Saturday, May 18, 2013

Where's the Sign for Pagan?

I didn't even remember how to say excuse me in their language, and I wanted to get through the door and into a seat for the show.

It was a local variety show entirely in American Sign Language (ASL), to raise funds for a deaf summer camp. I walked into a room filled with teenagers still primping and painting each other's faces to look like characters from The Wizard of Oz. They were signing to each other. So were most of the adults. For the first time in my life, I couldn't have communicated worth a tinker's damn if I tried.

It's a fascinating experience, being almost the only one in the room who isn't deaf, knowing just enough ASL to be dangerous and to just barely get the idea. Such a strange feeling. I am often alone and am comfortable with that--frequently I prefer it--but this was a new and different kind of alone, so odd I wished I could photograph the feeling.

I didn't even know how to act. When my phone rang, how important was it to turn the thing off? Would it have been all right to check voice mail during a break, the way it is okay for hearing people to check text messages? Was it better to clap during a certain song or let the performers make all the visual noise? Did I do my jazz-hands applause correctly? I could have been from another planet.

Is this just a glimpse of the way Ocean has felt sometimes?

(I'll let her respond, if she likes.)

Ocean is a woman I met zillions of years and hundreds of miles ago. She is Deaf and Pagan. Everybody loved her firewalking workshops. Still, I remember her often being unhappy in the small mountain community where we lived.

To be Deaf or Pagan, just one of them, could be alienating enough, but both? Even today, an online search for 'deaf pagan' leads you mostly to her very own blog.

As she points out, most ASL references don't even mention Pagan concepts. I didn't find anything substantial for words like Goddess when I looked on my own. There's one for witch--the crooked nose of the Wicked Witch of the West--but many people find that sign offensive. (I personally don't mind it, but it's not for me to say, is it?)

As Pagans, we don't always have the numbers or the structure to simply fall back on something that someone else has done, in language, in concepts, in much of anything. We have to tap into the power, however we experience it. We have to be creators, each one of us. We have to make something where there once was nothing.

Good thing that's something we do anyway.


  1. Great post and a very unique perspective! Thank you for sharing it! And for linking up to PPBH!


  2. Thanks, Kourtney! I was just amazed that there aren't too many resources--YET.