Wyrd Words: Tea Party Paganism

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I’m going to forgo the usual greetings, and reassure you that you did NOT misread that title! There is nothing wrong with your computer. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We control the horizontal. We control the vertical.

So, before I risk exploding peoples brains, let me give a bit of background to this story. When I’m not wearing my Mjölnir emblazoned writing cape, I’m working Security. I guard an exorbitantly wealthy gated community of 1%-ers from dangers like unseemly lawns, rampaging poodles, and door to door salesmen. (Oh the Glory and Honor of being a security guard…) Now, a few months ago, there was an incident with a new security supervisor, who was hired and fired within EIGHT DAYS. Rumors abounded as to what may have occurred to get this man fired so quickly from a notoriously easy job, but most of these were unconfirmed, and eventually the whole thing was all but forgotten.

A few weeks ago my schedule changed, and I was introduced to another officer who I would be working with on the new shift. In the process of small talking and getting to know each other, I found out that he was involved with getting our One-Week-Wonder fired! I am completely incapable of resisting a good mystery, and here was my chance to get first hand info. As it turns out, the guy was basically fired because he was a violent racist, and using racial slurs over the radio will get you canned instantly and without warning. (My boss is pretty awesome and does NOT tolerate that kind of behavior.)

It was while I was investigating the mystery of the disappearing racist that my coworker dropped THIS bomb on me.

“Yeah, we looked the guy up afterward, and he’s a member of some creepy cult thing.”

Score! Gold! By now you may be beginning to understand exactly how boring my job really is; combined with the previously described inability to resist a mystery, I just COULDN’T let that go uninvestigated! Using the power of Google, my coworker and I sat down to find our culprit. I love studying “cults” (though there are obvious issues with that label). What could he be? A Scientologist? A Raelian? A Jedi? We entered in his name and found the guy on page one, landing two hits with the same picture!

1- A Pagan Space account, where he’s listed as Wiccan.

2- A Tea Party AZ membership

Three thoughts crossed my mind in rapid succession. The first was “Dang-it! Why does the racist Schmuck have to be one of ours!” followed by “How the heck can you be both of those things at once?” and finishing with “Wait a minute, WHO ARE YOU CALLING A CREEPY CULT?!?!”.

I apparently have a better poker face than I thought, because my coworker completely failed to note my reactions and continued prattling on about the weirdness of this schmucks “Evil Cult”. Rather than interrupting him in the middle of his speech, I decided to just type my name into the Google search bar.

Google brought up links to The Wild Hunt, Patheos Pagan Channel, along with a dozen other links with words like “Paganism”, “Heathen”, and “Witch”. I watched as he finally noticed the screen again, his speech slowing to a halt as he tried to understand exactly what he was looking at. Suddenly the guy practically JUMPS away from me like I might have the plague. The following conversation, which has been nominated for the “most awkward interaction of the year” award, went like this:

“But I thought you really hated racists…”

“I do…”

* Awkward Silence *

“But you didn’t sound CRAZY, like he did…”

And here is where I had to mentally plunge into the depths of the giant folder in my head, where I keep all the sentences I never thought I’d have to say.

“I think his crazy had more to do with being a member of the Tea Party than Wicca…”

It’s difficult to describe the amount of self control it took to say that with a straight face, while trying to keep my head from exploding. If you had asked me just a few hours earlier if such a thing could exist, I would have said that while it’s not strictly impossible, it’s basically pretty impossible. Encountering this was kind of like discovering a unicorn… except the unicorn was really kind of hideous, and after you found it you kind of wish you hadn’t… and the unicorn’s a racist… It’s a really sucky unicorn.

After that first round of mind boggling awkwardness I realized that this was the first time I had outed myself as a Pagan at work, and my coworker still looked pretty terrified of me. So I braced myself for a bumpy ride and began to explain. Nothing to complicated. The guy looked like Hel had just tried to give him a kiss so I did my best to keep it simple. No, we’re not a “cult”. No, we don’t worship Satan. No, I’m not a Wiccan, but we run in the same crowds. No, REALLY, we don’t worship Satan. After about twenty minutes he seemed relatively sure I wasn’t going to steal his soul, and had come to some kind of rudimentary understanding of what I was saying. The conversation resolved kinda like this:

“So… You’re religious… but you don’t worship God…” Suddenly, a look of comprehension lit up his eyes. “Like the Buddhists! You got religion but not God!”

“…” Eh, I’ll take it. “Well, you’re not wrong.”

Baby steps….


Wyrd Words is published on alternate Thursdays. Subscribe via RSS or e-mail!

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About Alyxander Folmer

Alyxander Folmer is a student of Anthropology at ASU, focused on analyzing and building religious communities. He is a devoted Heathen, and married to a Rabbi in training. Interest in Pagan interfaith relations lead him to join the committee for the formation of the Pagan Chapter at the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy, where he hopes to utilize his training in community building and cultural exchange. The majority of his work can be located at http://www.heathenhof.com/


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