Posted by: aediculaantinoi | February 21, 2014

PantheaCon 2014: Wiccanate Privilege Discussion

Of the various issues at this last PantheaCon that were discussed–occasionally on the main program (an improvement from last year!), occasionally in a hospitality suite–privilege was one that seemed to be of particular interest. An excellent panel discussion moderated by T. Thorn Coyle was held on Saturday afternoon, and I hope to be writing more about that in the coming days (as I attended it and made a small contribution–and, it was recorded, and so will be available to listen to by the wider community soon!); one response to it will likewise be mentioned further below in the present post.

But, the discussion that I attended, and took a major part in, happened in the Covenant of the Goddess/NROOGD/etc. hospitality suite, which was on Wiccanate Privilege. This is a term that was (to my knowledge) coined by Rúadhan McElroy in this post, and has been used in a variety of discussions here and at Patheos.com’s Pagan Channel over the last two months (including this one from earlier this month), discussions which involved Aine Llewellyn, Gus DiZerega, and Don Frew as well as Rúadhan; it was also used with all the named individuals in this very blog in December. I think this is why Don asked me to be a part of this event, and very graciously scheduled it in a slot where I was otherwise unoccupied.

The room in the hospitality suite was quite limited, and all of the seats and most of the floor was near-full by the time I arrived (later than expected, unfortunately), and it was totally full to the point of being a likely fire hazard by the time we began; a few people came in and out, but most stayed for the entire time, which was right about two hours. The hospitality suite’s hosts were very accommodating and helpful throughout, so I thank Covenant of the Goddess and the other organizations for their generosity in this regard, and for their work in general.

What will follow here is both my account of my opening statements (as well as a brief characterization of Don’s), and then some further reflections, which were initially written in correspondence with Heather Greene (who was present for the event) in terms of my thoughts and reactions on the matter–about 2,600 words worth of such reactions! (this is me we’re talking about here!)–interspersed with further memories and reflections on the matter.

As Don began his discussion of the series of further points brought up in response to an article he wrote that was posted on The Wild Hunt, and then my earlier blog post reacted to it, he outlined some of the basic matters involved in interfaith understandings, and with the characteristics of the article he wrote in general (including some edits on its title that made it sound more far-reaching than it is to those not familiar with the predilections of discourse within that publication and the community it serves). As he said this, I added that we were all at an interfaith event at that moment, but I heard some people state “No, we’re not, this is in-TRA-faith” in response to me. (You’ll see why, later, I don’t think we can really state this is the case any longer, and with some of our groups, probably never could.) He also did mention that there are several stages of interfaith interaction, and that eventually (a third stage of such interactions, if I am remembering correctly) is an acceptance and authenticity, such that every group can do what it does and no one is offended or feels excluded when things that are tradition-specific are done. Don did credit Rúadhan with introducing the term “Wiccanate Privilege” to the discourse, though no one really defined it too much (including myself–for which I apologize, and I think some of what followed in terms of confusion may be because of that).

I accepted Don’s invitation to the talk because, in my opinion, we had a very productive discussion in the comments section of my blog post on some of the initial objections I raised to his article. It was in the course of those discussions that I know I used the term “Wiccan privilege” in a response to Gus DiZerega, and there seemed to be some misunderstanding of what this means on the part of some Wiccans when the term is used by those in the polytheist community. It’s something that many of us, as polytheists, perceive as being a problem for us akin to the problems that arise in subcultures and minority populations in which a hierarchy of visibility and preference emerges, and where some groups–e.g. in the modern queer communities, cisgender gay males tend to be “higher” and more visible and respected than trans* individuals, bisexuals, people of color, the disabled, etc.–end up being the “acceptable public face” of a movement while others might be marginalized or ignored, or even ostracized. (When I was going to introduce this matter to the people at the discussion, the obvious example that came to mind was Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and his adherence to nonviolent resistance principles articulated and enacted by Gandhi, but he was introduced to those principles by Bayard Rustin, who was gay, and who ultimately Rev. Dr. King rejected because associating with a gay person hurt the overall movement, he thought. But, I didn’t have the time to talk about that, so I didn’t.)

My statements went along the lines of what follows–and, please excuse me from using a kind of numbered note format, as I think this will be the easiest way to distinguish what I’m claiming I actually said in absence of a recording where all of this can be verified.

1) I am privileged AND blessed to be in the devoted service of Antinous and the Ekklesía Antínoou and its other gods; I speak from that tradition, but not for it. I’m also metagender, and that has specific pronoun implications, but “Lupus” is a perfectly fine way to refer to me.

2) First off, everyone in the room at PantheaCon has privilege in some area or another–if one has the time and the money to come however far it was for each person to be at that presentation, then that is privilege.

3) One of the reasons that Rúadhan McElroy, Aine Llewellyn, and some others have been as “cantankerous” as they have been online about issues like this is because they don’t have the privilege to be at PantheaCon in person, and so those online outlets are pretty much all they have, and we must understand this and respect this.

4) I’ve earned the nickname over the weekend, so I had heard from various people, of being “the reasonable polytheist.” This is interesting, but also rather unfortunate, because a) the use of “the” in that sentence makes it sound as if I’m the only one who is reasonable, and I’m not; and b) those sorts of statements in themselves demonstrate how much of a problem privilege is. (“So-and-so is one of the ‘good Muslims'”; “Such-and-such is an ‘intelligent black'”; etc.–and while I didn’t list these examples on the occasion, do you see how similar this kind of discourse is?)

5) What we must do, first and foremost, is recognize, honor, and thank those in the pagan movement who have done interfaith work, and who have faced some difficult issues of Christian (and Muslim and sometimes also Buddhist or Hindu) privilege in being included at an interfaith table, including people who were present on the occasion like Don Frew, Gus DiZerega, Rachel Watcher, M. Macha Nightmare (who I accidentally forgot, but I hope I apologized sufficiently for forgetting!), and Angie Buchanan. For this they should be thanked and honored and remembered, and I wanted to emphasize that before getting into some other points.

6) Thus, the previous individuals (and many others) having faced that kind of religious privilege and knowing about it first-hand experientially and all of its detrimental, marginalizing, and negative effects, why then would they ever want to perpetuate that on other people?

7) There has been a lack of recognition on the part of some that a similar use of privilege, due to the size of Wicca (both in traditional forms as well as in Wiccan-derived genero-eclectic solitary paganism) and its prominence amongst the various forms of paganism, has sometimes occurred to the detriment of non-Wiccanate traditions like various polytheistic and reconstructionist-based traditions. The lack of ability to do a “privilege-check,” or to even admit that something like that is necessary or that it is possible to have Wiccanate privilege, is the underlying problem that many of us in the polytheist communities have experienced and are upset about.

8) I spoke recently in a private online discussion with Christine Hoff Kraemer about some of these issues (only in the case concerned, the issue was “marginalization” rathre than privilege specifically), and she commented that polytheists have a lot of “power.” While there are a variety of issues involved in that discussion, and very certainly anyone who is privileged has power, nonetheless on some occasions those who lack privilege have situations in which they can wield a great amount of power. The best example I can think of this (though not one I remotely agree with on a moral or ethical level) is the amount of power that terrorists have over the general population as a result of things like 9/11. In thoe sorts of situations, an oppressed and marginalized group with some grievances against imperializing hegemonic privilege being exerted against them used guns, bombs, box cutters, and commercial airliners (amongst other things) to make their points in ways so powerful that they are still impacting how all of us travel today, and have shaped notions such as “homeland security” and other such amtters that we still deal with.

9) The first people within a group that lacks privilege and wants to be seen, heard, and respected like others are always branded with the label of being uppity, outspoken, cantankerous, and so forth, and always take more flack and backlash than those after them. It happened with civil rights; it happened at Stonewall; it always happens, and I think not only did it happen when modern pagans (and especially Wiccans) asked to be included and regarded on the interfaith scene, it’s also happening now when some non-Wiccanate pagan and polytheist traditions are asking to be seen and heard.

10) Somewhere in there, I am pretty sure I mentioned that having privilege isn’t bad; but using privilege in ways to justly advance those without it is good, while using it in ways to marginalize or to hold it over others is bad…but, as I was having a low blood sugar, I’m not quite sure at what point I might have mentioned this.

In any case, after I was finished, general discussion by many people present followed. I’ll touch on some of those points as we progress further here.

I hoped that some basic understandings would emerge from this discussion, on what makes more strict, literal, devotional (or, though I don’t like the term, “hard”) polytheists different from Wiccans, Wiccanate Pagans, and more general eclectic Pagans would emerge. I think that goal was achieved as far as some people present were concerned–certainly Don Frew, Gus DiZerega, Margot Adler, and several others seemed to have an understanding and acknowledgement of the difference by the time we were finished (though not necessarily agreement–but that’s never required!). Various things, including an edited publication, will likely follow from this event (though they began independent of it), and I look forward to collaborating with several of those present toward greater understanding, cooperation, and other useful projects in the future.

Others, however, seemed to entrench themselves even more in their own positions.

The moderator of the discussion, Jeffrey Albaugh, stipulated that people should try and use “I” statements rather than “you” statements, but many people (including him) went entirely off the rails where that matter was concerned. I have never been in a situation with so many pagans of various stripes telling me exactly what I believe, or what my group stands for, or who is included and excluded in my group, than on that occasion. In every case, all of them were wrong, misinformed, and have not availed themselves of the resources out there on my tradition (including this blog, my books, and even the information on me and my group and the sessions we were offering at PantheaCon in the PantheaCon schedule book!). Note, by this, I don’t mean their own practices or beliefs are “wrong,” I mean that their views of the beliefs or practices of me or my group, the Ekklesía Antínoou, were severely and often damagingly incorrect–and yet, they were not being offered as opinions, they were assumptions about me and about us being stated as facts. It is one thing if someone does the research and gets to know me and then characterizes my beliefs or the beliefs and practices of our group; it’s another entirely if someone assumes that they know me and my beliefs and my group’s beliefs and practices, and tells me to my face what they are as if they are stating facts, when they aren’t. And, not to put too fine a point on it, it’s something that privileged populations often assume about those who are not-as-privileged, and happens all the time with things like disability, queerness, gender identity, and religion (i.e. misinformed Christians telling me what I as a Pagan believe or do), and as I have experiences of all of these previously mentioned types of ‘splaining in my life otherwise, I know what this feeling is when it is being done to me by Wiccans and Wiccanate Pagans.

While nearly everyone at the discussion in the room raised their hands to indicate they were polytheists (in some definition of the term), there were a variety of things said or demonstrated that show me that many people don’t really understand or accept the existence of polytheism-as-such as much as they might think they do. I had been asked to clarify the definition of it I was using just after I had my opening statement by Jeffrey Albaugh, which is an uncontroversial one: polytheism means “many gods,” who are independent volitional divine beings that exist outside of me in a real fashion. This definition, which is a literal one (and some things which are literal, I’d note, aren’t necessarily negative!), didn’t seem to sit well with many people there.

As two examples:

1) Allyn Wolfe handed me a “Dictionary of Theological Terms for Wiccans” (and, given I have an M.A. in religious studies and a Ph.D. as well, I found this somewhat patronizing) that he uses for discussions of Wicca after the talk, and while it has a good solid paragraph on Pantheism and Panentheism, there is no actual entry on Polytheism at all. If our theologies are not even visible in a “theological dictionary of terms,” then how obvious is it not obvious that we, too, are invisible and marginalized quite often?

2) When I said that I am a polytheist and that anyone else who has monism or panentheism as part of their polytheism is fine, but I don’t have, want, or need those other terms to describe my theological position or to articulate my expereinces of divine beings and realities (though animism is something I’d also use to describe my theological position, and I should have stated that), Jeffrey Albaugh (who, again, was the moderator of the discussion) and a few others seemed to indicate that only having one term for a theological position was reductive attachment to singular, provisional, and partial labels. The immediate example that was used was if someone just says they’re a “man,” that’s not really encompassing the entirety of their identity; and while I agree that’s the case for that particular example (though I don’t know anything of this, since I’m not a “man”), theological characterization is one area of life and inquiry that can be described and indicated quite easily for some people without loss of nuance. That other people are perhaps “more complex” than me (in their views) is fine, but also not my problem or concern. In my case, for my theology, animism and polytheism are all that need to be said, thus I can’t help but take it as somewhat personal that I’m “not-as-good-as” many of the others present who, within a Wiccan or Wiccanate context, might also be monists or pan(en)theists as well as polytheists. It’s as if on this matter, they’re saying “there should be more,” whereas on the matter of my actual polytheism and the individuality of the (literally!) hundreds of deities that I’ve encountered or done cultus to thus far is “too much” and there must be an underlying unity behind all of it somewhere. That simply isn’t the case for me, or for my lived experience of these deities, and that goes for many other in the polytheistic communities as well, I’m quite certain.

(The notion that such monistic experiences “should be” in our experience is, again, an assumption and a suggestion that we’re not doing things quite right. Many of us have had what these other varieties of pagans would understand as monistic experiences, and we interpret them entirely differently in some cases.)

Some side issues also came to the fore and ended up being emphasized a bit too much, in some cases. My friend, colleague, co-religionist, and Mystes Antínoou Finnchuill spoke a bit, and mentioned that in the “Pagans and Privilege” panel the afternoon before with T. Thorn Coyle, she used a standard Feri tradition prayer (with some additions of her own) that she uses in every context. (I, for one, agree that prayers should begin our lectures and presentations and such at PantheaCon and elsewhere always, and I have been following such a methodology for the past several yaers personally, always dependent upon the nature of the presentation and the gods involved or not involved with it.) He suggested that using such a prayer in a more widespread pagan context, and in the specific arena of discussing privilege, was in itself a bit of blindness to Wiccanate privilege. And, it seems that T. Thorn Coyle has addressed this issue specifically in a recent blog post. (As I stated in the comments there, I don’t have any problem with the prayer personally, but I do have to “adjust” it a bit so that it ends up being a prayer to Nyx as I hear it.) Unfortunately, the way the group as-a-whole replied to this was not to observe the point being made, but instead to attack Finnchuill for using the term “Wiccan” (and he did say “Wiccanate” as I recall, which isn’t the same thing!) when Thorn and that prayer comes from the Anderson Feri tradition. In fact, this was a matter that many just wouldn’t let go, without allowing the point that even the Feri tradition is Wiccanate, which is to say, most people from that tradition (though their tradition has different, separate roots from Wicca) can interact with more generalized Wicca without difficulty or the need to adjust or revise or re-interpret certain terms for theological purposes in order for things to work.

Toward the end of that part of the discussion, I asked those present if I had prayed a prayer from one of my traditions at the beginning of an event that was more universal in its appeal and not just for people of my own tradition, would they feel offended or excluded, and I was given a resounding (and in some cases an almost exasperated-sounding) “No!” I want to believe everyone who said this, but I’ll return to this point further down.

There was also a moment in which Starhawk spoke, and I would note that before I relay what I understood her to be saying, she came late to the discussion, after Don had given his opening framing of the discussion and the need for it, and during the final part of my own opening remarks. (This is why some important discussions at PantheaCon and elsewhere are closed sessions, because one needs to hear everything that goes on in a discussion in order to have the correct context.) In essence, she seemed to be indicating that with all of the environmental degradation that is going on (which no one there would deny) and the active oppression of various populations (which, again, no one could disagree with), why were we having this discussion at all? Unfortunately, statements exactly like that have been used to derail and shut-down discourse and attention being given to a variety of issues over the years. “You’re just not important enough,” it’s essentially saying. I find this deeply troubling.

Margot Adler said she doesn’t want to exclude anyone for theological reasons, and she does that based on very personal and political liberal-minded reasons (which I totally understand). She also said that she is Wiccan and has been for several decades at this point, but (as she’s said on other occasions) her heart has always belonged to the Hellenic deities, and that the reason she is Wiccan is because there was nothing else out there back when she first got involved.

[This is a very fair and important point; and now that there are other things out there, why is it that some Wiccans don't seem to want to allow those other things to be heard or acknowledged? And, Margot isn't one who is advocating such, just so we are clear on that--nor is Don, Gus, or anyone else present to my knowledge at this stage.]

Dr. Stephanie Rendino (who was one of several people in a squabble over who got to speak next due to poor moderating skills as well as a lack of negotiation and consent on the part of the two other speakers contesting “who was number three?” and thus went last) also remarked that when she was in the U.S. Army, the only choice for religious identification in paganism was Wicca, but she’s Heathen. This, she sees as Wiccanate privilege. She was pretty much told by several people present that it isn’t, and that Wicca’s presence in the Armed Forces has allowed other things to gain prominence in the aftermath.

Taylor Ellwood also remarked that his reverence for pop cultural entities has been derided by some people, and he sees that as privilege. His point was somewhat dismissed, unfortunately. For the record, I’d state here that those in the polytheist community who had the debacle about six to eight months ago over “pop cultural deities” were not of the opinion that someone’s pop cultural devotions weren’t real, but only that they are not “gods” in the way that gods are, but instead are some other form of divine being, whether these are thought-forms (as Don and others aaid in relation to Darth Vader) or egregores or what-have-you. In any case…

So, my goals in attending the discussion were to: a) graciously and thankfully accept a genuine and heartfelt invitation seeking to know my (and, with any luck, many other polytheists’) position on an important set of issues in a spirit of understanding and goodwill; b) communicate what those positions are as reasonably and non-angrily as possible; c) gain respect for my traditions and those of my polytheist colleagues who could not be present (even though I cannot truly do the latter, and was not given official sanction to do so by anyone in our communities to my knowledge); d) defend my position or correct errors about it expressed by others, if and when needed; and, most importantly, e) represent and serve the gods and the traditions to which I am devoted in as exemplary a fashion as possible. I think I was marginally successful in terms of what I had hoped to accomplish; much else will depend on how what I was able to do is received by others who were present and who read the varying accounts of the discussion.

I think that the event was worthwhile, and is an important beginning to this process. Clearly, everyone who was there wants to be involved with this process, and considers it important enough to spend two hours at an all-weekend event that has a frenetic level of activities–social, ritual, and informational (and sometimes all three at once, and more!)–available in any given time slot, and so I’m thankful that as many as were present did turn up for it, which if memory serves was around 25 to 30 people.

I also think the way that it went did demonstrate that there is still a huge gulf between stated desires and intentions and the actuality of the situation as experienced by modern polytheists. I was given various messages of wanting to understand, of wanting to respect my tradition (and those of other polytheists), of interest in these matters and our practices being expressed; and it was also abundantly clear that the necessary foot-work in understanding, which could have been achieved before this event, had not occurred.

It always used to confuse me, when I first got involved in diversity work (especially around race/ethnicity issues) in college twenty years ago, when my friends of color would say “I’m not here to educate you.” After many experiences over the next twenty years, in which I was finding myself exhausted with the demands of the privileged to know more about my gender identity or sexual orientation or religious practices at their whim–whims which were expected to be met immediately with not only my compliance, but my thankfulness for being so fortunate as to be paid attention to by the person in question–I understood what my friends of color meant much better, and that understanding continues to grow and become nuanced as my sensitivity to privilege (my own as well as those forms which I do not possess) increases.

While that expectation of being able and happy to educate and perform at the majority’s whim didn’t quite happen this time, all the same, there were several points where, despite being admonished otherwise to use “I” rather than “you” statements by Jeffrey Albaugh as moderator at the beginning of the discussion, I was told by others what I believed or what my policies were on certain matters, I was not asked questions, and when I offered information from my own viewpoint or from the policies and practices of the Ekklesía Antínoou, I was then contradicted with “But I thought you…”! The information on these matters has been available for several years in some cases, and was easily found in the PantheaCon book in others, and yet the people asking the questions didn’t feel the need to consult any of these sources.

Part of privilege is that one doesn’t have to pay attention to certain things at all, up to and including the existence of minorities and subcultures, including within certain minorities and subcultures. If the people present at the discussion were not lying to me in expressing that they are interested in my traditions and practices, why didn’t they take the thirty seconds to read my short bio or that of the Ekklesía Antínoou, or of the events we were offering? Why so many assumptions about us and what I’m about as a polytheist, or as a pagan (and some present assumed that I am not and don’t identify as one, when in fact I have for over twenty years and still do, even despite some polytheists abandoning the label)? I had to explain–as I have many times before (including recently!) that I am a pagan in the literal sense: I am rural, I am a civilian, and I worship the gods.

There were a variety of assumptions in terms of how some people talked about the gods generally that don’t hold with several of the specific gods I deal with, and yet these assumptions were stated as universals. One was that the gods are older and more powerful than humans; but, my main god, Antinous, was a human before he became a god, and he was a human that lived almost 1900 years ago. There is also an assumption–and one that was stated to me afterwards as the best strategy for interfaith prayer, and which also occurred in various other events I attended over PantheaCon and have also encountered elsewhere–that people can call upon “the divine” silently however they wish, often at the beginning of a ritual or ceremony. That also doesn’t work for Antinous, because he isn’t omniscient, so he can’t read anyone’s thoughts, and thus calling on him by name in vocal prayers or hymns is necessary in order for him to become present and sensitive to the prayers of people and to the intentions of a given ritual. (I’m reminded here of a prayer once given on Stephen Colbert’s show, in which he asked the Christian deity about something, and then said “But since you’re omniscient, you already know I want this, so my prayer is redundant; and since you’re omnipotent, you may have decided not to do this and thus it isn’t going to happen, so my prayer is also pointless.”) No, Antinous wasn’t a god from the beginning of the cosmos, and though he hears the prayers of those who call upon him, he cannot always grant them…and yet, it is not pointless to pray to him. Some pagans, as well as people from other religions, have tried to convince me that therefore my devotion to Antinous is misplaced, and I should try to find some other god who is “better.” Is there anything more disrespectful to a tradition and to someone’s theology than telling them they are useless and pointless and they should make a better choice–preferably the choice the person saying such has made, most likely? But we didn’t have time to get into these finer matters of how theology and the lived experiences of the deities does and should inform our practices, and how these are vastly different from how many Wiccans, Wiccanate Pagans, and others within our diverse communities might think or believe or practice within their own traditions. If we are to have respect between our traditions, I cannot (and do not!) tell them they’re doing it wrong; but likewise, they shouldn’t do this to me, and if their rituals are going to include me, they shouldn’t likewise make it impossible to include my gods and my practices in their framework.

In the Pagans and Privilege panel that occurred the afternoon before this discussion, organized and moderated by T. Thorn Coyle, one very important matter that Charlie Glickman brought up was that when someone has the courage to confront someone else with their blindness to privilege and to correct them on their insensitivity, the proper response should not be to say “I’m sorry” first, it should be to say “Thank you.” This was something that everyone present in that very popular discussion affirmed. When these kinds of corrections occured at the Wiccanate Privilege panel, usually initiated by me, I never heard “Thank you” or “I’m sorry,” I heard explanations of why something was assumed, or why a given person reacted the way they did, and often these explanations and justifications were out-and-out patronizing to my (rather considerable!) intelligence or my emotional sensitivity. That the individuals involved, likely, don’t think they did anything wrong in this process is a demonstration of how, no matter how much of their privilege comes from factors outside of their particular religion’s viewpoint, that there is an assumption of privilege, of better understanding, and of an unimpeachable justness and appropriateness to their behaviors and their responses that I simply don’t understand and had to be educated on…and that, dear friends, is privilege in action. It is always the privilege of the majority–even if it is a majority within a minority–to appear logical and unbiased. No, not everyone there acted in this fashion (and several were exemplary in their understanding and in their compassionate sensitivity), but that some did and yet probably still think they’ve not done anything at all objectionable worries me in terms of how successful some of these efforts will be when even the willing have such blind-spots.

In my closing statements, I asked about two things.

First, I said that I’ve been presenting at least two events at PantheaCon on the main schedule since 2007, and as many as four (which occurred this year), and yet the reason that most people hadn’t been to them was because they tend to be scheduled either at 1:30 PM on Friday (when people are still arriving, checking in, getting registered, and are checking out the vendor’s room to snap up certain items before they are all gone), at 9 AM Monday (“the hangover slot,” when most are still asleep from all the parties the night before), 11 AM Monday (when people are having to check out of their rooms at the Double Tree), or at 1:30 PM Monday (when many have already left, or are hitting the “fire sales” in the vendor’s room). I understand that programming is under a great deal of pressure, and it isn’t easy to fit everything in, and I am very grateful for what we are given each year; but at the same time, we’re begging for crumbs and have to take what we can get because we haven’t been considered as important or as much of a crowd-draw as certain other presenters or traditions at this point. (And the very patronizing ‘splaining that occurred after this was rather annoying, needless to say.)

Second, I said that I want to believe everyone at the discussion who said that me saying a prayer from my own tradition at an event for a wider group of people would be supported and would make people interested in it. Unfortunately, my actual experiences at PantheaCon have shown that not to be the case. At my first PantheaCon in 2007, I was at both the opening and closing rituals, and in the latter, because I was the person from the furthest point to the north present at the ritual, I got to dismiss the Northern Quarter (first!), and was told to do so according to my own tradition. I didn’t have the Obelisk of Antinous handy at that moment, but instead I thanked the powers and elements of the North, the Earth, and the Ancestors, and did so in both Old Irish and in Latin, according to the traditions I follow…and I got absolutely nothing energy-wise or otherwise supporting me on this because I didn’t phrase it in the usual Wiccanate way of “Hail and Farewell!” People looked at me at this discussion like I was crazy…but, there it is, it hasn’t happened when I’ve tried to do it, and that’s the evidence of Wiccan privilege right there. Being told “Well, you should adapt to what people are used to” is further evidence of the same.

I was very appreciative, after I had to say some rather more fervent words about people thinking that my group excludes non-gay people (!?!–clearly, the people who thought this know nothing of me or the group!), that Margot Adler asked me if her inclusion of the blurb about my old website and the first incarnation of modern Antinoan devotion might have created the misapprehension of our gay exclusivity. This was very sensitive and kind of her, and I thanked her for asking, but I don’t think that is why, actually. (The reason why is something else entirely, but I won’t get into that here.)

Thus, I think it was an encouraging event, and one that demonstrates to me that some people are trying to make an effort and want to come to a better understanding of these matters. I also think it illustrated how far we have to go, and how good intentions can’t accomplish much of this work (as much as we’d like to think they might), and though it might have been foolish of me to have thought that this would “solve everything,” nonetheless there’s a lot more to solve that I can’t really help with unless people actually come to events, inform themselves, and in other ways don’t impose either their understandings of what Paganism ought to be or should include, or what they think my (anti-Pagan? Gay?–When in fact neither is true!) polytheism already does include and uphold.

[If you've read all of this, may the blessings of Dike, Themis, and Iustitia be upon you forever more, and likewise Antinous, the Divine Hadrian, the Divine Sabina, and Polydeukion!]


Responses

  1. […] So, have a read, and feel free to comment here or there. I’ll be saying more about Sunday at PantheaCon, but probably after I cover some of the events on Saturday and Friday first, as Sunday was mostly a social day for me (except for the Wiccanate Privilege discussion). […]

  2. Oh, man, now I wish I had had the spoons at the time to be at this discussion! In some ways, this is the old “witchier than thou” discussion, but on broader terms. In a weird way, this shows how far the neo-pagan(etc) movement has come: we are now sounding like all the theologians. In some ways, I want to be snarky and say “Oh, look! We’re just like every other religion on the planet arguing about who has the proper and true ways!” But, in reality, it’s good that we’re finally, and consistently talking about race, gender, and privilege, since we have the opportunity, as we grow, to really do better.

    The only problem is, is that we’re all human, and it will be a battle the whole way.

    (I hope this makes sense, since I’m still catching up on sleep…)

    • It does, and thank you for commenting!

      [And I know what you mean--I'm still not caught up on sleep, hence more typos in the above than usual...]

  3. First of all, thank you so much for being on that panel. Thank you for being up there and dealing with all of those microagressions. As someone who couldn’t have handled that at all, thank you thank you thank you.

    Ugh it’s depressing to me how similar this is to other things I’ve experienced. In a way it’s very similar to how more sex-positive feminists are trying to engage with the asexual community and how they say that want to be more inclusive of us… while making statements that erase our existence or tack on a mention of us as an afterthought. Which, you know, isn’t good enough. :/

    • Indeed, I know what you mean. I can’t quite fathom why it is some people are still saying “this isn’t privilege” when it has the exact same mechanics and phraseology and attitudes behind it that any other form of privilege does. The way that asexuality gets dismissed, not included, or (as I’ve often heard) characterized as a kind of anomaly or even deficiency brought on by “too much monotheism” or “sex-negativity” and so forth, rather than being something that some people just naturally are in a constitutional manner, is really upsetting and sickening.

  4. Thank you for the discussion on intersectionality, and the importance of asking questions and then listening to the answers. Important conversations to get into.

    • Thank you for reading and commenting! I hope to write more (and properly!) to you soon, as well! ;)

  5. Thank you very much for this write-up…and thank you for asking for the blessings of Dike, Themis, Iustitia, Antinous, the Divine Hadrian, the Divine Sabina, and Polydeukion.

    Thank you for standing up and speaking, thank you for not backing down while being both kind and courteous. Thank you for speaking up as a polytheist, and thank you for speaking when it clearly was hard at times to be diplomatic. May Bragi bless you in all your works written and spoken!

    • And many thanks to you for the blessings of Bragi, who I know too little of, but respect more and more every time I find out more about him! May I live to be worthy of his blessings!

  6. Lupus, thank you for doing this. If this debate has needed anything, it’s more people willing (and available) to do face-to-face talking. It may not have gone as well as one might have hoped, but it certainly went better than one might have feared.

    I was unable to take detailed notes (being one of the folks who came in just before start, standing against the back wall), but I did come away with some overall observations.

    First is that things went fairly well when folks were speaking about their own experiences, but went downhill rapidly when they started speaking about the experiences of others (to those others).

    Another thing is that the debate is saturated with terms of which individuals believe there is a common definition, but about which there is much disagreement. Polytheism and privilege were both terms like this that afternoon.

    Thinking of that, I recall your defining of polytheism (and the incomprehension of far too many people). You were quite clear on the “many gods” part, but I don’t recall you mentioning the “unique individuals part.” Perhaps I just missed it. It is key to your use of it, though. Most of the non-polytheists seemed to be missing this aspect of it, in any case.

    The last thing that struck me, in general, was the general ignorance of the history of Wicca and its place in the development of modern Paganism. Understanding how much of modern “non-Wiccan” Paganism derives from Wicca is key to understanding why wiccanate traditions have the position they do. Unfortunately, being blind to this is part of and supports that privileged position.

    At any rate, thank you again, for speaking up.

    • Thank you for all you’ve written here–I agree on all counts. (And I wish I had known you were there…!)

      Something else that struck me, which I should have mentioned above: I didn’t assume anyone knew anything about me or my group when I spoke (though it seems that several who were present assumed they knew both when they didn’t), but it was very common that the major (and, from what I gather, non-major) Wiccans there didn’t feel the need to introduce themselves or their traditions, because “everyone knows me” or something. That was, I think, rather presumptuous, as I don’t know a lot about the personalities behind some of these Wiccan traditions, nor do I recognize them on-sight. There are some privileged assumptions at the heart of that sort of behavior as well, I think.

      In any case, there’s a lot more to say on all of this, and I look forward to reading it across the blogosphere in the near future. Again, thanks for reading, and for your important comments here!

      • I didn’t assume anyone knew anything about me or my group when I spoke (though it seems that several who were present assumed they knew both when they didn’t), but it was very common that the major (and, from what I gather, non-major) Wiccans there didn’t feel the need to introduce themselves or their traditions, because “everyone knows me” or something. That was, I think, rather presumptuous, as I don’t know a lot about the personalities behind some of these Wiccan traditions, nor do I recognize them on-sight.

        Oh wow –and again, you flawlessly identify another point of the privilege involved. I know I certainly would be unable to identify any of the major Wiccan or Wiccanate celebs you named –save, perhaps, for T. Thorn Coyle, whose blog I’ve been reading for years, and who, compared to most other pagan writers I vaguely remember photos of, Coyle is pretty recognisable.

      • Indeed, and since Thorn wasn’t even there…!

        There were some major names that were identified later that I had heard of but didn’t know on-sight, and who didn’t get (nor give) a full introduction either, who were Feri practitioners and such.

        I wonder if the basic facts of “ne’er the ‘twain shall meet” that seems to be the actual situation on the ground with our various traditions is not, in essence, “for the best” in some respects. But, I’ll have more to say on all of that in the future, possibly.

      • I was the bearded gent in the black suit near the door, standing at the back. I’d considered trying to make your acquaintance afterward, but you looked swamped, so I went for dinner instead.

        The lack of introductions seems presumptuous, sure, but I have to wonder if (for some of them at least) it wasn’t more of a shyness, of not wanting to seem to brag. A nice, contextualizing self-introduction ought to be the norm; but many of us grew up in a culture that discourages anything that even seems like talking ourselves up.

      • Yes, I vaguely remember seeing you there; I wish I would have known it was you, though! Oh well…next time, eh? ;)

        As far as not talking oneself up and such: I certainly get that, and often do that (i.e. am modest and don’t mention things lest I seem arrogant); and yet, in other sessions at PantheaCon where we were asked to introduce ourselves, many people didn’t have too much difficulty with it. *shrugs* Were people at this session just really bad at following directions? Hmm…

      • Next time for sure.

        That session was challenging for everybody. I suspect the topic would be better done with the standard panel discussion followed by Q&A format, like most of the main programming events.

  7. Great post, Lupus! And you definitely talked about #10, and, I think, early on.

    I very certainly talked about Thorn’s “Wiccanate”,not Wiccan prayer, though I sure got a lot of heat over that. When people are so emotionally charged up, they don’t hear what is being said. And of course I never said I was offended by it, as was made out to be.

    I don’t really agree though that prayer is important in non-ritual aspects of the ‘Con. People of all varieties go to the ‘Con for all kinds of reasons. I guess, I prefer prayer to be consensual. But like I stated in that dialog, I think it would have been all right if she had just prefaced, it with “now for a prayer from my Feri Tradition” or so something like that. Anyway, I think it’s admirable that she has honestly contemplated the topic in her own blog.

    Back to working on my own blog post on this….

    • Thank you!

      I look forward to reading yours!

  8. Thank you for reporting on this. It sounds very frustrating. A lot of people don’t seem to get the basic idea yet. They will, though.

    As I said over at Finnchuil’s:

    Since it keeps derailing the conversation, should we all just refuse to talk to members of Wiccanate religions in terms other than “What would you prefer us to call the collection of religions that develop a general structure of ritual and theological points from Wicca to the degree that they can be seen as relatively interchangeable with each other?” until they come up with something definitive that doesn’t exclude everyone else from the “Pagan” umbrella?

    I am, of course, saying that only in jest, but it is a jest born of frustration at seeing, time and again, useful conversations cut short by the need to argue over that particular term.

    • It’s a good question, and one that I’m going to have to deal with in the present blog comments imminently.

      Thanks for your thoughts on this! ;)

  9. there’s a few different trajectories that have led here. Biggest is the marketing/proselytizing to grow a “Public Pagan religion”, and so there’s a lowest common denominator effect there ( 30 some years of generic howto wicca books.) One of the others is the over arching monist/pantheist view, or the quick and dirty (all gods are one god etc). which tends to lead to support a generic approach.
    The order of craft I am an initiate of went through a similar breach a few years ago. The idea of growing a ‘Public Religion’ was a part of that. The idea that there is a ‘need’ to do so, and also a ‘need for others to just accept this ‘new way’.

    • Thanks for reading and commenting!

      There are many questions on the “how did we get here?” angle of things that further exploration (and often self-reflection) would help with a great deal. However, I think the more pressing matter at present is “now that we’re here, what do we do?” And, there’s no clear path there, either, unfortunately…or, at least at this point.

      • first a clarification, when I mention ‘a Public Religion’ I am referencing witchcraft, which to me IS NOT a religion, it’s a religious practice. I say that as a witch of some 40 years. That it has/is being made into a Public religion and has subsumed the label Pagan has annoyed me to no end for the last 10 years or so.
        For the last 5 years or so, I have refrained from identifying with “Modern/Contemporary Paganism” due to further exploration and self reflection on my part.
        But I’m a witch and by my lights you’re a pagan, in the old sense of the word, as are all the recon trads. By my lights, witches were never Pagan in the old sense. We were never part of an orthodox, established religion, and always existed outside of organized religions. if it were up to me, Ideally, I would have the ‘wiccanate’ give up the label ‘Pagan’ and take up the label of Wiccan or even Witchcraft ( as much as using witch would irritate me), and leave Pagan to the Pagans. That’ll never happen tho, sad to say.
        Unfortunately others have subsumed that label ‘Pagan’, and the tide is too swift now to wade against to attempt to reclaim it.
        I’d echo Christine’s suggestion on a separation. having had similar experience, parting ways as it were, with others who just don’t share my values, even though we share a common craft descent, and have a right to the same label, I can say, I’m much better off having done so.

  10. […] Note: PSVL has summarized eir experience of the discussion here.  Go check it out! […]

  11. This is one of the reasons I really missed being at PCon this year. I so wanted to be able to participate in that discussion. I appreciate all your efforts on this, and your write-up here about what you experienced. You know, as always, that you have my support.

    • Thank you, my friend! It would have been more interesting if you had been there, for all sorts of reasons…

  12. Thank you for speaking up and for writing this. Your comments on privilege and identity were, to my mind, pointed and brilliant. We need more polytheists willing wade into this mess.

    Unlike “Pagan” there is, in fact, a common definition of polytheism and you defined it succinctly and well. Anything else starts edging into Monism or Pantheism. Why this is hard for people, I will never understand.

    I’ve been doing what i can to share this post around (on my blog, facebook, etc) in the hopes of raising awareness of exactly what the community is like for us and all the microaggressions we deal with as polytheists on a regular basis. Thank you, Lupus.

    • Thank you! :)

      John Halstead and I are having it out in the comments on his blog post at present (though respectfully and without anger, at least at this point), because the basic definition of “polytheist” is still getting lost and I’m being told that I don’t own it and am seeking to control it, when the bigger problem is both a practical one (i.e. we as devotional polytheists choose to use the multiplicity of the gods as the basis for a practice that recognizes them as distinct) and also a more deeply theological one, i.e. what exactly are gods and who qualifies as a god? And, those aren’t for me to sort out for anyone or to dictate to anyone, and yet the use of the term “polytheist” in its most basic and literal meaning and all of the baggage that people have around it is what is tripping them up, it seems.

      Anyway, you know the drill…I wish it weren’t a “drill,” though, in any meaning of that term.

      • I got similar flak for using the nontraditional definition of white supremacy in 2013 at the ‘rogue’ privilege panel.

        We do not seek to control these terms, but we are using them with a clear definition in mind and hope that others would be able to engage with an understanding that this definition is the stipulated one from fields of study and academia THAT LIE OUTSIDE the scope of what we can discuss because we are not all academicians.

        But yeah, I hear you on that bit of struggle.

  13. You use great technique for presenting criticism here, what I would call “the criticism sandwich” — you praise Pagan interfaith efforts before you talk about how you believe they might be improved — and it sounds like you made an attempt to follow with positive statements as well. Not everyone is so adept at this technique, I fear.

    It’s definitely important, as we have these discussions, to remember that we’ll all still part of a vulnerable religious minority. A number of people in that room, 30 and 40 years ago, were the people who were spending their meager funds of cash and more substantial amounts of free time doing things like printing, stapling, and mailing Pagan newsletters every month — the kind of in-the-trenches work you’re doing now. I’m sure it hurts them a lot to hear (perhaps incorrectly) that their position in the Pagan movement now is the result of “privilege” — even if what you mean to say is that they now *have* privileges that aren’t extended to all Pagans or all Pagan groups. I don’t know what was actually said in the discussion, but I can very easily imagine this misunderstanding occurring.

    > In fact, this was a matter that many just wouldn’t let go, without allowing the point that even the Feri tradition is Wiccanate, which is to say, most people from that tradition (though their tradition has different, separate roots from Wicca) can interact with more generalized Wicca without difficulty or the need to adjust or revise or re-interpret certain terms for theological purposes in order for things to work.

    Hey hey hey now, you’re doing exactly what you complained others were doing to you. Feri/Faery does have a closer relationship with Wicca than some, and some practitioners do blend them, but your statement is a pretty big overgeneralization — speaking as a Faery initiate and someone who is an expert at re-interpreting and ignoring. (Just because I can do it in a Wiccan circle and in a Christian church doesn’t mean the former is necessarily easier! But when you pretty much never fit in anywhere, sometimes you just get really good at being okay no matter where you are. I include myself, other people can’t include me.)

    But since I am evidently in danger of being called “Wiccanate” — seriously, yuck? If you don’t like it when other people assign labels to you or refuse to respect the labels you apply to yourself, don’t do it to others. I practice Wicca like a Quaker attends Methodist church — ’cause the people are super nice, there’s babysitting, we mostly agree on politics, and sometimes there’s a passing resemblance to my personal practice. If somebody isn’t calling themselves Wiccan, don’t try to get around that by calling them “Wiccanate,” especially when most of those trying to define that word are using it as a slur.

    Regarding power… I’m sad that you chose to talk about devotional polytheists’ power in destructive terms, ’cause that could imply they mainly have the power to blow things up. I hope that’s not the case! (Though let me also say that I respect the healthy decision to split off from a movement or organization that doesn’t serve you. I’ve been a splitter and have been happier for it — though I never left out of anger.)

    Some concrete uses of power in the form of having a widely-read blog would be to crowdfund a trip to a con that one otherwise couldn’t afford, to purchase technology to support one’s online presence, or to create materials or art that would be used in ritual at a gathering. There are strategies that can make this more or less successful (personal appeal; getting informal pledges ahead of time; getting a seed donor whose funds can be used to create desirable bling to send to the crowdfunders and drive donations; etc.). Of course, this kind of strategy doesn’t solve other kinds of difficulties, like if you want to go to a con and you need childcare or plane rides are hazardous to your health. BUT these are concrete, positive examples of use of power. I’d love to see more of it, and other things like the Polytheist Leadership conference I hear is being planned.

    Anyhow… I have a blunt question: what would make you happy here? What do you want for your group, and from the people who were in the discussion with you, concretely? If certain Pagans have privileges that certain polytheists like yourself don’t, what exactly do you want them to do about it?

    • I think there is a very big difference between: 1) using descriptors that are accurate (e.g. some pagan religions are Wiccanate, while others are not); 2) imposing labels on someone that they don’t like, which everyone does to everyone–at least mentally, if not verbally–and no one can prevent (e.g. just because I don’t like the term “hard polytheist” myself doesn’t mean that most of the people at that discussion will not use it for me whether I like it or not); and 3) telling someone what they believe, who they exclude, or what they’re all about when it is both inaccurate and harmful to do so (e.g., as I was told by some people at the discussion, “but you don’t like the term ‘Pagan'”; “but your group is only for gay men”; etc.).

      You and I probably don’t like #2, and more in some cases than in others, but there’s not much we can do about it.

      On #1, the same may hold true (i.e. you and I may not like it), but some of those terms are useful for classification purposes, and will be sued whether we like them or not. I am going to be classified as “pagan” whether I like it or not, and I don’t really mind that personally; you might be classified as “Wiccanate” even though you find it distasteful.

      On #3, that’s the thing I most objected to, especially when it was done in complete ignorance of what I and my group actually think and do and believe and practice, AND when other people felt they could tell me about those aspects of my beliefs and practices and policies TO MY FACE without the proper research and against whatever I had just said that they felt they needed to point out wasn’t what they thought.

      Lumping all three of these together, telling me that because I don’t like #3, and that therefore I shouldn’t do either #1 or #2, is grossly misleading, and a very unfortunate attempt at derailing this conversation. But, if it leads to further understanding the distinctions between different thought processes, it has been useful.

      To answer your final series of questions, perhaps together, perhaps separately: much of what I’d like has already been accomplished, because people now have been educated a bit more about what it is that the Ekklesía Antínoou does and stands for. I’d also appreciate the respect being extended to me, my group, and other polytheists that everyone always pays lip service to, but then doesn’t uphold when it comes time–telling me that they respect and are interested in my tradition, but then telling me what we do and believe and not allowing me to actually answer their questions or draw distinctions, is rude, disrespectful, and not-at-all-interested in my traditions. It would also be nice if the constant refrains of “Show up! Do stuff!” that we hear from the Wiccanate majority were said less often, and that a) the contributions and hard work many of us have already done would be acknowledged, rather than assuming that because the Wiccanate person in question who has just now found out about us didn’t know we existed for however-many-years-before-the-present, just doesn’t jump to the conclusion that we must be new, small, and therefore unaccomplished and are untried; b) that when we then do show up, we’re not told to genericize our events or to water down our traditions to make them more palatable to everyone else; and c) that our participation in wider things would be allowed to happen in a way that embodies the respect that we’re told we are to be given, but are often given only back-handedly and in which the multitude of micro-agressions against us make us want to give up on the whole thing. If you want to be inclusive, great, then actually be inclusive and don’t just include us, but make us feel included by not constantly questioning, critiquing, or in other ways disrespecting us. None of us do what we do to make life difficult for others (or for ourselves, for the most part!), we do it because there are reasons of tradition, of individual deity preferences, of respect and piety and decorum and discipline, that are essential to observe within our practices.

      And yet, the “sacred space” of a temporary shrine is not respected on many occasions–on Monday of this past PantheaCon, I had to tell two different (adult!) people rather forcefully to not touch things or pick things up on our temporary ritual altar when they just went up to them and decided they could start moving things around, etc.; their response was a very exasperated “Well, SORRY!” and they then left and didn’t return. The under-10-years-old children at our ritual were more respectful than that, and knew they weren’t supposed to be picking things up that they didn’t have permission (nor reason) to…why is it a problem to think that such expectations would be observed by ostensibly mature adults? The very notion of sacredness, of things that are special and set apart and that not everyone should have access to, is pretty foreign to many Wiccanate pagans, it seems…and if that basic understanding and respect is absent on something as simple as material objects used in rituals (not all of which are “just material” or remotely “inanimate”), how much more so when it comes to further matters of our practices and theologies? These same people wouldn’t go into a Catholic church and start digging through the tabernacle; nor would they go to a Shinto Shrine and decide to start messing with things in and around the Shrine’s inner doors; therefore, why do they think this is something they can do with religions that they assume are under their same “pagan” umbrella?

      So, actually having Wiccanate pagans “show up” to our rituals and events and discussions, if they truly do want to learn more and be respectful, is a start, and that did happen at PantheaCon this year; Wiccanate pagans showing up and learning more about us, rather than immediately yelling at us along the lines of “If you want US to take you seriously, then show up and do stuff!” would also be a good start.

      • I was thinking of #1, #2, and #3 simultaneously, though I wouldn’t have stated #3 quite so strongly as you do in your second definition of it. Let me elaborate.

        My trad isn’t just like Wicca, and although some lines practice something that looks like Wicca (and some have deliberately blurred it with Wicca), others have primary practices that are not similar at all. If you lump my trad and its branches in with “Wicca” or even “Wiccanate” religion, you erase its presence as a distinct point of view in the Craft… and yes, this kind of treatment has already been harmful to some of us. As those Feri whose practices most resemble mainstream eclectic Wicca have some to dominate outside perceptions of the trad, those of us who practice differently and have different views become less visible, and some of us have lost opportunities because of it (most recently, an interview and a publishing contract was withdrawn from a friend of mine because the publisher wrongly associated hir with this public face, and explanations to the contrary did no good — i.e., my friend was *told* what he was about, what he practiced, and what he believed, and his explanations ignored). This is more problematic for those of us who want to have a public face, of course; so far I’ve mostly been private about what I do, which is why I kind of shrug when people assume I’m Wiccan, unless I care that they know the difference (but I do care that you know! Thus explaining it here). Obviously this isn’t as problematic as your being told that your group excludes gay people, which is just ignorant and definitely a huge problem, but what I’m talking about is not merely #1 or #2 either.

        So this is an honest point, not an attempt to derail the conversation. I want to draw your attention to the diversity of the groups you’re talking about here as “Wiccanate”. Maybe if Feri weren’t perceived as a flavor of eclectic Wicca (as opposed to several emerging trads which are still sorting themselves out), my friend would still be publishing a book, you know?

        So to be clear, my point is: “Wiccanate” could be a problematic label because it makes diversity in those trads invisible, especially when it’s being applied by people who are not working in those traditions, and it could hurt some of them even as it might simultaneously give them privileges in other areas (#3). And yes, I also had in mind that we should call people by labels that they find respectful (#2). I agree with you about the “useful but annoying taxonomic labels” (#1). I have generally said “Wiccan-influenced” Paganism, because words like “NeoWicca” just seem to lend themselves to hate speech. I fear “Wiccanate” is already going the same way. Something about more syllables seems to make it hard to use terms as slurs.

        Anyhow. That’s a bit of a digression; back to your main topic.

        I hear you about the frustration of people making assumptions about your religion, behaving inappropriately in your ritual, telling you about what your religion is all about, and failing to find out about your accomplishments before assuming you’re a complete n00b. All of that is clearly inappropriate and I can see why you’re frustrated.

        What would you like Pagan leaders to do about that? Publish FAQs about how to ascertain what appropriate behavior is in a ritual or when talking to people from outside their trad? Actively encourage their members to check out different groups and suggest strategies for doing that in a respectful way? I think most of your complaints can only be remedied by education, but it’s hard to know what the best venue and format for that kind of education is. Do you have any documents like that already prepared? Want to put one on Patheos? Or would you rather have it come from someone who’s Wiccan? Is there anyone in particular you think would be effective in speaking on these issues? Perhaps something co-written?

        > These same people wouldn’t go into a Catholic church and start digging through the tabernacle; nor would they go to a Shinto Shrine and decide to start messing with things in and around the Shrine’s inner doors; therefore, why do they think this is something they can do with religions that they assume are under their same “pagan” umbrella?

        Do you think it would help to drop the label “pagan”? Or, as you suggested, do you end up being assumed “pagan” just because you’re at the con? (I wonder if the Jewish group has any of the problems you describe when they hold events at PantheaCon?)

        Some of the Polytheist-identified folks I’ve been chatting with this month have suggested that a more significant Polytheist split from the Pagan movement might be inevitable. Might this be a healthy thing? I can imagine it being an opportunity to build a strong Polytheist identity and methodology without having to struggle so much with Pagan-identified folks who think they know what you’re up to but don’t really. (This is what my particular branch of the Anderson Faery tradition is doing, though I would say we are in the *process* of splitting, having announced our intent to do so, rather than being already fully differentiated. Disentangling takes time!) If that meant not coming to cons or posting on Pagan-identified websites for a while until the Pagan movement “got” that you really are practicing a different religion, we’d sure miss y’all, but I wonder if the distance might help people stop making dumb assumptions about what’s going on.

        Anyhow, I would like to see y’all thrive, and if there’s a way I can help with that — whether that’s helping out with the education part or affirming your group if it withdraws to do its own thing, or something else entirely — please don’t hesitate to ask.

      • Many of the things you’ve mentioned/suggested are already in the works, to a degree. There will be more on that in the future…

        I think your own suggestions in regards to Feri are points very well-taken, and I shall do all possible to observe that in the future, and to refer to it either simply as “Feri” or as “religious witchcraft.”

      • Wonderful, I look forward to more developments!

    • Regarding Wiccanate, I am going to ask you what I have been asking elsewhere–what term would you prefer for the following: Wicca, Feri, Reclaiming, and other forms of religious witchcraft and Wicca-influenced eclectic neopaganisms)? I’m not aware of people using it as a slur; we are using it as a handy taxonomic category.

      • I use “religious witchcraft” or sometimes just “witchcraft.” For folks who don’t consider themselves witches but are strongly influenced by Wicca, I’d go with “Wicca-influenced Pagans.” Those are all existing terms used in the community by people who identify with them, so you wouldn’t have to be inventing anything new.

      • “I use “religious witchcraft” or sometimes just “witchcraft.” For folks who don’t consider themselves witches but are strongly influenced by Wicca, I’d go with “Wicca-influenced Pagans.” Those are all existing terms used in the community by people who identify with them, so you wouldn’t have to be inventing anything new.”

        What I am asking about is an adjective, like we have Abrahamic or Dharmic (or Wiccanate).

      • “Wicca-influenced” is an adjectival phrase. You can also use “Craft” or “witchcraft” to function as an adjective as well — “Craft traditions,” “witchcraft liturgy,” “religious witchcraft attitudes,” etc. It might look a little weird to you if you’re not used to it, but that’s the language witches often use internally.

      • “What I am asking about is an adjective, like we have Abrahamic or Dharmic (or Wiccanate).”
        there is none, or any of them. Feri is more a religious practice than a religion, although some have made a “religion” out of it.
        But that’s just my view of it. what I tell prospective students is I can help them learn to connect to the gods, spirits etc. I won’t tell them which gods or spirits to connect to. That is what they have to discover for themselves. I don’t teach religion, I teach “religious” practices.
        Quite a few feri’s have what they refer to as dual practice. They would accept the type of adjectives you ask about. there are ‘dharmic’ feri, there are ‘wiccanate’ feri and there are even ‘abrahamic’ feri.
        if any thing feri is about a personal, or dare I say intimate, connection to the gods, whichever gods one chooses or is chosen by.

      • All of this is making the matter much more complex than it should be. There is a need for a simple adjective to describe those religions which have structures that can be used reasonably interchangeably with Wiccan ones, such as the described incident in the post which occasions these comments in which a person who can reasonably be described as “pagan” was asked to “dismiss the North”. That might sound really easy to many people of [whatever the adjective] religions, but if I had been asked to do that, well, there’s not even anything much like that in my religion. I could probably make something up on the spur of the moment involving the Settling of the Manor of Tara (or reach into a body of materials that are not a part of my religion but have been presented as though they were, even though they are basically [whatever the adjective]), but it would then not be representative of my religious practices. Lupus’s description shows that eir religion is also not particularly similar to what was expected, either. All of these other religions we are trying to find a simple adjective for can act in that situation with a reasonably similar rite that is already part of their normal practices.

        Now, I don’t know how “Wiccanate”, which is a normally-formed English adjective describing the salient characteristic under discussion (it means, according to my American Heritage Dictionary, “resembling Wicca”, because the suffix “-ate” means, under the relevant definition 1c, “resembling”), can be seen as “pejorative”, but regardless of that, I can guarantee you that anyone who wants to use it in that way will also use any other descriptor in a pejorative fashion.

  14. […]  For more coverage on this event see Aedicula Antinoi: http://aediculaantinoi.wordpress.com/2014/02/21/pantheacon-2014-wiccanate-privilege-discussion/ […]

  15. […] 3. Next came PSLV’s blog report in which e** participated in the “Wiccanate and Privlege” panel discussion. The report, which is both informative and sad, is here. […]

  16. Lupus,

    As a Alexandrian Tradition Wiccan I find it shocking that this problem exists.

    If your were Alexandrian Traditions Wicca and you were doing something off the wall and outside of my tradition, I might have some right to bring up what I thought you were doing wrong. But you are not Alexandrian and not even Wiccan so how could I as a Wiccan tell you anything about how you should practice, much less what you believe or should believe? That would be arrogance and ignorance in the worst way.

    The refusal to hear there is a problem makes it impossible to be solved, so I fully understand the frustration of banging your head against a stone wall and perhaps considering that you have a headache and better things to do.

    I don’t know if you know about ACTION that I publish online but I do try to keep people of various religions and traditions aware of each other, for those interested in being a learning of the differences, and I have between 2,500 to 3,500 readers per issue, eight times a year. I have a Spring Equinox issue coming out next month. Would it be worthwhile to publish something on this in it? Would you be willing to either write such an article or allow me to repost what you have written here?

    At this stage of the game you may wonder why bother? I would understand that as well. But if you would be willing to try it, I would offer space for it.

    Looking back on history of the mainstream religions I have been left to wonder whether us becoming might not learn from their mistakes and end up copying them. What you are saying about some of the Wiccan community sounds like some of the same stupidity that I see in the mainstream religions. I can only offer to help get the message out to those can learn there is a problem, then who are willing to make the change of thought and action until it does not exist.

    • Thank you for reading and commenting, Christopher!

      I’m interested in what you’ve suggested–let me know further details of what you might think is best for your own needs as far as ACTION is concerned. You can comment further here, or write to me privately: aediculaantinoi (at) hotmail (dot) com.

      • Lupus

        I thought that I would wait to reply when I was wide awake. Most of the time I do interviews so my main need for that would be to be opined to what you consider good back ground material mainly so I can ask decent questions.

        Most interviews run four to six letter size pages say a total with the questions of just under five hundred words per page. I will send you my information sheet on interviews by e-mail. Now because of the e-zine format I don’t have to cut and fit interviews so the actual length ail depend on the amount of information that you choose to give in each of your answers your answers. I have had interviews that have gone over a dozen pages.

        Once I get it back with answers and do whatever editing seems necessary send the corrected interview back for a final check by you and any final changes that you feel necessary. Once online you are free to republish the interview any place you see fit as often as you see fit, because simply it is mostly your work.

        That is one option however you might conifer two otter options. You could writ an opinion piece directly to Wiccanate religions about the privilege problem how it affects others and how it affects Wiccans themselves. Then you could move to possible solutions and what people would gain from it. You might find that more direct.

        Lastly as matter of saving time as I imagine you might be a busy person would be to give me the right to reprint one of the articles that you have already written.

        It really is a matter of what works for you. I have no fear of any controversy, my idea is to always let the person tell their story their way and the let the readers figure out why they think of it. I don’t feel it is my job to tell anyone what to think. If I can show there are a variety of view I have done my part.

        Meanwhile I will send my information sheet about interviews and see if I recorded you E-mail address. It will come anther the subject of Can I interview you for ACTION?

  17. Reading through this mostly made me want to beat my head against a hard surface–well it would have made me want to if I hadn’t spent the entire past week dealing with some particularly bad chain migraines, but that’s a different story. While reading this, I can’t help but wonder to what degree just general ignorance feeds this kind of thing. I mean, I take it for granted that I have a long list of blogs I follow, and people on social media, which are all over the place, from Finnish to Heathen to Hellenic, Kemetic and so on. So, naturally I take it as a simple fact that there are a vast array of polytheistic traditions out there that are completely different, and I would never assume anything about them based on what I do. But, I wonder if for a lot of ‘generic, Wiccante NeoPagans’ they honestly just aren’t aware of the diversity out there because all they encounter and deal with are other ‘generic, Wiccanate NeoPagans’ to the point where they genuinely think that that’s what all Pagans are like. It must come as a shock for those people when someone stands up and says, ‘Hey, I’m a Pagan and I do things completely different, and I believe completely different things.’

    • At the event a lot of the witches/Wiccans present were prominent members of their communities, and people who cross paths with people of other religions at PantheaCon each year. But an important part of the problem is that when Wiccans who have public roles and platforms downplay the existence of other pagan religions then the average Wiccan may not know this, and we are rendered invisible. A strong tendency is describe us all as being different flavors of what they do, thereby papering over our actual situations/realities.

      • There’s a lot of weird attitudes in Pagandom that I’ve observed on and offline where ignorance (especially of any current issues online) is considered a /good/ thing. It’s so strange to see.

      • I wonder if some of this attitude is part of the larger American anti-intellectual trend, and the ways in which that anti-intellectualism sometimes is the way some people attempt to resist what they see as the privilege of education. (As much as it is a privilege to have had education, the crippling student debt and the utter liability that my education has been in getting work–i.e. hasn’t landed me a job in the field I had hoped for, and disqualifies me for anything otherwise due to “overqualification”–really makes me wonder whether education under student loans should be considered a privilege at all…but that’s another matter entirely.)

      • I have noticed a tendency to self ghettoize and not just in Wicca. I find this disturbing even as a Alexandrian Tradition Wiccan. That is why I try to have some contact with a variety of religions and traditions and why ACTION interviews people in different religions in sometimes different parts of the world.

        We claim to believe in the strength of our diversity so I cannot understand any attempt to homogenize the various religions in practice or beliefs.

        Also as an American I am wary of the fact that too many Americas have an American-centric view of the world which endangers us into becoming a isolated backwater in our world. To me it seems important to know there are other views, other ways of looking at things.

  18. […] there was a much-needed discussion about Wiccan(ate) privilege at Pantheacon, Finnchuill & Lupus both describe their experiences.  Unfortunately it didn’t seem to go as well as it could […]

  19. Thank you for being there. I wish I could have been there to support you. It seems many of the things that chased me out of the pagan community years ago still persist. Not even sure where to begin to address that, but glad someone is trying.

    • Thank you for all of your work!

      I know you had your hands full with several traditions this (and every other!) PantheaCon, so no worries. It was an interesting experience, and will be the focus of a great deal of further thought in the not-too-distant future, I’m sure.

  20. Brilliant. You laid out what happened in a cogent & thoughtful manner. I would have laid into some of those there with much less “reasonableness,” had I worlds enough & time. For those reading this who don’t know me, I was at this discussion; and Lupus acquitted himself with grace and thoughtfulness, in a badly-managed forum, where those with the unexamined privilege were privileged further by not being overlooked by our moderator. A mess, but this discussion needed to start

    • Thank you for all of your support, at that event and otherwise throughout the weekend, Duffi! You shall have a poem for that…

      I do truly wish that the whole thing could have been recorded, as it would be good for others to have a way to consult this and to hear how things went for themselves, rather than the various second-hand commentaries on this emerging (some of which are relatively good) that might drift further from what actually happened into other potential misunderstanding. Alas…

  21. You know what’s kind of funny? My very first introduction to the diversity within the greater Pagan community was when I read Drawing Down the Moon by Margot Adler. Since it’s often considered to be such a classic text within the community, I would’ve assumed that people actually would have read it. It’s just a glimpse, to be sure, but it’s still a window into the variety of religious traditions that we call “pagan”. I do not understand how people can still claim ignorance about there being traditions that do not represent Wicca in the slightest. If what Jason Pitzl-Waters says is true, that Pagans are “People of the Library”, then many of them better renew their library cards and Read. I guarantee that this and many other books are there.

    Oh, and then they can go out and actually meet people. Listen, ask questions, don’t assume. These shouldn’t be difficult tasks. And it’s fun, too!

    • Oh, and thank you for doing this work. That couldn’t have been easy, but from what I’ve read here and elsewhere, you handled yourself admirably. Brava! ;)

      • Thank you!

        I hope we can hang out again soon, as there’s much more to say, on this and other things!

      • Most definitely! An internet bird told me that you’ll be doing a discussion and/or ritual with some Wiccan group around a rather important Antinoan holiday. Might I inquire which gathering you’ll be attending? Your stalker/fans are eager to know!

      • Further information is available here. Hope to see you there!

      • That is a most distinct possibility. =D

    • Your line about “many of them better renew their library cards and Read” should be written on bumper stickers and t-shirts and epitaphs, my friend! Nicely stated!

      (I suspect I have a much higher standard of “what Wiccans should be like” because the folks in the Ekklesía Antínoou who come from Wiccan backgrounds, including yourself if I’m not mistaken, are of such a higher caliber than so many of them…!?!)

      • You’re not mistaken, and now you’ve gone and made me blush. ;)

      • I wouldn’t say we’re higher caliber. We just happen to enjoy doing more than the basic research and work?

        One of us is an ArchPriestess, the others are ordained or corded to X amount of degrees, etc.

        But we like doing the work in order to feed our Work. A distinction that I think you and I have at least “tried” to talk about in the past…

        Either way, we are a quality people in the Ekklesia, no doubt. :)

    • I thought Sannion first said that line about pagans being a “people of the library”. :-/

      • You know, I think we’re both wrong. While I certainly now recall Sannion saying that, for whatever reason Jason’s use of it stuck in my mind. However, doing some quick and dirty research suggests that one Steven Posch of Paganistan beat them both to it, as he is quoted as saying this in M. Macha Nightmare’s 2003 book Pagan Pride: Honoring the Craft and Culture of Earth and Goddess: “Christians, Jews, and Muslims are known as
        the People of the Book. Pagans, however, have always realized that one book can never be enough. Pagans are not the people of the book; pagans are the people of the library.” (p. 104)

        Whether or not he was the first to say it, or even how early he said it, I don’t know, but it would appear to preceed both Sannion and Jason.

      • Hey, I’m just glad that the source on that can be tracked down –and that I at least knew it wasn’t JP-W. ;-) I mean, no offence intended toward him, but that just doesn’t seem like the sort of thing he’s come up with on his own.

      • I know! I was glad that it took relatively little work to find, and it was in such a tangible source as a book. Specific blog entires can be pretty hard to search for using Google.

      • Really? I didn’t know that about Google –but I’ve been using Bing for the last year and some as my primary search engine (in part for their search rewards that give me $5 gift cards –don’t judge me). It’s not perfect at finding individual blog entries, but as long as a) it’s a blog I visit a lot, and b) the blogger is at least halfway decent at tagging things, I seldom have any real problems finding particular entries.

  22. […] been able to review in-depth the two rituals the Ekklesía Antínoou did on Monday, and the Wiccanate Privilege discussion on Sunday. What I’d like to discuss otherwise is: the Ephesia Grammata session that I did; […]

  23. Reblogged this on EmberVoices and commented:
    More for the file. Unsurprisingly, I agree with a lot of what Lupus says here. Again, I’m saving this to re-read later when I am more brainful. For now, the things that jump out at me the most are points 4 and 9.
    –Ember–

  24. > That also doesn’t work for Antinous, because he isn’t omniscient, so he can’t read anyone’s thoughts, and thus calling on him by name in vocal prayers or hymns is necessary in order for him to become present and sensitive to the prayers of people and to the intentions of a given ritual.

    Oh, hmm! That’s not one I’ve heard before. Even the Ancestors, who were human but are not now gods, are reachable silently according to the traditions I’ve learned (it may not be preferred, but if you’re actively reaching out to Them, it’s not the same thing as expecting Them to read your mind unprompted, if that makes any sense). If Antinous has gone beyond Ancestor to Deity I would have assumed He was reachable via projected thought as most spirits seem to be in my experience.

    Thank you for showing me where I’ve made an assumption – I hadn’t even noticed it.

    > I understand that programming is under a great deal of pressure, and it isn’t easy to fit everything in, and I am very grateful for what we are given each year; but at the same time, we’re begging for crumbs and have to take what we can get because we haven’t been considered as important or as much of a crowd-draw as certain other presenters or traditions at this point.

    Granted, but I don’t think that’s directly because your group is devotional/hard polytheistic, although I agree it’s a factor for indirect but relevant reasons. There are enough other groups that are also reconstructionist and devotional/hard polytheistic and get more central places on the schedule because the deities they are addressing are more popular, or the services are more familiar (I should know, I’m often helping run those rituals). This has become increasingly true over time in part, I think, because there are a fair few reconstructions in the staff (and again, I should know, I used to be one), and they’re usually effectively devotional polytheists whether they’ve been aware enough of the debates to take on that term for their personal practice. I think, though, that a lot of reconstructionists have been “blissfully” unaware of this debate taking place, at least locally, because overall the SF Bay Area isn’t nearly as bad about this stuff as the greater Pagan context has been.

    This is not to say that your point is moot – it’s clearly not! It’s absolutely true that offering up something Wiccanist is nearly guaranteed to be more popular, since that is the widest audience, and that necessarily marginalizes anything that isn’t wiccanate, such that it must effectively meet additional criteria to reach the same scale of appeal within the PantheaCon audience.

    The one saving grace is that that more of those offerings are the same or similar to things PantheaCon has already seen a dozen times, and are thus competing with more of the same for space on the program, whereas truly unique things are more likely to get on the program *in the first place*, but as you’ve observed, unless there’s some sense that they address a wide audience, they’re not going to get prime time placement, and by default devotional polytheistic offerings are so focused they’re less likely to address a wide audience unless they address a very, very popular god, or don’t actually address a specific deity at all, and instead focus on some other practice within such traditions, like Seidh.

    Still, it’s useful to know that popularity is not the only gauge of what gets on the PCon program, and that Wicca is definitely not the only gauge for popularity. Every little bit counts.

    –Ember–

    • As far as Antinous and omniscience goes: the biggest difference between him and Ancestors is that we at least share the blood of the Ancestors, and thus they’ve got “bugs” in and on us, so to speak, so that they can be contacted more easily. Not so Antinous, since he had no offspring, and we’re not sure if he had other siblings and so forth either. Plus, Antinous isn’t an Ancestor first and a deity second; he’s a God and a Hero first and foremost, and only an Ancestor secondarily; the rites of deification (and the natural causes of it) occurred on him most certainly, but making him into an Ancestor via a conventional funeral of the time and tradition doesn’t seem to have happened. So, the rules for him are different than they are for many others, and are much more like deities–many of whom are also not omniscient and therefore don’t know our thoughts or feelings unless we speak or write them.

      • It’s a different rule set entirely from what I’m used to. Special funeral rites to make a human who has died into an ancestor doesn’t fit with my own practice. I my practice, they were a living human, they’re dead such that they’re not currently around in a living human body, they’re an Ancestor, whatever else they may *also* be. But then, I consider Jesus an Ancestor as well, for my purposes, which doesn’t go with what most folks who honor Jesus believe at all, and I accept that there’s an incongruency in concepts there.

        Maybe Paganism needs the same thing the Kink community has: Your Praxis Is Not My Praxis But Your Praxis Is OK Too…. ;)

        -E-

      • This is one of the difficulties with discussing ancestor-work in modern paganism: too often, we think that “ancestor” means “anyone dead,” and in many traditional societies, the funeral rites that serve to make the dead into Ancestors are de rigeur and no one would ever be without them. And yet, in the modern world, so many people can’t even say the word “dead,” and others decide they don’t want a funeral and would instead prefer a memorial service (and preferably one without any religious content), and even the religious funerals that some people have don’t actually create this transition and transformation (especially since in Christianity, it’s assumed that people aren’t becoming Saints, they’re just going to the general resurrection waiting room or Purgatory or wherever, and thus cannot be contacted or prayed to for anything at all because all such power is invested in the Christian deities). Thus, no matter how much our favorite grandmother might be someone that we have interacted with after their deaths, they may still just be “dead” rather than being an Ancestor in the fullest sense of that word. It’s a conversation that has not happened in most forms of modern paganism, including ancestor-worship-heavy ones, unfortunately. But in any case…

      • It’s less an assumption in my case, and more a gleaned understanding from my own work with the spirits of the Dead.

        But yes, I totally see what you mean about it not necessarily being a safe assumption either historically, or theologically in any given case.

        -E-

  25. Haven’t read the other comments in the thread yet, but – a thought came up when I was reading this, when you mentioned how you’re being painted as ‘the reasonable polytheist’, about how that label maybe ties into the privilege of being able to go to Pantheacon (which you already brought up), and the unexamined privileges of people who attended it have. It seems almost like ‘PSVL made an effort to come rather than just arguing on the internet!’ is the idea behind that whole ‘reasonable’ thing, which is interesting.

    (And I hope it’s clear I’m not /blaming/ you for having that label assigned to you, just musing on how that label of ~reasonable minority person~ has so many problems and people should rly stop using it because, argh, gross. I’ll have more to say when I have more time and have read the comments.)

    • Yeah, I’m kind of peeved that these folks apparently don’t consider any of the rest of us “reasonable” for whatever reason they have.

      • Yeah…well, we work with what we’ve got, I suppose. *knits brow*

    • …when you mentioned how you’re being painted as ‘the reasonable polytheist’, about how that label maybe ties into the privilege of being able to go to Pantheacon (which you already brought up), and the unexamined privileges of people who attended it have. It seems almost like ‘PSVL made an effort to come rather than just arguing on the internet!’ is the idea behind that whole ‘reasonable’ thing, which is interesting.

      You know, that’s one aspect of that which didn’t even occur to me, if only cos I don’t have enough money for just about everything, every day of my life, and it’s been that way most of my life. It seems the height of “unreasonable” to assume that one is only “reasonable” if one has the money to show up to a major convention –especially if, as in my case, that would necessitate travelling across three time zones and nearly an entire continent.

      I wouldn’t say it’s at all “my privilege”, but I do forget that it’s pitifully frequent that when one has more dollars they often have less sense. Not every one every time, mind, but I’m sure you’ve noticed this, as well.

    • No, I totally see what you mean here, so no worries! ;)

      I think that might be part of it, i.e. that I was “reasonable enough” to do what they’ve often been shouting at us to do, i.e. “Show up!”

      But, I also think that part of it is that I’ve tried (really damned hard on several occasions!) to be as nice as possible in my discussions related to this online over the last three months. By nature, I’m a pretty nice person, but there have been times over all of this where my patience has been tried and my nerves have been frayed. If my niceness comes through, then it’s more likely that my points (however valid they may or may not be) and my “reasoning” will likely be that much more visible as well. I heard of several people referring to me in this fashion when I was not present, so on one hand, I think “Okay, then we’ll meet on terms that are not quite as adversarial as they might have been otherwise”; on the other, I think, have I been “domesticated” in some way by this? Made less threatening? I’m just as fervent a polytheist as I’ve ever been, and am just as uncompromising as anyone else on the polytheist “side” of this discussion…and yet…

      I don’t know, to be honest. If those who I know said this about me would care to comment, it would be appreciated, as I am genuinely curious about this myself.

      • But, I also think that part of it is that I’ve tried (really damned hard on several occasions!) to be as nice as possible in my discussions related to this online over the last three months. By nature, I’m a pretty nice person, but there have been times over all of this where my patience has been tried and my nerves have been frayed. If my niceness comes through, then it’s more likely that my points (however valid they may or may not be) and my “reasoning” will likely be that much more visible as well.

        While I generally agree with this, and do take the time to point out that while “tone arguments” and “concern trolling” are a big problem in any discussion on privilege and oppression and/or marginalisation for all sorts of reasons, there are also ways to say things that will just completely shut down any and all reasonable conversation. That said, ‘tone policing” can be more of a problem on-line for all sorts of reasons —give me the time and I’m sure I can find posts and/or comments where you and I, for example, have said pretty much the exact same things in the meat of our statements, but for whatever reasons, you’re the “reasonable one” and I’m not.

        I could speculate for days on why this is: I’m a bit more prone to swearing than yourself; I may, indeed, have a shorter fuse and when that suddenly becomes evident (note how long I actually maintained a completely reasonable “tone vocabulary” in Frew’s recent guest-entry on Pointedly Pagan), some people will automatically decide I’m not worth listening to because I’ve become frustrated by the direction of the convo (which I could easily argue is ablist –I’ve made no secret at all about my anxieties and tendencies to seasonal depression); and while I genuinely mean no offense by suggesting this might be a third party’s problem, in spite of your clearly stated non-binary gender identity, I think a lot of people still “read” your appearance and common name of Lupus as “male”, even if they’ve adequately conditioned themselves to respond to you in the manner you feel best goes with your gender identity, and I know for a fact that even on my best days, most people initially assume me on a female-spectrum gender and online, even where they have the privilege to easily learn that my forename is “masculine”, that first impression from seeing a picture in my Gravatar or on the frontpage of Of Thespiae is still going to override, and I’m “feminine” and therefore less worthy of being taken seriously and more deserving of being read as “uppity and hysterical” –which, of course, is likely to shorten my already-short fuse. That’s just the speculation off the top of my head of potential circumstances, including other privileges that might be at play for why you’re the one who’s “reasonable” and so many others (myself, Galina, etc…) are not.

        Still, even though I do believe that being civil and even playing nice is sometimes necessary to be heard, there’s a point where continued niceness can be overrated –but then again, my mother also hung out with Black Panthers and Yippies and Weathermen, it might just be a cultural thing.

      • I do take your point; there is a time and a place for being “less civil” and “not polite” and so forth, and I hoped I made it clear with my comments about yourself and Aine at the beginning of my remarks on the occasion that such is often useful, and that those who are the first to stand up and demand to be heard in such situations as are occurring at present often get this “uppity” characterization, when in fact it’s just a reflection of their exasperation at the situation and having their fuses eroded, and then the privilege of the privileged (!?!) to then feel “outraged” that someone would be so bold as to suggest they’ve done something wrong, etc.

      • I think you’re right that it’s more your efforts to stay polite, and to adhere to a… perhaps an academic style of discourse on the subject? You don’t tend to get angry-sounding ranty, as others sometimes do.

        Whether anger and ranting are justified is immaterial with regards to how people receive it.

        If I were more involved in the conversation, I expect I’d get a similar label – I’ve gotten it already from friends.

        -E-

      • And yet, their points are no less valid for sounding “angry” or “ranty,” and are often no less reasonable or even academic than mine often are. (And, you should have heard me when I had to correct people on the “exclusiveness” of our group, which is not remotely exclusive of anyone for any reason…thankfully that came toward the end of the proceedings, because whatever fuse I had was frayed and fried by that point…many people would consider that ten seconds to be very ranty and crazy, and I note that no one has really commented on it thus far who has covered the event. Hmm.)

      • Well, maybe they felt it was justified enough in context that they weren’t bothered?

        I agree, angry and ranty don’t automatically invalidate an argument by any stretch, but I don’t think “reasonable” in this context actually refers to “uses Reason to make sound arguments” so much as “seems relatively calm and unlikely to hurt me”.

        Because how something is perceived and what it actually is don’t always match.

        You’d think a community full of magic practitioners, trance workers, theologians, and activists would have a greater appreciation for the difference between how a thing seems and what it is, but we’re still a bunch of humans trying to communicate about sensitive things at the end of the day, so I suppose I’m not actually surprised.

        -E-

      • This is more of a response to everything said in this little thread.

        I really don’t think that the way we talk is going to affect how we’re perceived when people already come storming in with perceptions or assumptions. I’ve gotten into numerous conflicts with an ‘elder’ recently, which started with me being polite and just pointing out ‘you’re ignoring this’ or ‘i think this is wrong’, and they all ended with me being called an ~uppity cute young thing that just doesn’t know to listen to her elders~ or, more recently, a ‘manipulating little psychopath’. Just the /act/ of pointing out privilege causes serious problems for the people doing it.

        And in some cases, that had to do with my gender, other times with education level, other times with age, and with the Don Frew ‘debate’ (which was actually ‘splaining) it was assumed that there were ‘sides’ people were taking.

        And I don’t think we should ignore, at all, the other privileges that are playing into the convo, and which were totally ignored in Frew’s piece – like white privilege, economic stability, and a whole host of other issues that definitely do play into the issue.

        Just – grr grr grr. How’s that for ranty, haha.

      • It’s fine by me, dear friend! ;)

      • I didn’t dub you the “reasonable polytheist” in my mind per se, but when you mentioned to that you had heard it many times over the course of the weekend, I did agree with the sentiment. My thoughts had everything to do with your approach and your attitude and nothing to do with the other reasons mentioned. When it comes to discussing difficult topics, I do feel that civility is extremely important, and the way you articulate your position while pretty much always sounding “nice” as you put it is quite admirable in my view. It’s hard to do, but it’s so much more effective if your aim is to actually communicate a point. You do it well.

        I want to thank you for this post… the “Wiccanate Privilege” discussion was the one thing at P-con that I really wanted to attend but just couldn’t swing it, and I really appreciate your summation. I will say that your characterization of Feri as “Wiccanate” spurred the same reaction in me that it did Christine Kraemer, and her words on the matter pretty much echo my own, although I do want to add this as well:

        One of the reasons I really do understand and identify with what you say here and with Ruadhán’s piece is because I (as a Feri initiate, and student for years before that) have experienced these exact same issues in the Pagan community. One of the main factors that distinguishes Feri from many forms of Wicca is the exact same distinction I so often seen drawn between Polytheists and Wiccans – the notion that the Gods are real and individual. A typical Wiccan-style Pagan Pride-type ritual that invokes “the Goddess” and “the God” is just as strange to me as it probably is to you. My practice has little to no resemblance to Wicca whatsoever, to the point where Wiccans are often quite confused and alienated by certain elements of my personal practice. As I am often confused and alienated by elements of theirs. I see in the comments that you do recognize that there is a difference after what Christine said, but I did want to point out that not only are the practices of many Feri initiates and practitioners not necessarily Wiccanate at all, but that some of us have been trying to deal with and fight these exact same issues for a long time now.

      • Thank you for reading and commenting!

        As this is something that seems to be a point of shared frustration, perhaps it can be something in the future that polytheists and Feri practitioners can build alliances upon. (It also explains why so many Feri folks seem to have some interest in Antinoan things, for example…perhaps!)

      • @Aine – I disagree that it has no effect at all, but you’re right that it’s far from the only factor.

        In the example you give, it seems likely that if you came into such a conversation with, say, a *violent* response, instead of a relatively calm “why, aren’t you an uppity young person” from someone who firmly refuses to change their opinion, you’d get a more frantic, fearful response of “wah?! Why are you attacking me?!” from someone trying to run away from you.

        Obviously neither are fruitful responses in this context. There’s only so much we can do when they’re bringing their own pile of crap to the table, and it’s limiting their range of replies from the immediate far side of useful to the extreme far side of useful.

        But that’s not remotely everyone, and I don’t think the folks who would label someone like Lupus “the reasonable one” are the people who have decided in advance that there can’t be a reasonable position that opposes them.

        -E-

      • I think it’s only just to note that some of the Wiccanate people were very ranty in that discussion. There were people who spoke who were furious at the whole topic of Wiccanate privilege, something one would never know from Heather Greene’s account of the event on the WH. It’s hardly like it’s polytheists who are the only ones who lose their tempers on occasion. Personally, I was happy to see some “reasonable” Wiccans/Witches on these matters like Frew and Nightmare. Basically, I’m saying let’s not accept this framing of our discourse.

      • Precisely…

        There was almost a sense that some of the Wiccanate folks are “allowed” to be outraged at these things being pointed out, or these terms being used, whereas we’re “unreasonable” if we ever raise our voices, or object to something being said about us.

        The quite-literal “nyah”-ness in some of the people’s voices (including the moderator) when they were referring to me, my definitions, my group, and so forth was absolutely astonishing. I’m surprised that none of them spat after saying my name or anything associated with me on some occasions.

      • You have every reason to expect Wiccanate people to be reasonable. After all we Wiccans complain quite enough about unreasonable people in Wiccan and about Wicca. Why is it so hard to listen to a complaint, whether you believe it is valid or not, and simply ask yourself, what would I feel like if this was happening to me? I believe that is a matter of empathy something many Wiccans claim to have even if some are not acting like they understand its meaning.

        To me that attitude that is being described sounds like a variation of I am Witchier than thou which Wicca has suffered from all of its history of its community, though we might call this version being I am more Pagan than thou. It reminds me of the same bloated ego that creates our famous Witch Wars that can cause decades of trouble until egos have deflated or the people involved have gone away. As I have mentioned before Arrogance and Ignorance.

  26. Don did credit Rúadhan with introducing the term “Wiccanate Privilege” to the discourse….

    As I consider this a matter of great importance, especially as I’m someone who recalls the brief “boom” for All Things Celtic in the mid-1990s, and so I feel I’m correct to assume that Frew does, as well, **did he pronounce my name correctly**? Like, both parts. To a point, I can understand people who claim no familiarity with Gaelic culture and language are going to mangle “Ruadhán”, usually very early on; what I cannot understand is the way people can’t figure out how one says “McElroy”.

    4) I’ve earned the nickname over the weekend, so I had heard from various people, of being “the reasonable polytheist.” This is interesting, but also rather unfortunate, because a) the use of “the” in that sentence makes it sound as if I’m the only one who is reasonable, and I’m not; and b) those sorts of statements in themselves demonstrate how much of a problem privilege is. (“So-and-so is one of the ‘good Muslims’”; “Such-and-such is an ‘intelligent black’”; etc.–and while I didn’t list these examples on the occasion, do you see how similar this kind of discourse is?)

    Indeed, and I agree that is is a bit of a shame that you didn’t get a chance to (for whatever reasons) to openly make that comparison. As I’ve said multiple times over this subject, I’m not at all saying that this is the same as racial or GBLT/GSRM discriminations, especially as it’s largely contained to the pagan community, but that’s also how we realise that the other movements have their own issues. Those who are “a minority within a minority” are under no obligation to play nice, especially when one’s concerns have frequently been ignored or put on the back-burner for who-knows-how-long, at best, or openly ridiculed and twisted into a negative portrayal, at worst.

    When one, such as yourself, has the time, patience, and arguable skills to be that much more diplomatic, it’s not for the comfort and convenience of the Wiccante. You’re not putting on “the reasonable hat” for them, but for your own community. Frankly, while I certainly appreciate your efforts, I also wouldn’t blame you if you you just decided to give up on inter-pagan relations, at this point.

    …(and he did say “Wiccanate” as I recall, which isn’t the same thing!) when Thorn and that prayer comes from the Anderson Feri tradition. In fact, this was a matter that many just wouldn’t let go, without allowing the point that even the Feri tradition is Wiccanate, which is to say, most people from that tradition (though their tradition has different, separate roots from Wicca) can interact with more generalized Wicca without difficulty or the need to adjust or revise or re-interpret certain terms for theological purposes in order for things to work.

    Yes, that’s how I’ve always understood “Wiccanate” to be defined. Truth be told, I first came across the term “Wiccanate” on Star Foster’s old blog at Patheos (though I think you’re correct in assuming I may be the first to refer to “Wiccanate privilege” as a concept in the pagan community). “Wiccanate ≠ Wiccan”; “Wiccanate” means either a) it’s based on ‘outer court’ Wicca teachings, sometimes very loosely, or b) there is enough common language between it and Wicca that there is little, if any, difficulty or need to adjust, revise, or re-interpret for an understanding between that person’s religion and Wicca.

    It’s like how the Anglican/Episcopal church “is both Catholic and Protestant”, and by some arguments is far more Catholic than Protestant. A Baptist, for example, could very easily confuse Catholic and Anglican services, because the two churches have such a strong similarity of ritual and of language and overall, the differences between the two are relatively minor, when compared to the differences between Anglicans and, say, Methodists. Other “Protestant” churches may be clearly different amongst themselves, but *most* of those churches generally share more in common with each-other than with Catholicism, and share enough ritual and religious language that it’s usually appropriate to lump them all together as “Protestant” when speaking very generally about non-Catholic Christianity.

    “Wiccanate” is to Paganism what “Protestant” is to Christianity –it defines the largest possible body of practitioners by a commonality of concepts and language and rituals that are maintained in spite of clear differences between each religion.

    Taylor Ellwood also remarked that his reverence for pop cultural entities has been derided by some people, and he sees that as privilege. His point was somewhat dismissed, unfortunately. For the record, I’d state here that those in the polytheist community who had the debacle about six to eight months ago over “pop cultural deities” were not of the opinion that someone’s pop cultural devotions weren’t real, but only that they are not “gods” in the way that gods are, but instead are some other form of divine being, whether these are thought-forms (as Don and others aaid in relation to Darth Vader) or egregores or what-have-you. In any case…

    Thank you for pointing this out. I think I was more clear about that point in the Wyrd Ways Radio interview i gave in October 2013 than i had been on my blog: I’m a novelist, and I do believe that at least some, if not all of the characters I work with, exist as some form of spirit. If some-one reads my books and thinks Jace Hanvey is a deity, I’m not going to stand in their way, but I’m not going to totally agree with that, either; I have a very specific and largely ineffable feeling when I’m interacting with a Deity, and that feeling has never been present when my characters are bugging me to write about them. No, my primary objection to people in the “pop culture paganism” debate was the line I’d seen over and over again: “Your gods are no less made-up / imaginary than these characters.” It was like people were (perhaps unwittingly) assuming that no gods were really gods and everything was just a literary construct that doesn’t actually exist outside particular human cultural consciousness; not only does that go against my experiences, it should be clear that the sentiment alone is going to offend people.

    That said, I remember argueing with Ellwood in some comments on Patheos and maybe even PaganSquare, and I may have erroneously attributed that line to him, when I had mainly read it from others –if that’s the case, I do apologise.

  27. Don did credit Rúadhan with introducing the term “Wiccanate Privilege” to the discourse….

    As I consider this a matter of great importance, especially as I’m someone who recalls the brief “boom” for All Things Celtic in the mid-1990s, and so I feel I’m correct to assume that Frew does, as well, **did he pronounce my name correctly**? Like, both parts. To a point, I can understand people who claim no familiarity with Gaelic culture and language are going to mangle “Ruadhán”, usually very early on; what I cannot understand is the way people can’t figure out how one says “McElroy”.

    4) I’ve earned the nickname over the weekend, so I had heard from various people, of being “the reasonable polytheist.” This is interesting, but also rather unfortunate, because a) the use of “the” in that sentence makes it sound as if I’m the only one who is reasonable, and I’m not; and b) those sorts of statements in themselves demonstrate how much of a problem privilege is. (“So-and-so is one of the ‘good Muslims’”; “Such-and-such is an ‘intelligent black’”; etc.–and while I didn’t list these examples on the occasion, do you see how similar this kind of discourse is?) </blockquote

    Indeed, and I agree that is is a bit of a shame that you didn't get a chance to (for whatever reasons) to openly make that comparison. As I've said multiple times over this subject, I'm not at all saying that this is the same as racial or GBLT/GSRM discriminations, especially as it's largely contained to the pagan community, but that's also how we realise that the other movements have their own issues. Those who are "a minority within a minority" are under no obligation to play nice, especially when one's concerns have frequently been ignored or put on the back-burner for who-knows-how-long, at best, or openly ridiculed and twisted into a negative portrayal, at worst.

    When one, such as yourself, has the time, patience, and arguable skills to be that much more diplomatic, it's not for the comfort and convenience of the Wiccante. You're not putting on "the reasonable hat" for them, but for your own community. Frankly, while I certainly appreciate your efforts, I also wouldn't blame you if you you just decided to give up on inter-pagan relations, at this point.

    …(and he did say “Wiccanate” as I recall, which isn’t the same thing!) when Thorn and that prayer comes from the Anderson Feri tradition. In fact, this was a matter that many just wouldn’t let go, without allowing the point that even the Feri tradition is Wiccanate, which is to say, most people from that tradition (though their tradition has different, separate roots from Wicca) can interact with more generalized Wicca without difficulty or the need to adjust or revise or re-interpret certain terms for theological purposes in order for things to work.

    Yes, that’s how I’ve always understood “Wiccanate” to be defined. Truth be told, I first came across the term “Wiccanate” on Star Foster’s old blog at Patheos (though I think you’re correct in assuming I may be the first to refer to “Wiccanate privilege” as a concept in the pagan community). “Wiccanate ≠ Wiccan”; “Wiccanate” means either a) it’s based on ‘outer court’ Wicca teachings, sometimes very loosely, or b) there is enough common language between it and Wicca that there is little, if any, difficulty or need to adjust, revise, or re-interpret for an understanding between that person’s religion and Wicca.

    It’s like how the Anglican/Episcopal church “is both Catholic and Protestant”, and by some arguments is far more Catholic than Protestant. A Baptist, for example, could very easily confuse Catholic and Anglican services, because the two churches have such a strong similarity of ritual and of language and overall, the differences between the two are relatively minor, when compared to the differences between Anglicans and, say, Methodists. Other “Protestant” churches may be clearly different amongst themselves, but *most* of those churches generally share more in common with each-other than with Catholicism, and share enough ritual and religious language that it’s usually appropriate to lump them all together as “Protestant” when speaking very generally about non-Catholic Christianity.

    “Wiccanate” is to Paganism what “Protestant” is to Christianity –it defines the largest possible body of practitioners by a commonality of concepts and language and rituals that are maintained in spite of clear differences between each religion.

    Taylor Ellwood also remarked that his reverence for pop cultural entities has been derided by some people, and he sees that as privilege. His point was somewhat dismissed, unfortunately. For the record, I’d state here that those in the polytheist community who had the debacle about six to eight months ago over “pop cultural deities” were not of the opinion that someone’s pop cultural devotions weren’t real, but only that they are not “gods” in the way that gods are, but instead are some other form of divine being, whether these are thought-forms (as Don and others aaid in relation to Darth Vader) or egregores or what-have-you. In any case…

    Thank you for pointing this out. I think I was more clear about that point in the Wyrd Ways Radio interview i gave in October 2013 than i had been on my blog: I’m a novelist, and I do believe that at least some, if not all of the characters I work with, exist as some form of spirit. If some-one reads my books and thinks Jace Hanvey is a deity, I’m not going to stand in their way, but I’m not going to totally agree with that, either; I have a very specific and largely ineffable feeling when I’m interacting with a Deity, and that feeling has never been present when my characters are bugging me to write about them. No, my primary objection to people in the “pop culture paganism” debate was the line I’d seen over and over again: “Your gods are no less made-up / imaginary than these characters.” It was like people were (perhaps unwittingly) assuming that no gods were really gods and everything was just a literary construct that doesn’t actually exist outside particular human cultural consciousness; not only does that go against my experiences, it should be clear that the sentiment alone is going to offend people.

    That said, I remember argueing with Ellwood in some comments on Patheos and maybe even PaganSquare, and I may have erroneously attributed that line to him, when I had mainly read it from others –if that’s the case, I do apologise.

    • I did have to help him with pronunciation on your first name, true. But, given there are at least three possible pronunciations of it (Old Irish, Modern Irish, and Anglicized Irish), and one would only know which if they’d heard your podcast on Wyrd Ways Radio or had otherwise met you in person, I suppose one can’t really blame him…?!? ;)

      • I’m actually surprised I don’t get “Rodan” all that much. At least he didn’t respond like that one telemarketer, wherein after I gave the correct pronunciation, their response was “No it’s not”.
        “Do you speak Irish Gaelic?”
        “No.”
        “Then don’t tell me how my own name is pronounced.”

        I’m not all that surprised, and honestly, I’ll accept any proper pronunciation (or anything that sounds more like like “Rowan” or “Ruin”, to be honest). Hell, if anything, I’m more overwhelmed when someone knows off that bat that it’s not “roo-ad-hAn”.

        Just don’t ask me what the J stands for. I gotta maintain some mystery. ;-)

  28. I’ve often wished I could attend PantheCon, but like you talked about in this essay I also often wonder if I would identify with anybody present. I mostly call myself an adeist, but it would also be correct to call me a pantheist, so pretty much any language about gods and deities has no part in my vocabulary. I want to connect with more Pagans and meet more folks in “occult” circles, but so much of what I encounter is dominated by Wiccan tradition and practices. Bast this, Cerunnos that, don’t forget about Hecate, and remember to thank Brighid (and so on) when not a one of them have any relevance for me. Bah, I don’t know – maybe there isn’t enough common ground for me to make these connections – but thank-you all the same for participating in this forum and talking about the way Wiccan-type practices dominate Paganism.

  29. Reblogged this on Waves Upon the Shore and commented:
    So this happened at Pantheacon, an event I sorely miss but may manage next year. Lupus does a banner job of discussing a panel that was sorely needed, and the comments are their own education in several directions, including my own. I’d filed Feri under “Wicca spin-off” for some time, but that is provably incorrect. I am grateful for that moment of enlightenment within my internal fist-pumping of joy that Wiccanate privilege is being called out in a more visible fashion in the first place. As a hard polytheist, I can only say “it’s about time.”

  30. Thank you for accepting Don’s invitation and for being willing to patiently and politely explain, over and over again, your perspective. It is not your job to educate Wiccans about privilege, but I for one appreciate that you are willing to do so.

    I’m quite sure that it was not a matter of shyness that kept many of the folks in the room from introducing themselves. I know and like many of them very much, but they circulate within the bubble that is the Bay Area Pagan community, and all tend to know each other well, many having known each other for years. As someone from a different part of the US, I see their self-referencing as partly a cultural pattern and partly a result of those particular folks circulating amongst themselves. Thats why I made the comment that not realizing you need to introduce yourself is a manifestation of privilege.

    I left discouraged about how little progress was made, but I thank you again for your efforts to open up the topic.

    • Thank you for reading and commenting, Rayna, and for being there and saying all that you did!

      I’m actually quite glad that you have appeared here, because I would have liked to have spoken further with you, and at least made a proper and personal introduction. I was looking to see if you had a blog or any other place that can be accessed (I am not on FaceBook!), so this is fortuitous, to an extent…or, at least I think so!

      Would you be all right with me e-mailing you privately to speak further on some of these matters? If not, no worries–thanks in any case for commenting here and joining this conversation, and once again for your excellent comments during the presentation itself!

  31. […] discussion in the Covenant of the Goddess/etc. hospitality suite. You can read more about that here, and likewise at The Wild Hunt, and in the accounts of John Halstead, Finnchuill, and I know there […]

  32. […] imagine that! I, who was involved in this on the “polytheist ‘side’” (!?!), was thought to be Wiccan because I was […]

  33. […] had the most traffic and has been a hot-button issue around the general Pagan Intarwebz of late is the Wiccanate Privilege discussion. However, there was another discussion, in one of the main ballrooms and on the main PantheaCon […]

  34. […] [I'm also amused that my automatic spellchecker/corrector here doesn't believe that "intrafaith" is a word, and keeps trying to correct it into "interfaith," which is what polytheists are now saying is the reality of polytheists and many more mainstream pagans doing anything together is--and I've said that myself recently.] […]

  35. […] Coyle and a Kick-Ass Panel! Mega-Patheos Pagan Beverage and/or Breakfast Time! Sunday (Socializing) The Wiccanate Privilege Discussion The Beard Blessing Ritual The Youth Blessing […]

  36. […] yet, if he said it, it must be so, and should be respected as such. I had a ready memory of the discussion at PantheaCon in February in which I heard someone in the room loudly whispering after I had said that it was an interfaith […]

  37. […] Pantheacon Wiccanate Privilege Discussion, Privilege, again […]

  38. […] 2014, I was able to interact with her at four points: in the healing ritual for her, during the Wiccanate Privilege discussion, at the beard-blessing ritual, and at lunch at the very end of the […]


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