Jordan Keesler ‘20 Talks Paganism and Nonbinary Identity

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(Photo Credit: Diana Ward '20)

Get to know Jordan Keesler, (they/them/theirs pronouns), a sophomore here at Agnes Scott College. They can often be found hanging around the Center for Global Diversity and Inclusion and cheering up their fellow students with their vibrant smile!

In typical Agnes Scott fashion, Jordan is very involved. They participate in events with the Diversity center, they’re Co-President of FENNA, and they run cross-country and play softball.

Jordan is one of several students who has recently reunited Agnes Scott’s group for Pagan students. The club has been renamed FENNA, which stands for Followers of Earth, Nature & Noble Action. I began by asking Jordan about their background surrounding Paganism and how they became interested in the practice.

“I forget that people think that it’s abnormal,” Jordan admits.

“What made you interested in Paganism? Were you raised Pagan?” I ask.

“No, I was raised traditional conservative Southern Baptist. Like, you know, hellfire, brimstone, damnation — the summation. Had my baptism, I was baptized as a baby, and then again when I was like, eleven. And then I was like bye, bye church.” Jordan jokingly throws up a peace sign. “Then I kind of just stopped going [to church.]”

“I kind of was just like, this isn’t for me.” Jordan faced a lot of backlash from their community and had people tell them that they can’t choose their religion. “And so, to prove a point, I read the entire Holy Bible.”

“I was a thirteen-year-old with a bucket list — I don’t know if that’s normal, either — but I put on my bucket list to read every holy text I could find.” Jordan laughs. “I have nowhere near accomplished that. But I would try to read anything I could get my hands on that was of a different faith. A lot of Wikipedia rabbit-hole trail searches at thirteen.”

“For a long time, I identified as ‘eclectic,’ just a combination of different things. I had a friend who was, at the time, Alexandrian Wiccan, which is a combination of Wicca and Christianity.” Jordan found that Wicca, which is different from paganism, didn’t quite fit with them either. “So my friend recommended I look into Druidry. I bought a few books, and I was like, oh, I guess I can jive with this. And then so, eighth-grade year, January 1st, was my year and a day. So 2011.”

“What is year and a day?” I asked.

“So in most Pagan practices, you’re considered someone who’s an initiate, so someone who’s like, learning the craft and the practice. So before you can be a full-fledged member, you have to practice for a year and a day, do your knowledge building.”

“I’m a druid, I’m primarily a solitary practitioner. I participate in a Wiccan coven, [but] I’m not an initiate of that coven, I’m just a friend.”

I asked what kind of hopes Jordan has for FENNA as an organization.

Before Jordan and another student, Brittany Gilliland, revitalized the organization, FENNA was mostly focused on Dianic Wiccanism, a creed neither of them follow. Both of them wanted to reinvent the organization to be more non-denominational Pagan, as well as welcome those who are simply curious about Paganism, and to help educate the Agnes Scott community about Paganism. They also want to hold events to celebrate the Sabbath and Esabbats. “I hope that FENNA grows into something that is a rich and diverse place for people to share knowledge about their practice, and to be able to celebrate in those ways. It is very hard to get into these elusive covens, and a lot of people in the US are solitary practitioners. The biggest way to spread knowledge in Paganism, because there is no holy text, is word of mouth. So I hope [FENNA] thrives and does well [even] after I leave.”

Jordan identifies as nonbinary and says their identity as a nonbinary person interacts with their identity as a Pagan in different ways.

“So, Paganism is built on binary, like, sun, moon, man, woman…”

“God, goddess…” I add, trying to make use of my vague knowledge of Paganism.

“Yeah. It’s built on these very strict dualisms. So, in your practice, everything is about balance. And sometimes in rituals you [stand in a circle around an altar] as man, woman, man, woman… and it’s really complicated when you’re like,” — here Jordan affects a singsong voice, imitating the awkwardness of the situation — “I don’t identify as either…!”

“In rituals, there’s the chalice and the thame, which is like a ritual knife. And the chalice is like… a fancy-ass wine glass.”

“A goblet,” I say, half-joking.

Jordan laughs. “Yes, exactly. And so there’s literally, like… you go through the dualisms, because each Sabbat or holiday is about balance, and the thame is seen as male, the chalice is seen as female, and it’s literally like… inserted,” Jordan says, replicating the movement with their hands.

“And it’s really awkward around Beltane, which is literally like the sex holiday in layman’s terms. It’s the spring solstice…”

“So, like, fertility…”

“Yeah, fertility. It’s really awkward,” Jordan says, laughing. “Those conversations can be really transphobic. I’m actually doing a lot of research now on how like, queer identities fit within Paganism. Because [Paganism] has been generally really receptive to like, gay or lesbian identities, because in the 1970s, second-wave feminism really accepted that [with Dianic Wiccanism],” Jordan explains, also bringing their knowledge as a Women’s Studies major into the conversation. “I don’t think [the Pagan community] has been very intentional about their inclusion of trans people.” Jordan goes on to explain that this is probably due to the fact that many people in the Pagan community are older, and first became involved in Paganism in the 1960s or 70s, so there’s a generational gap with regards to inclusivity.

Jordan advises that if you’re someone looking to learn more about Paganism, head to the used bookstore. And be careful about what you read on the internet: “You can definitely fall down a really weird rabbit hole… a lot of the websites are really sketchy-lookin’. So definitely I learned through books… I’ve read a lot of books.”

“Especially for someone like me who grew up in a church and thought you had to pray a certain way, it’s very liberating.”

 

“What else are you into?” I ask. “What do you feel like people don’t really know about you?”

“I make zines; I’m the editor of the Diversity Center zine. And I make goddess feature zines, like small mini-zines for different goddesses. I’m like, super into farming, which sounds really stereotypical and, like, granola lesbian. But I worked on a farm this summer, and I grew up on a farm. I helped birth a cow this summer. It’s not really weird to me but some people have never seen a cow, like, in the flesh.”

“I want to assure you that I have seen multiple cows,” I say.

“What else do I do… I do charcoal art. I’m super into hyper-realistic animal portraits. At one point, I was going to be an art major.”

I ask what the next Diversity Center zine is focused on.

“The theme is living with disabilities, and Trans Week of Awareness and Trans Day of Remembrance. Also History of Native American Heritage month, and twospirit identities. Hopefully next month I’ll have another zine, a resource guide zine called ‘Being Trans at a Historically Women’s College.’”

The zine doesn’t directly accept submissions, but Jordan assures that “if you’ve got ideas or there’s something you want to see included in the zine, you can come to the Diversity Center and be like ‘Hey, I wanna do this thing.’”

There are times, when speaking to someone, that you can tell they are truly passionate about what they’re discussing. This interview was one of those times with Jordan, and I’m grateful I got the chance to learn more about their identities and about them as a person. Thank you, Jordan!

About The Author

Alex is a junior Creative Writing Major and Music Minor at Agnes Scott College. She likes exploring, sad music, and all things literary.

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