Prayer to the Goddess of the City
I see your face and feel your watching eyes.
And when the alleys moan
With wind I hear your cries.
You dance in every shaking sign
And drink when gutters run with spilled red wine.
You slip unnoticed in your all-night walk
Through empty playgrounds marked with fading chalk.
You sleep on benches in the winter cold
Forever growing old.
You see all secret things, and know all crimes
Committed on your streets. And you reveal
All things the wicked wish they could conceal.
When paper skitters down an empty street
At 3AM, I hear you walking past.
And I can hear the echoes of your feet
In sirens and in breaking glass.
Protect all those you pass along your way
And see them through until the light of day.
Oh goddess of my city, I am poor.
Keep hunger from my family’s door.
Protect my neighbors from the storm
And keep us all well-fed and warm.
And I, in gratitude, will do the same
For others, in your name.
This has been an emotionally and spiritually exhausting time to be a writer for Gods and Radicals. Apparently, writing about pagan religious practice and radical politics in the same space makes you a “fanatic peddling a divisive agenda” as one “apolitical polytheist” described me.
While the initial controversy was set off by a page about the New Right in pagan movements, many of the critics have made it clear that they don’t want Gods and Radicals to exist at all. In their minds, any discussion of left-wing politics in a religious context is illegitimate. The most common criticism seems to be that we aren’t really motivated by religion, and that the only thing we care about is politics.
Now, I’ll give them this much. If a person is willing to stand up with me and fight the powers that are despoiling this planet, I don’t care if that person is a pagan or not. I’m happy to stand on the barricades with an atheist or a Christian. I don’t think the revival and growth of polytheism is more important than the crises currently facing this planet, and frankly I can’t understand the values of anyone who would.
That doesn’t mean I “don’t put the gods first” as so many are saying. It also doesn’t mean that I think my gods are telling me what side to fight on. Just to be clear, Brighid never came down from above and told me to be an anti-capitalist, and neither did Macha.
On the other hand, the lore and mythology associated with Brighid and Macha has implications for both society and my daily life, and I happen to take those implications seriously. Why? Because I take my gods seriously, of course.
In the lore about the various Brighids of Irish mythology, we find them mourning war, asserting the rights of women and the poor, and standing up to rulers and kings. Doesn’t this imply something about the values Brighid represents and manifests?
In the lore of Macha, the goddess dies in battle fighting the oppressive Fomorians, then comes back in human form only to die when she is forced to race the horses of the king of Ulster. She curses the warriors of Ulster in vengeance. Doesn’t this imply something about the need to make sacrifices to fight oppression, and about Macha’s attitude to unjust rulers?
These stories may imply something different to you than they do to me. That’s fine, there’s no one right way to read a myth. And your gods may have different values from my gods. That’s your business. But if your god’s lore implies something to you and you choose to ignore it, you can hardly say you’re “putting the gods first.” The lore of my gods implies certain values, I take those values seriously, and I guide my life by them.
As such, there is no conceivable way my polytheism could be apolitical.
Christopher Scott Thompson
Christopher Scott Thompson is a writer, historical fencing instructor and founding member of Clann Bhride, the Children of Brighid. He was active with Occupy Minneapolis and Occupy St. Paul. His political writing can be found at https://alienationorsolidarity.wordpress.com/.