Week 9 (E): etiquette (and the snarky responses you’re likely to receive from me should you ask me these questions)
The following are some things you shouldn’t say to a pagan, particularly one you’ve just met. I’ve heard them all before, so no, you’re not as original as you think you are. Mostly this is just an excuse to do a snarky gif post. I ❤ gifs.
1) “Do you really fly on a broom?”
Yes. I also expect to be crushed by a falling house in about 5 years. Everything the movies say about witches is true.
2) “You’re going to hell.”
3) “Do your parents know? Are they ok with you being a witch?”
Yes. Mom actually read quite a few of the books I read in the early years, but she encouraged me to explore my spirituality. She raised me reading Greek and Roman mythology, so my interest in gods and goddesses wasn’t exactly surprising to her. Dad, as a diehard atheist, hates all religions equally, so we just don’t talk about it.
4) “So I really want a girlfriend/boyfriend/sentient blowup doll substitute/new job/better car/more money…”
5) “Do you worship the devil?”
Seriously. It’s 2014. There’s no excuse for this kind of ignorance. UseTheFuckingGoogle.com
6) “I’m going to pray for you.”
7) “Are you a good witch or a bad witch?”
See question 1.
8) “Yeah, but that’s not, like, a real religion.”
9) “So is it just like that movie The Craft?”
10) “But magic isn’t real!”
11) “Have you heard about the lord Jesus Christ?”
12) “Oh! Well, you do wear a lot of black, so I guess that explains it…”
13) “Can I come watch your full moon rites?”
This is tougher, because I often feel that this request comes from a place of respect and genuine interest. Usually I gently explain that my rituals are private, given the solitary nature of my practice, but that I appreciate their enthusiasm.
In conclusion, I’m not always snarky, but when I am, it’s because you’re asking questions that Google could answer for you in the time it takes me to take a breath and mentally remind myself not to cut a bitch.
Week 8 (D): on the divine experience of dance
I’ve danced since I could walk. I imagine my chubby toddler legs moving me in fibonacci spirals on the carpet in the living room, arms waving as much for balance as for artistic expression. Later, in ballet class, I tried to leash my heart to the barre so I could do what the teacher wanted. But I kept bursting out of the form at inappropriate moments. Later, my ballet teacher kicked me out because I was “getting too heavy” (I was 12 years old). For a while, the magic of dancing died for me because I thought it was all about how thin your legs were.
Until I realized that it’s not. Dance is about creating art with your body, even if nobody else sees it. Dancing in your bedroom, on your bed, in a pair of ratty underwear because it’s laundry day and you’re waiting for the dryer to finish has just as much potential to create magic as if you were dancing in a forest in a grove of hundred-year-old trees. The point is not to weigh a certain amount, or to have particular body measurements: the point is to move. your. feet. Keep moving until you are so exhausted you can barely stand. Then let yourself collapse in an ecstasy of exhaustion. For me, the feeling I get when I’m done dancing is identical to the one I get when I finish a spell or ritual.
Dancing in public places creates a particular kind of magic. When other people become aware of the magic in the world as a result of your actions, that’s an incredible feeling. It’s why I dance in grocery store lines, why I think best on my feet (so my hips can shift in subtle bellydance slides), and why I am usually smiling. Dancing (and magic-sharing) is incredibly important to my spirituality. The phrase “when you pray, move your feet” resonated with me when I first heard and wrote about it, and it continues to hold true. Always be dancing, and you’ll always be connected to the divine.
Sara Bareilles has a talent for making me smile. At least two of her music videos are about dancing in public. I particularly love this one because there’s such a variety of body types and movement styles. It’s not about whether other people think you’re good, it’s about how dancing makes you feel. If it’s something that makes your heart swell with overwhelming joy, keep going.
Dancing is about feeling like a Goddess just because you can move your body. And I don’t mean the limiting movement of your feet – I mean the way your hands can form lotuses, or how your arms ripple like snakes made of cloud. How you move.
Here’s an assortment of some of my favorite dance videos from around the web. Feel free to link to your favorites in the comments.
Arabian Spices (bellydance and unexpected body types; anyone/everyone can and should dance and do so with confidence)
Beyond Words Dance Company (the wonder of children’s dancing)
Hybrid Dance Project (the value of dancing in tightly synchronized groups)
Where the Hell is Matt? (on dance being a form of communication)
Yanis Marshall and Marie Ninja (when spoken word poetry and dance coincide)
Week 6 (C): cultural appropriation
How do we, as eclectic pagans, borrow from and interact respectfully with cultures not our own?
More specifically, how do I, as a white western woman, worship Kali without offending Hindus?
Cultural appropriation is when a dominant group adapts element(s) of a minority culture without understanding the context from which said element(s) come from. This largely pertains to cultures that are still living (e.g. the Navajo tribe is still alive and well, whereas ancient Egyptian culture is not). The act of cultural appropriation is often considered offensive, particularly when people choose to use elements that are sacred within the original culture. An example would be hipsters wearing Native American war bonnets. But what about goddesses?
I felt called into Kali’s service a little over six years ago. I believe that my goddesses chose me, rather than the other way around. So how does one practice mindfulness in their spirituality? I do not worship other Hindu deities, nor do I identify as Hindu. But I also feel that I have made a serious effort to understand the context from which Kali comes. At all times, I try to be as respectful as I can be of her origins. But is that enough? I remain unsure, but not unsure enough to feel that my connection to Kali has been altered. It just means I’m less likely to talk about it as openly as other aspects of my beliefs.
My only hesitation with the idea of cultural appropriation is that cultures do change. Every culture borrows elements from other cultures (see my other post on religious remix culture in the further reading section). There is the question of an imbalance of power with the issue of cultural appropriation, because the ones doing the appropriating generally have more power than the group they’re borrowing from. But cultures build upon one another, and the idea of rigidly keeping cultures intact in their original forms is repugnant to me. It seems essentialist and overly simplistic. On the other hand, I strongly support protecting native cultures from forced assimilation (e.g. what happened to Native Americans in the U.S. from the 18th century through the early twentieth).
Obviously people of color differ in their feelings about appropriation. Some aren’t bothered, others are. My inclination is to say that as a white person, it’s not my place to decide when cultural appropriation is acceptable. But on the flip side, I feel that I have been called to Kali’s service. This post is not about answers, mostly because I don’t feel like I have them. I do have plenty of questions though.
Discussing cultural appropriation on the SolitaryWiccans LJ community (an oldie but a goodie)
Poems About Kali (a selection)
Religious Remix Culture (my earlier writing on the topic, with links to more resources)