Category Archives: Uncategorized

Going Galt for God

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There have long been people whose religious beliefs made it impossible for them to live in what was, for them, the modern world. The Jews left Egypt and wandered in the desert for years. The Pilgrims left England for Europe, and then Europe for America, because they could not practice as they wished in England or Europe. They were willing to uproot their families, get on tiny, uncomfortable, dangerous boats and cross the Atlantic in order to live where they could give free rein to their religious beliefs.

Here on the East Coast, the Amish and Mennonites live in small enclaves where they do without the various forms of technology, dress, and customs that their religions disallow.

Some Quakers choose to live below the poverty level so that they won’t have to pay taxes that support war.

When America outlawed polygamy (you know, God’s traditional marriage between one man and one woman, and one other woman, and one other woman and. . . .), many Mormons, including Mitt Romney’s close ancestors, moved to Mexico in order to continue to pursue their way of life.

And there have always been people who have found it necessary to retreat to a convent, or monastery, or ashram, or anchor hold, or cave in the desert and live apart from the world in order fully to practice their religion.

I may not agree with the religious beliefs held by all of the people described above (I’d have made a really bad Pilgrim), but I certainly respect their commitment to their beliefs and would defend their right to retreat from a world that they find makes it impossible for them to act in accordance with their religion. As long as their goal is to arrange for themselves and their families to live a certain way, I think that’s their First Amendment right.

And I’d like to propose to modern fundamentalist Xians that the time may have come for them to consider a similar course. There may have been a time in America when they could discriminate against whomever they chose, control everyone’s sexuality, use the government to impose their prayers, religious monuments, and holidays on everyone else. But those days are quickly coming to an end. Today, they appear to face the same choice that the Pilgrims and others have faced: they can adjust their behavior or they can retreat into their own enclaves, either physical or metaphorical.

If you don’t believe in abortions, you don’t have to have them or perform them, but you can’t take a job at a hospital the gets public funds and then refuse to assist in abortions. If you think women should dress “modestly,” then you can dress that way and you can choose to associate only with other women who do. But you can’t take a job certifying the safety of the fabrics used in women’s clothing and refuse to certify anything silky or sheer. If you think that it’s a sin to eat meat on Friday, then you can choose to have tofu, or fish, or macaroni and cheese, but you can’t take a job serving food at the public high school cafeteria and refuse to cook the hamburgers that are on the menu that Friday. You may believe that God requires every man to have many wives, but you can’t take a job issuing marriage licenses for your state and start issuing licenses for polygamous marriages.

The case of Kim Davis, the county clerk of the court who has refused to issue marriage licenses since the Supreme Court decided Obergefell v. Hodges, is particularly egregious. Ms. Davis ran for office and was elected to her position. When you’re elected to a government post, you don’t get to discriminate against people you don’t like. Ms. Davis isn’t some employee whose corporate bosses won’t provide some reasonable accommodation for her religious beliefs, such as allowing her to use her leave time to take off for her religious holiday.

Ms. Davis is the government and the government can’t discriminate. The Democratic clerk can’t refuse to issue marriage licenses to Republicans and the Republican sheriff can’t refuse to arrest Republicans. If your religion won’t permit you to perform the duties of an office, don’t run for it. If the duties change (as Ms. Davis’ changed, although certainly in a fairly predictable manner) and your religion won’t permit you to perform the duties of your office, then resign.

Now may be a good time for radical Xians to Go Galt for God. Retreat from the world. Stay at home and grow your own vegetables. Move to your own commune. Build a spaceship — you can call it Mayflower II — and head off for a habitable planet or a satellite in space. God may be calling you to Go Galt.

Picture found here.

Wednesday Poetry Blogging

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To the Light of September

~ W.S. Merwin

When you are already here
you appear to be only
a name that tells of you
whether you are present or not

and for now it seems as though
you are still summer
still the high familiar
endless summer
yet with a glint
of bronze in the chill mornings
and the late yellow petals
of the mullein fluttering
on the stalks that lean
over their broken
shadows across the cracked ground

but they all know
that you have come
the seed heads of the sage
the whispering birds
with nowhere to hide you
to keep you for later

you
who fly with them

you who are neither
before nor after
you who arrive
with blue plums
that have fallen through the night

perfect in the dew.

Picture of mullein found here.

Tower Time Reading List

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Have you noticed how many different voices from all over Paganistan are beginning to say essentially the same thing: Shit Is About to Get Real? Byron Ballard summed it all up in the phrase “Tower Time.”

I’d like to propose a short reading list for the revolution.

(1) Dion Fortune’s The Magical Battle of Britain.

(2) George Lakoff’s Don’t Think of an Elephant.

(3) Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals.

(4) Peter Grey’s Apocalyptic Witchcraft.

(5) Muriel Rukeyser’s The Life of Poetry.

Feel free to add your own recommendations in comments.

Picture of the French Goddess Marianne found here.

Monday at the Movies

Now, more relevant than ever . . . .

Sunday Ballet Blogging

Friday Night Come Away Blogging

“You Are Doing Pagan Wrong!” and “Does Our Religion Work?” Blogging

Ukrainian young women dressed in traditional clothing jump over a fire at a traditional Midsummer Night celebration near the capital Kiev late Monday July 6, 2009. The age-old pagan festival is still celebrated in Ukraine and many people believe that jumping over the fire will cleanse them of evil spirits. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

Ukrainian young women dressed in traditional clothing jump over a fire at a traditional Midsummer Night celebration near the capital Kiev late Monday July 6, 2009. The age-old pagan festival is still celebrated in Ukraine and many people believe that jumping over the fire will cleanse them of evil spirits. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

I’m inclined to agree with Anne Niven about this:

I do not believe that the [Goddesses and] Gods rekindled the fires of their worship at this fraught moment in history just so we could carp endlessly at one another. What’s more, all of this fractious in-fighting is going to look a lot like a “fiddling-while-Rome-burns” farce very soon. I’m no climate scientist, so I’ll put away the crystal ball, but when — in five years, or fifteen, or fifty — climate change sweeps away our baroque cultural crenelations, no one is going to give a good Goddess-darn whether the Gods are individual beings or Jungian archetypes.

When Nature speaks, there will only be one question: does our religion work? On a utilitarian level: do our prayers bring rain? (Or send it away, if it has been pouring for forty days and forty nights.) Do Pagans have better, longer lives? Do our communities stick together when the going gets tough? When disaster strikes [our communities], do we rebuild, or look out only for ourselves? In short, the question we need to face is simple: are Pagans people that you can trust with your life?

Throughout history, times like these have resulted in two strikingly opposite results: societal breakdown and disintegration, or conversely, communities rallying to rebuild. We should be asking ourselves: which kind of people are we? This is a time of unprecedented challenge, and it’s high time for those of us who stand within the penumbra of Paganism to concentrate on building communities, neighborhoods, families, and tribes based on mutual respect, trust, and, yes, genuine affection.

In the end, our challenge is to create a culture that brings joy to the downtrodden and inspires us to campaign on behalf of Life, even when that work may seem hopeless. What we need from our religion — and what we owe to the [Goddesses and] Gods — is to build a faith that binds us in a single unbroken web to the living, to the dead, and to the generations that are yet unborn.

Only then will we have created a Paganism that is worthy of survival.

I think that Mandrake is making a similar point in this recent Gods & Radicals post:

And so, fellow Witches, Pagans, energy workers, magic makers, I ask you: what is magic for? Is it simply a means to attain what personal desires drive us? A currency to exchange for goods? Must we receive personal benefit from our magical efforts? At what point do we look at ourselves and our practices, and acknowledge that our personal spiritual work will not heal the damaged ecosystem? When do we get smart enough, or scared enough, to use our will and our energy to work to stem the tide of destruction that is taking place right now, under our noses, in our names? If not in the context of an amazingly well-constructed ritual container, the product of dozens of hands and minds and hearts, where will we find the ability to connect to the very real needs of our Mother Earth?

* * *

This is thankless work, and not everyone is prepared for it; not everyone is mature enough for it; not everyone wants to do it. And yet, it must be done. If not by us, then by who[m]? What will it take to encourage action, if not the love of the beauty of the green Earth, the white Moon among the stars, the mysteries of the waters? We are being called to arise and to go unto Her, to be strong, agile, wise, courageous, and compassionate in whatever capacity we are able. We are being called to act in community, on behalf of the community of innocents who have no voice.

I came down from the mountain with a question pressing on my heart: What is magic for? The only answer I can find is to commit to this work: to connecting to the Earth beneath me, to listening to what She asks of me, and to taking action in Her name. By the Earth that is Her body, I sincerely hope that the seed planted in ritual months ago takes root in those who walked with me in sacred space and that we all can grow in community, for the good of all.

I think it’s wonderful that a new generation of Pagans are questioning how we relate to the Goddesses and Gods. This is how theology happens. I think it’s wonderful that people who have no direct experience of the Goddesses and Gods relate to nature in ways that cause them to become Pagan. I think it’s wonderful that we “olds,” as my friend Atrios would say, have our own kind of mushy, fusty, relationship with nature/Goddesses and Gods/the Wheel of the Year. If Paganism has anything valid to add to civilization, surely diversity, and the celebration of diversity, and the leitmotif that values diversity is one of its greatest gifts.

I had a fascinating conversation the other evening with Occult Librarian who noted that our religion is built upon praxis (practices), more than upon belief. Most of us celebrate the turning of the Wheel of the Year, honor our ancestors, interact with the living Earth, and acknowledge The Mysteries. Most of us attempt to live according to the Ballard Query:

Ain’t you people got no gods to worship? No holy days to celebrate? No Ancestors to deal with, er I mean venerate? In short — don’t you people have some sacred work to do? Justice work? Environmental work? Community weaving?

And that’s enough to make us Pagans, to ensure that we’re “doing Pagan right.”

You know, we may all believe different things. (Heck, I believe different things now, on the knife-edge of sixty, than I did at forty. I expect to believe different things at seventy than I do today.) I imagine that’s not really too different from other religions where, for example, Catholics believe in Saint Muerte, or where many Southern Baptists have had (and believe that, for them, the correct answers were) abortions, or where the Amish, at Starbucks, log onto the internet. What matters is, as Ms. Niven says, how we come together in community to protect the Earth, to create the web that binds us to all of life, how we arrange to celebrate bodies.

What matters, as Mandrake says, is whether, when push gets all the way down to shove, we can :

act in community, on behalf of the community of innocents who have no voice.

I don’t care what Goddesses or Gods you worship. I don’t care what scent of candles you burn. I don’t care whether you first call the elements and then cast your circle or whether you first cast your circle and then call the elements. I don’t care whether you are Vegan or whether you hunt and dress your own meat. I don’t care whether you call yourself Wiccan, Pagan, Druid, Polytheist, Reconstructionist, Hemetic, Greek, Celtic, Heathen, or Fairie. I don’t care whether you make your living selling workshops on Wicca, or doing social work, or selling your music on Patreon, or stepping into the circle of sand with your sword and doing law, or doing subsistence farming, or making computers work, or nursing the sick, or drawing plans for new bridges, or consulting with associations, or prosecuting the accused, or reading tarot.

I want to know whether you can do real magic, get along with others, hex those who are killing the Earth, bless those who are trying to save Her, call the rain, stop the rain, teach the children, knit shawls, preserve herbs. I want to know if you can heal the sick, memorize sacred texts, talk to the stones. I want to know whether you have the Power to Stay Silent, the gift of second sight, an ability to call the ancestors. I want to know if you can dream true dreams. I want to know if you are in relationship with your landbase, watershed, foodshed, fibershed, polis. I want to know if you’ll be there with me in the Dark Moon midnight forest when the Goddess is alive and magic is afoot. Can you call the same winds that blew away the Armada? Can you drum the drums that will stop the enclosures? Can you make the sacrifice that the Algonquian, Iroquoian, Siouan, and Powhatan still want? Do you how how to sacrifice to the animals, pull the Overton Window to the left, slice through the vein that will appease the fire-ravaged land, go out and have sacred sex with the land, hack the computers of empire?

Shit is about to get real and I want to know if I can count on you.

If so, I will gladly call you brother/sister and work with you.

I shan’t be gone long; you come, too.

Picture found here