Pagans on HuffPost Live & Conan + Peter Dybing on Sandy Aftermath

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  November 3, 2012 — 10 Comments

Pagans are a part of the web and weave of everyday culture. We’ve emerged from being a largely subcultural religious phenomenon and have steadily gained increasing attention, most notably from the mainstream media. For example, The Huffington Post’s new HuffPost Live initiative held a group interview on Halloween with Teo BishopAmy BlackthornGus DiZeregaMorgan Copeland and Patrick McCollum. As expected, they covered some basics, talked about Samhain, and shared their personal perspectives on modern Paganism.

HuffPo Screenshot

You can watch the entire interview, here. In addition, Teo Bishop shares some of the conversation that happened after the formal interview ended.

“Perhaps the most exciting part of the experience for me was what happened after the Google Hangout ended. The panelists stayed on the call and talked for a good 30 minutes more, sharing perspectives about a whole variety of topics. We re-addressed some of what happened while we were on the air, and there are a few things that stuck out that I’d like to get your take on.”

A shame the follow-up conversation wasn’t recorded! In any case, this was a nice Pagan-centered exploration of our interconnected faiths, and I’m glad that HuffPost Live garnered such an impressive lineup! Congratulations!

On a less serious note – Pagans also got a bit of inadvertent mainstream attention from late-night talk show host Conan O’Brien when he showcased a number of magazines that will outlive Newsweek’s print edition. Among the titles picked? Why our own Witches & Pagans Magazine, featuring M. Macha NightMare on the cover!

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You can get a closer shot of Conan holding the magazine, here. You can watch the entire video segment, here. Now W&P editor Anne Newkirk Niven (and Macha) can add “as seen on Conan” to her publications resume! For those worried about if this was a negative portrayal, don’t worry, Conan’s show is on TBS.

On a more serious note, while it’s fun to see ourselves on HuffPost Live, or even on Conan, it’s good to remember that we’re more than what appears on popular media outlets. That many Pagans are dedicated to service, healing, and responding to those in need. Pagan elder Peter Dybing, a first responder who has served in earthquake-ravaged Haiti, the Gulf Coast during the Deepwater Horizon disaster, and several larger forest/brush fires, reports from an East Coast ravaged by Hurricane Sandy.

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An overview of the fire damage in Queens, New York, following Hurricane Sandy.

“As new missions evolve and priorities change the mission of my team keeps changing. Primarily we are clearing roads of downed trees so relief supplies and emergency vehicles can get through. The devastation is complete along the shore on Long Island. Thousands of cars along with hundreds of homes lie buried in the sand. Most heart breaking of all is the evacuee’s staying in the same place as the disaster teams. Their stories of hardship and loss have brought me to tears on multiple occasions. Hardest of all is remaining focused on our mission and not assisting the evacuees with issues outside our assignment.  My heart breaks for these families.” 

For some Pagan efforts to raise money for those affected by Hurricane Sandy, see my Community Notes post from Thursday. Our prayers go with Peter and all the other first responders working in the aftermath to help those affected rebuild. Our prayers also go out to those still struggling without power, without resources, or without a home.

Taken together, these impression complicate the picture some try to paint of our faiths, our movement. It reminds the world that we share their common humanity, and that we are a part of a larger community, even as we are a part of our own.

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Jason Pitzl-Waters


  • Tara “Masery” Miller

    These are the stories that uplift my heart. It shows the best of our community and how we are growing as a community. What may have started out as a band of misfits is becoming a wide range of Pagans with various beliefs who are learning to communicate better among ourselves, the wider world (magazines and live interviews), and offer our services.

  • LoriBische

    “For those worried about if this was a negative portrayal, don’t worry, Conan’s show is on TBS.” LOL

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    Pagans are a part of the web and weave of everyday culture. We’ve emerged from being a largely subcultural religious phenomenon and have steadily gained increasing attention, most notably from the mainstream media.

    These are not exactly polar opposites. A subculture can still get attention from the mainstream media — eg, the msm was all over the Haight-Ashburgy subculture like a bad suit in the Sixties. (There’s a tale that reporters from two different national media interviewed each other in a Haight shop, each under the impression that the other was the store manager.) How does a largely personally-adopted persuasion qualify as a subculture, anyway? Having its own shelf in major bookstores, versus being shelved in the general religion section?

    My beat-up Webster’s, which is almost as old as I am, defines “subculture” (after dispensing with the bio-lab definition) as “an ethnic, regional, economic or social group exhibiting characteristic patterns of behavior sufficient to distinguish it from others within an embracing culture or society,” and gives the example of a criminal subculture. On the strength of which I would say that we remain a subculture no matter how much positive media attention we get.
    We would cease to be a subculture, I suppose, if Paganism became the majority or plurality faith in our society. I’m not holding my breath.

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      I’d like to see (a form of) Paganism become the majority religion in at least one major ‘Western’ country. England, perhaps.

      • Baruch Dreamstalker

        Sorry, I was thinking of the USA when I wrote that. Americans are just too widely God-struck. Western Europe, I agree, is another matter.

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

          Oh it stands up pretty well here, too.

          I was just saying that I’d like to see England (my own country) become predominantly Pagan.

  • Charles Cosimano

    Does the phrase “freak of the week” have a meaning?

  • Kauko

    Come on now, raise your hand if you have a subscription to Racing Pigeon Pictorial International. You know you want to….
    But seriously, the reaction to Witches & Pagans by the audience is proof of how far we have to go in convincing the general public that they should take us seriously.

  • Peter Dybing

    Pagan Nurses, Firefighters, Police and teachers are are all good examples of Pagans in service. It is important to keep perspective that all Pagans in service are just a small part of the larger service community. Tens of thousands of wonderful human beings are responding in service. Most striking However is storm victims responding to help each other in this situation with no training, resources, or supplies of their own. For me the shared humanity of these individuals on display gives me hope for humanity. As responders we get much attention that should be invested in sharing the stories of our brave American community. Blessings to all!

    • Rhalynn Blackburn

      Mr. Dybing thank you for all you do! And thanks to all the wonderful people, pagan or not, coming together on this. I just got to NJ set night to assist with power restoration, so I haven’t seen the devastation first hand, but I hope I can keep from crying as I witness it over the next two weeks. Keep up the fantastic work, you are an inspiration!

      Brightest blessings!