Pagan Pride: The Great Divide

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 “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.

No legacy is so rich as honesty.
William Shakespeare

I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it’s for or against.
Malcolm X 

“I won’t be wronged. I won’t be insulted. I won’t be laid a-hand on. I don’t do these things to other people, and I require the same from them.”
John Wayne

In my Tribe, we consistently talk about keeping our magic close to its roots.  It just makes sense to our faith, which is thickly embedded in geography, locality and seasonality.  Witchcraft: country family style.  Sure, we have secrets.  What Witch wouldn’t in these times, much less in the Bible Belt?  But worse, much worse, is the asshattery that occurs in small town witch communities: we have seen the dissemination of sacred information, cursings, and magical backstabbing too often to feel comfortable sharing our private ways.  (Even once is more than enough for me.)  Which brings me to a strange impasse this month: Pagan Pride Day.

In the past, myself and my Tribe have participated, taught classes and led rituals during the Pride season.  We enjoy community just as much as the next Witch/Pagan.  Nothing is quite as down-home crunchy as breaking bread and passing the proverbial goblet with like-minded folks . . . and we all want our children to identify with a fellowship of their spiritual peers.  But here’s the crux:  not all Pagans are down with the same ethics, and those who are so often remain complicit in allowing “bad” Pagans/Witches to overrun local events.  Yes, yes.  We need to all just “get along.”  But when you are faced with thrusting your children into a space with folks who curse children for sport, are out on bail for physical assault, have been sexually inappropriate with local teenagers and are generally not walking an ethical path?  Is that something I can show my children and take “Pagan pride” in as a parent?  Such a wholesale “let’s just all be a community” statement doesn’t jive with me and I’ll be damned if I’m going to be complicit, too.

Which leaves some friends asking me:  “So.  Then are you going to be the divisive one?”  Hmmm.  You know what?

Damn skippy.

Me and my Magic Gangani Sissy.

Me and my Magic Gangani Sissy.

I have four dear “old guard” Pagan/Witch friends who spent decades serving our local fellowship.  They, Batchildren, are done with the drama, the politics (that usually are rooted in money), and the lack of Pagan models for their children to emulate.  And our children are watching us.  One of my soul sisters, a Christian, was relieved when I agreed to magically train her Pagan son: she was worried (and rightly so) that he would fall into the chaos and excess and questionable practices of others in our neck of the woods.  While our kids need some exposure to the nastier side of the community (if for no other reason than to know what to avoid), I cannot nor will I hand them over to it on Pagan Pride Day if for no other reason than I’m not proud of that element of Paganism.  It leaves many of us (my old guard friends included) in quite a quandary: to be “divisive,” thereby risking the loss of community, or to act against every premise and ethic that we hold sacred and impermeable.

Cynthia and I.  Love.

Cynthia and I. Love.

We have chosen the latter too often.  We now choose the former.

At Atlanta Pagan Marketplace of Ideas with my precious friend, Charissa.

At Atlanta Pagan Marketplace of Ideas with my precious friend, Charissa.

And y’all, it really isn’t just about drama trauma.  It sincerely is about a deeper consideration of who/what we want our children to be.  It sincerely is about the whole “we aren’t *Party Pagans,* hon” and being able to assure, with some certainty, that a nut job doesn’t walk up and punch them in the head.  It sincerely is about: “don’t touch my underage kid that way.”  It sincerely is about not getting our tires slashed, our equipment damaged, our picture taken and then disseminated on the WWW with venomous captions.  (Just to name a few possibilities.) But it’s also about refusing to hold circle with those who would hurt, curse or otherwise destroy other human souls.  Because we believe in magic, we know that sharing ritual space is intimate and can open ourselves up to some seriously icky juju.  And our answer?

Children: what it's all about.

Children: what it’s all about.

Is no.  Hell, naw.  Does this make us divisive?  You better believe it does.  And, yes.  It is regretful.  But no fluffy bunny, love and light rhetoric will sway us.

There is simply too much at stake, for chrissake.  Our children are watching.  The religious right is watching.  The universe is watching, man.  There are differences and then there are differences.  And this isn’t about a personal grudge: it’s about drawing a line in the sand, standing up for what’s right and giving our kids something to emulate.  You know, I was asked earlier this year (begged?) to show up anyway by a very interested party at a local festival.  The thought process seemed to be:  Blast them out of here.  It’ll be great!  Can you imagine her/their reaction?  Now, imagine if I had given into ego, drama and the like and participated in that clusterfuck, my kid watching me in that ridiculous dance of power mongering and territoriality?  To whose benefit?  Good grief.  What have we become?

No.  The answer is now, and will always be, no.  There are still some of us out here who stand up for friendship, stand up for our faith and stand up for Pagan Pride.  And so, let me end this (inflammatory, I’m sure) post with what I, Seba, am proud of at this time of the year:

I am proud of my students, who work doggedly toward shadow work regardless of discomfort.  These folks are bound by more than oath, I tell y’all.  They are bound by their own sense of nobility, sensibility and heritage.  They intend to leave something behind from which their younguns can create legends.  They value their community, are steeped in local traditions and never shy away from doing the right thing–even if it hurts.

Me and My Second-Degree Sissy

Me and My Second-Degree Sissy

I am proud of my tradition: family trad, Celt and Cherokee and Southern, through and through.  We aren’t better than anyone else, but no one else is us.  This trad respects and reveres all other paths–even Christianity–as valid paths when practiced by noble people.    Our stories, our ancestors, our histories are all treasures that we protect and pass on, faithfully, to our children.  It’s . . . awesome, man.

I am proud of my husband, who worked tirelessly to provide a Pagan church to our community, regardless of the cost to his back or his wallet.  Even in the face of disregard to all that we had given, my hubby never begrudged that year.  Even when a local asshat attempted to shut us down out of a fit of jealousy, he risked everything to hold down the proverbial fort.  Paganism in action.  What a guy.

The Southern Fried Hubby, a walking stick, and the Southern Fried Son-in-Law-Dawg

The Southern Fried Hubby, a walking stick, and the Southern Fried Son-in-Law-Dawg

I am proud of my son.  He has learned at the tender age of seventeen the art of apology and the cost of his path in the South–but has never wavered, even at physical threat.  My heart swells when I see him at dusk, palms turned upward, worshipping like the honest, hard-working dirt Pagan he has become.

Southern fried teen.

Southern fried teen.

And I am proud of the “old-guard” of my region, who were brave enough to rise against atrocities and inevitably remove themselves from poisonous relationships before their children became embedded in the murk and mire.

One of two awesome wives!

One of two awesome wives!

My magic sister of sixteen years and going strong.

My magic sister of sixteen years and going strong.

I am proud of other Pagans, too.  Crystal Blanton, my sister from another mister so far across the continent.  Mak, Cat, Autumn, Cynthia, Robin, Erin, Gralyn, Lizbet, Honeybee, El–so many of you holding down the fort, creating magical and sacred space and questioning everything in order that answers might be born.

usgraylin

My Cajun Sista, Gralyn and the Viking.

Finally, I am proud of this Earth for not yet spitting us out, even though we righteously deserve it as a people.  Perhaps, She is the Pagan we should be proud of this month:  renewing, struggling, spinning despite all violent attempts at her life.

Yes.  I have Pagan Pride.  Regionally, I am disabled as a community leader and participant in our fellowship if for no other reason than my inability to kneel to that which/whom I cannot/will not serve.  My broom has a decided bend.  And I’m proud of that, too.  At the end of the day?  I am proud to be Pagan.  An ethical, family-centered, tomato-growing/tax-paying/hardworking/country/momma/universe-reverant/community-loving/forty-seven year old Pagan Witch.  So proud, all my buttons have popped and all I’m wearing is a witch hat.

But I’m not a “yes” woman.  And I’ll never say yes to something I can’t bring home with pride.

May we all have healthy communities one day.

In the meantime:

*Postscript:  Portions of this blog were recently quoted out of context in an Alabama group.  A nice, careful reading of this post will clarify that I am not condemning my own local PPD, but only pointing out that there is little to no stricture (I’m not even sure that there legally/ethically could be stricture) on refusing to entertain those who have physically damaged property, sexually-assaulted minors or physically attacked others (all of which are a matter of public record).  I certainly never said that PPD is a “space for those kinds of people.”  I only lamented that we seem to be incapable of ejecting them.  Read carefully.  Drama Lammas.  Love, Seba

About Southern Fried Witch

Deep-fried magic tastes better with ranch dressing.
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22 Responses to Pagan Pride: The Great Divide

  1. Good for you. And since when has opting out of a bad scene been considered divisive? Divisive means to break down something whole and good into toxic little parts. Seems to me that you are protecting what is whole and good. You stick with your little band of merry men and women, the ones you can trust, who add joy to your playtime here on earth rather than misery and dissension. Have a wonderful time celebrating in your way, you Proud Pagan.

  2. brujaoscura says:

    It IS hard, especially in a religion that does espouse community, to practice solo. It is difficult with teenagers who are constantly confronted by hostile Christians(and I know- that isn’t all of them), and essentially bullied. So we started this year with “There are two faiths practiced in my house. We will not allow the girls to be bullied, by word or action.” My Jewish partner and I find our communities very important- and other than one small bit of rudeness from a member of his synagogue- we have been welcomed with open arms into both congregations. I have tried to keep the kids from “toxic” influences. But sometimes the line HAS to be drawn- and there can BE no backing down.

    • Yes. We have to show them “toxic” while attempting to show them “healthy,” a hard job for a parent. Communities can and do include other faiths, because at the end of the day: it’s about that sacred thump. Keeping it whole. Fighting for an ethics that we can hold dear, regardless. Hugs from Alabama!

  3. Cyn says:

    Pagan: You’re doin it right.

  4. Robin Prine says:

    Yes, it’s that time of year. Pagan Pride. I have struggled and struggled with the whole of which you wrote about here….with being divisive when it comes to the community round here. I have felt some guilt at planning again our Mabon gathering again this year for my Coven, our most trusted friends, family and closest Pagan friends. However, in the end, I know we will all be the stronger for it, especially my inner Circle. There are those in my community that I am wary of….hell I plain don’t trust them. I don’t trust them with my students and I sure as heck cringe at the idea of standing in Circle with them. By a change of dates, I was “saved” the dilemma of having to be divisive this year….and I thank the Gods for it! Thank you again, for putting into words, what my gut has been feeling all a long. Hugz & Love.

  5. Brooke says:

    Every time I read about the nonsense you have to put up with it gets my Jersey up. Blessings to your tribe, you have definitely got it right. Xoxo

  6. Kelly says:

    Exactly! Your post is incredibly timely for what’s going on in my life as well! I tried to keep my children out of the drama & a bad Pagan dragged them into the middle. I’m tired of my kids seeing their Mom trust other Pagans & always getting hurt. I don’t feel these types of people are Pagans. I believe they’re simply using the label as a means to get in & do harm. Good luck to you, my dear! Keep your head held high! Blessed Be.

    • Children are sacred–and anyone who doesn’t respect that line doesn’t respect themselves. I agree that these aren’t necessarily “pagans.” I hope that your children didn’t go through too much. At least they have a Momma/Pagan who has their back! 🙂

  7. Angie Melton says:

    I had to read your post to Sheron before I could reply. You know she only plays games on the computer, I have to read all the important things to her. If you aint really careful, you are gonna end up as anti-social as us two old farts. (Just kidding.)
    You know, I think Great Mother has a wicked sense of humor. She led / guided you on a path that was pure hell and you ended up pretty much where you started, most likely where you belonged all the time. But I also think she gifted you and yours. You seem a bit wiser and stronger and now I think you see folks more as they really are. I guess you really she gave you a truly “eye-opening” experience. To put it another way, She just yanked you and your kind up by the roots, pulled out all the weeds and put you back with a few plants that should grow well together. But you know how those pesky old weeds are, they just keep trying to take root. And some of those suckers will choke the life right out of you. If you want to thrive and grow to full strength, you just gotta stay away from those killer weeds. (Sorry, had to do it. Told you I am an asshole.)

    • And, somewhere in all that unholy mess: I met you and your wife. I’d say it was worth it for that, alone. To the end, you will always be my favorite asshole. xxxooo (Share some of those xxs and oos with Sheron, my other fav asshole.) Love y’all!

  8. (applauseclapclapwhistleXenayellclapclap)

    Thank you. We’ve gone through this (over and over again) in the local community(ies), and it makes my head spin every time I hear someone validate or enable shoddy, dishonest, or dangerous behavior with “oh, but we need to be loving/tolerant/healing/one big family/etc”. If I hear one more Linty Leporidae toss off “You’re starting a Witch War!” as a bogeyman to shut up someone with a bona fide concern about a toxic element, I will bite them. And I haven’t had my shots.

    “We can’t exclude them, they’re part of our community too.”
    “We need to show solidarity and oneness.”
    Uh-huh. A cancerous tumor is part of your body, but nobody sane is going to insist that they don’t want one removed on those grounds. That house is already divided; you’re just getting rid of the boards with the termites in them so some of it can keep standing.

    (puts on ad hat)
    Christian minister Kenneth Haugk wrote an awesomely good book, Antagonists In The Church, that addresses the multiple problems of dealing with toxic people in spirituality-based groups extremely well. Faith-purposed groups have dynamics that don’t occur in others, and this puts some professional tools for handling nonprofessional situations in your hands. It also dismisses quite a few myths, such as the popular idea that you just need to keep throwing bigger and bigger wads of love and light at someone, and they’ll transform into that beyootimous butterfly Child Of Teh Universe they truly are.

    There are also some very good Paganized versions of it online; this one is prolly my fave:

    I apparently can’t post the link, but if you c/p bichaunt.org/Trolls, it should come up. Or search Trollspotting by Eran Esoterica Bichaunt ;0)

    • Hey, you! I had completely forgotten about Antagonists in the Church–had meant to read it for years and just didn’t get around to it. Thank you so much for reminding me. Googling the Pagan version you mentioned now! You may have inspired me to write a Part II of “The Pagan Divide” . . . or maybe incorporate it as a Chapter in the book?

      You and I have those personalities that sort of scream “Do No Harm But Take No Shit” Inevitably, I think it’s easier for folks to throw the “divisive” accusation at me than to weed out those “cancers” you mention. Doing the right things rarely equates doing the easy thing.

      Thanks for the support and the info. 🙂 Seba

  9. Adelina Soto-Thomas says:

    I think you’re awesome. I have walked away from circles and other groups rather than be associated with the negative mojo some folks were bringing to the party. While others wanted to keep the peace, I needed to keep my peace of mind and spirit, which I could not do if I silently condoned inappropriate behavior. Perhaps someday I will be able to join with others in person again. For now, it’s just nice to know that there are good people like you and yours out there celebrating together.

  10. christy sullivan says:

    I wish you were my teacher. seba, you are just fucking remarkable. I am in awe of you every time I read a post from you. I’ve got to go way back and read more of you. you heal a part of me every time I read something you have written. and sister! I’ve been searching for a healer since my son died, something in me just clicks when I read your words. thank you from the bottom of my heart. I know sometimes you are overwhelmed and feel like you can’t write another word, but please know you are giving this southern, Irish, Cherokee, girl the peace that no doctor has been able to do. I will forever be grateful that I found your blog and I can not wait to read your book. have a happy celebration.

  11. sonya miller says:

    Its not all about politics and pushing and shoving…it is about our future though. I do not assume that leading is going to make one poplar you have to make a stand to lead. In the words of of a wise man….you cannot be neutral on a.moving train. Glad you chose to move your train on down the track.

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