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Tony Grist

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Halloween [Oct. 31st, 2004|09:51 am]
Tony Grist
When I was a practicing Wiccan I used to give interviews about Halloween.

I was a Wiccan spin doctor. I was smooth and middle-class. I would explain how Wicca was just a religion like any other- like Methodism for instance- And how Halloween was just a religious festival like Easter or Christmas.

But I wasn't merely bland. There were ideas to get across. About God being a Woman. About Sex being OK. About the importance of Ecology. My reassuring manner was the spoonful of sugar that helped the medecine go down.

I have my regrets. I was one of those who helped move Wicca into the mainstream; I drew its teeth, I made it respectable.

And now that it's just a fluffy New Age cult like all the others I no longer want to be part of it.

But this happens to all religious movements. The early Methodists were wild- eyed revivalists. They collapsed in fits, they foamed at the mouth. A generation passed and Methodism had become the religion of grocers- the very epitome of Victorian propriety and dullness

Wicca was a eruption of fin de siecle naughtiness in the dullest of British decades- the 1950s. Its founder, Gerald Gardner, was a gamey old chap with a taste for Swinburne, nudity, flagellation and girls on top. By a speedy and startling process of evolution this old man's wet dream developed into the spiritual arm of feminism. Which is where I hopped on board. Another decade and it had been overtaken by society. What had been shocking was now normative. Wicca had won all its battles. The Church of England acquired women priests, it was routine to refer to God as She, Green was good and sex was guiltless. TV shows like Buffy and Charmed gave us witches who were adorable icons of female empowerment.

Wicca was emptied out. Its power was expended. It had done its job.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: craftyailz
2004-10-31 11:03 am (UTC)
But we had some fun, setting up our own coven etc.,

The first five years were exciting. We wrote our book, we disagreed with what we had written by the time it was published. We packed it in.

But what memories - Now where are we going?
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-10-31 11:09 am (UTC)
We had joy, we had fun, we had seasons in the sun.

Yeah, it was a great few years, but by the end it had become a terrible drag.

What next? Well there are quite a few Bergman movies we haven't watched yet. :)
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[User Picture]From: craftyailz
2004-10-31 11:13 am (UTC)
Ain't that the truth. It became like Sunday School. I feel sorry for our last couple of initiates - though Rik seems happy enough with our teaching - it felt like we were doing it by rote. My health problems left me with very little energy, which in turn sapped a lot of yours - looking after me and the house, neither of us had it to give.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-10-31 11:27 am (UTC)
That's true.

But by the time we bailed out Wicca had become a side-show. We were Wiccans at the best possible time- when Wicca had outgrown the initial silliness and was fighting for some important principles. Our side won the war. And now the action has moved elsewhere.
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[User Picture]From: craftyailz
2004-10-31 11:32 am (UTC)
That's true, we were always having to fight our corner. I wonder if I became a magistrate now- would there be all the fuss or would I just be accepted? (I'll never find out!).

I'm grateful to Wicca, it helped us compound our relationship.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-10-31 11:42 am (UTC)
It gave us a framework...
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[User Picture]From: craftyailz
2004-10-31 11:52 am (UTC)
It gave us something to talk about - met and married in 4 months - we didn't know that much about one another. Shared no interests, Wicca provided a bridge while we learned about ourselves and one another. Now we have the perfect marriage (except - or because - we write to one another on live journal rather than talk).
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[User Picture]From: sorenr
2004-10-31 12:07 pm (UTC)
Some people might find that a worrying concept, the LJ vs. talk... I quite like the notion of allowing the written word to occasionally enter even into everyday communication; it does something so very different to the spoken word, somehow.

Interesting to witness, at any rate; a somewhat less juvenile, and more sympathetic, version of Big Brother, perhaps. Reality TV made real, so to speak, and thus somehow losing the goldfish bowl aspect and instead becoming an extended privacy.

*pondering who to vote on for eviction*

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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-10-31 12:18 pm (UTC)
A earlier generation was adept at writing letters. The phone killed off that skill. And now it's back again in a slightly different form. I revel in email and LJ. Writing gives you the chance to consider (and edit) what you have to say.
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[User Picture]From: sorenr
2004-10-31 01:06 pm (UTC)
I'm a terrible letter writer, I'm affraid. I do e-mails okay, but I believe that is an entirely different medium. The immediateness of e-mails somehow dictate a different style and tone from that of the actual letter, and I find it hard to adjust accordingly.

Some 6-7 years I had great letter-exchanges, writing 4-5 pages to a friend of mine every week, but with e-mails and mobile phones we have somehow stopped doing that.

LJ obviously takes the immediateness of the e-mail one step further, in that it allows for a discussion to unfold more or less as on any instant message system, apart from making the exchanges public. I do like this plethora of written communications that seems to spread before us these days; as well as the good old classics (letters, 'letters to the editor' and so on) there are now new, and far more interactive and interpenetrating, ways of using written language. -Not to mention the way this whole 'global village'-thing necessitates using several languages in order to be able to use these mediums to their full potential. (Had my journal been Danish-only I doubt I should've had much response from overseas...)
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-10-31 01:41 pm (UTC)
It's a long time since I last wrote a "proper" pen and paper letter. I think I'd find it difficult now- though I was once quite skilled at it.

I write lots of emails- including letter-like ones ones that begin "Dear X" and end "best wishes, P".

I find these new methods of communication amazing. I love it that I now have all these friends all over the globe whom I have never met in the flesh.
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[User Picture]From: sorenr
2004-10-31 01:50 pm (UTC)
Hmm... The last actual 'letter' I've written was, I think, a letter of condolences, thus conforming to an even tighter standard. (It was a nightmare to write, as it had to be semi-formal in order to mean anything to my ex-mother-in-law after she had lost her mother; she's too stiff upper-lip to appreciate the more touchy-feely letters I'd normally write in bereavement situations...)

And yes; it is amazing to have friends and acquaintanes in such different localities and positions. I must say I've had a tendency to have friends a bit here-and-there even before I became a seasoned internet nerd, so to me the difference lies mainly in the fact that a) I've never met these virtual, semi-fictional people and b) that it is so easy to stay in touch on a regular basis, so one does not feel the physical separation as an issue.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-10-31 08:28 pm (UTC)
These days I very largely conduct my social life over the Net. I was never one for small talk- and with LJ and email every exchange can be to the point.
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[User Picture]From: craftyailz
2004-10-31 12:33 pm (UTC)
I like the idea of communicating with people. I resisted LJ for a while - even though I had a journal of my own, but am now enjoying expanding my world. Plus poliphilo isn't much of a talker, he's much more fluent, and articulate, when he's writing.
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[User Picture]From: sorenr
2004-10-31 01:11 pm (UTC)
And somehow we are all different when we write as oposed to when we speak; the medium affects the meaning conveyed, so to speak. Form and functionality are, as always, linked, so we become these very detached, cerebral creatures in an entirely written world. Recently I posted a picture of my foot (somebody asked for a body-part on a pedestal... Nevermind; won't make much sense, no matter how I try to explain!), and a few of my LJ-friends commented on the absurdity of the notion that sorenr might actually have feet! The spoken word is somehow more physical, more visceral, in that it is not merely a line of signs, but an actual physical impact on our body in the shape of alternating air-pressures...
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[User Picture]From: besideserato
2004-10-31 11:28 am (UTC)
I have relapsed into Catholicism. Interestingly, I find myself clutching the icons of the old religion within the new mindframe. I look at Mary and get somewhat of a little pang of nostalgia.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-10-31 11:40 am (UTC)
Catholicism would be attractive to me if it weren't for all the old men in frocks.

I don't quite know where I stand now. At one time this uncertainty would have bothered me, now it doesn't. I'm happy to be agnostic.

The one thing I do believe in is ghosts.
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[User Picture]From: cybersofa
2004-10-31 04:20 pm (UTC)
Have you tried Belief-O-Matic?
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-10-31 04:33 pm (UTC)
I have now. It appears I'm 100% Unitarian Universalist

And 24% Jehovah's Witness- which is worrying.
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[User Picture]From: besideserato
2004-10-31 06:24 pm (UTC)
I am something of the same, too, which is... really weird.
Tscha! Just because I don't believe in heaven doesn't mean I don't like Mary and the angels and the saints and the cool architecture and stuff. Jeez!
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[User Picture]From: besideserato
2004-10-31 06:23 pm (UTC)
When I read your comment I sat back, quite puzzled--"old men in frocks? What is he talking about?" It was only a few seconds later (after I lit the cigarette) that I remembered the old men in frocks.

Oh, them! Yeah. What about them, again?
[Laughs] Interesting what we chose to see and what we just ignore when we follow a certan faith, isn't it?
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-10-31 07:52 pm (UTC)
I've just been watching a TV programme about Raphael. And it reminded me that without Julius II- the ultimate old man in a frock- we'd never have had Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel paintings or Raphael's stanze or half the masterpieces of high Renaissance art.
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[User Picture]From: besideserato
2004-10-31 07:59 pm (UTC)
And she smiled and nodded and commented on the beauty of it all and then turned to him and asked, quite alarmed, "Julius who?"
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-10-31 08:23 pm (UTC)
Oh- the Pope who commissioned Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel. Nasty, fierce old man, more warlord than priest.

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[User Picture]From: ksp24
2004-10-31 11:18 pm (UTC)
What a great post!

Thank you for that.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-11-01 09:01 am (UTC)
Thanks
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