How to Get Over Our Hippie Hangover

When I was a teenager I thought hippies were cool, and I wished that I had lived back in the ’60′s when there was so much social consciousness, protests going on, the 1990s seemed sooo boring compared to back then to me. Then I got older and a bit wiser, and started to observe the influences that the hippies had on Pagan and left-wing political movements and other aspects of American culture. Hippie culture had its purposes- and still does in some contexts. But I think the problem now is many of us are waking up to a long hangover after the wild party are a little too stuck on some ideas.

The white middle-class social norms that hippies were reacting against needed to be challenged, and some of them still do. One of the problems though, is that rebelling against some of these norms- by using drugs, engaging in pre-marital or promiscuous sex- being involved in radical protest movements- are things that white middle and upper-class youth can often get away with fewer repercussions than working-class youth (of various ethnicities). Young people with privilege can get more help from their parents when they have trouble with the law, drugs, unplanned pregnancies. This is a point many conservatives have been making since the 1980′s- and while I’ve come to see at as valid, it’s limited in context. The conservatives usually follow up this point by stating that we need to go back to those original 1950′s WASP norms, without questioning them, and that class-privileged whites in particular need to set a “good example” to others. Keep on the straight and narrow. Don’t question authority. Don’t ask for more.

If you look at an entry-level job application at a fast-food restaurant, it will often state things to the applicant such as “Show up to the interview on time, cleanly groomed and in professional clothing, and sober. No visible tattoos or facial piercings”. In other words don’t act or look like a hippie if you want the job.

Sometimes you have to subvert the machine from within. Remember how many of these radical movements were happening at elite universities- which were transformed. Sometimes you need to work for “the Man” to make a living- and you might be able to go further in your artistic/social/political/spiritual goals if you do so, rather than “slumming it” as a street musician. We can’t all “follow our bliss” at least not in a way than means we get paid to do it. Someone has to collect the garbage, wait on tables, stock the grocery store shelves. Ideally I’d like to see a society where, much like a household shares on doing chores, we all chipped in to help with work we see as menial or unpleasant. (This is why I sometimes bus my own table or put away items I’m not buying at a store) Perhaps if we did things that way, it wouldn’t be seen as so terrible. In the mean time, I want everyone who can work to get a fair shot at a job that pays a living wage, and a job that gives them paid time off, and schedule flexibility for work/life balance. I want everyone who can’t work full-time or work at all, to get sufficient support they need from society that does not shame them for their disability or force them to spend down their savings to keep their benefits. We also need to make it easier for people with disabilities to find work that accommodates them, and helps people move between SSDI and Voc Rehab. I think these are perfectly reasonable, and realistic goals for us to strive towards- it just may not seem that way because of how our economy and society is structured.

We can make all this happen, yet there will still probably be people who don’t show up to work (on time or at all), don’t do their job well enough and are lazy or dishonest. There are people like that, and they are always used as an excuse to deny benefits and assistance to honest, hardworking people that need help. I think if people feel as if they have a fair chance, and fair pay and treatment in the workplace they will be more motivated. But there are still people that will try to cut corners and find easy ways out. Wealthy people who are lazy and dishonest frequently go unpunished, and are even rewarded in various ways. But if a poor person does, their punishment is often swift and harsh, often too harsh for them to be able make it back into a good job, housing and stable family life. In spite of this, their slacking off, or theft or drug use, or what have you often has a small impact on the rest of society, compared to the wealthy person. Though they should of course be held accountable for their actions. I also think that if you treat people with constant suspicion, and raise them with the expectation that they will be a criminal, all too often they will prove you right. This is a terrible shame.

(Once again, this is a pretty broad ranging post- I have way more to say about many specific topics mentioned here! I also realized that this post became mostly secular in focus, so I will discuss spiritual aspects more at another time.)

April 14, 2014 at 10:08 pm Leave a comment

Clarifying Callings

Part of the reason I wrote that long post on Functions of Clergy was to develop ideas on what role(s) I feel called to play in my communities. Among Pagans, there is sometimes an assumption that anyone who is a “serious” spiritual practitioner has the goal to be clergy. In Wicca, getting a 3rd degree initiation generally means you are considered a priest/ess, and it was once assumed that was the goal for all Wiccans, but it’s not necessarily the case these days. It’s even trickier when your entire religion is rather misleadingly named after an elite caste of educated clergy/judges/magicians etc- Druids. ADF has a clear definition and training system in place for our clergy, and we have many other roles that are greatly valued within our organization. We have the Guilds- Bards, Warriors, Brewers, Artisans, Scholars, Liturgists, Magicians, Seers, each has its own training program. We have Orders that focus on particular deities and mysteries. You need to go through the basic Dedicant Program to go on to these other types of training, but we try to be clear that the DP is not required to be a good upstanding ADF member.

Anyway, back to me- after my numerous attempts at involvement in Pagan ritual groups, I’ve found that leading and participating in them doesn’t seem to be working out. There may be a right situation, with the right people that comes along, but I am not going to force it out of desperation for community if that community is dysfunctional or just doesn’t fit with my schedule/transportation needs.  This situation reminds me a lot of being single but open to relationships that arise (quirkyalone), vs. compulsive dating even when you’re burned out because you feel like you “have to” be in a relationship. Or staying in bad relationship for the wrong reasons.

I am interested in being possibly being involved with broader groups like Paganicon and discussion/meetup type groups (a friend of mine is thinking of starting one up) I am interested in helping with projects in ADF and various polytheist groups. I am interested in working one on one- or in small groups to help seekers and solitaries learn more about various polytheistic religions. This may involve teaching a class or leading a workshop. In other words- peer solitary ministry. Because guess what: 80% (or more?) of Pagans are solitary and lack access to many of the social functions that organized religion provides- then again so do most Pagans who belong to ritual groups.

My biggest interest right now though, is to help empower other adults and teens on the autism spectrum.  To help them live happy, full successful lives- and by success I mean as they define it, not as hyper-capitalist society defines it. Pursuing their interests, connecting with other people in healthy ways (friends, romantic partners, family) finding work that is economically, emotionally and intellectually sustainable, stable housing, healthcare etc. And finding a spiritual path and perhaps community, if that is what they seek, that suits their needs as an autistic person. To do this work I will need to partner with many different types of communities and organizations. I would love to use my skills and experiences as an autistic adult to help people in Pagan, spiritual and geeky subcultures because I believe there are many people with autistic traits who are not getting the help that they need. Many of these people are not identified or do not identify as autistic, and I do not consider it my place to label them as such. I will educate other folks about autism, and ways of coping and working with it, and if people recognize traits in themselves or others, and they see solutions that might help them or their loved ones, then awesome. If they need services and accommodations that require a documented disability, then I can help refer them. But for some folks recognizing, “I’m an introvert, or have trouble with non-verbal communication, or sensory issues- and that’s OK! There’s nothing wrong with me, I’m just wired a little differently, and here are some ways I can deal with a world that isn’t designed for people like me.” is a huge first step.

 

April 8, 2014 at 12:35 am Leave a comment

Go Get Help

Trigger warning: discussion of mental health & addiction

I’ll tell you a true story- I am a live-in caretaker for a house owned by my family, and I rent out rooms to people to help cover expenses. Last fall I took in a woman who was living in her car, and she indeed paid rent fair and square. But it became clear to me after a while that she was an alcoholic (not recovering as she’d claimed earlier) and had mental health problems that weren’t properly being treated (my psychiatrist fired me because I missed too many appointments!) and seemed to be cognitively impaired due to past drug use (I found out later she’d started using crack at age 14) So this is kind of a giant cautionary tale of Do Not Try to Be an Amateur Social Worker.

I felt compassion for this woman, and felt that if I didn’t try to help that no one else would. She’d hit bottom, and had no where else to go. The problem was, is that she would not help herself. She kept promising she’d go to treatment, talk to her sponsor, do this or that. I took bottles of vodka away from her, forbid others to give her alcohol, offered to help her organize her paperwork in order to help get her the services she needed. But it was always excuse after excuse. I was allowing myself to be manipulated. Finally she ended up in the mental hospital, and her family managed to have her committed. (Due to legal requirements this had never happened before) This finally meant that, in order to regain her freedom she would have to cooperate with proper treatment. I (and my partner) were incredibly relieved.

Now this is a pretty extreme scenario, and I’ve definitely learned a lot from it. From now on I will only help people who will help themselves. I’ve been in many situations among Pagans, in which I was trying to build community, but it couldn’t happen because the individual Pagans weren’t dealing effectively with issues in their own lives- like employment, housing, mental or physical health, or dysfunctional relationships. Look at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs- you need to make sure the things at the bottom of the pyramid are dealt with before you can make it up to the top. Systemic oppression can get in the way yes, but personal responsibility comes into play as well. If you have a problem, admit it and get help. Get treatment for your depression or addiction or eating disorder. Get therapy if you have emotional issues that are getting in your way.  Get identified and get appropriate services if needed if you or others suspect you may have a disability like autism, AD/HD, etc.

To get financial assistance, you will have to fill out paperwork in a proper, timely manner. And you will have to show up on time to various appointments and answer often intrusive and personal questions. It will probably be unpleasant. There might be a waiting list. The system will be rigid. You might also need to try religious-affiliated groups that might not be Pagan/GLBT/poly etc. friendly. (Though if their religious/ideological views are more of a hindrance to you getting help than avoid them) Yes, it sucks. Yes, it’s not fair. But you can’t change society effectively until you get the help you need.

If you have friends and family members, clergy and co-religionists that are standing in the way of getting help, if they are abusive, use substances irresponsibly, blame you, re-evaluate those relationships. Find new friends and chosen family that will be supportive as you learn to take responsibility for your life. You may need to repair relationships with estranged love ones who have given up on you in the past. Talk with your therapist or someone else who is working with you to figure out that best way to develop these new relationships and when/how and if to repair old ones. Thank you for listening and best wishes on your journey to recovery, health and prosperity.

April 7, 2014 at 9:50 pm Leave a comment

Favorite “F” PBP Posts

Failure- Conor Warren,

Fate/Free WillMistress of the Hearth points out that it isn’t either/or- ones choices determine ones’ later fate. Reminds me a bit of the Heathen concept of Wyrd.

Fehu- Musings of Huginn & Muninn

Fetish- Australia Incognita defines and reflects on her use of fetishes- objects which have sacred significance- or actually contain a spirit, Urban Meliad muses on returning to the original magical/religious connotation of “fetish” in kinky subcultures

Feasting with the Dead- Hearth Moon Rising

Fionn Mac Cumhal- at the Water’s Edge, New Pagan

Filling the Well- Land, Sea & Sky

Fire (Fire Dance) the Magickal Pen

Fisher King- at the Water’s Edge writes of a figure in Arthurian legend

Forgotten Gods- Leithin Cluan shares a poem. Veggiewolf resolves to write a series of posts about lesser known/worshipped netjer (Egyptian gods)

Freyja/Freo- Aiwelin writes of Freo, the Anglo-Saxon equivalent of Freyja, New Pagan compares Frigg to Freya

April 2, 2014 at 2:21 am 1 comment

Gwyn ap Nudd

Gwynn ap Nudd could be considered the Welsh equivalent of Fionn Mac Cumhal.  Gwyn like Fionn, means “white” with the connotation of fair, blessed or holy. Gwyn is even more otherworldly than his Irish counterpart- he is the King of the Fairies and Lord of the Otherworld/Underworld, and like Fionn is leader of the Wild Hunt. He is the son of Nudd, the god of war, who is equivalent to the Irish Nuada. He battles every Calan Mai (May 1) with Gwythyr ap Greidal for  the maiden Creiddylad daughter of Lludd, who may also be his sister (if you consider Lludd to be the same as Nudd) There is a common motif in Celtic myth and legend of a love triangle between a woman- a “flower maiden” representing the fertility and sovereignty of the land- and two men: an older man, representing winter and the waning solar year, and a youth representing summer and the waxing solar year.

Fionn in contrast, is a human with a strong connection to the Otherworld. In the tale “The Pursuit of Grainne and Diarmuid” Grainne is the daughter of King Cormac promised to an older Fionn, but she falls in love with Diarmuid, a Fenian warrior who elopes with her, and they are pursued by the Fenians. Also, unlike Gwyn, Fionn is not a king- though he is associated with King Cormac, but he is the leader of the Fenians- the rigfennid- an “outsider king” which makes him something of a contradiction. He is also the great-grandson of Nuada. Another difference is that I have not seen much association with Gwyn & poetry- though music and poetry are in general associated with the fairies.

UPG: I don’t necessarily consider Gwyn & Fionn to be exactly the same being, but I think heroes, deities, legendary and folkloric figures don’t have totally distinct identities in the way that humans do. Their identities blur together to some degree, and often “cluster” together- I’ve noticed this tendency even moreso among Celtic goddesses.

In addition to being a G entry for Pagan Blog Project, this post also partly answers questions #6 and #8 of 30 Days of Deity Devotion.

April 1, 2014 at 3:20 am Leave a comment

Whose Community? Whose Reputation?

Many of us have been rejected by the larger culture- for our spiritual beliefs, for being GLBTQ, for being geeky or socially awkward. And we find a community where we feel accepted, so we feel we must accept everyone, no matter what they say or do. All too often putting the individual right to self-expression and unquestioned acceptance of bad behavior allows manipulative people the ability to trample the rights of other individuals with less power- like children.

Many accusations of abuse have come forth since Klein’s arrest. There have been attempts to silence the accusers with cries of “what about innocent until proven guilty?!”. Yes, that is how our legal system works. But there is the court of public opinion and there is the court of law- sometimes an individual gets more justice in the court of public opinion than they do under the law. Other times, they get more justice from the law, but unfair treatment from the public. Crimes must be proven “beyond a shadow of a doubt”. When it comes to the safety of our children, we can’t afford that burden of proof. The burden of potential abuse is much greater. And so, we need to take these accusations seriously, and act on them even if Klein or other people are not punished for crimes we suspect them of. I hope people do make formal reports on incidents they witnessed or experienced.

There are some people who will unfairly judge an entire minority group (or cluster of them) no matter what they do. It doesn’t matter if everyone who could be socially classified as “pagan” was entirely law-abiding, didn’t hurt a fly, and was as Properly Respectable as possible- there would still be some people who would judge us for not being Christian, or being religious in a deviant way. But if a community knowingly tolerates abuses for decades then, yes they do deserve a bad reputation.

The important thing is: what is your community? what is your spiritual tradition and what values does it teach you? Does your community share those values, both in words and action? If not, you might need to find a community who does- or create starting with yourself.  This Lowest Common Denominator Pagan Community is not one I want to be a part of. And while I have not tolerated outright abuse, I have all too often allowed bad behavior to go on around me without objecting to it. All too often, I’ve just written it off as “oh, well what do you expect, they’re pagans.” Enough. This stops now.

Recommended Reading:

Five Geek Social Fallacies (commonly “suffered” by many pagans, including those who don’t consider themselves geeks. I think they’re also Hippie Social Fallacies.

Geek Social Fallacies of Sex- a useful follow-up from another writer, specific to sexual mores among geeky communities

Geek Feminism Wiki- esp. see articles Harming the Community, Silencing (a list of techniques used against accusers)

Advanced Bonewits’ Cult Danger Evaluation Frame, Wiccan author Diana Rajchel’s presentation on it from Paganicon 2014

Predators in Paganism by T. Thorn Coyle

Genital Monologue by Helio Pires

Fish Rots From the Head Down by Lydia Crabtree

Evil Thrives on Secrecy by C.S. MacCath

Community Safety Guidelines by Ivy Vine & Sannion- suggestions written for the Polytheism Without Borders community. I think I’m going to start looking at by-laws and policies of various religious groups (obviously starting with ones I personally belong to) and other organizations, as well as research laws regarding abuse.

March 31, 2014 at 6:07 am 1 comment

Does the Criminal Injustice System Help Protect Our Children?

Trigger warning: discussion of sexual abuse, warning for literalists: major sarcasm ahead

I was planning on writing about sexuality leading up to Beltaine. Sex crime/abuse wasn’t what I was planning on writing about, (and I’m sure I’ll write something in addition that’s more positive) but a publicly Pagan guy just got busted for child porn possession, and there’s a big uproar. Ironically I’d never even heard of him until a while ago, when a couple of other bloggers I read commented on a post he made about how Pagans need to be careful about how they represent the community- criticizing individuals that do comparatively harmless things like dress up like fantasy characters and so forth. Yay hypocrisy! Anyway this is not about him. He should be held accountable, and so should anyone who knew what was going on. And I agree with Conor, that this is good opportunity to become more aware of sexual abuse and rape, and take measures to talk about it openly within our communities- religious and otherwise. I would like to add a “big picture” perspective.

Here in Our Glorious Fatherland* we have less than 5 of the world’s population, but almost a quarter of the world’s prison population. Wow, doesn’t that make you and your children feel safe? To make you feel even safer, most employers ask if you have a criminal record (this has now been banned in a couple of states) and require background checks. Many landlords do this as well. Fortunately, former criminals can easily find ways to get free housing and food with all of the useful productive skills they learn in prison. So, we also have a kick-ass recidivism rate (fancy word for folks going back to prison) and here in Minnesota we have one of the highest rates in the country! Persons that are registered sex offenders- who might’ve done anything from run down the street naked (indecent exposure) to possess child porn, to actually produce it or actually molest/abuse/rape children or adults. And then there’s statutory rape- in some states, there are “Romeo and Juliet” laws that allow for exceptions for couples than are within a particular range of the age of consent- which also varies by state.

The beautiful thing is, laws that control the lives of ex-sex offenders are something that brings liberals and conservatives together. It’s so rare to see, but these brave lawmakers come together to make sure these irredeemable scumbags can’t live within X miles of a school/church/library etc. And in Minnesota we care so much of the safety of our children, that the scariest sex offenders never even get out of prison- with our fine, well-funded MN Sex Offender Program, these lowlifes get only the finest psychological treatment. We can’t be sure if works though, so they never leave! That’s why those filthy socialists over in Britain didn’t allow a person convicted of rape to be extradited to Minnesota, saying his civil rights would be violated. OK, so now you’re getting the idea of the fabulous system we have in place.

So back to ol’ Kenny. He was convicted of child porn possession, remember not production. Should this be considered a crime? It isn’t in some countries. I think production of it definitely should, as it directly means violating the sexual protection of children. It’s also been mentioned that he was a photographer, so it seems pretty likely he may have been taking pictures. People who look at child porn are more likely to also be child molesters, but most of them never act on it. Also, is there much of a separation between porn involving young children vs. teenagers?  Considering how much the media sexualizes teenagers, and even pre-teens at one point do we consider it pornographic? It’s interesting to compare different ideas of sexuality around the world and what is acceptable to show, and at what age. France just banned child beauty pageants. This was surprising to some, coming from a country that is famous for being sex-positive (well kinda sorta) but they did it to protect young kids from being sexualized. Debate about that as you will- I know it’s not going to happen here. Treating kids like prize show dogs is a national past-time.

Remember even if you’re not convicted of a sex crime, merely being accused can get on a record and ruin your career and reputation and well, your life. Frankly, I hate to say it but any man who works with children that are not his own, especially young children is looked upon with at least a little bit of suspicion by American culture. It’s sad but true.

So as you can see things aren’t as morally black and white as they seem. Laws governing sexual behavior how they are enforced are just as messy as sex itself. But I challenge you to think about this- are there better ways for us to prevent sexual abuse- of both children and adults? Could we get psychological help to people who have sexual desire for children, before they act on their desires? (Much as we might get counseling for someone who has a desire to kill but hasn’t done it yet- that doesn’t happen much either) Are former sex offenders all irredeemable? We never ask these questions, because our primary concern is, as it should be for the victims/survivors. To suggest anything other than harsh punishment and status as a permanent social outcast would be ignoring the pain of the victims. This is a false dichotomy, and it’s time we challenged it.

*I invite my readers from outside the Land of the semi-Free to share reflection on how your country deals with sex criminals and laws regulating sexual conduct- for better or for worse.

**Upon reading Conor’s post a second time, I noticed that there have been allegations of abuse by K.K- in fact allegations that have been suppressed by other Pagans, I’m afraid. I hope these are brought into formal legal investigation.

 

March 29, 2014 at 1:24 am 4 comments

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