Archive for June, 2014

A Privileged Low-Income/Disabled Pagan’s Thoughts on Money

(90% of this is pretty relevant to non-Pagans)

The whole time I’ve been Pagan, I’ve been low-income- either a student (thus socially OK to be unemployed) unemployed (not so OK) or underemployed. I also have several learning disabilities that have made employment and everyday life harder for me. But I’m also comparatively privileged- I’m considered “white”, college-educated, from a college educated family. Though I’ve had money worries, I haven’t had to go without food, housing or other necessities. I get healthcare thru the state, and my parents who live out of state own a home, so I can live there rent-free and rent out rooms to tenants. My partner has a good job and he helps support me. I also don’t own a car or have children, so those are major expenses I don’t have. I am fortunate to live in a metropolitan area with a fairly decent public transit system, and many Pagan groups. So I have unique view of some of the articles I’ve been reading about the money should play in the Pagan community. I’m not even going to touch on the magical/metaphysical aspects of this, as I’ve never been a practitioner of magic, but I’m linking to articles about magic nonetheless.

I always donate at least a little something to Pagan events I attend. However this is something I’ve been able to do. I’m a fan of sliding scale fees and scholarships to make events more accessible. I’m a fan of carpooling and sharing rooms at conferences- and I will offer to chip in with people who give me rides. (Heck I don’t even mind sleeping on the floor- I’m young and able-bodied, have air mattress, will travel!) I try to volunteer when I can.

I’ve worked on weekends and evenings a lot at my current job, and I don’t think it’s an evil capitalist conspiracy that events are typically scheduled at those times. I’ve had trouble organizing Pagan groups before due to people’s conflicting work schedules. You need to have enough people that have a compatible enough schedules that they can work together. The person with the random, unpredictable work schedule may just have to show up when they are able. It would be great actually to have a coven or grove that specifically met at times compatible for people who work second or third shift. The people doing this would probably have to be less fussy about what specific type of Paganism it entailed, but it can get lonely having a schedule that is the opposite of most of your friends.

Having rituals is homes may be cheaper than renting space, but it often means they are not handicap accessible, or in places not accessible to public transit. It will also mean people will have less control over potential issues like chemical sensitivities, pet allergies etc.

There are people who choose jobs that give them more time than money- in order to focus on spiritual work, arts, family. We need to do more to support these folks.

I’ve also known people-both Pagan and not- whose lives constantly were in a state of chaos, or moving from crisis to crisis. It is true what Alley Valkyrie and Rhyd Wildermuth say in the Patheos comments- chaos and poverty can be a self-perpetuating cycle. The essence of poverty, as I’ve learned is the lack of choices. We need to create environments where people can talk about the issues they face especially before they reach a crisis point. If they don’t feel ashamed, then we may be able to help them get a job (or one that pays better/has benefits/is more compatible for scheduling) or with transitional housing, or foster their dog so they can get a more affordable apartment, navigate social services, legal systems etc.

There are some people, however who do keep making the same Bad Decisions– over and over and over again. And we may try to help them, and realize after we rescue them from several crises, that we are encouraging them. But they are adults. We can’t force them to get mental health help, or treatment for their addictions, or learn to better manage their finances, or dump the abusive partner, or use birth control/condoms,or show up to their court date/case manager meeting/doctor appt/job interview etc.  And I believe in redemption, and second and third chances and trying not to judge people too harshly. But we also need to take care of ourselves, and our communities, and our leaders/clergy who can get overburdened easily. I will also use this opportunity to plug support for funding/volunteering for transitional programs that help people get out of poverty and give support to people who need it (recovering addicts, mentally ill, disabled folks etc) rather than the bare minimum emergency services that are often the only thing left after budget cuts.

(See Rose’s post on Homelessness to better understand the need for transitional services, and the flaws in current shelter policies.)

Blog Posts on Paganism/Magic & Money

Why Free Events Discriminate Against the Pagan Poor by Sable Aradia

I wanted to like this article, I felt there were good intentions behind it but way too much sloppy political and economic thinking.

Ruadhan has a great response here: LOLbertarians & Rampant Classism on Patheos

A Poor Magician is a Poor Magician & Poor Magicians, Good Magicians by John Beckett

No One Will Be Turned Away for Lack of Funds, and Money is Bad, Right? by Pagan Activist

Some views from Atheists/Humanists:

How to Make Organized Atheism More Accessible to the Poor

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June 26, 2014 at 1:34 am 4 comments

Are We Misusing the Term Privilege?

I decided to let some more time pass for emotions to cool down before I posted this. Another blogger, Jackal & Crescent linked to my earlier post on “Wiccanate” privilege, and I thought this person gave a valid critique of the possible misuse of the term privilege– he suggested “Wiccan bias” might be a better term, and that the word privilege should be used for more widespread systemic oppression such as race, class, gender etc. Now this concept was brought up by individuals that do have personal experiences with other forms of oppression, and they were bringing that perspective in mind.

I have also seen some thoughtful critiques of the use of “privilege” in general- here’s one from a disability studies blog.

Not every form of social advantage is a “privilege” in the sense of white/non-disabled/cisgendered/class/male privilege (I’m sure I’m forgetting other isms) I found a great Tumblr whose entire purpose is collecting iffy privilege lists. They are listing real advantages that some people have over others, that are in fact unfair, but it is ridiculous for the most part to equate them as being on the same level as other isms. Also note the lack of intersectionality in some of them- for example most of the items on the “monosexual” checklist (And I’m a politically aware bisexual, so yes, I’d already heard of “monosexism”.)

Privilege is Not Hierarchical and Mock Privilege Exists by Toni D’Orsay

Excellent essay by Ms. D’Orsay discusses the false idea of hierarchies of oppression, and the idea (new to me, but familiar) of mock privilege. A relevant example of this for Pagans would be the assumption of that many of us are Christian (or agnostic/secular), an assumption that we find annoying but works to our advantage if we are (in general or situationally) in “the closet” about our religion.

Some questions about the culture of well, privilege that surrounds discussion of privilege.

Other inappropriate uses of “privilege”- this Youtube video about “Geek Privilege“- as a geek myself I very much agree that we should stop shaming/bullying other geeks for being less knowledgeable about our pet topics, and I am thankful to this fellow for putting the message out there, but privilege is not how I’d phrase it. (heck I’d say the same about various Pagans/Polytheists…)

Some atheists/agnostics are also using the concept of “Religious privilege“, Christian privilege (or even monotheist privilege) is definitely A Thing, but religious privilege assumes all religious people get social benefit cookies regardless of how marginalized their religion is. In fact, I think there are some contexts in which secularism is dominant, (though religious people as an entire group are rarely prosecuted)

For reference: P. Sufenas Virius Lupus (note: if you comment, correct pronouns are e/em/eir. Please be respectful and use them)

Pantheacon Wiccanate Privilege DiscussionPrivilege, again

Ruadhan J. McElroy: Perhaps I’ve been unclearWhat “Wiccanate” Actually Means, “Wiccanate” is the New “Cisgender

Galina Krasskova: More on Wiccanate Privilege: What Do We* Want? (*polytheists) Ms. Krasskova makes quite reasonable suggestions here.

Finnchuill’s Mast: The Wiccanate Privilege

EmberVoices: Wiccanate Privilege & Spackle

“To be sure, privilege is a serious problem in the San Francisco Bay Area Pagan community, and at PantheaCon, but I really don’t feel the Wiccanate privilege is anything like the biggest problem to tackle except to the degree that it reflects groundings in other problems like classism, racism, sexism, cis- and hetero-normativity, etc.” Spot on, thanks, Ember!

Yvonne Aburrow: Wiccanate Privilege & Polytheist Wiccans

Macha NightMare: My Perspective on “Wiccanate Privilege”

Mistress of the Hearth: Wiccan Bias, Not Wiccanate Privilege

Reclaiming Warlock: My Take on Wiccanate Privilege

“As somebody who deals in privilege discourse, I think it’s a mistake to attach every power critique to a brand new “____ privilege” type label, and in this case in particular it’s important to recognize that being Wiccan is not itself a privileged state.  Wiccans hold a lot of power over the discourse within the Pagan community–something that needs to be controlled–but calling them “privileged” ignores that in the wider community Wicca is a minority faith and subject to all the bullshit that that entitles them.”- Jack

 

June 24, 2014 at 11:53 pm 5 comments

Mannanan and Midsummer

The Summer Solstice is one of the 8 Wiccan/Druid Wheel of the Year holidays that some Celtic polytheists don’t celebrate- we don’t have as much evidence for it, as compared with Samhain, Beltaine, Lughnasadh and Imbolc (or whatever your regional equivalent may be) However there is a Manx tradition (as in Gaelic culture of the Isle of Man) of paying “rent” in the form of rushes to Mannanan Mac Lir, the god of the sea, for fishing. The Isle is said to be named after him/sacred to him and there seems to be a strong folk memory of him, as he shows up in many later Christian-era folk tales. Of course like any Celtic festival a bonfire is involved! The focus of this festival is on protection of the crops (whereas Beltainne focuses on the blessing of cattle by driving them between fires), and blessing the coming harvest. Typically rather than the Solstice itself (June 20 or 21) Midsummer was celebrated on June 23rd- the eve of St. John’s Day. Again, as with Beltainne and Samhain, witches and fairies were said to be active at this time, so precautions were made to protect children, animals and crops from their mischief. Hence Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream- watching a movie or play, or even reading lines from it would be a fun way to celebrate. Collecting herbs is also traditional- particularly St. John’s wort, mugwort and yarrow. Related to this, another deity who might be appropriate to honor would be Airmid, the Irish goddess of herbal healing.

We usually go camping in late June, so I tend to forget about formally celebrating the Solstice. Though spending time out in nature with my sweetie is of course, a very Druidy activity! I’ve joked to him that he’s really a better Druid than me- he can spot and identify many birds, trees and plants and animals.  So if we do get our act together and go camping next week, perhaps I can make an offering of some kind to Mannanan before we go fishing!

References/Resources:

Midsummer, Celebrating Midsummer– articles from Tairis including Scottish, Irish and Manx customs

St. John’s Eve in old Ireland

Better Know a Celt: Mannanan Mac Lir by Sage & Starshine Nice compilation of info about Manannan.

The Temple of Manannan

Airmid: Goddess of the Growing Green by Erynn Rowan Laurie

An Essay on Sacrifice by Erynn Rowan Laurie (about plant sacrifice)

June 19, 2014 at 11:49 pm 1 comment

Muslim Feminist/GLBTQ+ Blog Round-up

From my previous post, so far I’ve gotten a comment from Rose F and a like from this blog, which confuzzled me slightly- it’s a verry rambly one about the End Times or something? The second comment just “The answer to your question is Jesus!” and so I blocked his (or her?) comment as spam. Then I gave the post a different title which I felt was more reflective of my intent- the original was “Where Do We Draw the Line With Muslims?” and upon some more thought I realized that had too much of an Us vs. Them connotation. I have no problem with Muslims, I was just discussing how Muslim practices can be integrated into a pre-dominantly non-Muslim culture and how far that can go while being fair to all parties involved. Clearly they didn’t read my post! Well I’ll confuzzle them right back- with a list of Muslim feminists and GLBT/Queer activist bloggers! And some articles. I am quoting their own descriptions.

Blogs:

Muslimah Media Watch is a forum where we, as Muslim women, can critique how our images appear in the media and popular culture. Although we are of different nationalities, sects, races, etc., we have something important in common: we’re tired of seeing ourselves portrayed by the media in ways that are one-dimensional and misleading. This is a space where, from a Muslim feminist perspective, we can speak up for ourselves.”

Ace Muslim- “My name is Laura. I’m a 41 year old woman and live in the U.S. I’m asexual and celibate,queer, and a European-American convert to Islam. This blog is a place for me to share information of interest on asexuality, LGBTQ issues, queer Muslim topics, feminism, and other subjects I think are worthwhile.”

Metis’ Blog on Muslim Feminists (she is a non-Muslim scholar of Islamic feminism from what I can tell) Great blog with links to Muslim feminists’ blogs, books articles etc.

I am Not Haraam tumblr “Haraam is an Arabic word used in Islam to mean “forbidden”. This project has been started as a way for LGBTQ Muslims to stand up and proclaim that we will not allow our existence as LGBTQ Muslims to be erased any longer.”

Articles:

The Rise of the Islamic Feminists from the Nation by Elizabeth Seagran

The Challenge of Defining Muslim Feminism by Erika L. Sanchez

British Muslim don’t need the West’s version of feminism, OK? by Shelina Jonmohamed A British Muslim woman shares her concerns about Western feminist movement’s secular bias and lack of understanding for issues that working class women face.

Huffington Post– LGBT Muslim tag

Meet America’s first openly gay imam– from Al Jazeera America

Orgs/General Websites:

Islam & Feminism: “This website looks at what feminism in Islam can mean to different people and how it might challenge stereotypes both in Islam and feminism, as well as the perceived clash between the two.”

Sisters in Islam– international advocacy

Chay Magazine– A positive look at Sex/sexuality issues in Pakistan (not necessarily specifically Muslim, but it’s a predominantly Muslim country)

Imaan– LBTQI Muslim support group in Britain

Muslims for Progressive Values “Muslims for Progressive Values (MPV) is the only American movement that advocates for egalitarian expressions of Islam, for women, and for LGBTQI rights. MPV does this by creating inclusive spaces for religious discourse, the arts and social activism.”

 Queer Muslim Resources Masterpost

June 19, 2014 at 11:38 pm 2 comments

Integrating Muslims

I am oddly enough, a polytheist that frequently ends up defending monotheists- Christians, Muslims and sometimes Jews. I do this mainly when others make broad unfair generalizations against groups of people. However, I don’t necessarily defend their religions, as I don’t consider it my job to do so. Judaism is a tribal religion that follows one God, and because of this Jews don’t proselytize (though they may try get non-observant Jews to become more religious) Christians and Muslims traditionally have a duty to spread the worship of their God. Islam ascribes rights to Christians and Jews to keep their religions (including if a Muslim man marries a Christian or Jewish woman but not the reverse) . Some liberal Christians and some Muslims (Sufis in particular) view all Gods as ultimately being the same being, and so  I still consider that view a little arrogant, but I’ll take it if it means they’ll leave me alone.

Anyway, as part of my Irish culture tour in St. Paul, I give a tour of the St. Paul Cathedral, then we go to O’Gara’s pub for fish and chips and sing Irish and Scottish songs. Somehow the conversation while we were eating awkwardly drifted towards several people claiming that while Christianity had been taken out of public schools, Muslim students were getting “special treatment”. I wasn’t sure how accurate all of their claims were, and I strongly suppressed a desire for a flat-out rant. I ended up saying, well separation of church and state means we need to treat different religions equally, and not giving Christianity special status doesn’t mean Christians are being oppressed. I noted that I have a lot of Muslim co-workers at my other job, I don’t care about how they dress so long as they do their job. I also noted though that while I’m fine with people holding on to their religious beliefs and traditions when they come here, our culture can only accommodate them so much. Hijabs (head coverings) are no big deal, but in American culture, people will not trust you if they cannot see your face, so we can’t really make room for covering one’s entire face in job interviews, customer service jobs etc. That said, even with the large Muslim population in the Twin Cities, I rarely see a woman in a full burqa. I suspect most women who dress that way would not work outside the home based on their beliefs. That seemed to cool people down, and we switched gears by starting in on a new Irish song.

Anyway, I have been doing some research on how and in what ways Muslims are being accommodated in schools and workplaces. I still am rather careful of what I read, because there are a lot of people who do have an “all Muslims are part of a giant terrorist conspiracy” mentality. That said there are some instances where I do think some people have been going out of their way more than I think appropriate. I found this clip from a Canadian news show (if this was an American show, there would’ve been assertions about how “this is Christian country damnit!) in response to Qatar’s dress code policies it has issued to foreign tourists, and changes within Canadian culture to include Muslims. For the most part, I agree with what Anthony Furey said, the segment with Tarek Fatah gets into some issues that I am not sure about (such as the Bergdahl prisoner swap) so I’ll leave that aside.

Poking around a bit more, I found an article about how Betsy Hodges, the mayor of Minneapolis, wore a hijab while meeting with Somali-American leaders. I had to go look for a different article however, because it was misrepresenting Islam! I wasn’t sure what to think of it- I was not offended the way the conservative commentators were. It was obviously intended as a diplomatic gesture on her part, a gesture of respect. Did it come off as obsequious or weak? Or insincere and over-the-top to the Muslims? I’m not sure. Muslims do not expect us to dress like them. Wearing a head covering may be expected while inside a mosque (just as a kipa may be in a synagogue for men), but that is different- it’s a sacred space. When I’m in someone’s else’s home or sacred space, I respect their customs. She was meeting in a Somali mall, not a mosque. You can read her closing speech of her campaign here.

“I have worn hijab, and it changed me.

I have run and danced my way through the gay pride parade.”- This is just a very odd juxtaposition of statements. Now, what I’d love to see would be a group of Muslim women marching in the parade in hijab!

June 17, 2014 at 11:44 pm 4 comments

Feminist Link Round-up #2: Sex-Positivity, Nuns in Pop Culture and a Wedding-themed Coming of Age

There is No Such Thing as a Slut– the Atlantic  A fascinating study how being labelled a “slut” in college relates more to the class status of the woman rather than their actual behavior.

Sex, Freyja and maybe a little about what feminism is not– the Animist’s Craft- Nell writes on her own definition of feminism and how she sometimes feels excluded by other feminists for not upholding their ideas. I know for myself, feminism in part about being able to make choices about one’s body, sexuality and general way of life while considering the broader socio-political implications and impacts of one’s choices- the “personal is political” principle. So while I respect her choices to wear corsets & heels and engage her kinks, I do affirm the importance of questioning the context and influences on how those choices are made. Nell also questions the idea that men are all automatically a part of “rape culture”. I noticed the whole concept of “rape culture” only a while ago- perhaps around the time of the Steubenville high school case. Maybe it’s not a new idea, it seems related to a certain stream of radical feminism that arose in the 1970’s but I’ve never cared much for that type of feminism so then I haven’t read much about it. I’m not sure whether I agree that is a useful/helpful concept in discussing issues of sexual consent and rape or if it mostly shuts down conversations as some have accused.

In general if you have an interest in geek culture (anything from video games to comics to fantasy/science fiction/horror genres) with a feminist social justice analysis (it doesn’t ruin it- really!) check out Lady Geek Girl & Friends- one of the writers has a series on religion in geek culture called “Oh My Pop Culture Jesus!” This month, she has an insightful post about the depiction of nuns. I think how we depict them- often as evil, unnatural, strict and prudish or repressed and filled with lust says something about compulsory (hetero)sexuality and the lack of understanding of religious callings. She challenges creators to consider all the storytelling possibilities that they are missing out on with more realistic depictions of women religious- including branching out to nuns that are not Catholic- Buddhist, Orthodox, Lutheran, Hindu etc.

Ricchina’s Wedding– a family decides to throw a wedding themed 25th birthday party for their daughter, Ricchina who has Down’s Syndrome. The important thing is really that Ricchina obviously had a great time and felt honored and respected by her family. Here’s another article which gives a little more background info on the family. Something about it still bugs me though- mostly the parents’ assumption that Ricchina can’t marry or live at least semi-independently. Down’s really varies by individual so I try not to make assumptions about what a particular individual is capable of doing. But many people with developmental disabilities have married and sometimes even had children (that’s a whole other debate, but I just try to reserve judgement) It also seems like the way the article was written, it was more about cheering the mother/family for being so supportive, rather than celebrating Ricchina herself. Some folks in the comments also wondered why it seemed like friends her own age didn’t seem to be in attendance. It’s probably hard to judge just based on this photography project, and maybe we shouldn’t- but what do you think, dear readers, from both feminist and disability perspectives?

June 13, 2014 at 12:26 am Leave a comment

Lore of the Lefty

Sometime ago I changed the title of my blog from “Politics & Polytheism” to “the Lefthander’s Path”, a play on words since I’m left-handed. But I’ve never written about it- there is some interesting esoteric and historic lore associated with left-handedness.  Well to begin with, I can’t assume that everyone reading this actually knows the origins of the terms Right Hand and Left Hand Path. We may think of ceremonial magic(k) but it actually goes back to Tantra, a highly misunderstood branch of Hindu philosophy. Traditionally Hindus use their right hand for ritually clean activities, and their left hand for unclean activities (like wiping your butt) There’s a similar situation in some Muslim cultures. Tantra was about shocking the initiate through the use of taboos, such as eating meat, sexual rites, alcohol, and rites in graveyards. Confronting taboos was a way of psychologically spurring spiritual progress. It was Westerners like good ol’ Madame Blavatsky and Aleister Crowley, that latched onto the sexual aspect of it (originally practiced in a minority of sects) and said “Hey let’s use this exotic ancient Wisdom of the East to rebel against Victorian sexual repression!” So yeah, bringing up Tantra is a great way to annoy Hindus… 

Anyhow the Left Hand Path came to be short hand for “evil” or “black” magic and Satanism, but from what I’ve read of it, I think of it more as the “Chaotic” alignment in Dungeons and Dragons- rather amoral ethos of use magically/spiritually what works, if it feels good do it, use of magic in vengeance, honoring or working with Trickster gods or archetypes (Satan, Set, Prometheus, Loki etc) I picked the name for my blog mostly in fun though, because this whole dichotomy is irrelevant to my own spiritual practice. This is why I don’t especially care to police the use of the term “Pagan” against Satanists and LHP magicians (or Heathen against Loki-worshippers- but then again I’m not Heathen) I’m a lot more irritated by Neo-Nazis and followers of Ayn Rand (La Veyan Satanism is basically Ayn Rand’s ideology with lots of Gothic makeup!)

Anyway left-handedness in general- even up to a few decades ago, doctors, clergy, parents and teachers would be concerned when a child began to show preference for use of the left hand. Lefties were believed to be more awkward (because the world is designed for righties?) , prone to becoming slower learners, criminals, mentally ill, sinners, homosexuals and witches. Children were actively discouraged from using their left hand, a practice which later came to be understood as harmful to the child’s development. Left-handed people are more wired to use their right side of the brain, which is more associated with creative thinking, whereas as righties are wired to use the more conventional, logical left side. I’ve seen a suggestion for writers and artists who are feeling a creative block, to try using their non-dominant hand. Us lefties are going to be more ambidextrous than right-handers, because even while most equipment is pretty neutral towards handedness, there is still a right-leaning bias. Gee, sounds kinda like the media… 

Speaking of that, the terms “left and right wing” go back to the French revolution– in which the supporters of the king sat on his right side, and the revolutionaries sat on the left. Once again, as with “Left Hand Path” in Tantra, the term has come to mean very different things! 

There’s all kinds of interesting modern research on left-handedness and its correlation with various traits- intelligence, creativity, aggressiveness etc. Have fun reading but just remember folks- correlation DOES NOT equal causation! As a social scientist who enjoys finding connections between things that is my very un-spiritual but important mantra! 

Anyway, I am changing the blog’s title back to Politics and Polytheism since it is a better description, especially since I am getting more non-Pagan followers who will likely not get the reference.

June 12, 2014 at 2:21 am 1 comment


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