Pagan Voices: Starhawk, Morpheus Ravenna, T. Thorn Coyle, and More!

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  December 19, 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.

Morpheus Ravenna

Morpheus Ravenna

“Here and there I’ve been part of an ongoing conversation about ritual theory for Pagans. It’s got me thinking about some patterns I observe in many Pagan rituals, and I ended up coming back around to another conversation thread, the one about polytheism and humanism and whether or not we think the Gods are objectively real, or archetypal constructs, or whatever. Here’s the question that keeps coming up in my mind when I’m following these discussions: How would you do ritual if the Gods were real to you? Because I am a polytheist, and the Gods are quite real to me. And as a result it becomes jarring to me when I’m seeing a ritual that is obviously built around the people in the room rather than the Gods that were named, and where things were clearly proceeding without reference to whether or not the Gods actually showed up. Some of them are mistakes I’ve made myself in my learning process. So here are my thoughts and observations about this.” – Morpheus Ravenna, on gods with agency.

starhawk 5 19 04

Starhawk

“What do we do, those of us who do believe the earth is sacred, who do believe that we have a responsibility to care for the living systems that sustain us, and who do believe that we have a responsibility to take care of each other? The role of religion and spirituality [in environmental activism] is to hold up the values that go beyond the value of profit and the value of somebody winning and somebody losing, to say…there are things that are more important than money or gain. The value of generosity, the value of putting the good of the community and the good of the whole before your own personal gain — those are things that every religion at its core has always stood for. [...] I’m hoping the event will provide people with some inspiration, with a place we can come together as a community, and maybe do some mourning and grieving for what has been lost and some raging, perhaps, about how we feel about it and come out of that with a sense of rejuvenation and renewal. The solstice is the time when we go into the maximum darkness, but that begins to turn around. The light begins to be born out of that dark.” – Starhawk, on environmental activism, the responsibility of those who see the earth as sacred, and the upcoming Winter Solstice.

T. Thorn Coyle

T. Thorn Coyle

“Temperatures have hovered around and below freezing for days in a row in a place where the thermometer usually ranges between 40 and 80 degrees fahrenheit. The bay cradles the land, keeping us both warm and cool. But sometimes the unusual happens. I layered silk long johns under my jeans before hopping on my bike. The bustle of the kitchen had slowed down by the time I arrived. Everyone who had someplace to go, had gone. Those that remained had nothing. No tent under an overpass, no tiny room in an SRO, no couch, no bed, no money to camp out on the train or in a warm cafe. They huddled under coats and donated military blankets. Several gathered in the one tiny patch of sunlight near the women’s bathroom. The patch was shrinking. Come closing time, I noticed that none of the volunteers were saying our usual chipper, “We’re closing folks, thanks for coming!” A few people lingered as long as possible, slowly gathering belongings and putting on layers. I bent my head back toward the table I was scrubbing down and paused. A wave of sadness washed through me. One moment of despair. There was nothing I could do for these people. Nothing except turn them back out into the cold. “This isn’t a personal failure,” I said to myself, though it felt like it. “This isn’t a failure of the kitchen. It is a failure of our culture.” And in the 10 billion year scheme of things, it likely is no failure at all. The six members of the Walton family have one hundred fifty billion dollars. Six members of our local bay community have died from exposure in the last two weeks. I tell this story because it is important. I tell this story also because it connects to you. To my students. Clients. Friends. Too many of us are always putting other’s needs ahead of our own, while other’s aren’t doing that nearly enough. In either direction lies injustice.” – T. Thorn Coyle, on giving and receiving an invitation in.

Cat Chapin-Bishop

Cat Chapin-Bishop

“I don’t mean that those leaders who are financially valuable and therefore famous are not also, often, wise and good leaders.  I am indebted to many of them.  But I am aware that we are losing voices that we need to hear, and leaving unexplored whole regions of Pagan thought, because they’re not likely to draw in a paying crowd.  And institutions that promote deepening and continuing growth among our leaders or teachers–famous and not–are not very marketable, because they are not of use to our enormous base of newcomers and seekers.  I see us willing to promote institutions that echo mainstream culture (as Cherry Hill Seminary does, with it’s willingness to confer degrees and its focus on academic training analogous to mainstream seminaries).  These institutions are marketable, because they offer status and legitimacy to members of a religious movement starved for that. But they do not necessarily build on our own unique strengths and insights as a spiritual community.” – Cat Chapin-Bishop, hosting a conversation on Pagan markets, and a Pagan Commons.

Sarah Veale

Sarah Veale

“I’m currently reading a book on mystery cults in Magna Graecia, aka the parts of Italy that were actually Greek for, well, quite a long time. For geographical reference, Magna Graecia is mostly Southern Italy. Think Naples, Pompeii, and Sicily. If you were there around 500 BCE, you’d be pretty much Greek. (With the amazing charm and fiendish good looks of a Southern Italian.*) One author in this collection, Giovanni Casadio, has done some research on the cult of Dionysus in Cumae, in the Campania region. Many of you will know Dionysus as the God of wine, and maybe are a bit familiar with his wild side from Euripides’s play The Bacchae. When it comes to the cult of Dionysus, scholars tend to believe that its practices involved ritual wine consumption and activities that led to ecstatic experiences. Casadio lets us in on some of the practices of more notable followers of Dionysus: The king of Scythia, Skyles, liked to wear his cultic garments while taking drunken walks in public. It is suggested that Aristodemus, the tyrant of Cumae, also enjoyed such inspired moments. But Aristodemus took cultural transgression a bit further: He settled for no less than an entire restructuring of socialized behaviour. He reversed gender roles.” – Sarah Veale, on Dionysian transgression of gender norms.

Rhyd Wildermuth

Rhyd Wildermuth

“I’ve been discussing the disenchantment of the world in these posts but have thus far only touched upon something integral to the concept, There’s a the looming spectre haunting the process of disenchantment. Very few writers confront it, and I’ll be honest—I’m a bit reluctant myself. This won’t make me popular. Something happened in the 1700’s, some great disconnection between us humans and the earth around us. Somehow, our relationship to place, to nature, and to each other shifted. [...] This shift was the birth of Capitalism [...] our relationship to the places we lived, the places we grew food and hunted animals and gathered herbs and raised animals suddenly changed. Worse than being merely something to trade, it became something to improve. Suddenly divorced (some would say “liberated”) from older conceptions of nature, societies changed. People who’d rented land at prices previously fixed by tradition, law, and religious notions of fairness suddenly couldn’t afford to do so without constantly producing more from the land they worked. Those who figured out how to “improve” their “production” could keep renting land, possibly renting more and even purchasing their own once the ancient practice of the commons (land open to anyone to use) ended.” – Rhyd Wildermuth, on capitalism and the logic of disenchantment.

King Arthur Pendragon

King Arthur Pendragon

“This Story is set to lay the foundations for an International debate on how we as Humans respect and Honour our Dead.  On the 18th of this month The Long awaited new visitors centre is due to open amid new controversy. King Arthur Pendragon, a senior Druid is calling for a day of action and Protest at English Heretics refusal to display replicas of the Ancient Human remains (The collective ancestors) excavated from the environs of Stonehenge . Instead EH plan to put the genuine human remains on display at their new visitor’s centre. Likened by Arthur to a Victorian ‘Peep show’ He, and his supporters believe that it dishonours the dead by putting them on display and that English Heritage are out of step with World opinion that prefers repatriation and re-interment rather than the display of the Dead. The protest billed as KLASP the MOON, The Kings Loyal Arthurian Stonehenge Protest to coincide with the full moon is due to take place at the new visitor’s centre and is sure to be a ‘colourful’ affair, with Robed Druids and Pagans, Knights and Ladies, Celtic Warriors and Drummers in attendance.” – The Loyal Arthurian Warband of Druid leader Arthur Pendragon, announcing via press release a protest against the display of human remains at the new Stonehenge visitors center, which opened on the 18th.

blue_plaque_gbg“On Midsummer’s Day 2013 Doreen Valiente made posthumous history by becoming the first Witch to be awarded a blue plaque for her life and achievements. Tyson Place, a council block in Brighton, made history too as the first building of its kind to have a blue plaque on its walls. History was made on a day which say an open public celebration of Midsummer at Brighton’s Steine Gardens followed by the plaque unveiling ceremony at Tyson Place where the historic plaque was unvelied by Julie Belham-payne and the Mayor of Brighton and Hove. We have to raise funds for each blue plaque which costs over £1200 just to manufacture and install.  Time is short so please donate to this great cause. There will be 2 other plaques in the future that we have negotiated for. One for Gerald Gardner in 2014 and another for Alex Sanders in 2015. Gerald Gardner’s Blue Plaque We are very pleased to be able to say that we plan to unveil Gerald Gardner’s blue plaque at the house he lived in near Christchurch on Friday 13th (!) June 2014, which would have been Gerald’s 130th birthday. More information will follow.” – The Centre for Pagan Studies and the Doreen Valiente Foundation, announcing the forthcoming placement of a commemorative blue plaque for Wiccan founder Gerald Gardner, and asking for funds to help in that endeavor.

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

“I think it is important to remember that religion is not a substitute for, nor should it be confused with, psychology; religious and spiritual activities can have an impact on our psychological functioning and development, but that’s not the reason that we do it. However, religion and spirituality should most definitely challenge one personally, not just in terms of it being “hard” to do, but actually providing a corrective and even a directive in how one lives one’s life. Too many people look to their spirituality for solace and refuge, which a good spiritual practice can (and should!) provide, but that’s also not all that it is for. (This is one of the reasons why I think the “coming out spirituality” of so many modern supposedly queer and/or LGBTQIA-positive or friendly groups these days falls short, because they do nothing other than say “It’s okay to be who you are,” and then offer nothing on how to develop further personally nor in one’s devotions.) Even phrasing things in these terms is a challenge to a person who reads them and thinks of religion as being of psychological utility and as a solace from the difficulties of the world. I think the Ekklesía Antínoou can offer that challenge, if it is approached seriously and engaged with fully.” – P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, on the generation gap, what to do about it, and why religion should not be a substitute for psychology.

John Beckett

John Beckett

“Boosting our signal requires growth in numbers as well as in spiritual depth.  I want the Humanistic Pagans in our tent and not in the atheist tent ridiculing all religion.  I want the Nature lovers in our tent recognizing the inherent worth of Nature and not in the Christian tent talking about the value of Nature coming from the god they think made it.  I want the polytheists (and I count myself among them) in the big Pagan tent and not in their own tent that’s so small it can’t be found. Ultimately, what tent you choose is up to you.  But just because “Pagan” isn’t your primary identity doesn’t mean there’s not a place for you in the Big Tent of Paganism. Pagan unity isn’t about forgetting our philosophical and theological differences and doing the same Wicca Lite ritual on the Solstice.  Pagan unity is about working together respectfully to advance our common interests and boost our common signal while we explore our individual traditions in depth.” – John Beckett, on Pagan unity. 

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

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • Franklin_Evans

    Cat Chapin-Bishop’s blog post on a “Pagan Commons” resonates with me on many levels, but none more than via a topic I’ve alluded to on other threads here: the apparently ubiquitous aversion to money in our greater community.

    Simply put, and hoping to avoid my penchant for unsolicited lecturing, there is always a human component to our spiritual lives, and that component has a human value. I must eat, sleep in a sheltered place, and be able to have commerce with others.

    In simpler times, the village midwife did not go out into the forest to hunt, or spend a majority of daylight working a garden or field. She performed specialized functions and was compensated for it.

    In my mind, I place her in the same category as the blacksmith and the carpenter. That her role overlaps the spiritual lives of her village is an important difference in what she does, but it didn’t change her place in the village “economy” any more than the smith’s plows made him different.
    In the present context, we have no such thing as that village. The entire structure is different, imposing very different dynamics and relationships on us. I feel called to devote as much of my personal energy as I can to aspects of my spiritual path, but the bulk of my day is commuting to and from a desk job, which I must have in order to pay the mortgage, feed my children and go to the occasional play or movie.

    If we want the modern equivalent of that midwife, we must be prepared to compensate her so that she is doing what we want her to do full-time instead of when and if she can get to it. In the modern world, that means money, plain and simple.

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      “I place her in the same category as the blacksmith and the carpenter.”
      Or the Goði.

    • http://quakerpagan.blogspot.com/ Cat C-B

      While I agree with Sue Curewitz Arthen that it’s time to move beyond “decades-long debates
      over whether it is okay to charge for your teaching, counseling,
      officiating,” I’m not sure I’d go so far as to say that necessarily means that pay-for-clergy is the only model that’s workable. I am a Quaker as well as a Pagan, after all… and we’ve managed without “hireling ministers” for centuries now. So I’m pretty clear that it can be done.

      But I agree that it can’t be done without money, in at least the sense of thinking about how our services get paid for. It’s a bit like the Internet that way: we can get all the free social networking we like on Facebook, but we need to understand that we’re paying for that “free” networking by signing away some of our privacy.

      Our current model of how to communicate with one another depends on a sort of mass-marketing approach. And while I’m not saying that marketing is bad, or that Llewellyn (for example) should become a non-profit publishing house, the fact that all of our events and institutions must appeal to a large base of customers and follow a pay-as-you-go system affects what services we offer one another.

      It’s not bad to have a lot of titles available for neophytes, nor for large gatherings to exist that are anchored by well-known celebrities. Those things have value.

      But what I think is bad is that by confining our conversations about money to whether or not it’s ethical to charge for X or Y service, we fail to consider how we might create oases from the needs of the marketplace… ironically enough, because those require money.

      I don’t need Llewellyn to become a non-profit, but I do want to see us have some non-profit publishers… and maybe retreat centers, elder gatherings, and conferences. That Quaker world I also inhabit? It may not pay clergy, but it does have funds for all of those things. I can download and read almost any backlisted title published by Quakers–they tend to be available for free, which is to say, free publications have been made available through centuries of financial planning, endowments, and fund raising. It doesn’t matter if a title on clerking a meeting for business will only appeal to fifty people this year, or if the presentations at a Quaker LGBT Conference from 1993 are no longer selling like hotcakes, because the willingness to be open about money, markets, and the need to go beyond an introductory level in religious education have all been part of Quaker culture for a long time.

      So Quakers have retreat centers, places where we can spend a weekend, a month, or even a year, going into depth together, sharing wisdom face to face.

      I want that for us Pagans, too. I’m not sure what it would look like. I’m only dreaming. Not necessarily a place that was similar to Quaker equivalents, nor even mainstream institutions like academic programs (much as I respect Cherry Hill Seminary). What would it be like? John Beckett’s <a href="http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnbeckett/2013/12/dreams-of-a-druid-college.html"Dreams of a Druid College?

      In any case, a space not so subject to the whims of today’s marketplace as the institutions we’ve already built. Freer from worries about money… because, ironically, we become willing to talk about money.

      Among other things. We also need to care about it, to create a culture that expects something beyond fame and sales as indices of depth in our traditions. We need to crave connection beyond the Internet, and leadership beyond the speaker’s circuit.

      We need to be willing to dream.

      • Franklin_Evans

        I participated in one attempt to bring that dream to reality, a non-profit Pagan org with the explicit goal of establishing a physical community anchor. We sputtered, we floundered, and while the main failure was our ignorance of how to do certain things, a reality (in my geographic area) was put into harsh focus: no matter how close to 100 cents of each dollar being spent on the goal we might come, there would never be enough dollars to accomplish the goal.

        Our local constituency was not going to provide the money. We received praise for our efforts, subscriptions to our monthly newsletter, and sadly maybe one-tenth of them sent in annual dues of $10. I still boggle at it, that of a potential constituency of (my personal guesstimate) 5,000 people we never collected more than $500 in revenue from them in any year in which we still operated.

        There is an implied complaint there. I don’t mean to denigrate those Pagans in any way. It informs my cynicism over other things I’ve observed.

        Plagiarism and outright theft of copyrighted material is ubiquitous in the online communities. The sense of entitlement is so strong with some of them that they explode with hostitiliy at the mildest, most polite mention that they are displaying or using material that someone created with the goal of making a living at it. They clearly value the material, but clearly reject any notion that the creator is due a just compensation for it. “It’s spiritual, how could they sully it by putting a price on it?”

        Cat, I don’t mean to be arugmentative here. My desire is for a strong (and loud) dialogue about this. There is no blanket solution, as you’ve already pointed out, no single approach. There seems to me to be a cultural malaise, one that colors our dealings with each other on many levels.