Paganistan: Notes from the Secret Commonwealth
In Which One Midwest Man-in-Black Confers, Converses & Otherwise Hob-Nobs with his Fellow Hob-Men (& -Women) Concerning the Sundry Ways of the Famed but Ill-Starred Tribe of Witches.
Checking Dicks at the Door
It was the year of the great Transsexual Panic at Pantheacon. The politics of sex, gender, and identity were very much in the air.
That summer Sparky T. Rabbit, Frebur Moore, and I finally decided to put together for PSG the men's ritual we'd always wanted to attend. From this was born the Rite of the God-Pole, an adoration of the Divine Masculine.
And of course, in that atmosphere, the issue arose: who's invited, who isn't?
Men-born-men only, or self-identified men? Pre-op, post-op, no op, what? Why bar someone who has chosen maleness? Who better to truly appreciate this ritual than someone who has had to work hard for his maleness? Is manhood not always, in the end, something achieved? “Boys are born, men are made,” says the truism.
We went back and forth. Eventually we reached a pragmatic Midwestern conclusion. The three of us were already in full agreement that ultimately the men's and women's mysteries are biological at heart, and hence, by definition, necessarily restricted; but the God-Pole Rite is a men's ritual, not an enactment of men's mysteries. The secret things are never revealed. (As if we would even consider doing such a thing at a public festival.) By restricting participation in this ritual, we'd be opening a big bag of snakes, wholly unnecessarily.
I sum up the conversation. “So we're not going to make an issue out of this, one way or the other?”
“The ritual is open to everyone who self-identifies as a man?”
“The program will say: 'Open to all men, period'?”
“So we won't be checking dicks at the door?”
There's a pause.
“If we do,” says Sparky, “I volunteer.”
In the overculture at large—at least in the public forum—there seems to be a presumption that discrimination is always and everywhere a societal wrong.
It seems to me that as pagans, for the most part, we see things differently. Maybe this is one of the things that sets us apart.
Initiates only. Women only. Men only. Tribe only. It seems to me that among our people there's a shared understanding that, at certain times and in certain places, discrimination is not only acceptable, but something actually to be desired: in fact, a societal good.
If someone at a festival wanted to restrict attendance at a workshop to African-Americans only, could I get behind that? Yes, I suppose I could. A ritual for those of Northern European descent only? I guess I'd be behind that too.
I'm not quite sure yet how far the parameters of this acceptable discrimination extend. Certainly clear definitions are, here as elsewhere, a sine qua non. I suspect that the key will turn out to be specific and temporary designation of boundaries, i. e. discrimination bound by certain times and places.
But that's a discussion for another night.
Me, I don't believe in an afterlife, beyond the Eternal Sabbat of the atoms.
But if I'm wrong, and I do somehow manage to find myself in the men-only section of the Island of Apple-Trees, who knows? Maybe I might just run into Sparky there after all.
Probably checking dicks at the door, just like he said.
A public memorial service for Sparky T. Rabbit will be held in Minneapolis on Sunday, August 31, 2014 (the Sunday of Labor Day weekend). Specifics forthcoming soon. Watch this space.
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