Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Has the Label of "Pagan" Outlived It's Usefulness?

I've left paganism more than once. Each time I've left, it's because I can get right with being lumped into the greater perception of the word "pagan".

The first time I left, I couldn't deal with all the in-fighting in the eclectic wiccan groups. This was before the internet. The arguments were all the same. Are eclectics real pagans? Is there room in paganism for soft polytheism? Back then, atheists had absolutely no staked claim in paganism. You were either a hard or soft polytheist, or you weren't a pagan. End of subject.

But, everything evolves. Paganism has been no exception to that statement. Today, there are more types of pagans than I care to shake a stick at. The part that really bakes my noodle is that I'm usually seen as someone who wears all black, drips in pentacle engraved gear and wears enough eyeliner to make ancient egyptians jealous. When I say I'm pagan, people automatically think I worship Zeus, or that I am really good at dark poetry and I wave my hands mysteriously over my cauldron the stove.

Depending on what they've heard about pagans, I'm perhaps seen as an environmental extremist. Someone who rides bikes to work in the snow, eats granola and tries to reduce my carbon footprint to inhuman levels. I'm supposed to protest animal fur wearers and be against hunting for sport.

Or maybe they've heard that all pagans go to Ren faires and are member of the SCA.

My point here is that the word "pagan" has become pretty meaningless. All of those types of people are represented in greater paganism. So, when do we just become a regular old crowd of people on the street, and less a community?

John Halstead over at The Allergic Pagan has this to say about a recent exodus of hard polytheists from the greater pagan community. I appreciate his point in that post. We should embrace and appreciate our polytheists, both the hard and soft boiled versions. We shouldn't strive to run them out of the community. However, I understand why they're doing what they're doing. I understand why they're upset. I've been in their shoes. I was tired of being labeled by the mainstream as anything but what I was in reality. The "hards" are tired of the atheists taking over the term "pagan". I can 100% understand that.

I'm dodgy on the word "pagan". I've been trying to avoid it for longer than I care to admit. It's polarizing on both sides of the coin. It really means nothing. Pagans are so diverse a group of people that on the outside, we look like any other group of people. It's kind of like the work "geek". Everyone is seen as a geek now! "I wear glasses.....I'm such a geek!". No one even understand the term, anymore.

I'll wager that the same is true of "pagan". Does anyone really understand it's meaning anymore? It's been redefined so many times......

So, should we use it? Or at the end of the day, should we really just be using our specific labels and drop "pagan" altogether? I'm a naturalist. I'm a humanist. I'm a witch. I'm an atheist. I'm a naturalist witch. Maybe, I should just use that. Maybe the BTWs had the right idea when they moved away from the word "wiccan".

Here is what hard polytheist, Star Foster, has to say on this topic and I agree with her 100%. The last sentence in that post is very profound, perhaps that should happen. Perhaps we do need to re-examine how we classify our beliefs. Maybe we all really don't have anything in common aside from maybe a few holidays. Star left the pagan blogosphere in 2012. I don't pretend to know the specifics of her departure, but reading a few of her other posts before the last one, I've gathered an idea. I've felt exactly the same as she has, just on the other side of the coin.

I know what makes people disconnect from the greater pagan community. It's very tough to actually find common ground. Moreso now than before the web.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

A Very Merry Equinox!

Today is the Autumn Equinox! Light and dark are balanced, but the dark from now until Spring Equinox next March will be longer than the light.

I don't really feel in balance, right now. I feel like the dark has taken over a little early. This is probably not a bad thing, but it could be very exhausting.

We did our equinox feast last night. I don't do meals like this well on Sundays, I prefer to rest on Sundays and eat light.

As I reported a few posts ago, we have a grilled chicken salad. With that I decided on baked potato with butter, sour cream and bacon bits, gluten free bread and butter, and baked apples with cinnamon, brown sugar, ginger and vanilla ice cream. I didn't get a picture of the dessert, that's how good it was. But, I did get one of my dinner. Sorry for the terrible picture. Took that with my Galaxy Note II because I was too hungry to spend time readying the Fujifilm.

Before anyone asks, no, I did not manage to eat all that. *laugh* I saved some for today.

I will get my meditations done later tonight. Tonight will focus on all of the upcoming work that starts, now. The incense I decided to use was a Cinnamon/Apple.

I hope everyone is having a very Merry Equinox!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Avast! Today Be Talk Like A Pirate Day!

Ahoy, mateys!

'Twas only fittin' that I start me year 'o' dedication t' t' Flying Spaghetti Monster with this day. Today be Talk Like a Pirate Day! 'Tis a day revered by many an FSM follower and pastafarians everywhere. Basically, I be startin' me year here. I'll be havin' t' make a grimoire page for this later on.

I'll be also watchin' vintage pirate footage. "The Goonies" and "Pirates of the Caribbean". So, join me in revelin' in Talk Like a Pirate Day! Yarrrr!

Drink up me 'earties, yoho!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Facing the Dark

In my post about shadow work, I mentioned that I'll be doing some starting on the equinox. Back during the first half of the year, I discovered something about my life that pretty much put a lot of it into perspective. Or more accurately, something about someone in my life. I wasn't really able to delve into the shadow work perspective of it, but it did free up a lot more of my mind to focus on the light work.

This season I'll be going into some really dark places and crevices that I have left alone in previous years. Some of this will be done by talking about my issues on some forums. One of those forums is CrazyBoards. There are other forums, but I'm already on them. The reason for my mentioning it right now is because, I can already tell that this is going to be incredibly hard to do. In fact, it might be the most challenging dark half of the year I've ever experienced.

The thing is, I'm already finding it hard to stay on those forums. I'm finding the posts written by the other members are triggers for bringing up all sorts of memories I really don't want. They're also triggers for me to see just what type of a person I used to be. That's distressing. I don't want to see these things. But, I have to. In order to grow and become better people, we often have to face things we'd rather not face.

I have voices ringing in my head from decades ago, telling me things that scarred me. I have voices ringing in my head telling me that I was a bad person. But, I need to hear and listen to all of it. I need to be involved in these forums and I'm already wanting to leave them. I haven't even started yet.

Yoga is the other thing I'm adding. A lot of people see yoga as some type of "light" activity, but it's very challenging if you happen to be in a crappy mood that day. It can actually wring the dark crap right out of you. Ask yogis how many of them have been sobbing while posing. The answer will probably be pretty astounding. I'm already finding this addition quite daunting just from all the stuff that's come up from reading the forums I'm on!

It's not easy to focus on the shadows. It's not easy to muck your way through all your baggage you have. I'm just going to warn ahead of time, I'm not sure what my posts might be like in the next 4 1/2 months. Some of them might be depressing and triggering to others, so please take caution reading them if you've got your own battles going.

Whatever happens, this is going to be the most intense 4 1/2 months. Emotionally, psychologically, and physically. No doubt.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

51 Days Until All Hallow's Eve

With so few days until my beloved holiday, I thought I'd muse for a bit on the subject.

I am a Halloween addict. A shameless one at that. Even though I don't really have the money to do what I'd like to do, a yard haunt, I still do what I can to show the Halloween spirit every year. That's getting harder and harder where I live.

Now, most people in my state would probably argue with me when I say there's a war on Halloween. But, where I live, there is most definitely that.

The kids here haven't been able to dress up at school for Halloween since 2004. The shift away from this fun, children's holiday activity was without warning. The excuse was that the administration claimed that Halloween was a distraction to learning. This is actually hypocritical, ironic, and stupid because you should see these schools at Christmas time. I'm actually surprised they don't plant a nativity on the front lawn, a north star suspended in the air above it, and a Christmas tree in every classroom. But, you can bet your butts that there is a tree in the entrance ways of every school in this town. As reported by my kids, there are no Halloween decorations anywhere to be seen in those schools.

Each year, there seems to be more and more successful campaigns by the churches in my town to divert attention away from Halloween traditions, and place it in the churches instead. While we do have a Fall Fest every year, here, it's run by the local Christian School. As you can imagine, there's very little there that even resembles a Fall Festival of any kind. The city used to run Fall Fest until the Christian School took over some 12 years ago. Fall Fest is pretty damned boring.

We don't have any professional haunted houses running in this city. We have a couple of local people that run very benign haunts in their own homes, but nothing that I could call a "haunted house". Other cities in this state have serious haunts, some very well known. But, our city is a no go in that area. It's not that we don't have the desire. Upon talking to locals that I know, some wish that we "could" have one. The problem, it seems, it the backlash from the local churches and the complaints from religious people, here. The complaints about Halloween have been on the rise, and the war on Halloween from the pulpits has been very successful.

Trick or treating tradition is all but dead in this city. In 2004, Halloween was rained out. And postponed. I must live in the only city in the world that postpones Halloween.....successfully. Kids didn't get to go out until the first week in November. We got a lot of trick or treaters and my kids got a lot of candy. The next year was a bit lower key. They got a decent amount of candy, and we got a decent amount of kids coming by. It was the years after that, where we really started to notice the toll that the churches were taking on the holiday.

They had already started their preaching against the practice. In 2007, we noticed a shift in the amounts of people giving candy and those coming around. We bought a bunch of candy based on years previous, we ended up having about half of it leftover after the holiday was over. 2008, and 2009 showed a noticeable decline in people participating as well.

By 2009, our churches had started "Halloween on the Square". That's a Halloween event that happens in our town square every year where local businesses come out and give candy to the kids. It was organized by the largest local Baptist church organization. They used "safe candy" as an excuse for this. It was BS, the candy in this area isn't even at risk of being tampered with. Small towns, everyone knows everyone. We started to see more and more people show up at the square, some dressed in costumes and some not even bothering, collecting their "safe candy" and then hanging out for the other things it provides. Local Christian band playing, BBQ, etc.

2010 and 2011 were the eye openers for us. We lived in a central, high traffic area of town. Both years, we got maybe 5 trick or treaters. I only had one trick or treater left in my house and we both noticed that a great many of the homes we used to visit on this night had gone dark for the holiday. He came home with a pretty paltry haul in 2010. He didn't even bother in 2011.

Last year, we had moved to another location. Same city, different part. We're right across the street from the elementary school, so you would think this would be a high traffic area for Halloween. On Halloween night, I went to Walmart just to make sure I had enough on know.....just in case. What I saw that night was very disturbing.

Our square has 4 streets along it's sides with businesses on two sides, and churches on the other two. The two churches on one side had totally blocked off the streets around their buildings and had signs inviting people in for Halloween church functions (I'm sure those were a riot and a half) or directing people to the square for the "safe candy". The only way by the churches was to pass the Square itself. The entire town had to be crammed into these two locations. There were people milling around in the streets at the churches and milling around in the square. I had never seen that many people at these functions previously.

When I got home, I told everyone what I'd seen. My youngest took it the hardest, I think. Even harder than I did, which is a pretty big feat. My middle son left the house with his friends and we just decided to turn the lights off, eat our own candy, and watch horror movies. When the middle came home, he reported that no one he knew even went trick or treating at all. No one went. They all just hung around the square and the churches. Eating food, listening to Christian country music (dear gawds, the pain must have been INTENSE), and eating safe candy. They said no one really had any decorations up in the houses that used to have them. He said hardly anyone even had costumes on, unless they were a tiny kid.

I was depressed. The next couple days after Halloween were grueling here for me. Halloween is big, it's THE holiday. It's like Christmas for all the Christmas freaks. It's dead, here. The next few weeks I talked to some of my local contacts (I don't get out much, "friends" would be a stretch.), the same ones that had wanted haunts years back. They all said that the pressure from the pulpits is why people are not participating, now. Sermons about demonic connections and the like are standard, but they are nothing compared to the psy-war that went on in the last 8 years against Halloween traditions.

In this town, if you're not religious, you're friends with people who are. Or your families are. If you are doing something that the churches are preaching against, you are going to hear about it from those religious people. That's just how it is, here. People were getting pamphlets on their doors, I guess, in the days after Halloween. From people who were telling them how wrong they are for participating in Halloween. Now, these people both people who were visiting houses and people who were giving out candy! Both! From what I heard, some people were even answering their doors on Halloween and handing out pamphlets similar to the ones handed out in Ohio in 2011. I have no idea if that's actually true, that's second hand information. My son never got one of those, so I can't attest to the validity of that claim.

I can attest to the peer pressure that went on here in the years after 2005, though. It was not a secret that the churches do not want Halloween to be a thing in this city. The same as they don't want our county to have alcohol in it. I live in one of the only dry counties left the U.S.! If they can't get ya by law, they'll find ways to get ya. It looks like they've succeeded in driving Halloween out of this city, almost entirely. It will be interesting to see whether they finally axe the Halloween part out of the square event altogether. My bet is on, yes. It's already been successful enough to become just a regular event, just held on Halloween.

Whatever the case may be, this city isn't one I like being in. Being a small town is great, when you aren't a Southern one. I am a bit melancholy about Halloween this year. On one hand, it's a fresh start for me in several areas. It's the time of year when a lot of my personal work is done. It's the time of year when I can set new goals for the next year. The time of the year I most look forward to. But, part of it is missing, now.

It's 51 days until All Hallow's Eve. But, is it really??