Monday, October 11, 2010

"I don’t follow the norms of society. " So what do we do?


I don’t know about the rest of you, but for me this is a red flag for concern when I hear it from someone, when they are explaining their behaviors. While it could be said, being a Neopagan is of it’s self shucking the conventions of society, that is both debatable, and minor. Often one hears this sort of comment when something that is highly questionable occurs. It can be from those who decide that they want to “Turn on, tune in, drop out” and honestly that is probably also a minor concern. What people decide to do to their own perceptions, in their own time, is their own business. However if they decide to do it at a public venue, while loudly claiming it is their “pagan right”… then it is something to be concerned about! Pagans have fought tooth and nail to become somewhat accepted by society, and someone deciding they are going to flaunt a law they (and perhaps no one else) dislikes, is both discourteous to the pagan community, and willfully ignorant (of the consequences).

However there are even more dangerous conventions some will flaunt. Sadly one of the most common “conventions” that certain memebers of out community decide they wish to not follow, is the age of consent. I am not one hundred percent sure why males (and it’s almost always males) decide it’s ok to take on female students and then proceed to bed them? I’ve seen the arguments that there is “nothing wrong with sexuality” or “it’s an ancient tradition”. Lets look at both of these.

Indeed there is nothing wrong with “Sexuality” however in the role of teacher, it is our moral obligation to keep ourselves distant from certain aspects of our students. Taking a student on, just because we want to sleep with them, is disingenuous to the student, and ourselves. Also if age is a concern (ie you are breaking the local age of consent laws), you are endangering the entire community, by not keeping it zipped.

Ancient traditions that are no longer observed like this are usually no longer observed for a reason. Indeed other ancient traditions include, cattle raiding your neighbors, single combat to find the truth, and the cutting off of the heads of ones enemies, preserving them in oil, and a keeping them in a cedar box, to bring out to entertain important guests. I sometimes wonder how the people who flaunt sensible laws, under the guise would feel about the reintroduction of some of those other ancient traditions?

Thus the warrior needs to be aware of both the rules of the greater society that we live in, as well as the wishes of the community they serve. If the two are opposed, they need to remind the community of the consequences of actions. While that ides not stop the Warrior from acting for the community it does at least remind the community of a potential outcome of actions. In the end the warrior can always beg out of an action, based upon their own moral compass.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

It’s my right to attack your path

How often do we see this? I’m not talking about asking questions about “why do you do it that way” or “I’d never ever do that”. Those are discussions of Orthopraxy.

No what I am talking about is the very common phenomena of “You are so wrong on that it’s not funny, but don’t worry I will harass you till I get you to recant your evil ways”.

Neopaganism has a nice fallacy that “If my personal code says it’s ok to do this, every one has to agree”. I call it a fallacy, as it holds as long as it does not impact another person. So it holds, up until the point that someone begins to affect someone else. If I were a Wiccan (which I am not) I would talk to the rede with “If it harms done, do as you will”. The point where it harms someone, you just violated that guideline. My own personal path would be the rules of hospitality. One should be a gracious host, and a good guest. When one stops being that, it’s time to go home, and not be at the adults table anymore.

So what sort of behaviors does this entail. Many of us will have seen, heard, or read about rituals that degenerate into nasty arguments over “you are banishing the elements wrong!” Discussions like this should be reserved for after the ritual, yet some one will take it upon themselves to be the Pagan equivalent of a barracks room lawyer.

Recently I was posting on a board, and got accosted by a previous acquaintance . I had been posting that if I was running a ritual, and attached the name ADF to the ritual I would have to be using the COoR, it’s part of the deal with being part of ADF, you use COoR in public rituals if you call it an ADF ritual, end of story.

What proceeded after this was a nasty case of toy throwing, and bad boorish behavior. The poster proceeded to say all organized groups were evil, and that the tribal nature of them meant that outsiders were singled out for abuse. He then degenerated to posting private posts from my Facebook, out of context. Which is technically a crime in New Zealand (viz the Privacy of Information act, this is a boarder line incident, hence I use the term “technically”).

His excuse for this behavior, it is his “great work” to fight against organized pagan groups.

That is nice. If he had been doing it in a constructive manner, he might have made his point, but swearing, insulting, threatening, and posting private information, is basically the equivalent of a small dog on the end of a leash yapping, spinning, and snarling. No one really takes them seriously, and you apply the rubber stamp “wanker” to them.

The point on this is the moment he decided, that “Because Gareth is in an Oragnized group he is a target”, he broke the rule of hospitality. A Warrior can choose not to respond to threats, but he should never turn his back on them. That is blatant stupidity. To politely challenge them is a good first step. Sadly in this case (as of this typing) he’s gone on to attack others who have told him to chill out.

So a warrior gets to “protect” their territory. That is vitally important. It comes back to the concept of the Ape Dance. Young male Apes will gather as a group, and get into the face of those they perceive as “weaker” or “in a precarious” position. The bet response is to act bored, and stare them down. It short circuits their “logic” circuits. Indeed a firm, and definite, but non agitated response, will totally shut them down. I’ve seen bouncers and cops, calmly apply a restraint technique, while talking to colleagues, and the person who required it, is wondering what just hit them.

Now there are some caveats here. Many of these arguments occur online, and with out subtle hints body language and facial expression give humans.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Respect is given not earned.


Our ancestors generally had a prohibition against waring againt themselves. It was considered a highly undesirable pastime. It’s why Druids could theoretically walk between waring armies and call a halt to the battle. Our ancestors respected authority. Indeed our ancestors were big on respect. Insults were saved for ones foes, and those in need of a good reminded of what a culture found virtuous.

Yet today, respect seems to be a thing seldom found. We’ve cheapened lives, communication once crafted carefully and following a set of rules, is now “instant”. Where we once walked to the boarder of our lands, and talked to the other tribes, and would agree not to steal each others cattle too often, let alone go to war. Now we jump online, and type off a missive, which may or may not have meant what we meant it to say. Today we are “literate” yet we are not. People don’t take the time to check the meaning of a word, or to read another’s email. It’s about who shouts loudest.

So where does this put a Warrior? In the past (even well into Christian times) Warriors went about armed. To carelessly throw words about, was inviting some to try and remove bits of you with their weapons. So there were codes of conduct. Distilling it down it came down to this. Don’t show disrespect (at least publically) to anyone, be civil, and don’t be an ass.

If we look at a number of Warrior cultures, we see they expected the warrior to be eloquent, able to recite, and create poetry. Cowardice was not just running away in battle, but it was also how you acted in battle. More often than not the Warriors would give the other side “quarter” when asked for. That other side would slink off (or sit quietly) and not cause trouble. Bloodshed was not quite as indiscriminant at portrayed. Mind you at times it was, if you pissed the Roman off, they tend to wipe you off the face of the planet, just ask Carthange, Vercengetorix, or the Druids of Anglesey….oops you can’t. But if you look at history, Carthage and the Gauls both were well warned, and the massacre on Anglesey might actually never have happened!

So lets return to the point. As modern warriors, we need to be respectful, and mindful of others. We should never go to war on our own tribe. Warriors don’t suddenly go berserk for no good reason.

Indeed the Berserkers were worked up into the rage and probably took some interesting substances to get there. They were not allowed back in to society, till cleansed (or at least they bathed, and were calm). Similarly Cu Cuhlain, when he was in warp spasm had a way out (being thrust into barrels of cold water). We need to be mindful, that the warrior is capable (due to training) of causing extreme hurt, but that that is, like the sword, only to be drawn against enemies, and to be treated as a thing of respect.

So next time you post on a forum, reply to an email, or want to text angrily, remember the rule of how a Warrior should communicate. Respect is given till someone takes it away, not respect is earned.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

"Did you just threaten to hex me?” aka "Are you lookin at me?"

Raise your hand if you have heard that said by a pagan? Raise both and wave them about like Kermit the Frog if someone has said that to you.

Neopagan spirituality is to be blunt in it’s late pre-teens to early teens in it’s maturity. By this I mean, it really still is trying to find who it is. You have groups like the British Traditional Witches and the Revivalist Druids of OBOD who might even be mid teens. There is a little more maturity there with the “we are XYZ” but they all still are prone to tantrums over things. It’s to be expected. I believe the early Christian movement had “Did you just threaten me with Jesus?” or “did you wave that piece of the one true cross ™ at me? “. For the most part the Abrahamic Faiths have moved past that (into adult games of territory and back stabbing each other). Buddhism in it’s various forms probably is a mature adult shaking it’s head at the young adults of the two younger Abrahamic faiths (Islam and Christianity) and offering the older adult of Judaism an pat on the back.

Ok enough analogies. Back to the threats of Magic, and the accusations of threats of Magic.

Most Neopagan Faiths have what the majority of them call magic (or Magick or even Magyk) incorporated as part of their practices. Be this energy work, formulaic spells, or full fledged ceremonial summoning of beings to do your bidding. It’ there in some shape or form.

It’s also contentious as to what “magic” is. Through late 14th century Old French magique, the word "magic" derives via Latin magicus from the Greek adjective magikos (μαγικός) used in reference to the "magical" arts of the Magicians (Greek: magoi, singular mágos, μάγος); the Zoroastrian astrologer priests.

I will list a few of the more modern definitions that are out there.

"Magick is the Science of understanding oneself and one's conditions. It is the Art of applying that understanding in action." Crowley from the Introduction to Magick, Book 4
“Magic is a social phenomenon, akin to religion and science, but yet a distinct category. In practice, magic bears a strong resemblance to religion. Both use similar types of rites, materials, social roles and relationships to accomplish aims and engender belief.” Marcel Mauss A General Theory of Magic
“Science, and religion all have their own “quality of rationality,” and have been influenced by politics and ideology” Tambiah, S. J. (1990). Magic, Science, Religion, and the Scope of Rationality
“the art of focusing your will and emotions to effect change in the world around you and the world within you.” Unattested (likely Gardner)
“The use of natural energies within ourselves and the world around us to effect a physical change in a condition or life situation. Spelled with a "k" to differentiate it from stage magic.” Unattested (likely a combination of Crowley and Gardner)
" This magick can perhaps be defined as the essential energy which circulates in the Universe of the Gods, as well as in that of humans." French scholar, Christian Jacq, who made a study of Egyptian Magick.

As can be seen, there are a lot of different ways to define Magic ™ and I did not even touch on the cultural differences.

Essentially the Neopagan community has for the most part adopted the idea from Wicca “An it harm none do what ye will” and the idea that karma is repaid three fold. While not universal it is I believe the majority.
So why would people threaten or imply the use of magic(k) which is supposed to be sacred?

Simply I return we are in our spiritual teens. It seems to be about points, and cliques, and being right. Not about spiritual growth. Many of us believe we are not like that, but take a moment (I certainly have) and ask yourself. Have I ever done this? I know personally in the 1990’s when I was still dinking about, I’d get into on line flame wars, and often be accused of “casting bad magick”. On one occasion I even stooped to posting “Don’t worry about that headache” to a poster. It’s one of the few occasions I did even in malicious jest what I am talking about here.

Was it mature. No. It was not. But flamewars are never mature. Which is a nice segway into the next topic. Witchwars.

Yep Witchwars again. Witchwars are just a name for bullshit arguments (pardon my anglosaxon). No one is 100% sure when the term witchwar entered the Neopagan venacular. It was used in an episode of Charmed in 2004 (episode 132 in Season six, and yes I googled that I hated that show). An article on this topic appears in Witchvox posted in 1998. I certainly saw the term when I started posting and flaming in alt.religion.wicca in 1995 or so. Whenever the term came along, esentually a Witchwar is an ego driven conflict between two or more Neopagans (they do not have to be “Witches” or “Wiccans”). They are about power, and influence, and ego (yes I keep mentioning that).

In a Witchwar ™ someone always accuses someone else of casting a curse, or hex, or whatever. Both sides always perform banishings and or bindings on the otherside. But it’s ok becasuse they are doing it for the safety of all concerned, right…….. Right??

I’ve personally been on the receiving end of that last one. A local confilct between myself and a local coven leader, had a coven implode due to the leader deciding I needed a good Cursing and Binding. I found out months later when some ex Coven members told me. Now it’s second hand news, and I don’t really care.

But this comes down to the crux of it. In a witchwar, one side will get pushed to the point of breaking their own ethics. We as humans (or Otherkin for those with that bent) are not perfect. We do things under pressure which is out of character.

But that is only one half of the problem. To be honest the use of Magic ™ offensively is in the minority. I will talk about that later.

The accusations of it’s use however is epidemic. I got the Imbas for this blog post from a recent conversation in chat. Here is the line in particular which set me off “Gareth- I pray you are not threatening me magically so I am hiving you the benefit of the doubt”. This was from a discussion on event security, and whether on not someone was allowed to come, due to their previous behavior towards a presenter.

My response was “Dude don’t even go there…” but on reflection I acknowledge he possibly felt that he was under threat of attack. Not from the words I had used, but rather from the fact that in our communities someone would threaten that. So I am not going to attack his beliefs.

So is it ok to use Magic ™ as an offensive weapon? See I finally tie this back to Warrior spirituality ;)

That would depend on ones path. Someone who follows the Rede in it’s initial form (no “if it do harm, do as you must” addition because to be blunt that line is in violation of the first, making the whole thing invalid, and thus letting you be a douche with out having to admit it!). Then no, you ethically believe the deliberate causing of harm by yourself is a violation of your spiritual path, and that you will suffer karmic inflation in return (the Three fold law of return). If you like me are a Reconstructionist of some sort (Celtic, Greek, Germanic, whatever). Our ancestors certain thought it was acceptable. We have evidence from various sources that they did do some less than nice mystical things. Now to be sure, some of these sources are biased. Be they pagan Romans, or Christians, or other groups looking to bad mouth a foe (vanquished or not) .

So lets assume that you are ethically willing to do it (or say screw it all). Should you shout it from the roof tops? Well metaphorically speaking. Sure if you are engaged in a psychological action where you want to keep someone paranoid…. I guess. But that’s like putting your hand in Fenris’ mouth and having Thor hit him in the Nuts to see if he will bite. It will go bad. Honestly if you are going to do it. DO IT. But consider what the consequences are. Its’ the same as physical action. Only do it if you are up to it. Only do it knowing possible outcomes. If the person is mentally unstable, on something, or some such. Don’t do it.

Personally I see Magic ™ as the weak way out. You don’t know if it will work, you don’t know who else will get affected by it etc. Most things you can do with Magic ™ are achievable with much less effort, almost guaranteed success and less danger simply by physically doing it.

If someone is ill. Take them to the Dr. If someone is mentally ill and a danger to society, have them committed. If someone threatens you and you are scared. The police are there for a reason. If someone threatens you and you are not scared. Confront them (in public so nothing stupid happens) etc.

Live your ethics. Be part of community, and don’t think you are above someone because your ego says so or someone is fluffing that ego.

Magic is a tool to be used with caution. As is any weapon. There are not colors of magic (i.e. black or white) just intention by the user.

Which brings me to what is perhaps a benevolent form of Magic with out consent. The “sending healing energies” that we hear all the time in our community. I never do it, even if asked. Why? Because it is not my gift. I am not a healer in that sense. Nor will I ever accept energies from someone who is not very close to me either! If you see someone or hear about someone who is ill, sad, whatever and just decide to cast a spell ™ or send energy ™ then you are no better than someone casting a curse. Bindings are the same. Binding someone who has not asked for it (and some do) is a …. CURSE. You are probably violating your ethics.

Can you live with that?

No?

Yes?

Don’t Know?

Think it over. Or perhaps just act. Someone will probably mop up your mess. Perhaps me.