Part II of Approaching Paganism is about lifestyles, subcultures, practices and beliefs that commonly overlap with or are associated with Paganism but aren’t necessarily requirements. I will talk about possible ethical and spiritual implications of various things groups or individual Pagans choose to do. Please remember that this is a social-science-y effort to describe Paganism in its many varieties as it is, rather than what I or anyone else might like it to be. This is very based on my own experiences in the Midwestern United States, feel free to share other experiences that may differ.
Your Gateways May Vary
May is Asian/Pacific Islander Heritage Month- wow- that is a lot of different cultures to pack into one month! But still, it seems a good time as any to learn about various APIA perspectives on feminism and social justice.
Last year, as a representative of the Bisexual Organizing Project, I went a SOY event- that stands for Shades of Yellow, which is a Hmong GLBTQ organization here in St. Paul. (Its the first and only such organization!) They are a very friendly and close-knit group and I was impressed to see the progress they had made in building connections and understanding in Hmong and other Asian communities in the area, and raising awareness of queer HAPI (Hmong Asian Pacific Islander) people in the GLBTQ communities. They are also part of the Queer Southeast Asian Network- a coalition of organizations from around the country. St. Paul has the largest Hmong population in the country, as well as many Vietnamese, Koreans, Cambodians and Laotians. Chinese, Japanese and Indian-Americans in the Twin Cities tend to be more concentrated in the suburbs. Minnesota is also called the “Land of a Gazillion Adoptees” (a play on Land of 10,000 Lakes) the link is to a multimedia project/activist org by and for adoptees (many of whom are Korean, Vietnamese or Chinese adopted by white parents)
Growing up in St Paul (well at least during my teen years) surrounded by this wide variety of Asian cultures became my “normal”. Hearing other whites reduce my neighbors/friends/classmates all to “Chinese people” or “Orientals” seemed bizarrely ignorant. (Even “Chinese culture” is really made up of many different cultures!) I’m old enough to remember Warner Bro.s cartoons that had racist carciatures of Blacks, American Indians and Asians, and while later the minstrelsy Black characters were removed, the Asian and American Indians remained. Why? That made no sense! I didn’t learn there was such thing as an Asian-American civil rights movement- or Asian involvement in Black civil rights and Black Power, until quite recently!
Big List o’ Asian-American Blogs
(This post is from last year, thought I’d release it into the wild!)
A couple weeks ago I returned from Minicon, a local science fiction/fantasy convention to find yet another online Pagan/polytheist tempest brewing. Concerns of fascist infiltration and accusations were flying about. Interestingly, there is a similar issue going on with WorldCon and the Hugo Awards, with a particular faction pushing a political and ego-based agenda. People were a bit concerned, they were annoyed by these particular factions. But they were also laughing about it. Several long-time fans commented that not long into the future, this would become part of the history of fandom, and be just as ridiculous as the arguments between L. Ron Hubbard and Isaac Asimov. There’s a bunch going on, but at the root of it, are some people who are afraid of change in the overlapping fandom communities. Surely, the quality of science fiction must be going down if it’s not all stories starring straight white men who rescue alien princesses. Or something. And there’s other folks working for inclusion, but we don’t always agree how that inclusion or equity should work. Some people want more protection and safer space from opinions and people who they find threatening, while others worry about freedom of speech and behavior.
We have a lot of the same debates in Pagan and polytheist communities. And frankly, a lot of this is going on between a small percentage of people who participate in online discussions/flamewars and attend public events- both in regard to fans and Pagans. What is actually happening in your local community? If you don’t have much of a local fannish or Pagan community, well you have some other sort of community, pay attention to that, and even if you do have smaller specialized communities, pay attention to the broader community as well. You’re a part of that, too.
If we give into fear, whatever we feel threatened by wins. We become more isolated, we give up hope. What we’ve worked for falls apart.
What are you passionate about? What drives you to practice your religion, or your fandom? What do you value? Who around you shares those values, locally, regionally or from afar? How can you collaborate with them to make your project a reality? Whether it’s an anthology, a series of public shrines, a panel or workshop at a convention, or maybe you’re not an idea person, but someone else inspires you, how can you help them? Who is also passionate, but isn’t included as much in your community? Older, younger, disabled, rural, no/limited internet access & transportation. Who are we missing and how can we bring them in? Seriously, with all that on our plate, we don’t have time to worry about fascists!
1 Criticize from within– criticize the other on the basis of something you have in common- the safety of your neighborhood, the education of your city or district’s children
2 Look for goods in conflict (Good Thing 1 vs. Good Thing 2 rather than Good vs. Evil)
3 Count higher than two
I remember a keynote at by John Michael Greer, the ArchDruid of the Ancient Order of Druids in America, in which he mentioned a great contribution of Druidic and Celtic thinking is seeing things in threes- triads. Both the medieval Welsh and Irish had many triads that poets and scholars used as mnemonic devices for proverbs, virtues and other associations. Greer suggested this as a sort of antidote to the destructive binary thinking in Western cultures.
4 Doubt– “the concern that my views may not be entirely correct—is the true friend of wisdom and (along with empathy, to which it’s related) the greatest enemy of polarization.”
7 Keep the conversation going
I had a fabulous time at Paganicon 2016. Northern Roots Grove and several other Druid groves & orgs hosted a party suite and decked it out to look like a forest. The others were Whispering Spirits Protogrove, ADF in Appleton, Wisconsin, Dancing Waters Protogrove, ADF in Onamia, Minnesota, and the Oakdale Grove of the Reformed Druids of North America, and Rev. Amy Castner, the ADF Upper Midwest Regional Druid was there too, along with Rev. Melissa Hill of Cedarsong Grove.
On Friday I went to a long workshop put on by Shauna Aura Knight about Designing Intensive Rituals. I’d gone to two of her workshops last year and was impressed- I highly recommend her workshops, rituals, books and artwork! She was trained in Diana’s Grove Mystery School and also has worked with Reclaiming. Ecstatic rituals with multi-layered chanting that leads people into trance is very much her style.
Then I hung with various people, finding the folks I met the previous couple years that I know from the Cauldron Forum- Vieva, Veggiewolf, the Kemetic from Little Canada whose name I can’t remember sorry! and Jenett Silver.
Then I went to Vieva’s presentation- Ramifications of Pantheism. If everything is sacred or divine, what implications does this have? How do we live our lives as co-creators of the universe? Vieva has her own pantheistic philosophy, FlameKeeping, but this was more broad in focus to get people thinking about what it means to hold a pantheistic worldview. One idea I took away from it is that in pantheism, there is no Us vs. Them.
Alright, a little thing during my issue with Hopkins University happened and while I was basically going through one of the worst experiences of my life, being illegally fired from my job but before being raided as repercussion for talking about it, a post had happened across my personal FB timeline about Blackthorn Hoodoo Blend teas, […]