A Critique of Halstead’s “The Disenchantment of Hard Polytheism”

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“Take heart now, Diomedes … the mist moreover I have taken from your eyes that was over them before, so that you may well discern both god and man.” 

Athena, Iliad 5:124-133


A Disenchanting Claim

Recently, I stumbled upon an older article, “The Disenchantment of Hard Polytheism”, in which John Halstead makes uniquely strong claims about hard polytheism and the nature. It is a good theoretical example of the marginalization of polytheism Axe and Plough talked about. I think they did a good job explaining how nonpolytheist pagans have treated polytheism and have talked specifically about Halstead, so go read them. My focus is instead on some of the philosophy at play behind Halstead’s polemic.

I also just want to clarify that I’m using the term “hard polytheist” because he did, not because I think it is a useful term.

He states plainly that

“I would also argue that it’s not possible to reenchant the world while being “staunchly” polytheistic either — by which I mean a polytheism which insists that the gods must be “separate, distinct, individuals”.” [1]

To counter this claim, we must understand that Halstead’s emphasis on consciousness rather than praxis haunts his polemic against polytheism. In doing so he’s claiming a kind of pagan deep ecology. I intend to oppose it from the perspective of a deeper ecology of pagan praxis.


Alienation and Disenchantment

What is scientific consciousness? Halstead certainly explains what he attributes to scientific consciousness. However, he does not give an explanation for scientific consciousness itself. He states that

“…atomistic theology which insists that the gods must be “separate, distinct, individuals” too closely resembles the alienating discourse of objectifying science that led to the disenchantment of the world in the first place. Morris Berman explains, “The scientific mode of thinking can best be described as disenchantment, nonparticipation, for it insists on a rigid distinction between observer and observed. Scientific consciousness is alienated consciousness; … The logical endpoint of this worldview is a feeling of total reification: everything is an object, alien, not-me.” Hard polytheists make the same mistake when they insist on a rigid distinction between the gods and us.” [1]

Halstead has stitched scientific consciousness and hard polytheism together, by declaring both to make “us”, humans, an epistemological subject and all the world the object of our observation. Because of this, we are “alienated” from the world, by denying out “interconnectedness” and how we are within the object, the world. He says that alienation is disenchantment. Disenchantment is understood as a “rigid distinction” between humans and nature within a particular kind of consciousness.

However, he is able to conflate scientific consciousness and hard polytheism not because of what is said, but because of the unspoken relations between his statements about alienation and his argument against hard polytheism. Halstead cannot hold that hard polytheists make humans the observer and the gods the observed, while also making the disenchantment of the world a process originating in alienated consciousness, in a mode of human thinking. He may as well admit this later in the piece, saying that

“I think the disenchantment of the world was caused, not when we stopped seeing gods and spirits in nature, but when we stopped seeing our essential connection to nature…” [1]

It was caused by a lack of human seeing. Everything about disenchantment has do with humans developing new ways of observing the natural world. The natural world is still the “observed”.

Halstead preserves the subject-object metaphysics he is decrying in “scientific consciousness” through critically declaring disenchantment to be a thought process of alienated human beings about the world and about nature. He has not decentered the subject. Rather he has made the subject a prodigal son, destined to find its way back to “oneness” with nature from alienated consciousness.


An Inverse Reading

To avoid the metaphysical trap into which Halstead’s humanist paganism has fallen, we must question scientific consciousness while recognizing that it developed historically from social relations between people, and a particular, historical relation between people and the world. We must acknowledge that

“[l]anguage is as old as consciousness, language is practical consciousness that exists also for other men, and for that reason alone it really exists for me personally as well; language, like consciousness, only arises from the need, the necessity, of intercourse with other men. … Consciousness is, therefore, from the very beginning a social product, and remains so as long as men exist at all.”

For our purposes, scientific consciousness is a mode of thinking that is a social product, and it arose out of material necessity within particular historical circumstances. These needs are developed within an economic system. Whereas Halstead simplified disenchantment as a “rigid distinction” between humans and nature within consciousness, we who recognize scientific consciousness as a social product understand it as a product of the socioeconomic conditions of capitalism.

Capitalism churned out mass-produced goods for the sake of exchange rather than use, for quantitative value and not qualitative value; it also manufactured a mode of thinking which dealt nearly exclusively in quantification. As capitalism reduced all notions of value to exchange (destroying some of the remaining vestiges of paganism in late feudal culture), its contemporary intellectual developments reflected this shift. Scientific consciousness is the quantitative-driven consciousness of capitalist commodity exchange, which eschews qualitative or irrational values for rational and quantitative ones. It treats the whole world as a standing-reserve [7], on call for human consumption or exchange.

Halstead seems to have recognized this in an early article he wrote, which he links in “The Disenchantment of Hard Polytheism”:

“Re-enchantment is a countercultural response to a reductionist and positivistic science which views nature (including human beings) as mechanism and a capitalism which reduces nature (including human beings) to commodity and resource.” [3]

Despite this, he appears to have forgotten the role capitalism plays in disenchantment by the time of writing against hard polytheism.

Halstead’s abstraction of the “rigid distinction” independent of historical and economic context limits him to saying only that we need to acknowledge our “oneness”, rather than recognizing the socioeconomic conditions within which and against which our paganism develops. This abstraction also allows him to equate scientific consciousness with hard polytheism, ironically promoting more theological disunity than “interconnectedness” within paganism.

This is not to say that scientific consciousness does not uphold the “rigid distinction” between humans and nature. It’s simply a question of historical priority. To see scientific consciousness for what it really is, we must invert Halstead’s reading. Peasants did not spontaneously become disconnected from nature upon thinking scientifically. Instead, peasant land was systematically stolen through enclosure, forcing them to move to growing industrial towns and become factory workers where they developed an alienated consciousness.

Disenchantment was an ideological development stemming from changes in material social relations in early capitalism.


A Hard Polytheist Deeper Ecology 

“Oneness” functions as the gospel for Halstead. He explains that

“we need to realize our essential oneness, the manifold ways in which we are connected to the rivers and the trees — whether or not we find gods in them.” [1]

Paganism for Halstead has become another religion seeking to change hearts and minds, and by establishing an orthodoxy of “essential oneness” he focuses on cultivating a new consciousness through making people “realize” this.

Not unlike his analysis of the “rigid distinction”, this position focuses far too much on thought and not at all on action. Hard polytheism, animism and strict reconstructionism in fact provide us with a far deeper ecological perspective because it is not concerned with humanism, Jungian archetypes, or “realizing” anything. Instead, it emphasizes hearth cults, sacred spaces and do ut des. Its practice focuses on the tangible depth of our spiritual and ecological relations, not the mental exercises of deep ecological theory.

Pagans have hitherto only interpreted our relation to nature. The point is to change it. I firmly stand by a paganism that defends the distinct and real existence of the gods and spirits because it allows for actual relations and actual “interconnectedness”. These relations give rise to the kind of consciousness Halstead wants to instill through a total retreat from meaningful worship of the gods or spirits.


Truth and Practice

Heraclitus of Ephesus cryptically wrote that

“a nature likes to be hidden.” [4]

This could not be more true for the gods. The nature of the gods likes to hide. The gods are mythically; their mode of being is mythic and not historical. They cannot be directly accessed in our time. The gods are concealed from us in our profane, historical mode of being and the consciousness we develop within it.

“Unconcealment” is the most literal translation of the Ancient Greek ἀλήθεια, meaning “truth”. In polytheistic religion, ritual “unconceals” the gods. In the invocatio [5], we call the god to be present in a sacred space for the offering. “But we must not suppose that human work is in question here, that it is through his own efforts that man can consecrate a space. In reality the ritual by which he constructs a sacred space is efficacious in the measure in which it it reproduces the work of the gods” [6]. The gods consecrate a space and bring us into their mythic mode of being. Within this mode of being, the gods are unhidden, unconcealed, revealed. They disclose themselves to us within the sacred space, where we can offer to them.

The gods can be brought out of their concealment from anywhere when the space is made sacred. Ritual bringing forth the gods from their concealment gives a whole new dimension to the word orthopraxy: not just “true/correct practice”, but also “truth out of practice”. The gods are made unconcealed through ritual. They are true and real through practice. It is not about whether we find the gods or not in belief, which Halstead focuses on and juxtaposes with “oneness”. The focus is on finding the gods in ritual.

Everywhere we turn, we must echo Heraclitus: ‘For here too the gods are present’. They are just hidden from us. Let Athena pull the mist from our eyes, too.


Sources

[1] Halstead, John. “The Disenchantment of Hard Polytheism” on Pagan Paths. August 24, 2015. http://witchesandpagans.com/pagan-paths-blogs/the-disenchantment-of-hard-polytheism.html

[2] Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. “History: Fundamental Conditions.” from The German Ideology. Translated by Delaney, Schwartz and Baggins. Marxist Internet Archive (marxists.org), 2000.

[3] Halstead, John. “The Fruits of the Deep Ecology Tree: Re-Enchantment.” Patheos. October 13, 2014. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/allergicpagan/2014/10/13/fruits-of-the-deep-ecology-tree-the-reenchantment-of-the-world/

[4] My Translation of Fragment DK B123; http://www.heraclitusfragments.com/B123/text.html

[5] “Religious Mentality in Ancient Prayer.” Faith, Hope and Worship: Aspects of Religious Mentality in the Ancient World. H.S. Versnel. Leiden, 1981. p. 2

[6] Eliade, Mircea. “Theophanies and Signs.” The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion. Translated by Willard R. Trask. Harper & Row, Publishers, 1961. p. 29

[7] Heidegger, Martin. “The Question Concerning Technology.” Basic Writings. HarperCollins Publishers, 2008. p. 322

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“Oj ty rzeko” (Oh you river)

Laboratorium Pieśni is a personal favorite of mine when it comes to Slavic folk music. They play mostly Polish and Belarusian traditional songs. “Oy ty rzeko” reminds me of the rivers, the creeks and the lakes, and the abundance of spirits who live there. It reminds me that these are a source of life for so many things and that they should be protected and their spirits respected. Пусть русалкы танцует навсегдо красиво на рекам!

“Oh you river, you river

Why are you not full?

Oh, luli luli luli…

Why are you not full?”

 

Notes from “Mythology of All Races”

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Originally posted on r/rodnovery

The Slavic Mythology section of Volume 3 of the Mythology of All Races is written by Jan Machal, along with a short addition at the end about Baltic Mythology for comparison written by the editor of the series, Louis Herbert Gray. While the information about the Gods in this book is lacking, it contains a vast amount of information about the various rituals and animistic beliefs of the Slavs.


Ancestor Veneration

  • Cremation appears to be the traditional funeral rite of the Slavs, with historical information about burial rites dated much later. The tradition of cremation, and the tradition of burning possessions and the wife and animals of the deceased alongside, Machal describes as pan-Slavic.
  • Arabian travelers and writers describe the funeral rites of the Slavs as being heavily focused on cremation. The wife, animals and goods of the deceased were burned alongside, as attested by both ibn Fadlan and Mas’udi
  • Jan Menecius’s account of Slavic idolatry and ancestor veneration in 1551 describes something far more pagan than Christian: men on horseback following the hearse with swords to guard against dangerous spirits, and offerings of ale and bread on the grave of the deceased. Machal further elaborates, saying these festivities were often repeated on the same day years later. Sometimes, these celebrations take place at the grave, sometimes at the home, but offerings of food were sent to the grave either way.
  • Machal describes seasonal celebrations of the ancestors called dziadys. A large meal is prepared, and the head of the household lights a candle in the corner of the room at the beginning of the feast. Then, after saying a prayer and inviting the spirits into the home, blows out the candle and begins the feast. Then, water is poured into a cup, and all those at the feast drink from it and spill some of the water. When the feast is completed, the remaining food would be donated, and the spirits requested to “fly back to heaven”.
  • The dziadys were celebrated on St. Demetrius’ Eve, the Tuesday of Easter Week, and the Saturday before Whitsunday (meaning sometime in mid-May or early June)
  • These ancestral rites are more prevalent in Orthodox Slavic countries, because the Orthodox Church did not attempt to suppress these celebrations and traditions to the extent that the Catholic Church did.

Rozanices (Рожаницы)

  • According to Procopius, the Slavs did not recognize fate as controlling every aspect of one’s life. Instead, they offered to the gods and spirits in times of hardship in hopes of changing or bettering their situation. They did recognize the Rozanices as the “dispensers of fate”, and Machal compares them to the Roman Junones or Scandinavian Disir. In this sense, we see them as female ancestral spirits who influence the fate of individuals.
  • The Rozanices appear to have developed from pure ancestor worship into their own cult, meaning they must be more than simply one’s deceased mother or grandmother. Instead, they must be the whole line of female spirits who fill the role of “dispensers of fate”.
  • The ancient Slavs offered the Rozanices honey, bread and cheese.
  • In Southern Slavic traditions, they are depicted as wearing all white with gold or silver jewelry, and holding burning candles. Wearing white is also seen in Bulgarian and Czech folklore.

Rusalky

  • The Rusalky are water-mynphs, who in their Christianized form are said to be the souls of unbaptized girls who drowned. Compare this to Saxo Grammaticus’s description of Icelandic superstitions and folklore as belief that unbaptized souls walk the earth forever, something he dismisses as obviously false. It seems there is a pattern to the animist spirits of these polytheistic traditions being Christianized as “unbaptized souls”.
  • They are said to live in the woods, meadows, fields, rivers and lakes, and begin to appear “when the corn begins to ripen”.
  • They love music and singing. They use their voice to lure swimmers into the water and to drown.
  • During the late spring and early summer, the Rusalky as said to be most active. People do not stay out late at night and do not work in the fields in order to not anger the spirits. At this time, the youth offer bread, cheese and other food to them on riverbanks.

Leshy

  • The Leshy can appear as either human or animal. As a human, he appears as an old man with green eyes and a long beard. His size depends on the size of the tree he dwells in within the forest. Many Leshy live alone in a forest or cave, although sometimes they live together.
  • “The principal business of the silvan spirits is to guard the forest. They do not allow people to whistle or to shout there; they drive away thieves, frightening them by their cries and playing pranks on them. The deer and birds enjoy their protection, but their favourite is the bear, with whom they feast and revel.”
  • The Leshy are often more mischievous than malicious. They often play tricks on those who walk through their woods uninvited. Machal describes how one whom becomes ill in the forest would offer to the Leshy for this affliction to be lifted: wrapped salted bread in linen and leave it in the woods for the Leshy.
  • Both shepherds and hunters offer to the Leshy in a similar way, by leaving bread on the stump of a tree.
  • Although Machal does not state this, I do not think it is coincidental that both the Leshy and Veles are associated symbolically through the bear. I think it would be justified in terms of reconstruction to, when dealing with the Leshy, to offer to Veles for protection from them. They are sure to respect the one “…with whom they feast and revel.”

Poludnica

  • This field spirit is said to be a tall, horrible old woman with a sickle that harasses farmers in the fields. It attacks in summer, often luring children into the fields. Machal spends more time in this chapter talking about the various different names that Poles, Russians, Belarusians, Moravians and Serbs give these spirits than what they actually are. They might be entirely a post-Christian conception.

Sun Worship

  • Arabian travelers talk of Slavs renouncing Christianity and worshiping the sun and other “heavenly bodies”. Machal cites the homilies of early Bohemian priests addressing Slavic worship of the sun, moon, fire, forests and mountains.
  • Despite this, Machal says that the only “god of the sun” proven in the historical record exists in Russian polytheism, being Dazhbog. Here, he is citing Vladimir’s pantheon in Kiev, although I think there is more evidence nowadays for widespread worship of Dazhbog, being mentioned in the Primary Chronicle, the Tale of Igor’s Campaign and the Hypatian Codex.

Theology and Mythology

  • Procopius wrote that the Slavs believe in one chief god that created lightning, and they offer him many animal sacrifices. He quotes Helmond just as Eliade did, saying that “…[the Slavs] do not deny that one god rules over the others in heaven and that he, pre-eminent in his might, cares only for things celestial; whereas the rest, obeying the duties assigned them, have sprung from his blood and enjoy distinction in proportion to their nearness to that god of gods.” The name of this god is not revealed, and Machal speculates about it being Svarog (referencing the Hypatian Codex). Perhaps Procopius and Helmond are talking about different gods, one being the celestial god Eliade talks about (the god of gods), and the other being the strongest and chief of the worldly gods. My evidence for this is that the chief god Procopius speaks of is the recipient of many animal sacrifices, something out of place for a celestial god.
  • Pagan priests in Stettin were said to worship Triglav, a compound deity, primarily. They are recorded as saying his three heads guard over the three realms of heaven, earth and the underworld. Horse-based divination was associated with Triglav just as was Svantovit.
  • Machal recalls the story of Triglav’s idol in the town of Wollin, which was hidden in a tree by a woman after Bishop Otto of Bamberg had burned the pagan temples down. The head of the statue in Stettin was sent to the Pope by Otto.
  • Machal states that “it was practically certain that Triglav was not the real name of the god worshipped in Wollin and Stettin, but merely an appellation of one of his idols which possessed three heads”. He likens it to Svantovit, the “great deity of the Elbe Slavs”, although I would disagree, saying that the three heads likened to three worlds differs from Svantovit’s four heads. I would think of Triglav as a combination of Svarog, Perun and Veles.
  • Adam of Bremen, Helmond, Thietmar von Merseburg and St. Bruno all describe the worship of “Svarazic” by the Rhetarii in the fortress of Radegast, and how Slavs from all nations came to his temple for its prophetic powers. It seems to have been on par with the temple at Arkona, although it did not last as long. Historical evidence points to Bishop John of Meckleburg’s head being offered to this god after a victory against the Christians. Numerous other gods were worshipped in Radegast, and all their idols were wearing helmets and armor.
  • Perun is described as the chief god of the Russians. His idol had a silver head and a golden beard, and stood on a hill before the palace of Prince Vladimir. Another one of these idols stood on the banks of the Volkhov river in Novgorod. Perun was seen as an enforcer of oaths, and was sworn to by Prince Igor when signing a peace treaty with the Byzantines. The pagans took off their armor and put down their weapons and swore an oath of peace while the Christians did the same in the Church of St. Iliya. When Vladimir converted to Christianity, all the other idols were ordered to be simply smashed and burned, but Perun’s idol was dragged through the streets, beaten and thrown into the Dnieper. However, worship of Perun did not fully disappear in Russia until the 11th century according to Machal.
  • Worship of Perun was largely transferred to St. Iliya. St. Iliya’s Day, July 20th, and is often still practiced with animal sacrifices for a feast.
  • Machal’s description of Dazhbog is lacking. He only references the Hypatian Codex’s description, The Tale of Igor’s Campaign saying the Russians saw themselves as Dazhbog’s descendants, and how his name was used synonymously with the devil in South Slavic traditions. The fact that ancient manuscripts liken Khors to Apollo leads Machal to conclude they were likely the same deity. He does not seem to say directly that the Svarazic worshiped in the West is the same as Khors Dazhbog in the East or Dabog in the South, although I think this is a fair connection through the Hypatian Codex.

Notes from Eliade’s “A History of Religious Ideas”

Copied from my post on r/rodnovery

Mircea Eliade’s “A History of Religious Ideas” is a valuable text for comparative mythology. Section 31 in Volume III is called “Religions of Ancient Eurasia: Turko-Mongols, Finno-Ugrians and Balto-Slavs”. It’s a short read (about thirty pages).


Here’s some various notes I took down while reading it that are valuable to Slavic pagan reconstruction:

  • The Finno-Ugrian god called Es by the people who lived along the Yenisei river has a name which signifies both “heaven” and “celestial God”. Eliade compares this to Tengri, and Kudju of the Yukagirs, but I think further examples of this would be the Persian religion talked about during the time of Cyrus and Xerxes (see: Herodotus’s Histories, 1.131-140). Herodotus states that the Persians “…call the whole circle of the heavens Zeus”, using the chief Greek god’s name as analogous to their chief god. This is important because later comparisons between Eurasian paganisms and Iranian mythology make more sense with that connection. Returning to Eliade, the connection between all of these “celestial Gods” is that “…he has no interest in human affairs; he leaves that to the spirits of the second rank, to the heroes and the great shamans. He has no cult. He is offered no sacrifices, and is addressed no prayers. Nevertheless, he protects the world and helps mankind”. Continuing to talk about “celestial Gods”, in relation to other spirits or gods, he states that “[d]uring the evangelization of the Samoyeds (1825-1835), the missionaries destroyed thousands of anthropomorphic idols, some with three or seven faces. Since most accounts agree that Num [, the Samoyed equivalent of Es or Tengri,] had no images, it has been justly concluded that these idols probably represented ancestors and different spirits.”
  • Here we can point to the definitive characteristics of a celestial God in Eurasian polytheism: lacking a cult or depiction in icons or idols, lacking sacrifices or prayers, omnipotent or most powerful among the gods, somehow related to the sun (as Num’s eye, or Persian veneration of the Sun alongside ‘Zeus’ as the sky).
  • At this point, I think we can disprove that somewhat popular notion that Perun is the chief god of Slavic polytheism. While Perun was certainly among the nine who are listed in the Chronicle of Nestor (Perun, Veles, Khors, Dazhbog, Stribog, Simarglu, Mokosh), his popularity among the peasants, oaks being consecrated to him, and use of his name in religious sayings in Baltic paganism (“O God, Perkunas, do not strike me…) indicates he is involved in this world. Later attempts to systematize Slavic paganism before conversion show paganism in decline, not a monotheistic or henotheistic religion focused on Perun
  • Eliade, citing Helmond, assures us the Slavs had a celestial god: “the Slavs do not dispute the ‘god of the heavens’, but consider that this god ‘concerned himself only with celestial affairs'”. Often, two Slavic gods are depicted as this figure: Rod and Svarog. However, I propose that Svarog fits this position better than Rod. Eliade points out the etymology of Rod’s name and historical sources pointing towards the possibility of him being a celestial creator, but then describes the rozhenitsa, analogous to Scandinavian norns, as being part of the cult of Mati syra zemliya, Mother Earth, which survived long after nominal conversion. Birth, it seems, is tied more to Mother Earth than the celestial God. He then cites Al-Masudi, who wrote that Slavs adored the Sun, and built temples allowing sunlight to shine through. This, coupled with Thietmar von Merseburg’s description of Svarog as the chief god of Western Slavs, sets everything in place: A god not depicted by idols (absent from Vladimir’s pantheon), not addressed in prayers (little surviving information about him), etymological connection of name to “sky” or “heaven” (Sanskrit “Svarga”), related to the sun (father of Dazhbog).
  • Eliade links polycephalism (many-headedness) with omniscience in Indo-European religions. He alludes to the Thracian horseman and a tricephalic Gaulish god. He also states that the Finno-Ugrians share this trait. He states that “…it expresses divine omniscience, an attribute specific to celestial gods, but also to solar divinites…” Here, I think that Triglav makes a good candidate for the omniscient “god” of Slavic paganism, and where it differs from Tengri or any Finno-Ugric celestial god: Svarog as god of the heavens and father of the sun, together with Perun as thunderer, sky-god and hero and Veles as god of worldly, perishable things (music, death, wealth, etc) together forms the omniscient tricephalic figure.
  • This differs from the accounts of Rugen/Arkona and the cults on this island. However, like Vladimir’s Perun cult, I feel the cult of Svetovit and the others on this island are not indicative of the rest of Slavic paganism, because Svetovit’s name comes from “svet” meaning “strength”, and how Eliade describes him as “…protector of the fields”. In spite of his polycephalism, his connection to the world discounts him as a celestial god; he is not a hero nor a god of death, but something of all three. Being the patron god of Rugen, I assume that these late pagans elevated this god’s cult independent of the rest of the West Slavs, and Svetovit’s lesser gods such as Jarovit, Rujevit and Porovit Eliade explains as being personifications of the seasons based off their etymology.

Summary: Based on comparing Slavic mythology with historical neighbors and linguistically related mythologies (Baltic, Finno-Ugric, Turkic, Germanic), we can see that Slavic theology consisted of a number of gods beneath the one “celestial” god. I identify, using Eliade and some outside information, Svarog as this celestial figure, who forms Triglav with Perun and Veles as the three primary gods. Triglav’s polycephalism gives him omniscience, but only because the three are together are they powerful. The myth of Perun fighting Veles shows an inner struggle within Triglav, meaning, at this moment in the theology, there is no omniscient figure. Svarog still maintains the heavens, his son rides across the sky every day, Perun send rains and thunder to attack Veles, who defends the earth.


Some notes about ancestor veneration:

  • “A pan-slavic custom, unknown among the Indo-Europeans, is the double-sepulcher. After three, five or seven years, on disinters the bones [of the buried], washes them, and wraps them in a napkin (ubrus); the napkin is brought into the house and placed provisionally in the “sacred corner”, in the place where icons are hung. The magico-religious value accorded to this napkin is due to its contact with the skull and bones of the dead. Originally, a portion of the exhumed bones was deposited in the “sacred corner”. This extremely archaic custom (attested in Africa and Asia) is also found among the Finns.”
  • In terms of reconstruction, we are probably not able to do this in the modern day as individuals. However, I think a possible way to practice this nowadays would be to, on the day of one’s death, take items that were important to that individual (things which represent them, or structure them, in the way that bones structure one’s body), and place them on the altar/sacred corner, next to the icons of the gods (if this is not a permanent altar to one’s ancestor).

Some notes about spirits:

  • Eliade connects the Leshy with Finno-Ugric and Turkic ideas like the “Master of the Animals”. These spirits of the forest protect the animals that live within them. He states that “[t]his type of divinity is an archaic one…” and “[e]qually ancient is the belief that certain spirits of the forest (domovoi) penetrate into dwellings while they are being constructed”, showing possible animistic or shamanic influences which predate the more traditional polytheism we see leading up to Vladimir’s conversion. He also states that these spirits are not necessarily good or bad. Immediately, I am reminded of the landvaettir in Germanic paganism: outside nature spirits which, when respected, can be friendly neighbors.

A Beginning

Sunrise
Sunrise by Albert Bierstadt

My intentions with this blog are expressive. I plan to talk generally about my religious belief and practice, or topics related to it. I expect to drift off, onto philosophical tangents. I don’t think the pagan internet needs another reconstructionist blog, and I think there are plenty of people out there who can do that much better than I could.

Also, this will allow me to share art or literature I enjoy and find relevant to pagan belief.

Let the Son of Svarog give his golden gift to us all.