ETA: This post had been edited since initially posted.
A quick response to Wayland Skallagrimsson’s post Too Casual A Climate and Galina Krasskova’s endorsement of it, the latter of which in a way asserts, that images both do and don’t have power.
This is something I’ve been thinking about lately in terms of canon, social capital, and respectability, so in the initial draft of this piece, I accidentally made it sound as if the OP and I were at odds, when we really weren’t. But it did trigger a lot of these other thoughts I’ve had.
Premises I reject, couched in the language of the linked piece:
1. The Gods are “laughingstocks” because of casual modern depictions of them
No. The Gods stopped being honored and worshiped long before the existence of pop culture pagans or pictures of Them doing silly things. We have Christianity, humanism, and materialism to thank for this. If irreverent art of Gods and religious figures was enough to discredit entire religions, then Christianity would be long dead.
2. Eliminating irreverent depictions would make people take polytheism seriously
Paganism and polytheism needs gatekeepers and religious canon like the atmosphere needs more CO2, and instating gatekeepers is the only way that there will ever be a standardized measure of what is respectful and what is disrespectful toward the Gods. If, say, Tezcatlipoca wants me to draw a picture of Him getting shit-faced drunk while wearing a skirt and huipil, that’s between me and Him, not me and someone else who claims to know what Tezcatlipoca really wants.
Canon and gatekeeping will get us nowhere. It will turn our vital, living, breathing traditions and relationships with the Gods into some pathetic mimicry of the revealed religions. We have no one to impress, we have no one to suck up to. We have only ourselves and the Gods, spirits, land, and ancestors to keep in right relationship with, the sensibilities of the overculture be damned.
The polytheist revolution will not be televised, etc.
3. “Serious” art has power where “silly” art does not
Let me tell you a little secret.
Art has no power anymore.
At least, not in the way you were raised to think. Not in the way the mass media wants you to think. Not in the way your art or history or art history teachers want you to think. As a way of selling shit, as a way to “earn” social capital, as a way to convince people to vote red or blue, yes. But that’s not real power. And this is because we live in a postmodern world where all things are fair game to be commodified, all images have been disenchanted and reduced to mere aesthetic – a dim vestige of culture and purpose – and where all art objects are interchangeable (barring, of course, the sick world of art collecting) because they have been stripped of their context and heritage.
In this world, the most loving, reverent, and painstakingly crafted image of Odin has exactly the same meaning to the disrooted, disenchanted masses as one where he’s toking it up with Loki in the back of a dirty van: that is, none.
Neither have any meaning to them.
And Western culture wouldn’t have it any other way.
This has nothing to do with the Gods – They are as much casualties here as we are as polytheists – and it has everything to do with the project of capitalism and materialist science as it began 300 years ago and Christianity’s project of disenchantment long before that. That is the Leviathan. To believe that this issue is unique to polytheism alone is to admit a great ignorance of history and empire. And to think that this can be fixed by disavowing – or, somehow, eradicating altogether – silly, memetic, or un-sacred religious art is to admit believing in a very transparent, very finicky, delusion. In other words, I commend you in your fruitless struggle to assimilate into a culture that ought not exist at all. Whatever helps you sleep at night.
Now, I’m not saying that we should continue with the tradition of postmodern image-making once we remove ourselves from the postmodern mindset, once we cease to work toward the goal of assimilation into the culture of Leviathan, a culture of capitalism and politics and mass media. But for the purpose of winning over the hearts and minds of those invested in Leviathan, it’s useless and counter-productive. I outline the beginnings of a manifesto in the above link, but how about this: let our religious art be between us and the Powers.