Archives For Blogosphere

Happy Monday! It’s a bit of a slow news day, must be a festival-season thing, so let’s check out some of the great content available here at the Patheos Pagan portal.

Herne the Hunter. Illustration by Alan E. Cober (1973).

Herne the Hunter. Illustration by Alan E. Cober (1973).

  • At his new Patheos blog Raise the Horns, Jason Mankey wonders how the Celtic god Cernunnos became the dominant Horned God figure within modern Wicca and related Pagan faiths, when it was Pan who enjoyed tremendous popularity in the poetic and artistic fore-bearers to Wicca. Quote: “However, while Pan is the proto-type for our modern image of the Horned God, another god, the Celtic Cernunnos, has superseded him. If you look at most modern images of the Horned God, he tends to look far more Cernunnosy than Pan-like. It’s more likely the Horned God will be sporting antlers than goat horns. His face tends to be more “man-like” and less goat influenced, and he usually has human legs instead of goaty ones.” Check out the responses, they’re top-notch! [For the record, I'm team Herne the Hunter.]
  • Sarah Whedon, founding editor of the Pagan Families site, who recently released a new ebook through Patheos Press entitled “Birth on the Labyrinth Path: Sacred Embodiment in the Childbearing Year,” shares why she wrote the book. Quote: “I was nevertheless newly saddened when, during my pregnancy with my first child, I searched and searched for a book that would offer Pagan guidance on this huge life transition, and found nothing. My bookshelves reveal my hopeless bibliophilia. I had books about fertility awareness, pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, the postpartum period, and midwifery. A few of them are especially Pagan friendly, but none of them is really Pagan.”
  • Patheos columnist P. Sufenas Virius Lupus lets you know that he’s your worst nightmare! Quote: “As someone who is a “full-blown Pagan” in every respect—not godless by any stretch of the imagination, but “gods-ful” to an extent most monotheists couldn’t even fathom—as well as having a practice based in devotion to Antinous, a god who received a great deal of censure from the early Christian fathers not only because it was “idolatrous” in their opinion but because he was a deified mortal who was once the lover of the Emperor Hadrian, and as someone who is a “full-blown queer” as well in terms of sexual orientation and gender identity, I look at myself in the mirror and I realize that even at my lowest, I epitomize the fears of many of these people who use such scare-tactics to suggest that legal approval of same-sex marriage is wrong.”
  • Meanwhile, fellow Patheos columnist Gus diZerega provides a different candidate for worst nightmare: The New Apostolic Reformation. Quote: “Christian dominionists seeking to impose theocratic rule on others are powerful beyond their numbers, and Pagans should keep a sharp eye on them. Their power comes from two factors:  First, they manipulate our system to influence high levels of government.  Second, and more importantly, they take advantage of a flaw that I hope will not be fatal to how American elections are conducted.” I’ve written a ton about these guys, and they are indeed pretty scary.
  • At his Including Paganism blog, Aidan Kelly reminds us that all religions start out as new religions. Quote: “All religions have at least one foundational myth as well as an actual history. The myth is not historically true, but instead transmits some of the spiritual values on which the religion is based. The history is true in fact, but, as history, cannot convey values.” Kelly’s recent post on why Wicca is a major world religion is also worth checking out.

There’s obviously much, much, more to be found here, but I’ll leave you with those selections. For even more Pagan blogging goodness, check out recent posts from the Pagan Newswire Collective blogs, and the PaganSquare blogs at the Witches & Pagans site (now with added Byron Ballard and Hecate Demeter). Have a great day!

It’s no secret for those who’ve been paying attention that traditional media outlets (ie newspapers) have been cutting back on their coverage of religion. This was confirmed by a Pew Forum study that analyzed news coverage of religion for 2009 and found that new media (blogs, web sites, podcasts, etc) were taking up the slack, and becoming the primary outlet for religion news, debate, and discussion.

In 2009, religion attracted significantly more attention in new media sources than in the mainstream media.in a sample drawn from millions of blogs and social media finds that religion was a top story in nearly a quarter of the weeks studied (11 out of 45 weeks) … The blogosphere and other social media tools have grown over the past few years. According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 51% of internet users post online content that they have created themselves. Eleven percent of all adults use blogs. The use of Twitter has tripled since 2008. At the same time, the number of reporters assigned to the religion beat in the mainstream media has been shrinking. According to Debra Mason, executive director of the Religion Newswriters Association, at least 16 major print news outlets have reduced or abandoned their religion beats since 2007. At the same time, she says, online newspapers such as The Huffington Post and Politics Daily have increased their religion staff. “We’re in the midst of growth of the [religion] beat online,” Mason says, “but newspapers haven’t kept up with the trend and have instead let religion coverage languish.”

This year we’ve already seen the launch of the Huffington Post’s religion section, joining sites like BeliefnetPatheos, Religion Dispatches, and the Newsweek/Washington Post-supported On Faith in expanding religious coverage on the Internet. Now they are joined by CNN who has just launched their Belief Blog a few days ago.

“The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day’s biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers’ lives. It’s edited by CNN’s Dan Gilgoff and Eric Marrapodi, with daily contributions from CNN’s worldwide newsgathering team and frequent posts from religion scholar and author Stephen Prothero.”

With CNN joining the fray, I wouldn’t be surprised to see more mainstream news outlets (MSNBC, Fox) launching their own religion sections online. This is an encouraging trend, the more religion coverage, the better, in my mind. What is in question is how diverse will their coverage be? In other words, will they cover minority religions and modern Paganism beyond mere tokenism? So far it’s been hit-or-miss with Internet religion sections. It took Beliefnet years to give Pagans a consistent voice on their web site by finally recruiting Gus diZerega to blog for them, and the HuffPo Religion section hasn’t really recruited any consistent Pagan columnists at this point, relying on religion-tagged Pagan contributions from other sections. So far Patheos has been the most Pagan-friendly with a dedicated Pagan portal helmed by a Pagan and filled with Pagan content.

But it isn’t so much that I’m demanding sites hire Pagans or develop Pagan sections per se, only that minority faiths get the attention they deserve when a story breaks concerning them. In this sense Religion Dispatches has excelled, giving us academic and knowledgeable commentary on issues most news sources skim over. Their coverage of Vodou in the wake of the Haitian earthquake is to be commended, and I can hope more dedicated religion sites follow their lead. After all, on the Internet you have limitless space, and few time constraints, so there’s no reason to shy away from in-depth reporting or insight. Here’s hoping CNN makes the most of their new section, and really gives it the attention it deserves. As for Pagans we need to continue doing it for ourselves, so we can continue to participate and influence the conversations over faith on the Internet and in the news.

Let’s check in on what’s happening around the Pagan blogosphere!

The Fate of Fate: Chas Clifton at Letter From Hardscrabble Creek comments on the grim prospects of the classic metaphysical/Fortean magazine Fate. Once owned by Llewellyn Worldwide, and then sold to former employee, the magazine has gone from being a monthly, to bi-monthy, and now, it seems, PDF download only.

“The magazine death pool is so close you can smell the fetid waters. Fate’s blog keeps putting up new entries, but discussion of the magazine’s own fate is oddly missing. The economics must be rough. Perhaps this is a case of flat advertising revenues versus rising printing and mailing costs. PDF files are not the answer, and a Web version of the magazine would have to be re-thought from the ground up.”

I first commented on Fate’s fate back in 2008, and didn’t find much cause for optimism. The new, younger, audience they were hoping to attract hasn’t seemed to materialize, and very few magazines return from Internet-only to print. This just isn’t a good time for niche magazines, and I agree with Chas that PDF files aren’t the answer. It remains to be seen if a new web-only version of Fate can blossom before the whole enterprise goes under.

A Pagan Looks at Rand Paul’s Libertarianism: Beliefnet Pagan blogger and political scientist Gus diZerega gives a Pagan perspective of libertarianism, civil rights, and Rand Paul’s Senate candidacy in Kentucky.

“In all honesty I think it is even harder to be a hard-core libertarian Pagan than a libertarian in general, though I have known some and they were often nice people.  In Paganism as I understand it and have experienced it the non-human world is also sentient and alive to a degree denied by mainstream society.  This means that issues of appropriate and inappropriate relationships penetrate even more deeply into our interactions with the world than they do for the average Christian or secularist.  For Pagans issues of appropriate relationship include plants, animals, and for some, myself included, the earth itself.  The libertarian assumption that my property is what I own and control appears as morally immature and even childish.”

As for Rand Paul, this week, despite his primary victory in Kentucky, has been very bad for him. Meanwhile, many have been questioning if Paul really is a libertarian considering some of his political stances, and arguing over where he is or isn’t a racist. Not exactly the narrative a recent primary winner wants swirling around him going into an election.

Paganism, Feminism, and Abortion: Over at the On Faith site, they toss out the question to their panelists of whether you can be feminist and oppose all forms of abortion, or a religious person and support some forms of it. You just knew that author and Pagan panelist Starhawk would have something to say on the subject.

“I don’t accept that frame. The core issue, for me for the pro-choice movement, is this: Who gets to decide what goes on inside a woman’s body? My answer as a feminist is: The woman herself must have the right to make that decision, to wrestle with her own conscious, to encounter for herself those great issues of life and death that all of us must face in this mortal world. Those decisions are never cut and dried, and no one makes choices in a vacuum. The opinions of others, of partners and doctors and friends and respected mentors of faith all come into play. So do the rights of others. But ultimately, the right to self determination begins with the right to make basic decisions about one’s physical self.”

I too reject the frame that On Faith worded their question to panelists, as it removes the pregnant woman’s agency from the center of the issue, and instead, once again, turns the issue into a political football. You can read my own views, and the views of other Pagans regarding abortion, here, and here.

A Pagan Perspective on the Stolen (Secular) Cross Memorial: Over at the Patheos Pagan portal Cara Schulz (who also blogs at Pagan+Politics) shares the history behind the now-controversial Mojave WWI Christian cross memorial, and criticizes those within the Pagan community who have lauded or defended its recent vandalism.

“Chances are, no one in our community was responsible for this criminal act of theft. We didn’t do this. But what some in our community are doing is celebrating the desecration of the memorial. They are joyful it happened and supportive of the person(s) who did it. Justifying the act with claims of how it was a laudable example of civil disobedience. No. Civil disobedience is done in the light of day by brave and principled persons willing to take responsibility for their actions. If you want a Hellenic example of civil disobedience, read up on the life of Socrates. His crime was to make the youth of Athens think for themselves and his punishment, which he did nothing to avoid, was death. If you want a celebrated American example, read up on the life of Rosa Parks. Her crime was to sit in a seat reserved for whites, her punishment was being arrested and fined. The criminal(s) who stole the WWI Memorial was no Socrates or Rosa parks.”

You can read my full coverage of the Mojave cross memorial saga, here. Be sure to also check out the ever-expanding amount of Pagan content at the Patheos Pagan portal, including recent interviews with Erynn Rowan Laurie, Lon Milo DuQuette, and yours truly.

A Quick Look at the PNC Blog Family: Finally, I want to remind everyone of the great content that is coming from the Pagan Newswire Collective’s blog family. Pagan+Politics, Warriors & Kin, and The Juggler. Over at Pagan+Poltics you can read about food criminals, the political nomination process, the importance of voting, and the right to openly carry a firearm. At The Juggler they’ve covered Paganism “coming out” on television, Wicca in the movies, the new Robin Hood film, and mixing art with ritual. Lastly, at Warriors & Kin they’ve explored homecomings, digging up details regarding OPSEC rules, invocations in the military, and an in-depth review of War and the Soul: Healing Our Nation’s Veterans from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder”.

Tick postulates the problem of PTSD as a failed warrior initiation. This failure is not entirely the fault of the veteran but, he says, of society as a whole. It is the fault of the technological changes in warfare that have stripped war of its mythologized meanings and resonances. In treating PTSD as the potential result of a warrior initiation, he specifically positions it as the result of a male adulthood rite gone wrong. Of course, this framing ignores women’s service entirely. In framing PTSD as a “failure” he, perhaps inadvertently, places blame on men and women who are already struggling with issues of responsibility, reintegration, and physical and emotional traumas.

I hope you’ll check out all three blogs, subscribe to their feeds, follow them on Twitter, or “like” them on Facebook.

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

The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism and The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life have released a study that analyzes news coverage of religion for 2009. The take-home message? Mainstream media coverage of religion continues to shrink (0.8% of the news, as opposed to 1% last year), and new media (blogs, web sites, podcasts, etc) is taking up the slack, and becoming the primary outlet for religion news, debate, and discussion.

In 2009, religion attracted significantly more attention in new media sources than in the mainstream media.in a sample drawn from millions of blogs and social media finds that religion was a top story in nearly a quarter of the weeks studied (11 out of 45 weeks) … The blogosphere and other social media tools have grown over the past few years. According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 51% of internet users post online content that they have created themselves. Eleven percent of all adults use blogs. The use of Twitter has tripled since 2008. At the same time, the number of reporters assigned to the religion beat in the mainstream media has been shrinking. According to Debra Mason, executive director of the Religion Newswriters Association, at least 16 major print news outlets have reduced or abandoned their religion beats since 2007. At the same time, she says, online newspapers such as The Huffington Post and Politics Daily have increased their religion staff. “We’re in the midst of growth of the [religion] beat online,” Mason says, “but newspapers haven’t kept up with the trend and have instead let religion coverage languish.” An analysis of nearly a year’s worth of commentary

Not only is new media now dominating in coverage of religious news, we’re more diverse as well. While MSM religion coverage, when it happened, was primarily focused on Pope Benedict or religious angles to developments within the Obama Administration, new media religion stories “were broad in scope”, and wildly successful in engaging their audience.

Another interesting tidbit I found is that while new media sources continue to rely heavily on mainstream media as a jumping-off point for opinion and analysis, a growing number of bloggers are creating their own content.

“The blogosphere and other social media tools have grown over the past few years. According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 51% of internet users post online content that they have created themselves. Eleven percent of all adults use blogs. The use of Twitter has tripled since 2008.”

As this shift to new media continues, you’ll continue to see the professionalization of the religious blogosphere. If you take a quick look at the Social Science Research Council‘s study “The New Landscape of the Religion Blogosphere”, you’ll see that a good number of the leading blogs and web sites driving religion coverage on the web are either run by journalism professionals, are extensions of non-profits, or are part of for-profit ventures (even The Wild Hunt is attempting to evolve into an NPR donation-supported model).

There’s a reason why The Huffington Post has dived into religion coverage, the public is hungry for news and analysis on this large and unwieldy subject, and the mainstream media doesn’t seem to have the inclination or resources to do the job properly. In the future, the “big” religious stories will be reported on the Internet first, and “trickle up” to cable news and newspapers. So it makes sense that we’ll see more new media start-ups, like HuffPost and Patheos.com who want to be a part of driving that discussion. For minority faiths (and minority groups in general), it’ll be more important than ever to have a strong Internet news-making and reporting presence. Without one, we’ll have little to no say in how news about our communities gets reported, and groups that have no desire to participate in a link-based economy will find themselves increasingly marginalized.

The Social Science Research Council has released a study titled “The New Landscape of the Religion Blogosphere.” A snapshot of some of the most influential religion blogs, its primary goal seems to be getting the religion-blog “A-List” to communicate and collaborate with one-another.

“The purpose at hand is to foster a more self-reflective, collaborative, and mutually-aware religion blogosphere. Ideally, this report will spark discussion among religion bloggers that will take their work further, while also inviting new voices from outside existing networks to join in and take part.”

Yes, The Wild Hunt is included in the study as “leading” blog on modern Paganism, I’m one of the few minority faith blogs included (along with a smattering of Buddhist and Humanist/atheist sites). It’s certainly flattering to be included, and I hope my inclusion will open some new eyes to the existence of a thriving Pagan blogging and podcasting community. Particularly to academics and the religion sites that are primarily journalism-oriented, as I feel our perspectives can often be overlooked on issues that concern us. Beyond that? I’m certainly willing to enter into discourse with the largely monotheist-dominated religious blogosphere, but I fear direct collaboration will be somewhat limited (on both sides) due to some sticky theological differences. In any case, it’s very nice to see religion blogs get some attention, and I urge folks to download the entire report.

For the three or four of you who don’t read Boing Boing, that compendium of wonderful things is currently in the midst of hosting guest-blogger Mitch Horowitz author of “Occult America: The Secret History of How Mysticism Shaped Our Nation” (which I mentioned recently here). So far he’s blogged about what the occult is exactly, classic esoteric texts, the American spirit, and the popularity of Saint Expedite.

“One of the most interesting aspects of folk religion in America is the enduring figure of Saint Expedite … Simply put, Saint Expedite is the patron of those who need help in a hurry: with jobs, relationships, money, etc. In Brazil, he is the venerated helper of people looking for work; in America, so says Wired magazine, he is the “patron saint of the nerds,” i.e., a figure who can help untangle internet connections and the keep communications networks flowing; to church authorities he is merely an icon of “popular religiosity” who never historically existed.”

While this certainly isn’t Boing Boing’s first foray into all things occult, it does seem to be the first time they’ve approached the topic in such a enthusiastic and sympathetic manner, so kudos to them. To keep track of Horowitz’s posts, you can follow Boing Boing’s guest-blogger tag. As for Mitch Horowitz himself, he’s been just about everywhere promoting his new book, from The Washington Post to NPR. I guess releasing your book about America’s occult roots right around the same time a mega-popular fiction writer is tackling some of the same subjects does pay off.

Yesterday’s post concerning the state of the Pagan press and Pagan periodicals has generated some interesting commentary on the continued survival of print publications and the future of Pagan news. Many seem to have accepted that the Internet is where you go to get up-to-date information concerning the Pagan community. Baruch Dreamstalker admits that he “long ago gave up dead-tree media as a source of “hot” Pagan news”, while Erynn Rowan Laurie opines that “Print can never hope to keep up with developing stories”. Interestingly, but perhaps not surprisingly, one of the strongest voices concerning the future (or lack of future) of print media comes from professional journalist Victoria Slind-Flor.

“I guess my question is why Pagan print media should escape the fate of the rest of print media? Bottom line, as I see it, is that we’re three-quarters of the way through a major technological revolution in journalism and print is not a media that will survive … We Pagans are smart savvy users (and, in many cases, creators) of the Web. We know and love the immediacy of Web communication. And I doubt very much we’ll ever embrace any form of print journalism again. Why get our Pagan information at the speed of post-office delivery when we depend on all our other information sources at warp speed?  Over the years I’ve contributed pieces to most of the Pagan print publications. And I have to say they largely share the same faults: they were/are produced on a shoestring, are indifferently edited, come in unattractive formats, and are published on irregular schedules at best. So why would anyone expect them to survive?  I wish them all well, but I am not sanguine about their prospects of survival. On the other hand, I’m immensely impressed with what Pagans are doing in Cyberspace.”

It wasn’t all bad news for Pagan publishing, Michael Night Sky argued that we should “support what printed zines do, serve the greater Pagan Community.” Night Sky also stated that he couldn’t imagine a would “without printed pagan magazines”. Finally, Jordan Stratford praises the PanGaia/newWitch merger, and agrees that “the “Abraxas” lit-mag style is the way to go – semi-annual publications of meatier articles, professionally edited, and landing in the $15 – $20 range”. Have something to add? Why not join the conversation?

Turning our attention outward, let’s look at some recent developments in the Pagan blogosphere and beyond. First, Chas Clifton announces that fellow Pomegranate editor Michael Strmiska has started a new blog entitled The Political Pagan. There is already a facinating post up about Nazism, Paganism, and Christianity, so be sure and add him to your blogrolls and feed-readers. Speaking of Nazis, over at Beliefnet, Pagan blogger Gus diZerega has a two-part essay exploring a Pagan perspective of fascism.

“People who don’t know much history, or are blinded by their ideological preconceptions, have often argued that Pagan religion has a tendency towards devolving into Fascism. I’ve encountered such stuff over the years, and had a debate with Peter Staudenmaier in the journal Pomegranate on this issue with special reference to environmentalism.”

Moving on from fascism and Nazis into the (slightly) less controversial topics of polyamory and Woodstock, we find the Get Religion blog covering both. First E.E. Evans wonders why recent high-profile coverage of polyamorous relationships have left out the religion angle, specifically the religions that are (generally) more welcoming to polyamorous families.

“While this particular triad is not, polys are also engaged in religious communities. Among them are Unitarian Universalists, pagans and those who represent other faiths. There’s no discussion of the religious connections here. But does the existence of approximately half a million polyamorous families mean that “traditionalists better get used to it?” That’s at least debatable. It’s also snarky, distracting readers from taking the piece seriously.”

This blog has tacked the, sometimes tense, issue of polyamory within modern Paganism in the past, and you can expect that conversation to continue as polyamory (and its intersections with modern Paganism) continue to gain mainstream attention. Meanwhile, Terry Mattingly explores the recent journalistic love-fest over Woodstock’s 40th anniversary, and how that pivitol festival changed religion in America.

“Now, on the religion side of the equation, you knew that someone was gonna connect the dots — Joan Baez and “Amazing Grace” right on over to Ravi Shankar — and make the argument that Woodstock is, in many ways, the tipping point that turned religion into spirituality for the Baby Boomer generation and, thus, for America. We’re talking sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll and do-it-yourself visions (often a combination of the previous three ingredients).”

The 1960s certainly did see modern Paganism, specifically British Witchcraft and various home-grown faiths, take root. But was Woodstock the “tipping point”, or simply the last gasp of the free-love/anti-war hippie era as it morphed into back-to-the-land movements, identity politics, and more mainstream/populist political endeavors? Woodstock may continue to reverberate through Protestantism, but in my mind the 1970s were far more influential a decade on the development of today’s religious diversity.

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

I just wanted to quickly note that fellow Pagan blogger (and published author) Dianne Sylvan has an editorial up at the Guardian’s “Comment is Free” section.

“I have been a Neo-Pagan since I was 16 years old. I’ve written pretty extensively about my religion both online and in print, and have taught classes on the subject. Yet when people ask me what, exactly, I believe, I still have to stop and think about it for a moment.”

Check out the whole thing, and feel free to leave your comments at the site.

The inevitable collision of The Wild Hunt and the Pagan Centered Podcast has finally happened. In the just-posted episode 107: New Media In Paganism, I spend over an hour chatting with Dave about Pagan unity, the Pagan blogosphere, why the legal struggles of Santeria practitioners are important to Pagans, and the future of Pagan journalism. You can download the show directly, here. The show is also streaming at the Pagan Radio Network (as is my own podcast, A Darker Shade of Pagan).

In other “stuff that I do that isn’t The Wild Hunt” news, my article on influential Pagans for the 50th (and last) issue of PanGaia is available for free download from the PanGaia web site. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention, author J.C. Hallman, who I interviewed a couple years ago on this site, has released a new short story collection entitled “The Hospital For Bad Poets”. In one of the stories, “Dalyrmple”, Hallman honors me by giving one of the characters my last name (Pitzl-Waters). A shame though that my fictional existence had to be cut so short!

Pagan author, teacher, and ADF Archdruid Emeritus, Isaac Bonewits explains his increasingly sporadic blog activity, and admits to having some issues with this whole “blogging” thing.

“I’m still a bit unclear as to what a blog is really for, if one doesn’t have something important to rant about day after day.”

I find it difficult to believe that someone of Bonewits’ infamy doesn’t have something to rant about day after day (or at least a couple times a week), I also find it odd that someone who has contributed to Daily Kos in the past isn’t quite sure about the many and sundry uses for the blogging platform (and ultimately a “blog” is just a transmission tool for content). However, I do agree that merely ranting every day isn’t that sustainable, that’s why most of the really successful blogs don’t simply climb up on soap-boxes and howl into the digital void. They share wonderful things, talk about books, promote music they love, provide you tips and tricks to an easier life, and discuss feminist issues. Heck there are even Pagan blogs who manage to find news items to share every day.

Ultimately, I think Bonewits portrays an interesting (and growing) development. Like many people, he’s doing most of his online discussion and interaction on Facebook, and as robust social networking sites become ever more ubiquitous, fewer people will feel the need to create a blog to establish themselves on the Internet. This is a good thing, not everyone is suited to a blogging platform, and we are now reaching a point where there are many ways besides the traditonal long-form regularly-updated blog to get one’s ideas and ideals across. That said, if you are looking for great regular Pagan blogging content (aside from mine, of course) just look to my blogroll, or the in-depth Blog Elysium for a cornucopia of choices, approaches, and points of view.