[1/26/2010: This is resurrected from PaganDiversity.com, which Lilith and I used to run. I’m sure we’d phrase some things differently now, and to be fair, I at least think The Fluffy Problem is less severe than it was when this was written.] [Freeman 11/8/2010: The subject has a way of coming up occasionally, and I think our perspective is still useful when it does. Blessedly, on reviewing this, I see a number of toxic behaviors that have not shown up since, at least in my experience; but they all still make me shudder.]
Fluffy Behavior 101
[Copyright Freeman and Sky Dancer, 2003-2004. All rights reserved. Permission to repost or otherwise distribute is granted provided the essay is kept intact and this notice included.]
The question keeps coming up, “What makes someone fluffy or a fluff-bunny?” The concept of “fluff-bunny” is similar to “twinkie” as used in many American Indian communities: someone who either plays at the spiritual practices or is serious about it but goes for stereotypes and glitz rather than factual information.
Practicing any significant number of these characteristic behaviors will be good and sufficient cause to label you accordingly. These are from actual experience, but they don’t all apply to any one person – we hope. Several of them seem contradictory; this doesn’t appear to matter to the people in question.
Note: if you find this list offensive, then you are probably a classic fluffy. If you think we’re being unnecessarily confrontational with this, you may be right (but see item 7). If you think we’re picking on Wiccans, maybe so; but we do know plenty of non-Wiccan fluffies (check out Why Wiccans Suck and Wicca for the Rest of Us for other detailed views on the decadence of Wicca).
1. Claim to be practicing some really old path, but don’t put forth the effort to find out what people actually did or believed on that path. Make stuff up while claiming that it’s how the ancients did it.
2. Ignore anything dark or threatening, even if pretending to work with dark deities. Talk about how your deity of choice is always good or always right, or pretend your favorite dark goddess is really just a misunderstood sweetie-pie.
3. Accept any kind of nonsense you’re told by another fluffy or read in some book with a crescent moon on the spine. Alternatively, accept any one source as definitive, no matter what those tight-assed intellectuals think about it. And do pass on whatever it is you think you know as though you invented it.
4. Get all worked up at any kind of challenge involving logic or fact. Only feelings really matter. Disregard what others have to say if it doesn’t affirm what you already believe, whether or not they can prove their claims.
5. Make a big point of being huffy at anyone who doesn’t take whatever you say at face value, especially if they continue to present evidence that disproves your claims, and declare that you are finished talking about the subject because “everyone is entitled to an opinion” and so your opinion is just as good as anyone else’s.
6. Emphasize loudly that people don’t have the right to make judgments about your words if they don’t know you very well offline. Regardless of what you actually SAY, only your professed motivations should matter to other people.
7. Avoid conflict at all costs, and jump into other people’s disagreements, even if you’re not directly involved, to try to get them to agree for agreement’s sake. Agree with other people just to smooth things over, or even lecture them on how they should just get along. If you moderate a list or message board, delete any messages that don’t agree with you or that present uncomfortable viewpoints.
8. Try to get others to refrain from using profanity or stop talking about a subject because it makes you uncomfortable; for example, go to a clothing-optional event and then pitch a fit if anyone opts to go fully or partially nude.
9. Tell non-fluffies how horrible/non-spiritual they are for not accepting all pagans, regardless of how asinine their behavior might be; but be sure to tell everyone at the drop of a hat that you’re Not A Satanist, whether they asked or not.
10. Be sure to complain frequently about persecution, whether you’ve actually experienced any or not. Extra points if you think someone choosing not to do business with you is “persecution” or if you repeat any form of the “Burning Times” myth:
~ 9 million died (or any number greater than about 40,000)
~ Those condemned as witches were Wiccans (or any kind of Pagan)
~ People were burned at Salem (try hanged and pressed)
You might want to check the Covenant of the Goddess website for a reasonable account of the Witch Hysteria from a source with impeccable Wiccan credentials, except that doing so might be non-fluffy.
11. In conversation in person or otherwise, always assume that the Wiccan Rede (or whatever your code of honor happens to be) applies to all Pagans. If mildly challenged on this, act confused; if strongly challenged, go into Major Evil Eye Mode and accuse the Rede-Infidel (who OBVIOUSLY has no ethics whatsoever) of Satanism, Crowleyism, or worse.
12. Presume to lecture others on any of the Favorite Fluffy Topics:
~ Why Witchcraft is a Religion
~ Only Wiccans are Witches
~ What Real Witches (your definition) don’t do: hexes, spells for selfish purposes, animal sacrifices (we’re not like those awful Santerians or Voodoo practitioners), sex magick, etc.
~ What Real Witches (your definition) MUST do: be vegetarian/vegan, do charity work, recycle, vote for Democrats, etc.
~ Why Magick should NOT be used to interfere with another’s Will or Karma – even by healing them
~ How the world was a happy, peaceful matriarchy until those horrible men had to mess it all up
~ How ritual nudity, sex magick, and the scourge are all in traditional Wicca only because Uncle Gerald was a dirty old man, not because of any actual value they might have
13. Insist that Wicca, or whatever your path is, is whatever you make it, regardless of its history. Demand respect for what you’re doing even as you trash the efforts of your precursors and insist on calling the trash by the same name. Don’t bother renaming what you do, however loosely based on the original form, because you want to ride on the coattails of people who went before and claim some sort of lineage regardless of the lack of similarities between what they did and what you do.
14. If your belief is “All Goddesses are One Goddess” and “All Gods are One God” and ultimately all deities are aspects of the One, use this as an excuse to not bother learning about or working with specific deities. Or, when you do call on a Lord and Lady by name, mix and match any two from any pantheons at any times.
15. Use a disability as an excuse not to check your facts or learn anything new, or as an excuse to engage in other fluffy behavior. Claim persecution if anyone dares to suggest that using a spell-checker isn’t unreasonable even for someone with a disability.
16. Sign your emails/posts “Namaste” or “Bright Blessings” when the content of the message chews someone out, insults, or otherwise contradicts the salutation.
17. You can be lacking in all of the preceding Fluffy Traits, but if you demonstrate this one, you’re in the Fluffy Club: Don’t show any signs of having been touched by divinity or ecstatic experience. Many mainstream Christians sing hymns as if they were laundry-lists, and everyone accepts them, so that is what we want to do. Look askance at people who actually get out of themselves in ritual or celebration. Care more about what society and/or your friends think than what your deities think or whether you are actually getting anything out of what you do. Be sure not to do anything, even if it would develop your path/abilities/insights, that might possibly provoke disapproval or make you lose face.
It should additionally be noted that this is not a diatribe against people who simply haven’t learned much yet about paganism; it’s about people who refuse to have integrity in their path or to use logic and critical thinking skills. The grey matter in our skulls isn’t just to fill up space; it’s a tool that should be used – OFTEN.
The distinction we make between newbie and fluffy is precisely in terms of how they respond to education. We encounter plenty of each kind. The uneducable will more likely flare up at anyone who presents the truth, because they have already committed to “it’s anything I want it to be” as a guiding principle, whether we’re talking about history, theology, the practice of magick, or whatever.
Why do we make such a big deal about fluffies? We’d happily let it pass if they weren’t so busy trying to impose their fluffy values on the rest of the community. The rabid fervor with which they attempt to impose their flippancy on others gives outsiders the impression that we’re all stupid, incapable of critical thinking skills, and inconsistent. Quite frankly, we don’t appreciate that, and we don’t appreciate being told we need to behave in stupid, unthinking, and inconsistent ways. So while you are certainly entitled to believe whatever you wish, you don’t have a right to force it on us; but we do have a right to call bullshit when we see it.