PAGAN PRIDE: THE GREAT DIVIDE

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.

I have a few 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.

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 veryinterested 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.

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, 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.

My Cajun Sista, Gralyn and the Viking.

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

Seba O'KileyComment