Tag Archives: Pagans

Snobbery and Prejudice

You get them everywhere and pagans are just as prone to it as anyone else. Take a moment to consider what you think of as lesser. There will be something. People who (insert observation) are not as good as me. If your insert went something like ‘club baby seals to death for fun’ or ‘demoralise and bully children’ then fair enough, no argument there. There are things which call for an ethical stance, but there are a lot of other things that don’t.

Let me offer you some unrelated stories. A girl I saw a few days ago. The sort of girl most people wouldn’t look at twice, nothing remarkable about her, head hung down a bit, dressed in a way that suggested being both low income and into pop culture. Not someone I’d expect to have much in common with (being low income and, well… almost oblivious to pop culture.) She talked at first like she didn’t know much, didn’t think much. But I was listening, and she grew more confident, until the words flowed more smoothly and her head came up. There was light in her eyes when she talked about her child, and there was as much goddess in her as I have ever seen in any woman. If I’d held the prejudice of a first impression, I never would have seen that. Some people have hidden depths, others have hidden shallows but until you get below the surface, you never find out.

I write in the two least reputable genres there are – comics and erotica. Short of being a tabloid journalist, I couldn’t be more open to derision. People make assumptions about both forms – that they are inherently crass, tacky, badly written, worthless trash. Some people will go so far as to point this out to me. I also write ebooks, and for many people those aren’t proper books. Good writers get paper publishers, anyone electronic is obviously inferior and couldn’t get a real publisher. And again I’d say the same. There are dreadful books in every genre, and there are amazing ones. There are even good superhero comics (Watchmen for example) and I don’t love the superhero genre. But then, for the people who never bother to find out, comics are superheroes, just as erotica is porn. They might be shocked by the literary quality and subversion existent in both forms, by the political nature of writers in both fields, and the power of some of the stories expressed. Badly written tack? Not all of it. I have a degree in English literature. I know academics who write erotica.

And there are others again for whom pagan means fluffy tree hugger with no grip on reality. It means no morals – we have no book so how can we have values? How many times have any of us been asked about naked dancing and virgin sacrifices? We pagans cop it continually when it comes to prejudice, and there’s also a kind of snobbery around the idea that, as younger religions (even if our roots are in some very old soil) we’re not as good as things that have been round for a thousand years or more. We don’t have hierarchies and buildings, we don’t have the trappings of ‘proper’ religions.

None of us likes being on the wrong end of someone else’s prejudice or assumption. It’s especially irksome when you know it’s founded in total lack of understanding and insight – and let’s face it, it usually is. But at the same time we all of us, and I know this includes me, cart around assumption, prejudice, ill founded belief. We think we know, and based on that, we judge. But ye Gods people, we hate it when folk do it to us. Isn’t there something about do unto others? I know that comes from one of  ‘the other lot’ but it’s not a bad piece of advice. Even if you feel it, you can take a moment before opening your mouth and insulting someone because you don’t know any better. That way, you can save yourself a lot of embarassment and avoid irritating the hell out of people as well. And sometimes, we learn we were wrong, and see the gods gazing at us through the least likely eyes.

Wedding Vows

One of the big differences between a Pagan handfasting and either a civil or Christian wedding in the UK, is the vows. Pagans make their own (not legally binding) pledges to each other, defining their relationship in whatever way makes sense to them. So we might well pledge to stay together for as long as love lasts, not until death do us part, which is a lot more realistic, and makes it easier to walk away with honour if the relationship doesn’t work out. We commit based on our own natures, so whether we accept and offer monogamy is a matter of choice. And at the other extreme, Pagans can and do pledge to love each other not only for this lifetime, but for always. I love the flexibility and the scope for honouring the relationships we have rather than trying to shoehorn them into pre-determined shapes.

I was caught up in a debate online somewhere about why women stay with abusers. There are lots of reasons, but it started me thinking about the vows I made, some 9 years ago. “For better or worse.” That’s such an ambiguous thing to promise. You could interpret that as meaning you were signing up to being treated in whatever way it turned out your partner found acceptable. I’m good with ‘For richer or poorer, in sickness and in health’ that’s simply a commitment to stand by your partner in hard times. But ‘for better or worse’ suggests a responsibility to stay even when things are awful. Now, standing by someone through hard times not of your making, is a good and honourable thing to do. But standing by a person who makes life hard for you, is a whole different issue.

Marriage is a contract. The regular vows are a set of commitments to stick with a person, treat them with care and respect. Honour and cherish them. I am increasingly inclined to feel that the contractual nature of this agreement should be made a lot clearer. The whole not committing adultery aspect is made very clear in marriage services, but the importance of honouring, caring and treating with respect are so critical. If a person doesn’t do that, if they are persistently cruel, careless, irresponsible or otherwise not keeping to their side of the deal, no one should feel obliged to stick that out ‘for better or worse.’

Christian and conservative values are all about upholding marriage as the best thing for everyone. Anything that makes it easier to get out isn’t popular. But there are many people who do need out, and many good reasons for enabling it. Making people promise to stay together for life is, I feel, wrong. Fine if a person wants to make that commitment, but that shouldn’t be the only option. I’d much rather, especially in civil services, that people promised to love, cherish and honour, and to stay with that person for as long as they both held that marriage in its proper state – which doesn’t preclude lifelong marriage. In an ideal world, I’d like it even more if everyone could make their own vows and terms, pagan style, and people were, as with handfastings, able to divorce on the simple grounds of not wanting to be married to each other anymore. One day…

Is Paganism Dangerous?

The Daily Wail piece provoked a few interesting responses. On facebook a chap expressed fear that it would make us look dangerous. I posted a smiley back. According to one school of popular thought, Pagans are a bunch of tree hugging, hippy vegetarians – minor nutters and fringe lunatics, amusing but not dangerous at all. Then there’s the right wing fascist-christian (which is NOT mainstream Christian) view that paints us as Satan worshipping baby sacrificers out to pillage your children and molest your goats.

Who do we think we are? There are pagans who want us to stop talking about magic and fairies so that people will stop thinking we are nutters and start taking us seriously. Damh the Bard wrote a beautiful response to that point here. (More Daily Wail issues, and an excellent post). I agree wholeheartedly with him. I don’t want to water my beliefs down to make ‘normal’ people comfortable.

If the wrong folk consider us dangerous, we’ll be back to the bad old days of persecution, when you could lose your job for being pagan, and social services might want to take your children away. If the Daily Wail brigade seize power, we’ll be nailed up alongside the immigrants, gays environmentalists, academics and other hate figures. So by making it very clear that we’re not dangerous at all, that we won’t rock the boat or cause offence, we are protecting our interests and our way of life. Come the revolution, we will not all be shot.

Bollocks to that, I say!

When I think about my pagan ancestors, I think about Boudicca standing up to the Romans, and the Druids who would not submit to Roman authority. When I think about my Gods, and the heroes of myth, I am short of examples of people who ‘heroically’ kept their heads down and didn’t make a fuss.

Being a Pagan means having values. Anyone who has no values is not, as far as I am concerned, any kind of Pagan at all. We might not have a book of rules, but we have honour, we have ethics. The wiccans have ‘an it harm none, do what you will’ which is a complex, powerful tenet. The Heathens have their nine noble virtues to guide them – and damn fine virtues they are too. Druids have all the values of their Celtic ancestors to look back at, and some fine modern writers as well – Brendan Myers on Pagan Virtues and Emma Restall Orr’s book on Pagan Ethics are fabulous texts. We are a people with values, ethics, and a sense of honour. Sure, there will be exceptions, and any pagan who wants to self identify as having no values is very welcome to go ahead and post a comment. I’m prepared to bet there won’t be many.

We chose Paganism to some degree because we are free thinkers. We chose it conscious that it would not be easy and that we’d be out on the edges for so doing. We found our paths in courage and in trust, in hope of making something better than we had. We may disagree about what is best, but I’ve yet to meet a Pagan who doesn’t care passionately about a range of issues.

In any kind of decent society, all of the above means we’re a bunch of hippy tree huggers who the mainstream is slightly puzzled by. Not dangerous, but a bit weird, in a ‘makes a good filler story for the news’ kind of sense. In America, the government is trying to crack down on free speech. In the UK, the government is poised to sell off nationally owned forests and keep poor people out of higher education. In a society that throws away its values for the sake of short term political convenience, someone with principles is highly inconvenient. A whole community who will not shut up and submit to the ‘necessary evils’ others feel entitled to inflict. Yes, in that situation we could choose to be very dangerous and make ourselves unpopular.

It’ll be a matter of personal choice. If the going gets tough and basic human rights are threatened, if the environment is further put at risk, do we go quietly and keep ourselves safe by saying nothing? Perhaps we should all pretend to be agnostic and hide our opinions until it’s safe to come out again?

If it’s a choice between safety and honour, I see no choice at all.

What’s wrong with being a witch?

I don’t know what angered me more—that tea party candidate Christine O’Donnell trashed witchcraft or that people have a problem with a Wiccan running for political office. I wasn’t the only pagan upset about this.

When I first saw the video with O’Donnell admitting to dabbling in witchcraft, I thought she was a nut ball and was glad she wouldn’t get elected since the majority of conservatives are Christian. But then I realized that by thinking that way, I was being as narrow-minded as everyone else that objects to any non-Christian religion.

Why couldn’t someone with a brain admit to being a witch? Someone who could explain Wicca/pagan practices correctly? Pagans had a chance to have a voice and instead were aligned with Devil worshippers.

So, what’s wrong with being a witch? Nothing, unless witches are truly as horrible as Christine O’Donnell described them. Thanks to her rambling nonsense, witches will have to work even harder to fix an already tarnished reputation among the mainstream population. Pagans do not worship the Devil, they don’t even believe in the Devil. The Devil is a Christian invention. I can see how people get confused, especially when the dictionary doesn’t even get it right. A witch practices Wicca.

It would be awesome to have a Wiccan elected to a political office, but it was obvious from the way O’Donnell giggled and babbled in the video that she wasn’t serious about being a witch, and she didn’t know what she was talking about. And, Ms. O’Donnell, you don’t dabble in witchcraft. Witchcraft/paganism is a lifestyle.

Kelley Heckart

‘Timeless tales of romance, conflict & magic’

http://www.kelleyheckart.com

http://kelleysrealm.blogspot.com/

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Fur Babies and Familiars

People have lived with animals as companions for a very long time. Certain creatures, we accept into our households as additional family members. Owning a cat is an iconic witchy thing to do as well. If you have no children, or are living alone, a fur baby may seem a good alternative. They give warmth, companionship, affection, they make us feel better, provide an alternative to siblings, create laughter and bring joy.

Why is it that we (as a culture) prioritise some creatures while giving so little regard to others? In Living with Honour Emma Restall Orr points out – “…for the vast majority, the incredible hypocrisy of choosing to care deeply for a dog, while eating bacon without a moment’s consideration for the pig (a generally more intelligent creature who has suffered a life of traumatic abuse), is not only rampant in our society, but perceived to be rational and acceptable.”

In many ways our attitude to animals reflects how we relate to other humans. We choose who is inside the clan, the family, and who is ‘other’ and therefore ok to exploit, eat, etc. It may be part of human nature to be clannish, to distinguish ‘us’ from ‘them’ and have different rules accordingly. That doesn’t mean it’s a thing to celebrate. Looking at how, if and why we relate to some animals as family, and others not, can teach us a lot about our own values.

Keeping pets and raising creatures to eat has environmental impact. There’s a New Scientist  here- http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20427311.600-how-green-is-your-pet.html about the impact pet keeping has. Anyone concerned about carbon footprints needs to also think about the impact of creatures they keep, or who are kept on their behalf. Cats are a disaster for wildlife. Whether hungry or not, many of them hunt, doing horrendous damage to rodent and bird populations. It may be in the nature of cats to hunt, but we keep them in a density that is far from natural, and they deplete the species around them. Animals kept as pets, in cages, for amusement, as living toys… can be ethically uncomfortable too. I write as someone who has kept hamsters. It takes work and imagination to give a caged animal a decent standard of living. Children should not, I think, be given animals as toys.

I keep a cat – he doesn’t hunt, so far as I can tell – he doesn’t go out much and is lazy. He’s taught my child about sharing, and respect, and the effects of pointy paws. These have been good lessons. He sleeps on my bed and I am glad of his presence. I’ve lived with cats who savaged the wildlife. I couldn’t do that again. I would not have taken this cat on had I not been assured that he doesn’t hunt.

As with all other aspects of life, the keeping with animals needs thought and consideration. There’s scope to do it well, or to do it very badly indeed. So much of what is wrong in the world stems from people acting without thought, serving their own immediate desires with little care for long term impact on themselves, much less anything else. How we make our families, who (furry or otherwise) we choose to include, and how we handle that, is of vast importance in terms of how we shape the future for everything that will live in it.

How Can Pagans Help Haiti?

Well despite the mad ravings of Pat Robertson who claims the place was cursed by God….the rest of us can look beyond such rubbish and chip in.

But how? How do you know what charity you can give to that will put your money to good use? What if you don’t have any money because of the recession….you can barely scrounge up the kids lunch money much less donate some invisible cash?

Relax….there are still things that you can do.

 

If you have the money to donate, here is a great NON-PROFIT organization I found called : Vodou Aid (link: http://vodouaid.org) I quote the one that passed it onto me:

Vodou Aid was formed precisely because the evangelical Christian churches in Haiti abuse food aid, give it only to their inner circle, sell it for profit, and preach that their possession of food is proof that God wants them to live and the Vodouisant 90% majority to die. I’m not making this up, it’s why we do VodouAid! It’s run by Vodouisants, but we give food to everyone,
medical care to anyone, according to our means. If I could feed every man, woman and child in Jacmel, evangelicals included, I would. We’ve already raised about $3000, and my goal is $5000 now and $5000 over the next three months. We pay no salaries. We have no overhead other than the fee MoneyGram charges to send the money. We have people in Haiti that receive the money, buy food wholesale and distribute it, accompany the sick or injured to the doctor and cover the doctor bill and the prescriptions, whatever it takes. We had already stockpiled water and food in anticipation of hurricanes, which weren’t so bad this year, but now our stockpile is exhausted.
Peace and love,
Mambo Racine

Now if that doesn’t seem like your kind of donating place or you don’t have money to give…then there are ways for you to contribute to those in need. Simply contact your local fire department and or Red Cross. I am sure there are even churches in your area that might be taking up collections. Now go dig in the attic, basement, closets, call relatives and ask them what they have.

Pillows, blankets, children’s clothes, old clothes that you may have, canned food, water, shampoo, soap, bottles of alcohol, Q-tips, (women personal items), conditioner, peroxide, pillows, AND THE LIST goes on and on…..there are TONS of things we have, that we have stashed away, forgotten about, will never use again, will never need again that we can send to those in Haiti.

So if you are one of the thousands who have absolutely no cash to spare….you don’t have to sit there and feel hopeless like you can do nothing. You can make a donation of something else…YOU can matter…YOU can make a difference—

 

And please light a candle for those in Haiti….

Pagan Book Reviewers Wanted!!!!!

 

Ok Pagans, here’s your chance!

If you fall under the umbrella of Paganism and love to read fiction– then this may be the thing for you!!!!

 

  1. We need readers who love fiction and can write an honest review.

 

If you are interested then please contact either

Rie McGaha  riesreviews@yahoo.com 

or

C.H. Scarlett belovedisis@directv.net

 

The Pagan & Pen NEED Book Reviewers!!!! Whoosh, we have so many books!!!!

So come on…what are you waiting for?????