Thursday, September 27, 2012

Book Review: "The Druids"

          "The Druids" was written by Peter Ellis. The book is a brief survey of evidence for the beliefs and history of the Druids and is pulled from many different secondary sources. I will start the review by saying that Ellis definitely did his research and was well acquainted with his source material, he covers from Caesar and Poseidonios all the way to the "Druidic Revival" of the 18th Century. Ellis cannot be exhaustive obviously, but for the space of the book he elaborates quite well, however he most definitely has his flaws.

          The first and foremost flaw is that he apparently doesn't even endeavor to hide the fact that he and Nora Chadwick have some sort of confrontation or conflict occurring, and if they don't he certainly has a great deal of contempt for her work, which as far as I can tell is due to her favoring ancient Roman society. He also frequently refers to other author's works off hand saying that they make a certain claim but have no evidence to back it up, quite arbitrarily. The references are merely off-hand as far as I am concerned and rather distracting from the over-all work.  It is also quite clear that as opposed to merely wanting to give a brief survey of the history of the Druids, Mr. Ellis is also seeking to put forward and support his own theories. He frequently mentions the “Mother Goddess” concept and attempts to give evidence to support it (compelling evidence, mind you). I n addition he frequently draws parallels between the Druidic class and the Brahmic class of the Hindus in order to support the Indo-European hypothesis. Mind you, not all of these references are out of turn, but they occasionally seem forced or over-done. 

          Now that the flaws of the book have been covered, I would like to discuss the strengths. Aside from whenever he seems to be purporting his own theories and speculations, or when he is not making jabs at his collegues, Mr. Ellis seems to be quite impartial and quite frequently lets the reader know that it is currently open to speculation (though, he obviously tries to push you towards his interpretation.) Ultimately, Mr. Ellis does an adequate job of accomplishing his goal, even if he obfuscates the information a bit on occasion. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


I have a very good friend (who shall remain un-named) that I chat with over Skype quite frequently. He and I frequently get into various arguments and debates. He and I have debated everything from the validity of the "Four Directions" in Neo-Pagan thought, to the possibility of sidhe living among us, and the importance/unimportance of having a specific and grounded tradition (I'm sure you can guess my opinion on many of these things. . .) One argument I did not expect to have with him was whether or not the myths were literal.

Now, don't get me wrong, he is a great dude and rather intelligent, but when we began debating the validity of the Perseus myth or the Hycanith myth I couldn't help but feel a bit awe struck. I couldn't help but feel a bit stupified when he told me that yes, it is entirely plausible that Medusa's blood turned into poisonous snakes in the dessert, that the Odyssey totally might have happened and that in the myth of Math, he probably turned his nephews into a stag and doe in a very real sense. I simply was unaware of what to think, and then he told me that he believes in the Bible literally too, and he just thinks certain things may have been exaggerated or tainted.

Ah ha! I began to have suspicions at this point.

So, we began talking further, about the nature of deity and possible plans, when he made a statement that surprised me (yet again). He said, in essence "Well, why does it matter to you if you don't actually believe in the Gods?". At this point, I began to ponder if for him, the belief in deity necessitated believing the myths to be literal to some degree, and it turns out that yes, that was a sort of qualification for him. I also found out that he was raised as a "literalness" Christian. At that point, it hit me, he had transferred the qualification of literal belief in mythos as belief in deity that Conservative Christianity contains to the setting of  modern (Eclectic for him) Paganism. You could say that he just expanded his extremeism from the Christian mythos, to the Greek, Celtic, Japanese, Chinese, Hindu, etc mythos (since he told me that he believes *all* myths are literal with some corruption involved).Okay, now to get to where the danger in this lies.

First of all, the danger of literal belief lies most evidently in attempting to act out some of these myths or rituals described in myth, because, let us be honest, many of them are quite brutal. From the rampant rape in the Greek myths, to the brutal killings in the Celtic myths, believing them to be real and valid modes of expression to deity is *dangerous* just as it would be dangerous for Christians to be allowed to stone gays and witches (which I'm sure more than a few would like to do) and despite the act being illegal Pagans and homosexuals are assaulted by Christian extremists on the occasion.

Secondly, this is a clear transfer of belief from a Monotheistic setting to simply a Polytheistic one. By doing this we are allowing our Faith to be a sort of reaction or augmentation to Monotheism which is simply damaging to the movement as a whole. It makes our actions partly contingent upon the actions of the dominant Monotheistic religion in America(or Ireland, or Britain, or Russia etc). If they go Left, then we either go Far Left or go Right, they declare November Christian Blue Month, we end up with a detachment of Pagans declaring October Pagan Red Month. It simply is not a good mode of operation. Now, we obviously do not operate as a cohesive unit, but we do operate as an allied unit by means of a common goal and common interests. Asatru and followers of Hellenismos may associate with Eclectics and Wiccans due to the fact that, whether we like it or not, we are in this movement together, and by allowing this kind of *poison* to enter the movement we are setting everyone back. I mean, let us face it, the hook for many people comes from the Eclectic/Wiccan practices, then when they really start digging into it, that is when they tend to get involved with specific movements such as Asatru or Hellenismos.

End rant

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Why I'm Not Christian

I am a person who went from being a Monotheistic Pentecostal to being a skeptical Deist to being a Polythiest. These changes obviously weren't sudden, but rather gradual shifts, however I still am often asked "If you can believe in many Gods, why can't you believe in just the one?" more specifically they are generally talking about the God of their faith (the Christian rendition generally) and I am writing this to clear up a few matters. Please note, I'm not attempting to "convert" anyone as I have not motive to, I'm merely talking about why I'M not Christian.

1) A God which is omnibenevolent, omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent is extremely hard for me to believe in whenever there is so much suffering in the world, even extending outside of a Christian perspective. Relegating it to merely a Christian perspective makes it even harder for me to do so, seeing as in the Old Testament he feels sorry for drowning everything, and has to correct the mistake he made with the whole sinful humanity thing. This sort of dissonance is not present for me in my current beliefs, however. Gods which are not omnibenevolent have no automatic obligations towards humanity, Gods which are not omniscient cannot be looked down upon for not having forsight, Gods which aren't all powerful cannot be chastised for the Universe not operating in a particular way. Omnipresence is generally a moot-point and is almost universally shared with all Gods (to some degree.)

2) The Christian God requires faith before experience, from a polytheistic viewpoint, my Gods do not require faith before experience, but rather for experience to generate faith. Now, this is not to say that I don't think that Christians have not felt "God's Love" as the refer to it, but I certainly never felt it in all my years of being a devout Christian. I saw others experiencing and I ached for the feeling of being touched by the Divine, I never was. I have been touched by various other Deities since I have taken a Polytheistic viewpoint of Deity, and this was crucial in generating Faith for me, actually feeling the presence of Deity. It would be horridly inaccurate to say that I believed in them before I prayed to them, I was merely open to their existence, and sure enough I discovered that being open to it was all it takes. I simply cannot believe without feeling first.

3) The Christian God dooms those who are not Christian. This is perhaps the crucial point of the whole thing for me, more than the dissonance that a Monotheistic viewpoint generates, more than the lack of ever having felt Yahweh's presence in my life, the Christian religion condemns those who are not Christian to Hell. That is all there is to it, (John 3:16-20, Acts 4:10-12), I cannot see a way for me to personally work around this, perhaps other people could, but I cannot. It is a pretty central tenet as far as I can tell. I simply cannot believe in such a thing. 

There are a few other reasons as well, but these are the big three for me. Again, I reiterate, I'm not slamming against Christianity, I'm stating why I'm not Christian. I've explained this a few times, but I merely want to give a bit of a more thorough explanation than I usually can.

Friday, September 14, 2012


I dislike duotheism

Now for the reasons why.
The first reason is that it is merely a modification of Monotheism. Duotheism is simply a monotheistic viewpoint converted to a Hindu like view of deity separated into "Lord and Lady" or "Horned God and Mother Goddess" aspects, each one encompassing various feminine and masculine aspects. While this may not seem like a problem to many people, it ultimately is an *issue* because it creates the problem of "everyone else is wrong". While this may not be an actual statement applied by followers of such a theology, it is basically implied and causes little room for debate or conversation on deity because there can be no conversation on deity. Deity is either "Lord and Lady" or it isn't, simple as that. They may worship in many aspects, but the end schema is the same. Two supreme forces, one "Male" and one "Female".

The second reason is due to the fact that there is an imbalance in worship. In theological terms they should be honored equally, however practitioners of duotheism tend to venerate the Lady over the Lord, and as such ultimately venerate feminine qualities over masculine ones. It creates an inequality of Gender in mental schemas (which I believe in avoiding) and causes us to look more in terms of gender as being vital as opposed to simply being a thing which is. Feminine qualities are venerated over masculine qualities. Which encourages men to distance themselves from their own masculinity. Feminine traits are prized and feminine processes (such as menstruation and birth) are considered wonders and divine experiences that are to be treasured. This would be perfectly fine if it didn't result in the exclusion of men in many instances, after all Dianic Wicca exists and no one bats an eye, but let us say that there is one for men alone (well, other than the Minoian Brotherhood, but they also have a Minoian Sisterhood, both groups which are focused upon Gay and Lesbian individuals respectively) and it would likely be looked down upon.

The third reason builds on the second, it has led to a new kind of Monotheism, one in which a ubiquitous Goddess is worshiped, and women are sine as expressions of her divinity, with all Gods being seen  as constructs and not actual divinities. The first problem with this is the fact that, just as worship of a monotheistic God encourages sexism, worship of a monotheistic Goddess encourages sexism. Duotheism was the key to this movement really taking root, just as Monolatrism was the key for a monotheistic God taking root, video on that here. In addition to the inherently sexist nature of an ubiquitous Goddess, we run into far more theological problems with it, which are nearly identical to those related to monotheism, in addition to a few extras (what caused Gods to be worshiped? What overthrew the matriarchy? Why is there suffering? etc etc)

The fourth reason should be outright obvious from the previous reasons. Duotheism encourages sexism and encourages people to view Masculinity and Femininity as having certain inherent associations. The Feminine is often viewed as nurturing and caring, whereas the Masculine is seen as protective and aggressive. It also reinforces the notion of males being disposable as the year of the wheel is a story generated to tell about the two divine beings, which results in the God dying and being replaced by himself whereas the Goddess never dies nor even truly ages (in the wheel of the year story, not in the moon story). Thus, the theme of males being replaceable becomes most evident because the Goddess will always bare another God to replace the one who died.

Comments? Thoughts? Wanna tell me I'm wrong and stupid?
Comment below.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

What is a "Pagan"?

I have been mulling over what makes a Pagan a Pagan for quite some time now. At first I simply thought, "Well, Perhaps what makes a Pagan a Pagan is the belief in multiple Deities" and this was simply shot out of the water by the presence (and acceptance of) Humanistic Pagans. Obviously the quantifying trait of a Pagan is not the following of the "Wheel of the Year" since many Pagan persons do not observe or celebrate said days. So again, I ask, what makes a Pagan a Pagan? Allow me to ramble for a bit. (Also, by circles, I mean social circles, not ritual circles.)

The first thing that is vital to being a Pagan is to not be Christian. This is absolutely essential, since while clearly we don't have to actually believe in any Gods, if a person believes in the Christian God they are automatically shunned from Pagan circles.

Next, it is absolutely vital that one identify either as an Independent or a Liberal, and it is absolutely *essential* that one by sympathetic to Gay Rights and Environmental crusades, to do otherwise will undoubtedly get you shunned from Pagan circles.

Thirdly, it is essential to make sure that everybody knows that you are a free spirit and won't be simply confined to hierarchies and that anyone who follows a specific set of rules and practices is just being far too rigid.

Of course, I am being a bit factitious here, but really we must ask ourselves, why? Paganism has devolved (and I truly mean this) less from a set of religious beliefs, and more towards simply a social clique. If you don't share a specific set of core attitudes (i.e. being sympathetic to Liberal causes, rejecting the Christian God, and generally believing that correcting others is "bad", except in times when they are so wrong that only fluffy bunnies would feel bad about correcting them) then you are excluded. I personally find more than a few of the attitudes of the Pagan community to be more than a bit hypocritical, Christian Pagans (since obviously the word Pagan has come to identify a social group, and not a core set of beliefs, and therefore what at first may appear to be a contradiction, is in fact not.) are shunned while Humanistic Pagans don't even have a bat of the eye, but my question is why? Ultimately, I do not know. The word Pagan has become cheap and meaningless. It no longer even relates to the worship of ancient deities. Paganism has become a social club, a social club who I fit in well with, but a social club none the less.

We could change this of course, however, I strongly feel that being the disorganized mass we are, there will never be a meaningful use of the word. At one point it may have meant a person who worships many Gods, but now. . .

Friday, September 7, 2012

Will Start Posting Again Soon

Title says it all. Life has been throwing my a lot of curveballs as of late and it has made it hard to concentrate well enough to study, let alone well enough to write. Hopefully I'll be light again soon. These things will only ultimately make me stronger.

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A young man living in North Texas. He is an actor, a Hellenistos, and a proud member of Hellenion.