This file is from PANEGYRIA Volume 4, Number 1 (Spring Equinox issue). Panegyria is $8 per

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This file is from PANEGYRIA Volume 4, Number 1 (Spring Equinox issue). Panegyria is $8 per year; their address is P.O. Box 85507, Seattle, WA 98145. It can also be downloaded from Earthrite BBS, at 415-651-9496. Enjoy! - Talespinner, WeirdBase _________________________________________________________________ SEX? DRUGS? ROCK n'ROLL? By Puritan X The issue of secrecy aside, the Pagan community does have some unique problems of etiquette. There is some conflict between the intimacy of worship, especially minority worship, and the privacy commonly given an individual surrounded by strangers. Some people think that because there are so few of us, we are all family and should be naked together and comfortable with physical contact - anything from handshakes to body massage - with no reservations and no introductions, while others feel that the host or hostess of the circle should introduce everybody and provide refreshments. Public Pagan rituals are a tension between being so silly in front of other people, and the unease of not knowing some of them. In large rituals, people may wear name tags, and clump together with their friends, rarely venturing forth to introduce themselves. In small living room circles, they may introduce themselves as part of the ritual, or be introduced by mutual friends. Unfortunately, in my opinion, there is a tendency for people to just float around unintroduced. It is often assumed that mature adults are capable of saying their own names and inquiring after others' when in fact, many people have been raised not to do so. Emphasis on intimacy is ripe for sexual exploitation; the female Pagan who rejects certain points of embrace or massage may be accused of being overly uptight, the male Pagan who is embarrassed when a mother hauls out a breast to feed her baby may be accused of insufficient reverence for the Goddess' form and function in Her earthly representations. Ours is a nature faith, one replete with sexual imagery, but ours is also a faith of power lodged in the individual-- and that includes the power to be clothed and untouched. More thorny and less horny is the uncontrolled recreational use of illegal chemical substances, especially at festivals. The use of drugs is a religious tradition in some cultures, it is true; but usually under much more limited and formal circumstances than those foumd at most of our gatherings. I think circles in which members are under some influence should be clearly declared such, and "clean" circles also established; chemical and non-chemical space, as it were. That includes to my mind such "soft" drugs as alcohol and nicotine; possibly even caffiene, as it does affect concentration. It was the drunken behavior of sheer twits that revealed for all the public to see the male mystery of bonfire pissing. It is hoped that they were appropriately chastised for revealing religious secrets, a distinct danger of the publically inebriated. The fair sex, given sufficient chemical stimualtion, is sometimes given to groping and cursing; possibly more hygenic, but no less disturbing in a sacred situation. There is also the problem of how to deal with others' children. Some handle it as if we were all family, and every adult has the right to discipline any child. Some parents have the opinion that children are little people whose wills should not be thwarted. When these two groups meet, Hela breaks loose. Others find great humor in introducing children to pleasures they will not find at home, especially those in the awkward teenage years. When I was a minor (about 14) at SCA events, I was oft plied with drinks. I suspected at the time this was to lower my resistance to practices of questionable taste and legality, and so desisted in the practice. Perhaps I had too high an opinion of myself in so assuming. I mention this not to impune the SCA; the same happened at science fiction conventions, but Pagan events often have the same cheery atmosphere. Never mind messing up a ceremony, if I catch any nerd offering my child drugs, I will practice ritual mutilation with good cheer and clear consience. The solution, as the American Tobacco Institute is so fond of informing us, is communication. If somebody is doing something unpleasant, say so politely. Some people do have a sincere chemical addiction necessary to free their minds for religious experiences. If you are not comfortable grounding energy via sexual intercourse you can say that as a religious opinion. If people are hurt by your non-participation they will not invite you back, but that's OK, you weren't happy enough together to get anything done anyway. As for imposing puritanical standards upon an entire gathering, one accepts the rules of that gathering by attending. "An it harm none, do what thou wilt" is a fair rule of etiquette. The tricky part is reading other people's minds. Or expecting others to read your mind. (Granted, we all believe in psychic powers, but some of us just don't have The Talent yet). "Do what thou will is the whole of the Law" is a rule fit only for the rugged individualist. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Drugs, Alcohol and the Pagan Community (c) 1986 Anna Moonowl Part I: Making Choices, Taking Chances: Drug and Alcohol Use in Ritual The issue of drug and alcohol use and abuse in the Pagan Community has not been addressed often and is probably controver- sial. Despite all the current media coverage of these subjects, I've only seen them addressed once by Pagans - at a COG Festival workshop, Abby Willowroot's "The Government Wants to Keep You Stoned" (1984 COG Grand Council). People choose to use or avoid many substances for a variety of reasons, including allergy or other medical indication, convi- ction or personal preference. Some of those most commonly avoided are certain medications, other drugs, preservatives, tobacco, alcohol, salt or sugar. I will focus here on alcohol and drugs; please note that I am not making moral judgements on their use. Surprisingly, at many Pagan functions it seems people forget that others may have made usage choices. Even people who are adamant in enforcing tobacco anti-smoking household rules may fail to understand someone else's desire to avoid exposure to marijuana smoke. I have been present at rituals where everyone else got stoned into near-catatonia, and the air was thick with smoke. I now try to descretely inquire if there will be drug use involved in a ritual before I go. If I don't get a negative response ("I don't know" doesn't hack it), I stay home. It may be fairly straightforward to avoid drug use at gath- erings, but alcohol use is woven deeply into Pagan ritual and custom, as well as being inescapable in modern society. Ritual drug use is uncommon - alcohol is commonplace. Other than the choice not to drink, some people cannot use alcohol for various reasons. These involve medical reasons - including alcoholism. What about alcoholism? I'm not a specialist, but I'll give a try at a description. Alcoholism is a progressive, fatal disease which causes specific biochemical and neurological chan- ges and damage. There is a genetic link in the suceptibility pattern. The alcoholic's body does not process alcohol in the same way as a non-alcoholic's does. Toxins are produced in the alcoholic's system that are not in the "normal" drinker's. This is coupled with a gripping physical addiction. People who are alcoholic usually have these biochemical changes and the addiction long before they show obvious signs of the disease, even to themselves. Alcoholism is not caused by over-drinking, nor is it due to emotional or psychological problems. It is usually the cause of such problems, as the disease follows its inevitable, ultimately fatal progression. Conservative statistics show that one person in ten is alcoholic. Anyone who would like the straight facts about this disease from a medical point of view should read Under the Influence by James R. Milam, PhD. and Katherine Ketcham (Bantam Books, 1983, $3.95). It's written in a layman's terminology and is compelling reading. Many alcoholics are fortunate to have been diagnosed, and have received treatment. The fact is that once one's body has begun the biochemical changes that occur with alcoholism, one can never again use even small amounts of alcohol (or certain other drugs) without re-triggering or maintaining the chemical addiction response and the disease progression. It's a matter of life and death. Why is this important to Pagans? Two reasons immediately come to mind. First, as a priesthood one of our responsibilities is counseling and referral. Alcoholism and substance abuse cause serious internal and inter-personal disruptions, and unless we can recognize it we cannot guide those in need to appropriate treatment. Second, because there are so very many Pagan rituals, feasts, gatherings and festivals where food and drink is offered that contains alcohol. I'm not recommending that we all become tee-totalers, but there are many occasions where alternatives have not been offered, and could have been, especially in ritual settings. I've seen brandy-soaked cakes and whiskey used as cakes and wine, for example. Sometimes it's hard to tell if an item contains alcohol (what if you've got a stuffed nose?). If the alcohol content is discovered, one can easily be faced with a choice of bowing out of a ritual, often after it has begun. It can be embarrassing or rude, declining the Cup or sniffing the Cakes before taking one, as well as leaving one with a feeling of spiritual incompletion at not being able to partake fully in a ritual of one's religion. I've tried "annointing" with wine rather than drinking, but it's just not the same. Non-drinking alcoholics usually do not introduce themselves to all they meet with, "Hi, I'm Bob/Jane, I'm an alcoholic and I'd like you to point out anything that has alcohol in it so I can avoid it." Some Pagans who would like to attend open rituals or festivals avoid them for this reason. On the other hand, not everyone who chooses to avoid alcohol is alcoholic. It remains a personal choice. I would like to see Pagans routinely offer a choice to people attending rituals - a choice to avoid alcohol, drugs or sugar, and still partake fully in worship. How about a non- alcoholic drink being offered with the Wine? How about a biscuit or cracker being offered with the Cakes? How about mentioning if drugs will be a part of your ritual when you invite someone? Or perhaps a tradition could evolve to label "substance-free" gatherings as such; how about it? ~~~~~~~~~~ [Editor's note: Before our readers get their collective bloodpressure up and write scathing letters about the inference of commonplace ritual drug use, we'd like to comment that while it is far from commonplace, it does happen. Drug use seems to pervade every facet of life in this country, even on occasion, religion, sadly enough. Those thoughtless people probably never consider, aside from any moral considerations, that they are risking all of the gains Wicca has made over the thirty years since Gerald Gardner opened the broom-closet door. No matter how small the gathering, the headlines would be the same - "Drug Arrests Made At Satanic Witchcraft Rites." You can imagine the rest of the story (they always seem to throw Satan in for better reading). We agree with Anna Moonowl that 1) there is no place in a ritual for ANYTHING that has not been consented to by EVERYONE, AHEAD OF TIME, including drugs and alcohol, and 2) risking what we have gained thru years of hard work for the illegal thrills of an hour or two is not only inconsiderate, its DUMB. Why give those who would still persecute us any ammunition? Just plain DUMB, if you want my opinion. -Pete]


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