Monday, November 13, 2017

Elucidating Kinnish II

Once again I have received and observed positive responses to my writings on the topic of Kinnish. Most of which continues to manifest in the form of affirmational nodding via social media Likes, Shares and the occasional few words. And so far there have only been two issues, that I know of, which I feel inclined to respond to. 

So rather than drag my feet, I’ve decided to address those two points now so I can move on to the next new post, Elaborating Kinnish. Because my life is in the process of changing again and time is becoming a more limited commodity, so I would like to get all the formalities documented here and out of the way before I move into the next phase of my plan.

Christian Seminary?

My reference to learning about the three aforementioned types of worship in seminary has some readers curious about my background. Which is, I think, an interesting bit of useless and irrelevant personal information. But here it is: I was raised New-Age-Neo-Pagan, I have never been Christian, Buddhist, Mormon or any other mainstream religion. The closest thing to anything like that I could say I have been a part of is a Native American Spiritual Tradition.

As a child I only wanted to be two things when I grew up; a Jedi, or a Priest. The problem with being a Jedi was of course, the lack of access to light sabers, the fact that I kept getting in trouble for wearing my dad’s bathrobe, and trying to Force Choke my little sister for telling on me.

The problem with being a priest was of course that we weren’t Christians, nor did we (me) want to be. So how exactly do you do that? Well I spent much of my life trying to figure that out, but that’s a whole other story altogether. The short of it is that I ended up becoming the first State Recognized Minority Faith Chaplain, providing a variety of services to a variety of faith groups in a variety of prisons and a state hospital.

Two of the prisons and that state hospital wanted to find a way to hire me, but non-denominational chaplain positions did and still do not exist. So, as it stands, the great state of California only hires Christian chaplains, Catholic chaplains, Jewish chaplains, Muslim chaplains, and Native American Spiritual Leaders. But at the time I had hope for the future, and chance favors the prepared mind, so I sought my degree in religion.    

My G.I. Bill would only pay for certain accredited universities, and I needed something online so I ended up at Liberty. To be honest, I secretly take some pride in the idea that I may very well be the only Pagan to ever attend and graduate from Jerry Falwell’s Baptist Seminary. It was a unique experience, I learned a lot more than one might think. So, anyway, that’s why WitchDoctorJoe attended a Christian Seminary.

Inverted Priorities? 

So, I have always taken a great deal of pride in generating and transmitting my own useful original material. But every now and again the best explanation is someone else’s. I’m not sure who said it, but I read it on a Facebook discussion board forum once some time ago. So, to paraphrase something someone once posted on Facebook...

I’ve never met the current President, but I’ve read a lot about him, especially lately.

I know the President actually exists and is alive and present on this planet, yet my access to him is extremely limited. I mean, what are the odds of you or I sitting down with the President of the United States and having I nice chat about Odin over a cup of coffee? 

Not necessarily this President; if you prefer, the last president, or the next president, any president will do. But really, realistically; what are the odds of you, the reader, reaching out, making contact with, setting a date with, and sitting down with, a current United States President?

Ok. So, what are the odds of sitting down with the Senator of your state? Still not very good, but better than meeting the president, right? How about meeting the Governor of your state? Better than the Senator, but still, the odds seem fairly slim to none. 

How about the Mayor of your city or town? Even better odds, right? That could actually happen. A City Council member? That could actually happen today. What about reaching out to a neighbor? A friend? A family member?

I have never met Odin, but I’ve read a lot about him, especially lately.

I don't know if Odin actually exists, but I do find great pleasure, strength and benefit in believing He does. And if He does, my access to Him is *extremely limited.* I mean, really; what are the odds of you or I sitting down with the Odin and having I nice chat about the current President over a cup of coffee? 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Elucidating Kinnish

As a habit, whenever I am explaining or discussing things like Paganism, or Heathenry, I have always preferred to frame things in a positive or affirmational context rather than a negative one. This is mostly because I have observed so many people over the years who have defined their religion in negative terms. For example, “we don’t worship the devil,” and/or “we don’t curse people.”

The reoccurring frame of statements being we’re not, we don’t, we never, etc.  It is my opinion that many people explain what they are not, because they are not exactly sure what they are. And that they are quick to assert what they do not do, or do not believe; because they are not exactly sure what they do believe. And quite often, are not always exactly sure why they are doing whatever it is they do.

And in my last post, I made the mistake of Clarifying Kinnish in negative terms. 

However, in my defense; it was in an effort to clarify some misconceptions which had been drawn from the original Breaking Kinnish post. But still, shame on me. So, it is my aim to elucidate, elaborate and recapitulate what Kinnish is in a more positive and affirmational frame from here on out. 

Queue the music...

Kinnish is Kin-centric

In seminary, I learned about different tiers or types of worship. The three primary tiers are Dulia, Hyperdulia, and Latria. So for example, within the Catholic model; Dulia is a moderate level of veneration which would be afforded to the various Saints. Whereas Hyperdulia, an enhanced form of veneration, would be afforded to the Virgin Mary; and Latria, being the highest degree of adoration, is reserved for God and/or Jesus.

Within a Heathen context, we generally see Dulia assigned to the Land Wights and the like. While Hyperdulia is given to the ancestors, deceased relatives and even celebrated heroes. But Latria is most often reserved for the Gods; like Odin, Thor, and Tyr. (these are generalized observations, your mileage may vary).

But this is where Kinnish deviates.

The single greatest concern of Kinnish, is the Kin, and Kindred. Kinnish is an extremely people centered tribal model. The primary focus of all Kinnish activities is meet human needs through positive and meaningful human interactions. 

Kindred and Kin are afforded the highest form Sacred Regard: Latria. The ancestors and deceased relatives still receive the Hyperdulia they so richly deserve. And the Gods, which I dare say none of us have had the same sort of deep meaningful relationships we have had with other human beings, receive the honor and veneration of Dulia.

We Kinnish can, and do, offer Latria to our pantheon; in our own way, and in our own time. But when we gather together; the vast majority of our time, energy, and resources are spent on enhancing the quality of our communion with those we share our meal with, rather than those we send our prayers to.  

So, to my Kinfolk: I love you more than I love my Gods.


Saturday, September 30, 2017

Clarifying Kinnish

Since my post on Breaking Kinnish, I have taken the time necessary to process the feedback I have received from that post. And I must admit, I was surprised by both the amount of positive feedback I received, and the lack of negative backlash. What I did see a lot of seemed to me to be misinterpretations and/or false inferences. So I’d like to address a few of those here in this post before I begin cultivating Kinnish in the next one. So here we go:

Kinnish is not Apathetic.

The Fuck Budget theme of Kinnish, which was inspired by a Sarah Knight Ted Talk, does not mean that I do not care about things like Racism. As I clearly stated in my post; I do not condone racism, I think it’s fucked up, and I think those people are assholes. I am openly and venomously opposed to racial segregation, and I was venomously opposed to it long before I was married to a Mexican woman or was a father to an Black daughter.  

But, as I also already stated, people have a constitutional right to be assholes, and to determine the criteria for membership in their Viking Asshole Clubs. In much the same way Native Americans have the right to exclude non-Natives from membership in their clubs and activities.

My point was not, that I do not care about the issue of racism, but that although I disagree with it, they have the freedom to do as they please. I have always and will always speak up and speak out against it when the appropriate opportunity presents itself.  Which brings me to my next point.

Kinnish is not Falsely Entitled.

No. It is not our job or our place to “educate” others about the subtle nuances of “our faith.” For several reasons. First, because it’s a dick move. When you say you need to educate someone about something, by default, you’re implying that they’re “uneducated," which is a semi-polite way of saying they're ignorant. And as much as you might love to think so, not everyone who thinks differently than you is ignorant. The reality is that smart people disagree with you too, they just don’t waste their time trying to educate you; because, like I said, it’s kinda a dick move when it’s unsolicited. 

Second, there is no “our faith.” There is no universal theological cannon for Heathenry. As much as Heathens like to bash on Pagans, especially Wiccans, but Heathens are just as bad as everyone else when it comes to a lack of cohesive unified theology.  So when you say “our faith” you’re only creating an “Us versus Them” construct of conflict, when the truth is that “we” are “all” unique in “our” beliefs, and that “we” really only share a theme and a vocabulary. So when you say “our faith,” what you really mean is "your" collection of beliefs, practices and personal preferences.

Third, who the fuck are you to “educate” anyone about anything? Especially in the case of the mindless orthopraxy that most people are calling their religion? It seems to be the mission of every hubris asshole I have ever met to “educate the masses,” which is just code for “everyone needs to hear and accept my point of view.” Yeah… good luck with that.

Kinnish is not Antagonistic.

If you didn’t pick up on it, the last bit about false entitlement is related to the argument that Heathens who identify as Folkish, but are not racist asshats, just need to educate people about what Folkish really means, and that we just need to “take back” the word folkish, and that we need to take back the sacred symbols being used by racists, like the Black Sun and the Othala rune.

 Antagonistic is generally defined as: showing or feeling active opposition or hostility toward someone or something. I chose this word to communicate my position here, because it’s more polite than using the word “Delusional.” Which is really how I feel.

Because, much like the swastika, which has become irrevocably tainted as symbol of racism; so has Folkish, and many of the symbols like the ones I already mentioned. I’ll just go ahead and gloss over the issue of falsely-entitled-ownership of these words and symbols, and just state plainly: that you never had ownership of these words and symbols, they were never yours, not yours to give, not yours to lose, not yours to take back. They’re freeware, anyone can use them however they want, like or not.

So rather than embrace this entitled concept of false ownership, and enter into this antagonistic relationship with, well, pretty much everyone who does not use them the way we want them to use them; I’ve decided to take this whole situation as an opportunity to do something much more constructive, and really kinda cool.

I’m starting a new tradition..

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Breaking Kinnish

Disclaimer: although I am an active member of a thriving Kindred, I do not speak on their behalf. Nor do my views or opinions necessarily reflect those of my Kindred members, individually or collectively. This is all me and only me.

During an interview, the famous American astrophysicist, Neil deGrasse Tyson was asked to comment on the rumors regarding accusations that he was an atheist. In response Tyson said that he was not as concerned with the textbook definition of the word atheist as much as he was with the behavior of those who use the word atheist to describe themselves; because, he said, their behavior "becomes" the new definition for that word.

In much the same way that the behavior of people who called themselves Wiccan modified the overarching definition of Wicca in a way which I felt that I needed to distance myself from, so has the negative behavior of those who call themselves Folkish, modified that term. 

So much so that Folkish has now become irrevocably synonymous with the bigotry and racism, primarily by those who claim a European heritage, and who harbor an aversion  to Heathenry being practiced by those of non-European heritage. 

And again, I feel the need to distance myself.

The term Folkish has become lost to those of us who wish to communicate the Euro-tribal model to which we subscribe without an extended and nuanced explanation which includes denouncing non-inclusive Heathenry and proclaiming with you index finger raised to the sky, that you “are not a racist.”

New words and phrases like “Tribal-Folkish” and “Euro-tribal model” are now being invented mid-sentence of those explanations because Heathens seem to be experiencing an identity crisis, or perhaps a terminology crisis. This issue was discussed ad nauseam until my daughter stated quite flatly “we just need to invent a new word.”

Challenge Accepted.

The last time I attended Pantheacon I sat in on a Heathen discussion panel which was aimed at addressing the issue of racism and discrimination in the Heathen community. 

In the forum, I made an unpopular point about how I, as a Wiccan, openly discriminated against certain people who expressed an interest in joining my Coven. I doubled down, that it was my right as leader and high priest of that coven to exercise my powers of discrimination as I saw fit.

While there is a broad and robust spectrum of membership criterion for various covens, such as female only, gay men only, etc.; and while I did not discriminate based on race, gender, sexual preference or identity race; I did discriminate based on one simple but profound personality trait.

Are you an asshole?

It didn’t matter if you were Black, White, Asian, Hispanic or anything else. It didn’t matter if you were male or female, or if you identified as some 3rd or 4th gender. It didn’t matter if you like girls or boys or both. It didn’t matter of you deviated from your birth sex in any way, shape, or form.

The only thing that mattered was: are you a nice person? Can we get along? Do you complement the existing group dynamic, or do you complicate things and compromise the structural integrity of our group? Are you a threat to us? Cause we had a big problem with assholes, we really didn’t like them, and we sure as hel didn’t want them in our group.

My point was that other groups have different priorities about the criteria for membership. Some people don’t want homosexuals, people who are transgender or some other minority in their group. I think that’s fucked up. I disagree with it. I think those people are assholes. 

But as much as I disagree with them (which is a lot), they have a right to be assholes, and they have the right to deny membership to whoever they don’t want into the group, for whatever bat shit crazy reason they decide. I don’t like it.

But not liking it is not going to change anything.

Because I know they don’t give a fuck about what I think.

But just the same, they also harbor great distain for what we’re doing, how we’re doing it, and who we're doing it with. They don’t like it, but not liking changes nothing, because I don’t give a fuck what they think. 

The world is a difficult and dangerous place full of injustices and assholes, I do what I can to oppose bigotry and racism,but I am but a mere mortal, a limited being, with power, limited range, and limited time on this limited plane of existence.

And I am on a fuck budget. 

I have limited fucks to give. And all the woes of the world far exceed the limits of that budget. The only thing I can do is stay within my fuck budget and use my limited fuck bucks wisely. I only spend my fuck bucks inside my "yard," my Innangard; and I only give my fucks to those who deserve it, such as my family, my friends, my tribe, my Kin.

This is the essence of Kinnish.

Part Universalist, in the sense that anyone can go practice any form of Heathenry, any damn way they please. Because it’s none of my business. I don’t give a fuck, because I’m Kinnish. You do you. 

Part Folkish, in the sense of being non-inclusive in a different way, in being a close knit, private and tribal society. One in which criterion for membership does not include genderality, sexuality, race, ethnicity, ad infinitum, ad nauseam. 

The primary qualifying criterion is simply a matter of compatibility. Are you an asshole? Cause if you are, we don’t take kindly to your kind 'round here.

I have absolutely zero fucks to give for the Greater Heathen Community outside my Innangard. Please do not mistake my zero fucks given as being aggressive or adversarial. It’s not. It's calm polite indifference. Anything more would require fucks to be given, and I can't afford it.

More to the point, I’m simply not concerned with the goings on of the latest drama, the newest controversy over whatever, whoever posted on Facebook about that other group.    

Life is short, resources are limited, I have priorities, if you’re not Kin, then you and your shit did not make the list.

First, Kinnish is really, really, really, really, really, really, extremely Kin-centric.

But foremost, Ancestry and Sexuality are not determining criterion for Kinship.

But I'm not finished, there's more to being Kinnish than the conditions of Kinship.

So much more to come..

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Almost Heathen

It was nearly 20 years ago that I was completely engrossed in a Tony Hillerman novel. I don’t remember which one, I was stationed overseas while serving in the military and was binge reading the entire series on my off time. I just remember that the key to the plot of that particular book was centered around the Kennewick Man, which was the name given to a prehistoric skeleton discovered on the Columbia River in Kennewick, Washington.

This first struck a chord with me because only a few years earlier I had lived in that region, not too far from the area where the story was taking place. What struck me next was the antagonists of the story. Heathens. More specifically, Asatru, were described as a “tribe” of white people claiming an indigenous European heritage and practicing the indigenous pre-Christian religious traditions of their European ancestors.

The very thought of this bristled the hairs on the back of my neck and arms.

Being one of the millions of Caucasians who grew up being told they were part Native American, I followed that path reverently for more than 15 years, despite the repeated prejudice and bigotry I experienced. I made every effort to fit in; I learned the language(s), I was a ceremonial singer, dancer, and pipe-carrier; but I was not Indian. And no amount of piety was enough for the larger part of the community to accept me. Not even being married to a Lakota woman was enough to spare me from being sentenced to the Wannabe Tribe.
The internet was just starting to explode at the time and people were just beginning to realize its potential. Yahoo had just come out and we were just beginning to utilize the search engine as a means of exploring our interests. And that’s where I was headed when I put the book down, the internet cafĂ©.

I Yahooed "Asatru" and my hair bristled again when the results came up. But when I clicked on the first site, images most associated with white supremacy filled the screen. I frantically clicked in a panic, trying to remove the images before someone behind me saw what I was looking at and assumed the worst about me.

I relocated to the computer in the corner and resumed my search, but every site I found included uncomfortable imagery. Which was terribly heartbreaking, because although I had read a few gems that really resonated with me, racism was an unconditional deal breaker. So I abandoned my search then and there, and with it any hope I had for an indigenous European path.

Years Later as a Pagan prison chaplain I would find myself facilitating religious accommodations for incarcerated Heathens which only served to confirm my concerns about racism in Heathenry. At least until the identity crisis prodded me into sabbatical and I picked up a book on Runes.

That book led to another, and another, and still another until I began to realize how deeply Heathenry resonated with me, and I began to think for the first time that I could embrace and practice Heathenry and still avoid the issue of racism.

After almost two years of solitary study and practice I dipped my toe in the water at an open to the public Heathen ritual held in a local park by someone I knew from my prison chaplaincy days. This led to another meetup, then another, and still another until I found myself being invited to join a Kindred.

It seemed as though the very moment I accepted that invitation whatever god is in charge of fucking with me said “here, hold my beer...” and a whole new cycle of Folkish vs. Universalist Racial conflict irrupted within the greater Heathen community. And there I was with a Mexican wife and son, and my Black Lesbian Jewish daughter, a member of a Folkish Kindred...  

However, in much the same way that I once explained that I was “Wiccan… but not like them” I was in a Kindred that said “yes, we’re Folkish… but we’re not racist.” Back when I was invited to join that Kindred I asked, most directly, if there was anything that Mexican wife and son, or my Black Lesbian Jewish daughter could not attend or would be made to feel unwelcome at. The answer was a firm and resounding “NO.”

The problem in terminology of however, still remains...

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Identity Crisis

When I first came to Wicca, I instantly fell in love with it. Or so I had incorrectly believed for over 12 years of my life. What I later realized was that - what I fell in love with was “the idea of Wicca.” But actual Wicca, or all that was being peddled as Wicca really sucked ass.

So I began developing my own unique system, liturgy and theological framework which eventually evolved into a formal tradition. All the while I was constantly interrogated, attacked and criticized the Grand Poohbahs of Sacred Twinkies, who insisted that I wasn’t a “Real Wiccan.”

As it turns out, they were right.

Historically, I had always rejected anyone’s ability or authority to define what does or does not constitute Wicca. I have always said that one of the greatest strengths and benefits of Wicca is that it allows practitioners’ the freedom to tailor taxis and praxis to best suit their needs, and, that the greatest weakness and error of Wicca is that it allows practitioners’ the freedom to tailor taxis and praxis to best suit their needs .

While I reserved the right to be completely judgmental about what you say and do, under the banner of Wicca, I was never so entitled as to suppose I could define and legislate what is or isn’t Wicca for anyone else, or tell anyone they were not a real Wiccan, no matter how stupid I thought they were.

*Please note that one of the benefits of founding your own tradition is that it gives you the ability and authority to define what does and does not constitute your specific tradition, and what qualifies a practitioner for membership* But as time went on, I began to see the need to make the distinctions between my Wicca and all others.

“I’m Wiccan… but not like them..”

So the need for a modifier became painfully obvious. We became “Veritas Wiccans,” which came from my motto and theme. Then later “Mill Creek” became another distinctive identifying tag. More and more I felt myself pulling away from the words and identity associated with “Wicca,” until I left Wicca and the Pagan community completely.

I never really gave up my core beliefs and practices, I just stopped trying to frame them within a Wiccan theme.

But I did take a well-deserved sabbatical after I retired from active prison and community ministry, closed the Seminary and Coventry.  For the first time in a very, very long time, I had time for me.

So, I decided to make good and productive use of it. In addition to my advanced academic goals, I began exploring and pursuing studies that would contribute to my own personal spiritual edification.

One of the most significant things I did was finally commit the time to take up a serious study of Runes. And, as anyone who studies runes is aware, you cannot lean runes without learning Germanic culture, and off I went.
More than two years later I received an invitation to submit an abstract and again return to the Conference on Current Pagan Studies as a presenter. Having spent my ample and productive time in my cocoon, I decided to submit an abstract and participate in the conference.
My acceptance notification also requested a current promotional biography for the event itinerary and program guide.So I pulled up the last draft of Bio I had used, and upon review came to realize that it only gave an accurate description of who I was, and what I had done, past tense. It no longer reflected who I had become or what I was doing.
The ensuing identity crisis only lasted a day or two. But more importantly, it prompted honest introspective analysis, reflection and contemplation.
I was again exploring new landscape with an inaccurate and outdated map, and that there were no words or phrases presently in use within the current collective vernacular that could articulately frame, sum up and communicate my particular state of being.
“I’m Heathen… but not like them..”
So there I found myself, again, looking to find the proper vocabulary to intelligently articulate and communicate my spiritual identity.
And That’s when I became *Kinnish*

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Winds of Change

So it has been almost 10 years since I first started writing here as WitchDoctorJoe, and almost five years since I archived the blog and walked away. It is interesting to look back and realize how different I am although I am still the same person; and how much my life has changed, yet stayed very much the same. Like taking a trip back to an old house or apartment that you used to live in years ago; familiar yet, strangely distorted by time.
So, here am I am, writing a new article for this old blog, from a new computer, on a new desk, in a different room of the same house. My kids are still my kids, but they’re not children anymore. They’re all growing up and going to college and I am already feeling the feelings of the emptying nest. My kids entering college as I have just finished. Since I have been gone I have completed my Bachelor of Science in Psychology and my Master of Arts in Counseling.
I am still very happily married to a spicy hot woman, but she’s not the same either. We have both continued to evolve, change and grow; and we have managed to grow together, rather than grow apart. But change is never easy, as the saying goes: “if you want to change you must be willing to be uncomfortable.” And along those same lines, undesired change is equally uncomfortable, arguably more so.
My personal spiritual practices are generally centered around the operative application of speculative tools for the purpose of my own edification. And that’s how this new chapter began, with the application of a tool. The tool represents a lesson, illustrates a piece of knowledge and contains a wisdom which can only be obtained through the experience of use. It’s an experiential process.
That process caused me to step back and look at my life at the time. To question everything I was doing, and explore my personal motivation for doing it. It was then that I realized that there was an extraordinary amount of things in my life I was doing for other people, for no other reason than my own false perception of obligation.  I realized that I was pouring a significant amount of my resources into doing things for other people. Resources like my time, my money, my energy when I was present, and my thoughts when I was absent. For people who were not family, were not really friends, and really shared no kinship with other than a shallow superficial relationship largely based on me doing something for them. This perception was verified when all these people wandered off after I stopped doing things for them.
Years later the phrase "False Kinship" would cause the hair on my body to raise from the skin. But that's a topic for a future post.
I realized that my resources are precious and that I was not placing the appropriate value on them, and therefore, neither was anyone else. Nor was I being prudent in choosing those with whom I shared my resources, most of all, my precious and limited time on this earth.  I realized that although my motivations where very altruistic, they were too altruistic. Foolishly so. 
I realized that while I spent money out of my own pocket to pay for gas to drive for miles to spend my days in a prison with complete strangers - my kids were growing up, building rockets and preparing for launch – and that was a mistake I would regret if I continued to make it.
So I stopped. I retired, “effective immediately,” from prison ministry and never regretted it. I loved the work I was doing, and I miss it, but I like missing it. A few weeks later I shut down Mill Creek Seminary; a brick and mortar 501c3 where I taught 13 month courses in my religious tradition and hosted open community rituals and provided pastoral care to my community for over eight years, all self-funded.
When you see the ball rolling towards the street, it’s not terribly difficult to project its trajectory, and in kind, it was only a matter of time before I closed my home as a Coven-stead and cocooned myself a closed circle of family; took a 2nd and 3rd job, and an onslaught of college courses geared at improving my station, for myself and those I have a responsibility to provide for.
And that’s when things really got interesting..