A Rainbow Pentacle (or other religious symbol)

15 Sep

by RevKess

LGBT Pride season is over and done with for 2014. There may be a few events yet to happen, but June and July are the main months for such festivities. We’re now in full swing for the Pagan Pride season, August 1-October 31. Both are opportunities for “fringe” or “marginalized” segments of the community to celebrate their pride in themselves and share of their communities with the rest of the world.

In both instances it is sometimes dangerous or even life threatening to be out and proud. Around the world, in the Middle East, parts of Africa, Asia, even in some areas of Europe and the Americas it can be extremely dangerous to be out as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, etc. In many of those same countries, and elsewhere in the world, it can be very dangerous to be public about non-Abrahamic religious and spiritual paths. All we have to do is look to Uganda, South Africa, or Iraq to see what can and does happen to people who are either non-hetero or of a different religio-spiritual persuasion. The full-scale hunts of gay men in parts of Africa and the rabid accusations of witchcraft in South Africa or the displacement of the Yezidi in Iraq are just a few examples of what can happen to someone who is open or discovered to be “other” (or even rumored to be).

In the United States we are a little more lucky than some other parts of the world. Since the Civil Rights Movements and the Feminist Movement in the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s we have seen gradual improvements in the public view of homosexuality and non-traditional religions. We still have many strides and baby steps to take before both segments of the greater community are accepted. Events like Pride and PPD help take those baby steps.

My personal experience with Pride events is limited to my immediate local community. I’ve sat a booth for Star City Pride the last four seasons. First to help the host of The Wimmins Show on our local community radio station, KZUM, and then with my co-host on Lavender Hill. Each time we are there representing KZUM. I’ve seen churches and local community outreach programs, as well as businesses, artists, and eateries with booths at the events. What I haven’t seen are visible representations of the Pagan community. I know that most of the local Pagan community is supportive of the LGBTQIAA community, they just don’t have a booth to share their support. I’ve heard that many other Pride events have Wiccan churches, Pagan temples, and other organizations sit booths or have some other visible presence.

Many LGBT community members are drawn to Pagan religions and spiritual philosophies. Wicca and other flavors of Paganism embrace the LGBTQ community, openly and without reservation. In my own local community the largest Wiccan church has many openly gay, lesbian, bi, or trans members. Many Unitarian churches have CUUPS chapters as well as LGBT Welcoming Committees, their memberships often overlap.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve not had the opportunity  to attend any PPD events. I have attended several Pagan festivals in the Nebraska, Kansas, and Colorado areas. Many of these having overlap with the LGBTQQIAA community.

Both communities can learn from each other. They have grown up alongside each other, though there was little overlap in the beginning – at least open overlap. I should point out here that the Feminist movement overlapped with the Pagan movement and the Lesbian community while the gay men’s community overlapped with certain segments of the early Pagan movement. A clear and distinct overlap was not present.

In my first post with Pagan Activist I wrote about how some in the Pagan community have difficulty accepting transgender persons. The outpouring of support and response from other segments of the Pagan world showed that those who have difficulty are a minority. What I wrote about there is only one example of how Pagans need to work on their acceptance of “the other” within their own community. It should be obvious that I am going to focus on the acceptance of the LGBT community in this article, but the intersectionality of the Pagan world is far from limited to that. Others on this site have written about Pagan issues with physical disabilities, mental illness, dietary preferences and the like. I’ll leave it for them to continue on that topic of they desire.

It has been my personal experience that much of the discrimination and ‘phobia around homosexuality (bisexuality, transgender, gender fluidity, etc) can be traced to the simple fact of ignorance. In the past I would frequently encounter people who were homophobic because they did not know someone who was gay. Being open, frank, and honest with them helped to open their eyes to the reality of what knowing a gay person means. Quite often those same people would come back to me days, weeks, even years later, and apologize for their past words and actions against myself or other members of the LGBT community. Saying that getting to know me helped them to understand that a gay person is pretty much like a straight person.

The same holds true for when someone who is afraid of Pagans, or the concept of Paganism, gets to know someone who is Pagan. When you boil it down to the base elements of spirituality and religion, there is not much of a difference between Paganism (in its many flavors) and the Abrahamic traditions. I know, I’m going to get a lot of flak for that statement. I believe it to be true. The real differences are a matter of perception – how we as Pagans see the Divine compared to how members of the Abrahamic faiths see the Divine. Even within Paganism there is a vast difference in that perception. But stop and think, don’t all religions give guidelines on morality? Don’t they all address the afterlife (whether or not there is one in that faith)?

Being open and willing to talk with people about your religious and spiritual beliefs, about your sexual identity, or about both can go a long way to resolving issues that may come up when someone is suffering from that all too common intellectual affliction called ignorance. When time allows, even at work, I will try to dispel misconceptions that someone might have about my religious and spiritual beliefs or about my sexual identity. I’m rather open and frank about things in my life. The majority of my customers know that I am gay, many have learned that I am Pagan. All o my coworkers know and are cool with it all. I can also go years working with someone and them not knowing that I am gay. If it never comes up in conversation, it never comes up.

Ultimately, how you choose to work within one or the other or both communities is up to you. It is my experience that being able to work openly within both makes for a happier and healthier life. I’d imagine that most of the readers of this site are Pagan of some sort or another. Think back to an experience you’ve had an event where someone who was gay came into the gathering and was uncomfortable because they seemed to be the “only one”. Maybe you were that person. What did you do to help make them comfortable? What was done to help make you comfortable? What do you wish had been done?

You may have noticed that throughout this article I’ve used several acronyms for the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community. I did so because there are far more “flavors” to non-heteronormative sexualities and identities than lesbian, gay, bi, and trans.

WHY DO WE CHOOSE TO ACT IN THE WAYS WE DO?

9 Sep

There are countless ways for us to reach out and share our messages. For those among us who choose to stay out of the spot light, this can be accomplished through making phone calls, sending emails, signing petitions and making donations. Each of these approaches allows for participation from the comfort of home, if not anonymously, then certainly without publicity. Even more public events such as rallies, marches and town hall meetings grant the opportunity to participate and make our voices heard without having to move into the spotlight. While it may be impossible to avoid media cameras, requests for interviews can be denied, we can move our physical location to the sidelines of an event and we can let our signs or a spokesperson represent our thoughts.

There are other, more “center stage” ways of being involved and I have been wondering lately what it is about those actions that call to me. After all, I was the performance dancer who sickened moments before going on stage! It can be a big step from attending an event to actually planning one, from listening to a speaker to being the speaker before an assembled crowd, from participating in chants to taking the bull horn and leading a group to a crescendo of voices. Recently, as I was returning from an event where I took part in two unanticipated on-camera interviews, I thought about three possible motivators for my participating in these ways. They are the “thank you” factor, the need to practice and hone my skills and setting an example that I hope others will use in developing the courage to take leadership roles.

The “thank you” factor comes when someone says, “Thank you for __________ (fill in the blank). That simple statement is an affirmation that what I am doing is of value to someone other than myself, that my goals are shared by others and I am not alone. Two small words can provide huge motivation to continue.

The second motivator is the need to practice those things that I believe must be done but that certainly do not fall within my comfort zone. Fear, self-doubt, uncertainty about my own abilities are all capable of stopping me before I get started if I allow that to happen. Had I allowed my dancer self to avoid taking the stage I would have missed out on some of the most joyous experiences I’ve had. The best way to get past a fear of public speaking is to speak out more often. The best way to overcome a belief that someone else will put together a better rally is to plan rally after rally and learn what the strengths and weaknesses of each event were – time after time – and keep getting better at it.

The third reason for “getting out there” is the one most important to me in the hope that it will inspire others to do the same. How many times have I witnessed leaders in action and thought that they must have some innate comfort zone that allows them to do something I can’t? How often have I assumed they all must have some magical talent that costs them nothing to do what they do? The answer is “too many!” At an event that my Activate CT cohorts and I put together this past May in Mystic Ct, I agreed to an interview with both an independent reporter and a reporter from an area newspaper. During one of those interviews I heard myself say that had anyone had told me four years ago I’d be planning rallies, speaking at town hall meetings, participating in radio and television interviews or meeting with elected officials personally to make my views heard, I would have called the whole idea folly but now I believe that if I can do it ANYONE can do it. For those of us who have reservations about our abilities it might take a few more “thank you” comments and a bit more practice and tense filled hours before we go into action but it can be done.

There are so many justice, environmental and economic issues that need attention. If we rely on a small number of people to take on spokesperson and other leadership roles to address them there will never be enough people to do the work that needs to be done. I believe it is up to all of us in the activist community to inspire, teach and support everyone in the community and help each other push aside our own perceived limitations that stand in the way of our becoming more effective and visible. We can do this by not only encouraging participation but offering to stand by each other (literally!) when we take on roles that are intimidating.

So, when I post my activities and accomplishments on facebook or share them with people in other ways, I am not doing so in order to say, “Look at what I did. I am special. I, I, I, I………” but rather to say, “Look at what I did. I am not special.  You can do it, too!” The next step is to begin asking, “How can I help you get there?”
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The Nail Polish Debate and How Good Ideas Can Be Taken to a Bad Place

4 Sep

alcoholic drink

 

 

There has been a great deal of controversy about a new product being developed by four students in North Carolina; a nail polish which can be worn and used to detect date rape drugs in a drink.

The concept is simple. You can put on this nail varnish and if by chance you are concerned about the safety of your drink, you can just stir it with your finger and if the color changes, you drink has tested positive for date rape drugs.
Now when I first heard about this I was impressed. While drug assisted rape is not the most common form of rape it still happens and even a small percentage of an epidemic problem is significant. I was glad to see that there were people who were doing what they could think to do to address the issue.

Then I began to see article upon article slamming the product stating a number of different concerns. Some are more reasonable than others. Many women feel that the drug-detecting nail polish is a fantastic idea while others believe it actually furthers rape culture concepts. Here are some of the discussion points that I’ve seen.

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Greening your magics: Bones of the earth

1 Sep

A few days ago, I bought myself some new jewelry. I’d been feeling pulled to find some pink tourmaline and rutilated quartz, and succeeded. And I also succeeded, knowing full well what this post would be about.

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I’ve loved semi-precious gemstones since I was a kid. And for a long time I have been well aware that they do not make it to the market through altruistic means. The process of mining gems, precious or semi-, most often involved damage to the earth (like other forms of mining), the use of toxic chemicals, and exploitation of workers in the most disadvantaged parts of the world.

That said, I’m not here to shove some sort of guilt or privilege on you, readers, for even thinking about buying gems, whether for spiritual purposes or because you like the piece. My hope is that you will put some thought into your purchases, and maybe consider other options.

But what if there is a stone which would be perfect for your upcoming magical workings, and you don’t already own it? That’s what I had above. Incidentally, it turned out my intuition for being pulled to both stones had merit. Pink tourmaline is said to support the adrenal glands, and rutilated quartz can give energy to people dealing with chronic health problems. Both are still problems for me, and I am still working on healing. It may be psychosomatic, but I am already feeling a change in my state of health, and for the better.

In addition to educating myself about mining practices, I’ve decided to take a few courses of action with gem buying now.

1. Buy with intent
In the past, yes I have bought gems because I thought they were pretty, shiny, and just because I could. Which means that now I do have a nice little collection and can cover a lot of bases with spiritual needs. If I feel pulled to having something new, I will look around and find the right piece. Not just buy a few and hope one of them works out.

2. Buy vintage
Or even secondhand. I’ve bought some lovely stones in the last few years from friends selling off some of their collection. Should you be worried about unwanted energies hanging around the stones, you can clean them with water (where applicable) or put them in sunlight. But not all stones can handle such cleaning. My favorite way to clean gems now is to set them on a piece of selenite. The gem is also said to be self-cleaning which means I do not have to worry about cleaning IT in addition.

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3. Look outside your door

Several years ago, I left my house one day and discovered a regular round rock sitting on the ledge of one of the flower beds. Now, the land around my house isn’t all that rocky, and my neighbors aren’t the sort just to leave stones near the door. I’ve kept that rock, even though I don’t know just what its purpose is yet. But gem and rock work is not limited just to shiny polished stones fit for jewelry. A rock from your property can be used for protection work, healing (by drawing out illness), or any Earth-related magic.

A few years ago a friend of mine told me about going to a gem show, hoping to find amethyst and pyrite. There was little to be found that day. According to one of the vendors, a high demand from the New Age market (and yes I am kinda throwing us pagans and polytheists into that group) meant a limited amount of material available. I would hate to think that our demands would also mean these gorgeous materials would no longer be available.

Resources

Bendell, Jem, et. al. “Mindful mining.” in The Journal of Corporate Citizenship. 12/2009, issue 36.

Duffy, Rosaleen. “Gemstone mining in Madagascar: transnational networks, criminalisation and global integration.” in Journal of Modern African Studies. 45:2. 2007.

The Frosts and Consent Culture

25 Aug

Carved Heart– By Shauna Aura Knight

This post is inspired by Gavin and Yvonne Frost but isn’t actually about them. It’s about how Pagans continue to support Pagan leaders and teachers who have written or done highly unethical things. (And by unethical I don’t mean gray area, I’m talking about issues of rape, abuse, and consent.) It’s about how Pagans continue to sweep abuse under the carpet.

What does support look like? Support is hiring people to teach at your event or in your area. Support is hosting teachers in your home or at your venue. Support is attending their workshop or buying their book. Support is keeping silent.

Why is it important to talk about these issues? Largely because there are so many abusive patterns in the Pagan community What I hear over and over is that Pagans want this to stop. To stop it, we have to address it.

And then we have to actually make changes and stop making excuses. 

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Orthodox Pagan Food

11 Aug

I’m an avid reader. Books, blogs, and HuffPost articles feed my unquenchable hunger for more information. The genres I read lend toward nonfiction: science, memoirs, and of course, Pagan books. Religion is something I have deep interest in and not just my religion. I love to read books by and about Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and any other religion. My favorite stories are religious memoirs, books written by people who came from some sort of orthodox life who “escaped” and are now making their way in the world. Some of my favorites include Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots, The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf, and The Namesake.

Whenever I read books on this subject an envy deep in my soul grows a little bigger. The envy is for the the connection many of the community members have: living in tight knit communities, sharing space and lives and sometimes bloodlines, of actually *knowing* your neighbors, of being able to trust those around you to have your best interest at heart.

Of course, the authors don’t paint the rosy picture my mind wants to see. Instead, they talk of oppressive patriarchal hierarchies so tightly knit together they can be almost impossible to rip back. They speak of deep loneliness, of feeling “other” all the time, not being able to trust their families and peers for fear of being shamed for wanting something other than maintaining whatever the cultural and religious norm there are.

Our religion does not fit into the above description. We Pagans tend to flee when we see the words “rules” “restrictions” “regulation” “responsibility” because many of us came from religions which had far too many of these “r” words. We bristle at the very thought of anyone having power to tell us what to do and what not to do. I’m one who bristles at the very thought of someone telling me anything. But I see there is a need for some rules. Paganism is not a free-for-all religion. We have responsibilities to ourselves, our kin, and Mother Earth.

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You Might Be a Predator If… A Simple Guide in Case You Didn’t Know

7 Aug

By Lauren Ouellette-Bruchez

In light of recent issues, the Pagan community has finally begun discussing how predators have negatively affected us. So many people from numerous traditions have shared their own terrifying experiences in countless stories. As I’ve searched the internet and read articles and looked at comments pertaining to said articles I’m finding more and more people who don’t understand what defines a predator and even worse, those who believe that predatory behavior is in fact defensible. Today I am going to highlight a few items to more clearly outline what constitutes unacceptable behavior as I believe that members of our community deserve to be safe. Please note that in addressing these issues I am not referring to those who participate in BDSM relationships with terms and safety conditions decided upon by all involved parties of appropriate age.

You might be a predator if…

1) You think it’s alright to harass and oggle the people around you.
          The world is full of attractive people. It’s hard not to notice when someone carries themselves in a way you find alluring or has a look about them that you appreciate. I think we’ve all found ourselves checking someone out a time or two. It is one thing to gaze in admiration. It is entirely different to undress someone with your eyes, follow them around, make comments at them or yell at them as they pass. You are not entitled to the attention of those you find attractive.

2) You don’t comprehend that “no” takes different forms.
          Many people, women in particular are frequently subject to aggressive attention from others, particularly men. Some of us are practiced at saying “No, leave me alone” while others have developed different defense mechanisms. In certain cases a woman will not verbalize her “no” but will show it in body language. If she does not respond, does not make eye contact, does not stop to greet you or is obviously trying to leave, that means no. If in your world that doesn’t mean no, if you feel that means “try harder”, you are exhibiting predatory behavior and you need to stop. This person is obviously not interested. If you can’t take a hint, you’re being a creeper. Even worse, if you find yourself excited by their discomfort you are definitely a predator.

3) You feel that certain styles of dress or behaviors are an invitation.
          I’ve gone to any number of Pagan events, most of which take place during warm weather, on beautiful days. There are drum circles and bellydancing and hoop dancing and all manner of joyous activities that many of us feel are celebratory and life-affirming. Many attendees wear less clothing or even none at all. Hey, it’s hot out. They’re really comfortable with their bodies. They enjoy the freedom of it. They are dancing in ways that people may find enticing or they share their art in a way that speaks to you. Many of us express sexual energy in our practice through dance and art. That having been said, you may not assume that you are entitled to partake of that sexuality. Nudity is not an invitation. Just because someone is not wearing clothes does not mean you get to stare as long as you want, follow them around or have sex with them. They didn’t attend for your enjoyment and they don’t owe you anything.

4) You use the unseen as a means to get people in to your bed.
          I don’t know how each and every person practices. I’m not familiar with all methods of teaching. I am aware that some methods of study do include sexual elements. That’s fine as long as all parties involved are of age, totally aware of the decision they are making, are not coerced and that safety is considered. Coercion, I repeat, is not okay.
          For example, a person goes to another for spiritual instruction and is informed that if they want to “get to the next level” they have to sleep with their teacher, or that the “Gods” have decided that the student must sleep with the teacher to open them to new experiences in “enlightenment” or some other such nonsense. If you impose such a thing on a student, you’re a predator. If you don’t have clearly defined agreements and try to push sex on someone, you’re a predator. Should you include sex as an element of your teachings and practice you are responsible for making certain that every person who comes to you for instruction knows the specifics right away and is capable of making an informed decision about their own path. If you would deny someone this, guess what? You’re a predator!

5) You threaten spiritual retribution if someone refuses your advances.
          It sure does suck when someone you have a thing for doesn’t reciprocate. Everyone has been there. It hurts. It can be humiliating. But it’s also a part of life. Most of us are pretty well in touch with reality and know that it’s better for someone to be honest regardless of how we feel about it. If you’re the person that gets turned down and decides to threaten someone with a hex or a curse, you have found yourself in predator territory.
          You’re not that powerful. Sorry to break it to you but your magick-fu is not mighty enough to destroy someone for not liking the cut of your jib. It’s also equally wrong to threaten the significant other of the person who turned you down.

6) You threaten character assassination.
          This is a frequent tactic practiced by members of the Pagan community. I have seen this myself and frankly it is far more damaging than threats of hexes. People look to their community for support and encouragement. Threatening to destroy someone’s reputation because they aren’t interested in you or have broken up with you is sick, twisted and abusive. It is one thing to commiserate about a bad break-up with friends. It is a different story when you go out of your way to exaggerate or lie about someone because things didn’t turn out the way you planned. Of course it is imperative that you be honest if someone has harmed you or someone else. That’s what this entry is all about! But the act of cutting someone off from their support system because you’re hurt over rejection is predatory.

7) You would eliminate someone else’s right to say “no”.
          The Pagan community tends to have some very liberal views in regard to sex and nudity. I know of events where nudity is allowed, where people practice sex magick, where swinging is common and any number of other practices. As long as these practices are safe, sane and consensual amongst adults, I take no issue. However if you would pressure someone to give up their right to say no, that is inexcusably predatory.
          There are covens who choose to practice skyclad. In all instances there must be full disclosure that such a thing is required prior to anyone showing up for ritual. If a teacher ever runs a ritual or event and springs required nudity or sexual participation on someone last minute or utilizes peer pressure to convince someone to participate, that is coercion and said teacher should be considered a predator as well as anyone else who backs his or her play.

8) You have no respect for boundaries.
          Boundaries are key to maintaining a safe environment for everyone. Each person is going to have different boundaries. Some people don’t like being touched. Some are not comfortable being nude in front of others. Other people don’t like speaking in public. These are examples of some personal limits people may set for themselves. They must be respected.
There are other considerations such as ethics. Ethical boundaries include things like not participating in sexual acts with someone who is too drunk to consent, or not engaging in sexual contact with children. These are boundaries that don’t have room for negotiation. You don’t do these things. They are not okay. If you would cross these boundaries you are without question a predator. If you would advocate for anyone who would, you are part of the problem.

Sadly it’s going to continue to happen until people stop yielding their will and free thought to self-appointed authorities and experts. It’s going to continue until victims speak out. It will still happen until every Pagan educates themselves about what is acceptable practice and what is not. It is up to us to create the community we want.

Don’t accept abuse. Do not stand idly by and watch as others are abused. Don’t allow people to destroy the message of the spirituality that you love by using it as a means to further their own goals and to support their disregard for others. Let predators know that their behavior will not be tolerated.

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