Pagan Voices: Rodney Orpheus, Erick DuPree, Peter Dybing, and More!

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  September 9, 2013 — 15 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.

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

“If atheists now begin targeting practice as the problematic element in religion generally speaking, rather than belief and the insistence upon it and intolerance of variations within it, then we are really going to get into an “uh oh” situation for pagans, as well as people of many other religions (e.g. Shinto, Hinduism) very quickly. We’ve been able to fly under the radar for a while because we are a minority religion. The U.S. is probably one of the great bastions of atheism, apart from perhaps the U.K., Australia, Canada, and perhaps France and a few Northern European countries, despite what some atheists in those countries complain about in terms of being an oppressed or suppressed minority. Paganism and these other religions have generally not been as much in the spotlight in popular culture in the U.S., and thus are not taken as “seriously” even as religions at all in comparison to the “big three” monotheistic religions. Does increased visibility for our religions also run the risk of therefore increased critique? (Of course it does, that’s obvious…but, this particular variety of critique is a relatively new thing, to my knowledge.) So, what do you think? Is this something to legitimately worry about and be cautious of, or do you think that due to the tendency of all religion–by the non-religious, atheists, and religious people alike in the U.S.–to be understood strictly as creedal in basis and being discussed and phrased in those terms most often, will end up deflecting and downplaying this particular study’s impact and the opinions drawn from it? Will the context of Middle Eastern monotheistic religions make it less likely that people will then generalize those findings to other non-creedal religions? Will the nature of paganism and polytheism as decentralized religions, where “preaching” and such do not play a role in most public rituals and communal gatherings, give us a rare exception in which some other religions of practice may still find difficulties?” – P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, reacting to an atheist’s essay on Patheos that targets ritual and practice, rather than orthodoxy and belief, as the problem of/with religion.

Sunweaver

Sunweaver

“I’m going to make a comparison here that might be a little unusual, but bear with me. Gerald Gardner had something in common with Mary Baker Eddy in that both understood the strength, power, and magick a woman can hold. Our Christian Science friends would not refer to what they do as magick, but healing through prayer translates as such to me. At any rate, Wicca specifically, Paganisms generally, and the Church of Christ, Science have, at their core, this idea of the power of women and that continues to be reflected in the leadership of those respective faiths today. But in the past fifteen or so years, I have seen a shift in the gender balance of the clergy. In short, at least in my own small community, more males have been called to serve as clergy. While females still vastly outnumber males and those outside the gender binary are very small in number, it seems to me that there are more priests than there used to be. We’re also gravitating toward being mainstream. We’re not there yet, but being Wiccan isn’t nearly as big of a deal as it was even twenty years ago, though other Paganisms are still widely unknown or misunderstood. I would love to see a good balance of priests and priestesses as Paganisms grow, but are we going to move from a vastly woman-led movement to established male-dominated religions? I really don’t think that’s going to happen and I really don’t think more men in leadership roles is necessarily a bad thing.” – Sunweaver, Pagan interfaith clergyperson, on what Gerald Gardner and Mary Baker Eddy have in common.

Rodney Orpheus

Rodney Orpheus

“So what differentiates a Serious Thelemite from all us other non-serious Thelemites? I think most Serious Thelemites would say that it is that they take a very orthodox, fundamentalist position on Thelema, by appealing directly to the writings of Aleister Crowley; and the strong rejection of anything contradictory to that, especially viewpoints of other, earlier religions. I have even seen Serious Thelemites argue that other Thelemites can not be accepted as “proper” Thelemites within the community unless they make a specific public declaration of repudiating “slave religions”. Ironically of course, this mechanism of using social and community pressure to force people to either “convert” or be ostracized is precisely the same mechanism used by those fundamentalists of the slave religions themselves; and I think it no coincidence that these modern-day Thelemic fundamentalists appear to share the same pathology. And also appear possess a similar inability to sense irony. Serious Thelemites thus attempt to set up an “In group” (those that agree with their supposedly “orthodox” interpretation and methodology), and an “Out group” of Others not like them (who are by implication inferior) – yes, just like High School. I don’t think it takes Sigmund Freud to figure out that this kind of “Othering” basically springs from an attempt on the part of the perpetrator to claim they they are somehow “better” or “more dedicated” than those who do not hold the coveted Serious Thelemite title; and that thus the holder of such a title gains more prestige and social capital than those who are not Serious.” – Rodney Orpheus, on Thelemic Orthodoxy, and “serious” Thelemites.

Jason Mankey

Jason Mankey

“I’m not sure we have true religious choice in America. Even people in the entertainment industry (a notoriously liberal institution) are hesitant to come out as belonging to an alternative faith. (That’s why actors who seem “Pagan” never admit to it, and why Will Smith has been mum about Scientology.) There are all sorts of factors that negate religious choice in the United States, and even more variables that make admitting to things outside the mainstream problematic. Perhaps one of the reasons we don’t teach “comparative religion” in our public schools is because it would expose young people to ideas that might challenge the status quo. One religion has a near monopoly when it comes to controlling religious discourse, and a lot of those folks are not the type to share and play nicely with others. Can you even imagine a truly post-Christian United States? A nation full of people with an understanding of faith traditions outside of their own, with temples, mosques, groves, and churches dotting the downtowns of Main Street, Anytown USA. Religious programs about Pagans outside of Halloween and mentions of Islam outside the contexts of terrorism and Middle East policy. Perhaps one day we’d even live in a land that understood that Sikhs aren’t Muslims or Hindus.” – Jason Mankey, pondering if we truly have religious choice in the United States.

T. Thorn Coyle

T. Thorn Coyle

“More powerful than thought. More powerful than war. More powerful than shame, or hatred, or ambition. More powerful than gravity. Love draws me toward you, always. Even in anger, love opens me up and draws me near. Love will not forsake us. Ever. Do you feel unloved? Do you feel unworthy? There is love enough for you, too. I swear. Even in your abandonment, there is someone out there that loves you still. I do. Whether I have met you or not, whether I even like you or not, whether we agree or disagree, there is still love. I feel it. This isn’t hyperbole. This isn’t a sham or an exercise in theory. This is a  ground shaking reality. Too much for you? That I cannot help. Take a breath with me. Allow your exhalation to soften you just enough to let the smallest thread of love enter. Let it snake up from your sex into your chest. Let it crawl down from the top of your head and down to your fingertips. I love you. She loves you. He loves you. They love you. The stars sing of your beauty. You move to unheard music. You are alive in the flow of love. You are. Let yourself be, just for this moment.” – T. Thorn Coyle, on there being enough love, the most powerful force in the universe.

Peter Dybing

Peter Dybing

“For most, this path is one of love and compassion in the face of overwhelming work loads that there is scant opportunity to be trained for in the community. Each of us does the best we can in our efforts to live a divine life. Each also, from time to time, stumble upon our path as we attempt to apply divine principle to logistics, public information, finance, event planning or mental health issues within our community. Possibly it is time to abandon our resistance to the word leadership, remove it from the expectations we have of our Priestesses and Priests and allow a group of well-trained individuals to take the task of leadership in specific areas of subject matter expertise. Over the years it has become very apparent that our organizational structure within Paganism has caused many an active Priestess/Priest to burn out. In their role of religious guides they excel, yet we expect so much more from them. These expectations are overwhelming. It is time to stop placing the burden of “leadership” on these individuals and allow them to do what they do best.  Such an approach means developing a core group of leaders in specific disciplines.  From Cherry Hill to Ardentain courses are offered to develop these skills, its time to take advantage of these opportunities, grow skills and each of us take part as a collective of leaders in building our tribe.” – Peter Dybing, on burn-out and the burden of leadership.

Joanna van der Hoeven

Joanna van der Hoeven

“How far back the tradition of personal relationship with deity goes is, to me, of no consequence.  It’s nice to have historical authenticity, but it does not a spirituality make.  It is within the personal relationship with whatever it is that you are communing with, and which changes you, inspires you or moves you that is really what matters in this life.  Whether you pray using a prayer that is a thousand years old, or one that you made up on the spot, it is in the feeling and intent behind it that matters most, not in the words themselves.  It must connect you with what it is you are trying to reach, else what is the point? So, to all those out there who are making it up as they go along, who find spiritual validity in what they do, I give a hearty hail!  To those whose find the words of others resonate deeply within their soul, and blend their historic traditions with personal experience, again I give a hearty hail!  Life is too short to follow a path simply because others have trodden it – we can learn from that path, but ultimately it is we who are doing the walking, no one else, and in that is our own validity and personal experience found and blessing us along the way.” - Joanna van der Hoeven, on authenticity vs. validity.

Barbara Moore

Barbara Moore

“Although I know that different readers had different ideas about shuffling, I didn’t realize that some thought their particular belief would be considered controversial. Specifically, some people felt that their practice of not having the querent shuffle the cards would be seen as outside the normal or proper practice. I have seen a fair number of books or articles that say that the querent must shuffle the cards in order to put their energy into the reading, but I didn’t know that this was considered normal or most appropriate by the general tarot reading community. This has ramifications for phone/Skype and email readings. What is your position on this? Do you think there is a commonly accepted method amongst the tarot community? Do you think there is a right and a wrong way? How did you come up with your own method? As for me, when I write books about tarot, I try to include all the possibilities (reader and querent shuffle, querent only, reader only, reader shuffle and querent cut, etc). When I do readings in person, I always shuffle and never offer the cards to the querent. For me, it has nothing to do with energy and everything to do with wanting to help the querent feel relaxed.” – Barbara Moore, on controversial topics in tarot.

Erick DuPree

Erick DuPree

“It is true, that I encounter many Pagans for whom they find Zen to be too austere and cold for them, where as the Tibetan lineages are far more ceremonial and ‘magical’. There is a direct connection to deity in those traditions, and a sense of something greater. Some argue that Zen Buddhists just sit zazen and that magic is a direct action. Zen as a practice is about releasing, aligning, and returning to center and in Goddess traditions, I find myself most magical when I release expectation, align with intention, and return to center. Regardless of tradition, lineage or school; dharma provides a structure that at times can be lost in contemporary Paganism. In Zen and in Goddess, I have found a complimentary wisdom in a simplicity that works for my everyday life. Everyday I can return to the breath, to Goddess and to right intentions of my practice. I need nothing more than my breath to connect me to Goddess, and maybe a mala. I do love a mala. From that surrender into our divine selfhood, that I call Goddess as immanent divinity, we empower a new way of thinking. It is from this place there is dharma and where love and service align for justice and peace and magic happens.” - Erick DuPree, on being a Dharma Pagan.

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

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    The New Atheists are never going to be a threat to religious practice because any prohibition they might propose would bite into all voluntary gatherings of a secular nature (which can reinforce tribalism just as handily; join a neighborhood association some time) including those of atheists!

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    The uneven religious playing field Jason Mankey describes is primarily due to relative numbers and to the human tendency to suspicion of outsiders. What we have going for us are the religious guarantees of the First Amendment, and we need to defend their integrity whenever challenged. That imho is our best defense against the weight of numbers and the tendency to xenophobia. (I am posting two comments on two topics, to facilitate discussion in replies.)

  • Lēoht Sceadusawol

    Atheists can go jump. Why are they so threatened by other people’s religious experiences?

    More male priests is a good thing for Wicca. It has been heavily imbalanced in favour of the feminine for too long. It is supposed to be dualistic, after all.

    • Luminous_Being

      I agree wholeheartedly! I understand the plight of the atheist but some of them can be so cantankerous toward all people of faith, even the little ones that don’t cause that much trouble.

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

        I don’t understand the plight of the atheist, I have to say.

        • TadhgMor

          They spent to long viewing themselves “in opposition” to Christianity and have developed a similar persecution complex (though at least they had some grounds for it in the past) and have been unable to accept that they are in fact extremely well organized, funded, and culturally important.

          I’ve seen too many “People treat atheists like rapists” comments, and I just laugh at them. They seem to forget the minority faiths much lower on the totem pole than them. Then again most of them simply apply Christian or monotheist arguments against all other faiths. I don’t know how many have tried to “disprove” me using things invented to “combat” Christianity, that don’t apply in the least to me as a polytheist.

          Internet atheists are the worst, but I think they are a distinct minority. I had one call me a “fundy” the other day, and then suggest hard polytheists are like the evangelicals of paganism. All of this because I called him out on arrogant and insulting tone in his comments towards religious individuals.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            How to annoy an (online) atheist – ask them what they believe.

  • cernowain greenman

    The atheist who purports that ritual creates tribes and tribalism is off the mark. It is not ritual practice that is the problem, but, I believe, a big part of the trouble are negative types of religious coping that arise in groups. By negative religious coping I mean paranoia, us vs them thinking, perceived persecution (real or unreal), believing one’s group is being punished by the Divine, etc. You tend to find these types of coping dominating the mindset of all the violent groups (religious or not). Positive religious coping, such as seeking love and care from one’s Divinities, rechanneling energy from anger, looking for lessons to learn in life from the Divine, trusting in the Divine instead of worrying/obsessing, turning to creative energy to solve problems– these coping skills, when applied to groups, tend toward peace-making rather than violence. These ideas are based on the BriefRCOPE model of religious assessments.

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      Nothing wrong with tribalism, anyway. It is the natural social state of the human species. I’ve seen the concept applied to youth counter culture. Rather than using religion as a basis for their tribal affiliation, music is used, instead.

      People like to hang out with people of like mind. In fact, it could be argued that tribalism created ritual, not the other way around.

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

    There are really two kinds of atheists. There are those who deep down inside are really Pagans, and then there are those who deep down inside are really Christians.

    There is an easy way to tell the difference. Just find out what an atheist’s attitude is toward polytheism and monotheism. Many atheists see monotheism as a positive step in the right direction away from polytheism and toward atheism. These are the atheists who are really Christians.

    On the other hand, any atheist who knows anything about history and who genuinely values the basic principle of freedom of conscience, recognizes that there was far greater freedom of thought in polytheistic societies prior to the rise of the two major monotheistic cults, Christianity and Islam. Such atheists can’t help but acknowledge, perhaps reluctantly, that polytheism > monotheism.

    Obviously the New Atheists are the kind of atheists who are really, deep down inside, basically just Christians who have taken the next logical step in that religion’s “evolution”.

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      That does ignore the actual atheists. You know, the ones who do not distinguish between mono- and polytheism. Any number of gods is too many for them.

    • Trish

      Mr Apuleius, I thought your opinion very interesting, even funny if you allow me to say so. That never went through my head. :)

      As a “former Pagan” who recently went out on Atheism, I have to say I disagree in one point: not all atheists are anti-theists. Not all of us spend time on criticizing religions and it’s rituals. I, for example, stand against religion being linked to politics in order to reach true freedom and democracy – wich includes religious freedom to everybody in its own context. About those anti-theists, all I have to say is that there are jerks everywhere, and we’ll have to get over it.

      Personally I don’t believe gods at all. Nor in any other kind of deity or metaphysical issues in general. But it doesn’t bring me the need of fighting those who believe on it.

      For my personal experience, I got involved with paganism for the culture, the lifestyle and the moral values that it brings. But my recent change of mind brought on to surface an old doubt I’ve always had: what truly defines a pagan is the identifying with pre christian cultures or there is a kind of ‘dogma’ towards the belief in gods and related creatures?

      It never went clear to me.

      So what? Should I define myself as a Pagan indeed or not?

      [anyone who would like to discuss this matter feel free to get in touch on: doval.beatriz@gmail.com]

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

        There will (I fear) never be a resolution on what, exactly, constitutes a Pagan.

        People seem uneasy using a positive definition of the term, preferring to stick with negative ones, instead.

        • Trish

          I asked that because I heard various different opinions, wich went from “No matter your beliefs in supernatural, if you share our values and lifestyle you are as pagan as anyone else.” to “You are an atheist pretending to be a pagan. Please, find yourself a new crew.’

          The positive answers I recieved came mostly from US and European pagans, and the negative ones came mostly from my Brazilian fellows. Considering that Brazilian people still have a very strong influence from the Catholic Church, I prefer to stay with the foreigner’s vision.

          :)

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            Even the values and lifestyles are wildly diverse.