Well, this is awkward. The Divining Women WP page is down right now and while I get that all worked out, I thought I'd post here, even if I told you I wouldn't. It is ENTIRELY possible that you won't read this, which would be weird, like I'm talking to myself.
Which, truth be told, wouldn't even be weird for me. I mean, come ON. I have brilliant convos with myself on an hourly basis.
ANYWAY, I've been having some spiritual difficulties lately. Shockertoodles, I know. I honestly wonder if, perhaps, I'm meant to be a spiritual wanderer and that instead of being frustrated, I should just go with it. It doesn't feel right to be constantly questioning, but maybe what I'm perceiving as not "right" is a socially ingrained thing. Like, our society says we're supposed to hang out with folks like us, and since there don't seem to be a lot of folks like me (Celia, I cling to you, my friend), it feels uncomfortable in my spiritual skin.
All of the above makes sense to me, and I'm trying to find a way to be open to being a wanderer, BUT my issues right now are very specific, and I'm gonna lay them out for you and see what you think. M'kay? M'kay.
I am loosely a member of a Pagan group around here. I say "loosely" because I have never hung out with these folks and only met one of them in person, and SHE only because she is a teacher at one of the local schools. (We flash our respective Paganista jewelry at each other and grin like monkeys when we see each other.) I do, however, receive periodical mailings from their Yahoo group and keep abreast of what they're doing. To be honest, I've avoided the group in many ways because of the mailings. One mailing, around Halloween, invited all members of the group to a party and ritual. Except, we were supposed to leave the children behind, due to adult activities.
Um, what? What kind of adult activities are we talking about? Are we talking about getting naked? Are we talking about getting nekkid? (Naked means unclothed. Nekkid means unclothed with the intent to get freaky. Snort. I love the South.) Drinking? Drug use? What? Also, let me go ahead and tell you that while I love to hang out with adults only and babysitters are pretty much agents of the gods, I'm not really down with any religious ritual that excludes the bebes. I know that there are Pagans who take the Summer King/May Queen thing seriously, and I'm okay with that, but that isn't the way the kidlets are being raised and goodness knows I'm firm on little enough of their religious education to be able to give on that item. So I skipped that ritual and was left feeling a little icky about the group.
Flash forward to a couple of weeks ago, when I received another group email. This was from a male member, who has been vocal about the organization of the group and its purpose. The email described the structure of the coven that he'd headed up in the past, and suggested that, while this group wasn't a coven, it might be a good idea to follow the structure. What followed was a list of at least fifteen things that members needed to do or be or have. There were tool requirements, ritual requirements, SILENCE requirements, and the requirement that teaching would follow the male to female model. Erm. Huh. Okay. First, I'm not Wiccan. And while I respect my Wiccan brothers and sisters, I don't know that I'm down with following "their" rules of worship. Second, goodness me, there were a lot of requirements. I felt a little bit like I was reading a metaphysical list I needed to organize before going to a grown-up version of Hogwarts. Third, really with the male/female thing? I mean, okay, I get that and I know that both the Gardnerian and Alexanderian schools of Wicca emphasize the male/female dynamic and I understand the place of sexual magic for some practitioners, but at the same time, I have to admit that I feel squidgy about this whole thing. I HOPE I'm not reacting in a knee-jerk "this is what I've always heard about witches, those dirty dogs" way, but everything in me is just screaming out "not-safe" about this. Of course, I'm also cognizant of the fact that I am most comfortable discussing and learning about my spirituality with women, and that having been raised in an area where women are often marginalized religiously because of their gender, I am not really okay with having a man be my spiritual teacher.
Hi. I have big spiritual suitcases of issues.
Okay, so then the whole Circle of Moms awfulness happened. Blech. You can read about my take on it at I'm Not Hannah, but suffice to say, it left a taste of brimstone and ashes in my mouth. Blech, squared. I have been blessed by the feeling of solidarity in the Pagan community AND by the overtures of love and light from a few Christian folks, but on the whole, it made me feel awful. Angry and sad and beaten and awful. I feel better now, but it was a rough couple of days for me on the spiritual front.
It was for this reason that I got really frustrated yesterday during a convo on The Pagan Mom Blog's FB page, which had come from an article from Reuter's posted by Witchvox's FB page. (Whew!) At issue was the school in Texas whose valedictorian had been given the right to pray at graduation. An agnostic family did not want this to happen, as they felt it forced them to be subject to religion. When a judge overturned another judge's decision to disallow student prayer at graduation, the Christian students were, understandably, pleased and felt that God was at work.
For some reason, this really pissed off a lot of Pagans. The discussion on TPMB's FB page (and Witchvox and other groups who discussed it) seemed to center around how different it would have been if the valedictorian had been a Pagan and wanted to pray. And how Christians thought they ran everything. And how Constitutional rights had been violated.
On one hand, I understand. Trust me when I say I understand. I live in a town where Christianity pretty much runs the show. One Good Friday, I had to listen while a teacher read what was quite possibly the cheesiest metaphor for the open tomb (it involved an empty plastic Easter Egg, y'all...for serious) over the intercom for the entire school. I had to physically restrain one of my students who I thought was going to run into the office and get herself expelled, she was so mad. (She was also a Christian. She just took the establishment clause really seriously.) Another time, I had to watch an opposing team's majorettes hoist up purple-draped crosses and march across the football field during the halftime show. (I died laughing. It was honestly the trashiest, tackiest, most stereotypical display of Southern Christianity I'd ever seen. My fellow teachers got misty-eyed and lost a lot of respect for me. It was awful. And hysterical. And AWFUL.) Those two incidents were violations of the First Amendment of the Constitution, in that, by forcing students to hear tacky stories or watch tacky halftime routines that promoted one religion (and even more specifically, the part of the religion that made the religion, i.e., the Resurrection) and were directed by a state employee, the school was in effect establishing an official religion for the school. Wrong. Bad. No good.
However, by allowing a student to offer a personal prayer, the school was actually upholding part of the first amendment, which says that the state should not impede the free exercise of a religion. Graduation is NOT a mandatory school event. It is a ceremony that is open to invitation. Further, unless the student body was forced to rise and pray along with the student BY AN EMPLOYEE OF THE SCHOOL, the state was in no way establishing an official religion.
All of that is the legal stuff. But it goes deeper than that. Pagans in this situation are siding with AGNOSTICS. Now, I'm not knocking on the agnostics. I am twenty-seven shades of doubting most of the time. But if you claim Paganism, if you claim a BELIEF, then in this argument, you are not on the side of the agnostic family. Because, one assumes, if your baby was the valedictorian and wanted to pray to Isis, the agnostic family would be all up in your Kool-Aid and YOUR baby wouldn't be allowed to pray, either.
Pagans have to CLAIM our religious freedoms. (See: pentagrams on headstones.) But that does NOT mean that we have to get pissed off when other people have their religious freedoms protected. This ruling could actually be a boon to Pagans, as well as to people of other religions. It tells us that the state cannot make rulings denying individuals the right to pray at public events. This is a good thing, unless you WANT a state in which your child is not allowed the right to express him or herself religiously.
And you might want that. It's entirely possible that, as Pagans, some people would prefer for religion to be a private matter, with rituals and prayers offered only at home. And that's cool. I totally get that. (Want to know who else was cool with praying in public? Jesus. I'm not kidding. I've been reading a lot of Gospels lately.) But that does NOT mean that all people have to pray in private, nor does that mean that you have the right to tell a Christian child that her prayers don't get Constitutional protection.
I understand this is a touchy, weird subject with all kinds of historic background that makes it uncomfortable and scary. And I also know that Texas is a religiously nutso state with a nutso, secessionist, religious weirdo governor who is organizing a gigantic prayer session to pray for our wayward nation, which SCREAMS to me of all kinds of hypocritical, establishment-acting behavior. (If he runs for president, please believe that I will contemplate running skyclad down the street, waving my American flag behind me. He scares the mess out of me.) But let's not lump all Christians into a bag of rights-suppressing crazies, because it really pisses us off when they lump all Pagans into a bag of dark-worshipping spell-chanters, right?
Did I mention I was reading the Bible lately? Gah, I don't even know HOW to articulate this bit of spiritual questing, except to say that, philosophically, I have no issue with Jesus and that his teachings were so spot on and full of Truth that it's very easy for me to understand why a person would want to follow him. For serious. Now, I don't much care for Paul. Or Timothy, really. And the whole of the Old Testament is either boring or confusing. But Jesus? He's cool.
Which, of course, only complicates things, which is, of course, EXACTLY what I don't need right now and to be frank, makes me want to go hide under the couch and chat with the dustbunnies.
Who are non-religious, I hear, so that might be a good thing....