The Unbearable Whiteness of Being Pagan: Some Observations on White Fragility in Esoteric Spiritual Movements

The Unbearable Whiteness of Being Pagan: Some Observations on White Fragility in Esoteric Spiritual Movements March 29, 2019

Hello, beautiful creatures.

A common complaint I’m seeing about Pagan, polytheist, and occult writing is that a given writer’s work isn’t “spiritual enough,” however the complainant defines that. In other words, what the writer is talking about isn’t really Paganism, or witchcraft, or Heathenry, or Druidry, or occult, by whatever metric the complainant is using to gauge those things. The work is too focused on pop culture, or current events, or sports, or whatever secular and temporal issue the complainant doesn’t like. It’s too much “of this world,” if you will.

Recently, again and again, the common complaint is that the work is too political… meaning that the complainant doesn’t like the writer’s politics. I’ve written about the perils of apoliticality before, but rather than asking you to go back and reread those pieces, I’ll summarize my points here:

  • Politics is just another way of negotiating power.
  • Claiming to be apolitical is a way of dodging responsibility for what you do with your power.
  • Dodging responsibility is giving away your own power.
  • Giving away your power is a really bad idea.

Still with me? Great.

Every time I see someone complaining about a particular piece advancing a political agenda, I’m reminded of Dorothy L. Sayers’ “Creed or Chaos?” in which she writes, “‘Take away theology and give us some nice religion’ has been the popular slogan for so long that we are likely to accept it, without inquiring whether religion without theology has any meaning.” Similarly, I think it’s worth wondering what use a spiritual or religious path without values can possibly have. My very dear Pagans, polytheists, magical practitioners, and all you other weirdos out there, do we honestly not understand that our paths and practices have values built into them? Do we truly not believe that the gods want us to behave in certain ways, which implies the existence of values? Do we really not get that power is power?

Let’s Play “Unpopular Opinion”

Here’s where I break down and do something I once swore a grave and terrible oath I would never, ever do, and play the “Unpopular Opinion” game. Today’s unpopular opinion is that, while people might complain that there isn’t enough esoteric content that isn’t beginner-level introductory pabulum, no one actually wants higher-level material, because that means doing work: work that affects the real world, work which demands that we change and grow, work which is challenging, difficult, and not what we were expecting. Work which is uncomfortable and scary, work that makes us see things about ourselves and the world around us that we’d frankly rather not see.

It means being responsible, and responsibility is uncomfortable.

The unpleasant, unfortunate, unavoidable truth is that most modern forms of Paganism, polytheism, and occultism—and emphatically most modern American iterations of same—are, at heart, little more than watered-down Protestant Christianity with a thin coat of New Age whitewash (pun intended), concocted for the express purpose of making white people comfortable and reassuring us about our essentially libertarian individualism.

That’s kind of a confrontational statement, so I want to unpack it a little.

What I mean is that, in my observation, most modern p-words seem not to have really thought through the full ramifications of our putative beliefs and practices. We might pay lip service to some notion of wyrd, virtue, or (sigh) karma1 as a guiding force in our moral and ethical decisions, and we might attend religious or spiritual services at a covenstead, a grove, a grotto, or a lodge, but when push comes to shove, we still think of things in Christian terms. We’re still going to “church,” and we’re still trying to avoid sin and achieve salvation. We have, in essence, laid a veneer of “paganism” over our unexamined core beliefs and values, which in the United States are largely a sort of watered-down Christianity.

I specified “Protestant” because, according to the Pew Research Center’s latest study, roughly half of America identifies as some flavor of Protestant.2 Moreover, the history and culture of the United States are positively soaked through with a peculiarly American set of Protestant values, which we can see written into the founding documents of the nation. It’s also worth noting that these values were codified by white landholders—and, in many cases, slaveholders—and that they cater to the specific concerns of white people. Property rights and other forms of wealth are conflated with political franchise and other forms of power to establish the moral and spiritual superiority of the individual man: not “person,” but “man,” meaning “adult white male with money and power.” The value of that individual man’s relationship with God, unmediated by hierarchical religious functionaries, translates neatly into the valorization of the individual will as against the authoritarian collective. Similarly, the notion of a moral justice which transcends temporal authority elevates revolution against that authority from a potentially necessary sin to a kind of noble virtue. One can argue the merits and flaws of various aspects of those values, but it’s beyond question that they derived in great part from the religious and philosophical values of the authors of those documents, and are squarely in the tradition of late-Enlightenment Protestant libertarianism.

All of which is to say:

  • American Protestant Christianity has a history of holding a particular set of values;
  • these values have been codified as “American values”;
  • these values exist specifically to consolidate and defend power in the hands of white people, specifically white men;
  • and modern American Paganism has largely reiterated those values without really examining them.

I’ll note in passing that none of these observations is particularly innovative or groundbreaking. People of color have been saying these things for decades.

What do I mean when I say that Pagans are reiterating those values, unexamined? Here’s a brief sampling, gleaned from the comments of the Facebook share of Cyndi Brannen‘s recent post about white supremacy in witchcraft:

  • “I don’t see color.”
  • “Talking about race just fuels hatred!”
  • Claims that white people are an oppressed minority.
  • References to “Irish slaves.”
  • “Where’s this white privilege, so I can get some?”
  • Claims that discussing racism is racist.
  • Claims that Social Justice Warriors are ruining Paganism.
  • Claims that Social Justice Warriors are ruining Patheos.
  • “Don’t label me just because I’m white!”
  • White people making references to “our people.”
  • Laments about the poor quality of the content and threats to stop reading.

And so on. I’m reminded of Helen Lewis‘ maxim that “the comments on any article about feminism justify feminism.” Similarly, it seems that the comments on any article about anti-racist work demonstrate the desperate need for that work. I’ll also note that the handful of people of color responding to these responses have been either ignored or mocked, in some cases using overtly racist tropes and language.

White Fragility as a Spiritual Path

That list of responses provides a perfect snapshot of what Robin DiAngelo calls “white fragility,” which she defines as…

a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves. These moves include the outward display of emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and behaviors such as argumentation, silence, and leaving the stress-inducing situation. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium. (“White Fragility,” in International Journal of Critical Pedagogy, Vol. 3, No. 3 (2011)

Looking back at that list of responses, I’m struck by the eerie accuracy of DiAngelo’s definition of white fragility. Anger, fear, guilt, and aggression are all on display here, all in defense of white supremacy. For some Pagans, the core of their belief system isn’t Paganism, polytheism, witchcraft, or magic: it’s whiteness. Whiteness is their god, their path, their religion. This observation isn’t limited to overtly-racist sacks of hot trash like the Asatru Folk Assembly. It includes everyday white people who would deny having a racist bone in their bodies, and who would be horrified at the suggestion that their words derive from a host of unexamined, deeply rooted beliefs which are, at their core, racist.

Do we want books, blogs, and other content about deep spirituality, something more than another Wicca 101 book or a Tumblr blog on Polytheism for Beginners? Maybe we should try doing the shadow work of rooting out our own racism, and confronting our own white fragility. Maybe we should explore the interrelation of the individual and the community through the lens of community service. Maybe, just maybe, we should look at the heart of the fears that arise within us when someone dares to suggest that white people are complicit in racism and white supremacy, and that American Pagans, polytheists, and occultists are just as complicit as the rest of white America.

And then, maybe we should do something about that.

As I’ve said before, our actions derive from our truest beliefs, our core values. Don’t tell me what you believe. Show me what you do, and I’ll know what you believe.

Until next time, dear ones. ♥

[A tip of the cap to Cyndi Brannen for writing the fantastic piece which inspired this one, and to David Salisbury for reminding me about Robin DiAngelo’s work on white fragility. And yes, the title of this post is a play on Milan Kundera’s bestselling 1984 novel The Unbearable Lightness of Being.]

white fragility, white plate, broken white plate
Image by BRRT from Pixabay

  1. Look, do I have to explain why using “karma” here is a problem? I do? Okay, here’s the brief précis: if you’re not a practitioner of an Indian or Asian religion (such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, or Sikhism), you are using a religious concept which isn’t yours in ways that the folks it belongs to don’t use it, to mean things it doesn’t actually mean. That’s a problem.
  2. The next-largest religious group in the US is Catholicism, which I’m exempting from this criticism because, despite its flaws, faults, and institutional horrors, cannot be said in any meaningful way to be “white-washed.” (TradCats and sedevacantists need not comment, thanks.)
About Misha Magdalene
Misha Magdalene (Seattle) is a multi-classed, multi-geek, multi-queer witch and sorcerer with a degree in gender studies and a slightly odd sense of humor. They're an initiate of multiple lines of traditional witchcraft, including the Anderson Feri tradition and Gardnerian Wicca, and have also been known to dabble recklessly in both modern ceremonial magic and grimoiric goetia. They've been blogging since 2001, negotiating the online world since 1987, playing Dungeons & Dragons since 1981, and listening to weird music since birth. They live on occupied Duwamish territory in the Pacific Northwest with their polymath partner, their precocious daughter, far too much coffee-making apparatus, and a long-suffering bamboo plant named Smitty. You can find them on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram, and their very own website, or lurking somewhere around the Seattle area, usually hiding behind a cup of coffee. You can read more about the author here.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Kelsey

    [Moderator’s note: Goodness, you’ve got quite the pottymouth on you, don’t you just? So, here’s the deal, Kelsey: you don’t have “free speech” rights here. You have “don’t annoy Misha with your speech” rights. It’s a simple metric, but alas, you’ve fallen short, so you’re done here. Bye!]

    • Bane Wolf

      Im gonna sit here and chuckle . . . cause I suspect we would be saying quite similar things . . . not that I haven’t noted years ago that most “pagans” are just christians with fairy sprinkles . . but . . you can see the sjw hubris all over this thing . . SAD.

      • There’s nothing keeping you here, sparklepants. Why don’t you run along now? I’m sure you must be late for a Bund rally or something. ^_^

      • thelettuceman

        Wow you’re so woke.

  • Samantha Sabovitch

    This is a fantastic article, and I appreciate the challenging thoughts, both in general and in specific. I’ve been working on a lot of personal, solitary spiritual growth lately, and I’ve always assumed that eventually I would connect in with a group. It would be amazing to work together in a coven or group focused on doing the shadow work you describe here. Imagine the synergy when working together!

    • I’m glad you liked the piece. ^_^ And yeah, that kind of work can be incredibly powerful… which is probably why it isn’t done more.

  • Lysana

    Yes! All of that! I came to a revelation a couple of years ago that our ancestors, whose gods so many of us seek to worship and ways we strive to research and renew, had no concept of whiteness. It was built up by Christians (Roman Catholics and Protestants alike) to justify chattel slavery of African and Taino peoples. Claiming examples of xenophobia are identical is patently absurd. The growing evidence is Europe has always been multi-cultural and always had dark-skinned people alongside the paler ones. Acting like it’s offensive to admit we’re trained to believe whiteness is more important than anything is foolish at best.

    • And yet, so many people desperately want to believe it. Kinda sad, really.

  • “no one actually wants higher-level material, because that means doing work: work that affects the real world, work which demands that we change and grow, work which is challenging, difficult, and not what we were expecting. Work which is uncomfortable and scary, work that makes us see things about ourselves and the world around us that we’d frankly rather not see.”

    THIS.

    Which is why, coming out of part 1 of post surgery (last month), I had done some hard thinking.

    I tore down all my previous blogs and decided to start anew (link in my profile – and my page on/regarding my path and practice, I just finished writing it up last night. I just need to get it published.)

    I decided to take out most of my more “esoteric” information, although keep it in my journal. Parts of it is referenced in this page of mine, and how shadow work ties into it. I explicitly state something along the lines of how that part of my soul was hidden from my consciousness (the part of me that is more connected with the esoteric information).

    I also mention in a post in my blog (regarding recovery), that many are not ready for the kind of information that I put forth (this is nothing new to me, but the experience becomes wearing).

    “We have, in essence, laid a veneer of “paganism” over our unexamined core beliefs and values, which in the United States are largely a sort of watered-down Christianity.”

    I have noticed this for *years*, long before these discussions have come up. Perhaps this may be because of having experience with both the New Age spectrum, and the Pagan/Witchcraft spectrum. I started out with spirituality in 2003, but did not begin my path of inner self discovery until 2004, and I noticed the Christian perspectives being covered with a veneer of (insert pagan, witchcraft, new age, etc.) beliefs. It was one reason why I left to be on my own embracing the “left hand path” (and jungian concepts) for inner discovery and to heal as well. I am glad you spoke up about this, because it has not been often that I have seen people do so.

    • I think it’s a real problem in modern Paganism, especially in the United States. I have no problem if folks want to be religiously or culturally Christian, or syncretize Christianity and esoteric spirituality, or if they want to be full-on polytheists or Pagans. Where I start to have a problem is when folks say they’re doing something, but have really just sort of adopted the surface forms of the thing without examining the underlying structures.

      Best wishes on your recovery.

  • _ Tommo

    I’m a Rodnover. My religion is the Slavic Native Faith. When I see the sun rise in the morning I am reminded of
    Dazhbog and his father celestial father Svarog. When the storm clouds roll in I see Perun and are reminded of his battle with Veles. I am guided by the divine creator of all, Rod and acknowledge my ancestors. I am Slav, we are a great white people of Europe and our native faith long preceded the foreign religions that have enslaved us for more than 1000 years and caused us to fight wars among ourselves. Does this make me racist? Am I fascist because I wear the Kolovrat? Do you call me xenophobic because I see Slavic land as the traditional home of the Slavs and we belong to that Land and have soaked it in blood over centuries? I see no “Pagans” here just pithy westerners. слава перун.

    • I have no idea if you’re a racist, a fascist, or a xenophobe, but your comment about being “a great white people of Europe” and the overall defensive tone of your comment do give that impression.

      As my grandparents’ generation used to say, “a hit dog will holler.”

      • Dr Dreem

        Haha, you’re really something. Being proud of your ancestors is part of being pagan. Ancestral worship, ever heard of it? There’s nothing hateful about saying ‘a great white people of Europe’ which is in fact just descriptive, hence not racist, and in fact if you’ve read any of the old literature you should have come across many examples of European pagan peoples that were proud of their people and accomplishments, claimed they were descendants of Odin etc. Blood and kinship were paramount to our ancient ancestors. But this doesn’t mean they hated others simply for being others, that doesn’t make any sense.

        • One of the joys of writing this blog is this phenomenon where I describe a general tendency I’ve observed in the broader community (e.g. transphobia, homophobia, racism, &c.), then sit back watch people rush in to defend themselves from the attack they feel my post offered. As I said above, a hit dog will holler, and the number of baying curs this post has caused kinda demonstrates my point, don’t’cha think?

          No, silly me, of course you don’t.

          In any event, you’ve run afoul of the cardinal rule for the comments section of this blog—”don’t annoy Misha”—so, like the rest of your don’t-call-us-racist brethren, you’re out. Toodles!

          • Dr Dreem

            Once again, you have no argument against what I’ve said. I gave you some uncomfortable facts that don’t sit well with your egalitarian/universalist ideology. There really is no point in arguing with people like you, but at least somebody with more of an open mind might see my comments and gain something of benefit from them…

    • As for being a “pithy westerner,” well…

      pith·y
      [ˈpiTHē]
      ADJECTIVE
      (of language or style) concise and forcefully expressive.

      I’ll take it. ^_^

    • Mary Christine

      Slava! I fully agree, brother. I have not heard a single Rodnover in my group say, ever, that others are lesser, that we see any ethnicity as inferior or such. We are just proud of who we are, as Slavs, of our ancestors and our ethnicity and greations.
      Do not bother. These days in the West, Paganism is equated with politics. Awful.

  • Carpe Noctis

    Ah, yes, another white people are wrong article and you have to reference an obscure publication to prove your point. International Journal of Critical Pedagogy. Is there nothing mainstream to prove your point? Not everyone is going to just pick up the referenced publication in their lifetime, nor do they really want to. They have non-judgmental lives to live, and they certainly don’t say to people’s faces that their path is dead and because they are white, they should check their “privilege”.

    You know what? Everyone who is a citizen of this country is privileged because of our Laws and Democracy – what are left of them. It is why people migrate here – our Middle Class and Laws. We are an extremely lucky culture and only those who are working behind the scenes to bring this “world” down would say something as crass and unenlightened as what you wrote. Are you just wanting to keep the shit stirred, keeping us all divided? Because that is exactly what you are doing, This article is the microcosm of the macrocosm. This brings nothing to the table on further enlightenment.

    And just *how* do you know about each and every spiritual path in our known physical world is dead? Have you traveled the length and breadth to investigate for yourself that, despite what you have been told, these paths are not dead, but are living and breathing as much as any other path, white or not..They are just not mainstream, even within their communities, to outsiders. Doesn’t mean they don’t exist, they just don’t exist for you.

    There is a vast history beyond paganism/wiccaism 101 – Western Mystery Tradition. But of course, here come the “because white men wrote the tomes, there is no meaning in any of the almost millennia old writings.” Once you can get past the skin color and/or gender of who wrote it, there is some fantastic workings, shadow and all, that has always been available. Most of the authors are highly educated and due to the era in which they are written, it takes a bit to understand just what exactly they are trying to say.

    First reason – yes, very hard to understand, which is why modern practitioners are taking these tomes and “modernizing” them. The left page has the original teaching, the right, updated. Words change meaning every generation and there is no way to read the minds of people 300 years ago and people just put the teachings to the side because they don’t won’t/can’t figure them out on their own.

    Second reason – any real and true magic cannot be written down by anyone due to responsibility on the part of the person sharing knowledge. Someone can come and destroy our world if the real teachings are released before the person or humankind are ready. It’s part of the process of being an adult – not unlike the original edict in the study Qabala in the past- 40 years old, married with children. It’s the same with studying WMT writings – you have to know the rules of this universe before learning the rules of another. Which includes being humble and modest enough to know that deep down we are all one color and race.

    Plus, if the Dweller on the Threshold, who’s decision one must abide by, deems you unworthy at this time to enter the Inner Temple, you won’t get the Inner Workings. Everyone and everything in it’s own time. It’s something that cannot be rushed. When you are ready, you are ready, and the Universe will unfold in ways you could never imagine. Just keep on studying and growing as an adult. Hey! Guess what? The Universe doesn’t care about your color or gender – it wants to know why kind of person/human you are. True Teachers don’t give a rat’s ass what color you are.

    There is a group – galleryofmagick.org – that has quite a few books on the WMT grimoires and tomes condensed for the modern mind. The group has been meeting for over 30 years, doing the workings, and have decided to publish as a group in three author’s names, Damon Brand being the most popular.

    • 1. As to whether or not there’s something “mainstream” to prove my point, you seem to have missed the part where, before I linked to DiAngelo’s academic paper published in an “obscure publication,” I linked to the New York Times bestseller she wrote as a “mainstream” expansion of that paper. It’s okay. I know reading is hard.

      2. Where did I say anyone’s spiritual path was dead? Now, I did said some folks are worshipping whiteness. If you’re equating those things, well, I’m not going to argue.

      3. You seem to be responding to something, but it’s clearly not the blog post I wrote. Rather than blowing up my combox, you might want to consider getting a blog of your own. You clearly have a lot of feelings to get off your chest, and a lot of strongly-held beliefs.

  • Jim Adams

    Well written but pretty flat article. It would have been more helpful if it offered example alternatives (or in the unlikely event no actual examples exist, described hypothetical alternatives). By decrying negative behavior (which should be done) without offering a hint of alternative, the article positions itself to be either lauded or ridiculed, with both actions reinforcing the authors position.

    • Thanks for the backhanded compliment, I guess, but you seem to have missed the following paragraph (plus one sentence) at the end of the article.

      Maybe we should try doing the shadow work of rooting out our own racism, and confronting our own white fragility. Maybe we should explore the interrelation of the individual and the community through the lens of community service. Maybe, just maybe, we should look at the heart of the fears that arise within us when someone dares to suggest that white people are complicit in racism and white supremacy, and that American Pagans, polytheists, and occultists are just as complicit as the rest of white America.

      And then, maybe we should do something about that.

      Cheers!

      • Shawn Herles

        “white people are complicit in racism and white supremacy”

        There is no such thing as “white” people. If you’re referring to people of European descent, white is, ironically, an idea invented by 19th and early 20th century racists, and originally excluded many other Europeans.

        And even if there was such a thing, how is it defined, especially in an increasingly mixed “race” society? Is someone who is mixed “race” partially complicit? Is a child born to a black father and white mother half complicit? I’m not being facetious, but asking a serious question, and hopefully pointing to a serious danger in this kind of thinking. The root cause of all racism is the concept of race itself. This approach to the problem of racism reinforces that root cause. If we are to truly defeat racism, we must stop thinking in racialist terms.

  • Levi

    This sounds like ally theater to me.

  • Eric

    Ah!! I have, for…uh…months now, been swearing I’ll never return to Patheos because it’s the realm of white baby boomer pagans who get extremely upset when people say “white sage isn’t for you,” but I keep coming back because…well, as a young animist I’m starved for resources.

    But this article makes me feel very seen! Thank you so much for writing it, and being so good at writing it.

    My feelings for a bit now have been that “the pagan community” needs a little bit of controlled burning. It’s a lush forest, no doubt, but pockets have become very overgrown with some very problematic invasive species, and to free up some oxygen and nutrients for growth, we’ve got to get in there with some pruners and handsaws and get some embers burning. I wish there was a way to do this in perfect harmony without upsetting the users on here who drive brand-new silver Mercedes-Benzes with dreamcatchers hanging from the rear-view mirrors and “NAMASTE” stickers in the back window, but, …well.

    • Thank you for reading it. I’m glad you found something of value. I think the Pagan community (soi-disant) needs to take a long look in the mirror and ask itself what it’s really for, and who. It needs to figure out its actual values, and determine whether or not its praxis is in line with them. I don’t just mean its spiritual or magical practices, though that’s certainly part of it.

      Of course, this is usually the point at which someone accuses me of being a “cultural Marxist.” 😉

      • Eric

        Aye, the likes of Fox News, Dinesh D’Souza, Jordan Peterson, Joe Rogan and other “thought leaders” of whiteness have done a very good job of coaching so many even in our little supposedly-transgressive community on what three or four talking points to verbally vomit out as if by muscle memory when anybody talks about maybe, possibly disturbing the status quo.

        • I find it fascinating that so many Pagans, polytheists, and occultists have latched onto the alt-right movement. I mean, do they think the right-wing machine is going to overlook their weird religious and spiritual beliefs merely because they parrot the same neocon articles of faith?

          • Dr Dreem

            If you even did a bit of research past the neo-conservative rubbish and controlled opposition you would find that there is a genuine intellectual movement of people who are concerned about the future of white people (ethnic Europeans and European descended people if you prefer) and our heritage. This is not some capitalist ‘right-wing machine’ as you state. That is just the surface distractions like Fox News and the like that our leaders want you to see, and who mislead the people away from genuine resolutions.

            The fact is that white people are a global minority in the world today and in many parts of the world are being marginalised and dispossessed of their lands, and moreover, since the invention of television many decades ago, programmed into becoming for the most part soulless consumers with little to no pride in ourselves or our history. On social media websites like Twitter and Youtube, people expressing pro-white or ‘folkish’ opinions are often censored and in some cases have their accounts cancelled. So much for democracy, right?

            Just the fact that people (white people of course) can be silenced with words like ‘racist’ or ‘xenophobic’ just for expressing concerns regarding immigration into their countries proves that the people in charge and society at large are anti-white/European and that equality, fairness and diversity of opinion don’t exist for us. This isn’t a conspiracy theory, just an observation of reality.

          • I’m astonished that it’s taken most of a week for someone to roll up into comments with this ‘white genocide’ tripe.

            Trust me, I’ve done more than enough research into your ridiculous narrative, and I know better than to argue with a True Believer. If you want to spout this line of garbage, get your own blog… assuming you can find one whose terms of service are loose enough to let you in the door, that is.

          • Dr Dreem

            You know exactly what to say to shut down a discussion, don’t you? Why don’t you just admit that you have nothing to say? Either that or you’re suffering from extreme cognitive dissonance.

          • Shawn Herles

            Misha, the alt-right and neoconservatism are about as far apart as it’s possible to get on the political spectrum. The alt-right is a white supremacist movement that hates Jews, and opposes Israel, Zionism, and US interventionist wars. The neocons were mostly Jewish liberal-rightists who support Israel, Zionism and strongly support American military interventions in the Middle East and elsewhere. They couldn’t be further apart. It would also be inaccurate to mix the alt-right in with mainstream conservatism, they really are radically different ideologies, although Trump has blurred that somewhat.

            Also, Pagans have not latched on to the alt-right, the alt-right has been from it’s beginnings a Pagan oriented movement. The “father” of the alt-right, Alain de Benoist, is a French Pagan and wrote a book about being Pagan. The alt-right’s roots are in a French political/philosophical group called Nouvelle Droite, founded by de Benoist and others that began in the 1970’s and promoted Paganism from it’s inception. A quick perusal of alt-right book outlets will show a large number of works dealing with Paganism and the Occult. The original alt-right blog in the US was strongly Pagan and viciously critical of Christianity.

            Disclaimer: I am neither a conservative nor alt-right. I find the former mostly wrong, and the latter massively evil and dangerous. But I believe in doing research using primary sources so that when I comment about an issue I will hopefully know what I’m talking about.

            Google is your friend.

  • ochanilele

    The road to equality will always feel like oppression to the oppressor. “White fragility,” denial, deflection, anger, refusal to acknowledge that racism and white privilege exists — these are all responses to corrective actions. The fact that I can have a peaceful encounter with a police officer without fear of being shot is a huge example of white privilege. It’s not always about having more and having it easy; it’s actually about not having to suffer because of the color of one’s skin. All the praise this article is receiving just shows how little work has been done, and how far we have to go.

    Since the focus here is on witchcraft and paganism, let me clue you in: as it was brought to this country and practiced, witchcraft has always been incredibly racist. Racism doesn’t have to be open and loud for it to be real; it’s quiet, insidious, and subversive. It’s not what one does; often, it’s what one does not or refuses to do. Those of you who were active witches in the 80s will know of what I speak. There were no blacks in witchcraft. Some of today’s most well-loved authors who were writing back then made statements in their original books such as, “Blacks have their own more appropriate expressions of magic and spirituality.” They proudly wrote about European expressions of folk spirituality, excluding blacks and their magick. And these were the same authors who wrote about exclusion of gays because their “polarity” wasn’t right, and a few, just to seem “enlightened,” would write things about how gays “could” be included, but only if they accepted their proper role and polarity within the circle, or else they would destroy the balance and the magick.

    I wish those first editions from the 70s and 80s weren’t in storage 3,000 miles away, or I’d start giving you photos of those pages.

    Witchcraft wasn’t even here to any great extent until the 1960, and it couldn’t have been, because Gerald Gardner hadn’t restored the fragments and fabricated the rest. Early pagan authors tried to find and prove fragments of witchcraft and magic in this country before that movement; and there was magic here. But it was brought by black people who were stolen and kidnapped from various parts of Africa.

    Once some pagan groups realized that, how quickly was that appropriated? That, too, is a form of racism and white privilege.

    Whites are the problem. We cry foul because equality means we give up privilege. To us, that feels like oppression. If you want to work to change the mindset and consciousness prevalent in magickal people, you can’t whitewash or candy coat. If you want to kill racism, or, be a magickal surgeon and excise the disease, you take the shortest route and go to the heart of it. Otherwise, you’re not solving the problem. You’re seeking a compromise or partial solution in which whites retain some of all of their privilege.

    That’s my opinion — your mileage may vary.

  • ochanilele

    [Moderator’s note: The text from the beginning of this comment to the three asterisks, was copied into this comment from the original author’s previous comment, which Disqus appears to have swallowed whole. Promise made, promise kept.]

    The road to equality will always feel like oppression to the oppressor. “White fragility,” denial, deflection, anger, refusal to acknowledge that racism and white privilege exists — these are all responses to corrective actions. The fact that I can have a peaceful encounter with a police officer without fear of being shot is a huge example of white privilege. It’s not always about having more and having it easy; it’s actually about not having to suffer because of the color of one’s skin. All the praise this article is receiving just shows how little work has been done, and how far we have to go.

    Since the focus here is on witchcraft and paganism, let me clue you in: as it was brought to this country and practiced, witchcraft has always been incredibly racist. Racism doesn’t have to be open and loud for it to be real; it’s quiet, insidious, and subversive. It’s not what one does; often, it’s what one does not or refuses to do. Those of you who were active witches in the 80s will know of what I speak. There were no blacks in witchcraft. Some of today’s most well-loved authors who were writing back then made statements in their original books such as, “Blacks have their own more appropriate expressions of magic and spirituality.” They proudly wrote about European expressions of folk spirituality, excluding blacks and their magick. And these were the same authors who wrote about exclusion of gays because their “polarity” wasn’t right, and a few, just to seem “enlightened,” would write things about how gays “could” be included, but only if they accepted their proper role and polarity within the circle, or else they would destroy the balance and the magick.

    I wish those first editions from the 70s and 80s weren’t in storage 3,000 miles away, or I’d start giving you photos of those pages.

    Witchcraft wasn’t even here to any great extent until the 1960, and it couldn’t have been, because Gerald Gardner hadn’t restored the fragments and fabricated the rest. Early pagan authors tried to find and prove fragments of witchcraft and magic in this country before that movement; and there was magic here. But it was brought by black people who were stolen and kidnapped from various parts of Africa.

    Once some pagan groups realized that, how quickly was that appropriated? That, too, is a form of racism and white privilege.

    Whites are the problem. We cry foul because equality means we give up privilege. To us, that feels like oppression. If you want to work to change the mindset and consciousness prevalent in magickal people, you can’t whitewash or candy coat. If you want to kill racism, or, be a magickal surgeon and excise the disease, you take the shortest route and go to the heart of it. Otherwise, you’re not solving the problem. You’re seeking a compromise or partial solution in which whites retain some of all of their privilege.

    That’s my opinion — your mileage may vary.

    ***

    One more thing: I totally disagree that shadow work will solve racism. I don’t know how the young people are defining “shadow work” today, but if you know what you’re working with from the start, it’s not part of your “shadow” self. Shadow is hidden. Racism isn’t. It’s a learned behavior, and our refusal to acknowledge it in ourselves and others is willful blindness, not repression by the shadow.

    • ochanilele

      Why was my very respectful post disagreeing with this blog censored and removed? I spent an hour on that short response. There was nothing inflammatory about it, except for the fact I gave my opinion on why I did not agree with it.

      Does patheos censor thoughtful voices of dissent? What good is a blog if thoughtful discussion and debate are not allowed?

      • Please see my response to your other comment in this thread.

        • ochanilele

          I did see your comment. Please see mine. That was a “ps” I wrote before any comment from you appeared.

          Be well.

          • The text of your missing post has been inserted into the beginning of this post, as agreed upon. Cheers.

          • And now, apparently, the post itself has been deleted… but not by me. Sigh.

            Here, then, for the record, is the full text of both comments, along with my moderator note:

            [Moderator’s note: The text from the beginning of this comment to the three asterisks, was copied into this comment from the original author’s previous comment, which Disqus appears to have swallowed whole. Promise made, promise kept.]

            The road to equality will always feel like oppression to the oppressor. “White fragility,” denial, deflection, anger, refusal to acknowledge that racism and white privilege exists — these are all responses to corrective actions. The fact that I can have a peaceful encounter with a police officer without fear of being shot is a huge example of white privilege. It’s not always about having more and having it easy; it’s actually about not having to suffer because of the color of one’s skin. All the praise this article is receiving just shows how little work has been done, and how far we have to go.

            Since the focus here is on witchcraft and paganism, let me clue you in: as it was brought to this country and practiced, witchcraft has always been incredibly racist. Racism doesn’t have to be open and loud for it to be real; it’s quiet, insidious, and subversive. It’s not what one does; often, it’s what one does not or refuses to do. Those of you who were active witches in the 80s will know of what I speak. There were no blacks in witchcraft. Some of today’s most well-loved authors who were writing back then made statements in their original books such as, “Blacks have their own more appropriate expressions of magic and spirituality.” They proudly wrote about European expressions of folk spirituality, excluding blacks and their magick. And these were the same authors who wrote about exclusion of gays because their “polarity” wasn’t right, and a few, just to seem “enlightened,” would write things about how gays “could” be included, but only if they accepted their proper role and polarity within the circle, or else they would destroy the balance and the magick.

            I wish those first editions from the 70s and 80s weren’t in storage 3,000 miles away, or I’d start giving you photos of those pages.

            Witchcraft wasn’t even here to any great extent until the 1960, and it couldn’t have been, because Gerald Gardner hadn’t restored the fragments and fabricated the rest. Early pagan authors tried to find and prove fragments of witchcraft and magic in this country before that movement; and there was magic here. But it was brought by black people who were stolen and kidnapped from various parts of Africa.

            Once some pagan groups realized that, how quickly was that appropriated? That, too, is a form of racism and white privilege.

            Whites are the problem. We cry foul because equality means we give up privilege. To us, that feels like oppression. If you want to work to change the mindset and consciousness prevalent in magickal people, you can’t whitewash or candy coat. If you want to kill racism, or, be a magickal surgeon and excise the disease, you take the shortest route and go to the heart of it. Otherwise, you’re not solving the problem. You’re seeking a compromise or partial solution in which whites retain some of all of their privilege.

            That’s my opinion — your mileage may vary.

            ***

            One more thing: I totally disagree that shadow work will solve racism. I don’t know how the young people are defining “shadow work” today, but if you know what you’re working with from the start, it’s not part of your “shadow” self. Shadow is hidden. Racism isn’t. It’s a learned behavior, and our refusal to acknowledge it in ourselves and others is willful blindness, not repression by the shadow.

  • ochanilele

    I gave a very polite, respectful response to this blog about why I did not agree with it. I also wrote a PS to it about shadow work. I spent an hour writing that response, and there was nothing heated or disrespectful about what I wrote. I believe my opinion on this matters and should not be censored. I began studying and practicing witchcraft in 1979, and that gives my voice a lot of years of experience and weight because I’ve lived through a lot of years and history as paganism took hold in this country. I’ve written for Llewellyn. I’ve written for various pagan magazines. I was a member of WADL back in the 80s, and worked on various anti defamation and education project regarding the Craft with Dr. Leo Martello in the 80s. Why was my voice censored here? I’d really like to know.

    • ochanilele

      One more thing: As an author who has written 8 books in two languages and with a current blog platform of about 100,000 readers and subscribers, it’s disheartening to think patheos.com won’t allow thoughtful discussion, and practices censorship of voices who just don’t agree with a piece that has been written.

      I’ve been a practicing witch for 43 years, an olorisha for 20, and while my skin is white, a lot of my ancestors were black, and slaves at that, so my voice and the voices of others like me should have a seat at the table of discussion.

      Shame on you for censorship.

      • Again, there’s no censorship going on. This comment, the one to which I’m responding at this moment, wasn’t visible when I wrote my first response, despite being seven minutes older than my response. As I said, Disqus is being glitchy right now.

        An apology for your baseless accusation would now be appropriate.

        • ochanilele

          Sadly, I must turn down your request. It wasn’t a baseless accusation. The odds against my post being the only post out of all the posts to disappear, especially when it’s the only one not in agreement with this piece, are astronomical. And even if it’s a tech issue, I’m not your tech guy, so it’s not my fault you had a tech glitch. And I still don’t see my post back up. Also, I’m a coder. I know how that software works. Someone had to unapprove my post. Whether by accident or on purpose, it’s not my fault. So from my end, it did look like censorship.

          What would be appropriate is you remain the gracious host you were when you first addressed me. Not my site. Not my tech to run. Not my issue.

          Have a nice day.

          • Okay, so, in order:

            It wasn’t a request; it was an observation of what basic manners would dictate as appropriate behavior in this circumstance.

            If you had actually bothered to read the other comments on this thread, you might’ve noticed that yours was far from being the only disagreement.

            As regards reposting your comment, I said—and I quote—”If the server doesn’t cough your comment back up sometime soon, I’ll repost it myself, or add the text to your other comment about shadow work.” That was two hours ago. If your ego cannot accept that my definition of “soon” doesn’t mean “immediately,” that’s a personal problem for you to address on your own time, not mine.

            I said I’d repost it, and I have.

            And with that, go away. You have poor manners, you’re entirely too impressed with your own accomplishments, and you’ve run afoul of the cardinal rule of commenting on this blog: “Don’t annoy Misha.”

            Goodbye.

    • Hello, Ócha’ni Lele.

      So, I’m not quite sure what’s going on, but your voice hasn’t been censored. If I had deleted your comment, I assure you that I’d tell you. As moderator, I don’t tend to delete comments, anyway; if something’s truly egregious, I’ll moderate it by overwriting the comment itself, as you can see elsewhere in this thread.

      I do see that the longer comment you left is missing from the Disqus comments here on the blog, but I still see it on my WordPress dashboard. I’m suspecting that Disqus glitched; it’s been having some issues with loading and processing comments.

      If the server doesn’t cough your comment back up sometime soon, I’ll repost it myself, or add the text to your other comment about shadow work. Fair enough?

      • ochanilele

        Fair enough. Thank you.

  • Jon Lindsay

    The only possible response to your post from a white person is agreement. Any disagreement is dismissed as fragility. Why would a person enter into a discussion under those terms? The “discussion” is not a discussion but a lecture directed at any ignorant white fool who dares to question your analysis.

    • Chris

      I agree with so much of this article, and yet I 100% agree with this as well. And looking at the way any dissent is handled in the comments, with name calling and shaming, yeah. It’s too bad this isn’t a conversation.

      • Shawn Herles

        The Cult of the Woke have no interest in two way conversations or debate. You either agree with their dogma or you’re dismissed as “fragile” or “privileged” if you’re lucky, or a Nazi-Fascist if you’re less lucky. There is no room for debate. The Cult of the Woke claim to be working for freedom and justice. In reality, like all cults, they are deeply authoritarian and anti-freedom.

  • Jon Lindsay

    I found this article with this search “The unbearable lightness of Paganism”. Much of what you say describes what I was looking for.

  • Al Dent

    There is definitely a need for articles about racism after that shitshow. It’s alarmingly not surprising that people chose to rally in the comments and display outward racism towards a particular commenter too. I am glad yall decided to write about the topic because people need a wake up call.

  • Henry Buchy
    • Doesn’t really apply to what I wrote, but if it makes you feel better to think so, I guess that’s nice.

  • Some people build bridges. Others drive wedges. I put this blog in the latter category.

    • If you think a blog post about racism and white fragility is “driving a wedge,” boy, do I have some bad news for you about the everyday lived realities of people of color in America.

      • Finger-pointing and name calling do not win you allies. Quite the opposite.

        • Anyone whose allyship is dependent on their feelings being catered to was never an ally to begin with.

  • Sygn Badb

    My mother is white( Sweedish father and Irish mother). My father is black. I don’t know where his ancestors came from. But like most blacks in America he is likely to have European ancestry mixed in. I don’t really agree with the concept of cultural appropriation. We’ve mixed as humans. Besides, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Not only that, race has been proven to be a social construct. And where do I fit in? Am I allowed to be Asatru? My mother seems to think so, she mostly raised me as such. With a lot of Christianity thrown in to appease my white Christian fundamentalist step-father. I bet the people who say that you should follow the gods of your ancestors would say no. They would see my dark skin and say no, you are black. Mostly white people. Most black people I have known do not even consider me black, because of the way I speak and look. But this is basically an American concept anyway. It goes back to the one-drop of blood rule. Go to Europe and it is my understanding that I would not be considered white or black. I would be called mixed. Again. Where do I fit in? I’m culturally white. My family is white. I love my Celtic and Nordic ancestry. I’m proud of it. I don’t know anything about my African ancestry but I certainly wouldn’t mind knowing about it. And I truly hope I don’t see someone write that I can worship the gods of either side because my parentage is split down the middle. If I was three quarters white would I finally qualify to practice an Indo-European religion? Yes, there is racism and we should talk about it, we should try and stop it. But let’s not let the pendulum swing so far we can’t state our opinion or that we have to be politically correct. Walking on eggshells lest we offend a marginalized minority. Talk!

  • Lailoken Scathach

    Nope. No. and, nuh-uh.

  • Mary Christine

    Is this how you create a narrative? By erasing comments?
    You should feel appalled. You are only keeping the two or three comments agreeing with you, and refuse to answer to the others. What a shame!

    • I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about, but your facts are bogus, your histrionic offense is tiresome, and your moralizing is unwelcome. That earns you a permanent, one-way trip on the catapult. Cheerio!

  • Brandy Williams Author

    Shout out to you for bringing it up. I posted a challenge to the term “black magic” a while back you might find interesting. https://www.patheos.com/blogs/starandsnake/2018/05/is-the-term-black-magic-racist/

  • Stephanieisaperson

    Ah, the fringe left trying desperately to classify straight white people who scare them. You know, all you succeed in doing with this crap is making us more angry and less tolerant of you. Who the hell are you to tell white people who they are or should be to begin with? Imagine the outcry if we did the same to people like you. THEN we’d see some real fragility as you and your kind are instantly broken down to tears and the childlike tantrum throwing that seems to be the go to behavior for you guys.

  • Northwest Ethno-Nationalist

    you are so lost its unbelievalble…you call yourslef spiritual but cant grasp the most basic laws of nature…you ae a product of the kali-yuga and im not surprised you are in seattle

  • Gus diZerega

    I have no have no idea where you ‘studied’ Pagan religion or ‘practiced’ it- maybe online? Because it has damn little to do with what I do and the people with whom I work.