Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Ramblings From The Broom Closet

Or, "If It's Dark In Here, Then Maybe I Should Turn On The Light."

In my day-to-day life, I'm "out" as a Christo-Pagan to a few people.  My mother and my brother know, as do my closest friends (largely because with only one exception that I can think of, most of my closest friends are also Pagans of one variety or another).  But there are far more people who I haven't told, like most of my family—I shudder to think what the news would do to my grandmother—and a number of friends who I'm not sure would handle the news very well.  I'm closeted at the school where I do my volunteer work, though that's more of a "closeting by omission" thing, not because I've intentionally hid my spiritual life, but because it hasn't really been necessary to say anything about it.  And anyway, it's not like I know what anyone else there believes.  I mean, for all I know, the principal could be a hardcore Satanist, as out-of-character as that might seem.  And of course, I'm also utterly closeted at my church, unless someone from there has somehow managed to stumble upon this blog and realize that hey, that brunette with the loud voice has a lot in common with this "Zillah" weirdo...

It's been my choice to remain in the proverbial broom closet so long, mostly because I don't feel the need to come out of it unless I'm talking to someone who I'm sure I can trust not to overreact, or to react badly in general, to finding out about one of the lenses through which I view the world.  Sometimes, when I decide that I want to tell someone, it can be a bit of a risk, though it's generally turned out fairly well.  (I suspect that this is because I'm so selective about whom I tell.)  But for the most part, I don't feel particularly inclined to come out as a Christo-Pagan; while my spiritual practices are an important part of my life, they're also personal and private enough that I just don't feel the need to inform absolutely everyone that there is a witch in their midst.*    I'm pleased with my spiritual life; it leads me down avenues of thought that I might not have gone anywhere near if I had remained entirely Christian or entirely Pagan, and because of it, I am a more compassionate and informed person than I might have been otherwise.  I just also don't think that it's something that everyone who knows me absolutely has to know.

Am I hiding behind the Christian privilege that being open about only part of my spiritual life necessarily brings me?  Maybe.  I don't deny that there are some aspects of Christian privilege that do apply to me, though I'm in the fairly unique position in which those aspects of it won't always apply, or in which they can backfire, or be as easily taken away as they were bestowed should the wrong person find out that my spiritual path is not entirely church-based.  Any "protection" that these privileges give me, like the strange idea that Christians are inherently more honest or moral people than non-Christians (and the current candidates for the leadership of the Republican party are all excellent arguments against that ridiculous concept), or my religion not working against me when I need medical or legal help, can vanish as easily as mist on a sunny day in the summertime as soon as the full story comes out.

And then, there are the aspects of Christian privilege which cannot ever apply to me.  Except for blogging under this pseudonym, I can't speak openly about my religious practices unless I'm talking to one or more of the seven people who know I'm a Christo-Pagan, and we're not in a public place or in a group with anyone who I don't trust with the knowledge.  I haven't had the comfort of assuming that religious experience is universal since some time in my childhood (I think I was about ten years old) when I found out that I was actually the product of a "mixed" marriage: remember, my mother's family is Catholic and my father's family is Anglican.  Because of the nature of my spiritual beliefs and practices, I've never actually been in the company of anyone who believes entirely as I do, much less been able to restrict my company only to the people who believe what I do.  And the mass media couldn't possibly represent my religion in any meaningful way; I've seen depictions of Paganism in the media, and I've seen depictions of Christianity, and if you took the mainstream media's view of things, you'd have to assume that the two are so fundamentally incompatible that the attempt to blend them just might form a very tiny black hole that exists just long enough to destroy the person foolish enough to give it a try.


So much for that one.  I'm still here. :)

All kidding aside, I do admit to being a little conflicted about being mostly closeted as a Christo-Pagan.  Am I somehow less honest, or am I perhaps buying in to the Pagan persecution complex, because I believe that it's not always wise to be up-front about my spirituality?  I do realize that there are some very practical considerations regarding my decision to keep quiet about roughly half of my spiritual life, and it's not like I'm always trumpeting about the Christian half of it anyway.  But at the same time, I have the option of keeping quiet and not being too upset by most of the assumptions that people make about my spirituality based on what they do know.  That's a huge luxury.  And sometimes I think I'm being too easy on myself for having it.

(For the list of examples of Christian privilege that I referred to in this post, see this post at Godless Girl.)

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*A phrase which just brought to mind the scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail in which Sir Bedevere determines whether a woman accused of witchcraft really is a witch, based on the premise that witches burn because they're made of wood, which floats, just like ducks do, so if she weighs the same as a duck, she's made of wood, and therefore she is a witch.

Oddly enough, when I was taking a Philosophy course in university that included certain formulae which would help to determine whether an argument was logical, I decided (just for fun) to check this line of thinking with one of them.  Much to my surprise, it checked out.  Is it factual?  No.  But apparently it's very logical.  Go figure.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Back in my high school days, when I sang with my school choir music group for the school's Masses and prayer services, one of my favourite hymns was one called "Ashes."

We rise again from ashes, from the good we've failed to do,
We rise again from ashes to create ourselves anew.
If all our world is ashes, then must our lives be true?
An offering of ashes, an offering to you.

We offer you our failures, we offer you attempts,
The gifts not freely given, the dreams not fully dreamt.
Give our stumblings direction, give our visions wider view;
An offering of ashes, an offering to you.

Then rise again from ashes, let healing come to pain,
Though spring has turned to winter, and sunshine turned to rain.
The rain we'll use for growing and create the world anew,
From an offering of ashes, an offering to you.

Thanks be to the Father, who made us like Himself,
Thanks be to the Son, who saved us by His death;
Thanks be to the Spirit who creates the world anew,
From an offering of ashes, an offering to you.

An offering of ashes, an offering to you.

I've been thinking a lot about this one lately, and not just because today is Ash Wednesday.  There was a period in my life, starting around the time I graduated from teacher's college, when practically everything that was important to me went wrong, and the result was depression—which went un-treated and even ignored, because my mother had also developed depression as a result of conditions at her workplace that had become downright abusive, and she needed my support to get through it.  So my own life was put on hold, which I still don't regret, though I can't help wondering sometimes if I've screwed myself over, and I've been doing my best to re-build my life in the years that have followed, both personally and professionally.  It hasn't been easy, and I sometimes wonder if I'll be able to make things work in such a way that I have much quality of life (two of my biggest fears are failure and homelessness), but I'm still going to try.

Someone who's particularly close to me has told me that he considers people who have had to rebuild their lives more often than the average person to be something of a different species: Homo sapiens invictus, rather than—as I say, especially when I'm feeling a bit cynical about the horrors we humans have caused to each other and our planet—Homo (questionably) sapiens.  Unconquered, not just wise.  It's a nice thought: the idea that there's an evolutionary response of some sort, though not necessarily a genetic one, that's being forced by all this adversity and the stubbornness that leads to the desire to carry on, and not to allow defeat to be a permanent state.  And it even ties in to the mythic pattern of a death and rebirth, whether they're portrayed in the stories as being literal (the Phoenix, Jesus' resurrection from the dead, Gwion Bach being devoured whole by Cerridwen after making the somewhat unwise choice to shape-shift into the form of a grain of corn, and later being reborn as Taliesin) or figurative (Saul becoming Paul on the road to Damascus, Siddartha Gautama becoming the Buddha after an extended period of meditation).

As it says in the song above, we re-create ourselves from the ashes of what we were.  Perhaps that's why "Ashes" has been on my mind so often lately; I feel like I'm in another time of transition, and I'm re-evaluating a lot of things lately.  And, oddly enough, I'm OK with that.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

"Love and Freindship"

(The spelling error in today's post title is intentional; it is the name of a short story by Jane Austen, epistolary in form, written when she was about fifteen years old. Despite her youth, she'd already acquired her disdain for conventional romantic sensibilities by the time she wrote "Love and Freindship," and she was already developing the sharp wit for which her work is so well-known.)

In the wake of Valentine's Day, I've been thinking about the way that we privilege certain types of relationships—particularly romantic ones, though to some extent, biological family as well—over other ones, no matter how close we may be to people who are neither part of our direct family tree, nor our romantic partners. And we'd better only have one of those at a time, or we're dirty, rotten cheaters, because apparently healthy polyamorous relationships don't exist. And that means that despite all evidence to the contrary, two of my dearest friends are just figments of my imagination—which would probably come as a bit of a shock to them, and to everyone else who knows them. ;)

Oh, and by the way, what's with all this de-valuing friendship by saying that you're "just friends" with someone when someone else asks (or assumes) that you're involved with them?  At its best, friendship is a wonderful kind of relationship that should not be dismissed like this.  Friends or not, just because you're not bonking someone else (regardless of whether you actually ever do want to have sex with them), it doesn't mean that you don't love them in one way or another.  But no matter how close we are to our friends, no matter how mutually supportive or downright affectionate these relationships are, they're often thought of as less-than.  It's like a relationship doesn't really matter unless you're sleeping together or you have a lot of recent ancestors in common.

And the pressure to really only love one person who will somehow magically be able to perfectly meet all our needs, and whose needs we're expected to be able to perfectly meet, is also frighteningly strong, and getting stronger all the time.  It's as if while Western society in general is slowly becoming more accustomed to the idea of LGBTQI (etc.) people's relationships being as valid as straight people's—though I must stress that I do not in any way mean to imply that relationship equality exists, as I know damn well that it doesn't—there's some kind of push to re-establish monogamous heterosexual relationships between two cisgendered individuals as the standard to which everyone, despite individual preferences and realities, should aspire.  And the pedestal that these relationships are put on is so limiting that, frankly, it's a wonder that any of them lasts, when even a casual friendship with a member of the opposite sex can easily be construed as "cheating" and when, once you're in that marriage with only one cisgendered opposite-sex partner, it's assumed that this partner is the only person with whom you should ever even think of having any sort of relationship that goes deeper than having occasional superficial chats about the weather.  And Heaven forbid that a married person should have a decent conversation with a single person of whatever sex the married person happens to be attracted to, because single people are dangerous, and spousal jealousy seems an inevitable consequence of such interaction.

OK, that may be overstating it a bit...but, all things considered, I'm probably not overstating it by much.

It's very human to crave connections with other people, and a wedding ring, even one that symbolizes a heterosexual marriage that's intended to be completely monogamous, doesn't automatically destroy one's capacity to be attracted (emotionally, sexually, romantically, etc.) to people other than one's own spouse.  Furthermore, even within the context of a monogamous relationship, friendships, even with people who happen to have the same type of genitalia as your partner, do not have to threaten your relationship as a couple.  And denying this, or refusing to admit that for those who are so inclined, polyamory really can work as a relationship model, isn't just harmful in the sense that it stigmatizes this kind of relationship.  It has the potential to hurt almost everybody because suddenly opposite-sex friendships, or same-sex friendships if the couple in question is same-sex, are suddenly considered to have a power to harm the couple's relationship just because at least one half of that couple has the capacity to be sexually attracted to that friend.  And I'm sure that border guard from a few months ago would agree—after all, when I encountered him again early last month, he asked (again, with a sneer) whether I intended to spend the night with my friend.

It's such a terrible, restrictive way of looking at human relationships.  I rejected it a long time ago.  (Just as well, I suppose, for reasons that I'm not quite able to adequately articulate here at the moment, though I've had a relevant post in the works for quite some time now; I just haven't quite managed to get the wording quite right.)  Even so, I find that I tend to avoid getting particularly friendly with most married men.  After all, I'm 29, and though I'm not what most people would consider to be attractive enough to be "dangerous," I'm unmarried and likely to stay that way.  Yet, I have friends of varying sexes, sexual orientations, and marital statuses.  And yes, I love my friends, especially the ones I consider to be my closest friends, very much.  It bothers me very deeply that they're not supposed to mean as much to me as my biological family or the spouse I'm fairly certain is not in my future (not least because, despite a few notable exceptions, I do have trouble letting people truly get close to me).  And yes, it also bothers me that I'm supposed to be somewhat insignificant to my friends who are married.

Most people, it seems, need more than just one strong relationship with other human beings.  So why do we deny it?  And why do we de-value our friendships?

"Just friends," indeed.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Things I See On My Stats Page

As narcissistic as it may be, I have to admit that I do check my statistics page once or twice a week. I'm curious about the people who read this blog, after all; I don't get many comments, so it's nice to be able to get at least some kind of an idea of what sort of people read what I write.

First of all, not a lot of people read this blog. Generally, I only get a couple hundred pageviews per month. I'm not complaining, mind you; when I started this blog in 2009, I never expected that I'd gain a large following, and I never set out to do so. And I know that I don't update nearly often enough for my work to really get noticed. All I wanted to do was write about my experiences with my very decidedly unorthodox spiritual path, hoping that these reflections, meditations, rants, ramblings, and other assorted collections of words would prove to be useful, or at least interesting, to whoever finds them.

But one thing that astounds me is the sheer diversity of the countries where this blog has been viewed. By far, most of my pageviews come from Canada and the U.S., which makes sense both because of where I live and the language in which I write, but I've also gotten lots of pageviews from Germany, the United Kingdom, Ukraine, Poland, and the Netherlands. (That last one especially pleases me; I'm about a quarter Dutch.) People from Australia, New Zealand, France, Sweden, Brazil, Russia, Pakistan, and even Israel have paid me a virtual visit. I've had a few pageviews from Egypt, China, and Latvia, and once even had a visitor from the United Arab Emirates. I've had visitors from many other countries as well (and if you come from one of the ones I haven't mentioned, and you've visited my blog before, I apologize* for having left you out). Unless a lot of my readers are frequent users of Tor or other such privacy-preserving software and services, the possibility of which I am not at all going to discount, that's at least one visit from every continent but Antarctica, which to this Canadian seems pretty cool, to say the least.

I'm not entirely sure how everybody finds this blog, of course, but I also get some fairly interesting search terms. I get a lot of on-topic search terms, of course; most people who come here via search engine (usually some variety of Google, by the way, though a few others are represented fairly well, too) get here by searching for something involving some variation on "Christo-Pagan" (and a fair few have actually gotten here by doing a search for the URL, which I find a bit odd), but I've been keeping track of some of the weirder search terms that have come up, such as:

easy pagan sex: Er, I'm not that type of blogger. (Not that there's anything wrong with that; some of my favourite blogs for occasional reading, none of which are particularly work-safe, include Figleaf's Real Adult Sex, The Pervocracy, and Hey Epiphora.) And although I don't buy in to the "purity myth," I'm not exactly easy, either.

my fat wife: I have no idea how anyone could possibly have found my blog with this search term.

crochet pagan blog homestead: This one almost makes sense, since I've mentioned my fondness for this particular textile art a few times, but I don't think I've ever actually written the word "homestead" on this blog before today. If this was a search for another site featuring Pagan-themed crochet projects, though, I would absolutely love to have the link!

conniving sly cunning women get their men: Did this come from the sarcastic responses to dating rules post? Because if it didn't, there's no logical reason why my blog should've popped up in response to this one, either.

meditations for people that hate oa: What the heck is an "OA"?

christopagan spells to keep bad neighbors away: I don't share spells. Well, unless they're silly spells, anyway. I just don't normally do anything that could even remotely resemble spells. Well, except for Reiki. And cooking. (My potion for the relief of an empty stomach, better known as beef vegetable soup, is particularly delicious, I'm pleased to say.) And the occasional gaze into my crystal ball. And a ritual now and then. :)

shipwreckcentral offline: By the time the search results page would get to me, I think it's safe to say that any useful information about the regrettable demise of such a fantastic website would have been long since exhausted.

w. w. j. d. bracelets: Probably the result of having written a shorter-than-usual rant a few months ago about why WWJD bracelets bother me. But again, I'm surprised that someone spent so much time paging through so many search results that they ended up taking a look at what I had to say on the matter. :)

So, there you are: a quick look at what I've been seeing when I look at my blog stats. Even if it's not particularly interesting to you, I'm rather amused by some of it. :)

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*It occurs to me that I've just done something that's quintessentially Canadian. Here in Canada, it could be said that we have two national pastimes: hockey and apologizing (probably as a result of our frequently stereotypical emphasis on the necessity of being polite). I'm an absolute klutz on skates, so perhaps it's just as well that I chose the other one. ;)