Pagan Voices: Janet Farrar, Vivianne Crowley, Chas Clifton, and More!

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  August 27, 2013 — 6 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.

Janet Farrar & Gavin Bone

Janet Farrar & Gavin Bone

“I would call myself a priestess above all else, even before calling myself a witch. My life is about service to the divine, dedicated to the gods, to serving spirit and to healing others – I trained with quite an eminent psychologist apart from my witchcraft training. A lot of people come to Gavin and myself for healings and readings, and, within our group we do healing circles. It’s not ‘spellcraft’ as such, but more a form of controlled distance healing that any spiritualist would recognise. A spell is really a way of focusing psychic energy in a ritualised way. All ethical magic for us is about healing. We don’t do love spells, and we’re more likely to do a spell for physical healing or to help someone get a job or new home, rather than one for money. […] I feel fulfilled in what I do, and know my life has a greater purpose. I also have no fear of tomorrow; I know that the universe always unfolds as it should, and by serving spirit I will always be looked after by the powers that be.” – Wiccan Priestess Janet Farrar, in an interview with the Irish Independent.

Vivianne Crowley

Vivianne Crowley

“We are entering the astrological sign of Virgo, the sign of Our Lady of the Harvest. The Harvest Goddess is an important deity for everyone. Whether we live in the centre of a city or in the countryside, we are dependent on the crop cycle for food and life. Here in Brittany, the Celtic north-west of rural France, the grain in the fields around us has been reaped and threshed. The ears are ready to be transformed into flour and then bread; the stalks will provide animal food and bedding. The reality of humankind’s dependence on the natural world is all around us. The end of the grain harvest is a natural time for us to celebrate and to honor the harvest Goddess. It was a time when people could take a brief break from back-breaking work. Knowing that the grain was safely harvested, our ancestors could celebrate that there was food for the winter to come. The Harvest Goddess is the dark-skinned Goddess, who survived into the Christian era as the Black Madonna. She is the Goddess of those who farm and garden, who spend long hours outdoors and are burned by the sun. She is the Goddess of the ripened corn, Lady of the golden sun-kissed fields. She reminds us that life in the body and the natural world are as important as the world of spirit.” – Vivianne Crowley, on Our Lady of the Harvest.

Chas Clifton

Chas Clifton

“As I came out of the dry juniper and oak brush into the lusher creekside vegetation hawk flew low over me — an accipter, probably a sharp-shinned hawk. Its head turned, and it looked at me. It felt like a welcome, I thought. ‘Bullshit,’ I told myself, ‘it’s just cruising the riparian zone looking for lunch. I happened to be here, so it checked me out.’ Maybe the flip side of the New Animism — the focus on relationships between yourself and the other-than-human world — is that you cannot think that these encounters are All About You. The wild birds are always watching, and they do talk to you. And they talk about you. Several times I have had crows and Steller’s jayvs tell me something when I was hunting deer or elk — but it is up to me to act correctly on their information. Apparently our relationship is not yet perfectly harmonious. But if they would help me more, they would have something to eat. Isn’t that fair? What gets under my skin is when someone says something like, “My totem is Hawk,” because I want to know which hawk? There is a boatload of difference between a Cooper’s hawk and a Mississippi kite, for instance. (Oh well, they probably meant red-tailed hawk anyway, the pickup truck of buteos — large, useful, and ubiquitous.)” – Chas Clifton, on looking at, and listening to, birds.

Sam Webster (with Herm), photo by Tony Mierzwicki.

Sam Webster

“To understand our importance to the world, we need to realize that we are something new. We are building a new religious way of life that is embodied, life affirming, and in harmony with the natural, non-human, World. Building a new religion is far more creative and revolutionary than merely resuscitating a survival of ancient days. That a religion can be at all created in modern times is a profound threat to the established authoritarian faiths around us. (Not so much to the ‘Foreigns’ and the Indigenous, with whom we have significant common cause.) Every effort to assimilate us to their culture, that of the ‘faiths’, will be made, including ignoring the simple truth of what we are. We Pagan folk practice a new religion, founded on the old, the foreign, and the indigenous. We combine all of the World’s spiritual inheritance into a open, inclusive mode of personal spirituality and communal worship that finds the Sacred in the non-human World as well as in ourselves. Our historical relationship with science, as with other cultures, places us in a unique position to help our species survive its greatest challenge ever: becoming adult. We who do this, we are Pagan.” – Sam Webster, on who’s Pagan.

T. Thorn Coyle

T. Thorn Coyle

“As I was thinking about the cycles of the year, I noticed that in seeing all the ways my work for justice felt ineffective and not enough, I hadn’t been taking time to reflect on what my harvest actually was for the past year. I had not allowed myself to take stock. My harvest is great. It includes: having a new book published, organizing a monthly vigil for those killed by police violence, spearheading discussions on racism and privilege in my community, making sure monthly devotionals happen, teaching, offering spiritual direction, increasing my level of health, scrubbing pots at the soup kitchen, enjoying our garden, spending time with friends… I’ve done a lot this year, and have even taken more time to inquire after what my heart and soul want. That latter, that deep contemplation and listening, are part of what is causing great dis-ease around the news that fills my twitter stream daily. My heart and soul are not satisfied. I want to be more effective in the help I offer.” – T. Thorn Coyle, on rethinking the harvest.

Rain Webster

Rain Webster

“Mine is an American Path. It is the path of a mutt who does not feel closely aligned to any particular ancestral experience other than my own unique American experience. I am mostly of European descent. I do have a bit of Irish in me, but I am also English, French, German, and Dutch, with a bit of Native American and who knows what else thrown into the mix. My family has never observed any traditions that could be identified as belonging to any particular ethnic group.  […] The point is, I value my American experience. It is part of who I am. I may have European ancestors, but my family has been in the U.S. for as long as anyone can remember. Our ancestors have mingled to the point where any ethnic identity we might have retained from the Old World (s?) has been lost. Why cling to Old World religions when my personal identity is in no way connected to the Old World?  Maybe it is just a matter of semantics. You call it Samhain; I call it Halloween. You celebrate Yule, while I light candles for the Winter Solstice. I make my planting and harvesting decisions based on the geographic zone in which I currently live. Those dates have differed, as I have moved from southern Illinois to Texas to Hawaii to North Dakota, and finally to Wisconsin where I now reside. I celebrate the Earth and Mother Nature when I turn the soil, plant the seed, pull the weed, and harvest the fruits of my labor.  I will continue to call things by the names that I have always called them. To do otherwise would be inauthentic to my personal experience. The only difference is, I now do these things with a distinct purpose in mind.” – Rain Webster, on forging a distinctly American Pagan path.

Donald Michael Kraig

Donald Michael Kraig

“I have seen various versions of “improved” versions of the Golden Dawn rituals and teachings. Ignoring the changes that are made for political reasons to try and give extra power to individuals, most (but not all) of the changes I’ve seen have one thing in common: they were created by people based on personal philosophical beliefs rather than an inner understanding of the teachings. One of my favorite examples of this is that some groups have changed the use of the word “Lord” in Golden Dawn rituals to “Lord and Lady” or “Deity.” On a superficial level I fully understand this. At the time the GD was founded, even though the Order was amazingly non-sexist in practice, the members still used a language that, following the practices of the time, was sexist. I am in favor of eliminating sexism. However, this change deconstructs the rituals, changing life-altering mystical symbolism into an English-only ritualized drama and, for that section, nothing more.” – Donald Michael Kraig, on why change is (and isn’t) good for magick.

Deborah Oak

Deborah Oak

“I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the core tenets of my practice as a Pagan psychotherapist.  Buddhism is currently in fashion in my profession,  mindfulness turning out to be just as useful (if even more) in creating emotional well-being as analyzing family dynamics.   Are there particular things that we earth-worshippers do that inform my profession?  Psychotherapy truly is more art than science, and it figures that many of us who are in the Craft have something to teach other healing artists of hearts and minds. This week one of my core tenets has me laughing. I believe, and try to transmit to my clients, that the world wants to be in meaningful conversation with us.  Once we accept this as true, and cock our ear towards it, the world will not shut up.  Under great distress, of course, it’s hard to listen to anything or anyone. Anxiety and fear can operate as mighty misfiring car alarms, drowning out any truth of the real threat or danger. The Buddhist gift of  mindfullness  is a damn fine tool for re-calibrating the human car alarm. But then what? That’s where I think we Pagans have something to offer. We know how to carry on mytho-poetic conversations with the world, and any rich conversation like that makes human life a hell of a lot more meaningful, if not more interesting.” – Deborah Oak, on listening, and receiving the message.

Sarah Veale

Sarah Veale

“When we think of magic in the ancient world, we tend to think that what we today consider magic was, back then, simply religion. Certainly this holds true for things like worshiping many gods, divining the future, or other such activities. But there definitely was a subset of ancient practice that was considered to be against the grain. Those engaging in such practices go by many names:  magoi (a term used to refer to ‘Eastern’ holy men), pharmakeis (those skilled with drugs and potions), goetes (spiritual practitioners who engaged the dead), and epodoi (singers of incantations). But all had one thing in common: they were perceived as working against nature, and thus society in general. According to Matthew Dickie, this is the dividing line between religion and magic in the ancient world. One appeases the Gods in a socially sanctioned manner, the latter employs a special skill to bend the natural forces out of alignment […] Working with this model, it should come as no surprise that allegations of magic—i.e. engaging in socially deviant behaviour—were often targeted at those most marginalized in society. In fact, it was within these dis-enfranchised sectors where magic appeared to flourished most. Women, in particular prostitutes, were seen as experts in the magical arts.” – Sarah Veale, on love spells, prostitutes, and poison.

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

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • Deborah Bender

    “Are you Hawk on your father’s side or your mother’s side?”

  • JB

    The following quotation of Farrar doesn’t sit well with me:

    “I know that the universe always unfolds as it should, and by serving spirit I will always be looked after by the powers that be.”

    Implied is that misfortune and suffering are the results of not adequately “serving spirit”.

    Does the Goddess play favorites? Is my debilitating illness the result of a lack of faith or service on my part? Do people in the world’s conflict zones and impoverished regions die painfully or otherwise suffer unimaginably because they don’t “serve spirit”?

    • De

      There’s a way to interpret Farrar’s remark that doesn’t entail if-you-are-suffering-it’s-a-sign-you-did-something-wrong, all-suffering-is-illusion, you-will-be-rewarded-in-a-future-life, your-soul-chose-this-to-learn-a lesson, it-all-comes-out-even-in-the-end, or most of the other solutions to the problems of theodicy.

      The way is to answer your first question in the affirmative. Yes, the Goddess plays favorites. She looks after the people who have dedicated themselves to Her service, the others, not so much. It’s a reciprocal relationship like kissing the Godfather’s ring.

      This way of looking at things makes more sense if you are a hard polytheist and don’t believe that there is one great god or a group of gods in charge of making everything come out all right. The gods you serve will help you out, but they aren’t all powerful and can’t always protect you from the ones who choose to give you grief, and none of the gods is strong enough to oppose Fate. I doubt that is what Farrar meant, but it was a popular view in many parts of the ancient world.

      My tentative solution to the question of apparently needless suffering is to be a nature worshipper. Nature is supremely indifferent to the suffering of individuals or even entire species. It’s not personal, it’s business.

      • Deborah Bender

        Previous reply was by me, Deborah Bender. I can’t edit posted comments.

      • Tauri1

        “Nature is supremely indifferent to the suffering of individuals or even entire species. It’s not personal, it’s business.”

        And we are so small, and the universe is so large. Yet we consistently think we are the center of the universe, when, in fact, we are like microbes in comparison. It is only our arrogance that makes us think otherwise.

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

        And remember that, sometimes the gods will kill of their favourites, in order to have them do something particular in the afterlife.