I’ve heard complaints from recons that full moon celebrations are a manifestation of Wiccanate privilege. Now, here’s the thing: Wiccan privilege is definitely a thing that exists in the pagan community, but marking observances by the phase of the moon is not necessarily Wiccanate. I can say this with confidence, as I am not Wiccan, and I just realized that I need to check the phase of the moon so I can plan my ritual calendar.
Why am I so confident? Because I’m not Wiccan; I’m Buddhist. Historically, most of Asia used a lunisolar calendar. Time was measured with both the moon and the sun. Festivals were often calculated by the moon phase. In Buddhism and Hinduism, they still are. It is considered auspicious to perform prayers to certain deities and buddhas/bodhisattvas on certain phases of the moon. The 15th day (full moon) for Amitabha, the dark of the moon for certain “wrathful” protector deities, and so on.
In addition, as someone who has taken special vows, I must actually abstain from certain activities on some days of the lunar month. (In my tradition, the 8th and the 15th.) On these special days I must avoid meat and sexual activity, and many practitioners also take the additional “bodhisattva vows” that include wearing only plain clothes, not listening to music, no food after midday, etc.
It’s time to talk about karma again, which means I get to drag out Inigo Montoya
I see karma get romanticized a lot, even identified with the Wiccanate “Rule of Three.” In the pagan community, it’s widely misunderstood, and talked about as some sort of universal balancing principle. Instances of poetic justice are pointed to as Karma in action. Case in point:
Let me say something right now: STOP IT.
Karma has nothing to do with poetic justice, or the just world fallacy. It is not victim blaming or the law of attraction, or the power of positive thinking. It sure as hell has nothing to do with the Law of Threefold Return. I have encountered people who rejected the concept of karma because it was linked with these ideas.
Karma has been reduced to a punchline in NeoPagan spirituality, twisted into justification that allows the privileged to enjoy their comfortable lives without question, because hey, they must have earned it somehow. When you strip karma from its original framework, you lose the next half of the equation – pleasure now means pain tomorrow.
The most popular gods in the Pagan community are drawn from the Norse, Greek, Egyptian, or Celtic pantheons. Loki, Apollo, Isis, and Brigit are incredibly popular deities. Their original cults, however, are long dead. Modern pagans and polytheists need not fear stepping on anyone’s toes when they invoke Odin or Bast. Certainly, there is a great deal of bickering between the reconstructionists, the eclectics, the Neo-Wiccans, and the people who were just minding their own business when the Morrigan showed up, but for the most part, the arguments about how one should properly honor Diana take place between people who were raised practicing some other faith. How then does one honor a pagan deity whose worship is still very much alive?
For one thing, one does not call them “pagan.” Ganesh is Hindu. Guanyin is Buddhist and not actually a goddess, so stop calling her one, because she worked really hard to become a bodhisattva. Hindus and Buddhists are not Pagan. Not all witches are Wiccans. Not all pagans are Wiccans. Not all magic is witchcraft. Satanists aren’t evil. They can be pagan if they want; a lot of them are pretty nice people. Are we cool here? Good. Let’s move on.
If you worship a god from a living religion, there is one thing you must keep in mind above all else: the practitioners of that religion are totally justified in telling you how they feel. You are worshiping their god. If they don’t like it when you pair Ganesh and Lakshmi on your Wiccan altar listen to them. Nobody can make you change what you’re doing, (Ganesh and Lakshmi might not even mind it – though I kind of think they’d find it weird, especially Lakshmi) but if you don’t acknowledge that Hindu (or Buddhist, or Shinto) gods belonged to the Hindus (Buddhists, Shintoists) long before you ever heard of them, you are behaving in a manner that is insensitive at best, and racist at worst.