Thursday, June 23, 2011

Facing Defiance Within the Family

Being a unique and many-branched path that runs its course separated from mainstream faiths, Paganism is often faced with judgemental comments and condescending questions.  And many of us who identify as Pagan have gone out of our way to study holy books and learn scriptures simply to combat those set out to 'educate and save' us.  By doing so we feel protected and comfortable being open about our beliefs. 

But what happens when the hostility is at a very personal level?  For the most part, it's rather easy for me to dismiss the belittling opinions of strangers and acquaintances.  After all, I know within my heart that my spirituality is pure and I am wholly fulfilled by this well-worn path that I have chosen.  What works for them does not work for me and visa versa.

Easy enough said until a situation surfaces that affects my children and my wishes for how they are raised.  What makes this current development even more troubling is the source of intolerance -- a relative, [and one who happens to care for my children when I'm working at the University].

My eldest just graduated from preschool and is still learning the concept that it is better to honorably admit to wrong-doing rather than to hide behind dishonesty.  So recently when he got a bit rough wrestling with his two and a half year old brother, said relative intervened.  And when my son fibbed about his naughty actions, this care giver warned that "God is always watching."

Oh no she didn't!

This relative knows very well my beliefs.  She knows that I do not believe in some vengeful God who is keeping tallies on the sinful things that we do in life.  And she knows that I don't want my children raised with such God-fearing lessons.  She knows all of this and yet she has never respected it.  For the past decade I have come to dismiss her demeaning comments about my "weird" religion -- [she is, after all, the sort who interjects her tactless opinion about anyone and anything where and when she can]. 

This time, however, was different.  I can't express how hurt and how angry I felt.  I knew she didn't fully approve of my faith and never missed a moment to mock me because of it, but deep down I guess I thought [or maybe hoped] that because she loved me, she would offer me respect when, as they say, 'push came to shove'. 

Curious to know how I handled it?  Well, I very clearly told her that my son was not to be reprimanded with lessons about a Being that would send him to some fiery afterlife if he did wrong.  I called her out on knowing fully well that I'd be upset were she to do such a thing and also reminded her that as his mother it was my right to raise him on the spiritual path of my choosing [until he reached an age where he could experience faith in his own way].  I ended by telling her bluntly not to scold him in such a way again. 

She replied with "it's better than your Pagan stuff" as she stomped out of the room.

So tell me friends, how am I to handle someone's direct intolerance when I can't simply remove them from my life?  How do I share a respectful conversation with someone who would intentionally disregard my beliefs and defy how I wish to raise my sons?  I'm at a loss and I'm afraid that my long hours of studying the differences and similarities of various religions can in no way help to ease the situation.

* Sigh *

 Pagan Dad posted recently about children facing their own intolerance and shared the following advice: "We, as parents, cannot change the world or the prejudiced people in it, but we can help to strengthen our children. To teach them that the opinions of others matter very little in the grand scheme of things."  

His words reminded me that I just have to trust in the guidance I give to my sons.  I have to believe that the compassion and tolerance I give to not only them but the world around them will trump the whispered threats of one or two close-minded individuals they may encounter on their paths.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Guardian of Stonehenge

Jonathan Jones, art journalist for The Guardian [a British daily newspaper], has turned his critical eye on modern Pagans for their tradition of gathering at sacred Stonehenge to revel in the sun's rising on the day of the Summer Solstice.  In his blog post, Save Summer from Midsummer Madness, Jonathan questions why such a "daft festival" should even be allowed.  He claims "There is not even a theological justification, for no connection exists between Stonehenge and modern paganism."

I'm a bit taken aback to have found an unlikely expert on all things Stonehenge--  not in the archaeological, astronomical or anthropological fields [as one might have guessed] but rather in the field of journalism.  And what credentials can you boast, Mr. Jones, that offer a more accurate historical record of Britain's beloved sacred circle than those in previously stated fields who have studied its origins and possible purposes? 

Because it is experts in said fields, such as American astronomer Gerald Hawkins, who believed that ancient peoples used the monument to anticipate a wide range of astronomical phenomena, including solstices & eclipses [ Space/Astronomy].  It is probable that early architects were sun worshipers since the axis which divides Stonehenge is oriented towards the midsummer sunrise.  

Investigations of Stonehenge over the past 100 years have revealed the ancient structure was built in several stages between 2800BC to 1800BC, predating the Christianization of Anglo-Saxon England.  Because modern paganism is a connection to the spiritual worship of a pre-christian world, it is more than a little pretentious of a newspaper journalist to state that there is no connection between Pagans today and ancient rituals once held at the mysterious site [as documented by invading Romans, including Julius Caesar in his Commentarii de Bello Gallico].

Monday, June 20, 2011

Remember the Burning Times this Solstice

Midsummer, Litha, Summer Solstice... whatever its name, the longest day of the year is one celebrated across the segregated divides that are culture, religion and time.  Midway between planting and the harvest, Midsummer [June 21st, 2011] is a time to renew our energy and look toward the shifting wheel of the year with great expectation and humble appreciation. 

Purification rituals intensified by the blooming herbs of the season have always had their place of importance within the many cultures that celebrated Summer Solstice.  Traditions abound of collecting healing and aromatic herbs to toss into bonfires as many believed that herbs picked on this day held the highest power.

So gather your rosemary, lavender, thyme and sage.  Your carnations, vervain, violets and more.

I've read of a Danish tradition of putting a 'witch' made of twisted straw and herbs into bonfires in honor and remembrance of the Burning Times in the 1500 and 1600's.  In consideration of the numerous articles we have all encountered in recent months on the steadily increasing Witchcraft-related deaths in Africa [and elsewhere], I think this is one ritual that we as Pagans can adopt.


  *  Collected Herbs     *  Bonfire
  *  Essential Oils: Lavender, Geranium/Anise/Bergamot, Sandalwood

Twist your herbs to form your 'witch'.  If you have essential oils, anoint the herbs [Sandalwood to heal wounds of the past, Lavender to bring peace and Geranium, Anise or Bergamot to offer protection from those that would set out to harm]. 

Toss your herbs in the fire with the following blessing spoken aloud or in your heart:
"Blessed Be those forsaken in days long since gone
and Blessed Be those who now face the fire.
May these herbs heal and protect.
Let be my heart's desire."



Monday, June 13, 2011

Scorned by a Gay Girl Who Never Was

How many of you were following the blog 'Gay Girl in Damascus' and have recently learned that its entirity has been nothing but an out-of-hand hoax -- written not by a lesbian Syrian girl but by a very sad, self-declared nerd in Georgia?  I followed, a bit -- thankful not to have invested too much of my emotional depth [considering the outcome]. 
Photographic rendition of the Syrian Flag

Even so, I can't shake this feeling of vulnerability that the sham has created within me.  I write from my heart whenever I post and while its naive and idealistic to assume the same from every one of the countless blogs that exist in cyberspace, I was at the very least confident that those I followed were genuine.  Little did I know!  And instead of just tsk-tsking the author [who successfully duped the world] and moving on, I seem to be struggling to get over this.

We live in a unique day and age when we can form emotional connections and bonds of commradery with persons that we very likely will never meet thanks to the far-reaching accessibility of the internet.  And while we don't ever share face-to-face interactions with said persons, many of us who maintain these e-friendships will admit that it doesn't minimize the quality of such connections.  Or so we think [apparantly]...

What happens, then, when the honesty of a relationship is solely one-sided?  The author of the Gay Girl blog posted quite the lengthy apology-- admitting that his intentions were sincere at the start and that a snowball-effect caused it to get out of hand.  And while this will blow over quite quickly in the fast-paced world of the Media, I sit here stunned and feeling foolish.  I wonder why this is any different than someone who impersonates another in the physical world [whatever the intentions]?  Were this not cyberspace, would this man not be charged with a crime?

Is it any less hurtful because of the medium chosen?  It sure doesn't feel that way to me.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Pagan Deadly Sins

'Values' are a concept that transcend religion [in all of its segregating variety].  While core values may differ from individual to individual, the general idea is the same -- an outline of those intentions that we feel will bring the most appropriate benefit to our lives and to the lives of those dear to us. 

With the Pagan Values Event starting today via Facebook, I let the vague definition of 'value' stew at the back of my mind.  It seems to inherently involve two basic parts -- (1) our natural rights and (2) the rules we need to follow to protect those rights.

©2009-2011 ~Izark1369
While the Pagan community lacks a rigid doctrine of commandments detailing the guidelines necessary for protecting the natural rights of both ourselves and our neighbors, we can surprisingly relate to the underlying attitudes of Catholicism's "Cardinal [7 Deadly] Sins".  Relate to the Catholics?  Gasp!  I know, I know.  Hear me out. 

The concept of 'sin' is not one that Pagans put much credence into [considering a large majority of us follow Karma or the Law of Three-- believing that our actions and intentions circle back around for us to deal with in this life, rather than to be faced at the gates of the Afterworld].  While we won't be counting rosary beads anytime soon, we do recognize that if we release the negativity linked to these 7 Deadly Sins into the network of energy pervading our world, we will eventually come to meet our own poor choices.


Ask 12 Pagans what exactly it means to be Pagan and you'll get 13 different answers, or so I've heard.  Its a cute way to explain the great assortment of paths within our faith.  Yet there are solid foundations we all embrace.

Harm none.
Respect life. All life.
Live and Let Live.
Protect the Earth.
What you Send Out, Returns to You.

These main building blocks combat the negativity of the above-listed 'sins' with humility, generosity, love, kindness, self-control, temperance and zeal [this list, by the way, happens to be the 7 Virtues that followers of the Catholic faith employ in order to oppose the temptations and consequences of the Cardinal Sins].

While there is much that sets us apart, our values seem to be a very stable cornerstone of similarity.  It's a shame we all have our moments when we allow the naughty-side to reign.