What Is The Pagan Blogosphere? What Role Does It Serve?

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  November 13, 2013 — 28 Comments

Today, at the Patheos Pagan Channel, Christine Kraemer interviews Anne Newkirk Niven, editor and publisher of Witches & Pagans Magazine, about the current state of Pagan media (among other things). During the interview, Niven expounds on blogs within the umbrella of Pagan media, and the role they serve.

Anne Newkirk Niven

Anne Newkirk Niven

Today, blogs fill a specific niche: real-time, fast-paced information. No print media can keep up with the blogosphere; on the other hoof, even the most super-heated debate in the legendary Green Egg forum (letters to the editor) never got as crazily divisive as what happens in the comment-rich, disinhibited atmosphere of the Web.

Pagans are an information-hungry group of people; reading led many, if not most, of us onto our paths. (Most of our magazine readers are solitaries, which I suspect is true of Pagan culture as a whole.) The purpose of a magazine is to gather together a group of collated, vetted, and edited articles in a way that makes sense as a set and which forms a non-evolving collection of knowledge; blogs, on the other hoof, are radically individualized by their nature and are constantly evolving. I see these two modalities as fundamentally complementary—what one does well, the other does poorly. I hope we can see the continuance of literary paper-based culture even as the digital culture continues to grow, which is why I publish magazines (both in digital and paper formats) as well as hosting a rapidly-growing Pagan blogosphere.

XKCD comic by Randall Munroe

XKCD comic by Randall Munroe

When I started The Wild Hunt nearly 10 years ago, there wasn’t really a “blogosphere” to speak of. Most Pagan content on the Internet existed in the form of bulletin boards, static (sporadically updated) sites, and e-lists. There were literally only a handful of Pagan blogs when I started this site, and many folks used the new technology at places like LiveJournal for personal journaling, not a soapbox per-se. I was a fairly early adopter of blogging technology when it emerged, and was fascinated by the possibilities of the medium. Like many others, I quickly recognized that the “blog” had capabilities far beyond listing updates to a large website, or writing short personal entires. While some feared the disruptive nature of blogging technology, I realized that it could be used to prove a point. I could use it to prove that people wanted to read about Pagan news every day, and that there was enough news to write about something every day.

Ten years later, The Wild Hunt has more than enough to write about. More, in fact, than our small team can conceivably do justice to. We’ve grown from a one-person personal project into a media outlet that employes several columnists, and one staff writer. We have a yearly budget, one that we raise from donations, and our traffic continues to grow at a steady rate each year. So I see Niven’s generalizations as not only limiting, but subtly insulting. A blog, at its heart, is simply a technology, like the printing press. When you say you read “a blog” that today says almost nothing about what you’ll get (it’s like someone saying they read “books” and nothing more). The biggest media empires use blogging technology on their sites, and the content can range from celebrity gossip to ultra-professional, edited, and vetted, content. Meanwhile, picking up a magazine gives you zero guarantee that you’ll receive “collated, vetted, and edited articles in a way that makes sense as a set and which forms a non-evolving collection of knowledge.” 

A medium is a medium, not the content within it. Mediums can be stretched, changed, challenged, and redefined over the course of different generations. A “real” magazine can be experimental and radical, produced on a shoestring budget, or it can be a well-funded venture that engages in the current norms of editorial and news gathering. Anyone who grew up during the ‘zine revolution of the 1990s knows well enough that mediums aren’t limited by the dominant culture’s standards. Likewise, while many tried to pigeonhole blogs in the early years as the tool of the lone opinionated crank (usually writing about politics), the reality is that many different people used the technology for many different things. Is Talking Points Memo a mere “blog,” or is it a news and political commentary site? If we call it a blog, does that mean it isn’t collated, vetted, and subject to editorial oversight? Is The Wild Hunt still a blog? Are we a part of a blogosphere? We use blogging technology, certainly, but I also think we’ve grown outside the expectations that seem to inform the Patheos interview.

Finally, let me talk briefly about the Pagan magazine. Another reason I started The Wild Hunt was because I was hungry for news about my community, and couldn’t find any in Pagan magazines. They had interviews, and columns, and short stories, and poetry, and recipes, and a letters column, but they rarely tackled actual events happening in and around our lives. When they did, it was often long after the dust had settled. It created the sense that modern Paganism should be handled by the professional Pagans, the “Big Name Pagans,” and that the rest of us should simply give our support. It didn’t have to be that way, even a quarterly magazine can write about big issues, can at least inform their readership of all the things that happened in the last few months, but a reliance on “evergreen” content, and a hesitance to embrace these new technologies left the door wide open for The Wild Hunt’s success. When people ask me why my blog got so big, I tell them the truth: no one else wanted to do what I was doing. At least not on the daily schedule I maintained.

Blogging may have been disruptive, but it also empowered all sorts of people to speak up, to insert themselves into the process of how our community is defined and presented. It rejected the old “club” mentality that had held sway from the 1980s, and demanded a more responsive, more inclusive, community. If things are so “divisive” now, perhaps that is simply because there’s 20 years of frustration built up from having no voice at all in national and international Pagan affairs. Now, we can’t be shut up, because our news isn’t centralized into a handful of vetted and edited publications. If someone doesn’t like something in The Wild Hunt (or any media outlet), they can (and do) publish about it. They can rally their own corner of our community, they can create alternatives, they can have the public discussions they want to have. I sometimes bemoan how uncivil things can get sometimes, but I would never, ever, roll us back to some simpler time before this technology existed. We are collectively better for it.

Digital Pagan media is the dominant format today, and I don’t think anyone could convincingly argue otherwise. The separations between a published print magazine, and, say, The Wild Hunt, is only in the format. I would certainly place may content on the same plain of quality as anything in print, perhaps even better (though I may be biased). It is no longer acceptable to generalize about the “blog” without providing a list of caveats that make the comparisons almost meaningless. The larger Pagan blogosphere is many things, and has many manifestations, but it is no longer some ascendent disruptive format, it has become a ubiquitous tool used by every manifestation of the content we consume. From commerce to hard news. We are the media now. 

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • Anna H.

    I’m, not sure if it is truly as democratic and even as it sounds. My perception is that there are well-known Pagan bloggers who become widely read only because other bloggers who have established a large base of readers pick them up – perhaps because they like them personally, or who knows why. That expanded audience then gives them a hand in molding Pagan opinion and self-perception far beyond what they actually have to offer.

    Sometimes their personal crises get projected into being Pagan crises (I’ve seen that in several instances). They may not have the training, mentorship, or “time-in-grade” to understand fully what they are going through from a larger spiritual perspective. Reading them, it sounds as if our whole movement is eff’ed up from the get-go, when really, they are working through their own deep internal matters.

    • Wyrd Wiles

      I would argue that it’s not that difficult to break into the Pagan blog arena. I started blogging eight months ago, when I opened Wyrd Wiles. Three months ago I was given the opportunity to join Patheos and started up Wyrd Words. Earlier this month somebody saw my work and offered me a job. This is something that ANYBODY can do, assuming they’re willing to devote the time and resources. If you can write an undergraduate level term paper, you’ve got all the skills you’ll need to maintain a good quality basic blog. You won’t become The Wild Hunt in a day, but you can make yourself heard.

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    I don’t understand Niven’s use of “non-evolving.” Witches & Pagans just published a cover interview of Teo Bishop, whose ink was barely dry when Bishop announced his return to Christianity. W&P must now choose between publishing him again in the future, or not. Either choice means taking at least an implicit stand on the Christo-Pagan issue that has lately roiled this space. Sure looks like evolution to me.

    • Placental Mammal

      I don’t think a stand on Christo-Paganism is even needed, since at most Teo has ever given us was ‘perhaps’ and ‘maybe’. Bishop has already stated that not only does he believes that the relevancy of paganism needs questioning (sounds tolerant to me!) but that he’ll stay on the Wild Hunt to continue posting about his conversion experiences. Like I posted in the TWH FB page, as bad as the Religious Right are at least they’re upfront about it and not hiding behind niceties.

      The real question is if any of these Pagan and Occult mags and blogging communities are ever really going to confront Christian privilege, and not just when its convenient for them. I don’t care if so many pagans and occultists have Teo as their friend, if they can’t notice even a supposedly liberal one acting like an asshat questioning the relevancy of their religions and practices to their faces then something is very wrong here.

      In
      moments I have been unclear about how Paganism is relevant, and asking
      the question “How is Paganism relevant” can raise hackles. But I think
      it’s a question that needs to be asked again and again and again. – See
      more at:
      http://wildhunt.org/2013/11/a-disruptive-and-inconvenient-realization.html#sthash.mSG4PUeB.dpuf
      In
      moments I have been unclear about how Paganism is relevant, and asking
      the question “How is Paganism relevant” can raise hackles. But I think
      it’s a question that needs to be asked again and again and again. – See
      more at:
      http://wildhunt.org/2013/11/a-disruptive-and-inconvenient-realization.html#sthash.mSG4PUeB.dpuf
      In
      moments I have been unclear about how Paganism is relevant, and asking
      the question “How is Paganism relevant” can raise hackles. But I think
      it’s a question that needs to be asked again and again and again. – See
      more at:
      http://wildhunt.org/2013/11/a-disruptive-and-inconvenient-realization.html#sthash.mSG4PUeB.dpuf

      • Baruch Dreamstalker

        I’m not sure who is the asshat you’re talking about. Teo, for trying to evolve without cutting off his past? Some site owner I don’t know about?Love your use of Thessaly as an ID pic!

        • Placental Mammal

          Well I didn’t see what Christo-pagan’s relevancy had, more like how Bishop’s attitude, at least at present, might not be good for him or anyone else in the pagan communities.

          I do not believe he should cut off all his friends, or his past, but now that he’s Christian again but without the understanding that what some of the other things he’s said in his conversion announcement in his last TWH post are problematic he will inevitably get in to drama unless he finally recognizes it.

          BTW, thank you. The past 8 months was a big change for me so it’s a reflection of my sense of humor about it.

  • don108

    One of the challenges we all face, IMO, is mistaking one person’s opinion (a blog) with either journalism or being representative of a larger community. Just because we read it on a blog doesn’t mean it’s representative of any group. Anybody can claim they are a large group when that group only consists of the blogger. Likewise, because someone has a phone with a camera and a blog does not mean they are a “citizen journalist.” In fact, they may be completely unaware of journalistic ethics and practices. As a result, the reader of blogs needs to be more discerning than ever.

    • PhaedraHPS

      “when that group only consists of the blogger.” Indeed.

      Years ago, someone presented herself to me as a major player in a community and an expert on the practices of a particular region. Later I found that her “tradition” consisted of her coven alone, and her coven consisted of herself, her partner (a recent immigrant who had been trained and and initiated on the other side of the country), and her twelve-year-old child. I’ll grant you, it is almost twenty years later so now she may actually be an expert and a leader. But back then the claims were at best aspirational. Oh, and she published a book, so she must *really* be an expert, right?

    • http://www.miraselena.com/ Heather Greene

      And one of the challenges for writers is to find ways to distinguish ourselves as a legitimate journalists (or the like ) who hold close to those ethics and research standards while still using the pliable and modern blogging format. It seems the easiest method to doing so is still by way of the “old guard” and its system. Where are you published? Who let your writing through the doors?

  • PhaedraHPS

    My frustration with Pagan publications for decades has been the lack of actual journalism. You’ll find personal narratives, feature stories, columns, reviews etc., but little fresh reportage. Maybe the occasional interview with softball questions. Most event coverage has been at the personal narrative or review level. There has been a lack of people willing to write (or publish) with a journalists’ find-the-facts, neutral POV perspective. One could make an argument that the long time lag with magazine schedules are a limitation, but I would counter-argue that mainstream magazines have published many significant pieces of journalism, especially long-form journalism, operating with the same restrictions.

    Perhaps the real issue is the amateur status of our writers. Few of our magazine or blog contributors are professional journalists. Even, you, Jason, are not making a living at this–at least, I don’t think so! Our media outlets don’t commission stories and send reporters out into the field. With no income to balance the time commitments, Pagan journalism is an avocation or a hobby, not a profession. Until that changes, I don’t have much hope for changes to the status quo. Delivery systems will continue to change, but the content, not so much.

    • Wyrd Wiles

      Well, lets work that idea a bit. What would you have Pagan centric journalists reporting on? What kinds of issues would be of concern to that kind of journalist?

      • Charles Cosimano

        The question is not the issues, but rather the way in which they are covered, if that could be the proper word. There is no willingness to rock the boat, to say that the latest politically correct fad is just nonsense and it is unrealistic to expect anyone out of the camp to take it seriously. There is no questioning of motivation, or as the old saying goes, “following the money.” Rather what you have is blatant propaganda, and most of the time not very good propaganda with a lot of, well, butt kissing, back patting and hat passing. Movement journalism is an oxymoron. It is boring at best and annoying at worst. A good journalist does not avoid drama, a good journalist creates drama. You have to get over this fear of offending people and being criticized. They are offended, good. They probably deserve to be. They want to critcize you, fine, let them. Water off a duck. If you are not making people mad, you are not a journalist, you are an advertiser. So you have a simple question. Is your role to make people feel good, or is your role to make them think?

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      I would suggest that the time lag of a small semi-hobbyist magazine is that of TimeWeek. Every issue of Circle I go first to the Lady Liberty League report, and every time I’ve already read the facts online from TWH or even the Washington Post.The art of hardball questions and find-the-facts journalism is, I daresay, the province of people motivated primarily to go after those facts and ask those questions. When I was a youth of 40 I was thus motivated and turned a tatty neighborhood newsletter into a real window into the gist of a neighborhood and eventually City Hall. But I had an already contrarian neighborhood association at my back, and was only able to sustain it for a few years. And, for the wrong reasons, I passed by kick-ass stories I still regret not covering, because after all I was basically an amateur.

      • Baruch Dreamstalker

        Oops, first sentence is lacking a “not.”

  • Placental Mammal

    “Whether or not Teo continues to write a column for us is a subject he and I are still discussing.

    I have specific editorial boundaries for what belongs in Witches&Pagans magazine, and I’m not sure either one of us knows where he fits on that continuum at the moment. If he stays with us, I expect his column will address the issues he has raised; if he doesn’t stay, I’m sure I’ll make a short editorial announcement of his departure and the reason behind it.”

    If he was at least a magician or occultist I’d be far more open minded because I do find a lot of what Christian Magicians and Occultists say helpful if they’re at least not part of the Modern Magick spectrum, but he’s not even part of the occult community.

    Anyway, what would these terms be? If Bishop still thinks asking the question of paganisms’ relevancy again and again in pagan communities is a great idea this will inevitably cause a lot more drama, ESPECIALLY if the comments are going to be disabled. Certainly he’s not the greatest candidate for interfaith dialogue at the moment because of the attitude he’s displayed and I’m not holding my breath in hopes he’ll be more humble.

    It’s not his quitting of paganism that matters to me since I’m not ADF or Wiccan so I had nothing personally invested in him, but if he or anyone else honestly thinks he can continue this way within the pagan community as he always had with his current Question The Relevancy Of Paganism attitude without internet drama then I think they’re kidding themselves.

    • harmonyfb

      It’s not his quitting of paganism

      I dunno about you, but I don’t want to read Christian conversion narratives when I come to Pagan news sites. The fact that it was presented here as a headline story, with comments disabled, was particularly distasteful to me (and frankly, seemed calculated to cause the maximum amount of drama.)

      • Placental Mammal

        That was technically my point, but there’s such an echo-chamber in the pagan blogsphere that too many people are trying to make this out to be about how all the critics are just Christian haters without even given any context it’s like I feel like I have to emphasize it more than I’d like to many times over.

        I also happened to take a look at some of Teo’s Twitter account recently, I believe it’s safe to assume this is in reference to his future in TWH and W&P, which I think says everything about him now. He’s not being clueless, he’s being a dick:

        “Those with Christianity-issues are *probably* gonna get more irritated with my blog posts as it goes on. That’s cool. #wateroffaducksback”

        https://twitter.com/TeoBishop/status/397794661177118720

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

        Comments were disabled because he was receiving hate mail in the lead-up to that piece.

        He received a “headline” because he has a regular monthly column at The Wild Hunt. All our columnists receive the same treatment.

        • harmonyfb

          Comments were disabled because he was receiving hate mail in the lead-up to that piece.

          I’m sorry to hear that. His personal spiritual journey shouldn’t be anyone else’s business.

          He received a “headline” because he has a regular monthly column at The
          Wild Hunt. All our columnists receive the same treatment.

          But surely you exercise editorial privilege? I’m not being hostile towards the author when I say that I found that article to be inappropriate for the venue (doubly so with comments disabled.) A short paragraph to the effect of ‘sorry, but my personal path has diverged and I must be going’ would have been one thing, but that? ::frowns:: It felt like a slap in the face.

          On all the religious news sites I frequent, I’m drowning in Christian narratives. When I come here, I want to read about Pagan issues, you know?

    • Cat C-B

      “If Bishop still thinks asking the question of paganisms’ relevancy again
      and again in pagan communities is a great idea this will inevitably
      cause a lot more drama…”

      You know, your comments are the first “drama” I’ve seen. You really seem to be bothered by the concept of anyone questioning the relevance of Paganism. Honestly? I think if any of us do not question the relevance of our religious movements, of whatever sort, we do ourselves a disservice.

      The whole notion that religious ideas and practices don’t bear questioning or scrutiny is exactly what led many of us into Paganism in the first place. I’m afraid I don’t join with you in seeing Teo’s questioning as in any way problematic.

      • Aine

        That’s strange, because I know a few people (including myself) have commented on this in a way that could be called ‘drama’. (Or, you know, critique.) Though, admittedly, most of the posts I saw were ‘don’t say anything mean about this!!’.

        And I also think the ‘relevancy’ question was inappropriate and, honestly, an ineffective question. Relevant to…what? Who? Seriously, the question is /useless/ if you’re just going to ask ‘is paganism relevant’, and, unsurprisingly, it is going to raise hackles. If we’re going to question, we should be asking good questions.

  • Placental Mammal

    I believe this is in reference to his future on TWH and W&P, which means Teo really isn’t being clueless at all. Why, after all, Tweet about how one’s personal blog is clearly going anyway?

    “Those with Christianity-issues are *probably* gonna get more irritated with my blog posts as it goes on. That’s cool. #wateroffaducksback”
    https://twitter.com/TeoBishop/status/397794661177118720

    A class act interfaither all the way.

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

      If you read even a fraction of the very awful hate mail he’s been personally getting, you might get defensive about things too.

      As for Teo’s future, we’re going to sit down face-to-face and discuss it this week.

      • Cat C-B

        I’m impressed by the heat of these last few comments. You’d think it was better to have only staff writers who are afraid to question received truths… something I’ve only heard advocated for Christian media up until now.

        I don’t know whether it’s going to make sense for Bishop to continue to write for TWH or not. I do know that I have a deep enough respect for your integrity, and that of TWH and Teo Bishop, to be willing to wait and trust that the process will be open, honest, and reflective.

        I don’t think we need to banish doubt and change from our community’s writers in order to do justice to Paganism, though. I hope you and Teo Bishop will hang tough, and let the answer be the one that is most true to yourselves and your vision of TWH.

        I trust you guys on this. With reason.

        • harmonyfb

          I don’t think we need to banish doubt and change from our community’s writers in order to do justice to Paganism

          The Pagan bloggers I read often talk about doubt and change (hell, I’d venture to guess that all of us grapple with such things on a regular basis.) But there’s a difference between that and ‘oh hey I converted because this religion isn’t relevant anymore let me tell you how while you stay silent’…on a site dedicated to ‘this religion’. (I now understand that comments were disabled due to threatening entries. But their absence came across as “SHUT UP” – something that I associate with a lot of Christian denominations; wherein dissenting voices are deliberately silenced.)

          who are afraid to question received truths

          What ‘received truths’? Received truth is really more a monotheistic thing, in my experience. I haven’t seen Pagan columnists shrinking from discussing hard questions (while still remaining Pagan/Heathen/Hellenismos/whathaveyou.) I’d say there are honestly very few ‘received truths’ to be had in the Pagan community (outside of “we are a really opinionated bunch”.)

          So…yes, I’d rather have Pagan writers writing about Paganism on this Pagan news blog. If I want Christian writers writing about Paganism, there’s a whole universe to choose from. Pagan news sites – especially the caliber of TWH – are rare. I’d prefer that they not include Christian conversion narratives.

          This has nothing to do with Mr. Bishop’s personal religious journey. To quote my father: I ain’t got a dog in that fight.

          My distaste is solely because I felt – and still feel – that his conversion narrative had no place in this venue (doesn’t he have a personal blog?), and if he has left the Pagan tent, perhaps it would be better to hand his responsibilities off to someone who is still under it.

  • http://www.patheos.com/Pagan Christine Kraemer

    Jason, thanks for this articulate response, especially this:

    > A blog, at its heart, is simply a technology, like the printing press. When you say you read “a blog” that today says almost nothing about what you’ll get (it’s like someone saying they read “books” and nothing more). The biggest media empires use blogging technology on their sites, and the content can range from celebrity gossip to ultra-professional, edited, and vetted, content. Meanwhile, picking up a magazine gives you zero guarantee that you’ll receive “collated, vetted, and edited articles in a way that makes sense as a set and which forms a non-evolving collection of knowledge.”

    I’d add that picking up a book, even from traditional publisher, gives you zero guarantee of good vetting and editing. The publishing industry seems to be collapsing from within, and many editors rush through the vetting process, no longer poring over manuscripts line by line (while at the same time, the traditional publishing process continues to be incredibly slow). I’ve been shocked at the poor or nonexistent editing some of my own work has gotten — with some exceptions — but in some cases, I had to hire freelance editors to fill in gaps left by my potential publishers. I think many traditional publishers are now coasting on reputations built in the past, not on good work being done in the present.

    Still, I wonder a bit if your assertion that “A blog, at its heart, is simply a technology, like the printing press” doesn’t neglect McLuhan’s observation that “The medium is the message” (which I’ve always taken to mean that a medium has inherent qualities that influences how we use it and what we communicate with it). It’s still my experience that, especially with online publishing through blog technology being so easy these days, that writers don’t bother to put things in paper form unless they intend the work to be a more polished example of their writing. Paper still seems more permanent — even if functionally, with electronic storage methods, that’s not actually the case. I also find that, with online publishing, there’s a constant pressure to cut the editor out of the publishing loop and allow the writer to publish without editorial oversight — because that increases the speed with which the writer can respond to current events. Even the half-day to day-long turnover that good newspapers had in the past is slow by those standards.

    All of which is to say that there’s no reason not to perceive The Wild Hunt, for example, as an online magazine or newspaper, because it *is* vetted and edited in the way that print used to consistently be. But I still find The Wild Hunt to be fairly unusual in the Pagan world for its more sophisticated use of blogging technology — when I think of other edited online news sites, most are using more complex content management systems, perhaps because they make the task of having an editorial process with multiple writers and editors easier. In terms of blogs, I still know of many more unedited, single-writer blogs than I do blogs like The Wild Hunt. So, I’m certainly open to being convinced of your perspective, but I don’t yet see the blog being the technology of choice for writers who want to put out a polished product.

    (And also, that being said… to my embarrassment, I have to admit that I read very few subscription-based magazines anymore. I have nostalgia for them and would hate for them to cease to exist, since they were so important to me in the past, but blogs have definitively replaced them for me — even though my experiences of the two are quite different, and I don’t think the blogs I read now and the magazines I read in the past really serve the same function. YMMV — I’m sure part of the difference is me, not the media.)

    • Deborah Bender

      The only magazines I get in the mail are ones I receive because I belong to an organization or donate to it. However, I buy newsstand copies of a variety of magazines, some regularly, others now and then when the cover articles interest me. Who, for example, has time to keep up with a subscription to The Economist, which publishes a hundred pages of reportage and analysis every week?

  • Anna H.

    Okay, now that others bring it up, I’m going to say what is actually on my mind – and what has been on my mind for at least a year or more:

    Why the hell did Teo Bishop ever get to be so important?

    At least, relative to other voices within Paganism who have more experience, more insights, and perhaps more relevance? I’d like to know the readership stats of bloggers such as Ivo Dominguez and Gus diZerega, who have two of the most *amazing* voices in contemporary Paganism today, vs. Teo Bishop.

    I’ve watched the Teo Bishop phenomenon with fascination and a little horror. He may be a nice guy and very talented musically, I’m not disputing that, and sure, he asks some provocative questions – but are they really all that useful?

    How did he get to be a presenter at Pantheacon when someone like Frater Barrabbas, who has practiced his Craft for decades and is a published author as well as a blogger, was turned down? How did Teo get to be on Jason Mankey’s list of 25 movers-and-shakers in the Pagan world to come when he was obviously deeply conflicted about his faith?

    Teo is a provocateur. There is a role for provocateurs, and perhaps his greatest contribution to Paganism will be in forcing us to come to terms with provocateurs and how to handle them.

    I’m thinking of his infamous “I’m ashamed of Paganism because there was a public circle in a park and a circle excludes people” post. Everyone jumped to sooth him, assuming that *of course he was right,* that ritual was obviously bad ritual, doing ritual in circle in public is obviously exclusive – and ignoring the fact that most people in the park who were not in circle probably did not feel excluded at all. Everyone passes by family reunions, weddings, hacky-sack games, pow-wows, prayer meetings and such all the time in public parks without feeling excluded; it’s expected in a public park. (And no one at the time seemed to give a rat’s patootie about that poor ritual coordinator, who had just worked her butt off and was now being publicly shamed by someone who didn’t even have the grace to approach her privately with his misgivings, but who felt entitled to publish his feelings all over the internet. How about HER feelings? )

    I’ll tell you what Teo Bishop is. TEO BISHOP IS OUR COLLECTIVE SHADOW. Teo is the shame and wounding and doubt we collectively feel from 1,500 years of Pagan defamation. Teo is the voice of our self-hate. Teo is the alienation we feel from our dominant Christian culture and its cathedrals and Masses in B Minor and God Bless America or God Save The Queen. Teo Bishop is the Five of Pentacles, baby.

    Teo is also the voice of Christian hubris. Because it is hubris to question the “relevancy” of ANY religious path – as if relevancy could be proven or quantified. I can say this.

    Every single person I have known in the past 15 years who has practiced their Pagan path with any level of sincerity at all has experienced deep healing within, and is a healthier, happier, and better balanced person who contributes more deeply and more thoughtfully to the world around them. There are even people I don’t like in Pagandom about whom this is true. And that, my friends, is relevancy enough.