Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Magic Without Gods?

A few months ago, when I got all fired up about creating a site for Paganistas that would be inclusive and informative and I was joining various social clubs and talking about heritage and various assorted stuff that wound up being ultimately shoved to the backburner, I got an interesting note from my beloved Cora about how it would be nifty if I could add an entry to the (backburnered) project about Pagans who don't have magical tendencies.

Do HUNH?  I thought.  There ARE those?  In my mind, for some reason, if one worshipped a god, then clearly, there was magic involved.  And, yes, I'm including Christianity.  You think transubstantiation and prayer isn't magic?  Honey, please.  The very thought that one could worship a god outside of the Judeochristian canon without magic was nutso to me. 

So I mused on this and wrestled with this and was just blown away by it all so much that it...wait for it...totally derailed my spirituality.  

Totally.  I just pulled myself into a spiritual shell, stuck out my tongue and said, "Peace OUT, spirituality.  I'm done for a while."  (Understand that I do NOT blame Cora for this and I'm not mad or freaked out.  I've viewed the entire experience with a grim sort of amusement.)

What pulled me out of the shell was the Autumn, my favorite time of year, a time of gathering and reflection for me, culminating with the Winter Solstice.  I worked in my garden and felt the old tug toward my Mother Stone, toward my witchy cabinet...and I paused.

What, really, do I BELIEVE?  This keeps coming up over and over again on my path.  What do I NEED from my spirituality?  What do I want to pass on to my children?  What do I want to teach others?  What can I GIVE based on my spirituality?  Should giving even be a part of my spirituality?

For years, I've tried to smish my soul into boxes that felt uncomfortable, and tried to convince myself that I could believe in a deity that was not central to who I was.  I tried to believe that I felt like...that I BELIEVED that deities could grant me things like power or peace and the truth is, I don't.  I just don't believe that.  

Is it hubris, this idea that I don't have to rely on a god to make magic or peace or power catch fire in me?  Well, yeah, by the very definition.   Belief in a god requires that you give up a part of yourself that has power and influence over the world.  It requires that you say, "I'm not good enough to tap into the Great Good all by myself.  I have to use something more powerful than me and admit that I'm weak and flawed and perhaps (depending on your belief system) inherently evil."  This...doesn't do it for me.  I can buy that humans are inherently flawed and that, indeed, the war between our emotions and our physical self can wreak havoc on ourselves and others.  I can even buy that humans were created as part of some divine plan.  What I can't buy is the idea that humans were created to be playthings for gods, or solely to praise a god, or to prove that a god was more powerful than another god.  I refuse to believe that the human soul, with all of its facets, exists so that it can be judged.

I also can't refute what I know to be scientific truth.  And I'm not just talking about biology.  I'm talking geology, archaeology, paleontology, physics, chemistry...pretty much every science humans have explains theological beliefs.  Just as you can trace the path of language, you can trace the path of religion.  I know that thunderstorms can be explained with water vapor and ions and wind power--there isn't a god unleashing his wrath on anybody.

Is there?

Because ultimately, even with all of the science, I'm left with the philosophical "why?" that has always kept me from throwing up my hands and being an atheist.  I can't ignore the sense of spirit that I've felt in churches:  the day I joined a tiny Baptist church, the night I attended midnight Mass at a Catholic one.  I can't deny the feeling of communion I felt when I watched the African American Choral Ensemble perform at UGA almost twenty years ago.  I can't pretend that I don't feel a tingle in my fingers when I touch my Mother Stone or that I didn't feel the connection to my Paganistas when we met at the water.   And I can't say that I've never prayed to a god and felt a response.  These feelings are what keep me walking on a path that is rarely well-lit and feels, frequently, rather lonely.

I want to think that I can connect with the earth under my feet and make magic or send wishes in the air or love through the water without a god intervening.  As much as I like Jesus and believe he was (or became) divine, I don't feel him calling to me.  As much affection as I have for Brigid, my acknowledgment of her comes with a slightly sardonic grin that I think she'd appreciate.  But you don't hear a whole lot about spirituality without gods.  Or magic without gods.  At least not in the Paganista circles I travel.

Recently, I discovered a description of a fairly young, American religious path called Numenism.  It seems to align nicely with my personal beliefs, but finding information about it is DAUNTING to say the least.  I can find ONE blogger who writes about it, but can't find any sort of formalized, "this is what we do" page.  But I'm thinking...if I can connect a few dots...maybe....






Friday, September 30, 2011

Waiting to Come Out

Well...hi.

So.

Cough.

How've you been?  Read any good books lately?

Sigh.

I don't even know how to start this post, much less say anything profound in it.  Spiritually, I'm sort of lost.

No, it's not even that.  I'm sort of...empty.  I spent such a concentrated amount of time railing against Christianity and being pissed about Christianity and getting all, "Oh, no you WON'T have my country" that I sort of forgot to work on forging a deeper spiritual connection with my universe.  Rituals flew out the window.  Prayer flew out the window.  Pretty much my entire spirituality flew out the window, leaving me...spiritless.

And the messed up thing is that the Universe was calling to me.  And I just shut my ears and shut the window and now I'm here, which I guess isn't even technically being lost.

"Here" is a very weird place.  It doesn't feel like a bad place.  It feels like a resting place.  It feels like an empty, quiet place where I'll gather myself once more and head out into the world again.

What makes it weird is that, socially, I AM out in the world.  I've got a new job photographing babies in a hospital.  Both of my children are in sports.  I'm volunteering more at the kidlets' school.  I am trying every day to be more present in this community, even if it isn't the community I want to be present in.

So now I'm sitting here, in this quiet, weird little internal room.  It doesn't feel bad, but it doesn't feel like a permanent shelter, either.  It feels safe, but not forever. It feels like...a spiritual green room.

Many of you follow I'm Not Hannah, so you know that I'm running NaBloWriMo again this year.  (If you haven't already, please join us.  I know it's late notice and even if you don't get your entry in for a few days, it's okay.  We're easy like Sunday morning over there and always add late-comers.)  I've decided to try to write every day on THIS blog, as well.

The purpose?  Well, I have to leave the green room sometime, don't I?  So my purpose will be to gather up all the loose ends of my spiritual self, smooth myself out, and step out.  Out of the broom closet, out of the gloom that I've allowed the obnoxious Christians (I'm sorry, I'm just being honest here) to smoosh over me.  Just...out.  With a smile and a sigh and a Happy Hallowe'en, by the end of this month, I want to be out.


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Speaking of Heritage...

This week, in between giving River Tylenol and trying to not melt in the heat, I have been watching with interest the American Pagan community struggle within itself to find its voice.  It's so exciting to watch pieces start to fall in place as one by one we start rethinking and reimagining what the future could be for us.


I've also been watching with horror the images and words coming out of Norway.  As the story began to be clearer, the inevitable finger-pointing started, along with a hefty dose of Christian-bashing.  Anders Breivik was, after all, a Christian, the finger-pointerers said.  He believed himself to be a Knight Templar, a Christian soldier of fate.  If you read Breivik's manifesto, however (I forced myself to read as much as I could before I gave it up as a bad job reminiscent of the Tea Party-forwarded emails I've been receiving for the last couple of years), you'll find that Breivik considers Christianity not necessarily a RELIGION but a CULTURE.  Now, here's where things start to get kind of weirdly sense-making.


From Breivik's standpoint, Christianity is less about a personal relationship with God and/or Jesus, but about a cultural, European identity.  The Church, after all, has occupied Western Europe for pretty much 2000 years (give or take a century or so) and it could be argued that the majority of its countries either are or had been governed or heavily influenced by that Church.  It could be further argued that many countries now have democracies or multi-layered governments that exist specifically in opposition to the dictates of the Catholic Church or the idea of a religion ruling a people.  Many of the rules and laws that exist in European countries have their root in Judeo-Christian orthodoxy.  One could argue they also have their roots in basic human nature:  killing people or taking their stuff is wrong.  Ahem.  I am NOT saying that Breivik was right.  Or not an insane, megalomaniacal, awful monster of a person.  He was tragically, criminally wrong and bad and evil--but his ideas about a Christian culture made sense in a stomach-dropping sort of way in that I could see the logic that many Americans apply based around this idea.


However, as I thought about this for a couple of days, things started becoming clear to me in a way that I can--just barely--articulate.  Here's the best I could come up with:


 The United States of America AS A LEGAL ENTITY does not have a Christian base.  It does not, officially, have a god whose commandments the people must follow.  One does not have to feediddle around with covenants to have an official marriage or contract.   For the entirety of our history as a nation, we have been nibbling at the edge of it:  our seals and coinage and the pledge feature Jahweh,  BUT we cannot be forced to swear allegiance to that god as we spend our money, nor can we be forced to say the pledge.


On the surface, this is all spiffaroonles.  We can all (ostensibly) worship how we want.  Yay!  However, the freedom of religion has also allowed the culturally dominant religion to try to become the culture of our country, which would be all well and good IF there weren't so many versions of that religion.  OR if there weren't a whole bunch of us who think Jesus was just fine, thanks, but we'll take a different model of deity.  (Or no model, in fact.)


Now, here's where things get really important for us, my Paganistas.  America has only been a country for 222 years.  (Or 235 if you go by the whole 1776 thing.)  That is not NEARLY long enough from an anthropological standpoint for a religious group to claim dibs on a region or country.  I mean, I hate to get nerdly about it, but it just isn't.  I'm not saying that Pagans have to "claim" America.  But we dang sure have to become a more mainstream part of the culture.


It isn't about fighting Christianity.  Christianity has no legal superiority here.  We can talk a whole lot about Salem, but Salem happened BEFORE the United States happened.  And we can talk a whole lot about the prejudice, threats, and ugliness that gets heaped on Pagans.  But this doesn't have legal protection; it has cultural protection.  And until we claim our share of the culture and exercise our legal rights--delineated by Christian men--to practice our faith, we simply can't expect the prejudice, threats, and ugliness to change.  We can't expect the ignorance that drives it to change, either.


You know, we have just as much claim as any other faith does--as any other subsection of our culture does.  For centuries, we've allowed our heritage to be the Trials or the alienation brought about by not practicing the mainstream religion of the Old World.  THAT seems to be our entry into country's history book:  a bunch of folks were accused of practicing magic and killed for it, and we're still paying for it today.  A bunch of people in a foreign country that most of us have never visited don't practice our faith, and so we keep hidden about it.  But that's REACTIONARY.  That is either being pissed off about or getting dragged down by or living up to or measuring oneself against something that, in the legal machinations of American history, did little but provide our Founders with an argument against a theocracy.  Should we forget the women and men in our past who, in all actuality, probably didn't practice anything REMOTELY like the bulk of us do today, but were punished or isolated for doing so?  Of course not.  But we should not let them be the footnote that defines us, the modern Pagans.


Today, on Facebook, I was directed by Angela (my muse of blog-postery) to a group called Pagans of American Revolution Ancestors.  Questionable grammatical title issues aside, I liked the group on the spot.  On my "real" Facebook page.  Because, y'all, here's my American lineage:  my great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandfather Johan Philip Emert came to Pennsylvania from Germany in 1730.  When King George offered British citizenship to immigrants to the American Colonies, Johan accepted.  Several years later, Johan's son, Frederick, fought in the Continental Army, on the Pennsylvania Line against the British.  He survived the war--in fact, he witnessed Cornwallis' surrender--and in the 1780s, moved to the mountains of Tennessee, where he helped form a settlement now known as Emert's Cove.  His son, Frederick, Jr, fought in The War of 1812.   My family stayed in those mountains.  We still have reunions there every summer.  (I missed the one this year because of River's illness.)


I thought a lot about my ancestor today.  I thought about what would have happened if he had been killed in Pennsylvania.  Or if he'd never added his strength to the forces that cleared a way for our Founders to establish a legal nation.  I could never have existed on this planet.  It's possible my great great great great great great grandfather's hand was the one that put the rebels over the top.  Maybe, without him, the UNITED STATES wouldn't have existed.  (Hi.  I'm grandiose.)


This isn't about a war, y'all.  The war was already fought.  It was fought BEFORE our country became a country--and guess what?  The other guys lost.  I know they lost because we aren't walking around every day in wool dresses and buckled shoes and we get to go to the theater.  I know they lost because our Founders used them as an example of what not to do.


This is about stepping up and allowing our spirituality to be a part of our culture.  We've let a bunch of losers from a different country dictate how we live our lives for far too long.  The folks from OUR country, the ones who fought and bled and died for us, who hammered out a government different than the one they denied--those are the guys whose heritage we should be claiming.


Were they perfect?  Most certainly not.  There was the eradication of indigenous people, wholesale trade in humans, the negation of women as legal entities.  These atrocities FAILED.  They failed because of the document the Founders--the Founders of our CULTURE--wrote to announce us to the world did not allow them to succeed.


Being more visible is not just about not getting sneered at when you wear your pentacle to the supermarket.  It's about claiming our cultural heritage, our American heritage, the one that many of our forefathers fought for.


Today, I sent a request for membership information into the Daughters of the American Revolution.  I said "Blessed be" to the girl behind the counter at the bookstore when I spotted her goddess pendant as I was leaving.  I changed my religious views to "Pagan" on my real Facebook page.


Today, I began to claim my heritage.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Bringing Sexy Back to Paganism

This morning, the lovely Angela posted a link on FB to an article which speculated about the reasons behind the decline in Pagan and/or witchcraft-centered books.  You can read the article here, but a quick recap would be that the author noted the course of modern Paganism and witchcraft, based around the publishing industry.  Then comes a discussion of how lineage traditions are fading and how forums and websites now abound with folks who offer "home spun charm" and "cute little spells" and how these folks are hurting lineage-based traditions.

With respect and love and a deep need for peace, I call bullshit.

In the beginning (and I'm talking "hanging out in caves" beginning, people), humans didn't have to pay for spiritual guidance.  You know how you got spiritual guidance? You sat around the firepit and listened to your elders:  the hunters who observed nature, the women who gathered food and linked their fertility cycles to the moon and told stories to soothe children, the shamans and priests and priestesses who gathered all of this information and their own observances and hammered out a belief system.  Were any of these people touched by Deity?  Maybe.  We can't know this because not only were we not there to hear them, but we weren't walking around in their skins.

Fast forward a few ten thousand years.  People realized that they could PROFIT off of faith.  Orel Roberts, Jimmy Swaggert, Rick Warren?  Yes, ma'am.  But also Scott Cunningham, Ellen Dugan, and, yes, Raven Grimassi, the author of the above blog.

Now, please don't read me wrong.  I'm not saying that any author who writes a book about witchcraft or Paganism for profit is a bad person.  Far from it.  As a writer of fiction, I know the time and preparation and research and actual WORK that writing a book is and I believe that folks should be paid for that work.  (After all, the teachers around the ancient fires existed in a community in which every contribution to society was rewarded some way, even if it was simply a place by the fire.)

I further understand that there are writers, such as Mr. Grimassi, who have studied and read and researched for their own spiritual benefit and who are justifiably proud to be able to claim years and years of that study and spiritual growth.  My goodness, how wonderful to be able to have felt your faith for thirty years.  I often wish that I could feel my faith for longer than a half hour before it turns to something different.  (Read:  Humanistic Paganism.  "Sigh.  But I NEED a deity.")

And to defend Mr. Grimassi, I don't believe that his intent was to cause division or anger.  I believe he was stating his fears and concerns, and good on him.  Honestly.  However, as I read and reread the post and then read and reread the comments, and then became engaged in a discussion, I became more and more...well...angry.  *Note:  Mr. Grimassi is being nothing but kind and clear in this discussion.  The anger I feel comes from some comments to his post.  I am actually writing this post AS I have this discussion with Mr. Grimassi, which means that this post might be even more disjointed than usual.  Wheee!*  I read comments from people who talked about more guidance and central organization,  NOT as a way for the community to be stronger, but for people to learn the "right way."  I read comments that used the f-word--there should NEVER be any shame in being wide-eyed and innocent in your faith.  (Oooh, how can a word like "fluffy" piss me off so much??)  And I read the seemingly obligatory comment that raked my friend over the coals for doing things like--gasp--having coffee with friends.  THE HORROR.  A Pagan having coffee with friends!!!  (Pardon while I bang my head on my keyboard.)

Here's the thing:  the years and years of experience that SOME Pagans or witches or whathaveyou have are beautiful things.  And the sharing of their knowledge is also beautiful.  HOWEVER, the idea that there can only be one (or a few...let's say seven just to give it a nice, magic-y, historical feel) way of embracing your craft or spirituality is, I think, one of the reasons that folks turn off from this particular path.  If you read one book, and it says you should do Lammas this way, and you read another book and it says that you should do Lammas THIS way and one author is of the Stregheria tradition and one is of the Dianic tradition and BOTH have different ideas but believe that they are correct, how is the new Paganista to feel?  Which path is best?  How many books does one have to read to become a "true" initiate into a path?  I give up, let's go get a cheeseburger and watch Dr. Who.  (Not, you understand, that watching Dr. Who is ever bad.)

I've read everything from To Ride a Silver Broomstick to A Compedium of Herbal Magick and I have no idea how many more I will read.  I relish a good Magical book, both for its knowledge and for its potential.  I have learned things and received instruction and felt grounded and centered and happy after doing the learning.

BUT I also have received guidance from folks who started on the path less than a decade ago.  Or who never fully embraced ANY path, but wander many.  I have learned and grown and thought and dreamed and shared my frustrations with a community that, yes, looks to long-time practitioners, but which also tries to build its own base-faith.

There is a sense, I believe, in established communities that when folks go out on their own, everything falls apart.  Look at all the examples:  the early Christians (branching from Judaism), the American colonies (branching from Britain), the Protestants (branching from Catholicism), Justin Timberlake (branching from N-Sync.)  And sometimes, the new thing fails.  But sometimes, SOMETIMES, the new thing brings sexy back.

And maybe, just maybe, that is what "new" Pagans are doing.  We are creating our own lineage.  That is not to say that we aren't respecting those who went before us.  We HAVE to rely on their teachings.  But we are also, just maybe, creating our own paradigm in which we also rely on ourselves and our friends to teach us.  It's new and different and frightening and frustrating and intuitive and...sexy.  We are fricking bringing sexy back to Paganism, my friends.

(Please don't even think about how when I got up from the yoga ball I use as a desk chair, it stuck to the back of my thighs.  That is not sexy or magic.  It's just humidity.)

Look, I'm absolutely serious about and dedicated to the idea of a central council for Paganism.  And I am all for relying on elders in the faiths to provide guidance and knowledge--and to be paid for that.  But I am absolutely AGAINST the idea that lineage-based traditions are the only way to be "good" Pagans or witches.  And I am absolutely against the idea that new (relatively speaking) Pagans have nothing worthy to teach.   And I am absolutely against the idea that the community we are forming here is not in and of itself a lineage we will one day be proud of.

A sexy, sexy lineage.


(I know.  I almost fell over when I found this, myself.  Thank yoooouuuu, whichever deity is responsible for internet Paganism.)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

About "The Project"...Also, Maybe Some Spiritual Direction

A few quick notes about the Actionary Pagan thingy we're striving for.  Thanks to everybody who's FBing me and emailing me and getting in touch with me about it.  Yay!  It seems there are a lot of us thinking the same way, which I think is fanfrickingtastic.

A couple of things:  first, I think I'm going to call the site Informed Pagan.  I think it's less incendiary than Actionary Pagan, and also accomplishes the goal of being immediately recognizable as a place from which folks can gain knowledge.  Knowledge is power, after all.  I've secured the domain and will start working on getting the site up soon. (And the lovely Heather is working on a logo design.  Oh, how I luff her.)

Per request and suggestion, there will be a database of Pagan practices, probably organized by name and accompanied by links to more info.  There will also be a calendar of sorts--or even a page of calendars.  There are sooo many gatherings and opportunities for Pagans to get together and learn and share;  we need to take advantage of them.

Finally, there WILL be an Actionary Pagan page.  It will be unapologetically a place of political and social action, and it will encourage Pagans to speak up and out.  But I want to make something clear:  this site will NEVER be one in which we bash other faiths or even faiths inside our own faith.  Criticize when provoked?  Yes.  Debate strenuously when questions arise?  Sure. But no bashing, no insulting, no ugliness.  Mkay?  Mkay.

On an entirely unrelated note, I found the other day a reference to Humanistic Paganism.  It occurs to me that this might be the best fit for me that I've found thus far:  a spirituality outside of the big three monotheistic faiths  (that would be the Pagan part) that embraces human potential and science while also acknowledging the importance of mythology and wonder.  I am intrigued and will be exploring this idea as the days go by. 

Take care and blessings to y'all!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Clarification and a Notification

I've had a week (or so...ahem...) to think about this whole thing and I think that there are two things that I want to get worked out the most in my head and heart in regard to Paganistas and our place in society.

Gumbo Soul brought up a good point in her comment on the last post when she said, "I think you should support a cause because you believe in it and not solely because of religious convictions."  And I agree, to an extent.  But my thing is...as a Pagan--at least as the kind of Pagan I'm trying to be--I feel like believing in some causes is due to religious convictions.  If I believe that the Earth is a living, breathing embodiment of the female deity (which I do, most of the time), then supporting environmental causes is spiritually grounded and to say otherwise would be denying a part of myself.  In fact, it denies me a powerful argument to the wholesale raping of our planet by industrialists (ahem) NOT to use my spirituality in the fight to change policy.  There are other causes I support that, perhaps, don't have anything to do with my Paganism SPECIFICALLY;  immigration reform, gay marriage, et cetera. But--and now we're getting to the meat of the argument--I feel like, in a certain way, the person I am that lead me to Paganism also leads me to support those causes.  A sense of justice for ALL people is one of the reasons that I search for a faith that provides it or at least gives me the framework from which to argue about the need for that justice.  One of the reasons that Christians (forgive me for being reactionary, my muffins) are such a powerful social and political force is that they LIVE their religion.  They might not follow the letter of the law as spoken by their deity (bitter much, Heather?), but when they make a political move or support a social cause, I would say that the majority of them can back up their actions with Scripture.  I don't understand why Pagans are so hesitant to live this way.  I mean, I UNDERSTAND it.  I do.  Hi.  I'm in the broom closet, duckies.  (Although I totally "came out" to some Christian pals the other day and they barely blinked.  Love them so.)  So here's what I'm getting at:  why should the personal acts of faith (prayer, rituals, meals...you catch my drift) be the only acts of our faith?

Now, don't get me wrong.  I have no problem with NOT sharing the personal acts of faith with others.  Goodness knows that the Pagan community here and I don't practice the same way, and it prevents me from joining up with them.  BUT--I wonder how different our community at large could be if we worked together to get bike lanes and added to our argument the fact that as a religious people, we wanted to stop causing harm to our goddess?  It's a logical argument, and even more than that, it promotes religious freedom while hurting nobody.

I think that part of the resistance to Paganism as a means for social or political change is that much of the social and political change influenced by Christianity has run counterpoint to Pagan beliefs.  But it doesn't make sense for the response to this cycle of influence to be to sit around and wait for those wacky Christians to come up with something wacky for us to protest.  What makes more and more sense to me is for Pagans to start coming together proactively in the name of our faith to affect change.

And here's where organization comes in.  I don't want any council or circle of elders or whathaveyou to tell me how to worship or to define my faith.  I understand very clearly that Paganism, in particular, is impossible to pin down.  Just yesterday, I read an article wherein a Pagan (I think a witch, but I was unclear) said that Pagans don't believe in hell.  But, frankly, I have a hard time NOT believing in a big bad heaping of punishment for the morally bankrupt.  Whoever came up with Jersey Shore sort of NEEDS to be pushing a big boulder up a hill for a few decades....

What?

Right...organization.  So, anyway, the organization of the Pagan community in my mind has less to do with rules and more to do with power.  That's right.  I said it.  POWER.  Does anybody out there honestly believe that all Christians practice the same?  The Protestant/Catholic divide itself is monumental.  And it gets even pickier when you get down to Protestant denominations.  Sprinkling or dunking, anyone?  It's a big deal to some how the sins are metaphorically washed away, y'all.  But conservative Christians can and DO rally around certain leaders or organizations, and those organizations DO highlight issues that the conservative Christian movement embraces.

Do I want Pagans to operate that way?  Erm...well...I don't know.  Is it possible for Pagans to operate that way?  It's hard to imagine it, really, the Wiccans and the Fae and the Norse and the Neo-Classicists and the wandering, maybe-I -should-just-give-in-to-Brigid's-voice-but-I-really-would-rather-just-pay-attention-to-the-moon-and-oh,-look-a-pretty-tree-ists unifying under a common umbrella with no bickering or infighting or secret hexing.  (Sorry.  You KNOW somebody would do it, my peeps.)  But it occurs to me that the bickering, infighting, and hexing is no different than ANY group or family.  My personal family fights like cats and dogs half the time, but we can do amazing things when we work together.

Because of this, I welcome the idea of a council of folks from various beliefs coming together to create a strategy and guidelines for Pagans to affect social change.  Do I think it will be easy to get to this point?  Maybe not...but maybe so.  Social media has helped us do great things recently...I think it will again.

I mean, consider this:  Mrs. B JUST POSTED on FB about what Pagan gathering we'd most like to attend.  And I'd never heard of several of them...Pantheacon?  Do WHAT?  Awesome with awesome sauce.  I looked at the programming for some of those conventions and they were so interesting and educational.  How cool would it be to watch a discussion of a panel of folks debating what an integrated Pagan community could focus on to enact social change.  For me, it would be so.  cool. 

So here's the notification part:  I'm going to do something.  I'm not sure what it will be in total, but it will begin like this:  a website, with links to issues that are important to Pagans.  I don't know where it will go, but I DO know a few things about it:
  1.  It will be educational.  It will include links to articles, databases, blog posts, et cetera that provide information about Pagan practices, from Wicca to dowsing to Solstices.
  2. It will be political.  There are issues that specifically affect Pagans (the chaplain in California, for example) and there are issues that could be influenced by a Pagan mindset (environmental, mainly.)
  3. It will be social.  I want to link to blogs and businesses of Pagans across the country and world and encourage communication and action.
  4. It will NOT be reactionary.  It will not seek an argument with ANY person or organization based on faith differences, in particular. It will seek to be a means of social change from a Pagan perspective, but it will NOT try to change people, nor will it seek to react to situations that are not Pagan-specific.  For example, if a Christian high school student wants to pray before a football game, I don't want to have articles there that decry that student.  Instead, I want us to encourage Pagans to embrace the religious protection that allows that student to do so.  
I think that number four is the main thing.  There are plenty of sites that educate Pagans or create Pagan communities or promote Pagan businesses and I love them.  I do.  I just want to do something a little...different.  It feels sort of...big-headed of me, to be honest.  Like, I don't even KNOW what most of my beliefs ARE, so how can I argue that the community whose beliefs I share become more cohesive.  But...but...it feels right.  Do you know what I mean? 

If you're interested in helping out, give me a shout out at nothannah@comsouth.net.  I'll be working on this off and on for the next few weeks, with the hope of having something "live" by August. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Actionary Pagans

I've started this post over approximately seven times now, because I don't want to piss anybody off or downplay centuries of persecution or be a hypocrite as I rearrange the dustbunnies in my broom closet, but I can't find a way to say it that is smart or gentle or thoughtful, so I'm just going to come right out and say it:

I'm sick of Paganism being a reactionary movement.

It seems like every time I turn around, I'm reading an article about what those crazy (awful, evil, misguided, ignorant, insert your own ugly term here) Christians are doing to screw up the world and then reading a laundry list of comments that bring up Bible verses and religious teachings to really pound into the heads of everybody around that Christians are NOT DOING THEIR RELIGION RIGHT, y'all, and isn't it darkly humorous?

Or I'm reading an article about how an atheist is protesting something the crazy (awful, evil, misguided, et cetera) Christians are doing and how Pagans should totally stage another protest alongside the atheist, because we have to fight the Christian domination. 

Or I'm reading the results of a poll that show that Pagans don't want to have a central, organizing body, we just want to be left alone to worship as we will, nor do we want spokespeople to carry our concerns to the legislators.  Comments seem to revolve around how Pagans do their own thing, contribute to society as individuals, and don't care to emulate the actions of groups they find deplorable.


On a certain level, I understand and agree with many of the sentiments I find in these articles and polls.  I live Under the Buckle of the Bible Belt, y'all, and it is generally one long parade of violations of the separation of church and state and wading through Christian hypocrisy.  It is scream-inducing, to say the least. 

And to be frank, Christianity is the base-level religion in our country.  We can argue against it all we want, but the very concept of the separation of Church and State comes from a reaction in the Christian (or Deist, for a few) Founders to the bloodbath that was the Plymouth colony and the dream of William Penn's democratic utopia.  Thomas Jefferson might have believed that a religious state was wrong, but this belief came from the cultural background of failed Christian statehood.

Finally, you can't ignore the ingrained belief in the most vocal of Christians that Pagans are going to hell, that ANYBODY not Christian is going to hell and that somehow, this should be the basis of a government, complete with the military might to do away with anything not Christian.  Ugh.

But...you know, you can't ignore something else.  Christians are NOT reactionary.  They are actionary (ooh, look, I invented a word.)  They DO things in the name of their faith (sometimes AWFUL things, granted.)  They come together in groups not just to protest other faiths, but to do good works:  they say, "We are a Christian group and we are going to feed these children, rebuild this town, clean up this street."  And then they do it.  And it occurs to me that perhaps this is why Christianity has been so successful.  It is based on organization, numbers, and ACTION.

As bizarre as it sounds, maybe this is what Pagans should start thinking about as our numbers surge.  What would be wrong with a Pagan Council with representatives from various faith families?  What would be wrong with a clearing house website of sorts, built and maintained by this council with information about the various faith paths, so that folks who are questioning the Pagan path can find this information easily?  What would be wrong with this Council sponsoring or helping to organize charities that are specifically funded?  Honestly, I want to know.

Are we afraid of infighting?  Honey, please.  Every other week there's a new "witch war" that breaks out on the interwebs, often over the use of the word "pagan" or "magic(k)" or...catch my drift?

Are we afraid of losing the safety of the status quo?  Do no harm is the creed many of us follow, but doing no harm also seems--at least to many of us, myself included--to have become "do nothing."

It's weird, isn't it?  A couple of weeks ago, we saw Pagans from all walks of life band together to support a handful of Pagan mothers who blog.  This was a concerted effort, with leaders and spokespeople that enacted change.  WE CHANGED THE WORLD.  Yes, it was a tiny corner of the interwebs, but we changed that tiny corner.  We changed the minds of people.  We made friends with and educated people we wouldn't have normally even glanced at.

So...why can't we apply that to the real world?   Why can't we get organized to enact change and educate others? 

What is it, really, that prevents us from taking action?