This post is in response to something Star Foster wrote recently, which frankly is full of vicim-blamey, ableist, classist nonsense.
But don’t let me tell you what to think! Read it all right here.
Comments aren’t enabled, so instead of politely pointing out how I think she’s wrong in the comments (yes, I am polite when on other peoples’ blogs), I get to just jump right into ripping her post to shreds. HOORAY, IT MUST BE CHRISTMAS
Trigger warning for this entire thing.
Welcome to one of those things I write that people hate, or love, or love to hate.
Well, good to know you’re prepared.
First, the quote she starts off with I actually quite like. And I do think there may be some truth to “what we worship, we become.” Focusing your energy can bring whatever your point of focus is closer to you. I do think there may be a point, somewhere, in that post. Just very badly expressed. And I don’t really care enough to try and pry it out from under the mounds of bullshit.
When you think about what it means to live a good life, in polytheistic terms you also think about the gods who bring good things into your life. Those who safeguard the family, provide warm, shelter, and abundance. Those who bring health and good cheer. In essence, you think about the gods that aren’t that sexy in modern terms.
Hey, maybe it’s just my abject poverty speaking, but I find a roof over my head and a full stomach pretty godsdamned sexy!
To have a good and normal life, you need to worship good and normal gods.
First off, there’s no such thing as a “normal” god. THEY’RE GODS. They are so beyond human constructs such as normal it’s ludicrous to try and apply such words to Them! Normal is a human construct, by the way, and it is one that is OFTEN, if not always, used to hold up the kyriarchy.
Normal people don’t date members of the same sex. Normal people don’t transition their bodies. Normal people fit within the gender binary — they are MAN or WOMAN; there is no in-between! Normal people aren’t crippled. Normal people don’t have mental health issues, or any issues at all! Normal people don’t live on a grocery budget of 26 dollars a week. Normal people are light-skinned.
Normal people want a house in the suburbs with 2.5 kids and a dog.
And anyone who isn’t like that, who doesn’t want those things…well, they’re ABnormal. They’re WRONG.
Applying the concept of normality to gods is just a poorly-veiled attempt to uphold the kyriarchy by giving it a divine veneer of legitimacy.
Also, “good”? I like how it’s conflated with normal above. Another human construct, and what is a good life for one person may be the worst thing EVER for someone else.
I define a good life as one where I am given a lot of freedom to do what I want, when I want. For me, a good life includes having security of place — my own house, preferably in “country” that’s a few-minutes’ drive to the city — and security of work — the ability and time to work on my creative projects, even if they bring me no money. A good life also, for me, necessarily includes the doing of good works — this includes charity and activism (and charity is a type of activism). For my life to be good, I need to know I’m making a difference — even if only for one person.
I need to have a garden, and a house that looks like it was decorated by a horde of hippies. I need to have dogs in my life. And I need to live in British Columbia — specifically, the Lower Mainland.
For someone else, a good life may be having a job in corporate (shudder), a house in the suburbs (shudder), life in a warmer clime (ugh), NO dogs (dear gods kill me now), no activism and the extent of charity being one check a year (NOT enough for me).
If we can’t even define what “a good life” looks like for the majority of mortals — because we’re all different — then how on EARTH can we expect to apply this concept to GODS?
There are no “good and normal” gods. There are gods, and then there’s how you feel about Them. Someone might see Brighid as “good and normal” while She may scare the fucking pants off someone else. There is no way to objectively say something is “good and normal” because those words are HIGHLY subjective.
Everyone wants their life to be interesting. No one wants to be boring.
…you realize “may you live in interesting times” is a CURSE, right?
The only people I’ve met who actually WANT their life to be “interesting” are people who haven’t had any really bad problems. The extent of their childhood trauma was that someone didn’t ask them to a high school dance.
Yeah, these people exist. I was surprised too.
Using boring as a juxtaposition for interesting in this case? Bad writing.
People want their lives to hold their interest. That does not mean the same thing as living in interesting times. Having a life that does not constantly throw shit sideways at you does not mean having a boring life.
Yet as someone who has had an interesting life, I have a powerful thirst for some good, ordinary, boring living.
And here we’re conflating good and ordinary with boring.
I humbly suggest you take this chance to improve your vocabulary. Boring means Uninteresting and tiresome; dull. (Or it means the act or process of making or enlarging a hole, but not in this case.)
The word you’re looking for here is “stability”. You want a stable life. You want a life that is not marked by constant upheavals, constant fighting. You want a routine you can rely upon.
And I get that. I do. I want it too. In fact, I need routine. I crave it. I crave it so much I almost joined the Navy, just so I could have a routine.
The deity I am closest to is pretty boring. Hephaistos has a day job, a wife, and kids.
Ok. Again, these words? DO NOT MEAN. WHAT YOU THINK. THEY MEAN.
Hephaistos wants a stable life. He didn’t exactly get one. He strives for that stability all the time, but the myths are pretty clear: Hephaistos has some troubles. Some serious troubles.
The only way Hephaistos is boring is if He’s, you know, BORING INTO ROCK (being a god of stonemasonry, and all).
Did you need to review His myths? They’re here.
Hestia and Hera are pretty domestic, and not overly flamboyant.
Since when does domestic equalboring? I mean, again, unless you’re creating holes in rock in order to create your house.
Also Hera and Hestia?
Hera scares the bejeezus out of me and sometimes appears in my dreams to continue to scare the bejeezus out of me, and Hestia attacked me with cereal because I wasn’t being hospitable to guests.
It was not boring.
The gods of everyday happiness lack the flash and flair of Aphrodite and Ares
Aphrodite IS a goddess of everyday happiness to me. Her work for me is to work on loving myself. If I don’t love myself, I am not happy. I don’t work with Ares, but I know He has some of His followers do similar things — building strength, learning to rely on oneself.
I have Aphrodite to thank for my lovely, stable, amazing fiance. The guy who is my ROCK, who keeps me steady. Who reminds me that even a monster can be loved.
And yet you’re telling me that They’re not gods of everyday happiness?
Maybe not YOUR everyday happiness, but Aphrodite certainly has a lot to do with MINE.
Here is where I get controversial.
HERE? What were you being BEFORE?
I want to be happy. I want a decent job, a decent paycheck, a decent place to live, and a decent man in my bed.
Uh huh. Ok, I don’t really see what’s controversial there except for maybe reducing your potential partner to a sex object…
I don’t want to be marginalized, living on the fringes of society, a special snowflake.
OH. Oh ok. There we go.
You know what? I don’t want to be marginalized either. But I’m genderqueer, I’m socially-classed-as-woman, I’m AFAB, I’m disabled, I’m queer, I’m neuroatypical, I’m fat, I have mental illness, I’m poor. I get marginalized whether or not I want to be.
Can I pass in some areas so as to reduce my chances of marginalization? Yes, I can. Do I HATE doing it? Yes, I do. Do I sometimes HAVE to? Yes.
Being marginalized is, by and large, not something you can stop from happening to you. Sorry. And suggesting that marginalization is the same as being a special snowflake?
Gross. Really fucking gross.
(It’s also not the same as living on the fringes of society depending on what axes you’re marginalized on. If you’re marginalized on one or two axes, you can still pretend to be mainstream, you can still pass. Add more ways to be marginalized, and you have someone closer to the fringes. So if you have a CHOICE whether or not to live on the fringes of society, then you’re only marginalized on one or two axes. Many people DON’T HAVE THAT CHOICE.)
I don’t want my faith to be the most interesting or prominent thing about me.
Trust me, it’s not.
To get there I need to worship square gods. The gods of good ol’ ordinary, honest, wholesome living. Because worshiping fringe, edgy, re-invented, and quirky gods is only going to keep me marginalized and unhappy.
Wait, what’s happening? Sorry, I blacked out from rage.
I don’t know how clearly I can explain this.
THE GODS YOU WORSHIP ARE NOT WHAT MAKES YOU MARGINALIZED.
Furthermore, “good ol’ ordinary, honest, wholesome living” IS NOT THE OPPOSITE OF MARGINALIZATION.
Oh, because I’m genderqueer and poor and fat I can’t be honest or wholesome or good? Or even ordinary? I must be bad, and a liar, and abnormal, and indecent? Contaminated? Impure?
That IS what you’re saying, by the way. You can scream all you want about how it’s not what you intended with your words and how people are misreading you on purpose, but we’re not, and intent isn’t magic. I’m taking you at what you’re writing, and what you’re writing is some seriously victim-blamey, ableist, classist, oppressive-in-general bullshit.
If you want to exist in a sub-culture, and quirky is what you live for, then bravo. Do your thing.
Your actions and your words don’t line up. You spend an entire post talking about how HORRIBLE we quirky sub-culture folk are, and then you say “Oh but it doesn’t bug me.” In a really condescending way, I may add.
But if you start worshiping Jotuns, dramatically dark gods, or highly political modern inventions, then you shouldn’t be surprised if your life is in some turmoil. If you worship Eris, don’t expect to be a quiet, contented CPA in the suburbs. If you are given over to Dionysos’ madness, then don’t expect to live a sane and comfortable life.
Ah, yes, because being SANE is definitely better than being INSANE, am I right? And you can NEVER have a comfortable life if you’re insane. I guess I’m fucked then no matter WHAT gods I worship. Seeing as I’m not right in the head and all that.
There is something big that you’re missing here (well, there are a lot of things that you’re missing, but this is one that needs to be said). Those of us who are called by those gods — by Dionysos, Lilith, Eris, Loki, the Morrigan, and more — it’s usually for a reason.
We’ve been fucked over. We have been traumatized, we have been broken. And those gods know how to help us put ourselves back together. They help us repair the wounds. They help us face our monsters, deal with them, because these gods are the mothers of monsters.
I did not choose the Morrigan. Ze chose me. Because I needed help finding myself back. Because I need to put together the broken pieces. Because I needed to reclaim my sovereignty. And through my Work with Hir, I am finding the stability I crave. I am finding the routine I need. Ze is helping me put together the pieces — and often this means doing things that are HARD, things that HURT. But growth and change is always painful at first.
When you say that worshipping those “sexy, edgy” gods (because nothing’s sexier than being homeless because you’re trans*!) leads to marginalization and unhappiness, you cause people to black out from rage. Because you are wrong. There is nothing sexy or edgy about marginalization. It is not sexy or edgy to live on 26 dollars a week for food. It is not sexy or edgy to battle suicidal thoughts and depression every day. It is not sexy or edgy to have to weigh the danger of presenting the gender you are with how dysphoric you’ll be if you don’t. It’s not sexy or edgy to not be able to leave your house because of anxiety. It’s not sexy or edgy to be marginalized by the very sub-culture you hoped would at least have more acceptance of you than the dominant culture. It is not sexy or edgy to deal with ANY of these things. And worshipping these gods that you say are “sexy and edgy” does not cause these problems.
This is the same logic that says being trans* or gay makes you depressed and suicidal and homeless SO YOU SHOULD JUST NOT BE THOSE THINGS AND YOUR PROBLEMS WILL BE SOLVED.
Anyway, I find I crave more normality and stability in my life, and my practice turns more and more in the direction of the gods that bring those blessings.
Oh, look, you FINALLY found the right word: stability.
As a result my practice is becoming less sexy, and less interesting to others. I’m ok with that, as a square.
Well, I’m so glad you find your square, less-marginalized existence so wonderful, and non-sexy. Really. So entirely happy for you, hooray, here are streamers and balloons. Go on with your bad, privileged self.
However, in the meantime, were I you? I would stop trying to fit the gods into your square-shaped holes. None of Them will fit. There are no square gods, there are no boring gods (unless They’re doing stonemasonry things). There are gods, and there’s how we feel about Them, and what They mean to us, and what Work They have us do.
What you’re saying is that the gods aren’t having you do any Work that really pushes your boundaries, and that you don’t want to be doing that Work besides. Ok. Fine. I don’t really want to do the Work sometimes either.
That does not mean those same gods are not making Their other followers do the Work. It does not mean that Work doesn’t push the boundaries of Their other followers.
And it certainly does not mean that the folks who are DOING that Work are ASKING TO BE MARGINALIZED.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have more Wibbly-Wobbly Shapey-Wapey Work for my Wibbly-Wobbly Shapey-Wapey Gods to accomplish.
(PS They’re ALL wibbly-wobbly shapey-wapey.)
Great post, Morag. Truly. This really did need to be called out for the utter bullshit that it is.
Fantastic post, I found myself nodding in agreement throughout.
Amazing post. THANK YOU.
A tired, grateful YES, THANK YOU to everything you wrote here. In some ways things like what Star Foster wrote make me more exhausted than people who are proudly nattering on about why my life is trash; those people at least *realize* that they’re on the attack, instead of acting like, whoops, how did that dagger get in my hand?
Loved the post. Good rebuttal. As someone who works with Ares, I was just as offended as you were. He loves me, protects me, cares for me when I need it, and encourages me to be passionate about my life while bettering myself. He wants me to take care of myself and learn to LIVE. Not just exist. Embrace your ALL of your emotions as all of yourself.
So, I was all pissed when I read her article. I feel better now that I’ve read yours. 🙂
*claps* Excellent post.
My response was along the lines of “I work almost exclusively with underworld Gods and insisting that I stop because they’re ‘too scary’ is pissing me off.”
My significant other shared this with me and I just had to express my heartfelt agreement. Through most of the linked article I was trying to keep the “everyone has a right to their own opinion” hat on, and reminding myself that at least they had the decency to say “If you want to exist in a sub-culture, and quirky is what you live for, then bravo. Do your thing.” But there was undeniably a prevailing undercurrent of “My way is better than your way”, and you did a remarkable job of calling them out on that. That being said, I do choose to exist in a sub-culture (which includes poor people, glbts, people whose mind doesn’t work the same as everyone else’s, and belief systems that sometimes clash with mainstream organized religions, in short, people like me), and live for quirk. And sometimes I go out of my way to “keep it interesting”. I’m an entertainer. It kind of comes with the territory as far as I can tell. But I’m not going around saying “Hey, everyone should be a performance artist”, much as I might enjoy living in that world, because as stated, everyone has a right to their own opinion. “The world don’t move to the beat of just one drum. What might be right for you may not be right for some.”
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