Because of the recent turn my life has taken, some of you may naturally be wondering this.
Short answer: no.
Long answer: uhm … probably not?
I can’t reasonably be certain of anything, except this: I belong to Dionysos, utterly and completely. Everything in my life revolves around him and all of the strange permutations that my spirituality has undergone over the years has been with the sole purpose of drawing closer to him and helping me to understand more of his infinitely complex and diverse nature. All of the different identities I’ve tried on and work I’ve done has been a tool for that exploration and a means of expressing it. So while it may have seemed from the outside that I was being unstable and bewilderingly eclectic, in truth I have only ever had a single, unswerving focus and that is him.
Now while I may be a textbook example of henotheism, my henotheism is firmly grounded in a polytheist weltanschauung. Dionysos is for me the greatest and most important of all the gods — but that has never implied that those other gods do not exist or are not equally great and important in their own ways. (Far from it. My devotion to Dionysos has often led me to encounter and pay homage to many other divinities and I have very close relations with a pantheon that numbers in double digits, though I consider this pantheon to be the extended court of Dionysos, prince of the underworld.) In fact I hold to one of the hardest varieties of hard polytheism, for as far as I’m concerned any divinity who could possibly exist, does. I have no interest in working out the finer details of this theology. What concern is it of mine whether Hera and Juno are or are not the same goddess or if a certain body of water is governed by Manannán mac Lir, Aegir, Enki or Yemaya when I am not actively engaged in the cultus of any of these beings? Even when it comes to the divinities I regularly interact with I just don’t spend a lot of time thinking about them in that way unless it somehow furthers the work I have to do, and that is rarely the case. We think we need to know a lot more than we actually do and in the end there is very little that we can be truly certain of in this life. But one thing I do know is that you should be respectful of others and as such I’m not going to go around making declarative statements about people I’m not familiar with, especially statements regarding their existence. I’ve personally never met Bill Gates, but others have and that’s sufficient for me. The same holds for the potentially millions of divine beings that are out there — the vast majority of whom I am completely indifferent to.
Therefore, even though I am a Dionysian working in a loose Pan-Mediterranean tradition I believe in the Heathen gods as much as I believe in the Olympians or Bill Gates. In fact, some of the Heathen gods are more real to me than their Hellenic associates (or Bill Gates) because a number of friends and colleagues I’ve had over the years have been devoted to them and as such I have had the chance to hear about their activities, see how those gods interact in the lives of their people and in a few instances have even encountered them myself during ritual. This is one of the reasons I so deeply enjoy interacting with people from other faith traditions. We carry our gods with us and through us they can reach out to others. Odin and Loki would be little more than characters from a storybook if it was not for those people who have repeatedly brought them into my awareness and life, and though it has rarely gone beyond that I deeply cherish those brief brushes with these deities.
And to be clear, my interest in Heathenry pretty much begins and ends with Odin and Loki. It’s a fine tradition and it’s hard not to feel envious when you compare what that community (or, more accurately communities) has accomplished versus what the Hellenic, Roman and Kemetic folks have done over roughly the same period of time. (And don’t whine that they got a head start — there were already Greek-focused groups in the 1970s, both in California and on the east coast: the fact that most Hellenics today don’t even know the names of these groups let alone what they did speaks volumes. What’s even sadder is that this history is being lost as that generation begins to die off. An effort should be made to get Poppaeus and Pyrokanthos and the many like them who were active at that time to record their stories before it’s too late. But since no one listened to me when I warned folks against what was happening in the community half a decade ago, resulting in its current wreckage and impotence, I don’t anticipate this advice will be heeded either.) But with those successes comes a degree of politicking and contention that is frankly exhausting just to read about. Even the bitterest flamewar about the role of magic or oracles within Hellenismos has got nothing on the Heathens! Everyone is pretty much in agreement that Tim Alexander was a pompous and abusive jackass but at least he never sent death threats to those he disagreed with. Even beyond that though Heathenry holds only a minimal appeal for me. The cosmology and myths are not resonant for the most part, certain spiritual concepts are useful for articulating things but between the Greek and Egyptian vocabulary I’ve amassed I’m pretty good in that department and while the aesthetics grab me on a certain level, that level is not very deep. (I really like Heathen-inspired music — it gives me The Feelings and can swiftly put me in an altered state. There is undeniably power there, power derived from the gods. But it feels cold and alien to me, a story I am not meant to fully understand. For all my problems with the institutional church, expressions of folk Catholicism feel much more like “home” to me.)
None of which is meant as a condemnation of Heathenry. I have nothing but respect for it as a religious tradition — it’s just not my tradition. And yet there’s something there, along the fringes, that I keep being drawn to. I can’t really say what or how deeply engaged with it I’ll ever be. But I cannot deny that the attraction is there and that it is probably there for a good reason. I think it may be something as simple as power or energy or aesthetics. I think coming into contact with that, however peripherally, will help open me up, help show me certain ways I can do my own stuff more effectively, more potently. For a while there’s been a coalescence of ideas and practices and imagery within my stuff. Mumming and masking, nocturnal processions, trooping spirits, ordeals of pain and blood, benandanti, Harlequin, Saint John and Venus. All of this stuff is firmly rooted in the Italian soil and consciousness for me — and goes further back into ancient Greece — but Italy borders the Alps and beyond the Alps lies the North and there is a great deal of continuity in all of these old, old European folk traditions. Unintentionally — and sometimes intentionally — refusing to explore that has held me back. But I haven’t gotten as far as I have, as close to Dionysos as I have, by holding anything back.
I am not saying that this is definitely the direction I’m heading in. I don’t even know how that would manifest if it was the direction. All that I am saying is that I want to be open to everything in Dionysos’ world. And if Dionysos is going to use other traditions and other gods to show me things about himself, I am not opposed to that. Being open is the point — I have no idea what will come through as a result of that, nor is it necessary for me to. So, things could drastically change here at the House of Vines in the coming months or there may not be any perceptible differences at all. After all I’ve been talking about a lot of this stuff for a while now, especially Harlequin, so most likely there’ll just be more of that.
My this is a weird adventure I’m on.