Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Elevated

Jack does his best to be open-minded when it comes to my various beliefs and practices. I applaud his efforts, and in response do my best to not throw the occult in his face. Except when I accidentally do. Like when I'm parking.

My preternatural parking ability really bothers him, possibly because I've exhibited it so many times that he can no longer wave it away as mere coincidence. "Knock it off!" he shouted, after we pulled into an overflowing Best Buy parking lot two days before Christmas, and I immediately found a spot five feet from the store's entrance.

"I'm sorry!" I wailed. "I didn't mean to! It just happened!"

"Liar!" He roared. "You did it on purpose!"

Meanwhile, onlookers tried to decide if we were performing the scene in Love! Valor! Compassion! where Bobby tearfully confesses his infidelity, or the scene in The Initiation of Sarah where the protagonist's telekinetic powers suddenly manifest in the middle of a sorority mixer.

I shared this tale with my favorite Witch, who happens to be a fellow devotee of the Parking Goddess, and I mentioned that my parking power seems to be spreading to elevators. Seriously, I walk into the lobby of an office building, and ding ding ding, every lift at my disposal. She thunk on that for a bit, and then mused, "I wonder if there's a Goddess of elevators?"

This got me wondering, too. And as far as I know, there isn't an official one. As of yet.

So I hereby nominate Cardea, the Roman Goddess of... um, door hinges.

Okay, at first glance, not the most glamorous sphere of influence. But She's also the Goddess of thresholds and the protector of children, which is interesting when you consider that the Goddess Diana, traditionally associated with Witchcraft, is also the protector of children. And Cardea is romantically linked with Janus, God of beginnings and endings, which is also interesting, because in Witchcraft Today, Gerald Gardner points out that Diana and Janus were ancient names of the Gods of the Witches, so something is definitely going on here mythologically, and where the hell was I again?

Oh. Right. Elevators.

Elevators are liminal spaces. With doors. So Cardea is the Goddess of elevators. And here's how I think She should be venerated.

When you're getting on an elevator, and someone behind you goes, "Hold the door," you should:

a) Hold the door.

b) Say (to yourself or out loud), "Gladly do I hold this door in the name of Cardea."

Or, when you're on an elevator and you reach your floor, you should say, with exuberance, "We have arrived safely, by the grace of Cardea!"

Granted, these are little things, but I'll bet Cardea will appreciate them. Because any time the opportunity presents itself, we should let the Gods know how important They are.

All that aside, do me a favor and don't repeat any of this to Jack. If he finds out there's an actual Goddess behind my freaky parking thing, he'll ditch my ass for an atheist faster than you can say "rational humanism."

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Step away from the carving knife

My brother (we’re twins, so I should really start calling him Nissyen: believe me, it fits) and his wife are in town for the week, and my parents had us all over last night for a big steak dinner. We were sitting in the living room with my father, attempting to explain to him the miracle of TV that is Project Runway, when my mother wandered in from the kitchen, looking pensive.

“What’s up?” we asked.

“When the police interrogate a murder suspect, they look for three things,” my mother said. “The first is motive, and the second is opportunity, but I can’t remember what the third one is.”

We took a moment to digest that, and then my sister-in-law said, “Don’t they also look for means?”

“Yes!” my mother said. “That’s it! Means! Thank you!”

Another awkward silence. Then, me, half-joking:

“Did you murder somebody?”

My mother smiled sweetly. “Not yet.”

And she wandered back to the kitchen to grill the steaks.

At least, I think they were steaks.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Polytheism Over Easy

Thalia posted some very astute comments to my last entry (actually, several readers did: Go Team Strifemonger!) that got me thinking about my personal perceptions of the Divine. But I want to be careful about how I express these views, because I have a history of infuriating other Pagans when I do so.

I'm thinking specifically of a heated yet wacky online discussion many moons ago, on the only listserv from which I've ever been banned (one of my crowning achievements to date). The moderator...

...oh, real quick, I should tell you about the moderator. Have you ever met someone, male or female, who was obviously, painfully gay, but who was also in deep, dark denial about it? And they dealt with their repression through negative projection, spewing all of their self-loathing outward onto the GLBT community at large while using their religious beliefs to defend and validate their hate speech and internalized homophobia? And you can't really explain how much better they'd feel if they'd just come out of the closet, because then you're one of those homosexual "recruiters" who want to prey on the innocent youth of This Great Country and turn our next generation into an army of debaucherous, sodomite Democrats?

Yeah, that's totally her. Except she's Wiccan. Oy.

Anyhoo...

The moderator was on this weird, almost fundamentalist rant about duotheism in Wicca, how all Goddesses are one Goddess and all Gods are one God or else, and I respectfully but firmly dissented, thinking the rest of the list members would see my side and back me up. Instead, I was wholeheartedly accused of heresy. Which, all things considered, is pretty damn funny. "You have been found guilty of heresy against Witchcraft and are hereby condemned not to die, because never again the Burning Times."

Comedy gold aside, here's my take on things.

Some Gods are the same God with different names, worshipped in different places in different periods. Other Gods are similar to each other, but are not the same God--more like fraternal twins, perhaps, or identical cousins. They may get mixed up in people's heads sometimes, but They're separate entities in Their own right. And as far as I can tell, They are not terribly offended when They're mistaken for one another. It doesn't click with me to say that the Gods are simply "aspects" of one ├╝ber-God, although, I can see how the image or symbol of a particular deity could be representative of another, based on personal preferences and how those deities choose to reveal Themselves to Their servants.

As an initiated Witch of a specific tradition, I am part of the priesthood of two individual, pre-Christian, Western European deities. Other Gods exist, but they are not the Gods to whom I am dedicated, and as such I am not under Their jurisdiction. In "real world" terms, I take orders from my boss, but my best friend's boss doesn't have much say-so over me (although I'd certainly be respectful if I met her boss at a party).

Along the lines of a practitioner of Wicca "working" with other Gods, the office analogy continues. My boss and I are really good friends, and I'm very happy working under her. I do my job to the best of my ability, which benefits both of us. Within my company, there are several divisions, each with a director who's at the same level as my boss. Occasionally, I find myself needing to call one of these other division heads to ask a couple of questions, or for help with a particular project. While I don't have the same close relationship with these other directors as I do with my boss, we get along well, and we work well together when the situation demands it. And while these other directors may think I'm a good employee, they do not determine what bonuses I will receive, or when I'm eligible for promotion.

So that's how I see it, although I freely admit I could be way off base. Athena and Astarte may not seem like the same Goddess to me at all, but up in Godsville, Athena-Astarte could be shaking Her head and going, "Cernunnos-Zeus, maybe you can talk some sense in to him. Because, seriously, Ereshkigal-White Buffalo Woman has had it up to here."

I guess I'll find out eventually. In the meantime, though, I'll stick with the semi-hard polytheism. As that guy who's routinely accused of inventing Wicca once wrote:

"They quite realise that there must be some great 'Prime Mover', some Supreme Deity; but they think that if It gives them no means of knowing It, it is because It does not want to be known; also possibly, at our present stage of evolution we are incapable of understanding It. So It has appointed what might be called various Under-Gods, who manifest as the tribal gods of different peoples; as the Elohim of the Jews, Isis, Osiris and Horus of the Egyptians, and the Horned God and the Goddess of the witches."

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Story of M.

Over at Panthea, my blog-buddy Grian/Lee shared a tongue-in-cheek but relevant essay on what the Goddess, if given the opportunity, might say to women who unilaterally bash men.

It was witty and touching and made a great point, so imagine the surprise that rippled through the Blogosphere when Debi, the Goddessian Harpy, swooped in for a heaping helping of jugular.

G/L handled the reactionary comments with aplomb. But Debi wouldn’t let the topic drop, crowing (pun intended) on her own blog about how she told G/L a thing or two about that. [Ed. note: be sure to read the comments, where the one-sided conversation continues.]

G/L is understandably peeved. And frankly, so am I.

But I’m not going to write about that.

Instead, I'd like to tell a story.

Back in my early college years, I worked in a record store, where I made the acquaintance of a fellow employee named M., a woman in her early thirties. We initially got along well, but, despite full working knowledge of my homosexuality (I'm nothing if not up front), she developed an intense crush on me, which quickly turned possessive.

She didn’t like my other friends, wished I wasn’t gay, mentioned both at every opportunity. Although raised Catholic and happy with her faith, she immediately converted to Paganism after learning of my interest in Wicca.

And I brushed it all off. Because I was her friend, and any occasional, uncomfortable moments aside, it never occurred to me that I might be in an unhealthy or (perish the thought) dangerous situation.

When I turned 21, the staff of our store threw a huge birthday bash for me, at which I partook of the cup mightily. Early in the morning, several party-goers decided to move the festivities to an after-hours dance club. But M. declined for the both of us, pointing out that I was in no shape to go anywhere and announcing that she was taking me home to sleep it off.

Upon arriving at her apartment, I headed for the couch. No no, she said. I should take the big, comfy bed, and she would sleep on the sofa. This sounded fine to me, so I toddled into the bedroom, kicked off my shoes, and, otherwise fully dressed, collapsed onto the mattress and passed right out.

I woke up the next morning wearing nothing but my boxer shorts, with M. sleeping soundly next to me.

My booming “What the hell?” roused her from her slumber, and she jumped into an explanation of the circumstances. She’d come in to check on me after I crashed, and while I looked okay, she was worried that I might be too warm in my clothes. So she undressed me and tucked me in. When I asked what she was doing in bed with me, she said something about back trouble and the couch not being very comfortable.

Noting the mortified look on my face, she added that she didn’t, you know, do anything to me. She thought about it, of course, and okay, so maybe a little something went on, maybe she took a peek under my boxers, and then...

“Wait, what?!” a sick panic stirred in my belly.

“Ha ha, just kidding!” she said, with a satisfied smile. And her eyes said, Maybe.

We didn’t stay friends for long after that. To this day, I have no clue what actually transpired that evening, but I do know that I may have had some kind of sexual encounter, while in an extremely vulnerable state, against my will. And I know that after this incident, her obsessive perception of our relationship crossed the line into malevolence.

She started calling my family. She started telling our co-workers that I was abusing her. She started stalking me.

This went on for a year and a half.

I'm not going to go into what happened next. Suffice it to say I got out of the situation with my psyche intact. I didn't call the authorities or have her whacked or anything, but I did what I needed to do to take care of myself. Last I heard, she was happy, healthy and dating.

The end.

I don't tell this story to garner pity, or to portray myself as a victim. Nor do I tell this story to hold M. up as an example of How Women Really Are--she was one, very disturbed individual, not representative of anyone except herself. Rather, I tell this story to show that even though we live in a society ruled by an authoritarian, Yahweh-addicted Patriarchy: Everyone, regardless of gender, has the potential to take advantage of someone else. Everyone, regardless of gender, has the potential to hurt, or scar, or rape someone else.

Everyone, regardless of gender, has potential. It's what we do with that potential that's important. And if we actualize that potential by categorizing a generalized group of people as villains, or scapegoats, or for extinction, then all we're doing is repeating unforgivable mistakes.

I would like to think that we, regardless of gender, are better than that.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Stupid Insensitivity for Fun and Profit

I was going to write an eloquent-yet-scathing opinion piece on the insulting cover of this month's New Yorker, but Anne beat me to it.

In lieu of my own op-ed, here's the form letter I received from said illustrious publication after I sent in an e-mail voicing my complaint:

"Our cover, 'The Politics of Fear,' combines a number of fantastical images about the Obamas and shows them for the obvious distortions they are. The burning flag, the nationalist-radical and Islamic outfits, the fist-bump, the portrait on the wall — all of them echo one attack or another. Satire is part of what we do, and it is meant to bring things out into the open, to hold up a mirror to prejudice, the hateful, and the absurd. And that's the spirit of this cover. In this same issue you will also see that there are two very serious articles on Barack Obama inside — Hendrik Hertzberg's Comment, and Ryan Lizza's 15,000-word reporting piece on the candidate's political education and rise in Chicago."

So basically, "It's not our fault if you don't have a sense of humor. Nyah nyah nyah."

Meanwhile, a bunch of idiot, fundamentalist NeoCons are looking at this cover and going, "We knew it!" and spreading the word. Good job, New Yorker. Way to bring the absurd out in the open.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Reader of People, Maker of Trouble, Claimer of Titles

So the Psychic Fair was fun: did some readings, made some money, turned around and spent most of it at the shop sponsoring the event, with enough left over to cover gas. Plus I got to spend some time with several cool rootworkers, along with the gorgeous ladies of Khandroma, Houston's premiere goth-fusion belly-dancing troupe. Overall, not a bad way to blow a Saturday.

The only real glitch occurred at the beginning of the fair, when my blood sugar suddenly dropped in the middle of my first reading--nothing inspires confidence in your friendly, neighborhood fortune-teller like profuse sweating and a case of the shakes. The reading went really well, though, so hopefully, the client just chalked it up to benevolent spirit possession.

Oh, actually, there was one other thing that happened towards the end of the day, something that pretty much exemplifies why I get so twitchy about the self-appointed "leaders" of the Pagan community. A group of us were hanging out in the main room of the shop, chatting companionably, when out of nowhere, this woman, one of the (cough) Elders of the Houston area, stabbed a finger in my direction and said, "Hey, who's he?"

"Hi! I'm Evn," I said, hoping my tone conveyed the sheer delight I felt at being addressed in third-person.

"I don't know you," the woman said to me. Then, to the manager of the shop, "I don't know him. He's..."

And I swear I'm not making this up.

"He's not one of us."

"I'm sure you know Evn," the manager replied calmly, ignoring the "one of us" comment but shooting me a wide-eyed "WTF?" look that could've shattered glass. "He's on all the Yahoo! groups."

"It's 'Evan' without the 'a'," I helpfully supplied. "E-V-N."

She paused for a second, scrutinizing me. "Oh, wait, I do know you!"

"Yes, you do!" I agreed.

"You're one of those troublemakers."

And with that pronouncement, she turned away and went back to holding court with less worrisome Pagans, while I tried my best not to burst out laughing, and the manager grinned and shot me another look that read, "high five."

I should say that I come by the title "troublemaker" honestly, as Elder Lady and I have butted heads a number of times on the lists, usually over what it truly means to be a part of the Pagan community. She defines the community by those members who attend the correct events, support the correct organizations, and acknowledge the correct people as undisputed monarchs. I define the community by those members who are welcoming to the newbies, and who aren't dickheads to everyone else.

Same planet, different worlds. But I'll take "troublemaker" over "sycophant" any day.

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Hills Are Alive with the Sound of Beer

Maybe it's some weird disassociative thing from spending too much time around my parents, or job stress, or being a little freaked out about working my first psychic fair tomorrow. Whatever the reason, I've had a song stuck in my head all day.

I learned it years ago, from the very first Pagan I ever met. She was smart and funny and and down-to-earth and had a really good grip on nutrition, and she's why I've stuck with Paganism, on account of I thought all Pagans would be like her.

Turns out, not so much. But I ended up Pagan anyway, and now I can't stop singing this song.

The lyrics are as follows. The tune will become readily apparent:

Do, is what I buy beer with,
Re, the guy who sells my beer,
Mi, is who I buy beer for,
Fa, where the bathroom is from here,
So, I think I'll have a beer,
La, la la la la la beer,
Ti, no thanks I'll have a beer,
And that brings us back to
Beer beer beer beer Do.


Feel free to sing along. I don't have any beer, but but Jack probably wouldn't mind if you took one of his 5-Hour Energy shots.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Come join us on the dark Pagan side...

Last Saturday was the official Houston GLBT Pride Festival and Parade, and... I missed it. Again. But at least this year, I have a better excuse than my standard "It's too hot and it lasts too long and I don't want to go."

My dad had ankle surgery a week ago, so I've been helping my mom take care of him at their place while he convalesces. Which translates to watching TV while he reads detective novels, competing in best-three-out-of-five backgammon tournaments against him (I'm the current reigning champeen), and occasionally draining the semi-coagulated blood from the stint coming out of his leg.

I've had worse jobs.

Since I don't have any good tales to share from this year's festivities, here's something that happened to my pal Georges last year. It was a couple of hours before the parade, and George was moseying about, watching the various participants getting their floats ready for showtime, when he came upon the GLBT Pagans.

"Wow, great costumes!" he said. And while I don't know what the costumes were, I have no doubt they were great: a natural cynic though I may be, putting the words "gay," "pagan" and "parade" together can do nothing but result in fabulous couture.

"Thanks!" the GLBT Pagans said. "You should come to one of our meetings!"

"Actually, I'm Lutheran," Georges said. "But I do appreciate the invitation. And again, great costumes!"

"Jesus was a Pagan," one of them said. And according to Georges, they all took a step towards him.

"Um... no, Jesus was Jewish," Georges responded, starting to get nervous.

"You should come to one of our meetings!" another one of the advancing Pagans repeated.

And then Georges screamed and ran away. Which, in some social situations, would be considered a faux pas. But considering the circumstances, it was an entirely appropriate response.

Since then, Georges has often referred to the "scary, Evangelical Pagans," and while I can't fault him for feeling that way, I don't think it was their intent to recruit. Rather, I think they were--in a fucked-up, misguided way--trying to be inclusive.

On its own, inclusivity is most definitely a good thing. But, like anything else, it can be taken too far. "We're here if you need us," or "You're always welcome here," is wonderful. "You're one of us, whether you want to be or not," is, as Georges pointed out, scary.

My long-suffering life partner has to deal with this issue a lot more often than I do, since, as the spouse of a Pagan, he's expected to be Pagan, too. Now, honestly, Jack would make an amazing Witch and would be a natural at this stuff... except for that little technicality of him not being Pagan, and not having any interest whatsoever in becoming one. But every time I attend a Pagan pub moot, I end up in the following conversation:

The Pagans - "Hi Evn! Where's Jack?"

Me - "Oh, he didn't want to come."

The Pagans - "Why not?"

Me - "Because he's not Pagan."

The Pagans - "But he could have come. We like him, and we want him here."

Me - "Yes, but this is a Pagan get-together, where we're going to talk about Paganism, and how Pagan we are, and he's not Pagan, so he wasn't interested in coming."

The Pagans - "Well, he still should be here."

Me - "But he's not."

The Pagans - "But he should be."

Me - "No, he should not be."

The Pagans - "He should come to one of our meetings!"

Guys, seriously, regardless of whatever Pagan practices were assimilated into Christianity, regardless of what Dion Fortune may have said about all Gods being one God, regardless of how much we may want everyone to find a loving and accepting place in our Circles...

NOT. EVERYONE. IS. PAGAN.

NOT. EVERYONE. WANTS. TO. BE. PAGAN.

If we keep this in mind, and we let people do their own thing while asserting our right to do our own thing, then we're far less likely to evolve into a Pre-Christian-inspired equivalent of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

A Newbie of My Very Own

For the past several weeks, my assistant, J., has been slipping the word "Goddess" into casual conversation.

I assumed he was doing it to make our Christian co-workers uncomfortable. I don't necessarily disagree with making Christians uncomfortable, but from a managerial point of view, if he was only doing it to ruffle feathers around the office, I figured he should probably knock it off.

So this morning, when somebody sneezed and J. was all, "Goddess bless you!" I wandered over to his desk and asked, "Just out of curiosity, why do you keep talking about a Goddess?"

"Because God is a woman," he replied.

I did my best not to spit-take. "I'm sorry, what?"

"I'm one of the 2% of Americans who believe that God is female."

He grinned triumphantly, and I thought to myself, Yep, he’s definitely doing this to make our Christian co-workers uncomfortable. I decided not to mention that I, too, am part of that ubiquitous two percent, but I did go ahead and offer to loan him a statue for his desk, and he said he’d think about it.

“I’m actually wondering if I should be Pantheistic,” he continued. “I’ve been doing some research online, and it seems cool. But there are, like, three different kinds! And I don’t know which one I want to be.”

“Okay, where is all this coming from?” I asked. “Last time I checked, you were agnostic.”

“Well, I am, I guess,” he said. “The thing is, I do believe in God, even if I’m not sure what the rest of my religious beliefs really are. But it would be kind of nice to find other people who see things the same way I do.”

“I’m going to go out on a limb here,” I said. “Have you ever thought about Paganism?”

He admitted that he it wasn’t something he’d considered before, but because of his deeply fundamentalist upbringing, he did like the sound of it.

“There are even Pantheistic Pagans,” I said, carefully toeing the line between education and proselytization. “And for the most part, Pagans are into the Goddess. How’s about I e-mail you a link?”

After reviewing some Web sites, J. said that he could maybe see himself as Pagan. And I said “Neat!” and shut the hell up. Because I’m not going to mold someone in my metaphysical image, no matter how much I may want to.

But if he does turn out to be Pagan, I want to be what I never had: Someone who could step out of the bookshelves of New Age crap at an early enough stage and say, “Let’s head in this direction, okay? It’ll make sense if you stick with it. Promise.”

All that said, J. is nothing if not irreverent, so it came as no surprise when he asked if Bjork could be his Goddess.

Which made me think that Asatru might be a good path for him.

I’ll keep you posted.