A Guide to Politics at Patheos Pagan

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I’ve been writing at Patheos for 4 years now, and reading and writing Pagan blogs for about 6 years.  One perennial debate in the Pagan blogosphere is the role of politics in Paganism.  Just last July, John Beckett and I argued about this on our respective blogs. Opinions appear to range from the belief that politics and Paganism are or should be kept completely separate to the belief that they are inextricably intertwined and couldn’t be separated even if we wanted to.

The political mobilization of progressives and moderates which has followed the election and inauguration of Trump got me wondering whether Patheos Pagan has been affected by these recent events.  So I decided to dig back through the posts of my fellow bloggers over the last 3 months.  I limited my search to posts after November 7, 2016 (although a pre- and post-election comparison might be interesting in the future).

There are 47 blogs on Patheos, one of which I don’t have access to because it requires a premium account, so we’ll say 46.  Of those, 8 of them had zero posts since the election, so I treating those as “inactive.”  Two of the active blogs — Agora and Nature’s Path — are community blogs with multiple contributors.  I am treating them as single blogs, although that skews things a bit.  Here’s what I found …

Of the 37 active blogs on Patheos Pagan, half (19) had posted at least one explicitly political post since the election.  Most of these made some direct reference to the election or President Trump or his policies.  The other half made no reference to recent events or any explicitly political issue.  Of those that did post something political in the last 3 months, about half had only 1 or 2 such posts, making them what we might call “incidentally” political.  That left about a quarter of the blogs at Patheos Pagan which appeared to be significantly political.

That’s actually more than I expected.  While I find it frustrating that half of the writers at Patheos Pagan could ignore recent political events in their writing, I am encouraged that half of them took the time to write at least one explicitly political post and a quarter were significantly political.

I need to add a couple of caveats here.  First, just because someone isn’t writing about political issues in their Patheos blog doesn’t mean they aren’t writing about these issues elsewhere, like Gods & Radicals.  I myself have multiple blogs, and if you went only by my blog at Witches & Pagans, you wouldn’t have any idea that I was politically active.  Also, just because someone doesn’t write about political issues doesn’t mean they aren’t politically active.  I know for a fact that several of the writers at Patheos Pagan are politically active, although their blogs do not reflect this.

If you’re looking for political writing at Patheos Pagan, there are a few blogs you should definitely check out.  Two of the most political blogs at Patheos are Common Tansy by Pat Mosley and Star and Snake by Brandy Williams.  Most of Brandy’s posts and about half of Pat’s posts since the election have been explicitly political.  They’re both good writers, and you should check them out.  Some of the other more political blogs included The Zen Pagan by Tom Swiss, my own blog, the Allergic Pagan, Nature’s Path (the UU Pagan/CUUPS blog), and (somewhat surprisingly given our past disagreements over this issue), John Beckett’s blog, Under the Ancient Oaks.  (A full quarter of Beckett’s posts since the election have been political.)

I should add another caveat here, regarding the word “political”.  The term is a contested one and the line between the political and the non-political is a matter of perspective.  For some, the spiritual is (necessarily) political.  For other, never the twain shall meet.

Having said that, I was struck by one blog in particular, The Lady’s Quill by Laine Mardollsdottir.  While a lot of Laine’s writing is not explicitly political in the sense of mentioning the election or Trump, her blog is in my opinion perhaps the most political blog at Patheos Pagan.  She seamlessly weaves devotional polytheism with the political.  To see what I mean, consider her posts, “Night Has Fallen, Light Your Torches”, “Thor and the Black Serpent”, “Dark Gods for Dark Times”, and “Reasons to Live, Reasons to Fight”.

I suspect hat there has been an increase in political writing at Patheos Pagan since the election — just as we have seen a greater political mobilization in the population at large.  Nevertheless, if you look at individual posts, instead of blogs as a whole, the vast majority of the writing at Patheos Pagan remains quite non-political.  Of the 406 posts (at the time of my counting) since the election, only 56 were explicitly political.  That’s about one-eighth (1/8).  That’s both disappointing and frustrating.

So I feel compelled to address my fellow Patheos Pagan bloggers: One-eighth might be an acceptable level of politicization during “normal times”.  But these are not normal times.  As Gods & Radicals editor, Rhyd Wildermuth, recently wrote in his “Open Letter to Pagan Leaders”:

“… we find ourselves governed by a virulent strain of nationalist, dominionist, racist, and fascist ideology. Pagans are likely in danger, some much more than others. Pagans of color, queer and trans witches, disabled and the politically-radical folks amongst us have the most reason to fear.”

If you are writing a blog here at Patheos, you are a Pagan leader, whether you like it or not.  You have been given a platform, and consequently, you have a responsibility to others in our community.  We must speak out.  Now more than ever.  By all means, write about the gods and write about magic.  But the gods do not exist in a vacuum.  And magic does not happen in a vaccum.  We must write about what the gods and magic mean in the context of today’s political reality.  Let’s follow the examples of Laine Mardollsdottir, Brandy Williams, and Pat Mosley here at Patheos, not to mention many of the writers at Gods & Radicals.  If we don’t, the world may be left with gods with no one to worship them and magic with no one to practice it.

“As we watch the world we thought we knew begin to transform into a world where our beliefs are again no longer tolerated, where are fellow practitioners are targeted for the color of their skin, the expression of their sexuality or gender, or their physical ability, we must take seriously the influence we’ve accumulated.

“Whether you ever meant to be seen as a leader or a guide, you’re there now.  What you do with that influence will matter greatly, both to those who look to you for help and those outside looking to harm.

“Imbolc comes upon us very soon. What is that Brighid teaches more than anything else, except that we need the light of others by which to see?

“Be that light, please.”

— Rhyd Wildermuth, “An Open Letter to Pagan Leaders”

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