“Inclusive” Isn’t Enough

I refuse to be friendly with people who think Heathenry is only open to the “right” kind of people. I refuse to be civil with people who advocate for harm to marginalized racial, ethnic and religious groups. I will not tolerate anyone supporting an ideology that endangers LGBT+ people, or who think gender roles are a rigid and non-negotiable truth. (Because they’re not.) I have absolutely no patience for people who cannot accept that disability is going to be something they’ll just have to deal with seeing in their lives. They’re in the wrong faith anyway, with our one-eyed and one-handed gods.

But it’s not enough to just say so. An inclusive stance is a reflection of your ethics, and any ethical stance without a standard of behavior and action to back it up loses its legitimacy. This is literally a fundamental rule of ethics. A non-prescriptive philosophy is an inactionable philosophy, and therefore useless.

Which is to say, you don’t simply make that announcement of inclusivity, or sign Declaration 127, and call it a day. Any kind of real change takes more time and work than just saying you’re safe. It’s a start. But you have to prove that. If you want to be trusted, you have to accept that people will distrust you until their concerns are satisfactorily addressed.

And I’m not saying you have to go physically fight people–diversity of tactics has a vital place. The point is, do what you are capable of, but do something.

We have a responsibility, as inclusivist Heathens, to vet people carefully. And then keep paying attention. It’s tiring. It takes time and effort. I keep an eye on people for several days or dig through months worth of their content before I reach out to them. I’m more obsessive about it, because I didn’t trust my judgement before. But it’s not unreasonable to spend 10 minutes skimming someone’s online trail to see what turns up. It really does need to be done.

It’s not just the Asatru Folk Assembly and Odinic Rite contributing to the problem, because not every racist or hateful Heathen is affiliated with them. Some of them are still hanging on in organizations that would love to think they’re progressive. And not all contributions to a problem are morally equivalent, either. Idealogical Puritanism is a destructive mentality that shuts out imperfect but promising allies, and misguided people who could be easily redirected. But it behooves us to know what’s going on, and what people’s concerns are, so we can address them effectively.

And the big thing is white supremacy. If we don’t learn to recognize it, we let them network unchecked and continue to use Heathenry as a weapon. And it’s vital to remember that white supremacy is a value of the dominant culture and we all get trained to participate–if we don’t examine our own selves, and each other, we will end up perpetuating it. If we unwittingly broadcast that message, not knowing the underlying meaning, we help the more obviously aggressive and dangerous white supremacists do this. If we do not take the time to consider the source of our information, and we repeat standard white supremacist rhetoric, we become an active participant.

And people cannot trust us, though that’s among the lesser of our problems.

People won’t want to be part of our supposedly inclusive faith if we don’t work to make sure they feel welcome. If we boost messages from the racist contingent, intentionally or not, people won’t be able to tell who can actually be approached. If we let racists into the same spaces and events as marginalized people who are curious about, or already practicing our faith, we are enabling the former and endangering the latter. If we don’t make the effort to prove that we don’t tolerate that behavior, we can only blame ourselves if people don’t trust us. If we make it about ourselves, we’re failing to walk our talk.

When we create Heathen spaces, we take on the role of hosts. Our job is to set a nice table and give visitors somewhere comfortable to settle in.

Inviting people in without meeting their needs does not include them. It ultimately imposes upon them. And that’s bad hospitality.

Do better.

Musings From the Mud

Finally have a post ready. Quality isn’t guaranteed.

Staring at the sky listening to a woman mourn her twenties, and thinking about reaching out to someone I have been nursing a very abrupt and intense crush on. Unsure of whether this would be their scene, because I’ve never seen any indication that they go for folk music like I do, let alone country soul. The breeze is nice, this is my home, more so than the nearby house I grew up in.

I didn’t get a good look at this singer at first and thought she was artfully draped in gold lamé, and I suspect it was because of her singing about walking through fire after telling a humorous tale of having literally lit herself on fire. It ended up being a standard 70s inspired maxi dress, but it suits her anyway.

It feels good to lie on the compacted mud beneath me, even with the waterproof blanket between us there’s a sense of relief. It has felt like it wanted to be touched. I’m not supposed to have my shoes off, it’s a safety thing, because people never check where their glass is going here. I don’t care. I’ve been going barefoot and letting the swordgrass and dry stiff straw and baby Rosa multiflora sprouts scratch my soles so the land can take whatever it wants from me.

When I left my now ex I was terrified that I was never going to have any semblance of humanity again, which was a terrible illusion created by the expectation that I whittle myself down into a more user-friendly instrument. Too much. Too little. Go away. Where’d you go?

Well, I’m fucking gone and doing an awful lot better than I had let myself believe I was going to be.

The air no longer feels smothering. The first hints of fall. When everyone leaves, the leaves start dropping. A sudden withdrawal, I guess, from the abundant accidental offerings of chili dogs and funnel cakes and fair trade single origin coffee and ice cream and all manner of booze and, ahem, burnt offerings. Though the Landvættir could surely live without the glow sticks and forgotten air mattresses. Bought only to be thrown in the trash, by someone else. Because it will always be somebody else’s problem, I suppose.

Look how well that’s turning out for us.

“If you’re in love, you have nothing but work to do.”

Heartening.

Perhaps the necessary struggle to tolerate being on my own is the easier route. But she’s not wrong.

The fact that the dog days are finally over and there’s the vague suggestion of a chill in the air and night has fallen and it’s too dark to spin yarn anymore has me thinking of the Yuul spinning Verbots. And so, by extension, Yuulsege.

When I left my ex I was lucky enough to be able to fall into the arms of my community. The series of events slowly working up to this brought people I could lean on to the forefront. Options were visible. I was not going to be alone and suffering in the ways I had spent many years fearing. I had, in a social sense, a home to come to.

And that was vital.

And yet, while writing this, I’ve bailed on writing blog posts and am avoiding social media because Hell is Other People and I don’t know how to act. I want to be alone. I want to be invisible. And so therefore the solution, apparently, was to go to work. And then go to music festivals where I had freebie tickets, and be politely ignored, which is what humans do in large numbers and close proximity. Despite our collecting in a hay field, city etiquette kicks in.

I am sure that all of this is entirely because I am starting to feel like a product, like I am too much, too close, go away, where’d you go? I am afraid of being an instrument again. Or continuing to be one, because I’m not sure I’ve ever not been one.

I catch myself leaning in to be engulfed, and then pulling back and aggressively flagging my interests, my identity, stepping back from testing the waters because I don’t know who I am. I’ve never been a real person before. And it leaked into the way I interact with the rest of the community, ramping up with every tactically beneficial acquaintance.

Like a muscle knot, if left for too long without being broken apart, more will catch and tangle. And eventually the forgettable bundle of angry muscle deep in your shoulder blades is sending pains shooting up your neck into your eyes, radiating around the front and threatening to crush your chest.

A simile I hope nobody else can relate to.

I am frightened and resentful when people see potential in me, and then expend resources trying to get it realized. I give up easily, I become exhausted and run away, and am often too scared, too ashamed, too frustrated to get back on track.

Trothmoot spelled networking spelled the looming threat of success, and my first instinct is to sabotage it all for the sake of familiarity and the perception of safety and missing the comfort of being sad.

And that habit will have to be broken.

So, Your Pagan Event Is Getting Picketed – Here’s What You Can Do

Pagan pride season is coming up again. There are, as you may already know, certain groups who will go out of their way to try and crash your events.  It helps to know how these groups operate and how to get rid of them–without legally jeopardizing your own event. Mass gatherings like pagan pride require the organizers–and the attendees, by extension–to remain in the good graces of the powers that be.

Not the gods, but the people issuing your permit to gather. Or the people you called to alert that an event too small for permits was happening.

Picketers can throw off the energy and momentum of your event, and they often attract a crowd. The gathering of a crowd means that picketers now have an audience, and having access to more people means that they’ll stick around for longer because they like the attention and have more people to target.

Drawing a crowd also presents two possible dangers for your event: one, that it will drag attendees away from your event to go yell at the picketers, and two, increase the likelihood of someone doing something dangerous or illegal because they’re pissed off.

Which can result in forceful legal intervention, a horrendous lawsuit, and will create issues with organizing the next event. We don’t want that.

So we’ve established that debate, argument and heckling don’t work. Fighting and forcing picketers away also doesn’t work, for slightly different reasons. Provocative groups are often, as a rule, lawyer happy.

So what does work?

Cut off their attention supply, and bore them to tears.

warning - live trolls do not feed

You usually can’t force them to leave unless they encroach on the area you have a permit for–and even then, public property can’t be monopolized, and free speech is a demo derby. That can make picketers virtually untouchable.

Don’t touch them, by the way–because again, these people are prone to filing lawsuits.

Before you Start:

Step zero, which has to happen before any response can be planned, is to have the permission of the event organizers. In the case of Philly Pagan Pride, the idea was from the organizers, so we didn’t have to worry about this. With Seasons of Transition Pt II, we had volunteers from within the community who approached me first and ran tactics they had in mind by me.

But it is absolutely necessary that you are working with the event, to prevent any possibility of accidentally working against the interests of the event. Make sure you understand what the event permit allows–or what’s allowed when you hold an event sans permit.

Once this is sorted out, you’re free to proceed to step one.

Continue reading So, Your Pagan Event Is Getting Picketed – Here’s What You Can Do