On Faith: Carole A. Smith and Pagans in the Workplace

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  March 31, 2011 — 113 Comments

I have a special editorial up at the Washington Post’s On Faith section about the religiously-motivated firing of Pagans, and the case of Carole A. Smith, who was seemingly fired from the TSA for her adherence to Wicca.

What happened to Carole A. Smith is, sadly, all too common a story for many pagans. Smith, a TSA agent in Albany, NY, endured bizarre claims, indifferent superiors, workplace harassment, and finally, termination.

Like many pagans, she wasn’t officially fired for being a pagan, but was subject to a “death from a thousand cuts,” where every minor slip-up is obsessively cataloged until a legally acceptable threshold for dismissal is reached. This was starkly conveyed when msnbc.com revealed an email exchange between two of Smith’s supervisors: the first read, “Hammer Time,” with the response, “Not yet – not enough.” Because Smith works at the TSA, a government agency, her story is now making headlines, and her chances of proper legal recourse are increased because of it.

I’d like to thank the Washington Post for allowing me to present a Pagan perspective on this important story, and I hope you’ll head over, read it, and share it with others.

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • Ben

    Have people even realized that Wicca isn't pagan? It doesn't belong with Asatru, Neo-Druidism, or other polytheistic recontructionist religions. It's not reconstructionist, it's a new idea, therefore what place does it have with real pagans? It's less of a religion and something more akin to the Grimores and Scientology. I'm sure people take it seriously but it shouldn't be affiliated with paganism.

    • Jason Pitzl-Waters
      • http://vermillionrush.wordpress.com Vermillion

        I have GOT to see this movie, that's 4 references to it in 4 days. It's a sign!

        • Jason Pitzl-Waters

          You haven't seen the Big Lebowski?!?! OMG!

          • http://vermillionrush.wordpress.com Vermillion

            I know :/ I used to have this big aversion to Jeff Bridges because I hated Starman! I've popped it in Netflix :P

          • fyreflye

            It even offers an alternative religion for anyone here looking for a change :) http://dudeism.com/

    • Tj Harlow

      Ben, you're one of the reasons the Pagan community at large is so divided. Thanks for being an ass!

      • Ben

        Hrmmm that really hurt my feelings Tj.

        • Baruch Dreamstalker

          You ought to take it more than feelings-deep, Ben. The Pagan community has real enemies, and dividing it comes as close to a sin as I'll recognise.

          • Ben

            It's not dividing the community if Wiccans aren't pagan.

          • Grimmorrigan

            It's not murder if we don't consider you a person. It's not rape if we consider you willing. It's not a crime if we consider it justified. Yes,yes,yes, simple arguments. Either troll harder or learn how to construct an actual argument rather than opinion driven polemic.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Yeah, what G said.

          • Bookhousegal

            It's *definitely* not the Pagan community if it comes down to semantics.

            So maybe, Ben, you should *meet* this community you so-self-assuredly claim authority to define and divide and distinguish.

            Funny thing is, there's a hof that really tries to walk the talk, and it's not som 'wicky-oo' PR problem that's what holds them back, or someone like me who'll say 'I'm Wiccan when they're pickin on the Wiccans,'

            You know, when I came to *that* town not knowing what the Hel I was in for, and we were kind of checking each other out, even at a sumbel I was invited to, and I'm thinking, 'I've known Heathens before, but Lady knows what got cooked up in this backwoods town, and Gods know what these folks are about regarding this queer Paddy street shaman, or even what they thought of the Gods they were hailing, ….and I looked around and felt around and did what came natural, hailed the local landsvaettir, and toasted the luck of our hosts, and, seeing I *Meant* it, that's when *they* knew when I was OK, and by the looks in *their* eyes about it, that's when I knew *they* were OK.

            It's not a footnote, it's not a commentary, it's not an agenda, and it's *certainly* not about forsaking the Gods and ways of the *most* of my ancestry, …. it's not nothing but *tribe.* And perfectly good Gods, Who, last I heard, were a bit bigger than annotations.

            I've been named a lot of things by a lot of people, but I'll tell you this…. *No* one's problem is excess solidarity right now in the real world.

    • Rombald

      Ben: Like a lot of things, it all depends on your definitions. Someone on here (Apuleius??) defined a Pagan as anyone who worships pre-Abrahamic gods, wnich excludes a lot of self-defined "Pagans", as does your definition. I saw a website that stated that the Greeks and Romans were not Pagans, because they were nasty imperialists, white males, etc. Once you start telling people that they're using incorrect self-definitions, you're on dodgy ground. I mean – I use the word "Christiann" to refer to anyone who defines him/herself as such.

      Having said that, I don't think the different groups of Pagan have anything much in common, other than being small groups that are not Christian or atheist. I would prefer the word not to be used.

    • sarenth

      You know, I think this response is appropriate:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R5kPUFxXYLs

    • scott

      Technically, all Pagan means is "Non Christian, islamic or Judeac". Therefore, it is Pagan.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ron-Ritzer/1163038428 Ron Ritzer

        I tend to disagree with this definition for a number of reasons but ok.

    • Cathryn Bauer

      And your right, knowledge, authority, to say what is and isn't Pagan is…

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ron-Ritzer/1163038428 Ron Ritzer

      I'm sorry, but just because something isn't a reconstruction (which, like Asatrau and neo-Druidism, often pale in comparisson with their historic originals) doesn't mean it isn't "real paganism." Both Asatrau an d neo-Druidism are new ideas, newer ideas than Wicca even.
      Is more divisiveness what Paganism needs?

      • Daniel

        Neo-Druidism, historically speaking, goes back to the 17th century, I believe.

    • Kevin Norwood

      Sorry Ben but it is considered to be Pagan. Pagan is just an umbrella term for any faith not worshiping the Judea-Christian God. Wicca falls under that definition. If a reconstruction religions are a new idea when your talking that Paganism itself is extremely old. Just the fact that you said Wiccaism makes me question anything you claim to know.

  • Mozen Greezin

    Oh, get the stick out of your ass, Ben.

  • Ben

    I'm making the comment aforementioned because I'm tired of Wiccanism being the forefront in "paganism", and reflecting ideals and traditions "or lack thereof" that are considered fake by serious pagans. It's something that polytheists shouldn't agree with, an affiliation, it would be as if Christianity were using Ba'hai as a representation of the monotheistic faith, yet Ba'hai has a lot more in common than Wicca does with traditional paganism.

    • Jason Pitzl-Waters

      "Wiccanism," really? Do you actually know anything about Wicca or religious forms of Witchcraft? You do know that most Wiccans are polytheists too, right? Are you trolling? Because if you aren't interested in actual discourse there's nothing keeping you here.

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      Ben, I daresay your problem is that there are a lot more Wiccans than Reconstructionists, and they've been around a lot longer. They have done so much to create this construct we call "Pagan" that it is absurd to try to exclude them from it.

      • Ben

        Reconstuctionist are working off of matierial that is thousands of years old however. You're turn.

        • sarenth

          Reconstructionists work with materials that vary in years; most of what Asatruar and Heathen groups besides have to work with is often post-conversion Christian recordings of what may have been oral traditions. Unless you believe Odin came from Troy.

        • Grimmorrigan

          Baruch is a turn?

        • http://www.facebook.com/kkampmiller Kat Kampmiller

          Everything was made up at one point. Or are we playing "name that logical fallacy"?

        • Baruch Dreamstalker

          This is your criterion for who gets to call hirself a Pagan? How old your verifiable source material is? Ben, it's been ages since we've had a Reconstructionist vs Eclectic outburst here, and none of the others really added anything to the discussion. Honest.

        • Bookhousegal

          You speak as if the Gods come from books or something.

          Funny… That's not actually how we made acquaintance, actually.

          I mean, books are great and all, but you really think the Gods depend so utterly on them to begin with?
          Doesn't sound so Pagan to me, actually. :)

          • Vanye

            Actually… I first met my patron, Perkunas, through a book. THE CASE OF THE TOXIC SPELLDUMP by Harry Turtledove. It took some doing for Him to get through to me after that, but he's been remarkably persistent.

          • Boohousegal

            Well, I guess, wherever you go, there you are.

            I tend to suspect n other lives, that I did my share of bopping field mice on the head, in various points of distraction, but this ain't exactly Watership Down at the very moment.

            What would you like to do now?

            When they said 'Back to the taxpayers' last time around, they didn't know the half of it.

            So what now, eh?

            (Btw, for those to whom this isn't an abstraction, Contact as of last night, ) Be cool, but it's time to take the tissues off the mirrors.

            Be cool, though, cool like Fonzie.

            And, Vanye, if you want to claim Harry Turtledove is some kind of prophet, go for it, but maybe that's not what this is about. Think about it.

    • Kevin Norwood

      You do realize that modern paganism has very little to do with paganism of some 2,000 years ago or more right? Only someone foolish would think that we know anything about how they worshiped at best it would be an educated guess. Archeology is even a best guess scenario when it comes down to it. Even Christian know Wicca is a pagan belief.

      • http://egregores.blogspot.com/ Apuleius

        Kevin, first you say that modern Paganism "has very little to do with Paganism of some 2,000 years ago", but then you immediately say that we don't "know anything about how they worshipped." So how is it that we "know" that the two have very little to do with each other? You can't have it both ways. Either we know enough to compare the two or we don't.

        In fact, we know a great deal about Paganism as it was practiced by the inhabitants of the Roman world 2000 years ago, and they made up possibly as much as a quarter of the entire human race back then. And many people, including both scholars and knowledgeable practitioners, have concluded that Wicca and other forms of modern Paganism have a very strong relationship.

    • rob

      re your description of wicca,s traditions and ideals as fake, they are as valid as any other modern or reconstructionist pagan religion,s or do seriosly think that as practised now they would not have caused howls of laughter or crys of blasphemy from their origional adherants ?.sorry if this seem s short on public web access and time is running out.

  • http://egregores.blogspot.com/ Apuleius

    An injury to one is an injury to all.

    • Ben

      I didn't say anything bad about Wiccanism, it just needs to be relabeled to something more fitting.

      • http://www.facebook.com/chieftainbranwen Stephanie 'Branwen' Rogers

        Really? Out of all the angles of this story. The chance to further mainstream opinion of acceptance towards religious and spiritual thought outside of Christianity, and how that benefits everyone, especially in light of activities of the Third Wave of Evangelicalism and their crazy. And you decide to get hung up on a label?

        You want there to be acceptant and respect for reconstruction and polytheistic religions and spirituality? Then a good starting place is by respecting everyone's right to choose their own path. Because we're all in the same boat here, the NOT Christian boat.

      • Cathryn Bauer

        This is not for you to say. It is intensely important to me that my faith emerge from what I know and experience for myself. Part and parcel of that is the acknowledgment is that the same is true for others. Whatever the heck my path turns out to be (leaning in the direction of the Druidry of Fodla at present), that is not going to change for me. I honestly do not see how anyone of a Pagan persuasion finds it within themselves to make such presumptuous and sweeping statements as you.

      • http://quakerpagan.blogspot.com/ Cat_C_B

        The proper noun for the religion is Wicca, not Wiccanism. Your opinions will be taken more seriously when you learn the basic vocabulary. Thanks.

    • Jennifer Parsons

      Since everyone else is responding with videos, here's a non-Lebowski: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4hv6sQXI1WY

      • http://egregores.blogspot.com/ Apuleius

        Well you better listen my sister's and brothers,
        'cause if you do you can hear
        there are voices still calling across the years.
        And they're all crying across the ocean,
        and they're cryin across the land,
        and they will till we all come to understand.

        None of us are free.
        None of us are free.
        None of us are free, one of us are chained.
        None of us are free.

        And there are people still in darkness,
        and they just can't see the light.
        If you don't say it's wrong then that says it right.
        We got try to feel for each other, let our brother's know that
        we care.
        Got to get the message, send it out loud and clear.

        (Chorus)

        It's a simple truth we all need, just to hear and to see.
        None of us are free, one of us is chained.
        None of us are free.
        now I swear your salvation isn't too hard too find,
        None of us can find it on our own.
        We've got to join together in sprirt, heart and mind.
        So that every soul who's suffering will know they're not alone.

        (Chorus)

        If you just look around you,
        your gonna see what I say.
        Cause the world is getting smaller each passing day.
        Now it's time to start making changes,
        and it's time for us all to realize,
        that the truth is shining real bright right before our eyes.

        • Ben
          • http://egregores.blogspot.com/ Apuleius

            Ben: <link to some vampire goth/emo hipster website>

            First they came for the vampire goth/emo hipsters, but I wasn't a vampire goth/emo hipster, so I didn't speak out; then they came for the cis-Alpine Celtic Reconstructionist trans-men-who-love-cis-men, but I wasn't a cis-Alpine Celtic Reconstructionist trans-man-who-loves-cis-men, so I didn't speak out; then they came for the anarcho-primitivist radical-feminist Afro-Caribbean Thelemites, but I wasn't an anarcho-primitivist radical-feminist Afro-Caribbean Thelemite, so I didn't speak out ……

          • Thriceraven

            I bet of the 3 listed subgroups, the anarcho-primitivist radical-feminist Afro-Caribbean Thelemites would have the best music.

            Not sure where that thought came from, but I thought I'd share.

          • http://snoozepossum.blogspot.com/ Snoozepossum

            If nothing else, Ben here has been an unwitting (witless?) vehicle for the same solidarity of Pagan identity he doesn't seem to grok. On April 1st, 2011, at 3:41:28 pm EST, Snooze gave Apuleius a thumbs up point for something. The universe itself cannot stand against such events. You lose, Bennie.

          • Grimmorrigan

            Greeting from Charleston, Wv Snooze! ::Waves::

          • Grimmorrigan

            As I read this all I can hear is MCR. However the article does make a point, Wicca is not the Old Religion. We know that, however it is Pagan based on numerous factors.

          • Jennifer Parsons

            Sure, but that's hardly news, even to practicing Wiccans. It's generally known by the entire Pagan community: Yes, Wicca was probably invented in the 1940s and 50s in the Atlantic Isles. So it's new. So it's syncretic.

            So what? Neither fact robs that spirituality of its power. Neither fact precludes Wicca being Pagan. Let's move on.

          • http://egregores.blogspot.com/ Apuleius

            Grimmorrigan: "Wicca is not the Old Religion. We know that …"

            First of all, anyone familiar with the writings of Charles Leland, Margaret Murray, and Gerald Gardner knows that they all used the phrase "the Old Religion" in a very broad sense, and that the historical claims they associated with that phrase were quite reasonable and limited. They did not claim that the Old Religion was purely Celtic, or purely Northern European, or purely European, or purely anything. They also did not claim that the Old Religion had remained unchanged since the Stone Age. In fact, they acknowledged that the Old Religion has elements originating from a variety of historical periods, and also from many different cultures.

            Second, it is now accepted by scholars that Wicca closely resembles, has been certainly influenced by, and also possesses linear connections to forms of Pagan religion that existed 2000 years ago (that is to say, that Leland, Murray, and Gardner have been vindicated).

            Third of all, many (probably most) Wiccans and Pagans generally continue to view modern Paganism as a legitimate continuation of ancient forms of Pagan religion, that is, modern Paganism is the Old Religion. Examples of modern Pagans who hold some form of this view include Christopher Penzack, Sorita d'Este, Max Dashu, Eileen Holland, Gus diZerega, Orion Foxwood, Ellen Cannon Reed, M. Isidore Forrest, Vivianne Crowley, and the Pagan Federation of the UK.

            "Wicca is a nature based, Earth centered spiritual path rooted deeply in the history of Europe and even as far back as our Paleolithic past."
            [What is Wicca?, Christopher Penzack (from his website)]

            "Paganism is the ancestral religion of the whole of humanity."
            ["What Paganism Is", The Pagan Federation website]

      • Nicole Youngman

        Fabulous!

  • Grimmorrigan

    "Most of the pagan community is indifferent to Wicca, some think like me. " Would those be the real Pagans you were mentioning earlier? I think we would all like to know what a real Pagan is in your mind.

  • http://vermillionrush.wordpress.com Vermillion

    Nope! Just disliked Jeff B for a long time :D

  • Ben

    Hence why this site and many of its readers express solidarity with similar religions such as Hinduism, Vodou, Shinto or similar spiritual practices such as those practiced by Native Americans. Well I totally view that Hinduism, Vodou, Shinto and a Native American religions should be labeled as pagan. I'm just not seeing your point.

    • Ursyl

      And yet when I used to participate in online discussion with Native Americans, they were offended at the suggestion that their traditional faiths are Pagan in any way.

      • http://egregores.blogspot.com/ Apuleius

        It is likely that they would have been offended by any term that they saw as being imposed on them by non-Natives. it is also likely that many of those who "took offense" were themselves Christians, and/or they had internalized the (white) Christian idea that "Pagan = bad" (otherwise, why be offended?). It is very common for conquered people to adopt much of the ideology of their conquerors – and in fact most Native people are Christians.

  • Dromahair

    "…some think like me." The operative word there being "some". Not all. Not even (in my experience) most. Just 'some'. This particular Reconstructionist is happy to share the term "pagan" with the Wiccans.

  • Ben

    It's far too new to be pagan.

    • Jason Pitzl-Waters

      You keep making the logical error that something "new" can't be Pagan. This isn't a view that anyone in the ancient world held. If you think it is, I want to see actual academic, historical, references to that assertion. Otherwise, you're simply repeating your opinion over and over again.

      • Lori F – MN

        Ben, How would you Define Wicca/Wiccan and Pagan?

        What Should Wicca be called if not Pagan?

        Isn't Reconstructionism Pagan? If not, then what is it?

        As for Pagan – Didn't it once have the meaning of Country people, along with Heathen?
        Wicca comes from wise one. Anyone care to refute this?

        To me Wicca is a branch of Pagan, Just like Baptist is a branch of Christian. Pagan is just a large umbrella that covers many different non-abrahamic beliefs.

    • MFS

      Reconstructionism is newer.

      And unless you're personall6y claiming to be over a thousand years old, you're not pagan either. You're as neo as the rest of us.without the balls to admit it. What you're trying to reconstruct may be old, but the reconstruction itself is thoroughly modern.

      Don't claim a label you're not entitled to. If integrity is as big a deal to Asatruar as they claim, be honest. The modern heathen movement has as much to do with the ancient heathen cultures as your average movie has to do with the book that inspired it.

      MS

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ron-Ritzer/1163038428 Ron Ritzer

      WHat does that have to do with it? Asatrau is new, the Dianic tradition is new, neo-druidry is new. Back in the days of the traditional religions new traditions popped up pretty frequently, like the Cult of Isis. Your argument lacks depth.

    • http://norsealchemist.blogspot.com NorseAlchemist

      This is how we deal with trolls….
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DXKwVe1SBTA

      • sarenth

        Ooh, Finntroll. Good choice!

  • http://www.facebook.com/kkampmiller Kat Kampmiller

    You should really read up on the history of the modern Pagan movement. It wouldn't be what it is today without Wicca. Maybe you should read books by Gerald Gardner and Doreen Valiente, the people who put together Wicca, and then speak on it. It's definitely something that was crafted together, from things such as 19th century European Occultism, ancient pagan practices (based on scholarship of the time), Eastern philosophy, and yes, even some traditional folk magic (witchcraft). Asatru is also a MODERN religion, based on things like the Eddas, which were recorded by Christians, and may not be an accurate representation of ancient beliefs. And most Asatruars would call themselves Heathen, not Pagan, anyway. I'm curious what you define as "Traditional Paganism" and if you're buying into the ideas that there was an unbroken lineage that you're somehow privy to while the rest of us are just making shit up.

    • Kevin Norwood

      Myself I am not a fan of Gardner for reason I won't go into here. With that said I do believe that Wicca of nothing else is a yard stick on how the Pagan community is doing overall.

      • http://www.facebook.com/kkampmiller Kat Kampmiller

        I'm not Wiccan, but you don't have to be a fan of Gardner's to read his work or recognize the contribution that he made to the entire Pagan movement.

  • Sunfell

    I am one of the many who had a military career terminated due to my religion, and it was Wicca in my case. It was done in a similar way- every error I made carefully documented. Worse, my work was actively sabotaged, and my 'errors' in no doing it correctly also documented. It was sharply executed- people up to supervisory staff were in on my demise.

    It happened because I made the fatal mistake of advertising in the Stars and Stripes about a fellowship for military Pagans to join, and being interviewed and subsequently 'outed' in the Army and Air Force Times- starting a firestorm of controversy and outrage that followed me to my next base, and ultimately ended my career.

    Had I known that putting my nose out of the 'broom closet' would have destroyed my military career and cost me a decade of depression, PTSD, poverty and near-homelessness, I probably would not have done so. Still, the attention from our action (I had peers, some of whom suffered similar fates), did get Wicca recognized as a legitimate faith, with an entry in the Military Chaplain's Handbook. (I wrote part of it, and some of my work survives to this day.)

    It saddens me that 20 years on, this sort of crap still happens. I hope this woman gets her job back.

    • MFS

      I don't. She'd be going into an impossibly toxic environment.

      I hope she gets lots of money

      MS

    • http://chrysalis1witchesjourney.wordpress.com/ Pax

      Sunfell,

      Thank you. Thank you for standing up for Wicca, for Paganism, thank you for your service to our country and to the Pagan faiths. Blessings on you and yours.

      Peace,
      Pax

      • http://military.pagannewswirecollective.com Lori Dake

        Yes. Thank you for sharing your story and for going through so much for so many others.

    • Theo

      Thank you so much for your contributions on behalf of military Wiccans, and for your service to this country. I'm an attendee of the Aquarian Tabernacle Church in WA, and we've long advocated for serving military who are Pagans/Wiccans. Hang in there, please.

  • ocean1025

    You know…I am trying hard to be sympathetic, but I'm finding it a bit ironic that the Pagan Community is all up in arms over this job discrimination against the TSA gal for being Pagan…and yet persons with disabilities (which includes members of the Pagan Community) have encountered discrimination in the workplace for years, and it's still going on in spite of all the laws. It's especially problematic for the Deaf, as employers often balk at hiring interpreters.

    And all the ruckus about transgendered individuals being denied access to workshops at PantheaCon and the like…while it does anger me that this happened, at the same time I have to bite my tongue to keep from saying "gimme a break!" Hell, I just tried to register for a Pagan gathering, and when I mentioned that as a Deaf Pagan I would need an interpreter was flatly told that "we will not provide that kind of service, and it is up to you to bring your own assistant." This in spite of the fact the gathering is occurring outside of a large metropolitan area with a large Deaf Community and plenty of interpreters. But is this organization willing to lift a finger to help me out? Nope. "We are a religious organization, thus we are not required to comply with the ADA." How nice…hiding behind your religious status to justify noncompliance.

    Okay…legally you're not required to be accessible – but what about your moral obligations? What about all this jargon you spout on inclusiveness?

    Bullshit. Don't preach such crap at me, folks. The Pagan Community is just as hypocritical, narrowminded, prejudiced and bigoted as the damn Christians we bitch about all the time. Even more so in some ways – I know a number of Bible Colleges that do have sign language and interpreting in their curriculum, and the Mormon Church will actually pay people to become sign language interpreters (their schooling, room and board, etc.)

    So take your uproar elsewhere. I've been there, done that…and I'm still dealing with it.

    • http://www.facebook.com/kkampmiller Kat Kampmiller

      Unfortunately, Pagan groups don't have the funds that Bible colleges and, especially, the Mormon Church has. I've never seen them be able to cater to anyone with disabilities, other than providing wheel chair access and such. It's just, well, expensive to hire interpreters. You would be paying your $100 or whatever to attend a function, and then they would have to pay another couple of hundred to hire someone to help you. Is it fair? No. It's not. You should have the same opportunities for jobs, I agree, but it's hard to expect someone to pay for your disability when this community is not flush with money like mainstream religious communities are. I know if I were disabled and had to have something like that, or a wheelchair, or whatever, I would provide for my needs myself when it came to non-work related things I wanted to do.

      • ocean1025

        I do understand what you're saying here, Kat. I agree, Bible Colleges and the Mormon Church probably do have far more in their coffers than any Pagan groups I'm aware of.

        However, I'm not sure that I can agree that I've never seen any Pagan groups be able to cater to anyone with disabilities – including the deaf. I have in fact seen Pagan groups that did offer interpreters for their events. As an example…in 2009 there were NINE interpreters at PantheaCon, plus an Interpreter Coordinator. As a result, six Deaf people had access to an event they otherwise would not have been able to attend. Those interpreters were not paid…they donated their services in exchange for free admission and other small perks. I've seen other organizations do similarly, and a few have in fact actually hired interpreters. I attended an event in which the interpreter received a small stipend, but also got several gifts-in-kind…including a free massage, gift certificate, a basket of homegrown veggies, a basket of home-made bath salts and soap, etc.

        So one has to wonder…is it truly that these Pagan groups are unable…or is it that they are unwilling? Yes, I agree – it's expensive to hire interpreters. Goddess knows that I'm well aware of that fact. But I am also aware that there are interpreters out there who are willing to donate their services or at least to barter such. The question is whether or not Pagan groups have truly made an effort to explore the possibilities…instead of arguing the impossibilities. Have they made an effort to identify individuals in their own communities who might be able to provide such services (such as the nine individuals who did so at PantheaCon…who came from all over the country), or is it simply easier to say "it's not my problem"…thus turning the Deaf Pagan who wishes to attend your event into little more than a financial burden you don't want to deal with?

        Your argument that I only pay $100 to attend the event when the Pagan group has to shell out several hundred does not work. Even the U.S. Dept. of Justice will tell you that. You cannot weigh the cost of providing interpreters against the income earned from that one Deaf individual…you have to weigh it against the overall cost of doing business. The cost of interpreting services is just another business expense – the same as paying for porta-potties or land rental or food to provide meals. The cost of accommodation is spread out over all of the individuals who are attending, not merely the Deaf person. The interpreter is not providing one-on-one assistance merely for the Deaf person; s/he is providing access for all. Via the interpreter, you have the opportunity to communicate with me, to thus share thoughts and ideas, and to get to know me better in the same way that I get to know you.

        The problem stems from the tendency of many in society to view interpreters as being little more than human wheelchairs, as being basically personal attendants or caretakers – and thus the responsibility of the Deaf person. This is an erroneous perception, and yet it persists. And it is because of this mentality that the Deaf Community often finds the door slammed shut when it attempts to secure full inclusion to all aspects of life – not merely employment, but also educational, social, community, and spiritual opportunities.

        • Bookhousegal

          Exactly how is generally attacking and 'being suspicious of' the rest of your community based on whether or not they can secure an interpreter for you when putting on a local gathering of whatever size, ….when there's an issue about being turned out of jobs for *being* Pagan? Do you really think it helps to come along and attack the character of Pagan people?

          If you're Pagan, too, do you really think that's going to help you as a deaf person if you call, well, yourself, all those things as a Pagan?

          People frequently just don't understand how overstretched a lot of gathering organizers are, not just on money, but time and effort and all the other things that can go into such events, just to put the thing *on,* when they start expecting a lot of things done for them. These are not for-profit enterprises.

          While I agree it's valuable, I frankly don't see such interpreters elsewhere, and frankly, for anyone to ask how they could help out with *anything* is usually quite a welcome thing, …perhaps instead of getting adversarial, especially when it comes to accusing a whole religious group of some unspecified malice, *you* could do some of the networking on this: there *do* seem to be a number of Pagans who know Sign, I can think of a few I've known over the years, and have tried picking some up myself along the way, (Come to think of it, the kids seem to *love* it.) Never let it be said lack of curiosity is a fault of Pagans, or that we aren't a community with a lot of interest in languages in general: if you *bring* some SIgn to a community, it's fair likely to catch on. :)

          Same, frankly, goes for people coming along on this occasion claiming 'Wiccans shouldn't count as Pagan,' (which is, frankly, ridiculous,) as if people wanting to discriminate and repress us all are really going to give a flying one about their definitions and distinctions. Gods know how they think it somehow helps to take that sort of attitude, anyway.

          • Cathryn Bauer

            Bookhousegal — I sympathize with your response here. What is sometimes difficult to understand for people sans disability is just how bloody fed up one can get trying to participate in the world and reaping the benefits of the rights the ADA granted you. I have something of an inside track on this since I have been a CART provider as well as a court reporter for quite a few years. CART is a service for Deaf and HOH which is similar to the captioning you see on TV screens; it is done by court reporters such as myself and provided on site. I have not done very much CART in the last three years or so because I simply burnt out on how difficult it was made for me to do my job (getting time and space to set up, pressure to provide transcripts of proceedings to hearing people, constant demands and pestering while I'm in the middle of providing services, seeing my mostly-wonderful clients disregarded all over the place). I have not volunteered to provide CART at Pantheacon or other large gatherings because of concerns about safety and storage of my professional equipment, a major investment on my part. Of course, it's ten times worse for the disabled themselves than it ever was for me. So I believe Ocean is coming from a lot of justifiable frustration. In addition, I have personally experienced inexcusable indifference and really willful ignorance towards disability in a particular Pagan group. When I offered to provide CART services for rituals, the High Priestess dismissed this as "too disruptive." While some concessions were made to my allergies and asthma by limiting use of incense when I attended a ritual, there was always the sense of "We're doing you a favor," not that it was simply the right thing to do in a gathering open to the public.

            So, yes, while Ocean has the proverbial chip on his shoulder, there are some really solid reasons why it got there.

          • ocean1025

            Thank you for saying it so much better than I did, Cathryn.

    • Grimmorrigan

      Yes the community is bigoted. Yes many gatherings have difficulty in dealing with the needs of those with limitations. I'm sorry that you have this kind of experience with various gathering but let me say this. Did you ever think that our community is not as wealthy as those you mentioned? What have you done to help others who have the same needs as you in the community? Have you ever been told you cannot go to a gathering because you are deaf? Have you thought about the fact that the examples of cases you have a hard time feeling sympathy for are people who have suffered loss of jobs and great embarrassment because of who they are?
      You want us to take our uproar elsewhere? Take yours elsewhere, maybe to one of the Christian organizations you mentioned.
      See anger and lashing out and demeaning someone's experiences doesn't fix your own, nor does it improve things. You are angry and you have a right to be, but do not judge a community by its gatherings or say no one has a right to be upset because you have it worse.

    • MFS

      I wouldn't expect convention organizers to provide anything more than access. To suggest they should have to hire someone as a one-on-one assistant for an attendee is ridiculous. I could see a volunteer to sign discussions for the general audience, like a t.v. news show, sure. But one for each deaf attendee personally?

      I take a friend with me when I attend a large public event. He pushes my wheelchair and identifies things I can't see properly. He is also generally given free admission as a caregiver (sometimes both of us are). If he wasn't available to take me, however, I would not expect the organizers to provide someone to drive me, wheel me around, read things, and drive me homw. That's not their job – their job is to provide the event and reasonable access. The rest is up to me and I'm not going to have a pity party if I have to miss an event because provide for my own needs. Should they provide my insulin too?

      MS

      • ocean1025

        Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I agree with you…you are absolutely correct that I should not (and in fact do not) expect the organizers to provide anything more than access.

        Interpreters are not providing one-on-one assistance. They are providing access for all. You have just as much of a need for an interpreter as I do. For example, if you know sign language, we wouldn't need an interpreter in order to communicate with one another, would we?

        Interpreters are not provided for each deaf attendee personally. For example, if the presentation has ten deaf people attending, there would not be ten individual interpreters there. There would be one (maybe two, switching off on each other so neither gets overly tired) interpreters there to provide communication access for everyone in need of such.

        Interpreters are not personal care attendants. They are not caregivers. They are communication facilitators. They are language translators. No…I do not expect my interpreter to drive me to and from the event, to care for my personal needs, to provide my insulin. Interpreters are not glued to my hip, following me around everywhere I go and taking care of everything for me. That's not their job. Their job is to provide access. When you see an interpreter with a deaf person at an event, they are with them because communication is an on-going situation. I never know when someone is going to come up to me in between workshops and want to engage in a conversation with me.

        I don't see my need for communication access as throwing a pity party. I see it as wanting to have full inclusion – to have that same equal opportunity to understand, participate, and enjoy the event as everyone else. While it may be viewed as a personal need which should be my own personal responsibility, assuring that effective communication which allows for the exchange of thoughts and ideas should be the joint responsibility of all.

        • http://chrysalis1witchesjourney.wordpress.com/ Pax

          I'm not deaf, but I can see what Ocean1025 is saying….

          If you can't then I suggest the next time you go to a Pagan event, especially a Festival or a Con, you spend all your money and then put in a set of sturdy earplugs on…so that you only get a visual experience and can't hear any of the speakers or the speeches that give rituals more context…. Because that is exactly what we are asking deaf Pagans to do if we don't have an interpreter…

          And there are any number of possible solutions out there….

          Hearing assist devices that work with auditorium (or convention hall) sound systems to aid the hearing imparied….

          A special track of Interpreted workshops….

          A scolling sign board somewhere visible where the words can be shown real-time…

          Printed outlines of workshop topics provided to deaf participants….

          In large metropolitan areas with universities that have ASL programs, see if they run any interpreter classes and see what sort of practicum these folks need… students might be willing to work for low cost or for free (sucking it up and offering a hotel room and a meal plan can probably get you some volunteers)

          these are some possibilities, will they require work? Yes. Might they require creativity in execution and financing? Yes. Are they the ethical thing to do? Yes. So how about we put on our Big Pagan Panties and find a way to do it?

          Curiously yours,
          Pax

          • ocean1025

            Thank you, Pax.

        • harmonyfb

          Why not offer to coordinate interpretation services for the event? If you want it there, help make it happen.

          Pagan festivals aren't put on by corporations with unlimited funds and employees. They're volunteer-run, not-for-profit. Pitch in! Maybe you'll help others besides yourself.

          • ocean1025

            When Pagan events happen in my own area, I do in fact offer to assist. For example, with PantheaCon I did in fact offer to assist due to the fact that I was living in the Bay Area myself. And indeed, many of the interpreters who did offer up their services were in fact recruited by me. The same thing for other events happening locally. I did in fact get involved with the event planners in coordinating such services.

            But technically, it's not the responsibility of the Deaf person to coordinate his or her own services…it is the responsibility of the event planners to do so. The event which I wish to attend is happening in another state far from me and I'm not familiar with the either with the organizers, nor with the interpreting community in the area where it is happening.

            Certainly I am willing to help, but I can't help if the organization doesn't ask me to, or doesn't show an interest in even providing such services. And this one does not.

            Let me clarify…there is a law called the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that mandates that it is the responsibility of the event planners to organize and provide necessary access for public events, and Department of Justice has developed specific mandates which explain how such access is to provided. These mandates even explain how the law defines a qualified interpreter. You can't just go out and get someone who knows sign language – they have to meet the definition of the law.

            Just being a not-for-profit does not exempt you from compliance with the law. Many hospitals are not-for-profit…but they still have to comply with the law. Even if your event is being staffed entirely by volunteers, you still have to comply with the law. If the Red Cross decides to put on a workshop on emergency first aid and everyone involved with the workshop is volunteering their time, the Red Cross still has to comply with the law in providing interpreters for any deaf individual who wishes to attend. No, they cannot tell the Deaf person to bring his/her own interpreter.

            Now, organizations can file "undue hardship" indicating that it would be outside of reasonable means for them to provide necessary accommodations. However, the feds do take a hard stand on the definition of undue hardship, and you do have to clearly demonstrate that the funds and the ability to provide effective communication are not possible. In reality, few undue hardship claims are actually approved… whereas failure to comply with the law has been proven on many occasions.

            However, because of the belief of separation of church and state…religious organizations are exempt from compliance with the law. If you can demonstrate that the feds recognize your organization as a religious organization, then you do not have to comply with the law.

            This is where Pagan organizations have to make an ethical decision. Even tho technically you are under no obligation to have to follow the law…even tho you are not required to have to provide any type of access for your event…even tho you can discriminate against Pagans with disabilities all you want and there's not a damn thing we can do about it…even tho you can look me in the eye and say "Too bad Deaf Pagan, you're shit out of luck"…

            Do you really want to do that?

          • Bookhousegal

            So now it's 'unethical' not to 'follow a law' which *isn't* the law, whereas it's OK to tell overstretched organizers that they represent a 'bigoted religion' if they don't do it *for* you?

            Again, before you go accusing that whole religion of some malice over *one* event where they couldn't arrange an interpreter (especially after citing a big one where the community provided *nine,* consider the *practicalities.*

            Personally, I'm considered 'disabled' myself, and I help set up events I sometimes can't even *attend,* or if I do make it, am lucky to get a chance to *participate,* …and, frankly, usually get so close to the wire on *practical* things I do for them that what falls by the wayside is actually preparing content that any interpreter *could* interpret for deaf members of the community.

            In a lot of ways, that's OK. That's how I am, really. And the fact that it *is* a community is the most valuable part of it. No one here's telling you there's something wrong with deaf people, but you insist on telling us that our religion's bigoted in that way.

            Actually, you seem to be part of a problem we often *do* have, one endemic to this society which is to say that people have a tendency to think our religions are consumer products to ….act like disgruntled consumers about, when what our religions *are* is… Community.

            That's a community where you aren't in the 'liabilities and operating expenses' column.

            I wouldn't be in such a hurry to be treated that way.

            And that goes for *everyone* who'd rather complain than pitch in. Especially if all they want to even *say* is 'Pagans suck.' Or go out of their way to ascribe malice to people who may *want* a lot more for our community than we can provide all at once.

            You're certainly not being singled out, there, I assure you. It wouldn't be entirely out of character to have at the entry gate, a suggestion box with no bottom that says, 'Place hand underneath box and make suggestion, volunteer. All suggestions tradeable.'

            We do for each other. That's the ideal. That's how it works.

            At the *very* least, you don't use the misfortune of other Pagans as an excuse to berate the whole community as 'the bigoted ones' over one event you refer to. Do you not think there's some kind of connection between most of us who are employed, …fearing for our jobs and families, and the fact that our community organizing is stretched thin?

            Can't you see that connection? Again, I ask, do you think what you're doing here is helping?

          • ocean1025

            Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

            I have put up a few comments responding to statements made here…you can find them by scrolling down a bit.

            Feel free to read them if you so desire. Perhaps they will help to explain where I am coming from more clearly.

          • Bookhousegal

            I already have. I'm not talking about what you're talking about per se. On that bit, I'm in close to full agreement. Where I've a bone to pick is about how you're characterizing people over one experience, while even yourself citing how that's *not even* your experience at an event of sufficient size.

            I'm challenging you to do a little more than you have been, which appears to be, to take the occasion of yet another story of anti-Pagan bigotry to indulge in some of your own. Especially while saying you *are* a Pagan.

            Accusing the whole group of religions of some attitude we *don't* actually have (If anything I'd say we tend to be a little ahead of the play as regards your worth as a human being and member of the community: this does not of course get any translating done, but if you look around, there's no shortage out here of things that need doing by a *long* shot.* )

            I've gone through a fair bit, myself, actually, ….multiple disadvantages don't make life any easier, but it sure doesn't help to darn-near defame the religion that others will hold against you, just cause the Pagan community's a softer target in some ways.

            We play to our strengths, all of us, or there won't be much to translate.

            Sometimes, in a world where people are texting each other from five feet away and not 'hearing' each other, it's not the physical audio pickups that are the problem. Too much talking, not enough *listening,* that's the thing.

          • harmonyfb

            Certainly I am willing to help, but I can't help if the organization doesn't ask me to

            Of course you can! You can advertise for a volunteer interpreter for the weekend to assist you, you can hire your own interpreter (the internet is a fabulous way of bridging the miles), or you can volunteer to foot the bill for a festival-supplied interpreter. As a matter of fact, starting a country-wide bank of volunteer interpreters would be an awesome way to fill your own needs and help do the same for others.

    • cinna

      So… what if you were fired because of your religion? Would being fired because of your religion then be a big deal to you? If the woman fired because of her religion were ALSO deaf, would she *then* deserve your sympathy?

  • http://chrysalis1witchesjourney.wordpress.com/ Pax

    Wiccanism: Noun: A Witty remark made by a Wiccan.

    • http://quakerpagan.blogspot.com/ Cat_C_B

      Op. cit. *grin*

  • suzyree

    I can’t believe what I’m reading here. If a fellow Pagan (yes I consider myself Pagan) doesn’t think Wicca is a true religion than how can we expect the “others” to take us seriously. Ben, I’m hoping you’re just bored and spouting off for your own amusement.

    • harmonyfb

      Honestly, reading those posts, what leaps to my mind is "Christian troll". Because surely any Pagan would know enough to use 'Wicca' instead of "Wiccanism", no matter their personal views on Wiccan theology and practice.

      Using the 'how old are you' measuring stick to determine legitimacy is another common Christian rebuttal to other faiths, because Christianity is invested in religion that was developed thousands of years ago for a specific people. Defining other people's faith in negative ways ("I don't care what you say, you're a devil worshiper because I say so") so as to invalidate and 'other' the non-Christian is also a common tactic.

      • Jennifer Parsons

        It must be spring indeed if the trolls have returned to the Wild Hunt. (Sssh…don't tell the Daily Mail.)

        Unfortunately, I see bad scholarship )(like "Wiccanism" for "Wicca") everywhere, in every religious movement. Pagans are no exceptions, I fear.

        • Bookhousegal

          It really does lead one to wonder who's claiming to be 'The Real Pagans' if they aren't aware of the simple fact that trying to bash anyone of a Wiccan bent over someone else's standards is neither helping whatever they say 'True Pagan Religion' is, nor making themselves any more credible.

          What I detect here is a certain amount of 'defensiveness' on the part of certain political-conservative-aligned Pagans who *insisted* they weren't supporting people who hate us all. And maybe find it easier to attack and defame whoever they call 'Wiccans' as 'easy targets' …apparently in hopes the real bullies will somehow respect them for using 'arguments from antiquity' (and 'continuity' which the Christianist bigots apply against us *all.*

          As I've always said, "I'm a Wiccan when they're pickin' on the Wiccans."

          Really, I call myself what I am.

          An American Pagan. I may study and respect the ancient lore, but I am not bound by it. And I'll tell you this, the Gods and spirits found me before anyone talking any *book* did. It hasn't been my fate to settle down with any one trad for long, (Kind of against my own inclinations, really,) but it also means I've celebrated with *darn near everyone,* and for the most part, I'd be happy to finish this life among *darn near any of us.*

          They were with me when I thought I might be the last Pagan in the world, and I assure you They aren't first and foremost concerned with proper footnotes.

          I have that perspective, and I go where my people are. My people have been for me everyone from dusty academic Recons to high-dudgeonly occutlist quacks to total hippies to established mainstream Pagans to, well, gutterpunks filling in the gaps with stuff expropriated from roleplaying games, urban legend, and the contents of branch libraries if they had to.

          It's not a contest.

          It's not a debate, it's not a pop quiz from the Gods on historical authenticity, it's not *commentary on monkish glosses or medieval or Victorian retellings,* for Godssakes.

          It's. Not. Book. 'Revealed' Religion. (And this is *why* we can be literate, cause we can learn books instead of being ruled by them.)

          Visions first. Look it up later. Or take it from where you get it, cause if nothing else, She *has* been with us from the beginning, and all that stuff people debate about regarding the trappings and 'witchiness' and whatever else is *not.* Not. Not the *point.*

          Someone *else's* values are about founders and antiquities and proof-texting, even if the texts have been in unfriendly hands for double-digit centuries in many cases.

          I mean, who *cares* where Uncle Jerry got it, and where Leland got it.

          The thing I respect about Auld Unca Jerry is not about his academic claims or whatever, ….frankly he was more than this, but I like to think if we do meet in Summerland, what I really will respect has everything to do with him *not* having known what would happen or where it'd go. More like 'You magnificent so-and-so, you cast a spell to bring our Gods back to us, and it *came off.*

          *puffing on stogie.' "I love it when a D'an comes together. :) "

          Like it or not, this *is* our heritage, all of it.

          The Old Ways will not be revived, *renewed,* *restored* and *regenerated* by clinging to the standards some though to destroy us by.

          "Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
          Push off and sitting well in order smite the sounding furrows
          For my purpose holds to sail beyond the sunset,
          And the baths of all Western stars, till I die
          It may be the gulfs will wash us down;
          It may be we shall reach the Happy Isles,
          And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.

          Though much is taken, much abides,
          And though we are not now that strength which in old days
          Moved Earth and heaven, —that which we are, we are,—-

          One equal temper of heroic hearts, made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
          To strive,
          To seek,
          To find,

          And not to yield."

          (Obviously, Tennyson. )

          One thing that I see from all *my* travels that all Pagans have in common is, we're not *really* about what they didn't destroy.

          We're about what they *couldn't.*

          • http://quakerpagan.blogspot.com/ Cat_C_B

            Honestly, this one response justifies Ben's presence on TWH. This was terrific, Bookhousegal! If you have a blog, please post it there, so it doesn't simply get lost in the sea of comments at TWH. *grin*

            "…We're not *really* about what they didn't destroy. We're about what they *couldn't.* "

            Right! Too damn right!

  • http://deafpagancrossroads.com Ocean

    Thank you all for sharing your thoughts. You’ve made some valid, thought-provoking comments which I truly appreciated, and I can see that you’ve offered the opportunity for some intelligent discussion here. Maybe now that I have vented some of my initial frustration, I can share some of my own thoughts in a more calm and rational manner.

    I’m not so sure that I totally agree that the Pagan Community is as poor and as broke as it likes to claim. Sure…we are all struggling with today’s economy. Sure…we have individuals who are living in poverty. So does the Christian Community, so does the Deaf Community, so does every community out there. Granted, Pagan organizations generally do not have large bank accounts, but I think there are various reasons for this, and it’s not all related directly to individual wealth.

    As an example, we just witnessed the raising of over thirty thousand dollars for the Pagan Japan Relief Fund. We did so because we all united and worked together on achieving a common goal.

    What if I was to propose that we set up a National Pagan Accessibility Fund, and encourage everyone to donate to it to help provide access for Pagans with Disabilities wishing to attend various Pagan events around the country? Such funding could be used to help pay for interpreters, or rent golf carts to transport those with mobility problems, or to create Braille signage or whatever. Would people donate? Would we all unite and focus on finding solutions, or just look the other way and say “not my problem?”

    • templeofathena

      I'd donate. Probably not much, as I don't have much. But I would donate *something* if you did set up that fund. The events I put on usually have less than 10 people, are in my home, entirely from my own money. But if a deaf Pagan wanted to attend, I'd try to find resources in the community. Key word "try". I'm not sure if there are any resources in the community, but now that you're bought it up and made me think about it I want to be prepared if it happens. Do you have any suggestions? I have no idea where to start.

    • cinna

      The way you talk about "Pagans" and "The Pagan Community," makes it *really* clear you don't consider yourself part of either.

  • http://deafpagancrossroads.com Ocean

    I have a blog known as Deaf Pagan Crossroads, which I began in November of 2006 (wow, has it actually been that long?) I extend a warm welcome to all of the Wild Hunt readers to feel free to stop by and visit, and hopefully become a “Friend of the Crossroads.” At this blog, I attempt to merge my identity as a Deaf person with my spirituality as a Pagan. Some of my posts focus on Deaf issues, some of my posts focus on Pagan issues, some of my posts focus on both. I’ve put up posts which discuss accessibility issues; such as providing interpreters for events, or captioning YouTube videos. I see my blog as having a two-fold purpose – educating the Deaf Community about Paganism and earth-based spirituality; and educating the Pagan Community about Deaf Culture and Deaf-related issues.

    Over the years I have tried to help in what ways I can. I've assisted to locate and coordinate interpreting services. I have taught sign language classes. I've led Silent Rituals to help teach the concept of connecting with the Spirits in a non-verbal manner. I served as a tarot reader at an event to help raise funds for Deaf Hope, a Domestic Violence agency that serves Deaf individuals, raising over one thousand dollars for the cause. I've done herbalism, aromatherapy, and natural healing workshops for the Deaf Community. I've promoted Pagan events which were providing interpreters within the Deaf Community and brought Deaf friends with me to such events.

    There is a Pagan event taking place this weekend which I really wanted to attend. It was being hosted by a well known Pagan leader. We've gotten to know each other on-line, and were looking forward to actually meeting in person. This individual was all for providing an interpreter, and was even willing to offer some limited financial compensation, as well as food and other little perks. Unfortunately despite our combined efforts, we were unable to find an interpreter. So I will be staying home this weekend…not because I was denied services, but because such services were not available (although we both agree that if the full funding was available, we probably could have hired someone). So no…I cannot go. If I was hearing, I would be on the road traveling there today.

    • Bookhousegal

      Well, this is something we deal with on a lot of fronts, Ocean.

      Maybe we can't do everything everywhere, but that doesn't mean we can't or should be suspected/accused of not wanting to do *anything.*

      Little secret: I'm not deaf, or 'hard of hearing' as I was called when I was younger, (or accused of worse: willfully-ignoring people that weren't facing me,' …it was the opposite, actually, I could hear a pin drop half a mile away, what I *couldn't* quite do was parse what I was hearing out of all the background noise.

      I read lips.

      Still do a lot of the time, even if being older means the hearing's not quite so acute.

      Sometimes it's not really about hearing: sometimes it's about focus. Sometimes it's even about bringing some sacred silence.

      There's an awful lot of noise that's got nothing to do with ears, is all, Ocean.

      Bring what you got. I bet that's more than adding cacophony. ;)

    • Izzley

      Hi Ocean, you sound like a person I would like to know. Thanks for being so well spoken in your arguments. I trained as an interpreter for 3 years before I burned out and changed programs, interpreting work is hard and very draining, and I was not a good fit for it, but I definitely have tried to still be a person who is friendly with and knowledgeable about the Deaf community.

      I don't think that we should brush things like Ms. Smith's situation under the rug because there are inclusivity problems within Paganism, though. I think both issues need to be highlighted and dealt with, they are both injustices, and I hope we'll get to the place eventually where we don't see this stuff happening, but until then I guess we just fight on two fronts?

      I'll definitely check out your blog, the intersection of Pagan and Deaf culture is a topic I'd love to read more about.

  • http://deafpagancrossroads.com Ocean

    I am not unsympathetic to the people who have suffered job loss and great embarrassment because of who they are. I feel for them…because I have been in similar situations. Deafness is not something I have…it is something I am. I am a Deaf person. It is my identity. I am also Pagan. That's my identity too. I'm a Deaf Pagan. I cannot and will not separate the two. But it's not always easy. The Pagan Community doesn't always understand and accept the Deaf side of me, and sometimes complains that I come across as "too Deaf." The Deaf Community doesn't always understand and accept the Pagan side of me, and sometimes complains that I come across as "too Pagan." Double marginalization can be a bitch.

    The point I was trying to make (and admittedly was perhaps not doing the best job at) was that if we are going to talk about discrimination, then we need to acknowledge that it happens on various levels, and can take on various shapes and forms. If we are going to talk about discrimination, then we need to be willing to take a good hard look at our own discriminatory behaviors. We seem to be good at pointing the finger at others and talk about how they discriminate against us…but are we willing to look at how we do it ourselves?

    Am I guilty of discriminating against others simply because they are hearing? Yes…I am. Am I guilty of getting angry when I see a post that talks about how Pagans are being discriminated against on the basis of their religion? Yes…I am. It's hard for me to not want to stand up and scream. Look at me…I'm a Deaf Pagan. I struggle with trying to find a job because many won't hire me due to my deafness. Then when I am fortunate to find employers willing to overlook my disability and focus on what I can do…I have to then worry about what might happen if they find out I'm Pagan as well. If I am not discriminated against for the one, will I be discriminated against for the other?

    You are right…anger and lashing out and demeaning other experiences does not fix the problem. Educating and advocating is the better solution. But sometimes a little agitating is necessary as well. As an educator and an advocate, I do often run the risk of pissing people off. That's not always such a bad thing.

    I do not mean to imply that I have it worse, or to state that the community should be judged by its gatherings. I apologize for coming across in such a manner. But if we are going to talk about discrimination, and inclusiveness, and acceptance, and recognition, and respect, and so forth… we need to look at it and acknowledge that different people will have different perspectives and thus different definitions of such. And sometimes it does become frustrating and tiresome to deal with all those differing perspectives and definitions.

    Thank you.

  • Andromeda

    Does it really matter to the essense of this story whether Wicca is a Pagan religion or not? She was fired for her beliefs. She was fired because people have always been, and always will be intolerant and narrow minded. Intolerance can be found in Paganism just as easily as Christianity and even Atheism.. I hope Carole Smith sues TSA, and wins a huge judgement. I hope her former mentor and antagonist is formally made a party to the suit. The bottom line for me is that anyone that messes with someone's ability to live their life and pay their bills is a low life. It hurts the individual and everyone that the individual has depending on them. Is it worth destroying someone's life because you don't agree with their beliefs? There is no justification for intolernace no matter what you believe.

    • Kevin Norwood

      Your right of course it shouldn't matter compared to what happned to this women. However when you have someone to make a calim. like Ben has & you have people who are trying to learn about Paganism in general. It's bad enough that he has no clue what he's talking about yet alone someone just starting to learn about our belifes might pick up on what he is stating is the truth.

  • http://egregores.blogspot.com/ Apuleius

    It has been pointed out by many people that Paganism is used as an umbrella term for anyone who is a follower of any religion other than Judaism, Christianity and Islam. That is true, but there is a much more specific, but still very broad, way in which Paganism is used as an umbrella term: it refers to anyone who still worships any (or all) of the Goddesses and Gods that were worshipped prior to Christianization and Islamization anywhere in the part of the earth called the "known world" by ancient Greeks and Romans (i.e., Europe, North Africa and the Middle East).

    • http://nihhus.jimdo.com/ Malaz

      (psssst…Ap'! Don't Feed The Trolls!) ;)

  • ocean1025

    For those interested in learning more about Accessibility for Deaf Pagans as I have discussed above, please feel free to visit the following link for more information on this issue:
    http://deafpagancrossroads.com/2011/04/03/providi

  • http://quakerpagan.blogspot.com/ Cat_C_B

    The best way to remove Wicca from the forefront of the Pagan movement? Eclipse it. Go thou, and build community and services for that community. And when you have done so, your work will be covered by the Wild Hunt and other sources of Pagan journalism, and you will have brought some honor to your tradition, whatever it may be.

    No one is stopping you–in fact, we'll all (Wiccans included) cheer you on. But quit boasting in the feating hall if you can't make good your brag out in the world… if you wish to be taken seriously.