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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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Persephone and Demeter: A Personal Tale Of Birthright and Motherhood
Art by Susan Seddon-Boulet
(http://www.turningpointgallery.com/)

"In the best known version of the Greek myth, Persephone is dragged down into the underworld by Hades, whose title is 'Pluto.' But in earlier, pre-patriarchal tales, she descends there under her own power, actively seeking to graduate from her virginal naïveté by exploring the intriguing land of shadows. 'Pluto' is derived from the Greek word plutus, meaning 'wealth.' Psychologist James Hillman says this refers to the psyche-building riches available in Pluto's domain. Hades, he says, is the 'giver of nourishment to the soul.'" - Rob Brezsny

This is the month of my mother’s birthday, and when I recently read this quote, it made the tale of Persephone and Demeter become mine, and I wanted to explore this new perspective in the context of my relationship with my mother.

I was never taken into the underworld, so the archetype as it is commonly known never really resonated with me, but that changes drastically if it is understood as a willing and self-powered journey of nourishing discovery! I'll be wanting to ponder this tale in its new light (thanks, Rob Brezsny!)

But first, let’s focus on Demeter.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Me
    Me says #
    Hello, Lia, Thank you for sharing. I enjoyed reading this. It still amazes me every time one of the ancient stories communicates
  • Lia Hunter
    Lia Hunter says #
    Thank you for your words and wishes, Jason. I wish the same for you. Not only did we choose these depths, but we have the capacit
  • JudithAnn
    JudithAnn says #
    I welcome you as a follower of my blog and appreciate the sharing here. My own mother has passed over ( 9 years now) and as I ente
  • JudithAnn
    JudithAnn says #
    Lia, It was so very interesting for me to read your take on the separate but entwined journeys of Demeter and Persephone, from th
  • Lia Hunter
    Lia Hunter says #
    Thanks for sharing your perspective and your own post with me, JudithAnn. Your painting is compelling, and your story is both touc

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Religion as Sacred performance art

 

My first essays tried to establish two important points about Pagan religion, and to some degree religion in general.  My third ties them together. 

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Gus diZerega
    Gus diZerega says #
    Yeah, when academia gets involved there are costs as well as benefits, and expanding religious and spiritual terms to encompass th
  • Luan Makes Marks
    Luan Makes Marks says #
    Thanks for your thoughtful response. I have observed the negative feedback on ritual only occasionally, but it exists in the dial
  • Gus diZerega
    Gus diZerega says #
    Thanks Luan- I agree completely. When I first became a Pagan I worried about the 'messiness' of our beliefs. It was when I first
  • Luan Makes Marks
    Luan Makes Marks says #
    Gus, there were so many ways I was moved to respond to this, thanks for that. I used to say that my studies were positioned at the
  • Gus diZerega
    Gus diZerega says #
    I agree with you about the importance of having a teacher and the skills required. (When I was in grad school I felt every depart

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

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Earlier this week Bill Nye, the "Science Guy", debated Ken Ham, founder of the creationism museum in Kentucky, and it was billed as "Science vs the Bible", among other things. I watched it, and participated in a Twitter discussion for a short time during it, and then moved over to a Facebook discussion among a friend and others who are all Atheist, as far as I can tell. When the debate was over, I was left with a few thoughts.

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  • Greybeard
    Greybeard says #
    If "the word of an infallible god" has any place at a debate the infallible god should show up and say so. Otherwise its just her
  • Arwen Lynch
    Arwen Lynch says #
    Very true words, Peter. "religion, faith, and belief should never be tools used to destroy others" Thanks for an interesting loo

Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs

"Bunch of wanna-blessed-be's. Nowadays every girl with a henna tattoo and a spice rack thinks she's a sister to the dark ones." - Willow, Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Photo by Katie Tegtmeyer

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

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Pagans are human too.  Sometimes I have to remind myself of this.  The latest kerfuffle in the wider Pagan community leaves me surprised and yet not surprised all at the same time.  I like to think that Pagans, as a group, are better than this but obviously we are not.

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Recent comment in this post - Show all comments
  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Ms. Brokaw, Whilst I don't feel that a website devoted to Pagan community issues is necessarily an appropriate venue for a de fac

Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs
The Gods in Druidry

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Emily Mills
    Emily Mills says #
    This is something that I've been thinking about lately as I try to deepen my spirituality. I'm a member of OBOD, which has a lot o
  • Joanna van der Hoeven
    Joanna van der Hoeven says #
    I love the concept of The Mystery... x

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