Pagan and the Pit(bulls)

The political musings of a Pagan and her dogs.


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Screw Brett Kavanaugh and the cross he rode in on

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Content Note: Christofascism

I’m writing this on the eve of Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings, and I’m reminded of Fascism: a warning. Secretary Albright’s book is a bitterly difficult book to read, but a necessary one for anyone interested in political Shadow Work. She describes fascism not as a political ideology, but as a method of seizing power. While Brett Kavanaugh may not be the exact flavor of White Evangelical Christian that is oh-so-fashionable in the current administration, he is a good little Christofascist and the first mature product of their long game. Brett Kavanaugh will compliantly support this administrations’ grabs for power. As if that weren’t immediately obvious from Kavanaugh signaling that he would be against indicting a sitting president.

Christofascists use Christianity as a cudgel to consolidate and abuse power. American White Evangelical Christians aren’t unique in this, they’re just the ones doing it here. At a baseline level, Kavanaugh’s record worries. If this were a normal presidency, with a president who behaved according to our norms and institutions, I would focus on specific issues (although I still wouldn’t want him anywhere near the Supreme Court). Combined with the Mueller investigation and the appalling behavior over the Merrick Garland nomination, I don’t want the GOP to have the opportunity to choose their own judges.

All that said because this isn’t normal, I’m specifically worried about how Kavanaugh’s personal religious life will impact his rulings. Because the personal is political. State-run media outlet Fox News is already touting Kavanaugh as someone who will defend the “most sacred right” to religious freedom. The more radical (but still well read) Religion News claims Kavanaugh will do his job to “apply the law objectively, without regard to his personal views….he understands that our founders believed deeply in religious liberty and that the Constitution they wrote protects the free exercise of religion”.  Now, I’m a Pagan and a Witch, I believe all sorts of woo. But you will never be able to convince me that Kavanaugh knows exactly how the founding fathers felt about the freedom of religion, and I will bet all my student loans that the founders did not use the definition that we use today.

Further, the political is personal and the personal is political. Much like systemic racism makes “white” the perceived default race; White Evangelical Christianity makes “Christian” the perceived default religion. I very much doubt Kavanaugh, who was the chair of the Federalist Society’s religious liberty practice group, has the self-awareness to see that. After all, the Federalist Society is the incubation tank for baby Christofascists who want to be judges with they grow up.

In all the articles about the nomination are Christofascist dog whistles, the loudest of which are “religious liberty” and “religious freedom”. Let’s be honest when Christians say that, they mean “religious liberty for us” and “religious freedom for religions like ours”; not for anyone else. Those whistles ring loud and clear for Trump supporters. But there is a second set of whistles for the rest of us, where well-known conservative groups say Kavanaugh isn’t conservative enough. The Federalist has an article like this. Large media outlets like Slate report on how the American Family Association, the National Review, and the Human Coalition are lukewarm on Kavanaugh.

This supposedly ambivalent response to Kavanaugh is just as dangerous at the blatant support of Kavanaugh. He only seems conservative in comparison to the literal shit storm raging around us. This fire is not fine. This isn’t a moment when we should sit down and take the “lesser evil”. This is a moment when we should realize the lesser evil is a greater evil hiding behind a bland mayo exterior.

And by his own actions, Kavanaugh is definitely a Christofascist mess.

His origin story in the Federalist Society set Kavanaugh up to be a religious crusader, and he was even before he sat down at the White House or on a bench. Kavanaugh did pro bono work on Good News Club v. Milford Central School and in Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe, both cases that focussed on students ability to have Christian after-school groups and student-led prayer at football games. Where someone puts their unpaid pro bono hours is a good indicator of what they value.

Some may point a third pro bono case where Kavanaugh worked to change the zoning for a synagogue that wanted to build in a residential area. At first glance, this may seem like a sign of equitable religious tolerance. But consider for a moment, Evangelical Christians and hyper-conservative Catholics have an affinity for Judaism because they expect the Jews to kick start the apocalypse. So his defense isn’t unexpected. Further, this case was in the 1990’s and since then we’ve seen White Evangelical churches popping up in residential areas like daisies. Correlation is not causation, but it does cast suspicion.

On the bench, his stance on four cases are equally suspicious and concerning.

Priests for Life v. United States Department of Health is one of the most well known of Kavanaughs cases, and likely to be covered more in depth during the confirmation hearings. I will point out this nugget of joy though regarding the birth control mandate regulations that “substantially burden the religious organizations’ exercise of religion because the regulations require the organizations take an action contrary to their sincere religious beliefs (submitting the form) or else pay significant monetary penalties”.

The Archdiocese of Washington v. WMATA focuses on proselytizing on public transport. The Archdiocese of Washington wanted to put an ad in the public buses at Christmas time that said: “Find the Perfect Gift” with shepherds following the Star of Bethlehem. WMATA rejected the ad, and the Archdiocese sued. The case hasn’t been settled yet, but during oral arguments, Kavanaugh called the ban “pure discrimination” and odious to the First Amendment.

In Boardley v. Department of the Interior, the National Park Service stopped a man from passing out Christian material at Mt. Rushmore. Currently, a park official has to issue a permit for those types of activities. Boardley didn’t have a permit, and when the National Park Service made him stop he claimed that they were limiting his ability to exercise his religion. Kavanaugh was in the majority agreeing that “the regulations in their current form are antithetical to the core of First Amendment principles.”

Last is Newdow v. Roberts, atheist activist Michael Newdow sued Chief Justice Roberts over the phrase “so help me God” in Obama’s first inauguration, as well as the prayers delivered by Reverend Warren and Reverend Lowery. Kavanaugh responded with “stripping government ceremonies of any reference to God or religious expression…would, in effect, ‘establish’ atheism”. While that particular quote demonstrates a fundamental inability to understand or empathize with the 26% of Americans who aren’t Christian there’s a worse one. “In our constitutional tradition, all citizens are equally American, no matter what God they worship or if they worship no god at all” however, they “cannot dismiss the desire of others in America to publicly ask for God’s blessing on certain government activities and to publicly seek God’s guidance for certain government officials”.

Let that sink in for a moment. Kavanaugh just tried to say we’re all equally American, but some Americans religion supersedes the religion of everyone else. Pair that with the rest of his rulings, and Kavanaugh doesn’t look like a Christofascist. He is one. This is very bad for Americans who aren’t the specific flavor of Christianity that’s in vogue when Kavanaugh makes his rulings.

There’s a lot to discuss about Kavanaugh. But by any and every metric, he’s a bad judicial pick for Americans, America, and the American dream. And you should call your Senator because this shouldn’t be allowed to stand.

 

 


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White Evangelical Pastor is a bigot. No one is suprised.

Content Note: Bigotry

On August 19th, Reverend John Kilpatrick preached against witchcraft being used against Trump. Since they post their sermons on Facebook, the video has gone mildly viral. Kilpatrick made claims that “when Elijah faced Jezebel, he was facing witchcraft” and that “what’s happening right now in America, is witchcraft’s trying to take this country over”.  Other statements include “I’m not being political, but I don’t see how President Trump bears up under it…here’s what the Holy Spirit said to me last night and what He said for me to tell you. He said, ‘Tell the church that so far, Trump has been dealing with Ahab. But Jezebel’s fixing to step out from the shadows.’ That’s what the Lord said to me…He said ‘Pray for him now, because there’s about to be a shift, and the Deep State is about to manifest, and it’s going to be a showdown like you can’t believe.'”.

Now, I personally find this to be a gross violation of church and state, and that this church should lose its tax exempt status. But that’s neither here nor there.

Witchcraft and Wicca do have a history of using magick against people they don’t like. Doreen Valiente said that she and some friends attempted to use magick against the Nazis during WWII. Witches have been cursing Trump since day one. I, myself, put small curses on his name every time I spit on it. And if his policies kill someone in my family or close to me, I will eat his heart. The fact that Trump is so hated and cursed makes it difficult to refute these types of claims, which may explain why no Pagan or Witchcraft group has called Kilpatrick out and said his claims are bullshit.

Here’s my statement: Trump is a sexist, racist, classist, ableist bigot. He is a traitor to the United States, and guilty of collusion with Russian agents and Vladimir Putin. Many magickal practitioners have cursed him as part of their First Amendment rights to practice their religion freely and as part of protest activities. However, the most effective curses aren’t the ones cast by others, but the ones we put on ourselves.

Here’s the other part of this video that worries me. Kilpatrick isn’t fringe. Kilpatrick has a large platform and he’s using it to spread hate against Pagans and magickal practitioners. His congregation applauded his words. He may have backtracked by saying “it’s not a witch after him, it’s a spirit of witchcraft trying to muzzle him”; but it’s not an apology, and it’s just as hateful as the words he said from the pulpit.

White Evangelical Christians want us gone, and they will do what they have to to get rid of us. Hate crimes start at church.


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A Dark Horse on the Horizon

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While my musical tastes are broad and sometimes “auditorily offensive”, Katy Perry is by no means a favorite, and not someone I normally associate with Paganism. So when I saw Katy Perry mentioned on The Wild Hunt, I was a bit confused. Apparently, Perry is in the hot seat again for her 2013 hit “Dark Horse”. For me, Perry is hugely problematic not-fave for reasons you can see here, here, here, and here.

And honestly, even if none of her homophobia, cultural appropriation, or sexual misconduct was a factor, I’m not super enthused by the music video. As a Hellenic practitioner with no real ties to the Egyptian pantheon, I don’t have a horse in the race in terms of divine representation; even if the color scheme in the music video is the hue of my depression. The song is meh and I have no comment on the use of Aphrodite’s name in the lyrics. In an early version of the music video, Perry destroyed a necklace with the name of Allah on it which is really just another sign of her inattentiveness as an artist. Although I did find her Grammy performance of “Dark Horse” distasteful and concerning for a whole host of reasons.

The issue here is that Perry is being sued by Marcus Gray, Lecrae Moore, Emanuel Lambert, and Chike Ojukwu for plagiarism of their song “Joyful Noise“, as well as tarnishing the reputation of “Joyful Noise” with “Dark Horse”s “association with the witchcraft, paganism, black magic, and Illuminati imagery evoked by the same music in Dark Horse. Indeed, the music video of Dark Horse generated widespread accusations of blasphemy and an online petition signed by more than 60,000 demanding removal of an offensive religious image from the video.” Given that Perry has a background as a Christian music singer, and that the songs do share a remarkably similar beat and melody I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Perry didn’t give credit where it was due. And that’s really shitty of her if she did. But I take serious issue with where this fits into the larger cultural narrative, particularly the cultural narrative in Trump’s America. 

Right out of the gate, I will say I don’t expect my celebrities to use their platform politically. I do think that individuals with that kind of reach have an ethical responsibility to use that platform wisely, but having a responsibility doesn’t mean you have to do something. However, I do know for a fact that people who claim minority status have to behave like the eye of the Moirae is on them; because the eye of the public is and it’s not much kinder.

Why does that matter? Perry has claimed to be a New Age practitioner.

Now, if we’re talking labels, “New Age practitioner” isn’t Pagan isn’t pagan isn’t Wiccan isn’t witchcraft isn’t Illuminati (what even is an Illuminati when it’s at home?). But those are differences without a distinction to most of the populace, as we see in the “Joyful Noise” lawsuit.

In terms of the claims from the lawsuit, most of the pagan imagery comes from the music video. Excluding the army of sexy-Bastet, I can somewhat understand it. Ra and Anubis have probably never been so ripped, but many who reject the Christian faith often go through a phase of strongly connecting with the Divine Feminine. Most people don’t have such a large artistic venture to express it though, and others who do have certainly done it better (the bold mixture of Isis and Christianity in The Cranberries “Zombie” and Beyonce as Oshun come to mind).  I can tolerate Perry’s bubblegum attempt at Isis, even if I give it a healthy dose of side eye.

More concerning was her Grammy performance. I’m not going to claim that witchcraft is always rainbows and fairies: in my magickal pantry I have grave dirt, bones, and menstrual blood. But that performance. I was a child during the Satanic Panic, and the evangelical school my parents sent me to clung to the panic even after it passed out of the mainstream media. That Grammy performance was EXACTLY what my parents and the school said witchcraft was: skeletal trees, hooded Baphomet, dancing demons, witches branded with red crosses, women getting sexual pleasure from being burned. I swear, joining my first coven after that build up was such a letdown.

Outside of a very wise group of Cassandras, I don’t think any of us really expected the political rise of the White Evangelical to play out the way it did. In 2014 I remember Pagans talking about LGBTQ rights and evangelism; Trump, Russia, and the malice of White Evangelism were hidden for the most part. Most of us didn’t think it could or would happen. Except it did, and we’re seeing all sorts of human rights violations and bullshit go down. After all, evangelical lobbyists sell access to the president at the Prayer Breakfast, the DOJ uses the Bible to justify separating children at the border, and Jeff Sessions formed the Religious Liberty Task Force (ostensibly to protect the voices of religion in the government, but let’s be real about how that’s going to play out).  In the grand scheme of things, this lawsuit seems small and insignificant. But bigger atrocities are built on the small and insignificant, so this case very well should be watched closely.

Perry has the wealth and resources to inoculate herself against the discrimination every Pagans and magickal practitioners face. Regardless of the outcome of this case, Perry will continue on making money by the boatload and will present an air of the effortless New Age practitioner. She will not struggle to find employment or days off, and should things in America turn against minority religions she has the means to protect herself and her empire. But if Perry claims to be a New Age practitioner, she’s the representative we have in the wider world even if she isn’t one we would have chosen for ourselves. Which means she needs to step up her game, and we need to call her out about it. Because it’s not her neck on the line. It’s ours.


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Influential Books: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

I suppose that this is a weird place to start my list. But this list is a chronological one, and since my parents sent me to an evangelical Christian school 

LionWitchWardrobe.jpgand the approved list of fiction was limited. Honestly, LWW isn’t my favorite out of the Chronicles of Narnia. I like The Horse and his Boy, and the Voyage of the Dawn Treader a million times better. And I still refer back to some of the philosophies mentioned in The Last Battle. But LWW influenced me as a witch hugely in two ways: first the diversity of

mythical creatures in the series, and second The Problem of Susan.

 

To start, I never fit in particularly well at my elementary school. I was a little too much of a dreamer, with a little too much of a temper, and a little too much of a smart mouth (a trend I’ve noticed in the backstories of my other witch friends). I loved fantasy stories, but it broke my heart when my teachers told me that was how the Devil lured you in. It starts with fantasy stories with magic and swords and sorcery, and then BOOM you’re in Hell roasting over a bed of coals. Girls like me were supposed to be especially susceptible because we weren’t clever enough to see how the Devil entrapped you. Yeah, there’s a lot of baggage there that I’m not going to unpack right now.

But C.S. Lewis was allowed reading because he was a good Christian man. He had authority to write things, he knew what he was doing. And what he was doing was using a faun, Mr. Tumnus to introduce Lucy to Narnia. As the story progresses we’re introduced to centaurs, satyrs, fauns, naiads, dryads, and all sorts of nymphs. All the staples of myth and fantasy are there, fighting against the evils of the White Witch and then being accepted as full citizens of Narnia in the Golden Age. At the time, that kind of diversity was the hope I needed. If these mythical creatures can be accepted, then so can I. It also really firmed up my love of the mythical creatures, and inspired me to go on an adventure through the public library to find out all I could about them; I’ll get to where that led in a few days.

I recently designed a series of lesson plans that centered LWW. I read the whole book again to get a sense of how I would handle it, and I was really confronted with The Problem of Susan. I’ve always been drawn to Edmund and Susan, even as a child the darker and more complex characters appealed to me. As an adult, Edmund is still a favorite; but Susan. Susan is something more. She is a delightfully difficult character for a children’s series, it takes 4 books to start to get to the heart of her. And then she’s done dirty. Nylons and lipstick, indeed.

C. S. Lewis admitted that Susan takes on a life of her own, a more adult life than what would fit in with the childlike wonder of Narnia. When a fan wrote to him, deeply concerned about Susan’s fate, he tells them ‘why don’t you try [writing a story for her]?’. As an adult woman and an adult witch, that resonates hard. Why don’t I try to write a story for the Problem of Susan? And while I’m at it, why don’t I write a story for the Problem of Me? I can do that now. I can write that story. I can make my own magic. The Problem of Susan and the Problem of Me don’t have to be problems. They can be initiations into Greater Mysteries, we just sometimes have to be reminded of it.


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Doing Unto Others

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At the beginning of every semester, some Christian organization or other comes to campus and hands out Bibles. Which is less than stellar, because not only do I NOT want to take my hands out of my pockets in this weather; I also don’t want the Bible. To be honest, not a lot of people do. For the remainder of this week there will be Roving Bibles—miniature Bibles that someone accepted but didn’t want, and left in a class. These Roving Bibles will never actually leave the lecture hall until the custodial staff arrive, but they will move from desk to desk like forlorn dogs looking for a home. The Roving Bibles really cause a bit of a gut wrench reaction. Theoretically, I understand that it is a crucial part of the Christian religion to save the heathen and spread the word of their god. However, it is exceptionally disrespectful. Especially since everyone on a college campus is above age, and at that point able to choose what they believe.

Just this month, the school district of Orange County in Florida decided that religious organizations aren’t allowed to hand out pamphlets and such. For those not in the know, Orange County allowed for the distribution of religious materials at schools. World Changers of Florida started handing out Bibles. Then the atheists wanted to distribute their tracts, and then the Satanists came along with their delightful coloring books. And the school district flipped a table, and voted to not allow it.

I understand that it is fundamental part of the Christian religion to spread the word of their god to the heathen and try to convert them. That it is sometimes considered a form of love. But it also is a form of disrespect. When Christians attempt to convert people in their teens and twenties, it shows a blatant disrespect for their decision making ability. But what Christians seem to ignore is that if people wanted to convert, they would. Christianity is the most common religion in the United States, and there is an absolute proliferation of their religious materials. We don’t need more trees cut down to make more mini-Bibles. Sometimes I don’t think Christians realize that there are other religions out there, and that they don’t want to put more Roving Bibles in the recycling bin.

I think that’s why I’m so happy about the Orange County conclusion. I know Christians, particularly in the US, who are very confused by the idea of practitioners of other religions. Theoretically they know that other religions exist, but they find it difficult to reconcile that with the fact that very few people they know believe differently. I don’t think that Christians deliberately ignore the other religions, just that they don’t think it through.

The Satanic Temple and their coloring book are the best example of things not being thought through. Doing unto others becomes more complicated when you get treated the same way. Here’s to hoping that some are capable of seeing that handing out materials isn’t the best way to show love.


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With in and With out

On Tuesday my cousin (and maid-of-honor) started texting about the wedding. Our conversation went a bit like this:

Her: You sound so tired, it’s a lot of work, but it will be worth it.

Me: Yeah, the party will be awesome. But it’s not like anything is really going to change.

Her: But it’s two souls becoming one through Gods will and holy matrimony! It changes everything!

Me: Wait, what?

I think that this conversation really highlights the biggest problem I’ve had talking to my family. We see things fundamentally differently. As far as I’m concerned, my marriage to my fiancé won’t change a whole lot. We already live together, have a mortgage, and have 2 pit bulls. We’ll be adding a few insurance and phone bills, and that (as far as I can foresee) is about the extent of the changes to our mundane life. I’ll even be keeping my last name. We have discussed the sticky topics: money, politics, kids, and monogamy. We’ve been handfasted for 2 years, and been May Royals (what a wild ride that was). I’d say we’re pretty on top of it. Marriage is magickal and legal ceremony, but it’s not the fantastic cure all or fix all that my cousin seems to think that it is. If anything, I think it’s an initiation. To what, I’m not quite sure. I’ll let you know when I do.

One of the women in my coven once said “there are three types of initiations: ones that will never happen, ones that jump start what needs to happen, and ones that reaffirm what have already happened.” I’d like to believe that when we do get married it’s the third type. After all, we have already bound ourselves to each other on our own; though I wouldn’t be opposed to it being the second. It probably is a little bit of both. And I’m totally ok with that. But it’s something that we do as humans, the ceremony itself is not a crucible that changes how or why a relationship works.

Which circles around, kind of, to my original point. We see things differently, and it impacts how we think about the sacred ceremonies that shape the cycles of our lives. My cousin (and a majority of my family) see marriage as something that comes from and is created by the Divine. I see it as something that comes from and is created by us. Our union comes from us choosing to be bound to each other, and from us creating and maintaining a loving relationship. We can certainly ask the Divine to bless it, I know I certainly will be appealing to the gods for them to do so; but this is not something that comes from them.

I think that’s where a lot of communication problems come from. We as Pagans, particularly Pagans who are Wiccan or have a Wiccan flavor to their practice, are told “if you cannot find me within, you will not find me without”. But our Christian families aren’t told that, they tend to be told “accept Jesus into your heart”. For them, the Divine is outside them in a way that Pagans can’t really understand (even the hard polytheists like myself). For us, the Divine is fluid, in and around us in a way that our Christian families can’t really understand. The first step though is to remember that the gods are known by a thousand, thousand names, and that each god has dozens of specialized epithets; but that their charge to us can easily be summed up.

All acts of Love and Pleasure; Strength and Kindness; Mirth and Reverence are ritual. All acts. If we remember this, we can remember that our families still love us, we have moments of happiness and pleasure with them, they help keep us strong, they are kind when we need support, that we share moments of mirth, and this brings us a reverence of what the relationship with our families can be. And that right there is the Divine at work, with in and with out.