I believe that it would be more useful that any number of courses on spirituality, or ritual writing, or divination.
I would call that class "Reality 101."
I am sure that most of us have met candidates for this class. You can find them in any large gatherings of Pagans. They are usually the smiling ones standing next to the people that look rather frustrated. That look of frustration comes from trying to convince someone that it is possible to be grounded in this reality and still have a spiritual life.
I have noted several groups of people that I feel could benefit from a Reality 101 class:
Everything is an Omen Kid
I am the first person to admit that the gods do send us signs and omens at times. Especially when I am not "listening" very well. However, I try not to go out of my way to see omens at every turn. For example: my Matron Lady is often attended by ravens. When I lived in an area that rarely saw ravens, the appearance of one of those black birds was an important sign, usually meaning that I needed to be paying attention. I now live in an area where the ravens are the size of puppy dogs and follow people around. Unless one comes up and plants itself in front and starts talking, I am not going to be looking at them as an omen.
I had a friend that saw omens in everything around her. That was bad enough, but they seem to give her conflicting information. Because of this, she was always walking around in a fog, almost afraid to take action of any sort. It wasn't until she realized that not every dog barking was a sign that she was able to get her life together.
These are related to those who are afraid to take a move or make a decision without reading the cards, pulling some runes, or using some other divination device. These are useful tools, but hardly necessary to decide whether to have roast for dinner or chicken.
Free Spirit Parents
You know the ones that I mean -- they are the ones that insist that any sort of discipline will ruin their children. Free Spirit parents are the ones that allow their children to run wild as you are attempting to do ritual or teach class or even just socialize. If you dare to stop these ... uh... imps, perhaps tell them no, then the parents will jump your case, threatening and whining.
I don't know how this idea that destructive behavior by children is actually creative and should be encouraged got started, but I think it is time that some of these parents look at what they are creating. Behaviors that are cute when a toddler will become hard to live with as a child grows. How do you tell a teen that his behavior is unacceptable, when you have never taught him "no"?
I look at the current crop of Pagan kids and sometimes shudder. I do have one hope -- that they will rebel and become born again Christians.
Not a Historical Scholar
Facts are not always what we want to face. They can be uncomfortable and bring our beliefs and ideals into question. However, we can't just make them disappear by ignoring them and treating those who do deal in facts with disdain. Unfortunately, one sees this behavior too often in Pagan circles.
The whole debate over the age of Wicca is a perfect example. I know people, that no matter how many facts you present, will never accept that Wicca is as young as it is. They still insist that it has passed almost unchanged from prehistoric times.
The number killed during the Burning Times is another case of not wanting to look at the historical facts. Despite scads of historical evidence that the number of dead was much lower, many still cling to nine million dead in the fires. And the gods protect you if you point out, that even at the much lower figure, not all were accused of witchcraft and not all were women.
Perfect Love and Perfect Truster
I once overheard at a gathering two women talking. "They arrested him for abuse? How could that be??! After all, he is a Pagan and I have circled with him!"
These are usually the same women that are shocked to find out that there are Pagans in prison.
Yes, there are people that honestly take the ideal of perfect love and perfect trust to mean that just because you are a Pagan, then you are completely trustworthy. This has led to some horrible crimes and abuses, even to people that specialize in robbing, beating, and abusing Pagans. They know that they can show up on the Pagan scene and usually gain quick acceptance with next to no interest in their background.
No matter what beliefs they claim, it is wise to always use caution in dealing with people.
They are usually there at every festival and every gathering. Ask them what was the last ritual they attended and they will say, "Beltaine!" with a saucy wink. Often they are the first pull out the alcohol and the first to pull off their clothing. They are the Party Pagans and proud of the fact.
They are often just as proud of the fact that they don't take life and this whole spiritual stuff seriously. That is for the dull people. You know the ones -- the ones that always have their noses in books and are planning rituals and activities. The dull ones should just kick back and take life a bit easier.
Unfortunately, the Party Ones don't realize how often it is the "dull ones" that make the events possible that they enjoy. After all, =someone= has to do the job of making things work.
"I am a Fan"
I once almost was lynched by a mob of "fans". I did get kicked off an email list by them. My crime? I dared to say that perhaps their author of choice was wrong about something. Simply that. I didn't say she was wrong about everything or that I thought she sucked -- just that I thought she was wrong about one fact. I was even polite about it. Didn't make any difference.
I have run into this in other areas than just Pagan. For some reason, a fan following will form around an author's work. This is fine and good, but when the fans start to give up critical thinking in favor of basking in the glow from the author, then something is wrong.
Even the best of authors will be wrong on occasion. They will have poorly written books. They will misinterpret material. They will be human. Anyone that expects differently is riding for a fall.
One Book Wonders
At one extreme, these are the women who read one book and decide they are now a High Priestess. At the other extreme are the people who figure that because they have read one book on basic Paganism, they never have to read anymore. They never need to study or consult with anyone. All the necessary tools were in that one book and that is all they need.
These people are related to the ones that claim that they get all their information from their deity and as such, need no stinkin' books.
Identifying clueless people of all these categories isn't difficult, but convincing them that they really need the reality class is another thing. If only I could get them to see that reality isn't as bad as it is cracked up to being. But I guess if I could do that, then I wouldn't need to teach the class -- would I?
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