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Gods of a Radical

Prayer to the Goddess of the City

 

In wooden beams, in bricks, in cobblestones

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/.

 

10 Comments »

  1. It is such a weird position to think that the most fundamental truths and realities in your life wouldn’t have ethical and political implications. I’ll never understand it. Thanks for presenting your insights so clearly.

    Liked by 5 people

  2. I understand apoliticalness only too well. It’s fear. Maybe, if I leave politics alone, politics will leave me be. Uh-huh. Politics will not leave anything alone, ever. And only what politics will leave alone is apolitical. Even defending the ‘apoliticalness’ of a domain, any domain, is a political act.

    It’s easy though, being apolitical. You’ll never have to put up a fight.

    But as an anarchist, my position is antipolitical. I don’t put up with bullies.

    Liked by 5 people

  3. I have been watching it on both sides and as you say it gets ugly at time. I am not quite as radical as some here, but I see everything that we do affected by politics, so I agree that Pagans of all stripes cannot ignore politics, or do so only at our great peril. However I also understand that we will disagree as harshly on politics as we do about everything else. Arguing seems to be the favorite Pagan pastime. But I think we have to allow for our differences and not expect everyone to be going my way, as that is simply the case of how it is.

    So as I have done with warring Pagan groups I keep a watch and listen to both sides, whether I agree or not, one to to know the concerns, and to know the range of those concern in our various communities. However I will not get into the emotional side of the fight and will work with anyone who has a similar interest or concern that I do. I, as a Wiccan, got tired of the infighting a long time ago, just in Wicca. In the process of competition, we seem to have forgotten the necessity of cooperation to accomplish most anything as a minority in this world.

    Cooperation started the grouping of people into tribes,clans, villages, city states, and countries from which civilization was developed and then destroyed when “I will get mine” greed took over and competition destroyed all that had been accomplished. That latter stage is where our present civilization is at. To allow ourselves to become enemies within our communities, or to let our communities become enemies of each other, is far more dangerous to our survival then any enemies from the outside, even the 1%. In fact our back stabbing help those in power maintain their power over us.

    As those that were interviewed by me know when ACTION was going, I let each side tell its own story, with my own views unstated, unless I decide to do an opinion peace. Let others decide what what they agree with or do not, but the last thing I will do is try to slant it in my own direction. The media does that far too often. I may get back into interviewing, but this time for Penton in South Africa which is another online Pagan magazine. If I do it will once again be let each person tell his or her own story, and keep my personal comments out of it. Mean while I still Continue to network information to various communities that I take part in, in and out of my own community of Wicca.

    Remember to think to the long term. Battles are won and lost temporarily, but the war never ends, ever. So step back and put down the load to rest a bit as needed and heal, so that you will be strong enough to get back in as needed, and don’t let yourself burn out. Burn outs, like dead people, cannot help continue the fight as needed. Maintaining your own health and strength keeps you useful to whatever cause that you serve. Helping others do the same makes you invaluable to the cause.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I can see how you can have apolitical conversations about the gods and polytheism in general (discussing sources, interpretations etc – the ‘theory’ behind our gods) but the moment you want to start talking about living and breathing your gods and polytheism, politics comes into it.

    My polytheism is a triad of people, landscape and gods. My belief, theology and practice are about linking those three together and how they interact. The moment I do this – ‘politics’ comes into it. The interaction I have with the landscape influences how i see other people interacting i.e Fracking, so my triad as an outward expression means I engage in wanting politicans to stop being fuckbags and forcing fracking.

    My relationship with the Gods involves ‘political’ decisions; I am drawn to how I relate to water in this country and it’s watercourses – so a small step is changing the way I use detergents and hygiene stuff. I am switching to a company that not only uses environmentally friendly ingredients, but who also refuses to deal with suppliers who do animal testing and which also donates money to ‘left-wing’ pressure groups and activists (they also pay full taxes and dont attempt to avoid them). In making a devotional step for one of my gods, I am stepping into a political decision too. They are inextricably linked.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. http://polytheist.com/spring-and-stone/2016/03/28/politics-and-polytheism/
    Just posted an article that was attacking those that are political in Gods and Radicals.

    Nor can anyone be denied their political view based on their religion. We have a variety of Pagans who claim Pagans cannot be spiritual and also political. Even our right to practice our religion, and what we believe, is controlled by political power in any society, including here in the United States where religious persecution of even minority Christianity, much less minority religions has a long history that has not yet ended.

    So it works both ways. You cannot not tell a Pagan that they have to be political or that it is un Pagan to be political. It is a matter of choice and must be left to the individual. Be careful about the charges that you make and make sure they are actual and not just your perception. You have aright to ask the same, in fact to demand the same.

    Liked by 1 person

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