Archive for May, 2013
I’ve been pondering a chicken and the egg problem- or should I call it the god and the goth-
We are constantly wringing our hands and moaning “whatever shall we do” about problems with various forms of dysfunction, infighting and disorganization among Neo-Pagans, as well as many people struggling with (un/der) employment, poverty and mental illness. (though I’m not blaming people for economic & mental health issues) Much of this maybe distorted by the demographics and behavior of the Internet- some people behave worse online, because they can get away with it more easily by hiding their identities, and our brains tend to magnify negativity. Still, I see this off-line as well.
People with all sorts of personal problems, backgrounds of difficult family relationships and who just plain don’t fit in, are frequently and often disproportionately drawn to New Religious Movements (NRMs) of which the Neo-Pagan movement is one.
However, I’ve also noticed that many of these people are focusing their worship on gods of chaos, destruction, death and social upheaval. Certainly deities such as the Morrigan, Dionysus, Kali, Shiva are legitimate parts of our religions but I’m wondering if giving and getting to much attention to and from them is collectively adding to our problems.
In some cases (such as Hecate) darker aspects are more emphasized in modern practice than in ancient times. Other gods we have no evidence were worshiped in ancient times, and while that by itself may not be a problem if you’re not a strict reconstructionist, worshiping some of these gods is a really bad idea. Lilith, a goddess disguised by the Patriarchy as a demoness (as with pretty much any other negatively depicted female figure in mythology) Spiteful Eris, the original cause of the Trojan War becomes a cool goddess for spiritually dabbling hippies in the 1960’s. As far as absurdist religion goes, try the Flying Spaghetti Monster, not Eris. And then there’s Loki, red hair, handsome looks, fun stories, He’s all about stickin’ it to the Man- that wimpy Baldur dude? Who needs him? Ragnarok, bring it on!
This post is part of the Pagan Blog Project.
A common value I see across Neo-Pagan communities is that of being nonjudgmental. Many feel like we have been unfairly judged, not just for our religions but for our sexual and gender identities, life choices, clothing and personal ornamentation and so on. The problem is when people interpret being nonjudgmental as accepting that “anything goes”. Now that we’re no longer in Singapore, we’re in Amsterdam*. ( See note below) Everyone accepts everyone else for who they are and what they do (so long as its not directly hurting anyone) Criticism, no matter how sensitively phrased or constructively made, is seen as being arbitrarily mean and judgmental. Ironically this ends up being just as tyrannical as whatever Evil/Theocratic/Patriarchal/Capitalist/Meat-Eating etc. (name your favorite bug-a-boo) society we’re trying to reject. It’s the ideological tyranny of political correctness, of fearing that somewhere, someone might be offended. People will get offended and feelings will be hurt, no matter what. Some people just seem to want to be offended, they have a persecuted martyr complex. That’s their problem, let’s not let a few people make us feel that we need to tip-toe around them.
But if we approach each other with an attitude of respect, then I believe we can constructively judge each others’ ideas and actions (which is not the same as the person) and challenge each other to think critically, become better people and build stronger communities.
This post is part of the Pagan Blog Project
**Metaphor note: Singapore- a country with very strict laws, Amsterdam, a city in the Netherlands known for its liberal laws regulating drugs & sex work. I’m comparing this to a cultural setting which is a socially restrictive to one which is very “anything goes”.
As I’ve explored various European traditions over the years- Irish, Scottish, Greek, Norse/Germanic- I’ve found aspects of each that are familiar to my cultural world-view, background and upbringing, as well as aspects that I struggle with as they feel too foreign & alien. But I can’t deny who I am- and while I was raised to think of myself as proudly Irish/Scottish, my culture is mostly English and German in origin.
I’m starting to experiment with the idea looking at possible pagan roots behind English folk culture- fairy tales, ballads and legends. One that comes to mind is there are seemingly countless stories, songs and nursery rhymes with characters named Jack in them. They are not necessarily the same figure- Jack being a nickname for John is a kind of “everyman” archetypal young Englishman- even their flag is called the Union Jack. But what they generally have in common is that Jack is a trickster, a thief, and a fool. The series of graphic novels- Fables features various characters from fairy tales and nursery rhymes, including Jack, who is a composite of many of these tricksters.
Jack & the Beanstalk, Giant-Killer are the most well-known fairy tales. There are many that are traditionally told in the Appalachian Mountain region of the U.S. and some of these likely have roots in England and Scotland. Here is a web page of Jack Tales, and another specifically for the Appalachian stories.
Jack of all trades, but master of none- a saying, once again referring to Jack’s foolishness.
In cards the Joker is sometimes called Jack, corresponding to the Fool in a Tarot deck.
Jack-in-the-box- a wind-up toy, when Jack pops out, he usually depicted as a jester.
Jack in the Green- figure in May Day parades & pageants- a person (or effigy) covered in garlands & greenery, and pulls pranks. He is sometimes identified with the Green Man, Puck/Robin Goodfellow, and the Green Knight in Arthurian legend. He also appeared in other spring celebrations: Easter Monday, St. George’s Day (April 23) and Whitsuntide (Pentecost)
Jack Frost- a spirit of winter, who paints the leaves red, orange and yellow in the fall, and patterns of frost on windows.
Jack o’ Kent– wizard/magician who often beats the Devil in bets & games. (this is another common folk theme) Stingy Jack also fools the Devil- this is an Irish legend said to be the origin of the Jack o’ Lantern
I’m not sure where this is going, but like Jack I’ll have fun wandering off exploring it. I’m curious what other people have done, spiritually and/or magically with English folklore.
This post is part of the Pagan Blog Project