P is for Piety – Pagan Blog Project 2013

Well, this couldn’t be easier.
Earlier this week, I reblogged a post for a survey of modern pagan and modern polythistic piety (go take part!). For this week’s PBP13 post, I figure that, since the letter’s right, I’ll just blog my answers to the survey questions.
In this case, I’m not going to blog all of the answers. There are questions I’ve left out, and questions where I’ve changed (hidden) a little bit of the information in order to protect some privacy.

4. How long have you been Pagan/polytheistic?
17 years, maybe a little bit longer
5. What is your tradition (i.e. Wiccan, reconstructionist Heathen, eclectic, etc.)
I do goddess spirituality, bioregional animism, and kitchen witchcraft, all of which basically mean that I make stuff up as I go along
6. Do you have any patron gods/goddesses or deities you are especially close to? If so, who are They?
I have a pantheon of five small goddesses. I put a call out in the interests of filling a few different job descriptions and these are who showed up. Maia is my lady of the moon (And music and writing and midwifery and learning). She got in touch with me directly, when I was about 16. The rest came years later, after I put out the call: Makaa, my lady of change and chance. Misha, my poly lady of adventure and new beginnings. Mitzu, my lady of the sun, courage, sex, and sexwork. Mattaer, my lady of the hearth and the earth, abundance and stability and the kitchen. There are also my ancestors. Someone is making overtures to my wife. I’m not close to the deity in question, and I’m not hers. But I suspect there will be some kind of a nodding relationship there eventually. In theory.
7. How do you define your own relationship(s) to the gods? For instance, do you view one or more of Them as your beloved or spouse, or are They more like parents to you? Do you consider Them friends, allies, mentors? All of the above? None of the above? How does this differ between various gods?
Somewhere between family and friends? They are like aunties or close-friend mentors, maybe? They are people who look out for me, who I can ask for advice, people who I honour in my own small ways. People whose bodies are the world.
8. How do you define “piety” as it relates to Paganism/modern polytheism?
Ursula LeGuin has a book called Lavinia[1]. In it, piety is described… it’s described more or less as “do you consider your actions within the context of your wider community?” wherein “wider community” doesn’t just mean humans. And I think that’s how I would define “piety” in the context of modern paganism and modern polytheism.
9. Do you find this to be a useful or relevant term concerning your own relationship with the gods? Is it relevant to Paganism/modern polytheism in general?
Sometimes. Look. I came to my hard-polytheist animism through (many years ago) the lens of Wicca. Because it was the mid-90s and I was working with what was available at Chapters and on the proto-internet. So I’ve done a fair bit of mulling-oven when it comes to the idea of “harm none” and how many ways that tenet can be understood. There are Christians who wear “WWJD” bracelets. Where am I going with this?
I think that, yes, “Consider your actions within the context of your wider human and non-human community” is relevant in terms of my own relationships with my gods. I think it’s relevant in terms of how I interact with my various communities, too. Sometimes I think of helping my friends in terms of religious Work. That isn’t what I’m doing when I lend an ear or make a casserole, necessarily, but it’s a way of reminding myself that the way I choose to act does, in fact, matter. My wife calls this “witching” (in the Terry Pratchett sense of the word), and I think that’s appropriate, too.
I think that, if I try to lead a “pious life” by my own definition of “piety”, then I will do honour to my gods and my ancestors, live the way that I think they would have me live (the way they would have me behave towards others, in particular), and be a better person in general on top of that.
10. Is it possible to be pious without an established dogma or authority? Why or why not?
I think you have to hold yourself accountable for your own actions, and I know that not everyone is willing, or even necessarily able, to do that, and that makes it tricky. There will be people who define “piety” as… I dunno. Right speech rather than right action; keeping up appearances; making offerings to one’s Holy People, but not doing any outreach (sorry, I do queer and trans health education, so “outreach” is the word I use for “making (various kinds of) resources available”) in the world you actually live in.
I think it’s absolutely possible to be pious, to live a life of thoughtful action, generosity, and kindness, without an established dogma or authority. But not everyone will do this. Some people do need someone standing over their shoulder (literally or figuratively) in order to Do Right by others. Some of us don’t. Many of us, I suspect, are somewhere in between – see above re: WWJD bracelets and my own use of the context of Religious Work to give me a push in the right direction.
11. Is there anything you consider impious (i.e. behavior, modes of worship)? Why?
Personally? Talking the talk without walking the walk. It’s hollow and rings false to me. Paying lip-service to piety (to right action, to solidarity, to kindness, however you want to put it) without doing the Doing… that reads as impious to me. Possibly because it’s, at its root, dishonest and self-agrandizing at the same time? Not sure. But that’s what comes to mind pretty-much immediately.
12. Are you for or against the establishment and observance of rules about piety in your particular tradition and/or within Pagan/polytheist religion in general? Please explain your response.
Well, since my “tradition” isn’t actually a tradition (yet), and since the Actual Traditions from which it’s built are fairly keen on sincerity and honest action, but not so much on orthopraxy (like, at all), I would say that I’m against it. That said, when I teach (in-so-far as I teach at all) or model what I think of as appropriate behaviour (as an activist, as a domme, you name it), my definition of piety is built into those behaviours. I would hope that others would pick up on that. If I were the type to raise kids, they would be getting Fam Trad stuff and, yes, that definition of piety would be built into how we act in the world. That isn’t exactly establishing formal rules about piety, but it might qualify as building certain behaviours (observances?) into the practice.
Which doesn’t necessarily answer your question.
My people are Woo. And we’re all fairly individualistic (to the point of saying Fuck You to people who might try to get us to act outside of our ways, even). So I don’t think that established rules about piety would really take, even if we could all agree on a definition.
So there you have it. How do you define, and act on, piety in your lives?
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
[1] It expands on the character, Lavinia, in the The Aeneid – much the same way as The Red Tent expands in Dinah the daughter of Genesis’s Jacob – telling the story of her life as it was never told in the source material. There’s lots of stuff in there about ancient Italian religions. Both the hearth- and land-based ritual, and the familial relationship to the gods and spirits, resonate a lot with me in terms of my own practice. 🙂

3 responses to “P is for Piety – Pagan Blog Project 2013

  1. Pingback: Q is for Questionable – Pagan Blog Project 2013 | Urban Meliad

  2. Your answers are fascinating! *heads off to do survey*

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