Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Indiscriminate Blessings

Pagans love to bless things. Whether or not they are sincere about it is immaterial. No matter whether you met just that moment or have known and despised one another for a decade, still
the proprieties must be observed, and observed with a treacly smile and a chirpy "Blessed be!" (This may or may not be accompanied by a Creepy Hug, which is a topic we'll address at a later time.) The process will be repeated upon departure, making "blessed be" the same sort of multipurpose greeting as "aloha."

The even perkier variant, "Bright Blessings!" is almost invariably used in a passive-aggressive manner. It is most effective as a sign-off to an offensive email or message board post. Nothing gets the message across faster than six paragraphs of poorly-spelled and poorly-reasoned flamebait capped off with "Bright Blessings!!!" (Superfluous punctuation is also de rigeur.) The general rule is, the level of the poster's sincerity is in inverse proportion to the size of the font and the number of exclamation points. "Bright Blessings," in paganspeak, is roughly analgous to "die in a fire."

The other most commonly used all-purpose blessing is "namaste." This is a Sanskrit compound word, from namas (to bow) and te (to you), and is a culturally-specific salutation common in India and Nepal which has since been widely disseminated thanks to Eastern disciplines of yoga and meditation becoming popular in the West. Most pagans don't know or care about the etymology of the word, because it sounds cool and lends an air of multicultural exoticism to their communications. (Speaking foreign languages where there are perfectly good English words available is a method of one-upmanship which we will also tackle in a later post.)

(Note also that the very word "bless" appears to derive from the Old English blodsian, meaning "to make sacred or holy by marking with blood." No doubt many of the pagans brightly blessing their coreligionists with chirpy words and creepy hugs would prefer to be marking them with blood, but that being frowned upon by the larger culture and often prohibited by law, they make do with what they have. Blessed be, readers!

Monday, 29 March 2010

Herbal Remedies

Although their festivals and worldview are often based on agricultural growth cycles very few Pagans can grow much of anything other than a houseplant. This makes the growing and use of herbs seem especially mystical. Pagans use herbs for everything from spices for food to ingredients for spells.

Should you be feeling under the weather you can ingratiate yourself to your Pagan friends by asking them for a herbal remedy. They will usually present you with some foul smelling dried herb that they want you to steep in hot water to make a tea from. You need not feel obligated to actually make said tea, rather take the herbs home, see if your cat is interested in them and if not throw them out. Go seek medical advice from an actual doctor and thank your friend later for their "wonder cure."

Pagans often burn herbs in their homes as incense to "cleanse" the area. You should never draw attention to the fact that they are actually polluting their air with smoke rather than cleaning anything.

If you are looking for a gift for a Pagan friend and mead is out of the question consider purchasing them a "grow your own herbs" kit. It is universally understood that all Pagans believe that they would make excellent gardeners if given enough free time and space. Rest assured that your gift will be treasured in its original packaging for years to come.

Advanced Pagans are noted for their extensive collection of herbal tea. You will note that when your local Pagan group has its regular moot at a coffee house at least one Pagan will make a fuss about enjoying tea rather than coffee. This is a display of social dominance, and earmarks the person in question as an Advanced Pagan. Do not attempt to engage the Advanced Pagan in a discussion about tea unless the moot is insufferably dull and you would like it to be even more so.

Sunday, 28 March 2010


Like most folks Pagans enjoy a good adult beverage from time to time. But Pagan culture dictates that not just any beverage will do. No swilling of Budweiser for these unwashed masses, no sir. Give them Harp and Guinness at the very least (they are so very Celtic, after all,) or if you really want to make a Pagan happy -- and drunk -- hand them a pint of mead.

"Mead?" You ask. "Like college ruled paper?" Not at all my friend. Mead is an ancient type of wine made from honey. It was exceptionally popular among the Nordic tribes, and has gained a notable following among Pagans due in part to its popularity at Renaissance Festivals. If you have an Asatru friend he is required to make you drink mead if you express the concern that you have never done so before. This qualification is on pain of his entry into Valhalla.

Advanced Pagans often attempt to homebrew mead, as it allows them to add special herbs and other ingredients that add to the mystical allure of the sweet golden drink. Should you be presented with a bottle of this questionable homemade beverage it is considered poor form to spit your sample of the ground screaming, "For the love of Hecate, what is that ungodly swill?" Rather, a noncommittal grunt of approval is all that is required.

Pagans may become mead snobs, extolling the virtues of a Royal Polish blend to the grocery store variety. Mead makers are savvy to this and have gone so far as to market their meads under names like Viking's Blood and Camelot.

A good Pagan can drink their body weight in mead. You have probably noticed Pagans with large cast iron cauldrons in their yard filled with petunias. This is a ploy to disguise the true use of these containers, which is to quaff mead from. Drinking mead is always seen as a sacred act, even when the drinker is so many sheets to the wind that they cannot stand up. Partaking is mead is considered an inner libation to the Gods. I'll leave you to speculate on the holiness of mead that the body has processed.

Reclaiming Holidays

Modern Pagans, themselves masters of cultural appropriation, will happily inform you that a great many holidays common to western civilization were utterly stolen from their wise unbroken ancestral traditions.

For example, one week from today is the Christian holiday of Easter, which Pagans want you to know has notoriously Pagan origins. All of those painted eggs and promiscuous bunnies are remnants of the Pagan festival of Ostara. Ostara is an ancient mystical festival with deep prehistoric roots that has something to do with rabbits screwing and laying decorated eggs. It's very mysterious and occult. Besides, Ostara and Easter are practically the same word, so Easter was clearly an idea stolen from the wise Pagans.

Likewise, Pagans don't celebrate Christmas. Of course not. Christmas is simply another example of those oppressive Christians appropriating our sacred festivals. Pagans celebrate Yule. They put up Yule trees decorated with Yule ornaments, and sing yule carols, gather for Yule feasts to exchange Yule presents, and watch traditional Yule television specials like The Year Without a Santa Claus. Really. Okay, maybe not that last part. Maybe.

Pagans enjoy Thanksgiving, but feel guilty about all of that unfortunate ancestral Native American oppression and don't identify with uptight Puritans. Pagans celebrate Mabon, which in no way is a made up holiday intended to bring the Wheel of the Year up to an even eight festivals. No way. The anchunt and seekrit festival of Mabon is a Celtic myth about the divine son of the Great Goddess who had to be rescued by Arthur and his knights through a series of adventures that involved talking to animals. Obviously, this translates into partaking in a big autumnal feast. It makes perfect sense.

Halloween is never called Halloween, regardless of how much it resembles Halloween. It it called Samhain, which, as all Pagans know, is pronounced just as it is written. Pagans are expected to dress in costume for Samhain (although, as Pagans do this everyday the distinction may be lost on some observers,) and vehemently educate the public about what REAL witches look like, which is demonstrated by their costuming. Samhain is the greatest and most sacred of Pagan festivals, and thus merits a good deal of raucous binge drinking.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Renaissance Festivals

Generally speaking, Pagans enjoy appropriating cultures and time periods to their own norms. They also enjoy dressing up in costume, Arthurian myth, bellydancing, browsing without any intention of buying, and anything vaguely Celtic (all of which will be covered in future SPCL entries). It is therefore only fitting that Pagans adore that perfect storm of all above elements, the Renaissance Festival.

Renaissance Festivals, or Ren Faires, are the pilgrimage of the modern Pagan. Pagans who barely have the motivation to regularly bathe themselves will trek across several states dressed in nicer clothes than they wore to their own wedding in order to hike around in extreme temperatures and they will pay for the priveledge.

If you have never been to a Ren Faire, try to imagine an outdoor shopping mall catering to Pagans of all persuasions where everyone is dressed like extras from that old Robin Hood movie with Errol Flynn and they all quote Monty Python and the Holy Grail while swilling large quantities of mead.

At any given Ren Faire there will be at least one young woman dressed like an Amy Brown fairy, a gentleman dressed as a Sorcerer's Apprentice style wizard, and a young man in a cloak with a pentacle the size of a dinner plate on his person. These people will happily volunteer to you that they are in fact Pagans, which may cause you, should you also identify as a Pagan, the desire to impale yourself on the nearest sharp object.

Sharp objects of the cheap and bladed variety are in abundance at the Ren Faire, so do be careful. Should you encounter anyone with more than three visible weapons on his or her person at the Ren Faire you may be dealing with an Advanced Pagan. It is best to disengage.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Absurdist Anthropology, Now With Added LULZ.

Welcome to Stuff Pagan Culture Likes, the blog where I and my able accomplices will examine (wait for it) the stuff that pagan culture likes, for your edification and entertainment. Part ethnography, part sociology term paper that you wrote while you were drunk, SPCL promises this: if pagans like it, it'll eventually find its way in here.