Archive for February, 2014

Thirteen Things Not to Say to a Pagan

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.”

saucy

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…”

bonuspoints

5) “Do you worship the devil?”

idiot

Seriously. It’s 2014. There’s no excuse for this kind of ignorance. UseTheFuckingGoogle.com

6) “I’m going to pray for you.”

multiplefuckyou

7) “Are you a good witch or a bad witch?”

See question 1.

8) “Yeah, but that’s not, like, a real religion.”

laughserious

9) “So is it just like that movie The Craft?”

annoyed

10) “But magic isn’t real!”

wrongopinion

11) “Have you heard about the lord Jesus Christ?”

donotcare

12) “Oh! Well, you do wear a lot of black, so I guess that explains it…”

stopsign

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.

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Dancing Divinity

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.

Further Viewing

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)


Treading a Dianic Path

Week 7 (D): Dianic witchcraft

(You know a blog post is going to be good when it starts with a disclaimer.)

I recognize that some readers may disagree. This, like all posts in this blog, are based upon my own experiences and opinions. If this does not describe your understanding of Dianic witchcraft, by all means, let’s have a conversation. Consider my openness to engage in productive dialogue as a blanket invitation for all of my blog posts. That said…

James Jordan

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Patriarchy is something I learned about early, when my mother insisted that the majority of my books contain strong women characters. She overlooked Disney movies in deference to my enthusiasm for those technicolor cartoons so rife with problems, but the books I read were by and large about women. My mother wanted me to grow up to be a strong woman who does not tolerate gender inequality. I think she got her wish.

Z. Budapest’s book The Holy Book of Women’s Mysteries was an important discovery. Along with Starhawk, I had previously read authors who were mostly Gardnerian or Alexandrian, but the idea of Goddess worship was far more appealing to me than the heteronormative male-centric stuff the other authors touted. I didn’t want to find God, I wanted to find the Goddess. I read Budapest and discovered feminist witches. She talks about the importance of women-only spaces, which is something I highly value. Reading most of her book felt like coming home.

I think I especially liked Budapest’s penchant for hexing rapists. According to her, “if you can’t hex, you can’t heal”. While the logic may be somewhat counterintuitive, I think it falls in line well with Inga Muscio calling for public shaming of rapists. (Muscio wrote another of the books that changed my life – see the Further Reading section at the bottom.) But, like almost any book, there are some problems. I’d like to illuminate what my brand of Dianic witchcraft entails, as it differs from Budapest’s version in at least one very significant way.

just trying to keep the peace amongst all these diverse chicks (ok, that was a terrible pun)

just trying to keep the peace amongst all these diverse chicks (ok, that was a terrible pun. forgive me?)

Dianic witchcraft is: women-only spaces. This world is dominated by men. Social structures, institutions, politics: all created and maintained for and largely by men. Women-only spaces should be kept sacred and available to any women who seek them. Which brings me to my next point…

Dianic witchcraft is not: transmisogyny. Transwomen should be fully welcomed into women-only spaces. Woman-centric and female-centric are not the same thing. I vehemently do not identify or support radical feminists in their “womyn born womyn” nonsense. Women are women. Female is a separate category entirely*.

I know this is a response to Christians drafting laws restricting women's bodily rights, but I think it works well here too

I know this graphic was meant to be a response to Christians drafting laws restricting women’s bodily rights, but I think it works rather well in this context too

While Goddess worship is important to my beliefs, this does mean that I am a raging, man-hating, underarm-hair-growing, lesbian, ugly feminist. Not to malign folks with a propensity for lush underarm hair, only that it’s not a choice that suits me. I am a lesbian, but it is not as a result of my interest in the Goddess (the latter predates the former). I am a feminist, but that is because I believe that patriarchy must fall in favor of a more equality-based society. I rage because I see too much inequality in the world and because I refuse to keep quiet about it. I will not support the status quo. Goddess worship blends nicely with most of these things.

The idea that a Goddess, any Goddess, would exclude someone based on their determined sex at birth is abhorrent. I do not want to worship a Goddess who is as bigoted as some humans. To me, the Goddess is an ideal to which I aspire. And that ideal is to welcome all women with open arms.

Josephine Wall

Josephine Wall

* For those who are confused at this point, here’s a quick explanation. Sex refers to someone’s genitalia and chromosomal makeup, while gender refers to the socially prescribed and accepted appearances & roles that are typically expected to correspond with one’s sex. That is, as a woman, one is expected to have been born with a vagina. This is a problematic view as it leaves transgender folks completely out of the picture. While I am a cisgender woman, I aspire to be a trans ally. If you are mad about the term “cisgender”, please click here.

Further Reading

Budapest, Zsuzsanna Emese. 2003. The Holy Book of Women’s Mysteries

Dianic Wicca (Z. Budapest’s Women’s Spiritual Community)

The Dianic Wiccan Tradition (while this is another link that supports transmisogyny, please note that I do not condone or agree with those opinions, but that I do think this link is a valuable resource in understanding Dianic witchcraft)

Feminist Disney

In Response to the “Lilith Rite” at PantheaCon (more on Z. Budapest and her transmisogyny)

Muscio, Inga. 2002. Cunt: A Declaration of Independence

Sociological (my pinboard on all things sociological – good to sift through if you still have questions about gender, inequality, & patriarchy)


Steal, Appropriate, or Borrow?

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?

kalilotus

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.

Thalia Took

Thalia Took’s interpretation of Kali

Further Reading

A is for Appropriation, or How to be a Modern Pagan Without Being a Dick to Living Cultures

Cultural Survival Vs. Forced Assimilation: The Renewed War on Diversity

Devi as Goddess Kali

Discussing cultural appropriation on the SolitaryWiccans LJ community (an oldie but a goodie)

Kali (Rukmini Bhayah-Nair)

Poems About Kali (a selection)

Religious Remix Culture (my earlier writing on the topic, with links to more resources)

Thalia Took’s take on Kali