I came across the Pagan Insights Project through Pagan Blog Prompts a while back. At the time, it seemed like a lot of reading and I wasn’t mentally able to consider it, but now that things have settled a bit, I have gone back to look into it and may I just say – wow! What a neat idea! This post (in addition to the PIP) is also my next entry for the Pagan Blog Project 2012, M prompt.
One of the things I have taken on as a new project over the past couple of years is art journaling. I have a couple of journals fulled, and am now about to begin one that has a more focused meaning. I really want to do one that is centered on my practice. I plan to start it sometime in the near future, and devote a certain amount of time each month working on mixed-media pages that are related to the Sabbats, Esbats and different classes and things that my local Circle works on over the year. Ideally, I’d like to do one journal per year. We’ll see.
In the mean time, the Pagan Insights Project is a 5-part prompts project. Whereas most prompts are a word, letter or concept, this project prompts ways to embody the subject of your focus. They are:
* In Your Own Words – your thoughts and feelings – maybe a full blog post on a topic of your choice related to your path (or Paganism in general) or just a few sentences on where you are right now. What are you studying? What are you thinking? Who are you, and where are you going on your Pagan path? What’s right and what’s wrong in Paganism at the moment?
* Post A Pic – post an image related to your path, or one that invokes a feeling/emotion related to your spirituality (or craft… if one is a non-religious Witch), along with a sentence or two describing the image.
* Musical Musings – post a song, chant or poem related to your path, or one that invokes a feeling/emotion related to your spirituality (or craft). Can be in word form, but videos would definitely be awesome as well. On a spiritual level, what is your music of the moment? Is this a song stuck in your head, or one you played before your last ritual?
*Action, Action – post about a ritual, working or other experiential moment related to your path that has occurred recently, or that you are planning to do.
* Eureka! – post about something new that you have learned, or discovered recently, that is related to your path or Paganism in general.
So, with that in mind, I am going to try to fit all 5 of those prompts into this post.
1. In your own words
So… a topic that’s been on my mind this week? Modesty. I don’t know where I saw it originally, but apparently, there’s a brouhaha on the internet about Pagans and the ‘M’ word – what it means, what/who it applies to, how it is interpreted and whether or not it is a ‘good’ thing or a ‘bad’ thing – or whether it something that Pagans need to consider at all.
I, like many, was raised in a Christian household. Modesty, in that context, is what you’d expect – the concept is related to clothing especially, and to behaviour as an afterthought. You’re allowed to wear whatever you want, as long as it is not too low-cut on top or too short on bottom (showing too much skin), including no bikinis in the summer, and nothing see-through without appropriate unders (though see-through fabric is generally in bad taste regardless of what you’re wearing underneath). It wasn’t ‘extreme’ – we weren’t expected to dress ‘plain’ and we didn’t have ‘special’ undergarments that needed to be worn and covered all the time like some religions.
I didn’t like it. I railed against it. It wasn’t the clothing in and of itself, it was the concept of why we were expected to dress modestly – to keep men from having immoral thoughts. It had nothing to do with being closer to god or honoring your body or keeping it sacred – it was about men and their inability to keep their minds on spiritual things when confronted by an extra inch of thigh, or seeing the area that switches from ‘chest’ to ‘boob’… as if by my clothing or lack thereof, I am responsible for what goes on in the minds of men. Even as a child, that rankled. I thought of it (and still do) as hypocritical that I am expected to mind my own thoughts and actions, and yet what I say or do has the power to so greatly affect the minds and actions of others (men, especially). As if by my choice of clothing, I am deliberately causing the downfall of man…. puh-leeze. It was especially bothersome to me that these apparently weak-minded men were the ones ‘in charge’. That is problematic for me on *so* many levels!
As a young woman, I tended towards Goth style clothing more than revealing clothes. I was covered, but it was all in black, or shades of gray. It was rebellious, because my mom hated it. For a long time, I wore practical clothing without much thought to ‘modesty’ – my usual uniform is jeans and a tee-shirt; though lately I am more called to dresses and more colorful, feminine clothing. My clothing is a matter of choice; it is what I may feel called to cover, or reveal, at a certain time. I would feel out-of-place wearing revealing clothing on a hike with my children, just as I would feel out-of-place wearing a full-coverage robe when on a date with my husband.
I kept my hair long because I liked it (length of hair wasn’t dictated in my church) – and I still keep it long. At this point, it is both a personal preference and a way to honor the Divine Feminine (though I prefer men with longer hair as well). I am (of late) a veiled Pagan; I wear a headcovering when I leave my house or have company. At Ritual, I leave my hair uncovered – a token nod to going skyclad (as Pagan Mom Blogger Angela says).
I choose not to practice skyclad at this time, though I will meditate or offer devotions while nude when I have the opportunity to do so alone (rare with a husband and kids at home). My practice in somehow more intimate than sex – I don’t generally have issues with my body. I am a healthy goddess-sized woman (if you like flowery words; I am plus-sized, fat, fluffy, obese, if you don’t). I am pretty active and I like sportsy-type stuff; I don’t have high blood pressure or high cholesterol; I am thankful that my body allows me to do the things I want to do and take care to nourish it and exercise it regularly and appropriately. And yet, my personal temple is between me and the Divine; I prefer to be covered when in the view of others. I take pride in my costuming of choice for Ritual. I like to look pretty, exotic, even, when I have the opportunity. The process of dressing in my Ritual costuming in part of my practice.
This is not an issue of modesty, per se – it is preference and how I, personally, am called to practice. I think there is also a disparity between the idea of modesty as a tool of oppression and modesty in the context of what is appropriate at a certain time. I was raised in a modest home, though my parents were not big on being dressed at home. I often saw (and still see) my parents in their small-clothes and think nothing of it. Contrast that with my home – I am more comfortable with my children seeing me in states of undress while my husband prefers not to be seen so. The kids fall somewhere in between. I believe that one can be modest, even while wearing only underwear.
This is a concept that I teach to my children as well. Modesty isn’t about what one is wearing, though at times, wearing more or less clothing can be considered a matter of modesty. Complex, I realize, but it’s true. When we have company, I prefer that my children are dressed. They’re not babies any more; they’re young men – and with that comes the idea of being good hosts and ensuring that guests in our home are comfortable. Just as I would not answer the door in a towel, they’re not allowed to run around in small-clothes and nothing else. They’re also to an age where bodily privacy comes into play. As they get older, they may choose to dress or undress as they choose, though social conventions to play a part in those decisions at times.
That said, I believe that modesty is a state of mind; a state of being; an attitude – not a matter of what is covered (or not, as the case may be), and it is up to each individual to decide what modesty means and how they put it into play (or not) according to their own values. However, modest or not, there is usually an agreed upon social acceptability of certain actions, and this is no less true in the Pagan community.
I like this image because it implies the connection between male and female, husband and wife. In the context of modesty, it is the coming together of two into one – unity. The topic of Divine Unity in public ritual has also been broached as a matter of modesty in the recent pagan community – I agree that the concept of Unity is prevalent in Pagan worship and should be celebrated, honored and shared – but I also believe that our participation in such shouldn’t necessarily be ‘on display’ for the common people. The coming together of the God and Goddess and/or their vessels in Ritual is special – intimate – and should be treated as such, IMO. It’s not food for public consumption, and when done ‘on display’, seems to me to devalue the practice.
3. musical musings
Speaking of the Great Rite, I LOVE this song. We used it at Beltane this year and it was completely evocative of the spirit of Beltane.
4. Action, Action
Most recently, I suppose my action with regard to modesty has been choosing to take on the veil as part of my practice. I cover every day; I wasn’t sure how it was going to sit with me. The only experience I’d had previously with headcovering was in a submissive context – submission to the Lord God, and also to His earthly Leaders among men (not women – MEN).
I don’t consider myself a feminist, but I hate the notion that women should be ‘meek and mild’ in comparison to men – I just hate it. As if women are less than, inferior, less capable, less able – I understand that there are those who defend female submission and say that I am missing the point, but I promise I do understand it as it is ‘meant’ to be, and that many abuse the privilege and responsibility that comes with being a man ‘in charge of’ a woman (or ‘woman’ in the context of ‘the congregation’)… I still hate the entire structure of that paradigm.
So – back to veiling… putting my hair up and my cover on has become part of my daily ritual. Much like putting my glasses on so I can see clearly, covering my hair has become a necessary step in being ready to leave the house. If we’re going to be staying home, I don’t cover. My home is a ‘sacred space’ and when it’s just my husband and children, I don’t feel the need to cover. But when I go out, I do.
It’s not ‘exactly’ modesty that prompts my decision to continue covering, though that does play a part. I suppose some of my thought process is molded by years of Christian thinking – the idea that a woman’s hair is her crowning glory and should not be cut. Aside from that, I just like my hair long rather than short. But I also feel more feminine with longer hair, and thus closer to the Goddess. Keeping my hair covered except for Ritual makes leaving it unbound special and adds something to Ritual for me.
As for something new… it’s been interesting reading about the concept of modesty in Pagan terms. As expected, the range of what is considered modest or not – and even if it matters in the Pagan community – has been divisive. With this many strong-minded people converging on one topic, coming from differing backgrounds and personal philosophies, there’s a lot of room for diversity. There’s also a lot of room for misunderstanding, and miscommunication. There are no clear-cut directives, or even standards of behaviour that apply across the board. I’ve come to the conclusion that just like in any other area, it remains up to each of us to guard ourselves when it comes to modesty, and protecting our children for modesty’s sake – at least in my opinion.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this first installment of the Pagan Insights Project here. I don’t know how often I will fully explore topics in this manner, but it’s been both fun and challenging to articulate and create ways to cover the topic. If you’re participating in any of the projects that this post touches on (modesty, Pagan Blog Prompts, Pagan Blog Project 2012, or Pagan Insights Project – or headcovering, unity – whatever, really!), feel free to comment and link to your blog.