Pagan Voices: Sara Amis, Oberon Zell, Donald Michael Kraig, and More!

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  January 22, 2014 — 20 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.

Anne Johnson

Anne Johnson

“Do you have any free advice on how to save West Virginia? I sure do. Go there. The whole state doesn’t look like the picture above. Most of it is gorgeous. Do you love Gaia? Do you love the outdoors, the majesty of the land, the joy of exerting yourself on a hike, on a bike ride, on a raft? Would you love to spend an afternoon having a spa treatment at a mineral spring? Do you live in that great megalopolis on the East Coast, or in the Rust Belt? Take your tourist dollars and spend them in West Virginia […] Pagans, if you want to help the Earth, West Virginia should be a pilgrimage destination. Every dollar you tip a waitress, every campground you reserve for a Ritual, every piece of original artwork or crafting you bring home, will help the state far more than a package of plastic water bottles, shipped and forgotten when the next disaster hits elsewhere.” – Anne Johnson, giving advice to Pagans on how to save West Virginia.

1012656_10202393224506209_922158815_n“Oberon asked that I tell all of your how overwhelmed and grateful he & MG are by the outpouring of support. He wishes he could respond to each and every message, but he simply can’t (at this time) – I assured him that none of us expected him to do that (silly wizard). Oberon asked that I let everyone know that our prayers and energy are making a difference. MG’s kidneys are responding to the IVs and they have not had to begin dialysis, she is awake and able to communicate. In her own unique fashion, our dear Priestess has been trying to control the medical process. We need to send her energy to please cooperate with the team of doctors and others who are trying to help her, and to regain her appetite and eat the food being prepared. (Which, at this hospital, is quite good). Again, thank you, everyone, so much for the love and support.” – Julie Epona, passing on word from Oberon Zell regarding the condition of Morning Glory Zell, who was hospitalized this past weekend due to kidney problems. Our best wishes and prayers go out to them both.

Sara Amis

Sara Amis

“There is magic there, in those mountains.  Inherent in the woods and hollows, tumbling down the mountain sides, rising up like mist, but also in the people:  their songs and stories and ways, their yarbs and praying rocks, their burn-talking, water-dowsing, blood-stopping charms.  Things get remembered there that other people forget, until one day somebody wonders where that Child ballad or old-timey cure went and comes looking to find it, kept safe in the memory of the mountain and its folk.  It is not a coincidence that Faery, the most well-known “home grown American strain of religious witchcraft” as Ronald Hutton called it, has its roots in Appalachia.  If you have any love of such things, know that the tributaries of your knowledge have springheads in those hills. The magic cannot be separated from the land.  You can put the knowledge in a book, perhaps, but that does not preserve it; once everything is gone but the dry pages, they only point to what is lost.  Magic is alive, as the mountains are alive, as we are alive. One of the most diverse ecosystems on Earth cloaks those mountains like a mantle woven from a million colors. Richness, true wealth, in the living breathing threads, wealth we barely comprehend because it seems so ordinary, precious beyond anything else we know or could tell.  Like the old ballads, we remain ignorant of its value, perhaps, until it is lost…except when a thing is finally gone from these mountains, the oldest in the world, it is gone forever.” – Sara Amis, on poison in the heart of the world.

Deborah "DJ" Hamouris

Deborah “DJ” Hamouris

“I consider myself a Dulcimer Missionary, preaching the gospel of joyful music-making on a simple, hand-crafted instrument, the Mountain Dulcimer. Having joined the congregation of dulcimer players back when they were sold at California Renaissance Faires, the dulcimer has been my constant companion. Playing it led me to composition, and teaching, and learning more about what this marvelously simple instrument can do. Finally, the dulcimer has led me to create the Berkeley Dulcimer Gathering, which is heading into its 2ndyear on 5/17/14. Along the way, I have met some wonderfully creative people. That includes Patricia Delich & Wayne Jiang, the filmmakers of “Hearts of the Dulcimer.” This one-of-a-kind documentary chronicles the west coast dulcimer phenomenon that started in the late 1960s. The people who made my first dulcimer are in there, and some of my early teachers.” – Deborah “DJ” Hamouris, explaining why she’s raising funds to bring the documentary film “Hearts of the Dulcimer” to the 2nd Berkeley Dulcimer Gathering.

Rev. Mother Cathryn Platine from the Maetreum of Cybele.

Rev. Mother Cathryn Platine from the Maetreum of Cybele.

“When we won our appellate level case for our property tax exemption we set a major precedent for equal treatment of Pagan and minority religions with the Abrahamic faiths. It was a BIG deal legally and the legal community saw it as such. Defending that win is not a hard task but an essential one. This is it, Catskill will have no where else to go after this is done. Please help us raise the money for this last part of a major win for Pagans everywhere. We have so much work to do after this is settled. We got our construction permit for a low powered FM community radio station, want to start up a non perishable food bank ASAP and do an entire summer of workshops on green energy, living, etc. in keeping with our goals. We need to not have our limited resources drained off at this point. Please help, any amount will help. Paypal direct to centralhouse@gallae.com and it is tax deductible.” – Cathryn Platine, giving notice that the Town of Catskill is filing an appeal of the Maetreum of Cybele’s win in the Appellate court, and asking for fiscal help one last time.

Steve Kenson

Steve Kenson

“A mystery is something that cannot be explained in mere words (although art often attempts to capture their essence). The mysteries must be experienced. In that regard, there are mysteries we all experience as human beings: birth, growth, aging, death, but there are also mysteries unique to certain peoples. As a cis-gendered male, I won’t experience the mystery of carrying or birthing a child, for example. By the same token, the coming out process—from the dawning sense of “otherness” through acceptance and public declaration of self—is a mystery heteronormative people don’t experience (although, interestingly, some witches do—after all, we call it “coming out of the broom closet” for a reason). […] Often, the purpose of a rite of passage is both to allow for the full exploration and experience of a mystery and to honor that experience. Historically, rites of passage are based on transitions: birth, adulthood, handfasting, parenthood, elderhood, and so forth. In addition to including everyone in those rites common to all, we want to be able to honor the particular mysteries, including things like coming out, self-healing, mentorship, and elderhood (a growing issue for both the queer and pagan communities as our population ages).” – Steve Kenson, from the  Temple of Witchcraft, talking about Mysteries, and rites of initiation, at Patheos.

Shauna Aura Knight

Shauna Aura Knight

“I’ve been writing topics of Pagan leadership because I think they are crucial. For instance, this blog post now. Am I getting paid for the 3 or so hours it takes me to write one of these? Nope. I do it because I’m called. I think that’s the essence of any deep calling–we’d do it whether or not we’re being paid. I have done this work without pay for years. I’ve managed by living simply and other creative means. But it’s put me, financially, where I absolutely can no longer do this work without pay. What I charge is not enough. Here is the crux of the issue. Many Pagans whine about not having access to things that other faiths have, but there’s a core reason for it–they aren’t willing to pay for it. Pagans are starting to want access to leadership training, and I’m thrilled to offer that. However, taking my time to offer that–driving 4-8 hours–my time spent teaching–preparing for the workshop–it’s rather a lot of time. It’s a part-time job, full time if you add in writing articles, blog posts, answering leadership questions on email or skype. It’s work I love, but if I can’t make a living doing it, I can’t continue.” – Shauna Aura Knight, on Pagans and money.

Gus DiZerega

Gus DiZerega

“What my coven does is fulfilling to me and to us, and we do not much care what others are or are not doing on full moons or other sacred days. Of course, it feels good that many others are also celebrating the moon, but we never wonder whether they are doing it ‘right’.  Modern Paganism is primarily a religion of personal and small group communion with (and sometimes intimate contact with) our Gods. We are not a religion of big organizations and mega-congregations.  Large public celebrations do occur, usually on major Sabbats, but there is no effort by organizers of these gatherings to institutionalize them into a ‘Pagan’ church.  We gather, celebrate together, and disperse, rarely thinking about questions of identity. We are not a religion of dogma.  There is a Wiccan rede and doubtless similar things can be found within some other traditions, but there is no Pagan rede, and even the Wiccan rede reads differently from different sources.  When someone tells me she or he is a Pagan, I do not wonder whether they have the right beliefs. Are they pantheists or panentheists?  Are they the right kind of polytheist? Are their deities “aspects” of more encompassing deities, treated as entirely distinct, or perhaps thought of as Jungian archetypes?” – Gus diZerega, on what is Paganism.

Donald Michael Kraig

Donald Michael Kraig

“To all my friends, readers, and students: I apologize for not being able to write you directly, however the God and Goddess have given me new challenges to face. Upon hearing of all the support you are giving me, I am unimaginably grateful. I have no doubt that while there will be challenges to come, the God and Goddess will not be bringing me to the Summerland anytime soon. In perfect love and in perfect trust, Donald Michael Kraig” – Donald Michael Kraig, responding to an outpouring of support after word went out that he was battling stage 4 pancreatic cancer. You can read more about this, here.

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

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • T Thorn Coyle

    One community note to add to Sara and Anne’s words on West Virginia chemical disaster: Solar Cross has collected $1237 in donations to send to service workers affected by the chemical spill in West Virginia. We will be sending a check to Charleston Unitarian congregation today.

    We give thanks to everyone who spread the word – including the Wild Hunt – and to Crow, Ellen, Kristina, Shannon, Christine, Jenya, Samara, Marian, Laura, Helene, Mary, Fortuna, Jody, James, Tony, Sean, Joan, Lily, Karen, Denise, Rebecca, Rosalind, Kimberly, Elizabeth, Jason, Gerald, Lezlie, Kimberly, Justyna, Christine, Rhiannon, Jennifer, Misha and Benjamin.

    for more on the story: http://www.thorncoyle.com/blog/2014/01/15/poisoned-waters-we-can-help/

    thanks and blessings – Thorn

  • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

    I completely agree with what Shauna Aura Knight is saying. There seems to be a great amount of hesitation in people actually paying for the things they want.

    • Cathryn Platine

      I totally agree, I reblogged Shauna’s article because it needs to be seen and talked about

    • http://www.cernowain.com/ cernowain greenman

      I have begun to believe this wanting everything free is not only about stinginess and the supposed lack of funds. I think it is a remnant of the old ’60’s hippie days when people thought everything should be free. Most of the people from that time came to find out that such a dream utopia was an illusion. Pagans, like hippies, have got to wake up and come to this realization. The hard truth of the world is that you get what you pay for.

      • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

        I’m fortunate that the 60s is before my time.

        (Can’t complain about that decade too much, it gave the world Black Sabbath.)

    • kenofken

      There is the issue of a freeloading mentality, but the reality is that most pagans simply don’t want most of the things we’re being called too cheap to pay for.

      I certainly don’t expect anyone to work for nothing, and if they do a reading for me or offer a high quality interesting seminar, I’m happy to pay a good buck for it. I won’t pay to have a full time separate caste of clergy or church buildings because I don’t want them at any price, not because I’m cheap or expect someone else to carry it.

      We do have some institutions and services that people are supporting, but we also have some misguided ideas about what “the pagan community” really wants. Much of the grousing about pagans and money comes from people who want to earn a living at their religion and who have, with the best of intentions, allowed their calling to consume their lives in an unbalanced way. Then they think it’s incumbent upon “the community” to step up and pay for it.

      That’s not how things work in the market economy of the real world. If you need to get $50 or $200 for this seminar or that house blessing or handfasting in order to make it worth your time and pay your bills, tell people upfront. If they can’t meet your price, spend that time on what you need to do to make ends meet. Having a calling doesn’t mean you can’t ever say “no.”

      If you can afford to do five or ten hours a week in charity cases, great. If you’re called to pursue a ministry even in the certainty of poverty, accept all that goes with it. If you condition people to expect full time service for free or at nominal cost, they’re going to take it and not value it and balk at paying a fair price, and you’re going to end up broke and burned out and resentful.

      We’re only going to get past this problem if we inject some honesty into the discussion. Give people a realistic menu of services and prices and if the market then tells you something, believe it. Damn few people in the foreseeable future are going to turn a decent living by being a full-time pagan minister.

      • Northern_Light_27

        “We’re only going to get past this problem if we inject some honesty into
        the discussion. Give people a realistic menu of services and prices and
        if the market then tells you something, believe it.”

        Exactly this. I also agree with the idea that we’re really not sure, as a broader movement, what it is that we actually do want. And “want” in a realistic way– there’s a world of difference between “gosh, that would be nice to have” and “I want this badly enough to put in the money and the work”. I feel like people make decisions to abandon day jobs and throw all their money into things that turn out to be the “nice to have” kind of want and not the sustainable kind of want, and then feel burned by their community. And nobody is going to be rude enough to, when asked outright why they’re not shopping at their store/paying for their seminars, say “I just don’t value your product that much”, they’ll give a polite excuse. If money is energy, isn’t it also communication? If you ask for it and people don’t give it, it means people don’t want your product enough to fund it. No, it doesn’t matter that people thought it was fantastic when it was free. Standards change as the price climbs– my standard for a fun free fanfic read, my standard for an ebook I’m willing to take a chance on because it’s a $1.99 kindle special, and my standard for a brand-new hardcover novel are very, very different, and a hardcover book is cheap compared to the kind of sustained support that professional Pagans are asking for their services.

        I also can’t be the only one who has been on the receiving end of a plea for funds who has thought a thing, like a local store or a permanent worship site, was a great idea but wouldn’t give money to the people doing it because they’re all dreams and no market research, business plan, or expertise (sure, you’re a great witch, but do you know anything at all about running a retail shop?). It’s not *just* unethical people who salt the ground for people who come behind them and want to monetize what they do, it’s also the flaky, just plain unreliable, head-in-the-clouds people who got in over their heads without a plan who then go around telling anyone who will listen that their business failed because the community is a stingy, entitled bunch of freeloaders. The next effort to do something in that community then has that much steeper a hill to climb to convince themselves that it’s worth taking a chance on a stingy community and the community to convince themselves that this one is better prepared and it isn’t just throwing money down the drain to back them.

        • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

          Market research is a great idea. All things have to start somewhere and, when it comes down to it, as soon as money is involved, it becomes business. Even if not for profit.

          • kenofken

            Especially if not for profit.

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

          What I think is being overlooked here is that we should, in fact, be driven by forces other than “the market”–or our own wants and wishes for what gifts we share with our communities, for that matter. This is not a community centered on creating a product for sale in the marketplace–if we’re doing it right, we should be centered on being faithful to our gods. And those gods may lead us into serving them and into serving our community.

          Those kinds of spiritual gifts are in fact different from a talent for throwing pots or growing basil. If we’re listening to what the gods ask of us, we won’t be easy with refusing to share those gifts, whether or not “the marketplace” supports them as a way of earning a living. Nor is it entirely a private indulgence to share a gift like that; it’s a fire, it’s a necessity, it’s a bit like gravity in its insistence.

          And I understand the cynicism that makes so many Pagans sneer slightly and think, “Oh, yes! You expect me to pay for what you want to do–because ‘the Goddess told you to!'” It’s undeniable that plenty of us are self-deluding around whether we’re serving the gods or our own egos.

          But while that makes it hard work to sort out what needs our support and what doesn’t, it doesn’t make the question any less urgent. While there are those who are called by their own egos to demand a paycheck for pursuing their own interests (and, for that matter, those with solid professional services for which they require fair pay, at levels determined by the marketplace) there are also those who are carrying the spiritual heart of our movement. They’re real, too, and if we ignore them, we risk ignoring one of the things that makes Paganism so powerful (in our lives and in the world).

          I think of the Quaker leader, John Woolman, famous to this day for his work to eliminate slavery. He exemplifies this kind of faithfulness in the Quaker religious tradition… In order to travel in the ministry, working to end slavery, he simplified his life and his business dealings as far as he could–AND he received support from many, many Quakers in his home meeting who recognized the validity of his call.

          We need to be like this, not just expecting skill from our leaders, and pragmatism around what is and isn’t affordable to do, but also idealistic enough to recognize when someone is following a more than personal leading from the gods… and to be willing to help them realize it.

          Hard work, but without it, I worry we’ll become no more than a polytheistic version of Protestantism, with very little fire left in us.

      • Northern_Light_27

        I just want to see more transparency in Paganism, on practically every level, but especially about money. If I fund you, I want to know where the money goes. (Yes, it’s a micro level thing, but when I held classes at the local store and charged for supplies, I had an envelope of my receipts in case someone ever asked me.) I loved the comment at Ms. Knight’s blog about the separation in some Protestant churches between the people who handle the money/governance and the ministers and how it helps prevent one person from ending up with too much power– I’ve long thought this was a good idea that I wished I saw more of.

        If you’re asking for $20 out of the goodness of your heart but you really need $40 to break even, *tell* people that. Lay it all out– I need to drive this much to make this function and it’s going to cost me this much to do it for this reason and this reason. If people can’t provide it and you really, genuinely think they want it, brainstorm and see if there’s a way to meet in the middle. (If Ms. Knight was also the person who wrote in frustration about the
        seemingly BS reasons people give for not going to her classes, location and travel seem to feature prominently in both the reasons and excuses for not paying and what makes it hard for her to serve her calling– what about subscription webinars, like T. Thorn Coyle seems to be making work for her? Travel stops being a factor for both parties in that one.)

        If that isn’t possible, you’re right, sometimes people have to just let it go and say no. If the festival doesn’t happen this year, either people are going to realize how badly they miss it and find a way to fund it fully, or it will be apparent that it just isn’t that important to enough people anymore. Maybe the big class that can’t break even moves to someone’s house (or online) and maybe that big 4-day festival becomes a much more local, smaller, briefer thing. Yes, that’s going to hurt. But no business survives forever on sentimentality alone, if it’s not serving an actual perceived need, it won’t survive long-term– and it seems to me that what it comes down to is figuring out our needs and deep desires vs. our more ephemeral wants.

      • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

        I get that not everyone wants what is being offered by a particular person, but I am on about those that do, but dislike paying for it.

        I can equate it to illegal downloading of music/movies/art/etc. People want what they want, but they want it as cheap as they can get it.

        • kenofken

          That part of human nature does suck, but it’s bigger than the pagan community. Billionaires will happily take tax breaks. It’s an unfortunate instinct, but it can only happen if someone enables it.

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            Oh, I agree. It is very definitely a “people problem”.

      • http://www.cernowain.com/ cernowain greenman

        What people don’t realize is that even in the Christian world, the majority of ministers there are part-time. They have to be bi-vocational to make ends meet. This needs to be the model that people who are seeking to be Pagan clergy today.

        • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

          But there is a core of full time clergy in most Christian denominations.

        • kenofken

          I think it’s healthy for ministers of any kind to have that kind of engagement with the day to day working world of the people they serve.

    • Franklin_Evans

      The experiences of the FB group Pagans Against Plagiarism are very instructive. For some reason, many people believe that if a thing is available online that it must be free for the taking and using. Many cannot even be bothered to provide proper attribution for those things marked as shareable so long as the author/creator is clearly identified.

      Mostly, though, PAP finds that even the most polite attempt to correct the misuse of the creative works of others is met with warlike hostility. I imagine that this is motivated by their guilty knowledge of their theft, along with their sense of entitlement.

      I believe that Ms. Knight represents the common and sensible middle ground. One can perform as a Pagan clergy without assuming or demanding carte blanche support. One can fullfil one’s calling without living astride the poverty line. It can be simple market mechanisms, with equal room for those wanting something enough to pay a fair price for it as well as for those who are not interested at all.

      I agree with Kenofken, honesty is the key. If it results in a person such as Ms. Knight no longer serving our community as she is called to do, then we must accept that and move on from there. In the meantime, she really needs fair and reasonable compensation for her work, and those desiring it should step up and make sure she gets it.

  • Hecate_Demetersdatter

    Anne Johnson has been doing spectacular, down-in-the-dirt, serious Pagan blogging for years and years!!! I am SO glad to see her featured here.

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

      Word!