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/

 

 

 

Abraham, cover your women!: Piercing the Veil, Part 2

Before we move on to explore why different religions and cultures wear veils, I forgot to mention in Part 1 that the Dance of the Seven Veils became immensely popular after Oscar Wilde published his play Salome in 1891.  Aubrey Beardsley’s illustrations only added to that popularity.

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Many different people veil, both men and women.  However, when people speak of veiling, they typically only think of women and only think of veiling in terms of religious reasons.  Originally, veiling was a cultural phenomena that was a necessity due to the climate in the Fertile Crescent.  People originally covered up to protect their head, face, and respiratory system from the Sun, heat, and dust associated with the Middle East.  As time went on, this practice became a part of different societies’ cultures and was continued even when they migrated to areas where the climate was more hospitable.  Even later in the history of veiling, the cultural practices of different people were backed up and supposedly “mandated” by religious texts.  What was once a practical, utilitarian piece of clothing became transformed into a symbol for everything from religious piety and modesty to gender equality and sexual fetishes and conversely oppression.

Let’s start by looking at Islam.  According to Ahlam Al-koor, my female guide from the Islamic Center of Charlotte and who has only worn the veil for the last ten years (http://barbedpentacle.com/2012/02/blessed-be-thy-feet-part-3-section-b-2-my-ironic-flight/), veiling is not mandatory in Islam (although all the women I observed in worship wore veils of some sort, and I was told to come veiled and well covered).  Women who choose to veil do so because it’s a cultural throwback to early pre-Christian cultures when women covered their hair for modesty.  Muslim women also “cover up in an effort to get men to threat them as equals–to focus on their brains and not their cleavage.”

While I do believe that at its core, the custom of veiling in Islam is more of a cultural practice than a religious one, there are many scriptures in the Quran that support veiling, known to a lot of Muslims as the custom of hijab.  The two most often quoted are: “And tell the believing women to lower their gazes and be modest, and to display of their adornments only that which is apparent, and to draw their veils over their bosoms.” (Sura An-Nur 24:31); “O; Prophet! Tell thy wives and thy daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks close round them (when they go outside).  That will be better, that so they may be recognized and not molested.” (Sura Al-Ahzab 33:59).  The second scripture is the one that has been quoted to me most often when I’ve asked why Muslims veil.  If it was good enough for Mohammed’s wives, then it’s good enough for me (or the women in my family), seems to be the sentiment.

If you will recall from the above mentioned blog entry about the mosque, there is a lot of style and forethought that goes into which veil a woman chooses to wear.  Many of the veils are flashy and anything but modest in pattern or cloth.  There are also many different styles of veils with varying degrees of facial coverage.  The choice as to how much to cover up seems, for a lot of women, to depend on their cultural background.

Just the plain old hijab is the most basic form of the veil.  This was the look I went for with my scarf.

These two styles were the most popular at the Islamic Center, with the scarves either matching or color coordinated with the ladies abayas.

These styles were more common with the older worshipers at the center.

Although to me personally, these two styles are the most alluring, none of the ladies at the Islamic Center wore niqabs or burquas.

There are some conservative sects of Judaism that require or encourage their female participants to “veil”.  Veiling, in case you haven’t noticed, is a loose term that many people use to simply mean a head covering.  This practice stems from the Old Testament verse in Numbers that says:  Moses is “exceedingly humble, more than any man in the world” and that Jews should strive to be like him (12:3).  Here again, I suspect that the practice was a cultural one first that was later justified by scripture.  This principal of humility and modesty is called tzniut, and it dictates modest behavior and dress for both male and female Jews, especially during worship.  Married Jewish women in Conservative and Reformed synagogues are often encouraged to cover their head in some manner, while married women in Haredi and Hassidic communities are often mandated to do so by their synagogues.

There are many different styles of head coverings employed by Jewish woman who follow the custom of tzniut.  These range from everyday hats to elaborate scarves.  The three most common form of head coverings employed are wigs (or hair falls), snoods (yes, think Gone With the Wind and Highland Games), or mitpachats/tichels–which are scarves.  Some ladies will tie their scarves under their chins, but most tie them at the back of the neck or head in a knot, either tucking the scarf ends up or leaving them down.

Any man who prays or prophesies with his head covered brings shame upon his head. But any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled brings shame upon her head, for it is one and the same thing as if she had had her head shaved. For if a woman does not have her head veiled, she may as well have her hair cut off. But if it is shameful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should wear a veil. A man, on the other hand, should not cover his head, because he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; nor was man created for woman, but woman for man; for this reason a woman should have a sign of authority on her head, because of the angels. Woman is not independent of man or man of woman in the Lord. For just as woman came from man, so man is born of woman; but all things are from God. Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head unveiled? Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears his hair long it is a disgrace to him, whereas if a woman has long hair it is her glory, because long hair has been given (her) for a covering? But if anyone is inclined to be argumentative, we do not have such a custom, nor do the churches of God.  1 Corinthians 11: 4-16

 There was a time in European and American culture, when etiquette dictated that a proper lady wear some sort of head covering outside of the house, and going back a little further, that a proper lady also wear some sort of head covering inside of the house.  While in the 19th and 20th centuries it was seen as a mandate of etiquette and fashion, the practice stems from the above verses from Corinthians.  This is also why until the early 20th century women typically wore long hair.

Today, there are many different Christian women who still take these verses to heart and cover their hair all the time or at least when they pray or attend church.  If you say “Christian” and “veil” in the same sentence, most people will think of nuns first.

Why do nuns veil?  The simple answer is because of these verses in Corinthians.  However, their manner of veiling is due to the medieval fashions during the era when many orders were being formed.  The most popular and modest feminine head covering at the time for married ladies was the wimple, and thus it was adopted.  Being that it was a head covering worn by married women, the wimple further represented the nuns’ positions as brides of Christ (So, Jesus is a polygamist?  Just something to ponder.).

Before Vatican II in the 1960′s, Catholic women wore prayer veils to Mass.

Some of these veils consisted of plain kerchiefs or hats, but some women wore prayer shawls that were reminiscent of mantillas–those lacy symbols of Spanish culture that perfectly blend fashion, sex appeal, and Catholic and Islamic influences.

A majority of Catholic women do not wear veils to Mass any more due to changing values and different edicts handed down from the Vatican.  There are certain times, though, when you will see more veils than usual at Mass. These are first communions and during the Lenten season.  Whether or not Catholic women veil is also contingent on the age of the parishioners and where they live.  When I was in Spain, I periodically attended Mass, and all of the older women and some of the middle-aged women in the smaller towns covered their heads for Mass.  Some chose lacy mantillas without the comb, but many opted for dark kerchiefs tied under their chins.

Other Christian women besides Catholics cover their heads for prayer.  Mormons do so on occasion, but the most well-known in America are the Anabaptists,  which include the Amish, Mennonites, Hutterites, and other groups.  These ladies also follow the mandate of Corinthians, but leave their prayer veils and kapps on all the time because a true and pious Christian should understand that the opportunity for prayer occurs continually throughout the day.

Just as with other religious groups, these ladies wear a variety of styles of coverings, some based on personal choice, but most are based on their community’s choice.  Most people are familiar with the thin prayer kapps, but some prayer kapps are made out of sturdier cloth or are more heart-shaped (like a buttocks basket).  Other groups, like the Hutterites, wear a kerchief tied under their chins.  Still others clip and pin small prayer veils to their hair.  Many of the Anabaptists in my area wear the white prayer veils clipped to their hair.

The third and final part of “Piercing the Veil” will focus on the modern or not so modern trend (depending on how you look at it) of veiling in Paganism.  It will appear before the Samhain season is over and the veil is back in place.

These folks see some really great cocks all the time:

The Geeky Kink Event http://thegeekykinkevent.com/

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/

 

 

 

 

Bye Bye, Inanna!: Piercing the Veil, Part 1

I hope everyone has been having a happy Samhain/Beltane (depending on where you’re located).  Mine has been nice, but a little strange.  At this time of the year and again around Beltane, the veil between the worlds is thin.  Some people believe that it’s so thin that it disappears all together and that spirits, ghosts, fairies, and other beings (including us) can travel freely back and forth between the worlds.  Because there’s nothing keeping the mischief makers at bay during this time of the year, objects that were here one minute tend to disappear as if into thin air. This is also the traditional time to celebrate the Descent of the Goddess (http://barbedpentacle.com/2011/11/enjoy-the-descent-of-the-goddess/) into the underworld to seek her missing lover, who like several objects from my home this evening, appeared to have vanished into nothingness.  While there’s many different Goddesses who have been reputed to have made the descent, the one that most folks think of first is Inanna.

Basically this is her story:

Some people have speculated that the much celebrated “Dance of the Seven Veils” is an ancient recreation of this myth.

Other people have disproved this theory.  http://www.shira.net/sevenveils.htm  While the debate is interesting, it doesn’t change the fact that the dance itself can be used in ritual to represent the seven gates that Inanna and some of the other descent Goddesses traditionally travel through.  Although modern belly dancers have cemented certain moves as being integral to the dance, there’s no reason why a graceful and willing priestess couldn’t make up her own moves as she drops the veils.  It’s an interesting twist on a story that can become trite if a group isn’t careful.

Another descent story centers around Persephone.  Poor Persephone, pretty Persephone, or is it “Oh please don’t take me (but snatch my ass up quick) Persephone?  That’s always the question.  If you’re familiar with the Persephone story, then you’ll understand where I’m going with this.  Supposedly, Persephone was stolen from her mother’s care and taken to the Underworld by Hades to be his bride.  But a more likely scenario is that Persephone saw her chance to escape an overbearing mother, ran off with a bad boy, and fulfilled a kidnapping fantasy.

Pomegranates, those exotic fruits with the sexy red arils that pop little squirts of juice into your mouth just like suckling on a clit, play an important part in the Persephone myth.

If Persephone had been able to resist eating the pomegranate, then she would have been allowed to return home free and clear, but because she gave into temptation (and really, who could resist something so succulent?), she divides part of her time in the Underworld and part of her time her on Earth. http://www.pomwonderful.com/about/pomegranate-history-legend/paths-of-the-pomegranate/

A modern Persephone

Pomegranates, besides being fun to eat in bed, can be used in a couple of different ways.  The juice from the arils can be smeared onto your lover to create pinkish/red streaks.  Juice acts as an extremely temporary dye.  The skin of the fruit can be used as a permanent vegetable dye, good for things like veils.  http://thenaturalsurface.blogspot.com/2010/01/how-to-dye-with-pomegranate.html

Look for part 2 of “Piercing the Veil” tomorrow.  The “Feed Your Head” series will resume as soon as some of my experiments are completed.

Now, just for fun:  http://www.themaskofinanna.com/

These folks know what arils are:

The Geeky Kink Event http://thegeekykinkevent.com/

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 Nyx Oracle

Nyx is the Greek goddess of the night.  In our modern mythology, the character of Elvira is probably the best embodiment of this ancient archetype.  Born from Chaos, Nyx is both creatrix and a destroyer.  She can bring pain and unhappiness, or she can soothe it all away under the cover of darkness.

Nyx is the mother of Sleep, Death, Atmosphere, Day, Blame, Doom, Death, Dreams, the Fates, Retribution, Deception, Friendship, Age, Strife, and according to some texts, Love.  She was also known to operate as an oracle from the depths of a cave.  Outside of the cave, ecstatic dances took place while the petitioners waited for their answers.

Nyx Oracle Ritual

This ritual can be rewritten for a solitaire or a couple, but it works best in a small to large group.  One person needs to volunteer to be Nyx.  This position should not be taken lightly.  The person doesn’t have to be female, but he or she should be very comfortable with a goddess taking over their body, should be at least vaguely familiar with Nyx, and should not be opposed to bondage nor claustrophobic.
Timing:  Obviously, this is a night time ritual.  The best time to do it would be the dark of the moon.  That way Selene is not competing for attention.
Materials: Hood (for Nyx), mugwort or other such divinatory incense, pen and paper, drums or other instruments, absinthe (it’s worth the time and money to hunt down the real stuff–not the cheap stuff a lot of places sell.  For more info on absinthe: http://www.absinthebuyersguide.com/), and pieces of rope to bind “Nyx” with that will represent her children.
The Ritual: Before the ritual, “Nyx” needs to decide if the oracle will be received after a long ritual or if the oracle will be received during sleep via dreams.  If the second option is the case, then a tent needs to be set up for Nyx in the ritual space and a babysitter appointed since Nyx will still be in bondage.
Set up your outdoor ritual space as you normally would.  Light a large censor or several small ones and place the mugwort on it.  The smoke should completely fill the ritual space.  Now pass the absinthe around several times, including Nyx in the rotation.  Don’t forget to libate to Nyx as well.  Next, bring Nyx forward into the middle of the circle.  An invocation to Nyx should be said, either by one person or the group.  The invocation can be original or borrowed.  As Nyx is invoked, the hood should be placed over Nyx’s head and that person should open him or herself up to the Goddess, allowing the Goddess to take over.
Now the group needs to decide and settle on three or four of Nyx’s children that have been bringing them the most problems.  More can be selected, but three or four is a good number.
Now, it’s the bondage rigger’s turn.  The bondage for this ritual can be simple or fancy.  For each rope, the rigger should say the following as Nyx is tied up: “Nyx, your child_____________, has been giving us problems.  I bind your child ___________to you and ask that you tell us how to deal with the problems caused by your child.”
If Nyx is not going to be sleeping, then he or she needs to be helped to a sitting or lying down position if he or she has been left standing.  If Nyx is going to be sleeping, then Nyx needs to be helped into the tent.  Either way, the baby sitter should stay close to Nyx with pen and paper to write down the oracle message.  As the participants wait for the messages, they should feel free to drink more, dance, and play music.  The energy raised from the music and dancing aids “Nyx” to make more of a connection with Nyx.  
Once the ritual is over, either because the oracle has spoken or because Nyx has woken up, Nyx and her children need to be released.  This can be done in a reverse manner than the children were bound to her.
“Nyx, thank you for your wisdom.  We now release you and and your child_________.  We release your child __________ from our lives.”  As the child is released, the rope for that child is untied.
After Nyx has been completely unbound, make sure to say a prayer of thanks to Nyx for her presence at the ritual.  The person who was Nyx is probably going to need some aftercare, such as food, coffee, and a willing ear to listen.

These folks know Nyx too:
Erotic Sensations http://eroticsensations.us/