Archive for April, 2014

Indigenous/Native American News- Finding & Following

After getting my tablet some time ago, I decided to try to make an effort to follow non-traditional news sources- progressive news sites (like Mother Jones, Tikkun) as well as Black/African-American and Native American/Indian news sources. I discontinued a couple of Native sources because they weren’t being updated- though that may have been an error on the LinkedIn Pulse app I’m using.

I just discovered an exciting story right here- the Minneapolis City Council has voted to change Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day (Several states have either abolished or replaced the holiday- South Dakota, Alaska, Hawai’i and Oregon). Though this is a somewhat symbolic gesture it is definitely a step in the right direction.  I also noticed that Al Jazeera America picked up the story and that they have a whole section of their website devoted to “Indian Country”! For the sake of clarity and comparison, I’m dividing them into two lists- one by Native community-run/owned media, the other by non-Native owned media. I’ve been excited to see the Wild Hunt, which is probably the top Pagan news blogs, include stories about American Indian, Hindu, Afro-Caribbean communities. This is just a start, and I’m also interested in blogs written by Native folks about cultural/political/spiritual issues, so I’ll keep an eye out, and please add any good resources you know of in the comments.

Native-run News Sources:

Indian Country Today Media Network

Native Times– Oklahoma newspaper

The Circle News– Minnesota (online and paper formats)

American Indian News Service (Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian)

Non-Native News Sources

Al Jazeera: Indian Country

HuffPost: Native Americans

 

April 30, 2014 at 10:34 pm 1 comment

Fionn’s Family

Question 5 of 30 Days of Deity Devotion

Fionn is the son of the warrior Cumhall, who is said to have died before his birth. His mother is Muirenn Munchaem”of the white neck” the daughter of the druid Tadgh mac Nuadat, who was kidnapped and impregnated by Cumhall. He may have been killed in vengeance by Tadgh.

Tadgh is the son of Nuadu Airgetlamh (of the Silver Arm) a king of the Tuatha De Dannan, or he may himself be a form of Nuadu.

Muirenn could not raise Fionn, so he was nursed by her sister, the ban-draoi Bodhmall. His foster-father was Fiacclach mac Conchinn, his son Moling Luath is his foster brother. Two bio-brothers are named as Fithel and Feinnidh, his aunt or sister is Uirne, wife of Illann and mother of Bran and Sceolang.

While the earlier hero Cuchulainn for the most part sticks to Emer, Fionn has many lovers and wives. The one that stands out the most is Sadb, who is turned into a doe and gives birth to his son, Oisin as a fawn. The other important wife would be Ailbe, daughter of his patron, Cormac mac Airt. Other wives: Berrach (called his third wife) Cruithne, Daolach, Maigneis, Smirgat, Taise and Teite. Aine (seems to be different than the love goddess of Cnoc Aine) would sleep with no other man, and in one version he fathers two sons with her, in another he rejects her.

Sons: In addition to Oisin (who marries Niamh and has Oscar) there is Cairelle (killed by Goll), Daire, Faelan mac Finn, Fergus Finbel,  Fiachra and Fiachna.

Daughters: Ai Arduallach the arrogant, Cainche, mother of Goll’s children, Lugach, foster-daughter: Bebinn.

Reference: Oxford Dictionary of Celtic Mythology by James MacKillop

April 26, 2014 at 11:49 pm Leave a comment

Listening to Voices of Pagans of Color

A reader asked me how people of color feel excluded from Pagan communities- outside of overtly racist groups- and I repeated things I’ve seen discussed by Pagans of color on their blogs- much of it is subtle social exclusion, but there are also assumptions that individuals should follow their “ancestral traditions” while assuming based on looks what that persons’ ancestry is, that maybe they do honor their ancestral culture, or that they have tried it and doesn’t work for them and they feel called to a different path, and so forth.

I’d recommend reading those blogs yourselves, so I’m making a list of links, please add any that you know of in the comments.

One theme I have noticed from Pagans of color is that many of them are sick of educating white Pagans on “racism 101”, and that they want us to educate ourselves. Sometimes Pagans of color also want their own space where they do not have to worry about racial issues- just as women and GLBT folks sometimes do- or heck Pagans do- there is a Pagans of Color suite at Pantheacon for this reason.

Blogs:

 

We Are Pagans of Color on tumblr- has a great list of resources

Daughters of Eve: Pagan Women of Color Speak on Patheos

Orgs/Websites

African-American Wiccan Society

Specific posts:

The Invisibility Cloak: Race & the Pagan by Black Witch

Social Unrest & Reflections of Pagans of Color at the Wild Hunt

Books:

Shades of Faith: Minority Voices in Paganism by Crystal Blanton

More to come…

Anyway, I would like to volunteer to answer questions about racial/cultural issues from white folks- Pagan or otherwise- if you have a question you think is too basic or clueless and will annoy your friends of color, please ask here. Of course I’d like people to do their “racial homework” but I can’t force all white pagans to read books/websites on white privilege and racial issues, and go out and learn about other cultures, so I’ll keep posting resources, but this is additional form of outreach that hopefully may help reduce tensions. Please ask questions that inform and add to our communit(ies) racial and cultural understanding- not counterproductive questions. If it seems to be a question better answered by a person of color, then I will pass it along. And conversely, if you are a blogger/website owner etc. of color who is getting questions that you think whites need to figure out for themselves, you can talk to me. You can comment on this blog, otherwise my e-mail is caelesti AT gmail dot com

I don’t claim to know everything- I’m continually unlearning society’s racism and classism and doing my “racial homework” both academically and as an activist, and often with some “tough love” help from folks of color- who have given me chances and patience that I didn’t necessarily deserve!

April 20, 2014 at 12:34 am 1 comment

White Deviance, Pagan Angst

Earlier for one of the “D” posts for the Pagan Blog Project, I planned on writing about how the Neo-Pagan movement is, in part a manifestation of white deviance. I realized though that I did not want assume knowledge on the part of the readers about sociology or Critical Race Theory, the lens through which I’m approaching this.  Social deviance is a sociological concept- it means straying from social norms of what is considered social acceptable and expected behavior in a given culture.

Critical Race Theory, and its offshoot of whiteness studies, views race as a social construction and seeks to critique and deconstruct race as a social category. Blaargh- see I can’t define it very well, so go read the above link!

There really is no one concept of “whiteness” or “white culture”- it will become apparent from reading the blog Stuff White People Like that is reflective of a certain kind of white people- it’s a pretty spot-on description of Unitarians actually! Who society considers white and who gets white privilege has changed over time- at one time only English Protestants were considered white, but as various European ethnic groups assimilated and become upwardly mobile they became “whitened”.

Still there are typically standards in a given social context of what a “proper white person” looks, dresses, acts etc- middle or upper-class, educated, heterosexual (or “straight-acting” homosexual), cis-gendered (non-transgender) Christian (or atheist/agnostic/secular in some contexts)  White people who do not conform to these norms are stigmatized as white trash, rednecks or with various other labels, and people of color who do not fit into these norms are typically stigmatized even more.

Anyway, since most whites have at most a symbolic ethnicity– a watered down identity based on nostalgia for the Old Country, certain foods, holidays etc. if they feel unsatisfied or not included by dominant forms of white culture they create their own subcultures to identify with- some are more deviant, others more accepted. Skaters, goths, punks, hippies, geeks, GLBTQ+ subcultures and so forth.

When people of color pursue an interest in mostly white subculture- even one that prides itself on being progressive, they frequently encounter racism. Because whiteness is such an unexamined “norm”, Pagans, geeks et al. often do not realize that they are pursuing a different way of being white, thereby excluding non-whites with interests in those subcultures.

Being a hippie or being a “bohemian” both in the United States and Europe has frequently gone along with appropriating aspects of Black and indigenous cultures- particularly in music, dress and spirituality. While these white deviant subcultures tend be seen as threatening to the white dominated social structure at first they are often co-opted by the very institutions the white deviants are trying to reject.

Instead of truly critiquing, examining and challenging the dominant power structure, white deviant subcultures end up becoming the rebellious children of Big White Daddy- be it of the government, business, media, church. We give up the privileges that come with conformity but are shocked when we are mistreated by society. If the social cost comes too high we may go back home to Big White Daddy. And he might give us crap for not going to church, or having the right job, or sexual behavior or hobbies or what have you. But we still have that option- our brothers and sisters of color do not. (Nor do our trans* friends who can’t “pass” as cisgender, or our disabled friends that can’t
“pass” as able-bodied or neurotypical.) That is the profoundly alienating contradiction that they must face- can they really trust these rebels?

When we talk about getting Paganism to be accepted in the “mainstream”- are we really unconsciously saying “I want the cultural definition of acceptable whiteness to include Paganism”? How do we instead, make examining and challenging whiteness a part of our Paganisms?

April 18, 2014 at 1:05 am 2 comments

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 2 comments

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 2 comments

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