It’s time for another Friday Foraging, featuring links I found interesting this week, but didn’t have time to write a full response to.
Storm Faerywolf writes in The Wild Hunt about The Hope of Being “Queer”, reclaiming both the word “queer” and queer spaces within the Pagan community, and the need to resist bigotry when we see it in our own Pagan spaces:
I don’t want Paganism to become a safe space for bigots, no matter the stripe. One of the things that was really empowering for me, and for a lot of people I know, is that Paganism was a place in which we could all come together and celebrate our differences. The Paganism that I came to was a safe haven for the weird kids who would then grow into weird adults. We were all “queer” in our own ways. If anyone should be able to move beyond outdated cultural norms, it should be the people who are praying to strange spirits, dancing naked around bonfires, shaping their lives on their own terms.
Mark Green at Atheopaganism wrote a piece discussing Presenting Ourselves to the World, arguing that Pagans need to move beyond the “Romantic idealizations of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and Dungeons and Dragons and Renaissance Faires” and dress to impress.
We cannot transform a society we do not engage. We’re kidding ourselves if we think we can. It’s unfortunate, and speaks to the dreary conformity of our culture, but the price of being taken seriously is that in those contexts, we have to not look like Legolas or Gandalf. We have to look like serious-minded people whose opinions are thoughtful and whose values and practices carry weight.
I have mixed feelings about this idea. I understand that from a pragmatic approach, it’s important to present yourself in a professional, “serious” way if you want to be taken seriously by policy makers. However, I find it deeply sad that we have to do this, that white cisheteronormative social mores are seen as the benchmark of respect; and it reeks not a little of closeting and “respectability politcs” (a point which, to be fair, Mark adresses in the piece). I am inclined to agree with commenter KenofKen, who writes:
Closeting/”toning it down” has a centuries old, 100% proven track record of failure. It has been tried by Jews, LGBT people, and pretty much every religious or ethnic minority that ever walked the earth. None of them ever gained a shred of real safety or dignity until they claimed their identity with no asterisk or apology.
An interesting counterpoint to the above comes from Damon Young writing at The Root, on The Definition, Danger and Disease of Respectability Politics. This is a must-read for anyone, anywhere. Writing in the context of race and the experience of being black in America, Damon’s points could easily be applied to other minority experiences, from LGBTQ+ to minority religious communities:
It shifts responsibility away from perpetrators (which in this context would be America) and places it on the victims (which in this context would be blacks in America). Instead of requiring the people and the institutions committing and propagating racist acts to change, it asks the people harmed by the racism to change in order to stop being harmed by the racism…If changing my name or my hair or the way I dress is what allows me to be more fully “American”—more fully a person in the eyes of people who doubt my citizenship and my humanity—then that is not something I aspire to be.
On a more uplifting note, Paul Nicolaus writes on the Sierra Club website about how Awe is a Skill You Can Cultivate. For me, awe is a foundation of my Paganism. The “religious” or spiritual experience for me is best expressed by standing under a night sky full of stars, watching the ocean crash against a headland, sitting at the feet of an ancient tree. Paul writes:
Part of awe’s power, after all, is its ability to remind us of our place within a larger society, world, and even universe. From a psychological standpoint, feeling small is often tied to powerlessness or a loss of control, but in the context of awe we tend to feel it in a positive way. Research has suggested that this awe-inspired diminishment of the self can lead to an increase in prosocial behavior, for example, sparking greater generosity and kinder behavior toward others. And findings published earlier this year indicate it can offer a path to greater humility…Sure, a trip to Niagara Falls or the Great Smoky Mountains may lead to profound feelings, but don’t overlook the countless opportunities that exist within your everyday environment as well—that majestic tree you blow by on your way to work, or the starlit sky you ignore while dragging the garbage can to the curb. Slow down, pay attention to your surroundings, and allow the splendor of the cosmos to stop you in your tracks. In other words, have an awe(some) adventure.
That’s it for this week. If any of these links spark your thoughts, let me know!