Tuesday, May 12, 2009

From A Keeper Of The Dark To The Keeper Of The Light

Victoria Slind-Flor, recently named Keeper of the Light at the 8th Annual Pagan Festival in Berkeley, gave an amazing speech. I've copied a few of my favorite bits, but you should go read the whole thing, especially if you're wondering what it really means to be a witch in 2009.

I celebrate the fact that I am a member of the best of all possible religious communities in which to grow old. In mainstream society, aging women are marginalized, despised, and finally invisible. In Paganism, we crones-–and sages, which is what we call aging men—are honored, supported and often invited into the very center of things. How cool it is to be an old woman in a religion that honors the Goddess in her triple aspect of maiden, mother and crone!

Today I want to talk a little bit about who we are, how we got here, and what we do. The Pagan community is as diverse and energetic a religious community as ever could be imagined. Among the Pagans I know personally—many of whom are here today—are scientists, university professors, lawyers, nurses, computer specialists, software designers, poets, dancers, musicians, artists, therapists, stay-at-home parents, college students, entrepreneurs, small-business owners, and even other journalists like me.

We’ve become the subject of interest to a growing body of scholars who have noted we own more books per capita than members of just about any other religion, and who say the Bay Area has become the Athens of the Pagan world. Ours is not the religion of the book, but, you might say, the religion of the whole library, and the kitchen, the meadow, the loom, the potter’s wheel, the vegetable garden, the oven filled with baking bread, and yes, even the compost bin.

. . .

Pagans don’t prosletyze. There are no Pagan missionaries who go door to door, or who hand out leaflets or take to the air waves to urge others to join us. We know that each person has to make the journey by herself or himself. I would guess that the majority of us didn’t suddenly become Pagans, but, rather, finally found in Paganism a name for the religious stirrings and connection to the sacred earth that was always within us. I know that for me, personally, it was a matter of self-discovery, the aha! moment in which I realized I probably always had been a Pagan, despite my years and years of religious education, participation and service in Roman Catholicism. And I know that many many of my former co-religionists are here today and to be found in Pagan communities around the world.

. . .

Many come to us because Paganism is truly the ``big tent’’ with room for all. We’re sex-positive, and those who’ve been discriminated against for their gender or their sexual orientation or their ethnicity or economic status will find room here.

So where will you find us? Pagans can be found turning the compost in their bins, gathering up their bottles and cans for recycling, using public transportation to lessen their carbon impact on the environment. You’ll also find Pagans building houses for Habitat for Humanity, or in New Orleans, helping citizens of that beleagured city rebuild their lives.

If you’re in the hospital, chances are one of the nurses or doctors giving you care is wearing a pentacle and will work hard to make sure you receive spiritual as well as medical care. If you need to see a therapist, increasingly you’ll be able to find someone who doesn’t think it peculiar that you honor a polytheistic pantheon.

. . .

What does it mean to be a Pagan in the here and now? I think it means being awake, noticing, paying attention, in Buddhist terms, living mindfully. It means having your eyes open and noting the small changes in our physical universe that herald the turning of the wheel of the year.

Pagans notice when the winter rains upholster the Berkeley Hills with green velvet, or when the full moon means low tide in the Alameda estuary. They stop, filled with wonder, when they’re distracted by the scent of blooming jasmine, or when they hear frogs singing in the marshlands.

Pagans also have good radar for injustice, intolerance, and inhumanity. Pagans make donations to organizations that care for animals, the environment, the elderly, and anything in need of help. They’re also found giving service, trying to create a new and better world.

It’s also my theory that we Pagans are the so-called ``cultural creatives,’’ the leading-edge thinkers and doers. For us, making beautiful things, dancing in the meadow, walking in the rain and singing up the sun are religious acts. The Goddess crooks Her finger at us, and invites us to join Her in the messy, chaotic and joyful process of creation. And every morning when we hop out of bed, we see the world as fresh, ripe with possibilities.

. . .

And today,in our flowing robes, our face paint, our glitter, wearing our pointy hats, and laughing in the sunlight. we are here, we are whole and we are Pagans!

Yes, this is a big feel-good day for us. We can see our sisters and brothers who share space with us inside the big tent that is Paganism.

After all, we are a circle, within a circle, with no beginning and never and never ending. So let’s go dance and sing and have a terrific day.

Image found here.


Anne said...


Anonymous said...

This is my wish for the pagan community.


Rhode Island Rules said...

Very cool.

Teacats said...

Brillant. Simply brillant. In so many senses and ways -- this speech shines through its words and their meanings. It is truly "illuminating" It is sacred art.

Jan at Rosemary Cottage

xan said...

What everybody else said about the speech...but that picture/illustration is gorgeous too. I would love to have that big on my wall.

...hmm, I would love to have it AS my wall. (Stares, estimating measurements, contemplates moving furniture, buying paint. oops, that's gotta wait. Planning time is good though too.)