Wednesday, April 29, 2009

404 explanations

Why your page wouldn't load according to various religions and denominations (read carefully as it initially looks like a normal 404 page). I especially liked this one:
Unitarian explanation: All links are equal, so if this link doesn't work for you, feel free to experiment with other links that might bring you joy and fulfillment.
To which could be added various Pagan explanations:
  • Fluffy bunny: the fairies ate it
  • Animist: You must be at one with the link before it will reveal itself
  • Heathen: Sorry, we offered it to the wights as a libation
  • Wiccan: Sorry you can't see it because it's a third-degree secret

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Pagan weddings

While we're on the subject of marriage, I would like to see Pagan weddings given legal recognition in England and Wales, and in the USA.

Pagan handfastings already have legal recognition in Scotland.

In 2007, a woman named Cassandra M set up a petition on the Prime Minister's petitions website to make handfasting legal (now closed). The response was that they had reviewed the Marriage Act previously but were unable to come up with anything sensible so it was dropped. Furthermore, they said,
Traditional Pagan ceremonies are held in the open air. All outdoor ceremonies in the UK need an additional legal ceremony for the marriage to be recognised by law.
Well, Pagan ceremonies don't have to be held in the open air - even if we don't own many buildings, we can always hire them. Perhaps we need to re-open this issue with a slightly different wording of the petition.

I wonder if Hindu, Muslim and Sikh weddings are legally recognised under the current provisions for "Marriage solemnized in a registered building without the presence of a registrar, by the authorised person in whose presence the marriage is solemnized" which seems somewhat ambiguous - can Hindu, Muslim and Sikh celebrants be an "authorised person"? Why couldn't a Pagan become an "authorised person"?

Also, both Pagans and Unitarians would like the right to perform same-sex weddings.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Support gay marriage

A clear and concise video explaining why opposition to gay marriage limits the rights of religious minorities who want to perform gay marriages:

Via the Wild Hunt.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

What would a Pagan "clergy" look like?

Earlier I reflected on Gus di Zerega's arguments against having Pagan clergy.

A friend commented that if we're going to have clergy, maybe we should look to similar religions to Paganism(s) for role models.

Good point - but what religions are similar to Paganism? The nearest (as far as I can see) are Unitarian Universalism and Quakers (the Religious Society of Friends). Also, I would argue, liberal Judaism.

Well, out of those three, Quakers don't have clergy. The other two, however, do something very significant: the congregation selects the minister / rabbi. If you look at traditions where that doesn't happen, it's a recipe for trouble. Somebody gets a nice "bells and smells" thing going, and then the evangelical wing gets wind of it and sends in a bully-boy to stop it all turning too Catholic. OK, so people can vote with their feet, but what if that was the only high church game in town? Whereas, if the congregation selects the minister, they get to choose someone with a similar theological outlook and value system. In Wicca, the founder of the coven usually gets to be High Priest/ess; but there's usually more than one coven in town, so if you don't like the values of Coven A, there's usually Coven B and C just down the road; so you can vote with your feet (or found your own coven if you have enough experience); but that relies on the various covens having different values for seekers to choose from. In Heathenry and Druidry, which tends to have larger groups, there is usually only one group in a particular place.

So, we all need to be more up-front with seekers about what our values are. I think this is why there are so many solitary practitioners; I hear so many people say that they didn't like the ethos of the groups they tried. Sure, your coven/grove/hearth is LGBT-friendly - but do you mention same-sex love in your rituals? Sure, your group is consensual - but do you have a consensually-agreed-on set of guidelines that the whole group has worked out, which you can refer to when one ego tries to dominate? Sure, you're not authoritarian - but do you make people copy out the Book of Shadows?

Gus also worried about using the word "clergy" for our spiritual leaders. I agree that this word is probably not quite the one we want, as it doesn't encompass or imply witch, priestess, shaman, etc. How about gytha and gothi for Heathens, druid for Druids (I dislike the word druidess), priest and priestess for Wiccans - oh wait, we're already using those. I suppose we need a collective term for all of these that can be readily understood by the rest of the world.

The power of the "clergy" should be balanced by having a strong and well-informed committee or other body to which they are accountable (this mostly works fine for synagogues and UU churches).

In a Pagan setting, there should not be sermons; only talks and discussions. A Pagan ritual shows the way; it doesn't tell you the way, but leaves you to work it out for yourself. Similarly, a UU minister does not give a sermon; she or he gives an address, which the congregation are free to ignore, shred or take on board as they see fit. Some churches have a discussion instead of or after the address. In our coven, we use a talking stick for discussions; this works well to ensure everyone gets space and time to be heard.

The relationship of Pagan leaders to Pagan groups should be one of service offered to the community (not imposing orthodoxy); and rather than carping and complaining, people should be ready to take on leadership roles. Of course the passing-on of the mantle can only occur if the existing leadership empowers and encourages their successors; so all our interactions and training should be about empowering others and not keeping them as mere neophytes. (I've always said that I'd rather empower people because it's less effort than not doing so, quite apart from the ethical considerations).

Another good plan is to have an annual general meeting of your hearth/grove/coven where any issues can be brought out into the open. This can be opened and closed with some simple ritual act, such as grounding and centering, and is probably best facilitated using a talking stick; but I have found this very helpful in the past.


A series of posts reflecting on the Stations of the Cross and their contemporary meaning for the LGBT community, by a gay Christian blogger.
Early Christians did something very radical: They turned a symbol of torture and state power into a symbol of personal and social liberation.

This has happened many times in the LGBT community: Matthew Shepard's brutal murder launched a nationwide discussion regarding hate crimes; the AIDS crisis in the 1980's gave our community a powerful voice for change and liberation...

Iowa and Vermont

Hooray!  Iowa has legalised same-sex marriage.  This is significant because it's not on the more liberal coast but inland.  Iowa joins Massachusetts and Connecticut in granting marriage equality to same-sex couples.

The state of Vermont is on the way there, but sadly the bill is being opposed by the state governor.

Hopefully this will now give the same-sex marriage campaigners a boost in California, where Proposition 8 is already being challenged as illegal.

"Saying 'NO!' to homophobia is one of the healthiest steps any one of us can take, yet when our whole self-definition is based on negation, we miss something vital. We know who we're not, but we still don't have answers to the same basic questions, 'Who are we?' 'What does it mean to love as we do?'" -- John R Stowe
And in case you weren't heard the first time, say it again.
We can campaign for fairer laws – 86 member states of the United Nations still criminalise consensual same sex among adults. Among these, 7 have the death penalty for homosexuality. In addition, there are 6 provinces or territorial units which also imprison people for homosexuality. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people still do not receive completely equal treatment under British law.

We can challenge homophobic attitudes whenever we hear them. We can support campaigns like Stonewall (the gay rights lobby group) and IDAHO. IDAHO is the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia. May 17th was chosen because it marks the anniversary of the day in 1990 when the World Health Organisation removed homosexuality from its list of mental diseases.
And then say YES to positive LGBTQ identity: