Tag Archives: paganism

Non-Binary Mysteries: 1-Beginnings

This is the start of a project made by Milo of rotwork whom I’ve been following in various blog forms for a while and have learned so much from them. Normally I don’t talk about myself and my own identities outside of religion because this is a heathen blog, but from time to time I do find that my own gender/sex identities gets in conflict or is completely unknown in the religious context, so I kinda have to tweak things a bit. So I’ll be following these prompts, and if I’m able, I’ll respond to some of them too on this blog. These will be part of the “Reflections” category.

First, a little about myself in this context. As far as public image goes I look like a cis-female, since I have a straight boyfriend and my body is, uh, well-equipped for child-bearing. Having a conservative Catholic family doesn’t allow for any deviation from one’s body either, so I just say I’m female on legal documents to make things easier on myself. But if there wasn’t all this social pressure, if I had a flatter, more androgynous body, or if I had the ability to shapeshift, you can bet your ass I wouldn’t be staying in this form. I’d be all sorts of shapes as it suits my mood or the situation I’m in, and I have no particular attachment to the sex that I was assigned (I’m still me in this body, but if I woke up tomorrow and found myself in a male one I’d still be me, there wouldn’t be a body dysphoria issue either way).

My sexual orientation is similar. I’ve been attracted to all sorts of people and gender hardly becomes a part of it. Rather, it’s how I feel around them, or their personality traits, after I’ve gotten to know them. The physical traits that I find “hot” tend to be found in all sorts of people too rather than being a single gender stereotype (i.e. tall person with long hair [when it’s clean and well-taken care of at least], strong arms and hands). Often the people I have crushes on look androgynous and I have no idea what their gender is.

 

So TL;DR, I’m an agendered pansexual (demisexual-pansexual?) who favors monogamy. But like I said, most people assume I’m a straight woman and I don’t really have the energy at the moment to educate everyone on gender/sex diversity let alone try and convince them on what I actually am. The internet is pretty much my sole refuge for exploring those topics.

~~~

Now for the prompts!

How did you first realize you were nonbinary?

Reading anime fanfics in high school (yea. I was one of those kids). This was back when angelfire and geocities were hosting the best sites. I got introduced to a lot of “interesting” things in the stories and they became my sexual awakening so to speak. Later in early college years I started to realize that maybe what I liked about certain characters and ideas were because they were like me, so I started to explore the various lgbt+ facets online. However, I didn’t really grasp the concepts and figured out how they applied to me until the last couple of years, when I was living on my own for the first time and had room to breathe and explore.

There’s still a lot for me to learn though, as this is the first time in my life that I’ve interacted with others over this topic. Previously I was just reading about this on my own.

How did you come to be a practicing pagan, polytheist, or witch?

This was answered in a previous post.

Who was the first deity you ever approached, and why?

Inari. I have loved and strongly identified with foxes for as long as I can remember, and the most accessible tales about foxes for me (again, due to anime and due to my library’s resources at the time) were the stores of kitsune and their counterparts throughout East Asia. Naturally Inari pops up quite a bit in reference to kitsune and when I first started being a pagan (in a wiccanized sense) I thought Inari would be a perfect patron deity. I had done a lot of research on kitsune and Inari, I had some basic Shinto shrine materials from ebay and I was ready. But my petitioning received no response.

Now that I’m no longer 15 I’m grateful that I didn’t get a response, cause otherwise that could have lead to some seriously weeaboo-ish and disrespectful behavior on my part. But looking back on it, it seems like the attraction to Inari was partly due to their fluid nature (of gender, but also of their fluid relationship to human society and nature) on top of the equally-fluid fox spirits, as marginalized and boundary-crossing beings tend to be the ones I can most relate to. That period was an important step in learning about myself.

When was the first time you realized that the system of belief or non-belief you were raised with wasn’t working for you?

Middle school, around 13-14 years. There were a lot of things that I had issue with, but the outdated gender concepts of the Catholic Church just pissed me off so much and became the last straw. I left in a militant huff.

How, if at all, do the above experiences relate to your understanding of gender at the time?

My understanding of gender and gender equality was limited to the binary system at the time. You were either man or woman, and women deserved the same rights as men. Paganism and mythology was similar, where there was an emphasis on humanoid deities that were either man or woman, and were either for men or for women. With the exception of Baphomet the idea of being agendered, trans, or intersex just wasn’t visible, and homosexuality was barely visible.

Over the years I’ve come to find myself more comfortable with animalistic or “force of nature” deity depictions instead of humanoid ones, and their traditional gender, if there is one, is a minor attribute. A few of my gods are indeed humanoid and gendered (i.e. Nagy Boldogasszony is depicted as a humanoid female due to traditionally presiding over women birthing babies), but even then I don’t have a NEED for them to be only that way.

~~~

To end off, given that this is my “coming out” post on this blog so to speak, I am open to questions about this identity of mine and how it works within my form of heathenry. I’m sure I’ll be going over those details in future prompts too.

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Being Heathen

It’s a term that can be seen throughout my posts, both in reference to myself and to the contemporary religious category. If you try to google it, you end up with a variety of definitions, ranging from the archaic to the racist, and many with conflicting viewpoints.

So what do I mean when I say I’m Heathen?

  • Worldview, traditions, and ideas are rooted in historical, archeological, folkloric, and linguistic evidence for pre-Christian cultures. Experimentation and UPG (Unverified Personal Gnosis) are individual, private, and secondary in “truthfulness”. Even then, the UPG should still be rooted in something factual rather than be completely made up or ripped from an unrelated topic or group.
  • Ancestor veneration is central to my personal practice, particularly of the female ones (known as the itis).
  • The home or hearth is the center of my universe so to speak, both in a literal and symbolic sense (the physical home and the friends/family symbolically allowed within it). Relative to the home are concentric circles extending outward from it; the further away one is from my “home” the less of a personal connection they have to me.
  • Deity veneration, with few exceptions, is a communal practice*, and patron deities are extremely rare. If one has a personal relationship with a deity, they are considered to be pledged to the deity, not patronized by them.
  • Local spirits can also venerated as gods and/or respected as neighbors and stewards (local meaning both those considered local to my ancestors as well as physically local to where I live).
  • Wihts (“beings”) have various levels of interactions and importance, with the general trend being the high gods at the top-level of importance (they are relevant to many people/rule over a large region/rule over a major function) and everything else is below (more localized to my area/my personal life). The high gods also have the least amount of interaction with me, while the lower tiers have more (i.e. the ancestors).
  • Celebrations are rooted in the seasons, holy days, and local community activities, rather than astronomical cycles.
  • World-accepting rather than world-rejecting. To put it bluntly, “what you see is what you get”, there is no guarantee of a pretty afterlife or chance of reincarnation to make up for this life, therefore I live as if they don’t exist at all.
  • Magic is the realm of certain few individuals and is meant to be practical in nature, rooted in the ancient drive to survive. It can be used to help or harm (often it can be both).
  • Actions make the person, and every action has consequences.
  • Luck is a serious matter, as it can be handed down unintentionally through generations and be modified by one’s own actions for better or for worse.

Keep in mind that this is a general framework based on Reconstructionist heathen ideas, and the generalities are only similarities I appear to share with other heathens. Where I deviate is my source material, as my personal heathen practice is rooted in the cultural traditions and beliefs from (primarily) Eastern Austria, Hungary, and (secondarily) Southern Poland (and their respective sources). Hence the reference to the Danube in the blog title/address and my uncommon mythological references (the Magyar gods instead of Scandinavian ones for example). The names for my “religion” can also be called ősi hit or firner situ (both translate into “old beliefs”/”old customs”).

*This is an ideal based on how it was done in the past; many heathens like myself are forced to go it alone and therefore unable to practice communal worship, even though we would like to.

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Contemporary Pagan Communities.

I’m starting to see quite a bit of pagan community politics and complaints be referenced today, and I have to say there seems to be more of it this time of year than there is around Yuletide. As some of you might know, I have discussed the concept of community and what it means for me in the pagan context. I have also mentioned that community is a difficult topic to deal with because pretty much all my life I kept to myself and existed on the outskirts of whatever groups I tried to be a part of. It’s just how it was, and still is.

So naturally I started mulling over the topic again after reading a bunch of other posts (and the usual complaints that go along with it) and I realized something.

I do have a community, or at least something like it. It’s my friends, the ones who have been with me for years, the ones where I don’t have to fit within any particular label or discuss only certain topics with to be with them. It’s a virtual community, rather than a physical one with a traditional village and all that, but it’s there all the same. We may have different beliefs and practices, and we don’t always agree with each other. But I do know that if I were to enter in a circle with them in ritual and in life I would feel right at home.

I think that is what’s missing from today’s pagan community debates. There’s a lot of focus on maintaining a community by having every member conform to a labeled concept (i.e. Kemetic, Heathen, Hellenic, Wiccan) but you can find the same thing with sports fans and hobby groups. A real community, in my opinion, goes beyond the shared beliefs into something deeper. Sometimes a group can be a community after starting out as a shared-faith/interest group, but that’s probably because the relationships were maintained and deepened to the point where lives are shared, not just the particular beliefs and interests. It’s probably not something that intentionally occurred either, but rather developed organically with a mixture of effort, time, and simple good luck.

That’s not something that is easily obtained, especially over the internet, and especially when you’re involving a large, diverse group of people such as pagans. The hand-wringing over pagan community politics is likely not going to cease, but I’ll say this anyway: we don’t need to organize ourselves into a community in order to fight the social and political battles we face. That’s what an organization is for. Striving for community across a spectrum of people, most of whom don’t even know each other or that they even exist, is not a worthwhile effort.

Let the communities form themselves. Humans have done that just fine throughout our existence, and pagans are no exception.

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Day 2: Cosmology

Day 2 of the 30 Days of Paganism meme. I’m currently waiting for the Dead Supper to finish cooking, as it’s the eve of All Soul’s and the start to both Winter holidays and ancestor veneration. It’s not much, just a pot pie and some fruit, but it’s something decent that we can share.

Hmm, cosmology, where to begin. Well, for starters, there is the folkloric view that I’m sure many of you are familiar with. Three levels, Upper, Middle, and Lower, forming a tier that can be illustrated as a tree or a mountain. We and much of visible earth exist in the Middle realm. The Upper realm is accessed via climbing up the World tree or World mountain, and the Lower realm is accessed via going down a cave, well, or similar holes in the ground.

It’s all well and good for art and stories, but I have a problem with leaving it at that. At the very least, there’s got to be numerous intertwining “trees” and “mountains” connecting many aspects of the three realms. Falling into a hole under an ancient tree isn’t going to lead one to THE underworld, it’ll be A world. Which brings me to one of my main assumptions: the otherworlds aren’t so “other” in that they might as well be totally different planets. I believe that there are layers of reality, the different worlds so to speak, that are all here (just go watch a Miyazaki movie, something like Totoro, you’ll get what I mean).

Of course, these are not the beliefs of someone who has done anything to travel to different realms, physically or otherwise. It’s simply the views that have made the most sense to me so far.

The second main assumption comes from my ecology background: the web. Ok, ok, and it also comes from my arachnology background,  but particularly ecology. You remember those food chains or food webs? It really is like that, and EVERYTHING, from the richest human to the seemingly insignificant bacterium, are connected to numerous other beings. When you trace out all the connections, it’s like a huge, dense web and nothing is left out of it. I view the concept of worlds and realms similarly. I can’t imagine that any world exists on its own.

The third, and final, assumption is also the most simple and applicable for my case. The home vs. the wild. My home is my “land”, the forest is their land, and things happen when that border is crossed. It’s the stuff of numerous horror stories and what-not-to-do folktales, but personally I don’t mind it much (this goes back to my tendency to go to liminal spaces I mentioned in my community post). Plus, I have to enter the forests and fields anyway for work, even if there’s danger.

So there you have it, my 3 types of worlds that describe my cosmology.

Edit: I went through this post so quickly that I forgot to mention my favorite “view” of the worlds. Evidence is scanty, but in Hungarian lore there are plenty of stories of a world tree that a taltos must climb to accomplish whatever he is doing (often a young boy, which makes me wonder if these tree-climbing theme was an initiation ritual or a time to realize his powers he was born with). There is one form of that world tree that is said to grow out of a horse or deer skull. Given that antlers do look like trees, and how widespread the deer cult was across Eurasia, it’s not a stretch to imagine a body or a skull having the worlds grow out of it. Look at Norse mythology, they took it much further and cut up a giant, using various body parts to make the worlds and people.

While not always practical or applicable, for reasons I explained earlier, I do imagine the worlds most frequently as the World trees growing out of a deer skull, antler-like, in a primordial ocean. The same primordial ocean reference in the creation story from Hungarian legends. This helps me both in art and in making a loose organization of the wihts, like the gods (only done for my own sake).

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