Archives For Anne Hill

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!

Ellen Evert Hopman

Ellen Evert Hopman

Our Freedom: A Pagan Civil Rights Coalition, has released an anti-abuse statement, signed by eight members of the coalition, including Ellen Evert Hopman and Patrick McCollum. Quote: We absolutely condemn the practices of child abuse, sexual abuse, and any other form of abuse that does harm to the bodies, minds or spirits of individuals. We offer prayers, therapy, and support for the healing of the victims of such abuses. In recent years the victimization of children has been brought to light in a manner not seen in the past. Efforts are underway in schools and other youth organizations to teach children and adults to be aware of and respond proactively to violence against others. Examples of victimization have also come to light in religious circles and many victims’ rights groups have emerged to advocate for and support those who were abused as children. We stand strongly against the victimization of children, students, women and men. We call for persons who have witnessed such atrocities to speak up and actively seek to protect the powerless and prevent further abuse.”

10333636_300691860099884_3714864147161992297_oLast year saw the debut of “OCCULT,” an arts-based event/salon held in Salem, Massachusetts and co-founded by Aepril Schaile (you can read our 2013 interview with Schaile here). Now, the event returns in 2014 this September, featuring a number of presenters, performances, and workshops. Quote: “To recognize that, especially together, both Magick and Art are greater than the sum of their parts, and each in dwells the other; they are rooted together. To raise consciousness, challenging false perceptions of separation between these so-imagined opposed sorceries. Though art as entertainment has its place and time, this Esoteric Salon moves us well past materialist commercialism. We recognize the power of Art to create spiritual movement and full expression to the divine Will–dancing, singing, painting, acting, sculpting, filming, poeting the ineffable. We confront the notion that the meaning and content of Art is not as important as its form and materials. With OCCULT, we seek to challenge old beliefs through the juxtaposition of beauty and magick, of art and ritual, blending the ingredients to make an event of highest harmony, a conjunction of non-opposites.”

P2150159-bAdocentyn Research Library, a Pagan-run library located in the San Francisco Bay area, has reached a new milestone. According to Adocentyn board member and co-founder Donald H. Frew, the institution has now catalogued over 6,500 books. Quote: “The Adocentyn Research Library has passed another milestone with over 6,500 books on our shelves and in our online database (6,558 to be precise)! You can see what we have at [their Library Thing page] and use the “tags” to find books of interest. Our goal is to collect, archive, preserve, and make available 1) information on every subject Pagans might study as part of their Paganism, and 2) materials useful for the study of Pagans, our diversity, and our history. (We use “Paganism” in the broadest sense, including indigenous, tribal, polytheistic, Nature-based, and/or Earth-centered religion, spirituality, practice, and culture, around the world and throughout human history.) We are centrally located in San Francisco’s East Bay, easily reachable by public transit, and close to many restaurants and cafes. While our max capacity in this location is about 13,000 books, we’ll be opening once we have our core collection – about another 1,000 books – in place. We look forward to serving the Pagan community!”

In Other Pagan Community News:

  • The Pantheon Foundation’s crowdfunding initiative for The Diotima Prize has crossed the 50% mark in its goal. The prize will “support the educational goals of one Pagan student who is currently in at least their second year at an accredited seminary program.”
  • A crowdfunding campaign is underway to produce a play about Robert Anton Wilson. Quote: “Daisy’s adaptation recounts the period of Bob’s life around the inspiration for, writing of and theatrical culmination of Illuminatus!, a period where he also met iconic countercultural figures like Timothy Leary, Alan Watts and William Burroughs, all of whom feature in the play. The narrative slips in and out of Illuminatus! itself and the production employs song, music, projections and stagecraft to evoke the real-life hallucinogenic trip through conspiracy, paranoia and enlightenment that transformed Bob from a simple Playboy editor into the influential countercultural figure he is today.”
  • Singer-songwriter Sharon Knight has launched a membership support circle called “Ring of Enchantment” that offers exclusive content in exchange for direct fiscal support. Quote: “This insider circle is my experiment in creating a culture of mutual support. Winter and I get some really great gigs. We also need to fill the gaps between those great gigs. This doesn’t always go according to the ideal scenario! In the old music industry, record labels offered tour support to help their artists through rough patches. In the new music industry, this doesn’t exist. The Ring of Enchantment was created to generate tour support for us while bringing inspiration and beauty to you.”
  • PaganSquare is now on Tumblr. Here’s the official announcement. Quote: “Although this may seem a bit sudden, we’ve actually been considering this move for several months, though we’ve only recently gotten all of our ducks in a line. We look forward to becoming a part of the wider Pagan community on Tumblr and hopefully even finding new content of interest to our readers.”

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

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!

AncestorsCoverThe Temple of Witchcraft and Copper Cauldron Publishing have announced the publication of a new anthology title: Ancestors of the Craft: The Lives and Lessons of Our Magickal Elders. First copies of the book were made available at the Temple’s annual Yule ritual, and will soon be made available at Retailers can order copies through Copper Cauldron Publishing. Quote: “Modern pagans are heirs to a rich confluence of traditions from numerous pioneers in the realms of Spirit who have passed beyond the Veil. Ancestors of the Craft honors these ancestors, some widely known, others obscure, but no less deserving. A wide range of authors have contributed looks at important figures and elders in the history of the modern Witchcraft and Neo-pagan movements, some four dozen in all […] Authors include Jimahl di Fiosa (Talk to Me), Storm Faerywolf (The Stars Within the Earth), Elizabeth Guerra (Stewart Farrar: Writer On A Broomstick), Raven Grimassi (The Cauldron of Memory, Old World Witchcraft), Galina Krasskova (Exploring the Northern Tradition), Deborah Lipp (The Elements of Ritual), Shani Oates (Tubelo’s Green Fire), Gede Parma (Spirited), Christopher Penczak (The Temple of Witchcraft, The Mighty Dead), Matthew Sawicki (Witch and Famous), Kala Trobe (The Witch’s Guide to Life), and many more.” Should be an interesting read!

Grey_School_of_Wizardry_-_crestThe Grey School of Wizardry has opened a virtual world campus incorporating the Second Life platform as a part of its online magickal education program. “The implementation of a virtual campus was driven by student feedback and demonstrates our commitment to provide an engaging, inspiring learning environment for the magickally-minded. It provides us with new ways to share our knowledge, and offers a more personal, interactive, and magical setting for our students,” said Stacey Aaran Sherwood, Campus Director at the Grey School of Wizardry. “This new program is supplementary and purely voluntary, and does not in any way alter the web-based system of instruction that our faculty and students are accustomed to using.” Students who elect to enroll in the optional program benefit from real-time interaction with participating teachers and fellow students.  The Grey School of Wizardry is a tax exempt organization, and was founded in 2004 by Oberon Zell, a founder of the Church of All Worlds. You can read the entire press release, here.



I’ve mentioned Stonehenge’s new visitors center a couple times now, looking at what it wants to transmit to visitors of the famous stone circle, and the pushback from some UK Pagans over their decision to display human remains. Now, Pagan musician Corwen Broch has visited the new center, and shares some reflections at his blog. Quote: “I personally am not opposed to the display and retention of human remains providing they are displayed sensitively. In fact I’d go so far as to say I am in favour of the display of human remains as I feel they can be a tangible link to the lives of our ancestors in a way nothing else can. All that said however the remains at Stonehenge are not displayed sensitively. They are in the same cases as antler picks and reconstructed arrows which seems to symbolically reduce them to the status of inanimate objects rather than what was once the remains of a thinking feeling human being. One person’s bones in particular are wired together and displayed upright fixed to a board in a way that made me viscerally uncomfortable. It is extremely saddening to me that English Heritage did not take a middle way with these remains and at least abide by HAD’s best practice guidelines. The current lack of sensitivity seems almost calculated to prolong the controversy and the protestations and plays into the hands of those most opposed to the display of human remains whilst making it difficult for those of us in favour of display to defend English Heritage.” Despite these concerns, Broch says the structure has “vastly improved” from its previous iteration, and has no concerns apart from the manner in which human remains are presented.

In Other Pagan Community News:

The Circle Sanctuary Winter Solstice Pageant

The Circle Sanctuary Winter Solstice Pageant

  • Solstice songs! T. Thorn Coyle has uploaded a new (free) song for the season, called “Invictus (Solstice)” to her Bandcamp page. Quote: “This is once again my Solstice gift to you. It started out a poem, but wanted to simplify into a song. Just me and GarageBand, baby. Pay what you will. All money supports Solar Cross temple and our justice work.” In other Solstice song news, Damh the Bard has a song up for you too!
  • Performer Lyra Hill, daughter of Anne Hill (you may know her through her work with Reclaiming), has been featured in the People 2013 issue of the Chicago Reader. Anne Hill says of her daughter that “Lyra’s exploration of dreams through art challenges me to keep looking for new ways to bring the power of dreams into waking life. I hope she inspires you, too.” 
  • Cherry Hill Seminary is seeking an artist in residence. Quote: “Cherry Hill Seminary, provider of distance education for Pagan ministry, seeks candidates for an Artist in Residence. Candidates working in any medium and who wish to be directly engaged for a period of two years in support of the CHS mission of distance education for leadership, ministry and personal growth in Pagan and other Nature-Based spiritualities may obtain full details or apply at this link.” Compensation? “Visibility,” promotion from CHS, and a quarterly feature in the official newsletter.

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

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than I can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.

The Lia Fáil - Hill of Tara, Ireland.

The Lia Fáil - Hill of Tara, Ireland.

That’s it for now! Feel free to discuss any of these links in the comments, some of these I may expand into longer posts as needed.

Back at the beginning of this year I mentioned a new book by Bron Taylor, a specialist in environmental and social ethics at the University of Florida, called “Dark Green Religion: Nature Spirituality and the Planetary Future”. The book posits that the future of religion may be nature religion, as he pointed out in an interview with Religion Dispatches.

“…traditional religions with their beliefs in non-material divine beings are in decline. The desire for a spiritually meaningful understanding of the cosmos, however, did not wither away, and new forms of spirituality have been filling the cultural niches previously occupied by conventional religions. I argue that the forms I document in Dark Green Religion are much more likely to survive than longstanding religions, which involved beliefs in invisible, non-material beings. This is because most contemporary nature spiritualities are sensory (based on what we perceive with our senses, sometimes enhanced by clever gadgets), and thus sensible. They also tend to promote ecologically adaptive behaviors, which enhances the survival prospects of their carriers, and thus their own long-term survival prospects.”

Author, radio host, and Huffington Post blogger Anne Hill, intrigued by the concepts and themes in the book, recently decided to interview Taylor for her Dream Talk Radio program and podcast.

“I always appreciate a chance to refine my thinking in areas where I have a lot of strong opinions, and the confluence of spirituality, nature, and politics is one such place. Reading Bron Taylor’s excellent new book, Dark Green Religion: Nature Spirituality and the Planetary Future, has given me that chance. I read most of this book while in British Columbia, teaching a group of 90+ people at a Reclaiming camp, the theme of which included “listening to the land, to sense the coming shift.” In spite of my misgivings about the theme, I thoroughly enjoyed the camp and the friends I was teaching with, and in our planning process we had several lively discussions that helped me refine even further my thoughts on the issues raised in Dark Green Religion. As soon as I got back from all that travel I interviewed Bron on Dream Talk Radio, so I pretty much unloaded onto him all the thoughts I’d had throughout the previous week. Whether you have read the book or not, I would love to hear your comments about our discussion, so without further ado here is the podcast.”

What results is an interesting conversation regarding nature, divinity, politics, spirituality, apocalypse thinking, and how different movements and groups have adopted “dark green religion”. You can download the entire interview, here. I encourage you to check out the interview and comment about the program at Anne Hill’s blog. You may also want to check out the Facebook page for Taylor’s book.

Top Story: The company Serpentine Music & Media, founded by author and dream expert Anne Hill back in 1992, has officially ceased its role as distributor of Pagan-created and Pagan-themed music. Originally created as a way to help Starhawk and Reclaiming distribute a collection of songs and chants that Hill had helped produce, it grew into an essential resource boasting a catalog of 350 items at its peak, while establishing the ever-nebulous “pagan music” genre tag. In a letter to customers, Hill describes recent changes in the music industry as a prime motivator for her decision.

“It is no secret that the music industry has been suffering for several years now. During that time, I have changed the business model for Serpentine Music to adjust for reduced sales due to MP3 downloads, pirated music, and other factors. This year, however, sales have dropped yet again, while I have had new and exciting opportunities opening up in different areas.”

Serpentine Music & Media will continue to distribute albums the company had a direct hand in producing, most notably “Circle Round and Sing,” “The Best of Pagan Song,” and “The Music of Gwydion.” The company will also continue on a venue for Hill’s self-published books like “What To Do When Dreams Go Bad: A Practical Guide to Nightmares”. Serpentine is now in the process of liquidating its remaining stock.

As someone with a deep interest in Pagan music, I think it’s safe to say that this shift represents the end of an era. Serpentine was one of the last active (explicitly) Pagan music distributors surviving from the 1990s, and its contributions towards building a modern audience for, and general awareness of, music made by and for modern Pagans can’t be understated. Serpentine was also one of the few distributors that were adventurous enough to dip its toes into goth and non-folk/circle-chant genres at a time when the generational gulf of musical taste within our community seemed pretty vast. Today there are dozens, if not hundreds of Pagan and Pagan-friendly musical artists operating around the globe, many of whom use the Internet to market directly to their fans. While this situation has created a wealth of riches for the adventurous music fan, it hasn’t created a atmosphere where such a specialized niche distribution company could thrive as it once did. I salute Anne Hill for her contributions to Pagan music, and wish her the best on her future endeavors.

Some Scandinavians Not Overly Fond of Wicca: Helsingin Sanomat reports that plans to republish the young-adult “Sweep” series of books by Cate Tiernan in Finland, Sweden, and Norway have been derailed after it was discovered that Wicca plays a central role in the novels.

“Christian Democratic Party MP Leena Rauhala submitted a written question to the government on Friday, stating the view that the books should not be published in Finland. Rauhala mentioned content of the book, including drug use, nudity, smoking, alcohol, and strong language.  The publisher had removed references to tobacco and alcohol, as well as the strongest language from the translation. As for drug use, the publisher said that the books portrayed illegal drugs in a negative light. The Wicca religion proved to be the deciding factor in the matter. “We do not want to promote any individual religion or political ideology in the books that we target toward children”, says the publisher’s CEO Jens Otto Hansen. He said that the publisher was not familiar with Wicca. “I only learned on Monday morning that such a thing as Wicca exists.”  Hansen sees the case as an “industrial accident” for the publisher.”

Interestingly the publisher has no problem promoting Twilight-related events in Sweden, so Mormon vampires are OK, but witches are beyond the pale. Guess a little unwelcome political controversy can make all the difference. Whether tweens and teens in Finland, Sweden, and Norway will someday get to join America, the UK, Belgium, the Netherlands, Australia, Italy and France in following the adventures of “blood witch” Morgan Rowlands remains to be seen.

The (Legal) Poly Marriage Debate Begins In Earnest: Way back in 2006, and then again in 2007, I said that our community would have to seriously confront the reality of Pagan polyamorous families (30% of poly families identify as Pagan according to one survey) coming into the spotlight and eventually seeking legal recognition. Now a case in Canada might be the one to break this issue wide open, and yes, Pagan religion is mentioned.

“Maridas explained all of this [her poly lifestyle] in an affidavit filed Tuesday in B.C. Supreme Court. It was one of six filed by the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association, which is intervening in the case to determine whether the anti-polygamy law is valid. While others — such as Surreybased Wiccan priest Sam Wagar, who also filed an affidavit Tuesday — contend that they have a religious right to practise polygamy, the polyamorists say that for them it’s a matter of freedom of expression. And what they have to say in their affidavits about how they live offers a glimpse of just how far some Canadian families diverge from the tradition of Mom-Dad-kids or the more recent “traditional” families of two Moms or two Dads and kids. And this peek behind normally closed bedroom doors is a hint of what’s to come in November, when Chief Justice Robert Bauman begins hearing the case.”

If polygamy becomes legal in Canada, will we see a repeat of the early steps of the Gay Marriage movement, with groups crossing the border to find some semblance of legal recognition? How will Pagan groups established or operating in Canada react to such a legal reality? Even if this challenge to polygamy laws fails, Pagan groups in Canada and America need to be ready for the culture-war blow-back  and to decide where they stand on the issue. The time where we could just not mention it for the sake of political expediency is quickly fading.

Prison Ministry in Michigan: Crossroads Tabernacle Church, an affiliate of the ATC located in Southeast Michigan, has announced that Founding High Priest Robert Keefer has been appointed to serve on the Michigan Department of Corrections Chaplain’s Advisory Council.  The first time that Wiccan clergy has been appointed to this position in the state.

“For his two-year term,  Robert will meet with clergy from other faiths and lend his expertise in Wiccan spirituality to advise the Department of Corrections on requests made by inmates and staff, work to ensure equal access to materials and worship space as appropriate for all Pagan and other Earth-Based religions, as well as make it possible for other Pagans to volunteer as faith group leaders in Michigan’s correctional facilities.”

This is an important positive breakthrough, and I congratulate Robert Keefer on his appointment. May it lead to similar advances throughout our country, and cast a light on how needed such clergy are in our prisons.

Witch-Child Protectors Launch Their Own Propaganda Campaign: I’ve mentioned before about how Nigerian witch-hunters like Helen Ukpabio have created a media industry with propagandistic “expository”  horror films featuring witchcraft possessed children, while selling non-fiction religious titles like “Unveiling The Mysteries of Witchcraft” that make assertions about the reality of child witches. Now Stepping Stones Nigeria, one of the few groups working to protect children accused of witchcraft, is fighting back. They’ve partnered with acclaimed Nollywood director Teco Benson to create their own film entitled “The Fake Prophet”.

Stepping Stones hopes the film will be a corrective to the spate of Nollywood films that peddle in the myth of child witches, and create a public debate over the prevailing belief that such “witches” exist. The premiere of the film is taking place at the Amnesty International Human Rights Action Centre in London on July 24th. For more information about the event and the film, you can contact Justine Atkinson with Stepping Stones Nigeria. Will fighting propaganda with propaganda work? I suppose we’ll have to see.

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

Top Story: If you’ve been following the legal saga of Wiccan chaplain Patrick McCollum, who is fighting to have California’s discriminatory “five faiths” policy overturned, you’re going to want to listen to Anne Hill’s hour-long radio discussion with McCollum concerning the case.

“Today I sat in for my friend and colleague Peter Laufer on his Sunday morning KOWS radio show, which gave me the opportunity to interview Patrick on the air about his case. If you have not educated yourself about the case and what is at stake, now is your chance to listen to Patrick explain it in his own words.”

If you aren’t already outraged by this case, you may well be after hearing this interview. You can listen via an audio stream at Anne’s site, or download an MP3 of the entire discussion. For my complete coverage of this case, click here.

In Other News:

Starhawk in Milwaukee: OnMilwaukee interviews Pagan activist and author Starhawk on the occasion of her visit for a series of talks and workshops at a local Unitarian Universalist congregation.

“When I talk or give workshops I try to provide a sense of hope or empowerment regarding what can be done on a personal level, so we’re listening and learning how to be an advocate on a larger level. And how to make our voices heard. But most of all, we create ritual and sacred space and hopefully people walk away feeling like they had a lot of fun.”

Starhawk also discusses her new children’s book, and why connecting with the natural world is important. For a regular dose of Starhawk-related content, check out her personal blog, and her ongoing participation as a panelist at the On Faith site.

Entering the “ex” Industry: After mentioning professional “ex” William Schnoebelen (he’s an ex-Wiccan/Satanist/Mason/Mormon/Vampire) in Saturday’s post about vampires, I’ve come across another looking to get into the “ex” business, Kristine McGuire, who’s releasing a new book entitled “Escaping the Cauldron”.

“What would prompt a woman who had been a Christian for twenty-nine years to abandon her faith and embrace the occult; becoming a witch, medium, and ghost hunter for eight years?  Escaping the Cauldron: What You Should Know about the Occult details the personal journey of Kristine McGuire and how God restored her to faith in Jesus Christ. The book also examines the current upswing of interest in the paranormal and its effect on Christians. The first book in the Escaping the Cauldron series, this book will give the reader insight into the occult from the vantage point of a former insider.”

McGuire’s “hook” is that she wasn’t a Wiccan, but was instead a “Christian Witch” and ghost hunter who has now seen the light and is going steady with Jesus. In all honesty, McGuire seems like a nice enough person. She doesn’t tell giant lies about Pagan faiths like Schnoebelen and other “ex” authors do, but she’s yet another person hoping to sell her experience with the occult, and parlay that into speaking engagements and, I assume, a career as a professional “ex”. I do question her assertion that she was an “insider” to our culture, as it seem rather plain from her writings that she stayed on the margins, but perhaps that’s just copy to sell more books. Oh, and her site disables right-clicking and copying text, which is really annoying, and isn’t the protection against copyright infringement some seem to think it is.

James Arthur Ray Update: The New Age guru who led a “spiritual warrior” sweat lodge that ended up killing three people, and who is now in custody after being charged with three counts of manslaughter, claims that he’s broke and can’t pay the $5 million dollar bail.

“Despite misconceptions perpetrated in the media, Mr. Ray is not a man of significant assets and certainly not the millions reported in the press,” his attorneys wrote in documents obtained by The Associated Press from the court. The documents are now officially sealed. Ray himself has touted his wealth and success in numerous media interviews and on his Web site, including an estimated $10 million in revenue in 2009 and a seven-figure advance for his book, “Harmonic Wealth” that hit the New York Times Best Sellers List in May 2008.

The article points out that Ray’s company “James Ray International” is not listed as an asset, and it’s very likely he could be using the business as a shield for the sizable wealth he claims to have amassed (and now claims doesn’t exist) over the years. Whether a judge buys the “poor Ray” argument and lowers his bail remains to be seen.

Bible Study: In a final note, Kentucky is moving to join Texas and Tennessee in establishing guidelines for elective Bible literacy courses in public schools. While supporters of the new guidelines say it would teach the Bible as a “historical document”, and would not proselytize, comments from sponsoring lawmakers paint an entirely different scenario.

“Sen. Elizabeth Tori, R-Radcliff, told co-sponsors Boswell and Sen. Julian Carroll, D-Frankfort, that “an angel was sent down on your shoulders” prompting “you to put this bill together.” “I‘ve said for many years that until we put God back into our households, things in society will not change for the better,” Tori said. “Your bill is the first step to that change.” The measure passed 12-0, but comments by the bill’s co-sponsor, and other senators prompted concern from a few committee members.”

Personally, they can have their elective “Bible literacy” courses so long as they also institute an elective “Classics literacy” course that would teach kids about Homer, Plato, Socrates, Greek history, and other enriching topics. These would be taught as “historical texts” naturally, and I doubt it would lead kids to become polytheists, or major in philosophy. In fact, didn’t restoring the classics to the curriculum used to be a conservative action item? I guess that was before Bible fever hit the movement.

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

Oh good, I hoped the title would get your attention. Above all, I do not want Jason’s blog traffic to suffer while he goes gallivanting and leaves some of us less disciplined bloggers to mind his site. I mean really, writing a post every day on important Pagan issues? Relevant, researched, and heavily linked? Frankly, he puts the rest of us to shame, and I for one am glad to pitch in to give Jason a much-needed break.

My topic today was brought on in part by an incident that happened to me last Fall, when I was dropping off my teenage daughter at another Pagan household. Exiting their house through the garage, I came upon—literally almost bumped into—an enormous…sculpture I guess is the word.

It was a three-dimensional thing, its heavy wire frame mounted to a base and standing about eight feet tall. The frame was maybe three feet in diameter around the middle, narrowing to a point at the top and bottom, and was wrapped in deep magenta crushed velvet.

I was looking at it from the back, and even from that angle I started to have a bad feeling about it. Slowly I circled to the front of the structure, fearing the worst. Sure enough, the front had a long vertical slit down the middle, almost from top to bottom but not quite, and it was lined in purple velveteen and bordered with a purple feather boa. Yes, that’s right, a purple feather boa. At the top of the slit was a white flower made of fabric petals, decorated with rhinestones or beads or something—I seem to have blocked out the details.

I stared at it as the realization sank in: I have just dropped off my daughter at a house with a giant plush vagina in the garage. What possible explanation could there be for its presence here? Was it a prop for a Code Pink action? Perhaps a piece of scenery from a play—The Little Shop of Horrors (Feed me! Feed me!), or a remake of The Velveteen Rabbit?

But I knew it was none of these things. It was, I am fairly certain, made for some ritual Goddessy-womanly-sacredy-sexuality altar. And as surely as I knew that its presence was embarrassing for the teenagers who lived here and visited, I also knew that any critical mention of it would lead to the accusation that I was not “sex-positive.

Needless to say, since this incident I have thought long and hard (ahem) about Pagans and sexuality. I have good friends who teach sacred sexuality and personal boundary work, and help women and men recovering from incest and abuse. Over the years I have advocated for children of all ages, as a mandated reporter in the schools, as parent, relative, neighbor, and concerned adult friend. I get how damaging it is to have one’s sexuality stigmatized or invaded at any stage of life, and I have seen how Pagan culture, with its welcoming and accepting attitudes toward sexuality in all its forms, has been a source of healing for so many.

Against the backdrop of mainstream society, sex-positive activism continues to play an important role in getting accurate birth control, safe sex, and STD information to youth, removing the scourge of sexual and gender oppression, and helping people accept themselves and lead fuller, more joyful lives. Pagans have taken this mandate and re-framed it as part of our spiritual birthright: to join with Nature in ecstatic union, to increase our capacity for pleasure through the body, and to use the energy of eros to power our desires in all the worlds.

What’s not to love? Yet there is a disturbing side to it, too. For many years I didn’t question the ubiquitous “sex-positive” workshops in the Pagan community, and merely rolled my eyes at some of the stories I heard from participants. Of course, I never went to any of them; they just weren’t my thing. Having spent all of my twenties and the better part of my thirties coming to terms with sexuality, childbirth, intimacy, relationships and all the rest, I felt like it was time to move on to other matters. Besides, it was my policy to never attend anything where I had to use words like “lingam,” or pull a Meg Ryan in a group of any size.

Over the years, though, I have gone from shrugging my shoulders and thinking “not my thing,” to being genuinely concerned about what goes on in the name of some “sex-positive” and “sacred sexuality” work. I know many people who have been hit on, manipulated, and used by workshop leaders. Some Pagans who do this work seem to claim “sex-positive” as an excuse for having really bad boundaries—ironically, while supposedly helping others create healthy boundaries. And such an edgy field naturally attracts narcissists, who are more interested in pushing limits than encouraging authentic sexual expression—and yes, there is a difference.

After my close encounter with the Velveteen Vagina, in fact, I started thinking that it might not have anything to do with positive sexuality at all. And if thinking that made me un-sex-positive, what did that even mean? Had the Pagan sex-positive movement devolved into a freedom of speech test for exhibitionists? In that case, what we were doing was not revolutionary at all; it was reality television.

Paganism, for all its easy entry and near-universal acceptance of difference, is riddled with minefields if you scratch below the surface. For instance, we value self-empowerment and individualism, yet we loathe leadership, which is a natural outcome of being empowered. Diversity itself becomes a trap when, in upholding the principles of relativism, we are unable to set basic standards of accountability.

By equating sexuality with liberation, we create a rhetorical climate where any reasonable questioning of sexual behavior can be characterized as a campaign of oppression. As far as I can tell, this is where the discussion of sexuality and Paganism is currently stuck.

Yet in order to progress as a New Religious Movement or whatever the heck we are, we must resolve these questions in some way. If everybody’s mileage varies, how are we to determine whether Workshop Leader A is a power-hungry predator or a brilliant, unorthodox teacher? If Pagans as a rule don’t trust leaders, are we fated then to end up with leaders who are fundamentally untrustworthy?

The ecologist James Gould writes about striking a balance between “the unprofitable extremes of blinding skepticism and crippling romanticism.” I have travelled quite far from the romanticism of my first encounters with Paganism, and obviously I am skeptical of much of the rhetoric around “sacred sexuality.” But after so long in the mosh pit of relativism, I am comfortable erring on the side of skepticism—without the blindness—for a while.

What I most long to see is a thoughtful discussion of these issues that isn’t ended by setting into motion Brock’s Law. Sex is sacred. It can be em
powering, liberating, ecstatic, life-changing. It can be sweet rain in a time of drought, a spark of fire that lights up the world. But even great sex does not change the world, trust me. There is still plenty of work to be done once we rise from between the sheets.

—Guest posted by Anne Hill of the Gnosis Café blog

Welcome to the last week of May! Due to vacation-oriented circumstances beyond my control, I will be unable to perform my regular blogging duties here at The Wild Hunt. However, just because I’m off to run and play doesn’t mean I’ll be depriving you of your daily fix of great Pagan-oriented content. I have somehow managed to assemble an all-star line-up of guest posters for while I’m away. Allow me to introduce you…

May 26th – Cat Chapin-Bishop

Wiccan since the late ’80s, Cat Chapin-Bishop has also been Quaker since 2001. Cat’s essays have appeared in Laura Wildman’s “Celebrating the Pagan Soul”, “The Pomegranate: The Journal of Pagan Studies”, the Covenant of the Goddess newsletter, and “Enchante: The Journal for the Urbane Pagan”. In addition to her work as a Wiccan HPs, Cat is the former Chair of Cherry Hill Seminary’s Pastoral Counseling Department, and she currently serves on the Ministry and Worship Committee of Mt. Toby Quaker meeting.

Cat and her husband maintain Quaker Pagan Reflections, a blog dedicated to exploring the connections between Pagan spirituality and Quaker practice. They reside in Northampton, Massachusetts, where they attempt to live peacefully in the midst of chaos.

May 27th – Anne Hill

A skilled facilitator, author and teacher, Anne is on the faculty of Cherry Hill Seminary, hosts a weekly dream radio show, and writes an award-winning blog on dreams and spirituality. In addition to speaking at businesses and organizations, she has a private dream practice and is currently writing a book on dreams.

May 28th – T. Thorn Coyle

T. Thorn Coyle is a magic worker, mystic, musician, and author of “Evolutionary Witchcraft” and the forthcoming “Kissing the Limitless.” She teaches internationally. Her blog can be found at or

May 29th – M. Macha NightMare

M. Macha NightMare, Priestess & Witch, is an author, teacher and ritualist, with a penchant for collaboration. She is an initiate of two traditions of Witchcraft: Reclaiming and Faery/Feri, Reclaiming’s root tradition. Macha has authored, co-created, or contributed to, several books. Most notably “The Pagan Book of Living and Dying” (with Starhawk and Reclaiming), and “Witchcraft and the Web”. In addition, she currently chairs the Public Ministry Department at Cherry Hill Seminary, and serves on the Board of Directors at the Foundation for the Advancement of Women in Religion.

For a full biography, click here.

May 30th – Chas S. Clifton

Chas S. Clifton has been blogging since 2003, when he converted his Pagan magazine column, “Letter from Hardscrabble Creek,” into a blog. A widely published Pagan writer, he is the author of “Her Hidden Children: The Rise of Wicca and Paganism in America”. He also edits “The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies”

May 31st – Deborah Oak

Deborah Oak is a psychotherapist, artist, gardener, aromancer, mother and earth-worshiping Pagan. She writes the popular Pagan blog Branches Up, Roots Down, maintains the Temple of Elvis, and teaches at Reclaiming Witchcamps all over the world. Oak was also featured, along with Thorn and Anne Hill, in the RE/Search Publications book “Modern Pagans”.

I hope you will enjoy their contributions to The Wild Hunt, and check out their respective blogs and published works. My deepest appreciation goes out to all of them for stepping in for me. I will return on June 1st with my usual daily dose of news, commentary, and links.

There has been a conservative news field-day over a themed protest held by anti-war activist group Code Pink in Berkeley last Friday. The theme? Witchcraft against the war.

“In a call to activists on the Web, the antiwar group appealed to “witches, crones and sirens” to come to the center to “cast spells, weave magic, invoke the foremothers, share wisdom, lead rituals to banish war and violence and bring peace” … Fox News cameras, which were there to capture the showdown between the Code Pink’s theatrical coven and counterprotesters from the pro-military group Move America Forward, which had vowed to stage a “witch hunt” in response to Code Pink’s eye-of-newt action.”

Some Pagans, most notably Chas Clifton and Anne Hill, took exception to activists appropriating Pagan religion to create a spectacle so they can get more media coverage.

“…they pick the stereotype green-faced Halloween witch instead. They parody our religion for their futile cause. Somehow I don’t feel the compliment. One ex-military Pagan wrote to conservative columnist Michelle Malkin to say he was embarrassed by Code Pink too. And that is the thing about today’s Pagans: for every lefty pacifist there is one (or probably more) military Pagan.”

Which comes to the point that modern Paganism is a religious movement, not a political one. There is no idealogical entrance exam to be a polytheist (or pantheist, or duotheist). Diversity of thought is a hallmark of Pagan existence, and attempts to politicize our movement, for whatever end, are ultimately doomed to failure and marginalization. Code Pink sought to make media waves by sensationalizing Pagan practice, but may have created a magic not of their choosing.

“Ironically, it’s actually helped us by putting our name out. We’re now well known. And people know who we are, and where we are, and they come in to talk to us about enlisting. They’ve gotten us the publicity that we could’ve never afforded to pay for ourselves,” Wheatcroft told “Just in the last three weeks, 10 people came in looking to apply, looking to become Marine officers, and that’s much higher than normal,” he said.”

Meanwhile, the Pagan community in Berkeley held their annual Pagan Festival and Parade. An event that didn’t ignite the newswires, but was possibly more accurate in portraying our shared goals and values.

“People from all walks of life joined in the fun Saturday at the 7th Annual Pagan Festival and Parade. It was a showing of acceptance and celebration across all ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientations and faith traditions at the Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park. The event, organized by the Pagan Alliance, brought out a large crowd under this year’s theme, “We are Change.” The mission of the Pagan Alliance is to promote acceptance of faith and to work for justice. The aim of the event was to foster change, connect communities and promote spiritual diversity. Organizers said they also wanted to dispel common misconceptions that paganism is about devil worship.”

Not to sermonize, but modern Pagan faiths embrace both the pacifist and the soldier (not to mention all the people between those two poles). Our diversity and commitment to a personal connection to the gods makes any attempt to codify a single and universal “Pagan politics” frustrating at best, and dangerously fractious at worst. Media feeding-frenzies like this may help Code Pink in the short-term, but can possibly damage outreach and dialog efforts by modern Pagans in the longer term. As Pagan faiths head into the future, we will have to find a way to avoid polarizing our movement into “right” and “left” camps, and maintain the common ground needed to advance rights and privileges for us all.