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Posts Tagged ‘Pagan Pride’

 

I was in high school when I started to seriously study and practice any form of Paganism.  I was solitary except for a few experiments with an equally curious friend.  I didn’t meet any other Pagans in person until college.  The introductory books did not prepare me for the diversity in our community.  I remember an elder  looking down his nose at me when I blurted out a socially awkward “Blessed be!” in the local metaphysical store after I heard what he was talking about.  (We later had a very positive relationship.)  I vividly remember the first time I met a self-proclaimed Vampire.  (It was really uncomfortable.)

Although I never experienced witch wars or anything like that, I occasionally butt heads with people in the eclectic group I belonged to in Utica.  I came to realize Wicca did not resonate with me, but many people in the group embraced it or its teachings.  I realized I was a polytheist, a liberal reconstructionist with a blossoming interest (calling?  obsession?) in Irish culture.  I no longer embraced the Law of Three or the Rede.  Fueled by youthful passion, I wanted to remind everyone, whenever I could, that I didn’t always share their perspectives. While I seldom work a curse, studying Irish (and other Indo-European lore) revealed that it was part of those cultures and not demonized in any way.  Indeed, some of the earliest Irish curses are against inhospitable rulers who were not treating their people with dignity.

The moment you admit any of that, the moment you dismiss the Law of Three, the moment you stand in contrast to Wicca (by your ethics, your tools, your methods,  etc), lines form.  I don’t always mean for that to happen, but it’s been part of my learning curve.  It became painfully divisive whenever I shared my concerns of cultural appropriation when we planned eclectic rituals.   It was exhausting, but I loved everyone I worked with.  They were patient with me, encouraged me to share my own interests, and we always strove to be respectful, even when things became heated.  I’m really lucky that my first foray into the Pagan community was like that.  It could have been worse.  I know many people who refuse to celebrate with others because of really bad experiences.

Now that I’m a little older, I hope that I’m a little wiser.  I realize there is strength in our diversity.  It forces us to think and not become mired in tradition.  It’s good to see things from other perspectives.  Although I prefer to work with and learn from fellow Druids, polytheists, and traditional witches, some of the kindest, smartest, and most talented ritualists I know are Wiccan or influenced by those teachings.  While I find the sacred in the forests and rivers, I now understand that many find it in city streets.  I may be a vegetarian, but I know many who very respectfully hunt or lovingly raise animals, then offer some of the flesh.  I may lean towards hard polytheism, but I understand and appreciate that others see all gods as aspects of one spirit.

If you haven’t already, you should read “Undoing the Hard Work of Pagan Pioneers” by Bekah Evie Bel.  (Fair warning – it’s a Patheos blog update.  They always slow my browser.)  The author explores a topic that I and others sometimes think about.  How society sees us, and how we see each other, play a role in the novel I’ve been writing.  More people are talking about “rewilding” our traditions.  Some are calling anew to Aradia.  In our fight for rights and recognition in larger society, many worry that we have declawed ourselves in the process.  Why is it somehow possible for  Western people to accept that cultures in other countries make offerings, revere their ancestors, talk to plants, or dance while their gods ride them?  When it happens in other countries, it’s interesting, entertaining, it’s so  weird you can’t look away, it’s exotic.  When it happens in a Western country, especially in your own backyard, it’s suddenly alarming to many.  (Obviously, indigenous people live here, but the dominant culture tends to treat their traditions as exotic, too.)  Within our own Pagan community, certain practices will draw ire – you may even be ostracized.  Most people regard Paganism as a monoculture.  Heck, many people within our own community still view it that way, leading to culture shock and conflict upon encountering different traditions.

I’m not sure exactly where I’m going with this…  just that I’ve been thinking about these topics.  I seem to come back to them every once in awhile as I reflect on my growth.  While there are definitely certain practices that must stay in the past based on laws and evolved perceptions of human decency, I think it’s important that individuals within the Pagan community continue to grow in a spirit of mutual respect.  We don’t have to agree all the time, but recognizing that not everyone will embrace the same practices or traditions is important to our preservation.  It’s important that we continue to learn about each other and come together to celebrate our diversity.  When we can do that, we’re better able to brainstorm and ameliorate issues concerning race, gender identity, cultural appropriation, elder care, and others challenging our growth. It’s part of why I’m involved in my local FAE Fest and enthusiastically attend PPD – to promote education so we learn about each other, celebrate our similarities and differences, and support each other.

I’m thankful to our Neo-Pagan elders and all they did to help us get where we are today, but I’m ready for certain stigmas to go away within our own diverse community.  The greater misconceptions are more likely to vanish from public opinion when we ourselves stop perpetuating the falsehood that we all believe or practice the same way.

 

 

 

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In my last post, I briefly mentioned that the ADF group I founded a few years ago grew into an official Grove.  I’m so proud of my grovies.  We have all worked so hard to get to this point.  I definitely could not have done this by myself.  Whenever I lead rituals, I make a point to have multiple people in major speaking parts so it’s not just me.  I love when grove members step up to lead rituals or workshops.  I love how we have taken turns coming up with activities, sharing supplies, making favors, leading magical workings, hosting private gatherings, offering extra eyes to keep track of kids, donating art and time…  Despite some occasional bumps and growing pains (which are inevitable), we’ve continued to grow intellectually, spiritually, and we grow closer as a Druid family who truly love and support each other.  I look forward to many years with my beautiful grovies. Hail to Northern Rivers Grove!

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Our info table at the 2016 FAE Fest.

Last weekend, my Grove participated in the 3rd annual Faery and Earth Festival in Watertown, NY.  Originally scheduled in August, organizers moved the date to October 1st due to stormy weather.  This “sun date” was a great success!  It was a perfect early autumn day.  Northern Rivers Grove, ADF, had an info table, offered hospitality to workshop presenters, built our ever-evolving Earth Mother shrine, and lead the closing ritual for the second year in a row.  It’s a lot of work, but very rewarding to take part in.  The closing ritual, in particular, is a great way to showcase the ADF tradition, our own ritual skills, and our grove character.  Just as last year, we received a lot of positive feedback.

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A view of our Earth Mother Shrine.  Many of our artisans have contributed pieces over the last three years.  It continues to evolve into a beautiful devotional space.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.

Personally, this was an opportunity for me to grow closer to the local Pagan community outside of my grove.  I’ve become one of the FAE Fest organizers after volunteering to coordinate workshops.  One of my favorite parts of the CNY PPD are the many educational opportunities, and I felt that the FAE Fest needed that extra bit of magic.  However, I knew that the founders were spread thin (reserving space, organizing art and food vendors, and paying entertainers…) so I stepped up to help make it happen.  I’m a big believer in volunteering when I see a need!  It was a challenge, for sure, and I learned a lot on the way, but it was worth it. We had workshops on a variety of topics – British fairy lore, herbal tea, tarot, deepening your Pagan faith, hoop dancing, belly dance, and the Native American medicine wheel. Education is important to me as a Druid, so it fits into my spiritual calling.  I was so happy to help, and I look forward to doing it again for 2017.

Reaching out to local Pagans to offer workshops gave me an opportunity to reconnect with dear friends and teachers, get to know acquaintances, and meet other Pagans with different backgrounds, traditions, and skills.

It’s funny.  I founded Northern Rivers years ago because other local groups weren’t meeting my needs.  I wanted something specifically focused on Druidism – the ADF tradition in particular.  I was younger then, and perhaps I said or did things that created distance between myself and the other groups in the area.  I reflected on this after I was invited to take part in CUUPs’ main ritual and help call the quarters – something I hadn’t done in 7 or so years!  Through my involvement with the FAE Fest, I’m finding that I’m working with other groups, other Pagans, who come from different traditions and experiences.  Sometimes very different.  I’m building bridges, focusing on our commonalities, and that’s the way it should be.  PPD and the FAE Fest is about coming together and celebrating our diverse community.  It’s interesting to me that Northern Rivers, a group that is more polytheistic and recon-oriented, matured and became an official Grove as I have also matured as an individual with regards to working with other, often very eclectic, NeoPagans.

Groups won’t always appeal to everyone.  We all have different needs.  The local Pagan community is like a forest – it is dynamic, with many different species.  Each is linked in some way, but all are required for the health and vibrancy of the forest.  When we come together, we celebrate each other – our beautiful similarities and differences.  We will support each other, our right to exists in an environment that is at times hostile to alternative religions. We are stronger together, and I’m so proud to be a part of that community building.  Hail to the local Pagan community!

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We had planned to attend the Central New York Pagan Pride Day today, but in what seems to be a continuation of a pattern I’m only starting to see, health issues got in the way of socializing with a wider group of Pagans.  Wellspring was thwarted by surgery; the Fairy and Earth festival cut short by extremely painful cramps; and now PPD is not happening for us because we all have colds.  I’ve been keeping mine controlled by drinking tea whenever possible, but my little one is fussier, and it’s a long day out in the cold wind with a miserable child.  If we lived closer, I would have gone on my own for an hour or so, but it’s so much driving, gas, and, as a result, money to commit for only a short time…  So I made the difficult decision to miss it for the second year in a row (last year Bee was still an infant and it was raining the entire time).  While it’s disappointing since I was looking forward to seeing old friends, attending a workshop on Manx folklore, the drum circle, and such, I now realize that I needed this day very much.  It’s been a very stressful, busy few weeks.  My spiritual life has been stymied by mental and sometimes physical exhaustion.  I hadn’t been to the forest in ages…

Green Ring Rock. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

So I changed that.  Sniffles be damned!  I went into the forest and reacquainted myself with the trees.  I’ve found that the old place I gravitated towards to make offerings no longer feels right.  It is too high traffic in some ways.  It’s too near the entrance to the forest.  Too convenient for others to access.  By others, I mean those who don’t understand what I’m doing and move stones, leave trash, or spray-paint the trees.  Most people view the forest as a sort of playground, not a sacred place, let alone a home to millions of other lives.  The old place needs healing and attention, but sometimes a Druid just wants to reconnect and feel at peace.

Look for the oaks… Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

I felt called to the opposite end of the forest, so I let myself wander there.  I felt particularly drawn to the rocks and their lichens.  I noticed the fallen hickory and acorn shells.  Autumn is a wonderful time to learn about the tree population in the forest.  Prior to today, I hadn’t realized how many shagbark hickories are in the forest!

I found myself drawn to an oak tree.  I collected numerous acorn crafts for a project and then realized that I’d found a small grove of trees – the oak, an old hemlock, a hickory, and some maples.  They formed a near perfect circle.  The lyrics, “We approach the sacred grove,” left my lips and I found myself circling clockwise.  I made offerings and the wind rushed through my hair, filling me with joy.  I felt myself entranced by the swaying trees, especially the majestic maples towering above, already changing from green to golden and crimson.

I found a new quiet place to commune with the forest, and I left with a pocketful of acorn caps, and a handful of litter.  I feel reinvigorated and ready for the coming week.  I feel more connected to the land, to my Druidism, and to my spirit.  I think my nasal passages even felt a little clearer!   I miss seeing my friends and exploring other perspectives, but I’m grateful for the opportunity to visit the forest and be alone with my thoughts.  Today I was a proud Pagan in the woods.

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