When Schism Happens to Pagans

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  January 31, 2011 — 97 Comments

The Feri Tradition of Witchcraft (aka Anderson Feri), while a relatively small grouping within modern Paganism, has had an immense impact on our movement through its initiates. Starhawk is a Feri initiate, and many of the individuals that would form the nucleus of the Reclaiming tradition were also initiates. In turn, many of those Reclaiming/Feri initiates (Aline O’Brien, Anne Hill, Deborah Oak Cooper) would go on to hold prominent positions within our interconnected communities. Bard, activist, and Feri initiate Gwydion Pendderwen had a pivotal role in developing the idea of a “Pagan music” in the United States, and his shadow still looms large over many modern Pagan musicians. Over the years Feri initiates have played a role in several achievements and milestones within modern Paganism (the founding of COG, for instance), and in many instances have cross-pollinated with other Pagan traditions, creating new paths as a result.

Today, Feri is more visible than it has ever been. Several initiates have become high-profile teachers, including T. Thorn Coyle, Storm Faerywolf, Anaar, and Valerie Walker (among others). There are hundreds of individuals who are being taught, or have attended classes, led by a Feri initiate. In addition, Feri initiates like Morpheus Ravenna co-run a Pagan sanctuary, and are featured in documentaries, while others, like Sharon Knight, create music much-beloved by today’s modern Pagans. But Feri’s increasing popularity and visibility, amplified by the Internet, have also intensified long-standing tensions within the Feri community. Recently three web sites, The Faery Tradition, Faery Roads, and Free Feri, emerged claiming that there has been a split within the tradition.

“We dissociate and emphatically disconnect ourselves from the practice of those who seek to define the name “Feri” exclusively to themselves and from the public face they have created.”The Faery Tradition

Shortly after I was made aware of these sites, and started making inquiries in order to cover this very public move for a tradition that highly values its privacy, T. Thorn Coyle wrote an essay for Patheos.com about the split.

“At core, I feel the sundering of the Feri Tradition is a reflection of the tension seen all over the world right now, which is the tension felt in ages of transition. It has been said that we are moving from the Piscean to the Aquarian Age. Pisces wants to hold things close and in reclusion, within existing structures, striving for a beautiful purity. Aquarius wants to open up the windows of the Witch’s hut—or sometimes bust down the walls – and let in some fresh air, while figuring out how to build something new. While I have great sympathy for the Pisceans, and think that likely there will always be those needed to hold that polarity, my work is firmly on the side of the non-conforming Aquarians, even when we vehemently disagree. The world needs us. The world is in trouble. We must bring the souls of body, culture, and spirit back together, or we shall surely perish, whether alone or together. To do this requires stepping out of the nurturing cave, and into the light.”

This sparked quite a bit of comment, and a lengthy response from Henry Buchy, a Feri initiate, teacher and member of The Covenant of Rhiannon.

“Concerning the ‘Blames’, this sundering has been ongoing for decades before I received initiation into the tradition. I would add ‘not listening to the counsel of peers’, as one of these ‘Blames’. Concerns about this issue and all of the ramifications and possibilities have been continuously put forth over the years, and went unheeded. Those who have decided for themselves to teach Feri publicly, to teach it enmasse, to make Feri practices available to the public indiscriminately decided on their own to withdraw from discussions. Some few claimed autonomy. Some few claimed they as initiates had the right to do whatever they saw fit to do in regards to teaching, to materials held in common, and that any criticisms to the contrary were simply attempts for power over or control.

And yes, there were heated exchanges and impassioned discussions and things were said on both sides that were regrettable, but there were also attempts to reconcile which were refused out of hand, that were taken into the public arena well before this, and mischaracterized to support claims that initiates on the whole were dysfunctional and irrational in their disagreement and sought only power over and elitism.”

After that, the matter of this split spread all over the Internet. Thorn offered further explorations of the issue at her blog, several outsiders weighed in on the matter from different angles, while Feri initiates like Happydog1960 and Eldri Littlewolf offered their own personal takes.

“We are still working out our ‘standards’ here. To Stop kinstrife this Had to happen–It Did Happen. That part is done. Nobody is ‘better’,’more Feri’, or ‘less Feri’. We are Different, and that is Good. When tribes get too big, they often divide—bands go different Directions- (hunt different game)–sometimes they meet up and camp together, later, then go separate ways once more. This is not war–only clan division”

As a Pagan journalist I believe that what happens within our communities is important. When this split started spilling out into the public eye, I knew that it would be irresponsible for me to simply ignore it. Feri has become too influential, too seminal in our history, too “big” to escape our notice when something like this is revealed to non-initiates. However, I was also somewhat vexed on how to frame this schism for the readers of The Wild Hunt. There are different narratives and nuances as to why this happened, and I hesitate from making a rush to judgement as to what “the” reason was. So in addition to the links from various opinions and essays above, I have uploaded statements from several Feri/Faery initiates that I personally contacted, or who contacted me, regarding this schism. Some follow a simple three-question format, and some do not, but I hope all of them will provide deeper context into the issues and history involved.

Splits and schisms are nothing new in the history of Paganism, ancient or modern, or indeed in the history of religion as a whole. What separates us from some religions and traditions is that we are generally able to carry on and coexist with each other after these splits, sunderings, and schisms happen. We can still attend the same conferences, attend public rituals together, break bread, preserve friendships, and eventually, find the wisdom and humor in experiences that were once so wrenching, and possibly even find a way to unite once more. Feri, or Faery, may be split, but it will carry on. This notion is touched on in a thoughtful essay from Morpheus Ravenna.

I wish to say that what the initiates of the Feri tradition are experiencing is not just another witch war. It is not a petty personality conflict – it is the fruit of long-standing, deep-seated and substantive differences in philosophy and practice. Some kind of change or divergence of paths was probably inevitable for a tradition growing as fast as ours. In the minutia of the process, of course personal conflicts have arisen, but that is not what’s really driving this, and I feel like it would be demeaning and harmful to our process to frame this as a Big Personality Conflict between two opposed sides. “The Sundering”, as it’s being called, is not nearly as severe as that title implies. The reality is, people are still in communication across all sides of the philosophical debate, and the community as a whole is far from divisible into two camps.

Schisms happen to Pagans, and we should take them seriously when they do, because they can ripple through and affect our own spiritual lives, but we should take heart that these splits are not impediments to our growth, or insurmountable obstacles that trigger the scorched earth campaigns of some faiths. I wish the Feri, and the Faery, well in the future, and hope that these developments bring growth, positive change, and new beginnings for those who need them.

Jason Pitzl-Waters

Posts

  • My own tradition has recently undergone a schism as well. I am just a student but the split seems to be primarily focused on how public the face of the tradition should be and what it's aims and goals should be beyond the Mystery.

    How initiatory Craft responds to the needs of the modern age is creating a lot of tension in all of our communities. We are all learning to adapt while remaining authentic, and it would be nice if we could learn to adapt to this new time without tearing each other down by pointing fingers and dividing camps.

    The one positive thing that has come of this split is seeing that some people have chosen to respond to the schism by standing up and affirming their beliefs and practices, rather than spending their time picking apart other people. That always gives me hope.

  • Dang the cats are hard to herd now a days.

    • Henry Buchy

      in the words of one of my most cherished elders
      "we're lions not codfish"
      big cats lol

      • Let us, dear friends, not forget our..dear friends, the cuttlefish…

  • If you read Storm Faerywolf's response and just replace "Feri" with "Reiki," you'd be reading about the same schism that's been happening in the Reiki community since its founding. Great reporting – it's going to be interesting to see where this goes.

    • Henry Buchy

      yes, I am sure there are parallels except for the idea of fees for attunements eh?
      I know a few Masters that are appalled by the idea of free attunements.

      • I know some Witches who are appalled at the idea of "free healing" because it instills the idea that the healing is "worthless" and makes the healing work less effective because the person being healed doesn't perceive the healing as having any worth.

        • Henry Buchy

          yah I am familiar with that idea, and it can tend to lead to more fee equals more effective.
          historical case in point- vedic ritual.

          • Bookhousegal

            You know, in all fairness, there's a case to be made for that being true. At least among people who *have* money, they really don't particularly care how much effort what you did for them just took unless you start at least saying, 'Pay what it takes to make this yours.'

            Maybe that's more about money than Spirit, but someone else's notions of altruism aren't my problem if I'm delving into their spiritual stuff to begin with, that's my issue. I may not set it as condition of payment, but some people really do just keep coming back and not even try to do the real stuff a healing might take, if they think it's 'free' that way.

            *Stupid,* but going hungry on 'principle' while people say you should be obligated to do that stuff on demand for free, with no community support, and when they aren't even taking it seriously to begin with, then, yeah, I can see the merit in saying 'What's the going rate for one of those shrinks? '

          • Henry Buchy

            "I may not set it as condition of payment, but some people really do just keep coming back and not even try to do the real stuff a healing might take, if they think it's 'free' that way."
            LOL, that's an easy one.
            "didn't you do what I suggested?'
            "no, because blah,blah blah"
            "Okay,well get lost, you're wasting my time."
            of course it's nice to be paid for wasting ones time, but is it worth it when ones time could be spent elsewhere? and with someone who will do the 'real stuff'?

        • Henry Buchy

          Also if it applies to healing then it can also be applied to other magic.
          and so effectiveness is judged by fee, because the 'client' will feel the work done is worthless.
          and of course the work of a witch who charges more, is seen as more effective.
          Of course this is great for the witch who wishes to promote such ideas financially speaking:-)

          • I don't really have an opinion either way on it. I'm not a healer and don't feel comfortable doing work for others at this stage in my life.

            Although the folks who sell magical services through classifieds and websites strike me as trashy. There is a difference between slipping a Witch a $20 for doing a few hours of energy work with you, and ordering a number 5 combo with a prayer, a hex and a pinch of faerie dust, with some rootwork on the side.

            But I do believe in giving service for service. Even if that means you just bake a pie. That's not even a magical thing, but common courtesy.

          • Henry Buchy

            Understand. I feel differently about it:-)
            aside from just healing, it is the prededent of magical work in general being set.
            there is a difference between 'slipping a witch a $20" for work done, than expecting payment or setting a value on it.
            I may ask them to supply the materials or reimbruse for the materials.
            To me it is more meaningful of worth to let the person I am doing work for decide.
            If they come to me for work, they already believe I can do the work for them.
            if they wish to slip me a $20 or a pie that is fine, I won't trun it down.
            that's what's meant be freely given, and as you say common courtesy.
            I do not ask my neigbor for money, when asked to watch his pets while they are on vacation, nor do I expect them to give me what they've brought back and given me for doing so.
            I do it cause we're neighbors.

          • gleamchaser1776

            Yeah, I agree. Having a Witchy "menu" or price list is a bit icky. It should just be a case of reciprocity. Not everyone has good manners though.

            Although as a Wiccan I'm trying to be really respectful of the the prices people set for services I actually want, regardless of how I feel about charging for things. If it's something I actually want badly enough, I just pay without comment or haggling. I've taken a few workshops that I personally wouldn't have charged for had I been giving them, but then, I wasn't giving them and I did desire the workshop. *shrug*

          • Sara

            "Not everyone has good manners"

            See, I don't understand people who would be rude that way to a witch. It seems…counterproductive.

    • Sara

      Except in this case, the ones who are changing things are the ones charging money for it.

      • The case can be made both for and against charging fees for work, services, and recognition in the spiritual community – both sides ("free" and "fee") have historical precedents. Regarding Reiki attunements or initiations, I don't see how they're any different from ordination or priesthood recognition in other traditions – groups that impose (high) fees to access those arenas I think are more concerned with limiting the number of people at that level than they are with tradition. I agree with Star Foster that free services typically sink to the lowest value because either the provider or the recipient invests no tangible / intangible energy into it.

        Pagan and occult clergymen offer services which can typically be categorized as pastoral counseling which is performed on a one-on-one basis; if you consider how it's done in the Christian community, it still isn't quite free: pastoral counseling is provided by the pastor to his or her parishioners who typically pay a monthly tithe of 10%. They may not receive a bill or pay for the session itself, but they do certainly contribute monetary support in exchange for the services they provide.

        As Pagans and occultists we're aware that mandatory tithes are a form of bondage which – like other forms of bondage – limits free agency. Asking for payment or "selling" one's services is indeed commercial, but I think it's a far better alternative than to "guilt" people with a monthly tithe. "God frowns when you don't pay your 10%," etc. I suppose the dividing line is finding a service-based model which provides free or open access to the outer forms of worship and invites coveners or congregants to support the ministry by purchasing products, instruction, or services which connect them to the inner forms of worship. Money and fees should never be used as a barrier or as a means to protect one's "elite" status, but I do think it's important that in the process of setting fees one doesn't set them so high that only the privileged can afford them.

        • Sara

          At some point, I mean to write an article about how the paid clergy model is tied to the church model. Which is fine, if that's what you want.

          But Feri has *never* had churches. We barely have covens. Bringing someone into the tradition is a process of adopting kin, of bonding with a now and future peer. See my response to Star above.

  • Pitch313

    I wonder if this meiosis in the Feri Trad will reverberate through the larger Pagan world as much as some of the earlier ones did.

    A new Trad comparable to Reclaiming does not appear likely to emerge from the division. New books talking about different ways to engage in Craft practice have already been published. Teachers are offering instruction according to how they understand their responsibilities to the Trad. Or not. The Feri-themed material that is available remains available. And the material that was not available remains not available.

    What's more, it does not seem likely that those doing Feri-themed Craft will cease because others do not care for it, or do not care for how they managed to learn about Feri-themed Craft. Even if they did, that by itself wouldn't be a big change in the Pagan scene these days.

    It may be that Feri in early 21st Century is just not as influential as Feri was in the mid-to-late-20th Century.

    • Tech_elf

      "Feri-themed"
      Isn't that kind of abomination the source of the whole problem? Why indeed do the 'public' teachers have to teach under the umbrella of Feri in the first place, particularly knowing full-well that it's an initiatory tradition?

      Instead, we have things like a single teacher hijacking the web presence for the entire trad by registering the domain name and then acting as if it all goes through him. And then has the nerve to act all offended when other people protest. It's just 'business', right? That's the problem.

      • Bookhousegal

        I haven't actually said much about what in all this is *not* interesting……

  • Henry Buchy

    Jason, I applaud your reporting on these issues.

  • happydog1960

    I rather wish you had asked me for permission before posting a direct link to my blog. I recently made the decision to withdraw from discussing this matter in open public forums like this one, and the publication of this link to my blog makes that difficult. My statement was intended to be made public only to Feri initiates and Feri students, and I hoped that is where it would remain.

    Again, I wish that this issue had been left within the Feri/Faery community, and not aired out in public like an episode of the Jerry Springer show or junior high school cafeteria drama. I believe that this was nobody's business unless they were interested in studying the tradition and I am unhappy and disappointed that it has come out in public. I may have had a part in this becoming public knowledge, and if so, I deeply and bitterly regret it.

    The damage is done, and I will take care to lock down my blog in future. I would appreciate your asking my permission before linking to anything I write on this matter.

    • Jason Pitzl-Waters

      I have removed your link.

    • happydog1960

      You might as well leave it up. The damage is done and I will stand by my statement.

      In future, please ask before linking.

      • Jason Pitzl-Waters

        I will make sure to ask before linking to you again.

        I had removed the link, but if you'd rather, in this instance leave it up, I can easily restore it.

        • happydog1960

          Since I have received one request to keep the link present, and one accusation of cowardice from someone using the words of my own teacher against me, I think I am now honor-bound to ask you to restore the link.

          • Jason Pitzl-Waters

            As you will. The link is restored.

          • Thank you for reporting on this in a graceful manner Jason.

          • I think you had some important things to say in your post that might be enlightening for those outside Feri to read. I am glad that you chose to keep the link here. Thank you.

          • Yours is my favorite blog post on this topic. It is astute, well-written, and needed to be said. I agree with everything you wrote in it.

          • Crystal Lyn Bartlett

            Many of the "teachers" and "initiates" involved in this fracas are behaving in ways that make them look very unprofessional. Things I have observed: there is a deep-seated tone of anger informing the discourse amongst many of the participants, and respect and consideration for those who are seeking to make informed decisions has been severely lacking in several public interactions. Also, I have read some stunning examples of logical fallacies and been flabbergasted by the lack of self-awareness in people who are supposedly teaching those skills to others. I don't expect perfection in a prospective teacher, but I do expect intellectual and emotional honesty and a willingness to acknowledge one's own imperfections.

          • Crystal Lyn Bartlett

            Really, if the split happened so long ago and is a fait accompli, the current defensiveness and vitriol in the discussion is out of place. The tone of the discussion makes this claim of "old issues" seem rather disingenuous. I'm basing my decisions on how much weight to give the various opinions and arguments on how the discussion is conducted and I'm seeing quite a lot of poor conversational conduct from the participants. Reasoned, respectful honest discourse is necessary. Unless the actual goal really is just a popularity contest amongst the "personalities."

          • Sara

            The trouble is, what you are now deploying is called the "tone argument"….a classic derailment technique, and a logical fallacy in and of itself. I'm not sure how saying that people's tone puts you off works with the accusation of a popularity contest, either.

            It's also logically improbable that people whose ethos includes teaching only one person at a time or small groups, and whose ambitions are generally small-scale, are going to worry too much about their popularity. I personally have as many students as I can handle, and have to turn people away. Those other guys might be concerned, though.

          • Sara

            Plus, people are just plain ol' upset. Even though I've tried pretty hard to be calm and present my views coherently, and I'm one of the people who helped precipitate the…acknowledgement of the split…I'm profoundly upset that it had to come to this. Years worth of it.

        • Henry Buchy

          In reply to steward:
          I find it interesting that folks need to make such an either or distinction between being Public and Private as if one has to be totally public with everything they do, or totally private and stay completely hidden from the public eye.
          Yep that is what it says, on the advisement of the consulting corporate law attorney who assisted in preparing our legal protection and establishment documents to be recognised as a legal Church in the state of New Jersey.
          Yes we publicise that we are a Feri coven and we do teach feri, but it it also states that we teach feri privately.
          Also from our main page:
          "Membership in COR is completed through a process of application and interview. Applicants must live in the Cape May, NJ area, although exceptions can apply. All prospective members must fill out an application , upon approval of the application, you will be scheduled for a first person interview. Not all applicants are accepted. Applicants that are accepted will become associate members until initiation and training are completed. "
          I would also invite all to view the our questionaire, which must be filled out and submitted to us before we'll even consider an interview.

          • Henry Buchy

            One can be public and still maintain privacy of practice. I invite folks to view the site and see for ones self as to whether or not there are public offerings a far as set classes or any materials published pertaining to teachings or lore from the Anderson Feri Tradition.
            I find it disengenuos to hold the position that traditional forms of teaching the craft are more desireable than classrom style or through websites, workshops or distance learning and then not provide an alternate source for availablity of traditional forms of teaching. We also offer services to the community as witches are wont to do, such as readings, handfastings, healing, etc To do these one must publicise that it is available and provide it.
            To do so as a legal entity, requires 'publicising' as one of the purposes.

          • John Deltuvia

            What I've seen and heard so far in the current flap, a dividing line is indeed there: public OR private. I have no idea why your attorney would require the word publicize in the articles; NJS 16:1-1 requires an already existing religious organization to publicize that it is in the process of incorporating, but that's it. A ban on the publicization of a religious group would run afoul of the Federal constitution.

            In your response to Jason, you referred to the practices of the more public Feri as evangelization. The OED, in the non-sectarian definition of "evangelical", describes it as "eager to share an enthusiasm or belief with others"; and I don't see why anyone would bother to publicize something that you're not eager to share with others. Possibly it was a miscommunication between your group and your attorney; possibly the attorney you selected was thinking more of something from Titles 14A, 15, or 15A.

          • John Deltuvia

            What I have seen on the private side of the line has implied that all is made public on the public side of the line. I have never gotten the impression that anyone teaching Feri practices – many of which derive from other traditions – teaches *everything* that they know. Thorn's two-year teachings, for example, were not designed to automatically lead to initiation, and thus left things out. Thorn also conducted workshops, some of which I attended; when I described them to a friend who had taken the 2-year course, quite often I would describe something which Thorn had apparently gone into much more detail about in her 2-year courses.

          • Henry Buchy

            Not by me, as you say it is implied, by your interpretation, but not stated explicitly.
            I participated in one of Thorns two year intensives, she was very explicit it was not an initiatory program, but that doesn't mean what was taught comprises a lot of pre initiatory teachings. Teaching a set pantheon is teaching a specific theology. Relating the self exploratory work to a specific theology is teaching religion.
            You know yourself Reclaiming teaches these same methods of self exploration and connection without emphasis on any specific theology or pantheon, but leaves that to the individual. They teach religious practice but not which Deities to work with.

          • Henry Buchy

            oh I meant to say above "that doesn't mean what was taught did not comprise pre initiatory teaching."
            as I mentioned in my answer to Jason, I have no problem with that. Consider Francesca De Grandis' work 'Be a Goddess', in it she details religious practice with minimal emphasis on which deities to work with.
            I'm really comfortable with that. I'm all for sharing those Feri practices which enhance self knowledge and connection. I am not comfortable with teaching what deities should be connected with.

          • Henry Buchy

            Hiya John,
            It's been 15 years or so since we drew up our articles, but what I recall, the attorney recommended the wording based on what we informed him our activities would be. teaching, holding 'services', and other pastoral activities related to the craft.
            I would hardly characterise our website as demonstrating "eager to share" in comparision with the advertisements for workshops, distance learning, intensives and such. Nor will you find us 'preaching' through blogs, journals, or facebook and other networking media, about how our practices will improve ones life.

    • Cigfran

      Well, I for one am very glad that the post has remained available, if for no other reason than to have read this bit of clear thinking:

      "I see no point in making a website about Feri to tell people that you can’t learn Feri from a website, and, in fact, find it more than a little ridiculous."

      Thank you.

      • Sara

        Talking about ideas is not the same thing as teaching witchcraft. If you fail to see the distinction, no wonder this is puzzling.

  • Henry Buchy

    In response to Happydog:
    From Anaar's blog:
    "No risk, no glory. If you want this, you must accept the very real risks. If you add your name to ours, you must accept the risk of being identified. If you write about it, you must accept the risk of being read by just about anybody. If you meet with us, you must accept the risk that some of us are unpleasant. If you teach it, you must accept the risk of having your student become unstable. If you go down the deep well, you must accept the risk of not coming back. And with risk follows accountability, another risk." http://whitewand.blogspot.com/2011/01/danger.html

    • happydog1960

      I am glad you find it convenient to quote Anaar when it suits you.

      The implication that I am a coward and refuse accountability is noted.

      • Sara

        I thought that was pretty kind, considering.

        It's the Internet, people. LiveJournal, Facebook, Wikipedia, numerous websites legit and non, open e-mail lists…all places where "our business" has been discussed at length and ad nausaeum for years. Often by the same people you choose to defend, and by you. Double standard much?

        If you don't want the world to know about it, don't put it on the Internet. Period.

        • happydog1960

          Your grasp of kindness leaves something to be desired.

          • Bookhousegal

            Then *desire it.* 😉

            But where from?

        • I have to agree, as Pherb of Phineas and Pherb said "Fame is fleeting, but the internet is forever."

          Speaking as a historian, Happydog may have wanted that post to be private, but the simple fact is that in a way that information is needed so that everyone can put together what happened. If it occurs now or in a hundred years, when our children and grandchildren wish to look back at the beginnings we've created, or even those ten generations from now, they should have as much of the picture as they can.

          One of the challenges we face is that so much information about our pagan past is lost. Do we really wanna lock away information about public events. Private teachings should be private, but knowledge preserved and passed around has a better chance of remaining around.

  • Happydog, as Jason says, there is no general expectation of asking permission before linking to open blog posts. While I understand the desire to keep these things within the community, that particular ship has already sailed. Others have already made this public.

    I'm a Druid – I have no real connections to Feri but I do have a great interest in the continuing evolution of Paganism and its many flavors. I read your post and found it reasonable and informative. I hope you'll leave it up for others who are trying to understand what appears to be a significant event in this movement.

    • happydog1960

      I have asked Jason to restore the link.

      I want to note that I did not make the current problem public and only wrote what I wrote after the abovementioned websites were created, and their presence blared all over the internet.

      That being said I stand by my statement. If it provides a reasonable viewpoint it is well; if it serves for some as a way to mock or deride me, then that is as it is also.

      • Bookhousegal

        How bout I mention that there's little expectation of privacy on the *Web,* then respect your wishes and not look? 🙂

  • No but value equals value. Money is just one form of energy you can exchange. No such thing as a free lunch.

    • Bookhousegal

      Yes, there is. For one, it's called a *gift.*

      'Freely shared and freely taken ' may seem a bit *weird* to some conservative mindsets, but this world's a lot bigger than 'zero-sum.'

      *Especially* when it comes to 'energy.' Talk and supposition like that is how you end up with all kinds of kids thinking they have to be 'psychic vampires' when really, they just have a big case of internalized 'zero-sum-itis.

      'I'm a psyvamp I must be, it is my dark zero-sum fate…'

      'Are you dead, child?'

      '….'

      'Breathe. Live, share, breathe. Interdependence does not mean 'debt.' It means *living.*

      People who say 'There's no free lunch' usually want to shame someone else about what they *waste.*

      • gleamchaser1776

        Nature abhors a vacuum. You cannot take without giving back. You can breathe in all you want but eventually you will have to exhale.

        • Alex Pendragon

          This so reminds me of my own family and how I and other members must sometimes either hold our tougues or else exit stage left if we can't stand others wagging theirs. I put up with alot of "glory to the Lord" posts knowing it is not my case to judge them for their beliefs, especially if I have not been openly attacked for mine. Blood is thicker than water, but sometimes more irritating. Those of us involved in these "schisms" should simply be happy we aren't sending ourselves to some hell for what we decide is right for us.

        • Bookhousegal

          Priceless doesn't actually really mean 'Can be cheap.' Some of those casual Reiki attunements come with pretty hidden costs, actually. Just cause it's the healing equivalent of zero-point power doesn't mean you wanna hook it up to any old wiring that might have some bare insulation.

          More than that, the fad for it had a tendency to feed into notions of 'pushing white light at any given problem.'

          It's pretty boundless, it's pretty fail-safe, as such things go: you could even call it a 'free lunch,' but it does have other effects on the unprepared. Very similar to the Feri initiations in some very metaphysical ways.

        • Wow Star I didn't even understand what the person before you wrote. How did you even formulate a response??

        • Bookhousegal

          Doesn't mean breathing… or eating…. is 'zero-sum.'

          • gleamchaser1776

            Debt exists outside of zero-sum economic theory too. Life is messy, but you still have to be a good neighbor.

          • Boohousegal

            Saying it exists outside zero-sum doesn't mean it *is* zero-sum. That being the point.

        • Sara

          There's taking and taking. If I teach someone my magic, I don't want their money. I want their kinship and their trust, and to have a peer beside me in the circle…because that's what I'm giving them.

          • Bookhousegal

            Perfect love and perfect trust, some might say. 🙂

            And BB. 🙂

          • At the end of the day, we're not burning each other at the stake, which has been a historical trend when schisms occur. I call that progress.

          • Bookhousegal

            Faint praise, but we' take it. 🙂

          • Jason,

            Thank you for taking the time to describe the events while understanding, as you said, "[t]here are different narratives and nuances as to why this happened, and I hesitate from making a rush to judgement as to what “the” reason was." I have not followed this issue but I would suspect that you are prudent because I seldom see any "one" reason for historical events nor would I suspect there there is is one here.

            As a Pagan, I try to remember that we live in a wonderfully complex place even as I have the tendency to want to reduce my view to simple dualist points, those of right/wrong, either/or, or good/bad. Perhaps, too much reading some kinds of ancient philosophy. John Michael Greer, in his “Myth, History and Pagan Origins,” (The Pomegranate 9 (1999):44-50) wrote about the dangers of the types of myths (narratives) we tell ourselves least we fall into a pattern of moral dualism. As my friend, Jeffery Albaugh, may say, we need to give space to these narratives and hear what each of them are trying to tell us. He is better than I am about such matters and so is Jason.

          • I may be in the extreme minority here, but – so what? People are people, personality clashes occur, people stop being friends, yadda yadda yadda. Why is this anyone's business but those who are involved in it?

          • Faithful Optimist

            As a mentally ill person, I would like to question the distancing that people do from the problem of mental illness. I see a reflex to dump us into the medical model, as if that is so functional. What about building space where these two things are simultaneously dealt with? As it stands the people who actually are facing it are doing it from a position of compromised ability and political isolation.

          • A fascinating and olde tale, nothing new here just more access to information. Schisms like this tore thru my parent tradition (Druidic Craft of the Wise) over 20yrs ago.
            It is a painful process I've since seen many times. The pattern seems consitent and quite natural, these explosions throw seeds far away to spring into new Traditions, Crafts and Ways. As soon as a group gets big enough it tends to happen and probably is as it should be, just hard to take.
            I know we have heaps of Feri here in Santa Cruz, so please kids remember The Sacred Grove is neutral ground, don't get any on us…;)
            Good luck Feris in your growth process, try not to cause too much damage to eachother on the way.

    • steward

      With all the battles of public vs. non-public, I find the articles of incorporation linked from http://covenantofrhiannon.org/link.htm to be rather interesting, especially the 3rd article:

      "Article 3. The purpose shall be to support, publicize, research and teach the religious tradition, practices, beliefs and values of Feri Tradition Witchcraft, specifically the Searose Faerie Tradition, and to assist others by using Psychic and Metaphysical gifts, and by performing healing services on request. To provide worship structure to the GLBT community and offer services tailored to that community. "

      This is a New Jersey non-profit organization formed specifically for publicizing Feri and, apparently, a variant called Searose (see their main page for all influences – including that, by "Feri", they specifically mean "Anderson Feri".)

      • Sara

        See Henry's response above. You can talk about your beliefs in public without telling all you know, or sharing things other people consider secret. Which neatly knocks down one of the mass teachers' favorite arguments.

        One of the common accusations against the more private initiates in the past is that we are a bunch of dogmatic fundamentalists; also that we are selfish elitists who want to keep all the goodies to ourselves. The fact is, we have a good bit MORE diversity of belief and practice than the "public Feri" do…partially because there are a whole lot more of us, but also because the reality is that we're more tolerant and accommodating of difference. There are also some of us who teach the tradition and sometimes write about it, just not on a mass-market wide distribution scale, and without sharing common material that others consider private. What you are citing here is an example of that; there are people among the Faery who would never put up a website or talk about the tradition in public, and there are those of us who have and do, but *within* boundaries that respect the practices of others.

        • John Deltuvia

          "The fact is, we have a good bit MORE diversity of belief and practice than the "public Feri" do…partially because there are a whole lot more of us"

          Is there some sort of census among the "private Feri" shared amongst them, which is comparable to a census among the "public Feri"? If not, how can you claim there are more of one than the other?

          Have any of the "public Feri" stated that everything that they know and believe in about Feri is stated publicly by them? If not, how can you know that their diversity of belief and practice is less than yours?

          • Sara

            Dude. The trad is not that big. And we've been hashing through this stuff for years. Yes, I do in fact have a pretty good idea who stands where on what issues, and how many people have expressed what opinions.

            It's actually quite ludicrous to assume that in a relatively small group of people who have been trying to resolve these issues for the entire time I have been part of it, that I WOULDN'T know.

            But you wanted to know why there were several websites. I just told you. Take it or leave it. As I said before, time will tell.

  • Ali

    Above, Star Foster said: "How initiatory Craft responds to the needs of the modern age is creating a lot of tension in all of our communities. We are all learning to adapt while remaining authentic…"

    I completely agree with this – and not even just for initiatory traditions. The Druidry I practice could hardly be considered initiatory, yet there is still tension that exists among groups, splits happening on a fairly regular basis, and plenty of them provoked by or at least involving the use of modern social media and internet resources. As Happydog's comment above suggests, we're all struggling to learn how to navigate with respect and authenticity in an online community where publicity can be an all-or-nothing game, and where privacy and intimacy can be almost impossible to define in terms that don't portray them as exclusionary or closed-minded.

    I sympathize with all the people involved in this schism in Feri/Faery, and I'm grateful to those who've chosen to write about it publicly (otherwise, I'd know nothing about it at all – and even now, I feel as though I can barely glimpse what seems to be an incredibly complex issue for those involved). I think it's beneficial for the Pagan community more broadly to be able to see the many sides of this issue and the many factors that give rise to it. At the same time, I totally understand how frustrating it can be to feel boundaries being pushed or even violated by the nature of the medium that so many of us use to communicate just as a matter of course and maybe even take a bit for granted.

    A lot of food for thought…

  • I agree. This was as unbiased approach to the topic as one could expect. A range of opinion was solicited, and the issues were fairly stated as far as I could tell. I have been close to the Feri community for a dozen years now, and I think this article and the attendent links do justice to the story and present it in an appropriate historical context.

  • Twisting Ways

    Thank you for writing this! Now I can have a better understanding of what is going on in a tradition that I am vaguely interested in.

  • Why are there three websites to say the same thing?

    All three sites link to each other, and some of them share text. From what I can see, faerytradition.org has the most extensive content–including a section that is clearly labeled as opinions. I would suggest the other two sites simply redirect to faerytradition.org. That would better convey a sense of unity among the Faery-not-Feri folk.

    Too be exceedingly blunt, seeing three sites that have overlapping content and all point to each other, I start thinking about the internet trolls that create sock-puppets to "validate" their arguments. I don't think that's what's happening here, but it may cause some individuals to question the validity of these sites.

    If there is a reason to have three sites, it would be appropriate to state the reason(s) clearly on each of the sites.

    • Sara

      "That would better convey a sense of unity among the Faery-not-Feri folk. "

      Conveying a sense of unity is not our only goal. Conveying diversity is another, equally important one..especially since the web presence of the tradition was, as pointed out by Tech_elf, hijacked by one person with an agenda. The sites were created by different people and have different goals. Overlap of content will decline as time goes on.

      As Morpheus said, the trad isn't really divisible into two camps, but the Faery group is still larger than the group of public teachers. Yet nobody asks why they all need their own websites.