Pagan Paths

Witchcraft Philosophies, Action, Leadership, Humor, Outrage, Awkward Mishaps, Lovable Lessons, and a search for Grace with a clumsy Witch.

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PantheaCon: Friends, allies, and screams

b2ap3_thumbnail_nametag.jpgMy suitcase still isn't unpacked. My brain isn't, either. Several other writers have already blogged about this past weekend's Pantheacon and eloquently so. I needed more time. 

First of all, it was great. I spent most of my party time in the Black Rose Witchcraft Suite (thank you Devin Hunter for the laughs at night and the headaches in the mornings) and my worky-work time attending rituals, classes on rituals, and discussions on issues surrounding racism in our beloved community. I met new friends in those rituals (#heygwion) and even sat on a panel, myself! "Turning the Wheel: Nurturing Young Leaders and Embracing Change" led by Thorn Coyle. It was more than an honor to be up there with such incredible minds. 







Bumper sticker courtesy of Alley Valkyrie



Okay. Enough with the Selfie Shit. Let's get serious.  

If you've been hanging out in the Pagan Blog-o-sphere, you've surely heard how racist issues in the Pagan community gained glaring spotlight at this year's Con. Frankly, it's about damn time. I've been railing on FB about the injustice in the cases of Eric Garner and Michael Brown. I've attended rallies, die-ins, and wept openly to my community about my fears of opening the Post one day and seeing one of my own as the next victim. I watched our leaders "white-wash" the issue. I fielded comments about, "Well, let's not insult the police too much...." and grew frustrated at blank stares or complacent heads shaking, many saying, "It's just not my place to get involved/have an opinion/deal with this." 

I thought I knew something about the pain Witchkin of Color experience in our community. But I also once thought I knew how bad fracking was. It wasn't until I visited a fracking site that I knew how bad things were and it wasn't until PCon that my soul got even a hint of the aforementioned pain. 

Several white Pagans shouted “Racist!” at the People of Color Caucus hospitality suite door. Others barged into the suite, wanting confrontation. In the numerous panels on the subject, participants of Color mentioned that if the Gods worshiped were European, they were often encouraged to go worship Gods of Africa. One young woman pointed out that Pagan iconography and art is almost exclusively white. As a Black woman, she struggles to find a vision of the Goddess that mirrors herself. More than one person of Color said they felt the discrimination in their faith community was even greater than that in the mainstream culture. Some even paired up to walk each other to sessions at PCon as many felt unsafe walking alone. Crystal Blanton wrote a piece about the week, which I encourage everyone who read. In fact, if you're short on time, stop reading here and go read Crystal's blog.

The most prevalent issue was a “satirical” newsletter circulated at the conference, advertising a fake-workshop entitled, “Ignoring Racism: A Workshop for White Pagans,” followed by a description that mocked large Pagan groups which have ignored issues of racism. The full text can be found on on Jonathan Korman's blog, along with some important words for the author. Intended satire or not, people were triggered and deeply hurt. Even more hurtful, there were quite a few people at the Conference who did not realize the workshop was a joke and tried to attend it. 

On Monday, when the bags were packed and the hotel check-out stuff all done, a last-minute sharing and healing Circle was held to talk about the incidents of the week. I was supposed to be flying back to New York, but my flight was canceled at the last minute. As I sat in the outer Circle, I knew I was in the right place. Attendees of Color spoke how they’d experienced racism when approaching worship Circles. A few allies spoke as well. I stayed quiet for most of it. I talk all the damn time. It was my turn to listen except for the incident where I lost my temper with the one person whose sharing was hurtful, condescending, mansplanation-laced and super-entitled. My Coven prides me on keeping my cool when it would be much easier to yell. I didn't keep my cool with that guy. I lost it and I yelled. I don't recommend doing that as an ally measure...yelling rarely helps anything. But I did it and I don't regret it. 

I wish I could bottle the last part of the Circle. At the end of the gathering, attendees of Color gathered in the center of the room and let out a collective scream for several minutes to give voice to the victims of racist oppression, those lost in the past few years to police violence, and voicing the silent pain Pagans of Color experience. The screams rattled my bones. As they turned into sobs, the tears leaked into my still-too-ignorant, privileged heart. I thought of every time I should have spoken up against a stupid joke that would hurt someone, but didn't. I thought of every time I made an assumption about someone based on their race. I heard things I'd said that might have been viewed as dismissive. I thought of every way in which I could be better.

We white allies stood linking hands around them, witnessing in silence and listening.

I wanted to bottle the screams and share them with....

...every Ancestor of mine whose success depended on the oppression of a person of Color. 

...people who refused to comment on the murders of Black citizens by police because they felt they couldn't comment on what wasn't their experience, or because "we need to support our police," or because they "won't mix religion with being political." 

...people who wrote off #blacklivesmatter as a "cause dejour"

....people who feel immune to the issue because they live in an area that's liberal, or suburban, or Northern or Western area (as if racism only exists in Texas and Florida)

....people who now are saying, "What was the big deal? Are people obtuse? Can't anyone recognize a joke anymore?"

Naturally, I can't bottle them. But my soul still trembles with them. I just finished reading Ellen Cannon Reed's book The Heart of Wicca.  She discusses Initiation (with a capital "I") as not something that happens because someone waves incense in front of you and marches you around in a Circle, blindfolded. Initiation happens because something happens to change you. Rituals only mark the passage. I experienced Initiation this weekend. I'm not the same.

I'm really done playing the diplomat, y'all. I'm done with biting my tongue so as not to offend someone has a cop in the family. I'm tired of watching Pagans play ostrich. Just because we've suffered doesn't mean we're immune to inflicting suffering. Just because we've experienced rejection, sadness, prejudice, even threats doesn't mean we have a pass to ignore that it's happening to someone else. Guess what? Most of us can tuck our jewelry away when it's convenient to blend in. Some of us can't evade the systemic oppression that continues to exist and it DOES exist--where you are right now. Being liberal, suburban, northern, western...none of that puts you in a bubble separating you from a world in which people walking next to you on the street, sitting in the next cubicle, or wherever stifles a scream generations old. If you don't hear the scream, you are choosing to be spiritually deaf. Stop. Listen. Act.  

That's all I've got to say.





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Courtney Weber is a Priestess, writer, Tarot Advisor, performer and activist originally from Portland, OR living in New York City. Her writings on Witchcraft have been published in numerous publications, including Spiral Nature and the Huffington Post. She is the author of "Brigid: History, Mystery, and Magick of the Celtic Goddess" and "Tarot for One: The Art of Reading For Yourself", both through Weiser Books. She is the producer and designer of "Tarot of the Boroughs" a contemporary Tarot deck composed of original photography set in NYC. She lives in Manhattan with her husband and cats.


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