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Brown Girl in the RingBrown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Read for the Women of Genre Fiction challenge, the 12 Awards in 12 Months challenge, the LGBTQ Speculative Fiction challengeand the Vernon Library Summer Reading challenge. I was going to read this for the Apocalypse Now! Challenge, but the world was not destroyed and therefore, it does not qualify.

I loved this book. I loved everything about it! I have encountered some of Nalo Hopkinson’s short fiction before and was intrigued, but this novel received a lot of awards and a lot of critical acclaim, and was her first explosion on the scene. One of those awards was the Aurora Award, which is Canada’s tribute to our science fiction and fantasy writers, so naturally I was honour-bound to read it eventually anyway, but what a pleasure!

In this novel of magical realism, which takes place in a dystopian Toronto that has been abandoned by the Canadian and Ontario governments after an economic collapse, Ti-Jeanne has just recently left the father of her baby to live with her grandmother because he is a drug addict who has gotten mixed up with the local organized crime syndicate who runs the inner city, called the Posse, and she realizes that as much as she loves him, he’s no good for her and less good for the baby. There is no police force in operation in the urban remains, none of the city’s infrastructure is supported, and economy has gone back to bartering and growing what one can in the remains of the city’s many iconic parks, so there is little consequence for participating in crime and the Posse has a free rein in the city. The leader of the Posse, Rudy, has made a deal with a shady hospital to provide a human heart for a transplant to the Premier of the Province (for you Americans, that’s like the state governor.) Rudy has learned that Tony, the father of Ti-Jeanne’s baby, has been skimming off the top of the drugs he has been selling for Rudy to support his own habit, and has blackmailed him into fetching the heart from one of the local urban residents – by force. Tony was once a nurse before his habit got him fired.

What makes this scenario really interesting is that Ti-Jeanne’s grandmother, Gros-Jeanne (yes, for those of you who speak French, the names are deliberately symbolic) is a Caribbean immigrant who is a priestess of a Caribbean Afro-Diasporic tradition. The Afro-Diasporic traditions are syncretic faiths such as Voodoo and Santeria; Gros-Jeanne never specifies her tradition and actually says that they are all essentially the same. This turns the sordid scenario into an epic spirit quest in the Caribbean spiritual tradition, taking place partially in the physical world and partially in the spirit world. Much of the magic, until near the end of the book, might only be happening in the minds of the characters, and best of all, the Voodoo is real. I am a Wiccan priestess and have had the opportunity to learn just enough about Voodoo from practitioners that I have met to recognize the rituals, the symbolism, the magical practices and the spirits themselves.

The overall effect is an exercise in surrealism, told with a masterful hand. The language is simple but the characters and the story are deep. I don’t dare tell you anymore for risk of spoiling the story. I will say that I loved everything about it, from the story itself, to the mythic themes of Caribbean culture that were mined to create the story structure, to the evocative descriptions, to the use of modern iconic places to create a sense of realism, to the theme, which, ultimately, is a complex examination of what “family” actually is. I find myself beaming with Canadian pride in Nalo Hopkinson, and I highly recommend this novel to pretty much anyone.

View all my reviews

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Wanted: A Non-Monotheist on the Bench

Scalia was dead: to begin with.

There is no doubt whatever about that.

Left sitting: a Supreme Court made up of five Catholics and three Jews.

The lack of religious diversity in the nation's highest court is disgraceful.

Deists aside, there has never yet been a Supreme Court justice from a non-Abrahamic tradition.

There has never yet been a Hindu on the bench. Or a Buddhist. Much less a Pagan.

Well, maybe it's time that there was.

Last modified on

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Witches and other bad things

Halloween is this week.  The kids will be dressing up as ghouls and goblins, witches and monsters.  The world will be on a sugar high for the next week or so.  Mainstream America will be watching all the scary movies they can find and treating the paranormal as freakish. 

During a car ride with my mother, I was making conversation with her when she said she didn't like this time of year.  I said why not - thinking Fall is my favorite time of year and I adore the weather, the colors, the season.  She came out with "all the talk about witches and other bad things."  My immediate response in my head was - hey wait a minute.

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  • Eileen Troemel
    Eileen Troemel says #
    Hi Joanna: Oh the negotiations we do in our personal relationships. My husband is Christian per se. He is not a church goer but
  • Joanna
    Joanna says #
    Hi I had a very similar thing today with a work colleague moaning about Halloween being just an 'Americanism.' I didn't have the h

Lanaya Heathen 

An Open Letter from a Mixed Ugric and Black Heathen:

by Lanaya Winterly

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  • Lynn Sharp
    Lynn Sharp says #
    I don't often interact with other heathens. My ideas on heathenry are wildly unpopular. I believe in the Gods and Goddesses as kin
  • Shirl Sazynski
    Shirl Sazynski says #
    Thank you for your comment, Lynn. If you can connect with some IRL groups, you will probably be pleasantly surprised to find Heath
  • Lanaya Winterly
    Lanaya Winterly says #
    Dear David Carron The suggestion I would make is that young men and women in our community stop taking on the roles of shield mai
  • David Carron
    David Carron says #
    "I wonder when the time will come where Heathen groups actively discuss the wrongs that have been done to other neighboring cultur

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Hate Is Not a Heathen Value

On April 13, 2014, a white supremacist perpetuated a hate crime on a Jewish Community Center. Some mass media outlets have attempted to identify the shooter as a Heathen, but I'd like to take a moment to reiterate that his values (or rather, his lack thereof) are not shared by Heathenry or Northern Tradition Paganism at large. The Troth has already issued a statement on using the Northern Tradition as a justification for hate crimes and bigotry.  And there are Heathens who feel that words are not enough, and have organized a fundraiser to help the families affected by the shooting.

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  • Catherine Miles
    Catherine Miles says #
    Truth!
  • Amoret BriarRose
    Amoret BriarRose says #
    Well said!
  • Shirl Sazynski
    Shirl Sazynski says #
    Well said, and heartily agreed. (Other than that I still identify as Heathen/Rodnova, because that's the historic and modern term
All Acts of Love & Pleasure Are Her Rituals: In Defense of Polyamory

A couple of weeks ago, I posted an article from the BBC to my Facebook page about polyamory, which I thought was a very intelligent and sensitive article that portrayed how it works with honesty and authenticity.  A few of my more supportive friends re-posted it, which I appreciate, either because they are poly or poly-friendly.  One friend of mine made a reference to it and promptly took it to task on her page.  I stumbled across it and was a little hurt.  So this was my reply . . .

Hi, I'll take up your challenge! I am the original source of this article in the current community. I posted it because I am polyamorous and happy in this choice, and at a place in my life where I feel, to be authentic and genuinely loving and respectful of my partners, I need to be "out" about it. I think I'm going to take the points on individually here, and I'm going to take the time to challenge them because you can't just say, "Oh, I think that anyone who is not monogamous is cheating, lying, jealous, irresponsible, incapable of intimacy and unfulfilled in their relationships . . . but that's just my view on it" like it makes these statements anything less than they are, which are judgmental character slurs. Granted, I recognize that this appears to be what the rest of the world thinks (and notice the contradictory nature of a couple of those statements when phrased as bluntly as that, which of course means that both simply cannot be true,) so I relish this opportunity to help the enlightened people who are our mutual friends and associates understand something that may otherwise confuse them. And I hope to build understanding with you as well, since you are a loving and giving person and I am sure that this view of condemnation stems from either misconception (which is only to be expected in our compulsorily monogamous, heterosexist culture, because how would anyone have ever been shown another example other than what they've been taught?) or a bad experience (which, again, is fair, but just as one should not assume that all people of a particular group are jerks because one beat you up in high school, one should not assume that all polyamorous relationships are bad ones - though of course, some are, just like in any other relationship.) Please understand that I do not mean to say that you, or anyone else here is a judgmental person; indeed, metaphysical people tend to be refreshingly open-minded. I phrased things the way I did to point out how you may feel you have been coming from a place of love and acceptance in this, but these are not really loving and accepting statements you are making.

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  • Sarah Eccles
    Sarah Eccles says #
    Hi, I'm the Sarah mentioned in the BBC article you linked and I'm glad you liked it. One of the big things I didn't mention in the
  • Sable Aradia
    Sable Aradia says #
    Sarah, I am delighted to see you here! Thanks for telling your story to BBC so that we can all be more out, and thanks also for y
  • Sarah Eccles
    Sarah Eccles says #
    Just added you on Twitter. I'm Limnaia.
  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Ms. Aradia, Thank you for sharing your story with us. I've read several polemics on the internet, by Pagans, against polyamory. I

 

 

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  • Peter Beckley
    Peter Beckley says #
    A wonderful post. While my wife and I derive a significant portion of our income from Etsy, not selling the types of things mentio
  • Byron Ballard
    Byron Ballard says #
    Thanks, Peter. We talk so much about community in Pagandom and Heathenry but we sometimes don't walk our talk. I hear from too m

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