Welcome to The Barbed Pentacle’s Second Birthday Bash! Oh, and Happy Lammas! I hope you’re eating some nice yeast bread while reading this post. As part of the birthday celebration, we here at The Barbed Pentacle have once again promised to publish any guest submissions for the whole month of August. Here’s our first guest submission, by Vine and Ivy author, Tony Brown (http://thebackseatwriter.com/vine-and-ivy/). Now, Tony got a little hyper in his diaper and posted a self-censored version of this blog earlier in the week, but we have the exclusive, uncensored version!
Now, as you may remember, I am not a big fluffy bunny fan. I like eating bunnies with French fries and a beer.
But I also like iguana tail too.
In Defense of Fluffy by Tony Brown
I hear a lot of complaints about “fluff” in the Neopagan/Wicca/Witchcraft communities. People don’t like the fluff. They aren’t happy about all the fluffiness in books and on the web. They worry about being associated with the fluffy people. And in a Pagan tradition that stretches back to Demosthenes, they contemptuously compare them to timid rabbits. What, if anything, can be said in defense of these “fluff-bunnies?”
Well, first of all, if we’re going to talk about fluff-bunnies, it’s probably a good idea to start by defining the term. I define “fluff-bunny” like this: a Pagan with a naïve view of their own religious identity. Their traits include inexperience, superficial understanding of spiritual concepts, lack of historical knowledge and a somewhat childlike worldview. Their knowledge of the NeoPagan movement’s worldview and historical background is generally shallow or unrealistic, and is sometimes based almost entirely on fantasy elements. They are often very enthusiastic, despite lacking any deep knowledge of exactly what they are being enthusiastic about.
I have a soft spot for fluff-bunnies.
They’re inexperienced, yes. But according to William Blake, the flip-side of experience is innocence, and isn’t a little innocence kind of refreshing now and then? They’re ready to see and believe incredible things. The world is wide open for them. They haven’t complicated their ideology with all the necessary caveats and exceptions that experience teaches us. They have not yet learned to hedge their bets, and betting blind can make the game pretty exciting. I admire their ability to leap without looking, or maybe I’m just jealous of it.
Their understanding of spirituality may be a bit superficial, even a little shallow. But isn’t it always the deep water that gets murky? Understanding of anything always begins with the superficial. Before we learn the complex aspects of a subject, we must first grasp the basics. We learn to add and subtract well before we even approach the subjects of trigonometry and calculus. Each level of understanding is built upon those that precede it. What seems obvious and superficial to a graduate student may still be a fundamental lesson that a freshman needs to learn. Expecting them to skip ahead isn’t reasonable.
They lack a firm grasp of NeoPaganism’s history, but that’s a subject that’s hard to grasp firmly even for our best scholars. Our history is a tangled thread, running through a dark labyrinth of family traditions, hidden teachings, oathbound secrets and just plain old lies. The way we understand our history has matured as our movement has matured, and that understanding continues to be updated. What seems naïve and unrealistic now, was considered unimpeachable a few decades ago, and the facts we accept today may be subject to revision tomorrow.
In my experience, these are people who generally mean well. They’re not trying to hurt anyone, and if they’re given the chance they’re likely to be cheerful, helpful and genuinely nice, if somewhat annoying. They’re the kind of folks I wouldn’t mind having in my neighborhood, even if it meant dodging an occasional hacky-sack. Maybe I’d have to politely decline the odd invitation to a Navajo shamanic rebirthing ritual or sit through a five hour croning circle facilitated by a channeled Pleiadian Star Goddess. That’s the kind of crap I can put up with.
Because I like their enthusiasm. I like their energy and optimism. I like their ability be whole-heartedly foolish. I like that they still have things to learn, and I like that they have things to unlearn too. I like them because they remind me that I still have things to learn (and unlearn) as well. I like them because I remember being one of them, and I realize that part of me still is.
Most of us still have a little fluff left in us, and I think that’s a good thing. It’s what lets us still react with childlike wonder to the mysteries of our faith. It’s what keeps us dancing, even when the tune starts to fade. It’s what lets the Gods lead us just a little farther than it is safe to go, and it’s what keeps us going when the cynic in us wants to give up.
It’s not always easy to keep the wonder alive, to always see something new and profound by the firelight. And it gets harder as time goes by, so the fluff we have left becomes ever more precious. Once it goes away, it doesn’t grow back. I’m happy to still be as fluffy as I am, honestly. I’m every bit as proud of my fluff as I am of my scars.
*** SPECIAL EXTRA-GRITTY BONUS MATERIAL ***
*** EXCLUSIVE TO THE BARBED PENTACLE ***
And there is another line of defense for the fluff-bunnies. As Mel (the cook on Alice) once said, “the best defense is a good offense!” Simply put, when stacked up against the other extreme, the bunnies often come out ahead. Where the fluffies might be compared with timid rabbits, these folks are more like gnarled reptiles (let’s call them scaly-lizards). Just like before, we’ll start with a definition.
A “scaly-lizard” might fairly be defined as a Pagan with an overly rigid standard of religious identification. They share traits such as a narrowly focused body of experience, an inflexible interpretation of spiritual concepts, a dedication to revising history and a misanthropic view of the world. Their knowledge of the NeoPagan movement is often insular and biased, sometimes becoming nearly completely self-referential. They are almost always deeply cynical, in spite of their professed spiritual advancement.
Where the bunny might be called innocent, the lizard is merely unapologetic. What opens one eye with wonder, narrows the other to a suspicious slit. The fluffy view of spirituality might be shallow, but that doesn’t automatically make the scaly view a deep one. Their rigidity and pretentious orthopraxy only add layers on top of their shallow base, carrying them no deeper into the mysteries. All they’re really accomplishing is obfuscation, not illumination, and shoveling extra bullshit into an already messy process isn’t very useful.
A fluff-bunny might buy into a romanticized view of prehistoric Europe, or subscribe to a discredited theory about the survival of Pagan practices, but the lizards are pushing their own historical revisionism. Among other things, they want to write the follies of our origins out of the story. They ignore or misrepresent the flaws in the foundational sources of our traditions. It’s almost as though they’d like us to forget who the first “fluffies” really were. And while a lack of knowledge is eminently forgivable, a lack of intellectual honesty is significantly harder to overlook.
Generally speaking, these are not people I want as neighbors. It is their tendency to be ill-tempered, judgmental, pedantic and basically anti-social. Their most laudable quality may in fact be their lack of sociability. Because, when it’s all said and done, there really are some people that we shouldn’t have to put up with.
These folks love fluffy bunnies:
Mystic Artisans: https://www.facebook.com/mysticartisans
House of Oddities Movie Kickstarter Project: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/bcottington85/house-of-oddities-the-story-of-the-atrocity-exhibi
Passion And Soul: http://passionandsoul.com/
Tonia Brown: www.thebackseatwriter.com Check out Devouring Milo, Tonia’s newest work: http://www.amazon.com/Devouring-Milo-ebook/dp/B00DWZYWKO
The Barbed Pentacle’s Second Birthday Bash: http://barbedpentacle.com/2013/06/second-birthday-bash/