Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Paganism in Public Schools: A Teacher's Guide, Part One

 Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," public school teachers! Perhaps you have noticed that things have changed overnight in the ol' US of A. And while none of us like it, well, there you are. Personally I am heartsick, because separation of church and state has always been important to me. But pish tosh! We've all got to suck up and live by the new rules.

If you are a Pagan public school teacher, chances are that you have been entirely closeted about it in your classroom. Me too! However, I have always had a feeling that some of my students could benefit from some basic Wiccan/Druidic/Santeria influence. Over this summer break, I will be offering helpful tips on how to conduct Pagan practices in a way that is not coercive but is true to your personal faith.

First you need to spruce up that drab desk of yours!

Calling the Quarters is an important part of my practice. In years past, I have marked the Four Directions on a discreet sticky note that I stuck to my desk. This year I plan to mark my teacher desk in a more prominent way: a bright green paper taped to the desk for East, a bright orange or yellow paper taped to the desk for South, a bright blue paper taped to my desk for West, and a bright violet piece of paper taped to my desk for North.

I will feel free to talk about the Directions to my students if they ask. I'll also be sure to take some photos of my desk when it's all done up!

Ancestor Veneration is also an important aspect of my practice. This is the easy one. Nobody is going to look twice if you load your teacher desk with photos of the ancestors you admire. I've never taken pictures of my family in to school before, but wow. What a great idea! 

Deities. We all have Deities that support our work as teachers. But I'll bet you never had a picture of your Goddess on your teacher desk! I guess I am a bit ahead of you there, because since the pandemic started I have had a beautiful work by Thalia Took right behind my desk, discreetly looking outward. Here is my school Goddess:

EXHIBIT A: Artemis Brauronia

I have this photo in an ornate frame. A few students have asked me about Her in passing, and I have given vague answers. Now I will be more detailed, including how Artemis and I found each other.

(Aside, Artemis is not necessarily the Goddess for you. Check out Thalia's gallery: She has a lot of Goddesses!)

Herbs and crystals are something I haven't placed openly on my desk before. I have kept them in a small portable altar box. I'm actually really excited about getting some nice crystal geode to use as a paperweight. It really will soothe me to have an actual crystal on my desk! Take a crystal that speaks to you and use it! I wouldn't take one from your supply already, because things do disappear from teacher desks. Buy a new one specifically for your classroom and charge it yourself.

Instructive reading material. In my school district, which serves minority urban students, we teachers are encouraged to have compelling classroom libraries. I have a really good one, liberally supplied by readers of this blog. One thing I haven't had before, but will have now, are books about Witchcraft. I know some of my students are interested in this topic, and I also know that the secretary who runs our school library is a Christian zealot and Trump supporter.

There is actually a really nice introductory book about Witchcraft specifically for teens, and I have done the Amazon link here just because it's easiest. The best thing about Amazon is that they will have similar titles underneath the listing. I'll be adding this book and at least one book about astrology to my classroom library in the upcoming school year. Do some research! I'm going to try to find books about ancient religious practices of the Caribbean, because many of my students are from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

Here at "The Gods Are Bored" we like to do series posts, so please check back for future installments about creating a Pagan classroom and modeling your religious faith for your students. It's a new dawn. It's a new day. None of us are rejoicing, but we must be heard and seen. It's in the Constitution.

Blessed be!

Saturday, June 25, 2022

A Thousand Questions

 I'm thinking this morning of Town Creek. It begins in Pennsylvania near the tiny town of Rainsburg and flows from north to south 36 miles to Oldtown, Maryland, where it flows into the Potomac River. The Potomac can be easily forded at Oldtown. It's not very deep there.

If you were a slave fleeing the South before the Civil War, you could follow a stream like Town Creek up into Pennsylvania. In the absence of maps, it was a way to move north, and most of it can be waded, which helps cover tracks. You would also have a clean water source.

My ancestors lived along Town Creek, just over the Mason Dixon line in Pennsylvania. In one instance, documented in The Chaneysville Incident, by David Bradley, they discovered a group of 13 runaway slaves who had committed mass suicide on their property, rather than be taken back to Virginia. Those suicide victims are buried in the Imes family graveyard along Town Creek, in plots marked just with the local shale.

If the escaping slaves committed suicide, it follows that they must have known they had been discovered and were going to be captured. This means that my family must have had to stand up to bounty hunters. Dead bodies were as valuable in the South as live ones, because of the terror they would inspire.

My great-grandmother was an Imes, a direct descendant of the patriarch who would have had to make decisions in the days of the Underground Railroad. I was three when my great-grandmother died, and although I met her I have no memories of her. Second-hand I learned that she was hard to live with. She suffered from intense anxiety and projected the worse outcome for every small thing. My uncle told me that her favorite expression was "Hit's a carshun." Translated, it means "uh oh."

It's not a leap to imagine that the Imes family had a streak of anxiety in the days of the Underground Railroad. They were less than three miles from the Mason Dixon. Helping runaways of any kind must have been a fraught exercise for them.

Today I am imagining the conversations that must have occurred in that farmhouse along Town Creek. What's right? What's wrong? What can we do? How will we be held responsible? How will this impact our family? Do we really want to involve ourselves in this?

For people who (perhaps) projected the worst outcome, this must have been excruciating.

This is not to minimize the 10,000 times worse situation of runaway slaves. I'm only speculating on how my particular family might have reacted to the situation they found themselves in, situated on a stream that flowed from north to south, ending across a wadable river from Virginia.

I want to overhear those conversations in that farmhouse. I want to ask Aaron Imes a thousand questions. I want his courage in the face of atrocity. How did you do it, family?

I'm saying this because something has changed in America, and something has changed in my neighborhood as well.

In America, we have slid back into a dark era. Many people have lost autonomy over their very own bodies.

And in my neighborhood, three blocks from my house, this:


My friends, this morning I want to step back in time. First I want to go see the Imes family and ask them a thousand questions. Then I want to go to see Anne Johnson, circa 2008 and tell her that her cocky, cheeky, snarky belittling of the Christian Right completely minimized the damage they could do -- not just in matters of women's reproductive freedom, but in a larger and more sinister plan to control lives, ALL lives, on behalf of the wealthiest elites.

I feel like Town Creek has come to my doorway in Haterfield, New Jersey. Do I have the courage to be an Imes, anxiety be damned?

Gods help me. Gods help us all.

Friday, June 17, 2022

Another Pesky Supreme Court Decision

 I'll keep this one brief, since the decision isn't published yet. But ...

Our new Spanish Inquisition Supreme Court conservative majority is about to issue a ruling about prayer in school. Specifically, Christian prayer on a football field after a game. Can a coach kneel and pray on the field at a public school, subtly encouraging his players to do the same?

I would lay a hefty bet that our current Supreme Court is gonna say OH JEHOVAH YES, LET'S SWAY THOSE FINE YOUNG MINDS.

To which I say: Fine! Will do!

As a firm believer in the separation of church and state, I have kept my Pagan beliefs entirely to myself. One time I saw a student reading a book about witchcraft. That was the only time that I ever had a conversation about Paganism in my classroom. And it was just with that kid.

My religion doesn't belong in my workplace. Or, I should say, right at this moment it doesn't. If the Supreme Court rules as above, re, swaying the fine young minds, then strap yourself in. I'm gonna sway.

This doesn't mean that I have changed my mind about the separation of church and state. This means that the Supreme Court is reactionary and regressive, and five supposedly intelligent human beings have not thought through the entirety of the possibilities of prayer in schools.

If the court decides for the coach who prayed on the football field, I will be offering up free advice to all my Pagan public school teacher colleagues nationwide. It'll be a whole doggone series on how to call the Quarters in the classroom, how to display an altar on your desk, and how to weave the tenets of Paganism into daily lessons.

Do I want to do this? No. Do I feel called to defy these dark times? Yes.

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Full Moon, Solstice Soon

 Teacher in September: By golly, I'm going to go to the gym after work! I've been doing it all summer. How hard can it be?

Teacher in June: Let me sit here in the recliner for an hour before I change that tablecloth.

My lieblings, this is not hyperbole. The tablecloth dodge literally happened to me a week ago.I feel even worse today.

With three days left in the school year (one of them devoted entirely to picky paperwork), I am fried like your granny's Maryland chicken.

I don't like to bitch and moan about my job, because I've got one. But dang on a biscuit, it's an exhausting bit of business.

Like, I didn't even need to make these memes. I just Googled "tired teacher." There are so many of us!

But the full moon will soon be rising, and Solstice is next week. I will finally staple the last piece of newspaper over the last square of bulletin board and walk out for a nice long holiday.

It will take me about a week to regain my energy. But once I start getting enough sleep, I'll be full of piss and vinegar again.

And speaking of sleep, the sun is still high in the sky, and I'm ready to hit the sack. Yep, 7:15 p.m. is the new midnight.

But I'm not worried. Every little thing is gonna be all right.

Saturday, June 11, 2022

What Did I Just See?

 For those of you just joining in the fun here at "The Gods Are Bored," you should know that I am a dyed-in-the-wool supporter of organized labor. I want to be buried with my union card in my cold, dead hand. United we bargain, divided we beg. Therefore it was with great happiness and anticipation that I got up this morning and headed into Philadelphia for the AFL-CIO Unity Summit.

Every four years the AFL-CIO has a whopper of a convention, and I guess it's just about like any other convention, with lots of people cheering and saying all the right things. This year's convention is in Philadelphia, which is a neat 20 minute train ride from my door. Joy!

Except the convention starts on Sunday, and the Unity Summit was on Saturday.

If the date wasn't tip-off enough, the invitation I got to this Unity Summit was just another email to my inbox with a link to register. Just out of curiosity (to see how much it cost to attend), I filled out the registration. Turns out it was free, with lunch provided. 

Better yet, there was a whole day of speakers scheduled for the Unity Summit, and there was a breakout seminar called "Next Gen Organizing" having to do with bringing more young people into the labor movement.

To say I had high expectations for this bash was an understatement. Philadelphia is a union city. Our Labor Day parade is impressive. My first thought was how long I might have to stand in line before I could get my registration badge.

The first tip-off that my expectations were about to be shattered was how long it took me to get my registration badge. I walked right up.

The festivities were scheduled for a ballroom on the top floor of the Convention Center. And the last time I was in that space was at Netroots Nation in 2019. Elizabeth Warren was one of the speakers that day, and the freaking Fire Marshal was at the door because of the crowd.

Today the Fire Marshal must have been home with his feet propped up, drinking his coffee and placing a few online wagers. When I say that ballroom was sparsely populated, I mean it was embarrassingly empty, considering the heft of the AFL-CIO.

To make matters more depressing, the speakers were outstanding. They all had rousing messages about battling voter suppression and systemic racism, and one or two of them mentioned in passing that Amazon and Starbucks workers were organizing here and there ...

Wait. What?

Over the past six months, about the only good news was that workers had successfully organized an Amazon warehouse and numerous local Starbucks stores. To me this is huge. It's the future of the labor movement, and the AFL-CIO should be all over it. In fact, I expected "Next Gen Organizing" to feature some of these brave people from Amazon and Starbucks. Nope.

So there I sat in a dark, cavernous ballroom, watching enthusiastic speakers dish out heaping helpings of platitudes to empty tables.

Worst part was that the "Next Gen" segment featured people who were indeed young, but they were also children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren of union members who happened to go into the organizing business. Which is what it seemed like - a business.

All of this I can forgive, because solidarity. But you know what is unforgivable? There was no swag. Dang! What's a convention without swag?

(Well, I think some people got some swag, but all I got was an N95 mask I had to put on right away, and two Covid testing kits as I left.)

The whole thing reminded me of how the administration in my school district celebrates National Teacher Week by giving each of us a bag with some random penny candy and a mini bottle of water.

Either go big or go home, that's my motto. The AFL-CIO could have thrown a gigantic party today at the Philadelphia Convention Center if they had just invited everyone who marches on Labor Day to come in their union t-shirts, gather in some swag, and have a nice lunch. The ballroom would at least have been populated. As it was, any oligarch who might have wandered into the Unity Summit could quickly conclude that the halcyon days of organized labor are over and done.

Don't get me wrong. The convention only gears up on Sunday, and rumor has it the president might drop in before it's over. So I'm sure that all the union muckity mucks from all over America will be descending.

But not the most important muckity mucks. Not the brave people stepping out of line at their workplaces to form bargaining units. Not the soldiers. Just the generals.

Oh well. The day wasn't completely lost. On my way back to the train I went through Reading Terminal Market and snagged a Beiler's doughnut.

Now I'm back in my lounge chair, having learned nothing about how to help those Starbucks baristas get unions in their shops.

In solidarity,

Anne Johnson

Wednesday, June 08, 2022

Free Advice on Traveling without Being Tracked

 Hi ladies, and welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" I am Anne Johnson, a happy Pagan in the Great Blue Northeast, USA. I live in a state that has not only enshrined a woman's right to body autonomy into its laws, it also stands poised to be a "sanctuary state" for anyone looking for private medical care. 

If I can toot my own horn a bit more, I'm also a woman of a certain age. What's that age, you ask? Oh, I'm not shy about it. I was a stripling of 14 when the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade.

A lot has changed since then.

The biggest change, bar none, is the cell phone. Did you know the doggone thing tracks you everywhere you go? And you would have to find someone WAY techier than me to tell you how to disable the tracking, should you need to for personal reasons.

But I can still help you. What if you took a trip and left your phone behind? Then no one could track you at all.

Scary, right?

Well, I'm here to tell you, it can be done! When I started traveling across state lines in 1974, nobody carried a phone with them. The phones were in little glass booths on the street corner. Or stuck to the wall in your house.

So. Let's suppose you want to travel from, oh, I dunno, Oklahoma to sunny Atlantic City, New Jersey, without your phone. Sounds terrifying. And I'm not gonna sugar coat it. This will not necessarily be like hopping in your car and turning on your Maps app.

First, you need to plan ahead. WAY ahead. You need to pretend that you may need a medical procedure at some point, and you need to put away cold hard cash. Don't wait until you need the money! Start now. Today. Put away as much as you can. You'll need cash for travel and for your medical procedures, and for a hotel room. In Atlantic City, most of the hotels are ridiculously expensive, but not all of them.

Second, you need a paper map of the old USA. Buy it right away and keep it handy. Then locate the nearest Greyhound bus terminal to where you live. I know, I know, Greyhound is the suckiest way to travel. But they go everywhere, and they take cash and give you a paper ticket if you ask.

If you plan way ahead, you can even enter some hypothetical destinations in Greyhound's web site and find out how much you will need for your excursion.

But how can you book a procedure in a strange hospital in a strange state? Again, ladies, you need to have an abundance of foresight. Locate the names and numbers of clinics you may some day need to visit. Write the names and numbers down on old-fashioned paper with an old-fashioned pen. Then, when you do need to call, you can buy a burner phone or borrow your best friend's phone to make the appointment.

Once you get a person on the phone to help you with the appointment, you can ask them: Where can I stay? Can someone pick me up at the Greyhound terminal? Is there any support system in place for a lady in my predicament? I'm hoping we will all be pleasantly surprised by the outpouring of aid that will flow in certain cases.

Thank goodness cash is still an option for so many ventures! When they do away with good old-fashioned dollars and cents, we will all be up Shit's Creek.

Most of us don't have a lot of ready money lying around, nor do we have easy ways to earn it. So my free advice to you, ladies, is save what you can. If you can put two bucks a day in an envelope, you'll have about $700 in a year. That takes a lot of discipline, but it's a sensible plan. 

I spent a lot of miserable hours on Greyhound buses. They are slow and stinky. But they go from A to B to Z. My free advice on Greyhound travel? Have that paper map, and pay attention to the stops! You don't want to miss your stop. (Well, in the case of Atlantic City, you won't miss the stop. It's as far as you can go on dry land.) You'll probably have to change buses a few times, though. Stay alert.

My last piece of free advice really shouldn't cost you a dime. You need to go to the board of elections and register to vote. Here's something you can freely look up on Google! You can find out just how to do it in your state. Then, once you are registered to vote, go out there and vote these monsters out of office. Bad things happen when you don't vote. Very bad things.

I hope you never need this advice. But take it from me, it is still possible to leave your phone on the shelf and take a trip somewhere. You just have to plan the old-fashioned way. Beforehand. Before you need to go anywhere.

This is what we did in 1974.