This  file  is from PANEGYRIA Volume 4,  Number 1 (Spring Equinox
issue).  Panegyria is $8 per year;  their  address  is  P.O.  Box
85507,  Seattle,  WA  98145.  It  can  also  be  downloaded  from
Earthrite BBS, at 415-651-9496.   Enjoy! - Talespinner, WeirdBase

                    SEX? DRUGS? ROCK n'ROLL?

                          By Puritan X

     The  issue of secrecy aside,  the Pagan community does  have 
some  unique  problems  of etiquette.   There  is  some  conflict 
between the intimacy of worship, especially minority worship, and 
the privacy commonly given an individual surrounded by strangers.  
Some people think that because there are so few of us, we are all 
family and should be naked together and comfortable with physical 
contact  - anything  from  handshakes to body massage  - with  no 
reservations  and no introductions,  while others feel  that  the 
host  or  hostess  of the circle should introduce  everybody  and 
provide refreshments.

     Public Pagan rituals are a tension between being so silly in 
front  of  other people,  and the unease of not knowing  some  of 
them.   In large rituals,  people may wear name tags,  and  clump 
together with their friends,  rarely venturing forth to introduce 
themselves.   In  small living room circles,  they may  introduce 
themselves  as  part of the ritual,  or be introduced  by  mutual 
friends.   Unfortunately,  in my opinion, there is a tendency for 
people  to just float around unintroduced.   It is often  assumed 
that  mature  adults  are capable of saying their own  names  and 
inquiring  after  others' when in fact,  many  people  have  been 
raised not to do so.

     Emphasis  on intimacy is ripe for sexual  exploitation;  the 
female Pagan who rejects certain points of embrace or massage may 
be  accused  of  being  overly uptight,  the male  Pagan  who  is 
embarrassed when a mother hauls out a breast to feed her baby may 
be  accused of insufficient reverence for the Goddess'  form  and 
function in Her earthly representations.  Ours is a nature faith, 
one  replete  with sexual imagery,  but ours is also a  faith  of 
power  lodged in the individual-- and that includes the power  to 
be clothed and untouched.

     More  thorny and less horny is the uncontrolled recreational 
use of illegal chemical substances, especially at festivals.  The 
use  of drugs is a religious tradition in some  cultures,  it  is 
true;   but   usually   under  much  more  limited   and   formal 
circumstances  than  those foumd at most of  our  gatherings.   I 
think circles in which members are under some influence should be 
clearly  declared  such,  and "clean" circles  also  established; 
chemical and non-chemical space, as it were.  That includes to my 
mind  such  "soft" drugs as alcohol and nicotine;  possibly  even 
caffiene,  as it does affect concentration.   It was the  drunken 
behavior  of sheer twits that revealed for all the public to  see 
the male mystery of bonfire pissing.   It is hoped that they were 
appropriately  chastised  for  revealing  religious  secrets,   a 
distinct  danger  of the publically inebriated.   The  fair  sex, 
given  sufficient  chemical stimualtion,  is sometimes  given  to 
groping  and  cursing;   possibly  more  hygenic,   but  no  less 
disturbing in a sacred situation.

     There  is  also  the  problem of how to  deal  with  others' 
children.   Some  handle it as if we were all family,  and  every 
adult has the right to discipline any child.   Some parents  have 
the  opinion  that children are little people whose wills  should 
not be thwarted.   When these two groups meet, Hela breaks loose.  
Others find great humor in introducing children to pleasures they 
will  not find at home,  especially those in the awkward  teenage 
years.   When I was a minor (about 14) at SCA events,  I was  oft 
plied with drinks.   I suspected at the time this was to lower my 
resistance  to practices of questionable taste and legality,  and 
so desisted in the practice.   Perhaps I had too high an  opinion 
of myself in so assuming.   I mention this not to impune the SCA; 
the  same  happened  at science fiction  conventions,  but  Pagan 
events often have the same cheery atmosphere.  Never mind messing 
up  a ceremony,  if I catch any nerd offering my child  drugs,  I 
will  practice  ritual  mutilation  with  good  cheer  and  clear 

     The solution,  as the American Tobacco Institute is so  fond 
of  informing  us,   is  communication.   If  somebody  is  doing 
something  unpleasant,  say so politely.   Some people do have  a 
sincere  chemical  addiction  necessary to free their  minds  for 
religious  experiences.   If  you are not  comfortable  grounding 
energy  via  sexual intercourse you can say that as  a  religious 
opinion.   If people are hurt by your non-participation they will 
not  invite you back,  but that's OK,  you weren't  happy  enough 
together   to  get  anything  done  anyway.    As  for   imposing 
puritanical  standards upon an entire gathering,  one accepts the 
rules of that gathering by attending.

     "An  it  harm none,  do what thou wilt" is a  fair  rule  of 
etiquette.   The tricky part is reading other people's minds.  Or 
expecting others to read your mind.  (Granted,  we all believe in 
psychic  powers,  but some of us just don't have The Talent yet).  
"Do  what thou will is the whole of the Law" is a rule  fit  only 
for the rugged individualist.            

             Drugs, Alcohol and the Pagan Community
                      (c) 1986 Anna Moonowl

Part I:
  Making Choices, Taking Chances: Drug and Alcohol Use in Ritual

     The  issue  of drug and alcohol use and abuse in  the  Pagan 
Community has not been addressed often and is probably controver-
sial.   Despite all the current media coverage of these subjects, 
I've  only seen them addressed once by Pagans - at a COG Festival 
workshop,  Abby  Willowroot's "The Government Wants to  Keep  You 
Stoned" (1984 COG Grand Council).

     People  choose to use or avoid many substances for a variety 
of reasons, including allergy or other medical indication, convi-
ction  or  personal  preference.   Some of  those  most  commonly 
avoided  are certain  medications,  other  drugs,  preservatives, 
tobacco,  alcohol,  salt or sugar.   I will focus here on alcohol 
and  drugs;  please note that I am not making moral judgements on 
their use.

     Surprisingly, at many Pagan functions it seems people forget 
that  others may have made usage choices.   Even people  who  are 
adamant  in  enforcing tobacco anti-smoking household  rules  may 
fail  to  understand someone else's desire to avoid  exposure  to 
marijuana  smoke.   I have been present at rituals where everyone 
else got stoned into near-catatonia,  and the air was thick  with 
smoke.  I now try to descretely inquire if there will be drug use 
involved  in  a ritual before I go.   If I don't get  a  negative 
response ("I don't know" doesn't hack it), I stay home.

     It  may be fairly straightforward to avoid drug use at gath-
erings,  but  alcohol use is woven deeply into Pagan  ritual  and 
custom,  as well as being inescapable in modern society.   Ritual 
drug  use is uncommon - alcohol is commonplace.   Other than  the 
choice  not to drink,  some people cannot use alcohol for various 
reasons.  These involve medical reasons - including alcoholism.

     What about alcoholism?   I'm not a specialist, but I'll give 
a  try  at a description.   Alcoholism is  a  progressive,  fatal 
disease which causes specific biochemical and neurological  chan-
ges  and  damage.   There is a genetic link in the  suceptibility 
pattern.   The  alcoholic's body does not process alcohol in  the 
same way as a non-alcoholic's does.   Toxins are produced in  the 
alcoholic's system that are not in the "normal" drinker's.   This 
is  coupled with a gripping physical addiction.   People who  are 
alcoholic   usually  have  these  biochemical  changes  and   the 
addiction  long  before they show obvious signs of  the  disease, 
even  to themselves.   Alcoholism is not caused by over-drinking, 
nor  is  it due to emotional or psychological  problems.   It  is 
usually  the cause of such problems,  as the disease follows  its 
inevitable,    ultimately   fatal   progression.     Conservative 
statistics show that one person in ten is alcoholic.   Anyone who 
would  like the straight facts about this disease from a  medical 
point of view should read Under the Influence by James R.  Milam, 
PhD.  and Katherine Ketcham (Bantam Books,  1983,  $3.95).   It's 
written in a layman's terminology and is compelling reading.

     Many  alcoholics are fortunate to have been  diagnosed,  and 
have  received treatment.   The fact is that once one's body  has 
begun the biochemical changes that occur with alcoholism, one can 
never  again use even small amounts of alcohol (or certain  other 
drugs)   without  re-triggering  or  maintaining   the   chemical 
addiction response and the disease progression.  It's a matter of 
life and death.

     Why  is this important to Pagans?   Two reasons  immediately 
come to mind.  First, as a priesthood one of our responsibilities 
is counseling and referral.  Alcoholism and substance abuse cause 
serious  internal and inter-personal disruptions,  and unless  we 
can  recognize  it we cannot guide those in need  to  appropriate 
treatment.  Second, because there are so very many Pagan rituals, 
feasts,  gatherings and festivals where food and drink is offered 
that  contains alcohol.   I'm not recommending that we all become 
tee-totalers,  but  there are many occasions  where  alternatives 
have not been offered,  and could have been, especially in ritual 
settings.   I've  seen  brandy-soaked cakes and whiskey  used  as 
cakes and wine,  for example.   Sometimes it's hard to tell if an 
item  contains alcohol (what if you've got a stuffed nose?).   If 
the alcohol content is discovered, one can easily be faced with a 
choice of bowing out of a ritual,  often after it has begun.   It 
can  be embarrassing or rude,  declining the Cup or sniffing  the 
Cakes before taking one, as well as leaving one with a feeling of 
spiritual  incompletion at not being able to partake fully  in  a 
ritual  of  one's religion.   I've tried "annointing"  with  wine 
rather than drinking, but it's just not the same.

     Non-drinking  alcoholics usually do not introduce themselves 
to all they meet with,  "Hi,  I'm Bob/Jane,  I'm an alcoholic and 
I'd  like you to point out anything that has alcohol in it  so  I 
can avoid it."  Some Pagans who would like to attend open rituals 
or festivals avoid them for this reason.   On the other hand, not 
everyone who chooses to avoid alcohol is alcoholic.  It remains a 
personal choice.

     I  would  like  to see Pagans routinely offer  a  choice  to 
people  attending rituals - a choice to avoid alcohol,  drugs  or 
sugar,  and  still  partake fully in worship.   How about a  non-
alcoholic drink being offered with the Wine?  How about a biscuit 
or cracker being offered with the Cakes?  How about mentioning if 
drugs will be a part of your ritual when you invite someone?   Or 
perhaps  a  tradition  could  evolve  to  label  "substance-free" 
gatherings as such; how about it?

     [Editor's  note:  Before  our readers get  their  collective 
bloodpressure  up and write scathing letters about the  inference 
of commonplace ritual drug use,  we'd like to comment that  while 
it  is far from commonplace,  it does happen.  Drug use seems  to 
pervade  every facet of life in this country,  even on  occasion, 
religion,  sadly enough.  Those thoughtless people probably never 
consider,  aside  from  any moral considerations,  that they  are 
risking  all  of the gains Wicca has made over the  thirty  years 
since Gerald Gardner opened the broom-closet door.  No matter how 
small  the  gathering,  the headlines would be the  same  - "Drug 
Arrests  Made At Satanic Witchcraft Rites." You can  imagine  the 
rest  of the story (they always seem to throw Satan in for better 
reading). We agree with Anna Moonowl that 1) there is no place in 
a ritual for ANYTHING that has not been consented to by EVERYONE, 
AHEAD OF TIME,  including drugs and alcohol,  and 2) risking what 
we have gained thru years of hard work for the illegal thrills of 
an  hour or two is not only inconsiderate,  its  DUMB.  Why  give 
those  who  would still persecute us any ammunition?  Just  plain 
DUMB, if you want my opinion. -Pete]