Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A Pagan Excuse for an Article

There's this article on Witch Vox that's been bugging me all week. Seeing as how it's only Tuesday, that's not saying much, but the bugging it's done in 3 days is remarkable. It's called "Easter is Pagan" and is written by Taliesin McKnight. I hit up WitchVox.com on Sunday to see what the new crop of articles looked like and skimmed through them until I got to this one. And... Like I said. It's upsetting. (Or, possibly, it's not as upsetting as I think it is, and I just ate some bad mayonnaise.)

For readers of this blog or listeners of my podcast you know I have a thing for citing your sources, for producing a quality written product. And, just as often as I have waxed incensed about the lack of sources cited, I have received emails telling me that we as pagans use experience and instinct as our sources of information. We feel something is the truth, so we run with it. Over my tenure as Chief Rioter and High Mugwump here at the Riot, I have come to learn that that is not always a bad thing. How do we know some spells work? How do we know the Divine is hearing our prayers? How do we know spirits are present? There's no source to cite there. There is no fact that I can call up from the depths of Wikipedia or a book on my shelf. I just have to know, because my witchy gut is telling me that it is so.

In that, you all have been incredible - and patient - teachers.


However, where there can be no compromise is in the distribution of information, of what one would otherwise refer to as facts of the matter. The matter here is history, more specifically it is the history of Easter. And, sadly, there are nearly no accurate facts of the matter available in this article. Some examples include 'the holiday Easter is named after the goddess Easter' and 'the winter solstice takes place on December 25.' Nearly every paragraph has wild, hyperbolic claims that not only exhibit poor writing structure (one wonders what, exactly, the point of the article is by the end) but have no citations, no references. If this were a graded paper, one would have to give a grade of 'F' and ask whether they'd like to admit to plagiarism or if perhaps there was a book or website where the ideas were gleaned.

From 'Abraham is secretly a pagan Easter egg finder' to 'modern Christianity is a successful preservation of ancient pagan practices', I beg to the heavens where are the sources?! He goes on to purport that Easter's date is lunar-based due to the early Christians' love for and embracing of astrology. Let's completely ignore the fact that, at one time, people measured units of time by the moon instead of the sun. Ever heard of a fortnight? This was more a throwback to our days as farmers and people that lived off the land than some mystical secret that early Christians were flipping to the back of their scrolls to find out what the universe had in store for Aries today. Even if he'd done a Wikipedia search for everything he wrote about, he'd have found better information.

Witch Vox is a hub for all types of articles, and many people searching through the internet for information on paganism end up there. And this is what they find. Poorly written, poorly structured, meandering "articles" that mix complete hogwash with partial facts and confuse issues for the unknowing.

But... What do we do about this? I get that, because of my academic background, I am stricter when it comes to this kind of thing. My standard is set higher than most, and I accept that. However, I refuse to believe that this is the kind of writing we accept in our community. I refuse to believe that we are sheeple. It's fun to hear about the secret pagan origins of topic X, but the fun times had by all in discussing this type of history doesn't negate the need for the truth. Personally speaking, when lambasting another religion in order to favor your own, one must tread even more carefully in regards to facts.

I have been heartened in the last couple of years to see more prominence given to pagan writers worth their blessing salts. Despite the horrendous nature of the controversy, even the transgender debacle at Pantheacon (2 years running) has resulted in a call for education by our community. We need to educate our community members, both young and old. That is the message I've been hearing.

Let's start here. Let's start by not accepting these types of articles. Let's start by calling bullshit, and saying that we want better for our community. We deserve better than half-cocked, half-formed ideas that are a mixture of make believe and misappropriated facts.

We are a brilliant community, and we deserve better than this. We are better than this.

What do you think? Am I upset over bad mayonnaise, or is there something truly wrong here?

Love and Lyte,

Fire Lyte

8 comments:

  1. Once upon a time ... like 8 or so years ago ... Witchvox allowed folks to comment on articles there. This was discontinued after an old fart friend of mine dared to ask similar questions about another Witchvox article. I don't recall either the article or the author (other than it was one of our Honored Elders).

    I miss those days, when we could ask for more details, or [gasp] a citation or two or three or more.

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  2. YES!, I read the same essay and went off on a 20 min. rant. One of my MAs is in History and I would like to return to teaching history one day, this article hit every raw nerve I have about correct writing(MY least successful area of accomplishment) Thank you

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  3. "...We feel something is the truth, so we run with it."

    Yep, that's about it. Don't like the history? Re-write it because your 800-year old spirit guide told you differently or you belong to a secret priestly cast that is privy to 'The Truth'. The academics must be lying because you know differently. How do you know? You just do. Which of course is much more credible than years of verifiable research. No need for citations.

    Reading that article made me think I was reading a piece of fiction. There are still those in our community who cannot separate opinion from hard facts. I am saddened by the level of illiteracy in our community because there are so many bright minds. It saddens me more so to know that we simply read this sort of thing and nod because we do not want to be labeled intolerant.

    Easter is not Eoster,Eostre or Ostara; neither is it Passover. Stating as much is not just plain lousy scholarship, it's inexcusable ignorance of the meaning of both holidays by someone who claims to be an expert on comparative religion. The other statement that raised my hackles was the one about the Christians loving and embracing astrology. Really? I thought the lunar based calendar was based on *astronomy*! And how about those numerous adjurations against the occult throughout the Bible ( You want sources? Google any Bible verse site, or check Strong's Concordinence).

    Sigh...I thought I would be happy when Paganism hit the mainstream, and I know that isn't far away when I see articles like this written by an evangelical fundamentalist Pagan. Reading through this article made me think that perhaps Kirk Cameron's Pagan twin had been whispering in the author's ear.

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  4. You hit on the head everything about this article that made me cringe and gnash my teeth. As I read through it (trying very very hard to not throw my computer out a window) I was wondering if the author has just come into paganism for the first time and is still trying to hammer out some anger issues with Christianity.

    Because really, that is all that this article says to me. It says "Christians are all evil they stole all the good stuff". It does nothing to actually tell you what Ostara is!

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  5. Too bad they don't allow comments on the articles on WitchVox anymore. I'd be more willing to read the articles posted there if given the opportunity to debate with others...or even simply read the opinions of other readers. I also think the quality of the articles would improve if they were open to a bit more scrutiny and contributors knew they'd be taken to task by others in the community if they wrote articles making unsubstantianted claims.

    Maybe as a compromise they can allow mediated comments?

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  6. Thought there are many Pagan-like aspects in Christianity, from what I read, this guy stretched the facts so thin in his article that the facts ripped. Open any book about Gnostics or Nag Hammadi scrolls, or just any book about the early starts of Christianism, and see how not only Pagan traditions were abhorred in those days, but even those Christian traditions that did not apply to a very narrow set of ideas.

    One would think that when writing an article for a widely known site such as WitchVox, people would actually research and write about what they know. It seems that's not a requisite. But for the researcher of Pagan religions - such as me - or someone interested in the topic and seeking to start a life as a Wiccan, how can they separate between the fantastic and baseless articles and those well researched (aside from the proper citing of sources and basic logic in the writing)?

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  7. I share in collective cringing. I also share in the previously mentioned theory that this writer is new to Wicca, and is still in a post-Christian mindset in which everything swings as far from the previous belief system as possible. The article does have many of the hallmarks of the enthusiasm of the newly converted, which rarely stops for footnotes.

    Though I can't help but wonder: in five or ten years, will this guy be cringing along with us for posting something espousing ill-researched views he has matured past? Even our Chief Rioter has an article under his belt that he has taken a second look at and realized no longer completely fit his philosophy. Will this guy do the same? Perhaps renewing the commenting option at Witchvox would improve the process by *ahem* "encouraging" writers to back up their research. (Or at least understand that if they don't back up their claims, they will get called on it.)

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  8. "...the fun times had by all in discussing this type of history doesn't negate the need for the truth..." Hear, hear, sister! I have no problem with UPG _as long as it is labeled as such_. At The Princesses, we are far from perfect, but we try to cite sources and provide links. I have lost count at the number of times GG has asked me to cite a source for something I said that I'd thought was true... and then when I looked it up discovered it was not so cut and dry as I'd assumed. (Thank the gods for an editing partner to keep me honest!) I think sometimes we don't realize how much of general conversation we take in as true, even when there is no backup for the things we hear people say. I have learned so much just from not making assumptions and actually taking the time to look up facts. Thanks for standing up for facts in the face of misinformation.

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