Archive for November, 2014

In Memory of Leslie Feinberg

Leslie Feinberg, transgender/butch lesbian, multi-issue activist, died a few days ago in Syracuse, NY with hir partner/spouse of 22 years, Minnie Bruce Pratt beside hir. (Leslie identified as non-binary and preferred the pronouns hir and ze) Ze was very much a pioneer, writing the novel Stone Butch Blues in 1993 about hir journey of gender identity exploration. This was back when gay and lesbian issues were barely on the map, politically, let alone trans/genderqueer/non-binary identities!

Leslie saw all oppressions as interconnected, and sincerely fought on many different fronts- a member of the Worker’s World Party- “remember me as a revolutionary communist” were hir last words. Disability rights, the peace movement, anti-racist action along with trans, lesbian, gay and bisexual rights. The gay and lesbian movement all too often has forgotten its radical roots and clung to a white middle-class capitalist agenda, while neglecting to include transgender and bisexual issues. Leslie always knew that the world was far more complex than that- let’s celebrate her legacy and as Mother Jones once said “Mourn the Dead and Fight Like Hell for the Living!”

Transgender Warrior– Leslie’s personal website

Articles-

Atlantic- Why We Still Need Leslie Feinberg

Worker’s World- Leslie Feinberg- a communist who revolutionized transgender rights by Minnie Bruce Pratt

Autostraddle

CNN

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November 20, 2014 at 9:23 am Leave a comment

What’s a Protestant Worldview?

I read Galina Krasskova’s latest post on Polytheist.com about Resacralizing Our World. As with anything she writes, there’s a lot to take in and think about. I don’t always agree with her, but she does challenge us to think critically about our beliefs and practices. This is probably one of the reasons people have such a strong reaction to her views! Danger! Heathen woman with opinions! Anyhow- this was not really the main topic of her post, but it came up, and I’ve seen her and others discuss it before, the idea than American culture has a dominant Protestant worldview, which frequently gets in the way of spiritual development for polytheists. So I asked her- how does this different from a Catholic worldview?

Do Pagans from Catholic backgrounds have different spiritual approaches than those from Protestant, Jewish or secular backgrounds? I’ve known Pagans who came from the same religious upbringing to develop very different paths, in terms of cultural focus, theology, type of practice etc.

I guess growing up, I just saw Catholicism as being another type of Christianity (which I guess is very Protestant of me- it was “a church” not “The Church”) I grew up in a time when the idea of a Catholic President was once controversial was rather inconceivable, and Jewish people, while not always truly understood, were definitely white*.  I was baffled by Catholic feminists and pro-GLBT activist that dutifully kept going to mass. They couldn’t do anything to reform it after all- they could keep writing letters to bishops, patiently waiting and praying for their minds to change, but unlike the Methodist church, they couldn’t vote to send delegates to national conference to make decisions about stuff. Why didn’t they just join the Episcopalians? Indeed some of them do. But it wouldn’t be “The Church”, now would it?

Protestantism also includes a hugely diverse range of sects and denominations. I believe the Protestant worldview she is discussing is a more hard-nosed Biblical sort. The theology of continuous revelation that we find in Unitarian Universalism, our congregationalist cousins, the United Church of Christ (God is Still Speaking) and the Society of Friends is very different. To have a meaningful discussion, we really need to specify *which* Protestant worldview. I plugged it into Google, and mostly have found discussion of “sola scriptura” a la Martin Luther.

Perhaps the best person to ask would be a Catholic, or a former Catholic?

Here’s an Orthodox Christian view contrasted with Protestantism (now Orthodox, that’s even more unfamilar!)

*though Jewish people can be of any ethnic background, I’m referring to pale-skinned Jews who *weren’t* considered “white” in earlier generations.

November 20, 2014 at 5:13 am 3 comments

X-rated Religion: Sexual Ecstasy, Mystery & Social Boundaries

Replying to yet another great article by Shauna Aura Knight about sexual ethics in Pagan communities: Sexual Initiation, Consent & Rape

Speaking as an ex-cult member myself- I am going to say that I am against sexual initiations (or sex between teachers/clergy and students/laity) period. There was enough authoritarian manipulation from the leader of my group without sex being involved- I shudder to think about what would have happened if it did. Sometimes attraction does happen between students & teachers/clergy (of similar/appropriate ages!) but they need to be responsible adults and hold off on pursuing sex or romance until they are no longer in that power structure. In Minnesota (my state) law therapists and former clients are allowed to date/have sex after a few years of ending their professional relationship, if I am not mistaken. I think we should have a similar ethical standard among our communities, even if we probably couldn’t make it a law. I’m not sure about sex in ritual in general- it should be approached carefully, done for specific reasons (not “just because”) I really think we have swung too far to the anything goes hippie moral relativism and there’s huge range between that and insisting everyone is either strictly monogamously partnered or a Vestal virgin. It’s due to that mentality that we convince ourselves we need to be “tolerant” of people like the Frosts.

I am both a Druid & a Heathen, and while both are fairly broad umbrellas that include many viewpoints, neither cluster of traditions really has much of an emphasis on sex in ritual or magic. Some Heathens & Druids may choose to practice sex magic, especially in relation to ecstatic trance or spirit-work, but on the whole both Druids & Heathens are not really focused on heterosexual polarity or the “God & Goddess as a cosmic battery” in the way Wicca sometimes is. I’d also like to add, that on the whole polytheistic cultures of the past tended to be more sexually conservative than we are now, simply due to lack of reliable contraception, and the high risks of childbirth and infant mortality. Likewise, situational male homosexual behavior often occurred especially among young unmarried men because of the tight control over young women and separation of the sexes*. Mystery cults that focused on ecstasy- whether sexual, drug-induced etc. were sometimes repressed by the dominant social hierarchy for being disruptive to the social order. Witchcraft & Wicca are modern forms of mystery cults/religions, and likewise there are mystery cults and liminal or social/spiritual outsider associated practices within modern polytheistic religions or exist as traditions/religions unto themselves. But on the whole, both Druidry and Heathenry tend to focus more on the practices of the “ordinary” layperson.

(*Note: I am especially thinking about Greek, Roman and Near Eastern cultures here)

November 19, 2014 at 12:28 am 2 comments

Pagan Blog Project Prompts for the Letter X

So I’ve caught up with letters U, V and W on the Pagan Blog Project. I went over there to add the link for Wandervogels post and saw that they didn’t have any prompts for the letter X. There is also an error that says it’s the second week working with it (Nov. 21st) when it’s the first week. I’m mining the archives for ideas with links to posts. So here are some ideas- if you have any more, add in the comments. To make it easier, I will included words that start with “ex”. And of course if you’re writing in another language, words started with X will turn into other letters. Still counts, in my opinion.

Xenia- hospitality in Greek

Xenophobia/xenophilia- fear of the foreign/love of the foreign- how do these themes pop up in your spiritual path, your community, and how does it relate to your values?

Xena (& Hercules) Inspiring or mostly just annoying?

X-rated as in censorship- of religious or sexual content

X- Chi, the Greek letter

X- the Roman numeral for 10, write about the significance of the number, or a group of 10

X- Gebo, the rune (that’s the shape of the letter, but obviously a different sound!)

X chromosomes

X-ing something out, negation, negativity, lack of something

Xeriscaping- landscaping & gardening in a way that reduces or eliminates the need for irrigation to conserve water

Xartus- Proto-Indo-European word roughly meaning “cosmic order” more or less equivalent to the Hindu rta, Norse wyrd (Leithin Cluan/Naomi had a great post on it last year)

Xochiquetzal- Aztec goddess

Xoana– Hellenic wooden statues

Excellence- the ADF motto is “Why not excellence?” for a pop culture spin, you could talk about  Bill & Ted’s “Be Excellent to One Another”

Exes Write about your ex-partner, friend, spiritual teacher/clergyperson, religion in a spiritual context.

Extraordinary, Extreme, Exploring/exploration, Existentialism

November 18, 2014 at 12:21 am 1 comment

Transgender Remembrance Rituals

Thanks to everyone for this discussion- Galina Krasskova has written a post clarifying the Cuban origins of the ancestor elevation ritual, (though she is not the one organizing it) I don’t feel there is any cultural disrespect going on here, in fact I think people are being very intentionally respectful in honoring people who otherwise might be forgotten. I’m making a list of links of Trans* Memorial Rituals- both for the Ancestor Elevation one as well as others. Blessings to everyone participating.

Paganarch/Rhyd Wildermuth- For the Trans Dead

Both of the following are Tumblogs & links to them are not specific to the rituals. Since TDoR is coming up in a couple months, this would be a good time for me to update this list.

Alice Coltrane Memorial blog by Sylvan- “Alice Coltrane Memorial Colosseum & Wazoo is a live-in performance, ritual, and art space in Portland (Or), housed in an ex-Hare Krishna Temple once attended by a college-aged Steve Jobs.  We maintain, under the blessings and protections of our spiritual headmistress SwamiTuriyasangitananda Alice Coltrane, a public altar space dedicated to our artistic ancestors and inspirations.  In a tradition of experimental, improvisational, and conceptual transgressors particularly in sonic experimentation, many of our Honored Dead are also cisgendered males (as are all the current monks of the Colosseum). I have been trying to subvert this equation, and our alliance to the Transgendered Rite of Ancestor Elevation is an act in that direction.”

Alder Knight/Once Bitten, Twice Born

 

November 15, 2014 at 9:48 am Leave a comment

Wandervogels

Your favorite Pagan social science nerd here enjoys finding political, social, artistic as well as spiritual movements and currents to trace and connect (though sometimes rather tangentially) to modern Paganism. One such that I’ve come across is the Wandervogels (meaning wandering bird) a movement of German youth starting in 1896 that branched off into several organizations that emphasized a return to nature, freedom, independence and adventure and activities such as hiking and camping. Youth of varying political attitudes were involved- some emphasized freedom and individualism, others German national identity, and there were also Jewish youth groups that later developed into Zionist movements. In the wake of the 1929 crash, many youth were jobless and homeless, and some formed gangs for survival. They sported bowler hats with ostentatious ostrich feathers, and had sexual initiation rituals for entering into the gang. (Apparently sometimes homoerotic in nature) After the Third Reich arose, all youth groups outside of Hitler Youth or church-affiliated groups were banned. After World War II ended, some of the organized youth groups were revived, and there is a Wandervogel student group in Japan as well that engages in outdoor activities.

While It is speculated that this may have been an influence on the hippie movement in the United States. My mother-in-law grew up in New Ulm, Minnesota and there they even called hippies wandervogels!

References:

Wikipedia entry (linked above)

Remembering the Wandervogels

November 15, 2014 at 9:29 am 1 comment

FYI: Ancestor Elevation Rite Purportedly of Cuban origin

Some of my colleagues are participating in the Trans* Ancestor Elevation Rite that I (re)posted earlier. While I greatly support trans* rights, and honoring the dead, I decided not to participate mainly because I felt the need to learn more about the deceased individuals being honored (until I was putting together my Ancestor Calendar post, I did not even know the names of the person who started Trans Day of Remembrance (Gwendolyn Ann Smith) or the person who inspired her to start it (Rita Hester) and also figure out theologically & ethically where I stood with the practice of ancestor elevation. I certainly believe in & practice ancestor veneration but wanted to know more about the origins of this specific practice.

Well, it came to my attention on this forum thread that the Ancestor Elevation Rite is of Cuban origin. *Galina Krasskova has explained to us in the comments that she learned this technique from a friend/colleague/roommate and was given permission to adapt it for her own use.  Galina has since come out with her own book- Honoring Ancestors, a Basic Guide. Others have created the Trans Rite based on this material. Here is a post by GK acknowledging the Cuban origins of her ancestor ritual style. I am *not* accusing Ms. Krasskova of misleading anyone as she does state this on her blog. However, I was not sure other people involved in this ritual were aware of its cultural origins and wanted this to be clear.

I came to the decision some time ago that, aside from clearly blatant disrespect for other cultures, I would not be accusing people of cultural appropriation. While I do agree this is a major problem among Pagans and New Agers, and Unitarian Universalists, the exact definition of it, different limitations of different cultural knowledge sets and so forth are very complex, and I’ve seen too much in-fighting and division in the Celtic Reconstructionist community specifically over it. There are people who truly want social justice, and their are people with personal agendas, and it is tricky to tell them apart- especially on the Internet! Instead I will follow the policy of sharing information about where practices come from, and who is claiming to have what training and so forth, and their relationships (or lack thereof) with cultures of origin.Then the information is out there and people can make informed decisions, and people from these cultural traditions can respond.

I am not personally familiar with Cuban spiritual traditions, so I do not know the rules of transmission of their teachings, and how that relates to Galina Krasskova, and anyone participating in these rituals- both alive and dead. Anyone who follows Cuban spiritual traditions in encouraged to share their position if they feel comfortable doing so- others can respond to- but voices of Cuban people themselves will be need to be heard over others.

*Thanks to everyone for the feedback! Comments will remain open, civil discussion is good!

November 14, 2014 at 5:42 am 20 comments

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