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A Little Note on Piety or Chancleta Deficit Disorder, Part I

A Little Note on Piety or Chancleta Deficit Disorder, Part I. 

I have often said that Heathens don’t go down on their knees enough. As a community, I think we are tremendously parsimonious in the devotion (not to mention offerings) that we give to our Gods, so much so that one might begin to wonder if stinginess was not one of the Nine Noble Virtues. Too many people seem to fear giving too much to the Gods, the ancestors, the elemental powers that they barely give anything at all. A few drops does not an appropriate offering make. Ad nauseum folks will quote a saying in the Havamal that warns ‘it is better not to give than to give too much’ taking that phrase completely out of context and using it to justify their lack of devotion. That saying refers specifically to rune work and offerings made whilst working with the runes. It does not refer to Gods or ancestors. But, just like the good little Protestant fundamentalist bible scholars that so many of them probably are deep in their bleak little hearts, a swath of the community persists in this cussedness. They have, what a Cuban friend of mine calls “chancleta deficit disorder.”

What might this be, you ask? I’ll explain. A ‘chancleta’ is a hard wooden soled shoe that is commonly worn by women in Cuba…or at least was at the time my friend’s grandmother was growing up. When a child misbehaved he or she would be smacked with the chancleta. So effective was this that all a Cuban mother often had to do when her child was beginning to misbehave was raise an eyebrow and look at her shoe and order was restored. This apparently carried over into the learning of one’s ancestral practices. When a person was being stupid and doing things that would offend the Orisha, behaving like fools or being rude, they were quite likely to be smacked with a chancleta and relegated to the kitchen to peel yucca. And rightly so. I’ve come to the conclusion that what we have in Heathenry is a wholesale example of chancleta deficit disorder. We have a glaring lack of Heathen foremothers armed with a sense of piety, ready hands, and heavy shoes. We’re the worse for it.

This is, some might say, inevitable. We are after all in the process of restoring our indigenous traditions after fifteen hundred years of having them sundered, attacked, and largely destroyed by Christianity’s spread across Europe. Yes, this lack of conscious lineage and tradition is unfortunate and something with which each and every one of us must contend but even in the face of this set back, we as a community are something special (or perhaps I ought to spell that speshul). There is an underlying current of hubris that simply cannot be accounted for by the paucity of our indigenous consciousness.

Yes, to a certain degree, restoration involves developing a sense of cultural literacy, a fluency in the indigenous mindset that often requires great cognitive leaps. Some things, however, ought not have to be so laboriously explained. Be polite, for example. Be respectful to the Gods. Don’t be an asshole. That last seems to be especially difficult in Heathenry.

Basically, we have a community poisoned by its own hubris.

Hubris is drawn from an ancient Greek word that originally meant ‘wanton violence.’ A colleague of mine, a linguist, posited that the original meaning was something closer to ‘outrage,’ as in an outrage committed against the Gods. I would agree. I also happen to think it is a very insidious spiritual poison, a contaminant that is contagious and tremendously dangerous to the spiritual health of all concerned. Our community is riddled with it. Hell, the contemporary world is riddled with it so how could we be any different?

 What is hubris in a nutshell? It’s thinking oneself above the Gods. It goes hand in hand with a sense of entitlement and a complete lack of piety. It is that which says “I shall not bow my head before the Gods.” It’s an arrogance so deeply ingrained that it permeates everything one thinks, feels, or does. It is, truly and in every sense, an outrage. It’s also something that each one of us ought to be searching out and stamping out in ourselves lest it ever take insidious root. The restoration of our traditions cannot and should not be rooted in hubris. Such a thing is worse than if we had no restoration at all, it serves neither the Gods nor the community that would honor Them. But…I digress.

I’m going to digress further too. I’m going to tell you a little story of hubris run riot and why frozen butterball turkeys don’t make appropriate offerings to the Gods. (Yes, you did read that rightly). I’ve changed names and pertinent details to protect the guilty so sit back, get a good stiff drink (you’ll need it) and check out one of the most egregious cases of hubris that I have ever, in twenty years as a spiritworker and Heathen, encountered.

So stay tuned until my next post….and I’m not kidding about that drink. You’re going to need it. 

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 Galina Krasskova is a Heathen priest, author, and Northern Tradition shaman. She holds a Masters degree in Religious Studies and is currently working toward a PhD in Classics. Galina is the author of several books including “Essays in Modern Heathenry” and “Skalded Apples: A Devotional Anthology to Idunna and Bragi.”
(Photo by Hudson Valley photographer Mary Ann Glass.)


  • Elani Temperance
    Elani Temperance Tuesday, 14 August 2012

    I can not stress the importance of offerings and piety enough. Hellens are generally pretty alright with offerings and such (even if we don't get down on our knees) but I tend to end up grinding my teeth when visiting any Pagan gathering where Gods are 'summoned' to. I understand that (Neo-)Wiccan practice differs from Recon practice but the disrespect toward the Gods that runs rampent in Pagan circles makes me want to take a Chancleta to them myself. I always come home with a desperate need to appease the Theoi for the ignorence and disrespect shown towards Them.

    It is not my place to judge the Traditions of others, but I most certainly can appologize to the Gods for my part in it. It's sad to hear that piety is in short supply in the Heathen community. To give you a boost, Galina, I know a good nimber of Heathens who take their servitude to the Gods very seriously. They offer as they should and it makes me proud to watch.

    Thank you for the post; the term is fantastic!

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