paganism

Understanding Problematic Beliefs: What About the Gaps?

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This blog post was inspired by something that came up on my dashboard on Tumblr. It reads like this:

“The Universe sends us exactly what we are ready for at the exact time we need it in our lives.”

Why is that problematic, you say? Well, the problem with beliefs like this is that people take them for absolute facts instead of personal beliefs. Many people who believe in various forms of Karma, the Threefold Law, the Law of Return, ect,  have them backed up by personal experiences, thus re-affriming said belief.

The problem is that there are many gaps in thinking this way, because there remains a lot of  unanswered questions. Here are some questions I propose to counter the Three Fold Law:

  • Does harm against anything result in the Threefold law? Does eating a chicken which has been killed- either through more human methods or through factory farming- mean that a person will recieve punishment?
  • Is the Threefold Law in referrence to just magical practices, or in everyday life?
  • How long does it take for justice to be distributed to the person after an act-either good or bad- has been committed?
  • Does the Law apply to those who don’t believe in it?
  • Isn’t saying that the Law exists and applies to even those who don’t believe in it the same as Christians who assure us that hell is real, even though we don’t believe in that?

Some of you may have even answered those questions as you go along. As you may have learned- through pagan books, blogs, and other sources- different people have different answers, different interpretations of the same laws.

For something to be considered a Universal law, it must apply to everyone and everything. Laws usually have set rules and meanings, and aren’t fluid and up for interpritation. Gravity, for example, is a rule, although the way that it applies outside of Earth is different. Gravity, as it applies on Earth, is not up for personal interpretation.

The thing that pissed me off so much in regards to this Tumblr post is the fact that some people treat every bad thing in life as if it was a lesson to be learned. This is not to say that there are no lessons, it’s just that you cannot say that everything negative thing that has happened is some sort of learning experience that we should take note of . Honestly, if you think about it, you can understand why this is problematic. You mean to tell me that slavery was a lesson to be learned? That the Universe waited until juuuussst the right time to free all those slaves?  That their lives were just a lesson to us all to treat  other better?

Riiigghht.

The point of this post is not to attack people who believe in particular beliefs, but to reinforce the fact that they are beliefs, and are not set in stone. We have to understand-as a community- that anyone who does not believe in the Threefold Law is some sort of negative Pagan bandit whose giving the community a bad rep. We have to understand that to foist our beliefs onto others is just as bad as a Christian foisting their beliefs on us. We have to understand the gaps in thinking and theology, and admit to ourselves that sometimes we just don’t have all the answers.

 

 

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Pagans: Please Stop Stealing Hoodoo

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A reoccurring them I seem to be realizing through many of the Pagan books I’m reading is the tendency to take traditional Hoodoo formulas and then relabel them as a generic “magickal” formula. Lets dig deep into this, for those of you who are confused.

Hoodoo, also called rootworking, is an African American spiritual practice that came into being via  slaves brought over from Africa into the Americas. By mixing not only each other’s beliefs, but also those of Native Americans and Europeans, the system of “Hoodoo” was created. Let me repeat: although Hoodoo is a spiritual practice that anyone can practice, it is an African American one. I have seen many books that seem to feel uncomfortable with this fact and will often drop the African American part and simply address it as a spiritual practice that anyone can do of apparently mysterious origins.  Recognize  the system as what it is- a system rooted in African American culture.

This is problematic because the common trend in modern, eclectic Paganism where said Pagans will decide that they enjoy/want a particular aspect of a culture and will take from it without doing further research, by attempting to sever this new system/practice from it’s traditional  structure  and repackage it as if it never belonged to a system to begin with (i.e.- chakras, yoga, the Elder Futhark) because it suits their need to incorporate an element into their personal practice without having to sacrifice the work, effort, and energy to study said system in it’s original context, feeling that their own interpretations are good enough to suffice for authenticity.

Hoodoo is a very specific system- it is not just general “magick” or magickal herbalism- it is unique in that not only herbs and stones are used, but also animal parts, soil, body fluids, and the like. The individual meanings and how each element is incorporated into a trick or working is specific to Hoodoo- when you redefine the meanings of formulas,candle colors, or herbs, it is no longer hoodoo.

Also there  is the tendency for some to look down at Hoodoo because unlike other modern magical systems, hexes and curses, called crossing, are also used as a part of the system. While many individual root workers may choose not to practice such things, favoring other practices instead, there is often a break in history where people forget why they were used in the first place.

It is because African Americans in the past faced (and yes, still do, although in a much different, non-institutionalized form) oppression and racism that was  constant threat to not only their well-being, but the well-being of their loved ones and communities as a whole.

When having an enemy can mean danger to your family, or when racist cops are quick to find offenses to get you in trouble over, you don’t give a shit as to whether or not your actions are harming someone else. Your concern is the safety of your own- your family, your community, and your people.

You’re not concerned over whether or not the white man at work whose sexually harassing you is harmed, or whether or not your  nosy, snitch neighbor develops a disease and moves away- as long as he’s gone and your shit is safe, that’s all that matters.

Hoodoo is a practice born out of desperation of a people with the desire to live and prosper under horrifying circumstances-not some gentle, herbal practice that those with no appreciation for the it can just go buy on Etsy without even understanding the circumstances of it’s creation.

This is not to say that no rootworker-then or now -has ever used it for unjustified malicious purposes- because yes, it was common at one point in time.

What I’m saying is that many Pagans today have no or little understanding of what it means to be truly desperate.

There is also a long standing history of whites appropriating from black culture while giving no credit to the culture they appropriated from. Keep this in mind when traditional (black) rootworkers become offensed over your taking of their shit.

If you want to work or practice Hoodoo- do some research. Until then, quit stealing our formulas because the idea of having tons of magical formulas entices you, or because you like the way the packaging looks, or because it’s so versatile, or whatever bullshit excuses you’ll try to give for being too lazy to learn shit about the culture you’re stealing from.

The versatile, Earth-based practices of Hoodoo- floor washes, Mojo hands, powders,incense, bath crystals, handwashes, candles, and perfumes make it an easy target for those who are interested in new ways to incorporate herbs into their practice, but who could care less about the oppressive history of African American culture and spiritual practices, it’s apparent “lack” of ethics, and it’s lexicon of new words.

That will be all.

Excluding Definitions of Paganism: How Does it Effect Pagans of Color?

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Often, especially in old books and websites, I find definitions of paganism that go a bit as follows:

“Paganism is an umbrella term for any pre-Christian European religion”

When people define paganism as such, what they are effectivly doing is setting up a system in which European (white) is the default, and any PoC or-non-European traditions- are considered an outlier. When you ask pagans why there isn’t more PoC representation in the Pagan community, often the excuse is that paganism is defined as European religions, and that most pagans choose to follow those paths that their ancestors walked. Instead, the case is that PoC (pagans of color) and non-European traditions are often overlooked in favor of Euro-centric ones.

Not to mention that that excuse doesn’t make  sense. How do you get the idea that if you are following  a European religion that that is the path that your ancestors walked, so long as it’s European?

I do not know where my ancestors came from, and just picking and choosing a traditional African religion does not mean that I’m following the “path of my ancestors”, much in the same way that a white person picking any European spirituality- regardless of their ancestry- isn’t necessarily  following the path of their ancestors.

This system is problematic, as it also upholds the idea of privilege where any pagan who is not following the defaults of Paganism (read: is white, follows a European spirituality or a spirituality filled with cultural appropriation) is seen as different.

Also seen in the Pagan community is the idea of mutual exclusivity, or the idea that, if you are pagan, you cannot be something else, because pagan and xyz are not possible because they are mutually exclusive.

Also not true.

You can still be a pagan and be a racist.

You can still be pagan and be prejudice.

You can still be pagan and have white privilege.

You can still be pagan and have male privilege.

You can still be pagan and have heterosexual privilege.

YOU CAN STILL BE PAGAN AND HAVE PRIVILEGE- just because you are oppressed in one way- spiritually-doesn’t mean you aren’t benefitting in other ways-being white.

Those are the simple facts, and by pointing out the fact that many pagans feel as if they bear the worst oppression because of their spirituality is laughable-especially because many uphold ideas that racism and prejudice no longer exist, while also choosing to remain “colorblind” (which is a form of racism)- they feel as if you are being antagonistic or simply “bringing race into it” or being a ‘race-baiter”

I am choosing to point out these issues in the community because it remains a constant problem, and in order to truly progress and understand each other, we must be able to create a space in which we can accept others without silencing them in favor for a more homogenized, blind view.

Many PoC feel as if they cannot be pagan because they aren’t white. Others avoid talking about race/cultural based subjects in fear of being seen as a negative race-baiter.

This all goes hand in hand with the fact that people with privilege often feel uncomfortable speaking about it, and will often a) avoid the conversation completely, b) adamantly refuse the idea that they have privilege,thus effectively silencing the voices and experiences of PoC, or, c),  become belligerent, rude, and embarrassed.

All terrible responses to have.

As pagans we need to understand-yes, understand, because despite all the feel good books speaking about how paganism is open to all people from all walks of life- many still choose to discount those who come from different situations and experiences than them, because often times they bring with them experiences which point out blatant differences between them and other pagans.

I did not come from a wonderful home with loving Christian parents who were outraged at my involvement with paganism.

I came from a broken, abusive home where my mother accepted my maturity in studying a spiritual path and my father applauds my philosophic skills.

I did not come from a home where milk was a given, or that dinner was a given- I came from a home where good food (read: not ramen) was considered luxury and should be respected.

I am not the standard white middle class pagan, and I will not have my experiences as well as the experiences of others droned out in favor for a more homogenized view of pagans and paganism.

So many books portray paganism in this particular way that it becomes seen as the norm. We tend to see those that practice differently or don’t believe in the Three Fold Law or don’t follow the Wheel of the Year as “those other people” or just “others” instead of validating them as pagans with different experiences and practices.

I am pagan just like everyone else, and just because I am not the “typical pagan” doesn’t mean that I am not pagan. We need to stop drowning out ideas and voices because we don’t like what they have to say.

Cultural Appropriation and the Pagan Community: AKA White Privilege

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AKA, how to take a shit on Native American traditions

In my attempts to hunt down and find information about how members of the Pagan community view the topic of cultural appropriation, I stumbled across this thread.

Here we go.

This is very important, because it shows how those who do the cultural appropriating are attempting to define what is and is not classified as appropriation, without even understanding the definition appropriating.

This goes hand in hand with white privilege-because, yes, it does exist- and the fact that even mentioning so will receive outrage and denial from people who refuse to understand and learn from the experiences from PoC.   This plays into the ideology that you somehow have the right to take from other cultures what you wish, without giving any care or concern for those whom you are appropriating from.

Also important to understand is the fact that those members of the cultures who you are appropriating from are telling you no, that you cannot take their practices from them, and yet you are doing it anyway. 

Here and here and here and here are all examples of people telling you that it is not okay to take their shit, and yet you still believe that you have the right to anyway?

And for those of you who do not understand, appropriation is not learning about someone else’s culture, or taking genuine interest in someone else’s religion or spirituality. It is not wanting to worship other deities or incorporating other’s beliefs into your own.

Cultural appropriation is when a person decides to take from another culture without understanding or throwing aside any cultural significance or meaning, instead choosing to re-define it, until it is nothing like it was in the traditional context.

This and this and this and this are all examples of cultural appropriation in the pagan community, as if, somehow, taking something with “good intentions”, even spiritual ones, excuses you from the fact that you are stealing from other cultures. 

Choosing to personalize your practice does not account for laziness and refusal to do your research. Many non-European religions have long-standing traditions and are still practiced, their traditions being upheld by members of spiritual clergy, unlike many European ones, to which are no longer practices by a large community and as such are open to modern interpretation.

I am tired of seeing the same old excuses and stuttering when it comes to topics such as these, and the sad fact is that many people will refuse to admit that they are doing something which oppresses another culture and group of people. It shows the unwillingness of people to give up their privilege-privilege which benefits them very well.

You want to appropriate another person’s culture? Fine. Just don’t get mad when we call you out on bullshit.

PSA: Please Stop Romanticizing the Romani People and Using the Slur G*psy

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Over and over again in the Pagan community I see people who constantly romanticize the Romani people. Despite multiple discussions on the subject and information provided by Romani themselves people continue to romanticise them, stereotyping them and refusing to understand the struggles and discrimination they underwent.

It’s extremely rude, inconsiderate, and oppressive.

I am sick and tired of the excuses of Pagans make as to why they continue to use the word “G*psy”- “Oh, some G*psies don’t care if I use it”, “I’m actually part Romani, you know” “It’s not a slur”- all excuses. There are Native Americans who may use the word “Indian” to refer to themselves, but that does not mean that, because some don’t mind it, that others don’t. I don’t care what the shows on television are called, how many books use the title, and how many other dozens of pagan books use the slur. I do not care how the word is spoken, I do not care in what reference it is used- it is a FUCKING SLUR, often combined with ROMANTICIZATION .

The fact that the Romani have been DISCRIMINATED AGAINST, SYSTEMATICALLY MURDERED, should be REASON ENOUGH to stop these stupid stereotypes of them being some type of card-reading, crystal gazing beings- not to mention that they’re are homogenized, much like Asians.

Stop. Using. Slurs.

Here is a Tumblr blog that describes exactly what is mentioned above: http://thisisnotromani.tumblr.com/

Public Service Announcement over.

Why is a Space for PoC (Pagans of Color) Needed?

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Pagans who are also PoC require their own safe spaces to communicate, find solidarity, and be able to express themselves in a space where otherwise their opinions would not be valued.

Often times, Pagan places are often perceived to be “safe”, simply because we are all Pagan- however, when someone chooses to speak out against issues in the Pagan community i.e., cultural appropriation, racism, classism, exclusion, and other issues that are often swept under the rug in favor of more “positive” discussions notice how the mood changes. Often times, PoC’s experiences are ignored, as the majority of the Pagan community is white, and many white Pagans uphold the idea that Paganism is for white people, or at least people who follow a traditionally European spirituality.

The idea that PoC (Pagans of Color) are expected to simply shrug their shoulders and just accept paganism as a “white thing” effectively silences their voices and minimizes their experiences. The idea that being pagan (and thus being a minority in one regard) cancels out any other privileges they may have is also a common idea- for example, white pagans who believe that they do not have white privilege because they are pagan. This is simply untrue.

Also needed is a space where PoC (Pagans of Color) can discuss non-European spiritualities, such as Buddhism, Taosim, Shinto, Voodun, and Santeria- with a focus on these particular spiritualities where no overwhelmingly European bias exists. By having a space such as this, PoC (Pagans and People of Color) can have a space in which their spirituality takes center stage and is not scooted aside for traditionally European deities, practices, and holidays which is common in other pagan spaces.

There are those people who may be offended that my blog does not focus/ cater to the white pagan populace, however I feel as if white pagans are otherwise represented, accounted for, and have spaces where they are free to speak about their own experiences. PoC do not have such spaces, and it is them that I am catering to- because otherwise they would not have accurate representations of themselves or places where they can comment without feeling as if they are outsiders.

I cannot tell you how many books, websites, and forums I have read that treat me as if-because I’m pagan- I must be white. Books where the author proclaims that “we” should ‘get back to the ways of our ancestors” (in reference to Celtic spirituality) effectively leaves me out, with the assumption that if I’m picking up a book on Celtic spirituality, I must be white.

There is also much more literature about European Pagan deities than there are of say Chinese, Japanese, or South American other than the token Kuan Yin or Amaterasu, not often do you find non-appropriated details on non-European pantheons, minus the Egyptian one, which often is appropriated by other pagans.

With this blog, I will share books, other blogs, research material and artwork, as well as provide accurate information on non-European deities, holidays, and systems so that people who are looking for information about them from a non-approprative view can read them.

I hope that I can create a safe space for PoC to deepen their spirituality in a place that understands their unique experiences.

This is a Public Service Announcement: My Blog is Not For White People

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Please let me make this clear.

My blog is not for white people- my job is not to coddle you and make you feel better about race relations or cultural appropriation. I am not catering to white people- I am here to cater to PoC as well as pagans, people whose voices are seldom heard much less appreciated. If you are white and read my blog, please do not comment on my blog telling me about your opinions, feeling, or xyz, because I don’t care about what you think.

However, simply because my blog does not cater to the white populace does not mean that I am telling white people that they cannot read or experience. The very plain fact is that when it comes to social justice blogs, many white people cannot choose to put aside their own opinions to simply listen to what PoC are saying-and, instead-choose to ignore what we are saying in favor from their own opinions, either because they refuse to admit that whit privilege exists, that they benefit from it, justifying racism and the like, standing up for cultural appropriation, and the list goes on and on. I will have none of it.

Your opinions are valued everywhere else- they will not be here. Do not police my tone and tell me that I am not being fair or that I’m being rude- I don’t care. I am tired of white people always wanting to invade every space, because any space that does not include them is somehow offensive, as if they do not have  a thousand other places to comment and express their opinions. Many PoC do not.

This is a not a coddling blog. I am not here to make you feel comfortable, wanted, or appreciated, or to reassure you that you are not “like other white people”, or assure you that you are a good person.

This is a place for PoC to express their own opinions and experiences- because we have very few safe places to do so otherwise.

Thank you, PSA over.