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Thoughts on Cultural and Spiritual Appropriation
NOTE: For a complete list of articles related to this chapter... Visit the Main Index FOR this section.
I'm Not Proud To Be Pagan
Article ID: 13856
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 2,358
Times Read: 10,355
RSS Views: 12,812
Author: Bronwen Forbes [a WitchVox Sponsor]
Posted: March 14th. 2010
Times Viewed: 10,355
In a previous piece here on Witchvox, I related the story of how I dared to show up at a hot, Southern Pagan Pride event in *gasp* shorts and a T-shirt rather than the apparent requisite flowing skirt, glitter and fairy wings. One of the other attendees took offense at my attire and sent me a very nasty anonymous email taking me to task for not being “Pagan enough” to present at the event.
What I didn’t mention in that previous piece is that my anonymous e-mailer also railed at me for packing up my husband and then- 2 1/2 –year-old child and leaving the event shortly before the local anti-Pagan protesters were scheduled to arrive (nice of the protesters to let us know when they were coming) . In the words of my angry e-mailer, my not staying to confront the protesters was proof that I wasn’t “proud to be Pagan, ” apparently because I wanted my hot, not-napped-yet toddler away from the protesters and into a nice, air-conditioned car.
But the accusation that I wasn’t “proud to be Pagan” made me think, and in the two years since, I’ve come to the conclusion that no, I’m not proud to be Pagan.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not ashamed to be Pagan – I’m perfectly happy in my religion of choice and have desire to call myself anything else. If I thought my Paganism were a shameful thing, I sure as heck would not be here writing about it so often! I also would not have married another Pagan, which I did in 2001, nor would we be raising our daughter in this faith.
I am not proud to be Pagan in the same way I am not proud to have brown hair. My hair color is just a part of me; so is my faith. I am not proud to be Pagan in the same way I am not proud to be monogamous with my spouse – it’s just in my (and his) emotional makeup to be happier with just one lover; it’s just in my emotional makeup to be happier being Pagan than I was anything else (Christian and Buddhist, specifically) . With the exception of mentioning it here, do I run around announcing to the world that’s not part of my marriage that I’ve chosen monogamy? Of course not. Nor do I need to constantly announce to the non-Pagan world that I am one.
That being said, I am very proud of some of the things I’ve done since I’ve become Pagan – both spiritual and not. I’ve been Pagan since I was twenty-two years old (which is over half a lifetime ago) , so I have a pretty long list of accomplishments including graduating from college at the tender age of forty-six, helping start two Pagan festivals, one of which is celebrating its 25th year in 2010, and having two books published and another one on the way. But being proud of things I’ve done while I also happened to identify as Pagan – even Pagan things – and being proud to *be* Pagan are not the same.
Despite my experiences two years ago at this Pagan Pride event – and believe me, these folks are *not* typical of what I or anyone else experiences at a Pagan Pride festival – I honestly enjoy the chance to spend time in Pagan Space with my “peeps” and in the figurative arms of my community. I value the workshops and shopping opportunities and networking that these events provide. But this still does not mean that I am proud to be something I just do. I am not particularly proud of breathing.
One could make the argument that I could be proud of my Pagan or “witchy” abilities. What abilities? Reading tarot? Planning and running a Sabbat ritual for up to twenty people? Teaching? Why? Should I be proud of my ability to carry a tune in a bucket? I’m not. It’s just part of what I am. Should I be proud of my ability to drive a car? I’m not – it’s a life skill I need to get things done, just like running a ritual or reading tarot. (Okay, I’ll admit that I’m a little proud of my ability to drive a stick shift car, but only because I’m better at it than my husband who is usually better at everything. But I digress.) My “skills” are like other people’s ability to draw or play a musical instrument well enough to make a living at it – in other words, a gift from the Gods and therefore nothing I should take pride in because, in my opinion, the Gods are at least willing to give similar or even better gifts to all of us. I’m not even remotely unique in this. So why should I be proud of my Gods-given talents?
The concept of Pagan pride is varying and relative, just like the concept of patriotism. As the daughter-in-law of a veteran, I always stand when the flag goes by during a parade, and I am teaching his granddaughter to do the same. However, this is a very different level of patriotism from people who love their country so much that they join a branch of the military in order to help defend it. I honor people who make this choice, and I have nothing but the utmost respect for them, but it’s not one I would make for myself.
So it should be in the Pagan community. I honor and appreciate the ones who are willing to face our detractors when and if they choose to confront us at a public event, but in general I will personally choose not to. Not so much because I’ve done my share of counter-protesting in my younger days (my husband is constantly amazed that I was never arrested for this; so am I) , but because – as I was at the above-mentioned Pagan pride event – I am often accompanied by a preschooler, a 20-pound dog, or both. Apparently in some people’s eyes I would get an “A” grade for “standing up to the fundies” but I would rather get an “A” as a responsible parent and dog owner and actively remove the small, relatively helpless beings I am directly responsible for from what could be a potentially dangerous situation. If this labels me as somehow ashamed of my faith, so be it. I’d rather be a good parent and a bad Pagan than a good Pagan and a bad parent.
There is no standard in our community, as I mentioned in an earlier piece, of what constitutes “Pagan enough.” This is a good thing – I suspect not one of us would meet that standard.
In the meantime, I don’t have to be proud to be Pagan. I just am one.
Location: Bloomington, Indiana
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