Fake Shinto Shrines in the US

 

So I didn’t really know if I would end up posting about Shinto here at all, but for better or for worse enough bullshit has been happening for me to complain about it here (yay?).

One thing is this guy who claimed to have a Kyoha Shinto (sect Shinto) shrine in Tennessee while disrespecting the fuck out of whoever he’s enshrining. I won’t name names overtly but I will link to a video of a part of this “shrine” because well…it’ll maybe help drive my point home.

All of this? Complete horseshit. Let me explain.

  1. This is simply not what the inside of a shrine looks like.
  2. All the flags are extremely out of place, one of them appears to be promotional from a company
  3. The abundance of mirrors makes no sense either
  4. If this is supposed to be the goshintai (‘body’ of the kamisama, kinda?) then he shouldn’t be taking videos of it.
  5. Very New Agey dragon decor that is, again, very out of place. Exacerbates how this guy claimed to have used traditional architecture when nothing about this is traditional at all.
  6. That chandelier is more ostentatious than what I’ve ever seen at a shrine.
  7. Why the fuck are there runes on that thing?!

You may say “that isn’t explicitly listed as a shrine, it might not be!” well, fear not my friends. The sacred paper strips shown at the beginning are about the only accurate thing here (assuming he made them correctly).

It’s disrespectful to kamisama, it’s disrespectful to Japanese culture and it’s also extremely White to step in, steal someone’s religious practices, and manipulate it however you want. It’s also very White/Orientalist to sell this as authentic, as a legitimate Kyoha shrine when it’s anything but. The spookyness is weird, and it gets worse in a Halloween video where the shrine was…a haunted house. You don’t put spooky stuff near kamisama, Halloween is a separate and secular event in Japan. Kamisama do not like skulls and things. Don’t do that.

Another guy came up in the Twin Cities who made up some bullshit Neo Minzoku (folk) Shinto which is hilarious. Shinto doesn’t need a “neo-“, it isn’t pagan at all so I’m not sure why some white guy thought it appropriate to frame it like a neopagan reconstructionist religion. He also throws Baba Yaga into the shrine which also makes no sense, she’s Russian…?

The kami enshrined at the Twin Cities shrine are all vaguely-named kamisama of bad things like illness. There’s no parent shrine, a Wiccan guy just made up a bunch of shit and claims Japanese people are okay with it (this one isn’t!).

 

The point of this rant is that: as always, “Eastern” religions deal with the demon of Orientalism. People think we’re exotic and weird and spiritual and different. That leads to (usually) white Westerners decontextualizing the content of the beliefs instead of researching or asking an actual priest/ess, and putting out misinformation at pagan festivals with ugly decor and other Westerners accepting that as truth, because no one bothered to do any research. Slapping an “Eastern” label on something doesn’t mean it’s authentic; if anything you should be more skeptical if a White person is trying to sell you something packaged as “Eastern”, “Oriental” (yes, one of these people used that term) or “exotic”. Please for the love of kamisama do your goddamn research.

 

Dogwhistles: How the Fuck do I Tell if a Pagan I Follow is a Fascist/Racist etc.?

Note: This page is intended as reference and I by no means endorse this content whatsoever. I avoid writing out slurs, but be warned of Nazism and references to violence.This list is by no means exhaustive.

Symbols

  • Tree emojis and mountain emojis signal ecofascists (more on that here)
  • Runes in general need discernment, especially when in tattoos.
Thor’s hammer, from Wikimedia Commons.
Valknut/valknot, from Wikimedia Commons.
A reproduction Roman standard featuring SPQR, from Wikimedia Commons.
  • SPQR
  • Roman salute” (Nazi salute)
  • Swastikas (technically, the Kolovrat is a kind of swastika, but sometimes that is hidden by Slavic nationalists when they use it)

Words to look for in bios and posts

  • The suffix “-bol”, ie. nazbol, olbol
  • “Trad”/”tradition”/”traditionalist” ie. tradcaths (fascist pagans also use this prefix)
  • “Based”
  • Folkish
  • Odinists
  • Obsessions with Valhalla, fighting war for ___ religion/against ____ religion, etc. Usually these types have names like “Warrior of Odin” or something, and post macho Viking posts (this fixation contradicting historical evidence that most ancient Norse people were farmers, among other inaccuracies).
  • “Ethnic”, i.e. ethnic religion, ethnic Hellene, etc.
  • Echoes: ((( ))) usually used around names or antisemitic stereotypes
  • Slurs (reclaimed slurs will usually be pretty obvious in contrast to ones used against others), includes censored variants such as replacing Gs with 6s or censoring with asterisks (i.e. f*g), using gay as an insult, etc.
  • Monarchists, nationalists (usually self-identifying in their bios)
  • “Aryan”,“Germanic”, “Nordic”, calling a European group a “race” etc.
  • “Cuck”, as the kink has strong racist tones itself
  • “Pagang”, Yang gang“: I’m guessing white nationalists like to adopt the word gang as an ironic parody of what they think is Black culture. Yang refers to Presidential Candidate Andrew Yang.
  • Wignat

Rhetoric is more nuanced with some other terms which I won’t get into here. However, who somebody is friends with or regularly replies to is very informative. Scroll through a bit of their following if you can to see if anyone with these indicators is on there. Keep an eye out for these symbols/images/words.

I found this thread and this followup thread to be very true of what I’ve seen online, and also enlightening about the meaning/context of some of these hate symbols.

Here’s the ADL’s database of hate symbols, which covers stuff not as common in online pagan spaces.

 

 

Respectability and gatekeeping

I have really mixed feelings about the word “gatekeeping”. I prefer to say “elitism” because of the tendency for lots of (mostly online posters) to use gatekeeping as a catch all word to shut someone down without addressing the actual arguments at hand or pointing out the harms being done (if any). It also usually is anti-intellectual in nature, and well, as an American person, I’m all too familiar with the effects of that…flat earthers and so on stem from that sort of hostile relationship between society and academia (especially lower class whites who get radicalized etc etc).

So, how is this related to paganism? Well, lots of pagans hurl accusations of gatekeeping or elitism, while others counter with “fluffy bunny” and the like. I think elitism is inherently bad — you aren’t smarter or a better person because you have a PhD. A lot of people with PhDs don’t get jobs anyway because capitalism, white supremacy, patriarchy and so on. PhDs mean jack shit on their own, they don’t qualify you to be an expert. I question the monopoly on experthood anyway since white cishet people tend to be nominated the “experts” in any and every field, including Indigenous studies.

Just because a pagan author has a PhD doesn’t mean they are trustworthy, correct or even a good person. I feel like society has ingrained in us that someone with credentials is instantly trustworthy, knows what they’re talking about and a liberal/progressive person. This isn’t the case, and can be seen pretty easily when you see how sometimes people have PhDs in completely separate fields and use that to feign expertness in another, or are straight up fascists with a doctorate (i.e. Krasskova). I’ve also noticed that a lot of Twitter pagans like to over-use jargon, in such a way that it makes their social media basically inaccessible to anyone without a Philosophy degree.

On the other hand, anti-intellectualism is a real and concrete trend I’ve noticed in New Age and Pagan spaces. It’s understandable because a lot of academic writing is inaccessible to people who aren’t students and know at least some of the lingo, but on the other hand it makes it a free-for-all of information and that’s how you get people claiming to be Hekate’s son or whatever.That’s the new aim of my blog, in part, because I’ve only got one foot in that conventional academic structure (for now, I don’t know about the future!). I find a lot of academia pretty hard, but I also am fortunate enough to have the ability to access a lot of material.

I guess the ideal is a balance between using academia and not relying so heavily on it you get sucked into inaccessible jargon and elitism; you don’t want to completely make shit up and revise history either.

Wheel of the Year

Oh my gods if someone asked me something like that about Saraswati I think I’d delete my blog

☆☆☆

I want to talk about the wheel of the year. The short version is: I have mixed feelings. I don’t outright hate it, but I definitely don’t love it. Though, if I had to pick a side, I am definitely more on the “this is absolute horseshit” end of it.

The wheel of the year, as many know, is essentially the neopagan/Wiccan holiday calendar. The four “major” holidays at the solstices are referred to as “sabbats” and the four that occur between the solstice celebrations are sometimes referred to as “esbats”. At least, that’s my understanding of the terminology. I could be wrong.

To start, I don’t like them being called “sabbats”. Partially because Gerald Gardner decided that sabbat was the proper term and has always been the term because, in the middle ages “Shabbat” was also used to refer to “other heretical celebrations”, as well as the Jewish day…

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Piety and Impiety

I’ve seen a lot of people on Twitter use “impious” as an insult, accusing certain behaviors or people of being impious. I don’t feel like it’s really a smart way to have any conversation (attaching an insult to someone doesn’t mean they’re wrong or have no good points to make). Aside from that though, there’s a more troubling undertone to this.

Imipous assumes that the people (let’s say PP for shortness’ sake) know what piety was in Ancient Greece (or Germany, or whatever), and that said piety was uniform throughout the land. My main area of knowledge is pre-Hellenistic Greece so I won’t try to pretend like I know anything about other ancient European societies, but I know that for Greece, there was a gap between what say, Plato believed, and what laypeople may have believed (Did the Greeks Believe in their Myths? Paul Veyne).

Basically, it’s an infantile no-true-Scotsman fallacy combined with a serious lack of historicity.

Astral Projection: Scientifically Dubious Cultural Appropriation

I’ve written about the problems with astral projection before. As I was doing reading for a class I’m taking, though, I realized that the problems go beyond simply scientific. Astral Projection is a 19th Century, fascist-created nonsense.

First, a bit on history.

Astral projection became a thing in the UK and US during the late 19th century, continuing to be popular now.

Its origins in the 19th century are detailed here:

The astral body was regularly discussed by occult groups such as the Theosophical Society, which drew upon the concept of the subtle body in Indian yogic traditions…the idea of “exteriorizing” the astral body was later popularized through works such [as] Sylvan Muldoon’s widely read Phenomena of Astral Projection (1951).

The Church of Scientology, Hugh B. Urban (2011).

I feel like most younger neopagans don’t know what Theosophy is, but for anyone confused I’d suggest looking up something along the lines of “Blavatsky White Nationalism”. One such paper notes how Theosophy’s creator, Helena Blavatsky, is at least partially to blame for the racial superiority ideas of Nazis (Santucci). Blavatsky is also a white supremacist who created her own bullshit “religion” by appropriating other cultures.

Essentially, astral projection is a culturally appropriative, completely nonsensical idea cobbled together and repackaged for the West by a Nazi.

Sources:

Urban, Hugh B. The Church of Scientology: A History of a New Religion: 77. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2013.
Santucci, James A. “The Notion of Race in Theosophy.” Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions 11, no. 3 (2008): 37-63. doi:10.1525/nr.2008.11.3.37.