Courtesy: NASA / Goddard Space Flight Center

On Thursday June 18, Pope Francis is scheduled to release a “teaching letter,” also called an encyclical, on the environment. This highly anticipated document will most likely become big news of the week as the Pope enters the debates on climate change. A recent New York Times article suggested that, through this work, he is “seeking to redefine a typically secular discussion within a religious framework.” Many activists, around the world, stand ready to applaud his efforts to publicly engage in the global Earth Stewardship conversation and, thereby, hopefully increase pressure on communities, businesses, organizations and governments to enact change.

To some Pagans and others, who already position the Earth or a connection to natural systems of place, at the center of their spiritual practice, the need for such a document might seem superfluous. However, the team who created the Pagan Community Statement on the Environment did a very similar thing. They made a public statement that clearly positions environmental protection within a spiritual framework.  Now, many Pagans view the pending encyclical as an opportunity to demonstrate, in a concrete fashion, that people of different religious beliefs can stand together for one cause. Writer John Halstead said:

I wonder if the timing of the publication of ‘A Pagan Community Statement on the Environment‘ and the papal encyclical on the environment might be an opportunity for the beginning of a rapprochement between Pagans and Christians. No doubt this will be difficult for both, as we tend to define ourselves in contrast to each other … It can be difficult to see this when we are immersed in our own distinct paths. But when we suddenly find those paths intersecting, as they are at this moment, perhaps we can reconsider whether we — and all other life on Earth — would be better served by emphasizing our similarities, rather than our differences.

As for the Pagan statement itself, it is now has 6, 272 signatures, coming from people all over the world and many religions.

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In the mountain town of Asheville, North Carolina, there is a small metaphysical store called Raven and Crone. Although the store has only been around a short time, it has been making headlines in one of the city’s local magazines. In a recent article in Capital at Play, writer Roger McCredie featured the store in an article titled “Raven & Crone: Asheville’s Most Bewitching Retailers: Wiccan Make This Work.”  McCredie writes, “In recent decades a saying has arisen that there are probably more Wiccans in the woods of Southern Appalachia than there are rabbits. The sentiment may be fairly new, but the fact it addresses is as old as human habitation of these mountains.” He refers largely to the traditional magical practices and spiritual beliefs found within the Appalachian region.

The store is owned by Lisa Svencicki and Kim Strobel. In the article, McCredie, who is not Pagan, interviews them both about their backgrounds, the decisions that led to the store’s birth and how they are doing. He writes, “Lisa and Kim saw the runic writing on the wall and decided the time was right to create a retail source that could serve the whole spectrum of Asheville’s growing alternative religion communities and also to cross-market to the general public.” The entire article, originally published in print, is available online. Raven & Crone, which bills itself as “the only only “Old Age” metaphysical supply store,” is located on Merriman Avenue near the University campus.

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Christopher Lee at the Women's World Awards 2009 in Vienna, Austria

Christopher Lee at the Women’s World Awards 2009 in Vienna, Austria

On June 7, actor Christopher Lee (1922-2015) passed way at the age of 93. Lee is remembered for a number of roles, including Dracula in group of Hammer Horror films and the Man with the Golden Gun in the James Bond film franchise (1974).  However, younger movie goers will recognize him as Count Dooku or Darth Tyranus in the Star Wars series (2002-2008), or as Saruman in the Lord of the Rings trilogy (2012-2014). And, many Pagans will also recognize him as Lord Summerisle in the 1973 cult classic The Wicker Man.

Lee was born in London in 1922; in the early years of the film industry. During WWII, he served as an “intelligence officer for the Long Range Desert Patrol, a forerunner of the SAS, Britain’s special forces.” He returned to London in 1946 and began his illustrious acting career. After sixty-three years of work, Lee was knighted in 2009 for his contribution to the arts.  Known for his deep voice, Lee was also a singer and recorded a number of operas during the 1980s and 1990s. In 2010, at the age of 88, he recorded a symphonic metal album called “Charlemagne: By the Sword and Cross” and then in 2013 “Charlemagne: the Omens of Death.”

Lee’s career was extensive, full and long-lived. Through his artistic legacy and the characters he brought to life, he will continue to entertain generations to come.  What is remembered, lives.

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In Other News

  • Twin Cities Pagan Pride has just released details about its Paganicon 2016 conference. The theme for its 6th year will be “Sacred Traditions: Global Visions & Voices” and the guest of honor will be T.Thorn Coyle. Organizers said, “We walk this world together; we have different spiritual ways of interacting with our deities, our ancestors, our families, and our rites, but ultimately we share many similar traditions and techniques of relating to the sacred.” Next year’s event will celebrate and honor this diversity. Submissions for programming will be accepted later this week.  In addition, organizers are currently holding a related T-Shirt design contest. Entry rules are posted on the website. Paganicon 2016 will be held from March 18-20 at the Double Tree Park Place in St. Louis Park, Minnesota.
  • Lydia M. Nettles Crabtree’s book Family Coven: Birthing Hereditary Witchcraft has just been released. Crabtree has been researching and writing this book for over ten years. She calls it a “comprehensive guide to developing a family oriented spiritual practice … covering the basics of communication, relationship building, finances and parenting.”
  • Coming in October is Cernnunos Camp, a five day festival devoted to the Horned God. Organizers say, “Come and feel the antlered mysteries and abandon yourselves in a celebration of wild unfettered worship of Him with hand, tooth, claw, hoof and feet. Bring your bodies, your drums and rattles, antlers, masks and other ceremonial tools.” Cernnunos Camp will take place from October 14-18 in Shropshire in the West Midlands of England. Tickets are now on sale.
  • Over at Patheos’ The Agora, Dana Corby recalls the making of the album “Songs for the Old Religion.” As the story begins: “In 1973, a friend of mine returned to Southern California from a visit to a Wiccan gathering in the Bay Area telling me about a musician he had met by the name of Gwydion Pendderwyn who had a songbook full of wonderful music … “  Corby then goes on to describe the process and spirit that led to actual recording of the music.  She writes, “We didn’t know we were pioneering anything, or that there would soon be a booming cottage industry in self-produced Pagan music. We just wanted to “show ‘em how it should be done!” This post, which is marked as part one, provides a nice look into some of the early history of the modern Pagan movement in the United States.

songs of old religion

  • On June 5, a writer for Motherboard published an article called “Pop Culture Pagans Who Draw Power From Tumblr.”  The article discusses the use of Pop Cultural icons within magical and religious practice, as well as the controversies surrounding it.  A number of Pagans were quoted or interviewed for the discussion, including author Christine Hoff Kraemer, lawyer and witch Emily Carlin, and editor Taylor Ellwood, who has published a number of books on Pop Culture Magick. In the Motherboard article, Carlin explains, “For those of us who grew up stewing in pop culture, using those ideas in magick seems only natural.” In addition, Carlin has published the writer’s full interview on her own site.
  • Organizers of the upcoming 2016 Pagan Music Festival have recently announced some changes to the spring event. Originally the festival was to be hosted by Dragon Hills in Bowdon, Georgia. However, those plans fell through. Organizers have successfully relocated the festival to Cherokee Farm in LaFayette, Georgia, which is only 2 hours north of its original location. In addition, the event has been renamed to The Caldera Pagan Music Festival. Organizers did add that programming ha not changed; more than 20 bands are scheduled to perform over the 4 days from May 26-30. More information can be found on their website.
  • Tomorrow, Ardantane Learning Center will begin a new “Teaching intensive with Ina White Owl and Amber K.”  The four week course will instruct students on how to “teach more powerfully and effectively,” including “creating lesson plans, working with psychic energies in classrooms, communicating on multiple levels, evaluating your own strengths as a teacher, and handling various other challenges.” Teacher and author Amber K is the executive director of Ardantane, which is located in the deserts of New Mexico. The teaching intensive will be held Tuesdays at 7 pm from June 16-July 7. Registration is now open.

That’s all for now,  Have a nice day!

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For most of the United States, public school is out of session, and children are outside making mudpies, playing ball, climbing trees and building Minecraft fortresses on small electronic gadgets. Nobody is thinking about school.

Well, almost nobody. June is “Public School Religious Freedom Month.” Or, at least it is in Pennsylvania; the state in which the historic 1963 Schempp case began. As we previously reported, Abington School District v. Schempp is considered a landmark case in the on-going struggle for religious freedom and equality within public school environments. Schempp challenged the constitutionality of Bible reading within American public schools.

[Photo Credit:  Joseph Barillari, cc-lic. Wikimedia]

[Photo Credit: Joseph Barillari, cc-lic. Wikimedia]

In recognition of Pennsylvania’s honorary month, we decided to look at recent school-related court cases and proposed or enacted legislation, which challenge and even flout (e.g., Basevitz v. Fremont RE-2 School District) the U.S. Constitution’s implied “Separation of Church and State.”

Religious equality in public schools is unique within the larger cultural negotiations of religion in the public sphere, chiefly because it involves minors – the very protected, very impressionable, youngest sector of the population. These cases often become a power struggle between the administration or even a single teacher and parents or guardians. In a few cases, the struggle is between a teacher and administrators. The Atheist activist group Freedom From Religion Foundation has said that 40% of its received religious-freedom complaints are school-related.

In some situations, the struggle over control of a child’s education and personal expression calls into question the social lines drawn between educational responsibility and rights. These situations also question the ethical boundaries of exposure and advertising to young people (e.g., Lubbock v. Little Pencil), and the capitalizing on expectations or positions of authority (e.g. Boy Scout in-class recruiting.) These cases can even go so far as to insult a parent’s credibility, marginalize a minority religious practice or culture (e.g., Griffith v Caney Valley Public School), and place a fragile young spirit in awkwardly social positions, ostracizing them from friends during a critical social growth period.

These battles, in many ways, are a wrestling-match over our future – personal, community, and legislative.


[Photo: H. Greene]

Imagine picking up your child school from school and finding a group of older men in sensible sport jackets, red ties and khakis handing out mini copies of the New Testament. As the last bell rings and children exit the school building, these men stand ready to hand each child a brightly colored book strategically decorated like a school locker for greater appeal.

This very scenario happened in May at a school district in north Georgia. When approached, the men happily said that they were simply “sharing teaching Bibles with the children” and that the school knew they were there. Unconstitutional? The men passing out the Bible made it a point to stand just off school property near the three entrances, and only began distribution after school ended. While this situation remains frustrating for many non-Christians and Christians alike, the group was within legal boundaries.

Situations like this and other school-related religious freedom issues are unfortunately not uncommon. While every case doesn’t directly involve Pagans and Heathens, every situation and decision affects the entire student body, not only the families who take their story to the press, to the American Civil Liberties Union, Americans United or, if you are in the Pagan world, to Lady Liberty League.

Let’s look at two recent situations.

Creationism Regularly Taught in Louisiana Schools

Do you have children in Louisiana public schools? If so, you might want to look closely at the science curriculum. According to a recent Slate magazine article, Josh Rosenau of the National Center for Science Education said, “We know that one in eight high school biology teachers advocate for creationism, even though it’s unconstitutional.”

In 2008, Louisiana passed the “Louisiana Science Education Act,” which opened the door for the teaching of creationism within its public school system. This law, commonly referred to as the “Creationism Act,” states that its purpose is to “promote students’ critical thinking skills and open discussion of scientific theories … including “evolution, the origins of life, global warming and human cloning.” Although the law also specifically states that it “shall not be construed to promote any religious doctrine,” a new investigative report has proven the contrary.

Recent investigative work by Slate’s Zack Kopplin demonstrates that creationism is regularly taught in school districts across the state, using Bibles as supplemental teaching texts. He revealed his findings in two separate articles for the online news journal. Not only does his research demonstrate open school support of such teachings, he also suggests that state legislators have been pressuring districts to include creationism in the curriculum.

Kopplin also notes that there have been 10 attempts to repeal the Creationism Act since its enactment, but none have been successful. In his latest report, Kopplin concludes, “All it will take is for one Louisiana parent or student to sue the state for endorsing religion in public school, and teaching creationism will become illegal again. But for the moment, because Louisiana politicians refuse to take action, Louisiana students are reading Genesis in science class.” Americans United (AU), the ACLU, and Freedom From Religion Foundation have all made it clear that they are watching and waiting. AU wrote, “Let’s hope someone will step up soon.”

Prayer in School

In Indiana, the ACLU filed a lawsuit June 1 on behalf of a Jim and Nichole Bellars, whose son attends River Forest Junior / Senior High School. As reported, the complaint reads:

The coach-led prayers, the School Board prayers, and the graduation prayers all violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

According to the Indiannapolis Star, the child was told to “get along better” with the coaches and that he should “just sit there and be quiet but that the prayers would continue and that [he] had to remain huddled with the team.” Since the parents got involved, the child has been subjected to harassment by others at the school.

Interestingly, the case touches on three different observational complaints, implicating the sports program, the graduation exercises and the school board meetings. According to ACLU reference material, the Supreme Court is clear on the unconstitutionality of both coach-led and graduation prayers. “In 1992, the Supreme Court held in Lee v. Weisman, 505 U. S. 577 (1992), that prayer – even nonsectarian or nonproselytizing prayer – at public school graduation ceremonies violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.” Similarly “in Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe, 68 U.S. 4525 (2000),” the United States Supreme Court ruled against coach-led optional prayers before sporting events. The ACLU explains:

Such system encourages divisiveness along religious lines and threatens the imposition of coercion upon those students not desiring to participate in a religious exercise. Simply by establishing the schoolrelated procedure, which entrusts the inherently nongovernmental subject of religion to a majoritarian vote, a constitutional violation has occurred.

The third issue raised in the Indiana case is the legality of prayer before school board meetings, which is an entirely different challenge. School Board meeting are largely adult forums and do not involve the education of minors. So this raises an important question. Does the 2014 Town of Greece v. Galloway case, allowing for sectarian prayers during government meetings, apply to such school boards?

According to the ACLU documentation, it does not. The document says that “In Coles ex rel. Coles v. Cleveland Bd. of Educ., 171 F.3d 369 (6th Cir. 1999) …the Court observed that ‘[t]he very fact that school board meetings focus solely on school-related matters provides students with an incentive to attend the meetings that is lacking in other settings.” The organization goes on to suggest that, in many cases, students are required to attend such meetings. Therefore, since there is a potential for coercion of minors, sectarian prayer at school board meetings is definitively unconstitutional. This idea is firmly based on the premise of protecting our youth. Adults can presumably handle hearing opposing views without being coerced, where children can’t.

Americans United agrees with the ACLU. However, without a specific SCOTUS ruling, there is still much debate.

[Photo Credit: Jayhawksean via Wikimedia]

[Photo Credit: Jayhawksean via Wikimedia]

Many other situations and cases are on file and pending. In the Basevitz case, as linked below, a Jewish teacher is currently suing her district for allowing a local church to offer services in the lunchroom during school hours. In the Griffith v. Caney Valley Public Schools case, a student sued the school board for not allowing her to wear a sacred eagle feather during graduation. She lost her case. In Lubbock v. Little Pencil, a school district was sued when it rejected a religious advertisement proposed for its stadium’s jumbo tron. The court ruled in favor of the school. And, in Georgia, a local high school has recently announced that its “back to school activities” will be held in a nearby Baptist megachurch due to building construction. There is no legal challenge to this action yet.

The cultural discussions over religious equality often seem to just spin round and round. The freedom of religious expression (e.g., Griffith v Caney Valley Public School) and the definitive separation of church and state (e.g., Basevitz v. Fremont RE-2 School District) often come into conflict within that struggle, adding nuance to already complicated legal situations and personal sacrifice. In addition, the rules change and situations become more emotional when children are involved; when the future and the, often-considered sacred, right of parents and guardians as religious and cultural guides is challenged.

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[With the Summer Solstice just a week away, we decided to take a pause from our regular schedule and invite Erick DuPree back to share his thoughts on this seasonal celebration. DuPree is the author of Alone in Her Presence: Meditations on the Goddess and editor of Finding the Masculine in Goddess’ Spiral. He teaches heart-centered practices that unite breath to heart, inviting a holistic relationship with the Goddess. His writing can be found on his own website as well as on the Patheos Pagan Channel.]

“Who made the world?” begins Mary Oliver’s poem The Summer Day

“Who made the world? 
Who made the swan, and the black bear? 
Who made the grasshopper?”

As dawn rises over the horizon and into the warmth of possibility, the northern hemisphere approaches the Summer Solstice. For many people, this is the time of Helios, the sun g*d, the Oak King and of St. John. Here the masculine has triumphed anew. These are the days when the sunlight lazily lingers into a short balmy dream. Where the possibilities are seemingly as endless as the sun stands still in the sky.

Midsummer is not in my colloquial “wheelhouse” of Pagan holidays. The myths, legends, and wisdom traditions where, as Joseph Campbell describes, “mankind’s deep need to give g*d a name and face” have never been for me the names of Cernunnos, Lugh, Oak and Holly King or Ra. Those masculinized representations seem a foreign extrapolation of all things resonant, a dual binary not reflective of how I honor the world.

[Photo Credit: ©2015 Norm Halm | Photographmaker]

[Photo Credit: ©2015 Norm Halm | Photographmaker]

So, imagine my trepidation when I was invited to write about Midsummer! Dare I attempt feebly to write about Litha? Or better still, some dilettante collection of musings about each Sun g*d? Well, I could always just write about the matriarchy… and the breath! Because that’s exciting, right?

“Is that all he ever writes about?” I can hear it now.

But there is still meaning in the sun and a lesson within our common lexicon that is Midsummer, even when how we come to know and experience Midsummer is different. It was Starhawk who reminds us,“Paganism has no litmus test for belief entry.” And so, I set out to write about Summer Solstice and, more directly, Midsummer.

For me, “who made the world” is always divinely feminine, even before I could identity what was distinctly different between “male” and “female.” Like a gravitational pull, that once was “alone, awesome, and complete within herself.” I have always known a generative nexus that is all Goddess. I recognize that this is not a common denominator within my Pagan community, or at times even a welcome one. Perhaps had I been born a cis-gendered woman, I’d be writing a very different article to a very different audience. Actually, I’d probably be married to an Evangelical Christian preacher, hosting a ladies luncheon on the actual solstice.

How we come into presence weaves our lives. For me, it all started while being the only guy participating in a group of all women of a certain age in the parish room of a Unitarian Universalist Church, and with a book called Cakes for the Queen of Heaven. Lead by a woman name Janice, she begrudgingly made the exception. A year later, she revealed another name to me, EveningStar, and explained there was more to The Spiral Dance than a book. She taught me to spiral dance, she gave me ecstatic ritual, and she called me priestess.

She was the one who first taught me to be in presence. The truth is, when I stand in the sun at Summer Solstices longest day, I am in presence. It is a reminder of the living, of growth, renewal, and generation. Summer Solstice lives in my heart (and I suspect the hearts of many Pagans and Heathens, regardless of praxis of belief or knowing) as a time to drink-in the glowing, our faces turning towards the radiance that is sunlight, and the cultivation of brightness and renewed warmth. I lean into the possibility of what can be, because the sunshine invites a newness that is possibility.

What might it be like to step into the sun from the shadows? Each ray of sun that comes foreword at this time of year feels like a hand extended and to beckoning me. To be unafraid of this light. I spent years hiding from the rays of the sun. What might they reveal? Ashamed to be seen. My body heartbroken and battered; and like so many, not good enough. Not for the beach or a pair of shorts or even a t-shirt? No dancing around a fire or merry making. There was no worshiping in a heart that rejoiced.

Yet Midsummer can be the healer because healing is the sun as She fills the shifting spaces of darkness with a new light of potentiality washing over pale forearms and faces. This is the promise of the sun as I take her hand and step out of the darkness of winter and allow myself to be held in the generative mother that is Goddess.

[Photo Credit: ©2015 Norm Halm | Photographmaker]

[Photo Credit: ©2015 Norm Halm | Photographmaker]

To me, this too is the ultimate expression of Midsummer. This is where I can hear the speaking of the trees as I lean against bark, or nestle into the grass. Here taking a moment to breathe into Her sacred embrace that is All Goddess. The fertile Earth that has blossomed anew from the warmth of a sunlight, which has nourished Her fertile mantle some the beginning of time. The riches of seeds planted that feed and sustains all.

While cultures near and far have rituals and celebrations that occur on or around the midsummer, I come into this time with a simplicity that is knowing the Goddess as Earth Mother. It is here where I see the brightness of the sun reflected most. This matrifocal wellspring that is Goddess inviting the complicated curiosity to heal and nurture. You and I looking at Her. Where possibility is met with a maternal-like spaciousness that Midsummer creates.

I couldn’t write about the longest day and the warmest of night, and feel empowered to come out of the dark and step into the sun, without Goddess. That wouldn’t be me. Goddess is the reflection of the generative space that first appears when we take a deeper breath in, and a longer one out.The breath we have known from the beginning. From before we knew that we were actually breathing.

This isn’t about an obligation but rather the invitation to give permission to create space to explore to feel the light. This Midsummer’s dream is the revelation that is always the saving message when we turn toward the mother whom flows in, among, and around us to feel her warmth.Growing full. Inviting abundance. Shining from that place of limitless virtuosity. That which is All. That which invites hope. That which heals. That which says. “Come walk by me, in the sun and get comfortable.”

Mary Oliver continues…

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”

Solstice and Midsummer continue to invite the precious warmth of community. Each of us has pause to reflect on the things that draw us together. How like the sun, we can support each other; generative, growing, renewing, warm. Wildly imperfect, yet perfectly complete, this cycle is the continued moment we share together. For me, this is the generative promise Goddess gives our precious life.

*   *   *

Oliver, Mary. “The Summer Day.” New And Selected Poems. Beacon Press: Boston 1993. 102-103. Print.

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A statue of the god Pan, found somewhere in MacLouth, Kansas. Photo by the author.

A statue of the god Pan, found somewhere in MacLouth, Kansas.
Photo by the author.

Some things remain constant despite life’s tumult. Though we may find ourselves in the midst of many changes, still some things remain: the sun doth rise, the moon doth wax and wane, and the rain doth obliterate everyone’s campsite at least once every Heartland Pagan Festival. I have been attending Heartland off and on since I was a little boy, and every year, there is a wash-out thunderstorm. In my memories, it’s usually on Sunday afternoon, just before the end of the festival. I remember once standing in the open field where the merchants set up, looking up at a roiling sky and realizing that, even if I ran as fast as I could back to camp, I’d never make it before the rain hit. Some kind soul pulled me into their shelter and fed me rabbit stew, and we waited, eight or nine of us crammed beneath a 10×10 pavilion, for the storm to pass.

The storm at this year’s festival hit on Saturday evening, just as the Vision Quest ritual was supposed to begin, and it kept going for twelve hours. The Vision Quest asks its participants to walk alone through a trail in Camp Gaea’s woods, and along the trail the walkers encounter figures who advise, challenge, and bewilder them. I was scheduled to be one of those aspects that evening, and had already put on my costume and set up my station when the rain hit. Most years, aspects spend seven or eight hours out on the trail, seeing more than a hundred visitors. But the trail is largely unimproved, and it can be a challenging hike even in good weather. The ground had already absorbed all the water it could from preliminary storms earlier in the week, such that even after several sunny days some parts of the trail had become shoe-eating soup; once the rain began, it became clear that somebody was going to break an ankle if we proceeded with the ritual.

So instead we sat beneath the pop-up back at camp, our rain-soaked costumes left hanging, if not exactly to dry, then at least to drip, on a line, and we watched the storm. My wife built a fire in our Smokey Joe barbecue for warmth, while I tried to comb the biscuit dough out of my hair. (My aspect was an old man, see, and I thought, well, I can make my hair gray by rubbing some flour into it…) Sarah, one of my oldest friends, was also there, as was her boyfriend. It was far too early to consider going to bed, and far too wet to consider leaving camp.

Somehow this led to us discussing Weird Al Yankovich, who, I must admit, is my standard proof that we do not live in the best of all possible worlds. But I was the only one who held that opinion among the four of us.

Eric has very particular tastes in music, my wife said. He has his music that he likes, and anyone who likes anything else is wrong. I found this statement to be both totally unfair and reasonably accurate.

He gets that from his dad, said Sarah. He’s the exact same way.

I have been turning that thought over in my mind ever since.

There’s a gag from the Three Stooges where Moe, the bossy one with the soupbowl haircut, receives a bill and does a double-take, snapping the paper between his fingers as he comes to a realization about the difference behind the figure on the paper and the figure in his wallet. My father has revived this gag every time we have gone out to dinner; it is part of the ritual of the meal. Every time my wife and I go to a restaurant, I perform it too. It’s automatic, unthinking, a reflex. As soon as the waiter hands us the bill, my wife knows to expect it, and smiles anyway.

I have a lot of tics like that one – little gestures, sayings, tones of voice. The way I flirt, the topics I choose for small talk, the voice I use when talking to animals and small children. Ways of acting that I fall into automatically, only realizing afterwards that they come from my parents. I would guess that everyone has things like that – it’s how we’re socialized, and, I suppose, part of what it means to be someone’s child. We don’t get to choose them; they come with the package.

My Paganism, I come to realize, is full of these unnoticed assumptions and inherited behaviors. It has always been an issue I’ve struggled with in writing about Paganism, actually – because I grew up within a coven, I unconsciously assume that the ways we practiced Paganism are the backdrop everyone else has as well. I often feel as though I am a poor authority on these matters, because so much of what I know I received through the slow course of maturation. I absorbed ways to enter a circle, chants to sing, formulae to invoke; but I also learned ways to conceive of the divine, ways to format a ritual, ways to lie about who I am to bosses and in-laws. Nobody ever sat me down and taught me any of this, but I know it just the same – just as I never made an agreement with my parents to mimic their other behaviors, and yet I do so anyway.

At the edge of the mud pit that was our camp’s kitchen, underneath an evergreen, there is an old statue of the god Pan. The statue has seen better days. If I remember correctly, it used to be displayed in the yard of the house where Sarah and her brothers grew up; I remember seeing it through my child’s eyes, but it is always hard to tell where that kind of memory ends and photographs begin. These days, Pan is chipped and broken, the holes in his side and torso revealing the hollow cavity of his belly. In the thundering darkness of the storm, his image is lost to me – our lights don’t stretch that far. But in the morning, when the rain has begun to clear, I walk over to his tree and find him just as we left him before – dry, even, barely touched by the rain.

I look at this statue of the little goat-footed god, this artifact brought to Gaea from my childhood dreams. My parents have a statue just like it at their home. I look at Pan, and I wonder about the things that remain constant.

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These are critical and challenging times. But, your leadership blesses us, your passion for justice inspires us, and your determination to make a difference for racial justice and equity in our own day gives us hope. – Reverend Doctor Katharine Rhodes Henderson, president of Auburn Theological Seminary

Dr. Henderson offered these words to the participants at Auburn Theological Seminary’s MountainTop 2015 convention. As reported Wednesday, I was able to sit down live with several attendees to talk about the programming and their experiences. In that article, I highlighted the unique adventure that is MountainTop and how the 3-day program is structured to allow for creative collaboration and safe engagement.

Today, we continue the conversation. The women share how the MountainTop environment has affected their personal growth, and how they plan to take their experience back out into their communities.

Andrea Weston, Courtney Weber, Caitlin Breedlove, Luna Pantera, T. Thorn Coyle, Sabrina Hayeem-Ladani [Courtesy Photos]

Andrea Weston, Courtney Weber, Caitlin Breedlove, Luna Pantera, T. Thorn Coyle, Sabrina Hayeem-Ladani [Courtesy Photos]

Before arriving in Atlanta for the convention, the six women were all activists, artists and community educators for many years. Caitlin Breedlove is the co-director of Southerners on New Ground (SONG), which “organizes one of the largest LGBTQ memberships in the country into intersectional campaigns and base building across race, class, culture, gender and sexuality.” Breedlove was also involved in the planning of several #blacklivesmatter campaigns and protests in Durham, Charleston and Atlanta.

Andrea Weston is the host of the radio show “Liquid Libations Radio.” As a rootworker, she often presents and shares her practice at various events around the country. In May, for example, she was part of ritual performance that brought “together prayers, songs, and dances from throughout the African diaspora.”

Sabrina Hayeem-Ladani is an artist, poet and performer. Working for Auburn, she is on the “Table to Action Project” team that “explores the intersection between art and social justice.” Like Hayeem-Ladani, Courtney Weber is also an Auburn employee. Weber is known specifically for her work with Pagan Environmental Coalition – New York City, through which she has actively campaigned against Fracking.

Courtney Weber [Courtesy Auburn Theological Seminary]

Courtney Weber [Courtesy Auburn Theological Seminary]

Thorn Coyle has been an activist for years, publicly campaigning for racial justice. Her most recent work has been with Martin de Porres House of Hospitality in San Francisco and the Anti Police-Terror Project in Oakland. Her recently-released novel Like Water is directly inspired by this social justice work.

Luna Pantera has served on the regional Board of the National Organization of Women and “the American Civil Liberties Union chapter of the LGBTI.” She is currently involved in two new projects. One will provide media training for activists, and the other is a #blacklivesmatter quilt project that will honor the many lives that have been lost.

In discussing her work, Pantera also noted that she has been away from the movement. She was burned-out and had to take a break. As noted yesterday, this convention is helping her to transition back to being active. She said, “In other conventions, all we do is talk, talk, talk. MountainTop ignites all of our senses.” All the women nodded in agreement.

Luna Pantera [Courtesy Auburn Theological Seminary]

Luna Pantera [Courtesy Auburn Theological Seminary]

MountainTop is also challenging each of them to confront some of their own biases, boundaries and assumptions. Breedlove said, “Auburn builds relationships. It brings people together and teaches them how to engage with each other.” She noted that this is an area that often causes organizations to fail. People don’t know how, or aren’t willing, to engage with others of different viewpoints.

Coyle, then, recalled being in one of the working groups, or containers, with a number of people advocating for solutions involving change in government. As an proponent of more radical approaches, she kept quiet for a period of time and, then, finally said, “Does the radical voice need to be heard here?” And, to her surprise, the rest of the group welcomed her opinion. She said, “They made room for that.” She added that this convention experience is helping her to find “her own bridge.” In other words, she is locating the point of connection between the radical voice and those that work within the systems. She added, “All voices are necessary.”

Pantera also relayed a story in which she came up against “another strong black woman with an opposing view.” They were disagreeing over how to construct their group’s presentation. However, after some tension, both she and the other woman “learned how to share power.” She said, “I also learned how to surrender my power, and that was transformative … We both gave up our personal visions for the sake of the group vision.”

The women said that nobody at the conference was there as a representative of their own religion. They were there for who they were personally; for their passion for justice; and for their leadership roles in various areas. Westin said, “The Auburn staff provides a setting where we can all come together in trust. And, if there is an issue, we can safely unpack it, or find help unpacking it.”

Andrea Weston [Courtesy  Auburn Theological Seminary]

Andrea Weston [Courtesy Auburn Theological Seminary]

Hayeem-Ladani agreed, saying that part of this process is learning “how are we at being together?” and respecting that everyone comes to the conversation from a different entry point.

Next we discussed how these lessons-learned and the experiences would travel back with them to their communities and inform their lives? They unanimously agreed that MountainTop’s “creative visioning” methodologies could strengthen any activist work. As an example, Breedlove described how “leaders of spiritual homes,” such churches, covens, temples, could employ some of the support methods to prepare people for tense or difficult engagement, and teach activists how to avoid burn-out. On a personal level, she added that this experience will serve to “up her level of commitment.”

Coyle said that she plans to present some of the working processes to the Anti Police-Terror Project. She noted that the group is moving toward being more proactive, rather than only reactive. She said that MountainTop’s methodologies “build muscles of action,” which could helpful in the group’s work.

Pantera added that the unique methods of processing “help us come up with new ways of doing it. Then, we ask, ‘how can we never thought of it before?’ ” As Pantera comes out of her sabbatical, she hopes to work more with her local Pagan Community, where she sees a real need for bonding and community coordination. She said, “We need to get our act together.”

Through creative exploration, the MountatinTop environment demonstrated various ways to build the roads to action, and also demonstrated that bonds can be built across difference in order to strengthen social justice work. Hayeem-Ladani added that there is a sense of hope. “If you believe and I believe…,” we can make a difference.

Sabrina Hayeem-Ladani [Courtesy Auburn Theological Seminary]

At the end of three days, Auburn welcomed its guests to a dinner reception at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, one of the MountainTop’s supporting organizations. At the end of the evening, Reverend Doctor William Barber II stood up to speak. In his Pentecostal style, he invoked the spirit of justice for each and every one of the attendees. Then, he invited singer Yara Allen to lead the group in song.

She began an ohm-like intoning of sound using only the word, “Yes.” As this was happening, people privately reached out spiritually in their own way. At the same, Coyle took the hands of the people next to her and encourage others to do the same. Within minutes, the entire room, filled with people from many different religions and walks of life, had created an enormous linked circle. This moment of sound, voices, spirit and connection lasted for about 10 minutes.

Weber called it a “cauldron of rebirth” and an “immense cone of power that called to the ancestors who suffered due to slavery, violence, Jim Crow and more.” She said they were there “guiding us forward and calling us to keep going with this movement.”

Weber called it an “unbelievable moment.”

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This week, in the city of Atlanta, Auburn Theological Seminary is hosting its biennial “convening of faith and moral leaders.” The event is called “MountainTop” and is described as a summit that “advances a multifaith movement for justice.” In 2013, we reported on the last summit, held in Nashville. In that article, we featured a conversation with Aline (Macha) O’Brien, who was one of the four Pagan participants at that year’s event.For the 2015 conference, I was able to sit down live with a group of six women, during their lunch hour, to talk about the process of MountainTop. The event began Monday morning, June 8, and will continue through Wednesday. I caught the women halfway through the entire experience. And, after that conversation, I can safely say that is exactly what it is: an experience.

Activist and Priestess Courtney Weber, who works for Auburn, explained, “MountainTop is not like typical conventions. We don’t have an agenda and program to choose from different workshops and presentations. We are coming together for one very specific reason.”

This year, that reason is racial justice.

In 2013, Auburn focused widely on social justice in general, which is part of the organization’s overall mission. However, after the event was over, organizers felt that the convention needed to focus on a single aspect of social justice. Weber noted that “it felt like there were too many cooks in the kitchen.” Therefore, in 2014, the organization chose a single directive. Reverend Doctor Katharine Rhodes Henderson, Auburn Seminary’s president explained:

We have witnessed the most recent acts of brutality unleashed on the bodies of black and brown men, women and children … Now is the time for leaders of faith and moral courage to work together to hold ourselves and our nation accountable to healing this oldest and still festering wound within our national body. What this healing looks like, and the particular work we are called to do is what will engage us over the next three days.

Weber added that, when Ferguson happened, the 2015 event was already being planned. However, those events and others only confirmed the need for this specific work. Because the seminary is based in New York, Weber said that the “Eric Garner story was a particularly painful moment for Auburn.” When news broke, they “sat in silence” for a long time.

Andrea Weston, Courtney Weber, Caitlin Breedlove, Luna Pantera, T. Thorn Coyle, Sabrina Hayeem-Ladani [Courtesy Photos]

Andrea Weston, Courtney Weber, Caitlin Breedlove, Luna Pantera, T. Thorn Coyle, Sabrina Hayeem-Ladani [Courtesy Photos]

When I arrived, the excitement in the room was very obvious. Despite having already worked through a 12 hour day and, then, a full morning, the participants seemed uplifted and energized. As the six women got their lunches, they joined me at a table for an hourlong conversation about why they got involved with MountainTop and what it is; how the experience is changing their thinking, and how it will inform their work in the future.

The six women activists included: Radio Host and Rootworker Andrea Weston, Priestess Courtney Weber, Author T. Thorn Coyle, Priestess Luna Pantera, Art and Ritual Specialist Sabrina Hayeem-Ladani and Co-Director of Southerners on New Ground, Caitlin Breedlove.

The first question I asked them is why they got involved with this particular conference. There are many interfaith opportunities all over the country, and many organizations through which to work on social justice causes. Why this one?

Since Weber and Hayeem-Ladani work for Auburn, both were there as employees and participants. Weber specifically said that she had wanted to attend the 2013 MountainTop, but was unable to take the time off from her previous job. However, shortly after that event, Weber accepted a position with Auburn. Now she is not only a participant, but also one of the organizers.

Of this particular conference, Weber said, “After PantheaCon, I was lost and asking ‘How can I help this work?’ ” She was referring to the many very public conversations addressing racial justice during the February Pagan conference. Weber believes that by working on MountainTop and by helping to bring Pagan social justice activists to the table, she is doing her part for the bigger picture.

Pagan attendees include Luna Pantera, Caitlin Breedlove and T. Thorn Coyle. When asked why she accepted the invitation, Pantera said, “I was activist but got burned out. [But] my daughter lives near where Tony Robinson was shot and killed. For me, I needed to get back into the movement and to get over my biases, which I do have, against Christianity.” Pantera added that MountainTop has provided “good fuel to get back” into the process.

Coyle simply said, “Something inside me pulled me.” She had to come. Longtime activist, Coyle has become increasingly active in various racial justice movements in her home state of California. She said, “I’m moving more and more in that direction.” Like Coyle, Weston, also simply said, “I need to be here.”

Breedlove, who attended the 2013 event, was back for more. She described the difference between this convention environment and others, saying “MountainTop isn’t brittle and tight.” Even when discussions become tense and there is disagreement, the space is safe, because it is “built on principles.” She added that “its grounded and has soul.” Weston agreed, calling the space “sacred.”

This sense of grounding is evident as I sat there talking to the group. Despite being surrounded by the typical markers of a stale business conference, such as white boards and offices chairs, everyone seemed comfortable and the energy was flowing. The entire participating crowd seemed eager to engage with each other.

T. Thorn Coyle leading a worship session.

T. Thorn Coyle leading a worship session.

Coyle noted that one way Auburn promotes this fluid environment is through the engagement of the body and voice. Song and movement are encouraged in both daily problem solving and conversation. For example, when Coyle was asked to host one of the daily worship sessions, she was given two directions: make the session no more than 10 minutes long and engage the body.

While I was there, artist Yara Allen stood up and led the entire group in an inspirational song. This was followed by another song led by a different person. This marked the end of lunch, and help transitioned the group back into the work sessions.

Coyle said Auburn’s purpose is to “lead us toward creative problem-solving and creative visioning.” She added that the coordinators periodically remind the group of these goals throughout the day.

The methodologies used in creating this unique framework were developed by ImaginalLabs. I was able to briefly speak with co-founder Rob Evans, who explained that they are “applying the principle of design thinking to social justice.” This work is based on the company’s “DesignShop” process and includes a 3-tier trajectory. In this case, the 3 tiers are defined as vision, strategy and action. Each tier becomes the focus of one day’s work.

Evans added that this process provides a group of people with a “revolutionary approach to old issues” in hopes of finding new solution. It also allows for effective collaboration within diverse groups of “people who don’t typically work together or work creatively.”

Each day is structured around small groups, or containers, who are given a specific task. Those small groups change throughout the conference in order that everyone gets to work with a variety of a people. Within those “container” session, the members confront fictional situations, discuss the problems that led to the situation, and look for solutions. Then, each small group presents the outcome to the entire conference.

Coyle relayed one of her experiences from a Tuesday morning session. She said, “The non Pagans invoked a Witch’s cauldron into our sketch on justice – brewing up a cauldron filled with visions of justice, in order to feed one another with love … By our final session on Tuesday, we sat in concentric circles, weeping, because the Truth in the room was so strong.”

Caitlin Breedlove [Courtesy Auburn Seminary]

Caitlin Breedlove [Courtesy Auburn Theological Seminary]

Breedlove said that this collaborative system provides a unique opportunity to not only be in a space with people with similar political values, but also a space with people of similar religious values. She said that, in her experience, it is usually one or the other. Here there is support for both. Pantera agreed. She said that this isn’t a “political summit” or a “religious summit.” It is something entirely unique.

The group continued on to say that everyone at MountainTop either leaves their baggage at the door, or is ready to confront it. Each person enters with an open heart and mind, and is ready to listen and work. Pantera added that here she can safely say, “Thank you for allowing me to have my process.”

Tomorrow we continue this discussion as the women reflect on those personal challenges faced while in this setting, as well as their goals for taking this work back to their own communities.

[To be continued…]

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Paganism, together with the many subcultures that are often associated with it, is a place where strong women are both common and respected for their power. The challenge this poses for men is finding a way to relate to, and partner with, women and others without falling back on a stereotypical bag of tricks that relies upon physical strength, aggressiveness, and an implicit threat of violence.

Opting to be subservient is not an option for many self-identified men, who desire to use their masculine gifts positively rather than deny them. The other extreme, embracing the take-no-prisoners macho approach that contributes to undercurrents of misogyny and an implicit acceptance of rape culture, is even more distasteful. The Wild Hunt spoke with several men with experience working through these issues.  Perhaps not surprisingly, those explorations are often in the context of ritual.

Wrestling members of the Brotherhood of the Stag and Wolf (photo credit Lyle Hawthorne)

Wrestling members of the Brotherhood of the Stag and Wolf [Photo Credit: Lyle Hawthorne]

One of the ways that the overculture falls short — for men and women alike — is in the diminished value given to rites of passage. For many American youths, obtaining a driver’s license is the only acknowledged transition into adult life, and it’s a poor one. Pagan boys and men who recognize a need for something more may be able to undergo a rite of passage with more spiritual depth.

Pagan Spirit Gathering and Rites of Spring each have such ceremonies available, but they are not alike. PSG actually has two distinct tracks, one for boys who are growing into adulthood, and another for adult men who are seeking a rite-of-passage experience that wasn’t available to them earlier in life. The children who grow up in and around the EarthSpirit Community can choose to undergo a rite of passage at RoS when they come of age.

We spoke to the organizers of the two PSG rites to learn more about how they differ from each other. Bob Paxton coordinated the Young Men’s Rite of Passage for four years, and said that “there are two components to this: 1) orienting the young men and their parents toward their impending independence, and 2) giving them some context about what their communities will start to ask of them.”

Parental involvement is required, and the process begins by interviewing the boys and their parents separately. “We ask them probing questions and record their answers, and we compare notes afterwards.This tells us a great deal about how synced up the young men & their parents are, and reveals much about any frustrations with the family dynamic.” Both the parents and the boy must be on board for this process to unfold, he added:

We push them pretty hard on this — sometimes they’re only there because the parent made them, and it’s our job as facilitators to tell them it’s not the parent’s decision to make. Sometimes the boy chooses not to go ahead then, and that’s for the best. At the end of that interview, we go through a ritual separation process, which sends the parents off to reflect on this change while plugging the young men into a community of other young men who have been through this in prior years & can act as peer mentors.

The notes from those interviews are reviewed by Sages, who prepare what Paxton called individually tailored “wisdom packages” for the young men. “In the final rite, which is held at night-time, we send the young men through a mentally and physically-challenging ritual journey where they receive challenges from the 3 Fates, a Warrior archetype, and the panel of Sages, then I deliver some final words about community expectations and send them off howling into the night with the tribe of slightly-older young men who then expand their ranks to include them. That group of young men commonly stay in touch year-round.”

The encounter with the Fates, he said, is designed to directly challenge societal gender roles. Paxton explained, “Those three manifestations of feminine divinity are sharp, strong, direct and uncompromising, and that’s a core part of the Mystery. How does that impact a young man’s journey of discovery? It directly counters the common masculine ‘power-over’ teaching, at a place in his life where he’s primed for change.”

He summarized the process:

We pick our coordinators carefully, from people we know to be good and fierce and gentle men. We get to know each person who comes to us for passage rites, and we personalize what we pass on as much as possible — and, having sent them through these extended explorations of themselves while primed with the things they need to hear, we acknowledge them publicly within the community as men who have made commitments to our shared values.

For adults who missed the opportunity for such an experience, there is also the Men’s Personal Rite of Passage Experience (MPROPE). Zero, one of the current coordinators, spoke about what drives men to participate:

The most common thing I hear from our men is how they want to do better in their family role, whatever that may be. Some men want to be a more understanding or stronger husband, while others a more patient or confident father. Some of the younger have more commonality in that they really want to be seen as a man. They want to accomplish and endure things to earn respect from those they care about, and from themselves. We try to be sure that the men share their thoughts with each other, so they know that there is no one true way to be a man. Not every man does his part by mowing the grass, fixing the car, being the tough guy, or working in the factory all day. And it would seem, for the most part, that they are able to see that.

That informs the underlying goals of the MPROPE. Zero said, “We do not believe that if you deviate from the role society says you should be in, that you are not a man. Being the homemaker is just as valuable as being the breadwinner. You can be the comforter and nurturer, and still be a man. It is when you accept yourself, better yourself, and do your part that you truly become a man.”

The adult men’s experience involves community service, sleeping in the woods alone with one’s thoughts and one’s gods, guided meditation, and both brotherhood and solitude. “We offer them a safe space to speak of their strengths and insecurities. We give them opportunities to reflect on how they see their role in their families, as well as communities, and how they can strengthen that role by strengthening themselves,” Zero said. The men are also pushed to their physical limits, but that is individualized to ensure no one is excluded. “I’d rather push them through mud in a wheelchair myself than to have them feel like they couldn’t take part,” Zero added.

Public Domain / Pixabay

Public Domain / Pixabay

Even as participants in these rites seek to define their own manhood, no external definitions of what makes one a man are imposed. However, that was only made explicit recently. “Before this year, no one had asked about transgendered men,” Zero said. “No one had stepped up for the rite itself. I didn’t know if it had just never come up, or if there was a precedent. So, I spoke with my co-facilitator, and we were in immediate agreement. A ritual that is meant to be a tool for a man to find his inner strength, to realize their potential as a man, can be perfect for someone making that transition. To deny them that chance would not only be unfair to them, but it would go against the very reason we keep this going.”

Paxton is in full agreement, and said, “In short, we don’t check equipment. Whenever I’ve done any men’s-specific programming (be it rites of passage or things like the Men’s Ritual at PSG), my approach has always been that anyone who identifies as a man and wants to hear what I’ve got to say about manhood is welcome.”

While a powerful, ritual experience to set the stage for manhood as a Pagan is important, that role can be chipped away by societal norms and expectations. Ongoing support is also important for men who don’t wish to fall into uncomplimentary stereotypes when they are not in the company of other Pagans. That piece of the puzzle is the focus of the Brotherhood of the Stag & Wolf, a group which was formed by a group of young men who had undergone rites of passage in the EarthSpirit Community.

Donovan Arthen, one of the founders, spoke about what these men do, and why:

In 2003, a group of seven of us came together because we all had this shared desire to explore what it meant to be young, strong, and present men in our community, which was and is a community that is deeply connected and rooted in powerful women. The sacred feminine is part of the Pagan world, and growing up with that was really wonderful. For me, it gave a different perspective on what it meant to be a woman, and a man.

At 15 years of age, Arthen was one of the youngest in a group that included others nearly 30 years old. Together, they asked, “What does it mean to be a man in this community? Strong, present, not an oppressor or a predator? How can we be partners and peers, stand next to amazing women in our community, and be together without being dominant? How can we help each other to be that?”

Those explorations started on the beach at Rites of Spring, guided by one of the first points they agreed upon: men’s groups often petered out, and these men felt it was because there was too much talking. The solution was to bring in exercises from martial arts. They started with a variant on a Tai Chi exercise of touching hands: two men, eyes closed, touch hands and keep them in contact as they move. “We move around with our hands, feel the energy, and try to score a touch on chest. There are so many ways to do that,” Arthen explained. “We quickly learned how we can pull, or use stiff arms to keep you away, maybe encourage you to touch, or be totally fluid so you never know where they were going to be.”

Next, they added sumo-style wresting, where one bests one’s opponent by forcing them from the ring drawn in the sand, or getting them to touch the ground with anything other than the soles of their feet. Their activities started drawing more interest, both participants and audience, and it became clear that a change of philosophy was in order. Arthen said:

Some people got hurt, it didn’t feel like success, because it reduced trust, not built it. We re-investigated and came up with cooperative competition. The root is we are creating a space for men of all ages — some who were fathers, some older we wanted to learn from — creating a place where men could come together and build trust, camaraderie, develop understanding of each other and sensitivity in themselves to better walk in the world as a man in their definition. It’s about instead of pushing someone out or down, both people pushing each other up. In every interaction I see you, I respect you. I see some of who you can be, and are. I want you to push yourself to be who you can be.

Those watching the wrestling were told that neither cheering nor jeering was acceptable, and instead they simply stood witness to the struggle of two men, while also standing ready to catch either if needed. That idea dovetailed with the rule of 80%, which Arthen describes as, “Use only 80% of your strength; save the other 20% to catch your brother.” The emotional connections flow from the physical ones. “They push through physical and emotional processes, talking and deeply sharing, and there are opportunities to ask for help in a safe space from peopl they can rely on. When someone goes flying, three people are there to catch him. It’s a group for safe space to explore and encounter different kinds of men. One man can express his own manliness in so many different ways. This group gives that opportunity.” And again, the only requirement to participate in these annual activities is adulthood by rite of passage or not, and self-identification as male.

The brotherhood itself is not men wrestling on the beach, however. The core membership gave some care to select totems which would reflect their spirituality. Arthen explained:

The stag in so many cultures is epitome of maleness, the archetype of man.” The mythological king stag emerges from the herd for the season to lead. “We see that each one has the king stag inside of us, and it emerges and the others follow. You don’t have to be the leader all the time, you must trust in the power and skill of each other in different situations. We don’t have a leader or a leadership council. We are all peers, and leaders emerge in moments. It’s about shining, taking a role in leadership, and being in the front.

On the other hand, “The wolf is only as strong as its pack, and is symbol of brotherhood, interdependence, and interreliance. A lone wolf is a dangerous wolf, starving and cast out for some reason, sick and scared. A pack is healthy, looks and watches, takes care of each other, works in concert males and females, offering a place for those who identify as men.”

Shrine of the Brotherhood of the Stag and Wolf

Shrine of the Brotherhood of the Stag and Wolf

Upon those foundations they have spent the intervening years learning how to meld their role as men with their beliefs as Pagans. That includes the development of seven balances, pair of conflicting values which men should strive to embrace in equal measure, such as persistence and mutability. Much of that work is done in in a shrine of megalithic stones that the brotherhood built in Massachusetts after raising money via a crowdfunding campaign. With a permanent home, only recently did the founding members start discussing how and if their work could be replicated in other Pagan communities. “We are so rooted in EarthSpirit, we’ve had to ask, if we share or lead an experience elsewhere, what would that look like?” Arthen asked. Much of the group’s values have been unspoken until recently, when they started thinking about a defined pathway for accepting new members.

Defining and living healthy roles of manhood is a continuing struggle in a society where the denigration of women is still often acceptable, and the deference given to men is unconscious. The roles, which are clear while circling a sacred fire at a Pagan festival, become much murkier in the office, the locker room, and the political arena. While there are some opportunities to explore, and support a healthy and supportive role as a man within Paganism, the communities still are small compared to the mores of the over-culture, which still blatantly denied women the right to vote less than a century ago.

It is, however, a good start.

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Ritual leaders [Courtesy D. Salisbury]

Ritual leaders [Courtesy D. Salisbury]

On  June 6,  The Firefly House, a pan-Pagan organization in Washington D.C., organized a ritual on the steps of the Supreme Court of the United States. Spokesperson David Salisbury explained that the ritual’s goal was “to channel energy from the goddess Columbia, which [they] used to cast a spell upon the nation for love and justice, in advance of a decision on marriage equality.”

Salisbury is referring to the Obergefell v. Hodges case, which was argued on April 28. As we reported, the case has the potential to “effectively, make same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states without eroding each state’s right to regulate marriage laws as their citizens’ see fit.

Of this past weekend’s ritual, Salisbury said, “We focused objects of power to send the energy: Justice cards from the tarot, a rattle to shake up change, a rainbow flag for hope, a shield to protect against bigotry, a wand to manifest the desire for equality, and a quartz stone to anchor the dawning of a new equality era.” He also added that, while they were there, the had a “fun chat with capitol police who were very excited and interested.”

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Cherry Hill Seminary

Cherry Hill Seminary (CHS) has just announced the creation of a new military chaplaincy program to enhance its masters program. In a press release, CHS said, “Just as the military is a unique subculture of our greater society, military chaplains are a unique subset of the greater society of professional chaplains. While all chaplains are charged with providing care and support in an interfaith environment to all of those under their pastoral care, military chaplains face an additional set of unique challenges. To assist those students who aspire to become military chaplains, we have established a program to help prepare them for that role.

As the military opens it doors and welcomes minority chaplains, more and more trained people will be needed to specifically address those “unique challenges” and serve that community. CHS is looking to fill that gap. The new track will consist of 15 semester hours that are added to its regular MDiv. program. Some of the classes include:  “War, Ethics and Religion,” “Grief, Loss, Trauma and Recovery,” “Chaplaincy and Religions Freedom,” and “Ministry to Military Families.” The new classes are scheduled to begin in the fall of 2015.

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tuatha deaTuatha Dea just released a new video called “The Hum and Shiver.” It is based on the first book in the Tufa series by Alex Bledsoe. When the video was released, Bledsoe said, “I had the pleasure of watching it with them when it first arrived from the video producer.”

Named one of the best fiction books of 2011 by Kirkus, Hum and Shiver begins the story of a Tufa people, who live in the mountains of eastern Tennessee. The second book in the series is titled, Wisp of a Thing, and the third, which was just released, is titled A Long Black Curl.

Written into all of the Tufa novels is a cultural and magical emphasis on music. Both Tuatha Dea and Bledsoe call Tennessee home, and the new video captures that Appalachian spirit found in the books. In 2014, Tuatha Dea, so inspired by the series, released an entire album called Tufa Tales: Appalachian Fae. Recently, Bledsoe explained to the Wisconsin State Journal, “If you wanted to create a band to come out of my books, [Tuatha Dea] was it.” In fact, the band makes an appearance in the newest book Long Black Curl, for which they have already released a song and video.

Tuatha Dea is currently touring the country and will be appearing next week at Pagan Spirit Gathering.

.In Other News:

  • Folk singer Lon Milo Duquette released his latest album Sweet Baba Lon on June 6. The new CD includes “18 of Lon’s most popular recordings from earlier releases.” Plus, he introduces 3 new tracks, including: ” ‘Don’t Write Me Off,’  ‘I’m Scared,’ Lon’s wicked take on American gun culture, and ‘At Club Père Lachaise,’ a cute paean to the French celebrity cemetery.” Duquette, now 66 years old, has been performing since he was 14 years old. He is also the author of “numerous books on Western mystical traditions.” In a recent press release, he said “I’m a pool of ancient wisdom,” and he stressed that he has no intention of slowing down.
  • Morpheus Ravenna’s The Book of the Great Queen has been released and is now available for purchase. Published by Concrescent Press, The Book of the Great Queen is “an in-depth study of the Morrígan and her cults of worship, ancient and modern.” Ravenna explained that the work is the “culmination of twenty years of study and practice as a dedicant of the Morrígan.” The book’s artwork was done by the talented Valerie Herron, and production was funded by a 2014 IndieGoGo campaign. This summer and fall, Ravenna will be making book signing appearances in between her other travels and speaking engagements. Her next stop will be at The Book Vault in Endicott, New York on June 10. For a complete schedule and more information, go to Ravenna’s website: Banshee Arts.
  • Who is T. Thorn Coyle? PNC Minnesota has published an interview with the Pagan author, activist and magic worker. PNC writer Nels Linde caught up with her at The Heartland Pagan Festival in May. Linde writes, “This started out as an interview, but Thorn was so fascinating to talk to, and such a good listener it turned into a discussion.” In the article, she talks about her social justice work, inspiration and writing.
  • For those who speak French, two reporters for the online site Street Press visited a Wiccan ritual held in France’s “forêt de Vincennes.” They spoke with some of the attendees and published an article on the experience. The ritual itself was staged by Cercle Sequana, a Wiccan group that is part of the Paris-based Ligue Wiccan Eclectique. The two journalists intervewed participants of different ages about their practice. One of Cercle Sequana’s organizers, Xavier Mondon, was there, and we have reached out to him directly to get a more detailed look into the experience.
  • Author and filmmaker Jo Carson has produced a new book, Celebrate Wildness. It is the first in a series of books that will “introduce the magic, practices and lore of Feraferia.” In a press release, she explains that, “With the art and inspiration of Fred Adams, [this book celebrates] a love culture for wilderness, a liturgy of holy wildness, and a religion celebrating the Magic Maiden.” The self-published, hardbound book, containing lore, illustrations and techniques, is only available through Carson’s website: Feraferia.
  • CORRECTION: On Saturday, we published columnist Rhyd Wildermuth’s essay “A Time of Your Life” and accidentally left off the sponsorship tag line. We apologize to Hecate Demeter for this mistake. Hecate, a longtime supporter of The Wild Hunt, directly sponsors both Wildermuth’s and Alley Valkyrie’s columns. As the sponsor line states, she is an ecofeminist, witch and Priestess of the Great Mother Earth, and a writer of her own blog Hecate Demeter.
  • And, finally, here is some exciting news from the editor’s desk. We are proud to announce that The Wild Hunt is now independently incorporated with non-profit status through California-based Independent Arts and Media. In addition to our fall fundraiser, we have added a donation PayPal button to our site for use all year. We are 100% reader funded, and all donations are tax-deductible. Thank you to all our readers, writers and supporters!

And, don’t forget to check out our new Instagram account, with photos and visuals coming from our articles and inspired by them! 

That is it for now. Have a great day!

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It is all over the media – the hot story for summer. Caitlyn Jenner makes her first public appearance before the entire world. With help from photographer Annie Leibovitz, Jenner introduces herself on the cover of the upcoming July issue of Vanity Fair magazine. Wearing a white, strapless bathing suit with her brown locks cascading down around her shoulders, Jenner recalls the romantic images of golden age Hollywood starlets.

Leibovitz photograph for July Vanity Fair Magazine [Graphic by SynergyByDesign / Flickr]

Leibovitz photograph for July Vanity Fair Magazine [Graphic by SynergyByDesign / Flickr]

Jenner’s story has captured the media’s attention, from newspapers to ESPN broadcasters. In most instances, she has received a huge amount of support. In the 1970s and 1980s, Jenner was America’s “golden child.” As reported by ESPN, while many athletes were pushing the limits of respectability and their own health, Jenner was as radical as Wonder Bread. She was a marketers dream. Eventually time moved on, ending her “Wheatie box” reign. However, in the eyes of America’s cultural story, Jenner’s hero-status was never lost.

That status undoubtedly helped ease public acceptance of her recent transition. According to The Washington Post, the U.S. Olympic committee said yesterday that it would be willing to change the records to reflect Jenner’s new name and gender identification. ESPN will be honoring her with the Arthur Asche Courage Award at the ESPY’s July 15.

In a public statement, GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said, “By sharing her journey with the world, Caitlyn Jenner is accelerating acceptance of transgender people everywhere and reminds us all how important it is to live as your most authentic self.” In its press release, GLAAD has offered  “media notes” to assist any news agencies reporting on Jenner’s story or that of other trans people.

Laverne Cox [Credit: Tulane Publications  / Flickr]

Laverne Cox [Credit: Tulane Publications / Flickr]

However, within that support, there have also been some reminders and questions raised, centering on Jenner’s own privilege as well as the definitions and treatment of femininity. In a passionate and now famous Tumblr post, transactivist Laverne Cox touched on both of these issues. After praising Jenner for her courage, Cox admitted that the media attention had got her thinking. She said:

A year ago when my Time magazine cover came out I saw posts from many trans folks saying that I am “drop dead gorgeous” and that that doesn’t represent most trans people … But what I think they meant is that in certain lighting, at certain angles I am able to embody certain cisnormative beauty standards. Most trans folks don’t have the privileges Caitlyn and I have now have. It is those trans folks we must continue to lift up, get them access to health care, jobs, housing, safe streets, safe schools and homes for our young people. We must lift up the stories of those most at risk, statistically trans people of color who are poor and working class.

Recently, one story caught the attention of the greater Pagan community. On May 5, Elain Corrine, a Gardnerian/Alexandrian Wiccan living in Washington State, posted this on her Facebook wall:

[Printed with permission]

[Printed with permission]

In an interview, Corrine told The Wild Hunt that she had struggled with gender identity her entire life. When she was five she asked her mother why she was born with boy parts if she was a girl. Her mother “freaked out.” Corrine said, “I learned very quickly to hide what I felt and became very adept at ‘being a man’ outwardly.” She eventually assumed that she was just a straight man with screwed up wiring.

Corrine lived like that for 50 years, before embracing what Ellis called, “her most authentic self.” Corrine said, “The reality is … I am neither straight, nor a guy. I am a woman attracted to other women.” In October 2014, she began the transition. At first privately and then more publicly. She lost some friends, but most of her family was supportive. In a letter to all of them, she said, “I just want all of you to know that I love you and while I am changing … I am still the same person I have always been”

However, life wasn’t that simple. Corrine had long suffered from bouts of depression, and had also been recently diagnosed with a serious, life-threatening lung infection. As if that wasn’t enough, the transition medications exacerbated the depression, while the treatments for the infection came with their own physical unpleasantries. By early May, Corrine felt “alone, hated and so empty.” She said:

I knew coming out as Transgender was going to cause me pain thanks to the small fearful minds of people who have never walked in my shoes but are so sure of their moral superiority and rightness that they can judge me and hate me for trying to be happy. I knew I risked being assaulted, beaten, possibly even killed by those same people. I knew this and the weight of my depression, my friend proving themselves to not really being my friend and the knowledge of the journey I faced was too much. I took enough medication to kill me several times over. Posted my goodbye figuring nobody would even see it until at least a couple of hours after I was already dead and then went and laid down in my bed. I closed my eyes and curled up…

Fortunately, some of Corrine’s friends saw the Facebook post within minutes of it being posted. They sprung into immediate action, contacting Facebook and family members, and sharing the suicide note on a Pagan leadership group. Corrine said that she has no idea how it actually happened, but someone was able to break her door down and get her to the hospital in time. She added, “My doctors told me that I was basically dead when I arrived and that I was lucky to have survived.” While she was angry at first that she survived, she is now very thankful.

Corrine’s story is not unique. According to a 2015 GLAAD survey, 41% of transgender Americans have reportedly attempted suicide. This is in contrast to 1.6% of all Americans. The GLAAD survey itself is comprehensive in illustrating the realities faced by transgender Americans.

However, no two experiences are the same and no one transgender person speaks for all. In Minnesota, Wiccan Kathleen Culhane, owner of Sidhe Brewing Company, said, “Everyone’s journey is hard. Everyone’s is different.” She added that, “I am a success in what I do. I have had some privileges and resources, making it easier for me, than for some. But I’ve also had loss and I have struggled.”

Founder Kathleen Culhane at Sidhe Brewery [photo Cara Schulz]

Co-founder Kathleen Culhane at Sidhe Brewing Company [Photo: C. Schulz]

When Culhane first transitioned in the late 1990s, she lost “access to much of her birth family” and was fired from her job. But she quickly added, “I learned early that things really do happen for a reason. It was the best thing that could have happened to me.” She noted that, without all of that forced change, she would never have moved to Minnesota, where she met her current friends, became involved in the local Pagan community, and began the Sidhe Brewing Company.

Culhane said, “When you are on the other side of transition, you see these great barriers. But they are false fronts, like the sets of a old western movie. They have no substance to them, or not as much as you give them credit. When you start to push through them, you can overcome and succeed.”

We also spoke with Luke Babb, a transmasculine Pagan, who agreed with Culhane in saying that the journey is unique to each person. Babb said:

Luke Babb

Luke Babb

I didn’t harbor a dark secret. I didn’t start becoming something I had never been before. What I did was become more comfortable with myself and start to navigate how to get other people to recognize and respect me for who I am. The difficult part of this, for me, has been getting other people to respect my identity. The details of my legal and physical transition have nothing on my ongoing difficulties with my family, my partner’s family, and the complete strangers we have to deal with every day.

Similar to comments made by others, Babb stressed that their “massive amount of privilege” helped in the process. Babb explained:

Im well off enough to live comfortably on my own, and pursue the level of medical transition I need to feel good in my own body. (Which, right now, don’t include…) I have support networks. I’m white, and transmasculine, which means I get to avoid the racism and transmisogyny that make life so difficult for many people on the trans spectrum. I’m able-bodied… I cannot even start to compile a list of all the privileges that make it possible for me to say that my biggest struggle in transitioning has been other people.

Corrine, Culhane and Babb all noted their support for Jenner’s transition. But like Cox and other transactivists, they commented on the media’s emphasis of her physical appearance. Corrine welcomed the public conversation about transpeople, but also called the media’s attention “a circus” and feared it was “making a mockery of the issue and of people like [herself].”

Culhane said, “The media sexualizes transwomen and focuses how fabulous we look.” While she did say that this is not much different from what is done to cisgender women, she speculated that it may be potentially worse because society, in general, can’t easily understand why a man would “willing gives up that oh so important masculinity.”

Echoing portions of Laverne Cox’s Tumblr post, Babb said:

I deeply dislike the tendency to link a trans person’s legitimacy to their attractiveness – especially because that attractiveness is always judged based on how much they resemble a cis person. (Usually a cis heterosexual person.) Caitlyn’s photos are stunning, and I’m incredibly pleased that she’s comfortable with herself and her body. But I do think they participate in some of the more problematic standards of our society. Caitlyn’s legitimacy as a person should not be based on her attractiveness. Nobody’s should.

In a recent New York Times op-ed, Rhonda Garelick discusses this very issue, observing that not only is the media focused on Jenner’s beauty, but also how that beauty is marked by youthfulness. After quoting Simone de Beauvoir, Garelick writes, “To be admired in the public eye, to be seen, a woman must still conform to an astonishingly long, often contradictory list of demands – the most important being that she not visibly age.”

If nothing else, Jenner’s public transition has brought forward multiple, very important, public conversations on society’s gender expectations, treatments and definitions. As Babb said, “Anything that keeps the public interest in trans issues a little longer, and educates a few more people, is a good thing.”

In a recent post, Pagan blogger Erick DuPree reacted to the Vanity Fair cover, writing:

Some may argue that celebrity and privilege provide Caitlyn Jenner opportunity that other transgender women and men do not have. And perhaps that is true? However, what I see is platform, awareness, and unlimited potential that is known as Shri. The more face that is given and the more name that something has, the more awareness and more breath for growth something has to foster change. The Goddess breathed new life into a woman, and I find that unbelievably courageous and empowering.

It has been suggested in numerous articles that Jenner now owes the trans community her support; that Jenner should use her clout to further awareness of transgender issues, and even help fund outreach organizations, such as the Trans Lifeline. While Culhane, Babb and Corrine all said that they don’t believe that Jenner owes the transgender community anything, they did stress how essential community is. Whether that network is made up of family and friends, transgender organizations, the greater LGBT community or Pagan or other spiritual groups, community provides the needed support during difficult times. Culhane, who found strength through her local Wiccan friends and Pagan festivals, stressed, “Community is everything.”

As for Corrine, she is now taking everything one step at a time, but she is moving in a positive direction. She joined a Trans support group and will soon be attending her first Trans Pride march. Corrine said:

During the time I was in the coma, I was crossing over the veil to see my Goddess; to enter my rest and be free from my pain both physical and emotional. But I wasn’t ALLOWED to take those final steps that would have ended my life on this Earth without seeing the massive outpouring of love, healing energy, concern, fear, hurt and worry directed at me. I was forced to look and when I did… I came back. I couldn’t leave. This suicide attempt did two things for me. It showed me how many people loved and cared for me… and it removed all doubts in my mind, heart and soul, that my Goddess is very much alive and real and working in my life.

She is thankful for all the support that she has received. When asked if she had advice for those experiencing the pain that she felt just a month ago, she said, “Each person’s struggle to find and accept themselves is unique but we all face many of the same things – Fear, rejection, aloneness, sadness, despondency…. It hurts when we are rejected. It hurts when we feel alone. But I have learned that we are really never alone. Even when we think we are, there is someone somewhere who cares and worries about us …”

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Toni Verdú Carbó (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Toni Verdú Carbó
(CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

In the 2011 sci-fi film In Time, Justin Timberlake plays a factory worker in a dystopian future where each person is born with a set allotment of time-currency. The poor work to buy more time from their bosses, while paying their time to others for rent, or food, or other necessities, constantly checking their time-balance (a digital clock embedded into their flesh) to ensure they have enough to survive the next day. In the constructed world of the movie, when you are out of time, you die.

Elsewhere in this future world, others have plenty of time–the wealthy hoard hours and days from the masses of the poor, living long and opulent lives. Their own days seem near infinite; their worries minor compared to the workers in other ‘Time Zones,’ who scramble constantly in time-debt trying to have enough minutes to feed their children.

The film is a fantasy, of course. But despite its fictional nature, In Time is uncomfortably real—no work of film or literature comes quite so close to depicting the unspoken truth behind the Capitalist economy and its adage that “Time is Money.”

Most of us work for a living, selling our time to employers in return for wages, for currency that we use to purchase the necessities of living like food and housing. We exchange pieces of sacred paper inscribed with glyphs, or digital ciphers abstractly representing those dollars and euros and pesos–all which become for us a currency bearing crystalized meaning of minutes, hours and days.

It seems a pristine and precise system. My time compensates the time of others, and I spend spent hours on goods and services created with the spent hours of others in a great bazaar of equivalent exchange. The very abstraction, the symbolic extraction seems near beautiful—an hour of me is worth an hour of you, and we humans share and trade the time of our lives for the time of others in ever-equalizing currents.

Hours and minutes and seconds swirl ’round like clock-hands, like a finely-honed machine so eternally-present it seems as if Nature itself birthed such exchange of time for money.

But we know this is untrue. An hour of me is not worth an hour of a tech worker. He can buy 5 of my hours with an hour of his, and I can buy 40 hours of a Haitian’s life with an hour of mine. According to this system, my time is worth more than many, worth much much less than many others. Embedded in our symbols of money are invisible accountings of time we cannot quite unravel and cannot quite see.

Like many other changes wrought into the world these last 400 years, we have trouble understanding how this happened, or that it even happened at all. The ubiquity of systems like Capitalism and Monotheism seem to obliterate the past, or re-write themselves into history so that they always seem to have been there, our Modern life merely a completed tapestry of threads woven from the dawn of humanity. And Time seems the same; we cannot easily remember a Time before Time.

But this particular sort of Time is new, and this accounting newer still, and it is not Pagan, and it is not good.

We live in the Time of Capital; in Machine Time. We are refugees from a war on a Time we cannot remember; a war nearly erased from our collective memories. The Time of Nature is hidden from view, and we are crippled by our loss of Time.

Seems a bold statement, I’m sure. But follow me back a few hundred years to the War on Time.

Grufnik (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Grufnik (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Clockmakers and Preachers

In his study, Time, Work-Discipline, and Industrial Capitalism, British historian E.P. Thompson traces the birth of Western Time conceptions through the upheavals of the 16th through 19th centuries. These centuries also saw the Enclosures, the Witch-Hunts, the mass slaughters of European Imperialism, the Reformation, and the birth of new forms of state control over people — 400 years of pitched battle, in which leaders of the Church and powerful warlords (called ‘kings’) fought to repress, restrain, and exploit increasingly politically and religiously independent peoples.

It was, also, the birth of Capitalism.

The Birth of Capitalist Time is inextricable from the birth of the factories, and the story of the birth of factories cannot be told without mentioning the Clockmakers. In fact, many of the machines of the factories were made by clockmakers, who had experience with the timing of gears, and E.P. Thompson notes that many of the most powerful industrialists of the early period of Capitalism, as well as early 20th-century ones like Henry Ford had also been chronomancers.

The human body is not a machine; no matter the usefulness of such metaphors. Our heart-rates are irregular, subject to alterations in times of fear, passion, lust, happyness, sorrow, or even sudden stimuli. Neither do we rise from slumber or fall into sleep at regular intervals, as the natural ways we measure time are ever-shifting, subject to daily, seasonal, and biological variations. In summer, the sun rises hot and bright, in winter cold and distant. Clouds may obscure the light, or the work of the day, or an illness, or a new lover may all cause us to rise later.

Nature is no strict manager of our lives. Nor do we humans labor always at regular intervals and at equal strengths; fatigue, sorrow, distraction, illness may all slow work; impatience or eagerness may hasten it.

But the logic of the factory and industrial Capitalism requires standardized working hours, regular and predictable output. A factory or business cannot operate if workers come in whenever they choose; a Capitalist cannot plan production or profits if he cannot be certain he will have enough workers present–those unpredictable Human components–at the wheels and levers of his pristine, regulated, inanimate machines.

How then could a Capitalist, intent on turning the labor of humans into the fuel for his wealth, cause unruly and undisciplined people to work his machines?

He turned to the clock.

At first a curiosity for the wealthy, a tool for the astrologer and the alchemist, the modern clock became more prevalent and more available as demand for its other uses increased. Like many other human inventions (one thinks of gunpowder and the combustion engine), it did not become ubiquitous until the powerful learned they could wield it against others. Time-pieces had existed for thousands of years, water-clocks and sundials and hour-glasses, but mechanical time was unneeded but for a few specialized professions and studies.

Soon, bell-towers which had rung out to townsfolk the calls to prayer or alarums of fire became also clock towers. As wealthy merchants, nobles, and industrialists saw time-discipline crucial to their profits, many of them funded the placement of clocks in every town, village, and city, often upon the sacred houses called Churches.

That placement’s important, and religion too had its role in the birth of Capitalist time. The prevalence of clock-time was not enough to compel the average person to measure out their days and ways by the regulated hour. Just as it was fortunate for the Capitalist that the Clock existed, it was doubly to his fortune that Protestant preachers roamed the countryside and the warrens of the towns, observing the chaotic and un-Christian lives of the commoner and seeking, through sermons and tracts, to bring the light of an ordered, regulated life to the poor.

Those same centuries saw a flurry of tracts, primers, almanacs, and sermons against the venial sin of sloth and the most deadly moral failing of the poor, sluggardly staying in bed. Like the Puritan attempts to regulate the sexual activities of the poor (sleeping with boards between husband and wife, having sex only on certain days, avoiding touching), these guides were authoritarian and prescriptive, codifying the best times for waking, for eating, for working (incidentally, every day but the Sabbath) all to attain a purity of life in accordance to the will of God and the proper functioning of Christian society.

John Wesley was one of the most famous of the religious preachers to issue such strictures, and more importantly developed an entire religious movement based upon perfecting the human soul in relation to God through methodical order and disciple—Methodism.

Religious teachers were not the only ones to write such guidelines—statesman, humanists, and industrialists issued their own screeds against the tendency of the poor to laze-about and drink tea (a serious problem, judging by how many warnings were issued about the sinful Tea Table.) And consider “Poor Richard’s Almanac,” Benjamin Franklin’s decades-long publishing of facts mixed with maxims, including that most tyrannical truth mentioned earlier. It’s from Franklin (incidentally a clockmaker in his younger days) we first learned that Time is Money.

Capitalists needed workers to show up on time, on regular schedules, in order to run the new mills and factories. Protestant ministers and preachers (many of them invested both in the factories and in the Capitalist ethic, which is distinctly Protestant, as Max Weber has shown) saw the introduction of time-discipline as a way of better managing the faithful and ridding society of non-Christian activities which they alternately described as Pagan or Devilish. Thus, both became allies in the War on Time against the masses, whose transition from unregulated life and work-as-you-will seemed never complete.

But we should consider what non-Capitalist time actually was and what the stakes actually were in this war.

Cyril Mann, "Dark Satanic Mills" 1920.

Cyril Mann, “Dark Satanic Mills” 1920.

Machine Time, Machine Discipline

Clocks had been around much longer than factories, mills and work houses. Personal clocks were much rarer, often out of economic reach of the poor until watchmaking became a more common skill and the lower classes had enough money to purchase them (often, as E.P. Thompson notes, as an investment for wealth, as a watch could be hawked or put up as collateral against credit).

The keeping of time, then, was the province of the upper classes, the urban dwellers, lords, aristocrat who sought power over the poor. During this period, there were actually two conceptions of times: the rural/common/peasant recognition of tasks and Nature (the time of the sun and the times of human activity like meals) and the time of the upper classes, measured first in imprecise hours until the perfection of the pendulum allowed time to be divided into discrete minutes and eventually seconds.

What’s the difference? In Machine Time, the human day is broken into machine-regulated denotations trumping natural patterns. Waking happens not according to the rising of the sun but of the stroke of a bell or the sounding of an alarm; 6.30 am and one must leave the bed, shower, eat, prepare the children for school all to meet another impending time-marker, 9am, when you are expected at work. Leave at 8:30 and you arrive ‘on-time,’ leave a little later and you are late and perhaps disciplined, punished, or at least scolded not only by your manager.

Lunch, not at ‘noon’ when the sun is directly overhead but at 12:00. Return half-an-hour later and the work-day commences. Work ends not when work is done, but at another set time, 5:00, as you, along with millions of others leaving work fill streets with cars rushing home on highways built wide to accommodate the predicted flood.

And those workers, home finally, regulate their day further by the logic of the machine by returning to their beds at a ‘decent’ time, not necessarily when they are tired or when their thirst for life’s been sated.

The way work is compensated in Machine-Time is disciplined, too—hourly wages, expected time commitments (40/hour weeks—and that only because workers fought and died for the 8-hour day), salaries all managed and configured to standardize payments not of work performed but time given. Piece-work and task work eventually fell out of favor because it was more difficult to manage–workers completed their tasks only as money was needed and would not regularly show up otherwise, and thus the adoption of a new form of compensation–waged Time.

On the other hand, Natural Time is not so easy to describe, because it’s as varied as the people who experience it and the communities and cultures they are a part of, as well as the work performed. There is the time of agriculture, starting and stopping work according to the light of day, with hard and long work performed socially for several months broken up by long periods of little work. The time of the fishing community, measured not by the clock but by the tide and the moon’s light. The time of the migrating cultures, measured by many First Nations peoples according to the moon as well (The Flowering Moon, the Wolf Moon, etc.,).

Even in Europe before Capitalism, time was measured by the feast days and festivals, many surviving still in Catholic countries like France where even non-Catholic workers are notorious for claiming those holidays and ‘faire le pont’ (making the bridge—taking an extra day between a holiday on a Thursday or Tuesday to make a four-day weekend).

Natural time exists everywhere Capitalism has not supplanted it, but on those frontiers the war rages on. Cultures which do not live by machine-time are often called ‘primitive’ or ‘backward.’  One BBC interview program a few years ago provides a great example: international businessmen and local entrepreneurs lamented the lazyness and tardyness of Africans and Arabs. Those interviewed complained that Africans just didn’t get time, even when they owned watches. Or that Arabs couldn’t quite ‘comprehend’ the urgency required to live in a Modern and Advanced world.

Worst of all, one local North African interviewee suggested that the reason Africa was a continent full of so much poverty was due precisely to the lazyness of his fellow continentals. That is, they were poor because they were never punctual. They even called it “African Standard Time.” [Remember this the next time you hear someone complain about ‘Pagan Standard Time’]

Natural Time is culturally-specific, rather than universal, constructed upon events and activities, work and festival. It relies both upon the rotation of the earth and apparent movement of the moon, sun, and stars, as well as the specific needs of a community. Time to migrate, or to put the livestock out to pasture or to bring in the harvest, all recurring activities which generate their own patterns of time, rather than the tyranny of a machine. And it’s the time of Animist cultures, which is why Westerners, after finally submitting for centuries on their knees at the alarm-clock and time-sheet have such trouble understanding ‘mythic time.’

Capitalism’s obsession with the clock and the machine did much more than affect the way workers were corralled into factories in the morning or return to their homes, though—it affected the way the entire world was seen.

Jeremy Bentham's model of management of workers and prisoners, the Panopticon, likely inspired by a clock-face

Jeremy Bentham’s model of management of workers and prisoners, the Panopticon, likely inspired by a clock-face

Mechanical Laws, Non-Mechanical World

What arose from the conquering of Natural Time has been called the Mechanistic World-view, a crucial aspect of Capitalist thought and a brutal guardian against the return of Pagan religions to the world. In Mechanistic thinking, the world is governed by immutable laws which both predict and constrain everything. Both the basis of modern Science-thinking and the foundation of many political ideologies, including many totalitarian ones (consider that statement about Fascism and punctual trains…).

Iterated by thinkers such as Isaac Newton, René Descartes, and Francis Bacon and eventually filtered out into the rest of Western society as a part of the Protestant/Capitalist Work ethic. Nature and its chaotic tendencies became foes to be vanquished and subdued. Many Pagans make the mistake of equating the Judeo-Christian Bible as having instituted anthropocentric ‘dominionism’ over Nature, but this, like many other things Capitalism has wrought, is several thousand years newer than popular histories ever let on.

Machine-thinking provided not just a moral justification, but also a moral imperative for the subjugation of peoples and of Nature. If Time could be known and regulated like a machine, thus, too, could all the world. James Watts, the ‘father’ of the coal-fired Steam Engine and Francis Bacon, the much lauded (but very vile) founder of the Scientific Method, both spoke and wrote of Nature as a passive woman, waiting to be wooed, subjugated, even raped. Naomi Klein, in her book on Capitalism and Climate Change, tells it best:

If the modern-day extractive economy has a patron saint, the honor should probably go to Francis Bacon. The English philosopher, scientist, and statesman is credited with convincing Britain’s elites to abandon, once and for all, pagan notions of the earth as a life-giving mother figure to whom we owe respect and reverence (and more than a little fear) and accept the role as her dungeon master. “For you have but to follow and as it were hound nature in her wanderings,” Bacon wrote in De Augmentis Scientiarum in 1623, “and you will be able, when you like, to lead and drive her afterwards to the same place again…Neither ought a man to make scruple of entering and penetrating into these holes and corners, when the inquisition of truth is his sole object.” -Naomi Klein, This Changes Everything. p.170. [Emphasis mine]

Even popular notions of the Divine changed with the advent of Machine-time. Deism, which saw the Monotheist’s one-god as a “Divine Watchmaker,” shifted the understanding of humanity’s relationship to the Other not as one of co-creators, but one in which God left all the world to ‘man’ to be regulated, known, and perfected. It shouldn’t surprise us that many of the same mechanistic thinkers who changed civilization’s view of time and Nature were also Deists, including, of course, Benjamin Franklin.

Such a mechanistic worldview runs counter to quite a few important threads of Pagan thought, particularly Animism, which sees the world and all things in it alive, breathing with spirit, rather than inert cogs in the machines of progress which churn out human wealth.

Light within Newgrange, one of the few photos we were allowed to take

Light within Newgrange, set 5000 years ago to correspond to the Solstice [Photo R. Wildermuth]

Reclaiming Time

Our pre-Capitalist ancestors were not stupid, nor did they have no conception of time. Societies cannot exist if everyone is late or cannot determine when to sleep, wake up, or plant grains. What’s changed under Capitalist Time is our individual participation in time, our inherent timing of our lives according to natural phenomenon and culturally-constructed needs.

The birth of Capitalist Machine-time should not be seen as Technological ‘Advance,’ because Enlightenment thinkers and Factory managers were hardly the only ones capable of understanding precise time. Sidereal time, the tracking of the stars over a year, was practiced for millenia before Capitalists came up with time-sheets and punch clocks, and we need only think on Newgrange, Stonehenge and countless ancient monuments in the world to recognize that precisely timing an event is at least 5000 years old. Likewise, ancient chronometers which could precisely tell the positions of stars during any time of the year were what helped many sea-faring civilizations travel thousands of miles long before the British and Dutch ships brought slaves and Capitalism to the Americas.

Machine-time must be inculcated, and Capitalist Time is taught to us in school in almost laughable ways. Shifting from one classroom to the next each hour was a pedagogical innovation not because it would help children learn better, but because it would prepare them better for the factories, the mills, and the assembly lines.

In fact, Capitalist industrialists had a very strong hand in the development of universal education in both England and the United States. You may have heard of Andrew Carnegie and John Rockefeller? Here’s from their mission statement in 1913 as they created and funded educational policy to prepare children for their factories.

In our dreams, we have limitless resources and the people yield themselves with perfect docility to our molding hands. The present education conventions fade from their minds, and unhampered by tradition, we work our own good will upon a grateful and responsive rural folk. We shall not try to make these people or any of their children into philosophers or men of learning, or men of science. We have not to raise up from among them authors, editors, poets or men of letters. We shall not search for embryo great artists, painters, musicians nor lawyers, doctors, preachers, politicians, statesmen, of whom we have an ample supply…The task we set before ourselves is very simple as well as a very beautiful one, to train these people as we find them to a perfectly ideal life just where they are. So we will organize our children and teach them to do in a perfect way the things their fathers and mothers are doing in an imperfect way, in the homes, in the shops and on the farm.” – General Education Board, Occasional Papers #1

Universal education is hardly only about enlightening children, but also about making them time-disciplined workers, ever more productive than their parents.  In schools we are punished for being late, our marks on papers reduced just as pay is docked for tardyness, all to systematically continue the War on Time the early industrialists waged against the lazyness of humans.

Time-discipline is taught in our youth because Capital thinks not with the mind of Nature, but the mind of the Machine. We must be managed, both internally and externally, so that the great cogs and gears of Profit grind on, even as our own time is crushed into death by the logic of the wealthy and powerful.

Internalizing machine-time is not about developing a discipline, it is about undergoing discipline. It is a management, an un-wilding of our nature. We become more like the machines which control us, forgetting who created whom, and like many other modern enslavements, Paganism and Witchcraft stand against it.

And standing against Capitalist Time is an idea from a very unlikely source, from traditions hardly known for their revolutionary stance. Both Wicca and many forms of modern Druidry have, as core beliefs, the vital observance of the natural cycles of sidereal (astrological) and solar time. The Wheel of the Year and the marking of the Moon’s cycles are, if anything, a radical reminder of what Time means outside the Machine and how humans, in concert with Nature and all its beings, co-create our own conceptions of time.

To escape Machine Time isn’t to destroy it—we do not need smash the clocks and watches of the world like Protestants smashing pagan idols in the cathedrals (Protestants who, we should remember, also helped create Machine time!)

Rather, we should challenge those who wield it against our numbered hours for profit. Cheat the time-sheet, abandon the alarm? Those are honorable tactics, and a great start. But it is not always possible for many who are trapped deeper in the machine than others.

Unwaging our hours is perhaps a better strategy, one we can do best by finally putting to rest that horrid mantra which encapsulated hundreds of years of Protestant and Capitalist time discipline. We must remind ourselves, repeat endlessly until our time is again our own:

Time is not Money.

Money is Not Time.

And we will never be machines.

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This column was made possible by the generous underwriting donation from Hecate Demeter, writer, ecofeminist, witch and Priestess of the Great Mother Earth.

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