Help me if you’ve been depressed


After sharing my views on depression, I started wondering about how people apply their religious symbols to the problem, for a story at The Wild Hunt.  I have been introduced to several professionals in the mental health field who may speak to me on the subject, but I’m also interested in what self-care techniques depressed Pagans and polytheists of all stripes use to try to manage the condition.

What are the religious (including magical, if that’s part of your religion) symbols, techniques, practices, or beliefs that you use to manage depression?  How successful have they been?

Advice for the Pagan parent: can you help?


A friend of mine came to me with a problem.  Eir high-school-ish-age child was told by a teacher that “anything outside of the Abrahamic faiths is NOT a religion.”  The child “did call the teacher on it, but got shut down in class.”

I found some great resources that dance around the problem, like this piece on advocating for Pagan children in school and an essay educating teachers about Paganism (which is far from perfect, but as my friend’s family is the sort of Pagan described, was perfectly appropriate).  I recommended assuming that ignorance does not equal hatred, but that creating a written trail while approaching the teacher and administrators would be a good idea in case outside advocacy is necessary.

I also turned to my amazing wife, who lives in both of those worlds, and she was flabbergasted, asking, “Has the teacher given a definition of religion beyond this narrow statement?”  She turned up some ideas on what religion is and pointed out that academics include non-Abrahamic faiths among world religions, as well as saying, “I’d go straight to the ACLU.  They eat stuff like this for breakfast.”

So now I invoke the power of crowdsourcing:  what advice would you give my friend, and why?

Pronouns


I dove into my article on gender and pronouns out of a desire, as a writer, to find a better way.  While I have tried to use the singular they instead of the cumbersome “his or her” or visually irksome “he/she” (slashing is noWordle: pronounst the answer, I recall reading in an essay in college, because violence never is), my dear wife finally convinced me it was incorrect, and I was discontent.  The fact that I was discontent is a form of progress:  I am in essence a conservative, which means that I want good justification before I change something that appears to work perfectly well, and the generic “he” worked quite well in my mind for a long time.  Once I accepted that “he” doesn’t quite include everyone, I wanted to get away from the clumsy alternatives, which happily led me to recognize the need to get away from gender entirely in pronouns, if possible.

Preferred pronouns, I reasoned, did not serve that end, because I saw them referred to as “the pronouns e prefers” rather than what these sets are, more inclusive pronouns than what we’ve got.  What I learned in my research is that, even if they are simply a step in the right direction, it could be a big step if we start working on the cultural shift towards associating pronouns of preference with everybody, not just the few who stand up and say that two genders are not enough.  I was further taught that, in such a world, quite a few of us identify as one of those genders might realize we’re not entirely comfortable with the binary system, either.

And then I got very, very stressed, because when you interview a lot of people with pronoun preferences, you need to keep track of them all and get them right.  That’s not a comfortable place to be.  Granted, it’s surely not even close to living a gender that our culture doesn’t recognize as legitimate, but as a writer, I thought my head would explode.  Although I can envision pronoun preference being the norm, I think the generation that embraces it would have to be normalized to it in its youth.  What we have now is a tiny sliver of society — transgender folks and their allies — attempting to navigate a difficult transition towards a new way of thinking and communicating, and these are chaotic waters.

While I’m an ally, I don’t know any trans* people that I see on a regular basis, so the only support I can offer is through my writing.  I’ve learned more about the issues — far more than I could even cover for The Wild Hunt — but I’m left wondering if there’s more that I can do with words than simply reinforce the idea that special people deserve special pronouns, which will not sway the hearts and minds of the vast majority of people, who don’t even know the word “cisgendered,” much less that it describes them.  My desire to unfetter English from this unintended bias remains strong, but the way forward for me is not clear.  It is better, though, to lack clarity thanks to knowledge, rather than to be clear due to ignorance.

What’s your credit score?


Here’s an incredibly nosy question framed in the form of an unscientific poll.  If you know your credit score (that is, you’ve checked your credit score within the last year; seeing your credit report is also a good idea but not required), please do share it.  I’m only looking for Pagan credit scores, mind you; it’s part of my desire to get a better sense of the relationship Pagans have with money.

Wanted: Pagan accountants


Yes, it’s heading into tax season, and I want to know:  where are the Pagan accountants?  I’m sure they exist; I know so very many Pagan computer programmers, physicists, and similarly right-brained folk that surely there must be some Pagan accountants out there, too, and I would like to talk to them.

I may very well use some of what you tell me in future posts, so if you want to use a pseudonym of some kind, fine by me.  Accountants could, I surmise, range the gamut from those who all but live a double life (trial balances by day, ritual trials by night) to those whose office and temple are the same space, so how much identifying information you wish to share is definitely a personal choice.

What I want to know includes:

  • What kind of Pagan are you?
  • How does your faith inform your work?
  • Do you view these numbers as sacred and/or magical?

There are probably other questions, ones I don’t know enough to know to ask yet.

Financial building blocks: paying attention


It really didn’t take much to turn my financial world around.

The job paid well, and my expenses were low because I never felt inspired to spend for the sake of showing people how much money I had.  I certainly wasn’t wealthy, but I was able to live well within my means and save money for investing and retirement.  I had my finger on my financial pulse constantly, maybe even obsessively, and I was headed in the right direction.

As I said, it really didn’t take much to turn it all around.

Much like the Great Recession itself, the causes were varied and deep.  The job increasingly was a worse and worse fit, and working for myself seemed a good idea.  Some bad business decisions and a tanking economy had me working (“consulting”) for others before long, at least part-time, while I tried to figure out how to increase cash flow and not live off my savings.  There was enough left, thankfully, for me to be able to partner with my wife to buy a house; she had the income to qualify for the mortgage, and I just barely had enough to get us the down payment.

And so we headed into this country’s economic downturn:  getting by, living in a house which somehow managed to stay worth more than what we owed on it, looking for better ways to bring in money and not paying attention to where it was all going.

That’s right, not paying attention.  The greater the money problems, the less you want to think about them.  You don’t want to check the bank balance, you certainly don’t want to see how your retirement funds are doing in an endless bear market, and overall, the word of the day is struthious.  (In the present economy, maybe the operative word for what many people think about their money is santorum, but that’s entirely too offensive to discuss here.  I’m only linking to that site so it stays atop the Google rankings.)  It’s easy to stick your head in the sand and simply hope the money problems go away.

It may be ironic, but in order to honor Ploutos, the blind god of wealth, I’m heading into this year with my eyes open.  I want to see what I used to see:  all the financial information and trends in my life.  I’m not interested in worries, mind you; I find thinking like, “Oh, we won’t have the money to pay all the bills!” to be completely counterproductive in all circumstances.  You don’t look at money to worry about it; you look at money to control it.  If you worry, you start to fear again, and then you look away.  The only way money will be one’s ally is if one can look upon it dispassionately.

The shiny new tool in my toolbox is Mint.com, a service that allows me to view the family’s full financial picture in one place.  Mint.com is a free financial tracking website which is safe and secure.  Part of the security comes from the high-end encryption that they use, but it’s also safe because you can’t actually move money around from within that site; you have to go to your bank or other financial site to handle the transactions.

The site has pre-figured budgets based on your current income and expenses, which can be tweaked and modified very easily.  It can send you alerts about things like low balances, overdue bills, and suspicious activity.  They make their money on referrals, recommending things like credit cards and mortgage refinances from their partners if you could use something like that.  I haven’t found the marketing to be intrusive.

Peeling away the film of ignorance and taking a hard look at your finances is the prerequisite to taking control of money instead of letting it control you.  I firmly believe that compound interest is the most powerful force in the universe (even if Einstein didn’t really think so), and that it works on people whether they pay attention to it or not.  In future posts I’ll look at the ways that compound interest has positively and negatively impacted my life.  Insofar as money is, indeed, congealed energy, compound interest shows that it follows some sort of rule of abundance.

The question to answer, of course, is abundance for whom?

True Blood


One of the books I’m reading as I learn about Hellenismos is Kharis: Hellenic Polytheism Explored by Sara Kate Istra Winter.  Early on in her discussion of modern Hellenism, Winter notes that a minority of Hellenic groups feel that the religion should be reserved for those of Greek blood.  Okay, I’m covered; one of my grandparents was born in Greece.  However, it’s a story I’ve heard before and I don’t personally support it, even though I probably would make the cut.

In the early days of my Pagan seeking I was interested in Native American spirituality, particularly because I feel a strong tie to the eagle, and in the USA the eagle is associated with three things:  patriotism, motorcycles, and Native American cultures.  (I know that this is not very precise, but it’s exactly what I perceived at the time.)  Since my Wiccan teacher didn’t have a strong shamanic background and my shamanic teacher came from a Norse tradition, I turned to a friend of theirs for advice.  I knew that this man was a member of a tribe in Canada, and I told him that I was interested in learning more about the ways of his people.

He was gentle in his rebuke, but nevertheless he told me, “you should follow the traditions of your people, and leave ours to us.”

The next day I attended the handfasting of my teachers, and this particular Native American presided as high priest in the Wiccan ceremony, since he’d been practicing that faith for many years and was much respected.  Typical for my thought patterns, the irony of this didn’t dawn on me for some years – by his reasoning, Wiccanism should only be practiced by the British.

Modern worshipers at a Hellenic temple

I can understand where the rationale comes from – in bygone days religion was taught by one generation to the next, and that means it’s a family affair.  However, for good or ill we’ve mucked things up with our moving about and mixing up the genes, and also by taking up lifestyles that discourage an interest in the gods.  Our souls are much less likely to be born into a family that follows the faith that we belong in than they were centuries ago.  If there is to be a test to determine worthiness to worship in a particular fashion, I submit that it should be divine rather than scientific – let the gods choose their own, in their own way.  DNA analysis is not the way to discover one’s true calling.

Of course, this mindset is nothing new, as Winter points out in Kharis.  Isocrates said, some 2400 years ago, “The name Greek is no longer the mark of a race, but of an outlook, and is accorded to those who share our culture rather than our blood. (p 32)”