As Pagans, we often hear of calls for healing and prayers when our community members have an illness or are in need of care. We send prayers, thoughts, and perform healing rituals. We offer help as friends, as family, and as a community. We may seek those among us who are known healers just as we seek the assistance of doctors. We lend an ear or our kitchen table for a chat with others.
The definition of community continues to be largely debated in many different circles. I am not here today to define that for anyone, but rather to look at related issues that are seldom debated, such as the challenges and ongoing tensions that appear to exist within the “umbrella” of the Pagan and polytheist communities, and within the interpersonal relationships found in groups, covens, groves, and organizations. The so-called “Witch Wars” are not a new thing, neither are the ongoing moments of intensity based on different views, approaches, and methods of engaging with our diverse practices. There are historic Witch wars of which we are all aware. Some were between individuals, and others were between different factions of this very diverse and nuanced community.
There are many intersections between a person’s profession and their spiritual calling. There are parallels that exist in the reasons that someone practices within a specific spiritual belief system, and what that same person chooses to do for a living. There are types of people that are more geared toward professions that are in the service field and others that are not; this is not something new within the way we understand the development of personality and the way we define an individual’s strengths. When considering theories like “nature vs. nurture,” there are insights into the personality of those who find themselves in the field of helping professions.
This past Saturday California Governor Jerry Brown signed bill SB1172 into law, banning controversial “conversion therapies” for homosexuality if the patient is a minor. In a statement, Brown condemned these therapies as “quackery” that create, rather than solve, mental health issues. “This bill bans nonscientific ‘therapies’ that have driven young people to depression and suicide. These practices have no basis in science or medicine, and they will now be relegated to the dustbin of quackery.”
California is the first state to ban conversion therapy (also known as “reparative therapy”) for minors despite the practice being considered harmful by several mainstream mental health organizations. The American Psychological Association said, in a report from 2009 that “efforts to change sexual orientation are unlikely to be successful and involve some risk of harm, contrary to the claims of SOCE practitioners and advocates.” Despite essentially every mainstream health organization, from the AMA to the American Academy of Pediatrics, criticizing these therapies, the practice endures, even for minors, thanks to the assertion in certain religious communities that homosexuality is a sinful disorder that can be treated.