Friday, February 24, 2012

D is for a Completely Different Subject!

So in my last post I finally broke my silence on controversial Pagan issues. I have made great efforts to avoid the Drama and conflict that accompanies these issues, for my own personal benefit. But because of my experiences at PantheaCon this year, I couldn't avoid commenting. But neither can anyone else on the planet and there is now hate speech about hate speech, sigh.

So on a Completely Different PantheaCon related Topic, I wrote an editorial for the Pagan Newswire Collectives Bay Area Bureau, Many people involved in the controversy are beginning to focus on the PantheaCon event staff and their role in this whole thing, and I wanted to offer my personal experience as a positive counterbalance.

Blessed Be!

Monday, February 20, 2012

D is for Diversity

So this years theme for PantheaCon was "Unity in Diversity," which I confess was a theme I had considered for our own organization in the past.

One of the reasons for that consideration was because our organization and our tradition offers itself as a secondary tradition, internally among our initiated members as well as externally toward the Pagan community we serve. Our initiated members are not required to hold the same system of practice, system of belief, worship the same God(s) or even hold the same understanding or view of divinity. You don't even have to be Wiccan. We honor our diversity within and without, and employ our tradition as an interfaith utility. You can take it or leave it.

That being said; we have had some challenging individuals attend our community rituals and have had to politely pull people aside and ask them to govern themselves a bit more accordingly and with respect for our religious service. And on a very rare occasion invite someone to leave, but these have always been done gently and as a last resort, for the benefit of the group.

But, within the privacy of our initiated Coven we reserve the right to deny entrance to petitioners, without explanation. I will say that our reasons are not based on race, gender, social, economic or religious background. Although we have learned what to look for and what to watch out for, our reasons are simply based on the individual and on a case by case basis. We have the right as a private group to do that, and I would argue that we also have a right to place any requirement or restrictions we see fit on our community rituals as well.

A huge conflict erupted last year when Transgender women were excluded from attending a women's only ritual at PantheaCon, which is a public event. I remained silent on the issue because although I do have friends involved and do have an opinion which I feel passionately about, I really didn't feel it was my place to interject.

Much like the "Who is or isn't Pagan" and my favorite "Who is and isn't Wiccan," I have become very conservative with my personal energies, and just do what I do, say what I say, call myself what I want and not worry so much about everyone else who is arguing about it. And I have been very happy with the results.

But last years issues have surfaced during this years PantheaCon, or after it. My former editor Steve Provost chimed in on the topic over at The Provocation with a piece titled "Dear PantheaCon: Bigotry in the Name of Diversity is NOT Ok."

And Star Foster has also written in regard to their interactions and the topic in which they disagree at the PANTHEON; Should There Be Freedom of Religion Within Paganism?

I read the word tolerance used in these blogs and immediately thought of Devin Hunter's So[u]lutions Blog entry "Tolerating Men and Transgender Individuals in Goddess Spirituality"
Which I thought was a great piece of work. I related to it as a white guy who was in a black fraternity. It was while deployed to Korea that I first joined the Freemasons, the Prince Hall Freemasons. And while I acknowledge there was perhaps one or two brothers who "tolerated" my presence, I was accepted by the Lodge and a large group of men who call me brother despite our differences. I was never made to feel out of place or discriminated against, in fact I served as the Senior Deacon before my time in country came to an end.

I confess that my time and money at this years event was very well spent and that I was completely ignorant to any tension to such issues. I saw old friends and made new ones. I saw people I don't care for much and I heard things I disagreed with or didn't like, but I after examining my feelings I don't feel as through I "tolerated" those words or people I didn't agree with, and I didn't feel as though my presence or words were "tolerated." We were all there for the same reasons, despite our differences, that IS unity in diversity and I was happy to be apart of it.

I may disagree with Z. but she has a right to her opinion. I may not agree with the exclusive context of her rituals, but she also has that right. I may not feel that a public event like PantheaCon is the best place for her "exclusive" ritual, but I understand that the women who may benefit from it, may not be able to attend otherwise. As much as they may hate me for having a penis, I would not prohibit their presence, their freedom of speech, their freedom to exercise their particular brand of religion.

I would not stop them, even if I had the power to do so.

I served my country for ten years. I support your rights and freedoms. Even if your rights and freedoms are aimed at stopping mine, that's not tolerance, that is unity in diversity.

Take it or leave it.

Thank you Lord & Lady for making us all different, Blessed Be.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

C is for Change,org

In the past I have written quite a bit about being Pagan in the Military, from my Dog Tags to the Order of the Pentacle and the Pentacle Quest. I've written about Pagan Prison Chaplaincy and other experiences where being Pagan has been challenging. As Pagans we often face persecution and discrimination from our government, our communities and even our families.

But we're not alone, many others face the same issues for their faith. While serving in Iraq my team and I operated a forward observation post outside the relative safety of the base parameter.

We spend months camped out on the roof of a school building at the University of Al Anbar. During that time we came to know the local Muslim community very well. One of the local leaders was Mr. Naji, he and I spent much time together teaching each other our languages. What started out as "me Tarzan, you Jane" quickly evolved into fluent conversation. I would speak Arabic and he would speak English. We shared meals, and talked at length over his nice hot chai tea and my American cigarettes.

It turned out that he served as a Sergent Major when our counties fought in Operation Dessert Storm, and that he was imprisoned for three years once just for saying "Fuck Saddam." We each learned a great deal from each other, about our cultures, communities, families and our religions. We traded prayer beads and even prayed together. I learned a lot about the Islam and even learned the important prayers in Arabic. Later I became known as Joe Awad Saleh Al Rishawi, an honorary member of the Rishawi tribe. And when the Wahhabi insergents came, they warned us, advised us, and saved our lives.

When the reality show "Muslims in America" aired, I was of course a big fan of the show. I watched the persecution and discrimination they encountered here in America, and my empathy is two fold. We share so much, being hated, misunderstood, misrepresented and demonized.

Last week on Facebook, this Petition link came across my news feed, I perpetuated it to the best of my ability, and I take this opportunity to do it again here. I have seen a lot of changed in the climate towards Pagans, and I think its time to adjust the thermostat once again. I happen to know for a fact that there are some producers who are interested in such a show! So please sign this petition; recruit, proselytize, beg, borrow and steal to get as many people as you can to sign this petition! It only takes a single grain of rice to tip the scales, and you might just be the one.

Thank you Lord & Lady for all the Change, Blessed Be.

Friday, February 3, 2012

C is for Cingulum

Before I just into the topic of my post, I'd like to take a moment to mention Robert's "C" post over at Doing Magic. I always enjoy reading his blog as it offers an escape from my own paradigm.

He begins by plainly stating that he's blogging drunk. Which always promises to be interesting, no matter who it is. Robert and I go back a few years and in all that time I've only seen him mildly intoxicated once, but that was at Jason Mankey's Morrison Ritual at PantheaCon, and it's pretty much required etiquette.

Robert and I have always seemed to be on opposite ends of the Magical spectrum, and while we have had our differences, we've never fallen short of concurring opinions. In Vino Veritas "In wine [there is] truth" as the saying goes and I found his "C" post to be quite on point. In fact I didn't find anything I disagreed with at all. But I especially liked his closing assertion "Find the teacher that encourages you to find your own way." This really stuck out for me because as different as our paths may (or may not) be, when you enter into our tradition the first thing we do is give you a "Compass and a Flashlight." So I'd like to make a toast to common ground, cheers!

Ok, so my "C" post is on the Cingulum.

I wrote a bit about it a few years ago here in the Length of My Cable Tow, the gist of that post was related to the Masonic Cable Tow and those similar attributes within our Coven. When surfing the Internet on the topic I found it very popular for Wiccan traditions to color code their waist cords in accordance with their degree or grade system. But just like everything else in our tradition, we do that differently too.

While we do utilize a three degree system, that's not the main focus of our Craftwork. We offer ourselves as a secondary tradition, wherein the main purpose of the tradition is simply Fellowship and Celebration. It's more about getting together with like minded people and enjoying both ritual time and space, while celebrating the diversity of every individual. We literally require everyone to find their own way, hence the "Compass and a Flashlight."

But we do offer a structured system in which to function. We wear robes and cingulums too, but from the newly initiated Wayfarer to the third degree Grand Poobah, we all wear white cords. The reason is simple, it's not about rank, it's about commitment. The cingulum is your umbilical cord, your personal connection and tie to the Covenant. It's white to represent the purity of your connection and your obligation to the Covenant, and the purity of our love and trust, because that is the most potent ingredient you could ever hope to invest in your Craft.

There was a day when I would have rolled my eyes at the fluffy bunny rainbow and butterflies of Perfect Love and Perfect Trust, but having experienced the true power of this meme I now hold it as a most sacred aspect of the Craft and wear my cingulum with honor and pride.

Thank you Lord & Lady for all the rope, Blessed Be!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Imbolc, a bedtime story

It has been my observance that Imbolc seems to be the "red headed step-child" of the popular Pagan Sabbat family. Perhaps its just the dreary weather of the season that's responsible, but I've also seen that most people don't seem to know how to celebrate Imbolc.

While I strongly assert that we as Pagans be well versed in our rich and diverse heritage, I am also fairly progressive as Pagans go. It's important to know what our ancestors did and why, but as contemporary Pagans, we're not so agriculturally invested in our practices.

So I prefer to focus on what we can do nowadays to acknowledge not only our heritage and the ever turning Wheel which we should seek to attune ourselves with, but also the rhythms and cycles of our own lives and spiritual practices.

Our tradition acknowledges Imbolc as the season of Procreation and Pregnancy before the Birth of spring. It has been a long held tradition of Imbolc to dress a doll of Brigid and lay it to bed, along with a phallic representation of her consort. I found this great bed for about $30 bucks on ebay a few years ago and did the wood burning work myself. There's a triquetra on the headboard to represent the Triple Goddess aspect of Brigid and our Coven crest at the foot.

A Corn Dolly is made every year at Lammas and kept on a kitchen altar space until the following Lammas. But Imbolc is a special day for her, she's taken into a ritual space, blessed and clothed in a handmade dress for the special occasion. She is adorned with a painstakingly small hand beaded necklace and a second beaded stole.

During the Imbolc ritual she travels from person to person in the circle, each participant takes a moment to consider her impending pregnancy. Like any other expecting mother she must be mindful of what she takes in, everything taken by the mother is passed the coming child. The participant holds a small strip of clothe, taken from the same fabric as Brigid's dress. The clothe is imbued with the wishes and desires for the coming spring, and tied to her beaded stole before she is passed to the next person.

Some of use were silent when she accepted our offerings, and some of us were not so shy. We thanked her for taking on the heavy burden of our desires, and laid her to bed. There was a whispered prayer as her consort was laid beside her. There was a silent moment of appreciation before they were draped and given their privacy.


Fetal stirring in the womb

Spill mothers’ milk to flowers bloom

Light the fire and sweep the broom

The cleansing time is coming soon

Alms for Biddy one and all

Time has come to stretch and thaw

Cross the rush and braid the straw

Salt the flames and dress the doll

Candles crown the maidens brow

Lay the bed and bless the plough

The feast of wives has come to now

So save the bones from the sow

Hail to Mary of the Gail

To maiden lamb we now wassail

Barren crone and dragon’s tail

We leave behind upon on the dale

Volvitur In Rota!

Thank you Lord and Lady for another Divine Union, Blessed Be.