Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Reflections on "She Rides a Pale Donkey"

It's come to my attention that some folks have misread one of my previous posts. They insinuate the notion that I support violence, or they seem to think I have no compassion for human suffering, or that I am hiding unworthy opinions by putting them in the context of an oracle.

None of this could be further from the truth.

I submit that the opinions others have of me in this regard are their own reflections.

People either believe the deities as real, living powerful beings, or they don't. People either believe that I can receive an oracle from my deities, or don't. If a person has checked "yes" in either "don't" category, then whatever I do is suspect from there. How you read an oracle is a reflection of your belief or your lack thereof--either in the deities, in myself, or in either. If you don't believe in the deities, I can't help you there on that matter of faith or experience. If you don't believe that I can receive an oracle from the deities, you only have my word that I do, and the words of others who do and have experienced likewise and can confirm this. For some of you, that won't ever be enough. I can't make you live through and experience what I or other polytheists have, and there's the rub. For that matter,  I don't want to "make" you live through anything, and it's a moot question anyway for I do not have or want that capacity: I am a firm believer in free will.

The nature of oracle is what it is. If I were to edit my goddess's words for content and style, I would feel that I had failed in my duty to her and to others who need or want this message. If you don't believe that what I wrote was an oracle, if you don't need or want this message from her, you are at liberty to ignore it.

My post does not reflect an anti-Israel stance, and to suggest that it does is to try to use an emotional hot-button topic in an effort to shush me. Besides, ancient Canaan encompassed more than just what is now Israel, including areas of Syria and all of Lebanon. As such, I am also not anti-Palestinian. I am against some Israelis and some Palestinians alike if they resort to escalating violence. I am not pro-US involvement in Syria, or anywhere in the region. Europe and U.S. have done enough to mess up the Near East since the twentieth century and before. I am against violence. I am not a complete pacifist, but I am strongly opposed to the horrors of war, if they can be at all avoided. I am especially opposed if I believe the war is unjust or greedy in nature. I want the fighting there to come to a decent and peaceful resolution. At the same time, people have a right to protect themselves, their families, and their homes. I want the people of these lands to figure out for themselves just how they want to live together. But what I want and what I say about these issues doesn't matter two thiqlu-weights.

The words in the oracle of Athiratu reflect a parent's frustration, anger, and sadness when her child is screwing up his own life and refuses to listen. If you misread that for "Tess is pro-war! Tess eats babies!" then you failed to read the post without your own cynical reflection overshadowing and coloring the words. If you read the oracle of Athiratu thinking "Tess wants all religions but her own destroyed!" it is because you failed to read the post without your own fear in the words.

Or perhaps it's almost as if some folks were specifically fishing for a way attack me and my work.

In my post and in my experience with the oracle, Athiratu's words carried with them a sense of "until there is room there for acceptance of the deities and a polytheistic religion that respects the indigenous traditions, war will continue because there is no room for secular government and thus no room for support of diversity in religion and freedom of thought." And also "I can't help people who slap my helping hands away and pretend I don't exist or forget that I do exist." And there is indeed real persecution of polytheists, Pagans, and people of alternative religions or even of no religion--even atheists even run into trouble in the Near and Middle East.

There also have been some vile insinuations that I may be antisemitic. Before putting someone in the same philosophical camp as Hitler, an actual anti-Semite who was a murderous megalomaniac, it is wise to ascertain her true opinions. I have a deep respect for Judaism. Indeed learning about Canaanite polytheism has only furthered my respect. There are strong connections there between Judaism and Canaanite polytheism, even as there are strong connections between Celtic religion and Irish Catholicism. My problem regarding monotheism (which includes Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) only lies in the tenants or proponents of monotheistic religions which/who stamp out polytheism in practice, deed, and rhetoric. When people rob museums in Egypt with intent to destroy the polytheist artifacts, this is a real problem. When you cannot obtain citizenship in Lebanon without listing that you're either Jewish, Christian, or Muslim, this is a real problem. The indigenous polytheism of the Canaanites is practically outlawed or at the very least disallowed by strong social mores in its own homeland which stretches through Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Palestinian territories, and the western edge of Jordan.

In some instances I do what I can to hold my ground by speaking out, even as  Pagan would speak out against having "creationism" taught as a science or in having Christian prayers in a US school. Speaking out against creationism and Christian prayers in school does not make a person anti-Christian or bigoted. And to casually and carelessly throw around a term like "antisemitic," especially as a gag tactic, is disgusting. It is the old story of Peter and the Wolf, of crying "wolf," when there isn't one. Even more, it is grossly discourteous to the beloved dead who died because of antisemitism and religious bigotry, and those who still carry the scars--both emotional trauma and actual physical scars.

I find it especially poignant to be making this response post on the anniversary of the 9-11 attacks in the US, a day when religiously-oriented violence killed thousands. There is a world of difference between disagreement, discussing disagreements, and using words instead of explosives. We can disagree, we can hold our opinions, we can maintain healthy boundaries. We don't have to all agree with each others' opinions and beliefs to get along and coexist.

A note for Sannion, who writes "Tess Dawson, I publicly and from the bottom of my heart apologize to you. You do not deserve any of this. Your service to your gods is far cleaner and purer than anything I will ever be capable of and yet by trying to use The House of Vines to promote your work I made you a target. I am sorry."  I am honored and touched by your kindness, and I feel no need for an apology for someone else's dubious behavior. Be blessed: may my deities bless you, your family, and your ancestors, and may your god Dionysos be forever revered.

And yes, I will be heavily censoring comments in the comment section.
If you post something in the comments as "Anonymous" it is common courtesy to give your name if you hope to engage in further discussion.

Today is
6 Niqalu, Shanatu 86

Image Notes
Photography by Garry Knight, used through CC License.


  1. Very well said. I've a feeling many who need to hear these words will not listen, but I pray that at least a few do so. I see a great sense of honor and dignity both for your Gods and your person here, I only hope one day I might be as eloquent.

    1. Still, Grimswolf, I hope for the best. I thank you for your kind words. Blessings on your endeavors.

  2. I felt great sadness and shame, as well as a resolve to do better, when I read your oracle post. Thank you.

    1. Thank you, Teka Lynn, for listening to her words. I may in the near future post something on setting up a home practice in Athiratu's honor.

  3. Hello Tess! My name is Brooke! (I'll use my usual name, as for some reason my browser won't let me log into my Wordpress username, how silly ^^;; ). I'll admit that I am one of the perhaps many who were initially somewhat confused or unsure about your oracle, so thank you for providing more insights on the matter. In addition...

    I have a question for you - or perhaps, simply some ideas to share, regarding Judaism. I am 100% Jewish on both sides of my family, and was raised in a conservative Jewish environment (one that was quite tolerant and accepting of other faiths, luckily!). Despite really loving my family traditions and holidays and community, I was never happy with Monotheism - it just did not hold true in my heart, even in childhood. In college, I began to pursue Polytheism - but found that it was hard for me to give up my sense of Jewish identity. And yet I felt called to Deities other than YHVH, the Hebrew God.

    Long story short: I eventually made connections with the Kemetic Gods of Egypt, and, more recently, the Canaanite Gods. It was actually through an intense ancestor veneration project that I did that I really opened up to the Canaanite Pantheon. I could feel my own very very distant ancestors "calling me home", so to speak. I read your book after that, which I have since found very useful, so thank you.

    My question for you, however, is if you have any issue with those of us who might pursue relationships with the Canaanite Deities and the practices that honor Them, while still retaining an ethnic and cultural Jewish identity. I would not call the worship of the Canaanite Deities "Jewish", but I myself still identify as "a Jew." There is more to Judaism than Monotheism - throughout my life I have encountered Atheist or simply "Secular" Jews, Goddess-God dualistic Jews, and even Buddhist Jews. To so many of us, "Jewish" means culture, it means family, it means ethnicity - not necessarily religion or a One-God-Only doctrine. And I have found it to be more than possible to worship Canaanite Gods and follow the practices you describe in your book, and still retain a love for Challah bread, for Jewish music, song, and prayer, for Jewish holidays with family, for Sabbath candles, etc.

    I would never call what we I am the exact same thing as Natib Qadish, but you and I, at least, do serve the same Gods. I think that we have much in common. And I too, have fought hard battles before, against the very strict Monotheists of Judaism (my own father, for one) - it's not perfect. Nothing ever is. But there is a lot of grey in-between the black and white of Monotheist vs. Polytheist, and I think there is much of worth to be retained from my Jewish background, and much of worth to pursue now that I've found the Gods that speak to me louder than the Hebrew God ever did.

    And of course, I will never be shy in helping and encouraging those Jews in my family, and those Jews in the community I grew up in (and anyone else of any religious denomination that seems interested, to be honest), to learn and understand where I stand, and why I stand there.

    Thank you for listening!

    1. Hi Brooke. Cultural identity is made of many layers. Just because a person is western European culture, African American culture, Chinese culture, Canadian culture, or whatever, doesn't mean that one cannot also be a part of another culture at the same time. We tackle many different cultures and roles in one day: at work, we abide by our work culture, at home we abide by our familial culture, and when we're out with friends we engage in another culture. Just because a person can navigate work culture does not make a person unable to navigate home culture, nor does it make a person unable to be a part of another ethnic culture. Sometimes there are conflicts between roles in the various cultures, but how we navigate those makes us who we are. So yes, you can be ethnically Jewish and honor the Canaanite deities. You can be any ethnic background and honor the Canaanite deities.

      However, being religiously Jewish and trying to maintain a practice to honor the Canaanite deities is problematic. The early Hebrew were polytheistic but eventually went monotheist to the exclusion of other deities. The Shema', the most basic tenant of Judaism as a religion, denies the existence of the other deities. Early Judaism worked hard to eradicate the polytheistic worship amid its own people, and I think that we have to understand this and realize that it isn't compatible with honoring the deities as separate, individual, and many.

      I would disagree about "a lot of grey in-between the black and white of Monotheist vs. Polytheist." The denial of my gods' existence in favor of a one-god, the one-god's early peoples' efforts to view all the other deities as incorporated and superseded by the one-god, and the idea of the deities as "facets" of a one-god or a one-power all look like pretty good examples of seeing a clear difference between monotheism and polytheism. Polytheism is the worship of many individual deities. Philosophies that would divest the deities of their individuality, their plurality, their uniqueness isn't polytheism.

      So if you are asking my opinion and truly wanting to know what I think: you can indeed be ethnically Jewish and honor the Canaanite deities. However, being religiously Jewish conflicts with honoring the Canaanite deities. It's up to you and your relationship with the deities and the ancestors as to how you want to navigate the differences in role conflict, religious conflict, and philosophical conflict.

    2. Thanks for your reply!

      I do not say the Shema anymore, nor could I. It's not true to me. I think there's still much about Jewish religious practice I could no longer take part in because I am a polytheist. That is definitely true. Yet, I would still call myself a cultural Jew - the Jewish people are my tribe, you could say.

      The reason I say there is grey in-between the black and white I perhaps did not clarify very well. There is definitely a distinct and important difference between monotheist and polytheist as theological approaches, for sure. I guess what I mean was: if one is culturally Jewish and ALSO polytheist, and still chooses to, say, sing along with the Sabbath prayers over the candles when her family, there is a way to reconcile the words and the meaning of the words vs. the enjoyment of a cultural practice. Just because I might sing along with my mother and father, for example, does not mean that I am denying my Gods. The word "God" in any of those prayers (the Sabbath prayers do not outright deny the existence of other Gods like the Shema does), said out of a cultural habit or family circumstance, could apply to any one of my Gods if I want it to. "Blessed are you, Lord, our God, sovereign of the universe" - which God? Which sovereign? To my father, YHVH. To me, perhaps it is 'Ilu. To my mother, a nameless sense of Deity she has never truly understood. That is where the greyness I speak of comes from, in my personal experience. But we may still disagree, and I think that's ok! ^_^

      And of course, I do not, like I said, say the prayers that outright deny the existence of other Deities anymore, such as Shema. You're right that that would, indeed, conflict. I just think there are times when the conflict is less severe. And like you said, it is up to each of us individually to "navigate the differences in role conflict, religious conflict, and philosophical conflict."

      And like I said, I would not call Canaanite polytheism the same thing as Judaism at all. I just think I am often able to put myself in less upsetting situations when with family because much of it comes down to personal interpretation, for me.

      Thanks again, for answering me!

  4. It's easy to be misinterpreted or misunderstood sometimes, especially when dealing with such a sensitive issue. Thank you for being brave enough to write what you do and for working so hard to honor the gods! You are a true inspiration!

    1. Thank you, Elhanan, I much appreciate it. I don't know how much bravery has to do with it.I do my duty to the best of my ability and sometimes it can take me into some uncomfortable situations. Doesn't mean I'm not "white-knuckle driving" from time to time.

  5. I think it is sad that you even needed to write this... but I'm glad you did. :)