Monday, 23 September 2013

Random Spring Musings

Another Body Mind Spirit Festival is over.  As always, I'm left with things to mull over.

Some things have come from the festival and some have come from other things going on in my life right now.

As always, I love to meet the people who read this blog and follow our internet presence.  I love it when those people come up to me and tell me that they liked my post on this or that, or that they bought a Kyphi incense from us through Trade Me and absolutely love it.

I'm always a little surprised by this and I do feel a little weird. When I am writing, I'm sitting at my computer, in my home in the lovely North Canterbury rural countryside.  I have no real idea of audience.  There are all the masses of "internet people" that I'm in contact with.  Some I don't think I'll ever get the opportunity to meet face to face but I still have a relationship with. There are my friends who read, comment (although usually they comment on the links I put up on facebook) and sometimes we chat about my posts over the phone.  But mostly, when I'm writing, I feel as though I'm talking to myself in a thinking aloud kind of way.

So it is a bit weird when someone I've never met before tells me that they were looking forward to meeting me because they follow my stuff.  It's also a little weird when someone that I've gotten to know through Coffee Meets and Festivals asks about how things are going in relation to things they've read in this and my other blog.

It's weird in a good way, but still a bit weird for me.  Sometimes I consider the impact of my words but a lot of the time I really don't.  This was brought home to me when I did a reading for someone I'd read for a year earlier.  She said "I was thinking recently about what you said last time". Well bugger.  That messed with my head for a while.  I talk a lot.  I try to explain and illustrate some of the points I'm trying to make in a reading.  It hadn't occurred to me that the person I'm reading for might take away the things I say and be still pondering them a year later.  That feels like a weight of responsibility in an aspect that I hadn't considered.

The task I believe the Gods have set before me is to make people think for themselves and question everything.  That includes everything I write which leads to the next thing I'm musing about.

My book.

I've gotten Luana's edits back.  I've reviewed them and made some changes and there are some we need to discuss.  The publisher tells me I can have it in time for Christmas if I can get it to them by the end of the month.

I spent a few months staring at my manuscript, making the odd tweak here and there, having a few down moments where I believed it all to be shallow and naive and a few arrogant moments where I insulted anyone who was going to read the book.  I couldn't think of anything to add that needed saying or that would be of value to the overall book.

Until I sent it to Luana.  In the last couple of weeks before she sent it back, I thought of several very salient points that I'd missed.  One I'd always intended to include but somehow had missed it completely and then missed that I missed it.  Others were things I should have thought of, but just didn't.

This makes me nervous about what else I may have forgotten that I'll only think of once it's published.

I'm also part of a group that fights Pagan Plagiarism and Copyright theft.  Recently, one of our members stumbled across a group that had over 400 books for download in their file section.  Every single one was still under copyright.  That this was blatantly illegal and harming the authors was raised with the group.  There were excuses made of "I got all of these as public domain, so it's okay" and "I'm just trying to help people and make things easier" and "so a library is wrong too then?"  Then it turned nasty.

If you aren't sure what constitutes Copyright theft, piracy or fair use; Fyre Lyte Rioter made an excellent blog post explaining it all here.  And it's worth reading through the comments, there is a wealth of links and information as well as common objections too.

In despair, many authors and publishing firms were contacted.  Suddenly group membership swelled with the addition of a lot of well-known Pagan authors.  All of whom explained (patiently to begin with) that this was illegal, these files must be removed or legal action will follow.  Then it got really nasty.  A pirate site was named with the comment "why bother, you can get all of this from here". (I am deliberately NOT naming the site btw).

I went to have a look at this pirate site.  I saw the brag page about all the legal threats they've received, including the copies of all of the cease and desist letters and legal correspondence.  These threats came from Microsoft, Disney and Warner Bros to name just a few.  This site also brags that they have removed 0 torrents and will remove 0 torrents - regardless of the threats.

So I agonised over whether I wanted to expose myself to that kind of thing.  I know I'll never be rich from writing books but to have a little to make it okay for me not to have a 'real job' and not put so much pressure on my husband would be ideal.  If that little is being sucked up because someone can download it for free (and believe that they're doing nothing wrong) where would that leave me?

There is also a feeling of naked vulnerability with publishing.  I write all sorts of things here but I can edit or delete them.  I can refine the post if there's something I've missed or something that is too offensive.  I can tidy up little mistakes, I can make it easier to understand a point that was vague.

I can't do that with a book.  Once it's out there, it's out there.  I can't recall the copies to fix or reword something and I can't remove a chapter that may get taken the wrong way and expose me to abuse.

I want it out there, but I'm feeling a bit afraid too. This is one of my "feel the fear and do it anyway" moments.

The last thing I'm going to ponder out loud here is PaganFest.

As many of you know, we're holding our 'annual' PaganFest in January.  I handed out plenty of fliers to people over the weekend.  My wonderful helpers popped them in bags with sales too.  We all talked to stall holders, to interested people and to anyone who'd listen about PaganFest.

Many people were keen and said they'd be there or they'd try to make it.  Sounds wonderful.  Except this happens every time.  Everyone is really keen when they hear about it.  Everyone tells us that they'll be there, that they can't wait and that this is the kind of thing they'd been wanting to see in our region.  Somehow, that ends up being maybe two new people each time.

There are people who run it down - stuff gets back to me you know.  Of the four people running it down that I can think of off the top of my head:
  • One has never been to anything we've run.  Ever.  In fact, I held the first ever conversation I've had with this person yesterday.  I've heard plenty of what they've said about me though.
  • One has been to one PaganFest.  The people associated with that person expected us to bend over backwards for them, mucked us around, insulted most of the other attendees and have the cheek to bitch about it afterwards.
  • One attended one PaganFest (a different one).  I think she expected to be treated as a celebrity but she took drugs, made a total fool of herself and insulted not only us loudly and repeatedly throughout, but everyone else attending.  And then started shit-stirring and trying to cause trouble afterwards when most people saw through her tragic and pathetic little empire building attempts and games.
  • The last became the Festival's pariah at the one PaganFest he attended.  His understanding of social etiquettes was a bit lacking, but his ritual etiquette was non-existent. 

This all reminds me of when I first started to run coffee meets.  I tried, but didn't like the way it worked and then began to run them under the NZ Pagan Centre.  The first coffee meet consisted entirely of myself and four friends in the corner of an empty pub.  The second coffee meet was attended by a local Pagan Shop owner.  She came along because she'd been told that all we did was sit around and backbite everyone else in the community and wanted to sort us out.  Given that the only attendees to the only previous one had been friends, there'd been no chance of eavesdroppers and we ended up making plans for an open sabbat and talking about what our kids had been up to, I was rather baffled and at the time horrified as to how she'd heard what she did.  It was like being in High School again.  Unfounded rumours and needless trouble making.  I'm saddened that adults and alleged Elders are still capable of this kind of behaviour.

We would love to see more people come to our PaganFest but don't want anyone to feel pressured.  Please don't tell me you'll be there if you have no intention of going.  It's your loss, not mine and saying what you think you should say to make me feel better just doesn't work with me.

If you hear stuff about it, check with us.  I can put you in contact with people who have attended every single one and are brutally honest about our failings and our successes.



Thursday, 12 September 2013

You Can Lead a Horse to Water...

For some people, this will be a clarification of my Spiritual Food posts.  I know this will make others angry and offended and that is partly my intent.  If you do happen to find yourself getting angry at what I say, ask yourself why it makes you angry?  Did it touch a nerve?  Did I strike too close to home? Did I challenge your perceptions of how it works or who you are?  Or am I genuinely wrong?

There’s a thing that happens in the Pagan Community.  Actually, there are a couple that I am going to talk about here, but we’ll start with the one that has inspired this post.  Spiritual Trends.  Because of the isolated nature of New Zealand Paganism, we don’t tend to see it often here, but with social media sites, I see it happening overseas.  For a while it was Goetia.  Now it appears to be the African Tribal Religions. 

There is one young woman that frequents several groups and I’ve seen this meme used to describe her (and it fits).  She has also inspired the coining of a term – the Google Pagan.  She flits from one path to another studying and learning (Gotta catch ‘em all!).  She can often be a good indicator of which way the trendy crowd is heading.

This is apparently a reason to point and laugh.

At no time does she put herself out there as an expert in any of these paths or traditions.  If someone says something that doesn’t make sense to her, she asks the right people if it’s correct or to clarify it for her.  Sometimes she will jump on the bandwagon and join in the general ridicule or running down of someone ‘exposed’ as a ‘fraud’ but I put that down to her youth and mob mentality.  Let’s face it, most of us get caught up in that kind of thing at some point.

For this and for the fact that she is young, I applaud her, even if she does grate on my nerves sometimes.  She is making an effort to learn what Spiritual Path best suits her before she settles in and commits to one.  I think that’s a thing worthy of respect.

Now with the trends that come and go, some of it may be the same thing and some of it may be fads and fashion.  Superficially spiritual people will always be around.  It’s not new and I can’t see it ever going away.  Some will find a deep and true connection with that stuff they only found because everyone is into it right now, and some will move on to the next one.

While I understand some of the frustration that the older, more serious practitioners feel, I don’t understand all the moaning and at times outright hostility that they express.  I will have a chuckle at the girl who chose her Deities based on how expensive their altar statues were (seriously, she did and then set herself up as a teacher).  I hear someone refer to Bast as Bastet and it sets my teeth on edge – not everyone is aware of Budge’s mistakes – but I don’t get angry about it.  I don’t see a need to denounce these people as fakes or post angry status updates.

So someone isn’t following your path in the right way, how does that affect you exactly?  You don’t accept it when they express their disapproval of what you do, why should your disapproval of their practices matter?  Does it diminish your own ability to do your thing?  Does it reduce popular opinion of your path?  If so, why does that matter to you?  Are the Gods somehow limited by it?  Is there not enough Deity to go around? Why do you behave as if it’s a threat?

Perhaps it may be that the credibility of your path is threatened?  Why does this matter?  Who is your spirituality for?  Do the opinions of the uneducated masses make that much of a difference to you?  If so, why?  Are you doing your thing for you or for an audience?  Is it to make money off those who haven’t achieved your own lofty heights? 

Are you perhaps offended on your Gods’ behalf?  Do you not think that the Gods are more than capable of taking care of Themselves?  Do you think it’s wise to presume to speak for the Gods?

So anyway, this leads to the next thing that is also part of this thing.  Gurus.  Plastic Tent Shamans.  Psychics with access to Special Secret Angels.  People who claim to be able to teach you to become A Living God.  Or have the secret information to help you Win The Jackpot. Or have The Secret Wisdom Passed Down in Secret For Hundreds Of Years that only special people can learn from them, if they can keep the secret. Or even have The Secret that will totally remake your life.  All for a fee of course.

These people are a problem.  Most are exploiting the gullible.  Some may believe the stuff they teach but I don’t really see that happening.  I see fakes and frauds with their get-rich-quick schemes.

There is obviously a call for it, there are clearly folks in society who fall for this kind of thing or it wouldn’t still be happening.  It’s like the Nigerian money scams, the email lotteries and the cryptic facebook statuses to raise awareness for whatever the cause is this time.  If people didn’t fall for it, they wouldn’t keep doing it.

These people cash in on the latest trend in Spirituality and try to convince you that they can provide you with all you need to achieve perfect happiness, wealth and pull with the opposite sex, with the added bonus of calling it something magical (or majyqual or whatever the latest silly spelling is) or spiritual.

What can you do?  You can warn people, but the ones who are going to take notice are unlikely to be the people who get sucked in.  You can educate, but same again – the ones who are genuinely interested in the education aren’t likely to fall for the hype anyway.

One of these was raised on a group I’m in.  Folks were watching the (2 hour!!) youtube clip of his presentation and pointing out the flaws, inconsistencies and downright idiocies of his teachings.  Mostly (because this is an intelligent group) people were having a laugh at it and taking the piss.  But a few others were getting really worked up about it.  When I raised the points above I heard stories of someone’s uncle who’s been rescued from two cults already and is currently missing and assumed to be in the clutches of yet another nutjob cult.

This was supposed to make me shut up, but I thought it illustrated my point.  This uncle is clearly searching for the ultimate fix, is gullible enough to believe all the hype and rescuing him is not going to make the slightest lick of difference to him – he’s proven that repeatedly.

Does that mean we should sit back and do nothing?  No, I’m not saying that at all.  But you can’t make people see reason, no matter how hard you try.  You can point out the fallacies, you can point out the dangers and warning signs but as with anything in life, the ultimate decision is with the individual.  To a particularly paranoid ‘guru’, this will be fuel.  This illustrates their points about the hidden elite subculture that is trying to keep you all down *coughcoughDavidIckecough*.  People seem to love feeling persecuted in this way.  “It’s all a conspiracy, they’re jealous, they’ll lose their power if everyone can do it so they’re trying to stop me sharing it all with you”.

Seriously though, what can we do?  I’m over all the pointless anger and ineffectual posturing about this kind of thing.  I don’t see that it achieves anything useful.  I’m all for a bit of natural selection but to know something is wrong and to do nothing makes you just as responsible.

Can anyone help?  I’m fresh out of ideas on this one.

I was going to post links to some of these ‘gurus’ websites, but realise it would give them increased traffic and that would be counterproductive.