I often don’t venture out into my local community, so last night was rare. For the most part, I enjoyed a pleasant experience and I am going to contemplate much from this. There was one thing that irritated me enough that I’m taking it with me, because it helps me pinpoint one of the more troublesome social issues in Pagandom. I accept that we are a diverse, and opinionated people. Often, however, the self-congratulation on the diverse aspect makes us overlook a troubling reality:
Just because our opinions go against the norm does NOT mean that we are not narrow-minded, sometimes bordering on (or crossing into) bigotry.
The incident yesterday was when my patron deity came up – my experience with the energy is overwhelmingly masculine. Not specifically hetero, dominant-in-the-usual-way-we-expect-it masculine but just distinguishably-to-me male. I simply agreed that yes, Eros is within my conception the oldest deity. “Yes, he is.”
The woman next to me corrected me, “Yes He/She is.”
My first thought was “Fuck you, lady.” I bit my tongue – I’d already seen enough correction for generalization and realized the discussion would not progress further. Beside, as a young-looking relative stranger in a Minnesota Pagan community I expect a certain amount of subvert and overt disrespect.
But to detail further, as I’ve actually seen this behavior before: Don’t you tell me how to perceive divinity! I realize that I commit Wiccan heresy by preferring masculine non-parental energy to feminine maternal energy, and while I am not troubled by the idea of a Goddess I’m here because my patriarchal damage came from other women.
This is the second time I’ve encountered this “It’s not valid unless you perceive it my way,” behavior. The first time was in a discussion where one person insisted that the Mississippi River held feminine energy. I commented that my experience was more masculine, merely thinking the discussion interesting and hoping to perhaps here a list of points as to why the Mississippi might be feminine to better understand how this person gathered and analyzed observations. What I got instead was, “I don’t have arguments about gender discussions.” My opinion of this person dropped considerably, since that told me she was much more interested in being “right” than in discovering new approaches, and was therefore not a person I wanted to work with, ever. I’m of a mindset that a good magician will explore an opposing view completely before setting it aside as bullshit or trivial. To refuse to do so is a sign of laziness, or much more risky in magical practice, fear.
In a multi-religious movement that, as was discussed last night, allows for a certain “poly” or “pan” theistic approach, the individual perspective must be valued. That means that my perception – Eros as “he” is just as valid as her perception, Eros as “she.” If another person saw Eros as a camel, I might not agree with it but I am obligated to consider how that person came to that conclusion before I dismissed or corrected it.
In this instance, it became evident that the woman had something to prove, and for the most part I managed to ignore her. Should I return to the group in coming months I’ll try to finagle a seat somewhere where she can’t touch me, as her (uninvited) contact communicated a dominating intent.
I’ve come to realize how very heretical I can be within the Pagan movement. Perhaps that’s a good thing, as lasting religions always need a good heretic.