The thoughts and feelings of a Pirate Wiccan on Pagan issues and community.
Pagan Pride and Pagan Community: It's Up To Us
(This may be a bit belated and perhaps it's already been said, but after taking some time to process things, this is what I've got).
I haven’t written in a while because I’ve been pretty done in.
I started graduate school this Fall and am still working full time. As you can imagine, the workload is quite large and time consuming. (And when I start rambling on at you about post-colonial theory as applied to modernist authors, perhaps you’ll understand why…)
But I have also been pretty worn down by the debates on the Pagan blogosphere of the last few months.
As a Wiccan who identifies as a hard polytheist, watching people throw around terms like “fundamentalist” and complain bitterly about things that should be interesting points of discussion about theory and practice, the last few months have been pretty rough. I love a good debate about practice and theory as much as the next blogger, but it's felt like things took a much more personal turn. I've also felt very stuck in the middle of everything as I could see things from both sides.
In the end, I hit a point where I wasn’t even reading other peoples blogs on anything because the whole topic was utterly exhausting.
Two weekends ago, New Orleans put on our first Pagan Pride Day. The day itself came together beautifully. A great deal of hard work and planning on the parts of many people came together to create a small, intimate Pagan Pride that will give us room to grow in the future.
Selena Fox kindly came down and participated as our main guest and we had Ginger Doss, Lynda Millard and Darwin Prophet come to entertain us, as well as local band FishBird (featuring Kenny Klein). We had an excellent panel on Pagan Civil Rights, as well as various workshops. Turnout was great, and the day ended with an awesome ritual done by our local OTO chapter. (A note to the impressively graceful OTO Priest: If I had to spin backwards over the altar while reciting in a foreign language, I would knock the altar over and probably land on top of everything including my dignity!).
(Ginger Doss, Lynda Millard and Darwin Prophet were 3 of the 4 original Velvet Hammer members)
The day after, unfortunately, a lot of petty interpersonal drama came up from many different people, centered around the event. Someone also walked off with the day’s earnings of one of the vendors. I was astounded. I felt like the whole point of Pagan Pride had been lost, especially by several so-called leaders of the local community. It felt like the debates of the Pagan blogosphere had bled over into the real world and tainted something that was way beyond academic debate. The week after the event, I felt like my weariness had increased 10 fold. While I don’t think a majority of the people involved in our PPD had to deal with the things that popped up later, it certainly took a toll on those of us who did. It proved how splintered our community truly is.
John Halstead wrote a blog a few weeks ago where he stated “In my efforts to work out what Paganism means to me, I have sometimes been guilty of projecting those personal definitions outward in such a way that would exclude others from my communion”. I think we have all been guilty of this lately and we need to reevaluate how we talk about things.
This past weekend, I traveled back to Ohio and attended a festival run by a friend of mine with the help of my pirate family. It was everything I needed to put things back into perspective. The Earth Warriors Festival in Southern Ohio is run by the Earth Warriors Council and Heather Killen. (Kenny Klein writes about the festival here if you want more details). My pirate family are Heather’s minions and going home felt like I was enfolded into a loving embrace that I sorely needed. The love and support of these amazing people is something that I still haven’t found anywhere else.
During the main ritual, the Priestess called for warriors to bring harmony back to the world. She asked for people to set aside interpersonal differences and work together for the good of the community. She brought up the grand coven that was convened in England to stave off Hitler’s invasion and said, “if they, with all of their differences, could do it then, we can certainly do it now”.
I think my brother Long Tom Foolery summed it up better than anybody else. He said, “We do this because it takes a village, but the community they’ve given us is broken. So it’s up to us to build a better one”.
For me, EWF was everything that Pagan Pride Day was not. But what about those people who didn’t get to have their own EWF? What about those people who don’t have pirates like I do? What about those people who depend on the Pagan blogosphere and Pagan Pride Days? Where has our sense of community gone to?
In the end, it doesn’t matter how you or I see the gods or how we go about our practices. It does however matter that we can be bigger people and come together as a community to do things that help our community (Pagan and not) to grow into something better than it was before. We should use the energy we’ve been using to tear each other apart, to bring harmony back to a community that still has a chance to be unbroken. If, at the end of the day, we can put the pieces of each other back together, maybe we can start helping others do the same.
I'll leave you with some words from Zitkala-Sa's piece "Why I Am A Pagan" (I did warn you about that post-colonial writer thing, right?):
The little incident recalled to mind the copy of a missionary paper brought to my notice a few days ago, in which a "Christian" pugilist commented upon a recent article of mine, grossly perverting the spirit of my pen. Still I would not forget that the pale-faced missionary and the hoodooed aborigine are both God's creatures, though small indeed their own conceptions of Infinite Love. A wee child toddling in a wonder world, I prefer to their dogma my excursions into the natural gardens where the voice of the Great Spirit is heard in the twittering of birds, the rippling of mighty waters, and the sweet breathing of flowers. If this is Paganism, then at present, at least, I am a Pagan.
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