My Month of Silence on behalf of polytheism has not been pleasant. I’m happy for those who may have found this a time of restoration. My month unfolded differently.
Long before choosing to take the month of silence, I decided fast instead on the day of the new moon. Four people knew about my fast. But after seeing ever more garbage online, I finally experienced that “straw which broke the camel’s back"--I decided to use the fast to initiate a lunar Month of Silence. I fasted because I mourn how the deities have been treated over the years—how they’ve been diminished in the eyes of many a human as metaphors, tools, archetypes, facets of a “oneness”, or even demonized. I mourn for our ancestors. I mourn how polytheists have been mistreated, and how the deities’ priests have been mistreated. I weigh my disappointment over how many “self-defined polytheists” aren’t polytheists and how out of misunderstanding they appropriate the word “polytheism.” I mourn for my gods, I mourn for others’ gods, and I mourn for my people.
I mourn the dominion monotheism has taken for two thousand years and how it has thoroughly rooted in culture and mind. I will always mourn these matters. I consider becoming a Johnny Cash of polytheists, wearing black to signify our situation, but people would just think I was “goth.” I tried a little scarification—a Canaanite mourning tradition—but that didn’t work out as well as I’d hoped.
I started the fast on the evening of July the seventh. My family joined with a modified fast; Galina Krasskova also joined the fast, and I was grateful for the support. From dusk onward that new moon and for twenty-four hours I took in only water. As per a chudthu (new moon) evening in my household, we also abstained from television, computer, telephone, text, internet, radio, and electric lights. We played games. I meditated, prayed, then went to bed. I had a dream of people mistreating lions.
I spent the day in pain, falling apart: a quiet futility like the rushing up of ants from a sidewalk crack. I had practiced fasting and had no problems before, but this time I did not have a sense of floating peace that I expected. This fast overwhelmed me. I had taken on cleansing misdeed not just for myself but for others. I felt every last black ant pushing out from the cracks. I documented the ordeal for myself: eye-gougingly pathetic reading. At dusk, I made food offerings for the deities before I ended my fast. I ate gratefully, and went to bed with a headache-generated light show behind my eyelids.
Three weeks later I still felt much of what the fast had dredged up: congestion, sneezing, malaise, achiness, tiredness, despair, loneliness, an entire gamut of gunk that isn’t usually “mine.” By the fourth week much of the emotional discomfort eased, but some of the other physiological symptoms lingered. My fast set the tone for the month. It has come to my attention that over the past three weeks, the feeling of loneliness—something I don’t normally struggle with whether or not I have internet access—the sense of being forgotten and forlorn, was what the deities have been feeling. This was a tiny drop of their grief which I helped shoulder for them for a short time. It is stifling, heavy, choking, salty with tears, and bitter, bitter. It is ever-renewing torment for immortal, powerful beings to find themselves smothered in an abyss of abandonment only to have their names remembered for the sake of being cursed by the newer monotheisms or toyed with by others who do not take them seriously. For a long time their activities were stiffened by the cold hatred of others and the betrayal of their own people, debilitated by this agony and by a targeted approach to wipe their presences from the memory of humanity. But I remember.
I’ve prayed that good will come of my efforts, that good will filter into my work with the deities, the polytheist community, and the Canaanite polytheist community. During the first three weeks, because of my difficulties, my hopes going forward hadn’t been high. I still lick my wounds. I had hoped (?!) I would struggle less and experience a greater sense of fellowship. I had hoped more would be accomplished. Newsflash, Tess, mourning and cleansing are about struggle and feeling alone. I was left with more doubts than reassurances, more questions than answers; less of a sense of community and more of a sense that I stood nearly alone in a forgotten wilderness as I try to find civilization. I knew I would soldier onward. I prayed my efforts would not be futile. No one likes to struggle for nothing.
When I embarked on this feat, I didn’t realize how few friends I had from polytheist religions of any kind. I’m not a Norsewoman, a Hellenist, a Roman, or a Kemetic: I’m a small-time cow-town Canaanite. Canaanite polytheism isn’t much on the radar. I didn’t realize how many people amidst even my Canaanite community were more Pagan, monist, monotheist, dualist, post-modernist, neo-romanticist, New Age, or even Reform Jewish. I’m responsible for some of this issue over the years, and this has given me a new goal to be more observant and vocal in these matters. Because of my polytheist views, I’ve alienated people. I am sorry that some feel badly. Being honest about this matter is distressing. I have acted in the gentlest manner that I could while still being forthright. This frankness was necessary for actual communication. Sometimes conflict is necessary and even beneficial. I do not regret standing for my gods and their plurality and I do not regret what I have said.
Sometimes Reality is a BFF even when she’s a bitch: and she brought me to realize uncomfortable truths which will likely heal and strengthen myself and the communities...eventually.
I made my metaphorical bed. I laid in it. I tossed and turned, and counted the glowing zombie sheep. To the six who corresponded more than once with me during the month and wanted conversation beyond administrative stuff and picking my brains—I thank you from the bottom of my liver. (It’s a Canaanite thing. “Heart” in Western culture is “liver” in Canaanite culture.)
It behooves us polytheists to invest sincere and sustained effort in interfaith relations beyond the borders of our own polytheistic tradition with others of different polytheistic traditions. We don’t have to have a deep knowledge of each religion, but it is helpful to cultivate relationships with other polytheists. I believe it likely that we can aid one another in ways we don’t even yet know, and when we are helped our deities are honored. The gods draw nearer when we are together and it eases their grieving. Community itself is an offering to the gods.
Let’s face it, our souls become bruised and bleed in the work that we do. Those of us who do the work, we know the drill: we know how to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, but sometimes the bootstraps get frayed, and the strength wavers. If you have an intimate knowledge of this landscape, then you know that others have been there, too—the remembered pain urges you to aid others.
In that vein, I am focusing my efforts on networking and community building in polytheism. Because of this shift in focus and in light of having received guidance through dream oracle, I will make my final blog post at PaganSquare with Witches & Pagans magazine on August 6th, although I will continue to blog here. This was a decision I came to myself after soul searching and consulting with my deities. And even as we speak, new friendships and partnerships coalesce.
I look forward to traveling the new road ahead. I hope you’ll join me.
Day 0, Chudthu, Ra'shu Yeni, Shanatu 85
It is the first day of the month of Ra'shu Yeni, the month of new wine. It is the 85th year since the rediscovery of the Canaanite city of Ugarit.
Picture of ink in water by Dave Croker, used under CC GNU license.