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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in activism

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
It's Not What You Think

I'm sure many of you have heard or read something about at least one Facebook page with a title which many witches are finding offensive. I'm not going to give you access to them from this blog nor will I mention them directly.  The quick fervor whipped up around the name of this page, led me to all kinds of questions, and a few extremely important answers...and some perspective. I'd like to share what I've learned, hopefully it can move all of us forward on this issue.

Facebook doesn't get to decide what hate speech is, the law does.

When I reported the page for 'hate speech', as so many others had done, I was also told in a very fast reply, by an automated system on Facebook, that the page wasn't 'hate speech', and so it wouldn't be removed. How could that be? The title sure looked hateful to me!

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Terence P Ward
    Terence P Ward says #
    I tend to err on the side of giving idiots enough rope to hang themselves with, particularly given the free-speech tenets here in
  • Celestine Angel
    Celestine Angel says #
    I disagree that your first reaction was over-blown. See, the thing is, with that page being based, as much as anyone could discern
  • Anne Newkirk Niven
    Anne Newkirk Niven says #
    Cogent, dispassionate, comprehensive. I couldn't have said this better myself. Hear, hear!

Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs
Embracing The Other

I was recently interviewed on a radio program and the host asked me if I might name one way my mother influenced my life.  I immediately knew the answer to her question.  Evelyn, my mother, taught me to fight for the under-dog.  She never verbalized it, but I think she felt like an under-dog.  She grew up in Louisiana in the 1940's.  It was a time when women had little choice about the direction their life would take.  She had no protections like Roe v Wade.  Her mother was a janitor and education for women was not a priority.  Her world view consisted of getting married, keeping a roof over her head and her kids fed.  I can still remember her and my step-father, too poor for a decent meal because selling vacuum cleaners door to door was not putting food on the table, eating corn chips with some cheese spread for dinner.  Sometimes my breakfast cereal did not come with milk, but water to moisten it.  Ham was out of the question and I came to love bologna sandwiches, especially if I had potato chips to slap between the slices of bread instead of lettuce. 


Never having taken a class in Women’s Studies and a product of the conservative South, I don’t think Evelyn can name the cause for her circumstances.  I can still hear her misplaced loyalty to her Southern roots as my step-father, a northerner from Iowa,  would tell her of the rampant ignorance and racism in the South.  Sexism never came up, however.  Afterall, women just had their role in society.  Evelyn’s life path was not in question - it was normal for the times, but I doubt she was happy.  I wonder if she even felt happiness was something she could hope for.  I got the feeling she was happy surviving.   I wonder how her life would have been different if she had the option to finish high school and go on to college or if she could make enough money not to have to get married or fulfill society’s expectations that women have children.  So, yes, Evelyn instilled in me to fight for the under-dog, probably because she felt there was no one fighting for her. 

She encouraged me to reach out to the lonely kids on the playground who were rejected by the popular kids.  We shared what little we had with neighbors who had less than us.  She told me to go out and get what I wanted in life because it would not come “knocking on my door.”  She tried her best with what she had to work with, which wasn’t much materially or education-wise, but she had compassion and empathy, which I believe, made her very rich.

So it’s no surprise, today I consider myself a social justice advocate.  I fight for “THE OTHER” because today, so many more of us are THE OTHER.  We are the ones with a boot on our neck. The boot of white, male, fundamentalist Christian men and their female counterparts who benefit from the oppression of others.  Yes, this is the root of so much of the oppression and denigration and it’s not just oppression from the elites.  Often it’s poor, white, male, fundamentalist Christian men and their female counterparts who play their part in this patriarchal scheme. 

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

The other day I was in my car sitting at a red light. In front of me was a large vehicle with a pentacle sticker on it. The license plate had the word "hex" in it. This indicated the occupant, or at least the owner of the vehicle, as Pagan. I sat behind this vehicle and shook my head. A large, gas guzzling vehicle with Pagan stickers on it. I wondered if the occupant noticed the irony. Then, just as the light turned red, the occupant tossed a cigarette out the window and continued on her merry way. Had the light still been red, I would've jumped out of my ten year old econo car, picked up the discarded butt, handed it back to her while saying "excuse me! You dropped this!"

Pagans who participate in the destruction of Mother Earth through seemingly small acts like throwing used cigarette butts on the ground most certainly participate in the large scale destruction of our planet through tar sands and other human-made environmental catastrophes. This was the basis for my inaugural post, A Call to Action I was asked in the comments what resisting Keystone XL has to do with Paganism. My response: everything.

This is not the first time I've lamented about the lack of large scale participation by Pagans in the movement against climate change. Obviously the idea of living lightly on Mother Earth has not occurred to all Pagans. When calls have been made to step up and practice treading lightly the responses have been varied: from outright vitriol to pleasure the Pagan community is taking notice.

There are lots of environmental issues Pagans can involve themselves in: tarsands, mountaintop removal, unsustainable hydro, protection of crops amongst a myriad of others.

Jason Pitzl-Waters asked "But how far are Pagans, collectively, willing to go in defense of an Earth they call sacred?" It seems to me not very far. If Pagans can't make refrain from throwing cigarette butts out of their SUVs, I can't imaging them willing to risk arrest to prevent coal from mountain top removal in Appalachia being delivered to a coal fire plant in southern New England.

The call to action across the planet has been heard by many Christian sects. Already we are hearing about churches who are choosing to divest from fossil fuels. Yet I have not heard such a call from large Pagan worship centers such as Circle Sanctuary or Temple of Witchcraft or even the Reclaiming leadership. Small groups and covens have also remained silent. I find this terribly distressing.

Not all Pagans are Earth worshipers. So even if you do not worship the earth as a deity worship her as the only place we have to live: there is no planet B.  

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  • Christa Landon
    Christa Landon says #
    THANK YOU! Perhaps most Pagans don't directly own stock in energy companies, etc., but certainly we all consume! As Unitarian Un

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

Across the Midwest and New England a fight has been brewing between landowners and the Canadian corporation Enbridge. The fight centers on two tarsands pipeline crisscrossing the continent: Keystone XL in the Midwest and Trailbreaker/Line 9 in the Northeast.  Enbridge, the owner of the pipeline wants to move tarsands, the most toxic and corrosive oil product on this planet, from Alberta, Canada to the sea. In order to do so, the pipelines will bisect the breath of the United States from Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico and to the Gulf of Maine. Leaks will happen in New England and in the Midwest and will impact all of the nation.

b2ap3_thumbnail_KeystonePipeline_map.jpg

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Anne Newkirk Niven
    Anne Newkirk Niven says #
    Howdy, Shawn -- I used to make the same assumptions as you, and was more than happy to do so. (I'm in that "progressive, pro-LGBST
  • Shawn Sanford Beck
    Shawn Sanford Beck says #
    Hi Joseph (and Anne), Thanks for the responses, and sorry for the snarkiness of the original posting. As a Sophian Christian (and
  • Joseph Bloch
    Joseph Bloch says #
    Shawn: It's not "taking over" something to ask that an overtly political post have some relevance to religion, when posted on a re
  • Anne Newkirk Niven
    Anne Newkirk Niven says #
    Greybeard: I welcome all kinds of Pagans here, although you should know that I do not share your skepticism about climate change.
  • Greybeard
    Greybeard says #
    Thank you Anne for supporting and including pagans with differing opinions. Too many people, in my opinion, have confused Wicca a

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

Remember that movie Practical Magic? Like many Hollywood movies it features a scene that is key to any witch-themed movie- the inevitable persecution. In a flash back to their youth the two main characters of Practical Magic remember children throwing rocks at them screaming, ‘witch’. It looks almost innocent and most Pagans watching it will shake their heads with a light ‘tsk, tsk’; some may even express a passing sentiment of gratitude that the ‘Burning Times’ are in the past where they belong. To that I have to shake my head and exclaim ‘tsk, tsk- don’t you know they still go on?

 
Witch-hunts may be a relic of the past in Europe and North America, but in African countries they are starting to gain momentum. When Christian missionaries first reached Africa’s shores and started to preach to the indigenous peoples from their own theological perspectives, they labelled indigenous magical practices as ‘witchcraft’ and the practitioners ‘witches’. And over the centuries those words have been incorporated into indigenous languages just as Christian beliefs have mingled with indigenous religious beliefs to create religions that both venerate Christ and maintain a deep respect for ancestral spirits; and keep alive a belief in magic.
 
In the townships and rural villages of South Africa, a whisper of ‘witch’ can incite an entire community to lash out at a family or an individual, with the victims of false accusations being stabbed, stoned, hacked or burnt to death. The victims of false accusation are usually elderly women, but the path to the original victim is all too often littered with the bodies of more victims- children; some as young as a few months old. Lives violently snuffed out because of jealousy and fear.
 
However the inhumanity doesn’t end there. There are survivors of witch-hunts; those who manage to survive the assault or flee in time. Others survive stoning or burning by being expelled from their homes and communities by community leaders, traditional leaders and traditional healers, after being tried in traditional courts and found ‘guilty’ through divination. Those who have been expelled find themselves refugees in witch camps; their plight and very refugee status blatantly ignored by the South African government.
 
But why should this concern you, you may wonder. The accused are not even witches, let alone Pagans, so there is no religious discrimination you possibly could relate to; so why should Pagans of all people be standing up for the victims of witch-hunts?
 
Here in South Africa we have a saying: “Ugogo wami, ugogo wakho nawe” [My grandmother is your grandmother]. Within Paganism there is the predominant belief that we are all connected; we are all woven with the same, single thread of life and by it, bound together. By that regard, atrocities happening to others, no matter how far away, should be spoken out against.
 
The victims of witch-hunts, the elderly and the young who have violently lost their lives to fear and jealousy, deserve to have their deaths recognized and justice served to the murderers. The victims of witch-hunts who survive deserve to be treated with dignity and not live their lives in shame, fear and guilt, away from their homes and families. All victims of witch-hunts deserve to have their plight recognized by government, and government institutions and representatives have a responsibility to curb witch-hunts. At its very core, witch-hunts are not about religious discrimination, they are about the violation of basic human rights.
 

Are you moved to help? Join the South African Pagan Rights Alliance in their annual 30 days of Advocacy against Witch-Hunts Campaign- talk about witch-hunts, speak out against witch-hunts and sign the petition. Together we can help put an end to witch-hunts not just in South Africa, but globally.

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  • Bronwyn Katzke
    Bronwyn Katzke says #
    You are right, it is a phenomenon found in numerous countries; a fact I should have added but seeing as I live in SA my focus shif
  • Your Humble Correspondent
    Your Humble Correspondent says #
    Unfortunately this is a phenomenon not limited to Africa. We see the same sort of thing in the Middle East, India, and Indonesia.

My friend Peter Dybing has posted this blog, "Killing the Big Name Pagans," at Pagan in Paradise.  I tend to get more inspired when writing something responsive to the ideas of others, which often means I just post a long response.  When I do that, my thoughts don't make it beyond that feedback form.  So today I've decided to post my full response here:

I agree with the opinions expressed in earlier feedback at Pagan in Paradise by Thorn, Peg and Elizabeth. Here are few factoids that inform my opinion:

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

South Africa has come a long way in the last twenty years. In 1994 we had our first free elections, and from it we left Apartheid where it belonged- in the past. Then in 1996 we adopted a new Constitution; one which is heralded by many first world countries as being progressive. However, as liberal as our Constitution may be, South Africa is still a very conservative nation; especially when it comes to the topic of religion.

 

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