Posts tagged ‘Ethics’

Chalica & Charity

I found a different approach to Chalica that I liked. It’s the newly invented UU holiday, consisting of lighting a chalice (or 7 chalices) for 7 nights in the first week of December in honor of each of the 7 Principles of UUism– in case you just “tuned in” to my blog. This Mom shares many different holiday traditions with her kids, and often will acknowledge the first day of a multi-day observance (Chalica, Hannukah, Las Posadas) and discuss it with them over a special meal. I’ve seen various suggestions of simple things to do that tie in with the 7 principles, but if you are trying to do actual volunteer work that would be tricky to schedule all in one week! So instead she suggests spreading Chalica out– doing four different acts of charity that relate to the First Principle- “We light our chalice for the inherent worth and dignity of every person.” in December, and then continuing to do that for the other principles in the following months from January thru June.

Since I have a lot more free time than money, I was already thinking of trying to do some volunteer work during December as gifts to my communities. Many charities and non-profits also get frustrated that the Thanksgiving & Yuletide generosity burst peters out, meaning very lean times in summer for many families. After you go thru the 7 principles in whatever manner you choose, you can do more stuff and relate to other values you find meaningful- the Kwanzaa principles, the Beatitudes, the Quaker Testimonies, polytheist virtues and so forth. It’s important to clarify that while the 7 principles are guide us, but they are not a creed or an entire system of ethics. Maybe this isn’t really Chalica so much as a plan for how live out your Unitarian Universalist values!

While poking around old Pagan/polytheist posts about Yule vs. Consumermas- I found this very insightful comment from PSVL (Lupus for short) “One of the things that is really starting to rankle on me in terms of the overculture’s overconsumption at this time of year is the entire phenomenon of “Toys for Tots.” While the people doing it have good intentions, if someone’s family is so poor that they can’t afford toys for their children at Christmas, then there’s something wrong that is much worse than that their children have no toys, and that therefore because they have no toys they will have “no joy” at this time of year. The thousands of dollars spent on toys in these efforts–toys that will often be broken, forgotten, or lost in a year–could be better spent on money for basic food for the needy throughout December. Occasionally, in the “wish list” things that needy families put out, with children and teenagers asking for something, one finds “I’d like a bed” or “I’d like some sheets and blankets.” That is something that I think should be encouraged, not “I want an MP3 player or a Nintendo Wii.”

I do think children need toys- but frankly throughout history, most of the time non-aristocratic children just made their own toys. Toymaking as a craft or industry is pretty recent. Heck, so is the concept of childhood! What is important though, is that children have safe items to play with that stimulate their imagination, creativity and help them learn about and explore our world in a developmentally appropriate way (based on individual child, not the age of the child). Often-times low-tech *and durable* is better. Building toys. Dolls & action figures (for all genders) that don’t need batteries, the kid gets to imagine what they can do *without* batteries.  One of the funnest “toys” when I was a kid was a big refrigerator box! This makes me sound like a mean grown-up, but buying kids what they say they want isn’t necessarily the greatest idea. Is it really what they will spend a lot of time enjoying and get a lot out of? Or is it just the most advertised toy that all their peers seemingly have, so they have to have it!

Unity Unitarian Church has a “Mitten Tree” each year, that people can add articles of warm clothing to (including our Uknitarian club!) We also collect- not just in winter but throughout the year, personal care items (small shampoo bottles) clothing, money for bus passes and other things to help people who are coming out of prison and returning to society to help them out as part of the Amicus Reconnect program. Many other places of worship, schools, non-profits (both religious & secular) have similar programs.

November 22, 2014 at 12:21 am Leave a comment

Cultural Appropriation Has Lost Its Meaning

Once upon a time, though maybe it was an imaginary time in my head- the term cultural appropriation meant something- even if there wasn’t one totally precise definition, basically it meant ripping off pieces of a historically colonized culture, taking them out of context and playing with them for fun and profit, and publicly misrepresenting the culture. Now I feel like the term is so carelessly thrown around that it has lost its meaning and as a result people don’t take it seriously.

I suspect part of the issue is that this discussion began more within an academic context and has filtered into the rest of society, including many people who don’t have a systemic understanding of oppression, racism, colonialism etc. Granted, there are definitely people within academia who don’t get it, and people outside of it, including folks with high school or even less education that do get it, and have a very sophisticated understanding of systemic oppression, because they’ve lived it! 

Cultural appropriation is still a real problem but it’s in danger of being obscured by being misunderstood any kind of cultural borrowing. Indians wearing business suits in Mumbai is not the same as non-Indians wearing saris. There are certainly examples that we can easily place in the cultural appropriation/exploitation box, like New Age cult leaders charging lots of money to participated in a Native American sweat lodge.

But for the most part I would suggest instead of accusing people of cultural appropriation, we practice mindful cultural borrowing, and ask questions of ourselves and others when we try out things from other cultures. To return to my earlier example-

Is it always wrong for a non-Indian to wear a sari? There are billions of different opinions on that! (Here’s one) Do you know any Indians who you can talk to about this? What connection do you have to Indian cultures? What do you know about issues surrounding being a woman in Indian or in the Indian diaspora? Is it a special kind of sari, designed for someone of a particular status, or for a ceremony? Are you wearing it as a Halloween costume? Is this your SCA or LARP or cosplay persona? Tomorrow when you wear other clothes, are you going to make fun of people with “foreign” sounding accents, customs, other religions as not “properly” American, modern, Western etc.? If an Indian woman wearing a sari came to your company to be interviewed, how would she be treated, compared to a similarly qualified woman wearing a more standard dress of a similar formality level?

Are you an ordinary person or are you Miley Cyrus or Katy Perry and the sari is part of a music video inspired by Bollywood, the idea that Hinduism is All About Tantra & Sex and random pieces of Thai and Cambodian culture thrown in, cuz Asian Culture is All One Thing, right?

So maybe wearing a non-Indian wearing a sari is OK in some contexts, or maybe not. It might depend on how you answered those questions. And ultimately, I’m not Indian so it’s not my job to judge that.

My previous post has been well-received, though I still second-guess myself and wonder if it’s too “Oh, poor me, rootless, guilt-ridden white American”. It does seem I’m not totally seeing eye-to-eye with my Anglo-Irish friend about these issues. I have pretty limited opportunities to speak with British, Irish and Scottish people directly and in person. Online communication is never quite the same. I admit, my connection to my Irish and Scottish heritage is tenuous at best, I do not really have any more “right” to it than any other human being raised outside of Irish or Scottish culture.  While I make an effort to learn about Irish and Scottish culture, and I study the Irish language, I do wonder if I’m trying to plant a seed in foreign soil where it might not thrive. When discussing Celtic cultures, I get reminded constantly by various people (Americans and Europeans alike) that I’ve never traveled to the British Isles. Thanks for the “you’re poor” reminder, it’s really helpful! I know people don’t “mean it that way”, then again I don’t mean whatever cluelessly classist, racially insensitive or arrogantly American-centric things I’m sure I have said on countless occasions, in spite of my attempts to educate myself. We all need to be patient with one another, and admit when we’re wrong.  I realize how hard this is!

Acronyms: SCA- Society for Creative Anachronism- organization in which members create a fictional persona from the Renaissance era (mostly Europeans but there are growing number of non-European personae)

LARP: Live Action Role Playing

Cosplay- costume play, wearing a costume at a science fiction/fantasy/comic/anime convention or other fan event.

Resources about Cultural Appropriation/Borrowing in a UU context.

Articles from different viewpoints-

What Tiger Lily Can Teach Us About Cultural Appropriation– Very helpful advice from Kenzie Allen, an Oneida lady about how to respectfully borrow from other cultures.

Appropriate Cultural Appropriation– discussion of borrowers as “Invaders, Tourists and Guests” Reminds me of a talk a Hindu UU minister gave at my church in which he talked about the difference between being a Spiritual Pilgrim and a Spiritual Tourist.

Hey, grievance mongers, lighten up on ‘cultural appropriation’ complaints– this does show how broadly C.A. is getting used but I think author is too dismissive of real problems

You can’t ‘steal’ a culture– some good points, but doesn’t seem to get that for example, white people have profited from Black people’s music while the same Black folks didn’t benefit.

August 14, 2014 at 10:15 pm 5 comments

Depression/Mental Health Pagan Links

When searching for articles, posts and books on Paganism and depression/mental illness, I found so much stuff that I decided to make another post to include these resources, in addition to the general Pagan/Disability resources post. I will make another post about distinguishing mental illness from shamanism/visionary/magical experiences etc.

Pagans, Mental Health & Abuse– extra kudos for discussion of related social justice issues involving shame, access to care etc.

Pagans in Recovery by Isaac Bonewits- Old essay- numbers of people with “issues” may be exaggerated…for one I will say as an Aspie, I have detected a noticeable number of Pagans who may be unlabeled Aspies, but I don’t think *most* Pagans have Asperger’s/autism.

Pagan Therapy & Counseling– blog last updated in 2013, but still has good info

Dealing with DepressionExhaustion, Bees and Depression by Nimue Brown This is advice for people who have depressed friends/family members in their lives- very helpful and not specific to Paganism, the second is social commentary. I also thought she wrote a book about depression, but I can’t seem to find mention of it!

Finding Motivation– (and other posts) by Nornoriel Lokason on the Staff of Asclepius blog (Depression & PTSD)

The Importance of Maintaining a Healthy Level of Skepticism by Sarah Anne Lawless

“Almost everyone in the Pagan community has suffered from a mental illness at some point in their life because 20% of the general population (in Canada) has had mental health problems during their lifetime.” Err, not sure about that statement. It’s a lot though.

“Sometimes the (online and physical) Pagan Community is too accepting and accommodating of everyone’s own personal level of crazy. Because we are on the fringe, many think we have to accept anyone who identifies as one of us and take them as they come.  Sometimes we are too afraid to tell someone they are crazy (this is especially hard to do when the person in question is in a leadership role). After all, who is a Pagan (believing in many gods, spirits, and magic) to tell someone they’re nuts or are taking something too far? But when no one calls a stop or calls bullshit, then things do get taken too far and people with real mental illnesses end up being accepted as sane.”

My “primary” line with other people is when they want me involved in their “weird”. What’s my motivation? If people want to involve me in their personal weird/kink… they need to provide a reason for me to care.”- comment from Scylla

I feel that way too. I meet a lot of Pagans that are *so relieved to be accepted* that they feel the need to share everything (Hell, I’ll admit, I’ve probably been guilty of this at times too!) I’m pretty open-minded and accepting and non-threatening seeming so often I get Way TMI pseudo-therapy session info-dumps from people I just met. Umm, thanks for sharing. Some of these people just really need a friend. I understand that but *insta-friendship* share all your personal info at once is a good way to scare people off, not keep friends. It also leaves a person very vulnerable to manipulative people. Boundaries are a thing a lot of us need to work on.

Pagan & Crazy by Alexandra Chauran- “My Pagan path has led me to British Traditional Wicca, which can be a complicated route to follow when mentally ill.  Not only do I deal with the psychological issues inherent in any religious practice that involves the supernatural, but Traditional Wicca requires that I work with others who are historically cautious about the company they keep. In fact, Ed Fitch wrote a document titled “So You Want To Be A Gardnerian” that implies that the ideal prospective coven member is, “not currently in psychological therapy.” Coven of the Wild Rose does not accept people who take psychotropic medications or require therapy and writes as a footnote to the above document that, “if you cannot function as a fully responsible adult individual in the mundane reality then you cannot function effectively in the magical/mystical realities and should not even attempt to do so until you have all your oars in the water and they are working all in proper tandem.”- last part in bold seems reasonable to me.

I can understand if very disciplined, focused magical groups are more restrictive in their membership, personally I think people with mental health issues that are getting treatment and have been stable for a certain length of time should be included, a similar rule could be in place for former/recovering addicts & alcoholics. I think excluding anyone who takes SSRIs and such and/or sees a therapist now and then but otherwise lives a stable life is ridiculous.

August 8, 2014 at 9:58 pm Leave a comment

Myth of the Perfect Social Justice Ally

Thanks to the internet, there are lists of “How to Be a Good Ally” directed towards members of many different social advantaged groups: whites, heterosexuals, men, middle/upper class people, able-bodied, neurotypical, and cisgendered (that’s non-transgendered) people. While that’s fine and dandy and many of them do give good advice, I still don’t call myself an ally. There is way too much baggage attached to it, and activism is already hard enough!

There is myth of the perfect ally held among white & class privileged people, and its why I find white anti-racism groups to be hostile to newcomers, certain exceptionally enlightened white people think they can do no wrong and jump on other people when they mess up. Good intentions are no excuse for ignorance, prospective allies are told in every possible type of ism-fighting group. It’s not my responsibility to educate you, use Google if you have a question!

Now, I can understand impatience and distrust from people of various non-dominant groups. Many of them who have fought long and hard in the trenches know there is no magical exceptionally enlightened cadre of white folks, men, heterosexuals etc. I realize as a person with various privileges, I will have to prove myself again and again, and some people will never completely trust me. I don’t blame them. But it is extra hypocritical and annoying to get this from people who have the same privileges- and often more privilege than me. What’s so special about them? They went to the right grad school and studied with Cornell West or Judith Butler? They’re teaching in the South Side of Chicago? They’re good anarchist vegan Buddhists? They betrayed whatever dominant group they belong to, and have suffered mightily for it?  Please. Whatever they’ve done, they too are the product of a racist/classist/everything else-ist society, and they continually need to unlearn that. They’re only one slip-up away from losing that book contract or speaking gig about diversity issues. Gee, that sounded kind of bitter. Yes I admit that maybe I’m a little jealous of career activists. But my point stands- there is no perfect ally!

I suppose if I didn’t belong to any non-dominant/oppressed groups, this empathy would be a lot harder for me. But I know many times, reaching out to non-autistic people, and even autistic people who have a negative Autism Speaks view autism, is hard. I don’t have the luxury of brushing them off and telling them to “just Google it” when they ask me questions that seem ignorant. I try to meet people where they are. Sometimes I get frustrated with people who claim to support people with autism but go about it in (I think) the wrong way.  But I try to set aside my anger and explain how I feel.  And I have to deal with difficulties of communicating with a neurotypical each time I do that.

Every “ism” is different, every person who experiences and benefits in different way from each “ism” is different. We all have our journey we have to take in understanding that. Some people won’t get very far on those journeys, but they won’t even be able to start if we won’t talk to them.

August 8, 2014 at 1:21 am Leave a comment

Thou Shalt Accept Every Identity as Valid

Minds Are Like Parachutes: They Only Function When Open

Don’t Open Your Mind So Wide That Your Brain Falls Out.

Look, I like to think of myself as a very open-minded person. Partly because I kind of need to be, or I’d be a giant hypocrite.  But there’s a certain point where in following those two personal mottoes listed above, I have to shut my mind before my brain falls out. I don’t follow the Sacred Internet Social Justice Community Commandment that Every Identity is Valid.

I’d heard about the phenomenon of “transabled” people who identify as having a disability that they don’t have. They’ve been around for years- known as “Wannabes”  but now have come out of the woodwork more by riding on the coattails of the transgender movement. I wasn’t too worried about it, because I thought that one thing the disparate disability communities were united on was against this nonsense.

Then I just saw an article about blindness being commented upon by a “transblind” person, posted on Lydia Brown’s autism blog. This disturbed me, because Lydia is a really awesome autistic writer and activist, and her voice is pretty prominent.

I commented – “I am confused by this- I’m severely near-sighted (as in I have to be very careful where I put my glasses or I’ll have to grope for them) I could be considered “legally blind” but with my glasses I am fully sighted. Is this the sort of reason someone might identify as “transblind”? In that case I could understand, though I wouldn’t call myself that. I don’t have the experiences that blind people have. From what I understand there are some non-disabled people mainly on Tumblr that identify as “transdisabled”. I’m surprised you’re promoting this viewpoint, Lydia. Would you think appropriate for a non-autistic person to call themselves “transautistic”? I am concerned about disrespect for both transgender and disabled communities.”

After that I noticed, that indeed at the bottom of Lydia’s blog was a long list of identities that she states support and inclusion for, and “transabled” was one of them. I respected her choice, even if I was disappointed by it, it had already been made, and it was her blog.

A little more on the broader phenomenon:

Why “Transabled” Is Bull

Responding to Attacks on Disabled from Transabled, Devotees, BIID

Pretending You’re Oppressed: the New Internet Fad

Dear Demi-Sexual, Trans Abled, Trans Ethnic, Trans Fat and Other Fakers

(I do take exception to the demisexual part- will discuss below)

“This is what happens when discussion of oppression gets divorced from discussion of the power structures and status quo preserving practices that generate the oppression. Once you eliminate discussion of which groups hold power, you can transform any incidence of feeling alienated into an identity. Therefore socially empowered groups are feel free to appropriate the struggles of the people they dominate by focusing on any and all passing similarities between them rather than on actual exchanges of power.”- Comment on Womanist Musings, Jamie Laplain

Western industrialized societies are very individualistic- this makes it very hard for us to think about oppression and domination in systemic ways. Hence all the emphasis on privilege checklists and people writing mini-biographies about how they experience privilege. Then it all focuses on guilt and blame, and avoiding guilt and blame, shifting it onto someone else, another oppressor, without truly critiquing the system and coming up with constructive ways of transforming it. Instead people accuse each of not being aware enough of their privileges and are lectured that their good intentions are never enough. To be a Real Activist, you have to be familiar with an ever-changing list of terminology, and the words included and how they are defined and who can use them seems to vary by individual opinion. So you’d better get it right the first time!

Granted, there is apparently a real (if rare) disorder called Body Integrity Identity Disorder that causes people to feel as if limbs or other parts of their bodies are not really part of their bodies. If untreated, some of them try to injure themselves. These people definitely need help, and I don’t want to stigmatize them if they have a real disorder. But we should not use this as a reason to accept the entire “transabled” identity category. We need to take our society’s distorted ideas about disability, the body and sexuality into account.  I will also say that we all deserve the right to have some healthy skepticism towards the psychiatric establishment. They have made many mistakes in the past and they will continue to do so, especially considering their relationship with Big Pharma.

I am concerned that on the one hand, we are aiding and abetting people with untreated mental disorders.  It also infuriates me to see people using wheelchairs when they don’t need them, while other people who need wheelchairs or other adaptive equipment can’t afford them.  We have fought long and hard to demonstrate that people with disabilities merit equal treatment and public accommodations, and we still have a long road ahead of us on that. But we constantly get questioned “Do you really need that accommodation, or that adaptive equipment?” You can do this or that if you just tried harder, we are told. We always seem to be too disabled, or not disabled enough to be “worth” helping.

I’m also concerned that the influence of academia, and the constant search for unique research topics may have conveniently given an open platform for transabled folks into the disability studies field. Postmodern theorists with a thing for “constructed” identities would just lap this up.

Maybe some of these transabled folks have a special empathy for us. Maybe they’re curious about us. Maybe they didn’t get to know us enough when we were kids, because we were separated from them and so they became fascinated. If that is the case, I would ask them to grateful for all things your body and mind can do. And I would invite them to embrace their non-disabled bodies and minds and realize that they are still beautiful and unique, I shouldn’t have to tell them that since society tells them that everyday, but hey extra affirmation, why not. And I would further invite them to join as allies in the fight for disability rights. Because most of us, will at some point in our lives become disabled- hence the term “Temporarily Able Bodied”.

Afterword

Now, I will take exception to the inclusion of demisexuals in this list of “faker” identities. A demi-sexual is a person who is only sexually attracted to people with whom they have a deep emotional connection, they are not (or rarely) sexually attracted to strangers and brief acquaintances. I know about this as I’ve been reading about asexuality, and demisexuality is considered part of the broader definition of the asexual spectrum. If this concept helps some people make sense of their sexuality and helps them great. The biggest problem demisexuals and asexuals face is simply invisibility. Society doesn’t realize they exist, and some of them grow up being confused when they don’t have the feelings that other people around them do. The main way these folks are being oppressed is when they are pressured into romantic/sexual behavior that they do not want to engage in. This is a problem for people of all sexualities and genders, and I really don’t think that the GLBTQ+++ communities need to worry about asexual folks “stealing their movement thunder” so to speak.

August 6, 2014 at 12:45 am 4 comments

Other Models of Heathen Ethics

I found some more models of Heathen ethics that could possibly be part of my Self-Care Virtues project, Harrison K. Hall has an excellent series of posts, beginning with an examination and critique of the Odinic Rite’s Nine Noble Virtues. He comes up with his own list, the Ten Guiding Tempers, which are designed to balance each other out.

Heathen Ethics Part 1: Nine Nearly Useless Virtues

Commentary: Personally, I think *most* of the virtues can be good principles depending on how they are interpreted- unfortunately all too often they are interpreted in a very “might makes right” manner. The main problem as I see it is that this set is rather unbalanced and incomplete. Several concepts, like “discipline and perseverance” are very close and arguably redundant. Self-Reliance, Discipline and Industriousness have to be *seriously* modified and qualified for people with disabilities, and all too often are used to shame them.

Part 2: Racism & Heathen Taqiyya

Taqiyya is a “loophole” in Shiia Islam that if a Muslim’s life is in danger for revealing his/her beliefs, the person can pretend to be a non-Muslim (and violate the faith) without being guilty of blasphemy. I understand the point he’s making here about the hypocrisy of racist Heathens. But  I thought use of “taqiyya” would be more directly relevant in the case of Heathens who pretend to be Christian out of fear of discrimination.

Part 3: AFA’s Nine Noble Virtues (the “honor is better than dishonor” one)

“The best of the bunch, to my mind, is “Realism is Better Than Dogma”.  It’s probably the only one of the virtues that I can appreciate without conditions, because it balances two things that can both be considered valuable in the right circumstances.   You can use tradition and scripture…but all things being equal, chose the most pragmatic option.”

Part 4: Social Consequence

Hall makes the point that following “traditional” Heathen virtues have different social consequences and impact in a as a tiny minority in a non-Heathen modern industrialized society than in an ancient Norse feudal/tribal society.

“If you are willing to weaken the entire strength of a community for the sake of your own ego?  You shouldn’t belong to a community.  You can be Heathen, Asatru, or whatever; these aren’t terms that any one person gets to bestow upon or remove from another person.  A community, however, requires a certain amount of sacrifice for the greater good.”

Part 5: Modern Virtues

OK, so if this other stuff isn’t working, what factors should we consider in constructing modern Heathen ethics?

1) Anthropological Sources Cannot Be the Primary Source for the Material

I think we should look at history to help give us an idea of the worldview of our spiritual ancestors, but being too wed to the past makes it difficult to make it relevant to modern realities.

2) No Mystic Hangups– ethics aren’t mystical, there don’t need to be nine of them

3) Nothing Included that Speaks to Politics and/or Racism, One Way or the Other

I think if we construct our ethics carefully enough, anyone who is actually honorable won’t be using them to justify some form of oppression or discrimination. If they are, then why the Hel are they in our community?

I also think ethics definitely have political implications, but what those implications are and what policy ought to be pursued as a resulted should be left up to the individual.

Part 6: Taking it Back– discussion of the “We Are Our Deeds” concept

Part 7: Ten Guiding Tempers

Part 8: Your Ancestors, My Ancestors

Aren’t all of our ancestors sacred and worthy of reverence?

Other Heathen/Germanic Ethics Models

Urglaawe Virtues– There’s a great article here (it’s on a PDF, didn’t want to give a direct link so people didn’t get a “surprise download”) about contemplating the virtues of Urglaawe, the Pennsylvania Deutsch Heathen tradition on the 12 Nights of Yule.

Rokkatru Ethics & Values– I realize Rokkatru, the tradition/path that focuses reverence on the Jotuns, may or may not be considered “Heathen” but I think it’s worth a look.

Further analysis of these ethical systems will be forthcoming, for now I will continue working on the lists I began with!

July 29, 2014 at 3:58 am 3 comments

Mental Health Self-Care Virtues: Even-Mood

Even-mood: Harmonious and balanced thought and action; tranquility, calm, serenity

One of the Vanic Virtues, Even-Mood struck me as being the most obvious self-care virtue. Tranquility and serenity tend to get more of an emphasis in Eastern philosophies, such as Buddhism and Hinduism- indeed many practices such as meditation can be useful in dealing with mood disorders. We also find similar ideas in Greek Stoic philosophy. We think of Celtic and Germanic peoples as mostly valuing passion, might and anger in battle, but they understood the wisdom of keeping a cool temper.

I have seen analogs to Even-mood in other lists of virtues.

  • Moderation (ADF) a very broad virtue applied in this case to emotional balance
  • Foruste (Irish)- Forusta (modern ‘forasta’). “Well-grounded, sedate, composed”. The noun is ‘forus’ (modern ‘foras’) which originally means “established base”. The idea is “calm, composed” — also “sensible”

Related Virtues-

  • Steadfastness– one of the 12 Aetheling Thews of Anglo-Saxon Heathenry- from Swain Wodening seems more about being steady in ones beliefs/principles, which is not what I’m talking about. Still keeping steady in ones typical beliefs, versus changing them frequently could be a sign of good mental health (so long as those beliefs are healthy!)
  • Gratitude– I haven’t seen this specifically on any virtue lists, though it was one of the “Wiccan Graces” suggested by Dianne Sylvan. (This is one book on Wicca I do find very useful and insightful to non-Wiccan Pagans) I have found for myself cultivating a sense of gratitude gives me a sense of tranquility when I am feeling frustrated with other aspects of my life, I focus on the parts of my life I am grateful for.

Practices for Cultivating Even-Mood:

Serenity Prayer– originally by theologian Reinhold Neibuhr and popularized by Alcoholics Anonymous

God(s), grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And wisdom to know the difference.

This simple prayer is easily adapted to address any deity/deities you prefer, plus it has bonus virtues! There is a longer version that is more specifically Christian in theology which may be harder to adapt for polytheist uses.

Next lines:

Living one day at a time,

Enjoying one moment at a time,

Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,

I like these next couple lines, but I’m unsure about the “accepting hardship” part, because it could be used by some to justify a “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, “everything happens for a reason” type philosophy that I think is unhelpful and unhealthy. However it can also just be a simple acceptance that life is hard sometimes, your mileage may vary.

Practice 2: Gratitude Exercises

These are examples of psychological exercises you can do to contemplate gratitude. Just be careful to not use this to convince yourself to be “grateful” for things like “love” from abusive family members (and “help” from them that comes with unfair strings attached!) Be grateful for things that are genuinely helping you! There are loads of gratitude articles online, these are just a couple that popped up, written by a psychologist.

10 Benefits of Practicing Gratitude10 Ways to Practice Gratitude I noticed the second article mentioned “3 blessings” exercise, this reminds me a lot of Irish triads! See if you can find some positive proverbs and sayings you can recite to yourself, your God(s) or supportive friends/family members. Or write them down and hang them on your wall, or put them on a screensaver on your computer.

Practice 3: Physical Activity

Physical exercise is great for mental health, just going for a walk, bike ride etc. Keep it modest and simple at first! Of course different people have different physical abilities, issues of pain, mobility so what activity you can choose may be limited. I also recommend yoga, tai chi, and some types of martial arts also can help with managing one’s emotions (though please make sure extreme mood issues are under control first!)

Caelesti’s Note: this is part of a series discussing Celtic/Germanic virtues (and possibly other cultures if I get to them) for people who are trying to manage mental health issues, it may also be helpful for those dealing with addiction and chronic health conditions and disabilities in general. I am not a mental health professional, nothing here should be taken as medical advice. It is beyond the scope of these posts to do in-depth research about What is Truly and Authentically Attested in the Lore, I am mostly interested in what is useful in promoting self-care, and in general seems in keeping with Celtic/Germanic cultural worldviews.

July 23, 2014 at 12:56 am 1 comment

Mental Health Self-Care Virtues: Intro

Over the years I’ve studied European polytheistic religions, and their modern revivals, I’ve seen many different views of ethics- generally focused on lists of virtues that have been presented. Sometimes they can be seen as “one-size fits all” when they are very much subject to interpretation. I’ve realized that we all need to tailor our philosophies and practices to the current situation we are in, mine currently is trying to take care of mental health issues and prepare for seeking employment again, once I am more balanced. I am not trying to promote an easy way out, a “pick and choose” morality that is most convenient. I am still considering this in terms of how these virtues fit into their original cultural worldviews as well as how they fit into our own. One thing to keep in mind, is that the texts we have were all written for elite noble warriors, by poets trying to flatter their lords to earn their keep, or by Christian monks with their own perspective. Throughout most of human history, the vast majority of people were just trying to survive on subsistence farming and herding. They were not literate, and they were not socially important so their stories are not written down. They might’ve enjoyed listening to stories around the fire of brave heroes fighting giants and dragons, but they could relate more to their own stories of how Uncle Thorvald fought off that bandit many winters ago, or how Aunt Sigrid somehow managed to feed all of her children after a bad harvest. And how their fellow villagers banded together to help all of them survive.

We have those stories too, but sometimes we are too ashamed to tell them, because our culture tells us that we are always supposed to be able to help ourselves, and that is the same message we get from interpretations of Celtic and Germanic cultural values that leave out the “it takes a village/tribe/family” part and seem to have a modern bias. Consider that the Nine Norse Virtues were written by the Asatru Folk Assembly in the 1970’s United States,  and while they did take inspiration from the Havamal and other Norse texts, I suspect there was a modern socio-political reaction to love/freedom/peace/anything goes hippie philosophy that was common at the time, as well as a reaction against Christianity. (Similarly as with Anton LeVey’s Church of Satan!) Also in the wake of the Civil Rights and Black Power movements, many white Americans were trying to figure out who they were, culturally since their cultural and political dominance had been challenged, what it meant to be “white” had changed. Europeans also faced this as they watched colonies in Africa and other lands fight for independence. Sometimes this was taken in the wrong direction, certainly the case with AFA. We are still struggling to figure that out.

References:

Ar nDraiocht Fein’s Nine Virtues

Celtic Virtues by Alexei Kondratiev, Celtic Reconstructionist

An Irish Mythic Model for Celtic Virtues by Erin Johnson

Nine Noble Virtues of Asatru by John Yeowell & John Stubbs-Bailey of AFA, adopted by many other Asatru/Heathen orgs since then

Vanic Virtues (unsure of origin)

Six-Fold Goal from Edred Thorsson’s A Book of Troth

Books: The Other Side of Virtue by Brendan Myers

July 22, 2014 at 11:32 pm 6 comments

Exploring Heathenry

For a long time, I’ve been a Celtic polytheist/Druid and a Hellenic polytheist, and while I still have an interest in the Greek gods, I feel the context of the culture is much too foreign to me, though I have tried grounding more in American culture. I’ve long had an interest in Heathenry/Asatru but dealing with 3 cultures just seemed like too much! But I think I will it explore it more, and put Hellenic stuff on the backburner for now. I also have been realizing that while I can certainly re-embrace my Gaelic (both Irish and Scottish) heritage, study the language, and so forth, I am really much more grounded in an Anglo-German cultural worldview.

After the looong Pagan definition post, I decided to untangle the various traditions labeled “Heathen”, “Germanic”, “Norse”, or just “Northern”. I understand there is a lot of confusion on the Internet about what is what, and I try to take a neutral stance by going by how different groups seem to identify themselves, so we can clarify what is typically considered part of Heathenry, and what isn’t (like Norse Wicca). Plus I could pigeon-hole into the Pagan Blog Project by started the title with “Odinism” for O. Which is funny, because that’s a term I don’t see people use all that often.

I started on another section about Germanic-based magical/esoteric traditions, since they are often practiced outside of a Heathen religious context. I’d heard of Pow-Wow magic before, the healing charms and hex signs of the Pennsylvania Deutsch (not Dutch!)- the term they use is Deitsch, but noticed some time ago that there is also a revival of Heathen religion surrounding it- Urglaawe, based on German folklore in the area. It would also be cool if I could find Minnesotan and Wisconsin takes on German folklore, for more local adaptations.

Another more unfortunate motivation for my interest in Heathenry, is that I am really fed up with all the racism that infect certain parts of it. We have those problems in Celtic and other European traditions as well. On the Hellenic side, I don’t generally have to deal with it, because the people in that tradition that advocate Greeks-only are pretty only communicating in Greek, as far as I know. So while that is certainly NOT my primary motivation, it has become even more of a concern since the shooting last April in Overland Park, Kansas.  After that happened, I wanted to write letters to local activist groups explaining the religion and that it is NOT what we are about- but I wasn’t part of the “we”, so I did not feel that I could do that.

 

July 19, 2014 at 2:44 am 1 comment

Who’s With Me?

In our very divided world, that’s the question that is always asked. Man or Woman? Gay or Straight? Black or White? Liberal or Conservative? Christian or Atheist? There is almost always only two options, nothing in between can be a trustworthy position. That person is light-skinned- are they “really” Black or white? We can’t trust the bisexuals, or the trans*, or genderqueer folks- they have to pick a side. You’re too moderate, you can’t caucus with us.

For some time now, a religious division has been arising, in small subset of the population- Pagans vs. Polytheists. Some “hard”- (the gods are totally separate) polytheists argue that the Pagan subculture emphasizes an all-Gods-are one theology,  a secularized hippie culture that doesn’t fit with their values, and has a bias towards Wicca, and religions that resemble it. There was conference last weekend, the Polytheist Leadership Conference in Fishkill, New York that discussed many of these issues. I’m glad to hear of its success- many thoughtful, talented and dedicated people were involved in it, and plans are being made for another one next year. I’m glad to see polytheist traditions grow and develop spiritually and intellectually. I’ll talk more about that in another post. But for now I will put this into perspective in my own life.

As I’ve discussed before, I’ve tried to do what I can for my local Pagan community. I’ve served in a couple of leadership positions, I’ve tried started groves that haven’t gotten off the ground due to different scheduling and commitment issues. Other people have planted groves in places I couldn’t get to by bus. I’ve accepted that. I was in a cult-like Celtic group at one point. I moved on from that, and in keep with the subcultures code of silence regarding abuse, I even kept my experiences to myself. (A decision that I am not proud of)

One of the things that has kept me going, in the Neo-Pagan subculture is, as an autistic person, and one who suffers from depression & anxiety, it was one of the few places I could feel truly accepted. I rarely had to explain myself, my quirks, my difficulties. No matter what, there was always someone at a Pagan gathering who was weirder than me. Some of them are autistic or neurodiverse- wired to be weird. Some of them just had a goofy personality.

But acceptance isn’t enough. I’m very fortunate, for an adult on the autism spectrum. I was identified at an early age. I had the opportunity to go to college, and one with a great learning disability program to boot. I completed my degree. I live in a community with many social services for people with disabilities, and a fairly good awareness of autism. I’ve never been homeless, I’ve for the most part avoided the abuse folks with disabilities so often receive from various “loved ones”. I’ve met many others who weren’t so lucky. I can do a lot to help these other people, but I need to help myself first. But I can’t do it all alone.

Whenever I look for work, I rarely think of asking other Pagans for help. It always seems like they’re struggling to keep afloat. The economy sucks, and some of them have disabilities too. Maybe the more well-off and well-adjusted Pagans keep to themselves. Besides, it always seems like much like when I go to one of my sci-fi or gamer-geek events, people come to Pagan events to escape their “mundane lives”. To reconnect with the past, their ancestors, their gods. Their cultural roots. All the things they feel the need to deny and bury and hide when they go back to work. They don’t want to talk about that stuff. It’s just too depressing. I don’t blame them. Many Pagans have strong political opinions, but I rarely see them at the political events I attend. Maybe they’re too busy with their religious activities- or geeky activities. Maybe they are more involved in radical anarchist type groups. I don’t know.

I go to Unity, and sometimes I feel as if everyone there has their lives together- at least if they don’t, they don’t seem to advertise it as much as Pagans do. Sometimes maybe Unitarians are a little out of touch in some ways. Maybe a little too privileged, or idealistic or optimistic. Most of them don’t know a lot about Paganism beyond Wicca or feminist Goddess worship 101. But it still seems they are a lot more in touch with reality than most Pagans I meet. Certainly I go to church in part to relax, to find support and community, but the Unitarians very much ground themselves in the issues that are happening in the community- locally and globally. I wasn’t sure how to ask them for help either. I went to their “career transitions” support group, which mostly was populated by middle-aged job seekers who didn’t seem to know what advice to give me.

So look folks- I know we want to talk theology, or ritual design, or spirit work. Or sometimes things like should we raise funds for a building, or what the role(s) of clergy should be. We’re a religious community those things should naturally be our focus. What about people in small town and rural areas? Many of them just one understanding person to talk to them about their religion, in their town, regardless of their personal beliefs. What about people who are getting out of prison (or are currently there) whom society rarely gives second chances to?

Some folks involved in the conference are primarily spirit-workers, they have stated, and I understand this- that their primary calling is serving the spirits and the gods, rather than the community- or that they serve the community by serving the gods. That’s fine. I can respect that. I feel called to serve the gods by serving community. I’d just like to remind you of something. Yes the gods have been neglected for thousands of years, and they want our attention. But the gods are not going to starve if you don’t feed them, or freeze on the streets if you don’t house them. They will not commit suicide if they feel alone, abused by their families or spiritual leaders, abandoned by the American Dream.

So I ask you, are you with me?

July 17, 2014 at 12:57 am 2 comments

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