Archives For Brendan Myers

MOUNT FOREST, Ont. – In November 2015, when Jean Swanson’s well ran dry, it did not seem too unusual. The hand-dug well on her older, rural property near Mount Forest, in Wellington County Ontario, was shallow, and it was not the first time in 17 years that she and her husband Barry had experienced decreased water levels. However, their concern came when, despite a very wet and rainy autumn, the well failed to replenish itself.

Mount Forest, Ontario. Courtesy Photo

Mount Forest, Ontario [Courtesy Photo]

Swanson and her family immigrated to Canada from North Yorkshire, England in the 1950s. From a very early age she was fascinated with all things related to Witchcraft. Information on the subject was hard to find, so she searched her local libraries, hunting for anything she could find to read about the Craft.

Then, on one fateful day in October at her new home in Toronto, Swanson, then 21 years old, saw a Witch on television. It was nearly Samhain, and Pierre Berton, an iconic Canadian broadcaster, was interviewing a real life Witch. Try as he might to provoke and insult his subject, the woman remained calm, polite and dignified. Swanson had finally found a lead. There were real Witches in Toronto, and she was determined to contact them.

Swanson wrote to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, begging to be put in touch with the Witch she had seen on TV. Eventually, someone in the mail room felt sorry for her, and disclosed the address of the Witch. Swanson traveled across town, to the Beaches neighbourhood and knocked on the door. Standing in the doorway was the woman who would be her first High Priestess and mentor for many years.

Now in her 70s, Swanson and her husband Barry both suffer from serious medical conditions. When their well failed, a drilling company was called, and the initial quote to re-drill the well was $6000. But when the drilling went down to an unprecedented 196 feet, the cost of the well skyrocketed to $12,000.

In addition, they were informed that the well would also require a filtration system to deal with the silt, iron and other contaminants in the water. A salesman came to their door a few days later, offering to have such a system installed for them within a day. But the price tag for this was another $7000. Barry Swanson has since discovered that he can get a comparable system at a local hardware store for a greatly reduced price.

When Durham Well Drilling came to re-drill the Swanson’s well, representatives reportedly informed them, that in the last 30 years, they have not had to re-drill so many old wells as they have had to since Nestlé, the water bottling giant, has moved in and started extracting mass quantities of water from the local aquifer.

Photo by Dreamstime

[Photo Credit: Dreamstime]

At present, Nestlé has government permission to extract water from two wells in Wellington County. One is located at Hillsburgh where they have a permit to take up to 1.1 million litres of water per day. The second well is located at their bottling plant in the community of Aberfoyle, 50 kilometers away from Hillsburgh. Here they have a permit to take up to 3.7 million litres of water per day.

Nestlé also has an offer to purchase a third well in Middlebrook, near the town of Elora. If this permit is granted, and the sale proceeds, it will be allowed to extract up to another 1.6 million litres of water per day. The price that Nestlé has negotiated with the province is $3.71 per one million litres. The total cost for 6.4 million litres of water would be $23.74. By comparison, the residents Elora pay $2,140 per million litres. On top of this, all of the water is moved to Aberfoyle by tanker truck, where it is bottled. If the water, for example, gets packaged into single serve containers, this would equal 12.8 million plastic bottles per day.

All of these locations are within a 45 minutes drive from the home of Jean and Barry Swanson, who are now responsible for the $12,000 bill to re-dig their own well, plus the cost of a new filtration system they did not previously need.

Swanson’s coven and friends have joined forces, and have started a GoFundMe page. They have also created a raffle to raise money for the cost of re-drilling the well.

Liz Souster, a coven member and proprietor of local shop The Raven’s Rune, said:

Both Jean and Barry have spent their lives helping others, mentoring and teaching, volunteering at the Humane Society, and despite her illness Jean still volunteers to drive for the local community services. Helping them was an easy decision, our only worry was how do we reach enough people…many of our elders have spent their entire adult lives not just teaching us the Craft but mentoring our lives in general. I know I’m a better person for having known Barry and Jean. There are lots of others in the same situation and until this problem becomes news, people in rural Canada will continue to face financial ruin while the big water companies get huge tax breaks and incentives.

In a recent phone conversation with The Wild Hunt, Jean Swanson agreed that rural people are the most affected. She said:

Its amazing, I’m gobsmacked sometimes, there is so much misinformation and misunderstanding. Rural people are more aware of this problem than town people, we aren’t on the civic water supply, we depend on these wells

Pagans in the area have responded to this alleged threat to their water supply in the past. In November 2015, high profile author and teacher, Brendan Myers, pledged to donate the profits from his November book sales to Save Our Water, a community activist group from his hometown of Elora.  His campaign was successful and resulted in some of his best social media coverage to date.

The efforts being made by the Swanson’s friends and coven is an effort to not only help Elders in need, but to raise awareness about the sacredness of our water supply. Natalie Davis Jones, one of the GoFundMe campaign organizers, said:

By starting a GoFundMe campaign, we’re able to leverage the greater Pagan community through social media, and bring attention to the plight of this couple, and highlight how important clean water is for everyone. It’s also a great parallel to the fact that clean water isn’t a legally protected human right in Canada, and companies such as Nestlé would like to see it made a commodity – which would have disastrous results globally.

There are so many causes we can all support, and this one is special to me not only because I know the couple in question, but because it centers on something many of us take for granted in clean water, and supports two of our pagan elders.These are the wise ones that we hope to become. There is a wealth of knowledge that they possess, and we are blessed if we have the opportunity to learn from them, and carry on the traditions that would otherwise be lost.

The controversy surrounding the water supply in Wellington County is ongoing. Nestlé Waters is heavily invested in the region, with two wells operating and a third in the works. They are the largest commercial taxpayer in the county, contributing $1.2 million dollars in taxes last year. They are also a major employer and help to support many local charities. Despite this, community members are still rallying to halt Nestlé, and block them from furthering their water extraction operations, in the name of saving a natural resource for future generations.

This article is part two of a new series, in which we examine Pagan and Heathen ethical codes. While the Wiccan Rede is arguably the best known Pagan ethical code, it is not the only one followed. We’ll look at a particular code and then explore a specific example of striving to live by that code. Part one, the Ten Precepts of Solon, can be found here.

Modern Druids may not have a specific written ethical code, such as the Rede or the 10 Commandments, but they do have a ethics that guide their lives and their actions. The Wild Hunt spoke with two Druids, one from Canada and one from the UK, about what living an ethical Druidic life looks like.

Brendan Myers

Brendan Myers [Courtesy Photo]

Brendan Myers, has a Ph.D. in philosophy and is a professor at Heritage College, in Gatineau, Quebec. He’s also written three books on philosophy and Pagan ethics: The Other Side of Virtue, Loneliness and Revelation, and Circles of Meaning, Labyrinths of Fear.

When asked what ethical code Druids follow, Dr. Myers said, “I’d characterise Druidic ethics as a kind of virtue ethics, that is, a model of ethics where what matters most is the embodiment of a certain character; the lore certainly offers rules and laws to follow but this is much less important than becoming a certain kind of person. Druidic moral character prizes knowledge and philosophy, ecological awareness, as well as a warrior-hero model of honour.”

He said a favorite example of this is a proverb called Oisin’s Answer, “When the Irish Pagan warrior-hero Oisin, son of Fionn MacCumhall, was asked by St. Patrick what sustained him and his people before the coming of Christianity, Oisin said ‘The truth that was in our hearts, and strength in our arms, and the fulfillment of our [oaths].’ ”

Myers said that he follows an idiosyncratic spiritual-humanist philosophy, inspired by Druidic thought but also by various 20th century philosophers, “The idea is that human life is always circumscribed by inevitable, unavoidable, and quasi-mythic events: birth and death, growing up and growing old, loneliness and solitude, our social relations, our embodied requirements for food and air, and so on. I call these events ‘the immensities.’ The encounter with the immensity often at first appears to be freedom-constraining, or life-obstructing. Yet the immensity also demands from each person a response. The excellent response involves humanity, integrity, and wonder: these clusters of virtue transform the encounter with the immensity from a situation of fear and frustration, into a situation of life-affirmation and meaning. The unexcellent response, the response lacking in those virtues, leads to more fear, more despair, more frustration, more social injustice.”

Myers added that his choice of career is part of how he lives out the ethical code of a modern Druid, “I suppose that as a writer and a college professor, I pursued a career that’s as close as one can come to the kind of career the ancient Druids had. Like them, I am a professional knowledge-worker, and an advocate for social justice. I’ve favoured causes that seemed to me both important and also summoned by the call of the immensity: environmental protection, feminism, labour and working class activism. Although it isn’t “Druidic,” in my private view I’m also a fan of the Charge of the Goddess and its prescription for a meaningful life: “dance, feast, sing, make music and love.” It’s hard to imagine how a life could be meaningful without them. But there’s no such thing as a cultural purist, and there never has been; I also learn from the Upansiads, and the Tao Te Ching, and the Stoics, and all the people I’ve met in every country I’ve ever visited.”

Joanna van der Hoeven

Joanna van der Hoeven [Courtesy Photo]

Joanna van der Hoeven is also from Canada, but she moved to the UK in 1998. She is the Co-Founder of Druid College United Kingdom, which prepares priests of Nature. Her formal education includes a B.A. with Honors in English Language and Literature degree. In her work as a Druid, she studied with Emma Restall Orr and the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. He published works include The Stillness Within: Finding Inner Peace in a Conflicted World, The Awen Alone: Walking the Path of the Solitary Druid, Dancing With Nemetona: A Druid’s exploration of sanctuary and sacred space, and Zen Druidry: Living a Natural Life, With Full Awareness.

Ms. van der Hoeven said that within Druidry, there is no one ethical code that all Druids should follow. “Dogma is antithetical to Druidry, as it is a religion, spirituality or philosophy that follows nature. As nature is constantly changing, the Druid seeks to find an honourable relationship with the world around her in order work and live better in the world, in harmony with the environment, changing and adapting; always learning. In my work at Druid College UK, we teach a deep reverence for the natural world, and allow that reverence to let us live our lives to the fullest in harmony. We investigate deeply every aspect of our lives, looking at our consumerism, our local environment, what we can do to live in peace with the world and more. When we have a real understanding that we are a part of an ecosystem, we broaden our view from the singular to the plural, and our perspective encompasses the whole.”

In talking about how she tries to live a life in an honorable relationship with the world, van der Hoeven said, “Examples of living this ethic in my own life include buying organic and local food as much as possible, growing some of my own food, having a wildlife-friendly garden, taking daily walks to connect with and learn from the land, having solar panels on my roof, using as little electricity and petrol as possible, donating to charity, regular litter-picks, learning about permaculture; the list goes on.

“It is about understanding that there is no separation, that we are a part of a whole, connected to everything around us. We are dependent upon everything else, working together to create life as we know it. It is the relationships that we have with everything around us, whether it is the blackbird or the deer, a work colleague, politicians, honey bee or mountain.”

[Twitter/Druid College UK]

[Twitter/Druid College UK]

Like Myers, van der Hoeven also said that being a knowledge-worker was an important way to live one’s ethics, “As an author and a Druid I hope to inspire people with words to find out how they can live a life in-tune with the world around them, not taking too much and always giving back: the cycle of life, a true, honourable and sustainable relationship. For me personally, and what I teach is that service is at the heart of Druidry, based on strong relationship that allows us to find a deep integration with the world around us, immersing ourselves in the flow of nature.”

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Over the next year, Cara Schulz will continue to explore the many different ethical codes present in modern Pagan, Heathen and Polytheist practices. With help from others, she will highlight the codes themselves, their history and how they manifest in people’s daily lives.
Part Three Coming Soon …

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As first reported on Nov. 26, T. Thorn Coyle, Marissa Evans and twelve other religious leaders were arrested “for trespassing at the Alameda County Court House.” The group was protesting the charges faced by another set of protestors known as the Black Friday 14.

Last week, on Dec. 4, District Attorney Nancy O’Malley announced that she would drop the charges against the Black Friday 14 group. According to the SFGate.com, O’Malley and “the protesters agreed to participate in a restorative justice process.” In a statement, the Interfaith leaders responded, “On this day, love is victorious. We pledge ourselves to the ongoing effort to ensure it”

While the charges have been dropped for the original protesters, the religious leaders are still facing their own charges for trespassing. According to Coyle, members of the religious group have been given several different court dates. Coyle’s will be on Dec. 29. However, she said that their volunteer attorneys may try to consolidate all of the hearing dates into one.

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The Doreen Valiente Foundation (DVF) has released the cover art and announced the presale of the long-awaited biography called Doreen Valiente Witch. DVF organizers have described the book as such:

“Author Philip Heselton draws on firsthand testimony and Doreen’s own personal papers to reveal previously unknown details of her life with fascinating and sometimes startling insights. Adding to the still-emerging story of how an underground cult, described by some as Britain’s only living indigenous religion, became a worldwide spiritual movement in the course of a few decades.”

In a video slip posted to YouTube, John Belham-Payne talks more about the writing of the book and about the launch.

Although the book itself will not be released, until February 22, 2016, the presale has already begun with limited edition options, including signed and personalised copies are available.  All proceeds go back the Doreen Valiente Foundation and to helping fund the creation of  its museum, scheduled to open next year.

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12313616_526199964203023_3353242948467852451_nOn Dec. 12, residents of Philadelphia will gather in Liberty Lands Park to celebrate Krampuslauf.  In its fifth year, Krampuslauf Philadelphia is a family-friendly folk festival that culminates in a “parade of spirits.”  Founder Amber Dorko-Stopper said, “My original purpose in creating Krampuslauf Philadelphia was to experiment with grassroots folkloric festivals within the community. I started out without a community to do it in, and so everything I hoped Krampuslauf would be — having never been to a “real” one in Austria or Germany — was based around what I would want to see and participate in with my then three-year-old children.”

Dorko-Stopper has welcomed the local Pagan and Heathen community to participate, and many have been doing so since its inception. According to Robert L. Schreiwer of the Delaware Valley Pagan Network,  “From the Heathen perspective, the Parade of Spirits is a depiction of the Wild Hunt.”  He added that, “The Heathen Contingent for Krampuslauf Philadelphia every year presents themes or characters that align with the multicultural presentation of the event. German, Austrian, Pennsylvania German, Manx, Scottish, and Irish characters have a regular presence at the event.”

This year’s Krampuslauf Philadelphia will be held on Dec. 12 and begins at 3 p.m.

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psgThe big summer festival, Pagan Spirit Gathering, has just announced the opening of registration for its 2016 event. With that, organizers announced that the event will be switching locations. As we reported, the 2015 PSG festival came to a screeching halt when attendees found themselves and their gear underwater, literally. Torrential rains flooded the campsite, forcing organizers to close the event.

Since that time, PSG has located and contracted with a new 200-acre site called Tall Tree Lake. The location already hosts a number of large events and can easily handle the size and operational needs of PSG. Organizers explained, “The decision to move PSG is always difficult.  This year, after careful consideration and review of our community feedback, we realized that the PSG community needed more space to grow and thrive, and we feel that Tall Tree Lake is the larger home we’ve been seeking.”

They also said that this site will allow them to make some “infrastructure changes and innovations, including more private ritual space, an improved system for trash and recycling, a ‘food court’ for our food vendors, and other services.”  More information on what to expect during the week long solstice gathering will be provided as the event gets closer.

In Other News

  • Last month, we reported on a campaign to save the waters in the Canadian town of Elora. Author Brendan Myers pledged all profits from his November book sales to an organization working to protect their local waterways from the corporate giant, Nestle. On Nov. 28, Myers announced the results with only two days left to go in the month. He raised $100 for the Elora campaign. He said, “For a self-published writer, this is a very, very good result: and compared to my usual showing, it’s about four times better than usual.” He added that he hopes to run another similar campaign in the future.
  • Mills College, located in Oakland California, is looking for a new Chaplain and Director of Spiritual and Religious Life. Pagan student and activist Kristen Oliver has been invited to serve on the committee to select the new person.  She said that she is “representing the student body,” and that she will “be intimately involved in the entire process.”  Oliver also said that “as long as the candidate is qualified, there is no reason that Pagans cannot apply.”
  • The Occult Humanities Conference 2016: Contemporary Art and Scholarship on the Esoteric Traditions is coming to New York City in February. The conference presents “a wide array of voices active in the cultural landscape who are specifically addressing the occult tradition through research, scholarship and artistic practice.” Our own columnist, Christina Oakley Harrington, has been selected as one of the featured presenters. Her presentation is titled, “Bohemian Occult Subculture in Britain’s 1890s: How Artists, Actors, and Writers Made the Golden Dawn.”  Hosted by Phantasmaphile, the event will be held Feb. 5-7 on the New York University Campus.
  • Conference season will soon be here. The Conference on Current Pagan Studies, held in Claremont, California, opens the season in January.  PantheaCon, held in San Jose California, runs from Feb. 12-15. Its program guide is already available on line. ConVocation runs the following weekend, Feb 18-21, in Detroit.  It has announced its guest’s of honor.  Paganicon runs from March 18-20 and is held in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This event’s programming was just made available. And the list goes on.
  • And, lastly, for some holiday cheer, the Pagan Alliance Network has posted an original Yule story for kids, called “Jölnir’s Ride: a Norse Pagan Yule Story.”

ELORA, Ont — After a recent move by corporate giant Nestle to extract and bottle the water from an aquifer supplying the idyllic small town of Elora, Pagan writer Dr. Brendan Myers has been prompted to put his money where his mouth is. Elora is both Myers hometown and the inspiration for Fellwater, the setting in his fantasy novel series “The Hidden Houses.” Myers has pledged to donate the profits from the November sales of these books to a community group called Save Our Water. The money will be used to help cover the costs involved in fighting Nestle’s extraction plan.

Elora Gorge [Photo Credit: Lone Primate / Flickr]

Elora Gorge [Photo Credit: Lone Primate / Flickr]

Nestlé Waters Canada, a subsidiary of the transnational Nestlé Company, has conditionally purchased a well, which is located on the Grand River across from the Elora Gorge Park. To begin operations, the company needs approval from the Province of Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment.

In a recent interview, The Wild Hunt spoke to Dr. Myers about his pledge to donate to Save Our Water and about his hometown of Elora:

The Wild Hunt: What is the most beautiful thing about the town of Elora?

Dr. Brendan Myers: The gorge. It’s a two-kilometer, 20-meter deep riverbed of limestone, topped with a cedar forest. There are always trees and cliffs to climb, little holes and blind caves to explore, and stories to tell. In the spring the oil from the cedar trees was thick in the air, so much that after a few hours you would feel like you bathed in it. In my novels I described it as “a place you could go wandering, and never care if you became lost.”

In a recent blog post, Myers wrote:

Elora’s rich, diverse, delightful, and bountiful watershed, the very flowing heart of the real-world fairyland that I still love, is clearly threatened by industrial water extraction. The company plans to take 1.6 million litres of water every day. That’s almost as much water from the aquifer as the village itself takes; effectively doubling the demand on the ecosystem. Yet where Elora residents pay $2140 per million litres, Nestlé will pay only $3.71 for the same volume.

Local residents are concerned that the aquifer will not be able to sustain the drain on the water supply, or the increased traffic on the roads that the water trucks will create, as they haul water as much as 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The water will be moved to the neighbouring town of Aberfoyle, where it will be bottled in plastic bottles and sold to the Canadian market.

The residents of Elora have banded together as the group Save Our Water and have made three demands:

  1. Require Nestle to monitor local wells for two weeks prior to the Middlebrook pumping test in order to provide better groundwater baseline data, plus a commitment from Nestle to assure transparent data collection and independent, third party assessment of the test results.
  1. Impose a three-year moratorium on consumptive water-taking permits for commercial bottling in the Grand River Watershed.
  1. Provide municipalities in the Grand River Watershed time to complete their Water Supply Master Plans and Tier Three Risk Assessments as required.
The Hidden Houses series, by Brendan Myers

The Hidden Houses series by Brendan Myers

As a writer and high profile member of the Canadian Pagan community, Myers has decided to use his influence to help spread the word and publicize Save Our Water’s work. In his most recent blog post, he expressed his own rage and despair at what he perceives as an injustice and offers his books as a way for others to experience the magic Elora has to offer. By pledging his November book profits to the campaign, Myers is also offering an incentive for book buyers to help the cause.

TWH: What message are you trying to send out to other Pagans by making this pledge?

BM: I suppose I’m saying that each of us can do more than think we can do, and perhaps more than we presently do, to protect the earth. Modern paganism is not only about spells and rituals and honouring the gods. It’s also about social and political justice. This has been the case since the 1700’s, when the first modern pantheists published tracts against mercantilism and monarchy. It remains true today with the activism work of Reclaiming, The Pagan Federation, and so on. Squabbles about which lineage of British Wicca is “authentic”, or about the relative merits of hard versus soft theism, are in my view red-herring distractions. More important than what you believe, is what you do.  So this month I’m donating my royalties to a noble cause. So let’s all drop the hair-splitting and fight the real enemy.

TWH: What has the response to your pledge so far?

BM: The response in social media has been excellent. My blog post has been “liked” and “shared” by hundreds of people; it’s my second-best social media response since I wrote Clear and Present Thinking. My blog post was retweeted by no less a luminary than Neil Gaiman— I’m especially proud and thankful for that! In terms of book sales, however, I’ve sold no more than usual this month. Publishing is certainly not a path to wealth and fame (unless you have a million-dollar budget for marketing, which I don’t). But there’s still more month to go.

Dr. Brendan Myers (Courtesy photo)

Dr. Brendan Myers [Courtesy photo]

TWH: Do you consider yourself an environmentalist?

BM: Yes, I do. I’m convinced that climate change and global warming is the most important problem of our age— socially, politically, economically, philosophically, and spiritually. I wrote my doctorate on environmental ethics and future generations; I regularly discuss it with my students; I vote with my money and my feet for economic change; in fact I sometimes lobby my government.

TWH: Are there any other causes that you are particularly concerned about?

BM: I’m deeply concerned about income inequality, the “dumbing down” of culture, the apparent rise of “men’s rights activists” (translation: anti-feminist activists), whether my books will be still be read after I die, and when Bethesda will release the next Skyrim game. (Although I’d rather create my own such game.) But mostly I want to live a good life, as a writer, as a friend to those I care about, and as a human being on this good earth and at this interesting historical time. To paraphrase Cornell West: I’m not promoting any particular political ideology, I’m just trying to live a life of integrity.

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This decision from Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment is expected by mid-November.

Philosopher, musician, writer, game designer, professor and Pagan, Dr. Brendan Myers is a creative and prolific creator of words, thoughts and music. Deemed a “dangerous man” by the late, great Isaac Bonewits, Dr. Myers prolifically writes fiction and non-fiction with the passionate intensity of a true visionary.

After growing up in the picturesque small town of Elora, Ontario, Myers went on to earn his PhD in philosophy from the National University of Ireland, Galway. This launched his professional career as a professor of philosophy, leading him to teach in six different institutions in both Canada and Europe.

Elderdown cover art

[Photo courtesy of Brendan Myers]

This summer, Dr. Myers accomplished a rare feat. He published his sixteenth book, Elderdown  It is the fourth and final book in the Hidden Houses fantasy series. When recently interviewed for The Wild Hunt, Myers had this to say about this to say about Elderdown:

Elderdown is about a group of refugees, the remnants of a once-proud Celtic clan and their allies, hunted by the Roman-descended demigods of House DiAngelo. Yet these refugees are also divided among themselves. Some want to continue fighting their ancient enemies; some want to build a new home for themselves on the faraway secret island of Elderdown.

The series in general is about an ancient pagan idea: the gods of mythology had mortal children, and their descendants still live among us today. Imagine House of Cards or Game of Thrones, but with Celtic warriors versus the descendants of Roman emperors, and played out in a small town in modern Canada.

It’s a fantasy adventure, but it’s also an human adventure. It features magical characters but it’s not about magic. It’s about what it means to have a home, and to belong somewhere. It’s about the tragedy of the blood feud, and how to escape it. It’s about how we handle grief and loneliness, and whether conflicted or wounded people can still be heroes.

Fiction may be Myers most recent writing adventure, but it is his non-fiction writing that first made him a regular feature at Pagan events across Canada and beyond. These books are where philosophy and Pagan themes meet. “A Pagan Testament: The Literary Heritage of the World’s Oldest New Religion” published in 2008 was a prime example of this. The work garnered praise from other high profile Pagan writers. Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone called it “A remarkable resource for anyone following the Wicca/Pagan path. It gives an insight equally into wiccan philosophy, as well as history and practice. We highly recommend it. A useful book for the individual witch; but an essential book on any coven’s bookshelf”.

So, for fans of the non-fiction writing, does Dr. Myers have another offering on the way?  In our interview, we asked him. He said:

Brendan Myers: I do, and I think it’s going to be exciting. The working title is Ecology and Civilization. Many of us enter the pagan world because of a not-well-defined yet nagging feeling that there is something wrong with civilization, especially Western civilization. It might have to do with the destruction of the environment, or the patriarchy, or the cultural genocide of Aboriginal people, or some kind of intrinsic absurdity. So I want to ask: what is civilization? What’s wrong with it? What can we do about it? Big questions! My working hypothesis right now is that the science of ecology may point the way to some answers. I’m also going to look at economics, anthropology, political science, and of course my own field, philosophy. At this moment I’m 15,000 words into the manuscript. I expect to be finished by the end of 2015.

The Wild Hunt: With sixteen books published since 2004, you have had an incredibly busy writing career, full of challenges and adventures. But what is the highlight that really stands out for you?

BM: The biggest highlight so far has been the evening in 2013 when I was one of the invited speakers at a TEDx conference at the University of Guelph. My presentation was based on the ideas in Loneliness and Revelation, the book of mine which has earned the most critical praise (and the least commercial success). TED is like a nerd’s paradise. It brings together people who think about things in weird new ways, people who make weird new things, and the like, and it invites the public to contemplate and to celebrate their ideas. People dress up in their Sunday best for it. After a childhood and teen years where I was ignored or severely bullied for having nerdy interests, appearing on TED after publishing a book felt like a vindication.

TWH: You’ve said that the wide and varied themes and topics in your books reflect your own love of travel, and for the interesting people and places you meets along the way.

BM: If it is not too bold: I’d like to suggest a new (actually very old) pagan tradition: the long distance pilgrimage. Celts of Ireland used to gather at places like Uisneach and Tara for annual political and Druidic assemblies. Greeks used to hike to Olympus or Delphi, seeking spiritual bounty. Ancient pre-Muslim Persians made the journey to the temple of Zoroaster. I think this custom should be revived. Let’s encourage each other to travel to a spiritual centre of each person’s choosing: a destination of no small cultural or historic importance, and as far away from home as your finances and your physical health will allow. Let’s encourage a culture of traveler’s tales, adventurism, and worldly knowledge. Let’s take short adventures once a year, and a longer one to somewhere very far, perhaps on another continent, at least once in a lifetime. By proposing this, I do not intend to diminish the importance of local values like environmental awareness, or community solidarity. Yet very few activities teach courage, open-mindedness to difference, adult responsibility, generosity, and thankfulness for the generosity of others, like long distance travel.

At the time of this interview, Myers was packing his bags to head to Czech Republic for research and adventure purposes. A 40-minute video with his impressions of this trip can be found here.

BrenSelfie4

Dr. Brendan Myers, author. Photo by the Man Himself

TWH: Outline the difference between writing fiction and non-fiction.

BM: In nonfiction it’s more obvious that I write with my own voice. But every character in a work of fiction is the author’s self-portrait. In fiction it’s more obvious that I’m telling a story—that is the very meaning of fiction. But good nonfiction tells a story, too. An argument is pursued to a conclusion; evidence and counter-arguments may be met along the way; the conclusion itself is the climax of a rising logical action. A reader might enjoy a well-crafted argument in the same way she might enjoy music. I often call chapters in my nonfiction books movements for that reason.

It seems to me that the differences between fiction and nonfiction are matters of emphasis and style, not essence. Both attempt to reveal something which the reader might not have encountered before, and (following George Orwell’s advice) both attempt to change the way we think about something. Where fiction and nonfiction differ most is perhaps only in the way they are marketed!

Writers who work in both fiction and nonfiction aren’t unusual. Among philosophers, there’s Umberto Eco, and Iris Murdoch, for instance. Among pagan writers there’s Gerald Gardner himself, Stewart Farrar, Aleister Crowley, and Starhawk. There are writers best known for fiction who also write journalism or polemics: Margaret Atwood, and Neil Gaiman, for instance. I like to imagine that by writing both, I am in good company.

TWH: Elderdown was published under your own publishing imprint, Northwest Passage Books. What prompted your to take this route to get your books out there?

BM: Originally, I created it to publish just one book: Clear and Present Thinking, the free college-level textbook on logic and critical reasoning that I launched on Kickstarter a few years back. Having my own imprint allows me to issue ISBNs to myself at no cost. Soon it occurred to me that I can use the imprint to publish my fiction, and to offer self-publishing assistance to other writers. (I still seek traditional publishing for my nonfiction.) At the time, self-publishing was taking off in a big way. Some well established writers were moving to it; industry analysts were calling it the wave of the future; platforms like Kindle, Nook, and Kobo were easy to use. I did shop my first novels to literary agents, but admittedly I didn’t look long. But creating my own imprint taught me a lot about writing and about the publishing industry. I‘m proud of what I’ve published this way.

TWH: With so many accomplishments under your belt, and so many varied interests, how do you choose to see yourself?

BM: I think of myself as an human being and a philosopher first, and everything else second. But between you and I, the word philosopher means rather more to me than a particular kind of professor (although it happens I am a professor, too). The quest for good answers to the highest and deepest questions—the philosophical quest—is for me a deeply spiritual activity. This is so because, for one thing, pagans invented philosophy. Yet for another, the method of philosophy, systematic critical reason, is one way that we mere mortals can discover the immensities, and put ourselves into a better relationship with them. The sacred is that which acts as your partner in your search for the highest and deepest things; the sacred is that which emerges from your relationship with those partners. For me, the most important of them, after my friends and the land where I live, are my predecessors in the western philosophical tradition. And some of them, the philosophers of Greek, Roman, Celtic, and Germanic antiquity, were pagans, living in a pagan culture.

TWH: It will be hard for fans of the Hidden Houses series to say goodbye to it. What can you say to fans?

BM: Now that the main series is complete, I plan to write spinoff books, set in the same world but featuring different characters. I’m following the precedent of Charles de Lint’s Newford and Terry Pratchett’s Diskworld here. I’ve published two spinoffs already: “The Seekers” and “A Trick of The Light”. An entire volume of more is in the works. I’ve also got a tabletop RPG set in the world of the Hidden Houses: the text is 90% complete, and there might be a Kickstarter campaign in the near future to pay for the artists.

Although I’m best known in the pagan world for my nonfiction, I think my novels may be among the most heartfelt and personally revealing works of art I’ve made so far. Like any writer, I hope for commercial success; but I shall consider them truly successful if they are read, studied, argued about, and loved, by good people.

*   *   *

For news and updates on the work of Brendan Myers, you can read his blog, find him on Facebook and Twitter.

For many pagans, books are the gateway to knowledge. They are our first teachers of magic and offer a new world of esoteric lore and knowledge. If you enter the home of just about any modern pagan you will no doubt find a bookshelf (or many bookshelves!) piled high with books written by English authors such as Gerald Gardner, Doreen Valiente or the Farrars. There will no doubt be more than a few by high profile American writers, names like Margot Adler, Isaac Bonewits and Scott Cunningham or maybe the more contemporary Orion Foxwood or Christopher Penczack. Both Britain and the United States both have successful and high profile publishers of pagan books, Minnesota based Llewellyn Worldwide LTD. being easily one of the most prominent. But north of the border, up in Canada, a growing number of writers are finding their way into print and injecting a Canadian influence into the pagan publishing world. But does being from Canada influence pagan writing?

Kerr Cuhulain, Grand Master and founder of a Wiccan order of Knighthood called the Order of Paladins and author of several books including “Pagan Religions, a Diversity Training Guide “and “Full Contact Magick” had this to say about being Canadian:

Kerr Cuhulain

Kerr Cuhulain 

“I think that it’s given me the opportunity to stand outside of the US and UK Pagan communities and observe what they do. I’ve always been more interested in doing what works than doing what is traditional.”

Lady Sable Aradia, author of the newly published “The Witches Eight Paths to Power: A Complete Course in Magick & Witchcraft adds:

“I’m very proudly Canadian. We are products of our culture and environment, and I think that our particular style of understatement and ability to laugh at ourselves is one of my strengths as a writer. Being Canadian also puts me outside of a lot of the politics of North American Paganism, which allows me the luxury to comment on them from the position of an observer in many ways.”

But are Canadians really different from our American neighbours? Aside from spelling some words differently (yes, we spell it neighbours.) and pronouncing the last letter of the alphabet as zed, not zee, Canadians are culturally different as well.

Brendan Myers, a prolific pagan Canadian writer, with more books under his belt than many people read in a year, had this to say about cultural differences between Canada and the US:

Dr. Brendan Myers

Dr. Brendan Myers

“… Canada is really a fringe country. We may be a rich, developed, industrialized nation, with the world’s second-biggest playground, but we’re not very populous, nor especially influential in world affairs. Standing in the shadow of our larger neighbour to the south, we are easily overlooked, or assumed to be culturally the same as that larger neighbour. Our history is not that of a conquering empire-builder, except perhaps by proxy of two of our founding nations, England and France. What is more, Canada arguably has no national mythology. One can easily point to other countries with big stories like “The American Dream”, or “The French Revolution”; these stories might be objectionable, they might have dark sides, and they may even be illusions, but they are definitely glamorous. We Canadians have no equivalent. A transcontinental railroad, a national public health care service, “peace, order, and good government”, and other “Canadian dreams” we’ve had over the centuries, don’t really deliver the same glamour. Ours is a wholesome but boring national brand. (Mind you, that might be okay.)

In that respect, as a Canadian writer, I find myself pulled in two directions. In one way, I want to write something that shows I come from a truly independent and unique nation, a distinct society (know what I mean?), and that we’re not just Americans with funny woolen hats. But in the other way, I want to write something that non-Canadians might still find interesting, and I worry that painting my stuff in red Maple leaves will turn people off.”

One of the biggest challenges for Canadian writers trying to get published is the lack of a big name publisher of pagan books in our own country. So how do these books make it to bookstore shelves? Response to this was varied between these three authors and all answers revolve around our close proximity of our neighbours to the south. Carving out our own distinct Canadian paganism is a tough one when so much of our culture, both pagan and mainstream, is overshadowed by the United States. So, is it hard to get published?

Sable:

“I would have to say not in my experience, actually. At least, not as long as you’re willing to deal with American publishers. The truth is that with such a big market just south of us, it’s very difficult for an independent Canadian arts scene to develop, and I would say that the Pagan market is more difficult still since it’s so small.”

Brendan:

“There are very few Canadian publishers who will carry a book about paganism in their catalogue. All the publishers I’ve ever worked with have been based in England or the USA. Publishers outside Canada often assume that no one outside of Canada will be interested in a Canadian perspective. I may be wrong about this, but it seems to me that writers in countries with larger populations, richer economies, and empires in their history, don’t need to worry about that. They benefit from a macro-economic and geo-political privilege, and a glamorous national mythology, which allows them to reach an international audience with a lot less effort.”

Kerr:

“I do not find it to be a problem at all. I’ve a large audience in the US, so it is pretty easy to find publishers for my works.”

As a former police officer/dispatcher and former Preceptor General of Officers of Avalon, an organization representing Neo-Pagan professionals in the emergency services (police, firefighters, emergency medical technicians), Kerr’s books reflect a Warrior spirit so often perceived from the outside of United States paganism through the work of groups like Circle Sanctuary’s Lady Liberty League or Order of the Pentacle.

Brendan’s books come from his academic background. Dr. Brendan Meyers earned his Ph.D in philosophy at the National University of Ireland, and now serves as professor of philosophy at Heritage College, in Gatineau, Quebec. His philosophy background informs his pagan writing. This theme of academia is also reflected by other Canadian writer/academics such as Shelley Rabinovich Ph.D (The Encyclopedia of Modern Witchcraft and Neo-Paganism (with James Lewis, and ‘An Ye Harm None’: Magical Ethics and Modern Morality (with Meredith Macdonald), and Sian Reid Ph.D (Between the Worlds: Readings in Contemporary Paganism)

What resources exist to promote sales and expose writers to new readers? Canada is a huge country; 9,984,670 square kilometers (3,855,101 square miles) stretching from the Pacific Ocean in the west to the Atlantic Ocean in the east, yet the population is just over 35 million, less than the state of California. Our pagan population is thinly and widely scattered. In this dispersion is a sense of camaraderie and support that is essential for our combined success:

Brendan:

“I get excellent support from the Canadian public, and I’m very grateful for it. I’ve attended pagan events to promote my work in seven out of ten provinces now. The administration of the college where I work has supported my publishing efforts: even the Director General, my most senior manager, read Loneliness and Revelation.” 

Kerr:

“Most of the members of my Order of Paladins are Canadian. I just got back from teaching at PanFest in Edmonton. The support is there, I’m happy to say.”

Sable:

Sable Aradia

Sable Aradia

“Well, my local community has certainly been supportive! And the shop owners I’ve contacted through Western Canada have generally welcomed me with open arms. There’s a strong East/West divide so I don’t think many people have heard of me on the other side of the country yet, but I think there’s a general “us Canucks gotta stick together” sentiment, and I know that the friends I made at the Canadian National Pagan Conference in Montreal in 2010 have been making a great effort to spread the word. So, I would have to say that I feel very supported!”

Taking advantage of this support, Sable Aradia is about to embark on a book tour of western Canada. The tour will span four provinces, no small feat as it can take six to twelve hours to get from one city to another. Packed in her van will also be musical equipment as Sable is an accomplished singer and musician. She will also be doing house concerts to help supplement her travels. Her adventures started off close to home so far and she had this to say about how it is going:

“It’s off to a good start! I started in my hometown of Vernon, BC for the book launch and I sold out. The following weekend I went to Nelson, Castlegar, Enderby and Kelowna for World Goddess Day. This weekend I was at a Kelowna bookstore and a metaphysical store in Penticton (all towns in the province of British Columbia). Then at the end of the month I’m heading eastward.”

T. Scarlet Jory

T. Scarlet Jory

For books with very distinct regional flare, T.Scarlet Jory has released “Magical Blend: Book of Secrets (BOS)” and “Magical Blend: Book of Spells & Rituals (BOS) (Volume 2)”. These books celebrate landmark Le Melange Magique/The Magical Blend, a pagan shop in Montreal Quebec. This shop, which sadly has closed its doors, served customers in both of Canada’s official languages, English and French. It was known for its selection of in-house made teas, bath salts, incense and more.

Scarlet reminisces: “When the store’s physical location closed and the reference books of shadows developed by all the staff suddenly were no longer available to the public, I felt it was important to compile them and print them. That way everyone can access them again. The knowledge is a collection of gems from dozens of experienced staff members who helped the community.”

One curious book, written in 1989 by Kevin Marron, a reporter from The Globe and Mail, a national newspaper, “Witches, Pagans & Magic in the New Age” was the story of the people he met while investigating allegations of Satanic ritual abuse (remember the Satanic Panic folks? It happened in Canada as well!). While not a pagan himself, Marron provides a rare and sympathetic peek at the Canadian Pagan scene in the late 1980’s.

Many other voices have contributed to recording the story of Canadian Paganism. Some of the books may be harder to find, and unlikely to show up in foreign book or occult shops, but have value and interest to Pagans everywhere. The rise of e-readers and online shopping may put a Canadian book in your own collection soon.

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!

Sociologist Helen Berger discussing new Pagan census data (more on that soon).A follow-up to the Pagan Census Revisited is now up and asking for Pagan participation. Here’s a quote from sociologist Helen A. Berger, who is overseeing this project along with James R. Lewis: “The PCR II is a follow up to the Pagan Census Revisited, which itself is a follow up the Pagan Census. You don’t need to have responded to either of those to participate in this survey. This survey is short, they contain some of the question we wished we had asked in the PCR. For those of you who don’t know about the PC it was the first large scale survey of US Pagans. I published a book on it Voices from the Pagan Census and all the results are online at the Murray Institute at Harvard University for any and all to view. The more information we have about contemporary Pagans the better for understanding the religion, its participants and how it might be changing. Thanks to those of you who have taken the time to complete the former surveys and those of you who complete this one.” I encourage wide participation in this survey, as it shapes research into our communities, and gives insight to those of us inside of the movement. The 2009 revisitation data was a big eye-opener for many, and it will be important to know how we are changing over the years. Click here to take the survey (https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/PCR-II).

Morning Glory Zell

Morning Glory Zell

As has been reported here recently, Pagan elder Morning Glory Zell has been in and out of the hospital due to kidney issues and other complications. Her condition is serious enough that a celebration of her life is being planned for April 19th. Quote: “Celebration of Life for Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart. Our intention is to give her the energy to stay with us as long as possible. Come celebrate Morning Glory’s life while she is still here to enjoy your stories: How did you first meet Morning Glory? How has she touched your life? We are working with a few people on plans to video-tape your stories, poetry, song – whatever you bring to share.” Morning Glory’s partner, Oberon Zell, adds that “Morning Glory remains at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital; however, she is rallying against the pneumonia.” Today, April 14th, is Oberon and Morning Glory’s 40th wedding anniversary, and our congratulations go out to them on this milestone. “The Wizard and the Witch: Seven Decades of Counterculture, Magick & Paganism,” which focuses on the lives of Oberon and Morning Glory Zell, was recently released by Llewellyn Worldwide.

9931d7a41cff52affc54a1c0f3082178_largePagan singer-songwriter Arthur Hinds, a member of the band Emerald Rose, recently launched a Kickstarter to fund a new CD entitled “Dance In The Fire.” Quote: “So let’s talk about this new CD, which I’m already at work recording in the Kitchen Studio. It’s called Dance in the Fire, and you can expect a lot of energy and beats that are going to want to make you move. You’ll also hear soulful love songs, chants that honor the seasons and our connections to Spirit, rousing rock anthems that you won’t be able to stop singing along with (so my Lovely Wife tells me), and more. But to get all of this out into the world, I need your help.” Happily, the Kickstarter has already reached and surpassed its modest goal of $2,500, and is now working on stretch goals. Quote: “If we reach 3500, I will be able to produce my next solo collection, tentatively called, Words of Mystery, and anyone who pledged forty or more will also get a copy of these bardic tales when it becomes available in the fall. So spread the word and lets bump this up. To be clear, if we hit 3500, everyone who has pledged forty dollars or more will get Dance in the Fire, a t-shirt, a tattoo,  Words of Mystery and I will throw in a copy of Poetry of Wonder for good measure. Thanks!!!!!” Congratulations to Arthur Hinds!

In Other Pagan Community News:

  • While I’m on the subject of Kickstarters, Pagan scholar and author Brendan Myers is looking to fund his fantasy series “Fellwater.” Quote: “It’s a series of novels about factions of ancient demigods and the everyday people caught in the conflict. Secret societies vie for control of the last corners of the Earth where the Mythic Age survives. It’s a world of alliances and betrayals, cults and politics, friendship and power. It’s what happens when you make a wish, and the horror of it coming true.” Sound interesting? Check out the campaign.
Character portraits from Brendan Myers' "Fellwater" series.

Character portraits from Brendan Myers’ “Fellwater” series.

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

In Canada’s Quebec Province, there has been an on-going debate over the teaching of a government mandated Ethics and Religious Culture Program (Programme Éthique et culture religieuse.) The ERC school curriculum was created and implemented in 2008 by former premier Jean Charest. Since that point it has caused multiple controversies and court cases which have now taken the debate to the steps of Canada’s highest court.

Canadian Supreme Court (Photo Credit: D. Gordon E. Robertson, cc lic. Wikimedia)

Canadian Supreme Court (Photo Credit: D. Gordon E. Robertson, cc lic. Wikimedia)

According to this mandate all Quebec schools, private and public, must teach a prescribed Ethics and Religious Culture curriculum or an equivalent. The province’s website explains:

For the purposes of this program, instruction in ethics is aimed at developing an understanding of ethical questions that allows students to make judicious choices based on knowledge of the values and references present in society. The objective is not to propose or impose moral rules, nor to study philosophical doctrines and systems in an exhaustive manner.

Instruction in religious culture, for its part, is aimed at fostering an understanding of several religious traditions whose influence has been felt and is still felt in our society today. In this regard, emphasis will be placed on Québecs religious heritage. The historical and cultural importance of Catholicism and Protestantism will be given particular prominence. The goal is neither to accompany students in a spiritual quest, nor to present the history of doctrines and religions, nor to promote some new common religious doctrine aimed at replacing specific beliefs.

To summarize, the program’s goal is twofold:  to expose children to aspects of Quebec’s own culture and to engage in a type of diversity training. Religions included are Christianity (Catholicism and Protestantism), Judaism, Native spirituality, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and “other religions.”  The aim is not at all spiritual instruction. Author Brendan Myers, a Druidic Humanist and Philosophy professor explains:

Quebec was, up until around 50 years ago, a Catholic theocracy in all but name. Several Christian institutions, most prominently the Catholic Church, were the main taxpayer-funded service providers in education, health care, low-income housing and the like … The Quiet Revolution changed that and now most Quebecers want a vigorously humanist state. [The]  “Ethics and Religious Culture” course is in some ways a continuation of Quiet Revolution values. Its purpose is to expose students to a lot of different ethical world views from a lot of different religions, and thus continue to move the culture further away from the Catholic lock-step of life before the Quiet Revolution. 

In other words, the ERC is aimed at building a better secular state by educating its youth on the religious diversity found within its borders.

Brendan Myers

Brendan Myers

This government educational requirement is applicable even to the province’s private institutions. As Myers explains, Quebec regulates private schools with a “light tough.” For example, it might offer partial tuition subsides for “students attending schools meeting certain regulatory criteria.” However the ERC mandate has been handled differently. Myers says, “A private school which doesn’t offer this course won’t get its tuition subsidies for its students and might have its charter revoked.”

Since implementation in 2008 the program has come under considerable fire from both secular and religious communities. Should the government be allowed to force private religious schools to teach ethics that are contrary to their own belief structure? Should parents have the right to exempt their children from the program if its teachings are contrary to family belief? Should the teaching of religion and ethics instruction be allowed in secular schools at all?

The most recent battle began when a Montreal-based Catholic high school, Loyola, challenged the mandate by asking the government for an exemption. The school does not want to include what it considers to be a “neutral” teaching of Christianity.  In its place the school would teach the ERC material but from “its own Jesuit style” that would be “respectful to [its] Catholic faith and morals.”

In 2008 the Quebec government refused the school’s request for exemption which sent the case to court. In 2010 a provincial Judge upheld the request saying, “The province’s order places Loyola in an untenable position: either it teaches the ERC program required by the Minister and thus violates its religious precepts, or it teaches the ERC course with its own program and thus violates the Act.”

In 2012 the province won an appeal which eventually led to the current Supreme Court case:  Loyola High School, et al. v. Attorney General of Quebec. According to reports, the debate is now centered on a new issue – one that is particular to the reading of Quebec law. In its Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms religious rights are granted to “every person” and to “human beings.” The Charter never refers to institutions. Are the same religious freedoms, protections and rights granted to organizations such as Loyola?

[Photo Credit: Flickr's Liz cc-lic Wikimedia]

[Photo Credit: Flickr’s Liz cc-lic Wikimedia]

In support of Loyola, various organizations have recently come forward. The World Sikh Organization of Canada said,

Freedom for collective religious activity is important to Sikhs in Canada as it is impossible to be a Sikh by oneself but only as a part of a larger community of believers. A broad interpretation of freedom of religion is critical for the protection of minority religious groups which are more vulnerable to government interference in their internal functioning.

Other groups acting as interveners at the March 24 Supreme Court hearing were The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA), Seventh-day Adventist Church in Canada, Home School Legal Defence Association of Canada and a variety of Christian-based organizations. The CCLA wrote:

This appeal is of particular importance to the CCLA as it could determine and clarify – for the first time – whether and when a body corporate can invoke freedom of religion against the State. This is an increasingly pressing issue at the national and international levels

Should the school, as a “corporate body,” be granted the same religious freedom as an individual?  Should it realize that freedom by way of exemption from teaching a mandated ethics curriculum that is in direct conflict with its own belief structure but aimed at the betterment of society?  Can the celebration of religious pluralism within a multicultural environment overstep its bounds?  These are the issues now facing the Canadian Supreme Court. The debate will continue as the province and country now await on the Court’s ruling.

(Webcast of hearing available.  French only)

 

This week saw the launch of the Pagan Bundle, a one-week special deal in which for $50 (or more) you can purchase a bundle of goods and services from a variety of Pagan vendors, saving hundreds of dollars off of the normal list price.

bundle_logo

“We’re taking a bunch of awesome things made by great people and selling them all together at a huge discount. Simple as that. The Pagan Bundle proceeds will help support excellent pagan practitioners who produce superb and original works for the benefit of us all. The project was born from a longing to help those who are striving to make a full-time living with a spiritual practice or craft, so that they can focus less on the month-to-month struggle to make ends meet and more on doing what they are here to do; creating awesome things that enrich the lives of others.”

Included in the bundle are books by Brendan Myers, music from Amelia Hogan and Sharon Knight, access to video teachings by T. Thorn Coyle, and tattoo designs by Morpheus Ravenna, among other items and services. When I asked Ravenna about her participation, she said that “I joined on as a contributor to the Bundle because I think it’s a great idea, and because it’s the first project of its kind that I’ve seen that’s been designed by and for Pagans.”

Morpheus Ravenna

Morpheus Ravenna

“The Bundle is a way for me to sell my own artwork and creations, and so it benefits me directly. But I also feel strongly about creating a vibrant social economy that supports the arts, and so I’m also on board because I’d love to see more projects like this succeed for other creators. As an artist, I’m keenly interested creating a world where artists and creative people can make a living doing what they were born to do. The Bundle is a beautiful way for me to help support a whole bunch of great creative people while also hopefully bringing a bit of success to my work as well.  I also had a lot of fun creating some original, new designs for it. Jan asked me to do a range of original designs that would be of interest to people from different traditions and backgrounds, so I got to step outside my comfort zone and explore different thematic and symbolic areas. I’m the kind of artist who responds to novelty and a bit of creative pressure. In the process of working up the designs, I found myself developing my style into new areas. So it’s been a creatively fertile project for me.”

Fellow Bundle participant T. Thorn Coyle added: “We need more art and magick in the world. Many artists struggle to get their work out, and do so much for our communities. I’d like to see more artists getting paid for their efforts. I’m proud to be part of The Pagan Bundle because I love supporting beauty and magick, helping to re-enchant the world.”

T. Thorn Coyle

T. Thorn Coyle

Curious to know more, I posed a few questions to Jan Bosman, a web designer and creator of the Pagan Bundle project, about how this came about, and what the goals are moving forward.

What inspired the Pagan Bundle?

“It started last Samhain with a conscious effort on my part to be more generous with the people I encounter in my life (I was inspired by Brendan Myers’ book The Other Side of Virtue). I began attending pagan events a few years ago, and I’ve since become close to a number of inspiring, authentic and powerful people – they are musicians, artists, authors, spiritual teachers, and practitioners of one flavor of paganism or another. They are doing what they are on this earth to do, and yet none of those callings tend to translate into lucrative careers. I dislike watching idly as those I care about struggle to provide for themselves and live month-to-month while trying to be soulfully employed. I have a good job designing websites and the luxury of not worrying about meeting my basic needs or the survival of my business, so I was compelled to find a way to help. After a few weeks of trying to figure out exactly how, the answer came to me in a dream – a very lucid and specific dream (down to the pricing model and distribution). The format of the Pagan Bundle was partially inspired by other bundle sales such as the Humble Bundle, as they are fantastic vehicles for helping contributors become more well known and well paid.”

Do you think this bundle initiative will provide a boost for the individual vendors?

“That’s the ultimate goal of the whole thing. All the profits from the sales are split evenly between the eight contributors. If we sell a few hundred bundles, that’s a huge direct impact for them. It’s a difference that helps them not have to worry about how to pay rent for a few months so that they can continue the awesome things they do, and so that they can have a bit of a cushion to finance a new project. In those terms, its easy for me to see that we all benefit from this. I’ve donated a few thousand hours to organizing the project and building the website over the last year, as well as a decent chunk of money to make it happen. If we get hundreds or thousands of sales, I can cover a bit of overhead, but I’m not taking a cut – it’s all going to the artists, authors, musicians, magicians and teachers.”

Jan Bosman

Jan Bosman, creator of The Pagan Bundle.

 How are you promoting the bundle?

“The eight people who have contributed goods to the Bundle all have followings of their own, and all of them are promoting the Bundle to their blogs, mailing lists, social media, and so on. One of the ways I hope to provide a boost for the contributors is through the cross-contamination of their fans. For instance, someone may buy the Pagan Bundle solely for the 6-week Introduction to Energy Work online course may find themselves a big fan of Sharon Knight’s albums – a fan that may end up buying the rest of her stuff as well. We’ve also been running a few promotions that give people discounts while they spread the word to their friends – not because 89% off isn’t enough of a saving, but because spreading the word is a huge help to the whole project.

 Thus far, sales have been steady but measured. I’ve learned that its a damn hard thing to build a big website to sell something at the same time as promoting it.”

 How were the creators picked for this project?

“While a number of the creators were personal friends of mine, I had to come up with some very specific criteria in order to keep a consistency of quality and to ease potential logistical issues. I picked contributors must produce authentic, excellent and original works, preferably to the benefit of the greater pagan community. This isn’t required of every single item, but the bundle should be well-balanced. Contributors also had to be able to provide items in digital format. In large part because if we happened to sell 3,000 bundles, that’s a completely unmanageable demand to have to instantly fill. An all digital bundle means that distribution cost of the goods is pennies, as we’re only paying for bandwidth and not physical shipping. I also gave consideration to creators who: are making (or attempting to make) their spiritual practice or craft their full-time profession; are currently unemployed or underemployed (i.e. struggling financially); and have a substantial online presence and following (as this is a key method of promotion for the project).

Our eight contributors are fairly well known, create high quality stuff, and they can all use a boost in exposure and income. I knew most of them, and those creators recommended the others. We stopped inviting contributors after getting eight because more would mean further having to split the profits of the project, and less of a tangible impact for everyone. That said, there are many countless creative pagans who fit all of those criteria and, especially if this first Pagan Bundle sells well, I would consider more of these sales in the future – in which case there would most likely be a more open invitation process.”

 It should be interesting to see how well this initiative does, and if this new approach to selling Pagan goods and services on the Internet will create a new paradigm for promotion and sales. That will no doubt be up to the consumer, and they have 5 days left to make their voices heard. Be sure to check out interviews with all the creators, and more about what’s in the Pagan Bundle, at: http://paganbundle.com/.

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!

Cherry Hill SeminaryPagan learning institution Cherry Hill Seminary has announced their Fall Scholarship Drive for 2013, which will help fund tuition scholarships in January. Quote: “‘I can’t imagine a world without Cherry Hill Seminary,’ said Executive Director Holli Emore.  She also emphasized the efficient operation of the nearly 15-year-old school.  ‘Fortunately for our students, cash to keep the lights on translates directly into vibrant, rich learning opportunities.  That’s why an end of the year gift to the Bow Tie Campaign will allow us to give real scholarships out in January.  CHS operates on a cash basis – no debt! – so we need your help to finish the year.'” The institution’s goal is to raise $5000 dollars between now and Yule. When the goal of $5,000 is reached, Cherry Hill Seminary will announce a process for applying for a one-course scholarship.  More about the fund drive can be found here. I’ve embedded their fundraising video below.

Brendan Myers

Brendan Myers

Another fundraising initiative has recently launched, this one to create a tabletop role-playing game based on The Fellwater Tales, a fantasy book series authored by Brendan Myers, a Quebec Druidic Humanist and Philosophy Professor. Quote: “‘The Fellwater Tales’ features characters who are caught in a conflict between rival factions of a secret society, whose members are descended from ancient gods. While dealing with their own personal problems, they also struggle to protect Fellwater Grove, one of the last remaining places on earth where the magic of the Mythic Age still survives. The ‘Secret People’ of the ‘Hidden Houses’, as they are called, compete with each other for control of such places, just as political factions in the real world compete for control of sea ports, oil fields, and markets.” If funded, the project will involve several artists, including Morpheus Ravenna. The campaign seeks to raise $10,250 dollars in a month. Perks include copies of the game, copies of the books in the Fallwater Tales series, and the opportunity to have your own character included in the game.

AdflogoThis Samhain marked a special anniversary, the 30th year since Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship (ADF) was founded. ADF Archdruid Kirk Thomas issued the following statement in commemoration of the event: “At a Samhain rite at the Winterstar Symposium held in 1983, Isaac Bonewits, a scholar, visionary, and teacher, announced the formation of a new religion, Ar nDraiocht Fein (ADF). Issac’s idea for ADF was revolutionary for its time. His path-making vision was to see ADF certified clergy in every major city and be recognized as a true world religion. The letter that announced the forming of ADF and what it was all about was written it the first “Druids Progress.” In it, he outlined his concept of ADF as a fluid and dynamic religion, evolving and adapting ancient Pagan faiths in a modern context for his generation and continuing to evolve with the ones to follow. This Samhain marks our 30th Anniversary! Today, ADF is thriving, as generations of members grow up in the path, and are passing it on to the next generation. From it’s humble beginnings, there is now a solid core order of worship. There are currently 26 certified ordained clergy; 74 groves (congregations) in the United States, Canada, the UK, Australia, and Brazil with members on 6 continents; and numerous festivals held all around the United States and Canada every year. Happy Anniversary, ADF!”

In Other Pagan Community News: 

  • A Hellenic Revival Festival in Louisiana is being planned for 2014. Quote: “Hellenic polytheists to invade South Louisiana! Thessaly Temenos, located in the Bayou Regions of South Louisiana has announced its sponsorship of a Hellenic Revival Festival to be held on their ritual grounds. The date for the festival is set for November 8th and 9th of 2014 and is being promoted as an exclusively Hellenic event – not a pan-pagan gathering.” You can find more information, here.
  • Operation Circle Care, sponsored by Circle Sanctuary, is underway once more. Quote: “At Yuletide and throughout the year, Circle Sanctuary sends care packages with Pagan books, magazines, CDs, and other spiritual resources to Wiccans and other Pagans on active duty who are currently serving overseas (both on PCS and Deployment). You can help this effort by sending us donations of new and nearly new items as well as funds to cover air mail postage.” Donation and contact information can be found, here.
  • Pagan photographer Greg Harder has a ton of cool photos up from Day of the Dead celebration at the Oakland Museum of California. Check it out!
  • This weekend is FaerieCon East in Baltimore, featuring Pagan authors Raven Grimassi and Stephanie Taylor-Grimassi, along with a large number of amazing mythic authors and artists. Of special interest will be a Sunday panel on creating tarot and oracle decks featuring Raven and Stephanie, Julia Jeffrey, Caroline Kenner of Fool’s Dog, and Gary Lippincott.

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