While you enjoy your brunch, why not peruse some interesting articles and essays to be found at our Pagan channel?
“A Typology of Pagan Groups” by Aidan Kelly:“Given the commonality of the basic Gardnerian liturgical pattern, it is useful to propose a typology based on how closely the various Pagan groups resemble the Gardnerians, resemblances created because it was the “Gardnerian magnet, as Chas Clifton labeled it, that set off the Pagan Renaissance in the 1960s.”
“Encountering Pagan Deities” by Gus diZerega:“One important respect among several where NeoPagan practice differs from mainstream American religion is our relation to our deities. We consider the sacred as immanent in the world, whether or not we also include a transcendent dimension as well. (I do.) The sacred is around us, all the time, if we but have the eyes to see it, ears to hear it, and heart to feel it.”
“The Indigeny Debate” by P. Sufenas Virius Lupus:“The present column’s subject at this juncture is likely to be one that many people vehemently disagree with me on. And many of those who disagree will be people whose work I enjoy, whose views I respect, and whose beings I love, and who (needless to say) I know personally. I don’t mean this to be offensive toward them in any manner; I am merely seeking to nuance a certain term’s usage, and to inject what I think is a needed critical note into a usage that doesn’t get as much attention or questioning as I think it deserves.”
“Paganism Beyond the Warm and Fuzzy” by Teo Bishop:“All things have their place, and there is certainly a place for the warm and fuzzy in Paganism. But I think it’s also necessary to remember that there are parts of nature, and aspects of the Kindred we worship, that can be violently cold, fiercely wild, and terribly awe inspiring.”
“Best Man” by Eric Scott:“This is not the first wedding where I have been part of the bridal party; for that matter, it isn’t the first Catholic wedding I’ve been a part of, either. I like being in the wedding, and I am genuinely honored to be asked to play such a role for my friends. But it leaves me uneasy, too. I have never managed to enter a church without someone making a perfunctory joke about me bursting into flames the moment I enter the nave. The jokes may be in fun, but there’s a nugget of truth in them: there’s something genuinely incongruous about my presence here. However lovely the building, I don’t belong in it.”
“So why all the fuss? Because the rights and freedoms granted to religious practitioners of Druidry and Paganism in the UK are, as in the US, not necessarily guarantees that they will also have access to all of the same benefits available to more mainstream faiths — benefits such as nonprofit status, state-recognized holidays, prison and military chaplaincy, clergy who are legally empowered to perform marriages and burials, and so on. In short, although British law provides freedom from discrimination for practitioners of all religions, the freedom to participate fully and equally in civil society is something that rests on a foundation of legal precedent. For many religious minorities, securing the latter means buckling down to a long process of challenging numerous individual instances of oversight and exclusion, in order to push past the tipping point from legal tolerance into social acceptance and support.”
This was an important moment for Druidry in Britain, and for modern Paganism as a whole. Despite the occasional press exaggerations that the UK had recognized Druidry for the first time in “thousands of years, “ this moment does mark a new level of respect and understanding towards our family faiths.
“The Air Force Academy, stung several years ago by accusations of Christian bias, has built a new outdoor worship area for pagans and other practitioners of Earth-based religions. But its opening, heralded as a sign of a more tolerant religious climate at the academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., was marred by the discovery two weeks ago of a large wooden cross placed there. ”We’ve been making great progress at the Air Force Academy. This is clearly a setback,” said Mikey Weinstein, a 1977 graduate of the academy. He is founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, and has often tangled with the academy over such issues.”
“The kind of religion one practices makes a huge difference in how the community lives — for better or for worse. I suppose it’s at least arguable that the Haitians would be better off at the Church of Christopher Hitchens rather than as followers of voodoo.“ - Rod Dreher, Beliefnet
That wraps up my top ten news stories about or affecting modern Paganism in 2010. Thanks for reading, and I hope you’ll join me for another year of sifting through the news and views of interest to our communities. See you in 2011!
“It’s like you know as soon as you order them; it’s almost like you have a betting pool. Anything to do with Wicca, witchcraft, supernatural, things like that. Especially the spells.” At her library, those books seem to bolt before they’re checked out, taken directly off the shelves. The library simply reorders every once in a while. Increased use of eBooks will help, she said — there’s nothing physical to lose. Her best guess on why it happens? “You know, I think there probably is just a little bit of fear that somebody’s going to judge. ‘They’re going to think I’m into something weird,’” Neal-Shaw said. “It’s almost like they’re trying to hide it from themselves; they haven’t come out of the Wicca closet.”
“…the traditional media, newspapers and TV, usually ignore third party candidates, although I got a really good interview in the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Voter Guide last Sunday, and I’m all over the internet and radio; some media, including not just internet radio shows but even broadcast TV, frankly email candidates promising news coverage if they buy advertising, and even more blatantly, local news channels — including publicly funded PBS!– refused to allow any candidate for governor who had not raised tens of thousands of dollars to participate in the televised debate; people have the attitude that the election is a horserace and they are supposed to bet on the winner, so voting one’s conscience to vote for a third party or independent candidate is somehow “wasting your vote”, and people think they should vote for the lesser of two evils instead of voting for what they believe in.”
In a message sent to Pagan+Politics last night, Lale had this to say about her campaign.
“Thank you for all your support over the course of this campaign. Although I didn’t win, I did get my ideas in front of a lot of community leaders, organizations, and other candidates, and made a lot of networking connections, so hopefully my ideas can move forward on another front, while I move into another arena of endeavor, whatever that may be. I am now looking for my next challenge.”
This is obviously a disappointment for Lale, but it does show that an openly Pagan candidate with almost no funding or mainstream media attention can affect local politics. As we become more confident, speculations about the “Pagan vote” and Pagan candidates will leave the realm of the hypothetical and be taken more seriously.
No matter how Democrats treat the issue, it seems unlikely that Wiccans will turn out for O’Donnell at the polls. “Her inability to separate anything non-Christian from Satanic is going to be an issue not just with her potential pagan constituents but with any other non-Christians or Christians of a flavor that does not match hers,” said Michael Smith, the Wiccan IT analyst who hosted the meet-and-greet the governor visited. “A couple of my local politician friends say she’s losing the Wiccan vote,” said [Ivo] Dominguez. “Well, I said she never had the pagan vote for the most part to begin with.” – Ben Crair, The Daily Beast
Ultimately “dabble-gate” cost her the election, and while the abundance of mean-spirited mockery had some in our community questioning why “dabbling” in a minority religion is such a deal-breaker for political office, O’Donnell’s largely unexplored connections to conservative Christianity and how they influence her politics made few Pagans regret her loss.
“Senate candidate Marco Rubio revved up a crowd of about 200 supporters at the Alaqua Country Club Wednesday, but Rubio had a little help from the guy who introduced him. David Barton primed the pump with his brand of America first, last and always political/religious revivalism … Barton’s primary message Wednesday – and most days – is that the U.S. was founded as a Christian nation, was intended to be a Christian nation and would be a whole lot better if everyone started buying into that. Barton traces a number of social ills, for example, back to the prohibition of compulsory prayer in public schools.”
Too bad no one got to question him on the point of equal treatment for non-Christians, specifically Pagans. On the whole, some are starting to see this election not as the rise of the Tea Party, as some had hoped/feared, but as a second wind for Christian conservative candidates (some of whom have latched onto or gained the support from Tea Party groups). What that all means for minority religions (or for the fiscally-motivated Tea Party for that matter) in the next few years remains to be seen.
Have any election-night insights to share? Leave them in the comments!
Delaware Tea Party candidate Christine O’Donnell‘s recent Hail Mary pass of a political ad, directly confronting accusations of “witchcraft” that surfaced after an old clip where she admitted to “dabbling” in the practice and having lunch on a “Satanic” altar as a teenager, isn’t having quite the intended humanizing effect on several Pagans. A growing Youtube response meme has Pagans reminding O’Donnell, and America, that “I’m you” includes Witches. Here’s a run-down of the videos posted so far.
“There was a lot of eye rolling. It obscures the actual issues involved [in Wicca]. Who knows what she did or dabbled in when she was in high school. I doubt very seriously that she knows what it was. Certainly I do not think that she has any concept about what witchcraft, Wicca or paganism actually is. I doubt very seriously whether she has any concept of what Satanism actually is.”
“You know, I feel like again, this woman, Christine O’Donnell, she may be qualified. She may not. I’m not all that impressed with what’s in the Senate right now. But the last thing that I would suggest is that her witchcraft or masturbation stance is what we should be even thinking about or focusing on, and I think that’s an enormous mistake that the Democrats will make.”
Again, if O’Donnell is indeed elected, what actual worrisome things about her will we miss because the media is having so much fun dressing folks up, interviewing Wiccans, and vainly trying to contain their smirks? I’m glad that Pagans are taking the initiative to use this media storm in a positive way, and I’m also glad that we are getting some more thoughtful coverage in some mainstream outlets, but I wish the mainstream media, and those who consume it, would demand more from their journalism than this ongoing spectacle.
“…if you’re Christine O’Donnell, you turn to an advertising guru called Fred Davis, a veteran of many past Republican races, and you get him to make you a 30-second TV advert. The new slot has O’Donnell speaking to camera with a large, homely smile on her face. “I’m not a witch,” she says, which as an opening line to a political advert is pretty grabby. “I’m nothing you’ve heard. I’m you.” A tinkling piano plays in the background and the lighting is soft and welcoming. It has the feel of one of those washing-up liquid ads from the 1970s.”
No matter how Democrats treat the issue, it seems unlikely that Wiccans will turn out for O’Donnell at the polls. “Her inability to separate anything non-Christian from Satanic is going to be an issue not just with her potential pagan constituents but with any other non-Christians or Christians of a flavor that does not match hers,” said Michael Smith, the Wiccan IT analyst who hosted the meet-and-greet the governor visited. “A couple of my local politician friends say she’s losing the Wiccan vote,” said [Ivo] Dominguez. “Well, I said she never had the pagan vote for the most part to begin with.”
“If this witchcraft admission affects her or not depends on how she handles it. I would like her to come out and explain what happened, not denigrate witchcraft, and then move on. If it was some guy who wanted to get into her pants, that’s what I think happened, she should say so. Ideally she would talk about the difference between Paganism and 1980?s and 90?s style Plagans. I doubt that will happen. A mage can dream, right?”
“Witchcraft deserves the same respect accorded to any other spiritual tradition. And O’Donnell deserves the same respect as any other politician: that we judge them by their record, their abilities and their policies, not by stupid, offhand remarks they made decades ago.”
“It’s an opportunity to get some correct information out there. That’s how I see it,” says Fox, who is the high priestess and senior minister of Circle Sanctuary, a Wiccan church near Barneveld, Wisconsin, that serves Pagans worldwide. “There’s comedy about it, hot debate about it, lots of pundits weighing in. But one of the things that really hasn’t gotten through is how ridicule and defamation can harm people.”
Fox also talks about the ongoing battles Pagans have waged for equal treatment over the years.
“She’s obviously very ignorant about witchcraft,” said Teri Kalgren, director of the Witches Education Bureau. “To say she dabbled in it — what is dabbling? And how do we know people she was hanging out with were really witches?”
Diane Vera, the founder of a group called “NYC Satanists, Luciferians, Dark Pagans, and LHP Occultists” added today that O’Donnell’s anecdote also misrepresents Satanists. “As far as I am aware, no serious practitioner of any variant of either Wicca or Satanism would have a picnic on one’s altar,” Vera said in a press release. Vera also cited a 1997 Washington Post op-ed O’Donnell wrote as head of the Savior’s Alliance for Lifting the Truth (SALT). O’Donnell wrote about proselytizing to concert goers in the Washington area. ”Walking through the crowd I also noticed more pentagrams than crosses around the teenage necks,” she wrote. “‘Satanism is the religion of the ’90s, I was told.” Vera responded that O’Donnell “has a tendency to confuse Satanism with not only Wicca but also rock fan culture.”
“”In my 20s I had a newfound faith and, going on these shows, I looked at it as a ministry opportunity — that was what I did in my 20s. But that was a long time ago. My faith has matured … Who didn’t do some questionable things in high school, and who doesn’t regret the ’80s, to some extent? I certainly do.“
“Once again, the Left’s tolerance and diversity mantra rings hollow. Who knew that witches had fallen out of favor with the Left? You have to wonder if it’s O’Donnell’s dabbling or denunciation that’s piqued the pagans. If the Left continues to link witchcraft and paganism to “crazies,” Obama could end up on the wrong end of the mystics’ magical broom…”
The media could have talked about the impact that Wiccans have in our society (there’s more Wiccans in the Air Force than any other non-Christian demographic). The media could have talked about the plight of Pagan political figures, since the O’Donnell frenzy connotes that Paganism makes you ineligible for public office. The media could have talked about the difference between covens and the eclectic practices that O’Donnell seemed to have dabbled in. The media could have talked about the fear some Pagans have with talking about their beliefs in public — the so-called “coming out of the broom closet” — especially in the wake of recent attacks on Muslims. The media could have talked about public perception issues, when the average persons’ exposure to Wicca comes from bookstores crammed full of “Spells to make him fall in love with you” trash that has as much to do with Wicca as Fred Phelps does with Christianity. But no, it all got swept under the rug in exchange for an Obama bumper sticker parody: O’Donnell in a pointed hat and the phrase “Yes, Wiccan.”
I can’t help but think that this “dabble-gate” coverage, while it will die down as the media grows tired of the subject, and as Bill Maher releases more embarrassing clips, it may well color our traditional Halloween/Samhain rush of coverage this year. Making the usual efforts to tamp down sensationalism in the yearly glut of “real Witch” stories even more difficult. Or maybe, since this rush happened so late in September, this is the October rush, and our role in this media tempest will stand in for more in-depth explorations of Pagan faith. Whatever the outcome, we have our work cut out for us to push past the easy jokes and to remind the world that we are a mature, multi-generational, community of faiths who have spread around the world and are fighting against the prejudices and ignorance that in many cases denies us equal treatment and access.
[Ivo] Dominguez said that the surfacing of O’Donnell’s past comments is particularly unfortunate for Wiccans because it comes near “our least favorite media cycle,” the run-up to Halloween. “My biggest concern is that we will be receiving negative depictions on one side from the people that traditionally don’t like us, which are folks that believe the only thing that is a valid spiritual path is a narrowly defined kind of Christianity, and on the other side people that are progressive that we would normally see as our friends but who will be using the witch angle as a way of attacking a conservative candidate.”
“Pagan faiths are sent the message that while they may enjoy some perks of mainstream acceptance, they, like other minority faiths, are not fully welcome into the halls of political power. Those trying to use this clip as a political club to hurt her candidacy may not realize that it is also damaging the advances of modern Pagans trying to work for equal treatment and an end to unspoken litmus tests.”
While we stick to the “it’s not Satanism” talking points of old, a larger narrative, and one harder to easily refute is taking shape before our eyes. That any taint of Paganism, of Witchcraft, of the occult, is political suicide. That we are a joke and nothing more. Grist for satirists and a boon for political opponents. While some claim we are “undoubtedly reaping the benefits of the spotlight”, I don’t think that’s the case. We have to think about what the lasting message will be two, five, or ten years from now. Will it be “Witches aren’t Satanists”? Something tells me it will be “crazy anti-sex witch candidate”.
What does this mean for our Pagan politicians already in office? Would Dan Halloran stand a chance in a Senate race in such a climate? Would Jessica Orsini? If a solid Christian conversion narrative makes you too wacky for primetime, what does it mean for someone who is actually a practitioner? How about Pagans trying to fight for equal treatment in adverse situations, how will this affect them? This has not been a good news cycle for our faiths, despite all the interviews, and it will present problems down the road.