Jailbreaking the Cardinal Demons

For this one, I am taking a different approach. Instead of writing a long essay, I am going to record a video lecture. I will add the link to the video lecture after It is posted. For now, here are my citations and notes.

Research

Abramelin

  • 4+8=12 princes (zodiac?)
  • ORIENS, PAIMON, ARITON, AMAIMON. Are listed as the 3rd layer of demon princes

Clavicula Solomonis

  • Pretty much in line with my vision
  • Source of my animal forms, sigils, and 

Liber Officiorum Spirituum

  • “These be the 4 kynges of the Ayer as thes. Oriens in the Est, & paymon in the west & Amaymon in the Southe & Egim in the northe”

Agrippa’s 2nd Book of Occult Philosophy

  • Given similarly to the above in name
  • Separated as the directional kings, different from the rulers of hell itself

Image Sources

https://www.sciencephoto.com/media/148737/view/fludd-s-system-of-health

http://www.omega-magick.com/2015/03/the-four-kings-in-grimoires-tradition.html

  • Also has a lot of interesting reading
  • Grimoire of Honorius: invocations for 4 kings, names+directions are different
  • Goetia: lists Egyn as having power over water

https://www.grimoire.org/grouping/cardinal-demon-kings/

  • List other books to look into

Lent 2021

CW Discussion of Fasting and Disordered Eating

Lent means a lot of different things to different people. For me, lent is an ancestral way of marking the last third of winter. Jesus’ solar symbolism along with imperial churches co-opting seasonal festivals to create church calendars makes it easy to map this onto seasonal observances. Really, it’s re-mapping, re-connecting, re-claiming.

In lent, one of the hardest parts of the year, my ancestors turned to spiritual growth the best way they knew how. Fasting, additional prayer, and trying to build better habits are all traditional ways of marking the season. The sun has started to come back but the early spring can be just as harsh as deep winter. So now is a time to pull on deep spiritual wells to rest and prepare. Now is the time to revive the seeds of hope for April planting. Why not? It’s a heavy Pisces season! 

Continue reading “Lent 2021”

Lefty Learning List

Spirituality
https://www.lastborninthewilderness.com/
https://lagalisse.net/occult-features-of-anarchism-2/
https://abeautifulresistance.org/pagan-anarchism/

General Leftism
https://audibleanarchism.podbean.com/
https://revolutionaryleftradio.libsyn.com/ (Leninist Castro Shill)
https://coffeewithcomrades.com/
https://www.akpress.org/queeringanarchism.html
https://winecellarmedia.com/
https://www.reddit.com/user/daedalus-prism/m/leftism_anarchy_communism/?utm_source=share&utm_medium=ios_app&utm_name=iossmf

Anti-Capitalism
https://strikedebt.org/drom/
https://www.teamhuman.fm/episodes/episode-01-debt-collective/
A Pagan Anti-Capitalist Primer by Rhyd Wildermuth
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q6WdUkaFyGw
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bp3Lfy5Wdek
https://www.mhpbooks.com/books/debt/
Caliban and the Witch by Federici

Decolonization
https://doctrineofdiscovery.org/what-is-the-doctrine-of-discovery/
https://slideplayer.com/slide/12004927/
https://youtu.be/JvM4SJN76Yg
https://awakeningthehorsepeople.org/index.php/2019/10/28/do-you-know-your-stories/
https://awakeningthehorse.wordpress.com/2014/04/17/post-colonialism/
https://awakeningthehorse.wordpress.com/relationships-of-solidarity/resistance/
https://www.stitcher.com/show/interesting-times/episode/195-irancontra-part-one-revolution-in-nicaragua-60470337

Anti-Fascism
https://www.stitcher.com/show/interesting-times/episode/112-italian-fascism-part-one-the-idea-of-italy-48792191
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bgwS_FMZ3nQ
https://www.akpress.org/against-the-fascist-creep.html

Structural Racism
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
https://gimletmedia.com/shows/uncivil
https://gimletmedia.com/shows/the-nod/49hlw5

Legitimizing Political Power
https://gimletmedia.com/shows/crimetown (only season 1 season 2 sux)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kyk5GHKJLGY
Almost anything by Michael Foucault
https://rebelsteps.com/

Sex Work
https://www.stitcher.com/show/the-peepshow-podcast
https://www.versobooks.com/books/3039-revolting-prostitutes
https://swopusa.org/

QAnon + Cpnspiracies
https://gimletmedia.com/shows/reply-all/llhe5nm/166-country-of-liars
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTfhYyTuT44

Policing
https://gimletmedia.com/shows/reply-all/76h967/127-the-crime-machine-part-i
Breaking Rank by Norm Stamper
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLvxRLKewU9lSM2oev6BSt9-9gNH997hLz
https://www.versobooks.com/books/2426-the-end-of-policing

Jailbreaking Angels

angel

Before I begin, I must give my deepest thanks to esotericarchives.com and my local OTO body. Without them, I would not have had access to half of these texts, or I would have spent a great deal of money buying copies only to donate them to my local library.

Angels have been a part of many faiths for centuries: messengers, healers, challengers, initiators, guides for the dead, allies. In the Jailbreaking series, I am re-interpreting the Catholic practices of my ancestors through a polytheist and animist lens. My bias is also anti-empire. I hold the Catholic church and many Christian churches (but not all) as forces of domination, oppression, and sometimes genocide. I don’t believe in Original Sin, nor in the “Christ” saving humanity. To me, Jesus of Nazareth is a folktale about a rabbi who was arguing with other rabbis regarding how to keep Judaism alive under the domination of Rome. He said some really wise things, but he didn’t end our disconnect from the divine. We were never disconnected.

So what are angels? The word angel comes form the greek angelos, meaning messenger. As I will explain, angels are not miracle working forces of good. The name angel is given to spirits who like humans and want to see us do well. Just because a spirit probably likes humans does not mean it likes all humans. But they are all approachable, and expect to be approached. To be blunt, it is possible to approach them from a wide variety of practices and perspectives, including polytheist animism.

This essay will not be a guide on how to contact these spirits. That topic requires preparatory work and will hopefully be the subject of a future book. This is a review of the historical records I could access in order to assess what these spirits are. The historical record is not pretty. Poor peoples’ magic tends to not be recorded as often as the practices of the rich and powerful. What we know about the magic of peasants, serfs, and workers is fractured and much harder to research. I will do my best to include the peoples’ work with these beings, but I want to make it clear that the scant material I have to work with is not due to a lack of care or respect.

Continue reading “Jailbreaking Angels”

An Sample Mercury Talisman

Intention: I listen and understand. I speak and am understood. OR I see and understand. I sign and am understood.

Timing: Jun 30 2020 between dawn and noon

Sigil (I am working on this and will add it when its done)

Basic Materials

  • paper, preferably the color you associate with Mercury
  • a writing utensil. if you use white paper, you can use a Mercury color here
  • Something to store your paper talisman in like a charm bag
  • water and a snack

Fancy Extras

  • incense or herbs (I will use mullein for this planet)
  • Music or whatever you use to raise energy
  • ritual robes (I will wear a priest’s collared shirt)
  • if you know any crystals mercury likes feel free to add them

Steps

  • Setup. Best practice is to face the sun, because that’s where Mercury will be that day.
  • Cast sacred space
  • Salute the planet Mercury. If you have music and incense, get those going now.
  • consecrate your pen and paper with a simple blessing or by waving them through the smoke
  • spend time here visioning or focusing on the intention until your intuition says to move on. raise energy. get into it. get goofy.
  • draw your sigil while repeating the intention
  • put your paper and other materia in the container
  • seal it
  • Thank Mercury
  • Take down sacred space
  • Eat snack. Drink Water. Ground.

Update: Angels

angelpic

Master of Sir John Fastolf (French, active before about 1420 – about 1450)
A Patron and His Guardian Angel, about 1430 – 1440, Tempera colors, gold leaf, and ink on parchment
Leaf: 12.1 × 9.2 cm (4 3/4 × 3 5/8 in.), Ms. 5 (84.ML.723), fol. 20v
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Ms. 5, fol. 20v

This is not a “Jailbreaking Angels” post in that I do not yet have any definitive conclusions regarding how to jailbreak the angels. However, I wanted to write to stay in the habit of putting words on a page and to see if anyone has any input.

So far, I have the bare bones start of an altar. My patron has asked that I not perform any ritual to contact angels until August. At first I was confused but as I started to prepare I began to see why. First, I was starting work on behalf of my community that required a lot of my attention. Second, in order to get a clear signal I have to do some maintenance and repair in my magical working space. Neither of these things can be rushed, so I agree now with my patron that August will be a good time to perform the first contact ritual. I will likely begin offerings and consecrations before then.

As an animist, when I work with spirits, I think of them as having an “anchor”, something I can use to tune into their energy. The anchor is not usually the whole of the spirit, just a touch point. For most spirits, the anchor is either something in physical reality or a story told by humans. St John the Baptist anchors himself in his myths, the rain, and the local rivers. The Fae are anchored for me in the local forest, especially mushrooms and flowers. Different people use different anchors, and a spirit can anchor differently in different physical locations.

The topic that has been rolling around in my head for the last few months is: what anchors would best connect me with the angels? I’ve got three categories, and each has pros and cons. I also discussed this topic with my partner earlier, and we came to what I think is a good idea to try.

Heavenly bodies seem the most resonant to me. The concept of “angel(s) of saturn” fits neatly in with a worldview where everything has an animating spirit. And why shouldn’t the deity of Saturn have messengers? There is historical precedent for it being easier to talk to one messenger rather than the deity themselves. The concern I have with anchoring in heavenly bodies is that I don’t think that is the whole picture. It seems reductive to boil angels down to just space animism without the cultural context of those relationships.

Another easy anchor is the lore surrounding angels as psychopomps. Christians are not the only faith-cluster to think that human spirits go to the stars when we die, and I have seen a lot of medieval manuscripts that depict an angel at the deathbed waiting to take a soul upwards to space. I even see angel statues when I go to the local cemetery for walks. I don’t have any concerns here. It’s a pretty straightforward bit of the lore.

Myths are a good anchor, because they can describe the relationship between humans and spirits. They can be rich and allow for a balance between tradition and interpretation. The concern I have is that a lot of the mythology of the angels and space animism comes from Jewish traditions such as Mishnah rather than the overlap of religions that the grimoire line exists in. The stories don’t often appear in the grimoires themselves, though they can be found by dedicated searchers.

Obviously, not all the myths are Jewish. Angel lore comes from the New Testament and from Islamic sources as well. I hope to gain the literacy required to delve into and understand the Islamic angel lore at some point, or at least how the Islamic mythology connects with and relates to Judaism and Christianity. I think doing so might provide some key as to what “The West” is and how I can remove this nomenclature from my practices.

The last kind of anchor I have been considering are names. Names are an obvious anchor because they are important to the grimoire tradition. Also, there seems to be a resonance between angel names and the Roman cult of virtues. Gabriel has often been translated as “Strength of G-d”, and divine strength is a concept I feel familiar with. It would not surprise me if an angel of venus was named “Beauty” or an angel of mars was named “Action”. I am hesitant to draw similarities between Roman practice and Hebrew naming practices, but it is worth looking into.

The final piece of this puzzle that my partner and I were discussing is that the angel practices don’t always associate the same angel with the same heavenly body. I have seen Uriel and Michael alternatively associated with the sun. Raphael also seems to go between the sun and mercury.

What we came to was an idea that rather then try to form an angelic connection that draws from the entire breadth of all these practices, it might be wise to pick one grimoire line and remediate the relationship from that viewpoint. First, taking a grimoire lineage roots the practice in specific history, times and places. One of the goals of remediating or jailbreaking these practices was to do exactly that, to provide a decolonized context of my own spiritual inheritance. (Though with Iberian ancestors that is a weird trip.)

Second, framing angels in terms of grimoire lines adds and embraces plurality. The fact that different sources say different things is not a problem to be reconciled but a basic feature of how our human relationships with these non-human spirits evolve.

So the time has come to pick a line and start making basic offerings.

 

Scrying Activity

Today, neighbors on a discord server I am on were talking about scrying. It was a concept a lot of different people responded to, and people with little experience even asked some questions. So I suggested that we each do a form of scrying in the next 24 hours and then meet to discuss. My neighbors agreed.

Some asked for directions because they had not done this before. So I am posting here a loose outline of my favorite method. Please feel free to adapt it as you see fit. “You are your own spiritual authority, rooted in community.”

Materials

  • a song you like to listen to on repeat or an album you like to listen to in its entirety
  • some method to listen to that music (headphones suggested)
  • a place and time where you will not be interrupted
  • water
  • snack
  • a candle or a blindfold (bandana works fine)
  • optional: some way of taking notes

Directions

  1. Assemble your materials. If you opted for a candle, make sure you have a lighter and a way to put the candle out. If you have note taking materials, have those in easy reach. I sometimes take notes while blindfolded, so I keep a journal in my lap or on the floor next to me.
  2. Use the restroom before starting. At least wash your hands and rinse your mouth.
  3. Go to your workspace and get comfortable. You can sit, lie down, or stand. If you are using a candle, make sure you are facing the unlit candle
  4. Start your music. Greet the song. Greet your body.
  5. If you have a blindfold, put it on. If you have a candle, light it. Soften your gaze, or look for the blue part of the flame near the bottom. Do not use both a candle and a blindfold. One or the other. 
  6. As the music plays, let your imagination respond. Let the music create a story or a setting or a character or even just sensations. Don’t direct. Don’t ask questions. Just let it come. If nothing comes, enjoy listening to your jam. If you have to direct something, encourage yourself to breathe deep and slow.
  7. You are done when you are tired, the music isn’t fun anymore, or you have been sitting for 40 minutes. Whichever happens first ends the session.
  8. Take off the blindfold or put out the candle.
  9. Turn off the music. Thank the song for being with you. Thank your body for receiving the sensations, if you had any.
  10. Take time to sit in silence or journal if you want to
  11. Drink water and eat snack

Questions for Discussion

  • What method did you use?
  • What sense was strongest for you? Sight, scent, touch, or taste?
  • What did the song bring you through your imagination?
  • How do you contextualize what the song brought? Does it mean anything?

 

Magic(ish) Podcasts

Rune Soup – He has some amazing topics if you can get past the occasional elitism. Very good for understanding Animism with a grounding in science. CW drugs.
Bespoken Bones – 120% reccomend. Reclaiming Witch talking about ancestor work. I skip some here and there, but mostly the podcast is amazing. I do wish they’d stop centering blood ancestors though. -_-
Antipodean – My friend keeps trying to get me to listen to this one, but it’s not on Stitcher. Still, I trust them enough to list it here.
A Little Juju Podcast– The go to podcast for “Black Ass Spirituality”. I listen to this one mostly to learn how to be less antiblack and less because the practices relate to my own. If you want to understand why Hoodoo and Conjure are Black and what that means, this podcast will fill you in. Also, if you are a black person looking for your ancestral practices, here you go.
Queer Spirit – Interviews with Queers from various practices, mostly professional healers and mystics.
Aeon Byte Gnostic Radio – 90% of the uploads are shit conspiracy theorists. But the 10% that are good are amazing. The most recent interview with Rodney Orpheus is an example of the good stuff. Also I happen to like the cheesy intros.
Astrology Bytes – Tutorial on Astrology. Best to listen in order, but the episodes tend to be less than 15 minutes long.
Tarot Bytes – Tutorial on Tarot. The first 100 episodes or so are good to binge, and then I would listen to the interviews you care about.
Charm The Water – Hermetic magic. I’m still on the fence on this one. The guy is super open about his practices, though.
Healing Justice – I can’t stand this person’s voice but there are some good ideas if you can get past that. More intuitive healing than actual magic.
Three Pagans and a Cat – They have a fantastic series of podcasts to explain basic concepts to people. VERY beginner friendly.
Glitch Bottle – Grimoires. I have only had one or two interviews on here that I didn’t want to finish. Not beginner friendly. Be prepared to google. I also reccomend reading Grimoires by Owen Davies before you start this one.
Down at the Crossroads – Traditional Witchcraft. These folks are good so long as you ignore anything they tell you about herbalism. Great interviews, fun music.
Around Grandfather Fire – Shamanism? I would classify these folks as spirit workers since I’m not a fan of using the term shaman outside the specific region it originates in. But hair-splitting aside, they do actually know a lot, and they interview some really fantastic folks.
Thelema Now – Thelema. They are mostly cool, but they interviews the lady from Scarlet Imprint recently so I’m mad at them rn.

Why Jailbreaking?

This is a hard topic to explain. Normally, I don’t write about why I do things. I focus on the what. I think way too often people hem and haw about trying to find others who think the same as they do. We’re not all supposed to think the same. It makes a lot more sense to find people who are doing the same things I am doing. I try to lead workshops where people do the thing I’m trying to describe instead of talking about it. It works, too. People can find the value for themselves in the action. 

Since I started down this path, I’ve seen a few people who have reservations about my deities coming into pagan spaces. On the one hand, I get it. Christians have hurt a lot of us. There’s an evangelical proto-fascist “conservative” movement in the US that’s been wreaking havoc since the late 60’s. The list of potential traumas is long and in itself traumatizing. Out of respect for that, instead of just pushing my way in, I want to have a conversation. I want to explain why I do what I do and why what I do is not Christian. I believe that the process of repaganizing these practices is one of multiple avenues from healing the spiritual sickness of whiteness, and it is my search for that medicine for myself that brought me here.

In order to understand the medicine, you have to understand the disease. White is a racial category created through laws, social mores, and bad science that seeks to unite wide swaths of people into one identity. This identity can then be used to incentivize and excuse violence on behalf of the state. One very large example of this is the settler colony of the United States. People labeled white were given special protection under the law for most of the country’s history, and even today the justice system favors white people. People performing whiteness were and are empowered by the government to commit genocidal acts against indigenous Americans in exchange for land or money. They were and are given extra opportunities for employment, which means access to better food, housing, and healthcare.

Now, for those who haven’t had the same teachers as me, I want to bring some nuance to this definition of whiteness. First, who is and is not white is far more complicated than your skin color. People with albinism of black ancestry are pale, but are categorized as black due to other physical and non-physical markers. My mother is white until she opens her mouth and people hear her accent. Someone with all the physical features of whiteness and a British accent, however, does not lose their whiteness once the accent is revealed. Whiteness is a category that people can float in and out of and whose lines can be blurred. Also, just because someone is firmly white by all institutional measures does not mean they are always performing whiteness. It does mean that being placed in that category brings some advantages (though they don’t always help very much), and that all of us who are placed there have a responsibility to dismantle the entire structure.  

Whiteness comes at a cost. First, there is a profound loss of well-being and safety that comes when all that brings you life is rooted in large swaths of violence, regardless of your race. The food I eat is grown on stolen land, in ways that slowly promise a future mass extinction event for humanity. All the clothes I can afford to buy are made in part or in full by sweatshop workers. All the material wealth I have, and much of the emotional wellness I have, was not earned by me. It was arbitrarily handed to me by a series of institutions that could just as easily take them away. I have cried over this more times than I care to admit.

The second cost I want to point out is that of ethnic identity. As a white-passing immigrant, let me tell you that whiteness is actively recruiting me, and I hate it. Language, food, dress, history, spiritual practices: whiteness tries to strip potential recruits of these markers. Some things you lose because of inconvenience. Some you lose because of internalized shame. Some you give up for economic benefit. The process looks different in every decade, and is ongoing today.

So when it comes to the task of looking for a polytheistic, animist, ritual-based, and/or earth-worshiping practice, white Americans are multiple layers of fucked. People raised protestant, atheist, or agnostic are an additional layer of lost because most Protestantism stripped itself of anything we might even remotely call culture and never bothered to grow it back, like a human missing a liver who somehow managed to keep living by drinking only water and pre-filtered piss.

Then what do baby pagans do? One of two directions: they go out or back. I’m going to start this section by admitting that I went both directions, so if I’m calling anyone out here, it’s myself. Also, both of these approaches to finding a practice have good solutions and paths inside them. What I want to highlight are the issues that kind of stuck in my craw like a fishbone I never managed to swallow or a cough that lingered months after the initial infection.

Going out means engaging with a living tradition from another culture such as Hinduism or Shinto. On the one hand, serious long term conversion can be a good and wholesome path. That’s between you and your spiritual adviser from within the tradition. The issue comes when you try to take a deity or kami out of their contexts, as is the case with many eclectic wiccans. Going out runs into the issue of what is and is not cultural appropriation. It doesn’t really solve the spiritual sickness whiteness creates.

What happens when you go back? Going back to pre-Christian practices of Europe gives us reconstructionist and revivalist paganisms. There’s a lot to like here, and I know a lot of people for whom this works really well. The issue that comes up  is that whenever you make a narrative that goes back to a “better time” before the culture was “ruined”, you attract nationalists. White nationalists are a known issue in Heathenry. Religio Romana has an infestation of fascists. There are even some white nationalists in Celtic Polytheism. I have a deep respect and admiration for the people who are fighting to keep their beloved practices out of the hands of these nationalists, but I can’t help wondering if this is a case of treating the symptoms rather than the illness itself.

I want to be thorough, and that means I have to address the three Modern Witchcraft practices: Wicca, Tradcraft, and Feri. I don’t really understand enough about Tradcraft (in the Cochran or Chumbley sense) to really place it within this discussion, so I’m not going to. Wicca and Feri I feel confident describing as going out. Neither, to me, stay in the present ancestral/cultural context and address the wound itself.

This is where re-paganizing comes in. Instead of going out or back to look for ethnicity and polytheistic spirituality, I started by being in the present moment and the current place. Where am I? What am I? How did my surroundings get to be this way? Why don’t I have something to draw from here? 

What is going on, really, is that institutional religion is always in cahoots with other political institutions to maintain power for the tippy top of society. Yeah, they fight over theological issues like what god even is, but priests are all after the same thing: keeping their jobs. Keeping your job, no matter what industry you work in, means keeping the guy with the money happy. It just so happens that Christians are taught they have to respect authority or face hell. That much is not new to pagans. It’s much of the reason we avoid Christianity and all things linked to it. However, it is obvious that Christianity is the institution that creates spiritual whiteness, and we carried the disease of whiteness out of its home from Christianity into our Paganism.

What role did Christianity play in creating whiteness? Simple. Institutional Christianity removes aspects of ethnicity from spiritual identity. Since the Council of Nicea held by Constantine I, being a Christian in Europe has slowly become a matter of what you believe rather than who you are connected to. The way in which Christian institutions split off and argue over things like how old you should be when you get baptized only reinforces that dogma and not community is what you should be bonding over. Can you imagine a Catholic church where it was acceptable to worship Lucifer as the bringer of wisdom? No, because believing something so radically different would go against what the church is. Nevermind how many generations of your family have been members. It doesn’t matter how many friends and loved ones are there. No one will care how often you brought food to sick members or how often you laughed together. If you do not hold the same beliefs, you cannot be in the same spiritual group as the others.

That identification works in another way as well. If someone comes to the same church and has the same creed, they are of the community instantly. On the one hand, that’s a beautiful bond of siblinghood and hospitality. On the other hand, this has been abused by kings, presidents, congresspersons, and businesspeople to convince people to do terrible things. Colonization in many parts of the globe began as missionary work. A lot of cultural genocide was carried out in the name of saving souls, which is to say violently programming children to believe the “right” ideas.

In summary, whiteness brings spirItual sickness. Christianity is the religion that helped build whiteness. Part of the sickness of whiteness is that whiteness removes our ethnicity, encourages us to perform state-endorsed violence, and replaces real connection to other people with crap like consumerism and dogma. So when polytheists reject Christianity, we don’t always escape the illness of that whiteness. The two most prominent ways we bring whiteness into our polytheism are commodification of other cultures (cultural appropriation) and the building of genocidal false identities (white nationalism). Even though there are polytheisms that resist and reject whiteness (Anti-Racist Heathens, for example) I’m not sure the practice inherently addresses the illness of whiteness that is structural to our ways of being. To be fair, you get called where you get called, and if Brigid or Odin calls you, what are you gonna do? Say no and lose a deeply satisfying spiritual path? No, you’re going to answer the call. I’m only saying I wasn’t called, so I kept looking.

How to address the sickness, then? To me, the source of the sickness are the regimes that benefited from the creation of whiteness and the stripping away of other identities. What benefits them makes us sick. What they try to suppress can be a place for healing. So what has historically been suppressed by the regimes? Diversity of religion and practice is by far the answer. Politicians and rich people can’t rule effectively over populations who don’t share an identity or have similar values. So differing from each other in our spiritual beliefs and practices, pluralism, is something polytheists already handle incredibly well. Everytime I hear a call for pagan unity from a frustrated organizer, I have to admit it makes me smile. “Ah yes,” I sigh contentedly, “We have become ungovernable. Good.”

I mention this not just because it is the largest answer, but to underline that I am not writing this essay to convince anyone to do what I am doing. I recognize that as not only a fool’s errand, but an evil one. What I hope to gain is that my relationship with my gods will be able to be talked about as a pagan one in pagan spaces. I want this path to be one more option amongst many, not the one and only way.

The other things the regimes of power have wanted to suppress over the years are heresy and identification with something not reliant on political boundaries. Jewish people have been persecuted under both of these reasons despite not actually being heretics. I want to pause here and make this part clear. Judaism is not proto-Christianity. Jewish people are not one messianic dogma away from coming into Christianity. Labeling them as heretics is part of how institutional churches justified the opression and murder of these people over the centuries. What’s really going on here that the churches label heresy is that groups with overlapping symbol sets were interpreting those symbol sets in a way the institutional church couldn’t influence.

But Cabra! What about the Protestants? First, Protestants are heretics depending on who you ask. Second, the reason why we don’t think of them as heretical Christians is because they gained the backing of a lot of fancy aristocrats and won a bunch of wars. So the same way that military institutions want to have the monopoly of violence, institutional churches in Christianity want a monopoly on interpretation. It is that desire for monopoly along with the desire for a unified people that fueled the suppression of different relationships to these divinities the Christian church deals with.

So then. Difference in interpretation without the validity of state power is a potential source of healing from the long centuries of violence that have shaped the Christian hegemony we live in today. A polytheistic, animist interpretation of Christian images and practices has many benefits in this context. 

What does a polytheistic interpretation look like? For starters, there is a broader idea of what source material is and how to draw meaning from it. Decrees from Church heads, especially the papacy, can be completely ignored or used as a benchmark of what not to do. The bible is not one canonical text, simply a text amongst many with no more or less weight than the grimoires, lost books, and apocrypha. What does carry a lot of weight are those localized folk practices that have survived the years not as exact copies of previous practices, but as evolving conversations between the community and spiritual matters. When looking at texts, a feminist reading is important: context, author, bias, political motivations. These things must be taken into account.

Looking at things with this weight quickly showed me just how permeable and ridiculous national and racial identities are. It also gave me an understanding of ethnicity that I can finally put into words, even if those words are a sort of imperfect simplification. Practice and relationships are the two things that matter most in this form of identity building. For example, part of my queerness is that I extole the virtues of glitter. The act of going overboard on glitter is part of that identity, but the relationships I built with other queers in queer spaces is also important. I didn’t read about wearing glitter in a book and then just adopted it. I came to it through my relationships with people, place, and history.

Anyway, I take this lens and look at folk Catholic and folk Byzantine practices. I know enough about my family history to know my line centers on Iberian peninsula, French, and Dutch lands. I also have relationships with some divinities outside my blood relations because I have non-blood relationships. (Hail Brigid, Lady of Imbolc, Mistress of Blacksmiths and Poets) Now, my spiritual identity isn’t cut off from the last 1500 years of history. The Matron Goddess of my maternal bloodline has inheritance from the Gallo-roman pantheon, but her current cultus started less than 200 years ago. I can see my practices as good things that happened despite regimes of corrupt priests, not because of them.

As another summary, I want to explain the potential medicine here in another way. Imagine your hometown has a natural spring in it. Many generations ago, the town built a fountain on top of the spring so the whole town could make good use of the water. Washing, cooking, drinking: the precious clean water was shared. Different leaders of the town would try to control and restrict access to the fountain, but ultimately the water could be used for multiple purposes because of how the fountain was built.

Then one day, the leader decides to destroy the fountain and build a new one. The issue is that the new fountain doesn’t separate the water the way the old one did. So it can only be used for drinking. Sometimes grandmothers will sneak off with pans of water for cooking or laundry, but they would never admit that or the local leader wouldn’t allow them near the fountain again.

So you have a few options. First, you can move to another town where the water politics aren’t such bullshit (Going out). Second, you can get your water from the local river that feeds into the spring. It’s the same water, you just have to walk farther for it (Going back). Third, you can walk up to the fountain and just take the damn water. You have to deal with the local leaders being upset if they catch you, and you still want to put water that isn’t for drinking in pots to carry home like the grandmothers. However, until we find a way to oust the local leader and replace the single use fountain with a multi use one, you can wake up every morning knowing you use water from the fountain you have every right to use.

I’m not trying to get everyone to steal from the metaphorical fountain. All that will happen then is we will crown another leader and they will continue to make bullshit rules. Diversifying our water sources is important. What I’m saying is that when the river water folks have a water party, I’d like to be invited, and I’d like to bring my pan of reclaimed water to celebrate. Just because I carry the water the local leader has claimed is his doesn’t mean the water is actually his, nor does it mean the water can never be used for cooking. To bring it back to real life, just because Our Lady of Lourdes is an official Mary of the Catholic church doesn’t mean she isn’t also a goddess of healing springs, and I think there is a benefit in bringing her icon to any communal water altar in pagan spaces alongside deities such as Poseidon or Danu.

Which brings me to my last point. If I claim my practice isn’t Christian, what do I mean by that? I’ve hinted at a lot of this throughout the essay, but it should be made explicit. The reasons why I am not Christian begin with rejecting the idea of a Christ. “Christ” is a title given to Jesus of Nazareth, a radical Jewish preacher who may or may not have been real. To be the Christ is to be the Messiah or Savior who gives each human the opportunity to cleanse themselves of original sin through belief in his sacrifice, his death on the cross. 

To start with, I don’t believe in Original Sin. This idea that something fundamental in human nature makes us “sinful” and therefore separate from divinity is antithetical to my beliefs. Creator is not a source of perfect good, she is just the source. The reason why bad things happen is not because we are separated from her, but due to 2 reasons. 1) Things just die sometimes, and it sucks but that’s part of the journey. 2) Life is a continual experimental process and imbalance is just as important to life figuring itself out as balance is. We are never separate from Creator, we just engage in the illusion of being separate so we can come to know ourselves more fully. If Mary has an Immaculate Heart because she was born free from sin and fully in union with divinity, then we all have Immaculate Hearts.

So Jesus has nothing to save us from. The folkloric Jesus of Nazareth was not Christ, he was a zealot for HaShem who hated the Roman Empire and was killed for rousing people’s fervor. The Jesus we know now is one prophet, two sun gods, and two thunder gods all trying to squeeze into the same overcoat. (and maybe a mushroom? For flavor.) 

Alongside not agreeing with Christian dogma, Christians are not the people I have relationships with. The pantheon I have a relationship with may be Mary, Lucifer, and the saints, but the way I conceive of and build those relationships is through the ritual structures of paganism. I wouldn’t even be able to do this if it had not been for the years I spent in paganism to learn how to think about the world from these perspectives. I had to travel far to see what was lost, to learn how to pull the poison from the root, to even know what community means.

So as much as I understand why many pagans may have complicated feelings about seeing a Mary or a saint on an altar, and as confusing as it might be to hear a pagan ramble on about Immaculate Hearts and what that means, I would really like to not have to leave my pagan community to go find space to do my work. I don’t want to have to choose between Lucifer and Prometheus, the Devil and Cernunnos, Freya and St Lucy. These entities hold the potential to be a continuation of the earth-based practices many of us gathered here for, one more thread in the tapestry. 

I can’t do that unless there’s a real conversation about boundaries. I know I’m asking for a lot of time and attention, but I wouldn’t have spent weeks writing this essay to ask for this if it wasn’t important. Forcing this on people very easily recreates the same violence I was trying to get away from. I do think, however, that someone out there feels the same way me and my partner do. I think there may also be people who, while they do not work with these entities, may benefit from the conversation.