Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Dear Old Pagans...

Some Old Pagans thought it time to give the smackdown to us Young Pagans. I'm smacking back.
There's a meme that's getting started in the pagan blogosphere in which one writes a letter to young pagans, exasperatedly begging them to quit their foolish ways. It seems to have begun here and is propagated by the Daily Pagan News tumblr. While many of these points are things I've talked about in the past, and many of them I agree with, I feel they are more universal than aimed directly at the young. Also, there were several points, on both posts, that I had to go back and make sure this post was about 'young' pagans, as I've only seen this behavior exhibited by the older folks in our community.

So, in the interest of fairness, and because it's been a while since I've done one of my lovely lists, here is my message to "old" pagans (or pagans that think they've been around the witchy block a time or seven). Also, it might help if you read the two letters to Young Pagans first, as I reference their points. Ahem:



  • Before you go getting high and mighty about telling the young witchy girl in her diaphanous garb to quit bleating Never Again the Burning Times, why don't you figure out where she got that information? The pagan community has Sheeple, too, and they had to learn from someone. So, Old Pagan, how about you make sure that all the folks in YOUR age/experience group stop teaching this garbage, and the young folks will stop parroting it back as though it were gospel.
  • Please, stop thinking science and academic research is the enemy. It isn't. However, there is a place where the two can meet, where you can have an academic understanding of how something works (such as the celestial bodies that fly across the sky are not chariots or wolves or houses, but rather a huge chunk of rock that reflects the other huge ball of burning gas) and also hold to your faith. We, as a species, have come a long way since the time when we believed the lightning only struck because a god was pissed at us. We have a greater understanding of how the world works, and it can only serve to better our relationship with the divine - which, last time I checked, many of us consider to either be nature or to be in nature. 
  • How about we just quit bitching about what someone wears? Generally speaking. How about we just quit bitching about one particular look? Yes, there are folks that join this path and then feel they need to wear all black with black makeup and more jewelry than any Spencer's or Hot Topic could possibly provide. There are also, oh dear Old Pagan, the delightful Unwashed Hippy Pagans (who are simply a delight to sit next to at a meet-up...not), and the Pagan that Knits Everything She Wears, and the Trenchcoat Pagan that seems to be oblivious that a massive black leather trench coat looks like they're about to shoot up the coffee shop. Suffice it to say, many people have a look. My only beef with this is when you say you dress the way you do because that's the way pagans should dress. Real pagans look like anybody and everybody. Yes, there is the group that dresses goth-lite, but there's also the group that can't buy regular clothes and must only buy from some extra green, extra organic, extra hempy goodness retailer because all the chain clothing stores have the blood of Asian children on their hands. There is no pagan look. And may I introduce you to Project Pagan Enough?
  • The Broom Closet is a tricky place to be in. And, Old Pagan, while you might have had the most wonderful, liberating experience sitting down with your Christian parents and telling them all about how you love dancing naked under a full moon, it's not so easy for some. For some of us, we have several closets we live in, and we can only come out of one at a time for fear of our parents having a heart attack. For others, our paths are our own, and having our parents involved or know about them makes little difference, though it may not serve to better our relationship. So, I'm glad you either didn't care about your relationship with your parents, or you had a fabulous coming out experience, but why don't you leave us Young Pagans the hell alone about coming out. It's none of your business when it happens, and we like it just fine that way.
  • Maybe my pet is my familiar, and you're just jealous because your cat isn't magical. 
  • Also, about spelling... I'm glad that you want us young whipper snappers to have good spelling when it comes to words like 'Christian' and 'Pantheon' and 'Religion', but how about you learn how to spell the word 'magic'? I get that some of you were taught by your precious booky-books that 'magic' isn't magic until it's spelled with a 'k' or a 'j' or both at the same time in a beastly display of orgiastic grammar fuckupery, but the word in the dictionary is spelled 'm-a-g-i-c'. This list could go on, but just know that you might want to practice what you preach.
  • Looking at who is doing the blogging behind the two posts above, I notice nobody is over 30. (So I wonder about this note to 'young pagans'.) In fact, a few of them aren't over 25. The initial poster is 29. So, I am glad that they know all about Christians not being the enemy, but please don't act like that is something you've gotten with age and being in the craft and learning from your elders. I have seen dozens and dozens of Old Pagans espousing the evils of Christianity and perpetuating a culture of fear when it comes to What the Christians are Doing! Take a look around the pagan blogosphere. Some of the biggest and most read pagan blogs out there (some masquerading as "news" blogs) seem to focus on the evils of Christendom on a daily basis. It's there, and it's a lot older than us Young Pagans. But, no, Christians/Muslims/Sikhs/Atheists/Scientists/Anybody Else are not the enemy. Nobody is the enemy. You...no...WE are our own worst enemy when it comes to the growth of our culture and community. All our bickering and in-fighting is splintering what little bit of community we've managed to build up in the last 50-60 years. How about you take a look at that, Old Pagan?
  • Stop asking to be called an Elder. Period. If someone wants to bestow you with the title of 'elder', then that means you are their elder. They are showing you a sign of respect. But, I do not have that relationship with you, and you telling me I should respect you because you are a 'Pagan Elder' or 'Community Elder' or whatever just makes me that less likely to do so. Being old doesn't make you an elder. At least, it doesn't make you mine. Having lived through all the Biblical plagues and the Great Depression and both Bushes doesn't make you my elder. Having every single book published by Llewellyn memorized along with the ability to quote Budapest and Starhawk and Gardner and Buckland verbatim from rote memory also doesn't make you my elder. In fact, being named Budapest, Starhawk, Gardner, or Buckland, or any of another dozen Big Pagan Names doesn't make you my elder. 
There is no age at which you are no longer a 'Young Pagan'. Ok... 70. 80. Somewhere in that neighborhood. Maybe then I cannot seriously call you a 'young pagan'. Because, pagans are all ages, and they can start on their paths any time. I've had a number of folks email me over the years expressing gratitude for finding good research amongst the cacophony of terrible opinions/experiences (opinionsperiences as it were, Mnemosyne)-as-evidence. These folks had just started their path and were confused by the self-referencing, self-congratulating, self-conflicting nature of the current lot of Big Name Pagan Books. And, they're 30 or 56 or 64 or 16, and they're just starting on their pagan path. 

A thirst for knowledge and Spirit doesn't have an age. It also has little requirements. Sure, you can dress your particular brand of crazy up with all the High Ceremony and accoutrements you want, but it doesn't make you closer to the Divine or more correct than anybody else. Just because you're old or you've read a lot of books or you know big words or you can have a discussion about Rosicrucianism and the Golden Dawn in context doesn't mean you know any more about what lies on the other side of the veil than anybody else. 

I'm a fairly smart guy. I've got some degrees and I know big words and I can argue theology with the best of them - and have done so on a few occasions. I'll be turning 26 next month. That puts me being on my path going on about 12-13 years now. I've, technically, been a Pagan longer than the 29 year old who initially posted and a lot longer than the 22 year old who runs the Pagan News Blog. However, that doesn't mean I know any more about anything in paganism than they do. In fact, I probably know a lot less. I'm sure of it. I'm constantly baffled by how smart our community actually is. They know history and facts and dates and volumes upon volumes of mystical lore and folktales and herbalism and geology and geomancy and the list goes on. Our community is full of brilliance. Yet, we let our in-fighting and our exasperation of the Old/Young/Goth/Prep/Smart/Uninformed/Ambiguously Defined Pagan groups continue to keep us divided. 

Next month is March, which means a revamping and reissuing of Project Pagan Enough. Before that happens, though, I'd like for us all to take a look at its tenets as currently worded. This finger pointing has to stop. Yes, I did some finger pointing above, but I did it to demonstrate that no group is free and clear of criticism. No group knows more or less about the divine or the Mysteries than anyone else. 

It's time - Young and Old Pagans - woke up to that.

Love and Lyte,

Fire Lyte

35 comments:

  1. This was fracking brilliant. -signed A not sold pagan

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  2. Wow - I could pen a tome in response, but one item demands my comment - the topic of "young Pagan" vs. "old Pagan".

    In my opinion, the definition of young Pagan must include an element of learning and growth. That said, I don't even want to know an "old Pagan", whether age 16 or 96 who isn't still learning and growing.

    Me? I'll always be a young Pagan.

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    1. I will, too. I think that's why we get along so well.

      FL

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  3. I *love* this.

    Experience, knowledge, spiritual maturity and age - all VERY complicated things. Some would say socially constructed. I'm sure that wouldn't be me. *innocent whistle*

    P.S. If you make Project Pagan Enough too exclusive you will make Sophia cry. I just thought you should know.

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    1. Glad you like it. I think one of our Pagan Elders below disagrees with you.

      FL

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  4. Thank you for posting this. Rob is right - fracking brilliant indeed. I'm amazed how quickly these 'old pagans' forget about how they were treated when they were first starting out.

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  5. Thanks for re-enforcing my rather negative opinion of the Daily Pagan News thing.

    While I AM old, I don't have as many problems with young pagans as I do with ones who HAVE been around rather a while and are still idiots. They totally should know better.

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    1. Agreed, FernWise. You're a great example of a forward thinking Pagan who both stands for her beliefs and doesn't shy away from common sense.

      FL

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  6. Yes this is very much needed. I wasn't aware of this meme before this, but I can say I have had pagans of all ages and toes har on me about clothing, age and it's just not a way to build our community.

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    1. Same here, Bellatrix. That's one of the reasons I created Project Pagan Enough.

      FL

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  7. Excellent article. My personal opinion is that tolerance should be the main focus for all religions. There is no one person who knows for certain - everything is based on faith.

    As for the old or young pagans preying on ageism or experience - this path is different for every person, and though YOU (generalizing not pointing fingers here) may have already gotten past the whole "Never again the burning times" rant that many new-pagans experience, you still had to go through that experience to get where you are now (assuming you've evolved past that whole hate thing). Would you deny others that experience? Would you take away from them their path of exploration?

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    1. While the hate thing gets tiresome ... what I let bother me more is the victim mentality included in it. But I find that irritating in all ages and all religions, goodness knows that this election season has everyone running as 'victim'.

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    2. Thank you FernWise! We can't keep running around being the victim when we have not even unpacked our on privileges. I feel that Fire Lyte's post is an expose on the privilege of some Pagans who have other privileges in society, like only having one closet to contend to. Or having money to buy books, etc.
      Although I do find it amusing that he author of the "young pagans" article is only "old" by Iron Age standards.
      The Elders I look up to in my community are all "old enough" to understand "personality types" and "thing's change". As a 26 year old Pagan, I really hope I am not expected to peak at 30 have that be the summation of my understanding. I can't wait for the young whippersnappers to tell me "times have changed, granny." Because you know, She changes everything she touches, and Everything She touches changes.

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  8. *sigh* Youth is one disadvantage one is guaranteed to outgrow, whether it's youth in age or in experience. You may be amused when you re-read this in 25 years.

    OTOH, some people have 1 year of experience, some people have 10 years of experience, and some people have 1 year of experience 10 times. I've met 'em all.

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    1. Phaedra, I'm not sure you're understanding the point of the article. The point is that there are misunderstandings about all types of groups and sub-groups in our community, and we are doing very little good by finger pointing. The old/young finger pointing, the appearance judgment, the experience/evidence argument... They go nowhere quickly when it's based in exasperation and finger pointing.

      Though, I do firmly believe it's high time we rethought the idea of what an 'elder' is.

      I'm hopeful that your statement was more an axiom than how you really feel. Youth is not a disadvantage. It is an opportunity to grow and learn.

      FL

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  9. Mine was mostly a response to Lady Cluck's horrendously offensive original post, and was meant as a guide for anyone who is new to a Pagan religion. I didn't mean to offend you- as you said, I'm quite young myself. I also would never in my life call myself a Pagan elder.

    Thanks for posting this, though! I'll be sure to post it to Pagan News so others can read it. :)

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    1. It's also not really a meme- I posted that months ago.

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    2. Then you haven't noticed its recent explosion on the social networks. Facebook, Twitter, and the like were blowing up with it in the last couple of days. Congrats on the increased traffic. Also, you aren't the only one that wrote a letter. Others are writing letters, too. (Thus, the meme.) Yours was the one that was linked to over and over again, however.

      FL

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  10. Very good post. I completely agree with you. We are, as a group, a very diverse and brilliant group of people and our fighting has to end. Its ridiculous.

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  11. As I have expressed to you previously, I am bemused and amazed at the actions of those in the very fluid, very loosely-knit portion of our society that self-identifies as pagan. Speaking as an *older*(in my 50's) woman, I have enough life experience behind me to *know* this: When I think I know enough, that is just the beginning of my learning. I am at once experienced and a novice, in all things, in all ways. I revel in the journey, and the bickering you address here is irritating to me. I do not mean you personally, please do not misunderstand. I admire your expertise and outlook. I mean the bickering and finger pointing in the community as a whole. We will never be able to meld together to be a cohesive community as long as there are posts such as the ones you have brought to our attention and incidents such as the debacle at PantheaCon.

    People are individuals. They dress in their own way. They follow diets that suit them. They cannot ever be forced into a mold. Look at history. Wars across the ages have been waged because people want to be who they are, not what others expect them to be.

    We need to celebrate our diversities.

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    1. Did you even read my post? I'm not even sure what is offending anyone, aside from the familiar one. I told people to be individuals, respect other paths, and to learn more and more and more. What toes did I step on?

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    2. Again, it's not just you who wrote a letter. In fact, the initial poster's letter was possibly more upsetting than yours. Your letter pretty much just copied what she said with less heated language. Also, some of the claims you made are incredibly puzzling to the rest of us Young Pagans. Your views on curses, for example.

      Either way, please do not think this is all about you. It's about a much grander negative dichotomy pervasive in the pagan community that you brought to light. Congrats.

      FL

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    3. I am not sure how to respond...I am not attacking you, I am perturbed at the community as a whole and what we are doing to one another with so much attention on the schisms that exist. I do not consider myself an *Elder*, nor do I consider myself a *Novice*, or young pagan. I self-identify as pagan only because it is the cohort in a spiritual sense that most closely fits my path and life journey. I abhor subsets, they create barriers, walls. They foster and encourage division, they create intolerance and a sense of ownership, they bring about a type of cancerous possessiveness.

      Spiritually, there is a reason I left organized religion, and the overall umbrella of *paganism* appealed to me. But all of this makes me wonder ...

      And yes, I read your post.

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  12. I can't tell you how happy I am to read this post. The way people constantly harp on "young pagans" or people just starting on their paths has lately been making me feel very nervous and self conscious about myself as a pagan...but in the end it's okay that I'm still learning and the best thing for these "elders" to do would be to give out good advice/information rather than bicker about what people are doing wrong!

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  13. Where is the button where I can click on "applause"?
    .
    Take a bow Master Lyte. Between you and Master Christian Day (who is be persecuted for calling himself a warlock) I hope you can accomplish this feat of freeing these bonds of self-proclaimed authorities. I'll never understand why so many who hold the Christians in such disdain help themselves to the very same rhetorik when it comes to their own beliefs.
    .
    Incidentally: a historical note. It was Master Crowley who deemed it "Magick". He did this to distinguish himself in his day from Harry Houdini (an acquaintance), because he didn't want people confusing his magic with common card tricks and disappearing elephants.
    .
    Send back to the meme the words of Master Crowley: "Do as you will is the whole of the law."
    (He never had to memorize this long-winded Wiccan Rede - probably because it didn't exist back then.)

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    1. I recirculated this at Google+ in the heathen circles.

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    2. Now, I'm angry. There were no 'burning times'? By the heavens and the waters! I live in Fulda County. From 1601-1603 300 women and girls were accused, tried, found guilty and burned at the stake for the crime of witchcraft. That they may have been really innocent doesn't detract from the fact that these women died as witches, and witchcraft was an Imperial Crime in the Holy Roman Empire, akin to Murder, Rape and Sodomy. What does she think? That the Hexenhammer was Science Fiction? There is a monument in Gro├čentaft to this day for the 300 witches.
      http://www.anton-praetorius.de/opfer/opfer.htm
      http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balthasar_Nuss
      (Please use Google Translator)

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  14. Oh Captain, my Captain! I was so mad when reading the other meme's that I couldn't trust myself to respond. You did it for me. Thank the gods for the Riot! (Damn me and my Lexical fame.)

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  15. Excellent! This whole thing reminds me of the phrase that gets a bit jargony but is so often relevant: "tutorial stance". A phrase that has nothing to do with age or experience, but with how one approaches things. Take a stance of interest-- learn and listen before spouting off random acts of judgement-- no matter how old or experienced.

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  16. IcedCoffeeGoddessMarch 1, 2012 at 6:51 AM

    I think it is ironic that you who are the KING of pointing fingers and yelling at people for what you believe is right vs. wrong is complaining about someone else doing it. Regardless, GIRL YOU KNOW HOW TO WRITE A BLOG!

    I believe that if the Pagan community would get over itself and come together instead of tearing each other apart we could be a much stronger community. But I guess if all of humanity would do that than we would be a better world, huh?

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  17. I have enjoyed reading your blog for some time now.
    As a practicing pagan for 25 years now,not as an "elder", just living with this worldview for a long time, I am appalled at the letter from an"older" pagan, for many reasons.

    My two biggest points of contention being 1)I don't get to look down my nose at anyone who hasn't been practicing as long as I have. Because according to my worldview of learning and growth in every moment, every one has something valuable to teach ME!
    2)Coming out of any closet is difficult and scary. I have known young people that have gone to their parents/families to tell them about their faith and been thrown out, beaten or "exorcised". Each individual has to evaluate his/her own circumstances and safety before making the coming out decision.

    Your response was amazing and funny. Thank you for sharing.

    I am heartened by Project Pagan Enough, which I believe is a sincere attempt to bridge gaps in a fractured community. It seems we save a special kind of vindictiveness for other pagans that aren’t quite “our” kind of pagan. Pagans will sit on interfaith councils in harmony with Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus and Buddhists, but will trash talk the “fluffy bunny” or “cultural appropriationist” or “not a REAL woman” in our own community. I would like to see that kind of vindictiveness stop.

    I try to model it on my blog. It's nice to see someone else doing the same.

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  18. LOL...perhaps I lack a serious gene in that I found both lists to be quite funny. Yes they are both kind of stereotypical, but honestly I think each makes good points.

    Perhaps the best take away from both lists is to never think so much of yourself that you can't learn more, and keep an open mind on things (but not so open your brain falls out).

    I never would expect anyone to call me Elder BTW. "Hey, short stuff!" will do quite nicely.

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  19. I love you!! I am just finally catching up on blogs. I am listening to the werewolf podcast while reading other posts. Yours is one of the few I am ACTUALLY catching up on. That's a lie it's the ONLY one I am going back to catch up on. I just wanted to say as an "old" pagan (at least to them since I am over 29) SHUT UP! To them not you. I use a damn K in magic because I like K's and we don't use them enough in our language! That and my Etsy listings with a K get 3 times more views than the ones that don't. Lol

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  20. I know some old Cabot Trads who could put any young goth to shame with their eccentric dress and makeup. And as someone who has been let down by some of the elders of my own trad very recently, I have to raise my glass to you.

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