Pagan Voices: Courtney Weber, Gus DiZerega, Lupa, Arthur Pendragon, and More!

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  August 6, 2013 — 19 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.

Courtney Weber

Courtney Weber

Learn from rituals, but don’t nit-pick them. Trust me, my Coven of media specialists, writers, musicians, and copy-editors is wont to pull our shit apart and play the “pick out the not-perfect” bits. But we’ve finally learned that rituals should not be discussed for at least a few weeks after something is done. We file away moment of imperfections, suggestions for improvements, other ways to get to be even better at rituals into our mental rolodexes and take them back out when the time to plan our next ritual arises. We give respect to the experiences of those in the space, and the Spirit for attending. All other quirks can be worked out at another time. I can’t lie…I’ve been to some rituals that made me cringe. But I have to respect the fact that other people might be affected negatively by my piss-poor perfectionist attitude. I have to respect the fact that the energy of the ritual is still going after the fact. I can learn from the mistakes of others–and the mistakes I myself make–but if it’s a serious mistake that I will want to avoid next time, I’ll remember it.” – Courtney Weber, a Wiccan High Priestess, on learning to not “wine and cheese your rites.”

Gus DiZerega

Gus DiZerega

“The biggest and most divisive ethical issues of our time involve abortion and the environment. Does a zygote or fetus have sufficient moral standing to put its interests above those of the pregnant woman carrying it? If so, how much? Does the other-than-human world have any moral standing able to override human interests? If so, how much? Significantly, of those most opposing abortion, few have interest in or recognition of the other-than-human world’s moral standing.  On the other hand, most supporting a woman’s right to choose will be sympathetic to and sometimes deeply committed to environmental concerns. Individuals in both camps are usually ethically motivated, but they live in different ethical worlds. These contrasting moral visions reflect a schism going to the center of contemporary America, a genuine clash of cultures capable of tearing the country apart. One is ultimately rooted in an agricultural order, the other in our industrial one.” – Gus DiZerega, on how conflict over abortion and environmentalism are related, and what modern Paganism’s role is in these struggles.

Literata

Literata

“My religion encourages oral sex. Ken Cuccinelli, candidate for governor, wants to outlaw it. Why am I not the new face of the brave fight for religious liberty? Seriously, though: Ken Cuccinelli, the current attorney general of Virginia and Republican candidate for governor has just launched a new website as part of his campaign that argues in favor of a law which criminalizes oral and anal sex between consenting adults in private. [...]  quite frankly, my understanding of Wicca really does validate all kinds of consensual sex. It’s right there in the Charge of the Goddess: ‘All acts of love and pleasure are my rituals.’ The idea of ‘acts of love and pleasure’ is a very potent way of expressing my feminist ethic of consent to sex. I’m not going to consent to something that’s not pleasurable to me. If I can’t consent – if I can’t engage in love and pleasure – then whatever’s happening isn’t sex; it’s sexual assault, abuse, battery, or rape.” – Literata Hurley, a Wiccan and resident of Virginia, on Ken Cuccinelli’s campaign to reinstate Virginia’s unconstitutional Crimes Against Nature law.

Jason Mankey

Jason Mankey

“One of the things that Evangelicals don’t seem to understand is that people are tired of obstacles separating them from other faith communities. I’m not a Buddhist, but I want to walk a religious path that validates the choices of my Buddhist friends. I don’t walk with Jesus, but I’m fine with those that walk hand in hand with the hippy from the Galilee. People are tired of hearing how their friends are wrong, Paganism takes that antiquated rhetoric away. I’m not saying that everyone should roll the religion dice each morning (today I’m an Atheist Hellenic Thelemite!), but Paganism has never shut out wisdom, no matter where it comes from. [...]  like every generation we long to touch the sacred. For centuries touching the sacred was limited to Jesus and his Dad, but those days are over with, and people are waking up to the many and varied sacred currents that are around us all. Some find that connection to the sacred within the Earth and the change of the seasons. Some of us find it in more personal deities, gods and goddesses that come to us without centuries of misguided close mindedness. (Give me Pan rutting around in the woods over a god that would kill an entire country’s firstborn.) There will always be people who long for Jesus, and many good things (and some very bad) have been done in his name, but it’s getting harder and harder to lock out the Divine Feminine. Jesus might be calling, but I think She is too.” – Jason Mankey, on why Millennials love Paganism, and in answer to Christian writer Rachel Held Evan’s piece about why Millennials are leaving Christian churches.

Lupa

Lupa

“So many of our decisions have been made in ignorance of the effects of our actions. While the internet, antibiotics, and central heating have their definite uses, the most popular technologies used to create them have been developed with only our benefit–and the profit margin–in mind. It is plausible that many of the things we’ve created that have improved our species’ average quality of life could have been made in such a way that they didn’t negatively affect the lives of other beings (and some humans). Instead, we stand at a point in time where we’re watching thousands of species of animal, plant, and fungus die out every year, accelerated by our activities, and we still refuse as a whole to explore the depth of the connections we’ve been severing with each local, regional or complete extinction. Why don’t we emphasize to our children that the mycelial mat is at least as important as Thomas Edison’s inventions? In part, it’s due to selfishness. We don’t want to think about anything other than our own advancement and comfort. We want that plastic grocery bag to carry three small items in, dammit, and who cares about the oil it was made from, or the fact that it won’t break down for thousands of years? This doesn’t mean we should feel guilty for the things that have made our lives longer and healthier as a whole. We can explore whether a particular item is necessary, and whether its manufacture is as sustainable as it could be, without sacrificing our quality of life. It just means that we need to make more effort on the behalf of beings besides ourselves.” – Lupa, on recognizing that we are a part of something larger than ourselves.

Cat Chapin-Bishop

Cat Chapin-Bishop

“If I have no business turning you into a scapegoat for all the generations past who have ever harmed anyone in the name of Jesus, I also think you have no business turning me into a mascot for your tolerance and good intentions. I don’t want to be a symbol of your goodness; I don’t want to be anything more or less than what you probably want to be: a human being among other human beings. Along those lines, I ask you not to abuse your newfound (or longstanding) empathy for me and mine by rushing to speak for me. Specifically, I would ask that, as an advocate, you not speak to my concerns before you allow me a chance to speak them for myself. This is harder than it sounds, I know. Quakers love to set injustices right. We work hard to empathize with oppressed peoples. We want to be advocates. We want to be the good guys, and we want to speak out for people who have been marginalized, because it feels so good to be the voice of righteousness. However, it is tiresome to the person whose cause you’re espousing, to be spoken for when we’d rather speak for ourselves.  Certainly, we’d rather not be shut out of discussions of our needs by the voices of eager advocates.” – Cat Chapin-Bishop, from the second part of a letter sent to her Quaker Christian Friends (part one is here), on owning Christian privilege, and how to act once you have.

King Arthur Pendragon

King Arthur Pendragon

“As Druids, we believe that the Ancestors should be left to Rest in Peace and that the Sacredness of the site should not be desecrated in such a way, especially when there are many alternatives to this desecration. We have never been against Science or Education. We are however against the removal and display of our ancestors in such a manner. Whilst ‘Picketing’ at Stonehenge we gained support from peoples from each and every continent of many and of no faiths with the simple message “ Let those we Lay to Rest-Stay to Rest” and we challenged the Ministry of Justice’s decision to extend the ‘licence’ for study. That challenge will continue if ‘The Guardians’ are not returned and re-interred by August 2015. In the meanwhile we will ‘oppose’ English Heritage’s plans to display ‘our’ collective Ancestors, once buried at our most Sacred Site. This opposition will take many forms and we will call on the assistance of other like-minded Groups throughout the World if necessary, for let us not forget Stonehenge is designated as a World Heritage site. Like the ‘Guardians’ campaign, we will call for support from Any, All, and No faiths, who like us believe that the Dead should be left in peace. If English Heritage believe that they can ‘open’ their new visitors centre to a ‘fan-fare’ of common assent and complementary reports on the World stage, whilst planning to display our Guardians in such a macabre manner, they had better think again.”  – Activist and Druid leader King Arthur Pendragon, who is currently in a struggle to stop the display of human remains at Stonehenge’s new visitor’s center, calling it a desecration.

Holli S. Emore

Holli S. Emore

“Monday [August 5th] is the one-year anniversary of the shooting at the Oak Creek Sikh gurdwara in Wisconsin.  I was contacted for comment this morning by a reporter from our local news station.  Valarie Kaur, a Sikh activist and founder of Groundswell, notes that a full year later, everyone knows about Aurora and other tragedies, but most never understood what happened at Oak Creek and have already forgotten.  The anniversary is a good reminder to those of us in another misunderstood minority religion of the importance of interfaith relations. The reporter who contacted me at first said she was doing a story about religious tolerance.  The first thing I said to her was that I look forward to the day we can stop thinking about tolerance and begin appreciating our religious differences.  This includes Pagan appreciation of the religions whose members have often persecuted or despised us, whether we like the idea or not. [...] While organizations like Groundswell and interfaith groups all over have done much to make our communities safer, the work is hardly begun, the weeping probably not over. Our heartfelt prayers and intentions go to our Sikh friends and to all in this world who suffer because their spirituality is misunderstood.” – Holli Emore, Director of Cherry Hill Seminary, on interfaith work, tolerance, and the anniversary of the Oak Creek Sikh temple shooting in Wisconsin.

Peter Dybing

Peter Dybing

“That’s right, I strongly disagree with your interpretation of divinity, the Gods, worship or piety. So what am I going to do about it? Maybe un-friend you on Face Book, write a post tearing you a metaphorical ‘new one’ or demonstrate my need to be right by encouraging others to give no credibility to your views? Instead I think I will choose to celebrate our differences. Harvest. if you will, what has value in our discourse, demonstrate that respect for others views of divinity is a basic value of my Pagan beliefs.  Your actions and views help me to clarify my own beliefs about my path. It is in discussion and debate that we grow, are challenged to develop new insights into both self and the nature of the Divine. Each of us has a unique perception of divinity and spiritual practice. In learning about your perceptions I grow, consider what is new or uncomfortable, stretch my mind and heart to embrace the bountiful tapestry that is the diverse cloth of Pagan belief. Today I hold you, with your heretical beliefs, in Sacred Regard, as some of my most insightful teachers. Our discussions have planted the seeds of new insight, growth and compassion.  Today I celebrate the harvest of these efforts. Tending this garden of dissention is an honorable and meaningful investment of my time.” – Peter Dybing, on what he plans to do with people he disagrees with theologically.

Trey Capnerhurst / Treasach

Trey Capnerhurst / Treasach

“I used to have repeated arguments with others in the pagan community on this topic, though in the past few years, curiosity and hope are beginning to replace the sneering. “Why should WE need an abbey?”, some said with a snort. “There are plenty of Buddhist and Taoist monasteries around..” Well, we are neither Buddhist nor Taoist, although most of us get along quite nicely with them, of course. For a religion to be more formalized, to grow and permeate more areas of a culture or a group, it needs full time members who are dedicated to practising, refining, writing, recording, studying and teaching. Though we do have quite a few of those, they usually have day jobs, rather than being a full time professional community. We have a great many of what could be termed lay sisters and brothers; those who are devoted and dedicated to living their lives in the Way, but we have no priest ‘class’, as it were. So, though we do have a professional priesthood of sorts, we have not yet created spaces to support them full time, or train and hone them, or even facilitate professional community environments of librarians, educators and other academics. It is vital to our religion to establish these communities, and not just as teaching venues, but as places where we can totally immerse ourselves in our religion, and not only for short retreats. But for years. They are already becoming a reality. I was in contact with an abbess of the Cybeline abbey in New York for some time. They already have a large community of nuns with hospitality, retreat centres and libraries. Though there is room for dedicating to one Goddess in particular, like mine, because that’s just for me, a similar kind of non-deity specific community can appeal to far more people under the auspices of Pagan Humanism, where everyone can hear the call in their own way, yet we can work under one banner. Conserves resources and coalesces talent, doncha know.” – Treasach (aka Trey Capnerhurst), a Pagan Abbess, on why establishing Pagan abbeys are a practical solution to several ongoing problems within our communities.

Damh the Bard

Damh the Bard

“Yesterday was a glorious day to hold a Lughnasadh ceremony. Although not in full flow the grain harvest has begun, and John Barleycorn is falling in the fields. I started the ceremony by asking if there were any News of the World reporters at the ceremony, and then remembered that there were no such things any more… So changing that to The Daily Mail I pointed out that this ceremony might reinforce the odd stereotype, with its theme of sacrifice. A falling Corn King, sickles and scythes, all good sensationaistic fodder for the ignorant. But this is a festival of thanksgiving, a spiritual honouring that within its very language understands that for some things to continue to live, other things have to die. It’s all around on our supermarket shelves, we just don’t have to see the blood any more, but that doesn’t mean that we cannot honour the life that has been given, and this thanksgiving also includes the grain harvest, and the falling of the Corn King.” – Damh the Bard, on celebrating Lughnasadh at the Long Man of Wilmington in Sussex.

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

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • Lēoht Sceadusawol

    I have some thoughts of a few of these, so here we go:

    Abortion and environmentalism. I am a fan of both. In fact, one could almost argue that abortion can be an act of environmentalism. With an increasing population and increasing individual demands on resources, humans are the single biggest environmental problem we currently face. As such, reducing the birth rate through various means, including abortion, we can actually be helping the environment.

    Lupa’s words on the ecosystem and society’s seeming ability to prioritise it are great. People are so caught up in their ‘stuff’ that the forget or ignore what is important. Without a functioning ecosystem, who can survive?

    I have to agree with Arthur’s stance on the displaying of remains. I get that the best way we have to learn about ancient peoples is to go through their remains, but can there not be some level of respect and honour? Once inspected, can these remains not be, once again, interred as they would have been? Certainly there is no need for them to be on public display. How long does it take for a grave to change into an archaeological site?

    I love Treasach’s idea of a Pagan abbey. I just wonder whether enough people would support such an idea, since modern Paganisms are, by and large, dominated by the solitary mindset.

    • Knight_of_Infinite_Resignation

      regardless of the arguments around reburial, is this Arthur again claiming to speak for all Druids? I wish he would stop this. I know lots of Druids who disagree with him, there is no single ‘Druidic’ opinion about this.

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

        Arthur is the head of the LAW (Loyal Arthurian Warband) and a respected, prominent Druid in Britain.

        If others disagree, they have to stand up and say so.

        • Knight_of_Infinite_Resignation

          many people disagree, but that isn’t relevant. What is relevant is Arthur often claims to speak for all Druids and he doesn’t. He is being both dishonest and disrespectful.

          I would also disagree that he is respected. He is certainly prominent though on account of constantly courting media attention. He is a self publicist of the worst sort, of the Kevin Carleon/Beth Gurevitch style. He didn’t even care about reburial until it became a cause he could adopt. Also I don’t care how many orders he is head of, claiming silly titles doesn’t make you respected.

        • Gareth

          I don’t know about ‘respected’.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            Well, he’s respected enough that other organisations recognise him and do not distance themselves from his stance.

        • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

          How’d he get that, then? Strange women lyin’ in ponds distributin’ swords is not a basis for Druidic leadership! ;)

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            I don’t know, sounds like a better basis than democracy.

            When I say ‘better’ I may, of course, mean ‘cooler’ rather than ‘more effective’.

          • Nick Ritter

            Effectiveness of government, I think, has a lot more to do with scale of community and the quality of the people involved than with organizational schemes. Some organizational schemes allow or encourage certain types of corruption , and other schemes encourage or allow other types. It’s all a matter of what you can stomach, I think.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            I’d agree with that. Mind you, I’m a fan of Dunbar’s number as a model for community scale.

    • Trey Capnerhurst

      I address that mindset in an post on why we incorporated and made a legal church.

      “Many pagans have a few problems with legally recognized groups. As a very self-directed spirituality, there is some debate on the validity and desirability of institutions and organizations. I understand and sympathize with those anarchist views, but there are also some serious benefits that we are not able to partake of if we continue to insist that we remain outside official structures. To that end, I wanted to create a legal corporation to allow those groups who do not, in fact, wish to go to all the bother, but still get some of the goodies – like events, insurance, property purchases, ability to perform weddings and have a legal or full-time clergy, etc…

      There are no ‘officially recognized’ religions in Canada. None. Nada. I know some folks think that Christianity was already an official religion, but it just seems like it, since it’s everywhere and many of our laws are based on its tenets. But Canada only recognizes religious not-for-profits (such as churches, mosques, synagogues or druid groves) on an individual basis and then only as corporations. The ability of its representatives to legally officiate at weddings is a separate right granted after certain conditions are met, and it is entirely civil in power. There is absolutely no doubt that we are aswim in a Christian culture, and that the lawmakers wrote laws according to those traditions, but in Canada, it’s not official policy, nor is there a mechanism for such. Which makes it much easier for us to push for recognition of holidays from other traditions, and we don’t have to put up with the Baby Jesus in our public schools, and our nuns and priestesses can legally perform weddings after they finish the qualifying paperwork as legitimate clergy, and not just as civil marriage commissioners. It’s still not a cakewalk, but it remains much easier than other countries. Stats Can does actually put on certain religions on their census form for informational purposes, and these can change. The past few years offered ‘pagan’ as a option in most places and on most forms, but that is entirely a choice of the statisticians. Paganism IS recognized by the Canadian Military, and that’s as about as ‘official’ as Canadian religions get.
      http://gifts-of-nature.blogspot.ca/2013/05/how-to-start-church-legal-pagan.html

  • cernowain greenman

    I admire Peter Dybing’s stance on embracing those who believe differently while at the same time not embracing their ideas. Oftentimes there are new ideas that are generated by discussing our differing theo/alogies. I also know there are times to walk away when the discussion devolves into vitriol and antagonism.

  • cernowain greenman

    Does Wicca really encourage oral sex like Literati says? I think we may encourage anything that is consensual, as these are acts of love and pleasure, as she states. But if oral sex is not pleasurable or not performed well or not agreed upon by both/all parties involved, then I certainly wouldn’t promote it. I’m not sure we want to encourage one sex act in particular, but all sexual acts with consent and if pleasurable to all.

  • Zan Fraser

    To think that Virginia, home to Washington and Jefferson, was once among the more sophisticated of the United States. While I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Wicca and Neo-Paganism “encourages oral sex,” I agree that the effort of the candidate for Virginia’s governor to criminalize private erotic acts between consenting adults is an area in which modern Pagans can move to the forefront. As a Gay man, I am opposed in principle to “morality laws,” as for the better part of the 20th century, Gay people were stigmatized by laws that criminalized the “deeply immoral” homosexual act; I agree that there is a libertarian ethos to modern Paganism (as long as you “harm none, do what thou wilt”), plus a respect for the power of the erotic that can be termed as sacred (“all acts of love and pleasure are My rituals,” sayeth the Goddess), plus a historic background of Witches and Pagans suffering as victims of the Purityrannical impulse (a word I coined: “Purityrannical”: the tyranny of the Puritan), that give Neo-Pagans a platform to oppose such intrusive government initiatives. As sex remains such a gunpowder issue for Americans, it takes courage to resist such efforts- but in the long run, people tend to admire those who possess the courage of their convictions.

  • Nick Ritter

    From Gus diZerega’s article: “Agricultural civilizations often see us as separate from the natural world, just passing through on our way to more important things. The natural world exists to serve us. Wild land should be cultivated, or it is good for nothing.”

    I find myself in profound disagreement with this statement, as well as with the overall thrust of the article equating agricultural societies with the benighted past and industrial urban societies with egalitarian utopia.

    For example, one way or another, the religion that I practice is the religion of an agricultural society; many of its concerns, much of its imagery, and its holidays are the product of an agrarian cycle. Nowhere in this religion do I see the notion that we are separate from the natural world, that the natural world exists to serve us, nor that wild land should be cultivated and is otherwise worthless. To the last point, I can think of examples of uncultivated land in early Germanic Europe that was held to be sacrosanct (particularly forests). Knowing a little about other early European religions (many of which, although not all, were the product of agrarian societies), I think that the same can be said of them as well.

    Having lived and worked in both industrial urban centers and rural agricultural areas in the Southern as well as the Northern United States, I can say that I have indeed witnessed a certain degree of callous disregard for the natural world among some (by no means all) people in rural agricultural settings. However, to counter Mr. diZerega’s interpretation, this has not at all been due to such a callous disregard for nature being somehow immanent in the essence of agriculture; rather, it was due to the increasingly *industrial & technological* attitude towards agriculture. In other words, it is not that agriculture produces such callous disregard, but that it has become infected by it. I might suggest the works of Wendell Berry for a very different point of view on agriculture, and Martin Heidegger’s essay “The Question Concerning Technology” (or Richard Rojciewicz’ book “The Gods and Technology” on that essay) for a view on the nature and source of this industrial and technological attitude..

    Among urban people, I have noticed two main attitudes towards nature: one is fear of nature as unknown and not-made-by-humans (and therefore not something one can negotiate with or complain to); the other is a fetishizing kind of reverence for a somewhat sanitized picture of Nature. Neither one is the response of humans intimately a part of the natural world around them, but rather of people who have been cut off from nature to the extent that, being wholly other to their experience, it either terrifies or fascinates them (or both).

    I think that religious scholars such as Joseph Campbell and Mircea Eliade have outlined some of the cultural results of the “agricultural revolution” of the paleolithic. They include the discovery of and emphasis on the feminine divine, the notion that humans have an intimate connection to the cycles of the natural world (and therefore that death is followed by rebirth), and a celebration of those seasonal cycles. In short, much of what is true of modern Paganism has its roots in the worldview that was revealed to people with the discovery of agriculture.

  • Tauri1

    Ken Cucinelli’s must not have access to the internet. All he has to do is search Wikipedia to find out that those types of laws were invalided in 2003 by the Supreme Court.
    From Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sodomy_law): “Sodomy laws in the United States were largely a matter of state rather than federal jurisdiction, except for laws governing the U.S. Armed Forces. In 1963, the penalties for sodomy in the various states varied from imprisonment for two to ten years and/or a fine of US$2,000.[36] By 2002, 36 states had repealed all sodomy laws or had them overturned by court rulings. The remaining sodomy laws were invalidated by the 2003 U.S. Supreme Court decision Lawrence v. Texas. (emphasis added).

    So either he’s had his head up his ass (oops! I mean in the ground) or he is completely unaware of the law. Probably both.

    Oh, and BTW, “sodomy” includes oral and anal sex.

    • Charles Cosimano

      It makes him good for a laugh and if the good folks of the state of Virginia are damned fool stupid enough to elect him then they are good for a laugh too.

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    I apologize for joining this discussion late; I was eleven days without a computer and now I’m at the beginning of the learning curve for the new one.
    IMHO a Pagan abbey is a excellent idea, like Pagan temples and Pagan charities, because Paganism is weak in that kind of institution vigor. (We are good at festivals, however!) Institutions are how a religious movement expresses itself outside the immediacy of ritual. Some Pagans are suspicious of Pagan institutions. To the extent that this arises from a suspicion that institutions separate us from the divine, I’d suggest making the judgment on a case-by-case basis. To the extent that is arises from bad experiences with Abrahamic institutions, I’d suggest a soulful effort to purge one’s obsolescent memes.

  • Trey Capnerhurst

    It’s such a surprise and a delight to be featured! Thanks so much for getting the word out… The Abbey of the Green Flame in particular is dedicated to traditional healing, technology, and knowledge originating largely from women’s magic in European Aboriginal heritage by practical study and scholarship. However, we work in the world, and I am also a recognized national spokesperson for several groups, including a five times candidate for the Green Party in Canada. Which is actually a fairly big deal up here. Heh. http://www.facebook.com/pages/Abbey-of-the-Green-Flame/377733239012401

    Trey is actually short for Treasach. It’s easier for everyday.