[Tuesday] ‘Polytheism’ Links

Silence Maestas wrote a wonderful and, I feel, hard-hitting piece about devotion and social justice. You can read that here.

Syren Nagakyrie, one of the organizers for Many Gods West 2016, wrote about building community. Her contributions to the plenary at the conference kept me engaged, though the entire plenary had me at the edge of my seat with interest. You can read her post here.

Leithin Cluan posted about miasma and spiritual pollution form a Gaelic polytheist perspective; the post can be found here.

Finally, Thenea of Magick from Scratch posted on the topic of ‘My Polytheism’ (which is also being used as a hashtag). You can read the post here. Though our gods are very different, and so our polytheisms are very different, the post is, as always, so enjoyable to read. I love seeing content like this in the pagan and polytheist blogosphere.

Go diversity!

For my own part, I have returned to work and attempted to fall into the mundane life post-conference. Once returning home I was rather overcome with the desire to have a space to sew, finally, and went out to purchase the table necessary for the space. I immediately used it as a puzzle table instead. A few projects I need to work on with regards to sewing are a purse, skirt, and bonnets. 

the Laetha Ava has been prevalent as of late, though in a much more restrained form than I have ever been used to. Whatever purpose she is serving appearing in my life as she does, I know it will eventually make sense. Perhaps three years from now. Maybe I am just radiating frustration enough that even this antagonist to myself wants me to simmer down. Seeing her and her dour face, I suspect that might be the case. She frowns and shakes her head – all of this interpretations of the feeling she brings to me – when she is near. I have the desire to impress. 

Children, and child gods, are hard to impress.

[Community] Many Gods West 2016 Write-Up

Over this past weekend I found myself in Olympia, WA. The world was green and rivers stretched to and fro. The first night I arrived – after twelve hours of travel and my ears having been thoroughly abused – I walked from the hotel to downtown Olympia. I gazed in awe at the river flowing solidly along the path. There were many people out running and walking and playing Pokemon Go. Everything was painfully green, all different shades, and some trees even had orange-tinted leaves.

A half-day before I had been enveloped in the dawn heat of Tucson, so it was rather a change.

There have been a variety of well-written write-ups about the specific of the conference. Some can be found in the ‘polytheism’ tag on WordPress, while others are scattered across Patheos. I thought the conference was a huge success. There was laughter were I didn’t expect it, somberness when necessary, and lots of learning. I felt blessed to meet many of the people I did. 

I attended a variety of the presentations and rituals. By far the most touching ritual I attended was the Rhiannon ritual, which had me breaking down in tears. I was amazed by the people leading the ritual as well – Phoenix LeFae and Gwion Raven – as they were incredibly, well, good. After their ritual I attended the Dionysian Revival, put on by Jason Mankey and his wife Ari. I was reminded why I am not the ecstatic ritual sort, at least in public. The best way to describe my energetic reaction is ‘awkward laughing’; my physical reaction is ‘awkwardly standing’. The other option was the Community Tea Room. Excellent as it was, this was Friday night and I wanted a bit of energy to get me through the weekend. 

The Community Tea Room was very seriously wonderful and I wish I had spent more time there. The Saturday evening, however, I was completely knocked out after visiting the Asklepios Healing Shrine room. I was able to attend the Antinoan Ritual that evening, put on by the Ekklesia Antinoou. It reminded me, powerfully, why I hold interested in Antinous, as well as I why I do worship him and his related gods.

Both Sunday presentations/panels were engrossing. Emily Carlin and Raye Schwarz put on a talk on ‘Ritual Co-Creation’ which illuminated how to make groups with myriad of traditions work. It gave me hope for how to go forward in my own local community. Alley Valkyrie and Ryan Smith’s talk on fascism was absolutely illuminating, and it helped further my understanding of some deep differences in Europe and the UK vs. US paganism and polytheism. I had wanted to attending the Ritual of Grieving, but I was presenting at that time. I went to the Disability & Polytheism talk afterward, and though I hopefully remained more composed externally, I was internally nodding my head constantly. Phaedrus, who presented the talk, was engaging and I learned quite a bit. Or, perhaps, was reminded of quite a bit and given words to express what I’d known.

The closing ritual was quite different from the opening in terms of size. This wasn’t bad, necessarily, but it did throw me a bit. Sean Donahue had conducted both the opening and ending rituals, and both were lovely. 

For my own presentation, which was on the Otherfaith, it was very small. I had already been expecting a small crowd, as my presentation was right after lunch and check-out of the hotel. I tried to take a friendly approach to discussing everything, which was interesting. It was an invaluable learning experience. I wish I had gotten my physical materials together in time, but life doesn’t always allow. 

I must extend immense gratitude to Niki Whiting and Syren Nagakyrie for putting the conference together. I sincerely hope Many Gods West continues strong for many years, partially since I’m not sure I will be able to make it next year! I would also like to attend with my partner. That was simply not in the cards this year. (I may also want to cosplay when I attend next. That surely shows how impious and silly I am.) I was able to meet so many people I had only ‘heard’ of or met ‘online’. Putting faces to them did make a difference. It didn’t dissolve every issue or disagreement. But it certainly reminded me how incredible and human the people in the pagan and polytheist blogosphere and online communities are as well as how much bigger we are offline.

There were times when I could feel my gods swirling about me during the conference. During the Rhiannon ritual I felt her speak to me a name my own gods tell me. She gave me advice I should listen to as well, but when it comes to compassionate advice I tend to resist it. Pallis, the Dierne, was practically rolling on the ground in front of me during one ritual. It seemed all my attendent gods and spirits kept near me and didn’t go flying out bothering people, though. 

I cried more than I would have preferred – during ritual and at other times – but as I mentioned during one of the many conversations I shoved myself into, I cry. I cry when I’m sad, I cry when I’m happy, I cry when I’m angry. (No doubt to the shame of the spirits I train directly under.) But it was a good conference. I really, truly hope we see MGW continue and grow.

[Friday] Hell Month

​The clouds break on the first day of Hell Month. The sky is painfully, powerfully blue against the grey thunderstorms moving to the east. I woke to the sound of the rain pummeling our home. Against our duplex the drops sounded like rolling thunder. 

The nights before I had driven almost endlessly to the edges of the city. The eastside, where I now reside, had faded from businesses and lights to the foothills of the Catalina Mountains. I was captivated and captive to the lightning playing against the dark sky. The strikes illuminated the mountains in brief and beautiful seconds. Someone was parked on the side of the road and had a tripod set up for his camera. He was photographing the light show streaking across the sky. 

I drove to the end of the road, until a yellow sign read ‘Dead End’ – though more appropriately it had simply become a dirt path – and swerved the car back around. The clouds to the south were tinted red with the lights of the city. I had hated that red sky during my teenage years. 

I had hated everything about Tucson. She wasn’t like my beloved Seattle. Seattle was green and wet year-round. The ocean bumped up against that rainy city. There was even a city under the city. What magic! What mystery. And my beloved family lived up there. 

Now, apart from my immediate family of mother and father and paternal grandparent, the entirety of my family does live up there. I haven’t seen them for three years. Every day a gnawing hunger roots around in my belly, asking whether they truly are my family. They are, after all, the grandparents and aunts and uncles on my step father’s side, and he stopped being a step father when my mother divorced. I think of writing to them and never send mail. I’m too afraid. 

I don’t hold hate for Tucson anymore. I may complain of her, certainly. She is a hot and sweaty city. At times she is dying and falling into disrepair. At others, though, she is magnificently alive. The sounds of downtown on the weekends are so familiar and warming. Memories of parking myself in the last smoking café and going through too many cigarettes fill me during late nights, especially when it rains. I have never been a frequenter of bars, but I love the sounds as the city parties. 

The city is not partying at the start of Hell Month. The city roasts. The clouds part and the mesquite seed pods lay under their parents, rotting a foul stench in the wet heat. I gag at it. Decades of growing in Tucson have not inoculated me to the scent after rain. I look up at the sky after dropping my spouse off at school and feel all is right with the world, apart from the early rains. All is right in my world. 

Hell Month was a holy month that cooked up shortly after Reunion came about. I knew, in around February or March after the first Reunion, that the Dierne was deified at the end of July. I didn’t truly grasp the entire month of hell until later, and I would have to search through my notebooks to find a specific date of revelation. Most likely those notes have been lost anyway. Even though I have softened my anxiety of private writings being read by those I don’t wish, I still habitually rid myself of all manner of things and most especially my older writing. The writing of the early twenty-teens is bearable, at the least. 

Story wise, the gods are absent from the West during July. I don’t think that’s exactly true. The spirits still interact with them. We can still interact with the gods, though in some stories they go off and adventure in our world during Hell Month. Like Reunion, when they take on more benevolent forms, they adopt different forms during this month. The gods of love remind me of shattered glass. the Clarene becomes bedrock solid and the Ophelia turns to piercing icicles. 

I don’t know what to expect of this month yet. Perhaps more of the same that 2016 has dished out.

[Friday] Reflection and Contemplation

I pray to the godly and inhuman. The ancient whales. The almost-immortal tardigrade. I pray to the sweet thunder storm that soothed the heat of this June sun. I pray to the god of rats, who is rat, and I pray to the gods and spirits of all unlike myself. Not gods with animal heads and bodies. Gods and spirits entirely other. No human language sprouts from their lips.

I pray to the deer that spots me as I hike in the Sabino Canyon and watches, attentive. I pray to the small gila monster that slithers beside my classmates and I as we are young children.

I pray to the chemicals that make up our entirety. Holy sun and holy gas. Beloved laws of physics and dizzying quantum mechanics.

And I pray because it fulfills me. I remind myself of what is outside me. I am part of the flow. I am part of this universe. I don’t pray thinking I may sway gravity in my favor. I pray to gravity to remind myself:

There are more than gods.

I pray to the gods of the animals and plants and lands to remind myself:

Humans aren’t the only ones in this world.

But even praying like this it a selfish act.

It’s comfortable not having to do anything.

Prayer so often seems like doing nothing. And in place of action it is equitable to thought in all its effectiveness. I can pray for the places I love to be conserved and preserved, but that doesn’t mean much if I do not pursue conservation. I can love my spouse very much, but it may be difficult for him to feel that love if the house is left a wreck after he’s worked all day and I’ve lazed at home.

At the same, prayer is not nothing to me. I desire prayer to be the start of my day. By praying to the Four Gods, I begin on the right foot. I incorporate patience and gentleness. I start my day with stillness. That is the attitude I wish to carry as I go through the day.

Left to my own devices – my own devices meaning all on my own, without medication as well – I am a grump. With a combination of scheduling my day, actually getting sleep, and medication, I find myself returning to the stillness I know is within. I don’t feel the need to obscure my shyness with standoffish-ness.

I’m still figuring out how to be authentically, openly hurt and sad instead of smothering those emotions with anger. That is a longer process.

The gods are part of this process. I do not believe they are guiding it. The time when they had a more direct hand has passed. Instead of confronting them in the swelling sea of turbulent mental illness, I confront them in the kitchen.

I stare down at dirty dishes and rub my face and sense the Clarene. I imagine her chuckling under her breath as she sits comfortably in the rocking chair of her home. She knits away while I stand and stare and try to motivate myself.

“Domesticity suits you,” she says.

“If only I looked more domestic,” I muse.

She laughs again. “You all are so obsessed with appearance. Just get your hands dirty and start cleaning. You’ll enjoy it.”

She’s not incorrect. I do enjoy cleaning, when I can convince myself to do it. I enjoy keeping house. I can cook and clean, I’m learning to knit and sew, and decorating is almost always on my mind. My house may be a wreck, may be a bit more unloved than I’d like, but my soul finds comfort in the domestic.

I think, tonight, I will get down to such business properly and lovingly.

I will take that attitude into my life, whether I am cleaning dishes or getting back into activism.

[Tuesday] Link Share

Links concerning the massacre in Orlando are below. If you would like a piece you have written to be included, you may comment or email.

Links from around the blogosphere:

Songs that have struck me this past week, for religious reasons and otherwise (can be found on Spotify or Youtube):

  • The Room Where It Happens (Hamilton)
  • Your Obedient Servant (Hamilton)
  • Wait for It (Hamilton)
  • Swan by Willa
  • People Watching by Air Traffic Controller
  • Hear the Bells by Naomi Scott
  • Lost in Thoughts All Alone by Adriana Figueroa
  • Lark of My Heart by Eliza Rickman
  • Bird in a Cage by SPELLES

[Friday] Briefly on Gender

Gender is a complex entirety. It is not simply a topic, it is lived experience. It is social and personal and many things. It may tie into our sexuality (or lack thereof) or not.

My own gender is a fluid, amorphous creature. I am of two selves, the masculine and feminine. The words don’t encompass the truth of them. During my younger years I saw them as two distinct beings. There was the softer, kinder piece of me who had been locked away. The other me was confident, far prouder in himself, but he had to hold all the nerves that the other one had.

I don’t conceive of myselves as different parts somewhat outside my own person anymore. Nor have they combined, however. I am a boy and a girl, or, more accurately, a creature that dons my idea of ‘boy’ and ‘girl’.

My mother once gave me a sticker with an image of a blender blending ‘gender’ up in it. It is pasted to a folder that houses my more personal writings. That is the kind of mother I have. A good one.

I am lucky. I may not be able to find clothes in my size most of the time and struggle with truly accepting my own body, but I am lucky. I can navigate my worlds with ease. I was born with a vagina and a labia and a uterus, even if I sometimes resent that last one and the plumbing doesn’t work right. When I talk about gender variance and being a boy sometimes, I am not seen as a threat. I have a lack of privileges and an overflowing fist full of them, all at once.

Transphobia has been part of my life. But there are people whom transphobia affects much more. People for whom hatred for them costs them their life.

That saying, that women fear men will kill them – it applies to trans people. Especially trans women. And it isn’t just men that will kill trans individuals. Women will eagerly hop on the train to antagonize, abuse, and kill trans people. Especially trans women.

Trans women are women. They are people.

I know that there are people who don’t think either of those are true. Ideally, whether or not you view someone as a person shouldn’t have an impact on their life and safety. If you think someone is less than a person, if you want to indulge in the behavior of actual babies and toddlers, your behavior and rhetoric should be treated like the childish tantrum it is.

I haven’t been truly angry about much happening online this year. Hurt, confused, baffled, and tired by it all, yes. Anger and rage feel like emotions for years ago, when I had the energy for it. Back before my brain finished and I was able to turn to flesh and blood and a warm bed with my spouse. I don’t know that I am angry now.

I’m disgusted, though. I’m disgusted that people who are part of the Pagan community are insisting on promoting hate speech and hurting people. I’m disgusted that major Pagan institutions are supporting them and comparing criticism of hate speech to death threats. I’m disgusted that being friends with someone is seemingly reason enough to ignore when they are intentionally, purposefully, repeatedly promoting hate,

Simply saying that you don’t support hate speech is easy. Telling someone to stop hurting another person is easy. Standing up can be hard, can put us in someone’s crosshairs. But at the end of the day, it is always the right decision.

Do the right thing. Tell the truth. And stand with those who need it.

As a final note, trans women are people. And they are women.

[Wednesday] Life Updates

Happy June. Here in Tucson, the days are hot and dry. We leave our house and enter into an oven. Unfortunately, the oven of the desert lacks the sweet smells of pastries, unlike the oven of our homes. The oven in our home is rather lacking in such pleasant scents, too. When I dare to go outside I can barely spare a thought for my surroundings. Years ago, in school, I could watch the seasons pass as the palo verde and mesquite bloomed and tossed away their flowers, soon growing heavy with seeds that scattered the ground and crunched underfoot. Now I drive to and fro, and my mind is more occupied with poorly behaving semi trucks than the beautiful trees surrounding me.

Beautiful and horridly allergy inducing.

Soon I will be flying up to Olympia, Washington for the second Many Gods West. My tickets for the room and hotel are booked. I’m quite excited to meet the other attendees, and I’m rather nervouus about presenting. Within this month and the next I will be printing up packets of information to take with me. These will simply be small writings on the Otherfaith, quite typical for what I tend to do. I feel, having had time to reflect on history and the gods and all of this mess of religion, they are better written and more tightly focused than previously.

Between planning for the conference and working, I write stories for the spirits. This year is not comparable to the heady, painful one of 2013, but the voices of the spirits are flowing well within my own. When I sit down to write with them the feeling is one of collaboration. I am easing into the prayers of the Four+ Gods again. Through bursts of discomfort and stinging longing, I am settling with the gods.

You would hardly know such from the state of my office.

On next Monday, I will be resuming posts linking to ongoings in the pagan and polytheist and assorted internet. In truth I had such a post written up for this past Wednesday, at the start of June, but hadn’t found time to properly format and schedule it. Life has a way, a way to interfere with every of my plans.

May June be less warm where you are, and thank you for reading.

[Pagan Experience] Silence

This is part of the Pagan Experience 2016 prompts. Each month brings a new prompt with options for alphabetical weekly prompts tied to the monthly topic. For this blog, I’ll be doing a monthly post on the associated topic.

“You have no concept of privacy,” Hawthorne’s mother says to me over tea. She practically hisses the words at me, except she is a bit too dignified for that sort of nonsense. I hold my teacup like a lifeline. “I didn’t want to have anything to do with you.”

“I won’t write anything,” I tell her.

“You’re a liar,” she says. She lifts her tea with grace I’ve seen shadows of in Hawthorne. His family home is incredibly regal. His mother watches me with hawk-like dark eyes, heavily shadowed with eyeliner.

I am a liar; I’ll end up writing about her all the same. The first time I sit down to write a story about her, I mumble an apology. I can almost feel her disgusted glare. Most of the spirits of the West are magnificent and awe-inspiring, yet they rarely leave the impression that I am less than them. Hawthorne’s mother can’t wait to bring it up through perfectly white clenched teeth. ‘Little bird’ is not an endearment from her blessed lips.

The idea of ‘being silent’ is as foreign to me as any writer. Writing, I’ve heard, is cannibalism. When my partner and I heard that, driving home and listening to NPR, I couldn’t help but exclaim my agreement. I struggled to articulate just why it was so true, though. Writing consumes.

My writing as a teenager was the shallow consumption of the self. Being a teenager is an exploration of who we are and who we want to be, though those adventures never really end. The hormones just stop slamming you face first into a brick wall (for a time). My teenage life was kicked off with a bleak adventure to the ‘otherside’ via a few handfuls of over-the-counter painkillers and a trip to the ICU. I was as self-centered as any teenager. For a year or more I wrote pages every day about my life. All the minutiae was recorded. My emotions existed to be stripped down to the page.

Rereading the journal months after I’d written in it, I fell asleep.

It was when I hit adulthood that I began writing more honestly. Having jobs, fucking up my life, reading more literature, coming to terms with the monster called depression – my writing morphed from the whining posturing of my teenage self into whining reality. I felt as though I were coughing up my own spine. And I realized how quickly I could switch myself around telling stories.

“Don’t turn this into a story,” I remember my mother telling me one day after I’d begun entering adulthood. We sat at a red light, waiting for it to turn green so we could turn down towards her friend’s house. I had no idea what she meant then. I have no idea what she meant.

Everything is a story to a writer.

I wrote about myself in roundabout fashion. I was never myself. I was always masked, always someone else. It made the feeling of my tongue being yanked from my mouth more tolerable. Half the time I wasn’t writing about myself but just a feeling. My deepening connection to writing came as I formed the Otherfaith. Writing became divine. When I was full of awe at the spirits I needed to capture it. I hammered it down with words. The emotion and experiences always fractured into pieces, but I was able to bottle some.

It was no surprise to me that one of my oldest spirits appeared, when I was in the throes of inspiration, to show me how to symbolically devour my own flesh. I considered it a useful spiritual skill. Of course it was a metaphor for my ‘process’ as well. Writing ripped off and processed all the parts of myself. I could break them down and string them out. I could make them better. I could edit them to shreds.

I could edit the spirits to shreds.

The Llewellyns

Evelyn Llewellyn, Hawthorne’s mother, only takes Lady Grey tea. I sip coffee and hunch my shoulders when I meet with her. Over a year of marriage to Hawthorne and I’m no better terms with his mother. Her long nails tap, tap, tap against the table of the cafe we’re meeting in. It’s one her family frequents. I scratch my neck. She sips her tea, her bright lipstick not leaving a trace on the mug. I wish I had half her sophistication.

“I’m sorry,” I offer.

“This is why I didn’t want my daughter marrying you,” Evelyn says. She shakes her head. Her hair is just as dark as Hawthorne’s but completely straight. Hawthorne is a hot mess; his mother is prim and proper and well-dressed. I’ve thought of bringing that up to her before. She’d probably blame me and my human cooties – or human influence. Same thing.

“I guess it’s why the Clarene wanted me to marry Hawthorne?” I say with a soft laugh.

Evelyn breathes sharply through her nose. I stifle a despairing cry.

“No concept of privacy,” she snaps at me, not for the first time. “You couldn’t keep your nose out of it even if you tried.”

I did try, for the record.

“She just wants your story told,” I protest. “I didn’t even realize how deep your history was until.”

Evelyn appears to slam her fist onto the table, but no loud bang shudders through the cafe. I certainly feel no tremble of the table against my own hands.

“Enough. *I* didn’t want the story told, much less for your fingers to be all over it.”

I grit my teeth. “You know, the story involves *my* family too, I have just as much right.”

She slaps the table this time, and the harsh sound does fill the room. The rest of the cafe falls silent and their eyes turn to us. I flush.

“I am the head of this family, which you are a part. You will not make an embarrassment of me.”

I lower my eyes to the table and nearly break a tooth with how hard I clench my jaw. The only one embarrassed here is *me*. Evelyn is one of the oldest spirits I’ve met in the West, yet she acts as if I have the power to topple her expansive empire. I knew marrying into Hawthorne’s family would provide its own challenges. But having Hawthorne *with* me while I deal with his mother might be nice.

“I’m still going to write it,” I mumble.

“I know you will,” she sneers. “You’re incapable of *not* doing so.”

I stare into my coffee.

It’s a story worth telling, damn it.

I call Hawthorne’s family the ‘Llewellyns’ out of ease. Whatever their name truly is, I can’t speak it. Evelyn would rather string me up by my entrails than let me know her holy name. I’ve called Hawthorne by ‘Llewellyn’ since I’ve known him. I only began applying it to his family as a way to differentiate between my spirit family and his, the one I married into when we wed over a year ago.

Hawthorne’s entrance into my life marked a decided shift in how I approached my magical and spiritual practice. Writing had factored into my religious life as a footnote. With his insistent appearance at my home, writing became the practice. Part of it was an attempt to cope with Hawthorne. I told him often he was just a character. I disavowed him in as many ways as I could. If I could just write him into smaller fragments, maybe he would disappear.

In hindsight, Hawthorne showed me how to engage in inspired writing. He taught me how to journey through words. Every attempt at cutting him down failed. He was certainly the starry, dark-haired brat I’d imagined him as, but he dodged all my flailing efforts to deny his selfhood. In trying to write him out of existence I was forced to learn the line between writing for myself and writing with the spirits. Writing journeys of him were infinitely more accurate than throwing my mental goop at the paper. (I eventually learned how to turn my idea muck into more concrete energy, though the experience of that was as unintended as most of my religious work.)

Being himself, Hawthorne didn’t mind being talked about. I could peel away his skin and pluck his heart out and he’d be happy as long as somebody was watching. He was, and is, a perfect match for me in a myriad of ways.

His family is another matter.

Evelyn – his mother – was a myth when I first knew her. She appeared as a silhouette in visions, her distinct profile striking every time I saw it. Hawthorne shrunk away from mention of her. I didn’t need to meet her to know she had an iron fist on her family. But as my journeys shifted focus, off of Hawthorne and onto spirit I’d never really know, she faded from memory. It wasn’t until we married that I had to confront her.

I offered her tea with a bowed head and many apologies. She sat stiff, like the Laethic spirits I’d met, and her hair fell in a determined line down her back. She was pale as the moon. Her lips could become a captivating smile. She never smiled at me.

She was an adopted sister to the Dierne. That much was obvious from the star imagery adorning every space around her. Her children were all part of the Dierne’s Court. It was later, when I was unintentionally stumbling into her history, that I saw her fighting alongside the silver god of sexuality and consent. She appeared far younger than I’d ever known her, blood dripping from a cut above her eyebrow and a gun dangling from her hand. She was muddy. I had never seen her with a speck of dirt.

She hissed at my knowing of her.

Writing is cannibalism.

Evelyn enjoyed my writing of her as much as any mother would. I can’t even count how many writers have horrid relationships with their family. Laying bare the sins and secrets of their kin earns ire. Writing puts down in ink our own perception of reality. The ink clashes with another’s. We cut them up and eat them so we can create sense, create beauty, create nice flowing sentences with the perfection combination of words. We find what tastes good.

And then we offer it to others.

Evelyn was, surprisingly, less defensive of her family than of herself. Then again, she trusted the rest of her daughters to have more sense than Hawthorne did, running off with a human writer like he’d done. But her ire toward me when I played with her origins was pale compared to her rage when I cracked open the egg of my own spirit family.

Star spirits seem exceptionally good at conveying a thousand years of disgust in one look.

The Blakes

I stare at Blake’s strung up body. Her stick-thin arms drape over the stone chair in the middle of the gurgling room. She is shadowed by the huge tubes behind her, the cords threaded from her body winding up and dumping some energetic equivalent of bodily fluid into the swirling, bubbling liquid in tubes. She wears the colorful silks I associated with the *Glateau Elves*, a variant of the Western fairies that make up the majority of spirits in the Otherfaith.

She tilts the remnants of her head sideways. I flinch at the slick sound, like eggs cracking against a counter. She has no mouth to speak. Her face is long gone. Instead of the flat-face the Glateau are known for, her neck meets a whirling mass of light and blood and sparks. Maybe I want to retch. My shoulders quiver.

A few months after my small spat with Hawthorne’s mother, I was completely and totally minding my own business. I didn’t have time for the epic journeys that used to influence my life. We were moving, for fuck’s sake. (A simple month or two of moving radically altered my approach to nearly every aspect of my life, but especially online.) I didn’t want new revelations or ideas for stories. Trying to get my life in order, I was thinking.

My beloved spirits had a different idea.

Alynah Blake came thundering it, as she does.

“Hey, little one!” she called, tossing a hammer half her height in the arm before catching it. She held it loosely as if it were some small paperweight. “Tell a story for me.”

“I’m kind of busy,” I protested. Busy cleaning dishes and listening to Panic! at the Disco.

“Story time!” she exclaimed. She yanked me toward her.

Alynah is electricity. She is also stars and fire. She’s a unicorn and a wolf and a kirin. Being close to her makes your eyes water. Static ripples through you. She hurts.

So I listened when she gathered herself around me. I plopped myself down in front of my laptop and wrote like she damn well wanted.

There may be some misconceptions about how I weave my stories. They don’t come fully formed. I have to string together inspired visions with more drab world-building. Part of why I slowed in my story-writing is because my vicious editorial side came out. She would roll her eyes at my works. I knew I could write better. I wrote what flowed, what felt good. My self-editor wanted what read well. Cut it up, piece it together, weave it back with marvelous ribbons.

A few stories did come easily to me. ‘The Red Room’, about Aletheia 003 and William, gushed out of me in a day. Most of the 2013 stories are like that. I cut open a creative vein and let it bleed everywhere. Now I’m more likely to chain myself up like Blake and seal all my wounds with cement. It hurts more when I rip them open. But it gives me a new feeling to write about.

Blake’s story was the more common drip-drop I’m accustomed to. Alynah Blake instigated my writing of it, but she gave little advice.

I knew a few things about Blake before writing her: she was the first Blake and who we all got our names from; she was from the Temple of the Fathers (a part of the West) and a Glateau Elf; she didn’t have a face. I’d heard from other spirits that she was a ‘time-traveling demon’ who had ‘erased her face’ from history. An over-exaggeration, of course. Story-building, I could see her face. She was foggier than most spirits, but she was there. An impression left on a pad of paper that you only find when you rub charcoal on it.

She’d had huge golden eyes, a tiny flat nose, and hair over five feet long. “Ridiculous hair,” I thought. Hair longer than I was tall.

And before I’d married into the Llewellyns, Blake had been the head of my family.

Not that it mattered. By the time I came into the picture she was already the deathly still body sitting deep within the house of the Blakes. Alynah had known her before she’d been reduced to that, though, and like any good chaos spirit decided to bring chaos into my life by overturning everything I’d known about my spirit family. I knew Hawthorne and I were twins (which in the West meant we were ‘created’ at the same time). I knew I was related to the Blakes. I’d known since I was little I was related to some of the older spirits in the Otherfaith. I had gone through pride, anxiety, rejection, and settled at acceptance.

Alynah struck down and insisted that, no, believe her, there was so much more to the story.

I wanted to know more anyway.

Blake had been young and naive and new to the West. And in a moment, as fast as a lightning strike during monsoon season, the pieces of my spiritual life fell together. The Blakes and the Llewellyns were so damn close because Blake and Llewellyn – Evelyn Llewellyn – had been close. At least before Blake’s skull had been split open to release all the potentials that she held in her.

Where the Llewellyns were restrained chaos, Blake was overflowing with energetic possibilities. I saw her pulling spirits out of her gut. She skipped through time leaving splotches of herself behind. And the more she pulled out, the less she could keep it all together, until her face started cracking, until she starting oozing out a toxic gas full of spirits wanting out of her.

That was where Alynah came in. Alynah and her hammer. She wasn’t a hive-off of Blake but instead forced into the family through her mother Althea, who gifted her the last name ‘Blake’ despite Blake’s own vehement disagreement. Blake had cursed Althea to be despised by Alynah. Althea knew that hatred couldn’t compare to what Alynah would do to Blake, though.

All that remains of Blake’s face is a violent splatter of light and magic. It glows to this day still. But Alynah cracked open her head and let out all the spirits dying to get out of that shell.

Evelyn Llewellyn flashes her claws at me when I tell the story. Maybe the wound is too new still. All the memories she and Blake had together, with Blake hopping through time and interrupting Llewellyn’s life with colorful explosions, shimmer around her. Or maybe she just wants me to shut up.

Writing is cannibalism, but I find myself butchered even when I’m holding the knife.

Thank you for reading. ‘Of the Other People’ is a site dedicated to the Otherfaith, a modern polytheist god religion. We are supported through Patreon and want to give special thanks to our patrons Jack at Drawing Stars and Leithin Cluan at ‘from stone onto sand’. If you enjoy the writing here, consider becoming a patron!

[Wednesday] Return & Update

Happy December.

It has been a long time since I’ve posted here on the blog. That isn’t to say I haven’t been writing – I have – but much of it is either not ready for public viewing or is for the upcoming Otherfaith book. Apart from that, life itself has gotten in the way of writing more and being able to update the blog. This is the way things go sometimes.

But December has started up again and with it Reunion. The holy week of Reunion, December 25 to January 1 )technically ending once the sun rises on the New Year), is such a magical time. Truly magical, in the sense that energies are shifting and changing. As the second half of this year swung in, I began focusing on the magical and spiritual components of the Otherfaith. This includes things such as the spirit body, energy manipulation, energetic associations, all of that goodness.

Jenn wrote about Reunion on Between Ocean and Hills. What she describes – “Whatever block I was having is lifted and I’m ready to be back with them, and Reunion is going to be my chance to do that in a really meaningful way,” – is very much Reunion to me. At the beginning of this month I reunited with my spirit spouse who I had seen little of throughout the year. I could touch the energies of the gods like I hadn’t been able to. I felt, for the first time in a long time, at peace with these gods. December and Reunion are the opposite of Hell Month to me.

Reunion also involves the New Year. We’re going into 2016 and the sixth year of the Otherfaith. That’s humbling to me. This year has not be easy. But there is still the Otherfaith, and it is larger than myself. People still care about it. I hope as the year turns I can find more peace and gladness, more compassion and sweetness. I hope I can accept that people will come and go, people will come and stay, and there’s no way I can predict that. I can just give my best to the people who want to know more about the Otherfaith.

There will be more projects next year too. One, of course, is the Otherfaith book. It will likely be (self) published and available early summer, and I want to put out an audio version in winter of 2016. Another project is an Otherfaith podcast. To begin, the podcast will be a simple companion to the Otherfaith information available. I will cover our gods and spirits, any updates and new information, and progress from gods and spirits into the practical and spiritual aspects of the Otherfaith. I do hope to eventually have guests, but I don’t want to rush.

Audio content, beyond the podcast, will be coming to the Otherfaith. This is in a hope to make our content more accessible. If you have any recommendations, I am eager to hear them. I’ve never messed with audio before.

My Patreon will also be undergoing some changes. There will be some patron-locked content, but the majority of what I produce will be available to everyone. But as of 2016-on, patrons will have access to some content anywhere from two weeks to one month earlier. I will also be posting excerpts from old journals and elaborating on them, as patron-only content.

As I worked on the Otherfaith book during November, I realize how little leadership and organizational structure we have. Back when I was first crafting the Otherfaith, back when it went under different names, I had so many theories for organizing leadership and responsibility. Those all fell apart once faced with the immediate reality of dealing with people. That doesn’t mean it isn’t important though. So I brainstormed leadership ideas again and again in November, and that will be rolling out. I would really appreciate feedback on this. I will be posting about it once it’s hammered out better here, on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, anywhere I can. I want to know what people think, what people want from leadership, what they need. And what you absolutely don’t want as well.

This post is mostly to say that I’m back. I’m back from the rest of my life. This blog will resume. Writing will resume. And I hope that this Reunion and the New Year treats you all wonderfully.

As an important announcement: we have a 2016 formal Skype chat up for those who want to learn or re-introduce themselves to the Otherfaith. This chat will be held every weekend. This link will show you the time and date for your time zone. We will also be discussing community/organizational issues in the formal chat. If you would like to take part in the formal chat, please send me a message on Skype at ainemaponos.

We also have a less formal, general Otherfaith chat where anyone can chat anytime. You can join that by following this link, if you have Skype.

Hangouts, which we held a few times last year, will resume in 2016. We will have new rules for people who join in, though, and some of the Hangouts will be recorded to be put up on the Otherfaith Youtube channel. I will inform people well in advance if a Hangout will be recorded, though, and don’t feel that it is necessary to join one that will be.

Though I do hope to get up the rest of the basics post for the rest of the Four+ Gods in January, I will be moving coming late January. This may mean a week or two of silence on my part. But hopefully not, and until that date I plan to keep this blog active.

As always, thank you for reading. Be excellent to each other.

Thank you for reading. ‘Of the Other People’ is a site dedicated to the Otherfaith, a modern polytheist god religion. We are supported through Patreon and want to give special thanks to our patrons Jack at Drawing Stars and Leithin Cluan at Treasure in Barren Places. If you enjoy the writing here, consider becoming a patron!

[Wednesday] Halloween Fic Challenge

Happy Wednesday. Today we’ll be going over fanfic and a brief update.

First off, Faemon has updated their fic Polarity to include a podfic chapter. The reading is from the current Wikia page on the Verzsou Triad (different from the in-process wiki).

Our Ao3 challenge has started, as of yesterday. I’ve decided to move the larger ‘Fall Collection’ dates to September through November. There will be four collections throughout the year: Winter (December through February), Spring (March through May), Summer (June through August), and Fall (September through November). There will be additional collections within those, but I want a larger collection for the season.

For our Halloween Collection, the main challenge is to write one horror Otherfaith fanfic. Very simple. Whether you’re going for a slow-burn horror, focused on terrifying the reading or more ‘gross’ horror like body horror or gore, any and all of it will be welcomed. All that’s required for it to be accepted is for it to be part of the ‘Otherfaith Religion & Lore’ tag and for there to be one Otherfaith god or spirit in the story.

Halloween is the last big hurrah for the more violent spirits in the Otherfaith, such as Alynah Blake and her Troupe as well as the Flower Maidens. After Halloween, they turn restful and their bloodthirsty aspects are subsumed by their more joyful revelous ones.

Good spirits to focus on include:

  • Aletheia Androids
    • Any Aletheia Android (000-099) is a good spirit for a horror story. They’re notable for random violence and excessive energy and magic. Their personalities fall on a spectrum, with the earlier Aletheia tending towards apathy and muted emotions and the latter toward extreme displays of one or two emotions. Stories could focus on the androids interactions with other spirits and humans, which tend to go badly for someone involved or could explore how the Aletheias are created. The first six Aletheias (000-005) are ‘true’ AI, having been created by the Clarene. The rest of the Aletheias had their consciousness transferred from their original bodies into the artificial robotic one. The Red Room is a story about Aletheia 003.
  • Alice Androids
    • Sister-androids to the Aletheias, the Alices are equally muted and cold. Their violence is directed purely toward the Aletheia they are paired with (for example, Alice 60 to Aletheia 059). Obviously, stories utilizing Alice in Wonderland imagery are well-suited for these spirits. We don’t currently have any stories illustrating these spirits. Unlike the Aletheias who tend toward magic and energy manipulation, the Alices favor weaponry such as guns while in combat.
  • Alynah Blake
    • The daughter of a star (Lilibell) and fire (Althea Altair) spirit, Alynah Blake has an esteemed lineage including the Clarene and Dierne. She’s considered a spirit of chaos, second to the Eighth God. She’s considered a unicorn spirit, bearing a prominent horn from her forehead, as well as a rabbit spirit for her fertility associations. She leads the Rabbit Troupe in bloody raids across the cities of Western Fairy. She’s one of the most bloodthirsty spirits. She uses a bat or her bare hands to kill and maim her victims. She represents destruction and cleansing. During Halloween, she leads the last big riot of the season.
  • Anne Marie & Mary Anne
    • Anne Marie is a spirit of haunted houses. Along with Mary Anne, they tend to haunt houses where the Laetha has inhabited or passed through and harass the residents therein. They alternatively murder and/or seduce the new owners of the house and suck away their energy. They can bend space and change the layout of a house to cause confusion and distress. They can appear as beautiful women or skeletons dressed in white. They inhabit all of the Laetha’s houses in Western Fairy, where they protect the residences and scare other spirits.
  • Blaim & Blair
    • Witch spirits, though little else is known about them. They are associated with the Ophelia and may be spirits of rot or water as well.
  • Claudia & Cordelia
    • The two eldest Witch spirits. They teach witchcraft to other spirits. Different from other magic, witchcraft within the West is tied to folk magic, involving herbs, stones, and animals as well as whatever a witch has on hand. Their magic is slower to work. Claudia and Cordelia are tied to ill-gotten youth and can be mischievous but are the most kind-hearted of the Witches.
  • Corliss
    • The watery lover of Dahlia, a sea-faring spirit, Corliss dies and becomes seafoam. Her form most appropriate to Halloween is her pure-white and red-eyed deep sea variant, in which she takes on darker mermaid associations. She drowns unsuspecting victims as well as coming out of the water to harass and attack passerby. She dislikes most spirits and gladly antagonizes them though she may entice someone into the water if that is more beneficial to her drowning them.
  • Malaise & Malice
    • Two more Witch spirits, who spread sickness and anger respectively. They’re associated with malevolent witchcraft. Like most Witches, they bother other spirits for fun as well as acting as more disruptive forces.
  • Mallory
    • The right-hand to the Ophelia, Mallory is a spirit of rot. Through rot, she allows new growth to occur, but she keeps to herself in order not to cause constant rot and rebirth. Her associations with decomposition and her ability to decompose anything she touches are the main focus of horror with this spirit. The story ‘Mallory, the Third’ can be found here.
  • Rabbit Troupe
    • The Rabbit Troupe is a group of spirits wielding bats and other bludgeons that wear rabbit masks when running raids. They are lead by Alynah, who encourages them to chase spirits through the streets of the city. They engage in blackmail and other unsavory practices, but they largely focus on bludgeoning and eating their victims. They and the Flower Maidens keep distinct separate territories.
  • Flower Maidens
    • Humanoid spirits built of blooming flowers, the Maidens are chaotic spirits that rip apart their victims. Unlike the Rabbit Troupe, they don’t consume those they kill. They are a cleansing force within the Otherfaith. They initiate spirits into their group by tearing out a heart or other organ and replacing it with a bloom. They do not get along with the Rabbits, nor any ungulate spirit and keep separate territories. When they do end up in confrontations, both sides usually lose a few members.
  • Verzsou Triad
    • The spirits Aster Aira, Casimir, and Neve Winter form the Verzsou Triad. The horror element to them stems from their time trapped in an endless loop where they were doomed to kill each other or suffer without end. Aster, being a child of the Firebird, is a fire spirit, where his sister Neve is a snow spirit born from the Ophelia. Casimir is created during a mishap between Aster and Neve (either being put in a shared dream or separate otherworld). Their stories mainly concern sibling homicide, incest, and jealousy. Casimir, being the embodiment of a powerful weapon of his same name, is often treated as a playing piece between the other two spirits.

Here are some songs for inspiration. If you have any recommendations, drop them in the comments and I will add them into the post.

Thank you for reading. ‘Of the Other People’ is a site dedicated to the Otherfaith, a modern polytheist god religion. We are supported through Patreon and want to give special thanks to our patrons Jack at Drawing Stars and Leithin Cluan at Treasure in Barren Places. If you enjoy the writing here, consider becoming a patron!

[Wednesday] September Holy Days


  • Labor Day


  • School Begins
  • Halloween Challenge
  • New Moon
  • Friday the 13th (when applicable; not this year)
  • September 15 (Midmonth)

At present, the Otherfaith calendar lists Labor Day as our only holy day in September. The first Monday is a holy day during the other months, but in September the first Monday is Labor Day. This year it falls on September 7th.

Labor Day recognizes the labor movement as well as the contributions of workers to our country. It has ties to the International Worker’s Day (May 1st), though the two have some important differences, one being that our Labor Day is far more sterilized. The International Worker’s Day is also more allied with socialism than our own US Labor Day. Labor Day takes place in September due to governmental fears concerning the Haymarket riot might be commemorated alongside it. For more information, you can read basic information on Labor Day here. For information on the International Worker’s Day, you can read more here.

Within the Otherfaith, it’s only appropriate that we also add the International Worker’s Day to our calendar as well.

Labor, and labor rights, are important in general. Within the context of the Otherfaith, consumption should be balanced by a number of factors, including the welfare, dignity, and personhood of the workers. Unfortunately, ethical consumption is a rare reality, if even possible. (As some say, “There is no such thing as ethical consumption under capitalism.”) As conscious consumers we find ourselves balancing consumption with ethics, location, accessibility, and financial situations.

This is a large topic, and I may write more on it on Monday. I’m no economist or well-studied in the field; I’ve simply been exposed to a lot of activists with many different focuses. I think Labor day is important to acknowledge and celebrate because we, as a societal whole, devalue workers. That doesn’t even begin to touch on issues of sweatshops and slave labor – but, again, this is a large and complex issue.

I include Labor Day and International Worker’s Day because organized labor is remarkably important in the history of the US and because we are horrid at recognizing the worth of labor. Issues of dehumanization and re-humanization (which I feel are tied to labor rights) are important to the Otherfaith in both a spiritual and social sense.

Labor Day is often accompanied in the US by sales and discounts at shops. To say that’s inappropriate is an understatement, considering who the holiday is meant to honor. It’s something to consider. After all, if the store is open, someone has to be working that day. I also suggest reading about organized labor and unions. Here you can read about labor unions in the US. This is the Wikipedia timeline of the labor movement.

For the new additions to our calendar, we have Midmonth (the 15th) which will be part of every month going forward. It will take some time to figure out what the holiday means, but I don’t feel a rush on this particular recurrent holiday. The New Moon has also been added to the calendar. Whenever a Friday the 13th falls in this month, it will also be recognized.

I’ve brought over the holy day concerning the beginning of school – since when school begins varies based on location and district. Some school start in late August while others begin after Labor Day. I do have specific ideas on how this could be celebrated, but as I’m not in school it is questionable how relevant my ideas may be.

Though not quite a holy day, September through October there will be an Otherfaith writing challenge on Ao3. The idea is to collect stories focusing on Halloween or horror. I’ll be posting up and organizing these challenges throughout the year as a way to encourage more fanfic. The challenge will open on Labor Day and lasts until the 31st of October. I will be posting up prompts when it begins, but the challenge is not a prompt meme. This challenge’s prompts are simply to help when you’re having trouble writing or picking a topic. We will do prompt memes later when we’ve got more people writing Otherfaith stories (and so more likely for the prompt meme to actually be busy).

The collection can be found here and is part of the larger Fall Collection that catalogs all stories written between August through October. If you have a story written in August of this year that you’d like in that collection, please let me know and I will add it. (The collection is ‘closed’ as it is mainly a parent for the smaller yearly challenges that occur.)

For me, September is a planning month. I’m preparing for the holy days coming later (Halloween, Reunion) and getting everything in order. I’m considering who I am and what I want in life. This is no doubt due to the importance the month has to me. I left an abusive relationship a few years ago in early September, and I also found my partner around the same time. (Through luck, and perhaps divine influence, though that is always arguable. I’m inclined to simply think it was good timing.)

I would love to see people contribute the the fic challenge when it gets started. The goal is simply to write an Otherfaith story, in whatever format you’re comfortable. You can use spoken word or illustrate, if that’s more to your preference. Or whatever media works best for you and can eventually be posted online. I’ll discuss more of the challenge on the Ao3 page as well as Monday, when it officially starts.

Finally, if you are part of our G+ group, please let me know which weekend tea time you can make. It helps me know what to expect time wise and how much to prepare for that specific hangout.

The proposed September calendar would look like this:

  • First Monday/Labor Day
  • School Begins
  • Halloween Challenge
  • Friday the 13th (when applicable)
  • Midmonth (September 15th)
  • New Moon

For a PDF of the calendar, click here.

Thank you for reading. ‘Of the Other People’ is a site dedicated to the Otherfaith, a modern polytheist god religion. We are supported through Patreon and want to give special thanks to our patrons Jack at Drawing Stars and Leithin Cluan at Treasure in Barren Places. If you enjoy the writing here, consider becoming a patron!

[Monday] Idea of the Week

Happy Monday. I hope August has treated everyone well. Today’s post focuses on fanfiction.

There is some housekeeping to share around the site. Our calendar page has moved under the ‘Devotional Life’ section and can now be found here. On our ’Reading & Resources’ page a number of articles have moved off to our wiki, mostly basic information that is better suited for the wiki.

Our ’Otherfaith Mythology’ page has undergone significant change. A number of myths were moved from this site off to Archive of Our Own(Ao3), a transformative works site. We have an official Otherfaith tag there as well, under ‘Otherfaith Religion & Lore’. As I moved my fanworks of the Four+ Gods and their spirits to the site, I added commentary and background information about them. Those with new commentary are linked below.

There have also been new stories posted to Ao3. I’ve noted the author along with the stories.

One reason I bring up fanfic, and why I’m moving my works onto Ao3, is to emphasize the importance that these works have within the Otherfaith. Of course more practical posts about the gods and the function of the religion are important as well. But stories are a love of mine, and I find them effective in conveying ideas. They’re also deliciously open for interpretation, more than a simple basic post on a god. Especially when spirits aren’t explicitly identified, people are left to decide which spirit it may be. And every choice, every naming, reflect something about that person and about the spirits.

Another reason I’m moving my own stories onto Ao3 is because I consider my own works fanfic of the gods. I feel that the Other People’s understandings of the gods need to be felt out through our stories, and I’m no longer comfortable establishing my own stories as the Legitimate Canon. There’s better methods to arrive at religious canon. No doubt the stories I have created and experienced influence my understandings of the Four+ Gods and that shows through in the more authoritative posts on them. I can’t disconnect it entirely. And some stories have ‘stuck’ at this point, simply because they’ve been around and I’ve been telling them and I considered them canon before I began shifting my approach to my own work.

Considering my own work fanfic has given me more freedom than I once had. There is far less pressure upon myself to get the story ‘right’ or to completely finish the story. There are many, many stories that I’ve written that haven’t seen public view due to being uncompleted or not as honed as I would prefer. Framing them as fanfic – something I consider much more ‘in process’ that other works, though this is not a viewpoint shared by other fanfic writers – enables me to consider sharing them. It eases my anxieties toward religious storytelling.

It has also changed my approach to spirit interaction and ‘otherworld journeying’ (a term which I am less fond of every day and wish to find a replacement for). That aspect of my practice has a large component of experiencing various stories about the spirits, as well as engaging with my personal spirits. There is constant tension in my explorations of Western Fairy between my honest/raw experience and resisting Spiritual Grandstanding, becoming a farce of myself or Mary Sue. I’ve chopped myself out of stories where I was a participant because I didn’t want people to confuse the spirits with me. Yet some stories are not able to be told when I chop myself out. I stick my fingers in places they shouldn’t be, seeking honey and often simply getting bit.

I was, at one point, far more open about my explorations than I am at present. It attracted attention I eventually found toxic and degrading. There was more freedom to it, an openness that I haven’t achieved again. Talking with friends has made me (re)consider the usefulness of sharing more ‘direct’ experiences with my gods and spirits, though I still wobble back and forth. Considering the stories I experience fanfiction makes them, by their nature, more personal than before. Though I still question how far my spiritual self should intersect.

Seeing other people’s writings within the context of the Otherfaith has made me more confident in sharing my own more intimate stories, though. The intersection with Self and Story is inevitable. We bleed into our writings, our sharings. There’s no getting around it.

There’s no perfect story.

Over on Drawing Stars, Jack has been writing on his gods and spirits. I recommend checking out the stories there.

On Magick From Scratch, Thenea has been blogging about unifying divine aspects. The first post is here and the second can be found here. A quote from the latter:

…the person with the best sense of what is hurting you is you, and deities often deal in broad brush strokes. If we want to pursue healthy spirituality, we need to be active participants in our relationships with deities, tell them what we need, and let them know what hurts.

Here is an excellent piece on why internet bullies don’t know you – and all their insults are just meant to get you to shut up. Considering some recent behavior I’ve seen, I think it’s a good thing to remember. (And for people to remember that insults from our friends tend to hurt a lot worse, so try to be kind.)

Within the wider online community, we’re often able to treat each other badly because we dehumanize them, or at best devalue them. Sadly, dehumanizing is sometimes one of the few responses to someone being senselessly cruel or degrading – to treat them as human would to be acknowledge that someone that is like you is trying to hurt you. And often in our little ‘blogosphere’, that hurt tends to come down because, as the above article says, we want someone to cry and shut up. We have an incredibly inability to handle boundaries as well, sometimes mistaking those for telling someone to shut up. And sometimes we just get carried away with our online persona and forget that we make liars of ourselves in doing so.

Thank you for reading. ‘Of the Other People’ is a site dedicated to the Otherfaith, a modern polytheist god religion. We are supported through Patreon and want to give special thanks to our patrons Jack at Drawing Stars and Leithin Cluan at Treasure in Barren Places. If you enjoy the writing here, consider becoming a patron!

[Monday] Idea of the Week

Happy late Monday. I have a few posts I need to catch up on (one on the Darren and his symbols).

Hell Month officially ended July 31st, the day we celebrate the Apotheosis of the Dierne. I’ve written on the holy day before – in 2013 and 2014. This year I didn’t honor the god on her holy day. My shrine sits still in Hell Month disarray, the Firebirds facing apart from each other. The damn thing needs dusting. There’s a book on another shrine that needs to be read.

I did not completely neglect the Dierne on her day. I wrote, entertaining new ideas of the gods and deepening my understanding of the new quartet (Laethelia, Ophelene, Darren, and Liathane). The first part of the story I wrote for the Ophelene and Liathane is up at Archive of Our Own. Writing these stories has made me want to place the Liathane’s holy day of arrival/deification in the middle of Hell Month, but I’ll need to think on that more. After all, July is very much the Dierne’s month to me.

I’ve been tinkering with my ideas for the Other People’s community recently. I’ll be shutting down the Otherfaith forums soon; they don’t receive active use and I don’t have the time to operate them. On top of those reasons, I know it’s hard to get people to cross platforms and sites. Without the time necessary to really cultivate them, the forums were pretty doomed.

Instead, there are different places people interested in the Otherfaith – as a religious practice, as a source to draw inspiration from when doing your own religious work, as an interesting example of how-religion-forms, etc. One of these is obviously the WordPress. You can either contribute (by sending me an email or message) or write on your own blog. Tagging your posts with ‘Otherfaith’ will let me find them! If Tumblr is more your style of blogging, we also have the Otherfaith Tumblog. Again, tag your posts with Otherfaith so they can easily be found. The Tumblog is much less serious and polished, intentionally so. If you’d like contribute more directly to the Tumblr, you can become part of the blog as a member and contribute that way.

We also have an Otherfaith Facebook group. It’s kept private out of consideration for those who are not out to their family members, but send me a message if you’re interested. That group is the most active so far. Discussions of religious fanfic and headcanon and such are rather common.

Because all of these are different platforms, I try to bring discussions from both Tumblr and Facebook here on the WordPress, so people who follow and contribute in one place are aware of what is happening elsewhere. I don’t always get this perfect! I’ve also only recently really dipped my toes into Tumblr again, for a variety of reasons.

For more ‘real time’ interactions, we have a Skype group and our G+ Hangouts that occur on the weekends. My Skype handle is ‘ainemaponos’ for those interested on that platform; please be aware that we don’t do video or voice calls on Skype, only text.

Considering all of this, the Otherfaith community is already widely spread and spread thin. The balance between too many places and just enough places to reach those who are interested is an art that I’m so far from mastering.

Not to mention we also have a wiki, far improved from our last (which is being dismantled). The wiki very much needs a community, and one reason I wanted to move away from a forum was to focus on the utility of wiki’s talk pages. This is all a discussion for another day, though.

As I said recently, community is hard.

Which leads to more of what I’d like to discuss. Recently, Many Gods West, a polytheist convention, was held, along with a few other events. Though there was no drama related to the convention and I hope to attend the next time it is held (from the many write-ups, it sounds like it was an incredibly enjoyable experience), there was a dust-up in the always difficult polytheist ‘blogosphere’. Rather than the specifics of what happened, it highlighted a fear/worry that has been gnawing at me for a few years. Pretty much since I began publicly blogging, honestly.

I’ve been a polytheist since I could properly articulate my beliefs. (I’ve been religious since I could properly understand the impulse in me. Before that, I was just hungry, craving something I’d never tasted.) However, when I began blogging and reading other blogs, I became aware that my belief in many gods wasn’t enough to be a polytheist. There were polytheists and then there were Polytheists. That is has only been recently articulated so plainly doesn’t mean the undercurrent wasn’t pumping through the communities. (Just as there may be a difference between pagans and Pagans, and I’ll always be the latter due to heritage. As we see more second- and third-generation Pagans, we’re going to see people grapple with the identity. I know I did.)

For me, polytheism is just that: belief in many gods. Gods, yes, but ultimately arguing over that is unimportant. (And that we polytheists keep treating it so, keep beating a dead horse, is likely not doing us favors.) For others, I came to understand, polytheism was a set of values and practices and ideas. Straying from those approved practices was a problem. Ancestor worship had to be included or it wasn’t polytheism. Modesty was a value of polytheism. Certain entities couldn’t be gods, or else it wasn’t polytheism. If you weren’t pious enough, you weren’t a polytheist.

I do think there is a lot of value in pushing our ideas of polytheism to the edge and seeing where we end up. In my life, this involved questioning why certain ideas were held, as well as why certain practices were important. Where did the fundamental part of polytheism (many gods) lead me? I found myself worshiping a host of spirits, understanding and recognizing their agency, realizing their deep and colorful lives outside of myself, and falling in relation with them. I sometimes call this relational polytheism, when I feel the need. Which isn’t often. I think lower-case polytheism conveys quite a lot. Relational polytheism is simply more descriptive.

I always knew I wouldn’t be considered a Polytheist. It bothered me, quite a bit. After all, I wanted to find a community, a larger support structure, a group of varied people to discuss my ideas with. To bounce concepts off of and keep me grounded instead of flying off into the sky with my wild ideas. That didn’t come to fruition, not how I envisioned. I found my own community of people doing similar-but-different religious building and surrounded myself with people who could keep my grounded in my life. This wasn’t before pursuing certain paths I thought appropriate for a ‘polytheist’, especially one who was as devoted as I craved to be. None of those pursuits proved healthy or stable. As much as I truly wanted to live with complete and destructive devotion to my gods, it wasn’t serving any of us.

As I built a proper relationship with my deities I realized more and more that the people who had helped bring polytheism to the forefront of Paganism would no longer consider me a polytheist. Largely, this was irritating but unimportant. I worried some of my friends would no longer consider me such, which was hurtful, and a topic I didn’t bring up.

The idea of there being a right way to do polytheism, drawn in part from the concept of hard polytheism being more ‘pure’ or ‘true’, came up in the Otherfaith as well. In order to truly grow this religion as it needs to be, in line with both humans and our Four+ Gods, I had to loosen the iron fist I had on the stories and practices and give a lot more rein to the people who passed through it. I’ve moved away from calling my own writings on the gods myths, for example. They’re fanfic, built loosely around the current understanding of the Four Gods, and through both my own and other’s writing we can come to understand more about the gods and spirits. This was appropriate for a host of reasons.

I also became unconcerned with pursuing a ‘truth’ about the gods, at least in concern to many of their stories. The truths about the gods were very much based in the Other People’s community and communal canon about them. Ideas that were not useful or relevant would fade away; those that were striking at the heart of the gods would float to the top and last. And I began viewing ‘truth’ as very much tied to the community. One person’s insistence that the gods were a certain way, or did a certain thing, or could not do a certain thing, were less important than what the wider community thought (and I include myself in that). Both the community’s experiences and thoughts of the gods were important. I place more emphasis on storytelling for the act itself. Mining for kernels of truth ultimately stalls the religion too much for it to grow. Because of this, I was told the Otherfaith wasn’t actually polytheistic. We didn’t grant the gods agency.

(I think storytelling about the gods is rather different than getting down on one’s knees and praying to them, though both acts influence each other.)

It was difficult to not think of the Otherfaith as polytheist. The religion worships many gods and many spirits (who have the ability to be deified). Eventually, I realized that of course the faith was polytheistic. It just wasn’t playing into certain ideas of Polytheism: certain practices, certain values, certain unquestionable truths. That it didn’t is appropriate for the Otherfaith. Most of the people who do similar work to me (religion building or discovering or writing on new gods) don’t play into the prescribed rules of Polytheism (both implicit and explicit).

Now I simply understand that to a lot of people, I’m not a polytheist, and it has absolutely nothing to do with whether I believe in many gods or not.

Thank you for reading. ‘Of the Other People’ is a site dedicated to the Otherfaith, a modern polytheist god religion. We are supported through Patreon and want to give special thanks to our patrons Jack at Drawing Stars and Leithin Cluan at Treasure in Barren Places. If you enjoy the writing here, consider becoming a patron!