Ally

Do one thing

Brandy Williams No Comments

I was crushed when Hillary Clinton lost the Democratic primary in 2008. I could see that black people around the country were deeply moved and celebratory about Barack Obama’s win. It felt like it was their moment and that mine had been deferred. I didn’t realize at the time how racist that was.

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You might remember 2008 as year two in the economic crisis. That was the year I turned Libertarian and tuned into Michael Ruppert’s dystopian vision of economic and ecosystem collapse. I spent my social media time posting links to stories to wake people up! My family turned a closet into a pantry and filled it with dry goods. We all went out and got concealed carry permits. I didn’t know a single one of my neighbors and wondered what would happen in a true emergency.

There are only so many cans of beans you can store before you have to get out and start talking to people. I decided to do one thing. The thing I decided to do was food. Where did Kitsap County get its food? If the trucks stopped rolling into the grocery stores who would feed us? I started a food blog to chronicle our efforts to feed ourselves entirely from the local ecosystem. This dovetailed neatly with the contemporary fascination with local food.

The blog introduced me to a lot of people. I went to farmers markets. I tracked down every farm in a five-mile radius. I learned that local farmers were concerned about zoning policies so I started going to county hearings. I met my county council rep, my state senator, the mayor of the nearest town, a chef who was invited by Michelle Obama to the White House to talk about feeding kids. I attended the annual Human Rights conference to listen to them all talk about how to solve food deserts and make sure the food banks were filled. I became a Master Gardener and learned that our demonstration gardens grow produce for the food banks. I started keeping bees and ended up as president of the local club.

While we were grounding ourselves in local community I also took on some big philosophical questions. As a lifelong feminist I have been a passionate advocate for women’s community, and I wrote an entire book about gender and spirituality, The Woman Magician. I edited the anthology Women’s Voices in Magic to use my writer platform to make space for other women to speak.

As a Pagan I started talking publically about theurgy, working with the gods. In this work I was called out for racism. I did some reading and realized that I had a lot to learn! That started my journey in social justice as an ally leveraging my own privilege to advocate for others. I finally realized how important Barack Obama’s presidency had been. I cringed at the inexcusably vicious racism his family was subjected to every day. I looked at my own work with a better educated and more critical eye and vowed to call out racism in myself and others. I accepted the invitation to co-edit the anthology Bringing Race to the Table to use my writer platform to make space for the discussion of race.

Somewhere in there I realized that the Libertarian vision which had awakened me to the threat humans pose to the world trended more toward isolation and individual advantage than in mutually solving our problems. Also I was depressing the heck out of my friends posting nothing but dystopian links. I jumped to the progressive side of the house when the Occupy movement rose up. My family was travelling the country that fall and we ran into demonstrations everywhere. When we got home I joined Occupy Bremerton and connected up with the local social justice community. This community has two long-time supporters: the churches, in particular the Unitarian Universalists, and the unions. I don’t belong to either so I’m always an outsider. I introduce myself to each gathering with the joke that I bring diversity to the group.

Occupy ran out its course but local social justice activists remained engaged with community. At the annual county Human Rights Conference I learned the history of the Suquamish Tribe whose territory I have settled in and vowed to uphold the treaty that governs our relationship. I listened to LGBTQ concerns. I welcomed the enthusiasm of the Millennial generation who seem to me to be ready to save us all.

Black Lives Matter surfaced through social media as a dispersed community, not an organization but a hashtag! The local social justice community started holding discussions about race. I turned up for public vigils called by BLM, putting my own body in the streets in an effort to protect my neighbors.

My own neighborhood turns out to be an example of the diversity of the country. In our plat there are two duplexes and two single family homes housing 13 people: two black men, a Nepalese family, an older white guy and his wife running a small business, a new Navy family expecting their first girl, my two guys and me. I give my neighbors vegetables, lavender, and Christmas cards. They started keeping vegetables and chickens too. We watch each other’s houses and play with each other’s dogs. I can hardly remember what it was like to huddle in my kitchen and wonder what my neighbors would do in a crisis. I know now – we would pitch in and help each other.

Eight years after Hillary lost the Democratic primary (despite my vote!) she launched another campaign but didn’t initially get my support. The world had changed so much and I had changed so much. As a progressive I had discovered Bernie Sanders and when and he threw his hat in the ring I initially supported him. On my trip around the country I had stood on a street corner in Burlington Vermont watching the Occupy college kids speak out and his campaign seemed like a logical extension of that.

What gave me pause was a Burlington newspaper editor’s up-close account of Bernie’s temperament and record. Then the Bernie Bros started their painfully sexist meme campaigns. I realized that his candidacy was not only tapping into the youthful enthusiasm for change but the deep-rooted misogyny that has made the U.S. late to have a woman leader. The people repeating “I don’t trust her!” were caving to 25 years of GOP smears which the Bernie Bros picked up and happily repeated. Millennials didn’t trust her because they’ve been hearing that stuff their entire lifetimes. Reporters running fact checks reported that Hillary was the most truthful candidate in the campaign.

Unlike the folk repeating one-inch-deep misogynist headlines, people of color brought up real issues. They pointed to Clinton policies which helped create the New Jim Crow. Women got the vote in 1920 but racist policies effectively disenfranchised black women until the Civil Rights Act in 1965 and white feminists supported those policies. Hillary’s white feminism follows in those suffragist footsteps. It should not be surprising that black women’s support for Hillary would be tempered with mistrust.

I also sympathized with critics of the corporate oligarchy who argue that neither party is significantly different from the other and that the act of voting is an acceptance of being ruled. One millennial anarchist on my FB feed advocated voting for Trump so that the system becomes so intolerable the majority will wake up to the need for change. Others announced their intention to opt out of voting altogether or cast a protest vote for the Libertarian Gary Johnston or the Green Party candidate Jill Stein. Dan Savage decisively denounced grandstanding politics, pointing out that an effective party isn’t built on a presidential campaign but years of fielding candidates for dog catcher and state rep. Savage pointed out that the people who would suffer under a Trump presidency are not the white people (mostly upper class) supporting either of the alternate candidates, but people of color, LGBTQ people, minority faiths, and women.

I didn’t get to vote for Hillary in the 2016 primary because Washington state doesn’t have one. It’s a caucus state and went for Bernie. There was a primary ballot that delivered no delegates and Hillary won that symbolic vote. Eventually she won the Democratic primary. The Bernie-or-Bust people insisted that party leadership’s opposition to Bernie’s campaign had rigged the election, even though Bernie’s press secretary said “No one stole the election from us”. Bernie had never been a Democrat or supported the party and said he was joining so he could get more votes – why would party leadership welcome him? This is a good example of the need to build mutually supporting relationships before launching a presidential campaign.

I watched only snippets of the Republican National Convention, a sea of white faces bellowing hate and crafting a platform that demonizes women, LGBTQ people, and non-Christians, of which I am all. Then I watched the entire Democratic National Convention on CSPAN. It was such a relief after the RNC hatefest that I sobbed the whole time. The DNC celebrated optimism and teamwork. I saw people like my neighbors and people like me. I saw an infomercial, I didn’t lose sight of that, but it was selling a view of the world that is the one I want to live in. The convention was about electing a Democrat, but it wasn’t just about that. It was also about the affirmation of a deeply positive view of the world. The entire convention was a call-in to join with our neighbors to improve each other’s lives and improve the world.

Bernie Sanders stepped up and turned into a politician who can get things done. In trade for getting 90% of what he wanted on the platform, he endorsed Hillary Clinton. It was what he wanted, and it was what I wanted! I want his vision of the world, I want his policies enacted. This is where Bernie discovered that the hardest core Bernie-or-Bust folk didn’t support his agenda, they just hate Hillary. In thwarted-white-entitlement-burn-the-world tantrum they’re voting for Trump. Really.

So Hillary finally got to step onto the stage. For decades she’s been criticized for talking too softly, shouting too loudly, being too liberal, being too hawkish, not smiling, laughing too loud, wearing the wrong things, being too standoffish, wanting power too much, being a woman who dared to lead. At the convention she’d finally cracked the code, navigating all the expectations and looking authentically herself. On the day of the roll call she showed up on TV in red – this woman is a boss! On the day Barack Obama endorsed her she came out to hug him in blue – this woman is a team player. On the day she accepted the nomination she wore suffragette white. This is what a feminist looks like, when she is nominated for president.

She gave the most important speech of her life and knocked it out of the park. She used progressive terms – one percent, systemic racism. She called for overturning Citizens United. She vowed to extend Social Security, provide universal health care, craft a path to citizenship for immigrants, make college free and forgive existing college debt. She offered an economic plan and planned to pay for it all by taxing the rich and corporations. This is a new New Deal. And she did it as “my mother’s daughter and my daughter’s mother.”

I cheered and I cried. I watched that speech again and cheered and cried again.

Then I sobered up and said okay, it’s a lot to promise, it’s campaign rhetoric, but given the contrast to the rhetoric of hate, it is the rhetoric I will support. Then the Moody’s report came out which validated at least her economic plan. Ten million new jobs under her presidency, while Trump’s would usher in a deeper and longer recession than 2007. Also, she believes in science, and Trump would overturn the Paris accords.

Sadly, it turned out that the misogynsts have by no means given up silencing women. Any woman who dared to enjoy the moment that a woman was nominated president by a major party was immediately jumped on. I posted one FB post and was barraged with one-line “I don’t trust her” comments, along with women who said quietly, “Is this a place where I can say how happy I am?”

Yes, it is. My work is about protecting women’s voices. You can say “I’m with her!” on any of my channels. I will always dialogue respectfully with people of color and people working for social justice, and you’re invited to say “Girl I guess I’m with her” and tell me why.

If you’re not voting for Hillary I’m not going to try to convince you to do it. I’m also not going to debate you. The ship has sailed. If you’re voting for Trump because you agree with him, I support your right to vote, but our values do not align and I don’t have the time or thick enough skin to discuss it with you. If you are voting for Trump because you think we can weather four years of Trump, we thought we could weather four years of Bush and he gave us Clarence Thomas and the Iraq war and broke the world economy. If you’re protesting by voting for Gary Johnston or Jill Stein, they do not have a chance to win (Bernie knows it) and it is a protest vote. If you are casting a protest vote or abstaining you are letting someone else make the choice. You’ve chosen silence and I respect your choice so no talking here. If you’re undecided, remember if nothing else that the next president will appoint as many as four Supreme Court justices who will weigh in on gay marriage, health care, voting rights, corporate personhood, and all the social justice issues that will determine our quality of life for the next decade at least.

I am under no illusions that the new New Deal is a done deal. I am not unaware of the existence of the corporate oligarchy or Hillary’s culpability in the rise of the New Jim Crow. I will do my best to oppose the rule of the few and oppose white supremacy. I’m not giving Hillary a free pass, I’m going to hold her accountable for the prison reform and bank reform she’s promised. That said, #I’mwithher, however much or little she manages to accomplish, because the world she pictured is the one I want.

I’m not going to let anyone use my channels to silence women or broadcast hate or vent a complaint. If you post “I don’t like/trust Hillary” I’m deleting with no further notice. But I do want to hear your voice. Instead of telling me what you oppose, tell me what kind of world you want. Then tell me, what are you doing about it?

Whatever it is you choose to do, Do one thing. It is bound to connect you with others who can help you make it happen.

Pantheacon 2016 – Reading Lists

Brandy Williams No Comments

Here are the reading lists I am recommending for each of my presentations – to save you the time to record them!

Reading list for Radical Thelema

Reading list for Advanced Theurgy

  • Tony Mierzwicki, Graeco-Egyptian Magic
  • Richard Reidy, Eternal Egypt, Ancient Rituals for the Modern World
  • Bruce McLennan, Wisdom of Hypatia
  • Patrick Dunn, Practical Art of Divine Magic, Contemporary and Ancient Techniques of Theurgy
  • Jeffrey Kupperman, Living Theurgy
  • Brandy Williams, For the Love of the Gods, the History and Modern Practice of Theurgy, Our Pagan Inheritance (Llewellyn Sept. 2016)

Allies stepping up

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In the wake of a series of brutal killings of black men by police, allies are stepping up. There are five excellent workers for justice on the board of Solar Cross . I stand with them. Join us.

A Pagan future

Brandy Williams 2 comments

Christine Hoff Kraemer and Rhyd Wildermuth have asked the question,
“As Pagans, what do we hope to build?”
Specifically, what does Paganism look like in 50 years?

That question begs an underlying one, “What does the world look like in 50 years?” I have to answer that one before I can think about how Paganism works in that world.

The Guardian reported on a NASA study looking into the future of human civilization. They’re the people who have perspective after all – some of their number fly around the world sixteen times a day. They see the great storms, they see the encroaching deserts, they see the smog clouds. Here’s the report in a nutshell:

A new study sponsored by Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center has highlighted the prospect that global industrial civilisation could collapse in coming decades due to unsustainable resource exploitation and increasingly unequal wealth distribution.

So doom has gone mainstream. In a world in which resources are depleted unsustainably and wealth is increasingly distributed unequally, in which human impact has disturbed the climate and destroys the web of life, what does it mean to be Pagan?

We are already in collapse. Riots have broken out all over the world. We are extracting the last of the energy resources from the earth in awful destructive ways, tar sands, fracking. Mothers from Honduras leap onto trains heading through Mexico to the US to make money for food for their children, and their children follow, riding those same trains; all are prey for gangs and soldiers who rob, rape, beat, and kill them. And these are the last of the good days, the ones in which industrial infrastructure still works in the “developed” (colonializing) world. Possibly the worst aspect to all of this is that mainstream media and government whistle on without confirming, much less dealing with, the state of industrial collapse.

What can we expect to see in the future? This is a really important question for the magic worker. I know from my own experience that what I think about what will happen affects what will happen. We have to strike a balance between realizing what we have done and manifesting the worst possible outcome by expecting it.

In the grimmest scenarios we have already done too much damage to the planet’s ecosystem and our species is doomed to die. People awake to the possibility try to break through the denial of people who are not by repeating this imagery, but it only reinforces denial – if it doesn’t matter our best way to stay sane is to pretend it isn’t happening.

In the best scenario we wake up from what we are doing and figure out how to make a change, to save ourselves and save the web of life which sustains us.

The most critical thing we can do is to articulate our values and live by them. As a Pagan I see the divine in the world around me; it is sacred, and it is alive. The Renaissance struggle between the Church and natural philosophers which birthed mechanical philosophy lies at the root of our devaluation of matter and our inability to recognize that when we “use” it we kill it. This is not inherent in the human character; there are peoples who still work to maintain the compact between human and divine that sustains life. In Canada Idle No More brings together native women and men to literally stand in front of bulldozers.

The first thing we can do is hope. We can work magic for the outcome that we want. That means articulating the outcome we want – not just for Pagans, but for the world. Here is what I want:

  • The weather to settle into its accustomed patterns.
  • Human compassion to awaken to strengthen our bonds with each other, to confront the non-empathic and remove them from power, to create new social institutions so that every child is loved, every human is safe and fed and housed and given medical care, everywhere on the planet.
  • Technology to focus not on making a few more comfortable by continuing industrial culture, but instead to focus on repairing the damage we have done, and providing food and housing and medicine through sustainable resources and means.

My personal belief is that Pagan religion in America is the belief/religion/philosophy/cultural understanding similar to native cultures around the world. In the Pagan reverence for life, the land, the desire to understand and be closer to the gods, in centering our life on spiritual rather than material accomplishment, we find our values as well as the magic to express them.

The more we can articulate and live our values, the more we can disseminate our vision to the world, the more Pagans of any type there are, the better our chances of having a world humans can inhabit fifty years from now.

Women helping women

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Women take care of the world. The best part of women’s culture is when we bond in sisterhood to support each other. This is especially important for those of use who have achieved some success. No one lives in a vacuum – we all owe a debt to those who came before us who created the world where we live in relative comfort and safety.

How can we support other women? Here are my two favorite agencies, one local and one international.

Among their many programs YWCA provides shelter for women leaving abusive situations as well as young women aging out of the foster care system. Their annual Inspire Luncheons bring together the most accomplished women (and men!) in the Northwest community to listen to speakers and share a moment of solidarity. Check out their work at YWCA Works.

Women for Women International pairs sponsors with specific women in the poorest and most violent areas of the world – Afghanistan, Iraq, Rwanda, South Sudan – who suffer through torture and poverty. Women for Women provides a year-long course of education in reading and writing, health care, personal healing, and social organization. The education provides support for women to break away from their abusers, take care of themselves and their families, and undertake community leadership. For a donation of $30 a month a woman survivor of war learns that a sister somewhere in the world believes in her, and it’s the belief as much as the funding that changes her life. I’ve helped three women through the program so far and their gratitude is heartbreaking and inspiring. Check out their work at Women for Women International.

Response to Don Kraig’s call to Golden Dawn leaders

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Donald Michael Kraig has sent out a Call to the leaders of the Golden Dawn:

“If you do not support the goals and ideals of Greece’s Golden Dawn, stand up and let people know this. Members and outsiders deserve to know.”

If you haven’t been introduced to the Greek political party calling itself “Golden Dawn”, Jason Pitzl-Waters has a good round up over at Wild Hunt: Link Roundup (scroll to paragraph three). Briefly, this racist party draws on Pagan trappings on occasion, thus inviting confusion with magical Golden Dawn orders.

The Open Source Order of the Golden Dawn has already made their stance clear: A Statement from The Open Source Order of the Golden Dawn Against Racism.

For the record:

Sisters of Seshat is a sororal order in the Western Mystery Tradition with roots in the Golden Dawn tradition. Sisters of Seshat is in no way connected with the Greek political party Golden Dawn and does not support its goals and ideals. Our order welcomes all self-identified women regardless of religion, ethnic background, physical ability and sexual orientation.

I’m contacting local GD leaders as well.
[pdf-lite]

After Stella Natura, confronting racism in the Pagan community: round-up and what’s next

Brandy Williams one comments

The September 2013 discussion about racism and cultural appropriation in the Pagan communities centers around the festival in Northern California that is happening this weekend, Stella Natura. It is important to keep this conversation front and center even though the festival itself is presumably now over. Some of the issues turned up in this discussion include cultural appropriation, issues of privilege, and identity and belonging. These are unlikely to be fully explored in a handful of blog posts.

Quick summary of the discussion

The web site “who makes the Nazis?” published a blog post, “Anon: Fascists Rally at Stella Natura Festival”. This post surfaced the sponsorship of the festival by the Asatru Folk Assembly. The Heathen Anarchist Collective Circle Ansuz published a four-part series exploring the AFA’s fascist and racist rhetoric. Jason Pitzl-Waters chimed in with a Wild Hunt blog post, “The Asatru Folk Assembly and White Nationalism”.

Morpheus Ravenna wrote a Pagan Square blog post explaining that she wasn’t attending Stella Natura and exploring the issue of racism in Paganism. Her blog post was subsequently removed from Pagan Square, and she explained a follow-up post that she understood this was because she had called the ASA racist.

Race does not exist…

Ravenna reminded us that there is only one human race and that we are all genetically related. In particular European DNA has been so intermingled that separating out “pure” ethnic strains is not scientifically defensible. If that is so, doesn’t every human have equal claim on every human culture?

…so we all have equal rights to every culture, right?

A comment on her blog brought up the subject of cultural appropriation, which Sharon McKnight explored in her blog post “Racism and Cultural Preservation In Modern Paganism”, where she shared the story of how Hindu woman had challenged her right to worship Kali.

This is a good moment to remind us all of the wonderful collection of essays in the anthology Talking About the Elephant, Anthology of Neopagan Perspectives on Cultural Appropriation edited by Lupa. The anthology includes a number of nuanced and thoughtful discussions of cultural appropriation in the Pagan community.

Haven’t we taken enough?

The problem with any universalizing generalization is that it can be turned used as a tool for the continuation and perpetuation of imperialism and colonialism. If I say, “we are all one race” and then say “so every human has the right to participate in every human culture” in an effort to be inclusive, what prevents me from stepping into any culture and appropriating it?

We haven’t begun to talk about privilege much in this conversation. Race doesn’t exist, but racism does. Racism is the tool of imperialism and colonialism, creating underclasses and appropriating physical and cultural resources from those underclasses. Once we acknowledge the power differential the issue of cultural appropriation becomes much more comprehensible. As a “white” American I directly benefit from the racism of the present and the racism of the past which built wealth for my immediate ancestors on the backs of dispossessed native peoples and of servants and slaves. If I step into an indigenous culture whose lands my people have taken, and begin to imitate their folkways without invitation, I am exercising power and privilege over those people.

Any analysis of cultural appropriation which does not include an acknowledgment of privilege and power risks perpetuating colonialism. What is most egregious about white nationalist rhetoric is the failure to acknowledge privilege and the casting of “white” peoples in the role of victim. There have been ways in which I have been placed in an underclass, but it has never been because of my membership in the white world.

What do I have a right to?

First, if there is an indigenous culture that has managed to remain intact despite the best efforts of the imperialist – colonialist – industrial complex, it is my obligation to respect it, and to assist those people in the preservation of their lives and culture. Second, it is my obligation to recognize racism and its ongoing corrosive effects and to challenge it in my communities and the world.

So, if I reject the idea that the only gods I am entitled to worship are the gods of my immediate ethnic ancestors, and I wish to avoid cultural appropriation, what can I do?

Sharon Knight and John Beckett (and I am sure others) which for the idea of tribalism to explain why they have a sense of belonging in some places and with some people and not others. I don’t think I understand enough about what they mean to be able to comment on it, but I worry that it is possible to use “tribal” as a euphemism for ethnicity.

Personally, I wasn’t raised in a tribe and I don’t live in one. I live next to a tribe, and I know what that looks like, and I know that that’s not my life. I’ve participated in Pagan efforts to create tribes, but they haven’t created anything like what my neighbors have.

I was raised in a nuclear family with connections to other blood relatives who engaged in a few ethnic practices. However, my family assimilated into melting pot culture. Culturally, I am an American, and a white American. I was raised Catholic and converted to Paganism. So the ideas of tribe and religion based ethnic heritage strike me as metaphors, not part of my lived experience, and dangerously easy to use to justify white privilege.

Do we have permission?

I’ve thought a lot about Sharon Knight’s experience of being told by a Hindu that she could not worship Kali. I believe and it is my experience that the gods call who they will. Who has the right to tell me what gods I can and cannot worship?

There’s a concept among the native peoples where I live of ownership of ritual. I attend events where native songs are sung. The singers are very clear which songs we could learn if we could “catch” them, and which we (anyone not the singer) are not welcome to reproduce. Obviously if I were to learn a song I was forbidden to learn, that would be an act of cultural appropriation. I would also be appropriating culture if I were to present myself to the world as being a member of this tribe, or in some way practicing the indigenous religion. But I am specifically invited to learn the catch – it- if – you – can song. I have permission.

Have we been introduced?

My entire coven turned up at a local Buddhist temple for a White Tara empowerment. The saffron-robed monks looked at the row of us dressed all in black, blinked, said “She calls who she calls,” took our money and give us the empowerment. I have an animated image of White Tara which I pray to everyday with the mantra that they taught me.

I am a ko member of Tsubaki Grand Shrine of North America, practicing jinja Shinto. I have a shrine in my house which contains ofuda of the three main kami enshrined there. I make offerings at the shrine using the ko member book. In fact, Rev. Koichi Barrish reached out to me when I joined and specifically invited the Pagan community to participate at the shrine.

Recently I attended a Ganesh puja conducted by a Nath initiate. I have an image of Ganesh in my house to which I make offerings and chant his mantra, similarly taught to me by a Nath initiate. I don’t say I myself am a Nath, I just do the worship.

As a Witch in my first initiation I was taken to each of the four quarters of the circle and introduced there to the God and Goddess. Although there are other Witches who refuse to stand in circle with me because I didn’t have their exact initiation, I have declined to be initiated in any other line of Witchcraft, on the grounds that I have already been introduced to the gods.

While I am still working out the issue of what I can and can’t do, and I am in fact eclectic, I notice that I never question whether it is appropriate for me to engage in a tradition in which I have been trained and/or initiated, so that is at least a good start.

My guidelines

These discussions and the meditations they have sparked have led me to articulate some of my own guidelines.

  1. My ethnic heritage does not limit or determine what gods I can worship or what religion I can practice.
  2. If a culture is intact, respect it, learn it if invited, leave it alone if not. Don’t steal.
  3. If I am called to the worship of a god, try to get an introduction.
  4. If I write a ritual, I get to perform it. However it should be as original as possible or within the tradition in which I am initiated or in which I have permission to work. (See 2 above).

Where do we go from here?

This is not the time to say “We’ve done that, time to move on.” This is just the beginning of the conversation. Here are some ideas I’m going to be exploring:

  • our obligation to confront racism and the colonial legacy
  • the connection between Neo-Pagan movements and nationalist, fascist, and racist political groups in Europe and America
  • racism, imperialism, colonialism and other forms of prejudice in Western scholastic work and how drawing from those works affects our reconstructions of Pagan religion.

I’m glad to see that we have begun to have this discussion. I hope we don’t shy away from the difficult places it might take us, but continue to be honest, gentle with each other, and sincere in our desire to build inclusive community.

Reading

Stella Natura

Anon: Fascists Rally at Stella Natura Festival

Circle Ansuz, A Heathen Anarchist Collective

Jason Pitzl-Waters, The Asatru Folk Assembly and White Nationalism

Morpheus Ravenna, Whose Ancestors

Ryan Smith, Racism, Heathenry, and Frith

John Beckett, Tribalism: The Good, The Bad, and The Future

Sharon Knight, Racism and Cultural Preservation in Modern Paganism

Lupa, ed., Talking About the Elephant, Anthology of Neopagan Perspectives on Cultural Appropriation

Commence dragulation!

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I admit to being a RuPaul fan. Drag Race is my number one favorite TV show, especially since this year’s crown went to a local boy, Jinxx Monsoon, a Cornish College of the Arts graduate. Go Seattle!

There’s a spin-off show, Drag U, where women contestants are taught how to dress by drag queens. That’s not all, they take on drag personas, learn a choreography, and lip sync for a prize. As I watched reruns of the latest season I was struck by the deliberate nature of the process. The woman is assigned a name, a whole new look (a costume), and then counseled by RuPaul on how to step into that new fearless persona to fix a life problem.

You know what that is? It’s a magical personality! To create a magical personality you give yourself a magical name, a costume (usually a robe) which you put on to step into the personality, and step into a fearless new self. RuPaul is teaching a fundamental magical technique on that show.

If you want to create your own drag persona there’s an online Dragulator. It’s good practice for creating a magical personality, and a way to have fun with the idea. Here’s my drag transformation: Charlamaine de Malha! Doesn’t she look fierce?
Charlamaine de Malha_body

Parliament of the World’s Religions Emergency Fundraiser

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West meets East: the Parliament of the World’s Religions in 1893 brought Western religious leaders together with their Eastern counterparts. Swami Vivekananda attended as the Hindu delegate, and Western occultism was never the same.

In 1993 the Parliament met again for a centennial celebration. I presented Wiccan Devotionals at that event, one of several presentations by practitioners of Witchcraft. Also at that Parliament many groups attending signed a draft Global Ethic calling for mutual respect among religions and an end to religious-based violence.

The Parliament has continued to meet since its centennial. Several Pagan leaders who attended the centennial have continued their interfaith work. Today Andras Corban Arthen issued a call for help for the Parliament. He has asked for a wide distribution – it is reproduced below. Please consider donating to this important organization.

THE PARLIAMENT OF THE WORLD’S RELIGIONS NEEDS YOUR HELP!
(Please feel encouraged to share this message widely)

Dear friends,

The Parliament of the World’s Religions has been promoting peace, understanding and respect among all peoples, religions and nations for a very long time. The Parliament gave birth to the interfaith movement in 1893, and through the vehicle of interreligious dialogue, has spread its message to many thousands of people all over the globe.

For those of us who are pagan, or who follow any of the Earth-centered spiritual paths, the Parliament has provided a welcoming place where we could openly share our practices within the community of the world’s religions: pagans from five continents have been featured presenters & performers at the Parliaments in Chicago (1993), Cape Town (1999), Barcelona (2004) and Melbourne (2009), and at the World Interreligious Encounter in Monterrey, Mexico (2007). Since 2002, three pagans — AngieBuchanan, Phyllis Curott, and myself (Andras Corban-Arthen) — have also served on the Parliament’s Board of Trustees. The Parliament was the first major interfaith organization to give our community a seat at the table.

Now the Parliament needs our help — it faces an unexpectedly immediate, one-time financial challenge, which threatens its very existence. We need to raise $150,000 by 12 April, and the many world-wide religious communities which participate in the Parliament are already mobilizing to help us reach this goal.

This is the time for the pagan movement to show its support for this organization which has welcomed and supported us for so long, and in so many ways. Please give what you can: your contribution, no matter how small, can make a big difference!

To make a donation, please go to:

Pagans for the Parliament

Many thanks,
Andras Corban-Arthen
Spiritual Director, The EarthSpirit Community
Member, Board of Trustees of the Parliament of the World’s Religions
Director & Interfaith Liaison, European Congress of Ethnic Religions

Speaking about racism in the magical communities

Brandy Williams No Comments

A few days ago T. Thorn Coyle wrote about her experience hosting a panel
on Pagans and Privilege
at PantheaCon this year. Crystal Blanton, the editor of Shades of Faith: Minority Voices in Paganism, sat on the panel. These women are my heros! In print and in public they have started the conversation we have to have about racism in the magical communities.

Yesterday Nadireh Adeye posted an article titled “Being an Ally Versus Being a Nice Person”. It’s an expansion of a thought in her article “Shedding in Creation” in Shades of Faith, where she said, “I strongly believe it is every person’s responsibility to educate themselves and share what they know with those around them.”

Reading Shades of Faith is a good start on that education. At the Esoteric Book Conference in 2011 I sat at the booth where I was holding the launch party for The Woman Magician and read the anthology end to end. I had the dual experience of being triumphantly proud of having confronted sexism in the magical communities, and being deeply ashamed that I had not yet confronted racism in the magical communities or in myself.

Adeye says, “Being an ally means willing to be uncomfortable, being willing to be wrong…” I’ve been publically confronted about my lack of sensitivity around my own privilege as a European American. It’s hard not to react defensively in the heat of the moment, and I wish I had done better, but it’s important to stay with the conversation and not hide from those revelations. I found that there were people who rushed to my defense and that made me even more uncomfortable. It is important to confront privilege and people who have spoken up to me were brave, and right.

Adeye showed me the way to improving my responses: to educate myself and work to educate other people of privilege. This is exactly what woman feminists ask our male allies to do. So after EBC 2011 I spent two weeks on retreat reading a stack of books about “race”. Here are a few thing I took away from that study.

What is race?

Here is a pop quiz: how many races are there? Four – white, black, red, and yellow, right? Well, the “racial” sub-categories came from the cataloger Carl Linnaeus, who divided humans into Americanus, Asiaticus, Africanus, Europaeus. Today this system is called “Scientific Racism” and is discredited science. Here is what the NIH: says today: “…research reveals that Homo sapiens is one continuously variable, inter-breeding species. Ongoing investigation of human genetic variation has even led biologists and physical anthropologists to rethink traditional notions of human racial groups. The amount of genetic variation between these traditional classifications actually falls below the level that taxonomists use to designate subspecies, the taxonomic category for other species that corresponds to the designation of race in Homo sapiens.” Translation: there is only one human race, homo sapiens sapiens.

Why categorize humans into races?

Slavery isn’t new, but, says the United Nations, “The racial nature of this triangular trade between Africa, Europe and the Americas also sets it apart. The trade was supported by a racist ideology that saw white people as being the most perfectly developed and blacks as being at the bottom of the ladder.” Scientific racism was used to justify American slavery. It’s ugly, and it persists for the same reason, to perpetuate privilege.

What does slavery buy a country?

Economic dominance. Sven Beckert & Seth Rockman lay this out in How Slavery Led to Modern Capitalism: “The U.S. won its independence from Britain just as it was becoming possible to imagine a liberal alternative to the mercantilist policies of the colonial era. Those best situated to take advantage of these new opportunities — those who would soon be called “capitalists” — rarely started from scratch, but instead drew on wealth generated earlier in the robust Atlantic economy of slaves, sugar and tobacco.” The cotton gin arguably established America’s industrial dominance, an industry resting on free labor.

Slavery is in the past, right? We’re over it.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 overturned the Jim Crow “separate but equal” rules that perpetuated the black underclass, didn’t it? “The clock has been turned back on racial progress in America, though scarcely anyone seems to notice,” says civil rights lawyer Michelle Alexander. In The New Jim Crow she points to the mass incarceration of poor people of color as the latest incarnation of the cultural rules which continue to enforce the skin color caste system.

This was all before my time, I don’t see color.

Race exists as a social construct and impacts us all every day. It has a great influence on my life. When I walk into a room I may not be seen as a person, but instead as a woman. However, I am seen as a woman, not a woman of color. I have never thought that I wasn’t beautiful because of my skin or hair. I’ve never heard myself described as a member of an unwelcome group. Also, watching television, looking at pictures in the media, I notice that the new face of diversity is a black man and a white woman. This is great for me, less great for women whose relatives came here from Africa instead of Europe.

What can an ally do?

One retreat, one article, one moment spent in learning and reflection is a good start but not a place to rest. I have the privilege of putting down these thoughts and stepping back into a world where I can ignore the impact of race. If I choose to stick with the conversation and work toward being an ally, what can I do?

Talk about it.

Stand up, point to racism, don’t let it go by without confronting it. We’re going to get it wrong, make mistakes, and get called out for them. As Adeye says, we have to be willing to be uncomfortable. I’ve learned to sit with the discomfort instead of shying away; it’s a great teacher, it pushes me to be a better writer and a better person.

Listen with respect.

I learned this as a feminist, and it’s at least as important as an ally. When someone speaks about their experience it is never wrong. It is never about you. The experience I relate to most in Adeye’s work and the other people who contributed to Blanton’s anthology is the experience of being dismissed. As allies we can at least hear what is being said. Sometimes it is said with anger or pain. It’s hard not to respond defensively, but that is the ally’s task.

I’m glad to see this conversation surfacing in the magical communities. I hope it continues with gentleness and respect to create a space in which we are all seen and heard as we wish to be and can do the work we are called to do.