So apparently there’s been an article at Gods & Radicals “Confronting the New Right“, accusing devotional polytheists and those who employ the reconstructionist method for rebuilding polytheist traditions Christianity has stamped out, or attempted to anyway, of being almost inherently fascists. What. the fuck.
I only mentioned reconstructionism and devotional polytheism here, but the article goes on to attack several specific paths as well. Dianic/Goddess spirituality, Druidry, Heathenism/Ásatrú/Northern Tradition, and Occult/Witch/High Magic Traditions. Since I belong to neither of those traditions, I will not speak of them further. I will speak further about reconstructionism and devotional polytheism, though. First, let’s have a look at what they have to say in their article about these things.
- Reconstructionism: One of the more significant places where the New Right intersects with Pagan beliefs. Emphasis on returning to ‘reconstructed’ traditions, older (and poorly understood) social forms and hierarchical structures, as well as an emphasis on recovering European heritage are often problematic. Further, nationalistic and racial exclusionist tendencies are often justified as being part of ‘the lore.’
You notice immediately how reconstructionism in immediately framed for being regressive and dangerous, promoting a return to older societal structures and organisation, with all their laws, institutions (think slavery and female inferiority), etc. This is a blatantly false. Reconstructionism is a method with which these interrupted (looking at you Christianity and Islām) religious traditions can be restored and revived in the modern day. The study of the ancient societies and cultures which they were part of and intimately entwined with is a necessity to properly understand the ancient worldview and practices, which in turn is a requirement to see how the religious parts related to the others, so we can find out if and how we can extrapolate those religious traditions and implement them in our modern time in a manner that is faithful to the original ancient practices without losing sight of the fact that we live in the modern day and age that we do. Reconstructionism does not promote the reinstitution of slavery, of feudal systems, of noble lords and their subjects, of female inferiority, etc.
- Devotional Polytheism: Similar to the problems in Reconstructionism, but with an extra dimension. Because Devotional Polytheism places final authority in ‘the gods’ and emphasises hierarchical relationships (between human and god, priest and devotee), ethical questions cannot be challenged by concerned people because ‘the gods will it.’
Here devotional polytheism is accused of the same as reconstructionism, so I won’t copy-paste the same arguments again, see above if you need to re-read. However, we also see some new ways of attack, like how devotional polytheism posits a hierarchical relationship between us and the Gods. Well, la-di-friggin’-da. See, when you genuinely believe in actual Gods, with agency and existence of their own, independent of humans (aka when you are a polytheist), Gods who make up and shape the fabric of the world, and we’re the beings living inside that world, subject to its harshnesses and vicissitudes, its rapturous beauty and joy, then yeah, we’re lower on the fucking divine hierarchy. And there’s nothing we can do than to accept our lot in life, and perform the tasks proper for our place in the kosmos. Tasks necessary for our own continued survival, to procure food to nourish us and our families and communities, to justly punish criminals, to find ways of living together, to fight against those who attack us with word (like I am doing now by writing this blog post) and/or deed. Tasks that we must recognise the presence of the Gods in. Demeter teaches us to grow the grain for our bread, Dionysos taught the art of wine-making and imbibing his sacred drink is taking the God himself within us (ἐνθουσιασμός enthousiasmos), Earth bears fruits, Artemis and Apollon teach to hunt, Pan and Hermes herd goats and other livestock, Poseidon protects the sailors and fishermen, Zeus and Athena provide justice and protect the polis, Aphrodite brings the drive to bond and have children and to multiply livestock, Hephaistos and Athena are patrons of artisans and industry, and Ares has part in all wars and fights, Hera blesses marriages, Zeus and Hera cause gentle rains to nourish the soil, Poseidon ensures it seeps into the soil and replenishes the ground water that the crops need, Sun shines down upon us giving life to all, Moon controls the tides and allows us to measure time, and I could go on endlessly. To quote Thales of Miletos “Everything is full of Gods”, and once you recognise this, and the part the Gods play in every single aspect of our lives, it is only natural to honour them and recognise them for what they are and do, and try to thank them, even if there is nothing we could ever give that truly could repay them as they are part of all things, it is only natural for us to want to do so to the best of our abilities. That is why we have sacrifice, to give back some of what they give us in thanksgiving, or to petition them for aid. That’s a different topic, however.
Devotional polytheism is also attacked because apparently ethics are unquestioned and unquestionable. What do you think we are? Abrahamic monotheists? Speaking from my own tradition, Hellenic polytheism, the Gods don’t really go about handing out tablets with immutable Commands. The only ethical requirement that truly exists in Hellenismos is “keep your oaths”, which is pretty fucking simple and clear-cut, and why the Delphic maxims warn against taking oaths, because keeping oaths can be fucking hard and you need to be sure about your formulations and whether you can actually fulfill your part. Other then that, most ethics are strong recommendations, but not Commands you must follow unerringly. To give one example: “Honour your parents” is a pretty big deal, and rightfully so. But what if your parents or one of them, at least, is un-honourable? What if they abused you and/or your other parent? What if they simply neglected you, or if they left you and your other parent to your fate? This is where we get into the gray area of ethics, a gray area that polytheism allows for. It is something where we have to make out for ourselves if and how we would perform this ethical ideal. And then there’s the allowance for discussions on ethics, exchanging of different ideas, etc. Our Gods do not force these upon us except in select cases like oath-breaking (Zeus Horkios).
Throughout the article, the author, who was apparently too cowardly to put his/her name under the article, accuses polytheism of being inherently intertwined with far right ideologies of misogyny, ableism, racism/supremacism, nationalism, etc. These things are genuine threats to us, yes, but in my experience, they are mostly external ones. I have not yet met a single, genuine polytheist who holds such opinions as part of their religion. Indeed, in my experience, it is mostly (ultra-)nationalists, (neo-)nazi’s, racial supremacists, etc., who try to co-opt our sacred traditions for their own political goals, but often do not truly believe in the reality of the Gods and are thus not polytheists. They seek to co-opt our religious traditions as cultural heritage. But simultaneously they usually align themselves religiously with Christianity, typically with Roman-Catholicism or Eastern-Orthodoxy here in Europe. I don’t know if and how it may be occurring in Scandinavia and the Baltic. Again, these things are genuine threats, but mostly one external to polytheism. To accuse us of these things is a grave and heinous misrepresentation, which I can’t help but feel is a deliberate attempt to attack and undermine us polytheists, our validity, and our reputation, in a vicious and insidious attempt to insinuate we polytheists are the “bad” polytheists, and the writer of the article and their ilk are the “good” polytheists, when in truth they are rarely polytheists but archetypalists, monists, monotheists, atheists, etc., trying to co-opt polytheism for their own purposes, just like fascists and (neo-)nazi’s and (ultra-)nationalists try to do.
From other reactions to that blog post by Gods&Radicals, it seems we, having started to call them out on their bullshit, have now been accused of being “too emotional,” of “over-reacting,” and that we “need to cool off.” Is it just me, or is this the same kind of demeaning and paternalistic rhetoric used to shut up women when they protest against being treated unfairly because they are women and calling people out on that bullshit? This is a blatant attempt to shut us up and shut down any opposition, which is exactly something fascists would do, you know, the kind of fascists these people are accusing polytheists of being. Oh, sweet irony.
I would now like to make a little excursion outside the Western-centric debate this has mostly been. Have you ever heard of Hinduism? You know, the third largest religion on the planet? Here you go insulting a whole bunch of them who are polytheists with devotional relationships to certain Gods. Śaiva, Śāktaṃ, Vaiṣṇava, Smṛti, etc., Hindus are also implicated of being inherently fascists. So are practitioners of Vodou, Candomblé, Yoruba polytheism, Zulu polytheism, Shinto, Taoism, and countless other indigenous traditions that had the good luck of not having been stamped out by Christianity or Islām yet. All of them are accused by you of being fascists when very often it is exactly they who are constantly under attack from missionaries or terror groups and have to defend themselves.
As a final note I would like to say this: Gods&Radicals and supporters if you pick a fight with us, you can be damn sure we’ll be taking you up on the challenge. You come to attack us and conquer us and colonise us, and we’ll be standing our ground and defending it against you invaders. And you might want to remember then that we have actual Gods we can petition to back us up and stand with us, and Ancestors who will stand by us; while you have mere archetypes (who only exist in your mind), faces of a single Godhead (who in terms of theology is so far beyond us that it can’t possibly care about our petty squabbles and just is there somewhere), or even no Gods at all (and somehow you want to be called polytheists? LOL). So if you pick a battle with us, be sure you consider who’ll be standing against you, mortal and immortal alike, from countless traditions within polytheism.
- “Decisive Moment“, Gangleri’s Grove.
- “Apparently Polytheists are now fascists…“, Wyrd Designs.
- “Further Updates on how we’re all fascists“, Gangleri’s Grove.
- “SPEAK UP | Stand For Polytheism“, Wyrd Designs.
- “When they tell you to be silent, ask “Cui Bono?”“, Gangleri’s Grove.
- “Who sounds like The New Right now?“, The Sovereign of Swords.
- “If You Poke the Nest, Expect Some Buzzing“, Gangleri’s Grove.
- “Between the Broad and the Narrow“, Kinaʻani.
- “We Will Not Be Censored, Silenced, or Intimidated“, Gangleri’s Grove.
- “Confronting The New Wrong & Its Fascism“, LibMyLife.
- “Rhyd’s New Right“, The Dionysian Artist.
- “Our Strength Lies in Our Diversity“, Gangleri’s Grove.
- “Hierarchy“, The Words Swim, Waiting.
- “On Misrepresenting Devotional Polytheists“, In the Desert of Seth.
- “Confronting the New Right“, AWoodlandPath.
- “Politics and Polytheism“, Polytheist.com.
- “A Thought on the Recent Radical Brouhaha“, Of Axe and Plough.