Column: The Multitude and The Myriad

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Emerald Tablet depiction, c1608 (Public Domain)

Emerald Tablet depiction, c1608 [Public Domain]

The sun is not the brightest star, but it is the closest, the loudest.

The sun is so close that it blinds from our eyes all those others who, by mere virtue of distance, must wait for the darkest of hours to remind us of their light. Without that garish ferocity, we cannot live, but it is at the cost of the myriad that this one Truth shines upon us.

If these words were in German, her warmth could bronze and perhaps sear your skin with rays of feminine brilliance. Were you reading this in French, his beckoning light might bring you instead to think on his mannish illumination gently coaxing out the life of plant from soil. The sun is feminine in many Germanic languages, while masculine in many Latin-derived tongues, and the moon is likewise gendered. It is female in French and male in German.

Is the sun male or female, though? It certainly cannot be said to have identifiable genitalia, so we are unable to resort to a particularly base methodology to discover our answer. One might even suggest that it has no gender at all, in accordance to our manner of ordering nouns in English. If this is the case, though, we must immediately judge all speakers of languages, which gender the sun, to be fools or, charitably, inheritors of a hopelessly primitive linguistic system.

Another interesting possibility exists. Perhaps the sun is both female and male, according to how and where one views it. We know, certainly, that the sun can both give life and take life away. It can both warm and burn; it might illuminate or blind depending upon where you happen to be standing or looking. That is, the sun is many things simultaneously; many things to many people. In the far northern hemisphere, I experience it in subtle degrees as the year grows cold. My friends in that other hemisphere now feel its coming strength as their winter thaws and spring flowers bloom. Those betwixt our homes at this moment shield their eyes from it, sweating fiercely under its burdensome weight.

The sun is both warm and cold, distant and close, searing and life-giving. Within Her and His and Its intensity is all the contradictions and opposites which compose a wholeness, a unity only understood in its fragmented difference.

One, Two, None, All

For more than a millennium there was one God. Before, there were many, but then there was but one, and he was male – a fierce, strong, creator-lord full of justice and power, might and judgment, as well as love, mercy, and some degree of kindness to those deserving of his favors or loyal to his causes.

We need not be so simple about it, though. There were certainly others gods; otherwise our Paganism is mere aesthetic, and vast civilizations utterly misguided, as the fundamentalist believers in Progress would have us think. The “progression” of religion from Animistic Shamanism to Polytheism, then to Henotheism, then to Monotheism and finally, at the top of glorious and final present, Atheism relies upon the hope that our present existence is somehow “better” than yesteryear, and that we should consider the succession of this forced march closely.

It proposes first a “simplistic” relationality between nature and humanity, followed by an unfortunate anthropomorphization of natural forces into human-gods. Then the desert cults, laboring under the searing, garish and very-loud sun, chose just one of the many and, when a prophet is hanged upon wood, they decide their one is an only.  Nearly two millennia later, some French and English writers decide there’s no god at all, and we are finally now enlightened–from all, to many, to one, to none — and too bad the billions in Africa and Asia just can’t catch up.

Beyond the extreme arrogance of asserting that a mere 2% of the world has accurately answered the question of the existence of gods, we should specifically complicate the “evolutionary” narrative of progressive ascension. Since so many ancient and indigenous cultures think in circles and wheels rather than vertical lines, it’s surprising that such a theory of religious succession could still maintain a grip upon Pagan thought – a theory which can be seen particularly in an unfortunate misstep of Wicca regarding the gender of the gods.

Adam And Eve in The Garden of Eden--by Lucas Cranach The Elder

Adam And Eve in The Garden of Eden–by Lucas Cranach The Elder

A popular reading of the re-introduction of “The Goddess” into modern religious thought (not just Pagan, but also some strands of Christian ‘Theology’) is that it’s a necessary correction of two millennia of male-centered, Monotheistic thought. This is a fair reading, and one can certainly point to all sorts of social and religious tendencies which, through a belief in an a male-gendered Only-god, contributed to the systematic degradation of a full half of humanity. That there was only one god, and that this only-god was male, is certainly peculiar and suspicious, particularly considering the patriarchal succession of priesthoods of this only-(male)-god.

As a political act, the insistence on an equally-important Goddess was quite radical, but also incredibly problematic. Besides the failed attempts of some writers to re-narrate a matriarchal past into pre-Monotheistic Europe (and history is only narration, so we should applaud their attempts as much as we cringe at their failure), the question of the only-(male)-god is hardly answered by giving him a mate, as if the Hebrew god’s act in Eden were a model to emulate.

Worse, this Goddess is a no-one; just as the monotheistic God was also a no-one.

They are not just no-ones, but also All-Ones, or Half-Ones. The Pagan (particularly Wiccan) Goddess is a conglomerate principle, a pastiche, a compound being encompassing half of a split divinity gendered female, or a corporate entity sometimes named the Divine Feminine. What then is left which is not of the one-Half-(female)-Goddess is then re-pasted upon a feral-yet-civil hunter dressed up in sacred loin-cloth and antlers. And, we are thus supposed to sigh, relieved that the One-God’s rib forms his eternal companion.

I do not say here that there is no Goddess, rather that there are many of them, a multitude, a myriad.  Nor would it do much good for us to debate precisely the theological import of such statements like, “I acknowledge the Goddess in all Her forms” (a sort of universalist-monism) or “I worship the Goddess by her many names” (a less corporatist approach). Rather, we should ask precisely why, as inheritors and escapees of monotheistic power, we’d settle for two gods as a solution to the tyranny of the (male) one.

Being a believer in the existence of gods (by which I also mean goddessess–let none say English does not possess gender!) requires me to be a bit extra polite when another Pagan, in ritual or in conversation, speaks of Pagans collectively worshiping “The Goddess.” I must do a bit of translation of their statement in order to not be offended. It’s an allowance for their shorthand, regardless of how much I really wish to ask, “wait–which goddess? I’ve met five of them, and have heard of another eighty, at least.”  

To say they are all-one, that all the goddesses enfold into one great Goddess is a bit colonialist. It’s also understandable, since we do the same thing with gender.  We speak of “female” and “male” as if all humanity is easily divided into two sorts of people, each composing a half of a corporate whole called “humanity.”

It’s a short-hand, a quick-sorting category, which is certainly useful in some circumstances, but it is also only that. And, like all categories and labels, often times they don’t fit, no matter how hard we try to peg certain beings into the spaces we’ve created for them.

Which Man? Which Woman?

Like race, we often approach the idea of gender as if it is a naturally-derived or divinely-revealed thing, though we forget we must actually be taught these categories. I had many black friends and female friends and even a few (but very few) wealthy friends when I was a child. But it was not until our differences were explained (and re-iterated, and enforced) that I understood that there was a difference between them and I. The skin-color of my friends was a mere characteristic, not a difference until I was told that being “white” meant something and being “black” meant something else. Similarly with female: a girl was a sort of a friend, not an opposition to boy. Different genitals was like different hair-length–utterly inconsequential.

But male and female, like white and black, mean something, or mean something to lots of people. Being one means you get paid less, being the other means you get paid more. It’s better to be white and male than all the other things, depending on where you live, but only because people have decided that white and male are better things than black or female.

Even our divine was male for awhile (and maybe even white, judging from most popular depictions of Jesus). Having a female divine as well is certainly nice and having her be equal (and in some traditions superior) to him corrects some imbalances certainly.

But there are many sorts of men, and many sorts of women. There are very old, withered-but-wise men, and very young, mewling, just-out-of-the-womb men. There are the strong and muscled ones, the furry ones (my favorite), but also the lithe or round ones. And the same for women–the maidens, the mothers, the crones, the really strong ones and the really graceful ones, the large and fecund or the diminutive and fierce. To say they are all women or are all men is a strange thing to say.

There are several ways people have gone about re-imagining gender, or re-enforcing gender, and several of these attempts are worth staring at.

One of perhaps the more common treatments has been to re-inforce the divisions between them, cutting deeper “no-man’s lands” betwixt her and him. One strand of thought focuses primarily on the genitals of the person, and to some degree the genetics. On the side of “her” has been Z Budapest and other Second-Wave feminists, insisting that women are only those who’ve been born into such things as “the uterine mysteries.”

On the side of “him” have been writers characteristic of the New Right gaining increasing popularity within Paganism, such as Jack Donovan. “Men” for them are those who possess not just testicles, but also certain physical characteristics defined precisely by their opposition to an imagined Feminine.

In both cases, it is the fault of the other which has brought them to such matters. Second-Wave feminists cite patriarchy as the cause of their need for exclusion, and writers like Donovan cite Feminism as the reason men are bound to desk-work and served “manly” drinks in thin stemware.

A second treatment of gender fails equally. The “Radical Feminism” (which is hardly radical at all) of people like Lierre Keith and Derrick Jenson of Deep Green Resistance, as well as certain positions leftover from late 60’s American Paganism, attempts to resolve the matter of gender by abolishing it altogether. On its surface, such an idea is appealing, as must have been Atheism to Enlightenment writers, noting the problems of European Monotheism. Without gender, there is no division, and all humanity becomes one. Only in its particular violence against a certain group of people, however, does one begin to see the flaws in this.

In fact, what all these attempts have in common is a shared hatred of a specific class of people–trans-folk. Humans, who have chosen to physically embody a gender according to their will rather than circumstance of birth, attract such vitriol from all these groups that we should seriously consider why. Donovan, Budapest and Keith, all on apparently opposite sides of the gender question, stand united in their venom against trans-folk. Why?

The trans-person (and, equally perhaps, the queer) stands in a place more revolutionary and radical than any of their critics can hope to occupy. By choosing their gender, they do not abolish gender, they transform it into a human act, reminding the rest of us that gender, like race, is something we create and can choose to embody, rather than something we are born into. The all is split into many; each half of humanity split into a multitude of individual embodiments.

This transformation is revolutionary because it affects the rest of us. I am a cis-male, deep voiced, muscular, “man,” but if I rely only on accident of birth to claim my specific maleness, I exist in a passive realm of non-choice. For the multitude of other sorts of men, is it not the same thing? As well, for women; if a female relies on her uterus for her identity, what sort of identity is that?

That is, we cannot merely say woman, we must also ask “which woman?” Just as we cannot merely say Goddess or God, but rather ask which goddess? Which god?

"Starry Night" [Photo Credit: ESO/H. Dahle  Lic. CC - Wikimedia]

“Starry Night” [Photo Credit: ESO/H. Dahle Lic. CC – Wikimedia]

The Multitude and the Myriad

To lump a very large group of things, or people, or beings into one whole has not gone very well for us humans these past few millenia, particularly because we’ve had to, like Cinderella’s step-sisters, take some bloody steps to force things to fit into the receptacle of our categories.

Monotheism required the annihilation of other gods except the One God; just as it required the destruction of cultural forms to make people fit into its categories. Communism and Fascism both require similar annihilation, crushing all humans within their realm into the worker or the volk. But likewise, Atheism is hardly an adequate answer, which abolishes all gods just as some would abolish all gender. More pernicious has been Capitalism’s answer, which erases identity altogether, except what can be purchased or sold, leaving individuality to one’s choice of smartphone or automobile. Any anyway, it hates forests.

Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt introduced the idea of “the Multitude,” the vast teeming flood of humans and their experiences which threaten always to overwhelm Empire. I suggest we Pagans embrace it and expand upon it. I like, particularly, the word Myriad, as in a “myriad of stars,” an immeasurable number which likely has a limit but one we cannot quite reach.

In all our multitudes of experience, we define ourselves and our genders. Each man is a sort of man, each woman a sort of woman. Each goddess is a sort of goddess, each god a sort of god. They are themselves them selves, just as we are each neither cog nor component.

How many gods are there? I do not know, anymore than I could hope to innumerate the sorts of women I’ve met, or of trees. I know it’s more than two and, definitely, more than none.

Likewise, how many ways of encountering the Other, or of making love, or of relating to each other are there?  How many sorts of sunlight are there, how many kinds of illumination does the sun shine upon the earth?.

A multitude, certainly.

A Myriad.

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213 thoughts on “Column: The Multitude and The Myriad

  1. Trans people don’t choose their gender though. Most people who are considered trans are born the gender that they are and are just assigned a different one.

  2. The gender thing, for me, is only really important when talking about fertility.

    Using someone who is, for all intents and purposes, not capable of (natural) reproduction for a fertility rite is pretty disrespectful.

    Of course, only a small number of rites are about fertility, and not everyone who is of the relevant gender is fertile.

    • If the fertility of non-trans folk isn’t an issue, how does the potential non-fertility of a trans person render their very presence as “disrespectful”? No one is doing mandatory sperm counts before male-involved fertility rites, AFAIK, so why impose a ridiculous double standard on a marginalized group, my dude?

      • Who said I would exclude them?

        I just wouldn’t given them the “key” role(s).

      • I highly doubt @LeohtSceadusawol:disqus would explicitly exclude anyone, but in certain fertility-minded rites, fertile participants are expected. This is most often an issue with group ritual, but in traditional polytheisms, yes, there are requirements that (as a random example I just pulled from my arse) that for a bountiful harvest, a woman who recently gave birth should be the one to bless the fields at planting time, to do otherwise would be to curse your crop.

        I understand that I’m an unusual trans person in pagan circles for saying this, but some things are more important to a lot of people’s practises than your feelings. It’s about the gods and Their feelings, for a lot of polytheists, it’s not about human feelings at all.

    • There are many people who were born with female anatomy who are not fertile and are not capable of reproduction. Is it disrespectful to allow them to participate in fertility rituals?

      • Precisely.

        There are many reasons anyone of any gender might be infertile, including a variety of genetic disorders and differences, illnesses, malformations, injury, surgery either chosen or medically necessary, medication, exposure to a number of substances, age… the list goes on and on. Are none of them eligible to participate in fertility rites? I take birth control, and am functionally infertile as long as I take it. Should I not take part in fertility rites? There are a number of sterilization procedures that are reversible, including vasectomy and essure. Are people who have had those ineligible? Where do you draw the line?

        Not to mention that not all trans people are infertile, and some of them want to pass on their genetic legacy. Thomas Beatie gave birth. Various trans women have children, either by a partner or a surrogate. Any number of trans people of any gender freeze genetic material in order to reproduce later.

        Don’t be a transphobic jerk.

          • You will notice that I included a mention of other people who are non-fertile. It is not transphobic. It is about functionality.

        • I’m trans, and I also don’t think it’s appropriate to allow someone who is known to have compromised fertility to take certain roles in ritual –and *please* don’t tokenise Thomas Beatie and his legally-recognised MPREG and other trans people to make your point.

          It’s not about human feelings for a lot of people. It’s about the gods first and tradition second (or at least something as close to that tradition as is possible).

          And using a surrogate isn’t the same as having one’s own child –please be honest about the examples you use. I haven’t even had children, but I understand it to be a life-changing, psyche-altering experience; it is transformative and, on some levels, a magical thing, and “having a child by surrogate” is going to carry an entirely different energy.

          And for the record, while i know that my own TS status doesn’t mean i can’t say transphobic things, I aldo want to make it absolutely clear that I don’t think *anyone* with compromised fertility should take certain roles in certain rituals. I wouldn’t ask my cis friends who’ve had vasectomies or had their tubes tied to take part in certain roles in a ritual, because they’ve compromised their fertility. Nor would I ask my friend’s ex with Turner’s syndrome or a man with Klenfelter’s. It’s not about how much they may “want to” perform those tasks in ritual, it’s about the gods and tradition. If they want to join some other group where that doesn’t matter to the organisers, they can go do that, but I cannot, in good conscience, accept an invite to that ritual.

          We all have different spiritual needs, and that includes trans people. We are not a monolith.

      • You also forgot those too young or too old.

        They can participate in, but giving them the “fertility” role would be counter-productive.

      • Yes. I’ve written about this before, and I still stand by it. That’s not to say that there are no rituals where trans people cannot take a role, but (especially for post-mone, much less post-op transsexuals) fertility rites are entirely inappropriate. These are rituals where it would also be inappropriate to put (as an example) a woman with Turner’s syndrome or a man who lost his balls to cancer in certain roles.

        • I agree with what you wrote there. My issue is that isn’t how it actually plays out most of the time. Folks like Z Budapest aren’t checking anyone’s actual fertility at the door. The standard for so many seems to be that if you were born with female anatomy, you’re welcome at such rituals, and if you weren’t, you aren’t. At least that’s the experience that I’ve had, and I have a big issue with that for many reasons.

          • I’m something of a pedant. I run a ritual, I’ll be making sure the right people are doing the right job.

          • And that’s great, but that’s not the norm. I’ve seen way too many “women’s mysteries” rituals in my day were words like “moon” and “blood” are used to exclude trans women, but whether or not the “women” who we’re allowed to participate were actually “fertile” or “bleeding” or not was never actually addressed. Exclusion is usually based on the plumbing one was born with, and while “fertility” is always the justification used, it tends to be a hollow justification with no true substance behind it.

            If you’re doing an ACTUAL fertility ritual, that’s one thing. But 99% of the “women’s mysteries” crap I see is just exclusionary BS.

          • See, I always thought those kinds of things would be for women who were actually “on” for them.

            I completely agree with the 99% crap being BS.

            It is as I said, most of the time, gender is completely irrelevant.

            (As an afterthought, the whole “moon” thing is kind of weird from a Heathen stance – the moon’s a guy!)

          • (As an afterthought, the whole “moon” thing is kind of weird from a Heathen stance – the moon’s a guy!)

            And Celtic and a lot of other traditions, too, if I’m not mistaken. I think i once read an article about lunar deities that said, in world mythologies, lunar gods are actually more common than lunar goddesses, but like hell you can point that out to the average meopagan –and mind, I’m a Hellenist, where the moon *is* female.

          • Fertility is cool and all, but aren’t there other things to celebrate through ritual? This is why I like being a Dionysian. Anyone can get drunk, go insane, hug a tree or tear apart a live animal and consume its bloody flesh regardless of what their internal plumbing is like.

          • And that’s great, but that’s not the norm. I’ve seen way too many “women’s mysteries” rituals in my day were words like “moon” and “blood” are used to exclude trans women, but whether or not the “women” who we’re allowed to participate were actually “fertile” or “bleeding” or not was never actually addressed. Exclusion is usually based on the plumbing one was born with, and while “fertility” is always the justification used, it tends to be a hollow justification with no true substance behind it.

            Then they’re doing it wrong, to be frank, and they’re using sloppy ritual standards as an excuse to discriminate against people.

          • And I totally agree that’s not how it plays out a lot of the times, and yes, most of the time the whole “compromised fertility” angle is used to bar trans women from women’s rit, even when the rit has absolutely nothing to do with menstrual rites or mysteries (for my unqualified opinion, I don’t understand why a trans woman would even want to attend those rites, nor do I understand why a woman with Turner’s syndrome of AIS be allowed in simply on the grounds that she’s AFAB).

            I’m mainly just speaking up because I have “traditional” tendencies when it comes to ritual (even though I’m very non-traditional in most other areas of life), and I find the issue a bit more complex than “cis vs trans”. If only cos the best way to symbolise a thing is with the thing itself, so yes, certain fertility rites should only have fertile people in certain roles —if that means we have to see a doctor’s note cos no-one who had a child through natural means can do it, then that’s a technology the gods led us to in order to make sure we can have fertile participants.

            Zsuzsana Budapest is clearly using her spirituality as an excuse for her own bigotry and masking her lack of understanding with claims of fertility rites and all manner of stuff-and-nonsense about genetics, which she clearly doesn’t understand. How I see it, though, is not to throw the baby out with the bathwater, especially when we have the knowledge not to at hand.

    • I do not think the Egyptian Gods and Goddesses find such a thing disrespectful at all. Hapy, God of the Inundation – and thus fertility par excellence – is represented with gender-combined features – both a beard and pendulous breasts. The great Creator Goddess Neith is called both “The female who is/acts male” and “The male who is/acts female”. Atum, the Heliopolitan Creator God, creates by means of masturbation – not exactly ‘natural’ reproduction. The Egyptians go out of their way to associate fertility, fecundity, and creation with both/neither genders. And in keeping with the spirit of Rhyd’s article, large numbers, nay ‘myriads’, of individualized (by town, region, Nome) ‘Fecundity Deities’ present offerings in Temples that range all the way from the Old Kingdom to Greco-Roman times – each presenting the fruits of agriculture, hunting, fishing, and gathering to the presiding deity of the temple. So, for me, as a Kemetic reconstructionist, having a trans or gender-queer or queer person representing fertility in a rite seems downright natural.

      • Humans are not gods. Different standards.

        It is not about trans- or gender queer, it is about functionality.

      • If certain Kemetic groups think that’s fine, then good for those Kemetic groups. That’s not the appropriate solution for all traditional polytheisms nor all groups associated with those religions. Nor even all trans people in those religions.

      • I can’t say I approve – that would fall into that “non-natural” category I mentioned (along with IVF and similar treatments, in case you are wondering.)

  3. A great deal of traditional Wicca has no resemblance to the duotheistic caricature you present. I imagine some Wiccans might have such a view, but none I have ever known in over 25 years have expressed such a position. When the issue comes up they express a polytheistic view in one form or other. This is apparent all the way back to Gardner’s works.

    This point has been made over and over and over again, sadly to no apparent impact on some of those who are not Wiccans.

    • “Traditional Wicca focuses on female-male duality along with the cycle
      of life and death. However, male deities are usually relegated to a
      secondary but still very important status. Traditional Wicca therefore
      attends to the Goddess and the God and their rituals usually include both
      a priestess and a priest.”

      –Gus diZerega, Fault Lines,( p170)

      • The point is that it refers to the Goddess (a specific one) and the God (another specific one), it isn’t Duotheistic, but a cult centred around a a pairing. Much as the Cult of Mithras was focussed on the worship of one God – that doesn’t mean Mithraists were monotheists.

      • Written LONG before the present controversy and not addressing this issue because we had not yet been plagued by it. If Christians had accused us of duotheism I would have addressed it. But my book was written to contrast general Pagan to general Christian belief.

        As the focus of WICCAN celebration, the Goddess and the God in no way exclude accepting the reality of other deities in other traditions, and my book makes that point plain over and over again (15-18, 23-24, for just a few). I have never ever criticized the reality or value of other Pagan traditions that deal with the sacred in other ways.

        I have also discussed this issue at length far more recently. Given that traditional Wicca is largely NeoPlatonic in its original orientation, the entire issue of individuality in deities is a complex one. It is real, but not it is not atomistic. This is hardly a new point. Gerald Gardner wrote that the Witches he knew had a theology that could be summed up in the writings of the Roman Pagan Sallustius.

        The concept of individuality in the Western sense is dissolving in modern science. Not that it is not real, but it is not as it has been considered. As I point out the insights being explored today actually are in harmony with perspectives that accept both enormous diversity and some kind of monism. See my essay in Patheos:

        • What’s the present controversy? Because if you’re talking about the desire of polytheists to distance ourselves from Wiccamorphic paganism that was already well underway when I got online in 1999. Hellenic polytheism in the States got its start in the 70s and really hit its stride in the late 80s to mid 90s. Most of the arguments circulating now had already been raised by then.

          • It was not a public issue back then in Pagan circles of which I was aware. But a good way of avoiding the issue.

            When people claim to be polytheists and deny to those of us who identified as such long before they were involved, it is hard for me to take them seriously. And so I do not.

          • Do you affirm the existence of many gods? Then I consider you a polytheist. I don’t see what’s so complicated about that – it’s right there in the name: πολύ “many” θεοί “gods.” And that’s all that it means. I know plenty of Wiccan polytheists, polytheists who draw on ancient cultural traditions as well as ones who just make stuff up and every religious methodology in between – hell, I even know a couple heterodox Christian polytheists. Anyone who feels the need to qualify that statement about the existence of many gods, especially those who would posit an underlying unity that erases the autonomy and identity of said gods, ought to find a more accurate term for their beliefs. We’re not saying they’re wrong – just different. Why is that so problematic? What do such people gain from these dishonest attempts at appropriation? I’d think they would want to associate with people who share their own theological beliefs instead of creating constant friction by forcing their way in.

          • I affirm Their existence and have given Them thanks and prayers by name for many decades. I have personally encountered several. I am also a Monist of sorts. So are a great many Pagan thinkers over several millennia. We have no difficulty in combining that with appreciating individuality.

            We (and I suppose you) relate to our deities as individuals. They respond as individuals. Practice rather than theology is what matters to us. And so your claiming we are ‘dishonest’ in calling ourselves polytheists because we are also monists impresses many of us as arrogant and ignorant.

            To my mind theology is a monotheist disease whose advocates seek to claim absolute knowledge and so denounce those with different beliefs, as we have seen in spades among those seeking to confine polytheism to those who agree with them. I know from my own experience it takes time to get over a monotheistic mindset, and those bent on seeking the One True Understanding have not yet done so.

          • Since you will read nothing that differs from your beliefs, nor consider arguments or beliiefs different from yours other than to denounce them, there is no reason to continue the converstation.

          • What gives you the impression I don’t read material that reflects my beliefs? Just because I point out when you are wrong doesn’t mean I haven’t read you.

          • I generally do not concern myself with what Christians believes unless their actions threaten to impact my own.

          • It’s fine, and I must admit I am pretty similar in that regard.

            However, I was just pointing out the likely mindset origin.

          • You cannot equally and simultaneously assert both the plurality and unity of the gods. One may claim that they start as one and progress to the other; one may even hold that they move back and forth between the two positions. But these are mutually exclusive categories of being. To emphasize the one, one must de-emphasize the other. This is basic math, folks. I don’t see why it’s so hard to grasp.

          • There is a several thousand year old tradition across many civilizations that argues you are failing to grasp the issue. I agree. Your rebuttal is a good sound bite, but does not really address the arguments, let alone the experiences people have had that led them to this position.

            I gave a link to an article on the issue. I suggest reading it and then responding.

          • Neither us third grade math. But you are really doing all you can to avoid grappling with the linked arguments, aren’t you.

            And, if theology, a monotheistic obsession, cannot account for experience, it is worthless.

          • Cites and sources please.

            Philosophy was invented by Pagans in part because we did not distinguish between the Gods and the world so greatly that Theology could become its own subject. As philosophers they disagreed because that is what philosophers do, including about the Gods. But they did not go around denouncing others practices as wrong, as when you called us traditional Wiccans dishonest. Disagreeing and denouncing are not the same.

          • Orpheus is regarded as the first theologian of the Hellenic tradition – you don’t get more radical in your polytheism than him. You should probably also check out Pherecydes, Empedokles, Pythagoras, the Epicureans, the Kyrenaics and some of the later Neoplatonics such Proklos, Iamblichos, Damascius, Olympiodoros, etc. I would also recommend the work of Edward Butler who has done tremendous work on systematic polytheist theology and combatting the distortions that were wrought by Christians attempting to appropriate classical polytheist philosophy. This article might be a good place to start:

          • Gus, I found some more citations for you to follow up on:

            θεόλογ-ος , ὁ, (λέγω)
   who discourses of the gods, of poets such as Hesiod and Orpheus, Arist.Metaph.1000a9, S.E.M.2.31; of cosmologists (like the Orphics), Arist.Metaph.1071b27, al., Cic.ND3.21.53; “θεολόγοι καὶ ποιηταί” Phld.Piet.48; of diviners and prophets, “θ. καὶ μάντιες” Philol.14; οἱ Δελφῶν θ. Plu.2.417f, cf. Luc.Alex.19, BMus.Inscr.4.481*.295 (Ephesus, ii A.D.), IGRom.4.1431 (Smyrna): fem., CIG 3199,3200 (ibid.).

            θεολογ-ία , ἡ,
   of things divine, Pl.R.379a, Phld. Piet.72, Porph.Marc.15, Iamb.Myst.1.1, etc.; title of an Orphic work, Dam.Pr.124: in pl., Arist.Mete.353a35. II. oration in praise of a god, SIG1109.115. 2. incantation, invocation of a god, PMag.Par.1.1037.

            θεολογ-έω ,
            A.discourse on the gods and cosmology, Arist. Metaph.983b29; “περί τινων” Id.Mu.391b4, cf. Plu.2.614d, etc.; Δία αὐτὸν [τὸν Φαέθοντα] ζωογόνον θεολογοῦσι call him Ζεύς ζ. Antig.Mir. 10b:—Pass., τὰ θεολογούμενα discourses about the gods, Plu.2.421e (v.l.), S.E.M.9.55; title of work by Asclepiades of Mendes, Suet. Aug.94; “τρεῖς αἱ Μοῖραι θεολογοῦνται” Theol.Ar.16.

            Short version: theology was invented by polytheists.

          • Thanks. I’ve read some and will look at others. Some of your cites are
            post-Christian and were made in the context of Christian attacks. But
            certainly not all.

            But note, the early arguments, those I have
            encountered anyway, are in the context of a larger effort at philosophy.
            Aristotle wrote on everything, or they were expressed mythologically. A
            myth is not a logical argument, and invites many interpretations.

            to the best of my knowledge early Pagans thinking about these things
            did not criticize other views with different views as “dishonest”. Or
            as not being ‘real’ polytheists. They argued their system of
            understanding was better, but did not reject entire traditions of
            practice except, so far as I know, Dionysian kinds of practices. Those
            were rejected for political reasons. Many attended the Eleusinian
            Mysteries and did not write about them. Poetry, myth, and invocations
            have never in the modern world been regarded as “theology.”
            Interpretations of myth can be of course.

            As a separate field
            from philosophy, theology appears to be a Christian effort because it
            was considered superior to philosophy, which dealt with the fallen
            world. Also it was essential to get it right because so much depended on

            So I distinguish between theology as a self-sufficient
            field distinct from philosophy. Or mythology. The spirit of
            condemnation of other traditions seems to me largely absent from Pagan
            societies and very common among those Pagans today who emphasize
            theology over practice. In my view it is legitimate to argue monism
            breaks down as a philosophical foundation for polytheism. I disagree of
            course, and have offered arguments to the contrary. But whether I am a
            monist or not has nothing to do with the power of a circle I cast, my
            access to Wiccan or other deities, the effectiveness of our magick, and
            so on. And that is what is most important.

            You have admitted as much with respect to your own views, so please give the same consideration to others.

          • Philosophers argued bitterly among themselves. That’s what philosophers do.

          • Not true at all. Sokrates spent most of his time in the marketplace. Herakleitos hung out in temples and preferred playing with children. Xenophon was a soldier. Diogenes lived in a pithos and had folks come to him. Philosophy was not reserved for ivory towers, but a matter of everyday life in antiquity. If you need a refresher might I suggest starting with Diogenes Laertios who provides brief and easy to understand biographies of many of the important philosophers up to his time. Eunopios is your go-to guy for the Second Sophistic and later.

          • I was thinking of contemporary philosophers today when I wrote that, implying that Wild Hunt was not the best venue for this kind of thing.

          • Actually, considering the history of the philosophical tradition that sannion/ refers to, this is *precicely* an appropriate venue for hashing out philosophical dialogues.

            Or did you just not read what he wrote?

          • It is Christians who have no theology. They have an evil, hate-filled, irrational ideology – but it is more political than it is religious, since it is primarily concerned with the control of human behavior and thought, and gives little or no serious attention to understanding the Divine.

          • Not only did polytheists invent theology, but they invented 99% of all the terminology still used to this day by Christian theologians. Of course, most of this terminology has been turned upside-down and/or inside-out – but nevertheless the point still remains that Christians have passingly little original theology of their own, outside of a handful of evil, irrational ideas such as i) monotheism itself, ii) original in, iii) creation ex nihilo, and iv) the “Incarnation” (that is, divine revelation as a “one off”).

          • “You cannot equally and simultaneously assert both the plurality and unity of the gods.” Why not? Light is both a particle and a wave. The cells of your body are part of you and also have individual existence and agency. Plants that propagate asexually have identical DNA; each plant is both an individual and a small piece of a nearly immortal larger organism.

            “But these are mutually exclusive categories of being. To emphasize the one, one must de-emphasize the other.”

            That is because human beings are constitutionally unable to pay conscious attention to more than one thing at a time. That is a limitation on our ability to apprehend reality, not a characteristic of what we are attempting to apprehend.

            Deities (as I understand them) are entities that interact with the material world and are capable of manifesting in a physical form, but their existence spans other realms that interpenetrate the physical universe and a good deal of their activity is in those realms. (IMO, the same statement could be made about everything that exists, but it’s particularly obvious in the case of the gods.) Rules that apply in the physical world don’t necessarily apply in other realms, and the only way for a human being to approach a full understanding of the nature of the gods is by use of human faculties that operate in those realms. IOW, by becoming mystics.

            Furthermore, although I am not a Buddhist, I think Buddhist psychology has a better handle on reality than mainstream Western psychology, and according to them, the personality of individual human beings is contingent and as illusory as the perception of movement in the frames of a motion picture. If that is true of us, it is probably also true of gods.

          • There is no inherent contradiction in the examples you present. There is in asserting that 1 + 1 + 1 = 1.

          • “You cannot equally and simultaneously assert both the plurality and unity of the gods.”

            In fact, pitting the unity of the Gods against the plurality of the Gods is an invention of the Christians. Ancient Pagans did not argue about such things, since to them there was no problem, no conflict whatsoever between the unity and the plurality of the Gods.

          • To my mind theology is a fascinating area of study and enriches religion.

            I would never describe it as a disease, but it does have the potential to be used as a social weapon.

            Without theology, all we have is individual, made up shit.

            Throughout history, there have been countless cults dedicated to countless beings. Without a shared view of those beings, none of those cults would have existed.

            That is what theology is for – an increasing of understanding of belief.

            At the end of the day, we are all just blind men trying to describe elephants. Sharing our experiences and knowledge, and drawing on what has been left by those that have gone before, can only help us increase understanding.

          • And the move away from Wiccamorphic paganism was motivated by more than just theology – many of us realized that we held differing ethical beliefs, performed ritual in different ways, valued different cultural elements, etc. I have great respect for the Wiccan trailblazers who opened the way for us in the 50s through 70s – but since then we’ve been developing our own traditions. As long as the default model and understanding in paganism is informed by Wicca there is no room for us under the pagan umbrella. This shift already happened and strident attempts to impose uniformity and telling us that really are one of you are only going to increase acrimony and further the divide between us. There are still plenty of issues we can work together on – but that must begin with a recognition and respect for our inherent differences.

          • I don’t claim to know about other places, but the situation you describe does not and has never to my knowledge existed in the SF Bay Area. For example, no Wiccans in my experience have denied the reality and worth of Heathen rituals or deities, and I for one have known and respected Heathen practitioners for decades. Ditto for Druids. And I am far from alone out here. We do our stuff, they do theirs, occasionally we are guests at one another’s rituals, especially at Pantheacon, and no one feels slighted.

            One of the most transformational insights I had upon becoming Wiccan was that as we made no exclusive claims, other paths and traditions could be every but as valid as ours.

          • What sort of evidence would you have to be presented with to change your opinion? Because I can provide you with books, websites, personal anecdotes from myself and countless others, whatever is needed. However, if you’re not actually going to approach this with an open mind then I see no point in continuing this conversation with you. (Though I will continue to call you on it when you misrepresent the positions of my associates.)

          • I gave you evidence from one of the oldest strongholds of traditional Wicca. Apparently that and my own views published over many years do not matter at all to you.

            I do not give a damn about websites or books or anecdotes unless they involve at least second degree Wiccans in traditional BTW lineages saying their tradition trumps all others, or some such stupid sentiment. Then I will say they are 100% wrong but will grant we Wiccans have a problem.

            Today nearly anyone can claim to be a Wiccan if they choose, and traditional Wiccans have no control over that. But when you make broad arguments about Wicca as a tradition you need to address those traditions that actually have a long history as such and not something that someone created after reading a book or a web site.

            And to avoid the misunderstanding I imagine will be inevitable with Wicca-haters, I am NOT saying the only valid way to practicing Paganism is through a established tradition. If the sacred is everywhere then anywhere is a potential place to start. But if someone says they are Wiccan, it doesn’t mean much of they do not act in broad compatibility with established Wiccan groups.

          • I am not questioning your assertion that some Wiccans hold the views that you ascribe to them. I’ve met such people and consider some of them close acquaintances. As you will notice I am always very careful and precise when making statements regarding our respective communities since I have no desire to damn by association or erase the presence of people whom I respect.
            You, on the other hand, are denying what I claim are my experiences with other Wiccans and Wiccamorphic pagans – experiences that are quite plentiful among polytheists. Therefore you can either educate yourself and accept what we are telling you or you can continue placing your fingers in your ears and going “Lalalalalalalala.” The choice is yours. I suspect I know already what you will decide, based on what I’ve seen of your belligerent encounters with people in the past.

          • Your statements were broad, mine were carefully confined to the Bay Area and to my own experience. I never claimed your experiences did not happen, I gave requirements as to when I would take them seriously as pointing to a problem with Wicca. But I tire of the discussion.

          • It’s funny you should mention the Bay Area since one the first and longest lasting Hellenic polytheist groups I’m aware of was formed there. In the early 2000s I had numerous conversations with him about the need to separate our community from the pagan umbrella. I argued for remaining (despite certain problematic people and groups I had encountered) while he was adamant that we schism. Close to a decade and a half of inter-communal experience has brought me around to his way of thinking. I’m sure you’d find some way out of accepting his testimony.

          • I’m sure you’d find some way out of accepting his testimony.

            Of course he would. After all, this is the same guy who, barely over a few months ago, found a way to get out of @Alley Valkyrie’s testimony of being sexually harassed at pagan gatherings in the SF bay area and continue to mansplain to her that she was wrong and should just move there and see for herself. That or he clearly was doing exactly what he loves to accuse others of: Not even reading what she’d written.

          • Sometimes groups find it a challenge to get enough active working members to stick around. That’s not unusual for any of us who are trying to lead groups, the more so as many people these days have little spare time on account of having to work long hours. One practical way out of this difficulty is to look for prospective students and members among people who were not previously involved with the pagan community. Once in the community, at least in large urban areas, there is a wealth of choices of groups to join and people often become spread thin and limit their commitments to any particular group.

            If you teach and recruit from outside the pagan community, it takes longer to educate folks on the basics and winnow down to a serious few, but those few will be more focused on whatever you are sharing with them and more motivated to stay involved with the group, since they aren’t involved in a lot of other pagan activities competing for their time. Doing this kind of outreach benefits the pagan community as a whole, by bringing in new blood.

            I may know the person you are speaking about. Possibly what I wrote above was the basis of what he said to you.

      • I thought you were quoting from “Pagans and Christians,” not “Faiultlines.” (I just got back from a many hundred mile drive and was sloppy and tired.) But the rest of my comments stand. It is a statement of Wiccan focus, not of theology about polytheism. My page numbers are from “Pagans and Christians.”

        But I’m glad you got that far in the book.

  4. Well written, much food for thought. I suppose when I say “the Goddess” I include an implied “as far as I can tell.” I hear you say it’s a little colonialist, and I can understand where you are coming from but I have never intended it to mean “my goddess is so big she contains all of your goddesses put together,” just “the Goddess to the extent that I am aware of her.” When anyone talks about their deities I imagine I am editing in “as far as I am aware of them” and I think it helps keep the peace.

  5. Up to this point what I have found most valuable about The Wild Hunt is its unique coverage of actual Pagan news. Jason, Heather, and some of the others have done an excellent job of engaging in real journalism in support of the Pagan community.

    However, I find that this article is no where near up to those previously high standards. Your attempts to present your simplistic view of the history of religion while tailoring your narrative to provide room for Wicca bashing I hope is not what we can expect from The Wild Hunt in the future.

    So these seem to be some of the main points you are proposing:

    “it’s surprising that such a theory of religious succession could still maintain a grip upon Pagan thought – a theory which can be seen particularly in an unfortunate misstep of Wicca regarding the gender of the gods…. The Pagan (particularly Wiccan) Goddess is a conglomerate principle, a pastiche, a compound being encompassing half of a split divinity gendered female, or a corporate entity sometimes named the Divine Feminine. What then is left which is not of the one-Half-(female)-Goddess is then re-pasted upon a feral-yet-civil hunter dressed up in sacred loin-cloth and antlers.”

    You must know that this kind of inflammatory language is a serious mischaracterization of and direct insult to the Gods of Wicca, the people of Wicca, and our intelligence. It almost looks like an thinly veiled attempt to break the bonds of community.

    The question then becomes why is The Wild Hunt going down this path of seemingly promoting aggressive divisiveness within the Pagan community? This is definitely a new twist. To what end? The new pseudo gonzoistic editorializing tone is something that quite surprises me. The Wiccan community is one of The Wild Hunt’s major constituencies. Is attacking and lying about us any way to maintain good community relations and engender our continued support?

      • I see none of that in Greg’s argument. I see “please don’t insult Gods who aren’t yours”.

          • “The Wiccan community is one of The Wild Hunt’s major constituencies. Is attacking and lying about us any way to maintain good community relations and engender our continued support?”
            In other words, if you keep letting those polytheists have a voice here we’re going to take our money and leave.

          • And what’s the implication of that question, should Jason continue giving a voice to polytheists at THW?

          • I don’t see it as an opposition to giving voice to polytheists, I see it as opposition to polytheists continuing to misrepresent, in insulting manners, Wiccans, in ways which the other polytheists have, rightfully complained about Wiccanates doing to the other polytheists.
            In other words, I see the statements by non-Wiccans about the Deities of Wiccans as hypocritical.

          • I’ll give you that one. We should all endeavor to be precise in our terminology, particularly when we are criticizing others.

          • The thing is, Rhyd is not misrepresenting “Wicca” as it’s presented in nearly every book about it, including those of at least one of the people getting angry in the comments. But the IBAB Wicca of those books isn’t what’s making people angry, it’s the fact that it’s being analysed by a member of the polytheist community and called what those books call it: Wicca.

          • No, what’s making _me_ angry is that a polytheist, who has shown by use of the term Wiccanate that they know better, is accepting, unquestioningly, and then reiterating that representation of IBAB as Wicca.

          • But the IBAB Wicca of those books isn’t what’s making people angry, it’s the fact that it’s being analysed by a member of the polytheist community and called what those books call it: Wicca.
            You and I actually agree on this point, and I misread your comment the first time around.

          • Sigh. Wiccans are polytheists even if we interpret the relation of the Gods to everything else differently from you. (And Wiccans disagree among themselves on this issue, BTW.) The arrogance of monopolistic ‘polythists’ claiming sole possession of a term older than they is what many of us find so objectionable. Believe what you want. Make philosophical criticisms of other interpretations. Fine. But seeking to appropriate a term used by people with different views from yours for thousands of years is arrogant and insulting.

            And it is not a threat to say that when time is limited we Wiccans might have better things to do with our time than read arrogant and uninformed attacks on us. Write about your own traditions and what you find valuable about them and leave ours alone. The issue is not your writing about what you do and why you do it, the issue is your attacking us. And yes, if this continues my contributions will go elsewhere where I and other Wiccans are treated respectfiully.

          • The arrogance of monopolistic ‘polythists’ claiming sole possession of a term older than they is what many of us find so objectionable.

            Actually, to put on my pedant hat, Gus-Gus, polytheism is far older than the term for it.

            Now go back to mansplaining how women at pagan gatherings don’t get sexually harassed and those who think they have been should just move to the (incredibly expensive) SF Bay area and see how much the pervs there aren’t.

          • Gus, out of everyone here, you have the least room to be going around calling people arrogant. Out of just about any writer on Patheos, you appear to be the most obssessed with pushing your definitions of what is and isn’t “pagan” or “polytheist”. Don’t think no one remembers your tirades about how all pagans religions are “earth centered” (wrong) or that hard polytheism is “radical” (i.e. wrong; nice erasure, bro).

          • “Radical” is not my term, it is the term used by NeoPagans in the past who argued against us monists that polytheism was fundamental. Too bad you do not know the history of the term. Then you folks decided you’d be ‘strong’ and ‘tough’ by claiming to be ‘hard’. Very manly of you.

            I prefer distinguishing betwqeen radical and monistic polytheists or some such- respecting the legitimacy of both groups using the term polytheism. I’m sorry you don’t.

            My definitions are scholarly ones and are always accompanied by reasons that can be challenged by those able to read carefully. It’s how scholarship works concerning basic concepts. It makes communication easier.

          • “Radical” is not my term, it is the term used by NeoPagans in the past who argued against us monists that polytheism was fundamental. Too bad you do not know the history of the term. Then you folks decided you’d be ‘strong’ and ‘tough’ by claiming to be ‘hard’. Very manlyof you.

            Actually, I *do* know the history of the terms, and you’re wrong, too.

            Very few people have *ever* identified themselves as either “radical” or “hard” polytheists, and even fewer do, now. We’re just polytheists, and you may think that’s “monopolistic”, but Edward Butler (in an article that has already been linked to you several times since its appearance on-line in July, if you did not read it, that is neither my problem nor is it my duty to hand it to you again) puts this forth quite succinctly. Your “monistic polytheism” is very new, and inherited from monotheism.

            My definitions are scholarly ones and are always accompanied by reasons that can be challenged by those able to read carefully. …

            If by “scholarly” you mean “inherited from the monotheistic institutions that have worked their damnedest to erase ancient polytheism since the Enlightenment myths of pre-Christian non-theism amongst the ancients”, then sure, I’ll give you that.

            Furthermore, I find it’s especially funny that you keep going on about your idea that other people (name: those who disagree with you) are incapable of reading carefully, as a few months ago, during the sexual abuse “controversies”, @alleyvalkyrie:disqus told you umpteen times that she’s been sexually harassed IN THE SF BAY AREA, EVEN, and that this experience was shared (EVEN IN THE SF BAY AREA) with many other women. and your only response to her continued to be “well just move yer purdeh li’l self on down to the SF Bay area and see fer yerself that no such harassment of are wimmenfolk exists here, hyuk-hyuk!” (And yes, I’m mocking your mansplaination in the backwoods manner it deserves; even I don’t *seriously* believe you talk like that, much less said those exact words, but your constant need to mansplain and cissplain and hetsplain and whitesplain and otherwise talk down to people who dare to tell you that you’re wrong sure deserved that sort of mockery.)

          • And for the record I have never denied that there are polytheist Wiccans. I deny that claiming “all gods are one god and all goddesses one goddess” is polytheistic – it’s inclusive duotheism – but this is far from a view held by all self-identifying Wiccans, particularly among BTWs. So if you’re going to criticize me, please limit your criticisms to things I’ve actually asserted.

          • From Gardner on important Wiccans have disagreed with you regarding our practice and beliefs. And we are polytheists.

    • Ah. Bringing in a multitude of different voices representing a multitude of different views now constitutes “promoting aggressive divisiveness” and pointing out that divinity isn’t always strictly binary is “inflammatory” and a “mischaracterization”? In other words you will only be happy when only your narrow views are tolerated and given expression. Wow, it’s refreshing to see your kind so open about your bigotry. Usually we have to tease it out of you, as with Gus. I, for one, applaud the steps that Mr. Pitzl-Waters has taken to address some of the criticisms Heathens and other polytheists had about TWH. If you’re so frightened by diversity that you’re threatening to take your ball and go home, please do so. We polytheists will stand in solidarity with Mr. Pitzl-Waters and his growing stable of reporters and editorialists. In fact with the Wild Hunt pledge drive currently underway we are presented with a unique opportunity to do more than just pay lip service – I’m going to strongly encourage everyone I know to make a financial contribution.

      • Actually, my take on Greg’s complaint is that he is as angry at the Gods of the Wicca being misrepresented by someone not of the Wicca, as a Kemetic Reconstructionist would be were a Golden Dawn article here to refer to the Gods of Egypt as simply archetypes.

        Rhyd, who nowhere presents as being an initiated Wiccan, feels qualified to make statements about the Gods of the Wicca, insultingly prescriptive statements, which, if they were said about the Gods of any of the non-Wiccan polytheists, would be decried, and rightly so, as erasure.

        • Let us be completely honest, Wicca doesn’t have specific gods.

          What it has is framework that allows it to work with any chosen gods. This flexibility is what makes it popular, but also what attracts criticism.

          • My perspective exactly, and what got me into trouble with the first Wiccans with which I became acquainted. I was rather rude to them, certainly by their own standards.

          • I often get in trouble with Wiccans when discussing certain topics.

            Not entirely sure why.

          • Could it be because you lump BTW and Wiccanate people in one group, and attribute to the former, things and definitions you get from the latter?

          • Let’s be completely honest, you do not know what you’re talking about, when it comes to BTW, which has two very specific deities.

          • Wicca has been more than just BTW since the 70s. I suspect that’s where a lot of the confusion and conflict comes in.

          • No, Wicca has NOT. Wiccanate groups have been more than just BTW, as so many have said here and elseweb since the coining of the term.

          • As one of the people who (very likely) helped to popularise the term “Wiccanate” in the context of a systematic privilege in the Neopagan community, let me just say that 1) the earliest piece I wrote about the term has been misconstrued and taken out of context numerous times, and people think I’ve said Pop Wicca isn’t Wicca –when I haven’t, and I make that explicitly clear in my follow-ups, and 2) as said, it’s not my job to police other people’s identities; Wicca is whatever Wiccans say it is, but who exactly are the Wiccans who have that right, myself not a Wiccan (now nor ever), is not something I have any right to say –meaning it is wrong for me to give preferential treatment to anyone who claims a right to the term, be they of a Traditional or Popular form of it, and 3) Wiccanate Neopaganism is a catch-all for the many people who a) practise something clearly based on Pop/IBAB Wicca, and b) maintain that they are not Wiccan of any sort. Now, “Wiccanate privilege” refers to the systematic privilege alive and well in the pagan community (and rubbed all over some of the comments here) that extends most-explicitly to Pop Wicca and Wiccanate Neopagans, but that does not mean that Pop iccans are somehow “not Wicca” –it means that their privilege is innate to the massive “cultural understanding” in the Pagan community of what Wicca “is”.

          • BTW? Always found that descriptor amusing. Mostly due to it seldom being used here, in Britain.

            I don’t suppose you want to tell this Brit which two very specific deities they are? I know Gardner was always pretty vague on the matter.

          • That descriptor has come about, on the western side of the Atlantic, for the very reason so many have chosen to use the term Wiccanate.
            I’m well aware that the term BTW, in the UK, tends to refer to Cochrane-derived and similar groups.
            As for your question, no, I do not want to tell you that, as I took an oath not to, and keeping my word is one of those things I rather highly prize – which was why Gardner was vague.

          • If you refuse to give answers to something as basic as “which gods do you worship?”, you can’t complain when people misrepresent your belief in gods.

          • Yes, I can.
            I worship Gods who have specific names They have represented to us, and we have sworn to not reveal.
            That some outside of us don’t care about asking someone to break their word doesn’t detract from the fact that BTWs have, for quite some time, even back to Gardner, said that they have two specific deities who are not all encompassing conglomerates.

          • So, by way of comparison, would you then say that the Masons can’t complain when someone says they worship Satan and commit atrocities in their Lodges, because the Masons won’t tell them what happens in them?

          • …BTW, which has two very specific deities.

            So…. You’re saying Trad Wicca is duotheistic and Gus-Gus is saying it’s polytheistic? Maybe this is why @LeohtSceadusawol:disqus “gets into trouble” when talking to Wiccans? Cos it seems even amongst yourselves, there’s no single way to do it.

          • No, I have said that Wicca has two very specific deities, neither a conglomerate, nor a pastiche.

            Nothing in my practice of Wicca prevents me from worshipping Gods other than those two, outside of Wiccan practice.

            Nothing in the statement that Wicca has two specific deities denies the existence of other deities.

            I’m a polytheist, I believe in multiple Gods

          • No, I have said that Wicca has two very specific deities, neither a conglomerate, nor a pastiche.

            Nothing in my practice of Wicca prevents me from worshipping Gods other than those two, outside of Wiccan practice.

            There is nothing about that descriptive that is not duotheistic. You even state that any worship of other deities would be outside of what Wicca is. Whether or not YOU are polytheistic is irrelevant. There are Christo-pagans and non-mainstream Christians who are polytheistic, but the fact of the matter is, when they go to Church, the practise is monotheistic.

          • First of all, I’d like to thank you for these pointed questions/discussion on this theological topic.

            You even state that any worship of other deities would be outside of what Wicca is.

            No, actually, I don’t: Nothing in my practice of Wicca prevents me from worshipping Gods other than those two, outside of Wiccan practice.

            I did NOT say that I am not allowed to worship other deities in Wiccan practice (and this discussion is helping me figure out a better way, I think, of explaining it).

            Belief is not specified or prescribed in my type of Wicca.

            Practice is prescribed – thus, saying whether we are polytheistic (hard or soft), duotheistic, or henotheistic (possibly kathenotheistic, if I understand the term correctly) is a difficult topic; if one receives these practices in the prescribed manner, and performs them as they were taught, they are doing my type of Wicca.

            If we are going to get this technical, I’d say that Wicca, as far as I understand it, and as far as most of the people I learned it from and with, is predominantly duolatrist and polytheist. Wicca as I have been taught acknowledges that there are other Gods than ours, but the specific worship required is that of our two Gods, that worship of Them is a sufficiency (and possibly a neccesity, see below), for us as Priests/Priestesses of the Wicca.

            We also adapt our practice of religious witchcraft to worship of other deities – whether this can then be called Wicca, given my explanation above, is hazy, given the neccessity issue. I would say that when we worship Gods other than the Gods of the Wicca, using our Wiccan practices, we are worshipping them alongside that specified pair.
            When it comes down to it, I think if the practitioners of a religion call it whatever-theism, who am or others to argue – Christian Trinitarianism and veneration of the Saints looks like polytheism from the outside, but I wouldn’t call it that, because I understand their understanding of the concepts of dulia and latria.

          • They quite realise that there must be some great “Prime Mover”, some Supreme Deity; but they think that if It gives them no means of knowing It, it is because It does not want to
            be known; also possibly, at our present stage of evolution we are incapable of understanding It. So It has appointed what might be called various Under-Gods, who manifest as the tribal gods of different peoples; as the Elohim of the Jews, Isis, Osiris and Horus of the Egyptians, and the Horned God and the Goddess of the witches. They can see no reason why each people should not worship their national gods, or why anyone should strive to prevent them from doing so.

            Gardner, Gerald. The Meaning of Witchcraft. pgs 26-27; Lakemont, GA US: Copple House Books, 1959; 1988 edition.

          • Which “Horned God”, and which “Goddess of the witches”?

            The Wiccans I’ve conversed with tend to be quite broad minded in their choosing of specific deities to fit those archetypes.

        • I’m not going to tell you that Rhyd’s analysis wasn’t insulting to you or your gods (unlike some people I’m not in the habit of ‘splaining or trying to erase their experiences) but I simply did not see it that way. I readily admit that my biases may be shaping my perceptions here, so if you could explain what was so incredibly offensive about this post it would be most appreciated.

          • The Pagan (particularly Wiccan) Goddess is a conglomerate principle, a
            pastiche, a compound being encompassing half of a split divinity
            gendered female, or a corporate entity sometimes named the Divine
            Feminine. What then is left which is not of the
            one-Half-(female)-Goddess is then re-pasted upon a feral-yet-civil
            hunter dressed up in sacred loin-cloth and antlers.

            Here, and elsewhere on the web, many have taken to usinng the term “Wiccanate” to refer to those groups which are influenced, what-have-you, by Wicca. Rhyd has been part of the various discussions which use that term.
            By NOT using term Wiccanate, when talking about the Wiccan Goddess, and then portraying her as a pastiche, and the Wiccan God as an afterthought, it is very easy to interpret Rhyd’s commentary as being about BTW, not Wiccanate groups, and is thus as insulting as telling a Kemetic Reconstructionist that Aset is the same as the Virgin Mary.
            The Pagan blogosphere appeared to be doing well as recognizing the difference between BTW and Wiccanate groups, and appeared to making great strides to be very precise in specifying when one is meant as opposed to the other.
            Thus, it appears that by NOT using that term, Rhyd meant BTW – and by extension, was blaming that form of Wicca for the generic-Pagan Goddess being a generic goddess.
            That’s what I found insulting and offensive.

          • Every time that term is used people like Gus start frothing at the mouth. I suspect Rhyd used it to appease them. For clarity’s sake I think we should stick to it – or my own Wiccamorphic i.e. things that have the form but not the essence of Wicca or things that appear in the shape of but aren’t actually – so that we do not contribute to the erasure and distortion of your tradition. I’m sympathetic to your plight. You’ve had your tradition appropriated and misrepresented for decades now, to the point where authentic BTWs are in a decided minority. But on the other hand, that means that the vast majority of folks one encounters who identity as Wicca hold to the views and practices popularized by the solitary and 101 books that were booming in the 90s. Since it’s not our tradition I think it’s very easy for us to miss the nuance and bungle internal politics of your community. The ideal would be to educate without turning potential allies into enemies.

          • * Didn’t use it in order to appease them. Man, I guess my grammar is as bad as my philosophy. Thankfully I’ve still got competency in maths!

          • The ideal would be to educate without turning potential allies into enemies.
            It’s not the job of those offended by misrepresentation to educate those who misrepresent them, or so I thought was the standard regarding identity struggles.

          • True. But then don’t be surprised when those you’ve pissed off don’t come to your assistance.

          • So, it’s the fault, now, of BTW people, that the Wiccanate practitioners have pissed everyone else off?

          • You know what’s funny? I just read Rhyd’s post again and neither BTWs or Wiccanates seem to be his target. He’s pretty clearly going after transphobic individuals in the community who use bad theology to bolster their views. At least that’s how it came across to me, though I’m sure he could clarify that if he chose to. Which isn’t to say that we’re wrong to be having the discussion we are – I think it’s raised some interesting and important issues, regardless of Rhyd’s intent.

          • I don’t think they are his targets, either.
            However, in an otherwise very justifiable piece, he did in fact make some fairly definitive statements about the beliefs and Gods of a group of which he is not a member – behaviour that does get others taken to task, and rightly so.
            I see the counter transphobic nature of the article very important, and yet also see the commentary from Ruadhan regarding fertility as spot on.

          • Agreed, and I think you were right to call him on it. Sweeping generalizations always end up offending those we don’t intend to.

          • No, it’s not, but it’s easy to find good information on many other identity struggles (such as, but not limited to, transgender, GBL sexuality, polytheism, etc…), but where are others supposed to find good information on oath-bound traditions of Wicca, hm? I’m not saying it’s your job to teach people, I’m saying that the lack of decent sources that may be of adequate liking to those initiated into trad Wicca are going to be harder for the average outsider to that identity to find.

          • I get that.
            Snark tone aside, much of what I’ve read on has been well written in explanation.

            Amber & Jet is a yahoogroup dedicated to BTW practitioners and seekers.

            Frankly, BTW Wiccan interpretation of the nature of deity is as varied as there are practitioners, but it is generally held that we have two specific deities we serve in our Wiccan practice.

          • I ‘frothed’ BECAUSE it was used to include BTW. Your sensitivities need tuning.

          • No it wasn’t. We were very conscious to distinguish between BTW and the popular forms of Wicca and neopaganism that have appropriated elements from BTW.

          • Not true when it first appeared. For example, BTW was explicitly included with ‘Wiccanate’ when the non issue of Wiccan privilege was brought forth. That was when I got involved in the debate.

            I suggest you make the point clear until it is firmly established.

          • A long Patheos discussion earlier this year starting off with criticisms of Don Frew, to which I responded. Frew is BTW and Wiccanate was used inclusively.

            It prompted my several part post on privilege, a most overused term. Somewhere in the original discussion I suggested those who then called themselves “hard polytheists” could avoid the implied criticism of other polytheists by simply calling themselves “radical polytheists.” No one would have reasonable problems with that term, which in fact was once used for that position. Instead they simply appropriated “polytheists” for themselves, continuing the ill will.

          • Can’t say I disagree with you- but I was asked to write there and it is where I first encountered the term “Wiccanate.” The distinction between it and BTW was not made clear and many of the people who, along with me, replied identified themselves as BTW and were never told that “Wiccanate” did not refer to us. Some of the same people who blurred the distinction are participating in this discussion.

            I have written for Patheos in the increasingly shaky belief that it is the Pagan part of a serious interfaith oriented site for serious semi scholarly or scholarly writing, as when I made the mistake of offering an approach as to where Pagans fit in with other religions. This was apparently the
            effort ‘Diomedes’ just described as ‘arrogant.”

          • Gus, please do not make the mistake of thinking that the regularly appearing Wild Hunt troll brigade represents
            a significant portion of the Pagan movement, or even of the strict-interpretation polytheistic movement.

            They represent a small handful of individuals with a lot of time and attitude to spend making comments that are clearly calculated to offend. I don’t know why TWH tolerates having their comments threads appropriated on a regular basis for such venom, but regardless, these few voices represent nothing of lasting importance. (Unlike the strict polytheist movement, which I think does. I wish it health despite the affection the local troll population holds for it.)

          • It would be refreshing if some radical/strict (or whatever they want to call themselves) polytheists had the time to demonstrate they are able to respect other forms of polytheism. Until then I increasingly believe they are sectarians only happy when they are posturing as the only true polytheists.

          • Ah. Perhaps if that had been made clearer some of this confusion and antagonism could have been avoided. A lot of the time I’ve found that once people sit down and talk through their issues they can reach understanding if not consensus and find ways where they can profitably work together and areas where their differences are of secondary importance. It can be a long and grueling road towards that, often fraught with heated discourse, but in the end I’ve generally found it to be worth the effort. If people can maintain a modicum of civility and respect during the process, it tends to make things easier.

          • I have always tried to offered reason for my views. Like Habermas, who I think said it best, to make a statement implies the ability to back it up with reasons or evidence that can be challenged. And so I do. That makes my posts long.

            Slinging shit is easier, and many prefer it because they do not have to work very hard to toss a turd my way (see Alley’s recent example).

            Despite your and my differences, the examples of Pagan theology (as you call it) are interesting to me in part because of how much they differ from monotheistic theology. I argue they are different things, you suggest otherwise. To me that disagreement is not nearly so important as exploring how and why they differ. THAT is interesting and requires the input of many, so I am grateful for some of your examples.

            As to the Wiccan issue, if it had been made clear that the target was non BTW Wiccans, then some very interesting discussions could have been raised over issues like how viable it is to create a practice from a book or a web site. In my view the issue is not black and white

          • Actually, the topic started in November of 2013 with my “Pagan Blogging Project” post picking a “W” topic. Shows how much *you* actually pay attention and read what’s written.

          • “Privilege” is an overused term? Really, that’s just hilarious. If anything, it’s under-utilized and quite misunderstood. I suspect you’re among those who misunderstand it the most, given that you don’t see the irony in your ridiculously unchecked privilege as you make statements like that…

          • I wrote extensively on it after the ludicrous blarney erupted over “Wiccan privilege”.” Feel free to rebut me if you can over on Patheos. I will not waste time here repeating what was said there.

          • Oh, I’m well-aware what you wrote, and I could probably fill a book writing about how wrong you are and why, but I don’t write for my health. I’ve learned over time not to waste my breath and energy on folks who have demonstrated a complete and utter inability to listen to any sort of opposing views, and you not only fit that description, in many ways you absolutely define it.

            But I will waste the breath to tell you this: you are the absolute epitome of unchecked privilege in this community. White privilege, straight privilege, male privilege… your ability and your

          • I am not surprised at your response. You seem to regard sincerity as the equivalent of truth and denunciations and self righteousness as the equivalent of reasoning. Plus, being self righteous gets you off the hook for actually having to defend your views.

            It’s the lazy way out.

          • Not true when it first appeared. For example, BTW was explicitly included with ‘Wiccanate’ when the non issue of Wiccan privilege was brought forth.

            As the writer of the piece that argueably “started it”, I have one word: Bullshit.

          • And we continue to see it in such comments as this:

            Let us be completely honest, Wicca doesn’t have specific gods.

          • I can only be held accountable for the things I have said. I did not say that, and wouldn’t.

          • No, you didn’t, but no-one other than Greg and I have said anything against it, yet, when a Wiccanate misrepresents or “‘splains” for a non-Wiccanate Pagan or Polytheist, everyone comes out of the woodwork to castigate them.

          • Well, I’ve been busy explaining math and that polytheists invented theology to Gus. Sorry I haven’t had a chance to weigh in on that. I probably won’t, however, since I’m not in the habit of commenting on things I don’t know anything about. Not being an initiated Wiccan, I don’t know who your gods are or what their nature happens to be.

        • Except that “Wicca” is no longer simply “Traditional / Initiatory Wicca”, it’s also “Pop(ular) / Ecclectic / IBAB Wicca” and, by proxy, a shorthand for all manner of Wiccanate Neopaganism that a) is clearly based on the IBAB sources, and b) maintains that it is somehow not Wicca. It’s kind of been like this since the 1970s, when Zsuzsanna Budapest and the Frosts appropriated the term “Wicca” for whatever the hell they were doing, at the time, and so for about 40+ years, now, it’s been kind of a catch-all term for “witchcraft” or “witch religion” and, to a still-huge number of people in the Neopagan community, a word practically interchangeable with “pagan religion”.

          • appropriated
            And that, right there, shows why I would prefer (cos I’m not going to tell you what to do) that those of you who state that Z and the Frosts appropriated the term not continue to compound the error by giving it legitmacy.

          • By that logic, “Negro” is still an appropriate term for African-Americans, and we shouldn’t compound the error of those who have, over the last 40-50 years, been treating it as a “polite form of [the Big N]” –but linguistic drift happens. The United Negro College Fund is still welcome to use the word all they like, but those who find it offensive are not incorrect in their feelings, because the common practise has disparaged the term outside of very specific contexts.

            Probably not the best comparison to make, but the fact of the matter is, it’s far more pragmatic, at this point in the linguistic drift of the term “Wicca” to stress the differences between Trad Wicca and Pop Wicca, cos at this point, it’s going to be worlds harder for Trad Wiccans to reclaim sole ownership of the word, considering the contents of damned near every single pagan, metaphysical, and esoteric bookstore shelf labelled “Wicca”.

    • Greg, I’m a Wiccan, you know that. I’m also a member of COG. I was not offended by Rhyd’s column. I thought it was interesting. I think he makes many cogent points.

      Likewise, Managing Editor Heather is a Wiccan, she edited and approved this editorial. She also didn’t find it offensive. She found it thought-provoking.

      It’s OK to have non-Wiccans give their impressions of Wicca, even if you disagree. If The Wild Hunt is to be a resource for all Pagans and Polytheists, then we have to be open to dialog and discourse.

      If you feel like Rhyd got something wrong, you can either: comment here, as you have just done, or contact Heather about publishing a guest editorial. However, accusing us of “promoting aggressive divisiveness” is, I feel, unfair.

      • I don’t always agree with the views expressed by your authors, be they polytheist or neopagan, but I appreciate the great lengths you’ve gone to provide a platform for diverse elements in our respective communities to be heard. That is hard and generally thankless work. It is nevertheless much appreciated by some of us.

        • When they are speaking about their experiences with and understandings of Wiccans and their theology, I’d say yes. Otherwise you folk can never talk about ancient Greece and Rome or the Olympians again. Hmm … come to think of it, that wouldn’t be such a bad thing after all.

          • If I were to refer to a deified person from ancient Rome as just a myth, a fairy tale, I’d be rightly castigated for being insulting to those who worship that God.

          • No one has said you have to agree with Rhyd’s criticisms. I don’t agree with all of them. I do, however, support Jason’s decision to give him a venue where he – as well as others who represent different positions – can be heard. Pluralism is rarely peaceful, but I find it infinitely preferable to intolerant hegemony.

          • I have no problem with someone having and posting opinions, but when someone complains about a perceived insult, and suggests that it shows a lower quality of blogging than TWH usually provides, they are castigated?
            That’s rank hypocrisy.

          • I did not “castigate” Greg, for the record. I thought my reply rather mild. I consider Greg a friend, I know him in real life. We’ve attended some of the same parties. I would be more than willing to sit down with him the next time we meet and discuss this over drinks like gentlemen.

            All I was saying is that not all Wiccans found Rhyd’s piece insulting, and that he’s free to express his thoughts here, or by contacting our Managing Editor.

        • I’m not policing Greg’s reactions. He can feel however he likes, and he can comment however he likes.

          Wiccans give their impressions of other Pagan/Polytheist faiths all the time, so isn’t only fair that the opposite happen as well?

          • Wiccans give their impressions of other Pagan/Polytheist faiths all the time, so isn’t only fair that the opposite happen as well?
            So, when you allow those other Pagans and Polytheists to berate and rightfully complain about that misrepresentation, yet they turn around and attempt to cast Greg’s complaints as attempts to silence them, you don’t see the “good for the goose, good for the gander” attitude as hypocritical?

          • The difference being Greg proposed financial repercussions for those he doesn’t agree with. That kind of takes it up a notch.

          • Ok – so, people shouldn’t be allowed to vote with their dollars? No one has any obligation to pay to support TWH, so expressing concerns about being insulted, and not being willing to support said lowered standards is wrong?
            I’m not buying that.
            If someone came in, wrote an article decrying and ‘splaining Antinous, P. Sufenas would hgave a fully valid reason to suggest taking their financial support elsewhere.

          • I very specifically said that people should vote with their dollars. It’s a threat when Greg does it and a threat when I do it.

          • Ok, given that framing, I can see it as a threat – and a very honest and forthright one.
            Thanks for the illustration.

          • If I am correct in thinking that the veiled reference to “a deified person from ancient Rome” in your comment above is also a reference to Antinous and thus to my worship of him:

            The fact is, loads of people, both within Paganism and outside of it, do this all the time, and have tried to ‘splain Antinous in such a way that I “figure out” that he’s not really a god, he’s just an ancestor…or a “saint” (as some Western Hindus were trying to convince me)…or a tricky djinn (as some Muslims have tried to convince me)…or a demon (as people of a certain religion have been saying about him since the early 3rd century). If they qualified their statements with “In the theological system I adhere to, Antinous is…,” then who in the world would I be to say anything about that? I’d certainly wonder–as I do in the present instance–why it is they’ve chosen such a small cultus as the modern one of Antinous to single out for question, critique, or derision; however, they’re still free to do as they like, and if their critiques don’t directly impact my own cultus or those who wish to practice the worship of Antinous, then it really doesn’t matter. But, the reality is this unidentified “they” is doing this kind of critique of Antinous’ cultus all the time anyway outside of the circles I run in, and that’s their prerogative.

            As it happens, I’ve decided to support TWH financially, by what little means I have at present, even though I don’t agree with and am not interested in a great deal of what gets written here, and I’m actively dissatisfied with certain individuals who are part of the team. But, so what? It’s still a good resource to have, and I appreciate all that Jason especially has done to make it a welcoming, inclusive, and completely freely-expressive place for whomever wishes to use it, including those who have some sort of resentment for the modern cultus of Antinous.

          • I was, in fact, referencing your worship.

            The fact is, loads of people, both within Paganism and outside of it, do this all the time

            But do loads of people devote a paragraph in an otherwise excellent article on TWH to saying that?

          • Jason – would TWH and its editors/mods allow someone to come in, write an article that flat out said that Dion Fortune’s statement “All gods are one God, and all goddesses are one Goddess” was fact, and that the Hellenic, Germanic, Kemetic etc polytheists just didn’t know it yet?
            I doubt it.
            It would be insulting, rude, and erasure – it would be seen as divisive, and rightly so.

          • I was giving an analogy – Rhyd’s article, in part, said that the Goddess of the Wicca is a conglomerate.
            That is as insulting as someone asserting Fortune’s statement as fact.

          • No, you were offering a hypothetical example. An analogy would be “Life is like this gumball machine, i put in my quarter and expect a red one, but all I get are green and black” (double points if you catch the reference). If you’re going to insist that “Wicca” has a specific meaning, then it might do you well to actually understand the specific meanings of the other words you use, too.

          • Actually, it was a hypothetical analagous example.
            We should all do well to understand the words we use.

          • I’m sure it has been – but no one would get heated up over someone threatening to pull financial support from TWH over it.

          • That view is also the majority one within contemporary paganism. Polytheism is not. If polytheists said “I’m pulling my support because you slant Wiccanate” there are no serious repercussions. Saying, “We should yank our support because you’re giving voice to polytheists” is attempted silencing and erasure. But I do not require you to agree with me. Support TWH or don’t, as your conscious moves you. I will always be on the side of free expression, regardless of whether I like what is being expressed.

          • “We should yank our support because you’re giving voice to polytheists”
            That’s not what’s said – what’s said “We should yank our support because you allowed insulting definitions of our religion by outsiders.”

          • Since he wasn’t specifying BTW I think it’s inaccurate to say that he was insulting you. The majority of folks who identify as Wiccans hold the views he was criticizing. Whether they are correct in identifying as such is a separate matter.

          • Rhyd has been one of the people involved in the Wiccanate discussions over the last months, and TWH has been a very prolific site in furthering that discussion.
            It is inaccurate for me to be offended?
            Rhyd may not have INTENDED to insult BTW, but the result is that he has, in fact, insulted some of us.

          • Ha! I was reading over my comment, caught that slip and was going to correct it when your response came through. Intent is not the same as result, and you are right to not only be offended but to express that.

          • Is attacking and lying about us any way to maintain good community relations and engender our continued support?
            Greg’s threat, which I now agree can be seen as one, was to pull support because of a perceived attack and falsehoods, not because non-Wiccan polytheists have a voice here.

          • And just to clarify – 90% of the time I don’t. I’m a crotchety old fuck. I just believe that people should be given the opportunity to make fools of themselves in public because it’s entertaining and censorship inevitably gets around to targeting things I like such as pornography and violence.

        • So, Jason, are you saying Greg was wrong to be offended?

          I think his point is that the Wiccan perspective, like the transgender one, is not a monolith and that, as his closing statement said, if TWH is to be a source for all manner of pagan and polytheist, then those in said religions have to be open to these kinds of dialogues.

          You’re perfectly welcome to be offended, but whatever you do after that (keep reading and donating, or stop because of a perceived “aggressive divisiveness”) is your choice and yours alone.

    • Theres a big difference between a constructive criticism and an attack, and Rhyd’s article falls squarely in the first category.

      You mention the “people of Wicca” as though they are a monolithic group with identical beliefs. They are not. Your own views notwithstanding, I have met and known and circled with many Wiccans in my day who would characterize their understanding of deity EXACTLY as Rhyd put forth in this article. Nobody’s promoting “aggressive divisiveness”, save for perhaps yourself.

      • Except that Rhyd didn’t state it as being the characterization of the understanding of many Wiccans about their deities, he stated it as a definition.
        This is a shoddy generalization which would be complained about as much, if not more, were it done by an IBAB Wiccan (as Ruadhán puts it) about any other polytheist’s deity.

  6. In fact, what all these attempts have in common is a shared hatred of a specific class of people–trans-folk. Humans, who have chosen to physically embody a gender according to their will rather than circumstance of birth, attract such vitriol from all these groups that we should seriously consider why. Donovan, Budapest and Keith, all on apparently opposite sides of the gender question, stand united in their venom against trans-folk. Why?

    The trans-person (and, equally perhaps, the queer) stands in a place more revolutionary and radical than any of their critics can hope to occupy. By choosing their gender, they do not abolish gender, they transform it into a human act, reminding the rest of us that gender, like race, is something we create and can choose to embody, rather than something we are born into. The all is split into many; each half of humanity split into a multitude of individual embodiments.

    Unfortunately, I’ve met far too many (at least for my own comfort) trans people who take the side of wishing to abolish gender as a whole –which both saddens and confuses me: Without gender, who would these trans people be? It reminds me of an episode of Star Trek: TNG, (“The Outcast”, I believe?) where the Enterprise interacts with an androgynous race and Riker is (briefly) in a relationship with one of its members, who has learned/decided her gender is female, based on learning of her race’s past, before gender was abolished. (Also, props to John Frakes, who has since said that the character should have been male –cos if you’ve watched enough TNG, you know Riker and the desires of his beard.) Frankly, I think that if we lived in that society, I’d be that character –one of those expressing gender in an underground society of outcasts. This means less that I “choose” my gender, but that I choose what that means to me and how I’m going to live and deal with that. (After all, the science *does* strongly suggest that the gender of trans people, in and of itself, is not a choice, the only apparent “choice” then is how one deals with that.)

    Oddly, Andrea Dworkin wrote a piece I’m having a hard time sourcing at 4am, but it’s been heavily taken out of context and misconstrued to mean things I’m not entirely sure she intended. The basic jist was that she recognised human beings as a multi-gendered/sexed, rather than two-gendered/sexed, species and that trans people (as known in the early 1970s) were evidence of this, and moreover that the indoctrination of gender is broken and that perhaps with the removal of this indoctrination, this our multi-sexed species would be more free to realise that. While she’s often included amongst early TERF pioneers, finding that piece was rather eye-opening to some complexities of thought she maintained on the subject, and makes me very hesitant to include her amongst them –I think there are parts of that article that don’t date well, and I’m not 100% behind it, but it’s more interesting than I expected it to be, considering that she and I are/were on opposite ends of the porn issue.

    • This is a fine distinction that I think gets lost quite a bit of the time as well…

      I think gender is great, and I love it when people fully inhabit the genders they have identified with. I do not identify with being male, nor with being female, but I have nothing against those who do or who would like to; however, my own identification does not mean that I have a combinatory gender (though those who wish to have one certainly can, and that’s great!), nor that I have a negatory or neutral or non-gender (though those who wish to have that option are free to, and I love that, too!), nor is my gender fluid or multiple or shifting, as I’ve felt this way since I was at least three years old (though those who are gender-fluid are also lovely folks, and that option is a good one for those who choose it); I simply want an “other” gender that isn’t any of those, and which should be recognized as (one among many) further options for people to have.

      Biologically, humans have at least five sexes. There are some languages (Bantu, I understand, is one) which have ten or more genders. The notion that our options are male, female, both, or neither, seems really quite limited and unimaginative to me.

      This is why I’m metagender: both because my gender is beyond the options that have been given for gender thus far in our culture (including some of the more radical subcultures within it), and because “I never met-a-gender I didn’t like.” 😉

  7. In Russian the word for Sun, Солнце, is the neutral gender. It’s a shame that the Orthodox church so efficiently and permanently smothered Slavic Paganism in the past. As it is now, all that remains of Slavic Paganism is folklore and has to be reconstructed from myth and legend with a liberal dose of neo-Paganism imported from the West. There are Slavs out there who dare to worship their old gods, but the predominant atmosphere in Russia (and a handful of other east European countries I could name) is stifling.

  8. I am a non-theist, applying a prefix to a root to self-label something that takes a large bite of sound to explain: I reject the perception of anthropomorphic deities as the sole rationalization of the deities.

    I held that belief from the very beginning of my Pagan path. It started as a final link to being a very strong atheist, and has since evolved — slowly, at times painfully — into an appreciation of the many modes of perception of deity. At some point, keeping track of all of those modes takes much more than a scorecard and a pencil.

    So, I fall back on terms that seem useful. Having been deeply touched intellectually and emotionally by the writings of Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell, I use terms they used like archetype or avatar.

    So, how should I react to those who find offense or insult in my usages? Do I take their replacement terms to heart, only to find another group who find offense or insult in that usage? At what point do I just give up and either jumble a bunch of words together or decide to keep quiet about the subject from then on?

    Talking about deity is fraught with a variety of dangers. Some of us simply don’t want to tread on Their sensibilities. Some of us have different relationships with them, where independence and apparent disrespect are actually valued by Them. At no point can I be expected to know which or where in between someone else inhabits their relationship with their deity(ies).

    So, can we just talk about them and offer each other opportunities to learn and become aware of our levels of ignorance about other peoples’ deities..? Or do we just slam the whole thing with the Bludgeon of Political Correctness and be done with it ever seeing the light of day?

    I would like to continue learning. Your mileage may vary, I suppose.

    • I think that polytheology (the study of gods) is a complex concept due to so many conflicting theories about the nature(s) of the gods that can cause people to lose objectivity.

      Imagine, for a moment, if people set aside the endless debate about the nature of the existence of the gods. We could get a lot of interesting discourse about the nature of the individual beings.

      To use my “blind man” reference from earlier, the blind men could compare notes and try to work out a bigger picture for each elephant, and where one elephant starts and another begins.

      We may also find if there were some who were playing with cats, instead.

      • That’s why I generally don’t engage in theological disputation beyond the assertion that the gods are many. I have very complex, precise views on the matter which frankly put me at odds with the vast majority of my fellow polytheists but it’s unnecessary to have perfect agreement in order to work together on common causes. Insisting on plurality is important because rejecting that has some pretty profound and irreconcilable consequences. However, there are issues that I can work on with folks regardless of how many divine being they postulate such as human rights and the environment.

  9. I did not expect an attack on gender essentialism would get so easily derailed.

    I must admit, however, that the furor over these terms seems to point to something which goes much deeper than questions about Wiccan and Polytheist relations. As a matter of fact, I think something uglier is at play here, the same ugliness which has resulted in mass protests of Lierre Keith’s appearance at environmental summits, or the extreme language used by Budapest and Donovan regarding gender.

    To clarify—I have neither condemned nor belittled Wicca in this piece, as it’s not even actually about Wicca. A few have asserted that I’ve been part of the Wiccanate-Privelege discussions; I have not. As a matter of fact, the few mentions of that debate on my blog, where you can find the bulk of my writing, actually
    critique those discussions and asserts that it’s the wrong axis of criticism. From :

    “The discussions of Wiccanate Privilege, for instance, might have been better served by pointing out that the context in which many (white, middle class–that is, bourgeois) people organize gatherings for Pagans and speak on behalf of other Pagans is a place of assumption of normality, a defining characteristic of the Bourgeoisie.”

    That is, if there is any sort of privileging of one viewpoint over another, it is on account of a class, not a tradition. The forced universalism of the “all-one” God and Goddess is not native to Paganism–it is an inheritance of Monotheism and Liberal Capitalism.

    The Goddess/The God dichotomy does not appear only in Wicca. My own tradition, OBOD, also uses this dichotomy often, and it is not uncommon to be a polytheist in a Druid ritual and have to do the same translation of terms as one has to do in a Wiccan-led ritual. But, again, this piece is not an attack on either tradition, but rather points to the gender essentialism of Pagans, inherited from Monotheism. And I’d draw the attention of critics to my phrasing regarding Wicca’s adoption of duo-theism. I call it a “mis-step,” which is a rather mild critique. I am certainly capable of wielding stronger language, and I doubt any of my frequent readers would accuse me of holding back when strong criticism is warranted.

    Regarding the specific attack that I am attempting to “break the bonds of community,” I really must reply that any community which would attempt to silence a critique about gender is no community at all. Likewise, any community which would insist on withdrawing its support of one of the greatest community-building efforts within Paganism (that is, The Wild Hunt) because it does not like one of the voices they’ve chosen to feature starts to look a bit totalitarian, or at least awfully bourgeois. If anything, such calls only add more weight to those who have suggested there is an attempt at erasure of polytheist voices within American Paganism. The Wild Hunt is one of the few tangible proofs that there is no such erasure, that disparate voices are welcome, and I’m utterly honored to be writing for them.

    • I really must reply that any community which would attempt to silence a critique about gender is no community at all.
      I’m not attempting to silence you at all, much less for a critique about gender.
      What I did do, and I interpreted Greg’s complaint as doing, was complain about your ‘splaining the Gods of the Wicca, in a manner which I found insulting.

    • A few have asserted that I’ve been part of the Wiccanate-Privelege discussions; I have not.
      I withdraw the assertion.
      However, I do feel, given your writings, you are aware that there is a difference between what British Traditional Wiccans when they use the term Wicca, and what the “I bought a Book”/Z. Budapest/Frosts/Ravenwolfs mean they use the term Wicca, and that, given the detail to which you went in your article, you might have chosen to be more specific in your usage of the word Wicca, and more specific in not giving a definition of something which, by your own admission, is not your Goddess or God (as you do not appear to claim to be either type of Wiccan).

    • “Derailed” is precisely the word.

      I think people are having difficulty separating your article from the personal sniping and vituperation of the comments thread, myself. Yet another rehashing of a resentment of Wiccans by yet another appearance of the Wild Hunt Troll Brigade. It grows wearisome… and hard to tell from the substance of the posts, once we’re over 100 comments.