Gods with Agency, continued: The “fad” question

I am overdue to return to a regular writing schedule here, now that my book is out. I have a file of topics to write about, but today a half dozen different people asked if I have anything to say about whether or not the Morrígan is a fad. So it seems I need to write about that today.

I was tempted to ignore this entirely – honestly, it’s rude and dismissive toward Herself, but She’s a big girl formidable numinous personified force, and perfectly able to defend Herself if She felt it was needed. The truth is, I’m writing because this question keeps coming up. Jason Mankey isn’t the first one to coyly wonder aloud whether the upsurge in people feeling called by the Morrígan is just because She’s trendy. So let’s talk about it.

First, I realize that Jason (and the others who have said similar things) mean no disrespect. However, disrespect it is. A quick inquiry provides a few definitions for “fad”:

“an intense and widely shared enthusiasm for something, especially one that is short-lived and without basis in the object’s qualities; a craze” (that’s Google definitions); “followed for a time with exaggerated zeal” (that’s Merriam-Webster); originating in the term faddle, to “busy oneself with trifles” as in the phrase “fiddle-faddle” (that’s Reference.com).

So yeah. Disrespect and dismissal. Which, of course, you don’t have to busy yourself with dictionaries to recognize. Jason knows it’s offensive: “Put down the tar and feathers, it’s nothing personal against The Morrígan.” I point this out not out of a desire to tar and feather Jason; he seems like a nice guy, and as I said, She doesn’t need little me to protect Her. And he’s not the only one using this language. I am pointing out the dismissal inherent in the language because it signals something else worth looking at. Why do people keep asking if the Morrígan is a fad when they know this question as such offers disrespect? Because they recognize that something is going on, but they lack any better language for articulating what it is than the language of trivial social trends.

You see, the problem isn’t that it’s rude to the Morrígan. It’s simply the wrong question. It’s the wrong question because it’s a shallow question. It is looking at a numinous devotional and religious phenomenon using a purely social lens which only recognizes the action of deities in terms of human behaviors, and only those human behaviors driven by the most shallow of motivations, social popularity. It utterly erases the agency of the Morrígan Herself, and Her engagement with culture, time, and history.

I am sure we can go deeper than this.

Could it possibly be that at least some of the people participating in this “fad” have actually experienced a call or a demand from a Goddess? Could it be that the Morrígan Herself is an agent in Her own story? That something is happening in our time to which She as a Goddess active in war and sovereignty is especially drawn or which calls Her to action in human affairs? Perhaps the global crises we face, the conflicts over resources, sovereignty, justice, human dignity, freedom, the rights of women?

I don’t claim to have all these answers. But I think the kinds of questions we ask about what is going on with the Morrígan say as much about the person asking the question as they do about Her, or those devoted to Her. I want to know what She sees in these many, many people that She is calling to action – what She is building toward. I want to know what it is that so many, many people see in Her, what need or resonance they feel that is answered by such a being. I want to understand how Her powers and Her work and Her agenda and Her communities of devotion fit into the moment in history in which we are living. I want to know how all this relates to other Gods who are coming into greater prominence right now too. Like, what exactly are She and Odin getting up to behind the scenes? I think there are one thousand questions more interesting and more useful than “is this just a trend driven by social approval.”

I think maybe I understand why this fad language keeps coming up, though. I think the idea that  something numinous, historic and meaningful might actually be going on – and that it involves the resurgence of ancient Gods (and maybe some new ones too) might just be a little bit scary. Especially for folks who may be seeing this from a perspective that could leave them feeling like they are on the outside of that big numinous historic thing. It might, on some level, feel safer to reduce that thing in your mind to something pedestrian, mundane, and safely dismissed as trivial: a fad.

I think that would be a mistake. And not, as I’ve said, because it insults the Morrígan. It’s a mistake because in dismissing this phenomenon you risk diminishing yourself. Instead of reacting to that sense of awe by attempting to diminish the thing that is happening around you, to bring it down to your size, what if you could rise to meet it? What if you seized the moment to ask yourself what is this moment in history demanding of me? If you haven’t been called by the Morrígan or drawn toward seeking Her service, then what is calling you? What do your Gods want from you, and for you, at this moment in history? What is the most meaningful thing you can commit yourself to?

21 replies
  1. Féileacán
    Féileacán says:

    I have also seen an upswing in people being touched by one or many of the Morrigiú. And even with other dieties, I am seeing an increase in those chosen and working with ancient Gods and Goddesses. I have asked myself, what is going on? I, too, have had conversations where either I or someone else was questioned about their devotion to the Morrigan, whether it was deep and real or just lip service. And I think about those who may just be giving lip service, but that’s not my path and not my issue. The Morrigan can even make use of people like that. She is, like you say, formidable. What is important is my own response to that kind of question, that my actions, learning, practice, and words, show that my devotion is deeper than lip service. Such a questions may be a test of sorts. And while I do not feel the need to prove to anyone else that my beliefs are real to me, such questioning inevitably leads us to self examine, and self examination may reveal more wisdom about our situations.

    I would love to know what is brewing, and from time to time I feel like I get hints. But I know that it is something larger than I can fathom in many ways, and all I can do is catch glimpses of it and do my part.

    Thank you for this post!

    Reply
  2. Liam C
    Liam C says:

    “Perhaps the global crises we face, the conflicts over resources, sovereignty, justice, human dignity, freedom, the rights of women?”

    I think that’s about as clear as it gets. Yes, I do believe that this is exactly why.

    Reply
  3. Wytchfawn
    Wytchfawn says:

    Good response and one I similarly expressed on my podcast a few months back concerning HEKATE as well.
    The trend towards darker Goddesses, the ones which many are usual fearful of, I think are a reaction to what is happening in the world: as above, so below. Great changes in consciousness, ununknown futures and death hangs on every corner. It is my feeling that people are either 1) afraid, so looking for a big protector or 2) answering the Call and are ready to stand behind whatever tasks these Gods throw at us. I know where I stand…and so does HEKATE, but who will be left standing in the end?

    Reply
  4. Joanna Cailleach Scathach
    Joanna Cailleach Scathach says:

    “Like, what exactly are She and Odin getting up to behind the scenes?”
    Odin is definitely working with me.

    Reply
  5. Aletheia
    Aletheia says:

    Once again, Morpheus, you have insightfully and tactfully addressed a subject that a lot of us skirt around. I think part of the reason that people in the community are kind of dismissive of the Morrigan’s growing following is that so many of her devotees are located in the US and under the age of 40. There is good reason for that though, seeing as there are more people of Irish descent living in just the New England region of the United States than there are in all of Ireland and the UK. (It’s so easy for people to forget the Irish diaspora, isn’t it?)

    While I’m sure the Dragon Age and The Wicked + The Divine characters, as Crowess mentioned above have probably helped pique interest in her among the younger crowd, I would argue that the surge in her popularity happened before she was in pop culture dialogue. Or maybe we only think that this is a new phenomenon because with the advent of the internet and social networking sites we are simply more aware of others on the path.

    Reply
  6. P. Sufenas Virius Lupus
    P. Sufenas Virius Lupus says:

    I was kind of floored that Jason phrased it that way; I’m even more floored that John Halstead has followed-up with a blog post essentially equating the Third Reich and the Nazis to Odin via Jung, and then kind of throwing Herself into the mix as well. Ugh…

    No one has ever accused me of getting on a bandwagon or being faddish with any of the Deities I worship, which I’m kind of glad about (and not in any kind of hipster-ish way, because I can’t stand people like that!)…and yet, since becoming involved with Antinous in 2002, what has happened? Large steps toward marriage equality, the ability to freely serve as G, L, or B in the U.S. Armed Forces, and a few other noteworthy things which might be considered in the purview of Antinous. Coincidence? Who knows, but again, I note that no one has made that connection or suggestion–including me!–and yet it could be made from certain viewpoints.

    But, like always, Antinous doesn’t get talked about, even by other polytheists, most of the time–I think there’s things about him (i.e. he used to be human) that deeply disturb many people because of their fuller implications, and he is very hard to classify in most of the theological systems most polytheists are employing these days (with a few exceptions, e.g. Edward Butler), at least for the most part. I don’t know…

    If there was a “fad” for Antinoan devotion, that would be interesting; but, he may have already had his fad period, in the late 1800s with the Uranian Poets and others (including Oscar Wilde).

    Reply
    • Morpheus
      Morpheus says:

      Yeah, I’m choosing not to dignify Halstead’s words with a response. I don’t pay attention to his blog as a rule; obviously I’ve seen the post he wrote about me since about a hundred different people sent it to me, but I really have better things to do than engage with that.

      The tidbits of history you mention here of the cult of Antinous are very interesting. I have no doubt that He would be very active in the current struggles of queer and trans folk, among others. Somebody should do a meta study on the dynamics of deities with respect to historic social change and such.

      Reply
      • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus
        P. Sufenas Virius Lupus says:

        I feel you re: Halstead. I couldn’t resist, and wrote a piece for my Polytheist.com column which has taken elements from my comment here, and some other issues raised in this entire situation, and has not been very charitable toward him…but I’m done with charity and him. His follow-up post was pretty much “Today I offended a Goddess, and various people; I’ll do it again tomorrow,” and then he was PRAISED for doing this by a bunch of people, and one even told him “to be called an asshole is a compliment.” I can’t believe it…

        And people wonder why it is that polytheists, who actually (*shock, horror!*) think that Deities exist, have agency, and are independent of humans, are different than general pagans, and why we insist on this…There’s two very big reasons. Anyway…

        Yes, a fuller study of these things on an historical basis would be interesting, but far beyond my ability to usefully do at this point. Oh well…Nonetheless, it is something that I think we should pay more attention to, which I highlight in my piece. Hopefully that will be available in the next few days.

        Reply
  7. Lilly (Coru Crigh)
    Lilly (Coru Crigh) says:

    Good question…I would dearly like to know what she and Odin are up to, they are definitely working incahoots to some purpose. It was great seeing you guys at war. Thoroughly enjoying your book, but glad your back to the blog too!

    Reply
  8. Cara Freyasdaughter
    Cara Freyasdaughter says:

    Here, here! Well replied. And also thank you for breaking down and elucidating some of the things I’ve been wrestling with in regards to my own deity and Her work, and why She is relevant in the modern world:

    “I want to understand how Her powers and Her work and Her agenda and Her communities of devotion fit into the moment in history in which we are living. I want to know how all this relates to other Gods who are coming into greater prominence right now too…. What do your Gods want from you, and for you, at this moment in history? What is the most meaningful thing you can commit yourself to?”

    These are the kind of questions that we, as polytheist priests of any kind, really need to dig into before we go out and start bring our deities to the populace, IMHO. We might not have all of the answers to these questions yet, but at least we need to be aware of them and searching for the answers.

    And also, “Like, what exactly are She and Odin getting up to behind the scenes?” Wouldn’t we all like to know? ;)

    Reply
  9. Crowess
    Crowess says:

    I wonder if there’s also some blowback against Her appearance in The Wicked + The Divine comic series, which has elicited cis het white male comic geek “criticism” for trying to be about something (creative, imaginative power and art; life and death; youth; power; etc.) and for being popular with, well, non-cis het white male comic geeks.

    Reply
  10. Alan
    Alan says:

    I’m quietly pleased that you’ve responded to Jason’s article, because you were honestly the first person that came to mind when I read it yesterday. Much like in your instance, the idea that certain gods are fads or fashionable is (as many have noted) not exactly unfamiliar. While the sceptic in me leans towards the general direction of ‘fad’ territory, it is mollified by the reality that if there really was a god/goddess fad it would probably take the form of a sudden interest in a little known native Hawaiian banana goddess (or something; no disrespect but that approach, the hipster idea of ‘you have probably never heard of… X’ is what I’m referring to here). That just seems to be the way actual fads seem to run these days, latching on to the most extreme edges of scarcity or unheard of-ness.

    I’m sure that many, including myself, are more in agreement with you when it comes to why The Morrigan and Odin and others comprable to them are gaining more and more of a presence in the overall zeitgeist. Your thought about the use of fad is intriguing, the idea that many people are percieving something yet lack the ablity to describe it and use the best language that they have to try and do so.

    Glad to hear that you are (implying) a return to a regular writing schedule. Been missing your commentary quite keenly of late, though I appreciate that you had other things to attend to.

    Reply
    • Morpheus
      Morpheus says:

      I hadn’t thought about the “you’ve probably never heard of her” tendency of fad culture, but I see what you mean.
      Thanks for the kind words about missing my blog! I hope to be more reliable with it now that I’ve finished the book.

      Reply

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] deities (in that specific blog post’s case, the Morrígan) can be considered a “fad.” Morpheus Ravenna, priestess of the Morrígan and founder of the Coru Cathubodua (a Morrígan priesth…, drawing attention (usefully and appropriately) to the role of particular deities’ agency in […]

  2. […] Gods with Agency continued : the Fad Question (…) D’abord, je comprends que Jason (et ceux qui ont dit des choses similaires) n’avait pas l’intention d’être irrespectueux. Toutefois, c’est de l’irrespect. Une recherche rapide donne quelques définitions pour “passade” (« fad »): “un enthousiasme intense et largement partagé pour quelque chose, enthousiasme passager et non basé sur les qualités de son objet” (définition Google); “suivi pendant un temps avec un zèle exagéré” (Merriam-Webster); “dérivant de « faddle », s’occuper de broutilles” (Reference.com). Alors oui. De l’irrespect et du rejet. (…) J’insiste sur le rejet inhérent au terme parce qu’il indique quelque chose qui vaut la peine qu’on y réfléchisse. Pourquoi les gens demandent-ils si la Morrígan est une passade quand ils savent que la question ainsi posée est irrespectueuse? Parce qu’ils comprennent qu’il se passe quelque chose, mais qu’ils n’ont pas de meilleurs mots pour définir ce que c’est (…). Voyez-vous, le problème ne vient pas du fait que c’est grossier envers la Morrígan. C’est juste la mauvaise question (…) parce que c’est une question superficielle. C’est regarder un phénomène religieux et dévotionnel à travers un filtre purement social qui ne voit les divinités qu’en termes de comportement humain, et seulement les comportements humains qui dérivent d’une motivation des plus superficielles, la popularité. (…) S peut-ils qu’au moins ine partie des gens qui participent à cette « passade » aient ressenti l’appel d’une déesse ? Se peut-il que la Morrígan elle-même soit l’agent de sa propre histoire ? Que quelque chose arrive à notre époque qui l’attire, elle qui est une déesse active dans la guerre et la souveraineté, ou qui l’incite à agir dans les affaires humaines ? Peut-être les crises globales auxquelles nous faisons face, les conflits sur les ressources, la justice, la dignité humaine, la liberté, les droits des femmes ? (…) J’aimerais savoir ce qu’elle trouve chez ces nombreuses personnes qu’elle appelle à agir, ce qu’elle construit. Je veux savoir ce que ces nombreuses personnes trouvent en elle, quel besoin ou résonance est entendu par une telle divinité. Je veux comprendre comment ses pouvoirs, son oeuvre et son agenda s’insèrent dans le pan d’histoire où nous vivons. Je veux savoir quel lien il y a avec les autres dieux qui sont particulièrement proéminents actuellement. (…) Je pense qu’il y a mille questions bien plus intéressantes et utiles que « est-ce que c’est juste une mode et une recherche d’approbation sociale.” (…) – Morpheus Ravenna […]

  3. […] just heard about this silly controversy over at Banshee Arts. Morpheus has written a good comeback to Jason Mankey’s silly post, but my main problem with […]

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