Pagan Voices: T. Thorn Coyle, Teo Bishop, Sarah Veale, Cat Chapin-Bishop, and More!

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  October 2, 2013 — 12 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.

T. Thorn Coyle

T. Thorn Coyle

“Monotheists were pointing to a truth in speaking of the unity of love, but they did not yet have the number zero, the cipher, the void. By naming something one, they were trying to get at its unity. What they were not able to realize at the time, is that naming something one, instead of all, is a first separation out, it is a distancing that makes the All the Other. And therein lies trouble. Therein lies alienation. One, rather than remaining a unifying force, becomes a separate being. And that separation opens a deep wound. Mystics of all religions and cultures have experienced the truth of the wholeness of God Hirself as zero and all, regardless of the name their religion assigns to this concept of deity. Those that are not mystics have not always felt this unity, and have waged many bloody wars over the separation and disconnection they have felt. We sometimes fight these wars inside of ourselves, whether we believe in many Gods, no Gods, one God or a limitless Divinity that is all. We can feel separate from God Hirself. We can disconnect from the pattern of love. We can enter back into connection and the flow of the Limitless. In that flow we can become the center to her circumference and we can learn to include all. The limitless is beyond duality, beyond black and white, dark and light, anger and hope, though she is within all of these and expressed through all of these. The limitless is zero and many, nothing and all.” – T. Thorn Coyle, on God Hirself.

Teo Bishop

Teo Bishop

I write songs. It’s my gig. For about 1/3 of every month I’m in Los Angeles writing, doing work in the ever-evolving Music Industry, and I really enjoy it. When I started this blog I was of the mindset that there needed to be a separate space for me to do my spiritual work. I couldn’t allow overlap with the promotional work I was doing around the release of my album. That could get messy. Too many people were invested in the success of the project for me to put that in jeopardy by being transparent, I though. But what I’m coming to discover is that there is really is no way to avoid overlap. You don’t have your “spiritual life” in a vacuum. You are all of the things that you are, pretty much all the time. At least, that’s my experience. For me, my creative process opens up spiritual understanding. And many times my spiritual explorations lead to creative inspiration. It’s interesting to me that I was so desperate to compartmentalize my life when I started this blog considering that many of my songs are directly influenced by different periods of my religious life. You can’t extract my spirituality from my music. Just ain’t gunna happen. So why keep the music apart from my spiritual work?” – Teo Bishop, on integration, identity, creativity, and the question of if his readers will follow the journey.

Sarah Veale

Sarah Veale

“We’ve discussed some constructions of women in antiquity previously on the blog. Specifically, we looked at how PlatonicHermeticGnostic, and even Kabbalistic texts painted a picture of womanhood that was far from complementary. Given this dicey outlook on femininity, it would be fair to consider if there was anything at all that the ancients found valuable in a woman. There is. It’s her butt. To be specific, it appears that ancient writers prized a large, round derrière. The converse, not so much. Now, I take no issue with this. In fact, as someone who has been endowed with a rather ample backside, the only way it could get better is if the perfect woman also had a lazy eye and spoke with a Chicago accent. Obviously, these fellows had their priorities in order. Hesiod, for one, knew the appeal of a lady with a big butt, connecting it directly to one’s sexual allure. However, even a plump booty couldn’t save a woman from her most basic problem: That she was a woman and full of lies.” – Sarah Veale, on big butts, and the ideal woman in antiquity.

Cat Chapin-Bishop

Cat Chapin-Bishop

“Why do owls call out in the autumn?  Their season of mating is over, the owlets have grown up and flown away… and in the small hours of the night, there are no daytime birds to mob them.  Are they responding to the coming winter, the season of death, and calling out for it?  Or are they calling out to one another still, pair of owls protecting their territory, making their presence known to ward off invaders who would threaten that pair and their life together? Autumn and winter are the season of the owl, at least at night, and when I cannot sleep.  And I am middle-aged, with the aches and pains of my oncoming menopause to keep me awake at night.  I cannot hide from my mortality, and I cannot hide from my fears, because the Season of the Owl is coming, and my voice may not be enough, when I call out in the night, to protect what I love most, and keep it with me, warm and safe in the time of cold. The stars are lovely overhead.  And if the owls are harbingers of death, they are also measures of the overwhelming nature of love.” – Cat Chapin-Bishop, on the season of the owl.

John Halstead

John Halstead

“It’s no coincidence that when I identified as Mormon (my primary religious identity), I took my Christianity for granted.  And when I left Mormonism, and “Christian” was all I had to identify myself with, then I was more skeptical of Mormonism’s Christianity.  Now that I am on the outside looking in, I see that the question of whether or not Mormons are Christians has less to do with Mormons than it has to do with the person asking the question. Because we have religious freedom and the right to self-determination, no one is going to keep anyone from calling themselves whatever they want to.  So what are we doing when we try to draw these lines to exclude one group or another from Christianity or from Paganism?  These lines don’t exist in the real world.  But they do exist within us.  When we define what “Christian” or “Pagan” means, we are really trying to define who we are.  I for one don’t believe this is avoidable.  Boundary drawing is an essential part of the process of identity formation.  But it behooves us to be conscious of what we are doing.  When we say that so-and-so is or is not Christian or Pagan, we are not really talking about them.  We are talking about ourselves.” – John Halstead, on Mormonism, Christianity, Paganism, and drawing boundaries.

Drew Jacob

Drew Jacob

“The Hero Round Table is a conference dedicated to creating more heroes in our world. That means at all levels: from workers who blow the whistle on illegal activity, to passersby who help accident victims, to simply speaking up when you believe something is wrong. As Matt would say, the opposite of a hero is not a villain—it’s a bystander. In Paganism, heroes are our bridge to the gods. The heroes of legend combine otherworldly traits with a very human set of weaknesses and faults. For all their imperfections, they show us that mortals can embody the highest ideals. All of us have the spark of heroism within us. For many Pagans, our entire ethics is evolved from the heroic ideal: individuals who follow their ideals, who do not recognize false authority, and who put the quest for truth first. While these ideas are rooted in ancient myth, today’s psychology suggests that they are quite real: there are ways to help people be more ready to act heroically when needed, ways to increase the level of heroic action in our society. Some of the people who pioneered that research will be speaking at the Round Table.” – Drew Jacob, on a summit for creating heroism, one that Pagans are invited to.

Dr. Robert Mathiesen

Dr. Robert Mathiesen

“While I was an active professor at a research university, I felt myself constrained not to take any oath of secrecy or confidentiality that would keep me from shedding light on the sources for my research, so I worked with the history of this Tradition exclusively from material that Gwen Thompson herself had published, or that was otherwise not oath-bound. As for future work on Thompson’s family and their esoteric interests, we shall see. Theitic has recently published an article about our collaboration in the latest issue of Michael Howard’s The Cauldron (no. 148), which might be of interest to your readers. I certainly plan to continue my research on the various kinds of pre-Gardnerian (or non-Gardnerian) Witchcraft in the United States. I am particularly interested in how women devised or invented Witchcrafts of their own, usually as a way to empower themselves, between the years 1860 and 1960. This happened more commonly than one might think. (Something similar was probably happening in the United Kingdom during the same decades.) In general, these women relied on popular books on the history of magic and witchcraft, on fiction about Witches and magicians, and on folklore (both in published form and in living oral tradition), as they invented Witchcrafts for themselves.” - Dr. Robert Mathiesen, on his work researching Gwen Thompson, and pre/non-Gardnerian Witchcraft.

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

“Perhaps I should state, first of all, that despite the fact that I’m of a non-typical gender identity, and I think that the boundaries of gender as currently defined by the overculture are problematic and needlessly narrow, nonetheless I’m not at all for the idea of the elimination of gender and gender identities altogether, and never have been. I think men are great; I think women are great; I think trans men and trans women are great; I think metagender and pangender and gender fluid and non-gendered people are great; I think that any and every potential gender is great. Just because I think there should be more options, and likewise I think that there should be more options within each gender option, does not mean that I am against the notion of there being “men” as classically defined or understood, or “women” as traditionally understood and defined. I think those are perfectly fine and valid choices to make within those genders, and as long as they do not exclude the possibility of other people making other choices, nor fall into the trap of thinking that their own gender identity is the only “real” type of woman or man, I don’t think there’s a problem. So, that’s that. However, I think there is a problem when certain conceptual categorizations within common notions of gender–whether they are those of the overculture or are those of a subculture like modern paganism most definitely happens to be–start to assume things that are not as true as they might like them to be, or are perhaps more wishful thinking than actual truth that is caused by flawed understandings.” – P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, on gender, and in response to Peter Dybing’s recent post about men and the Goddess.

Donald Michael Kraig's ring.

Donald Michael Kraig’s ring.

“When my friend gave me the finished ring, I initially looked at it in utter disappointment. As I looked at it she told me that all of the silver in it was recovered from melted rings that featured Masonic and other spiritual symbolism. She had made it spending many hours of work, and only worked on it during appropriate magickal hours. As I continued to look at the ring, I felt disheartened. It wasn’t what I would call “perfect.” The circles weren’t perfectly round. The lines weren’t perfectly straight. And then, I had a revelation; an epiphany. No other ring in the history of the Earth had ever been made like this one. No other ring in the history of the Earth had ever had all of the loving energy put into it in a magickal way as this artist had done. No other ring in the history of the Earth had ever been composed of the silver from those particular sources. No other ring in the history of the Earth had this particular design. Even if someone took the design and copied it, even if they made molds from this very ring, no other ring will ever be exactly like it. My epiphany was that this ring, with all of what I had previously seen as imperfections, was uniquely and absolutely perfect. This also changed my concept that items which were manufactured, stamped out, and one of 1,000 or more identical copies were “perfect.” I no longer consider them so. Even if they’re expensive I don’t care. I’ve come to value uniqueness and individuality over the conformity of of what others might call perfection.” – Donald Michael Kraig, on his magickal ring (pictured).

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

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • Faoladh

    Mr. Kraig’s experience with his ring reminds me of the change in perception that came over me when I first started to look at (pictures of) ancient Irish and British artifacts. At first, I was shocked that the gems were cut so seemingly clumsily, that the settings were asymmetric and the engravings weren’t precise and linear, which was my learned idea of perfection. Then, as I looked at them, I began to see (as it were) the hands that formed them, hands that learned to do so at the instruction of other masters of the art. Then I began to see the perfection of the items as individual artistic objects, as manifestations of the psyche behind the hands that made them.

  • Franklin Evans

    Many years ago I attended a lecture by a fine arts professor (a woman) about the regional and stylistic representations of femininity and sexual allure. The “big butt” aspect harkens back to very ancient times when wide hips were considered a mark of fertility (easier labor and delivery) primarily, and a mark of sexual attractiveness by extension. I forget which period she used (Baroque or Renaissance) to also show the same purpose and expected reaction to women with a slightly rounded abdomen. As I recall, she compared the sexual allure of it to turn of the 20th-century fashion changes and the controversy at the time of exposing a woman’s ankles.
    We moderns just have to make it all more complicated… or less, with nearly any part of a woman being exposed (where it hadn’t been before) or emphasized in some way.

    • kenofken

      Lush, curvy pagan women are the best evidence I have that Goddess loves me! :)

      • Franklin Evans

        My masculine response makes me take notice, but it’s the eyes that keeps my attention and expands my appreciation. I see the Goddess in her eyes, as it were, and the rest of the world fades to insignificance. :D

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    I clicked on the Mathiesen link and came up with this gem:It seems to me that colleges and universities, at least in the United States, are no longer governed by scholars and scientists, but have fallen in to the hands of businessmen and corporate leaders, who give only lip service to traditional educational ideals. At present individual academics can still manage, here and there, to fly under the radar (so to speak) and offer courses in esoteric subjects. But I see very little future for the academic study of magic and esotericism in the United States as an established field during the next few decades, for political and economic reasons, not for scholarly ones.Sounds like a wide-open niche for Pagan academies and seminaries!

    • Franklin Evans

      We all know about Cherry Hill, so I thought to mention two others (to which I have a personal affection and support):

      Open Hearth Foundation — http://www.openhearth.org/about

      New Alexandrian Library — http://www.sacredwheel.org/nal.html

    • Crystal Hope Kendrick

      I think that’s true of arts and humanities in general, unfortunately. But you are correct in that this can be seen as an opportunity for those able and willing to provide education in these areas. I’ve been thinking (nothing formal but just random wistful thoughts here and there) about schools established just for the continuation of subjects falling under the arts and humanities umbrella. A society without the humanities is not a real society, after all.

      • thelettuceman

        Hopefully the upcoming release of the University of Wisconsin’s online Master’s Program (ringing in at a total of 6,000 dollars for a full Master’s degree cost) will cause such dramatic upheaval that it reworks the entire system. Because frankly, the state of American education is so abysmal that something needs to be done. It’s not like the professors are benefiting from institutions having exorbitant tuition costs.

        I have had the same thoughts..that if I had a massive windfall of money, I’d try to found the most elite Liberal Arts/Humanities college that I could.

        • Robert Mathiesen

          That was the university (Brown) where I taught, back in the 1700s. It survived as an excellent undergraduate college until the 1980s, but ever more weak financially each decade. In the 1980s it started pursuing money big-time. Now it’s a so-so research university, at the very low end of the high level ones. Things change, and all institutions get co-opted or corrupted (or both) sooner or later. Build what you can for now; just don;t expect it to last indefinitely.

        • kenofken

          No amount of money on the front end will solve the problem, because it ultimately lies on the demand side of the equation.

          Our society does not value education, at all. It values a few of the technical skills that can arise from it, like engineering and finance, but it places zero value on the concept of a population educated in the broadest sense of the word.

          We place no value on knowledge that cannot produce profits by the end of one quarter. We certainly place no stock in the value of art in humanizing and civilizing a culture.

          None of the forces in charge of our business, popular culture or politics have any interest in having a population that has a broad understanding of history and philosophy and the ability to think critically. It would be fatal to their entire regime. We have a major political movement in this country which actually celebrates ignorance as a virtue, and they get elected on that.

          Leave aside for the moment the humanities. We don’t even value hard science anymore. The source of our nation’s wealth was always innovation. Every billion dollar idea has a 20-year lead time that starts with basic research.

          We used to accept that if we took the best minds and paid them to research what fascinated them, some of it would pay off, and it would be worth the wait and investment. We’ve largely abandoned basic research because we’ve given up on the idea of reaching for greatness and being on the cutting edge of anything.

          Rather than trying to grow the economic pie, our consensus seems to be acceptance of a static and shrinking future where the elite get rich mostly through market manipulation and rent seeking rather than creation, and by limiting investment in human capital and sharply limiting social mobility.

          I’m not sure things like the $6,000 masters program are anything to celebrate. Affordability is achieved largely through disinvestment in human capital. College teaching is increasingly done with a throwaway workforce that makes, at most, $15 an hour with no benefits or job security. Rather like seeing the price of bread drop 80% and celebrating, until you realize that all of next year’s seed has been milled into flour to underwrite the bargain.

          Liberal arts will not be saved by finding more economical ways to sell degrees for an unemployable career track. It will require a fundamental rethinking of what our society values as virtues. Paganism, with our historical value of knowledge and our contemporary emphasis on holistic living and sustainability, has a lot to offer in that arena.

          • Robert Mathiesen

            What kenofken said!

  • Lori F

    “What they were not able to realize at the time, is that naming something one, instead of all, is a first separation out, it is a distancing that makes the All the Other. And therein lies trouble. Therein lies alienation. One, rather than remaining a unifying force, becomes a separate being. And that separation opens a deep wound.”
    That’s an amazing observation, Thorn. Thank you for the deep thoughts.