07 August, 2013

Positive Reactions

Hey, Readers,

As members of a minority religion/spiritual path which is still largely misunderstood in the United States (I don't know about other countries first hand), we often swap stories of prejudice and discrimination. Often, these stories are funny and provide an opportunity for us to laugh at our own stereotypes and feel a sense of bonding--we are not the only ones to experience these negative situations and we can grow from them together. Stories of negative experience are important, both for this camaraderie, and for educating the rest of the public as to the prejudice that, yes, actually happens.

If you're anything like me, you've also heard people talk about how much we "complain" or "cry discrimination," or say that we like to feel persecuted because it makes us feel special in some way. (If you haven't heard those things, good for you and the people around you!) But far from always crying about how prejudiced against we are, and how horrible it is to be a minority, we also have a lot of great, positive stories of acceptance. I'd like to share some recent stories of mine that fall under that positive category.

During my recent job as stage manager for a teen musical workshop, I got a lot of compliments on my various pentacle necklaces! Kind words came from both my cast, ages ranging from 12 to 17, and from my co-workers on the crew, ages ranging 14 to maybe in their 40s. You already heard in a previous blog entry about the director and tech director asking me about my sabbat and esbat (the summer solstice this year fell close to a full moon), but here are some other short exchanges that I haven't already told you:

  1. While standing behind the box office counter at the theatre, one of my female cast members leaned over the counter to look at my jewelry. I was engaged in another task and did not notice until she asked, "Hey, what's your necklace?" Having heard a lot of Christian-centric banter the previous summer at the same theatre, I wasn't sure whether the teen crowd was as religious as the younger kids I'd worked with before, so after a moment's hesitation when I wasn't sure how I would phrase my answer, I simply told her the truth. "It's a Goddess pentacle," I said. "Oh!" she smiled and said, "That's really pretty."
  2. Another evening, the youngest girl on the cast (12) got a look at another of my pentacles, and simply said "I really like your necklace!" Probably not all kids raised in a Christian town would recognize what a pentacle is, but this girl is very sharp. I've worked with her twice now. If she doesn't already know the meaning of the symbol, I'm sure she'll find out.
  3. One of the first nights I started working in the booth with my board ops, I was wearing my moon phase pentacle and one of my ops asked, "Are those the moon phases on your necklace?" After I said yes, he said "That's really cool." The other board op, overhearing this, took a closer look and agreed, "Yeah, that is really cool." My board ops are 14 and 16, and both atheist/agnostic.
  4. One of the show nights, I again wore my Goddess pentacle, and getting a look at it, the second board op from the previous story laughed and said "Wow, that's gutsy." "What?" I asked, and he said "Wearing that necklace here." I asked him why, and he said "Because this is SUCH a Christian town!" One of the boys on cast was also in the booth at the time and said "Yeah, don't let [the director] see you wearing that," to which I said "[She] has known me for years, and always seen me wearing pentacles. Not only has she never said a negative word about it, but you guys all know she wears crystals and talks about the sun and moon phases ALL THE TIME. I think a lot of the people here have pagan leanings, if they're not actually pagan." Another member of the cast, the son of the tech director, confirmed my suspicions with a knowing nod and "I'm pretty sure my dad is Wiccan." After that, there was just a silent acknowledgement of the awesome possibility that in the middle of that little Christian town, there could be a whole room full of people of differing beliefs who were all respectful of each other.
I can think of two other stories from the theatre, but those involve people sticking up for my views when a member of the cast bombarded us with Christian subject matter. So while they are stories of acceptance and people not being at all afraid to stand up and say that they supported me, they could also be looked at as stories of prejudice, with the Christian person first giving me grief. So we'll stay away from those for now! But the theatre is not the only place I've gotten compliments or positive feedback on my views:
  • At the medieval faire, I'm always complimenting people on their pagan jewelry or tattoos. But the best compliments I've received so far at the faire were probably those from two patrons of the faire who were not in costume, looked like it was their first time there, and had approached just to ask me for directions, not to talk about the Runes (which is what we sell at the stand I work). After talking to me for a moment and finding me helpful, they decided to chat a bit about the weather or something equally mundane, and then the young girl asked, "Is that a pentacle you're wearing?" I said yes and she said "That's very pretty." Then the older woman, presumably the girl's mother, looked closely at it, smiled, and said "Oh that is pretty!" Then they said it was great to meet me and went about their way.
  • Three or four of the people at the faire have revealed to me this year that they watch my YouTube channel. Most, if not all of them, started watching due to the medieval faire videos I post, but all said they continued to watch more, and love them. This, of course, means they know a LOT more about me than I know about them! Actually, it's even weird to write this, since they may very well read it someday. Hey, you!
  • At craft shows where my mother and I sell pagan-themed things, we've had several people come up and either express like-minded views, or ask us to tell them more about paganism or magick. We have not yet been approached by someone for that type of conversation who has not been open-minded and positive about it all.
  • At the UU church I attend, we have started hosting a Magick Class. Four months into it, I keep meeting more and more people interested in magick and paths that incorporate it. These people are not all pagans themselves, but include UUs (of course), Jews, and self-titled "Recovering Catholics." Others have never really given their beliefs a label. Most of us came from Christian/Catholic backgrounds, and a few were raised in pagan-ish beliefs.
An old logo picture I made for my channel, which
shows the three pentacles mentioned in this post.
And finally, a story I briefly related as part of my "Shit People Say to: Pagans, Neopagans, Wiccans, Witches, etc." video: My sophomore year of undergrad, I was a teaching assistant for a freshman colloquium (as I was for the rest of my time there). One of my students was also my dorm floor neighbor, and one day, in my dorm room, he caught a glimpse of my "heavy duty" pewter pentacle necklace, with the Theban alphabet around the circle. A Christian boy from Texas originally (but living in Ohio for years), he took a deep breath and said something to the effect of, "Okay. Cara. That necklace you're wearing. I've been taught that it's bad, but you're wearing it, and you're awesome, so. Could you please tell me what that symbol means to you?" Amazed at this perfect learning opportunity, I quickly obliged, and afterward he thanked me and said that that made so much more sense than what he was taught, because in knowing me as a person, he knew I could never be part of the negative images that he had been taught to associate with the symbol. Today, he is engaged to a mutual friend of ours who used to be a practicing Wiccan/Pagan. As far as I know, she still holds a lot of the same beliefs, but no longer actively practices.

It's sort of amazing what can happen when people simply talk to one another, without judgement. But at the same time, it's not amazing, because it really does happen more than we mention. I mean, it shouldn't be amazing in the sense that we gasp and act surprised when it happens--it should be the default! (Yes, the word "should" is problematic, but you see my point.) People always tend to talk about and report the bad experiences, but we owe credit to the positive experiences, too. It is important to bring the bad stuff to light in order to educate people and learn from it, but I also think it's great to talk about the wonderful people we meet who act as people should always act toward each other--with understanding and mutual respect.


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