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Author Topic: The Good Side of Fluff?  (Read 9711 times)

RandallS

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The Good Side of Fluff?
« on: March 20, 2012, 06:43:02 pm »
In another thread (Silver Ravenwolf's Effect on Wicca/Paganism?), Karen said:

Quote from: dragonfaerie;46574
So I think I'll end this with an argument I made in comment to something  else unrelated... while "fluff" of any sort isn't really good for a  subculture, how many people utilize that "fluff" as a gateway to the  good stuff? Or not even the good stuff... into something they enjoy that  doesn't really hurt people.

I think this is an interesting point. What do you think?
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Annie Roonie

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Re: The Good Side of Fluff?
« Reply #1 on: March 20, 2012, 10:45:48 pm »
Quote from: RandallS;46598
In another thread (Silver Ravenwolf's Effect on Wicca/Paganism?), Karen said:



I think this is an interesting point. What do you think?



The friend I walk with bought me one of those witches' calendars from Llewellyn years ago. At that time she thought it would suit me due to my scattered family traditions and my little psychic leanings. It made me curious and it gave me clues as to directions I might look to sate my curiosity. My curiosity has not been sated, but the further I dig, the more it is amplified.

I cannot say that it was the sole reason for my learning, but certainly it helped me want to connect.

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Re: The Good Side of Fluff?
« Reply #2 on: March 21, 2012, 02:34:37 am »
Quote from: RandallS;46598
In another thread (Silver Ravenwolf's Effect on Wicca/Paganism?), Karen said:
So I think I'll end this with an argument I made in comment to something else unrelated... while "fluff" of any sort isn't really good for a subculture, how many people utilize that "fluff" as a gateway to the good stuff?


I think this is an interesting point. What do you think?

Depends on how the fluff is presented; or rather, mis-represented.  

As an example I'll use Cunningham.  When I was curious about Wicca I bought both his Wicca and Living Wicca.  There was just enough information about the religion, philosophy, and practice to satisfy anyone with a passing interest, and to help a reader decide if he wants to learn more about the subject.  In my case, my curiosity was piqued enough that I cast about elsewhere to learn more, which eventually led to my petitioning a coven for admission.  Eventually I learned the 'heavier' aspects of the trad that Cunningham failed to mention.

So, as a "gateway", I guess the 'fluff' can serve a purpose.  [Perhaps those dismal Left Behind books have inspired some to learn more about Christianity-- stranger things have happened.]  
But in Cunningham's case, what he was selling wasn't Wicca at all.
 
If Cunningham is all you'd read, then your impression of Wicca would be that it is a broad philosophical template into which you can squeeze the Gods of your choice (regardless of those Gods' historical and cultural contexts, it seems) and you get some neat witch-y tools and trappings in the mix as well.  Very little or no mention about traditional Wicca being an oathbound, initiatory, mystery tradition, with its own intact theology.  Imagine the fluffy bunny's shock when he learns that the Gods of Wicca are not Egyptian, Hellenic, or Melnibonean!!  I know he wrote for a 'solitary practitioner,' but to fail to mention some major characteristics of a religion-- while purportedly writing about it-- seems a lie by omission.  

In the end, what Cunningham wrote about was such a tip-of-the-iceberg treatment that he could scarcely call the book Wicca.  What he presented couldn't even be called Wicca-lite, just a pale reflection of a very rich tradition.  Worse, he says You can be Wiccan too!  All you have to do is write a poem and hug a tree three times!  Okay, I'm exaggerating, but not by far.  In my opinion, the way he packaged and sold Wicca to the masses was enethical and disrespectful to the extant religion.

And that, there, is the danger in fluff.  In reading it, you may or many not get a real sense of the thing.  Eventually it gets parroted until it is accepted as fact.  It gets worse when you toss in bad history, Christian bashing, penis hatred, asshats who preach their demagoguery as gospel, or the wrapping of religion in the banner of extremist causes.  Next thing you know your fluff is so much fertile bullshit.  
Those dilligent or lucky enough to wade through the fluff to find the good stuff will know it when they find it... everyone else is left with the wrong idea of a thing.

Sorry, call me cynical.
« Last Edit: March 21, 2012, 02:40:07 am by MadZealot »
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spoOk

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Re: The Good Side of Fluff?
« Reply #3 on: March 21, 2012, 02:46:31 am »
Quote from: MadZealot;46635
Depends on how the fluff is presented; or rather, mis-represented.  

As an example I'll use Cunningham.  When I was curious about Wicca I bought both his Wicca and Living Wicca.  There was just enough information about the religion, philosophy, and practice to satisfy anyone with a passing interest, and to help a reader decide if he wants to learn more about the subject.  In my case, my curiosity was piqued enough that I cast about elsewhere to learn more, which eventually led to my petitioning a coven for admission.  Eventually I learned the 'heavier' aspects of the trad that Cunningham failed to mention.

So, as a "gateway", I guess the 'fluff' can serve a purpose.  [Perhaps those dismal Left Behind books have inspired some to learn more about Christianity-- stranger things have happened.]  
But in Cunningham's case, what he was selling wasn't Wicca at all.
 
If Cunningham is all you'd read, then your impression of Wicca would be that it is a broad philosophical template into which you can squeeze the Gods of your choice (regardless of those Gods' historical and cultural contexts, it seems) and you get some neat witch-y tools and trappings in the mix as well.  Very little or no mention about traditional Wicca being an oathbound, initiatory, mystery tradition, with its own intact theology.  Imagine the fluffy bunny's shock when he learns that the Gods of Wicca are not Egyptian, Hellenic, or Melnibonean!!  I know he wrote for a 'solitary practitioner,' but to fail to mention some major characteristics of a religion-- while purportedly writing about it-- seems a lie by omission.  

In the end, what Cunningham wrote about was such a tip-of-the-iceberg treatment that he could scarcely call the book Wicca.  What he presented couldn't even be called Wicca-lite, just a pale reflection of a very rich tradition.  Worse, he says You can be Wiccan too!  All you have to do is write a poem and hug a tree three times!  Okay, I'm exaggerating, but not by far.  In my opinion, the way he packaged and sold Wicca to the masses was enethical and disrespectful to the extant religion.

And that, there, is the danger in fluff.  In reading it, you may or many not get a real sense of the thing.  Eventually it gets parroted until it is accepted as fact.  It gets worse when you toss in bad history, Christian bashing, penis hatred, asshats who preach their demagoguery as gospel, or the wrapping of religion in the banner of extremist causes.  Next thing you know your fluff is so much fertile bullshit.  
Those dilligent or lucky enough to wade through the fluff to find the good stuff will know it when they find it... everyone else is left with the wrong idea of a thing.

Sorry, call me cynical.

 
I think the fluff can be as insulting and potentially damaging in its misrepresentations or glossing over...as can the evil devil worship stereotypes that get painted by media and the like.
I'm thinking in particular of people's assumptions of hoodoo vs voodoo/voudou etc and Santeria and actual satanism  or even plain old folk magick etc.

some kids glom onto the idea of paganism thinking they can cast curses on their parents or teachers and be all eeeEEeeevil....wwwooooOOOooo....only to realize it wasn't quite as advertised...when/if they actually dig into the info that's out there.
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MadZealot

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Re: The Good Side of Fluff?
« Reply #4 on: March 21, 2012, 04:19:36 am »
Quote from: spoOk;46636
I think the fluff can be as insulting and potentially damaging in its misrepresentations or glossing over...as can the evil devil worship stereotypes that get painted by media and the like.
I'm thinking in particular of people's assumptions of hoodoo vs voodoo/voudou etc and Santeria and actual satanism  or even plain old folk magick etc.

some kids glom onto the idea of paganism thinking they can cast curses on their parents or teachers and be all eeeEEeeevil....wwwooooOOOooo....only to realize it wasn't quite as advertised...when/if they actually dig into the info that's out there.


Yep, all that is pretty much fluff from a diffferent source.
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yewberry

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Re: The Good Side of Fluff?
« Reply #5 on: March 21, 2012, 10:36:06 am »
Quote from: RandallS;46598
I think this is an interesting point. What do you think?


This book got me seriously reading about paganism and witchcraft.  It actually refers to Margaret Murray as an important and accurate historian.  Pagan stuff had been on my radar for years (I grew up a pseudo-hippie in northern California...almost couldn't be avoided), but this ridiculous book truly put me on the path when I was still a teen.

Yeah, that Whitley Strieber.  ;)

Brina

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Re: The Good Side of Fluff?
« Reply #6 on: March 21, 2012, 10:41:35 am »
Quote from: MadZealot;46635
Eventually it gets parroted until it is accepted as fact.  It gets worse when you toss in bad history, Christian bashing, penis hatred, asshats who preach their demagoguery as gospel, or the wrapping of religion in the banner of extremist causes.  Next thing you know your fluff is so much fertile bullshit.  
Those dilligent or lucky enough to wade through the fluff to find the good stuff will know it when they find it... everyone else is left with the wrong idea of a thing.


The rest of the issue I can discard, but this resonates strongly with me. I have no investment one way or another in anyone's passing foolishness - I have my own, for when I need it - but the transformation of simple-minded bullshit into rank ideology is particularly repulsive and can have actual consequences.

On the main thread though... there's fluff and there's fluff. For instance, I picked up two books by Edain McCoy many years ago, did a bit of reading, learned a bit more from elsewhere, purchased some attitude from elsewhere again, and put her back on the shelf with a gentle, knowing sneer.

Recently, I picked her up again in a much better-informed frame of mind and found that she's not all that bad, really. A bit loose in the boundaries, perhaps, but still a perfectly good 101 source of the basic ideas and data. And with regard to the prior rant, totally benign.

You gotta start somewhere, and if you have a sense of discernment and a healthy attitude towards learning (as opposed to indoctrination), then fluff can be fine.

monsnoleedra

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Re: The Good Side of Fluff?
« Reply #7 on: March 21, 2012, 11:00:20 am »
Quote from: RandallS;46598
.. I think this is an interesting point. What do you think?


Truthfully I think it depends upon what the fluff is.  Let's say its inspiration that one gains from reading one of Silver's novels.  That I have no problem with for it is fantasy even though it might inspire or suggest alternate paths to explore.  Even if it only introduces one to differing concepts and idea's about how things might be or could be.

Yet when its more of an academic perspective then fluff is a killer or significant obsticule.  From an educational perspective anything that is initially learned and wrong becomes a major hurdle to undo.  Then factor in the longer the mis-information is allowed to go on and the more items that are built upon that false foundation.  The more critical thinking process becomes corrupted or incomplete because of faulty base material to work from.

Things that are truly opinion or conjucture on the part of the author soon becomes potentially seen as fact.  Psuedo history begins to take on a truthfulness that does not actually exist nor is sustainable within an academic pursuit.  

None of this really even considering the negative influence upon those whose minds are unwilling to consider thier positions are wrong or corrupted.  Nor considering the many hours required to unprogram a person and have them re-evaluate all thier beliefs and perspectives derived from analysis and usage of the faulty material.

Auress

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Re: The Good Side of Fluff?
« Reply #8 on: March 21, 2012, 03:10:11 pm »
Quote from: spoOk;46636
I think the fluff can be as insulting and potentially damaging in its misrepresentations or glossing over...as can the evil devil worship stereotypes that get painted by media and the like.
I'm thinking in particular of people's assumptions of hoodoo vs voodoo/voudou etc and Santeria and actual satanism  or even plain old folk magick etc.

some kids glom onto the idea of paganism thinking they can cast curses on their parents or teachers and be all eeeEEeeevil....wwwooooOOOooo....only to realize it wasn't quite as advertised...when/if they actually dig into the info that's out there.



I'm going to have to fully agree with spoOk and MadZealot, both. I think that the fluff is not only dangerous and misleading, but also highly insulting to the people who have invested a lot of time in their religious systems, know the history, know the context and understand the nuances of what it means to be seeking and studying religion.

Because that's what we're really talking about, here. Religion. Very, very serious business and one area where "half assing" (apologies for the use of that, here) or just telling the good parts can be detrimental, dangerous and also sabotage the path of the would be seeker.

There is a reason why BTWs now shy away from using the very term associated with their religion (wicca), because of how it's been bastardized for the purpose of every Tom, Dick and Harry out there, looking for something to call their own. But instead of finding something of their own, they've taken all the happy, fluffy things about someone else's thing and have REdefined it. They happen to be the loudest, so, that's what gets seen the most. Resulting in gross misinformation, dangerous practices (Witchschool is famous for dangerous things creeping into their teachings, their herbalism course is scary, scary), and insta-pagan syndromes.

I guess I just have a very hard time seeing the fluff as a good thing in any way. Which makes me also cynical, I guess.

Etheric1

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Re: The Good Side of Fluff?
« Reply #9 on: March 21, 2012, 03:30:12 pm »
Quote from: Vermillion;46679


I guess I just have a very hard time seeing the fluff as a good thing in any way. Which makes me also cynical, I guess.

 
I suppose fluff-dom is like most things: it can serve a good purpose, even if most of it can be obnoxious in it's misguidance.  I do like the fact that people potentially get exposed to alternative paths.  But yes, I do get annoyed with fluffiness, and I do think it's important to teach things right the first time, and also talk about the good and ill aspects of paganism and or magick.  

I think now with the Internet and the number of books out there on everything, it's more important for people to learn to evaluate things with a critical eye and not automatically trust something just because it was written down somewhere.  Sadly, this is not a skill a lot of people have these days, especially fluff bunnies.  This is part of the reason I like TC so much: there are plenty of people here that do critically think and question material.
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benvarry

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Re: The Good Side of Fluff?
« Reply #10 on: March 21, 2012, 04:24:46 pm »
Quote from: RandallS;46598

I think this is an interesting point. What do you think?

 
Just to play devil's advocate for a minute, I find it interesting how much effort Pagans on the internet devote to determining whose Paganism is fluffy/unworthy.  Who and where, specifically, are all these "fluffy bunnies" anyway?  What exactly makes them so offensive and threatening?  Couldn't we just each try to live an authentic spiritual life by our own definition instead of trying to define it for others?  From what I've read, fluffy bunnyism is just representations of Paganism in what some see as a simplistic and mass-market form, but which I see as simply... simplified, and which I think most others are capable of determining for themselves as well.  I've never actually met a Pagan who read Cunningham and decided that was all they had to do.

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Re: The Good Side of Fluff?
« Reply #11 on: March 21, 2012, 04:31:54 pm »
Quote from: benvarry;46690
I've never actually met a Pagan who read Cunningham and decided that was all they had to do.

 
I swear, they exist. I've met them. (Both online in persistent settings where I'm pretty sure they weren't trolling, but also offline.)

The thing for me is that some things really *are* destructive to the community around them. Someone for whom the fluffiest end of the spectrum is all they will allow is someone who - by very force of nature - also has the potential to limit what conversations occur in public spaces (like meetups, Pagan Pride events, whatever.)

That's especially true if they end up in a position of leadership, but it's true even if they didn't: I've moderated a number of public discussions at Pagan Pride, for example, where one or two people on the fluffier side of the topic would try to suggest that anything deeper was highly problematic. (I was having none of it, mind you - but that doesn't mean they didn't try.)
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Re: The Good Side of Fluff?
« Reply #12 on: March 21, 2012, 06:26:17 pm »
Quote from: benvarry;46690
Just to play devil's advocate for a minute, I find it interesting how much effort Pagans on the internet devote to determining whose Paganism is fluffy/unworthy.  Who and where, specifically, are all these "fluffy bunnies" anyway?  What exactly makes them so offensive and threatening?  Couldn't we just each try to live an authentic spiritual life by our own definition instead of trying to define it for others?  From what I've read, fluffy bunnyism is just representations of Paganism in what some see as a simplistic and mass-market form, but which I see as simply... simplified, and which I think most others are capable of determining for themselves as well.  I've never actually met a Pagan who read Cunningham and decided that was all they had to do.



Well, yeah, we can all live by our own definition of what is right. But, not if we're passing it off as someone else's spirituality. This is the case with BTWs. Everyone and their dog is now a wiccan, whether or not they even practice anything even close to what Wicca is/was. That's called cultural appropriation and it sucks no matter how you slice it.

We get mad at it in other ways too, like when something is passed off as Native American when it's most likely the farthest thing from Native American. Or when people claim to BE N.A. when they're not. It's appropriation for personal gain and attention seeking and it's crud.

If people were taking those fluffy things and just creating their own "thing" out of it and calling it something unique then fine, but most of the time they're not.

Where are the fluffs? EVERYWHERE. They're all over the net. Who gets to tell people that something is or isn't authentic? They people who REALLY practice it in it's authentic form, that's who.

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Re: The Good Side of Fluff?
« Reply #13 on: March 21, 2012, 06:44:03 pm »
Quote from: Jenett;46692
That's especially true if they end up in a position of leadership, but it's true even if they didn't: I've moderated a number of public discussions at Pagan Pride, for example, where one or two people on the fluffier side of the topic would try to suggest that anything deeper was highly problematic. (I was having none of it, mind you - but that doesn't mean they didn't try.)

I've seen things like this on message boards too. For example, people who insist whatever they first read (usually in some book full of inaccurate information) is the absolute truth no matter what the evidence you can present that it isn't.
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Auress

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Re: The Good Side of Fluff?
« Reply #14 on: March 21, 2012, 07:29:15 pm »
Quote from: RandallS;46698
I've seen things like this on message boards too. For example, people who insist whatever they first read (usually in some book full of inaccurate information) is the absolute truth no matter what the evidence you can present that it isn't.


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