Pagan Paths

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.

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A Better World

As a Polytheist priest often engaged in very public discussions of piety, devotion, submission to our gods and the importance of worshipful relations and all that... I often get misunderstood as somehow being unconcerned with the world around me. (Although anyone who would think this clearly hasn't read anything I've ever written, since I'm pretty prolifically obsessed with social justice, mental health, communication, and world events.)


A quote is circulating right now which caught my eye, with a message from the always-awesome Crystal Blanton: "We should not forget the power of what we are and what we do. My magic is about a better world. What is yours about?"  The quote speaks to an important part of my approach to things: both a focus on bettering this world for all of those within it, and proactively utilizing that which I have been blessed with to achieve those ends, and support other related goals that I can't have as my own focus... since not everyone can focus on everything.


For me, part of working toward a "better world" involves my religious advocacy, and teachings around humble worship, theistic engagement, and honoring of the ancestors. Many from the secular, skeptic, or humanist camps view these things as antithetical to bettering the world, or even distractions from it; but in a world where the ancestors, spirits, and gods are real, what better allies could we have in an effort to see a reduction in suffering?


A central element of my life -- which is to say, my purpose* in this life, rather than "stuff that interests me personally"  -- is around helping to model and support for others an approach to authentic, lived spirit tradition in the 21st century. In my opinion, these issues are destructively polarized: those engaged actively with worldly social justice often have snide commentary on folks who take a monastic or seclusion approach to life and religion, as if everybody must be the same thing. (I am sick and tired of seeing memes suggesting that spiritual practices focused on seclusion are somehow "wrong"; they are only wrong if one assumes that the spirits and gods are not real, and therefore dedication to the is a waste of time. These people seem to think that spiritual practices only exist for human self-development, which misses entirely the purposes of worship.) However, the opposite is true as well: those highly focused on the mystical and on relationships with spirits and gods, devotionally and otherwise, often lose sight of the importance of their relations to the material and social world around them.


A professional or deeply focused prioritization on the theistic, and the pious, and the mystical is not at all the same as ignoring the social, economic, and material issues facing our world.


It is important that as we focus on these -- social and ecological and justice oriented -- we do not lose sight of the spiritual and devotional. It is equally important that as we focus on the spiritual and devotional, we do not lose sight of the worldly.


Plato wrote in his "Theaetetus" dialogue that there was once a Thracian slave handmaiden who observed a pre-Socratic philosopher wandering about, intently focused on the heavens and nature -- until he walked over the edge of a well, plummeting down. Laughing, the slave remarked, "because he was so eager to know the things in the sky... he could not see what was there before him at his very feet."


Let we with focus on philosophy share that focus with those of us with eyes for the gods, that we might better understand that which we see. 


Let we with focus for the gods share what we see with those whose eyes survey the world around -- and indeed the ground beneath -- us, that they might better relate to what that world holds, and indeed, its relation to other worlds. 


Let we with focus for the world beneath us share that which we know of that world with those of us who philosophize and worship, whose eyes are full of the heavens and the gods, that we all three might avoid the splash. 


Let none of these outweigh or seek to outshine the other. 


Without the worldly ones we would have no timber or stone to build temples of worship, nor grapes crushed to wine and rams bled to sacred offering, nor lighted city streets and governed city states. 


Without the followers of the gods we would not have our inspired prophets, sages, oracles, priests and spiritual specialists, who connect, translate, receive and transmit.


Without our philosophers none of it would make any sense at all besides, and we would be quite terrible at arriving the right and important questions.


Polytheist religions are religions of relation, between differentiated things which in their individuation and autonomous agency must intersect, or, at least, regard with respect, one another's trajectories and divine purposes, whatsoever those may be.


Many gods, many people, many worlds -- including this one. Let's not see it ruined on our watch.






*Purpose: Many of our religious traditions and/or spiritual paths indicate a believe that each person is born into this world with a purpose; and yet often those who are living their purpose in a realized way are accused of being intolerant, inflexible, or narrow. There is an observed and popular trend in many of our communities suggesting that all people must be doing similar things, or the same thing, or things in the same way: this "myth of sameness" is destructive and antithetical to the idea of differentiated purposes. Each of us is here for a reason, and that reason realized is a powerful thing, which should not be stifled by the pressures of others not yet found. Neither should we, in finding our purpose, mistake it for a universal truth: in a universe of differentiated agencies, sameness is a lie and we each must do our own jobs toward a world restored.

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A temple priest, shaman, and spirit-worker in the Thracian tradition, Anomalous Thracian lives in a van in the Northeast United States, with a crazed raven from Africa. He teaches foundational spiritual principles and results-oriented mysticism, with a focus on anchoring ancient nomadic wisdoms and values in contemporary reality. A Thracian mystic reconstructionist, he leads an initiatory tradition and facilitates rituals, traditional rites of passage, various methods of divination and temple functions appropriate to the needs of the community. In all of his doings, he attempts to honor the ancestors, the gods, and his living relations in this world and the rest of them, while focusing also on further understanding and addressing contemporary issues of race, gender, and sexuality.


  • Anomalous Thracian
    Anomalous Thracian Monday, 26 January 2015

    Some of us are bridge-builders, while others are boat-builders or sailors, and others still are flying airplanes. We don't need to be fighting with one another, because the pilot might live across the river from the airport, and the bridge might be washed out in a storm or congested with traffic, leaving the boat the only viable option.

    And by calling each of us "transit authorities and staff" we aren't saying that we have the same job, but instead, that our jobs have some of the same issues, and collaboratively we can #%*! those issues up with a ball-peen hammer.

  • Jamie
    Jamie Monday, 26 January 2015

    Anomalous Thracian,

    As usual, a great post! I share the sentiment and admire the eloquence.

    May the Gods everlasting keep you and the raven safe in this blizzard coming our way...

  • Anomalous Thracian
    Anomalous Thracian Monday, 26 January 2015

    Thank you!

    The raven and I are staying warm, with animal skins and fire and whiskey.

  • Anomalous Thracian
    Anomalous Thracian Wednesday, 28 January 2015

    There are major glitches in the site for some reason. Huge chunks of this this article keeping getting "cut" from the page. I have tried editing and updating, but it has only worsened the problem.

  • Anne Newkirk Niven
    Anne Newkirk Niven Thursday, 29 January 2015

    A -- we are aware of the problem and investigating a fix. It's a mysterious glitch and our initial efforts did not solve the problem. We are digging deeper today.

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