I’ve been very disappointed with the offerings of the Witches’ Voice lately. It seems that the standards there are lessening considerably, with regards to both writing and content. So I was happy to see this essay, criticizing several clichés that plague the Pagan community.

The author brings up a few classic go-tos that Pagans fall back on out or intellectual or moral laziness. The big ones are the classic persecution complex (teh Burning Tiemz!!11!), fluffery and image (look at my 9 inch pentacle necklace!), disregard for restrictions (just do what feels right; pagans don’t have rules!), and the old appeal to lineage or other authority (my BoS has been in the family for 100 generations! FUIAD!). These are all things that pagans do, and they are all annoying. While the author could have backed his points up a bit more solidly, he does a decent enough job, and the essay as written is considerably better than much of the drivel that has graced Witchvox as of late.

Except for the “disclaimer.”

It reads:

[For some time I debated if I should even write this piece, let alone submit it. As I briefly explain later in the posting, this essay isn’t a slur on Wicca or the Pagan faiths. It pertains rather to certain self-aggrandizing behaviors and basic misinformation. So please, dear reader, do not take personal offense; it was not intended.]

Why, oh why, would you preface any sort of published article with a statement that basically says you do not really stand for what you have written, because you either don’t feel strongly enough about it or because you’re afraid of offending people?

I could edit the essay in question a bit and tighten it up, but in all it’s not bad. It makes good points. Good, valid points. So why apologize for it, especially before the reader get to read it? So I suggest an addition to this list of Pagan clichés:

“The worst thing a Pagan can do is risk offending or excluding someone.”

Many years ago, I wrote and submitted my first article to the Witches’ Voice. It was a pretty harsh article calling out fluffy Pagans who claimed to worship nature, but were too scared to face the harsher realities of that nature. (And let’s be real, it was also a not very nice slam at some friends of mine who bailed on a camping trip.) It would have been very easy to worry that this essay could offend people. If it did, I never heard about it: all the feedback I received was positive, and the essay was a raging success, and is still one of my most-read essays on the ‘Vox. Had I been afraid to offend, I may never have written it, or anything else, and that would have deprived you, dear reader, of the joy of my pontifications.

I am not one for this “offense” trend. Sure, there is always going to be content that is offensive and should probably not be said or should be said as diplomatically as possible. But the specter of offending someone often is used to censor opinions that some people don’t want to hear (or don’t want others to hear).  And this is wrong. Fear of offending someone has a chilling effect that may stifle things that need to be said. Our intrepid author was right in his critique. What he said was valid, needed to be said, and may have helped someone who read it. Frankly, anyone who was offended by what he said was probably guilty of (at least) one of his clichés, and is probably a whiny and petulant child who has lived a coddled existence. So fuck them.

And let’s be honest here. Most contemporary Pagans deal directly with their gods, and most do magic. How effective is that going to be if you can’t stand behind your words? Will the spirits heed your commands and the gods grant you their favor if you can’t point out the silliness of other pagans without being afraid they’ll be offended? Perhaps, but they might not be as committed to it.

And I don’t mean to pick on the author here. I’m sure he’s an upstanding young citizen and devoted pagan. And as I’ve said, the article makes great points. But as a community, we seem all to reluctant to say things that need to be said — the hard truths — or call people out on their fuckery. Because it might offend them, or they might not feel included. But such an attitude takes away from what you do say, and leaves those who need to hear what you say at a disadvantage.

So I leave you with this. Which stands firmer? The Witchvox article linked above, or the author’s original blog post, which did not have the disclaimer? Which leaves you more convinced? Speak with authority, fellow Pagans, since all of our power reside in our voice.


And since I’ve been picking on him, check out The Book of Stories.




2 responses to “Cliché

  1. Hi there, I’m actually the dood who write the Ramblings of a Pagan guy. In the the Witches’ Voice version of this posting, I had a disclaimer going on how I didn’t want to offend anyone and even going so far as apologizing for it. This was brought up in a few of your emails, and all I have to say is you are all 100% right. When dealing with the problems with ourselves we can not afford to baby it or even sugar coat it. So how about we get to some more feather ruffling, and get to some rambling! I will hopefully be returning to the first post (I know my spelling and grammar suck more than a black hole) and removing the disclaimer. After all why should I apologize for offending stupid?

    • I don’t see it as an issue of offending someone, be them stupid or not. There are times I have offended people and not cared, and other times I have offended others and revised what I have said, because I was being unnecessarily crass. My point is that in the Witchvox version, it came off like you didn’t really stand behind what you said, whereas on your blog, it did. Our culture is becoming obsessively fearful of offending anyone (other than white male conservative Christians — they are still fair game) that we are being taught to pull back what we are saying, that making any definitive statement or valid criticism is automatically assumed to be offensive, whether it is or not, just because it is unabashedly stated. Speak strong: if your voice can summon spirits and petition gods, surely it can firmly offer criticism.

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