Monday, February 15, 2010

Odd Man Out – Conservatives in Paganism

It’s a real pet peeve of mine – that all pagans are stereotypically uber-liberal, Birkenstock-wearing, coop-shopping, commune-living eccentrics whose every idea flies in the face of the mainstream. Certainly there is nothing wrong with any of the aforementioned activities, but they are not criteria for inclusion into Pagandom. And they’re certainly not to be associated with Paganism. Paganism is a belief system, something you live, an intangible abstract which isn’t necessarily obvious to others.

One of the most beautiful things about the pagan community is its diversity. We see the eyes of the God and Goddess in everyone – regardless of gender, orientation, preferences, ideologies or anything else. That’s why I become dismayed when I see my erstwhile tolerant pagan brethren look askance when other pagans don’t share their points of view.

Paganism is not a contest to see who can be “freakier than thou”. The fallacy is believing that you can judge a good pagan by how left-of-center they are; or conversely, can become a good pagan by espousing behaviors which may not be considered commonplace in our society. The pagan community is one of the most tolerant faith-based groups on this planet. You will find people of every color, sexual persuasion and type welcomed. Because of this, sometimes we may forget the silent minority in pagandom – the conservative. Conservative is a relative term, too…because it doesn’t necessarily mean conservative on a political level, but people who are less likely to choose behaviors which might be new and avant garde.

While it is perfectly ok to embrace a plethora of lifestyles, it’s also ok to NOT partake of them. Let me give you an example which I have experienced. Those who know me know that I am unabashedly straight and monogamous, though that often makes me a minority in many pagan circles. I cannot count the number of times I’ve been accused of being a prude, or elitist, or even a “bad” pagan because I choose not to be polyamorous or partake of a plural relationship, or embark on a relationship with another woman.  It’s simply not my thing. I like being straight and I like being with one man.Apparently, being “vanilla” to some equals being closed minded. Let me assure you, nothing is further from the truth.

And there are many pagans who feel they must – or are sometimes pressured into – partaking in plural relationships (also known as polyamory), or BDSM, or other non-mainstream behaviors, in order to be a good pagan. If they’re not a part of something “freaky”, then they’re not really pagan because they’ve sold out. We as pagans need to make sure to change this misconception within our own community.

In my travels, I have met pagans of all types: straight, gay, transgendered, polyamorous, republican, democrat, monogamous, bisexual, omnisexual, and more. Imagine me trying to tell one of my lesbian friends that they’re being closed minded because they choose not to be intimate with men? Crazy thought, huh? Yet people seem to think it’s ok to do the same to a pagan who chooses to be a little more circumspect, a little less “out there” than some. Personal preference is personal preference. No matter how convincing you think you are, it’s not your job to “turn me” into something I’m not.

I will admit that I am a little more conservative than most of my pagan friends. I don’t have tattoos, no multiple piercings, and really the only thing that separates me from my neighbors is that I have a few more Deities than they do. Like many, maybe most pagans, I think that as long as you don’t intentionally hurt others, what you do in the privacy of your own home is your own beeswax. I don’t need to know about it, nor do I need to feel guilty because I don’t partake in it. In spite of my boringness, I am a good pagan. I write, I teach, I learn, I share what I know with others, I participate in my local pagan community. I don’t need to prove my “pagan-ness”. I’ve seen new pagans feel that they need to take part in activities they wouldn’t normally indulge in, only to prove that they’re not “closed minded” or too square to be a pagan.

There are people in the community who sometimes feel that their activities outside paganism are what paganism is. Paganism is not being a vegetarian, it’s not BDSM, it’s not your sexual practices, it’s not your gender preferences, it’s not the clothes you wear or the political causes you take up. They are not part of your pagan practice – they are part of your personal practice, which is different for everyone. What makes one a pagan is actually very simple: do you connect with Deity? Do you recognize the cycles of the earth as sacred? Do you honor every person you meet as an aspect of the God and Goddess? The Gods don’t care what you do when you close your bedroom door. Nor do they care what style of clothes you wear, or what political candidate you are backing this year. They care about your integrity, your spiritual evolution and whether or not you are true to yourself (and others).

Over a decade ago, I met a woman who was beaten severely at the hands of her “high priest” (non-caps intentional). He was into bondage/discipline/sado-masochism and incorporated it into his practice. It made me a little sick to my stomach to think that there are people out there who define paganism by the use of these behaviors. What consenting adults do is not my concern…but it isn’t my faith either, and I resent people trying to tell me that it is.

Yep, this is my pet peeve and though most pagans are not guilty of it, the ones who are guilty of this have affected my interactions with pagans to a great extent. As a rule, there’s a “live and let live” mentality in pagandom. But there are a handful of folks out there who continue to view more conservative folks – or perceived conservatism (as I’m pretty liberal when compared to mainstream folks) – as an attack or judgment against them. They look at people like me with derision, as if we are elitist or have some sort of superiority complex. When more conservative pagans say “It’s not my thing”, they sometimes hear “I don’t do it because it’s a bad thing and you’re bad for doing it.” That is not the case at all.

Being a pagan is about honoring our spiritual Selves and connecting with our own Divine nature; it’s about recognizing and respecting our unique differences and needs. It’s not about who is a “better” pagan or making an assumption about someone’s spiritual evolution based upon the person they choose as a partner, what they choose to wear or what causes they wish to champion. The way to be a better pagan is to transcend these petty fallacies and to be the best person you can.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Open My Eyes – A Meditation in Many Parts – Part 7

What’s all this mean?

On a spiritual level, we are all potential recruits being evaluated by the Gods. 2009 was all about culling – transformation and change. It is about cutting away those things which keep us from our goals. I know have had to do that with a lot of my spiritual work and those who were keeping me from it (even unintentionally). I had to get over the fact that sometimes “newagers” and “fluffy bunnies” carry kernels of truth that my own personal bias would have otherwise dismissed, and that whether you see Spirit as “Cerridwen” or “Angels” or “Fairies” or “Dragons” or whatever name you wish to put on it – it’s still a part of the Divine. This realization, change and transformation is sometimes painful. Sometimes it makes us cast a critical eye upon ourselves. But there is no growth without pain, and growth is all about change. You can’t have one without the other. It is a testament to our own Divine Selves to endure the difficult times, so that we might discover Wisdom.

In 2010, the trees of our lives have been pruned and are ready to grow in a more productive manner. I anticipate the Universe giving me many opportunities to get my act together by making me set aside any resentment, residual elitism, or other negative behaviors which might put me out of whack with where my Gods want me to be.

Once I feel comfortable with that change, 2011 will show me the skills I need to cultivate in order to “do the Work”, as my Sire Priest used to say. I wonder what that will mean. Am I to be positioned as a teacher? A writer? An observer? An energy worker? A diviner? Or will I be called upon to do something completely new & different?

2012 will be about receiving, but the question is: Receiving what? New responsibilities, benefits, change? Is it a judgment of sorts, where we will reap what we sow?

At the risk of sounding clich√©, time will indeed tell. My meditations only gave me a brief glimpse into the possibility of what’s out there, out of many possibilities available.

I will say this: the next few years will be interesting to see how my meditation plays out. I don’t even know if it’s a message for me, or for people in general.

Open My Eyes – A Meditation in Many Parts – Part 6

Aligning, Positioning and Receiving

Once the executive has identified potential recruits (weeding the crummy ones out), he puts his candidates in strategic positions to ensure they have the appropriate attitude and viewpoints which support the mission. This is the time for the candidate not only to learn about the executive who hired them, but more importantly to learn about the company, its philosophies, ethics & methodologies – and decide to either join forces, or part ways and find something more suited to them.

The executive then sees which recruits have embraced his (read: the company’s) methodologies and mindset of the organization. Essentially, he determines which people will play well in his sandbox. At that point, the recruits are put in positions and given responsibilities which will prepare them for the team’s mission and their part in it. This includes training and further evaluation.

At this point, the executives and the rest of the team evaluate each other until they are relatively sure that every other person on their team has a similar commitment and purpose. They are relatively sure that each person is a viable & productive team mate; who will be committed to furthering the mission and goals of the team and the organization as a whole. They are now peers, and given the full responsibilities and respect due to them. They are now part of the greater whole.

Next post: Meditation, part 7 – What does this mean?

Open My Eyes – A Meditation in Many Parts – Part 5

Culling is a term most often associated with animal husbandry. If I got to, it says: “Culling is the process of removing animals from a group based on specific criteria. This is done in order to either reinforce certain desirable characteristics or to remove certain undesirable characteristics from the group.” My understanding of this is that culling gets rid of any animal that is detrimental to the whole. If you have a sick animal, you need to make sure it doesn’t infect the rest; if you have a disruptive animal (one that bites, is aggressive), you remove it before it harms the rest of the group.

From a spiritual viewpoint, however, culling is about removing those things / behaviors / people which harm you as a whole person.

Being a business professional in the mundane world, my mind (or was it again Spirit explaining things to me using concepts in my ken?) came up with this scenario: An executive (I’m gonna call it a HIM, just for ease of writing), looking to build the right team first approaches, say, a college or other organization to recruit prospective folks. Those people meet with him and he interviews tons of folks. Then he divides the people he’s interviewed into 2 groups – those with the qualities he’s looking for, and those who just “don’t get it”.

This is culling – the separation of those individuals who are not healthy to preserve the integrity of the greater whole.

Next post: Meditation, part 6 – Aligning, Positioning & Receiving

Open My Eyes – A Meditation in Many Parts – Part 4

Ok, back to the meditation. The gentleman in the clearing sits down and I do the same, facing him. He said, “The current Wheel is about culling” and in my mind I could see forest fires, and then a large refuse bin (you know, those big ones about the size of a boxcar) outside my house, filled to the brim.

He continued, “The next Wheel will be about aligning; the following Wheel will be about positioning. Then the Wheel will allow us to receive.”

He stood up and walked out of the forest, leaving me to ponder on what he just said. I knew it was important, so I sat there and thought about the 4 words he used:

clip_image001 Culling

clip_image001[1] Aligning

clip_image001[2] Positioning

clip_image001[3] Receiving

This would correspond to the 4 years in question: 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012. I began to meditate on each of these terms in a more macroscopic view.

Next post: Meditation, part 5 – Culling

Open My Eyes – A Meditation in Many Parts – Part 3

Let me segue into what I think about this “2012 stuff”. (Current note: Yes, I know I already did a whole post on it, but work with me here)

I will start by saying that I believe the human race will be here to see 2013. I am a prophecy buff by nature. Nostradamus, Cayce, Casteneda, Mother Shipton, Hogue, etc., I believe the Mayans. Like many other civilizations before (and unlike) us, they were incredibly spiritual. I do not believe that the end of their calendar and the date when the earth goes through the galactic center is a coincidence. But I also know that prophecy, like most spiritual things, should rarely be taken literally.

Like our meditations, the Universe converses with us in a symbolic language unique to the viewer, and it is as difficult to decipher and interpret prophecy as to understand it.

Do I think something is on its way? Absolutely. Do I think it will be the literal “end of the world”? Not so much. At the risk of sounding too much like a “newager”, I think it will be a time when we will change our understanding of the world. I am hopefully optimistic that it will herald an age of tolerance, peace and spiritual evolution.

Or so I hope.

Next post: Meditation, part 4 – back to the meditation

Open My Eyes – A Meditation in Many Parts – Part 2

I am walking along the edge of my familiar forest – the one I frequent when I meditate. Everything seems in order, nothing is out of place or strikes me as odd. I venture into the forest, into a small clearing within the grove. This is where I usually interact with Spirit in whatever guise it chooses to take (usually as a patron God or Goddess or other spiritual entities).

Standing there was someone I had never seen before. He was an older gentleman, not aged, but definitely not young. As this meditation happened in December, it could have been the Holly King who was about to reach his apex, so it wasn’t particularly strange to me.

A truism in my meditative experience is that the Gods don’t show up without a reason. Not being one to offend, I approached the gentleman in the clearing. He said, “What do you wish to know?”, which in my experience means “Ask me something, but I can’t promise you’ll like the answer.” Being the end of the mundane year, I said, “What things are coming up for me?” I was expecting something direct like “It will be a year for you to concentrate on [whatever my focus should be]” or indirect like “The red duck flies at midnight” and leave me to figure out what the heck he meant. I received neither type of answer.

He said, “I kknow you don’t believe in all that 2012 stuff, but the next few wheels will be very important.” In my world, a Wheel is a year cycle.

Next post: Meditation, part 3 – a segue into the 2012 conundrum

Open My Eyes – A Meditation in Many Parts – Part 1

I am a firm believer in meditation. It doesn’t have to be the uber-spiritual, hyper-mystical kind either. Just a chance to give the Gods / Spirit / Universe a few minutes of your day to help you reconnect, recharge & renew.

I spend about ½ hour a day in meditation, and not always at the same time. I know, there are purists out there who are aghast at my non-conventional methods, but there it is. I guess you can call me an “opportunistic meditator”. To me, meditating can be as simple as focusing on some issue in my life or just being grateful. But it is more often spent in the Shadowlands – what other might refer to as the Spirit World or Astral / Akashic Realms. Rarely do I share my experiences with others; these times are intensely personal – and to be honest, they’re rather boring.

However, a recent meditation late last year was the exception. I shared it with two people whom I trusted, and both told me the same thing – I needed to share this with others. Well, I have this here blog, so here I go!

Please remember that this is my meditation, and the Universe / Gods / Spirit speak to me in the language & symbology I understand. It might not make sense to anyone else – hell, most of the time it doesn’t make sense to me either!

Next post: Meditation, part 2 – the Beginning

2012 –One Pagan’s Perspective

So, I’m thinking about 2012 a lot, mainly because it’s become a part of so many conversations lately. I watched the 2012 movie when it came out in November 2009 – it was a lot of fun, but that’s about it. I watch the documentaries, but no one can agree on anything more than “The Mayans Said it”. And there are eleventybillion books out there, each contrary to the one before it. /sigh  

The New Age / Metaphysical / Alternative Theology / Pagan communities have long been fascinated with prophecy. Rattling off names like Nostradamus, Carlos Castaneda, Mother Shipton, and Edgar Cayce seems to have become commonplace, and most people are familiar with at least one of these names. Even whole cultures have prophecies, such as the Hopi Nation and the Maya.

It’s funny to think that the general populace knows more about the 2012 prophecies than about almost any other set of prophecies throughout history. We also know frighteningly little about those same prophecies. I guess what I’m saying is that we know just enough about these words to cause a great deal of fear and not a lot of empowerment. Media, television, movies, books, and the internet give us both information and DISinformation on the topic. If we believe the hype, December 21, 2012 will be filled with (a) fire and brimstone, (b) earth pole shifts, giving way to cataclysms, (c) the end of the world on a physical level, (d) alien visitations, (e) humanity being brought kicking & screaming to a higher / fifth dimension either through extraterrestrial intervention or through vibrational evolution, (f) the Elite (whoever they are) will finally control the world or (g) absolutely nothing.

So confusing! So hyped! So scary! So mysterious!

So what!

I am the first person to admit that I’m fascinated by prophesy. But as a tarot reader / intuitive and a teacher of divination, I understand that the future is never set in stone. I, like many of my more spiritually minded friends, know that visions of the future are sometimes shrouded in allegory or symbolism. Sometimes visions of the future are nothing more than a warning; someone saying, “If you continue doing what you’re doing, this is the most likely outcome”.

Back to 2012 and the hysteria that has been going along with it. The bottom line is that no one knows what is going to happen. The Mayan long count calendar ends, but that might means something other than “OMG we’re all gonna die!”. Like most other civilizations (and unlike our own), the Mayans seems to have viewed time as cyclical, not linear. It’s not as if their concept of time is like one big ol’ version of “Groundhog Day”, but about evolutionary cycles. If you look at other civilizations, you will find that time as a series of spirals or cycles is commonplace and this understanding makes up a fundamental tenet in paganism today. Maybe the Mayan grand cycle was ending and they wanted to make sure people knew that this was a time to embark on a new cycle. This new cycle would share some of the same qualities as the old but because of our experiences, it would be evolved. So, and please pardon the pun, why reinvent the wheel?

Maybe the Mayans believed that we as humans are going to change in a fundamental way and their calendars would be superfluous? Maybe it was beyond their understanding at that time to consider whether humans would still be around this long!

But don’t mistake my skepticism for disbelief, either. Anyone who is even vaguely aware of what is beyond their 5 senses realizes that something odd has been brewing for the past few decades. Like a pot of water ready to boil, there’s something afoot on a spiritual and psychic level. I don’t know what it is precisely, but I do listen to theories and speculation – everything is within the bounds of possibility.

I sincerely hope the changes which do come are positive – but that result is wholly dependent on how mature we as a civilization are. We as a society need a good kick in the pants – ethically, socially and spiritually. Continuing in our current way is not going to help us as a whole. But as of right now I don’t think that some of the cataclysmic earth changes are going to happen in the way some people fear it will. What I’d love to see is a moment of spiritual enlightenment for the peoples of this planet, which might mean an end to wars & strife. Maybe that’s my overactive idealistic side rearing its ugly head. Either way, I’m excited to think about the possibilities and to see how this will manifest. So many civilizations have pointed to this time when something significant will manifest – it can’t be coincidence, can it?

I’m sure I’ll be tackling this subject again in the next two years, but I think I’ll still be saying “see you all in 2013”!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Male Witches or “Are you a Warlock?”

Oftentimes I meet people who aren’t sure how to approach this Wicca, Witchcraft, paganism, and Witches thing, other than what they see on television or through folklore and stories. Most of the time, I look at it as an opportunity to educate cowens (non-pagans) about what it is we do. Last year, I attended a pagan wedding which – because it was held on Samhain – attracted the attention of a large local newspaper. The print and photojournalists were really nice folks who seemed genuinely interested in our world and were very respectful and kind of our beliefs. How refreshing!

The journalist I spoke with wanted to know what the protocol and etiquette was of using the word “Warlock” to identify a male Witch, innocently of course. Couldn’t blame her for asking, since we’ve all been taught since we were little babes that a guy who practices magick was a Warlock. It got me to thinking, as I spent a few moments clarifying why that term is not widely used in the pagan community.

According to Wikipedia, the commonly accepted etymology derives Warlock from the Old English w«£rloga meaning "oathbreaker" or "deceiver". It is considered in polite Witchy society to be a bit of an insult, and those who choose to call themselves are looked at a bit askance. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still used in pagandom, but usually by Luciferians, Satanists or simply uneducated Wiccans who are looking for a bit of a shock value.

It is said that during the period we pagans refer to as “The Burning Times” – what historians refer to as the Inquisition – Warlocks were those who would trade information for safety. They would happily divulge names, times & places of worship and real or made up details to keep the Inquisitors neck deep in Witches to torture, under the guise of God’s Grace. Today, we Witches still use the term “Warlock” as both a noun AND a verb. A Warlock refers to a person who has broken their oaths and has betrayed their coven and/or Tradition. It also refers to the act of the formal banishment of that individual from his or her coven or Tradition. If you hear of someone having been “Warlocked” from their tradition or group, it usually means they have been deemed an oathbreaker by a Council of Elders (or a similar tribunal) and it’s a hint and a half that this person has some significant baggage. I don’t know of many Witches who traffic with Warlocks. Certainly I don’t have high opinions of those who have been Warlocked, and give a wide berth to those who freely call themselves that.

Warlocks do exist but not in the definition of the mainstream. I’ve heard of pagans new to the Craft, especially males, who choose to refer to themselves as Warlocks. Some of these folks change their self-affixed labels when they are educated about the etymology of the word and the baggage behind it, but some hold onto this label. I’ve tried to be openminded about this, and understand that my way is not the only way to practice. Maybe the word “Warlock” is a name male Witches want to reclaim as their own. If that is the case, I think it would be a herculean task to change perceptions both within and without the pagan community.

Maybe this begs the question – do we as a pagan community need to come up with a word which describes a male Witch? Witch – as a word – often connotes a female, most likely through lore and common (mis)beliefs of the past centuries. While I like names to be gender neutral, it seems to me that our pagan men may feel like they are getting lost in a rather gynocentric religion. The desire to affix a label or moniker to separate themselves from the women of the Craft suggests that men wish to maintain their masculinity. I think it’s not a bad idea to consider. Unfortunately, the term “Warlock” in its current definition does not apply to 99.9% of male Witches in the Craft.

In Witchcraft today, a guy who is a Witch is just that – a male Witch. An argument can be made to simply use one name all the way around. A Witch is a Witch is a Witch. Male, female; straight, gay, bisexual, transgender; carnivore, vegan; what other labels you choose for yourself is your own business. Being a Witch is not about what plumbing you have, or what you prefer in this life. It is about identifying yourself with this particular belief system. The Gods don’t care very much about your gender. Come to think of it, they could care less about labels either!

So, I continue to tell people who ask that when they refer to a make Witch, they should simply say “Witch” or “Wiccan” if that is appropriate. Until such time when the term Warlock has better connotations within our own community, I think I’ll continue using the term Warlock as I was taught.

And what of that news story? The journalist didn’t call anyone a Warlock. Mission accomplished!