Tag Archives: Pagan Pride

Putting the “Pride” in Pagan Pride Events

Star Foster has written an important post: Why I Love Wicca. It’s especially important for anyone involved in organizing Pagan Pride events and/or interacting with the media. You should read the whole thing, but here’s a taste:

We are a religion of many sects, many cults, many expressions. From the “hard Gards” to the solitary eclectics weaving their own magic. We are each full of the same awe, wonder, mystery, and joy. We cast the circle, call the elements, honor the Gods, celebrate the Mystery and send our energy to make a positive change in the world. This happens in rituals containing hundreds of people. This happens silently in candlelit bedrooms of closeted solitaries. Our words may be different, our mythos vary and the details be different, but as Wiccans we are all calling forth the same Mystery. Maybe this Mystery is something passed down in secret from the ancient Pagans of England and Italy, maybe the distillation of the grimoire tradition, the torch of the Neo-Platonists passed down over the centuries, or a bit of divine inspiration as a goaty old man in England crafted a new Eleusis out of thin air.

We adore a Goddess as silvery as the moon, who despite her tough, craggy, pocked and cratered face shines with grace and beauty. Delicate and gentle in the night sky, those who underestimate her forget she can make the sea itself beat against the shore. She pours her love out upon the earth, on every sexual and gender identity, on every skin color, on every age, every level of ability. She gives us her acceptance and love, for we are born from her blessed, without blemish or sin. Then she charges us to make the absolute best we can with the current life we are given, to recognize our power and rise to every challenge, before we return to her, like a rain drop returning to the boundless sea. It is she who brings the dew, makes verdant the seed and excites all the earth to fecund glory. She is the changing woman, always moving, always perfectly herself and never quite who you expect.

We adore a God who is hunter and hunted, who is the dark forest and the baking desert, the deep blackness of death and decay and also the white hot heat of the blazing sun. He is the keeper of the dead and the guide to rebirth. Maybe you see him antlered, horned and hooved, as a crowned solar king, as a child of promise, as continually battling siblings, or as the dark lord of death. Maybe he is just that still point when you find the rhythm of your work, or the spark of vitality as you glide across the dance floor. He is the insistent drumbeat of the wild hunt, tearing through the night skies and dancing round a sacred bonfire, and the quiet stillpoint where you face your own darkness and mortality. He is the one who rises to fall, then in triumph to rise again.

Consider the Circle, this round temple under the night sky and beneath the radiant sun, this energetic expression of our worldview. The Circle surrounds us. It arcs over us, and dips below us. We are encapsulated by energy, both to keep our energy within, and to keep the spirit equivalents of “rubber-neckers” away. It takes a lot to build this Circle, to have all the pieces in place, and you really only notice that because when you begin to bring it down there is an energetic domino effect. You pull that energetic string or shift that energetic keystone and it all cascades down, returning to the earth. It’s really beautiful, this temple that is a place that is not a place, a time that is not a time, that is the same circle, that same shape, all the world over.

Regular readers will know that I harp, a lot, about well-meaning Pagans who bungle interactions with the media. I’ve been happy this Autumn to get the chance to highlight some examples of Pagans using good framing when they announce their events. I’m seeing (thank the Goddess) more examples where people don’t go on about what Pagans don’t do or who Pagans don’t worship. And that’s all to the good, because, as Lakoff teaches us, when you invoke a negative frame, all that you manage to do is to reinforce that frame.

I also harp a lot about knowing your why, being really clear on your own objectives and intent before you send out a press release or agree to be interviewed. Star Foster’s post is a great example of a Pagan discussing what it is about her Pagan religion that makes her proud. I’d love to see more of that sort of discussion in, for example, announcements concerning Pagan Pride events. What if, instead of saying, that the purpose of your local Pagan Pride Day was to educate the public about Paganism, you said that the purpose was for local Pagans to celebrate and share some of the things about Paganism that make them feel happy and proud? What if you said, as Star Foster does:

This is what Wicca means to me. This is what I’m in love with, the dance, the tension, the sorrow and the joy. It’s what I discovered as a young girl that made me feel as if I’d finally come home.

Of course, use your own words. Include examples from the broad spectrum of Pagan religions in your local area. But a day devoted to pride, ought, don’t you think, to focus on what it is about this path that you most want to celebrate? Do that, and you’ll (almost like magic) create a positive frame for your message.

Picture found here.

And They Were Doing So Well . . . .

I recently suggested that people organizing or attending Pagan Pride events spend time making lists of the reasons why they’re proud to be Pagans. And in a number of posts, I’ve emphasized the importance of being clear about your own objectives before you talk to the press. Both of these steps are helpful when you’re trying to frame your message in a positive way.

Here’s an article and interview about a Pagan Pride Day in Portland that is really great . . . right up until the very end.

The Pagan being interviewed starts off with positive information. She does what I think is a great job of handling the question: “What are some of the most common misconceptions about paganism?” responding in a way that indicates that Pagans “come from all walks of life. We’re nurses, business executives, entrepreneurs and teachers.” All good.

The very last question, “What are your goals for Pagan Pride Day?” should be easy to answer. In fact, the introductory article already said, “she’s excited at the prospect of bringing pagans from many different paths to the oak grove that Portlanders think of as Oaks Amusement Park. The day will be an opportunity for pagans to learn more about each other and the spiritual paths they’ve chosen and, she hopes, a chance for those who are curious about paganism to ask questions.” Repeating that would sum up the interview nicely. Instead, here’s the actual answer to the question, “What are your goals for Pagan Pride Day?”

We’d like to open up communications among our pagan community and to allow people who are not pagans to see us and understand that we are not devil worshipers. We are moral, ethical and spiritual people who love our Mother. As far as pagans are concerned, Satan is a Christian idea, and satanists are not pagan.

But charity is part of the pagan path. We’ll be accepting donations for Esther’s Pantry, a food pantry for people with HIV/AIDS who have special diet needs, and for the Pongo Fund, which provides food for the pets of homeless and low income people. We’ll collect magical items for soldiers serving overseas — brass bells, white candles, books on paganism — and donations for Other Worlds of Wonder.

Look, collecting for charity is great, but that’s not the goal of a Pagan Pride Day. Here’s where having a list of reasons why you’re proud of Paganism would be really useful. Here’s where being clear on your own objectives before you talk to the press would be helpful.

And here’s where you have no business in the world talking about Satan. Please. People. I’m begging you. Look, even if your one objective in life WERE to somehow convince the small group of people who do actually equate Paganism with worshiping Satan (most of whom have their minds firmly made up and aren’t going to be swayed, no matter what you say), holding a Pagan Pride Day is no way to achieve that objective. 99.9% of the people who will attend your Pagan Pride Day are either already Pagan or are seriously interested in becoming Pagan. If you really do want to work at convincing people that Pagans don’t worship Satan, join you local interfaith group. At some point, someone may ask you if you worship Satan and then, and only then, and hopefully after people have come to know you as a person of integrity and compassion, can you pipe up about how Pagans don’t worship Satan. Otherwise, Pagans, please, shut up about Satan.

Picture found here.

Make a List

September and October are prime months for Pagan Pride events. If you’re organizing, or planning on attending, one, I have a recommendation for you: Make a list (well ahead of time) of what makes you proud to be a Pagan. What Pagan accomplishments make you proud? Which of your (your coven’s, your grove’s, your circle’s) accomplishments will you be celebrating on Pagan Pride Day?

There’s a difference between, on the one hand, being proud of something and, on the other hand, not being ashamed. And within that difference lies the foundation for good framing.

Too often, IMHO, events that are labeled “Pagan Pride” aren’t so much about pride as they are about not having anything to be ashamed of. (I did it; I ended that sentence with a preposition. It’s not something of which I’m proud. ;)) And I think that the failure to recognize the difference and to spend some time thinking about why you’re proud to be a Pagan may be part of what leads to the far-too-common framing mistakes we see whenever Pagans communicate with the media about Pagan Pride events. You know what I mean:

The organizers for Sandy Point Pagan Pride Day say that they want to dispel misperceptions that some people have about Pagans. “We don’t worship Satan or cast evil spells,” said Wendy Wiccan. “People discriminate against us because they don’t understand us or because they think that what we do is evil,” added her co-chair, David Druid.

I imagine there are hundreds of reasons to be proud of Paganism and that different groups might list very different kinds of achievements. Coming up with that list, though, is part of the groundwork for good framing, just as working hard on your intent for a magic-working lays the groundwork for successful magic. Once it’s refined, that list would make a great handout to accompany your press release. It would be useful to post on your website. It would be a good thing to hand out to everyone who attends the event. It might make a great t-shirt. Maybe you could put up poster board and ask attendees to list their own reasons. Seeing what your attendees say could lead to an interesting post-event debriefing and be the basis for planning next year’s event. But most of all, it will give you a good opening paragraph for your press release and a great fall-back in case you get asked questions you hadn’t anticipated. It will (hopefully) keep you focused on what you want to achieve (just like in a good spell) and not on what you want to eliminate. Power follows attention.

So spend some time coming up with your list. I’ll start with some examples; feel free you add your own in comments or at your own blog.

I’m proud that Pagans invented: art, music, poetry, dance, theatre, agriculture, religion, ceremonies for the dead, architecture, astronomy, philosophy, democracy, metallurgy, medicine, pottery, jewelry, clothing, sewing, weaving, net-making, law, mathematics, roads, aqueducts, calendars, cooking . . . .

I’m proud that Pagans recognize the divine feminine.

I’m proud that modern Pagans are coming to recognize the divine QUILTBAG.

I’m proud that Pagans worship Nature and help modern people to connect to Nature.

I’m proud that Pagans respect diversity, including religious diversity.

I’m proud that my coven does political magic focused on our local biosphere.

I’m proud that I’ve been growing as a Pagan for over two decades.

I’m proud that my own practice has come to focus more and more on my own landbase.

I’m proud that Pagans are standing up to hate groups such as the New Apostolic Reformation and especially to its DC40 action.

I’m proud of the work that Pagans do as healers, lawyers, teachers, parents, authors, musicians, bloggers, first responders, farmers, artists . . . .

Now, you.

Picture found here.

Framing the Discussion

Everybody knows that I’m a one-note crazy woman, always harping on how Pagans need to learn framing.

Maybe it’s my training as a lawyer. Maybe it’s my stubborn Moon in Taurus. Maybe it’s my Ascendent Gemini understanding that how you express yourself is as (if not more than) important as what you say. Or maybe it’s because so many well-meaning Pagans start off on a defensive foot, immediately undercutting their message. We’re heading into the season of Pagan Pride events, and (fair warning) I’m going to ramp up my rants about framing.

Gus diZerega writes one of the best blogs in Pagondom and if you don’t read him regularly, you should. He’s got a brilliant post about arguing (having a nice discussion) with a Christian Evangelical at Starbucks (because Gus has about 1,000 to the 1,000th power more patience and kindness than I will EVER have). And you need to read the post (it’s not long) to watch how skillfully Gus handles framing. Please. If you are EVER even maybe, possibly, likely, kindamaybesorta going to talk to the press (or Evangelicals at Starbucks) go read Gus’ post.
Here’s just a taste:

So we began. I stayed friendly but I never allowed him to set the terms of the discussion because, frankly, I find those terms and assumptions ludicrous. For example, John wanted me to acknowledge [that] if there was a deity, that deity owned the earth. Therefore everything we had[,] we owed to Him, and even our acts of generosity towards others were false because we acted with goods we did not own unless we were at peace with God. This is the perversion of spirituality that comes from injecting eonomics into religion.

I told him I did not think ‘God’ owned anything, which implied distance between God and the world. Rather the Sacred was in everything. I wanted him on my turf because then we could have an interesting conversation and he might learn something to deepen his understanding (emphasis added).

John’s most common tactic was to try and emphasize what we had in common once he knew I was not an atheist, trying to build a bridge between us. Normally I am into bridge building, but only when the other side is willing to respect mine. I knew this was not the case with any evangelicals I had ever met. The tactic was to open us up for the sales pitch that would inevitably come.

Consequently whenever he remarked on how much we had in common I would return to what we did not have in common, particularly their claims they were the only true [religion] and that there was something particularly special about Christian morality or practice.

I said of course we have some things in common, but there is even more that divides us. I have never seen in theory or behavior anything to set Christians aside as uniquely special ethically. Where’s the evidence? Also, while you have not said it, you believe you have the one true path. I say there is no such path. While you have not said it, you also believe all alternative religions are deluded, demonic, or deeply in error. I do not. He did not contest my statements. He could not and still be an evangelical.

Go, thou, and do likewise.

Picture found here.