Pagan Voices: Carlton Gebbia, Thorn Coyle, Shauna Aura Knight, and More!

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  October 28, 2013 — 17 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.

Shauna Aura Knight

Shauna Aura Knight

“I see a lot of Pagans pressuring Pagans to be more sexualized than they’re comfortable with, Pagan leaders preying on folks in their group to get them to have sex. ‘You’ll get used to it, once you ease up.’ I’ve had community leaders say that to me. The context was, I was indicating that I didn’t really want to have sex by the fire in front of everyone, or be naked dancing around the fire, that I preferred privacy for such things. And, that I really didn’t want to watch such things. I was told that I’d get over being such a prude. Sex positive does not mean I should be pressured to engage in experiences that I’m not comfortable with. In fact, that’s quite the opposite, that’s peer pressure and shaming. Being sex positive means, I support someone’s choice to not dress in a way that is sexy, not get naked, not have lots of sex. This is a multifold problem. There’s the leader engaging in the harassment…but then there’s the community that sweeps it under the rug. At a recent workshop, a Pagan woman said that she was experiencing unwelcome sexual advances from a noted leader in her local community, and she wanted to find ways to try and change that behavior without causing an interstellar war between herself and this man. Sadly, I know several group leaders in her area who fit that profile, one of whom has a consistent reputation of being “a lech.” “He’ll hit on any young, pretty woman,” men and women will say with a fond smile. That’s a problem.” – Shauna Aura Knight, on sex and ethics within modern Paganism.

Teo Bishop

Teo Bishop

“I didn’t plan on going to church last weekend. It sort of just happened. I hadn’t been in a very long time, and during my most recent visit I was only barely present. Participation in the service felt a bit like an act of treason. I’d read Pagan writers who said as much. And they must have made an impression on me, because I didn’t engage at all. I just sat and watched the Christians give themselves over to the liturgy, to the songs, and to God as though all of it was foreign to me; as though it wasn’t foundational to my spiritual identity. But it is. And when I went to church last weekend I didn’t try to pretend otherwise. I was all in. No reservations. It didn’t matter if I didn’t believe every aspect of church doctrine. It didn’t matter to me if I took issue with the gender language. It didn’t matter if I was the only Pagan in the pews. I chose not to focus on any of that. I surrendered myself to the moment … and it was beautiful. I’m not sure what changed in me that made me open to this experience. I just woke up and wanted to go. I wanted to see what it felt like, and whether it would mean anything to me. Would I — a man who’s been a very vocal Pagan in recent years, who’s tried (somewhat unsuccessfully) to adopt a polytheist theology, who’s worked to build community for other Pagans, to create a space for dialogue about Pagan issues — feel like a foreigner in church? Was there any part of me that would still feel at home in that environment?” – Teo Bishop, on inhabiting a theological “inbetween world.”

T. Thorn Coyle

T. Thorn Coyle

“As I stood on the capitol steps in Sacramento, I couldn’t help but feel a combination of deep sorrow, heart break, and anger. Too many memorial signs. Jeralynn Blueford, whom I’ve written of many times, spoke, just one out of fifty families gathered to speak for their dead fathers, brothers, sisters, and husbands. This gathering represented a fraction of those killed by police. Reports come in each month of unarmed citizens killed by tasers, guns, and beatings. The police are rapidly becoming more militarized, relying on violent force as the first line of intervention. Yet police culture dictates that those officers concerned by or opposed to use of excessive force and extrajudicial killings not speak for fear of ostracization. As we were marching in the state capitol, a thirteen year old boy was killed by sheriffs less than two hour’s drive away. He was playing in his yard with a toy gun. My latest book and much of the work I do with clients examines how desire helps us to step into our purpose, creating the lives – and the world – we want to manifest. I thought about that, while marching under the hot sun. I was in Sacramento not only to stand with and march with these families – mostly working class, mostly people of color – I was in Sacramento because: I want to manifest a world in which we don’t police one another to death. I want to manifest a world of mutual aid. I want to manifest a world where racism and class oppression don’t dictate who gets to live and who dies.” – T. Thorn Coyle, on manifesting a world where we recognize that Love is the Law and do our best to live accordingly.

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

“We are about to enter the most holy time of year in the Ekklesía Antínoou, the Sacred Nights of Antinous beginning on October 24th and running through November 1st, during which time Antinous died (we observe this on the 28th) and his holy city, his deification, and his cultus began on October 30th, which is Foundation Day, our most important ritual of the year. This year will be the twelfth time I’ve celebrated it, and the year that follows often takes its auspices from that ritual. My celebration last year was the most solitary, sedate, and under-done ritual I’ve ever had, due to some practical limitations I was facing at the time. This year, things will be much different, and I’ve decided it’s important enough to take the day off work entirely for the occasion. There is no more important date or event in my year than this, and it has been a part of my life long before my current job, or any other I’ll ever hold in the future. I owe my life to my gods, and this is one way that I can show it, and plan to for the foreseeable future. The mysteries of life and death, of love and deification, of devotion and dealing with tragedy, of deep and destructively sorrowful mourning…but also, the ecstasy of transformation, and the birth of hope amidst desolation and chaos, are all tied up with this coming set of festivals. A simple sentence of nouns and adjectives, or an entire cycle of epic poems so piercing in their imagery as to send shockwaves through the senses of anyone who reads or hears their verses, are equally inadequate to convey these matters effectively and vividly for consumption and understanding.” – P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, on the Sacred Nights of Antinous, and eir choice of silence during those nights.

Lon Milo DuQuette

Lon Milo DuQuette

“We were with the William Morris Agency who got us a one night gig backing Sammy Davis Jr. at the Coconut Grove of the Ambassador Hotel in LA. We told our agent we were an acid cowboy band and just did our own material and that we didn’t do stuff like that. He said, “They know that. It will be okay!” and we answered back that we’d do it, but that we could only do what we could do. We set up and played until Sammy showed up and started to talk to the crowd of invited celebrities: John Wayne, Nancy Sinatra, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Robert Wagner, Debbie Reynolds, and my favorite… a young George Carlin …. who was stoned and the only one to come up to the stage and tell us we were “Groovy”. Charley and I looked at each other when we realized that Sammy was starting to introduce the song Spinning Wheel. We quietly took off our guitars and crept off stage leaving Sammy all alone with only our drummer to back him on Spinning Wheel. Charley and I headed straight for the bar. We never worked with William Morris Agency again … neither did our ‘agent.’” - Lon Milo DuQuette, sharing a tale from his early years in the music business, from an interview with Jason Mankey.

Sarah Veale

Sarah Veale

“Now it’s unclear from the passage whether the Greeks used this reasoning when they devastated Euboea, or if this is Herodotus conjecturing after the fact. What is clear is that Herodotus draws a clear line between the slaughter of the sheep and the Euboeans refusal to carry out the commands of the oracle. As Herodotus says, “They brought disaster upon themselves…Since they learnt nothing from these words…misfortune was their teacher about what is really important” (8.20; translation Waterfield 495). Herodotus obviously is privileging divine order here, suggesting that humans are compelled to obey the will of the gods or suffer the consequences. Herodotus also doesn’t tell us too much about the Euboean’s part in this whole scenario.** We don’t know whether they flat-out refused the obey the oracle, or if they misinterpreted it. (Which is what happened to some unlucky Athenians with the aforementioned “wooden wall” message. Spoiler: they died.) All we know is that Herodotus interprets the events as being consonant with the oracle’s pronouncements. The brutal actions of the Greeks are justified, not just by circumstances of war, but by the Gods. This passage shows an interesting mix of politics, warfare and religion. While it’s particular to the ancient world, isn’t so far removed from modern-day claims of divine justice. That said, we can see how the oracle was important, not just in influencing Greek tactics on the ground, but also to the historians who recorded events for posterity. In this case, a little editorializing by Herodotus about the irreverence of the Euboeans shows the emphasis ancient Greek culture placed on obeying the gods—and how it could be used to justify otherwise questionable actions.” – Sarah Veale, on oracles and acts of war.

Frater Barrabbas Tiresius

Frater Barrabbas Tiresius

“Do I believe that someone can practice magic and still be a good Christian? Absolutely, and this is really an absurd question, since nearly all of the renaissance grimoires are Christian based. These books obviously were written by Christians and practiced by Christians, so that seems like a logical assumption to me. It is true that certain Christian church institutions have promoted an anti-magic and anti-occult bias, but then again, it is questionable as to how strictly such prohibitions are enforced today. Certainly any Catholic who admitted in the confessional to practicing rituals to invoke angels and demons would likely face some serious penance and have to prove contrition to their respective parish priest. Some other sects are also steadfastly against any form of occultism, divination or magic, but I would assume that such adherents wouldn’t bother practicing these kinds of rites anyway. I also believe that you don’t have to be a member of a church to be a Christian, and that forms of esoteric Christianity would not only allow but might even encourage certain kinds of religious based occult workings and research.” – Frater Barrabbas Tiresius, sharing some of his thoughts on Christianity.

Carlton Gebbia

Carlton Gebbia

“Yeah. Well, there’s a lot of debate about what I supposedly practice, because Wicca and other religions are covered under the umbrella of Paganism. I’m Celtic, which is my ancestry. And I practice witchcraft. My grandmother was a Pagan. There are so many branches of Paganism and there are also different ways to practice these faiths. There’s no one defined answer. Because I’m a sole practitioner, it’s more of what works for me personally and spiritually, and something that has been in my family since the day I was born. It’s not something I fell into, although it’s a fantastic faith. It’s incredibly positive. We believe that the spirit lies in everything around us and I believe that spiritual growth is related to the cycles of the earth. I believe in the moon phases as well. [...] I’ve said it before, any religion [my children] decide to follow I’ll be supportive of it. I’ve never, until I had to really explain what I believe in—which happened when I was in school—I just don’t define people by their religious beliefs. I don’t stand in judgment of anybody’s religion. It’s now been a repetitive cycle for me.  From school to now, it [has been] judged, unfortunately negatively.  But if people who have a genuine interest do the research, they’ll see that it is very, very positive.” - Carlton Gebbia, a Real Housewife of Beverly Hills, on her religion.

Gus DiZerega

Gus DiZerega

“There is a delicious irony captured in the old NeoPagan chant ‘We are an old people, we are a new people, we are the same people, stronger than before.’ Paganism and pantheism, considered broadly, comprise humanity’s oldest spiritual insights, existing in hunting and gathering cultures that lasted for millennia before the rise of agriculture. Over time agricultural societies became increasingly hierarchical and unequal, and as they did Spirit was increasingly kicked upstairs, out of direct reach to many and eventually to a purely transcendental realm. Life became something from which to seek salvation or escape. With the rise of democratic societies increasingly free from the authoritarian hierarchies that characterized agricultural civilizations, that original pantheistic insight is again finding fertile soil, but on a broader landscape.  Many of us are a new people seeking to bridge and combine the best of our past with the best of the new. Many indigenous people today recognize our common similarity. In interfaith meetings they call NeoPagans “brothers and sisters” and see us as an “indigenous religion but not an indigenous people.”  Given that many of them now live in cities far from the lands that are the foundation for their spirituality, they can relate with that status.  We are like them, only for a longer time, and are now rediscovering those primal insights.” – Gus DiZerega, on pantheism, Paganism, and the soul of democracy.

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

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

    Just breaking the silence for a moment–and I’m sorry to have to do it for this reason, Jason, but the pronoun you used for me is incorrect. In the case above, it should be “eir,” not “his.” But, I still love you, and you’re doing an awesome job, and thank you for all of your hard work daily for our community’s information and betterment!

    • http://www.wildhunt.org/blog/ Jason Pitzl-Waters

      I am terribly sorry! I usually try to be aware of pronoun preferences, and I slipped up. I have already corrected the sentence.

      My best to you on these holy nights!

      • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

        Gratias ago tibi!
        Today is a particularly solemn day (when he died), and somewhat lonely…hence, breaking the silence a bit; but, I’ll be with many other Mystai and devotees on Foundation Day, so I’m looking forward to that!

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    When folks come out as being polyamorous, into BDSM, or who aren’t shy about sleeping around, I have seen other Pagans judge them and dismiss their wisdom. — from the Shauna Aura Knight linked article.I’ve seen exactly this happen here in Oberlin. Well, Cleveland actually. A woman wanted to give a workshop on sacred sexuality at Pagan Pride Day. Because she’s polyamorous and a lifestyle submissive the gatekeepers assumed she was planning a BDSM demo, without ever reading her prospectus. When I came to her defense after the fact the gatekeepers made the mistake of sending me the PPD rules, pointing out the ban on exposing minors to inappropriate stuff. I sent them back, pointing out that the minors-protection rule explicitly did not cover adults-only activities and further pointing out the rule against marginalizing anyone for their sexuality. While I was marshaling my arguments on that score about implicit marginalization one gatekeeper erupted with an email that made it explicit.Amazingly, I had the same argument twice with two different gatekeepers, like playing identical chess games with two people in a row. I disrupted the second one with an email to the effect of “Here’s what you’re going to say next and here’s my reply.”I realize this isn’t the TWH excerpt from Knight’s blog, but it struck me as highly resonant with my experience, and quite in line with Knight’s basic point that the proclaimed sex-positivity of Paganism does not fully emerge from the sexual shadow of the larger culture to which we are a supposed alternative.

    • Helen/ Hawk

      It’s of interest to me that perhaps one of the last closets is that of folks that are Pagan and either not that interested in sex or who are quite private. Which is Not The Same as being puritanical.

      • kenofken

        I have no idea why people assume the pagan community as a general matter is kinky or particularly free-wheeling sexually. Having been to many festivals and once at PSG, I’ve found pagans to be as generally vanilla as the general population.

        I think there’s a greater degree of live and let live tolerance, but most aren’t especially freaky. There are people who talk a lot of game when they’re drinking, and a certain amount of cross-over with the BDSM community.

        Most of what passes for “poly” is guys out trolling (and sometimes harassing), on the sly. “My wife is cool with it, but don’t tell her. She doesn’t want to know details.” Uh-huh. I know a lot of folks who are the real deal and do groups and everything else you might imagine, but don’t feel the need to brag. They certainly don’t need to pressure “regular” people into things.

        • Baruch Dreamstalker

          I’ve encountered Pagan kink that walks the walk with no need to talk the talk. I think you’re right, we’re more tolerant and open; but I also think the actual kink density is little more than the general population, just candid.

          • kenofken

            You’re probably right. I guess my underlying point is that pagans are not so inherently kinky that one should not presume anyone they meet is down for (fill in the blank). It’s all a matter of respect. Even in communities which are all about kink – swingers, BDSM etc., no means no and that should be the end of it.

        • Northern_Light_27

          I wouldn’t say I’ve encountered exceptional freakiness, what I take issue with is that an awful lot of festival-going Pagans have such lousy boundaries. If you’re getting it on in front of other people, you’re making people who didn’t consent to it part of your sexytimes and that’s not okay. If you’re doing a BDSM scene in front of a bunch of other people, same thing. At best it’s rude, at worst it’s triggering to others.

    • Franklin Evans

      Just taking this opportunity to say that I didn’t make it to the previous thread — where you (validly) challenged my use of the term “baiting” — before they closed it for comments.

      I accept your correction to my assumption. I don’t see any value in belaboring it any more.

      • Baruch Dreamstalker

        Thank you for taking the effort to make this comment here.

        • Franklin Evans

          I regret impugning your integrity. Just another example of why I find online interactions woefully inadequate.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Franklin: I finally tracked down that elusive post. It arose from a blunder on my part which I regret. I posted a sharp reply to TadghMor without realizing it was on a different thread from the one to which I was referring. I appeared to be gratuitously re-igniting a past argument. It was perfectly reasonable that he thought me an a**hole and you thought I was baiting him. My apologies to you both.

          • Franklin_Evans

            :D Mutual regrets, at least to my sensibilities, should end in a mutual libation. May there be a beverage of your choice in your immediate future.

  • Franklin Evans

    I’m honestly shocked by Knight’s commentary and descriptions on several levels. I’ve neither witnessed nor learned second-hand of that sort of violation (more on that in a moment) in my area, and I’d be sorely tempted to raise a very large stink over it even towards a person to whose group I have no affiliation… but then, I’m not much for boundaries in that situation.

    Anyway, it doesn’t matter if the context is Pagan, Pastafarian or Trekkers, I wouldn’t stop at calling it harassament. I see it as a clear violation of consent, and depending on the circumstances I’d consider using legal terms to describe its criminality.

    The vast majority of our local communities are small. There is enormous pressure to tolerate personality tensions and conflicts because there’s just no other choices to be had. In this case, I’d seriously suggest that the person so targeted at least remove herself (or himself) permanently, and if so constituted and confident make a public charge against the perpetrator before leaving. This is too serious to let it be protected by silence. One may just find supporting voices, who found it necessary to remain in solitary silence but would be emboldened with company.

    Personal aside to Ms. Knight: I wish to clarify that I am in no way second-guessing your experience and choices from them. I’m just very angry that a person would come to you thinking that the harasser is due any sort of respect, and that she is obligated to avoid “causing an interstellar war between herself and this man”. That man is afforded much more respect than he deserves, in my opinion.

  • http://saffronrose.livejournal.com/ A. Marina Fournier

    There is a person in the pagan community who I know of old. I heard from one young woman, when we all lived south of here, that he’d pressured her for sex as part of the teaching process in his group. What I’ve seen of him since is that he goes for the younger, thin, and not the sharpest knife in the drawer type of woman. I haven’t seen any evidence of wisdom or even good behavior from him. I avoid him like the plague, to avoid making it seem as if I approve of him, not because I’m in the demographic he pursues. He don’t like smart women, cause they’re hip to his tricks…

    I don’t tend to “smile fondly” about someone who is tendering unwanted sexual behavior, no matter the demographic that person pursues. That all being said, I can understand the person, who possibly not well known, is faced with a “leader” or BNP who is behaving inappropriately toward her or him, not knowing how to escape it without being labelled.

    I, too, prefer privacy for my intimate activities, or at least the proper venue/situation. Dancing around a fire naked, unless it’s in a hearth surrounded by wood or carpet flooring, invites disaster and discomfort for *me*. Dancing around a fire in the dark outdoors is an invitation to injury, as well.

    Having been pressured by alleged “friends” to watch, or to join, when I was feeling anything but interested–well, I guess I’m a prude, because those incidents felt like unlawful detainment. In one case, I was waiting for a ride home, 50 miles away or so; in the other, my neighbor and his fluff were stronger than me, as well as being two healthy, to my single in-pain self. The first I had to wait through, the second time I crept away once their attention was focused away from me. I locked the door once back home.

    Honored Lupus (how should one address you?), may the year that follows this Foundation Day bring you nothing but positive auspices.

    Teo Bishop, my mobility-challenged sister would like me to take her to, and keep her company during Mass. I tried to on Palm Sunday. I left so that I didn’t embarrass her by telling the priest what I thought of his sermon & attitude. I have to find another way to get her to Mass in a way that meets all her needs. As a Witch, I have a hard time with this emphasis on bowing down, humbling, and wallowing in an excess of alleged unworthiness. I’d be more comfortable in a Quivering Brotherhood service!

    Ms. Coyle, I sign and write letters/emails to legislators and others, seeking justice for those who see little of it. Can’t not do that. I do walk my talk, but not to the degree you do (which I admire).

    Mr. diZerega and Frater Tiresius, I appreciate what you have to say and share your outlook.

    • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

      Many thanks on your good wishes, and I likewise wish the best for you in all that you do! (And, just Lupus is fine, or even Lupus Doctor/Dr. Lupus; but “Honored Lupus” is especially flattering, so thank you for that, and for your courtesy, as well!)