Archives For Angie Buchanan

Pagan Community Notes is a series focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. Reinforcing the idea that what happens to and within our organizations, groups, and events is news, and news-worthy. My hope is that more individuals, especially those working within Pagan organizations, get into the habit of sharing their news with the world. So let’s get started!

seeking_the_mysteryChristine Hoff Kraemer’s book “Seeking the Mystery: An Introduction to Pagan Theologies” went on sale in the Kindle store this past Monday, and as a result shot to the top of several of Amazon’s best-sellers charts. This included the Paganism, Theology, and Earth-Based Religions categories. A book on Pagan theology climbing the charts is always newsworthy, so I asked Kraemer, who is faculty at Cherry Hill Seminary and also manager of the Patheos Pagan Channel, for her reaction. Quote: “I’m delighted that the book is being so well received! It’s been fascinating to me to see how many of the recent debates among Pagan writers online have actually been theological in nature. How many tens of thousands of words have been written in the last few months about the nature of the Gods? Although these debates can be painful and emotional, the fact that so many Pagans are deeply invested in building a coherent theology for themselves — in other words, developing good theory behind their practices — seems like a sign that we’re maturing as a movement. I just hope we can cultivate patience and compassion with each other as we do it.” Our congratulations to Dr. Kraemer on this accomplishment, and don’t forget to get your copy today!

Cherry Hill SeminaryLast month I reported that online Pagan learning institution Cherry Hill Seminary had received a generous challenge gift that would match up to $10,000 dollars in donations by July 1st. I’m happy to report that they matched and surpassed their goal. Quote: “Cherry Hill Seminary is happy to announce the successful completion of our endowment challenge fund drive, with a total raised of $12,271. Our original donor has now transferred $10,000 to Cherry Hill Seminary and we have opened a new restricted account! We could not be happier about this wonderful news. What is most touching is to see the number of students and volunteers who have made a real sacrifice to see this happen. It’s also exciting to see the number of new donors who were inspired by the vision of a permanent endowment.” The donations will benefit a new scholarship endowment that would help students nearing completion of their Master of Divinity, assisting them with the expense of attending their required second intensive. This is the latest in a string of accomplishments for the seminary, which which recently presented its first academic symposium in partnership with the University of South Carolina.

Angie Buchanan with partner Drake Spaeth.

Angie Buchanan with partner Drake Spaeth.

Back in April I reported on how Pagans played a key role in raising funds to save the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions from a fiscal crisis that could have ended the organization and its much-heralded interfaith gatherings. Now, Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid, current Chairperson for the council, announces that as of July 2nd they are officially liberated from that debt crisis, and are now operating in a fiscally sustainable manner. Angie Buchanan, Emeritus Director of the Council, and founder of Earth Traditions, released the following statement to the Pagan community. Quote: “I am deeply grateful to the Pagan Community for coming together for the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions in its hour of need. The papers have been signed, the case has been dismissed and the lawyers have released us to be able to make this public announcement. Pagans alone raised 10% of the $260K debt, an amazing feat accomplished in less than 3 weeks. As an emeritus member of the Board, and the first Pagan ever to have served in such a capacity, I have a clear understanding of the importance of this great organization to the world, and to Pagans specifically. I look forward to helping CPWR produce the celebration of their 120th anniversary, in November of this year.” Pagans have played key roles in the Parliament since its return in 1993, and Phyllis Curott, founder of the Temple of Ara, currently serves as the Vice-Chair for the Parliament’s Board of Trustees.

 In Other Pagan Community News: 

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

Pagan voices is a spotlight on recent quotations from figures within the Pagan community. These voices may appear in the burgeoning Pagan media, or from a mainstream outlet, but all showcase our wisdom, thought processes, and evolution in the public eye. Is there a Pagan voice you’d like to see highlighted? Drop me a line with a link to the story, post, or audio.

Morpheus Ravenna

Morpheus Ravenna

“Actually, if you look deeply at the idea of ‘dark Gods’ in general, they are inherently a product of our dualistic culture, heavily influenced by Abrahamic moral paradigm which equates darkness with negative or harmful forces. In fact, when people talk of the ‘Dark Goddess’, they virtually always mean moral darkness rather than natural darkness, if you examine their language and theology. For evidence of this, I invite you to imagine any deity associated with the darkness of night or the night sky whom you care to think of. Nyx, Nuit, Astarte, Ishtar, Arianrhod of the silver wheel; all the ‘Queens of Heaven’. Not a one of them is usually labeled ‘Dark Goddess’. Hekate is arguably an exception, but I think the point still stands. When we say ‘Dark Goddess’, what we really mean is scary Goddess; or perhaps more specifically, morally ambiguous Goddess.” - Morpheus Ravenna, on the nature of “dark” gods.

Metal Mother (aka Taara Tati)

Metal Mother (aka Taara Tati)

“Getting into the whole ancient Celtic cultures thing, it was very matriarchal and tribal [...] It was a really profound lifestyle. The more I discover about that, the more I want to learn about it, to be able to see that history and sort of represent that in a way, or glean some power from that. [...] I really came into a full-on obsession last year when I was traveling in Europe. I went on this full journey to all these different ancient sites and sacred sites, and it was empowering for me to be there, and to feel the history of that land, and… my ancestors.” – Taara Tati, aka Metal Mother, in the San Francisco Bay Guardian on the inspirations for her new album “Ionika,” released this week.

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

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

“The purpose of sacrifice is to build, maintain, and correct our connection with the Gods, which is why it had to be stopped in ancient times. It is essential for theistic Pagans, but I know atheist Pagans who join in the practice. The common explanation of sacrifice is to somehow ‘feed’ the Gods, but this is generally challenged by the more philosophical understandings of ancient religion that evolved over time. In the West, this view is championed by Iamblichus of Chalsis and found in the book we now call De Mysteriis, arguably the cornerstone text of the western magical tradition. Iamblichus points out that the Gods and all the entities down the hierarchy of being are above humans on the ontological scale and so cannot be affected, never mind fed, by such as we. Rather, sacrifice properly done affects the sacrificer by attuning us to the Gods we invoke (never mind bonding us to those we share it with).” - Sam Webster, author of “Tantric Thelema” and founder of the Open Source Order of the Golden Dawn, from his piece “Toward the Pagan Restoration of Sacrifice.”

Shauna Aura Knight with Tony Mierzwicki and River Higginbotham at PantheaCon.

Shauna Aura Knight with Tony Mierzwicki and River Higginbotham at PantheaCon.

“We’re causing the pollution, the carbon overload, the climate change, that will haunt our future. We who call ourselves Pagan and Earth-centered should know better. We should know better. Here’s what I’d like to see in the Pagan community. I’d like to see Pagans across the world standing up to choose the sometimes harder road. I’m asking you, all of you, to stop using disposable cups in your rituals, and to stop supporting rituals that do so by not accepting those cups.” – Shauna Aura Knight, from a post at the Pagan Activist blog entitled “No, I Will Not Take Cakes and Ale From Your Styrofoam Cup.”

Angie Buchanan with partner Drake Spaeth.

Angie Buchanan with partner Drake Spaeth.

“Yes, Pagans were responsible for almost 10% of the total judgment of $276,000. History has been made here. Pagans have shown they can support what they believe in with their voices and their money. Our voices [have] value at the international tables of inter-religious dialog. We are at once overwhelmed with gratitude, humbled, and also proud.” – Angie Buchanan, Emeritus Director of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions, and founder of Earth Traditions, on the role of Pagans in the successful campaign to save the Parliament from a fiscal crisis.

Deborah Blake

Deborah Blake

“When disasters are caused by people (as opposed to hurricanes and other acts of nature), it can be easy to feel as though All People are Bad. The truth is, most people are pretty wonderful. More people ran towards the explosion, to try to help, than ran away. There were heroes everywhere. We cannot let a few evil people change how we view the world.”  - Deborah Blake, author of “Everyday Witch Book of Rituals: All You Need for a Magickal Year” on the tragedy in Boston, from a piece entitled “In Times of Horror, Joy and Love Must Triumph.”

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

CPWR Logo.

CPWR Logo.

While final negotiations and discussions with lawyers are still underway, it appears that the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions has successfully raised enough money by their deadline to save the organization from a sudden fiscal crisis. As the Religion News Service reports, modern Pagans played a large role in making that happen.

“With the help of pagans, Jains and people of a range of other faiths, the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions has raised more than $144,000 in two weeks using a crowdsourcing campaign in a desperate bid to survive a financial crisis [...]  Two pagan groups alone raised more than $16,000. A Jain board member raised $6,300. [...] As of Tuesday (April 16), the council had raised more than $144,000 of the $150,000 it needed, and had received permission from a donor to use additional funds from an operational grant, if necessary, to make the final debt repayment.”

Phyllis Curott, founder of the Temple of Ara, and recently elected to serve as the Vice-Chair for the Parliament’s Board of Trustees, posted a bittersweet note of thanks and joy, as this achievement comes during a time of tragedy.

Phyllis Curott (third from left) at an interfaith gathering.

Phyllis Curott (third from left) at an interfaith gathering.

“Sorrow in the midst of Joy – how frequently and sadly that fact is a fact of life. This morning I wanted to shout with joy Thank YOU to everyone who has helped save the Parliament. Because though we still have to raise funds, we HAVE saved the Parliament and the Pagan community around the world has played a tremendous role in that success. But instead of shouting w/ joy, this morning I am saying Thank You as a prayer of deep gratitude for the kindness, goodness, and hope that your generosity expresses and because it is the light that overcomes the darkness that caused the tragedy at the Boston Marathon, the deaths and injuries suffered. So this morning, I offer prayers of gratitude, prayers of healing, prayers of peace.”

At the Parliament’s official blog, a missive posted earlier this week by Board Chair Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid, and Interim Executive Director Dr. Mary Nelson, specifically singles out Pagans for their part in this relief effort.

Board of Trustees Chairperson Imam Malik Mujahid with Board Emereti Andras Arben-Corthen in Guadalajara, Mexico. In February 2013, the Board met to explore future Interfaith efforts in Mexico.

Board of Trustees Chairperson Imam Malik Mujahid with Board Emereti Andras Corban-Arthen (of the EarthSpirit Community) in Guadalajara, Mexico. In February 2013, the Board met to explore future Interfaith efforts in Mexico.

“Plans for moving forward have jumpstarted with relief efforts from Baha’i, Hindu, Jain, Sikh, Native, Unitarian, Jewish, Humanist, Christian, Pagan, Muslim, Buddhist and Spiritual communities.”

As I said at the beginning of this emergency campaign, this was a moment for the global Pagan community to distinguish itself, to solidify its place as part of the global interfaith movement.

“Supporting the Parliament of the World’s Religions at this time has practical and symbolic value. The Parliament helps bring our religions to the global stage, gives us a voice in which we can interact with other faith leaders, and helps us speak out on issues of importance to us. Supporting the Parliament also shows that we can, and will, lend support to the organizations that involve and support us. It shows that we are ready to walk on the world stage. [...] Let’s send a message, image if the headlines read: Pagans save the Parliament of the World’s Religions. That is a headline I’d love to write, and I suspect, that many of you would love to read.”

While we didn’t single-handedly save the Parliament, we were instrumental in doing so, and now the world knows it. Notable Pagans from across the world spoke up to mobilize their communities, including Margot Adler, T. Thorn Coyle, Christopher Penczak, and representatives from Covenant of the Goddess, the Pagan FederationPagan Federation InternationalPagan Pride Italia, and more, added their voices to a chorus of Pagans who realized the importance of this moment. We have earned the headline, for Pagans have indeed helped save the Parliament of the World’s Religions. The work now is to build on this success and make sure we are engaged on the world stage, making sure that Pagan voices are heard on issues that matter to us, and the Parliament is a vital part of that. Congratulations to all who made this happen.

In recent weeks I have stressed the importance of national and international interfaith efforts by modern Pagans, how this form of outreach can bring attention to issues we face and build important alliances in the global faith community. One of our most important achievements in this area has been with the Parliament of the World’s Religions,  where the modern conception of “interfaith” was born in 1893. It was at the revived 1993 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago that modern Paganism effectively “came out” to the global interfaith movement, and where we established ourselves as faiths to be taken seriously.

“The Pagan presence at the Parliament was historic. The fact that this Parliament included Pagan group sponsors, speakers, and delegates in the first place was noteworthy, since Nature religions were excluded from the first Parliament. At this Parliament, however, there was inclusion, respect, and support. In addition to Wiccans and other Pagans, there were those from a variety of traditional Nature wisdom paths, including Winnebago, Navajo, Hopi, Yoruba, Maya, Santeria, Lakota, Cheyenne, and others. Pagan and Native American participation received widespread positive media attention. Some reporters commented that just as the first Parliament served to introduce Hinduism, Buddhism, and other Eastern religions to the realm of religions in the West, this Parliament served to bring Pagan and Native American spiritualities more fully into the community of the world’s religions.”

In the 20 years since that parliament, modern Pagans have made important contributions to the global interfaith movement, and since 2002 three modern Pagans: Angie Buchanan, Phyllis Curott, and Andras Corban-Arthen have served on the Parliament’s Board of Trustees. Yesterday, these Pagans came forward to fundraise on the Parliament’s behalf, noting that the organization is in peril due to circumstances beyond its control. Andras Corban-Arthen, founder and spiritual director of the EarthSpirit Community, and Parliament board emeritus, sent the following out to various email lists and social networking sites.

Andras Corban-Arthen (center) with Parliament board trustees in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Andras Corban-Arthen (center) with Parliament board trustees in Guadalajara, Mexico.

“The Parliament of the World’s Religions has been promoting peace, understanding and respect among all peoples, religions and nations for a very long time. The Parliament gave birth to the interfaith movement in 1893, and through the vehicle of interreligious dialogue, has spread its message to many thousands of people all over the globe.

For those of us who are pagan, or who follow any of the Earth-centered spiritual paths, the Parliament has provided a welcoming place where we could openly share our practices within the community of the world’s religions: pagans from five continents have been featured presenters & performers at the Parliaments in Chicago (1993), Cape Town (1999), Barcelona (2004) and Melbourne (2009), and at the World Interreligious Encounter in Monterrey, Mexico (2007). Since 2002, three pagans — Angie Buchanan, Phyllis Curott, and myself — have also served on the Parliament’s Board of Trustees. The Parliament was the first major interfaith organization to give our community a seat at the table.

Now the Parliament needs our help — it faces an unexpectedly immediate, one-time financial challenge, which threatens its very existence. We need to raise $150,000 by 12 April, and the many world-wide religious communities which participate in the Parliament are already mobilizing to help us reach this goal.

This is the time for the pagan movement to show its support for this organization which has welcomed and supported us for so long, and in so many ways. Please give what you can: your contribution, no matter how small, can make a big difference!”

Phyllis Curott, founder of the Temple of Ara, and recently elected to serve as the Vice-Chair for the Parliament, posted an appeal as well, giving some background into how this fiscal trouble came about.

Phyllis Curott (third from left) at an interfaith gathering.

Phyllis Curott (third from left) at an interfaith gathering.

“The Parliament incurred a large and burdensome debt as the consequence of an unexpected drop in the attendance of the 2004 Barcelona Parliament due to a terrorist attack in Madrid weeks earlier. As a result, there was insufficient income to cover the expenses of the event. While we have been paying it off slowly, a Spanish arbitrator ruled against the Parliament and despite our efforts to challenge the award, a US Court has now ruled that the Spanish arbitration award is binding and the balance of the debt is due immediately. In anticipation that we might lose, we started raising funds last Fall, and have raised about half the amount needed. We expected to have several more months to raise the rest, but the remaining balance is now due immediately. We need to raise $150,000 and have until April 12th to do so [...] This is the time for the pagan movement to show its support for this organization which has welcomed and supported us for so long, and in so many ways. Please give what you can: your contribution, no matter how small, can make a big difference!”

This is the most recent setback for the organization that organizes the parliaments, which had recently announced that the 2014 Parliament of the World’s Religions will not be happening in Brussels due to the ongoing economic hardships in Europe, and that they are seeking a new home for the gathering. So the continued fiscal health for this organization is precarious if they can’t raise the money necessary to pay off this debt. Pagans involved with the parliament are hoping our community can raise $25,000 of the total $150,000 amount needed and have started a page at causevox.com for those who want to help. 

“Imagine a world without the Parliament of the World’s Religions. Imagine that tens of thousands of global citizens didn’t attend the South Africa Parliament in 1999 to see how the interfaith movement helped end apartheid. Imagine the indigenous tribes in Australia who long stood outside their societies still waiting to be heard until their voices were the core of the Melbourne Parliament in 2009.”

Supporting the Parliament of the World’s Religions at this time has practical and symbolic value. The Parliament helps bring our religions to the global stage, gives us a voice in which we can interact with other faith leaders, and helps us speak out on issues of importance to us. Supporting the Parliament also shows that we can, and will, lend support to the organizations that involve and support us. It shows that we are ready to walk on the world stage. As modern Pagan religions increasingly become world religions we will need spaces where we can dialog and make alliances, where we can reach out, and if need be, speak truth to power about injustices done to us. As recent events have shown, our reach is longer now than ever, so too must be our responsibility and sense of global purpose. Ensuring that the Parliament of the World’s Religions survives ultimately serves our needs, and we should strive to see that it does.

If just 25,000 of the estimated million American Pagans gave a dollar to this campaign, it would already have reached the goal set for it. That, in my mind, would be a dollar well spent. If just a mere fraction of the global Pagan community gave a little, we could erase this debt ourselves. Let’s send a message, image if the headlines read: Pagans save the Parliament of the World’s Religions. That is a headline I’d love to write, and I suspect, that many of you would love to read.

Here’s the link to donate: http://parliamentofreligions.causevox.com/pagans

Top Story: It looks like openly Pagan New York City councilman Dan Halloran has been vindicated in his recent clash with a parking enforcement agent. The NY Daily News reports that a judge threw out the $165 ticket written to him during his confrontation with traffic agent Daniel Chu, and that Chu has been disciplined and sent back to training.

“The lawmaker had tailed Chu after he saw the agent speed through a stop sign with his police lights flashing, he said. When Halloran stopped to snap photos of Chu parked illegally in front of a Dunkin’ Donuts in Whitestone, Queens, Chu hollered at him and wrote him a ticket for blocking a crosswalk. Chu was put on foot patrol and is required to undergo retraining at the Police Academy, which includes sensitivity training. He also faces several days’ docked pay, police sources said. After the Daily News ran a story on the confrontation last month, Halloran was bombarded with calls and e-mails from motorists claiming to have been wrongly ticketed by Chu. Complaints included the agent doling out tickets to a funeral procession, he said, adding that he is still calling for a review of every ticket the agent wrote.”

Considering how many New Yorkers feel about traffic agents, I’m sure Halloran has won himself a few new supporters from this little tempest in a tea-cup. But this doesn’t look like the end of troubles for the freshman council member, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) is calling for a federal investigation into the election that made Halloran a councilman, citing accusations of racial intimidation at the polls.

AALDEF told us their observers saw Asian-American voters and volunteers for Kim’s campaign harrassed and even assaulted by whites. The Halloran campaign countered that vanloads of Asian voters from outside the district were brought in to vote, and that voters were encouraged not to support him because of his pre-Christian pagan religious beliefs. Today, AALDEF is also claiming Korean-American voters also faced roadblocks to casting their ballots, thanks to the “racially discriminatory application of election procedures by New York City Board of Elections officials.”

I’m very certain there were racial tensions heightened during the campaign, and I don’t doubt that some thugs engaged in direct harassment of Asian voters, but there’s been no real proof that the Halloran campaign participated, encouraged, or benefited from such actions. Halloran, for his part, says he welcomes “any investigation to address election issues, especially voter fraud and electioneering inside the prohibited zones, as well as whether monitors followed the rules for avoiding voters entering polling sites before they voted.”

Another Pagan Music Festival: We have the music-focused Faerieworlds in Oregon, and the upcoming festival of Pagan Music That Doesn’t Suck in Missouri, and now Bangor Daily News reports that the Eastern Maine Pagan Pride Association will sponsor the state’s first pagan music festival.

“What makes a pagan song pagan is the lyrics rather than the kind of music or the instruments, according to Keri Alley, who helped organize the event. “Portland has held a pagan pride event, but this is the first event in the state devoted to pagan music,” she said recently. The performers will include Women with Wings, 1476, SadisTech, Lorelei Greenwood, Wolf Bone and Brite Phoenix. Members of Dark Follies, including Selcouth, are scheduled to perform. Brotha Luv, the host of WERU’s “Head Rush” show, will act as emcee.”

A sign that Pagan music’s time is soon arriving? Harbinger of a generational shift in Pagan-themed events? The most exciting thing about this show is that I haven’t heard of many of these bands, which points to a far larger underground of Pagan music-making than maybe any of us have anticipated. Artists at the festival include Lorelei GreenwoodDark FolliesWomen with Wings1476SadisTech, and Wolf Bone.

Botanicas and Those Who Supply Them: Fascinating in-depth journalistic treatments of minority faiths, and the businesses that grow up around them, are truly rare. So I was very happy to see the Dallas Observer’s profile of Chango Botánica in Oak Cliff, and its resident folk healer (curandero) Francisco “Pancho” Diaz.

“You can’t take out the religious element from the botánicas,” says Northern Arizona University anthropology professor Robert Trotter, who has researched curanderismo, Mexican-American folk medicine. “But, if you were to do so, there would be a huge overlap between what they carry and many of the supplements and products sold at, say, a GNC or someplace like Whole Foods.”

Despite Chango Botanica’s popularity and success, its future is threatened by a cancer diagnosis for Pancho, and a planned rezoning and gentrification of the neighborhood that will drive up property values, and drive away the shop’s usual clientèle.

“Imagine one day you’re driving and you don’t see that lighthouse of beautiful saints from multiple faiths and beliefs, and you ask yourself, ‘What happened?’” Jorge says. “We are a fixture in this community and so is every other business on West Davis. It’s sad to see even one tire shop disappear. And if a tire shop can make me feel that way, think about Chango Botánica.”

The whole article is worth the read, and I encourage you to do so. Better yet, as evidence of the amount of research Daniel Rodrigue did for this piece, he presents a story thread that didn’t make it into the main article; a spotlight of the candle manufacturer that supplies many of the local botanicas. It, along with a slideshow of Chango Botanica’s back rooms give an engaging portrait of a thriving economy that many of us barely notice.

A New Training Program for Pagan Clergy: Pagan organization Earth Traditions, co-founded by Angie Buchanan and Drake Spaeth, has officially launched their new training program for Pagan clergy.

“Thank you for your interest in the Earth Traditions Ministry Training Program. This is not a Seminary, a program of magical instruction, or necessarily an ordination track. This is a practical certificated training program designed to provide Pagans who wish to be Ministers, (servants of the community) an array of tools and resources to inform and protect both the individual and the communities they serve.”

You can find an outline of their curriculum, here, and a list of instructors, here. I couldn’t find word on when their Fall semester begins or ends, but I’m sure interested parties can find out by contacting Earth Traditions.  In other Pagan clergy/leader training news, the next National Pagan Leadership Skills Conference is coming up next week in Virginia, and Cherry Hill Seminary’s Fall registration is now open. It should be interesting to see how all these organizations, and others, rise to the challenge of providing leadership training to an ever-expanding modern Pagan community in the years to come.

A Ritual Death Results in Homicide Charge: A Santero in Puerto Rico, Jose Cadiz Tapia, has been charged with negligent homicide in the death of a woman who suffered extensive second-degree burns after he allegedly dropped a candle into an alcohol bath she was undergoing under his direction.

“Police consider 28-year-old Stephanie Rodriguez Pizarro’s death in July 2009 in a San Juan housing project to be an accident, and say she sought the treatment to help with marital and financial troubles. She died of second-degree burns over half her body. The healer, 46-year-old Jose Cadiz Tapia, was charged Tuesday following an investigation that took about a year to complete, police said. He faces six months to three years in prison if convicted.”

What is it with bizarre ritual deaths lately? Needless to say, if you are bathing in flammable liquid, do so well away from flames. If you do think alcohol baths and candles mix, be sure you really, really, trust the person holding the candles, and that you take precautions against an agonizing fiery death.

A Quick Final Note on Catholic Empathy: A Zambia chief is imprisoning “witches” in an illegal dungeon in his palace basement, and the Malole Catholic Church Parish Council has threatened to withhold holy communion from the chief (who apparently is nominally Catholic) if the practice continues. Good for the local Catholic Church, right? Well, apparently it’s snarky comedy gold for National Catholic Register blogger/commentator Pat Archbold.

“It seems the deal-breaker in this case is that the Chief’s sorcerer slammer does not provide adequate toilet facilities.  Nothing will bring down the full wrath of the God and Amnesty International like not having adequate porta-potties in your own personal Azkaban. While sharia law may allow for attempted murders (or actual murders) on the cast of Harry Potter actresses, the Church still frowns upon such activity.  Porta-potties or no porta-potties. Closer home, certain Catholic politicians who oppose the Church do not seem to be in any danger of being banned from Communion any time soon.  Not that they are too worried about that anyway. Apparently in U.S, just as in Zambia, the witches are still free to receive communion.

Yes, because voting the wrong way in a democracy is equatable to illegally imprisoning accused witches in your basement! Also note that he makes no mention of the hundreds of thousands killed, tortured, and abused because of witch-hysteria around the world, but instead makes a correlation to the “witches” (ie Catholic politicians who are pro-choice) receiving communion in America. Truly, his empathy and sense of proportion is staggering.

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

A Few Quick Notes

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  December 27, 2009 — 15 Comments

I just have a few small items to share this Sunday before we gear up for the year-end count-downs and retrospectives, starting with SF Gate columnist Mark Morford, who argues that all the discussions about pantheism in “Avatar” are besides the point, what it’s really about is “alien porn”.

“But wait, we haven’t hit the best part yet. Because in this movie, you don’t merely get to fantasize about the Other from afar or even just indulge in interspecies sex. You get to literally become one of them … Behold, the ultimate in guilty colonialist fetish fantasy epic porn filmmaking, ever. Flawed, broken white man can, with his righteous modern technology, fuse his DNA with super-hot exotic sexually flawless alien species and become the Other and save the world and then score the hot chick from Star Trek.”

Somehow, I don’t think this new angle is going to please Ross Douthat and other conservative commentators much more than the “Hollywood is pantheist” one. For that matter, I doubt it will please the folks who’ve seen “Avatar” and found it to be a deeply transcendent/meaningful experience. As an aside, since we’re talking about movies, I saw “Sherlock Holmes” last night, and was surprised that the entire plot centered on a Freemason/Golden Dawn-ish occult order. By “centered on”, I mean it provided some sort of plot when things weren’t blowing up. It was quite the romp if you turn your expectations down a few notches.

The clinically obsessed folks at the Christian Civic League of Maine continue to stalk Rita Moran, Chair of the Kennebec County Democratic Committee, who was one of two openly Pagan delegates at the Democratic National Convention. Not content with trespassing on private property, or trying to make her book store sound sinister by listing titles found at any Barnes & Noble, they are now engaging in their own sad form of “deep background” looking for some sort of controversy. First it was misquoting a podcast interview she did in 2007, now they are combing through her past involvement with the EarthTides Pagan Network.

“The identities of the members of these organizations are often kept secret. Moran is active in the EarthTides Pagan Network under the pseudonym “Arwen Evenstar.” Under this pseudonym, Moran has written a book review column in the group’s newsletter for the past several years.”

This situation is so sad and pathological, all in an attempt to ruin Moran’s standing with local Democrats.

“It is a sad commentary on politics in Maine that the highest levels of the Democrat Party rely on an occultist whose political prudence consists of Tarot Card reading and crystal-ball gazing; and whose leadership effectiveness is a matter of casting the right spell.”

This one-man “staff” of the Christian Civic League really needs to get a life. It just goes to show you how bothered some Christians get when any other religious perspective dares to seek political power instead of staying silently in the shadows. They try to make sinister activities that would be seen as sanctified and proper if done in a Christian context. This strife only underlines how important our involvement in the public sphere is, and why the “broom closet” must become a thing of the past.

In a final note, the Pagans at the Parliament project seems to be winding down. The last of the video and audio has been posted to the blog, and we have had several post-Parliament missives from attendees, including a statement from Angie Buchanan, one of the Pagan Executive Board members of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions. Buchanan addresses the recent flurry of discussion and controversy regarding definitions, and what was (and wasn’t ) said and done in Paganism’s name at the Parliament.

“In my personal participation and my observation of what happened at the Parliament, there was no attempt to “legitimize” anything, nor was there an effort to ostracize anything. There were many very successful attempts to explain concepts, terms and belief structures in ways and using vocabulary understood by those either unfamiliar with or frightened by our practices — by providing them with a frame of reference.”

Despite the flare-up over definition, and who said what at the Parliament, a situation that I take some responsibility in spreading, I do think this event will be seen as pivotal in modern Paganism’s history. Never before have we been so visible and vocal on the world stage, and I believe some paradigm-shifting happened that may greatly benefit all modern Pagans in the long run. I genuinely thank all the Pagans who took the time and effort to be involved with this event, and made our varied voices and viewpoints heard in the context of the global interfaith movement. What happened was important, I believe that we will ultimately experience more signal than noise as we process our involvement there in the coming year.

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

The Parliament of the World’s Religions in Melbourne, Australia, has drawn to a close. The closing plenary by His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso the XIVth Dalai Lama given, and some remarkable advances for modern Pagans at this massive interfaith event have been achieved. As we await post-Parliament reflections from Pagan participants, an issue of identity and language has emerged this past week that could spark some bitter divisions just as our interconnected communities gain greater respect and visibility among the world’s religions. In a post yesterday to the Pagans at the Parliament blog, Ed Hubbard, who has been covering the Pagan presence at the Parliament, noted a trend towards new definitions of certain Pagan traditions.

“The first Pagan presentation of the Parliament helped begin this change of identity and was called “People Call Us Pagans-The European Indigenous Traditions”, by PWR Trustees Angie Buchanan, Andras Arthen, and Phyllis Curott. The opening of the description is as follows: As the World confronts environmental devastation, we are beginning to appreciate the wisdom of Indigenous peoples who have lived thousands of years in sustainable harmony and spiritual connection with the Earth. After hundreds of years of suppression, most Westerners have forgotten that their ancestors once shared this wisdom as the Indigenous traditions of Europe.”

Apparently the term “European Indigenous Traditions” was used by some during the Parliament as a way to redefine Pagan faiths to non-Westerners unfamiliar with what “Pagan” (or “Neopagan”) meant, to shift relations with Abrahamic faiths that might be hostile to mere “pagans”, and to approach indigenous/native peoples suspicious of cultural appropriation. While redefining (some) modern Pagans as “indigenous” carries with it a host of issues and questions, there was also the matter of who among the modern Pagans aren’t considered “indigenous” (or even “Pagan” for that matter).

“Andras Corban-Arthen points out that Wicca, for example, cannot be seen as an indigenous Pagan faith practice and is instead a modern syncretic movement. Under this description Wicca therefore would not fall under the definition of Pagan, and would be squarely a New Religious Movement, while British Traditional Witchcraft could be considered a Pagan and Indigenous faith tradition.”

So if you are an initiated Gardnerian you get to be in the “European Indigenous Traditions” club, but if you practice some other form of modern Witchcraft, say, Feri, or Reclaiming, you may not be. If you are a book-taught eclectic, you may not even be considered “Pagan” under these new definitions. Now, these are very provocative statements, and I called Ed Hubbard yesterday in Melbourne to verify that his information was correct. He assures me that he has documentation for everything in his post, which he’ll share once he’s stateside. No doubt Arthen, and the other Parliament Pagan trustees, will soon be able to speak for themselves on this issue, and I welcome their clarifications on the matter.

So what does it mean if the Pagans who are representing us on the Parliament Board of Trustees are indeed willing to separate the “New Religious Movement” goats from the “European Indigenous Traditions” sheep within the global interfaith movement? How would we even quantify when a Pagan tradition crosses from “NRM” to indigenous? Claims of lineage? Claims of heritage? Would any proof be necessary? Or is this mainly a political act, with the “right” groups grandfathered in? Are book-taught reconstructionists “indigenous” while second or third-generation eclectic-tradition Wiccans part of  a “syncretic” new religious movement? It just seems like a minefield, and I’m not the only one who thinks so.

“So Pagan is redefined to include only indigenous religious movements? And Wicca is therefore not Pagan (despite its position as the forerunner of the Pagan resurgence of the 20th Century)? But British Traditional Witchcraft somehow is Pagan, presumably because it is “indigenous”? That’s just daft. There’s little plausible historical evidence for a continuous indigenous witchcraft tradition, inside or outside Britain, and what I know of BTW falls squarely within the history of Wicca as described by Ronald Hutton and others. I agree with Michael York that the Western Pagan movement does share some vital common ground with indigenous religions worldwide, and I am willing to be convinced that certain European Pagan traditions might plausibly be described as “indigenous.” But it flies in the face of both the recent history of the Pagan movement as a 20th and 21st Century phenomenon, and of what we know of the history of Wicca (including BTW) to redefine Paganism in this way. Plus, I’m not budging. I’m Pagan, and I know I didn’t delegate anybody at the Parliament to speak for me or to define me out of the religion!”Cat Chapin-Bishop, from a comment on the Pagans at the Parliament blog.

Other reacted more harshly, saying these new definitions were a case of “striving for false legitimacy”.

Now, there is always the chance that comments were misconstrued, or misunderstood. So we should await official word from the Pagan members of the Parliament Board of Trustees before we accuse anyone of trying to drive wedges between different Pagan groups. Context is king, and I don’t want to start any flame-wars for an off-the-cuff idea or mis-stated opinion. As for myself, I consider myself Pagan, and part of a larger Pagan movement, even if I wasn’t initiated into a British Traditional tradition, or privy to some sort of handed-down European fam-trad. I’m a modern Pagan, and I have no problem with owning both the “modern” and the “Pagan” part of that term. What do you  think? Are you part of a new religious movement? A European Indigenous Tradition? None of the above? Should we be building fences, or tearing them down?

(Pagan) News of Note

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  October 22, 2009 — 3 Comments

My semi-regular round-up of articles, essays, and opinions of note for discerning Pagans and Heathens.

Let’s start off with the latest news in the ongoing James A. Ray sweat-lodge death saga. The AP has an interview with one of the survivors, and it isn’t good news for Ray or his lawyers.

“More than 50 followers of spiritual guru James Arthur Ray had just endured five strenuous days of fasting, sleep-deprivation and mind-altering breathing exercises when he led them into a sweat lodge ceremony … When participants exhibited weakness, Ray urged them to push past it and chided those who wanted to leave, she said. “I can’t get her to move. I can’t get her to wake up,” Bunn recalls hearing from two sides of the 415-square-foot sweat lodge. Ray’s response: “Leave her alone, she’ll be dealt with in the next round.” … Looking back, she said it’s easy to see how so many people were overcome. No one was well-hydrated, the sweat lodge was poorly ventilated, no safety tips were provided and appropriate medical care wasn’t available, she said.”

To put it simply, Ray is in big big trouble. Despite that, his spokesman is actually arguing that since some had “amazing experiences,” he shouldn’t be arrested for negligent homicide immediately. Meanwhile, as the faux-Native American spirituality of the ceremony has been confirmed (“he led the group in chants and prayers in a Native American tongue”), American Indians in Arizona are “appalled” by the demeaning commercialization of their rites. Somehow I don’t think Ray will ever be invited back on Oprah again, do you?

Speaking of Oprah, that titan of promoting the New Age flavor-of-the-month will be having a rather unexpected guest on her show in November. That’s right, not a dream! Not an imaginary story! Former vice-presidential candidate Sarah “blessed by Muthee” Palin will be on Oprah to promote her new book!

“Oprah Winfrey, on a campaign to climb back from last season’s ratings slump, will attempt to kiss and make up with conservative viewers on Nov. 16 when she has Sarah Palin on her syndicated talk show. You may have noticed that the appearance by the former Alaska governor and Republican vice presidential candidate is happening smack dab in the middle of the November ratings derby. It’s also the day before Palin’s new book, “Going Rogue: An American Life” is scheduled to hit bookstores.”

I guess we’ll finally learn what the world’s most famous New Ager and an infamous politician with deep ties to extremist anti-Pagan forms of Christianity have in common. Maybe they’re both fans of Jenny McCarthy? But seriously folks, I guess this proves that money, fame, and power trump all ideological barriers in the end.

Moving away from Oprah, Palin, and Ray, let’s revisit another story that has been extensively covered on this blog. The legal battles, and subsequent victory, of Santero Jose Merced to practice animal sacrifice in his home. The Dallas Observer checks in with Merced after the legal dust has settled and he’s once more able to perform his rites.

“It’s been nearly three and a half years since he stopped the ritual slaughter of four-legged animals in his home to pursue litigation against the city over his right to do so. With a decision from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in his favor and against the city’s health and safety concerns, Merced, a flight attendant, will resume his full religious practices tonight.”

Merced speaks at length about the struggles with his fellow Santeros/Santeras over issues of secrecy and support, his long battle with neighbors, police, and politicians, and becoming “the face of Santería in North Texas”. It’s engrossing reading, and you should take the time to read the whole thing.

Two years after two Pagans, the Rev. Angie Buchanan, director of Gaia’s Womb, and the Rev. Andras Corban-Arthen, a director of the EarthSpirit Community, were elected to the executive council of the Parliament of the World’s Religions, a third joins them. Priestess, author, and attorney, Phyllis Curott.

“…it is my honor and privilege to announce the newest member of the Board of Trustees for the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions; Pagan Priestess, Author, Attorney, and dear friend — Ms. Phyllis Curott. This makes the third Pagan to join the largest, oldest and one of the most well respected Interfaith organizations in the world; Myself in 2002, Andras Corban-Arthen, in 2006, and now Phyllis. The current Chair, a Lutheran minister, made the statement that he believed “Paganism to be the most misunderstood religion on the planet”.”

In addition, Buchanan and Corban-Arthen are planning to meet with leaders from the Greek Orthodox Church to create a new understanding after the Greek Orthodox walked out of the 1993 Chicago meeting due to the presense of Pagans. Considering the Greek Orthodox view of the Pagans in their own back yard, we’ll see if this brings any success. Buchanan, Corban-Arthen, and Curott are all planning on attending the December Paliament gathering in Melbourne, Australia along with several other Pagan representatives, including Margot Adler, Thorn Coyle, and Patrick McCollum.

In a final note, the East Bay Express spotlights a new documentary “Power Trip: Theatrically Berkeley” by Emio Tomeoni that explores what happens when various forms of spirituality and ideology mix with local politics.

“These and other scenes in Tomeoni’s new documentary Power Trip: Theatrically Berkeley reveal what happens when matters of the body and soul mix with politics. In the film, which will screen at the Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive (2575 Bancroft Way, Berkeley) on Monday, October 26, tree-sitters and other dreamers anguish over pollution, civilization, and human alienation from plant and animal spirits. And their agendas drown each other out.”

Sounds like an excellent study, and I can’t wait to Netflix-it.

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

The oldest and largest interfaith organization in the world, The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions, has elected two leaders from the Pagan community to serve on its executive council. The Rev. Angie Buchanan, director of Gaia’s Womb, and Rev. Andras Corban-Arthen, a director of the EarthSpirit Community.

“Two well-known leaders of the Pagan community were elected to executive positions by the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions (CPWR), in Chicago, Illinois this past weekend … Since its founding, CPWR has sponsored major international interfaith conferences in the USA, Africa, and Europe, and is preparing for the next conference to be held in Melbourne, Australia in 2009. On October 22, 2007, Rev. Angie Buchanan was elected for a three-year term to the Office of Secretary for the Board of Directors of the Parliament and will also serve on the Executive Committee … In addition, Rev. Andras Corban-Arthen, serving as a member of the Parliament’s Board of Trustees since 2006, was also elected to serve on the Executive Committee as a “Member at Large” at the same meeting this past weekend.”

It was at the 1993 Parliament in Chicago (the first in 100 years) that the growing Pagan community “came out” to the larger religious world for the first time*.

“The Pagan presence at the Parliament was historic. The fact that this Parliament included Pagan group sponsors, speakers, and delegates in the first place was noteworthy, since Nature religions were excluded from the first Parliament. At this Parliament, however, there was inclusion, respect, and support. In addition to Wiccans and other Pagans, there were those from a variety of traditional Nature wisdom paths, including Winnebago, Navajo, Hopi, Yoruba, Maya, Santeria, Lakota, Cheyenne, and others. Pagan and Native American participation received widespread positive media attention. Some reporters commented that just as the first Parliament served to introduce Hinduism, Buddhism, and other Eastern religions to the realm of religions in the West, this Parliament served to bring Pagan and Native American spiritualities more fully into the community of the world’s religions.”

Since then modern Pagans have been an active part of Parliament-related interfaith forums and activities. Becoming a valued and respected part of its organizing council. Pagan participants are expected to be a valuable voice in the 2009 Parliament of the World’s Religions, where issues of aboriginal reconciliation, sustainability, and global climate change, will be explored through the lens of indigenous spiritualities.

The fact that modern Pagans have risen to places of leadership in the global interfaith movement in less than fifteen years is extraordinary, and is a credit to our collective movement. One can only hope that this is a positive sign for the future, and that modern Pagan and Heathen organizations from across the world will step up to make their own voices heard in our global community in the coming years.

* The sponsoring Pagan organizations at the 1993 Parliament were Circle Sanctuary (Circle), Covenant of the Goddess (COG), EarthSpirit Community, Fellowship of Isis, and Lyceum of Venus of Healing.