Pagan Community Notes: PaganDASH Campaign, Post-PantheaCon Stories, Cherry Hill Seminary, and more!

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  February 27, 2011 — 35 Comments

Pagan Community Notes is a companion to my usual Pagan News of Note, a series more focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. I want to reinforce the idea that what happens to and within our organizations, groups, and events is news, and news-worthy. My hope is that more individuals, especially those working within Pagan organizations, get into the habit of sharing their news with the world. So lets get started!

Counting Pagans in the UK: In one month, the 2011 British census will begin. As in 2001 citizens of England and Wales will be able to mark what their religious affiliation is, a change in procedure that saw minority religions gain significant attention. For the first time, Britain was counting its Pagan citizens, and around 40,000 individuals labeled themselves as Pagans, Wiccans, or Druids (making them the 7th largest faith grouping in the UK). However, many Pagans, and the scholars who study them, believe that number is far higher (Ronald Hutton, for example, thinks there are around 250,000 Pagans, circa 2001, equivalent to the Hindu population). So this year a consortium of Pagan organizations are pushing the PaganDASH (Facebook) campaign to encourage all British Pagans to fill out the census, and to do so in a uniform manner.

“The ONS wants to count us. They have a ‘mandate of inclusion’ which means they are looking for ways to include us in their figures. Looking at the raw data that was provided last time to us gave us some startling insights. However, as mentioned, by just writing Pagan on your form, we lose the data for various paths, and our diversity — but there is a simple solution — one that’s worked elsewhere. In Australia in 2001 there were 10,000 Pagans in the census. Just 5 years later, with this initiative, their numbers are being counted as nearer 70,000. So if we can do the same here, and get more accurate numbers it will go a long way to getting the recognition we have fought for, and deserve.”

So a Wiccan would write in “Pagan – Wiccan”, a Druid “Pagan – Druid”, and so forth. This initiative is already gaining some press, and as The Druid Network points out, could result in better representation in government. This is an excellent opportunity to chart the growth of modern Paganism in the UK (one we don’t have in the United States), and I hope British Pagans of all stripes support this initiative.

Child Care at Pagan Conventions: The Pagan Newswire Collective’s Bay Area bureau has published the first installment of a multi-part series on child care and Pagan families at conventions. Focusing on the recently completed PantheaCon, Lily Shahar Kunning, looks at the options, and lack of options, families with small children have at such events.

“In fact, the ‘Con is not fully aware of how many children attend, as they are not formally registered if they are under 12. But parents attending PantheaCon agree- there are tens of dozens of children in attendance, and more come every year. Yet there is no formal “track” for children to attend, no formal childcare arrangements, and most events in the schedule are not kid-friendly.”

As our movement grows, and becomes increasingly multi-generational, issues of how we treat our youngest, and oldest, members will become increasingly pressing. We are at a point now where organizers are straining under the weight of continual growth and popularity, yet we often lack the infrastructure and capital to expand as much as we need to. How we deal with issues like child care, and the inclusion of younger Pagans, can have far-reaching ramifications in our future. Stay tuned to PNC-Bay Area for the next installment of this series where they’ll discuss family-oriented programming at PantheaCon.

Pagan Leadership Panel: One of the panels I participated in at this year’s PantheaCon, led by Modern Witch Podcast host Devin Hunter, was on Pagan leadership in the 21st century. On the panel was Hyperion of The Unnamed Path, Ms. Rabbit Matthews of CAYA, and myself. Devin has uploaded the video he took to Youtube, and is up now in seven parts.

You can find the other six parts, here. I think some very important topics were touched on, and I’m thankful that Devin was able to record his panel and share it with the world.

Cherry Hill Seminary Graduation Ceremony: Yesterday at the Sacred Space Conference in Maryland, Cherry Hill Seminary held their first graduation ceremony under their new program. Certificates were presented to six students, and PNC-Washington DC (aka Capital Witch) was there to report on the event. Below you can see some video taken during the ceremony.

PNC-Washington DC/Capital Witch will be posting photos later with exclusive interview footage of the CHS faculty and student graduates. So please stay tuned to that site for further updates, and congratulations to the six Cherry Hill Seminary graduates! To find out more about CHS’s educational offerings, please check out the web site.

A Trip to Lucky Mojo: On their way home from PantheaCon the PNC-Minnesota bureau were lucky enough to stop at the famous Lucky Mojo Curio Company, took pictures, and interviewed proprietor Cat Yronwode.

“People of a mixed back ground often find Hoodoo resonates with them because it calls to part of their cultural back ground.  It is a very vital, very American form of magic.  I love it, I was born Jewish, and then joined the Baptist church and now am a spiritualist.  I have always felt at home in Hoodoo. I would say that since the dawn of the internet age, there is more white people practicing it, but there always were. It has never been something that was exclusively Black, although black cultural nationalists have claimed so.”

For anyone who has shopped at a hoodoo store, and loved it, this article and interview should bring back many pleasant memories.

Addressing Dianic Exclusion of Transgendered Women: In a final note, I wanted to quickly point to this run-down of issues regarding the exclusion of transgendered women at Dianic events at PantheaCon.

“The debate continued. No one won, as-such, but winning wasn’t the point. Though I’m not unbiased in this matter, I doubt anyone would disagree that, at the end, the Dianic elders present were affected by the experience. I believe them when they said that they had no wish to harm transsexual and transgendered women, but they remained firm. Wendy Griffin, toward the end, got quite upset, stating that the issue is effectively one of religious freedom, and that what was being proposed effectively would prevent her from engaging in her religion. Ruth Barrett, who I must admit showed astonishing strength in retaining composure throughout the event — for her, the issue was that she wanted to continue to run events at Pantheacon, but that a non-discrimination policy would effectively mean that she could not continue to do so.”

This is a very large issue, and this link will just be the beginning of my own exploration. In the weeks to come the Bay Area PNC bureau will be posting a report, and I will be following up with my own here at The Wild Hunt. I’m hoping to include interviews with individuals on both sides of this discussion, and hopefully spark a wider discussion regarding gender identity within modern Paganism.

That’s all I have time for, have a great day!

Send to Kindle

Jason Pitzl-Waters

Posts

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    Heh. The first social issue I addressed as a baby Pagan in 1988 was child care at Pagan events. It was the second time I responded to a "call" to act as a Pagan. I didn't solve anything, but I arranged for a meeting of Pagan moms in the basement of a Unitarian Universalist church — childcare provided!

  • tech_elf

    <<Addressing Dianic Exclusion of Transgendered Women:>>
    Oh for goodness sake… leave the Dianics ALONE!!! They've contributed plenty to the pagan movement and deserve respect. AND deserve to be able to host their own rituals at Pantheacon. If transgendered 'women' feel like they need a womyn's circle, why can't they start their own tradition or host their own rituals? I see absolutely nothing discriminatory about restricting Dianic circles to 'women born'. Let them BE!

    • http://erynn999.livejournal.com Erynn

      A huge part of this issue was that, at the ritual in question, nothing in the description ever said "women only" and people were therefore turned away at the door without warning. It was a huge communications fail.

      • Nestis

        It was a HUGE communication fail but frankly, this is turning into another round of "demonize the Dianics". Most people's defense of trans women currently seems to be composed largely of arguing that the embodied mysteries of Dianics are unimportant simply because not all people experience them, or respect that we do. Well hello! I don't experience the Big Mystery of the Great Rite but you don't hear me saying that others are bad people for it being the central mystery of their tradition.

        My central embodied mystery is my moon blood, Dianic tradition is built around it and so it works for me. it never was intended to work for everyone! Now does that mean that trans women have no right to be in our circles? Not necessarily, but people need to at least show a basic comprehension of what Dianic trad is about before they make the judgment for us!

        • Nestis

          This is not in any way to excuse the hurtful way that Z has spoken out against the sincere womanhood of trans women. I am a Dianic and I completely disagree with her position. But does that mean I can sit idly by why people drag our mysteries through the mud and call them meaningless and unauthentic just because it's an easy straw man for them? Absolutely not.

          • Nestis

            Also, I want to clarify that these comments aren't directed at you , Erynn. These are just my personal frustrations about how this dialogue is currently playing out. :)

          • http://erynn999.livejournal.com Erynn

            Thank you. I'll admit I was hoping it wasn't meant personally.

            I do understand that many Dianics are frustrated. I've tried not to do Dianic-bashing around this situation and hope I have succeeded. It's certainly not my path, but I recognize that for some, it's a good and necessary thing and that it has offered safety and healing for people who have needed it; I have a very different and much more problematic relationship with my girlparts that the Dianic path doesn't and really can't address, which is why I follow an entirely different sort of trad that doesn't deal with gender as a central mystery.

            I'm offended by Z's statements, which I see as a separate issue from what happened at PCon.

  • Scott

    While I support the Dianic traditions right to run their tradition the way they want to, I personally think that gender is not something that is restricted to a person’s biology. I think that this is an eye opening situation that will show how the Dianic tradition operates. Obviously this is being watched by people from all over and anything that closely watched and heated will leave a lasting impact. Those involved in the Dianic community should voice their opinions as it is their tradition. The rest of us should sit back and let them sort it out. If the end result is something you do not agree with then the Dianic tradition is not for you, move on and seek something that you can agree with.

    Scott
    Bornavag (born a vagabond)

  • I was there

    This was NOT just about the CAYA rite's omission of writing "Women Only" in their program listing and the ensuing upsettedness of some trans people when it was enforced at the door. I attended Z. Budapest's lovely Dianic rite on one of the first evenings of PCon, and Sarah Thompson's written complaint about women-only rituals was strewn about the waiting area for entrants to read — days before the CAYA event happened. Judging from this leaflet, Thompson was _already_ upset about the fact that Pantheacon was allowing gender exclusion in events. Thompson's aim and the aim of many of the other trans activists that were there is to permanently deny women and men the ability to have their own "women-only" or "men-only" space at Pantheacon, which is IMO selfish of her and the other trans activists. She can host a trans-only ritual if she wants and I can't see that anyone would protest.

    There is a specific magic in being with one's Sisters and having that women-only space, and I believe that only women who grew up as girls in our society, and have been treated and responded to the way women are responded to in our society, can understand that feeling. To deny women the right to gather together exclusively just because you feel jealous (or whatever) is selfish.

    • Califried

      Well, you are carefully picking and choosing what I said.

      It’s unfortunate that you feel that way. In my view, however, the sentence I quoted neatly encapsulates all the issues with your position.

      I said immediately after that sentence that I understood completely why cis women who did not menstruate or did not feel connected to that experience would not wish to be part of a Dianic circle or coven. And yes, I am assuming that those who don’t menstruate be they cis or trans do not identify with that aspect of womanhood because they do not experience it.

      And the point of my comment was that you were making an assumption about trans experience that isn’t warranted. In addition to that, however, the fact that you would feel the need to reiterate that you “understand” why some would not feel connected to the experience of menstruation is, in my view, pretty good that evidence that you’re not quite understanding the responses you’ve gotten here. You have consistently sought to frame this discussion in a specific way: Dianic Wicca isn’t for everyone. No one disagrees with this sentiment. I’m not sure anything more needs to be said that wouldn’t represent an unnecessary repetition of material in someone else’s space.

      • Nestis

        I am deeply sorry and embarrased for the repetition. I was/am profoundly upset and I kept receiving error messages.

        I apologize to the administrator of this space, I would delete all those excess posts if I could.

        • Califried

          Since some additional comments have made it through moderation, a few additional points:

          I am not minimizing and trivializing this issue. You are minimilizing, trivializing, and eliding the embodied experiences of cis women (and trans women imho) by claiming that the only differences between their experiences of womanhood are the blood mysteries that you think are a cop-out because not all cis women bleed.

          Again, there are several issues with the arguments that have been made in favor of excluding transwomen. You don’t actually get to claim that menstruation is your bright line because you don’t exclude women who don’t menstruate. You also don’t get to claim on behalf of all transwomen that they do not “identify” with the blood mysteries you find so compelling. You don’t get to claim that socialization is your bright line because women’s experiences are influenced by so much more than their gender assignment at birth – there’s really no evidence that being assigned and raised female is more influential to socialization than the intersection of language, culture, race, creed, socioeconomic status, geographic location, immigration status, etc.

          You also don’t get to claim that penis-free ritual practice is a meaningful criteria because there are plenty of transwomen who are not in possession of a penis. Please note: penis-free ritual practice is actually your strongest argument against trans inclusion, and it still fails completely.

          Again, the ritual at PantheaCon is the context for the discussion. Given that context, it should be clear that no one is asking that you, personally, change your practice. What many of us are saying is that while the arguments made in favor of trans exclusion are inconsistently applied to cisgendered women in the general case, you are within your rights to exclude trans individuals from your circles. In the specific case of the Rite of Lillith as organized by CAYA’s Dianic priestesses at PantheaCon, however, the arguments hold no water whatsoever.

          • feistyamazon

            Mixing the need for born females to have space for ourselves, and deal with OUR OWN oppressions and liberations AS born females, and white supremacist racists are two entirely different issues, and completely silence born female living as female voices, realities, our bodies, minds, spirits, and vulnerabilities and strengths in our embodied physical beings. It is a smokescreen issue to effectively silence us, and the Dianic Path which one of the very few Paths that fully reflect our Female reality, our ability to bleed, the pain of having to have a hysterectomy or breast removal because of disease, often caused by the environment and what's in it, the ability to CHOOSE whether to bring forth life, or to abort it, which is directly under attack, and women's and Lesbian mysteries, between bio-female women who are women who were girls,who have worn Yonis for life….any time we talk about OUR realities tranfemales and their supporters effectively attempt to silence us with smokescreen issues and false comparisons. I'm DONE with that!

          • chartreuseflamethrower

            Trans women are women born female. They grow up as women. They live their lives knowing that they are female and knowing that they are women. They ARE bio-females. They ARE women who were girls. Take your supremacy and shove it.

            Also, you listed a ton of things that a LOT of cis women have no knowledge of. Should the cis women who have never had to have a hysterectomy or breast removal, never had their period, never had the ability to choose whether to bring life forth or abort it- should they not be allowed in either? Because, quite frankly, if they are then why the hell aren't trans women?

    • chartreuseflamethrower

      I was there:
      You have no idea what you're talking about. Trans people are perfectly happy with women-only and men-only spaces. The problem is when you tell us that our women aren't allowed in women-only spaces or that our men aren't allowed in men-only spaces.

      Really, think about htat. You're denying the right for these women to gather together with other women just because you don't want to acknowledge them as women. How is that NOT selfish?

  • Califried

    Nestis,

    Most people’s defense of trans women currently seems to be composed largely of arguing that the embodied mysteries of Dianics are unimportant simply because not all people experience them, or respect that we do.

    Actually, there are several “defenses” being offered, none of which dismiss “the embodied mysteries of Dianics” as “unimportant.” First, and probably most importantly, transwomen are women – this should really be as much of a “defense” as is necessary, but some Dianic witches generally offer experience as justification for a division between cisgendered and transgendered women. This justification takes two forms: Blood Mysteries and socialization. The former is clearly not applicable in this situation as Dianic circles that exclude transwomen do not exclude women who do not bleed and/or have never experienced menarche. The latter also appears to be a red herring, as it effectively denies the enormous difference in formative experiences based on class, race, creed, geographical location, and immigration status. You may personally choose to gloss over these rather enormous issues, but individuals who don’t choose to follow your lead are not “arguing that the embodied mysteries of Dianics are unimportant.”

    I don’t experience the Big Mystery of the Great Rite but you don’t hear me saying that others are bad people for it being the central mystery of their tradition.

    I’m sure you’re aware that that’s a pretty poor analogy – let’s not try to pretend that this isn’t a big deal to the trans individuals specifically impacted by Dianic transphobia. Further, “well, they’re not for everyone!” is less a response and more of a cop-out – for one thing, they’re clearly not “for” a large number of cisgendered women who regard menstruation as a vague annoyance. The difference between those women and transwomen, of course, is that you would only accept members of one of those groups in your circle. The fact that some Dianic organizations welcome trans individuals also seems to suggest that the “embodied mysteries of Dianics” don’t really require women who are assigned female at birth. Any time you’d like to stop minimizing and trivializing this issue, I know I’d appreciate it :)

    • Nestis

      I am not minimizing and trivializing this issue. You are minimilizing, trivializing, and eliding the embodied experiences of cis women (and trans women imho) by claiming that the only differences between their experiences of womanhood are the blood mysteries that you think are a cop-out because not all cis women bleed.

      I will not say without reservation that trans women should be unquestionably welcomed into Dianic circles. Being able to practice skyclad is important to many cis women trying to reclaim their bodies. And yes, some cis women DO have a phobia of having to see a penis, which has to be respected first and foremost in a tradition that was designed as a penis-free place for those cis women. This is not to say that trans women do not need safety, but it is unclear whether Dianic circles are able to give it to them, and should they be required to if it goes against the feeling of safety for the cis women Dianic covens are designed to serve? These are -serious- questions that have to be deliberated, and maybe eventually the Dianic tradition as a whole will change. I don't know.

  • Nestis

    And I'm sorry, the Great Rite is not a poor analogy at all. The Moon Blood is the central embodied mystery in Dianism just as the Great Rite is central to Wicca. To not identify with that aspect of womanhood and yet want entry to a Dianic circle mystifies me. So I understand why many cis women are not Dianic, believe me! You're right, the fact that Dianic covens will allow cis women who do not bleed into their covens does seem unfairly biased against trans women on the face of it. But what you are effectly asking me to admit without question is that wombs and menstruation are the only embodied differences between trans women and cis women. And I don't think any woman, trans or cis, is wrong to what to probe that further instead of just accepting that as unquestionable fact. And the fact that some Dianic circles will admit trans women doesn't mean that doesn't have an effect on how that circle or coven operates, and is surely evaluated on a case by case basis.

    Again, as I have said, even if it does not serve all women, which we already know it does not, just as no path on this planet is right for all people, it doesn't negate the religion's existence for who it does serve.

    • Nestis

      Um, Califried, the first part of my repy to you is waiting for approval I believe, so instead of double-posting I'll wait to see if it shows up. Sorry if my response is a little incoherent as a result.

    • Nestis

      And frankly, if Dianic tradition is no longer rooted in the blood mysteries, which it arguably shouldn't be if we want to fully include our trans sisters, than it would no longer be a tradition that was meaningful to me, and it does feel like a co-opting, even if that isn't the intent

  • Califried

    To not identify with that aspect of womanhood and yet want entry to a Dianic circle mystifies me.

    There are two major issues with this sentence. First, you are assuming that transwomen do not identify with that aspect of womanhood, which is interesting given that, once again, transwomen are women. The twin facts that 1) women who have not experienced menarche are not excluded from Dianic circles and 2) transwomen are part of some Dianic circles demonstrate quite clearly that excluding transwomen is not necessary to a Dianic practice (even if the transwomen allowed in are carefully screened, or they modify their practice, or whatever it is you’re suggesting).

    Second, we’re not discussing trans individuals wanting to join a Dianic circle. We’re discussing a ritual held at PantheaCon which did not involve any of the central rites of Dianic Wicca. No one is trying to prevent Dianic witches from practicing as they see fit in private.

    • Nestis

      Well, you are carefully picking and choosing what I said. I said immediately after that sentence that I understood completely why cis women who did not menstruate or did not feel connected to that experience would not wish to be part of a Dianic circle or coven. And yes, I am assuming that those who don't menstruate be they cis or trans do not identify with that aspect of womanhood because they do not experience it.

      I am a solitary by circumstance, and have never been involved in deciding who was or was not welcome in a Dianic coven. But I can see arguments for inclusion and exclusion in all kinds of permutations, for all kinds of women, in all kinds of circumstances. But that's the nature of the coven system everywhere. I've already acknowleged that that the complete exclusion of trans women may not be appropriate, but I do believe it is a more complicated issue than you are willing to acknowledge.

      • Nestis

        Many Dianic rituals are skyclad, and as Dianic spaces are designed in a big way as a safe place for cis women to heal from cis male violence, and since many trans women have penises this is going to be a problem. This isn't to belittle the suffering of trans women, but not everyone cannot be healed from patriarchy in the same safe space, unfortunately.

        There is also the problem of how many Dianic women are reviled as gender deviant just like trans women are. While sometimes these gender deviant cis women and gender deviant trans women can come together, there are also deep seated differences in how they have come to terms with their Othering from the society at large, and this is going to be another major source of conflict if the all women are to be fully integrated into the Dianic tradition.

        I'm sorry if you feel I'm venturing too far afield by talking about Dianic tradition as a whole, instead of limiting my comments to PantheaCon policy, but it seems from the dialogue that is happening here and elsewhere on the net, that for many this has become a larger issue of what Dianic tradition is, or should be, as a whole.

        • Nestis

          Many Dianic rituals are skyclad, and as Dianic spaces are designed in a big way as a safe place for cis women to heal from cis male violence, and since many trans women have penises this is going to be a problem. This isn't to belittle the suffering of trans women, but not everyone cannot be healed from patriarchy in the same safe space, unfortunately.

          There is also the problem of how many Dianic women are reviled as gender deviant just like trans women are. While sometimes these gender deviant cis women and gender deviant trans women can come together, there are also deep seated differences in how they have come to terms with their Othering from the society at large, and this is going to be another major source of conflict if the all women are to be fully integrated into the Dianic tradition.

      • Nestis

        Many Dianic rituals are skyclad, and as Dianic spaces are designed in a big way as a safe place for cis women to heal from cis male violence, and since many trans women have penises this is going to be a problem. This isn't to belittle the suffering of trans women, but not everyone cannot be healed from patriarchy in the same safe space, unfortunately.

        There is also the problem of how many Dianic women are reviled as gender deviant just like trans women are. While sometimes these gender deviant cis women and gender deviant trans women can come together, there are also deep seated differences in how they have come to terms with their Othering from the society at large, and this is going to be another major source of conflict if the all women are to be fully integrated into the Dianic tradition.

        I'm sorry if you feel I'm venturing too far afield by talking about Dianic tradition as a whole, instead of limiting my comments to PantheaCon policy, but it seems from the dialogue that is happening here and elsewhere on the net, that for many this has become a larger issue of what Dianic tradition is, or should be, as a whole.

  • Swift

    I’ve make a few small edits to these comments to make a point:

    @tech_elf

    If transgendered black ‘women’ feel like they need a womyn’s circle, why can’t they start their own separate but equal tradition or host their own separate but equal rituals? I see absolutely nothing discriminatory about restricting Dianic circles to ‘white women born‘. Let them BE!

    @I was there

    Thompson’s aim and the aim of many of the other trans black activists that were there is to permanently deny women and men the ability to have their own “women-only” or “men-only” “white-only” space at Pantheacon, which is IMO selfish of her and the other trans black activists. She can host a trans-only black-only ritual if she wants and I can’t see that anyone would protest.

    There is a specific magic in being with one’s Sisters race and having that women-only white-only space, and I believe that only women who grew up as girls whites in our society, and have been treated and responded to the way women whites are responded to in our society, can understand that feeling. To deny women whites the right to gather together exclusively just because you feel jealous (or whatever) is selfish.

  • feistyamazon

    And about the Amazon mysteries, here is my statement: The Amazon Path in particular, at least the one I work with, which is different from Caya Coven's interpretation, honors us Butches especially because many of us didn't fit into the traditional Maiden/Mother/Crone so we tapped into the Amazon category as another aspect which better reflected our fierce Female Butch Warrior Selves connected with the Ancient Amazons, and representing a particular direction….Many of us would defend and protect the integrity of born female space till the day we die, because we KNOW it represents a reality many of us cannot possibly express to the outside world, and is so needed.
    -FeistyAmazon

    • cigfran

      Shout, foment, fume, repeat.

      You're really just not here to discuss anything, are you?

      • Baruch Dreamstalker

        Some participants here are into this cycle but I don't see feistyamazon as one. I learned something in her post about the appeal of the Amazon to Butch women for whom Maiden/Mother/Crone isn't a good fit. Sharing that is not just running around a track.

        • Cigfran

          I'm responding mostly to the fact that she's posted the same thing twice, word for word – though of course also to the output-only fronting.

          But if it's informative… cool.

    • Falcon

      As one Butch Amazon to another, I thank you my Butch Amazon sister for your articulate statements. I was a vendor at Panthea Con, Ruth Barrett is my wife, Wendy Griffin is my friend and I am an ordained Dianic Priestess dedicated to the service of Artemis and Her women. So far I am not impressed with the honesty of the Trans activists who orchestrated this protest. Meaningful dialog can only take place between people who treat each other respectfully and honestly despite,( perhaps even because of) their differences of practice and opinion. Wendy and Ruth spoke of the issue of religious freedom at the panel discussion and ultimately that is what it comes down to. We thought that Panthea Con was a gathering where all the tribes and traditions are welcome. Hopefully we will be welcomed back.

  • http://www.OberonZell.com Oberon Zell

    Regarding the "PaganDASH" campaign, this is something I've been championing for decades! One of my fellow members of SCPN (Sonoma County Pagan Network) replied to this issue by stating: "The idea of our government documenting people's religion makes my hair stand on end. Put that together with the current "patriot act" loss of civil rights and the rise of the neofascist "Christian Right" (which is neither), and you are getting close to a new Inquisition."

    I replied:

    But that isn’t the point. Censuses are anonymous. They do not document individuals as to their race, sex, income, children, or religion. What a census tells us is how many people in a country fall into each of those categories. And frankly, I’d really like to know how many Pagans there are in the US—and in every other country! Numbers means constituencies, which translates in politics as power. The Fundies claim what I believe to be vastly over-inflated numbers, and this gives them perceived legitimacy and political influence. But how many of them are there really? And how many of us are there? The only way to find out is by a census. Regrettably, the US census removed the question of “religion” awhile back, so we’ll never know for sure unless they restore it.

    I suspect that if “Pagan” was offered as an option under the question of “What religion do you identify with?” we’d be surprised to discover how of us there are in this country—and in many other countries as well! But even surveys that do ask what religion the respondents are, “Pagan” is never listed as an option. We just have to indicate “Other,” which throws us in with atheists, agnostics, humanists, Quakers, Shakers, Amish, Jains, Sikhs, Jedi, Cthulhu cultists, and believers in the Great Flying Spagetti Monster.

    Surveys are generally created by people who have a vested interest in obtaining certain results. I got an automated phone survey last year that asked, “Are you pro-life?” Well of course I’m pro-life—I’m a Pagan, for Goddess sake! You can’t get any more pro-life than that! I’m also adamantly pro-choice, but that question wasn’t asked. But what was I supposed to answer? “Yes” would have meant that they would have counted my in the numbers they were trying to rack up on the side of anti-choice. But “no” would have been to say that I’m anti-life—and who would say that? So there was nothing for me to do but hang up. And therefore I wasn’t counted at all. I’m sure the results of that survey indicated an overwhelming majority of “pro-lifers”—who would be counted as anti-choicers.

    This sort of thing happens all the time, as in the commonly-asked question, “Do you believe in God?” Again, as a Pagan, how can I answer that? Which god? How about the Goddess? And what do you mean, “believe in”? I am reminded of Mark Twain’s answer to the woman who asked him if he believed in baptism. “Believe in it?” he replied, “Why madam, I’ve seen it DONE!” The point being that the meaning of “believe in it” can range from “think that it may exist” to “worship it with slavish devotion.” How much better would the question be if it asked “Do you believe in Divinity?” (Though I suppose you’d get some false positives from fudge lovers…)

    Another example: imagine if surveys were to ask Americans this question: “Do you believe the Government has the right to tell you who you may or may not marry?” I’m pretty sure that virtually everyone would answer this with a resounding “Hell no!” And that would be the end of it for the argument over gay marriage.

    BB-OZ

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=636701735 JoHanna M. White

    In response to some of the issues from Pantheacon this year we are having a Conference on Gender & Earth-Based Spiritualities. Find out more at http://genderandpaganismconference.eventbrite.com

  • Jason Pitzl-Waters

    We just experienced a server move. I am in the midst of restoring comments on this post. They are safe. I'll hope to have them restored ASAP.

  • Jason Pitzl-Waters

    I've uploaded a PDF of all previous comments that folks can reference until I get this fixed.
    http://wp.patheos.com.s3.amazonaws.com/blogs/wildhunt/files/2011/