Modesty Part III

A few months ago I wrote two blogs (Pagans and the Modesty Issue and Gender Respect in the Pagan Community) about modesty and how I think it doesn’t belong in the Pagan community. I had mixed reactions and I was shocked by how many people thought I was a horrible person for thinking that instead of teaching our daughters to not get raped, we need to teach our sons not to rape. The reaction was, who teaches their sons to become rapists? Maybe we don’t sit our sons down and tell them to go out and rape girls, but by not discussing what rape is, what consent is and that women have a right to dress however they want, our culture drowns our children in the idea that after a certain point girls are “asking for it” if they don’t behave in a “proper and decent” manner. And when people excuse sexual assault because of what a girl is wearing, it proves that we need to talk to males about the fact that sexual assault is never OK.

There is such a lack of discussion about sexuality in our overall society. Here in America, sex is a huge taboo. We have people who don’t want it taught in schools, who don’t want us to have access to places like Planned Parenthood, and for many years being a woman as a “pre-existing condition” could even change how your medical rights were viewed. While this is slowly changing, we still need to talk about these issues as often as we can. The Steubenville rape case should show us exactly why we need to sit boys and girls down and talk about what sex is, what consent is and when it’s not OK to take advantage of someone.

This weekend I had the opportunity to participate in SlutWalk. SlutWalks are organized protest marches that work to shed light on the fact that there is never an excuse for sexual assault; that no matter how provocatively a woman is dressing, she is not “asking for it”. Women and men gather and dress however they feel is appropriate, or in the clothes they were wearing when they were attacked, to march together in solidarity, proclaiming that Rape is never excusable. The original protest started over comments from a Toronto policeman who said “I’ve been told I’m not supposed to say this – however, women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized”.

While this protest is not a Pagan protest, its message is just as important to our community as to the larger community. Modesty is something that our entire culture is battling. If we encourage it, it will eat away at our respect and our equality, as we have seen it do in other areas of the world. We are a community of strong men and woman who should understand that whether male or female, it’s our body and therefore our choice. Consent is vital to more than just our sexual relations, and coercion has no place in our interpersonal relationships.

If we in today’s world don’t stand up and speak out about these issues and work to change them, what will our future look like? And until we overcome the very simple idea that women have as much a right to bare as much of themselves as men do, we will not have true equality.

My marching "outfit"

My marching “outfit”

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*All photos were taken by Kenny Klein and used with his permission

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God-Girl Stops By

Today for lunch I escaped my office and walked over to the student union, enjoying the beautiful spring weather as I went. After working my way through hoards of students, I grabbed my Orange Chicken from Panda Express, grateful for a seat at a table in the corner. There I started to blissfully veg out to the music videos they had streaming over the t.v.’s. While music videos aren’t something I generally engage in, it was something I could stare at and not have to think about. (This should tell you what sort of frame of mind I was in today).

If you follow me over on Pagan Square, you’ll know that last night I walked 10 miles for St. Joseph’s Night and had an amazing spiritual experience. Today I woke up sore and tired. Dragging myself into work was harder than usual and for once I didn’t even try to look professional. Today I broke one of fashion’s cardinal rules and wore yoga pants and a sweatshirt to the office. Luckily I’m hidden away in the back so I can get away with it.

Anyway, this video caught my attention…

…and I was trying to make out what was going on with it when a girl walked up to my table. She asked me if I was expecting anyone and since it was busy in the seating area, I assumed she wanted my chairs. So I told her no and gestured at the chairs. Apparently she was not asking to take my extra chairs because the next thing I knew she and her friend were sitting down and asking me if I had God in my life.

*Sigh*

I didn’t have any fight in me today. I found I could not be mean to her. I told her that yes, as a matter of fact, I did have a lot of the Gods in my life; that I was a Wiccan priestess, and much of my life was based around worship of the Gods. This took her aback and I could see the mental wheels turning. She didn’t quite know what to make of that. I’ve been confronted with this in the past when approached by Christians out to convert me. They seem to think that if you don’t believe in their God, you’re either worshiping Satan or don’t have any sort of religious life at all.

She didn’t let it deter her for too long. She looked at me and said “well, I was sitting over there and I saw you sitting by yourself and God told me that I needed to come and talk to you”. I work at a ritzy private university, this girl matched most of the other girls sitting and chatting around me. Well styled hair, expensive clothing, tasteful (and real) jewelry. In comparison to me with my piercings and tattoos and crazy hair, I was definitely very Other, even without wearing any of my usual Goddess type jewelry. In her very sheltered mind, I probably looked like the sort of Godless heathen she always hears about.

I told her that that was wonderful, but that I talk to my Gods all the time. Again, a confused look.

I took a second to explain that having been raised in the Methodist Church (which she also didn’t know about) that I had worked hard to find my religious beliefs and had worked hard to become a priestess (I didn’t even touch the idea of initiation, if she didn’t know about Methodists, she wasn’t going to grasp initiation). I also explained that I was very happy on my path, that I was happy she had found hers, that many people didn’t. But, she kept at it. Of course.

Next the conversation went something like this:

Her: Where are you going when you die?
Me: I believe in reincarnation
Her: Well how do you KNOW?
Me: I believe
Her: But you don’t know?
Me: *Sigh* How do you know you’re going to go to Heaven or Hell?
Her: Because it’s where I’m going.
Me: Have you been to either place?
Her: No
Me: Has God spoken directly to you?
Her: No
Me: So you believe that there is a heaven and hell?
Her: Ummmm…?

She generally stuck to the “I believe the Bible because the Bible tells me to believe in the Bible” circular argument. I finally managed to shovel enough of my chicken in my mouth to escape politely after telling her that it was nice talking to her but that I was happy with my path, but that it was good to have dialogue with other people.

But that was the problem, I wasn’t having a dialogue with her at all. I was pretty much repeating “I’ve found my path and am happy on it and am happy that you found your path and are happy on it, let’s agree to disagree, OK?” Which she was completely oblivious to.

The two things that really struck me about the whole experience (other than how unpleasant it is to have an 18 year old try to save you on your lunch break when you just don’t want to be bothered) was her complete lack of background knowledge. How do you have a rational discussion with someone who has no knowledge of the, excuse the English major in me coming out, but the “canon” of  their beliefs? And two, that you can’t argue with someone who believes they are in the right and has absolutely no interest in having any sort of rational discourse. There was nothing “interfaith” about her schtick, she didn’t care that I had a fulfilling religious life, she simply wanted me to accept hers.

The whole experience bothered me much more than it ought to have. It’s not like it’s the first time, after all. I’m a witch who lives in the South. But New Orleans is usually pretty good about the whole “your spirituality is different than mine, but that’s OK, we can still be friends” sort of thing.

I smuggled my egg roll back to my office and ate it there (it was soggy at that point) and continued to dredge through the rest of the day.

When I came home, I came across Sam Webster’s controversial new article over at Patheos called Why you can’t worship Jesus Christ and be Pagan. Before my experience with God-girl earlier, I still would have agreed with Sam. This is something that my partner has written about and gets yelled at for a lot. But having had this conversation with God-girl, this article meant a bit more to me than usual.

While I didn’t agree with all of Sam’s points, I also didn’t find the article to be hateful. I did find it to be strongly opinionated. The comments, on the other hand, were actually pretty hateful.Whether you agree with Sam or not, Yeshe Rabbit summed it up beautifully with her comment:

I find this article interesting for several reasons. 1) wakes us up and invites us to question ourselves. 2) states an unabashed and personally-relevant opinion, defends it with a consistent set of data and frame of reference (whether your particular scholarly opinion of the Bible is in agreement or not). 3) asks us to state who we are, and to be able to back up why we think that way. 4) opens the unpopular dialogue about the dangers of “getting too Interfaith to be relevant or specific anymore.” 5) generates buzz and attention, which means that whatever Sam REALLY wants us to read will be coming soon/next, now that we are watching with piqued interest. I’m looking forward to that part, particularly. 6) demonstrates one viable method for owning one’s personal authority and opinion without resorting to cruelty or personal attack of any one being, the example of which I see has NOT translated to most of the comments here.

And this was exactly what God-girl was missing. Her “my way or the highway” attitude is exactly why I have so many problems with the idea of combining elements of Christianity with Paganism. While Paganism is accepting, Christianity is not. Its lack of acceptance and “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live” sort of attitude is not one that is compatible with a a group of people who all do things a little differently. Pagans are also pretty big about going out and reading and discussing and arguing. We value intelligence. We can argue about how to approach our type of Paganism all we want (I do with Wicca all the time), but at the end of the day, we don’t tell you that if you don’t do this a certain way you’re going to go to a very bad place where you’ll roast for all eternity. Bringing that mindset into Paganism is scary, it’s what I left behind when I left Christianity. Christianity does not embrace differing world views or background knowledge further than “the Bible told me to do it”.

We can agree to disagree and since we’re Pagan, that’s OK. But as Jesus says, “I am The Way, The Truth and The Life, no one comes to my father except through me” (John 14:6). I don’t think it’s possible to satisfy a God that clearly points out there is no other way than His way. As Sam points out, He expressly forbids the worship of other gods, idols, doing of magic and divination, things that Pagans holds sacred. This reasoning is the sort of reasoning that has caused so many atrocities over the years. Why in the world do we want to invite that sort of “my way or the highway” thinking into our community, even if it is cloaked by a good-god persona?

Unselfish

Yesterday in the midst of reading about CNN’s blunder in their handling of the Steubenville rape case, I was caught up in an unexpected argument at work. The argument was over whether or not women who choose not to have children are “selfish”. Apparently I, as a young woman, am extremely selfish for living a fulfilling life without children.

The expectation that women will and should have children is omnipresent in our culture. It is even seen in the often fiercely feminist Pagan community. I especially see it in the triple Goddess concept of Maiden, Mother, Crone. (This is especially poignant because this conception of the Triple Goddess is not an element of classical myth; it was born of the Feminist Goddess movement of the 1970s).

This idea is wrapped around the assumption that a woman’s worth is characterized by her reproductive abilities; that the three stages of maiden (before childbirth), Mother (in the midst of birthing and raising children), and Crone (the inability to have children any longer) are the stages that define a woman. It is as if there are no other important parts to a woman’s life.

The sad part is, we don’t even seem to be realizing we’re doing it.

I am none of the above and I have no plans to procreate in the foreseeable future. I do, however, think about it a lot. The other day my partner asked me why (with a slight hint of panic in his eye), but my generation stands at the precipice of a new way of thinking, and the decision to have children is no longer an easy one. Today, we have the choices, but we are also still pressured to conform to the ways of a thousand generations of our ancestors: ancestors who did not have easily obtained birth control, and who could devote their lives to being in the home, raising children.

I am a fully independent being whose self worth is not tied up in my potential to bear children. I am lucky enough to live in an age of science, and to experience the most freedom we, as women, have ever enjoyed. While there are those out there who are fighting to take that away from us, our right to choose is one of the most powerful rights we have in the sovereignty of ourselves.

The power to choose is also one of the most significant that we, as witches, have.

The phrase, “Witch, know thyself” says it all.

My energies lie elsewhere: in my partner, in my coven, in my new priestesshood, in my writing, in my career, in my graduate work, and none of these things would be possible if I were to choose to have children right now and devote myself to their care.

I am not “selfish” for choosing differently. If feminism did nothing else, it gave me the right to choose how to handle my body and my family making decisions. The fact that I hear this mainly from other women is one of the worst parts about the whole thing.

We need to come up with new concepts of what characterizes womanhood. We need to reach beyond the archetype of the triple goddess and embrace new ideas of what women are and what their possibilities can be. While the triple goddess may be an easy archetype to grasp, we are more than that. My Lady is more than that. The Craft that I practice is about more than that.

I am not “selfish”; I am a witch who is here to help reshape the world. Whether I decide to create life has no bearing or relevance on my place in that unfolding reality.

Beware the Ides

Today is the Ides of March, the infamous day that Caesar was murdered.

Caesar was warned by a soothsayer about the Ides, but ignored the warning. On his last walk to the Theatre of Pompey, Caesar walked past the seer and jokingly said “The Ides of March have come!”  The seer replied, “Aye Caesar, but not gone…”. Caesar was stabbed 23 times by other senators a short time later.

Traditionally, the Ides of March was the last day of the Roman new year celebrations. March was the beginning of the Roman calendar year, and from the first to the Ides, the Romans held festivals and celebrations.

The Ides of March was also the day that a feast to the Goddess Anna Perenna was held. People made sacrifices to Anna Perenna to ensure “that the circle of the year may be completed happily”. Gathering on the first milestone of the Via Flaminia, famous for it’s tombs and cemeteries, (note the idea of death in the midst of life), people also picnicked and frolicked in her name.

Ovid talks about the festival of Anna Perenna, the goddess of the ring of the year:

The happy feast of Anna Perenna is held on the Ides,

Not far from your banks, Tiber, far flowing river.

The people come and drink there, scattered on the grass,

And every man reclines there with his girl.

Some tolerate the open sky, a few pitch tents,

And some make leafy huts out of branches,

While others set reeds up, to form rigid pillars,

And hang their outspread robes from the reeds.

But they’re warmed by sun and wine, and pray

For as many years as cups, as many as they drink.

There you’ll find a man who quaffs Nestor’s years,

A woman who’d age as the Sibyl, in her cups.

There they sing whatever they’ve learnt in the theatres,

Beating time to the words with ready hands,

And setting the bowl down, dance coarsely,

The trim girl leaping about with streaming hair.

Homecoming they stagger, a sight for vulgar eyes,

And the crowd meeting them call them ‘blessed’.

I fell in with the procession lately (it seems to me worth

Saying): a tipsy old woman dragging a tipsy old man.

~Ovid: Fasti

Anna Perenna is a goddess of cyclical time. Her feast on the fifteenth is halfway through the month and on the day that in the old calendar was when the moon should be full. She is also a goddess of health and renewal and the connections between the past and the present.

Supposedly Anna Perenna was the sister of Dido. In the Aeneid, she and Dido talk about Aeneas.

BkIV:1-53 Dido and Anna Discuss Aeneas

But the queen, wounded long since by intense love,

feeds the hurt with her life-blood, weakened by hidden fire.

The hero’s courage often returns to mind, and the nobility

of his race: his features and his words cling fixedly to her heart,

and love will not grant restful calm to her body.

The new day’s Dawn was lighting the earth with Phoebus’s

brightness, and dispelling the dew-wet shadows from the sky,

when she spoke ecstatically to her sister, her kindred spirit:

“Anna, sister, how my dreams terrify me with anxieties!

Who is this strange guest who has entered our house,

with what boldness he speaks, how resolute in mind and warfare!

Truly I think – and it’s no idle saying – that he’s born of a goddess.

Fear reveals the ignoble spirit. Alas! What misfortunes test him!

What battles he spoke of, that he has undergone!

If my mind was not set, fixedly and immovably,

never to join myself with any man in the bonds of marriage,

because first-love betrayed me, cheated me through dying:

if I were not wearied by marriage and bridal-beds,

perhaps I might succumb to this one temptation.

Anna, yes I confess, since my poor husband Sychaeus’s death

when the altars were blood-stained by my murderous brother,

he’s the only man who’s stirred my senses, troubled my

wavering mind. I know the traces of the ancient flame.

But I pray rather that earth might gape wide for me, to its depths,

or the all-powerful father hurl me with his lightning-bolt

down to the shadows, to the pale ghosts, and deepest night

of Erebus, before I violate you, Honour, or break your laws.

He who first took me to himself has stolen my love:

let him keep it with him, and guard it in his grave.”

So saying her breast swelled with her rising tears.

Anna replied: “O you, who are more beloved to your sister

than the light, will you wear your whole youth away

in loneliness and grief, and not know Venus’s sweet gifts

or her children? Do you think that ashes or sepulchral spirits care?

Granted that in Libya or Tyre before it, no suitor ever

dissuaded you from sorrowing: and Iarbas and the other lords

whom the African soil, rich in fame, bears, were scorned:

will you still struggle against a love that pleases?

Do you not recall to mind in whose fields you settled?

Here Gaetulian cities, a people unsurpassed in battle,

unbridled Numidians, and inhospitable Syrtis, surround you:

there, a region of dry desert, with Barcaeans raging around.

And what of your brother’s threats, and war with Tyre imminent?

The Trojan ships made their way here with the wind,

with gods indeed helping them I think, and with Juno’s favour.

What a city you’ll see here, sister, what a kingdom rise,

with such a husband! With a Trojan army marching with us,

with what great actions Punic glory will soar!

Only ask the gods for their help, and, propitiating them

with sacrifice, indulge your guest, spin reasons for delay,

while winter, and stormy Orion, rage at sea,

while the ships are damaged, and the skies are hostile.”

After Dido’s death, Carthage was sacked by the Numidians. Anna fled, ending up in Aeneas’ new city Lavinium. Aeneas’ wife Lavinia was jealous of Anna and plotted against her, but Anna was warned in a dream by Dido’s spirit and fled. In the end, she fell into the Numicus river and drowned (though some say the river God took her). It is here that she became a river nymph, forever locked into the  “amnis perrenis” or the “perennial stream”, which is how she became the goddess of the circle of the year for Rome.

Another tale told by Ovid is about how Mars tries to persuade Anna to get Minerva to marry him. Anna finally agrees to it, but when Mars lifts the wedding veil on his new bride, he finds that he has married Anna instead! The feast for Anna is in March, the month of Mars and this is why the feast for Anna is a rowdy, bawdy affair and why Anna and Mars are often linked in worship. Anna Perenna is often equated with Luna, Themis and Io.

And in the spirit of circular remembrance…

In 40 BCE, on the anniversary of Caesar’s death, Augustus took his revenge for Caesar after winning the Siege of Perugia by executing 300 senators and knights who fought for Marc Antony. He did it in front of the altar newly consecrated to Caesar.

After the capture of Perusia he took vengeance on many, meeting all attempts to beg for pardon or to make excuses with the one reply, “You must die.” Some write that three hundred men of both orders were selected from the prisoners of war and sacrificed on the Ides of March like so many victims at the altar raised to the Deified Julius. ~Suetonius, The Life of Augustus

So this Ides of March, take a moment to celebrate the year and never forget that something might be waiting for you just around the corner… What goes around, comes back around to get you eventually after all, and isn’t that the main idea of the Rule of Three right there?

Beware the Ides of March!

Cunt: The Reason for the Season

Cunt. C-U-N-T. CUNT! CUNT! CUNT!

Cunt, the forbidden word.

I love this word.

The other day, this word came up in a coven class and no one wanted to say it.

I, however, really wanted to break into this:

Since I have no acting talent, I was gracious enough not to hurt everyone’s ears, but…as someone in the third wave of feminism, I consider cunt to be more than simply a “reclaimed” word. It is a powerfully evocative word that just makes me shiver with glee.

As a witch, it has even more importance to me, and it all centers around Ostara.

You can track down various meanings and etymologies of the word cunt, but in this case, I like to look at it’s progression from the word ‘coney’ or hare.

The Online Etymology Dictionary says, “Alternative form cunny is attested from c.1720 but is certainly much earlier and forced a change in the pronunciation of coney (q.v.), but it was good for a pun while coney was still the common word for “rabbit”: “A pox upon your Christian cockatrices! They cry, like poulterers’ wives, ‘No money, no coney.’ ” [Philip Massinger: “The Virgin-Martyr,” Act I, Scene 1, 1622]”

Of course, if you weren’t familiar with coneys before, you were after this scene from the Lord of the Rings trilogy:

Hares are one of the first animals to poke their noses out and start procreating during the earliest days of spring. Not only do they, well, “fuck like rabbits”, but if you look at a hare’s tail, it looks like a woman’s pubic hair.

This has been used as a symbol of the goddess Eostre to represent both the birth canal and her reproductive abilities. For centuries, many British folk customs have centered around the hare during the month of April. Many academics also tie the hare to Freya, who didn’t have hares pulling her chariot, but a pair of cats. What do we call our cats these days? Pussies of course! So…coney – cunny – cunt – pussy…!

And there you have it. CUNT! The reason for the season.

Now say it with me kids, “CUNT!”

And remember, the next time you call a woman a cunt, you’re calling her a queen. So maybe she does deserve it after all.