Make Your Own Wheel of the Year

One of the first Pagan-centric books I read back in the day was Ariadne’s Thread: A Workbook of Goddess Magic by Shekhinah Mountainwater.

It was, for the most part, a fairly typical Dianic Witchcraft intro. However, the exercises were really well crafted. The best one, in my opinion, was how to make a perpetual calendar. I made one years ago, have updated it since, and still find it useful. So I thought I’d share!

What is a Perpetual Calendar?

A calendar is simply a way of organizing days. Most calendars have defined start and stop dates, like the annual calendars with which we’re all familiar. A perpetual calendar, in contrast, progresses in a cyclic fashion potentially forever.

That’s cool enough when you’re tracking one thing. But this calendar layers cycles, which lets me compare them all together at a glance.

Back when I was running a lot of Pagan-style rituals I used this thing constantly. Esbats all had to have some sort of magickal purpose, but even then I rarely had a specific magickal need. Using this calendar I could see, at a glance, what the influences were around moon phases or a specific date. That gave me a ton of correspondences to trigger inspiration when I was running dry. To this day I use it when timing things like rites of passage and other workings that don’t have a hard-and-fast date requirement.

This Wheel also became a wonderful visual symbol for my Lady, who is The Lady of the Wheel.

Here it is, much battered and and still beloved:

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The little metal rings you can see help everything stay together.

What Cycles Can I Track?

This is totally up to you. Any cycle that can work out over the course of a year works. Just remember that the more detail you want to add the bigger it’ll be. Here’s what I chose to work with:

Holiday Observances: This includes the quarters, the cross-quarters, and the one I added. I also used the names I’ve assigned to them. (For more information check this.)

Astrological Signs: Easy way to tell if I’m in Pisces or Aries, since that’s not something I keep on the top of my head.

Folk Names for Full Moons: I honestly don’t know where the particular names I use came from (I think I combined several sets to find names I liked), but you can find a billion versions online. Here is a list of a bunch of different names, and this link has some sample meanings, as does this one.

Runic Half-Months: This is a fairly modern system proposed by Nigel Pennick in his work on runic astrology and has been widely dispersed since. Essentially one rune from the Elder Futhark is associated with every 2 weeks of the year.  It’s nowhere near traditional, but still interesting to consider. Here’s a listing with dates and associated meanings.

Lunar Moon Phases: My Wheel indicates the full moon (white), dark/new moon (black) and waxing/waning phases (silver) throughout the year.

Gregorian Calendar: Months and days divided out in the way we’re all most familiar with. I made each month a different color and then a small hash mark for each day. Only multiples of 5 were actually numbered. Since there are only 360* in a circle, and there are up to 366 days in a year, this section has the most fudging. I have to tweak the alignment when I want to check on something if it’s on the line somewhere.

Other examples include Celtic tree names, birthstones, moon signs, days of the week, Greek/Roman/Egyptian festivals or holy days, fishing/hunting seasons (more useful than you’d think), etc. Use your imagination – there’s TONS out there you can include.

Awesome! How Do I Make One?

It’s a bit tedious but dead easy. Make sure you read the instructions all the way through before beginning. Once you get started it makes total sense.

1)      Decide on the cycles you’re going to use. This will determine the amount of poster board you’ll need.

2)      Gather supplies. I got everything except the calculator and the pliers at my local dollar store. The list looks long but I spent less than $15, and if you do any papercrafting at all (or you know someone in geometry or trig) you’ll have some of these lying around.

* Enough poster board for your chosen cycles. For convenience I got a pack of pre-cut pieces. I think they were all 8.5”x11”. My largest wheel required two pieces to be glued together for me to get the size I needed, but otherwise it worked out well.
* A compass large enough for your largest cycle (or you can use the tried and true “trace bowls/plates/cups” method).
* Scissors
* A protractor
* A ruler
* A pencil
* A fine-line Sharpie
* A bunch of map pencils/crayons/watercolors/etc (I stuck with map pencils)
* A glue stick
* A LARGE brad
* A straight piece of wire a little over half the diameter of your largest circle
* A pair of pliers that can bend the wire

3)      Make one poster board circle for each cycle with the compass or object tracing and then cut them all out. Make sure each circle you make has a different diameter.

4)      Decide which circle will be used for each cycle. Write your decision on the back so you won’t get them confused. Remember that the larger the circle the more info you can include. That’s why, on mine, the circle with the 9 holidays is the smallest and the one indicating every single day is the largest.

5)      Now the fun begins! A circle has 360*. Use the calculator to figure out how big each “pie slice” should be. For instance, my Wheel shows 12 astrological signs. 360* divided by 12 equals 30* for each sign. Write that number on the back of each circle. (Some of the numbers won’t be even. That’s fine. Do some rounding and fudge a bit. It’ll still be close enough for government work. You might just have to set aside a few minutes once a month or something to tweak the alignment.)

6)      Use the ruler and protractor to evenly “slice” your circles with a pencil. You should wind up with perfectly even sections. Once you’re sure the lines are what you want, go over them with the fine line Sharpie to make them permanent. Don’t do anything else with it yet, though. Repeat for all circles.

7)      Take the smallest circle and center it on the next largest circle. Lightly trace around the smaller one with a pencil, then remove it. Now take the circle you just drew on, center it on top of the next largest circle, and trace around that edge. Repeat until every circle has a line drawn on it. The area between the line you traced and the edge of the circle is the part of the each that’ll be visible when they’re all stacked on top of each other, so make sure they’re centered well!

8)      Time to color and label! Decorate all the circles however you please. I used a Sharpie and map pencils. You want to do paint or glitter or anything else? Go for it. Just remember that any labeling or coloring you do will only be visible between the pencil line you traced and the edge of the circle!

9)      Using the pliers, curl one end of the wire so that it’s a little bigger in diameter than the prongs of the brad but smaller than the head. Lay the curled end of the wire in the center of the largest circle and cut the other end of the wire to fit.

10)   Use the scissors to make a hole in the center of each circle that’s wider than the prongs of the brad but smaller than the head. Trim away any excess so the pieces can fit together as smoothly as possible.

11)   Stack all the circles on top of each other, smallest to largest. Put the curled wire on top of the stack. Push the brad through all the layers. Arrange the circles so that they relate to each other correctly, then splay the brad out on the back to hold everything as tightly together as possible. (If you can’t get it tight enough, a few paperclips to hold the circles together works well too.)

12)   If desired, make one more circle the size of the largest one. Use it to note keywords associated with each section. For instance, the rune “Sowilo/Sowulo” might have “clarity, light, energy” as keywords. If you write small enough you can get a lot of notes on the back! When done, glue it carefully to the back of the Wheel so you can flip the Wheel over and see the notes. Not only do you get a built in cheat sheet, but it covers up the back of the brad to make it look neater too.

DONE!

Yay! How do I use it?

Pick one spot on the Wheel that you want to check, move the wire to that part, and see what else the wire touches. *shrug* Simple!

For instance, I have each day marked on the outermost circle so I can check dates. I simply move the wire until it points at the day I want to check and see what else is going on. Like, today!

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Today, February 28th!

As you can see the wire passes over the middle of “Exploration” (what I call Candlemas), the beginning of Pisces, the tail end of the Storm Moon, the middle of Sowilo/Sowulo, and the tail end of the last quarter/waning moon. All of those influences factor in to what this day could represent. Offhand?

  •  Exploration: Work on the inner self, mental challenges and goals, education, spiritual connections, new spiritual relationships.
  • Pisces: Compassion, devotion, intuition, sacrifice, idealism, spirituality, escapism.
  • Storm Moon: Future planning, overcoming obstacles, hidden potential.
  • Sowilo/Sowulo: Energy, light, clarity.
  • Waning: Banishing and binding work, release of old baggage, cleansing, looking inward, closure.
  • Numerology of the date (Feb 28, 2014 – 2+2+8+2+0+1+4 = 19=10=1): Leadership, independence, creativity, originality, newness.

So if I wanted to structure a working for this evening – or simply know what passive correspondences might affect me today – I’d get some insight just from glancing at the Wheel.

Alternately I might decide I want to do something on the next full moon. So I’d move the wire to the next full moon from today (so mid-March). I’d still be in Exploration, and still in Pisces, but everything else would have changed by then. A whole new menu of correspondences! Want to do something specific during the runic half-month of Kenaz? Move the wire to that runic half-month and see what dates and other influences apply. Can’t get much simpler, and this way you don’t have to scurry back and forth between various books or websites.

If you read this and decide to make your own, please share – I’d love to see what you come up with!

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Defining the Work

My last post was pretty well received overall, but I did get some flack. My repetition of “do the Work” seemed harsh and demanding to some people, triggered some defensiveness, and those responses ranged from dismissive of the concept to insulting me personally.

I just didn’t get what all the fuss was about. I was being totally clear. Right? Well, maybe not. Maybe I should have spent a bit more time defining and unpacking what I meant.

What I Mean When I Say “Work”

“Work” refers to anything you and the Powers with which you interact think you should be doing.

That’s it. That’s the whole shebang.

If your Work consists of pouring tea and saying “hi” for 10 minutes every second Tuesday, that’s fine. If your Work consists of every spare hour in your day, that’s fine. It’s up to you and the Powers, and anyone else’s opinion about it matters not at all.

So I was confused with the kick-back. How does stating “do the Work” – a short form of “do what the Powers want you to do” – make anyone defensive? It’s not like I was specifying what the Work was, I was just encouraging people to get out there and do it.

After thinking about it a bit I realized it was because “work” is a loaded term, and I wasn’t’ accommodating the assumptions people make about it.  I talked it out with some people, thought about it, did some meditation, and worked out what some of those assumptions might be. This isn’t a comprehensive list, but these are the topics that came up most often during my discussions.

Assumptions About “Work”

Assumption Number 1: Types of Work are somehow hierarchically arranged.

Thanks to the monotheistic framework many of us still carry around in our heads we’ve got this idea that “sacred Work” and “secular Work” are separate things. Sacred Work consists of typical clergy stuff like leading rituals and kneeling at altars. Secular Work involves making art or raising children or having a career. Sacred Work is often seen as more valid and more appreciated by the Powers than secular Work, and if you’re called to do Work on the secular side you’re “not as good as” those doing work on the sacred side.

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Hello, unnecessary binary!

That is, of course, bullshit. *shrug* When we’re dealing with the number of people on this planet, and the relationships each of those people can form with the lengthy list of Powers out there, thinking that every Power wants or needs the same thing from every person is ridiculous. Intellectually we can see that when we’re looking at it. But emotionally our default is still “clergy is better than laity, and monastics are like clergy squared”. That’s what we learned as children, and it’s hard to overcome that kind of embedded bias.

The most obvious consequence of this idea is that people overextend. As I’ve mentioned before, there are simply not enough hours in the day to work a full-time job and raise a family and have a social life and have hobbies and spend hours a day in front of an altar and sleep. No one can do it all. Something’s got to give somewhere. And when someone breaks, the spiritual work is usually the very first thing to go. It makes a helluva lot more sense to try to balance it from the get-go, doesn’t it?

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Make one piece larger and the other pieces get smaller. Not exactly rocket surgery here.

And if we’re not careful, we’ll get so overwhelmed that we’ll burn out completely. At which point no Work gets done at all. How is that helpful?

We have to understand – and appreciate, and support – that the Powers might want us to raise children as our Work. Or make art. Or devote our lives to medicine or law or teaching or building things. There are so many ways out there to serve, and all of them are important and valuable.

Assumption Number 2: The Work we do affirms and legitimizes our practice.

The key question to ask ourselves when considering this assumption is exactly W/whose affirmation/legitimization/approval are we looking for here? If we’re looking to have our practice approved by other devotional polytheists we need to step back and rethink things. Because really? It does not matter what other devotional polytheists think about our work. All that matters is what the Powers think about our work. If They think we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing, then we’re good to go. All that other stuff can get in the way.

Now this is not a “get out of jail free” card or anything. You’ve still got to take action to have a practice. I mean, doing something is the definition of practicing it. But the type and amount of action you take is strictly between you and the Powers. Anyone else who tries to judge you is exercising the worst sort of hubris, and you trying to meet a human’s standards with your practice completely misses the point.

Assumption Number 3: The time and energy devoted to our Work must meet some sort of minimum requirement.

I am sworn to the service of my Lady, and She’s fairly demanding with my time. I spend a minimum of an hour a day in prayer and meditation, and more time outside of that on things like teaching classes and writing blog posts. It’s all part and parcel of the Work I do for Her.

But that is not some standard others have to meet. There are reasons my Work manifests the way it does – many if not most of them in my own head – and it makes no sense for other people to try to pattern their Work off of mine. That’s like trying to treat your spouse the same way your BFF treats theirs. The relationships are entirely different because the people involved are different, and that affects how things will manifest.

And that’s ok.

Are the Powers happy with the effort you put in to what you do? If so then yay, keep up the good work. If They’re not then step it up – but because THEY want you to, not because you’re patterning your practice off of someone else’s.

Assumption Number 4: The Work we do is pre-defined and pre-determined.

I think that some people see “Do the Work” as “do a specific type of work”. The way I see it all the Powers are individuals, so what They want and need from us will vary as much as They do. However, most of us don’t really have a tradition of practice to fall back on that allows for individuality when it comes to our gods, because most of us are used to only having one. And in the Judeo-Christian sphere the Work we can do for God is very clearly laid out. So obviously the gods we work with as polytheists will have the same type of clearly-laid-out template.

Which is nonsense, of course, once we think about it. My Lady works with me like She does because I’ve got a specific skill/interest set to bring to the table that meshes with part of what She wants to see develop in the world. She’ll work with someone else in a completely different way, because their skill/interest set will be different than mine and will mesh with Her goals differently. And that’s just ONE goddess. The other Powers I work with want different things from me entirely, and that’s only to be expected. Add a whole planet full of people, and every Power available, and the way Work is expressed is going to be wildly different between practitioners.

There’s no way the Work we might be called to do is pre-defined or pre-determined. We have to figure out what it is as we go.

So how do I figure out what the Powers want from me?

When we start dating someone many of us gravitate to the standard dinner-and-a-movie trope. It’s easy, it’s established, and it’s safe. Both people involved pretty much know how it goes, so instead of stressing out over what’s going to happen or how formal to dress people can focus on getting to know each other better. The surroundings and basic activities are templates that allow us to focus on all the other stuff faster.

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It’s so common we have to work to AVOID it.

In the beginning that’s all our Work is. It’s a stand-in template that gives us a place to start until we figure out where this new relationship is going next. It’s all it can be – we haven’t received any other direction. But we’ve got to start somewhere, so basic Hospitality serves as our version of dinner-and-a-movie. For that we need:

1)      A place to welcome the Powers when They visit. This is usually an altar or shrine. Setting something like this up is a common first step when trying to connect to a Power.

2)      Food and/or drink to make Them feel welcome, which can be pretty much anything at this stage of the game. Call it Cakes and Ale, or offerings, or whatever else you like – sharing this kind of thing with a Power is both common and necessary.

3)      The ability to have a conversation, which means we’re learning how to quiet our heads so They have inner silence in which to speak. All that meditation and writing in dream journals and such that newcomers are encouraged to do? It all helps us quiet our heads, which helps us have useful communication.

This is what we mean when we encourage newcomers to “do the Work” and then start off on altars and the like. It’s a bare basics template we can put out there to get the conversation started and the ball rolling. Once things are going well changes will of course be made to this framework, to suit both you and the Powers. You might decide that scheduling this kind of work first thing in the morning never works well for you, so you switch it to right before bed. Some Powers will want regular meditation, and Some will prefer to talk to you in dreams. *shrug* There are as many variations as there are participants, and we have to be willing to go with the flow on this type of thing.

Of course, if the Powers you’re working with happen to belong to a tradition with a known ritual practice (like the Egyptians, for instance) then you might be able to bypass these basics completely and go straight to that. All of that is ok – it just depends on how your relationship with Them develops.

There’s another thing to note about this type of beginning interaction with the Powers. It’s a beginning, and we are nowhere near expert in the process until later.

Practice Makes Perfect

Like a very talented pianist friend once told me when I was a boy; it’s better to practice a musical instrument for five minutes a day, than to practice for two hours, once a week. It’s something I never forgot.” Make Art Every Day

The idea that daily practice of any skill is important is not a new one. Beginning writers are often told to make time every day to write. Musicians hear the same thing, and dancers hear it too. It’s also recommended for people who engage in meditation. In fact, “do a little every day” is common advice for many skills out there.

Interacting with the Powers is no different, which is why I’m so insistent on the need to do the Work every day regardless of anything else.

For all of the above skills, “do a little every day” is usually followed by “and make it a priority”. It’s so easy for us to get distracted, to reschedule and push off and rush through, and when we finally come up for air from everything else in our lives we realize that our altars are dusty and we haven’t visited the Powers in entirely too long. Making it a part of our daily schedule makes it part of our routine, and once it’s a part of our routine we do the Work as a matter of course. It’s not something we have to force ourselves to do. It just is.

Even better, every session spent at our altars gives us a chance to practice the mechanics. Eventually we know where the tools are, the most effective way to fill the offering dishes, and the words we want to say. We don’t have to think about them anymore – they’re readily accessible and available.

Once that happens we’re able to go beyond the words and the gestures to the meaning/joy/reverence/union/love behind what we’re doing. And our persistence makes it more likely that we’ll make the connections we’re working towards.

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A much more poetic way of framing the concept.

So yes, we have to do the Work. Whatever the Work is for you and the Powers needs to be done, and at least in the beginning it helps if it’s done frequently enough that it becomes second nature. Only then can our Work flourish.

I hope that this makes my stance on the issue at least a little more clear.

The next few posts will be much more personal and close-to-home. I’m excited!

Belief and Doing the Work

One of the most raging debates in Western spirituality over the last few centuries has been the old “faith vs. works” argument. It was a core reason for the Protestant Reformation, and was argued by Roman philosophers even before that.

The question is simple: What matters more to the Divine and makes us better followers of our gods – what we believe, or what we do?

Faith vs. Works

The argument – condensed to basics.

Every religious path has to answer this question, and devotional polytheism is no different. It’s just a bit complicated for us because we think we already know.

Socialized Perspective

We all begin as products of the society that shaped us. Our internal defaults for things like religion and ethics are all set when we’re tiny. The society that shaped most of us is predominantly Protestant Christian, and those defaults linger in our subconscious even when we stop considering ourselves any kind of Christian at all.

Protestants are firmly on the “faith” side of the whole “faith vs. works” argument. Their perspective can be summed up by a single verse in the New Testament of the Bible: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16, NIV version, emphasis mine).

Considered perhaps the most well-known verse from the whole Bible, displaying just the “John 3:16” part is synonymous with displaying “good Christian values”, and we see it everywhere.

Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow, with “John 3:16” on his face paint as he took to the field during the BCS National Championship in 2009.

What that verse says is simple. It doesn’t matter how many prayers you say or how many offerings you make, belief and belief alone is what makes you a good Christian. It’s such a permeating concept that defining a religion based on “belief” is considered in some circles a Christian bias, since it cuts out a whole different type of definition from the get-go.

This is the idea we were raised knowing, and it’s programmed into us at such a deep level that it doesn’t really ever occur to us to reconsider it. We see the issue popping up all the time as people continue trying to write a handy guide to “What Pagan/Devotional Polytheists Believe”. There has yet to be an effective guide written, because neither path can be defined that way, but people keep trying because a community standard of practice doesn’t seem like enough. And that creates some problems.

The Disconnect During Transition

When we start this road we’re usually so entrenched in the Protestant notion of “belief before all” that we just kinda wait for our belief in the Powers to spontaneously appear, complete with Michael Bay special effects.

The Arrival of Belief, heavenly bolt version.

Many of us already gave our full belief to the Christian god, though, and it seems like most of us only get one shot at blind faith. For whatever reason Christianity didn’t work out, and we still feel burned by whatever happened there to make us leave the religion completely. As new devotional polytheists we want assurances, dammit. We’ll not be wrong a second time! We want some indication we’re on the right path before we commit, something we can count on and know in our souls to be true.

So we wait for a sign. We might even pray for a sign. We want to regain our belief before we take one more step on the spirituality road. The thing is that while we’re waiting for a sign the Powers are waiting for us to get off our asses and do something.

Our focus on the belief part creates a fundamental disconnect between where we are and where we’re trying to go. Because traditionally, polytheistic religions have cared a helluva lot more about “right action” than “right belief”. It’s not what we believe, it’s what we do.

We have to bridge that gap if we’re going to get anywhere at all with this.

Bridging the Gap

When our belief in a person has been somehow lost most of us don’t become bitter lonely hermits who collect cats like postage stamps.

Um, no.

We simply become a bit more cautious. Belief is no longer automatically granted to others. Instead we relearn how to believe in other people by building that belief step by step.

If we can do that with other people, why can’t we extend that same idea to our relationships with the Powers?

Everything about polytheism is based on hospitality. We give Them a little, They give us a little, and so relationships are made. Waiting around for our “Divine commitment phobia” to just fix itself with no effort on our parts is beyond ridiculous. It’s like expecting to win the lottery without ever buying a ticket. We need baby steps, and we have to work to make it happen.

So here are my “pearls of wisdom” to help with that – which, incidentally, vary based on experience level.

For the Newcomer:

Don’t sit around and wait for a Power to drop in with no notice. They’re not your mother. Say “hello”. Set up a shrine. Do some research. Bake and offer a cake. Invite Them to accompany you on a walk. Meditate. Chat with them. Do the Work.

Let me repeat that. Do the Work.

You don’t feel like meditating, or journaling, or tending your altar? Do the Work. You have other things to do instead? Do the Work. You don’t think you’re getting anything back? Do the Work. The work bores you? Do the Work. You just don’t feel it right now? Do the Work. Life is stressing you out? Do the Work. Your favorite tv show/movie is coming on? Do the Work.

Are you noticing a theme here? We have to Do the Work. Period. No excuses, no bullshit, no procrastination. Doing the Work, living that correct action, offering that hospitality, is the very first step to any interaction with the Powers at all. Without that starting point we’ve got nothing at all to offer Them, and we’ve given Them very little pathway back to us.

Do the Work. It lays the groundwork for everything after.

For the Experienced:

The longer we interact with the Powers the easier it is for us to say “we got this”, right? We Do the Work every day. We have our practice, we listen to Them when They speak, we understand right action, and we do our best to live our whole lives in harmony with the Powers. Our experience has made us elders, teachers, guides, and role-models for newcomers.

However, that experience is also prone to bite us on the ass when dealing with newcomers if we’re not careful.

The majority of the people I’ve met who have been doing this for awhile (and it’s not like I’ve met everyone, so YMMV) felt “called” or “compelled” to this path, and since then a large majority of those so tapped have become priests, spirit-workers, scholars, authors – all people chosen to spread the word and help others come back into balance with the Powers after a long hiatus. These are the people who developed the terms, explained the concepts, came together and formed a supportive community.

But things have changed a bit as we’ve progressed down this road. Our spiritual specialists form a core around which devotional polytheism can grow, but we’re starting to grow beyond that core. We as a community need to learn how to interact with and offer support to a laity.

Not all devotional polytheists are meant to be spiritual specialists. Not everyone has a god phone, a godspouse, or a calling to serve as clergy. That’s perfectly ok. People have their own path to follow, other commitments to meet, their own relationships to the Powers, and it is not for us to evaluate the depth or quality of their devotion.

The idea of the wise-woman living on the edge of society presupposes a society. Shamans serve a tribe. That society, that tribe, is made up of the laity – and they too have their part to play.

Spiritual specialists are doing the research and having the experiences necessary to restore community ritual and temple worship, resurrecting it from the ashes and learning once more how to balance with the Powers. This is crucial work.

It is the laity who will bring up their children as devotional polytheists, who will help restore the smaller household rituals that used to be so common, who will take this out of the temple and into the world. That too is crucial work, and it must be honored and supported as such.

For Everyone:

Both laity and spiritual specialists are essential to the creation and maintenance of a functioning society. A society nurtured and supported by devotional polytheists welcomes and honors the Powers both in large-scale rituals and the daily interactions of families, just like historic polytheistic societies did. That being a Very Good Thing is something upon which I think we can all agree, and to make that happen we all have to Do the Work.

World Hijab Day and the Rebirth of Spring

This past weekend was Imbolc/Candlemas/Exploration, so if you celebrated any of those I wish you the happiest of seasons!

But lots of people have been posting specifically about that. I wanted to talk about something else celebrated over the weekend: World Hijab Day.

World Hijab Day is fairly new, and the idea is simple. Women of all faiths are encouraged to wear the Muslim hijab for one day, just to see what it’s like both on a personal and a social level. Participants take a stand and confront racial and faith-based discrimination in their day-to-day lives. I made a point of participating.

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Me, running errands on World Hijab Day.

I didn’t choose to participate because I too now cover my hair. It’s because I remember the aftermath of 9/11, when random Muslim women were getting assaulted in the streets for being “terrorists”. A bunch of ladies I knew got together in the South and wore hijabs in solidarity with those women around that time, because Muslim or Pagan or Christian no one deserves to get hassled because of the god they choose to follow. This is simply an extension of that.

It’s because I remember flying home from Houston on Christmas Day a few weeks ago, new to covering my hair but instinctively knowing I’d get more hassle from the TSA if I wore a headscarf than if I wore a beret. I can choose to cover my hair in other ways, unlike most who wear the hijab. That was my first personal encounter with this kind of privilege and it left me distinctly unsettled. I went with a beret for my flight to avoid potential headaches, and have been kicking my own ass for making such a cowardly choice since. Participating in World Hijab Day, occasionally wearing a hijab simply because they’re beautiful, and wearing one next time I fly are all ways to redeem that.

It’s because of the backlash against the Coca Cola ad aired during the Super Bowl, an ad that dared to suggest America is made up of people from a multitude of races and cultures and languages. Seeing the responses made it clear how far a society founded on the ideals of justice and equality still has to go to reach them.

It’s because I’m personally tired of seeing the idea of “real America” – the country that accepts the tired and poor from everywhere else and gives them a chance to work for something better – be co-opted by racist, intolerant, belligerent, ignorant bigots who try to limit access to the American Dream to those who are just like themselves.

And it’s because I’m a polytheist and thus have no choice, none at all. How can I honor the multitudes of gods if I limit my respect to only those cultures I admire? How can I honor the Ancestors if I limit my respect to only Those who speak my language and share my faith? How can I honor the Land Spirits if I limit my respect to only the pieces inhabited by people who agree with me?

*shrug* I can’t. We’re a pluralistic, multicultural, multilingual, multinational faith by default. We have to deliberately choose to be bigots if we do it at all.

Polytheists, and Pagans and Reconstructionists too, are also a minority faith. By stepping up to support religious freedom in general we support it for ourselves, and hopefully form alliances with others that will help support us in turn.

I wore a hijab on World Hijab Day, and I’m wearing one at work today. I wear it in support of Muslim women (and anyone else who is marginalized along faith/culture/language/ethnic/nation lines), as an expression of political and social activism, and as a service to my faith.

What a fitting tribute to the beginning of spring! May everyone be truly blessed.