Cover your bellies–it’s Mother Night!

While there are many different theories about when Perchta is due to come this year, we here at the Barbed Pentacle like to believe that she’s going to visit tonight.  Make sure your house work’s done!

The Barbed Pentacle’s very own Perchta image, drawn by Aramis September.

Light a candle for Perchta:  http://nshrine.com/shrine/Perchta

Our Lady of the wooden spoon,
whose two faces see the old and new,
You who admonish us to do our work and keep it true,
Keep us focused and strong so we may never swoon.
Bless us with thrift, industry, and tidiness.
Bind up our laziness.
Slit our bellies and remove all silliness.
Replace it with the straw of discipline, fortitude, and management.
A well run home brings gold to the pockets.
One great worker is worth three lazy ones.
Push us to strive for greatness.
Beat it into our souls and being.

These folks don’t want straw in their stomachs:

Mystic Artisanshttps://www.facebook.com/mysticartisans

Quadrivium Supplies: http://www.quadrivium-supplies.com/

Passion And Soulhttp://passionandsoul.com/

Tonia Brown:  www.thebackseatwriter.com

No Hide Floggers: http://jinglepets-nohide.blogspot.com/

Hyperdreams Interactive Sex Stories:  http://www.hyperdreams.com/

 

Pagan Pashminas and Other “Cultural Appropriations”: Piercing the Veil, Part 3

Cultural Appropriation is a stone that gets thrown a lot in the Pagan community, often by people who are guilty of appropriating things themselves.  If you are any sort of Pagan or Heathen, particularly in the United States, chances are that some part of your religious practice is tainted by cultural appropriation.  Patti Wiggington, who most new Pagans seek advice from on About.com (because, you know, that’s the best place to seek religious guidance), has this to say about cultural appropriation:   http://paganwiccan.about.com/od/glossary/g/CulturalAppropriation.htm.

Personally, I don’t really care about cultural appropriations.  All cultures are guilty of it at some point.  Everybody borrows and steals each others’ ideas eventually, so it’s not really that big of a deal.  Of course, I’m not in a minority cultural group (although I’m part of a minority religious group who has appropriated, but who has also been appropriated from).  But seriously, when was the last time you had henna applied by somebody whose ancestors wore henna?  In a weird bit of reverse cultural appropriation, my Hindu relatives had me apply henna to them because they didn’t know how to do it.  Their relatives would just use red nail polish and markers–an idea that they got from Americans.

Cultural appropriation is a slur that gets spit at many Pagan and Heathen women who choose to veil.  Remember, when we use the word “veil”, we’re pretty much talking about any kind of head covering.  Some people think it’s wrong for these women to veil at all because they say that there’s no basis in Paganism and Heathenism for the practice and that these women shouldn’t borrow the practice from religions with well established veiling traditions.  Then others say that veils are a symbol of oppression, and that Pagan and Heathen women who veil are undermining the seriousness of that oppression.  Then still others say that veiling is fine as long as Pagan and Heathen women choose a new style or method of veiling. 

All of those accusations are false.  There is some basis for veiling in Paganism and Heathenism, which we’ll take an extremely brief look at.  There’s nothing wrong with borrowing practices from other religions, particularly if you’re Wiccan, because that’s the path that  most modern Pagan practice consists of.  Non-Pagan and Non-Heathen women who wear a veil aren’t all oppressed.  Many veiled women have the same freedom of choice to wear a veil as they do to not wear a veil (and let’s not forget France, where women are being coerced to not wear a veil).  The reasoning that veiling is acceptable as long as you choose a new style is ludicrous.  There’s only so many ways to tie a scarf or wear a veil.  Somebody, somewhere, has done them all.  Here again, it doesn’t really matter.  You can either see it as an offense or as flattery, but it doesn’t really matter.

Why are Pagan and Heathen women starting to veil?

This is a really good question.  There are almost as many reasons as there are women veiling.  The main reasons that have been given by the women who veil are that their God/Goddess told them to, they follow a tradition that historically veiled, it makes them feel comfortable in public, they want to be modest,  they use it as a tool in ritual, and it makes them feel sexy. 

I’m an occassional veiler.  I usually veil when I’m having a lazy hair day, don’t feel like people seeing my face, in a ritual context, or to please my partner–because veils satisfy one of his kinks. 

 I feel that when you please a partner that you’re intimately and seriously involved with that you’re pleasing your deity, because really, what’s the point of putting your all into a relationship if your partner doesn’t embody the God or Goddess for you?  I also think modesty has its own sex appeal.  Doesn’t curiosity just kill you to know what’s lurking behind a veil or under a long skirt?

While I use sex as the main reason to justify my veiling, many Pagan and Heathen women look to history and myths.  Historically speaking, many European cultures (as you may remember from Part 2) did veil.  It was common in Scandinavia, in some parts of the Celtic realms, and through out the Mediterranean.  Just like today, these women veiled for a variety of reasons, ranging from protecting themselves from the weather to honoring a Goddess who veiled, to being modest to doing it for fashion’s sake. 

Certain Goddesses, such as Hestia and Isis, were portrayed as veiled, and many adherents to these Goddesses today use this as a reason to cover up.

Covered In Light

As some of you may remember from cruising different Pagan news sites earlier this year, there was supposed to be a “Covered In Light” day in September to bring awareness to ladies who veil and who face discrimination. If you missed this, here is a helpful link to catch up: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/confessionsofapagansoccermom/2012/07/pagan-women-organize-covered-in-light-a-day-to-support-all-women-who-veil-by-choice.html

So what happened to International Covered in Light Day?  To be honest, who the hell knows.  “Covered in Light” was originally the name of a “private” Facebook group that you had to know a secret knock to enter.  I joined the group earlier this year after reading about it on another blog. In most groups, I’m a lurker, and this group was no exception. 

At the time that I joined, the group was in a tizzy about how Star Foster infiltrated the group under false pretenses to write her article.  Then there was the controversy that brought about Covered in Light Day and the Pagan press coverage.  Shortly after that, I went out-of-town for the weekend and the group imploded.  After contacting several key people in the group, I still don’t have a clear sense of what happened.  I suppose if I didn’t have a life, I could have spent the next 2 weeks sifting through all the messages that were posted that weekend.  Some group members refused to discuss it; others were vague.  My conclusion is that Covered in Light fell victim to what a lot of Pagan groups experience–unfortunate Pagan bullshit.  For most of us, it’s an unpleasant carry over from when we participated in Christian churches.  Here is a link to the “official” statement:  http://coveredinlight.org/2012/07/25/public-statement-regarding-icil-day-and-the-dissolution-of-cil/

I can’t really tell that many people still participated in Covered in Light Day.  I didn’t.  What was the point?  Everything had fallen apart.  I’m still a member of the Facebook group that now has a name that I can barely pronounce, but I rarely even look at the messages.  Most of the people who were in the group when I joined are no longer in the group, and the new members just don’t seem to be my type.  I guess I should quit, but I’ve been too lazy to press that button.

So, where does that leave Heathen and Pagan women?  If you want to veil, go for it.  Just be prepared for stares and discrimination from both inside your faith community and outside of it.  If you need something handy to pull out from underneath your veil when you encounter negativity, check out my Chirp Tract on veiling: http://barbedpentacle.com/on-tract/chirp-tracts/veil-tract-2/

These folks cover up for sex appeal:

Passion And Soul: http://passionandsoul.com/

Knotjokin Rope Floggers: http://www.knotjokin.etsy.com

Tonia Brown www.thebackseatwriter.com

Just Smack Me!: http://barbedpentacle.com/just-smack-me-a-wooden-spoon-decorating-contest/

 

 

 

The Scourge: Part 4–How does it strike modern groups?

 

The scourge of a British Traditional Wicca coven in Georgia, made by Black Wing Arts.
The Lupercalia Tradition: a Strega vignette
     The fire flickers off of the participants’ faces as they wait in a silent line.  One by one they step up, most in a light trance from the setting and the previous events in the ritual.  The silence and wait add to the anticipation of the ritual’s end:  the scourging.  The female participants are anointed and scourged by a priest in the aspect of Lupercus and the males by a priestess in the aspect of Juno.
     The participants contemplate the things they want to purge from their lives, the things they regret from the previous year from which they want purification.  Earlier, the high priestess extolled the participants to be mindful that even loving deities punish their children when they step out of bounds.
     The scourge itself looks like many other scourges, made of suede with a stiff handle and flat falls.  A chain mail scourge that was made visible earlier in the ritual added a bit of unease to the proceedings and heightened everyone’s awareness.  The next participant removes her coat to receive the lash.  She takes a deep breath of acceptance in the chill night air.  She stands facing the priest with her arms outstretched, welcoming the lash.  He swings and brings the scourge lightly across her breast to purify her soul and heart.  He brings it down again gently across her lower stomach to impart fertility.  The priest places the third and final stroke across her back as a proxy punishment for perceived misdeeds known only to her and her gods.  The stronger stroke makes her gasp softly.  She bows slightly to Lupercus and Juno and moves out of the circle.  The ritual ends as the priest and priestess scourge each other and the participants howl at the moon with lupine enthusiasm.
The participants of the above ritual that I spoke to said that they enjoy this level of scourging.  It’s an annual event and is the only time that all the participants (who choose so) are scourged. [A representative of the Goddess is symbolically scourged during "The Descent" at Shadowfest.]  The participants said that this level of scourging is a level that is more comfortable than what some groups practice.  One participant said that the Lupercalia scourging seems sweet compared to the random punitive scourgings that a previous high priestess of his would dole out.
For this section I emailed 25 groups of all manner of traditions, paths, and nature religions in North Carolina, Georgia, and New Jersey.  Many groups did not respond. (Perhaps they don’t scourge or perhaps my email disgusted them.)  However, 13 groups responded, enough to get a snap shot of what’s currently being practiced with the scourge.  Five groups responded that they do not use the scourge in ritual.  Out of these five, one was a Heathen/Asatru group, one was a Reclaiming group, and the other three were Wiccan groups of various traditions.  One Wiccan group, who says that they practice Congregational Wicca, said that they use the scourge in initiation, but that they don’t strike folks.  Instead, they swish it around in the dark for sound effect and to set a tone of dread before the initiates set out for their rebirth.
Seven groups responded that they do indeed use the scourge in their rituals.  The Strega group above and another group that describes themselves as Scoriada (another Italian Witchcraft tradition) only use the scourge for purification rites.  One Wiccan coven, that describes themselves as “closed,” confirmed that they scourge, but declined to say for what reasons because of their vows of secrecy (I guess it’s like spies and the Mafia!)  The Alexandrian group that responded said that they mainly scourge in ritual to raise energy.  However, they added, “The scourge is meant as a tool of purification, but most people see purification as a sort of cleansing and that’s not how we use it. In ceremony where we’d want to purify or “scourge” something, meaning cleanse it, my clan most often uses an alternate purification substance, salt, instead. In fact our actual ritual scourge is rarely even present on the altar because of that fact.”  It’s interesting to note how similar the word “scour”, what one would do with salt, is to “scourge”.
     Their priestess continued,”In the ceremonies where our actual scourge is used, it is used basically to “excite” the energy of the physical body, snap the person firmly into the physical by awakening their physical energy. This is its capacity as the magical tool of the sephiroth Geburah on the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. So basically its a tool which purifies the body of its sluggishness, not something we use to “punish” or “cleanse” incorrect ways or thoughts.”
 The British Traditional Witch Coven that said they follow the New Forest tradition, said that they scourge during initiations and for purification and to raise energy. “There is a good portion of the Mysteries we interact with and experience whose symbolism finds a strong home in the scourge – in my opinion, those who practice the Craft as derived from the New Forest Wicca could never eliminate it and still be practicing that same Craft.”

The Golden Dawn group said that they scourge for the same reasons, but that they also scourge to help with “Godform assumption.”  They use what would be considered a flail instead of a scourge.  There are many pictures of these in the BDSM Rituals section.

The Gardnerian coven that responded to my email offered a wealth of anecdotal evidence for my study.  They use the scourge to:
  • “To purify ritual participants prior to ritual
  • To raise physical energy, and
  • To administer discipline if a student or Initiate makes a magical mistake *during* circle”

The priestess clarified, “Beyond raising “physical” energy prior to rites, it can and typically *does* induce trance helpful during immanent rites.  The scourge equates with “severity” as manifested in the athame’ — one of each side of the double-sided blade connoting “mercy”, the other, “severity”, which represents the fact that Witches don’t *start* trouble, but if met with it, WILL finish it. ;-)

Yes, I know the concept of using the scourge to discipline students is “controversial”, but it need not be, as it’s akin to “beating the bounds” of one’s property to ward off negativity, or doing other things to impress an idea or point on someone.
Using the scourge in this way is specifically allowed in The Ardanes. I’d rather impress someone so they don’t forget and repeat magical mistakes, than risk Initiates becoming “slack”" about sacred matters ;-) Mostly the discipline is good-natured, even funny — but my Initiates know that I can and will wield the scourge in this way if I choose to.
Scourges are also sometimes used to “whip” dancers during a Cone of Power, so they’ll dance faster and faster. And it may be used during certain bawdy Craft games as well.
Of course, we’re precise about how many strokes everyone gets. We use a Witch’s Ladder to count them so we don’t exceed the traditional limits (40, 80, or 160 tops), and note when 3, 7, 9, 21, and 40 strokes have been meted out.
My Initiates “bow” at each Quarter when calling the Guardians of the Watchtowers, and when we bid them adieu when our ritual is done (i.e., when dismissing the Guardians at circle’s end).”
Thank you to everyone who bravely responded to my emails and questions about scourging.  You helped keep the old ways alive.
Just to recap about scourging: