Quick Notes: Pagan Councils, Fundamentalism Clarifications, and The Green Man

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  February 4, 2013 — 19 Comments

Just a few quick notes to start off your Monday.

A History of Pagan Councils in the United States: In my recent examination of the Pagan label, I pointed to Chas Clifton’s “Her Hidden Children” while examining how “Pagan” became the default term for our interconnected movement. In that process I also mentioned the early Pagan councils of the 1960s and 1970s, which were largely failures, but did lay ground for future cooperation and the creation of a “Pagan community.” For more depth on the topic of early Pagan councils and similar initiatives, I would point you to Aidan Kelly’s blog at Patheos which has been running a series on those early councils, and how they eventually led to the creation of the Covenant of the Goddess (COG).

Oberon (Tim) Zell, an important figure in the early Pagan councils.

Oberon (Tim) Zell, an important figure in the early Pagan councils.

“The attempt to create an umbrella, church-like organization for Pagans was begun by Michael Kinghorn in Los Angeles in 1967. His work led to the creation of the Council of Themis, which, after being founded in 1969, acquired an international membership steadily until 1972. […] Given the profound theological differences between these groups, it should not be surprising that their coalition was inherently unstable.”

I recommend tracking down all the posts in that series, and his other posts on the history of Wicca and Witchcraft in North America. I recognize that Kelly can be a controversial figure for some, but his work here is much-needed. If we are going to be having debates and discussions about the future of the Pagan label, we should understand the history that formed the current understandings and institutions that many of us now participate in.

Sabina Magliocco Clarifies What Her Pagan Studies Conference Keynote Says: There has been a lot of discussion stemming from The Wild Hunt’s coverage of the ninth annual Conference on Current Pagan Studies, specifically the lecture by Dr. Sabina Magliocco, Professor of Anthropology at California State University, Northridge, and author of “Witching Culture: Folklore and Neo-Paganism in America” entitled “The Rise of Pagan Fundamentalism.” In a comment on the original story on the orignal story by contributor Patrick Wolff, Magliocco clarifies an “unintentional misrepresentation” in Wolff’s reporting.

Sabina Magliocco at the Conference on Current Pagan Studies. (Photo: Tony Mierzwicki)

Sabina Magliocco at the Conference on Current Pagan Studies. (Photo: Tony Mierzwicki)

“I think there may have been an unintentional misrepresentation of what I actually said. My argument was that constructing a shared identity around belief is problematic, because belief is based on experience. If the gods choose to reveal themselves differently to different people, and if belief is changeable and emergent, as belief scholarship shows it to be, then shared identity needs to be based on something other than belief.

Let me also clarify that belief in and of itself is not “fundamentalist” ( a word I adopted polemically and with some reservations). It is the insistence that only one sort of belief is correct, and the demonization of those who disagree or whose experience is different, that can lead to a dogmatic rigidity that we might want to avoid.”

I have been in contact with Dr. Magliocco, and I’m hoping to showcase a longer essay from her regarding some of these issues very soon. As the editor of The Wild Hunt, I’d like to personally apologize for any misrepresentations, unintentional or not, that may have been spread regarding her work. We always strive to accurately report the positions of figures within our community that we report on, and are committed to correcting our account when mistakes happen.

The Green Man is a Green Terrorist: In a final, unrelated, note, English poet, actor, and playwright Heathcote Williams has released a new poem entitled “The Green Man is a Green Terrorist.” According to culture critic Jan Herman, it is “a rhymed marvel of CAT-scan clarity” that  “will be seen one day as a YouTube classic.”

Thanks to subversive stone masons in the Middle Ages
This green remnant of man’s pagan past
Finds its way onto church ceilings, corbels, and bosses
Along with Sheela na gigs mad with lust.

Williams is best known for his environmentally themed poems, most notably “Whale Nation.” What do you think? Classic? Or stuff that’s been done before, just not to a non-Pagan audience?

That’s all I have for the moment. Have a great day!

Jason Pitzl-Waters


  • Medeina Ragana

    Talking about The Green Man, I highly recommend William Anderson’s book: Green Man: The Archetype of our Oneness with the Earth, which came out in 1990 and has wonderful photos by Clive Hicks. As an art student, the photos alone prick my imagination.

    • Deborah Bender

      Anderson’s book includes a very good poem he wrote taking the Green Man through the mythic year, based upon Robert Graves’ Celtic tree calendar in The White Goddess. My primary Craft tradition was influenced by The White Goddess, and I’ve incorporated this poem into sabbat rituals.

  • There are some who call Oberon Zell…Tim.

  • cernowain greenman

    What a cool video about the Greenman. There were several things in it that I did not know.

    You can also find the “Greenman and the Muse” singing about the Greenman and springtime coming at


    Forgive me, Jason, for the blatant self-promotion. bb, Cern

  • Kilmrnock

    Thank You for clearing up those points about Pagan Fundimentalists , i feel a wee bit betters now . Mostly due to that Green Man piece , love it .Sorry if i got a bit riled up in my last posting here .The implication that those of us in the polytheistic vain follow our gods b/c of rebelling against those who follow an architype is totaly off base . Polytheistic ways/faiths as you know are what the origonal Pre Christian Pagans were and what we recons are trying to re establish.Thank You again Jason for clearing that up.

    • Northern_Light_27

      Yeah, I think there was just some clumsy wording going on in that post which is thankfully cleared up now (thank you, Jason, Mr. Wolff and Dr. Magliocco!). The impression I had of what you’re talking about isn’t that anyone thought that polytheist beliefs or reverence happens as a reaction to soft polytheism or naturalistic/humanistic Paganism, but more that there seems to be a recent interest by some of *insisting* on hard polytheism in reaction to these other elements in Paganism (for example, comments here in past months telling Pagans who aren’t believers that they have no business being at devotional rituals, and that they’re “just cosplaying/LARPing”. I don’t think anyone meant to imply that the hard polytheistic beliefs of people who have such opinions *themselves* are reactionary to other kinds of Paganism, but the emergence of a “your belief level must be this tall to (attend ritual/be a proper Pagan)” kind of thinking does seem to be. Does that make more sense?

      • Kilmrnock

        Agreed , i fully understand who a pagan fundie would be and how such a person would act. What upset me was the implication that polytheism is a reaction to softer forms of paganism and also fundimentalist , architypal beliefs , Wicca etc .When in fact as most here and i would hope academics know polytheism is the origonal form of paganism. And the fact that recons are rebuilding the pre Christian forms of polytheistic ancient paganism in a modern context . Most of us in the recon ranks don’t really care or would want to react to softer forms of paganism as has been implied.By the definition of what a fundie is , there are probably Wiccan fundies out there . A Fundie can be of any faith .

        • Baruch Dreamstalker

          Methinks The Wild Hunt is the beta test for this use of the term.

        • Northern_Light_27

          You’re being very obtuse about this and I don’t get why. There was one sentence that was further clarified in the comments to *not* mean the implication you’re so upset about. It was a bad wording in a summary not by the original speaker, not an intentional bad-faith argument. Also, the original post gave a long example of Wiccan fundamentalism too, so *your* implication that Dr. Magliocco is somehow just dissing on Recons is unsupportable.

          I’m also curious about your tense (I don’t know the proper grammatical word for “would” be instead of “are”– conditional?) in the first sentence. Is that just an awkward wording, or do you believe there aren’t such people saying such things?

          • BlackNyx

            So loving you for saying this. I actually stopped seriously considering their comment after the misspelling of archetypal.

  • Thank you for sharing the poem — I love it.

  • If Professor Magliocco is truly interesting in clarifying her position then all she needs to do is to state very clearly who these fundamentalists are, and what their fundamentalism consists of. Anything else is just obfuscation.

  • “Classic? Or stuff that’s been done before, just not to a non-Pagan audience?”

    This has certainly been done for non-Pagan audiences before:

    “See the Green Man blow his kiss from the church wall/an unknowing church will amplify his call” -XTC, “Green Man”

  • PJ

    I certainly enjoyed the Green Man poem. And though the subject matter not be new, Williams has a wonderful lyrical quality and is obviously a good poet. I try not to be a snob, but some of what passes as poetry in the Pagan community makes this English major cringe a little inside.

  • Meanwhile, on Facebook Magliocco is screaming bloody murder. Apparently she feels that she is the target of a malicious campaign by unnamed individuals who are out to “impugn” her and attack her “integrity”. She claims that this is the same group “who went on a rampage against Pagan academics two years ago.”

    She has also accused the people who criticized her recent talk of being “trolls and online bullies” and she calls on others to join her in a campaign to silence those voices.

    Just to “clarify”: I am not on facebook – but these quotes from Magliocco have been posted in public spaces elsewhere on the internet, such as in the comments section on this blog post:

    • BlackNyx

      Do you have a mental problem? Just wondering.

      • Here is my “problem”: Magliocco is rather viciously maligning all those who criticized her recent talk on “The Rise of Pagan Fundamentalism” (I was not one of those critics, by the way), while at the same time she, and some of her public supporters, hypocritically make sanctimonious pronouncements about the proper way to conduct civil, intelligent discussions on teh intertubes.