Anomalous Thracian: Constructing Living Tradition
A polytheanimist Thracian perspective on creating, rebuilding, and embodying ancestral religions as living traditions in the 21st century. Religion as life, life as spirit, spirit as being.
And, Not Or
And, not Or
I sit here in my Hudson Valley home’s very overgrown-and-green back yard, on a redbrick courtyard cobbled in the last decades of the 19th century, replying to emails and catching up on correspondence following this last week’s (very successful) Polytheist Leadership Conference, held in nearby Fishkill, New York. I open one email, praising such-and-such presenter’s discussion on this-and-that, and another which asks important moving-forward questions about community building, bilocation, interfaith dialog, and engagement strategies for further social outreach, education and communication. I eat pizza, and I ruminate, over all of the Guinness remaining from the various inter-community after-parties (during which theologies were addressed, gods discussed, and religious and social identities hashed out in hypothetical language around a fire lit with prayer and reverence), and I ponder.
I sit here and, of all things, an automotive commercial comes to mind.
I don’t recall the company, nor do I much care, but whoever it was ran an ad campaign in recent years showcasing a set of their standard features juxtaposed against another competitor’s lack of features, with the tag-line of “‘And’ is better than ‘or’. I like ‘and’ much better.”
There has been some whispers of conversation that the various Polytheist communities’ movements and developments of the last few years highlight a rejection of mainstream Pagan and Neo-Pagan identity, or even an assault upon those groups, those movements, or those modes of identification. To this I say, as I have said often and loudly, that this is just not the case. What we all saw at the Polytheist Leadership Conference this last weekend was a coming together of diverse groups, of known and “unknown” leaders, who showed up in good grace and good faith to trust in a process of dialog and learning.
Proverbially speaking, it was all olive branches and wine. (Lots of wine, actually.)
Peace was the dominant theme, not war, though we did not as Polytheists shy away from discussing our concerns of assault upon our needs, our identification, and our rights to dialog and define our religions movements. We acknowledged openly, professionally, maturely, the very real war that is happening, upon many of our ideas, and identities. But this war was not our focus; the peaceful aim toward leadership and bridge building between diverse groups was what it was all about.
The theme for me was, through and through, “and, not or”.
A handful of prominent Pagans I am honored to count as close friends and dear colleagues have told me, over and over, that they count me as part of their mainstream “Big Tent” Pagan movement, even though I did not “come into” any of this through those circles, words, or ideas. And you know what?
They convinced me. Jason Waters of the Wild Hunt, and Sam Webster of (amongst other things) the newly initiated Pantheon Foundation, and too many others to name, have convinced me of my place at the greater “Neo-Pagan Table”. A place where I admit I have often (if not always) been well-received and well wined.
I am a Polytheist, first and foremost, and for me that is a religious identity as well as a societal identity, which links me to other co-religionists. But, as I sit here, I realize — and state out loud for perhaps the first time ever — that I am also a Pagan.
A Polytheist and a Pagan. Not “either/or”. No war implicit between the two.
That does not mean that there is not conflict, and that there is not a need to fight for the rights of identification, of religious and social difference and differentiation; but it does mean that I can dually wield both of those identities. I am never not one, never not either; they do not compete, nor cancel one another out.
“And” is much better than “or”. And I like it that way.
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