Posts filed under ‘Pagan Communities’

Year in Review

My birthday was a few days ago (the 16th) so here’s a little year in review…

  • Dan (my partner) has been amazingly patient in teaching me to drive, last summer he got me a car, a little Kia Rio to practice in.
  • Along with some other folks, starting forming an independent Druid grove in July- we have had several rituals since then, written by-laws (adapted version of Twin Cities Pagan Pride) and chose the name Northern Roots Grove, we also now have a logo.
  • I got my driver’s license in September (the 3rd test)
  • Got a job in December at my alma mater as a fund-raising assistant, but my skills were not quite up to snuff, so I lost it. Oh well, still learned some things…
  • Smashed up the Kia (I’m OK though!) Buying a new car today! (well new to us..)
  • I’ve been enjoying serving as a board member of the Bisexual Organizing Project, was re-elected to the position this January (it’s a year-long term)
  • There is now a GLBT+ adults with autism support/social group that meets monthly at the Autism Society of Minnesota, prior to the general adult support group led by BOP’s own Sara Lahti. Ran into one of my former campers there!

Upcoming Plans-

  • I just signed up for Voc Rehab (3rd times the charm) Looks like it may be slow getting in due to state funding crunches, so if I get put on a waiting list, I’ll try other things too…
  • Starting up a Bi+ board gaming group- I had a little trouble getting it off the ground before, but just met with one of my fellow board members and we came up with some strategies.
  • Northern Roots Grove will be hosting a party suite at Paganicon in March, along with several other Druid groups. We’ll be next door to the Haitian Vodoun suite. Sign up by the way- another deadline for it is Feb 21!
  • I will be doing a presentation at Paganicon focusing on clearing up common Pagan misconceptions about Irish history post-Christian conversion. It’s only 45 minutes so I will not be covering the Troubles…
  • Helping plan the BECAUSE conference– Bisexual Empowerment Conference, a Uniting Supportive Experience- it’s coming up in April- you should register! and submit workshop proposals! I’m thinking of doing one about self-advocacy.

February 20, 2016 at 1:10 am 2 comments

Clergy/Laity & Community-Building

Interesting conversations happening…

On Pagan Clergy, Layfolk & the Struggle for Selfhood– by Keen

“Basically: what’s with the tense, almost love/hate relationship between pagan clergy – to use this as a shorthand – and laity?

Why is it always clergy who talk about the importance of “hoeing onions”, or doing the proverbial gruntwork of being a lay follower?

Why do lay followers seem to glamorize clergy, and the responsibilities involved in occupying those positions, and rarely, if ever, speak of the merits of simply being laity?

I think it’s more complex than just being a case of the grass being greener on the other side, and actually has a lot to do with the concept of social capital.”

Thoughts on Clergy, Laity, Hierarchies & Roles in Polytheist Religions by Sarenth (a response)

I’ll re-iterate that I’m more of a fan of the concept of “general practitioners” vs. “spiritual specialists”. Both traditions I belong to, ADF and UU have formal clergy but very active laypeople, who frequently lead groups. My druid grove is a “haptocracy (hapto is one of the Greek verbs for ‘work’) – the theory that the people who are doing the greatest work to do something get the most say in it.”- concept coinage by Jenett Silver.

We should also think about the factor, that many people find in our religions ways to re-invent and express themselves in ways that they don’t have the opportunity to in broader society. How many people become herbal healers when they would never go to medical school, or scholars when even if they could get a Ph.D., there would be very few options for an academic career in religion, mythology or ancient history?

A third post related to this is by Allec, in which she discusses beginning a blog o’ resources on Gaelic Polytheism (yay!) and many people offered to help, then later questioned “Am I good enough/knowledgeable/experienced enough to help?”

Thoughts on Community

January 13, 2016 at 12:37 am 3 comments

Labels, Identities and Boundaries

Hey, y’all! I have moved this post to my Witches & Pagans blog, Way of the Sacred Fool. I realized something rather odd. It seems when I specifically set out to write a post for W & P I end up getting stuck, but then I’ll fluently write out something for this blog. I think I need to *just write* without worrying which blog whatever I’m writing fits into and then publish accordingly!

October 28, 2015 at 1:35 am Leave a comment

Pagan Identity and Responsibility

I’ve enjoyed the contributions of other nontheistic & pantheistic Pagans like the 2 Lupas (Lupa Greenwolf & Rua Lupa)- their approaches to nature have enriched my own. But they do their thing and respect that their approaches aren’t for everyone. We often come into Paganism with a particular vision and focus and that’s fine as long as we don’t expect everyone to be on board with that same vision. Nature/Earth/the environment both physically and spiritually are important to me, it long has been before I became a Pagan. Including a diverse range of human beings and their access to equitable resources in society is also important to me, and also was a value before I became Pagan, so is creativity and the arts- religion is to me, in some respects a dimension of that creativity. I also value the continuance of human cultural diversity and many languages and cultures around the world- and the ecosystems they are intimately connected with are endangered. I draw inspiration from Irish and Scottish culture, and so I have been working on learning Irish and promote understanding, interest and awareness of living Celtic cultures to broader Pagan-dom and my community in the Twin CIties metro area of Minnesota. I think most people who like to claim a single-minded devotion to saving the planet, or any other cause typically have other  interests, jobs, relationships and self-care that they need to take time for. People who 100% devote themselves to only one cause, and think they are superior to everyone, often find themselves rather lonely and unhealthy- both mentally and physically (this is not to stigmatize anyone who does activism while dealing with mental or physical disabilities)

The major reasons for banding together as a pan-Pagan alliance are two-fold- One– is to work together to preserve and ensure our religious freedoms, (in the U.S. separation of church and state) making sure there is an understanding and inclusion of Pagan religions in various institutions such as ones in which chaplains serve (hospitals, the military, colleges, prisons etc.) There is also a growing recognition that atheists and agnostics have spiritual needs as well- needing counseling while in difficult transitions and officiants at rites of passage. Commonly therapists and government officials can fill those functions, but sometimes folks find humanist celebrants and chaplains to be helpful as well.

Two– within our own sects, paths and traditions we are often isolated, and so we band together for a broader community.

Some folks are less focused on those goals, don’t feel a need for them and prefer to not be associated with the pan-Pagan alliance. That is fine. That is their choice. I like to keep the alliance open to those who may need it, but I also don’t appreciate fair-weather friends. Don’t scorn us and then call us up crying when you face discrimination, or can’t find an understanding clergy person to talk to when your relative dies. To give another comparison, it’s like how I advocate in the GLBT+ community for including asexual spectrum people who have needs for community and protection from discrimination. Some ace spectrum people may not choose to identify with us, some may find their needs better met by say, a singles rights organization. But in case they need us, we’re here. Likewise, polyamorous, swinging, kinky communities and heterosexual crossdressers may also have common interests with GLBT+ folks, though cis and heterosexual members of those communities may not face stigma and discrimination in the ways that we do and so we’d rather they not claim the word queer for themselves. (Though to be fair, maybe I could say the same of wealthy nondisabled cis white gay men…)

Likewise let’s consider the ethics of identifying as Pagan- it’s a very broad word, no one has copyright on it- technically it means “country dweller” with a connotation of “hick who does old-fashioned stuff”. But when identifying as a Pagan, please remember that it has the connotation of “religious outsider”. Atheists face discrimination in some parts of our society, but there are also some spaces- particularly in academia in which an atheist, agnostic or simply secular person is more accepted as more “serious and professional” than anyone with a “strange” religion. So don’t claim the word pagan thinking it only means “someone who thinks Nature is really important” and use our communities and resources and then get embarrassed by those of us who actually are religious outsiders and marginalized in various ways by society.

August 25, 2015 at 10:15 pm 1 comment

ADF: Bridging the Gap Between Neo-Paganism & Polytheism

Initially when I began exploring Paganism, it was from talking to a friend and checking books out at the St Paul public library like Drawing Down the Moon, and books on feminist theology (Christian, Jewish & general Goddess-y goodness alike) at Hamline University, which my mother at the time was attending. The Internet, while available was a lot smaller at the time, and when you searched for “goddess” in Netsuck, you’d come up with more porn sites than pagan ones (Though I suppose in some cases they could be both!) Witchvox was the hub of the English-speaking Pagan internet, and I also hung out a lot on the Cauldron Forum, Beliefnet fora and Yahoo groups. A lot of Pagan organizations, websites, internet forae and such have come and gone, merged and split since those days. One that is still around after all this time, chugging along is ADF.

After going to this retreat, and thinking about all my experiences with ADF- both offline and on, I find myself shaking my head at this supposed conflict between Pagan and polytheist “movements”. The Pagans are wild & crazy hippies that only care about partying at Renfests & casting spells that invoke cartoon characters and the Polytheists are snooty elitists with a Holier Than Thou attitudes. Other folks have different impressions of what these words mean that are just as misleading It seems to be that ADF has been doing things as both pagans & polytheists, that each supposed “faction” thinks the other incapable of!

Regardless of how “recon” others consider us to be, people in ADF have probably done more to promote good scholarship to the general Neo-Pagan masses than any single group of polytheists in the United States at least. For some, ADF is a gateway to other types of polytheism and Druidry, and certainly a better gateway than pop Wicca!

We have room for both scholarship and personal inspiration.

We have a standard ritual structure that people can recognize wherever they visit an ADF grove or protogrove, which each grove has a unique style, and regional cultus.

We have a well-developed clergy training program, while still keeping a healthy debate about the role of clergy in and outside of ADF, as well as other training programs (Dedicant, Initiate, Liturgist, Bard, Warrior etc.)

We have people of many political viewpoints, while maintaining inclusivity of race, sexuality, gender identity, class et al. religious freedom, and conserving the environment- exactly *what policies* an individual ADF member supports in regards to these values is up to them!

Our rituals are polytheistic in practice, and we have certain principles and values we hold in common, but individual members have a variety of personal theologies. Monistic Goddess-worshippers, Liberal Christians, archetypalist Pagans and duotheistic Wiccans might attend our rituals but so long as they don’t make theological proclamations in the middle of things we don’t really care!

We use words like “worship” and “piety” that some people complain are “too Christian” but we refuse to cede those concepts to Christianity alone. Honoring the Kindreds (Ancestors, Nature Spirits & Deities) is the main focus of our rituals, joy, communal fellowship, aesthetic pleasure, and magical workings are aspects as well.

While you have to seriously win the geographic lottery when it comes to managing to find another Slavic, Hellenic, Norse or Celtic polytheist who is willing to play well with others within decent driving distance of where you happen to live (even sometimes in a big city!) by founding or joining an ADF grove, you can pool all these people together into one big Indo-European family! I’m not saying this is a perfect solution for everyone, and I know some people will prefer specificity even if it means solitary practice over compromising for the sake of having a community. But many folks who assert this often state that they are capable of and enjoy doing much of their own research and writing their own rituals and figuring out most things for themselves or happen to be loners or introverts by nature.  But not everyone has the skills and resources, and whenever I see a polytheist proclaim that they want polytheism to spread and replace monotheism, and then see them snark & condescend towards people looking for basic resources I kind of wonder how they expect this to happen! Most people are busy with their jobs and families, and they might be willing to pitch in to help put together a community but they can’t all be Super-Scholar/Liturgists of Awesomeness.

I live in one of the largest Pagan communities in the country, and I still ended up joining a UU church, mainly because it gave me more stable social & emotional support than I could get from Pagan groups I could find, though it is spiritually far more general than ADF. Still I have great hopes for ADF in this region!

So to all my fellow pagans, polytheists, Heathens and Druids- in ADF and outside- keep being awesome and figuring out what is your way of doing things, share with others and support new folks (regardless of age and path)

June 10, 2015 at 12:23 am 2 comments

Pagan/Queer Community comparison

One important thing to remember about the word Pagan is that it’s based on self-identity. Personally I am a supporter of Project Pagan Enough, even at the risk of implying a “Pagan means whatever you want it to mean” stance. My stance is- let’s quit wasting time and energy arguing over who “counts” as Pagan or not.

This reminds me over some of the “who counts and is included?” struggles we’ve had in another of my communities- the GLBTQIA+ which is really a cluster of overlapping communities who work together (or don’t) with varying degrees of success. Gays and lesbians are typically at the center, just as Wiccans and religions that somewhat resemble it tend to be fit the general public’s idea of what “Pagan” means (if they are aware at all!) Likewise, how much a bisexual, and/or a trans person identifies with “GLBT” may depend on how the B and T are actually included. Do asexuals “count”? Are heterosexual cross-dressers, kinky and polyamorous people part of a broader definition of queer? Those are questions that keep arising.

As a board member of a bisexual organization I ask the question- who is it that needs access to our community and movement? The answer is, people with an attraction to more than one gender, regardless of what label they may or may not use. In the broader GLBT community we can ask similar questions- who is being excluded from dominant social norms of sexuality & gender? Whether they have so-called “passing” privilege or not is irrelevant, so are Oppression Olympics.

It is likewise with the loose association of minority religions that band together under the label “Pagan” to gain inclusion in the military, in public schools, prisons, and generally protect their religious rights. Socially and spiritually, we might not have that much in common but we face prejudices in majority Christian, Jewish, Muslim or secular countries. (OK so there’s only one majority Jewish state, but still my point stands!)

I see the folks who privately practice magic & other esoteric practices and identify religiously as Christian, Jewish or secular as being somewhat equivalent to the heterosexual kinky, cross-dressing or poly folks in relation to the Pagan and GLBT umbrellas respectively. Folks in both of these groups tend to face less discrimination than others in the Pagan and GLBT umbrellas, and maybe more prone to identify as allies or not associate at all. Religion and sexual behavior, of course can be totally private things, but in particular situations a person may find their personal practices held against them in a custody battle or a political smear campaign in a way that others may not. On the other hand, if you are a Catholic that practices folk magic & BDSM, you probably will not need to debate over whether to “come out” about these practices to your relatives before your wedding. Yes, some people have BDSM-themed weddings, and some people go around introducing their partners as their masters or bottoms. But this is generally going to be kept more private, as compared with telling people about your partner of the same gender.

Questions to Explore:

What determines whether a person belongs to a minority community? Their self-identity? Their behavior? Their access to privileges or experiences of oppression/discrimination?

How might membership in a religious or sexual minority community differ from that of an ethnic/racial minority community?

Is it easier for some people to reclaim & identify with words with derogatory connotations like queer and pagan?

May 27, 2015 at 2:12 am 4 comments

Untangling the Wyrd Wide Web

Folks- I have put the post about Transphobia into draft mode. I am still very much opposed to transphobia, however I am also very much opposed to racism, and individuals have been sharing that they have experience hurtful racist comments as part of conversations that I personally was not a part of. I also have been called out for comments I made about other people’s status as rape survivors, which is also very wrong of me, and for those comments I apologize.

I typically try to stay out of other people’s interpersonal drama be it online or in person, however sometimes I feel a need to speak up when something is wrong. However, in this case I do not feel I know enough about the people and the situation to truly make a fair judgment. Also to begin with, these conversations took place on semi-private Facebook posts which I only could read because of screenshots being posted. Oy vey.

Cultural appropriation– What this is, is really up to the culture from whom ideas/concepts/rituals et al are being borrowed from- or outright stolen. I kind of got the impression Kathryn nic Dhana was playing “cultural appropriation police” and specifically going after people (like Erynn Laurie & Ellen Evert Hopman) that she seemed to have some sort of rivalry with. This may be a mistake on my part, and I may have let my feelings about past Celtic Recon political faultlines color my impression of Kathryn. She is in contact with Native leaders/elders and is in conversation with them about possible appropriations when they take place. Also since Erynn & Ellen are both authors and semi-public figures, I think its OK to e-mail them and ask them about these things yourself if you are concerned. Kathryn has done so, and said situations have not been resolved to the satisfaction of Native communities involved.

Personally I tend to stick to confronting things that happen in my in-person local community. I am fortunate to have multiple local communities I can participate in, and sometimes disrespect towards other cultures occurs. It’s an ongoing learning process for me, including figuring out what is the best way to share this information to prevent further disrespect from occurring.

Transphobia– I do think there were transphobic comments made in the conversations Allec posted. I also feel like there are some generation gaps in regards to ideas about women-only space, and gender identity. Some people feel that their privacy, and possibly safety was violated, names of minor children were on the screenshots, gender identity status and other things of a sensitive nature.

Gaol Naofa– I am not a member of Gaol Naofa, I am not familiar with how their leadership structure works. There is disagreement over whether these conversations reflect upon the culture of GN as a whole, or whether they were unrelated. I was a member of the Gaelic polytheism group run by GN at one time and left it of my own choice, not due to anyone doing anything wrong, we just had some differences of opinion, that’s all I remember at this point.

Racism– Sky (a friend of Kathryn’s who is also on the board of CAORANN, Celts Against Oppression, Racism & Neo-Nazism) has shared with me that someone in this conversation threw around the word “genocide” in a inappropriate manner (in re: to a cultural practice of exiling violent people from their community). I don’t know why the heck that was dragged in, but it is definitely not OK to make false accusations of genocide, WTF, people! (BTW, the practice of exiling criminals was also done by both the Norse and Irish- and is still probably more humane than our prison system!) There are also allegation of multiple vulgar, racist insults towards Sky and her associate, a Two-Spirit elder.

I am going to say for now though, since all this essentially took place behind virtual “closed doors” that should not have been opened I am reserving judgment about Kathryn & Gaol Naofa in general.

April 4, 2015 at 1:15 am Leave a comment

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