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Monastic Networking / Re: First Regional PNW Meetup Report
« Last post by WeepingCrow on July 16, 2019, 06:51:15 PM »
I definitely agree that the most important aspect of this meetup was simply to be in a place with like-minded folks. I think all of use are eager to forge connections, but I know I have the tendency to forget that part of that is just getting to know people as individuals.

The next time around, I'd like to see maybe more of an opportunity for prayer or ritual, partly to learn from what others do, but also to strengthen that connection. And I definitely want to continue philosophical discussions -- it's so rare to have those face to face.

In advice for others who want to do meetups -- probably the most difficult thing to arrange is the physical space. Our gathering was small,so everything was fine, but it was obviously a possible concern. Making sure everyone has places to sit/eat/sleep is something that can potentially disrupt the "flow". It's those mundane things that make or break a meeting, I'm thinking.
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Monastic Networking / Re: First Regional PNW Meetup Report
« Last post by Syren Nagakyrie on July 16, 2019, 03:21:32 PM »
Thanks for this report, Danica! It was so good to gather in person at this stage of growth for polytheist monasticism. Thank you for hosting us at the Abbey.

I can't say I have any specific takeaways or impressions to share. But that's not a comment on the meeting itself, just my own brain frogs. I was having some difficulties with focus during the meeting, probably because I so infrequently gather with a group of people these days! I wish I could have stayed longer. I appreciated the shared laughter and sense of being with like-minded people that is hard to find in general pagan spaces.

As I've reflected on the meeting, I continue to feel like this is one of many seeds to be planted, and seeds must be tended, and many must be placed into the earth to ensure a good yield. So I do hope we, and other regions, continue to connect in ways more intimate and intentional than only online text-based discussions.

Perhaps in the future, we could establish a shared practice or prayer to continue nurturing the webs of growth and support.

For suggestions to other groups, I would say that having a scribe was really good. Starting the meeting with a contemplative practice, inviting in supportive beings and setting the intention helped to create a more solid container and focus for the meeting. A good facilitator is always important.

I think that's all for now.

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Laity Discussion / Re: How did you become devoted to your Matron/Patron deities
« Last post by Violet on July 16, 2019, 02:53:19 PM »
My thought is this; I learned that my patron wished to work with me on account of continued interactions through time.  Eventually it became clear that I could take certain vows.  After that point, I was a votary.

I think lots of time is important here: I worked with my patron for something like 8 months before taking a vow.  This gave me the time to trust Her, to love Her, to know in my heart that She is worth my continued devotion.

Taking a vow is serious business.  A vow means giving up some of one's free will forever.  It is the act of abrogating one's future self's ability to act freely.

And so -- and please forgive any gaucheness on my part! -- the words of a certain Wise Master have gently guided my actions in relating to the spiritual realm: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them."

I quote this at length because -- emphatically -- not every being on the inner side of experience is well-behaved sweetness and light.  There are certainly malign beings that attempt to trick folks into becoming hosts to nasty, psychic parasites.  I've known many, many folks who have suffered this fate.

For this reason time and discernment are absolutely essential. Time, long patience and time, especially.  My strategy has been to wait to taste the fruits before making any commitment.  I am certainly grateful that this was the course I made, and so I share this aspect of how I became devoted to my patron.
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So my suggestion for discernment is sort of "less thinking, more action" -- work on spending greater chunks of time doing devotional and contemplative activities, and the Gods will respond with whether you should keep going, or if They feel that's an unproductive path for you.

I've come to a similar place regarding discernment. While thinking can be useful, often I found myself getting caught up in my mind...and not bothering to just practice and do. And all the theorizing I had done really didn't compare to using a devotional ritual and feeling the responses of the gods and spirits. I figured out which of my theories were right and which were...not necessarily wrong, but not as important as I had previously considered them.

Acting in a more monastic fashion - such as orienting my day around prayer - also helped solidify my suspicion that it was a path I was called to or fit for. I was already inclined toward it because of my personality and interests to begin with, which is how I came to learn about monasticism in the first place. Learning more about monastic practices and trying to implement some of them in my life has felt right and received positive responses from my gods so...I consider that to mean it is what I'm 'meant to do'.
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Your title is seems to me to be asking something a little different than Votary discernment. For me those are definitely two different questions. I became a polytheist from experiences with Ceremonial Magick, when deities started showing up. You could call Them my "matron" deities, though I'm not specifically dedicated to Them -- the Gods I'm most interactive with. I can go into more detail about how I came to honor Them, but I think that's not the heart of your question.

If you're asking what calls a person towards a monastic lifestyle, in general, I think you'll get different answers than what calls a person to a specific devotional focus. A person can of course be extremely devoted to the Gods (or a patron deity) without being a monastic.

As for what calls me to be a monastic specifically in the service of my particular deities, I'm afraid I don't have a fun answer for that. For me it is more a matter of practicalities, what I see as "necessary" for the development and recapturing of polytheistic beliefs. I think we as a "community" will need monastic-like structures, as opposed to only the coven-esque structures many groups have (where one person acts as priest for regular meetups) or the complete lack of structure most folks seem to have (solitaries doing personal devotions).

How do I know this is what the Gods want me to do? The same way I speak with Them about anything, which is mostly a combination of inspiration and divination. Increasingly, I'm coming to trust the power of creative force, in doing what "seems right", although verified with outside sources of course. (I don't want to give the impression that I think "doing whatever I feel like" is a good method for anything in life!) If I work on projects, and the Gods give a positive response, I keep going.

If there existed a large monastery, where I could drop everything in my life to become a full-time monk, I would have to go through another discernment process completely. I'm actually not sure it would be the right time in my life to "drop everything" that way. So my suggestion for discernment is sort of "less thinking, more action" -- work on spending greater chunks of time doing devotional and contemplative activities, and the Gods will respond with whether you should keep going, or if They feel that's an unproductive path for you.
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Laity Discussion / How did you become devoted to your Matron/Patron deities
« Last post by OdinMjolnir on July 14, 2019, 02:39:46 AM »
I would like to post a question involving your spiritual practice when it comes to being called by your deity and or deities..How and when did you know which deity was calling you to be their Votary? A simple reason I'm asking is my discernment in which Pantheon is calling me currently and I'm trying to discern the signs..any help will be great :)
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Monastic Networking / First Regional PNW Meetup Report
« Last post by Danica Swanson on July 13, 2019, 03:16:31 PM »
On June 30, five forum members met at Black Stone Abbey in Portland, OR for the first regional meeting in the U.S. Pacific Northwest.

All of us who were present at the meeting are writers and contributors to the broader polytheist-animist monastic movement. WeepingCrow and I are co-founders of Black Stone Abbey and co-admins of the Polytheist Monastic forum; Syren Nagakyrie is a co-founder and sole organizer of the Alliance of Monastic Polytheist Pagans (aka AMPP, formerly known as LANMIPP); Janet Munin is one of our forum moderators and editor of an upcoming anthology on polytheistic monasticism; and barefootwisdom is an academic, blogger, and prolific contributor to this forum.

Here are some brief glimpses from the many topics we discussed and questions we addressed during the meeting and in its aftermath:

* Alliance of Monastic Polytheist Pagans Outreach: Syren announced expanded outreach plans for AMPP. On the Facebook group for AMPP, she recently announced that a new website with more structured membership information, a membership map, and a blog is forthcoming. (I love the name change. AMPP it up!)

* Future meeting options: For future meetings, do we want to consider options (such as Zoom, Skype, etc.) that don't require travel? Preferences were mixed, so this is still an open question.

* The "wheel-and-spokes" metaphor for monastic life: Syren mentioned a model in which monastic life is both the center hub of the wheel (where the axle connects) and the outer part (the round traction surface). Everything else revolves around this hub, and can be considered as "spokes" of the wheel that supports a spiritual life at the center.

* Monastic structure as a source of freedom: One of the paradoxes of monasticism is that structure can be a source of "freedom from." For example, the ordered structures of monastic life, when they work well, can reduce some of the mental load of everyone having to do a lot of coordination and organizing for daily tasks, prayer times, and liturgy, because decisions about these things are built into the daily routine.

* "De-Calvinizing": In a discussion on decolonization and the importance of monastics taking things slowly instead of rushing, the idea of "de-Calvinizing" our minds was mentioned. While it eventually became clear that "de-Calvinizing our minds" was a linguistic slip and/or misunderstanding of "decolonizing our minds," we latched onto the idea of "de-Calvinizing" our minds (i.e., reducing the theological influence of Calvinism) as a worthy and interrelated quest.

* The Scriptorium: The space at the Abbey previously known as the "office" has now been dubbed the "scriptorium." So the Abbey now has a scriptorium, a chapel, a dormitory (sleeping area), a library, and a refectory (kitchen). Not too bad for a 550-square-foot live/work studio!

* Eremitic living structures: In a discussion about eremitic monasticism, we expressed appreciation for structures called "laura" and "lavra". (Also mentioned was a related type of structure in Ireland, if I recall correctly. Can someone remind me what that was? Somehow I didn't manage to get the name into my meeting notes.)

* Polytheist-animist monasticism is gathering momentum: We all acknowledged our shared sense that there is something "in the air," as it were, that brought us together. (And the soil, and the water, too! And more!) We are perceiving increasing momentum building around polytheist monasticism. Deities from many traditions seem to be increasingly active in calling people to monastic paths of service. The timing seems to be right for something potentially far-reaching.

There were lots of laughs, too…

* "LARP": In a discussion on the way paganism is often glibly dismissed as little more than "LARPing in the backyard" (aka Live Action Role Playing), Janet quipped that we could always adopt the acronym LARP and declare ourselves "Loosely Associated Religious Peculiars." We all cracked up!

* "Brain Frog": In a discussion about "brain fog," someone said "brain frog" instead. We all laughed and liked it, so it stuck. So now we can say we've got "brain frog." Ribbit!

Summing up: To sum up, in Syren's words: "We planted energetic seeds for the growth of polytheist monasticism, discussed the framework of monasticism in our lives, and are in reflection for the best next steps forward to strengthen and energize our alliance."

We hope other forum members will be inspired to start their own regional meetings.

On a more personal note, I appreciate the efforts everyone made to travel to the Abbey so we could meet in person. Thanks, too, for the efforts everyone made to accommodate each other in such a confined meeting space. Two of the attendees left after a few hours, and the remaining three carried on the discussions somewhat less formally over dinner and into the evening. Cozy and intimate is fine for now, but it's clear that if we have more than five attendees for the next meetup, we'll either need to find an alternative location or conduct it online. We're also hoping Black Stone Abbey will find its way to a larger and more appropriate space when the time is right!

I'd love to hear from the rest of the attendees. What were your impressions of the meeting, and what are your thoughts about where we may be headed - as a group, and as part of the growing tide of interest in polythiest-animist monasticism? A few questions I have (not an exhaustive list - feel free to address things I haven't mentioned):

  • What were some of the most memorable take-aways from the meeting for you?
  • What did you appreciate about the meeting?
  • How might we improve things next time around?
  • Do you have any advice for forum members in other locations who might want to start their own regional meetups?
  • Was there anything you hoped we'd cover that we didn't manage to get to?
  • Any other thoughts or impressions you'd like to share?
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Now that I've received several submissions for the anthology, I want to add a few points which may help others as they work on their pieces:

* The work needs to be explicitly and primarily about monastic practice, lifestyle, path, vocation, etc. Prayers and poems are fine if they focus on the monastic element, not 'just' devotion.

* Remember that a significant percentage of readers will not have prior knowledge of your path, patron(s), etc. Define words specific to your tradition, either in the text or as a footnote.

* Make it personal. "How I do things" is good, but it's better if you also share the faith and emotion behind your practice that inspire you to do these practices, and/or why they are important to you.

* Complexity is fine, but make sure your text moves cleanly from one topic or section to the next. Try not to jump around between subjects.

* Be prepared for me to ask you to do some re-writes. Most of us need someone else to look at our work and help us fine-tune it. I've received some terrific submissions which still need some tweaking for clarity.

* If you aren't sure if your topic is appropriate, or if you have an idea but aren't sure if you're up to writing about it, please email me at janet.munin@earthlink.net or message me here and let's discuss it. If you're not a strong writer I can get someone to collaborate with you and/or do an interview with you.
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Hi folks! Now that the first PNW regional meetup is done, I wanted to post a quick follow-up note to express my gratitude.

I'm working on organizing my meeting notes into a report, so I'll make a longer post here soon in a separate thread. For now I'd just like to say that I think the meeting went very well, and I'm so glad we pulled it together. We had five attendees at Black Stone Abbey: myself, WeepingCrow, barefootwisdom, Syren Nagakyrie, and Janet Munin.

Over on the LANMIPP group on Facebook (which will soon be changing its name and expanding its offerings) we've seen others mention interest in launching their own regional network meetups. That's what this board is for, so feel free to post announcements, coordination threads, and updates here. We'd love to hear what our members in other locations are up to.

More news about the meetup soon!
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This is a really interesting question. Although any number of religious authority figures (both self-identified and not) have said that one can't - or shouldn't - participate in or identify with multiple religions, people certainly do. Or, at the very least, they may involve themselves with practices that may fall outside the boundaries of tradition as taught by authority figures. Here I'm thinking primarily of the various healing traditions that spring up in Christian communities (and probably others, but I'm not very familiar with them). Practitioners might contextualize these practices within their specific Christian tradition even if the practices aren't really granted clear permission. I saw this sometimes in various Mormon communities and it's well-documented in Catholic communities, too.
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