Wednesday, September 10, 2014

training scars

I'm going to tell a story that may or may not be true. A story with an important lesson for anyone who practices an art or a warrior system.

As the story goes an MMA fighter was mugged at knifepoint one night. The fighter quickly countered and put the mugger in a chokehold but didn't disarm the mugger. It looked bad for the mugger.

The mugger then does something odd: he "taps out" like an MMA match is finished, by tapping on the fighter's arm. He basically surrendered and in keeping with training, the fighter released the mugger. Immediately the mugger turned and stabbed the fighter seventeen times and fled.

The fighter survived.

The moral here is this: a street for is not a game with rules, and *watch for training scars*. In this case the fighter had trained himself to release at the tap out. The attacker knew this, knew of this reflex and used it to get away.

This idea of ingrained reflex is what mm makes kata work on Asian martial arts, but improper follow through or weaknesses can be as trained in as proper technique.

Monday, July 28, 2014

On the death of Margot Adler

Today I heard of the death of Margot Adler. It seems you can't go a month without a big named Pagan dying nowadays, and it reminds me that as a movement we are entering the end of our first generation. We as a movement have to start grappling with Age and Death now, and Adler's is for me, a bit more personal.

I don't often do the BNP fanboy thing. Most are unimpressive, but occasionally I find myself really liking some. Adler was the first I got the nerve to speak informally to. We were at a festival and around the bonfire, and I came up to her and realized I was much taller than she. They seem giants in my mind, until we meet and they are just humans.

Anyway, so there she is and she turns to me. I say “I just wanted to thank you for something you said”. She asks me what that was. I said “Well, you mentioned a particular kind of Pagan, the Heinleinian Libertarian Pagan. For a long time, I thought In was the only one”.

And she laughed at me. In my face, and I laughed too.

Because we both knew that so much of modern Paganism owed itself to the work for the Church of All Worlds. And she profiled them in Drawing Down the Moon. But I entered Paganism ignorant of CAW, until much later. And I had a steady diet of Heinlein since my late adolescence.

And I knew what I was saying was absurd much later, but I wanted her to know that despite her work, there were Pagans who blended ideas on their own, independently.

The second memory of Adler was from another festival. It was bitterly cold that day and most workshops got moved around, mine got moved to an indoor basketball court. The acoustics were horrible, but I worked through it. Later that morning, Adler held a chant workshop in that same hall. The idea was to chant a simple note and hold it, and keep it going as a group. We ran that for about 30 minutes nonstop, and the roof was ringing it was so loud and strong. I was old my voice carried very loudly, but I don't remember. It was electric and power.

Later she started doing the vampire stuff after her husband died, which held no appeal for me. I attended one workshop she gave, and didn't really find it appealing. Now it makes a kind of sense.

That which is remembered lives.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Kim's game

I'm going to start introducing information I've gleaned from multiple sources, on becoming a better warrior. Not everybody is called to warriorship, but we can all learn from these techniques and apply them to other parts of life.

First, we must be mindful. Too many approach life casually, being only superficially interested in what goes on around them. I often try to play Kim's Game to improve my ability to recall and be observant about things around me.

Note the goal should not be to memorize everything about every event, this is simply not possible. What one needs to do is improve his attentiveness and awareness, and this can only be done through practice.

Pay attention to your daily commute, try to recall license plates, train numbers, the dress of commuters, what they carry, what people say. Try to recreate the scenes in your mind, and this will strengthen your visualization ability. This is the first way to hone your awareness, and oddly, will improve your magical ability. You needs must visualize anything before you can effect change.t dividends

Practice it, as childish as it seems. I will pay great dividends.

End of pseudonyms

Hi Wild Hunters, and any new folks to my blog page as well as old folks. A housekeeping announcement:

I realized when Jason Pitzl Waters linked through to the blog that I still had listed a pseudonym that I was using a while back: Corvus Black. And yes, in that name there's a slight nod to Sirus Black, a wonderful character played by Gary Oldman in the Harry Potter movies.

But time has come to retire that name. The whold FPG standoff a couple months ago forced me to reevaluate the wisdom of what I was protecting. Most of the family in my generation are aware of my Paganism and most of the public too. Only a few older folks whom I love I'd been “protecting” by not using my surname, but I realize it's time to step out in to my self for what I am, and what I do.

My name is Edward G. Rickey. Any and all work I will do from this point forward will be done, as I did with both the Joint Resolution committee and my workshop at Morrigan's Call, with my legal name. I am also the same Edward G. Rickey who is published in various physics journals on the subject of quantum optics and nonlinear optics.

I'll make such changes as are needed to update the blog and such, but there were advantages to keeping my religious life separate from my professional. For one thing, there are scientists who would look sideways if I claimed to be practicing an ancient religion with all the trappings of magic and channeling the Gods and all that. Might even question my research.

But since 2004, I've been out of that field. I'm quite proud of the work, and those I worked alongside. But I really doubt I'd find myself back in a lab under grant and at university again, but if I did I would want to be able to live openly as a Pagan and a scientist, not having to keep an imaginary wall between them.

So now with my name public, it's time to begin anew.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

My time at Temenos

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I spent an amazing weekend with other Morriganists at the Temenos Retreat Center in Western Massachusetts for a retreat called The Morrigan's Call.

To say western Mass is pretty is an understatement to a Southern flatlander like myself. I've travelled a bit around the US, but this area is truly beautiful. Old hills, formed from glaciers, covered with green trees. My Florida forests are poor soil and hardscrabble trees that fight amongst themselves, oaks vs. pines. There's competition for water, since it isn't scarce but the sandy soil means it doesn't last. This kind of natural strife shapes the land and the animals who inhabit it. Even the humans, tortured by heat and humidity, lashed by occasional hurricanes, are a different, harder breed.

The land around Temenos is quite the opposite. The people were friendly and kind, and there's an expectation that the world will just work somehow. The fauna are easy to be around, with a porcupine sighting at camp. As we were toured and oriented around camp, we saw salamanders on the trails, my first time seeing a “wild” salamander.

The rituals were intense: The Washer at the Ford, Macha of the Red Tresses, and Anu were all honored each. A temple space was dedicated to altars of the various names for the Queen as well as the Dagdha, and Nuada. Open the whole event, anytime one wanted he or she could hike up a narrow foot trail to the space and be alone with Them.

Temenos is truly off-grid. There was no cell reception for most, no electricity, water drawn from a well. The place used to have a hotel, a folks would come for the curative mineral water properties. The water tastes strongly of iron and sulfur and is said to contain quite a bit of magnesium. I drank it frequently, and it reminded me of well water from my grandparents house in South Florida when I was young.

The most important thing I can convey is the sense of being in a tribe. For three days we ate, sang, prayed, learned and laughed together. I knew few of them by reputation, some from Facebook, and only Stephanie personally. I can say now I have dozens of friends all of whom share my devotion to Her.

I also met people new to Paganism. Friends I could show the way I walked, and maybe they could see some things in a new way.

Nights at the lodge were magical. We had only a couple propane lanterns, a couple kerosene lanterns and many tea lights to scare away the deep dark woods, and I often thought of what my ancestors felt as they gathered around small lights to listen to the harp that one person brought, the guitar another brought. We told tales from our homes and of our travels, laughed and helped each other through tough personal stuff.

I guess the only annoyance were the mosquitoes. Three days of rain prior had brought them on, but I joked about them during my workshop. It became an experiment to see what combination of repellents worked best. Not unlike when I was a kid slogging through the Everglades in summer.

My body was challenged a bit like my soul. Western Mass is rocky, unlike our sandy wilds, and being on the side of the mountain, every trip was up or down, or both. It felt good to move through that space, oftentimes it was easy to forget that I came from a world of internet and cell service. I felt connected to the land as I walked through it, my feet learning to navigate and old path both figuratively and literally. I became stronger, and moved more easily with time.

It ended too quickly, the relentless clock demanding I hurry back to an airport to ride in a metal tube through near space with strangers. I spent every waking moment staring out a window or reading devotional words to her, afraid I'd lose the feeling. And then all kinds of folks started finding me on social media. My tribe may be scattered, but we all want very much to keep as close as our technology will allow.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Follow up information to the Warrior Mindset workshop

Greetings to the crows who joined me in Massachusetts at the Morrigan retreat put on by Morrigu's Daughters. I had a wonderful time with you all, and have great memories. We all did important work.

As I promised in the workshop these are sourcebooks I used and others I suggest.

Living the Martial Way - Forrest E. Morgan
The single best book I own on this subject. Heavily leaning towards practicing Asian martial artists, the information can and should be applied more broadly.

The Book of Five Rings - Miyamoto Musashi
The preeminent swordfighter of Japanese history, at age sixty he sat down to write his thoughts after winning 35 duels and establishing his own school of fencing. As with any Japanese/Chinese literature, read several translations, since a single character can have several meanings. Some writers imply all or some alternate meanings, and good translators will work to include the nuances. I have the Cleary translation from Shambala Press.

Jarhead - Anthony Swofford
This is the book I read the passage from.

On Killing - Dave Grossman
Source of the Sheepdog/Wolf analogy.

33 Strategies of War - Robert Greene
Amazing sourcebook from all across classical literature. He uses all kinds of sources to illustrate the systems that win wars. Two of his other books, 48 Laws of Power and The Art of Seduction are ones I highly recommend.

Leaders Eat Last - Simon Sinek
While specifically focusing on team or corporate leadership, Sinek's work is good for understanding the relationships in organizations and the source of the hormones of emotion that I mentioned.

King Warrior Magician Lover - Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette
A so-so book about warriorship, but a good discussion on male archetypes and how they work or fail.

The Tao of Jeet Kun Do - Bruce Lee
Any practicing martial artist needs to read this book.

Guerilla Warfare - Che Guevarra
Focuses on the relationship between a warfighter and the people he fights for. If you can set aside the politics, an excellent book. If this is your speed, follow it up with Mao Tse Tung's book On Guerrilla Warfare.

Secrets of the Samurai - Oscar Ratti and Adelle Westbrook
Kooky title but a very good overview of Budo, or the Way of the Warrior in Japan.

Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere - Oscar Ratti and Adelle Westbrook
Probably the best book ever written on the subject.

The Last Article (short story) - Harry Turtledove
A short story in sort of an alternate history. The Nazis defeat the British and invade India, and then have to deal with Ghandi. There's a powerful lesson here, and an easy read.

The Sword and the Mind - tr. and ed. Hirosaki Sato
This book is a translation of two of the main manuals for swordfighting in the Yagyu-ryu school, known as family-books.


In addition I'd like to suggest three other sources. They all have Youtube channels and you might learn something from them.

First in Travis Haley, owner of Haley Strategic. He coined the phrase "higher standard of care" that I used.
Haley Strategic

Second is Chris Costa, owner of Costa Ludis training.
Costa Ludis

Third is James Yeager, owner of Tactical Response. He is the source of the comment "I don't kill people, I protect people. In protecting people, sometimes bad guys die".
James Yeager

I wish you good learning.

If you want to email me, send it to, or search for me on Facebook

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Follw up email to the FPG board

Readers of this blog may or may not find this subject tiresome, but I feel that what we are seeing is an example of a changing of the guard. The old way of doing business in the Pagan community doesn't work anymore. Holding one's leaders accountable is always an important thing.

to: Ann Marie Augustino,;“Medea",

from: Edward G Rickey,

Re: Future FPG changes


I hope this email finds you well. Upon reflection on the events of Beltaine 2014, it has occurred to me that in all the discussions, the future path of FPG was never made clear to anyone either in announcements, in social media or at the infamous Round Table discussion. I believe there are a few very important questions that never got answered. If you will indulge me, I'd like to ask them.

1. Has the Board made a decision on the future of the Frosts being granted headline status, given workshop space and/or being allowed to vend at future FPG's?

2. If the answer to question #1 is Yes, then what is the decision?

3. If the answer to question #1 is No, then when can the community expect such a decision?

4. Given the insistence that the First Amendment is a guiding principle at FPG, how does the Board explain its multiple removals of posts to it's Facebook page and further discouragement of public discussion on social media, instead requesting private emails?

5. Is the Board prepared to make any substantive changes to the existing policy on harassment?

6. Is the Board prepared to make substantive changes to how it ensures the safety of children in Kid's Realm, or in The Forge?

7. What training and policies has the Board put in place screening facilitators of Kid's Realm and the Forge?

8. Does the Board keep a log of any persons who have violated the No Means No rules? Has the Board reached out to any other festivals to compare notes and ferret out serial offenders?

9. Do the Board members exercise their own individual discretion regarding ejection and/or banning, or are other members consulted? Is there an objective standard for determining punishment?

10. Does the Board have any policies on false accusations?

11. There was a statement made by a board member at the Round Table, claiming every attendee was screened for sexual offender status/predator status prior to the event. That was either mistaken or misleading – I registered on-site and no background was done or could have been done on me. Is there a policy of background checks on day-of-event attendees?

12. What other background checks does the board do on attendees? What sort of background would disqualify a person from attending?

I appreciate your consideration of this list, I know it is long, but I think these are important questions.

Further, I'd like to add that since I have failed to get a reply in the past to my emails, I'll be posting this email to my blog site: Not to put you on the spot, but it has been my experience that emails “disappear”. If you are agreeable to it, I can post an unedited reply to the blog as well.

It is my hope that a healthy dialogue, in keeping with the spirit of the First Amendment, can help us to make a better FPG in the future. As I said a the Round Table, we are co-creators of this event. It is my hope that we can remain co-creators through an informative discussion.


Edward G Rickey

Monday, May 12, 2014

Upcoming workshop

OK party peeps, a general announcement:

I will be teaching a workshop at the upcoming retreat The Morrigan's Call at the Temenos Retreat Center in Western Massachusetts the weekend of June 6-8. I do believe the Retreat is sold out, which is awesome for a first time. It's being put on by my SuperFriend Stephanie Woodfield. She has writings too, so check her stuff out. Everyone should have a friend like her, but you can't have mine. Go find your own Stephanie.

My workshop will be called The Warrior Mindset and it will be composed of two parts: Making Warriors and The Warrior Ethos. It may help all you non-warriors understand what goes into making special people extra special.

Beyond Temenos, I had planned to re-do my old workshop on Quantum Magic harking back to my physics days at university and research labs, but sadly I won't be attending FPG anytime in the future. If you have any confusion, read earli8er blog entries.

I might offer it for Phoenix Phyre, but even if I don't I plan on attending PP in Samhain 2014. Come check out the Camp at the End of the Internet if you're there. Bring Burbon, specifically the Devil's Cut.

I hear the land spirits really like it too.

There is a small event in Miami run by EMLC called Turning Tides that I plan on attending in December, and I may offer a workshop there too. Most likely Warrior Mindset as that I've done QM there before. Unless the crowd really wants something different.

Finally these are bluiesky propositions. First, I've been kicking around an idea for a book, Pagan Ethics, not that crap like When, Why, If.. by Robin Wood or Rabinovich and MacDonald's An Ye Harm None, equally garbage IMO. My proposal would be to write a historical survey of actual ethics and morality from pre-JudeoChristian and non-JudeoChristian societies. This would form the basis of a modern Pagan ethical system. I'm allowing about two years in research and development.

Second there is the possibility of an event coming up that I'm helping to organize. It could be really cool. Not saying too much...

Wish me luck.

The view from the locomotive in the train wreck, part 2

So in our last discussion I related the events that took place at the 2014 Beltaine FPG round table, post Ken Klein and post Gavin and Yvonne Frost. I have to correct one factual error: I stated that all headliners save one were pro-Frost. I was incorrect. One other headliner was not in attendance, and I cannot speak for his/her opinion on the Frost issue.

The story still continues as of this writing. In private discussions, I've been told TEG is now claiming that the Frosts may yet come back to FPG, TEG will not consider looking at other orgnaizations who have had great success in dealing with these problems (e.g. the Boy Scouts, sci-fi conventions, etc), and have no plan to put forth any changes to the “policy” that is already in place. Further, they are retracting claims made in the past that Camp La Llanada had any hand in the Frosts not coming, and that choice was made by the Frosts themselves.

I take this as a total line of BS.

The tactical considerations

Lets lay out some basic information. FPG was founded about 20 years ago as Freedom Fest, a vehicle to pay Roger Coleman's legal bills after his legal battle with the City of Palm Bay. I spoke with Roger a few years back, and he explained to me that the City had tried to use zoning to cite him and his coven. The patttern showed a clear intent to intimidate as each citation ran out only a week before the next sabbat. The legal battle worked its way thought the federal courts system, and as Roger explains it, the appelate level below the Supreme Court had found for Iron Oak. The city wanted to pursue it but their lawyers advised against it. Roger was broke, and the two parties settled.
The fire FPG was born in was one of First Amendment battles, and religious freedom. It was no surprise that the tactic used was to frame this as a first amendment fight against some rabble rousers who were just scared about Ken Klein. What FPG refuses to realize is that there are real monsters under the bed.

The second consideration is what we can say of Big Name Pagans who sign on to this idea. These folks couldn't care a bit about a first amendment battle, they are driven by book sales. One real standout who has not publically stated anything negatively towards the Frosts or towards the “rabble”, called for a stepping back, a calm and reassessment. I wish I could give a name, but as per the rules I can't out this individual if they don't first. I can say I'd never met him/her before, and have to remark how impressed I was. This individual truly deserves the title “Elder” if we ever gave one. The rest just parroted the party line – defend the Frosts, even if to a one they roundly describe the GWB as garbage and not worth the paper it's printed on.

Why? Because if it could happen to the Frosts, they reason, it could happen to them.

Now ignoring the fact that each one takes every opportunity to clarify they are offering information for historic value only; that they offer alternatives to objectionable historic practice like blood sacrifice and hallucinogenic plant use - one could make a myopic argument that there is some risk, and the only protection they had was a tolerant and protective community.

But it was all these very safeguards in publishing that we were ever asking the Frosts to use. And we'd hoped the Frosts would too. Oddly, as I write this, the Frosts are considering a rewrite of the GWB, and soliciting help.

The problem of downlines

The Frosts have a substantial downline, folks initiated by them or their initiates, into their particular brand of Wicca. It has been suggested in this conversation between PfC and TEG that the sins of the Frosts might visit their downline students. If the Frosts themselves don't clean up Ch 4, then this leaves a huge burden on those left behind when they die or stop writing.

This really isn't the kind of inheritance anybody wants.

I think one of the most valuable things to come out of this whole row was the urgency it brought to the downline problem. I can't speak about the Frosts' policies regarding initiations, but if they're anything like the Gardenarians (and I am OC Gard, Long Island line), I can tell you questioning or changing any craft information is strictly forbidden. I doubt anyone wants to be the one to confront their Craft founders publicly, so spurring the Frosts to do SOMETHING might come out for the good.
Assuming they don't double down. You see, for them its a business. Their courses average $100-$200,and any controversy that drives people to them will pay eventually, law of averages proving someone will sign up.

And I think that's why they really never touched Ch 4. In a private conversation, I spoke with someone who asked the Frosts about Ch 4 directly. They reportedly were diffident, saying the publisher made them put in a disclainer, but they didn't see anything wrong with it. If you were getting a steady stream of students every ten years or so when Ch4 issues came up, I doubt you'd do anything to change it. But whty address it now?

Gavin was born in 1930, which makes him about 84 years old. His health isn't that good, based upon seeing him at FPG last year. I imagine they've done the math: he's probably got a hand full of years left, and the mounting pressure from the community has probably convinced them they aren't going to milk that cow much longer. Might be time to put it out to pasture and think carefully about their legacy.

Of course, they could be planning to do it as a show of feigned sympathy to public opinion. I'll take that.

The future and the problem of Miasma

In the run up to the RT, I took on the task of reaching out to some different folks – devotional polytheists.

Since I was the only dev-poly actively representing myself and PfC, I took on the task of reaching out to Kenaz Filian. I did a bit of research on him – he'd been calling for more of the tactics that seemed to work. Contacting campsites directly to make FPG functionally homeless until or unless they made real policy changes. My exchanges with him were very cordial. He shared a lot of my concerns, and in preparation to contact Galina Krasskova, I happened upon a series of conversations between them that she published on her blog.

The subject was Miasma.

Miasma is a generational curse, which afflicts the community when the law of or respect for the Gods is not honored. It's quintessential examples are from Greek mythology as the House of Atreus where Atreus fed the ground up bodies of his brother's children to him, or the House of Oedopus where his father King Laius defies the Oracle at Delphi's prophecy that his son would kill his father and marry his mother. Laius attempts infanticide, Oedupus commits fratricide, and Antigone who attempts to preserve the law of the Gods in a speedy burial of her brother and defies Theban law. The theme of miasma permiates the Theban cycle.

In each case, defying the Divine Law brings or reinforces miasma.

Krasskoiva and Filian seem to they agree that the Pagan community is suffering a miasma. Klein and the Frosts are really only symptoms of a greater problem. That is this: Impiety. They treat the Gods at best as if they are not real. Archetypes, ideas, imaginary things to be dismissed or change faces of as it suits the whims of the participants. They are fairy tales, this “all Gods are one God” business has reduced them to dolls in a toy box to be played with and discarded.

At worst, the coarseness of invoking a God to give you a blessing for free, the ubiquitous “I sometimes work with n.” shows that they are not treated as GODS, but a vending machine to give out sex tips, winning lottery numbers or better jobs.

And to me, that is the acme of impiety.

When you call out to Freya, the Daghda, and Baron Samedi, as FPG did in their main ritual at Samhain 2013, do you not expect them to appear? Were I one of the group above, I'd turn to the Baron and let him run roughshod all over that event. And that friends, is what He did.

The funny thing about miasma is that there are a few ways to treat it. Simply put:

Get the hell out of Dodge. Probably the single most effective way to avoid the plague of miasma is to leave the area and people of its influence.

Make sacrifices to the Gods. You should be doing this already, to ensure a good relationship between yourself and Them or Those you are close to.

Kill or ritually sacrifice the source of the miasma. Not literally of course, but one could shun, silence, or ostracize the carriers of the plague until they make amends to the Ones they have offended.

Honor the Gods. And do what they say.

Do I think that's what will work? Brothers and sisters, that's the only thing that will work. You have to set aside this idea that They aren't real – when you call to Them, They appear. When you honor Them, They bless you. It would be better you never knew Their names and be completely ignorant than to be a wanna-Blessed Be and be shooting off at the mouth to Gods and Powers you don't even believe in.

Either that modern Pagans need to repair the rift, or prepare to reap the hurricane.

Ken Klein is the first one CAUGHT, I guarantee there are more pervs and molesters and creeps out there. Its funny, a few of the speakers at the RT commented that they'd known Klein and felt he was a creeper, but that the Frosts were not. I'd argue with them, why didn't they report it then? Why sit on their hands and do nothing until after the fact, and then join the chorus denouncing him, while then Frosts continue to peddle Ch 4?

Miasma. A contagious condition that screws your judgement. A curse that blinds you, and then justifies your blindness. And those who call it out, like poor Antigone, are doomed by YOUR miasma.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The view from the locomotive in the train wreck.


So it's all over but the body count, and just now the Muggle Media is starting to take notice. Good, party's over. Nothing to see here.

In the whole row about the Frosts, I was in the thick of it. Helping to craft the Resolution, responding to the trolls, and and keeping on message. But something really surprised me about the way the bulk of the FPGers responded. Not the BoD, not the PfC, but the large swaths of attendees. It was either silent, or mildly annoyed. Some were violently abusive about us “killing the festival” and “airing our dirty laundry”. But it's those silent masses that confuse me, and make me stop to think.

I take it for granted that we all have a moral compass, and that if I show a reasonable person something so unarguably wrong like the Frosts' Chapter 4 of the Good Witch's Bible, they will draw the reasonable conclusion. Stuff like this has no place in our religion, or any other. Their insistence on standing up for it means they are not welcome to teach in our polite society.

But why be silent?

I believe a lot of it has to do with Muggle life. You see, I happened upon a quote from Aldous Huxley that made me think.

Paraphrasing: The rational man struggles with modern life, because it is so counter to the way human beings evolved and lived for millions of years. Too much changes too quickly. Beauty and truth are replaced with convenience and comfort. Meaning falls away in the noise and rush of our lives, and any same person would quickly develop neuroses over it. Adjustment is impossible, only a desperate keeping-up. Only the truly sick and depraved, who have no defined mental archetecture, are suited to “adjust” to modern life.

And honestly, I think that's what the Pagan movement offers so many people who come to it. It offers the opportunity to disconnect from their tortuous “keeping-up” and be pretty wild and least for a short time. The prospect of Pagan festivals is just that, general abandoning of the Muggle values and problems for a few days.


I wrote that right after the Camp became involved in the conflict, and decreed to FPG the Frosts would not be in attendance. I thought it was over, it wasn't. I thought I understood the position of people involved, I didn't.

The backstory

I use the terms FPG to describe the festival itself, TEG (Temple of Earth Gathering) to describe the legal company/church/non-profit that runs the festival, and the BoD (Board of Directors) who oversees FPG. Also PfC (Pagans for Change) is the group that crafted the Joint Resolution (JR) to the BoD asking that the Frosts not teach, vend or be called headliners or elders at FPG. Ch 4 is the fourth chapter of The Witches Bible, renamed the Good Witches Bible.

I have to give a little backstory: I was part of PfC, and still am. What I write in my blog I do as myself, my words are much stronger out of my own mouth. But I think its important to make the distinction.

The JR can be found at the Facebook page, do a Google search “Joint Resolution to the FPG Board”. At no point did it say the Frosts should be banned from FPG, simply that until or unless they make a full unambiguous retraction of Ch 4. They were welcome to attend as guests, even as guests of the Founder of FPG, as FPG's public response to the JR stated. The only request was they not teach workshops, vend or be referred to as headliners or Elders.

If you've been following the issue, you know FPG said no, at which point over 250 people had signed on to the JR. The next step was to organize a boycott. We would not attend if the terms of the JR were not met, and would encourage others not to a well. Then someone contacted Camp La Llanada, the host, via Twitter and claimed that Fpg was hosting pedophiles. And the camp stepped in. They spoke with TEG, TEG spoke with the Frosts and the Frosts weren't coming.

The fight online was nasty, many layers of people calling each other names and many calling for calm. But it all kinda quieted down because TEG offered something

FPG decided to host a round table discussion.

The festival

It rained. A lot. All festival. I had to move part of my camp as it was under 3” of water until we made offerings to the Sidhe of the land. Then it was just annoying, but my camp space never flooded again.

The air was thick with tension. Veiled comments about “the trouble”. When I met with friends who were part of PfC, and privately told me they'd been talking with staff who were friends. Those staffers were told not to interact with us, very specifically. Something was brewing.

The night before, I made my sacrifices and renewed the vows I'd made on Samhain at that very spot. Later I was given a very clear message by a trance prophetess: No mercy.

And when the Morrigan tasks you, you do it.

The Round Table

It started ten minutes late. Announcements were made; the rules were no recording, no electronica, each speaker would have 90 seconds, and a talking stick was to be passed around by a staffer. No personal insults, you could report about what was said on media, but not use names in the interest of privacy.

But first the Founder Himself was going to speak. As long as he wished. And he did, for nearly 15 minutes.

He told how FPG got started in his legal battle with the city of Palm Bay. He framed the whole discussion as one on a backdrop of the first amendment. And that got loud praise.

The moderator made more announcements, asked for a grounding meditation and then opened the floor. Two women complained for 5 min a piece about cabins their disability and sharing showers with attendees. At which point I and another person were shouting points of order. I demanded to know since we were 40 min into a scheduled 1 hour meeting, if they were actually going to enforce the 90 sec rule. They assured me they would, and they would go over if needed.

Then the fireworks started.

I am supposedly restricted from naming names, unless they decide to represent themselves somewhere. The headliners, all but one, came out pro-Frost.

Their whole argument came down to two points:
1. This was a first amendment issue. Regardless of what they wrote the stood behind their right to teach and publish.
2. This was a Witch hunt based on fear, and who would be next? A writer who'd written or done something that could be interpreted as salacious?

Aaron Lietch was by far the most confrontational pro-Frost. On his blog he detailed his Four Points, but I will tell you from being there, his retelling is a lot milder and more coherent than it actually was.

To paraphrase:
1. He was mad that some internet troll had hijacked his name and claimed he was opposed to the Frosts. He did not clarify who it was, but implied it was someone either sympathetic to or on the JR.
2. He claimed to have known the Frosts personally, and felt they represented no threat.
3. He believed it was a Witch Hunt and that he or anyone there could be next.
4. He accused anyone of doing this sort of thing was “not Pagan”. He did not clarify that he meant anything about spreading rumors or lies, as he later claims on his blog. The understanding I got was anyone attached to the JR.

And then I laughed at him. When he finished he was looking directly at me as he said “not Pagan”. Irony tickled me...You see my wife and I contributed to his eye surgery that saved his sight. And to use that sight to cast insults wily-nily around the room was, well, the height of irony.

More speakers echoed the witch hunt or the 1st amendment. I listened to a man who claimed to be a soldier and police officer imply that if he caught an actual pedophile he “couldn't tell you what would happen to them in the back of the squad car”. Then after implying he'd beat a pedophile, he assured us he knew the Frosts were no pedophiles.

I got the talking stick shortly afterwards. 90 seconds is not a long time. I said the following things.
-My name is Edward G Rickey and I was one who helped craft the JR
-To anyone who thinks they can defend chapter 4 of the GWB, there is something wrong with you.
-To the point of whether this issue is the cause of Kenny Klein, and that this is anger about him, I say a little bit. Klein taught us that a culture of sweeping things under the rug doesn't work anymore
-This isn't really a discussion about the Frosts either. This is really a conversation between attendees and a board of directors hat has repeatedly ignored us and censored us. This board is both unresponsive and irresponsible.
-We are co-creators of FPG, we give our time and money to make it happen. We have no choice but to withold money and support if FPG refuses to do the right things. We don't want that. Read the JR.

And that was it. My 90 seconds was up. Part of it was people yelling at me after I told them there was something wrong.

Another man stood up. He said he travels the festival circuit, and this is no longer a local problem, but a National one. He told us, either we can solve it here, or the greater Pagan community will solve it for us, and we won't like the results.

Finally some other PfC folks got to speak. More measured but still on message. Roundly they were ignored.

The Founder got the last ten minutes to reiterate what he said before, and close the meeting.

My take:

A farce. Like Aaron said, this is coming from someone who was actually there. The meeting was an opportunity to close ranks around TEG, but it showed some serious flaws.

First, there are folks who want to turn this in to some argument of freedom of speech, but no one questioned the “censorship” the camp used.

Secondly, the Big Name Pagans tipped their hand by making the Witch Hunt argument. The concern was that the same kind of mob that they saw come after the Frosts would come after them for something they wrote or did. One man who claimed to be a clinician discussed fear, but the real fear is that you had a community who was angry at lack of leadership. It seemed to them the pitchforks and torches were out and the peasants were revolting. It never seemed to occur that there was a reason to riot.

Third, to the Pagan community, there are places where the leaders don't care about you. FPG is a big venue, and this means book sales, vending, and power. And when you have a group asking legitimate questions of standards, the reaction is to accuse of a Witch Hunt. I think in all this we know who has real standards and who does not. Who is motivated by truth and a sense of community and who just thinks of it as a playground or a party and a venue to sell goods and services or a chance to be a Little Caesar.

Make your choices Pagan nation. I made mine.

Next post I want to explore what's really all behind this, what is psychologically and spiritually the basis of this whole problem and how we go forward to treat it.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

DeFrosting FPG

I live in Florida, and have been a frequent attendee of the Florida Pagan Gathering for many years now – since the festival moved to the Ocala National Forest site in Beltane of 2006. I love the festival, and have had great experiences. But there was always a sour taste when dealing with staff...but I put it off to stressed-out people trying to manage 600+ attendees in 5 days.

I looked forward to attending the next one at the end of this month, but something has changed. Precisely Gavin and Yvonne Frost will be attending and giving workshops. In the past few festivales, no few would have cared, but now things are different.

Kenny Klein happened to get caught trafficking child porn. He admitted to it.

For those that may not know, the Frosts published a book about 30 years ago detailing ritual, incestuous sexual contact with minors as part of a “coming of age” for a girl's first menstrual cycle, of the appearance of sex characteristics.

Involving dildoes.

And her male relatives. And there's an equally disgusting “ritual” for boys too

Now I'm not shy about sex, or dildoes, but I draw the line at anything involving minors. It's illegal and wrong because they cannot give consent to any kind of sex at the age of 10-12. And the Frosts advocated it and taught it, and have never retracted it. Now back aboutn 2007, A J Drew became aware of this and very vocal about it. He admittedly may have a screw loose or two, and decided one way to do this was to publicly burn the Frosts in effigy. Now by all appearances they are a sweet old couple in their 80's and nobody thinks they would realistically prey upon the children at any event, so a lot of big name Pagans rushed to their defense over the effigy thing. They felt it was bad magick, looked terrible for the community, and roundly criticized Drew for it. And then the allegations sorta went away...

I have to admit, that I looked at a later edition of the material, and thought it pervy and weird but didn't really think they could have actually done such a thing. I dismissed know, there were Witches who were claimed to eat babies and curse cattle and stuff like that.. But most importantly, I didn't really want to believe what I read. And when I'd met them they seemed harmless, so I dismissed it too. I became complicit.

Then Klein happened, only two weeks ago. And the stories started coming out. He'd been abusive to his family, he'd been pervy at festivals, he'd volunteered to watch children. Fact is we don't know what Klein did outside of the child porn, but what we do know is there was a cirlcle of silence around the whole thing prior to his arrest.

Don't make the community look bad...

Don't draw undue attention...

It can't be as bad as all that...

So recently, I find out that a man I respect well who was a division coordinator at FPG resigned over the Frosts. They apparently were scheduled to be headliners and teach workshops and attend the festival for free. And many of his concerns were dismissed as above. And it all came back to me. I'd been complicit in something I chose not to follow closely because FPG meant so much to me. I had the same gut check, the same “shame on us” moment many in the community had. I had to act.

I realized there was a rot in the heart of it, so I began writing to them through Facebook, and to my Pagan friends. We contacted the FPG coordinators through Facebook and Yahoo Groups, and we eamiled...and silence. Our posts were removed from Yahoo and Facebook, and we were told to only email privately to the organizers. Those who got replies (I did not) were told that there was nothing wrong with the Frosts, they were guests of the founder, and the show would go on.

And then there was a second round of post removal from Facebook and Yahoo groups.

So here I sit, as a Pagan man who worships the Warrior Sovereign Queen, helping to craft a boycott that potentially can take down a festival I love deeply. I've been vocal in my contacts with FPG, supportive of those who were unsure, helped craft the Joint Resolution, all the while wishing I never had to do this.

Can we kill FPG, we Florida Pagans? Yes, because we understand that our money is the lifeblood of the event. We understand that our support keeps it alive. I don't want to, but I am pushed to go as far as the stubborness of the Board of Directors forces us to.

Because it's a fundamental question of right and wrong. It is wrong to abuse children, always and forever. It is wrong to condone sexual abuse of children. It is wrong to provide a forum for sexual abusers to preach, and to treat them as Elders of our community and with deference- because they are unrepentant,and proud of it.

The demands were simple: they may go as guests, but not teach workshops, not be treated as Elders and not do any vending. They are to neither peddle their wares or ideas as long as they refuse to renounce and disclaim any of the child sex material they published. If they did retract it, they would be welcomed back as full members and Elders.

FPG said no. They were rather condescending, refusing to address the actual writings of the Frosts, or the requests of those on the Joint Statement. They reaffirmed they are opposed to any misbehavior on site, and said they'd not ban anyone who was involved in the protest.

They just don't get it, which is the kernel of the problem in the first place. You see, Klein taught us that silence and deference and playing along doesn't work to keep us safe. We have to draw a line somewhere, and if not here then we are worse than a laughingstock as a commnunity. We can't even protect our own children if we don't stand up to what we all know is wrong.

And if our leaders won't do the right thing, they will no longer be our leaders.

If you are one who was planning to attend FPG this Beltaine, please join me and scores of others who have signed on to this Joint Resolution. And if you share our concerns, sign as well. Email, write, speak.

If FPG sees reason and agrees to the terms, then go spend money with them and have a great time. I'll be there, and we can meet up and have fun.

If FPG refuses to budge, please do not go. Do not give them money, time, or your participation. Tell them what the costs of silence are to a commnunity who is done being silent about abuse.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

On the death of Fred Phelps

A collective sigh was let out as the unctious Fred Phelps' death was announced this day, and I'm sure plans for an epic funeral protest are in the works to give the Westboro Baptist Church a taste of it's own medicine. I'd love to be in attendance to see the parade of drag queens lining the route and sashaying their way to his grave. But is it something to celebrate, and what can someone as vile as Phelps teach us?

There's a saying that goes something like “We should be grateful for our enemies, they keep us honest”. I agree wholeheartedly, what few enemies I still have in life have taught me well that keeping to my principles is the source of true honor. I've weathered the kind of insult and innuendo that is often reserved for rock stars, and have come out stronger for it. I'm oddly grateful for the backstabbings I've received, that sort of thing winnows out who are true friends and who are not. And it teaches you how to better evaluate people, and where to put your trusts.

So when I look at Phelps, part of me wants to thank him.

WBC managed to bring gay rights and homophobia to a national spotlight in a way that couldn't be better. They showed us real pockets of ignorance and homophobia still exist, and they shroud their ignorance in religion.

They weren't satisfied to pick on the outliers in the population, but then began to picket soldiers' funerals in some weird interpretation of war protest and believing the line soldier advocated gay and lesbian relationships. And at that point, I believe, they crossed a line that made their argument not only unpopular, but insulting to the general public. You may not support gay marriage, but by God, the troops who died in an unjust war didn't deserve that kind of disrespect.

In doing this, WBC showed the monster White middle America fed by their own silence. Now they were faced with dealing with the disgusting side of Christianity, something the Nazarean would never have tolerated. So WBC was marginalized, but I believe added to the sea-change of public opinion that has led to the general acceptance of gay marriage and normalcy of homosexuality in society, and the rejection of this kind of evil.

So Phelps and the WBC ought be thanked in a strange way for helping to kill the dinosaur of homophobia. I've often said that the GBLT community need not do much more in the way of activism – their enemies will complete the job for them. Sure, there's more work to be done, but the battle has turned and in no small measure thanks to the rabid nature of the WBC and their kin.

But I don't think they get off lightly. There should be a protest, but a dignified one. No chanting, no desecration. Just being GBLT and proud in the face of it all, but being there. Silently carrying flags or couples holding hands... I'd love it if every day there were pansies placed on his grave. By drag queens. Or married same-sex couples. Reverently, in a dignified manner. Telling him how despite his hate, they are still there and growing stronger every day, while he and his ideals rot in the ground of history. And respecting the fact that if it were not for his hatred and indecency, their battle would be longer and more difficult.

In a way Phelps helped free GBLTs from willful ignorance of mainstream America.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

On hospitality


Rarely do I get into pissing contests with anyone, and I do my best to avoid those who like to. My approach is instead to take the principle that I want to argue and expand on it. Case in point is a recent development within the Morriganic community on the subject of hospitality.

Recently on the Wild Hunt, Rynn Fox wrote an article regarding hospitality as a foundation to her group's devotional relationship to the Morrigan. As such, she presented certain practices as offerings to Her; that charity work, blood drives, etc. constitute an offering or “sacrifice” the Queen would find pleasing. On the face of it, I have no quarrel with the notion that I can do certain difficult things, e.g. donating to those less fortunate when I'd rather go shopping, and that “sacrifice” is given as an homage to Her.

But here's where it gets confusing - Rynn seems to indicate the need for hospitality comes from her reconstructionist background. That ancient cultures practiced hospitality, and that the reason they did was out of concerns that the Gods walked among us and would bless or punish us based on our hospitality to them disguised as strangers. She also asserts that such hospitality is missing from our daily experience because we live in a jet-set age where travelling is easy and cheap.

Now, I'm a big fan of reconstructing old ways that work. I think that values that served us for millennia in tribal society still serve us because, although our technology has changed drastically in 150 years, our wetware – our brains and our psychology - have not. We still think as Pagans when we get down to the primal level. We choose tribes of like minded folks to associate with, only now the interwebs make that much easier to sort out and connect over distance. We view outsiders with suspicion, fetishize our own Gods and values, believe in our own superstitions and whatnot just the same as our “dumb” ancestors did.

But hospitality is still alive and well regardless of Fox's assertions. All you have to do is take a trip through the American South, or Hispanic America, or even Asian culture. Southern hospitality is legendary – you will be so well fed and comforted you can't stand up. Hispanics will take food off their child's plate to feed you, and Asians have a culture deeply rooted in being a gracious host. The key to discovering it is to set aside your prejudices and go exploring as the gracious guest.

Grace. That is the key that is missing from Fox's expression of values. It doesn't matter how much of a badass you are battlefield, wasted movement and wasted energy are indications that you don't know what you are doing. There is a saying in the martial arts/tactical training community : “Slow is smooth, smooth is fast”. Smoothness is economy of force, lightness of mind, and quickness of attack and defense. What one develops is a sense of grace in movement, which belies power and skill.

That grace appears in other areas as well. Intellectually, it shows up as devastating arguments in debates, relevant insights in scientific work, deep understandings in poetry and art. And I would argue this arena is no less a place of warrior development than a battlefield; the field is different but the victory is the same.

In the home, grace is also a sign of power. The stranger's visit is an opportunity to express a kind of power, as a Southerner explained to me. It is an art form not only to make your guest feel comfortable and at ease, but to anticipate his needs and desires even before he is aware of them. It is the perfectly brewed cup of coffee, the light and flaky biscuit, the enlivening and amusing conversation.

There is a story of a tea master in Japan who went to visit a fellow tea master. They retired to the tea house and along the way, the host happened to stop by a lemon tree. He remarked it would be great to have with with a special rice he had acquired. He took a knife out, cut the lemon and took it along to the teahouse. The guest thought this charming and when they arrived at the teahouse the special rice was already on the table. The guest realized the “charming” spontenaity was planned. He was mortified, and excused himself from the host's house.

This is an example of how not to do hospitality. The tea master sought not to comfort his guest, but build his own reputation and in the process seemend artless. What could have been a wonderful evening seemed a farce, and was a hospitality failure.

“Mental bearing (calmness), not skill, is the sign of a matured samurai. A samurai therefore should neither be pompous nor arrogant” - Tsukahara Bokuden

So, why do hospitality if it's not for showing off? I disgree with Fox's as to why: I don't think we have to fear the punishment of the Gods for being inhospitable. One's reputation grows with word of graciousness getting around, as well as falls as that same lack of grace gets noticed. It seems to me hospitality on the face of it is a social game, but if we dig deeper, we find there are good reasons for it.

Another argument I've heard is it's a sort of paying-forward. If I'm a gracious host, I can expect that same level of treatment when I'm a guest in someone's home. Maybe this works, but I find it weak.

Since I'm the kind of person who likes to dig down to principles, I'll present an alternative reason based on my principles:

We are magical creatures shaping the world through our will and work. What kind of world do you want to live in?

I want to live in a world where visitors are valued, treated well because that's how I'd want to be treated. To be recognized as kin even in a foreign land, takes the fear of the strange away and opens me to the wonder of a new culture. I want the stranger to understand the value in my culture, and doing good hospitality is how I share that wonder and value.

This is a human concern for human scaled lives. I don't know if the Gods know or care. I don't know if the walk among us, nor am I concerned over it. As long as they are gracious and can appreciate what I'm doing for them, the Gods are as welcome as any guest.

I do think if any blessing comes of it, it's because They want us to be good to each other as our default position. Grace born of power also brings a confidence that drives out fear. The stranger is no one to be feared, and I shall assume he is as good as I am, until or unless he shows me otherwise. If he is vile I shall crush him, but if he is respectfully curious, I can show him the beauty of my home and culture. Grace is the mark of mastery, so I shall always express my grace through hospitality.

And here is where I believe Fox has it backwards. My dedication is based around striving to be more than I am. I believe She calls us to be great, to be heroes and to stand against injustice. She wants us to be better, not because she said so, but because it rests in each dedicant's heart to be. Hospitality is the end of such a journey, not the beginning.

Monday, January 13, 2014

The problem with being as good as...

Years ago, when I was a baby Pagan living in the Big City, I was introduced to the local public coven. Every town above a certain size has one, that open its arms, welcomes everyone and dispels the myths about Witches coven. And they are usually run by the Media Witch, who gives interviews usually around Halloween. I've met the Media Witches in a couple of towns, and my local one was a real fluff bunny.

Not to say Media Witch was a bad person herself – her habitual pot use was legendary. Beyond that, she was pretty much Garden variety Wicca, which was handed down to her by her Grand Poobah, who became a Patron Saint after she died.

The coven had the typical politics and internal scandals present in any group of people, but overall was small potatoes. The interesting thing was watching the way she interacted with media any time she was Publicity Witch. One thing I consistently noticed, and has been repeated by several others I've seen, is the idea I call As Good As.

The comparison between Wicca and Christianity often came up, e.g. We don't believe in the devil, he's a Christian invention; We believe in a creator God; We have a Golden Rule; We believe in an afterlife; etc.

Later I happened to be at a meeting of a National Pagan Organization that will remained unnamed, where I heard much the same kind of discussion when it came to interdenominational work with the major religions. In this meeting they were discussing how effective it could be to have Pagan representatives on panels of many faiths. I couldn't take and stood up and addressed the group.

I have a habit of speaking my mind, and I have made some enemies. I'm not going to go into dialogue about what was said, rather I'm going to dispel some myths the Pagan community operates under, and hopefully make some salient points.

First point: You are not mainstream. You never will be. Make peace with it, because the rest of the world sees what you do as either a hobby, a pastime, a sin or foolishness. They generally don't believe in Witches or magic, and they certainly don't think there are any genuine witches left. What you are doing, in their minds, is a form of cosplay that the renaissance fair crowd is calling religion.

Second point: You are a minority religion. You will not have the clout or numbers that Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus or Buddhists have. You are on the fringe, and you are not going to be anything but an oddity. Make peace with this point too.

Third point: You won't be taken seriously, at Your faith seems to be a joke – who would honestly adopt the word “witch” to describe themselves? That's like saying you are and assassin, a sorcerer, or an alien. You must eat babies or poison crops. And you must be very naiive.

I contend that trying to draw parallels with the Big Boy religions of the Book serves not only to confuse the audience (“So if you are so like Christianity, why not be Christian?”), but it seems obvious that the speaker is trying to ride on the coattails of those religions.

Which is exactly what is happening.

Another problem here has to do with language. Words can be weapons, and thinking tactically, you have to gain control of the intellectual high ground. Most people think of the mainstream religions as the definitions of right and wrong, virtue and values. To come in from another direction and say that one rejects these concepts creates a problem. If you refuse Christianity (or Islam or Buddha) then what's to stop you from being a child-molesting, axe-murderer? This kind of question shows how much people frame the idea of morality in the terms of religion.

This is an area where the modern Pagan movement often fails.

We agree certain things that are important in the discussion of virtue, e.g. compassion, charity, brotherly love, are important, but we fail to define these things differently than our counterparts in other faiths.

For example, as Pagans, why should we exercise charity? Why would I show compassion? The Christians are commanded to do so because of the love that Jesus showed by dying for their sins, so they “pay it forward”. We could argue about the form that charity takes, but ultimately the act of charity is rooted in a sense of debt for the charity they have received.

Historically, Pagans have been very bad at charity – despite some more recent, infrequent changes. They rarely can raise enough money to keep their own covens going, much less help out other Pagans or even strangers. There's resistance to chipping in is rooted deeply, and I'm not sure where it lies. Maybe a concern of seeming too like the mainstream churches that use charity as a way to prosleytize? I suspect that this probably the case...

So it's easier to claim poverty than butch up and give something to improve the community. It's easier to claim poverty than to put trust into self-appointed leaders to spend your money well. We let our Pagan kin starve or lose homes of suffer medical problems because we're broke, but buy statues and incense and jewelry that would make a whore blush.

And that's just ourselves. We can't be bothered to do anything for the larger, non-Pagan community we live in.

The ironic thing is that where it's useful to point at the major faiths, like trying to gain acceptance on their backs, the Pagan community has few problems with pointing to them as an example. When it comes to putting money where one's mouth is, they distance themselves from the Christians and generally look like a herd of selfish cats.

So here's a solution. Stop buying junk at the metaphysical shop, and feed a starving kid. Or donate to a medical group doing work in Central America. Or donate to a soup kitchen, give an hour of time at the hospital with crack babies. Help people, and yes, wear a pentacle while doing it. Don't make a fuss about your faith, just do good stuff, however you define it.

This is how you dispel the myth of witches being silly, self-centered people – by not ACTING like silly self-centered people. Because frankly, if we want to be taken seriously as a community, we need to start acting seriously as a community. We need to be engaged in making our world better, not because we have a mandate, but because we want to live in a better world.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Re: Polytheism: How hard do you like it?

In a recent entry on her blog, Morpheus Ravenna explores the question about hard polythesim and her answers to questions about it. This entry isn't designed to specifically critique her exposition, although I think it is lacking in depth at a few points, but rather to answer the question for myself.

I'd also like to point out that we Morriganists are not the only ones looking at this question, but Norse Heathens do too. Galina Krasskova comes to mind as one who also posits hard polytheism, and we might do well not to have to re-invent the wheel, but look at the work others have done as well, whether we agree with it all or not.

The problem isn't one of ontology, as Ravenna mentions, but one of epistemology. For the benefit of those just coming to these terms, ontology is the study of existence, what “is”; and epistemology is the study of knowledge – how do we know what “is”. To me the arguments about the Gods are something that logic and rhetoric are necessarily going to fail at. We can make analogies to ecology or physics in matters of scale, but ultimately the sciences are designed from the beginning to use objective evidence, or better empirical evidence, to study empirically verifiable facts of nature. Then lens of science is very good at the physical, tangible, repeatable and verifiable, but divinity stands apart from this. Likewise the experience of divinity stands apart from empirical testing.

The problem here is this: is an analogy from physics or ecology or whatever a good map to try to explore relationships between the divine and us? I propose the answer is no, because the “map” is drawn for different terrain than we are exploring. A topographical map of the Andes does not help me explore the sea bottom of the Atlantic. I might learn a little of mapmaking in the process, but ultimately the areas are too different to be of use.

Philosophy may help a little. Our question is an epistemological one: how do we “know” the nature of the Gods, and are they truly real, and are they truly singular agents? And much more importantly to this discussion, is personal gnosis a valid way of “knowing”?

Simple coincidence of experience, such as I see a tree with green leaves and white flowers, is usually good enough to establish agreement when dealing with the physical facts of nature, because we have inherent trust of our senses. We then verify with another agent who trusts his senses- you see the tree with green leaves and white flowers too, therefore it must be “real”. The basis of any claim is empirical, so the evidence for the claim is empirical. Easy.

With a gnostic experience, the entire event takes place within consciousness, and cannot be referred to outside of that consciousness except by analogy. Dreams are a good example – are dreams “real”? Well if we set our “real” threshold as “did the experience happen”, then yes. If we set the threshold to “is there physical evidence to support the claim of existence” then the question gets dicey – electromagnetic signals may be measured during the dream, but those signals are not going to verify the existence of talking caterpillars, no matter what the claimant says.

Ancients were less troubled by empirical data, and dreams and gnosis was a critical part of their approach to the world as one of meaningful relationships, and more importantly the value of meaning. The Gods spoke to us, even if none but us could hear, and we knew it was them because the message was meaningful. It didn't matter if it came from a bit of undigested meat, or a psychotropic drug, or the voice of Zeus, the meaning was what one held onto, was “proof”.

As modern primitives – folks who look back at ancient religion, our argument for gnosis can't be rooted in an epistemology that works for modern post industrial science. We chose this path because it has meaning, something outside of the “proof” based systems of most.

Parenthetically, I laugh at the fundamentalist Christians who hold up examples of miracles of Christ in modern days to testify the existence of their God and Savior. Faith is an internally transforming process, not a sideshow, and depends upon work and attention to one's internal world. The snake-oil salesmen notwithstanding, anyone who bases faith on parlor tricks is truly fooling himself, and I'm pretty sue the Nazarean didn't mean for that to be the basis of faith. I'm also pretty sure he didn't say he was Jehovah either.

Back to our discussion – we can also take a warning from the previous paragraph. Our gnosis is OUR OWN gnosis. No one can digest your dinner for you, or dream your dreams. We can discuss and share stories about the experience, but these are pale reflections in a dark mirror. And this is why we often hear “That's not MY experience with” fill in the blank. Of course not. What I prefer to hear is “This is what I took from the experience”, a more meaning-driven assessment of gnosis, and more like how our ancient ancestors looked at the world around them.

If we want to talk with the old Gods, we need to speak their language.

And back to polytheism. I don't really care how anyone in the soft poly, universalist, archetypicalist, or monist views address the Gods. Their gnosis has led them to that conclusion, mine has led me to mine. My Goddess is singular, conscious, full of agency, rooted in the land, and present in my life, because I have asked Her to be. I do not care if there's a model that matches the structure of the Gods, because I do not need it. I have been shown directly that She is not the same as any other Goddess, or God, now or throughout history. I have asked, and clearly had it explained to me.

So my advice is: ask your Gods. You might be surprised at the answer.

And in matters of contradiction; contradictions are signs of failing of logic in misapplication or misidentification. Since we are dealing not with things-as-they-are but the appearance of things i.e. we cannot directly share gnosis, only impressions drawn from gnosis that fit language well enough to share, then contradiction is inevitable. Call it the signature of the Gods – the experience defies language and in many ways is far deeper than anything you can package neatly with language.

To me, that is far more valuable.