Mark

Funny thing about gods, the way they get a point across.  When I was waiting to learn if I would become a writer for The Wild Hunt last summer, I made a deal with Athena: help make this happen, and I’d knit her a scarf.  Knitting, it turns out, is a bit of a bitch for those of us who didn’t start before we needed reading glasses, and even a scarf has been hard enough that I’m nowhere near done with that offering yet.

  

This month for Noumenia, I performed divination to see if any particular deity is planning to take an especial interest in me this month.  As pictured, I drew M, mu, to wit:  “It is necessary to labor {Mokhtheô}, but the change will be admirable.”

I really don’t know how divination works for other people, but most of the time these phrases don’t make a whole lot of sense in isolation.  There needs to be some discernment, some sign or inclination that brings it together.  In this case, not sure what god might be indicated, I tried the Quaker practice of letting names rise.  Hephaestus didn’t seem likely as he watched over this past month, but labor made me consider him.  Hermes occurred to me, but also didn’t seem quite right.  But when I thought of Athena, I got that thrum in my head which I’ve come to recognize as positive, and I knew she wanted me to finish that scarf.

Later on in the day, I returned a library book I’d ordered by mistake.  I wanted the next Percy Jackson book, and got the two series mixed up, so I had a book I’d already read instead of the proper one.  I didn’t even know the name of the book I needed, but I checked the library shelf and there it was:

The Mark of Athena.

My dead are calling

It’s been going on as long as I’ve been celebrating the Deipnon, at least, so that’s got to be four years or so, because part of my practice is to make an offering to my ancestors on that day.  What began as a simple-but-expensive libation (olive oil and Scotch) now includes offering an IRA contribution to my ancestors, but the feeling has grown that I need to honor my ancestors more.  When Leonard Nimoy died, unlike when any other actor I’ve heard of has passed, I felt I should do more to venerate him.  Moreover, it seemed like every class I attended at Between the Sacred Space-Worlds included some message for me about ancestor worship.

Okay, I get it.

Being a money worker, seeing what Canadians are doing to their fivers pretty much smacked me over the head with it:  you are right to honor the dead, the heroic dead, the ancestors of blood and the ancestors who otherwise shaped you. So, I bought a book and cleared off a space for a shrine. Or for the cats, if I’m not careful.

Consider entering the Agon….

TPWard:

If ever a post deserved a signal boost…

Originally posted on Gangleri's Grove:

Don’t forget about the March Agon for Minerva and Apollon, folks. There are prizes (and there will be a first and second prize for Minerva and a first and second prize for Apollon). If you have a devotion to either of these Deities, please consider submitting a poem or prayer, essay, recipe, or piece of art. Deadline is 9pm EST March 31.

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With apologies to my sources

A large number of people told me what they think of the Percy Jackson books, and when I wrote my article I didn’t use almost any of it.  I found myself fascinated by the kids’ perspective, which is so often minimized in every situation, and made it all about them.  In fact, I wish I’d been able to find more kids to talk to.

For what it’s worth, despite there being a couple of really angry posts about these books, I found fewer sincerely negative critiques by adults than I found children to interview.  Most of the blog posts I located talked about how “lots of people dislike” these books, and then gave mostly favorable reviews.  The people I interviewed were mostly the same:  they would dislike one aspect or another, such as the depiction of a particular deity (Dionysos and Persephone, most frequently), or dissatisfaction with liberties the author took with one or another well-known myth, but that’s it.  And in my interviews, no one brought up the impact of these books on neurotypical people, or the completely dismissive way that Rick Riordan treats worship of the gods (which are certainly legitimate concerns), but I attribute that lack to ignorance about those issues among the people I spoke with.

But there’s a whole new Norse series starting soon, so these questions will surely surface again.

The invisible spirits of privilege

I’ve seen some nasty arguments erupt — or get seriously intensified by — those three little words, “Check your privilege.”  Yes, I’ve been part of some of those fights.  There is something visceral that happens when one’s privilege is hauled out for inspection, something that shuts down any real communication about substantive issues for many people.  Why is that?  What makes denial, defensiveness, and redirection so important in those moments?  Why is it so easy to feel attacked by the very idea that one has privilege?  As my self-identity has evolved, I’ve found myself sometimes part of a non-privileged minority (Republican and hard polytheist among Pagans, for example) that have given me an opportunity to step outside of that bubble.  (The ways in which I am not a participant in the culture of the privileged are all non-visual, so I can often “pass” as part of the overculture; I am mindful that this places its own limits on my awareness.)  Just as I did when examining the spirit of depression, I find that examining privilege through an animist lens is helpful to me.

Privilege is a spirit or, in my view, a group of personal spirits with attributes that vary, but with certain characteristics in common.  While elusive, there are things about these spirits which can be observed.

  • They are beneficial for the human with whom the associate, providing some level of protection from bad luck, miscommunication, and other downfalls and mishaps in life.  The physical health, economic security, and social status of the privileged are enhanced.
  • Spirits of privilege seem to be tied to blood lines, but it isn’t clear why, or how else one can acquire one.  Wealthy people who lose all their money often bounce back, while tales of poor people who win big lottery prizes and quickly find themselves with nothing again are all too common, so money does not equal privilege.  However, some people gain privilege when their ancestors did not have it, so it can be acquired, and likely also lost, by other means.
  • Privilege does not care to be examined.  I liken it to the magical talent possessed by Bink in A Spell for Chameleon, which operated best in secret, and actively protected that secrecy when need be.  That is to say, I liken the results to those in the book; I don’t know the motivations.  What I do know is that when privilege is confronted, the result is disproportionately hostile, defensive, or evasive.  That sounds like the profile of a spirit that wants to be invisible, at least to its host, and will create whatever mental images are necessary to stay that way.
  • On the other hand, privilege is quite visible to those who don’t have it, and to anyone who has pierced that veil in their own lives.
  • Awareness of privilege, whether by the privileged or those who are not, does not seem to weaken this spirit, so why it wishes to be invisible remains a mystery.
  • Privilege spirits exist in community.  One does not see solitary, privileged people.  Even if they don’t participate in society, their spirits derive some benefit from proximity.

Nothing says “privilege” quite like an ermine cloak.

I can’t see it, but I can picture privilege, and I do so as a cloak.  Because these are individual spirits, they’re not all the same.  As a cloak, my spirit of privilege is bright white, reflective and protective in the way that white tends to be.  (Side note:  for many years, I’ve heard about the disproportionate number of black males in prisons, and I have wondered if it isn’t possible that for some reason they just commit crimes more often.  Just this past week, I finally heard a data point on the radio that specifically addressed that unvoiced question;  the speaker noted that black and white youths are equally likely to be carrying marijuana at any given time, but that black youths are ten times as likely to be stopped and frisked.  That’s the invisible way that a white spirit of privilege deflects and protects.)  My privilege-cloak has other advantages, too, like the pair of hefty balls hanging from the back that keep the wind from blowing it around, and the lovely clasp, shaped like a “C” for cisgendered, which keep it from falling off my shoulders.

My cloak does not have a crucifix appliquéd across the front, but there is a handsome American flag on the shoulder.  There are cloaks with lustrous gold silk linings, hoods in the academic sense, buttons, pockets, and trim, none of which I enjoy.  Visible and invisible influences on my life each contribute to the whole of my cloak, but it’s a good thing it’s not actually a visible garment.  After all, there are places where American citizens are in danger of being killed, not celebrated, and there’s not a single factor that contributes to one’s privilege which can’t put a person at a disadvantage in certain contexts.  Perhaps that occurs when a privilege spirit is cut off from others of its kind, and that they derive their power from numbers, even as they benefit individuals.

Privilege spirits don’t seem to be malevolent, but the fact that not everyone has creates some pretty big problems.  I can’t imagine a down side to everyone being privileged, but I think its spirits resist that idea.  Do they possess a selfish nature?  Is this just vestigial reflex, like the tendency to sweat during job interviews?  Are they trying to screw with us, or aren’t they even aware?

What I do know is that while it’s good advice to tell people to keep calm and listen, there is a spirit in the ear yelling, “Panic!  Run!  Fight!” which often wins the day.  I can’t promise I will be as clear on this issue tomorrow as I am right now, and find myself reacting defensively yet again.  I don’t know if it’s possible, or even prudent, to exorcise this spirit, but being aware of its existence is probably a good start for some of us.

Privilege makes people act irrationally.  Keep patient and keep talking.

Economic impact of Pagan and polytheist events

If you’ve been to a minority faith conference or festival, you’ve seen a lot of money change hands.  We pay for admission, we pay for food, we buy stuff, we book rooms.  How much of an impact does this all activity have?

This form is my humble attempt to begin to answer that very question.  I’m hoping to encourage festival and conference organizers to answer a few simple questions.  Probably too simple, but it’s a start.  If you’re interested in sharing this form, please use https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1bj9iDk5w6EXpaHuNe7hCdqhJ-8mtUlVTeU9dMHMR1kw/viewform?usp=send_form