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9/11 One Witch Won’t Forget!

September 11, 2010 Leave a comment

I’m not really that excited about America. That is, I’m not particularly patriotic. I think most demonstrations of patriotism are closer to fascism. I’m the kind of person who quit saying the pledge of allegiance everyday because it has “Under God” in it…you know who else did stuff like that? The Romans. And Nazi Germany. But there’s something about 9/11 that makes me feel grateful and happy to be in America and to be an American.

My experience of September 11, 2001 was quite different from many peoples. I was 18, and had graduated high school in June. For the previous three years, I’d been saving money for a trip to the United Kingdom, and through a very odd series of coincidences, I was saved from a mess of trouble. My trip was to be 15 days, and I was scheduled to fly from Seattle to New York, and then on to London. A week or two before the trip, I had the travel agent (we had those back then) change it to a direct flight from Seattle to London. When I arrived at the airport with my parents in tow, the plane was grounded due to mechanical failures, and my travel agent pushed the entire venture back one day.

As a result, I was not on an airplane on Sept 11th flying to New York. I was still in Ireland, with a ticket home while everyone else was freaking out. Absolutely, the Gods were looking out for me then.

Because I was on vacation, the company I was touring with didn’t want to ruin our experience by telling us of the horrors at home. I had been in a bus most of the day, stopping and shopping at little towns. I should explain that, over there, by simply opening your mouth and speaking, people know exactly where you are from. So every time I asked a shop keeper where the restroom was, or the time, or where the bus would come from, they would apologize and treat me extremely politely, but with a grave solemnity. It was only at the third or fourth person that I stopped to ask what was going on. They showed me to the TV, and I could see these buildings and it looked like they were on fire. Everyone was speculating–an accident? an explosion? No one thought terrorism. I watched the second plane hit the towers. People in the shop gasped. Someone from my tour group was crying. All the Aussies and Kiwi’s kept asking me how I was going to get home. That was my thought too.

As a result, I barely knew what happened. By the time I returned home, everyone was burned out and grief-stricken from talking about the details. It was all about what to do. There was a cry against terrorism, and I watched my country unite against hatred and desperate to do something and not knowing what they could do.

Over the next couple of years, it was only with the specials on TV coming out that gave me the details. I think because it was so abstract for me when it actually happened, that I didn’t really deal with the emotions of it. It’s been almost a decade, and I still can’t stand to see the footage of the towers falling. 9/11 is more real for me than Veterans day or even Independence day. The emotion is really present for me. I feel for those families that lost someone, I grieve for the people who felt like this was their only option. My heart aches for soldiers and their families who are fighting to keep us safe–my heart even goes out to those families whose soldiers are fighting for our stupid excuses. I hate war, but Athena has taught me that it is sometimes necessary, if done with thought and care. This was wasn’t, or we’d be done by now and Osama Bin Laden would be charged for crimes against humanity.

9/11 is still real for many people, but there is a difference between being angry and scared at being attacked and in taking it out on people. Muslims did not do 9/11 to us FUNDAMENTALIST CRAZY PEOPLE did! That is something I’ll never forget. Muslims died in 9/11 because our country honors the fundamental right that people have a right to their religion. America welcomed them with open arms as immigrants and the children of immigrants. Just like they did with my ancestors coming from Germany, Ireland and England. The only difference is about 150 years, but we are all still here together as Americans, and every one of us was attacked that day.

So when I hear about FUNDAMENTALIST CRAZY PEOPLE burning Qur’ans, it, no offense, gets my panties in a wad. I’m pissed about it! How absolutely un-American (but I’ll support your right to do it, so how American is that??). When I hear about FUNDAMENTALIST CRAZY PEOPLE booing and hissing at a fellow who wants to build a Muslim community center near Ground Zero, I’m embarrassed at the reaction of my people. Clearly they didn’t learn what I learned from 9/11. What happened to that Unity? What happened to people being open and accepting and tolerant of other religions? Why does our unification have to be at the expense of someone else? Why does the spread of Democracy have to be so…undemocratic. WTF?

Have you read the Qur’an? Did you know it has many of the same books as the Bible? It has a lot of beautiful poetry. I keep a translated copy next to my Book of Mormon, the Tao Te Ching, and a book about Hinduism. Because being American is about letting every voice have a say, and every person have an equal opportunity for happiness, and it is up to me to learn what these voices are saying and where they are coming from. I protect their right to speak because I know if we can silence one group, we can silence another. Pagans are all about polytheistic plurality. We see diversity as a good thing because diversity in nature makes a healthy ecosystem for everybody. My magic is to stand up and speak. Yes. It is that important.

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Pagan Jokes I

August 23, 2010 3 comments

Some of them are even funny! I snagged and edited them off of here.

From:  NanSanders

How many Garnerians does it take to change a lightbulb?
Can’t say. It’s oathbound.
How many Alexandrians does it take to change a lightbulb?
Same number as Gardnerians.
How many Dianics does it take to change a lightbulb?
That’s not funny!!!!


From: Outpagan Q: What is a male honeybee's favorite magickal item? A: The caul-drone Q: What kind of furniture does a Goddess worshipper prefer? A: Wicker Q: Why did the Wiccan novitiate give up pork? A: She thought the Rede said, "Chew what you will, but ham?--none."
From: Sisterlynx How many Solitaries does it take to change a lightbulb? Who cares!
From: Outpagan A high priest tells his coven member, "Hey, I heard a new fundie joke today." The member replies, "Man, you're always slamming fundies. Why don't you tell us a Martian joke instead?" "OK, Two Martians are carrying their Bibles to church. The first Martian says, 'At the revival last week, I led 15 new souls to accept Jesus Christ as their personal saviour' and the other Martian says--" "Never mind," says the member.
From: EastLion That's almost as bad as the one I heard about the Dyslexic devil-worshipper. He sold his soul to Santa.
From: Sekhmet59 (Mild slam, but I liked the joke...) What's the difference between New Age and Pagan? About $500.00 a weekend.
From: ASBrowne01 I'm sure you are all familiar with the dyslexic, agnostic insomniac who stays awake all night wondering if there is a Dog....
From: Great Seer The definition of "SAINT": "A dead liberal who is worshipped by living conservatives." (Just something I overheard at a Unitarian service this morning...)
From: SpotedWolf Hey, us dyslexics have a sense of humor, too. The bumper sticker 'Dyslexics of the world Untie" --it works
From: ROOCAT I recently saw a bumper sticker that said D. A. M. -- Mothers Against Dyslexia
From: Beasty101 How many Dianacs does it take to change a light bulb? Only one, but that bulb has really got to want to change.
From: Mitheldhae When God Created Men She must have been Drunk and Horny!
From: WITRHAWK How many Witches does it take to change a light bulb??? None.. they call the electrician who's also pagan and keeps the money in THEIR community.
From: Ciorstag How many witches does it take to change a lightbulb??? None -- if a candle was good enough for Gramma it's good enough for me!
From: Rhiahnnon2 I know we are all sick of the "Confuscious say" jokes, but I have to rehash them for this message board =D "Confuscious say man who sits alone in church, sits in his own pew" ***Groan!***** "Confuscious say man who stands on toilet is high on pot" ******Double Groan!!!******
From: Thorolf A personal favorite: How many Asatruar does it take to change a lightbulb? None. The light from the burning monastery is sufficient, thank you. And the old Nordic classic: Why don't Norse pagans perform the Great Rite? Because it's impossible to get a saxknife into a beer bottle.
From: LadyCharis Q: What is a witch's favorite snack? A: PAN pizza
From: Outpagan Q: What's a witch's favorite subject in school? A: SPELLing.
From: Rhiahnnon2 I've got two bumper stickers (I can't use them or the hubby will get hell on base) one says "Life's a witch and then you fly" the other says "Beam me back Merlin" They're not knee thumpers, but I think they're cute :)
From: Outpagan WHY M&M'S ARE WICCAN: * MM = Merry Meet * Round shape for wheel of the year, cycle of seasons * Skins are different colors, but the inside is the same chocolate, because we are all related. * Associations with the colors: Red = South Green = West Dark Brown = North Yellow = East Orange = For the Solar God Light Brown = For the Earth Mother (Copper Woman) * Rotate the M & M: M = 13th letter of alphabet, and there are 13 witches in a coven 3 = Triple Goddess, three phases of moon W = Witchcraft, Wiccan E = Enlightenment, Enchantment of chocolate * "Melt in your mouth, not in your hand"--God/dess's love must be experienced directly to appreciate. Also, God/dess will take care of you. * Sweetness to remind us of how sweet the love of the God and Goddess is!
From: Aarmanda Those are great bumper stickers. I got one from a friend today that has a picture of Barbie dressed all femnist and it says "Barbie gets a Brain"
From: Nosferati Try this one, I ran across it once: ***ERROR #666 HARD DRIVE POSESSED! Load EXOR.SYS (Y/N)*** (actually I stole it from YeloRoz) When that happens, and EXOR.SYS doesn't work, do you 'ascii' a priest? And with spirits, you can get slimed. With a posessed HD, do you get 'gui'ed??
From: ArachneG Here's one you can just about get shot for where I live (Georgia) but I like it anyway: If you can't change your mind, are you sure you still have one?
From: Ausrine Sign in a Wiccan bookstore: "No Shoplifting! Offenders will be Possessed! Second-time Offenders will be Re-Possessed!"
From: VacmClnrMn What is one thing you never have to worry about? Your airplane being hijacked by a group of radical Unitarians. Also, I heard something before about a modern Wicca who used a vacuum cleaner instead of a broom and a 24 caliber instead of a knife (hey, it's still phallic!)
From: EastLion At a store I used to go to there was a parchment affixed to the wall with a daggar that read "Shoplifters will be merrily hacked to pieces!", needless to say, I don't think they had much of a problem.
From: J FoxDavis How do you scare a UU (Unitarian Universalist) our of your neighborhood? Answer: Burn a Question Mark on their lawn.....
From: LdyHawke Long ago when I belonged to an Artists' Cooperative...we had many fragile hand crafted items sitting around on shelves. Since we were located in a local shopping mall we had much foot traffic by parents who saw no need to look after their children much to our dismay. Finally a sign we posted at the door seemed to get our message accross... WARNING! Unattended children may be eaten by starving artists!
From: Mariah Q Q: How many Druids does it take to screw in a light bulb? A: They don't screw in light bulbs, they screw in stone circles. Q: How many Druids does it take to change a light bulb? A: Thirteen; one to hold the bulb, and twelve to drink enough to make the room spin. Q: How many ceremonial magicians does it take to change a light bulb? A: One; he stands still with the bulb, and the universe revolves around him.
From: Axe of Men This is one of the BEST ideas to come out the Pagan Community since including Duct Tape as the sixth element. The following jokes were told to me by a Thelemite, and thus I am completely exonerated from the retelling. How many Thelemites does it take to change a light bulb? None. Crowley never wrote a book about it. What do Thelemites do for foreplay? The LBRP. And... How many Witches does it take to change a light bulb? Depends on what you want to change it into.
From: LdyHawke BumperStickers found on the Information SuperHighway.......
  • Atheism is a non-prophet organization.
  • If ignorance is bliss, why aren’t more people happy?
  • Moral indignation is jealousy with a halo.
  • Heck is a place for people who don’t believe in Gosh.
  • I had my car’s alignment checked. It’s chaotic evil!
  • A squirrel is just a rat with good P.R.

From: Rhiahnnon2 Speaking of Bumper stickers, i just saw these today in my new issue of Abyss. The hubby and I died laughing :D
  • ” I believe in dragons, good men, and other fantasy creatures “
  • “I do whatever my rice crispies tell me to”
  • “Jesus is coming. Look Busy!”
  • “My family is more dysfunctional than your family”
  • “Re-elect Clinton-Gore and their husbands”
  • “God Please save me from your followers”
  • “I have the body of a god: Buddha”
  • “Jesus saves! By using double coupons & shopping wisely”

From: RebeccaMac Lest we forget the sign that was on the wall at the Abyss in Easthampton, Mass., "Unattended children will be sold as slaves."
From: BethMichel as one who can't remember any jokes... here goes - A skeptic goes in to see a fortune teller. "You are the father of 2 children," the fortune teller says. "That's what you think! I'm the father of 3 children!," says the man. "That's what you think," says the fortune teller.
From: Silver Elg I heard these on a BBS here in Phoenix, thought I'd share them...
  • WASP…We Are Sexy Pagans
  • Please hold… All Muse are busy right now, but your insperation is importent to us….
  • Starclad dancing to the drums, Something Wiccan this way comes..
  • The goddess is alive and She ate my homework…

From: JaneRHCB Having been brought up Catholic, I saw a postcard once that I thought was the funniest thing I ever saw. A nun was angrily standing over a sheepish little boy who was writing on the chalk board "a hundred times" as instructed by the nun: "I am peronally responsible for the agony of Jesus Christ." I showed it to my brother who happens to be a Catholic priest and he didn't laugh, and told me to 'be careful..." I'm so glad to see this folder, and that we can indeed laugh at ourselves. So...how long does it take to get over the GUILT for being personally responsible for the agony...oh, never mind.
From: Rowan354 How may light bulbs does it take to change a Gardnerian? None, they can do it all by themselves, thank you very much!!
From: Rowan354
  • witches do it in the moonlight
  • practice safe hex
  • misspellers of the world, unit!!
  • we’re gardnerians…off with your clothes
  • i’m doin my part to piss of the religious right…..r u??

From: Outpagan I am so pleased to see how this folder is growing...makes me laugh every time I check the messages. Has anyone heard the filk version of "Gimme That Old Time Religion"? I first heard it at a political march, but only remember three verses. From the East there is Buddha, He really is much cutah, Comes in brass and glass and pewtah, And that's good enough for me. CHORUS: Gimme that old time religion (x3) It's good enough for me. Have you seen Aphrodite, In her sexy, filmy nighty, Sometimes she can be flighty, But that's good enough for me. Chorus... Then there is the Horned One, Of all the Gods, he's most fun, He likes to hunt in woods and run, And that's good enough for me. Chorus...
From: Outpagan While I'm at it, here's another light-hearted chant for circle use: Hooray for ( or "we love") the Sun God, He is a fun God, Rah, Rah, Rah. Most appropriate for the coming summer months. I'd love to hear a Goddess version.
From: Sekhmet59 Ooh, an old favorite. A few verses of this appeared in Larry Niven's _Dream Park_. Let's see if I can recall them... It was good enough for Isis She will help us in a crisis And she's never raised her prices, So she's good enough for me! (Chorus) It was good enough for Kali Though embracing her is folly She'd be quite an armful...golly! And she's good enough for me! (Chorus) It was good enough for Odin Though those omens were forbodin' 'Til at last the giants rode in, And it's good enough for me! (Chorus, of course...)
From: MIDSUMMER Ankh if you love Isis!!
From: Domesday ::::::::bumper sticker seen in Virginia suburbs near D.C.:::::: Domineering, coldhearted, vicious bitch seeks submissive, warmhearted, caring man for INTENSE love/hate relationship!
From: TempleLuna This is an old bumper sticker: "Sorry, my karma just ran over your dogma."
From: MIDSUMMER this one is a little late. Did you hear, Easter is canceled this year........yeah, they found the body. If you are offended by this one, lighten up its only a joke ( they didn't really cancel easter)
From: Card Lady2 Oh I'm tired of ronald reagan He's too square to be a pagan Let's all vote for carl Sagan 'cause he's good enough for me From my hubby. Also he wants to know if anyone has the compleete version of "plastic jesus" "I don't care if it rains or freezes as long as I got my plastic jesus... Plastic jesus Plastic jesus Plastic jesus sittin' on the dashboard of my car pretty soon you'll have to go You're magnet's ruinin' my radio Plastic jesus sittin' on my car!"
From: J0dawi Possibly original with Wednesday / alt.magick / alt.magick.pagan / etc. Possibly misquoted: (Think B-52's, i think: "The Love Shack" song...) "The Love Law is a little place where We can Will together Love Law 93, ..." And... "Love in the Raw, Love on the Pill."
From: Silver Elg I thought I'd ad some one-liner's I've seen or heard. (mostly taglines..) --- What do ya' call 13 Witches in a hot tub? - Self-Cleaning Coven ----Get a taste for religion, Lick a Witch! ---Best thing about Pagan friends? They worship the ground you walk on...

Small Dilemma

July 13, 2010 1 comment

Dear Witchful Thinking,

Let me start off by saying I love your writtings everytime I read your articles I race around the house like a school kid .. to tell the wife “guess what she said about this”…lol!

With that I ask a personal question that is troubling me…My wife and I got married about a year ago and she has a son that is 7 years old. He has been living with her mother since she came here to find work and make a home for him but, we want to be a whole family again and don’t know how to go about introducing him back into the family without shocking the childs mind. We are pagan family and her mother is raising him christian and we are afraid of how he would react to the change of life style… her mother has fought bringing him down to us saying we are not stable enough a family for him, but we want to be whole. She has always had an excuse to keep him from us but we want to be part of his life. My wife crys a lot and misses him badly to the point she calls everyday.  How do I bring my family together again? And at the same time keep from scaring the child with culture shock.

Signed,

Loving Pagan Father

Dear Loving,

First of all, thank you for your comment about my writing. You are exactly who I am writing for!

Second, family. I really feel for your wife. It is hard to be away from your child, and the way it is being done, it sounds like a judgment against her, know what I mean? Somehow having her son at his grandmothers says “it’s because you aren’t a good enough mom”. I doubt very much that is what grandma means. The real question here has little to do with religion and has everything to do with what is best for the child.

My question is: who has custody? Who is legally responsible for the boy? It sounds like the arrangement was supposed to be temporary and has become permanent. If grandma has custody, you will have to go through the courts. The courts prefer that children be with their mothers, and are much more enlightened about Paganism than they were in the 1980’s. All you have to do is prove to the court that you are stable and will be good parents. This will be things like no illegal drug use, toys and space for the child, demonstrating affection and some knowledge of child development (that is, you aren’t asking your 3 year old complex questions and expecting an answer, etc.).

If mom has custody, then it should be easier. Grandma might be holding on because she doesn’t trust the situation–has she checked it out for herself? Give her the opportunity to see what a loving family you are, whatever your religion. If you haven’t already, set up a room for the son. Magically, this sets up the expectation that he will come to stay, and makes room for him in your family. Your other children will begin to see that there will soon be a new addition. Have them help put it together.

Create the magical idea of the whole family by including your son in things, even if he is not there. So if the the other children get a new coat, so does your wife’s son. He gets cake on his birthday, even if he isn’t there to celebrate with the family. He’s included in family prayers as part of the family. This sets the intent and gets your side of the family ready to include him. It will help your wife feel more whole.

Find out from Grandma what “stable” means. She might mean financially, but she might mean morally. On one you can change her mind on, but the other you are far less likely. If she does not have custody, remind her–this is not her choice. If she keeps the kid against your wife’s consent, I’m pretty sure that is kidnapping, no matter what state you are in. Go fetch the child yourself. Bring the whole family. Tell Grandma, in no uncertain terms, to pack him up (and then be prepared to pack his things when you get there). This puts less burden on Grandma to do all the work, and shows that you are more than serious about this, and ready to take responsibility. If you get there, and she refuses, call the non-emergency local police, and ask for an escort. The law is on your side, and if it escalates, they can help out. If nothing else, it sends a very strong message. But consider this your last resort. Having the police come is very embarrassing, and might cause trouble for both of you. Still, you need to know that you have that as an option.

I know you are worried about culture shock, but your son is so young, he hasn’t formed a concept of moral right or wrongness. He doesn’t really get religion. He understands structure, love and affection. In an ideal world, you would have Grandma start talking to him about going back to live with mom, and how exciting it will be. When you get your son, have a sit down talk (as much as a seven year old will sit!) and introduce him to everyone in the family. Talk about the rules of the house, such as if he has any chores, how he gets his allowance, what time bed time is, etc. Make special note of any rules that are different: “I know at your grandmas house, you got in trouble if you _____, but here we _____.” You can even approach religion: “I know at your grandmas house, you went to church on Sunday, but here we have a different kind of church, and we go when the moon is full.” Or whatever the case may be. Talk about what consequences will be for breaking the rules, and be firm about them. Give him the opportunity to ask questions about how things are, and don’t put him in timeout for breaking a rule he doesn’t know about. This is all good parenting, Pagan or otherwise.

In my work, I often see kids in split homes, and when they come to the visiting parents home, they throw temper tantrums, are fussy, or break rules they know on purpose. This is part of testing the environment and the parent. Your son might do that. If you are firm and clear, you will nip a lot of later problems in the bud. I’ve found that open and honest communication with children stops a lot of problems. They are more perceptive than we think. At any rate, give the son a lot of affection and attention when he gets there. Do things with him, ask what he wants to do or check out and do it together.

When it comes to Paganism, treat it as a normal thing that the family does— because it is. If you are raising your children Pagan, you can help him create an identity by getting him a pentacle, teaching him to meditate and talk to faeries, whatever your persuasion is. You might consider doing a ritual to welcome him into the family. There are some really great books about family Paganism and introducing children to Pagan ideas. If he asks about why things are different, just explain as best you can that your family is Pagan and different from Grandma’s family. Your attitude about it will go a long way in how the child frames the experience. If you are awkward about it and treat it with shame, so will your son. As always, give him the space to ask questions and address problems directly. Children are skilled negotiators!

Most importantly, I think, let Grandma be a part of his life, but in a normal Grandma way, and not as primary caregiver. You and your wife should set the limits on that, so have Granny come over for the afternoon or the weekend to do things with the whole family. The truth is that being a whole family also means making peace with other generations. Grandma did your wife a huge favor, and while this period is over, she deserves your families gratitude and respect (no matter if you had to call the police or not).

Whatever you do, if you do it in the spirit of Love, and the Best Interest of the Child, you will do right. No one will ever be a perfect parent, and there is usually never quite enough to make a household perfectly stable. But if you do your best, you’ll do right by your son and by the Gods.

Questions from Christians

A few questions I occasionally get from interested Christians. It is my hope that by posting these, it will give you some way of formulating your answers if you are asked similar questions. Having an answer ready makes you look well-educated, prepared, and trustworthy. It will add a lot of credibility to what you are saying, which helps out the cause of equal respect. If you have tough questions that people ask you, send ’em my way! Even if you don’t agree, it might give you a perspective to work with. Here goes!

Learning about the Wiccan culture and practice is interesting.  Do you find it difficult to transition from your past practices and beliefs hindering to your practice?  If not, how have you overcome this obstacle.  If so, what are you doing to correct this hindrance?

Great question!

I was raised secular, so adding on religious ideas wasn’t particularly difficult because the religious ideas didn’t change my mind–they confirmed what I’d already believed, and gave me an avenue of expression. Many of my friends are not as lucky. We have a joke in the community that someone is a “recovering” Catholic, for example, because they come into Wicca with a lot of shame and ideas about how the world works which differ from Wicca. Although they are sincere, it takes a lot of work to change those ideas–they go very deep. And sometimes the ideas can’t be shaken off (or they don’t want to, which is entirely their choice) and they end up with some kind of hybrid.

I always wondered if when you have situational ethics they are dependant upon the decision making of the individual. If so what about boundries not accepted by others and if not what does set the ethical standard?

The ethical standard is simple, “An it harm none, do what thou will.” We support a strong sense of individulism, which means not treading on someone elses rights. Actions are judged on how much harm is generated, or whether someone elses rights were taken away. But that means that some actions the mainstream considers inappropriate, would fall under our situational ethics as being OK. Somethings are OK to a certain point, like the use of drugs or alcohol in excess. The ethics reach far beyond person-to-person contact, so we would consider how actions affect the environment, our animal companions, and Karma, because what you send out comes back to you (different from how Indian cultures define Karma–we need a new word!). It is then expected that you will accept the consequences of your actions. Everything is a choice–it’s a lot of work!

Keep those questions coming!

Ritual Purification and Nudity

Dear Witchful Thinking,

It is very fascinating to hear about some of the teachings of your church.  I was interested in your references to nudity during rituals — Victorian thinking on this is quite a contrast, but in other cultures, nudity is often associated with rites of purification — even old testament teachings suggest, but don’t come out and say that people may go through rituals where clothing is taken off or put on, depending on the symbolism intended.  Also, that people are “washed” in various ways to become cleansed.  Any of this part of your tradition?

Cheers,
Prof. Suz

Dear Professor,

I’ve never been asked this before, so I’ll do my best to answer. At the church I attend, because it is for public worship, we do not do nude services, although I know of a semi-private Pagan church that does, but they have a lot more property [and a lot less neighbors] than we do). At a festival, where we use other property, there might be nudity in the ritual. Nudity is not associated with purity, but with rebirth. Wiccans have a sacred writing that is pretty consistent throughout the diversity of groups called the “Charge of the Goddess”. The text is spoken aloud by a Priestess who has invoked the Goddess, so the words are divine (even the tiny changes made are correct–so the text is quite alive. See some variation here). Anyhoo, the Goddess tells us that, as a sign that we be free from slavery, “you shall be naked in your rights” and that “all acts of love and pleasure are my rituals”. So there is divine approval for both nudity and sexuality as worship.

Some groups do worship in the nude and are described as “skyclad”. But this is typically done with tight-knit groups. The focus is usually on freedom from societal pressure, being beautiful as you are, humor, healing, sensuality, expressing your true/divine nature etc. I’ve been to festivals where a coven will host an open skyclad ritual (so it is open to people outside their tradition, but only to people at the festival, who are probably all Pagan). They have a way of doing it which takes the focus off of the sexual excitement of seeing naked people (which is something I think the rest of the world needs to figure out too, that nudity does not equal sexual excitement).

We aren’t particularly focused on purification on the whole, at least in my tradition. Although we ritually purify ourselves before entering sacred space, the purpose is to clear your mind of negative thoughts, because it is believed that thoughts are amplified in sacred space, and the Gods can see and hear you better. Wicca does not believe in original sin, nor follow any other Christian thought like that, so there is nothing inherent to purify. However, purification might be a part of a ritual or spell. I recently did a type of purification ritual after people were talking trash about my writing on the internet. I had started to feel that what they said might be true or hurt me in real life, and honestly made me feel kind of tainted–plus, I spent a lot of time thinking about it. So I did a purification ritual involving mindful bathing, visualization and meditation, and am now “clean” of these thoughts. The magic is in the psychology.

Ritually bathing another does not come up very often, but I have seen it associated with initiation into a religious mystery, and as a symbol of being cleansed after birth or rebirth. So the dead are ritually bathed, as they are being reborn in an afterlife. Babies are ritually bathed by others after birth, and during a ritual which introduces them to the Gods (different from baptism in that there is no commitment on the part of the child).

I hope that answers your question!

Paganism and Race

April 25, 2010 21 comments

First let me say that I have always intended that this blog be a place of learning, where nothing is really off the table as long as the discussion is polite. I believe passion and intellect can live together in harmony. I am also working on becoming a better person, and my posts reflect my attitudes and beliefs in the here and now. Of course, people are individuals, and talking about any individual as a whole group is always tricky. So of course I recognize that what I am saying might not be true for all people. But for the sake of the discussion and the idea, I am talking about race and culture–a collective experience that might not be true for each individual. That being said, please, gentle reader, read on!

I was recently reading a post in a private message board about someone’s deep desire to see the Paganism revival become more multicultural. She lamented the fact that there are few people of color who worship with us. She was quite worried that maybe we weren’t being open and accepting enough, which surprised me, given the attitudes of Paganism towards sexual/gender minorities, those with alternative lifestyle, etc.

Um, I don’t mean to hurt anyone’s feelings, but Paganism is about as White as you can get. Our beliefs are based in Celtic reconstructionism, Greek philosophy, occult knowledge which comes out of Western Europe, the witchcraft trials that also came out of Europe, folks beliefs out of the UK and, well, Western Europe.

So why would someone with Chinese, African, Pacific Islander, Indian or Native American ancestry be at all interested in our religion?

Truth is, people don’t convert to our religion, they overwhelmingly see it as “coming home”. What it is is a return to our ancestral roots, to our own White culture. When most of our ancestors came to America, they worked hard to assimilate, which is where we got the idea of the melting pot. After awhile, it didn’t matter if you were from Ireland, Italy, France or Britain, as long as you spoke English. In our race to assimilate (pardon the pun), we forgot our background. But as part of the majority, White people were able to keep to themselves and exclude racial minorities from taking part in the formation of culture. While this happens to a much lesser degree today, one honestly has to acknowledge that the majority of White culture has assimilated Western European values over time.

This will probably be very unpopular, but race matters. Yes, we are all human beings, deserve the same rights, etc. But the truth is that our cultures hold different values. As part of our own White privilege, we aren’t necessarily able to see the forest for the trees, and miss the markers that make our culture different from others. Neo-Paganism is the ultimate expression of that culture.

Take our value of Personal Responsibility. It’s this idea that we should strive to become the best individuals that we can, to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and make something of ourselves. It means that we are in charge of our own fate.

This idea is entirely Western European, and very very American. Many cultures, even today, don’t share these same values. Take Chinese culture, for example. To them, family is the most important thing, and your birth order determines your role in the family. Older siblings may be required to care for youngsters, and the youngest is required to “be the baby” perhaps their whole life. Consequently, your fate is determined by the needs of your family as outlined by your father.

Many African-Americans have historically been denied equal access to jobs and education–which sort of puts that whole individualized fate thing out of the question. Many see the Black community (such as the neighborhood, or the church) as an important piece of identity. To leave that community, even if it is in your best interest, might be seen as denying your roots. Joining a Pagan community might be understood as assimilating into White culture, and abandoning one’s Blackness. Upon return to their home community, they might be subject to “authenticity testing“, in which the community (often children or immature adults) “tests” them to see if they are “Black enough” to come back to the community. It is a very difficult position to be in.

Pagans and many Americans see personal responsibility as a value that should be embraced by everyone, but by expecting that, we are pushing our values on other people–this is oppression, and obviously not our intent. Perhaps this is why we do not proselytize–to avoid this oppression which, for many, was the reason they left their original religion to begin with.

Paganism is a return to roots, it is a look at our heritage religion before Christianity. So think about this for a moment: If you are Chinese and want to return to your roots, you practice the folk religion of China, or become Buddhist or Daoist. The Japanese return to Shinto. An African-American might turn to the African folk religions, or a blended one like Voudoun. A Native American would look to their tribe and find religion there. There is no need to turn to European roots to fine ones own roots. I believe that is why the Heathens, who celebrate the Norse religion, don’t interact much with the Pagan movement–they have their own movement!

Those are just a few examples of the hardships a racial minority would have in joining the Pagan community. While we welcome those who truly seek our path, no matter what their background, I don’t believe we will ever have a truly multicultural religion for all people. That’s what Christianity tried to do, and clearly that didn’t work for everyone, or else there would be no need for Paganism!

So let’s just accept that our religion is for us, and strive to make it the best it can be in serving the needs of the people actually doing it. Let us strive to remove our blocks and hang-ups about race by working on ourselves and becoming aware of racism and discrimination in society. Let us strive to be open to others without pushing our values upon them, but in respecting that their values have deep roots, even if we don’t agree with them.

So Mote it Be!

*I got the information about culture and race from a few books:

Ethnicity and Family Therapy” and “Counseling the Culturally Diverse

Hail to the Guardians of the Watchtowers!

April 20, 2010 Leave a comment

Dear Witchful Thinking,

I keep reading in rituals about the Watchtowers. I’m wondering where they come from and why they are important and what they actually do.

Thanks!

Mama C

Dear Mama C,

Good question! They are all over, aren’t they? Did anyone else first encounter them in The Craft (1996)? Well, they’ve been around for a long time, so I had to do some research about where they came from.

From what I can tell, there seem to be several possible origins which sort of coallesqued with Gardner in his magical studies to the point where they seemed almost required to be included in a magical system. Possible origins include:

  • Ancient Rome: small “watchtowers” were built at crossroads with little altars in them for the Lares, or local spirits. These small stone structure dotted the landscape, and would have been associated with ancient pagan ways.
  • Elizabethan England: Dr. John Dee, the official occultist of Queen Elizabeth, worked with Edward Kelly to reveal the Enochian system of magic. They came up with different symbols for each of the directions, which they associated with different stars, colors, elements and angels. The angels were envisioned as guardians of these watchtowers.
  • Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn: Because they were well-educated in existing magics, the HOGD adopted the watchtowers for a ritual used to cleanse the space.
  • Kibbo Kift: This off-branch of Woodcraft and the Boy Scouts involved boys in the English countryside holding elaborate rituals in what they believed was the “Indian way”. It was well known that they did ritual in circle and called different elements representing the four directions. While we’ve never heard of it these days, this was a huge movement during Gardner’s time, and Woodcraft was set to out-pace the Boy Scouts if it weren’t for their internal politics conflicting with the two World Wars. These fake Native American ceremonies were popular, but probably not based on any actual particular Native religious ritual.
  • Uncle Gerald: As you probably know, Gerald Gardner, the founder of Wicca, was also well-versed in the magical systems of the day, including the magical formulas used by the Golden Dawn.

Now-a-days, mostly traditional Wiccan groups like Garnerian and Alexandrian covens call upon the Watchtowers. However, you can still find them included in a lot of books, like Silver Ravenwolf’s “Teen Witch”, the Farrar’s “The Witches Way”, and Lady Sheba’s “Book of Shadows” to name a few. As a general rule, I suspect, Wiccans have moved away from the formal magical systems based upon older traditions, and have moved towards a more informal and intuitive practice of ritual.

The purpose of the Watchtowers is whatever you tell them to do. Typically, they might cleanse the circle, witness the rite, maintain the integrity of the magical boundary, and bring their elemental energy into the circle. Remember when you cast a circle, you are creating a miniature universe, so be clear about your purpose. Many traditions say something like:

Hail to the Gaurdian of the Watchtower of (direction), ye lords of (element), I do summon, stir and call thee forth to guard and protect this magic circle. (draw the correct pentagram) So Mote it Be!

The Watchtowers are important precisely because they connect us to this long history of magical ritual. When something is used the same way for a long time, it builds up power. The advantage of this for the beginner is that it requires less experience on their part to get the Watchtowers to do their jobs.

Be sure, however, to send them away when you are done with the Circle–if you take it out, you put it away! I occasionally hear ritualists dismiss the directions by saying “Go if you must, stay if you like”. This is a pet peeve of mine. Would you leave a candle burning unattended? No. It might burn the house down. Elementals, and the Watchtowers that house them, are not human minded, but Elemental minded. They seek to be their element, which is not necessarily what we want from them. Out of control water means flooding.

I have been to places in which the Guardians of the Circle had not been dismissed properly, and had the eerie sensation of being watched. Some people on Circle felt threatened by this energy that was just trying to do its job. The only way to get rid of it is to dismiss it. At the end of ritual, everyone needs to safely come back down to Earth, in our human place of existence in the now. It is the ethical responsibility of the ritualists to make sure this happens, and releasing the Watchtowers, Elementals and any other Circle Guardians (including the Gods) is important. It is polite to make sure everyone knows when to leave.

Always plan any magical act, including ritual, ahead of time. Think about the possible consequences of each action, and remember things get amplified in Circle. Whether or not you include the Watchtowers is up to you, but it can be an easy way to access a stored energy of power to lend to your Circle.

Do you have a question for Witchful Thinking? Whether it is a personal ethical question, or just something you’ve been wondering about the craft, or something you’d like to read about, you can have your question answered on the Internet! Yay! Simply send your question to JamieFreemanTarot@gmail.com, and in a few days, you’ll get a response from me.

This is YOUR place to get answers from a real person–answers you can’t always find in a book. So go on, give it a try! If you enjoy the Dear Witchful Thinking posts, click “advice” in the categories cloud to see them all.