Within days of going live with the Turtle Island Initiative, we received notice of the desecration of several Pagan temples. Contemporary Paganism is, in part, an attempt to revive, restore, and return to our ancestral –i.e. indigenous—ways. Not unexpectedly, such restoration has often been met with violent resistance.
The most recent attack occurred on Sept. 26 in Poltava, Ukraine by Christians against a Temple of Jupiter in the process of being built by the growing Roman polytheist community there. The pontifex
was injured defending the altar. The graffiti left at the site reads “Die, Heathens.” More information can be found here: http://cultusdeorumromanorum.blogspot.com/2011/10/temple-site-desecration.html
and here: http://www.sodahead.com/living/temple-of-jupiter-perennus-that-is-being-built-for-pagan-community-in-poltava-ukraine-was-attacked/question-2196325/
. The latter site has a link where readers may go to donate in support of the desecrated temple.
This is hardly the first attack in recent months on Pagan and polytheistic places of worship. Earlier this year, a band of Christians attacked a Romuva sanctuary in Lithuania. Romuva happens to be the indigenous Pagan religion of Lithuania and since the fall of communism in that area, has been experiencing a rebirth. It has also been meeting violent resistance from the Christian Orthodox Church, as the latter scrambles to reclaim the power it lost in the area with the rise of communism. Are we seeing a pattern yet?
These attacks are not limited to areas in the process of recovering from communism. Let’s look a little closer to home. Last year in Ohio, Christians attacked a CUUPS sanctuary and in New Jersey, a Christian group desecrated a Hindu Temple. This is only the tip of the iceberg.
In “Moses and Monotheism,” Freud wrote that “religious intolerance was inevitably born with the belief in one God.” Conversion era documents chronicle again and again the brutal destruction of Pagan and Heathen places of worship. They also, of course, chronicle the brutal torture and slaughter of many Pagans and Heathens. It is easy for us to assume that such violence and intolerance are things of the past, of prior, darker, less-enlightened times. The truth is however, that given half a chance, the same type of violence happens today. It is happening and it’s happening in the name of monotheistic doctrine. We have Christian clergy preaching of the need to wipe out Pagans today, now, in our own supposedly enlightened times. This
is the fruit of monotheism.
Our pre-Christian ancestors may have engaged in wars of conquest but it wasn’t until the rise of monotheistic doctrines that one finds this happening repeatedly in the name of religious righteousness. A cultural imperative after all, is quite different from the embedded authority of a moral one. Across the world, there are those men and women—Jewish, Muslim, Christian – who practice their religions and live in peace. We commend them, however, if they are not speaking up against the hatred, violence, and villainy of their monotheistic compatriots, they are part of the problem. What is it the philosophers say about the only thing evil needing to triumph is for otherwise good men to do nothing?
Part of the issue as we see it, is that anyone coming from the (in America) Christian majority is speaking from a place of privilege. Most don’t even realize it and for those that do, most are unwilling to give that privilege up. How often do we hear reports of certain types of Christians screaming about oppression when all that’s being asked is that they cease harassing others with their beliefs? It is the fundamentalist mindset. Others, otherwise tolerant human beings, respond with anger, resistance, and accusations of bullying and victimization when their otherwise obvious privilege is pointed out…as it must be, for clear and productive dialogue to occur.
Author Laura Patsouris, in a recent discussion on the subject of white, Christian privilege wrote: “whether the topic is race, religion, sexuality, or indigeny: the dominant group in their privilege struggles to control the narrative of the minority because he who controls the narrative controls reality. Or at least how the history will be recorded...we need to all be brave enough to rip away the filter and honestly listen to the narratives of others and celebrate multiplicity and diversity.
This I think is easier for polytheists to do just because it is an open ended system that acknowledges the sacred and holy exist even outside their own particular faith structure. Monotheism's issue is that it is a closed system: so inherently anything outside of the narrowly defined parameters is "evil". Ironically when the original texts are read in Hebrew what we see is not monotheism but henotheism; "you will have no other Gods before me"...i.e. there are other Gods."” (Private communication with L. Patsouris, on October 10, 2011).
Anyone seeking to reclaim his or her indigeny is taking a stand against unexamined, unacknowledged privilege and the harm that so often stems from it. They are taking a stand against a very unhealthy, unnatural status quo. Christians, Jews, and Muslims can do this too. After all, there is nothing inherent in polytheism that would deny them
the right to worship their
In the meantime, let us all pray for those Roman polytheists in Poltava, who weathered the first and hopefully last attack on their sacred temple. I leave you with a prayer by Kenaz Filan, to the God Jupiter, that He may look down upon those who harmed His temple and His priest:
“Sky-Father, Thunder-Roarer, Lord of Lightning, may your vengeance fall upon those who have defiled your holy place. May their blaspheming mouths be filled with poison; may the rot which has consumed them in spirit flow through their veins and their sinews; may they shoulder the stone alongside Sisyphus and slake their thirst in the pool of Tantalos. May all who hear their fate shudder and may they live eternally in legend as a warning and a testament of your power.
I make these words as an offering to you, oh Jupiter. May the Fates hear them and weave them into Their tapestry.”
May it be so and may all good people hear the call of their ancestors, that they may step up and step forward for what is just.