Why do you presume to know what my devotion means?

I don’t have time for a trifling witch-war with trifling people. If you think I’m not sufficiently devoted to my gods, that by doing their work out in the real world I’m failing them, that’s your choice. Pretty presumptuous to decide you know what my gods want better than they do, but have at it if you think you’re wiser than they are. I do it for their approval, not yours, and guess what? For adults, religion isn’t about the number of blog hits one gets. But I can’t help but see Brighid’s hand in the way sad, angry, insecure little people need to be so rude about my charity work, thus giving free press to a project that has received so much support from the pagan community as a result. She’s a craftswoman, after all. She knows how to make use of tools.

And no, I’m not linking the posts in question. Giving drama queens like that the attention they want only encourages them.

The Cult of Difficulty

I was in a quilt shop the other day, and the conversation turned to the various projects we’re working on. I was getting a bit more of the border fabric I’d run out of for one of the baby quilts, and I mentioned the star quilt I was working on, with the Mariner’s Compass block at the center. The woman behind the counter let out an ooooh. “That’s a hard one.”  I shrugged. “I’m paper piecing it, so it’s a lot easier.” She rolled her eyes and said, “Well, that’s cheating.”

I hear this attitude a lot, this idea that the value of an action is in its difficulty rather than its outcome. Your quilt isn’t as nice if you attach the bindings by machine rather than by hand. You’re not healthy enough, domestic enough, good enough, if you don’t make every single ingredient in your food from scratch. You’re too dependent on technology if you store your grocery list in your phone. There’s this worship of labor-intensity in our society. This whole concept is based on the false idea that everyone has the same time, money, skills, and resources, and that’s just blatantly false.

In competitions, I can see how it would be valuable. A competitor performing a more difficult task successfully shows that they have a higher level of skill. But here’s the thing: life isn’t a competition. So instead of being so hard on each other for choosing to do things the practical way, to “use your head and save your heels,” as my great-grandmother would say, let’s celebrate each other’s successes.


Dollar value or functional value?

A family member, for reasons I can’t fathom, felt the need to post this link to my Facebook wall in reference to my baby quilts. It’s a woman’s reflection on the “true value” of one of her quilts. All it really did for me was convince me further that I have no interest in ever trying to sell my quilts for what they’re “worth.” I mean, I think her prices are outrageous ($30 an hour for labor? My mother has a master’s degree and makes less than that teaching disadvantaged four-year-olds, several of whom have special needs. There’s no way that the time I spend on my hobby is worth more than the time my mother spends changing the lives of small children! And don’t get me started on $15 a yard for fabric, because I have NEVER paid that, even for the designer stuff!), but that’s not my real issue with the idea.

Nobody’s going to use a quilt that costs four figures. Even if, by some miracle or while smoking crack, someone actually paid $1500 for a queen-sized quilt (which is a fair market price if a crafter’s going to get their labor out of it), that’s too expensive for something that’s going to go on the bed. There are two categories of quilts that I make: quilts for people I know and genuinely care about on a personal level, like the baby quilt for Jack and his wife, and quilts for babies whose families can’t afford baby blankets. When I give someone a quilt, yes, it’s a one-of-a-kind original, but you know what? It’s also a warm blanket. It has a purpose. If a quilt costs that kind of money, it’s too expensive to actually use, and it ends up hung on a wall for decoration. Honestly, as much as I’ve liked some of the wall hangings I’ve seen, I’d be a bit hurt if I put hours of work into a warm, comforting, useful quilt and the recipient just hung it on the wall. A quilt is, in many ways, the closest I can come to giving someone a long-term hug, and hugs are for people, not for walls. I would hope that anyone for whom I’d make a quilt is going to actually use the thing, because otherwise, all the work I’ve put into it has gone to waste.

I have to wonder about a society in which we value the dollar cost of an item so much that we’re willing to sacrifice the item’s reason for existing. And it’s not just the quilts. Think about antique cars. They were built to be driven, but instead they’re “restored” and parked in garages where people just look at them. Low mileage raises their value. Collectible toys and action figures, meant to be played with, but kept in the boxes to be resold at a higher price later on. Why do we value the price tag more than the use for which the item is intended?

Every religion has scary fundies

I’m noticing lately that the pagan community has its own contingent of fundamentalists who give no credence to any other belief system. They want to tell the whole community what to believe instead of understanding that we aren’t one religion. We are the category “other.” If you ask three pagans a theological question, you’ll get four different answers, and that’s okay. We can have a community without having a hive mind.

Here are some of the ideas that I’ve been particularly annoyed with lately from people thinking they speak for the community:

1. Pagans should be modest and pure, because lust is immoral. Lust is sexual desire. Sexual desire is necessary for the continuation of the species. It also raises a tremendous amount of energy, as anyone who’s felt the hum of electricity in their skin at a lover’s touch can testify.

2. All pagans should be sexually open, because sex is sacred. Sacred doesn’t mean you want to deal in it all the time…unless you do, in which case, have fun, be safe, and accept that I’m not comfortable joining you. This is a highly personal choice, and a person has no more right to tell me to strip down than they do to demand that I cover up. My body is mine.

3. All of us honor The Goddess (TM) as Maiden, Mother, and Crone. No, no, no, no. Everyone has a different view of deity, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

4. Christians are terrible people, and ex-pagan Christians are traitors. Christians are people. They aren’t evil, they aren’t Nazis, and they aren’t out to burn us alive. There are extremists who make life difficult for anyone who believes differently, and admittedly, Christianity as a whole has a HUGE degree of privilege in American society, but that doesn’t mean we have any reason to hate the whole religion. It particularly doesn’t mean that we have any reason to hate people who leave paganism to go back to Christianity. Teo Bishop, in particular, has made MASSIVE contributions to the pagan community that don’t go away just because he’s gone back to Christianity. Yes, there have been horrible things done in the name of Christianity. My grandmother is completely opposed to equal rights for gay people and to reasonable access to reproductive health care, but she also serves at soup kitchens, provides school supplies for impoverished children, and volunteers for cancer charities, and when I was in Maryland, out of money, with no car, unable to pay my bills, she drove up and brought me back to NC to live with her until I got on my feet. And all of this, good and bad, is motivated by her religion. That doesn’t make her a bad person, and I triple-fucking-dog-dare anyone to say differently.

5. Atheists are the enemy. Why? Some of my dearest friends are atheists and agnostics, as well as most of the people I’ve dated. They may not be as small a minority as we are, and they may have been out in the open a lot longer than we are, but they are subject to marginalization by the majority too. And seriously, why do we need an enemy? There’s enough out there to wage war on without going looking for a fight.

6. We have to accept everyone. This one’s complicated. I mean, everyone has inherent worth and dignity as a human being, but that doesn’t mean allowing registered sex offenders to attend your family-friendly event, or that recons are going to feel comfortable at an eclectic ritual.

7. Racism/sexism/whatever-ism isn’t really an issue in paganism like it is in the rest of the world. Have you looked around lately? We are not post-racial or post-gender, and even among a group that has been marginalized on a religious basis, there are still people on varying axes of privilege who act on that privilege at the expense of others.

8. Paganism is the one true and ancient path. Which of the hundreds of paths within paganism would that be? And if you’re preaching that you have the one true way, what makes you so different from the fundamentalist evangelical Christians you so despise?

9. We all need to boycott X. Here’s the thing. Not everybody feels the way you do about whatever company you’re bitching about this week, and even if they do, not all people can afford it. Not everyone can afford not to shop at the place that has basic necessities for that much cheaper. Not everyone can afford to eat organic or to drive a 40-thousand-dollar electric car to save the environment. See above where I talk about privileged people acting on their privilege–assuming everyone has the same advantages economically is part of that.

It’s time to use some common sense and stop trying to tell everyone else how to live. The people who are making uninformed and overreaching blanket statements are not, as the phrase from my childhood goes, the boss of me. Please, if you’ve got beliefs about how to live and you want to live by them, be my guest. But don’t ask anyone else to live that way, and don’t act as though you had the right to explain someone’s lived experience to the person who’s lived it.

Manifesting, Victim-blaming, and White Light

On a forum where I’m a regular, there was a post today by someone who’s looking to learn to shield, because they’re uncomfortable with their empathy levels. A new member posted to them that they simply needed to Manifest! Good! Energy! And white light! Because what you believe is what will be!

I have several problems with this idea. First, the fact that it’s utter nonsense. My mother, as dearly as I love her, believes in her heart that she’s going to make her fortune by winning the lottery. She plays multiple times per week, spending close to $2K each year on tickets. If she’d saved the money she’s spent in the lottery since it was approved in our state eight years ago, she’d have a down payment on a house by now, instead of feeling trapped and unable to move out of my grandparents’ house.  Instead, all she has is a belief and a habit. She’s won small prizes on scratch-off games here and there, but like many gamblers, she feeds her winnings right back into her habit the majority of the time.

The other problem I have with this idea that we manifest our lives through the energy we put out is its natural conclusion. If manifesting energy is all it takes to fix one’s life, then when horrible things happen to people, it’s because they didn’t do it right. And that makes it their fault. Well, I call bullshit. My close friends who live with chronic illnesses aren’t sick because they didn’t manifest the appropriate energies; they’re sick because their bodies do not work properly. Sasha Fleischman was not set on fire on the bus earlier this month because they didn’t manifest appropriate energy. They were set on fire for being agender and wearing a skirt while displaying masculine physical characteristics, and because people are capable of great cruelty.

When I called this member on the flaws in this approach, she replied that when she manifests good-day energy, it usually works for her. She then went on to tell me that she hoped I found something that brought me the joy she’s been able to manifest in her life. Now, this isn’t the first time that one of these white-light types have claimed that I don’t have joy in my life, but the truth is, that’s not the case at all. The difference is that my joy doesn’t come from looking at the world through rose-colored glasses, but from seeing the world as it is and taking action to make it better. The joy of a world where children love books is the joy of reading to a preschooler. The joy of a world in which poor people have enough to eat is the joy of taking the spare change that’s been piling up in the console of your car and using it to buy lunch for the homeless veteran panhandling on the corner. My joy is the joy of feeling like I’m making a difference. My great-uncle Roger, who helped to raise my dad, once told me that every choice we make is like throwing a rock into water. It might look small when we’re up close to it, but that ripple effect touches people in ways we don’t imagine, for good or bad. These small choices build up, and if we try to pretend we already live in a world that’s better than this one, we miss the chances to create that world.

How I spent my evening

I wasn’t going to use this fabric, because it’s some that was given to me, and it’s craft store quality rather than quilt-grade. It’s not going to hold up like the others do. But I needed A. space for the new stuff and B. to get one knocked out in a hurry, so I stayed up late tonight assembling this quilt top. It just needs the borders on it, and then it’s ready to assemble the layers and finish it. If I’d been more awake while assembling it, I think I would have done a better job of arranging the colors, but I doubt a baby who needs it will be bothered much. The biggest problem with using craft store quality fabrics is that the strips aren’t cut exactly evenly, which means that even with using a regular 1/4 inch seam allowance, the blocks aren’t uniform.  But it was donated fabric, and I’m sure a family who’s on the receiving end of this project won’t mind. All it needs is to have the borders attached and the layers assembled. Doing the work!


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Thank you so much!

I just want to thank the people who’ve driven my blog traffic over the past few days. It’s meant a lot to me to be able to get the word out about my baby quilt project, and the emails I’ve gotten offering materials…I just don’t have words for how much I appreciate it, both in terms of the children I’ll be able to help, and for the fact that someone besides me believes in this project. Without a Project Linus chapter in my area, and with the organization not currently taking applications for new chapters, I’ve been pretty much on my own with it up until now, and it’s so good to know that people care. On my own behalf and that of the babies I’m trying to help, thank you so much.

Priorities, and what’s wrong with the pagan community

When I posted about the quilts I’m making for the infants whose families can’t afford baby blankets, my blog got 8 hits. When I talked about the need to specialize and to pick an area in the world where one can actively make a difference, I got 15. Yesterday, I angered a handful of well-known pagan bloggers by saying that a group of college atheists pulling a silly stunt by making a “god graveyard” wasn’t really that big a deal. I got 109 hits. This says something important about our community, that I really was hoping others who’ve observed the same phenomenon were mistaken about.

Getting attention and blathering about theology and how everyone’s out to get us is worth more in this community than doing real work. It doesn’t matter who you’re helping; if there’s not a drama llama to be fed, people are going to move on. Why? Why is the idea of what pseudocelebrity is up in arms because SOMEONE DARES DISAGREE more important than providing blankets to babies who have none?

I challenge you, Sannion. I challenge you, Sufenas Virius Lupus. I challenge you, Galina Krasskova.   I challenge every single person who’s bitching about how horrible I and others like me are for not taking offense at the shocking idea that atheists don’t believe in living gods. (It’s almost as if the word “atheist” meant something! Imagine that!) Do something, anything, to make the world better, instead of wringing your hands and wanking on about your own piety and everyone else’s lack thereof.  Clothe someone who’s cold. Feed someone who’s hungry. Volunteer in a low-income school. Help a struggling single mother get a job.  Then come criticize me for having better things to do than whining about how everyone’s out to get the pagan community. I challenge you to use your name recognition to get behind something real. Not a website, not a book, but a real impact in people’s day-to-day livesBecause if you’re not doing something that actually helps people, then what real work are you doing? What purpose do you serve in the world?

The Kerfuffle of the Month; or, Seriously, Dude, Lighten Up!

So apparently some atheist group at a university (i.e., a bunch of college kids) put up a “god graveyard.” And people are losing their shit over it. The idea is that apparently certain gods (which many pagans still worship) are “dead,” and that they’re asking Christians to think about whether their god is next. So in an attempt to be obnoxious-in-college-kid-fashion to the Christians, they’ve managed to evoke lots of hand-wringing and pearl-clutching from certain quarters in the pagan community.

My thing is, big frakking deal. So a group of college kids got together and did something slightly obnoxious. It’s not that big a deal. It’s a silly college stunt, and all of us did silly things in our late teens and early twenties. It’s part of life at an age when one’s brain isn’t fully developed. We live in a world where people who work full time still run out of groceries halfway through a paycheck, where women don’t leave their abusive partners because they think there’s nowhere to go, where rape and murder and violence are on the news every. Single. Day. And yet pieces of paper with pictures on them are what people are getting angry about. Nobody’s hurting us by having a dissenting opinion. Nobody’s making us agree with them. That’s the thing about living in a country with freedom of religion and freedom of speech: everyone has the right to believe whatever they like, whether it’s factually accurate or (as in the case of the “dead gods”) completely off base, and everyone has the right to express their belief or nonbelief, whether it annoys someone else or not.

And you know what? These are college kids. Their brains are still in the stage of development where dorm food and frat parties sound like good ideas. They will outgrow it and forget that they were ever that immature, as those blogging about how terrible they are have already done for themselves. They haven’t done any of the things to which the blogger compared their actions in the comments–assault, theft, rape, murder, etc. They stuck some signs up, and if you think that compares, then you’ve obviously never been raped, beaten, robbed, or had your life threatened. Can we get some realistic perspective, please?

And these are gods they’re talking about. Immortal beings that have lived for millenia, if not for eternity. It just stands to reason that they would understand that in the broad scheme of things, 18-22 years is not a long time to have lived, and one can’t expect the wisdom of adulthood from people who are barely, if at all, old enough to drink. That’s *why* they’re not old enough to drink. 

If people would just stop taking themselves So. Very. Seriously. for two minutes and think about it, it’s actually kind of funny to see the group of young atheists calling attention to the gods by putting up images of them. It’s almost like accidental worship. I can picture my gods laughing at the silliness that mortals do before we mature, much like I do with my kittens.

I don’t think it’s arrogance for me to say that I really don’t think the gods are all that bothered. I think it’s realistic, considering that there’s a whole universe out there with a lot bigger problems. Like people who think all or at least most atheists are militantly ignorant jerks, without bothering to look in a mirror.

Notes from the Roadie: Special Assignments

There’s no doubt in my mind that my life would be easier if my spiritual path were that of a fan in the audience, or a groupie just trying to get close to the gods. That’s not me. I’ve got a job to do, and while Doing The Work isn’t glamorous and the pay frankly sucks, it’s necessary. If everyone were a priest, who would chop the wood and carry the water?

My first interaction with my primary goddess, Brighid, who is associated with the forge (creation, strengthening and refining), the well (healing), poetry, and social justice, was in a meditation exercise that went sideways. In the visualization, I was walking through the woods, just taking in the sounds and experiencing nature. I don’t know if my concentration broke or if it was her redirecting me, but I found myself in a cleared area in the middle of the woods, where there was an old-fashioned blacksmithing forge set up. A woman in dirty work clothes, with soot on her face and a long red braid down her back handed me a hammer and told me to get to work. It’s never been about rituals or offerings or devotion. It’s about the work.

Like a lot of people, though, I have a tendency to try to fix everything, and I’ve had to learn that some things aren’t my department. I’ve had to learn to specialize. There are people doing very good work in the areas of disability rights, healthcare availability, GLBT+ issues, and so many other areas. I’m expected to speak up when I see injustice, but I’m not a leader of those fights, and if I try to fix all the things, I will burn out. The areas in which I’m asked to bring the fight to society are very specific. My battles are against childhood poverty and its consequences, and against violence against women.

Lately that work has involved baby quilts for the hospital, for families who couldn’t otherwise provide their babies with a nice, warm, snuggly blanket. (A Brighid kid making blankets for blanketless infants? That never happens! /sarcasm) I’ve taken 5 so far and have at least 3 more to do from the fabrics I have.  With the weather turning colder and the need increasing, though, the number of quilts they’re going to need is going to far outpace what I can afford to make. I wish I had twenty times the fabric stash I have, and an endless supply of batting, backing, thread, and basting spray, because the ones I make from the precut strips work up so quickly that I’m really only limited by my budget.

I’ve also applied for a job as an advocate for the local battered women’s shelter, and I’d like to see something come of that. I got out of the situations where I was the one being abused, and I’d really like to help others do the same.

I used to do a lot with Head Start before St. Croix. I spent a year as a volunteer and another as a substitute teacher. Now that the requirements have changed, though, I can’t even sub for an assistant. Because the needs of the local center are not the same as the needs of the small center where I was before, I don’t volunteer as often, but I still make it over there a couple of times a month.

You don’t have to fix ALL THE THINGS. As the cliche goes, nobody can do everything, but everyone can do something.