Column: Against Fascists and Liberals: Radical Pagan Identity

Quimper Cathedral, (CC Tom DL)

Quimper Cathedral, (CC Tom DL)

The cobbles outside are slick from a chill September rain, and I’m a bit unsteady on my feet, even with the aid of the large staff of Alder I’d been carrying for several days through the streets of Quimper.

Also, I’m inebriated. Pour a libation to Dionysos at a Breton gay bar the night before you intend to climb a sacred mount known to be both a Druidic site as well as hosting likely shrines to Brighid and Maponus, and it’s near impossible not to get drunk.

I’m on my seventh beer, and my limit is normally two. I hadn’t bought a single one. The attractive bartender and several equally fascinating Breton patrons have decided to get l’Americaine utterly smashed.

I was awfully grateful for their generosity and for their attention. The Bretons fascinated me, and particularly this city with its ancient rivers, its dark alleyed warrens, and it’s almost skeletal cathedral to one of the Seven conquering saints of Bretagne, St. Corentin.

Mention of St. Corentin to the men in the bar yielded a surprising reaction. Most French gay men with whom I’d spoken about the Catholic saints become immediately dismissive, but there was a dark ferocity in the words from the men in this bar about him.

“He saved us, sure,” said one who’d bought me several drinks. “But he stole from us our joy and took away who we were.

The Breton cultural identity is not necessarily “Pagan,” but it’s hardly Christian and most definitely not French. Bretagne is one of several culturally -and linguistically- distinct regions in France that suffered severely from the French government’s attempts to create a “French” identity throughout its state and colonies. Only 200 thousand people still speak Breton (more closely related to Welsh and Cornish than to Irish and Scottish Gaelic) and, though signs are printed both in French and in Breton, you hear no-one speaking it on the streets.

Breton nationalism, however, is soaked in Pagan thought and imagery. The Breton Druidic revival had a similar birth to that of the Welsh revival–both had illustrious and charismatic figures who were also nationalist. That is, the revival of Paganism in Bretagne was significantly influenced by political independence movements forged to build cultural and ethnic identity and autonomy against a hegemonic, democratic, and imperialist power (for the Welsh, England; for the Bretons, France.)

One can certainly draw a parallel between these independence movements and similar resistance movements within the Americas. In the United States, particularly, Black Nationalism and First Nations independence movements spoke heavily of cultural and ethnic identity against a colonial (and slave-taking) power which had sought to eradicate non-White identities and beliefs through economic and political violence.

Racialism and Pagan Identity


Street battle between Anarchists and Greek Fascists (Public Domain Photo)

Any discussion of ethnic and nationalist movements would be dishonest without addressing the parasitical spectre of Racism which sometimes attaches itself to such struggles. Readers of European news will certainly be aware of the recent resurgence of highly racialized nationalist parties in Europe (The Front National in France, UKIP in Britain, and the frustratingly named Golden Dawn in Greece among many others.) These far-right parties often evoke imagery of a pure and nostalgic notion of “the folk,” pure of ethnicity and oppressed by foreigners (be they international bankers, powerful states, or immigrant workers.)

Through political and cultural rhetoric, such parties create an ideal innocent “we” similar in symbolic structure to the Nazi Volk or the American “Moral Majority,” salt-of-the-earth innocents who wish only to live lives of peace and prosperity as their forefathers did.

The American political analysis of such movements is either to deny parallels between conservative rhetoric and other “extreme” ideologies elsewhere or, the equally disturbing liberal answer, which is to abolish all expressions of ethnic and political difference within society, sacrificing identity at the altar of Capitalist assimilation.

I’ve seen no polls on the political affiliations of self-identified Pagans in the United States, but I’ve met only a few who don’t admit to leaning more on the liberal side of most things. Such tendencies are unsurprising, seeing as conservatives in America are generally Christian and push political agendas which Pagans have had to fight against in order to be recognized as practicing legitimate religions. The strong feminist and environmentalist traditions within American Paganism also make such alliances more tenable.

That being said, Liberalism is also what restrains Paganism because of its insistence on a flattening of differences and its sublimation of subversive identities. One can be whatever one wishes to be, provided that identity does not challenge the Capitalist, Disenchanted order. Beliefs and practices which refer to narratives in conflict with the Disenchanted order become marginalized quickly. One can be Muslim provided one not believe it too authentically, be Queer as long as one not act upon such desires in the public sphere. Here, I’d refer also to recent backlash against polytheistic beliefs within Paganism–one can believe in gods, provided one does not really act as if they exist.

Liberalism claims, likewise, to stand as a bulwark against Racist ideologies such as those rising in Europe (and also existing in America, though without strong political presence) through this flattening of difference, but denies the very difference within itself. The banning of religious icons (veils, minarets) and practices (Halal and Kosher butchery) by Liberal governments in Europe serves as a great example of this process. In the name of secularism, spiritual and cultural practices become commodities to be regulated, while the actually-existing religious practices of Europeans are relegated to a place of invisibility even as they continue to exist and exert influence. That is, the West disenchants both the beliefs of others and itself, flattening or annihilating identity difference in order to maintain power.

And worse, Liberal, colonialist tendencies within Paganism actually continue violence against oppressed peoples through the commodification of belief and maintains Western disenchantment of itself.

Colonialism Within Paganism: The Monomyth and Sensuous Ants

Two writers, neither of them avowedly Pagan, have contributed significantly to modern Paganism’s adoption of colonialist stances regarding indigenous beliefs of oppressed people. And though both of them have opened to many a basic understanding of mythic and diverse ways of thinking, their methods unfortunately re-inscribe the very flattening of human spiritual experience which has been described by many as Disenchantment.

Neither Joseph Campbell nor David Abram have ever made claims that they themselves are Pagan; that being said, the influence of Campbell’s work on so-called Neopagan (particularly Archetypal conceptions of the gods, building upon some readings of Carl Jung) theology is profound, and David Abram has appeared in so many reading lists of Pagan sites and forums that one might begin to suspect him of a foundational influence. And though both have certainly enriched the spiritual understanding of many, both wield colonial tools against the diversity of (non-white, non-western) religious and cultural experiences so well that their mistakes appear almost invisible.

Joseph Campbell’s conception of the similarities and pattern of sacred stories and myths across cultures, the so-called Monomyth, appears on the surface to be a particularly useful way of promoting understanding between peoples. The Monomyth functions almost as a universal key with which the stories of others can be unlocked and comprehended. But inherent in his notion that the sacred myths of people can be reduced to a universally-recognized pattern is the statement that all other human people groups can be understood by modern (capitalist, disenchanted) Westerners because all other stories are based on the same pattern of the West. That is, Western society becomes the rule by which all other peoples (many of which the West has subjugated) can be measured.

David Abram makes a much more subtle mistake in his The Spell of the Sensuous. While a surface reading of his work engenders a general respect for the animistic beliefs of non-European peoples, from an anti-colonialist reading, his re-narration of the experiences of the people he encounters is terrifyingly imperialist. In an oft-quoted part of the introduction to his work, Abram explains an encounter with people in Bali leaving offerings of rice to their household spirits:

“What a waste! But then a strange thought dawned on me. What if the ants were the very “household spirits” to whom the offering were being made? (p.12)

He then re-inscribes Western materialist logic into the indigenous practices of his hosts by describing how the offerings to the household spirits actually functioned to create a boundary between the home and the ant colonies. And while giving tacit acknowledgement to the statement of his hosts, he then blames not his own Western, materialist narrative as the source of misunderstanding, but insists that the Balinese have a less complex understanding of what “spirits” actually consist. That is, while attempting to explain to a disenchanted audience the animist beliefs of non-Westerners, he disenchants those very beliefs.

Assimilation and Cultural Appropriation

Here we can see how the logic of Capitalist disenchantment then functions as a force of assimilation and cultural appropriation, as well. Written into the narrative of European/American culture is the insistence that the beliefs of our ancestors are so far removed from our current existence that they exist almost in a pre-historic past, unreachable from our current position as “modern” peoples except as reconstruction or a sort of utterly different, new system of beliefs borrowing only the imagery of the past (one of the reasons I generally reject the label “neopagan,” as it enforces a difference I do not suspect actually exists.)

More so, the religious experiences of similarly modern (but not-white) peoples become discounted as part of this narrative, so that European secular beliefs (which can better be described as Christianity reformed through the Enlightenment) posit themselves as more advanced than the beliefs of Arabic, Indian, Japanese or Chinese societies, despite those societies being of equal complexity.

This narrative not only excludes the experiences of other peoples, but it attempts to erase–by both omission and rewriting—its own so-called “primitive” practices. By such exclusion, European peoples whose practices, beliefs, and behaviors do not fit into the progressive march towards an enlightened future become either invisible or categorized as other—heretics, mentally-ill, criminals, etc.

Thus, Western society disenchants itself, erasing its own spiritual, cultural, and ethnic diversities towards a flattened identity in which any acceptable and acknowledged variations must be part of that universal narrative. Like Campbell’s hero in the Monomyth, each individual within Western society, in order to obtain an identity, must follow a universal formula which does not deviate from the grand narrative of modern Progress.

Whoville Alley Valkyrie

Capitalism continues its displacement of people from land (Whoville, photo by Alley Valkyrie)

The bizarre and brilliant trick of Capitalism, in every society it touches, is to sever its subjects from access to their own production, offer it back to them in a commodified form, and then present this severance and re-packaging of human activity as “progress.” Just as all the most basic aspects of human existence (food, housing, clothing) have become commodities restricted to the market, so, too, has the process of value-creation—that is, meaning itself.

Consider the explosion of “lifestylists” in the 90’s, or the proliferation of hipster culture currently. Meaning and identity, previously created through the tension of personal and community interactions, is now offered on the market. Almost every anti-hegemonic, radical subculture has become available through the market. The Hippies, Street Rap, Punk, Goth and a host of other initially anti-authoritarian and anti-bourgeois movements all very quickly became commodified lifestyles so that the radical potential in each group is easily forgotten (and sometimes untraceable).

This mechanism replicates itself repeatedly, and it isn’t just limited to American “countercultures.” Consider the question of Cultural Appropriation and the repeated losing battles that many indigenous peoples have waged to protect their religious and cultural practices from becoming commodified. It need not be mentioned that, unfortunately, we Pagans have been particularly guilty of this, voraciously purchasing books on native beliefs, adopting identities and practices as if every belief is merely something to be bought.

But this isn’t a screed against cultural appropriation. We all know it’s wrong, if we’ve even had the briefest of conversations with a person from a subjugated culture. Rather we should look at the very reasons why people in a politically powerful cultural group find themselves seeking “authentic” beliefs in the stolen relics of oppressed peoples, wearing their garb, practicing their rituals with equal longing and callousness.

Consider, again, our reliance upon “the market” for our most necessary means of survival: food. In the mind, food becomes not something merely to be grown, cooked, and eaten–it’s a commodity, something only to be obtained through exchange of money. Our modern distance from the production of food severs us from the reality that it is something we create.

If something so vital to human existence has become distant to our recognition, how much so also the cultural and spiritual rituals and practices interwoven into the history of all human societies?

Towards a Radical (and Non-Racist) Pagan Identity

Recovering, then, the spiritual and cultural heritage of Pagan peoples is not just a religious movement–it’s a political project. Restoring the practices of people who’ve long allowed themselves to be told that their gods and spirits are dead, their ancestors “primitive” and “unenlightened,” liberates space within the hegemonic, disenchanted order not just for themselves, but for those currently fighting the destruction of their beliefs and cultures.

Just as the Breton and Welsh Druid Revival movements were both Pagan and political, and the current independence movements among those same peoples are soaked in the imagery of Pagan identity, so, too, the general anti-authoritarian, anti-chauvinist, and ecological aspects of American Paganism are signs of its radical potential.

But there is a danger in this project. Consider again the rise of Racist Nationalist movements in Europe. While few have managed to capture the imagination of significant Pagan revival movements in Europe, it’s undeniable that the language of ethnic and cultural identity has great appeal to those wishing to restore their ancestral practices. As the Greek fascist party Golden Dawn established itself in New York City, warnings went out through many Polytheist channels about its racist proclivities in order to inoculate Hellenic reconstructionists against its influence. Heathen networks have done similar work, leaving certain influential writers in the precarious position of being attacked both by Pagans bent on turning spirituality into White Supremacist ideologies and by Pagans insisting that belief in really-existing gods is a primitive throwback or even a form of mental-illness.

Though Western Liberal Capitalism, with its logic of modernism and disenchantment, presents itself as a bulwark against the rise of Racialist ideologies, its history of subjugation of ethnic and cultural identities might actually be the very thing which breeds racial hatred and fuels the fascist appropriation of ethnic movements.

At the gay bar, drunk among the Bretons, I’d asked about a piece of news I’d heard earlier that day. The Front National (FN), France’s racist political party headed by Marine Le Pen, had announced plans to campaign heavily in Bretagne, hoping that the strong desire among a long-oppressed people for autonomy and cultural identity would bring many in line with their anti-immigrant, anti-Arab political ideologies.
No one in the bar thought the FN had a chance, but I thought I sensed a palpable fear in the air, an uncertainty which felt much like my own anxiety about my ascent of Menez-Hom the next day.

Elections in March of this year did not yield for the racists the hoped-for success, but they had significant success elsewhere. What I saw in visions the night atop that Druidic site seemed related to the same question I have for the future of Pagan identity. A figure dressed in sea-foam hurriedly showed me how to build a fortification around a Pagan temple, and seemed impatient that I hadn’t already learned to do this.

If Pagans are to claim their own identity outside of the commodification of culture created and sustained by Liberal Capitalism and its disenchantment of the world, and to do so without succumbing to the seething hatred of fascist ideologies, we all better learn to do so. And quickly. She was awfully impatient.


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156 thoughts on “Column: Against Fascists and Liberals: Radical Pagan Identity

  1. I love the way you wield the word disenchanted like a gentle clever opening a path onto a vista of deeper understanding and meaning.

    Thanks for making the effort to share this excellent, thoughful, and thought provoking experience and perspective.

  2. I guess Paganism has grown up. The coming of age ritual is to attack Liberals, on the apparent theory that, if you can’t get to your enemies, beat up a friend. Black Power and radical feminism got there ahead of you, ready to slice and dice the only people who have stood up for your right to exist in the marketplace of ideas. As a life-long Liberal I should be used to it by now, but I really hope Paganism burns through this post-adolescent phase sometime soon now.

    • Getting scraps from the table of the rich is always an option, you’re right!

      Liberals note the groveling peasantry at their feet and, moved by condescending pity, drop morsels of tantalizing recognition upon the floor for the colonized, oppressed, and subjugated peoples to scramble over.

      But you should not be surprised when we lack gratitude, and begin to note how easily it would be to ruin the dinner party altogether.

      • The problem is, what do we do after we ruin the dinner party? No one has come up with a viable answer to that. Smashing the elite and power structures has never so far brought us any sort of egalitarian paradise. It has brought us Khmer Rouge Cambodia and the nightmares of Soviet and Mao-style socialism, all sorts of hinky populism, the kleptocracies of the Middle East and Africa, the utterly non-productive central command economies etc.

      • You’ve an odd idea of the Liberal worldview. I suspect it lies in the difference between what’s called “Liberal” in America and in Europe. Your error may be conflating American and European Liberalism into one package with contours of the latter.American Liberals have come up with multiculturalism. To be multiculturalist in, for example, France, one would have to support the right of Algerian schoolgirls to wear headscarves in public school classes, and not be upset that immigrant laborers have Arabic neighborhoods. (Liberals and conservatives in California differ in this issue, on the policy level, only in how many years to have Hispanic kids be instructed in Spanish before cutting over to English.) To be multiculturalist in the UK would be to be relaxed about the use of Welsh, Gaelic, etc in their respective regions rather than attempt to suppress those tongues. Do Liberals you are familiar with take these stands?Yes, it’s easy to ruin the dinner party. It’s also easy in the process to empower the very Fascist elements you rightfully caution against. Over here, gays and lesbians successfully ruined the party in getting the government to notice AIDS; they didn’t get Fascist hangers-on because Fascists hate gays. Over there, Fascists love folk stuff. When you fantasize some program of easy disruption, look two or three dominoes down the row to see what’s going to fall over next.

      • As a liberal it is difficult to take what you have just written as an effort to enter into any conversation at all. Lots of self-righteous rhetoric and a 100% absence of any concrete cases. This seems to be to be an exercise in self-display to impress those who are as confused as you are, and little more.

        • Telling people that they’re just ‘confused’ and ‘self-righteous’ also shuts down conversation, but I guess it’s okay because…reasons? I can’t actually figure out why you trying to shut down conversation is okay, tbh.

          • Baruch gave three reasons- first events with Black Power, second, events with feminism which suffered once it became identified with feminists who rejected liberal concepts and support, third, the fact (that must burn you deeply) that liberals have been the chief allies of Pagans in this country.

            Those are facts. Rhyd gave in response a historically inaccurate or even made-up fantasy as a ‘rebuttal’ while refusing to address Baruch’s examples except to call the gains of the civil rights movement and feminism, (in defense of which some liberals gave their lives) “crumbs”.

            You have a track record in refusing to enter into discussions and insulting others in the process. A long track record, and not just against me. Projecting as usual Aine?

          • I literally pointed out that your comments are also made to shut down discussion and insult. So you…insult me? Okay. You didn’t address what I actually brought up. Have fun attacking your straw man.

          • I had brought up quite specific points of disagreement with Rhyd in my initial post, concerning both David Abram and liberalism. I can hardly can be said to have discouraged discussion. Then after Rhyd blew off Baruch, I called him, on it. You brought up nothing beyond your usual personal attacks, and when I called you on it, have just now proved my point.

            I will not respond further to you unless you make an actual argument over something other than your fantasies about my motives or style, an argument giving reasons able to be evaluated.

          • Hang on, the black power and feminist movements suffered because they distanced themselves from establishment liberalism? I was always under the impression they left because the political commodification of their movements by mainstream liberals, followed by subsequent capitulations, had already undermined much of the momentum those groups worked to achieve (kinda exactly how rhyd said)

          • Well, I was there and your impression is not how it happened. The Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act were not moments of liberal capitulation to the mainstream, but of jerking the mainstream into a new course. Illiberal feminism became passé as real women and men moved away from the Puritan holdovers it embodied.

          • But you are so thorough.;-)I bought and read Fault Lines after a TWH comment of yours a while back that it describes the first counterculture in American history. That was a gotcha.

          • You know, I’m extremely sceptical of an ostensibly cisgender man who dares to make authoritative statements on what “real women and men” are. Just seems like taking a rocket-sled down a slippery-slope of wrong ideas.

          • Sorry, bad choice of words. What I meant was people in the real world, as opposed to the theoretical constructs of male and female in the ideologies of illiberal feminisms.And I am indeed a cisgender male. My preferred pronouns are he, him and his.

          • Not as I remember.

            The Black Power movement rejected MLKing’s approach even while he was still alive and developing a more radical critique of the corporate liberal system. They rejected his reformism and followed the same destructive and suicidal path as the Weathermen and such in the New Left. Along the way they rejected their white allies in churches and out. By alienating their support they made themselves increasingly vulnerable to FBI and police attack without the cops having to pay any price at all. People today forget that while it was Black Americans who started the Civil Rights movement and made the first effective protests, it was its spreading to include White support that brought in federal backing against the South. The FBI and police happily took advantage of this and many Panthers died prematurely from lead poisoning.

            Perhaps the conversation could move forward if you gave examples of the capitulations you have in mind. The voting rights act was a bedrock of support for Black [olitical power in the NeoConfederate Soiuth- until the Roberts court could destroy it due to weakened civil rights alliances between White and Black. The stop and frisk policies are another example of what happened when White support is low due to their most liberal representatives being marginalized in the civil rights movement.

          • My gripe isn’t with radical liberals like King, but remember his movement was subverted too? That’s part of why liberalism is ultimately a dead end ideology: every movement towards reform is constantly being subverted in at least a couple different ways.

            Northern Democrats outlawed segregation but allowed de facto economic segregation to continue, based on race, unabated. The south was desegregated but economic segregation continues, to this day. The unions, as well, part of establishment liberalism, were reluctant to unionize black workplaces and reluctant to enroll black members. Northern Democrats left black communities twisting in the wind, saying “just waiting for the market to create some more jobs”, which is what spurred the Black Panthers to form.

            You can’t blame our broken political system on black people not giving enough support to the right white liberals. That’s insane, and you’re blaming the very people being crushed by the system that Liberalism is committed to perserving.

            Also, stop and frisk was enacted by a liberal mayor, and continues under the supervision of a liberal mayor

          • I did not blame Black people. Read me again. I said Black nationalists had an unsuccessful strategy. I said addressing the problem required alliances and when they were severed the civil rights movement suffered.

            You are also now broadening the discussion by calling King a radical liberal. Fine. I think that is a good term. Then it is not liberalism that is at fault, it is that some variants of liberalism are more easily co-opted and some are liberatory.

            I have spent years making that argument and this is not the venue for them. I have mentioned some published articles and you are free to read them and then take up the debate with me after you have done so. My new book goes into these issues at great depth.

            At this point I am only rejecting a one dimensional understanding of an undefined liberalism in the name of an equally undefined ‘radical’ alternative that led Rhyd to toss out an entire political tradition based on what I consider exaggerations with little basis of fact.

          • You reflected that King’s ideas were radical, I was simply agreeing. As a personal political philosophy, I don’t think liberalism is that bad, it’s just completely inadequate to deal with the problems we face: Take a look at any liberal elected president in the last few decades. Each, more than the last, concerned with spreading a neoliberal economic order that just means unregulated exploitation of developing countries so that certain Americans can get wealthier. This economic position precludes ANY effective response to global warming, peak oil, or mass poverty, and it is inextricably linked to both capitalism and colonialism.

            Every form of liberalism is susceptible to co-option and/or marginalization, as I’m sure you know. the systemic changes we need will not originate from a reformist ideology that exists within an inexorably corrupting political/economic system.

          • I am not sure that, hidden under the divisiveness of somewhat different terminologies, we are not basically in agreement. It may be so.

            One of the points of my book (there were several) was that liberalism had fallen on hard times and none of its current incarnations could deal with the problems of our time. All keep bad company. The crucial issue for me is that the solution to coping with the problems of our time lies through liberalism, not in opposition to it. Some might say transcending it by incorporating the more than human world, but not rejecting it. And I think Pagans have a lot to offer- hence the book.

          • We are in agreement: an alternative to the current state of affairs is needed. Who can say for certain where it will (+ when) it will arise. Gods watch over you, Gus

          • I have spent years making that argument and this is not the venue for them. I have mentioned some published articles and you are free to read them and then take up the debate with me after you have done so. My new book goes into these issues at great depth.

            If your argument is valid, then prove it here without telling others that they should line your pockets. Not only is that tacky, you’ve given those who are already sceptical of your arguments no reason to want to support you by buying a book you penned. Give them a reason to even want your gods-damned book, and maybe those who can afford it, will –don’t just sit there and shill when people are poking holes in your argument.

          • Northern Democrats outlawed segregation but allowed de facto economic segregation to continue, based on race, unabated.

            And in the city of Detroit, until the late 1960s, it was completely legal for neighbourhoods to run out Blacks and Jews.

            You can’t blame our broken political system on black people not giving enough support to the right white liberals. That’s insane, and you’re blaming the very people being crushed by the system that Liberalism is committed to perserving.

            Couldn’t agree more.

            Also, stop and frisk was enacted by a liberal mayor, and continues under the supervision of a liberal mayor.

            Knew that, too. But it seems Gus-Gus would still rather blame angry Black people and their anger.

          • You might want to take a look at northern cities and the suburbs and what the demographics are. For instance, you don’t live in Dorchester or Roxbury if you can help it. You instead go to Tewksbury, Haverhill, if you can afford it Newton.
            Likewise, in Jackson Ms, you don’t live in Jackson, you go if you can afford it to Madison, or Ridgeland. Failing that Brandon, Flowood, or Clinton or Pearl.

          • Well, see, when Gus-Gus loses interest in something, that means it’s “suffering”. See, whether a movement thrives or suffers rests solely on whether or not Gus-Gus is interested.

            Or so seems to be his argument. I may be wrong, but I’m usually not.

          • Is there a reason, other than disagreeing with his ideas, why all of your responses are so uniformly unpleasant? What are you hoping to accomplish with insult that you have not with reason, Ruadhan?

            I’ll spare you the effort of accusing me of tone policing because I identified what I take to be rudeness.

            In my opinion, the accusation of tone policing only applies when actual arguments are being advanced, and the identification of rudeness distracts from them. I don’t see that as relevant, here.

          • RudeOne is acting out an archetype, that of the smartest kid in the class. Ignore (or admire) the window dressing and go for the meaning.

          • It’s not in my job description to be pleasant. And no, you technically didn’t identify anything, you just decided to take an opportunity before the thread auto-closes in a few hours to ask me why I’m not “playing nice” (a paraphrasing), which is an inherently patronising thing to do –an action of one who presumes superiority and authority over another.

          • I disagree that the statements about Black power and feminism are “facts”. As someone who came of age with the rise of third-wave feminism, I would actually argue the opposite of what you said in regards to feminism. Feminism became much more relevant and meaningful once it rejected liberal concepts. And to say that Black power suffered because it turned on liberalism is an egregious oversimplification of a very complicated issue.

            I also do think that calling someone self-righteous serves no useful purpose. Critique words, not people.

          • Actually I wrote a chapter in my new book on the point you make first- that cultural feminism is a step forward from liberal feminism. I STRONGLY agree. Cultural feminism is very good at attacking the one sided masculinity that characterized, and still characterizes American society, as well as liberal feminism’s argument women should be equal in male terms. That need not make it anti-liberal. Charlene Spretnak is an example of a cultural feminist with radical politics who is not anti-liberal. When cultural feminism began to seem that way many women backed away from it, opening the door to the current war on women and, more precisely, the war on the feminine.

            The issue is complex enough that I suggest reading the chapter. If you cannot afford the book (under $19) contact me on Facebook and I’ll email you a PDF of the chapter, but it fits within a larger context the book makes clear, including how all this relates to Pagan religion. My offer holds for anyone reading this response. Just contact me.

            It would be useful if those attacking “liberalism” would be specific as to what they mean by the term. Since no one here has bothered to define liberalism, I will- it is the belief that the individual is the fundamental and basic moral unit in society. In many ways it starts with John Locke. From that insight comes the liberal doctrine of individual rights as well as more recent attempts to base liberalism in other ways, including my own. Liberalism encompasses a wide variety of views and liberals often disagree as to how to interpret this doctrine.

            Today in America liberalism is so taken for granted that many who call themselves ‘anti-liberal’ probably fit this doctrine. But the Christian right does not. Fascists and Nazis do not. NeoConfederates do not. Marxists do not. Corporatists do not. Nationalists do not. I would argue the ultra-egalitarians of the “Wiccan privilege” crowd are not liberal either- but that’s another discussion, one I covered at great length in Patheos.

            As to my calling Rhyd’s response self-righteous, if you read his response to Baruch you will notice he called liberals “condescending,” people who “drop morsels” for the oppressed to “struggle over.” No details are given and nothing Baruch said suggested such an attitude. I get really tired of pointless self righteousness against people who disagree with someone and suggest my description was appropriate.

            I do not call you self-righteous because you give arguments and refrain from insults.

          • I agree with your definition of liberalism, and although I don’t want to speak for the author, I’m pretty sure that’s the general definition of liberalism that is being referred to in this article. LIberalism is the belief that everyone has a general right to life, liberty, and property. It’s that third piece that puts liberals at odds with radicals, even though they have similar ethical beliefs in many other areas. I agree that many people who consider themselves “anti-liberal” still fit the definition of liberal, and I agree with you about who doesn’t fit the definition.

            Personally, I do think that especially as far as the average “liberal” in America is concerned, they are usually rather condescending people who drop morsels for the oppressed to struggle over, and I didn’t read that as an insult, only an observation that fits with my personal experience. But experience comes from the perspective of that person struggling over that morsel, and I’ve never in my life ever identified as a liberal, so I can see how it could be taken as insulting from someone on the other side, especially one who does not act in accordance with that description.

          • Thanks Alley. We may have taken this about as far as we can right now, but I want to explore the property issue. Liberalism has defended property in two ways. First, I mix my labor with something (the Lockean definition). The implications of this are in my view actually pretty radical.

            The liberal J. S. Mill argued for worker control- on liberal principles of personal development and enrichment. He got there through utilitarianism, but you could get there via Locke as well.

            Second, property preserves freedom in the sense that a person who owns their means of production is able to say no to the powerful. This also has implications quite different from what most think about property and liberalism today.

            If you read my book you know I argue liberalism fell on hard times for many reasons, and today its three dominant schools are all inadequate to the task of preserving freedom and prosperity. But the solution is to better understand liberalism and, VERY importantly, integrate it with the rest of the world, rather than simply attacking it in the name of some vague ‘radicalism.” That is one area where we Pagans have much to offer and teach the broader society- and to a degree most miss, we already are.

          • I can see a certain validity in the idea that one “owns” what they work, if they actively working and/or occupying it, and not displacing another by doing so, but its also very problematic in application. Locke was definitely radical for his day, and the implications of that idea “can” be radicalizing, but that same doctrine is also how we settled the West. Personally, I’m more of a fan of Rousseau’s thoughts on property rights than Locke’s. I don’t believe property to be a natural right, and the way in which our society holds the right to property to be on the same level as liberty and life has lead to much deprivation of the latter in the name of the former and furthers the oppression of many for the benefit of the few. I sure don’t think Locke would have approved of how we understand and exercise property rights in the modern era. Especially when you look at his ideas in their historical context, he was strongly advocating against the idea of landlords or the accumulation of property. Although I will say that if we had stuck to Locke’s original parameters regarding the limits of property ownership and still exercised them in the modern area, we’d be much better off than we are now.

            I haven’t read your book, although I would like to at some point. I understand liberalism quite well, perhaps too well, hence why I am so critical of it. I don’t have any real interest in integrating liberalism in with the rest of the world… frankly, the idea kinda horrifies me. You see liberalism as inadequate to the task of preserving freedom and prosperity, and while I agree that is inadequate to that task, I also don’t think that specific task you cite (and everything tucked into it) should be the main focus. I’m not a would-be liberal “but for”… I truly don’t believe in it. Ideas such as “preserving freedom” ring quite hollow to me, especially expressed within a belief system that embraces property rights. I believe that true ‘freedom’ and property ownership are at odds… again, back to Rousseau. I also don’t think most understand what it means to be either free or not free at all, and we prop up the word” freedom” blindly as the ultimate objective while lacking the language or context to get to the root of any of those ideas beyond what is spouted out at us. I defer to Slavoj Žižek’s piece about not having any red ink, and in light of that I’m not going to throw all my energy into “preserving” some theoretical freedom (that realistically only the privileged truly have in the first place) in the face of mass suffering and oppression. I also don’t believe in “preserving prosperity” in the face of oppression. I’m much more a fan of redistributing “prosperity” than I am of preserving it. Nobody needs to be prosperous. Everyone needs to eat, however, and the more that one group prospers, the more that another group goes without.

            I do think that characterizing radicalism as “vague ” is inaccurate and prejudicial. “Radicalism” is anything but a singular doctrine, and while it is greatly varied it is anything but vague. If you don’t appreciate or agree with leftist ideas and critiques, that’s fine, but no need to be dismissive.

          • Alley-

            In my opinion Locke is often misread on property, but partly because he was not altogether clear himself. He included in
            “property” what we would call our “properties” such as our energy, intelligence, and knowledge. You write that the application of Locke’s ideas gets tricky, but not as much as you might think. Usually Biblical reasoning was used to steal and kill from Native Americans. By Lockean principles the Indians owned their land and were robbed of it.

            Property rights are definitely socially determined, and Locke’s rather Newtonian and pre-industrial view of the world hid that problem from him. I agree his natural right argument,based on his liberal Christianity, isn’t convincing to many, especially us. But there are other ways to a similar conclusion. Locke’s basic insight- that the authoritative rules in a society, including property rights, should be based on consent among equals stands. The alternative is to say that those you favor have the power/right to impose their views on those you do not.

            Liberalism never fully triumphed, and where it triumphed best it inherited hierarchical private authority relations and grave inequalities of property. When liberals denied these illiberal realities by keeping everything completely abstract their views became apologies for existing hierarchies, or at best making them less oppressive. When liberals were sensitive to these issues they often made proposals that sound incredibly radical today- like Mill’s advocacy of worker managed businesses.

            Against these kinds of ideas illiberal radicals advocated state socialism, which was worse than the disease, or anarchism, which avoided the hard questions, and still

            Integrating liberalism in with the rest of the more-than-human world is actually rather
            straight forward from a Pagan perspective. The basic move is the opposite of the animal rights argument that tries to expand the anthropocentric idea of rights to include some part of the living world. Instead, the hunting and gathering attitude of respect towards the world is the basic attitude appropriate to other beings, and rights are the form respect takes towards strangers who are equals.

            My academic argument to that effect is at
            They charge for the paper, so if you (or anyone else) do not have access to this scholarly site I’m happy to send it.

            You say that liberal freedom is not really freedom. If I am not free to say what I think is true, I am not free. If I am not free to practice the religion I am called to practice, I am not free. If I am not free to live my life according to what I think
            is appropriate, I am not free. These are liberal values, every one of them. In liberalism, private property is valuable only to the degree it serves these values. I know of no liberal who would disagree even though they will strongly disagree as to what forms it should take.

            How these freedoms can be maximized along with everyone else’s similar freedom is also a liberal value. It is difficult to solve, but some solutions are better than others. One solution is to maximize the role of consent in making decisions covering everyone.

            If you cannot give me reasons to change my views, reasons I can evaluate and test, and accept or reject, and if I reject them, have that rejection respected, but deny my freedom as defined above, you join the long list of self-appointed saviors who will change the rest of us to fit your personal model of what we should be (because that is exactly what it is). Khomeni, Pat Robertson, Pol Pot, Mao, Mussolini, Hitler, Franco, Trotsky, and Lenin, among many others, would
            agree. Many started out with humane intentions and none ended there.

            My book might also change your view of liberalism.

          • Gus wrote: “Lots of self-righteous rhetoric and a 100% absence of any concrete cases.”

            Not, “Rhyd, you are self-righteous.” Gus critiqued the words, not Rhyd himself..

          • You are correct in that he critiqued the words, and I should have been more careful in my language. However, even when one’s words are labeled self-righteous, its still an attack on the person and their disposition/intention instead of the ideas being put forth.

          • But there was nothing in his response to build a discussion on. That was the point of my dumping on him. It was an emotional blast lacking any concrete references, which some here seem to treat as the equivalent of a reasoned argument when they do it. I suppose it’s the post modern way.

          • You only think it’s “inaccurate” or “made-up” because you lack the experience to support its reality, and you offer only insults in a sophmoric rebuttal than a willingness to accept another’s experience as valid because it differs so greatly from your own, so somehow, you imagine that it cannot be.

            You really haven’t learned anything this last nine months, have you?

          • Aine, are you familiar with the story of “The Emperor’s New Clothes”? All Gus did was point out that Rhyd wrote in a particular manner – a manner that you believe shuts down conversation.

          • Yes. The difference being that I am referencing what you wrote without necessarily agreeing with it – but you stated it, so I say that you believe it.

          • No, actually that was , If you look at the citations in wiktionary, you’ll see that fauxpology primarily relies on redundancy for its effect.

            I was emphasizing that I was referencing a prior quote, and that people do not always believe what they state. She took umbrage at my wording – that she believed what she stated – and I apologized for it, albeit in a snarky manner.

            Not that I regard wiktionary OR wikipedia as authoritative sources, mind you, but it’s what you chose to quote.

  3. Rhyd: As a liberal, animist, anti-capitalist Pagan I have a number of disagreements with your analysis.

    I think you do not understand David Abram. See my review on Witches and Pagans of his second book
    In his second book Abram makes it abundantly clear that by no means can
    he be said to share a Western materialist or ‘capitalist’ point of view. In my review I wrote I thought he had pulled his punches in his first book, but the message was still there. He chose my review as the only one to have on the book’s website.

    I also think you misunderstand liberalism. Liberalism predated capitalism, and when it triumphed, more or less, in Britain and the US, pre-liberal authority relations were dragged into a different institutional environment, where they developed into capitalism. Liiberalism fractured in the 19th century into three broad groups: classical, managerial, and egalitarian. I explain that fracturing in some detail in my new book “Faultlines: the Sixties, the Culture War, and the return of the Divine Feminine.” Since it is the only book that is both explicitly Pagan and deals with these issues, I recommend it.

    If you read liberals at the time of the rise of capitalism, from J. S. Mill to Tocqueville, to many others, there is no celebration of capitalism as altogether good, far from it. And many liberals on the ‘left’ today are hardly cheerleaders for capitalism. One easy to access (and free) paper on this is one I wrote for the classical liberal oriented Independent Review. It does not mention Paganism however. You can download it for free at

    More proof this is so can be seen in the Mondragon worker cooperatives and
    similar organizations that are even more institutionally liberal
    because they abandoned the pre-liberal hierarchical authority relations the US and UK inherited (and were even stronger in less liberal European countries). The Mondragon cooperatives remain market enterprises, indeed from one perspective they are a libertarian dream even though libertarians are uninterested because they accept hierarchical authority in business. They are also very successful and have been for 50 years. BTW they are also
    expressions of Basque identity, and played a major role in
    establishing peace with considerable autonomy in the Basque region of
    Spain. So again, the broad brush painted of liberalism by post modern scholars is simply not true.

    That said, I really enjoyed your discussion of nationalism and Paganism. It’s a crucial issue, especially in Europe, and has serious potential of turning nasty if it looks backwards only, rejecting liberalism, as did many German NeoPagans in the 1920s and 30s.

    The whole relation of liberalism and Paganism is very important and few
    of us have been focused on the issue. I am glad you are but think you
    are too narrowly read on what liberalism is.

    • Regarding David Abram, one can *say* that they do not share a capitalist point of view, but saying that one isn’t a capitalist does not automatically insulate or prevent that person from expressing their thoughts and ideas with a colonialist mindset. Abram’s still guilty of the latter. I have plenty of friends that say that they don’t have a patriarchal mindset, but I still hear subtleties in their language all the time that suggests otherwise. There are often noticeable gaps between our beliefs and actions, and Abram is not immune from that tendency.

      • 1. What is a “capitalist point of view?”

        2. What is a “colonialist mindset?” They are different from a “capitalist mindset” by the way if by the latter you mean a businessman’s mindset, as British imperialism historically was pushed by conservatives and some Labour Party people (G. B. Shaw for example) and was opposed by the Liberal Party that represented the manufacturers.

        3. If you have read both of Abrams’ books you cannot rationally make the statement you are making. If you have read only the first, you are misinterpreting a passage that in the context of the book as a whole can be interpreted in other ways. In isolation the interpretation Rhyd gives could be reasonably made for, as I wrote and Abrams apparently agreed, he was pulling his punches to some degree in his first book. But it is only one possible interpretation of the first book and is impossible to justify after reading the second which is much more explicitly shamanic. (I think the first was based on his dissertation, which is why he has the chapter on Merleau Ponty that can be skipped and nothing lost.)

        If you have read neither book, why pick Rhyd’s interpretation based on possibly reading one book over mine based on reading both?

        • 1. “Capitalist point of view” was your phrase originally, for the record. I knew what you meant by it because I’m familiar with the book, although I would call it a more of a capitalist mindset. A capitalist mindset is when one is examining (insert subject here) through the lens of our current system as a default and/or when one regards capitalism as the only logical/rational/practical lens that one should be looking through.

          2. A “colonialist mindset” is different yet inter-related to a capitalist mindset. In short, its the idea that the cultures and beliefs of the indigenous, colonized, and/or any cultures that aren’t “modern” and “industrialized” are inferior to ours. I think Rhyd illustrates pretty accurately how this applies in Abram’s thinking. I want to make it clear that I think Abram’s work is overall quite brilliant and powerful, and its also important to point out that a colonialist mindset can be found everywhere you look, is very deeply woven into our language and society, and I’m not trying to crucify Abram for it. My point that was that even if one expressly rejects the ethics of capitalism or materialism, they can still be stuck in its language, tendencies, biases, etc.

          3. Yes, I’ve read both of Abram’s books, and I stand by what I said. I don’t critique things unless I actually know something about them. Again, I’m not going after Abram overall. One can be a stalwart anti-capitalist but still think and write with a colonialist mindset. I’ve seen it before, and I’ll surely see it again. I’m simply pointing out that it is a thing that exists.

          • Alley- With all due respect (for I like your work) I see no connection between my use of the words “capitalist point of view” and Abram’s thinking. None at all. Even when interpreted in purely secular terms his analysis of ants is not capitalst. A Marxist could make the same observation. And in his secind book he describes a shamanic practice that led him to see the world through the eyes of a raven flying over a Himalayan valley. I submit there is not a capitalist on this planet who regards that as even possible, and Abram regards it as important.

            I agree in general with what you say about the colonialist mindset, though it has NOTHING to do with capitalism per se. There were colonialists before capitalism, there have been capitalist colonialists, anti-capitalist colonialists (ask a Lithuanian) and probably capitalist anti-colonialists. Certainly many business people have been anti-colonialists.

            Abram is innocent based on my reading him, hearing him, and briefly talking with him. His message is the opposite. Those cultures are aware of and can do things ours cannot, and those things are extremely important. How that implies looking down on them in any way is beyond me.

            Yes, we have to think in the language and culture we inherit, and we can only free ourselves to some degree from it. That’s part of the human condition. But the critiques of colonialism and capitalism (in the special sense I use the term as different from just going into business) are actually not only a part of that same culture, they have liberal roots.

            My bias, and it is a very strong one, is that when making charges or in most cases defending against them, examples are necessary if we are to be taken seriously. Once an example exists we can evaluate it. Until then we are at sea. I am still at sea regarding how you make that case against Abram.

          • I didn’t say there was a connection between your use of the words “capitalist point of view” and Abram’s thinking. I was literally just quoting your line that you typed. You wrote, “In his second book Abram makes it abundantly clear that by no means can he be said to share a Western materialist or ‘capitalist’ point of view.” My point simply was that despite the fact that he may not share a capitalist point of view, he does operate with a colonialist mindset. I agree that a Marxist could make the same observation, although the Marxists that I spend time with are generally aware of the pervasiveness of a colonial mindset and many of them actively engage in decolonization.

            A colonialist mindset is very tied to capitalism. Its not the same thing, and yes there were colonialists and colonialism long before what we now know as “capitalism” existed, but certain notable characteristics of capitalism, especially labor and accumulation, have been tied into colonialism since the very beginning. Applying capitalist ideas of “value” and “worth” and “effectiveness” upon other cultures is all tied up in the colonial mindset.

            And yes, I consider capitalism very different from simply going into business. Capitalism is another one of those terms that has been so diluted that its lost its real meaning. The average American couldn’t actually explain capitalism if their life depended on it…

          • More importantly, his analysis of ants comes from a chapter that is starting point of a book that progresses both chronologically and philosophically. The conclusion of that inquiry (although I don’t think he revisits this passage) is a rejection of both dualism and non-spiritual materialism.

          • This is a catch-22. Certainly to say that other perspectives and cultures are inferior is colonialist. On the other hand, if you say that those cultures had superior ideas about how we live in a world filled with non-human beings, you’re also a colonialist.

            But Rhyd’s critique here isn’t just that Abrams is a weak anthropologist. It’s that he’s imposing a “Western materialist” view on the ant when Abrams explicitly rejects that view as correct or moral. The ants are beings and peers because that’s the nature of our relationship with them.

          • There is a middle path – difference is simply difference. Not inferior, not superior, just different.

          • Yes. My objection comes from the fact that the radical environmentalism movements of the kind that Abrams professes are different from either secular materialism, or religious divine provenance ideologies. The penultimate conclusion of Spell of the Sensuous is that air is being and has moral and ethical interests. This stands in direct contrast to the notion that air is a dead substance that’s useful for diluting waste to a level where it’s considered “non-toxic.”

            Weak anthropology is a dime a dozen in pagan circles, but I’m not certain that weak anthropology is enough to justify rejection of radical environmentalist, feminist, or queer theology.

  4. I’m a Liberal Independent and I also feel that one can practice Capitalism as well as Socialism, in different situations, in different contexts. I want to make money and I want to share my resources, both. Also, I find allies everywhere, not just in the Liberal camp. Perhaps they won’t be my allies in EVERYTHING, but I will work with those who are willing to work with me. I don’t understand how you believe that Liberals want to erase ethnic and cultural diversity! As a Liberal, I treasure diversity. But even I have Conservative tendencies sometimes; as a Pagan, I like to go back to our Ancestors and glean their practical ways of living. Combining the best of the old with the best of the new seems to work best. I don’t disagree with your political identification; however, I believe it’s possible to work together for the good of all, according to free will. Would you consider me an enemy?

  5. It’s an interesting set of observations, most of which I agree with, but your closing suggestion of developing a Pagan identity/nationalism/separatism outside or against the capitalist paradigm is a very tall order. I hope you follow this up with ongoing and deeper exploration of this idea, because this is where it really gets down to brass tacks. After an admittedly superficial analysis of the idea, I see two main paths for radical separatist movements of any kind. One, you take on the offending overculture/system with the idea of reforming it or sweeping it away. It can work and has worked in certain instances of civil rights struggles, ethnic identity etc. It worked in part in these instances because the targeted ideology/system of oppression, while deeply ingrained, were not really supporting walls or the foundation of the world order itself. The powers that be could afford to let those things tumble under the weight of popular sentiment and determined activists. What you’re proposing, however, goes to the very heart of the world order and its organizing principles of economies and political systems. The 1 percenters are of course enormously invested in these underlying assumptions about production and value, and 99% of the 99% have been trained from birth to accept them, though they may grumble about the terms from time to time. Movements which challenge this at the fundamental level – Occupy, etc., are quickly marginalized, criminalized and even targeted as terrorism. The forces at play also tend to radicalize all sides into the sorts of fascism you rightly fear.

    The other main model of separatism is, of course, separtism itself – total or near-total disengagment in intentional communities such as communes or something like the Amish model. They have advantages and shortcomings. At their best, they reject the assumptions and values of capitalist wage slavery and the credit trap. They can also impose sharp limits on individualism and can perpetuate the patriarchy and other forms of oppression of the overculture. There is also the practical matter that not everyone is suited or inclined to a life of subsistence agriculture or the rigors of rural isolation. Maintaining the cohesiveness and isolation of these communities is also very difficult in the age of social media.

  6. “…we Pagans have been particularly guilty of this, voraciously purchasing books on native beliefs, adopting identities and practices as if every belief is merely something to be bought.”

    This, to me, is the most unpleasant aspect of Paganism. It is the idea of “if it is out there, it is fair game”.

    The second most unpleasant aspect of Paganism is the rest of this conversation – politics. I am a fan of secular authority – that is to say that I would rather that those in positions of power do not favour any particular religious ideology when making decisions that affect the society I (have to) live within.

    To be a political Pagan is to say that you would like to see a theocracy based on your particular religious views. When people can’t even agree on what Paganism as a word means, having that as a political force just doesn’t bear thinking about.

    • “To be a political Pagan is to say that you would like to see a theocracy based on your particular religious views.”

      That seems like a pretty huge leap to me. One’s religious thinking may heavily involve a system of ethics and values, and one’s political thinking is grounded on a system of ethics and values. I never quite understand how people manage to have the two not overlap. To pull back from saying that everyone’s religious beliefs should be governed by your politics, yes, I think that’s wise, because not everyone is going to come to the same political conclusions even if they share the same or similar system of ethics and values (and Paganism-as-umbrella wide, we don’t). To not have the two end up with a lot of fuzzy edges within yourself, though, is pretty alien to me.

      So I’d say I’m a political Pagan (to the degree that I’d say I’m Pagan at all anymore, but that’s beside the point) but not that I have any desire to see any form of theocracy. I find seeing how people’s politics intersects their Paganism fascinating, whether or not I agree with it, because it gets out of the airy-fairy realms of pure theology and into the nitty-gritty of “yes, but how does it impact our actual life?”

    • To take your second point first, some honorable Pagans work full time to get Pagan emblems on government gravestones, to promote Pagan chaplaincies in the military, hospitals and prisons. It’s hard to say that isn’t political Paganism, but it’s a far cry from a call for theocracy.”If it is out there” it is part of common human heritage. The ethical question is whether one treats the latest conservator of “it” with respect. I knew a mostly-White guy who chose to follow his Native American ancestry. He did not “buy” it. He was inspired to follow a path and made it a discipline. Calling it “fair game” is simply pejorative rhetoric. (You will not be surprised to learn I also disagree with Rhyd’s assessment of Joseph Campbell.)

      • When they promote Pagan chaplaincies or symbols on grave markers, they show a level of favouritism, rather than asking for *all* faiths to represented equally.

        If the guy sank himself into that culture, I see no issue. That is cultural assimilation, not appropriation. However, when I see people talking about how their Runic Tarot allowed them to channel the Archangel Gabriel during the full moon of Imbolc, I’m more inclined to disgruntlement. Respect involves context. Most syncretisms lack that context.

        • Second para: agree.
          First para: Again, I don’t understand how you got there from what he said. It’s favoritism to advocate for a slice of the pie for your own? Say what now?
          Favoritism= We run this, anyone else gets token representation and we come first always.
          What’s actually going on=If this system (gravestone symbols, chaplaincy) really is supposed to represent everyone under it, we should be represented too.

          If everyone or almost everyone else has already got representation, how is it favoritism to ask for some for you?

          • It’s down to wording.

            Rather than campaigning for a specific symbol to be allowed on a military grave, surely it would be more balanced to campaign for *any* symbol to be allowed on a military grave?

          • It might be more balanced, but less practical, and more open to attack by people who don’t want the symbols expanded at all. But hey, no one’s stopping you from leading a movement to do it. (Well, actually, the legal system might because it might not agree that there is a broad controversy here; courts tend to construe narrowly in decisions and in accepting cases.)

            I couldn’t locate the case documents available freely on the web, so I downloaded the original complaint so you can see how difficult the legal process is for even one symbol. You can download the .pdf from

          • Rather than campaigning for a specific symbol to be allowed on a
            military grave, surely it would be more balanced to campaign for *any*
            symbol to be allowed on a military grave?

            Having known one of the men whose family fought to get the pentacle on his grave, I can tell you it wasn’t, at the time, possible for it to be done in the ideal manner you would have liked: the requirement was that there must be a SPECIFIC dead veteran, for whom the applicants were trying to get a specific emblem.

            They could not apply to get the system changed to allow any applicant the right to get any emblem, with the way the regulations were written (and under “continuing revision” for years) at the time.

            In recent research when looking into DVA headstones when my father passed, it appears the restrictions may have been eased to allow any symbol to be chosen, but I could be incorrect.

            However, at the time of the SGT Stewart and PFC Kooiman families’ lawsuits, what you propose was not possible.

          • The campaign was against the VA. The Va pays to have symbols put on the grave. The symbol would have been allowed but the family would have had to pay for it. The VA only pays for symbols that have a historical basis to them, and didn’t recognize the pentacle, thus the lawsuit.

        • Military Chaplains in the United States represent ALL faiths in the military.

      • I knew a mostly-White guy who chose to follow his Native American
        ancestry. He did not “buy” it. He was inspired to follow a path and made
        it a discipline. Calling it “fair game” is simply pejorative rhetoric.

        If you can’t see the difference between this man you speak of, and every Paleface McHonkeywhite running toward the “now hip thing” of African Diaspora religions a few years ago, or Chinese folk religion in the 1990s, or Native Americans in the 1970s/80s…. Then you’re part of the problem. There is a HUGE difference between actually engaging a culture on its own terms, and a sudden rash of the “hip ethnic ‘paganism’ of the day” books making sweeting, homogenising, authoritative statements.

        (You will not be surprised to learn I also disagree with Rhyd’s assessment of Joseph Campbell.)

        No, it’s not, but it’s still disappointing. Joseph Campbell and the continued reverence given to his hackneyed ideas is one of the biggest problems in the pagan community, today.

        • It isn’t just the “hipster” issue, it is also the “pick-and-mix” problem.

          You know, the whole “runic tarot” bullshit, or the trying to change a god(dess) to fit an agenda.

          A.K.A. A complete lack of respect for the source material.

          • You seem to approach cultural mythos as cast in concrete, ignoring that they have evolved over time, including borrowing from each other. What is so special about our moment in time, that folkways must cease to evolve and be preserved in amber as they appear in that particular moment?

          • Appeal to tradition:

            Please explain, since you’re apparently asserting that it is, *why*, exactly, “the way it’s always been done” is best, versus the proposed method of respect, self education, and cultural engagement. You’re also erecting strawmen: No-one has once said that this point in time is somehow special, nor even that cultures should stay as they are, now. Indeed, I think that the cultural tendencies of “borrowing” can only be strengthened by an approach of respect to and engagement of the cultures from where the borrowed item, etc…, came from –cultures will still borrow and lend, as they always have, but this time from a place of respect, rather than the old model, which was based on colonialism and bred disrespect for the colonised / conquered cultures by attempts to surpress the indigenous cultures (see any real history on Native Americans), taking what “looks neat” and ignoring the cultural context in what it’s used (like that fad of dreamcatcher earrings through the mid-1990s –which has been invading Hot Pocket in malls all over [puke]), and / or editing, watering down, or just plain missing some integral components of the indigenous cultures concepts and mythologies to “fit in” with their conquerors’ ideas, when in reality, that’s not what it is (like how most Westerners liken “karma” to “the Law of Cause and Effect” or “Threefold Return”, when the former is only an element of what Karma is, and the latter actually completely misses the point of what “Karma” actually is).

            So please, explain how the tradition *you’re* preaching is somehow inherently better –and pro tip, “because that’s just what people have always done” is not an acceptable answer.

          • My point is, Leoht is saying, by inference, that cultures should be frozen in amber and that this moment in time is special because it’s moment we apply the freeze. I am not appealing to tradition; the most you can accuse me of is the naturalistic fallacy, that something is good because it’s the way things are.IMHO the way things are is that the true uniqueness of this moment is a stupendous ferment in the evolution of traditions, reminiscent of moments in the fossil record when myriad life forms spring into evidence in a short period of time. It’s so bedazzling we lose track that it’s really just a unique acceleration of the processes of cultural evolution as they have always unfolded. That’s easy to miss if one is unaware of that process, which I think Leoht is.Leoht, of course, has a perfect right to be irked by the process, but that does not translate into a platform to rightfully put down the people doing it. I’m not going to embrace the runic tarot, but I do entertain the possibility that it’s the sport that gives rise to a sturdy new genus.

          • My point is, Leoht is saying, by inference, that cultures should
            be frozen in amber and that this moment in time is special because it’s
            moment we apply the freeze.

            So much wrong with what you’ve said…

            1: No, actually, by inference YOU’RE assuming what he said. Please, cite what exactly he said that makes you draw such inference, and I can explain to you how you’re actually wrong.

            2: He never actually said what you inferred. I can even prove it to you.

            I am not appealing to tradition; the most you can accuse me of is the
            naturalistic fallacy, that something is good because it’s the way things

            In which case, you’d still need to actually support why “the way things are” is good, if you want your position to be taken seriously by those who have explained many times over why “the way things are” is not good.

            It’s so bedazzling we lose track that it’s really just a unique
            acceleration of the processes of cultural evolution as they have always
            unfolded. That’s easy to miss if one is unaware of that process, which I
            think Leoht is.

            No, I think Leoht is quite aware of the phenomenon you speak of, but you still haven’t actually made a valid argument as to why “what has always been” is necessarily “good enough” to just live and let live. Please. I’m sure I’m not the only one who is waiting.

          • If you can’t see prima facie the inference I pointed to, I doubt I can explain it to you.The way things are is that cultures evolve. It’s neither good nor bad, but it certain is what happens.As to what Leoht is aware of, I’m sure he can speak on his own behalf if he chooses.

          • > If you can’t see prima facie the inference I pointed to, I
            > doubt I can explain it to you.

            No, I saw the alleged implication you referred to, but the fact of the matter is, you’re clearly not as bright as you fancy yourself, so the inference you drew is coming from your own baggage brought to the table.

          • It may appear so, but it isn’t.

            Cultures evolve, but what some people are trying to do is create entirely new ones by mashing disparate (and largely incompatible) aspects of various cultures together in one chimeric whole and then demanding that the people who follow the source cultures suck it up and accept it.

            Which is arrogant at best.

          • People who follow the source cultures always have the choice of doing so “the way it’s always been done.” They do have to accept the presence of variants in the same world, which can be irksome but is the dues we all pay to live in a society that tolerates minorities. To be quite clear, I am not tolerant of those who rip off an aspect of a culture and make money off it through the pretense of offering something authentic to the original. That’s fraud.

          • Making money off it doesn’t concern me. What concerns me is the flagrant lack of respect that certain fucktards (as polite as I can mange on the subject) mash together completely different ideologies in the hope that they will somehow stick together. Just because they look pretty.

            I, for example, am a Heathen. A follower and practitioner of Germanic pre-Christian spirituality and philosophical world view.

            That said, I do not sacrifice people, even though my forebears did.

            That is evolution.

            Mixing the concept of Ƿyrd with the concept of Karma and applying a Christian world view is just bullshit and I will call anyone out who misuses a Heathen concept in such an ignorant fashion.

          • Oh, agreed, the underlying lack of respect is the bigger problem –I was just attempting to illustrate the difference between engaging and assimilating into a culture versus jumping on a bandwagon because Pagan Media has decided “oh, hey, did you remember Polynesian gods, like, exist and stuff? Let’s use these deity names, too! It’s all just names! And while we’re at it, all Polynesian tribes should be made the same and so should their god be presented as a single pantheon.”

        • I do indeed know the difference. I was not sure that Rhyd did, which is what happens when someone paints with overly broad strokes (hint, hint).

  7. “But this isn’t a screed against cultural appropriation. We all know it’s wrong, if we’ve even had the briefest of conversations with a person from a subjugated culture.”

    Well, if it’s not a screed – at least in part – against “cultural appropriation”, it sure looks like one. “We all know it’s wrong”? What is the proper culture for each of us, especially from a Pagan viewpoint?

    I live in what is now called the State of New Jersey, in the United States of America. The Land, the Earth, that I walk upon was the land that Spoke to the Lenni Lenape peoples about 400 years ago. In the matter of Earth, is my appropriate culture that of the Land I walk upon, though I know practically nothing about it?

    My mighty Ancestors come from Eire, from Eire via Newfoundland, and from Lietuva. Do I base my proper culture upon my Ancestors? And if so, which ones? Do I include the Peoples that walked upon the lands of Newfoundland as well – noting that Newfoundland culture differs somewhat from that of Ireland?

    My patrilineal name is an Ellis Island corruption of my Lithuanian name. Many people assume I’m Italian or Hispanic because Dzialtvo (dih-ZHALT-vuh) somehow became Deltuvia. Lithuania long maintained its Pagan roots against the onslaught of Christianity, and when it regained its freedom from the USSR, its first modern President proclaimed it to be a Pagan nation.

    I tend to be brash. As the purveyors of televised comedy would have it, that is the definition of the culture of New Jerseyans (and our Governor is reinforcing that cultural image.)

    Peoples move. Cultures combine – if they are not deliberately destroyed (cf. Deut. 7:1-5 for an example of Judaic commands to deliberately commit cultural genocide against non-Judaic Semitic cultures.)

    And the N.A. First Nations are learning the modern European-modeled Capitalist culture, and incorporating it into their culture, quite well – as was seen just a couple of weeks past in the US Supreme Court decision Michigan v. Bay Mills Indian Community, et. al ( .) Is Bay Mills appropriating European-based culture? I don’t think so. I think culture constantly blends and merges as peoples interact and come together.

    I think that the author makes a lot of assumptions in the entire piece, and would have done better to take a piece at a time over a series of months.

    • If you know nothing of the culture of the land you walk on, perhaps you should investigate it.

      • I did not say “nothing”, I said “practically nothing”. Direct interaction is often difficult, although I have attended a couple of regional gatherings of the Lenni Lenape and talked to some of them. I also have a small medicine bag that one of them suggested I purchase.

        Books are suspect, as they are usually written from a point of view which is not nativist. I tentatively conclude that the Lenni Lenape of the modern era view the best survival of their practices via oral and not written tradition, even if others write things that are not accurate.

          • The sources are there — I’m a neighbor of Steward’s in Pennsylvania, and I know NJ as well as a non-resident can know it — and one can hear echoes of the stories the Lenni Lenape tell as one walks there… but they are echoes, not the original “voices” for a very good reason. We have changed the land to suit us, we newcomers and conquerors (I intend no ire here), and it in turn has adapted to us in some ways.

            We can connect to the land, even experience similarly to how our predecessors did, but it can never be the same as they did.

          • Obviously there will be differences, times and people change. However, you’d think getting to know the local cultures and customs would make sense.

            If nothing else, I imagine it contains useful nuggets of information about such things as local ecology and spirits (including their names and how to show them respect).

          • Newcomers — this being my experience as one myself, being the child of immigrants — will tend to see those they intend to displace as nuisances rather than sources of useful information. I don’t mean to imply that my parents saw themselves that way (a long story completely of this topic, sorry), but I watched my new neighbors in many places in which we resided ignore what seemed obvious to me (and to you as you indicate).

            Case in point: one of my junior high school history teachers lovingly and painstakingly helped author a book about our township’s history, one dating back to a William Penn charter. I and my mother read it avidly, then were amazed at how few of our neighbors, especially those whose family history was documented in the book, had any clue about what was revealed in it.

          • My youngest recently had a “Wild West Day” at his primary school. The idea was to dress up and have some fun. We got him an “Indian” costume – not enough time to research and make him a proper, traditional outfit of one of the First Nations tribes – and hit the library to get him several books on the subject.

            Suffice to say that, when he turned up at school, he had enough information (bearing in mind he is seven, and lives an ocean away) to talk about how the native peoples were persecuted by the European invaders.

            My point being that I know where you are coming from, and am not about to support the interlopers.

        • That is one way of looking at it, but that is a world denying one.

          Culture is what happens when people interact with their environment (including other people).

          To presume that one culture can be transplanted from one location to a completely different one without glaring problems is to be extremely naive (or arrogant).

  8. Oh Well, we all can’t be members of the “Royals” ( the mafia).

  9. “Here, I’d refer also to recent backlash against polytheistic beliefs within
    Paganism–one can believe in gods, provided one does not really act as if
    they exist.” Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. But this is not merely a Pagan failing, nor a liberal one; my fellow Republicans are much more likely to look at me askance for believing that ANY god exists than for believing in many of them.

  10. I take the pagan principle of balance between diverse powers into politics. I’m pro-market pro-tax pro-government pro-welfare pro-tradition pro-culture pro-identity pro-family pro-marriage pro-prosperity pro-society. These are all good things until they damage other good things. So I consider myself moderately capitalist, moderately liberal, moderately traditionalist. Most of all, though, I am pro-world. I am in the world, of the world, for the world.

    Still, I think it’s Christian theology, not capitalism, that disenchants. If I’d appropriate from anywhere it’d be from Japan, a modern prosperous capitalist country where “place” is still enchanted and that enchantment is recognised at the deep conservative roots of the culture.

  11. I disagree about how problematic Abrams’ is. I also chafed at that example, *and also* thought it kind of cool. I was pleased that he didn’t just outright dismiss the experience! Sure, scraps from the table and all. but I wasn’t reading Abrams as if he was a Pagan, and I don’t think his flaws undermine the brilliance of other pieces of his work.

    However, as an example it hit home, particularly with the rest of the piece. (There was one specific bit I wanted to quote and address, but I can’t find it. I blame squirmy baby.) I would like to think that I am clued in about a number of -isms, from a variety of angles. But I have found myself dumbstruck at my own ineptness wading in colonialist waters recently. Disentangling ourselves from hegemonic thinking is the work of a lifetime.

    I support what you’re getting at, even as I am guilty of it. That said, I think this article could be longer and simpler. You’ve packed A LOT of ideas and criticisms into this! Also, there are a few places where I’m not sure if you’re referring to American liberalism or European liberalism – they’re not quite the same thing.

    • In other conversations, Rhyd has admitted that he hasn’t read Abrams past the opening chapters, which since the book progresses chronologically and philosophically from early encounters with other worldviews through the observation that they have radically different views of being, space, and time, finally ending up at a radical rejection of capitalism and the notion of “natural resources,” is a pretty big mistake. The ultimate conclusion is that those beings have inherent autonomy/agency. While Abrams work has flaws, support of capitalism or any positivist description of the non-human are not among them.

      • I finished Abrams, by the way. Barely. I had to keep retrieving it from having thrown it hard against the wall. The only other book I’ve had this problem with was Orson Scott Card’s Pastwatch.
        The book gets worse, not better. When he starts talking about the alphabet, I’m pretty certain I screamed very, very loudly.

        • Then you should critique his bad anthropology rather than invent bullshit.

  12. I mean you no offense, Rhyd, but your political disection may fit England, but as a Witch and Priestess in this land of many faiths, while we may indeed still struggle against the Abrahamic tapitalist regime which sorely inflicts a class system upon us, we are not still the Colonies. Although many others have dissected your article and replied with the necessary jargon, we Pagans, Heathens, Druids work together for the greater good, and our cities are so very integrated that rather than having any condescension towards the ways of other cultures, we celebrate our diversity, although there are always the intolerant racists who usually hate on principle rather than loose their fear of racial assimilation in a land of not just mostly white men speaking up anymore .

    I would say more, but you’ve taken upon yourself a sociocultural morass worthy of a deTocqueville trilogy, and Gus, Baruch, and others could discuss your often strident proclamations for ages, although I kenned why it was posted that your work here does not seem to invite discussion.

    Just a comment, a stone to ripple the pond between us. Our countries are quite different. Come for a journey sometime across this beauteous land which yes was genocidally ripped off, and not by my poor immigrant grandparents…although having pale skin makes me ever aware of the horrors inflicted on the beautifully painted rainbow of humanity. And as I am a disablrd, silver-haired woman, as well as part of other marginalized subsets, I also have lived among more of the marginalized than many. But I have faith, know that the God/desses are real, and believe that our love for the Gods outweighs artifice, class, color. In that, we are an honest powerful tool in this country for reemerging, growing, deeply devotional religions.
    I ask forebearance for any repition of other comments, but She bade me speak.

    All else, in the end, is dross.
    In Their Service
    Lady Pythia

    • I think that, a lot of the time, Pagans, Heathens, Druids, etcetera, argue about what the greater good is, rather than working together for it.

      I also don’t see our cities as that integrated, either. They are full of the kind of division that foments gang culture, alienation and ghettoism.

      • In the larger cities, yes, but not necessarily the smaller.And I believe that through venues such as these we have the opportunity to remind each other of the importance of our common ground vs. divisiveness of -ists and -isms.

        • I live in a town of roughly 45,000, in the county of Wiltshire. I even see it here.

          Hel, I even saw it when I lived in a sleepy little town of 2,000 in Dorset’s Blackmore Vale.

          Cities are counter-productive to community. I say this as a staunch advocate of devolution, regionalism and Dunbar’s Number.

          As to common ground, what common ground do most minority religions really have, beyond being a minority?

          • [W]hat common ground do most minority religions really have, beyond being a minority?That’s plenty, in real life. Minority religions have in common that they are in constant threat of being marginalized further by the local Abrahamic flavor.

          • Yes, it does, if it touches on the matter of continued free existence in a larger society.

          • One of us is up too late following the Internet, and I don’t think it’s me.

          • If you had experience with the interfaith communities in America I think you would not write this.

          • I was referring to interfaith work pretty obviously. Maybe religious people are different in the UK?

          • Most likely. The cultural differences between our two parts of the world are pretty significant. It’s a geographical thing.

            I was responding to a comment that specifically discussed the English context, not the colonial diaspora.

          • Lēoht, it is more accurate to our present context — and yes, I agree with your point even while raising a semantics objection — to state that “cities are more often than not counter-productive to community.” In case anyone is not clear, that’s my reiteration of the original phrase.

            My local rebuttal is here in Philadelphia, as much a living remnant of the British culture as can be found on our side of the pond. Philly is a city of communities by organic evolution. The original settlement is very small by comparison, and the rest of the city was absorbed over time as outlying settlements that joined the fold, as it were, rather than remain independent municipalities. They retain their original names in common and continuing use: Germantown, Mt. Airy, Queen Village, Bellavista, Spruce Hill, Manayunk, and many more.

            I don’t deny the main point. We have examples of those destructive symptoms as well: Kensington, Osage (location of the MOVE fire), Powelton Village (location of the first MOVE incident in which a Philly cop was killed).

          • You spin my phrase 180 by adding the negative qualifier, and then proceed to demonstrate my point.

            As Philadelphia has expanded, it has absorbed local communities, but they have strived to retain their original identity – that is to say that they have rejected the “big community” of the city, in favour of a smaller unit.

            Further, by putting together so many people into such small spaces, the feelings of alienation and loneliness are magnified.

            Nothing like being surrounded with strangers with whom you have nothing in common to make someone feel completely alone.

          • No spin was intended. I apologize for giving you that impression.

          • No offence taken, it is all good debate.

            I just re-read what you stated, and I misread it the first time.

            I saw “cities are more often than not counter-productive to community.” but read it as “Cities are not counter-productive to community”.

            That should teach me to read more carefully when in debate. But, let’s face it, I probably won’t and will likely end up making a fool of myself many more times. :p

          • Didn’t Obi-wan Kenobi say something about fools? I’d say you and I are in very good company here. 😀

            There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that your statement is valid and too often proven on the ground. Cities were never directly intended to be livable, just convenient and profitable for those who needed a readily available workforce. Philadelphia, I would suggest, is an exception that proves the rule, in that later arrivals worked hard to minimize or mitigate the negative effects. This was reflected in a transportation evolution that began in the 70s with the announcement that the southern boundary of the original settlement, South St., would be essentially buried under a cross-town highway. Properties were sold or abandoned, but at one point the governing powers that be realized it just wouldn’t work. Community minded people — artists, young adults with or planning to have children — quickly moved in on insane real estate bargains and created what we have today: the most eclectic collection of businesses and stable residential neighborhoods since the heyday of Greenwich Village.

            We still have a thriving Italian Market, since expanded by Vietnamese immigrants. The garment district still boasts several businesses established a century or more ago. The entire history from William Penn through the present is a living entity there. The energy is subtle but profound to my senses, and I recently moved there. There’s only one other section of the city I’d rather be in.

    • I mean you no offense, Rhyd, but your political disection may fit
      England, but as a Witch and Priestess in this land of many faiths…

      Rhyd is American, and he lives in the States.

  13. The comments here are all kinda messy, and so it’s a bit difficult to track precisely where each criticism begins and ends, and I spent most of the day with my lover showing him a river and introducing him to trees and then went to work and on my way home took care of a crow with a broken wing who let me hold him for a little while. So, I apologize for the delay and will try to address several arguments at
    once in this comment.

    Firstly, to address the suggestion that I am conflating American Liberalism and European Liberalism: I am a Marxist and an Anarchist, and critique Liberalism from that direction. By Liberalism I mean both the Enlightenment project, JS Mill sort (whose work is wildly popular amongst libertarians for a reason), the American Progressive sort, and the various configurations within European political parties. While they certainly differ, they all share one specific trait—the advancement of society through governmentally-granted “rights” and the practical continuation of the Capitalist system, though obstensibly a nicer variety. “Green” Capitalism, mixed economies, and the Human Rights charters are all Liberal projects, concessions towards criticisms of Hegemonic Capitalist rule without ever allowing the actual substance of those critiques to change anything.

    Here’s how the process works. Radicals point out that the system is oppressive. No one listens. Radicals get angry and start fomenting discontent. Conservatives demand an iron fist. Liberals offer a sallow alliance and tiny adjustments to the system, just enough to make everyone feel like things have changed though nothing really has, because Liberalism is founded upon the continuation of Capitalism.

    Worse, they use the threat of conservatives and fascists to show that liberalism is the only option. This happens equally in America (with our two-party system) and in Europe, where Liberals (typically Democratic Socialist parties, like the SPD in Germany or New Labor in England) continuously weaken labor unions, engage in violent wars, push for “free” markets in South America and elsewhere (and destroy their economies), while doling out tiny bits of rights to the people they govern. NAFTA, the IMF, the World Bank and the WTO are all great examples of Liberal Capitalist projects.

    I must say that Gus’s suggestion that Black Nationalists and other minority groups failed because they didn’t court Liberal (in America—white Democrats) alliances
    not only horribly wrong, but it’s precisely what Liberalism is about. It’s the “house slave” dilemma all over again—if Blacks (or First Nations, or Queers, or immigrants, or the homeless or poor or subjugated nations) act nicely and follow the rules and act all proper for their superiors, maybe they’ll get to learn to read and go to church on Sunday. This isn’t just my critique…for the love of all the gods, read any one of the hundreds of under-read Black or Post-Colonial writers on this subject. Or, better, ask Fred Hampton of the Black Panthers…oh, wait. He was murdered.

    Emancipatory uprisings didn’t fail because they didn’t court the white political majority, they failed because they were a danger to society and were firebombed, infiltrated, arrested, slaughtered, vilified on the news, and utterly ignored by Liberals who refused to ally with them unless they changed their agendas to make things more palatable. I’d also remind folks that many of these things happened at the behest of Liberal governments. And anyone who thinks that Martin Luther King Jr. was the better way forward should remember—he was murdered just after he started giving speeches against Capitalism. That is, just at the point that his message really started to threaten the establishment.

    I’ll ignore statements that I use self-righteous rhetoric and am attempting to “impress people as confused as you are,” because those are just silly and remarkably unbecoming of those who make them. It’s getting difficult to ignore constant belittling of certain other people though—please kindly refrain from doing so here.

    And another word of clarification–there seems to be some confusion. I am American and live by a really cool little creek in Eugene, Oregon.

    • Thanks for your clarification, Rhyd. As an Elder, I’ve used a lot of tactics (camping out in a protest, living simply on the land, etc.) along the way…I suggest you listen to the stories of Elders for ways to avoid some of the pitfalls of simply being “against.” The part of your article that interested me the most was:

      “What I saw in visions the night atop that Druidic site seemed related to the same question I have for the future of Pagan identity. A figure dressed in sea-foam hurriedly showed me how to build a fortification around a Pagan temple, and seemed impatient that I hadn’t already learned to do this.”

      Many of us have been doing this for a while…and I think you would enjoy learning about these….like here:

      “Battle for the Trees” by Merrick

      I thank you for sharing your perspective!!!

      I saw in visions the night atop that Druidic site seemed related to the
      same question I have for the future of Pagan identity. A figure dressed
      in sea-foam hurriedly showed me how to build a fortification around a
      Pagan temple, and seemed impatient that I hadn’t already learned to do
      this. – See more at:
      I saw in visions the night atop that Druidic site seemed related to the
      same question I have for the future of Pagan identity. A figure dressed
      in sea-foam hurriedly showed me how to build a fortification around a
      Pagan temple, and seemed impatient that I hadn’t already learned to do
      this. – See more at:
      I saw in visions the night atop that Druidic site seemed related to the
      same question I have for the future of Pagan identity. A figure dressed
      in sea-foam hurriedly showed me how to build a fortification around a
      Pagan temple, and seemed impatient that I hadn’t already learned to do
      this. – See more at:

    • Not even close to my argument, but sadly that is what I now expect from you because wild generalizations seem to substitute for careful analysis. Sort of like the ‘anarcho left’ version of FOX News.

      Again, you demonstrably don’t really know much about liberalism. One simple example. If you knew much about either you’d know that J.S. Mill has repeatedly been attacked by libertarians as the major liberal who began selling out (their own fantasy of) liberalism to “the State.”

      The one essay by Mill that many libertarians like, “On Liberty,” defends freedom of speech. Perhaps as an ‘anarchist’ you have difficulties with freedom of speech?

      Mill was also a major proponent of worker controlled enterprises remarkably like the Mondragon worker cooperatives in Spain and elsewhere. So can I assume you oppose worker controlled enterprises and capitalist enterprises in favor of pie falling from the sky?

      Mill has his problems in my view, but you don’t seem to even know what the issues are.

      A lot of tough talk about “emancipatory uprisings” long on rhetoric and short on analysis. Since in the past I’ve organized closing down a draft board (and thought I was headed to prison for doing so), looked down the wrong end of National Guard rifles, and more recently given speeches at demonstrations protesting the then looming war with Iraq and picketed in front of Bank of America, among other things, you can take your trendy chest beating as some kind of he-man radical and try to impress someone else. I am not because words on a blog are very cheap.

      • Oh, Gus. Anarcho-left version of FOX news? Trendy chest beating as some kind of he-man radical?

        You seem to be taking all of this incredibly personally. What’s going on?

        As an interesting development, please see Dantes’ comment below for precisely the thing I’m trying to warn everyone against. You remark yourself that Liberalism has failed or has hit a dead spot. Slavoj Zizek would point out that it’s hit the actual limit of what well-meaning and fiercely radical people within Liberalism can actually do with it. Rather than discounting the work you’ve done, I’m suggesting that there’s nothing more which can be done through those restrictions.

        Meanwhile, right-wing parties are courting the discontents here and abroad and gaining in-roads precisely because Liberalism cannot (or does not) adequately address their discontent. They’re forcing a choice on all of us, and I’m as terrified as you are of fascist tendencies. But rather than demanding the discontented and oppressed people become less radical in their analyses of these crises, I’m suggesting that Liberals become more radical and join them. That is, let’s head-off the rising right-wing not by insisting on incremental change, but by overturning the table together.

        • My FOX News comment was because you seem to set up straw men and knock them down and then claim to have critiqued liberalism in the name of a radicalism that is devoid of any details anyone can actually grab a hold of.

          In my comments I have tried to show first that the arguments against liberalism you make are mistaken, second, that liberalism has not only a pretty honorable history including defending religious freedom, and third it has the insights to address our current issues. Including arguments that are in keeping with much radical thought today, such as exploitive authority relations in industry, but grounded in something more substantive than outrage of some idea of freedom that is devoid of connection to what people want.

          Yes, liberalism is in crisis for reasons my book goes into in depth, as does the Independent Review article I linked to in my initial critique of your post. The book also explores why we are in the midst of a nihilistic authoritarian right wing attack on liberal civilization, an attack that might destroy it. It further argues that Pagan insights can resolve this crisis as well as adding clarity as to why the crisis exists. That last point should merit its being discussed, even if only to be rebutted by a Pagan writing on liberalism, don’t you think?

          I could be said to merely be an author pissed off that he is being ignored, but that is where my substantive critiques of your claims come in. Like the point I made about J. S. Mill. I know the authors and thinkers you are writing about, and that adds to my claim my arguments should be given weight and carefully rebutted – and you did not do so.

          I’ve been wrong before and changed my views, but wrong headed assertions about liberalism as a whole is not the way to make your case.

          I am annoyed that what seem to me to be misinformed critiques of liberalism are made from a Pagan perspective while a book on many of these issues by a liberal Pagan – me – published by a major metaphysical publisher – Quest – is ignored.

          • I make 800 dollars a month, but if your offer for a copy of your book for free stands, I’ll read it within the next 3 months (it takes me significantly longer to read on screens than on paper, and I’ll be nomadic until September and finishing a presentation for the Polytheist Leadership Conference during that time, so I can’t guarantee I’d finish reading it earlier).

          • Rhyd- You have my email. Send me your addy and I’ll send you the book.

      • The one essay by Mill that many libertarians like, “On Liberty,” defends freedom of speech.

        Irrelevant. Even a stopped watch is still accurate once or twice every twenty-four hours. Unless you have one of those fancy watches with the day-of-the-week dial on it –then it’s even less relevant when it completely unwinds.

  14. I was introduced to Breton nationalism through Alan Stivell’s songs.

    Rhyd, considering that a lot of (at least central) Quimper is cobbled, no wonder you were unsteady on your feet! When I was there in 1987, I was sick with bronchitis and a bit wobbly myself, with no staff to help. I stayed at l’Hotel Celtique, glad there was a toilet attached…aucune personne (even attempted) me parle en Breton.

    I knew I missed a fest-noz, and apparently Menez-Hom. I did drive through Elven, drove through a bit of what remains of Broc´eliande, visited Merlin’s Well, and Carnac. If you were near Carnac, is the Supermarch´e des Druides about 1/2 mile south of it?

    I came across a lot of “disenchantment” while reading The Golden Bough. Imperial superiority and all that. I’d like to incorporate some Navajo spiritual practice into mine, but without asking permission, would never dare, for fear of offense/blashemy/appearance of theft. I respect Din´e quite a bit.

    • The most uneven cobbles ever, I think!

      I camped in Plouharnel, the village just outside of Carnac, for about 8 days. Most magical place ever! Unfortunately, both times I’ve been in Bretagne, I’ve missed the Broceliande.

      You may find my pilgrimage journals might engender a bit of nostalgie, particularly the earlier ones where I’m in Carnac:

      Also, my experience and those of many I know has been that First Nations tribes are very willing to teach others their practices, but it involves building a relationship with those tribes. Asking is always a great idea, and you might find some incredible friendships developing from it!

    • Marina, I’m fascinated by your opening sentence. I know Stivell’s music as a part of the international folk dance repertoire, and I’ve seen no reference (nor have looked for it, I must add) to Breton nationalism. All I know is brief snippets of his performances, thousands of voices singing along, hundreds of feet dancing in any open space, and his brilliant fusion of elder folk melodies and modern rock instrumentation.

      I’d be very grateful for any reference to which you can point me. I know a few fellow dancers who might add their gratitude as well.

      • Not all his music is necessarily folklorique or dancable. Go to (site also comes in French and Breton), or to Amazon under his name. Some of the 80s-to-first decade of this millenium albums are very political, and he has also spoken of Breton nationalism during his concerts, or at least the very few I’ve attended.

        My albums are all packed, due to a forced-by-circumstances move to a much smaller place. IIRC, the number of chansons politique/Breton identity vary per album, and are scattered throughout his later output.

        It seems that there is a newish book out by him: Sur la route des plus belles legendes celtes. (On the path of the most beautiful Celtic legends) Almost a coffee-table book, lots of photos, 35Euros, I should have enough rusty French to read it though.

  15. This article was a bit too theoretical for its own good and does not really address the political situation of Europe in a Pagan context (if it was what the post was actually about).

    As a European, I would just say that one should not read European politics through an American lens. It’s just not at all the same thing. The US has its problems, and Europe has her own.

    What is happening in Europe nowadays is the combination of the establishment of a an ever-growing bureaucratic mastodon (namely the EU) set to dominate all aspects of European society. Right now EU countries still have quite a lot of leeway, but the less important ones are basically slaves to the bankers and bureaucrats, just think about the disgusting fate of Greece, torn apart because it is headed by Lackeys of Brussels !

    In my opinion, Far right is not the worst enemy of European Pagan movement. These movements are all about fostering National and European identity which is a good deal still Pagan (a good example is the French Identity movement which, t my -and i guess many others’- delight makes heavy use of classical pagan imagery: European identity has been weakened for the past decades between American-lead globalism on one hand and non-European immigration on the other hand. The only political parties that recognize and seriously try to fight this trend are (sadly) the Far right parties. That’s the reason why as a European and a Pagan, I will not shed tears when the useless mainstream political parties get crushed.

  16. Thanks, Ryhd, and commenters, for such a thought-provoking post. As a big fan of both Campbell and Abrams, I find dissenting opinions strangely reassuring- ((weigh every thought against its opposite.)) You have helped me find a place of balance and non-attachment.
    It is important to remember that words, especially when those words contain labels, always fall short of truth. The semantic arguments that follow resemble a terrier chasing its tail.
    Rhyd, your sentence on the “bizarre and brilliant trick of Capitalism,” is a true gem and is sure to be quoted by me at many an upcoming gathering.

    I have seen the great land-grab pushing indiginous folk from their houses and farms under the banner of the War on Drugs first hand, in Bolivia and elsewhere, But simply being born into this world and finding you had no right to the land and water here was as fundamentally an alienating experience as I have ever encountered. I imagine many of us are carrying the baggage of this fact whatever side of the isle we fall on.

    Perhaps we should abandon the dividing lines, sit in a circle and simply call ourselves Humans.

  17. Here is an example of what we have in Oregon!

    I hope & pray the FBI will investigate former Oregon A.G David Frohnmayer !!

    Frohnmayer has committed more crimes,than any elected or non-elected officials!

    All the Lane County government are complicit with him!!

    Frohnmayer is preventing me getting hired, made me homeless! put a lien on my fully paid Condo, sold it

    He is charging $550.00 an hour and his law firm Harragn, Long, Gary, Rudnick the D.A. of Lane County, the City Attorney, and the University of Oregon too!!

    Please sign both petitions with and with Causes too.

    And this one with Causes too. Thanks!

  18. As long as we are revisiting lessons from past struggles, here’s one: when we turn our fire on each other we are weakened, and our enemies have cause to rejoice.