Thank the Goddess for the First Amendment

3rd Wednesday: Current Events (issues from one Wiccan Witch’s perspective)

Ohio prisoners who identify as Pagans are no going to be able to practice their religion, and receive ministry in their religion, while in prison.  Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction approved 50 religious groups who will be allowed to visit inmates, including all manner of Paganism and Witchcraft. Ohio is joining West Virginia and a few other states in this step forward to ensure religious rights.

You gotta love the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Music to my ears. I can’t imagine living in a country without laws similar to the First Amendment. My heart breaks for so many countries in Africa, where people – especially children – are still being violently persecuted for suspicion of Witchcraft, or the attempt to exterminate Christians in the Middle East .

Life is not problem-free, of course, even when you do live in a free country. Laws can’t stop every nut case out there. Sure, there are cases in the U.S. of bigoted people harassing, trying to deny rights, or (in some isolated cases) severe persecution that seriously threatens a person’s health, liberty or well-being. In in this day and age, and in this place, we’re in better shape than most of the world has been throughout history, or even than some parts of the world are right now.

Of course, like with everything else, the First Amendment comes with a trade-off. We have the freedom to post our blogs, hold our rituals, celebrate our sabbats, raise our kids in our faith and post our endless supply of empowering memes. But for us to have this right, the First Amendment also has to allow those we disagree with to practice their religion.

Not only do they get to practice it (like we do), but they get to speak out against ours. Free religion and free speech kind of go hand-in-hand in a lot of ways when you think about it. We get to write books and give speeches on YouTube videos about why  we disagree with Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Scientology, etc., etc. But the same rights are afforded to Pat Robertson calling Wiccans ‘evil’ on his television show, or the Westboro Baptist Church showing up to say ‘God Hates Fags’ outside funerals.

Being Pagans, especially being Witches, we understand this. Everything is a give-and-take in nature, and in life.

That’s why in Washington D.C. people could peacefully assemble one week wearing pussyhats while trying to bring attention to their right to their birth control of choice, or an abortion if they choose to get one. While the very next week, at the March for Life, people who believe babies are being murdered, got to express their concern.

Sometimes when we have our own passionate beliefs, when something we disagree with truly offends and repels us, it can be hard to be supportive of the First Amendment. Look at Milo Yiannopoulos fleeing from UC Berkeley a couple of weeks ago. Some people are actually cheering that he was shut down because they hate the things he has to say. I have no problem with hating the things someone has to say; but I have a real problem with denying people First Amendment rights, then trying to justify that with a ‘but’. If you find yourself saying, “I support the First Amendment, but not for (fill in the blank),” then guess what? You don’t support the First Amendment.

I have to be honest, it freaks me out a when people celebrate stifling free speech with violent riots (what went on at UC Berkeley do not qualify as ‘protests’; they were riots). Because that’s the same kind of thinking behind the villagers who grab the pitchforks and the torches to go after the Witches.

It also freaks me out when people want to make certain religions illegal, when peaceful assemblies turn violent, when people abuse their right to criticize the government by trying to villainize/demonize those they disagree with, and when the press abuses their power by being deliberately dishonest and manipulative—trying to promote a narrative and an agenda rather than giving the cold, hard, unadorned, unexcused facts.

The Freedoms of the First Amendment provide us with an incredibly strong foundation for society, but every time we use a ‘but’ to justify chipping away at them we are contributing to the crumbling of that foundation. Sometimes there is cause for a ‘but’, of course (like someone directly inciting violence or sacrificing babies, for example), but those times should be exceedingly rare.

These freedoms are never going to be easy to execute in diverse nation; the founding fathers knew this when they framed the Constitution. And the more troubled times are, the more the country is divided on which values to embrace or which solutions are best, the harder it gets to put vehement disagreements and personal feelings aside in order to stand up for the First Amendment.

But I’m afraid I have to side with Evelyn Beatrice Hall on this one: ‘I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.’

I can’t help but think of our Pagan ancestors being persecuted for their beliefs, and how many of their persecutors thought they were justified. With every fiber of their being, those persecutors truly and wholeheartedly believed Pagans were practicing some repulsive, offensive, deadly stuff, so they justified their own oppressive behavior.

Freedoms like those afforded in the First Amendment were a huge step forward for human societies (and it still took time to catch up in practice with that massive philosophical threat); it truly chills me to the bone that these days we seem to be taking a step backwards. People are back to intolerance, back to justifying their actions, to denying that attempting to oppress that which they hate.

Dennis Prager, conservative talk show host and author, says, “I prefer clarity to agreement.”

While I may not agree with all of Prager’s positions, I do embrace that particular bit of wisdom. It rings true to my religious values, and it helps me remember just what a stroke of brilliance the First Amendment is, and why we have a responsibility to watch our ‘buts’. If we’re not careful, we could pull our own foundation right out from under us, and I can’t imagine where we, as Pagans, might be then. With two-thirds of the world being Muslim or Christian, two religions that believe we’re ‘the enemy’, anything that would weaken First Amendment rights is the biggest threat we face in the long run.

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The Real Reason for the Season is NOT Jesus

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3rd Wednesday: Current Events (issues from one Wiccan Witch’s perspective)

Hello my Witchy friends & tree-hugging buddies, and Blessed Solstice to you all! Because today is our holiday, I will keep this Wednesday’s Word rather brief and to the point. It’s not actually directed at you; this is an open letter to some (not all) Christians.

Dear Christians Who Believe there Is a ‘War On Christmas’:

I know you are probably very excited this month about the coming of your holiday. I know that you celebrate the Birth of Christ on the 25th, and that even though Easter is the most holy high holiday on the Christian calendar, Christmas is probably nearer and dearer to many of you, and warm your hearts like a cup of hot cocoa in the dead of a cold winter night.

I know, too, that you think there is a War on your holiday because some of us choose to use greetings other than ‘Merry Christmas.’ I know you feel that others are intruding on your holiday because we want to celebrate our own as well. I know you feel that a simple red cup or a ‘holiday sale’ sign somehow dampens your spirits and tramples on your rights.

I’d like to point out a few things that will hopefully make you rethink the issue.

  1. Jesus isn’t the reason for the season. I know you’ve been told that, and people in your religion might have made him the reason for your season, but it just doesn’t translate outside Christianity. Jesus was brought into older Solstice festivities and traditions that went on long before Christianity existed. If you would like to celebrate Jesus during this season there is certainly room for him; but you can’t force the rest of us to recognize him and him alone. That is an unfair expectation.
  2. Christian churches fought against Christmas until less than 200 years ago. Christians thought Christmas was evil because it was wild revelry left over from Pagan times. Churches used to close for Christmas. In early America, it was banned. The New York Police Department was created with the sole intent of cracking down on Christmas revelers. It was only Victorian writers like Charles Dickens who re-painted Christmas in a new light of warmth, family and hope in the mid-1800’s. Jesus was not the reason for the season for centuries.
  3. Your holiday in the USA is a federal holiday, where there is a separation of Church & State. No one has to celebrate Christmas, and if they do celebrate it, they do not have to make Jesus a part of the celebration. You can either withdraw Christmas from being a federal holiday and reclaim it as a religious holiday (and keep it for yourselves), or you can keep it a federal holiday and accept that the rest of us do not have to celebrate it in a religious manner. But you can’t have it both ways. You can’t make Jesus be the reason for MY season.
  4. I am all for lights, trees, snowmen and other pretty scenes being displayed in public. I am fine with parades, festivals and other types of celebrations. You’ll get no arguments from me about mall Santas (another Pagan origin). On private property– have at it! No holds barred! But if you’re going to bring a holiday into the public arena of a country that offers religious freedom, then you have to let us non-Christians celebrate the season, too. That means secular Christmas celebrations, Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, etc. That means if you want manger scenes on the front lawn of city hall, you have to accept a Goddess display if the local Pagans want it too. Or you can ban them both. I don’t want to take away anyone’s rights by having a Goddess display; but our rights should be equal. I would not demand special privileges– nor should you.
  5. If I want to donate a Goddess display for that front lawn, it’s not because I want to take anything  away from you. Your perception that my celebrating Solstice rather than Christmas is meant to be some slight on you, or some war against you, frankly displays a ridiculous ego. It’s not about you. My traditions are meaningful to me, just as yours are to you. My fellow Pagans, though a minority, care about our season as much as you care about yours. We celebrate for different specifics, but all holidays in the season are entrenched in light, hope, peace and goodwill. You need to exhibit some of that goodwill by not throwing tantrums that everyone doesn’t clear the way and let only you do what you want. Learn to share– the country belongs to all of us.
  6. I say Happy Holidays. It is my greeting of choice in public. I don’t say it to offend you, I have been saying it for over 20 years since Christmas is not my holiday. I have been saying it since back when it was considered a friendly holiday greeting, before extremists decided that it was somehow an effort to stamp out any specific celebrations. You can say Merry Christmas all you want. You can print it on your business signs and ads. You can put it on your garage door and your church banner. You can tell it to me when I pass you on the street this month. You can sing it from the rooftops all the live long day for all I care… I assume you are offering it with a sincere sentiment. That’s fine. Christmas is not my holiday though; it’s not the first thought that jumps to my mind this season, or the first word that leaps to my lips. For me, it is the holiday season… my wishing you a Happy Holiday, particularly if I don’t know you, is meant as a friendly gesture. If I had a store, I would write ‘Holiday Sale’ on the signs. If you take it as a declaration of war on your holiday, you seriously need to take a chill pill because you’re misreading it; But that is not my problem that you’re overreacting and being hypersensitive. That’s something you need to deal with.
  7. No one can take your holiday away from you. Your holiday, if it has real meaning to you, cannot be wiped away just because it is not forced upon the public everywhere. Plenty of people of minority religions have been celebrating their highly religious holidays forever without needing every store and television station and radio station and neighbor to join in. If you think your holiday has less meaning just because it isn’t foisted upon the rest of the public, then again– this is something you need to deal with. You might want to re-examine the meaning of the holiday and put the expectations of making your celebration merry and bright on yourselves, rather than dumping that expectation of giving you a merry and bright holiday the way you want it  on the rest of us. I’ve celebrated the Solstice for 25 years; while it’s lovely when my Pagan community can acknowledge it in public, I’ve never felt I needed anything outside of my own heart, my own mind, my own spirit or outside my own front door to ‘give’ me my holiday. If you do, then you are probably missing the point of your own. We can’t give it to you, or take it away from  you. You  have to find it within yourself.
  8. I don’t want to take your holiday away. I want you to have it, and enjoy it. My religion is not at war with yours. We believe you have the right– the responsibility, even– to follow your beliefs. All we’re asking for is the same courtesy.

So I do wish you, dear Christians, A Very Merry Christmas. And a Happy Holiday, to you and everyone else as well. It is the season of beautiful holidays, and I’m glad to live in a country in which we can all observe them, share them and express ourselves in whatever way we wish.

~Sage

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Peace & Unity ~ My Prayer

3rd Wednesday: Current Events (issues from one Wiccan Witch’s perspective)

13 Moons to Becoming Wiccan

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Hello my friends!
The most current event for me is that my Ebook is finally out! Praise Hermes and Hecate! It is available right now exclusively through Amazon Kindle! I am a writer and a teacher, but a terrible salesperson and marketer, lol, so I’ll lay it on the line: if you like my writing, please check it out, as I think you will be pleased with this in-depth work. It would also be great if you could spread the word to those who you think would need it, and for you to review it on Amazon if you have read it—whatever you happened to think of it, it is much appreciated if you take the time!

As for Pagan current events, it seems the big current event —the U.S. election—keeps coming to mind. Regardless of whether we’re thrilled with or utterly in despair with the results of the election, I’m with Oprah on this one: We all need to take a deep breath. I know her comment enraged a lot of people, but I think in her usual wisdom, Oprah is on to something.

We are Pagans, we understand that the biggest threat to any culture is not what leader or bad legislation they might need to endure during any period; the biggest threat is in division. The biggest threat is turning on each other, villainizing each other, and refusing to listen to each other. Widening the gap is not going to help; only unity will begin the healing so that we can start compromising.

We are Witches who know that energy run amok often does more harm than good; it is better to regroup and focus energy toward specific goals. Better yet if we can do so together, after coming to some agreement about the best course of action.

We are magical people; we know the Law of Polarity, and that it warns us to remain balanced and look at things objectively. It teaches us not to have knee-jerk reactions and go off half-cocked. We understand how easily manipulated people are when they’re depolarized and imbalanced.

We also understand as magical people the law of attraction—that what we think creates reality. If we continue to put our energy into the worst possible outcome happening, the universe doesn’t care whether that energy is fear or anger or elation—it’s energy. It’s going to go toward that outcome. We know the disastrous results of giving in to our base emotions can have on a culture.

We know better than to assume people’s intentions; we know better than to assume that a person thinking this way must secretly have some truly bad qualities or that they’re not as bright or caring or passionate as we are. We know better than to assume we are the only ones who had the best intentions, and that anyone else’s intentions must have come from apathy or malevolence.

What we all need after this monumental election is to calm ourselves, center ourselves, to focus on the big picture. We need to strive for clarity, if not agreement. We need to try to come together in understanding—and if the ‘other side’ won’t do so, well then it puts even more of the burden on our shoulders to work towards that.

Right now, my prayers simply go out for peace and unity. Until we have that, it won’t really matter who is in charge. Things will keep getting worse.

dove

 

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