There it is again. That assumption that one who does not believe as they do by default does not believe anything at all. Oh she didn’t mean anything by it and was in fact making an effort to be polite and considerate of my own spiritual leanings not matching her own so I did not take offense but still, it set the gears in motion in my head. Many folks of the dominant, monotheistic culture are accustomed to dealing with atheists, ones who do not believe in any god at all, but they either don’t know what a polytheist is or have bought into some of the church or other propaganda that Pagans and Heathens are “godless”. While in fact we are far from it. We’re on the opposite end of the spectrum, rather than believing in no god we believe in many of them. But, in the interests of keeping things on a happy note, I stifled the urge to reply “Have you ever considered the possibility, that it’s YOU who doesn’t believe?”
Just a wee bit of a rant over a pet peeve of mine. Polytheist in a monotheist world problems and such. As the quote above states, respect to all but grovel to none. If I were raised in and a part of the dominant culture, I too, might see it the same way. We only understand things from the perspective of where we are.
As is usually pointed out around Samhain (Halloween), this is another holiday that is often criticized for the influence of Paganism that is found in it, and you’ll have groups roaming about wanting to get “back” to the original holiday. Please remind them that the date of Christmas was a holy day long before the Jews had even settled into Canaan, much less when certain rabbis get born or crucified.
December 25th was the traditional birthday of Mithra the Bull-slayer, sometimes known as Mithra the Law-bringer. Still considered central in the mythology of modern Zoroastrianism, Mithra was a major member of the pantheon of the Persian Empire. Roman soldiers, stationed in the eastern provinces, picked up the notions of Mithra (service, loyalty, comradery, honor and eternal life), and carried it back into the Roman Empire. In the early centuries of Christianity, the Cult of Mithra was the chief rival. Indeed a large proportion of not only the army, but members of the Imperial government, were members. At least three Emperors were also followers of the faith.
The famous (and wholly fabricated) story of Constantine ordering the crosses painted on the shields of his troops because of his “conversion” had nothing to do with Constantine- the cross was already the symbol the Cult of Mithra (representing a four pointed star, with the bottom ray touching the ground). This might explain the later fascination (and adoption)of crosses with the Christians. The Legions commanded by Constantine were from the Balkan provinces- and almost wholly followers of Mithra. Constantine himself had been a member of the Mysteries of Mithra (he had another vision many years before and followed the Mithras cult– something you don’t read about much, Gee wonder why?).
The Cult itself is something of a mystery- both in that it was a mystery cult (it’s traditions and rituals secret) and that the later Christian Church did quite a number on eliminating this rival. We know that it was a male-only organization, and that it preached a system of redemption and a pleasant life after death. It also held to the notion that the world would be swept into a war between good and evil, and that eventually Mithra would bring peace and order after a great conflict. Interestingly, he was to do this after three days and three nights.
Temples to Mithra were either built in caves, underground constructions or above ground temples in which the interior was made to look like a cavern (Mithra was born of the earth, and had caves associated with several parts of his mythology). Under the Emperor Theodosius, these temples were order destroyed, the priesthood murdered. Because many were underground, they would be looted and filled with dirt, and a church built over the temple, so the followers could not go back (but the associated holy ground would be transferred to the new church). Today, most of the European cathedrals and early churches of the West are built on former Mithraic temples. Indeed, the largest is currently under the Vatican.
Mithrasism had largely died out by the 500’s, largely as result of the destruction of the temples, the inability to rejuvenate a priesthood, and the adoption of the Christian Church of many of the rituals and holidays of it’s former rival (communion, for instance, predates Christianity). So, this Christmas, you might want to spend a moment to reflect on the ACTUAL meaning of Christmas, and the Pagans that have gone before us.
When I first discovered I was Pagan in 1998 and for years afterward I thought the notion of using so called “craft names” or “magickal names” or whatever you want to call them was kinda silly. After all, we have freedom of religion right!? If someone wants to discriminate against me I’ll sue their ass right?! Well, I have since learned a few things along the way which pointed out to me the need we do still have if not for our own protection then for the protection of others with whom we associate. Be that our coven brothers and sisters, our children or our friends of many faiths who can fall victim to discrimination, sometimes outright and sometimes subtle and hidden which does still take place when you are of a spiritual persuasion that, although it is growing, is still very much in the minority and is often misunderstood.
I have been about as “out of the broom closet” as anyone and will continue to be so. Most people who know me know both my given name and now my craft name as well. But going forward I will be doing most of my Pagan related online activities using my newly taken Craft Name. I chose the name Cianaodh Óg on the night my coven, Sacred Fire Temple elevated me to second degree while celebrating Samhain this year, 2013. Cianaodh is a combination of two Old Irish words “cian” meaning ancient and “aodh” meaning fire. There are several variations of how to pronounce it because in Old Irish, just as in modern Gaeilge or Gaelic, there were many dialects and variations from region to region in which it was spoken. I have chosen the pronunciation (KEE-AN-EE) because it is easy to pronounce and has a nice sound to it. The second part “Óg” is simply the word for “young” in Old Irish which is my surname in modern English. It is simply pronounced with the long O sound and g at the end.
What brought this post about is that a friend of mine, Acacia ThornDragon has started a discussion group on Facebook based on Theological discussion and they are touching on many topics I have touched on here on my blog and tried to foster discussion on. But some of the members are learning, as I did some time ago, that posts you make on Facebook Groups are often visible to people who are not members of the group. Sure you can set a group to “secret” as they say but on Facebook, even a “secret” group isn’t necessarily as secret as one might be led to believe and if you set a group to “secret” it is difficult to attract enough members of the community to join in on the discussion and make things happen. So it’s a catch 22. My past efforts to get people to try to utilize other venues outside of Facebook have unfortunately fallen on mostly deaf ears though. Oh sure, you can get folks to leave the big blue F for a post or two on a Yahoo! Group or My Path Pagan Network or web based blogs, forums, etc. But after a few posts they fade away and are back at the deceptively comforting big blue F. The rest of us end up pretty much talking to ourselves which only accomplishes so much and we have no choice but to follow the herd to the book of face too if we want to have any discussion at all.
So, once some of our members found out about this big gaping hole in Facebook privacy for groups they got nervous. At least one of them bailed from the group altogether. But one member did point out that making the group “craft names only” might preserve the security more for those who need it. Another of our members pointed out the interfaith she has been doing and how, although she is upfront in face to face meetings with folks about her religious beliefs no one has shown any ill will or caused harm to her. Another stated how distasteful it is that we would have to hide behind pseudonyms (or craft names) as if we were some kind of scum. Both of these points I agree with as well. I personally have not, to my knowledge, been the direct recipient of discrimination based on my spiritual beliefs….however. There’s always a however isn’t there?
What about the discrimination we don’t see? It’s not like those who are bigots don’t know there are laws against discrimination. So very often they do things behind your back, in subtle ways that are hard to prove one way or another. I have, in the past, found myself under what seemed an unusual amount of scrutiny by city Code Enforcement for things like, grass just a wee bit too high a few days after a torrential downpour, one tire of my truck being on the grass and not on the driveway, my fence “might” be too tall. Were these because of an overzealous Code Enforcement Officer or a neighbor who called things in because he/she disagreed with my religious beliefs? I may never know. At work, it took me 15 years to get an upgrade from one position to a higher paying one as I was repeatedly denied on the slightest of reasons. Granted some other politics played a role such as union seniority rules which are rather nonsensical. But could some of that also been because of my being very “out” about my spirituality? I may never know.
I have personal friends, even members of my coven, who have been harassed by Home Owner’s Associations, had Child Protective Services called to investigate them, been told to remove pictures of themselves online because of the words on a T-shirt they were wearing (not offensive words either). Sometimes these things are difficult or impossible to prove and court action takes a lot of time and money. So many people, for the sake of their own sanity or that of their children, opt to remain anonymous. I respect their right to do so and if using craft names helps in that then I’m in favor.
Anyway, all of that said and done, done and said, what not and forthwith, I would like to extend an invitation to the two or three of you who take a break once in awhile from the big blue F to read my blog, for which I am VERY grateful by the way, to please take part in the discussion Acacia ThornDragon and others have started. I have tried to add some friends of mine to the group but for some reason Facebook won’t let me so you might have to find and friend Acacia then ask her to add you to the Theology discussion group. We are talking about things like, if the Masons / Eastern star can have an organization which maintains a level of secrecy yet has founded hospitals and retirement communities for it’s members why can’t we? Is it right that elders of our community end up having to seek care at medical centers, retirement communities, etc. that require or push adherence to another faith? What about funeral and burial land for Pagans? Things like this which would take an entire community to make happen and needs to be talked about.
Saol fada agus breac-shláinte chugat, (Long-life and fair health to you.)
Typically I avoid getting too much into politics these days although in the past that may not have been the case. However, today, I am making, sort of an exception because this isn’t about taking one side or another but about making your voice heard and THAT to me is something of paramount importance. The reason I, personally, got out of the whole political maelstrom is because I came to the conclusion that it doesn’t matter so much who you vote for or what causes your candidate of choice campaigns under because in the end, when they get into office, they are going to do exactly what the real power behind the policies tell them to do. The real power is in where the money to fund campaigns and “other assorted niceties that come with the office” come from. While your votes on election day may not have as much political power as the shell game of our “representative” democracy or democratic republic if you prefer, might lead you to believe. You DO decide every single day where you are going to spend your money and that money may or may not support causes that mean something to you.
I am not writing here to tell anyone WHAT to think, but I do ask THAT you think. I stopped drinking certain beverages when I learned that the owner of the company funds campaigns to deny rights to people I care about some time ago. I don’t eat at certain restaurants for the same reasons. So, this morning I was perusing some online discussions and was reminded of an app for your phone which I think I have heard about before but kind of pushed off to the side and forgot about. But when I saw it this morning I thought, WAIT A MINUTE! THIS IS BIG! This buycott app gives you the power to choose campaigns which support or NOT causes which are important to you personally. It allows you to scan the bar-code on products you see in the store and research who makes them, what they support and don’t support in the realm of politics and let’s you make informed decisions about what you are spending your own money on. I like the idea behind this app so much that I placed a link to it on my right hand sidebar over there and I have shared it on my personal and this blog’s Facebook Page.
It really is a way to empower yourself if you can think about where you are putting your money and that has more of an affect in today’s environment, in my opinion, than the ballot box does. Just my opinion. Cease the freedom to express your own!
Oh! Go check out BUYCOTT.COM too. That is, after all, what I am talking about here. 😉