Pagan and the Pit(bull)

The adventures and musings of a Pagan and her dog.

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Hope and Paganism

Whooo! I’m not dead! And it’s really amazing how much more time I have in my life without a long term romantic partner. I will hopefully be able to fill some of that time with writing and producing content! That said, I’m sort of helping a good friend write meditations for Advent by reading them before they go out, and I thought why not write a parallel leading up to the Heliogenna? So, without further gilding the lily, I present: Hope. candles-box-five-wooden-35262907

Listen well O Best Beloved: After the Wars of the Titans and the Giants had ended, the gods saw the earth was littered with casualties and no life was to be found. So the gods gave Prometheus and Epimetheus materials and gifts with which to make new life. Epimetheus made animals with wild abandon, from his imagination and creativity fell all manners of life. This is how the platypus was created, Best Beloved. Prometheus was careful in his creations, from his imagination and creativity fell all manners of humanity. This is why we are so beautifully different, Best Beloved. When Prometheus reached for the gods gifts, he found Epimetheus had used them all; the cheetahs could run faster, the birds could fly, the mantis shrimp could see more colors, the dogs smell more scents, the bats hear more sounds. Humanity was left with very little, and shivered in the cold wastes. Prometheus begged Zeus to allow humans to have fire, but was refused. Thus, Prometheus stole an ember from the sacred fires and was punished for it.

But Prometheus wasn’t the only fool to be punished. Epimetheus, foolish creator of the pangolin, the axolotl, and the tufted deer, was given Pandora in marriage. Pandora was the image of Aphrodite, wise as Athena, dynastic as Hera, fruitful as Demeter. Her dowry was only one thing, Best Beloved: a box that Epimetheus was never to open. In secret, he did open it. And from the box flew all the evils in the world: Deceit, Envy, Hate, Greed, Scheming, Covetousness, War, Wrath. In terror Epimetheus fled; but Pandora, O Best Beloved, went to the open box and reached inside. From it she pulled Hope, and with a gentle breath gave Hope the strength to fly.

Paganism is not an orthodoxy, I can’t reference a doctrine and say “This is”. It’s an orthopraxy, we must practice our faith and spirituality; we cannot rely on grace. Because of this, our myths change, and this version is one I find very relevant right now. In every version I’ve read something different flies out of the box, depending on who is supposed to be reading it. I read a version for little girls that said vanity, jealousy, and gossip were in the box. I read a version for little boys that said cunning, beauty, and magic were in the box. Pride is in the box. Lust is in the box. Sloth is in the box. Pride is in the box. You name an evil, it’s probably been in The Box.

So far as science is aware, no other species has made industries out of these evils. And natural disasters don’t seem to really be in Pandora’s Box. Certainly Famine and Plague make appearances, but they do so with War. That combination makes it less a natural disaster and more a man made catastrophe. Everything in The Box requires a human catalyst.

Right now it’s easier to see the wrongs. We can see the damage that Epimetheus (and men) have wrought upon the world. Donald Trump is a walking exercise in deceit and envy. Hate presents a mundane face in the New York Times. Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, Donald Trump Jr., and Eric Trump greedily snatch power and money through nepotism. Putin schemes. Republicans scheme. Kim Jong Un covets. Wrath erupts over Twitter, and war seems imminent. I get a sense of dread now when I hear the little chime of a social media or news alert. With every Tweet, I’m reminded that everything in The Box has a human catalyst.

Even Hope.

Especially Hope.

If Hope requires a human catalyst, then we must provide it. Paganism is an orthopraxy, we must practice. And to quote my show choir choreographer, fake it til we make it. Pandora gave Hope the first push. Women, particularly women of color, have given it another boost. It’s on us now to practice hope and resistance through tangible acts until Hope and Resistance become tangible things.

In revivalist and reconstructionist circles hospitality, charity, and philanthropy are pillars of our practice, Hecate’s Feast is a prime example. These pillars must become sturdier, our commitment to them stronger. Yet, this is not enough to support Hope. We must add a fourth pillar, civic duty. We are obligated to participate fully in our civic processes, at all levels. This is how we create hope, and how we give Hope the strength to spread.

All of the evils in Pandora’s Box rely on humans to be at their worst. Hope requires we be at our best.  


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Safe Puppies, Safe Humans

cropped-6457387_f520.jpgWe recently (like a month ago) got another dog. The new addition to our pack is a big rottweiler cross, and while he’s fairly people friendly he isn’t particularly dog friendly. We’re working on it. But this brings me to the annual reminder about festivals and dogs.

Most festival attendees are human, I’m also willing to bet that statistically more humans than dogs go to festivals. I’m also willing to bet that most complaints outside human interactions and the weather are about dogs: dogs barking, dogs fighting, dogs off leash, aggressive dogs, the list goes on and on. Badly behaved dogs can ruin a festival, and they are reflections on the humans who bring them. Repeated bad dog behavior can get a dog and their attached human banned from some events. And who wants that?

So how can you be a good dog owner at a festival?

  1. Realistically assess your dogs ability to go to a festival
    1. Example, our small dog is unsuitable for festivals because he is very vocal. He doesn’t like to be alone and will bark at his own shadow. Our new big beastie isn’t suitable because he is dog aggressive right now (Maybe he won’t be in the future, he’s had a hard life until now. We’re working with him, but he might never be ready, and that’s ok). My brown girlie is suited to small festivals, big events make her anxious.
  2. Use the yellow ribbon
    1. Does your dog get anxious? Does he sometimes have problems? Is he a good dog but you want people to ask before approaching him? Use the yellow ribbon. It doesn’t mean that your dog is bad, just that he is relying on you to keep him safe.
  3. Put your name and number on your dog
    1. Every dog should have a “if lost please contact” tag. But this is a little more specific to you, your dog, and your event. Put a bracelet or a tag on his collar that has your name, where you are camping, and your number. Think something like this: Isis, Circle of the New Moon, 555-555-5555 or Merlin, Grove of the Ancient Vine, 777-777-7777.
  4. Bring something that smells like home for him to sleep on
    1. You bring your pillow, why wouldn’t you bring hers? Plus, there will be a little bit of familiarity to keep her reassured while you dance the night away by the fire.
  5. Dog Bags.
    1. Pick up your dogs poop. Please. No one wants to step in it, and it’s bad for the environment.

Remember: have fun, be safe, and love your dog!

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Drawing Down the Opinions

ddtmRecently, I read Drawing Down the Moon for a book club. And I have thoughts. Oh, boy do I have thoughts.

Margot Adler was a journalist who set out to investigate Pagans and Wiccans in the 1970’s. While Adler does deserve credit for DDtM being the first survey of Pagan religion in the United States and parts of Britain, all 400 hundred pages of her work can be (and should be) condensed into an elevator speech about the history of Wicca in America. Her writing drags, her psychotherapy background is displayed in haughty grandeur, and what claims to be a survey of Pagan religion in America is nothing more than blowing the egos of the Wiccan and Wiccanate religions while dismissing large swaths of the Pagan community.

In short, I am conflicted.

DDtM is a misleading book. The subtitle “Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America Today” implies that there will be some relatively equal coverage. Not so. Of the 460 pages of sludgy writing 203 are devoted to Wicca (including a fantastically rage inducing interview), 132 cover all of the other religions she deems worthy of her interest, 22 are dedicated to explaining the Pagan world view (with a highly Wiccan flavor), and the remaining 103 pages talk about Pagans today (if you count “today” and the 1980’s which is when the last revision occurred in that section, example: her sources describe computers as a fad). A lot of really cool groups got left out the Minoan Brother- and Sisterhoods got the barest of mentions, Asatru got a few pages, the Cult of Rhea and Hellenion none at all. Neither did the OTO, the Gnostic Church, or any of the Kemetic Orders. These are all groups that a) don’t subscribe or really support Adlers assertions that the gods are merely archetypes in the human mind or b) don’t subscribe to the romanticized versions of magick and Paganism that she does.

It’s that condescending bias that roils through the book that makes it so infuriating. She refuses to acknowledge that other Pagans practice differently, that other Pagans are theists, whether they be poly- or pan-. She refuses to acknowledge that maybe, just maybe, magick isn’t limited to how she practices. But then that would mean being exposed to new and radical ideas. One of the book club members knew Adler when he lived in New York, and described her as one of the old women one sees at a church—the kind that always criticizes when something new is being done. And her writing does very little to dispel that image. She’s flat out hard to read, and not to brag about my reading prowess, but I’ve read some difficult authors in my time. She doesn’t take the cake but she is on my top ten list of authors I really don’t want to read again.

But for all that, she does have moments of brilliance. She asks some very thought provoking questions on gender and spirituality, and some on initiations and traditions. But overall, I suspect that she will go the way of Margaret Murray. DDtM will be used in favor of better books like Triumph of the Moon by Professor Ronald Hutton, or Her Hidden Children by Professor Chas Clifton (who is also the senior editor of The Pomegranate, the Pagan Studies academic journal); and be considered authoritative until it really isn’t, and the shining moments will be forgotten in the melee of how wrong it is.

This is by no means the last of my gripes with Adler, and perhaps her second Pagan based book Heretics Heart (which is a horrible title, it sounds like a Harlequin paperback) is better. Maybe I’ll read it, or maybe I’ll wait for the SparkNotes.


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Happy New Year, Queen of Heaven

queen of heavenHera starts off the New Year in terms of devotionals, and I will be the first to say I think Hera gets a bad rap and that isn’t fair to her. Hera is the best example of the oversimplification of the gods to fit a cultural narrative. Let’s lay down some truth here: Hera is pretty bad ass. She has a pretty strong realm of dominion; Hera is the Queen of Heaven, the goddess of kings and empires, goddess of marriage, of women’s fertility, one of the three goddess of child birth (she is the protector of the mother, Artemis is the protector of the child being birthed, and Eileithyia the patron of the act itself), and the goddess of dynasties. Quite literally, she rules. Hera fights in the War of the Titans, and the War of the Giants, Dionysus Indian War, and she sponsors Sparta in the Trojan War. If the idea of Hera as a warrior queen seems counterintuitive, consider that Pausanias describes a strong cult to Hera Aigophagos (Hera the Goat-Eater) in Lakedaimonia and its capital of Sparta. Hera takes no prisoners.

But wait, her detractors say, Hera treats Zeus bastard sons and other consorts pretty shittily. My response to this is yes, she does. But look at those actions in light of her realms of dominion: she is Queen of Heaven, goddess of empires and dynasties and women’s roles in them. She isn’t going to let others come in and take what is rightfully the jurisdiction of her and her children. After all, even though Hera is considered the last consort of Zeus and tricked into marriage, she was Queen of Heaven in her own right before he got there. No upstarts allowed. It’s even debatable whether all of her divine children have Zeus as a father. Of her children, Typhaon and the Charities don’t have a mentioned father in myth; Hebe, Ares, Hephaistos, Eris, and Eileithyia have disputed paternity.

And through it all the ups and downs of enforcing her dynastic claim on Olympus, Hera does some very kind and loving things. Philostratus the Elder describes Hera welcoming Athene into the company of the Olympians. Hera fills the rivers with rain water of Argos for the devotion Inakhos after Poseidon dries up the island in rage. When the daughters of Pandareos are left orphaned she blesses them with wisdom to lead. And she sponsors Jason on his search for the Golden Fleece and his journey to bring prosperity to Argos.

Despite of all of this Queen Militant badassery, and kindness and support to her devotees, Hera is remembered as “that bitch who gets in the way of Zeus fun”. Hera is reduced from mighty queen of heaven on a cerulean throne to…shrew.

I’ve always thought that the Wiccanate Triple Goddess of Maiden, Mother, Crone to be heinously limiting. And that we need to reclaim the goddesses who embody more than the young nymphet, the voluptuous mother, the disfigured old woman. Women deserve goddesses who represent womanhood in all of its forms, not just the forms that are palatable to the public or described and defined by the older and sexist Pagan writers. Hera is the goddess of leaning in and while she may not be the goddess every woman needs, she is one of the goddesses that everyone deserves. So this month, I’m raising a glass and starting to bring her back.

O Royal Hera of majestic mien, aerial-form’d, divine, Zeus’blessed queen,
Thron’d in the bosom of cærulean air, the race of mortals is thy constant care.
The cooling gales thy pow’r alone inspires, which nourish life, which ev’ry life desires.
Mother of clouds and winds, from thee alone producing all things, mortal life is known:
All natures share thy temp’rament divine, and universal sway alone is thine.
With founding blasts of wind, the swelling sea and rolling rivers roar, when shook by thee.
Come, blessed Goddess, fam’d almighty queen, with aspect kind, rejoicing and serene.

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Dancing with Safety

Recently, a festival I attend banned a man. I can’t say that I’m entirely surprised by this to be honest. The man in question did have a problem with boundaries (as in he didn’t acknowledge them) and had a particular skill for avoiding detection for many years. I, personally, can attest to his ability to be creeptacular and after my first less than pleasant run in with him, have done my best to never be alone with him. I’m very glad that the festival organizers are standing up to this and saying that it is in no way acceptable to behave the way he dance

On the other hand, exposing this man’s behavior and his banishment has brought out a bit of semi-hidden ugliness. People in respected positions of power have vehemently jumped to his defense, causing a slightly public kerfuffle. While this in itself is troubling, that’s not want really what I want to talk about. The festival organizers are in a better place than I am to appropriately respond to public criticisms. I am more concerned with a lower level of negative response.

When it was brought to our attention that this man had been banned, some men had a (to me) very curious response. They became concerned that they might be similarly be put on a list of banished people or that they might get in trouble as well. As our conversation progressed, I gathered two main points that this group of men were upset about. The first was that they might be accused of inappropriate behavior and that second would lead to them being banned.

To me this says three things:

  1. These men understand that they might have, or actually have, done something inappropriate to a woman at some point.

As much as the motto “if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear” has its problems, in this case it’s a little bit true. I have not killed someone, therefore I don’t have to be afraid of prison or the death penalty. I have never ignored personal boundaries of another at a festival, therefore I have no reason to be afraid of being banned for that reason (I will however be the first to admit that I have behaved badly in other ways). Festival organizers of the past have made it very clear that ongoing, affirmative, and enthusiastic consent is highly encouraged. They have hosted workshops, posted fliers and signs, and made sure that attendees try to look out for each other. This standard is by no means a new trend. If these men are concerned that they might be punished it says to me that they know they have done something that crosses a boundary.

  1. These men are afraid that those in a position of power might not believe them or their stories.

Snarky feminist says: Wow, how shocking! You don’t trust the rules, organizers, and leaders to protect you if you are innocent or telling the truth? You don’t say! Tell me all about how difficult this is for you. Admittedly, that was a bit nastier than what I originally wrote, but I really needed to get that out of my system. False accusations of anything involving sex are rare, strike that. Accusations of anything involving sex are rare, period. This is because women are often afraid that for whatever reason they won’t be believed. Often women don’t trust those in charge, for good reason—between anecdata, documented responses of organizers, police, and even judges, and horror stories we’ve been given no good reason to trust people in power with our stories, our terror, or our trauma. In this particular case, these men are afraid of the people in power and I’m finding it very difficult to muster sympathy for them. But I will say this, the festival organizers aren’t on a witch hunt. They are very fair, banishment from the event is an extreme response for only the extreme cases. If you do something inappropriate and it is reported, they’ll talk to you, possibly keep an eye on you for a little while, but you’ll still be able to attend and enjoy yourself.

  1. These men believe that their right to not monitor their behavior and to act as they wish comes before the right of women to feel safe at a festival.

This. This statement. Everyone wants to have fun at a festival. Everyone wants to be safe at a festival. It is very possible to do both. Being aware of boundaries, listening to your partner in the moment, asking if you aren’t sure. These are things that are easily done and make the festival safe and enjoyable for everyone. There are many ways to communicate consent in a sexy, fun manner. “I want to *insert act here*” “Like that?” “Want more?” These can all be said in a fun, sexy, teasing way, and still make it clear that you are asking for permission; and that guideline isn’t just for the men, it’s for women too. Does this mean that these men will have to change their behavior? Yes. Will it be easy? Probably not. But it’s worth it. If everyone feels safe, everyone can have more fun. More women will come to the drum circle and dance if they feel safe. Women will be freer and more relaxed if they feel safe. Women will be more inclined to participate in the sexy times IF THEY FEEL SAFE. If these men want to have more of the fun sexy times with women at a festival they need to be part of creating an environment that is safe.

Women move through a male dominated space every day. Sometimes it’s not safe. Sometimes it’s terrifying. Paganism is a religion that venerates the Goddess next to the God. This means that women need, not only to be treated equally, but also to feel safe in those spaces. If women feel safe, they will join in more.

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Playing the long game

Heyo! I’m not dead! Or fallen into an internetless black hole. Sayeth what!

But for those who have fallen into an internetless black hole, Indiana passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). Now, I am not a lawyer; I’ll stick to my science thank you very much, but I am engaged to one. And a lawyers favorite pastime is to debate the law with other lawyers. Between Teddy and his friends and the news, I think I have a pretty decent idea of what is going on.

The Indiana RFRA says that it there is a legal exemption to an anti-discrimination law if you have sufficient religious reason to discriminate. The thing is, no such anti-discrimination law exists in Indiana. It’s putting a solution out there for a problem that doesn’t exist, and it’s that kind of thing that sketches a lot of people out. It sketches me out, if I’m being completely honest.

Now why, out of all the cool topics I could talk about, am I focusing on this one? Because of this guy, Dusty Dionne.dusty He was interviewed by the Raw Story, and some of his stuff kind of stuck in my craw a little bit. So let’s make a list.

First things first, Dionne is clergy at the Aquarian Tabernacle Church. Which is in the Pacific Northwest, not Indiana. It’s a relatively safe bet that Dionne is still living in that area, and also none of those states has a RFRA. So him making a commentary on it kind gets me grumpy. It’s like, what does he know about this really? I live in a state with an RFRA, if someone came in and told me how it was or how it was going to be I would get a bet grumpy.

Secondly, hoooooo boy. Do I really hope that he got a bitchy journalist because, well I’ll let the quote speak for itself. “For example, he explained, many Wiccans believe “that love is the law,” so while polygamous marriages are not a tenet of Wiccan theology, “whatever we want to do with marriage we can do. Carte blanche. If I want to marry a horse, I can marry a horse.'”  This is wrong on 3 fronts.

  1. The first is, “Love is the law” comes from Crowley, and is a Thelemic concept Wiccans nabbed. This Love, isn’t about marriage. Love is the union between yourself and the Divine, and the Universal Will of the Divine is Love. This Love does not involve a horse.
  2. Marriages are contracts. Legally, marriages are entirely the realm of the government; and that isn’t going to change soon. He’ll just have to do what every other polycule has done, which is to find an arrangement that works for them and the government–whether it be one legally married pair, with several handfasted pairs around them or some other arrangement.
  3. Horses cannot give consent. And by throwing that comment into a roiling debate about religious rights and LGBT rights, he just did something incredibly stupid. He gave the decline-of-marriage pearl clutchers something to hold on to. Way to go him.

Thirdly and finally, he’s putting Pagans in a bad light. I get it. I really do, sometimes it’s frustrating as fuck to not be listened to, to be written off because of your religion, to be ignored. But you can’t rise to the bait and go Pagan Postal. You can’t dance nude on the Capitol steps. You can’t marry a horse. You can’t demand that you be something special with your rights regarding marriage. That’s not how it works. We must play the long game–patiently demonstrating that we are not something to fear  or to demonize. That we are really perfectly normal people who pay their taxes and walk their dogs, and sometimes dance with flowers underneath a silver moon.

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Puppy Etiquette

I’m going to be late to the holiday/libation post again. This will probably become a trend. Such is life. It’s also snowing outside, so I’m going to dream about festivals. The summer festivals are coming up (ish), and right now the idea of sun bathing at Lughnasadh sounds positively fantastic. And a ton of people want to take their canine loves with them to festivals. I get it, I really do. I love taking Roxy to festivals, but those are ritual centered spaces and we as pet owners need to be considerate. pit bull

Not all dogs are suited for the festival life. It’s a high stimuli environment, and a dog that is totally mellow at home might not be there. I’ll use my dogs as an example: Roxy is pretty relaxed at festivals. She likes to be near humans, and will happily lie at my feet. She gets a bit antsy if we leave her by herself for ritual, but if we kennel her near other dogs she’s ok. She doesn’t bite, she doesn’t bark, and she loves going to the mountains. The Butt on the other hand, is none of these things. He barks when anyone passes by the camp; and whines when we leave him at camp for ritual. He doesn’t bite, but the environment is too much for him to be comfortable in. So we only take him to Lughnasadh, where there are very few people or dogs to upset him.

The point is, be aware of your dogs and their personalities. If they are inclined to bark, or bite leave them at home where they will be happier. Keep them on a leash at all times, and make sure that there is something with your name and cell number on it in case they escape the leash. If your dog is a little hesitant meeting strangers put a yellow ribbon on his collar so people know to approach with care. And for the love of the gods, remember to bring baggies for their poop.