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Saturday, 3 January 2009

Thinking about Pagans

The folks who were hexed have been caught by police, and, indeed, one of them had his family involved in his turning himself in, just as predicted by the head-hexer. However, I think a double-blind study is needed before I'm willing to concede anything about the general efficacy of hexing. I'm not sure such a study is really possible. What coven would be willing to participate in calling up such negative energy in order to prove something to skeptics?

I wrote something about how I hadn't been to any pagan rites since university and that's so untrue I don't know what I was thinking. My friend Jean does something called "Burning Bowl" every New Years Day which has something to do with making resolutions, only not really. And, of course, Paul's memorial last year was pagan, and even more emotionally charged than the most recent thing I went to. These things, though, were familiar. Drinking cider with friends. Or a memorial service. They don't see outside of ordinary experience. And so they slipped my mind when I was writing about an extraordinary thing.

I spoke to a few people about the use of the Virgin of Guadalupe in the hexing. Apparently, pagans are practical and will use the goddess or god most likely to get things done for them. Because some of the suspects were described as Hispanic, the pagans decided to use their goddess against them. This, of course, relies on making some assumptions. Protestant churches are growing dramatically in the Americas, but let's put that aside for a moment and go with the assumption that the Virgin Mary has meaning to the Hispanic men in question and specifically, her appearance in Mexico is something connected to them. Something about this strikes me as problematic. The pagans are using the symbols of a person's religion against them. And it's a minority religion which has faced past discrimination. (Of course, pagans would argue they were in the same boat, there.) This is troubling to me. I was at the ritual, in retrospect, more or less as a tourist, as it didn't have meaning for me, so maybe there's an argument there that a hexing is just going to be troubling because it's a troubling thing to do in the first place and maybe religious rites are outside of arguments relating to axes of privilege. And maybe Mary of Guadalupe is a goddess figure subsumed into Catholicism and therefore belongs to all womyn. I don't know.

My friend in London is from Somerset, where the farmers still do pagan stuff that their ancestors did. She was describing some of the rituals to me. They seem to all involve drinking a lot of beer and did not seem to be womyn-centered. I think that some feminists look to this as a source mostly motivated by the myth of matriarchy. This is a cross-cultural phenomenon, where there is a myth that once upon a time, women held political power. Everything was backwards in this time: the moon was better than the sun, etc. Fortunately, (the myth goes) men wrested power away and saved us from such foolishness. For example, Eve briefly lead Adam in Eden and look where that got us. Still, the idea of some ancient time when women had power is obviously attractive to women now. Alas, it's all mythical, but it attracts them to old myths and old religions. And so a bunch of drunken, ribbon-wearing (male) farmers chasing a cheese wheel down a steep, rocky incline becomes a feminist religious inspiration, once separated by an ocean. Of course, they're probably not drawing on that particular ritual and the information has been mediated by books or Hollywood or expectations and turns into it's own thing. And just like the rituals in Somerset carry the cultural baggage of that region, and affirm power relations and privilege in that community, neo-pagans bring their own baggage to the circle.

1 comment:

Polly Moller said...

"Apparently, pagans are practical and will use the goddess or god most likely to get things done for them."

I would say it's more that we *appeal* to the deity most likely to get the job done. I can't imagine Mother Mary allowing herself to be "used". But I can certainly imagine her being down with rapists being brought to justice.