Polytheist Thought-Experiment: Male Pagan Archetypes

It occurred to me earlier this evening in the midst of an impromptu workout routine that aside from Jungian psychological archetypes and inherited myths and stories from lost civilizations and cultures, it seems to me that polytheist and Pagan men exist mostly in the vacuum between Abrahamic belief systems and polytheism.  Polytheism, from its inception and its near-total absorption by militant feminism in the late 70s until the recent past, has largely remained the realm of women and intrepid men who are unafraid of bearing the weight of socially-demeaning labels and mistaken identities, including that of the effeminate male, the emasculated male, or simply ‘the eccentric male’.  It occurred to me that polytheist men have very little to work with in regard to positive male archetypes, with the majority of the archetypes presented in modern texts as primarily female and, for the most part, motherly or grandmotherly in stature to the practitioner.  I mean– yes, you have the primary archetypes such as the Horned God, the Oak/Holly King(s), and deities such as Zeus, Cernunnos, and Antinous, but there are few parallels to the much-ballyhooed Maiden, Mother, and Crone of contemporary Wicca.

This is where the thought-experiment comes in: What do men have as a parallel to the Maiden/Mother/Crone cycle?

Why not introduce a new cycle for the male practitioners?  I propose something like this:

The Wildling

The Wildling is the consummate youth: wide-eyed, bushy-tailed, and eager to experience all that can be experienced no matter the cost or consequence.  He feels right at home in even the most simplistic of activities and his aspects vary widely from person-to-person, sometimes seeking the physical exertion of a flat-out sprint to catch-up with the ice-cream truck with his friends, other times seeking the wonder and the merriment that can be found in the folds of his favorite book or film.  The Wildling simultaneously has some of the easiest lessons as well as the most difficult concepts to convey to the practitioner, and can sometimes only provide it as a barrage of images and emotions but generally gets the point across.

His lessons often center around finding the excitement and often child-like wonder that is so often lost in modern cultures between the Internet, television, and sedentary existence.  Happiness, or at the very least contentment, are the hallmarks of a healthy relationship with the Wildling.  The “shadow side” often times includes insensitive and incoherent outbursts, feelings of isolation, rage, and resentment (typically against one or more authority figures).  Resolution of these ‘shadow elements’ can often be difficult, as it involves a large portion of lower-world emotional work, but can be extremely insightful.

The Warrior

The Warrior is the Wildling given time and the direction to grow and change.  The Warrior values strength and tenacity, but also values quiet contemplation and the more complex mental efforts required of a Warrior during peace-time: building, repairing, training, learning, and internalizing.  The Warrior knows when to strike and when to speak, and works to impart this wisdom upon the practitioner.  Patience hasn’t fully-formed, but the knowledge that some situations require it and others  still require action are the culmination of continued growth and achievement.  The Warrior remembers the Wildling, remembers the wonder that he approached the world with, and tries to carry that into his everyday experiences, showering friends and lovers with affection and admiration, while expressing criticism and defeating threats when necessary.

The Warrior teaches any under his tutelage lessons in patience, personal and physical strength, and tries to impart his what wisdom and vision that he can upon the practitioner.  Personal and professional growth, the strengthening of interpersonal and sexual relationships, and the achievement of goals are all hallmarks of a healthy relationship with the Warrior.  The “shadow side” will typically include cold or calculating actions designed to teach the practitioner a lesson they will never forget.  The Warrior, much like fire, is not a gentle master and sometimes has the potential to create or exacerbate problems.  The Warrior, however immovable he may seem, also has a warm and forgiving heart and often readily forgive transgressions and accept the practitioner into his warm embrace and instruction once more.  Resolution and retrospection go hand-in-hand wherever the Warrior’s influence is felt or imparted, and can be physically as well as mentally difficult.

The Wizened-One

The Wizened-One (sometimes called the Sage) is the tail-end of the male cycle, culminating in the transference of physical strength into mental and spiritual strength.  Achievement, knowledge, and counsel are available for one who grants respect and listens intently to the wisdom that the Wizened-One offers.  With the knowledge that comes with such experience, he offers his advice and creativity and greets you as a grandparent would greet you: with warmth and a depth of love that seems unparalleled and intense.  He is a teller of tales, a font of vast wisdom, and the consummate spiritual elder.

The Wizened-One can grant intense visions or dreams, and can trigger intense emotional release or contraction depending on what is required.  All the practitioner must do is simply ask and be willing to obtain it as it comes to them.  His shadow element is that of intense, visceral emotional reactions such as the fear that comes part-and-parcel with advanced aging and imminent death.  He can sometimes be fickle, as some elders are apt to be, but when approached with sufficient respect and supplication his warmth and openness can be restored.

What are your thoughts on the cycle outlined here?  Do these archetypes parallel any of the experiences you have had, or do they give you additional ideas for rituals or practices?  Leave me a comment and let’s discuss!

The Reset Button

minimalismIt’s interesting sitting here in a near-empty space and looking at the austere beauty that comes with it.  It’s as if it remains a blank canvas, unblemished by the cruft and complexities of modern life that materialism has bestowed upon many of us.  Generally-speaking, moving has been a depressing time for me, reminding me of everything that I left behind the first time in California.  I left friends, familiarity, and the comforts of knowing that I lived in my hometown and had a place in the universe that was darn near unassailable.  Having that ripped out from under me and being transplanted to the other side of the country initially left me cold and unhappy.  I knew no one, I felt as if I had been dropped into a bizarre combination resort-and-retirement-village, and I felt about as isolated as any nascent gay youth could possibly feel being the only ‘blue dot’ visible in a fairly deep-red state.

Most of those feelings faded with time as I moved once, twice, even three times within the state of Florida.  My soul grew armored, my heart became hard as the coldest frost, and my thinking became rigid and uncompromising (erratic though it may have appeared to others at the time).  If I could visit my past self from five years ago, I would give him a giant hug, tell him it’d all work out somehow in the future, and that he’d understand when he got there… but I don’t live in that world, and neither does anyone else.

I can speak from experience on the sadness that used to occupy my thoughts during moving and the subsequent displacement, but that experience no longer rules me.  Right now, as I’m writing this I am looking at the empty space in the room and I am realizing that I am not abandoning the space nor am I being abandoned.  Instead, I am making room for someone else who will hopefully find a refuge, a fortress, and a place of strength to live their lives from.  I think about the new space that I will inhabit with someone I love very much, and I think about all the possibilities that wait in the wings for us to find them and explore them.  A space that we can finally settle into, a space that we can explore ourselves and each other within, and a place that we can almost completely call ‘our own’.

The realization that hit me a few nights ago was so overwhelming that I had to stop on the side of the road for a minute to fully-digest it and keep going.  I realized that I’m not just moving into “a place” or “an apartment” with someone, I’m moving into a home.  Something I thought I had lost forever, that mythical place that once you leave (or are forced to leave), you will never find it again.  And yet, there it lies staring me full in the face: I will be going home.  Not just to any home, but my home.

The reset button gets pressed every time I move, and each time I’ve improved somehow and done something to improve.  Removing things, adding things, changing the way that I interact with things… this time, I will have someone to add to the picture and to help me change and grow.  That’s the difference between then and now, and it’s probably the most important change that’s ever happened in my life.  Now I have an entirely blank canvas to work with, and someone to work alongside on it.

Every day that you wake up is another chance to do it right.

Quarter-Century On And Still Revving-Up

lake yogaI still can’t believe that I turned 25 yesterday. The notion that I’m a quarter-century old is still leaving me reeling, but it’s not from being afraid or blind-sided. More like astounded. 10 years ago, I thought that I wouldn’t survive to my 20th birthday; 5 years before that, I didn’t think I’d make it to my 25th. Yet, here I am, having celebrated my 25th birthday and feeling just a little bit wiser for all the time spent and the miles traveled, and I’ve found that over time my fear has waned while my enthusiasm and my strength has grown.

I’m more excited than ever about the prospects of the future, despite all of the negative things happening in the world.  While true that America is slowly spending itself off a cliff, that Israel and Palestine are edging closer toward a conflict that may spill into the rest of the Middle East, and that China, Russia, and India are all encountering their own social, political, and environmental problems… I am personally unaffected.  None of it impacts who I am as a person, what my desires and dreams are, or what I can do with my life.  I’m finally at a place in my life to where I am comfortable with the idea of putting money away for a few years and taking my time to travel and see more of the world that I live in.  I’m much less afraid of failing in front of other people and much more interested in taking both intellectual risks as well as some physical risks in order to advance and to grow.

Beyond the bounds of the familiar and the comfortable; that is where you must go.  That is where the magic happens. — Unknown

Metaphorically-speaking, I feel like I’m standing on a new horizon.  I’m able to see quite a ways into the distance, and I see a great number of possible paths I might take and I notice that they are not as distinct or disconnected as they initially appeared from afar.  Many of them cross-over and inter-connect in many different places, some of them run parallel to each other, and others still look as if they twist and turn like a contortionist.  The best part about being able to see all of this is the fact that it doesn’t bother me in the least.  I am happy to able to perceive these things, and I am unafraid in the knowledge that no matter what happens, I will either try it and fail with the grace that I am able to allow myself, or I will succeed and enjoy it thoroughly.

I suppose that’s what maturing really means: accepting your faults and foibles and being able to see past them and take that risk anyway.  It’s being afraid of the water and jumping-in head-first in spite of the fear.  Beyond comfort and familiarity is the place where the truly great stuff happens.

Odds and Ends

We constantly find ourselves at-odds with our own nature, in conflict with our own beliefs, and embattled in never-ending struggle against complacency and inaction.  We are constantly in an internal and external struggle against our faults and inefficiencies, and we all constantly besiege ourselves with criticism, only to find that we have begun waging a war on ourselves from the inside-out.  We look outward and away from our centers in search of an anchor, someone or something to cling to.  We scratch at our own wounds, even though our own jagged crowns weigh heavily on our heads.  We refuse to see with open eyes, instead believing our closed eyes and our incomplete sense of the universe around us is all we need to progress.

We need each other more than ever, in the worst ways imaginable.  We need our friends and families, and most of all we need ourselves.  Not just what we believe to be ourselves; our transient, banal, and oft-deplorable selves, but our truest selves.  We need to brush away the dust and take the self that lies at the deepest core of our being, and place it under the pressure and the weight of all that life has to offer.  All of the heat, light, and immense pressure that life has to offer both for and against us in order to begin forming ourselves into the diamonds that we know that we can be.  We need ourselves more than we have needed anything else on this planet before, even more than we need that new job, that new gadget, or that “better” person in our lives.  We don’t need more differentiation and more individuality, we need understanding and love for ourselves and for each other.  More than a concept or a belief, we need something real in our everyday lives.  I know, because I’ve been there, and over a year ago I started over and started with myself.

Our individual flaws and characteristics are not something to be faulted, nor are they things that need to be repaired or remediated, they are simply what they are: flaws.  If a flaw is causing grievous harm, then by all means, it is worth changing; however if you, like me, are finding yourself in the unenviable situation of feeling that you have stagnated, that you are capable of more, and that you were meant for better… then change it.  There is absolutely nothing stopping you from starting right this second.

Every single second is a new opportunity for growth and change, every moment is a chance to start over and to get centered, and every day is just another step in the chaotic dance of the universe.

The entire universe is an orgiastic dance of life, death, creation, and destruction. You must learn how to dance to the beat of your own drum and find situations where your drum-beat matches or syncs with others’.

There is no reason, there is no lesson, and there is no time like the present.  There is literally nothing to lose and the entire universe to gain.  What I learned long ago is that the world turns on without me, and that I need to be able to not just “exist” on a base level, but I found that I need to be able to be productive and self-sufficient on my own.  Every minute that passes in linear time, the human body pumps an average of 6 liters of blood completely through the body, at least a hundred infant mammals are brought into this world, and at least a thousand beings perish or are consumed by other species.  This goes on with or without you knowing or experiencing it, and illustrates what I believe to be one of the inalienable truths of the human condition: that it doesn’t matter whether you are alone or are surrounded by friends and lovers, you have to be comfortable in your own skin, and have to stand firm in your beliefs and direction.  What I found is that when I fully integrated this knowledge into my life and really understood it at a base level, I stopped caring about what others thought of what I was trying to do with my life and simply started going after it.  The world is going to continue spinning-on without me anyway, and the fact that my friends, family, lovers, and confidants were going to continue to do what they were doing regardless of anyone else’s decisions or input.

Without anything to latch onto and use as ammunition in the cycle of self-defeat that I had found myself constantly wading into, I found that I felt much more alive and far more free than I had found myself feeling before.  I felt, and still feel to this day that I am waking up and beginning my day with purpose, that my life has meaning and some semblance of value, even if that value is only value to myself.  I am (generally) happier than I was a year ago, and I am finding that I have more mental and physical energy to invest into solutions to situations that I felt reasonably sure that I could change for the better.

The most simultaneously amazing and terrifying thing about the human condition is quite literally the fact that at any second, life as you know it can quite literally come to a screeching halt or change direction without warning.  The simple implication that the mere act of existing is capable of changing the causality of the observed universe around you should make you jump for joy… when you choose to spend less of that existence in fear and in the presence of others that have traded that fear for love, that’s when the good stuff really gets started and where the magic really happens.

Progress As A Contagion

mountain_top_view

When we focus on leading a passionate, meaningful life, we are also inadvertently creating a spectacular ripple effect of inspiration in the lives around us.  When one person follows a dream, tries something new, or takes a daring leap, everyone nearby feels their passionate energy; and before too long, they are making their own daring leaps while simultaneously inspiring others. — Anonymous, uncredited

In the last week or two, I’ve spent a fairly sizable amount of time learning and re-learning a lot of the behaviors and changes that I had previously been trying to embody and integrate into my life.  After leaving my previous job and starting not one but two new jobs (one part-time and one full-time), Id come to realize that the things that I had been holding as goals and beliefs were basically one big mirage.  An unintended consequence of this scenario was the top-to-bottom re-evaluation of all of the goals and beliefs that I had accumulated over the last few years, and the re-alignment of my personal purpose and energies behind the advancement toward the desired condition of being financially-secure, emotionally-stable, and completely free from any long-term entanglements that do not serve to improve my life or the lives of others.

In the pursuit of these goals, questions surrounding the validity and soundness of my actions caused me to pause and reconsider the full ramifications of the life-decisions I was on the verge of making.  Many people that I had been friends and lovers with for quite a while questioned my motivations and what the end-goal was designed to be, and when I explained it to them some of them understood and a number of others didn’t.  Some tried to dissuade me, and I found (sometimes to the dismay of both parties) that we were wildly-incompatible or conflicted in our personal goals and morals, which made it difficult to maintain friendships.  Some came, some went, others stayed by my side and others still provided me with the strength to grow inside and to never compromise.

Part of the “secret” of this kind of growth and why it becomes contagious among like-minded individuals is being confident while remaining simultaneously attached and un-attached to the outcome as well as the minute actions that add-up or lead to the outcome itself.  It qualifies as a kind of stoicism that enables an individual to hit both goals without sacrificing any of the momentum, and grants the additional bonus of allowing the individual to perceive things as they occur rather than having the veneer of their personal experiences over it.  When other people see these changes, they become drawn to it through sheer curiosity and begon to make their own questions.  Thus, the “contagion” spreads.

I’ve noticed lately that many more people within my own sphere of influence and interaction are exploring these options and opportunities with greater frequency and are finding that they are also capable of great change and movement toward the goals that they had previously abandoned due in large part to the constraints that had been placed upon them from the earliest stages of their lives.  A great number of people that I interact with on a daily basis tell me that if they hadn’t have encountered such constraints so early on in their lives, their respective arcs in life would have looked very, very different from where they are now.  This “jives” with my experience, however it doesn’t excuse inaction on any level in the current moment.  Not when there are so many other “moments” and chances to start fresh ahead of everyone.

Change is a contagion and with every new moment it has the opportunity to change you and for you to change it along with everything else.  The choice is yours as to whether or not you do anything with those opportunities.

Opportunities

The last few weeks have been chock-full of opportunities at every turn.  Not a single day has gone by yet where I haven’t had the opportunity to turn a difficult situation into a learning experience or to alter the fundamental way that I experience the universe around me.  It’s been a long time since I’ve felt this way, and the days are getting better by degrees as a result.

I’ve spent the last couple of months re-tooling my life and trying to not only quantify but also to qualify my experiences and give them some kind of rational weight and meaning.  For example, over the last few weeks I had been looking for new employment, and the rigors of engaging in the interviewing process while maintaining a steady full-time position weighed heavily upon me and caused me additional stress that I hadn’t intended.  While working through that stress, I came to the understanding with myself that I was merely embarking on a course-change that, as a matter-of-course, was going to present its own kinds of difficulties anyway… so why bother fretting about it or bother to keep up appearances?  Bearing that in-mind, I was much more confident during my interviews than I had been at any other time in my life, and I felt like I really nailed all of the interviews I went on.  Sure enough, all three organizations that I interviewed with reached back out to the recruiter I was working with and expressed interest in working with me further, of which I was given the opportunity to choose the one I sincerely wanted.  It feels nice to be wanted.

Along those same lines, I have endeavored in long and difficult hours to whittle-away at the negative feelings and emotions that have surrounded me and caused me more grief than was really necessary for the situation.  I have reduced my listening time to music that is negative at its core, I’ve tried to steer myself clear of news outlets and personalities that are prone to complaint, violence in speech, and self-destructive behaviors, and have worked to surround myself with more positive thoughts, goals, and people.  Folks who are strong, honest, and motivated– folks that are much more likely to motivate me to do better and to strive for what I want and never compromise.  In so doing, I have effectively ‘disconnected’ from some people and some groups, and some of them have been rightly upset with me for doing so.  But let me be clear: It is not a slight against the people that I have disconnected from, and it was never intended to be so.  It is simply a set of changes in my life designed purely-and-completely to improve the value and quality of my life and the lives of others.  If you’re reading this and I haven’t connected with you in a significant amount of time, know that it isn’t necessarily the fact that negativity played a part in our gradual separation, but it might have simply been the fact that we have drifted-apart as friends.  These things happen.

Someone called me Monday morning that I didn’t expect.  Such a pleasant surprise to receive a call from someone whom you admire, respect, and love (even if at-a-distance) that you haven’t spoken to in a hot minute.  It was interesting to listen to him and what had happened in the last year or so, and to know that I wasn’t alone in the self-revolution that I had embarked upon.  He spoke of being reintroduced to past experiences and emotions, tearing them down and re-establishing the basis of those situations and realizing that what had happened was both directly and indirectly influenced by the way that he had chosen to live his life, but he was now determined to not make that happen again.  I could feel the warmth and the vibration through the phone: my friend was back and had already kicked his life into high-gear.  That conversation closed with me gazing out my bedroom window, grinning from ear-to-ear and bouncing with excitement on the inside, knowing that it wasn’t just me and that things never really “stopped”, they just went on a year-plus sabbatical.

Days and weeks like this have worked to reinforce the ideal that there really isn’t a “stopping-point” within self-development or healing, that it is a constant revolution that requires constant vigilance, maintenance, and consciousness that too many of us are either entirely unaware of or have rejected outright.  I had spent long hours in the past rejecting that revolution and instead cleaving to the more simplistic belief that I was entirely fine and that the directions my life had been taking were completely natural and everything would work-out just fine… I would almost pay a king’s ransom to be a fly-on-the-wall to have seen my face the day that I finally knew different.

Masks

I can feel the cracks being exposed in the facade.  I can hear the pieces falling to the ground, smashing themselves to pieces in a calamitous cacophony.  I can see the reactions even behind the masks of others, and it’s spreading.  Like a rampant and contagious disease of the skin, the masks are starting to come apart.  The hastily-built edifices and structures are failing, their occupants fleeing to seek familiar and stable ground, while the misguided rally to leaders filling their minds with impossible promises and false hopes.  Their folly will crush them beneath the rubble of the ruinous things that they have built and supported with their weight for so long.

I have spent a great deal of time in quite a few places, but here I have felt something different.  I have felt the strength building within me, feeling it push against every fiber of my skin and even expose itself through the growth and experiences that I have accumulated.  It seems to scare the others, though I know not why.  There are a multitude of reasons as to why someone would be sent scurrying away from a font of truth and insight, especially when it goes right for the throat and tears-open the soft under-flesh of the problems to expose the solutions.  Like opening a festering wound, insight and truth are like a scalpel and forceps: bearing open the incision to expose the core for repair and healing.  Turning one’s attention to the masks and throats of others is often simple, as we are able to pick-out the flaws in others without expending much intellectual capital, but the flaws of others are more often-than-not just dim reflections of the flaws in our own selves.  It’s a feat of intellectual and physical contortion to expose one’s throat to oneself and render it as you would render others’: exposed.

But through this process, I have found people to be patient and understanding.  These are my fellows– my “tribe”.  They themselves are going (or have gone) through the same process, and some heal the wounds better than others.  Others, it is readily apparent what kind of personal trauma that they have experienced, while others must expose themselves in the most revealing ways to show out their scars and scabs, but we all recognize each other in our purest form: human animals working to attain the impossible goal of self-understanding and self-mastery.  We embrace the pain and inflict it upon ourselves for we know the true cost of avoiding the pain: illusory lives and living behind self-reinforcing masks.

And I feel all of this at the deepest levels of my body, feeling the conflicting emotions and expressions, the crystal-clear knowledge that a lie to others is just another way to lie to myself.  Being honest with myself and expanding that truth outward is the most difficult task I have ever embarked upon, and yet it encompasses every moment of my existence at this point in my life.  And it requires discipline– oh-so-much discipline.  An iron-strong-death-grip on the single thing that matters most in this world: truth.

I walk these streets now seeing some in mid-surgery, others in varying degrees of decay, and yet others still chewing away at the scar-tissue that covers the wounds that they have sustained.  I am far from done in my own pursuit of truth, strength, and wisdom, but I am beginning to feel it well-up from deep within.  It is enthralling, feeling this strength like the roiling waves of heat off of the blaze of my soul.  I only hope that one day others might feel as I do, and that we all might be united in the truths that will smash our shackles and free our spirits from bondage.  My strength stalks alongside me, like a wolf on-the-prowl, ever-watchful for signs of falsehood and faltering discipline, and it is my constant companion now in this ride we call “life”.  Only now, it chews on what remains of my mask as it falls like the bones of prey.

Feast heartily and with vigor on the remains of your false selves, my friends, or it may be the false self that feeds upon you.