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Words, Wrants and Wramblings

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Wren Wrants A-Z ...

A Letter To My Daughter

A PumkinHead in the White House

A Real Bad Day For Witchcraft

A Real Reason To Vote

A Time for War, a Time for Peace and a Time to Browse the Bookstore

A Wonderful Piece of News

The Aftermath of Columbine High School

Beating A Not-So-Hasty Retreat

Behind Enemy Lines

Breakfast Will Be Served In Fifteen Minutes...

Building a Circle of Trust

But What Will People Think?

By Their Furniture, Ye Shall Know Them

Caution: Restricted Area

Cleaning Out The Junk Drawer

Community Power Who Holds it?

Community Thoughts on Tempest Smith

Compelling without the Yelling

Confessions of a News Junkie

The Consistancy of Change...


Coping with Grief

Cramming It Down Our Throats...

Damned if you do and Damned if you don't

Declaring Your Personal Independence Day

Did Your World Change Too?

Dreaming in The Dark...

There is No Zuul

There's a Rabbit In The Moon...

Excavating the Dinosaur Altar

Fair Use, Copyright and the Pagan Net

Feeding Our Young

The First Day

Gather 'Round The Fire

Getting Back To Nature

Getting Back To Normal

Getting Rid of What Bugs You

Gifts That Keep On Giving...

The Giving Circle

Gods In A China Shop...

Good And Evil: In The Shadow Of Littleton And The Garden Of The Gods.

Good Will Toward Men

The Great Hamster Myth

Happy Beltaine!

Happy Brigid's Day Everyone!

The Heart of A Mechanic

Helping Hands

Helping Our Own

Hidden Hatred Haunts Pagans

Home is Where the Spirit Is

Homosexuality and Public Policy

The Household of Priests and Priestesses

If The Hissy Fits

In A Mirror Darkly...

In Your Dreams

The Internet Reaches beyond Washington

It All Happens Locally

It Is Your Destiny

It's Maypole Week 'Round the World

It's Tribal Time!

January Arrives Wearing A White Coat

Judging Amy -- Wren's Thoughts

Killed a Goat Today

Knot Charming

Learning How To Fly

Life With Mikey

Listening To The Story

Listening To The Woods

Living In A Banana Republic

Living Through A Drought

Logging On and Speaking Out!

The Long and Short Of It

The Love of Ordinary Things

Mabon... a Man for all Seasons

Magick's Arrow

Mamas, Don't let your Babies...

The Media Story Is Often Not The True One

Mercury Has Left the Building

Minding Your News P's and Q's

Mixed Blessings

NOTE: For a complete list of articles related to this chapter... Visit the Main Index FOR this section.

Mamas, Don't let your Babies...

Author: Wren
Posted: January 19th. 2003
Times Viewed: 14,110

There are many reasons why Pagans shouldn't let their children grow up to be cowans. For one thing, the definition entry is less than flattering:

Couillon {OF}: a coward, a cullion. One who works as a mason without having served a regular apprenticeship. [Scot.] Note: Among Freemasons, it is a cant term for pretender, interloper." -- (Webster's Revised Dictionary).

For another, I don't personally think that it's a good idea to encourage young people to build chimneys or brick houses without any sort of practical training. Sounds rather irresponsible to me. Sure, it worked out well enough for one of the Little Pigs. But then again we only have his side of the story to go on. The whole wolf-resistant made-of-bricks thing could've fallen in and crushed the three of them the very next day for all that we know. Karma can be a pretty huffy and puffy sort of thing sometimes.

But irrespective of any aspirations that I may once have held about becoming a brick-layer -- and cynical speculations over the ultimate fate of those Three Little Pigs notwithstanding -- I never liked the term cowan anyway. (It's okay as a last name though. Hello, Tom!)

Maybe it's empathy. I know that I never liked being called a pretender or an unbeliever by those who feel it is their right to slap the label on anyone who doesn't fit their mold. And as I so often joke with my non-Pagan associates and the occasional open-minded reporter: "I can't be an unbeliever. I am actually an Uber-believer. I think that belief in God is such a good idea that I believe in many of Them! So, Hail Uber!"

And now you also know why I don't do stand-up comedy for a living.

The use of the word cowan (or more recently, of 'muggles') by Pagans to describe non-Pagans is, I think, not only quite rude, it also puts us in a rather ticklish spot. For like it or not, most of us have some non-Pagan ancestors.

(Horrors! Blasphemy!)

Oh, get a grip! We do.

Now if you are about to email me with your 'From the Beginning of Time Fam Trad' credentials, please don't bother. If your family is indeed completely and forever untainted by any of those other yucky religions and you can prove it, clap your hands! Most of us aren't and we can't. We'd rather skip right over the entire issue really. Trouble is, that makes us...uh...liars? At least by omission.

It is also very hard to get our minds around that dishonesty if we really begin to critically examine the position in which we have placed ourselves.

We love our Ancestors. Especially the ones who are more than 2000-years-old. They really are the best, aren't they? We usually know more about the migrations and pantheons of the 'Ancient Celts' or 'Vikings' than we do about what our great-grandfather or mother did for a living. And here, Oh Astute Ones, you begin to get my drift. (Especially if you happened to have read last weeks' column).

Because we've done it again. Not only are we often (gulp) guilty for the (gulp) theft of sacred lore from other indigenous cultures, we could be as equally indicted for snipping out the parts of our own cultural legacies that just don't fit in all that well with our personalized pseudo-history. When we speak so lovingly of -- and offer up honors and alms to -- our Ancestors, are we really talking about all of our Ancestors? Or just the ones who happened to be quite happily minding their own Pagan business before some missionary peddling monotheism showed up and ruined their idyllic existence? Hey, just askin'...

It's simply the flip side of the same issue. And that issue is: the separation of religion from culture. Because guess what? The Celts and the Vikings still exist today in the cultural context. Throughout those troublesome 2000 years, the Celts and the Vikings as well as the Egyptians and the Native Americans all continued to exist and live out their lives completely oblivious to the fact that adopting Christianity or Islam would one day huff and puff their names and their cultural heritage from the neo-Pagan record. Oops! Silly Old Ancestors! Bad sense of foresight on Their part...

Or on ours.

Over the years, we've talked and written ourselves into a box on this subject. During our adolescent beginnings as a renewal/reclaiming/reconstructing movement, many Pagans reacted to the religion of Christianity (or Islam) like teenagers to a ten o'clock curfew. We didn't like it. We rebelled against it. And we bad-mouthed 'their' rules every chance that we got.

Well, isn't it time to grow up? Maturity does have its advantages and perks.

For one thing, we could stop worrying about if what our Grannies from the 'old country' practiced was 'religion' or 'folklore'. Taken in indigenous cultural context, it is pretty much the same experience. The fact that Granny (Bless her Presbyterian heart!) was a Christian would not matter. Herein it is the culture and not the religion that defines who is a Celt or an Egyptian or a Dane or a Shoshone.

And secondly, we could hold our heads up a little higher when we speak with those from other cultures concerning spiritual matters.

No wonder those Peoples who still are part of a culture-based society (and/or religion) look at us funny. They don't understand how we can snip-and-clip religion/beliefs out of the base culture from which these spring. In indigenous cultures, there is no one from column A (religion) and one from Column B (culture). It is all one menu. It is all one meal. It is all -- regardless of religious affiliation -- one People.

And that actually -- to quote a certain Tolkien wizard -- is an encouraging thought. It means we can learn about ourselves by learning more from other peoples and religions and cultures. We can go back and take a non-twitchy look at the two thousand intervening years that we so often dismiss as irrelevant to Pagans. We can welcome ALL of our Ancestors back into our families and into our celebrations. Well, They are still family, are They not? Even if They were not specifically Pagan while upon this plane, They are still culturally a part of who we are as people.

And before this mode of thinking catches on -- if it does ever catch on -- you'll have plenty to talk about at the next Pagan 'Meet and Greet'!

"So, where does your family come from?"

"Lowell, Massachusetts."

"No. I mean, where does your family come from originally?"

"Well, let see now. My grandfather worked on the railroad, so the family moved quite a bit. His father came down from Nova Scotia in the mid-1800's and met my grandmother at some church social in New Jersey..."

(Sooner or later you might work your way back to those interesting 'Ancient' Celts and Vikings in your family tree, but it would be rather disrespectful to leave any of your other Ancestors out of the story...)

"... And then there was this time that Uncle Harold (thrice removed on my mother's side) was conducting this full immersion baptism down by the creek and....Hey! Where ya going?"

Too bad. Uncle Harold (thrice removed on your mother's side) wasn't Pagan. It was probably still a great story...

I never liked the word cowan. It is often used as a term of disrespect and derision to describe non-Pagans. (Well, some of my Ancestors happened to be non-Pagans. And I don't appreciate anyone speaking about members of my family in that way.)

And it implies and reinforces the notion that religion and culture can -- or should -- exist as being separated from one another. A growing clamor of voices from the indigenous peoples of the world says that they can't. Perhaps, we should listen to them a bit more closely.

And then, there are still those other definitions of the word cowan left to consider:




No, Mamas, we definitely don't want our babies to grow up to be cowans.

There are too many such 'cowans' in positions of power already.

Wren Walker
Co-Founder - The Witches' Voice
Monday, January, 20th., 2003

Article Specs

Article ID: 5054

VoxAcct: 1

Section: wrenwalker

Age Group: Adult

Days Up: 6,211

Times Read: 14,110



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