Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Some of you are probably looking at that title and wondering if my “world class spelling skills” are back. No that is a real word. *Ghosti is a reconstructed Proto Indo-European (PIE) word. The * denotes reconstruction. The word is where the terms host and guest both have evolved from. It deals with refers to the reciprocal relationships of hospitality.
This is an important concept. Many conflicts start where one half of this is ignored. People showing up expecting a gracious host, but forgetting that they themselves are expected to be good guests. Many Indo-European (IE) tales tell of misunderstandings that stem from this flaw. A host forgetting to make sure the guests are all well taken care of, and one of those guests is in fact a deity in disguise (D’OH). Or the “Heroes portion” being disputed.
If we take this to the real world. How often do we see people take umbrage that they were “ignored” by the host. Or that their guests were rude. I can personally admit I recently screwed up with*ghosti at an event. A guest decided to be less than good and bad mouthed the event. I in return publicly berated them. We both failed the *ghosti test.
So in this silly season (the holidays). Will you be a good guest and or a gracious host?
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
In the Neopagan community most arguments center around the “myth of power scarcity”. By this I mean they feel that there is only so much power to go around, and we need to horde it like dragons. How many of us have heard “So and so showed me no disrespect” or “Shop owner X lowered his/her prices just to screw me (Shop owner Y over”? I know I have. I’ve heard even more far-fetched ones.
The fact remains. Power scarcity is a myth. If there are only two Neopagans in an area. There is room for them both. If there is 100, there is room for all ideas, all views, more than one shop or coven or Grove etc.
But we return to the fact people fear loss of power. They see someone doing something they wish to do, meaning they can’t try. They see the success of others, as failure of their own dreams. I know that this has been a pattern I have followed for a long time. As I said the older I get, the less I care.
I recently started reading a rather interesting little book called “Meditations on Violence”. Now yes that is a rather macho title. It is in fact the opposite of Macho. It is a study in the myths of martial arts, and also the myths on self-defense. The author makes one very important observation early on. He is a corrections officer as well as a martial artist, and has a degree in Zoology. If you look at say a wolf pack. The adult male or female does not kill the Pups who get a little… over ambitious with their pl;ay fighting and bite the adult. Indeed they often romp with them. They seem to enjoy it. When adult wolves fight. They don’t fight to the death very often. He then goes onto describe the “monkey dance” which human males undergo.
Step one: What you lookin at?
Step two: I ain’t looking at nothing
Step three mutial self chest beating
Step for PUNCH
He said the best way to not playing in to this, (and by the Gods if I knew this years ago I would have had a less “interesting life” ) is to act bored.
Step one: What you lookin at?
Step Two: *Yawn* Nice day neighbor…looks away.
Power Struggles are like this. If you show boredom at the chest pounding. Show lack of concern for the situation (and by this I don’t mean for the other persons feelings, but that you don’t need their power) it will get diffused 9 times out of 10.
Now that tenth time? That is when the warrior needs to be awake, if appearing bored. I am often thinking to myself.
“Why are they doing this?” Understand where they are coming from
“What are their goals?” Are they really a threat, or are they socially inept, or perhaps just grumpy today?
“What can they do to me?” Seriously, will they physically, verbally, mentally, or spiritually attack me?
“If I back down, what do I loose?” Nothing usually. The wise warrior understands they should pick when, how, and how hard to fight. The last part is easy. Fight to win. You play fair in sparing, and competition. Real fights are to win. Second place is the looser. Know economy of force. If someone starts spreading a rumor to “take power” have evidence to combat this.
For example. “Hey Noinden likes to Tip Cows” is being spread. Responses that could be used “Cow tipping is a myth”, “Ahh so you were in the pasture with me?” “Yawn, sure is a nice day “. The first one leaves you open to the myth spreading. How do you know it’s a Myth? Trial and error? The middle one, is a funny come back, but is an escalation. Use it only if you have to fight, and follow it up with ten or so extra “strikes” do it to win, not for points, there is no gold medal. The last one? Well they will wonder what the hell happened?
Remember there is power for all.
Monday, November 23, 2009
Monday, July 13, 2009
I’ve mentioned here, and else where, that Neopaganism’s greatest strength and weakness is it’s acceptance of differences. By both a strength and weakness I mean that, as a spiritual path, it is theoretically true that anyone will be accepted. That is great. You do not expect to get proselytized at, victimized, or see bigotry. Of course that is just the theory. That is another post for another day. As a weakness, more often than not the community will be afraid to deal with antisocial behavior.
This is where it gets murky. I mean by antisocial behavior, such things as use of elicit substances, allowing minors to partake in activity that is not appropriate to their development, allowing someone to be just a plain old jerk, because it’s not Kosher to tell them not to be like that etc. The acceptance also causes a lethargy in community when it realizes that they have to do something. Most Pagan groups are either lead by consensus OR by (sorry for this) dictatorship.
It is not however healthy for the community, and most non functioning communities, groups, Covens/Groves etc are bogged down from this antisocial behavior.
Now to be fair, many groups that I have seen have a way of dealing with this, that is both fair and equitable. Sadly some don’t. They either do not have a process for dealing with it, or the process is rather biased.
I will give an example:
One of the worst places to get an introduction to Neopaganism is an online group or forum. Yahoo, Usenet, and various Fora, come in two general varieties. Moderated, and Unmoderated. The worst by far are those with no moderation policy, these are the land of flame war, witch war, and abusive behavior. Some of us tend to reside there to provide some stability, but it’s like sticking your finger in a dyke to stop a leak, it never works for long. Moderated groups come in two general forms. Those with a well balanced team of moderators, and rules to try and prevent abuse, and those which have a clique in charge. If you get on the wrong side of that clique, you best be up to the abuse.
That is online interactions, and to be blunt (and this is funny from a blogger), online is not really real life.
In real life there are several ways you will interact with fellow Pagans.
Festivals. Here you will be able to shop, attend workshops, and do ritual. These are supposed to be “neutral ground” and any antagonism kept away. Usually this works. But it will depend on how good the event security is. By good I mean, impartial, effective, and sane.
Meetups, Pub Moots, lectures. Again these are in theory “neutral ground”. Any problem should be dealt too, after the event. Pub moots in particular are renowned for places to hear people speak ill of others. Alcohol is a great remover of social niceties. I say this after having worked Bar Security for many years as an undergraduate and early post graduate student.
Covens, Groves meetings, rituals etc. One would hope that any Coven or Grove (insert other name here for your faith) would have vetted their members early on. But the older and larger the group. The more likely there will be long standing issues. Here it is the job of the leader to retain control, unless it is a consensus driven group. I would note, that consensus driven groups have less issues, but also achieve less.
So lets get to the meat/tofu (for the Vegans who read) of the post.
The Weeds in the Garden.
Any group of more than 2 people (and then perhaps even 2) will have the potential for personality clashes. Add spirituality, and a power structure to this, and you shall see a much better chance of problems.
These problems are usually things that if every one asked “what do you mean by ….?”, “Hey did you really say…?” or “Could you clarify this?” then nothing would happen. But every now and again you get someone show up (or change into) a social nightmare.
In the case of public events, this nightmare could be as simple as someone smoking an illicit substance, or drinking (when it’s illegal) and getting militant that they don’t follow that law. It is why I specify in any Public event I’ve run, or helped run “No Alcohol or Drugs”. Weapons are a similar issue. In any of those cases, it would be a legal and PR nightmare if the Police showed up, and found something like this. It would be a disaster for that area’s Pagans, and father afield if the Media took hold of the story. The correct way to deal with this is to ask the peson to stop, if they will not, then they must go.
Another issue that may occur is socially unacceptable behavior will occur. One of the most common in Pagan circles is sadly older men and women, getting into relationships with younger persons. I personally have no tolerance for anyone “dating” anyone who is not the age of consent. Sadly Pagans tend to “turn a blind eye” and gossip about it. My local pagan scene has several people who have done this, and not a single reprimand, attempted intervention, or consequence has occurred. It is one of the reasons I am reluctant to interact with the community.
Sadly as Neopaganism (and heathenism) become more prevalent, we also attract people at the extreme fringes of society. Gangmembers, racists, convicts, etc. These are people who if they cause a problem, I call the weeds (hence the title of this blog entry). I’ve seen perfectly functional groups implode when you get any of these people.
Lets take the most destructive in my opinion. The racists and bigots. I’ve sadly encountered several of these creatures over the years.
My first introduction was back in 2002. I was helping run a Student Pagan Network. The Law Speaker (president) was a very liberal Asatruar. We had a woman show up claiming to be an Asatruar, and all seemed ok. Then one day we got on to the topic of politics. The new “Asatruar” when it came to her turn proudly proclaimed “I am a Third positionist” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third_Position) this is sadly a nice way saying they are right wing bigots. It is what many Neo-Nazi, racist, and bigoted groups hide themselves under. In the end we had to politely tell her we were not comfortable with her presence. We could not ban her (it was against the groups student charter), but she left. I later found out she was in fact a “Satanist” (unspecified allegiance to any group) who was looking for recruits.
In 2007 I helped run an alternative to Pagan Pride Day (which had been canceled, and has yet to happen again). We called it the “Gathering”. I will not go into the organizational issues, as they are not really relevant here. We did however get one person who ruined the whole event. He claimed again to be an Asatruar (I am not picking on this group for the record). He was dressed in a paramilitary manner (camouflage Jacket, black cargo pants, army boots, etc). Over the course of the day he proceeded to alienate every one. He began by trying to assert his superiority to all. He stalked a woman, to the point she asked several of us to be “escorts” when she had to do something. He encouraged some children to play dangerously with fire, and he began to preach sedition, uprising and a number of questionable ideas towards the government. I also caught glimpse of him having several non legal knives, and what appeared to be a hand gun under his jacket. I note this as Wisconsin does NOT allow concealed carry or open carry of hand guns. Later checking would show that this person had a non molestation order from a young woman he had stalked. He was also a school teacher.
What I found so disturbing about this gentleman was not so much he existed, or found us. No. Rather the response of the community leaders. The leader of a Pagan group for the area, was adamant that he could not be “banned” from attending. Despite all the evidence (stalking of a Pagan community member, anti social behavior, and apparent armed nature). The woman at the even he had stalked had been previously harassed/stalked by her ex husband. The community leader who was refusing to act, herself had had some very bad experiences. The gentleman showed up several more times at other events and businesses, yet still the community leadership would do nothing. Other than gossip, kibitz, and bemoan he was there.
The Gentleman was a weed.
He is not the sort of person a community wants. He was unstable, but not in the “if they stay on meds they are fine” type or the “they have good and bad times” type. He was the dangerously unstable type.
Another example, which made the media. Was of a woman in an area near where I live (Milwaukee) being arrested by police for several things. The story boils down to, she illegally burned various items including tires, and plastic, while listening to her iPod. The police arrested her, and her defense was it was a “Wiccan ritual” (burning plastic and tires? Really? Wow Wicca must have dropped the “respect mother earth” aspect since I last investigated the faith). She claimed it was religious persecution and her rights of religious freedom were violated.
I was at a Pub moot the day after his happened. A leader at the moot stood on the table, and proclaimed a number of things, all without the whole story. I remember putting a hand to my head and muttering how stupid this all was. Why defend a person obviously trying to play the bigotry card? My view probably would not have been to popular to be honest.
Ok what if YOU are the weed?
Well I say this as it is very likely you will find a group that does not fit your needs, views, or whatever. Or you will become embroiled in an argument that can not be solved. I personally became a weed to one small community of late. My stance on lawfulness, responsibility along with many poor decisions of my own, made my presence disruptive. I made the choice to walk away. To “weed” myself out. I do not regret this. I unsubscribed from all the lists, I stopped attending events held in that area of town. I cut all contacts. I found I am much happier. I also hear that my absence has not changed the group what so ever. Thus I realize I made the right decision. I am no longer the agitator (by my presence) or the convenient scapegoat for them.
So what does this have to do with being a warrior?
Well firstly it emphasizes responsibility, duty, and honor. But secondly, you may find yourself in a place where you have to do the weeding!
Here is what I recommend.
(a) Be polite but forceful
(b) Don’t ever (EVER) antagonize them.
(c) Make sure you are acting in accordance to the wishes of others (if you are in a consensus based group) OR you have the authority to make this decision.
My last example I will use, is one I will be understandably vague about. In a group I belong too, it became known to us, a member was planning on coming to events and ritual illegally armed. This was against the laws of the group, and many states (where this person could appear) laws. Further this person had previously been an agitator in discussions, and had a terrible attitude to most others. The decision was taken to send the groups standard way of dealing with this a letter that is euphemistically called “Dear weed” and the use of the letter as "Weeding the Garden".
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Ok this is a term that comes up quite often in pagan circles. What they are usually talking about is behaving yourself during ritual.It is not the main part of my blog today, however since it comes up so often, lets skim itTurn your cell phone off (and leave it outside circle) also don’t talk away during ritualDo not disturb the people running it to enforce YOUR wishes. If the ritual is not being run in your preferred style (and face it there are many styles which work and exist) do not come back, or politely discuss why it was done a certain way, AFTER the ritual.Do not walk in and out of circle (unless you are told you can).Be straight (in chemical dependency terms) so do not be drunk, stoned, high, smokes a cigarette.Find out the dress code before hand. By this I mean, if it does not explicitly state, “sky clad” do not come into circle naked and wonder why they are not happy.Don’t carry your atheme or similar ritual tool in a menacing manner.What happens in circle STAYS in circle. Unless otherwise stated.That is a quick and dirty run down of what is usually expected. Many variant forms exist, but the general rule is “do not be a jerk” and you will be fine.Ok my blog on ritual etiquette is actually about how I think you should act to other beings during a ritual.This post stems from a list post to a group I belong to. Some one who has a Ceremonial Magician friend was wondering about this Ceremonials shock that the group I belong too (the ADF) not having what he considered “appropriate countermeasures” for the beings we deal with.It simply is a difference in attitude and etiquette.How do you deal with the various beings in your rituals and occult life? This CAN be humans (and I will give examples) but also deities, land spirits, ancestors, demons, angles, power animals etc (note I don’t actually deal with all of these and shall limit my self to Land spirits deities, ancestors and “out dwellers” but feel free to work out how your various beings fit into this :)In any ritual I design, run, or have a say in. I tend to take the same approach to “mystical beings”. Which is, be respectful, but don’t grovel, and treat them as any other being. Again do not be a jerk.I never invoke or evoke a being in a manner, which seems to order them, command them, or tell them what to do. I invite them in.For example I will invite the deities of the ritual in by name, asking them to join us.Similarly I will ask the spirits of the land and ancestors of those taking part to be with us.No “I command you to appear”. To me the Gods and Ancestors are respected members of my tribe/clan/tuath. I would not want a kid in my family telling me to “come here now” and be rewarded with me doing just that. It is bad behavior. So why would I do that to my Gods? I show particular reverence to the Irish Deity known as the Morrigan. Anyone who has read the stories of her knows what pissing her off does. It is not a great way to live a long life.So I invite them in. If they choose to come. More power to me (and them). I also offer them hospitality (a drink and a bite to eat). It for me is the traditional and ethical way to honor a guest.So The Gods Spirits of the land and the Ancestors are each asked to attend. There is no command. It is a simple non RSVP invitation.Which brings the subject of what is to be considered a God, a Land Spirit and an Ancestor.I am using terminology, which the ADF calls the 3 kindreds. But the premise is, that there are three types of spiritual being which you might interact with.There are Ancestors. Most commonly these are blood relatives, recently passed, or long gone, but long remembered. It can also be heroes of your people (I would cite Sir Edmund Hillary and Sir Peter Blake as two for me, being a New Zealander).Spirits of the Land. Various cultures give them names. They are the spirits that inhabit a piece of land. They are unique to the place. They may be primal or sophisticated.Deities. Ok this is where Pagans usually have the most difference of opinion. As a hard polythiest, I am of the opinion that every deity is unique, and real. Including the Abrahamic one. That being said. To me there is no supreme being, they are not omnipotent or onipresent. They are fallible. That being said. There are my “Gods of worship” and within those my Matron, the Morrigan. I develop a personal relationship with them, and her in particular.Other deities are still deities, just not MY deities. I am polite, but disinterested.Some pagans see all deities as a face of a whole (be it all goddess are an aspect of THE Goddess, and all gods are an aspect of THE God, or be it every deity is a piece of the whole).What about out dwellers and Outsiders?Ok So Outsiders I have touched up. Outsider Deities. Gods and Goddesses who I do not worship. Be they not part of the pantheon I follow, or be they something else (like the Abrahamic Deity).Outdwellers are beings at the edge, or beyond my cultural spiritual framework.Indo-European cultures had a caste based system. The intellectuals (Priests, Druids, Flamen, Brahman etc) the Nobles (the warrior elite) and the Producers (Farmers, artisans, etc). Each on some level had a fourth caste. Even if it was not formal. Thralls, those the Druids had removed rites of sacrifice (excommunication, but to the point of you having NO rights), the Hindu “unclean”. There was also the mad and crippled at the edge of society. Beyond the society there was the outsider, they had different rites in different groups at different times.Spiritually, there are beings like Angles and Demons, whom to me are Outdwellers. Not gods, but spiritual beings who are not part of my path. There are also beings like the Tuatha De Domman (Fomaire) Titans, They are antagonists to De Dannan. Also there are the Fir Bolg.You do not go out of your way to annoy them. Indeed I often make an offering before ritual for just them.So the first and most important rule is in many ways. Don’t be a jerk. Or more importantly. Be hospitaipal. Chances are they will be hospitaipal back.Now you are in ritual. Every one (human or spiritual being is behaving) and someone or something comes along and tries to mess with that. This could be the perennial “Sorry I am late can I jump in” pagan who is running on PST (pagan standard Time). Or it could be a nosey land spirit who was sleeping, a deity who crashes the party (I am looking at you Bacchus!) etc. The way to handle any of these is much the same.I prefer rituals with the warriors (or Dragons or some similar name for ritual security) on the outside (and able to come inside) prepared for this. You calmly explain to the being “You are late, if the preist/preistess want to let you in they will indicate that”. Generally people take this polite but firm “wait” with grace. If they do not, you call in back up. I’ve never encountered a spiritual being who did not wait. I have encountered humans who feel entitled to this.Similarly if you have a problem inside ritual. Chances are it is a human. I have seen rituals where someone spat (in disgust) at someone over a long standing (and childish) grudge. It was let pass at the time, and the person dealt with before the next time. But a Warrior could (if the person running it wants this) walk someone out of circle. It is again your job.Ok but what if a spiritual being acts up. Well personally the Gods have always been above reproach (this means they follow what the ritual is about, so if it is Beltane, the Dagda has been known to be frisky, Bacchus wants the grog, and Loki can play pranks, that might be a little cruel). The land spirits are similarly nice. Ancestors…. Those on the other hand might decided to chide a decendant. This is usually during Samhain (when they are in abundance).My advices… keep out of it. Help the person after, but don’t get involved in a “family domestic”.After the ritual is over. Don’t dismiss the beings. It’s again rude. They will stick around as long as they like anyway! Do not miss out on a chance to interact with them either. My best moments with the Morrigan are after ritual. I was chilling out, in the dark, alone. A raven settled near me and eyed me up. Then another, then a third. I shared my ritual bread with them, and felt at peace. It was quiet and deep.It returns to not being a jerk. Consider you ritual as a party (with a purpose) and the beings your guests. You should consider that some will hang around past when you are ready, and cope.For the Warrior, this means staying on guard. Know the local customs. One example I beat many Americans over the head with, is the First Nations peoples, in general, consider that the pouring of Alcohol on the ground, as poisoning the earth. I follow not doing it (I burn it like any good pyro). A person I know said when I stopped her “well they can get stuffed (actually they used an Anglo Saxon word) my ancestors did this”. While you can do it. Chances are YOUR ancestors did NOT do this in North America. They did it somewhere else, where it was seen as ok by the local Land Spirits (the way the alcohol is given to them in Germanic cultures was often pouring some on the land). Find out what you can, and develop a relationship with the spirits. Each is different than the other.After a ritual, watch to make sure people seem grounded. If they are not. Ask them if they need help. Or just listen, talk, be there. Clean up after every one (or ask them too help). This goes energetically as well.Before the ritual make sure every thing is in order. Fire permits, the authorities know you are there and why (if public land) or at least not to freak out. Every one is legally compliant (no weapons, drugs, etc). Ground yourself, and be ready.Etiquette is deeper than this, but this is a start. The beings are just as important as those humans taking part. Don’t be a jerk ;)
Monday, April 27, 2009
Monday, April 20, 2009
Friday, April 3, 2009
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Monday, January 26, 2009
PS yes this post was pointed at some people (Fearn, Amanda *Wave*)