Question: where to draw the line

myriadhallauglokadis:

I have had some feedback after this post about the meanings of the word and nordic name element dís. The context in which it had come up was that some people who use dís in their names are claiming to be incarnate goddesses. Several people expressed that they were rather surprised that this is something that is actually happening, and I think that is healthy.

One person in particular asked this:

I’m not sure about the whole goddess mantle. I just find it, I dunno…. A bit much? I don’t even know what to think right now. What is your thoughts on this kind of thing? I mean as a sliding scale of claiming labels I suppose. Where does one draw the line?

Where indeed.

Frankly, my own stance regarding the issue is one of extreme skepticism. But that, in and of itself, is only an opinion, and the next person might be convinced that it’s a true thing. After all, they’re just publishing their UPG, right?

My answer to this is: it shouldn’t matter to anyone whether it’s UPG or not. The fact that “it’s my UPG” should not persuade anyone to just accept what is being said. One of the most fundamental criticisms of UPG as a general concept is that if it’s used as a bargaining tool or as a rhetorical device in a debate, it completely kills the discussion. You can’t argue with UPG.

[I know some people will already be bristling at this point, because how dare I, a recon/revivalist who knows nothing about UPG… well, you better stop right there. Just because my UPG isn’t all over the place, doesn’t mean that I don’t have/include UPG in my practice. I do, it’s an important part of it, and it’s absolutely an enrichment.]

Back to the point, whenever someone pulls the UPG card in order to silence dissent — for instance by calling it names like "UPG shaming" — the best course of action seems to be to ignore it and treat what they’re saying as simply their own ideas about a concept and nothing more. Again, when used this way, you cannot argue with UPG. That’s not a position you want to be in, so ignore the fact that “it’s UPG”. If you don’t, you’re taking yourself out of the critical thinking game.

What remains are just claims. In this case, claims to divinity.

I’m generally not a great fan of the stance that “all views are valid” — some views are more defendable than others; usually, this is done by logic or by evidence. Logic doesn’t really apply (or at least that’s my intuitive assessment); however, evidence does. It doesn’t have to be objective evidence, but it has to be evidence that you, the beholder, accept.

If confronted with any such claims, look for such evidence. If I suddenly decided to turn around and claim that I am, in some way, Loki incarnate — would you not hold me to the highest standard that Loki-flavoured divinity can possibly define? Even if I “only” claimed that I had “a message to you from your God”, would you not inquire into me as a person?

Who is this person unsolicitedly acting as a go-between between you and your Deity? Or, as the case may be, your Deity Themselves?

The more potential for abuse any such claim holds, the higher your standards should be, and the more rigourous your scepticism, your will to question, to challenge, and test. And as far as this potential for abuse goes, I really do not see much beyond the claim to divinity. So there’s your answer: the “higher” the claim, the more you are entitled to practice your critical thinking — and no amount of doubt shaming can touch that. That’s right: you are entitled to question.

Ask yourself, what does the person in question stand to gain? Ask yourself, are there any signs of pre-existing abusive behaviour on the part of the person in question? Are there patterns of behaviour that pertain to the situation in particular? In this case: have other labels been claimed in a similar fashion and later been used to legitimise abusive behaviours? Does this person behave in any way you would expect from a Deity? Does this person generally tend to surround themselves with yes-people (a sign that they control what ideas and views may be voiced around them)? How open and permeable is their social environment? Are there any signs that they control who you can be friends with?

You see that the last couple of questions are geared towards identifying cults and cult leaders. I think that is appropriate, because this is, at worst, what you’re looking at!

[Btw, this is something that also must be taken into account when evaluating “PCPG” (peer corroborated personal gnosis), “VPG” (verified personal gnosis), “GG” (group gnosis) — any other handy abbreviation referring to personal gnosis that is shared within a group!]

I do not believe that there is a specific line to be drawn that holds for everybody. You might remember that some people may not take you seriously for simply using UPG in your practice at all. Some are fine with the concept of UPG, but do not accept mysticism as a legitimate thing. To some, mysticism is okay, but not — OMGs I’m about to use the g-word — godspousery. And so on, and so forth.

There is another dimension to the question that I have avoided, and that’s the question whether something — specifically the act of claiming a label — might be arrogance/hubris/presumption (or even blasphemy). I cannot answer that question for you; all I can say is that we seem to be touching on some issues that are really, really close to home. Then, if you have determined whether the issue at hand is a yes or a no on the hubris count — there still remains the question whether this should be taken into account when you decide whether or not you accept a claim. It probably will influence what you think, but it also might cloud your judgment.

In the end, it’s a personal decision that everybody must make, and I, for my part, have made mine.

I’ll be setting up a private group on FB for Otherfaith discussions so people can talk. This way we can share information about the Four Gods, general thoughts on the faith, what you do or don’t like, how your practice is going, etc. If you want to be part of it, please message me on Facebook (my name there is Aine Llewellyn). This group will be private to protect people who don’t want to be outed as Pagan/polytheist/religious, not for any other reason!

laddersoftherain:

queermagicalgirls:

condesces:

i find my cosmic insignificance reassuring

the stars don’t fucking care who i am or what i do

i owe the universe nothing

i exist on my own terms

#the galaxy dont care that u messed up the thing that one time

#when existentialism becomes comforting rather than horrifying

velocimonster:

otherfaithblog:

Other People - shout outs to four-sided-triangle and velocimonster if you’re around - what role do you think shrines/altars/an offering space should have in the practice of an Other Person? Is it a necessity for every Person to establish a shrine to worship at? Is it not? Reasons/explanations/personal experiences are great & encouraged.

(I’ll be starting up a Sunday question session, which will begin tomorrow, if anyone has big questions to ask.)

Hey there. I’m going to give this a shot but don’t expect too much of me as I’m still very ill and my brain is just not there, if that makes sense. I don’t think a sacred space should be a requirement, but it definitely should be recommended. For example, in my present living situation, it is nearly impossible to have a sacred space as part of my living space because everything is shared, I have no privacy, and nothing is mine (all belongs to the state). In my previous previous living situation (living with a mother who does not see any good in religion), I was able to have a small bit of sacred space, and that is where I put my teacup shrine. I had wanted to have a bit of space that was just theirs and solely for them, because I feel like maintaining that shrine and rearranging it as necessary was an offering in and of itself to the gods. While I don’t think a shrine has to be required, I do think that a shrine should be a goal for every Other Person, especially if they’re going to be doing any devotional work. I hope this makes sense!    

Thank you!

If anyone else (Other Person or not) has any ideas about this, I’d love to read them.

What if we feel called to work with one of the gods that there is less information about (like the Ophelene or Laethelia)? What sort of action should we take?
Anonymous

I’ve mentioned in passing that the rules surrounding the Four Gods & Otherfaith are looser than they were before. Essentially, for those wondering, you can reach out to any of the Four (+2) Gods without jumping straight into reverence of all of the Four. This doesn’t mean it’s a free for all or you can shove one of the Four into your own current practice, but it does make them more open than before.

Even so, a good place to start for the Laethelia & Ophelene may be with their Praises, which can be found here. Saying them on the day associated with the god will probably reap the best results, but work with your schedule! Also, saying them before a shrine or image of the god is great, but it’s not necessary at this point. Just saying the prayer/praise is enough.

You can also check out the tags in the old Otherfaithblog (retiredfaithblog) for the Laethelia and Ophelene for imagery. What do the images make you think of? What symbolism do you think is connected to those gods? What emotions do they stir up? You can’t really get a ‘wrong’ answer, since we’re still working through who these gods are. (Sure, your impressions may turn out to mean different things than you originally thought, or maybe it’s more your brain weasels than spiritual insight, but we all have to deal with that and work through it, so don’t be focused on getting things right immediately.)

Some actions you can take:

  • Prayer. Beyond using their Praises, you can also pray to them about your day. See what they are receptive to listening to - it may clue you in about what their areas of dominion or focus are.
  • Offerings. Try offering anything you can think of to them. Food, little trinkets, flowers, whatever. Do you feel good about the offering, or did it feel off? Just go with your gut. Don’t overthink it.
  • Writing. You can journal your thoughts about them. You can just go freeform or use prompts like the 30 Days of Devotion or even general writing prompts to stir up your brain. You can also try writing little stories about them. Don’t take the story writing too seriously! Think of it as writing fanfic for the gods.
  • Art. Browse places like deviantart or here on Tumblr for art. Maybe you’ll find something that makes you think of one of the gods. Try to figure out why you connect the art to them.
  • Ask the gods themselves. Ask them what they want you to do. Keep your eye out for signs in your daily life or any urges you get. Again, don’t worry about getting it right immediately. Go with your impressions and see if they work. It’s a process.

Keeping track of what seems to work to please the Laethelia & Ophelene will help as well, but that’s up to you. Sharing what you’re experiencing or thinking can also help hone your thoughts and the Other People’s ideas about these two gods.

The biggest impressions I’ve gotten for the Laethelia and Ophelene have been:

  • Laethelia as mermaid, especially a deep water one. Colors seem to be very light and pastel.
  • Ophelene as warrior and defender. Colors of purple and steel or slate. Most often I picture her with a huge sword and shield.

Conflicting impressions? Alright! Bring those forward and we can talk about them. (You can post them in the gods tags, or you can submit asks here, or you can post in the Otherfaith tag, or you can send me an email at aine@daoineile.com.)

If this answer hasn’t completely answered your question, feel free to ask more.

Sunday Otherfaith Questions

Over on Tumblr, I’ll be answering any questions (basic to complex to anything) about the Otherfaith. You can submit questions, even without having a Tumblr account, here.

View On WordPress

Sundays @ Otherfaith | Askbox

I’m doing a Sunday ask-answer session. This will last as long as questions come in. Anon is enabled and all questions relating to the Otherfaith, the Four Gods, our spirits, our practices, history, etc. are welcome. 

If you’re just learning about the Otherfaith, check out our About and Reading & Resources pages.

four-sided-triangle:

otherfaithblog:

<snip>

I’m around! And I can definitely ramble on about this stuff.

I maintain a general shrine on my nightstand because my room is a small square (barely ten feet square; it’s tinyyyyy) and I don’t have space for shrines to different groups of gods. So I don’t have a specific Otherfaith shrine, but in my experience it hasn’t offended any of the gods. The shrine is very general and basic, mostly candles with some other pretty stuff that I own—a chunk of amethyst, a nice knife, a seahorse skeleton.

My shrine doesn’t have a really big role in my practice currently, but it is a nice centerpiece. It’s steady. I’ve had it for years and it gives me a concrete place to give worship at, a place where I can make offerings, pray, or just spend a moment in contemplation.

I’ve found that to be the best thing about my shrine in my practice as well. Even if tons of other stuff is falling out, my shrine is still there. When I was having a pretty serious crisis earlier this year, I eventually went back to my shrine and just…was able to be with the gods and regroup. 

I remember last year at Reunion I said all the prayers each day at my shrine and rang my little bell (a small room means tiny things…) and it just felt good to have this space that was specifically religious, where I can talk to the Four Gods. It’s more formal when I pray at the shrine, but sometimes more exposed, too.

I’ve noticed that I tend to approach my shrine in a more formal way as well, though my prayers might not exactly be ‘formal’. (I’ve gone up to the shrine to complain or be angry, so my prayers will at times reflect that…) My level of exposure seems to change based on my own internal perception of what the gods what - like, am I in a state where I assume I have to be Perfect, or am I approaching them as a person with person issues and general weirdness? If I approach them in the latter state, I usually get a lot more out of the experience and out of the shrine…

For me, it’s important to have this shrine because otherwise I think I would forget to do things like pray and talk to my gods and give small offerings. It also makes me feel like I’ve at least got something going on in my practice during times when I’m really busy and stressed, because I know I can stop for a minute at the shrine before I rush out the door to work or class.

I don’t think it should be a 100% absolute requirement to have a shrine, but it should definitely be encouraged. I like having a physical space devoted to my gods and my religion, but I’m also trying to build a deeper relationship with these gods. Someone who is only involved at a very basic level probably wouldn’t want to maintain a shrine.

This has also reminded me that I need to clean my shrine.

One reason I asked about shrines was that, as I’m toying around with how the basics of the Otherfaith look, how a beginner would pick them up, etc. I got to wondering if shrines were really that important at a basic level and to what extent. And then I got to wondering how important they would be just in a general practice, because there are a lot of factors that keep people from having sacred space in their own space, and so the thoughts went on and on. 

So, thank you for your response!

Other People - shout outs to four-sided-triangle and velocimonster if you’re around - what role do you think shrines/altars/an offering space should have in the practice of an Other Person? Is it a necessity for every Person to establish a shrine to worship at? Is it not? Reasons/explanations/personal experiences are great & encouraged.

(I’ll be starting up a Sunday question session, which will begin tomorrow, if anyone has big questions to ask.)

Three honest questions: 1) Are you the only official or true source for information about the otherfaith from the gods and spirits, or are there others? 2) If there are not others, could there be others? or is there only one and when you pass on it'll just be your word to go on. 3) If there are others, if two accounts about the faith contradict one another, does your word and what you perceive automatically win out, or is there a system in place?
Anonymous

1. This blog is the only official source of information on the Otherfaith. Information given by the gods and spirits to us (meaning humans) comes from whoever it goes to, however. Myself personally (Aine) am not a true source. There is no true source, and since no one has perfect signal clarity when it comes to the spirits, they cannot be considered a true source either. That’s why discernment is a thing.

I am the founder of the Otherfaith, and I am the one who writes most on it. I’ve said before - I don’t really think there was anything ‘special’ about me, or that the gods chose to contact me because of any fancy reasons. I believe I was open at the right time, in the right place, with the right type of personal history to do the work needed. It was quite possible that the Four Gods and I wouldn’t have stuck together, but we did. (Which comes down to an important part of the faith - choice.)

So, for those reasons, I would suppose I’m the one that knows the most information on the Four Gods and their spirits.

However, I know what you’re really trying to get at with these questions - and there are certainly other people who blog about the faith or just contemplate or worship or work with our gods. (One great thing that’s changed this year, a few months ago, was how open our gods are. That is a post for the larger Wordpress blog.) The question of whether someone is trustworthy is something individuals have to decide. What are their motivations for writing or claiming something about the gods?

2. There can always be others. All that is required is: adherence with Otherfaith ethics (in simple terms: don’t be an abuser or predator) and a willingness to share your experiences with the gods and spirits. Boom.

The Otherfaith is meant to be communal, though at this point it is not due to numbers, so it wouldn’t make sense for my word to be the only one that goes on.

3. There isn’t a system in place - but that’s largely because the biggest conflict in the faith so far has been whether or not abuse is okay, and I don’t actually care what others perceive the gods feeling about that. Abuse isn’t okay, it isn’t acceptable to the gods, end of story. I don’t care if people are upset about that.

As I’ve been talking with a few people about the Four Gods and about what to do with conflicts, there’s been some ideas tossed around. One thing that helps with figuring out what is accurate and what works is time. Does it stand up to time? Does further revelation back up the original?

Another thing to do is get a group to talk it over. What makes sense, what do people wonder about the revelation, what questions or concerns do they have, etc. That’s a way of handling conflict. Does new information make more or less sense with what we already know of the gods? How does it feel to the Other People?

Is the conflict something big (such as - the Laetha is a water god, not a fire god, which would change our relationship to her significantly), or is it something like what a gods favorite food is? If someone says, “I offered a god an offering you said they don’t like, and they liked it,” then…we have new info! Awesome. Let’s keep trying it and seeing if it works.

That’s another thing that helps us figure out what is ‘legit’ - what works? What consistently works? Does what someone else figured out work better? Welp, we got some new canon to add.

For example, I didn’t think silent or internal prayer would work with the Four Gods and their spirits. People questioned me about that, I said they could try it out and see how it felt, and I decided to try it out and see if it worked. It does! So that’s a change.

The only thing that automatically wins out is ethics. Does a new revelation claim that harming others or preying on people is acceptable? Then, sorry, it’s wrong. I don’t care what excuses someone tries to come up with for why it’s ‘true’. The Gods and the People are not going to support abusing people. (We support recovery, and compassion…not predators and enabling.)

There are things that I will be very resistant to accept, which are usually about the fundamental nature of the gods. Someone saying that the Dierne is a god of rape when canon holds that she is a god of consent is something I will look at very critically. But someone saying there are more than the six gods in our group - that is much different, and more likely to be accepted easier. Relevation from four years ago will be harder to shift than ones from a year ago, too. (Again - time shows what works. Time shows us what sticks.)

The best way to figure out conflicts regarding information and revelation is time + discussion, though, so that is how we have been navigating so far.

6.22.2014. Otherfaith Tumblog will be active by the end of the month. Aine will be gone the 8-14 of July for the Polytheist Leadership Conference. Expect minimal updates during this time. Askbox is open and we are looking for questions for our FAQs.
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