Pagan Voices: Margot Adler, Laura Perry, Gus diZerega, and More!

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  November 5, 2013 — 4 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.

Margot Adler

Margot Adler

“There was a definite tension between our views on death, a tension I didn’t understand until after he died. I realize now it’s a tension that also exists in many of the most interesting vampire novels. My husband had what I would call the ‘high tech view of death’; it was to be avoided at all costs. He was a runner; he was in perfect health; he took various supplements and anti-oxidants. He drank a glass of wine for resveratrol, never smoked, was fit, and, unlike me, he never did any drugs in his youth. He thought he would live to be 100, preferably even older. A science journalist, he followed all the discoveries and advances of aging research. And he thought that when he did die, he might have his ashes flown up in space. His attitude was definitely, ‘rage, rage, rage against the dying of the light.’ I, at that same moment, had more of an Earth-centered Pagan perspective. ‘We are all part of the life cycle. Like a seed we are born, we sprout; we grow, mature and decay, making room for future generations who, like seedlings are reborn through us.’ As for the persistence of consciousness, deep down, I thought, ‘How can we know?’ Perhaps we simply return to the elements; we become earth and air and fire and water. That seemed alright to me.” – Margot Adler, discussing views on death at Judson Memorial Church. You can see a video of her entire talk/sermon, embedded below.

Laura Perry

Laura Perry

“The goddess in her major forms (Ariadne and Rhea) definitely dominated the pantheon and the culture in ancient Crete, but not in the same way that a male god dominates many other, later pantheons. For me, the distinction is that of authoritarian vs. authoritative. An authoritarian figure dominates through aggression and putting others down. An authoritative leader draws on his or her own inner strength to bring out the strength in others and lead them. It’s that second energy that I encounter when I work with the Minoan pantheon, a certain amount of respect for all the members of the pantheon and their necessary place in the scheme of things that I don’t find in, say, the later classical Greek pantheon with its authoritarian leader, Zeus. Ultimately, all human cultures are flawed because human beings aren’t perfect. No matter how flawless the underlying energies of deity may be, when they manifest through a human society they will reflect the foibles of humanity as well as our potential. We organize the world according to what filters through our psyches, and that includes our experience of deity. Flaws aside, however, I think the Minoan pantheon and Minoan society in general offer an excellent example of how the balance of energies can work, with an emphasis on respect for the divine feminine that that modern world so sadly lacks.” – Laura Perry author of Ariadne’s Thread: Awakening the Wonders of the Ancient Minoans in our Modern Lives, discussing Minoan religion and culture.

Annie Sprinkle

Annie Sprinkle

“I think there are a handful of people in the sex industry that are very, very spiritual. There’s a lot of atheists, a lot of people who aren’t interested in anything woo-woo or tantric or magical, that’s for sure. But when you’re doing sex work, you’re so stigmatized and marginalized and prosecuted that anything that can help you cope with the stigma and the stupid laws… we need that. We need those archetypes and images to hold on to, to be able to cope with society’s prejudices and hatred and fear. [...] I think that our society is basically phobic about birth, death, and sex. America is puritanical. On the other hand, millions of people use the services of prostitutes and sex workers and porn. [...] I got spiritual when AIDS hit. I was raised humanist and agnostic, but when AIDS happened I just needed to be able to cope with all the death, and I started to explore really kind of New Age stuff, and spiritual stuff from all different cultures, and it really helped. For me, being around sex and being around gospel singing is the same ecstasy. Ecstasy is ecstasy.” – Annie Sprinkle, performance artist and sexologist, discussing occult, New Age, and Pagan beliefs within the adult entertainment/sex work industry (link might be NSFW, depending on where you work).

Gus DiZerega

Gus DiZerega

“I do not see a revival of American civil religion until new moral and spiritual underpinnings support it. I think these underpinnings exist, and one of the most perceptive early observers of our country intuited what they are, though he did not approve. Alexis de Tocqueville wrote that Pantheism was a natural outgrowth of Democracy. I think he was correct. Spiritual traditions in harmony with a Pantheistic sensibility are in greater accord with the new society America’s principles helped bring into being than are the spiritual traditions of our Founders’ time. Those traditions have atrophied, undermined by the society they helped to create. Hope rests with a new spiritual sensibility that is not necessarily a new religion, but rather can shape the way in which many spiritual traditions are practiced. This sensibility emphasizes divine immanence and the importance of the Sacred Feminine as well as the Masculine. It is within this context that the best of America’s civil religion can be renewed and given life again [...] Hope for us lies in those Christian and other long-established religions opening themselves up to immanentist and feminine insights, as well as new religious movements, NeoPaganism in particular, which explicitly emphasize those values as central. It is for these reasons that I think Pagan insights carry far more weight than our rather modest numbers might suggest.” – Gus diZerega, on the future of America’s civil religion. 

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

“Teo has indicated that what may result from all of this is a kind of blended religious practice, a Christo-Paganism as many have called it previously. I don’t have a problem with this, as long as it doesn’t end up being monotheistic or monistic, and subordinating all other deities to the “One God” of Christianity. There is nothing which says that the Christo-Paganism of any given person needs to accept a monotheistic theology, or to prioritize Christian views on any given subject. (Indeed, the prevailing Christian thoughts on queerness of various sorts are nothing to emulate or admire, for starters.) Thank all the gods that there is no such thing as the Christo-Pagan pope, and that people can take that particular path as experientially as they wish to, and can avoid the worst excesses of creedalism in doing so. Getting to a religious viewpoint that has Jesus as an important part of its practice from the viewpoint of paganism or polytheism is a good thing, I think, because even knowing that there is as much diversity amongst divinity as there is before evaluating Jesus within such frameworks gives a lot more options and a great deal more freedom to those theological viewpoints than has been the case with almost all of modern Christianity, and that has to be construed as a positive step, I think. Thus, I wish Teo, with all sincerity, the very best of luck with whatever comes in the future on his path. You shall always be welcome under my roof and at my table, wherever it may be!” – P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, on the recent spiritual changes within Teo Bishop’s life.

Byron Ballard

Byron Ballard

“As you get older and dig into these vibrant spiritual traditions that dangle from the vaguely “Pagan/Heathen” umbrella, I am here to tell you it gets easier. And it gets better. Decades of practice give you a handle on how to deal with honest seekers, scary bullies, dizzily pompous Self-Proclaimed BNPs. It gets easier as you find your footing.  You may find your practice itself getting simpler…and deeper.  You may even stop asking all those angst-and fear-ridden philosophical questions that seem to make up so much of online Pagan discourse.  You may find that you don’t care so much what other people believe or don’t believe, but you care more that they are kind and sensible and helpful when help is needed. You can hit the month that contains Samhain without a lot of sturm und drang, and may even find yourself enjoying speaking to different kinds of people about the spiritual path you love and follow.  It gets easier…unless what you love about this path is the sense of drama you can evoke and your ability to stir the proverbial pot. If your every mood must be reflected in your online outrage, and your ability to ground and focus is not highly developed, you may not find it getting either easier or deeper. You may begin to feel that you don’t quite have a handle on this “Pagan” thing–it all seems too complex, too ephemeral, more Air and Fire and not nearly enough Earth.” – Byron Ballard, on how it gets easier.

Joseph Merlin Nichter (aka WitchDoctorJoe)

Joseph Merlin Nichter

“Prison is not exactly a safe environment to express sentiment, to show emotion is often interpreted as a weakness and weakness not something you want to display while sharing a cage with predators. Therefore, many of those emotional and communal needs to grieve and mourn the loss of a loved one go unfulfilled. In addition, there is also an element of guilt involved. Guilt for their absence in the lives of their friends and family, guilt for not being there in their last moments and guilt for not being able to pay them their proper respect. Over time, the combined weight and pressure of their withheld emotions, lack of closure and incarcerated guilt can be very damaging and diminishes the very concept of rehabilitation.  Over these past six years I have seen the power of Samhain change lives; relieving the pressure of unexpressed emotions and lifting the burdens of incarcerated guilt. Giving inmates an opportunity to share the leaves that have fallen from the trees of their lives. The circle gives them a safe space, a sanctuary, to finally release what they’ve been withholding for so long. It’s never a dry ceremony, emotions so powerful don’t just exit the body through words from the mouth alone, they are always found streaming from the heart and bursting forth through the eyes. On several occasions over these past six years, the leaf, the life that an inmate had chosen to honor was the very life they had been imprisoned for taking. And to that, even I lack the words.” – Joseph Merlin Nichter, on Samhain seasons spent in a cell.

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Donald Michael Kraig

Donald Michael Kraig

“The first classes I taught at the shop nearby were four-weeks long. Later, it extended to eight weeks. The people in the area were very much into the subject and they would do homework assignments and share their work for comments in class. One of the first practical magick techniques I shared involved creative visualization. Most teachers and practitioners don’t get into the Kabalistic secrets of the technique in the way that I do, and both I and many of my students have had a great deal of success using it. Being able to have longer series of classes was a wonderful luxury. I’d get to know more about the students and we had chances to build up relationships. They’d get to see what others are doing and we’re able to share. But in the third week of a four-week class the shop informed me that one of my students had to drop out. ‘Why?’ I asked. ‘For over a year he’d been trying to sell the mobile home where he lived,’ I was told. ‘He put your ideas for creative visualization into practice and he sold it within a couple of weeks. Now he has to spend his time moving out.’ I understood, but I wished he’d remained in class. Still, telling the class that he’d followed directions and his magick worked was an effective inducement for the others to stay in class.” – Donald Michael Kraig, on the unintended consequences of your class being successful.

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

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  • http://www.oddmodout.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

    Annie Sprinkle is just all-around awesome. I’ve known she was more into New Agey stuff for some time, but you can’t say anything bad about a woman who shaved her head when her lover got cancer, and who decided to get fat for artistic purposes. She and I also have a tentative meet-up next time she’s in Michigan –and that happened cos I misread a year-old handbill. :-D

  • http://www.thehighwayhermit.com James Bulls

    Regarding Theo Bishop’s change of paths, it brings to my mind “The Last Battle,” from The Chronicles of Narnia. Specifically, I’m thinking of chapter 15 where the Calormen soldier is describing his conversation with Aslan and how even though he worshipped evil Tash all his life he was taken into Aslan’s country and not handed over to suffer under Tash. Long story short, Lewis-as-Aslan explains that it doesn’t matter what deity your worship because all good deeds are done in the name of Aslan, and all evil deeds are done in the name of Tash. Thus, a good or honorable person – regardless of which deity he or she worships, or even if he or she worships no deity at all – would in Narnia still enter Aslan’s country. Best wishes to Theo.

    • g75401

      What is a “good deed”? What is an “evil deed”? Dualism is a human concept, not a natural one. And that’s the ultimate problem with Teo’s return to christianity. As pagans, we are of the earth. Christians consider themselves as god-appointed masters over the earth. He did not switch paths, he reversed himself completely.

  • Lyradora

    Regarding Laura Perry’s book “Ariadne’s Thread” … I’m sorry, but I cannot recommend it. The text is repetitive, the scholarship is nil (no sources cited, no footnotes or endnotes), and some passages are perilously close to those found in RW Hutchinson’s “Prehistoric Crete.” Really, really close. If you decide to read “Ariadne’s Thread” keep your thinking cap on.