Archive for October 2, 2014

Educating about Paganism, without kicking Satanists under the bus

Now as Samhain (Celtic and more broadly Pagan) and Halloween (secularized version of Christianized Samhain) approaches, many Pagans, Druids and Witches will be doing work to educate the public about our religions and holidays. I have some suggestions about this.

*Witchcraft and Wicca are not synonymous
*Not all Pagans/polytheists etc. celebrate Samhain as religious holiday (or even Halloween as a secular holiday, especially if they live in a country where it isn’t typically observed)
*It’s pronounced saw-winn dammit!
*It may also be worth mentioning that Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is a different holiday of Mexican origin, though it bears many similarities to Samhain.

Another problem that often arises in public relations work surrounding Witchcraft, Wicca and Neo-Paganism is the usual “We’re Not Satanists!” disclaimer. Now while it’s fine to calmly explain to people that we honor deities and spirits of pre- (or possibly post-) Christian mythology and folklore and this does not include Satan, there are actual Satanists and Luciferians out there and I don’t think we should be well, demonizing them. It’s because of public relations that we often do not include these folks in our communities, we are too paranoid about being confused with them. One argument I also often hear is that Satanists draw on Judeo-Christian mythology, so they should be included as Pagans, going by the non-Abrahamic definition. With all the angels, Kabbalah and other Jewish and Christian derived magic and folklore in our altars and bookshelves this is rather silly to me. I do notice a sort of feminist bias- reclaiming Lilith and Mary as goddesses- totally cool!  But Jesus and Satan? No way that’s the evil patriarchy!

My opinion on this has developed over time, after learning more about these religions and philosophies. A few years ago I remember reading a critique by Diane Vera, a theistic Satanist of the typical “We’re Not Satanists!” disclaimer, this particular one was written by ADF’s own Isaac Bonewits. I thought her arguments were all quite fair and valid. She also has an interesting essay discussing the origins of Wicca, and its ties with literary Satanism, which has more to do with the Enlightenment and people rebelling against the Catholic Church than worshipping Satan.

Now, I am not saying we all necessarily need to approve of Satanism and I don’t really feel like defending their “right” to be under the Pagan umbrella, since as I’ve discussed I’m not sure how much I really believe in the concept. But we should not be spreading misinformation about other people’s religions, even if we disagree with them.  Pagans have just as many misconceptions of Satanists as Christians do, probably more since we’re more preoccupied with them “ruining our reputation”. I think it’s time we educated ourselves more, and I will continue this in my next post.

Personally, since I’ve long identified as a Druid, I haven’t had to deal with a lot of the Devil-worship PR issues Witches and Wiccans do, and fortunately most people in my area aren’t prone to read Jack Chick tracts (even my fundamentalist mother-in-law would likely find them ridiculous!) I’m more likely to have to explain that actually it’s a real religion,  not just a class in D & D or World of Warcraft. (Which of course, are also Satanic!)

Lastly, if you’re going to call yourself a Witch, a Pagan, a Heathen or a Druid, be prepared for at least a little notoriety. Persecution and misinformation about our religions sucks. But a little hint of danger and mystique? You know you want it!



October 2, 2014 at 3:27 am 7 comments

I’ll Take Liberal Christians/Jews over Conservative Pagans

One aspect of the “We’re all one Big Happy Pagan Umbrella Community” mentality is that somehow, I’m supposed to feel like I have more in common with conservative-minded Pagans/Heathens/polytheists than with people who share my values but follow other religions.  Here and there I’ve heard of Pagans running for office, and everyone gets all excited. But oh, wait they share none of my values. There was a Pagan in the Tea Party movement who was interviewed a while back. *Shudder*  So then why should I support them? I’m sure the fact that they have minority religious views will all get swept under the rug when its convenient anyway. Pagans of all socio-political stripes have to keep their religion quiet sometimes, but I notice the people who push back the most about promoting “coming out of the broom closet” often make a big deal about how its private, the personal is most certainly not political, and ewww I don’t want to be publicly associated with all those deviant hippie polyamorous Ren-fest dorks! They remind me so much of Andrew Sullivan and other gay conservatives. Be quiet, be discreet, be personal. Don’t scare the straights!

I do try to make friends with or at least be friendly and civil with people whose politics differ from mine. But it seems increasingly difficult as I can’t quite squelch the feeling some people give me that, while they act all nice and polite, it’s nothing personal but yeah, people like me deserve “what we get”, we’re not working hard enough, or acting normal enough, and asking for more is just class warfare, or a way of inconveniencing business owners/employers by demanding “unreasonable” accommodations.  Now I appear white, cisgendered and heterosexual and at least culturally middle class, so they can show me all their true colors while talking about Those Other Scary Poor Brown Queer People/Crazy Feminists/Communists etc.

So yeah serve the gods of capitalism, Ronald Reagan, the Patron Saint of trickle-down economics, the Goddess Ayn Rand and so forth and so on. But when it comes to pick teams, I’m joining up with the people of Sojourners and Tikkun and such. Sadly liberal Christianity and Judaism are in decline- at least institutionally. I’m concerned that non-affiliated liberals may be harder to organize. Pagans sure as hell are!

October 2, 2014 at 12:37 am 5 comments


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