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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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!