Friday, January 27, 2006

Identity politics of a different sort

One of the more personally disheartening divides in modern Celtic paganism is over the matter of gay rights. One individual who identifies as Gaelic Traditionalist (I'm led to believe some GTs would rather he stop making them look stupid, thus the dodge language) recently snarked that "the bridge crew of the USS CR" hauled its personal politics into Celtic religion along with them. I put it as "them" because I wasn't there for the start of it. I just happen to agree wholeheartedly with keeping Celtic reconstructionism a safe place to be queer.

In a large respect, the pro-gay stance of CR/senistrognata is indeed an import with no easy proof our ancestors would have felt comfortable about it. Same-sex marriage was impossible under brehon law, albeit for heavily biological reasons. Marriage and children were linked to where some of the lesser degrees of it were designed to protect the interests of both the mother and the offspring gotten by a one-night stand or a rape. Brehon law is mostly silent on the topic of homosexuality. The modern concept of a queer identity was non-existent then. But the fact some people had same-sex relations was well known. One of the valid grounds for divorce under brehon law was discovering your spouse was only interested in having sex with members of their own gender. My readings in early Irish Christian penitentials has led me to discover very specific descriptions of same-sex activities that were frowned upon by the Church, so the behavior was religiously proscribed under that tradition. But the pre-Christian attitude in Ireland is not noted.

Greek writings about the behavior of Gaulish soldiers may shed some light, though. Those men had no problem with at least situational homosexuality with little respect for military rank in their choice of partners. We're not talking Theban pair-bonding, which was blatantly pederastic. The writer made it sound as if the soldiers' idea of a good night off would be fit for a Castro District porn store shelf. Was it just because the women weren't there? Quite possibly. But that to me indicates a more flexible attitude toward sexual behavior than that of modern times. Your average American male would see extended time away from women as a reason to learn new variations on what his dominant hand can do. I've also seen a translation of Roman graffiti in which one man declared he was abandoning all attempts at dating women in favor of men. No identity labels were involved, just a statement of behavior.

It would be easy to romanticize the situation based on scanty evidence. At the same time, I am hard put to see where refusing to treat queers as equals is inherently more Celtic than embracing the concept. And if it's more Celtic to sneer at the notion of supporting rights for all regardless of sexual orientation or identity, then I think I'd rather be American for that aspect of my beliefs. Self-hatred is quite definitely not one of the Celtic virtues, and I know what I'd rather be Gaelically incorrect about.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

A small poke at presumption

Circle Jerk at the Square Dance invites people to play Spot the persecution. I see in this both a critique of the fundamentalist right wing of modern Christianity and perhaps an unsubtle reminder to some of my fellow pagans about the difference between social difficulty and persecution.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Personal update

I am about to start a contract-to-hire position performing software QA at a startup. I realize I've been a once-a-week poster already, but it's possible this will drop even further down my priority list depending on how the rest of my life fares around my day job. It may be a hiccup where I only do the first three weeks and the company decides I'm not worth keeping after all. I may have more leisure at the job than I've been warned about. Either way, I wanted to make note of the change in case I get even more quiet than usual here. I'll try to maintain some contact with blogging, though. I've been enjoying this.

Friday, January 13, 2006

They will know we are pagans by... what?

I mentioned in my last entry that I've embarked on a dedication to ManannĂ¡n mac Lir. One of the conditions of the dedication is my wearing a symbol of it on a daily basis. After due meditation, I chose a mermaid as the symbol. Other events confirmed that I chose properly. So far, there's been no reaction to my wearing one around my neck. I recently added what I will charitably call a fan art cloisonne pin of Jessica Rabbit as a mermaid to my purse to make sure I have a mermaid no matter what (I sometimes forget to wear the necklace). But should someone ask why, I am duty-bound to answer.

This leads me to contemplate what it means to have a closer walk with my god and being more open about it than I used to be. It's sensitizing me to how others approach it in their lives. I'm one of the last people to think we need to evangelize the unfaithful. One of the aspects of my tradition that I appreciate is how we don't think we have all the answers. And I know there are people in situations where being out isn't a wise idea. But I think some of us, myself included, can be too cautious about this.

I live in one of the most liberal areas of the United States. I am also primarily surrounded by free-thinkers in my social circles, whether they're pagan, atheist, Christian or Jewish. I still get touchy about revealing some bits of my beliefs. That's common in pagan circles. I see people online who claim to be pagan but never discuss their faith, even in their own blogs. There's a wide difference between admitting what some of your beliefs are and sharing oathbound material, but some pagans don't seem to want to do even that much

I do know there are places where it isn't safe to admit much. But as with the gay rights movement, which I've had contact with longer than I've been a pagan, the question comes down to this: how long does keeping silent act as a safeguard, and how long does it act like a means of maintaining the status quo? Does our refusal to admit what we are perpetuate the reasons to keep it to ourselves? And when does the burden of speaking the truth outweigh other considerations?

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Notes and meditations

Neopagan fundamentalism is as hateful, vindictive and closed-minded as any other religion's. The only real difference between the neopagan form and the larger faiths' approaches is that there is no such thing as a neopagan-run organization with enough weapons to do anything more than take over a 7-Eleven. At least not this week.


In a semi-related sense, I'm debating whether the label "pagan" is properly applied to me. I don't mean I'm returning to Christianity. I mean whether it's appropriate for a Celtic reconstructionist to use the term. Is it reclaiming in the sense that "queer" is being reclaimed, or is it muddying the issue? I may revisit this later.


I forgot to mention that I'm now on a year and a day dedication to Manannan mac Lir. I can't predict what that will mean to this blog, though I suspect it'll continue in some form. I won't be changing the name. That's already been discarded as a meaningless idea.