20 August 2009

More Internet Memories

If it wasn't for the internet I don't know if I'd be a pagan witch. To be clear, my first encounter with neopaganism was a Scott Cunningham book (yes, that one) that my cousin handed me after she discarded it. She knew I was always reading about mythology and religions and whatnot and thought I would enjoy it. And boy did I?! But if it hadn't been for the internet I don't know if I would have stuck with it. Back in the early days of my pagan path walking I was fortunate enough to have internet access and it opened up the wider world of what it could mean to be pagan. In the early years of this millennium I used to say that the internet was a boon to two areas of interest: pornography and neopaganism. I don't know if that's really true, I suspect it isn't, but it seemed that way to me. I guess that says a lot about me, doesn't it? I was a country girl bored with what I knew and thirsting for something that I could not yet name. And when I discovered witchcraft, mythology taken seriously as including life lessons, ritual and all the rest I finally had a name for it.

However, many people had a name for their beliefs long before I came along and long before the internet was even a dream in a nerds mind. And some of them really hated us newbies. Granted, there was a lot of fad fever going on, there was a lot of white lighting and dumb kids calling themselves priestesses and putting "lady" in front of their name a week after their learned the definition of Wicca. There was a lot of bullshitting going on to be sure. But there was a lot of honest, sincere searching and learning taking place too. Those of us who were new and naturally ignorant and inexperienced were not often greatly encouraged by the older, more learned. In fact, just because we were new we were sometimes automatically lumped in with the "fluffy bunnies" and disregarded simply because of our youth or lack of knowledge. This of course happens to everyone at some point but it was particularly prevalent in the suddenly exploding online pagan community.

Fluffy bunnies were a strange breed and I may have been included in their ranks at one point by some. In my opinion they tended to be very new and yet felt instantly entitled to the utmost respect. They knew very little of mythology or folklore or ritual or herbs or any of it and yet considered themselves high priests and priestesses even though they had never even attended a group ritual, much less organized or led one. They tended to wear huge pentacles on their person just hoping someone would start some shit with them so they could claim persecution. They reminded me of the peasant Dennis in Monty Python's Holy Grail: "Come see the violence inherent in the system! You saw him repressing me, didn't you?" It was comical and silly but it was also somewhat damaging. So many of the bunnies repeatedly regurgitated the "9 million witches killed during the Burning Times! Never again!" mantra that it lost its meaning and created a victim complex, making it nearly impossible for other pagans or anyone in the mainstream to take them seriously. And the bunnies never even bothered to research such an outrageous figure, never realizing or caring that such a number would have wiped out most of Europe. So, I guess they earned some of their enmity. But some of us felt a sting we didn't earn.

From my perspective it seemed like some of the older pagans truly hated the newbies. Looking back, I'm not ever sure if all of the anti-fluffy bunnies were Wiccan or other species of pagan. All I knew in the beginning was Wicca and I thought that's what everyone was: I guess that made me a fluffy bunny. There was so much information out there and 99% of it was Wicca 101. There were so many cheesy pagan websites it was dizzying sifting through them all. And the greater majority of them were saying the same things: correspondences and generic, uninspired spells and rehashed information. The way I remember it most of the pagan sites I came across from about 2001-2003 were utter drivel. They all included the same things: a calender of the eight sabbats, a usually vitriolic disclaimer that Wicca wasn't devil worship, a brief explanation of the common Wiccan rituals tools and that was pretty much it. There was very little personal reflection or interpretation and even less research and scholarship. You know what there was a lot of? Graphics! Shining, spinning, sparkling, color changing, blinking pentacles, triple goddess and horned god symbols on every page of nearly every site.
It was cute for about thirty seconds and then quickly became nauseating.

And here's a little sordid secret: I had one of those crappy websites too! It had some basic information but it mostly consisted of essays I had written for an online Wiccan college (I'm a second degree in a online school, yay!) that was, I believe, called Crystal Waterfall of all things. And while I was a better writer than some I realize now that what I really needed was a blog. My opinion-full essays didn't really belong on a sparkly deep blue website: they belonged in a personal journal. And while I'm not Wiccan anymore by any means I still look back with some fondness on those heady times of techno-paganism and watching the Witchvox membership grow by leaps and bounds.


Cygnus MacLlyr said...

I developed the same frustration with the pagan literature out there-- unlike you, my intro was TOTALLY non-electronic [incarceration-- all bibliophilia, then! ha!]

More in-depth, post-"101" information, even if 'merely' the wisdom of reflection, is needed.

Nice post, Lady Livia!


Griffin said...

"Fluffy bunnies were a strange breed"... yep,... born an' bred in a briar patch, brer fox!

Every young witch has to start somewhere. I think that Willow in Buffy probably had a lot of teenage girls wanting to be witches too... for not necessarily the right reasons!

Still, ya live an' learn... an' have a giggle at the memory of it!
And fluffy bunny, look at you now!!

broomstick wanderer said...

I totally remember those websites with the shining, spinning, and sparkling everythings. There are still numerous ones out there. I don't understand why it's necessary to have those kinds of distracting graphics!! It makes the site scream fluff.

Livia Indica said...

I agree: sparkles=fluff. I do feel sorry though for the people who first designed those things way back in the day. They were neat to begin with but got old real fast.

Marion said...

The internet opened up a whole different world for me, way back then. Until I met other folks who thought like me, I felt very isolated, and the only people who had an inkling of how I practised my spirituality were on those easy-to-find sparkly, fluffy sites.

I had already studied under another, in real life, but for a year or two I joined (and got my second degree, as well) and enjoyed "book learning" as opposed to experience. It was fun, for awhile.

Interesting post, Livia.

plainclothespagan said...

LOL, the sparkly spinning pentacles that used to be everywhere. I wonder if I could still dig one up for my blog?

Welshwitch said...

Just discovered your blog this morning and haven't stopped reading since.

I've been interested in Paganism for a long time, but only (very very) recently started practising. Thank you for an inspiring blog that avoids all 'fluffy-bunnyism' while not looking down on us pathetic newbies!

Riverwolf, said...

You've shared so wonderfully and honestly about your beliefs, the good and the bad, and how they've evolved. And I'm SO glad to hear I'm not the only one who hates the sparkly, shiny web sites!

Livia Indica said...

Hi Marion! I'm kinda like you I guess, book learning is useful. It's great to have a solid knowledgebase. But nothing teaches quite the way experience does.

Hi Plainclothespagan, nice to hear from you. Maybe one would be okay?

Livia Indica said...

Hi Welshwitch, welcome! I'm glad you like what I have to say!

Hi Riverwolf, I guess I'm feeling especially nostalgic lately, seems age is beginning to catch up with me!