Category Archives: Social Commentary

Let us Tend the World Hearth Flame

I have a candle that was lit at the Brigid Shrine in Kildare. I received it as a gift from my Grove last Imbolc. I haven’t done anything with it until now. I wasn’t sure what to do with it. I know it is sacred, something special, something I needed to hold onto. But my hearth culture is Anglo Saxon and Brigid is not one of my patrons. Today, however, as I was thinking about the post-election stress, about friends and family dividing over politics, about issues that I feel so small standing up against. I thought of that Brigid candle and felt strongly compelled to light it. A candle that holds the energy of a shrine to which both Christians and Pagans make pilgrimages. A place that unites people despite their differences; dedicated to a Goddess (or Saint) of inspiration, healing, and the hearth-flame among other things.

Brigid seemed like exactly the Goddess to call upon for matters beyond my personal needs. She is not my personal patron, but she is a one that my Grove honors and she is one I will now call on whenever I wish to light a candle for others. Her flame, to me, represents the hearth flame of the world. A hearth that unites rather than divides. We can and should still have our independent hearth cults. But it is never a good idea to segregate oneself so much that the “other” becomes the enemy.

The Earth Mother is host to the World Hearth, and Brigid is one of the deities I believe tends to it. In recognition of this, I dressed a new candle with Cypress oil to be lit with the flame from my original Brigid candle. Cypress oil is my ritual oil for Imbolc, the Holy Tide when I honor the Earth mother and, with my Grove, Brigid. I then invited Brigid to my devotional and told her my intentions.

I was nervous inviting a new deity to my private rituals. Although I honor Brigid in group ritual, I did not know how she would take to me asking so much from her privately. I lit the candle and spoke my prayers without any expectation. I prayed that she might inspire people in whatever way necessary to unite them despite their differences. I asked if she might lend her healing energy to my grandfather in-law who recently broke his hip and to my friends and family who are suffering from broken relationships in the aftermath of election day. I offered wine and I took an omen. I asked her if my request was received favorably. Her response?  The rune, Gyfu (aka Gebo), which means “gift.” I have heard it said that Brigid rewards all offerings to her. Perhaps this omen was confirmation of this. A gift calls for a gift. I offered her wine, but I also offered my love. My love for my family, friends, my country, and the world. My love that I give irregardless of others’ religions, politics, and identities. The omen I received in return yielded a sigh of relief from me.

Please, people, try to put love first. Don’t go immediately into battle while filled with rage. Try to see yourself in your would-be enemies. Try to understand their side. Ask yourselves if hate is really the answer right now. And, like I have said before in this post, do not think that condescending or smug language is going to be met with open ears. I know you are mad. I know you think you are right. But only respectful dialogue can bring another to consider your point of view.

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Thoughts on Public Hexing

Articles, such as this one, about the mass-Hexing of Brock Turner have been published and are making their way around social media. While the hexing is not an event I participated in nor had any desire to participate in, I do not cast judgement on those who chose to participate. I believe everyone should act according to their own moral compasses.

While engaged in discussion about the morality of hexing, it occurred to me that this whole affair isn’t just a matter of morality. Making public that witches can and do still perform hexes can have serious repercussions that the hexers may not have considered.

We’ve only barely begun to escape prejudices and fear-based violence against our kind. This budding freedom has made us a bit too brave and arrogant for our own goods. Do we really want to remind people the impetus that resulted in witch trials and executions in the past?

We’ve spent all this time arguing that those witches weren’t even witches and that witches today don’t harm others. In all of our efforts to escape the negative connotations of old, we have arrived at the other extreme with a “fluffy bunny” association that many now wish to escape. Badass rebels that we finally feel brave enough to be, we advertise that “not all witches follow the rede.” I admit, I am one of those brave rebels. I got caught up in this wave of witchy confidence. I have advertised that I am a grey witch. Saying so is one thing, but publicly sharing a dark-magic ritual is quite another.

The witches who performed the hex rely on the safety net of others’ disbelief. They know they are safe from the law and they take advantage of this. Would any one of these witches  be so confident to inflict such physical pain non-magically? And what what of those who would? Vigilantes, like criminals, know that they are not truly immune from the law, so they do their best to keep their actions under the radar so-to-speak.

Have any of these witches truly thought out the consequences of their hexing? What if Brock really does suffer severe stomach pain or become impotent? Maybe as a result of the hex, and maybe by pure cooincidence. The public fear of witches that we have worked so hard to overcome will be rekindled. This one relatively small act probably won’t attract the attention of the legal system, secular as it is, but it will certainly spark more vigilante action from those who fear us.

None of my words here are meant to speak for or against the morality of hexing or vigilante actions. I am looking at this purely from a self-preservation perspective. I don’t want the pitchfork mob coming after me because a bunch of vainglorious witches decided to gloat about their hexing.

The Problem with Monotheism and the Quest for a World Religion

I’ve been trying to start this post for sometime, but I can’t figure out where to start. Part of the problem is that I have more questions than answers.

But I’m just going to start writing and see where it goes.

I’ll start with a personal background relevant to my interest in this subject. I love medieval history. But I hate that it is entirely tangled up with Christianity. After all, what would be left of the Middle Ages as we know it if not for Christianity?

I have a confusing love-hate relationship with popular imagery from the time. My husband came across a crusader helm mug on Think Geek once and put it on his wish list. From his perspective, all he saw was a representation of his interest in geeky things and Monty Python. I look at it and I instantly feel angry inside. Why does it make me so angry? I don’t know. In general, it should make anyone angry to think of the numerous attacks on human freedom throughout history. But something about religious persecution specifically strikes a personal chord that I don’t even have a claim to. I am not persecuted. I don’t have any specific knowledge of ancestors who may have been, though I’ve heard in passing that some of my ancestors emigrated to escape persecution of their Christian practices.

Religious persecution of any kind makes me mad. I don’t want to see Christians suffer any more than pagans or anyone else. I don’t have a problem with individual Christians, but the religion as a whole comes across to me as an evil force vying for world domination. Not just Christianity, but Islam too. I feel like the history of violence, forced conversion, and proselytization of these monotheistic religions stole something from me that I never had in the first place. It’s the strangest feeling. Sometimes I wonder if I am not feeling residual emotions from a past life.

Because here I am, a pagan in the 21st century in America, land of the free, complaining that Christians from centuries ago stole something from me. Honestly, I have no logical explanation for the feeling, it is what it is.

In my combined attempts to rationalize my feelings and change my negative perspective, I came to the conclusion that the Christian “take-over” of the western world was necessary due to increased globalization. More people interacting means a need for new social dynamics and new political methods. The merging of church and state seemed like a logical way to go. For quite some time, this explanation was suitable for me. It didn’t fix everything, I still felt a yearning for a past that I was not a part of and I mourned its loss, but I accepted what I rationalized to be the only way.

Recently, however, I’ve been considering the efficacy of a world religion on peaceful global relations. Muslims, Christians, even the Buddhists all proselytize (some more peacefully than others) their religions thinking that they follow the one true path and that the world would be a better place if everyone else followed their path too.

Ironically, the desire for a word religion in the name of peace has led to copious amounts of conflict and violence. As far as I am aware, religious warfare wasn’t a thing until the rise of the monotheistic Abrahamic religions. Before this time, conflicts were more likely to arise over basic survival needs – for conquest of lands and resources. Now, in this globalized world where getting along is more important than ever, we have added religious conflict to the mix. What started out as an effort to get everyone on the same page for improved relations has only made relations worse.

What is it about monotheism that creates all this drama? First, let us consider the polytheistic peoples pre-Christian-conversion. When peoples of differing religious beliefs came in contact with each other, they didn’t feel threatened by each other’s gods. What was there to fight over when everyone had their own deities? Oftentimes, people would consider foreign gods with curiosity and sometimes adopt one or more into their own pantheons. With monotheism, however, a particular religious group is certain that their version of the one and **only** god is the correct one. Monotheistic religions, therefor, threaten the validity of each other.

This shouldn’t be a problem if everyone could just settle on one religion, one worldview, one dogma. But this is impossible, nor is it desirable if it were possible. The beauty of this world lies in its diversity. If everything was the same, that would be boring. Who would want to travel anymore? I want to visit China someday, among other places. Why? Because it is so culturally different than where I am from and that is exciting!

The very evolution of individual Abrahamic religions and their further divisions demonstrates our need for culturally relevant and, more often than not, polytheistic belief systems. The Abrahamic God started out as one of a larger pantheon. He eventually sort of absorbed the characteristics of all gods and natural forces until he became the one-and-only. If He is supposed to be the embodiment of all the cosmos, then why do the religions that follow him need angels, saints, demons, Jesus? People have a hard time relating to a cultural-less cosmic being. Culture is a significant part of religion. Jesus came about as a way for Christians to relate to their God on a more human level. It’s telling that pictorial representations of Jesus show him as a white man, despite evidence that he likely wasn’t (religion is inevitably cultural!). Many Catholics worship or pray to the Mother Mary as a deity figure, possibly indicative of desire for a male/female balance. The Saints have been given traits of pagan gods and people pray to them as if they still were gods.

There may indeed be a cosmic all-encompassing god force out there, but like the blog post I referenced last time points out, what matters to us as humans on our microscopic level of existence are the aspects of deity that we can relate to on a human level. This means that there cannot be one cultural-less god figure who will satisfy the entire world’s religious needs.

Consequentially, each religion that insists on naming only a single god as god-of-everything, no matter how culturally relevant to a region, will inevitably lead to conflict and violence each time different religious groups come into contact.

I don’t have the answers to the world’s problems (but wouldn’t I be cool if I did 🙂 ) and this post shouldn’t be taken as proof that we should eradicate all monotheistic religions (attempts at this would also lead to more violence 😮 ) It only represents food for thought and my personal observations.

One last thing: I didn’t mention atheism in the above, so I’ll add my two cents about that in here too. I think its great that some people feel secure as atheists. But the fact of the matter is, mankind as a whole needs something else to believe in. Unless science unravels the theory-of-everything, eradicating religion entirely isn’t an option – although it sounds lovely on paper (isn’t that the way of it with idealistic solutions? 😉 )

Gender Equality

I said I would write a post about my thoughts on gender equality. I’m almost afraid to go through with this because it has been a sticky subject for me in the past and I get intimidated easily. But I’m going for it anyway!  In a previous post, I mentioned that I found Wicca to be, in general, too goddess-centric. Yes, I understand that not all Wiccan’s focus on the goddess, but the Wiccan folks I met up with tended to be of the über-feminist persuasion. Why is it that in order to raise up one oppressed group, another has to be ignored, disregard, or flat out oppressed in return? Is it to speed up the process of reaching equality? A concept like “meet me in the middle?” I guess that would be logical, but it seems to be the natural progression of human ways to continue putting one group or another down long after a state of equality has been achieved. Not that women have reached that state yet, but they are getting close and I hate that there still “needs” to be a faction of man-haters amongst the feminists, giving the rest of them a bad name.

I’ve never openly referred to myself as a feminist. Although I am certainly glad for all that feminism has done for women, it falls short of where I think we need to be in terms of equality. There is a bigger picture out there concerning gender equality that feminism doesn’t fully address. It has done a lot for the biological female sex, but not so much for the “feminine”  (ironic since the very word feminist would seem to indicate otherwise)

In a patriarchal world, the men have everything. Who wouldn’t want to be a man in a patriarchy? I’ve read stories, fictional and biographical, wherein female characters say they wish they had been born a man rather than that they were respected as they are. And so, with that impossible desire in mind, women set out to earn the right to “be” men. And they have more or less succeeded. Although still biologically female, women can live out a masculine role. They can be tomboys, and dress like men (and, I must stress, still be considered sexy and respectable doing so). They can have masculine jobs and roles of power out in the public sphere. This is all absolutely fantastic. Honestly. I am happy that we can do all these things. I am also aware that there is still work left to make it even easier for us to achieve these goals.

But all this effort to earn a place in the masculine sphere has left the feminine even more oppressed than it was before. If a woman honestly desires nothing more than to be a mother and a housewife, others look down upon her. At best, she will receive pity from the feminists who believe she is a victim of patriarchal indoctrination. Not only are women “allowed” to participate in the public sphere and have careers, they are practically expected to do so. Today, everything that is associated with the feminine is significantly inferior to the masculine. Proof of this is especially evident when we separate biological sex from its gendered association.

Recall that I mentioned women can dress like men and still be considered sexy. I don’t mean this in a negative, they-are-objectified sort of way (although that happens too), but that they are not thought of as lesser for wearing pants, or even suits with ties, etc. A man who dresses feminine is laughed at. Not always. People try to put on a show of tolerance and acceptance. But do we really respect men who cross dress in the same way that we respect a women who does? Not at all.

And how about gays and lesbians? A lesbian, to put this in a very simplified context, is acting out the masculine role of desiring a woman. Both lesbians and tomboy-ish women are portrayed in the media as sexy, powerful, deserving of respect (there are exceptions, I know). Films about lesbian couples are usually of a serious nature (dramas) or they are action flicks. While there have been a few dramas featuring gay men too, in general, these type of films (and especially so for cross dressing men, gay or not) are comedies. Why is it so funny for men to act feminine but not so funny for women to act masculine (seriously, you don’t mess around laughing at manly women – that’s just asking for trouble)? Even mostly masculine male characters who try to fill a stay-at-home dad role are comic characters. It’s funny to watch men trying to take care of babies and kids on their own. Any even remotely feminine thing a guy does is subject to comedy.

I contend that this is because little to nothing has been done to achieve gender equality. We have almost achieved biological sex equality – but gender has been left out of the equation.

Some feminists have told me this isn’t true. That gender equality is a significant part of their agenda. Then I usually get a lecture about how I shouldn’t talk about things I don’t understand and that if I don’t have a degree in feminist studies to stay out of their business. Seriously? So only the academic elite are allowed to participate in a discussion that affects the entire world? That makes sense. I may not know exactly what is going on in the private academic feminist clubs, but I know what I see around me. And what I see is that being feminine (whether as a man or a woman) is not the least bit respected. I should feel as free to be über girly as I am to be masculine. Technically, yes, I am free to do so. But I want to do so and have it be understood that this world requires the feminine to the exact same capacity that it requires the masculine. It matters not which biological sex fills each role or combination of roles – only that we recognize the merit in BOTH genders.

Let’s Change the World!

One of my motivations for starting this blog was all of the social commentary I have floating around in my head. I am not often one to ruffle feathers. Far from it, I usually back down as soon as anyone makes any form of meager attempt to intimidate me out of my opinion. Not that my opinion changes, but I always decide that it’s not worth the stress to carry on with the discussion. Nevertheless, I have all these thoughts and I’d like to express them somewhere. Constructive criticism is welcome, but try to play nice, ok? :p

I’d like to begin by sharing with you the exact moment I decided that I should start this blog. It was shortly after the Nickelodeon star, Drake Bell, tweeted about Caitlin Jenner. Something to the effect of “Sorry, still calling you Bruce.”

I don’t know Drake personally. I don’t know his intentions with that tweet. Was it a deliberate cry for (negative) publicity? Was he just trying to be funny (referencing an old episode of “Drake and Josh” when his character made a similar comment)? Did he mean it out of respect for who Caitlin used to be or out of disrespect for who she is now?

These are all the things that go through my head (most of the time) long before I consider commenting on an issue. Usually, the trending scandal of the day is old news by the time I formulate a comment worth sharing.

As you can imagine and/or know, Drake’s comment was flooded with negative replies. Very little, if any constructive criticism. People tend to go immediately into attack mode. But this is so unbelievably counter productive that I can’t understand why the majority does it. Let’s assume for a moment that Drake really does take issue with Caitlin’s transformation. Such a position results from a combination of mankind’s natural reaction to things outside the sphere of “normal” according to a given culture and enforcement of this reaction by a person’s inner circle or life experiences. You can’t just tell someone off for being too close minded and expect any thing to change. Don’t we want change? Isn’t the general idea that we, as a species are on a quest to improve our situation? If you are the first person in the world with a novel thought or opinion, you and the idea will die together if your only method of sharing it is to tell every one off who doesn’t already share your opinion.

I think it’s wonderful that the western world is becoming more progressive, more accepting of what is not the norm. But this acceptance, itself, is also not the norm. I think we forget that sometimes. We assume that everyone should already be loving of diversity. The belief that it “should be” so is what is preventing it from actually being so. The people who attacked Drake believe that he should already know better. I don’t know, maybe he should. But as I said before, I don’t know his exact situation. Maybe he tweeted before thinking and his apology was genuine. Everyone is guilty of saying something from time to time not aware of the exact connotation of their words. But I digress. We are assuming here that he really meant offense by the words. In which case, the best response is not to attack, but to present food for thought or constructive criticism. Explain, without an attitude, why he should reconsider his opinion. This is how change takes place. Everyone thinks they are right unless convinced otherwise. Attacking someone for what they think is the right opinion will only cause them to close themselves off from further dialog.

What is even more crazy to me than attacking over major social issues, is attacking over petty things. Why in the world has the internet become a place for us to forget how to be decent? It’s just baffling. Sometime last year, I watched a video clip of some dude holding a baby deer that he had found caught in some bushes. Someone commented that he was a complete idiot and shouldn’t he know that’s not how you handle a baby deer. Well geez, I dunno about you, but I don’t know the proper handling techniques of various animal species. All I know is what my common sense tells me. There was no malicious intent in the video and as far as I could tell, he was trying to help. Why, seriously, why does everyone feel the need to attack over every petty thing? Is it just the feeling of power they get via anonymity? It’s one thing to be a troll and enjoy stirring people up for the sake of it, but what about the comments that seem to imply a desire for something else? Like the desire that a baby deer be handled properly and people be educated on such things? People need to stop being so vicious online or off and engage in a dialog of substance rather than a dead end attack.

I hope that anyone reading my blog keeps this in mind as I post more of my own possibly controversial thoughts. 🙂

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