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Saturday, November 14, 2015

Crossing Lines

  As my regular readers know I almost never get political on this blog. I try to avoid that sort of thing because, quite frankly, that's not what this blog is for.
   However, there's been a recent issue coming up in the wider pagan community*, which is itself just another verse of an older song, relating to elders in paganism making comments that are exclusionary and prejudiced. And that particular issue is more or less concurrent with another hate crime committed by people who may be associated with both White Supremacy and American Asatru. And honestly, yes I'm biased in both cases as someone who is non-binary gendered and who has a Heathen Kindred that includes someone of non-European ancestry, but I'm also just tired of it. And I'm tired of seeing so very many people in the community defending attitudes that exclude minorities with comments like "Yes, but they can have their own communities" and "Yes, but people are set in their ways and shouldn't be expected to change.". What I see is people - usually people not directly effected by the exclusions - making excuses and justifications.
   Seriously, people? That's asinine. I've been kicking around the pagan community for more than two decades and one thing that's always been true, until recently, was that paganism - in general - was a place for outsiders, for boundary pushers, for the minority of the minority. Have we really forgotten our own history so completely? Do we not remember when we were the ones who weren't accepted, weren't tolerated by mainstream society at all? We have a long, long history as a religious movement of pushing other people out of their comfort zones, of saying that we deserve acceptance because we exist, and in existing we have the same rights as everyone else. But now we're going to turn around and say within our own religions that doesn't apply to everyone? I realize some of these problems, especially racism in Asatru, have deep roots, but the hypocrisy needs to be addressed. We can't simultaneously have an attitude that says the rest of society must accept us and give us equal treatment, while refusing to do the same within our own community. We're letting lines be drawn when we, as a wider community have always been about crossing lines.
    I'm not generally against individual groups being able to choose who can and can't join. I'm not against groups controlling membership based on criteria they choose when that criteria makes sense in the context of the group. Individual groups are complex and group dynamics influence these things. An Irish pagan group only including people who follow Irish paganism, makes sense. A Heathen Kindred that is only open to people who honor Norse gods makes sense. A group that includes children choosing to exclude registered sex offenders is common sense. A private group that only lets in people who mesh well with existing members is one thing; a public group that wants to be public but also exclude is another. Groups have specific definition that establish who they are and create boundaries. But, no the color of someone's skin, their ethnicity, their sexual orientation, or their gender identity should not be a factor.
    Being Heathen isn't about having a certain amount of Germanic ancestry, or a certain skin color. Being a woman isn't about having a uterus or a certain chromosome combination. Just like being Pagan isn't about having the biggest pentacle (or Thor's hammer, or triskele or whatever). It's what's inside that defines us, and its always been what's inside that defines us. For people who so poetically say that our connection to our religion, to our Gods, is something internal that we feel we can't turn around and shift those goal posts to say that suddenly what's inside doesn't matter as much as what's outside.
    And if you are going to be a public figure than you are accepting the burden that comes with that, which includes the scrutiny and having your words given more weight than other peoples. If you are considered an elder then you should strive to be someone worth looking up to - or don't look for that position. When you speak publicly, when you take public stands on issues, for good or ill, your voice is louder and carries further than someone else's. Make your words count. Make sure you are speaking from a place of wisdom and compassion, not of fear. There is too much fear in the world already, we don't need more of it.
    So the next time anyone says that someone doesn't belong in the Pagan community, at a public ritual or event, or in a national organization because of an external factor, don't just make excuses. We, as a community fought for and earned the right to follow our religion in prison, in school, in the military. We fought for and earned the right to have a symbol of our faith on a military headstone. We have fought for the right to be acknowledged and given the same basic rights as every other religion. Don't turn your backs on that history now by deciding that our inclusiveness, our sense of community only applies if you look like you fit in.
      Either we stand together, or we fall.

*obviously all of this is aimed very generally, and I am using the term "Paganism" and "our religion" as blanket terms to cover the diverse traditions and groups within the wider community. 

11 comments:

  1. BRAVA, Morgan! Our groups must stand up and disavow those who try to use our symbols for evil purposes.

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    1. How sad that the younger generation has fallen hook, line and sinker for self disdain, being so fearful of being racially aware and proud, that you consider it "evil." I do not see anyone referring to any other racial group being proud of their race as "evil intentions." Here in America, blacks are completely free to be proud to be black and call us honkies and crackers, etc. Hispanics would look at you confused and incredulous if you tried to tell them not to be proud Hispanics! We EuroFolk have created a country of freedom for everyone but ourselves! And now it is suggested that worshiping with others descended from European ancestors and using OUR ancient symbols is somehow evil? Get it. There is nothing wrong with being proud of your race and your heritage, and your gods. Not even, for white Europeans. I know, nobody ever tells it to you straight like that. The ancient Celtic peoples were so proud even the Romans recorded their pride and jauntiness! Time we reconstructed THAT trait in our people along with the religion that made them strong and great. But it may be too late.

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  2. So been fighting this battle on one of the groups that I admin. Tapadh leat.

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  3. No group truly has the power to dictate who can practice a religion in the US. With that said, if a group is exclusionary, even at racial or ethnic or sexual preference levels, it does not make them bad. We have the right to practice our religion of choice with the people we choose. That there is and shall be continued disagreement over viewpoints is natural and good. We can all do our own thing and start our own groups that meet our needs and desires. Personally, I think we can all do with less negativity of calling people racists for their preferences, especially since racism itself is inclusive of all races. I also feel that heterosexual people should not be forced to accept homosexual people in a group anymore than the opposite. Forced inclusion based on liberal socialist ideals is oppressive. I have enjoyed and appreciate your educational blogs, Morgan, and will continue to do so. You have my thanks for your continued efforts.

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    1. Absolutely right on. The European (everywhere) has been so brainwashed that he is the caretaker of all the other peoples, he is now endangered himself, which to me, is the very goal of this "politically correct" culture which seeks to erase all the traditions and heritage which made the European great, strong and free. I have participated in all types of groups and circles, and those whose members share a common ground of heritage, race and beliefs, have the strongest ties, the strongest groups, the best energy, and the most fun! It is energizing to receive, toast and pass the horn in such a circle and watch the faces of your own kind, hear their toasts to our old gods, feel the kinship of the blood. No "politically correct" group even comes close. I wonder sometimes if the "politically correct" leaders sense the ancient instinct and strength of unified traditional EuroFolk and fear it, and see the "melting pot" as a way to dilute that strength.

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  5. The "do your own thing" stuff also sounds good enough if you are in an area with multiple groups that it's possible to join, but not so much in a less populated area, in which people of color and GLBTQ folks likely need *more* inclusion and support, not less. What I've often heard from folkish Heathen groups is this perception that people with the "wrong" identities must have some insincere or political motivation for wanting to be Heathen or join a particular kindred, while people with the "right" identities are given the benefit of the doubt. Heck, if anything people of color with an interest in Paganism of various sorts are often *more* sincere than a lot of white folk, in part because of the crap they're up against. They often have to "prove" how "Truly Pagan" they are, while white hippies ( or pseudo-Vikings) that just want to party are let in without question.

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  6. I really respect your knowledge and translations. In order to support this article, can you point to ancient Druids who fostered others outside of their European people in their inner religious circles? Do we know of public Druid rituals which invited other peoples than the Celts to participate? Didn't they keep everything by memory and select only the finest and most capable minds to even teach their religion and practices to? Can you expound on how this modern "everybody can be a Druid" outlook to the actual ancients we are attempting to reconstruct? I mean, if we are Celtic re-constructionists, should we not consider this aspect of the ancients as well? Also, there was the practice of keeping even the name of the gods and goddesses secret within a clan or tribe, because of a taboo against of sharing that power, or the names of powers to outsiders for fear it would be corrupted or angered or stolen from that tribal group. It is so popular to invite everybody into a group or ritual regardless of heritage. I am personally cautious as to being in the presence of someone else's god in a circle, or of inviting my powers into a circle with strangers or those whom I do not really know what is in their spirits. If you have a party at your home, you do not invite folks who are not going to mesh. I know this is all good and politically and socially correct. But just as you have your right to believe all-inclusion, so do others have the right to believe otherwise, and in a free society, both outlooks have equal rights to respect. I would not want to go to a ritual with a Catholic priest in full regalia. I would walk away if a muslim came to invoke Allah in that circle. I refuse to worship in a circle of devil worshipers. Some of these moderns invoke vampire powers which to me do not exist, but then there is that "energy" wasted in the circle of power. Those invoking powers in direct conflict with mine...what kind of a ritual is that? Not a Celtic Druid one! I once heard of a "Roman Druid" and without thinking, said, there is no such thing! Romans KILLED OFF Druids, yet I have read of Roman Druids in a "druid" organization magazine. That may be a great pagan (and I too respect Roman and Greek powers) but it is sure not DRUID! Call yourself a pagan, a Wiccan, a Roman, whatever but why pull out a Druid card in a Roman pack? Instead of assuming negative racial motives, might it be that some who call themselves Heathens and Odinists (and even Druids) are in fact attempting to reconstruct the ancient religions they follow AS THEY WERE PRACTICED? As they BELIEVE and as their powers reveal to them? If you want to develop a one-world new religion, go for it, but claim a new name for it, too. And have you thought about the implication that you say "public" rituals should all be open to everyone? And why would a circle of all Celts worshiping Celtic powers be so offensive in a public area? Why should we not be perfectly free and encouraged to worship with those "like us?" Who declared that to be such a horrible thing? To the ancients we are descended from and whose gods and goddesses we worship, it was clan and tribe and family and every member could recite the bloodline! If a circle wants to maintain "like minds and race and spirit", it is their right to do so without having to be regarded askance for not being politically correct. (And just what god hovers over the politically correct?) If a group wants to have little green martians, unicorns and purple people, they should have the same right and we should welcome the very diversity between all groups as evidence the pagan path is diversified enough for all and there is a place for us all, but each group has the right to enjoy freedom to be and to worship as their spirits call and their gods bless them.

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    1. Well, firstly I'd like to be clear that I did say that I have no issue with a group that has a specific focus limiting inclusion to those with that focus - my exact words in the blog above are "An Irish pagan group only including people who follow Irish paganism, makes sense. A Heathen Kindred that is only open to people who honor Norse gods makes sense." So I am in no way advocating that catholic priests in full regalia attend a Druid ritual, for example.
      Also, I do believe there is a big difference between private and public rituals. If its in my home then I can decide who attends based on any criteria I want, including simply "I don't like that person". If its part of a major pagan conference or event, then I think there's a necessary level of openness - and if people don't like that they simply shouldn't offer certain things in certain venues.
      I also want to say, I think you may be reading some things into my post that I didn't actually say. For one thing I never said "anyone can be a Druid". I happen to think being a Druid requires years of study and practice and it isn't for everyone. I'm not a fan of the modern "its a philosophy anyone can follow" approach, although I certainly can't stop people from viewing it that way.
      The Romans and Greeks observed Druid rituals, public ones anyway, and wrote about them so its pretty clear that outsiders were allowed to attend some things. Read Freeman's "War, Women, and Druids" for examples. As far as I know the names of deities were not secret and were recorded in inscriptions as well as stories. I'd also note that tribal groups did practice adoption of non-members, inter-marriage, and fostering between groups. The Norse were pretty well known to take wives during raids, for example.
      Ultimately our ancestry may give us a stronger connection to a culture, but the Gods call who they will. Does that mean you have to include absolutely everyone in your own group? Of course not. But public groups and organizations that want to exclude people based on things that are considered racist, sexist, or homophobic will have to deal with the public opinion that comes with that.
      Also I'd not that CR was founded as explicitly anti-racist and inclusive http://www.paganachd.com/faq/misconceptions.html#racist

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