Jun. 8th, 2012

hth: (i'm a veronica)
[personal profile] hth
So I set this up a few weeks ago and then was paralyzed by the pressure to do something Introductory, which would end up seeming like some sort of mission statement. This is not a mission statement!

When Alisa and I kick around ideas about what the heck we're doing with this Being A Practicing Polytheist Household business, one thing we say a lot is "the ancestors." Because what we do is something like a folk tradition, in that it didn't start abruptly at some point or end abruptly at any point, and like any folk art or folklore, there isn't a correct way to do it and then variations on that way. There's just a body of thought and practice and story and technology and belief, some of it more universal, some highly specific. So when we have questions about things -- and we have ALL THE QUESTIONS about things, most of the time -- there's not only usually not a specific answer available, but we keep circling around to the awareness that Specific Answer is a category that barely even exists.

And yet if you're going to decide anything about anything, you have to appeal to something. Something has to break the deadlocks, and for us it tends to be this fairly amorphous category that I in particular refer back to with wild abandon: Well, the Ancestors thought.... Well, our Ancestors didn't have a problem with that.... Well, but, the Ancestors....

This is, objectively, a little bit stupid. The Ancestors aren't some kind of monolithic category. Even if you write off a millennium and a half (give or take) of European Christianity and just start the Ancestor ticker directly before that, Our Ancestors have been kicking around and recognizably human since, at a conservative estimate, 50,000 BCE. They had a few different opinions about things.

50,000 BCE. Everyone alive today has an unbroken lineage FIFTY THOUSAND YEARS long of pagan ancestors. Fifty. Thousand. That number is huge. That number is the *conservative* estimate; some archaeologists suggest we were human beings about 100,000 years ago (so, you know, about 50k or else possibly twice that -- thanks, science!) Answering questions with "Well, our Ancestors" is, okay, if not stupid, then possibly a little bit hilarious? How ridiculously arrogant and myopic is it to use "the Ancestors" as a shorthand for "the Roman Republic" or "Iron Age Ireland"?

(This part is the mission statement.)

Sometimes, as a mostly out pagan, I get people who ask (usually in pretty good faith, usually more or less just really curious) why. Why this quirky small subcultural religion that I have to practically build out of chewing gum and chicken wire, when the world is chockablock full of Legitimate World Religions? And sometimes -- usually -- I just kind of say that it's like getting married, and the right one for you is the right one for you, and everyone else is great and marvelous and all, but all the good qualities in the world don't make the wrong one for you suddenly right.

Which is true as far as it goes, I guess, but the real answer for me is: FIFTY THOUSAND YEARS. And they were pretty tough years, some of them! The Legitimate World Religions didn't make us human; some form of animism did that, as far as we can tell, and some form of animism kept us going for a literal two thousand generations, and this is my form of animism, because it *works.* Clearly it works. The other guys can get back to me when they been doing their thing another twenty or fifty times over and we'll talk.

I'm conservative like that.

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