If insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, then I suppose it would be fair to call me insane. Though, if one never actually expects a different result while doing the same thing over and over again, would that be sanity? I suppose that would be a question for the ages.
There is the overwhelming idea these days that “everything is political” and sadly, they’re not wrong. I kinda remember a time in my youth when not everything was political, but that might have been my innocence talking. For example I never thought of the comics I liked (and was largely forbidden) as being political, though I was somewhat aware that politicians and political people did talk about them. Now though, they’re very political. Just like everything else. Especially religion.
Those few who have heard of me probably know me from when I talk politics and Pagan/Heathen religion. In the last several years I was fairly involved in a couple political fights directly, and a few more through commentary. I think my most expansive was during the “War of the Rhyd” where in a bunch of Pagan Communists decided to call every other Pagan a Fascist unless they let Marxism be the foundation of all Pagan religions and removed anything even remotely “fascist.” Which, turned out, was a fuck ton of fundamental stuff in most Pagan religions.
It’s a good reminder that one should always be careful exactly what Gods you’re worshiping.
So I recently came across a post titled, Ma’at was Always Political by someone named Devo who says they are a kemetic shintoist. An odd combination, but hey, people do people. I can’t say I haven’t pulled an odd combo every now and then. I checked it out, figuring it was going to be another Progressive screed about how X element of Y faith was always political and here’s how it fully supports my current, and entirely “modern” political leanings! Because that’s how these things usually go. One need only pick a few random posts on Patheos, or Gods and Radicals, or any number of places to find exactly that attitude literally everywhere. And while there are perhaps subtle elements of that in the post, it’s surprisingly even handed, merely laying its foundation that Ma’at (which I think is the concept of Justice as the ancient Egyptians understood it) was inherently tied to Kingship and divine rule.
It was, I think, one of those things that Rhyd labeled as a “Fascist ideal that needed to be addressed” along with Sacral/Sacred Kingship. If anyone is upset by that, go talk to Rhyd and his buddies. Or if you’re a progressive/marxist, well, I guess that’s one more thing you’re throwing out.
I’m not going to break down the full things, but there were some points I did kinda wanna talk about or use as jumping off points, so here goes.
This week sat received an ask, wherein the inquirer states that “Ma’at was made so political.” It really stuck out to me, because as far as I can tell, ma’at was always political. When you look at the definition of “politics,” at the very very bottom, you get “use of intrigue or strategy in obtaining any position of power or control, as in business, university, etc.” which might seem antithetical to ma’at, right?
I don’t know many folks who would think it is within ma’at to “obtain any positions of power or control.” I say this because it’s not uncommon for members of our community to assume that anyone with any amount of social following or clout is somehow looking to become a megalomaniac or a cult leader. The mistrust that our community has with power is warranted, but it’s not historically informed when it comes to ma’at itself.
This idea of not trusting in people who either have power or desire power isn’t new in the slightest. Hell, the entire United States was founded basically on this idea and it has certainly carried over into Paganism. It is very rare to find a successful Pagan or Heathen organization.
So (and I don’t think I’m the only one to consider this) we’re faced with a bit of a conundrum. Most Pagan and Heathen religions of old had not just the idea of Sacred Kingship, but at least the idea of authorized leaders, if not full authoritarianism as part of the culture and religion. After all, Odin and Jupiter are the unquestioned Kings of their pantheons, to whom mortal kings were beholding to and who drew their authority from. From what Devo says, it was similar with Horus and Pharaohs via Ma’at. Yet most Pagans and Heathens live in the opposite to this concept. Why?
This is what I want to really consider.
Of course, just because ma’at was tied to politics in the past doesn’t mean that it has to be tied to politics now, right? Well, I think it depends on what you’re cherry picking from our resources in order to form your argument. To make it easy, let’s pick one of the most widely-accepted tenets of ma’at: giving food to the hungry, clothing to the naked, a boat to the boatless. All three of these things are considered very ma’atian acts to perform. Did you know that giving food to the hungry is an arrestable offense in many places? Same goes for clothing, if you’re giving it to the wrong person. Your “not political” act just suddenly got political. It’s almost as if living under an authoritative government means that politics has a say over almost all aspects of your life, it’s shocking.
So that got me thinking, if anon wasn’t trying to say that ma’at was political, what else could they be trying to say?
Devo here makes a good set of examples which allow me to touch on what I said earlier. So many “my paganism is political posts” that I’ve responded to state that “Well, my religion commands that these acts are good, therefore because my politics says that these similar/equivalent acts are good, my religion supports my political views!” I kinda recall a good example of this was some semi-celtic dude who was an avowed marxist that worshiped Brigid (I did a post on, but can’t remember when) that basically was using his Goddesses as justification for his Marxist beliefs…despite even a 10 minute web search quickly showing that many of the things he was insisting his Goddesses supported actually ran counter to their recorded natures and beliefs.
Devo isn’t doing that here, but he is showing that politics and religious morals can easily run counter to each other, leaving one in political, moral, and even legal quandary. A good heathen example of this is it was both ancient religious and legal law that if a person insulted you twice, the matter could be settled monetarily, but if insulted a third time you had to answer in blood. I don’t need to point out to anyone what would happen if you started swinging an axe or shooting a gun at someone because they insulted you in this day and age. As nice as that might actually be and a general improvement to society it might actually induce.
Everyone’s a lot more polite when they think they might get shot, I’m just saying.
Which leads to the next quote:
If I’m being honest, I don’t think it’s that our anonymous asker was somehow lost on the fact that ma’at was originally political, no. I think it’s that this anonymous asker believes that people like me are politicizing ma’at, which is a very subtle, but important distinction. Because when most people think you’re politicizing something, they believe that you are taking something and trying to use it to gain power and promote a specific bias.
And Devo nails it on the head. This is the entire reason I and so many others have spent years insisting “do not make paganism/heathenism political.” Because in all too many cases, the person doing it has not been trying to create a political platform based on the particular pagan religion they’re “practicing” but rather using the religion as a base to create/legitimize their political platform. Gods and Radicals was (and probably still is) a great example of that. So is Patheos a lot of the time.
I don’t know who this anonymous asker is, but if Devo is right in reading his concern then said anon is most assuredly based and redpilled. If you went out and looked over 90% or more of “political pagan” posts out there, it would be exactly “politicizing”.
Devo does bring up some political stuff and basically leans on the idea that the right is bad that tries to accuse the left of bias and politicizing stuff to “shut down the conversation.” I mean, I could come up with an equal or greater number of examples of the left doing that to to shut down conversations, but we do kinda live in a post-conversation world and I don’t want to get derailed from the point I’m hopefully going to make in this post.
And therein lies the crux of the problem. Our anonymous asker is assuming that people like me have taken ma’at, an innocent pure bystander, and turned it into a weapon to convert people to our way of thinking. But the truth of the matter is, ma’at has always been what she is, and most of those who aren’t living on a couch of privilege understand that that means she’s political and that the concept ends up being inherently politicized. If anything, I didn’t change ma’at, ma’at changed me — which is how its supposed to work when you convert to a religion.
I do like what Devo is saying here. It’s almost exactly the same thing I’ve said myself, and what I have encouraged people to do many times in the past. Allow your religion to shape you, your morals. You came to the faith because it felt right, now allow it to make you right, do not try to make it what you think is right.
Their statement does lose some impact and trustworthiness though given that the three previous paragraphs were pushing “left good, right bad” which honestly does make me wonder just how much Devo has given themselves over to Ma’at and how much they’re using elements of Ma’at to justify their own beliefs. And I’m saying this based on my own, personal transformation.
I know most people who have read my blog probably would label me “right wing” and that’s not an entirely unfair judgement. Hell, I’ve even admitted being basically a Fascist at this point a few times. Though that is because of everything I’ve read about all different political ideologies from Marxism to Liberalism to Classical Liberalism to Libertarianism to Conservatism to National Socialism to Fascism and others, the old ancient Heathen ways and morality are…similar to many ideas found in “fascism” and even “national socialism.” Not perfect, mind you, but given all the events in human history and development its nominally the closest term I can find, though in reality I’m probably not a political ideology you could even name, because it doesn’t even really have one. I’m Helar, and there’s nothing quite like it.
That being said, my current morality and political beliefs based on that are very, very, very different from what they were when I started out. I would say that I was probably an incredibly non-political being, since I was pretty much an omnicidal maniac in spirit if not in deed. But as alien as that morality was to the modern world, my new, evolved, Helar morality is just as alien. There is no real “right good, left bad” or “left bad, right good” at this point. There are just ideas that are good, and ideas that are bad/immoral, and if it just so happens that more of those ideas appear on the “right” rather than the “left” than that’s more because the “right” has stayed closer to the old ways where as the left always pushes towards “progress.”
And while I can’t claim to be even a novice at this point on ancient egyptian morality and Ma’at, I do think if Devo had truly given themselves to Ma’at then they would probably be a bit more “right leaning” than their apparent “left leaning.”
But here is where we get to the thing I really wanted to say, and it ties into the title of the post.
There is a (I’m not sure what to call it, but I’ll go with this) Formula in Logic. If/Then. If X is true, then it is logical that Y is true. So If the Sun is in the east, Then it must be morning. If the candle is burning, Then it must be on fire.
If Paganism/Heathenism is Political, Then…
Then what? Well, that’s the question, but fundamentally one position would be “If Paganism is Political, Then one Politics should be Pagan.”
That is logical. However, life, reality, and people are not logical. Why do we have this conflict between the ideas of Sacred Kingship/Leadership being fundamental to pretty much every Pagan/Heathen religion out there…yet we generally refuse to accept any form of Pagan leadership?
I think it is because the Political isn’t Pagan.
We’re all drawn to our respective paths for various reasons, but I do believe on a fundamental level we end up where we do because it is Right. It fits, on a spiritual level we know we’re home and this is where we’re supposed to be. But, at the same time, shit gets in the way. Our spirits are home, yes, but our minds not so much. We are the sum total of our knowledge and beliefs, things we have gathered through our lives and who make us who we are. Often, in ways we don’t realize and in ways we subconsciously refuse to let go even if we know we should.
I used to be an avowed Classical Liberal, and I was right up until Rhyd and his friends started the whole “anti-fascism” shitshow. And, me being me, I did what I usually did, looked into shit, namely Fascism. After all, you can’t refute an argument if you don’t know anything about it. And one of the things I discovered was that Rhyd wasn’t just making shit up like most Marxists tend to do. There were a lot of things he called out as “fascist” that could be found in most Pagan religions. The difference between me and him and his friends though, was where they almost had the attitude that these “fascist ideals” had basically infiltrated and ruined holy pagan religions, I realized that the reason fascists had these ideas was because these were ancient, sacred ideas that were natural and right. Like Sacred Kingship. So I had to sit down and ask myself, “Do I accept something most people consider to be ‘evil,’ to actually be good, or do I reject these ancient and sacred ideas as evil so I can be ‘good?'”
It was surprisingly easy. Hell, I’d made a similar choice when I became a heathen. After all, somewhere in the range of 4 billion humans are jewish, christian, or muslim, and they all consider anything Pagan to be absolutely and unquestionably evil. I was presented with sacred morals that many deemed evil, but which were good. So would I choose to be morally good in the eyes of the Gods or in the eyes of Mortals?
So when we join a faith, we’re presented with the Morality of the Gods, and the inevitable conflict with the Moralities of Men. And, as even Devo does to a degree, Men use their morals (in this case often heavily influenced by modern politics) which go against the Morals of the Gods. And I think that is why we so very much reject leadership from others.
Because in our souls, we recognize that most of the people who are trying to “lead” are not leading via Sacred Kingship (or Ma’at). They are not leading with and by Divine Morals, but their own morals. They’re imposing their beliefs of what is right or wrong on top of or in front of the Sacred Morality. And we know that isn’t right, and so we refuse to follow it.
I have often argued that we shouldn’t make Paganism political, though I suppose “we shouldn’t politicize Paganism” would also be an acceptable, if not better way, to put it. I have long insisted this because I have recognized exactly what would happen because it has been constantly happening. People refusing to accept the Sacred Morality, and instead pushing their mortal moralities, because they would rather be ‘good’ people in the eyes of other people than be ‘good’ people in the eyes of the Gods. Because as I have also stated in the past, if we did make Paganism Political, if we truly did build a political platform based on Paganism, most people would instantly start screaming that we were immoral monsters and evil.
And if you doubt it, then think about how people view the Roman Empire, or the Vikings, or the Celts, and their morality and actions and if they were applied to a modern day context. I mean, I personally would be pretty okay with seeing 500 antifa crucified in a single day along the streets leading into a city, but I’m pretty sure most people would recoil in horror. Or the idea of watching massive numbers of politicians being cut down in duels for insulting people repeatedly. I could come up with dozens of examples of completely moral Pagan behaviors that would be fully in line with Sacred Morality that would leave people foaming at the mouth.
Hell, I’ve probably talked about a few of them on this blog where people did start foaming at the mouth, especially when it comes to Heathenism.
Is Paganism Political? Sure, I guess so. Everything else is. Should we make our Politics Pagan? I’d be fine with it, so long as you were in fact being Pagan, which I almost never see anyone being among those pushing for paganism to be political. It’s why I’ve always leaned towards “do not do this thing.” But hey, you want to do the thing, do the thing, but don’t be surprised if people start doing it Right, at which point I suppose one would have to ask the question I really wish people would ask more often, but seem to avoid as much as possible.
Which Gods are you really following?