To All Of My Christian, Jewish, and Muslim Brothers and Sisters

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.

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I’m alive!

Just an update to let y’all know I’m alive and kicking. Just been busy with work, but there’s been a LOT of changes.

In the next post I will update you on:

  • where I am right now in my practice
  • life changes (tied to my practice, and they’re serious!)
  • my name change (or, how I’m going to stop being Ossia Sylva)
  • the deletion of my Youtube channel
  • the future of this blog (don’t worry – there will be!)
  • my future as an academic for the polytheist community (come March)

Thank you to everyone who was asking if I was okay! I am grateful for having been in your thoughts.

Stay tuned: after I finish my assignments and academic responsibilities, I’ll take the time to get y’all up to speed.

 

Hearing the Gods in the quiet (or, holy fuck, is THIS what it’s like to be normal? + upcoming #mypolytheism stuff)

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.

Stay tuned!

Ser Mujer, Ser Latina: A Cuban-American’s Letter to Her Past “White Girl” Self

Dear Laura,

You are not a white girl.

You have never been a white girl. You never will be.

Yep, now you’re looking at me with wide eyes. You’re not outraged – you’re confused. What? What do you mean, I’m not white? I’m really pale.

See, that’s the thing. I know why you’re confused – because you don’t know what you are just yet. You don’t see it yet, but it’s there: that you’ve assimilated into White American society, that you’ve assimilated into White American society’s standards of what constitutes a white girl and what constitutes a Latina.

You feel it, don’t you? The feeling that you don’t belong at the table laden with arroz con frijoles negros, with carne de puerco, with ensalada y tomates y yuca.

You feel like a poser, don’t you, when you speak Spanish with your padres y abuelos, even when it was your first and only language for years? When your accent, when you speak Spanish, carries the distinct timpano of Cuban Spanish?

You feel that you don’t belong in la sawesera in Miami: in the community where all the signs are in Spanish, where two languages breed a third, where everyone is loud and cordial and talks about Cuba all the time – where the stoplight is the greenlight for people selling flowers, bottles of water, fruits to try to make a living – where music blares from ever car, there’s a cafeteria and un bakery at every estop.

You feel like you don’t belong because you’re quiet and soft-spoken by nature, because you speak, write, read, understand English perfectly. Because you don’t have tan skin, dark hair, and a Taíno heritage coming out in your cheekbones. Because you don’t get loud and rambunctious and feisty and spicy when you’re angry, because you don’t have an accent when you speak English. Because you’re not hot-blooded. Because you’re six feet tall, broad-shouldered and big-handed, and your face carries a distinctly European look to it. Because your surname isn’t Rodriguez or Gonzalez or Menendez, but a French-Catalan one instead. Because you’re hardworking, sensitive, don’t like parties too much, and watch a lot of BBC shows.

Because you don’t act, look, speak, think like a Latina.

You’re the Latina who passes.


And who taught you that? Who taught you that, because you have none of those qualities, you’re not a Latina? Who dared to tell you what you are and what you are not? Who solidified in you that “Latinx” qualities and “white” qualities were a thing?

When you watch the TV shows where Latina women speak haphazard English, and their accent and language is considered exotic, and they’re tanned with huge tits, and they’re cleaning all the fucking time, and their name is always Consuela or María or Juana, and they’re wearing loud clothing and high heels and don’t have anything more than a Bachelor’s they didn’t finish, and they let themselves be part of the machismo culture you yourself despise, of course you’re going to cry and say to yourself, “I’m not Latina, am I?”

When white people step back in shock when they ask you where your parents are from and you say, “They’re Cuban” – when they marvel, “Wow, you speak English so well!” and “I had no idea you were Latina – you don’t look like it!” and “You’re so well-spoken!” – when they ooh and ahh at you like some sort of exotic creature – of course you’re going to cry and say to yourself, “I’m not Latina, am I?”

And when you’re at a party with your family and friends, and they’re laughing and dancing and eating carne asada and drinking whiskey and rum, and you’re in the corner quietly reading a book because you’re an introvert and apparently there is no such thing as a Latinx introvert, of course you’re going to cry and say to yourself, “I’m not Latina, am I?”

When you’re with your Gods – when you feel closest to Irish Powers, when you love the Norse deeply, when you feel guilty when your heart blooms in love for Ochún and Yemaya but you know you’re not one of Theirs and They’re not one of yours, of course you’re going to cry and say to yourself, “I’m not Latina, am I?”

Why not?

Why do you have to believe that, when you know that you are? When you know that you are not responsible for the ignorance of white people – for people who do not understand the difference between Hispanic and Latinx, for people who do not understand that Cubans come in all sizes, shapes, colors, from blond-haired and blue-eyed to pitch black, for people who do not understand that the Latinx community is vibrant, diverse, wide and rich with both possibility and reality? Because people do not understand that you really don’t fucking understand when people tell you “You don’t look like a Latina” because Latina isn’t a fucking look?

Because people tell you, “But your surname isn’t in Spanish!” and that’s enough justification for them that you’re not really one of those people – is that enough justification for you?

Why do you subject yourself to this – to being told what you are and you are not by a society that does not understand nor respect you? “You’re not Latina because you have really pale skin.” “You’re not Latina because you speak English perfectly.” “You’re not Latina because you don’t look like one.” “You’re not Latina because you’re really well-behaved, serious, analytical?”

And my, how they treat you as a source of pride. You do, too. That’s what you were taught. You were taught to be proud for passing, for fooling white America.

That look of shock used to satisfy you. “Holy crap, we had no idea you were Cuban-American! Wow!” Then they’d congratulate you for the pleasant surprise you sprung on the them, give you a dollar to thank you for the entertainment, and leave – like you were a a guessing game at a fair.

“Honey, did you see that? She’s Cuban, but her English is so perfect! She got a Bachelor’s in English literature and everything! So smart! Good for her!”

Why do you tell yourself that this behavior is acceptable? Why do you try to tell yourself this as an attempt to be at peace with yourself?

That because you’re intelligent, well-spoken, quiet, reasonable, you couldn’t possibly be a Latina – as if Latinx people couldn’t ever be these things?

That because your European ancestry shines powerfully in the body that your mother and father gave you, because of your Roman nose and strange features and long legs, and because of widespread general ignorance about the extent of Europe’s colonization of South American and the Caribbean, you couldn’t possibly be a Latinx – as if Latinx people all looked the same, as if Europeans could never travel?

That because, when you pass, you don’t have to put up with the bullshit that your Latinx brothers and sisters put up with daily? And you tell yourself, “I have white privilege, technically, and that’s okay.”

And, when white people discover you’re Cuban-American, you become “sooooo ethnic.”

Querida Laurita,

You are not a white girl.

You have never been a white girl. You never will be.

You are Latina. Your parents and grandparents fled from communist Cuba to come to America. They sacrificed everything they had to come here, to have children and grandchildren borne into free soul. They had everything taken away from them by Castro’s government, and they came here and they raised you in Cuban culture.

You are Latina because that is what you are – and no one has the right to tell you that, because you don’t fit their standard of what a Latina is and is not, you’re not what you are.

Eres mujer. Eres Latina.

And by Gods, you will speak all the fucking Spanish you want – hasta hablar por los codos si quieres.

Even if you don’t, you’re still Latina.

That’s how it works, mama. That’s how it works.

mypolytheism.wordpress.com

Signal boost because this is important and good!

Strip Me Back To The Bone

So, I made a thing.

What are my goals with this new site?

Celebrating diversity in contemporary polytheism with a strong emphasis on building up. I want to honor our differences without having to use divisive language. I want there to be a visible, vocal alternative to the would-be gatekeepers. If the polytheist movement is to be a thing, I want it to be a diverse thing.  Mostly: I want those finding their way to polytheism, and those who are maybe not new to polytheism but new to interacting with other polytheists online to see that not all polytheists online are eager to tell them what they’re doing wrong.

I’m planning on purchasing a domain once I have the money for it, and I really want this to be about us, and not about me. It’s been suggested that questions get fielded, to keep conversation going, and my mind turns…

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Upcoming changes to this blog: what are your thoughts, fellow polytheists?

Correction: It may come across as if ONLY people who apply to my definition, which I state is personal and mine only, can come to this blog. Not at all! What I meant was: if you identify as a polytheist and/or hold a religious worldview in which the Gods are understood in a polytheist context, where the existence of the Gods is literal and They are understood as Beings of autonomy and high agency, you are invited to take a look and share your thoughts. In the end I do want to help hold space for polytheist discussion and help promote healthy discussions!

If you’re a polytheist (in my personal definition, someone who understands to be separate and distinct Entities with free will and autonomy over Themselves/high agency), and you’re sick of all of the arguing that lately has muted polytheist conversation, and you’re of a mind to change for the better, I ask that you please read this and give it some thought. Reblog and share if you think it’s useful! Thank you!

 

Towards Polytheist Theoilogies

This blog has been dormant for a few months – with everything going on, I’ve been unable to properly attend to the topics I’ve wanted to talk about to my satisfaction. Part of this has been due to my exhaustion of behavior on the interwebs where attempts to talk about polytheist practice/belief/devotion/etc have become “flame wars” where the center of conversation quickly becomes fighting between dissenting parties.

Frankly, I’m sick of it. I want to see discussion again. I want to see discourse. I want to see the Faces of the Powers in everyone’s rich and unique practice, flavors of thought, in everyone’s way of being. I want there to be a polytheist space again where things can flower. I want to lessen reactive discussion, where a wonderful topic is drowned by a war in the comments section. I want for intra-community dialogue, sharing, constructive criticism to happen. I want to…

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31 Days of Devotion to Týr, Day 3: What are some symbols and icons of this Deity?

What are some symbols and icons of this deity?

2000px-Tiwaz_rune.svg
The rune Tiwaz (Source)

Tiwaz: The rune Tiwaz is perhaps the most well-known symbol connected to Týr, considering that the word tiwaz directly refers to Týr Himself. Tiwaz reflects and espouses the qualities of righteousness, justice, and sacrifice of the individual for the greater whole. The upward quality of the arrow symbolizes the rightward path to the heavens and to victory; it also refers to the North Star / Polaris (which Týr is connected to) that guides travelers rightly and safely to their destination. In its aspect of Polaris, Tiwaz symbolizes the cosmic law/order and the importance of the moral compass in determining the right way to engage with the world – and so also represents the harmony and orderliness of balance that is necessary for right-living to happen successfully. It is the rune of warriors, of legislators and judges, of oaths, and of courage. It is the symbol of self-disciplined warrior, whereas Odin espouses more of the beserker-warrior whose power lies in complete loss of control.

Spear: It is very possible that Týr was the original All-Father, and that He ruled next to Odin before Odin usurped His place as the All-Father. However, many aspects between Odin and Týr are very similar, and the symbol of the spear is shared between these two gods. As a deity of war, it is apt for any and all weaponry to be related somehow to Týr, but the spear in particular is related to Týr’s personality due to its shared quality with Tiwaz as an embodiment of right direction, right movement, and straight path to the target.

Sword and Shield: Again, as a god of war and warriors, weaponry is symbolic of this wonderful God; the sword and shield are representative of carrying out one’s duties and responsibilities in an orderly fashion while maintaining a perfect balance (sword for offense, shield for defense).

Hand / Glove: The most well-known sacred myth of Týr is when He betrayed the God Fenrir and lost His right hand in order to secure the Binding of Fenrir. The loss of His right hand became a symbol of the hero, of the price of self-sacrifice to preserve the greater community, of the courage needed to make difficult decisions, and the reality that maintaining law isn’t always a black-and-white issue that can be dealt with simply. It is said that Týr keeps His right hand under His cloak.

The North Star: I find this symbol the most interesting precisely because it’s one that’s not really discussed or pointed out. As Sky God, God of Righteousness/Right-Way, and Holder of Cosmic Law, Týr is the deity of all right-relationship and of setting the example for heading in the right direction. I’m still developing an understanding of the role of the North Star in connection to Týr and what the North Star means, as I was surprised to find it connected to Týr!