Posts Tagged equality

Speaking as a Woman

Today is International Women’s Day. This always gets me thinking. Much like Mother/Father/Secretary/Dog’s days, aren’t those every day?

Well, of course. But it’s worth taking a specific day out to think about that particular group.

(Yes, there is an International Men’s Day. That’s not what I’m looking at today).

From an early age, I learned that there were more male role models than female. In the late ’70s/early ’80s, Wonder Woman was my idol. The only superheroes I saw back then were on TV, so while I loved the lonely strength of the Hulk and the corny fun of Adam West’s Batman (where Catwoman always seemed to win, somehow), there wasn’t much else to choose from that I could relate to.

As any so-called minority knows, it’s tough when you don’t see yourself in the world around. You seek out something that reflects You, and hold on to it fiercely when you find it.

It seemed that a certain social group of straight, white men was the norm, the ‘default’. I ended up being somehow tomboy-ish, because the specified female roles weren’t in the least interesting to me. Then that one female leader, Margaret Thatcher… well, no. No, thank you.

I remember adult ladies around me making jokes about the bra-less, freedom-fighting women of Greenham Common and Newbury. Third-wave feminism seemed a long way away from me, and not at all aspirational.

I saw many female teachers, but led by a Head Master. I saw male bosses and female secretaries. Of course, in later life, I became a PA, and understood how deeply true it is that while men stand up to run things, they couldn’t do it without the strong women behind them, hiding their wits and brains behind their battle-armour of Wonderbra, heels and fierce makeup.

It’s often true that women have had to fight twice as hard to gain as much recognition as men do ‘normally’. Which is why on days like this, it’s both fun and necessary to catch ourselves in perpetuating those default norms. Feminism is about equality, for all. This is not about women above men, but asking for equal respect. Be we gay or straight, trans or cis, our stories are just as valid as anyone else’s. No matter our ancestry or current social role or job, we can find commonality, hear each other and stand up together. Our relationships, and the gendered language we use, is still evolving and maturing as it is required to represent new things.Pagans have a great deal of respect for women, given that it is a very female-led spirituality – but again, we still have room to grow. We stand with our brothers, fathers and sons, together in our power, unique and connected. This is the revolutionary act that we can demonstrate, each and every day, in ritual and regular life.We say that we see women as sacred – yet many are still taken advantage of, used or disparaged. In recent years, I’ve got into (rather pointless) arguments about how I call myself a Priest, not a Priestess. While I know that the suffix ‘ess‘ simply denotes the female of the word, once again, the default is male. That always annoyed me, as it seemed so arbitrary. Actress but not directress (or directrix). Many people have called me a Priestess, which I don’t mind at all, but it’s interesting to note that a Priestess is treated as if the title is an honorific, not derogatory (even if you need to be a High Priestess to carry any clout *grin*). That word appears to have been reclaimed, and I’m glad of this. Priest and Priestess, standing together as God and Goddess. And I am deeply grateful to those men who stand at our side.
Today and all days, I call on my lady-friends, women in body and/or spirit, to stand in who they are. Sometimes that’s the biggest battle of all, but know that there are so many others who have your back and love you for that honesty, integrity and bravery. Whether our weapon is a sword, pen, wand or knitting needle, know that we are all Wonder Women at heart.Wonder Woman

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Faith and Funding

It can take a lot to make someone change their spiritual outlook, their faith – after all, it generally is what constitutes or provides a framework for their view of the world and their place in it. While as a child you accept what you are told as to Why Things Are, with your view of the world formed by the social and familial landscape that you are born into… then as you learn more about the wider world, you (hopefully) begin to ask questions. This can lead to strengthening or lapsing of belief in your worldview, depending on how well such a foundation suits your life as you take more active and personal responsibility in the construction of it.

Changes in faith can be momentous events, perhaps stemming from some form of loss or bereavement, or they can be relatively secretive, creeping up on you until you suddenly have that ‘aha!’ moment, that epiphany, realization that something has irrevocably changed in your personal explanation (and justification) for how the world works. So then what do you do?

Belief evolves – and so it should. Despite the apparent comfort and safety of routine, static = stagnation. As I’ve said before, personal beliefs that guide life should move with that life and the events you experience, otherwise how can it remain relevant and applicable?

Those ‘lightning bolt’ moments can happen anytime. When you’re ready to see, the answer will appear, even if it’s been staring you in the face for ages. But while such changes will hopefully be for the better, that doesn’t mean things will automatically get easier.

When I said my life was changing dramatically over the last month, I wasn’t kidding. I now am working actively as a Druid in my community – and the pace is ramping up. I’m busier than I ever was in a ‘normal’ salaried job, people are more than happy with what I’m doing, and the foundation is being very well set. This throws all of those ideas that this is just a ‘hobby’ very much out of the window!

My worldview has been forced to change. Rather than simply being a ‘spiritual volunteer’, in modern parlance I’m more of a ‘spiritual consultant’. I’ve had to consider insurance, self-promotion, target market, relative value of services. Faith-based actions are having to be quantified in the manner of the society in which I live and work. I may be a Priest, but I have no larger Church to back me up and provide wage and home. Others are watching to see how I do (generally with interest and curiosity, I’m happy to say!).

The most immediately issue, therefore, is survival – and that means money. I’ve always been told that asking about money is rude, and I’m waiting for the first person to suggest that I shouldn’t be charging for what I do (as seems to be the way with some of the more ‘intangible’ Pagans!), but I still have bills to pay, as do we all. Despite what one person once asked, I don’t live on a commune, in some sort of ‘Hobbiton’-style self-sufficient village! So how much do I value, in cash terms, what I do? What value do I place on my spirituality? It’s another challenge, another demand from my lived spiritual life to look deeper, to question its relevance and applicability, as it becomes not just personal but professional.

Ultimately, something that I was taught years ago is the importance of fair energy exchange. This isn’t some sort of cosmic light experiment, nor  sacrifice in the manner of offering up a goat to a deity – but it does mean giving something of value to you in exchange for something of (at least) equal value in return. Professional practitioners of energy healing have often told me how they must receive equal return on their ‘expenditure’, otherwise the healing work doesn’t ‘take’ as well; the value that the healee places on their energy makes it more effective.

So what’s the primary unit of exchange for energy, in this capitalist society? Money, of course. When you think of any monitary service, exchange the financial term for ‘energy’ and see how it sounds. Exchange of cash (energy) is to be expected if you want something of value.

You don’t expect something for nothing – and if you do, that ‘free’ service has no definable value and is therefore worth less. That’s another set of beliefs that has been instilled in us. So as  the ancient Druids may have been paid in food or fuel, I’m reimbursed with money to pay for those same items. Life moves forward.

But now I’m being asked for more information on what it is that I do. Faith-based activities must again be quantified, so their value can be understood. Physical evidence of spiritual activity can be seen… but again, it requires work relative to the anticipated effect. So how do I specify what people ‘get for their money?’

I suppose I’m very aware of the potential for falsehood in working as a public Priest. Consider those American evangelists, asking for donations for prayer and healing (and very clearly living well as a result). There’s a good deal of cynicism now about how much the ancient Christian Church took from those who could ill afford it, with the clergy demanding ever more at the expense of others’ suffering. And yes, I’ve seen ‘alternative’ shops selling glass jewellery and wands as Real Quartz. Is a ritual tool somehow ‘better’ because it cost more? Or does that cost truly reflect the effort put into its creation?

I think that the key word here is ‘equal’. If I provide a bad service, I receive less in return, and thus cannot survive. So far, I am profoundly grateful that this is not the case! But I must therefore be constantly clear in what I am doing, conveying information and often highly experiential knowledge in a manner that can be understood and carried forward by others. I must be strong in my own beliefs if I am to represent them honestly and honourably, and flexible enough that I can continue to be challenged by new perspectives. I can’t get too proud either – no flowery titles, claims of superpowers or secret occult knowledge! My money is very literally where my mouth is (and I’m likewise glad of good friends and colleagues to keep me grounded and true to myself).

So it is that my faith is being challenged as to its increasing relevance with my life, as ‘work’ and ‘belief’ merge ever closer. I truly am living my Druidry all day, every day. Sometimes it wears me out, as I try to do too much – equal energy exchange is therefore also a reminder that I must not give everything that I have to the extent that I suffer. But nor can I travel long distances, to perform large rituals, for nothing. I won’t be able to give ‘complimentary’ books out to all and sundry. Ultimately consider what sort of world we would live in, if we truly expected such things? That honourable, equal energy exchange creates value and satisfaction to both sides of the equation, rather than any expectation that you are owed free goods and services.

I know that the challenges will continue as I move forward and learn, but I know too that I will do my utmost, as an active Druid, trying to help my community to the best of my ability. Spirituality merges with ‘everyday’ life… and isn’t that what we’re all truly seeking?

Let’s work together, to make ‘mundane’ life a little more magical.

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