This Far and No Farther

This Far and No Farther February 13, 2022

Most people who responded to Tuesday’s post Those Who Burn Books Will Eventually Burn People shared my reaction of disappointment and dismay at recent events. Book bans are a regular occurrence – publicizing them helps gain wider exposure for the “dangerous ideas” they’re trying to suppress. Book burnings are relatively rare, but they’re a reminder of just how far some people will go to hide from ideas that make them uncomfortable.

Some thought calling attention to book burners was a bad idea. They’d prefer to ignore them and deny them the publicity they want. Jason Mankey asked What Really Matters? and he has a point. A few people thought my post was fear mongering, causing people to be afraid of something that can’t really hurt them.

On one hand, I get it. If you’re obsessed with your spiritual and political enemies, you let them dictate the agenda. You’re constantly defining yourself by what you’re not instead of by what you are. I see this with Pagans whose Paganism is more about debunking Christianity than living a full and joyous Pagan life.

On the other hand, there is a culture war going on. Progressives – and I count myself among them – are trying to expand freedom and acceptance for everyone. Regressives – I won’t call them conservatives, because they aren’t trying to conserve anything – are trying to move things back to the 1950s, when straight white Christian men ran the show and everyone else knew their place.

The culture war has been exacerbated by the pandemic and efforts to mitigate it, and especially by conspiracy theories around the 2020 election.

If you live in a progressive bubble it’s easy to assume we’re winning. If you live in a red state the warning signs are impossible to miss. And that’s what Tuesday’s post was all about – a warning.

Forewarned is forearmed. Now what should we do?

A counterattack is unnecessary and unwise

A quote attributed to Napoleon says “if your enemy is making an error, don’t interrupt him.” Let the book burning pastor tie himself up with demons. Whether those demons are actual beings or elements of his own psyche is unimportant. There are ways to rid yourself of demons – burning books is not one of them.

(Demons exist in almost every culture. We need not affirm the Christian mythology around them – especially the evangelical fundamentalist myths – to accept that they are persons who generally don’t mean us well, but who can be bargained with, though that is a risky endeavor.)

I feel for the kids who had their Harry Potter books and other possessions confiscated and burned. Hopefully the injustice and the illogic of that stays with them, and they find a new religion as soon as they can. But I can’t right every wrong, and in the grand scheme of things there are higher priorities.

Keep winning the publicity battles

I’m not afraid to give this guy more publicity, because the more people who see what he’s doing the more people will get off the fence and decide that whatever side they’re on, it’s not his. As Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said “sunlight is the best disinfectant.” Whatever their faults and shortcomings, the American mainstream doesn’t support burning books. Fundamentalism isn’t going away any time soon, but its popularity is in significant decline – things like this enhance that decline.

Our movies and TV shows are full of witches, and occasionally, Pagans of one description or another. We’ve had “meet the Pagans” features for years, but last October we saw serious and positive articles on modern witchcraft in USA Today and The Washington Post.

This is why I encouraged everyone who can to spread the truth about who we are and what we do. Not to proselytize (Pagans don’t proselytize) but so we can define ourselves to the public and aren’t defined by our enemies.

If it isn’t safe for you to be “out of the broom closet” or if you’re just not comfortable being public, don’t worry about it. And not all parts of our practices and traditions are suitable for public consumption – mysteries need to be protected. But if you can, good publicity is always helpful.

the Cernunnos Ritual at the 2013 DFW Pagan Pride Day

Be an engaged citizen

I’ve said this over and over again over the past few years, so I’ll be brief here. This means stay informed without becoming obsessed with politics (I know, that’s hard – but it’s essential). Contact your elected representatives – let them know when they’re doing well, and let them know when they’re not. Mainly, vote – for every office in every election.

As the Maus book banning shows, local school boards are important offices – important enough to figure out who’s running and who you should vote for.

Maintain a regular spiritual practice

This is something else I’ve been harping on for years. And I’ll keep harping on it, because it’s that important. Regular spiritual practice keeps us connected to our Gods and ancestors, to our sacred traditions, and to our highest values.

For me, this starts with my four daily prayers and four weekly offerings. It’s seasonal celebrations and monthly magical workings. It’s reading and study. It’s spending time outdoors, following the sun and the moon across the sky, and following the birds and squirrels and rabbits that share the land with me.

Especially at times like this, regular grounding, centering, and shielding is a necessity.

Want help starting or strengthening your spiritual practice? I’ve got an online class for that. It’s on-demand, so you can take it any time you like.

But my goal here isn’t to sell classes. It’s to encourage as many people as possible to build and maintain a spiritual foundation that will get them through difficult times.

Build magical skills

I do not recommend hexing the book burning pastor. Not because of the Rule of Three or because “harm none” but because hexing public figures is rarely the best use of your time and energy. If you can get a bunch of people doing narrowly focused work together it may help, but in general magical battles and spiritual warfare are best left to fiction.

And also, if your enemy is making an error don’t interrupt him. Let the demons fight this battle so we can do something more productive.

Still, we’re living in interesting times, and we need all the tools in our toolbox we can get. Learn some form of operative magic. And then practice it on a regular basis. I do workings every full moon, in addition to “whenever you have need of anything.” Learn divination, so you can have a better idea of what’s coming, and what will happen if you make changes in your life.

I think most of us of a magical persuasion have dreams – or at least, daydreams – of disappearing into the forest and becoming the Witch of the Wood. I do not think things will get so bad as to make that necessary. Still, it’s good to have skills.

The time to learn and perfect them is now.

This far and no farther

I said Tuesday’s post was a warning. What, exactly, was it warning us about?

There are people in the religious world who mean us harm. They don’t just see things differently, they don’t just worship different Gods, they don’t just have different goals. Their goals include world domination. Their goals include bringing about the end of the world. Thankfully, they can’t do that – they’re misreading their own prophecies. But they can make a nuisance of themselves.

Occasionally, Heinrich Heine has been right: those who burned books ended up burning people. We need not fear these people because they do not have the power to burn others, at least not in this country.

We just need to make sure they never get it.

And that means opposing them now, before they get anywhere close to that kind of power.

"Fishing For Dollars slot machine LOL"

Building Paganism in a Culture that ..."
"My nephew was looking at what I was editing on my computer, and openly declared ..."

Building Paganism in a Culture that ..."
"Brilliant post. Thank you! I'm a long-time reader of your blog but a "first time" ..."

A Pagan Look at the Origins ..."

Browse Our Archives

Close Ad