Judging from the uproar, it seems like a lot of folks are struggling with this. So, here are a few thoughts you might find helpful.
This is not part of the dogpile. I thought the original author had some good points. I also thought some responses had some good points. This isn’t about those points. This is about the dogpile.
It’s not just about you
OK – so what I mean by this, is that each of us needs to reconcile our agency, autonomy, and individuality against the same agency, autonomy, and individuality of others.
Here’s the thing – in general, it doesn’t hurt you for someone else to be worshiping whatever deity, however they want. We don’t have to care. It doesn’t do jack to my partnership with Hekate for any of these people to be doing whatever they’re doing.
With that said, sometimes there is a public consensus on a particular topic. For example, Hekate is a Greek name, and it’s usually pronounced [HECK-uh-tay]. Some people change the emphasis, and say [heck-AH-tay]. People who are really striving for authenticity might say [eck-ah-tay].
If you pronounce her name [heck-kate]. you’ve just marked yourself as a noob. Sort of like pronouncing Samhain as [sam-hane]. (In case you’re new, Samhain is pronounced “Sow-wen.” It’s Gaelic.)
Now, as a linguist, I recognize that sometimes we learn words from reading books. Some words don’t sound like they look, and I don’t want to patronize people who learn words from reading.
But I still notice. Everyone notices.
So there’s this social/community aspect that we need to be aware of. Language and words don’t just belong to one person. In order for language to have any meaning, there has to be a common understanding of what a word means.
Jason Miller’s article (linked above) does a pretty good job of outlining the difference between historically-accurate practice, versus personal practice. Think of this like “true for me,” where we might have a personal definition of a word or deity – versus “true in general,” where the same definition/deity holds across a group of people.
I’ve had some things revealed by Hekate, which she has in no uncertain terms told me to keep to myself. Because it’s not canon, not historical, and meant for me personally. It’s not for me to broadcast those as The Godess’s Revealed Truth. Because they might contradict history and other people’s personal experience; who am I to say my perceptions are better for another person than their own?
What I mean by “it’s not about you” is this: you aren’t the decider on what is or is not a valid practice. Nor what is a valid word, definition of a word, or pronunciation of a word. These things belong to the “hive mind” of the group. You very well may need to adjust your personal definitions, pronunciations, and even practices in order to align more closely to the group you want to participate with.
The place where people run into trouble
Most of the time, people who write these opinion pieces have a hidden assumption that someone else needs to change what they are doing.
Wanna know how many people have changed their mind because of something they read on the internet? About five (if you count me).
So the odds are not in your favor for changing someone’s mind.
(Side note – maybe some bloggers already realize this, and are simply repeating a point to build community. Outrage is the machine that runs Fox News and Facebook, after all. They’re preaching to the choir, but the choir buys more stuff when they’re pissed off.)
This is an invitation to challenge the idea that someone else should be doing something about whatever the thing is.
What can I do about this?
Not me, the writer. Though I try to practice what I preach.
I mean you, the reader. Read that heading out loud. What are you doing to change?
If you want something done, you have to do it yourself. So, what are you doing? Are you reading up on your Hekate history, so you have some context about what’s historically authentic? Are you performing rituals and listening for some kind of feedback or communication?
There’s another dimension to this, which I think is (conveniently) overlooked by many Pagans. It’s not popular. In fact, even mentioning it can get you ostracized from the Pagan community. But I’m a bit of a contrarian, and it needs to be said.
Sometimes you’ve got to adjust a little in order to fit with a group.
In today’s world of self-centered identity, many people are struggling to a) figure out who they are, and b) stand authentically in their identity. This is especially true for those struggling against oppression. I get it. I’m a Pagan in Mormon-occupied US, and I so get it.
Wanna know how I made it through an awful childhood, and into adulthood? By learning when to listen and keep my fuckin mouth shut. Learning when I need to swallow my pride/individuality, and “when in Rome” my way through a situation.
Don’t think of this as advice to change who you are. Rather, think of it like this: society and language belong to everyone who use them. You probably don’t like being forced to act or speak a certain way. Other people don’t like it either. In other words: no one appointed you Emperor of the English Language, Decider of Universal Gender Pronouns and Methods of Goddess Worship.
You might have to let some things slide in order to participate in a community.
Remember that bit about how the community belongs to everyone? Yeah. Wanna know how well community works when everyone is trying to make things go their way?
It doesn’t. That’s how you fuck up a community. (Ask me how I know…)
Here’s a logic puzzle for you. If you want to be part of a community, but you want it to accommodate your every little anxiety and discomfort, so you decide the community needs to be changed to fit you – why do you even want to join that community in the first place? If you change it, it’s no longer the community you want to join, right?
Like, I’m a straight white guy. I’m sure, somewhere out there, is a women’s group I could join to learn more about feminism or women’s concerns. (If they’d even let me through the door. Which is a a topic for another time.) But I would be decidedly unwelcome if I joined that group and took over and tried to make it run more like a men’s group.
I wouldn’t even have to try to make it an MRA or PUA group (though, for real, those are disgusting). Just a social club, like the Freemasons or Billy Bob’s Beer & Bullets Shootin’ Club fer Men. I’m sure you have a pretty good idea of what the culture of those clubs might look like. Why even join them, unless you want to participate in that culture?
I think Pagan communities work the same way. We can work to accommodate everyone in the community, and try to hold a space that serves most folks. But that requires a couple of things. First, some folks are going to have to reconcile that the community isn’t going to be everything they want or need. Some people might have to leave a few wants and behaviors at the door. Second, some people will need to be excluded for the safety and harmony of the group. (Like sex offenders, toxic people, violent criminals, thieves, etc.)
Bringing it all together
So, the bridge where we get from “I want this thing to be this way” to “Hey, this is an awesome community I like being part of,” is when I do the work. Again, not I the writer, but “I” the person reading this.
So – in the context of Hekate, it’s helpful to remember that other people experience her differently. We don’t have a High Priest/ess of Hekate who reveals the Truth. And even if we did, this isn’t a case where there’s a single “truth,” but rather many, many facets of truth that apply to individuals. Also note how Christian denominations tend to go astray when there’s a single infallible leader. There but for the grace of The Mistress of Keys go we.
Seriously. Just let people have their stuff. Maybe have a discussion where you can share equally in your experiences. Aim to listen – really listen – to what the other person is saying. The cream will rise to the top – that is, the experiences that are valid and verified will become more noticeable, and the weird individual experiences will simply stay private.
You’ve gotta give a little to get a little. And it’s important to decide what it is you want. Do you want community? A place among followers of Hekate? Respect as an authority over things that are known (and unknown) about Hekate?
Or do you want a soapbox? A place to yell at other people to get off your lawn? An individuality so loud and strong, that no one else can stand to be around it?
I don’t care what you want. It’s your choice. But I am pretty sure I know which kind of person I’d rather be in community with. And the only way I can get there, is by becoming the person I want to see in the group. Which – once again – means I need to adjust myself a bit.