Month: June 2011

#paganvalues Values Change

This entry is part 27 of 27 in the series Pagan Values Month

It’s the last day of Pagan Values Month, and while I didn’t manage to post something every day, I posted enough that this became my core writing project for the month.  While I would argue that all Pagan blogging is somehow Pagan values blogging, it is nice to stop, focus and really think about your values at least once a year. Especially since, if you’re alive and paying attention, your values will change.

I do not keep all the same values I brought with me into Wicca back in the mid 1990s. I now see benefits to being mainstream, because some of that is closure to my true self. I publicly admitted that I hate camping, and can love nature while honoring that evolution, nature’s own steward, has ushered me into a sensible cave (apartment.) As I’ve lived to see the world change, and I will live to see it change even more, I have adjusted many of my values to those changes.

  • I value courtesy, because it provides a common language when we are unsure whether we have common ground.
  • I value honor, because keeping promises and contracts is the only certainty we can have about the human condition and the social contract. I may take twenty years or more to keep my promises, but I do fulfill them the moment I get an opportunity.
  • I value continuous education, because the world does not stop changing, and as long as I live here, it’s my job to learn about it. It’s better than running on the assumption you can get AIDS from a toilet seat, or that people of a different color have a naturally lower IQ. (Both are false.)
  • I value self-care, because the one life I am charged with the responsibility to tend to from start to finish is my own.
  • I value friendships formed in sincerity and authenticity. It doesn’t matter how or where they form, only that they are about people being their real selves together for mutual enjoyment and support.

Hopefully next year I can delve deeper into some of the topics I just made brief notes on. Perhaps my views will have mellowed and changed. I can only know then.

In the meantime, it’s a great chance to read up on what other bloggers have posted. You can keep up on the event throughout the year by checking the Pagan Values Blogject page.

 

#paganvalues War (unavoidable political discussion)

This entry is part 25 of 27 in the series Pagan Values Month

As a Christian teenager, I did practice pacifism. The lesson I learned? Pacifism is for the popular and secure. I was neither. The worst time in your life to be a pacifist is in your teens, especially if you’re a girl. Violence is an absolute last resort after all other avenues are exhausted, and it is, like grabbing the fire extinguisher off the wall, for emergency use only. People still especially object to women standing up for themselves in this way; as men and women slowly discover the benefits of genuine social equality, this will change.

So in Wicca, where “harm none” is upheld as the salient value, it may seem strange to some that while I do not support war, any war, for any reason, I do support the basic right and need of my Wiccan and other Pagan fellows to go to war, to serve in the military, and to bear arms. I’m a fan of the first and second amendments. I am not, however, a fan of people who want to carry on about how many guns they own. It just tells me that that person has some really tiny junk. (Women included.)

It’s worth pointing out that the majority of military service men and women identify as Christian. “Thou shalt not kill,” does not get raised in their arguments often, either. The Bible here and there does say a few specific things about doing what you must to protect home and family; I believe that neopagan thinking may well fall along a similar line.

Pagan/Magical Values: the bad ideas edition

This entry is part 3 of 27 in the series Pagan Values Month

Just read a writeup of the lover’s intranquility spell. I have a lot of respect for Hoodoo – it is the foundation of most of the magic that Wicca uses, too. And while my own religious ethos is decidedly against calling up denizens of hell because of our high ranking on free will, I think perhaps "it’s a really freaking bad idea" is a much more compelling argument. Things that are just "wrong" or "right" are easily lost in relativism. However, ranking magical spellworking with parallels to an arsenal of weapons can make people stop and really think twice about what they’re doing – especially since this spell marches someone back to you at gunpoint. Do you really think the relationship can heal after something like that?

It’s really hard to get out of the "if I have this person, or this car, or this money, I’ll be happy." First, we’re programmed to defer our happiness all the time. Second, happiness is a dynamic process, not a static moment.

#paganvaluesmonth Free Will

This entry is part 24 of 27 in the series Pagan Values Month

There are still a ton of topics left uncovered by me this year, along with a few basic ways I might provide information in hopes of facilitating the blogging process for my fellow bloggers.  I am very much a US American in my acculturation, and this means I have the unfortunate tendency to either think “I can’t” (thankfully, this is rare these days) or “I’m going to DOITALLATONCE!” which is not just unrealistic, but can unchecked turn into a method of burning myself out until it really is a de facto “I can’t.”

I am working hard on moderating these qualities. My greatest challenge is finishing a work, and after that, sustaining the sorts of projects that are intended to be ongoing. In the efforts of caring for myself and my personal energy, I have learned that consciously only doing a little bit at a time takes me farther, faster than trying to apply massive effort and then just resting.  I will hopefully remember to refer back to this when I put up a “tips for Pagan Values bloggers” post after this one.

In the meantime, I consider this a value that goes well with my philosophies of opposition to domination and control: free will. Just as domination and control have some small grey areas ((self-defense has a hierarchy of response in my mind with domination magic as one of the last resorts)) outside the sexual arena, so does the influence of free will.

Hopefully to best communicate my perspective, I want to lay down the following suppositions, concepts, and/or ideals. Unfortunately, I don’t think I have the time to explore this as in-depth as I’d like, so I will lay this down as a rough outline for an in-depth discussion, possibly next year:

  • Free will is actually a pillar of belief that can and does connect Christianity and Paganism. I’m willing to venture that most Christians believe in free will, and that most Pagans do as well. Although evolutionary biology/psychology are used as the Pagan version of the Christian concept of pre-destination, a the core of our ethical and moral decisions and discussions revolve almost entirely around the strong belief that we do have a choice about our choices. ((This fails to explain why those that believe in predestination evangelize anyway. I think they just want more people to make babies and thus church members with.))
  • Free will is sacrosanct. It is the center of the soul and mind, and is precious and private in the same way that we consider our genitals.
  • At the core of our beings, we always have a choice. Depending on the situation, we may not have choices we are happy to make. Even in the throes of drunkenness or on a high, we have a choice about our actions.
  • The core spiritual struggle to do moral right comes in the negotiation between what other humans want from us, and what our core will/connection to the Divine or free will most want. This is what sane Muslims mean when they speak of jihad. While to them it is struggle to do right in the eyes of God, to Pagans this conflict is the struggle to moderate between the demands of the overculture and the struggle to honor our own sense of what’s right.

Free will on the surface appears a pure topic. People should have the freedom at least to think what they want to think. But just as “harm none” can actually lead to immobility when applied the wrong way, free will can also lead either to immobility or worse, to just handing yourself over, if you misunderstand it.

Every single human being that interacts with other human beings is in a negotiation for his or her free will all the time. This isn’t because we are all consciously at war for domination. Certainly, some of us are, but for the most part the behavior is at least unconscious if not unintentional. It’s the pressure many Pagans know by loved ones who want us to convert to their religions and thus relieve the pressure of having their assumptions challenged by our very presence; it’s the lady at the supermarket trying to persuade you to buy her brand of frozen food; it’s the politician that knocks on your door in a handshake campaign; it’s even your neighbor calling you to ask you to keep the noise down after 10 pm.

These aren’t all bad things, these aren’t all good things. What these are are negotiations, part of the billions of lifetime transactions that over and over define the lines between your will and the will of those who live around you. In fact, it’s the absolute core of all ethical decisions and discussions: it’s all about what actions you decide to take.

Sometimes, people will try to even get you to think differently. The Greek and Roman art of rhetoric, a long-honored tradition that defines the US and other legal systems, is built around changing the minds of the people. When we practice persuasion or manipulate emotions for any reason, we are essentially tapping into the free will of others.

While manipulation is spectacularly rotten, it is also extremely common, so common that many people can no longer distinguish between persuasion – an appeal to a person’s highest ideals to change a thought or feeling – and manipulation, which is a provoking of emotions to prompt a specific response or result.

A short example

Most of the ethical discussions around magic actually do boil down to free will. We witches worry a lot about whose mind we might change and how, sometimes to the point where we over-confuse what we do.

For instance, in binding magic: I’ve read the argument that when you bind a thief from robbing your home, you are “thwarting the thief’s free will.”

Absolutely not.

The thief will still want to rob you. If you’ve performed the binding properly, he/she will simply find him/herself unable to succeed at robbing you. I seriously doubt I will get bad karma from sending out energy that gives the thief a flat tire as s/he is driving out to my home to grab my stereo.

Now, if I’d bewitched the robber to lose interest in robbing me, yes, that might be more effective – but I’ve also then screwed with his/her free will. I’ve also stolen from the thief an opportunity to grow/change by changing his/her mind about robbing me.

If I chose to be nice and not perform a binding, I’d have dishonored myself – and by that, I mean, did a poor job of caring for the life I’ve been charged to take care of the entire time I’m on this earth – and then there would be the karma of having my stuff stolen, and the feeling of violation resulting from poor self-care. Please do not take this to mean I think ALL people should bind thieves. For non-magical people, the basic effort of locking a door is sufficient to honor the self and the home. This scenario would also be one where I somehow saw the theft coming: unexpected actions by others are one of the many prices and challenges of life.

 

 

Abuse: Yes, TRIGGERING

I travel the feminist circles and hear the feminist assumptions. They have foundation, this blaming of patriarchy, but they confuse the patriarchy with the men. So when someone who comes along who has suffered abuse at the hands of women, it’s confusing to the other survivors, the ones who see the other women in their lives crouching in the foxhole with them, afraid to even think differently lest it be seen as some sort of defiance. When we speak of abuse, we raise questions of austere, distant father figures, more intent on authority than on child-rearing. It becomes about unsatisfied sexuality now perverted, and about the power of the man over the smaller thing.

Pleasure

my perfume shelf

I’ve gone on a streak lately of buying myself items I’ve either wanted since childhood, or replacing items stolen/gone/cherished from many years ago. Yesterday, in one of my rare trips to the MegaMall (Mall of America for those outside Minnesota) I replaced a leopard print umbrella that matched one my first college roommate stole. I may yet find and replace the red velvet dress that, according to my second college roommate, has been at the dry cleaners for around 16 years now.  My perfume shelf now has an assortment of Walgreen’s classics: Muguet, Preferred Stock, a knock-off of Obsession that I wore in the 7th grade (my mother hated that) and some Love’s Babysoft Jasmine Musk. I’m still hunting for the remainder of the Love’s line, especially Rain. I know it’s still in production.

I don’t have a total list, and some new stuff has crept in to this strange little collection. I finally bought myself a disappearing TARDIS mug; I’ve wanted it since I was 12 and saw it offered on a PBS fundraising special. (My father did not consider this sufficient grounds for donation.) I also nabbed a digital keychain so I can make a techy Doctor Who fan necklace. I’m finally indulging in getting the pretty, lacy, Goddessy items that were looked down on when I was young – and I love them. I love how I look in them. I’m just as potent in clothing that reflects my inner aesthetic as I am in clothing that is all solid colors and straight lines. And I feel better in that clothing.

Obtaining these toys and baubles – while carefully monitoring my intake to avoid clutter/hoarding – is prompted by the Artist’s Way work I’ve been doing. It does seem like replacing cherished childhood books and wearing a lily perfume heals the wounds and cuts in my soul over time. It also prompted a realization in me, based on what I’m taking in with great care, and what I’m pushing out after minimal consideration:

I’ve spent a good chunk of my life buying what I’m supposed to, instead of what I actually want. I can only imagine the money I’d saved if I’d just gone ahead and let myself have the shinies that I truly wanted. I have scores of books on broad subjects, and yes, I cherish reading above nearly all activities, but many are ones I grabbed because I felt it virtuous to make an effort to be informed, not because I felt any core desire for knowledge on the topic. Until my 30s, most of my clothing ranged from comfortable hippyesque to business utilitatarian: whatever fit that wasn’t completely terrible. I didn’t enjoy clothing, because there was pressure on me at home not to enjoy it, even though it was obvious I absolutely loved finding new outfits and stuffing my closet. It was billed as “shallow,” and therefore to be disrupted. The approach was very black and white, and did not take into account that it was one of many interests I had. I feel gratified now at what I’ve made of my interest in clothing, and the knowledge that digging through thrift stores, discount racks, consignment stores and yes, even department stores actually does have a benefit beyond myself.

Enjoyment finds a way to bubble up, but it seems like anything that brings any enjoyment at all is immediately dubbed a “guilty” pleasure, rather than just a pleasure. If the movies we watch aren’t “smart” enough, if the stuff we eat isn’t at exactly the right fat/protein/carb count, if a massage or spa time feels remotely good, we immediately call ourselves shallow, call the pleasure “sinful” and make ourselves feel bad for feeling good. The end result is a bizarre, defiant overindulgence of our favorites of those pleasures, as though making ourselves bad somehow compensates for the simple act of liking what we like.

That’s fucked up.

So right now, I’m taking tiny steps – a toy car here, a sketch class there, maybe even sock back some money for the Aikido classes I begged for as a kid – to reclaim what I was convinced I should deny myself.  I’ve overindulged the wrong things, things I didn’t really want for years. I’m in a unique position to give myself these indulgences, to spoil my child self, and I’m doing exactly that.

I’ve also spoiled my adult self here and there. You should SEE the pumps I bought for fancy nights out.

#paganvalues the Overculture and the Subculture

This entry is part 22 of 27 in the series Pagan Values Month

If I had to choose a single cause to dedicate myself to within Wicca or even in greater Paganism, it would be establishing cultural legitimacy. What I mean is that I really want to see “Oh, you’re Wiccan?” to be just as much of a not-big-deal to non-extremists as Judaism and Christianity. There are some camps already on their way there – ABC Family has added throw away lines about the mail lady practicing Wicca, and on the show Greek, a sorority girl commented that “I think one of the pledges is a Wiccan.” ((Yes, I am a grown woman without children who watches these shows. I must offset my copious reading of very thick books with viewable fluff.)) It’s a good sign: someone writing TV scripts knows we’re real, and at least does not feel threatened. It’s an improvement even over Felicity, where her vaguely threatening but ultimately loyal roomie went off to Witch Camp. ((Witch Camp is a real event.))

Art Deco downtown

I take the bus home from the Y after water aerobics. One day, as I waited for the bus, an older man also sat in the shelter. He waved to the building, “Look at that! That’s a beautiful building.” He then gestured at the people on the ground, biking, walking, showing off clothing, mostly. “And these people don’t even notice!”

The same thing happens in Chicago, Paris and London. Everywhere, probably.

But he had a point. If there’s beauty, it’s good to take a moment to notice it.

#paganvalues Feminism

This entry is part 20 of 27 in the series Pagan Values Month

Not all Pagans practice feminism. Some are distinctly opposed to it. I am not one of those people. I think feminism is very necessary to this day, and it is a value that has informed my religious decisions over the years. I do not go into graphic details, but it’s hard to tell what’s triggering for abuse survivors, so this is behind a heavier than usual cut.