Tag Archives: paganism

Sacred Vision

sacred-purpose-600x400I’ve been writing for Pagan Activist for almost two years, and in that time I’ve barely mentioned Paganism, other than to say that my awe at the cycles of life and death has informed the way I look at Gaia, Demeter, Persephone, and Artemis.

That’s because I’ve always been suspicious of religious ethics. An obvious reason is that it’s impossible to prove which, if any, gods are the right ones, so how can we be sure which religious ethics to follow? But Socrates explained the deeper reason better than I can.
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Harrassment, Bigotry, Safety Policies, and Changing Culture

4333805_xxl2It’s a sad truth that harassment and discrimination occurs within the Pagan community. However, I want to call some positive attention to several Pagan events that have adopted safety and anti-harassment policies at their events. While a lot of Pagans tell me, “Duh, of course we’d kick someone out for racist comments/sexual misconduct/gay bashing,” the truth is, this is not always the case. And further, some issues–such as discrimination against transgender people–have only recently become something that more Pagans are even aware of, much less working to address.

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Rioting, Oppression, and Compassion

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Image credit: T. Thorn Coyle

What would you do if a Pagan was being murdered by the police once a month? What about once a week? What about more frequently than that? What if a bunch of Pagans in some cities started protesting, but nobody else cared? What if a riot broke out? Would you stand there blaming those Pagans for being too violent?

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Racism and Activism at Pantheacon 2015

FB_IMG_1424196654259–by Shauna Aura Knight

Yesterday Pantheacon ended. Pantheacon is the largest Pagan conference and has almost 3,000 attendees and takes place in San Jose every year. I’m posting this a day late because I’ve been at the conference and wanted to write about activism within the Pagan community and specifically on activism-related issues that come up at Pantheacon.

Several years ago, Pantheacon was rocked by the exclusion of transgender women from one of the women’s rituals, and that controversy rippled out (and is still rippling) across the broader Pagan community.

This weekend I was proud to be part of a panel discussing racism within the community. Unfortunately, that panel began on a sour note as I learned that there had been something hurtful and racist written in one of the various newsletters distributed at Pantheacon.

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I’m a Racist

iStock_000001291278XSmall–Shauna Aura Knight

Hi, I’m Shauna, and I’m a racist. No, not one of the ones clearly defined by the pointy hats and white robes. And not one of the racists clearly identified by hateful invective.

In fact, I’m in some ways the more dangerous kind of racist; or at least, I was. Once upon a time, I was the kind of racist who didn’t realize how¬†bigoted I was. I still struggle with my own blind spots and how much this impacts my thoughts and actions on a daily basis.

How did I come to be this way? This kind of racism is systemic. It’s ambient. If you’re raised in it, you can’t see it any more than you can see the air you breathe. But just because you can’t see the air doesn’t mean you aren’t breathing it in.

I used to believe I lived in a post-racial society, that I was “color blind.” And then…I used to believe that Pagans couldn’t be racist. Yet within the broader Pagan communities, we do unfortunately have problems with racism just like the dominant culture does.

But what do we do about it? Because #BlackLivesMatter .

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Orthodox Pagan Food

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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Media, Mind Control, Myth, and Magic

4880615–By Shauna Aura Knight

Your mind is being controlled. Really. It’s happening all the time, and at a subtle, insidious level.

You are being programmed.Every time you read a billboard, watch a commercial, even a TV show. You are being brainwashed. Ideas are being thrown at you. You’re being told a story, you’re being told what to buy, what to believe, what to value, what you should be doing with your life.

You’re being told who you should be. And the problem is, it works.

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Stop stealing from your fellow pagans!

One of the recent dust-ups which have come up the greater pagan community the last few weeks has been the issue of copyright. In this round the trouble has included people posting content which is not their own as if it were as well as Facebook groups with unauthorized pdf copies of books freely available for download. In case any of you may not be sure, these acts are not only unethical but illegal.

There are already plenty of posts online explaining the basics of copyright. My friend Jennett (a fellow librarian) has a post about copyright and pagans here and Fire Lyte has an excellent post here. Go read both of them after you finish here.

In my professional life, both copyright and ethics are interests. I’m a supporter of Creative Commons and other alternatives to current copyright because I think the laws have become draconian thanks to corporate influence. But it is still the law. For ethics, yes I do believe that information should be easily available, even freely available. And I also believe strongly that the people who CREATE the information, whether it be spell, book, poem, hymn, artwork, music, deserve fair compensation and credit for their work.

The purpose of copyright was originally meant to benefit the creator. To give them a period of time in which they had exclusive control of when/where/how the material was utilized. Yes this includes the choice to work with a publisher or agent to help disseminate their work. And after a certain period of time (current law: with written works copright extends to the life of the creator plus 70 years*) the work would fall into public domain and become freely accessible.

The other point is to give creators reason to continue creating. Contrary to some possible opinions, writing a book is not a spell which makes a boatload of money open up and shower upon them. Creation is work and they deserve compensation. Not some overly entitled, short-sighted people scanning in their works and just throwing it around like so much used tissue. I know a lot of authors who are Pagan, polytheist, or neither. They WORK. They write every day in order to be able to pay their bills, keep a roof and some food around, and perhaps maybe eke out more than a poverty level existence. You may not agree with what they make but you can make sure to give them the respect to earn a living.

Also, do you really think it’s wise to put up works illegally by people who have written material about how to properly curse and hex?

If you can’t afford books, fine. Go to the library. Borrow from your friends. Use a free ebook app and get legal material to read? (Hint: not only are there a lot of free books available regularly for the Kindle, but there are also those great public domain titles as well as academic institutions who have material freely available. Don’t believe me? Go look up the Oriental Institute and their publications.) And I will note this, if you can afford a smartphone and the monthly plan, I am sure you can find some room in your budget for a $15 text.

In short, stop stealing. Give credit where it is due. Ask permission. You are reading this on the internet right now. Most every author has some sort of Web presence. They might have material available or know where to get it below cost if it is really a matter of finances for you. Or search online for used copies. Which is, incidentally, acceptable under copyright. And if you messed up and did something stupid, admit to it. If you are hosting a web site or Facebook group filled with illegal pdfs, DELETE THEM. And don’t go whining when you get called out, or ban people right and left for pointing out the fact that you are breaking the law. Support your community.

We’re still a minority. We still have to fight for rights because of our religious and spiritual practices. Breaking the law does not do a thing to help us.

Now go back up to the top and read Jennet’s and Fire Lyte’s posts about copyright.

    Further copyright resources

The plagiarism explosion on the internet: how to protect your work
Free plagiarism content scanning tools
A tutorial for citing resources which is something you should recall from schooling
Copyright basics (the foundational resource librarians use when they have questions

*See what I mean about draconian?

Bibliography
Hoffman, Gregory McCord. The ethics of copyright: an informal chat. Texas Library Journal, Fall 2004. Accessed September 6 2013, from JSTOR.