Thursday, September 27, 2012

We are Real

Lately I have been seeing a flurry of body posts by some "high profile" companies and by ordinary people.

By "high profile," I mean my favorite clothing store Lane Bryant. (Would you know it, they happen to be having a sale! I see some awesome boots I want. Yay!) Apparently, Lane Bryant is hooking up with Skorch Magazine to present a "Real is Perfect" campaign.

From Lane Bryant's Facebook page.
Every single one of these women are beautiful, and I think that stepping forward with models like these women are great. However, as several people commented, I have yet to see these women or any other women like those above actually on the Lane Bryant site. Looking at Skorch Magazine, though, not only are BBW strewn across their pages, but a variety of bodies are represented, from thin models to obese models and everything in between.

That's the thing, body varieties.   We aren't going to get anywhere with body images when we go from one extreme to another. Please, by all means, celebrate (NSFW) the fat body! Rejoice in every curve and every roll and every blemish and stretch mark and every thing that is on you but do NOT degrade other body styles. Replacing fat shame with thin shame just creates the same problems we fat people have, but reversed. 

More truth.
Recently in my Deaf Culture class, we were talking about the segregation in the Deaf schools. They segregated the crap out of the deaf in the early 1900s. Boys were away from girls, blacks away from whites (usually not even in the same building and not in the best condition either), profoundly deaf away from the hard of hearing. The administration even kept clubs from joining.

Women are segregated like that even today. Generally, we voluntarily keep ourselves surrounded by people with the same body type, same color, same age and education, same religious views and political views, even same family structure. Our segregation keeps us isolated, unable to reach out or think about something different or do something different. In fact, the segregation is so ingrained that we enforce it ourselves. When was the last time you heard someone make a rude comment about another person's clothing? How about another person's beliefs or body shape? Education? It happens often enough that TV makes it a cliche, something that everyone does at some point.

So, Stop It.

When someone says something offensive, tell them to stop it. When someone does something offensive, stop it. When someone starts to enforce the segregation of ourselves, stop it. When you start to enforce it, stop yourself. Just stop it. It does more harm than good. Start a mini revolution. Get some friends that don't think like you or act like you or believe like you or dress like you or look like you and revel in their differences. Entertain a different thought process. You don't necessarily need to accept it, but at least try to understand. You will find some pretty cool things, trust me.

PS. I know the pictures go over. It's like that so you can see it more clearly. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Response: A Pagan Finds Religion

Today, Timothy Dalrymple posted an article "A Pagan Finds Religion" and addresses his recent meeting and subsequent flight with Star Foster. Dalrymple discusses Paganism in the context of comparing it to Christianity, and also talks about Foster's "spiritual but not religious" experiences. 

While some of his article makes good points and is pretty well written (particularly the first five paragraphs), it started to rub against me starting in the first sentence of the sixth paragraph. Dalrymple is right; Pagans tend not to like being told that our spirituality is a negative reaction towards the Christian community/Church with which the majority of us grew up in. Personally, I did not turn towards my Pagan path because of some "failures" of the Catholic Church (which I had been Christened in and had gone through Communion and Sunday school and the whole nine yards). I turned to/was guided to Paganism because it fit my soul and filled a hole in my heart that Christianity never could. Yes, I had issues with the Church. Yes, I don't agree with the things that the Church does. Yes, there are failures and excesses in the Church. No, I didn't leave them solely because of their pitfalls (although it did make it way easier). 

The kick in the teeth for me was this:
"I find the historical scholarship of the Pagan communities sorely wanting, and the philosophy and theology behind it all is not yet mature. Although it’s always harder to hear an outsider say it, I think most thoughtful pagans agree (and many say openly) that there is, quite naturally, a lot of growing left to do."
..... Uh? So tell me, how is it a religion that is based off the historical scholarships, philosophies and theologies of an even older religion, older than your religion, is not yet mature or is sorely lacking? And a related question, why is it that a great majority of what the Old Religion taught is preserved within Christianity if it had been lacking beforehand? As to the growing, for a great many traditions, the whole point of their religion is growth. Nature grows, why shouldn't our beliefs? Nothing remains the same, so embrace the change and revel in its delight. 

Paganism is both new and old. Many are of the opinion (me included) that Neo-Paganism is a continuation of the Old Ways, before Christianity forced its "death," but it is also new in that it picks up customs of other religions (excluding the Reconstructionists who strive for the original, unblended religion of their particular path) like meditation or Karma. Decisions of whether or not to pick one deity or honor (I don't like the word "worship"; it conjures a negative image and isn't something that I want in regards to my Gods) a deity is a personal one and has nothing to do with Paganism's "newness." Did you know, in ancient times, many people would pick which God or Goddess was their patron, or would inherit via family ties? Many people would dedicate themselves to a deity, but that didn't stop them from honoring other Gods in their pantheon. So no, it isn't "new."
Vestal Virgins, anyone? (source)
"Personally, of course, I don’t want Pagans to find religion, because I want pagans to recognize that the great God above all gods become incarnate and communicated his love and reconciliation to the world through Jesus Christ, the God-man."
It is condescending, bullshit attitudes like this that contribute to the rebuke against Christianity in the Pagan community. That's all I have to say about that. /end

Spirituality isn't something that solidifies into a religion. Spirituality deals directly with the spirit or soul (typically a personal thing), not needing doctrine or institutions to help it. Dictionary says spiritual means "of, relating to, or affecting the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things." It is contained completely inside, an internal development.

Religion, on the other hand, requires doctrine and institutions for it to function as a cohesive whole. Hindu, for instance, has in common the beliefs of "Avatar Vada, Ekeshwaravada (One Supreme Divine Reality), Veda Praman (Authority of the Vedas), Atman, Karma, Yoga, Ahimsa, Four Puruṣārthas, Varnashrama dharma and Punarjanma (Reincarnation)" (source) but differ internally by which face of the Supreme Divine they worship (Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva and Kalika, etc.) and how and when and why. Dictionary says religion is "a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs."

Therefore, someone can be spiritual but not religious, religious but not spiritual, spiritual AND religious, or none of the above. One has nothing to do with the other and are separate. Personally, I feel like I should be both spiritual and religious, as both have good qualities.

The larger framework is something I have been thinking about for a while. I cede that it is hard to express something so personal that you can't find the words to even describe it, mostly because your language doesn't have the words you need. It is hard to describe exactly what it is that your particular deity wants when S/He shows you what S/He want in complex emotions, compound pictures, and hidden symbols only you can even begin to comprehend. This is what we call a Mystery. Describing how the color dark blue tastes or how the growth of an entire forest sounds or how the falling footsteps of a tiger feels or how a particular musical note smells is easier to relay than a Mystery. 

However, that doesn't mean that you won't be understood anyway. Tell a Pagan that the color dark blue tastes like 9pm in the countryside skyclad at Lughnasadh, and we will believe you and relate to it. Being different isn't wrong, not trying is. If being separate and distinct makes you feel isolated, try expressing yourself to others. Someone will get it, and it will probably be more people than you think. Again, this goes back to the whole idea of a Community of Solitaries is also a Community of One. There is a cohesiveness in our community, and it revolves around being distinct and different. 

As a last point, I leave with this picture that grasped me a while back ago. I still love it. 

EDIT: Other responses! 

Joseph Bloch over at Witches and Pagans wrote a response, "Grieve Indeed the Growth of Neo-Paganism" and says what I wanted to in much more colorful words and a little more bluntly. (Originally posted on GOPagan)

EDIT #2 - Star Foster has now joined the conversation. Her response is worth reading, as she expresses the other side of the fence.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Paganism and Suicide

 So, you know I have been reading my sociology stuff lately for class, and I came across the research that was done on suicides and who was more likely to take their life than others. A French sociology named Emile Durkheim examined official records of suicides and found that

 "[M]en, Protestants, wealthy people, and the unmarried each had much higher suicide rates than women, Catholics and Jews, the poor, and married people. Durkheim explained these differences in terms of social integration: Categories of people with strong social ties had low suicide rates, and more individualistic people had high suicide rates."
It was said that those who had more freedom were the ones who committed suicide the most. In the late 1800s, early 1900s, men has a greater range of freedom than the house bound women did. However, freedom weakens social ties and thus the feelings of dependance, the "but they need me" feeling. Of course, this also ties well with unmarried, since the man doesn't feel tied to anything.
Of course, women were allowed out to have jobs, but only specific jobs, like sewing. (source)
A century later, Durkheim’s analysis still holds true. In 2009, there were 13.5 recorded suicides for every 100,000  white people,0 which is more than twice the rate for African Americans (5.1). For both races, suicide was more common among men than among women. White men (19.2) are almost four times as likely as white women (5) to take their own lives. Among African Americans, the rate for men (9.1) was more than five times that for women (1.6). (source) Soooo.......
"Applying Durkheim’s logic, the higher suicide rate among white people and men reflects their greater wealth and freedom, just as the lower rate among women and people of color reflects their limited social choices."
Factors that would decrease the likelihood of suicide was connection to a community (such as the close knit community of Catholics and Jews), strong family ties and dependency (like being married), and having a strong support system. Women tend to "process their experiences with friends. They discuss their feelings, seek feedback and take advice," Humans are social creatures and must have social interaction to stay sane, or alive in this case.

How does this apply to Paganism? A big part of Paganism, specifically Wicca, is about the freedom of being able to do what feels right. Solitaries dominate our community, and we have been compared to cats more than once. The Pagans I know tend to be very well off financially (or are in college to become financially well off) and typically aren't married. And I would bet dollars to donuts that the majority of Pagans are white (at least in the US). Individuality, white, "rich", unmarried. The up side is that most of the Pagans I have met tend to be women. .......

But, do Pagans commit suicide? The only suicide that I recall would be Tempest Smith, 11 years ago. Pagans don't have a stance on suicide because there is no central guideline. Pattie says it well:
"Because there is no Central Pagan Doctrine, or Big Book o’ Pagan Rules, it’s hard to say specifically what the “Pagan perspective” on suicide – or much of anything else – is. There’s not any sort of doctrinal perspective that is universal to all Pagans."
There is the Wiccan Harm None rule, which Pattie explains. But not everyone follows the Rede, nor are Wiccan. So why then do we not hear about suicides? Is it simply because A) we don't hear about the people who aren't relatively big in our community, B) there is a low suicide rate within our community, C) the families who do suffer from the tragedy do not want their child known as a pagan, D) something I can't think of, or E) all of the above?

Let's say that B is true. I believe that one of the best qualities of our community is the ability to strongly identify with others and to help them out as best we can. Even online, Pagans are still connected by forums, support groups, social media sites, email, etc. I remember when I was just starting out; the Pagan forums were my life line, my regular connection with like-minded individuals to share beliefs, opinions, troubles and basically my life. Sappy, yes. But without that support, I probably would have slipped back into depression. One of the topics that would always fire up the forum boards was suicide, but the turnout wasn't so much about the topic of suicide itself as it was about supporting the potentially suicidal poster.
It's like a cyber group hug!!! (Sorry, I can't help it.) ;P
Another probable reason why might lie in our beliefs of the family. Belief in a Divine family, a spiritual family, and our personal families is a good chunk of what is taught. The Goddess - our Mother, the God - our Father, and our general "sisters and brothers." The coven family, the High Priestess and High Priest (our "parents"), the higher initiated as our "older siblings" and the newcomers as our "younger siblings." Our relationship with the two spiritual and Divine families are just as complex as our blood families, and harbor just as much emotions (if not more). The kind of "responsibilities" are deep and truly personal. I would do anything for my coven mates, and they would (and have!) as well.

And even being a community of solitaries, we are still a community of one. We help our own, from housing to community projects to contributing to our spiritual relatives. Please, I beg everyone who reads this -- keep it up. Keep reaching out to people, keep offering them your help no matter what their creed or color or gender, keep being the kind of person you want to be every single day. Keep making a difference.

If you are thinking about suicide, please reach out to someone. Actually tell someone "I am considering suicide." Don't assume that people will understand vague allusions. People can be dense (Hi, I'm dense) and slow on the uptake, but there are people here to help you. If you want to talk to a suicide councilor, call the Nation Suicide Prevention hotline toll free at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). If you don't want to do that, you can always talk to me. You aren't alone. There is always someone there for you, no matter what. And there will always be someone who is afflicted by your death, so don't think you won't be missed. At the very least, I will miss you. <3

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Hidden Face of the Goddess

Triple Goddess, Moon Goddess -- Maiden, Mother, Crone. The three faces of the Goddess are well recognized in the Pagan community and is echoed over many eons of mythology, whether they represent three separate deities (the Moirai/the Norns) or three aspects of one goddess (Hecate, Morrigan, and the Matrones).

Edit: The painter is Ann Fox. Thank You Jerry!!!!
But what if there is a fourth face? We know about the Maiden who is represented by the Waxing Crescent; we know the Mother is represented as the Full Moon; we know the Crone is represented as the Waning Crescent. What about the New Moon, the Dark Moon? What if the fourth face of the Goddess is the hidden face, deep within what is shrouded by the dark, the secret, the forbidden? What if this aspect is the silent one, the one no one talks about but everyone knows subconsciously? Maybe I am slow to realize this, but a while back I found the Charge of the Dark Goddess and never connected it until now.
"The Dark Goddess speaks to us, through the mouths of Lilith, Kali, Tiamet, Hekate, Nix, the Black Madonna, Nemesis and Morgane.
I am the Darkness behind and beneath the shadows.
I am the absence of air that awaits at the bottom of every breath.
I am the Ending before Life begins again,
the Decay that fertilizes the Living.
I am the Bottomless Pit,
the never-ending struggle to reclaim that which is denied.
I am the Key that unlocks every Door.
I am the Glory of Discovery,
for I am that which is hidden, secluded and forbidden.
Come to me at the Dark Moon
and see that which can not be seen,
face the terror that is yours alone.
Swim to me through the blackest oceans
to the center of your greatest fears--
the Dark God and I will keep you safe.
Scream to us in terror, and yours will be the Power to Forbear.
Think of me when you feel pleasure, and I will intensify it,
until the time when I may have the greatest pleasure
of meeting you at the Crossroads Between the Worlds."
The Death Goddess, Goddess of Fear and Terror, Goddess of Darkness, Goddess of Blood. This is the "Other Side" of the Circle of Life. The Last and First Mystery, the Void before the First Breath and the Absence after the Last. (Geez, would you quit capitalizing everything! TYVM)

"Ye shall approach Me in silence, and as a sign that ye are free from fear, your breast you shall bare to My blade...for fear has no place in My mysteries, and that which you seek of me will destroy you if you fear it"
Dig deep, dig far, and do not fear. You knew Her before you realized it, and you will know Her again. Samhain is coming up fast, and her domain is the Winter (or the Summer, if you are in the Southern Hemisphere).

(Interesting aside: I heard/saw somewhere that some scholars believe that the "dead months" when Demeter cried over her daughter Persephone was actually the Summer months, when the heat was so oppressive that nothing would grow. I don't remember where I read it at, possibly the Wild Hunt, but I can't seem to find it.)

Death. Her name, Death. Maiden, Mother, Crone, Death. Do not fear Her, because She is kind and gentle. She takes away the sickness, the pain, the hurt, the damaged. She loves you in Her way; do not hate Her. Relax, and let it go.

EDIT:  I'm putting some quotes from people that I totally love about the article.

From Bobby S: I see the fourth side as containing aspects of all and like us holding the reflection of the three hidden. Those things we all hold within the shadow - not bad, not evil - but secrets we hold to ourselves as the moon is shaded but not gone.

Love! Personally I don't see the "dark side" of the Circle as evil or bad anyway. Death is the complimenting half to Life, just like Nemesis is Fortuna's balancer, or Darkness is the twin of Light.

From Connie L:  [Talking about the Triple Goddess painting] But we can easily imagine Her fourth face looking backward, and thus rendered invisible by the other three — just like the dark fourth phase of the moon when it hides its face from us.

Love again! You can almost make out something behind the Three, like it teases something in the back of your mind...

From Gene F: I like the addition of Oh Death, with a supernatural twist. My wife and I actually play this song during our Samhain ritual. I like Connie's statement of her face turned away from us. As if she's keeping her secrets hidden by not showing us her face. Samhian is perhaps my favorite Sabbat. I love the idea that life begins in death. It shows existence as a permanent state, not one that ends with your last breath. It also shows that life is a cycle and that just as in the natural world we will renew.
Love thrice! Did you know that even rocks go through cycles? Our entire galaxy can be described in cycles, from the life/death/rebirth cycle in the animal kingdom and the breathing cycle of plants to the cycles of the planets and their seasons to the rotation of our galaxy itself. Why would our afterlife be any different? 

I love my friends! <3 <3 <3

EDIT #2: One of my friends, Bobby, found this article for me. This is a great read, and a good view of another point I didn't make; the destruction part.