So this post/rant is designed to not only defend my own integrity, but to look aghast at the people who claim that religious privilege does not exist, yet they exercise it nonetheless.
Don Frew, a Gardnerian High Priest and interfaith worker, published a piece which I mentioned in another blog. I gave my thoughts on the matter and also over the course of several posts, recorded mine and my Temple’s experiences with an approaching Pagan Pride Day event that’s planned for this fall a little bit south of where I live. (You can actually follow my posts in chronological order here, here, here). Sannion brought to my attention the fact that my experiences were being totally dismissed. I was surprised, and today I went to go to the Comments section of Don’s blog to read for myself the comments made about me and my blog.
I would really like to be given a concrete, verifiable example of someone “being told to water down their religion.” In over 28 years of interfaith work I have NEVER heard of such a thing! I would also like an example of someone being told to “stop being confusing.” If any interfaith representative has ever said these things, they were WRONG! The whole point of interfaith work is to welcome and accept people as they are, with all their differences of faith and practice.
Aine responded with:
Oracle (caveoforacle.wordpress.com) just wrote about being told to change his group’s ritual for a Pagan Pride event.
But maybe that isn’t good enough? I’d like to know what a ‘concrete, verifiable example’ would look like. Should we have emails, screenshots? What if it’s being told to our faces that we need to water down our religion or change our rituals cause they’re too confusing?
First, I’d like to thank Aine, because honestly she is holding her own here. Don wants verifiable evidence, because he is not willing to take people at their word. That’s interesting, considering that for many decades Wiccans were persecuted by the general public and had no verifiable way to record most of it. They simply took each other at their word, and rallied to defend their own. For some reason, however, the measure is being placed squarely so it can be analyzed and scanned by someone who is in a privileged position to demand that evidence.
Now, in order to retort, I would like to break down Don’s responses and respond to each in kind. It’s the only way that it will be more aesthetically pleasing to the eye, help me make sense of what’s written to you (without you needing to scroll up and down constantly), and give full context. If you’d like Don’s entire streamline comment without the breaks, feel free to go to his blog and scroll down through the comments section until you get to it. *cracks knuckles* So, here we go:
If you are looking for an example, this isn’t a very good one. The link you gave goes to an article at Cave of the Oracle. That article talks about issues with the Covenant of the Goddess and the Pagan Pride Project and provides a link to “COG’s website”. The problem is that the link does NOT go to COG’s website; it goes to the Pagan Pride website. The Oracle then goes on to address problem’s with this website, including the statement “Beneath that is COG’s PPD Project definition of Paganism:”. Again, this is NOT COG’s definition of Paganism; it is Pagan Pride’s definition of Paganism. In fact, a search for “COG” on the Pagan Pride website in question leads to a single link to a DFW Pagan Pride day that has none of the informaton the Oracle attributes to COG. (A search for “Covenant of the Goddess” on this site produces no result at all.) I think it’s fair to consider the information on this site to be unverified when so much of the information being presented is not, in fact, verifiable.
MY RESPONSE: When you click on the link on my article, “Interfaith and Polytheism,” it sends you to the website of the Pagan Pride Project. So you are correct sir, it doesn’t go to CoG’s website. It goes to the Pagan Pride Project’s website. I made the mistake of combining the two entities, because the person or persons in charge of the event are affiliated with CoG. A presumption on my part, but an easy error to fix. If you wanted clarification, Don, all you had to do was simply ask. Or point out that I made an error. Sometimes that happens. Silly people making mistakes. However, it’s no secret that CoG’s local councils are often the ones that sponsor local PPD’s. This information comes from a Patheos article from August 20, 2o12 titled, “Why the Covenant of the Goddess is vital to Wicca’s future.” It’s true, too, that Pagan Pride Project has a much broader definition of Paganism than does Covenant of the Goddess.
From CoG: Pagan a practitioner of an Earth Religion; from the Latin paganus, a country dweller.
From PPD: A Pagan or NeoPagan is someone who self-identifies as a Pagan, and whose spiritual or religious practice or belief fits into one or more of the following categories:
- Honoring, revering, or worshipping a Deity or Deities found in pre-Christian, classical, aboriginal, or tribal mythology; and/or
- Practicing religion or spirituality based upon shamanism, shamanic, or magickal practices; and/or
- Creating new religion based on past Pagan religions and/or futuristic views of society, community, and/or ecology;
- Focusing religious or spiritual attention primarily on the Divine Feminine; and/or
- Practicing religion that focuses on earth based spirituality.
So, when anyone (including a CoG sponsor) wants to host a Pagan Pride Day event, it logically follows that they need to go by the rules of the Pagan Pride Project, and not those by CoG, correct? Because, after all, it’s not a CoG event; it’s a Pagan Pride Project event, which means the definition of “Pagan” allows for much more flexibility since not every polytheist faith is an earth-based religion. But despite the mistakes in the links, Mr. Frew asserts, “I think it’s fair to consider the information on this site to be unverified when so much of the information being presented is not, in fact, verifiable.” Hmmm….let’s continue.
The Oracle, on the link you provided Aine, did not say anything about being told to “water down” their tradition. He said that when the group discussed performing a joint ritual for the public, they wanted it be simple and generic, i.e. approachable for the general public. It was in this narrow context that a comment about a polytheist ritual being “too confusing” came up. As I read it, he was not told that he had to change his ritual, but that in a combined ritual with other Pagans, his group’s ritual form was not the comrpomise they sought. Whether or not I agree with this, it is about presenting a simple unified face to the public when several different Pagans are trying to do ritual together, NOT about changing who you are when talking to other interfaith representatives.
MY RESPONSE: 9th paragraph down from my blog Interfaith and Polytheism: “I want my Temple to participate in a local Pagan Pride Day that’s approaching. But, we are being told that a “generic Pagan” ritual is the way to go. Why? Because non-Pagans think we’re all the same. A polytheist ritual would be “too confusing.” And someone suggested that we should be inclusive, so they suggested the ritual format of another organization called ADF. So: be inclusive, be generic, but a suggestion was made to use the ritual format by an existing organization. How does that make sense?”
We never discussed a joint ritual for the public. Ever. If you want to know the actual conversation that took place, you’d need to be invited onto the Facebook forum and get the screenshots. Because, seriously, it’s even ridiculous that someone whom I have never met (and vice versa), is drawing a lot of conclusions which are just way off. SO I don’t have neither the time nor the patience to give screenshot after screenshot. But let me clarify some points, for professionalism’s sake: According to the coordinator, this was their words on the subject:
“Due to the time of year, the national org recommends an eclectic harvest theme.”
I asked if I could toss out some ideas. I was encouraged to, but with this caveat:
“The recommendation is that we make sure it’s not an overtly wiccan or heathen or druid , etc ritual, to be inclusive of the diverse group of pagans who would be there, and Palatable for the non pagans who stumble upon it or decide to check it out, without watering down the purpose. Simple, LOL.”
This person was joking, because they knew this would be no simple task. However I didn’t agree, and I stated it time and again that I didn’t see why we just couldn’t allow groups to perform their own diverse format? What was the big deal? Thus far the coordinator and I had no issues. Then this came up from another person:
“The main reason to not go with a specific tradition or pantheon is more for the non pagans and the curious folks that would be in attendance. If it’s too witchy, it will spook them, and the purpose is to show them that we are pretty similar to them. Get too ritualistic or complicated, they get bored or lost.”
“To non pagans, we are mostly all the same.. What occurs at many PPD’s is various groups/covens who are willing to put themselves out there, will set up a booth for their group/coven. What they will do in this booth is have information about their patron/patroness/pantheon, their particular tradition, general explanations of their practices (essentially nothing more than they would allow a questioning possible dedicant know). They will usually have inner circle members there to answer questions, they will have other initiates perform simple demonstrations, or sell crafts, or will have them prepare hand out items.”
“We know good and well about our diverse paths, but what is normally the case with Pagan Pride events is to be cowan friendly. Sure, it is a way for us to have a celebration, but it is more for those who would normally have preconceived notions.”
After this, some of my own Temple members jumped into the conversation, noting that there was no such thing as a “generic Pagan” ritual. That it was misleading to the public, no matter how conservative the demographic might be. If you want to learn a specific path, go to the booth. The main event is supposed to be inclusive. Even though my Temple members and I were keeping it on a professional level, then (one of the admins on the Facebook page) did this:
“I’ll chime in with my ¢2… Since this is a Pagan Pride event using a specific Traditions ritual may not be the best way to go. As I understand the purpose of PPD it is to introduce the public to Paganism and Pagans. So we may not want to be in your face about this. So what we are looking for is an eclectic mix of Pagan items in ritual. I don’t know how many of you are familiar with the ADF ritual structure but it is very inclusive and can be worked with nearly any Pantheon. Here is a link to an ADF Rite of General Offering.
If you have time please look it over the Deities called upon are Celtic but substitutions can be made and the offerings amended as needed.”
THIS is what I was talking about! So: generic, but use a specific organization’s method of ritual, which clashes with Wicca and Wicca-derived paths? You can’t use this format and call it “generic Pagan.” Call it what it is: an ADF ritual that has been modified for the public. I also disagreed about not being “in your face.” I mean, for the sake of the Olympians it’s called PAGAN PRIDE!! I simply cannot stress this enough. Then the admin went on to make his final say:
“No IMO it should not be in your face. Pride to me means “I’m better than you, or hubris. Which again IMO is not an attractive quality. So why am I involved in a PPD event because the message of “We are here in your neighborhood and pose not threat to you.” is far more important than someone getting their ego stroked by showing off their particular ritual. “
“I put the ADF ritual us as something that can be used as a framework to build from, not something to followed to the letter.”
So, now it’s implied that I’m here to get my ego stroke on! Not only that, but this individual has commented on my blog posts stating:
“The perception that I, and would guess others had after reading your replies on the PPD group, and in this blog was that you only see one way to do ritual, and that’s your way. Which is fine for you and whoever practices with you. The PPD event is not the Luis show, or the Hellenic show when working with a group that is diverse no one specific tradition is proper IMO. Doing something generic we look for elements of ritual that are common to as many traditions as possible and include those elements. It is not an abstruse concept, but one that seems to have eluded you. I proposed the ADF ritual as a framework from which to build, which you poo pooed. Since you no longer have an interest in presenting the ritual that is moot though.”
So, what I can infer from this is that if anyone wants to do ritual their way, it’s wrong. Apparently it’s not the “Luis show” or the “Hellenic show.” It’s amazing how much of my arguments are being ignored. None of my issues of diversity are being addressed. Everyone just seems to want to focus on one thing: I’m not playing well, ergo I must be a troll and a dissenter. Or else, I must have (in the words of Mr. Don Frew) misunderstood or am lying (since the link issues were faulty, my whole argument and experience must also be faulty).
Let’s address the real issue: The Pagan Pride Project is about acknowledging that we are a diverse lot, especially if we choose to go under the “Pagan” umbrella. To that end, the Pagan Pride Project’s Education mission is about giving the public accurate information as to who we are. Wicca has arguably been around the longest out of other public Pagan paths, and so yes, the public will undoubtedly know about Wicca more so than other paths. But here’s a rub for you:
Even many Traditionalist Wiccans have argued at length about how their practices have been co-opted erroneously by Neo-Wiccans (pejoratively known as “fluffy bunnies”). Many have argued that what Neo-Wiccans (that is, people who claim to follow “Wicca” without being initiated into a particular Wiccan Mystery Tradition) can be a “bad example” of what constitutes “Wicca” in its truest sense. There may be elements between them that are similar, enough possibly so that they look the same to an outsider, but they are not the same. However, Wicca being around as long as it has means that most of the Traditions in existence today follow a Wicca-inspired format: cast circle, four directions, God and Goddess called in, cakes and ale, etc.
But what happens when a newly inspired Tradition is developing, one whose followers are brand new and without the history of Wicca? What then? How do we “conform” to something so “generic.” In this case, “generic Pagan” I think stands for “Neo-Wicca.” Because, honestly, as much as my commentator is attacking me and making himself believe it’s all about me and my show (the Gods be damned :p!!!!), it’s really about diversity. I am preaching difference.
We are different tribes with different cultures.
We have different Gods and different cultus.
We have different methods and different philosophies.
But that’s what the Pagan Pride Day project is about, right? We have an obligation to educate the public about this. You ask for my help, and then start insulting me. Or, as Mr. Frew would say:
“I think it’s fair to consider the information on this site to be unverified when so much of the information being presented is not, in fact, verifiable.”
Mr. Don: Fuck you. Fuck you, sir. Fuck you because you tout your resume and credentials while forgetting or purposefully neglecting the fact that there are a bunch of faiths and cults that are being born every day. There are Gods, Heroes and Demi-Gods who coming out of the woodwork and calling people to Their service. There are a growing number of folks who perform rituals and service to their local communities as seers, witches, shamans, iatromantoi, strixoi or temple devotees. Call it whatever the fuck you will, but you remind me of the people who would get complaints about bullies in school. The administrators were SUPPOSED to be there to help us folks who were being marginalized because we are different. What was the answer our wise Guidance Councilors told us? “Don’t take it personally. I don’t think he really means it.” Basically, the privileged are excused for their douchenozzly behavior, because someone like me doesn’t want to play by the “generic” rules. Polytheists are being marginalized, and until you pull your credentialed head out of your hairy ass, you need to start realizing one thing:
Interfaith work at home is needed as much as interfaith work abroad. And if PPD people keep marginalizing us, and then Polytheists break away, don’t cry. Because in the end you will have no one to blame but yourself for making sweeping generalized faux pax statements and attacking someone who you don’t know from Methuselah. If your own Gardnerian history should teach you anything, it’s this: remember when the tradition was small and new. Doreen was trying to bring the different covens together so everyone could network and share information to encourage one another to stand proud as Witches. Remember when the witch wars began, the personality cults, and everyone had to fight against prejudice (most of which was unrecorded). Remember what your predecessors did, because your treatment of the Polytheist Community is directly against the intra-faith dialogue that Witches did once upon a time: in New York, San Francisco, Chicago and other places. There are other Gerald Gardners and Doreen Valientes today who are working at building legacies for the future, and all you can do is sit there and ask the impossible:
“I would really like to be given a concrete, verifiable example of someone “being told to water down their religion.” In over 28 years of interfaith work I have NEVER heard of such a thing! I would also like an example of someone being told to “stop being confusing.” If any interfaith representative has ever said these things, they were WRONG! The whole point of interfaith work is to welcome and accept people as they are, with all their differences of faith and practice.”
It’s wonderful to know that in the end you backpedaled a “Well IF they did, they were WRONG!” Listen Sherlock: YOU are WRONG.
Eirene kai Hugieia!
(Peace and Health!)