The following is an excerpt from my Thinking Theologically post; there are more posts I’m working on, one of which should be coming out within the next few days!
So when we think about religion, we first think about what makes that religion particular. What makes a religion – and its theology – unique and distinct? What exactly makes that religion – and its theology – absolutely distinguishable from another? What are the cornerstones that, if removed from the base, would destroy the entire building? In short, a non-negotiable is a section of the foundation: an idea, a concept, a belief that is necessary to the well-being, identity, and structure of a religion. It is the thing that cannot be negotiated with under any circumstances, precisely because it is the most crucial, fundamental truth about what you believe and how you believe and act in it.
Gah! I am SO excited to be writing this post! So many good things have so suddenly happened – doors have been blasting open for me, and it seems that, finally, I am beginning to see the beautiful fruits of my labor in my work and in my love of the Gods.
It seems that the theme this week has been acceptance. First off, I’ve been accepted into a doctorate program! The Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, has extended an acceptance offer into the doctorate degree for History and Culture of Religion, where I’ll be specializing in New Religious Movements. I’ll be concentrating on studying the contemporary pagan community (which is my goal for all the schools I’ve applied to), making my contributions on an academic and personal level. (My application was also reviewed and accepted by UC Berkeley, so I can take classes there, work with faculty there, use their library, and more! AHH!) If this is where I’ll go, not only will I be where other pagans are, but I’ll also be in a program that will support my work (like the godspouse project that I have on hold right now due to my thesis!). I want to change how the pagan community is seen, understood, and written about on both the academic and “lay” level, so to speak – but I also want to do a ton of other amazing things, but the point is, I GOT IN!
One of my biggest sources of anxiety was that I wasn’t going to get accepted anywhere. I still have six schools to hear from (Northwestern denied me admission on the basis that they couldn’t have a faculty member overseeing my work) but the fact that one school accepted me has lowered my stress levels immensely – and has made me so, so, so much more hopeful for the future, my work, and especially what I can give to the pagan community.
Secondly — I recently found out that Patheos was bought out by BeliefNet. One of the changes that came with this was a new contract and, unfortunately, the demands of the contract were absolutely incompatible for many pagan bloggers. (As much as I dislike John Halstead, an article he wrote on Patheos titled ‘Read This Before Patheos Deletes it’ was censored and removed – and he was locked out of his own blog! I think that is absolutely wrong, and what they did to him was absolutely shitty and dishonorable. Gods&Radicals did something good and hosted up his censored article here, so if you’d like to read it, there’s the link). With this came what I understand to be a massive walkout of pagan writers – and then the creation and hosting of a new blogging site by and for pagans titled Pagan Bloggers.
So what do I have to do with any of this? Well, it means that I submitted an application to be a blogger there – and it was accepted! Very soon I’ll be writing original articles alongside amazing, influential, and powerful pagan voices and contributing in my own way to the pagan community! (Of course, I’ll write under L.V. Boloix – I’ll make a note to remind people I used to write as Ossia Sylva). I’ll be writing about my experiences and lessons working with the Gods, Seership and divination, devotional polytheism, work with spirits and entities, spirit companionship, and many, many more things (I think my writing is just as varied and spontaneously as my devotional polytheism – I’ll always be writing about different things at different times). I’m really excited for this because I thought that I was “too young” to contribute anything of value to the community. I see that I have been shown otherwise, with my sign-up as a writer on Pagan Bloggers as well as the publication of an article online on The Pagan and the Pen and my upcoming devotional publication to Cernunnos!
Gah! SO EXCITED! Paths are opening and things are happening fast. I have to work harder but I love it. I’ll definitely continue to blog here, although I think it should be expected that, every few posts here, one of them will be a link to an article I’ve written on PaganBloggers or somewhere else. I really want to write and share my voice, young that it is.
One final thing to my readers: if you’re interested in me writing about a particular topic, please share your thoughts with me! I’ve never had the opportunity before to write on such a public scale, so I’m definitely interested in seeing what you’re interested in reading from me!
“A couple of months ago, Venus came into my life.” That was how I first started this post, but it’s just a little more complex than that. The Gods do love to surprise and to confound.
Let’s start again.
A couple of months ago, I felt what seemed to be two Presences acting as one. In my attempts to figure out what was going on, with the help of a dear friend and mentor, we both came to the exact same conclusion at different times: that the Goddess Ceres was present and offering to help me in matters of love and relationships. However, She specified that She wanted me to See Her, and to name Her, not as Ceres but as Venus. So, in a very strange way, I am dealing with two Goddesses at the exact same time – or is it that it’s one Goddess carrying the attributes and personality of Two? Either way, it’s the first time I’ve ever had an experience of syncretism with any Holy Being I’ve worked with, and it has been very interesting, to say the least.
Venus is generous – She is warm, playful, and engaging. She’s naturally flirty, sensuous, and for some reason I get the feeling that She treats me like a family member who’s just come into the age of love – kind of like the aunt who very quickly sees that her niece is falling for the boy next door and she’s excited for this stage in her niece’s life.
In a way, that’s what happening. The presence of Venus only further certified powerful feelings I have been having since July, and especially from September: that someone important was going to be stepping into my life. Everyone gave me the same month: November. And when Venus arrived in October (I think) that was when I knew that the date was getting closer and that I had to pay close, close attention. In those weeks She taught me how to love myself, urged me to love not only myself but those around me: to surround myself in the love of others, to invite in the love of others, because I was strong enough now to deal with other people. Queen Maeve taught me how to seal my doors to protect myself, to truly understand and love myself in isolation, to realize my own strength against everything that crashed on me, to power through with the internal strength that I discovered with spit and blood: and then Venus came in, gently, to teach me how to open those doors again – how to invite the generosity and care of others into my life, and how to love myself living in a world with others.
So I received demands from the Gods to go to every single event I was invited to in November – and I did it out of respect for my Gods but also for myself, to challenge my social anxiety (and to get out of my room and meet new people). But as November drew to a close, and all of the parties and events and conferences I went to finished without a conclusion, I thought it was best just not to think about it and to forget about November.
But as November drew to a close, and all of the parties and events and conferences I went to finished without a conclusion, I thought it was best just not to think about it and to forget about November. I had spent so much energy being aware, trying to anticipate the moment, trying to find the face in the crowd that was promised to me repeatedly: but as December approached, I thanked the Gods for Their love and Their attention, and all of the wonderful things that I had enjoyed in my days out and about in November. And for one single moment – one single second – I looked away and I stopped paying attention.
Remember that part where I said the Gods love to drop surprises? They certainly did. Right at the end of November, right when I wasn’t paying attention, I did meet someone – right at the end, out of the blue and from left field. Now, I’m not going to get into details about that, but let’s just say that we’re still seeing each other, and this person has taught me more about love than my ex of four and a half years ever did. (In fact, being with this person, as well as working with Venus, made me realize that the man I had romantically loved for the past four and a half years – the man that I had begged Cernunnos not to rip apart from me, but He did – never loved me back romantically. He loved me, he did, but as a best friend with benefits. Needless to say, that was difficult to process, but when I understood it, my past relationship made complete sense. When I realized that was when I realized why Cernunnos had split us apart and averted disaster, but that’s another story for another time, I supposed).
Gah, okay: back to the story and to the illumination from Venus.
This man that I am seeing is absolutely brilliant, a fine, stable, and very powerful man in all aspects – and yet he is so mysterious, confusing, impossible to pin down. He is unreadable, unseeable, wrapped in shadow and guarded – but behind it somehow I see the fascination, the beauty, the strange glory of this man that keeps drawing me back to him no matter how careful we both are. And one night, coming back from a date, I had strange feelings of both happiness and unhappiness in the car as I was driving back home. We had been seeing each other since November; at first I was stumped by him, but slowly we’re making our way to understanding each other’s language. Slow and steady, even with fears that have come up, even with the uncertainties and the mistakes, we’ve been carefully dancing around each other and with each other. All the while I’ve been too busy to work with Venus other than prayers of thank-yous and a recent beginning with work with Shiva (who is directly connected to this man in a way I won’t reveal) that has been extremely helpful.
The conversation with Venus started because of strange feelings I had on the car ride home, coming back home from another date. I can’t quite describe it other than it was a slight stomach clenching of both happiness and un-happiness. It was something that didn’t make sense for me to feel; the more that I see and am with this man, the more that I like him. The more that I am with him, the more that I am growing to admire him and to enjoy him.
Venus, thank Gods, was sweet and tender with me – even after all of the offerings I had neglected to give Her, even with my life where I should have made more time for Her and remembered Her, She sat down with me and chuckled with a fondness I felt I didn’t deserve. I asked Her for clarification with the tarot, but Her words to me were much more enlightening for me – much more shocking, much more a slap to the face.
You’re feeling this way because you love him. You are learning how to love him and you are loving him.
I looked at Her like if She had suddenly grown ten heads and told me to do ten pushups. What? No, I don’t love this man – we’ve just met, and I definitely do not love him. Love?? Love?! I definitely am beginning to have romantic feelings for him, and I like him, but I don’t love him. The fuck?!
My outraged, confused answer was gently stopped as She began to explain. It’s certainly not verbatim, but I’ll write what I can remember and what I wrote down in my notebook while fixing it to properly get Her message across.
You’re learning to love him, Laura. To learn how to love – that is not simply an issue of romance. Romance is but an element of love, not the culmination of it. Loving is diving deep into someone, seeing who and how they are – taking them in as they are inside of yourself and loving them.
Love is devotion to a person and their traits, both good and questionable. There are different kinds of love, but the fundamental core of love never changes: it is holding someone else in your hands and truly appreciating, truly loving, that person.
So when I said that you loved him, Laura, I said it more broadly. You don’t love him now, that is true – but it is also true that you do love him now, just in a very different way. That is why you feel what you feel: you are beginning to love him, you are loving him, and that is a change from before – back when the two of you met, and you were both bodies and minds that were distinctly apart and unknowable, and the boundaries were so cleanly defined like it is in casual dating.
Change always brings with it a feeling of discomfort, because with it comes suspension – and with suspension comes uncertainty, confusion, blindness, powerlessness, vulnerability. Change is the process of shifting between points, moving between stages. It is the breeze that blows on your skin when you are naked from unclothing yourself and preparing to reclothe yourself in another garment. And for you, my dear, that breeze is uncomfortable – you’re not good with change and with uncertainties, with vulnerabilities as you move from one secure place to another secure place.
Your secure place was that you knew what you were doing when you first met him. There were lines and spaces, a map that was clearly defined. Now your casual dating isn’t so casual now, is it? Now the lines are blurring, aren’t they? Now the place you’re in doesn’t fit the two of you and what you’re growing between yourselves. So now, you have no choice but to step out of your safe space, onto the next point; and you know that it is dangerous, uncomfortable, frightening, because you don’t know whether you’re going for greatness or for disaster.
You’re feeling the shift of something changing between the two of you – and something changing within you – and all of the new things it will bring that you know is coming, but the details of which you will never know until the situations arrive.
“And what is that something else?” I asked Her breathlessly, frozen as I took in Her words. “Where am I going? Where are we going? Somewhere good? Is this relationship going to work out? Is this the Man that Everyone’s been talking about?”
She only chuckled, only smiled – that beautiful, warm smile as She hugged me and remained silent. Of course – to give me the answer would be too easy. I sighed but I was grateful for what She said to me, what She revealed.
I will have to wait, to enjoy myself with this man – to see where I am taking myself and where the Gods guide me. It’s like I’ve always said, the advice that I have to give to myself now: “You can’t change the affairs of the heart – and you can’t control where it goes and what it decides.”
The night didn’t end there; Shiva stepped in and had much, much more to say. But that is for another post: another post where I’ll have to screen out the more private aspects of my conversation, but the things He said to me that night were things that I think should be shared.
So I am alive (barely – flu, thesis, my final semester, and getting to see my fate about doctoral degrees in eight weeks, but hey, it’s better than nothing!) and here are, as promised, the VERY important updates for this blog and for me.
1. You may have noticed that I have changed my name from Ossia Sylva to L.V.Boloix. That was not an accident; I have decided to use my real name in publishing on my blog. Polytheism is an integral part of my life and I see no reason now to hide behind a fictitious name (as beautiful and as symbolic as it is). From now on, anything I publish will be under L.V. Boloix – including the devotionals for Cernunnos and for Loki that I’m working on! I did promise Loki that I would do this devotional for Him and although it is going very slow, it’s going. I hope to publish it within the next three years, or until He says that it’s time to submit it to publishing. The Cernunnos devotional might be published before the end of 2017; I initially wanted to wait ten years to publish a devotional, but there’s something about what I’ve written that captures the very strange first moments with a God, and I don’t want to lose that. In fact, I’d very much like to share that!
2. You may have noticed that my Youtube channel is gone. I was, unfortunately, forced to shut it down because of cyber bullying. If any of you remember the Otherkin video I made for #mypolytheism, I found out that someone on Youtube had taken the entire video and made not one, not two, but three sections of it where he mocked it line by line; and then, because it was so successful for his channel, he made a compilation of the entire mockery. I don’t want to get into details about all of the disgusting, degrading, and frankly very sad things that were commented by both the Youtuber and his followers. When the comments started hatching into the other videos, and I saw that his followers were subscribing to me to be updated on my “mental illness rantings” I decided to shut the whole thing down immediately rather than let the comments build up, fester, and take power. Nipped it in the bud, cried a little, and moved on.
3. My spiritual practice is very, very strange and disorganized right now – probably because it’s my last semester, I’m working on my thesis, and I’m getting admissions decisions back VERY soon. I feel the Gods around me, but I haven’t been giving offerings (only prayers of gratitude and petition at night). It seems very free all of a sudden; it’s as if I know They’re walking around, but They’re not viciously concerned with shrine-keeping like They were before (probably because I am handling so much in my life and straining myself too much gives me bad health consequences). I have started working with Shiva for a wonderful reason that I’ll decide to keep private – and in my upcoming blog posts I hope to dedicate one to Him. He has been immensely compassionate, calm, and measured with me (I think “measured” as a concept is one of His favorite things). I may start working with Parvarti and Ganesh as well, but I know Ganesh has been around; oftentimes, when I thank Shiva for His kindness, generosity, and help, it’s not Shiva’s name that comes out of my mouth but Ganesh’s. I can only laugh and be grateful that Shiva seems amused by this. (By the way, I welcome all comments about your experiences with Shiva!)
4. It’s also a very exciting and scary thought that, in eight weeks, I’ll figure out whether my guidance from the Gods on applying to grad school was warranted, and if so, They will want me working on and for the pagan community. Of course it would be my pleasure to – but the waiting is killing me. All I ask is for prayers and petitions; although I do want a fully paid doctorate program in religion, it is truly in the hands of the Gods. I did my piece; now They will do Theirs, if They so wish.
5. Speaking of pieces, devotional tattoos are definitely set in for December 2017/January 2018, when it snows. Special reason: Queen Maeve wants to be my Matron, I’ve accepted, and it’ll be part of my Matron-Daughter ceremony.
6. And one final thing about pieces: I have no idea what pieces will come forward from this blog now. I want to be more judicious and more community-oriented, even when speaking about my personal experiences. If you want me to write about something, let me know!
And that’s about it! I’m off to thank the Gods for another day of life and to try to get over this nasty flu. Yay me!
I originally wrote and posted this on my Facebook, and it’s touched many, many people. I’m posting it here so that it can be shared, thought about, and considered. I wrote this after coming back from a visit to one of my favorite places in Baltimore: The Walters Museum. If you’re a Baltimorean and you haven’t gone, please pay it a visit (well, it’s free!) and enjoy the gorgeous things there… as well as the presence of our Gods.
To all of my Christian, Jewish, and Muslim brothers and sisters: here is a slice of life from my point of view as a pagan/polytheist.
I think too many people take for granted how many churches line the streets, how many temples and mosques stretch across the landscape, how many people have spiritual advisors and pastors and priests and ministers for guidance, when all I have is a tiny shrine at home and a visit to a museum where Gods are treated as fascinating yet primitive antiquities.
It’s strange that, for some people, walking into a museum is a wonderful experience, an opening into a different world while still remaining in the the present. Looking at cool old stuff. For me, walking into a museum is a religious experience. That’s what it was like for me yesterday wandering through the Walters Museum as a polytheist.
There’s nothing like Sekhmet looking down Her gaze at me expecting a physical sign of reverence, or walking through passageways that are sacred spaces holding Gods behind glass, or feeling the watch of the Gods and spirits over me as They firmly command, “Do not disrespect Our Dead” when I take out my phone to take pictures of mummies and of Greco-Roman sarcophagi.
There’s nothing like the tender, encouraging gaze of a Muse who looked down upon me as She planted a seed of strength in my heart. There’s nothing like seeing statues of Venus, whom I worship, and feeling Her smile and laugh playfully in greeting, as if it were a funny sort of events that led us to each other by pure accident like a comedy.
To others, a museum is just a glorified showcase: a place with old, beautiful things that do not belong with cellphones and Netflix. Things that don’t exist anymore.
To me, it’s a temple: a place where my Gods sit behind glass and watch as I struggle to give some sort of offering, watch as They seem to know that I Love Them, watch as I process the bittersweet feeling that the people passing behind me see articles of faith in an act of tourism.
So many places of worship line the streets. There are so many resources for those who have spiritual troubles, who want to strengthen their faith, who want to be involved in community. Please don’t take that for granted, people, because for me, it is a great source of pain that I have to enter a glorified, collectionist showcase – a museum – to look at my Gods. I don’t have a support base. I don’t have an expert I can consult when something Strange happens. I can’t even talk to my friends who aren’t polytheist because, in the end, whether they like it or not, they really don’t get it and it’s not any help.
And it is an even greater source of pain for me that, when I come home, I am all by myself in a world of churches, synagogues and mosques. I am all by myself with my struggles and my troubles, and the people whose shoulders I can lean on aren’t here with me.
Love your Gods deeply, all of you. Love your God. Never miss an opportunity to love your God. And do not take your religious community for granted. Be thankful for what you have. Go to service. Talk to the pastor and to your community when you feel alone and unsupported, or if you want to make a change in society. Take advantage of the resources at your disposal.
Enjoy the privilege of people who believe that your God is real, is good, is loving, is powerful. I do not have that privilege. I really don’t.
So, my beloved non-pagans, come up to the altar and love your God. Pray your rosary. Hold your medals. Do your devotions. Live your way rightly. Read about your spiritual ancestors and read about your theologies that have been written, discussed, developed for over two thousand years – while, in my own faith, scholars are just making the ASTOUNDING revelation that ancient peoples actually did believe in their Gods, actually did love their Gods, actually did have theologies, too.
It’s times like these where I wish I were a Christian – because, then, I’d have a thousand places to go and a million people to talk to. I could turn my head and speak to my friends. I could hold hands during service. I can love my Gods in person whenever I want.
Christians, Jews, Muslims: reflect and love . You guys have it good. Despite problems and challenges, you really, really do have it good.
Because you don’t have to see your Gods behind glass, sitting quietly, catalogued as parts of a esteemed collection – presented as things that happened “once upon a time, long long ago, when people were more primitive and made these idols to cope with life” – provided as evidence that we, as a society, have clearly made progress.
Hail the Gods, forever and always, for all Gods are deserving of love and devotion.
Classes started earlier this September, so I’ve been caught up in something I’ve never been caught up in before: a calm, manageable life.
I’m a Master’s student in my second year of theology – doing a master’s thesis and grad school applications, no less. I’ve got a job, I’m battling mental illness (depression and anxiety, although I am grateful to say that a balance of medication and therapy is working wonders for me), and I’ve got my share of trials and tribulations. However, I changed a lot of things in my life, which in turn changed just one thing in my life: being kind to, and understanding with, myself. And that has made ALL the difference.
College stress culture is unreal (especially in graduate school). There is an expectation, a standard, of exhaustion. We’re judged by how exhausted we are; the measure of our hard work is calculated with the hours of sleeplessness, the amount of stress and sickness that burdens us. And we wear these things like badges, brandish them in competitions: “You think staying up for two nights is crazy? I remember I once spent 80 hours awake and I didn’t even stop to take a shit!” Last year was debilitating for me because I was still in this mindset; taking on too many things at once, and not resting (or seeking professional help), I went through very dangerous stages of burn-out, exhaustion, and lifelessness that almost cost me my life. Twice.
So it is beautifully strange to sit in my room and be able to BREATHE – to be quiet, to be at peace, to have control over my workload and not be overwhelmed by it. I have been so used to the tumult and chaos of my life that, in this quiet calm, I struggle to hear the Voices of my Gods (although I have a feeling this is the clearest I’ve ever heard Them!). I space out my assignments over several days, always taking time to do three things: to have at least two or three hours of down-time a day, to sleep a full nine hours every night, and to do all of my work at the university instead of in my room. I’m setting habits, getting into a routine, and getting shit done. And it feels fucking amazing – hell, it feels unreal. I am still fighting the impulses of my brain interpreting peace and quiet as a warning sign that something has to be done, but I’m getting there.
I’m being kind to myself, too. Sometimes I’m working at 1000%. My brain is clear and I’m ready to work. And sometimes I wake up and I’m functioning at 70%, where my words get stuck, or it just takes me a little longer to get something done, or my brain just doesn’t process very quickly. Instead of punishing myself, I remind myself that I am not a machine that has to work at 1000% efficiency always – I schedule the amount of work I CAN do and, whatever I cannot do, I save it for tomorrow. Challenging myself doesn’t mean that I have to whip myself to work – it means understanding my limits and discerning whether I should push it just a little bit or not at all.
This has fucking changed my life. Thanks be to the Gods, who brought me here and made me finally understand this. An especial thanks to Loki, who burned everything that was in my way… including myself.
So this is why I’ve been quiet. I’ve been adjusting to the rhythm, learning how to work with myself instead of against myself. I’m recalibrating my godphone, so to speak, and I can already feel that the bonds with my Gods (particularly Cernunnos and Loki) will be changing and deepening immensely. For Them I am eternally grateful, and I am happy that I am having this time of peace and productivity as I get to where I need to me.
In the coming days I’m going to try something new and scary: doing video logs of topics (such as #mypolytheism!) and uploading them on Youtube. I think I am much more eloquent and refined on paper but, hell, ya don’t know till ya try. With the #mypolytheism submission, I’ve found that all of the components of #mypolytheism (from my interpretation) are too much for one blog post. Ergo the philosophy of spacing them out!
Basically, I don’t know what’s going on, but I’m excited. I’m really, really excited.