Into the Light

Apparently, veiling is bad. Or at least, that’s what many of the comments on Confessions of a Pagan Soccer Mom‘s coverage of the 1st annual Covered in Light Day let on. It also seemed to me a minor negation of this post about Pagan “fundamentalism”. This is what I get for actually spending time over at Patheos, I guess.

Back to veiling, though.

As an Arabic linguist and analyst who extensively covered Mid-East politics, culture, and religion, as well as living a mere 6 miles from Dearborn, MI (the largest concentration of Arabs outside the Middle East, where the show All American Muslim is filmed), I’ve encountered veiling. A lot. I have to say, I’m really quite attracted to a woman in a veil, but then those that veil, in my experience are generally the nice, quiet religious types I usually go for (my girlfriend is a practicing Catholic). Never have I met a woman who veils because she was forced to. Yes, I have seen news reports about the rare incident of this happening, but those reports generally accompany news of honor killings and family dysfunction.

It is interesting that a simple, non-intrusive personal practice can get people so riled up, but I guess when you touch that one little nerve, some folks just go off. Maybe it’s a liberal versus conservative fight, though that just seems too simple, like a cop-out answer. Maybe it’s a traditionalist versus progressive fight, but even then, that boils down to essentially the same thing as the previous argument.

Either way, I feel that veiling has a valuable place in our pagan culture. In my mind at least, it conjures up a romanticized notion that the veiled woman is taken, if not in marriage than by her god or goddess. Is it submission? Maybe. I also view it as armor. It is an aspis against the world, a safe-haven for one’s peace of mind. There’s also a certain class to the veil. Something that says, “I don’t need to show off my body”. In this world where sex sells everything, it’s kind of nice to see someone who consciously avoids flaunting it.

And you know what, covering up isn’t just for women. For a very long time, gentlemen wouldn’t be caught dead outside without some form of hat. This tradition is maintained in the military, where one never removes their cover (headgear)outside, except for where doing so might be dangerous, such as on a flight line. I myself prefer to at least wear a hat when I wear a suit, whether it be my fedora (a real one, such as those worn in the 50’s) or, for very special occasions, my top hat. Truth be told, I own more hats than shoes, and not a single one is a baseball cap.

The whole hubub reminds me of one of my favorite scenes in the Seven Against Thebes. On the shield (an aspis/hoplon) of Polyneices, a veiled Dike leads Ares, clad in gold armor. This leads Eteocles to realize his father’s curse is finally upon him– he must now kill his brother, as Justice brings the curse of War to his gate. Doesn’t sound like oppression to me (at least for Dike).

Anyway, to make this long rambling short, Aspis of Ares supports Covered in Light day, and this warrior will be glad to relieve the role of Dike, and stand before the van in defense of those women, Pagan or otherwise, who choose to don the veil.

9 comments on “Into the Light

  1. Lon dubh says:

    Reblogged this on seashellsandshamrocks and commented:
    Its like he went into my head and scooped out my thoughts and put them together into something that makes sense 🙂

  2. M. Shaffer says:

    I nominate you for a Very Inspiring Blogger Award

  3. You make a very valid point for veiling. What I do not understand is that the same people who are “fighting against women’s oppression” claim that they are fighting for a woman’s right to choose.Hmm…

    • pthelms says:

      As a guy, I don’t even want to get into that can of worms. I’m gonna use the reverse of my typical argument for women and say that. “I don’t have a vagina, I just won’t understand.”

  4. Kullervo says:

    I definitely see both sides of this issue, but I tend to ultimately come down on the ” Different strokes for different fokes” side of the fence.

    I am wary and concerned about Islam as a religion and the Arab cultural norms for which it is inevitably a vector. I’m not a 100% cultural relativist; I think that Western Civilization, even accepting the problems with the term, has a great deal to commend it. It’s my culture and I think my culture is good. And I’m okay with that. I don’t think my cultural heritage and values should be flushed down the toilet in the name of pluralism.

    At the same time, I don’t think that translates into therefor I have a moral imperative to impose my cultural norms on the world. I’d like to see my cultural norms stay normal where my culture is dominant, but if Muslim women want to wear a headscarf, more power to ’em. Of all the things about Muslim that I am concerned about, the mere wearing of headscarves is pretty low on the list.

    • soliwo says:

      This isn’t really about Islam though. It is about women who cover, and also about pagan women who cover, Jewish women, and Hindu women, and women of many other different persuasions.

  5. warboar says:

    Personally, I think the anti-veiling sentiment is a glaring symptom of Western Islamophobia. I mean, no one rushes up to a gaggle of Catholic nuns and screams “women’s liberation!”, do they? Anything that remotely resembles a hijab conjures up a visceral fear in many Westerners’ guts. I’d wager the responses to veiling (regarding Polytheists/Pagans, at least) would be, or are, particularly rabid among the Neo-Cons within the so-called “Heathen” community, or really anyone who buys the erroneous tripe the Western propaganda machine churns out.

    It doesn’t even occur to most Christians that, for most of Christian History, particularly during the bulk of the Medieval Period and into the Early Modern Period, women were encouraged, if not required, to don veils or other forms of head covering, even if it were a simple snood. As a Medievalist, I can say with authority that most Medieval women’s fashions, Western Latin and Eastern Orthodox alike, involved head coverings, particularly for married women. Indeed, traditional Slavic dress is almost indistinguishable in style from traditional Arab Muslim dress. Slavic women were covered head-to-toe in folds upon folds of fabric.

    People just don’t want to admit that they maintain an irrational fear of, and bias toward, Muslims. They use religion and “Feminism” (in quotes, because to force one’s own mores and schemata onto another being, removing her ability to determine her own life, happiness, and wellbeing, is entirely antithetical to Feminism), among other socially acceptable facades, to substantiate their fear and hatred of an “Other” group. People don’t want to own their own ugliness “upstairs,” and can’t seem to be honest with themselves, let alone others.

  6. davidgriffin says:

    “Pagan Fundamentalism” is a value laden term with extreme negative connotations for common people. I have documented in the below linked article how results of existing Pagan scholarship are already being misrepresented on Christian blogs with a distinctively negative agenda towards Paganism. I am very concerned that the present discussions about Pagan Fundamentalism will be used against Pagans in the same manner. See my article on this important issue entitled:
    “Pagan Scholarship and anti-Pagan Propaganda” at

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