Pagan Community Notes: Gaia Gathering, Witch School publishes e-book, the First Church of Wicca is back and more!

The Wild Hunt —  December 29, 2014 — 52 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. Our 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!
Gaia Gathering

Gaia Gathering, a Canadian national Pagan conference, launched a new website to announce the opening of registration for its annual event. This coming year marks Gaia Gathering’s 10th anniversary, which will be celebrated in the city where “it all began,” Edmonton, Alberta.

Organizers are currently calling for academic papers saying, “We invite papers and proposals for our academic stream from all fields within the social sciences, arts, and humanities, which are relevant to the academic study of contemporary Paganism, New Religious Movements and related interests.”  In addition to academic paper presentations, the conference also hosts “workshops, panel discussions, and evening entertainment.” Gaia Gathering has been held every year for 10 years during Victoria Day Weekend, May 15-18.

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witch school 2Last week Witch School International released a new book, The Common Book of Witchcraft and Wicca. The publication is available for free via download from the school’s website.

Written by Don Lewis, the book’s forward explains that the new book is “a compendium of copy-right free materials dealing with Wicca and Witchcraft. All the materials within it may be freely shared without the need for any further permission. These materials have been created for the world, and are explicitly intended to be shared. Why? Because we believe that sharing knowledge can create a better world.

In its nearly 400 pages, The Common Book of Witchcraft and Wicca includes articles, poetry, chants, artwork and a biography listing. As reported by Witch School’s website, the digital publication has already been downloaded by people in over 55 countries in the seven days that it has been available.

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church of wiccaThe First Church of Wicca has reopened in Duxuby, Massachusetts after a five year hiatus. The announcement was made on Oct. 19, and the group celebrated its first Sabbat, Nov. 1.

The First Church of Wicca was founded and run by Rev. Dr. Kendra Vaughan Hovey. Many might remember her from the TLC reality show “My Unique Family: The Witches Next Door.” As we reported in 2009, Hovey announced that she was converting to Christianity. After a five hiatus, she has returned to Wicca and reopened her church. The Wild Hunt will have more on this story in the coming weeks.

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Brigid-Color-HorizBurning Brigid Media, a newly established Pagan-run production company, is beginning production on its first film project, a web series called Sleep Study. Company founders Michael Coorlin and Kat O’Connor have extensive experience in Chicago’s film and theater world. They both became disillusioned with many of their mainstream projects and the common representations of marginalized populations.

Last spring, they came together to aim their extensive experience and talents in a new direction. Burning Brigid Media’s goal is to “contribute to a cultural shift through narratives that normalize stories about the traditionally marginalized: women, minority, and LGBT characters presented as people rather than genres.” Their first project, to be launched this summer 2015, is the web series titled Sleep Study. They describe it as a “transmedia atmospheric surreal horror” that will “question the very nature of reality.

In Other News:

  • While most of our readers have been celebrating the Winter Solstice and other early winter holidays, some readers, like those living in Tasmania, Australia, have been preparing for the harvest. Each year the Tasmanian Pagan Alliance hosts an annunal Harvest Fest in mid-January. This family-friendly event includes rituals, workshops, and vendors, and is held 25 minutes outside of Devonport.
  • For some Pagans, the Winter Solstice means a trip to a sacred site, such as Stonehenge and Newgrange. Our own columnist Rhyd Wildermuth was fortunate enough to be selected to enter Newgrange on the Winter Solstice. He will be sharing the experience and photos in his next column.
  • Registration has opened for a new Spring Equinox festival in Florida. The Equinox in the Oaks will take place 30 minutes west of Ormond Beach and Daytona, in the central part of the state. Organizers are excited about the new event, describing it as an “Earth-centered, ethically-focused, family-affirming Pagan festival.” Pre-registration is already underway and they have launched a Facebook fan page to allow future attendees to follow the event’s developments and additions.
  • Another festival that has opened its registration is the mid-winter Feast of Lights hosted by the Earth Spirit Community. The annual event is held in Nothhampton, Massachusetts from Jan. 31-Feb. 1. Organizers describe it “as a weekend of warmth at the coldest time of the year – a festival of of community and hope, of tradition and creativity, of Earth spirituality and the arts, of community and hope, of tradition and creativity.” This year’s special guest will be Viviane Crowley.
World Peace Violin [Photo  Cedit: H.Greene]

World Peace Violin [Photo Cedit: H.Greene]

  • In October, we reported that violinist Scarlet Rivera would be recording a special piece using Rev. Patrick McCollum’s sacred violin. The recording is now posted on YouTube and features Rivera playing a composition written by Yuval Ron specifically for McCollum’s violin. The piece is entitled “Voice of Peace.”
  • Last week Patheos Pagan Blog, A Sense of Place, welcomed a new contributor. James Lindenschmidt has been Pagan for more than 20 years and “feeds his spirit by bonding with his ecosystem.” Originally from the midwest, he now lives in “a small place in the woods” in Northern New England. His inaugural post, entitled “By Way of Introduction,” was published on Dec. 24.

That is it for now. Have a great day.

The Wild Hunt

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The Wild Hunt is a daily, nonprofit news journal serving the collective Pagan, Heathen and Polytheist communities worldwide. Follow us each day to stay up to date with the latest news and commentary.

  • mptp

    Why are comments not visible on the 2009 article about the Duxbury Church?

    And I wonder if we’re going to see either retractions of her complaints about eclectic Wicca, similar complaints about Christianity, continuing lambasting of polyamory, or maybe, just maybe, an admission that she likes running groups and the powerful feelings of control that gives her, regardless of what flavor it is this year?

    • Gaddy

      I’m going to continue to ignore this with all my might. I’m actually glad of the update though, because paying a moment’s attention to this non-subject makes ignoring it again all the sweeter.

    • There appears to be a technical glitch with the comments in that older post. I am working on resolving it. Thanks.

      • mptp

        Thanks, Heather. I suspect it might have to do with when TWH was hosted elsewhere.

    • How do we welcome people back to the path? Do we need to hear a recanting of the former faith? Do we need an apology? Or maybe a ritual? How do we rebuild trust after trust has been broken? And how do we deal with the Christians who are mad that they lost one of the sheep they claimed from the “dark side”?

      • Aaron Simon

        We shouldn’t ask for an apology or any kind of recanting. She doesn’t belong to us, or anyone.

        We as human beings have got many paths to walk down in life, and many things to learn along the way. One of the paths this woman was meant to walk seems to have been leaving the pagan folk and going to the Christians.. and now returning.

        And I don’t feel as if we ought to call it a breaking of trust, either. She has shown who she is through her actions- if she wants to change, wants to grow, wants to return, then she can show in the same way.

        And that would be good enough for me.

      • kenofken

        Well, we could insist that aspiring Big Name Wiccans actually produce a body of work of some depth and length before we bestow instant celebrity status upon them.

        I figured out a long time ago that the real leaders are not ever the ones dropping their name all over the place. The real ones are those whose accomplishments over decades speak for themselves. I didn’t fall for Teo Bishop’s spin when he was the movement’s golden boy, and Hovey, from her first media splash, revealed herself to be a putz, and everything I’ve seen since that time has reinforced my first impression. There was no trust to lose as I don’t trust self-made celebrities. I might take her more seriously if she were to stick with a path for many years and produced something worthy of respect.

        • thelettuceman

          I don’t know how many people were really shocked that Morris left the Druid/Pagan scene in the way he did. Or that it was completely out of the blue. He was just another seeker. They come and go.

      • mptp

        First of all, she was never on my path, her eclectic Wicca only shares part of a name with what I do.

        Secondly, there’s no universal forgiveness in Wicca, that’s part of the group she left Wicca for.

        When she left Wicca, she left behind students who were devastated, and whose devastation can be laid right at her teaching a congregation/pastor type of eclectic Wicca. That IS a breaking of trust.

        When she left FCOW, she set herself up, almost immediately, as a pastor of a Christian congregation of her own making.

        Maybe she shouldn’t try leading any more groups for a good long time.

        Failing that, caveat emptor.

        • Gaddy

          When she left FCOW, she set herself up, almost immediately, as a pastor of a Christian congregation of her own making.

          OK, with gems like that, you’re making this harder to ignore than I had first hoped. It’s as if her reality show never ended, huh?

          Where’s the popcorn?

          • mptp

            Yes, if you look at all the posts tagged with her name, you’ll see the progression, such as it was.

    • dantes

      I am just wondering, why did she “came back” to Wicca in the first place? There’s no statement regarding her “re”-conversion on the website. Because she could maybe explain how she finally managed to make sense of Wicca at all. Or is this just a christo-pagan undercover action?

      • mptp

        If you read the earlier coverage of her, at some point, I believe in 2011, she started she wasn’t a Christian, wasn’t Wiccan, but just a witch … Make of that what you will.

      • kenofken

        It’s a Keep Kendra in the Spotlight action. With the Pagan/Christian story line pretty well played out, it will be interesting to see her next move (and there will always be one). Maybe she’ll turn up as a rabbi or Mormon or Buddhist (a lama, no doubt) or Ifa priestess…

        • dantes

          All of this sounds Confused. Not interested.

      • Danielle Amourtrance Verum

        She did make a statement in the tv show that aired of, “We worship the same god as everyone else.” I can only assume that by “everyone else” she means the Abrahamic god and…yeah no, I don’t worship that god and I’m part of “everyone else” so…yeah no. But what troubles me is that even while professing Wicca she seemed to stay connected with Christian or Judaic images (she was raised Jewish) Now mind you that’s fine, but take your Judeo-Christian baggage and go do that with a bit of witchery tossed in. Unless what I’ve heard about Wicca is true in that it’s essentially Christianity at it’s core but with dressed up characters that are really faces of the monotheistic god of the Abrahamics? I don’t know as I’m not Wiccan but I’ve heard that from Pagan folks. I have no idea what her intentions are, but something to think about Dantes, good point.

        • Deborah Bender

          All three Abrahamic religions emphasize that though human beings have a connection to the divine, there is a vast difference between the nature of the One God and the nature of mortal creatures, e. g. , We are small, weak, limited, and flawed; God is perfect. Wiccan theology does not see such a sharp difference. Pauline Christianity is salvationist; Wicca is not.

          Wicca gives the Divine Feminine more prominence and agency than any of the Abrahamic religions do. Wiccan theology is susceptible to being interpreted as monotheistic, polytheistic, henotheistic and various other ways, without causing major problems among practitioners, because it’s generally understood that important parts of reality are ineffable. Among Abrahamics, that understanding is mostly confined to mystics and scholars. Christianity and Wicca have some points in common but are not, for most adherents, variants of the same religion. Wicca has other points in common with Judaism which make it attractive to Jews who had a secular or religiously liberal upbringing, but Wicca and Judaism are fundamentally different enterprises. The primary mission of Judaism is teaching people how to live together in society and treat each other decently.

          • Danielle Amourtrance Verum

            I don’t want to side-bar too much but I’m curious about: “Wicca gives the Divine Feminine more prominence and agency than any of the Abrahamic religions do.” This seems to suggest that, at least in your view, they do worship the same being but that Wicca emphasizes a feminine aspect? If so then it would seem those people I mentioned are right, that Wicca is really Christianity in…well drag?

          • Franklin_Evans

            I’m not Wiccan, so I defer on any details to Deborah and others, but I observe something that may offer you some insight: Christianity explicitly demotes the feminine (on any level) as subordinate to the masculine. Wicca, by contrast, connects feminine and masculine in a dynamic balance, with similar examples found in polytheisms the predate Christianity.

            As an observer, I would immediately reject any attempt to connect Wicca and Christianity as you seem to be seeing.

          • Danielle Amourtrance Verum

            No, no no. Not I but other Pagans have done this. I am merely curious about the notion. That said, Wicca very clearly worships a single deity whom they address as The One or the Dryghten, they use a male/female polarity to represent this singularity. This is not classical polytheism at all which has always been a multiplicity of unique individuals.

          • Franklin_Evans

            I wrote without enough clarity. I don’t equate Wicca with polytheism, I just suggested a point of similarity.

            As I said, I must leave the details to Wiccans. You will find, I predict, that an assertion about all of Wicca will be quickly criticized by some Wiccans hastening to prove it wrong.

          • Danielle Amourtrance Verum

            Oh you’re not just whistling Dixie about that! lol Well just bear in mind here that I’m not the one asserting anything, but asking curious questions about what other Pagan folk have told me about it. Having said that, if Wicca ends up being being defined as whatever X Wiccan says about it, well then it’s really not saying anything IMHO so, oh well.

          • Franklin_Evans

            I use a term with people — mostly Christians — when referring to the panoply of beliefs that include modern Pagans, Heathens and many others: siblings in faith. I think of them as family, regardless of any similarities or differences we may have as individuals.

            Anyway, I’ve not yet heard any serious argument against this version of an old facetious cliche: put six Wiccans (Pagans, etc.) in a room and ask them what Wicca (Paganism, etc.) is, and you’ll get somewhere between six and sixty answers depending on how much time you give them to argue the details.

            For me, the truth behind that bit of stereotyping is that compared to other belief systems in mainstream society, Wiccans (and many Pagans of my acquaintance) invest much more intellectual effort and energy into their beliefs. I see that as a strength and advantage that far outweighs any confusion outsiders might feel while trying to understand them.

          • Danielle Amourtrance Verum

            Hmm and see I respectfully disagree. I actually think we need more definition and clarity among groups, all groups. I use the term Pagan here on this board because, well because people use it really, and I try to accommodate peoples’ desired terms and labels when I know what they are. Pagan seems to be the term of choice for many, though not all, folks here. But in all honesty I don’t use it outside of this kind of context because it has come to mean absolutely nothing. Same with the word Druid, Witch, Wiccan, Pagan, Heathen etc… All of them have become meaningless because everyone is tacking their own meanings on, watering down anything of substance or core that was there. And for me I don’t see this as a strength but a weakness. If a label doesn’t tell someone what you are and are not about, how can they learn more about your group, their ethics, their stance on issues? They really can’t. So I am all about more defined definitions not less.

            Case in point, this story about Dr. Kendra. Is she Wiccan? Christian? Pagan? All? None? No one knows because all those terms are, these days, left up for everyone to define themselves.

          • Deborah Bender

            The Covenant of the Goddess, an organization of witches and covens founded in 1975, decided at the outset that trying to formulate the kind of definition you are asking for is hopeless in the case of witches. Instead, admission to membership is based on the principle that one witch can recognize another if they know each other. In order to be eligible to join CoG, you have to state that you are a witch or a Wiccan, provide a brief statement of your (or your coven’s) practice, and get two witches to write letters saying that they know you and that they think you are a witch. If the people writing the letters haven’t known you for a long time, usually they will want to spend some time in a ritual circle with you in order to form an opinion.

            I’m oversimplifying a bit because there are a couple of other criteria for eligibility, having to do with basic experience and ethical standards. As to whether Dr. Kendra would be admitted to membership in CoG, the only way to know would be for her to apply and see what happens.

            Witchcraft is an unusual religion; I’m not saying this model works for other religions.

          • kenofken

            Unfortunately, people like Hovey usually have no problem at all gaining membership in CoG and they tend to rise far because they are natural politicians.

            They excel at cultivating sycophants and supporters, and CoG has also historically at least granted a huge presumption of credibility to “clergy” over ordinary Wiccans and solitaries. It’s not about being Wiccan, it’s about getting in with the regional “in crowd” of Wicca to get them to say you’re Wiccan Enough.

            I think the organization does some excellent work, but to this day, I have given up on seeking admission because last I knew at least, you have to go through the regional affiliate, and the key membership person is a former coven leader of mine who is very much like Hovey in her own way.

          • Deborah Bender

            I don’t think my own Local Council operates that way, but I’ve heard stories like that from some other regions. In my opinion, one of the weaknesses of CoG as an organization is that it doesn’t do enough to identify best practices among the regional affiliates and give incentives to emulate them. Nor is there an effective way for the National Board to deter Local Councils from gatekeeping in ways that undermine the inclusiveness of the organization. If those two weaknesses were corrected, CoG would be much larger.

            There is currently a push to revise and update CoG’s membership criteria and procedures. Big changes take a while since the Covenant operates by consensus, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see some reforms on admission to membership within the next two or three years.

          • Deborah Bender

            Wiccan theology is different from classical polytheism. However, the polytheism of the ancient Greeks (to take one example) wasn’t the same in the time of Homer, Pericles, and the second century of the Common Era.

          • Deborah Bender

            Wicca does not have a supreme authority on theology, or a creed that every Wiccan recites and is expected to believe in literally. Neither does Christianity, although it has made several attempts to impose theological uniformity. Anything I write about the beliefs of either religion isn’t going to reflect the beliefs of everybody who more-or-less follows that religion.

            The myths of many pagan peoples indicate that gods may choose to appear as old or young, male or female, as animals or as natural phenomena, and in some of these stories the human being requests the god to appear in one form rather than another so that the human has a better chance of surviving the encounter. We humans are more strongly attached to the physical plane than they are, and don’t shape shift as readily. I doubt that many human beings have the capacity to perceive in full what the gods are; any more than I was able to fully understand my mother’s thoughts and emotions when I was five years old. I remember some of my experiences in a variety of states of consciousness, experiences of other people that they told to me, lore, logical deductions from what I know about the world, and the poetic and visual images that artists use to convey what cannot be spoken of directly. I don’t think any of that adds up to the whole truth about the gods.

            Same being? Different being? It may depend on one’s perspective.

          • kenofken

            As one of the resident Wiccans, or at least one with that background, I’ll try to address that point. “Is Wicca really Christianity in drag”?

            I would say: 1)No, it is not. and 2)There are reasons why it would appear that way and why it draws people like Hovey.

            In order to understand Wicca’s apparent conflation with Christianity, we have to look to it’s history. As the first public modern revival/re-synthesis of ancient pagan practice, Wicca’s ritual forms and liturgy came almost entirely from modern occult sources which were essentially mystic Christianity – Rosicrucian, Golden Dawn, Freemasonry. They were all things that, if not explicitly Christian, used a Christian or Judeo-Christian frame of reference and which provided a veneer of respectability when completely over paganism was professional and social suicide in Europe and the U.S.

            While Wicca in no way proscribes polytheism or mandates pantheism, it has a very strong tradition of the latter. It was certainly the dominant view in Gerald Gardner’s day, and I attribute most of that to the fact that Western civilization simply was not ready to re-embrace polytheism. It had become a very difficult concept to engage after nearly 15 centuries of absence. “All gods are one god” also became an attractive slogan for Wicca’s ambassadors who wanted to strike a conciliatory tone with the local neighbors and zoning officials.

            Wicca has also drawn more than it’s share of Christo-Pagan and Judeo-Pagan folk in part because it’s very often the first stop for damaged refugees from these religions. Many of these people aren’t in it because they are drawn to pagan deity or because they’ve done the difficult work of a spiritual journey. They’re cheesed off at their parents or pastors and they’re looking for a less dogmatic, less patriarchal and more groovy way to “do church.” Traditional Wicca’s emphasis on “ordained clergy” in turn draws people like Hovey who want to lord over a congregation. I find that most of the conflation of Judaism and or Christianity with Wicca or other Pagan traditions is rooted in intellectual laziness and an unwillingness to commit to anything beyond one’s comfort zone. Hovey’s statements over the years certainly indicated that she had done no serious theological engagement of either religion.

            I don’t think this makes Wicca itself a hopelessly compromised Christian enterprise. People like Hovey tend to draw in lots of newbies, feed on them, and turn them over. Most of us who are in it for the long haul get beyond that scene and tend to evolve beliefs and practices which are more deeply rooted in Pagan deity and hard(ish) polytheism and less influenced by the Craft’s Edwardian Christian sensibilities.

            Finally, I don’t think this is a problem of definitions or orthodoxy. It is about spiritual authenticity and irresponsible and manipulative leadership.

          • Deborah Bender

            There are a couple of other important differences between Wicca and Christianity. One is that Wicca thinks having a body is a great benefit of living and that the sex drive is, in general, a good thing and a gift of the Goddess. Another is that Wicca is considerably less dualistic than Christianity. Wicca is more akin to Asian religions in its view that pleasure/suffering, ignorance/experience, creation/destruction, light/darkness, change/permanence, life/death etc. are double-sided coins and that both sides are necessary to a full existence.

            On both of these points, Judaism as a whole tends to an intermediate position between Christianity and Wicca. This intermediate position is one of the reasons why Jews who get involved with the Craft often think of it as an addition to, rather than a replacement for their previous religious affiliation, if they had one. Christians if they were brought up in one of the more conservative versions of Xtianity, usually become ex-Christians when they adopt Wicca. For them the change feels more like defecting to the other side.

  • Guest

    Although I do not belong to the Witch School, I did help donate a small amount to the crowd funding project for the Common Book of Witchcraft and Wicca. I received the PDF file last week and have enjoyed reading it.

    The great thing is that it is free. It is “common” in the sense that it is free to any one in Wicca who wishes to use it. I was hoping it might be more “common” in the ecumenical sense of having many Wiccan traditions and sources contributing to it, but it pretty much only represents the Witch School/Correllian tradition. And that’s OK, I just think that’s an important distinction to make before you download it.

    The book is not entirely written by Don Lewis, but there is a lot of his material here. Included at the beginning is Oberon Zell’s original article presenting
    the Gaia Hypothesis which helped open the way for a new thinking about
    our relationship with the planet.

    In his opening article Don Lewis (aka, Rev. Don) makes a case for why he and the Witch School are sharing this Common Book. He not only believes that the book can help promote knowledge and empowerment but he also hopes that the spread of Wicca and other Nature-centered religions is needed for the good of our planet today. I think it is worth reading.

    There are also a number of other articles by Witch School folks that present Correllian theology and practice. The book also has a few sanitized biographies of selected notable Wiccans, mostly those important to Correllian tradition. The bios give only basic info and are just sketches of the lives that are mentioned.

    Toward the back of the book you’ll find Sabbat rituals. There I liked. I wish there were *more* rituals, spells– especially more chants. I had expected more rituals/prayers than articles than are here, but, well, that’s not what you get, and well, it is free.

    • 11,000$ collected for a PDF written by the own tradition members and talking about the tradition or its views? Oh FFS!

  • Danielle Amourtrance Verum

    I have very fond memories of the TLC program that featured Dr. Kendra and her family in my early years on the Pagan road. I fully understand what it means to convert to a path, change your mind, change it again, convert to something else and be absolutely certain you got it this time…only to again change later. And I sure posted my share of crap about previous paths, including Christianity. It’s part of healing and growing I think. Kind of like when you break up or divorce someone, you have that time where you want to be angry, upset, feel cheated, denied etc…Sometimes you’re justified and sometimes you’re just being a loo. So she bad-mouthed Wicca, meh big deal. It was part of her time then and people should do their own research, not believe someone elses’ story. I’m still figuring myself and path out every day and will do so until I die methinks. I wish for her nothing but happiness and clarity as she learns and grows.

    • kenofken

      Hovey is a hustler and reality TV bottom feeder of the first order. Her entire career as a visible religious leader has been about generating buzz for herself and making sure the narrative anywhere in her orbit was always “me me me me me”. She has flitted back and forth between faith identities, never doing, or at least demonstrating, any work of any depth in either of them.

      On it’s own, that would merely make her a flaky seeker. The fact that she holds herself out to be a qualified spiritual leader in any of these traditions is disgusting. People who came to study with her or practice with her were just unpaid extras in the Kendra Hovey Show and/or foils for her own spiritual journey. People like her are a big part of the reason why modern Wiccans reject organized leadership and institutions of any kind.

      • Danielle Amourtrance Verum

        My only knowledge of her comes from the show I saw and her statement when she left Wicca back in 2009. You seem to more about her than I, so perhaps your judgment is warranted. I don’t know. I do think that it’s unfair to judge someone as flaky because they change paths, esp since depth in a path means various things. I tend to err on the side of someone having a genuine change of mind/heart. I do agree though in that I too reject organized leadership and institutions. I think it’s spells bad news no matter which way you slice it. I esp reject congregational models and styles of organization that attempt to make things look more like Christian faiths complete with black clerical clothing and collars for clergy. Anytime we do something that looks like what the Christians do we reinforce the idea that they are the standard by which all should be judged. And they’re not. We have ample examples from history that we can bring forward in time.

        • mptp

          It’s not the flakiness.

          If that were all, it would only be comical.

          But that congregational model you reject, was exactly what she wanted and a lot of people got hurt because of her –

          That’s why I hope no-one simply brushes this off as some sort of flaky phase, and no big deal.

          • Danielle Amourtrance Verum

            I honestly cannot say I agree or disagree. I only know the little bit about her that I do. Maybe you’re right, maybe she is a major threat. If so and more comes out, I’ll gladly say so as well. Right now, it would be unfair for me to judge her harshly. Esp in light of my own journey and mistakes. So, we shall see eh?

        • Deborah Bender

          I wonder whether you and mptp have ever had an experience or exposure to a congregational religious group that was healthy and functional. It sounds as if you haven’t.

          Congregational organizations aren’t well suited to esoteric paths, because the basic premise of a congregation is that everyone is welcome as long as they are willing to abide by some basic rules of behavior. But most people don’t want an esoteric religion. They are looking for a religion that fits in with the life they already have.

          The problem with congregations in the neopagan community is that nearly all of them form around a leader. The leader attracts followers who then become the congregation. Mainline Protestant denominations and most varieties of Judaism would say that is backwards. The right way is for people who desire to observe a religion together, and who are in general agreement about what that involves, to get together and decide to form a congregation. It’s no different from forming a food co-op or a bowling league. Then they look for a minister, rabbi or other religious specialist who can help them with the stuff they want to do and don’t know how to do all on their own. Iff they aren’t satisfied with the services their specialist is providing, or have doubts about his or her character, the congregation dumps that leader and engages somebody else to serve them. The religious leader is not the only person with power or authority in the congregation.. The practical stuff, like paying the bills and having a place to meet, is in the hands of other members of the congregation.

          • mptp

            I have not had exposure to mainline Protestant congregational churches.

            I was raised Roman Catholic, became a generic eclectic, then started searching out BTW in ’02.

            Finally received initiation in 2013, after 9+ years of outer court work.

            So, when I’m complaining about congregational neoWicca, I’m not, as you describe congregations, talking about an organic coalescing of like minded worshippers who decided on a pastor, but the other way around, which, as you point out, trends to be the norm among neopagan congregations, and the opposite of Protestant ones.

            Because of that very reversal of the formation of congregations, I distrust them, in general, in the neoWiccan flavor.

          • Deborah Bender

            Some Catholic parishes have strong lay leadership, but they don’t control the finances and they get their priest from what amounts to an arranged marriage.

            By now, everyone knows how little accountability the hierarchy of the RC church has to the people of the church. The media are all over Pope Francis’s complaints about that, but unlike John the Twenty Third, the present Pope has not shown interest in institutional reforms that would give the laity real power and authority.

          • dantes

            To be fair, his conservative Bishops hold his balls in a grinder.

          • Danielle Amourtrance Verum

            I do have experiences with that style. Whether they were healthy, well, they would say it’s the best there is around. I would disagree since I’m no longer a member of said religions. However, my major issue is it’s the use of it by Pagans for exactly the reasons you mentioned. It is *the* style used by the Abrahamics and as I stated before, I think that when we do what they’re doing we reinforce the idea in both Pagan and non-Pagan minds that Abrahamic styles of doing things is the standard by which all should be judged. There are many historical ways of group worship, if that’s what people desire, that we can bring forward in time. We don’t need Abrahamic standards to live by. As for no structure and bad leadership, look if people can’t think for themselves and know when to leave something crappy and see a huckster for who they are, well that’s their own fault. People need to stand on their own first and not go looking for a group to prop them up, which sadly is what many folks do in group religion.

          • Deborah Bender

            I agree entirely that there are many historical ways of group worship other than Abrahamic congregational and that some of the other ways probably are a better fit, or at least more adaptable, for particular contemporary pagan religions. I also agree that when a contemporary pagan religious group emulates the congregational model, the motivation is sometimes an effort to look respectable or legitimate by the dominant culture’s standards even though adopting that model distorts the religion and weakens its expression.

            This is nothing new; Reform Judaism in Germany and America and at least one Japanese Buddhist sect Protestantized themselves in an effort not to stick out too much from the majority culture. Reform Judaism currently feels secure enough in its place in American life to back away from that a bit and has been readopting some of the older practices, but a lot of useful and spiritually profound stuff was dropped over the side by past generations.

            Sometimes however it isn’t an effort to look respectable; some groups that are in a growth period adopt Christian models of organization because that’s what’s familiar and it doesn’t occur to them that other models exist (or could be invented, just as congregational religion was invented by Jews in the Roman Empire). This is generally some combination of ignorance and laziness; both are curable and should be challenged.

            I’ve been practicing a wiccan-flavored, partly coven based variety of witchcraft for about forty years. In my opinion, wiccan witchcraft is particularly ill suited to a congregational model and I really dislike most of the attempts to make Wicca congregational that I have seen. I don’t think there is anything wrong with congregational religions in themselves; it’s a question of what you are trying to accomplish.

          • mptp

            look if people can’t think for themselves and know when to leave
            something crappy and see a huckster for who they are, well that’s their
            own fault.

            Nice victim blaming, there.

          • Danielle Amourtrance Verum

            People very often are their own worst enemies so yeah, I hold people responsible for the things they, by their own fault, get hurt by. People *chose* to listen to her, chose to follow that path, chose to look past things. So there are no victims here, but people who made a choice to listen and follow without doing their own research. It’s not like these were helpless children who couldn’t leave the congregation. They had power and chose to stay. So…yeah, they got hurt. Lesson learned.

          • Franklin_Evans

            Finding accurate labels for both ends of the cause and effect chain may not leave much room for compassion. Identifying ignorance as what made the victims vulnerable is not blame, though it does tend to look like it.

            I might have phrased it differently, though it’s not compassion that motivates me to do so; it’s an agreement with Danielle on principle that we are all accountable to ourselves at some point. I’d look to a victim’s next exposure to a huckster and whether there is some demonstration of a lesson learned.

    • mptp

      That’s all well and good for her.

      Meanwhile, her personal issues that she translated into moral diktats to her students, the swath of bereaved followers she built up and then dropped if they didn’t accept Christ …

      All of this is why saying people should do their own research doesn’t help one bit for those she shucked and jived, and hurt.

      • Danielle Amourtrance Verum

        As someone who has been hurt by Christians and Christianity, I understand. And I stand by what I said, had I done my research I could’ve saved myself some pain as well as others. But I didn’t. The fault is partially mine. Now that I’m on the other side of that, I can see better. Maybe you’ve not had that experience. Maybe she will see what happened and what she did and reach out to those people. We don’t know. I know I tried and am still trying to make amends to those I’ve hurt so, it does happen.

    • Franklin_Evans

      I’m posting here to call attention to this thread, starting with Danelle’s initial post above. Hovey serves as an example of why modern Pagans (and perhaps Heathens, about whose experiences I wish to learn more) are so leery of organizational models that extend in scope at all beyond their immediate lives.

      As a learning experience (and perhaps an opportunity to find new, good friends) I recommend attending a Friends meeting or three. Those Quakers I grew up knowing had a basic approach to life and life’s issues that stand the test of time, with which I on my Pagan path never had any difficulty understanding and sharing. Like us, they are small. Like us, they have a strength and intensity well beyond a proportional expectation to their size.

      • Macha NightMare

        A shyster is a shyster is a shyster.

        • Franklin_Evans

          The challenge is learning to identify them before they cause any damage. Too often the only effective way is to learn that the hard way.