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2016 #paganvalues Month Topic Suggestions #pv2016

pagan values logo

pagan values logo

It’s been a crazy month, and with it a necessary pause because of the coincidence of the Orlando attack and gay pride. Our values matter the most in times of crisis – when emotions must reign supreme, a value system allows us a means to moderate until we return to our emotional baseline. There may be no baseline to return to for far too many – and while some must drop out to care for themselves and their losses, I truly feel like the crises of the world is what makes the many topics covered under the header of the month so very important to discuss (or daily life, since most Pagan faiths are a way of life that makes every month Pagan Values month).

Here are some final topic suggestions for what remains of #paganvalues month. #pv2016. Please post your blog posts in the Pagan Values Facebook group, or the 2016 Pagan Values event page. If you prefer to use a social media page such as Twitter, Facebook, or G+, please use hashtags #paganvalues and #pv2016.

None of these are required for posting – if you have your own ideas, themes, or even a moral code to write from (such as Troth, Kemet, the Rede, etc.) then go for it. For those looking for more ideas, here are some suggestions:

1.What honor code do you follow?
2.What is “honor” to you?
3.What controversies seem the most unnecessary?
4.What is your ethically ideal way to handle bullies?

5.Reclaimed artifacts: should mummies be sent home?
6.Including outsiders in your faith
7.Self-defense: what are your parameters?

8. Fight or flight: handling religious discrimination
9. When someone claims psychic atttack

10. The place for magic in your practice
11. Is elevating poverty to a virtue a form of privilege?

12.Is there anything new to say about the environment?
13.Sex and sexuality: ethically handling lifestyle differences
14. It’s like a different worldview: when Pagans meet international boundaries

15. When a famous Pagan quits being Pagan
16. The privacy line: where is it?
17. Personal risk: when is risk worthwhile?
18. Evolution
19. When other faiths face persecution

Magic: For humanity or for survival? #paganvalues

Tarot card from the Rider-Waite tarot deck, al...
Tarot card from the Rider-Waite tarot deck, also known as the Rider-Waite-Smith deck. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There’s a conversation floating around the Paganosphere/magic worker’s sphere right now about whether magical paths are about service to mankind or about survival.

Yes.

Ultimately how magic gets uses is a discussion of privilege. No matter how incisive a view, parts of it get ugly. This is in part because those who consider using magic for personal gain are almost always the ones who live in a situation that allows them to see magic as optional.

There’s a lot of abstractions thrown around by the “for enlightenment” crowd. Lots of “raising global consciousness” and lots of “let’s send energy to.” There’s nothing wrong at all with that outlook. Using magic to raise consciousness and make people healthier and happier is always a good plan. You can’t treat a disease until you’re conscious of it.

But the people that do have that outlook do tend to look down on those who use magic for survival. I can’t quote statistics here – it’s just a general feeling based on the declarations of the more vocal .

I think there’s a LOT wrong with that outlook – not because it’s wrong to want people to live better and be happier, but because it’s a viewpoint based mostly (but not totally) on white privilege, class privilege, getting-there-first privilege, etc. To be blunt, it’s participating in a class war. Telling people with serious problems not to use magic to fulfill their daily needs because it’s “lesser” is crappy. Actually, saying the same thing to someone with relatively more privilege who still prefers a little magical insurance is still crappy.

Some of this is, unavoidably, personal. Anyone who claims total objectivity about magical society and magical practice will, at some point, be bitchslapped by the ghost of Crowley.

My frame of reference

My socio-economic and class status has changed dramatically since I started practicing witchcraft at the tender age of 19. I got to where I am with a great deal of work both magical and not. Ultimately I think magic did far more for me than traditional forms of hard work. Also, I really did work at magic with a great deal more effort than my immediate peers at the time.

I got into magic because my back was against a wall – I’m far from the first of recent essayists to say so. I needed money for college. The people in my life did not want me to have it  and were doing all they could to erode any independence I achieved. I could see, though at the time could not verbalize, that it wasn’t just college privilege at stake. My basic adult autonomy – and from there, ability to live in a violence free environment of my choosing – was in danger. Desperate to get any help I could, I cast a series of spells.

Now I’m here, relatively independent and writing about it.

These days I tend to hang out more with the global consciousness types. They differ a bit from what I consider the Pagan subspecies. There’s more actual unity and tolerance for differing perspectives – I can discuss ideas (as long as I veer off veganism) and most discussions end up in discussions, not in the borderline assaults I’ve come to associate with about one third of all my Pagan-based interactions.

Most are put-their-money-where-their-hearts-are types; while I do not think the language I can speak it. I admire their ability to walk away from the privileges granted them in a normal white life in favor of stepping outside of society to make society better.

But they’re also, for the most part, doing it from places of safety. They have family, friends and money to support them when they want to take off on global “help the world” journeys. They may show up for Habitat for Humanity stuff and they have the freedom to go on complicated diets based on what’s trendy at the coop. They don’t need magic to make these things happen – because they already have it. I have no idea whether their hearts go to their local communities – if, say, the New Ager in dance group with me sends as much energy to North Minneapolis as s/he does to Africa – and if that person chooses to send internationally over nationally I really don’t have a moral judgment on that. Carbon based lifeforms have infinite connection; both good and bad reaches all of us somehow, sometime. Whatever they’re doing, it’s either good or entirely benign – I can live with either.

But these are also not people I discuss magic use with all that much. They are doing as they see fit and I don’t talk about myself or my practices with them unless they ask me directly. We don’t talk about the magic I do for myself on a regular basis – the stuff I do to protect myself, to make sure I can maintain some independence however minimal, the stuff I do just to feel better sometimes. While that magic itself has a lot of ethical guidelines surrounding it its very existence – the very act of judging another person for doing magic for him or herself – is the very essence of the destructive missionary. To become so sure of your own moral rightness is to forget what happens when it’s a matter of living or not living. When you forget that, you  end up with, say, the equivalent of a destroyed Africa.

 

 

 

#paganvalues: Misplaced values

BERLIN, GERMANY - MARCH 31:  A volunteer light...
BERLIN, GERMANY – MARCH 31: A volunteer lights one of 5000 blue and green candles in an eight-meter shape of Planet Earth in front of the Brandenburg Gate during Earth Hour 2012 on March 31, 2012 in Berlin, Germany. According to organizers, Earth Hour 2012 has participants including individuals, companies and landmarks in 147 countries and territories and over 5,000 cities agreeing to switch off their lights for one hour. The Brandenburg Gate, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Big Ben Clock Tower in London, the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro and the Empire State Building in New York are among the monuments whose operators have agreed to participate in the demonstration. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

Wiccan lottery winner Bunky Bartlett learned a few things the tough way when he actually hit the lotto. 5 years after his 2007 jackpot, he was down a few million but hadn’t lost everything. As he summarizes offering help and getting blamed for failure, he concludes “One of the mistakes I made was giving money to help other people realize their dreams instead of my own. “

This has become my mantra while navigating a Pagan world that wants me more now that I’m nearing 40, and navigating a professional life that is beginning to bear some carefully guarded fruit.

Put your own dreams first.

Because, really, we’re told story after story about how it’s good, and virtuous, and important to put the dreams of others first. Certainly kindness, sharing, and helping community members out are all good and virtuous things – but when we are sacrificing our entire good to help another person out (who may or may not be in a position to pay forward or return the kindness) we aren’t strengthening the Pagan community. We aren’t strengthening ourselves, improving our family’s lives, or making the world safer for Pagans.

We’re weakening it.

Some of the misleading ideology rife among us  traces back to Christianized thinking – the tale of the widow’s mite stayed with me for many, many years into my Wiccan practice. Only in recent years did it occur to me that there is no follow-up to that tale of her giving her last two coins: it very likely ended VERY poorly for her. Jesus might have been pleased, but he also didn’t make any definite moves to protect her from starving to death or being thrown in debtors’ prison. Someone thinking well of you does not keep you well, although it can contribute if it’s a relationship you’ve built up over years. But for one hit scenarios where you never see the person again? That good opinion does very little. If you’ve ever seen a Presbyterian parking lot in Indiana, you know that not all Christians interpret this parable as literally as I did.

I’m part of the generation where conversion to Paganism usually came from an active life in another religion – and like most US Americans, it was conversion from some denomination of Christianity. Re-acculturating how I share resources and which I keep for myself is something I’ve never thought through as well as I should.  For example, signing over your entire social security check to keep a Pagan resource center afloat  may seem like a grand gesture, but it’s actually the worst kind of martyrdom (and martyrdom is A BAD THING.) You’re cheating yourself of much-needed resources that, managed well, ensure your future and your ability to live day to day. Yes, the Pagan movement needs some infrastructure, but you don’t build that infrastructure by ripping pieces off the foundation of your own house.

For those following my work with Money Drunk, Money Sober you already know it’s been a long road with lots of mistakes, and lots of childhood conditioning to overcome.  While most Pagan traditions usually speak to a period of “stabilizing” or “Earth element work,” there is a tremendous amount of defeating crap, much of it rooted in a misunderstanding of money and its place, still woven into the Pagan acculturation process.  What’s worse, is most of the absolute defeating crap is upheld as a value or a virtue. That’s as insidious as a bad thing can get.

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A few #paganvalues blogging tips

:pv:

Blogging Heroes
Blogging Heroes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last year heralded some of the most lively interaction to date on the Pagan Values blogject. So much that it even coaxed out some beginning bloggers. And it should! If you wish to blog about Paganism, you are talking about your values every day – there is no separating your values from who you are, after all.

To help people get even more out of their blogging experience during the Pagan Values project, here are a few do’s and don’t’s:

Do:

  • Post your link to the blogject entry for 2012.
  • Read the links that other people post – you can find plenty to argue with, inspire, and examine.
  • Post your link at the Facebook group page, and comment on the links of others.
  • If you choose to discuss another person’s post in the content of your post, link back to it.  If you’re really going to commit to the spirit of exploration and debate, you’re going to have to risk people finding you – especially if you post links to a public site.
  • Leave relevant-to-the-post comments on the blogs you visit.
  • Answer questions left for you in comments.
  • Revise your post for grammar, spelling, etc. Nothing is ever perfect, so making small changes after it’s published is normal and to be expected.

Don’t:

  • Expect people to agree with everything you post. Different Pagan religions = different values. There are even differing values within the same religions.
  • Post blog comments anonymously. This isn’t 4chan.
  • Make unsubstantiated claims.  A fact is something you can look up in a library or if you must, Wikipedia. An opinion is the sort of thing you just can’t look up.

Fact: Dogs were domesticated from wolves. Notice that I embedded a link to a respected and accurate information source, PBS.

Opinion: Pop music sucks. It may very well suck to you, based on your inner neurology. But that’s not a fact (directs glare at my partner, who likes to do this to annoy his sibling.)

  • Set out to prove something. This is about self-expression, and exploring where the communal lives in the Pagan community, not about satisfying an image of yourself.

But I’m blocked!

That’s OK. This is Pagan Values month – but it’s not 30 days of blogging. Very few people have 30 posts on any one subject in them. Most aspects of Paganism involve work – and this is an expression of my personal value: if you’re going to do spiritual work, it should be work you take pleasure in. That can be hard work, or light work, but it must engage you. If you find this blogging process engaging, and find that it continues to be engaging, wonderful!  If you find it stressful, then it’s OK to stop at one or two. If you’re afraid, then write down the reasons you’re afraid, and answer them with all the logic you can muster – and then celebrate it when you hit the publish button.

There are many other blogging trips and tips I’m happy to share over on the Facebook page. I’m an avid WordPress user, so I’m all about writing and scheduling posts out, using automatic methods of sharing, and creating in-text shortcuts so I can spend more time consistently writing new stuff. If you want to talk tech and toys, just open up a discussion on the Pagan Values Facebook group.

Happy blogging!

 

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#paganvalues: the place of religion

His Religion and Hers
His Religion and Hers (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There was that survey years ago that had some religious leaders freaked out because Americans began describing themselves as “spiritual, but not religious.” There was a lot of “what does that mean?” and arguments that unless you took part in religion, you couldn’t possibly be spiritual. The meaning is pretty clear: these people believed in a higher or other power, but did not need a church, nor did they need a list presented of “this is right, this is wrong, and this is what to be selective or conveniently amnesiac about.”  The churches also knew exactly what it meant – you can’t keep doors to a church open without butts in the pews.

I am religious AND spiritual. I actually need rituals and prayer as part of my daily life. I feel this as a physical thing, not as a “should” theoretical thing. I have warmed to the theory that religious belief is a neurological condition. Note I do not say “illness.” If it doesn’t interfere with your health, it is not an illness. However, having a mix of humans biologically inclined towards religion and those inclined towards the here and now makes sense to me in the “let’s look into every genetic permutation possible to see what makes the Best Human!” My interpretation is, of course, intuitive and thus likely invalid in the harder discussions of the science. But when it comes to religious faith as we’ve socialized it, you either feel it, or you don’t. It just isn’t reasonable or fair to demand another person believe as you do; it’s like forcing someone else to eat when you’re hungry or go to the bathroom when you need to relieve yourself.

Religion is supposed to be a foundation that helps you get through life, not one that orders you who to be right down to what you think and who you love.  While most people don’t think of it that way, it’s not necessarily something you choose. Sometimes more than one religion might choose you at the same time – yes, that happens. People CAN be bi-religious. It’s religious slipped out of its proper place in life that makes it a problem.

Religion does NOT

  • Solve your problems
  • Guarantee an afterlife
  • Guarantee an afterlife you will like
  • Make you a better person just by espousing a belief
  • Define absolutely right and wrong
  • Guarantee an outcome you’ll like
  • Save you

Any religion that claims final authority on absolutely everything is lying to you. Religion ain’t God.

Religion Does

  • Give you one (or more than one, if you practice simultaneous religions, as some in the East do) or more than one possible ethical approach to a situation
  • Offer counsel, in scripture if you use scripture, or divination if you use divination, when the shit hits the fan
  • Organized religion often uses illustrative story to help people find their own ways in daily relationship; disorganized religionists often draw from mythological stories and even from the monotheist books for those same stories and reasons for them
  • Offers certain prescribed actions that, while not necessarily “reaching God,” can help build a daily sense of calm when dealing with life’s challenges

Religion will never have an objective, practical reason to it in and of itself. It can help organize communities, and in its proper place it offers counsel and guidance. In its improper place, its leaders demand control over your behaviors not just in a ritual/worship context, but when you are in private – even in your bedroom. A controlling religion is not a good one, but it is mighty common. There are versions of this among Christians, Pagans, Muslims, Hindus – and it’s often due to that slipper slope where religious leaders believe they should be taken as the authority of God/ess Him/herself all the time, absolutely, and not just in a ritual context.

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#paganvalues–Why I don’t want to talk about religion over a beer with you

English: Detail of Reconstruction of the Acrop...
English: Detail of Reconstruction of the Acropolis and Areus Pagus in Athens Deutsch: Ausschnitt aus der Idealen Ansicht der Akropolis und des Areopags (vorne) in Athen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I don’t want to talk about my religion over a beer, or in the middle of a bar night. I just don’t. Ever.  I make exceptions to this for bars full of Pagans.

I’ve had many MANY people ask me about my faith when there’s booze and people around, and it usually ends with some “let’s put on a show,” crap where the conversation is never completed and it’s very clear to me that the person was interested in appearing interesting, not in having a real discussion. On occasion, I get someone with hostility issues who wants me to be a performing monkey.

The whole thing is just really disrespectful. I dislike feeling disrespected.

I am an out Pagan. I am an out Wiccan. I am not necessarily a loud and out person. I don’t hide who I am from anyone, but until my religious practices offer something relevant and helpful, I don’t bring them up.

I did not choose to be Pagan, or Wiccan. I  was called to it. My life would have been easier if I could have chosen otherwise. I’d be living the miserable life of quiet desperation my mother and her family approves of, and I could sustain myself off of constant body shame and my family’s soul-destroying version of approval. It would have sucked, but it would have been easier.

My coming out experience has been compared by a lesbian who is also Pagan to what it’s like for a gay person to come out – and it’s usually the same Bible thumping bullshit behind the bad behavior on the part of the people that you have come out to.

My religion, and my magical practices aren’t affectations. I  am not Pagan just so I can appear interesting at the bar. I do not write about Wicca as a portion of my career pie because I want to shock the world with my witchy nature. I’m quite confident that I’m plenty interesting without my religion working its way into the picture. I am a woman of many interests, and consequently many joys. I am happy to share them, and I want to know what your joys are, too. But that better be a two-way street. The new narcissism is the only thing that bugs me more than the new, hate-based atheism.

I am also atypical on the Pagan/Wiccan spectrum. While I’m not opposed to common Pagan practices like camping, I genuinely don’t enjoy them. I don’t even like wearing tie-dye, although I’m down with recycling and upcycling –  and I totally get that the environmental interest is actually a newer aspect of the faith I practice. I see no spiritual value in remaining poor. I don’t want to get back to nature or live on a farm –  most farms are environmental disasters, and the rural life has been romanticized to the point where it’s as unreal as the witch in the fairy tale.  I don’t see how I can do more for the earth by refusing to engage her gifts to heal myself and I sure as hell don’t see how choosing to disempower myself when She saw to it I was born into one of the richest countries on Earth. I keep the secrets I’ve been asked to keep, but I believe being too secretive is paranoia, which is in itself an actual illness.

Yes, I have a passion for occult material. Yes, I have a love for a not-merciful but not-malicious divinity.  (Perhaps because that describes me, too.)  My kitchen is packed with herbs and things I grew for the most part intentionally.  I am a witch because witch-ness feels right inside and outside my body. It’s the only approach to God that has ever felt right. It has nothing to do with feminism (to me, feminism is simple self-preservation.) It has nothing to do with rebelling against my former religion – I loved blocking out the constant yapping of the pastor and listening to what God had to say, streaming through the stained glass windows and showing me prayer forms in the movement of the trees, or when the Bible would flip open to the passage I most needed to see.

My acts of faith are not acts of rebellion and anger. The things I create, the spells I cast, the prayers I speak every morning and night – they are out of a fundamental, physical need for me to do these things. I need to pray this way. My body needs it. No other prayer form has fit. Christianity itself never chafed, but the God-fearing Christian act was worse than a leather miniskirt. I’ve had direct spiritual experiences with Mary, Jesus, even Yahweh. But the way it’s practiced has always felt unfitting, and there are huge chunks of it both in the Bible and from the mouths of its leaders that I sense are outright lies just for the sake of keeping power, in that selfish way people do when they’d rather have their way then actually do what is good for the situation.  What religion worth two lightning bolts would be about a God you’re afraid of? That’s baboon mentality – which only gives yet more credence to evolution.

My religion isn’t just something I have ideas about. And thankfully, it’s not a religion that requires me to be right about it, so I’m under no pressure to teach or seek converts. My religion is an integral, possibly physical, part of who I am. It isn’t fandom, or me talking about the cool Doctor Who plot of the week. It’s the core of how I get myself in harmony with the rest of my life.

I’m not about to devalue that by treating it like bar entertainment fodder.

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