Over on Facebook, a really intense conversation took place concerning Polytheism. A lot of the conversation focused on a blog site which gives polytheists who feel somewhat steamrolled by a lot of the folks with bigger blogging audiences and what are essentially louder voices. It is called #MyPolytheism and has become a place where many of the diverse and lesser heard voices of Polytheism can be found. Heard without judgment. Heard without argument over what is right and wrong. Heard, where their voice is given equal weight, and equal respect.
In the course of the discussion on Facebook, much of what was said focused on the importance of #MyPolytheism. One of the more intriguing set of questions, came from Alley Valkyrie, which I am going to attempt to answer from my own perspective. To be fair, these questions were not asked of me, and I messaged Alley privately asking if it was alright if I not only quoted her for the questions, but could I also try to do this with a blog post.
Can you understand the need for something like #mypolytheism as a “safe space”? Can you at least see how and why that has become necessary? Can you acknowledge that there is a significant population within the polytheist community that feels the need for a space free from abusive judgement?
Now, at first glance, this looks an easy straight-forward answer that would requiring no more than four to five sentences to answer. But. That would only be scratching the surface. Essentially answering only the cosmetic part of this. There’s a lot more deeper down, which requires a lot more processing, not just on my part. I will get to that a little further down in the post.
As I noted before #MyPolytheism is a place where Polytheists with smaller voices can be heard. I write this blog. I constantly discuss my relationship with the Gods. People read it. Through that, I wind up having a bit of a louder voice. There are those that don’t have blogs – they don’t have time to write, they have other priorities in their life, whatever the reasoning. Through the #MyPolytheism blog site they can express their point of view.
Within many of the social media spaces where folks have “gathered” to discuss the concepts of polytheism, these #MyPolytheism contributors can feel intimidated by some of the discussion that takes place. Especially when some folks start proclaiming that there is only one correct way to be a polytheist.
“You must do [this] to work with the Gods.” “If the Gods are not speaking to you in [this manner], then you are not speaking with the Gods.” “I am a [Priest/Priestess/long-time follower] of this [God/Goddess/Spirit] and if [They] are not speaking to you in [this manner] then you are not connecting with them.” And so on.
In my opinion, this is what “Gatekeeping” looks like. People who guard the gates to the concept of Polytheism and have made themselves into the self-appointed bouncers. Again, my opinion here, but that does nothing but kill the notion that the wider arching concepts of inclusive have built over the last few decades within both the Pagan and Polytheist movements. Granted, the modern Polytheist movement – to my knowledge – isn’t nearly as old as that of modern Paganism , but neither needs an enforcer providing litmus tests to who does or doesn’t qualify. After all, you really don’t need an application and a resume to approach the Gods. You need faith. In them. In yourself. And the unique relationship you develop with a God, Goddess, Spirit of Place, Spirit of Ancestor is between you and Them. But there is plenty of judging that goes on within the social media platforms, which intimidates those that do not meet the qualifications as presented by some fictitious Gatekeeper.
#MyPolytheism provides a space where these folks’ voices can be heard. It also provides a place where contemplative conversation can take place. In essence, a place where the folks that feel somewhat marginalized or forgotten in the overall conversations that take place, can participate.
But why do attitudes such as the Gatekeeper Complex rise up? This, is a tougher question to answer. Remember, just a few paragraphs ago, where I said that this goes deeper? Let’s grab a shovel and dig a bit more.
People feel the need to be “wanted” and “included” in things. The reason that so many folks got riled up on the conversation was that they felt the smaller voices within Polytheism were being discounted or dismissed. Now, whether that’s the case or not – I cannot say for sure. However, Solo Polytheists – those that work alone, as I do, are seemingly left out of the conversation, simply because they practice alone. In practicing alone, the stigma is that these folks do not want to participate in building community. Which is not a true statement, in my mind, as everyone is part of the Community at large. They participate at a level that is comfortable for them. Now, when people hear “Community building” they think in terms of the physical, and that’s not always the case. There’s also “Community building” online, which is what I believe the My Polytheism project is promoting.
There were times, within the Facebook conversation that things got a little heated. I know I was in that boat. I said things a little stronger than I had intended to. That was the moment. Now, looking back on yesterday’s conversation, I can see that the lines from Gloria Estefan’s “But the Words Get in the Way” is somewhat suitable.
But the words get in the way
There’s so much I want to say
As I have noted, I’m not the best writer in the world. Sometimes, I write the wrong statement, or I don’t write enough to thoroughly explain myself. Sometimes I write a statement, thinking that others already understand where I am coming from. When I haven’t even realized that people who read me are not me. They might be starting in the conversation from a different place.
Or, maybe its not so much that there’s so much that we all want to say, but that there’s so much that we add to what we read and hear. In thinking back through all of this, sometimes its a matter of trying to hard to read between the lines and guess at some hidden meaning. Or if my perspective is not part of those represented, I feel slighted because I wasn’t represented in what was said, and assume that my perspective is being tossed on the ground and trampled into the dirt as being unworthy of the conversation. I will admit, right up front, that communication i not the easiest thing – particularly just the written word. I’m no wordsmith. To be honest, I’m not even a very good writer. In face-to-face discussion, I can see the person’s face, watch their body language, and get cues as to whether what I am saying is being received correctly. Or if the metaphor or analogy I am using as an example is coming across correctly. I don’t have that when I am writing. An excellent writer can write well enough to remove most doubt as to what is being said. And sometimes, we as readers, inject our own bias into what we read. All of which can garble the overall concept of what is being said.
I do realize that #MyPolytheism has its detractors. For whatever reason. You won’t find me among those. To me, it is a place where people can voice their perspective. Without judgment. Without being told that they are wrong. And hopefully, those that do come to read what is being said, do so with an open mind. Receptive to what is being said. And ready to ask questions relating to how and why – without injecting aspects of “that’s wrong because…” Or to be encouraging of what these individuals are doing. After all, it can be a scary thing to add your voice to the wider shouts. I applaud those folks who do so.
The fun thing, is that I learn more about my own relationship Crow, Coyote, and Fliodhas by seeing how others have their relationships with the Gods. With something like My Polytheism, I get the chance to experience – second-hand – the relationships that others have with the Gods. And in my opinion, that makes all of our experiences stronger, when we talk, communicate, and exchange ideas. No Gatekeepers are necessary.