Polytheist.com Adds a New Voice to Online Dialog

“It’s a damn fine time to be a Polytheist.”

That’s an unofficial tag line of polytheist.com, a web site launched on September 8, 2014 as “a safe online hub devoted exclusively to the topics, issues, discussions and news of the growing Polytheist movements.” With the official tag line of, “honoring many gods,” the site promises to give voice to the perspectives of a population that occasionally feels silenced by the wider Pagan community — or who bristle at the idea of being identified as Pagan at all. They most frequently are described as devotional or “hard” Polytheists, and are generally characterized as relating to their gods as external beings that were not created by human thought or deed.

Polytheist.com banner

Polytheist.com banner

The idea for creating a site dedicated to the Polytheist movement was the brainchild of Anomalous Thracian or, as he explained, “My gods made me do it.” Thracian’s vision was a site that not only provided a platform for those among his co-religionists who felt they weren’t being heard within broader Pagan sites, but also a place where lesser-known writers could share and discuss their experiences. “There are non-professional voices, but it will be a professional, quality product,” he said. “Someone taking a college course should be able to learn from our articles, even if they can’t cite them.”

The site launched with contributions from ten different columnists. In a press release, Thracian promises:

Over two-dozen talented writers, voices and visionaries from around the world, representing a diverse expression of religious traditions, lineages and communities brought together in solidarity around one basic, foundational principle: honoring many gods. In providing dedicated space for these important conversations, and fostering responsible dialogue and practice, the site brings together a group of priests, shamans, spirit-workers, theologians, philosophers, educators and prayerful dedicants from a varied set of backgrounds and walks-of-life, to share in this essential community undertaking.

The term “columnist” is not accidental. “This is not a blog site,” Thracian said. “It’s professional columns, and it’s content-driven, not personality-driven.” That’s why he’s opting not to contribute to the site himself, preferring to keep himself in the background as a means to ensure that a plurality of voices are what’s heard. “It’s not my vision which is reflected,” he said.”It’s vision reflected.”

Anomalous Thracian

Anomalous Thracian

Another way that the site avoids being a cult of personality is through its funding. “It’s entirely out of pocket, and I don’t have any pockets,” Thracian said. He quietly sought donations from a number of individuals to pay for everything from the domain name itself, which was bought at auction, to the server space that houses the WordPress multisite installation and powers the whole operation. “I didn’t want anyone to have such a stake in it that there was a sole controller,” he explained.

Polytheists are only just developing a group identity, and that has been in no small part due to feelings that their experiences are not being heard and sometimes not welcome in the broader Pagan community. Some Polytheists refuse the “Pagan” label entirely, seeing it as describing a religious approach which they scarcely recognize. While others, Thracian said, have felt torn between their Pagan community and their Polytheistic devotions.

One of the more visible attempts for this group to become a more cohesive community was this summer’s Polytheist Leadership Conference held in the Hudson Valley of New York State. Like the conference, polytheist.com is another step within that same process.

Nevertheless, Thracian was clear that the site does not represent “a war on Paganism.” Instead, it is intended to be a place where those who perform devotions to external gods can write and learn about those experiences. “If a Jungian comes here and says we’re doing it wrong, we can tell them that this isn’t the place for that,” he explained.

Unlike many who call themselves both Pagan and Polytheist, Anomalous Thracian wasn’t a Pagan first. “My Pagan identity is only about six months old,” he said, but he’s been a Polytheist for years. He credits Sam Webster with shifting his thinking to something he refers to as, “and, not or.” When compared to the dominant monotheistic religions, he sees more commonalities between Polytheists and Pagans than differences. “The line between them can be a lot blurrier” in some traditions than others, he pointed out.

Pagan Leadership ConferenceThe site’s launch date was originally set for September 2, not September 8. While there were some technical glitches, the reason for the delay was to avoid distracting from recent online controversies. Although drama is a notable characteristic of online communities, Thracian doesn’t expect that tendency to short-circuit polytheist.comInstead, he’s focusing on the fact that the internet has made it possible for Polytheists and Pagans alike to connect in ways that was not imaginable a generation ago, and to build upon that momentum. 

His sense of hope was echoed by Sannion, who remarked that the site may actually defuse such tensions:

“One of the reasons I think there has been so much flamewarring over the last couple years is because it’s an opportunity for us to come together across communal lines and talk about issues that impact all of us. Well, what if we did that without controversy fueling everything? Now with this new communal hub we have an opportunity to find out.”

The first set of columnists include writers who are decidedly laity and, even one, who is presently incarcerated in the penal system. The stable of writers come from at least four different countries and follow several different traditions, including Kemetic, Hellenic, and the Otherfaith, a Polytheist religion which has only recently emerged. There are plans to continue to build the diversity of the site. “I’d love to get someone from a middle-American Heathen group,” Thracian said with hope evident in his voice.

Just as polytheist.com is not intended for baiting members of the Pagan communities, it’s also not about converting readers to any particular Polytheistic path. Instead, it’s a safe space for dialog among those who honor many gods.

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189 thoughts on “Polytheist.com Adds a New Voice to Online Dialog

  1. This looks like a very promising resource that I hope will be important and useful to me personally.

  2. I am very impressed with the diversity of Polytheist paths represented, as well as the presence of well-known leaders and scholars among the columnists. I had expected a site hosting columns, to be sure. I did not expect a site of such unmistakable quality. While I doubt I will agree with everything being written, I think respect for diverse, plural viewpoints is a value Pagans and Polytheists share. I anticipate many hours of enjoyable reading and learning.

  3. Neat ! I will be checking those articles pretty soon!

    However I notice with a tiny bit of dismay that you guys only have “Anglo-Saxon” writers (Usa, Canada, Australia…). Do you plan on maybe drafting some Euros? Do you accept applications :þ

    • Personally, I see ‘Anglo-Saxon’ as generally referring to people from England or people with English ancestry, so, by my usage, it’s inappropriate to describe all people living in the US, Canada, and Australia as Anglo-Saxon.

    • As an Anglo-Saxon Heathen, I find your terminology somewhat confusing. Do you, perhaps, mean “colonial”? 😉

      • “Anglo-Saxon” is also a specific ethnonym currently used by people from the English diaspora. I customarily refer to myself as an Anglo-Saxon Australian. “Colonial” certainly wouldn’t go down particularly well here in Australia, not because we deny our Englishness, but because we are a sovereign country and no longer a set of British colonies. To be an ethnic Anglo-Saxon and to be a speaker of English are of course not always the same thing.

        • “Colonial” wouldn’t work for the States, either –but nor would “AS”, cos most people here are not of English descent (or not primarily of said). That’s why I sugested the alternative of “Anglophone”, cos even a majority of the “illegal Mexicans” so many people whinge about have a passable fluence in English.

          • Maybe…but Anglophone could also just mean “Anglophone” and I could include myself in that category… Bah, in any cases, I guess that considering I’m the only one to be ticked by that, I must be the only euro out there.

          • You only really have evidence that you’re the only European speaking up. Like I said, go see Anomalous Thracian about either having a column or guest-posting in another one. I’ve met him, he’s very nice and open to hearing other people’s ideas.

        • I was joking about the “colonial” term, but I do know people here that use the term sincerely to refer to places such as the Americas and Australasia.

    • I personally use the term “Anglo-Saxon” to describe countries that were settled and administered by English speakers. My bad, but I was not aware of the term “colonial” which in this case seems to work much better.

      Also in some places in Europe, “Anglo-Saxon” can be used as a somewhat derogatory term for the native English speaking world in general, I guess that’s where I picked it up.

      Still, I see that no-one else reacted to this fact…

      I am really the only European out there? Are you guys all like, “colonials” (as I should now say) ?

      • If you want to write for the site, I’m sure you can apply or at least submit something as a guest post. I know that doesn’t exactly answer your question, but it could be a start in the changes you would like to see.

      • Well, I identity as Wessaxon, so I guess you could say that I am an Alnglo-Saxon. Born, raised and lived in the south west of the British isles my whole life.

        I just am not great at writing columns, so I don’t really have anything to offer, in that regard.

        • Cool, I just wanted to know if there were some other europeans here, happy to know it’s the case !

          • There are likely more people from this side of the Atlantic that you’d think.

            Whilst TWH tends to focus on American Paganisms, I’m not aware of a site like it for Europe and the British Isles.

          • That’s the crux of the probelm. I love TWH but I would not mind finding a similar website that is more focused on Europe. Until then, I guess I’ll keep trolling here.

          • A site I am looking forward to seeing go live is the new Óðrœrir website.

          • I actually am study comrade with Josh. He is like making himself mad in order to have the perfect website. Let’s just hope that he’ll be done…eventually.

  4. I look forward to checking out this site! I was wondering if I could get some info to clarify. I started my Pagan path back in 1978 (I know! I’m ancient!). I was actively involved with Paganism until about 10 years ago. Recently as I started re-exploring the wider Pagan community, I was surprised to see groups calling themselves polytheist and not Pagan. In my mind, these two were the same thing. I have read some websites and see many people who identify as polytheists who feel that Paganism is not what they are and who have had negative experiences in the Pagan community. I wonder if someone could help clarify when/how these two words started becoming separate definitions? Thank you!

    • From my understanding, Pagans can have any sort of belief or theological stance or background… When I began seriously becoming interested in Paganism and the various religious traditions (about ten years ago…) Jungian approaches and monism seemed the most common approaches when it came to belief, if belief was addressed at all. That is, however, purely anecdotal.

      • Of the world’s major religions, Christianity is the one that places the most emphasis on doctrine and shared belief. It is very difficult for anyone growing up in any Christian-dominated culture to avoid taking Christianity as the normative model of a religion, even if that person is not himself a Christian, dislikes Christianity and was not brought up with any kind of religious education.

        Correct doctrine and systematic theology are minor parts or completely absent from nearly all non-revealed religions. Shared belief exists but takes a back seat to shared practice and shared experience. There are no pagan revealed religions.

        Even the major revealed religions that have been around for a while (Buddhism and the Abrahamics) have developed so many different schools of interpretation that within each of these religions is a very wide range of possible theological ideas that are acceptable to some branch of the religion. Outside of fundamentalist sects, beliefs about the existence and nature of divine beings are often considered to be a personal matter.

        This leads to a result that might be hypocritical and scandalous from a Christian POV, that a Jewish congregation will be reciting Hebrew prayers to “the Lord, our God”, even though the prayer leader and a good many members of the congregation are atheist or agnostic. The prayers are not necessarily insincere, it’s only that the motivations and intent of the people reciting them vary a lot. And this isn’t just a modern or post-modern phenomenon; it goes back many centuries.

        • And modern paganism is such a reaction against Christianity that many polytheists see it as a willingness to toss out the baby with the bathwater. A religious community can certainly differ in nuance of beliefs, but to have a functional religious community, rather than a party, a core needs to be established. The phemonemon of agnostic atheist Jews at the synogogue still reflects a belief in shared Jewish cultural identity that is centralised at the temple (after all, if they were not attending, they’d be non-observant, to boot) –if that’s good enough for the pockets of Jewish community at those temples, that’s great, they’ve defined the core necessary to come together with their fellow Jews as something that needn’t be necessarily theistic –but let me tell you, there are synogogues where such a thing is anathema, and would be looked on with suspicion, if not disallowed. Judaism is not a monolith, and you cannot trot out the occasional synogogue attended by avowed atheists to make your point about world religions.

          When some polytheists say that we’re basing this on ancient practises, what they’re saying is that there is plenty of reason to believe that the assumed default for the pre-Christian world was the belief that a multiplicity of deities, spirits, etc…, exist, that these entities are individuals unto themselves, and that this is something to be respected. With very few exceptions, this was the same no matter what pre-Christian culture one encounters (especially in Europe and the Mediterranean –I know less about places outside that area).

          Early Hedonists were typecast as “atheists” in ancient Hellas, not for a fundamental belief in no deities, but because the focus was largely on the experience of a person and the joy one can find and create for oneself and others in this lifetime than on the existence and/or nature of the Divine (as Platonism focused on) –early Hedonists were, actually, impeccably pious, but it was a piety that was different enough from the status quo that even now it’s still wildly misunderstood. This (and other similarly mis-cast) philosophical schools are sufficient evidence that the ancients did not maintain a religious system of “anything goes!” that so many pagans do –but rather a system of defining what is necessary to worship together and letting those who do not meet that go do their own thing, while still living and working and laughing and playing with those other people outside the temple.

          THAT is what many polytheists who have splintered off from paganism hope to achieve by doing so, because it’s what they were missing in paganism, where the standard for “co-religionist” seems to be “do you want to be, regardless of whether or not we share any basic, core beliefs? if yes, come on down!”

          • Thank you for your thoughtful response. I agree with most of what you say.

            “. . . a system of defining what is necessary to worship together and letting those who do not meet that go do their own thing, while still living and working and laughing and playing with those other people outside the temple”—- is exactly what I understand coven witchcraft to be. I applaud others who are doing that whatever they call themselves. I don’t favor reducing religion to a flavorless mush.

            I agree with your observation that a good deal of contemporary Pagan culture has been shaped and dominated by people who came to paganism in reaction to Christianity and who have not worked through their reactions. In the American community these people have been numerous, vocal and influential.

            An area where the strong feelings of refugees from Christianity shows up is in vehement opposition to “organized religion”. This manifests in the belief that any request for funds to support a service project is
            guilt-tripping, any formal recognition that some people have earned the right to be listened to more than others is oppressive, and any religious institution by nature of being an institution deadens the authentic guidance of personal gnosis and is a rip-off besides. Harboring these attitudes makes people vulnerable to charismatic leaders.

            Fortunately, the movement is loose-jointed enough that people with vehemently anti-organizational attitudes can coexist with people who think organizations do some good. As someone who has been volunteering my time to the Covenant of the Goddess since 1975, I’m obviously one of the latter. You think this is a bug; I think it’s a feature.

            ome of us come from secular backgrounds, more liberal Christian denominations or from religions other than Christianity; we don’t have the same issues. We desired something that was absent from our lives and becoming pagan provided it. It doesn’t mean we hate what came before. I think people with those attitudes are gaining influence as the pagan movement matures. In part that is because we are more likely to have Sitzfleisch. We want the community to outlast our lifetimes, so we are trying to build its institutions.

            Seeing Christianity as something entirely negative from which one has to escape and making the avoidance of whatever one is escaping from the first priority in a religious community Is not just a neopagan phenomenon. I also see some of this among polytheists who reject the pagan label.

          • Seeing Christianity as something entirely negative from which one has to
            escape and making the avoidance of whatever one is escaping from the
            first priority Is not just a neopagan phenomenon. I also see some of
            this among polytheists who reject the pagan label.

            I’m not going to argue that too much, but at the same time, I think polytheists who not only avoid and discourage, but often angrily insist that they are not also part of the pagan community or pagan at all get more room to stand on than the pagan who rejects organisations, a core theology for group practises, etc, as “Christian trappings” –not because being “pagan” is an inherently negative thing (nor is being a Hippie, but that’s another story for another time), but because if that’s not how one identifies oneself, then that should be respected, and unfortunately, when pagans and polytheists mix, the request to respect that right to self-identify often is NOT respected. From dozens of comments to Drew Jacob’s (now legendary) “Why I’m not a Pagan” post to his Rogue Priest blog, to at least two posts to Jason Mankey’s Patheos blog, off the top to my head, it’s actually pretty easy to find pagans who will look at a polytheist saying “that’s a great label for you, but it doesn’t fit me and here’s why”, and then turn around and say “I see what you’re saying, but you’re pagan, too, whether you like it or not!” (and I’m pretty sure there’s at least one comment to Drew Jacob’s blog that says almost exactly that!)

            Most polytheists I know who vehemently object to the “pagan” label are not necessarily giving it negative connotations, nor are they necessarily angry –they’re frustrated with a community that preaches tolerance and acceptance, but at the end of the day, cannot respect the personal right to self-identify as something other than pagan.

            Yes, i’m sure there are a handful or so who are only objecting cos of the negative connotations in their own head, I’ll assume for now that you phrased it like that for a reason, but I’m saying that I haven’t yet met any such people.

          • The antecedent to the “that” in my last sentence seems to have been ambiguous. I don’t think, and didn’t mean to imply, that when polytheists refuse the label of “pagan”, it’s because they harbor negative associations to that word carried over from Christianity.

            I was making a more general observation. I agree that some self-identified pagans espouse attitudes which are reactive to Christianity rather than arising from an independent pagan worldview. I also observe that kind of reactive thinking in views and opinions expressed by some polytheists who refuse the pagan label. This is hardly surprising as we are all subject to being acculturated to the dominant views of the cultures we live in.

            I’m not going to dig through a month of comments for illustrations of this point. If we want to argue it, we could perhaps wait until the next blog post on polytheism. I’m just clarifying what I meant.

          • “Those of us who come from secular backgrounds, more liberal Christian
            denominations or from religions other than Christianity don’t have the
            same issues. We desired something that was absent from our lives and
            paganism provided it. It doesn’t mean we hate what came before.”

            Your words speak to my condition, Deborah. Thank you. Yes– I think there is a different experience that those of us who did not enter as spiritual refugees have, compared with those who did. (I’m not dissing those who came in after religious experiences with fundamentalist Christianity, by any means. I’m just struck by the fact that I resonate better, in some ways, to a different perspective, and I appreciate it being framed in words.)

    • In addition to what @ainellewellyn:disqus said, “Pagan” also tends to signify a distinct subculture of “Neo-Hippyism” that many polytheists simply feel they are not a part of and do not fit in with –pro tip: The deeper any self-identified “pagan” IS in said subculture, the more likely one is to deny that it exists, I’ve seen it happen. Thus, many polytheists recognise the “pagan movement” more as a continuation of a certain late-1960s counterculture than as an inherently religious or spiritual movement.

      • The deeper any self-identified “pagan” IS in said subculture, the more likely one is to deny that it existsThis is a logical fallacy known as “poisoning the well,” getting in ahead of disagreement with a negative characterization of the disagreeing party. Tsk.I am by no means an ex-hippie — I kept my nose to the grindstone in the Sixties — but I openly embrace the hippie movement as proto-Pagan, not theologically so much as taking a hard look at some social “givens” and putting adverse conclusions into action. If you look at some of the period photos from Haight-Ashbury solstice observance they could have been taken at a Pagan festival 25 years later.[M]any polytheists recognise the “pagan movement” more as a continuation of a certain late-1960s counterculture than as an inherently religious or spiritual movement.We’re just full of debate fallacies today. This it the old one so beloved of Christians, “I have a religion, you have a cult.”Of course you can find examples of prejudicial stereotyping in any cohort. and you can find examples of stereotypical behavior in the framed cohort. BFD. I have no problem with polytheists and I’m not going to respond in kind to trolling trying to persuade me that they have a problem with me.

          • Now you’re just being silly. I never said that; you are compounding your fallacy felonies by putting words in your opponent’s mouth, another classic.

          • You did not ask a question, you asked an answer. “Do you think Paganism as a social movement and subculture doesn’t exist?” That’s a question. Assuming that’s the question you were trying to ask: Of course not. I do not identify Paganism as one of its Venn Diagram overlays with the old hippie movement; there is more to Paganism than that.

          • You clearly have an intent to troll. I’m pleased to have frustrated you. Don’t let the door hit your bum on the way out.

          • I thought you were leaving.Your initial post was begging to start a Polytheist-Pagan flame war. That’s trolling.

          • I didn’t mean to imply that you wrote it. Its internal discipline differs from your usual writing here.

          • Furthermore, it was a very true answer to @gerrie_o:disqus ‘s question of why so many polytheists don’t see themselves as “pagan”, as well –many polytheists DO see a huge cultural difference between themselves and the pagan “mainstream”, and yes, it seemed even relevant to me to add that many pagans don’t even believe that this cultural difference even exists.

            You clearly have an axe to grind, and the fact that you’ve had such a hostile reaction to a basic STATEMENT OF FACT (which you would note i was careful to couch in words that should, indeed, indicate “not everyone”) really makes me sad for you.

          • You do not frame the statement here as you did above; you left out the hippie part. That omission does indeed make it an assertion of fact. with no hidden agenda. I knew you could do it!

          • I’m not re-writing anything. It’s a basic fact that paganism is more a Neo-Hippy subculture than a religious movement, at this point in time. I’m far from the only person to have observed this.

          • So you keep saying, in spite of all evidence that IT IS. Seriously, look at how many outright atheists call themselves “pagan”. Look at how many people, even people “in the community” who describe goddamned Burning Man as a “pagan” event.

          • You are failing to distinguish between the popular use of a word and the people who embrace it as a spiritual path. “Christian” is also used loosely, although more of a compliment than a slam, in ways clearly disconnected from institutional Christianity.

          • The suggestion that I web search in lieu of my lived experience is just off the edge.

          • Your experience only tells you a) what you did, b) what happened to you from your own perspective, and c) how you yourself felt about it. Our experiences are not the whole story, and our experiences are not infallible. Even Aristippus conceded that while experience was the best tool we have to gain knowledge, we cannot possibly have knowledge of every factor that played into that experience. Waving around your “experience” as a stick that will fend off further learning about the experiences of others and objective facts that do, indeed, lie outside one’s own experiences is a fool’s game. Are you certain that’s what you want to be playing, here?

          • My experience tells me that your earlier characterization of Paganism is false, and it takes only one counter example to disprove a sweeping claim.You have made your claims less sweeping in your dialogue with Cat, for which I will take a bow. You have moved into the realm of reasonable discourse, with some push from me.Now if you can only escape your dependence on juvenile Web pages in lieu of argument…

          • Oh, please! You give yourself too much credit. You’re a smug, domineering nozzle, if you REALLY think it was a “push” from yourself, and not the fact that I saw you throwing a tantrum and pitied you that led me to discontinue calling your CULTURAL MOVEMENT anything hippie-related –clearly this is a sore spot for you that makes you react like a belligerent teen who think he knows everything.

          • Clearly you have a sore spot when your juvenile snark is called for what it is. I had you on the back foot from the moment I tagged your basic statement as loaded with logical fallacies. Evidently you are unused to such analysis. Might want to get used to it…

          • No, your nonsense simply was not worthy of addressing, cos frankly anyone who can actually read can see that I chose my words careful from the get-go to assure people like yourself that I know full well “not everyone” sees it that way –and yet you threw a fit, anyway.

            Far be it from me to stop a middle-aged man of otherwise sound mind from screaming and pounding his fits in indignation, should he so choose to. Even if you’re not of sound mind, I’m sure you really feel your reasons for doing so, so have at it.

          • Not worthy of addressing, my backside. You couldn’t answer my points about your fallacies, and so resorted to loaded language, juvenile web pages, diversion, edited restatement and walking out (twice now, apparently).

          • I have to give you this one on points, Ruadhan. I have no doubt that, in your mind, someone pointing out your logical fallacies is very likely complete nonsense. I dare say that condition can be addressed but it must be your Will.

          • No, it’s complete nonsense because it’s complete nonsense. For starters, your allegation of “poisoning the well” only kinda – sorta qualifies, but not for the reasons you allege, and only if you accept the clause that factual statements can also qualify.

            Do you really need me to continue to dismantle and expose your nonsense as little more than a butt – hurt tantrum over the word “hippie”? Cos this is far from the first time you’ve done this when someone even comes close to using that word.

          • Let me encourage you to continue to scream at me about all the classical logical fallacies if that’s what it takes for you to examine them.

          • So you’re not going to argue with me that you REALLY had to stretch to make that one fit? Cos that’s basically what you’re saying. And who’s screaming here, besides you? Really, stop projecting. You’re not yet old enough for this nonsense to be “cute” again.

          • So you use caps for screaming ’cause you have no other options for screaming? My kidney bleeds for you.

          • No, it’s called emphasis –or perhaps you failed your writing courses?

            But then, this isn’t the first time you’ve had a shit-fit at my reasonable explanations and trolled me with complete nonsense.

          • So far in this thread you’ve used it to scream a few verses of doggerel and a Homer Simpson joke at me from juvenile web pages. I’d call that fairly dispository.

          • And why should an atheist not be allowed to call themselves pagan? An atheist who celebrates “pagan” festivals, reveres nature and does so in the context of pre-christian myth and symbol is as pagan as any other. You are sounding like a fundamentalist.

          • Exactly. What do I care what atheists want to call themselves, or what pagans don’t want to believe in (however one may choose to see it)? I’ve been distancing myself from the term “pagan” as a self-identity for about the last five years; it bothered me for, like, a minute (in the grand scheme of things, yes, three or four blog entries from myself about secularised/humanism/”non-theistic” paganism is evidence that I’m really not thinking about it as much as I could be –especially when the last two such posts have resigned the term to non-polytheists). It doesn’t actually bother me these days –but it *is* a relevant fact in this conversation to point out that “atheist pagans” are part of a laundry-list of reasons why “paganism” can no longer be considered a wholly religious movement, but a cultural one –and frankly, at one time, it was my culture, but only out of convenience. I still consider myself supportive of the pagan community, and there are several overlapping points of interest I share with said, but I’m not pagan, and so have no place to get offended. Only highlighting the facts, here.

          • Notice how a lot of these conversations/debates/arguments come back to the same issue – the need for consensus of terminology.

          • A point that is absolutely not lost on me. Of course, then there’s also the contingent that is absolutely opposed to any kind of consensus of terminology, cos I guess defining things is some kind of Christian conspiracy, or something. [Eyes rolling]

          • That inane contingent has altogether far to much influence, and it is entirely toxic.

          • I don’t care if atheists call themselves pagan –that’s not my term to defend. But if you have atheists at a nominally “pagan” gathering, then paganism can no longer really be called a religious movement, because atheism isn’t a religion.

          • “It’s a basic fact that paganism is more a Neo-Hippy subculture than a religious movement, at this point in time.”

            That’s an opinion, not a fact. I am aware there are those who hold that opinion strongly, and I am also aware that there are some strong arguments that can be made to support it. Furthermore, I’m completely comfortable with being called a neo-hippie– though I think it’s not the most accurate description possible, it’s hardly insulting–to me. I freely admit to sharing the values commonly understood to be “hippie” values.

            But you are brandishing your opinions as if they carried the weight of a Papal Bull, and in a manner that leaves no one in the dark that you despise the religious movement you’re describing. It’s really impossible to avoid the conclusion that insulting those Pagans who are not part of your devotional polytheist movement is important to you.

            That seems pretty troll-like to me.

          • Except that it’s not a wholly religous movement, and you and baruch seem REALLY intent on ignoring every time I’ve said “tends to” “more of a” and countless other modifiers that imply ALL OVER THE PLACE “but maybe not everyone in it”. And you both seem intent on calling anyone who sees things different from you some “eeebill Xtian!!!! z0mgz0rz!!!!” –cos for all your talk about respecting diversity and encouraging tolerance, the fact of the matter is, you really can’t stand a difference of opinion or even a statement of fact that runs counter to your own limited experiences.

            Everyone’s knowledge is limited to their experiences, and I can accept that there are people for whom “paganism” is largely, even completely a religious label –but by my own experiences, that’s MAYBE half the picture, and all I ask is for the spiritual pagans to hear me out and accept my knowledge as a reflection of my experiences, as much as I can accept theirs as said –which I really *do* do, but I’m not going to sit on my hands in an open discussion, which ANYONE can respond to, and not explain my knowledge as I’ve experienced it when it would be relevant. Like I’ve said before, @gerrie_o:disqus wanted to know why there were apparently polytheists who did not see themselves as pagans *at all*, when their experience was that the two were one-in-the-same; @ainellewellyn:disqus offered a theological position, I offered what I do still believe is an equally important cultural reason.

            Clearly you’re all for differences of opinion –that are against the overculture status quo, the second they run counter to something you’ve experienced that may hit closer to home, everyone who disagrees with you is some “eeebill Xtian!!!” who needs to be condescended to. Take THAT to your Meeting House, Cat.

          • If you can find one single quote from me in which I can be said to be characterizing you or anyone else as an “evil Christian,” I will mail you a check for $20. We can work the details out via email: append the quote below.

            I’ll wait.

          • I see no mention of evil Christians anywhere in the comment you link to. Could you excerpt the phrase in question, Ruadhan?

            At the moment, I think your distrust of my checks is premature. I don’t think you’re going to have cause to expect one.

          • I see no mention of evil Christians anywhere in the comment you link to.

            That wasn’t your challenge –your challenge was, and I quote:

            “f you can find one single quote from me in which I can be said to be characterizing you or anyone else as an “evil Christian,” I will mail you a check for $20.”

            That’s pretty loose, but the reference to the “papal bull” you made certainly fits that description.

            I made good on my end of the challenge, now you make good on yours, or (to be perfectly honest) you’re a oath-breaker and worthy of no respect.

          • Oh, honey.

            I was neither referring to you as a Christian nor implying that Christians are evil. (It would have been odd if I had, since I don’t hold either belief.)

            I was characterizing your expressions of opinion as having in common with those of the Pope an apparent assumption of infallibility. Now, that might not be a flattering figure of speech, but it’s not implying that you are a Christian.

            It is implying that you are dogmatic. And while perhaps there are occasions on which that is not true, I will most certainly admit that I have come to believe that of you over the course of our acquaintance. Evil? No. Christian? Hardly. Belligerent and self-righteous?

            Um, honestly? That’s my opinion. Hopefully, others’ mileage does vary. (Sorry if it seems condescending. I’d really love it if I could figure out a way to call you on this particular logical error that wasn’t, but it’s just too basic for that.)

          • It’s nice to see that you’re weaselling out of your duty to send me $20. A duty you VOLUNTARILY took on.

            …but hey, now I see what people keep telling me about you. Sorry it had to work out like this. Before now, the only thing i had against you was how you constantly side-step the fact that the Society of Friends is all about living as Jesus would have (I know it is, I spent my adolescence in it) in order to make your blog more palpable to a pagan audience, but i figured that was just a PR choice of yours.

            ETA: And if you REALLY don’t think that “Oh honey” was the height of condescension, you’ve really never been a Friend, have you?

          • I do apologize for winding you up, Ruadhan. I had every reason to know you would react badly. And when you are not upset, you do make some interesting points from time to time.

          • I’m not the one who’s reacting badly. You’re the one who’s weaselling out of a challenge. And don’t apologise to me –actually act like the person you say you are, for a change.

          • Not that quickly, all things considered. Of course, I’ve also been reading and commenting on here at least seven years. I’ve seen threads get at least ten times stupider in *literally an hour*.

        • I will be interested to see if the devotional polytheist movement will be able to find other uniting principles in the long run than contempt for Pagans they believe to be hippies.

          I hope so, for the sake of the many serious and dedicated devotional polytheists I know, who seem motivated much more by what their religion is than by what it is not. The strength is there… but the willingness to rally around antipathy seems to be there in the movement, too.

          • Are you trying to be condescending? Because the uniting principles are right there in the name of the movement. We don’t need concern trolling. A little respect would be nice.

          • And many members of the devotional polytheism movement have my respect, and the movement as a whole, too. However, I do note that there are a number of individuals who seem far more interested, at least publicly, in explaining what is wrong with others’ practices than in exploring their own. My hope that this does not damage the movement is not condescending, but sincere.

          • No-one here has said that there is anything “wrong” with cultural pagainsm / the pagan subculture / etc… Just that it is what it is.

            Seems to me that you’re inserting meaning that does not exist in an effort to support your own initial misreading –which is belligerent, in and of itself, and yes, the manner that you’re expressing this is kind of the height of condescension. Please stop.

          • There also seems to be a sense of late that only Hard Polytheists get to refer to themselves as Polytheists. I have no problem with a website taking the name polytheist and defining its content as specifically Hard Polytheist – that’s absolutely fine as distinctions are very useful and help inform what content will be found there. But comments of late seem (anecdotally) to be laying claim entirely to the polytheist moniker.

          • There is no such thing as “hard polytheism” as a self-identification. That is a pejorative from humanists and monotheists who don’t really understand that Polytheism just IS, and what it is is a belief in multiple deities, full stop. If you don’t believe in deities as an external entity that exists outside oneself and has some manner of control in the universe greater than all of humanity (what is what a deity actually is, by its most literal definition), or if one believes that all deities are just faces/facets/forms of one ultimate deity, then one is welcome to identify as a “[modifier] polytheist”, but etymologically speaking, only what you pejoratively call the “hard polytheists” are polytheists, the rest just use the language of polytheism.

          • Woah now – pejorative (at least according to Websters) would suggest that the label was used with “contempt or disapproval.” I highly approve of Hard Polytheists and I have no contempt for them. I do feel like some of them seem to have contempt for me (and thank you for illustrating that beautifully). Until now I have never heard of anyone taking umbrage at the term.

          • No I’m not an archetypalist. I’m also not in the business of having other people tell me what I am and what I am not based on their personal definitions. Are you?

          • The thing about language, though, is while some words may indeed have “personal definitions” to ourselves, language does not exist for ourselves alone. It is a wholly *social construct* devised for ease of communicating ideas, and when people pervert words like “polytheist”, from the Hellenic roots meaning “many” and “deity”, and “deity” itself having a rather specific meaning that *does not* include things like archetypes, egregores/thought-forms, facets/faces, and so forth, then one is intentionally making communication harder, whether one realises it or not.

            The language I use to describe myself is not for my benefit alone –I will exist as I am regardless of the words I use to describe myself (though the nature of language may, indeed, have transformative properties, should I choose certain words and then, through experiences based on use of those words, eventually live up to them). The words I use to describe myself are just as much for the benefit of those around me to know what they may need to know about me.

            Now, I *am* aware that some Wiccans, etc…, and other pagans, are also *actually* polytheists, regardless of what their coven/circle-mates believe. If that (or similar) description fits you, great, but considering your inactivity in the community of people who identify first and foremost as polytheists, I’d be hesitant to say you’re at all a part of that community –and the basic questions you’re asking about it suggest that you’ve actually been rather unaware of it for some time. That’s like saying Fundie Christian Republicans who solicit same-sex encounters in public lavvies are a part of “the gay community”, when no, they’re just looking for gay sex (BIG difference). One may, indeed, hold polytheist beliefs and not actually be a part of the polytheist community until they discover it and choose to participate.

          • Could you have found a ruder and more demeaning analogy? Unpacking the one you used, you are implying that polytheist Wiccans and other polytheist pagans who don’t choose to be involved with your religious community are hypocritical, self-loathing, sneaky cowards. That’s quite revealing of what you think of them. Considering that many of the people you are applying that analogy to are gay, you really should retract those words and apologize for them.

          • I’m gay myself, actually, so please don’t demand an apology for using the easiest analogy available to illustrate that simply doing a thing doesn’t necessarily mean that one is a part of a community for people who do that thing.

            You don’t have to be a participant in the gay community to solicit gay sex, and you don’t have to be a part of the Polytheist community to hold polytheist beliefs. It’s really that simple.

          • Very well. I will let pagans with a stronger LGBTQ identification than mine speak to whether they receive your analogy as a personal and group insult.

            It certainly is an insult to the honor of all members of the pagan community regardless of sexual orientation, and seems to have been deliberately chosen to push as many buttons as possible. IOW, it appears to be trolling.

            I can think of two other possible reasons that you might make such a provocative comparison and refuse to retract it when it was protested, in an online community where others are attempting to have a civil exchange of views with you.

            One is that you got a little carried away with your own rhetoric, and you happen to be one of those people who find it very difficult to admit they have made a mistake.

            The last possibility is that you are a fundamentalist religious bigot.

            In case you just got carried away, I will let some time pass to give you time to think over whether you made a misstep. If you realize that you did, and admit it before this thread closes to additional comments, I will continue to consider you a person who is rather disagreeable but worth exchanging views with.

            If there is no retraction, I will conclude that you are either a troll or a bigot of the religious fundamentalist variety, not worth my time, and join the group of people who ignore everything you post.

            Up to you.

          • I agree that it’s pretty crass to equate having a possibly different philosophical approach to the specific terms of existence of deities to being a person who actively works to destroy their own community (the closeted Republican analogy).

            Sounds like contempt actually.

          • The “closeted Republican” though is not a part of the gay community, though. He neither identifies with it, nor does he participate in it, unless you want to stretch the facts to include “discreet and anonymous” toilet sex as meaningful participation. Unless you mean that he’s destroying the Republican community, which I will not argue.

          • How about this: instead of throwing a fit and assuming the worst, you actually suggest a better analogy of a person who does X but is clearly not a part of X community; something that most people would know about. If so, I have no problem retracting, and issuing appy-polly-loggies for stepping in your feels.

            Controversial a decision as it was on my part, I will stand behind it until I can either think of or am offered a better alternative.

          • *Waves* Hi. I am a polytheist/ēalgodan, but don’t participate in the polytheist community.

            I participate in the Heathen community (predominantly online, at the moment – I’m somewhat lacking in an actual group right now), and that’s enough for me.

          • “The thing about language, though, is while some words may indeed have
            “personal definitions” to ourselves, language does not exist for
            ourselves alone.”

            That’s the same sort of reasoning people have given my transgender friends for telling them that they are actually male because they have a Y chromosome and that is the core definition of male. It’s not a sort of argument I can get behind.

            I am a polytheist and I neither invite nor desire your telling me whether or not that is true.

          • Actually, I’m trans, too. I can see your point, if I squint, but the facts remain:

            1: my point stands. You may not like it, but it stands.
            2: trans people are not a monolith. I’m FTM, and while there are certainly aspects of my biological sex that are physiologically “female”, my gender is in the “male” spectrum, which is an entirely separate category. Furthermore, biological sex is a complex series of traits that all responsible scientists admit is only barely beginning to be understood –anyone who claims that trans people are irrefutably their AAB genders is wrong. Not only is gender a sociological category, sex is far more complex than the simple chromosome model most people learned in primary school.
            3: you’re really doing nothing more at this point than attempting to silence me over a disagreement. Anyone can see that.

          • Just to address point 3, I would never want to silence you on the topic of your experiences as a polytheist. What I don’t accept is your attempt to label me.

          • I’m not doing anything of the sort. I’m describing instances where the terms “polytheist” and “polytheist community” do and do not fit. You’re perfectly welcome to wear a thing that doesn’t fit properly, people do it all the time –just don’t expect to make anyone’s “best dressed” lists if you put on something that clearly doesn’t fit you.

            Whether or not “polytheist” fits you is something that I cannot answer, considering the scant information you’ve volunteered. But I still do not believe that you are much, if at all, a part of a community that you have so far asked very basic questions about, suggesting a complete lack of familiarity –but if you still want to claim to be a part of the Polytheist community, I can’t stop you, but I sure won’t take that claim seriously.

          • No, it’s a point. Like you, I don’t understand why it is perceived as disrespectful, but it apparently is, at least by some in that community. And recognizing the right of those whose ideas and experiences don’t match my own to self-name is a good expression of respect. I don’t need to understand why my Christian Quaker friends prefer the term “Christ centered” to “Christocentric” to change my usage within that community, for instance.

            Likewise, I don’t need to understand why “hard polytheist” is seen as disrespectful to use the apparently preferred term, “devotional polytheist.”

            Nor do I need for all members of that community to respect the fact that theological differences don’t make other polytheists not “real” polytheists or Pagans outside the devotional polytheist movement not a “real” religion in order to be courteous myself. There are plenty of open-minded and courteous devotional polytheists out there… but even if there were not, I think we can manage to respect their choice of language.

          • I hear you but my problem there is that having one segment of polytheists lay claim to the term “devotional” suggests that the rest of us are therefore “not devotional” in our worship of the gods. I’m deeply devoted to the gods. The handful of people in my personal coven hold different ideas about the ultimate separateness of the gods and it doesn’t prohibit us from coming together to worship them at Esbats and Sabbats.

          • Yeah, Cat’s talking out of her arse, again. *Very few* polytheists have *ever* identified as “devotional polytheists”, and even fewer continue to do so. Pretty much for the reason you describe (amongst others). Now, if you or Cat were a part of that community, you’d’ve probably already known that…

          • Hrm. I see what you’re saying. Oh, language is fraught, I tell you! I do hope we can come up with terminology that is respectful all around. I understand fully that it can be important for folks to gather in groupings that make sense to them theologically, and I certainly want to express the support and respect I feel for this particular polytheist movement–however it is ultimately named.

            I do know that I don’t need to understand why “hard polytheist” feels disrespectful in order to adopt another term. But there has been a vein running through the formation of this movement that certainly feels like a disrespect of other polytheists/other Pagans who don’t share the core beliefs or values of this subset. Implying that other Pagans are not devoted to their gods would be disrespectful indeed… I hope we can find terminology that avoids that. Perhaps that part of carving out the movement is just going to take some time.

            Well, the gods are patient. I guess I can be, too… I’ll be over here, eating my popcorn, waiting for a consensus to emerge.

          • Perhaps if we Pagans gave a better example…? Seriously, polytheists in the ancient world didn’t need to hanker for unifying principles because they were not allies of convenience embedded in a monotheistic over-culture. Modern polytheists focus on revival of ancient ways, and it is there if anywhere they will find any unifying principles.

        • Uh…yeah, as a polytheist, I definitely feel the current “pagan movement” as I’ve experienced it is a continuation of a lot of 1960s counterculture, and I didn’t really experience it (communally) as a religious movement. Hence why there is room for people who are completely not religious… Which isn’t actually calling Paganism a cult, or insulting it, but pointing out that such has been my experience and is why I looked elsewhere. I’d hardly call that trolling, unless you’re trying to say that those polytheists who have experienced that need to deny what they’ve seen in Paganism? (Which doesn’t apply to all polytheists, obvs, but of course I need to say that…)

          • Neo-Paganism surged in the Sixties as part of a social revolution, some aspects of which were called the counterculture. It was a massive rejection of established assumptions on many levels that has taken decades to work through (and indeed continues). Of course there is still overlap. And the Pagan who believes in the Gods as external realities can circle with the Pagan who believes in Jungian archetypes, giving an observer no hint of a unifying creed. Calling this an extension of the counterculture is a label of convenience, not a serious analysis.Of course no one expects you to deny what you’ve seen, but you in turn must expect some counter analysis by those who live what you describe.

          • And the Pagan who believes in the Gods as external realities can circle with the Pagan who believes in Jungian archetypes, giving an observer no hint of a unifying creed. Calling this an extension of the counterculture is a label of convenience, not a serious analysis.

            …but when you consider that a very basic tenant for many Pagans is ‘magic’, and in all honestly, an individual’s intent alone is not magical in the mundane or spiritual world, such a ‘circle’ would logically prove rather weak, since some of those people believe the gods are fundamentally different things, and some may not believe in gods AT ALL.

            Polytheists at least have a basic theology to gather ’round, and those who work magic can do it together in what’s logically the best way possible, and those of us who’d rather let others work magic can still discuss other things with them, later.

            By all examinations, “Pagan” is more of a cultural than religious label AT THIS POINT IN TIME. When you’ve got relative “BNPs”, on the Internet and elsewhere, describing Burning Man as a “pagan event”, it is, for all practical purposes, a cultural description.

          • You are assuming an external-reality model for magick. There is a school of thought that the effect of magick is on the operator, modifying patterns that get in the way of one’s goals. YMMV.As to whether Paganism is a religion, that’s an old chestnut that I decline to pluck from the fire for you.

          • Yeah… your point about “magic” doesn’t really counter the logic I presented –and if you think i need you to explain how ‘paganism’ is somehow more religion than culture, I can show you a narcissist in the reflective side of a mirror.

          • You don’t need me at all. But you do respond to being called out for your fallacies by trimming them. Whether you need that or not is determined by how you choose to go through the world.

          • Your initial statement in this thread was not a tantrum. It was a troll trying to get a Pagan-Polytheist flame war started in this space. Instead people have had to put up with you and me trading rejoinders. Boring but nowhere near as stressful.

          • What the hell are you going on about? You’re the one who threw a tantrum in response to my initial comment to Gerrie O. If you can’t own that, you clearly need to log off for a few hours.

          • I did log off for a few hours in the middle of this. It’s called “sleep.”I conclude from the above that someone pointing out your logical fallacies comes across to you as a tantrum. We may be closing in on the roots of your condition.

          • Oh, I’m just chuckling over the limits to your perception. Try this on for size: I simply disagree with you. You have your analysis of the Pagan community; I think you’re all wet. Can you accept those facts?

          • Eh? I never brought your age into it. You have brought my age into it a couple of times. Let me recommend some sleep.

          • Cos it *should be* embarrassing for you to act the way you have –especially at your age, but at any age, really.

            And I have experience. I’ve been in and out of the various pagan communities for at least fifteen years, and in my religion for about ten. You like to think that a difference of experience implies a lack of experience, but it does not.

          • I should be embarrassed for pointing out your fallacies and not letting you change the subject? Somebody should be embarrassed, and it’s not me…

          • The fact that you still believe I committed fallacies at all is laughable. Just admit that you’re throwing a butt-hurt shit-fit and throwing around baseless accusations cos I used the word “Hippy”. This is SO FAR from the first time you’ve done this on here, it’s not even funny. Obviously that word triggers something in you, but before you can move on, you have to admit to yourself that it’s a problem you have and need to address.

          • Since you never accused me of being a hippie, I would have nothing to throw a fit about even if that word affected me as you suggest. And, in fact, I recall hippies fondly as lifestyle pioneers, seriously overlapping the early neoPagan movement. Using the word today to describe Paganism is, however, unhistorical.And you did indeed deploy serious, basic fallacies. That’s the thing about fallacies; trying to laugh them off doesn’t change them.

          • Except you *just said* that there’s historical precedent to associate the two, thus a very simple connection to the current neo hippie state of the pagan movement.

            That you would basically agree with my first statement *now*, not even realize that you’re doing it, and then continue to accuse me of fallacious logic truly speaks greater to your feelings about the word “hippie” than your claims of remembering the 60s hippies fondly, etc…

          • I fail to see why how I feel about the word “hippie” is such a topic with you, especially seeing your utter lack of evidence of such. Perhaps it’s because you can’t really rebut what I’ve said about them.

          • You’re *seriously* going to sit there and claim that you don’t throw a shit-fit nearly every time someone mentions the hippie subculture in relation to the pagan movement?

          • I wrote seriously at some length in this thread about how neoPaganism and the hippies are related. You have made one sweeping, shaky statement that you apparently think becomes valid if repeated often enough. And disagreeing with you does not comprise a shit-fit.

          • Except that you do this ~*~repeatedly~*~, and I mean ~*~every single time~*~ hippies are brought up in connection to paganism, you’ve got to sweep in and lay down your M4dd XP to everyone you think is too young, inexperienced, or stupid to know what you know.

            Unfortunately, it’s impossible to search the comments on here with any degree of accuracy, and you’ve yet to create a DisqUs profile to link all of yours –and you clearly refuse to believe anyone who has seen that this is not the first time I bristle and throw shit-fits over the mere suggestion that “paganism” is now little more than a continuation of the hippie subculture.

            So here’s the deal: You can let me know your email. and I’m going to take screencaps from here on out, watch the comments more carefully than i ever have here and on Patheos, and show you that you have clearly made a habit of this. Cos you have. It’s obviously a sore spot for you, and you absolutely refuse to believe it, so I’m willing to show you how often you do this.

            This isn’t about you disagreeing with me –this is about the fact that you clearly have issues –nay, ~*~subscriptions~*~ about this topic, and you’re also clearly in denial about the fact that your box is overflowing.

          • There are those who believe in external-reality magic, and there are those who believe in internal-reality magic. (There are also those who believe in both, as situations demand, but they muddy an otherwise simple point.)

            Mixing the two seems like a recipe for failure, since intent will vary wildly between the two.

          • Not so much mixing the two as not having a clear group picture of the intent of the working. If that forces the internal- or external-reality cohort out of the circle, then so be it.

          • Indeed. As a actual polytheist (I prefer the term ēalgodan, but most wouldn’t know what I mean), I see no benefit in working with those who do not share my beliefs.

          • “some may not believe in the gods AT ALL” Oh noes! Not teh eebil atheists coming to join in with pagan rituals. Whatever will you do? Grow up, and accept that not everyone has the same beliefs as you. That’s OK, and we can still be pagans and still find paganism meaningful without a literal belief in deities.

          • I think you may have rather missed the point, Anon. Whether atheists are participating in Pagan rituals is not really that much of a concern for polytheists who do not consider themselves Pagan.

          • Exactly. What business is it of mine who pagans do and don’t want in their community? BUT, that said, if pagans are going to include atheists, they ought to concede that it is no longer a wholly religious movement, at least at this point in time. To vehemently insist that the pagan community is still largely or even wholly religious in nature, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, is intellectual dishonesty.

            That said, non-religious movements can, indeed, bear spiritual value for some people. I’ve felt the presence of my gods in doo-wop music or watching COSMOS or THROUGH THE WORMHOLE –these are products of secular culture that have great spiritual value to me. Perhaps I should’ve made this clearer, but it’s not my blog, so whatevs –but if some people may have been concerned that I was denying the apparent spiritual value that many people see in the pagan subculture, then they should have asked rather than wait for me to make this comment.

          • Which isn’t actually calling Paganism a cult, or insulting it, but pointing out that such has been my experience and is why I looked elsewhere. I’d hardly call that trolling, unless you’re trying to say that those polytheists who have experienced that need to deny what they’ve seen in Paganism? (Which doesn’t apply to all polytheists, obvs, but of course I need to say that…)

            Excatly. But on the other hand, I want to say “why bother explaining it? He clearly would rather imply everyone who he disagrees with is really an ‘ebill Xtian’ or some horseshit.”

      • One of the largest and liveliest American pagan communities of the 1970s was in the San Francisco Bay Area. Nearly half the people mentioned in the first edition of Drawing Down the Moon were based in the SFBA.

        In those days, there was a lot of overlap of participants in a number of subcultural and countercultural movements and the SFBA pagan scene. E. g. , science fiction fandom, Renaissance Faire workers, Society of Creative Anachronism, radical feminism. Many people wore fancy dress to public rituals. Many had moderately left wing political views. Quite a few smoked marijuana and had some experience with psychedelic drugs. Many of these people also had postgraduate degrees and professional jobs. One of the founders of the Covenant of the Goddess was a female systems analyst (software engineer). In 1975.

        if I were going to characterize that crowd overall, “cultural creatives” would be a much apter description than “hippies”.

        That was more than a generation ago, and of course San Francisco/Berkeley/Oakland/Silicon Valley are not the entire United States, but the influence lingers. it’s more complicated than “neo-hippy” or “not neo-hippy”.

        • I take a position using Occam’s Razor: The “counter” cultural waves and pressures were in place and building, and they created room for fringe mindsets and belief systems. Some of those mindsets entered the mainstream. Some of those belief systems thrived because of that room (and the inattention or nonchalance of those previously actively hostile to them).

          I hold a semantic position that to qualify as “counter” cultural the mindset or belief system should demonstrate open rebellion against mainstream culture. Sex and drug use certainly qualify. My question — my opinion is no — is did the various religious movements qualify during that time period?

          • You have framed your question by defining counterculture as oppositional. I think that misses the point. What countercultures do is offer choices and a sense of possibilities beyond what the mainstream culture will acknowledge. Sometimes the mainstream culture ignores what the counterculture is doing; sometimes it sees a threat and opposes and interferes with the counterculture’s activities. The amount of opposition depends at least as much on the overculture’s responses as on how radically different the counterculture is or intends to be.

            In the 1970s, witchcraft in the SFBA did offer choices and possibilities that were not available elsewhere. One of the traditions I practiced gave artists and writers an audience and venue for public performance of original ritual (“original ritual” was in itself a cutting edge idea at the time). These rituals served as a hub for hundreds of people who would not otherwise have met to make intimate connections with each other. The other tradition was radically feminist and offered a kind of consciousness raising and an environment which supported personal growth.

            I was living near a liberal University town in one of the most socially forward-thinking states in the Union, a place with a bohemian history going back to the nineteenth century and a lively culture of political protest. Two personal anecdotes that illustrate how far out of the mainstream I was:

            Circa 1974, I was seeing a psychotherapist once a week. I told her I was exploring witchcraft. She looked startled.
            I asked why and she told me that she associated witchcraft with cannibalizing babies and things like that. I had to explain what I was talking about.

            Like most of the witches I knew, I adopted a pseudonym (the one I’m writing under here). I did not do that to create a
            magical identity or because I feared physical attack or losing my job. I did it to spare my parents. They were secularly educated Reform Jews. About ten years later I finally told them what I was doing. They thought it was a lot of codswallop and superstition, but were not nearly as
            upset as if I had told them I was converting to Christianity. However, my mother requested that I not mention it to any of their friends because it was so embarrassing. For their sake, I did not come all the way out of the broomcloset until after their deaths.

          • I accept the “oppositional” criticism. I set myself up for it, unwittingly, but it fits.

            I would observe that you describe both general aspects. I suggest that we (as a broadly-defined community) are focused on the oppositional aspect in our day-to-day lives, many of us by necessity. The “personal growth” aspect is important — more important than the oppositional, I would also suggest — but it is not as strongly represented in our discussion.

            I don’t hesitate to suggest that the vast majority of us started our paths out of personal growth aspiriations. Sooner or later, though, the oppositional aspect becomes unavoidable.

          • I’d say that counter-culture is, by its very nature, oppositional.

            A non mainstream culture than does not actively run counter to that culture is simply a subculture.

          • I also agree with you out of my original point, and I may be splitting hairs on a fly, but I believe Deborah and I are contending that it takes two to tango. If a counter-culture doesn’t generate opposition from the mainstream culture, it’s still “counter-” and remains so until it generates explicit acceptance into the mainstream.

            I believe the comparison here requires the reaction in order to be valid. I don’t believe the oppositional reaction is required to justify the original label of “counter-“.

  5. ‘“I’d love to get someone from a middle-American Heathen group,” Thracian said with hope evident in his voice.’

    Well now that is something to ponder…

  6. I have been eagerly awaiting the launch of the website for a couple of months now. I have high hopes for its future, but I won’t lie, I am a bit underwhelmed at the moment. I rather hope that it is because I let myself get too excited at the prospect of a website that has topics I find relevant to my spiritual practices.

    • What would you prefer to see there? What would appropriately “-whelm” you? (Genuine questions that I’d be interested in hearing your opinions on, though I find it sad that I have to add that qualification in this forum…)

      This was only a partial roll-out of the total number of columnists; there will be as many and more further ones by the end of the month.

      • I actually was wondering if something would be possible to add to the home page of the website. When I come to the Wild Hunt site, I often like to go to the “Comments” tab to look at what conversations are happening; perhaps something similar would be possible for Polytheist.com? I think that that might be a useful way to help keep those conversations going.