I’m going to step away from my usual blogging theme this week to share a topic that came to me while driving the two hours it took me to get to my camping destination. (Hubby and I are on staff for a Pagan retreat here in Colorado and this was our work weekend.) We had stopped for lunch at a place where the server recognized our t-shirts as Pagan in content. So she proceeded to ask questions which required long answers. Neither of us had the time. I needed to get back on the road and she needed to help her other customers. So in hopes that it will be of service to her (I so hope she emails me!), those just starting out and those that are trying to make sense of what the broader community is, here is my viewpoint. I am NOT trying to start up the “my way vs. your way” debate again…most of this is based on my own experiences and observances. Your mileage, as always, may vary.
Author's Note: This is a reprint of an article I originally published in the Anthology: Talking About the Elephant in 2008. Because the theme of the month is on cultural appropriation I thought I'd dig it out and reprint it here. I've added a commentary on the end to show where my thoughts on this topic are now (5 years after the original article was published).
While some of the articles of this anthology [Author's note: I'm referring to Talking About the Elephant] deal with cultural appropriation issues that Neopagans and Occultists may perpetuate, the goal of my article is to provide a look at a different form of cultural appropriation currently gaining popularity in both the academic and Neopagan/Occult cultures. This cultural appropriation comes in the form of academic articles and books focused on Neopaganism and the Occult. On the surface, it would seem that scholarship on these subjects is a good thing, certain to buoy the public relationship image that both Neopaganism and Occultism have with mainstream culture. However, as I will argue, there is a different, more subtle agenda occurring in these academic works, and in a manner that can be considered cultural appropriation. Unfortunately, there is a tendency to revere academic works without coming to them with an open, but critical, awareness of how those works really represent their beliefs. Nor is the question raised by Neopagans or Occultists, if the benefits of said academic works are really good for the community, or are only good for the academic who happens to be doing the research.
Women all over the world are tired of being treated like third class citizens. Even in cultures that traditionally worship the divine feminine, grown women are granted fewer rights than a male infant and are punished with mutilation and death if they display personal initiative or act in accordance with nature. Three world religions blame females personally and vindictively for a mistake supposedly made by the very first woman ever created! By what logic should the ancient misjudgment of Eve be held against our mothers, wives, sisters and daughters today? This is a classic example of masculine propaganda: if we men say that women are inherently flawed, we can blame them for all of our problems. We can even make the outrageous claim that we were made in the image of God—but they were not!
It is shocking how many women have bought into this mind manipulation, and actually believe that they are inferior. But this is not universally the case; these days many are seeking a different sort of religion that will give them equal, if complementary, status to their brothers.
Sannion has written a delightful post at http://thehouseofvines.com/2013/06/09/what-does-a-sannion-do/ about an average day in his devotional life. I know that I always find it interesting to know what my colleagues and friends do for their Gods, and how they both order and balance the demands of devotion but until reading this, it hadn't occurred to me to write anything about my own average devotional day (though I have occasionally been asked what I do). Well, I"m going to do that now, stealing an idea from Sannion (whom I hope will not mind too much!). There is of course, one caveat to all of this (as Sannion also points out in his post): what i write here is what I do. It may not be what those of you reading are called to do. The thing here is to ask yourselves how you can deepen and better *your* practices. If this helps, then I'm glad. If not, let me know what you're doing devotionally--it might inspire me and others reading this.
I just returned from a creative retreat where I spent the better part of the week blade-smithing and oil painting and I intended to move on to issues other than the current 'pop culture vs. devotional polytheist' Pagan debate. Upon returning, however, I found this brilliant post: http://www.witchesandpagans.com/Pagan-Paths-Blogs/gods-of-consequence.html by Anomalous Thracian, and realized that I wasn't done yet. In light of some of the comments there, I think that perhaps I need to articulate where I'm writing from a little more clearly. Because one thing that's getting lost (purposely, I think) in this debate is that what it really comes down to is those whose practices are devotionally centered on the Holy Powers (Gods and ancestors) and those for whom the human experience, human emotions, human society, the human mind. and most of all human comfort is centric. I actually think that this is the heart of many of the misunderstandings that we're seeing. We're not speaking as one community. We will never speak as one community so long as devotion to the Gods is being marginalized. We will never speak as one community so long as devotional polytheists are expected to accept a certain homogenization of our beliefs, predicated on acceptance of attitudes and practices that to those of us who prioritize the Gods are objectionable. We're not speaking from the same place. We're not even speaking the same devotional language. Instead, we're each fighting to wrest the roots of our various traditions from out of the other's hands.