Recently I’ve been pretty fucking meta, talking about talking about the talks we need to be having in the ongoing Polytheist dialog. This is all important and also still deeply frustrating, so I want to say a few things about why I do it.
First, I’m not in any way attempting to change the minds of the the fuckwit detractors — defensive Neo-Pagans who can’t see over their own bulging insecurities to the grounded feet of reason, or desperate atheists trying to find a place for themselves in a conversation that isn’t about or for them — because changing the minds of idiots is fools’ fuckin’ folly.
So who am I writing for, if not the people who come for the conversations at night, with their pitchforks and torches…?
I am writing for the people who aren’t sure yet, and need bolstered support or clearly delineated space to figure this shit out. I don’t have time or care for assholes who think they’ve got it all figured out (and yet keep traipsing into other people’s conversations which don’t pertain to their supposedly sorted shit at all) or otherwise assume nobody has a fucking clue and so we’re all equally ignorant in this (equality doesn’t work that way, dumbass, go feel your way through a dark room someplace else, preferably near a cliffside over a pool of lava and fucking sharks) and blah blah blah. I don’t have time for that shit. What I do have time for, though, is folks who are genuinely feeling out their call from the gods, even if they haven’t figured it — or its implications — out yet.
The truth of the matter is that most Americans who find their way to Polytheist religion did so through a conversion (and education) process, defined less by singularly redefining experiences (though perhaps those, too) but more by a gradual process of paradigmic shift. What that means is that education is essential to the process of Polytheists becoming Polytheists. Education simply cannot happen — literally, at all — if the boundaries of the subject and state-of-mind are not examined and outlined and fiercely guarded from erasure. (Imagine you’re a Freshman in college, and after years and years of oppressive closed-minded small-town local public schooling, you finally find a subject of disciplined study that you feel passionate about, that completes you, in which you feel and clearly hear your calling and destiny, only to then find out that due to budget cuts the department covering that discipline is being erased and replaced with Johnny Humanist endlessly misinterpreting Jung, but that’s okay because it’s all imaginary anyway so you can just imagine really really hard that you have found your calling.) Erasing, ending, collapsing, or reducing the Polytheist conversation is a lot like that.
I did not have a conversion experience. I have never not been Polytheist and animist — Polytheanimist — and so I sometimes am not the most clued-in person to what the needs of the conversion conversation are. But I’m trying. That said, those experiencing “conversion transition” — the gradual process of becoming Polytheist, which can take years or even a lifetime all on its own — aren’t always the best choice to define or take a stab at what is on the other side of that transitory process, because they maybe haven’t yet fully stepped into the embodied state-of-mind (paradigm) of Polytheist religion. You can’t predict what you can’t see, and you can’t see what you don’t make room for in your proverbial algebra, and you can’t make room for what you can’t see if you think that the only things that are real are the things that you can see, that you have experienced, and that you control in some way.
So for the last whole bunch of years, I’ve been paying close attention to conversion dynamics so that I can see it, account for it as best I can, and try to help. Not to convert people — I’m not that guy and these are not those religions — but to assist in willful and consented conversion by providing the frameworks, spaces, conversations, and critical distinctions necessary to figure this shit out.
A whole lot of people are taught rather forcefully not to have certain types of conversations, and so it can be hard for them to learn how to do so, because it is not just ignorance that they’re overcoming: it’s emotional resistance their own self-applied obstacle course. Education and outreach is about supporting people through all that shit, rather than just assuming that like super-heroes they can just wipe their internal fields clean and start over. It rarely works that way.
This conversation isn’t about enabling our aggressors, but rather, empowering those actively trying to figure out what their Polytheist selves look like, how they conceive of themselves in a world populated by many, many gods, and what that means for them moving forward with their religious practices, with their world presence, and with their engagements to other prior ways of viewing or associating with some of these subjects.
There is a streak of “don’t ask don’t tell” that runs the gauntlet of many levels of the Western societal experience, including many of the Neo-Pagan lines of descent that many Polytheists find themselves emerging from, wherein there’s a strong sentiment of don’t-rock-the-boat because it might knock people overboard. Well, honestly, some motherfuckers don’t belong on the boat, because they got on the wrong damn boat. I don’t want them to drown but it isn’t my job to help them find where they’re supposed to be, and I sure as shit ain’t Noah. Polytheist religion isn’t about two-by-two preservation of ignorance or anything-goes spirituality. The proverbial Polytheist fleet — which is, by the way, not just one boat because that is a really really terrible way to run a Navy — is made up of many boats to contain the religious practices of many people and many traditions serving many gods in many different configurations, and these boats aren’t so fucking fragile that they’ll capsize if you rock them just enough to knock the rats off the lines.
Hold steady, Polytheists, and learn your sea-legs: the waves are choppy and full of gods, the winds are terrible and full of gods, the thunderous crash of electro-static discharge goes wherever the fuck it wants and is hurled by gods, but you’ll get the hang of it, in time. Maybe being up on deck during a hurricane isn’t for you, though: go down to your bunk, tie yourself to a beautiful lover, and fucking rock the boats.