Pagan Voices: Cora Post, Michael Lloyd, Aidan Kelly, Frater Barrabbas, and More!

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  July 17, 2012 — 111 Comments

Pagan voices is a new spotlight on recent quotations from figures within the Pagan community. These voices may appear in the burgeoning Pagan media, or from a mainstream outlet, but all showcase our wisdom, thought processes, and evolution  in the public eye. Is there a Pagan voice you’d like to see highlighted? Drop me a line with a link to the story, post, or audio.

“Covered in Light is a Sisterhood of Pagan/Polytheist self-identified women who have chosen, or are called, to cover their hair as part of their religious observance. In no way are we oppressed, objectified, suppressed, or made to feel like a second class citizen. The covering of our hair is a sacred act of devotion to our chosen Deities and therefore is approached with devotion and reverence. We welcome all women from all walks of life to join our Sisterhood if they feel led to do so. Trans-women and women of other faiths who are Pagan/Polytheist friendly and who embrace the Divine Mother are also welcome amongst us with open arms.”Cora Post, from Covered In Light. They are sponsoring the First Annual International Covered in Light Day on September 21st, 2012.

Michael Lloyd

Michael Lloyd

“It is important to recognize that most large gatherings which are billed as “national” events generally pull the bulk of their attendees from the region in which the event is being held. And there is anecdotal evidence to show that, when such a gathering is moved farther afield due to a necessary change in venue, the area from which attendees are drawn likewise tends to shift to focus on the new geographic center. When Julian Hill and I created the Between the Worlds Men’s Gathering in 2002, we initially foresaw it as a regional gathering for gay and bi men residing within a 500 mile radius of Columbus, Ohio. However, in the first year we had attracted someone from Texas, and inquiries from as far afield as Mexico and France. By the second year we had people attend from as far away as Washington State. After 10 years we’ve pulled people from Hawaii, as well as from Ontario and Manitoba, Canada. And yet the bulk of the attendees have remained within the 500 mile radius that we had initially targeted. This is due primarily to the economics and practicality of transporting camping gear, ritual accoutrements, and fabulous costumes cross-country. Therefore, I believe that most events–even those with large draws from farther afield–are already essentially regional in nature.” – Michael Lloyd, a co-founder and former co-facilitator (2002-2011) of the Between the Worlds Men’s Gathering, an annual spiritual retreat for men who love men. He’s author of the forthcoming book “Bull of Heaven: The Mythic Life and Times of Eddie Buczynski.” Lloyd was responding to a series on the Talking About Ritual Magick blog that asked if Pagan festivals are doomed to an inevitable decline.

Aidan Kelly in younger days.

Aidan Kelly in younger days.

“However, there is more to the Craft than just being a newly respectable religion for middle-class intellectuals. Tell me, you initiates, did you come to the Craft in order to supposedly work magic by reading a script? In order to take a politically correct attitude toward ecology and the environment? Or were you lured in by the Goddess, by the archetype of Aradia as the rebel against corruption and oppression? Or did you find the Craft because you were sick of being lied to by the established churches? If your primary allegiance is to searching out truth, as mine is, then you are a sixth type of Witch, for which there is not yet an established term.” – Aidan Kelly, exploring “What is a Witch?”

Frater Barrabbas (left) with fellow magician Tony Mierzwicki.

Frater Barrabbas (left) with fellow magician Tony Mierzwicki.

“Large regional festivals and conventions probably face a limited future, and will not be likely to persist in the decades ahead, what with the impact of limited resources and the necessity to adapt to changing times. Large gatherings may be more likely to occur once a decade, if at all. Local organizations and events are much more sustainable and these will likely persist and flourish in the future. Yet the most profound kind of gathering will be the intensive retreat, called Witch Camp by some, and perhaps spawning many variations in the future, each established for different regional areas and different traditions, practices and beliefs. It is my opinion that the future of our spiritual movement will be shaped not by social gatherings or even by individual groups or covens, but by intensive retreats that will give a level of spiritual authenticity to our beliefs and practices which normal activities and engagements fail to offer.” - Frater Barrabbas, “Are Pagan Festivals Dead? – Part 3″

“The [Witchcraft Suppression] Act makes possessing knowledge, or professing to possess knowledge of ‘witchcraft’ illegal, and by its title, seeks to suppress witchcraft. It also prohibits divination, a practice shared by both traditional healers who identify as iZangoma, and Pagans who identify as witches. [...]  Traditional beliefs do not assume that a witch may be innocent of such accusation because it is believed that such criminal acts are in keeping with the nature of the practice of Witchcraft. The alliance has advocated against witch hunts and accusations of witchcraft since 2007. Our annual campaign focuses on research, advocacy and education. We believe that accusations of witchcraft cannot be legislated away.” - Damon Leff, director of the South African Pagan Rights Alliances (SAPRA), speaking to The Citizen on South Africa’s Witchcraft Suppression Act.

Iris Firemoon with David Salisbury

Iris Firemoon with David Salisbury

“Obesity in the Pagan community is a part of the larger issue of health.  And health is not just about weight.  It is about treating our bodies as sacred.  It’s about what we put into our bodies and making sure that they are in the best condition possible for the long haul.  It’s about putting things into our bodies that were created by nature or the gods, not by putting synthetic replicas into our bodies as a substitute. It’s something that not only Pagans struggle with, but health is a consideration for all humans.  When we are at the height of our possible health (which is different for all of us because of genetics, injury, etc.), we improve the quality of our life.  We reduce disease.  We prolong life.  We feel better for longer.  I strongly believe that our bodies respond better to invasions and prevent disease when they are in optimal condition.  We are better vessls for divine work.  We are better able to serve.  We are better able to participate.”Iris Firemoon, responding to a conversation started by Peter Dybing on obesity within the modern Pagan movement.

Joseph Merlin Nichter (aka WitchDoctorJoe)

Joseph Merlin Nichter (aka WitchDoctorJoe)

“We have started the NPCCA [National Pagan Correctional Chaplains Association] as an affiliate program, a product of our existing organization, Mill Creek Seminary, and have just begun the first in a three phase development plan. Phase one will focus on membership development and organizational growth. We are proud to announce that the NPCCA is now accepting applications for membership from Pagans who actively engage in prison ministry, provide some form of religious service within the field of corrections, or have a strong religious organizations which have a prison ministry program  or who are interested in participating, contributing or supporting Pagan chaplaincy.”Joseph Merlin Nichter (aka WitchDoctorJoe), on the formation of the National Pagan Correctional Chaplains Association.

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

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • Mia

    I know that certain ethnic religions that still exist or came back do have some hair-covering, but are these the ones the “Covered in Light” post refers to, or are there other pagans that do this on an individual basis?

    I’m just curious because I can’t think of any pagan religious observances that encourage hair-covering, so my best guess is that it’s individual. My experiences are limited to Muslims, Sikhs, little old ladies, and those who wear head-scarves because it looks pretty.

    • Sunweaver

       There seems to be a rising number of Pagans interested in modest dress and/or covering. I’m a part-time coverer myself and do so as an expression of humility, particularly when praying or otherwise “in temple” (as it were). Sometimes I do so for practical reasons and sometimes for more spiritual reasons. Sometimes the line between practicality and spirituality is very fuzzy and it doesn’t matter why.

      Since there is no particular doctrine that encourages covering amongst Pagans, the reasons for doing so are often very personal.

      • Guest

        I’m curious why you think wearing more clothes makes one more “modest”

        • Sunweaver

           The way one dresses does not “make” one modest, but is rather an expression of modesty.

          • Guest

            RIght.. so if you make it outwardly known you’re “modest” you’re expressing “modesty”. 

          • Sunweaver

            Your tone suggests that any outward expression of one’s inner qualities is necessarily vain and hubristic. That’s a broad assumption about the motivations behind the action and an incorrect assumption. I suggest that if you would like to learn more about modest dress in general or covering specifically, that you talk face-to-face with someone who does so.

            I’m certain you will learn much more from a polite conversation than by any other means.

    • Jason Hatter

      There are other individuals who do this as well.  See Star Foster’s excellent post from March, about Veiling, for more information.
      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/pantheon/2012/03/veiling-a-different-take-on-pagan-womanhood/

      • http://profiles.google.com/tpoaic Cora Post

        Hi Jason,

        That is Covered in Light too :-)

    • http://profiles.google.com/tpoaic Cora Post

      Mia, it’s individual Pagan woman who have been called to cover that make up Covered in Light. There’s no set doctrine or one specific tradition or ethnicity represented in the Sisterhood. 

      • Mia

         Awesome, thanks for explaining (to everyone to responded).

  • http://www.groveofthelion.com/ Adrian Hawkins

    I feel obliged to point of that synthetic isn’t a bad word, nor are all synthetic products. Products should be evaluated on its merits. Without synthetic products many people would be much more hard pressed today’s than not.

    Point of fact: my father required a synthetic medicine in order to live.

    • Jason Hatter

      No, but in the context of the article, which was about obesity,  synthetic does seem to be worse for you than natural.  Artificial sweeteners, for instance, tend to increase the appetite according to some studies I’ve read, which works against the purpose that many people use them for.

      • Sunweaver

         I’m going to go with most synthetic food is probably not the best choice for most people. My OB told me to stay away from artificial sweeteners because we don’t really know how they affect a developing fetus. Fortunately, I don’t like them anyway.
        I know what sugar does. I’ll have that.

  • http://profiles.google.com/tpoaic Cora Post

    Thank you, Jason, for high lighting our cause! 

  • http://witchdoctorjoe.blogspot.com/ WitchDoctorJoe

    Thank you for the Highlight.

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

    Symbols need to be utilized intelligently. No intelligent person would go around sporting a swastika, regardless of their own personal understanding of that ancient sacred symbol.

    The veil (burka,  hijab, whatever) is a symbol of oppression, and no amount of Unverified Personal Gnosis can change that.  One sixth of all the women in the world live under the oppression of Islam, and even in relatively “moderate” Muslim countries women are second class citizens at best. To fully understand just how bad the situation is, consider the fact that in terms of sexism, the Islamic Republic of Iran (where women who fail to cover their hair are chased down and beaten in the streets) is a relatively enlightened place by modern Islamic standards.

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      I recall a Pagan seasonal festival I attended in my forties, with a big bonfire at night with people performing — constant drumming, and dancing in front of it or, when it was down to embers (and still damn hot) jumping over it. Among the dancers were a nude man wielding two smudges, and two very different belly-dancers, one clearly in trance and the other pleasing the crowd.

      I cannot imagine that the presence of a handful of covered women in the audience in any way repressing these expressions of the sacred.

      It would, on the other hand, be very oppressive to prohibit covering.

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

        The veil is an instantly recognizable symbol of the mentality that would have thrown the lot of you into that fire.

        • Baruch Dreamstalker

          If I’m confident of the attitude of the women actually covering themselves I won’t worry about the attitudes of people not there.

          • Ursyl

            Exactly!

            If we are to base our decisions on what others think or might think, or how they interpret, we’re handing them the reins to control our lives.

            No thanks.

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

            We all take many things into account when it comes to our personal appearance, including how we appear to others. In fact, the “covered in light” folks explicitly include “modesty” as one of the reasons for a woman to cover her hair.

            The fact is that the vast majority of all women who wear a hijab or other form of “veil” do so because of intense social pressure that is violently enforced on anyone who resists it.

            This whole “covered in light” brouhaha is simply a very thinly veiled attempt to legitimize an obvious symbol of oppression.

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

            I am not particularly concerned with the attitude or motives of the “covered in light” women. I just think they need to exercise a little more common sense. When wearing a symbol prominently in public, common sense encourages us to take into account what the symbol symbolizes.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            This invocation of “common sense” evades the point of what practical difference it makes if, say, 10% of the women at a Pagan festival are covered. Whose ox is gored?

            Since its revival Paganism has, in skyclad worship, catered to one extreme in personal ritual attire. We can certainly afford to accommodate the other. (Or does “common sense” also militate against skyclad worship because nudity symbolizes oppressive pornography?)

        • http://www.facebook.com/kenazfilan Kenaz Filan

          Ah yes. Because everywhere we look those damn Muslims are just waiting to tear down our way of life.  I’m sure that one of these days they’re going to send a suicide bomber 

        • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

          Any veil? That’s a lot like ‘any hat’. Yarmulkes, miters, propeller beanies, and cowboy hats mean different things to their wearers. 

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

            The “covered in light” folks are not interested in defending the right of people to put random things on their heads. They are exclusively and very explicitly concerned with women who cover their hair for supposedly “religious” reasons. No yarmulkes or tophats or fezes or fake-arrow-through-the-heads.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Come on, Apuleius, you know perfectly well that it’s solidly valid logic to apply a proposed line of reasoning to an allied topic to see if it makes sense in that context. It’s called “reductio ad absurdum.”

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

            Baruch: ” … it’s solidly valid logic to apply a proposed line of reasoning to an allied topic to see if it makes sense in that context.”

            There are three specific aspects to “covered in light” that I think are essential:

            1. it is concerned only with women.
            2. it defines itself in terms of covering one’s hair.
            3. the covering of the hair by women is done for religious purposes.

            Any attempted generalization that does not include these three elements is not valid, that is, it does not follow the same “proposed line of reasoning” as that found in “covered in light”.

            More directly: my criticisms of “covered in light” are not applicable to any phenomena that does not meet the three criteria listed above.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Apuleius, this is a much better structured rebuttal. Thank you.

            Your point 1) applies only because it is women who have brought it up. That need not have been the case, and if there is as much as one man (or, under Covered in Light’s diversity posture, one FtM transgender) who feels the same way, the yarmulkes are in.

            Your whole argument has the implicit premise that the oppression conveyed in female hair covering in the Moslem world becomes not just implicit but explicit oppression in the Pagan world if as much as one Pagan woman displays it.

            This requires one to ignore the specific religious import with which these Pagan women imbue it. Out of my respect for fellow Pagans’ practices, I give that top priority in response/reaction to it.

            It may seem offputting that they are just a tad evangelical about it. Well, Hel, if they think it’s good why shouldn’t they offer it to others? It’s not like they’re ringing your doorbell.

        • Rioghna

           Veiling predates Islam and as a practice has existed (and still exists) in many cultures.  I know any number of women who cover (I am one of them) who would happily rip you a new one for making those assumptions about them some of those women are Muslims, some Pagan, some Jewish, some Other.  Perhaps you should keep the Islamophobia to yourself and stop jumping to conclusions?

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

            Rioghna: “Veiling predates Islam ….”

            True, but veiling is explicitly commanded in the Koran and also in the Hadith. For more precise sourcing, look here: Lets think again about the burqa. That’s an article by Taslima Nasreen, who was born and raised Muslim (as she describes in the artcle). When the article was translated into Kannada and published in India in 2010 (without Nasreen’s permission or knowledge), this led to days of violent rioting by Muslims, in which at least two people died.

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

       No intelligent person would go round sporting a swastika?
      Is it not still commonly used by Buddhists?
      http://svasticross.blogspot.co.uk/2011/09/swastika-monks.html

      The veil was (most likely) originally used as an item of protection against the desert climate/weather. You will find that the Tuareg men wearing veils, for example.

      What is more important, that we let a symbol become synonymous with only one mentality, or we seek to reclaim it from negative connotations?

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

        Lēoht Sceadusawol: “Is it not still commonly used by Buddhists?”

        In the West, Hindus, Buddhists and Jains are very discreet when it comes to any public display of swastikas. Basically we just don’t go there. In parts of Asia where everyone is familiar with the ancient and continuous use of the swastika as a sacred symbol, things are different.

        If you see someone in the West wearing a swastika in public, that person is almost certainly making a conscious public statement of support for fascism.

        • Guest

          You can tell the Buddhist symbol from a Nazi one, same as there are recognizably different kinds of scarves.

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

            It is a myth that the Nazi swastika is somehow different in its physical appearance from any other swastika.

          • Guest

            That is false. General shape the same but colors different, and blatantly used as a Buddhist symbol with Buddhist and/or Bon imagery. 
            If  someone can tell the difference between say a Cyprus flag and a US one, even though they both sport five point stars, then this argument is invalid.

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

           Yet the Nazis appropriated it from ancient Germanic/Scandinavian culture. The swastika has a long history of use in Europe (not just from the Germanic tribes, but also the Romans and Celts used it). Should we stop using it simply because it is currently seen as synonymous with the Nazis (and, more importantly, the negative aspects of their actions)? Or is it time to stop looking at one brief moment in history and move on?

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            As you know, I’m disputing Apuleius about head covers.

            But the Third Reich will not be a “brief moment” as long as it remains in living memory. That’s how people’s minds work.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            Because some people lack objectivity, others suffer?

            All I am saying is that flawed stereotypes should be challenged and people be educated.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Leoht, I’m not sure whose suffering we’re talking about here.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

             People who feel they are unable to express their religious identity through open use of symbols for fear of persecution or (at the very least) negative judgement are the ones suffering.

            A Muslim woman comes to England, from Saudi Arabia. She is progressive, liberal, intelligent and hard working, but she also wears the burkha. Is she any more free of prejudice in England than when she was in Saudi? Or is it that the precise nature of the prejudice changes?

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Thank you for clarifying, Leoht, you and I are in agreement on this point.

      • Guest

        Looked at pictures. Tuareg men are not wearing hijabs.

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

           No, they aren’t. They are wearing a Tagelmust (or Cheche).

          I never said they were wearing a hijab. I said ‘veil’.

          The reason I pointed it out is because, in a desert environment, a veil has plenty of practical uses (which is why soldiers will use a shemagh/keffiyeh.)

    • Ursyl

      Seems to me that oppression is any one person or faction dictating to others how they MUST be in this world.

      In this case, while forcing women to cover is indeed used in an oppressive manner in many parts of the world, banning them from wearing what they please is just as oppressive.

      Here’s a radical thought. Let us wear what we want on our heads and bodies and define for ourselves what it means to us and our deities, and you do the same.

      • Guest

        In this case, while forcing women to cover is indeed used in an oppressive manner in many parts of the world, banning them from wearing what they please is just as oppressive.
        These are the same thing, for millions. Sometimes women internalize the oppression, too. 

        You can try to reclaim the hijab in your mind to define it differently, but then you’d have to deny it’s a symbol and means of oppression for millions. 

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

           You don’t have to deny anything. You can simply accept that something can have more than one meaning.

          We should be able to do that easily enough, right?

    • http://sarenth.wordpress.com/ Sarenth

      When it comes down to the individual Pagan who chooses to veil, what will honestly matter more: your, and others who share your opinion, or the God(s) to whom their veiling is done for?

    • Guest

      I’d like to see these women get to wear whatever they please

    • Sunweaver

      “The veil (burka,  hijab, whatever) is a symbol of oppression”

      Umm, nope. Wrong. And this is not coming from personal gnosis at all. While it’s true that women are forced to cover in some places, that’s not representative of all those who have chosen to do so.

      I have several Muslim friends and we’ve talked about covering and why we choose to do so (I’m a part-time coverer myself). I can’t imagine that any one of them is oppressed in any way and the suggestion that they would be shows a lack of knowledge on your part. One of my dear Muslim friends chose not to cover until she was in her 30′s. No one had forced her to do so, she just decided one weekend that she wanted to. This is a strong, intelligent, educated woman. She has two likewise strong, intelligent, educated daughters who are also Muslim and who choose not to cover. Her reasoning, and I’ve heard this before from Muslim women, is that covering is an expression of submission to their god– and only their god. She does not submit to her husband or to anyone but the divine as she sees it.

      The only way this woman has ever been treated like a second-class citizen is by rednecks who misunderstand who and what she is:
      http://www.tennessean.com/article/20120621/NEWS01/306210068/Murfreesboro-mosque-threat-leads-federal-indictment-Texas-man

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

        Isolated, cherry picked anecdotes have little, if any, more persuasive power than UPGs. No Muslim woman who wears a veil does so freely. Islam is an ideology that oppresses women as one of its core principles.

        • Sunweaver

           Baseless accusations with no data, anecdotal or otherwise, to back them up are even more unconvincing. Simply stating that a thing is true does not make it so.
          My suggestion to you, if you would like to understand the matter of covering a little more fully, is to have polite and respectful conversations with women who do so. If you want to know why Muslim women in particular cover, you should probably ask them. I’m sure they would be glad to tell you about their motivations.

          In the mean time, here’s some suggested reading:
          http://coveredinlight.org/2012/07/17/clearing-up-some-misconceptions/#respond
          http://www.patheos.com/blogs/confessionsofapagansoccermom/2012/07/covered-in-light-responds-to-naysayers-of-pagan-women-and-veiling.html

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

            The word “Islam” means submission. Muslim women cover their hair, or their entire bodies, etc, because they are required to do so by the men to whom they are required, by their religion, to submit.

          • Sunweaver

            The first part of this statement is true and can be verified from a number of reliable sources. The second part of this statement is baseless conjecture. This argument is illogical and I’m done with this conversation.

          • Rioghna

             Actually depending on sect, Muslim men cover their heads as well, and all parts of their body from neck to knees, as an act of submission to their God.  Please get your facts right.  The veil as a requirement varies by culture, not by religion and has a host of different reasons, history and lore related to it.

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

            Rioghna: “Actually depending on sect, Muslim men cover their heads as well”

            Muslim men are oppressed too, and quite obviously so. But women are completely disenfranchised within Islam, whereas men can hold positions of power (and are in fact commanded to hold positions of power over women).

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

             You are spending a lot of effort judging a religion that (I feel safe in presuming) is not your own.

            I presume you are more than happy when others return the favour?

          • Rioghna

             I would like to suggest that you do some research before you make assumptions about other cultures, actually a lot of the disenfranchisement of women is a fairly modern thing.  I will point out that the Islamic world had women in professions, including women doctors before most of the west actually had doctors at all.  Not only are you judging a faith that is as diverse as many others but you are making the classic assumption that all the people who practice a faith are the same culturally, which is definitely not the case.  Islam in Malaysia is as different from Islam in Pakistan as  a Baptist in southern Alabama is from one in Ontario, BC.  Why do you assume they are all the same, and discount the effect of different cultures on the way they practice their religion, and why paint all of them with the same brush. 

          • Adon

             Sunweaver, if you really wanna know what the Hijab means in Islam you should read the Koran and the Islamic sources more.
            It is a symbol of oppression, domination and misogyny, period. Even if some women delude themselves into believing that they wore it with their free will, the hijab is the one of worst things that happened to both women and men in the Near East.

            What most pagans fail to see regarding the Islamic Hijab is that the intent of it is not just to convey a message regarding the woman who wears it, but also the people who see her; the Hijab is supposed to protect women from men, from all men (because the Koran thinks that men and women only think about sex). It’s also a symbol of submission to the will of their husbands (as most women wear the hijab after marriage), or a political identity (which in this case is Islamism).
            In the first days of Islam it was also a symbol of the high social class (upper classes wore the veil as a symbol of their status).

            In all cases, the Hijab has nothing to do with spirituality and has everything to do with oppression and misogyny.

             

          • Sunweaver

             Have you ever actually talked to someone that wears hijab? I’m guessing no. We can talk about this after you’ve actually asked someone who wears said garment why she does so.
            Gods forbid anyone should ever make false assumptions about your religion.

          • Guest

            Sunweaver, Adon said sie was from Beirut. 

          • Adon

            Suweaver i’m from Beirut, Lebanon, and i have lived there all my life, that is in the Middle East, with 65 % muslim population. And i have no problem in sending you my real identity so you can find me on facebook.
            In other words, i have lived all my life around women who wear Hijab of which some are relatives and friends, and my girlfriend wore the hijab too. So i know a thing or two about the subject.

    • Northern_Light_27

       I think women are better placed to decide what does and does not oppress us than a man looking in from outside. I also find it interesting that any time there’s a discussion of covering by choice there’s always at least one man shouting that it’s oppressive, but I never hear the same people saying that the expectation that young women should wear as little as possible to fit in socially is oppressive.

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

        Northern_Light_27: “I think women are better placed to decide what does and does not oppress us than a man looking in from outside.”

        An injustice to one is an injustice to all. In fact, merely looking out for the rights of “one’s own kind” has nothing whatsoever to do with justice or ethics, but is merely the basest form of narrow self-interest. It is only once we concern ourselves with what happens to people who don’t look like us (or are otherwise “other”) that we can claim to be concerned with things like justice and its opposite, oppression.

        • Northern_Light_27

          That’s lovely, but the way to be an ally isn’t to talk over and down to the people whose interests you claim to care about, or to mansplain to women an oppression you will never personally experience and must always oppose from a distance. Honestly, I don’t see the way you’re policing women’s appearances to be any different than any other man interested in policing women’s appearances.

          • Guest

            You are not even staying on subject, and I don’t see anybody saying what people can or can not wear, so that’s a red herring that can be thrown back since it’s too small. I just see commenting on the tastelessness and insensitivity by fake do-gooders toward the millions of women dealing with the threat  under oppression of women into having to wear the hijab.  Only brought up because of the cultural appropriation of the hijab for the poster.
            And I *rolls eyes* at the sex policing happening again to change the subject to how whatever he says is no longer of interest to any others. A thought that’s not shared by everybody, so you know.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            “I don’t see anybody saying what people can or can not wear, so that’s a red herring”

            The question of whether it’s proper to cover has been raised on moral grounds. I have enough experience with discussions of pornography to be alert that not far behind this kind of rhetoric are often proposals to coerce.

            Calling it a matter of “taste” is the red herring here.

          • Guest

            Baruch Dreamstalker,

            It’s not that any Pagans want to put a veil on or not. It’s the appropriation of the hijab while ignoring or dismissing away what that actually means for millions of oppressed women and calling that “covered in light” and encouraging others to wear the same. But I assume everyone understands this by now who wanted to try thinking about it.   

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Guest, “appropriation” is another red herring. Human traditions rifle one another constantly, and Pagans are (to put it mildly) no exception.

            Like Apuleius, you are giving someone else’s emotional take on the veil priority over that of the person in your community who is wearing one, metaphorically standing before you.

            This pattern, too, I’ve seen before in discourse on pornography. Like bile, it doesn’t taste any better the second time around.

          • Guest

            Baruch, you totally are given the last word. I have no idea how you’ve brought pornography into this or what you mean, but its the internet. And I don’t want to ask, since I don’t want to know. 

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Guest, what I mean is that programs to restrict women’s choices alway start out with a claim to have their best interests at heart.

          • Guest

            Guest, what I mean is that programs to restrict women’s choices alway start out with a claim to have their best interests at heart.  

            Baruch, the funny thing is with your view, we’re on the same page, which is why I objected to the promotion of the hijab, with the same old “modesty” b.s. reason. 

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Guest, I don’t see a wave of coercive pressure coming out of Covered in Light for Pagan women to cover themselves. So I don’t worry much about that.

            I do see, in the vehement objections, a potential for Pagan women who want to cover, being shamed into not doing so. So I worry about that.

          • Guest

            Baruch, clearly you keep putting that baby herring out on the line. 
            It’s still getting thrown back.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Guest, anyone who thinks coercion is a red herring in a discussion of public implications of private morals, earns a “deficient” in History.

        • Baruch Dreamstalker

          Apuleius, you are employing the classical Poisoning the Well Fallacy by gratuitously playing the race card on people who have exhibited not one whit of racial animus.

          And you misapply “an injustice to one is an injustice to all.” Being forced to cover their hair whether they want to or not is an injustice not only to the Moslem women targeted but to all of us, whether we cover our own hair or not. That’s the injustice to all. It is not increased one iota if some of us cover our own hair for our own reasons, including religious.

        • Papillon

           You do realize that in telling women what they can and cannot wear, you are acting as an oppressor, right?

        • Papillon

           I’d also be interested in knowing what you would do if a woman in your life told you they wanted to veil. Would you force them not to?

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    Good to see the organization of Pagan prison chaplains. That’s an uphill area for us.

  • Aidan Kelly

    Thank you for the plug, Jason. I see you zeroed in on my most radical paragraph–but that’s what I’m here for.

    • http://www.wildhunt.org/blog/ Jason Pitzl-Waters

      Hey Aidan, 

      I used that one mostly because I couldn’t find many photos of you! I didn’t want to snag one from your Facebook without getting permission first. So if you have a preferred press photo, please share.

      • Aidan Kelly

        I don’t mind that one. Actually, it’s the one my wife found back in 1993 that inspired her to come looking for me. But I think the one with my two little daughters is a much more realistic portrait of me these days.

  • WhiteBirch

    Jason, thank you as always for finding me such good things to read! In particular, I’m glad you pointed out the conversation on Peter Dybing’s blog, I’m interested to follow and see what comes of it.

  • AnantaAndroscoggin

    There’s the point of view that a yarmulke or shawl worn over the head (or any other head covering) will protect the crown chakra from whatever it is that’s up there.

    Don’t Mennonite women and some other Protestant sects  wear bonnets under somewhat the same motives?

  • http://twitter.com/thesilverspiral Naya Aerodiode

    I prefer to have my long, thick hair covered only by the glorious light of the moon and the sun, unbound and free and flowing around me to catch every breath of the wind. 

    The Lord and Lady don’t care what I wear – they care what I DO.  My actions make my life so very sacred that I don’t give much thought to the kind of clothing I wear while doing them.  The Goddess and God would rather I not focus my energy on making sure the world knows how sacred I think my clothing choices are, but instead focus my energy on making my world a better place.

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

       I guarantee that, whatever view someone has of ‘better’, there will be someone else that disagrees.

  • kittylu

    We in the pagan community should accept obese people as they are and stop insulting and discriminating against them.  They are very oppressed in our society.   They have a as much a right to exist as anybody else.  Dieting does not work and some people are genetically predisposed to have large frames.  Exercise and healthy eating is good for people of all sizes and we should recognize that health doesn’t necessarily translate to small body size.

    • http://www.xkcd.com/285 Eran Rathan

      If you don’t take care for yourself first and foremost, how can you care for anything else?

      • Sarah

        Of all the obese people who adopt a healthy diet and exercise plan, only a tiny minority manage to lose a significant amount of weight and keep it off. Accusing the rest of being lazy is like accusing everyone who doesn’t get a 4.0 GPA of being stupid.

        • http://www.xkcd.com/285 Eran Rathan

          The obvious response to that, I think, is don’t become obese.

          No one is born obese.  Yes, some people become obese from hormonal imbalances or other issues, but most become obese from poor lifestyle choices and poor food choices.

          • Guest

            Nobody’s born over six feet tall either. Genetics is just one factor why someone would grow that tall, where some would be shorter.

            What’s been judged as good and healthy is spa food and having a personal trainer. Poor lifestyle and food choices often are linked to income. 

      • ELNIGMA

        Obesity is often a symptom/result  from an on-going illness, hormonal problem, genetics, gut chemistry, side effect of medication, or combination.  

      • Guest

        It seems to me that it’s up to the person in question to decide what their order of priorities are in life — and that only they can decide such a thing, no one else who isn’t living their lives. One’s weight is not a sign of how well they’re taking care of themselves.

    • Northern_Light_27

       This.  My entire family is prone to being large, so the factors were weighted (pardon the pun) in that direction for me from the beginning. Add two disabilities that affect how much exercise I can do and a host of meds to address those disabilities that have weight gain as a side-effect, and, well, I’m a large woman. Hearing a woman who is privileged in almost every way tell me that I’m not taking proper care of myself and not treating my body as sacred– or telling me *in any way* that my body is somehow spiritually wrong– pisses me off immensely. (And then there’s the whole side-topic of all of the ways in which class plays into size, as if we can all afford to eat the highest possible quality food.)

      Here’s a suggestion for Ms. Firemoon and Eran Rathan and the rest, how about we stop policing other people’s bodies? It’s none of your damn business what size or shape we are. It’s none of your damn business what we eat. It’s also, to cover all my bases, none of your damn business how much or how little we wear.

  • http://templeofdianainc.org Ariana Clausen – Vélez

    My first husband was Muslim and because I married into the family I had to change my name and dress as well as cover my head and face.  It was the hardest thing I did in my life, hiding who I was, I never saw it as being modest but more of being controlled.  I know many Muslims who in the U.S. do not adhere to this and prior to the Taliban women had the same freedoms and rights as we do in the U.S.  They ran the house, owned their own businesses, dressed more freely, were able to own property and more.  While yes it is beautiful I would never again hide my face from the Gods. 

    I look up to the heavens with my hair down and my eyes wide open to honor my Gods and serve them as a Priestess of a free will and mind as well as an Individual woman who happens to be married to a great man.

  • Papillon

    Came here expecting drama about veiling.
    Did not leave disappointed.

    Well, actually, I left disappointed in closed-minded Pagans who see the veil as a symbol of Islam and therefore allow their Islamophobia to run rampant against their own people. If you find veiling to be abhorrent, I do hope you never wear a hat.

    Telling women what they can OR CAN NOT wear is anti-feminist and completely backwards. Not a single one of these Pagan women who choose to veil were forced to by anyone.

    • Guest

      Telling women what they can OR CAN NOT wear is anti-feminist and completely backwards.   Right now, millions of women wearing the hijab are put through this.The what phobia? Are you a psychologist to say someone else is phobic? If someone points out that the Catholic Church did a coverup of molesting Priests, they’re not accused of Catholophobia. If someone points out that Nazis tortured and killed many Jews, they’re not accused of Nazi-Germanophobia.  If someone points out Scientology stalks it’s ex-members, they’re not accused of Scientologophobia.   Those aren’t words. 

      • Papillon

         The veil. Is not. Islamic.

        Nor is it oppressive any more than clothes in general are oppressive.

        If you are suggesting that women cannot wear what they want, how exactly are you any different from those who tell their wives they must wear the hijab?

        • Guest

          Not all veils are hijabs (as shown in the poster) which is Islamic wear.  
          As to the other, that’s obviously not what I’m doing. So if you think that must be going on, it must be you.

  • http://kauko-niskala.blogspot.com Kauko

    I can’t help but think that the critics to ‘Covered in Light’ are a little too hung up on the fact that the woman in the design has a head covering that is generally seen as associated with Muslim women. If you look around on teh internetz you’ll see that not all, or even most, Pagan women who cover do so with that particular style of covering as far as I’ve seen.

    • Sunweaver

      I have a picture of me in something similar around here somewhere. I tend to cover more fully when it’s too freakin’ cold out for my kind. It really confuses people when I start wishing them a happy Chanukah.
      (Candles and fried food in the middle of winter– what’s not to love?)

    • Northern_Light_27

       This exactly. Most Pagan women I’ve seen who cover their hair (and myself, on the rare occasion when I really feel the desire to do so– although for me it’s more of a psychological thing than a religious thing) use a more Jewish style of headscarf-wearing where the hair is covered but the neck is not, or they wear a kerchief or a snood. The dutch crown is my personal favorite: http://www.tznius.com/cgi-bin/dutch.pl

    • Guest

      Kauko, you have hit something on the head here. The organizers of this could have easily avoided hurting anyone or being ridiculously supportive of oppression by simply picking a different visual theme and supportive of their purpose by showing what most Pagan women actually wear. It’s almost like they want to put spite in the face of women, just to be edgy hipsters.  As far as I can tell, the organizers of this thing have shown no current interest in showing sensitivity to the plight of millions of women who are forced to wear the hijab even after they’ve had this problem given their attention and apologizing for the cultural appropriation in their choice of image. 

      • Guest

        Rather not apologizing for the cultural appropriation in their choice of image. Also, their trying to say I’m oppressing them by making a complaint is like a restaurant saying it’s the fault of their customers  if they serve bad food.

  • Adon

    When i saw the “covered in light” poster a chill ran through my whole body and i first thought it to be an Islamic poster, as the wording and the style depicted on it are absolutely Islamic.
    In the city in which i grew up (Beirut), women who didn’t wear the Hijab in the late 80s where burned with acid. The pro-veil posters of the Islamic parties like Hizbullah had exactly the same words.

    Head coverings are one thing that’s common and it doesn’t need events nor glorification, so why implement such problematic wording and do an entire event for veiling?

    For me this is very problematic, and it ignores the suffering of millions of women who are not covered in light at all, but in darkness.
    The veil is not just a piece of clothe, it’s a statement, and a very bad one actually. I don’t think western pagans understand the scope of the subject and the dangers of such discourse. It seems that this is some oriental fascination of some kind in which the symbols of oppression are romanticized and thought of as magic solutions for “what the West needs”.

    I won’t talk about how much the veil is oppressive and how it was the worst thing that happened for our cultures in the Near East, as this should be obvious for anyone who has done a good study of the Koran and Hadith. But do the organizers have an idea about the problems that arise from such discourse? For example, what do you mean by covered by light? What does it mean for those who are not covered? Are those who cover their hair automatically more modest, more religious, “closer to the light”? Are those who don’t not covered in light?

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      “The veil is not just a piece of clothe, it’s a statement”
      The veil is not ALWAYS just a piece of cloth, it CAN BE a statement.

      “the veil is oppressive”
      The veil CAN BE oppressive.

      I do not mean to belittle the tragedy that many, many women has suffered over the years at the hand of repressive religious and cultural mysogyny, but nothing is universal, not even the oppressive nature of the hijab.

      How do we move forward if we are always so focused on the negative aspects of everything?

      Take, for example, the pentagram. In the (European) medieval period, the pentagram was a symbol  of Christianity used, amongst other things, to represent the five wounds of Christ. However, it is now seen as a ‘Pagan’ symbol (even though there is no evidence, to my knowledge, of ‘pagan’ usage of that particular symbol in North-West Europe.)

      At some point, the original meaning was subsumed by the new. In the same way, if the veil/hijab becomes associated with ‘Paganism’, it will fall out of favour with the Abrahamic religions, surely?

  • Deborah Bender

    As a lifelong and, I hope, thoughtful feminist, I have multiple criteria for deciding whether a particular style of female dress or adornment is oppressive or simply socially rewarded.

    1. Is is unsafe or unhealthy to wear? (High heeled shoes, straitlaced corsets, some makeup and hair dyes, some kinds of jewelry)
    2. Does it interfere with mobility or the ability to defend oneself more than the dress a man would be expected to wear in similar situations? (High heels, hobble skirts and other physically restrictive clothing, burkas, long and heavy full skirts, foot binding, long loose hair)
    3. Is it markedly more uncomfortable than male dress for similar situations? (Black chadors in hot weather, bare legs or sheer stockings in cold weather, high heeled shoes, tight corsets)
    4. Is it significantly more expensive to make or purchase and to keep in wearable condition, in relation to the income of the woman wearing it, than attire for a man in a similar situation? (Business or office attire, fashionable clothing, shoes and accessories, makeup, standard items like socks and underwear)
    5. Does it take considerably more time to get dressed in, maintain, and remove than what a man would wear in a similar situation? (Makeup, fingernail polish)
    6. Does wearing it in public expose the woman to the likelihood of being verbally harassed, physically harassed, or assaulted? (Tight or revealing clothing almost anywhere)
    7. Does refusal to wear it expose the woman to harassment or assault? (Clothing regarded as modest by [male] standards in any socially conervative society)
    8.  Does failure to wear it expose the woman to employment discrimination or social judgments that she lacks self esteem? (Makeup, dye to conceal gray hair, other markers of femininity)

    There are different levels of penalties for not presenting the appearance that society dictates, as well as variations in how much choice an individual has to buck the standard. Rural Aghanistan by custom and Saudi Arabia by law prescribe minutely what a woman can and cannot wear in public. Some Islamic societies are considerably more relaxed.

    Not being hired for a receptionist job because you don’t look like a fashion model isn’t equivalent to being thrown in jail and beaten because your chador exposes your ankles. On the other hand, Westernized cultures put plenty of pressure on women to look a certain way, and presenting a socially approved appearance requires a good deal more trouble and expense for women than for men.

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

       Interesting list…

      Let me check:

      1. Is is unsafe or unhealthy to wear?
      Like my New Rock boots, eye liner and nail varnish?

      2. Does it interfere with mobility or the ability to defend oneself?
      Like my skirt?

      3. Is it markedly more uncomfortable than male dress for similar situations?
      Leather trenchcoat…

      4. Is it significantly more expensive to make or purchase and to keep in
      wearable condition, in relation to the income of the woman wearing it,
      than attire for a man in a similar situation?
      Plenty of (decent) gothwear will have specialist cleaning instructions.

      5. Does it take considerably more time to get dressed in, maintain, and
      remove than what a man would wear in a similar situation?
      Takes me far longer to ‘goth up’ than it does the missus. If nothing else, I have more hair.

      6. Does wearing it in public expose the woman to the likelihood of being verbally harassed, physically harassed, or assaulted?
      Well, wearing my leather trench gets me a lot of verbal abuse about town. Not to mention a couple incidences of (attempted) assault.

      7. Does refusal to wear it expose the woman to harassment or assault?
      I will flip this around slightly and point out my refusal to conform has exposed me to a lot of ‘criticism’. (So much fun to hear people shouting “Freak!” across the street.)

      8.  Does failure to wear it expose the woman to employment discrimination or social judgments that she lacks self esteem?
      It’s bloody hard to get a job and be a full time ‘goth’, I can tell you that.

      Everyone gets discriminated. Just for different reasons.

      • Deborah Bender

        By now it’s probably just you and me carrying on this discussion, but your reply illustrates my implicit point.

        Would you say that you are under social pressure to wear Goth attire, even though it is sometimes uncomfortable, unsafe, physically restrictive or expensive in time and money to keep up?

        Or would you say that you wear Goth attire despite the disapproval of others, in order to visibly declare your affiliation with a group whose values you share, or because you like dressing Goth for other reasons?

        Veils and some other forms of Islamic dress fall into the first category in societies where women are pressured to wear them. They fall into the second category in societies where people  fear and despise Muslims.

        If people simply didn’t care what other people wear, we would be free of that particular form of oppression, but appearance is a form of communication, so that won’t happen.

        • Baruch Dreamstalker

          “By now it’s probably just you and me carrying on this discussion”

          Not so. Following avidly.

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

           That really does depend on context, doesn’t it?

          I’d be unlikely to get into a club (that I would want to get into) wearing sports gear and trainers. So, in that context, yes there is a pressure to conform.

          Conversely, I feel a near constant societal pressure to dress a certain way, wear my hair a certain way and generally try and fit into the societal expectation of my gender.

          My point being is that men are societally conditioned no less than women are.

          To complain about only one angle is sexist, don’t you think?