Why Wicca?

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I am Irish, Scottish, English, Dutch, German, French, Comanche, and Choctaw.

I have a deep and rich culture. My Native American blood is in my father’s family. He died two years ago. I hadn’t seen him since I was ten, and his family didn’t keep in touch with us after he left my mother. It feels strange, being descended from the invaded and the invaders.

I identify most with Appalachian culture: the Scots-Irish. My grandfather was a son of the Appalachians. A Protestant. After my father left, my grandfather put me in a Catholic school. It was the first of many gifts that he gave me. I learned that women figure in religion just as much as men. Oh, Mary and Mary Magdalene were denigrated, not goddesses, but I got that they should have been equal to Jesus, equal to God.

That set me out on the search that led to Wicca. I learned about the Celtic gods and goddesses. I learned that I had an indigenous European culture. I realized that my grandmother, Christian though she was, was a wise woman, and so was her mother. And my grandmother passed down some of my great-grandmother’s knowledge . . . cooking, healing, sewing . . . to me.

My white Christian grandmother said that my Comanche grandmother was a witch. She didn’t like my father. She had no knowledge of Native American culture. She gave me a box of photos, some over a century old now, and told me that I was the only one that she trusted to care for them. My father put a stone spear head into my hands. He found it in the Ozarks when he was a teen.

In one hand, I hold sewing needles and photographs, and in my mind I hold recipes and herbal medicine. In the other, I hold this piece of stone formed by the hands of someone who might have been my ancestor.

I realized that the earth itself was the connecting factor in my bloodlines. The moon and the feminine are essential parts of any religion to me. A religion that does not elevate the feminine isn’t real to me. Wicca combines all of the things that, to me, are holy. I study, endlessly, goddesses of Ireland, England, and Wales.

I read on Twitter that I can’t pick up a feather and a stone and make magic out of them unless they were handed to me. They were, physically, a stone was put into my hand, and I was given heirlooms and oral tradition.

Please don’t tell me what I can’t have or think or love. It’s taken me a long time to get over hating my father for abandoning us, but I claim all my cultures, regardless of which one calls to me in the most insistent voice.

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Hey Pagans, Some Discussion Would Be Nice

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Or even a “thank you.”

The Twitter pagan/Wiccan community is not, shall we say, up to speed on some basic social niceties. Like being nice. Half-a-dozen times, I’ve responded positively to a post, or raised an issue of concern to me, or DMd a popular Wiccan or pagan account and got . . . nuttin’.

And these were not situations where the person or persons running the accounts were inundated with responses to their tweets linking to their blog posts. Maybe I was supposed to go to their blog to comment? Well, I just don’t f’ing feel like jumping through all the hoops to comment on everyone’s blog, and NO, I am not signing in with Facebook. Ever.

If someone links to their new blog post, and I respond, “Great post, really made me think about Topic X” is it so damn hard to respond and say, “Thank you!” Or, “For more discussion, visit my blog.” Or even, “F*ck you!”

If you keep running into the Pagan Wall of Silence, it’s not just you. I can’t give you an explanation for the bad behavior, but it’s not just you.

Someone presenting her or himself as an authority on paganism ought to answer a question. Or at least say, “Hey, can you ask that over here on my blog?” I personally am not going to anyone’s Facebook page because I use FB as little as possible.

It is tempting to unfollow people who have no manners, but oftentimes they write the most insightful articles. I think–I hope–that their Twitter accounts are automated and that explains the lack of manners, but that’s still not okay. Protip: Everyone hates automated accounts. Everyone. Stop it. I don’t care if you’re the High Priest of Cthulu. You’re still acting dickish.

Sometimes, the articles you comment on and don’t get a response  address noob concerns or basic, important topics. And then there will be a post about not doing the thing the person wrote about but ignored questions. So what the hell are you supposed to do?

Well, just because someone doesn’t reply to comments doesn’t mean everything they have to say is wrong. If the post resonates with you, study it for answers to unanswered questions. If you find it confusing or upsetting, go on your own search for answers.

A tip for people new to pagan belief systems:

Wicca and paganism are NOT about renaming yourself “Sister RavynnMorgyn” and posting digital art of voluptuous witches morning and evening and greeting all your friends with “Blessed Be, Sister GoldenDragonWing!” That’s a bunch of crap. That’s not real. The vast majority are struggling along just like you, struggling to learn, struggling to resolve conflicts between Wicca and our birth religion. And the people who put themselves out there as sources of knowledge should BE sources of knowledge instead of ignoring questioners. Wicca is all about questioning. You don’t have dogma. If you do have dogma, you shouldn’t.

Books. Libraries. Used and new book stores. Acquaint yourself with them, and accept that Wicca is like a university course that goes on until the day you die and then after.

Don’t let bad-mannered Wiccans turn you off.

The Nashville Statement, Pt. 2

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I decided that the people who wrote the Nashville Statement really needed to hear from someone targeted in the statement. I’m one of those people. They said I shouldn’t live in a normal marriage because I can’t have kids and sex is only for procreation. So I looked up all of the signers who are on Twitter and sent them a link to my post below.

One person-a male, I will not call him a man-replied. He babbled something about “why does the Left always have to be pleased?” which made zero sense-the entire exchange is in my time line, I’m not looking at his feed for exact words because his hate sickens me-and then he said “just stay out of their churches.”

I replied, “You know who else would stay out of your church? Jesus.”

He said nothing about being sorry to hear of my health problems. He just spewed hate. Why does he matter? Why does the Nashville Statement matter? Because it’s inflammatory and inhumane, and evidently the people who wrote it suffer from a lack of humanity. You can’t fix that. They’re being roundly condemned, but they’re still spreading their hate at a time when a particularly virulent strain of hate has re-emerged in our society. They’re feeding that hate, and they know it, and they don’t care.

And, because their statement is getting so much attention on social media, the targets of their hate are reading it and we are already beaten down by a daily life that we can’t have. Maybe one day I’ll be in a position to adopt or be a foster mother. That doesn’t erase what I went through. The LGBT community . . . I’m almost at a loss for words for what they are going through now. Things had changed so much during President Obama’s presidency, and I honestly thought it would continue with Hillary Clinton. But the bad old days came back with whiplash-inducing swiftness as soon as trump took office. trump is an enabler of racism and bigotry. So are the writers of the Nashville Statement. And, as one proved to me tonight on Twitter, they’re utterly lacking in compassion or any other quality that Jesus had.

When I first moved back to North Carolina, I thought about checking out the Catholic Church associated with the school I attended as a young child. But I could not do it, due to their views on abortion and divorce. It took me six years to stop being afraid and fully embrace paganism. Six years to stop returning to that passage in the Bible where Jesus talked about divorce, to stop trying to understand what he really meant.

Then five months later, the disaster that is donald trump became a daily part of my life. I was depressed until the last month. Then I got angry. Very, very angry, and that is why I sent my blog post to the deeply disturbed writers of the Nashville Statement. Because I have decided that these people who say and do unacceptable, intolerant, harmful things need to be called out and told what they are, and that we simply will not accept the attitudes of the bad old days.

Oh, the guy on Twitter who offered no expression of compassion regarding my multiple surgeries, infertility, and feelings of worthlessness after reading a document that he signed? This is his Twitter bio:

“I’m right about some things; wrong about others–still learning. The one thing I KNOW is I have eternal life through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ heart

The Nashville Statement

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I had a brief encounter tonight on Twitter with some creep insisting that the “Nashville Statement” (which besmirches the name of the great city of Nashville just because the piece of garbage was written there) hasn’t harmed anyone.

He’s an obvious liar. Let’s look at why. Let’s pick apart the Nashville Statement.

“Therefore, in the hope of serving Christ’s church and witnessing
publicly to the good purposes of God for human sexuality revealed in Christian Scripture, we offer the following affirmations and denials.”

-Who is “we?” Who are these people with the unmitigated gall to think that their opinions about your sex life and mine matter? Most of us-the people I follow on Twitter and who follow me-never heard of this group before the day before yesterday. The majority of people I follow work in the writing industry in some way and are smart people, but this group of loons came out of nowhere.

“WE AFFIRM that God has designed marriage to be a covenantal, sexual, procreative, lifelong union of one man and one woman, as husband and wife, and is meant to signify the covenant love between Christ and his bride the church.
WE DENY that God has designed marriage to be a homosexual, polygamous, or polyamorous relationship. We also deny that marriage is a mere human contract rather than a covenant made before God.”

-This right here makes me so angry. If marriage is designed to be “procreative,” if I followed their belief system, I’d never get married again because I can’t have children. I found out that I had fibroids (benign tumors of the uterus) when I was 26. I had a myomectomy (basically a C-section but to take out tumors.) It was not successful. The fibroids grew back so quickly that I could feel them again just by pressing on my abdomen 11 months after the myomectomy. By that time, I had aged off my mother’s insurance, and my full-time job did not provide health insurance. I walked around with a uterus full of tumors, looking eight months pregnant, being asked when I was due, for five years. I was anemic and skeletal. I got married. We were sure that doctors in New York could “fix” me. They couldn’t. I had to have a hysterectomy. After the hysterectomy, they called me and told me that there was no sign of cancer in my uterus, but that I also had adenomyosis. Adenomyosis is a disease that causes the uterus to turn to mush and will eventually make you go septic and die without a hysterectomy. I believe that some of the problems in my marriage began when I didn’t get “fixed” by the doctors. My ex-husband wanted children, but only his own. Adopted children weren’t good enough for him. I believe that he drove me out in order to marry a younger, fertile woman, and that mindset is absolutely derived from this utter garbage expressed in the very first article of the Nashville Statement. And now, reading the Nashville Statement literally, it seems that I’m never allowed to marry again because I can’t procreate, and of course, sex out of marriage is a sin.

Guess which finger I’m holding up.

Then “they” say that God’s will for unmarried people in chastity. Wow. These “people” are so dialed into God and so disconnected from the real world. I recently read that 40% of brides in the first half of the 1800s were pregnant when they got married. People have always had sex outside of marriage and always will.

“WE AFFIRM that God created Adam and Eve, the first human beings, in his own image, equal before God as persons, and distinct as male and female.
WE DENY that the divinely ordained differences between male and female render them unequal in dignity or worth.”

-Okay, at least there’s that.

“WE AFFIRM that divinely ordained differences between male and female reflect God’s original creation design and are meant for human good and human flourishing.
WE DENY that such differences are a result of the Fall or are a tragedy to be overcome.”

-Evidently they aren’t Biblical scholars because that right there is heresy. The Bible says that women will bring forth children in pain and suffering as a result of “the Fall.” These people are all over the place. It’s like they said, “Well, let’s throw the women a bone before we start on the gays.”

Next, they belittle people born with “physical anomalies” (presumably intersex people) and dismiss “psychological anomalies” (presumably transgender, asexual, pansexual, and all those other words that they don’t know because they’re a bunch of perverse morons.) That’s the thing about the Nashville Statement. It screams perversity about the people who wrote it.

People born with “physical disorders of sex development” are compared to eunuchs but are cool as long as they “embrace their biological sex insofar as it may be known.” No pressure or anything.

Oh sweet heavenly Mother, this garbage goes on and on.

Being gay is, of course, unnatural. Apparently, if you’re gay, you should be celibate, or sentence yourself and your spouse to a life of misery while you try to pretend you’re straight.

“WE AFFIRM that sin distorts sexual desires by directing them away from the marriage covenant and toward sexual immorality— a distortion that includes both heterosexual and homosexual immorality. WE DENY that an enduring pattern of desire for sexual immorality justifies sexually immoral behavior.”

-Are they talking about adultery? Pedophilia? They seem intent on ambiguity, or maybe they think they sound smart.

Next, it’s a sin to approve of homosexuality or transgenderism. Well, I’m a sinner. What are you gonna do?

They have decided it’s their Christian duty to shove their beliefs down your throat. IMAGINE THAT.

They follow that up with “pray away the gay.”

You can also pray away being transgender. This isn’t just flaky nonsense. It’s dangerous, because it leads parents to send their LGBT kids to psycho doctors, shrinks, and camps in the belief they’ll come back “normal.” Articles 12 and 13 of the Nashville Statement brutally illustrate why the whole damn thing is, as I told the jackass on Twitter, harmful in and of itself.

Finally it ends with Article 14. Jesus came into the world to save all sinners.

This is an incredibly offensive and harmful document. It verbally beats down the LGBT community and infertile people. It doesn’t actually matter, because it’s basically verbal masturbation . . . oddly the only sexual “sin” not addressed . . . but it does matter because just reading it made me feel dirty, depressed, and worthless again. As I told the sentient piece of garbage who tried to force me to accept his view that the Nashville Statement is not harmful, people who can’t have children suffer every day when they see people with babies and children. Women and men. This . . . this arrogant, offensive “insight” into the mind of God by a bunch of lunatics harms me, every other infertile, unmarried person, every gay person, every lesbian, every bisexual person every transgender person, every person who isn’t straight, married, and popping out babies by making us feel we have no worth other than basically living as monks and nuns. Even if I marry a man and we adopt children, we’re still sinning if we have sex.

You have to be mentally disturbed to believe that. If you’re a Christian (I am not, largely because of trash like the Nashville Statement and the people who wrote it, walking away from Christianity enabled me to find a better path where I’m a human being and no one attempts to police my sex life) I plead with you, stand up, refute the Nashville Statement, and rebuke the people who wrote it. They don’t care what I think because they already imagine me to be bound for hell. You, you Christians, it is your duty to speak out against this harmful and hateful edict.

Here is a USA Today article about the Nashville Statement. You can find the statement in its entirety at the bottom of the page. Where it belongs.

Converting-Can It Be Done Without Disparaging the Previous Religion?

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Apparently not in Doreen Virtue’s case.

The first oracle deck I bought was Doreen’s Goddess Guidance Oracle. I bought it because it includes Mary Magdalene as a goddess and at the time, I was deep into studying the “Grail heresy.” And I still do believe that Mary Magdalene and Jesus were married and had a child, and that she escaped the Holy Land and lived out her life in southern France. But the quest for Mary Magdalene became a source of confusion for me, and there are just too many things in the Bible that I can’t accept. I felt pulled towards Wicca again. I stumbled in going back into that, but I went with what I felt and realized, as I tended my little garden this summer, that that was where I felt closest to the Goddess. I do have affinities for two particular goddesses, but the earth and the changing seasons are to me as God and church are to Christians. Even though I’m allergic to so much of the earth, which is a sad irony.

So I can certainly understand a person’s spiritual journey changing and evolving, and Doreen has obviously been growing towards angels and Christian themes in her oracle decks, but her actual conversion leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

From the linked article: “Doreen told listeners she will be changing some of her previously published books and card decks . . . . She will be taking out some of the deities she wrote about and created cards for . . . . The book and card deck will then be re-issued.”

That’s not okay. It’s misleading to her new followers. It’s erasing part of her spiritual journey, the opposite of what a spiritual teacher, which is what she calls herself, does. She’s now removing deities she considers dark from her classic decks, basically besmirching those of us who follow or at least respect those deities.

My theory is that she found her niche market in angel and Christian-centered oracle decks and wants to erase the parts of her past career that doesn’t fit into her new baptized and born again persona. Anne Rice was an atheist, went back to the Catholic church for a few years, wrote a trilogy about the life of Jesus, even said she was done with the Vampire Chronicles, but she didn’t alter the books or pull them off the market. And then she went back to them.

(Please forgive me for drawing a parallel between Anne Rice and Doreen Virtue.)

Doreen can’t erase her pagan past. I have the Goddess Guidance oracle. It’s not my  favorite deck, I rarely work with it, but it was my first oracle deck. I can’t see me using it again because I’ll always associate it with someone building a career on people like me, then spitting on us and turning her back on us.

Edit: I just read this on Doreen’s site, and it’s highly problematic for those of us still using her decks and materials who do not share her “Christian” views.

What about Jesus? 
Doreen was raised as a Christian, and she continues to talk to God, Holy Spirit, Jesus and the angels. She consults them before, during and after every one of her readings and sessions. However, she realizes that many people are turned off when Jesus is “shoved down their throats.” She also knows that many people have suffered painful experiences in organized religious settings. So, Doreen prefers not to “push” Jesus upon people. She respects everyone’s right to worship in whatever way they prefer. She does, however, believe that everyone benefits from having a spiritual path and a belief in a loving God. 

People of all faiths and cultures believe in angels.

This is a flat-out lie.

There are so, so many “faiths and cultures” in the world, and while some may believe in angels, and others may believe in beings that resemble angels, every faith and culture does not believe in angels. Or unicorns. Or fairies.

When I was a broke pagan, I tried using angels as goddess figurines on my altar. Even the semi-pagan autumnal angels did not work for me because I couldn’t associate them with anything but Christianity in my mind. Altars, of course, are another hotly debated subject in the pagan community, with some saying they aren’t necessary, or should be as simple as possible, or can be whatever you wish. I went with “whatever you wish.” I added two miniature fairy figurines to my nature goddess altar. Fairies are not angels. Angels are not fairies. Many “faiths and cultures” believe in nature spirits that may be friendly towards humans, ambiguous, tricksters, teachers, or decidedly unfriendly. Those unfriendly “dark” fairies are the ones Doreen has decided to erase from her materials. That’s crap, because she’s deciding which fairies are okay and which aren’t, and she’s telling us that EVERYONE believes in angels.

Again, Doreen found her niche selling angel oracle decks, and she seems quite determined to force that down our throats, and I am not okay with her behavior. I am so glad that I only bought one of her decks because I won’t be using it again except maybe to frame a couple of the cards as art, and I’m glad I did not waste more money on this charlatan.

Recreating Your Altar: Yes, it’s Okay

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This post is especially for pagans/Wiccans/witches still in their “year and a day” period.

So you set up an altar, and probably you felt connected to a particular goddess/goddess and god/pantheon. Maybe you set up a simple altar and didn’t put a lot of money into the components. That’s actually good and smart and not what I did. Well, I didn’t spend a great deal of money, but I did buy two beautiful goddess figurines based on an oracle card reading that told me that one goddess was trying to reach me and a fascination with another goddess. At first, I felt very connected and centered to the goddesses. After several months, I lost the connection. I kept doing all the things that I had done since the beginning, but I could not regain that feeling of presence.

At the same time, I was spending a lot of time outside in the spring preparing and planting my garden. It’s been a difficult year–I don’t have to say why, but add health worries and family issues on top of that–and I got to a point that if I didn’t touch a plant every day, I was miserable. I realized that the goddess whose presence I craved was nature.

You already know that you don’t have to have an altar. We don’t have dogma. But if you’re like me and you like altars and symbols–perhaps a carryover from Catholic school?–you can build a budget altar and save up for things that you love, like the mini cast iron cauldron that I just bought. Budget or altar of your dreams, if you find yourself pulled in another direction six months later, it’s okay to change. And it’s okay to feel drawn to another deity. If another goddess or god seems to tug at your heart for months, it’s time to sit down and try to determine if this deity should become a part of your life.

How do you know? Meditation, sitting or walking can give you insight. Tarot or oracle cards can be a great help, but try to stay away from god/goddess decks. Turning over a goddess card doesn’t mean that goddess should be your goddess. Different deities speak to us when they have something to say.

Reading books–NOT random articles online–can help you learn about the specific mythology associated with your deity. Serving a deity is serious and arduous. This is one reason that many modern pagans choose goddess and/or god symbols instead of a particular deity.

I believe that “God” is a part of our universe and appears to people in a form that they can connect with and understand. We are not so far from our BCE ancestors. We are sheltered from and understand rain, thunder, lightning, snow, intense sun, but we are still vulnerable to the elements. What is more elemental than the earth and the forest and the sea? Where to we go to “get away from it all?” To the sea. To the forest. Some of us camp out in the woods. Some of us rent beachfront condos. Most of us get as close to nature as we comfortably can.

What draws you, the mountains or the sea? The desert? The prairie? The forest? The wooded area a mile from your home? Your carefully cultivated garden, or the garden you let run wild?

I’ve felt on edge for months, as if I made a mistake in choosing particular deities, and that I would be doing some great wrong in making a change. I no longer believe that it’s wrong to change. I do think that the change should be done with great respect. I have a place picked out for my goddess statues. It will be, in essence, a second altar. My new altar will be dedicated to the Goddess in her persona as Nature. This goddess will be my garden. This altar will tide me over the winter, but I will of course include winter nature elements. This altar will be personal to me rather than dedicated to something outside me. I made a mistake with that, not a terrible, unforgivable mistake, but an error.

So I have big plans for this altar. I’m lucky to have space, and lucky to not have to pack up and hide my altar. I can grow plants on my altar. I can add things until my entire dresser surface is an altar.

Many teachers will caution against adding a lot of stuff to your altar. That depends upon the person. Does having a well fleshed-out altar aid you in your meditation, magical work, daily ritual? Daily ritual is so very important in our chaotic world. It helps us feel grounded and centered, or as much as is possible these days. Tending an altar is like tending a garden.

How do you tend an altar? That’s another post. This was a long post, and sunrise is in two minutes.

But yes, you can change your mind about your altar, and you can devote yourself to a different deity. Both should only be done after a long period of thought, meditation, and asking oracles for advice, at least in my opinion.

Fellow pagans, how do you respond?

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“Paganism/Wicca is a made up religion.”

What do you say? My impulse is to say that they’re all “made up,” human expressions of the Divine.

I was told today that we (all pagans of all traditions) are just having fun without having done any research into how ancient peoples worshiped. As this person’s comments were particularly foolish and presumptuous, I told them they needed to get their ass off their shoulders and stop assuming that none of us have done any research into our particular path.

Because we don’t have a holy book, because we’re all different, because we all have our own way of approaching our spirituality and we (largely) avoid dogma, we’re just playing around.

I’ve never understand why religion can’t evolve. I’ve never understood why a spiritual practice built on the foundations of ancient religion isn’t as real as, say, Mormonism, which is a very young religion.

Wicca isn’t easy. For me, it’s hard work continually chipping away at the fear installed in me by Christian school teachers. It’s hard work readjusting my thought patterns from a religion that says “Just pray and believe!” to a spiritual practice that is . . . real life. It’s birth, life, and death. It’s having a pragmatic view of daily living instead of walking around telling everyone MY GOD IS GOOD, I’M BLESSED by people who don’t seem blessed at all, just desperately trying to convince themselves that they are or will be if they keep repeating it. And research . . . the research never stops. New archaeological discoveries, fighting through the fluff to get to the blood and bone, trying to understand how my ancient Irish ancestors viewed their gods and goddesses. Trying to set aside my comfortable modern mindset. Trying not to be pushed into doing things the way that other pagans do them. Not hiding my beliefs and knowing that people think they’re silly and hearing things like this woman on this TV show just said, that she goes to church to feel like she’s part of something bigger than herself.

I don’t need to go sit in a building to do that. All I have to do is water my garden and monitor the growth of my plants that I planted from seed. All I have to do is pick up half of a robin’s egg shell and add it to my shelf of things I find around my yard. All I have to do is look at a modern interpretation of an ancient female figurine and feel that primal awe at how something so simple seems to hold all the meaning in the world.

What do you say to someone who just wants to feel superior and sneer at a “made-up” religion? Do you bother with them at all? Is it our jobs to try and educate them? Does that ever work? Do we have to be nice? I don’t feel like trying to set some kind of example. If someone is behaving like an ass, I want to say “you’re behaving like an ass.”

So how do you respond to the “made-up religion” comments?