What I Meant to Say Was…I’m Not Interested

I know, I know. This is going to sound harsh. But after two decades of hoeing a tough row in the interfaith fields, I have finally gotten to a place where I can follow Nancy Reagan’s advice and Just Say No.

I initially entered this rough-plowed field out of a sense of self-preservation. As a minority religionist in a culture where the majority doesn’t seem to mind throwing its weight around, I thought that if people in other religions actually knew someone who was Wiccan, they’d mellow a bit. I am one of the most harmless-looking people you can imagine and when I started this work I was in my mid-30s with a small child. I would speak to any group that wanted to know more about “Earth religions” and I think I’ve been a good ambassador, for the most part.

But when my community needed the support of the majority religion, there was little to none. O, the local Catholic priest came by to commiserate and the rabbi at the conservative synagogue told me some funny jokes. But that was it. No one calmed down the hysterical rightwing masses. No one had my community’s (or my) back.

This pattern was repeated twice more. We’re pretty easy targets here in the Southland and things keep coming up where a few careful words of support could have made a huge difference. But those words didn’t come..at least publicly, where they could have helped.

So I have set some better criteria and boundaries for my continued work in these stony fields. Yes, I am still happy to talk to almost any group that wants to know more about my religion and the ways I practice it. Yes, I will participate in panels where they bring in a couple of tokens from the “weirdo” religions just to up the audience numbers.

But I don’t want to learn about other people’s religions anymore. I think I know enough about the mainstream religions to be respectful and know how to greet them on their holy days. That’s enough.

I want to engage with people on projects that help the community, that heal the soil, that stir our sense of fair play and justice.

Come and build a house with me. Or create an organic garden with me. Let us work, shoulder to shoulder, for justice and fairness. Together you and you and I can be the good change that our society needs to counteract all the toxicity and the ills that we all inflict, whether through malice or neglect.

But don’t ask me to discuss the Palestine/Israeli conflicts again for months on end. Because I won’t. Not again.

Time is precious and there is real work to do.

About Byron Ballard

H. Byron Ballard, BA, MFA, is a ritualist, teacher, speaker and writer. She has served as a featured speaker and teacher at Sacred Space Conference, Pagan Unity Festival, Southeast Women’s Herbal Conference and other gatherings. Earlier this year, she presented “Gnarly Roots: Exploring the British Sources of Appalachian Folk Magic” at the Appalachian Studies Association Conference and will facilitate a workshop on Deep Grounding at the Glastonbury Goddess Conference in August. Her writings have appeared in print and electronic media. Her essays are featured in several anthologies, including “Birthed from Scorched Hearts“ (Fulcrum Press), “Christmas Presence“ (Catawba Press), “Women’s Voices in Magic” (Megalithica Books), “Into the Great Below” and “Skalded Apples” (both from Asphodel Press). She blogs as “Asheville’s Village Witch” (myvillagewitch.wordpress.com) and as The Village Witch for Witches and Pagans Magazine (witchesandpagans.com/The-Village-Witch). Her pamphlet “Back to the Garden: a Handbook for New Pagans“ has been widely distributed and her first book “Staubs and Ditchwater: an Introduction to Hillfolks Hoodoo” (Silver Rings Press) debuted in June 2012. Byron is currently at work on “Earth Works: Eight Ceremonies for a Changing Planet”. She facilitates the Mountain Area Interfaith Forum in Asheville, NC and was active for many years in the United Religions Initiative.

  • Patricia Ciaffone

    I’m with you on this one. I know enough about the favorite religions of our region. Thanks, Blessed Be, y’all,

  • Terra Gazelle

    I agree…We are surrounded by the majority religion. Here in the South it is difficult enough…I want to further the Pagan community’s unity…

  • James

    In my opinion, especially here in the South, your natural allies are atheists and universalists. My wife & I are both atheists and our wedding was performed by a pagan (the state of AR requires a religious official to officiate). Atheists may not share your beliefs, but they also are not offended by them. Pagans don’t claim – without any evidence – that all unbelievers are going to burn for all eternity; a threat, in other words. Atheists in general want beliefs to be based on the evidence for themselves, but what get us angry is when belivers try to mandate their beliefs on others and to use coercion. Pagans don’t coerce.
    The major monotheisms are mostly interested in promoting their own monopoly.

  • swbarnes2

    “But despite these notable exceptions, I must honestly reiterate that I have been
    with the church…Some have
    been outright opponents, refusing to understand the freedom movement and misrepresenting
    leaders; all too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained
    behind the anesthetizing security of stained glass windows…So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being
    disturbed by the
    presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the
    silent–and often even vocal–sanction of things as they are.”

    I think perhaps your expectations were unrealistic.