Sometimes, I think I might be different from most people…

(Here’s something that’s been sitting in my Draft folder since at least August 2013, just figured I’d pick up where I left off and see what happens with it.)

…and that this might be especially true with regards to the pagan community.

First off, I was never interested in Wicca. I’ve seen literally dozens of people all over the Internet and in real life claim that Wicca is a starting point for all pagans, a shared experience to some extent, for all Western pagans. This is simply not true, for myself. All I know about Wicca is mostly from a combination of the old “Why Wiccans Suck” and the Wicca For the Rest of Us sites and a handful of things I’ve seen others say on blogs, LiveJournal communities, and e-mail lists. Most of these “sources” assumed a passing familiarity with many NeoWicca basics, and I gotta say, I still don’t know what “casting circles” or “crossing quarters” exactly is or is supposed to do in ritual, I have an idea based on the things I’ve read, but I’m not sure I could identify it, if I saw it. Wicca was never a part of my journey, and so this is likely the main way I’m simply not like pagans –I’m not very familiar with that language, and it’s not at all an experience I share.

Secondly, I don’t “revere” nature in the same ways that I see from a majority of pagans. I recycle my rubbish and I compost in honour of the nymphai, but my primary interest in avoiding processed food is cos of allergies and other immediate health concerns, rather than the borderline tin-foil-hat ravings against “Frankenfoods”. I say “borderline” because they’re often based in some evidence of experimentation, but no evidence that the sort of experimentation that they speak of will ever enter the mainstream food sources; furthermore, while Monsanto is certainly an evil Capitalist corporation, the whole idea behind engineering resistant crop seeds lays in the compassionate hope to feed more people for less money, including people in deeply impoverished areas in industrialised and non-industrialised countries, and as far as I’m concerned, it’s pretty telling that the overwhelming majority of people who are anti-GMO, across the board, are affluent white people from industrial countries. Humans have been modifying food crops since the dawn of agriculture —it’s kind of how Mesoamericans evolved maize (sweetcorn) from being a completely inedible mutant grass (look up “pod corn” sometime) into the staple crop that would eventually come to dominate the agricultural industry of the Americas. All that’s happened in this last century is technological advances that that accelerate the process by actually examining the genetics faster than the trial-and-error hybridisation observed by Mendel, and also the multi-billion-dollar industry that makes a basic human need and a once-compassionate idea into an unstoppable corporation that exploits its means to penalise small farmers. There’s hardly a single thing humans eat today, save for the cultures that still subsist on game and insects as a major protein source, that isn’t a “genetically modified organism”. This technology can, and has been, a good thing that can literally feed the world, if bourgeoisie honkies and those aspiring to be and /or aping said would take a step back and examine the underlying classism and racism in what they’re saying when they talk about banning this technology as a whole. I’ll agree that some additives are best done without, and that there does seem to be a strong correlation between eating highly preserved foods and poor health, but I’m not so self-centred and ignorant as to believe that simply modifying a crop’s or a livestock’s genetics is a problem, in and of itself. Might it be a problem to introduce one of the highly experimental modifications into the main source crops? Sure. Might there be problems with this accelerated modification several generations down he line? Possibly, but probably not as much as the anti-GMO crowd certainly wants people to believe –if anything, any health risks associated with that accelerated genetic selection will happen more slowly and be less apparent until it affects millions of people, doing it the old-fashioned way.

Then there’s the fact that I REALLY don’t understand why some of, apparently, the most popular pagan bloggers are. From Star “Foster Care” (yeah, I know she tries to pretend she’s “not a pagan blogger anymore”, but from what I’ve gathered from certain people who just feel this inexplicable need to keep me informed on the various minutia of the pagan & polytheist blogosphere, she sure continues to do a lot of whining about how she’s not a pagan blogger anymore, which just makes me think of the kind of atheist bloggers who whine about Christians and how they aren’t Christian, and then act surprised when no-one takes them seriously when they insist that they do more than whine about Chrirstians), to (now ex-pagan) Teo Bishop/Matthew Morris and his shit-eating grin. It’s always that the most popular pagan bloggers tend to have the least to say, but allot more time and energy into saying it than those who are actually pretty interesting, and because of a combination of that, savvy social connections, and sheer persistence, guess who gets the attention for it? It’s not that I necessarily have anything against certain people (though sometimes that changes), and I know their fangirls will always try and insist otherwise, but it really isn’t jealousy. It’s sheer bewilderment that some-one can drone on and on about how much they “never wanted to be a big-name pagan, but poor me, I took a high-profile position at a popular webzine and volunteered to go on CNN and all that shit, anyway” or about how much they really don’t understand how ritual circles work, and dozens, even hundreds of people –other bloggers and mere commentators alike– will sit and applaud, as if this complete nonsense was somehow meaningful, or perhaps confusing ignorance with insight. I mean, I guess if I think about it, I can concoct a few reasons for how this dullness ends up as “the voice of pagan blogging” and how watered-down drivel like Silver Ravenwolf is Llewellyn’s international best-seller: Pagans don’t give a shit about excellence. They want voices that they can relate to more than they want someone to look up to, which possibly reveals a resistance to personal, spiritual growth. They’re so paranoid of any semblance of authority that they’ll buy the notion that some of the least-noteworthy ideas are worthy of a blog entry, just as easily as they’ll buy Scott Cunningham telling them that a “self-initiation” is as valid as a real initiation into a traditional coven, no matter how much the very phrase “self-initiation” smacks of contradiction. I mean, hell, bloggers and Llewellyn authors aren’t the only “pagan writers” lacking in standards of excellence; do a search for “diane paxson, marion zimmer bradley, walter breen sex abuse” and tell me that the pagan community isn’t quick to turn a blind eye to unsavoury associations because someone did something they liked, I fucking dare you.

And don’t get me started on pagan music. A good 85-90% of the pagan music I’ve heard is half-arsed filk that’s barely better than what an especially eloquent toddler might write. The best pagan music is usually in the Gothic or Neofolk genres, and while I certainly won’t deny that SOME Neofolk artists maintain unsavoury associations on par with the kiddie-diddling that Paxson and Bradley were enabling and covering-up (and Bradley, at least, partaking in herself), not only are many (if not most) not maintaining such associations, at least not directly (seriously, Leonard Cohen was one of the major influences on the Neofolk genre, and if you listen to Leonard Cohen, you kind of fail at Nazi) but some Neofolk artists are Far Left or simply apolitical, and yet possibly the most-deserving big pagan blogger, Jason Pitzl-Waters at The Wild Hunt, often seems on a campaign to portray the entire genre as just a bunch of Neonazis when, let’s be frank, there’s far more damaging evidence that Eric Clapton is a fascist than the members of Spiritual Front (yes, I know Simone Salvatori did a song on that tribute album to Codreanu, but he also lists Discharge, an anarcho-punk, Leftist, and pacifist band as one of his all-time favourites –at best, you’ve got evidence that he’s “trolling”, as my humanoid meat-based housemate would say). Then there’s the fact that, many “Martial” bands that make no secret about cozying up to Fascism (even though there’s a handful of clearly Left-wing martial musos, as well). It’s not hard to learn any of this —I don’t have nearly the search engine magics that my humanoid meat-based housemate does, and I can still figure out pretty easily that no, not all Neofolk has “murky politics”, and if challenged on calling out a band or artist, I don’t just brush it off with “trust me, I’m a goth”, as if that makes me some kind of authority on a different scene (albeit one with significant cross-over appeal, but a different scene, nonetheless), I cite my fucking sources.

Then there’s the goddamned polyamourists. In theory, I have nothing against those who have multiple informed romantic/sexual partners, but let’s get a few things straight:

Polyamoury ≠ “Free Love”. The latter was a Victorian anti-marriage/proto-feminist movement, and real Free Love proponents actually frowned on the notion of multiple partners for the simple fact that it’s not what their movement was about –it was about the freedom to cohabitate and raise a family with another person out of love without being subjected to the borderline slavery of Victorian marriage laws. Polyamoury is about “being in love” and having sex with multiple people, all of whom are ostensibly aware, at least in passing, of one’s other relationships. Some polyamourists are married (a notion that appalls true proponents of Free Love) and cohabitation is not a requirement or necessarily a goal, with any of one’s lovers, whereas Free Love is about at least hoping to find a mate for pair-bonding and cohabitation, even if the couple is under no pretentions of this being a lifelong arrangement.

Then there’s the goddamned “poly-” cultists, who seem damned determined to make sure everyone is like them, especially if they’re of the sort that can’t actually be in a functional interpersonal relationship of any sort (with the ostensible exception of biological relatives -but you can never tell with some people) unless sex is eventually going to happen with this other person. of course, is that really a functional relationship model?

And not to mention the fact that even Oberon Zell, who arguably introduced the concept to the pagan community in the 1970s/80s, has even said, “serial monogamy may just be the human default“, and has said it without any sense of judgement, but just as a simple fact that people should keep in mind.

So there’s very little common ground between myself and most self-identified “pagans”, and while I’m totally cool with that, it does help keep me weird.

While I have you here, were you aware that I’m still seeking Moving expense donations?



The Wild Fail

This is something that needs a broader audience than the handful of pagans and polytheists who read this.

I don’t have an irreconsilable problem with all Christians. Some of them, on an individual basis, can be quite pleasant, yes, i know this as well as anybody could. One of my favourite musos ever, Prince, grew up Seventh Day Adventist, famously converted to Jehovah’s Witness in the last decade, and has a career filled to the gills with songs that often juxtapose Christian imagery and frank depictions of sexuality —seriously, he’s barely had three albums that make no references to Christianity at all, and I’m sure I’m overguessing that. Sure, you could argue that when he wrote in “I Would Die 4 U”1 from the Purple Rain soundtrack, the lines “I’m not a woman / I’m not a man / I am something that you’ll never comprehend”, he was infusing his Christianity with Gnosticism, or even, dare I say, a “pagan sensibility”, but let’s be clear about one thing: I read so much biographical information about Minneapolis’ National Treasure that I can say with complete confidence that Prince has always been pretty openly Christian, and has used his music to make this clear, even if the message is riddled with borderline Gnosticism or vague allusions of pagan mythologies (“Adonis & Bathsheba”, anyone?), even if the message is on the same record as songs like “Gett Off” or “Darling Nikki”. Hell, I probably unintentionally (and unknowingly) learned more about Gnostic Christianity from Prince songs than any other source, prior reading over the “Gnostic Gospels” at Barnes & Noble. But I digress….

My first point was this: Christians themselves, on an individual level, are not an issue.

My second point: My problem is with Christianity not only as a religious institution, but as a privileged social status.

Now, as i’ve said in other posts, “privilege” in the sense that is commonly spoken of by armchair/wannabe sociologists with blogs (often on Tumblr) isn’t about having a money vault that you swim in like Scrooge McDuck. “Privilege”, in a sociological sense, is about being of a demographic that the society tends to assume to be the human default. There are other connotations that come along with privilege, but that’s basically how it’s defined in the field. Most people have some degree of privilege, even if it’s just the ability to walk or see unaided, and no serious discussions about socio-political privilege seem to happen anymore where intersectionality of privilege is not considered. In Western societies, Christianity is typically assumed to be the default religion of almost everybody, until there is reason to believe otherwise —like seeing a boy in a yarmulke, or a Middle Eastern-looking woman with a hijab. Compared to Chistianity, all other religions are, to varying degrees, disenfranchised. Judaism and Islam have some clout, especially in large metropolitan cities, because they’re from the Abrahamic umbrella of religions –they all maintain a narrative mythology involving the figure of Abraham and his covenant with his god, but outside those environments, where non-Christian Abrahamic religions are generally accepted, there’s really no telling how people are going to react to it. Now, your mileage may vary, and certainly some places are more accepting than others, but now consider the potential risk of backlash against someone who is of a non-Abrahamic religion. I’ve had potential employers (in the late 1990s, when I was in high school) ask me, point blank, if I was Christian or “if what [their] kid said was true and [I’m] into that devil shit”2. After years of watching news item after news item come up on The Wild Hunt, I have no reason to believe that it’s somehow “better, now”, simply because fifteen years have passed.

That said, I was highly disappointed, to say the very least, when I saw that not only has Matt “Teo Bishop” Morris and his shit-eating grin converted back to Christianity, but The Wild Hunt seems to be letting his continue to post about this personal spiritual journey of his on the Wild Hunt. TWH is not just keeping tabs on him, as a friend and fellow lib-dem religious blogger — TWH is allowing him to make future posts about his journey back to Christianity.

Call me crazy, but that shit is highly inappropriate.

You might as well ask an ex-gay to come talk about their journey to heterosexuality at a GBLT event. Contrary to another commenter’s fool-headed assumption, “ex-gays” have absolutely no place in the GBLT community. None at all.3

I really want to call to a boycott over this, but I dunno, something is telling me that it’ll fail.

Bishop can practise whatever religion he feels his heart is called to, and TWH can publish whatever other writers that Jason Pitzl-Waters feels are appropriate, I suppose, but if JP-W is going to bill this as “a modern pagan perspective”, concentrating on current events and pop culture as they’re relevant to paganism, then why allow this self-indulgent narrative about one man’s journey back to Christianity? No-one reads TWH for that. No, if we wanted to read that, there is no shortage of liberal Christian blogs for that kind of story.

And contrary to JP-W’s ridiculous idea that any other media outlet would do the same? Hardly. Find me one major Christian blog of similar focus (current events and pop culture as related to their religious group) that would let some self-indulgent column about their journey AWAY from Christianity happen, and I’ll give you a dollar. Too many Christians abide by the notion that “true faith is forever” to allow such a thing to happen. In this case, on the other hand, it is both inappropriate and unnecessary, even considering that many pagans encourage the questioning of one’s faith in their gods.

It’s inappropriate because, at this point in time, especially in the Anglosphere, the religious abuses committed by Christians is a well-established fact that often prompts many people into exploring paganism in the first place. Someone who hasn’t properly healed from that sort of experience neither wants nor needs to see Mr Shit-Eating Grin joyfully detailing his re-conversion to Christianity and pondering the potential long-term relevance of paganisms, as an outsider. No matter how much he leaves the option on the table that he “might end up some kind of Christopagan”, as it currently stands, he’s admittedly an outsider. In theory, I have no real issue with Christopaganism; it’s an historically valid thing, to varying degrees, but at the same time, it’s something I have a bit of a tendency to be suspicious of, if for no other reason than that narrative mythology is important to Christianity, arguably more so than in any pagan religion I’m aware of, and much of that puts itself squarely at odds with pagan/polytheist religions; some people have creative ways of reconciling this, so in practise, I take each one as I see them and abstain from generalising this sort of liminal group. That said, there’s a petty apparent difference between some-one who does identify as a Christopagan, and one who simply puts that option out there for himself, as a potential future occurrence. Bishop has done the latter, and as it stands, while certainly debatable, I stand that his presence as a “leading voice” in the pagan blogosphere is at least somewhat inappropriate.

It is also unnecessary. You need only load up Bing (or any other search engine) and type in a few keywords to learn why: There is no shortage of narratives from people converting to Christianity on the Internet. Many are even from liberal Christians writing for liberal Christian blogs. He also has his own blog, where he can yammer on about what he did for Yahweh today, how ritual circles still confound and perplex him, how polytheists are so niche we’re practically irrelevant, and catching up with his old Mickey Mouse Club buddies all he wants. I don’t care that his shit-eating grin has literally graced the cover of Witches & Pagans magazine’s latest issue4, it’s no longer his reality. In a world that is already so saturated with Christian narratives, pagans don’t need Christian narratives in pagan spaces anymore than any other disenfranchised group needs to hear or read the narratives of the privileged, cos we already hear and read about it more than we really care to.

As I’ve already said, this just strikes me as an example of cronyism at its finest because some-one inverted Spock’s monologue and now they think it’s the precious fee-fees of the individual (especially when he’s your buddy) that are more important than the needs of the community —news flash, it’s the other way around.

…but hey, The Wild Hunt has been full of fail for some time now. The more I think about this cronyist bollocks, the less surprised I actually am by it.

1: Prince has made it clear, in no uncertain terms, when asked about that song in particular, “it’s about God”, ostensibly that of Christianity.
2: This was already circulating my school when i was in seventh or eighth grade. I didn’t discover LaVey’s writings until after I left high school, so this was all because I was simply open about my interest in paganism.
3: Nor is heterosexuality ever a “queer experience”.
4: I also don’t trust self-proclaimed journos who use non-words like “irregardless”, but I’m kind of a snob like that.