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Non-Fluffy Pagans
Particles of fluff... 
10th-Mar-2012 07:51 am
Since the last thread in this community, I have realised more than ever that many people seem to have different ideas and opinions regarding what actually constitutes being fluffy. I'll cite a few examples (feel free to bring up your own examples) and ask "WDYT":

Is it neccesarily fluffy to be open about being pagan, or are only some public behaviours considered fluffy (like saying "blessed be" or "merry meet" in inappropriate social contexts)? Or is it fluffy to stay "in the broom closet" (that term makes me cringe) because we should all be putting ourselves out there and fighting the good fight to make paganism more publicly accepted?

Is it always fluffy to have "new age" interests? Or is it acceptable to have a few interests in things like astrology and crystals, while certain other interests (indigo kids, channelling messages from dolphins) cross the line into fluffy territory?

And finally, are all eclectic pagans neccesarily fluffy? Or is it only fluffy to pick and choose deities like you are eating at a buffet without putting any thought into it? Is there a way of being eclectic and non-fluffy? On the other hand, is only acceptable to follow just the one tradition down to the letter, or can this be fluffy in itself (as you might as well be a Christian being told when to stand, sit and kneel)?

Thanks in advance for all responses. :)
12th-Mar-2012 03:02 pm (UTC) - Two words
Willful ignorance.
12th-Mar-2012 03:20 pm (UTC)
Nailed it.
12th-Mar-2012 03:07 pm (UTC)
I don't think it's "fluffy" to have new age interests or anything, as long as you can remain grounded in the fact that not everyone is going to agree with you, nor are they going to see the benefit that you see. Also, maintaining the cultural relevance is helpful, too (like Ayurvedic uses of crystals and metals - but understand the training that goes into knowing how to use them and for what purposes).

As for the deity issue, if you are going to pick/choose (be picked/chosen) deities that span different pantheons, the least that can be done is to be familiar enough with each one to know its own cultural relevance and not mix and match based on "what feels good".

As for being open, when you look at our stereotypes, it's not a wonder why we're thought to be closet cases, it's a slow process to be seen as a "regular" in-the-world group, but it is happening. Running around in medieval garb for no reason doesn't help, but you could just be having fun.
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12th-Mar-2012 04:44 pm (UTC)
"and while the eyeliner really worked for Nefertiti, unless you are a Thelemite in a ritual that is drawing down an Egyptian deity,..."

Hehe, that made me laugh out loud because yep, I am and I do! Even then, I certainly don't think it's necessary, I use it as more of a "stage makeup" and also as part of putting myself into the appropriate mindset for that role.
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12th-Mar-2012 10:31 pm (UTC)

I tend to stick Scientology in the file marked "Cuckoo as a Swiss clock." I'm sure Eris approves. :)

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12th-Mar-2012 03:26 pm (UTC)
I typically define fluffiness in three ways.

^ One is the "ooh, oooh, look at me!!" way to be fluffy, where one isn't doing whatever one is doing for one's self or one's gods, but instead to be seen to be doing it. This doesn't mean never having these things come up in a public context, but it does mean doing it explicitly to be seen. For example, fluffy Christians will have mottos about faith and god on their office wall, say "I'm praying for you", "Lord be with you" or "Thank the Lord! Isn't he glorious!?" to random strangers, loudly. A small cross wouldn't trigger my fluffy indicator, but expecting everyone at a dinner table to pray together does. Wearing a pentagram wouldn't be enough to set off my fluffy-alarms, but using phrases like "merry met" in casual conversation would (or yelling out "goddess" at certain moments *sigh*) Equally, anyone talking about "the burning times" or talking all the time about how secretive their religion is *also* sets off my fluffy-alarms: in some places it is awkward to be known as pagan, sure, but sometimes the broom closet is just about making people feel special. The people who actually are secretive about their religion don't go around talking about how secretive and exclusive they are: they just do it and most people probably never know (that's sort of the point.)

^ The second is cultural appropriation fluffiness, where people engage just with the their shallow assumptions of a culture and call it their eclectic religion, rather than engaging in a deep engagement that recognizes the culturally-embedded nature of all faith. The Christian version of this is all the Christians who say "Jesus is just about love!", who clearly have never read any vaguely-faithful translation of the Bible, are willfully ignoring the last 2,000 years of history and most current-day Christians ("they aren't *really* Christian!"). This doesn't rule out all forms of eclecticism, especially if one is living in a cultural context that has diverse history. However, I think that most non-fluffy eclectics have a pantheon that has its own logic as well as cultural and personal significance. It also doesn't rule out casual engagement or laity relationships with religion, especially as a member of the cultural context of that religion, but that's different than enthusiastically laying claim to a bunch of stuff that sounds cool while ignoring the context from which it comes.

^ The third set of fluffy pagans are people who lack balance. This can go both ways: I've met gothic pagans who worship Hecate as a death-goddess without recognizing her other aspects, or who wanted rituals to descend into the underworld and not come back out again. On the other hand I've met pagans who want everything to be fully of happy bunnies and light and how perfect the world is and our magic can only be used for healing and we can chant healing to the earth, and when they do accidentally stumble into blood magic or compulsions they don't know how to handle it because their world view doesn't allow for it to happen. The Christian versions are Fred Phelps and the people who think Christianity is all about forgiveness and love, so they don't have to worry about anything bad they may have done ever, because God forgives them!

Personally, my faith is utterly pragmatic, so if someone has found a new-age-y tool that works for them all the more power to them. I think new age techniques are just tools like any other. As long as they don't expect to talk about those things to me and have me accept them as more valid than they appear, just employing tools isn't fluffy. The proof is in the pudding, as it were.
12th-Mar-2012 07:13 pm (UTC)
One is the "ooh, oooh, look at me!!" way to be fluffy, where one isn't doing whatever one is doing for one's self or one's gods, but instead to be seen to be doing it.

Totally agree with this. Laurie Cabot is a rather famous example of this kind of behavior. She may (or may not, I really don't know) know her stuff, but flapping around Salem like a bat is a huge red flag for fluffy, in my book.

The Christian version of this is all the Christians who say "Jesus is just about love!", who clearly have never read any vaguely-faithful translation of the Bible, are willfully ignoring the last 2,000 years of history and most current-day Christians ("they aren't *really* Christian!").

I would disagree with this. Jesus himself taught that the old testament was over and done with, so a Christian can safely ignore it. Paul never knew Jesus, so any follower of Christ who decided Paul didn't know his ass from a hole in the ground is fine as well. There's no reason to think that the "canon" was picked for any reason other than political, so if someone wants to follow Jesus and chooses to include works like the Gospel of Thomas*, I think that's great too. I would argue that people calling themselves Christian who choose to be judgmental and selfish are the "fluffy" Christians who don't bother to read the words of Jesus.

they don't have to worry about anything bad they may have done ever, because God forgives them!

This I would agree with. God will forgive in the Christian/Jesus tradition, but it should be coupled with remorse. If you don't really feel bad about it, how can you ask for forgiveness? You can't do that with people either. (See Rush Limbaugh's non-apology for example.)

*which is actually older than several of the books accepted as canon.
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12th-Mar-2012 03:35 pm (UTC)
Fluffy: burning a beer cooler on your front lawn, dancing around it, and claiming it's part of your religion when the police bust you

Fluffy: talking about the witches who were burned to death in Salem.
See http://somethingpositive.net/sp04242002.shtml

Fluffy: doing invocation work (actually calling deities through full scale trace possession) without training ... bonus points for calling deities within the same general pantheon, who are portrayed as opponents, without any thought for consequences (Demeter and Hades, for example)
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12th-Mar-2012 03:50 pm (UTC)
The most useful distinction between "fluffy" and "non-fluffy" I've seen to date came from Zak Kramer:

"It seems to me that one of, if not the, primary distinction between fluffy and 'hard' practitioners is that the hard practitioner is attempting to directly grapple with the problems and possibilities of existence, while the fluffy is trying to escape into a self-centered world of wish fulfillment."

Simple inexperience or lack of knowledge do not a fluffy make. Willful ignorance and willful stupidity are indicative of fluffyness.

A notable example of fluffyness might be Edain McCoy's book Witta: An Irish Pagan Tradition. In that book McCoy asserts that ancient Irish pagans used potatos in their magical workings. The potato is a plant originally native to South America, and cannot have been introduced into Ireland much earlier than the mid 1500's, which was rather a few years after Ireland stopped having any significant population of pagans. Even worse, the "w" phoneme isn't used in Erse, so the name of her "ancient Irish pagan tradition" cannot be pronounced in the native language of the people who allegedly were its original practitioners. Neither of these factoids is difficult to come up with using basic research tools, and the fact that they seemed to completely escape Ms. McCoy's notice at the time she was writing her book is classic evidence of fluffyness.

12th-Mar-2012 04:06 pm (UTC)
See also 21 Lessons of Merlin.
12th-Mar-2012 06:39 pm (UTC)
I don't really find it useful to make declarations like "All pagans of category X are fluffy" or "Such-and-such practice/idea is always fluffy." To me, "fluffy" is less about what someone does or believes than about how they do or believe it. There are many, many beliefs and practices than can be approached either in a responsible and intelligent way, or in a lazy, shallow, irresponsible way. That to me is the key distinction.
13th-Mar-2012 02:17 am (UTC)
12th-Mar-2012 09:12 pm (UTC)
I suppose I consider a fluffy person one who has no intellectual curiosity and one who acts like they know everything when in fact they are wrong more often than a broken clock--and that they're brand of wrong is particularly fantasy based rather than a hard reality ignorance like racism or sexism.

For example, if you are doing something new agey, great, have fun that's cool, don't tell me it is actually an ancient practice when it can be traced to its founder in the last couple centuries.

Some people look so hard for fluff they find it where it isn't. So don't become one of the fluff hunters. I find people speed reading and not getting full comphrension of a text and then calling it fluffy, but actually they just misread the literature in question. I had a teacher that a few members of this group looked at one of his ads, completely missed the parts where he said, I do not do the following: xyz and only saw xyz and claimed he did xyz.

If you read something, it seems off, look at it again, slowly make sure you understood it and then cry fluff if its fluff.
12th-Mar-2012 10:44 pm (UTC)
Why Fluffy?

It's soft- no rigor needed

It can seem pleasant floating on the breeze, if pointless, until you try to clean after it. There is ALWAYS a little more mess left behind

It's rootless, Easily blown about the the current(s) ((trends))

It looks far greater that it is--at a distance.

Trying out a new concept isn't fluff- claiming mastery of it after (speed) reading a book is.

Interests don't make for the fluff- lack of practice, context, and comprehension do.

12th-Mar-2012 10:47 pm (UTC)
To my mind, fluff is a lack of self-awareness. So do whatever the hell you want, but know what you're doing and why. That doesn't have to mean studying in depth, but it does mean recognising that you haven't studied in depth and that you have major knowledge gaps, so a little humility is in order.

My own spiritual practice is around 30% borrowed, with little more than moderate understanding of the cultural context (though the things I've nabbed do at least originate in my own culture - I'm not appropriating from marginalised peoples, I just don't know enough about my own history). The remaining 70% is shit I made up. It's my private spiritual practice, it only has to work for me and I don't care if anybody has a problem with it. However, I'm aware of my knowledge gaps and so I'm hardly going to swan around claiming that my interpretation of the Wheel of the Year is better and more right than anyone else's. I'll talk about what I do if asked, but I don't claim that it's anything more than me tapping into my imagination and some formative experiences to remind myself what I find sacred in the world. Sometimes gods (as symbols, yep, I'm one of those) come into it, but if I met someone who was dedicated to Brighid I wouldn't jump up and down going "Me too! Me too!" just because I find some aspects of Brighid attractive and meaningful. That really would be fluffy.

I think we're in danger here of pointing at any negative trait displayed by a Pagan and calling it fluffy. I mean, I can understand some arguments against staying in the broom closet (though I don't think anyone's obliged to disclose their spiritual practice if they don't want to), but just because it may possibly do a certain amount of harm, that doesn't mean it's fluffy. (Whereas the Indigo Children shit is both inordinately fluffy and harmful. Gah.)
12th-Mar-2012 11:19 pm (UTC)
This. Well said.
14th-Mar-2012 04:07 pm (UTC)
Thinking about this, I realize that I very rarely find myself thinking of pagans as "fluffy." Not that I'm non-judgmental, just that that isn't a category that I think in. I'm much more prone to think of people as ignorant, inexperienced, disconnected from reality, or just plain wrong. Labeling people as "fluffy" strikes me as just a different lack of critical thinking. Call as spade a spade, not a thingy. Also, critical thinking should lead us less often to label *people*, and more often to label specific behaviors and/or beliefs.
17th-Mar-2012 12:40 am (UTC)
Fluff is willful ignorance.

None of your questions seem to me to have a whole hell of a lot to do with willful ignorance.
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