“Environmental law is failing. And it will continue to fail because it comes from the same paradigm that created the problem.” — Mumta Ito
Being a blogger is a nasty business, I’ve learned.
I started writing this blog for myself, as a kind of spiritual journal. But it quickly drew attention of others.
And then I started to notice that the negative things I wrote drew a lot more attention than the positive things. So I wrote more negative pieces. And that drew more attention. And that trend has continued. Continue reading “No really, I’m done.”
“A Single Garment of Destiny”
In his penultimate sermon, delivered on March 31, 1968, at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke of our interconnectedness:
“Through our scientific and technological genius, we have made of this world a neighborhood and yet we have not had the ethical commitment to make of it a brotherhood. But somehow, and in some way, we have got to do this. We must all learn to live together as brothers or we will all perish together as fools. We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the way God’s universe is made; this is the way it is structured.”
The author observes that “Wiccans can have a difficult time being taken seriously by mainstream culture.” That does seem to be true generally of Wiccans and other Pagans. (The author seems to conflate Wicca with contemporary Paganism.) Though, it should be said, I don’t think being mocked by Fox News is necessarily a bad thing. Continue reading “Why Wiccans Get Made Fun Of”
Here’s a song for the first full day of spring.
“Spring” by Bill Callahan
Today is the Spring Equinox (in the northern hemisphere). Many Neo-Pagans celebrate this day as “Ostara”. Although we like to pretend it has ancient origins, it’s little more than a bastardized version of the Christian Easter.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Continue reading “An Unorthodox Eostur: The Mesopotamian Origins of Ostara?”
You too can join the Patheos family and support the NRA. It’s just 3 easy steps!
About 5 years ago I had a dream. I’ve been thinking about it again recently as I consider the relationship of my spirituality and my activism to contemporary Paganism. Continue reading “A Prescient Dream?”
Recently, the management of the popular Pagan blogging platform, Patheos Pagan, bowed to corporate pressure again.
… and in other non-news, Donald Trump is still President of the United States. Continue reading “Patheos Pagan Caves to Cereal Company”
There are vigils being held around the country right now for the victims of the latest school shooting. I think these vigils are important: They bring home the tragedy of what has happened. Without these rituals, there is the risk that these terrible events will just sweep by us in the 24-hour news cycle, leaving us unchanged.
But vigils and prayers are not enough. Continue reading ““Pray Working” at PrayWithYourFeet.org”
I have a pattern of burning bridges when I am moving beyond something.
It’s probably connected to how I look at the past–mostly a repository of mistakes I wish I could have avoided. Continue reading “Burning Bridges”
Patheos-apologist John Beckett has written a 1-year anniversary retrospective about the exodus of about two dozen Pagan writers from the Patheos blogging platform, which just highlights again why Beckett still doesn’t get it.
If you need some background to the Pagan exodus from Patheos (or “Pexit” as those who like to be dismissive have been calling it), then check out this summary at Huffington Post or this one at Gods & Radicals.
Now back to why Beckett is a tool … Continue reading “6 Reason Why John Beckett is a Tool: Reflections on the Pagan Exodus from Patheos”
1. It’s not like in the books.
Like a lot of other Pagans, I read a lot of books about Pagans before I ever actually met another Pagan in the flesh. My first sources for my image of the contemporary Pagan came from Ronald Hutton’s Triumph of the Moon (1999), Margot Adler’s Drawing Down the Moon (1979, 1986, 1996, 2006), and Starhawk’s The Spiral Dance (1979, 1989, 1999). The first was academic, the second journalistic, and the third rhapsodic. As a result, my pre-formed image of Pagans was somewhat idealized. (I once heard Margot Adler admit in an interview that the Paganism she and Starthawk described in their respective books as more of an ideal than a reality.) I have since learned that the best way to learn about a religion is not by reading a book about it, but by going and seeing the real thing. Continue reading “Nine Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Became Pagan”
I recently met someone who described himself as “Pagan-adjacent”, which I thought was an interesting self-designation. He was a (self-described) “angry atheist” who followed atheism to its logical end and was left wanting. He intuited that there was something else–something bigger and/or deeper–but no one seemed to be writing or talking about it. Then he discovered David Abram’s Spell of the Sensuous, which he experienced as revolutionary.
He told me that he knows “in his bones” that “the sacred is in the soil and the wind,” but he is turned off by a lot of what he sees in the Pagan community. By way of example, he told me about an encounter with a Pagan group where he heard one person talking about how great the divination app on her phone was. I know what he is talking about. What has a divination app to do with the sacred soil?
I’ve felt pretty much the same way for 15 years, for as long as I have been calling myself “Pagan” in fact. I came to the Pagan community because I thought here was where I would find that something bigger and deeper. But almost everywhere I look, I see the small and shallow. Almost everywhere I look, I see Pagans reproducing the disenchantment of the mainstream culture. Continue reading “Pagan with a small “p””
“Once upon a time Gods and heroes walked the Earth. People encountered dragons and faeries often enough that no one would think of questioning their existence. Most importantly, magic was a part of everyday life. The world was enchanted.”
So begins John Beckett’s recently review of The Myth of Disenchantment: Magic, Modernity and the Birth of the Human Sciences by Jason Josephson-Storm. Josephson-Storm’s thesis is that “Disenchantment is a myth. The majority of people in the heartland of disenchantment believe in magic or spirits today, and it appears that they did so at the high point of modernity. Education does not directly result in disenchantment.”
In his review, Beckett briefly discusses belief in the supernatural among icons of modernity like Freud and concludes that, rather than “reenchanting the world”, we need “to maintain our commitment to the enchanted lives we already have”, by which he seems to mean: Keep on believing in magic … and apparently fairies and dragons too. Continue reading “The Fairies Have Left the Building: Enchantment is an Experience, Not a Belief”
Holding vigil at First Unitarian Church
This past Sunday, I stood in front of my Unitarian church in Hobart, Indiana, and held a “Black Lives Matter” sign.
I did this during regular church services in lieu of participating in the services. My congregation has been discussing placing a Black Lives Matter sign in front of the church for about two years now. We have displayed the sign as we participated in the community’s Fourth of July parade, but we haven’t displayed the sign on the church property yet. Recently, it occurred to me that, even if the congregation does not want to put up a sign, I can be a sign: I can hold a Black Lives Matter sign on the public sidewalk in front of the church.
1. Yule is NOT a minor sabbat.
Whenever I hear a Pagan say that the winter solstice is a “minor Sabbat”, I can’t help but roll my eyes. What exactly makes it “minor”? Because Margaret Murray only listed the cross-quarters as witches’ sabbats? Because Gerald Gardner only added the quarter days as an afterthought and his followers like the way the druids did it?
There are 8 stations on the Neo-Pagan Wheel of the Year. Why would one spoke of a wheel be minor and another major, especially in a tradition that emphasizes balance? And if one is going to be minor, why the winter solstice of all days? After all, it’s the day the light begins to return, the day most of Western civilization is praising the birth of the Son/Sun. Continue reading “7 Reasons This Pagan Celebrates Christmas”
A recent article by Mark Morrison-Reed in UU World, the Unitarian Universalist Association magazine, about the “black hole” in UU history, got me thinking about the connection between UU worship and race. According to Morriso-Reed, for all our proclaimed progressiveness, it seems we UUs have not really ever taken the lead in the fight against racism–internally or externally. I’ve been thinking about this history a lot lately, as my own UU congregation is discussing whether to display a “Black Lives Matter” sign on the church property. One part of Morrison-Reed’s article in particular jumped out at me: Continue reading “Is UU Atheism a Form of White Privilege?”
Paganism is at a turning point. It’s been 50 years since contemporary Paganism got its start. It’s time for Paganism to grow up.
Stages of Faith
Note that I didn’t say that it’s time for Pagans to grow up. Different people are at different point in their life’s journey. Childhood and adolescence are important stages of development. There are stages in a person’s religious or spiritual development as well. And, as much as most of us would have liked to skip adolescence, it’s not possible to skip stages. The same is true of spiritual adolescence. Continue reading “5 Ways Paganism Needs to Grow Up”
I write this letter to the man I met this past Sunday in front of my Unitarian church while I was holding a homemade sign which read “Black Lives Matter”.
Continue reading “To the Man Who Spit on My Black Lives Matter Sign Sunday”
To polytheists, the gods are sacred. But atheist Pagans don’t believe in gods. What is sacred to an atheist Pagans? Some polytheists mistakenly assume that an absence of gods must mean an absence of sacrality.
I’ve had polytheists come right out and say that, because I don’t believe in gods, then nothing is sacred or holy to me. Implied in that statement is the belief that there is nothing sacred or holy in the world except the gods. I would have a hard time imaging a less “pagan” statement than that.
Now, as far as I am concerned, you can be Pagan and a polytheist, or a duotheist, or a Goddess-worshipping monotheist, or a pantheist, or an animist, or a non-theist, or an atheist—if you want to call yourself one. I’m not interested in trying to push anybody out of the Big Tent of Paganism. But I do not understand a Paganism which cannot find the holy or the sacred in the earth or our bodies or in our relationships.
I was recently invited to the New Orleans Pagan Pride Day this year to lead the opening ritual. I also led a couple workshops on activism and non-theistic Paganism and joined Bart Everson, Nicole Youngman, and Emily Snyder in a panel discussion on the same topics.
I wanted to share the opening ritual here. I’ve written before how protest marches can be like Pagan ritual. Here, I tried bring together elements of Pagan ritual with elements of political protest. I tried to bring together the myth of the Wild Hunt with social action, blurring the line between a religious procession and a protest march. Rather than standing in a circle with our backs to the world, I wanted the ritual to be focused outward. And I wanted to raise energy without dispersing it cathartically, so as to motivate social activism. I also wanted to tie the ritual to the place where the ritual was held, so references were made to environmental devastation, and racial and LGBT violence perpetrated in or near New Orleans. Continue reading “The Wild Hunt for Justice: At the Intersection of Ritual and Protest”
Kimberly Kirner has written a thoughtful response to my essay at Gods & Radicals, “Escaping the Otherworld: The Reenchantment of Paganism.” Kirner specifically took issue with the my assumption “that worldview is important because it drives actionable outcomes in the world” and that some worldviews lead to a disenchantment of the world. Continue reading “Why Worldview Matters: A Response to Kimberly Kirner”
I’m no stranger to conflict in Pagan circles. Over the years, I have noticed similar themes arise when I come into conflict with other Pagans. These themes can be summarized as five lies that Pagans tell themselves.
Continue reading “These Things Aren’t True: Five Falsehoods in the Pagan Community”
I’ve always loved Halloween. I come by it naturally, as it’s also my mother’s favorite holiday. She used to make our costumes herself — and not just one but usually three, for each of us — one for school, one for church, and one for trick-or-treating. And we almost always won the costume contests. I love the costumes, the trick-or-treating, the whole scary-but-fun atmosphere. And then there’s the fact that it’s the only time of the year a straight guy can be flamboyant without apology in this homophobic American culture.
So when I became Pagan, I was ready to embrace Halloween as a Pagan holy day. I was disappointed to learn that most Pagans celebrate Samhain as a kind of Pagan Day of the Dead or All Souls Day, with little to no connection to the secular celebration of Halloween. Continue reading “Forget Samhain: Halloween as a Pagan Holy Day”
“There is another world and it is this one.”
Aside from the fact that no one seems certain how to pronounce it, the name “Mabon” is a poor choice for the holy day. As with “Lughnasadh”, the “Mabon” is only tenuously related to the season or the Neo-Pagan mythos relating to the season. Of all eight holidays, Mabon has the worst name of all of them. Continue reading “The Worst Named Pagan Holiday”
“It is time for spiritual people to get active and the activist people to get spiritual. I think we need both now. In order to build the alternatives to our collapsing system which is built on structural violence we need to have a total revolution of the human spirit. We need to combine the inner revolution with the outer revolution.” — Pancho Ramos-Stierele, age 26, arrested at Occupy Oakland while mediating
The first time I walked into a Unitarian church, I was looking for spiritual sanctuary. I was still recovering from my faith transition away from the religion of my birth. Unitarian Universalism offered a community of people, many of whom also had rejected traditional Christianity for one reason or another, but like me still believed in the power of religion to effect personal and social transformation. Many of the people I met in the Unitarian church were also seeking sanctuary from a Christian-dominated culture. Others were looking for an activist community which would support their work for racial, economic, and environmental justice, women’s rights, and LGBT equality. Some people were looking for both.
Over the years, I heard some of the more activist-oriented people say that they found their spirituality in activism. Being more sanctuary-oriented at the time, I would think to myself: “Clearly you don’t know what spirituality is.” Spirituality, for me, was very inwardly focused. It had more to do with personal development than social change. It turns out, it was I that didn’t know what activism was. Over the last few years, as I have become more and more involved in activism, I have made a discovery: I have discovered a kind of spirituality in activism. Continue reading “The Spirituality of Protest”
Yesterday, I watched the news about Republicans condemning Trump (not all of them), and I felt a combination of relief and exasperation.
“So this is what it takes for the conservative guardians of the status quo to take a stand against racism,” I thought. Nazis! Honest-to-god Nazis. Nazis and a dead woman. Well, Nazis and a dead white woman.
My recent post “’You’re Not Fucking Gandalf’: 12 Movies to Remind You That Pagans Need to Grow Up” just hit the high mark of the most read post ever here on AllergicPagan.com. This prompted me to go back and pull out an old post about the fraught relationship between blogging and sensationalism which I wrote last year.
So I’m watching Rachel Maddow tonight–something about threats to fire special investigator Bob Mueller–and I hear a name: Jay Sekelow. He’s Trump’s lawyer. Where have I heard that name before?
Oh, yeah. In connection with the Patheos Pagan controversy! Continue reading “What Does Trump’s Lawyer Have to Do With the Patheos Pagan Channel?”
“No one ever told us we had to study our lives,make of our lives a study, as if learning natural historyor music, that we should beginwith the simple exercises firstand slowly go on tryingthe hard ones, practicing till strengthand accuracy became one with the daringto leap into transcendence …– And in fact we can’t live like that: we take oneverything at once before we’ve even begunto read or mark time, we’re forced to beginin the midst of the hardest movement,the one already sounding as we are born.”— Adrienne Rich, “Transcendental Etude”
In light of the hate and violence seen this past weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, I feel it’s important to raise again an issue which is frequently debated both in Pagan and Religious Naturalist circles: the relationship between religion and politics or between spirituality and activism.
This past weekend, my teenaged daughter and I joined hundreds of protesters on the streets of Lincoln, Nebraska to protest the KXL pipeline. To get there, we took a bus from Chicago with other activists. As we rode the bus 12 hours, I was conscious of the fact that we were using fossil fuel to go to a protest of the fossil fuel industry. I chose to take the bus instead of driving (which would have been shorter and would have spared by knees) in part because it was the more environmentally responsible choice, i.e., the cumulative impact of taking the bus was less than everyone driving individually. But I’ve driven to other protests before. Continue reading “Yes, I Drove My SUV to the Environmental Protest”
I’ve been slowly coming around to the idea that “magic” is a word that intelligent people can use in a meaningful (albeit nuanced) way. But then I come across listicles like John Beckett’s recent “12 Movies to Inspire Your Magic” and I go back to square one.
I swear, I tried not to write this post. I put in on the back burner. I slept on it. But Beckett’s post keeps popping up in my FB feed (probably because his listicle-loving editor, Jason Mankey, keeps promoting it). So here goes …. Continue reading ““You’re Not Fucking Gandalf”: 12 Movies to Remind You That Pagans Need to Grow Up”
The Pagan Wheel of the Year bugs me. The timing of the cross-quarters bugs me. The meaning attached of several of the eight stations bugs me. And the names of most of the days bugs me. Right, now I’m just going to focus on Lughnasadh, though, since it’s right around the corner. Continue reading “Lughna-say-what? What to Call This Pagan Holiday”
That’s me in the corner
That’s me in the spotlight
Losing my religion
Trying to keep up with you
And I don’t know if I can do it
Oh no, I’ve said too much
I haven’t said enough
— “Losing My Religion”, R.E.M.
I remember when I was in high school and Indiana changed its license plate to include the phrase “Amber Waves of Grain”. It pissed people off. I mean, really pissed people off. Because in Indiana, we grow corn and soybeans, not wheat. While technically corn is a grain, it’s not amber. While the phrase was poetic, it just did not speak of “home” to the people of the Hoosier State. That’s kind of how I feel about Lughnasadh. Continue reading “Why I’m Boycotting Lughnasadh Again”
I love books. I probably feel more at home bookstores and libraries than I do in my own house. Books have had a profound influence on my spiritual evolution. In fact, I can mark certain spiritual transitions by the books I was reading.
This is the second of two posts about the books that have served as markers on the path of my spiritual journey. The first part consisted of the books that influenced me before I was Pagan. This list begins with my discovery of Paganism. There’s actually only a couple of books that are Pagan, per se, and one of them is a history book, which probably says something about my Paganism.
Note, this is not a list of my favorite books, but books that changed the course of my religious life. The dates below are the dates I read the books (to the best of my recollection), not the dates of publication. Continue reading “10 Books that Shaped My Spiritual Journey (Paganism and Beyond)”
I love books. I probably feel more at home bookstores and libraries than I do in my own house. Books have had a profound influence on my spiritual evolution. In fact, I can mark certain spiritual transitions by the books I was reading at the time.
This is the first of two posts about the books that have served as markers on the path of my spiritual journey. This first part lists the books that impacted me before I discovered Paganism. This is not a list of my favorite books, but books that changed the course of my religious life. The dates below are the dates I read the books (to the best of my recollection), not the dates of publication. Continue reading “10 Books that Shaped My Spiritual Journey (Before Paganism)”
I was raised to be afraid of Black men. This was communicated in many subtle and not-so-subtle ways, from my sweet-as-pie grandmother whispering the word “Black” like she was afraid one of “them” would hear her, to the ways our media, from entertainment to the news, portray Black men as dangerous.
This fear of Black men was perpetuated by unfamiliarity. I grew up in the rural Midwest, in a middle class family. The neighborhoods I lived in and the schools I went to were almost entirely white. I interacted with Black people only in superficial ways in public. And except for my best friend in second grade, I had no Black friends. Though I was taught to be “colorblind” and to abhor (overt) racism, I had very little meaningful contact with Black people. As a result of this combination of racist messaging and unfamiliarity, I developed a racist fear of Black men.
It’s shameful. I would have denied it if anyone accused me of it. But it’s true. It’s real. And it’s not just me. Studies have shown that Black men are generally perceived as more threatening than White men, even when the only difference is the color of their skin. At the same time, the reality is that it is Black men who are really in danger. Black men are in much more danger around Whites than Whites are around them. This is becoming overwhelmingly clear as video after video of police shooting Black men is released.
I once heard Aidan Kelly tell a story about attending a Pagan handfasting, where he heard words which he had written years before rehearsed by the ritual participants. But rather than crediting Kelly, the ritual leader said the text was ancient Pagan lore. It must have been an odd mixture of jealousy and pride that Kelly felt.
I felt a little of that recently when I perused John Beckett’s recently published book, The Path of Paganism. I will be writing a more detailed review in a subsequent post, but I wanted to quickly address something that popped out at me. In his book, Beckett writes about the “Four Centers of Paganism”, a model for understanding the Pagan community not in terms of a single center or core, but rather multiple centers: Nature, the Gods, the Self, and Community: Continue reading “Plagiarism is the Highest Form of Praise”
Midsummer in the Shire
This year, the summer solstice falls on June 20 or June 21, depending on your time zone. The summer solstice is the longest day of the year and the apogee of the light. In the Neo-Pagan religious tradition, the summer solstice is called “Litha”. It is one of eight holidays on the Neo-Pagan Wheel of the Year.
The name “Litha” is first found in the writings of the the 8th century monk, the Venerable Bede, who recorded that “Litha” was Anglo-Saxon name for the intercalendary time between June and July. But the reason why Neo-Pagans use the word “Litha” has less to do with an 8th century monk, and more to do with Hobbits.
Jason Mankey and I are both amateur Pagan history nerds. One thing we often disagree about is the importance of Gerald Gardner in the history of contemporary Paganism. In a recent post entitled, “Magick & Deity are Two of the Foundations of Modern Paganism“, Jason Mankey argues that “almost all early Modern Paganisms contained two rather noticeable traits: belief in magick and/or deity.” I would agree, with this caveat: that the term “deity” is undefined. If you’re going to claim that a belief in deity is one of the foundations of modern Paganism, then it’s important to be clear what you mean by “deity”. Continue reading “The Foundations of Modern Paganism, Part 1: Was Gerald Gardner a Jungian?”
I went to see Wonder Woman last night … for the second time. It’s not what I would call a “great movie”, but it is great fun. (And I have a bit of a crush on Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman.) If you want to a read a good review of the film from a Pagan perspective, check out Heather Greene’s article at The Wild Hunt, “Of gods and love: a discussion of DC’s new film Wonder Woman.”
Christian Revisionism in Wonder Woman
I have very few criticisms of the film, but one thing that jumped out at me was the characterization of the villain, Ares, the god of war. Ares’ backstory comes near the beginning of the film. We are told that Zeus created mankind righteous and good. But Ares, the God of War, grew envious of his father’s new creation and “poisoned their hearts with jealousy and suspicion,” encouraging them to war. That’s when Zeus created the Amazon women to influence men’s hearts with love and restore peace on earth. It worked, but only for a time, and Ares waged a war against the gods, killing them one by one, until Zeus used the last of his power to defeat Ares.
This might not be obvious to someone who is still steeped in a Christian paradigm, but to a Pagan like me, this is obviously a Christianization of Greek myth, with Zeus taking the role of the Christian God and Ares taking the role of Satan — making Wonder Woman a female Jesus. Similar Christian revisionism can be seen in the movie Clash of the Titans and the animated movie Hercules, in which Zeus and Hades (god of the underworld) take on parallel roles. Continue reading “How Wonder Woman Both Perpetuates and Challenges Christian Dualism”
In a recent post entitled, “What American Gods Tells Us About the Need for Religious Ecstasy“, I speculated that one of the reasons Neo-Paganism seems to be on the decline and Devotional Polytheism on the rise, is that the former no longer offers the experience of ecstasy or transcendence to many people, while the latter does. In response, Rua Lupa argued that “the search for transcendence or ecstasy in order to have a ‘deep religious experience’ is frankly hedonistic.”
I am sympathetic to the argument that pursuing “peak experiences” for their own sake can be problematic. At its most benign, “blissing out” may be “purely aesthetic”, but at worst, it can resemble drug seeking behavior. Nevertheless, I believe there are real benefits to seeking out mystical or ecstatic states. Continue reading “3 Reasons to Seek Out Profound Religious Experiences”
I am an atheist north by northwest.
But when the wind is southerly, I know a deity from a deist.
If you were to tell me your god is a person like you, I would tell you I am an atheist.
But if you tell me you believe in no god, I will testify the world is full of them.
If you were to tell me there is only one true god, I would tell you I contain multitudes.
But if you tell me your gods are many, I will tell you I have faith in an unseen unity.
If you were to tell me my gods are just in my head, I would point to the earth and say, “Praise!”
But if you tell me your gods are real, I will point to your head and say, “Behold!”
If you were to tell me your god is good, I would offer to sell you some more.
But if you tell me your gods are dark, I will remind you of the words of the oracle: “Know thyself.”
If you were to tell me you don’t know about the gods, I would call you wise.
But if you tell me you don’t care about the gods, I will not call you at all.
In spite of everything, it seems I’m still driving at least some of the conversation at, and hence making money for, Patheos (and their advertisers). Continue reading “You’re Welcome Patheos”