Once again, Halstead is arguing with strawmen. No-one ever said that we should not seek respect, only that appealing to the “respectability” as defined by the status quo, excludes those who are most vulnerable.
Respectability politics is a tool of the right-wing. Its recorded history goes back to late 19th Century affluent and Conservative African-Americans seeking to appeal to White society by distributing pamphlets in poor Black communities, telling them how to talk, how to dress, how to fucking bathe – things that those people already considered perfectly fine ideals, but were, on some levels, out of reach to them: Enunciation isn’t going to put food on the table, when you’re trying to put food on the table, dressing Beau Brummel isn’t going to be too high on the priorities, either, and when you’re fucking dirt-poor without indoor plumbing, chances are, you’ll get your baths when you get them. Shit like this is mirrored in Halstad’s words.
In England during the 1970s, when Quentin Crisp’s memoir, The Naked Civil Servant, was made into a BBC television film, telling Crisp’s experiences as a high-feme homosexual man (if he were a twenty-something on Tumblr, he’d probably identify as genderqueer), The Gay Times issued a scathing review, suggesting that Crisp’s memoir was have been best published “posthumously” – implying all over the place that the world would be best off without queers who don’t just fuck queerly, but walk it, talk it, live it every second of every day. The Gay Times was endorsing a respectability politics that said to mainstream Britain, “we know you’ll only respect gays who look and act as much like heterosexual men as possible, so we’re going to act just like you in order to make you accept us. We don’t want the flaming fairies around any more than you do. They don’t have your respect, so they won’t have ours, either.” Thi, too, is mirrored in Halstead’s words.
When people like John Halstead (who, it’s been long established, is only “pagan” because he says he is, but this has been put far more eloquently by others) point at people like Phelan MoonSong and say “this does not help people take Paganism seriously,” he is aligning himself with the sentiments of bourgeois-aspiring 19th Century blacks patronising to the working class blacks, and the misogyny and femmephobia of The Gay Times in the ’70s. This is typical bourgeoisie respectability politics that Halstead is engaging in, and it is a tool of KKKapitalism and the Right Wing, designed to divide; Halstead has made it absolutely clear, in absolutely no uncertain terms, that he cares more about making paganism appeal to the status quo than he cares about challenging the status quo to accept differences.
At this point, I can no longer take Gods & Radicals seriously as an anti-Capitalism publication, for at least as long as they are giving platform to John Halstead. When they give platform to a proponent of respectability politics, they endorse it as perfectly normal, even acceptable within “anti-Capitalist paganism,” as they define it.
This also means that, for at least as long as G&R is giving platform to John Halstead, I cannot at all trust their editor-and-chief, Rhyd Wildermuth, either. I already have trust issues with butch gays, because they have a habit of just being far too comfortable with respectability politics, because the proponents of said almost never come for the butch gays – the butch gays are “safe,” in the politics of respectability, so to them, challenging respectability politics is just an abstract concept that they can agree to disagree on, it’s not something that actively threatens them and their existence or their right to space in activism. He may have appropriated the “faggot” identity, but sit any two-year-old down with a picture of Rhyd and a picture of Quentin Crisp, ask that child which one the “faggot” is, and which one’s the “butch”, we all know who that child will identify as each. (I could go on about how Rhyd has no right to appropriate the word “faggot”, when his careful cultivation of a burly, smelly, sweaty Manly image, to contrast with gay pagans and polytheists who are considerably less so, means that term does not apply to him, according to the homophobic masses, but that’s another story for another time.) I already have trust issues with butch gays, so now it’s up to Rhyd to prove that he’s trustworthy.
The status quo is just as threatened by femme FAGGOTS, like myself, as John Halstead is threatened by any pagan he deems too “weird” to be respectable to the status quo he desperately envisions pagans appealing to.
If he continues to keep John Halstead on the G&R staff of writers, Rhyd is an enemy to ALL who are vulnerable to respectability politics. The longer he keeps Halstead on, the more he proves he’s an enabler of all that comes with respectability politics, including racism, femmephobia, misogyny, cissexism, ableism, freakphobia, and so on. The longer he keeps Halstead on G&R staff, the more Rhyd proves he’s an enabler of the bourgeoisie, and a total sell-out.
Respectability politics has no place in paganism — and it has no place in radical Far Left politics.
…and aside from the coupon code, only one person has donated toward the ring. I have less than $10 to put toward a $130 ring. Thanks.
That said, shortly after I posted about the ring, I was kind of bombarded by email notices about Convergence XX. For those of you unaware, Convergence is an annual, mobile festival/convention that originated as a gathering for regulars on the old alt.gothic newsgroup, back in 1995 when the Internet was little more than text-based Usenet groups and a few garish fansites for bands, films, and comics. My humanoid meat-based housemate was at the first one, and I was involved in a parallel “side fest”, nicknamed “Divergence”, that ran alongside Convergence 9, in Las Vegas, after my Spooky Magazine editor split from the C9 committee (that’s another story for another time). There is a reason I bring this up.
So, since that luna moth incident, I get strong vibes from Nyx. The reason the luna moth was such a catalyst for this is because that’s a pretty strong omen –luna moths are not your common grey moth, they’re among the physically largest moths, they lay few eggs when compared to smaller species and even other large species, and they have an adult-stage lifespan of only about ten days. There are very few people (who don’t go out and wait to take pictures, or study them, of course), who can say one of these night-souls got that close to their face by sheer chance. You’re more likely to see a Lunesta advert on the telly and sporadically hallucinate the animated moth reciting the Orphic Hymn to Nyx than have a luna moth sit on your shoulder for a few seconds.
After being suddenly bombarded with email notifications about Convergence XX, complete with a band line-up including some of my old-school faves from my “baby bat” days in the mid-1990s who cut his teeth on the mid-80s gothic rock sound (March Violets, Sunshine Blind, Pretentioys Moi?, and the new-band-with-old-sound, Peeling Grey, which boasts my friend Dave from Long Beach in the line-up), I laid down some cards, cos it’s really not something I should have gotten that much notification about in such a short time –maybe over a week, and maybe half the emails and social network invites, but not as much as I did in the first day after posting about that ring). I know from intuitions and minor dreams and sporadic short meditations, that Nyx wants me to reconnect with that “nocturnal culture” community. She wants the annual. And after a few rounds with the cards, and an unintended smoke scrying, I believe the ring (and also, hopefully, an intended devotional tattoo for Nyx, Eros, and the Moirai –something I’ve been planning for years but just can’t afford) will come after Convergence XX.
I believe the reasons for this are cos this will give a great opportunity to spread the word about the annual, and not to mention my badges and books.
I’m still taking donations via PayPal at email@example.com –to cover potential lodging fees, train fare, and admission, to print out fliers to promote the annual, to make sure that there is money for the ring after I return to Lansing, and so on. As always, if you’d rather, I have a growing number of badges with Hellenic, Hindu, pagan, and political themes (and many more with bands and musicians). If you want a simple divination with the Eros oracle cards, please donate a minimum of $5 and a note with the question you want asked.
In case you didn’t notice, by the way, the annual has its own page up on here, now, and so far it’s looking like it’ll be great. 🙂
We cannot afford for sex to be sacred. Sacred things sit on altars to be worshiped from afar, not to become part of one’s everyday life. They are not to be touched, played with, fondled, mocked, examined, or questioned. They do not come down into the dust and muck that we live in every day. The sacred stays safely behind the veil of mysticism and respect. Keeping sex behind that veil isn’t just repressive and boring, it’s fatal.
While I can’t really argue that keeping sex a shrouded topic is detrimental and counter-intuitive to sex positivity, this passage, this whole article, demonstrates a clear misunderstanding of anything spiritual that does not neatly fit into a lineage of Abrahamic thought, or at least any non-Abrahamic thought given a pass because of some of the more obvious compatibilities (which is my hypothesis about why certain schools of Buddhism have become increasingly popular in the West, and clearly influencing New Age and pagan thought at least as much as Christianity –these are the schools that stress denial and restriction as their schools’ path to enlightenment).
The sacred is meant to be engaged. Bonded with. Some people are destined to the deepest understanding of those bonds, but those who can’t, aren’t meant to throw open the curtains regularly between this and the other realm, there is still access to sacred. The Earthly is not unsacred, even though there is a sacred realm not normally seen, heard, touched by human senses.
The problem is not the sacred, it’s failure to see all that is sacred as being so. There is no real divide between the sacred and the profane, only sacred and profane facets of Earthly experiences.
So, death is miasma, by mainline Hellenic thought? Yet it’s ritualised, it’s guarded by several deities, and it is a necessary step to apotheosis. There, indeed, can be a sacredness to death, a sacredness that was dictated to us by the Theoi so that we can remind ourselves that there is at least a kernel of sacred within every aspect of our Earthly lives. We can expand that kernel, plant it and let it blossom, or just keep it as a shiny and beautiful token to remind us that it’s all sacred, all worth celebrating and connecting with –because that is how to best to interact with the sacred. That’s why we have household shrines, to invite the Theoi into our lives, gives them a space that, while ostensibly separate, is within the home, and a part of our lives.
I noticed this when Drew Jacob made his (in)famous post proclaiming that he wasn’t pagan. And now I’m dealing with it on a forum I generally respect, and admittedly at a much lower level (cos I guess I’m just not as desirable —or maybe cos this blog just gets less traffic?).
In my quest to see if “pagan” still means anything, and perpetual contemplation over whether it ever meant anything, at all, ever, I’ve stumbled upon this curious phenomenon:
Pagans, as in those who self-identify as pagans, talk a big talk about following one’s bliss and doing as thou wilt, and how everything is cool as long as you aren’t hurting others. Until, of course, somebody who fits the negative definition of pagan espoused by the dictionary puts their foot down and states that they are not pagan. Basically, personal autonomy is all well and good, until one makes the autonomous decision that their religion, and they themselves, are not pagan.
Now, to an extent, I can understand where people might be coming from:
Maybe they assume there’s all kinds of societal pressures to not be pagan, and that simply proclaiming oneself not to be is evidence that one may have been “bullied” into choosing to divorce oneself from the term. That would make sense, if not for the fact that the overwhelming majority of “Not Pagans” on the Intertubes are polytheists —and let me tell you, being a polytheist doesn’t get you any special privileges just for eschewing the self-definition of “pagan”.
Or maybe they think that by proclaiming oneself a “Not Pagan”, it’s cos of some kind of self-closeting. This would make sense if not for the fact that this is often said in response to some-one’s post on a blog, so clearly this person is “out” to at least that much extent. Sometimes the blogger’s real name is even easily accessible. So, OK, that’s not a good hypothesis.
I do often see the claim “well, Abrahamists can’t tell the difference between what you do and what I do”. OK, I’ll play along: Abrahamists also can’t tell the difference between what I do and what Hindus do, and Hindus often get a free pass to be Not Pagan, though likely because the average self-identified pagan is, frankly, rather pale, and probably doesn’t want to come off as Patronising Whitey, trying to save brown people from themselves (except, of course, the pagans who care neither heads nor tails about that, and will outright state that, no matter what the millions of Hindus might say to the contrary, they’re “pagan too”, cos negative definitions trump autonomy). Hell, to certain Evangelical Christians like Jack Chick (and in case you were unaware: He is dead serious, not a parody —though his comics do often get a parody treatment), they can’t tell the difference between what I do and what Catholics do —and all things considered, I’ve met very few pagans who seriously
believe insist (remember: pagans can’t believe in things!) that Catholics are “pagan, too!” So, why should I submit to a word I don’t identify with because some people are too stupid to tell the difference between what I do and what, say, Uncle Bucky’s Big Blue Book teaches? That’d be like telling trans women and men that we’re “really drag queens and kings” because some people are too stupid to tell the difference, and therefore we must submit to terms we believe are inaccurate, because it’s more convenient to coddle stupidity than to treat people as if they’re intelligent enough to discern the differences, or at least can understand the differences if they make the effort to learn.
I see the whole “solidarity” and “strength in numbers” thing a lot, too, but here’s the thing: I can stand in solidarity with you without needing to be one of you. Ask any one of my heterosexual and cisgender friends if I’ve expected them to make themselves be gay or trans in order to support me in that. Hell, I’ve been to a TS/TG group where bringing cis friends, relatives, and partners was a common enough thing, because sometimes people are more comfortable with some-one they know —and don’t get me started on how often het women go to gay bars, and without ever a problem (until, of course, they prove to be a nuissance, like holding their bachelorette parties there). The original (real) Black Panther Party had lots of Caucasian supporters, and some of the first nightclubs to play rap and hip-hop music in the late 1970s were punk clubs, which are more often frequented by white kids than any other racial demographic. Socio-political solidarity does not necessitate one be part of an oppressed demographic to support the issues that affect that demographic the most.
OK, so obviously, one doesn’t need to be pagan to stand in solidarity with pagans on socio-political issues of especial interest to the pagan community. After all, all of these issues also affect plenty of other non-pagans in the world, so it would be silly (to put it politely) to say “only pagans can be at the Pagan Issues Table”. Clearly, one need not identify with the word “pagan” to support issues of general interest to the pagan community.
So what reason is there to call oneself a pagan? Well, I can’t think of any, really, but then, I’m not personally attached to the term (and as I’ve said many times before, I’m becoming less enamoured with it, as I age), so I’ll leave the “reasons to call oneself pagan” to those who actually enjoy identifying with the term, cos here’s what my list of reasons would look like:
Reasons to Call Oneself a Pagan:
1) Because one’s spirituality is rural-based.
2) Because one is defined by one’s bookshelf.
3) Because one is happy to let other people tell them what they are.
4) Because one would rather submit to the pressures of a quasi-religious Neo-Hippie social group than think for oneself.
5) Because one doesn’t know what else to call oneself or one’s religion.
6) Because one doesn’t know what else to call oneself or one’s totally-non-religious lifestyle that lacks beliefs.
7) Because one never outgrew the adolescent desire to piss off Christians.
8) Because one doesn’t understand what Folk Christianity is.
9) Because what one isn’t is more important to oneself than what one is.
10) Because personal autonomy is low on one’s priorities.
And none of those apply to me.
My spirituality is urban. Defining myself by my bookshelf makes me a fag into graphic novels, 1960s pop culture, ancient Greece, and a weakness for bad erotica. I’ve never been happy with letting other people tell me what I am. As much as I like a lot Neo-Hippie things, I submit to none of it. I do know what to call my religion. My secular subculture interests even has a name. I got bored with pissing off Christians when I was eighteen. Folk Christianity is irrelevant to my life. What I am is more important to me than what I am not, and I really dig personal autonomy.
If I say I’m not a pagan, don’t tell me I am.
Not even if I mention that I occasionally resign to the word because some people in this world are seriously too stupid to work out what “polytheist” means.
Not even if I go to PPD events, or do tea readings at a pagan bookstore, or save up enough money to go to Pantheacon.
If you respect me at all, you will call me what I call myself. If you don’t, you will call me “pagan”, in spite of knowing I call myself a Hellenic polytheist.
Edited to add:
It isn’t impossible to hide one’s sexuality or gender identity, nearly eighteen years of DATD showed us that. And of course trans* service people still have to conceal their deepest selves even today.
What is impossible is having whole and meaningful connections with the world outside your closet doors.
So, I’m reading this post on Bilerico, and I can’t help but remember why I stand firm in my belief that being out is not “privilege” as the shamers amongst the Bourgeoisie want us to believe, it’s defiance —maybe the privilege of a loving family is a hollow one for the price of closeting, but the notion that being “out” is a privilege is a Bourgeoisie lie, designed to create an artificial rift between those enslaved to their closets and those who paid a hard price to be free of theirs. And the whole notion of being closeted “for love” is for only the the most empty kind of love you can get from a person; I mean, what kind of love demands that you keep a heavy door between you, never letting the two of you really see each-other, much less really touch and be touched by?
When Psykhe took the lamp into the bedroom of Eros’ crystal castle in the sky high above Helikon, and the tiniest bit of oil singed the beautiful God’s skin, He ran. He didn’t run from the pain, or simply the surprise of being woken up in such a way. He ran from the lack of trust. But at the same time, can She really be blamed? When we truly love some-one, any-one, we want to know them as much as we trust them. We don’t have to know everything, but we have this burning desire to know them, or as Genesis P-Orridge put it, to completely consume them and be a part of them and have them be a part of you. We cannot love from behind doors, we can only admire. Trust, knowledge… Love needs that vulnerability to exist, and until such openness is allowed, there exists little more than fondness.
From the trials of Psykhe, after breaking open Eros’ own closet of darkness, we learn that true love overcomes, making us more willing and indeed able to take in the whole person, love them even more, as with the more we learn, the more we have to fall in love with —be is romantic or familial.
Some might want us to believe the Capitalist lie, that love is a privilege to be earned, but indeed, it’s what makes the world turn —for Gaia so passionately loves Ouranos, that she twirls about in His arms forever as They dance the dance of Eternity around Helios’ shining orb, for even after that blazing ball consumes Them, they and Their love will live on. It was created freely in the womb of eternal night, and is given freely at alarming rates, often with neither rhyme nor reason. Some actions can cause love to end, but this is the most mortal form of love, and being mortal, we can’t help it when that happens —but the less mortal, more pure the love, the more willing it is to see that which sets us apart and love us all the same, or even all the more.
I love etymology, and this leads me to often thinking of the words I use very carefully before using them. I don’t call heterosexual “straight” by default, because “straight” in this use does not simply mean heterosexual: It means “normal”, “not a criminal”, “sober”, and it evolved from criminal and drug subcultures. As homosexuality is no longer criminalised in the First World, to call heterosexuals “straight” is to reinforce homophobia, I dare say it is even an act of homophobia.
…but I digress.
First off, while I dislike the term “pagan” based on a loaded etymology, and I absolutely do not feel like it is the best word to describe my religion, I do occasionally resign to it out of convenience and knowing full well that even though it may be one of those instances where it’s simply easier than going on a long discussion I don’t want to be in (or I would have made that discussion happen and not said “I’m pagan”), I do so with the knowledge that I’m inviting in all of these assumptions people are going to make about me that are, by and large, not an accurate way to describe me or my religion at all.
While there is certainly a reinforcing etymology to these assumptions of others’, the major reason for these assumptions is the self-reinforcing stereotyping that runs rampant in the community of self-identified pagans. The fact of the matter is, the “mainstream” idea that pagans are nature-worshipping hippies dancing barefoot in the woods is because an overwhelming majority of self-identified pagans fit that description, and tend to be a bit less-than-accepting of anybody under the “pagan umbrella” who doesn’t fit that description. This is the primary reason for such a rift between the pagan community and polytheists of the recon method: A majority of “recons” are urban or at least non-rural in that they neither naturally feel nor feel any desire to need an especial spiritual connection with the rustic or even wild lands to properly practise their religion, whose who may identify as urban tend to have an especially spiritual connection to cities. A lot of “recons” are centrist, conservative, or are urban liberals who recognise that sustainable living is that of either the farm or the metropolis, the suburbs where many self-identified “pagans” actually live being an abomination.
I definitely see an emerging “post-reconstructionism” movement in the polytheist community, wherein people realise that the reconstructionist method, when applied strictly, can be limiting and allow for little (if anything) in the way of spirituality in tune with modern realities, but that does not necessarily mean that the community of self-identified “pagans” is necessarily going to be the best place for such people, especially those of us who neither have nor want nor need to have a deep spiritual void filled with the kind of minor (or major) woo that can only be found tilling the land of a homestead farm or deep in the woods and miles from civilisation.
Personally? I’ve had times where I’ve tried to get that, but I’m physically, emotionally, and spiritually allergic to the woods. One cannot make that connection happen if it’s not meant to, no matter how much one tries, no matter how much one has to fill oneself with antihistamine just to be clear-headed enough to not only be perceptive of that connection, if it’s to come, but make sure it’s meaningful. I mean, who knows? For all I know, maybe all that Zyrtec and Zatador drops and nasal sprays and various creams block that connection —but if being without all that antihistamine makes it hard to breathe in a rural place, then maybe I’m just not meant to have that sort of connection to nature? Maybe I really am better off without it, and the Theoi are just fine with that?
…but some-one recently asked me why I liberally self-aply the term “Queer”, but not pagan —after all, these two words both have virtually the same histories! Well, except that they don’t.
No, really. They don’t.
The word “queer” comes from German (versus “paganus” coming from Latin), meaning “oblique, off-centre” and has a possible relation to “quer”, meaning “odd”. The first recorded use of “queer” relating to homosexuality only dates to 1922 after the word “queer” was introduced to English around 1500, when “paganus” was first adopted as a slur against non-Christians during the Holy Roman empire!
Then there’s the fact that, based on etymology alone, I’m very Queer. Even amongst the subcultures I’ve found myself at home in, I’ve never epitomised any of them: Too dark for most Mods, too polished and classic for most Goths, too erudite for most punks, and too modern and urban for the overwhelming majority of pagans and polytheists. Even as a gay man, well, I’m of TS history, which makes me the sort of potential sexual partner many other gay men want nothing to do with. As a man of TS hostory, I’m enough of an effete that most of them will still call me “ma’am”, even after told that’s inappropriate. How any of this makes me unstrange, unqueer, seems rather, well, queer to me. If any-one has a right to re-claim “queer” from a status of slur (and a relatively new one —the term was rather benign prior to it’s GBLT associations), I think I can objectively say that I sure as hell do.
On the other hand, what right do I have to “pagan”? If this is a term that evolved from the Latin equivalent of “redneck” or “hillbilly” and now possesses a baggage that includes a highly implict and (very easily argued) enforced community meaning of “nature-worshipping”, then no, it doesn’t fit me in the slightest. A Google Image search for “pagan” or a perusal of Wikipedia’s article on Neopaganism and its contemporary photos reveals how deeply “nature religion” is synonymous with the contemporary pagan community, to the point that “urban paganism” is such a tiny niche market that only three books have ever been published on the suvject —one currently out-of-print (Patricia Telesco’s The Urban Pagan), and one is so lousy with a strong and unapologetic rural bias that, as I know my own spiritual realities, it’s riddled with fallacious misinformation (pretty much the entire Introduction to R. Kaldera & T. Schwartzstein’s The Urban Primitive is a biased screed hailing the woodlands and damning the urban lands as a bringer of doom and ailments both physical and spiritual, though it gets a little better, it’s not by much). I don’t even think the pagan community thinks they’re being as unwelcoming and prejudiced as, in practise, they really are, but when the reality of this not merely ostensible, but blatant and celebrated bias is something that one must deal with at every venture into the “pagan community”, hoping to touch based with co-religionists, other devotees of one’s patron, and those walking an otherwise similar spiritual path, then not only is it apparent that one’s spirituality is regarded as “queer and perverse” in the pre1922 sense, but also one that’s regarded as lesser and hollow, false and silly, then yes, I think I can say that I don’t have any incentive to try and rationalise any claim to the term “pagan”, as it’s being made abundantly clear that I only barely qualify —like the cisgender gay man who likes to make it perfectly clear that he’s normal, and not one of those icky fem gays or trannies, that he was in a fraternity in uni and captain of the gridiron team, and his name is Cleancut McNormaldude and just happens to be somehow “queer”. R~i~g~h~t…..
In fact, I roll my eyes at Cleancut McNormaldude attempting to claim he’s “queer” rather than “gay“, if not “homosexual” or “bisexual” are words he feels suit him, because that’s not a word that gives any accurate nuances that describe him outside of only one of the implied meanings, at best, that he’s practically watered-down the meaning of “queer” to strip it of all nuance and render it nothing more than a meaningless synonym.
When one truly loves vocabulary, it becomes apparent that even words that seem synonymous have these nuances that make their meanings truly different, even if in seemingly minor ways. These numances are important, as any Paganism & Witchcraft 101 book worth the paper they’re printed on have said before me. To say “crone” when “hag” is best can render a ritual or spell useless or change it completely, so why call myself “pagan” when it carries with it not only an etymology but a common, every-day use that implies so many things that I am not and only one thing that I am (polytheist, practising a pre-Christian religion)? Why should I not use Queer when it can easily cover all sorts of nuances about my personality and character in addition to my sexual predilections?
If you’re going to say anything at all, say it the best way that you can.