Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Creating a new Era Part 3 Acceptance and Leadership

Alright, so here is part three of my ongoing series about creating pagan communities.

I've had a couple of people respond on my blog to my previous posts, and I thank them for their input. It's helping to build this series better by pointing out areas that we all need to work on.

First off, I wish to retouch on something I put in my Part 1 post, about Community, and that is acceptance. Part of building a larger community is accepting that the others in the community can be different from us, but that they are still members of the Pagan/Heathen community. This includes those Pagans that some out there feel are not "real" pagans. From the Vampires to the hard core Recons, we need to set aside our insistence about being "real pagans" and accept one another. We left organized religions because they didn't accept those that weren't "real" and if we are to build actual communities, then we Must learn to accept our members, left or right, hard or soft polytheists, whatever. We have to accept and respect each other.

The next step in building communities, is Leadership. This is a tricky one, as many pagans and heathens are rather anti-authoritarian. I myself am highly anti-authoritarian. One problem I've heard many groups run into is that one person will rise to prominence and become almost a cult leader at times, often attacking those that disagree with them and driving them off. This is indeed a grave problem, and one that has sunk many groups and proto-communities. Another is that those groups that do actually end up having good leaders run into the anti-authoritarian nature of most pagans, and the group falls apart because people are unwilling to work with that leader. Then there are those who believe that because they own the location they should be given the power in the group.

I will attempt to give some solutions to this problem, starting with the last one I mentioned first. Those who feel that because they own the location they should have the power.

Now by all rights, they own the property (be it the home people meet in or actual property people rent) and this does entitle them to certain rights and power. However, many chafe at this "unelected" nature of power being lorded over them. That is why in my first post, I said that each individual or family should own their property themselves. In creating a larger physical community, this would prevent people from having "Lordship" based on owning the home of another. The last thing we need to do creating communities is start working with Feudalism. That's not to say we can't have Pagans renting from Pagans later on, but in the initial stage, the more equality we have the better. If each person owns their own property, then they are equals, even if the value and quantity of property isn't. They would all be "Freemen."

Now, as for the other two kinds of leaders, the "cultish" who insist that all bow to their ways or go, and the "Honorable" leaders that often get cast aside, and then any other types of leader out there, I have a solution that I've drawn from my own path of Asatru that splits the difference between the need for leadership and anti-authoritarian nature that makes us so uniquely pagan/heathen.

My people, the Norse (along with pretty much all Germanic and Celtic tribes) where very, very anti-authoritarian. We didn't even have a king until the Christians came, and most of the population didn't even have "lords." But they new that there was a need for all the people to come together to discuss matters of law, relations with other peoples, and to settle disputes. This was called the Thing, or Althing.

I recommend we do something like this. Once a month we come together for a few days as a community and we elect official leaders or "Keepers of Law" for the few days that the Althing happens. There should be an odd number of leaders, and each person gets one vote. The top three "winners" of the election are the Keepers. No keeper can be elected more than twice in a row. This would give a wider range of people both access to power, and limit the amount of power any one person could gain. During the time of the Althing everyone would accept the leadership of those elected, and any choices made by the leaders and the people would be recorded and acted upon until the next Althing, at which time changes could be made or kept as the people felt was needed. Once the Althing was concluded, the leaders would resign and the people would be free to lead themselves as they saw fit.

The Althing would also provide a place for grievances to be aired amongst the people. Perhaps a modified "Holmgang" or "Duel" could be developed for those people that needed it, in order to guide the violence of humans into something safer, more honorable, and productive, as well as easing tensions. I have no illusions that there will be peace and no fights in these communities, and we can look to our ancestors for ways to deal with this.

Still, I am hopeful that by accepting each others different paths we can release most of the tensions. For when that is not the case, we can take it to the Althing and hash it out there. Members of the community should be trained in mediation so that we can work things out, and if that fails, we work up some way for the individuals to fight it out amongst themselves so it doesn't tear the community apart. Lastly, we limit the amount of power of our leaders by making everyone as equal as we can, while still accepting the power we place in them and letting them help guide us.

Friday, January 21, 2011

A Response to Politics.

This comment is a re-post from one I made at The Wild Hunt, in regards to claims of slandering a political branch of Pagans.


Dreamstalker, I can see where you would consider my statements to be "boilerplate." I must, however, point out that I heard you speaking no such words about those on the right turning this into a Christian nation. I wonder why?

Perhaps making the nation Publicly Atheistic (in terms of government and such) is not turning the nation atheistic. However, my statements about how the political Left (if not the totally of its members) view all religion still stand. This is not boiler plate, this is things I have observed on my own from sources that view the Left in high regard.

You say my political slander against a wing of the Pagan population will not bring unity. You are right, except that I do not slander the Pagans, but merely point out that it would be best if we forgo our "political" identity in favor of our "religious" identity. It is perhaps true that I do not attack the right as often as the left, but I do attack it. If I attack the left, it is because too often I see it held up as the paragon of virtue and dogmatically held as the only way to go. I feel this is not so. WE are Pagans and Heathens, Why should we stick to either one path or the others. We do not work in a dualistic system, we can take a third option, or a fourth, or a fifth. Why should we be Right or Left? Why must we so dogmatically hold to political ideologies that have no respect for us? Who see us only as votes to be counted, numbers to be manipulated and twisted till we give to one side and bash the other with the fervor of monotheistic zealots? When did politics become our Gods and Goddesses, rather than the divine beings themselves. When did Democrats and Republicans become our people, over Wiccans, Asatruar, Satanists, Odinists, Druids, etc?

When did it become that Pagan would threaten Pagan with death, simply because they held a different political viewpoint? Is this what we are? Is this what we all began walking this path to become? I became a heathen because the gods of my people called to me, bid me welcome, and said I was kin. That it didn't matter if i was right or left, republican or democrat, capitalist or socialist. That I was something beyond the petty, venality of politics, that I had family and spirituality that transcended time and space. And that it wasn't just me, it was every other person, from the solo practitioner to the coven, from the Scandinavian to the Greek to the Roman to the Celt to the Slav and Baltic. That we were taking back and rebuilding something that had been stolen away by fire and blood and a selfish, petty god that thought he alone could rule everything. That we didn't have to act petty and childish. That we could be the start of something old made new again.

But all to often I see none of that. I see people being petty when they should be honorable. I see people bashing the right, bashing those who defend the right, and bashing people like me who don't bash the right or defenders of the right as much as they think I should. I see people getting death threats and told that they aren't "really pagans" because they don't believe the same as everyone else and jump on the "correct" political bandwagon.

Do we want to survive? Do we want our ways to be passed on for generations to come? To honor the gods and goddesses until the sun goes nova and then some as we spread beyond this little world? Then we have to put aside the politics. Call against those politicians if you will, but do it against everyone. No playing favorites. Respect our kin on all sides of the political spectrum and remember that We are Pagan and Heathens, Children of the Gods and Goddess, before we are anything political!

It's time we stopped frothing at the mouth like berserks without a lick of sense in their head other than killing the "enemy" and remember that it wasn't politics that brought us to our paths! It was our need to step away from the petty and the venal ways of the other religions, like Christianity, which have so infected this nation, this world, and its politics. It's time we became more, not less.

The Goddesses don't care who you vote for.
The Gods don't give a s*** what your political orientation is.

So why should we? We are people, they are people, they are no better or worse than we are. Move past the politics and remember what is important. Our people and our paths, Not our politics.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Creating a New Era Part 2 Skills

In my last post, I put forth what I feel must be the first step in building pagan and heathen communities. A sense of tribalism, nationalism, whatever you wanna call it, where we move past and set aside what makes us all different, and remember what makes us the same.

Here in Part 2, is the next thing I think we will need to build and sustain a community or communities.


Think about it, sure carrying on the traditions of our paths is important, but if we're building a community it's going to be known, and different kinds of communities will require different kinds of skills.

If one is part of a community that is building from scratch on land they've bought in the country, well you're gonna need to know how to build buildings, do wiring, plumbing, farming, and hundreds of other little things we don't normally think about.

Why? Because you would be doing something that hasn't really been done lately. But we do have keys to this. There are trade schools and apprenticeships for most of the basic skills. There are communities like the Amish that we can learn how to work together from, as well as many a good skill to get, as most of us will not be wealthy and so the shiny toys of modernity won't be as available to us as older methods will be.

In the instance of moving into a neighborhood and building a community there, many of the above skills could also be useful as well. In truth all the skills that I can come up with would be needed for both community types.

Diplomacy would be key, both internally and externally. Keeping a bunch of pagans and heathens together, focused, and getting along when the former tend to act like wild cats and the latter like wolves is both a hard task and the most important. As I said in my previous post, without Community, there is no community. Also in dealing with the larger population outside of the Community itself. Getting schools to recognize our views and rights, getting City councils to do the same. Getting the local religions to either back off and play nice, ignore us, or not attack us.

Skill at Arms. This is probably the most controversial skill needed, but by building a community we are painting a target on ourselves and we need to be ready for those that come against us. This means both the ability to use violence on behalf of our communities and the knowledge of how we can use this violence. In the olden days, everyone in pagan societies, especially the Celt, Norse, and Germanic, learned to fight. Martial arts classes are a good idea, the more realistic the training the better. Gun classes, learning to use the weapons of our people, etc, are also good, maybe even a must. Because there are attacks on minority communities, and ours will be no different. Harm none is good, but when they're at the door, remember it's yours or theirs.

Why do I say skills like carpentry, electrical wiring, and plumbing are key and we need members that know these skills? Because there will be those that refuse to serve those needs if they know who we are, or will actively sabotage us. Not only do we need people certified in those skills, we need them to be the best of the best, because there will likely be those who will use any excuse to shut us down.

We will need those who know the law. It's already pretty clear that "lawfare" is a tactic many are willing to use. I've heard tales of children services removing children from pagan homes. There will be lawsuits. We need warriors of the law to guard us and fight back for their communities without the devastation that other law firms will charge.

Farmers, who know how to bring forth food. Gardens are good, and we should each have one, but for the communities in the country, larger food supplies will be needed, for both sustainability and added income into the community.

Capitalism, even though it is much maligned will aid us and we should use it responsibly. Each person must own their own home/land. It should not be communal property. This will invest each person into their own part more fully, and in the case something goes wrong for one, it will not destroy the entire community. We help each other through the hard times, but we own what we own as individuals. That is the Western Way.

Teachers will be a must shortly there after. If needed, homeschooling is an option, but the ability to create a private pagan/heathen school where the community has the direct control of what our next generation learns will be a boon. There are many educational programs out there we can learn from and implement so that our children are the best and brightest, because they will need to be. We cannot let the dogmas of religion and politics influence our children away from their heritage, nor poison their minds against their fellows.

Medical professionals will also be needed, both alternative and modern. The former because it is our way and healthier, the latter because it gives us options and protects us from attacks.

We need to amass the skills needed to protect, sustain, and grow our communities, and more importantly our children. The community's survival is based on its children surviving and thriving to carry on the way of that community. Lose them and all our building and planning is for naught. And we can be sure that there are those who would like to see us fail and will target the next generation. We need to be able to stand up and protect ourselves.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Creating a New Era Part 1 Community

I have noticed, in my travels around the net, that there is a growing movement to begin building pagan and heathen communities. This is not a completely new movement, truth be told, but I believe it is a movement whose time is finally coming about.

Why has it not really happened yet, at least on a large scale? Because we haven't had the people to do it. Much of the history of modern pagan/heathenism has been one of solitary practitioners, small covens or groups, the former of which could be anywhere and the latter of which generally could only be found in larger cities until more recent times, where increased numbers and lowered fears.

So what's changed in the fifty odd years or so since people started reclaiming the paths of the gods and goddesses? What makes now different from then?

Well first of, its a numbers game. Paganism is one of the fastest growing religious affiliations. We're getting more and more people into this little polytheistic party. Also, it's the type of people we're getting in. One of the fastest growing subsections to is "Reconstructinism," at least to my knowledge. One of the big things most of the reconstructionists have is bringing back the way things were done, which requires a community. It's all well and good to live like our ancestors, but trying to make your way thought the world with the values of a 7th century Scandinavian in a 21st century post modern society isn't easy. There's a lot of cross over, true, but there's a lot of values dissonance. The other is that such paths put a strong emphasis on kinship, at least the "folkish" ones do. Building a community, building family who live and practice as you do.

And we are getting the numbers for that now.

Another thing that's changed is that as we've stepped out of the shadow, the broom closet, and the history books, we've drawn a lot more attention to ourselves. Where once cries of occult ritual murders and such would have meant a lot of hysteria, but now they are real attacks against our ways of life. In California, there is still a battle over freedom of religion, where paganism is not counted in the "Big Five" (three of which are Christianity, Judaism, and Islam) and thus "may not have the same rights and protections" as the "big five."

People are looking at us now, and not all of it is friendly. Now, instead of protecting us, our solitary natures are acting as a hindrance. Where once we could hide in ones or twos, now we are open and that means that those who disapprove can attack. People hide who they are because they fear losing their jobs, their children, their families, and much more.

But what if we could change all that? What if we could come together? I think that's what's pushing people more and more into a desire to build communities. I've heard everything from getting run down properties that are going for cheap and making pagan neighborhoods to buying land and making communities from scratch. These are good ideas, they are a start, and its one we need to look at seriously.

So what do we need to do this?

Well, the first thing that we must do to build a community is just that, build community amongst ourselves. Too often I see the pagan and heathen communities online fractured into different factions, while in person, well they're almost as volatile as the Christians as far as keeping groups together. You end up with a bunch of very small, very ideological groups that can't stand each other because of drama and such. Maybe we need to wait until these fractured communities grow large enough to sustain themselves. I don't think we do.

What we have to do is realize that we are pagans/heathens above all else, that for our different patterns of belief, we are that if nothing else. We have to take that and use it to do something that has been bashed, vilified, "discredited," and all together "mad."

We have to build a "Nation," we have to invest ourselves with "Nationalism." "Right," "Left," "Progressive," "Conservative," etc, must become as meaningless words to us. Politics has divided us, kept us separated and hindered us from reaching the true potential we could reach. We must reject the dogma of modern political theory and delve deep into our pagan and heathen ways. There are pagans who have inserted their progressive and leftist views into their teachings, seeking to undo the harm Christianity has done without bothering to learn what is actually Christian in origin and what is originally pagan. Too often, heathens have imparted ways of the right, though not as bad as they could have. Still, we have let politics keep us at each others throats, when we should have been reaching for hands in kinship. We have to move past this, to stop calling the other sides ignorant and shallow. It is our diversity which will help us to move forwards and deal with problems, but not unless we can realize we have more in common with each other than against each other.

There are already plenty enough people out there trying to get rid of us. From the rabid Christians who preach no witch shall live to the Muslims who teach that all must worship Allah or die to the Atheist scientists who insist that there are no gods or that the gods were aliens who pulled a con job on our primitive and stupid ancestors. I don't care if you're a polytheist who believes all the goddesses are representatives of a single being or a hard polytheist like myself who believes each individual god and goddess was their own person. We need to stop bickering, about are the gods and goddesses few or many, about if straight men are as capable as bi-men and all manner of women, about if the recons are racist bastards or the Wiccans are feminists misandric harpies. We need to stop the infighting and bloody well remember that we chose these paths because they accepted us, and its bloody time we put our money were our mouths are and start accepting our Pagan and Heathen Brothers and Sisters.

We need to build community.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Danger of Political Thinking

Political thinking is dangerous. Often people give into holding that pundits and political voices are preaching that certain actions must be taken, and believing that these words are right and true.

So too has it been with the shooting in Arizona, with six people dead and another dozen wounded.

Yet when I speak of the danger of political thinking, I am not talking about the shooter. Indeed, from what I can tell, if there was a political motivation it is from politics all over the board that cannot be place on any particular space in the political spectrum. A supposed "shrine," a video of himself burning the American flag, and I believe various political comments that no one can really place, except those who insist it is "right wing" in nature. Those on the right can't seem to figure out where to place them. And then there's the supposed mental illness.

Rather the danger I speak of is allowing one's political thinking to get in the way of seeking the truth. In the pagan blogs I visit, there is a sad number of people who are insisting that this is the fault of right wing rhetoric, Palin and Beck and that sort, target maps and the bullet box. I don't know if that's the case. There are many reasons out there why this tragedy happened. We may never know the truth. But I don't think we should let party lines insist that this tragedy is the fault of a certain point of view in politics. Especially by people who seem to feel their side can do no wrong and has never done wrong.

Thinking that way, well only get in the way of figuring out what really happened. Just as the fact that far too often, the fact that Democratic Congress woman was shot, has gotten in the way that six people died, including a little girl.

That is the danger of political thinking.

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Return of Honor

So, I'm very aware I've been away. Life happens and I just haven't had the energy to put up stuff. Combined with a distinct lack of knowing what I should write about contributed. Still, I figured I'd throw my two cents in on something that happened lately.

A couple days ago, a congresswoman of Arizona was shot, along with about twelve fellow victims that survived and about six which did not. No doubt a political motive will be found, even if I haven't heard of it yet, and within a few short hours of the occurrence already the killer and would be assassin was being labeled as insane. I'm not here to say he wasn't.

The reason for my post is due to another post on Pantheon, a religious blog. Namely, a pagan's response to the attack. And it got me thinking.

Pagan and Heathen societies of old didn't fear violence. It was very much a part of normal society, and regulated by rules and customs. But here in modern society, we have almost the opposite. Sure, we have violent video games and sports, but gone are the days when one could challenge another to a duel or holmgang.

Now, it is known that most people don't resort to violence to solve their problems unless they feel it is their only option, at least in Western societies. Here in America, most people will write letters, or try and see the person they feel has wronged them. Yet, our leaders are often farther and farther away. It is easy to see the City Council in comparison to seeing one's senator. Try and get an audience with the president, and unless you're out of luck unless you are an admired figure, political powerhouse, or something along those lines. Joe of the street is not gonna get in to talk politics with the president, even at a town hall. This distance often leaves people feeling distant from their leaders, and without a voice. Our election system is great, but if you're on the losing side, you still get ignored. More and more people feel their votes don't count.

And when you feel you have no voice, well, that's often the time you most want to be heard.

The key problem to me is not that this young man shot so many people. It is a problem, yes, and the loss of life is to be mourned. Arguably, it is because this young man may have felt he had no voice. Such is a tragedy, especially if it led to what happened. I wonder, what would have happened had this young man been given an option, even one of violence like he brought. At least, if he had something like a duel to challenge the congresswoman too, it is possible that she would be no worse off, and near twenty people would not have been injured or killed.

We will never eliminate the violence in this world, but perhaps it is time we look at a way to guide that violence so that the innocent do not die, and that once again violence is given a path of honor