Thursday, 26 August 2010

Typealyzer

I submitted this blog to The Typealyzer, and the result should come as no surprise to anyone:

INTP - The Thinkers
[INTP]
The logical and analytical type. They are especially attuned to difficult creative and intellectual challenges and always look for something more complex to dig into. They are great at finding subtle connections between things and imagine far-reaching implications.

They enjoy working with complex things using a lot of concepts and imaginative models of reality. Since they are not very good at seeing and understanding the needs of other people, they might come across as arrogant, impatient and insensitive to people that need some time to understand what they are talking about.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Today's WTF Moment

Uri Geller bought a Scottish island he claims contains ancient Egyptian treasures. I know, right? But wait: it gets goofier:

Tales of Scotland's ties to ancient Egypt date back to the 15th century, but many regard them as a bit of nonsense. According to the legend, King Tutankhamen's half-sister, Princess Scota, fell out with her family and fled to Ireland and then Scotland, thereby giving the country its name. Some say the alignment of [Geller's island] and two nearby islands closely mirrors the layout of the pyramids at Giza, near Cairo, not to mention the three main stars in the Orion's Belt constellation.


I've heard the Princess Scota legend before, of course, but as just that: a legend, a bit of folklore, a pleasing connection for someone like me who waffles daily between Kemeticism and Scottish folk witchcraft but not something to be taken as fact. So, LOLWHUT is my immediate response. Though wouldn't it be cool if it were true? ;)

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Discrimination, Discretion, and Presentation

I was linked via email to this YouTube video of a young man who experienced religious harassment in his workplace, and it's worth the ten minutes of your time to hear his story. I am sympathetic, because I too experienced workplace bullying that was most likely of a religious origin, but at the same time I have to wonder if what he experienced--and what I experienced--was even slightly self-inflicted through lack of discretion.

(I just had an enormously strong flash of deja vu as I typed that; but then, I've been awake for less than half an hour, so I'm enclined to discount all weird brain phenomena until I'm fully conscious.)

What happened to me, over a decade ago now, isn't too hard to figure out. I trusted someone in the office who turned out to have a big mouth and not as open a mind as I'd thought; my web site became known to people with the ability to make my life very uncomfortable, and they did. I found a better job and I left. Could I prove that their behavior was religiously motivated? No; but the timing was suspicious enough that I can think of no other reason. Even had it been absolutely blatant, I would have been disinclined to try to press charges, for how on earth could I have proven anything? Plus, it wasn't like people ganged together to perform an exorcism on me at lunch time, or came round anointing my cubicle with holy water. They were just bitches to me, and when they started falsifying reports to make it appear that I wasn't producing (when I was in fact the department's top producer), I walked. And as much as I blamed them for being bitches, I also blamed myself for forgetting the cardinal rule of trust no one and thinking I worked with intellectual, tolerant people who could handle difference. (There was a transwoman who came to work there, too, and she lasted maybe a week; before she quit she sought me out and told me I was the only person at the place that talked to her like a human being. That makes me sad, and angry, to this day.)

As for the young man in the video, I am sympathetic, but only to a point. Some of you are probably going to accuse me of victim-blaming, but honestly, don't we all have at least some culpability in the way our actions impact our existence? (And shouldn't witches of all people be more cognizant of that than most?) He lives in Birmingham, Alabama of all places; is that a town you associate with religious liberty and tolerance? He has a wicca-focused YouTube channel and states that his tormentors knew of it; how did they find it? Did he speak openly of it at work? Did he wear ostentatious pagan jewelry? Was he an out-and-proud pagan in places where being one of the Hidden Children would have been more prudent? The old saying Discretion is the better part of valor is extremely applicable in these situations; knowing when to speak, to whom, and what the potential costs might be are difficult lessons which all of us on magical paths will eventually face. I don't fault this young man for his learning curve; I can only hope that he'll emerge from his experience stronger and wiser for it.

Lastly, let's talk about presentation, because this has become a big issue with me. I often cringe at the way my ostensible coreligionists present themselves: little attention given to clothing, questionable hygiene, unhealthy behaviors, bad grammar and spelling, etc. In short, an overall lack of professionalism. Pagans won't be taken seriously until they behave seriously--you know, like adults? Just a little? This video opens with bad spelling, then shows us a young man in clothing that says "I don't care how I appear to you." I understand that impulse; I followed it myself for years, with a splendid defiant disregard; but it handicapped me, and I can admit that now. He's got a two-liter bottle of soda in one hand and a cigarette in the other, and those things say "I don't care about my health, or about how I appear to you." And he frankly lost me when he stubbed out that cigarette on the ground (he is speaking in an outdoor setting) and left the butt on the ground. That says "I don't care about my health, I don't care about how I appear to you, and even though I say I'm a member of an earth-centered religion, I don't really care much about the earth, either." I scanned through some of the rest of the video after that, but I was disengaged. And I can guarantee that other viewers who are even less inclined to be sympathetic to a pagan cause than I will have checked out for those or other reasons as well.

If we--all of us who for whatever reason cluster beneath the umbrella of "pagan," willingly or grudgingly--cannot present ourselves effectively, our every effort is doomed to failure. A subculture cannot operate independently of its larger culture; and if it attempts to do so, it has to be aware there will be consequences, and accept them as inevitable. If we want fair and equitable treatment, we must present our case in a way that the larger culture will understand; we need, in short, credible witnesses. (I don't know that I come across that well myself, because I'm obnoxious and obtuse and sometimes insufferably pompous; but the other extreme isn't any more effective.)

Friday, 13 August 2010

Passages

I never met Isaac Bonewits; I knew of him as I know of so many other seminal figures in the modern neopagan movement of which I have been a part now for more years than really seems possible. He has been eulogized at length and eloquently now by those who did know him, so I won't even make the attempt. I have no real belief in or expectation of any kind of afterlife, but even so a return of our physical matter back into the matrix of nature whence we came doesn't seem like such a bad ending for a druid who clearly honored and exalted that matrix through his life and his work. So thank you, Isaac, for helping to more clearly mark the path that others would follow behind you.

Neopaganism is a new religion that's gotten old enough to see its founders start to age, and in some cases, die. That's a startling and sobering thing in itself. Gardner was long gone before I ever heard of any of this pagan stuff, and others like Sanders and Leek and the like passed on while I was still very young. But now I'm older myself, and more aware, and seeing the elders of this movement growing old, growing ill, hits down at that level where the nightmares lurk--as I am now, so shall you become, chilling as an eroding epitaph on an ancient tombstone (in a moss-shrouded graveyard at midnight, and with a vulture perched on top). We see our own mortality writ large in the passage of those who go before us. And even though our various systems that cluster under the "pagan" umbrella give much lip service to the idea of revering death, in the end who doesn't honestly fear the Reaper, just a little? It's not so much the actual death part that holds the horror, but the process of getting there.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Insert Expression of General Displeasure Here.

The past couple of months have been generally disagreeable, filled with fail and things imploding in dramatic (and often expensive) ways. I've backed down off the ledge for the moment, but it's still damned precarious. Time to get my mojo working.