Pagan

May Day 2021: Embodiment

Yes, I see you looking at the post date here. Eli, you may be thinking, it’s almost June! Summer Solstice is three weeks away! Why are you just now posting about May Day?

The answer, gentle reader, is this: grad school.

On May 15, 2021, my beloved, smart, and persistent spouse Leora finished their Master of Social Work degree. May Day itself was smack dab in the whirlwind of their final assignments. Then, between post-school recovery and the flurry of well-deserved celebrations that basically took the place of an actual graduation ceremony, yesterday was our first chance to celebrate May Day. So we took it.

This is one of the greatest advantages to being a naturalist. I know my deity won’t be upset if I celebrate a Sabbat late, because my deity is too busy being the entire planet to worry about when (or whether) I celebrate its seasons. Was it weird to celebrate May Day this close to Summer Solstice? A little, yeah. But it still felt like a celebration of the energy that May Day represents: that burst of creative and generative energy, the speeding up of plant and animal growth and activity, the return of heat and fire, even to our chilly northern climes. For me, as long as I feel climatologically and atmospherically appropriate celebrating what a Sabbat represents, then I’m going to go ahead and do it.

The ritual itself was uber-simple, even considering our commitment to a year of pared-down celebrations. We acknowledged sacred space and went to the Midtown Farmers Market. We brought fresh local produce. Later that night, we put some of that produce on flatbread pizzas and made a simple syrup with the rest. That’s it. And that’s not it.

Ever since we moved to the Longfellow area of Minneapolis, the MFM has been a sacred place for us. Few years have passed when we haven’t attended the market’s first day, coming as it does so close to both May Day and our anniversary. One of those years was 2020, with the first Saturday in May falling in the midst of the worst of the early-COVID panic. Minnesota’s Stay at Home order was firmly in place, and chaos was mostly the order of the day. A stripped-down version of the market opened, but with the perfectly sensible restriction that only one person per household could enter the space at a time. Leora and I couldn’t bring ourselves to go alone. Market Opening Day has always been a family and community event for us.

This year, Leora and I are fully vaccinated, and most folks have a firmer handle on how to navigate each other in a COVID world. Also, grad school is done. Going to the market felt not like “getting back to the way things were” but moving forward in the way things are. A little more considered. A little more aware of our fellow human beings. What a wonderful way to celebrate the Sabbat of embodiment.

Image via the Corcoran Neighborhood Organization

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Scapegoats vs. Systems

Hey, so, usually I assume everyone knows that this is my blog, the opinions expressed here are solely my own, &c, &c. But for this post it feels important to say explicitly: this is my personal blog. The opinions I express in this post are mine alone and do not represent my family, my employer, or any institution mentioned herein.

Content notes: discussion of the murder of George Floyd & the trial of Derek Chauvin, police brutality in general, and sexual assault

Minnesota has been in the news quite a bit lately. Most notably, for the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis Police Department officer who murdered unarmed Minneapolis resident George Floyd on May 25, 2020.

This week, the trial has included several current and former MPD leaders and trainers, as well as emergency medical personnel who were on the scene, all testifying that Chauvin’s actions went against policy and procedure. The neck kneel that Chauvin used against Floyd: not taught in any official MPD training. Continuing to restrain Floyd after he stopped resisting: against MPD policy. Denying EMS access to Floyd: a big no-no.

On one level, I understand why this testimony is necessary. The laws around acceptable levels of force are so different for police in the US than they are for anyone else. In order to have even a shred of hope of conviction, prosecutors have to prove that Chauvin behaved outside of what is acceptable even for a cop.

The thing is… I had hoped, apparently naively, that Derek Chauvin’s trial could be part of the larger national conversation around police abolition or reform. That we could use it as a space to ask questions like: why is this considered murder only because Chauvin’s method was “not policy”? Why do we live in a society where one human being killing another is considered perfectly fine as long as the one doing the killing has a badge and the one getting killed has black skin? Why did Derek Chauvin, a man with eighteen complaints and two formal reprimands on his record, get to continue being a cop for so long? If we must have cops, why can’t we pay them enough that they don’t have to further risk their own and others’ safety by taking off-hours jobs as security guards?

I see how this case is shifting the narrative around police murder, at least locally. No longer “George Floyd died because he was a Black man caught in a system designed to constrain and shorten his life” but “George Floyd died because one rogue cop broke policy.”

Americans love scapegoats. We love being able to point our fingers and scream at someone else. Indignation requires little effort on our parts. We yell and wave our arms around, and when we’re done we feel kind of awful, and that’s how we “prove” that it was right, because many of us can’t tell the discomfort of Doing the Work from the discomfort of doing something we probably shouldn’t have. Also, scapegoating doesn’t implicate us. If those of us who are white in the US can point at Derek Chauvin and call him a loose cannon, or mentally ill (a scapegoating twofer that allows us to dodge our own accountability twice as much!), or “one bad apple,” then we don’t have to look at the racist core of US policing and our complicity in it.

Minnesota is also in the news lately because the state Supreme Court recently overturned a man’s rape conviction because the woman he raped had been drinking voluntarily (that is, alcohol hadn’t been forced into her by another person). Outrage across the internet was swift, furious, and often completely uninformed – the “yell first, read the article never” mentality that often plagues social media sites. In fact, for anyone who read the decision, it confirmed that what the rapist did absolutely was a crime; he had just been charged with the wrong offense due to something commonly referred to as “the intoxication loophole.” Justice Paul Thissen, who wrote the opinion, pointed directly to the intoxication loophole and called on the Minnesota State Legislature to close it.

But, again, doing the work is so much harder than getting really angry. If the problem is that SCoM is a bunch of woman-hating rape-lovers, then we (especially folks who live elsewhere) can rant and rail and wash our hands of “those rubes” in Minnesota. If we understand that the Supreme Court – any Supreme Court – can only uphold the laws as written, not change the laws to something they like better, then a weight falls on us, the constituents, to research whether our own, non-Minnesota state also has an intoxication loophole, to call and write our elected officials, to write letters to the editor, to talk to our nearest and dearest about the law, to educate the young people in our circle of influence that only yes means yes, ever.

These are just two of many examples I could’ve pointed to. They’re at the forefront of my mind because I live in the state where they’re happening. But examples are plentiful no matter where in the US we live. That’s the nature of systemic problems: wherever the system exists, the problem exists.

Not a single one of us is “a single one of us.” We exist within systems. Singling out individuals or groups within those systems as “the cause” of problems fixes nothing. Will sending Derek Chauvin to prison fix police racism and violence? Will yelling at the Minnesota Supreme Court fix rape culture? Absofreakinglutely not. It’s time for us to set aside our convenient scapegoats and get to the real work of dismantling and rebuilding broken systems.

A few things you can do:

  • Participate in the Justice for George Floyd campaign by purchasing a set of postcards to be sent to prominent figures in the trial to demand it be truly fair.
  • Follow @justiceforgeorge on Instagram to keep up with other action opportunities.
  • If you’re a Minnesotan, tell your state representative to support HF707, Representative Kelly Moller’s recently introduced bill that, among other updates to the state’s criminal sexual conduct statute, will close the intoxication loophole.
  • When you talk about these and other issues of the day with those in your life, try to keep the larger systemic issues at the center of the discussion, rather than falling prey to the siren song of an easy scapegoat.

Pagan

Spring Equinox 2021: Accountability

Exactly one year ago, as (at least here in the US) COVID-19 was turning many of our lives world upside down, I was reading Sasha Sagan’s For Small Creatures Such as We. That book has profoundly impacted me as I’ve planned this cycle of seasonal rituals, and none more so than Spring Equinox.

In the book Sagan talks (among many other incredible things; seriously, y’all, read this book if you have interest in ritual creation of any kind, and I definitely don’t mean just Pagan rituals) about the importance of Yom Kippur for individual and community healing. She laments that secular culture has no equivalent day of atonement and accountability. In the absence of a separate deity or intermediary to hear and absolve our misdeeds, Sagan encourages us to offer our apologies and amends to the actual beings we’ve wronged.

Sagan likes March 4th for this practice, noting that, “when you say it out loud, in English, it sounds like a bold command. It’s a pun that seems to cry out a directive to improve.” I’m sure I had this passage in mind when I chose Spring Equinox, the closest Sabbat to March 4, as our accountability day.

Accountability also fits well with my personal view of Spring Equinox. I’ve always experienced the equinoxes as times of pause, moments where everything balances and we hang, almost suspended, in the fulcrum. At Fall Equinox, we make sure we have the resources to get through the cold, dark stillness of Autumn and Winter ahead. At Spring Equinox, we make sure we have the resources to get through the hot, bright frenzy of Spring and Summer ahead. I suspect that will be especially true in 2021 as, in many parts of the world, increased COVID vaccination means that people can start gathering again and will probably do so in droves. I’ve heard people refer to the COVID pandemic as “the Great Pause,” and, for a lot of us, that pause is starting to speed up again. That makes it feel to me like a time well-suited to apologies and amends. How wonderful to “march forth” into what is for many of us the most active part of the year without the weight of past harms, whether done by us or to us, weighing us down.

Continue reading “Spring Equinox 2021: Accountability”
Pagan

Imbolc 2021: Creativity

Here at Tangleroot, we’ve long called Imbolc “the art and cheese holiday.” Cheese because, etymologically, “Imbolc” comes either from Old Irish i mbolc, “in the belly,” referring to the farm animals, especially ewes, that are often pregnant at this time of year in warmer climes, or oimelc, meaning “ewe milk.” Here in Minnesota, it’s early for lambing, but we will never pass up an opportunity to celebrate all things dairy.

Art because Imbolc is traditionally a celebration of the Celtic goddess Brigid. I’m as non-deistic as they come, but I have a long and complex relationship with Brigid, and it seems fitting to adopt one of her attributes (goddess of inspiration) as part of our Imbolc celebrations.

Imbolc is, for me, also a Sabbat about keeping promises. After Winter Solstice, we know, both scientifically and from past experience, that the days are getting longer. But around here, it takes a while for that to be apparent to our senses. Based on my schedule, around Imbolc is when I really start to see that increase in light. Imbolc keeps the promise that Winter Solstice made. So I want my Imbolc celebrations to be about keeping promises that past me made and my executively dysfunctional ass then promptly forgot.

So we set our sacred space. We made delicious flatbread pizzas, and while they cooked, we talked about promises that we’d made to each other that we hadn’t delivered on yet. We also talked about new promises looking toward Spring Equinox. We ate pizza and drank honey-cardamom steamers (so. good.), and then we worked on our current craft projects while we watched Walking Shadow Theatre’s stream of their 2013 production of Sleepy Hollow.

To be honest, it wasn’t that different from a lot of Saturday night date nights Chez Tangleroot. But by doing it with real intention and mindfulness, and attention to what’s going on in the world around us, we made it a truly sacred night to honor and connect to the season. It may sound cheesy, but that’s what I crave most from my Sabbat arts. Promise.

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2021

Hey, happy New Year, everyone!

Here’s your gentle reminder that 2021 isn’t some hero riding in to save us. January 1, 2021, won’t be magically different from December 31, 2020. Hell, December 31, 2021, won’t be magically different from December 31, 2020. We have to make it different.

So let’s make 2021 better. Let’s keep staying home when we can and wearing masks when we can’t. Let’s get vaccinated when we have the chance. Let’s keep working to dismantle systems of violence and oppression. Let’s keep being kind to each other, and ourselves, and this beautiful and sacred living planet.

It’s 2021. Let’s roll.

Image by Markéta Machová from Pixabay.