Pagan and the Pit(bull)

The adventures and musings of a Pagan and her dog.


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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 did.circle 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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Yemaya says cut your crap

A lot of the information I have about this is either second hand, or from first hand accounts. I have never been to a Pantheacon (it’s totally on my bucket list) and I didn’t contribute to the discussion about the statement from Covenant of the Goddess (while my coven is a member of CoG, I’ve got other things on my plate currently). Shine_Bomba for Yemaya

For those not in the know, in December CoG issued one of the blandest non-statement statements. Black lives didn’t matter, all lives did. And while true, in theory all lives should matter; the fact is that some lives are held as more valuable than others. To not acknowledge that is insensitive and ignorant at best. Understandably, many people were upset about this and it sparked a lot of conversations. Some Pagans of color left CoG, something I can’t blame them for in the slightest. At last check CoG seemed unresolved about the issue and I’m fairly certain when (if) it ever is, it will be too late and CoG will be marked as an irrelevant has been.

Fast forward to Pantheacon. For as long as I’ve been aware of, and paid attention to, the goings on of the national Pagan community it seems like Pantheacon has been a big thing. Not only is it actually a huge thing, it also seems to rip the band off of some of the darker pockets of ick. See the transwomen and gender debate of 2012. This year it race. A satirical workshop description was put out “Ignoring Racism: A Workshop for White Pagans”. It caused a bit of a kerfuffle as I understand it.

Here is where I weigh in. Pagans, particularly polytheistic Pagans, are aware of the diversity of gods and goddesses out there. Amateratsu, Yemaya, Lakshmi, Kali are all very popular goddess of color (for lack of a better word), and often find their way into eclectic circles. But if those goddesses have a place in your circle, your altar, your magickal practice, then you cannot ignore where they came from, your woven connection to them, or to the people who look like them. To worship Yemaya, but to completely ignore the fact that black people face a horrifying set of challenges in the world is not only anathema to me, but to my mind highly racist. It implies that the lives of people of color, that black lives are only of value when attached to Divinity.

So, CoG, you could use some changing and a healthy dose of the real world.

But, Pantheacon don’t ever change. Keep exposing the nastier sides of our community that we can keep learning and growing into a better and more supportive group.


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Today’s Food for Thought

Two in a week, wow. I’m on top of it. Or, this is actually the case, I want to share something.

North Miami Beach PD was found to be using the mugshots of black men. Now, this bugs me on a lot of levels. Should police be well trained in the use of their weapons and be able to use them safely? Yes. But they also need to have a fundamental respect for human life. I live in Albuquerque so police shootings hit really close to home.practice16n-4-web

But the police seem to be alright with shooting the people they are supposed to protect. They even appear to be so ok with it that they are practicing shooting a certain group of people—black men. And that is not ok. So not ok.

A collection of clergy is starting a collection of photos using #Usemeinstead that they will be sending to North Miami Beach PD for them to use for shooting practice. If the police are comfortable shooting photos of black men, we need to give them photos they aren’t comfortable shooting.  I sent in my photo, in my role as a priestess serving her community.

And my message is this:

By practicing on the mug shots of black men you are training yourself to target, and shoot, black men. You are not training yourself to shoot people who look like you, you are not training yourself to realize that those men are human beings with the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. You are training yourself to not think about the life that is ending when you pull the trigger, because they do not look like you and so are not the same as you. Aren’t human like you are.

Black lives matter.  Latino lives matter. The lives of the mentally handicapped matter. My life holds the same value. I demand that you give my life the exact same value as you give the lives of the men in the mug shots. If you see fit to use their photos as target practice, it is only appropriate that you put a bullet in my photo as well.


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pagan vs Pagan

“The Dark Arts are many, varied, ever-changing, and eternal. Fighting them is like fighting a many-headed monster, which, every time a neck is severed, sprouts a head even fiercer and cleverer than before. You are fighting that which is unfixed, mutating, indestructible.”—Professor Snape, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

 

Ok, so Paganism is not the Dark Artsquestion mark; and as yet I make no claims to be “She-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named”. But sometimes providing a definition for what exactly Paganism is, and who and how you practice it seems exactly like that quote—defining that which is unfixed, mutating, and ever-changing. However, I’m going to do my best. Mainly because every Pagan blogger tackles this question at some point, and also because I’m doing a presentation on it in February, and I need a place to get all my thoughts in some semblance of order. So, here goes. I promise, I won’t be cursing spiders.

 

Since this will be the first of posts on this topic, let’s start with definitions. For the grammar geeks, capitalization is super important for this discussion. “Pagan” and “pagan” have very different meanings, as you’ll see soon. Bear in mind that these definitions are not gospel truth, and someone else in the wide world may very well have set of definitions that works better for you. This is merely a starting place for conversation.

 

The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines “pagan” as a follower of a polytheistic religion. Which is a huge set of religions, and breaks down into three sub groups: paleopagan religions, mesopagan religions, and neopagan religions. Paleopagan religions began in the period of pre-history to the Dark Ages; mesopagan religions began between the Dark Ages and 1900; and neopagan religions started after 1930. The kinds of religions you’ll most often see in the day-to-day are the paleopagan and the neopagan ones. Paleopagan religions have a strong sense of identity (they would have to survive this long), and typically don’t identify as “Pagan”, if at all. If you want to find out more about paleopagan religions such as Hinduism and the religions indigenous to your area I suggest going straight to the source.

 

The neopagan religions include Wicca, Thelema, and the various forms of reconstructionism. The practitioners of these tend to identify as Pagan or Heathen. See where the capitalizations start to come in handy? It’s a great opportunity to be Grammar-Nazi.

 

Thus ends the first point in “definition of paganism” series. “Pagan” is not the same as “pagan”, and it’s the best stopping point before jumping into what Paganism actually is. Odds are, no matter how I define this, someone somewhere will be offended or disagree with me. Which is totally cool, everyone can self-identify; this is just my take on it.


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A Charge of Hekate

I’m actually getting a post up on time? Sayeth What?! On the week before finals? Sayeth even more what?! Yes, I am actually. And I’m feeling pretty good about it. This is the promised Charge of Hekate post. I went to a weekend retreat on the 11th of November, and one of the workshops was writing a charge of Hekate. When you do a search for a Google search for a charge of Hekate there are close to half a million hits, and with the permission of my group members, I’m going to throw ours into the ring with commentary on why it works.

Charges of the Divine seem to follow the very classic structures laid out by Valiente’s elegant Charge of the Goddess and by Crowley in the first two chapters of The Book of The Law. This means that they hit on 4 main points:

  1. Who am I
  2. What I demand
  3. How to live
  4. What I give

We decided to keep this format because it is familiar (most of the group had a Wiccan background, and there is something to be said for familiarity) and because we were working in a time constraint. With no further ado, I present A Charge of Hekate.

Listen to the words of Hekate, who of old was called Phosphoros and Kourotrophos, Lightbearer and Nurse, Midwife and Guide:

We picked the epithets of Phosphoros and Kourotrophos out of the dozens Hekate has because of the connections we as a group had to them. I personally feel a connection to the torch bearer, and another in the group had a strong connection to the nurse and midwife.

Though I am known by a thousand thousand names, the whole world honors Me. I am the Queen of Heaven and Earth, Mistress of the Sea, and Ruler of the Realms Beyond Knowing, and I say unto you:

Here we pay tribute to the fact that Hekate has a whole boatload and then some of names and faces. Her realms of dominion comes from Hesiods Theogony—“Hekate whom Zeus the son of Kronos honoured above all. He gave her splendid gifts, to have a share of the earth and the unfruitful sea. She received honour also in starry heaven, and is honoured exceedingly by the deathless gods”. Hekate is also the daughter of Asteria, the Titaness of Divination, and a patroness of the magickal arts; making her a ruler of the realms beyond knowing.

Whenever you have need of anything, and at least once a month, and best it be when the moon is dark, you shall gather and adore the spirit of Me, the Queen of all the Initiates. You shall be free from slavery, and as a sign that you are truly free you must be purified in your rights.

Here is where ancient meets modern. The first night of the dark moon is called Hekate’s Deipnon, which literally translates into “Hekate’s Evening Meal”. This was when a meal was placed at her door-shrines and the poor would it eat it. Now, the more modern version is to donate food or time to a soup kitchen. On a more practical note, many covens do gather on the full moon and this allows devotees and the priesthood to honor Hekate without a whole lot of calendar conflict. The reference to purification, was that you must come before the goddess at least physically clean and having done a little bit to purify yourself magickaly.

Let My worship be in the compassionate heart that rejoices: sing, share the feast, dance, make music and give service all in My honor, for all acts of Love and Compassion are My rituals, and My gift is joy on earth. Nor do I demand what you cannot give, for I am the mother of all; My law is Love unto all beings, and My love is poured out upon all creation.

In the modern world (or perhaps in the Wiccate view of Her), Hekate has a bit of a reputation as a hard ass. She is thought to be demanding, harsh, hard, and a little intolerant of foolishness. To a degree, I think that this reputation comes from certain devotees and members of the priesthood projecting what is within themselves. Hekate certainly can be all of these things, but at the same time She is immensely compassionate. She aids Demeter in the search for Persephone, escorts Persephone to and from the Underworld, appoints Galinthias as a sacred animal after Hera and the Moirai turned her into a weasel, and turned Hekabe into a black dog and made her a sacred familiar after her murder. We thought that because of this and the deipnon, compassion would be one of the most important things Hekate would want her devotees and priesthood to follow.

I embody the Universe: I am the beauty of the living earth, the radiant moon among the stars, the depths of the waters, and the Divine Fire within your heart. I am the soul Who holds the mysteries of the universe, and I call to you for thou are priestess and thou are priest.

More adoration of the goddess, as well as places she can be found. The Divine Fire part becomes important later.

Unleash the coiled splendor within you, spread wide your wings, and come unto Me. Let there be beauty and strength, truth and compassion, honor and humility, mirth and reverence within you. Keep pure your highest ideals, and harm none within your ability.

Ok, small soap box moment. I have a lot of issues with “harm none” because it isn’t possible. Throughout my life, I will harm some organism or some person every single day. I’m human. That doesn’t mean that I am intentionally doing it though. And that is the big thing, to the BEST OF MY ABILITY I try to harm none.

Seek your true Will, strive ever to fulfill it. Let nothing hinder or turn you aside. And you would learn all magick, yet have not won its deepest secrets, to you will I teach all things yet unknown. To you I will teach the Great Mystery: what you seek is within you, you will never find it without.

As you can see, the capitalized Will has arrived. It’s a bit of an influence from my beloved Thelemite fiancé, and here is another. Crowley defines magick as “the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with Will.” Pursuit of science and art comes from within, you can’t create anything without a desire to; the same way that science becomes difficult when you aren’t passionate about it. If you seek magick, if you seek the gods, if you seek Hekate, you must have access to the Divine Fire in your heart. That Divine Fire is what ties you to magick and the gods, if you can’t see it within, you won’t see it in the outside world (and it’s true, no matter how New-Agey it sounds).

I am a gracious goddess, Keeper of the Keys of life, the cauldron of woman’s womb, and Mine is the holy gift of transcendence and growth. In life, I give the delight of My guiding presence and knowledge of the path continuing. And beyond death, I give peace, and freedom, and reunion with your beloved who have gone before. I am with you at your birth, and accompany you at death. For I have been with you from the Beginning, and I am that which is attained at the end of Desire.

Here we loop back to the beginning of who Hekate is, and what She gives to us; because we all are really just a circle connected to each other.


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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.