Culture Blogs


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Culture Blogs

Popular subjects in contemporary Pagan culture and practice.

Category contains 2 blog entries contributed to teamblogs

Twelve Healing Stars is a yearlong project in cooperation with the Temple of Witchcraft that explores social justice through the lessons of the 12 Zodiac Signs. This is part six. Basic social psychology suggests that religion can be a very dangerous thing. Open any introductory textbook to the chapter on social psych, and you’ll be hit with a flurry of concepts that build upon each other to show us how tribal, exclusionary, and potentially violent religion – any religion – can become.

  • The Out Group Homogeneity Effect tells of our tendency to see all people that are not part of our group as “all the same.”
  • In Group Bias is our ability to tolerate differences within our own groups, even as we don’t see them in other groups.
  • The Fundamental Attribution Error leads us to blame another person’s character for mistakes they make and any behavior they do while ignoring the situational variables that could have caused the mistake or behavior.
  • Group Polarization is our tendency, once within a group, to gravitate toward extreme thinking. Our opinions may be moderate on a topic, but as we hang out with people with more extreme opinions, we move in that direction.
  • Groupthink tells us that when we have a charismatic leader and a lack of dissenting opinions in a group, we make very poor choices.

Add these together, and any time a group gets together they risk extreme thinking and tribalism. We see that play out in everything from sports team rivalries to international politics. We tend to naturally separate ourselves from others. And one of the places we see it way too often in is religion. Ethnobiologist E.O. Wilson is working on a trilogy to explore the human condition and its intersections with spiritual practice. He says that a major problem with religion is this tribal mentality. “Religion,” he says “features supernatural elements that other tribes – other faiths - cannot accept.” The problem with that is that, “Every tribe, no matter how generous, benign, loving, and charitable, nonetheless looks down on all other tribes.” Mix that with social psychology and you are creating a pretty toxic brew for humanity’s survival. There is a way out of this. Another concept from social psychology, a deceptively simple one, can be our key. It’s called the Mere Exposure Effect. We’ve all experienced it. When a person begins with a negative attitude toward a person or group, spending time around that group – merely being exposed to it – can improve their attitude. It’s one of the reasons that coming out of our closets, be they broom closets or any other kind of closet, is so important. When we know good people who belong to a misunderstood group, our perceptions of that group improve.  Instead of separation, we need to come together. We need the Piscean message of merging together, yet we can’t lose what makes us all unique. This is a large part of the mission for Alix Wright, the Pisces Lead Minister for the Temple of Witchcraft. Paganism of any brand, but especially Witchcraft, runs a great risk of being misunderstood and maligned. Wright says that, “The air of mystery surrounding the various pagan faiths could feed the fear of those who don’t truly know what we do.” She adds that, “Anytime you keep things closed off and secretive, those not in ‘the know’ have the opportunity to put their own spin on things and can demonize what the only have minimal, or no, understanding of.”

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Pantheacon: A Gathering of Kindred

I just came back early last week from one of my favorite places on earth. No, not Disney (which I'd never survive), but rather Pantheacon, the huge Pagan convention held every year in mid-February in San Jose, California. Since I live in upstate NY, all the way across the country, I don't make it to PCon as often as I'd like to, but I went in 2008, then 2011, and this year in 2015. And as always, I had a blast, met up with lots of fabulous people (including my beloved Llewellyn editor Elysia Gallo, publicist Kat, and photo-bombing publisher Bill, seen in the picture above), and got really really tired.

I'm almost recovered enough now to talk about it. Although returning to the snow and bitter cold after the lovely weather in CA hasn't made it any easier to bounce back. Sigh.

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13 Reasons Why You Should Attend the Canadian National Pagan Conference

So I had this article all ready to go: then I found out that I was going to be one of the keynote speakers!  (Awkward . . .)  But none of these points are invalidated by the fact that I'm going to be there . . . except . . .. holy cow I'm going to be there!  I'm so excited!  (Happy dance!)  Gaia Gathering: the Canadian National Pagan Conference is happening in Edmonton on the weekend of May 15th to 18th so it's relatively close to me and so long before the invitation, there was no way I was going to miss it. I think everyone should do it at least once; and I know that once you have, you'll want to do it again.  Here's why:

13 Reasons Why You Should Attend the Canadian National Pagan Conference:

Kerr Cuhulain

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Joy is Sacred

Joy is sacred, He said, and I didn’t understand. Isn’t all of this serious stuff? Shouldn’t I be in awe and terror of You?

Do you respect Me? Do you take Me seriously when I need you do that?

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Review - "Solitaire" by Mama Gina

It's hard to believe that Mama Gina is still a relatively new artist in the world of Pagan music. With her third album, Solitaire, due to be released very soon, she is soon to be no longer be known as the new kid on the block, but rather take her place in the pantheon of Pagan music royalty.

Solitaire has depth and character. Gina'a soulful voice shines in this well mixed and engineered album. The addition of backup players and singers brings a 1970's pop feel to her song "Goddess Walking". I honestly was reminded of the band America. Since they are one of my favorites, that's a good thing. "Old Ways" takes an intimate look at the spirituality in modern times. "Weed" shows off her bluesy side while telling a great tale. She gets to her tribal roots with the powerful "Old Snake Woman" and gives the listener a smile with "Mama Gaia's Going Through Menopause".

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  • Debra
    Debra says #
    Mama Gina is awesome!

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Other People's Stuff

They're all over the world now, but they started out right here in the Midwest: Little Free Libraries.

In front of their homes, people erect what look like roadside shrines, and so they are: shrines of literacy. Open the door to one of these little god-houses and you'll find inside, instead of an image, shelves of books. The idea is, take a book, leave a book. All completely free. It's a great idea: generous, hospitable, practical. Very Midwestern.

A coven-sib and her husband put up one in their front yard. Suddenly, a problem arose: what to do with the Kreesh-chun materials, the Bibles and other “literature,” that accumulated on their shelves?

[A Zuñi elder once remarked: "How can they expect us to take their religion seriously when they throw it away as if it weren't worth anything?"]

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Shit

It's a curse word. It's the ultimate bad comparison: “Smells like....” “Tastes like....” To the poisoning of our waters and the impoverishment of our fields, we flush it away so we can pretend it doesn't exist. Frequently enough our collective aversion seems to take on a moral tone. Bad shit.

I think we've got it wrong. The opprobrium in which we hold shit is a mistaken opprobrium. I don't think this is how pagans think.

Old English scîtan, “to defecate.” We didn't have fancy Latinisms back then to describe an everyday bodily function and its product. Same with Old Norse skíta and Old High German skîzzan. We've been talking shit for a long time, it would seem. All the offspring of Common Germanic *skîtan, “to separate, defecate.” Separate and defecate. Where's the opprobrium?

The Kalasha of Pakistan are the last remaining pagans of the Hindu Kush. The greatest festival of their year is Chaumos, the winter solstice. To decorate their houses and temples for the holiday, the children whitewash the walls and cover them with good luck paintings for the coming year: sun-wheels, trees, pastures, hunters, and goats, goats, goats. (The goat is central to the Kalasha economy.)

An anthropologist observing while the children painted these designs noticed that many of them were surrounded by dots; in many of the paintings, the lines of dots actually served to unify the compositions visually. She asked the kids what the dots were.

“Oh, that's dung,” the kids explained. To the Kalasha, dung is a valuable commodity because it fertilizes the fields. Lots of dung is a desideratum because it means lots of herds to drop it, and lots of crops to be nourished by it. Dung = fertility.

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  • Laura Perry
    Laura Perry says #
    Some of the best Indian incense includes cow dung, for exactly the reason those kids said. Also, I find it instructive that the wo

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