At my shrine a few days ago, I asked Apollon what to do because I was feeling angry, frustrated, and without direction. I had been listening to Thenmozhi Soundararajan’s The Trauma of Caste (I finished it; go read the review here, and do read/listen to the book if you can; I also made a few comments in my March update post) and was filled with sorrow thinking about the injustices and apartheid-level crimes being committed against other people (in this case, Dalits) for thousands of years, even the horrifying idea that it could take that long for a group of people to begin to be unshackled from the worst and most dehumanizing conditions imaginable. Lightlessly, my thoughts strayed to the Christianization of Europe and what we are starting to uncover after so many centuries of lies about everyone accepting Jesus due to being emotionally moved in a positive way. I started to wonder about the genocides that we know happened in antiquity — the one in Gaul came to mind because I listened to a Hardcore History series of episodes about it many years ago — and whether the blood from those had seeped into the groundwater. How slow the water moves. How subtle the taste of blood must be after it has poured itself through the pores of so many rocks. How the altar of the Gods was removed by Christians, and how open Gauls were to converting to Christianity after centuries of abuse.
It brought to mind what Sallust said in On the Gods and the World, Chapter 18 in Thomas Taylor’s translation. Sallust says, “Besides it is not improbable that impiety is a species of punishment; for those who have known, and at the same time despised the gods, we may reasonably suppose will, in another life, be deprived of the knowledge of their nature. And those who have honoured their proper sovereigns as gods, shall be cut off from the divinities, as the punishment of their impiety.” I was thinking about this in terms of the religious violence that cemented Christianity’s control in Europe, whether that groundwater was more complicated than I know due to my lack of whole awareness, and how diseased the entire situation became because our ancestors translated their conversion into the subjugation of others through missionary violence, imperialism, and the slave trade, not keeping the miasma of the blood crimes of conversion to themselves. But that is how pollution works when you don’t shower. (And we know that for a time, many didn’t shower due to Christian asceticism influences unless they were fortunate enough to be in areas where bath houses were brought back via cultural contact.) I noticed in a polytheism class I was in a few years ago that there were some other uncomfortable inequalities in some texts — the belittling of women and the specters of various kinds of social inequality — and I realized that the reason I was uncomfortable is that I, like many other Western polytheists, had put any culture worshipping many Gods on a pedestal as if it were problem-free, as if anything in this world is capable of hitting the mark 100% of the time. And, last month, I was having a conversation with a few people about how America’s predisposition towards horrifically awful cults could be something seeded by the atrocities committed here. The question then became, for me, how to be correctly pious towards the Gods — what we can say in the most general way possible. The most general thing we can say is that there are Gods and that we all participate in them. We are their downstream participants, and they are our upstream causes, and we are all bound together by love and pronoia. Nobody, and nothing, is alienated from them intrinsically. We can cover up that intrinsic connection through any number of things, but they will patiently wait for us to figure out our sh–t and come back into unity.
People often fail to act with awareness of the divine in themselves and others and their intrinsic link to the Gods, and that is one of the roots of impiety, apart from actively shunning the Gods. Impiety is something that can arise in anyone in any incarnation. It doesn’t matter who your parents are. They could be the most celebrated of religious officiants, the best diviners, the most esteemed singers of divine songs. Conversely, the most pious can be born to people in families that are passively areligious or that are actively malicious towards the concept of Gods. Where do we stand with respect to this dance of pious and impious lives? How do we move forward after all of this mess, and especially after being tainted with atrocity and cultural inhumanity, so we can properly know the Gods? How do we begin to notice the faint taste of blood in the water?
This is what divination is for: dialing a God and actually asking the question, laying it all out. And I laid it all out in more vivid detail than above.
The results were very Dionysian, and very — to use a term from Georg Feuerstein — crazy-wisdom. The answer addresses this question directly even though it doesn’t provide direct solutions. For example, how do we know the important synthemata (signatures) of a God from the weeds that we have mistaken for fragrant remedies? There are some elements of traditional practices that are critically important — activities tied to specific types of embodiment, specific places, specific times of day and seasons. There are symbols that we know lead to bliss and contact.
This is the spread that I was given when I asked that question, and this is the best way to move forward: The Outlaw, The Wildling, Ancestors.
I knew when I started shuffling the card that Ancestors would be there, and I took its presence in the draw as a sign that the question was being taken seriously and that I truly had achieved the state necessary for accurate signs — even with the word vomit I gave, even with the uncertain tumult of my thoughts.
The other two cards were unexpected, but perhaps understandable. The Outlaw is a missive to break structures and to prioritize contact and spiritual agency and connection to the Gods; The Wildling is a call to the most primal part of ourselves. It’s like the Cambrian Explosion, which is also called the biological Big Bang, and how our living ancestors on Earth bound themselves up in and oscillated among a vast proliferation of body schemas/plans and ways of being, vividly exploring. Things eventually settled down, but the dance and the unbinding and the joy of new possibilities. And we can be that, looking back to our deep ancestors. We can also center what we now know about the mess that we’re all in and how our ancestors are positioned in the historical unfolding of the crises, exploitations, and moments of impiety and cowardice that led to where we are today. To properly face that is the best way to honor them.
I’ve chosen to speak in generalities because I know that sharing divination like this, and even speaking on such topics at all, risks partisanizing. (Many issues in life, from tackling the climate crisis to public health and beyond, are deeply harmed when we partisanize; once something is partisanized, it becomes a doctrinal loyalty test to agree or disagree with it, which hampers our ability to rationally consider the issue and make good social, spiritual, and political decisions. I recommend thinking in terms of values instead and to always think critically using those as your touchstone. In this post, for example, that baseline value is the metaphysical fact of consistent contact with the Gods and our leader-God, especially as backed up by Proclus in his Elements of Theology, and it’s also related to the doctrines about reincarnation and the spiritual health duty to decouple from deeply unjust and/or appetite-controlled choices. Look at how that man who chose to be a tyrant in the Myth of Er chose a life in which he cannibalized his children.) We all have an instinct to justice, and we each have our own malefic and/or harmful coping mechanisms that we are grappling with and which cloud what we consider to be just. With all of that in mind, feel free to think about the divination results in your own context, and may the God guide you.
Have a good evening, and be well, everyone.
4 thoughts on “We Must Unmake to Make Again”
I can’t tell what deck you’re using for this divination, but it looks interesting!
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And, I have broken one of my cardinal rules with my students twice in that last comment, because I said “interesting” twice! 😦 Please excuse my lack of erudite eloquence for the moment…I am still struggling with sicknesses of various kinds.
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Your students are probably not reading my blog, but on the plus side, you do now have an example of your fallibility that you can use when softening your critiques of their prose. 😂
It’s the Threads of Fate oracle deck, a tool that I love because most of the questions I ask are related to the most constructive behavior or outlook in a situation. Looking at the website, it was way less expensive when I bought it than it is now … ugh, the paper crisis.