Pagan Community Notes: S.J. Tucker, Rev. Kirk Thomas, Patrick McCollum, and More!

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  January 2, 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!

S.J. Tucker

S.J. Tucker

Early this morning Pagan singer-songwriter S.J. Tucker posted a public note on Facebook announcing that she would no longer use the word “Gypsy” in songs, or in reference to her lifestyle, due to growing awareness of the word’s misuse, and history as a racial pejorative. Quote: “I am breaking up with the word Gypsy. It does not mean what I and many other poor fools wish it did. I am so very sorry.  I have done wrong, and I repent of my ignorance. […] I want you all to know that I am not doing this to get attention.  I am not doing this to gain any increase in public opinion, number of likes/subscribers/followers/what-have-you.  I am doing this because I feel that it’s right, and I should have done it years ago.” Tucker will be re-recording four songs that use the term, using different lyrics, and has suspended sales of those songs until that process is done. Here’s a recent NPR piece on why the term is hurtful to the Romani people. Quote: “The word “gypsy” itself is an “exonym” — a term imposed upon an ethnic group by outsiders. When the Roma people moved westward from India towards the European continent, they were mistaken to be Egyptian because of their features and dark skin. […] The effort to substitute the word “Roma” for the far better-known term “Gypsy” may strike some as futile, but few other groups carry the burden of such heavy stereotypes with so little reprieve.”

Rev. Kirk Thomas

Rev. Kirk Thomas

Rev. Kirk Thomas, Archdruid of Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship, yesterday posted a response on what a Druid’s response to ecological calamity should be. It was in reply to someone who is concerned about the Fukashima Daiichi Nuclear power plant disaster, but the message is universal in scope. Quote: “We, as devout Pagans, are not helpless. Our everyday actions can either help or hurt the Earth. It’s up to us. The Clergy Council discussed this issue recently, and agreed that we feel the Earth Mother’s pain and that additional steps should be taken to remedy it, as best we can. Druidry is a religion of ‘doing’. As such, it’s not enough to sit and wring our hands when the Earth Herself is at stake.” Rev. Thomas goes on to suggest a two-pronged response to environmental concerns, involving living in a religious “reciprocity with the Earth,” and involving yourself in activism. Quote: “As Druids it behooves us to join and support environmental organizations, to volunteer in the field, and to give of our time and money. Many of these folks work at the front lines of the movement, and know the ins and outs of the situation. By supporting them we support the Mother.” Thomas also pointed back to the ADF’s founding vision document, written by founder Isaac Bonewits.

Patrick speaking at the International Conference on Spiritual Paradigm for Surmounting Global Management Crisis.

Patrick McCollum

Pagan chaplain and activist Patrick McCollum recently had the honor to spend the holidays at the Royal Windsor estate on the Welsh-English border, and posts an update to his foundation’s web site detailing his time there, and how it intersects with his work towards social justice. Quote: “During my stay with the Windsors, I had the delightful opportunity to attend several special holiday parties filled with English nobility, and made several important contacts and partnerships for projects going forward.  One such partnership was with a Member of Parliament, the Honorable MP Bill Cash. Raising the status and rights of women, especially in third world countries, is one of the key goals of the Patrick McCollum Foundation and it is my firm belief that we shall never achieve world peace until all women have full equality and equal opportunity worldwide. In any case, MP Cash has proposed a revolutionary bill to the English Parliament to elevate the status of women, and I am joining him going forward in that effort.” McCollum also references and upcoming trip to India, where he says he’ll “meet with officials and world spiritual leaders to address the issues surrounding child marriage worldwide, and the status of widows in India, to lay the groundwork for several programs that I am putting together.”

In Other Pagan Community News: 

  • Tomorrow (January 3rd) is the last day to apply for a scholarship to Cherry Hill Seminary. Quote: “Thanks to the generosity of donors who gave nearly $4,300 during a fall drive, the “Bow Tie Campaign,” Cherry Hill Seminary will award: 1 master’s class to each of 2 different students, 1 certificate class to each of 2 different students, 1 Rhizomes package of 5 classes to 1 student or group (plus, 1 full Pagan Life Academy series to a previously-selected recipient.)”
  • Be sure to check out the Yule 2013 edition of ACTION, the official newsletter of the Alternative Religions Education Network (AREN). Featuring interviews with publisher Anne Newkirk Niven, Heathen elder Diana Paxson, CUUPs co-president David Pollard, and more!
  • Goddess-centered news site Medusa Coils is changing they way it conducts coverage. Quote: “I will attempt to give you notice of larger events related to Goddess and other spiritual feminisms–no matter where in the world they are being held. […] I would like to have more coverage on this blog of what is going on at the increasing number of Goddess temples, “houses,” etc., worldwide that meet in specific physical/geographical places.”
  • Chas Clifton notes that Denver’s Isis Books got some local press coverage, and gives a bit of background. Quote: “‘Makeshift Egyptian temple’ is not quite right, though. The building used to be a mortuary with columns out front (where the limos used to pull up) that lent themselves to an Egyptian-inspired paint scheme. The store started in Denver on East Colfax Avenue, not far from Hubcap Annie’s, the used hubcap store, which gives you a sense of the neighborhood.”
  • In honor of their Facebook page reaching 100,000 ‘likes,’ Witches & Pagans Magazine is giving away a free download of issue #21 of the periodical. The offer is good through January 6th. It’s the “garden” issue of that sways you in any particular direction.

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

Jason Pitzl-Waters


  • I concur with SJ Tucker’s decision on no longer dissing the Romani. But in addition to her decision, her actions speak even louder! To take a hit and not sell some of her most popular songs until she rerecords them with new lyrics– this is a shining example of how to put one’s beliefs into action. Megakudos to Sooj.

    • Northern_Light_27

      I concur that this is a really admirable thing for her to do. However (apologies as I cannot paste the quote here for some reason) substituting “Roma” is a bad, bad idea likely to offend even more than “gypsy”. As it has been explained several times to me by Romani, all Roma are Romani but not all Romani are Roma. Gypsy, also, is the preferred term by some Romani. IOW, use “gypsy” if you know the Romani person you’re talking to prefers it, otherwise use Romani.

      • Her songs that use the word do not necessarily refer to the Romani, but to a carefree, wandering spirit. So, I imagine that SJ will not be using Roma or any reference to the Romani.

        • Knight_of_Infinite_Resignation

          seems like an ill informed over reaction. Plenty of Traveller people are proud of the word. Its medieval origins seem pretty irrelevant now and this seems like giving in to those who would use the word pejoratively. I suspect that it was convenient even in medieval times for nomadic people to associate themselves with Egypt and style themselves as Egyptian royalty so your characterization of the word as an ‘exonim’ may well be inaccurate.

          • So, if you don’t use the word you are “giving in” to the haters who use the word, and if you do you are joining them? Given those two choices, I’d prefer the former rather than the latter.

          • Knight_of_Infinite_Resignation

            no, just use the word respectfully. There is nothing intrinsically disrespectful about it, as the existence of the Gypsy Council, the Federation of Gypsy Associations and many other positive uses of the word will testify. It has to some extent been displaced by the word Romany, but that reflects a growing trans-national political and cultural unity among Gypsy and Traveller people.

            I think we are in danger of losing a perfectly good word, with much deep history attached to it, good and bad, because of a politically correct over-reaction.

        • Northern_Light_27

          You misunderstood my comment probably b/c I was having technical trouble pasting the quote, but I was responding to this part, not the specific songs: “the effort to substitute the word ‘Roma’ for the far better-known term ‘gypsy’…”. I used to be on a board with a couple of Sinti regulars who bemoaned this well-intentioned but bad bit of advice and noted that “gypsy” would be far more preferable to them than being completely erased by the idea that all Romani are Roma. Add “ni” to the end of Roma and it’s a lot better advice, is what I’m trying to say. (That, and that not all Romani consider “gypsy” a slur and some prefer to identify that way, perhaps similar to how “Indian” is the term preferred by some NDNs but others find it offensive.)

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            It’s a syllable thing, I think.

            Roma can substitute for Gypsy in a song because they are both two syllables, whereas the more appropriate Romani has a troublesome extra syllable.

  • I like Rev. Kirk Thomas’ statement “Druidry is a religion of ‘doing’.” I join in with him and say that my Pagan religion is also primarily about doing, living, moving, initiating, responding. Paganism for me isn’t a creedal faith, but a path to follow.


    This article made me look up exonym vs. endonyms. Interesting subject.

    • Interesting article, indeed. I spent an hour just reading that, then surfed to reading about the names we call other countries that are not what they call themselves. As the world gets smaller and more interconnected, I makes me start to realize that diversity is here whether we are ready to admit it or not.

      • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

        I think that calling countries by their own names is a great idea. It shows a basic level of respect, if nothing else.

        • The problem with that would be: what do you do with countries that have multiple ethnic/linguistic groups that use different names for the country?

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            Democratic – what is the most commonly referred to name?

            Failing that, who was there first?

  • prairiewizard

    Its about time the Druids do something beside hug an oak tree. If they see a woodland around here that has a couple of oak trees in it surrounded by European buckthorn, honeysuckle and multiflora rose, all they can see is the oak; not that the exotics are killing the reproduction of oak trees by shading out the seedlings.

    • I’m not a Druid, but I know that ADF does a lot more than hug oaks. Tell me what you do, prairiewiz?