Green Eggs and Spam: A Little History of “Polyamory”

Capital Letter In response to someone in Facebook saying (a couple of weeks back) that they hadn’t heard of “Zell, Green Egg or CAW” and wondering if they might be “Pagan communes” I wrote the following explanation of how polyamory and paganism are historically connected.  (You may also want to check out Alan’s awesome research post  at Poly in the News, on the history of the word ‘polyamory’ as well.  If you live for the joy of lex, it’s a big O all by itself!)

Enjoy!

~♥ Dawn

Here’s a bit of a history lesson around these particular items, since you’ve said you’re unfamiliar. Please note that I am not claiming that any of this has any particular effect today on the functioning of various poly people or organizations anywhere around the world (other than the word “polyamory” existing as an organizing principle.)

Zell is the last name of Morning Glory and Oberon. [In 1992] MG coined the term polyamory and published it in the Green Egg, a now-defunct pagan magazine. CAW [Church of All Worlds] is the particular pagan organization that the Zells and others founded some time back (60’s or 70’s I believe), with a fair amount of inspiration from Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land. You certainly won’t find the word “polyamory” in Heinlein’s books because his books pre-date the [common usage of the] word. However, “Stranger” and others contain concepts of multiple-partnering (e.g., “the Nest”) that are similar to those held by many modern-day polys. Some of those modern day polys got their ideas directly from those books, and some (an increasingly large number, due to the books’ receding farther from modern times, and to the rise of the Internet, which has a GREAT DEAL of power to change the spread of ideas) didn’t. It’s possible that some of the content you read might not exist without the Zells (which idea is a popular theme in science fiction time-travel stories [and therefore we’ll never know!]).

I myself have “felt poly” since before reading Heinlein, let alone encountering the word polyamory decades later. The references that you found on the internet were put there by other poly folk, some of whom (like me) probably learned the word from the Zells. “I stand on the shoulders of giants,” as a scientist once famously said. We all have been influenced, to a greater or lesser degree, whether or not we’re aware of it, by those who come before us. For me, the connection to the Zells is significant. For you, not so much. It’s all good.


5 thoughts on “Green Eggs and Spam: A Little History of “Polyamory”

  1. Pingback: Out In the World… (a poem) | Love Outside the Box (formerly: Uncharted Love)

  2. TesFalcon

    My libertarian politics was influenced by Heinlein, but my morality was influenced by the Bible. While polyamory and such has been a part of paganism since ancient times, Scriptural morality from the Mosaic Law on down was to bring a level of “decency and order” to the mess rather than the level of religiosity that has descended. In the Mosaic Law, polygyny was both authorized and even mandatory under various conditions. Women were being used and tossed aside like cattle. Exodus 21 is one of the earliest references to “woman’s rights” in the entire ancient world: rights to food, clothes, and SEX.

    In the New Testament, there is no restriction against polygyny only man-hating lesbianism. Most of the “only for reproduction” religious mantra starts several hundred years AFTER the NT was written. A horny Catholic priest, who was a pagan orgyist before his conversion, struggled with his sexual self-control. He declared sexual pleasure to be immoral, the ‘original sin of Adam and Eve’ and through great oratory and poor logic convinced the Roman Catholic Church of the evils of sexuality.

    Please do NOT confuse religious dogma w Scripture. I have asked NUMEROUS preachers, teachers, and priests where the SCRIPTURE declares polygamy a sin, and to a man they conclude with, “It’s not, but it’s not the ideal either.”

    Reply
    1. Uncharted Love Post author

      Well, it’s only “not the ideal” if you’re following Paulian teachings. Certainly if you’re still using Old Testament scripture as a guide there’s plenty of support for multiple wives at the very least (hey, Solomon or David, anyone?). As you say, there’s not much in there that actively FORBIDS multiple partnership, and some arguments in favor. I think mostly they conclude “it’s not the ideal” because it’s what’s comfortable.

      I’m guessing you’ve probably read his stuff, but in case you haven’t, you might want to check out some of Bishop Shelby Spong’s work.

      Thanks for your contributions here!

      Reply
  3. River

    Interesting comments. I write about the underlying reasons for my own move into Polyamory here: http://iwentdowntotheriver.com/2011/06/23/loneliness-and-distraction/

    A quote:”The notion of love as connection is misunderstood. Love with a capital L, is of course a connection of sorts, but instead of the traditional notion of connection, of hearts intertwined, Love is instead a telephone wire, a cry in the dark that has been answered; but it is still dark.”

    Also here:http://iwentdowntotheriver.com/2011/06/16/the-failure-of-monogamy/

    Reply

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