Winter Solstice: Caught in a Crossfire

Heather Greene —  December 8, 2013 — 144 Comments

As the wheel turns, the merry month of December is now upon us. ‘Tis the season for many things – one of which is a swell in public religious discourse.  Is the Christmas tree really a Pagan tradition?  Have the holidays become overly commercialized?  News outlets and blog sites are brimming with articles discussing and dissecting the traditional American holiday hullaballoo.

Chicago Daley Square 2013

Chicago Daley Square 2013

One of these media side-shows is the negotiation of the Christian nativity scene.  When located on private property, the crèche causes no alarm.  However nativity scenes are often found in public spaces such as parks, squares, and government buildings.  As one might expect, these particular displays find themselves at the center of “first amendment” debates.

At the forefront of this particular issue is the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), a national Atheist organization.  This year for the first time, FFRF has erected a “free thought display” in Chicago’s Daley Square. Standing near a menorah and life-size crèche is an enormous “A” denoting “Atheism.”  In addition, FFRF has posted a sign defining the term and a banner that reads:

adsolistica

Bill of Rights Nativity Banner

Dan Barker, FFRF’s co-president wrote, “If the government is going to open up a public forum to religion, then it has to permit the nonreligious… to express our point of view as well.”

Faced with increasing religious diversity, many local governments have chosen to enact a policy of inclusiveness with regards to holiday displays.  That is exactly what happened six years ago in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  After receiving complaints about the crèche on City Hall, officials invited other faiths to erect their own displays.  Circle Sanctuary responded with a Wiccan Pentacle Wreath.  Shortly after its placement, the local news reported that a “witchcraft symbol had been placed above City Hall.”  The wreath was eventually vandalized and taken down.  Since that incident, Green Bay officials have chosen not to put any religious holiday symbols on their building.

Green Bay City Hall with creche and Pentacle Wreath

Green Bay City Hall with creche and Pentacle Wreath

In this particular case the holiday commotion ultimately resulted in the complete “separation of church and state.” According to co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor, that is FFRF’s primary goal – to “protect the Constitutional principle of the separation of state and church.”

If such a forum is created, FFRF won’t be left out of the conversation.  In the Florida State Capitol, its “Bill of Rights Nativity” banner is hanging.  In the Illinois State Capitol, FFRF has posted its “Winter Solstice” sign.  In the rotunda of the Wisconsin State Capitol, FFRF placed a “natural nativity.” The traditional Christian figures are replaced with symbolic figures and recognizable icons of science, nature, human advancement, and freedom.  This includes a sign that reads “Heathen Greetings,” information about the Winter Solstice and an image of Botticelli’s Venus –  all of which may evoke religious meaning for Pagans.

Solstice "natural nativity" by FFRF

Solstice “natural nativity” by FFRF

Has FFRF received any complaints from the Pagan community? Gaylor remembers receiving one phone call but could not recall the details.  That one call was from Rev. Selena Fox of Lady Liberty League. Selena says:

Last Yuletide, I called and talked with administrative staff of Freedom from Religion about Pagan holiday diversity concerns.  I told them that we were hearing from a variety of Pagans who objected to their appropriation of a Pagan Goddess in their mock “nativity” scene in the Wisconsin Capitol Rotunda.  I suggested that instead of using a Pagan Goddess for the Mary figure, they use a representation of Susan B. Anthony or some motherly Freethinker which would keep their display consistent with their name “Freedom from Religion.”

Gaylor stressed that FFRF’s intention is not to “outright offend.” The “Venus was chosen in a hurry” as a substitute fertility image for Mary. However, Gaylor also admits that “even if we had known there would be a problem, nothing would have changed.” FFRF’s primary message is that “public religious displays are offensive.  If someone was offended, it only proves our point.”

FFRF’s targets are not limited to mangers.  Last week the Sacramento branch created a “billboard blitz” called the “out of the closet” campaign which encourages Atheists to speak out without fear. Later this week FFRF will formally announce its newest public display located in Pitman New Jersey. Over the past few years, the Knights of Columbus have been allowed to hang a street banner that reads “Keep Christ in Christmas.”   Because city officials have denied FFRF the permit to hang a “counter” banner, they had to find a workaround. This year FFRF is sponsoring a seasonal billboard bearing its latest holiday slogan: “Keep Saturn in Saturnalia.”

12050033-large

Once again the Atheist organization is using terminology to which Pagans ascribe religious meaning.  Does the use of this religious terminology cause confusion in the general populous?  One Chicago news site reporting on the “free thought display” wrote: “Signs explaining the display say it’s to celebrate the pagan holiday of the winter solstice.”  A text link sends the reader to a BBC explanation of Paganism.  The same language is used across news sources including the Huffington Post and Kansas City Star.  In response, Rev. Selena Fox of Lady Liberty League says,

We cannot support Freedom From Religion’s use of “Pagan” as part of what sometimes has been called [the] “War on Christmas.”  We object to their tactic of waging political war with “Solstice,” Pagan Divine forms, and the word Pagan, which is a term thousands of Pagans use to refer to themselves and their practice of old and new Nature religion.

Is Paganism now caught in a cross-fire between Christian conservatives and Atheists?  Some crèches, such as Green Bay one, were originally erected in direct response to Atheist activism. When the manger goes up, FFRF responds back with its own banners and displays. And the battle wages on.

Currently FFRF has a ready supply of banners to be used by any local chapter as needed. In Hancock Maryland, for example, FFRF has complained about a new Christian manger in the public park.  According to the Associated Press, government officials have declared the area a safe space for people to “exercise their First Amendment rights.”  Will we be seeing a new banner or “natural nativity” display?  If so, will that display refer to Saturn, Odin, magic, Heathens, the Goddess or any other terminology that holds religious meaning for Pagans?

The organization’s end game of “Separation of Church and State” is very much in-line with many other freedom-based organizations, including Pagan ones.  As Rev. Selena Fox says, “Lady Liberty League has supported a variety of separation of church and state efforts over the years as part of its work for Pagan civil rights and religious freedom.” However, do FFRF’s ends justify its means?  And what affects, if any, do those means have in the positioning of Paganism within greater socio-religious politics?  Should Pagans even be concerned?

Interfaith Awareness Celebration in Capitol Rotunda, Madison WI

Interfaith Awareness Celebration in Capitol Rotunda, Madison WI

Rev. Selena Fox adds, “Let’s keep with the ancient traditions of making peace at Winter Solstice time and work together for a better world.”  In that spirit, Circle Sanctuary will be contributing its own religious “Winter Solstice” display in very same rotunda as FFRF’s “natural nativity.”  Circle’s Pagan informational display is part of Wisconsin’s yearly World Religion’s “Interfaith Awareness Week” – an entirely different way of negotiating the very tumultuous holiday season.

Send to Kindle

Heather Greene

Posts Twitter Facebook Google+

Heather is a freelance writer and Pagan spirit living in the Deep South. She is currently National Public Information Officer for Covenant of the Goddess and worked extensively with Lady Liberty League. She has a masters degree in Film Theory, Criticism and History with a background in the performing and visual arts.
  • Franklin_Evans

    Using their contact us form, I just submitted the following to FFRF. I post it here for what others may decide it is worth. I’ll post any replies I receive.

    There are many motivations in my personal background for my emphatic support of the Bill of Rights, but none more important to you — yes, to FFRF — than my Pagan religion. It comes down to a simple choice: make your case on its own merits, or use propaganda that will result in alienating the very segment of our society most interested in the protections of the Constitution, and that’s the minority religions.

    Personally, with due respect, your use of Winter Solstice traditions — clear misrepresentations — is hypocritical and as much an abuse of the rights of Pagans as any government sponsored religious display.

    By the way, diligent research will show that despite the claims of some modern Pagans, Christian conquest did not steal the traditional practices. They were most often assimilated by the very people converting to the then-new belief system, not a tool of conquest.

    Sincerely,
    Franklin Evans
    private citizen
    local Pagan activist, co-founder of Delaware Valley Pagan Network (PA), past and current organizer of Pagan Pride Day events.

    • Bill

      Thanks Franklin. Well said.

      • Genexs

        Well done, Franklin. I emailed them as well. Using our symbols and Sabbats to flog their pet peeve demonstrates a crass insensitivity.

  • Bill

    Thanks Franklin. That was well said.

    Like you, I’m becoming concerned over FFRF’s misuse of Pagan symbols to push their agenda. I live in a VERY conservative state and tend to see Atheists as natural allies, but the recent Univ of Wisconsin AHA “Dead Gods” display and FFRF’s continuing misuse of Pagan symbols is putting this in jeopardy.

    My guess is that Atheists are caught in the same dilemma as other exclusivist worldviews – how to you build bonds of mutual respect without giving up the idea that yours is the only right way? Sadly, it seems that FFRF is falling into the same trap as the Fundamentalists. They are confusing protecting their rights with fighting for priviledge/dominance. It will be interesting to see if they can pull back from this.

    I keep seeing Wisconsin mentioned. Does anyone know if this is primarily a Wisconsin based initative or is it more national?

  • Conor O’Bryan Warren

    Again and again, these ‘Free-Thinkers’ show us that they can be just as bad as any Evangelical in denigrating and dismissing us and our concerns.

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      Most of the so-called “Free-Thinkers” are Evangelical Fundamentalists.

      • Conor O’Bryan Warren

        Mmmhmmm, I agree. They think they are somehow true opposites, but really they are just different faces of the same coin. It arises, I think, out of their shared belief that if only more people believed as they do, the world would be a Utopian dream.

  • Beth

    The problem with expecting non-Pagans to not use “Solstice” is that a solstice is an actual event, not necessarily religious. A solstice/equinox actually is the reason for the season. I agree that Venus should be replaced. There are better choices for the display. And I wonder if the “Saturnalia” display is assuming people don’t celebrate it anymore. I don’t know for sure, but some reconstructionists may still celebrate.

    • Conor O’Bryan Warren

      Saturnalia is most certainly still celebrated.

    • Kathy

      I agree with you Beth. Solstice is a solar event that has, and will, happen for millions of years to come, probably more. Only after careful observation did early people decide that the Solstice was connected to religion. Many people still use the word Solstice both in the scientific sense, as well as a religious connotation. As such I don’t hold the FFRF at fault for using it. However, every high school graduate knows that Venus is an ancient Roman Goddess, and a quick Google search can give you a load of information on Saturnalia, religiously and historically. If the FFRF truly wants to stay free from religion they should be more careful in how they appropriate and use it. Fighting for freedom from religion with symbols of another religion is an exhibition of ignorance!

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

        I don’t understand the secular reasoning behind celebrating the scientific solstice. It still smacks of appropriation, to me.

        • Baruch Dreamstalker

          When I was a Humanist I celebrated the scientific solstice with a Unitarian Universalist congregation because I did not want to be excluded from the festivities just because of my doubt about the central figure of the Christian one. Plus, probably, there was something stirring in me that resonated with purely seasonal celebration, without my knowing what it was yet. It still smacks of appropriation, to me. A Recon who thinks celebrating the scientific solstice smacks of appropriation? Are you trying for self-parody?

          • TadhgMor

            Then what exactly is the secular purpose for celebrating the solstice, if not to push back against Christian practices by taking what is thought by most to be a defunct holiday?

            Someday you’re going to need to take appropriation seriously. Throwing out the UU memberhsip to make you seem open minded and non-threatening will not last forever.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            What, exactly, was my younger Humanist self appropriating from the yet-to-be-conceived you by celebrating the moment at which the Sun gets lowest in the noon sky? Do you seriously think Recons own the astronomical seasonal markers?If you don’t think I’m taking appropriation seriously enough, try not to self-parody. And if you want me to treat you with more respect, quit maliciously interpreting my UU membership when I use it to contextualize, not brag.

          • TadhgMor

            There is no self-parody here. Your inability to grasp the argument is not evidence of the argument being non-existent.

            You use your UU membership as a catch all to suggest you’re tolerant. Personally, I have major issues with the UU church even if I find most individuals are polite and well meaning. It’s a clearinghouse of appropriation and the worst hippy tendencies I think infect paganism and cut us off from the ancients. I say that having visited one near me more than once. But what you’re doing is holding it up as a badge to deflect criticism.

            I’m not going to address your smarmy tone, other than to note you’re acting quite a bit like a certain curse word when used in the British and Irish context. Epitomizing the word in fact.

            Look at the post above if you’re actually serious. But I highly doubt it at this point. Gods forbid any of your ilk ever have to deal with your appropriation and make amends, rather than hiding from it.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            This is your self-parody, Tadghmor: When you claimed that any but your use of Samhain as a holiday was appropriation, you looked ridiculous. When you went on to claim the solstice in the same manner, you went from ridiculous to absurd, thus parodied yourself. Before I take your pet issue seriously, I must first take you seriously, and you are making that very difficult indeed.

          • Adanae

            so to clarrify by appropriation you mean stealing another religions ideals and rituals and bundling them into another, and then claiming they’re original? or are we talking something else?

          • TadhgMor

            Roughly, but also redefining terms that have a meaning in a certain community for your own benefit even if you don’t claim them as original can also be appropriation.

            For example, my argument, which the ever so smarmy Baruch likes to distort, is that there is absolutely no reason for people to use Gaelic terms for non-Gaelic holidays. I object to people taking Beltaine and turning it into some New Age hippy festival that is completely different than the traditional holiday of Beltaine. If you wish to celebrate your own holiday at the same time I have no issues, I simply want you not to use Gaelic terms for that holiday.

            In this case, “secular” solstices often end up being used as an alternative holiday by atheists and others in opposition to Christianity, and doing so they often appropriate terms and ideas from paganism which they do not treat in a serious manner, and often misunderstand either on accident or purposefully.

          • Adanae

            ah i see it all makes sense. yes i have an issue with that also. :/ actually i have a rather strange view of that i think i should not explain on public forum. all i’m going to say is i think everyone should read triumph of the moon by ronald hutton.
            There is so much misinformation through the media, and demagogues out there that it is hard for modern day pagans or wiccans to figure out what the true rituals are or what the real meaning of the religion is. it doesn’t help that no two of us believing in the same thing, a blessing and a curse. i wouldn’t be surprised if there was a lot of accidental ‘appropriation’ happening from those reasons.

          • TadhgMor

            It’s not really about “true” rituals I think. I’m not claiming for example, that traditional Gaelic ritual (what survives of it) is “truer” than eclectic paths. I’m saying I want them to stop stealing my terms and turning them into something else. You should not pass off a non-Gaelic ritual as a Gaelic ritual, and you can insert any other path and culture into that.

            I’m not sure it was all accidental. Plenty of New Age charlatans purposefully take from Celtic and Native American culture because both have an air of “mystery” in popular consciousness (mostly due to ignorance). It is a way to make yourself seem more authentic and exotic, even if you are completely making up the claims and misusing the culture you appropriated.

          • Adanae

            well i suppose this is more of what didn’t want to say but here it comes. many of the ‘great pagans’ of ‘our day’…. well they’re posers. take Gerald gardener for starters.. he claimed to be a lot of things including a doctor. none of which could be corroborated. Aliester Crowley…well among a lot of other things he was also downright crazy. This gent is the founder of a great many things that make up our standard pagan religion.
            My point is that the rituals and names of our religous are not what make it authentic. it is far past authentic. it has been as riddled with demagogues as any other religion. what makes it what it is the is the ideas we keep behind it. As long as our hearts remain true it does not matter what words, rituals, and so forth that we use. Magic is not in words. It is the center of the pentacle. it is the heart. No matter what words or holiday you celebrate if your heart is not true your words still reflect it. that will remain the same in paganism as it would in any other religion. lastly, by calling them demagogues, i am addressing ‘making urself seem more eccentric or exotic.’ however i may be using this the wrong way. i mean to single out those people who take a religion or faith and twist it to make those who follow them believe what the leader wants them to believe. by making urself seem eccentric or exotic you open the door for ‘seekers’ to come to you and see the world however you want them too. i believe this plagues our society. those who say they have ‘the truth’ when it’s based on lies.

          • Ursyl

            You do realize that the natural events of the Solstices and Equinoxes predate the Celtic cultures and Gaelic languages, not to mention our entires specie’s existence by millions of years, don’t you?

            How is it appropriation to honor for itself that which predates your cultural/religious focus?

          • TadhgMor

            I’m not discussing the solstice here. The mention of solstices was limited to the beginning of this subthread, with the mention that secular solstices smack of appropriation.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            What I mean by appropriation is misrepresentation. If I use a smudge in a ceremony of my own devising, I’m not appropriating anything (assuming I paid for the smudge). If I claim that ceremony to be an authentic Lakota observance when it is no such them, I’m appropriating; and if I charge for it, I’m guilty of fraud as well. My reason for this is that I regard spiritual tools as the common property of the whole human race.

          • Adanae

            ur train took a flying leap into a ditch. What you’re trying to say is that there is no such thing as appropriating another’s religion (person race whatever) because spiritual tools belong to all of us?

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Absolutely not. As I said, pretending I’m Lakota when I’m not is appropriation because it misrepresents. If, when I use the term “Samhain.” I were to pretend to be Gaelic and that what I am doing is authentic Gaelic ritual, that would be dire appropriation. I do not do that. What would be the point?

          • TadhgMor

            By using the term Samhain you are inherently implying you are Gaelic or connected to that culture . Why use it otherwise?

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Why use it? Because I learned it, already imbued with a meaning that resonates for me, from the larger Pagan community. Your objection to that stretches the concept of property completely out of shape.

          • TadhgMor

            You learned from someone who appropriated before you. So are we now allowed to ignore past issues in that way? It happened in the past, therefore there is no responsibility to try and right it? That is a very simplistic worldview. Selfish as well.

            My objection is very simple. Your holiday is not Samhain, and it never will be. That term has a meaning that predates you by a significant period of time. If you want to celebrate your holidays as you do fine, but DO NOT steal the holidays or terms of other peoples. It is that f***ing simple.

            Your entire argument is “I’m not responsible so shove it”.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            You learned from someone who appropriated before you. Only true if I agree with your definition of appropriation, which I don’t. I shan’t go into all that again; on an earlier thread I said (again to you iirc) that repetition is not an argument. I apply that equally to myself. Second paragraph: An example of the kind of repetition I was talking about. Your entire argument is “I’m not responsible so shove it”. Since I don’t regard myself as an offender, I am indeed not responsible. And I never said “Shove it.” As before, it would add nothing to the validity of what I say and would detract from its expression.

          • TadhgMor

            Again, It’s absolutely ridiculous for an appropriator to be allowed to define the term. Of course you don’t think you’ve done anything. That’s what everyone says.

            Repetition is utterly necessary because otherwise people like you will continue ignoring the issue and condoning these actions. It is your privilege to be able to shut me down, and in general that is the tack taken by appropriators.

            I don’t understand what level of purposeful ignorance is required to decry Native American appropriation but become silent when the Celts become mentioned.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            First and second paragraphs: More repetition. Third paragraph: I used a Native American spiritual tool as an example with which most people will be familiar. I did not trivialize Celts; in fact I said that it would be reprehensible to misrepresent myself or my self-composed ceremony as Gaelic.

          • TadhgMor

            Every time you use the term Samhain for a non-Gaelic holiday based in non-Gaelic practices, you are misrepresenting yourself. If you do not want to misrepresent, perhaps you and yours should create a term that holds the meanings you wish it to, rather than imposing those meanings onto an existing term with other meanings.

            Is that not simple enough?

          • Northern_Light_27

            Gosh, I don’t know. Maybe the genocide against Native Americans? The enormous amount of poverty? The way reservations are treated even now? The, you know, actual racism? The way that white people are making bank passing off MUS as actual Native religion? The reality that there are absolutely no similarities between the two except in a landscape infested with people using social justice buzzwords about things that have nothing to do with actual systemic oppression because they’ve observed that they’re a good shut-down-the-conversation tool?

            What I find pretty disgusting is the way First Nations people are still being used as political footballs by white people. Examples: McNallen’s constant “Native Americans totally understand and agree with Folkish Heathenry”, the attempts to define Paganism as “indigenous religion”, and this thing you’re doing here. Call syncretic Paganism shallow, say it distorts the words it uses, fine. But stop acting like it’s in any way, shape, manner or form equivalent to racism for Wiccans to call their October festival “Samhain” or secularists to celebrate the solstice (which, btw, I found a cite in about two minutes of googling showing atheists celebrating the summer solstice in 1976– *summer*, not winter, and way before Pagans were a blip on the national radar).

          • TadhgMor

            That’s complete bullsh*t. There are far more similarities AND I was unaware that appropriation is okay as long as the group you steal from doesn’t suffer as much. Who sets the line there?

            And again, if you think there are no similarities you are woefully ignorant of Irish history. Whole books have been written on the subject. You might start with the works of Nicholas Canny and D.B. Quinn.

            I never once said it was equivalent to racism. I explicitly said it is not. I said this, and how racists define boundaries for themselves, are based within the same logical framework. There is no comparison of morality between the two, solely one of structure.

            I’m not attempting to define paganism as anything. I’m attempting to prevent people from REDEFINING Gaelic practices. I don’t care how you celebrate. I care if you use stolen terms.

            This is very simple. Appropriation is either wrong, or it’s not. So why the f*** do so many people rightly criticize it for Native Americans, but do not care if it’s Irish?

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Then why did you inject racism, a known hot-button topic, if it is so non-germane? You lead me to suspect it was for rhetorical purposes and, now that nobody is panicked or intimidated, you can’t back it up.

          • TadhgMor

            I used it as an example. I was explicit in saying I do not consider you equal to racists, even if I find your character and courage severely lacking.

            I said, quite clearly, that it is the underlying structure which interests me. The way they set boundaries to define terms in such a way as to justify their actions to themselves. If you can think of another similar example I’ll gladly use it in lieu of this one. But there is absolutely no difference between the way they self-servingly redefine racism to exclude their activities, and the way you redefine appropriation to exclude yours.

            Panicked? Intimidated? I’m backing up my points with logic and defining the parameters as explicitly as possible. I don’t need to play crude emotional games.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            You are a propagandist who is trying to define propaganda so as to exclude what you do. (Just using a bit of your own logic on you.)

          • TadhgMor

            That could be a relevant example, but I am not a “propagandist”. You can however use that rather than racism if you so choose.

            Will you ever have the courage to address the actual issue, or will you continue to dodge around the margins?

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            I already addressed the actual issue some time ago. I refuse to address it all over again just because you bring it up again. This is what I mean by repetition not being an argument. It’s a propagandist’s trick.

          • TadhgMor

            There is nothing even approaching polite I can say to this utterly arrogant, dishonest response.

          • Adanae

            No, the most recent argument is that it resonates with his spirituality. so what if he’s not Irish. so shove that. I will not stand for you trying to tell another person what they can and cannot celebrate. the holidays we celebrate have nothing todo with heritage. we do not get to choose what religion we are any more than we can decide if we’re gay so don’t you dare tell him he can’t have Samhaim you Hippocratic. if he said he was Irish when he was Swedish maybe you’d have a point , but now you’re just being ethnocentric. Know thyself.

          • TadhgMor

            I’m not telling him what he can’t celebrate. He can celebrate whatever he wants. I’m telling him he has no right to redefine an existing holiday to suit his preferences.

            You can very easily choose not to appropriate. If I invent a new holiday, and chose to call it Hannukah, it would be wrong. Why is Samhain different?

            I don’t consider an individuals “spirituality” to provide cover for that sort of appropriation. If someone feels drawn to the term Samhain, then they should learn about the holiday. Not create a new holiday for themselves.

          • Adanae

            well is his samhain different that the traditional samhain?

          • TadhgMor

            Yes. By quite a large margin in many instances.

          • Adanae

            *hands in the air* well how? how do we debate something when only you know what the facts are ?

          • TadhgMor

            The facts are available, I am not hording them. It does not take a large amount of historical knowledge to know the dualtheistic version of Wicca unrelated to ancient Ireland. Even versions that tend towards polytheism incorporate a significant amount of non-Celtic influence, something the rather insular ancient Gaels were resistant to.

          • Adanae

            well it’s lucky i’m Irish or i wouldn’t be able to celebrate Samhain? mind you he’s not claiming to be Gaelic. lets just drop this one?

          • TadhgMor

            I see no reason to drop it. If you’re celebrating a modern Wiccan/eclectic/etc holiday, there is no reason to use an ancient Irish term completely unrelated to your holiday.

            By doing so, you imply that your version of the holiday is the ancient one. Not only is that offensive to recons like me who take our practice very seriously, but it could offensive to your ancestors. You have essentially ignored their definitions in favor of applying a modern one.

          • Adanae

            you’re missing the big scheme of things. that’s neat though. can’t wait til you figure it all out. ur a recon? that’s such a cute term. i bet you that if you look deep enough you’ll find out that there is no basis for what you ‘salvaged’ religion is. i also bet you that you’ll also tell me that it was passed down from the ancients to you, and whatever it is that you practice is what the ancients practiced a millenia ago. THE POINT IS that is doesn’t matter what ethnicity you are as long as you get the message right. …. but i suppose it really is the message that’s in question.

          • TadhgMor

            I’m a historian thank you. In fact I did my undergrad thesis on Old Irish law and Kinship. I have experience with primary sources, as well as a solid understanding about the gaps in our knowledge from Irish pre-history. One that CRs like myself attempt to fill with scholarly research into both the ancient period as well as viewing surviving Gaelic folk custom.

            There is no transmission from ancient times to now. Anyone claiming that in any recon community would not be taken seriously. It was primarily Wiccans making that claim, though even most of them no longer do so.

            Your point about “the message” is one that is utterly foreign to me. I do not know what you mean, or what you are suggesting. The ideological assumptions underlying it seem more akin to Christianity than my path.

          • Adanae

            no the message thing is totally philosophical lets shelf it for now. you might be an historian but i’m not entirely a laymen. i think it would be safe to say you and i are stuck on two very different irritations. yours is people redefining history to what they want it to be and mine is people redefining or faith to what they want to have.

          • TadhgMor

            I’m not redefining anyone’s faith. I do not have that power. Clearly, I do not even have the power to get people to listen on the issue of appropriation. The attempt to cast me as some authoritarian (which has been done before) is laughable. I am not the power here.

            Again, if I take a holiday, say Christmas, and create a new holiday unrelated to the Christian holiday, while still using the name, it would be appropriation. I don’t think you’ll find many people to dispute that. I fail to understand why so many pagans who are usually so open minded (too open minded often) suddenly close up when this issue arises.

          • thelettuceman

            Adanae, just interjection: If you don’t have a degree, or some other certification, then yes, yes you are a layman.

          • Adanae

            the initial appropriation problem came to you replying to another person post where he said (none of these are exact quotes) ‘i don’t understand secular solstic it just smacks of appropriation’ and you replied ‘ a recon talking about appropriation. are you trying to self parody?” how does what you just said explain how you came to that conclusion on your first post?
            p.s. – if we were easily mulled, we’d be scientologists
            :)

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            The initial appropriation problem is several days old on this site. It did not start with any comment in the current thread.

          • TadhgMor

            Any use of the term Samhain for a non-Gaelic holiday IS appropriation. If you are celebrating a non-Gaelic holiday, why use a Gaelic term?

            I have not claimed the solstice in any manner. I have no major holiday on the solstice. I am stating that the purpose of creating “secular” solstice rituals was primarily to push back against Christians. An alternative holiday for non-believers. But often, as noted in the article, that leads to the inappropriate usage of pagan terms and sometimes deities by people who do not understand them. It’s probably one of the only times Wiccans are ever appropriated from.

            You are well and truly a ****. I have no compunctions about saying it as this point.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Earlier you said that others’ solstice observances smacked of appropriation, or something like that. I take it that what you meant is that it was an appropriation of Christmas, not of your tradition. I regard that as silly, but at least it’s not self-parody. I withdraw the term.

          • TadhgMor

            No I did not. That was another poster. Both of us have limited it to “secular” solstices. There has been no mention of any other solstice practices.

            You’re still continuing to avoid the deeper points. Worse, your perverting what I say in your continued attempt to hide. I find that utterly disgusting, a facade of politeness or not.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            That was another poster. That was an error on my part, then. I do not want to falsely accuse anyone of anything, particularly absurdity. You’re still continuing to avoid the deeper points I’m not avoiding them. I flatly disagree with you about them, as should be clear by now. façade of politeness Why not be polite? Nothing I say gains any validity by being expressed rudely. As I said in an earlier thread — to you, iirc — anger is not an argument. I apply that standard to myself as well.

          • TadhgMor

            You are avoiding them, because you have never even attempted to honestly address them. Disagreeing about appropriation puts you in very bad company. Denying the conversation entirely puts you in a worse one.

            I will never understand your fundamentally selfish and self-serving view of cultural appropriation. It seems designed to explicitly define it as something that you cannot do, akin in it’s underlying form to the way that racists often try to redefine racism in a way that excludes their actions without denying the existence of the concept itself.

            Why be polite if you’re simply going to use it to cover up insults? Well you have not applied that standard very well in this thread, as your continued distortions of my argument and smug and superior tone show quite well.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            I have honestly address these points by stating my disagreement with them. If you regard that as dishonest it is you who is playing fast and loose with words. My definition of appropriation is not something I cannot do, it’s something I refuse to do because I do not misrepresent myself. I have distorted your argument only to the extent that I misattributed something to you that was written by another. I have already acknowledged that. Wherein, therefore, have I insulted you?

          • TadhgMor

            Go a few comments back. The whole idea of “self-parody”, where you distorted my past arguments as well as mine here, was inherently designed to be insulting and belittle me in front of others.

            You state “I disagree” and end the conversation. That’s not an honest attempt. Then you constantly become a smug *** whenever the topic is raised. It’s clear you refuse to take the seriously, placing your appropriated path well over others. I’m sure it would make those that appropriated in the first place quite proud.

            You’ve created a conceptual boundary you will never cross, but refuse to entertain the notion that your definition is utterly self-serving.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            First paragraph: Arbitrarily assigning motive is also not an argument. Third paragraph: You have not established me as an appropriator, only someone accused of appropriation. Your formula here, if I took it seriously, would deprive me the right to defend myself from that accusation. Cart before the horse and all that. You refuse to entertain the notion that your definition is utterly self-serving. Well, here you’ve said something new, meriting a deeper reply. This expression is one way of looking at the fact that I do as I say. You might entertain the notion, as an alternative way of looking at it, that I have principles and live by them.

          • TadhgMor

            You have admitted you use the term Samhain for a holiday with no relationship to the ancient Gaelic holiday. Yes? Explain how that is not appropriation.

            I am not suggesting you don’t have principles. I’m suggesting you’ve defined them in a self-serving way that allows you to avoid the issue. Your definition of appropriation is significantly weaker than the standard, even if you think mine is too strong that does not change the fact. Again, I refer you to the example of racists, not because I think you are like them at all, but because the underlying logic is the same. They redefine racism in a much more specific, much more narrow sense because it allows them to claim and justify to themselves that what they do and say is not racist. You have done the same with appropriation.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Solid repetition of stuff to which I have already replied, thus meriting no further response. It’s getting close to my bedtime. Unlike you young stuff I can’t stay up all night banging on the keys. Good night.

          • TadhgMor

            I asked you a simple question. Right there at the top. One you have not answered.

            To deflect as you have here is rude. Shutting down the conversation is “not an argument” as you so often put it.

          • Eices

            I’ve been reading your argument with Baruch and Adanae, and I would love to be able to speak with you if you are willing via email or text.

            If you are at all interested, I would be very happy to hear from you at codyohara5@gmail.com

            If you’d rather not I’d understand, but otherwise I have some questions for you that could help me greatly!

          • TadhgMor

            I’m under a mountain of work at the moment (I really shouldn’t even be commenting here) so I’ll probably forget to send an email. You can reach me at ggt001@connections.mcdaniel.edu. That’s the email I check the most.

          • Adanae

            also self parody is a dumb word. i dunno… it bugs me. there’s more eloquent ways to get your point across than a hyphen.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            You’re entitled to your opinion. I’m entitled to a different one.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            The celebrating of certain astronomical events is a religious phenomenon. For those who are secular to start doing so, simply so they can join in the celebrations is appropriation, pure and simple.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            As far as my own history goes, I was not celebrating as a “secular” but as a religious person not attached to any particular faith tradition — a Religious Humanist, to use the exact term.

          • TadhgMor

            I find it severely depressing that so many people would upvote a post that completely distorts my argument.

            It suggests people are not actually reading what I write, but rather reacting emotionally. Yet if I do the same I am condemned. Rank hypocrisy. I am not allowed to be emotional about appropriation, but others are allowed to react emotionally to the charge of appropriation.

          • Merlyn7

            You appropriated ancient Gaelic religious rites. Eclectic pagans appropriated ancient Gaelic religious rites.

          • TadhgMor

            Did I? Can you explain to me how I appropriated?

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            Appropriation is generally considered as taking something from its original context in order to exploit it for ones own purposes.

            I would not really describe reconstructionism as appropriation, as it seeks to maintain/restore that original context as far as is plausible.

          • Merlyn7

            At the behest of whom?

          • TadhgMor

            What do you mean at the behest of whom?

          • Merlyn7

            Part of Lēoht’s definition of appropriation is “exploit it for ones own purposes.”

            Whose purposes are served by reconstruction that are not
            being served by what Lēoht considers appropriation?

          • TadhgMor

            You’re taking part of it without the whole. The change of context or redefinition is equally important. Respectfully practicing old rites for your own benefit, in the appropriate cultural context and with understanding, is not appropriation.

            I would also still like you to explain how I am appropriating, I am honestly curious as to the logic behind your statement.

          • Merlyn7

            There is no one working with the same context as their forebears more than a thousand years ago. Every reconstructionist I have had the pleasure of meeting makes up their own minds about what is vital to them and what is not. Thus we have reconstructionists who perform rituals in sneakers, in modern English, and who even choose not to sacrifice people in bogs.

          • TadhgMor

            So you’re suggesting it’s appropriation because we aren’t wearing the same clothes? That’s tacitly ridiculous.

            Tell me, do those things fundamentally change the rituals? (also the human sacrifice bit is nice, but the scholarship is still out on that) Are they the same as applying Gaelic terms to fundamentally non-Gaelic customs? Do you honestly find that to be comparable?

            Because I think it’s a bit of a stretch to suggest wearing modern shoes is equivalent to completely redefining the holiday. Especially since many reconstructionists I know consider it important to both reconstruct and also interact with surviving cultures.

          • Merlyn7

            I just have to imagine they sound just as ridiculous to you as your claims that Wiccans are stealing something by celebrating Beltane sound to me.

          • TadhgMor

            Tell me, what is Gaelic about the Wiccan Beltaine? If it is not Gaelic, why use a Gaelic term that already has a meaning?

            You have dodged the question. Are the things you state equivalent with fundamentally redefining the holiday? Are you truly suggesting wearing modern shoes is equivalent to completely redefining the meaning of a holiday?

          • Merlyn7

            The holiday has fundamentally changed for most of its celebrants. You are more than welcome to celebrate it in any way that you find inspiring (hearkening back to its roots seems perfectly wonderful).

            I just think you are being a little arbitrary about what does and does not qualify as stealing or misrepresenting the holiday. Do you drive your cattle between two bonfires?

          • TadhgMor

            The holiday of Beltaine has not changed. The people have changed, you have imposed a completely modern and non-Gaelic holiday onto the term.

            Arbitrary? Again, if you are not celebrating a Gaelic holiday, why are you using Gaelic terms? Don’t say “because I was taught to”, that is simply a dodge.

            No, because I do not own any cattle(the neighbors would have something to say). But the use of fire for purification in that form is an important part of Beltaine. The idea behind that action remains, and I know for others the action itself does indeed remain.

            Taking a Gaelic term and applying fundamentally non-Gaelic and modern ideas to redefine it is appropriation.

          • Merlyn7

            So you have appropriated the ancient Irish cattle blessing ritual and apply it to other, more relevant factors in your life. See, we have loads in common.

          • TadhgMor

            No, I have not. You are arguing dishonestly, and I do not appreciate it.

            I understand the meaning of the cattle blessing, and sometimes extend a similar concept in other ways. I am working within the context of my ancestors as much as humanly possible.

            Tell me, do you enjoy false equivalences? Because you’ve made quite a few here.

          • Merlyn7

            How so? Every Beltane members of my tradition leap over a special bonfire that we have created with particular woods associated with blessings and renewal. That’s why we call it Beltane. We, like you, have no cows (which makes the whole event more pleasing at least on the olfactory level).

          • TadhgMor

            Why do you do so? Are you a Wiccan? Are you honoring your “God and Goddess”? These things are not Gaelic.

            I don’t understand why it is so hard for people to understand. Why use a Gaelic term for a non-Gaelic holiday. Will none of you answer that? Can any of you? So far you and that **** up there have done nothing but dodge. I am tired of cowards.

            All you have done is throw the charge back at me, based on extremely weak logic and false equivalences.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Millions of people who do not go to Mass and may not even acknowledge Christ still exchange gifts on Christmas = Christ’s Mass.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            How come anyone who catches you contradicting yourself is suddenly arguing dishonestly?

          • TadhgMor

            I’m not contradicting myself. You are distorting what I say to suit your arguments. You in particular, seem to do so with malice.

            Suggesting I “appropriated” from Gaelic tradition right there is intellectually dishonest because it relies on distorting the term appropriation. Something you do as well.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            You can hardly accuse me of malice when I admitted I had misattributed (“distorted”) someone else’s remark to you by mistake. You and Merlyn7 are having way too much fun with your appropriation of Gaelic ritual for me to horn in.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            “Because I was taught to” is not a dodge. It’s letting you know that there is in the world more than one tradition in whom the name and a variant on the holiday is embedded.

          • TadhgMor

            Yes it is.

            If someone used a bigoted term, and said “that’s how people talked when I was young”, it would be incorrect. It would rightly be considered a dodge from the issue, which is that continuing the practice is the issue, not it’s origins.

            If you use a Gaelic term, you are talking about the Gaelic tradition. The appropriated terms refer to completely distinct modern holidays. You have not embedded “Beltaine” into a tradition. You have appropriated the term.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Once again you indirectly inject the hot-button issue of racism into a discussion to which you have admitted it not to be germane. More of your propagandist rhetoric.

          • TadhgMor

            Once again, I used a comparison you arrogant ****. Nor was it explicitly racist, you simply make that assumption because it supports your dodging.

            Are you unable to understand how comparisons work, or are you so desperate you must use these nasty implications as dodges so you can avoid the actual issue?

            You are a coward. Tell me something, before you continue to dodge. Whose propaganda? What am I serving? YOU are the establishment. You are defending negative practices of appropriation.You are refusing to even entertain the idea that perhaps you have some responsibility on this issue.

          • Merlyn7

            mispost

          • Adanae

            hold on…maybe it’s been a long day and i’m not understanding you. Do you mean to say that the only reason to celebrate yule is to push back against Christianity?

          • TadhgMor

            No, I mean the only reason for a “secular” solstice is a thing is because it was designed as an “alternative” to Christmas for people who were not Christians, with the assumption that it had no religious meaning.

          • Adanae

            yeah i figured i got that wrong that’s why i removed it.I also figured someone had already seen it so i had better own up to it. sorry i dropped off the broom for a few years apparently i missed a bunch of slang and stuff. Frankly, I’m not sure what’s going on so i’ll just ….watch. o.O this comment thread feels like my first solstice lmao!

          • Ursyl

            The purpose of celebrating the actual Solstice, a nature event whether acknowledged or celebrated or not, is to honor the reality and cycles of Nature. We ALL live on this planet and are affected by its cycles and events.

            No need for any external deities of whatever persuasion to want to honor and respect your home and live in cooperation with its cycles. No need for it to be solely in reaction to some religion either.

          • TadhgMor

            There may not be a need for it, but if you look at how it’s being done in reality rather than theory the appropriation seems to be a considerable element, and reaction seems to be it’s purpose.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            I’m not a recon.

            The festivities are religious. There is nothing wrong in wanting to keep them that way.

  • Lēoht Sceadusawol

    Honestly, I think we need to side with the Christians on this one

    Here’s something I wrote on the subject recently:

    Every year, around this time, we see society gearing up for “the holiday
    period”. Stores start pumping out ‘festive’ music, town start putting up decorations, people start acting all crazy and we start seeing “Keep Christ in Christmas” memes.

    When that happens, I start seeing Pagan types complaining about the appropriation of “their” festival by the evil that is Christianity. Well, I have
    decided that it is time for me to back the Christians in this one.

    Regardless of how Christianity appropriated the existing festivals observed by the pre-Christian Europeans, the issue is not with them, today. It is with
    the massively commercial, secular culture that is plaguing modern society.

    Christmas, or Christ’s Mass, is a religious festival celebrating the birth of Christ at a time that works politically for the Catholic Church, amongst others. It is preceded by twenty four days of contemplation and reflection and followed by
    Epiphany twelve days later. It is, contrary to popular belief, not the major festival of the Christian calendar. That honour goes to the rather dubiously named Easter. Regardless, this period is a deeply important and spiritual time for the Christian religion but has been appropriated by secular culture as a holiday of excess.

    Let us pause for a moment and consider that. Christianity is a religion that prizes the simple life, advocates giving and acts of charity as laudable ways
    to conduct oneself. And we now have people acting in the most greedy and
    selfish way possible, all the while using the word “Christmas” to justify their actions.

    The level of disrespect shown is staggering. Some people say “Well, it is just a word.” Words have meaning and power. There is no thing as “just a word”. If it was “just a word”, why not get another one? Let Christians have their mass, but do not pretend that you have any interest, or investment, in their religion.

    Whilst we are at it, there is another word bandied around at this time: Yule. Most people do not really know what the word means and, if pressed, will say it is synonymous with Christmas. The truth could not be more different.

    The word “Yule” comes from the Ænglisc “Gēola”, which referred to the winter
    solstice. It was celebrated as a festival by the pre-Christian Germanic tribes of north-western Europe. The solstice would be celebrated on the 21st-22nd of what is now December, with another festival a few days later on the evening of the 24th. This festival was called Mōdraniht – Mother’s Night – and, it is
    believed, was a time of sacrifice to the “Ides” (or Dísir in Old Norse),
    a term meaning “noblewoman” or “goddess”.

    So, you see, we have two very distinct festivals during this time of year, neither
    of which have anything to do with the consumerist binging so loved by much of modern, Western society. If you want a party, have a party. But do not lie to yourself or anyone else about your motives, keep Christ in Christmas, and leave Yule for the Heathens.

    • Wyrd Wiles

      I’ve never had an issue with Christians celebrating Christmas in a religious fashion. (As opposed secular, Santa-centric, version) If Christians want to focus on Jesus during this time of year, that’s none of my business. What I object to is getting blasted with tinsel filled Christ cannons for a month. I don’t like it when all other winter holidays are devalued, because some people think Jesus is the ONLY reason to celebrate the season. So when I say “happy holidays” (Because there are LOTS of holidays and I hope you enjoy them ALL), and somebody flips out like I just kicked the baby Jesus, it annoys me. I feel like if I’m perfectly ok with being wished a Merry Christmas, and responding the same way, then other people should be able to do the same when I say “good yule” or “happy holidays”.

      • Learnedwytch

        Very well said. I couldn’t agree more.

  • Ursyl

    What I see in those displays is that in their zeal to keep Christianity from remaining the de facto state religion, they are erasing that our religions are in fact Religions, and do in fact Exist as such.

    The FFRF is really out of line with this, not the goal, but how they are going about it.

    I think Christians should keep their Christ in their Christmas, but it is not necessarily un- or non- religious to keep Sol in the Solstice. It most certainly is religious to keep Saturn in Saturnalia.

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      Rather than get a mad on at FFRF why not express thanks to them for promoting our religions? With a careful explanation of why their attempts at secular counter-language actually support Pagan religions. Then back off and let them ponder their consistency problem. FFRF’s problem is, like the old song goes, all of the good ones are taken. Good slogans, I mean. “Birth of the Unconquerable Sun” sounds like a good scientific counterpoise to “Birth of the Son of God,” and indeed it is, but it’s also what hundreds of Pagans will be explicitly celebrating this month, some of them talking to the Sun. The problem behind that problem is that their real aim is freedom from Christianity. But they’ve found it strategically wise to invoke the First Amendment and couch it as freedom from religion. The result is gaffes in choice of tactics. Can anyone come up with a stirring seasonal slogan that hasn’t been already spoken for by a non-Abrahamic tradition? If so, don’t tell me, tell FFRF. I’d like them to go on doing their thing without ignorantly entraining us.

      • Franklin_Evans

        I don’t want their silence. I in fact want their voice to be heard loud and clear. What I won’t tolerate — from anyone, of any degree of closeness to me whether in rational agreement or emotional ties — is shooting themselves in the foot while implying some sort or level of sympathy with my identity group.

        Thus my emphasis on the clear, and they’re not going to know that they are being unclear — or worse — if they don’t hear from us.

        If they need pithy, tweet-length sound-bites, leave Pagans out of it. They can come back to us with news stories and actual dialogues, and cite Pagans who support their separation efforts. For now, what they are doing looks like propaganda, sounds like propaganda, and strikes at least one person making an effort to be objective — me — as a waste of their time at best and damaging to their cause at worst.

        • Genexs

          Yeah, and it’s something that we generally don’t do. We are not “in your face” about our religion. This sort of clueless act gives the impression that we are. Lot’s of us have worked hard in the inter-faith dept, and there has been some measurable progress. What’s sad is that their seems to be a militant branch of atheism that would like to toss a monkey wrench into that.

          • CBrachyrhynchos

            I’m not certain I’d call the FFRF militant, but they are a bit extreme in picking these fights. They’re partly responsible for the annual “War on Christmas” kerfuffle which largely exists to invent a problem around our engagement in a multi-faith culture. My general response on Christmas is that unless you’re invited to dinner, you don’t really get a say in the complexities of how my extended multi-faith family negotiates the differences between sacred and family space.

      • Ursyl

        “Axial tilt is the reason for the season.”
        I’m sure they’re aware of that one. :)

        I would rather see them be specific about being against Christian hegemony and the default state religion being Christianity. Are there any other religions trying to do what SOME Christians are doing in trying to have theirs be the only one acknowledged, honored by the state, and the basis for our laws?

        When I see a FB friend’s memes that criticize all faiths for stuff that only Christianity (some factions of) do, I see ignorance and imprecise use of language. Criticize the actual actors/problems, not everyone whether involved or not.

        • Crystal Hope Kendrick

          Exactly, Ursyl.

  • http://www.walkofthefallen.com Labrys

    Well, how sad it is to think that paganism may have “arrived” in some sense if it is being attacked like the “Big Five” by atheists. Personally, I feel all religion should meet a standard once applied to medicine: First of all, do no HARM to the believers OR disbelievers. The monotheistic faiths, alas, do massive amounts of harm with the punishing attitudes they promulgate. So, to see pagans branded as of that ilk is a rude awakening. (Herlander Walking)

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      I don’t see “Do no harm” as intrinsically part of any religion.

      • Tauri1

        Uh, sorry but it is part of Buddhist belief. And as a Pagan with a Buddhist practice, I can attest to this.

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

          I phrased it poorly. I meant to say that it is not part of the definition of what a religion is.

          • Crystal Hope Kendrick

            I think that’s why she wrote “I FEEL all religion SHOULD meet a standard once applied to medicine.” The emphasis is mine, of course.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            I got that. I was simply voicing disagreement.

    • TadhgMor

      This isn’t an attack. It’s ignorance. We’re beneath their notice. They assume what they say couldn’t possibly be offensive because none of those “primitives” are around anymore.

      I have little more love for Atheist fundamentalists than Christian ones. Most Atheists still have internalized the forms and assumptions of Christianity (and hence monotheism), and maintain the whole “primitive” views.

      • http://threeshoutsonahilltop.blogspot.com/ gorm_sionnach

        We saw the same ignorant disregard by an Atheist orginization in the case of the “God Graveyard” a few months back.

        I understand that for a lot of folks, its Monotheism or nothing (maybe watered down Buddhism), and that polytheism isn’t even on their radar.

        Still, it is if nothing else irritating to be so casually disregarded.

  • Wyrd Wiles

    I honestly don’t mind. I feel like it’s free advertising from a group which champions causes I support. (I am an avid secularist.) */shrug*

  • Adanae

    We are focusing on the wrong thing. I don’t think the FFRF intentionally offended the pagans. I think they were scrabbling to relate the winter holidays to nature and in the process offended the religions who worship nature.

    Whatever their issues are, you are all focusing on the wrong thing.

    These freedom loving citizens, whom many Pagans/Wiccans also are, have gotten permission from cities with large Christian Populations to erect anti religious , for lack of a better work, billboards. Yes they slandered our name in the process, whether or not it was accidental. However, now we can follow in their footsteps and erect our own billboards. Let them be tasteful and non offensive. Let them represent the true meaning of Yule. But, what you’re missing is that there is nothing that a ‘god fearing’ christian fears more is people who don’t believe in God. Therefore, if a bunch of life loving people who have more gods than your church have room for stroll along, we should be at least a little more accepted than we were before these lovely little atheists came along.

    Here’s the second thing you’re missing. We need to work together! So what if the FFRF is putting out displays that incorporate some pagan meanings and maybe smear us. You know who’s smeared us more? The media. How many of you rioted when the last occult move came out? I’m not saying protest the media. Frankly i don’t care. I enjoy watching made up things and if they were real i wouldn’t like it so much. What I am saying is get over and embrace the people who are trying to stand up for our freedoms. I don’t agree that we should ban all religious displays from public places. Instead we should welcome all religious displays everywhere as long as everyone is respectful and non excluding. why? because we have FREEDOM which in the very least means that no one gets to determine what and when we can display certain behavior. If this were outlawed imagine how long until it got out of hand. Until people were arrested for praying somewhere and other ridiculous notions.

    In conclusion, what I’m trying to say is we all want the same things. We are tired of be afraid to tell someone our true religious beliefs. We are all tired of people accusing us of worshiping a certain fallen angel most of us don’t believe in (the devil), and we all like campfires. So stop sweating the small stuff, and lets find ways to work together.

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

      “I don’t think the FFRF intentionally offended the pagans.”

      If those who are supposed to be our allies are so ill-informed and/or uncaring that our identity is little more than a marketing tool, precisely whom am I supposed to be aligning with and for what purpose?

      I also do not care who smears me more, Christian or atheist. If either one is smearing me I have a problem with them and do not want their help, especially if they are misrepresenting me and defending appropriating my Gods in the bargain for whatever ax they are grinding.

  • Robert Paxton

    I note that this year the FFRF played it safe in their Capitol display: “The foundation…features Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein and Mark Twain as the three wise men, the Statue of Liberty and an astronaut as angels and an African American girl baby doll to represent that “humankind was birthed in Africa.” Also, someone else put up a Festivus pole: http://www.postcrescent.com/viewart/20131208/APC010401/312080278/Wisconsin-Capitol-gets-Festivus-pole-holidays

    Nothing wrong with a big, jumbled, joyful mess.

    • Northern_Light_27

      So wait, the above thing about the atheist “manger” display wasn’t even from this year? And they stopped doing the offensive parts of what they were doing? …yeah, I really need to manufacture rage about this and contact them.

      In general: Do I think the above display is offensive? Somewhat. I think most atheists have a lot of Christian baggage that they don’t know they have, and believing themselves free of Christian religious dogma also wrongly believe themselves free of Christian cultural elements by default (one part of which is the “Paganism is silly/not worth taking seriously/worships dead gods” meme). That’s the thing that bothers me about atheists, not whether they’re celebrating the summer or winter solstice (I found a citation backing up my memory that atheists have been doing both since at least the ’70s, it’s pretty easy to find on google). Is it so unpossible that noticing seasonal change is meaningful to nonreligious people too? Socially marking the changing seasons seems to be a pretty universal human activity, after all.

  • thesilverspiral

    If Pagans were smart, they would support Atheists’ attempts to keep religion out of the public square. Theocracy doesn’t just hurt atheists, it hurts everyone who practices any religion other than the accepted ones.

  • Finn

    I have to simply comment on the idea expressed by some here that any celebration of the solstice (a real, scientifically observable event) is inherently religious and that secular people shouldn’t have the right to celebrate it. This is utter nonsense. You may as well say that celebrating New Year, or a birthday party, is inherently religious. The word and time of ‘solstice’ does not belong to any religion, it is for everybody.

  • Franklin_Evans

    The entire appropriation argument rates a full-fledged, fully articulated oy vey iz mir!

    That’s the extent of my appropriation of my Jewish heritage, come to as an adult and vicariously (as in not from my immediate family).

    Inviting any and all corrections…

    TadhgMor’s assertion is based on precision of language and the demonstrable fact that our most respected elders starting with Gardner chose to appropriate existing terms and shfift their meanings and usages for their own purposes. I’ve expressed to TadhgMor in previous threads that this is just going to happen — lexicons shift, and they look very much like slow-motion avalanches — and arguing against them is shouting into a gale. The key there, for me at least, is a well-deserved distrust when our contemporaries look very much like contributing to the shift instead of joining the few of us (I include myself in TadghMor’s camp) who want to preserve and promote to the level of tradition. Not that no one questions traditions, but they do have certain advantages.

    Baruch is an easy target. He obtains the immediate disadvantage of that distrust, and the part with which I don’t agree with TadhgMor is that Baruch deserves it without further examination. This is where the Pagan and Heathen communities in general tend to shoot themselves in the foot — something I just don’t tolerate in silence — and where I start to feel the ricochet effect: there is such a thing as a common ground, it is accessible to all without needing to be precisely named, and the longer we argue about it instead of occupying it together, the longer we will continue to be the easy-target scapegoats of all and sundry.

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      What is the common ground, other than shared “not-Christian” status? (Well, mostly, even that one gets vague…)

      • Franklin_Evans

        I see validity in the “not-Christian” aspect of it, but it need not be the only aspect or even a primary focus.

        I must concede that the question itself as I imagine it is vague. It lacks a context which can be supplied. Is the common ground strictly religious? That one is already a problem, as we see in this and other threads. Is the common ground social and/or political? I would personally invest my energy in that side… with similar problems developing, I’m sure.

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

          Every common ground excludes one more individuals and/or groups.

          Which doesn’t really make the ground all that common.

          This is not a problem, as far as I can tell, until someone decides that having a firm definition is a bad thing.

    • TadhgMor

      I would like to point out, contrary to the people who view me as some loose cannon, I did not start this. Baruch’s insults towards recons did. If you expect me not to respond to things like that, well, I don’t know what to tell you.

      I’m all for common ground. But to get there people need to at the very least acknowledge the appropriation. Then we work to move forward. But that acknowledgement seems to be too great a price for some reason.

      • Franklin_Evans

        Yes. I agree with you there. From a strictly personal POV, I must also agree in principle — if not with the phrasing you’ve employed — that people are coming to this forum with chips on their shoulders, and the first thing that happens is flying splinters.

        One of my criteria for common ground is that opposing opinions must be aired, and leaving our offended sensibilities at the door one of the prices of entry. That’s bluntly and perhaps harshly put, but we can acknowledge our taking offense — yes, I’m both one of those being asked to pay that particular price and one of those with offensive things to say — without it being the first topic on the agenda.

        • TadhgMor

          In all honestly, I’m not sure I can leave my offense at the door. It’s been too strongly reinforced by others in the pagan community.

          It’s gotten to the point where people react against me without even reading what I say. I find it disheartening to see so many people support a comment by Baruch that willfully distorts and misinterprets my positions in a glib and insulting manner. It means no one is even reading my positions, they are simply closing ranks.

          All I can do is attempt to restate my position as clearly as possible. But others continue to ignore (or Baruch’s case haughtily reply that I’m “repeating” myself as if repetition somehow invalidates points) those positions, or chose to purposefully change them.

          I do not see how any common ground can be found when people won’t even put in the basic amount of effort. I understand this is an emotional issue, and that many well meaning people feel hurt by the accusation of appropriation which they do not feel guilty of, but I do not understand why the assumption seems to be that we must protect THEIR emotional well being by ignoring the subject, but act as if I and others like me have no emotional attachment to our terminology and path.

          • Franklin_Evans

            The essence of the common ground — rather, the potential benefit it can have — is predicated on the harsh reality you and I experience here and on other forums: The issue being emotional tends to kill that potential sooner or soonest.

            None of us are required to suppress our feelings when we post on a forum like this. It’s not a ground rule for posting — well, other than complying with minimum standards of civilty — and it would make all of our conversations/arguments very dull indeed. I read your posts avidly, and I would find them luke warm at best if I weren’t aware of the passion behind them.

            I really do feel that online forums, text-based and rife with obstacles to clear communication, are a terrible place to hold such conversations… until I examine the alternative, which is to simply not have them. I don’t have an answer without falling back on those mediation skills. The first premise of a mediated conversation is setting clear ground rules and enforcing them. We have no such thing here.

        • Baruch Dreamstalker

          Against my usual impulses I tilt toward Tadghmor on this. I cannot abide sloppy verbal logic, and would be all over it in any discussion.

      • Franklin_Evans

        Speaking of acknowledgments: my experience and training in formal mediation tends to color my personal expressions in debates and arguments. If my unsolicited mediatory tone leaves you or anyone else thinking that I’m being patronizing, I regret that and will respectfully sit still for criticism of me in that regard.

        • TadhgMor

          I don’t ever see you as patronizing. You make honest attempts at clarification and mediation.

          • Franklin_Evans

            Thank you. See my other reply for a bit of projection in explaining why I offered that acknowledgment.

  • Timothy Schneider

    If indeed these people are atheists they should not need my, nor anyone else’s Gods to bolster their views, opinions, and displays. They should be able to stand on their own merits, if they have any, and stand apart without my Gods being used as prop pieces.