—by Shauna Aura Knight The question, “Should Pagans charge for services/rituals/events/classes” comes up with some frequency within our community. One of my activist goals is looking at underlying…
Good food for thought on the ever-sticky question of money and paganism. It’s thorough, and well worth the read.
It’s been years and years since I last did any sort of formal rituals for the Wheel of the Year; I was never Wiccan, but the eight celebrations have been adopted by a wide range of pagans. For years I tried to use them as well, and it never really stuck. While I definitely appreciate the role of seasonal celebrations for individuals and communities, in my own practice I could never quite get over the feeling that doing a special ritual every six weeks was a bit contrived. It’s convenient for a group because it’s a set bunch of times for everyone to plan to get together for a shared ritual experience, and for some solitary pagans, too, it’s an opportunity to break out of the everyday routine and re-connect with the sacred in a deeper way.
Maybe if I was part of a working or ritual group I’d be more inclined to have these special touchstones throughout the year, and there is a part of me that feels a bit wistful about them. But on my own, I have the freedom to acknowledge special moments with nature whenever they arise, and have those as my sacred times. There’s no scheduling necessary, no potluck to cook for. Instead, it’s moments like “picking the first ripe tomatoes of the summer”, and “hey, the maple tree finally started growing leaves again” (and even “thank the gods the noisy-ass starlings finally raised their last brood in my apartment’s ceiling”.) This is not necessarily a superior way of connecting compared to the Wheel, but it’s one that’s fit me better over time.
I think part of the problem with the Wheel is that until the past few years I had little context for it. It was just something a lot of pagans did as part of the pagan package, written by Cunningham and others and used as an excuse for everything from Pagan Pride to pagan coffee klatches. But “old harvest rituals” don’t mean the same to a farmer, as to a city dweller whose food comes from the store and who doesn’t even have a window box of flowers.
And here’s a new batch of reviews from Pagan Book Reviews!
Epona by Robin Whitten
The Ancient Egyptian Prayerbook by Tamara L. Siuda (review #1)
The Ancient Egyptian Prayerbook by Tamara Siuda review #2)
Nebt-het: Lady of the House by Tamara L. Siuda
Manifest Divinity by Lisa Spiral Besnett
Pain and Faith in the Wiccan World by Crystal Blanton
The Traveller’s Guide to the Duat by Kiya Nicoll
Manifesting True Desires: Learning from Arianrhod and the Tree of Life by Alfred Willowhawk
Queen and Commander by Janine Southard
Shamanka by T.E. MacArthur
Everyday Witch Book of Rituals by Deborah Blake
The Sacred Depths of Nature by Ursula Goodenough
The Element Stones by Clayton Griffin
First, if you missed the animal totem guided meditation workshops this past weekend, you can catch the archived versions on my YouTube channel.
As for the next round of free video workshops via my Livestream account, I’m going in a different direction this time—instead of totems (which I write books about), I’ll be talking about writing books (with or without totems!) Here are the pertinent dates and Livestream links (you can use this time conversion tool to see what time it’ll be where you are):
Saturday, March 9, 7pm Pacific Standard Time
I apologize for having to do a Saturday pm/Sunday am format instead of the usual Friday/Saturday; between PantheaCon, FaerieCon West, and TIP training, the next month is going to be crazy! I hope this won’t be too much of an inconvenience for you all.
Here are more details about the workshops:
You’ve got some great ideas and you have friends who tell you that you should write a book. But is that all there is to the pagan writing industry? In this workshop, I’ll offer you my perspectives as an experienced writer for both small and larger pagan and esoteric publishers, magazines, and blogs, as well as doing book editing, layout, self-publishing, and more. I’ll tell you of the importance of promotion, marketing, and—of course—writing. If you want to get a book published, come to this workshop! And, of course, there’ll be a Q&A session so you can ask questions, make comments, and I’ll answer during the livestream. Special emphasis on pagan and esoteric nonfiction.
Because of the sensitivity of this topic, the chat and questions will be moderated. And, again, I’m offering this workshop free of charge! If you’d like to support my work financially, feel free to check out my books at http://www.thegreenwolf.com/books.html or my ritual tools and other artwork at http://thegreenwolf.etsy.com Thank you!
More new reviews from Pagan Book Reviews! Here ya go:
The Woman Magician by Brandy Williams
Phantom Armies of the Night by Claude Lecouteux
Power Crystals by John DeSalvo
Quadrivium Oils by Quadrivium Supplies
And just as a note, while we do have a staff of reviewers, we do accept guest reviews if you have something you want to share! We’re also always accepting review copies of books and other media, as well as other products of interest to pagans and the like. More info here.
So apparently there’s a reality TV producer going around Portland this week trying to find pagans to go on some pagan-themed reality TV show (didn’t see that one coming, did you?) I’m really, really hoping that nobody falls for the “Oh, we’ll be ever so respectful!” line, because you know what? It’s reality TV. Its entire schtick is to make the people involved look as loony and awful and unlikable as possible.
Want to go on there to get noticed for your acting abilities/pagan celebrity status/somebody please buy your screenplay? It won’t work. You’ll be a flash in the pan, and if anyone remembers you it’ll either be other pagans who lost whatever respect they may have had for you because you went on the show and helped them portray paganism as this “weird, ooky-spooky cult”, or it’ll be professionals who don’t take you seriously for about the same reason. Nobody’s career was made by going on reality TV as the freak of the week, and you stand to have more damaged than gained in this endeavor.
Want to go on there to educate people about paganism and because you don’t want someone who’s a worse representative to go on there? Again, it won’t work. Anything profound or educational you might have to say will be edited out in favor of things that actually sell ratings.
Really, if you want to have any idea how reality TV has treated pagans, just watch Fiona Horne in Mad, Mad House, or Donna Thompson in Wife Swap, both from a few years ago. It’s not flattering, and it’s definitely not a good representation of what pagans are like in real life. Horne already had a strong media career prior to Mad, Mad House, and Thompson didn’t achieve overniught celebrity status in the process (nor were her actual accomplishments in life as a pagan and otherwise showcased), so why would it be any different for anyone else?
If you want an example of a good response to use if these people contact you, Anne Newkirk Niven, editor-in-chief of Sagewoman, Witches & Pagans, and other pagan magazines, put it really well here in this FB status. A choice quote:
This is why our community is so hostile to the whole “Reality Show Witches” gig — because we know instinctively that in order to make good television, you’ll have to ramp up the drama, wackiness, and general “not like the Jones’” vibe of the Pagan/Wiccan community. This is the *exact* opposite of how we want people to think about us. We want to be seen as normal, ordinary people — who just happen to believe in gods outside the Abrahamic paradigm — and that would make mind-numbingly dull television. In short, your “respectful” project is a null set — if it’s “reality” tv it has to be ramped up with drama, and that’s not respectful.
So, in short—if these people approach you, and you have any respect for yourself or your community, just tell them you’ll pass. It’s not worth it, and if they can’t find anyone to go on there, guess what? No show happens!
A caveat to start with: No matter how well a writer writes something, inevitably someone will misinterpret what they were trying to say. Such is the limitation of language. In that spirit, allow me to make one thing very, very clear before this essay even starts: I am not equating hard polytheism with religious fundamentalism. I am concerned that because of certain patterns I have seen among some, not all, hard polytheists, that this may, not necessarily will, in the future give rise to a form of pagan religious fundamentalism. Additionally, the “You’re wrong, I’m right” attitude that I’m observing is not limited to debates regarding polytheism, but other areas of paganism as well, and any of these could also give rise to a form of fundamentalism given the right circumstances. Polytheism happens to be the topic of the moment which finally gave me a chance to voice some concerns about fundamentalism in paganism that I’ve been chewing on a while. There. Now that I’ve said that, feel free to proceed.
I’ve been watching the recent discussion on several pagan blogs concerning hard polytheism, “bringing back the gods”, and so forth with some interest. I admit that the older I get, the more I am moving toward a more pantheistic viewpoint, with a good dash of humanism as well. It’s not that I discount the existence of the Divine, spirits, and so forth, but that my experiences with them simply haven’t led me to adopt a hard polytheistic view (and anyway, I tend more toward totems and nature spirits than gods).
So that obviously colors my perspective on all this. I don’t have a stake in the proven reality of deities as independent entities, but neither does it bother me that some people do. What concerns me is the possibility of the rise of pagan religious fundamentalism. (Yes, I know there are polytheists dropping the term “pagan” from their experience because they associate it with Things That We Aren’t, but for the purposes of my discussion, polytheists are still pagan, in part so I don’t have to keep writing pagans/polytheists over and over.) Fundamentalism as a concept was originally described in certain areas of Protestantism in the early 1900s. These people had a very strict and literal interpretation of their religion, and today “fundamentalism” is often used to describe any of a number of religious perspectives that hold similar, inflexible views on God(s) and the way humans are supposed to act.
There are a lot of pagans (and other people, but let’s stick to pagans for now) who have had bad experiences as a result of fundamentalism, usually of the Christian variety. The community is full of stories of people growing up in strictly religious households and being treated pretty poorly for the mistake of exploring new beliefs. These could range from having their pagan religious tools and effects taken from them and destroyed, to being assaulted or thrown out of the home. Adult pagans have lost jobs, homes, and children due to religious persecution. Pagan prisoners are routinely denied access to religious materials and clergy, and it’s rare for a pagan clergyperson to be asked to lead a prayer in a civic setting where such things still occur. While Christian fundamentalists proper were not always the opposition in these cases, the attitudes of fundamentalism tend to leak out into the wider cultural consciousness (I’ll talk more about that in a minute).
With these consequences of fundamentalism in mind, it seems strange to see echoes of them in paganism. Yes, of course there’s the fact that people often subconsciously emulate the behavior patterns they were raised around, but surely that can’t be the source of every single instance of “You’re wrong, I’m right!” in paganism. And while not every one of those “I’m right!” instances constitutes fundamentalism, the long-standing tendency for some pagans to tell others “You’re doing it wrong!” seems to be heading closer to fundamentalism to a troubling degree. And so while I don’t want to point at any single claim of “hard polytheism is the best and only way!” as fundamentalist, because of the general trend I do want to put forth a warning against the dangers of falling prey to fundamentalist stances. Allow me to present a few points for consideration.
Any other fluffy neopagans want to say stupid presumptuous shit about Gods without having any idea what they’re talking about?
Sure, we can talk inaccurate historical factoids, like someone saying “OMG HECATE IS THE BEST HERMAPHRODITIC NORSE LOVE DEITY EVAR!” But I…
Wait, who said that deities will smite others, or that the Gods themselves were mad? Did I miss this somewhere?
Presumptuous things about the gods + pretty unhappy looking Poseidon. And in general a lot of the conflicts over “correct practice” tend to, at their core, boil down to “do this/don’t do this or you’ll anger such and such deity”. Just wanted to mention that it seems the humans are the ones who get more apparently upset over this than anyone else.
Poseidon is in that image because it was funny. The “Me” in it refers to me, not him, and you’re the only one who didn’t realize that.
The reason you do or do not do something in Hellenic polytheism has nothing to do with angering the Gods. That’s not how the Hellenic pantheon works. Maybe you shouldn’t talk about religions you don’t understand until AFTER you ask for explanations about things you don’t understand.
Hellenic polytheism, like most of the historical polytheisms, is orthopraxic. On the one hand, this means it won’t tell you what to think, because what you do is more important. On the other hand, THIS MEANS IT TELLS YOU WHAT TO DO. You can’t just fuck around and pretend you’re behaving properly.
As I said, fair enough, I misunderstood. And thank you for taking the time to explain that further.