Sexual ethics

In response to recent events it was decided that there should be a discussion at the Polytheist Leadership Conference on abuse and sexual ethics within our respective communities. Two individuals stepped forward to moderate a panel on this and are soliciting participants. Here is the proposal that Chris and Kelley prepared:

We are looking to hold a panel discussion to explore the topic of sexual ethics from a modern Polytheist perspective and we need panelists. Panelists should be willing to give brief remarks (~10 minutes) on the subject, as well as answer questions and comment
during audience discussion.

We are especially looking for panelists with the following specialties:
– philosophy/ethics
– psychology
– reconstruction/history
– law

If you are interested contact  Chris and Kelley at cnk@astronomytower.net or Sannion at sannion@gmail.com.

Thank you for stepping up to do this.

What is a God? Toward an Immanent Theology

Ned Bates will be presenting on polytheology and immanence:

What is a God? Toward an Immanent Theology. Though modern polytheists are well versed in the experience of gods, questions often arise about the nature of divinity. Monotheism’s reliance on transcendence often puts it at odds with empiricism, while the findings of science are often employed to not just explain, but to attempt to explain away, the experience of gods. However, the immanent nature of polytheistic divinity opens the possibility of a discussion between empirical findings and the experience of gods among traditional and modern polytheists. For polytheists, new scientific discoveries are not a threat to their relationships with gods, but are rather a deepening of this relationship, with the potential to add new dimensions of reverence and awe. Indeed, a rational understanding of gods need not be dismissive; it can be as valuable and reaffirming as an irrational one–gods can be “thought” as well as “felt” because they are complex mysteries which encompass every aspect of life. Though we certainly cannot expect a definitive answer to the question “what is a god?,” asking such an ambitious question has the potential for a fascinating dialog. Therefore, in the spirit of the plurality of polytheism, the format of this offering will be a guided discussion.

Ned Bates is a teacher and writer who is fascinated by the collision of modern and ancient worlds, and the resulting plurality and syncretism of world-views. He is a heathen who seeks to balance reconstruction, pragmatism and poetry. He erratically blogs as the Heretical Heathen: http://hereticalheathen.blogspot.com/

Regional Cultus in Contemporary Polytheism

Anomalous Thracian will be presenting on Regional Cultus in Contemporary Polytheism:

In the ancient world, the idea of religion and religious structures and traditions were a lot different than the common conceptions most contemporary American Paganisms and Polytheisms have been supplying people with. Geographical diversities in religious practice, ritual technology and even foundational pantheon relations were great and varied in the ancient world, where religious structures were drawn from a close and intimate relationship with place, with specific lineages, with the spirits and of course with the gods and goddesses Themselves. Yet despite these emphatic variations, with complex customs and cross-overs and syncretisms woven between them — and indeed likely because of them — there were likewise emphatic structures to how all of these things unfolded. There was no “Pan-Hellenic” or “Pan-Celtic” big umbrella patterning of religion in the ancient world; rather, there existed specific regional, tribal, ethnic, and initiatory lineages and structures of theistic and ritual engagement. For contemporary expressions of Polytheisms to survive their current infancy in Western revival, an emphasis must be encouraged upon the acknowledgement of these variations, and the development of the structures that will contain them. By exploring, building and navigating such understandings, we as practitioners, dedicants, devotees and clergy can do more than merely claim title or social identity through them. Through disciplined individual and interrelated regional cult structures, we can indeed endeavor to see these things come enlivened in our worlds, newly cast from ancient mold and method in ways that fit into our post-post-modern frameworks.

Temple priest, shaman, and spirit-worker in the Thracian tradition, Anomalous Thracian lives in the Northeast United States, with a crazed raven from Africa and a den of oracular serpents. As a teacher and writer his expertise includes foundational polytheism, spiritual principles, navigating the complexities of different levels of causal theistic engagement, results-oriented mysticism and ethical disciplines of sacrifice, with a focus on anchoring ancient nomadic wisdoms and values in contemporary social and spiritual reality. A Thracian Polytheist, animist and mystic reconstructionist, he leads an initiatory tradition and facilitates rituals, traditional rites of passage, various methods of divination, while drawing on an educational background in psychology, sociology, religious studies, mediation and leadership. In all of his doings, he attempts to honor the ancestors, the gods, and his living relations in this world, while focusing also on further understanding and addressing contemporary issues faced by many including relations of race, gender, religion and sexuality.

On Being New

Costel Hildr will be presenting on Being New:

In this presentation, I will share my journey thus far on both being new to religion, and the trials and tribulations I’ve faced in doing so. I will discuss the importance of how fiction and the Internet have influenced and led not just me, but many others, to where we are today, and both the joys and troubles with it. I will also discuss how not only can our access to information be useful, but also overwhelming it can be and hope to provide some food for thought from a newcomer’s perspective.

Costel Hildr is a second degree film student with his first an English BA with an emphasis on medieval and Renaissance literature and massive side study in anthropology. He is a writer and artist from the greater Baltimore area in MD. He used to run The Infinite Battle and now runs Travels Without Pants. He has been a polytheist for two years, converting from atheism, and primarily works with Odin and Loki.

Let’s connect

Just a couple months now until the conference and things are really starting to pick up. We’ve been getting a steady stream of registrations and now only have five slots left for presentations. This is really going to happen!

Cost is a concern for a lot of us though, which is why the organizers decided to waive registration fees and cover everything else ourselves, leaving only food, lodging and transportation for attendees (and if we could have covered that too, we would have!)

Those things add up and a number of people have expressed interest in sharing rooms and carpooling as a way of making the price-tag more manageable. This is a marvelous idea as it’s not only more economical and environmentally friendly but it could help foster a stronger sense of community and new friendships may even be forged from the experience.

Before we move on to making that happen I wanted to get a couple things out of the way, especially in light of some recent troubling events and the conversations we’ve been having about them.

Obviously any time people are involved, especially people you don’t know well, safety is of paramount concern. Firmly express and insist on your boundaries, don’t agree to anything you’re not comfortable with, find out what you can online and talk with the person beforehand, don’t give anyone access to your private or financial information, trust your instincts above all else and if anything happens immediately contact the organizers and hotel staff so that the problem can be swiftly and effectively addressed.

Discussing this with a couple people we decided that the most sensible and efficient way of handling this was to let individuals make their own connections instead of having a single person try to coordinate things for them, and the easiest way of facilitating this process would be to use this blog.

So anyone who is interested in carpooling or sharing a room should comment here with what they’re looking for, how and when they’re coming in and any special requirements they might have and others can respond if they have complimentary needs or helpful suggestions.

Now this should go without saying but I’m going to say it anyway: as this is a public venue that is likely to see a lot of traffic over the next couple weeks do not share any personal information in the comments beyond your e-mail address. (And if you contact us at polytheist.leadership@gmail.com once you’ve made connections we’ll promptly delete that information.) Seriously, if you post your phone number and start getting a bunch of random calls at 3:00am you’ve only got yourself to blame.

Be safe. Have fun. And see you in Fishkill in July!

Polytheism for Contemporary America

Julian Betkowski will be presenting on Polytheism for Contemporary America:

Drawing on Continental Philosophy as well as historical sources, I shall endeavor to sketch the ramifications of Polytheistic thought on the Contemporary American lifestyle. I believe that a Polytheistic approach to metaphysics calls into question many of the core assumptions of our modern culture, and requires us to reformulate our understandings of relationships, place, and society, among other things. I shall be attempting to explore the basics of a Polytheistic ethics, and to investigate its transformational power.

Julian Betkowski is an artist living in Western Pennsylvania and has been a practicing Pagan for the last ten years. He writes for the Agora blog on Patheos Pagan, as well as maintaining his own blog, Eros is Eros is Eros. He is currently studying psychology at Sofia University with the intention of pursuing a doctoral degree and studying the Contemporary Pagan community.

Radical Relationality and Polytheism

Rhyd Wildermuth will be presenting on Radical Relationality and Polytheism:

This presentation will address the radical position of polytheism and its context in Western, “post-Christian,” secular society. Drawing from the experiences of radical spiritual projects in Weimar Germany and Fin-de-Siecle England and France, we’ll discuss how the position of “Radical Other” can help contemporary polytheism understand itself and the obstacles it faces in building and sustaining an enlarged community of gods-worshipers. In addition, it will discuss how the work of European Critical Theorists such as Slavoj Zizek and Jean Baudrillard, as well as post-colonialist historians Dipesh Chakrabarty and Lela Ghandi can elucidate and provide frameworks for our religious and cultural position

Using the experience and language of Divine Trauma, this presentation will also address the individual experiences of those new to the “re-enchantment” of the world, who suddenly discover against all inherited knowledge that the gods and spirits actually exist. Confronting the social, emotional, and mental barriers that make acknowledgement of the gods traumatic for the individual can lead us to an understanding of the barriers our communities face in society, and this presentation will propose a framework for mutual aid, mentorship, and guidance which will help individuals who fear that what they experience puts them in a category of “mental-illness,” rather than part of an ancient and very common lineage.

The proposed format of this presentation is as follows: 60 minutes of speaking with a requested period of 30 minutes for discussion that will be integral to the purpose of the presentation. It is my hope that this discussion period will contribute to the thrust of the presentation by fostering ideas and strategies which can then be implemented to strengthen existing polytheist communities while helping to create new ones.

Rhyd Wildermuth is a writer, an Anarcho-Marxist, and a student of Druidry with the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. He is dedicated to Arianrhod, Ceridwen, Bran, Brighid, and Dionysos, and currently lives in Eugene, Oregon.

An overview of our presentations

Here is an overview of our presentations thus far:

Anomalous Thracian on regional cultus in contemporary polytheism.
Byron Ballard on Appalachian folklore and magic.
Ned Bates on polytheology and immanence.
Julian Betkowski on polytheism for contemporary America.
Alex Bettencourt on polytheism and addiction.
Edward Butler on the gods and the good.
Raven Kaldera and Brandon Hardy on henotheism and monotheism.
Galina Krasskova on ancestor work and indigeny.
Aine Llewellyn on the Otherfaith.
P. Sufenas Virius Lupus on the Ephesia Grammata.
Rhyd Wildermuth on radical relationality and polytheism.
Costel Hildr on being new.

There will also be a moderated panel on sexual ethics.

We would like to do a similar panel on finding common cause and supporting each other in the restoration of our diverse traditional ways but need a volunteer moderator to take charge of it.

We will have a full schedule for this conference since several of our presenters have proposed multiple interesting topics, but for now we’re trying to give space to as many voices as possible so if you want in you’d better act fast as we only have 2 slots remaining!

Embracing Hope: Polytheism, Community, and Addiction

Alex Bettencourt will be presenting on addiction in the polytheist community:

As polytheism gains ground in Western culture, people from all walks of life are finding their way to know many divinities. With them, they bring all of themselves including those things that can be difficult to address, such as substance abuse, addiction, and co-occuring disorders and behaviors. In this workshop, attendees will be introduced to the idea of the “theological anthropology” of addiction and how it affects community members. We’ll also discuss how addiction can put the brakes on spiritual and religious development and what tools are available to assist our community members and the polytheist community at large.

Alex Bettencourt is a queer transgender polytheist living in the urban jungle of Massachusetts. Eight years ago, his divinities sent him to the field of substance abuse and recovery and he has worked in almost every aspect of treatment since, from medical inpatient programs for youth and adults to long-term residential care and everything in between. He has trained extensively in therapeutic modalities such as Motivational Interviewing, Solution Focused Therapy, and trauma-informed care. He sits on the Trauma Informed Strategic Planning committee at his current program and received a certificate in Spiritual Caregiving for Addicted Persons in early 2014. His clinical specialties are women in early recovery, harm reduction, and creative applications of 12 Step ideology and spirituality.

When he is not busy facilitating opportunities for recovery, Alex primarily serves the divinities of Africa, both continental and in diaspora. He is omo Eleggua, maintains a public shrine for Sekhmet, and can be found dancing the night away at fetes in the Boston area. He is an avid and evolving artist and, in the summer of 2013, he opened a tiny conjure and occult business. In his scarce spare time, he enjoys getting into whatever trouble his divinities allow him and daydreams about tropical vacations and umbrella drinks.

On the Otherfaith

Aine Llewellyn will be presenting on the Otherfaith:

As polytheism re-establishes itself in the world, it is natural for new gods and spirits to be uncovered. The Otherfaith is one religion honoring such gods. In this talk, Aine Llewellyn will explore the origins of the Other People and their gods, as well as where the faith will go in the future. What obligations do new religions like the Otherfaith have to the broader polytheist movement, and what can we bring forward with us?

Aine Llewellyn is a young polytheist blogger and the founder of the Otherfaith, a modern polytheistic religion. She blogs on Patheos Pagan and maintains the Otherfaith blog on WordPress. She has been involved in Paganism and polytheism since she was twelve and founded the Otherfaith at seventeen.

Aine focuses on emerging gods and spirits – those not attested to in folklore or history – as well as the relationship between spirits and modern technology-laden life. She is currently working on a series of posts explaining the basic practices and beliefs of the Otherfaith, along with a book of the many evolving myths in the religion.