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I Got a Medal

Sometimes I'm an atheist. I love H.L. Mencken, America's greatest philosopher, and I go around quoting him all the time—like, "The most common of all follies is to believe passionately in the palpably not true. It is the chief occupation of mankind." On the other hand, I grew up Catholic, and always got off on the spectacle of Latin high mass. I'm a sucker for European cathedrals. Incense gets to me. It's not easy to quit that stuff. But other times I think that there's nothing wrong with Western Civilization that a complete reversion to polytheism couldn't cure. So usually I'm a pagan. That's the highest form of Catholicism, baby.


Gore Vidal's Julian, the story of the Roman emperor who attempted to restore paganism after Constantine had made Christianity the official religion of the state, is one of my all-time favorite books, and I'm of a mind with the great writer Robert Graves that things were far better when the Goddess was running the heavens. The good thing about Catholicism, as practiced by someone like my dear departed grandma Flora, is that it is so pagan. The Virgin Mary is the goddess, and the gods are all there, mostly celebrated on their ancient days, disguised as the Saints. In little villages in Italy the same feasts and rites have been practiced for thousands of years. They make the sun come up, and the barley.

I don't think that's what Mary Jo Pane had in mind when she created Miracle Icons, her line of jewelry. She finds wonderful antique Catholic medals and mounts them on chains and bracelets of fine patina. You can find them at Barneys New York, Maxfield, Fred Segal in Santa Monica, and Traffic L.A., among other places. Funny, but it turns out that many of her best customers are Hollywood stars not known for their piety, and often people whom you might expect to wear a Star of David rather than a St. Maria Goretti or St. Francis of Assisi. I guess you could say that these icons have been de-accessioned, but one's nominal faith isn't really important. As the atheist said, "I'm not taking any chances."

I haven't worn a medal since high school, but it's a good look and I'm moving back into it. It's a very Mickey Rourke-Eric Roberts-Pope of Greenwich Village-Vinnie Gallo kind of aesthetic. (Although the last time I saw Vinnie he was wearing the compass-and-square of that famous secret society.) It's badass spiritual. Anyway if you see me wearing one of Mary Jo's chains, it's not that I'm a pro-Benedict guy (although I do like him better than the last Papa) but that I'm chained in honor of Aphrodite. She's very green, you know. I like all the goddesses and I'm all for feminizing heaven. And on earth as it is in heaven.

I'm placing myself under the protection of Mary, the Mom, and also Magdalene and her other incarnations Isis, Venus, Hera, and Diana. Have mercy, baby! In an era of increasing intolerance, with holy wars proclaimed against novelists, comedians, and cartoonists, not to mention those who crack the boiled egg on the wrong end, there is a certain relief in polytheism. It's not so "fascist." If you don't like what God says, you can always get a second opinion.

Mencken said, "The way to deal with superstition is not to be polite to it, but to tackle it with all arms, and so rout it, cripple it, and make it forever infamous and ridiculous. Is it, perchance, cherished by persons who should know better? Then their folly should be brought out into the light of day, and exhibited there in all its hideousness until they flee from it, hiding their heads in shame." But it's okay to wear some medals when you're doing it for good luck. In the End Times, while the big three monotheist conglomerates maneuver to finish the others off, we do what we can to protect and nurture culture, nature, and each other, along with a little help from the gods—and the saints, the sprites, the fairies, and leprechauns.


Good post. Julian is one of my favorites also.

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