Amazon.com Widgets
Currently viewing the tag: "Community"

Sometimes I think there’s a good reason for blind faith, religious ignorance, unwavering piety. Sometimes those seem like a much easier choices than being inquisitive, being contemplative, being patient with your own uncertainty.

The dialogue around the last post extended deep into the theoretical as well as the practical, even spawning an interesting offshoot post on ecological polytheism, and a resurgence of questions about an American goddess named Columbia.

The explosion of ideas did a number on me. I didn’t realize that it had until I tried to approach my shrine this morning and perform my daily ritual. I couldn’t turn my brain off, and I kept wondering — But who am I making these offerings to, exactly? What is the point of this thing that I’m doing?

This quick-shift back to a state of doubt and questioning might come off to some as a sign of an adolescent faith. But if that’s true, what’s the alternative? A religious practice or paradigm that is no longer close-examined? A fixed piety? If that’s the case, then perhaps the people who are unwilling to engage in a discussion about the nature of the gods (or God, if that be their god), the origin of divinity, or any other such complicated subject simply have it easier. Their religious tradition can grow without the tampering of every little question, every “wait but....”

Clearly, though, I cannot be comfortable with such a religious tradition.

I question. I always have. If there’s anything about me that’s fixed, perhaps it’s that.

Some people suggested that my difficulty in conceiving of how a god might have a human origin is a holdover from some part of my Christianity, and that it may be the lingering perception of God’s infallibility that is making it difficult for me to imagine myself (or anyone I’ve ever known) as being one day thought of as a god. Fallibility or infallibility didn’t even enter into my mind when I wrote that post, though. The question wasn’t whether or not gods are, by nature, infallible, omnipotent, omnipresent, or any of the other descriptives of the Christian god, and the fact that those concepts were thrown into the mix only confused things for me.

If there was any holdover from the Christian tradition of my past, it may have been that they conceived of God as being responsible for, or an undercurrent to all of what exists. Let me repeat that: all of what exists. I’m well aware that this is not how Pagans conceive of gods, but consider for a moment the (perceived) difference in magnitude between a deity which is understood to be the origin of all creation, and a deity that, in the future, will once have been me.

You see what I’m saying? Different scale, right?

On one level this is all theoretical, but on another it is not. This information, these questions, they had an impact on how I approached my shrine today. They affect how I proceed in participating in my religion, and how I prepare myself to be in dialogue with people from other traditions. None of this seems trivial to me.

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus asked in the comments:

“Is it that you worry that you’ll be “mistaken” for a god, with the implication that you’re not and likely never could be; or, that you’ll be recognized as a god, and what that could mean about your own potentials now and the responsibilities you might have in the future that you’re not comfortable with? In other words, not that it’s a mistake to recognize you as a god in the future, but instead that it’s a mistake to not recognize your own divinity?

(emphasis added)

These words are messy. The food won’t stay in its own little compartment, and all of a sudden the divine peas are mixing with the divine meatloaf, and I’m not sure what divinity is even supposed to taste like anymore.

Semantics, people say dismissively when I get worked up in one of these states. But these semantics are rearranging my furniture, and I’m not sure where to sit or stand at the moment.

Help?

When you find yourself uncertain about the definitions, the functions, the meanings or the purpose, what do you do? If religious ritual is the thing that centers you, but it is also the thing which is informed by the very stuff you’re questioning, what do you do?

Should I make offerings to the future me-god for some guidance?

I don’t often weigh in on national news. That isn’t really the focus of this blog. But today, national news went local.

I live just south of Denver, in the city of Englewood. My home is about 20 minutes from Aurora, the scene of a gruesome mass-killing which took place last night at a midnight showing of the newest Batman movie. We’re also about 15 minutes from my parent’s house in Littleton, which sits just a mile or two down the road from Columbine.

It’s a strange thing to position yourself in between tragedies, as though somehow your proximity gives you a greater amount of insight into the meaning (if there even is such a thing) behind the massacre. Neither of the two events affected me in any immediate sense. I mean, I didn’t know anyone who was killed at Columbine. My little brother was in elementary school at the time, his school a few blocks away from the scene. I recall my mom calling me, frantic and panicking about the school being on lockdown, and she couldn’t get to Jake.

I guess we were affected a little.

I don’t know who was killed last night, or who is injured. My grandmother jokes that we’re related to half of Denver, with cousins in every corner of the city. There might be a relative in the list of the injured or dead — I suppose there’s a chance — but I hate the thought. I’m sure I would have received a phone call by now.

This idea that proximity engenders relevance is confusing. So much of my waking time is spent pushing ideas through various internet channels of communication, connecting to people in other cities, other states, other countries. So much of what happens, or is communicated through the internet, comes to feel simply like information, consumed without much mindfulness.

And then something happens nearby, something so visceral and bodily, and I feel disoriented.

Columbine became a symbol. The word, our state flower, turned into a list of villains and victims. The memorials of the dead were erected near high school football fields, and license plates were imprinted with the words “Never Forget.”

Coloradans are certainly remembering today.

I don’t know if Aurora will become a symbol in the same way that Columbine did. Perhaps it will come to represent something about violence in entertainment, or the lack of security in public places. Perhaps this will be the moment where fear takes center stage, and we become distrustful of one another. Once they release the information about the assailant, perhaps people will seek to understand what it was about his family, his home-life, his schooling, his socioeconomic condition, his politics, his gender, which led him to make this choice. We will apply our arm-chair-sociologist perspective on the matter, and locate — pridefully — the reason he did it.

Not that the reason will make it any easier to understand.

As a religious person, one who is often engaged in conversations about what good a personal religion can do for one’s life, I feel inclined to do something religious in response to this. I’m not certain what good it will do for anyone other than myself, but I still feel the need.

Perhaps I’ll pray for the victims, or for the shooter, or for his family. After all, they’re out there in the city somewhere, trying to make sense of what just happened.

Prayer feels like an appropriate response somehow.

I’d like to open up the space for all of you who may not share my proximity to these tragedies to offer up the prayers that seem most appropriate to you. The prayers may be directed to specific deities, or they may simply be words of peace that you’d like to offer up to anyone who reads them. You may begin your prayer with “I pray to…,” or “I pray that…,” or you can use another form, if you like.

But please join me in taking a moment to respond softly, and kindly, and with a sincere heart, in prayer.

Organized sports never suited me. But wrestling with my faith? Someone should give out trophies. I would have a garage full.

When I left for the Eight Winds Festival, the first ADF gathering I’d ever attended, I was concerned that I may not be able to invest myself fully on account of a little religious indiscretion I had with the Cosmic Christ (if you didn’t hear about that, read this or this). I thought there was some need to resolve the conflict I experienced after reading Jesus Through Pagan Eyes in order to fully participate in the rituals, workshops and fire-side chats. To my delight, however, Jesus did not cockblock my weekend.

I spent four days firmly planted in polytheistic soil, surrounded by some of the brightest minds and the warmest hearts I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. I talked about the gods, talked to the gods, made offerings to the gods, and did so without any hesitation or reservation. And, I found that discussing my history in Christianity was welcomed by my fellow ADF Druids, in so much as it could provide a context for my perspective about liturgy, ritual and church structure. One need not dismiss what came before in order to value what is happening now, I learned.

If you’ve been a long-time reader of this blog, you’ll know that from time to time I’ve been undecided about whether ADF or OBOD is best suited to my temperament. I’ve had many conversations online with others who go back and forth about which expression of modern Druidry is right for them. For some, this in-between spot suits them well, and I respect that. For me, though, after a weekend of Druidry, ADF style, I’ve realized that ADF provides the kind of religiosity that makes sense to me.

One festival attendee, Elizabeth, summed it up quite perfectly when she said,

“ADF intellectualizes spirituality, and spiritualizes the intellect.”

Spot on.

The intellect is a tool which can enrich so much of religious practice. You don’t have to suspend your critical thinking skills in order to engage with your religiosity as a mystic. There is a time and place for everything, and I appreciate how much ADF Druids value the mind.

I used to be concerned that ADF might lean too much toward scholarship, and by doing so make it difficult to originate anything new or spontaneous within the religious practice. I’m not a Reconstructionist at heart. But I now think that ADF’s approach to religion creates an amazing tension between the scholarly, and the intuitive, creative approaches to Pagan religious practice. As Ceisiwr Serith told me during his presentation on ritual theory,

“If you want to be a jazz musician, you better learn your scales.”

And that’s the whole point of ADF’s emphasis on the study of Proto-Indo-European cultures. It’s the reason that ADF suggests that Pagans look with a critical eye at any claim of “unbroken lineage.” Something does not have to be ancient to be relevant, but if you’re going to claim that it’s ancient, you better be able to cite some sources.

One’s own experience, their personal gnosis, should play a prominent role in their religious practice. Your intuition, your imagination — these things are valuable components of your growth as a mystic, a magician, or even simply as a Pagan. Ours is a tradition that allows each of us to be our own priest to the gods, whether that be expressed in private at our home shrine, or in public at open rituals.

ADF, I’ve come to believe, is a Neopagan Religion that is broad enough to include the mystic, the intellectual, the musician, the artist, and the priest. ADF provides a framework that can unite Pagans who feel drawn to many different ancient cultures, and it allows for enough autonomy for it not to feel like a dogmatic religion. ADF — if you can’t already tell by my gushing — is really floating my boat right now.

There is more to unpack, literally and metaphorically, but I’m not going to rush it. Many seeds were planted during the Eight Winds Festival, and they need their time to take root.

As Uncle Isaac used to say, “Fast as a speeding oak.”

A friend messaged me this morning to tell me she’d been fired. The news was unexpected, as it often is, and she was understandably torn up over it. My heart sunk, and I hurt for her. I wanted to reach out and embrace her, but I couldn’t. There was only text between us, and the text was insufficient. Words are not the same as touch, the same as shoulders, the same as passing the tissue across the table. Words are sometimes not enough.

About a year ago I lost my job. It was non-traditional creative work, not the kind that pays regularly or has a set schedule. But it was still a job, and it was a central focus of my life. Losing it was devastating, and profoundly disorienting.

I didn’t allow myself much space to acclimate to my new state of joblessness. There was no time. There was a mortgage which had become, overnight, too much to manage, and I had a sense that the momentum I’d worked so hard to build in my career over the previous decade would be for nothing if I didn’t figure out, immediately, what I would do next. On top of all that, the people with whom I’d worked closest, who had become my support system — professionally and personally — were gone.

So, I scrambled. I called on friends to make introductions, and I began developing new business relationships. At the same time, my husband and I made the quick and difficult decision that if we were to stay afloat we would have to move out of our home. There was no way around that. So, in the course of a month we found a realtor, cleaned out most of our things, and put the house on the market. It sold in less than two months, and we moved across town into our smaller, more-manageable, for-rent abode. It was October, and a cold air had blown in. Hardly any time had passed, but nearly everything in our world looked different.

Turnover is a word misused in conversations about business. It’s vernacular for a cold, calculated process of comings and goings; new name-tags, new punch-cards; a new face to smile at, or laugh with, or avoid. But turnover would be better used to describe what happens in the heart, in the home, in the entire universe of the person who’s experienced a great loss. We undergo, perhaps even suffer, a turnover.

Many people “turn to faith” in moments of crisis, but it occurs to me that this phrase may not sit well with many contemporary Pagans, especially those who come from more literalist Christian backgrounds. Perhaps “turn to tradition” is less loaded, but I’m not sure it means the same thing. Turning to faith is often painted as an act of one rejecting logic, or practicality, or something sensible. Faith is the problem, it would seem. But I’m not sure I see it that way. People “turn to faith” because they hurt, and they’re reaching for something to sooth the pain.

We fall down, and we get up. Sometimes it seems that this is our only choice to make: to get up. As we sort through our faiths, our beliefs, our correct terminology, our religious traditions and our community disagreements, there are people on the edges of every conversation who are simply trying to get up from whatever knocked them down last. It seems to me that if our religions aren’t equipping us with the tools to help our neighbor get herself up, or to help us lift ourselves up from whatever tragedy has beset us, then they are lacking something essential.

I wonder –

What have you turned to in moments of crisis? Faith? Tradition? Have you experienced a loss which led you to become more religious, or less so? Do you feel like Paganism, in any of its expressions, provides us with the tools to support one another in moments of pain, of suffering, of turnover? If so, how? If not, why?

Please share your story in the comment section, and feel free to engage one another in dialogue about your experiences. Then, pass this post along.

In modern times, a Bard is one who sees their creativity as an innate spiritual ability, and who chooses to nurture that ability partly or wholly with Druidism.

– From Druidy.org, OBOD

For well over a year my voice has been heard by my readership only as text. You’ve come to know me by reading me, by engaging in dialogue in the comments, by reaching out with encouragement, insight, and support. This has been an amazing journey for me, and I’m grateful to have shared it with you.

Today, I offer up another voice of mine; a voice used in ritual to invoke, to inspire, to conjure up emotion and passion.

This is the voice I used before I had language, or before I was fascinated by religion. This is the voice that preceded my Pagan identity (or any identity for that matter), and this is the voice which has come to inform so much of who I am. This is the voice of my soul, and I share it with you when the Moon is most full.

Here, friends, is the voice of me singing in the Sacred Electric Grove.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wMGw-Vyy9_8[/youtube]

The Sacred Electric Grove EP will be a collection of songs with themes that speak to contemporary Pagans, or to anyone who ponders the imminent presence of the Divine, who connects to the land for inspiration, or who simply loves to dance.

– from my Indiegogo Campaign Page

 

 

A lyric from my song, “Offering“:

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/47325058″ iframe=”true” /]

 

 

 

There is a place that I go to dance.

Rough draft of EP cover

It is dark and there is no sound.

Nothing but the Moon shining in the sky

Giving life to the Spirits of the Land…

 

These are the days to find the light,

Kiss the sun, draw down the moon.

Hold your heart like an offering…

Hold your heart like an offering of love.

You’re heart is an offering

To the heavens above.

 

I ask for your support today, because I believe that there is a place in the world for this music. I believe, after lifting up my voice in ritual–both at Pantheacon and during a High Day celebration at my local grove–that there is a connection between the creative work I do on Bishop In The Grove and the creative work yet to be done through this music.

If I ever felt a calling, I feel it now.

This is not a time to throw our money away, clearly, but it can still be a time to invest in something that stirs our heart. If your heart has been moved by the words on this blog, or if you listen to these sounds and they stir something in you, please consider contributing to my Indiegogo Campaign.

There are incentives, which include:

  • The Music (download or hard-copy), available at every giving level over $10
  • Custom blended ritual oil
  • Custom blended incense, made under the guidance of Karen Harrison, Weiser Books author of the best-selling book, Herbal Alchemists Handbook.
  • Long distance tarot readings
  • Live performances —  online or in person

The goal is to raise this money in one moon cycle: the campaign runs from full moon, to full moon.

I’m feeling a bit like The Fool. I’m taking a leap into something new; something unknown. I’m bridging worlds in a way I never expected I would, and I’m sharing my voice — my truest voice — with the people who have supported the growth of my literary, contemplative voice. I’m baring more than I have before, and it feels like the only right thing to do.

So please give. Please share this post, the YouTube video, the Indiegogo Campaign page, the Soundcloud clip — ALL of it! Share them on Facebook, on Twitter, Google+, or any of your social sites.

And then, join me in the Sacred Electric Grove!



I think “eschatology” is a funny word. Speaking it out loud makes potty-jokes come to mind. Say it, and I remember being 5.

The definition of eschatology, “the part of theology concerned with death, judgment, and the final destiny of the soul and of humankind,” is much less funny. It, one might say, is a party pooper.

(Too easy.)

Seriously though, when thinking about the End of the World it doesn’t hurt to throw in a dose of humor. Severity has its place, but I don’t think it belongs in every place.

If you’ve been a regular reader of this blog, you know that I’m not afraid of making things heavy. I’ve been upfront and honest about my own spiritual journey, asking questions about relevance and confessing doubts about community. This has been a space where I’ve encouraged dialogue, and practiced, as best I could, a kind of even-mindedness. It’s a practice, and it isn’t always easy.

Author, Michael York, writes in his guest post on The Wild Hunt that we are on “the brink of catastrophe.” He’s not altogether wrong. Pay attention to the science (or follow Archdruid Greer’s well-written blog) and you will agree that if there was ever a time where action was necessary, it is now. And for those of us who see our G/gods as being intrinsically connected to the land, you’d think we would be at the forefront of the movement for ecological awareness or preservation.

York’s post stirred up a great number of responses, many of which were quick to point out that the post sounded like “fear mongering.” They, too, are not altogether wrong. But fear is not completely out-of-place in this discussion, either. Drought is scary. So is the thought of a lack of nutrient-rich topsoil (a real, and growing problem). The ecological crisis, when it comes down to it, is no laughing matter.

But fear does little to inspire.

Frame the crisis as evidence of the End Days or the End of the World, or chose to look at one man’s decision to step out of leadership as evidence of the Beginning of the End of the Pagan Community, and you miss out on an opportunity to encourage dialogue, or contemplative introspection. From where I stand, it would be better to draw the focus back to our own motivations, our own choices, and encourage us to ask ourselves how we think we arrived at this point.

York says that,

We are disappointingly unimaginative as a communal voice despite some exemplary individuals among us.

I say, that kind of language doesn’t help. If anything, this is an example of a missed opportunity to be imaginative.

Leadership need not be relegated to the few, or to the charismatic, or to the “exemplary individuals.” Leaders need to be self-aware, self-empowered, and considerate to the needs of their people, their land, and the planet. If this is true, then the task at hand is not to chastise one another for our ignorance or lack of imagination, or to point out how we have failed; but rather to help cultivate our own self-awareness, to find new ways to inspire and empower each other, and to spend time in contemplation so that we might better understand which of these “needs” require our attention first.

So, ignore the title of this post. The End is Not Near, nor is it really an end. We are in a process.

The questions to ask yourself are, “How can I become more engaged in this process? How can I exercise my will to affect what is happening around me? How are my individual choices connected to the health of the various ecosystems which I inhabit? Begin with the questions. Sit with them, and then observe what comes up.

Should it start to get too heavy, say the word “eschatology” out loud, and giggle like a preschooler.

When I questioned the place of compassion in Pagan and Polytheist philosophy a couple of weeks back, I got an interesting response from one of my readers, “LaurelhurstLiberal”. She wrote,

“Now, about compassion: as a Heathen Reconstructionist, this is one of the big questions I’m still trying to puzzle out. Right now, it seems to me that a Heathen should be a good neighbor and a good citizen, but isn’t necessarily supposed to have capital-C Compassion for everybody in the world. There are people inside the gates that you particularly need to take care of, and those outside the gates should be helped, or at least not harmed, but not at the cost of those inside the gates. I think that’s difficult enough without trying for a saintly level of universal compassion.”

Steven T. Abell, storyteller and Patheos columnist, followed up on this idea in his post, Compassion in Cold Climates, by explaining in detail the ideas of Inangard and Utgard, or “Inside and Outside”, “Us and Them”.

I appreciate both L.L and Steven’s attempt at unpacking these ideas, but I have to come clean here and admit that I’m having a very difficult time with this way of thinking.

I have been “outside of the gates” on many occasions, and perhaps this is a part of why I have reservations about religious or cultural systems which place a value on reinforcing the boundaries of the group. Build a wall, and there will always be someone on the other side of the wall, be it women, gays, trans-folk among the gays, or Pagans. The list of those being othered is long, and it includes many of us. This list is added to every time a new “Us and Them” philosophy is created; or, for that matter, an old “Us and Them” is re-constructed. So, for me, the question is less about how to treat those on the outside of the wall, and more a question of whether the wall is even appropriate anymore.

I appreciate that inspiration comes to many Reconstructionists from exploring ancient cultural practices. I used to think Reconstructionism was very rigid, but author and Celtic Reconstructionist, Erynn Laurie, changed my mind during the 2012 Pantheacon Conference. Now I understand that searching for information about the ancients is a source of great inspiration for many of us. It can be the launching point for our spiritual practice, and I respect that. Truth be told, I look to the past for meaning as well.

But there’s still something about the reclaiming of an ancient “Us and Them” philosophy that rubs me the wrong way.

I wonder if strengthening our sense of separateness requires us to ignore other ways in which we are connected. If there was ever a case to be made for questioning models of thinking that reinforce our culturally constructed boundaries, it is the current ecological crisis. The air we breath, the water that falls from the sky — these things care nothing about our walls. They do not acknowledge our rationale for keeping some people in, and leaving others out. The Earth does not discriminate based on how we’ve chosen to group ourselves. We share our resources, we share this planet, and we share — contrary to what some politicians would say — the responsibility of her upkeep.

There is a connection between the personal and the global that doesn’t seem to be acknowledged within a binary, “Us and Them” worldview. There are never only two of us; there is always at least a third. We have evidence that our individual actions have far-reaching effects (see the Great Pacific Garbage Patch), and we have tools — namely, the internet — which provide evidence of a diverse, culturally eclectic and totally interdependent world outside of the cultural boundaries we create. We are undeniably interconnected.

Steven writes in his column,

“You can try to solve the world’s problems. You will fail. Or you can try to solve your own problems. You might succeed. You can work at various scales, but focus on things close at hand. The world will be better for it, as will your place in it.”

I like where he ends, and I wonder if it is more accurate to say that our personal problems are the world’s problems, and likewise the problems of the world belong to each of us. Working from this, can we ask whether or not our personal systems, religious or secular, are supporting an awareness of our interconnectedness, or are they reinforcing a philosophy of division?

We set fire to the kitchen last night.

Metaphorically, I mean.

The conversation started while I was preparing dinner, and it continued on throughout the meal and into the clean-up. I woke up thinking about it, and I feel compelled to share some of it with you, my readers; my community of dig-deepers.

I’m not sure how to tie all of this together just yet, and I feel like some of these ideas may be much more foundational for me than I’m even aware. This may be future book-stuff, to be honest.

Buckle up. I’m about to throw a lot your way.

Embodied Theology

My friend has reached the conclusion that any theology which is not an embodied theology inevitably leads to fundamentalism. I asked for clarification.

“By ’embodied theology,’ do you mean, any theology which locates the divine in some place other than in our body, in the place we live, in our immediate world?”

“Yes.”

I instantly saw what she meant, and agreed. Then, I paused.

But doesn’t this create a problem when we approach our altars or ritual spaces and invoke deity/deities to come into our space? Doesn’t the need for invitation imply that they are not present to start with?

I voiced this concern.

“They’re already there,” my husband stated.

Then why, I wondered, do we use language that implies separateness from the Gods or other spiritual beings? Is that useful? Or, more importantly is it accurate?

(Chew on that.)

Reciprocity

There is a conversation happening among some Pagans about the need to make offerings to the Gods in order to win their favor. In essence, I lay some relevant item on my altar and ask that my offering be received, and then — Gods willing — the Gods comply.

My friend framed this as, “Capitalist Theology.”

When she said those words, my mind broke a little.

The idea of reciprocity is very important in ADF as a foundation of right relationship to the Gods. We give as a sign of respect, and to justify our asking. But to assert that in order to get something from the Divine we must first give a gift is very much like saying, “In order to get a paycheck, I must show up at work and do my necessary duties.”

Capitalist Theology.

A different idea of theology was offered up as an alternative: Grace Theology.

(If you feel a Christian-language trigger, please recognize that and try to put it aside for a moment. Take “Grace” to represent something broader, and more universally relevant a concept. If you don’t think it is, we can discuss that.)

Rather than work for your blessings, which is an extension of a Capitalist Theology, one simply acknowledges that there is already a great providence in the world, and we are best served (and best able to serve) by creating more space for receiving. The cultivation of our openness and ability to receive is the foundation of a Grace Theology.

(Now, chew on that.)

Altar Talk

Here’s the thing — every morning I make offerings at my altar, and I use language that asserts that I’m making these offerings to honor and respect the Gods, Ancestors and Nature Spirits… and to be in good favor with them. The question is, when I’m doing this what is going through my mind?

Do I really think that the Gods need my little thimble of oil? Does the Divine need anything? If I don’t believe that these things offerings and sacrifices are absolutely necessary in order to be on the Gods’ good side, what is the purpose of daily ritual?

The conclusion I reached, somewhere between clearing the table and pacing around the kitchen, was that we do these things to create an awareness about what is happening within us; what is already, always occurring. Everything we do in ritual is (or, perhaps should be) focussed on creating an inner awareness of a spiritual constant (i.e. the presence of the Divine in its various forms).

If I make offerings, I am doing so in order to create the experience of gratitude, respect, and reverence. Making regular offerings is also a way of experiencing my commitment to a personal religion, my commitment to the Gods.

(Still chewing?)

Reciprocity + Grace

There can be a balance, we decided as we sat on the countertop, bellies full, between reciprocity and grace. Reciprocity provides people with an opportunity to experience humility, gratitude, thankfulness. These are all useful human experiences. Grace also teaches a kind of humility, because one must accept that no matter what is given, materially speaking, no gift is really necessary.

There is a tension between these two ideas.

Perhaps — and this is the idea that really set me ablaze — it is the act of holding tension between reciprocity and grace that is the foundation of any genuinely relevant theology.

(All chewed out?)

Get ready to spit it out!

Take the time you need. Think on these ideas for a minute. Think about it over the weekend. Think on them for a lifetime, if you’d like. But, really sit with them. Let them burrow deep.

Then, let’s continue this conversation. Share the conversation with a friend. Take it wherever you feel like it should go. Ask questions! Tell me a parable! Anything!

I can’t wait to read your thoughts.

The discussion around the post, What do we want from our Pagan leaders? was enlightening for me. Admittedly, I have a close, personal connection to the subject, as I’m seeking to discover what it might mean that I am, as a friend told me, “called to lead” in some way.

This comment really stood out to me:

I think that’s one of the basic yardsticks of spiritual maturity: can what you offer to others be about what’s needed rather than all about self-promotion? Or self-effacement, or self-absorption, or deprivation, or justification, or any of the other funky little trips we can run that get between what we have to offer and actually offering it, freely and lovingly, as we’re called to do?

– Cat C-B

Ah…the need. I started out with the want, but the real answer may lie in the need.

Religious leadership can be complicated, I think, especially within a community that isn’t in agreement about our collective identity, our purpose in the greater society, or even if we should classify what we do as religion. By and large, the comments reflected that what we want is a co-creative, egalitarian model of group interaction rather than one which relies on a single leader. We want all of our strengths to be put to good use, we want our fellow coven or grove members to support us as we support them, and we want to experience our community without the sense that we are being governed.

This is what we want. But, is this what we need?

Another commentor, John Beckett, started off with a slightly more active tone:

Any leader has to begin with a vision. Who are you going to lead? Where are you going to lead them? Who and what do you serve?

A leader has to articulate his vision. If you keep it to yourself, you aren’t leading anyone.

A leader has to implement her vision. Talk is cheap – how are we going to do the work necessary to make the vision a reality?

I find this connection between vision and leadership to be interesting, especially in contrast to the idea that leadership functions best when it serves the needs of the community. I wonder if this idea of “beginning with a vision” would be better phrased as “beginning with vision”.

Should the vision of a leader be thought of as more of a quality of seeing; a refinement of one’s faculties of observation? Perhaps we need our leaders to see what is happening in our communities and in the lives of individual with greater clarity. In this way, their “vision” isn’t a noun. It isn’t a platform on which they can run for election. Instead, it is a tool which they use in order to better understand their brothers and sisters.

But then the question is, what do we do when, through our clear vision we recognize a specific need? Is that the moment where leadership begins?

I like the idea that leaders should be teachers, or possessors of knowledge. They shouldn’t be so bookish as to be unapproachable, but I like to think they’ve put in some time learning about the nuts and bolts of their practice or tradition. I also feel that pastoral care should be a primary focus of religious leadership. If we’re going to work in service to the community, we should understand how to serve the real, human needs. I’m talking about skills of compassion and empathy.

To be clear, in all of this musing I’m not feeling conflicted about the subject of Pagan leadership. I just find the discussion to be fascinating. I think there’s value in stepping back and thinking about the difference between what we want and what we need in all aspects of our life, but particularly when we’re thinking about the leaders of our covens, our groves, or our larger Pagan institutions.

Do you see a difference between what Pagans want from our leaders and what we need from them? If you have led a group, have you found it challenging to discern the needs of the group, or did you have clear vision from the start?

This blog is a safe space to unpack your ideas and experiences, and I encourage you to do so in the Comment section.

Today, pious Pagans around the globe are posting poetry online in honor of the Goddess, Brighid (otherwise known as Brigid, Brigit, or simply, “exalted one”).

I join them here on Bishop In The Grove.

Imbolc, as I wrote about yesterday, may have milky origins, but the day and the season speak to something much deeper than a single agricultural marker can convey. On Imbolc, we recognize the primal fire within us, and when we speak from that place with a clear, honest voice, beautiful transformation can occur.

Poetry is born. It is our gift from the Goddess, and it, in turn, is our gift to the Goddess. Poetry creates change. It is alchemical. It is magick, in the traditional sense. But, it is also available to each of us, regardless of our training, our initiations, or identifiers. We need not be professional poets to be poets. We can be poets simply by speaking truly of what we know, of what we feel, and of what passions move us to act, or be still.

We are poets because we each have words on our tongues, in our hearts, and on our flesh. When we release these words into our bloodstream, through our sweat, into the air and onto the page, we participate in the re-enchantment of the world.

So, I share this poem with you. It came to me in the darkness of the night, and I pray that it be a light in honor of the Goddess, Brighid. It is my offering.

Vigil

I keep vigil
to the fire
in my heart.

I keep vigil
down the sidewalk,
through the door,
between the empty lines
of chit-chat talk on
threaded screens,
in middle days
of winter nights,
where no one sees
except the Bride
for whom the flame is lit.

I keep vigil
to the fire
in my heart.

 

Please share with me in keeping vigil. Copy the three lines:

I keep vigil
to the fire
in my heart.

Post them into the comment box below, and then paint a portrait of how you keep vigil to the fire. Where does it find you, and in what situations do you seek it? Let the words rise into your consciousness like incense on the altar, and then let the poem tell the story. Once you feel like you’ve described your experience of this personal, internal vigil to the Sacred Fire, copy those three lines again, closing out the poem.

Share with us your inspiration here on Bishop In The Grove as an offering to Brighid, and then share this post with anyone who might be touched by this intentional movement of inspiration.

We keep the fire lit, and we share the fire. The fire is out birthright, our inheritance, and the fire will prepare us for our collective rebirth.

Many thanks to T. Thorn Coyle and the creators of the 7th Annual Brigid Poetry Festival for the inspiration to write this poem and encourage the creation of devotional poetry. Please visit the Festival’s Facebook page and share with them your inspired creation!

Blessings be to you.

Blogging is very much a form of community engagement for me. I look at the last few posts, and there is so much to learn from one another about spirituality, religion, semantics, and how to engage in effective dialogue on the internet. It’s a relief to read thoughtful, mindful comments, and witness the kaleidoscope of human thought and perspective casting colors all over my computer screen.

The backdrop of my blog is colorful now, too. As with my post on salvation, I’ve taken inspiration from Star Foster, who recently gave the Patheos Pagan Portal a facelift. If you’re not already following that blog, you aught’a. There’s some good dialogue going on there, too.

I take inspiration from people I know. It’s something I’ve always done. As a kid, my mom was very mindful of when I was behaving less like me and more like my friends. She would tell people that she knew who I was hanging out with by the way my talking changed. All it would take was one long, holiday break with my relatives in Texas or Tennessee for me to acquire a drawl. I was pliable like that.

Mimicry, for me, was a way of understanding other people. To talk like my friends or relatives was to become a bit like them; to approach an aspect of their personality with more intimacy than was allowed for in normal conversation. It was a way of gaining insight into their lives, and into my own as well. I learned what I was and what I was not by speaking in a voice that didn’t originate in me. It was experiential, interpersonal learning, and I continue to practice it to this day.

Sharing an accent, though, is quite different than assuming another person’s belief system. I might be able to talk like my Texan relatives, but I would have a very hard time believing what they believe about God, the Bible, and my very gay relationship to my very male husband. Sometimes imitation isn’t necessary to know a person; hearing their words is plenty enough.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and family politics are on the brain. We’ll pay a brief, mid-day visit to my grandparents house, hopefully avoiding most of the anticipated drama, before heading to dinner with a predominately queer, eclectically spiritual group of friends, where we will likely spend the rest of the evening waxing philosophic about religion, tradition, and the curious experience of being human. Basically, the stuff we talk about here.

It occurs to me that I share thoughts and ideas on Bishop In The Grove that I’ve never brought up at my larger family gatherings. In a way, as a blogger, I’m shielded by the medium, protected by the space between me and whomever is reading these words. I write, I post, and then I’m free to walk away and go on with my life. I can come back to the conversation whenever I please, and if it ever goes sour I can just shut my computer and wait to deal with it until later.

But at a dining room table, sitting next to the cousins I haven’t spoken to in years, or across from the aunt who is likely to snap at any minute, there is no shielding to be had. There’s no space between my words and their responses, no easy way to shut off the conversation, and no time to wait. The dialogue can not be drafted and re-drafted before it is shared. Real-world relationships are immediate; they happen in real-time.

We experience a unique brand of vulnerability in the presence of our family. These people, who knew us before our ideas took form, before our personalities became more fixed, before we concluded that we were a Witch, or a Druid, or a Christian, or any such other thing that we’ve become, they have the ability to hurt us in ways that no one else can. The wounds afflicted by family can be some of the deepest, and some of the hardest to heal.

But, perhaps the opposite is true, too. Maybe vulnerability is not simply an opening for us to be hurt, but also an opportunity for us to become fully known, and to be deeply loved. Making ourselves vulnerable seems like a necessary risk we take in order to be in true communion with one another, and in the case of our family, where this vulnerability exists by default, perhaps we are presented with an even greater opportunity to experience real, meaningful, human connection.

I don’t think I’m alone in feeling these apprehensions about family gatherings, and I’d love to get some of your insights about how you navigate the sometimes treacherous topography of Thanksgiving dinner. Do you see it as a disaster in the making, or a chance for reconnection. What is it about the bonds of family that can inspire so much dread, and also so much comfort?

I look forward to reading of your experiences and insights. Once you’ve written them in the comment field, feel free to share this post on your social network of choice.

The burly, bearded, leather wearing Heathens didn’t quite know what to make of Sister Who, but that didn’t stop them from helping build her Interfaith Chapel.

Sister Who squinted as she gave the instructions for how to put which pole into which joint, and when she did her fake eyelashes fluttered like plastic butterflies. Every piece of her chain-link chapel was numbered, Sister Who explained, and alignment was key. If they didn’t go in just right they would bind.

Her voice was low and cello-like.

I looked at the brute of Heathens and I presumed that they were no stranger to construction. They’d built a thing or two in their time. A house, maybe. Or a battle fort, more like. These men grew shoulders two hands wide, and more than one of them carried a Leatherman on their belt. They were men who looked very much like men, unlike Sister Who, who did not.

But the brute took the instructions quietly, and didn’t make a fuss when everything collapsed a little halfway through the erection of the bell tower. They let Sister Who explain her number system without interruption, as she impressed upon them the need to return the alan wrench to it’s proper place after the screws were tightened, and they were patient and careful in the placement of each purple, spray-painted bar.

The Heathens were nothing but respectful to the Sister Who.

Nuns in Drag

What is totally and completely “other” to mainstream society can be no big for Pagans. Witches, Druids, and long bearded Heathens move in and about the Pagan Pride Fest environment with comfort and ease in cloaks and kilts, adorned with pewter hammers and pentacles, staffs in hand, bodies tattooed and glittered, and there is a level of acceptance that one doesn’t find in “normal” society. Pagans have created a new set of norms, which, if they were to become too rigid or backed by dogma, could easily lead to a king of Pagan mainstreaming. But for now, it seems, at least in Denver, the “live and let live” mentality is still alive and kicking.

Sister Who, a gay man and former body builder, who dresses in a black nun outfit and builds an interfaith chapel open to freaks of all make and model, could be considered the liminal among the fringe. She is the person at the Pagan festival who inspires curiosity and wonder in the Witch.

What is that all about, I was asked.

That’s Sister Who, I said, as if we all should already be aware of her.

There is great value in being a representative of the liminal. We forget that sometimes in our quest to attain greater acceptance in society, or protection under the law.

We’re just like you, we exclaim.

But it would be hard for some of us to look at Sister Who and make that statement.

The person who is willing to be the clown, willing to be slightly absurd in the face of oppressive hegemony, teaches us lessons about our own desire to restrict or bind the self-expression of others. We flinch at the sight of their strangeness, and in that moment we have an opportunity to better understand the reaction of the people who flinch at the sight of us.

A Druid Said WHAT?

I overheard a discussion at this Saturday’s Front Range Pagan Pride in which an ADF Druid exclaimed that Wicca was just wrong. I didn’t catch all of the details, but I know Gerald Gardener came up – something about historical inaccuracies (an issue that many of my ADF brethren take up with revivalists traditions).

I thought to myself, even Pagans are susceptible to self-righteousness. People subjected to societal bigotry can become bigots; Women can wield power like misogynists and alienate men as they attempt to empower women; Gays can stereotype Straights or be hateful towards Transgendered people; any of us who have been “othered” possess a distinct knowledge of how to “other.” We’ve watched people build a wall to keep us out, and now, on the outskirts, we build a wall to keep ourselves protected.

But Sister Who sat in a chapel where the walls were see-through. Everyone was welcome there. No one was wrong. All were blessed.

Thank The Heathens

The Heathens led the closing ritual of the Front Range Pagan Pride event. The blot stirred up the winds of Odin, and we each were blessed with the sanctified water. Sister Who stood a few people down from me, and I wondered if the leader of the rite would flinch before shaking his bit of branch her way.

He didn’t.

She was one of them – one of us – paying respect to the Gods, paying respect to one another. She, and all of us standing in circle together were an example how Pagan Pride events can be great. We come together with the opportunity to celebrate our differences, our “other-ness.” We give one another a chance to build someone else’s temple, to worship someone else’s deity, and to do so with the grace of a Sacred Clown.

"In service to the personal and spiritual growth of others" - Sister Who

Have you ever been to an interfaith gathering where you experienced either a real sense of coming together, or an undercurrent of alienation? If so, tell me about your experiences in the comment section. And if you’d like to extend the conversation even further, share this post with your friends on Facebook or Twitter.

Pagans hate generalizations made about Pagans (he writes with a smirk).

That’s one generalization I feel confident in making.

In my last post I made some bold statements about the unwillingness of Pagans to accept the existence of the Christian god, knowing full well that those statements were not completely accurate (or, perhaps even close to accurate). I did so in order to get the conversation started, and I recognize that there are better ways to initiate dialogue. Many of my readers let me know as much. I’m grateful to those of you who spoke up, and I thank you for your willingness to call “bullshit.”

What I also failed to mention was that my post was informed by the current controversy around Dominionism, and its corresponding backlash from the Pagan community. If you aren’t already familiar with what’s got the Witches, Druids, and Asatru abuzz throughout the blogosphere, click here, here or here for some backstory.

All of my literary shortcomings aside, there were some interesting ideas written in response to my post, and I’d like to unpack a few of them now and gauge whether you are in agreement with them or not. Let’s see if if we can keep the dialogue going, shall we?

“It is impossible for an unreasonable person to be a reasonable person.”

Themon, an OBOD Bard and regular contributor to the comments at Bishop In The Grove, made this statement, saying that there is no way to have interfaith dialogue with an unreasonable person.

I asked my 16 year old step-kid if this was a true statement during a mind-breaking batch of geometry homework.

“Um… if it’s a given that the person is unreasonable, then yes — that’s true,” the wunderkind said with one lifted eyebrow and a shrug. Silly stepdads and their philosophical questions.

I wonder what we might consider to be “reasonable” when it comes to theology and religion. Some would argue that the whole subject is a bunch of hooey. Others, like the Dominionists, might argue that only their particular viewpoint is reasonable, and if you don’t believe them just ask their god… he’ll totally back them up.

Themon goes on to write,

“I think the only real prerequisite to interfaith dialogue is mutual respect. It’s reasonable to ask to be treated with respect. It’s reasonable for them to want to be treated with respect.”

This seems fair to me.

Mrs. B. Confesses

Mrs. B., the beloved blogger at Confessions of a Pagan Soccer Mom chimed in with a statement about the way that she perceives Deity:

“I work under the idea that all Gods are one God and that s/he comes to everyone in the guise that is best for that person at any given moment.  I can say that my Catholic husband feels much the same way.”

Fascinating idea, really. So relational. I find the though of divinity this fluid and accommodating, this concerned with where I am at the moment of contact, to be very comforting.

Mrs. B. isn’t the only one who’s struck a theological balance in an interfaith marriage.

Literata writes about her Catholic husband,

“My spouse’s way of understanding polytheism is to think of different deities as different metaphors for what is fundamentally the same thing. It’s rather like the idea of aspects – “All goddesses are one goddess,” in Dion Fortune’s words.”

I know that many Pagans hold a different view; that each God or Goddess possesses his or her own individual consciousness. To some, the idea of “aspects” betrays something true about the individuality of the Gods. Personally, I lean more in this direction, but I also am attracted to the idea of one god with many faces.

Perhaps somewhere in between these two polarities exists some common ground between Pagans and Christians.

Or…

“There is no midway point in beliefs between paganism and Christianity.”

Perhaps the strongest tone found in any of the comments came from Kenneth, an active contributor to the conversations at various Patheos blogs. If what he says is true, I’m not sure where that leaves me – a person who feels compelled to find a thread of continuity between the tradition of my youth (Episcopal Christianity) and the tradition that resonates with me now (Neo-Pagan Druidry).

Kenneth continues,

“We will not create a good space for dialogue by looking for commonality of beliefs. What we can do is to try to respect the depth and authenticity of each other’s beliefs.”

I appreciate this statement. Ultimately, I think that’s what I’m striving for in the dialogue created on this blog. I would like to see more Christians voicing in about the way that their perspective of Deity informs the conversations they have with Pagans. I’d like to hear how a polytheist conceives of “spiritual unity,” or if that phrase is too ambiguous or not resonant in any way. I’d like to hear from folks outside of these two categories, too. I’m interested — fascinated, really — by the spiritual experiences of human beings, and I’m seeking to synthesize what I learn from you with what I feel in my heart, in my head, in my body.

The intention I’ve set for Bishop In The Grove, a blog initially started to chart my course through the ADF Dedicant Path, is to create a space for dialogue. We each bring our unique voice to the conversation, and we are all both teacher and student for one another.

 

If any of these ideas have inspired you, or if you’d like to weigh in on what I’ve written here, please do so in the comment section. If you’d like to help me broaden the discussion even further, you can share this post on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or by e-mailing it to a friend.

 

Last night, after our Full Moon ritual, I wound up in a conversation with a Wiccan Priest about Christo-Pagans.

“Those two things are mutually exclusive,” he said adamantly.

Something about his tone drew me in. I’m not a conflict junkie, but I felt like this was territory I should explore.

The ritual, which he had partly officiated, was focussed on the idea of being “in balance” or “out of balance,” with an emphasis placed on communication. This opportunity to explore how some people bring elements of Christian and Pagan spirituality into balance within themselves felt like an appropriate extension of our rite.

[A disclaimer: I do not consider myself to be a “Christo-Pagan,” but I did spend the early part of my life and much of my late teens and early twenties identifying as a Christian. I don’t feel any trauma around that. Some of the most important spiritual experiences of my life took place in the safety and familiarity of an Episcopal worship service, even if at the time I couldn’t align with the beliefs laid out in the creeds or doctrines. There is a line of continuity which runs from my early experiences as an acolyte all the way to this morning’s ADF-styled ritual before my very pagan altar, and I’m ok with the existence of that line. I’m not a Pagan who feels he must make a clean break with his past. In truth, I believe that one never makes that sort of clean break; the past is always with us.]

The conversation rose steadily in tone and intensity, but it did not become hateful or mean. At least, I didn’t feel any meanness directed my way. Christians, on the other hand… well, it was probably good that there were none of them with us in the courtyard.

“Christian” was, for my Wiccan friend, synonymous with Christian Institution, or Christian Doctrine, or any number of Christian atrocities that have been dealt out over the centuries. The terms, for him, seemed to be inseparable.

This troubled me.

An unwillingness to see any distinction between the damage done by the Christian Empire and the revelatory, mystical experiences of a Christian sage seems intellectually weak to me. I wouldn’t want my Druid traditions to be painted over in such broad and careless brush strokes.

There is talk in Pagan circles about the decline of Christianity, the role of Christians in Western society (some pointing out rightly that Christians have little room to claim “minority” or “victim” status in America), not to mention the responsibility that some would say that modern Pagans have to resist the influence of Abrahamic traditions at all costs. I’ve heard a few of my Pagan kin even using war language to describe how Pagans should approach Christians.

We are in a battle, they affirm. Take up your spiritual arms.

This, too, troubles me.

In the conversation, I tried to justify and defend the validity of a person finding spiritual sustenance from both Christian and Pagan traditions. I was seeking to have a discussion about the inner realms and their inherent mystery. It does seem paradoxical that a person could find a way to identify as both Pagan and Christian. But, paradox aside, these people exist.

The more we spoke, the more it became clear that my friend wasn’t having a conversation with me about anything spiritual. We weren’t two mystics talking about the Invisible, or the Mystery, or the Divine in any of It’s manifestations. I was reaching for that place, but he was talking to me about the social and the political components of religion, and very little else.

There are plenty of reasonable arguments against Christianity’s dominance in the social and political landscape. Any religion that claims itself to be the sole authority on all-things-spiritual, or that it is the only “True Religion,” is dangerous. Pagans have cause to be on alert about the growing movement of politically backed, hard-core fundamentalist, far right-wing Christians making inroads into office. One of them could end up in the White House before long, and that would mean bad things for American Pagans.

But again, I wasn’t making those arguments, or countering them. I was just suggesting that it would be a mistake for us to dismiss the spiritual experiences of any person — even a Christian.

I may turn out to be a Unitarian Universalist before it’s all said and done. A movement that is built around the principal that all of our spiritual traditions have validity, and that none of us can claim supremacy over the other, speaks to me.

I should be able to explore the ways that my study of Druidry and Paganism through OBOD and ADF have informed my perspective about Deity, Nature, and our interconnectedness without shutting myself off to the ways that Christianity informed my attitudes toward charity, love, and forgiveness.

I worry that Pagans, in our quest to gain equal footing in society, will employ some of the same exclusionary techniques and tactics used against us by the fundi-Christians. I see us speaking out defensively, and I don’t think we can have constructive dialogue with people of other faith traditions when taking that approach.

Of course, there are some in our midst who have no desire for dialogue; some who would have monotheism wiped out completely if they had the power to do so. In my opinion, this is reckless and shortsighted thinking, and it adds nothing to the movement towards a truly pluralistic society.

The victims can become the victimizers, if given the power and opportunity. I feel we must avoid making that mistake.

I recognize that this is a hot-button issue for many Pagans. Please know that I have respect for those of you who feel that you’ve been damaged by Christians, or the Christian Church. I’m in no way invalidating your experience.

I am, however, hoping that you might engage with me, perhaps in the comment section, about what this subject looks like from your perspective. I ask that you be as respectful as you can of the thoughts and opinions of others, and that you feel free to be open and honest about your concerns.

I look forward to reading what you have to say, and if you feel this post was worth reading please share it on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.

We are all solitary. Even those of us who practice with a group, or who gather at festivals to dance around fires, or stand in circles under full moons. We are all solitary, still.

There are politics in Groves and Covens, just as in Churches and Temples. There are people who seek to shape things in their image, and to bend the will of the universe to their liking. And, there are people who just long to be loved, and respected, and made to feel important, regardless of the size of their theological vocabulary or their experience as a ritualist.

They are solitary, too.

There’s been an ongoing conversation in my solitary world with other solitaries, with Pagan politicians and with my husband about the idea of ministry, and what it means to me, personally, and to me as a member of the greater, if somewhat formless, Pagan community.

Words like ministry, or worship, or even prayer have been met with a certain degree of hesitation from my fellow paganus; an unwillingness to even consider how these words, rooted as they seem to be in Christian culture, might be aplicable to our spiritual tradition and experience.

That’s fine. I’m not here to evangelize, especially not for the sake of vocabulary.

But, I’m still feeling drawn to the resonance of certain words; ministry, most of all.

Ablaze In The Water

When I think of ministry, I think of fire. Fire, for me, is a symbol for transformation, for the exercising of one’s True Will, for both the stream of thoughts on the page and also the explosion those thoughts make as they are born into experience. Fire, in my imagination, resides primarily in the heart.

Ministry, as I understand it, is the act of nurturing that fire, both in yourself and in others. One who ministers is one who keeps the fire burning, or who teaches others the skills needed for this internal fire tending.

Viewing ministry in this way allows me, and people of many varying traditions – monotheistic, polytheistic, agnostic, atheist – to develop a craft of caring for the hearts of other people. Ministry, in this light, is more an art form than an extension of any sort of dogmatic imperative.

I brought up ministry to my ADF mentor, and told him about this fire in the heart. He suggested that it may also be good to imagine a fire in the head. The “Imbas“, or quite literally, “fire in the head” in Gaelic, is the inspiration from the Gods which drives us to create. It is also the substance, metaphysically speaking, which connects the Heavens, the Underworld, and this place we live in, often called the Mid Earth.

I like the idea that something inside me, something which connects my heart, my mind, and all of my creative parts is also the thing which connects me to my Ancestors, to my Gods, to this Earth and all of its inhabitants. There’s got to be a word for it in English… in every language. If not, there should be.

A Question Of Vocation

I grew up in a tradition of priests, not ministers. Now I’m in a world of priest and priestesses, and all I can think about is ministry. For a time, I thought I should be a priest. Recently, I considered that maybe I’m cut out for ministry.

Perhaps I could be both.

Priesthood, as I understood it then and as I’ve seen it played out now in ADF Druidry, is mainly a function of serving the community through leading ritual and through keeping the sacred days sacred.

I could do that as a solitary practitioner.

Ministry, as I’ve defined it above, is really about keeping the fire burning. I can make a practice of keeping watch of my fire, making sure it is lit, well fueled, tended to. Then I can reach out to those closest to me – as an act of compassion as well as one of piety – to care for them; to keep their fire burning.

This, perhaps, makes being solitary less solitary.

But I will always be a solitary. So will you. Even if we develop community around ourselves, there is an aspect of our journey that will always be done alone. I say this not to sound morose, or to suggest that we be pitied. This is just the truth.

There is cause for gladness, though.

The fire connects us. The fire, which led me to these words, leads you to creation, to re-creation, to transformation and new growth. In the fire, we are never truly alone. Through the fire, we are connected to all that has been before us and all that will ever be; we are one with the Ancestors, and we become the Ancestors of those to come; we glean insight into the nature of Divine Reality, and we discover the magic in the ordinary world we live and work in.

The fire brings light, and the fire destroys, and the fire prepares the ground for new beginnings; be they in your heart, in your head, or on the furthest edge of your imagination. The fire reaches that place, and the fire is that place.

 

A Blessing On You

May your heart and head be lit ablaze with the fire of Imbas, of transformative creativity, and may the awareness of this fire be with you, always.

May you be a Priest, a Priestess, and one who ministers to the fire.

 

If these words have spoken to you, and if you’d like to speak to my understanding of the fire, or more importantly, to your understanding of the fire, please leave me a comment. I’d love to hear from you. And, let the blaze illuminate the computer screens of all your friends by sharing the post on Facebook, Twitter and Google+!

My real name is not Teo Bishop.

I have another name, one that I do not use to author this site, or a number of other social pages I manage. My given name is a fine name, and I use it for different things. I keep my given name separate from the world of Teo Bishop.

I use my given name in my professional life. This is, perhaps, an area where I find the most use for this duality.

You see, my given name is also somewhat of a brand, as strange as that may sound. It isn’t a “Coke” or a “Pepsi”, in terms of it’s size or net worth. It’s more a “Local Soda” brand, or a “Niche Independent Toothpaste” brand. It’s modest in the big picture, but big enough for several people to have given it their support. The brand is something in which others have a vested interest.

Now, my given name is more than just a brand. I also have personal attachment to it. It is the name that connects me to my family, to my parents. It was the name I used to introduce myself to my husband almost 6 years ago. It’s the name on my phone bill, and on my drivers license. It’s the name at the top of my voters ballot. It’s the first name I think to use when I reach out my hand during an introduction.

That is, until recently.

I’ve been attending a Unitarian Universalist church lately, both for their Pagan fellowship gatherings (CUUPS) and for their Sunday services. The latter has introduced an interesting challenge: what name do I offer when the mostly online persona that I use in my exploration of Druidry, Paganism and other esoteric studies is met with real, flesh and blood, non-Pagan identifying people? Can a text-based Teo Bishop be born — be made incarnate — in the physical world?

 

Which Me Am I? 

 

We have an investment in our individual names, and we all invest in the names of others. Names are reputations. Names are storefront signs. Names are the products we buy, the authors we read, the music we love. Names clue us into something deeper about a person, a thing, a place.

This is what to expect from me, say our names.

Names are symbols for something invisible, something experiential; and in this way, names are brands.

What is the James Madison brand? What about the Oprah Winfrey brand — that’s a little easier to wrap your mind around, what with her brand being just about everywhere. What about the T. Thorn Coyle brand, or the Starhawk brand? I trust that the notion of what “Starhawk” represents to others has crossed the mind of the actual person who is Starhawk (who was, by the way, born as Miriam Simos, according to the Wiki-oracle).

Names, like all words, are symbols that represent something else. And now, I’m trying to use two symbols to represent the same person. Something about this feels uncomfortable to me. I feel fragmented and bit disingenuous, but still uncertain if these two symbols can ever be reconciled.

Don’t Point Fingers, Now…

I was afraid to post about this subject, not because I thought I might be “outed”, but because I was afraid of the self-righteousness of my Neo-Pagan brothers and sisters, or other readers of this blog. I was afraid (and this fear may, in fact, play out in the comment section) that someone would call me out on being a coward, or being deceitful or untrustworthy. I know that I don’t invest much in a blog, a Facebook page or any other given profile that shows a blurry photo, or a sunset snapshot, or a cartoon instead of a person’s actual face. And yet…I chose the zoom-out shot, and a Green Man photo before that.

I’ve had to face my own hypocrisy on other occasions, too.

In the post, “And You, Who Would Deny My Name,” by Pantheos columnist, Eric Scott, Eric wrote about a time when he was faced with the choice of being honest about his faith and belief in Thor. The post concluded with him denying his beliefs when challenged by an authority figure, and when I read this I got so mad. What was the message here? Don’t be honest? Don’t be who you are? Being closeted is ok? I’ve never believed that. I almost posted a comment that said as much.

I mean…Teo Bishop almost posted a comment…

Magical Usernames

I’ve often wondered how many “magical names” are truly that — magical — or if they’re more like aliases; masks we wear to keep other Pagans from knowing who we are in our business suits, and to keep our fellow Suits from knowing about our Paganism.

There are, I’m sure, people whose magical monikers were whispered to them by the Gods. I’m just sayin’ – it’s worth examining why we feel the need to create separate identities in order for us to express our spirituality. Is it fear motivating us, or are we moved to change our names my something mystical? Something sacred?

Whatever the answer, I’m still faced with this experience of fragmentation.

Does this situation strike a chord with you? Have you built up identities online that allow you to explore your spirituality in “safety”, but have found that doing so has led to unsustainable compartmentalization?

I would love to hear about your experiences in the comment section. And if you found this post to be engaging, why not expand the conversation?!  Share it on Facebook, Twitter, and the social network that’s all the rage — Google+!

What makes Pagans valuable to America? What do we bring to the table? How do we exemplify American values? Looking back on the contributions that Jews and Catholics have made to our collective American identity, how do Pagans enrich the American identity?

– Star Foster

 

We are a million individual voices.

We share no unified belief, but we encourage the development of a personal and a communal practice.

We force our traditions on no one, but we seek to build community.

We are the unique, en masse.

We remember the Earth. Many of us deify Her.

We live liturgically, led most commonly by the natural rhythms of the changing seasons.

We worship.

We make offerings.

Many of us hold paramount the principle, “Harm None,” and we are constantly in a dialogue about what that means.

We live our lives in service to Gods, Spirits, or Ancestors, and, standing beside the humanist pagans, we seek to serve the living kingdoms of this Earth.

We honor the traditions of those who belong to our large, amorphous community, and, like other Americans, we struggle to honor those whose are outside the boundaries we’ve created.

We are no more valuable to this Nation than people of any other religious or social group, but we are equally as valuable.

Today is the 4th of July, and I affirm my intrinsic value as an American citizen, as a religious person whose religious expression is deserving of full protection under the Law, as a member of a community comprised of diverse, imaginative, complicated and creative persons, each of whom is deserving and worthy of the all the rights afforded to any other American citizen, and I affirm the value of all life, human or otherwise.

I am a Pagan-American.

If you are moved at all by these statements, or you feel these messages could initiate valuable dialogue, please share this post on Facebook or Twitter.

 

No one knew why the woman sitting beside the Orpheus Pagan Chamber Choir was wearing a black, feathered, Carnival mask, and I doubt anybody asked. Pagans are known to be eccentric with their attire, after all, and who’s to say she wasn’t paying homage to a deity or something? Tres faux pax to question a Pagan’s choice of bling. You’re treading on holy ground there.

Her display may have seemed a bit dark for 9:15am on a Sunday, but who was I to judge? Me, with my purple bow-tie and thistle blossom lapel flower, proudly donning purple to show my Pagan pride. I stood out just as much as she did from my mostly white haired, much more plainly dressed neighbors, and none of them were giving me any grief.

There was occasion for pagan pageantry on this morning, whether that be pentagrams and feathers or labradorite and velour robes. The Witches had showed up in force at the Unitarian Universalist church, and they were ready to cast a circle.

Who Are The Witches In Your Neighborhood?

The Sunday service at Jefferson Unitarian Universalists Church, appropriately titled, “The Pagan Next Door,” was led by a prominent Wiccan Priestess and Priest from the local Pagan community with the help of several UU Pagans. Unlike other UU services, where individuals representing a single faith tradition might sprinkle in bits and pieces of their religious language and practice into a standard UU framework, this was set to be a full-fledged, Wiccan rite.

Now, I’m not a Witch (and I can’t type that without hearing in my head a certain auto-tuned political parody), and this service was all about the Witches. The Four Quarters were called, Deity was presented as Lord and Lady, and a circle was cast — something that we don’t do in ADF Druidry. But that was all okay with me. I didn’t need for the service to reflect my own practice in order for it to be relevant. This event mattered for one simple reason:

It was a moment to practice proclaiming our legitimacy.

The occasion was worthy of a bow-tie.

Preaching The Legitimacy Gospel

The Priestess spoke for great length about the normalcy of Witches, and I found this to be particularly interesting. Covens, in seems, are as apple-pie as your HOA. Little Witch-kids are playground stomping next to little Christian soldiers, and big Witch-adults are ringing up your groceries, policing your streets and suing your insurance companies. Witches are just like you. Well…mostly.

I appreciate the sentiment, and I see the value in this kind of preaching (though I doubt the Witches in question would use the word “preach” to describe their sermon – another iffy word). But as I see it, that’s what they were doing. Making the case for normalcy and commonalities is important for people living on the fringes. Take if from a Gay.

Just a few days ago, LGBTQIA activists (i.e. “Queer Folk”) and supporters claimed a victory in New York after gaining the right to legally recognized civil marriage. That would have never happened without thousands of Gay-vangelists preaching the Legitimacy Gospel, not unlike what these two Witches were doing at the podium.

WE’RE HERE!! WE’RE WITCHES!! And we’ll meet you in the common area after service for coffee and snacks. Please join us. 🙂

This evangelism may not appeal to everyone out there, but it is necessary work. You’ve got to get in there and mix with the muggles, let them know you’re not a monster, and say quite plainly and with respect that who you are and how you practice your religion is valid.

First, though, you have to believe it yourself.

How Do You BECOME Legitimate?

Simple answer: you behave as though you already are.

My husband calls is, “acting as if”. Its a technique we’ve used to get us through some hard times, and I think it would be useful to Pagans who are seeking greater recognition outside of the Pagan community.

In our case, we aren’t recognized as a “legitimate” married couple, but we act as if are. We treat each other as if the world already saw us as legitimate, both privately and publicly, and in so doing we begin to create a life for ourselves that functions similarly to any other legitimate relationship.

In the case of the Witches, most churches won’t have anything to do with them. They villainies them, misconceive them and distort that which they hold sacred. But on this Sunday, the Witches greeted people at the church door, congregated in the commons area, and shared the limited variety of crackers and coffee available. They handed them program leaflets, passed the collection plate, and most importantly shared sacred space with people who do not identify as Pagan. They acted as if they belonged.

And they did. We did. We were welcomed, and it was a good feeling.

Maybe I’ll Be A Churchy Pagan

I intend to return to the UU church on a less witchy Sunday to see what a normal service is like. I’ll be sure to wear a bit of purple and I’ll plan on engaging with parishioners about my spiritual journey, the evolution of which I feel needs to be examine and unpacked longer form.

See, I am on my own personal quest for legitimacy. As much as I know, I still must re-learn constantly how to act as if my path–my life– is legitimate. I must learn and re-learn the language that best communicates what I know in my heart and what I practice before my altar to people who may practice and believe differently than me.

I take inspiration from the Withes, though, and their churchiness. Perhaps I’ll follow their lead.

What about you? Do you find any challenge in acting as if your spiritual path is legitimate? Have you ever been in a position where you were able to preach the legitimacy gospel? If so, please tell me about in the comment section.

But first, be a kind blog-lover and share this post on Facebook or Twitter.

Post Updated on July 4th to include links to Orpheus Pagan Chamber Choir and Jefferson Unitarian Universalist Church.

My grandma says in Spanish, “¡Jesus!” whenever someone sneezes. Its the cutest thing. The “-soos” part of the word is always pitched just a little bit higher than the “heh-“.

“Heh-soos!”

I love it.

My husband and I were over for dinner recently, and after a sneeze and a ‘soos, I said jokingly, and in English:

“Jesus!”

She laughed a little, and then got a scolding expression on her face.

Mateo…”

It was funny, though. Saying “Jesus” after a sneeze is funny. Who does that? I don’t think my grandma ever realized that she was saying the first name of the deity she’d been praying to all her life after each sneeze. Not until, that is, I said the word in English.

“JESUS!”

The irreverence was titillating, even for my 80 year old, Catholic grandmother.

What Are The Rules Of Reverence?

In exploring the idea of using Gods for our own purposes, I wrote that we need to respect the Gods we worship. We need be weary of commodifying them; turning them into an essential oil, or a hair product. They aren’t designed to meet our needs. That isn’t how it works. They, like us, may have areas of expertise. But who wants to be treated like they’re just a resource, and little more? I know I don’t, and I wouldn’t imagine a Divine Being would either.

I received a number of insightful comments to this post which reminded me of the importance of humor and mirth in ritual. Stodgy religion? Bo-ring. Its important for a community of people (i.e. Pagans) who actively engage with the world as thought it is a magical place, populated by unseen, mythical, fanciful creatures, to keep it light. Don’t take yourself so seriously, prancing around in your serape or cloak. Its a little laugh-worthy, what we do, remember.

[An admission: I’m a kilt-wearing, cloak owning, Renaissance festival attending Pagan, myself. I’m all about the dress-up, and I know the difference between a role-play game and religion. I’m just sayin’ – we’ve got to keep things in context.]

But how, then, are we to find an acceptable standard of reverence? What does it mean to be a reverent, devout, polytheist Pagan?

Sometimes I Miss My Dogma

Beware the oncoming Pagan blasphemy: There’s something to be said for dogmatic structures. They’re kind of useful in holding a group of people to a standard. Dogma ain’t always a bad thing.

Unless it is, or course. The universe is expansive in ways we can’t even fathom, and our little attempts at packaging it up and labeling it always fall short. Our dogma, right as we may think it, is always, from another perspective, wrong. Its also used to subjugate, alienate, judge, and suppress countless forms of natural, healthy, human expression.

But even when its wrong, it has a purpose.

Rules Are Made To Be Broken

What I loved about being surrounded by dogma was that I had the option – the inner freedom – to resist it. If I decided, on my own accord, that the dogma was bunk, I could make that known. Sure, that might alienate me from those who accepted it blindly. But at least it was something for me to engage with. I could argue with it, one way or the other.

Now, as I float down this amorphous Pagan river, I have nothing concrete to argue with. No dogma? No dogma to resist. This is, for many Pagans, a point of pride. We’re proud that we aren’t subject to an oppressive, dogmatic monolith. We’re free, right?

But rules will eventually form. They do so organically. Even in an open Wiccan circle there are a whole set of unspoken rules of how to act, how not to act, and those rules are enforced explicitly or implicitly. Either way, they’re there. And its natural for them to be there. That’s what happens when people form community. They form rules of engagement; standards of practice, and systems of shared belief.

Rules matter for something. I don’t accept that in order to be Pagan, to walk a Druid path (for myself), or to take part in any other tradition that we must throw all sense of structure to the wind.

The question is, how do we find a balance between our desire for personal freedom and the legitimate need to have a standard measurement in our community?

Say It In Spanish

“Jesus”, for my adorable grandma, means something different in Spanish, post-sneeze, than it does when she’s saying the word in her rosary. The context and the usage determine what is appropriate and what isn’t. While she has a sneaky sense of humor, and she did appreciate my irreverent act, she was also made a little uncomfortable by it. It came a bit too close to what is, for her, a very sacred idea. I respect that, and after the joke had been made a few times, I dropped it.

Her example, though, is useful for the modern Pagan, seeking to find balance between reverence and irreverence. What does it mean to be a devout Pagan? Know yourself. Know what those lines are for you. Understand the topography of your own inner spiritual world, and hold true to that. Then, when an irreverent joke is lobbed your way, you can see where it lands and you’ll have perspective as to how much damage it could actually do.

Mirth, humor, playfulness – these things all work to counter-balance our sense of reverence and serious religious expression. They give light to another side of that expression; a crucial side. They’re the bird call and the puppy bark. They are the millions of ways that the Sacred intersects with the Ordinary, imbuing it with magic. Reverence is remembering that both sides serve a purpose; they serve one another. The Ordinary and the Sacred are kin.

Call A God, Then Grab A Tissue

So next time you sneeze, say “¡Heh-soos!,” or, “Ganesha!” Then, laugh a little and remind yourself that even the most devout, sincere religious person looks a little silly in their garb and getup. The silliness is a sacred part of the process. Be silly. Be reverent. Then…

“HEH-SOOS!”

Bless you…

If you found this silly post to be entertaining or insightful, please tweet it or Facebook share it with your friends. As always, your comments are welcome here. I’d love to know how you balance the sacred and the silly!

She skipped around the circle, waving sparkers in the air and laughing like a toddler. It was a non-conventional way to cast a Fire Circle, I suppose. But then again what’s convention to a mis-match gathering of MeetUp Pagans holding ritual behind a Unitarian Universalist church?

Could you imagine a more anti-convention convention?

The Fire Circle was a sub-circle, if you will, of an even larger elemental circle. It was intended to provide the participants with some Wicca 101 on the relevance of the element of Fire, and I found the whole thing to be a little boring. I could have been at home reading Cunningham if I’d have wanted some simple fire metaphors. I’d hoped for a Full Moon ritual that dug a little deeper. Instead, I got sparklers.

But then the Fire Priestess began talking about Gods. My ears perked up. Maybe this will rekindle the embers.

Apollo’s good to use… or you could use Isis… or for creative things you could use Brighid… There are good Gods to use from just about any pantheon…

Huh. What an interesting use of the word “use”, I thought. Using Gods to cure what ails you. Using Gods to get what you want out of life. Huh. How consumerist. Pill popping deities; making use of them in order to – what – be pain-free, blissful, satisfied?

It got me wondering – Is that what the Gods are? New Age Prescription Drugs?

Pick Your Poly-Pleasure

Polytheism, by nature, seems to create less pressure for the believer than monotheism, because polytheists have options. If something sours in the God/human relationship, the polytheist can go elsewhere. There’s a pretty big Deity Dating Pool for the modern polytheist, especially if you’re not particular about your pantheon.

Like yoga? Think Vedic. Love Loreena McKennitt? Call on the Celts. Perhaps you’re feeling a bit in the mood for something spicy. Google Santeria. Its all there of you. Grab a shopping cart. Go God gaga.

The monotheist, on the other hand, has a single choice, and if it doesn’t work with the big One, to Hell with ya’.

Admittedly, I’m being a bit flip with my characterizations. There are probably plenty of polytheists whose practice is eclectic and sincere, and plenty of monotheists who don’t feel trapped in their “personal relationship with God.”

It just seems like there are an awful lot of Deity options for the polytheist, and its a popular approach to make use of those options as we see fitI don’t agree with that approach. I don’t think the Gods should be in service to me. It should be the other way around.

I Like My Gods To Be Big And Powerful

Call me an old fashioned Pagan, but I like to think that Gods & Goddesses are bigger than me, more powerful than me, worthy of respect. They’re here with me and inside of me — yes — but they are also outside of me and expansive in ways that stretch the imagination. This is why they are worshipped. This is why offerings are made to them.

I either believe that, or I believe that the Gods aren’t real. They’re just devices of psychology. They’re fiction. Narrative. They’re all in my head. And, if that’s the case, I should pick and choose which god I want to use. I should let my god or goddess serve me.

But I’m in the “Gods Are Real” camp, and in light of that I feel that I should be very deliberate about how I approach them in speech, action, and even in my very intention. Am I trying to get something from them? If so, am I offering anything in return? How do I speak to them? At a recent ritual I attended, the Priest commanded –literally commanded the spirits to be present.

Um… rude.

I don’t have years of context for how most Pagans approach Deity. As I’ve written before, I grew up in the Christian church. To a great degree the Christian God was supposed to remain a mystery. Any attempt to fully understand him was futile, because unknowability was part of his deal. The best thing you could do was learn how to relate to the portrait of him that was presented in scripture, as well as whatever part of him was experienced and expressed through group worship and tradition.

But there’s no common pagan scripture, and in the case of the Fire Priestess I’m not sure I really care to join her in commodifying the Gods.

So what then?

Photo from allthingslabyrinth.com

Bring Back The Mystery

I’m not sure what Gods are for certain, and I appreciate that mystery. I think participating in something that is impossible to fully undertand (like science, for example) leads to amazing things. You discover a lot about the world you live in, and the world that lives in you.

In suggesting that Gods are more than just salve for the soul, I’m also not suggesting that they be treated like just any another person. I don’t really desire a BFF relationship with the Gods, nor do I want for them to be my therapists. I do seek out guidance, and I look for signs of their presence in my life. But I think it is a misstep to treat Gods as though they are human, just as it is a misstep to treat them like designer drugs. They are not human. They’re beyond human.

How do you wrap your mind around that? You don’t — I don’t, at least. I just have reverence for the very idea of there being something which exists in that way. Worship, then, is an attempt to further understand where my humanity intersects with that mystery. How do I, a human being, come into contact with a God; with a raw, powerful, mysterious, creative force? How will I know when its happened? What will it feel like?

These are the questions that inspire me to attend these rituals, even after a disappointing encounter with a sparkler. This is why I approach my altar in the morning to make my offerings. Seeking the answer to these questions fuels my religious life.

I Do Really Like Sparklers, Though

We do the best we can, us religious folk. Sometimes we hit on something deep. Other times, we just look a little silly. But, we try.

Perhaps I should cut the Fire Priestess some slack. Maybe she’s got a deeper connection to Deity than I’m giving her credit for. Maybe her sparkly wand and fiery voice did exactly what she’d intended them to do — start a fire inside of me. Inspire me to forge something new — like this blog post.

If what you’ve read here started a fire in you, share your thoughts in the comments. Start a wildfire by tweeting this post, or Facebook sharing it with your friends!

Now that we’re nowhere near consensus on how to use the word “Pagan”, how’s about we wander through an even hazier meadow…

What are our Pagan Values?

I’m jumping the gun a bit, being that the Third Annual Pagan Values Blogging and Podcasting Month is scheduled to begin on June 1st. But I thought it might be useful to spend a minute trying to understand what exactly a “Pagan Value” might be, and to ask the question, What makes a Pagan Value…pagan?

Entry-Level Exploration

Before I go there, I’m going to get a little “101” with it. Sometimes it’s best to start with a simple question.

What exactly is a value?

My American Heritage Desk Dictionary app, the default resource I use when typing with my thumbs, lists this definition:

A value is a principle, standard, or quality considered worthwhile or desirable.

Using this as a starting point, what happens if we add in the word “Pagan”? How does it change things?

A Pagan value is a principle, standard or quality that Pagans consider worthwhile or desirable.

Is this statement true? Can we imagine such a value?

Consider the following questions:

Do all Pagans have shared principles? If so, how do these principles differ from those shared by people who would not choose to identify as Pagan? What happens when they don’t differ much, or at all? Is it possible, for example, that there is overlap between Pagan principles and Christian principles? Were such a thing to happen (as I think we will find it does), can the shared principle be truly claimed as either Christian or Pagan?

Maybe a question to ask is, Who came to the principle first? If the Pagans beat the Christians to the principle, do they get to claim it? What’s the motivation behind that kind of race? A quest for superiority? Thirst for the truth? Dunno.

Do all Pagans have shared standards? Are we talking standards of behavior? Standards of academic integrity? Standards of social accountability or etiquette? There is no central Pagan dogma, so there is no standard set of beliefs. We’ve seen evidence in the last week that there isn’t even a singularly acceptable title for the whole group, nor an agreement that the group is even a group at all. How do you arrive at group standards when the group is sort of a non-group?

Do all Pagans have shared qualities? This may be the easiest of the three to approach, but we might also fall into a trap of describing the qualities of Pagans we’re most exposed to, unaware that these qualities may not be universally applicable to all Pagans. Again, we find qualities that are both specific and universal. Still not sure what to do about that.

Double Edged Values

What else happens when you tack on the word Pagan – or Christian, or American, or Family, even – in front of the word “Value”? Does the new group-specific phrase serve a entirely different function than the word might on it’s own? What is the purpose of distinguishing one group’s values from those of another group?

I’m going to nudge forward here and suggest that drawing value-borders around a group allows people within the circle to judge the behavior, the actions, the worth of the people outside the circle. When that judgment is paired with a given or assumed authority to condemn, the opinion can become a tool for victimization and oppression.

This might look something like:

I hold up this Group Value, and by doing so I assert not only what is good and right about my worldview, but what is not good or right about yours.*

*Insert religious debate/argument/war here.

People sensitive to the Christianist, Islamist or any other Fundamentalist assault on…well…anyone who doesn’t share their Group Values might recognize the behavior I’m describing.

It Must Begin With The Individual

I don’t have the answers to these questions, nor am I certain that they’re the most useful questions to be asking. I’m not a trained philosopher by any stretch. But, I think I’d be foolish to go charging ahead into philosophical territory without at least trying to get clear on a few important concepts.

I think my approach to this June’s blogging assignment will be to describe, as best I can, what my values are first, and then see where else these values might be shared.

If these questions sparked an idea, please share your thoughts in the Comments section of the post. I’d love to know what you think about this notion of Pagan Values, or about values in general!

If this post was interesting to you, please be a good friend and tweet it or Facebook share it.