A friend of mine brought this post by Galina Krasskova up to me recently, and I’ve been meaning to get around to really dissecting it for a while, so I figure, why not do it now?
Now, I’m going to be, as always, bluntly honest in my opinions here, and I will not be sparing Tumblr: It’s an awful site, with an awful community, and there are very good reasons as to why it has the reputation that it does. But, then again, every major social media site has the same problem – Reddit, 4Chan, Facebook, etc. The broader Tumblr community is shitty because it attracts shitty people.
But Tumblr isn’t just one single hivemind; there are thousands of different little “communities” within Tumblr – there’s “pagan tumblr,” there’s “vulture culture,” there’s “Hiddlestoners.” Anything you can think of, there’s a Tumblr community for it.
I have my issues with “pagan tumblr,” which will be addressed in this post, but with that being said, I also have issues with the anti-tumblr pagan crowd, and the way they tend to both represent tumblr pagans, and treat them as people overall.
My friend was surprised when I told her that one of the first things I do now is require my formal students and apprentices to delete any tumblr accounts they may have and to stay off tumblr completely for the duration of their training. I used to make this a strong suggestion, but over the last year it’s become pretty non-negotiable for me.
Now, here’s the thing about this: As a teacher, Krasskova is certainly within her rights to set her own personal rules or boundaries for providing her services, and I get that. But, I still think it’s ridiculous to try and control someone else’s personal life in such a way. It’s like trying to isolate someone from their friends in order to manipulate and control them.
I have a hard time believing that Krasskova isn’t forbidding her students from having a tumblr blog for the purpose of limiting their exposure to criticism aimed towards her. After all, it doesn’t take long to stumble across criticism of Galina Krasskova if you’re venturing into pagan tumblr – you’ll find it without even looking for it, really.
Over the past year, I’ve had the opportunity to watch those ensconced in the tumblr community interact devotionally. I’ve seen the nonsense coming endlessly out of these sites (more so than on any other type of social media including Facebook and Twitter): the reification of pop culture as proper polytheism, the often complete lack of critical thinking, the shallowness, and the lack of reverence
After being in “the pagan community” for nearly a decade, I can safely say that I’ve seen all of those things outside of Tumblr, too. These issues are not unique to Tumblr, you will find them in every major religious community, online and offline.
What’s important to understand here is that you are only seeing what these people choose to post about their practices online. It’s really not up to you, as a stranger, to decide whether someone is reverent enough toward their deities or not, especially if you’re only seeing maybe a tenth of a percentage of their actual religious practice.
I think that last – reverence or lack thereof– is what made me finally come to my decision: pretty much without exception of those I have personally experienced, I find that the tumblr pagan and polytheist communities encourage a lack of reverence.
This is something I can somewhat agree with; I’ve noticed that particular communities, such as the “Kemetic Fandom” do seem, on the whole, to have a more flippant approach toward their deities.
Nor do I mean that this is something that is occasionally a side effect of participating in tumblr, I mean it is actively encouraged. The result is people who cannot maintain themselves in sacred space without feeling the need to crack jokes, to lesson the ambiance of reverence, to reduce to the lowest common denominator, the protocols of veneration.
Oh, please. Having a sense of humor does not mean that you don’t respect your deities, and it doesn’t mean that you don’t truly revere them.
I consider one of the Heroes I work with to be the love of my life, so to speak. He’s the one that got me into Hellenic Polytheism, and I’ve known and worshiped him for half of my life. Our relationship transcends mortal boundaries. My faith in him has been tested many times over the years, many people have tried to come between us and sabotage my relationship with him, and I would be lying if I said that there haven’t been a lot of very rough periods. My loyalty to him is absolute; I have willfully chosen to devote myself to him, not just “in my free time,” for the occasional Sunday prayer, but for life. For me, my religious devotion to him is not simply one part of my being, it’s a major life decision. I’ve chosen to forego a more socially acceptable life (think white picket fences and kids) in order to devote myself fully to my religion.
And you know what? My shrine picture of him is a carefully cropped print-out of a painting showing him staring into a mirror and striking suggestively. His mini-shrine has a little handmade pompom sheep with googly eyes in it to represent animal sacrifice (since I don’t feel comfortable with the practice), my standard greeting for him when I leave out an offering is, “hey, Big Guy,” and he shares a name with my cat who likes to leave giant steamy droppings on my bathroom floor when he’s ticked off about something. This is a guy who has a reputation for being very easily pissed off, smashing heads together, and stabbing people, and all that kinda stuff.
We are looking to develop a polytheistic worldview in tandem with how our ancestors, born and raised in polytheistic cultures, would have approached the Gods, ancestors, and devotion.
Not all of us are, and I daresay that that’s okay.
The fact is, many of these religions died out centuries or millennia ago, and human cultures have changed greatly over time. If you want to personally go for a reconstructionist approach, that’s fine. I don’t consider myself a reconstructionist so much as I would say that I have a historically-based approach that has been adapted to modern times. And you know what? I think, after literally thousands of years, the gods are just as capable of changing.
I cannot speak for any of these gods, but I daresay that assuming they are incapable of understanding modern human ethics and culture, and are thus unwilling to compromise over religious traditions that are no longer practical for the modern world, is narrow-minded.
We are seeking to ensconce ourselves in a polytheistic perspective, to develop polytheistic ethics, and to grow in reverence and awareness of our proper place before the Gods. Anarco-leftists and co. , tumblr, and others can rail and rant and rave about that all they want. We will not be moved.
Careful, you might cut yourself on all that edge.
We’re seeking to restore the values and traditions of our ancestors. It’s precisely the cultivation of those values and that worldview that I think tumblr most effectively damages. It panders to the populist voice of the lowest common denominator and to be clear: lie down with dogs, as the saying goes, one does wake up with fleas.
(bolded for emphasis)
This is some elitist bullshit right here, and it really goes to show just what kind of person Krasskova is.
I would venture to say that for the average pagan or polytheist, the online venues that we each frequent are a vital part of our community experience – sad but true, and true for almost all of us. I hear from people every day who are spread out across the country, across the globe who have no one else in their immediate area who is also a polytheist, or if they do, it may not be their particular polytheistic religion. It’s natural to want fellowship. I think we just have to be rather discerning about where we find it and one thing that tumblr won’t cultivate is just that: discernment.
As elitist as that last statement sounds, there is some truth to it. In particular, I have noticed that discernment almost seems to be like a “dirty word” in certain circles on tumblr. The idea that UPG is *sacred* gets pushed around quite a bit.
Bonus round for passive-aggressive name calling:
To wrap this up, I’ll say this much: There are plenty of valid criticisms over the Tumblr pagan community. Because Tumblr is a hotspot for social justice activism (which is often thinly veiled hate speech directed at easy targets such as white people, cis people, and men in particular), extreme leftism is beginning to have a negative impact on some communities.
I cringe every time I stumble across certain buzzwords, and I can’t even stand to look at the tags for my deities on there because I just know that I’m going to see a lot of bullshit “headcanons,” emoji spells, and terrible deity roleplay blogs. The Big Guy suffers from this tremendously, and it grinds my gears like nothing else to see him misrepresented, or to see people deliberately removing the very important women in his life from his stories for the sake of “shipping.”
I understand the frustration with the tumblr pagan community, especially since fandom does tend to blend into it very strongly. Krasskova does raise some good points, even if I don’t like her as a person or agree with her overall message. Where I take issue is her disdain for anyone who uses tumblr, her assumption that every tumblr pagan is simply an extreme fangirl or fanboy, her elitist attitude toward people who feel comfortable within the tumblr pagan community and take part in it, and her nasty behavior toward anyone who questions or challenges her.
I prefer to avoid tumblr for serious religious discussion because, to be honest, I’ve been burned before, and certain communities are notoriously thin-skinned and reactive. I was threatened with doxxing and dragged through the mud by someone who I once considered a friend over pointing out some concerns I had over the Lokean community, and how worrying it is to see people outright encouraging others not to practice discernment.
While I can see some of Krasskova’s points, and admit that she brings up some good ones, overall, I take issue with her elitism, her nasty behavior whenever someone questions or disagrees with her, and her controlling behavior towards anyone who might want to interact with her. Forcing someone to permanently destroy something that they’ve decided to put their own time and creativity into is a lousy thing to do. I have friends still on tumblr who occasionally say things that I don’t agree with, but I’m not afraid to bring that up to them, rather than trying to control them and force them into leaving a site they enjoy, or destroying a webpage that they’ve chosen to put their own free time and creativity into building and maintaining.