I had planned on putting some lighter, and maybe personal, stuff in before I went back and looked at this post I had locked away in the draft folder because I haven’t quite been able to get my thoughts coherent, but Octopus Dance linked me to this post as a response to this one over here and my responses to her in the comments and I think it can go up now. Albeit it is now a responsive post rather than just a generic one born of watching the pagan hashtag on Tumblr.
The quick version, for those of you too lazy to go read those links *pokes y’all with a point stick*, is that Octopus Dance thinks that everyone’s path is entirely personal and there is no wrong or right…
And I disagree. I believe there certainly is a wrong or a right in many situations and here’s why in 4 points:
- The need for a common language a.k.a. labels are important.
I’m starting with why I used Octopus Dance’s Soul Retrieval post as an example in my post and that was in part because she had called something soul retrieval and that thing had nothing to do with soul retrieval…
Common language is important in discourse.
Say you have spoon, but you call your spoon a knife. Regardless of whether it’s a personal quirk, a mislabelling, or you simply don’t know any better, you are going to confuse people by calling a spoon a knife because of common language. A spoon, in the common language, is a blunt instrument used for scooping things up and a knife is a sharp implement used for stabbing or cutting.
This goes the same for labels in magic and it is important to use the right label for the right thing if you want to open discourse because it is at best confusing and misleading when you don’t.
And yes, I include using the correct labels for your practice in this. A Chaote is not a Wiccan is not a Traditional Witch is certainly not a Shaman is not a Druid is not Neo-Wiccan is not a Ceremonial Magician and on we go. No path is better than any of the others, but they are not the same things. Use the correct labels.
- Witchcraft and magic is a dangerous sport. Seriously.
The majority of us handle toxins at one point or another. Many practices, like Soul Retrieval and Invocation, can be dangerous to ones mental health if not performed properly and appropriate preparation and aftercare seen to. And spirits? Spirits, and Gods and most other entities to be honest, will fuck your shit up if you go in half baked and not knowing what you are doing.
A responsible practitioner of magic will call out* misinformation when they see it. They will point out when someone is doing something stupid like advising someone to use a plant that is highly toxic when burnt in incense, they will point out that Kali is not some benign mothering goddess, they will advise people not to go and just do shit without researching it first.
Why? Because safety is a thing.
Because we don’t actually want to see other people get hurt, made ill (physically or mentally) or accidentally kill themselves. A lot of magical practitioners and Pagans scream blue murder when someone says you’re doing it wrong like the people saying it are somehow trying to control them…
What most of us want is to make sure you are not poisoning yourself or undertaking an extremely dangerous practice with no clue about how dangerous it is, because we’d really like you to remain safe, sane and whole.
Sometimes we take slightly odd routes of doing this. For example I will often address issues I see enmass as one post with maybe a link or two to examples if they’re relevant rather than addressing individuals on their own blogs, because a lot of people take being told they’re wrong or doing something dangerous as you saying they’re stupid which, at least with me, is not the case. I am well aware that there is a lot of misinformation out there so I try not to add to it and to gently correct it when I see it… Gently being relative because I’m a bit rough around the edges (which is the other reason I rent to stick to not addressing people directly).
* There is a distinct difference between calling something out and being a cunt. You can say ‘you’re wrong’ without calling someone names, being rude or implying they’re an idiot. You can disagree with someone without doing all of that too.
- Cultural Appropriation is a Thing.
Short and sweet: If anything you do in public space falls under ‘cultural appropriation’ then you are wrong and you should be called out on it.
First Nations practices and ritual items like war bonnets and dream catchers are not yours to adopt as you will.
Shaman is a specific title for a specific person amongst certain European cultures and is not yours to adopt as you will (I will write a post on Shaman vs shamanistic practices another day).
And so on and so forth.
- Bigotry is a thing.
Anyone participating in bigotry needs a boot put so far up their ass they’ll never get it out.
Z Budapest was not and will never be right in her bigoted attitude and behaviour towards trans folk.
Heathens/Asatru using their religion as an excuse for racism are not and will never be right.
Pagans who marginalise and isolate members of the gay, lesbian, trans, intersexqueer and queer community because they don’t fit neatly into their gendered practices are not right.
Witches, magical workers and Pagans of all stripes who believe the physically and mentally unwell should not be practicing magic are discriminating against the disabled and mentally ill … THEY’RE NOT FUCKING RIGHT!
Now I want to make something very clear here: I in no way advocate a ‘one true way’. My path is very much a mish mash of UPG, random practices and intuition so I am in no position to advocate the one true way…
That doesn’t mean I won’t say something when I see someone calling two disparate practices by the same name, or being a bigot ‘because their religion says so’, or generally doing something a bit stupid that will probably result in them or someone else getting hurt (whether by accident or because they’ve been fed misinformation), or just spreading misinformation on things that CAN be verified. Because there are history books, there is documented lore, there is documentation on practices from indigenous cultures through to current modern magical techniques, or and there is basic common sense and reading a book that isn’t Pagan 101 fluff.
And, finally, you don’t have to listen to people who call you out. You don’t. You are in no way required to hear people who call you out or to respond to them at all. If you are doing something flies in the face of everything tradition, lore, and history (and even common sense, good manners and scientific fact) and you’re more interested in following your heart rather than figuring out why that is so**, or not poisoning someone/yourself then go for it, but don’t expect people to not say anything if you’re talking about it in public space.
You post or say it in public then you open it up for dissection and criticism.
** I find this actually really weird. Sometimes chasing down why your UPG, especially in regards to spirits and deities, doesn’t match what tradition and mythology tell us can open a whole shit ton of doors for someone and provide a much more fulfilling and powerful practice. So I’m never going to understand people who say ‘but this is how they appear to me’ when it’s pretty much the opposite of everything we know about said entity. That’s me personally, and by all means don’t let me stop you (I’m not the type that generally will comment on those kinds of posts anyway), but I’m just putting it out there that I don’t understand people who do that. At all, it is very limiting from my perspective.