The Super Bowl and Pagan Disconnect

I help run a local, public, Pagan group and one of my duties is to schedule and coordinate sabbat rituals. After allocating our Imbolc ritual to an area circle my phone began to buzz with multiple text messages. “What day is the Super Bowl?” “What times does the Super Bowl start?” “What times does it end?”

I was a little perplexed by all the messages. Our group generally meets on Saturdays, and Imbolc this year is on a Saturday. Certainly they weren’t thinking of trying to change the date of our event to Feb. 3? The phone buzzed again with another text message, “High Priestess will be out of town on Feb. 2, can we change the ritual to that Sunday?” “No you can’t do the ritual on Super Bowl Sunday” I replied in a huff. I looked at my wife, let out a long sigh and asked her “What is wrong with people!?!” (For the record, our ritual went off without a hitch this past Saturday, and it was exceedingly lovely.)

Of course there’s nothing wrong with asking to do a ritual on Super Bowl Sunday. What’s important to me may not be important to you, and the people that asked me about moving the ritual aren’t alone in wanting to do ritual on Super Bowl Sunday. There are groups out here in the Bay Area who are having Imbolc rituals during the game, a game that features the hometown San Francisco 49′ers. For those that have stuck with me this far you are probably wondering “what’s the big deal? I don’t watch football either.” Which is fine, but not knowing the date of the Super Bowl is a huge case of Pagan Disconnect.

I don’t think watching the Super Bowl is some sort of requirement to be an American, and there are a whole host of reasons not to. I know that it’s an advertising orgy surrounded by gladiators and brain trauma, and if you don’t like football, that’s another great reason. Watching the Super Bowl is not a litmus test for anything, and I really don’t care if people watch or not. The NFL draws plenty of eyeballs and they don’t need any help. Not watching the game is understandable, being unaware of it perplexes me.

For much of America the Super Bowl is a huge social gathering. People go to parties, hang out in bars, etc etc. For many people scheduling something on Super Bowl Sunday would be like scheduling something on Christmas Day, or in our case on Samhain. It’s a day you don’t touch because there’s already something going on. Churches don’t schedule anything but Super Bowl Parties during the game, why are we having Imbolc rituals? (Well, other than the hall rental being extremely cheap.)

Again, I don’t expect everyone to suddenly start watching football this Sunday because I think a few people are out of touch. My curiosity is more along the lines of “You wouldn’t plan a Yule ritual on Christmas, why is an unofficial American Holiday any different?” 170 million Americans watched at least a few minutes of last year’s Super Bowl, and the number who watched the entire game was well over 100 million. The Super Bowl is arguably the largest shared experience we have in the United States, and yet in Pagandom it’s persona non grata.

The Super Bowl is a supremely over-hyped event. There are Super Bowl displays at my local grocery store, and Target has a giant end-cap full of football shaped paper-plates available right now. There’s always a glut of Super Bowl related media stories, and if you watch at least a little TV or surf the major news websites you are going to run into it. How anyone could be completely unaware of the game happening at about the same time every year baffles me. A part of me is in complete awe at anyone being able to block out something of that magnitude, I wish I could do the same for things like Honey Boo Boo and any show and/or restaraunt involving Gordon Ramsey.

Many Evangelicals like to use the phrase “we are in the world, but not of the world” as a way to describe how they live. These are usually the Evangelicals who live in the bubble. They only listen to Contemporary Christian Music, only hang out with those of a like mind, read Christian books, etc. They’ve created their own little separate world apart from the Godless (of course many of us are godsfull, but I digress).

I don’t think the majority of Pagans live in the bubble, most of us tend to be engaged in many worldly pursuits. There are Pagans involved in politics and issues of social justice. Many of us probably have more “friends” and social experiences than the average person (at least those of us who aren’t solitaries). A lot of my Pagan friends are plugged into “geek culture*,” and completely destroy the stereotype of “read comic books? Welcome to a life of celibacy.” We were one of the first religious groups to really utilize the power of the internet as a community building too. I don’t normally think of us as out of touch, except when it comes to a few isolated incidents of Pagan Disconnect.

The Super Bowl isn’t the only case of Pagan Disconnect I’ve seen over the years. There are a lot of us who seem surprised when they run into conservative Pagans, or people who disagree with the standard liberal boilerplate. As we grow as a community** there are going to be more and more conservative Pagans, and probably more football fan Pagans. You may not want to plan your Imbolc Ritual around America’s biggest non-official holiday, but you might soon find yourself forced to. And please remember, I don’t care if you watch the Super Bowl or not, I’m just amazed at your inability to tune it out.

For the record I’m picking the 49′ers over the Ravens by a touchdown (place your bets for Baltimore now). The NFC has just been better this year. I also picked the Texans to play the Bears in the Super Bowl so my predictions aren’t worth much at all.

*I’m also one of those people. If anyone’s interested in discussing the cartoon Young Justice on a weekly basis I’d be totally up for it.

**Until we inevitably disintegrate into eight or nine separate religious streams.

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About Jason Mankey

Jason Mankey has been involved with Paganism for the last twenty years, and has spent the last ten of those years as a speaker, writer, and High Priest. Jason can often be found lecturing on the Pagan Festival circuit, so you might just bump into him. When not reading and researching Pagan history he likes to crank up the Led Zeppelin, do rituals in honor of Jim Morrison (of The Doors), and sing numerous praises to Pan, Dionysus, and Aphrodite. He lives in Sunnyvale CA with his wife Ari and two hyper-kinetic cats.


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