Saturday, October 30, 2010

Hallowe'en : Pagan Power!

Hallowe'en night will be here in a few hours, and I'm very, very scared. Oh, not of all the phantoms, witches, and monsters that will be roaming the streets - although I'm sure they'll be giving me some good scares when I pass them by on the sidewalks. No, I'm afraid of anti-Pagan prejudice and those who practice it with impunity. I'm afraid of the people who burn books, unlawfully dismiss employees and break up families in the name of God.

Pagans are some of the most open minded, intelligent, learned, responsible, and kind people I know - not to mention modest. For all other religions' talk about modest manners and humility, some of the most humble and respectful people I know are Neo-Pagans. Unlike many monotheists, they don't need to denigrate others' beliefs in order to feel secure. And because they actually are persecuted in North America, as opposed to some North American Christians who have convinced themselves that having lost the privilege of harassing and persecuting others with impunity in recent times constitutes some form of discrimination, Pagans (at least those I know) tend to be inclusive and understanding.

This might seem to be a strange opinion for someone who spends a lot of time studying religious history and considers herself somewhat Christian. Strewn throughout the Bible are references to rape and kill those who worship other Gods. I don't know why this fear is rampant in the Bible. Surely, some of the seemingly harsh laws of the Torah were better than others in the ancient world (such as the idea of giving your enslaved hostage a weekly day of rest). No, ancient Pagan rites were not all fairy crystals and healing circles. And I do think that in such an nature-based understanding of life, the element of compassion for human mediocrity is lost.

But I'll tell you something - I know what I know, and I see what I see. I see people who are often open-minded, respectful and down to earth - or is that, down with earth (giggle)? I see a lot of monotheists who are all convinced their way is unique, and are totally blind to ironic fact that their way is pretty much like others' ways. I see people acting out of fear.

What is this fear? It's the fear of finding an inaccurate spot on a road map. What happens when the map says one thing, and reality says another? I experience this discrepancy regularly. Let me tell you, there are lots of times where I choose to keep using the map. I'm scared of what will happen if I acknowledge the map has a flaw. What happens when Neo-Pagans openly celebrate their holidays, and are revealed to be kind, understanding, and courageous people? It contradicts the Biblical map. That's when fear sets in. At this time of year, Christian fundamentalist, Jewish fundamentalist, and other fundamentalist websites are finding a common ground. They're taking time away from disparaging each other's religions to disparage Neo-Paganism. They're doing it in the spirit of unity, like one big happy family. The sites are featuring articles, some subtly disparaging, others glaringly so, on what to do about the Hallowe'en 'problem'.

I have a suggestion: Don't go out. Stay home. Rather than ignorantly and arrogantly disparaging others' holidays, find a way to celebrate your own religious beliefs. Here's another suggestion: DO go out. Attend a Hallowe'en ritual, which might be called Samhain. Challenge your fear. Take the true spiritual test, which is not always the test written in a book. Sometimes it's the difficult test of trusting the still, small voice inside that can cause us great terror. Perhaps this is what it means when the Torah teaches us to "fear" God.

I've always liked Hallowe'en. I'm not sure why, but I think there is something vitally important about having a day where our most primal fears roam the streets, and where laughter and screaming are merged. One of the things I love about the symbol of the cross is the idea of paradox. Which is which? How is it that truth can be lies and lies can be truth? How can there be a time when people put on masks in jest and reveal their true selves in doing so? How is it that to hold on to life is to lose it, and to release life is to keep it? Hallowe'en is sometimes called, "the time between the worlds". It is the Wiccan New Year, the first and last day of the year simultaneously. It's a paradox.

So what do you think? Am I blowing a few opinions out of proportion? Am I horribly confusing Christian practice and Neo-Paganism as compatible? Am I spot on? What do you usually do on Hallowe'en? Let me know.

Sources for Further Reading

A Pagan Civil Rights Coaltion

Wikipedia's "Religious Discrimination Against Neopagans" File

Collection of Christo-Pagan Links

Peeling A Pomegranate, Ketzirah's Jewitch Blog

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