Pagan Voices: Jenny Butler, Aaron Leitch, John Beckett, and More!

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  January 13, 2014 — 1 Comment

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.

Dr. Jenny Butler

Dr. Jenny Butler

“I think there are many similarities between Irish Paganism and the Paganism of other nations, but also many differences. In a general sense, the distinctions between Irish Paganism and that found in Britain rest on the use of cultural resources. In Irish Paganism, there is much emphasis on the landscape, mythology, language, and pre-Christian heritage of Ireland. Obviously, for British Pagans, these kinds of cultural factors would be very significant too, but in Ireland there are cultural dynamics at play in relation to identity, history and colonisation that make the expression of Pagan spirituality unique to this context. I should add that I haven’t done any comparative research as yet between Irish Paganism and British Paganism, or Paganism elsewhere, but from my reading of the work of Jenny BlainSusan GreenwoodGraham Harvey and others, the points I mentioned above seem to be the most apparent differences I can see between Paganism in both regions. Much work is being done on the interconnections between Pagan identities, ethnicity and politics, such as Kathryn Rountree’s forthcoming edited collection fromBerghahn Books titled Modern Pagan and Native Faith Movements in Europe: Colonial and Nationalist Impulses. In my chapter in this collection, I analyse the creation of Irish Pagan identities with regard to the kinds of cultural resources that are drawn upon as well as the socio-cultural impulses, such as romantic nationalism, that inform the movement as it exists in Ireland. This is in marked contrast to the form Paganism takes in some other nations and regional settings, particularly Eastern European ones, where it can be quite militant, overtly political and nationalistic.” – Dr. Jenny Butler, on Paganism in Ireland.

Aaron Leitch

Aaron Leitch

“I believe the first donation came in around noon the following day.  Then – ye Gods! – I think the entire global occult community responded!  I believe I now know what it’s like to “go viral” – because I was suddenly all over Facebook, Twitter, emails, phone calls, etc, etc.  Even Chic Cicero was getting calls.  Many of you, quite rightly, wanted to make sure this was not a hoax or scam before you committed yourselves. But, once you knew it was real, you all got together and showed such incredible, mind-blowing support.  The full goal of the fund-raiser was reached in less than a day!  I have also been reading the comments you’ve posted to the YouCaring page as well as Facebook, and I have been deeply moved and humbled by the expressions of love, caring, support and well-wishes I have seen there.  I wish I could respond to each and every one of you personally, to express even a small portion of my gratitude for all you have done. All too often, you guys are going to read about how awful we occultists are.  You’ll be told we are all ego and no compassion.  You’ll hear that we would rather fight and belittle one another than give the time of day.  You’ll even see it said, emphatically, that there is something wrong with occultists that just makes us horrible people. And every time you encounter that nonsense, I want you to come back here and read this post.  (Or, even better, read the comments made by the Supporters at the YouCaring page.)  In the past two days, I have seen every wall crumble.  Every hatchet set aside.  Every hard feeling forgotten.  And I have seen Thelemites, Golden Dawners, Pagans, Voodoo and Hoodoo practitioners, Wiccans, Jews, Christians, Muslims, Atheists and more all come together with one single proclamation:  ‘We take care of our own!'” – Aaron Leitch, responding to overwhelming community support, when hit with a large bill to fix his endangered eyesight. More on this in tomorrow’s Pagan Community Notes.

John Beckett

John Beckett

“Part of the universal (or very nearly so) religious impulse is the desire to be a part of something greater than ourselves.  We know that when we die our bodies will return to the elements and we can’t be sure there even is such a thing as a soul (I’m convinced there is, but we can’t be sure).  But even if I don’t live on after death, my Druidry will.  The individual dies but the tribe lives on.  By creating and maintaining multi-generational institutions, we can achieve immortality. One of the problems with institutions is that they are inherently conservative.  Not in the political sense of the word, but in the sense that their mission is to conserve – to preserve, to maintain – its values and traditions.  That’s mostly a good thing – by the time a movement starts to think and act institutionally, it usually has worked out what values and traditions are helpful and thus worth conserving. But does the third or fourth or tenth generation realize that the compromises made by the founding generation were trade-offs born of necessity and not some perfect way things were done back in a golden age?  Does the institution remain a living, growing, changing entity?  Or does it become a plastic replica of the reasons it was founded?” – John Beckett, responding to my Saturday essay here at The Wild Hunt.

Lilith Dorsey

Lilith Dorsey

“The portrayal of Papa Legba in this week’s episode of American Horror Story: Coven left a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths, or should I say, up their noses. May I state now unequivocally as both an anthropologist and a Voodoo priestess that there is no association between Legba and drugs that I have ever come across in my over twenty years of practice and study. This week’s episode, in addition to having this ancient honored deity disrespectfully portrayed as a drug sniffing control freak, also shows him as a baby stealing, soul sucking devil. I wrote a few weeks ago that I predictedbad things for the introduction of this character, but this is beyond everyone’s lowest expectations.  The buzz I have been seeing online is that people are done, that this is beyond offensive. It’s also just plain wrong. The show, in addition to falsely equating Legba with the Devil, seems to have collapsed his character with that of the Voodoo Lwa Baron Samedi, traditionally depicted with a Top Hat and images of the dead, as he is the ruler of the cemetery. The reality is that Legba is the wise teacher, the communicator between the worlds. I like to call him the gentle guiding paternal influence we all wish we had.” – Lilith Dorsey, on the portrayal of Papa Legba in the television show American Horror Story: Coven

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

“In so many recent discussions (which are often debates, and more often still mutual tirades, debacles, and fracases of the most poisonous variety) within and with those outside of the modern polytheist communities, there is a sense that many of us have “given up” on ever finding common ground with some individuals in other sections within modern Paganism. Even some friendships across theological and ideological lines have been damaged, if not entirely lost, as a result of these internet disagreements, and this is something to be lamented deeply. People, far too often, are faster in writing off their apparent opponents than they are in giving them second chances. Often, I think this isn’t an unwise tactic, as repeat offenders certainly exist and often never change despite saying they have or they can. But, one can be surprised occasionally, and this incident with Glenn Beck makes me think that the old queer-activist maxim of ‘don’t assume anything!’ needs to be remembered and re-deployed far more often than it has been amongst our various communities and in our many endeavors, whether they be activism, spiritual communities, or theological discussions.” – P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, on unlikely allies, assumptions, and the end of homophobia.

Sam Webster (with Herm), photo by Tony Mierzwicki.

Sam Webster

“Part of knowing is not knowing, what I’m calling here the ‘black box’. This is the realm of ignorance, of the data we don’t possess, of the questions we can formulate but not answer, of that which we don’t even know how to ask, of mystery. Needless to say, this is the biggest box of all as most of the world lies outside the small circle of firelight we humans live within. It is also the easiest to ‘shrink’ as learning, reason, and experience all reduce the amount of our individual and collective ignorance. There is another big bin in the black box that we hide under a word that I wish to redeem: stupidity. It is often conflated with ignorance in the sense of the non-possession of data. What I am discussing is different. Stupidity is the inability to process, understand, and apply knowledge. It happens to us when we are in a stupor, from which the word is derived. In the Buddhadharma, stupidity is the first and most fundamental poison, although it is usually translated incorrectly as ignorance. I want to redeem the word because often our problems are not from a lack of data, but from the inability to process it correctly due to the dullness or distractions of our minds. I am rather knowledgable, but under the wrong conditions, I can be frightfully stupid. I need a term like stupidity to explain how those who are otherwise intelligent can look at the data of, for example anthropogenic climate change, and deny it. I need a way to understand how when presented with reason, people fail to choose the rational response.” – Sam Webster, on kinds of knowledge.

Rhyd Wildermuth

Rhyd Wildermuth

“I dislike the internet, by the way, and particularly dislike that I rely upon it so much.  Yeah, I’m a writer who puts his stuff out on the internet by choice, so this sound hypocritical perhaps, except nuanced criticisms are the language of complex thought.   My reliance upon the internet and my dislike of internet communication co-exist, helping remind myself that disembodied communication is inadequate for many things.  You don’t know what I look like in the rain, I don’t know what your face looks like when you experience my words–there are things we don’t know about each other that are necessary to social knowledge.  It’s horribly easy to forget this, which is why so many internet arguments on Paganism (or, like every other topic on earth) devolve to endless frustrated attempts to communicate. I think, in “internet” writing, we forget that the written word has a very specific place and very specific modality of expression, and then attempt to add other modes of expression into it (and thus our reliance on emoticons, as in “this is what my face might look like when I say this).  The written word actually cannot embody so much inhabited meaning–as it attempts to become more than it is, it becomes poetry, which is useless for everyday communication as it requires a lifetime to fully understand a poem.” – Rhyd Wildermuth, on why he dislikes the Internet, and what doesn’t fit in a rucksack.

Mambo Chita Tann

Mambo Chita Tann

“Life goes on, somehow, like it always does, and suddenly it’s been four years. In the country I live in, most of the scars left by such an event would be tended to in some manner. The dead would be found and buried; ruined buildings would be demolished, and many great speeches about how everything would be rebuilt to be better than before would happen, and then everybody would get to work and right the wrong and fix things. Happy ending to a tragedy, proof of the true grit of the poor people who went through a sad time, right? Like Hurricane Katrina‘s aftermath, and like the aftermath for some of the harder-hit areas from Hurricane Sandy…the answer is no. No, it doesn’t get a happy ending, not yet, and maybe not ever. The palace ruins were finally taken down after two years (Can you imagine if Congress sat in ruins for two years?), but the cathedral ruins haven’t moved. Many people, including some of our family, left Port-au-Prince for the most part or entirely, and may not return. Promised aid trickles in, or it never arrived, or it was  eaten up by corruption and mismanagement. MINUSTAH (the UN sanctioned “peacekeeping” force remaining in Haiti, despite the fact that Haiti isn’t at war) brought “help” after the earthquake in the form of anirresponsible platoon of soldiers who dumped sewage into a river and started a major cholera epidemic. Four years later, we can’t even get the UN to admit responsibility. There are still so many things that need to be done. How many more years will it take? I don’t know. I hate that I have no answer. I hate it as much as I did four years ago today.” – Mambo Chita Tann, on Haiti, four years after the massive earthquake that started a chain reaction of tragedy for that country.

Lupa

Lupa

“As a child, I fancied myself to be such an explorer, though of a much smaller territory, and with far fewer resources and training at my disposal. Yet as I got older, and as I watched beloved wild places being torn down for development, I lost that curiosity and wonder for a while. My turn to paganism in the 1990s was, in large part, an attempt to reclaim that connection to nature, but it wasn’t until I divested myself of many of the abstract and symbolic trappings, and embraced a more naturalistic paganism, that I managed to regain that closeness. That’s why my path has increasingly become one informed by joy and curiosity, rather than ecstatic trances and formal rituals. And I’ve delighted in reading about Douglas’ exploits because they sound so familiar. Here is a man, close to my age, bounding about in the wilderness with the glee of a child, enduring hardships with a light heart because WOW LOOK AT THAT TREE ISN’T IT AN AWESOME TREE? Sure, there were plenty of other people, mostly indigenous, who were well acquainted with that particular species, but to him it was a new thing, and better yet, he got to share it with a whole slew of people on another continent who had never known such a thing existed. When I was a kid, some of my best days were the ones where I found a garter snake or box turtle or particularly large grasshopper, especially if it was some critter I had never seen before. It didn’t matter that other people knew about them; I was the one having these natural revelations.” – Lupa, on nature, David Douglas, and Paganism.

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

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • Raksha38

    Ugh, American Horror Story. I don’t know why I’m still watching that show, other than I’ve got a bit of an OCD completionist streak in me. I think I can finally make a clean break at the end of this season, though. I can’t find it in me to get really worked up about this latest piece of bullshit, however, for the same reason I can’t get worked up when South Park makes fun of some group or another. South Park mocks everyone, American Horror Story portrays everyone inaccurately and as offensively as possible. It’s what they do. I may not like it, but there it is.