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!]