Pagan Voices: Vivianne Crowley, Peter Dybing, Thorn Coyle, and More!

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  October 21, 2013 — 99 Comments

Pagan Voices is a regular feature here at The Wild Hunt, one that seeks to highlight our voices, wisdom, debates, thought processes, and evolution in the public eye. If you enjoy this regular round-up, please consider donating to our Fall Funding Drive (and thank you to the over 200 supporters who have already donated). Now, onward…

Vivianne Crowley

Vivianne Crowley

“Why does consciousness awareness bring such pain? As a species we have become god-like in our ability to create the world in which we live and to be aware of our own existence. We have become as the gods; but we do not become gods. Unlike gods, we have frail physical bodies. We have the self-awareness of the divine, but the fragility of a beautiful flower that blooms for only a short time before it is blown away on the wind. We may incarnate again but the ‘I’ that exists now, formed by genetic inheritance and the experiences of this current lifetime, is transitory. Our consciousness and sense of self are dependent on the physical brain and one day that brain will no longer function. This knowledge can cause us anguish and despair – it is difficult to let go of the self that we have always known – or we can acknowledge and accept our destiny and value this incarnation all the more because it is so short. Time passes, youth fades, illness and ageing come. This is the fate of all us, a shared human ending. Even the richest of us like Steve Jobs cannot escape the inevitability of death.” – Vivianne Crowley, on death, and beyond, from a Pagan context.

Peter Dybing

Peter Dybing

“Many individuals in our community seek to expand their practice and network of contacts by sticking exclusively to theological pursuits ignoring the connections our beliefs have with the environmental, political and social issues of the day. Such an approach, while minimizing the potential for discord, leads to a ‘Pagan light’ approach to daily practice. For an activist, the spiritual is political, personal and weaved fully into our understanding of our path. If this is so, how do we avoid the many conflicts that arise from our activities? The simple answer is we don’t. If our beliefs and actions lead to strife among our co-religionists, it is a reflection of our effectiveness in pursuing our deity inspired concepts of social justice. At the center of this divergence is the ability to hold those within our circles with whom we disagree in what I term ‘Sacred Regard’ as teachers, clarifiers of our path and respected seekers on their own journey.” – Peter Dybing, on activism, acceptance, and approval within the Pagan community.

Chas Clifton

Chas Clifton

“Most people do not fight over theology anyway. Theology is often just a group marker, “us versus them.” The theological claims themselves are secondary. People fight for their group more than “for the gods,” perhaps. People will change religion for a variety of reasons—to get along with a spouse’s family, to gain or to retain their social status (the Roman senatorial class), or to avoid having their heads chopped off… An “organic” Pagan society is the dream of many, but as Things Fall Apart illustrates, such a society can be transformed within one generation.  I do, of course, consider both the traditional Igbo and the fourth-century Romans to be Pagan, using the term as we now define it. There is no other choice when “traditional religion goes global” either, as the recent New York Times piece about a West African traditional priest working in New York City described. When geographical and cultural boundaries are crossed, we need a “global” descriptor. Can we construct a theology — or is it part of Pagan theology today — to say that the gods fight their own battles?” – Chas Clifton, on why the Pagans did not fight for their gods, and some reflections on that idea.

Cat Chapin-Bishop

Cat Chapin-Bishop

“I read the part describing the admission fee–$30 per person–and I thought, No.  This is just not right. I’ve been trying to put my finger on why that is.  It feels important to me to find words for this. It’s not disrespect for Penczak.  It’s not that I think it’s an unreasonable fee–there are travel costs, and the guy deserves to earn money for his time. It’s not an objection to teachers being paid–heaven knows, as a public school teacher, I’m in favor paychecks going to those who skillfully communicate knowledge.  I think it’s that what I would be looking for, in meeting Penczak, would not be knowledge, but rather, that deeper thing: an exchange of wisdom.  It is my experience that there are kinds of spiritual wisdom that cannot be had in any way other than an exchange, and an exchange between equals between peers.  And not only is is potentially charged for me to assert that I am the peer of someone whose work is widely known, I think it’s also true that the relationship of one peer to another, outside of the closed and narrow world of individual covens or traditions, is one that nothing in the Pagan world is set up to foster. […] My point is something about the Pagan movement as a whole: we don’t do peer relationships well.” – Cat Chapin-Bishop, on peer relationships, and the lack thereof, within the Pagan community.

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

Sam Webster

“It is vitally important that we rebuild the cults of the Gods. These become the pillars supporting all we build thereafter. (Re-)Establishing and cultivating our connections to the Gods with regular offerings and feasts brings Their powers and presences deeply into our lives. This is what was taken away from our forebears by Christianity and Islam, and with the same urgency as they were destroyed, we need to restore the ancient practice. Places consecrated to the Gods and activated through offerings radiate Their blessings into the world about about them and into the lives of those who worship. Our culture’s lack of alignment with the Gods is a fundamental dimension to our self-destruction. Without cultivating pluralism, without honoring the Many and the Particular, we will continue our descent into barbarity. Mostly I would expect Pagans to come and worship in the restored cults, although if open enough others—not Pagan, or not yet Pagan—will come join us to eat and drink with the Gods. But we need a more outward-facing strategy: we need to rebuild the Mysteries.” – Sam Webster, on how a Pagan restoration can save the world.

T. Thorn Coyle

T. Thorn Coyle

“When the paramedics came, they asked her a few questions. She requested that she be able to take her food to go. I quickly packed up some bread and salad, but couldn’t find an extra jar for soup. Some other guests at her table helped. When I returned with the food, the paramedics were getting her up, one on each side. This next part is what killed me, and is the reason I’m writing this down: She immediately put her hands behind her back, wrist over wrist, awaiting handcuffs. One of the paramedics said, “You don’t have to do that. We’re not the cops. We’re paramedics.” I followed behind, with her food bag, talking with one of the women holding a clipboard. I explained about the HIV and meds. I gave her name. The entire time I walked behind her, she held her hands in that handcuffed position. She had asked for help the only way she knew how – by laying across the food counter. She had wanted the paramedics to come. Yet part of her knew, just knew, she was being arrested. Hands behind her back. Wrist over wrist. It felt like a tragedy to me. What sort of life has she lived so far that even in asking for and receiving help, she expected punishment? And how do we do this to ourselves? What boxes are we living in? What shadows? What do our bodies know that we can’t even speak of? What punishment, or rejection, or pain waits coiled inside? How can we help ourselves heal?” – T. Thorn Coyle, on tragedy and healing.

Carol P. Christ

Carol P. Christ

“According to retired anthropological archaeologist Dean Snow, the handprints made by Paleolithic ancestors 40,000-20,000 years ago may have been made primarily by women. Snow spent a decade gathering and analyzing photographs of the handprints left in caves. The scientific fact that women’s first and ring fingers are generally of the same length, while men’s ring fingers are generally longer their index fingers, led him to the conclusion that ¾ of the handprints in the caves were made by women! If women were painting their hands on the caves in larger numbers than men, then isn’t likely that they were also painting the images of the great beasts on the walls of the caves? This is Snow’s conclusion.  The article states that Snow’s findings contradict the widely held theory that male hunters were the sole creators of the cave paintings of the Paleolithic caves such as Lascaux and Chauvet. Feminist interpreters of the cave paintings have long noted that pregnant animals which no hunter would ever kill are also portrayed on the walls of the caves. This suggests a wider purpose for cave rituals than hunting magic. Still, comfortable assumptions that support widely held gender stereotypes are not easily dislodged. ‘Man the hunter’ remains the popular image of ‘cave man,’ while the image of ‘cave woman’ being pulled by her hair by ‘cave man’ sticks in the mind. Despite decades of feminist theorizing about caves as the womb of the Great Mother, Snow refused to speculate about the meanings ‘cave women’ might have given to the images within the caves. Could it be that he had never even encountered the idea that the cave symbolizes the womb of Mother Earth? Did this idea simply not ‘make sense’ to him? Is the idea of expressing gratitude to the Source of Life alien to him?  Or did he have difficulty imagining that the Source of Life is located in the earth–not in heaven?” – Carol P. Christ, on women artists and ritualists in great caves.

Alyxander Folmer

Alyxander Folmer

“I find the practice of Apologetic argument execrable. Apologetics don’t lead to conversation, and they don’t facilitate respectful exchange. Instead, they make a declaration and then reject anything that may contradict that statement. This is the opposite of everything modern logical thought and scientific practice has taught us. The scientific method teaches us to observe, gather as much relevant information as possible, and form a conclusion based on that evidence. In the case of the debate in question, this means finding a common definition of the term “Christian” and then speaking with Mormons to determine if they do or do not fit that definition. In the method of Apologetics, one chooses a conclusion and then finds sources that support it. In this case, the predetermined conclusion was “NO!”, which the writer supported by quoting authors and ideologues that agreed with them, while also refusing to listen to any details that might disprove their preferred answer.” – Alyxander Folmer, making his feelings plain on apologetic arguments.

That’s all I have for now, please remember to support The Wild Hunt during our Fall Funding Drive so that we can continue to spotlight intriguing, provocative, and informative voices from our interconnected communities!

Jason Pitzl-Waters

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