So, I veil. I veil for a number of reasons that all come back to “Poseidon asked me to.” My default style these days is a tichel tied like kerchief, with the middle tail tucked under to make a mock-snood, and the two end tails twisted and wrapped across the top of my head. Something like:
I’ve been veiling now for eight years, and over time, I’ve taken to covering more and more of my hair. Poseidon’s request was never “hide it all”, though there are times when I want to be as covered as possible. There was an idea put forth by the writer of Aphrodite’s Tortoise, that veiling in ancient Hellenic culture — and indeed, in some modern veiling cultures — served as a sort of extension of the private world for women, that the fabric became in essence an extension of the walls of the home. I find this idea appealing, and on my more off days, the idea of essentially wearing a tent from head to toe is a great idea, if I must go out at all. While I find the idea of hijab-style veils incredibly appealing, I default to more basic tichel-style wraps, more for ease of movement and for less fuss than anything else. (The tichels I use stay without even needing to pin or tie much at all. Considering all the migraine trigger spots on my poor sensitive skull, this is a good thing.)
The most negative reactions I’ve received from people regarding veiling have been from fellow pagans. Mostly, though, any reactions I receive tend to be curious, supportive, or honestly ignorant, all of which I’ve gotten better at dealing with over time. (Once, while walking outside of my workplace, we overheard people referring to me “look, look at her with her scarf on her head. I wonder where she’s from! I think Belgium!” which was much, much source of amusement.)
It need be mentioned that I do live in a college town in Oregon known for our hippy population, and that I’m white, and that work with the public. I don’t, in general, fear when I leave my house in a veil, because people here wear all sorts of things — including almost nothing — and for the other reasons stated above. I have been apprehensive traveling while veiled, and I have been thoroughly patted down (though not moreso than the unveiled woman who went after me) but nothing more has happened and, again, I think how I veil and also that I’m white plays a huge role in that. Which sucks.
I consider, after the attacks in Paris, that covering could make me a target for those with anti-Islamic sentiments, and I did consider that maybe I might switch to something less scarf-y. This is a decision only we can make for ourselves, and I don’t know that there’s a wrong decision . . . but I do know that I won’t be ruled by fear.
It’s not okay that I can wear fabric on my head and be fine, but others are harassed — or worse — because of it.
It’s not okay that fear of people who are different can be allowed to turn us into ugly, uncharitable people.
It’s not okay to revile what we don’t understand.
It’s not okay to hate an entire religion because some people take that and twist it and make it ugly.
It’s not okay, as a religious minority, to pretend that there isn’t common ground to be found with others of different religious (or other) minorities.
Fucking hell — I’m a polytheist. I’m a modern day polytheist, and so objectively I know that the temples that were destroyed or converted into monotheist temples, and the pagans that were forcibly converted or killed are not my immediate predecessors. At the same time, I can say that people who believed as I believe were killed for believing it. I can say that devotees of Poseidon were likely killed for it, and certainly, certainly His holy places were desecrated, and I won’t pretend that that doesn’t touch me. There are topics in monotheist scripture about how wrong, wretched, and horrible polytheists are. I’m not unread, I know about shirk.
This isn’t going to stop me from saying that Islamophobia is wrong. It’s not going to stop me from saying that hated people because of their religion is wrong. This isn’t going to stop me from giving support to minority monotheist religionists, because freedom of religion (which is as much a UN thing as it is an American thing, and really needs to be a global world thing) is important, including freedom from religion (that is, not being forced or punished for not having one) and including religions that are not mine.
I find interfaith dialogue and study to be as important to my practice as devotional acts to my god, because Poseidon is all about compassion with me, and being able to empathize with others keeps me compassionate.
The world could do with more empathy.