Pagan Voices: T. Thorn Coyle, Sarah Veale, Vivianne Crowley, and More!

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  January 27, 2014 — 26 Comments

Pagan Voices is a spotlight on recent quotations from figures within the Pagan community. These voices may appear in the burgeoning Pagan media, or from a mainstream outlet, but all showcase our wisdom, thought processes, and evolution in the public eye. Is there a Pagan voice you’d like to see highlighted? Drop me a line with a link to the story, post, or audio.

T. Thorn Coyle

T. Thorn Coyle

“I am pro-abortion. I am pro-abortion early term. I am pro-abortion in the middle of a pregnancy. I am pro-abortion late term. Those people who think a woman in late term pregnancy wants to terminate for any but the most serious reasons? They have to be deluded. Abortion is not a walk in the park, even early term. It costs. For many of us, it just costs less than carrying a pregnancy full term. I am pro-abortion because a parent’s life is worth more to me than the life of a zygote or a fetus. I am pro-abortion because, in my religion, death and life walk hand in hand, as part of one great cycle. Death and life are inextricably intertwined. To deny a woman’s power over the workings of her own body is to deny her right to foster life itself. Fostering life comes in many forms. We are not chattel. We are not property. We are humans who are willing to face the hard choices of adulthood. Rites of passage. Sometimes the patch of carrots must be thinned for other things to grow strong and healthy. Sometimes the fire moves through the forest, so the pines can release seeds.” – T. Thorn Coyle, on why she isn’t just “pro-choice.”

Sarah Veale

Sarah Veale

“Even Greek gods and Goddesses aren’t immune to physical passions. Duh. We all know about Zeus’ exploits with mortal women. As a god. As a swan. As a bull. Dude gets around. (And has a funny way of luring the ladies, but let’s not get into that. Keep it consensual, people!). But today I want to talk about Aphrodite, the queen bee of love. In the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite, the goddess is a bit of a trickster who compels the gods to mingle with mortals. To get even, Zeus gives her a taste of her own medicine, making her fall for the carefree, guitar-playing Anchises, a cattle herder in Troy. To make a long story short, there’s lust, and subterfuge, and an awkward day after. So what’s so interesting about all this? Two things: One, in order to snag Anchises, Aphrodite has to hide her goddess-ness. Two: Sleeping with a goddess can get you into some real trouble.” – Sarah Veale, on the misfortunes that befall men who sleep with goddesses.

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

“I’m going to call myself a “devotional polytheist” from now on. I hate the term “hard polytheist,” and have never really liked it nor adopted it for myself; there’s all kinds of sexist and phallocentric aspects of the terminology that I find resentful and distasteful. I’ve preferred “polytheist” all on its own, because I think it is simple and relatively easy-to-understand and does exactly what it says on the tin, i.e. indicates the acknowledgement of many gods, which is the best understanding of my own theological position that I have ever come up with for the last twenty years of my practice. (“Polytheanimist” is also not bad, to highlight the animist aspects of my practice…but anyway.) However, I am willing to concede at this point that because there is so much misunderstanding about “polytheism” generally, and that some who have polytheistic aspects of their theology may not weight it as heavily as I do, that a more specific term that is qualified by another term would be more useful to future discussion. I have never resented or been put off by the term “devotional polytheist,” and I do use it from time to time; now I’m going to have to be more assiduous about using it all the time. I still think that “polytheist” should be able to carry the weight of my entire theological and practical outlook, but apparently it can’t, because some people who use the term don’t think that the recognition of the reality of multiple deities is either the most important descriptor of their outlook, or that devotion to the deities is important and essential. I concede that on the latter point in particular, “polytheism” alone has probably never been sufficient to indicate that such a focus for one’s practices is as high a priority as it is for those of us in the modern world who identify in this fashion.” – P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, on polytheism, devotional polytheism, definitions, and labels.

Alyxander Folmer

Alyxander Folmer

“The subject of interfaith dialog and interaction is both massive and complicated. My every day life is an exercise in cross cultural communication, and living in that kind of environment will force you to learn not only about your peer’s belief’s, but your own as well. Being the only member of the house from a Non-Abrahamic tradition has its difficulties; being solitary doesn’t help either. As Heathens/Pagans we often don’t have an organized collective to cite, or definitive texts to fall back on. If we want to participate in religious conversations with those outside of our community, we have to leave that “Pagan Bubble” and stand on our own. Many interfaith organizations tend to focus on the religious “Common Ground”, treating their differences as the unspoken elephant in the room. Even in overwhelmingly Abrahamic interfaith organizations, it’s difficult enough to coordinate between paths with a common origin, how then are we ever supposed to integrate traditions which are founded on fundamentally opposing worldviews? The more inclusive you try to make the conversation, the smaller that common ground is going to get, and the less you’re going to accomplish without stumbling into that elephant.” – Alyxander Folmer, on the Pagan elephant.

Vivianne Crowley

Vivianne Crowley

“The natural world is essential for human well-being – physical, psychological and spiritual. Newer sciences such as ecopsychology recognize what Paganism has long accepted – that our psyches are deeply connected to and affected by the world of nature. This is true in many obvious ways. Our moods are affected by the amount of daylight. In winter, we can succumb to seasonal affective disorder (SAD). When it is sunny and our muscles are warm and relaxed, we feel happier. But the psychological impact of the environment is important in other ways too. Our minds, hearts and spirits crave the beauty of the natural world. We thirst for it and feel consciously or unconsciously deprived when we are separated from it.  When we are hemmed in by concrete and buildings, we react by feeling alienated, depressed, unhappy. Human alienation is strongest when we are furthest away from the natural environment in which our species developed. […] Few of us can turn our backs on urban life to live off the land, but we can all find ways to engage with the natural world, through gardening, conservation work, or hiking. Most urban areas will have projects and groups that work to green the city, plant trees, create gardens and parks, and clean up rivers. Trees and greenery make an enormous impact on the human psyche; as well as providing clean air that enables us to breathe better, to have greater energy and improved thinking capacity.  Tree planting and other environmental work enable us to green the city and green our spirits at the same time. We can all engage with the earth, even if we are house-bound and not fully mobile. Bees can be kept in urban settings and food can be grown indoors – tomato plants, for example, will grow on a window ledge. Growing something to eat for the sabbat is a simple way of engaging with nature.” – Vivianne Crowley, on the importance of nature, and our connection to it. 

John Beckett

John Beckett

“Religion is a set of practices shown to be useful in facilitatingreligious experiences.  Religion is a set of rituals and customs shown to be meaningful to individuals and communities.  Religion is a set of values shown to be helpful in living a good life in a good community. Religion is the collective experience of our ancestors.  We don’t have to reinvent the proverbial wheel – we can use the wheels our ancestors left us to travel further down the paths to which we’ve been called, build on what they left us, and leave better wheels for those who come after us. Our pre-Christian ancestors didn’t put much emphasis on faith.  What was important was living virtuously and honoring the gods.  Your beliefs about the gods were far less important, and the idea of blindly assenting to a creed, to a formal “this I believe” would have been meaningless.  Rejecting the primacy of faith is part of the Pagan restoration. But there is a place for faith in modern Paganism.” – John Beckett, on faith and Paganism.

Cat Chapin-Bishop

Cat Chapin-Bishop

“It turns out that a lot of what we humans “know” about bears is not true of black bears, the species that I share my woods (and my lettuce) with.  A black bear mother, for instance, is much more likely to flee from a human than defend her cubs.  All black bears are more likely to flee from humans than confront us; their evolutionary history is entirely different from that of the grizzly bear, the source of many of the things we falsely believe to be true.  And while I am not actually fool enough to want to enter a confrontation with a bear of any size, in point of fact, the black bears of New England don’t want a piece of this action, either. Even when I’m not enraged and waving a kitchen knife. I know this because I finally got motivated to research black bears.  My initial response had been fear, and anger, but it turns out that if you follow the science and not the legend, there’s no more reason for the one than the other.” – Cat Chapin-Bishop, on bears, lettuce, and what humans think they know.

Rev. Philipp J. Kessler

Rev. Philipp J. Kessler

“I wear a pentacle every day, it is a ring on my left hand. I wear two rainbow wrist bands every day, one on each wrist. When people meet me, if they see the bling, they might know that I am Pagan and that I am gay. These are two very simple ways that I go about my daily routine as an open Pagan and an open gay man. Not everyone can do this. Those who can in some small way show their Paganness and non-heteroness are champions for both communities. When I am asked about either the ring or the wrist bands I always answer openly and honestly. Sometimes that leads to an uncomfortable silence. More often it leads to a smile and a nod or a “good for you!” comment from those who ask. Rarely, but it does happen, does my response lead to an adverse reaction. When it does, I move along (when at work) or I try to counter their reaction with rational and compassionate thought. More to the point of this discussion, how do we deal with homophobia, biphobia, transphobia within the Pagan community? Some traditions are going to be more conservative. Some paths are apparently opposed to non-heterosexuality. We cannot change the minds and hearts of those who strongly believe that being gay or bi or trans is against their religious or spiritual beliefs. We can show them, however, that gays, bis, trans people are not all that different from them. We are all children of the Gods (or the Goddess, or the One, or whatever Divine title). Many Pagans profess to worship or work with Gods of ancient cultures, from different pantheons. Almost without exception these ancient cultures acknowledged, even embraced, their non-straight members. As LesBiCris reminded me the other night, most aboriginal cultures paid special honor to their “two-spirit” members. Sometimes elevating them to a higher or spiritual status above those who were ‘normal’.” – Rev. Philipp J. Kessler, on homophobia in Paganism.

Dr. Karl E. H. Seigfried

Dr. Karl E. H. Seigfried

“In 2012, I suggested that there was one law for minority faith groups like the Native American Church and another for large, monied religious organizations like the Catholic Church. In 2014, business owners with ties to Evangelical Christianity are brazenly asserting that their personal religious beliefs trump federal law and that the decision against the Native American Church doesn’t apply to them. I hope that the Supreme Court will remain consistent and give the same answer to Evangelical Christians that it gave to members of the Native American Church. If it finds in favor of Hobby Lobby, it will be broadcasting a clear confirmation that majority faiths have more rights and privileges than minority religions. That would be a dark day for everyone, but especially for those of us who belong to minority faiths.” – Karl E. H. Seigfried, on Thor, the Pope, and Hobby Lobby.

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • Beverly Parker

    I love the article by Vivianne Crowley. I always feel spiritualty refreshed when out in nature. Even if it’s in sub-zero temperatures shoving sidewalks.

  • cgirlslife

    I read T. Thorn Coyle’s article a couple days ago and parts of it have been ruminating in my soul ever since. It’s changing how I see myself.

  • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

    Sarah Veale might want to consider picking a different example to illustrate her claim that sexytime with Goddesses is somehow an enterprise fraught with peril.

    Anchises ends up in the Elysium Fields, Aeneas (their offspring) ends up the heroic founder of Rome, and Venus ends up the patron Goddess of the most powerful civilization in western history.

    Also, not only are the Gods “not immune” to hornification, they are also subject to deeper and more profound emotional connections with humans, as illustrated by the famous scene in the Iliad where Zeus sheds tears of blood over the fate of his beloved son Sarpedon (in fact many of the Gods were grieving over the deaths of their human offspring during the Trojan War).

  • TadhgMor

    I’ve never understood this “hard polytheism is sexist” line of thinking. While I recognize “hard” and “soft” have historically sexist connotations. I do not see it in this case. There is nothing “masculine” about that theological position. It is not gendered. The only person I’ve seen, prior to this post, suggesting it is sexist is DiZerega, and his prejudice against “hard polytheism” is apparent.

    I’d really like someone to explain this to me.

    • http://daoineile.com/ Aine

      You could look at Aedicula Antinoi since PSVL explains his thoughts on it there? Or ask specific people directly?

      And I don’t think it’s quite accurate to say it’s sexist, because it’s much more complicated why people don’t like the term. Some people are fine with it, others aren’t. (And some people don’t like it because it’s been used to label them, mostly by non polytheists, rather than as a label they themselves adopted. So there’s that too.)

      • TadhgMor

        I did look, and I saw nothing further on that specific issue in his writing.

        He, and others, have explicitly stated it is sexist, or has “phallic tendencies” more than once. I’m asking for an explanation, from anyone, of how they view that and why they make that association, because as a self-identified hard polytheist I’ve never given it that connotation or seen it used with that connotation.

        I have no issue with who chooses to use or not use the term. I’m personally neutral on it, though I think it has a more precise utility than “devotional polytheism”. But I’d some explanation, from anyone, of this “sexism” angle, which I’ve seen used more than once including by people quite hostile to hard polytheists.

        • http://daoineile.com/ Aine

          They have explained it. You may disagree, sure, but that doesn’t mean they’re not explaining. (You’re being dishonest, because people /have/ explained. Disagreeing with them doesn’t mean they didn’t explain. You not understanding their points doesn’t mean they didn’t explain.)

          And you clearly didn’t look, cause PSVL wrote a post about this the very next day after his first post on the topic.

          • TadhgMor

            I checked the post in question, I did not know you meant to check another post. It was simply misunderstanding.

            I’ve never seen a single explanation and that was honest, so please do not make insinuations like that.

            Quite frankly you’re being rather hostile considering I asked for nothing but clarification.

          • http://daoineile.com/ Aine

            Except that Apuleis gave an explanation directly below? Pointing out that you’re being dishonest about what people have or haven’t done isn’t hostile. It’s…pointing out that you’re wrong.

            But, knowing how you like to drag out convos, this will be my last response to you.

          • TadhgMor

            Apuleis gave essentially a slur. Perhaps someone, somewhere, believes that, but to suggest hard polytheism is anti-feminist is both incorrect and insulting. Positing it is a reaction to feminine oriented paths is diminishing the value of the religious feeling and ignoring the theology in order to make an insinuation. It implies, not even subtly, that rather than rejecting monist or dualtheist views, that I am simply motivated by some crude anti-feminism.

            Thanks for the blatant insult and insinuation. I fail to see how any of it was merited in any way.

    • kenofken

      What I want to know is with all of this talk of “hard polytheism”, is there anyone in the community who claims for themselves the term “flaccid polytheism”? :)

      • http://www.forgingthesampo.com/ Kauko

        I hear they’re making a pill for that.

        • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

          You know: Viagra and related drugs almost re-introduced people to Priapus a few years ago, until they figured out that no one knows what “priapism” is any longer, and instead had to substitute the phrase “an erection that lasts more than four hours.” Oh well…

      • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

        I’m thinking about it, to be honest…

    • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

      What was actually written in the article in question is that the author feels that the terminology of “hard versus soft” polytheism has “all kinds of sexist and phallocentric aspects … that I find distasteful.” This is a legitimate point about the way these words are used in English generally, and to some extent about the way the words are used in this particular context.

      In general, those who take a “hard line” position (whether in politics, religion, or elsewhere) tend to portray those they are arguing against as “soft” and weak, and very often this is done using language that either implicitly or even explicitly portrays the “soft” side as effeminate.

      In the particular case of modern Pagan debates on polytheism, it is no secret that so-called “hard polytheism” arose out of a rejection of the increasingly feminist-influenced and Goddess-oriented Paganism of the 60s, 70s and 80s (and up to today).

      But the issue is not that “hard polytheism” is itself in any way sexist. The author in question, P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, is himself a card-carrying “hard polytheist” if ever there was one. It’s just that he doesn’t like that particular terminology, and he has lots of reasons for that, and only one of those reasons is the sexist and phallocentric connotations of the “hard versus soft” dichotomy.

      • TadhgMor

        Are you honestly trying to suggest that hard polytheism as a theology is a rejection of feminism? That seems like nothing more than a blatant slur. There is nothing anti-feminist about hard polytheism in any form that I am aware of.

        But I’ve never seen him, or others, explain WHY it’s sexist. I have no issue with him feeling that way, or not using the term. But I’ve seen this used as a slur before and I simple don’t understand the why of it.

        The terms can have that context of “masculine” and “effeminate” but that’s context driven. Just like you wouldn’t call a plastic hard and suggest it is “masculine” in some way, I think you can make the case for polytheism being the wrong context.

        • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

          I did follow up why I think the term is distasteful to me here:

          http://aediculaantinoi.wordpress.com/2014/01/27/a-follow-up-re-phalloi/

          I am not suggesting (nor, to my knowledge, has anyone else) that hard polytheism arises as a rejection of feminism; however, the term “hard polytheism” likely does arise in the context of a feminist, goddess-based monism, and in attempting to differentiate itself from that variety of theology, it may have fallen into some potentially sexist linguistic usages inadvertently.

          I’m not indicating in any of this that anyone who self-consciously adopts the term “hard polytheist” is sexist (intentionally or not), but only that I don’t particularly like the terminology myself, and I have never affirmatively self-identified in that fashion (even though the characteristics attendant on it do fit my own theological viewpoints relatively well).

          Also, incidentally, to you TadhgMor (and to Apuleius and Aine): I’m not a “he,” and it would be nice if I were referred to in a fashion that actually respectfully acknowledges my gender atypicality.

          • TadhgMor

            I’m sorry about misgendering you. For future reference what pronoun would you prefer?

            I saw that after the fact. It was a misunderstanding, I thought I was being directed to the post in question.

            Apuleius hints rather strongly that it was a reaction to feminism. You seem to somewhat as well, though on much weaker terms. Perhaps I’m being oversensitive because I’ve seen this used to insult self-identified “hard polytheists” before. But my community is by and large run (in a loose sense obviously) by woman who put work into research and developing Gaelic polytheism as a path, and happen to identify as feminists.

            I think the point I probably inaccurately tried to make is that I think the rejection of monism is far more relevant than the feminist context, and suggesting it was about “moving away from Goddess worship”, as Apuleius does, seems to be disregarding the religious feeling in favor of insinuations of sexism.

            I have absolutely no issue with someone using the term or not. I’ve simply been confused by the trend (I’ve seen it three times now, and I expect I would see it more if I interacted with certain communities more often) of describing hard polytheism as phallic or sometimes sexist.

            I do think we need accurate and meaningful descriptors, but that’s sort of an ongoing process. I find both hard polytheist and devotional polytheist to be flawed in certain ways, one speaks far more to theology and the other to practice, but they are vague on the other category. Maybe we need another qualifier like “distinct (or plural) devotional polytheism” and “unitary (or monist) devotional polytheism”,

          • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

            Thank you–I truly appreciate it. I am metagender, so I use Old Spivak pronouns (subject: e; object: em; possessive: eir; reflexive: emself).

            I entirely agree with you that the theological position of what has been called “hard polytheism” is far more important than anything else; and, I’d go one further and say that–contrary to what many modern Pagans have said–it’s a position that has been around a lot longer than they’re willing to admit (i.e. the 60s, but not the 1960s, the 1760s BCE, most likely!…that’s just a random number, but anyway…a long time), and was very likely the norm, as you’ve said in some comments with Gus and others recently.

            Even if it wasn’t specifically anti-feminist in its origins with the modern polytheistic theological terminology, the dualism of “hard/soft” with “hard” occupying the “good/positive” position, has been around for a very long time as well. The Greeks and Romans had a very great dislike for “soft” men, who weren’t even necessarily homoerotically-inclined or gender-variant (though both of those categories would qualify in their mind, at least in some instances), but were just seen as deficient in all respects. Someone who was ridiculously hirsute and masculine in all ways but sneezed in public, for example, was taken by the 2nd c. CE sophist and physiognomer Polemo of Smyrna as being completely and utterly “pathic” and therefore soft, weak, and lacking in virtue for that unfortunate quality of public sneezing. I think it’s difficult to not see some implied feminization in the setting up of such dualisms where anything “not hard” is concerned, simply as the result of thousands of years of certain influential Western cultures using that kind of terminology.

            It’s sort of funny to me, though, that in English, “hard” doesn’t just mean “more dense,” so to speak, but also “difficult,” and I suspect a great number of people who theologically disagree with our positions would characterize us as “difficult” and thus “hard” in that sense as well, in many cases. The belligerence which we have to sometimes resort to in order to defend our positions likewise gets chalked up to “macho bravado,” and because those sorts of characteristics (e.g. not compromising on certain matters, defending our positions vehemently, etc.) are seen as somehow “improper” for Pagans or pluralists (when in fact they’re not!), that gets us marked as all of the negative “male” stereotypes those who don’t agree can think of. In any case…

            I think “devotional polytheism” likewise might get a bad rep, not only amongst those who theologically disagree (and generally think that one should “never bow one’s head” to deities and such), as well as some of the more negatively-“male”-inclined folks amongst those who affirm the individual reality of deities but view devotion as too emotional and therefore feminizing…which is, again, a sad legacy of the associations with the terms involved. *shrug*

            Some sort of change in use of terminology, likely by everyone, is going to have to take place. It would be nice, of course, if the actual meaning of polytheism as it literally stands were not compromised as certain people wish it was at present, but it also needs to be further nuanced by the addition of other terms to indicate whether it is the dominant theological model in someone’s outlook (as it would be for you and I), or is a subordinate part of it (as it would be for some who have a monistic element). I’d still prefer that just “polytheism” on its own be considered exactly that and not need further modification, but because those who have other elements to their theology resent that those of us who are hard/devotional/etc. polytheists are “appropriating” the word and trying to leave them out (whether or not that has any validity as a statement or any reality in terms of the wider movement, people’s thoughts, or our influences within it), we might have to concede that “polytheism” on its own just isn’t descriptive enough for some theological and practical purposes today.

            In any case, I appreciate your discussion on this matter!

    • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

      I’m not a fan of Latin terms, generally, but, if I were to use them to describe my own views of deity, I would have to say that I am a geographical hard polytheistic alatrist.

  • NoBodE

    I saw a letter from Greene posted on Facebook where he says that he will close Hobby Lobby if the Court decides against him. He will put thousands out of work if he can’t have his way as well as the impact that would have on the school district where his ever expanding headquarters are located. What a “christian” attitude.

    • Raksha38

      What a douche canoe. Frankly, as much as it would suck for all those people to be out of work, even that is preferable to the alternative. Because if they win, where is this going to go next? I could easily see companies like Hobby Lobby forbidding employees to spend money on stuff like alcohol or to give money to non-Christian organizations because their wages are provided by the company and the company refuses to support things it doesn’t approve of even at a remove.

      So sick of this shit.

      • NoBodE

        He is also a company owner who refuses to have a phone in his office just so he won’t have to listen to any complaints from customers or employees. I live within a few miles of Hobby Lobby HQ.He is also trying to get a religion class going in a nearby school district. He may already have snuck one into the district where his HQ is.

        • Raksha38

          Ugh, what a scuzz bucket..

      • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

        Thank you for introducing me to the term “douche canoe”–I have not heard it before, and it’s rather pleasingly vivid! ;)

    • Jennifer Locke

      As much as I hate to see people lose their jobs, one less box store chain will probably benefit us in the long run.