How Pagans Got Their News Before the Internet

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  June 3, 2012 — 20 Comments

Recently, the magazine Witches & Pagans, a print periodical that has served the Pagan community for many years (albeit under a different name), added the feed for this site (with my permission) to their website. I see this as somewhat momentous, as it cements, at least in my mind, the new normal of Pagan-oriented media in the 21st century. There will always be a place for print magazines and journals in our community, see newer efforts like Modern Witch Magazine or Abraxas as proof, but of-the-moment breaking news and updates on developing stories has moved to the Internet. This isn’t a criticism of magazines, simply a statement that our strengths lie in different directions. Today, a large percentage of Pagans find out about what’s happening regarding their co-religionists online, either from blogs like mine, or on email lists and social networking sites.

This rapid change in the way we get our news has happened in less than a decade. When I started The Wild Hunt in 2004 there were only a handful of Pagan blogs, and most of them were more personal journals than news sources. While message boards and e-mail lists had been a growing source of news-sharing for years (not to mention the amazing Witches’ Voice), periodicals still acted as the official “record” of our community, a hold-over from a earlier time when that form of media was truly the only way Pagans in California could find out what was happening in New York (and vice versa). While a lot of attention has been paid to the magazine Green Egg’s important role in our community, it should be noted that they didn’t exist in a vacuum. It was preceded by small newsletters like The Pentagram and The Waxing Moon (publicized in magazines like Fate), and by the 1970s, Green Egg co-existed with Llewellyn’s Gnostica and Herman Slater’s Earth Religion News.

Earth Religion News (1974)

Earth Religion News (1974)

For a blast from the past, you can read the entirety of volume 1, issue 4 of Earth Religion News, here. In it are articles like “Wither Witchcraft? Spiritual Leadership or Oblivion,” “My Satanic Adventures” (by Isaac Bonewits), a report on the (short-lived) California Pagan Council (an anti-sexual discrimination stand was on the agenda), and book reviews (because all Pagan magazines are contractually required to include a book review section). It’s the next best thing to time-travel in finding out what Pagans were thinking, fighting over, and planning a generation ago, without the filter of hindsight or revisionism.

While I think that Pagan media has only gotten better and better, creating a culture of news, interview, and commentary that is surprisingly mature for a community that is still as (relatively) small as we are, we must also ensure that this treasure-trove of knowledge, this archive of our own history, is not lost. There should be a digital indexed archive of these periodicals, one easily accessible to scholars, historians, and curious members of the Pagan community. We’re lucky in that magazines like PanGaia (the precursor to Witches & Pagans) have made digital versions of their entire run available for purchase, but there are huge gaps with the older magazines. As the creators of these magazines age, and pass on, it becomes harder and harder to create such an archive.

I’m hoping that as initiatives like the New Alexandrian Library Project and the OHF Pagan Library mature, perhaps a joint initiative between Pagan organizations and learning institutions can be created to make real headway on this before the task becomes insurmountable. Likewise, I think that those of us creating news and media now should look to how will will archive and make accessible our own work for future generations. There should be an agreed-on standard for how we’ll do this, and how we’ll make it available to researchers. Things are moving pretty fast, and what form our media will take in 20 years may be radically different from how we consume it now. These proposals may seem like huge tasks, but the longer we wait, the more we risk losing. How Pagans get their news, and what news they feel is important is a vital window into how a community, a movement, functions. As Pagans, we know that preserving our history is important, let’s not lose sight of that.

Send to Kindle

Jason Pitzl-Waters

Posts

  • http://drubear.livejournal.com csherbak

    Oh my, that is a blast from the past. I’ll see what’s left of my collection – we had a basement last year and I lost a lot. Many of the RDNA Groves and CAW Nests also published, along with Khephra from Church of the Eternal Source. Also at the time was the Crystal Well, published by Ed Fitch. I believe it was the first magazine that had full color covers. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tim-Workman/1011806271 Tim Workman

    Also we cant forget publications from the earlyer years, being the 80s and 90s, such as Hole in the Stone, Connections, and New Moon Rising

  • Donald Michael Kraig

    Years ago I asked Llewellyn owner Carl Weschcke about the possibility of making a “Best of Gnostica” book. Today, of course, I’d suggest a digital version. I was informed, however, that the challenge is still the same. Gnostic received the rights to publish articles in a magazine. To publish in a book or on line would require other permissions, and many of the writers have disappeared to the public or have entered the Summerlands. Right now, the best way to read some of the great articles from Gnostica is to find used copies.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charles-Cosimano/613012064 Charles Cosimano

      I am surprised.  I would have thought that the rights agreement would cover anthologies as well.

    • http://blog.chasclifton.com/ Chas Clifton

       Oberon Zell faced the same problem of tracking people down when editing Green Egg Omelette, but just put out the word to everyone he knew: “Whatever happened to X?” In most cases, they were located. I think you should do the book.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1650681499 Diotima Mantineia

    I have discussed preserving our online history with Fritz and Wren at Witchvox more than once. It’s not only the print magazines that need to be cared for and carefully archived. The Witches’ Voice (witchvox.com) is an historical treasure trove — it truly has been the voice of the community since 1997. Brand new essays, written by anyone in the community who had something to say, have been posted EVERY SINGLE WEEK for almost 15 years.

    For many years, Wren not only posted articles of interest to the Pagan community on Wren’s Nest, but devotedly moderated the comments. (We still do that on our Facebook page). Then there are the various white papers, the Press section, sections for Parents, the Military, Gays and Books, as well as the Earth and Traditions sections.

    And let’s not forget the profiles — the amazing database, Witches of the World, that Fritz carefully coded himself before Zuckerberg had even graduated high school. There are tens of thousands of entries for local Pagans, groups, events, clergy, etc. — all entirely searchable and organized by state and city. Personal profiles gave us a secure way to be contacted by seekers without disclosing personal information or an email address. Witches of the World is an amazing resource, and Fritz has devotedly maintained that database for years.

    It’s all still there — carefully preserved. I often wonder whether it will still be around in 50 or 100 years. I hope so — it’s a real pot of gold for the Pagan historian. 

    • http://www.wildhunt.org/blog/ Jason Pitzl-Waters

      I completely agree, I think there needs to be a joint, institutional, effort to archive our history, no matter where it originated. 

      • http://www.facebook.com/elizabeth.joy.rose Elizabeth Rose

         With the Pagan History Project and connectivity with the libraries, we’re working on it. Sabina Magliocco, Murtagh an Doile & a host of others are putting together what I think will eventually become a web of our history, in paper, on video & cyber forms. This was much discussed at the last Pantheacon, along with the need to grow Pagan Elders, service organizations and professional organizations. It’s in the air, Jason. There are so many interesting threads that lead to the beginnings of where we are now. Many of these start further back than you might imagine… (um, I don’t mean the paleolithic, but it does get interesting in the late 19th into early 20th centuries,)

      • http://blog.chasclifton.com/ Chas Clifton

         Here is where I make a plug for the Pagan Archives Project. Feel free to contribute information.

      • http://www.paganarchivesnetwork.org/ Cliff Landis

         I would like to echo Chas’ comment.  Over at the Pagan Archives Network (http://www.paganarchivesnetwork.org/), we’re trying to provide an online index to direct Pagan Studies scholars and students to research materials (archival materials, periodicals, oral histories, etc.).  The project is still in its early stages, but I’m trying to recurit as many Pagan and Pagan-friendly librarians, archivists and information professionals to help out in the project.  If you or someone you know may be interested, have them email pan@paganarchivesnetwork.org to get in touch.  Thanks!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charles-Cosimano/613012064 Charles Cosimano

    Gods!  I forgot just how bad that 70′s writing was.

  • http://www.facebook.com/EdAHubbard Ed Hubbard

    Just a  heads up, Green Egg is still being produced as a free online Magazine. They are working on creating archives of old issues as well. On the rights part, those agreements prior to the Internet Age is keeping a lot of magazines and newspapaers of publishing older material online.

    What I am learning about Pagan Media as I travel to the fests, is the lack of knowledge of source news materials across the board. As I was at Heartland with three Pagan Media outlets that less than 30% of all attendees even knew that one of them existed. Before that at CWSG in NOLA area, the number of people who did was even lower. Pantheacon I saw a majority of 70% who did not know a single source I mentioned. So it is not a matter of just preserving, but a Nels said last week, it is a matter of connection as well. 

    As a archivist myself, with literally hundreds of radio shows, video, and even 10 years of Roundtable Magazines, it is a important heritage. Unfortunately, it appears that most Pagans do not know about them, or even have a idea that they exist.

  • Daniel SnowKestral

    I really miss the magazine, “Pan Gaia.”  I do, however, love to also continually read the UK’s premiere Pagan and Witchcraft magazine, “Pentacle.” Within these last two years, “The Magical Times,” has become a favorite!

    • http://quakerpagan.org/ Cat C-B

      My favorite long-gone magazine was Enchante.  While the Pomegranate has taken its place as a home for scholarly articles on Pagan subjects, nothing has ever replaced for me Enchante’s many, many articles that were simply articulate and intelligent Pagans writing about what we think, what we feel, and what we do.

      While it didn’t last as long as many, John Yohalem’s magazine (with glorious full-color covers, long before Pan Gaia!) was formative for a lot of us.  Nothing could induce me to give up my collection of back issues!

    • http://www.witchesandpagans.com/ Anne Newkirk Niven

      PanGaia merged with newWitch to become Witches&Pagans in 2009. I like to think that much of the PanGaia aesthetic and depth remained in its successor.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rpaxton Robert Paxton

    Circle Sanctuary still produces CIRCLE Magazine (formerly Circle Network News) in part for that historical value — we have good reason to think that in a hundred years, researchers can go to the WI State Historical Society and other archives and use it as a primary reference.  

    We’ve also thought for years about digitizing the whole back catalog — just haven’t pulled together the volunteer effort needed to do it yet.  The old Network News issues are particularly knotty — they’re in tabloid format, and the layout folks at the time used a lot of jumps and sometimes differing font sizes.  It’s a lot of manual work.

    Someday, though…

    • http://quakerpagan.org/ Cat C-B

      My initiator earned my love and loyalty first with the loan of a shoebox of old Circle Network News issues.  I’m sure no one who has grown up with access to the Pagan Internet can imagine quite what those old, yellowing pages of newsprint meant to us at the time!

  • http://pagancowboyjoe.wordpress.com/ Pagan Cowboy Joe

    Some of my first interactions with paganism and the community were vie those print magazines… Having a tool like the internet to really connect and get information fast is wonderful, but I do miss the tactile intimacy of the print.

  • http://quakerpagan.org/ Cat C-B

    Now that brings me back… and it certainly ought to!

    My husband and I first got to know one another through an exchange of small, local Pagan zines.  (Pagan Paths, from the Wiccan Church of Vermont–later the Church of the Sacred Earth–and Moonrise, of Valley Pagan Web, respectively.)  We loved one another’s writing before we ever met face to face…

    Our coveners, OTOH, when we began teaching, we met mainly through BBSes online.  (Another blas from the past, spanning the pre-Internet and, for the next-to-last initiate, the full Internet era.)

    I owe a lot to Pagan publishing and writing…

  • http://www.witchesandpagans.com/ Anne Newkirk Niven

    Thanks, Jason, for the nod; Witches&Pagans (along with sister titles SageWoman and Crone) are still in print, albeit at a 3x a year schedule. We are also STILL 96 pages long! We’ve also got over 100 issues (Blessed Bee, Green Man, PanGaia, newWitch, and SageWoman, all of which we published) available in print editions
    and are slowly but surely digitizing the entire collection. We believe in print for long-form material but yield to the web for up-to-the-minute news and networking. We’ve also recently revitalized our witchesandpagans.com website and are now posting content every day there.