When one first becomes a Pagan or a Heathen, one naturally thinks that the vast majority, or at least most common subject of conversations physical and digital would naturally be about Religion and the Divine. Within a year, however, one rapidly discovers that the most common subject is instead Political and Racial. It seems one can rarely go long without running into some group, post, vid, etc, about how either “Pagans/Heathens are Racists!!!!” or “We are Pagans/Heathens against Racism!!!!”
Pro tip: if you ever want to know why the Gods don’t ever really seem to have much to do with you…it’s probably because you’ve confused yourself with which divine things you’re worshiping. But then I have been some who has long bemoaned the ever present habit of “Pagans” to scratch new writings on ancient stones and insist “this is true Pagan/Heathenism.”
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to hold myself up as a paragon or wise man, but this is an overwhelmingly popular practice that has been around since the start of the Revivals. And despite decades of this shit, we still get an ever increasing backlog of people trying to prove they’re better than you because they believe differently than you. The latest example I’ve come across is this: Habits and Slips: Paganism’s Recurring, Tiresome Problem with Racism
And I will completely agree, this is all so fucking tiresome.
Hello, beautiful creatures. Today, I’d like to talk some more about the problem of racism in Pagan, polytheist, and occult communities.
Got your attention, did I? Good.
First off, to play on progressives, don’t go assigning your definitions of beauty to me. Secondly, to play off another meme, you have my attention, but I doubt you shall obtain my curiosity.
To be fair, I’m speaking here to the portion of my readership who happen to be white… which, let’s be honest, is most of you. The people of color reading this are exempted from most of what I’m about to say.
So, we’re going to be talking about “racism” and we’re already starting off by being very racist. First, segregating “whites” and “non-whites” from each other in this discussion, and then insisting this is “only for white people, you colored folk don’t need to be here.”
My, my, my, Misha, perhaps we do need to have a conversation about racism seeing as you are being very, very racist here. I mean, you can use as pretty a language as you like, but you’re still basically saying “colored unwelcome.”
(And yes I know what is really happening, here, but lets be honest this plays just too well and honestly the Author is about to get really racist anyways. Also, isn’t acting like PoC can’t be racist actually racism itself? I mean, you’re implying they’re physically incapable of doing something that white people can apparently do, which would imply they are inferior to whites).
In case you haven’t seen it, there’s a blog post on Medium which has been making the rounds on Pagan-ish social media, Ashley Nicole Hunter’s “11 Pagan Habits That Need to Die.” I found it an interesting explication of a lot of the things about neo-Paganism I find intensely annoying, many of which seem to stem from the persistent problem Pagans have with balancing their values. In short, some Pagans take themselves too seriously, and don’t take their spiritual practices and values seriously enough. It’s why there are so many p-words who are lackadaisical about things like other people’s time and work, the environment, history, or—and I phrase this as delicately as I know how—personal hygiene and grooming.
So I went and looked at that post to see if it was something I might want to write a post about as well and…while I could nit pick (what is wrong with dressing like you’re going to a renfair, honestly? That fashion looks pretty cool.) The only one I could really snip at would be the “stealing from indigenous people and selling their culture” would be more because she comes at it from a “muh cultural appropriation” angle (mentioning ScarJo as Motoko from Ghost in the Shell, something the original author was perfectly okay with happening, if I remember correctly) rather than coming from a “everyone’s cultures/religions should be respected and not commercialized. Which is where I would come from on such a point. Otherwise, valid points worth conversation.
Of course, Misha has an issue…can you guess what it is?
This isn’t to say it’s a perfect article, mind you. A couple of Hunter’s points are a little weak and detract from her overall message, which I feel is both timely and, sadly, timeless. As ever, I encourage you to read it yourself and make up your own minds about it. I was initially thinking of responding to Hunter’s post point-by-point, but a couple of days after I read it, I saw Sarah Anne Lawless’ post on the Bane Folk Facebook page announcing her withdrawal from the Black Flame Montreal occult conference. As before, I encourage you to read her post (available here in a non-FB format) for the details. It’s also worth reading Black Flame Montreal’s response, deleted but captured here, and their follow-up announcement, in which they cancel the conference altogether.
Okay, so Lawless apparently dropped out of the Black Flame because a couple dudes going to the con are “muh ebil white supremacists!!!” from some group called “The Wolves of Vinland” (can’t say I’ve heard of them, but name’s cool at least), and left when the organizers decided not to give these men the Boot. Lawless on the link says “they’re listed as a hate group” but doesn’t actually give any links to a list to prove this. Given that they’re probably listed by the SPLC and/or ADL I frankly DO NOT GIVE TWO FLYING FUCKS WHAT THEY’RE LISTED AS. BFM basically tried to come out and defend themselves saying “no one here is a racist,” there seems to have been continued Cancel Culture, and BFM decided “fuck you assholes, no con for you.”
Because remember, if you’re white, and you’re not constantly flagellating yourself, you’re an evil white nationalist/supremacist.
I read Lawless’ post, and I thought back to my own posts about racism and white supremacy in Paganism. More specifically, I mulled over the reactions those posts engendered from self-styled “ethno-nationalists,” “proud advocates” for ethnicity-based Paganisms and polytheisms, and outright goddamn Nazis. I received abuse, outrage, and vague personal threats, and I know Lawless has been targeted even more overtly, and more viciously. Gee, I wonder why that is? I know part of it is that Lawless is much better known, but might some part of it be that she’s… you know… a woman? But I digress.
I suspect it had less to do with the fact she was a woman and the fact she was a) more famous than Misha here and b) actually managed to get a con that had sold out and that a lot of people were looking forwards to Canceled because she couldn’t stand the fact that people believed differently than her and feel they have a right to existence and a desire for self improvement.
Because let us be entirely honest here, all that “white nationalists/white supremacists” want these days is the exact same thing we have been taught since kindergarten are the mother fucking rights everyone is supposed to get. So, for example, unless I’ve gravely misunderstood why “colonialism was bad” the general gist of it was that it was wrong to go in and subjugate other people because they have an inherent right to their homeland and the resources within. In which case white people should have an inherent right to their homeland(s) and the resources within. So when that inherent right is threatened by, say, mass immigration, they have the right to protest because the mass importation and displacement of a native population isn’t just wrong, it’s morally evil. Yet, somehow, protesting this violation of your rights means you’re evil…if you’re white.
I’m sure you can think up more examples.
I’m here to suggest that Ashley Nicole Hunter’s list of Pagan bad habits, while amusing and largely true, suffers from the glaring omission of our communities’ real, real bad habit of racism.
And here we go. That original list wasn’t good enough because it didn’t mention “muh racism” and spend however many words once again beating up white people for the crimes of being exactly like every fucking other person or group of people on this damn planet.
Sometimes that racism is as overt as shaven-headed, tatted-up buff dudes wearing white supremacist insignias, spouting fascist buzzwords and white-supremacist dog-whistles, sure. Most of the time, though it’s the casual racism of “nice” white folks providing cover for other, not-so-nice white folks. It’s the easy racism of giving white folks the benefit of the doubt because “they’re our friends,” because “they’re good people,” because we know they don’t actually mean all that fascist ethno-nationalist rhetoric, it’s just a t-shirt or a patch or a tattoo sleeve, why are you so sensitive, ugh, you leftists always take things so seriously, you’re just projecting the negativity in your own hearts…
First off, Leftists absolutely do project their negativity ABSOLUTELY EVERYWHERE. Thor’s ballsack but they do. Everywhere. You can’t even have told a joke a decade ago, but they will go and do their best to destroy your entire life. And it’s over literally the tiniest shit. Hell, it doesn’t even have to have actually happened, they just have to believe it happened. Like the whole Mattress Girl thing.
To the deeper philosophical question (and maybe this is because I’m a heathen and working from heathen morality) but since when did being a “racist” mean you couldn’t be a good person? I mean, the measure of a good person, Heathenwise, is someone who keeps their oaths and fulfills their duties to family and people/nation. So if a man keeps his oaths, is kind to the poor, defends his homes, makes his offerings to the Gods with true Faith, and just so happens not to want say hispanics to flood his neighborhood or city because he believes it will bring crime, pollution/litter, and other negative effects…how does that make him suddenly a completely evil person? Or if a woman of the same nature doesn’t want say black people moving in because despite being 13% of the population they’re responsible for over 50% of violent crime nationally and responsible for 90% of inter-racial violent crime between blacks and whites, does her honor and kindness suddenly vanish? (and if you think that last one is too fantastic to be true…it is. Basically, of the 593,598 interracial violent victimizations between blacks and whites last year, 537,204 of felonies, were committed by Blacks. Also, of note, for basically the last five years or so, of interracial rapes between blacks and whites that are recorded…blacks are responsible for i think 100% of them.)
Now, I’m not going to go out and say everyone should be racist, but when you start looking at numbers and stats, it does become harder to say “racism is evil” and not “racism is sane.”
And that’s not even getting into how PoC often apparently act at Pagan and Heathen events. I remember one story from a long time ago where a black woman was complaining about how RACIST the heathens she’d got to a blot were. This same woman freely admitted at the event she basically made a giant ass of herself and demanded a bunch of Loki worship (in a non-Loki worshiping group). And I have never seen evidence this was an isolated case of behavior.
Yeah. It’s like that.
This is on us, white folks. This is our fault. Our communities are anti-black, anti-brown, anti-indigenous, anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim—you know, racist—and we are doing far too little to break that habit.
Okay, I’m going to break with the pack here, but….so what? I mean, the briefest of studies into Islam and its views on Pagans and Paganism completely justifies making Pagan/Heathens spaces Anti-Muslim spaces. There is absolutely no moral imperative for me to make my spaces welcoming to a group of people WHO WANT ME BUTCHERED LIKE AN ANIMAL AND DO NOT EVEN CONSIDER ME A HUMAN BEING. If anything, there is a moral imperative to make my spaces as unwelcoming as possible to them because of that belief.
As for being anti-semitic…Jews can’t even agree on what is anti-semitic, but they know it when they see it and everything seems to be anti-semitic. Also, given that Jews and Jewish organizations are almost universally anti-Pagan/Heathen (given by just how many organizations and groups they label as hategroups without even the slightest bit of care), see the Muslim example. I have no moral imperative to make my spaces welcome to people who are not just unwelcoming to me, but actively seek my ruination.
As for being anti-black/brown/etc…how many of them have made their spaces unwelcoming to white Pagans/Heathens? Plenty from what I hear. So if they have the ability to morally get away with keeping out people, then so does everyone else.
“What?” you cry. “How can you say that? I’m not a racist! I… but… I…”
I know, I know. I often feel the same way, but please believe me when I say there’s no time for that kind of squishy white-person handwringing. There never has been. We say things like this as a way of distancing ourselves from the word “racism,” because we know that “being a racist” is A Very Bad Thing. The trouble is, we’re patently unwilling to actually do the work it would take to make our communities actively anti-racist, just like we’re unwilling to make our communities anti-fascist, and largely for the same reasons: we’re afraid of offending and upsetting people. We’re afraid of being the bad guys calling people out for their racist, fascist douchebaggery. We’re afraid of how that makes us look.
Wow, the levels of delusion in this fucking paragraph. “We’re afraid of offending and upsetting people and being the bad guys calling out people for their facist, fascist douchebaggery.” That is literally a thing that has never happened in my entire Pagan experience. If anything, especially these days, people are waaaay to fucking happy to jump the gun with their accusations.
In fact, the entire reason that “racism” and “fascism” is growing in popularity not just in Paganism/Heathenism, but world wide, is because of how absolutely unafraid and overeager people like Misha have been to call out “douchebaggery.” Hell, I used to be a libertarian Heathen who didn’t give a crap about anything. Now I’m pretty much a facist, and I don’t really have a problem admitting. A) because I learned what fascism is and why it happens, and B) because if fascism is the enemy of these people who randomly decided they were my enemies for imagined crimes, then I might as well become the monster they fear. And I’m far from the only one.
Because racial/ethnic equality isn’t enough for people like Misha, they will never be happy until there is racial/ethnic superiority/submission. Hell, my generation of white men was the most post-racial, egalitarian, we didn’t see race at all, type of people. And now tons of us are “racists” because when we stuck out our hands in friendship, we got repeatedly sucker punched in the fucking balls. The reason fascism happened in the past, and is happening again, is because when you’re constantly being attacked from all sides, you break. But as Scotty in Star Trek Beyond put it “ye cannae break a stick in a bundle.”
If my options are join up with a bunch of people because they look like me, or get horribly attacked for what I look like, what do you think a sane person would do. Now add religion into this mix. This situation isn’t a “problem” within Paganism/Heathenism, this situation is a result of people like Misha pulling their political and moral grandstanding in Paganism.
Hell, anyone else remember the entire thing Rhyd’s stupid site caused years ago when they labeled everyone a fascist? That’s what started me on the road. I think it did a lot of people.
And, underneath that, I think we’re afraid of confronting the racism that lives in our own hearts. We’re afraid of discovering that, yes, we really are the racists we deny being.
At the risk of being a consummate downer here, I don’t know what else to tell you, white folks. We can deal with the sickness in our spirits, or we can live in thrall to it. We can acknowledge that we live in a culture which values whiteness above all things, or we can deny it. We can work to dismantle the power structures that privilege us, or we can benefit from them, fingers jammed into our ears the whole time to block out the voices of the oppressed and disenfranchised.
What is racism? Racism at its heart from when it was first coined and developed by Troskey, (Yes, that Troskey. The hero of the bolshevik revolution, responsible for countless deaths, the holodomor, and a dozen other atrocities), was basically a tool. A tool to break the spirit of the people communism was enslaving to break their ethnic identity so that they would be easier to control, exploit, and remove. As it is today, Racism is seen as “overwhelming preference for one’s race/ethnicity.” The thing is…the term itself is meaningless. If you hold to the idea that “there is only one race, the human race” and that race is a social construct, then racism is nothing more than familial preference and the only differences are where you draw the line. Locally, nationally, ethnically, racially, species. And then anti-racists call you evil because of where you draw the line of people you would rather help more than others.
Want to help your sister rather than a homeless person? You’re a racist. Want to help someone in you neighborhood rather than a different city? You’re a racist. Want to help a person in your state rather than another? Racist! Help someone in your nation rather than another? RACIST!
Don’t you dare give that homeless person a house, you fucking racist, this person from Mexico who is here against the law deserves that house more! Don’t you dare hold that blot with your family? La-a here deserves the high seat! Let your children starve in their beds, Umbuto needs food so he can father 30 more children!!!!
Racism is nothing more than the cry of people who want you to abandon people like you in need, for people who they think deserve shit more. After all, when was the last time you heard someone like Misha saying we need to accept refugees from South Africa (where people are being horrifically slaughtered)? When was the last time you saw them telling the story of the brutal killing of Ebba?
We can indeed do that. What we cannot do is turn around afterwards and claim to be one of the oppressed. Whatever your flavor of magic, there is no room within it for deception, self-deception least of all.
Yes, the deception and destruction of others is much better, isn’t it Misha?
I’ve had a couple of people ask when I’ll stop writing about the problems of whiteness in Paganism, when I’ll just spend my time writing funny things about D&D, sexy things about queer sex magic, and snarky reviews of witchy media. Believe me, I’m just as tired of it as you are, and I’d much rather write about those things… but here we are. Since I’m sure those folks are just concerned for my emotional well-being, and not at all attempting to concern-troll me or shut me up, I’ll give the simplest and truest answer I can:
When I stop seeing occult conferences self-destruct rather than simply uninvite neo-Nazi presenters.
When I stop seeing Pagan conventions literally drive away Pagans of color rather than acknowledge the harm the convention’s culture has done.
When I stop hearing white folks make excuses for each other’s racist bullshit.
WHEN PAGANS STOP LETTING RACISTS AND FASCISTS HAVE AIR TIME.
So, hey, let’s do us all a favor and get on that, shall we?
“I will stop attacking white people for being white people when my political enemies are silenced! I will only stop when everyone bows to MY WILL!!!! I WILL ONLY STOP WHEN THOSE I DISAGREE WITH ARE STRIPPED OF THEIR CIVIL RIGHTS AND LIBERTIES!!!!”
This is the measure of the person who would tell you that you are evil. This is the measure of a person who preaches tolerance out of his ass, but with this mouth screams nothing but intolerant and hateful things. He demands your obedience, but denies your humanity.
THIS IS THE PROBLEM IN PAGANISM!
This is the problem that floods our religions! Not “racism,” not the paltry preference to be with those who look like you, share a culture with you, believe as you do. Not even the existence of people who insist they and theirs have a right to live! It is people like Misha, who insist you do not have that right. Who insist that you kneel before others because of the color of your skin, and the color of theirs. People like Misha who would make you servants to their political whims and moral vagaries, rather than worshipers of the True Gods and Goddesses and Their Ways.
Misha demands you cast down the old ways and worship his new ways. Those like him would see anyone they disagree with labeled as terrorists and evil, for the crime of nothing more than disagreeing with them. They would rather see hundreds, thousands, silenced than risk letting you hear the words of those who disagree with them. Why? Because they know deep down that those other people would make far more sense than people like Misha do, and the only way they can have power is if no one else can even whisper.
But we can whisper, my friends. We can whisper, and talk, and shout, and sing. People who do not agree with Misha have done that for years in Paganism and Heathenism and when it happens, it grows and can create something beautiful. Faith, untainted by the political murmurings of Marxist Heretics and Communist Blasphemers, who would demand that you take the scorpion upon your back across the river, even though you know what the scorpion will do to you.
Do not let them have the power. Deny their spellcraft, ward your mind against their hexes. Be free, free to worship however the Gods would have you worship, even if that worship is “morally repugnant” to people like Misha. In fact, especially if it is. The Gods will surely find it more favorable than they would you licking boots.