Monday, March 3, 2008

Pagans and the Law.

This is a topic many in the community hate to see, as it actually implies that we “shock horror” have to conform to societies norms on some level. At one time Neopagans were at the edge of society, the rich and strange or the hippy. But never middle class normal. Sometime around the mid 1990’s this began to change on a few levels. Thanks to Practical Magic, Charmed, etc Pagans became an acceptable path to the majority of society. Sure the ultra hard right still saw us as dangerous weirdoes and used us as excuses for many things, attacked us even, but on a whole, wearing a pentacle (if that was your thing) was no longer painting a bulls eye on your back! With this acceptance came the realization, we could be more public in what we did. Public ritual became commonplace. Indeed some of the best Pagan festivals are open to all, in the middle of cities, or at least in easy reach. So when we went public, certain things had to change. Ritual nudity was not a great idea, and the “great rite” went to a symbolic thing (the arrival of HIV also had a big part in this). What some realized and others did not, is our ritual tools were also something to reconsider. Every decent pagan ritual usually involves fire. Funny thing about fire is the authorities tend to worry about it. Thus the people running a ritual really should invest in training as fire wardens (accredited training) and also getting a fire permit. Imagine if a large fire was sparked by a careless ritual, the media would probably not be too understanding. Ritual Knives, swords, Staves, sickles, and even wands. If it looks like an offensive weapon, if it can be used as one, then it IS an offensive weapon. The law will not differentiate “ceremonial” over “functional”, so it’s wise to either talk to the law first, or not use them. Use of illegal substances in public. This can range from alcohol to hallucinogenic, and every thing in-between! No just no is all I have to say to this. No alcohol in public, and absolutely nothing that can get you arrested. Just don’t. End of story. This leads to the point of “attitude”. Be polite, be calm. Show the police, fire service, or security guard the utmost respect, even if they are idiots. Kerr Chulainn gives the best advice for a ritual in progress that the police try to stop: Stop and listen to them, place the items that may be “weapons” under the alter or the center of the circle, you can reconsecrate them later and they HAVE to be returned anyway (as they are holy items) step out of the circle (you can ground later, it’s not going to kill you or end the world, no matter what some people think), and obey them (gun beats knife). DO NOT try to cut a door in the circle (that will be brandishing a weapon to the police). Ok what rights do we have? The same as every one else. Neopaganism is a religion, and in the USA and most of the Western world, it is free from obstacles. HOWEVER: We are no MORE entitled than any other to practice what we do (i.e. we can not demand reparation for centuries of mistreatment or whatever) but we cannot be persecuted for what we do either. Many Afro-Caribbean Mesopagan faiths (Voodoo, hoodoo, etc) have won court cases to be allowed to follow their faith with out persecution, thus by extension we can too. Find a nice pagan friendly lawyer if people start to question your rights! Ok so we have duties and rights, remember that we have both! Not just rights. Act like a responsible adult, and try to enforce it in the community. If the community will not listen, don’t be a part of it, as the law and the media will not make the distinction between members!

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