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Yesterday was a trying day.  It was one of those days when it seems like everything that could drain my energy, did.  So like most people I took a look back to see what it was that seemed so draining and it was no surprise to me.  My day started off amazing but one incident was all it took to remind me what the world is really like.

Most of you that know me personally know that my work as a Chaplain is not the only thing that I do.  For those of you who I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting in person yet, I do a lot more than my work at Hendricks Chapel.  I have a wonderful husband whom I should say takes care of me, we have a small 56 acres to care for and I own my own business – a small metaphysical shop in Oswego, NY.  Beyond that I write, study and teach all the time.  My time is stretched, but in a good way and I wouldn’t really change any of it.  I enjoy my life without regrets and with a multitude of smiles! But yesterday was a reminder of the work that is left in front of me, in front of all of us.  Yesterday the world walked through the door of my shop in the form of an old woman with a question.

184312_719247819725_28406679_36325422_539982_nI had watched her standing outside of my front window looking at the statue of “the lady” in the window.  Finally she came in from the cold and approached me at the counter.  Her question was “who is that in the window?”  I knew the look, the tone, the accusation and I answered her “that is the moon goddess.”  “Who” she asked and I repeated that it was the moon goddess.  She told me that at first she thought it was a statue of the Virgin Mary but had looked and saw that her lap was empty, there was no Jesus, and she was confused.  After all, this is the beginning of the celebration of Christmas which is the celebration of the birth of Jesus.  Her face was harsh and so were her words.  She continued on that people have forgotten that the real reason for this time of year is to celebrate the birth of our lord and savior Jesus and they don’t go to church to say thank you.  She explained she had disowned her daughter for not going to church anymore and thought it a right punishment.  And then she asked the big question: “Is that a mockery of the Virgin Mary?”  I told her no, it wasn’t, it is the Moon Goddess and not a mockery at all.  She looked back at the window, the Goddess who holds in her hands the offerings of many, and then stated I needed to take it out of the window.  People would be offended by mocking the Virgin after all, especially this time of year.  Besides she said, we all have to answer to god including her but stated she had all the right answers.

Yes, I had forgotten, or at least had not been reminded in a while, what the world is like and apparently I needed a reminder in the form of an old woman.

As she walked out of the shop she turned and looked at me and the Reiki Master standing with me and told us to have a Merry Christmas.  I wished her warmth for the night and blessings of the season and then she was gone.  With her, hate and ignorance left as well but in her wake she left anger and painful reminders that while a great deal has changed nothing has changed.

The anger dissipated quickly but the reminder has remained.  But it is different from before.  The reminder is that a lot of work yet to be done is waiting.  It was a reminder that I cannot change the world, but I can control how I respond to hate when it walks up to me.  But mainly it was a reminder of the need to create more space where ignorance can be challenged and understanding can be fostered so that acceptance can be achieved.

So to the little old woman who walked in to my shop – may the blessings of the Goddess be with you that she might teach you the compassion you so desperately need in your life.  To the old woman’s daughter and everyone else – may the blessing of patience be yours.  The earth moves slowly but change does happen in time including the changing of minds.


My husband asked me yesterday if I had written or commented on the “Burn a Koran” day in Florida. I hadn’t, at least not in writing. I have commented on it to family and friends verbally but not here in print. Why? I wasn’t sure until this morning when I read one more article on the growing hatred towards Muslims and the Islamic faith within the United States.

The article wasn’t about the Park 51 site; it was about the mosque in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. The article was from the view of one Muslim woman ( It outlined the reasons behind the decision to build a mosque in a town that already had a large Muslim community. It also showed the form bigotry and hatred toward the Muslim community has taken in this city. It is sad, it is ignorance, it is wrong for such actions to be happening let alone to be tolerated and, in many cases, condoned. This is why I chose to write… finally.

I must say something before I continue. Please feel free to be offended by what I am about to say. Feel free to disagree with me. Feel free to say that I am wrong or that I am in a position different than you and I am able to give such opinions. Feel free to say that my situation is unique and different from yours and therefore you cannot say or do what I am about to suggest. Now on to the rest of what I wish to say:

If you do not speak up against such bigotry and hatred then you are condoning it and allowing it to continue and grow.

As Pagans we know what it is to be condemned on misinformation and outright lies. We know what it is to lose jobs, lose family members, lose friends do to irrational fear of the unknown. We understand what it feels like to have people whisper innuendos behind our backs. I myself am no stranger to the finger-pointing, derogatory jokes, or public humiliation by those I thought were my friends. If there was ever a community that could relate to the current situation American Muslims find themselves facing it is Pagans.

Hollywood and the media paint broad stroke pictures of groups; we have been the victims of this phenomenon as long as a story could be told. It is the same story playing out with a different group being targeted. And why? Is it because they do not believe the same thing? Or is it because “they” look different? The last time I remember in this country that a group of people were singled out because they could possibly be a threat to national security was when American Japanese were placed in internment camps. That should never happen again. If we wanted to target people who are a threat, then go after the individual. Remember Timothy McVeigh? He was a home-grown, white boy who decided to kill a lot of people based on his own political doctrines. But everyone agrees that he did not represent the majority of Americans. So if we extrapolate a little, the few radical men who attacked on September 11, 2001 obviously represent all of Islam. There could be individual thought in “that group.” People! Wake up! Speak up!

Hate and bigotry is wrong, flat-out wrong. It makes no difference where it comes from or where it is pointed. It is wrong when it is directed towards Pagans, Muslims, Jews, Blacks, Whites, or whatever group you wish to put into that sentence. I know the fear that the woman in the article speaks about. The fear that someone will find out, what will they do, how will they react. No one should live with that fear, not in this country, not anywhere.

In reading the article I was reminded of a poem written by Martin Niemoller. I think that it is something that we should all be reminded of:

“First, they came for the Jews. But I was not a Jew, so I did not speak up.

 Then they came for the communists. But I was not a communist, so I did not speak up.

Then they came for the trade unionists. But I was not a trade unionist, so I did not speak up.

And when they came for me, There was no one left to speak out for me.”

Please, please, speak out. If you don’t who will?

Hate, Tolerance, Acceptance – three words that are difficult to talk about; three words that need to be talked about.  They are intimately connected to each other, creating a path that many people walk while creating barriers that others can never get over.  When I decided to take the position of Chaplain at Syracuse University I knew that I would encounter all three of these emotions.  That is what they are – emotions. Emotions embedded in action. 

I knew there would be those who would hate that Pagans are allowed to be on campus, hate that Pagans are given equal recognition as their religion, hate that Pagans are not forced back underground, hate that we are allowed to practice spirituality in our own way with our own deities.  They would rather that we not exist or be forced to their truth regarding god.

I knew there would be those that would speak of tolerance.  They “would not care” what we did as long as we didn’t bother them.  If Pagans want to practice their beliefs on campus it would be okay, we would just be oddities for everyone else to write papers about.  We would be the “unfamiliar” religion that the anthropology students want to observer and the journalism students want to film.  I wonder how many of them would consider it rude or odd if the religion that they practice were treated as primitive, practiced by “natives” that had only been recently discovered by “enlightened” individuals?

I knew there would be a few that would accept Pagans with open arms.  They will look at the beauty of a diverse community of spirituality.  They will understand that while we approach our relationship with deity differently that we all seek the same thing –enlightenment of the soul and connection with spirit. They will smile and possibly join in when invited to participate in the rituals of others regardless of how different that may be from their own.  Secure in their spiritual growth, they have no need to reinforce their beliefs through the eradication of other faith traditions; rather they rejoice that so many can find their path to deity in its many diverse forms.

It is a long road to travel from hate to acceptance but it is one that we must walk.  It is only by travelling it ourselves can we show others the way.  That doesn’t mean there won’t be resistance. There will be people who have no desire to move out of their bigotry, holding onto it as long as possible.  Their hatred is familiar, like an old friend and they see no need to give it up.  It has served them well. I feel for them.  How much do they miss by not allowing themselves new ideas and attitudes?  They miss out on the diversity of this world and all that it has to offer.  They don’t understand that giving up their hatred doesn’t mean giving up their faith; in fact they may find that opening their minds would enhance it.

For those that tolerate I would have them consider this:  who wants to be tolerated?  No one.  Tolerate is a terrible word and yet one we are taught to strive for. The very word speaks of a hierarchy of power.  It implies that one group is superior to another, tolerating a group because it has to. Tolerance doesn’t remove prejudice, but it can create a space for dialog.  Dialog leads to education, and education is the key to moving out of hatred, through tolerance and into acceptance. This is where we want to be.

Dialog and education bring with it the ability to understand others.  When we understand what people and their practices are about we often find that our preconceived notions were wrong. Our hate was born out of fear – fear of the unknown.  If we open our hearts and our minds to new ideas and thoughts it is very likely we will find that our fear disappears and we can move into acceptance of others. 

I suppose that would be my goal for all of us regardless of our faith.  Recognize the fear that causes hate, try to be tolerant in order to begin to understand, and in the end embrace others for what we have in common rather than concentrate only on our differences.

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