• The blacker the body, the whiter the light—the incandescent, active virgin heart from which all comes. Victor Anderson

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  • Just a quick note
    I’ve updated my bio page with a link to Les Cabinets Des Polytheistes, where my story “Spine of the World” is published (and in which people can play Spot The Netjer if they are so inclined), and my less-specific webspace Suns in Her Branches, which is broader than this space (which is specifically for reconstructionist-derived […]
  • Opet article is up
    And can be read here.Filed under: Patheos Links
  • Opet is coming ’round again
    And the Emboatening Crew is once more celebrating by making Kiva loans. You’re all welcome to join us. (My monthly column in Patheos Pagan is about Opet and charitable works, and will be going up tomorrow assuming nothing goes wrong.)Filed under: Festivals, Uncategorized
  • Mythopoeia
    Continuing with rambling on the topic of my exploration of pagan movement history, another critical concept: mythopoeia. The word means, literally, “myth-making”, and it is one of the near inescapable traits of at least the origin points of pagan religions. […]
  • An Introduction to Enchantment
    One of my occasional hobbies is digging into the history of the modern pagan movement, which is a project about which I can wax quite tedious given the opportunity. It is full of all kinds of interesting rabbitholes and cross-connections, […]
  • Hills of the Horizon: The Past is Another Country
    The problem with extrapolation from history is that nothing is testable. The evolution of a religion over time is not a predictable and easily comprehensible thing, where we can look at a point in time and say, "It was like this then, so it would be like that now." The process of deciding what needs […]

The Evolutions Of Hell

Thiess the Livonian Werewolf had a very straightforward Hell to invade: a physically accessible place, located beyond a watery passage to the underworld (which seems likely to me to be a survival of something related to the Slavic myths of Veles, in which the chthonic cattle-lord god is ruler of the waters, and who, post-Christianisation, was partially recast as a Devil figure). It contained stolen things – field fertility, cattle blessings, and so on – which could be retrieved for the good of the community. (And indeed the earlier court conflict which made Thiess’s werewolfing more known in his village seems to have raised his status, possibly because people recognised him as someone who would go to great lengths for the common good.) For all that it was framed in Christian terms, it was not theologised in a Christian form – it was a thieves’ den staffed by the enemies of God, not otherwise made more complex with matters of sin, punishment, or even damnation. The nuances of orthodox theology were lost on Thiess, who claimed not to understand them.

It is less clear in what I know of this narrative what the Devil’s sorcerers got out of their end of the deal. Access to the food and resources stolen from the collective, perhaps, or magical powers inaccessible to ordinary folk – presaging, perhaps, the capitalist-imperial model in which certain forms of wealth and power render one immune to consequences. A guess might be that the sorcerers wished to be removed from the risks of community – when the collective status rose or fell, they did not wish to be bound to the same fate as others, and would make whatever deals it took to protect themselves and their families.

It is quite likely that they felt that those stored-up supplies were rightfully theirs – after all, they worked to bring the grain to harvest as well. Crop failure wasn’t fair, and wouldn’t anyone do what it takes to stave off starvation? “You wouldn’t want to see my children waste away, would you?” they might say. Security, certainty, the preservation of life itself, those were worth a deal with the Devil, who was, after all, only building a granary.

Perhaps the werewolves seemed to them the one on the Devil’s side. “I’ve done everything I can to protect my own, and here come these thieves in the night. They steal cattle and tear them apart to fund their burglary, they venture into the granary I helped build, they take the seed that I helped put there….” You can see it, right?

Here’s the interesting trick to it: regardless of whether or not I would place each of those people among the Devil’s partisans, all of them are opposed to this theological concept of Hell, this place into which the essentialities of life vanish and leave people bereft. For the most part, people have worked to close the gates of the Hell that they understand. Some may do it out of concern for whole communities, a more expansive care; others may do it to secure a better place for themselves, their families, because being able to provide for others gives them status and security, or whatever else. But the Devil’s party and those who steal back from them, whichever political faction one aligns with them, are agreed that their communities need food and there must be mechanisms to attain that end.

Hold that thought. (And I’m going to put a cut there, because this is going to get gigantic, I can already tell.)
Continue reading The Evolutions Of Hell

Hounds of God, a Reconstruction Problem

Once upon a time, existential threats were fairly clear and easy to see. Crop failure, disease, and war were clear and distinct, and joined by Death as riders of the apocalypse. They were obvious, inarguable. The forces that drove those happenings seemed part beyond human comprehension, but they also clearly had mortal allies, who could […]

Religious Education

If one chases the chain of causation far enough back, it was OWL that made me a UU.

I didn’t go through it myself; I have, however, had long and complicated ruminations about the state of sex education and the ways in which it (or rather its lack) contributed to other things. And I have […]

Remembrance

I didn’t do anything in particular to mark the Beautiful Festival of the Western Valley this year (25 May on my calendar) because I am buried under so much of everything that I barely know what month it is, let alone when the holidays fall. It did strike me, yesterday, how interesting it was that […]

Warning: I start from UU politics

So I read ‘Enough of this F*%ery Already White UUs’ and followed the links to the post that provoked it and this response video (on FB), which I actually listened to, and I have a particular thought to express.

And one thing struck me, and it struck me really hard: this sentiment of “my religion […]