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On Doing Nothing, Pt 1: On Listening, Not Derailing

Let Pagans of Colour Speak

Let’s start with some stories told by Pagans of colour in the Pagan community, about their experiences there. All very much worth reading. Indeed, I don’t think you can properly participate in the current ‘controversy’ in the Pagan blogosphere if you haven’t read some writing by Pagans of colour on this subject.

The Invisibility Cloak: Race and the Pagan. A Pagan who goes by the username Black Witch talks at AfroPunk about how the Pagan community reacts when criticised by minorities within it, including people of colour, about how it treats them. It’s disturbingly similar to some of the reactions in the current ‘controversy’. “Let the minority open its mouth, even criticize Pagans and their shortcomings in the culture department and watch that cooing and sympathy drop quick. All of a sudden, it’s “We’re being attacked” and rationalizing ahoy… Mention words like “institutional racism”, “tokenization” and “privilege” and up come the defenses. I’ve dealt with a stunning variety of Pagan women or Pagan men who thought they don’t benefit at all from any form of institutional anything and definitely not privilege because they’re Pagan, bigotry only benefits you if you’re Christian….”

KW on Being Black and Pagan. “As a minority in a minority religion, the most frequently asked question I get is “How can you be a Pagan, you’re BLACK?!” This implies that my religion is defined by my race, an assumption that I hope no one really thinks is valid… The call of the Gods is just as strong in us as it is in say, someone of Anglo-Saxon descent. Another assumption made is that if I am Pagan, then I must practice Vodoun and/or be pledged to the Orishas. If I am neither, then I must not respect my ancestors. This argument more than any other frustrates me. It assumes that you can tell my racial makeup by the color of my skin, it assumes that I’m ashamed to be an African- American, and it assumes I have no honor whatsoever for the family that bore me. None of these is true.”

On a topic very closely related and intertwined with racism and neocolonialism in Paganism: Crystal Blanton writes over at Daughters of Eve about Avoiding Appropriation and the Perpetuation of Privilege. “It is quite disheartening that we still live in a time when People of Color’s voices are silenced by those of dominant cultures within our society. While we are moving through a time of such intensity around the needs, pain and brutality being experienced by People of Color, especially Black People, it is one of the most important times to be self aware and cognizant of the ways we participate in the reinforcing of white supremacist culture in this country. We collectively support systems of oppression and harm by ignoring the damage, continuing the damage, being complacent in the face of the damage, or by using the power created by the damage, to thrive. All of these things support and reinforce systems of disenfranchisement and racism in this country and around the world.”

More from Black Witch, this time on a disturbing example of crypto-fascism in Paganism – she answers a question on exclusion of people of colour based on ‘genetics/heritage’ in Paganism. “In the Pagan community I interact with (which is mostly white), conversations often revolve around trying to figure out which of the European ethnic groups a person descends from is the one he/she/ze feels the most connected to, or identifies the most with, in order to pick out which flavor of ethnic Paganism (Germanic/Irish/etc.) to practice. I pointed out that this was a part of white privilege, from not having been subjected to the ethnocide of slavery, and that African-Americans didn’t have the luxury of picking out which ethnic group they feel like the most. One responder said that all African-Americans had to do was take a genetic test to determine which ethnic group they’re descended from, and make a pagan religion based on that…”

And don’t forget Kavita Maya, who is researching racism and neocolonialism in the goddess movement. Her work is very accessible to non-academic readers. Try this article to start with.

Let Us Listen

Speaking is easy. Listening is hard.

Imagine you’re on an axis of privilege in the current conversation. For example, you are a white person talking to or about people of colour. What do you think the balance of speaking vs listening should be?

I consider that, if we find ourselves too busy talking about the situation to listen to the people facing oppression, then we are participating in the oppression. We need to stop talking and listen.

It’s very hard to listen to people of colour in Paganism. This is partly because there are so very few of them (because of some of what is described above). Often, another reason is that their stories can make us uncomfortable about our privilege and about our religious and political positions. Both of which make it all the more important that we listen.

We are doing something wrong in Paganism. We are excluding people. You can tell by the sea of white faces in the Pagan community. You can tell by the stories people of colour tell and the work coming out of research they are doing. It is time for us to listen, to ask people why this is happening, and to listen to the answers. To stop talking, from our position of privilege as white Pagans in a white-dominated, white-washed Pagan community, and simply to listen.

Derailing the Conversation: A Form of Not Listening

Photo: White hand covering black mouth. Text above reads: “Black people created #BlackLivesMatter and then white people created #AllLivesMatter. Pictoral representation.”

There is something in debating called derailing. It is about turning the conversation around, making it about something else (e.g. about you), so that you don’t have to address what the other person is saying. By derailing, you ensure you don’t have to face the darker sides of yourself or of a situation. It allows you to talk, endlessly – rather than ever having to listen.

The following examples illustrate typical derailing strategies. Some are lifted straight from real conversations I’ve had or seen.

  • “I know some disabled people are living in terrible poverty, but we need to sort out the rates of disability benefit fraud*, and surely you don’t disagree that that’s a bad thing?” This involves changing the terms of the conversation, refusing to debate the issue that the marginalised person wants to talk about, and instead redirecting toward something that isn’t relevant but seems to be. It’s a silencing technique.
  • “Don’t call me a cis person. I haven’t chosen that word. Now I want to talk about me and how you’ve offended me, rather than the way I’m treating you.” Or, worse, “The debate about whether trans people should be allowed to use bathrooms appropriate to their gender is about safety! I’m not trans-phobic! I certainly don’t believe my majority views are going to lead to an increase in violence against and murder of trans people! I mean, does that even happen?” In the second example, the derailing involves changing the terms of the conversation, and erasing oppression in the process – not allowing the other person to speak about their oppression. In the first example, the speaker is moving the focus away from the marginalised person, onto themselves. This way the speaker doesn’t need to examine their views in any detail and can stay in their comfort zone. “You’ve offended me!” is heard far too often in debates around oppression and marginalisation – when it’s not actually about you.
  • People of colour experience this kind of derailing all the time, especially in settings where they are very marginalised (such as the Pagan community). One horrendous example is the way “Black lives matter” was hijacked, white people demanding that “All lives matter” be said instead. This prioritises the hurt feelings of the majority white population, who rarely have to fear police violence and don’t deal with the constant threat that they will be killed on the street, over the experiences of the oppressed group. It also once again changes the terms of the conversation, making it all about us. (Follow Crystal Blanton on social media to see the scary levels of racism and violence being faced by people of colour in the US today, as terrifying examples. If you still want to talk about your hurt feelings after seeing all of that, I’ll be surprised.)

Derailing takes the focus off the marginalised people calling for change, and focuses it back on the majority. It draws attention away from changes we need to make in ourselves, and turns it onto to our fragile feelings. You’ve offended me by calling me a racist/calling out my disablism/drawing my attention to my privilege in this situation.

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Image: a man on a roof with a megaphone. Source: A. Carroll, flickr

Of course, it’s a different situation when it’s a person from the majority group criticising the behaviour of others from the majority group. In many contexts, white people talking about black people are taken more seriously and find themselves listened to more. (That’s why I talk about trying to ‘hand back the megaphone’ that I have, as a white person, to people of colour (though I fail at this all the time), and why I value non-disabled allies of disability rights a great deal.)

And sometimes, in speaking about oppression, the majority ally gets it wrong, distracted by their own privilege. That’s where it gets really complicated. If you speak on behalf of others or in support of others, you have to do a lot of work to ensure your voice doesn’t drown out theirs. You have to be careful not to steal their ideas and pass them off as your own. And you have to be particularly attentive to your privilege and its effects. One example might be calling out racism in groups you do not belong to while claiming that the groups you do belong to are immune to it. (I have done this.)

We all make mistakes based on our privilege. When people on the axis of oppression draw our attention to these mistakes, it’s our responsibility to deal with the effects of our privilege there.

But if that’s all that people are ever talking about, and the people talking about this are the privileged people rather than the oppressed people, this can be a form of derailing. It is not acceptable to say “Ha! You’re doing some of the oppression you’re complaining about!” as a derailing tactic to avoid looking at ourselves, our darker sides, and our own oppression of others.

As my next post will talk about, I find it a particularly  worrying sign when the derailing response is to call people to unity and peace, refusing dealing with the issues of privilege and oppression that have been raised, in the process. “Oh no, more controversy in the Pagan community! I hate controversies! Why can’t we just be spiritual?” That’s erasure, silencing a conversation about oppression, and it’s dangerous. Especially in such an important controversy as this. This is not an inter-tradition debate over who worships their gods in a more correct manner, or an argument about what words we use for our traditions, or any other relatively minor differences/issues like that. This is about the ways we are oppressing the Other and slowly sleepwalking towards a community, and a society, that aims to exterminate that Other (whether literally or metaphorically). Our spirituality and religion are political. Claiming that they are not, or that they should not be, is worrying to me. But I’ll get to that.

We need to stop worrying about our feelings and start listening to the victims of our oppression. We will always be able to find something to criticise in the delivery of the message. The message itself is far more important than that.

Are we listening?

Which leads me to Part 2 of this post, which is coming up very shortly and which I will link to here when it’s done…

Three things it is everyone’s duty to do: listen humbly, answer discreetly, and judge kindly.

– Irish triad.

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*Disability benefits fraud accounts is at a rate of 0.5%, according to the DWP’s own estimates, by the way. But that’s another story for another time.

I Stand with ‘Gods and Radicals’

The reactions to Rhyd Wildermuth’s post on Paganism and the New Right have been incredible and disturbing.

Essentially, Rhyd wrote about the influences of racist and ethnocentric ideologies on various traditions of Paganism. It was brave and it was necessary. Extremely important stuff. And Paganism/polytheism have exploded at him and his allies.

And not just that, but Rhyd is saying some things that I consider to be *very clearly* a problem in Paganism, and that I have believed for quite some time. So I had no idea people would react quite so negatively. I suppose I should have realised that not everyone in Paganism shares these radical views. But it’s so easy to create Paganism in your own image. To believe that it’s what you want it to be. Only, it’s not. The reactions to Rhyd’s post, and his co-founder Alley Valkyrie’s support of it, make that clear.

I think I am most upset by the idea, shared in response to the post, that the *gods* demand new right and racist ideologies. And that without these ideologies we cannot be devotional polytheists. What a way to wheedle out of responsibility for your own behaviour. “The gods told me to.” Only following orders?

I am a devotional polytheist. I am a social and political radical. My gods and my radicalism are so closely intertwined that they are inseparable. You cannot divide the threads without pulling apart the tapestry. It is not possible to be neutral, to be apolitical. It is only possible to pretend that you are not political. And the less you understand the ways in which you are political, the ways in which ideology controls your behaviour, the more your hidden politicism can be used against you. Your life, too, is inseparable from your politics and ideologies. Including your ideas about race, ancestry, genetics, culture, the land, the country, empires, colonialism. Maybe you just can’t see where the threads of these things are determining your behaviour towards others. But they always do. There is no such thing as neutral. Decide where you stand.

I have stood in all-white Pagan gatherings and despaired that no one else seems to notice the lack of representation of people of colour, nor seems to care that their nativist ideologies are keeping away Pagans of colour. I have sighed as the Pagan message board where I post has been inundated with people saying that they believe they can only worship the ‘Celtic’ gods because their ancestors were ‘mostly Irish and Welsh’ a very long time ago. I have screamed internally as people said ‘Africans’ should worship ‘their own gods’ and should not come to druid gatherings. I have walked out of meetings where a speaker talks about ‘Celtic values’ like being physically perfect (and probably white) and the importance of this to ‘the gods’.

But I have not spoken out enough. It’s time for me to stop being so quiet about these things. Silence is complicity.

Don’t you dare tell ‘Gods & Radicals’ that it should lose the moniker ‘gods’ because it’s ‘not polytheist enough’. Our polytheism is inseparable from our politics. Mine is inseparable from my radicalism. I cannot have one without the other. I essentially left Christianity because its god did not demand enough radicalism from me. I refuse to listen to another group of people telling me what my gods should or should not ask for me. Didn’t a lot of us already leave a religion that told us what to do, and what values to hold, because we disagreed with those actions and values? Can we really drift into another religion or tradition that does the same?

My Lady Bhearra asks for my total commitment to social justice, to the light that flickers in the chaos of human society. That is my reason for writing on a site that is aptly named ‘Gods and Radicals’. My radicalism is polytheist. Let ‘Pagandom’ dare to tell me otherwise. I would never again follow a deity who asked any less than that. Who asked me to compromise my own values and principles. Who asked me to put myself before others. Who asked me to be silent in the face of racism, neocolonialism and right-wing politics.

I remain a member of ADF (my membership has accidentally lapsed, actually), though I am giving this some thought. My first thought on being confronted face-to-face with ideologies ADF is influenced by, was not to be offended, but to start thinking. I can’t even claim I never realised this stuff before. I’ve just never confronted it so directly. I need to consider whether I can continue to stand with ADF and with reconstructionist polytheism more widely. This will probably involve shadow work, deep work with my goddess, and real, practical thought about social justice. I left OBOD, rather publicly, because I considered its policies disablist. That was something that directly affected me, and was easy to stand against, as a result. What about ideologies where I have the privilege and others do not? Am I truly committed to social justice if I remain silent on these things? Maybe there are no groups I can be a member of anymore. Maybe that’s OK. Right now I feel like am always likely to be a polytheist with reconstructionist tendencies. But maybe I should allow my goddess of Chaos to tear even that down and make me start again. Any ideology I hold should be held onto lightly, whether it is religious, political or something else.

I stand alone on the seashore, between land, sea and sky, and the gods call me to be better than my ancestors. Am I strong enough to answer this call? I don’t know. But I can try.

I stand with Gods and Radicals. I stand with Rhyd Wildermuth and Alley Valkyrie. I am a polytheist. I am a radical. I am a social justice druid. Go on, tell me I’m not allowed to do or be any one of these things. Great gods of justice stand with me. And Truth will out.

Social Justice Druid t-shirts. I need dis.

Other things worth reading that are not-unrelated:

Daughters of Eve – a blog by Pagans of colour, as well as many of the people Crystal Blanton mentions in this post (and everything Crystal writes)

Truth and Joy: Confronting Racism in Religion by T. Thorn Coyle

Yvonne Aburrow on getting out of the bubble of complacency

And everyone should read Kavita Maya‘s research on racism in Paganism, specifically the Goddess movement. She is a great thinker who is much needed by modern Paganism.

You know me? You don’t know me

In time for St Patrick’s and my week of run-up to Latha na Callich (the Day of the Scottish Calleach) on 25th March, I’m reblogging this reflection on making new stories/new rituals from old that I wrote last year. The pre-Christian Irish don’t seem to have celebrated the Spring Equinox, but there’s plenty to celebrate this time of year – from traditional Irish days, to Scottish echoes of a goddess who may be a little like mine, and on into the spring/summer saints’ days of the goddesses I call the Three Ladies of Beara. Blessings of Spring. Happy St Patrick’s Day.

Treasure in Barren Places

I am not a reconstructionist.

There. I said it. I feel better now, I think.

I was strongly drawn to reconstructionism in the beginning. It seems so academic. (The fact that most academics would find what reconstructionists do rather… inaccurate and confusing, is an entirely different issue.) It seems so clear. Got questions about a deity? The answers are out there, waiting to be uncovered by (usually amateur) archeologists/linguists/folklorists/mythicists.

Except they aren’t. And I feel, increasingly, that this is not a way to do religion or spirituality.

I love looking for clues in the stories of the land. My deities can all be spotted there, or at least, shadows of them – including Baoi (Beara), Dovinia/Duibhne (of the Corca Dhuibhne people), and the Three Sisters (Lasair, Latiaran and Gobnait-who-is-sometimes-Inghean Buidhe-or-sometimes she’s-one-of-the-others-and-sometimes-she’s-Crobh-Derg). But they are, as you can see even when I just try to say their names, not all that…

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The behaviour of online Pagans, and why I’m going ‘stealth’ online again

My name has been publicly associated with accusations against someone. If you must read about it, see this post – and most importantly the response below, by Aine, the person being accused. (Trigger warning: the post contains references to abuse, transmisogyny, and disturbing accusations with no forum for addressing them.) The original post contained my real name and links to my professional twitter. (The poster has since replaced these references with my online psuedonym, after I tracked them down and begged.)

For some reason I can’t directly reblog at tumblr the reply that Aine has written – possibly because I’m blocked by the original poster. So I’m posting here instead. In the link above makes she makes clear that she is treating this as libel and dealing with it via her attorney.

I do not know the original poster, nor anything about the situation in the post. I have already been sought out (by other strangers) at my professional twitter to be told I’m ‘enabling abuse’. This linking of me and my real name to a situation I have nothing to do with is really appalling behaviour.

When I talked to the original poster about this, they told me I was causing them stress (??) but that their behaviour was fine. They said they didn’t have to ask before talking about me in a callout post, apparently not when even using my real name and professional twitter link. They took down my real name, but didn’t see anything wrong with initially putting it in. (By the way, they would have had to do quite a bit of online stalking of me to find my professional twitter, if all they initially had was my blog link.)

When I talked to Aine, my friend, about it, her immediate concern was for me.

Of course, that contrast doesn’t prove anything in itself. But I have no interest in discussing the details of this. Tumblr ‘callout culture’ is toxic. There are ways to deal with concerns like this – especially given the seriousness of what’s being accused – and I don’t think posts on tumblr are the way to go in the first instance. They are nearly impossible to refute or address, because they go off being reblogged in all directions, with no way for the accused to have input or respond, except via their own reblogs. I have been nervous of tumblr for a long time, even though I have a (barely-used) account there. The place is rife with accusations that can’t be addressed and other terrible behaviour. It has a culture all its own where people gain status and think they have more power than they actually do. It’s very ‘mean girls’. This is the last straw for me and tumblr – I’m taking my account down, when I get round to it, and I won’t be going there anymore. I’m very glad that Aine is dealing with this through legal channels.

I am not opening comments on this blog post. Aine has asked that people send her their questions about this. (I think this is a very good sign – openness and willingness to address these issues is what I look for in this kind of situation.) Please do as she asks and talk to her rather than me. This never had anything to do with me, and Aine is being very generous in wanting to keep me out of it.

I would like to point anyone reading this to my Hospitality and Zero-Tolerance Policy. If you talk to me here, or talk about me online, I think hospitality should be maintained. It happens to be a key religious value of mine. There are ways to talk about people, and places to talk about them. And there ways not to talk about people, and places not to talk about them.

Related to that, I’m going ‘under the radar’ again. For several years I’ve been ‘out’ in the Pagan/polytheist communities, but I’ve always felt a little bit nervous of what could happen as a result. I think we should be able to be open and ourselves in religious communities, both offline and online. But let’s be clear here: it’s not because of discrimination from the non-Pagan world that I have to go ‘stealth’ online. It’s because of the behaviour of members of the Pagan community. I consider that very telling. Pagans are always talking about how horrible members of other religions are towards them. I’ve never experienced that. I have experienced repeated awful behaviour from Pagans that make me reluctant to admit in public that I am one.

I think that’s a difference worth pondering.

In future please refer to me only as Léithin Cluan in comments in, or references to, this blog. Many thanks.

*EDITED TO ADD*

Well now this is getting ridiculous. Let’s clear up a few of the things I’m now being accused of elsewhere.

Firstly, I have not sent anyone to ask for my name to be taken out of the original post, and I would really rather people didn’t do this. As the poster claims, I did indeed say it was fine for them to keep my username in. It’s the right of the original poster to include it if they want to. The behaviour I found particularly dishonourable was when they included my full name and professional twitter account in the post. Yes, you will see from this post that I used to include my full name here and have now had to rescind that policy – it’s no secret – but it was always as a clarifier to my pseudonym Leithin Cluan, which was always the primary name I used here, and which is the name I use in my modern druid community. I have never linked my professional materials here and I do not know how the original poster found my professional twitter account, not least because I use a slightly different name in my work life. I have now taken down my real name due to the realisation that I cannot trust people in the Pagan community not to do appalling things with my identity. Pseudonyms, though, I can’t do anything about being written about elsewhere. People generally have the right to write about people, as long as no one’s being hurt.

Secondly, if we’re in ‘callout culture’ here, I want to call out anyone who would send people to harass a person (particularly an autistic person) about their support or otherwise of someone who is having unproven allegations aimed at them, and who is currently taking legal action against those accusations. Asking people to seek out a person online and harass them to take any kind of stance on unproven allegations towards friends is neither honourable nor courageous. If you want to engage with me, do so on the basis of honour, especially if you claim to be in shared community with me. I already linked to my zero-tolerance hospitality policy above. I consider that that applies off this blog as well as on it. Of course, I can’t enforce this policy away from this blog – I can’t make people behave honourably towards others. But I will not engage with people who don’t treat me honourably and hospitably.

I will not be persuaded of anything as a result of this appalling, dishonourable shitstorm, and anyone attempting to ‘persuade’ me will be given short shrift. I believe in protecting myself from things that I find oppressive in conjunction with my impairments. I’m not standing for any crap. I’m also contacting tumblr to ask them to remove posts that call for my harassment.

Thanks so much.

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31 Days of Offerings – Day 23-26: Shying Away from The Great Offering

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I have the gall to whine at a goddess about my difficulties resolving concepts of ‘Pagan’ and concerns about many, many of the practices of that community, and to wonder whether my strategy from here on in should be silence.

And my Lady, who has called me to tell her stories and speak her name, came to me as a mighty giantess walking along the shore of Oileán Baoi in the early dawn, the hills of her island rising dark and strange behind her, the cold and death and rebirth of a coming November blowing the first winds of a storm across the dark water.

The shores of Oileán Baoi, island of the goddess now known as Cailleach Bhearra

The shores of Oileán Baoi, island associated with the goddess now known as Cailleach Bhearra

And she said…

Do you think you are a daughter of a queen? Are you from the tribe of great, remembered gods, their stories preserved by monks and monarchs? Do you speak of the chiefs and kings in your lineage, the castles your family lived in, the great wars they fought in, the great deeds they did?

No. You run with the wild spirits of the most isolated, sidelined, liminal land in Ireland, with its poorest, most marginalized of people. You do not boast of ancestors with kingly lineage. You speak of the horrific suffering of your people: the good, very ordinary farmers, victims of famine and war and oppression, those whose backs were broken as the great, remembered men of Ireland climbed over them to reach their powerful place, and ate their food, and whose names they did not remember. Of the soldiers who fought the great wars the great myths tell tale of, whose deeds are ascribed to other, greater men, and whose names are not remembered. Of the women who watched their many, many children die, in famine and pestilence and at the brutal hands of English landlords, and carried on, whose names are not remembered. Of the road through the mountains that you love, that was built to carry food in one direction and bring coffins back, carrying the bodies of those whose names are not remembered.

And even their stories are forgotten.

The memorial to famine victims at the top of the Healy Pass, the road through the mountains between Cork and Kerry. Once called the Kerry Pass, re-named for the first president of the Irish Free State. Photo: Sludge G (CC).

Memorial to famine victims at the top of the Healy Pass, the road through the mountains between Cork and Kerry. Once called the Kerry Pass, re-named for first president of Irish Free State. Photo: Sludge G. (CC).

And this is the way you chose to walk.

Then how dare you be embarrassed of the name you choose call yourself or the community you choose to draw around you?

And how dare you be ashamed of a goddess whose stories are so deeply buried in the landscape that few remember her name? When few know of her sacred sites, or the stories of her cow and her lobster and her harvest, or have heard the songs the mountains sing in whispers about her? When many roll her lazily into the stories of her more renowned sisters, and forget the name of the One she is married to, and forget her island, and her mountainous country, and her dark shores? When so many do not remember her name?

You are here to tell the unheard tales. The tales of the oppressed, those whom society crushes beneath their endless, vicious race to the top. The stories of the desperate, the despairing, the dying, the lost. The many who serve the few. Whose names are not remembered.

Then open your mouth and speak.

The long dark is coming, and my picture of a dark figure plunging a staff into the ground needs to move into the living room. It is not a picture of Her. And yet it is.

And her name will be remembered, by those who choose to listen for it.

31 Days of Offerings – Days 20-22: Attack of the Migraines

So I have totally failed to do any extended offerings for the past few days. I’ve been attempting to maintain my very brief offerings and practice – a hearth lantern lit with a prayer for protection for my house, candlelight for Beara and Duibhne, little offerings to the Good Folk.

And I’ve had one slightly more intense encounter with a goddess in which I whined about no one knowing her properly… which I’ll get to soon.

Mostly, though, I’ve been busy warring with the migraines all day, and too tired to do anything at night. I’ve been plagued with episodes of chronic daily migraine for years now. Just when I get them under control with a new medication for a few months, the medication stops working, and round I go again with daily torture for a few weeks (longer if I’m unlucky). I can’t work, write or think. It completely sucks.

Such is the world in which we live, though. We’re privileged to be human, to be creatures of the earth. I don’t hold to all that ‘spiritual being having a human experience’ stuff. I rather think ‘spiritual’ is a Cartesian dualistic social construction we created in order to pretend that one part of our lives was special but the rest of it wasn’t. While that might have made the special stuff seem extra-special, it did nothing for the valuing of the rest of our lives. I want to value every part of my messy, physical, real human life. 

Even the migraines.

(I think.)

31 Days of Offerings – Day 19: Surprising Offerings – Sound, Song and Speech

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Singing!

Tonight I thought it was about time to pull a new Ogham fid, to set the tone for the next few days of offerings. I pulled Muin, the fid I associate with communication, words, music.

Photo: 'Muin' Ogham fid - card from the Celtic Tree Oracle pack

Photo: ‘Muin’ – card from the Celtic Tree Oracle pack

So then I suddenly find myself singing. I grab my bodhran, and out come both tune and words, in several verses:

Come, blessed Ladies, and gather around
As I sing a story without word or sound,
The world recreated as it resounds,

A song from the sea and the sky and the ground.

There’s even a penny whistle accompaniment! There’s more of it to come, about speaking the lost stories of the unheard, but I need to sit down and work with the snatches of lines I got while playing.

Singing!

Well, I did say that my shrines were there to tell my deities’ stories.

“Open your mouth and speak…” For silence is the gateway of oppression, but stories break down the walls.

Or, as Bonhoeffer put it (much better than me): Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 1906–1945