John McNair, I’m A Born Again Pagan
S. J. Tucker, Go Away Godboy, Sirens
Peter Bellamy, Oak and Ash And Thorn
Leigh Anne Hussey, Summertime, Uglytown
Vicki Logan, The Forest Glade, Dream Walker
Heather Alexander, Familiar’s Promise, Merlin’s Descendents
Doug Cox, Letter Home, Without words
Gary Stadler, Fairy of the Woods, Fairy of the Woods
Damh the Bard, Forgotten Never Be, Sabbat
So that song was On This Day, written by Charles Strouse. You may think you don’t know who Charles Strouse is, but you really do. Remember the song Tomorrow – The Sun’l come out tomorrow … Bye Bye Birdie, All in the family – these and many others were all his. Honestly, everyone knows at least some of his songs – even though almost nobody knows his name. I learned something today.
Anyway, as we get started, let’s look at our PaganFM Almanac …
Today is May 28, 2016. It’s the 149th day of the year. The Moon is just reaching Third Quarter at 8:13 AM on May 29. The Sun is in Gemini.
Some Pagan Calendars show June 1 of 1653 as being the date that the English Witchcraft act went into force. I haven’t seen a lot of historical data to suggest that’s true. There was a witchcraft act of 1563 – in fact, one in England, and one in Scotland – but I wasn’t able – yet – to show whether either of these went into force on June 1, but I’ll keep looking.
In our PaganFM Prayer List – again, please keep my daughter Mallory in mind for the next couple of weeks as she will be having surgery on her nasal sinuses. Not something I’d wish on anyone.
Just wanted to say that I am so happy you are back to podcasting. I missed Pagan FM, my favourite pagan podcast, a lot.
I wish you all the best in everything you do,
Today is Saturday, May 28, 2016
Our history, and what we may become.
We’re coming to a unique time in Paganism. Our faith traditions are really quite young – not more than about 65 years or so. And it wasn’t that long ago, when everyone who practiced Paganism came to this faith from some other faith tradition.
Most of us were Christians; coming to Paganism was something of a big deal – we had to reject an indoctrination that told us we were risking eternal punishment by a loving God, who would cause us to burn in eternal flame, should we reject Him. Moving from Christianity to Paganism was literally an act of reverse-brainwashing.
Indoctrination is a word that some of us might not be entirely familiar with. Many of us might have heard it, but not fully understood what it means. Originally, indoctrination meant to “teach”. The doctrines were the teachings of the church, and indoctrination comes to us from the Latin, and originally meant nothing more than teaching.
Over time though, our religious teaching became something different than scholarly pursuits. Scholastically, we’re taught to question what we learn; that’s part of the scientific method. No matter what we learn, we come to understand that all of our “facts” are subject to modification, and even complete reversal as we learn more about our universe. For example, once upon a time, the smallest units of matter were atoms. When I was in school, I learned that that definition had been modified – atoms were the smallest units of matter that retained the property of the elements they comprised, but that atoms were made of smaller things, called protons, neutrons and electrons – and these were the smallest units of matter. Today, the theory is that these elementary particles are made of quarks, and now there is string theory – the truth is that while we were certain what matter was made of when I was young – we now really don’t know. The theory of atoms being constructed of protons, neutrons and electrons is still true, but it’s been modified. This is the scientific method – it’s rational, things are subject to question and modification.
Indoctrination is also teaching, but it has come to represent a form of teaching that is not to be questioned. It claims to offer a version of the truth that is not merely correct, but actually unassailable. This is what much of Christianity claims – a truth which is not to be questioned – and it calls disordered and wrong, anyone who would dare to question it. I find this personally curious, because this attitude does not exist in Christian scripture. Where many Christians today will tell us that the Bible is not to be questioned, even Paul, who to many conservative Christians, is the standard bearer, said in 1 Thessalonians 5:21 “Test all things. Hold fast to what is good”. This was Paul saying “If you believe it, prove it”. He was advocating for the scientific method – even in matters of faith.
But that’s not what Christianity has become. The Bible, the very teachings of Paul who told people to “question everything”, are not to be questioned. This is indoctrination. The word has changed in meaning from merely “teaching”, but to place those teachings within an individual, so fundamentally, that they cannot be questioned. They are taught not merely as facts, but eternal, unquestionable truths, never to be questioned.
This is a danger for any religion as it becomes more mature. This is a danger even for Paganism. There are those among us who still call our religion the “Old religion”, and actually believe it. There are those among us who believe that our religions are “family traditions” in the sense that they believe they are practicing a set of rituals that were passed down for hundreds of years. It is this sort of belief that eventually leads to indoctrination as opposed to teaching.
Now some of you might take a bit of offense when I suggest that there aren’t really family traditions. Here is the thing: If you believe that your particular family tradition has been passed down – perhaps from the Middle Ages – perhaps longer, I would really like to learn more about it. Many of these traditions were examined by actual historians – such as Ronald Hutton – and nobody has found actual evidence of any surviving religious cult from ancient times.
Certainly there are families that have folk traditions involving magical cures and the like – these exist even in my own family. But what hasn’t been shown to exist is any sort of complete system of belief and teaching in any form of witchcraft. Some individuals took modern writing – such as the works of Gardner, Graves or Leland, and mingling these things with their family folk traditions, created something unique, and often beautiful. But it wasn’t in any way, an ancient tradition of witchcraft.
In Hutton’s work, The Triumph of the Moon, he tells of a number of cases in which he was shown presumably ancient Books of Shadows, but in not a single case, was any shown to be of truly ancient origin. If you have, or are part of an actual family tradition that claims truly ancient origins, there are actual historians who would sincerely like to examine the origins of your faith. But here are some give-aways that your family tradition might not be as ancient as you suspect:
If you use an Athame. The word itself is of modern origin. Certainly it’s possible that an ancient tradition made use of a knife or dagger, and merely adopted the modern name, but the word “athame” is modern.
If your rituals look much like those of Wicca. If they do, it’s almost certain that they derived, not from some ancient faith, but from Gardner.
If your tradition is based on a “Book of Shadows”. This, too, is a term invented by Gerald Gardner, coming from an article he read in The Occult Observer, which told of using an indiviual’s shadow as a means of predicting the future. Again, there are many grimoires that are quite ancient, but any suggestion that a tradition has an ancient “book of shadows” is an indication that the tradition isn’t truly ancient.
The reason I bring this up is this: Our religions should be tools that are used to live honest, authentic, and effective lives. If our religions are built on fantasy or lies, they can’t do that. As I said before, we are at a turning point in our faith – we are now at the point, where our Paganism can have three or even four generations of practitioners. We can actually have people for whom Wicca or modern Pagan witchcraft represents the entire living history of a family’s religious heritage. It may be the faith of a child, her parents, and even her grandparents. Our faiths have gone beyond a curious experiment in religion, to something that has become a generational tradition.
It is at this point, that we, ourselves could go from mere teaching, to indoctrination. It’s up to us to teach the truth to our children – to let them know that our traditions are man-made, and that we don’t hold to dogma. There is a reason that our faiths – whether they be Druidism, Wicca, or any other Neo-Pagan path – do not subscribe to any revealed text. Certainly we have some that are inspirational – such as Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land – but we hold none of these as sacred, revealed scripture, that are absolutely true.
The beauty of our faith traditions is that they are adaptable and malleable. They are subject to change and modification, and they are about us, and our relationships with nature. Even though we can now show multiple generations of Pagans, most of us are still here because we have rejected the indoctrination and dogmatism of faith traditions that have stifled an honest search for spirituality; we sought something that was more organic, something that was more about ourselves and who we are. It would be a shame to abandon this, only to turn what we have, into the very thing that we rejected.
June 4 counter protest
When Loretta Lynch announced her response to North Carolina’s HB2, which is one of the most vicious anti-LGBT pieces of legislation yet passed by any State, I responded to her comments in a most visceral manner. I was literally moved to sobbing tears. Writing about my response, I was asked if I would consider writing about my experience for a Pagan periodical, which I did. You can, if you wish, read that article in an upcoming issue of Green egg.
But in writing that article, I realized there was much more to say, and some of it that was very timely.
I began to think of conversations I’ve been having in recent weeks on PaganFM. It moved me to think of the Catholic Priest, Fr. Daniel Berrigan who engaged in activism well into his 80s, and who said that he would cease his activism on the day that he was embalmed.
I have seen many companies step up for equality; companies like Paypal who elected to not build a facility in North Carolina, and companies like Target who have explicitly offered open arms to the LGBT community. In response, self-styled “Christian” organizations like Faith2Action, the American “Family” Association and other groups have taken to loud, inconsiderate and obnoxious protests at Target. They have gone so far as to send men into women’s restrooms and changing rooms in order to instil fear, and to make the case that bad things will result if transgender people are permitted to pee in safety. They need to do this, because there are no reported cases of transgender individuals actually harming women or children in restrooms; they need to invent their own to make anything that resembles a plausible case to support their assertions.
Still, despite a complete lack of evidence that transgender people pose a threat to women or children, these people continue their protests. There is ample evidence in cities and counties that have implemented policies permitting access to public facilities for transgender individuals, that the fear these people are peddling is entirely irrational and unfounded. But these people, indoctrinated in a faith tradition of hatred and intolerance will not relent. They need enemies to fight, and having lost the battle over same-sex marriage, they are off to war against the next group of people that they can paint as abominations – as “icky”.
I’m a Pagan, in part, because I wish to celebrate diversity. I’m part of a coven that typically has about 30 – 40% transgender, or gender nonconforming participants. The freedom to be ourselves is part of what permits us to celebrate our rituals in fullness. We celebrate in fullness when we are fully alive, and fully human, and fully ourselves. Those things that cause us to hide some part of who we are in shame, are those things that hinder our ability to raise energy in circles, they separate us from our gods and goddesses. We can’t, at the same time, stand in power and stand in shame.
Activism is the means we use to stand in our own power. It’s not only a tool that we use to effect change in our societies, it’s also a tool that we use to effect change in our selves. We look up to those who take risks, who are willing to stand up for justice, for what is right. We see these people as brave. But the truth is that it is in the doing of these things that we actually BECOME brave. Activism changes not only society, but those who practice activism. It is something of an amplifier – it helps to make us more powerful versions of who and what we are.
Some of us don’t engage in activism because we are afraid of confrontation, we are afraid of up-ending the apple cart, we don’t want to be seen, we’d rather be invisible members of society who don’t call attention to ourselves. Some of us have more legitimate or more immediate concerns – we are afraid of going to jail, we fear for our physical safety. As a transgender woman, the concept of being jailed is honestly frightening. It’s one of the reasons that I’ve avoided the sort of activism that could be called civil disobedience. If I went to jail, not knowing whether I’d be stuck in a men’s cell or a women’s is truly disturbing. So I’ve taken to, for the most part, less dangerous routes of activism – calling and writing lawmakers; taking part in awareness campaigns – some of which have been quite public, but which still had the permission of local law enforcement and government officials. I engage street preachers, anti-abortionists and others, on a personal level.
But I’ve found that even this form of activism isn’t without risk. On the streets, I’ve had verbal attacks – and on the Internet, I’ve even had threats of rape and death. Fortunately, I know enough to know that the online threats are meaningless. But the first time you receive something like this, it can be unnerving. But it’s important to recognize that the only reason such threats are issued is to frighten and silence someone.
I’ve also had people try to dox and out me. And I’ve learned there is a very useful tool to completely disarm anyone who tries – and that is simple honesty. Online and in public, I’m honest and open about who I am. I’m Dee, I’m trans. I’m not ashamed of who I am. So, as when a couple of weeks ago, some idiot tried a line like “why are you talking about trans people like you aren’t one – what are you ashamed of?” when I spoke in the third person for a particular paragraph, it became more of an opportunity to show this person was an idiotic bully who simply couldn’t be bothered to read. They had, apparently visited my Facebook page and “learned” what I’m constantly open about, and somehow thought they had discovered some secret.
There was a time in my life when I was ashamed of who I was. I was filled with the self-loathing that years of indoctrination in Christian bigotry had cultivated. It nearly cost me my life, and the healing from that also took years. But I learned that when I could had recovered from that, that I was much stronger. We become trapped by fear – we believe that it is dangerous to step outside the lines – we know not what is there, and we dare not go. But when we finally break out beyond those barriers, at least when I broke out beyond those barriers – I found that the the fear didn’t actually keep me safe – it made me fragile. It was the truth and honesty that made me stronger.
The point of this is that truth is never our enemy. It is much more of a sword, a weapon which disarms our opponents.
All of this brings me to the reason I’m writing right now … this hate group, Faith2Action, is calling for protests of Target stores on June 4. I want to be at my local Target store on June 4, and if, and when these people do show up, I want to answer them directly. I want to be there with my own signs, with my own people, and if people are going to be there spreading lies and hatred, I want to be there spreading truth and love.
The hate groups are spreading the lies that permitting transgender people to pee is dangerous, where the truth is that children are more at risk at religious institutions than in bathrooms with transgender individuals. During the time that they have been protesting safe bathrooms for transgender people, multiple “Christian” pastors have been arrested for crimes against children. The only people who have committed crimes in bathrooms were heterosexual perverts, and those perverted hate-mongers who have entered bathrooms to sew hatred and discontentment.
And so, I intend to be at Target on June 4, to speak truth to hatred, and love to intolerance. I’m going to be there, and if these people show up, I’m going to speak to them. And if they don’t want to talk, then I’m going to offer a rigorous and truthful response to them. Whatever lies they offer, the truth will be told.
And I am asking anyone else who wants to get their feet wet in activism to join me. It’s pretty easy – just show up at your local Target store on June 4. And while these pesudo-Christian hate-groups are protesting, show Target shoppers what Loving, honest Pagans and trans-folk are actually about. If the hate groups are blocking doors, escort shoppers yourself. If these people are walking around stores, get in their way – disrupt them. Don’t fight them, and don’t get physical – but disrupt them. If you catch them spreading lies about trans-folk be there to offer a counter narrative. When they talk about “bathroom safety”, ask them directly why it is that so many more children have been harmed by “Christians” and even protesters such as themselves in recent weeks, than by transgender people in recorded history.
I can’t promise that this is a “safe” counter-protest. I can’t promise that none of these “Christian” protesters will do you harm. But if you’re respectful, and if you don’t engage in violence, you’re not likely to be arrested. And in speaking the truth, you’re likely to show shoppers the difference between hate and love. And they are likely to see the difference between Christianity and Paganism. And they will see that it’s the hate groups that are far more dangerous than the transgender community.
So, anyone want to go to Target on June 4?