Quick Notes: Gay Paganism, Project Conversion, and the Tea Party

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  February 24, 2011 — 50 Comments

A few quick notes for you on this Thursday morning.

Gay Paganism’s Second Wave: The Circle of Dionysos has posted the audio from a panel discussion at this year’s PantheaCon entitled “Walking it Out: Gay Paganism’s Second Wave,” featuring contributions from DK Cowan (Circle of Dionysos), P Sufenas Virius Lupus (Ekklesia Antinuou), Hayden Reynolds (Circle of Dionysos), Storm Faerywolf (Brotherhood of the Satyr), and Hyperion (The Unnamed Path).

The Unnamed PathThe Amethyst PentacleEkklesia Antinuou, The Circle of Dionysos: in the past several years a flurry of pagan groups and practices specifically geared to the LBGT community have emerged and caught the attention of the larger pagan community. Why is this happening? What are the similarities and differences between the various paths? What value does this work have for not only GLBTQ pagans, but also for the larger pagan community? Join Hyperion, Storm Faerywolf, DK Cowan, and P. Sufenas Virius Lupus for a round table discussion of these and other topics related to second wave gay paganism.”

You can download the panel discussion, here. Gay Pagan organizations like the ones listed above, or the Brotherhood of the Phoenix in Chicago, have really come into their own in the last decade. Gay Pagans have gone from being a somewhat isolated fringe in the 1970s, to a vibrant and integral part of who we are today. I’m heartened to see growing communication and acknowledgement around this phenomenon.

Also, while I’m on the topic of PantheaCon, let me quickly point you to Morpheus Ravenna’s blog, where she discusses her experiences at this year’s Morrigan devotional ritual. I was in attendance at that ritual, and it was one of the most powerful large-group experiences I’ve had the pleasure to be a part of.

Twelve Faiths in Twelve Months: Rothwell Polk at the Huffington Post puts the spotlight on “Project Conversion,” where writer Andrew Bowen immerses himself in a different faith tradition for each month of 2011. In January he “converted” to Hinduism, here’s his video wrap-up of the month.

Currrently, Bowen is studying Baha’i before moving on to Zoroastrianism in March. In October he’s “converting” to Wicca, and will be exploring “fringe” religions in June (whatever that means). He’s noted that he already has a teacher/guide for his Wiccan month (though he doesn’t reveal who it is). Bowen asserts that he’ll always remain “spiritually promiscuous,” but one has to wonder how he’ll feel after he’s immersed himself in both monotheistic and polytheistic faiths. Will it change the way he views the world? The way he views the dominant monotheisms? No doubt he’ll be experiencing the “best face” of each tradition, but there are significant differences.

The Tea Party and Religion: The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has released a new analysis of Tea Party members which reveals a movement this is not only fiscally conservative, but also overwhelmingly allied with socially conservative (Christian) issues like opposition to gay marriage and access to abortion.

“A new analysis by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life finds that Tea Party supporters tend to have conservative opinions not just about economic matters, but also about social issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage. In addition, they are much more likely than registered voters as a whole to say that their religion is the most important factor in determining their opinions on these social issues. And they draw disproportionate support from the ranks of white evangelical Protestants.”

This significant overlap between the populist Tea Party and socially conservative Christianity has been seen in several nationally elected politicians who received endorsement from Tea Party groups (Rand Paul, for instance). Indeed, some have described the Tea Party phenomenon as a second wind for Christian conservative candidates. The question going forward is will the Tea Party organizations see their fiscal stances become married to a social agenda as well. If so will it create an unhealable rift between factions?  How will this affect fiscally conservative Pagans who have found a home in the Tea Party? Especially when an unspoken position of many social conservatives is an animus towards non-Christian faiths.

That’s all I’ve got for now, have a great day!

Jason Pitzl-Waters


  • jaundicedi

    I find it encouraging that Bowen does not include Wicca in "Fringe religions". As for the Tea Party, I have noticed that it is about evenly divided between those who are extreme fundamentalists and those who worship Ayn Rand. I am not sure which frighten me more.

    • I just wish the Randian "Objectivists" would finally just admit they're Satanists and be done with it. 😉

      "[Satanism is]…just Ayn Rand's philosophy, with ceremony and ritual added." — Anton LaVey, Founder and High Priest of the Church of Satan.

    • lysana

      I am again struck by that gay paganism panel's lack of diversity. All white males. Probably all cismales. Probably all gay as opposed to bisexual. Couldn't they have done better?

      • Jason Pitzl-Waters

        I believe that issue was actually addressed during the Q&A of the panel. I know for a fact that at least one panel member who participated shares the concerns you raise.

      • Drake

        Since you posted the same thing over at Circle of Dionysos, heres the reply from there pasted here.

        "You are correct. However, I do hope that you listened to the recording before making your criticism. This very topic is addressed in the recording.

        We based our choices off of the groups that were specifically putting forward queer programming at PantheaCon. Which at this point are groups led by white men, though not all of which identify as men or as gay.

        I think of myself as a gay male and as transgendered. As always it is important to watch our assumptions in labeling other’s identities. I know for certain P. Sufenas Virius does not label himself as a gay male, which you would know if you listened to the recording.

        I would definitely appreciate your criticism more if it was based on the content, not on the perceived gender and sexuality of the panelists. However we do take note of the general criticism, and have addressed it in the panel.

        That is one of the reasons that we specifically used the word “Gay” in the title of the panel. Never have we claimed to represent the scope of queer spirituality. Another assumption on your part.

        I encourage you to take your critique and create a panel of your own. I would gladly attend such a panel and look forward to hearing about it."

      • Nestis

        I listened to the entire discussion, and while I was pleased that the issue of diversity was at least brought up at the very end, it bothered me too. I can't fathom why they couldn't find one queer Dianic at the very least to have on the panel. There's a long and influential history of queer cis women in Neopaganism, and I have a hard time believing they couldn't find anyone! It's not like Budapest and Barrett weren't at Pantheacon. I'm sure there were plenty of pan/bi/lesbian Dianics running around.

        • Daniel

          I am glad to hear Gay Paganism and Gay Spirituality is recieving more attention. It has been a bit disconcerting being a Gay individual in the world of Goddess and God oriented Wicca, which, in year's past, always stressed the sacredness of Male and Female duality as something that is completely alien to the GLBT community. That is, you didn't have a prominent role in the Circle because you were Gay and how dare you try to lead or cast a Circle with your sexual orientation….because, afterall, you can't channel the God and Goddess as a young Gay man. This was the predominate mentality, and still is in many ways.

          I left Wicca and the Circle I was loosely assoociated with and found much more freedom and wholeness through the Medicine Tradition of my Tribe. I also found this through studying the Fairy Faith Tradition of Eireann. Culturally, Spiritually, Emotionally, and Physically, I found wholeness. There is no alienation in the Circle although mindsets would like to think so. It is good to walk the Rainbow Road whether or not it is well-known. It is, for the most part, off the beaten path, if you will.

        • DK Cowan

          The Dianic Movement is a First Wave queer pagan movement that has been around for decades. This panel was on Second Wave gay paganism, ie *emerging* groups and/or paths that represent a shifting paradigm in the treatment of Gay/Queer spirituality. For that reason you will note that we also had no representatives from The Minoan Brotherhood or the Radical Faeries. We honor the first wave groups as our forebearers, and we generally play well with them. But our idealogies differ in much the same way that 2nd and 3rd wave feminist ideologies differ, as later events at this PCon would prove.

          I would have loved to have had the Order of the Epicene represented on the panel as well, but since we were scheduled on Friday, Fang wasn't available. We did know that the panel's apparently homogeneous makeup could be viewed as problematic. In fact, I changed the panel's name from Queer to Gay for that reason, and I was quite happy when that issue was raised at the end of the panel for us to address. But I'm not omniscient and can only invite panelists out of people who I know are both doing the kind of work we're discussing and present/available at the time and place we are holding said panel. So if you have groups or individuals in mind who are doing the sorts of work that we talked about in the panel, then please, forward that info to me so that we can include them in the future.

          • DK Cowan

            I should also clarify that while I am grouping the "First Wave" groups mentioned above on the basis of their "ages," I do not mean to gloss over their significant differences from each other in either mythos or methods, nor do I mean to suggest that the factors that distinguish the aforementioned groups from the "Second Wave" are homogeneous. Rather I mean to imply that each of the "first wave groups" is grounded in the "utopian" vision of the time these groups/movements were born. I note this because I realize my comment on later PCon events was placed in such a way that it could easily be misinterpreted as an example of a generalizable paradigm shift when it was intended to exemplify a specific paradigm shift related to a specific first wave group..

          • Pan in Louisiana

            I agree with what you said very much. What is your religious path, by the way? Just wondering.

      • For the record Iysana, I am a full-blooded hispanic man and I sat on the panel.

        In the panel we discussed that we wanted more diversity but one of the panelists they wanted to participate, who is a transgendered person, had to work registration and couldn't be there.

      • aediculaantinoi

        I am white, yes (apart from the fact that I have Jewish ancestry on both sides, which would make many people think of me as "not white"!); but, I am neither a man nor gay, as I said in the panel itself, and as you know yourself.

        Hyperion, as he says below, is not white. Hayden lead another event at PantheaCon on androgyny, and was in androgyne drag for much of the con; while sie didn't hirself speak on this issue during the panel, I think it is at least possible that sie may not be quite what you thought either.

        And, as Derik pointed out in the panel itself, joi wolfwomyn wasn't available at the time because it was working registration. We'd have loved it, though, if it were available to participate. Alas for timing.

        Certainly, there are many non-white, non-male, non-gay/lesbian people participating in modern pagan/polytheist spiritualities that have emerged in the last 5-10 years, but a much smaller number who are coordinators, leaders, or founders of said groups, much less ones available there at PantheaCon. Not a lot we can do about that…

  • As many people in the Tea Party say they want lower taxes, smaller government, and greater freedom, I'm astonished they're not interested in becoming members of the Libertarian party. Perhaps the only reason they aren't is because the Libertarian party observes and enforces separation of church and state?

    • Possibly because the Libertarians had Bob Barr on their ticket last time around?

      You know, the same guy who authored the DOMA, proposed banning the practice of Wicca in the military, was looking at impeaching Clinton months before the Lewinski affair, and is the 'voice to the rest of the world' for Baby Doc Duvalier? Sounds like a rousing cry for freedom there…

      • caraschulz

        You hit it right on the nose, Eran.

    • Exactly. The only difference between a Libertarian and a Tea Partier, 99% of the time, is adherence to Social Conservative norms based on Christianity. And even most of the people _calling_ themselves "Libertarians" these days are nothing of the sort. For example, some idiot on a Pagan board tried to convince me that Rush Limbaugh is a "Libertarian." Um, no.

      Libertarian means simply "Economically Right & Socially Left," and is far closer to "Classical Liberalism" than anything nearing "Conservative." It's not a synonym for "Conservative," under any stretch of the imagination. It's kinda like how Conservatives "demonized" the word "Liberal" during the 80s and 90s…so Liberals started calling themselves "Progressives." Only, the Conservatives have just adopted a word that is not a synonym for Conservatism…because frankly, many of those people are rightfully ashamed of the history of Conservatism in the subject of Civil Rights.

      • freemanpresson

        Yes, it's weird how the terminology changes. Liberals had to invent a new term, (actually steal it from a splinter of the fantasy left), because Liberal started meaning Socialist. Maybe we can have it back if the Progressives are done with it, assuming there are still any Libertarians left in the USA after the Barr debacle finishes shaking out.

        — Politically Homeless Again in Birmingham

    • kenneth

      The Tea Party is not merely a vehicle for some fiscal policy agenda. It's a fundamentalist utopian movement of mostly pissed off disenfranchised white people who are convinced that America's very soul has been stolen by blacks, foreigners, gays, liberals, you name it. They aim to restore that mythical "lost" America by any means necessary. Nor do I buy for a minute the idea that they really want small government and more freedom. They want to eviscerate the federal government because they see it as an instrument of oppression, but given the chance, they would legislate and enforce their fundamentalist worldview on every aspect of our lives.

  • chuck_cosimano

    You are right, of course, but do not forget how many middle aged white Christians it takes to outvote all of the pagans, and that number is not very large. The Tea Party has found a niche, and it is a huge one. If you are going to defeat them, you are not going to do it by calling it a socially acceptable way to be a racist white christian because in their circles it already is acceptable and they do not care what anyone else thinks. They don't have to.

    They have the votes.

  • LeonieAlemann

    TEA Party is an exclusively fiscal movement, dedicated to minimizing government, and thus the cost of government, so that the people get to keep their money and use it to start businesses and take care of their families.

    Government has taken on far too much, and most Americans deeply resent the government telling them what to eat, what to drive, and where to smoke. How many hundred-year-old almond orchards are dead and dying in California because the federal government values an almost extinct minnow more than those mature trees?

    TEA Party organizers have explicitly stated that individual members certainly have the right to support the candidates of their choice and to do whatever political advocacy they wish, but the endorsement of the (___) County TEA Party will be based on financial responsibility and not on any social issues.

    De-funding Planned Parenthood is NOT based on the fact that they facilitate abortion, however despicable that it; it is based on the fact that they facilitate adult sexual exploitation of children, esp nubile girls under the legal age of consent. Instead of calling the police or Child Protection, which is mandated by law, when they encounter a pregnant girl working as a prostitute and under the age of consent, they leave her in her slavery and just provide medical care. That's NOT acceptable.
    And de-funding Planned Parenthood won't close it down; they only get a fraction of their funding from the federal government, and I'm sure their progressive sponsors will make up the difference.

    • lynn

      If we're talking fiscal responsibility we need to cut down the military budget and stop funding our wars of empire. Until I hear talk of this coming from the right (outside of Ron Paul who has been consistent on this issue) I will not take their calls for fiscal responsibility seriously.

      • Ben

        Repeated spelling error. It’s “Ekklesia Antinoou,” per their LJ, linked in the article. Note the “oou” at the end, not “uou.” I know, minor (and weird; crazy Greek names 🙂 ), but an easy fix.

    • Scott

      Leonie, you *really* need to get out and read more: the attempted "sting" of Planned Parenthood by right-wing operatives was uncovered *because* PP workers reported the incidents as required. As far as I can tell, the "sin" of PP in conservative eyes is that they provide health services to poor women, particularly poor women of color. All gods forbid that our tax dollars should pay for *that*! [/snark]

    • I fixed Leonie's first sentence to reflect reality, not some fantastical Libertarian wet dream…

      TEA Party is an exclusively fiscal movement, dedicated to minimizing government, and maximizing corporate control, so that the billionaires and millionaires get to keep even more of their money while the rest of us struggle to take care of our families with less and less money.

      Why else would people like the Koch's have anything to do with Teabaggers otherwise?

    • Bookhousegal

      Yeah, yeah, that's what some kept *saying* the Tea party's about, but once in office, they've done nothing but push right-wing Christian agendas, *including* by using budget cuts that can't possibly balance the budget, never mind make up for the tax cuts to the rich they support or the increased health care profits for the corporations they demand…. All they have done is try and slash and burn the American government and things the common people depend on, while using the budget as a pretext to pursue a right wing social agenda that the American people had already rejected.

      'Fiscal responsibility.' Feh. No such thing, and that mask's already off.

    • DK Cowan


      First, Ian was not a part of the panel. Second, you know more people from the panel than you are saying in that you and I are also friends. We've worked together in the ritual theater world, you were at my first hand-fasting, and you've helped me move (and thus have seen exactly how big my drag closet is). I was the person who organized the panel, and thus any blame for the makeup of the panel falls on me.

      As has been stated here and in the presentation, I had every intention of asking Joi from the Order of the Epicene to be a part of the panel, but since we were scheduled for Friday, I knew that she would be unable to attend. I changed the panel's title from Queer to Gay because I was aware that having an apparently all male panel could be problematic for people and hoped use of a term that is "specific" would indicate our awareness of this fact. And while you are correct that I didn't do a Google search on "Queer Pagan organizations" and then email each one to ask if they had a representative coming to PCon who would like to be on our panel, I am very present in that world and did ask many of my community contacts if they could think of anyone who was doing the sort of work that the people/groups on the panel were doing that I should add to the panel. No one had any suggestions beyond the people I had (or knew I couldn't get).

      I am very aware of the ways in which light skinned gay men with money dominate the commentary, images, and perceived culture of the GLBT community in the larger society, and though I would say the Dianics are the dominant queer presence within the pagan world, I will concede that in terms of “queer pagan studies,” the list of “respected authors” does again skew male. I believe we could debate whether that’s because of the general privileging of gay men in our culture or because much of the work done by queer women gets subsumed into “women’s” instead of “queer” spirituality, but that’s beside the point.

      As co-founder and creative director for The Circle of Dionysos, I'm always looking to work with the broadest spectrum of people in our community that I can put together. Our other offering at PCon, Yes They Are! Meeting and Greeting the Queerest of the Gods, was directed this year by a bi woman and featured a multiracial, multi-gendered cast. Unfortunately *that* presenter/cast photo is too blurry for us to use on our website, because it is generally a closer representation of the community with whom we work. This panel was, in fact, the *only* public event that the Circle of Dionysos has ever hosted in our three years of existence for which we've been unable to put together a core group of presenters that represented more than one constituency at first glance in terms of gender and partner preference. So it's a little frustrating to be attacked with statements like you are making, especially since I had already conceded in the comments section here that we knew some people could find the apparent lack of diversity on the panel problematic and asked for help finding other folks so we can be more inclusive in the future. Persons with privilege can’t undo that privilege if no one takes up the offer to join them at the table. Playing the blame game after the fact instead of listening to what is said and giving people who say they tried the benefit of the doubt does nothing but foster more anger and deepen the divisions in our community.

  • I think Khryseis is talking about this:

    etc. There were a flurry of articles about a month ago about it on Salon, HuffPo, etc.

    • Khryseis_Astra

      *Nods* The language has since been taken out of the bill, but the gist of it is that federal funding for abortion is only allowed in the case of rape, incest or in cases where the life of the woman is in jeopardy. They were trying to limit which kinds of rape would be eligible, pretty much only those that could be proved to involve force.

      After all, as one of the Tea Party darlings said, if you're raped, you're supposed to take that lemon of a situation and make some lemonade. *shudders*

      • The Bony Man

        That is incredibly disturbing.

  • As someone with a strong commitment to abortion-rights, I cannot agree that one needs to be in some way affiliated with Christianity in order to disagree with me on this. That's as absurd as saying one cannot be a feminist and opposed to legal abortions–plenty of feminists are. I disagree with them, but I do them the justice of not assailing the sincerity of their views because of that.

    I think that's both a courtesy and a form of reason we can all afford.

    • cigfran

      I was not assailing his or anyone's sincerity. I was pointing out a perspective. Nor was I suggesting that one "needs" to be affiliated with Christianity in order to hold a certain position… I was merely suggesting a certain irony.

      • Sorry I misunderstood your point, then.

  • jp1171

    I am both a fiscally conservative Republican and a Wiccan which some people seem to find a contradiction. I am not however socially conservative and find the Tea Party's views on most social matters very outdated. I have wondered from time to time exactly how rare a combo a Wiccan/Republican actually is. Any others out there?

  • Pan in Louisiana

    I disagree. It is mandatory for parents in all industrialized countries of the world to send their children to school, or to at least provide for their education through home schooling, and nobody seems to feel this to be overly intrusive. In view of this, is the state’s intervention to preserve the very life of a fetus against it’s mother’s will an unjustifiable intrusion by the state, whilst the mandating of school attendance (with or parental consent) is held not to be unjustifiably intrusive, the argument being this would be done to the benefit of the child?