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Roman copy (ca. 160 AD), from a 4th century BC Greek original, of a statue of Asclepius, from the ghod's sanctuary in Epidauros. Photo by  Giovanni Dall'Orto

Roman copy (ca. 160 AD), from a 4th century BC Greek original, of a statue of Asclepius, from the ghod’s sanctuary in Epidauros. Photo by Giovanni Dall’Orto

I’ve begun learning new traditions. It’s very exciting for me, personally, deepening my learning and broadening my spiritual horizons. I’m not going to post about that specifically, because I don’t like to post about things I don’t know too much about, except for this post, which is far less specific and a far more open-ended question.

I’ve always mused on the fact we live (in Australia particularly) a pluralist, multicultural society, hyper-connected by the internet age of technologies. And that, as pagans, we should not disregard that inspiration in our own practices. For myself, it is part and parcel of our inheritance to have access to a vast store of cultures and religions at our fingertips, in depth, and it’s a gift horse I’m disinclined to look in the mouth. Thanks, ancestors! Good work! Especially now, I do appreciate things like WISH (Women in Solidarity with Hijabis), a group of non-Muslim women in Australia in conjunction with Muslim women wearing the hijab in response to the Islamaphobic and discriminatory behaviour that runs deep in our society, especially in the wake of the new war on IS (Islamic State), and runs all the way to Parliament House. The idea is not to make Muslim women invisible, but to point out that the hijab (head scarf, which is the most popular item of clothing in Australia among Islamic women, as well as the chardor,  niqab, with very few wearing the burqa) is not just about Islam, but a variety of cultural influences from all over Africa, the Middle East and Asia, and certainly is not about terrorism. But rather, about a woman’s choice to determine how and when she will express her religious and cultural ideals. As the meme points out, Her Majesty regularly dons a headscarf, and no one is throwing racial abuse at her and calling her a terrorist Muslim. There are lots of views about it, but for myself, I see in it a host of women who have taken it upon themselves to engage with the issue at a truer, deeper level of understanding. Which is one that goes beyond religion, culture and feminism. But encompasses all, with the onus being on society and indeed its leaders to understand these things which are part of it’s society, beyond the bigoted and belittling catchphrases that seem to be the trend. The fact is Islamic women in the hijab are being threatened and harassed, the point is, for those of us who are not, to understand it from experience, and point out, if it isn’t good for the White Christian women, then it’s not good for the South East Asian Muslim; the difference is a head scarf, not the substance and right to freedoms of choice of the individual.

It’s really simple for me, and speaks to my question proper, as well as a host of other things, like Aboriginal rights, women’s rights, and all the issues that come with our pluralist, multicultural society: If you don’t understand it, you have no right talking about it, let along legislating in regards to it. To take this into the realm of healing I am heading: A doctor can not treat what is not diagnosed. An understanding of what it is is essential to understand how to heal it. It never works in reverse. And if it does, the treatment itself is a diagnostic tool.

Pagans are various. Like all other groups. Not all Christians are Priests, not all people are doctors. There are some pagans who do not serve their community in terms of spiritual guidance and healing, and that is completely fine. There are also pagans who put themselves out, who teach, offer spiritual guidance, and healing of all sorts. Even in terms of the political, it is the leaders, bureaucracy and healers who are charged with understanding the various languages and religions of the society. I was particularly interested in Peregrin Wildoak’s (responsible for initiating the magical action For Increased Compassion in Australia) post last week at Magic of the Ordinary, “Revamping MOTO – well, a little bit“, in which he writes:

The change signals a willingness by me to post more social and political comment on this blog, rather than focusing predominately on the magical. I have always been moved by the classic ‘the political is personal is spiritual’ and I have always maintained the goal of magic is service to others, which necessitates an intersection with the social, the sexual and the political.

And in light of that, and my own learning of new traditions and spiritual paradigms, I asked myself: How responsible are we, as healers, guides, teachers, writers, artists of the pagan ilk to understand a myriad of systems, the dynamism and pluralism of our society?

If you consider the example of the medical profession, and the general outrage that accompanies a Catholic Hospitals refusal to offer treatments in line with their own beliefs as opposed to those of the patient. Both in terms of the physical issues as well as emotional and psychological, there are many who would suggest such a refusal relegates the hospital and staff to something other than healers.

Of course, that is an extreme example. I think a diversity of specialisations in any human field is well worth cultivating, a diversity of options. We each can not be specialists in each and every thing. Certainly, as healers, many of us are pretty forthcoming about the fact it is in conjunction with the medical sciences and treatments, physical and psychological and psychiatric. And we attempt to enter into an understanding of those processes at least on a case by case basis. For myself, working for outcomes of a more social kind, I am a big advocate for understanding the legal system and legal recourse in conjunction with magical working. In terms of those pagans who are working in other fields of healing often the work is for themselves, augmenting and increasing their own capacity. An example of which is a pagan friend of mine who works in psychology. Of course, this person does not break out the magic in the consultation, rather, regularly uses it on themselves to increase their own capacity for compassion, insight and healing in the context of a very heavily regulated and well defined system.

As pagan healers, how restrictive can we be in terms of who we can’t or won’t work with, if at all? What spheres of human activity are we separate from, if we consider ourselves so at all? I am very convinced one should be forthcoming about the things, systems, paradigms, traditions in which one is an adept, but do we limit ourselves and who we can help when we define ourselves as “Wiccan, Reiki practitioner”, or “Vodou Hunnon”, or “Traditional Witch”? Or, how are we limited by others, those we would happily help and heal?

And that is a very real and valid question. As so many people I have spoken to have pointed out, you can’t force heal or help someone. They in fact need to want you to help them. As individuals we are free to choose the herbalist, the witch, the counsellor, the pastor, or any combination thereof. And if that is the case, how responsible are we, as pagan practitioners, healers and leaders, to actively insert ourselves as valid voices and options into the broader social conversation? To understand the multiplicity of practices, cultures, beliefs and traditions out there, in the broader community? And if so, how and what can we learn from other religious and spiritual institutions who actively work in various spheres of healing (medicine, psychology etc.) in terms of who, what and when they chose themselves to engage with those who seek their help?

Whatever the answer, and I suspect there are many, it certainly is food for thought.

P.S. ‘S’ is for “Services”! This post participates with the Pagan Blog Project 2014.