Respecting the Journey

As we engage in self-discovery and interact with the world, we find ourselves seeking out and connecting with a community of people of like-minded people. When we find that community, we feel accepted and often thrive in a safe space. Camaraderie breeds comfort and fosters pride.

“Go Team Jesus!”  

“PantheaCon or Bust”  

result

This community pride can be a very positive thing. It helps in the development and preservation of cultural nuances, language and “in” jokes.  It strengthens meaning, especially in the case of religious communities.

Unfortunately, this same community pride also contributes to the hardening of the lines between who and what we are and who and what “they” are. It divides the Christians from the Pagans from the Hindus from the Jews and so forth. This is where it gets dangerous. The “Go Team” turns to “Fight Team.” In sports that may work. However, in religion it doesn’t.

I have seen this happen frequently in the Jewish community where there is an inbred and powerful sense of tribal unity. I recall the story of a friend’s mother who had converted to Judaism from Catholicism. After being completely abandoned by her parents, this woman embraced Judaism with unbridled passion. She did everything in excess. To this day you would never believe that she had ever even entered a Catholic church let alone attended CCD.

Such stories of religious struggle are not limited to the Jewish community. This is a very common scenario. People just don’t like it when someone “switches teams.” When that convert is a team leader, an MVP or “fan favorite,” it can be even more jarring.  Fans are baffled, stunned, and shocked. They feel abandoned. “He’s one of them now.”

This may work for sports but not for religion.

Of course I’m referring to Teo Bisop‘s recent announcement on The Wild Hunt in which he openly declared a return to Christianity. Since his announcement, tremors have permeated the Pagan-osphere.  While I’m sure that the majority of Pagans are indifferent, the more vocal among us choose to comment. It seems that most comments are positive. However there has also been some backlash and even anger.  To sum that up:

Teo Bishop was accepted onto our team, taught our secret handshake, given our trust and even lauded by some as a leader. We connected with him on a personal level via his writing. Now he has jumped ship, gone back to the other side – to another team.  

But here’s the thing… that works for sports but not religion.

Religious-affiliation is not a final destination. While we like to think of it as such and often dogma tells us so, it really isn’t. Religious-affiliation is one stop on an expansive spiritual journey. The day that we can allow for the fluid nature of religion and at the same time respect spiritualism as a journey is the day the walls come down between religions. Teo is moving down his own river of experience which has taken him to another port-of-call.  That is all that has happened.  It could happen to any of us.

East_Branch_Delaware_River_at_Margaretville,_NY
Wikipedia CC Daniel Case

Spiritualism is fluid. Not only through one’s journey but through the gathering of experience.  Dogmatic devices often require a complete abandonment of one’s past religious-affiliation. Oaths must be taken and beliefs forsworn.  You can’t be Christian and Pagan and Muslilm at the same time.  You can’t be a Democrat and Republican. You can’t be a Falcons and Saints fan.  Pick one, give up the others and forever hold your peace.

That works for sports (and maybe even politics) but not for religion.

It is impossible to isolate ourselves from our past experience and the impact left behind – good or bad.  We cannot deny our past. We are who we are today because of where  and who we have been. We are formed by the experience and fluidity of life’s journey. As such, we change, grow and live to continue on. We carry pieces of our past religious experience forward which then help shape our perspective. Teo’s understanding of Christianity will be affected by his own negotiation his private Druidic experiences. It will be like that no matter how deeply into that Christian world he gets.

Spiritualism is as creative and fluid as life. Most importantly, it is personal. A heartfelt Bon Voyage to Teo as he sails forth and arrives at his new ports.

31 Days of Witch Movies: #21 So I Married A Witch

I need to go back in time at least once more to exame this classic witch movie from 1942.  So I Married a Witch is a Paramount Studios film starring Frederic March, Veronica Lake and Susan Hayward.  It tells the story of two 18th century witches, a father and daughter, who are burned at the stake at the hands of Puritan Jonathan Wooley (Frederic March). Before their souls are imprisoned in an Oak tree, Jennifer (Veronica Lake) curses the Wooley family ensuring that all its men would marry “the wrong woman.” Fast forward to the 1940s, the tree is hit by lightening and the witches’ souls escape. From that point, the story begins.

poster20-20i20married20a20witch_01-331x500

So I Married a Witch was featured in my Wild Hunt article called: Representations of the Hollywood Witch 1939-1950.  Here is some of what I wrote:

I Married a Witch is unique because it was made specifically for female viewers. It’s a variation on a [genre] theme prevalent during the World War II era. As Jeanine Basinger states, “..the woman’s film juxtaposes in unrealistic ways two contradictory concepts:  the Way Women Ought to Be and the Other Way.”  These films gave women the opportunity to temporarily step out of societal expectations and explore the “other way.”  [Regardless, the female characters] always end with marriage and the acceptance of traditional roles. (Jeanine Basinger, A Women’s View)

 

In I Married a Witch, the “other way” is “witchcraft” and the “Ought to Be” is love and marriage. In the end, Jennifer proclaims “Love is stronger than Witchcraft” and, as a result, is lead from a sinful immortal existence to a traditional life of family and marriage.  In the final scene, she is shown quietly knitting with her long tresses piled neatly on her head. [Her] father, who never accepts [his] proper societal role as the “good father,” is forever trapped in a liquor bottle.

 

Setting aside the film geek analysis, So I Married a Witch is a flimsy film with very little in the way of depth. It is mildly entertaining at best. Vernoica Lake, as alluring a star as she might be, plays a very whiny, irritating young witch who, at times, seems more like a spoiled sorority girl than a 200+ year old magical being. The uncomplicated plot becomes tiresome as it continually spins around Jennifer’s attempts to win Wallace Wooley’s (March) love. The one high point is Cecil Kellaway’s performance as the witch daddy.  His drunk scenes are quite amusing and very well-acted.

Courtesy of doctormacro.com
Courtesy of doctormacro.com

Aside from its place in witch film history and other similar academic studies, So I Married a Witch is mostly unremarkable. If you want to see a good classic romantic-comedy or woman’s film, there are far better options (Bringing Up Baby 1938; His Girl Friday 1940)  If you want to see Veronica Lake whine about love and men for 77 minutes, watch this one.

Day #1: Oz: The Great and Powerful
Day #2: Haxan
Day #3: The Princess and the Frog
Day #4: City of the Dead
Day #5: Beautiful Creatures
Day #6: The Witches
Day #7: Wicked
Day #8: Bell Book & Candle
Day #9: American Horror Story: Coven
Day #10: Black Death (Guest Reviewer:  John W. Morehead)
Day #11: Witches of East End
Day #12: Nightmare Before Christmas
Day #13: Scooby Doo: The Witch’s Ghost
Day #14: Hocus Pocus
Day #15: The Wiz
Day #16: Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Day #17: Wicker Man (Guest Reviewer: Link)
Day #18: The Witches of Eastwick
Day #19: Bedknobs and Broomsticks
Day #20: Harry Potter and the 8 Movies

 

31 Days of Hollywood Witch Movies

Is it possible for me to post a short review of Hollywood witch movies from Oct 1st – Oct 31st as a celebration of Witch Month?!  One a day.  31 Witch Movies for 31 days in October.

MH900407226

Why not? 31 Days, 31 Witch Movies….

Most of the movies that I will review come from the study that I’m doing on witches in Hollywood. Some are old and some are new.

Movie #1: Oz: The Great and Powerful. I decided to cheat and link to my previous review. In summary, it was a beautifully-filmed superficial movie that left audiences empty handed with only a few good laughs to satiate.

oz-the-great-and-powerful-wicked-witch-poster_419x600

One other note

For those that have read my Wild Hunt articles on Witches in Hollywood, the next installment (1950-1968) is long overdue and will be published in two weeks.  Stay Tuned…

Representations of the Hollywood Witch: Introduction
The Hollywood Witch: Pre-1939
The Hollywood Witch: 1939-1950

 

 

 

 

Common Space versus the Bubble

Teo Bishop just called us out. Pagans live in a bubble.

What does this mean “living in a bubble?” The idea brings such negative connotations to mind that I become claustrophobic just thinking about it.  Excuse me while I step outside to get some fresh air. Pop!

Now that I’m back, I will bravely engage in this conversation. So, what is this bubble?  For me, “living inside a bubble” has always meant confinement and limitation.  The bubble is a constraint created by the self or by others. I have no love for shackles of any kind – even in a pretty bubble form.

Soap_bubbles-jurvetson

“Nobody puts Baby in a corner.” 

In my mind, the bubble creates a homogeneous lifestyle with no challenges or excitement. Each day is the same. There is a cap on what you can do and where you can go. I’m getting a rash just thinking about the very idea. Continue reading

Pagan Media Relations

In a recent post at The Wild Hunt, Jason Pitzl-Waters posted a link to Beth Winegarner’s excellent article offering sage advice to mainstream media when handling stories concerning the “occult.”  Both writer cite recent news stories filled with sensational language and near-mythological facts about “occult” practices.   As pointed out by Winegarner, the mainstream media often makes assumptions about occult practices that are damaging to the people involved, to the community, to the credibility of the writer and to the practice these non-mainstream religions.

At the end of her article, Winegarner reports that a convicted felon “told a reporter that he’d hurt the child after losing his temper — and that Satanism was not involved. Even so, his faith got more play than the fact that [he was] a convicted sex offender…”

Several months ago, I noticed a very similar phenomenon while working on the Buncombe County civil rights case for Lady Liberty League. In January through March of 2012, the rural communities surrounding Asheville, North Carolina found themselves in the trenches of a public religious rights debate.  It started when a Pagan mother challenged the presence of Christian Bibles at the North Windy Ridge Middle School.

While scanning the media for reports on the civil rights story, I noticed that another “situation“ had arisen at a neighboring Buncombe County middle school.  Kevin Mark Calloway, a science and math teacher at Owen Middle School was arrested on a federal child porn charges.In January and February, Calloway had been exchanging sexually-charged messages with an underage student.  In addition, he used his spycam phone app to record 11-13 year old boys urinating in the bathroom for personal entertainment and for use in child pornography.

At its publicly-held March 1st meeting, the Buncombe County School Board was scheduled to discuss the Calloway situation;which they did. Oddly enough, this particular meeting attracted an unprecedented number of outraged community members. But were they there to support the firing of Calloway or to protest the lack of response time in removing Calloway from the schools? After all, the principal knew about the videos in January but decided to dismissed the case. No. The crowd was at the meeting to debate religious civil rights issues at North Windy Ridge Middle School.   

The local Asheville media reported on both cases equitably. However, the civil rights case received far more extended media attention than Owen Middle School‘s child pornography case. Unlike the Calloway story, the North Windy Ridge Middle School case made “the news” far beyond its Western North Carolina borders. By the end of February, the story had been picked up by the Associated Press and the Fox News Network. Even the Los Angeles Times made it newsworthy. (And this doesn’t even take into account the blogosphere!)

Is the media only to blame? Not entirely. Within the Asheville-Citizen Times articles on the Calloway case, the public commentary is dominated by discussions of religious civil rights as they pertain to the North Windy Ridge situation. It appears that the public was more concerned about Paganism and religious debate than Child Pornography.

I realize that religion is a hot topic that pushes buttons; whether that debate includes “the occult” or not. However, this “debate” most certainly intensifies when Paganism is involved.  And the media, who thrive on readership, know this. “Reporters are eager to grab readers’ attention, it’s tempting to include an occult hook when there is one.”as remarked by Winegarner.  This “occult hook” will also increase readership and attract outside media outlets – like vultures to carrion.

Concerning Bumcombe County, it is sad that the media’s focus and, subsequent public outrage, was centered on the civil rights case to the extent that they virtually ignored the child pornography story. Mr. Calloway, himself, certainly owes a debt to local Pagans for distracting the Buncombe County community, so his case could be handled quietly in the corner.

Which story should have gotten more attention? Both stories are equally as important and newsworthy.  With that said, I would much rather have my child subjected to non-pagan prayer than a child pornographer. Maybe that’s just me.