Thoughts from Heartland Pagan Festival 2015

Big rituals are a way different experience when you’re on center stage

I don’t mind bugs as much as I did a week ago (although I’m still not fond of them)

Sometimes you really do need a break from those you love the most

The camaraderie you get from being a part of a diverse group that completes a challenging task is a unique thing

There are always ulterior motives Continue reading

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Generation Next

A while back John Halstead wrotre very excellent post about generational differences in the neopagan community. In particular, it addressed something that is I have been becoming more and more aware of, and that seems to be discussed more openly in the pagan community: the status of elders in the community.

I remain deaf to appeals to the authority of one’s chronological age.  One reason is because I don’t see much of a correlation between chronological age and wisdom.  I know some people in their 20s and 30s whose inherent wisdom and life experience make me feel as naive as an infant.  And I know people twice my age that act like infants — especially when their ideas are challenged.  In addition, it seems to me that people, of any age, who are wise, have no need to claim the authority of years.  Their wisdom speaks for itself, through their words, their acts, and their demeanor.

[…]

Those, of every generation, who invoke the authority of their age and cry “ageism” when no one listens seem to be cut from a common mold.  They are comfortable with the status quo, and they fear that the times they are a changin’.  These would-be elders claim to define our future by appeals to the past.  No doubt, there is a critical role for tradition, for structure and institutions.  They act as a bulwark against chaos, both social and personal.  And our elders are the guardians of that bulwark.  But bulwarks can become obstacles.  And unless the structures of the old generation are vivified by the energies of the new, then they stagnate.

When I touched on this subject myself, it was from a place of frustration and anger, directed squarely at a vendor that complained about how younger generations weren’t doing things exactly as he wanted them to do.

He said that generations X and Y and the millennials were lazy, and lacked independence and ingenuity, and wanted everything handed to them. That they weren’t entrepreneurs, that they didn’t take risks, and that they didn’t solve problems. And that when it came to the metaphysical and new age communities, the younger generations were sitting back and not taking action, and leaving it to the aging 60’s hippies to keep doing all the heavy lifting.

And I was more than happy to throw that all in his face while pointing out that I was literally making a plan to improve the community and address his complaints, and he shut me down because the ideas I came up with weren’t in line with the old way of doing things.

He wanted innovation and creativity and action, as long as it was the way he did things when he was younger. He wanted to relive the days when his generation changed the world, and complain that my generation wasn’t doing enough, and then tell me that what I wanted to do wouldn’t work because it wasn’t what he did 50 years ago.

Because when he fought the system, it was revolution and progress. But now it’s his system, and by Jove, who am I to question it?

The older generation often does work to maintain the status quo, largely because they have helped created that status quo and identify with it. And since they have so much invested in their way of doing things, they often ignore or overlook ways in which that system is outmoded, irrelevant, or damaging.

I think I did take that particular vendor’s attitude a bit personally. But let’s be honest: when someone says something needs to happen, and you offer idea to do it, and you are told your ideas suck and you are lazy because your ideas aren’t what they would have done several decades ago, then that can rub you the wrong way.

We’re told to respect our elders. They don’t always respect us.

What authority does an elder have? Why are they still in charge? Shouldn’t they serve more as advisers than the current leaders? Shouldn’t they know when to step aside and allow new leaders to grow? Isn’t the whole point of the Crone archetype to decline gracefully instead of clinging desperately to power and old ideas?

And I’ll be entirely honest here: I’m getting tired of the Baby Boomers.

The 60’s are long gone. It’s over. Stop clinging to your imagined glory days and telling us that your long tired and failed policies and ideologies are the only way to do things. Especially while speaking out the other side of your mouths about how we won’t take responsibility or action or leadership.

Get out of the way and let us.

Yes, a lot of people who have been in the community for a while have made vital and significant contributions. Yes, they deserve our respect, and in some cases a greater amount of reverence. But as we have an obligation to honor their work, they have an obligation to move aside and honor ours.

And this also touches on another issue: who gets to be considered elders? Are we to judge people by their contribution, or by their age and time served? I’ve encountered several (at least in the local community) who have expected special treatment simply due to their age. And that attitude often is accompanied by the belief that the way they did things back in the day is superior to the way things happen now.

I’m not much younger than Halstead, and I admit that I have own biases regarding taste and aesthetic and the trends and fashions of younger people. But I also take delight in and respect much of the creativity and innovation that I have seen, some of which simply wasn’t possible in the technological or cultural climate of my own younger days.

And I’m certainly not going to expect younger people to defer to me simply because of my age. I hope that my work merits some consideration on its own, but that should be independent of how old I am. I am more experienced and diversified than many people older than me, and I am no where near as skilled as some people younger than me. I should be judged based upon the work I present, how useful my own experiences are to helping other people, and how I treat people.

And yes, I’m part of a certain generation, and because of that I have certain advantages, perspectives, and motivations. But it is my job to act as a guiding principle to younger generations, not a controlling one. I should hope that they learn from my failures and success, and not demean them from doing things differently than how I did.

And I’m not sure why, but older generations seem to be having trouble learning that lesson.

Wixen

(This was initially posted on my Tumblr blog, and is being cross-posted here with some slight adjustments.)

So a while back I was rambling about magic-users and sensitives and whatnot. What I was going on about is that people who are sensitive to magic are people that occupy or work in the liminal spaces, the between places at the edges of normal reality and whatever is beyond.

We have a certain obligation in occupying these spaces. When people encounter them unprepared, we are able to help them make sense of it and integrate back to reality. Or, if they insist on pushing on, we teach them how to make sense of the place we are and how to function there.

But I didn’t have a word for the people in the Between Place.

“Witch,” “magician,” “sorcerer,” “wizard” all denote certain technical skill sets, and have certain cultural connotations to them that exclude others. “Magic-user” is awkward, and not all of the people I’m talking about actually use magic, even though they’re sensitive to its actions and can be aware of it. And not all magic-users are psychics or clairvoyants or mediums (Would it not be media? Meditate.) But I want to include them as well. And the spirit workers and reiki healers and all of those, too.

“Sensitives” is okay, I suppose, but has a newagey feel to it that connotes a bit too much flakiness for my taste.

And then I came across the term “Wix

‘Wix’ is a gender neutral term for someone who practices magic, since the term ‘witch’ is more often than not seen as a feminine term. It’s very popular in the HP fandom, taking the word ‘mix’ but adding the ‘wi-‘ of ‘witch’ and ‘wizard’. I haven’t seen the term used much in the pagan/witchy community.

Of course, “witch” is gender neutral already, although a lot of people outside the pagan community (and some inside it, I suppose) don’t seem to be aware of that fact.

But “witch” connotes a specific approach, a certain craft or practice. What I like is that the term Wix approached the gist of “someone who knows about spooky stuff and can maybe play with it” without the specifics of practice, religion, approach, action, or perception. It is a truly neutral word (so far) that has the association of those who play in the Between Place, but isn’t particular as to how they do it.

So I get to a point.

I’d like to use the word “Wix” (plural Wixen) in the following way:

A person who is sensitive to or aware of the existence and perception of things that are regarded as mystical, magical, spiritual, metaphysical, or beyond the realm of normal day-to-day perception and functioning

But me using this word in the way is little more than mental masturbation unless it catches on.

So I ask you, my followers and fellow Wixen:

If you like this idea, actually use the word. Use it in your writing. Use it in tags. Reblog this post so others become aware of this.

And beg forgiveness of the Harry Potter fandom.

 

 

[Addenda]

There have been some points brought up in discussion on Tumblr I thought worth mentioning.

The first and most important is the plural form, “wixen.” Concerns have been raised that it may be easily confused for the word “Wiccan.” This has led to the suggestion that both the singular and plural form be the same, “wix.” I can see the argument here, and frankly am open to accepting both as proper and favoring whichever one becomes more natural in actual usage. Some consideration must be given, however, to the fact that the word is being borrowed from the Harry Potter fandom, however, and their choice of the plural form should be respected, at least to some degree.

The second is somewhat relate, but a little more awkward. As it turns out, “wixen” is also German for a particular form of fetish involving men masturbating, often in lingerie. This is a problem because there is a strong potential to see things you may not want  while searching the tags on various blogs or websites (especially Tumblr.) Many of these sites do have an adult filter on search results (should you decide to use it) so this problem can be mitigated to some degree, but it has been used as a string argument for “wix” being the plural form as well. (I wonder if the HP fandom has dealt with this problem?)

 

Continue reading

Witches in Popular Culture

Steven Posch has a brief article on what he calls witchsploitation.

You know the genre. Wicker Man I (“the one without Nicholas Cage,” as a local movie marquee put it during the midnight Samhain run last year), To the Devil a Daughter…so many to choose from. Somewhere off in the sticks there are (bwa-ha-ha) still real, live witches (or left-over pagans) and they still practice…(shudder)…human sacrifice. Whoa, dude, way scary.

A coven-sib recently confessed to me that her bookshelves are filled with trashy novels with the word “witch” in the title. Magenta, you’re not alone. I resemble that remark myself, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.

The most amusing are the ones written by people who have done just a little research. Remember that 1964 cauldron-boiler Book of Shadows? In the opening scene, police are called to a gruesome murder in NYC’s Central Park. A man has had his belly ripped open, his guts nailed to a tree, and he’s been forced to walk around and around the tree wrapping a grim maypole with his own intestines.

Continue reading

Stepping Aside

A while back I did tarot reading at a psychic fair.

It was a three day event put on by a local group for the express purpose of raising money for that group to do “research,” whatever that happens to be. They used to do them twice a year but now only do one. The group has fallen victim to a great deal of internal drama and politics, and the fairs they put on have been declining in quality for several years.

One night, I joined some of the vendors at a nearby Denny’s. I listen to their complaints about the fair, and the organization, and decided that since no one was doing anything to address these complaints, I might want to get involved in the group and take some action myself. Perhaps my Scorpio nature might emerge and I might be inclined to take the group over.

So I took out a notebook and asked questions. What was wrong with the fair? What was right? What would the vendors like to see more of?

One of the vendors, who was the most vocal, mentioned that he’d like to see more efforts to promote the fair.

And  mentioned the internet and it all went to hell.

See, this vendor, who is a bookseller and a major conspiracy theorist, was offended at the notion that people involved in metaphysics would look for metaphysical things online. The notion that online advertising could benefit a psychic fair scandalized him, as did the implication that many younger people sought information on magic and metaphysics via online sources.

He told me very simply “You can’t do metaphysics without a direct human connection. You can’t do it through a computer. I don’t know what you think you’re doing on the internet, but it isn’t metaphysics.”

Naturally, as an occult/pagan blogger and someone who has performed long-distance healings and tarot readings via the internet, I took a bit of issue with that position. But the vendor in question was more interested in shouting me down than listening.

Yeah, I kind of blew up at him and stormed out of the restaurant.

See, this guy is an astrologer. And for the previous two hours he had been rambling about how worthless the younger generations were. And he cited astrological conditions as proof.

He said that generations X and Y and the millennials were lazy, and lacked independence and ingenuity, and wanted everything handed to them. That they weren’t entrepreneurs, that they didn’t take risks, and that they didn’t solve problems. And that when it came to the metaphysical and new age communities, the younger generations were sitting back and not taking action, and leaving it to the aging 60’s hippies to keep doing all the heavy lifting.

And I was more than happy to throw that all in his face while pointing out that I was literally making a plan to improve the community and address his complaints, and he shut me down because the ideas I came up with weren’t in line with the old way of doing things.

He wanted innovation and creativity and action, as long as it was the way he did things when he was younger. He wanted to relive the days when his generation changed the world, and complain that my generation wasn’t doing enough, and then tell me that what I wanted to do wouldn’t work because it wasn’t what he did 50 years ago.

Because when he fought the system, it was revolution and progress. But now it’s his system, and by Jove, who am I to question it?

As (neo)pagans we’re big on honoring our elders. On respecting them and what they have done for the community. And that is a good thing. I’ve had the honor of meeting Janet Farrar once and seeing her in a group ritual. It was a good thing.

But we haven’t really figured what qualifies someone as an “elder.” And we seem to have this motion that we should defer to them in all things.

And we don’t need to. We can honor their efforts and still move on.

And the more I look at the Pagan Community, the more reluctant they seem to be to let us.

We’re told to respect our elders. They don’t always respect us.

What authority does an elder have? Why are they still in charge? Shouldn’t they serve more as advisers than the current leaders? Shouldn’t they know when to step aside and allow new leaders to grow? Isn’t the whole point of the Crone archetype to decline gracefully instead of clinging desperately to power and old ideas?

And I’ll be entirely honest here: I’m getting tired of the Baby Boomers.

The 60’s are long gone. It’s over. Stop clinging to your imagined glory days and telling us that your long tired and failed policies and ideologies are the only way to do things. Especially while speaking out the other side of your mouths about how we won’t take responsibility or action or leadership.

Get out of the way and let us.

I recognize that this is coming across as bitter and maybe angry, especially since I opened with an anecdote of an argument. But we as a community need to be more accepting of the fact that thing and ideas change. We need to recognize that some structures that served us well in the 60s and 70s (like covens and magazines and conferences) may not work as well in today’s internet culture. We need to recognize that there are drastically new ideas on what magic is, and how to do it, and what worship is, and that demanding we stick to a culturally archaic model won’t cut it any more. We need to allow new ideas and new models of organization and new leaders to emerge.

And quite frankly, I’ve seen a lot of the older generation working too hard to keep things as they were, and too many of the younger generation dropping out from frustration.

We value your work. We value your contribution. Allow us to make ours.

 

Leaving the Fold

Teo Bishop, author at Bishop in the Grove and occasionally at the Wild Hunt, has had a profound spiritual revelation.

This year at Samhain I’m coming to terms with the realization that Paganism, itself, does not serve me in the way that I thought it did. Stranger even, I’m feeling pulled back to the Episcopal Church, to the God of Christianity, and to Jesus.

The timing of this couldn’t be more disruptive and inconvenient. Continue reading

Understanding Paganism

A while ago Teo Bishop wrote this post about what kind of pagan he is.

It’s a very powerful piece, and I recommend that you take the time to read it.

Really, read it.

First, I’d like to note that in many ways, I am not the same kind of Pagan Teo is.

I’d also like to note that in many ways, I am.

But what gets me is the unspoken question: “Why do you have to elaborate on what kind of Pagan you are?”

The obvious answer is that someone has questioned him about his Paganism. I know it’s happened to me, and it has probably happened to many of you.  I’ve been accused of being a closet Christian, of being a bad Pagan for not following the Wiccan Rede, of being a Black Magician, and even of being a pretender because men can’t do magic. That, and when you consider that Paganism isn’t really a readily definable thing, it doesn’t seem that unusual that many Pagans feel they have to describe, define, or even defend what it is that they do.

I’m honestly not sure that Teo is really describing who he is as a Pagan. I think he’s describing who he is as a person.

And perhaps that’s why we have such a hard time describing or defining Paganism. Because we all consider it to be the thing that we do.

And Paganism tends to be negatively defined. As in, it is defined by what it isn’t. And when we start defining it by what it is, people feel left out. (Nature Religion!! Goddess Worship!! Social Justice!!)

I know this is kinda rambly, so let me get where I’m going.

I think that Paganism itself is an identity crisis.

I think that defining as Pagan implies a desire to be fluid and free of certain restrictions and definitions, and simply go our own way.

This can cause problems, because we don’t like to be alone, and so we seek others going the same way as we are. And this can lead to groups that establish new restrictions and definitions. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, because we are free to associate with whomever we wish, and a lot of people do want and need those definitions — they just want to be free to pick their own.

But I think that ultimately, the path of Paganism is one of self-discovery and self-invention. And that can be very hard, but it can also be very worth it.