vintagewitch: (Death Sandman)
My heart hurts.

Five protesters were shot outside the 4th precinct by white supremacists last night. 

There will be a march at 2 pm today. Not sure if I can make it - it depends on whether or not I feel ok skipping class. I might go back to the 4th precinct this evening to help hold the protest, if I can get some other work done.

Most of my friends here are not from the area. If you are unable to be physically present for the protests but want to support the work happening on the ground here, there are some things you can do.

You can donate to the bail/legal fund here.

You can donate to MN Neighborhoods Organizing for Change. This is a fantastic group working on a myriad of issues in the area, including economic aspects of racial justice. Their offices were burned down earlier this year, and they're trying to rebuild. Read more and donate here. 

Don't have much time for a lengthy post at the moment. Grieving with my community and rushing to wrap up projects as the end of the semester draws nigh.
vintagewitch: (tori storm)
 So today I hit a wall where self-care was necessary.

Have been on the periphery of the 4th precinct shutdown here. Trying to get out and show support as much as I possibly can, and donating funds/resources when I can't be there in person. Grad school is really amping up assignments for the end of the semester. Relationship stress is really taking its toll on me as well.

Managed to host an awesome party last night. Felt lots of cognitive dissonance, but it felt so good for my soul to have so many friends in my house. If you believe in astrology, I'm a Cancer and we are incredibly nurturing people, so it felt amazing to feed people last night and welcome them into my home.

But today ... I need to nurture myself. 

So I'm going to watch TV, and in between episodes do some "light" work on a group project. I've lit some candles, we've got some wine leftover from last night, I managed to make myself bean tostadas. This is good. This is needed.
vintagewitch: (Death Sandman)
 This is something I've been thinking about a lot lately, and at the outset I want to say that I am not totally settled in my feelings/thinking on this topic. This could be an entire book's length, or a career's worth of academic study. I haven't done a ton of research, and this is mostly based on my experiences as a pagan person in the community. I am interested in discussion, because I'm not totally settled in my thoughts and feelings about these complex issues.

As someone who is concerned about racism, as a dedicated pagan/witch, and also as someone who is white, I have been thinking very critically lately about appropriation as it pertains to my spiritual community.

Many pagans feel that our religion and spiritual beliefs have been appropriated into the general public. As Christianity spread in Europe, it is known that Christian religious leaders adjusted their practices to mirror or reflect pagan practices - this made pagans more comfortable with converting to the Christian faith. In some cases where Christian leaders were more hostile, pagans continued some cultural practices that weren't overtly spiritual, or hid them. An example of this would be the Yule log, or the celebration of Easter including decorated eggs. It must be noted that other religions have weathered the spread of Christianity this way - medieval Jews maintained a lot of the kosher practices of their people in secret, but attending Christian church and appearing to be Christian. 

So paganism has a complicated history with appropriation and adaptation. 

Pagans often worship ancestors, looking back to and connecting with your ancestors' mythology and ancient practices. For me, those ancient practices are Norse, and I have studied aspects of Asatru. In fact, when I was "learning Wicca" the group I learned from had a very Gardnerian focus on Wicca, but also some roots in Norse mythology and interest in Asatru. We incorporated ecstatic and shamanistic elements into our very traditional Wiccan rituals. I am interested in Norse mythology - the nine realms of reality, the trolls and giants and frost giants, Freyja's carriage driven by giant forest cats, Odin's ravens, and rune lore - are all fascinating to me. I feel a connection with these things through my ancestors. My grandmother is extremely Norwegian and makes lefse by hand, and has taught her daughters the recipes of the old world. We've gone to lutefisk feeds (which is a tradition I am more than happy to let die), my great-aunt decorated intricate Ukrainian Easter Eggs, and my mother makes Sanbackles every Christmas.

On a more personal note, I have interacted with beings that name themselves Odin or Freyja, and they have become an important part of my practice. I don't know whether these beings are the Odin and Freyja, but they answer to those names and Norse mythology seems to resonate with them.

Recently, I've been learning more about the dark side of Norse mythology and contemporary Odinism. Of course, I've known for decades that the Nazis envisioned an "Aryan race," but I did not know how closely that tied very specifically to an appropriation of northern European mythology. Many white supremacist groups around the world have rejected Christianity in favor of Odinism, and they will commit hate crimes in "honor of their ancestors." Because of this, it might be even MORE important that I'm open about my association with my Norse roots, and show that this is not ok. But sometimes I don't know how open I want to be about my spirituality, even without having to navigate troubled waters about being confronted/accused of being associated with white supremacy.

I have also traveled in India, and had a couple of deeply spiritual experiences there. I visited Bodh Gaya, and meditated at the tree where Buddha gained enlightenment. I have interacted with spirits that are definitely not-Western-pantheon-spirits. But I feel uncomfortable publicly talking about these experiences, because sometimes I worry that this is not for me. And I want to respect that.

As a pagan with connections to her roots and also a commitment to antiracism, all of this becomes difficult to navigate. I don't know what to do. 

I don't want to continue the essentialist belief that connecting with your ancestors means connecting only with the pagan practices of your particular ancestors. I would also like to recognize and honor the ancestral practices of people from around the world. I don't want to whitewash my understanding of paganism or polytheism. 

At the same time, I don't want to appropriate. There are some things that are just not for me as a white person, and that's totally ok.

I recently had a conversation with one of my very dearest friends about this stuff. This friend got their master's degree in comparative religion, so they know their religious history. Basically, my friend explained that in the development of any major religion, there has always been appropriation. Case in point: This friend studied Christian history, and basically said Christians developed a new faith, but were very much in love with the Jewish god, so they stole large parts of Judaism and/or gradually incorporated them. Religions are greatly influenced by one another; there is a lot of crossover study.

The fact that the neopagan movement is still relatively new means that we're struggling with these growing pains, but we also have the rich language of cultural analysis and contemporary social justice philosophy to draw on and inform our practices and community. And I think that there's a tension between recognizing the cultural diversity of mythology, esoteric practices, and pagan roots globally, but also finding our place collectively.

So there are really several problems that I'm struggling with:

1. How do I disrupt racist and essentialist practices within my own spiritual community?
2. How can I reclaim Norse practices and practice them in a way that is antiracist and antioppressive?
3. How can I diversify my understanding of world pagan/polytheistic practices, and possibly incorporate wisdom from other areas of the world into my own spiritual practices, without blatantly appropriating a culture that is not my own?
vintagewitch: (UP Coast Perhaps)
It's been a tough week, but at least I get to end it on a high note.

News!

1. I got a part time job as an environmental organizer! It's temporary, planning a large tar sands rally in June. So yay! I will be half time at the accounting firm, and doing 20 hrs/week on organizing stuff. Feels very good!

2. I won tickets to see a show this Saturday at the local jazz club. So yay! That will be a great sendoff for Matt!

This is a very welcome change to the tone of things happening lately. The Baltimore Uprising has been gut wrenching to watch (but good news there too - 6 cops were charged in Freddie Gray's death today). The worst of it is that I know this is an issue black communities have been facing for decades. It's tragic, it's scary. There was a large rally planned for my city on Wednesday, and there were several times I teared up. It was so cathartic to raise a ruckus with like-minded people.

At the same time that this large-scale national mourning is happening, the GOP in my state is gutting most of the policies I care about. They're repealing our carbon reduction goals, investment in renewable energy, cutting one state-run health insurance program, lowering the minimum wage for service industry workers, and in general Fucking Things Up. It's hard to know where to start with citizen activism on some of this stuff - especially when I'm not the constituent of the people doing the Bad Things. I mean, I volunteer with two different environmental organizations, and will call on specific bills, but ... there's just so much crap right now.


I will write a larger post about some of these things, but I've been feeling very inarticulate on them lately. I get choked with emotion. Even more reasons I needed that self care night last night.

So last night's self care looked like ... pretty new nails! I STILL can't figure out how to upload an image (and don't have the patience for that right now), so I'll just link you to the photo.

I also went on a nice long walk with Matt, and then ended up sitting with him on the patio by our building for a good long while. As well as some other quality time things. I think he's been lonely and stressed, so it was nice to spend time together. But now I need some alone time, some reading time, some writing time.

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