Pagan Voices: Dawn Hunt, Porsha Williams, T. Thorn Coyle, and More!

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  May 20, 2013 — 29 Comments

Pagan voices is a spotlight on recent quotations from figures within the Pagan community. These voices may appear in the burgeoning Pagan media, or from a mainstream outlet, but all showcase our wisdom, thought processes, and evolution in the public eye. Is there a Pagan voice you’d like to see highlighted? Drop me a line with a link to the story, post, or audio.

Dawn Hunt

Dawn Hunt

“It was a cool October morning and I had just finished a mediation to draw abundance and growth into my work. The phone rang and a lovely perky voice said “Hi Dawn! We have heard about you and think your website is wonderful!” She then went on to say that she worked for a large TV network and that they were looking for someone to represent the Pagan community on the show this year. With disbelief I listened intently. She described how she had called around and heard of Cucina Aurora Kitchen Witchery. Would I come down to Boston to cook for the preliminary judges? Hummmmm. Lemme Think….HELL YES!” – Dawn Hunt, owner of Cucina Aurora Kitchen Witchery, documenting her journey towards competing on the new season of Gordon Ramsey’s MasterChef (press release here).

Sannion

Sannion

“The first thing that I would tell them is that if all you’re going to be doing to honor the god is throw a party – then throw a huge party! Do it up right. Bed sheet togas and faux Classical decorations and the occasional “Hail Bacchus!” as someone slurps down jello-shots like brightly colored slugs? That’s fudging child’s play. He deserves better than that. Put some real thought and creativity into the proceedings. If you’re not giving him the fruit of genuine worship the least you can do is put on a decent show for his entertainment. Let your inner Martha Stewart loose. Torches and masks and swaths of fabric everywhere, grapelights and dildos and a giant ivy-decked idol in the center of the room … that’s a good start. But keep going. You’re only limited by your imagination. Aitch ee double hockey sticks, why not try something really fun and transgressive and have folks come in drag?” – Sannion, a Dionysian, on the question of what he’d do if frat boys came looking for advice on how to throw a party for Dionysos.

Joseph Bloch

Joseph Bloch

“One thing I often see, both from the reconstructionist and non-recon sides of Paganism, is a blind spot when it comes to sources that derive from Christian writers. I see this a lot particularly in Ásatrú and related Heathen faiths: when there’s a debate on something in the Sagas, or the Eddas, someone will inevitably chime in with the fact that most of the written lore comes down to us from Christian writers, who were writing after the official conversion from Heathen beliefs to Christianity, as if to shut down the discussion by impugning the sources. The reality, of course, is that without the written sources, we would know next to nothing about the religion of the Norse. Indeed, much of our knowledge of Roman Pagan religion also comes to us from Christian sources, and the watchword from a Pagan or Heathen point of view could be, ‘If the Christians were against it, it’s probably a good idea.’” – Joseph Bloch, at his Witches & Pagans blog, arguing the Pagans can learn a lot from the Christians.

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

“The stories of the Christian tradition being built “on the blood of the martyrs” is a shaky notion at best from a historical viewpoint. Yet it has been used to assert the “Truth” of the Christian faith: no one would show the kind of courage it takes to die a martyr’s death if the undeniable “Truth” of the Christian Gospel were not true. It is, therefore, a kind of axiom that if one is persecuted for one’s Christian faith, then that demonstrates how “right” one is and how “true” one’s faith happens to be. In light of Moss’ historical investigation, this is a completely untenable position. Why, then, can’t the truth of Islam be claimed by the fact that various Muslim terrorists decide to blow themselves up on behalf of it? Double standards do not work in this case, or in any case where martyrdom is used as proof of a religion’s veracity. While there is much more of value in this book to explore and contemplate, it is this point that I think is the most important—not just for us as Pagans (and queer people!) to know in our dealings with Christians, but to know in our dealings with the rest of the world as well.”P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, citing the work of Candia Moss’ “The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom,” and noting how it hold lessons for modern Pagans.

T. Thorn Coyle

T. Thorn Coyle

“When we work toward our own healing, everything changes. Things ebb and flow – there will be times when we retreat from our interactions with the world in order to do some deep re-assessment or healing work that can’t be done during too much engagement. But then we cycle back out: we bring our healing selves into the world of change, into the world of joy, into the world of pain. [...] I won’t list everything that feels like it is going wrong in the world: all you have to do is check out the BBC, or Al Jazeera, or your Twitter feed to see it. I just want to remind us all that everything we do to counter injustice, dis-ease, hatred, or isolation, is a victory for the impetus of healing. The personal is political. The political is personal. We are interwoven. Re-member.”T. Thorn Coyle on becoming healers. 

Porsha Williams

Porsha Williams

“But Paganism – when you say the word ‘Pagan,’ ‘Kemetic’ or otherwise, their immediate thought is devil worship, they don’t see that there is any other religion, other than that, they don’t recognize it. Everyone goes to church every Sunday, you either go to the Methodist, church, the Lutheran church or the Baptist church. There are no ifs, ands or buts about it. And everyone knows and sees everyone, so not to see me there, knowing that I was raised in that church, and then to realize why, because I’m very open about it – that was hard on my parents … and it was hard on me because it alienated me more.” – Porsha Williams, speaking to a NPR Missouri affiliate about her conversion from Christianity to Kemeticism.

Frater Barrabbas (left) with fellow magician Tony Mierzwicki.

Frater Barrabbas (left) with fellow magician Tony Mierzwicki.

“However we judge Brian Daniels, he deserved to live out his full life without being murdered. It is an object lesson to all occultists that we need to ensure our own safety and well-being, despite the capriciousness of fate and that bad things do happen every day. It is also sad because even though Brian was one of those individuals who delighted in the “ooky-spooky” aspects of the occult, he was essentially harmless. Whether or not he was ever able to deal with his lifetime of mental problems and serious psychological defects will never be known. His story will remain basically untold, but one can assume that such troubles are never fully eliminated, and they may have contributed to the obvious poor choices that he made in regards to the affairs of the heart. Those poor choices prematurely ended his life; but I suspect that he was likely also lonely and without family support and care, and this can lead nearly anyone to make bad choices as far as friends and lovers are concerned. May whatever Deities were in alignment to Brian Daniels at the end assoil his troubled spirit and keep him in a place of peace forever.  All of this is, of course, quite sobering to me, and it shows that human nature is fragile, relationships and trust must be given to those who are truly worthy, and that life is precious. We must guard ourselves from the iniquities of those who would do us egregious harm, and seek the blessings of the Gods to ensure that this state is maintained.” – Frater Barrabas, on the murder of Brian Daniels, an occultist with whom he was acquainted.

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

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

    Robert Bloch: “Indeed, much of our knowledge of Roman Pagan religion also comes to us from Christian sources.”

    This is completely untrue. There is absolutely no need to rely on Christian sources for learning about Roman Paganism. In fact there is every reason to avoid Christian sources like the spiritual and intellectual plague that they are.

    If one is interested in Roman Paganism then one should devote oneself to the intensive study of Vergil, Cicero, Seneca, Ovid, Livy, Horace, Lucretius, Tacitus, Apuleius, Manilius, Macrobius, etc. Of course, one must also study Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Ptolemy, Plotinus, Porphyry, Iamblichus, Proclus, etc, as well, for when it comes to Roman Paganism we must never neglect the vital Hellenistic component.

    Of course, one can make use of Christian sources, and I suppose that one must, in order to understand Christianity. But that falls under the heading of knowing one’s enemy, which is a necessary evil.

    • Deborah Bender

      There is one instance for which Robert Bloch’s statement is true, and that is for information about the secret parts of mystery cult rituals. Some of what we know about the secret portions of the Eleusinian Mysteries (for example) can be inferred from pagan sources, but there are details that can only be found in the writings of Christians who were initiated into the mysteries before they converted to Christianity.

      • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

        I don’t think there are any reliable sources that provide anything like actual “details” of the initiations. We have modern day examples of how former Pagans describe Paganism after they have converted, and this gives a good idea of how unreliable any similar ancient reports would be, in my opinion.

        • gary p golden jr

          I think you meant Joseph Bloch…

          If memory serves me correctly he has bounced around from asatru to roman recon to satanist to atheist to theodsman then something else now I am not sure if he is claiming to be heathen or not again.

          • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

            Yes – that’s the one. I have no idea where I got “Robert” from? I have corrected it. According to his profile at Witches & Pagans he has been a Heathen since 1989. But I honestly don’t know anything about him, and I am only responding to what he wrote in this particular article.

            I do think that it is essential for modern Pagans to appreciate the importance of the availability of Latin and Greek sources in which ancient Pagans in their own words discuss their religious beliefs and practices. A great many of these writings are readily available, for free, in English translations online. I have great respect for and a deep interest in Heathenry, as well as in Celtic, Slavic, Baltic and other ancient traditions as well, but we simply don’t have the same kind of direct unfiltered access to what those ancient peoples had to say for themselves.

          • cernowain greenman

            I will race you to the Loeb library!

          • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

            Yes! I often joke, although it is really only half-jokingly, that Loeb is my favorite Pagan publisher.

          • Joseph Bloch

            My spiritual journey hasn’t been quite the chaotic pinball game you describe, Gary. :-) It’s true that I’ve gone through different phases (although the Satanism was back in my college days, way longer in the past than I care to remember), and I’ve come through each with a deeper appreciation for the whole wonderful mass of things that are Paganism and Heathenry.

          • Northern_Light_27

            Oh no, someone took a while to find where they belonged? Well, we all know someone’s religious affiliation is only valid if they found it right away and never wavered. Otherwise it’s just a “claim”, right?

          • gary p golden jr

            Joe’s “belonging”…or lack thereof…out here is well known Northern..do you know Joe?

            Thanks for participating…

          • Joseph Bloch

            I confess I don’t seem to remember you outside the comments section here, Gary…

          • gary p golden jr

            that’s ok Joe, I won’t hold it against you.

          • Joseph Bloch

            Well thank goodness for that– you seem to hold a lot of other things against me, so having one less thing is a plus. ;-)

            In all seriousness, if you’re going to be at ECT this year (no idea if you’re in range or not), I’d like to buy you a beer. I’m really not that awful a guy.

          • gary p golden jr

            Netimus is an hour from me and 15min from my parents. We haven’t gone since 2010 ’cause the kids are too small, we are trying to get there this year but have to wait and see.

    • Joseph Bloch

      “If one is interested in Roman Paganism then one should devote oneself to the intensive study of Vergil, Cicero, Seneca, Ovid, Livy, Horace, Lucretius, Tacitus, Apuleius, Manilius, Macrobius, etc. Of course, one must also study Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Ptolemy, Plotinus, Porphyry, Iamblichus, Proclus, etc”

      I’ll see you and raise you Acts, Arnobius, Augustine (whence we know of Marcus Terentius Varro’s lost work Antiquitates rerum humanarum et divinarum), Comparison of Mosaic and Roman Law (anon.), Firmicus Maternus, Gelasius (writing about the Lupercalia), Hippolytus, Irenaeus, Justin, Lactantius, Minucius Felix, Origen (whence we know of Celsus’ lost work defending Paganism and attacking Christianity from a Pagan perspective), Prudentius, etc. etc. etc.

      My point being that by shutting out such works merely because their authors weren’t themselves Pagan, despite that they were discussing Paganism both in broad strokes and in specific details, you deprive yourself of an invaluable resource to help present a complete picture of classical religion. That’s your choice entirely, of course.

      I was (and am) merely arguing against a position of close-mindedness on the subject of sources. Academic scholars don’t scruple against using Christian and Pagan sources when studying Paganism, and neither should we.

      • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

        Joseph Bloch: “I’ll see you and raise you ……”

        You can only “raise” if you are placing on the table something of a higher value than what is already there. Obviously the works of Pagan authors describing Pagan beliefs first hand from their own perspective in their own words are infinitely more valuable than bits and pieces of Pagan works “preserved” by those same Christians who consigned Pagan writings to the flames.

        • Joseph Bloch

          “I bet 10.”

          “I see you and raise you 10.”

          Is the 10 I bet of a “higher value” than the 10 you did? Of course not. They are additive. Just like the Christian sources talking about Paganism are additive to the Pagan sources talking about Paganism.

          The fact that you are so blinded by anti-Christian bias that you can’t see there could, even possibly, be something contained in Christian sources that the Pagan sources did not record, makes my point.

          • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

            I am not at all blinded by anti-Christian bias. And I am quite certain that I have much greater familiarity with and understanding of both ancient and modern Christian writers (and all those in between) than you do or ever will. It’s just that we must recognize the likes of Irenaeus, Lactantius, Eusebius, Augustine, & Co. for what they are.

          • Joseph Bloch

            Three days ago you said “There is absolutely no need to rely on Christian sources for learning about Roman Paganism. In fact there is every reason to avoid Christian sources like the spiritual and intellectual plague that they are.”

            If you can’t see that using hyperbole like “spiritual and intellectual plague” reflects an anti-Christian bias, then you’re just too far gone.

          • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

            I absolutely believe Christianity to be a spiritual and intellectual plague on humanity. This is not a matter of bias (or of hyperbole), but simply a well-reasoned opinion based on fact.

            Christianity has for 2000 years waged spiritual warfare against all other forms of religion, while also managing to engage in endless fratricidal violence among themselves. I can only agree with Thomas Paine, who wrote, in his magnum opus, The Age of Reason:

            “Of all the systems of religion that ever were invented, there is none more derogatory to the Almighty, more unedifying to man, more repugnant to reason, and more contradictory in itself, than this thing called Christianity. Too absurd for belief, too impossible to convince, and too inconsistent for practice, it renders the heart torpid, or produces only atheists and fanatics. As an engine of power it serves the purpose of despotism; and as a means of wealth, the avarice of priests; but so far as respects the good of man in general, it leads to nothing here or hereafter.”

  • ChristopherBlackwell

    I enjoy posts like this one today because they lead us to discover what some of the thinkers in our community write. This is far more interesting than most of the stuff we see on Pagan forums, and many of the Pagan blog. As a Wiccan I am often surprised on how little Wiccan related stuff shows up on a Wiccan forum.

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      As a non-Wiccan I am always disappointed at how much Wicca dominates Paganism.

      • ChristopherBlackwell

        It seems like that could easily be solved, simply have more people of the other religions write more often. If they write for people in their community only, then how can the rest of us learn from them? Though Wiccan myself, I also read what Heathens, and Druids say and I am open to reading others when I find them available. Just as I interview such in ACTION, I am sure that Jason Pitzi-Waters here are The Wild hunt would be just as ready to publish their views. I have never seen him form a bias for, or against a religion here.

        • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

          On the other hand, the Wild Hunt is under no obligation to be all things to all people. And, for that matter, there is already quite a lot of non-Wiccan (Heathen, Hellenic, Kemetic, Afro-Caribbean, Druid, Atheist, …) content at the Wild Hunt.

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

          I wasn’t on about just here. I meant in general. Getting more people of non-Wicca to write won’t really change much.

          It is simply a matter of numbers. Wicca and Wicca derived Paganism are the most common forms of Paganism, by far.

          As such, I have to expect a proportional representation in Pagan media.

          Would it make sense for a minority form of Paganism to dominate?

          I can accept the reality of the situation, I just can’t bring myself to be happy with it.

          • ChristopherBlackwell

            Look even as a Wiccan I often am happy to hear what others in other religion say. Heathen for instance approach their gods and their ancestors, as well as various land spirits, in quite a different way from Wiccans. Druids also may show another way to look at doing ceremony or at looking what their role is in the 21st century.

            Meanwhile while different, we still may have some similar problems and different ways that we try to solve them. I feel that understanding our similarities and our differences are use to me as a person. It is really quite easy to get isolated as some of the Christians are without understanding what others are doing. This is one of the things that I fight within Wicca.

            Then there is the matter of working with people that we disagree with on some things in our own religion, as well as other religions. That alone can cause a lot of bad feeling if you come to think that your ways is the only way. So being aware that there are great differences allows me to work with others on common problems even if I may disagree with them on this or that thing.

            It is the nature of our religions to develop very individual ways of approaching things. I honestly don’t think anyone want to homogenize our experiance. We are different people so there must alway b different ways open to each person.

            Some of us may change religion at some point in our developmnent. Certainly I have seen this many times in Wicca. It is better for us al if everyone finds the religion that functions best for them or that they are most fitted to

  • Nick Ritter

    “The reality, of course, is that without the written sources, we would know next to nothing about the religion of the Norse.”

    Joseph and I tend not to see eye-to-eye very often, but I certainly agree with what he has written here. I have had a few conversations (debates, really) with folks who reject most of what is known about Germanic religion through the rejection of anything that was written down after the conversion – which is nearly everything in the corpus. Some even go so far as to reject the Poetic Edda, because it was presumably redacted (and therefore possibly edited) by a Christian.

    The fact is, though, that our understanding of our religion is absolutely dependent upon these texts. The Poetic Edda is pretty amazing as a body of mythological and epic poetry, and if we didn’t have it we would wish that we did. While I do think that a knowledge of our written sources and their contexts and motives (*including* those written before the conversion) is absolutely important, I see nothing to gain by rejecting these important sources of data as irrelevant to reconstruction.

    • Deborah Bender

      Several of the scriptural religions also work from texts that have been edited, rewritten and redacted by factions with particular points of view. Scholars of Judaism and Christianity study pagan texts; for example, a lot has been learned about the Psalms by studying Ugaritic hymns. One has to take bias and transmission losses into account when reading anything.

    • Joseph Bloch

      “Joseph and I tend not to see eye-to-eye very often, but I certainly agree with what he has written here.”

      From what I can tell, you and I agree on just about everything religious. It’s just the external politics we disagree on, and I don’t see why the one should spoil the other.