Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Pagan Head-Scratcher: The "Gold Standard"?!


"DEJA BROOM" denotes a blog repost from my old site.  Feel free to read anew, or refresh your memory to re-live the ranty goodness.  Otherwise, feel free to skip ahead to more modern mayhem
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When you notice something odd once, you think:   hmm, that's weird...

When you notice the same oddity twice, you think:   gee, what a remarkable and strange coincidence....

But when the same idiocy shows up in greater frequency, you think:   Really? You have got to be kidding me!!

And so it was that I've witnessed the phrase:  "Gardnerian Wica is the 'gold standard'" several times this week, much to my chagrin and increasing acid reflux. 

What on Goddess' green Earth does this silly affectation imply?  Who is perpetuating such nonsense?  Does anyone honestly believe it?  Anyone else think this comment and the list of erroneous assumptions behind it are ridiculous to the point of wishing to offer the speaker of this phrase a Professor Snape-like smack to the back of his or her head?


It is just wrong on many levels, and it comes across as a left-handed compliment of the type where you are not quite sure if the speaker is attempting to flatter you to gain your trust by means of excessive and overt manipulation or if they have just given you a sly and subtly disguised insult couched in the guise of nod to your ego.

First off, let's start with the Gardnerian's perspective of this phrase.  

On the surface, it appears to give deference and praise to the accomplishments of our particular form of witchcraft, but in reality, it is attempting to hold us accountable for what other traditions and practitioners do, as if we have some authority to grant them authenticity or validity based upon the private goings on within our own trad.  That does not make any sense whatsoever.  What a Gard person does with in the privacy of their own coven, line and tradition family, is their own business and they have utterly no weight in the giving or withholding of credence or standards outside this circumscribed parameter.  Gards (and other BTW's for that matter) don't really give a damn about the goings on in other factions of the Craft, so long as those other factions do not seek to imply they have knowledge of our inner workings or may speak on our behalf when they are genuinely not privy to same.

I've given my novel on this subject before in other posts, but the subject keeps rearing its ugly head.  It leaves me wondering if the current wave of new witches is truly suffering from fragile egos or if there is still some faction of rigidly asshat traddies from circa 1960's still fighting the war on eclecticism.  I'll be darned if I've ever met any of those older folks like that in the many pagan circles I run with (no pun intended).  Coincidentally, every time I run into a newbie who says they've met one of these calcified oldsters and I ask them for the person's name or contact info, they can never provide it so I can verify the interaction for myself and take it up with my traddie brethren to remedy.  Hard to fix the alleged problem, if I don't have concrete evidence of its existence, only second-generation rumors and hearsay.

So back to my point, all the Gards I know aren't flattered by this "gold standard" idea and certainly don't believe it of themselves. 

It defies logic and seems to imply that if you're not part of this one specific type of witchcraft, then you aren't worth your herb closet.  But the proof of witchery is in the pudding...the action and good outcome of your workings, the temperance and wisdom experienced in your path that determine whether or not you are legit.  The litany of "who begat whom" isn't what warrants you the merit, as lineage is only an indicator of the manner of study you have undergone and the standards by which you'd be measured amongst others of similar practice.  We don't measure others, we measure ourselves. 

Now then, this "Gardnerian gold standard" phrase also is rather insulting towards all the other long-standing, viable types of witches...some of whom are contemporaries of the Gardnerians, some who pre-date the formalized Gardnerian path and some who have formed more recently but are no less functional and worthwhile versions of witchcraft spirituality.  It must really irk them to be forever ranked "less than the Gards" somehow, either because they're not as widely recognized and known or else they don't have the recorded history/lineage longevity that the Gards may have. 

For example, in the BTW world, there are many varieties of witches who link back to the New Forest area of Britain, but not all of them descend from Gerald Gardner or have any direct affiliation to his contributions to modern Wica.  Some of these folks come from family traditions that may have existed concurrent to Gardner or perhaps may have at some point stemmed from an earlier common, insular source.  Not all of these varieties participated in the exchange of occult information during their formative years.  They weren't interested in "saving witchcraft" as old Gerald, and later Alex, may have been, and so perhaps they didn't have a spokesperson out there talking to the media and informing the general public of their existence.

And so these hidden witches could, and probably do, have widely different practices than what the Gards possess.  Practices which fulfill needs, promote ideas and offer avenues of thought outside the ken of what Gard folks may or may not work with.  Thus, to call out only one type of witch --in this case, the more visible Gardnerians-- and not account for these other groups, seems unfair and misleading.  How can you have a standard if some folks allegedly being "measured" would be off the charts altogether?

Now onto the completely felonious usage of this "gold standard" statement as it relates to the Eclectic movement. 

If I were still an eclectic practitioner, this concept of having a "gold standard" would totally piss me off.  What purpose does it serve me, as an eclectic, to be constantly compared to something which I know little to nothing about and therefore cannot hope to achieve any sort of credibility without paying deference to them?  Why should I pay deference to anybody at all?!

It's my favorite analogy again.....as if the automakers would go around trying to sell their wares not by speaking of their own good qualities and benefits, but instead by constantly speaking in terms of reference against the qualities of their competitors:  "Buy our Chevy Trucks because they are as good as Fords"...or "Go with a Jeep since we're practically a Land Rover."  See what I mean?  It is like offering your respectful submission to the other party by even stating they are related to you.

If there is such a thing as a Gold Standard....it implies that there are such things which are less than Gold.....and who wants to fight that no-win comparison battle all the time?  Who wants to forever look for validation and affirmation from outside themselves?

Answer:  No one.

Pagan Head-Scratcher: The Online Coven

"DEJA BROOM" denotes a blog repost from my old site.  Feel free to read anew, or refresh your memory to re-live the ranty goodness.  Otherwise, feel free to skip ahead to more modern mayhem

I have to stop poking my head into those online wicca/pagan/whatever forums with the preconceived notion  that I may yet find intellectually satisfying conversations afoot therein.

Seriously.  One day, I'm going to have an anuerism.

Well silly me had some lunch time left to kill and so I'd made the grevious error of browsing a pagan forum site entitled "Newbies, Looking for Advice?" or something similar.  About a third of the way down the page, past the littany of folks saying they are completely new, their parents don't understand them and that they are not sure which book to read next --The Complete Idiot's Guide to Spells or The Only Wiccan Spellbook You'll Ever Need-- was a comment from some young woman saying she's brand spanking new to the path but wants to start an online coven....would the next 13 people who want to join her in her quest kindly email her back channel.

I swear to Gods, upon reading this, I literally made the same confused and frustrated squawk noise that the Gilbert Godfrey 'spokes-duck' for AFLAC does in his commercials.   ACK?!!?!

This, in turn, made me laugh aloud...you know, the whole making a duck noise just justifies the Monty Python sketch about how to determine if someone is a witch (and if you don't get that reference, you probably shouldn't read this blog anymore).


Comedy aside....
what the hell IS an ONLINE COVEN? 

I'm completely baffled at how that would work. 
Like does everyone get a copy of the same rite and then agree to perform it and report back their results later in a chat room?  Or is it a real time thing on Skype, with everyone facing their computer screens and yelling their quarter calls and such in unison with the microphone?  Oh no, wait, maybe it is this whole syndicated, coordinated teleconference thing with a bunch of robed practitioners all signing into some monumental webcast and syncing their webcams?

How do they come to share actual energies with each other?  How does the sharing of the cakes and wine work, one guy or gal mailing individual cookies to everybody the night before the ritual?  What are the logistics of creating sacred space, power raising, charging and sharing combined energy?  Is it all an astral, dreamstate thing where you cannot completely let yourself get into the moment of the power because you still have to type or read a teleprompter?

I guess I can wrap my brain around forming online friendships and study groups together with others, but the concept of what a coven means to me is apparently waaaaaaay different than what these newbie folks consider it to mean.  They think it is a closed-door group with a secret handshake, groovy sounding name and someone's photoshopped fancy logo.

I'm sure I'm about to be ranted at by all those "online coven" members who will find a way to lynch me for having a contrarian opinion.  Silly me, I prefer my covens to be real-time and with actual physical participants standing in circle together.  But hey, that's just how low-tech, old school witches like me roll....a lot more actual doing of the Craft and a lot less time spent in front of a computer

Pagan Head-Scratcher: Fools and Their Money

"DEJA BROOM" denotes a blog repost from my old site.  Feel free to read anew, or refresh your memory to re-live the ranty goodness.  Otherwise, feel free to skip ahead to more modern mayhem

I had some time to kill on Saturday afternoon, so I meandered into the local Barnes & Noble to browse. They were out of the current Paris Vogue, didn't have the Robert Greene book in the psych section I wanted either.

So I was just sort of aimlessly looking at the endcaps on my way back to the exit when I had a brain cramp at the latest new agey crap being tossed out there for the clueless pseudo-pagan market. You know, when the publishers of these cheap-o books go trolling for the
"I'm not sure WHAT I am yet, but I know I'm into the barest fringe of occult thought....I've read some Sylvia Browne, Dan Brown and maybe heard of crystals and reiki, but never actually done any spells or stuff myself because I'm all a-scared I'll conjure up a demon who will haunt my home, make my milk go sour and scare my cats."

Thus, we have things like this....that's right....a $17.95 automatic writing kit.  Yes, it contains paper, a pen and a booklet telling you how to free your mind so your hand will write stuff supposedly drawn from either your subconscious or from some altered reality or some channeled entity using your hand as a means to communicate with those on this plane of existence.

That's right, a pen, some paper, and a booklet. Nifty, ooga-booga packaging though.  (NB: As of this reprint 2011, Llewellyn has stopped making these.  They're now on clearance at Barnes & Noble and Amazon...wonder why?)

And, as luck would have it, while I was standing on the end of this aisle, mouth agape and staring incredulously at this assinine item, I overhear a conversation between two teens sitting on the floor checking out various witchcraft books:

"Yeah, so I've decided to be vegan now. Oh, and I finally told my parents I was bi, which made them completely freak, but then what can they do, right? I'm almost 16 and in a few years when I'm 18 they won't have a say at all anyway. Besides, they got more pissed off when I told them I wanted to practice vampire wicca, but its my life not theirs so they can just deal."

Ow. Brain cramp.

Never mind the sexual preference part, but did that little pinhead just say she was a "vegan vampire witch"? How does that work? Does she suck the juice outta carrots under the light of the full moon or what?

And we wonder why regular folks don't take pagans seriously as a religious sect after witnessing crap like this?