How to count it – Pagans being Pagans about their demographics

probably not where I'm going with this

While the neopagan divorce survey is not yet closed, I have been editing it so I can pull the data for this final draft of my book.  While I’ve made a concerted effort to ensure that each section was clear about the data requested, I’ve found some … interesting…interpretations of the requested data.

I have a whole new respect for survey writers. I’m often frustrated by leading questions and the  limited answers I find. In the case of Fox News Polls, where questions posed are along the lines of “How much does Obama suck?” for the most part, survey writers really mean to be objective. No matter how well you write it, or how thorough you try to be, you find you miss a question and you can never prepare for the subjective way people interpret your questions. Also, no survey writer in the world can prepare for Pagans, who, despite their own best intentions, behave like squirrels.

To prepare for this, I did draw on my college training on survey writing. I spent extra time trying to avoid leading questions, even though it’s technically impossible: as the author of the survey, I am part of a specific culture and part of a specific subculture. This colors my perspective no matter what I do. I can’t just not be an American-born white citizen with complicated cultural background.

…and my specific subculture doesn’t really restrict people on measuring time.

When asked for lengths of time on marriages on this survey, I’ve gotten some… interesting answers. Answers that force me to spend extra time editing to make sure the data tabulates right. Answers that make me pause and say, “Huh, this person is right. How do I go about counting that/measuring that time?”

For the sake of clearing confusion as much as it can be cleared, here’s what I’m laying down so we have the structure necessary to start a dialogue about Wicca/neopagans ((I make this distinction because of course, my writing will be colored by the Wiccan perspective))  and divorce:

  1. A handfasting counts as a marriage. The presence or absence of paperwork does not determine the seriousness of a marriage.
  2. Living together before marriage is one I’m on the fence about; right now I’m inclined to not count cohabitation because getting married/marriage ceremonies means there is a conscious, alchemical change to the relationship on a level that can only be determined after that change has been made. It has been indicated that the real alchemical change happens from 6 months to two years into the marriage: the “honeymoon is over” time is the time when “married” affects the persona and the interrelationships of those paired. Most survey respondents also indicated that they consider cohabitation different.
  3. If someone was married “1.5 years” for the sake of consolidation, I’m counting it as “1 year.” If you don’t reach anniversary markers, I guess it falls back to the previous year, assuming those remaining months were taken up with the business of divorce.

I’m also taken aback by the vast majority of respondents who waited “no time” to start dating/start new relationships again. Even when I remove people who went through extended periods of separation and polyamory most people went straight from one serious relationship to another. For reasons I intend to explore further here and on the book, I strongly believe that this may also contribute to a high divorce rate. While I am not opposed to divorce, I do advocate making healthy relationship decisions, and those that have had successful second marriages (or third) have spent time alone between relationships.

neither advocating nor criticizing

I also realized I did not ask the following questions. Granted, few probably want to answer them, and I may even ask about this stuff on camera for the brave and willing.

  • How did you ask for your divorce/how were you asked for your divorce?
  • What magical actions did you take to deal with the grief moments?
  • Did you consider the end of the relationship the actual divorce, or from the moment of agreeing to divorce?
  • Were there any attempts at reconciliation?  Did you consider this beneficial?

Yes, these questions are grating, hard, jarring – and necessary. Even though the divorced themselves often display visible discomfort with the book, most comment to me with “Wow, that’s really needed!”