Pagan Community Notes: Heathen Census, Randy David Jeffers, PantheaCon Blood Drive, and More!

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  January 7, 2014 — 17 Comments

Pagan Community Notes is a series focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. Reinforcing the idea that what happens to and within our organizations, groups, and events is news, and news-worthy. My hope is that more individuals, especially those working within Pagan organizations, get into the habit of sharing their news with the world. So let’s get started!

worldwide heathen census asatru norse mythology blog norsemythResults from the 2013 Worldwide Heathen Census have been posted at The Norse Mythology Blog. According to Dr. Karl Seigfried, who initiated the project, “the results will give at least an approximate answer to a question on the minds of many heathens: ‘How many of us are there?'” So what is the estimated number of Heathens worldwide based on the results? From the over 16,000 entires, Seigfried believes there to be around 36, 289 Heathens in the world. As for what this project signifies? According to Dr. Seigfried it is, quote, “a wonderful take-home message from the census is that, when there is something positive for everyone to work towards, the often furious disagreements between various branches of the heathen community can be temporarily put aside. I was very glad to see posts by and receive emails from people who don’t agree with my approach to mythology and heathenry, yet still took part in the census and urged their friends to do so, as well. I was very happy to see members of diametrically opposed heathen communities urge people to take part in the survey.” You can see all of my reporting on this project here. It should be interesting to see how Heathen organizations like The Troth react to the projected numbers.

RandyDavidRIP-1024x1024T. Thorn Coyle has posted a moving remembrance of Randy David Jeffers (aka Randy Sapp), a musician, magician, incense maker, and co-owner of San Francisco-area metaphysical shop The Sword and Rose (currently closed). Jeffers tragically died from wounds sustained in a fire on Christmas evening. Quote: “Randy Jeffers was as kind to me the day I showed up at The Sword and the Rose – age 18, fresh to San Francisco – as he was twenty years later, when my first book came out, and as he was years after that, whenever I stopped by. I didn’t see him as often in the later years as those early ones, but when I did, there was always something of interest to talk about as he carefully packaged blessed oils and fragrant incense. This one to the Faerie Queen. That one to Ganesh. This one to the Djuat. That, to Tetragrammaton. […] Every person who planned to visit San Francisco, looking for interesting places to go, I sent to the Sword and the Rose. People from many parts of the globe visited the shop. A hidden gem, tucked back behind two buildings and a small garden courtyard, fountain always burbling. Lit by a fire in winter. Warm or cool, depending on what was needed. Always hidden. If you didn’t know it was there, there was no way you could find it. Even people who had instructions sometimes missed the way inside. The shop is hardly big enough to hold much more than the rows of bottles filled with Randy’s art – everything blended and consecrated in sacred space. Magic. All of it. Just like Randy’s life.” Links to donate to his partner, injured in the fire, along with more remembrances, can be found at Thorn’s entry. What is remembered, lives.

304902_345967782158513_2076648666_nAfter last year’s successful event at PantheaCon in San Jose, Coru Cathubodua and Solar Cross Temple are teaming up again with Blood Centers of the Pacific to organize a blood drive in honor of, quote, “the Morrigan, your own Gods, or to help save a life.” To pre-register for the drive, simply head to this appointment form, and type “Pcon” into the top box to see available appointments. Here’s what Coru and Solar Cross had to say about the drive last year, which drew over 90 people: “Every three seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood. The Coru Priesthood and Solar Cross are hosting this blood drive as an act of kinship, hospitality and devotion to our community and to the Morrigan, Celtic Goddess of sovereignty, prophecy, and battle. We encourage all people to donate the gift of life, whether in the name of your own deities, the Morrigan or without devotional intent.” So if you can, sign up to be a Blood Hero!

In Other Pagan Community News:

  • Pagan singer-songwriter Sharon Knight writes in honor of her friend, Teresa Morgan, who died on December 26th. Quote: “Teresa was a trained magician. And honestly, I have no better explanation for why her death was so much more majestic than my father’s. She departed this world in an array of lights, shimmering blues and golds and whites. I began seeing these lights as soon as we got the phone call on Christmas night, and they lasted several days after her passing.” What is remembered, lives.
  • Journalist Beth Winegarner, whose new book “The Columbine Effect” explores how different teen pastimes got “caught in the crossfire” after the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, will be having her book launch, with reading and Q&A, at Bird & Beckett in San Francisco on January 13th. Quote: “Stop blaming teen violence on the wrong things–and…understand how Slayer, Satanism and Grand Theft Auto can be a healthy part of growing up.”
Selena Fox

Selena Fox

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

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • Erynn Rowan Laurie

    No idea how I’ve rated mention here, but thanks. ;) Looks like I may be settling in sometime soon. I went to see a place in Trieste today and will be heading down next week to talk to the rental agent again. There’s enough room for visitors in the place. *hint hint*

  • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

    I’ve been hearing,today, that the figure on the Heathen census are a lot lower than reality.

    Turns out that quite a lot of people didn’t hear about it until it was over, notably people from Europe (I know a few Norwegians who didn’t know a census was happening until I mentioned the results to them.)

    I suspect that a lot of people will dispute the totals. They do see extremely low.

    • Alyxander M Folmer

      As much as I would LOVE for that to be true, I’d bet money that it’s probably not. He grossly inflated the numbers he got, using Iceland’s statistics as a kind of baseline.
      I’m sure that there were plenty of folks who had no idea about the survey (or didn’t speak English, and thus had no idea what it was about), but he just about doubled his numbers when he “adjusted” for that.

      That’s surveys for you though. It’s an interesting project, but I wouldn’t base any major life decisions on the data ;)

      • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

        He more than doubled his numbers. He multiplied by 2.173.

        I don’t think it was that unreasonable.

        The UK result was 1,207, whereas the 2011 census for England and Wales had 1,958 and Scotland had 150 people identifying as specifically Heathen. (I don’t have statistics for Northern Ireland.)

        This gives a total of 2108 and a difference of 901 or roughly 75%.

        That ignores all those who could have not answered, answered as Pagan or reconstructionist, are Northern Irish, or have become Heathen since.

      • Franklin_Evans

        Usually attributed to Mark Twain: There’s lies, damn lies, and statistics. Journalists misuse of statistics is rife (I call it ubiquitous) and the abuse of statistics-based studies is very easy to identify: they take things out of context and fail to disclose the caveats and margin for error.

        Unless I can examine the raw data and the statistical analysis used, my only reaction to such things is “Okay, that’s interesting.”

    • http://paganlayman.wordpress.com/ Soliwo

      I am Dutch and I did not hear of this census. Bu then, I am not sure what Dutch organisation would have pointed me to it.

      • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

        Perhaps a more Eurocentric one would be advisable.

        • http://paganlayman.wordpress.com/ Soliwo

          I suspect it id also a matters of language. Many local heathens are exactly that, focussing on local/ national groups and organizations. There are many that won’t be roaming the international (English language) pagan blogosphere.

  • TadhgMor

    Donating blood in honor of an Morrigan seems…odd to say the least. Kind of curious of the rationale behind that, but I really hope it’s more than just “war Goddess = blood”. Dian Cecht or even Brighid would make more sense.

    • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

      Perhaps if you donate other people’s blood? ;)

      • TadhgMor

        That would make far more sense haha.

        But I’m content that they made it clear they are not associated and do not represent traditional Irish polytheism. I’m not going to criticize them over lore after that.

    • Morpheus Ravenna

      It’s been my experience as a dedicant of the Morrígan that She appreciates blood as an offering. Take that for whatever it’s worth to you. She does have some associations with blood in the Irish literature, although we never see anything as specific as a blood offering.

      I think it’s important to recognize Her complexity and multiplicity. The ‘war Goddess’ epithet doesn’t begin to cover all of Her functions and relationships. So it’s certainly not a simple equation like “war Goddess=blood”.

      Fundamentally, I feel that life is one of the most profound and powerful offerings we can give the Gods, and donating blood is a modern way to enact that without killing.

      • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

        I have noticed a growing trend in Heathenry to actually sacrifice animals for blóts. It feels right, to me. Has to be done properly, though.

      • TadhgMor

        But you’re not offering blood to her. You’re doing to in goal of helping people. If it was a simple offering I’d agree. You’re not giving anything to the Gods here.

        Gaelic custom makes it very clear the essence of any offering is taken by the Gods when offered; to use something after offering it is a serious mistake. The toradh is gone.

        I guess what I’m saying is the idea doesn’t make sense to me, but they made it clear their frame of reference is non-traditional in most senses.

        • Morpheus Ravenna

          I have no argument with you. When someone chooses to donate blood in Her name, we regard that as an offering to Her. Others may see it differently. It has meaning to those who choose to participate, and as far as I can tell, has meaning to Herself. If it has no meaning to you, feel free to not participate. There are many ways to honor the Gods.

          For myself, I see some historic basis for this type of offering, though of course we in the Coru don’t claim to represent “Gaelic custom” as an entire or historic whole. Celtic traditions in the historic record vary with regard to sacrifice and offerings. In some cases, it’s clear that the offering had to be rendered utterly to the Otherworld (e.g. swords being bent/broken so they are no longer usable in this world; animals offered whole into pit altars, etc.) In other cases, we see sacrifices in which the human community shares in the offering. For example, the practice of animal offerings where following the sacrifice of the animal, parts of it are shared with the human community as sacred feast. Archaeological evidence of this practice in Gaul in particular is fairly clear. It’s also described in textual records in Ireland and other places (and is fairly common devotional practice outside Celtic cultures). It is this second type of offering, where the sacrifice is made, sanctified to the Gods, and then shared with the human community, that is the model for the blood drive as offering.

          But as I say, it’s an offering we make without presumption that it represents everyone’s devotional approach or specifically any historical tradition.

          • TadhgMor

            Is that Roman Gaul though? I won’t pretend to be up to date on Gaulish practices, but that sounds distinctly like a Gallo-Roman practice to me. I could be wrong there though.

            Whereas the the bent swords fit in well with attested Gaelic custom; the toradh is gone so using the sword would be pointless. Bending/breaking it just makes it’s physical status match it’s spiritual one.

            I’d be curious to see if in those examples it was not part of something offered, rather than the whole. Or if it’s possible that the offering wasn’t a “formal” offering, as much as a blessing. I’d be interested in examples if you have any, just for my own curiosity.

            As for it being fairly common outside Celtics cultures, I’m aware of that, but that has no basis in my honoring of Celtic Gods. In Hinduism, as I understanding, the sacrifices are done in a very different manner. But applying that to Gaelic practice is the sort of historical error I consider problematic. I’ve always failed to understand the desire to mix and match practice like that, but I recognize I’m in the minority there.

          • Morpheus Ravenna

            The examples I was thinking of in Gaul are pre-conquest – especially the excavations at the major sanctuaries such as Ribemont, Gournay, and others. But that’s the thing – pre-conquest doesn’t mean devoid of Roman influence, or any number of other influences. The Gauls, as well as other Celtic groups including the Irish, were actually very cosmopolitan and well networked with other ancient peoples, right back into the earliest days. We can trace influences going both ways between Celtic peoples and all kinds of other ancient peoples, including Mediterranean ones. That’s one of the most interesting things to me. There are no pure cultures, and there never have been. Practices and cultural forms come to flower in a time and place and amongst a given people, but that flowering is always taking place in a matrix of influences. As practitioners seeking to revive or honor a given historical tradition, we are always making some arbitrary choices about which elements we’re bringing forward from history, where we draw the line between what we’re going to consider ‘native’ tradition vs. ‘foreign influence’.

            BTW, I’m enjoying this discussion and appreciating your feedback and perspective. I like to approach religion with something like the scientific attitude: that questioning and testing of your ideas is healthy and leads to more robust knowledge for everyone.

            As for what’s between myself and the Morrígan; thank you for the acknowledgement of that relationship, and yes, I face Her without fear about this form of devotion. She’s never seemed unwilling to let me know when my actions aren’t meeting with Her approval, and I listen actively for that from Her.