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Article ID: 4536
Age Group: Adult
Posted: November 19th. 2001
Pinning It Down
This won't be the most popular column that I have ever written. Nor the most upbeat. Nor the most politically correct. Some of my regular readers might be disappointed in that and almost certainly a few of my friends are going to be pissed off. (One of the reasons that I really like to write about ducks and fish: They don't usually send me nasty emails.) But I am a writer and the topics that are most apt to get my keyboard tapping come from my observations of the world around us. Two seemingly unrelated incidents of this past week have my typing fingers all itchy and so I guess that you might consider these words as my personal mental scratch marks.
I am confused. (Hardly the first time; probably won't be the last.) I am confused over this whole 'Harry Potter' movie thing. No, not the movie itself, but the general Pagan reaction to the movie. As I understand it, the movie stays pretty close to the story as told in the first Potter book. When the big discussions over the Potter books were taking place- when the charges from certain Christian fundamentalist groups centered on the Harry Potter books as Pagan indoctrination materials designed to suck innocent children into the 'dangerous' world of the occult- almost to a Witch and Wiccan, Pagans said, "No way. It's only a series of books. Nicely written fantasy books, of course, but not really Witchcraft as most of us practice it and certainly not Wicca. Those people have it all wrong."
Since the movie came out (even before the movie came out in some cases) however, almost to a Witch or Wiccan, Pagans interviewed by the media have said, "Well, yes. It is exaggerated, of course, but these are pretty much the tools and techniques that we use and what we believe. This will be a great boost for the Craft and, if it doesn't actually bring more people into Paganism (and we think that it will), at least it will make folks more aware of what we do." Huh? I guess that makes 'those people' somewhat right after all. Let the sucking of innocents begin!
Of course, we have only heard from those Pagans interviewed and perhaps there is a vast right-wing conspiracy to only print the comments of those whose opinions substantiate what the Christian far-right is saying about the books and the movie. As a conspiracy theory, this would make a great deal of sense. Already one school class trip to see the Potter film has been cancelled, what with Witchcraft being a religion and all, due to church-state separation concerns. Does this fall into the 'be careful what you ask for, you might just get it' category? In any case, if the legal system holds the premise that Witchcraft (as practiced by some and differentiated from secular witchcraft as practiced by others) is indeed a religion and then Pagans come forward to state that the "witchcraft" in the Potter books is indeed 'Witchcraft', it would not be too much of a stretch to see more of this church-state argument being used to get the books out of school classrooms in the future. (If you were not interviewed, you will still have your chance to speak and for your thoughts to be counted as this issue will be our Pagan Perspectives topic this week.)
But I don't want to forget to bring in the other incident that also happened last week, so I'll do that now. Actually, it was one incident in two parts. Fritz and Peg and I attended a local Pagan festival gathering last week. Throughout that week, the myth of Persephone was played out in small vignettes here and there with the culmination of the 'play' to take place on Saturday night. We never made it to the ritual. My neck vertebrate went out and we left early. (Looking back, I doubt that this was coincidental.) In any case, we weren't there for the entire play out, but we did attend the meeting before the ritual. In this meeting, various Voudon practitioners explained that they were going to draw a number of ritual designs and that the circle dancing after the main ritual would empower those designs for specific magickal purposes. I thought that they handled the explanation well and that would be that. Ah, not so. At the Sunday community meeting, much was made of the effects of the Voudon magickal workings and how several perceived these as a violation or disrespect to those who were uncertain, unclear or unhappy with the inclusion of the Voudon energies. In short, some thought that their magickal bubble had been burst. More on this later.
Part two of the incident revolves around a dear Brother of ours-also in attendance at the festival- who is a Vietnam veteran. Ah, yes! Last Sunday was indeed the true date of Veteran's Day (although most probably celebrated it on the more conveniently day-off of Monday). It seems that our dear Brother waited all day on Sunday for the Pagan community still at the festival to honor the vets in some way or to at least acknowledge the day to him and other vets in attendance. That didn't happen. And he was pretty saddened about it. And he posted his sadness on the festival e-mail list. Now one could say that he should have mentioned it himself if he wanted to see the Pagan community do something. If he had, say those who are responding to this incident on the list, something would have been done. And it almost assuredly would have. But I don't think that this was our Brother's point. And so another bubble goes pop! More on this later, too.
What does the two-part incident at the festival and the premiere of the Harry Potter movie have to do with one another? I wasn't quite sure when they both presented themselves to me in my meditations about this week's column. But a glimmer of a thread presented itself and so here I in turn, present it to you: It is really all about bubbles.
We all have some bubbles in our lives. Many of them are real. We may have the bubble of a close and loving family or circle of supportive friends; we may have the bubble of good health or hearty energy; we may have the bubble of a spiritual path or religion that we share with others of like-mind. Americans have the bubble of freedom of religion, the bubble of liberty and justice under a Constitution that still works after 200 plus years. These are real bubbles and they are real bubbles most of the time. We count on them to remain real bubbles. But sometimes bubbles break through neglect or unkindness or ignorance. Sometimes bubbles break when smacked by abusive behavior or when they are rent apart by others who come intending to do deliberate and intentional harm. And sometimes, we burst these bubbles ourselves because they no longer fit who we are now. We decide that we simply have to get out. Bubbles, despite all of their potential problems are still very popular though because when you are in one, well.. it tends to be a very manageable and well-defined space. It's comfortable. And therein lies the ultimate problem. When one is inside a happy bubble, one will do just about anything to avoid the guy spotted coming down the street and carrying a pin. Even if that 'guy' is yourself.
The world of Harry Potter, the 'place' of Hogwart's School of Wizardry and Witchcraft is a bubble. It is a bubble for Harry as he struggles to get by in the mundane world of 'Muggles'. In the beginning of book two, we find that he can't wait for summer to be over and to get back there. Part of the appeal of the Harry Potter mythos (and the Potter books can truthfully be described as a new and powerful modern-day myth) is that there EXISTS at all such a place apart from this mundane world where one can work out one's problems and flex one's talents. You can leave the 'real' world and all its troubles (and troublesome people) behind to enter into this new bubble-place. It is also rather tempting to many of those who are struggling with internal Pagan social issues to want to believe that if WE indeed had one place like Hogwart's- and just one place- where EVERYONE went to learn magic(k) then we would be more cohesive, learned and perhaps more 'legitimate' somehow. And while Muggles are reading the books or watching the movie, they can live in this bubble, too. But it is not a bubble that travels well.
On the trip between the Harry Potter world and this world, there is probably going to be some popping involved. And so it is with us when we as Pagans travel between this world and the Otherworld. Sometimes a bubble will make it, sometimes it won't. It's a tough journey. It is a hard stance to maintain, this 'between the worlds' stuff. But that is our job description: to walk between the worlds and bring back insight, power, strength and knowledge to the people. Even if it is hard. Especially when it is hard. When no one else will do it. When no one else can do it. When sometimes we have to go it alone. When a new bubble needs to be created. When we have the need of a good sharp pin.
Because there are false bubbles in the world, too. Since the events of September 11th, a lot of new temporary bubbles have been formed as people look for a safe and comforting place to rest in for a time. The world of magic as depicted in the Harry Potter books and movie offers such a place and as long as folks realize that this bubble is based upon fantasy that is not a bad thing. We could use a break. The same could be said for the Pagan 'community' bubble or the Pagan festival bubble. Many of us have the need to get together, to just be together in these trying days. But it is one thing to want to be together to help each other heal or just to socialize and it is quite another thing to expect that once we DO get together that everything will be just hunky-dory perfect. The first is a real bubble built upon real intentions, the second but a bubble with a very thin skin indeed. Witchcraft and/or magic(k) will not solve all of our personal problems nor will it solve all of the problems of the world. Witchcraft, magic(k) or Paganism is not an escape from the 'real'world, but the addition of even more layers of reality to our Universe. It is not less work to learn magic(k) and Witchcraft or to follow a Pagan path or religion; it is MORE work because now we are juggling the energies of two worlds instead of just one. And anyone who enters through this gate and does not clearly see that this is so is in for some very serious bubble-popping experiences.
This week Americans will celebrate Thanksgiving Day. We all have much to be thankful for. We have some very real, very wonderful and very powerful bubbles of family and of friends and of freedoms to celebrate and cherish. We usually remember to offer thanks for these people, these gifts, and these blessings as we sit around our tables on that day. And I will, too. But I also plan to offer a word or two of thanks for pins this year. There is nothing quite like them when it comes to figuring out just what is real.
Co-Founder - The Witches' Voice
Nov. 19th, 2001
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