In these trying times, we need some cute to go with us every day. My dogs make reading the news easier, I hope they can bring a little bit of joy to you.
In these trying times, we need some cute to go with us every day. My dogs make reading the news easier, I hope they can bring a little bit of joy to you.
“Let me help you play!”
In October and November, there was this slew of articles coming across my Google Alerts feed about how there were more Wiccans that Presbyterians in the United States and will someone please think of the children. Now, those types of articles aren’t uncommon at Samhain; and because of that, I was totally going to ignore it as the shoddy clickbaity journalism that’s so popular at that time of year. Except it kept going past Samhain. Except it got picked up by the Daily Stormer. Except that as a scientist, a Pagan, and someone who spent a lot of Wednesdays in a Presbyterian after school program something wasn’t right. So I went digging around and found something that bothers me on a lot of levels.
This all started with a Quartz article in October saying there were more Wiccans in the United States than there were Presbyterians based on the Pew Religious Landscape Study. The Quartz article went on to say that 0.4% of the US population is Wiccan and that this is more than the numbers of Presbyterians, which they claimed has only 1.4 million members. They also included the phrases “actual witches” and “witch aesthetic” in their article, and almost every single subsequent article used those exact same phrase. Almost.Every.Single.One. That grated on my nerves plenty when I read the Christian Post, CNSNews, Newsweek, and the Daily Stormer. Since the publication numbers were racking up and showing up in deliberately violent and bigoted “news” sources, I decided to go back to the Pew Religious Landscape Study.
Before I get into it though, I want to make one thing very clear: numbers are a language of their own, and they actually mean things. You have to read them to understand them. You can’t just go cherry picking things to make a story. The number tell their story, and people should try and tell that rather than taking two halves of different stories to try and tell a sensationalized one.
The Religious Landscape study is based on phone interviews with people from 50 states and these individuals self-identify their religion. I’m going to keep the Presbyterian/Wiccan comparison; even though we’ll see even that definition is a problem. There are three groups we’ll look at evangelical Presbyterians, mainline Presbyterians, and New Age Religions. The New Age Religions breaks down into 3 sub-categories: Pagan or Wiccan, Other, and Native American Religions. You best believe I have issues with this organization. First off, Native American Religions needs to be its own discrete category; it doesn’t belong in with the New Age Religions. Second (and I can hear the exasperated sigh from one of my covenmates already, I love you but I’m going to beat this horse again) Pagan and Wiccan needs to be separated into their own categories because they aren’t the same thing at all, and this become important because they don’t have the frameworks at all. Not all Pagans practice witchcraft, and most of them don’t follow the Threefold law. If they can sort evangelical from mainline Presbyterians, they could have sorted Pagan from Wiccan.
That aside, the findings the Pew study presents are that the US population is 0.4% New Age Religions, 0.8% Evangelical Presbyterian, and 1.4% mainline Presbyterian. According to the United States Census Bureau, the US population is around 329.2 million people. If we do the math, that makes 1.3 million people who self-identify with New Age religions, 2.6 million who self-identify as evangelical Presbyterian, and 3.9 million who self-identify as mainline Presbyterian. Rest easy Christians, even if some people lied about their faith to the Pew researchers, you sill outnumber us. Even based on the Trinity studies from the early 2000s and the Pagan census, our growth is enough to outpace you. Yet.
So where did the 1.4 million people in the articles come from? Well, that number comes from the Presbyterian Church (USA) Wikipedia page and it’s only the active members. That number doesn’t include attendees who aren’t baptized, who are baptized by not confirmed, or just plain inactive members. That number also doesn’t include any of the members from the other Presbyterian churches like the Presbyterian Church in America.
This all makes me baseline pissy because I found all the information for the past 3 paragraphs in the time it took me to boil 2 eggs and make ramen. The Quartz writers have no excuse. Especially as there are other Christian flavors that are legitimately fewer than the New Age Religions category, such as Evangelical Anglicans, the Church of the Nazarene, Disciples of Christ, or any of the Orthodox Churches in the United States. This worries me because this kind of journalistic sloppiness is dangerous in this era, particularly when it’s picked up by such bastions of “integrity” as the Daily Stormer and conservative news sites like CNSNews. The Daily Stormer article fetishized the killing of women and the idea of the Burning Times.
Right around the same time this barrel of shoddy math and “witch aesthetics” came rolling down my feed, another two articles came up as well. The first was from the Religion Freedom in the World 2018 Report, which concludes “Aggressive ultra-nationalism – be it by hard-line governments or violent extremist groups – means many minority faith groups feel like aliens in their own country. They are easy targets in a new era of ignorance and intolerance”. This includes the violence against Rohingya Muslims, Nigerian Christians, Pakistani Ahmadis, and Iranian Baha’is. If we learned anything from the 2016 election, it should be that America is not exceptional, and it can (and has and will again) happen here.
The second was an article by Peg Aloi at The Establishment. Aloi points out that we have the ingredients for another Satanic Panic: young women, especially women of color such as the Hoodwitch, expressing independence; an attraction to non-Christian theologies and goddess-based thealogies; an abundance of occult stories in popular media, social media, and fashion houses; and a right-wing government. Bake for 25 minutes in a strained America and choke on it.
The fact that the story about Presbyterians and Wiccans made it into the Daily Stormer and CNSNews is deeply concerning. It may have happened a century ago in Trump adjusted terms, but the Pizzagate conspiracy was propagated by the Daily Stormer, they had live updates on their homepage. The would-be bomber from Florida read the Daily Stormer in his Trump van. The Daily Stormer publishes stories that deliberately inflame white evangelical men to stochastic terrorism. We don’t know who exactly they will hurt, but they will become dangerous. Even the white evangelical men who aren’t terrorists will be inspired to act out towards everyone else, and we’ll all pay that consequence.
We know this administration and its supporters act against women who stand up to it. Dr. Blasey Ford still can’t go home. Witches have been casting curses on the Trump crime syndicate for 2 years, and placing curses on Brett “I like beer” Kavanaugh. I suspect those witches who came forward about their curses have seen threats.
Pagans, Wiccans, and other Magickal practitioners need to be careful right now. Take care of yourself. Take care of your community. Take care of those who can’t take care of themselves. Speak for those who can’t. Be ready for the storm that’s coming.
Let’s face it, we’re buying things this time of year. An overabundance of holidays fall in December, and a lot of them have a gift expectation. So, if you’re going to be spending money, why not spend it in your own community? I’ve gathered together some of my favorite vendors, and put them here for you to enjoy and purchase from!
My Local Favorites
I have to start this post with plugs for my local artists and friends. Starting with Ardantane whether donations as gifts is your speed or you want a book from the fabulous Amber K, Ardantane is your place. The campus has no equal and is a gem in the New Mexico Pagan community. Coyote Silver (Christopher Kohut) is your place for jewelry, seriously there is no better jeweler. Julian Wolf is another amazing artist, and I am partial to their paintings.
Raspbarri Gems has amazing trees of life that fit perfectly onto their background stones. I have several of Mommy’s Moon‘s threader earrings, and they have a delicate minimalism that goes with any modern look. Or maybe you have a Mother of Dragons on your list, Bell, Book, and Dragon is for them. Yum Chakra has excellent ceramics. I have dishes, a chalice and mug from them and the work is perfect. Plus the mugs are perfect for festivals, they hold almost a liter of liquid.
Witches of Color
Next up, the witches of color. If you’re looking to support witches of color and diversity in our communities here are some great places to start. The Hoodwitch is a brilliant magician and social media presence (seriously check out her Instagram) with a great selection in her store. While you’re there check out the Slutist Tarot. Stella Magia Designs has beautifully beaded jewelry, her hematite fringe earrings have a really nice weight and the shoulder duster earrings are guaranteed to get you compliments. Gaean Allusions makes ceramics with classic Pagan as well as Chinook motifs. Arubah Soaps comes highly recommended, and she’s also in my extended Beltane community, so hit her up.
Subscription Boxes and Memberships
Bells and Smells
As a Hellenic Pagan washing miasma off before I do ritual or magick is important. Sometimes this is as simple as breathing and grounding, other times it’s a whole ritual itself involving a serious bath and meditation. For those big moments (and the small ones in between) I like Emerald City Soaps and Wild Women Soaps.
Kyphi is an ancient Egyptian ritual incense, and a damn finicky one to make. So why not show a high priestess some love and buy it for her?
We all love a statuary, and the Story Goddesses have a classic style that will look great for decades. Stonecraft Arts has timeless statuary that fits into almost any home or garden seamlessly. Their Flora looks amazing hanging over an altar or peeking out of the flowers in the garden. I’m always on the look out for new Hecate statues, and Dellamorteco has a stunning design. Be sure to also check out the joyful Medusa.
Because I’m living in South Korea now, I have to up my game when it comes to winter gear. My desert closet wasn’t built for this. I’m digging the dragonscale fingerless gloves at The Real Crystal Crow (and that jet, silver, and shell necklace is to die for!). I also love the Hecate mittens from Solinox, and I might have to get some sweaters for the pit bulls.
Pagans are magpies. We are. So why not get the Pagans on your holiday list some jewelry? Ogham Runes are great on necklaces and subtle pieces,
Wild Faeri Magick has delightful essential oil perfumes and whimsy for the faerie in your life. Wyrd Curiosities has prayer cards that make the perfect stocking stuffers. Blank notebooks are always a good bet as a diary or Book of Shadows. If you need something a little bit bigger an bolder, why try some of the woodwork fromEtch n Sketch Designs? I love their tripple moon mirror. If you need some Millenial Kitsch Witch or #witchesofInstagram in your life, Moon Goddess Market has you covered; I’m dying over the Ouija board nail decals. Last Craft is also great for the Millenial witch with a sense of humor, with votives like Our Lady of Lemonade, Santa la Flor, and the ward against unwanted dick picks.
Paganwear for children can be found at The Viking Fairy, after whosoever holds the child, if he be worthy, shall change the dirty diaper of Thor.
That takes care of the Pagans in your life, but what about the Pitts? As dogs are my familiar animal, I can’t really weigh in on cat products but why not get some pet charms for their collars? Or some charm bags for their doggy beds? My dogs get new collars at Yule, and I’m loving these Celtic dog collars and Runic dog collars.
Remember, it’s not just about the gifts this Yule: it’s about coming out of the dark of the year into the sunrise. It’s about being the revolution of the sun. So from our hearts and hearths to yours, the Pagan and the Pitts wish you a very Merry Yule!
Photo Credit: Daniella Zalcman
Hair is sacred in many cultures and religious expressions. If it isn’t your hair, don’t cut it.
Those two sentences sum up this entire blog post. But since some people apparently don’t know how to keep their hands to themselves, I have to break this down.
In November, a teacher at Cibola High School in Albuquerque cut a Native student’s hair and called another one a “bloody Indian”. Mary Easton threatened the student with a box cutter before asking if the student liked her braids. The student said she did, and Easton put down her box cutter, picked up a pair of scissors, and then cut the students braids and sprinkled the cut hair on the desk.
Now while my godmother is Dine (thanks for the Nambe and AMAZINGLY warm sheep skin slippers and ear muffs, Memaw!), I am not; and my knowledge of the Navajo culture is passing at best, but even I know that their hair is something you don’t mess with. Jacqueline Keeler at Indian Country Today has a very eloquent article about it, that explains it much better than I can. What makes this so much worse than a teacher being rude as fuck and unfit to be in the classroom is that when the United States government forced the Navajo children to go to their federally run schools, the teachers cut the childrens hair without their consent.
Hair is a sacred thing for many people, and many cultures have specific guidelines for how it’s worn or styled. Whether it’s covered with a veil like the Muslims, the Catholic nuns, devotees of Hestia, or Hindu women; or worn long with no restraints; or tied back in braids as many native cultures and even my own magickal practice dictates; hair isn’t something you can just mess with because you feel like it. We teach the kindergardeners to keep their hands to themselves, more people need to remember that.
Don’t touch a Black persons hair without permission.
Don’t touch my braids without permission.
Definitely don’t cut someone’s hair without permission.
If my little nuggets can remember that, why can’t most adults?
Despite Republican efforts to make it as difficult as possible to enroll in healthcare, remember you still can. Open enrollment ends on December 15th, so take a moment this Yule season and get the gift that really keep on giving: a health insurance plan.
You can enroll here.
Representative-Elect Ilhan Omar of Minnesota wears a hijab. Some truely beatuiful ones too, based on her photos. But the House of Representatives has an outdated rule from the 1800’s about headwear–no one is allowed to wear it for any reason.
Now, based the History of House, the rule against headwear came out of some fairly contentious debate. There is an endearing story about why the hat ban was put in place: that in England members of Parliment wore hats to set themselves apart from the king and for the people, America had no king so no need for hats in the Houses of Congress. Cue panic. Please let it be remembered that when push came to shove MEN were concerned about their fashionable clothes in the House. So vain. In the modern day, this applies to all headwear from scarves to yarmulkes to hijabs. You can see where this can start to get messy with freedom of religion.
Sehkmet aspect Representative Pelosi, has moved to change the rule to allow religious headwear as well as hats or scarves to cover hair loss (which when you think about how many members of Congress have or have had cancer, it becomes a matter of dignity). This rule change adds visible representation, and will inspire more people with diverse faiths to run for Congress; which is only a good thing.
Will the religious freedom loving Republicans be on board?
Rank Islamaphobia is a hallmark of Republicanism. While they write think pieces about how Muslims percieve religious freedom, they refuse to acknowledge their inexorable march to Gilead.
Covering your hair isn’t just for Muslim women who wear a hijab or a chador. Dedicants to Hestia wear veils. Orthodox Jewish women wear scarves. Hindu and Jain women wear a ghoonghat. Catholic nuns wear veils, and the Ammish and the Mennonites cover their heads as well.
Seeing a woman with her hair covered isn’t the end of the world, and may encourage other women who cover their hair to do the same.
Nor is wearing a head covering going to impinge on anyone’s freedom of religion, as much as the White Evangelical men may cry.
Even though Republicans love touting religious freedom, I doubt they’ll be on board.
Republicans LOVE to scream about how Sharia law is coming to America, with out taking into consideration how their own religious beliefs have a heavy influence on our law making process.