Privilege: A right or immunity granted as a peculiar benefit, advantage, or favor.
Dictionary definitions are fine for basic understandings and introductions, but when we discuss privilege in a social context, a basic understanding simply is not enough. Before we can delve into the truth of what social privilege is, first we have to dismantle a few misconceptions about what social privilege is not.
The concept of social privilege is not…
… a judgement of character on any person or group of people.
… a justification of abuse or intolerance towards any person or group of people.
… an assumption of life experience.
… a black and white - you have it or you do not - type of concept.
The concept of social privilege is not a judgement of character on any person or group of people. When the concept of social privilege is brought up in a relevant discussion, it is easy (and common) for the person(s) within the privileged class to form a defensive stance. Instead of being received as the statement of fact it truly is, the term “privilege” is often interpreted as an attack of character in the recipients mind. Take race as an example:
I am a white American: fact.
As a white American, I benefit from racial privilege in this country: fact.
Because I benefit from racial privilege, I am a bad person: not a fact.
When someone of color (or any individual) notes that I have racial privilege in the United States, more commonly noted as “white privilege”, they are not saying that I am a bad person. They are not casting judgement on my character or on me as an individual. They are simply pointing out a statement of fact that no one individual has control over.
The concept of social privilege is not a justification of abuse or intolerance towards any person or group of people. Using the same example of race, no one is saying that I deserve to be treated poorly because I happen to benefit from white privilege. Because privilege is out of our control as individuals, we are not more or less deserving of respect and basic decency due to our privileged status. This does not mean that all voices are equal, however, in context. As a white American, my voice should *not* carry the same weight as the voice of a person of color in a conversation about racial inequality - my racial privilege prevents me from having the same experiences that persons of color experience and, as such, my thoughts and opinions on racial inequality cant be -and shouldn't be expected to be- measured equally to those voices.
The concept of social privilege is not an assumption of life experience. A common misconception about social privilege is that the privileged persons have had an *easy* life. That is not the case. When I say “I have white privilege”, it doesn't mean that my life has been easy because of my skin color - it means that my life hasn't been made harder specifically because of my skin color. That distinction is incredibly important. Privilege is not an experience, but rather it is the absence of an experience. White Americans do not have the same racial experience that Americans of color do. Our privilege, by no fault of our own, has shielded us from that experience in a way that a lack of privilege, by no fault of individuals of color, has forced that same experience on generations of Americans with different skin tones. Privilege does not mean that your life has been easy. Privilege means that your life has not been made more difficult because of your skin color/gender/culture/religion etc.
The concept of social privilege is not a black and white - you have it or you do not - type of concept. As with most things involving humans, privilege is complicated. As pagans, we are all - religiously speaking - lacking privilege in America and in much of the world. But we are more than *just* pagans and each aspect of our social identity has it's own privilege scale. I have privilege because I am a white American, I am cisgender, and I have economic security. I lack privilege because I am queer, I am a woman, and I am neurodivergent. So am I privileged? Yes and no - it is all dependent on the specific context and often the answer is truly a light or dark grey, rather than a clear black and white. A common response to the topic of privilege is “I cant have white privilege, I am poor” - racial and economic privilege are two different things. In discussions about racial injustice or trans rights, I am within the privileged class, while in discussions about mental health or gender discrimination, I am not within the privileged class. Context is important.
So what is social privilege, then, and what does it have to do with the pagan community?
Social privilege is the lack of systematic adversity faced by individuals of higher social hierarchy compared to peers of lower social hierarchy. Pagans of all flavors experience systematic adversity because of religion in this country but Pagans can also be Male, female, intersex, non-binary, cis, trans, straight, gay, queer, etc. All of these different aspects (and more) of our identity influence how we see the world, how the world sees us, and how positive or negative our experiences are - and the pagan community is not exempt from that same system. Sexism, racism, transphobia, homophobia, etc - these all happen within our community and privilege is part of that conversation. We have a responsiblity to ourselves and to all who cross our paths to maintain a positive environment for individuals of all variance. By understanding the concept of social privilege and how it impacts those within our community, we are that much more equipped to foster a truly respectful and honorable environment.
This blog post was written by Karly Hicke (White River Secretary).
A tattoo? That’s crazy! I’m 54 years old! Normal people my age don’t get tattoos!
But then again, I’m not normal. A few years back I’d realized the whole Judeo-Christian life wasn’t for me. I’d grown up in the middle of nowhere, out in the woods, and I’d always thought of nature as a living, breathing thing. No church could contain it. I’d also loved stories about my ancestors. With a last name like mine, they were easy to trace, and they were a rather wild bunch. And since they were mostly Celtic, I’d always gobbled up Celtic history and religion. With my legal and researching background, Druidism, with its emphasis on service, learning, and respect for nature, was a natural fir. I didn’t so much choose to be a Druid as realize I already was one—I just didn’t know the name of it. So my ever-supportive husband found PNO (Pagan’s Night Out), and convinced me we needed to meet other people who think like we do (did I mention he likes to do what I do?).
When we first went to PNO, all the Judeo-Christian prejudices were ringing in my ears—they must be a bunch of heathen weirdos who, except for the goat chaps, danced naked around the bonfire at night. But they weren’t. They were good, accepting people who were very friendly, and not a goat chap in sight. And no nudity or bonfires in the coffee shop where we met, thank you. That’s where we met some of the best friends we’d ever had, who accepted our weirdness too.
- Kelly (White River Grove, ADF Member)
The White River Grove was born out of a desire to have a vibrant pagan community that could celebrate life together.
Alena Jones, founder of White River Grove, joined ADF in 2013 on the recommendation of a Unitarian Universalist pastor. She was drawn to ADF because of its focus on scholarship and shared practice without the mandating of shared belief. Shortly after joining ADF, she reached out to local members, and along with another member, Victoria, began to think about the possibility of starting a protogrove in Indianapolis. Victoria suggested that any local group should be named after the city’s most prominent natural feature - the White River. Although Victoria left ADF shortly after, Alena remained, and pursued launching a protogrove in Indianapolis. In August 2014 White River Protogrove received its charter from ADF.
The grove’s first public ritual was conducted at Indianapolis Pagan Pride Day 2014 by Alena, and it was there that she met several of the grove’s founding members. Over the first year of the protogrove’s existence, eight members joined the group, and developed close friendships through weekly study groups, monthly business meetings, and regular social events. As the community grew closer, our shared practice also grew. Because we are named for the White River, we have worked to develop a relationship with her. Because of that relationship, all members now honor her at each ritual with offerings of bread and flowers. The grove also maintains several smaller portable shrines and objects of reverence that you may see floating around at ritual - most notably, Sally the Skull (a gift from a friend of the grove), who is part of the grove’s Samhain storytelling ritual traditions.
As the protogrove matured and sought grove status, it experienced growing pains and several periods of intense conflict between members. Ultimately, this resulted in one of the founding members being asked to leave the grove. Though difficult, this period of conflict taught the grove valuable lessons about conflict, relationship, and community. White River Grove became a fully chartered grove of ADF in 2017.
Today, White River Grove is 13 members strong, and has numerous regular attendees for each high day. Whether we are running rituals, facilitating open discussions, interacting with the community at monthly meetups, or hanging out with each other during social and community service events, it is always our goal to be known for our focus on community, hospitality, and openness to any who come.
Written by Alena Jones (White River Grove Founder and Senior Druid)
In recent days, the pagan community has been rocked by news that Isaac Bonewits, the founder of ADF, has been accused of sexually assaulting a minor prior to the founding of ADF more than thirty years ago. In light of these allegations, White River Grove reaffirms that our community unilaterally condemns sexual abuse and assault such as the painful circumstances described by Moira Greyhaven. We are committed to maintaining a community that holds right action, consent, mutual care, and respect for all persons paramount.
We wish to acknowledge the immense bravery required for survivors to come forward and speak of such experiences, and commend that courage.
The Mother Grove of ADF has issued a series of official statements, which can be found HERE and HERE. The Mother Grove has promised to review internal policies to ensure that organizational policy reflects best practice in addressing instances of harassment, assault, and abuse, and are working to implement, on an organizational level, training related to supporting survivors, creating a culture of consent, and doing what we can to make sure this doesn’t happen again. White River Grove will be discussing reviewing our own bylaws to ensure we appropriately address how to handle situations of harassment, assault, and abuse, and we are independently researching training on sexual assault & harassment prevention, responding to these situations, and advocating for survivors.
It is our hope that our actions, policy, and decisions moving forward prove to victims and survivors of these types of crimes that both we as an individual Grove and ADF as a whole are committed to fostering a safe and healthy environment for everyone.
If you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The officers of White River Grove
Welcome to the official website of the White River Grove! We are a new grove based out of Indianapolis, Indiana. Please see our events tab for more information about upcoming events and rituals in the area!
I want to give a special thanks to the officers and members of the White River Grove for helping to build this website and community into a permanent entity. We have all worked so hard to gain our charter and I'm very proud that we have made it this far!
With love, Karly (White River Secretary)
The White River Grove, ADF blog is written and maintained by individual members of the White River Grove. Any opinion expressed does not represent the ADF international or it's subsidiaries.