religion

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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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.

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.