Discussion on Mental Health and Paganism – Where are the Disabled Folks?

I saw an article the other day, in a free pagan magazine. Yay! It was about mental health and paganism. Wow! I was so excited!

Yay, yay, yay, I thought as I first saw the page-long article. Something interesting to read! Finally, some in-depth something on the topic!

Uh, yeah no. After a few sentences, then a quick skim-through, I was instantly depressed. Because apparently, just because we say ‘merry meet’, we’re a welcoming bunch. And the fact that we do fire gazing? Wow, that, like, taps us into ourselves and allows us to be grounded and shit. And the way we say ‘so mote it be’? Well, that allows us to accept things as they are. So, basically, (according to this author) we pagans are well equipped to deal with mental health issues because of these three things.

I was floored. What. The. Fuck.

This article, in my personal opinion, was like saying you get your vegetables from a pumpkin spice latte (Hint: there’s no pumpkin in most pumpkin spice lattes). I mean, really? Really? Not only was this a super-shallow discussion on the topic which failed to acknowledge SO MUCH of the discrimination that happens in neopagan circles, it felt like it was written by someone who had NO knowledge on the topic.

Now, maybe that person does have lots of insights and experience, but that their one article was just poorly written. Because really, it felt like a lazy slap in the face. It was just like a cotton-candied fluff of an article saying ‘don’t worry, it’s all fine, we’re the best, and here are my poorly-researched reasons as to why’.

Ughhh. Here, let me recap for you: most pagans don’t believe in medications, which are essential for most mentally ill people. Most pagans not only demonize psychiatric medication, but they also straight-out prohibit people taking certain medications from entering into their circles. Oh, and many pagans think mental illness ‘doesn’t exist’, so it’s all fake and we don’t really need clinical help. We should just, go trip out with a shaman or something and tada, we’re all cured. (this is a simplistic recap, by the way, but it would be a HUGE rant if I got into details about it).

I guess my point for this article is to vent, and to really say -> please don’t brush off this topic. It’s a real, vital, topic. It’s not something to be taken lightly. It’s meaningful and deep, and has repercussions for people’s mental health. To claim a hostile environment is, in fact, safe, juts because you haven’t experienced the discrimination as a non-mentally ill person is… flabbergasting? To put it nicely.

Also, why is it that there are so few wide-spread articles on paganism and mental illness from seriously disabled mentally ill peoples? Why is it that the articles I find are from people who had mild depressive bouts, not people who are schizophrenic to the point of a disability, crippled by anxiety to the point of a disability, or people with uncontrollable OCD? Why don’t we get people talking about their experiences as Wiccan or pagan in a psych ward?

It feels to me that our discussion, which should be written by very disabled and chronically ill people, is instead being discussed by abled and at best temporarily incapacitated people. Even the course I’m taking on self-healing at Woolston is not led by an ill person, but instead by an abled (to my knowledge) practitioner, and I find it shows in their approach. I really wonder how the discussion would look if we instead had all the disabled and chronically ill through mental illness folks sitting at this table. If you do have resources that are written my disabled folks, especially blogs and such, I’d love to read them. But for now, I’ll just grump and brood in my corner.

Infrastructure Matters and Esoteric Shops Don’t

Now I don’t mean to offend any esoteric shop owners, but those shops are practically useless. Did I upset someone? Well I don’t care. I am starting to really despise esoteric shops. To me, they feel like the bane of all existence, and the fact that they are the ‘center’ of pagan communities is a perfect symbol of all that is wrong with paganism.

Hear me out here. What, in an esoteric shop, do we as pagans really need? Yeah, yeah, it’s fun once in a while to buy yourself a cauldron and a new whoop-de-doo-dad. Whoopee. But then what? You go there once in a while to * buy stuff *,  chat with the store owner, and you leave. If you’re lucky, there’s classes offered and you *buy them * and then go home.

Whooo. How interactive. You *buy* and that’s it.

Now I don’t want to split hairs here but I’m poor. Most pagans think they are poor. So why the absolute fuck do we buy so much stuff? How come we, the ‘poor pagans who are so down to earth’, have let our religion be commercialized like this? Why is a SHOP the emblem of our society?

Yeah, yeah, there’s hidden covens that operate in living rooms. But they’re exactly that -> hidden, and only available to a few.

Y’all, all we have is shops right now. Shops that are super fucking expensive too. Shops that don’t reflect us, really. Because if they did, there would be seeds and gardening tools in them, as well as cooking implements. But nooooo, they’ve only got expensive white sage for you to buy. Does that really reflect us? Does it? It’s like saying a candy shop represents a person’s needs.

You know, as a poor, sick, person, all those fancy crystals and doo-dads are out of reach for me. All I can do is go into the shop and say ‘ooo, pretty’, and walk back out. Because it’s a SHOP. Because it’s only there for people to *buy stuff* when what we need is support and social networking. Why haven’t I seen seed swaps happening in these esoteric shops? Why not skill shares? Gardening classes? Children’s summer activities? No?

I lived in a town with over 5 esoteric shops in it. SHOPS. And no infrastructure. None. Zippo. No casual get-togethers. No actual support systems in it. It showed. No one knew anyone, and the community was insanely fragmented. Everyone thought they were the *only * pagan around. But hey, the shops made business.

A shop is a business. Infrastructure is networks, is support. Infrastructure is what we need, not shops. We’re a religious group, and we shouldn’t let commercial endeavors be our center. Isn’t there more to us than that?

SHouldn’t the ‘an harm ye none’ Wiccans be the biggest peace activists around? Shouldn’t the Asatru be having parenting classes on how to do it within a heathen perspective? Shouldn’t we have, at the bare minimum, seed swaps? People, come on. Please, let there be more to us than just a shop. Get out. Grow. Don’t just buy.