Archive for October, 2017


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Ah,  dealing with Christians. When they learn that someone around them is not Christian, it almost becomes professional victim time instantly. And all the while, being really harassing and disrespectful simply because they finally met someone who openly said in the same room as them, “I’m not Christian. At all.”

Y’see, I don’t cover up the fact that I’m Pagan. If the solstices come up, I say such since it is a holiday for me. If they bring up some obscure part of the Bible, I joke that I wouldn’t know because I’m not Christian and haven’t been one since Bush Jr. was in office, first term. I remember when I was in university, I bombed a pop quiz in my Middle English literature course because it was “Name five books in the Bible.” I think all I put down was three at most and my thinking went like this:

“Ok, Genesis is one. And…oh! Revelations because that’s the one Christian cite all the time. And Leviticus gotta be one because they somehow hate gay people but love football – which one has the commandments again? And Paul? Is that a book?”

I told the teacher my thought process because he lamented how easy the quiz should have been. I retorted, “Can’t you do five books in the Koran or something next? I would have probably done better. I’m not Christian, I don’t keep this info in my brain on hand.” I simply don’t twist myself into knots to learn strictly one holy text, especially if the followers seem know about it (or care) less than I do. If it were the Bhagavad Gita  or Torah, that would have been interesting. That and I was expecting a quiz on Middle English literature texts like Chaucer*. I’m already hyper surrounded by Christian belief and rhetoric, that is far more than enough for me.

My issue with Christian folk isn’t the fact they exist. It’s the fact a very sizable chunk of them think they and they alone should be the only ones who exist and anyone not them should be harassed otherwise. Because if that person states they are not Christian and have no qualms with it, it somehow is a existential threat to the Christian – despite the fact that American society is intensely Christo-friendly…to the point of literally bombing other nations for not being Christian (*koff*thefertilecresent*koff*) and normalizing the ostracization  of not being Christian. For example,  Mosques somehow are suspicious but churches aren’t – nor do they get surveyed by the FBI en masse simply based on faith despite a big amount of terrorists in America are usually Christian or Christian-leaning (and White. And Male. But that’s another column). Like Timothy McVeigh for one and then there’s pretty much everyone in the Tea Party, Ku Klux Klan, Neo-Nazis, the list goes on and on. Even Donald Trump ascribes to Christianity and the religion itself still doesn’t get a bad rap. No one else really gets afforded this luxury. A Pagan person does something not too smart, every Pagan gets hit with whatever they’re labeling that particular person. A Muslim person does something awry, the same thing happens. A Christian can be a serial gambler that eventually rents out a suite to shoot a bunch of people below with enough high-powered guns to fuel a militia annnnnnnnnd it’s just them that is hit with whatever bad rep they get – if they get any at all. (Mass shooters, unfortunately, get glorified. A lot.) This isn’t to say that Christianity should be seen as a terrorist religion (though I’m super sure Islam, and all its practitioners, would love to take a very extended break from that label everyone puts on them) but simply the fact that they have a lot of privilege for a faith that believes it is persecuted all of the time. And some of those times simply come from the fact they’re breathing the same air as someone who is not Christian, which is hardly oppression.

There is also the fact Christians tend to have a super strict “Either you’re Christian or you’re atheist – no middle, no other” binary thinking. Heck, most Christians who get the vapors about me being Pagan can’t even figure out the difference between an atheist and a polytheist. Despite being stupidly simple:

A- (“lack of”) Theist (“belief in deity”), so “atheist” = “lack of belief in deity”

Poly- (“many”) Theist (“belief in deity”), so “polytheist” = “belief in many deities”

An omake:

Mono (“one”) Theist (“belief in deity), so “monotheist” = “belief in one god”

There ya go. And all are valid because they simply are. To confuse me for an Atheist simply because they don’t want to acknowledge that, O Hark! a Pagan exists! in their midst is really insulting. Extremely insulting. That and getting moody that Christ is considered no different than any other deity – actually, Jesus Christ would be ranked as a demigod, (like Hercules) because only dad was a god, mom wasn’t – in the general Pagan ranks of marking divinity. And Christians have got to understand that”demigod” means “halfgod status”, not “demon god”. Dictionaries, moreso than Bibles in this instance, are important books, too. Just like being not a douche over religion is also important.

Being dismissive about the fact other people believe in something different is also disrespectful. Saying things like “When God finally reveals Himself to you and shows you the right way in your life -” I already have a deity, several of them. Because I’m Pagan. Which is already a religion. That predates Christianity by 50,000 years. If I was this level dismissive of the Christian god, they would act as if I personally killed Christ. Treating people from different religions as deluded, hoodwinked and stupid because they’re not Christian is super rude. Yes, the Bible said proselytize but I don’t think it said “harass, murder and start wars over this book.”

Yes, I was originally raised Christian (I’m Black and live in the South**, thus making Christianity most likely religion to be raised in) but it’s stuff like this, in addition to the rudimentary fact that upon taking a closer look to the religion, I learned I didn’t click with anything I read in the Bible or the various studies of it.  It took three years but it seemed Paganism was a way better fit for me. But what definitely wasn’t keeping me tethered to Christianity was the continual and prejudiced “our way or no way” manner of thinking that seriously pervades them. It’s like they think America is supposed to be an all-Christian nation (we’re not, sayeth the Constitution) and the planet is supposed to be an all-Christian planet (we’re not, sayeth the many billions of non-Christians). Being hateful, including to people who are simply different (such as being trans or queer) is not something I find endearing and if it seems to be a consistent trend in a faith, even down to the texts, I am not going to stick around.

For the Christians going “Not all Christians”, don’t tell me – tell other Christians so they know this behavior in very not cool. I couldn’t care less with the No True Scotsman rhetoric either because it still lowkey condones and covers for the problematic behaviors that the other Christians do that they refuse to correct. Which doesn’t fix the problem, it’s just asking everyone to play pretend that it isn’t there.

* Yes, he is French and hated the English. English literature professors still twist themselves into pretzels to include him. In the very same way they try to keep PoC/minority literature out, especially for that time period.

** Maryland is part of the South. Most northern Southern state but still the South. Part of why we are called the Old Line State (Mason-Dixon Line) and why we have a Robert E. Lee Park (which is probably about to be renamed soon, which I support) as well as a Ulysses S. Grant Park, confederate statues (some currently removed) as well as Union statues and other stuff that a quick stroll through a history book will tell you.

A while ago, I tried a particular tea brand that was part of a Pagan subscription box I reviewed, Blackthorn Hoodoo Blends. I remember saying the tea was pretty okay but the name – particular the “Hoodoo” part. To recap:

  • Amy Blackthorn, creator of Blackthorn Hoodoo Blends, is not from the pan-African diaspora – meaning she’s not a Black person. At all.
  • Blackthorn does not practice Hoodoo, she is more Celtic/Druidry, if I’m not mistaken. Even if she did practice Hoodoo, it wouldn’t instantly fix anything.

Hoodoo, like Voodoo, is an African diaspora-based spirituality borne from coping with slavery and being forced to abandon their original faiths and identities by vindictive and malicious captors, the slave owners and slave traffickers. Also, like Voodoo, it gets a bad rap, usually borne from racism.

I brought this up to Blackthorn. My interaction with Blackthorn was been none too charming. When mentioning this up with her, she had a very sour, “mind your business and let me make my money” response, which I wrote about. It was titled: Blackthorn Teas: Whose Culture is it Anyways?

Turns out, it caught traction with an online magazine, Dear Darkling magazine. I got an email not too long ago from the editor-in-chief and this is what it said:

I’m the editor-in-chief of Dear Darkling magazine. We were recently contacted by Blackthorn Hoodoo Blends, and asked whether we’d like to sample their tea for review purposes. Knowing only that this brand was popular among the pagan community, we agreed.
However, as our writer was doing research for the piece, she grew increasingly uncomfortable with their usage of the term “Hoodoo.” She reached out to me, and I did my own research, which was when I found your blog post about the company.
Dear Darkling does not support or condone any sort of bigoted or racist behavior, including cultural appropriation. The more we learned about Blackthorn, the more we knew we would not feature their brand in our magazine. Not now, not ever.
I just want to thank you for being public about your experience with Blackthorn. Beyond their clear appropriation, their behavior during your interaction was inexcusable. I’m so sorry you had that experience, but I’m glad you wrote your post about it. It proved to us that Blackthorn was not a company we wanted anything to do with.
Also, I want to thank you for the list of POC tea companies. We aim to support and amplify POC voices whenever possible, and with it being tea season, we’re happy to have some new companies to drool over.

Here are the Black-owned tea stores I referenced:
1. Wystone’s World Teas
2. SoRen Tea

I am very glad to see this kind of response. Blackthorn should be more mindful of her business actions, especially during times like these. If she named her teas pretty much anything, avoiding appropriation, all would be fine and good. No discovery of awful and racist attitude, no poison pen post, none of that. It was Blackthorn’s choice to use such an appropriating name, to react the way she did, everything. Hopefully, more will drop her brand in the future as well. She earned this by herself, no one else.

In other News! I will be teaching a Cartomancy workshop at the Dawtas of the Moon convention in Baltimore, MD on Oct 20. That’s tomorrow! Also, this is technically the first post for October (The Arts! and Ask Black Witch are for Sept). I’ve just been super busy with Dawtas and dentistry (getting extractions suck).

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All the questions for Ask Black Witch for September were all crappy so free space! And it’s a couple weeks late, boo. I will spend this time to talk about stuff I’ve been doing, up to Oct 1.

I was in a podcast recently, Feminist Killjoys, PhD. I talked about Paganism, mental health and more!

Update on my cat feeder project: Still working on the code so it won’t rapid-slap my cat and then go full on rebellion. The tech stuff is mainly done, I just have to code and then assemble the whole thing. The goal: Feed my cat a cup of food once a day…and my cat doesn’t destroy the machine. And the machine doesn’t rapid-slap me or my cat. This machine isn’t evil, just very rebellious. It wants to live with vigor. I need it to tone down the vigor.

For Oct 20-22, there will be the Dawtas of the Moon convention, in its second year. It’s hosted in Baltimore and I will be teaching a Cartomancy Workshop, teaching the ins and outs of cartomancy, playing card divination. Get your tickets!

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I haven’t done video games in a while! I play them all the time but rarely feature them on The Arts!, which is a bit uncanny but, meh, let’s get into it!

Detention

All horror games are pretty much the same nowadays: Play as a White person. Guide yourself by dim light via candle light, flashlight or lantern. Get jumpscared a ton at every twist and turn. Detention is definitely not that.

Detention is an atmospheric horror game set in 1960’s Taiwan under martial law. It’s scariness is not in the jumpscares that are fairly common in horror games today but in the look and feel of play. There are various religious elements that are based in Taiwanese and Chinese culture and mythology, which really helps the game stand out from being just another scary game.

This game is historically accurate and very artistically intriguing. The atmosphere is haunting but not hyper formulaic, everything is visually stunning and the fear isn’t the jumpscare (which are very few) but the history it derived from, the White Terror – Taiwan’s martial law. The rhetoric behind the White Terror, how it was incredibly oppressive. The fear is from how they affected the world around them, not garden-variety jumpscares and intense gore.

The game is a Point and Click where you first play as a Taiwanese boy going to school but you play the rest of the game as a young Taiwanese girl. There are plenty of Chinese loaded into the game but it is well translated so no need to worry. I can read Chinese but the English explanation are just as seamless.

Now available on Steam.

Papers, Please/Here’s Your F*cking Papers
This is a twofer: Papers, Please and the response game Here’s Your F*ckin Papers. Both games are about the hardships of immigration, seen on both sides.

Papers, Please puts you in the shoes of an immigration processing official of fictional nation, Arstotza. Most people, you have to deny because of super arbitrary rules, such as suddenly needing a new type of voucher that has a super short expiry date that can easily go bad.

The game is a fairly straightforward desk job sim. You simply play border control and you need a sharp eye so you don’t let in anyone that should have been denied. The issue with this game is how unfeeling it makes you towards immigrants, sometimes getting an “eh, everyone has an excuse – keep moving! Next!” feeling. If anything, this is a game that looks at bureaucracy and how cold, hypocritical (abysmally paid but expected to keep up a large family or be replaced) and unfeeling. There are 20 endings to choose from but all in all, it’s simply one side of the coin.

As anyone can hopefully imagine, emigrating to another nation is not easy. It’s not like you get clear cut directions, available in countless languages and there’s a super short line to stand in, where all your papers are neatly processed, stamped and passed back to you in a well assembled folder after paying a small fee. One of my parents is an immigrant, I can tell you the Green Card Shuffle is stressful, expensive, annoying and full of absolute, bona fide bullsh*t. And it’s amazingly easy to fall into “undocumented” status, even if you do everything right – which is insanely hard to do. Can’t pony up $6k in a few months? Undocumented. Forgot to get some super obscure holdover form from the Reagan era stamped or with the correct seal? Officially “illegal”. Couldn’t reprocess your papers in time because you didn’t know your green card evaporated when the parent who brought you as a kid died? Sucks to be you, dude. Trump says something stupid and both ICE and Immigration follows through? Lolz, fill out some more papers and pay more thousands of dollars you suddenly have to satisfy or everything you did and paid is officially null and void – and you won’t see a penny returned. Immigration is burdensome, expensive and just plain painful.

Out comes, Here’s Your F*cking Papers, which captures that frustration.

The game is not as flashy as Papers, Please there are stick figures and real life images hastily placed as if a near rudimentary Newgrounds game. Compared to Papers, Please, Here’s Your F*cking Papers appears very elementary (I’m used to response games being very similar in aesthetics) but it gets the point across: Immigration is a struggle and it is moreso through design than through happenstance the extreme difficulties of getting even basic citizenship or refuge.

Papers, Please is available on Steam. Here’s Your F*cking Papers is available on the dev’s, Creatrix Tiara, game page.

In other News! I will be teaching a cartomancy workshop at the Dawtas of the Moon convention in Baltimore, MD on Oct 20. Please get your tickets now!

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