody else. Others still might not bring it up because they, like Kelley, don’t know that they should. Now, here’s an important bit: I am not saying that it is “every person’s job” to police the experiences of every other person, but rather that every individual has a collective responsibility to uphold some semblance of structure and standard… and that this can be modeled by beginning conversations, which for many can be just as well deployed with regard to their own experiences as with that of a friend or colleague or collective circle-jerk coconspirator. The degradation of standards and of critical assessment of our experiences — be they profound or terrifying deity experiences, or mundane misunderstandings between theological combatants, or something altogether tragic such as an abuse of the physical, sexual, emotional or spiritual nature on a child, a newcomer, or otherwise somebody who for any number of possible reasons was situationally unable to properly defend themselves against such predation — are amongst the most dire of topics for our collective consideration and adamant clarification, as a set of communities supposedly interested in proliferating progress (and in many cases, peace) within our worlds.

We are sitting in a period of raw, freshly triggered communal distress and shock and distortion and in many corners still heated debate around various scandals (which I have been attentive to with my various communities in private and group correspondence, ministerial counseling and group organizational consultation this season, but have otherwise chosen not to blog about directly and publicly) and we are in many ways still collectively reeling from some very uncool and painful and sensitive revelations. Some of these are revelations about the identities of some we called elders, while others are revelations about the tragic pasts of some we have called brothers or sisters who were caught up in a fucked up machine of pain and cover-up. Others still are around the sputtered revelation of “holy shit, why do these conversations even need to take place in the first place, what the ever-living-fuck is wrong with some people?”.  I am not, before such gets tossed around, comparing a lack of discernment around one’s personal gnosis with spirits (or archetypes or gods!) to abuse scandals, nor saying that a lack of proper discernment in one’s spiritual practices or experiences is in any way “the same” as abuse on another person, or the covering-up and defense of such atrocities. Rather, what I am saying is this:

Disciplined discernment is a part of a structure (gasp! the s-word!) of critical thinking, critical engagement, and critical experience that can lend itself to a whole metric fuckton of applications, both spiritual (Kelley di Dude’s deity experience, above!) or emotional (the response of loyalty one might feel toward a community member that stands accused of terrible crime) or objectively physical (a present or recent abuse that has taken place, or may well be about to take place, against one’s person or community). What I am saying is that we’ve all presumably “bought into” this set of community collectives, spiritual and religious identities and groupings, be they “Big Umbrella” or little entrenchment in a muddy battle field wrought with fires and littered with spattered standards hanging heavy and wet in the evening’s winded swirl. What I mean by “bought in” is become invested.

Having spiritual or communal “investment” — having “bought in” to a certain structure or paradigm, in the sense that one might “buy in” to a shared enterprise, property, or business opportunity — helps when navigating with others, as well as with one’s own self. In the case of gnosis discernment (di Dude, above!) it can be helpful in choosing words and tones and approaches or even maintaining clear perspectives while dealing with those who may be exactly where you are at, or not quite where you are at, or ahead of where you are at (in a given area, pursuit, or enterprise). Similarly this can help in solitary practice in remembering — perspective, again! — that nobody in our world exists “on an island” (proverbial, here, meaning “with complete independence”) and is instead in a complex set of and constant continuum of relationships with other people, spirits, entities, place, communities, experiences and deities. If indeed the “Big Umbrella” structure that so many are so quick to step in and close-ranks in defense of is a sort of “co-op” communal property, it stands to reason that people have “bought into” that structure and therefore own a stake in it (investment!), a stake that can be at a minimum measured by one’s interest in seeing it properly maintained. Discipline and discernment? Those are kind of the currency of minding one’s investments, of any kind. Not everyone has the same experiences or skill-sets, however, which is why not everyone is the same person: this is why we need to have clergy leadership, as well as laity leadership, as well as instructors, as well as counselors, as well as sacrificers and construction crews, and those that can tend fires and those that can organize events. It is inappropriate for any one person to either be left holding all of these positions or to self-elect themselves to the job of doing “all the things” (although many of us wear more hats than is ideal, just to keep things moving until support crews show up to share the load).

Not all of these concepts are popular in all circles and communities, as experiences and backgrounds and personal philosophies differ. A prime example in this is around giving respect to clergy and elders, which for many is a very “hot topic” quickly rejected and cast aside as being “not what we’re about” in some communities. It is challenging for some people without a martial arts background, for example, to understand why it is important (and naturally *right*) to give respect and deference to a person who has achieved a certain level of rank or proficiency. The same applies to things like the military command structures. Position isn’t about “ambiguous posturing and illusions of status”, but about earned place afforded by virtue of achievement, dedication, discipline and demonstrable ability. It is a tired thing to continue seeing people with little or no “spiritual investment” failing to offer respect to the process, or to those who are further into that process, and then bemoaning folks who aren’t conditioned the same way, and lobbing around terms like “fundamentalist”. Structures, standards, investments, disciplines, respect — these are all part and parcel of the whole package of this collective thing we’re supposedly trying to build, or maintain, or drive forward into the future, for the sake of our gods, for our children, for our communities and for the good of shared specialized knowledge and ritual craft and sacredly experienced and received gnosis.

You may be asking yourself, “But Thracian, what does Polytheist or Pagan leadership or positions of eldership have to do with deity discernment or response to and prevention of abuse in our religious communities?” It may seem like I’ve strayed a little bit here, but I don’t feel that I have. Throughout these three areas I have been discussing the importance of discipline and discernment, of critical thinking skills, and indeed of structure itself (which so many seem so diametrically opposed to the mere notion of). The longer that we as a set of communities, lineages, traditions and religious movements back away from the actual lived and authentic implementation of so many of the “keywords” and phrases we throw around in “pop-pagan-and-polytheist-culture”, such as discernment, the closer we come to failing in every single thing that we have ever set out to do, which in at least some of our cases are jobs handed to us by the gods Themselves, and by the ancestors who speak through us in this and the Other worlds we walk. Too often we fall short of action and stand only on a platform of pretense and the perception of progress; we say the words, but do we do them?

Where is our discernment, when we close ranks to defend the accused instead of stepping forward to shelter, defend, and empower the abused? Where is our shadow work when we sit in the shadows of our keyboards, made brave in our ignorance by the distance of the internet, a thing meant to bring us so close together? A little bit of critical thinking could go a long way, I think. There was a time where those with knowledge were honored and given a place to share it from, and the respect to make such worth their while. There was a time where those with vision were embraced and safeguarded by their societies, who recognized that sometimes — often — the gods and the holy powers and the spirits of our beloved mighty dead speak to us through those with fire in their eyes or thunder in their voices, whereas today social reward is given to those who will choose silence over standing or stating that which is critically found and felt to be right. We glorify impulsivity and reaction, and we shame and shun the process of discerned management of all this that we have invested so much of ourselves into.

For what?

In the field and pursuit of religion, achievement must be measured in terms of submission to disciplined standards, else we have little hope at all of discerning shadow from light, doorway from obstructing wall, keyhole from bullet-wound or reasoned platform from bigoted masturbatory mayhem strewn out for no reason beyond distracting attention from the utter lack of examined self that owns a stake of invested interest in the underbelly of every fucking community.

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This sounds promising. Let’s see those donations start flooding in.

Sober Scheme Rising

Posted: May 8, 2014 in Uncategorized

So, it has come to my attention that a certain confederacy of Polytheists has devised a cunning scheme for mid July. Rhyd and Julian apparently want to somehow “get me sober“. I plan to accept this challenge (is it a challenge..?) and win by drinking prolifically throughout the event. However, for this to happen, Rhyd has to be able to make it to New York. With that in mind, I issue a challenge of my own:

I will develop and accept the conditions of a drinking game whose rules and protocols are developed based upon donations made to Rhyd’s “GTFTNY” (getthefucktonewyork) adventure fund. For every $33.33 donation made to Rhyd’s cause, I will take on one drinking-game-parameter (such as “take a drink whenever somebody says Humanist” or “Finish your drink whenever somebody says John Fucking Beckett”). Some levels of feasibility must apply (e.g. I can’t drink out of a giraffe’s skull if I don’t have a giraffe’s skull, etc) and some level of accommodation must be hashed out. Each condition/parameter will be valid for one full day of the conference the donator’s choosing, and somebody (not me) will be keeping track. I sort of feel like there is even a way to turn this into a Bingo game. If anybody donates Rhyd’s full financial needs as a result of this post, I will totally develop a Bingo game to accompany these shenanigans.

What are you waiting for? Donate to Rhyd’s trip, and to the destruction of my liver. It’ll be fucking awesome.

 

Important Fund Raiser

Posted: May 5, 2014 in Uncategorized

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/send-rhyd-to-the-polytheist-leadership-conference

Please help fly Rhyd Wildermuth to New York for the Polytheist Leadership Conference, where he will be giving a talk on awesome shit that we really need to be hearing more about. Once he is here, I am going to buy him drinks, get him drunk, and post a video of it on here. My goal is to get him drunk enough to start screaming ‘JOHN FUCKING BECKETT!‘ or something equally awesome, possibly to music, while wearing some kind of amazing drunk costume assembled from stray objects lashed about his person with shoelaces or something. It’ll be fucking awesome. But this can only happen with your help.

So please dig deep and make this happen.

Still alive!

Posted: May 5, 2014 in Uncategorized

Dear Readers:

I am still alive!

I moved into this new house in New York in March, and have been busy setting up my home, settling the animals in, rebuilding the shrines in a dedicated shrine-room, traveling to California, traveling to Massachusetts, and finally receiving a new (human, corporeal) House member! This newcomer brings a lifetime’s worth of experience and training in healing arts and esotericism, and has begun a deep and profound dedicated devotional relationship with the Thracian powers.

“Busy” has been the word of the season, so far! I have several (major, big, of-vital-importance) projects underway, all secretive like, which have been taking a lot of my time. I’ve begun seeing clients again, working on private writing projects and renewed research, and am beginning to get to know the land I’m not living in a little bit better. (And figuring out cost effective ways to erect privacy fencing to keep nosey neighbors out of my ritual affairs.)

The Summer approaches, and I am looking forward to seeing some of you at the Polytheist Leadership Conference here in New York! Stay tuned for actual blog writing and article sharing, in the short while that follows!

If I owe you an email, please drop me a note or nudge reminding me in private email, because I have been juggling a whole lot of things and in the midst of rebuilding the shrines (to over six pantheons of gods and spirits…) and continuing my own devotions, I have not stopped being available as a resource, diviner, medium, and priest to my community or clients… which is to say, time and focus and spoons and things? Not packing a surplus of those, right now.

I am not a very on-task correspondent in the first place, when it comes to email: I dislike email pretty prolifically, and I am not a “computer person” anymore. I maintain a space on Facebook (which, incidentally, is the best way to keep in regular quick contact with me if you’re non-local) and specifically do not use other social networking sites. My being tardy or absent with email replies is never a personal thing: I am a spirit-worker, full-time, and I spend more time interacting with and in communion through spiritual and theistic channels than through electronic or even interpersonal human means. Literally.

I hope everyone’s doing fucking great. Also, please help fly Rhyd to New York so that I can get  him drunk. I promise to post a video of it here.

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