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I'm currently working on an essay/ blog exploring "Celtic Ethics", and while it is still a work in progress, I would like to say a bit about applying ethics to everyday life, in this case honesty. As I have come to understand it, honesty (Ol.I indrachus, M.I. ionracas) in the original sense was about integrity, openness or friendliness (Kondratiev, Celtic Values). It maintains a similar meaning today, though I believe it is a virtue which while lauded, is one of the first things to be ditched when it becomes an inconvenience, especially if one may suffer because of their honesty. A recent personal experience may illustrate the point.
I am planning on returning to school in the fall, and needed to find a job which payed better than the one I currently have, and so I fell back to my experience in Landscaping to earn for myself a good deal more money within a short period of time. I was called back by several potential employers and had many phone interviews, and a few actual ones as well. I was always upfront about my plan to return to school in the fall, and this soon became the major obstacle to me finding employment. Around here, the average Landscaping season runs from mid April to late November, sometimes December, and so many operators are looking for employees who can work the full season. It came to the point where every company turned me away, despite my fairly extensive experience in the industry, because they wanted someone to work the full season. Being open and upfront was costing me a good number of decent jobs, and the approach of my last day at my current job was quickly approaching. I think that many at this point may have just lied and pledged to work the season, and then leave when they needed to, but this isn't something I can do. All of the people who did interview me were appreciative of my openness, though it certainly didn't help me get a job.
I'm a firm believer in the notion of actions speaking louder than words. Anyone can be honest when it is easy, but when lying becomes the simplest or most effective solution, then honesty can become a burden, and many would just as soon discard it. However I believe that a persons character is the totality of their actions, and action is key. Someone can believe in the virtue of honesty, but unless they are actually honest in their day to day lives, it is nothing but empty words. One can not be said to be virtuous or ethical if they abandon their values when they become inconvenient, or only act in such a manner when it is easy. Consistency is the key, and as someone who firmly believes in virtue ethics, I do believe that people are better for it when they apply them in all situations. This relates back to the conception of Dírgas, and those ethics and values with which we as member of Fálachus strive to live by.
As a bit of a post script, I am fortunate in that I did manage to find an employer who was willing to hire me, despite my returning to school September, so it worked out for me (job wise) in the end.

Proselytization and Polytheism

I am no fan of proselytization as it usually occurs; anyone who has spoken with me on the issue will know this very well. The reason I am opposed as a general principle is because of the underlying purpose, which is conversion, and the underlying principle which is that people are too stupid to choose their own religion. Much of it impinges on the notion that those, to use a Christian term, witnessing are of the belief that their religion is the only correct one and that people need to know that without it they are doomed. Obviously as a polytheist the very notion of necessity of belief is an alien concept. An Asatruar is not going to suffer because they choose to pay homage to Freyr and not Badb, because it is recognized that they are of a different folk or are drawn to different deities for a number of reasons. The very idea of walking door to door to tell people the “good news” about GRP is patently silly. Just as proclaiming that GRP is the only right religion among polytheists is equally nonsensical. However, and this is where I become uncomfortable for fear of hypocrisy, how do we as GRPs promote our various traditions to a wider audience than those already members or familiar with CR in general? How important is the underlying motivation behind promotion of any given tradition? Does promotion of a religion automatically make it proselytizing, regardless of the motivation behind seeking converts?

Proselytize has two meanings depending on whether it is used as a transitive verb or an intransitive verb.  In the transitive form, one is seeking to win converts. In the intransitive form, one is seeking to encourage membership. Is there then an actual separation of the two, as they seem to just about say the same thing? Which gets me back to the issue of motivation; anyone who has studied the recent decline in some denominations of Christianity and the growth of others will often note that those which decline are not nearly as aggressive in their efforts to increase membership as those which are stable or gaining converts (often from those declining, talk about Peter robbing Paul ;P). Many of the less aggressive churches have relied more on family ties, especially people being born and raised in the religion, though as is clearly the case being born into a religion is not enough to guarantee lifelong devotion.  Comparatively many in the growing branch of Christianity, especially among Evangelicals, may be born into the religion, but many are “born again” in their adult lives, and this is accomplished by, you guessed it, proselytization.

Which brings me to the conundrum I’m having on the issue; most of the folks I know who have joined religions like CR (and more broadly modern Paganism) were not raised in those religions (of course in CR and GRP especially, many are raised with a particular cultural identity) and so converted or joined at some other point in their life for some other reason, often due to a particular pull or UPG. GRP (and Fálachus particularly) are considerably family oriented, and while many of us are young we do plan on having families and maintaining our customs through the handing down of traditions to our progeny. My concern then, is that alone sufficient in maintaining those traditions? Perhaps I am really jumping the gun on the issue, seeing as CR is still in arguably its infancy, but currently our numbers are quite minuscule, even the broader Pagan religions are quite tiny compared to other religions (of course there has been roughly 70 odd years of the modern Pagan movement, and even that is stretching it because only in the last three decades have such groups ballooned into thriving communities. One could find comfort in comparisons with other recon faiths like Asatru, which has seen wide growth over a relatively short period of time, but it is still largely populated by the same cohort who are currently raising their own children in their traditions, and it has yet to be seen how much of the next generation will continue these traditions. It is arguable that Paganism is not yet something one is born into, and that the majority of its membership (as amorphous as it is) come to it in their teens and early adulthood. This has so far been accomplished by dissemination of information, mass publication of books on the subject and largely word of mouth. The CR community exists predominantly as an electronic entity, many of us having never met face to face or perhaps fleetingly at conferences, but I wonder about the future and whether it will peter out after a single generation or continue to flourish the way it has?

As remedy to this, or perhaps a move to preempt such a concern I am leaning more and more to some kind of effort to at the very least educate people to the existence of such groups. I am fortunate to have met the founder of Gaol Naofa and Fálachus on a now largely defunct CR board and found a group which I wanted to belong to and help grow, and that our members have done a good job of spreading knowledge about the group around. If I do end up going to the local PPD in September this year I would hope to bring some of the promotional material which was produced last year. This however comes full circle to my concern with the issue of proselytizing, and whether I am fine with it to suit my own purposes, but then turn around and criticize others when they do it for their purposes. Is promotion always proselytizing?

Re I remember now..

In my last post, i mused about the folly of wanting to post more, and then to leave it for well over a year, and then I recalled that I did actually start up another blog, albeit with a different blog service. So for clarity, and perhaps because more folks may actually read this stuff here, I figured that re-posting one of my "better" blogs might be good (and a little more on target). Unfortunately the link in the story is no longer valid (as the post dates from July 2009) but I think the tone is still appropriate. So here it is...

So, modern Paganism has been around for quite a while in the US (and Canada) and even longer in the UK. Pagans (and Wiccan's specifically) have made considerable progress as far as wider acceptance and recognition go, Wiccan (and other Pagan) Chaplains, Wiccan grave markers in the US military, the recent Pagan Police Association in the UK, as well as being able to take of Sabbat days in lieu of stat holidays. This aside from the dearth of published works on the subject (some even by academics), and a fair bit of inclusion in popular culture.

So why is it then, that despite all the progress, despite the 40+ (conservative estimate) years of being out in the open, despite the PPD projects which occur around the world, we still get articles (and a staggeringly large number of them) which have lead in lines like:

"Despite the name, Southern New Hampshire Pagan Pride Day isn't just for crazy people who dance naked around a fire."

Primarily, these pieces exist in mainly small scale or local press, and serve primarily as fluff pieces (imho), although at the very least some information is being disseminated along with it.

Partly I think the problem is often self inflicted, and one need look no further than a local book store to find texts which do not foster much in the way of understanding Paganism (albeit Paganism as a whole is a rather amorphous group, based primarily on self identification, although there is always an undercurrent of what it understood as Paganism by the community and what it not) focusing less on theological issues, and more on spell crafting and rituals. Many of these books are essentially watered down Wicca, with some cosmetic changes here and there. It is not surprising then that if some small town writer gets handed the task of covering a PPD event (the primary coverage topic of Paganism in print/ digital media) that they might nip off to a book store and pick up a book on the subject, get a Wicca 101 book (the predominant type of books on the subject of Paganism, unfortunately) and then get the wrong idea.

Not to say that journalists are free from guilt, I've read many a 101 book, but would still not lead off with a "Paganism isn't just for D&D rejects and spooky goth kids anymore...". Certainly sensationalism continues to sell papers, and while I'd not go as far as believing that the misconceptions are intentional, I do believe they are certainly unnecessary. It dos not help matters, that one of the quoted lines of the local Pagan who is interviewed are ether, "We don't have green skin" or "We don't worship Satan", the later is found in at least 75% of all such articles. To be fair, there is no way of knowing how much of the interview has been cut, or which arts any given journalist or editor will pick, but I really do believe we are past the point of making such unnecessary statements. I mean even Christian evangelizing sources point this fact out (okay so tacitly Pagans still do; but so do Buddhists, Hindu's, Muslims, and everyone else who is not part of which ever Christian denomination.) If the people who were primarily responsible for this misconception in the first place are not even (overtly) teaching this now, why are we still on about it?

Would any other religion frame itself by explaining what they do not do, as opposed to what they do?

Then again, would any other religion have a lead in which so negatively characterizes the religion?

Which raises the other issue, and a much more difficult one, which is the way Pagan's speak about Paganism, particularly the issues of theology. This is difficult because of the problematic nature of what "Paganism" is, and being largely self identified, the problem becomes compounded by presenting a very broad milieu of concepts, which when understood within context is fine, but to someone who has no knowledge, looks fractious. Frankly, I see little which can be done about this, other than adding in provisos, "other Pagan may differ" or " I believe". What can be done much better is providing actual information, making statements like "Pagan is a derivative word for native" (it actually means in the original Latin, paganus: rustic, and later civilian) or that "Wicca is more of a New Age philosophical tradition..." when it is common knowledge among the community that Wicca predates the New Age movement by a considerable time frame. Again it gets back to where people get their information from; how can outsiders be expected to represent Paganism in a factual manner, when its own members are unable to do so? I absolutely applaud the willingness of people to share their beliefs and try and correct misconceptions, but replacing "we're not Satanists" with other misconceptions is hardly beneficial.

I believe this is something which the community can (and has been doing) to improve upon, but as always it is up to us to try and influence the way in which we are perceived and (more frequently) represented.

We can do better.

Hoo boy...

It's been well over a year since I last posted, even though the last post was about my intention to post more often, well done! I suppose I ought to post more, many other folks I know seem to be able to do it, maybe if I spent less time in interfaith forums and more effort keeping a blog I'd post more.

Well since today was a fine day, one of the finest we've have this year, I had figured to start it up again. Yesterday was a big to do at my mothers home for our annual Easter feast, just a small gathering of 20 or so of us, buffet style and grab a seat where ever you may. The green beans I made were a resounding success, so much so that several of the dinner guests asked for my recipe, not bad for something I threw together at the last minute when we had some friends over two weeks ago! With the distance between us and our schedules events like these are about the only time I'm able to see my brothers and my nan, though I really need to make more of an effort to visit her more often, seriously. She's really the only grandparent I've ever known and while she is still hale the years do go by, though her spirits only seem to brighten.

Today we visited with my fiance's family at her grandparents home. As usual we were the first to arrive, though the others weren't far behind. Her cousin and his wife have a new baby girl and this was the first time I had seen her, terribly cute and a firm grip, though I'm rather uncomfortable around newborns, or rather I'm uncomfortable with the thought of holding them; visions of dropped babies and screaming parents always seem to stay my hand, not that my dexterousness is in question, quite the contrary; no it is more of an irrational fear, and I'm comfortable with it. The food was good (as always) and spirits were quite high altogether.

This evening consisted of my conquest of the new Super Mario Bros Wii, and all that remains is the secret 9th world, which I will likely tackle tomorrow (well today now, the peril of writing a blog near midnight, now my verb tenses are askew.)

Well off then to bed, perhaps a bit of reading (I've recently begun rereading the Lord of the Rings and have finished the first chapter of the second book in the first novel.)

Keeping up...

I really do need to keep up at least some kind of regular schedule in terms of posting, thouhg I admit I'm not on  LJ that often, as I am on several message boards...

How about this weather?

Today it snowed and it was not just a brief flurry, it lasted for several hours. It is still October and usually will not start snowing here until at least November. Still, it was sort of nice while it lasted, though a co-worker had to buy a jacket. Just reminds me how much closer Winter is getting, supposed to be a bad one this year too.

Ah well, such is the way of things.

Believe it or not doc's...

Today I was interviewed by a group of people creating a doc about the Neo-Pagan movement. They have already filmed some of the other Pagans in the city, (some of whom are much more storied in their practices than I). And have some other interviews to do next weekend as well. The most interesting aspect of this whole thing is that none of the crew are Pagans, and it is entirely out of individual interest and self education that they have decided to undertake this project. I spoke mostly about my personal spiritual development over the past decade and the focusing of my path to where I am now, which happens to be CR. Being fairly new to CR, I made sure only to talk about aspects I understood and tended to be very general in my explanations. Still, I felt strongly enough in my understanding of CR to remain eloquent enough to not only be informative, but even a little entertaining. The doc is for a college program, so in terms of a wider release, I really doubt its going to go far, but hey you never know...

Set up... in more ways than one

I've got my journal customized and found a rather appropriate collection of mood avatars (sure they may not be blue but hey, foxes are foxes). The background image is of lower Highland creek in Scarborough, where I spent my formative years and quite an inspiring little park system in Toronto. If I could count the number of days I spent wandering around the parks... I'd have a better memory I suppose. It will be a month since my girlfriend and I moved into our new place, in the far north west of Toronto.  Still the area I've moved to has several large parks, one of which is heavily forested... all in all its looking good.