“Stealing Them Back”
We just learned who will be doing the foreword for the next issue of A Beautiful Resistance! We’ll announce them on March 1st (sorry to be a tease!).
A very important criticism of “modern Paganism” is that it’s often quite colonialist, particularly in North America. From the appropriation of First Nations beliefs by mainstream Paganism to the appropriation of African Diasporic Traditions by Polytheists to justify animal sacrifice, it would seem Paganism is unavoidably Colonialist.
Here are some links that may help us answer the question, how do we decolonize Paganism?
Occasional Gods&Radicals author Heathen Chinese has written a review of Pantheacon, but rather than focusing on the “Big Names,” he draws attention to indigenous voices and struggles:
Pantheacon is an annual “conference for Pagans, Heathens, Indigenous Non-European and many of diverse beliefs,” which is held on the unceded land of Tamien Ohlone-speaking peoples in the city of San Jose, California….
A really useful resource on the matter of decolonizing our beliefs and relationships is the site, Awakening The Horse People. We particularly recommend this essay.
And though there are vital problems in the historical analysis of this essay, some of the questions the author asks are quite relevant regarding the ways Pagans–especially Wiccans and Polytheists–view Empire.
And we received a letter-to-the-editor regarding A Pagan Anti-Capitalist Primer which brings up some important questions regarding Paganism as a white, male, Colonialist religion. Since we did not secure permission to reprint the letter, we’d like to summarize their critique and our response
They’d read A Pagan Anti-Capitalist Primer and thought it was great except that Alley and I seemed to ignore the fact that modern Paganism was created by upper class colonialist white guys (like Gardner, Crowley) and is sustained by Capitalist whites selling books and seminars. How dare we suggest that Paganism isn’t anything but white colonialist bullshit?
A reply, from Rhyd Wildermuth:
We tend to take the opinion that, rather than being created by white middle-class men, Pagan beliefs were co-opted by them. You’re right–there is a lot of bourgeois books and festivals and teachers who profit off of Paganism and Witchcraft. Our hope is to overthrow them, or at least displace them enough that the rest of us can reclaim it from them.
Instead of tracing the birth of “modern” paganism to Wicca and Gardner/Crowley etc., we trace it back further, to the early resistance to industrialisation and Capitalism. Luddites, Whitboys, and many other early resistance movements invoked gods, spirits, and magic to fight landlords and factory owners.
Silvia Federici has convincingly shown that the creation of the ‘working class’ was founded on the death and oppression of women-as-witches.
Yet, as you say, the narrative of modern paganism is that white men with colonialist jobs (like Gardner) founded this stuff. This narrative remains specifically because they need us to believe that. They need to make sure that we don’t question the Capitalist system from which they profit.
They stole our paganism. They stole our witchcraft. They stole our gods.
We’re stealing them back.
Writer Highlight: Syren Nagakyrie
One of the founding members of Gods&Radicals, as well as the treasurer of our board, is Syren Nagakyrie, According to her bio, Syren is a Polytheistic Goddess-centered Witch, feminist, herbalist, and radical bridger of worlds. She is a Priestess in relationship with various Goddesses, primarily Hekate. Her heart sings for the sea, her body yearns for the mountains; her spirit is a Wandering Hermit.
Along with her work behind the scenes for Gods&Radicals, Syren has written several pieces, including her series, Liberation Magic, a review of H. Byron Ballard’s recent book, and a poem, Dis-Re-Member-Ment:
My torso becomes a tree
Beautiful and strong
Standing tall and proud
Among its sisters and brothers
And the tree is cut down
Used as logs in a pyre
Flames burning high
In this ephemeral state
She just returned from India helping to organize work for gender-based domestic violence, and is writing about her reflections here.
Every attempt to rethink the political space of the West must begin with the clear awareness that we no longer know anything of the classical distinction between zoē and bios, between private life and political existence, between man as a simple living being at home in the house and man’s political existence in the city….…In the camps, city and house became indistinguishable, and the possibility of differentiating between our biological body and our political body — between what is incommunicable and mute and what is communicable and sayable — was taken from us forever.Georgio Agamben, Homo Sacer