Archives For Chas Clifton

“We are now in the mountains and they are in us, kindling enthusiasm, making every nerve quiver, filling every pore and cell of us.”John Muir

Today is Earth Day, a moment when we as a people take notice of our interconnected relationship with the planet we inhabit, when, in theory, we take stock of our responsibilities towards good stewardship of the fragile ecosystems that allow the flourishing of life. A moment where we realize that the resources that we depend on for life are not inexhaustible or incorruptible. Originally a teach-in on environmental issues, Earth Day has since become a global point of focus for issues relating to environmentalism, ecology, and the preservation of natural resources. With climate change becoming an increasingly dire issue, it remains to be seen if we can escape the fog of politics and actually work to mitigate some of the worst effects while we still can.

Pioneer trail, Oregon. Photo: Jason Thomas Pitzl.

Pioneer trail, Oregon. Photo: Jason Thomas Pitzl.

While many contemporary Pagans today feel a deep connection with these issues, to the point where many now describe themselves as following an “Earth Religion,” that was not always the case. Nascent Pagan religious culture in the 1950s and 1960s  was more focused on what scholar Chas Clifton, in his book “Her Hidden Children,” calls “cosmic” and “embodied” forms of nature. This former dominant paradigm is underscored by a recent editorial by Fritz Muntean, who argues that hedonism, not high-minded environmental concerns, were the driving force in the community he joined in the 1960s.

 “The people who rallied, with me, around the ribbon-bedecked May Pole of modern Pagan Witchcraft in the early 1960s were primarily hedonists. Many of us, it’s true, were interested in ecology and environmentalism. But all were there, I believe, to fuel the fires of a religiosity that claimed ‘all acts of love and pleasure’ as its sacraments.”

I think that Muntean’s assertions as to how the shift in emphasis from ‘cosmic’ and ‘embodied’ ideas to ‘Gaian’ ones happened suffers from a selective and biased reading of our community’s history, and largely ignores how Pagans of that time were influenced by a much larger groundswell in the West around issues of environmentalism. As Clifton puts it, this cultural shift within Paganism largely happened without premeditation.

Chas Clifton

Chas Clifton

“I would stress that Wicca and other forms of new American Paganism stepped right into the opening created, without, so far as I can tell, any premeditation. In more than a quarter century of involvement in the movement, I have not uncovered any instance of any American Pagan’s saying, in effect, ‘Let’s position ourselves as the environmental religion.’ Risking an argument from absence, I think that the unconscious ease with which American Pagans embraced the terms nature religion or earth religion testifies to the strength of Catherine Albanese’s argument that nature religion does exist in the American worldview, whether as a scholarly construct, a way of organizing reality (her first description), or as the ‘spiritual source of secular passion.’”

It should be noted that within the larger Pagan movement, some individuals and groups have, in recent years, rejected labels like “earth religion” or “nature religion,” finding them not accurate descriptors of what they practice or believe. That said, support for environmental causes, a willingness to embrace modern scientific data on issues like climate change, and a general belief that preserving natural resources is a good idea, are still pervasive throughout our interconnected communities. A shift did happen in 1970, one that has changed our religious movement in a deep manner, to the point where environmentalism is often slurred with the epithet of “pagan” by some political conservatives.

“With the demise of the biblical religions that have provided the American people with their core values since the country’s inception, we are reverting to the pagan worldview. Trees and animals are venerated, while man is simply one more animal in the ecosystem. And he is largely a hindrance, not an asset.”

This slur, meant to shock Christians of a certain stripe, is increasingly losing its power in the face of greater ecological catastrophes. The main question now is, will outrage over local disasters, over poisoned resources, over under-regulated oil, chemical, and gas industries, gel into a national movement powerful enough to shift the political will as it did in the 1970s? Back then it took acid rain, rivers on fire, toxic smog, and widespread chemical poisoning of both people and our ecosystem before enough push-back solidified. How much damage, or more accurately, how much irreversible damage, will we as a culture tolerate? It’s clear we will need more than Pagans espousing nature religion, we will need a larger change in how we all encounter and experience the natural world and our place within it.

View from Spencer Butte. Photo: Jason Thomas Pitzl

View from Spencer Butte. Photo: Jason Thomas Pitzl

While I think that documentaries like “A Fierce Green Fire” (debuting tonight on PBS), “Monumental,” “Earth Days,” or Ken Burns’ love letter to the National Parks, can help raise both awareness and a longing for reconnection with nature, nothing replaces experience. Living in Oregon, surrounded by ocean, forest, high plains desert, mountain, and butte, one has only to pick a direction and walk to it. Since moving here some years ago, I have seen my own spiritual framework shift and change as I adapted to my new home. Here, people regularly climb to the summit of local buttes to break through the clouds that are our reality for several months of the year, where almost everyone owns hiking gear, where both REI and Cabela’s thrive in providing equipment for a number of outdoor excursions. As a result, “nature religion” is almost our default setting in a land where religious “nones” are a force to be reckoned with.

Not everyone has access to the lush splendor of the Pacific Northwest, but nature, and our desire to preserve its ability to support us, need not depend on forest or mountain. Pagans can oppose fracking in urban New York City, they can get involved in environmental law, fighting for nature in our courtrooms, they can call awareness to poisoned water supplies, they can stand on the front lines as activists, and perhaps most importantly, they can dig into the history of the land they are on, no matter where that is.

“Many of us look to the land to teach us various internal and external lessons. And most of us look to what has been built before us in order to better understand who we were and are. But we sometimes overlook the idea that the objects and structures that we have built can also serve as powerful lessons about the land itself. Lessons that our ancestors knew but in the present-day we have forgotten, lessons that the land may not be able to tell us quite so clearly, especially when man-made alterations have transformed the historic layout of a landscape.”Alley Valkyrie

I know that there will be many who will say that there is little they can do, that they already recycle, or conserve, or donate, as best that they can. That the problems we face are too immense, that we can simply face forward with stoic composure, or engage in “collapse” scenario preparations, and hope for the best. However, I don’t think that’s true, there is something we all can do, rich or poor, connected or isolated, and that is to stop being polite about the devastation. When the AIDS crisis hit, there were those who were more than ready to consign all who were hit by the disease with death, who readily villainized the sick. However, a group of people decided that they weren’t going to die quietly, and that they weren’t going to give up hope. They forced awareness, they pushed for new drugs, and they pushed for policy changes. As a result, there are thousands alive today who may not have been had they accepted their fate.

Trees and sun in Oregon. Photo: Jason Thomas Pitzl

Trees and sun in Oregon. Photo: Jason Thomas Pitzl

The way forward, especially for those of us who think terms like “nature religion” or “earth religion” matter, is to keep pushing towards a culture that cares about these issues. Where it is reported on in the news every day, where all politicians are forced to have a position, where every new statistic, every new disaster, every new setback, is discussed openly, even if it annoys some of your connected social network. If nature is sacred, if we are connected to that sacred nature, then “likes” are immaterial in the face of crisis. If we want global change, we must become that change. We must role model what we expect from our leadership, be that spiritual or political. Making every day “Earth Day” has become a cliche rejoinder, but we must instead make it a call to action that promotes a radical shift in our spirit.

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

Peter J. Carroll

Peter J. Carroll

“At the risk of causing uproar I’d classify most British Neo-Pagans as basically atheists or pantheists, they believe in their gods in a mytho-centric rather than a logo-centric way. By this I mean that they believe in them as archetypes which exist primarily in our own heads but which grow stronger and more useful and which can have real effects upon the world and on us if we choose to believe in them. They do not in the main believe that such gods and goddesses have some sort of objective existence as ‘gaseous vertebrates’, or that their myths have literal truth as historical events. Rather the myths represent teaching stories about the human condition. I feel at home with most Neo- Pagan traditions in the UK and have participated at many varied rituals and meetings. I currently attend a Druid Grove regularly. Of course they all know that Druidry consists of an almost entirely modern synthetic and syncretic ‘tradition’, but that doesn’t inhibit them at all.” – Peter J. Carroll, on his relationship with Modern Paganism.

John Beckett

John Beckett

“Many of us in the Pagan community are heavily influenced by Campbell, even if we’ve never read or seen his work.  If you aren’t a devotional polytheist or if you haven’t had experiences of individual deities, his ideas of monomyth and of “God as Force” are intuitively attractive.  The reverence in which Campbell is held within liberal religious circles only adds to his authority.  That makes it very easy for intelligent and well-meaning Pagans to interpret polytheistic experiences (of others or even their own) through monotheistic and non-theistic lenses. Is that wrong?  I’m not going to tell anyone how to interpret their religious experiences.  If Joseph Campbell’s ideas are meaningful and helpful to you, so be it – you could do far worse.  But if you tell me my experience of Danu can only be seen as an aspect of a universal Goddess or as an archetype or that it must be an expression of a universal myth, we’re going to have issues.” – John Beckett, taking issue with the effect(s) Joseph Campbell has had on the Pagan community.

Rhyd Wildermuth

Rhyd Wildermuth

“I am still traveling. I am not where I came from, nor where I am going. I am in-between, a third place betwixt here and there. When I went on pilgrimage last year, I was for five weeks in each place but also not in those places, nor where I had belonged, nor where I was going. Something about this liminality, though, is quite familiar and even comforting. Ungrounded from place, unrooted from the worlds of meaning, the families and friendships, the beds and teacups–I’m reminded that I carry my hearth with me, even as I yet have no hearth to call mine. A tent in France pulled from an over-stuffed rucksack, a crossroads in a cornfield on a druid mountain, a couch in a 500 year-old Alsatian apartment, a loft in a 200 year old Berlin commune, a room between the rooms of my nephews in Florida, a warm corner in the attic of some friends in Seattle, a shared bed with another in Portland—these are the spaces in-between where I dwell. They are places that are not mine but in which I have inhabited, where the hearth I carry with me settles for a time amongst others. I am myself when I am in-between, more so now that I have understood what else inhabits such places.” – Rhyd Wildermuth, on liminality and gods in-between.

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

“I am very happy to be friends with nearly anyone (as long as they’re, at the very least, not racist, sexist, homophobic or transphobic, or anti-Pagan, and they’re working or willing to work on improving in whatever other areas they might lack awareness or sensitivity), and it’s great to have friends of a diverse variety. However, if I am to be colleagues with someone in my religious community, or they are considered colleagues within my greater religious umbrella, then more is required. No matter how well I get along with someone and how much I value them as a friend, if I have not been in ritual with them and cannot work with them, there’s less of a draw to get closer to them. I’ll still try to be as friendly and respectful toward them as I can be and as is appropriate to our contexts, but there will be a distancing on some matters that will inevitably occur. If it isn’t an important enough subject to talk about with someone, then likely the variety of relationship involved won’t be as important to either of us as well.” – P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, on small-talk, religious community, and what’s required to become religious community. 

Courtney Weber

Courtney Weber

“Yes, I’m prone to exaggeration. But I’m *not* exaggerating here. It was the worst ritual ever and I wanted to go home and throw my Craft books out the window onto 10th street for the cabs to run over and the drunks to puke upon. The most soulful moment I had that night was explaining the concept of a doughnut hole to a British tourist in attendance, who blushed because he thought I was talking kinky. What a waste of time! Except for that British guy, nothing moving whatsoever. But did that ritual warrant my critique? No. Yes, I’m entitled to an opinion. But the High Priestess didn’t ask me what I thought. Even though I thought her ritual was lousy, she was still the one who donated her time to put it together. It would have been rude and unkind of me to run my mouth all over it. It’s even possible that someone in that room got something out of flicking their fingers in the air and if so, the ritual was worth it. I was right then, and I am right now–the ritual was not effective by any means in comparison to the incredible rites I’ve attended since then. But it was not my place to criticize.” - Courtney Weber, on ritual critique, and when to engage in it.

Donald Tyson

Donald Tyson

“If you consider these symbols, you will see that they fall into two categories: symbols of general use in magic, and symbols considered to be chaotic or Satanic. There is no attempt by entertainers to differentiate between these two categories. Many people regard any symbol connected with the occult to be inherently evil. Those of us who study magic know that this is incorrect. Just the opposite is true: no symbol is inherently evil—but the general audience for these entertainers does not know it. To them, occult symbols are mysterious, intriguing, powerful, and dangerous—everything likely to fascinate the mind of a teenager. Popular singers have turned to occult symbols for shock value because they have exhausted the possibilities of sex. They can go no further with sexual suggestiveness unless they have actual sex on stage. They most look elsewhere for something that will spark controversy, and they find it in the occult. This is unfortunate, since that occult symbols have a more profound meaning that is debased by their exploitation. But no one should assume that the entertainers who abuse these symbols know what they are doing, or that these individuals belong to the Illuminati or any other serious occult current.” – Donald Tyson, on occult symbols being used in pop music.

Steven Posch

Steven Posch

“Firstly, a word of thanks and appreciation for your work over the years, and in particular for Did God Have A Wife? To speak only for myself, the book has shaped my own thought and understanding of my ancestral traditions, and for this you have my deep and lasting gratitude. Anent Wife, though, I would like to point out to you an irony which I suspect has heretofore escaped your attention. To this not-altogether-objective reader, it is striking how closely your denunciations of the excesses of contemporary Goddess worship and feminist spirituality—which is, in fact, modern folk religion—resemble the Deuteronomic and Priestly hostility toward the folk religion of their own time. I find it curious that, from the position of your own academic orthodoxy, your sympathy for folk—and in particular, women’s—religion apparently extends to ancient women, but not to your contemporaries. Plus ça change….” – Steven Posch, penning an open letter to William G. Dever.

Chas Clifton

Chas Clifton

“Now John C.. Sulak, who co-wrote Modern Pagans (2001) for RE/Search Press, has brought us  The Wizard and the Witch: An Oral History of Oberon Zell & Morning Glory. It is not just the history of a significant slice of  American Paganism from the 1960s until now, but also the love story of a couple married for forty years. Yet Morning Glory, priestess of Aphrodite, invented the term “polyamory” (but not the concept)  and they embraced it. Paradoxes abound. Sulak tells the story of Otter and MG through multiple voices, more like a radio documentary — there is even a voice labeled “Narrator.” I thought that was a little weird at first, but I got used to it. Sometimes the Zells may seem like Pagan rock stars, but then you see them in screaming fights, or admitting that they made mistakes in who they trusted or dealt with their families of birth or how they raised their kids  (Those children, now grown, are also heard from.) Highs and lows, gains and losses, feasts and famines — it’s all here. Reading it, you can see how the Church of All Worlds, founded by Tim Zell and his close friend Lance Christie, started out as what we now would call “spiritual but not religious,” and changed as it encountered other overly Pagan groups (such as Feraferia) as well as various Witchcraft groups.” – Chas Clifton, reviewing “The Wizard and the Witch.”

Mambo Chita Tann

Mambo Chita Tann

“Lent, from an early Germanic word for “spring” itself, is a liturgical observation. In the Catholic Church, it is an obligation for all adults, and begins with Mass on “Ash Wednesday,” so named for the practice of having one’s forehead marked with the sign of the Cross in the ashes of palm fronds from the previous year’s Palm Sunday. For Orthodox Christians, Lent begins on “Clean Monday,” with ritual baths to wash the body and home, in addition to special rituals to offer and gain forgiveness for wrongs done in the previous year. Regardless of which day is designated as its beginning, Lent includes forty days of practices, including fasting or abstaining from certain foods or actions, church attendance, charitable service, and prayer and meditation. Officially, Lent ends on Holy Thursday, the night of Holy Week when, according to tradition, Jesus Christ spent His last supper with His disciples. According to Catholic.org, “The goal of every Christian is to leave Lent a stronger and more vital person of faith than when we entered.” Sounds like something any person of any faith could get behind! In Haitian Vodou (as the vast majority of Vodouisants are Catholic by birth and tradition) we observe Lent. It may seem strange that we honor a liturgical observation from the religion of conquerors and slave owners, especially since the Roman Catholic Church was expelled from Haiti shortly after its independence in 1804, and did not return for a generation. But Lent is a special, quiet time in ourperistyles (Vodou temples). It is a time we use for spiritual rest and relaxation, and the techniques Vodouisants use to celebrate Lent can be adapted to any religious practice; after all, Vodou is as much Catholicism as it is indigenous African, Caribbean, and European traditions.” – Mambo Chita Tann, on Lent and Vodou.

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

On Jan. 1 Colorado became the first U.S. state to legalize the open sale of recreational marijuana and the first state to regulate the plant from seed to sale. In November 2012 residents voted to legalize cannabis and the state’s legislature added Amendment 64 to its constitution. Over a year later, the stage was set for 36 retail outlets to open for business with 160 more waiting in the wings.

Photo courtesy of Flickr's Coleen Danger

Photo courtesy of Flickr’s Coleen Danger

Today we take a look at Colorado’s landmark decision. Did Colorado make the right choice? Have there been any unforeseen consequences? Will other states follow? With differing voices from around the country and from different minority faiths, we’ll consider the standing issues facing Colorado and the nation.

PGPT_TThornCoyle_bio

T. Thorn Coyle

According to a 2011 FBI Report, “The trafficking and abuse of illicit drugs in the United States create an enormous drain on the economic, physical, and social health of American society. In 2007 alone, the estimated cost of illicit drug use to society was $193 billion.” Of all drug-arrests, 50% are for the possession or sale marijuana alone. The media calls the war on drugs “a trillion dollar failure.”

Pagan author and teacher, T. Thorn Coyle, remarked:

I was raised by an alcoholic and saw firsthand the scourge of out of control drug use. Yet prohibition is not the answer. Treatment is the answer. I see my local communities ripped apart by the prison industrial complex and the increased militarization of police. I see more money poured into incarceration than education. This is not the society I wish to uphold…Decriminalizing or legalizing drugs will go a long way toward solving many of our social ills. 

Tata Christopher Bradford

Tata Christopher Bradford

Agreeing, Tata Christopher Bradford said, “For too long these sort of drug laws have been used to press and terrorize minority populations. Any law that takes away one of those tools is fine by me.”

Colorado native, Peter Dybing adds, “In my work at a local Detox unit we no longer accept admissions based on THC intoxication. This policy is a direct reflection of the fact that marijuana use in itself poses no significant safety risks.”

While those arguments alone maybe compelling, the pros of legalization extend well-beyond recreational usage – most notably, its medicinal benefits. Twenty states and the District of Columbia currently allow the use of medicinal marijuana. Denver Asatru resident Kristen Sherman began using medical marijuana after surgery when traditional medications weren’t possible. She says, “The green medicine has helped me a great deal. It’s not perfect, but I do have increased mobility and am able to sleep better at night as I am not in as much pain.”

chas

Chas Clifton

There is also a lesser-known ecological benefit to cannabis legalization. Colorado Native Chas Clifton explains marijuana’s low-THC cousin, Hemp, is “a low-pesticide, lower-water-use crop with many uses.” In March, Colorado will begin registering Hemp producers as part of the new laws. Last October a Colorado farmer became the first to harvest Hemp in the United States in 57 years.

Despite all these positives, implementation has not quite been as simple as waving a magic wand. The reversal of such long-standing legislation, rife with cultural baggage and bias, comes with many hurdles. Chas stated it best when he wrote on his blog, “There is a lot to sort out here.”

The biggest obstacle stems from the fact that marijuana is still illegal at the federal level. The Drug Enforcement Administration recently called Colorado laws “reckless and irresponsible.” Due to this legal discrepancy, many banks refuse to work with the retail shops for fear of federal prosecution. These legally registered Colorado retail stores are currently forced to operate as cash-only businesses with all the associated stigmas and dangers. To assist, the state allows store and dispensary owners to store firearms in their facilities.

Kristen Sherman, owner of Denver's Belle Memorie

Kristen Sherman

Another major concern is the underground market which is not projected to go away anytime soon. A dealer told the Pueblo Chieftan, “When the novelty wears off, people will be tired of having to go to the stores and paying much higher prices for the same weed. Street dealers will charge less, and we deliver, just like (pizza joints).”

Another byproduct of Colorado’s changing legislation has been the discovery of large-scale illegal marijuana cultivation operations in its national forests. The Forestry Service has been fighting this particular battle since 2009. Chas Clifton explains, “Illegal growers on public lands…pollute streams with fertilizer and pesticide, leave a mess, and threaten other users of that land with physical violence, sometimes resulting in death.” The illegally grown product is reportedly being shipped east and sold in states where use is still criminalized.

Finally Wild Hunt Columnist Crystal Blanton, who is professional social worker and registered addiction specialist in California, remarks, “Professionals in the field are very concerned about the impact of legalization on addiction. There are a lot of new studies addressing the [effects] of marijuana on the body and correlations with addictive patterns.”  She points out that all cannabis cannot be treated equally.  There are differences.

These are only a few of the obstacles that need addressing. Is all of this worth it? Kristen Sherman believes it is. She said, “[Legalization] has a bit of a struggle from the anti-drug lobby, and has quite a way to go before acceptance is the norm… Those who use marijuana are often vilified or portrayed as lazy stoners who sit on their couches all day munching on Doritos… We have over 60 years of prohibition and misinformation to chip away at.”

Peter Dybing

Peter Dybing

Tata Christopher Bradford agrees saying, “The potential marijuana has as a medicine makes it very important that we legalize it throughout the country. Let’s hope this move is just the beginning.”

After recently moving back to his home state, Peter Dybing was “surprised to see open cultivation and usage among friends.” He adds, “These new laws reflect what professionals in the field have been saying for years. The former THC laws waist money, time, legal and mental health resources and represent a poor prioritization of community efforts.

T. Thorn Coyle adds, “Prohibitionists cling to Calvinist morality, which leads us to a deeper question: why is our pluralist society being run by Puritan morals? I ask that as a person who sees direct evidence of the harm the War on Drugs has done. I ask that as a Pagan.” She adds, “I am very heartened by the ruling in Colorado. I hope it spreads.”

Link

Link

Link, a Witch living in Miami Beach, Florida, said:

We tend to look at changes in laws … as isolated events. But those [events] work together to become … parts of a larger story.This story tells of a society waking up and sorting through all the outdated laws it has inherited from past generations, some dating back to biblical times. Civil rights, women’s rights, legal divorce, immigration reform, legal abortion, birth control, religious freedoms, reformed marriage laws and – most recently – the legalization of marijuana all recognize that personal freedoms outweighs the archaic repression of the past.  Hopefully this trend will continue, and we will examine what other laws criminalize very normal parts of life.

Suretha Thacker

Suretha Thacker

Suretha Thacker, solitary Wiccan from Georgia, believes the growing interest in full legalization will continue. She says, “I do feel that other states will adapt similar laws after seeing how Colorado and Washington handle any issues that arise. Especially if the high taxes raised from the purchase of marijuana products contribute equitably to the state.”

Where does your state stand?  Here are just a few state policy changes being made or considered since Jan. 1 2014.

  • For more information on Colorado’s new laws, see NORML’s list of Doobie-Dos.
  • In Washington, recreational pot is legal and retail stores are set to open later this year.
  • Alaska residents submitted a petition to put “recreational marijuana” on this year’s ballot.
  • Michigan is moving slowly toward legalization and protecting the hemp industry.
  • In Florida, signatures are being gathered to put a “medicinal marijuana” referendum on the ballot this year. The legislature may introduce a bill sooner.
  • The District of Columbia will be considering a measure to decriminalize recreational marijuana.
  • Pennsylvania Senate introduced a medicinal marijuana bill last week.
  • New Hampshire’s House “passes recreational marijuana” legislation.
  • Missouri’s governor approved the “legalization initiatives for signature-gathering.”
  • Maryland legislators will simultaneously face a bill to legalize marijuana and a bill to decriminalize it.
  • West Virginia and Georgia law makers have reportedly begun investigating the possibility of introducing medicinal marijuana.
  • New York Governor Cuomo has allowed limited medical marijuana in designated hospitals.

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!

S.J. Tucker

S.J. Tucker

Early this morning Pagan singer-songwriter S.J. Tucker posted a public note on Facebook announcing that she would no longer use the word “Gypsy” in songs, or in reference to her lifestyle, due to growing awareness of the word’s misuse, and history as a racial pejorative. Quote: “I am breaking up with the word Gypsy. It does not mean what I and many other poor fools wish it did. I am so very sorry.  I have done wrong, and I repent of my ignorance. [...] I want you all to know that I am not doing this to get attention.  I am not doing this to gain any increase in public opinion, number of likes/subscribers/followers/what-have-you.  I am doing this because I feel that it’s right, and I should have done it years ago.” Tucker will be re-recording four songs that use the term, using different lyrics, and has suspended sales of those songs until that process is done. Here’s a recent NPR piece on why the term is hurtful to the Romani people. Quote: “The word “gypsy” itself is an “exonym” — a term imposed upon an ethnic group by outsiders. When the Roma people moved westward from India towards the European continent, they were mistaken to be Egyptian because of their features and dark skin. [...] The effort to substitute the word “Roma” for the far better-known term “Gypsy” may strike some as futile, but few other groups carry the burden of such heavy stereotypes with so little reprieve.”

Rev. Kirk Thomas

Rev. Kirk Thomas

Rev. Kirk Thomas, Archdruid of Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship, yesterday posted a response on what a Druid’s response to ecological calamity should be. It was in reply to someone who is concerned about the Fukashima Daiichi Nuclear power plant disaster, but the message is universal in scope. Quote: “We, as devout Pagans, are not helpless. Our everyday actions can either help or hurt the Earth. It’s up to us. The Clergy Council discussed this issue recently, and agreed that we feel the Earth Mother’s pain and that additional steps should be taken to remedy it, as best we can. Druidry is a religion of ‘doing’. As such, it’s not enough to sit and wring our hands when the Earth Herself is at stake.” Rev. Thomas goes on to suggest a two-pronged response to environmental concerns, involving living in a religious “reciprocity with the Earth,” and involving yourself in activism. Quote: “As Druids it behooves us to join and support environmental organizations, to volunteer in the field, and to give of our time and money. Many of these folks work at the front lines of the movement, and know the ins and outs of the situation. By supporting them we support the Mother.” Thomas also pointed back to the ADF’s founding vision document, written by founder Isaac Bonewits.

Patrick speaking at the International Conference on Spiritual Paradigm for Surmounting Global Management Crisis.

Patrick McCollum

Pagan chaplain and activist Patrick McCollum recently had the honor to spend the holidays at the Royal Windsor estate on the Welsh-English border, and posts an update to his foundation’s web site detailing his time there, and how it intersects with his work towards social justice. Quote: “During my stay with the Windsors, I had the delightful opportunity to attend several special holiday parties filled with English nobility, and made several important contacts and partnerships for projects going forward.  One such partnership was with a Member of Parliament, the Honorable MP Bill Cash. Raising the status and rights of women, especially in third world countries, is one of the key goals of the Patrick McCollum Foundation and it is my firm belief that we shall never achieve world peace until all women have full equality and equal opportunity worldwide. In any case, MP Cash has proposed a revolutionary bill to the English Parliament to elevate the status of women, and I am joining him going forward in that effort.” McCollum also references and upcoming trip to India, where he says he’ll “meet with officials and world spiritual leaders to address the issues surrounding child marriage worldwide, and the status of widows in India, to lay the groundwork for several programs that I am putting together.”

In Other Pagan Community News: 

  • Tomorrow (January 3rd) is the last day to apply for a scholarship to Cherry Hill Seminary. Quote: “Thanks to the generosity of donors who gave nearly $4,300 during a fall drive, the “Bow Tie Campaign,” Cherry Hill Seminary will award: 1 master’s class to each of 2 different students, 1 certificate class to each of 2 different students, 1 Rhizomes package of 5 classes to 1 student or group (plus, 1 full Pagan Life Academy series to a previously-selected recipient.)”
  • Be sure to check out the Yule 2013 edition of ACTION, the official newsletter of the Alternative Religions Education Network (AREN). Featuring interviews with publisher Anne Newkirk Niven, Heathen elder Diana Paxson, CUUPs co-president David Pollard, and more!
  • Goddess-centered news site Medusa Coils is changing they way it conducts coverage. Quote: “I will attempt to give you notice of larger events related to Goddess and other spiritual feminisms–no matter where in the world they are being held. [...] I would like to have more coverage on this blog of what is going on at the increasing number of Goddess temples, “houses,” etc., worldwide that meet in specific physical/geographical places.”
  • Chas Clifton notes that Denver’s Isis Books got some local press coverage, and gives a bit of background. Quote: “‘Makeshift Egyptian temple’ is not quite right, though. The building used to be a mortuary with columns out front (where the limos used to pull up) that lent themselves to an Egyptian-inspired paint scheme. The store started in Denver on East Colfax Avenue, not far from Hubcap Annie’s, the used hubcap store, which gives you a sense of the neighborhood.”
  • In honor of their Facebook page reaching 100,000 ‘likes,’ Witches & Pagans Magazine is giving away a free download of issue #21 of the periodical. The offer is good through January 6th. It’s the “garden” issue of that sways you in any particular direction.

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

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

Vivianne Crowley

Vivianne Crowley

“Christians were right though – Yuletide is truly Pagan, in the sense that it celebrates warmth, food, and also the ecstatic. Solstice has long been a time of spiritual renewal and religious celebration; but also a time to drink, dance, make music and love; when all acts of love and pleasure are truly Her rituals. We need such celebrations. Our well-being is increased when we party. We let go of everyday anxieties and briefly go back to the Golden Age. Ecstatic spiritual celebrations are cathartic; they help free us of our preoccupations, our problems and issues, and the relentless negativity of world news. What draws many to Paganism is our love of life, the world around us, and the joy, even ecstasy, that people can experience through Pagan celebratory rites, where we drum, sing and dance around the fire long into the night. This is not escapism, but recognition that letting go and going back into childish pleasure and delight in the now is psychologically and spiritually beneficial and healing. Afterwards we feel stronger, more able to take up once more the burdens of everyday adult life.” - Vivianne Crowley, on reclaiming Christmas.

J. Rhett Aultman

J. Rhett Aultman

“I’m an atheist. I’m also Pagan. It’s actually not that hard to reconcile. At the very beginning, it’s worth making something quite clear — there is really no rulebook for what makes a Pagan. It’s a term that seems to encompass a rather wide and diverse set of people. Generally speaking, Thelemites and Wiccans and Heathens all seemingly share a common set of social concerns and social infrastructure, even if they don’t share cosmology or practices. The reasons for hanging together under this umbrella term aren’t within the scope of the article, nor is the history of the term. I’m not out to speak about how we got to this point. The fact of the matter is that we’re here. And what is Paganism? It is, effectively, a culture that provides a web of common reference and language for a bunch of different people with different beliefs and practices to hang together. Paganism, therefore, has no particular theological or religious test.” - James Rhett Aultman, on being a Pagan and an atheist.

Lilith Dorsey

Lilith Dorsey

“Marie Laveau’s Tomb has stood the test of time. It has seen flood, violence, disrespect, haters, and now someone has painted it pink. Marie Laveau’s Tomb is a shrine to Voodoo practitioners around the globe, a mecca if you will, that is the second most visited grave in the United States. Marie Laveau is New Orleans Voodoo Queen. Immortalized in story and song, she was said to have possessed immense power which lives on through her spirit today. The grave is a site for visitors to leave offerings and experience the majesty that still surrounds this Voodoo Queen over a century after her death. Unfortunately the pink paint is not the first time she has seen rough treatment. For years patrons have persisted in making 3 x marks on the tomb in a supposed petition for their requests. This is very damaging to the plaster which must be replaced periodically. During the filming of my documentary Bodies of Water:Voodoo Identity and Tranceformation I interviewed several practitioners from tour guides to store owners who vehemently tried to discourage this practice [...] All I have to say about the potential pink vandals is Shame, Shame, Shame!” - Lilith Dorsey, on vandals painting Marie Laveau’s Tomb pink.

Hrafnkell Haraldsson

Hrafnkell Haraldsson

“Whoa! Remember us? We’re the idolaters who worship rocks and trees and when we get really wild, the whole damn earth! Just because Heathen folk like me believe that it is this life we are living that matters rather than some insubstantial (and far from guaranteed) hope of future paradise, does not mean our “materialism” compares to or has anything to do with the teachings of Christian prosperity preachers. Most liberals and progressives are celebrating, I suppose. I, for one, speaking as a Heathen, am a bit upset. It’s difficult enough being Pagan these days, a minority religion among minority religions. Bad enough we get saddled with your Satan and your endless flocks of demons; don’t go dumping your unwanted preachers on us too. Look, it is hardly surprising that the Pope holds to his Church’s centuries old belief that Paganism is inferior. I get that and I don’t expect it to change any time soon. The entire Old Testament is an anti-Pagan diatribe, a rejection as Pagan of everything outside itself.” - Hrafnkell Haraldsson, on Pope Francis calling failed Christians “pagan.”

starhawk 5 19 04

Starhawk

“I realize I have been trying to avoid, a deep and abiding sadness.  I think everyone who loves the earth must be feeling it, that sense of things slipping away, pulled by the tide out of our grasp and gone—places of great beauty, species of remarkable birds, rain patterns we can count on, the confidence that our children’s children will inherit a world in which they can thrive.   When we attune ourselves to what nature is saying, she’s shrieking in our ears that it is all spiraling out of control, too fast now to be easily stopped.  And all the big systems, the governments and international agencies that are supposed to kick in and shift our direction are themselves all spiraling out of control, like tops wobbling in a wild gyre, crashing hardest on those least able to construct bulwarks of money and power. I’m an optimist by nature, and an activist by choice.  As long as I can still balance on creaky knees and draw a breath into wheezy lungs, I’ll keep on fighting the destruction and working for regeneration. But on this Solstice when time stops, I have to stop, and draw a breath of the sea air, and face the possibility that we might lose.  All our efforts might not be enough.  Decisions made far away from us in inaccessible stratas of power steal away our future, and maybe we won’t be able to stop them.” – Starhawk, on activism, and not lighting a solstice bonfire.

chas

Chas Clifton

“When this slope burns, I thought, it will burn like a volcano. And it did, on October 23, 2012, a date seared into my memory [...] All this is prelude to thinking about how an animistic/polytheistic outlook copes with such changes to the land.  No, it is not like someone paved it over and put up a Family Dollar store. Something will come back—the scrubby Gambel oak has re-sprouted, and there were wildflowers last summer, but the ponderosa pine and Douglas fir will be much slower to return. I probably won’t see this valley forested again. I will never forget walking around a week or two after the fire, when the slopes just felt nuked. Crows overhead were the only life—the rattlesnake guardian almost certainly died, if tree roots were being burned underground. The little seasonal spring, however, remains as sort of natural shrine, a focus for hope and continuity, bear cubs and wild turkeys.” – Chas Clifton, on what happens when trees disappear.

Ocean from Deaf Pagan Crossroads

Ocean

“As I discuss this whole fake interpreter issue with others, one thing becomes clear – this is a far more complex situation than just someone faking a profession for which they do not have the appropriate credentials. Much like the layers of an onion, various levels of concern can and have been identified – issues of national security and background checks, issues of mental illness, issues of creditability and accountability, issues of competence, issues of language barriers, issues of accessibility, issues of humor vs. offensiveness, issues of cultural appropriation, issues of recognition and respect. And for me personally and for many members of the Deaf Community, this whole thing frustrates us and hurts us… on so many levels. As we struggle to deal with these issues and the ensuing emotions they generate, we ask that individuals be patient, sensitive, and to the extent possible…understanding. And most importantly, that everyone be respectful of the Deaf Community’s feelings…many of which have been brought to the surface by this incident.” - Virginia L. Beach (aka Ocean), on the fake sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela’s state funeral.

Aine Llewellyn

Aine Llewellyn

“If you don’t like that certain posts you’re writing get the most pageviews and comments, maybe it’s time to stop writing those posts. Maybe it’s time to write something else. I don’t think people are being forced to blog about specific topics (but if they are, let me know!). Blog about what makes you happy, what you think is important, what matters to you. If you blog about something controversial, it’s to be expected that you will get lots of pageviews. Bemoaning that fact does nothing for anyone, except maybe stroking your own ego or trying to prove how ‘above it all’ you are. (But none of us are, really.) Write what matters to you. If you don’t think something is important – or think the people reading your blog put too much importance on something – you don’t have to write about it. I don’t write about ceremonial magic, or even magic much at all. It’s not important to me, it doesn’t really stir my brain. If I write on a topic and then decide it’s not worth the stress, or not as interesting as I previously thought, I stop writing about it – or I figure out how to write about it differently.” – Aine Llewellyn, sharing some “thinky thoughts” during the Winter holidays.

Holli S. Emore

Holli S. Emore

“No wonder the magi watched the skies.  This is the time of year when all the heavenly bodies seem to dazzle with chilly brilliance in their indigo field of space. Here in the woodlands part of the country, the sky seems to open downward with the falling leaves. Not only does the dark come sooner, faster, longer, but small twinkling lights peep from beneath the highest branches of the woods behind my home. What wonders must have shown themselves in ancient times, centuries before anyone dreamed that a satellite camera might show the earth covered by an Indra’s net of human-made lights. Tonight from the orbiting space station, astronauts can see a grand conjunction of the Earth, Jupiter and Venus.  The sun has just completed another annual analemma, a sort of ourobouran eternal dance through the sky.” – Holli Emore, on the wonders of the night sky.

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

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

Oberon (Tim) Zell, an important figure in the early Pagan councils.

Oberon Zell

“We the undersigned are a coalition of academic scholars and authors in the field of religious studies, who have done research into contemporary Paganism, and written books on the subject. Pagan studies represents a growing field in academy and the American Academy of Religion has had “Contemporary Pagan Studies” as part of its programming for more than a decade. We are approaching you with a common concern. The word “Pagan” derives from pagus, the local unit of government in the Latin-speaking Roman Empire, and thus pagan referred to the traditional “Old Religion” of the countryside, as opposed to Christianity, the new religion with universal aspirations. Paganism, therefore, was by definition pre-Christian religion. Over time, with the expansion of the Roman Church, “pagan” became a common pejorative by Christians toward any non-Judeo-Christian religion. In the 19th century, the terms pagan and paganism were adopted by anthropologists to designate the indigenous folk religions of various cultures, and by Classical scholars and romantic poets to refer to the religions of the great ancient pre-Christian civilizations of the Mediterranean region (as in the phrase, “pagan splendor,” often used in reference to Classical Greece). Today, the terms Pagan and Paganism (capitalized) refer to alternative nature-based religions, whose adherents claim their identity as Pagan. Pagans seek attunement with nature and view humanity as a functional organ within the greater organism of Mother Earth (Gaea). Contemporary Pagans hearken to traditional and ancient pagan cultures, myths, and customs for inspiration and wisdom.” – Oberon Zell, and a coalition of Pagan scholars, from a petition sent to the editors of the Associated Press Stylebook and the Chicago Manual of Style advocating capitalization of the word “Pagan” when referring to the religious movement.

Chas Clifton

Chas Clifton

“One thing I did at the recent American Academy of Religion annual meeting was stop by the University of Chicago Press booth and get the name of the managing editor of the press’s Manual of Style, which is the holy book, all 1,028 pages of it, for editors of academic books and journals—plus many publishers of serious nonfiction. A petition has been sent to her by Oberon Zell of the Church of All Worlds, etc., as well as to the editors of the Associated Press Stylebook, the holy book of American journalists, about the capitalization of the word “Pagan.” Oberon has lined up forty-some writers and academics in support of the petition [...] So far, the University of Chicago Press has acknowledged receiving it and plans to forward it to its Reference Committee. This is a worthwhile cause, I think, and it is a battle that I have fought since the early 1990s (at least) when I was writing The Encyclopedia of Heresies and Heretics for the reference book publishers ABC-Clio. (A friend working there at the time commissioned it.) I won the battle on Pagan — even for ancient polytheists — but lost on BCE/CE versus BC/AD.  As editor of The Pomegranate, I have continued to insist on capital P’s except in direct quotations. This has put me in gentle conflict sometimes with British and other European contributors who favor “pagan” or at most use “Pagan” for self-conscious contemporary new religions and “pagan” for pre-Christian practices. I think that bouncing back and forth is confusing for the reader’s eye.” - Chas Clifton, talking about his support for the capitalization campaign, and his own efforts on that initiative’s behalf. 

Sarah Anne Lawless

Sarah Anne Lawless

“Modern witchcraft is changing its stripes. I need only to talk to elders and attend long-standing events to see this clearly. The young people are upsetting and delighting the older generations with their newly evolved beliefs and practices. One old-timer is horrified by an ecstatic ritual at a festival full of nudity, body paint, drumming, trance, possession, and ecstatic dance. They complain loudly to everyone and try to get nudity banned at an event that’s been clothing optional for twenty years because they don’t know how else to deal with their extremely uncomfortable reaction to the ritual itself. Another elder’s eyes shine with joy to see young people hosting a ritual the likes of which they haven’t participated in since they were taking amanita caps in the woods with their friends from college in the 1960s. They clap loudly in glee and ask for more. [...] The big name initiatory traditions are no longer the be all end all of witchcraft. Younger generations of witches are putting less and less importance on lineage and formal initiation choosing personal gnosis, mysticism, direct ecstatic experience, and spirit initiation over the customs of previous generations.  Many of them would rather follow a personalized spiritual practice than follow the dogma of a set tradition. Many of them do not agree with the hierarchical structure of witchcraft covens and the many interpersonal problems it can create. Many consider strict traditions to be as divisory to witchcraft and Paganism as the different sects of the Church are to Christianity (i.e. witch wars). Others don’t like the polytheistic restriction or the inexplicable focus of only the ancient Celtic and Greek cultures within traditions. They want more options, more flexibility, and a more involved, hands-on style to their craft.” – Sarah Anne Lawless, on how the death of modern Witchcraft is a myth.

Yvonne Aburrow

Yvonne Aburrow

“It is a little known fact many of the early pioneers of the Pagan revival in England were gay: Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson, who came up with the idea of the League of Nations, was a gay man. Back in the late 19th century, he advocated the revival of the Greek view of life, including Paganism and same-sex love. Edward Carpenter, a gay Pagan vegetarian socialist poet around at the same time, also advocated a return to nature and wildness. [...]  Those of us who are LGBT and Pagan, together with our allies, are working to recover the ancient pagan traditions of the gender-variant shaman Divine Androgyne, deities of same-sex love, and to discover or invent new symbols for the diversity of LGBT experience. The Pagan community also supports marriage equality, and we see the struggle for LGBT equality and the recovery of LGBT stories, mythology, and ritual as complementary efforts. [...]  If we look back into the Pagan past, we can see many queer deities, such as Odin, Vertumnus, Pan, Artemis, the Pales, and so on. There is a tradition of the Divine Androgyne in Wicca. It is not difficult to tweak the rituals slightly to make them more LGBTQ-inclusive, and this is also great for heterosexuals who find the gender binary paradigm rather tedious. In Heathenry, there is the practice of seiðr, a shamanic practice which can involve gender-bending and same-sex love, and many LGBTQ people are attracted to Heathenry as a result.” – Yvonne Aburrow, on the LGBT experience within modern Paganism, the deep history of LGBT people within Paganism, and the current state of same-sex marriage within the UK.

iao131“The fundamental Law of Thelema is “Do what thou wilt” which is a radical exhortation for each individual to explore and express their true nature, whatever that may be. Fundamentally, we as Thelemites uphold everyone’s right to be who they are. This involves a revolutionary form of tolerance or acceptance of diversity. Thelema itself is partially the result of a syncretism of many religions and philosophies. It says in The Book of the Law, “Aum! All words are sacred and all prophets true; save only that they understand a little.” We can also find reference to Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Egyptian, Greek, Hermetic, Buddhist, and Hindu ideas within The Book of the Law itself, let alone the other Holy Books and writings by Aleister Crowley. This speaks to Thelema’s ability to appreciate the truths that are held by the various ideologies across the globe and throughout history. Our eclectic syncretism is not arbitrary though insofar as everything revolves around the core of “Do what thou wilt”: threads are gathered from all corners of human existence to be woven together through the harmony expressed in the word of the Law that is Thelema. The tolerant acceptance of different points-of-view is what distinguishes Thelema from virtually every other religion that has come about in human history. This can be seen very explicitly in the declaration of the rights of man in “Liber OZ,” wherein it is written, “Man has the right to live by his own law—to live in the way that he wills to do.” We are radical in our acceptance of others as they are, however they may think, speak, or act, yet we also take up arms against dogmatism, prejudice, and superstition that impede the full expression of humanity’s liberty.” – Frater IAO131, on why Thelema kicks ass.

Anomalous Thracian

Anomalous Thracian

“Whether we draw our strength and comfort at an identity level from our absolute service to the divinities and spirits we serve and piously praise, or in our gods-spurred service to community, I think that it is important also to recognize the value in the things which make us uncomfortable, to own that discomfort (rather than to blame others for drawing it up within us), and in that way learn to either build upon resources and skills we did not previously find place for within ourselves, or else value them in others (whose participation and proliferation in those pursuits frees us to do that which we are doing). We are not all meant to be the same, or engaged in identical jobs or tasks or even modes of relation, but we are all meant to engage in the same space and occasionally come up against each other conflictually, and in so doing find new ways of pioneering the continued development of our social and spiritual and devotional topographies. Unlike chimps and bonobos, humans have the capability or at least the potential to choose to correct impulse which is at its source purely chemical and an archaic throwback to the glory days of gatherer-hunter society, before iPhones and IKEA and internet forum trolling. When these conflicts in our communities come up, I comment again and again at the value to be found in them. The key piece is not where you fall on a given issue (although, please, find out where you do, at least for your own benefit and that of your religious and social engagements in order to be more authentically and fully realized a form of yourself!) but rather that it is that these very differentiated stances actually bring authenticity and integrity to our religious movements. These discourses (gnosis and mysticism versus social engagement and advocacy, etc) are not new, in the realm of theological and religious debate; they are tried, true, and unending in terms of “resolution” or “rightness”. They are to religious debate as “nurture versus nature” is to psychological debate! The fact that we are having them demonstrates once more that we have achieved that which we have sought to achieve: status in practice (rather than mere theory!) as a religious social entity and set of movements! Our theologies and social theories and institutional (gasp!) structures have reached such a place of firmness (or fluidity..?) that they can come into competition with one another in a way that actually constructively pushes, propels, and encourages further discourse and growth, rather than theological “shut-downs” and “walk-outs”.” - Anomalous Thracian, on the subject of dissonant comfort.

T. Thorn Coyle

T. Thorn Coyle

“The Goddess Athena came to the door in disguise. Telemachus welcomed her in. Today at the soup kitchen, I saw two people I haven’t seen in over a decade. One is an old school leftist with a bright smile, a man who struggles with clinical depression. The other is a woman for whom I used to offer hot compresses to soothe the abscesses up and down her arms, drawing the pus and poison from the pinpricks on her body. I looked at her today and thought, “How is she still alive?” How is she alive after years of chronic drug use and living on the streets? The grinding of that day to day would be too much for me. Yet here she was. Then came in the well dressed, well spoken man with work steady enough to pay his rent but not feed him until the rest of the month. His shoes were shined, as usual. Then the guy taking classes at City College who was also short on cash. On and on people came, sat, laughed, ate. 125 gallons of fresh soup, and equivalent amounts of salad and bread. Everyone who walks through the gate – guest or volunteer – has a story we don’t know. Everyone gets fed. Who is a stranger? What is the unknown? Whom do we choose to welcome? Whom do we choose to spurn?” – T. Thorn Coyle, on welcoming the stranger.

Glen Gordon

Glen Gordon

“Amidst my panic and dread that I killed the deer, a flash of imagery and sensation overcome me and I pulled off to the side of the road several yards from where I hit the deer. There was no exit or other way to cross the lane and head back to the site. My mind filled with a vision of seeing the world as a deer, feeling the world as deer, smelling the world as deer (there is no other way to describe it). I felt the impulse of four legs darting underneath me, and saw another deer ahead of me. Then an unsuspected blur streaked in front and I felt the pain of impact. I was myself again and sitting on the ground next to the passenger side door which has a deer-sized imprint. To this day, I can’t look at that door without thinking of that flash of being a deer. I was shaken, as tears swelled in my eyes and I felt the fur that stuck in the crack between the door and rest of the car’s body. (In some places the fur stayed for a year.) I  trembled as I touched the bristly fur, and an unexpected sound came from my mouth. A simple string of vowel sounds in different combinations. My voice trembled as the sounds grew stronger in my abdomen and moved through my throat and escaped my mouth. The singing intensified as I got into my car and continued driving. It felt important to me that I not stop the song.  It weaved in and out in different arrangements of the same sounds. The tempo would speed up and slow down at intervals and filled up the space of the car. I sang for at least 3 hours before entering the nearest town on the route. My eyes watered and my body was moved by these sounds that moved through me but came from outside of me.” - Glen Gordon, on the “death song” he learned to sing.

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

Sam Webster

“Love is oft touted as the solution to all ills. I’m not seeing it. Without love, life is not worthwhile. It is gray, dismal, lonely and harsh. Love, mercy, compassion, care, kindness give value and joy to all we do. But is not a solution to our problems. Our problems are from bad choices, from promoting the stupidity of selfishness over general wellbeing. What love is here is too narrow a love, just for self or those closest. Wide enough love can be the spark that leads to action, but it is not the solution. For love, alone, is used as a palliative: Don’t worry, just love each other and all will be well. At worst is it the mere sentiment, the subjective feeling of love, that we are enjoined cultivate, having no impact on anyone except ourselves, and we feel so good about it. Yet the object of our love gets nothing of our sentiment except maybe words, perhaps flowers. Love at its best is the will for another’s happiness, and this at least has the virtue of being motivating, to someone. Yet, in and of itself love is not a solution. Wisdom is the ability to make the right choices, even without sufficient data, because it is founded on data, which when contextualized is knowledge, and when the pattern in the knowledge is then understood and recognized time and again such that general principals of the ways of the world can be intuited. This is wisdom and takes hard work to get there. So hard is it that the most direct discipline to acquiring it is called the Love of Wisdom: Philosophy. To forestall the hubris of claiming to be wise, we only claim to aspire to wisdom through the love of it.” – Sam Webster, on love and wisdom.

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

Pagan Voices is a regular feature here at The Wild Hunt, one that seeks to highlight our voices, wisdom, debates, thought processes, and evolution in the public eye. If you enjoy this regular round-up, please consider donating to our Fall Funding Drive (and thank you to the over 200 supporters who have already donated). Now, onward…

Vivianne Crowley

Vivianne Crowley

“Why does consciousness awareness bring such pain? As a species we have become god-like in our ability to create the world in which we live and to be aware of our own existence. We have become as the gods; but we do not become gods. Unlike gods, we have frail physical bodies. We have the self-awareness of the divine, but the fragility of a beautiful flower that blooms for only a short time before it is blown away on the wind. We may incarnate again but the ‘I’ that exists now, formed by genetic inheritance and the experiences of this current lifetime, is transitory. Our consciousness and sense of self are dependent on the physical brain and one day that brain will no longer function. This knowledge can cause us anguish and despair – it is difficult to let go of the self that we have always known – or we can acknowledge and accept our destiny and value this incarnation all the more because it is so short. Time passes, youth fades, illness and ageing come. This is the fate of all us, a shared human ending. Even the richest of us like Steve Jobs cannot escape the inevitability of death.” – Vivianne Crowley, on death, and beyond, from a Pagan context.

Peter Dybing

Peter Dybing

“Many individuals in our community seek to expand their practice and network of contacts by sticking exclusively to theological pursuits ignoring the connections our beliefs have with the environmental, political and social issues of the day. Such an approach, while minimizing the potential for discord, leads to a ‘Pagan light’ approach to daily practice. For an activist, the spiritual is political, personal and weaved fully into our understanding of our path. If this is so, how do we avoid the many conflicts that arise from our activities? The simple answer is we don’t. If our beliefs and actions lead to strife among our co-religionists, it is a reflection of our effectiveness in pursuing our deity inspired concepts of social justice. At the center of this divergence is the ability to hold those within our circles with whom we disagree in what I term ‘Sacred Regard’ as teachers, clarifiers of our path and respected seekers on their own journey.” – Peter Dybing, on activism, acceptance, and approval within the Pagan community.

Chas Clifton

Chas Clifton

“Most people do not fight over theology anyway. Theology is often just a group marker, “us versus them.” The theological claims themselves are secondary. People fight for their group more than “for the gods,” perhaps. People will change religion for a variety of reasons—to get along with a spouse’s family, to gain or to retain their social status (the Roman senatorial class), or to avoid having their heads chopped off… An “organic” Pagan society is the dream of many, but as Things Fall Apart illustrates, such a society can be transformed within one generation.  I do, of course, consider both the traditional Igbo and the fourth-century Romans to be Pagan, using the term as we now define it. There is no other choice when “traditional religion goes global” either, as the recent New York Times piece about a West African traditional priest working in New York City described. When geographical and cultural boundaries are crossed, we need a “global” descriptor. Can we construct a theology — or is it part of Pagan theology today — to say that the gods fight their own battles?” – Chas Clifton, on why the Pagans did not fight for their gods, and some reflections on that idea.

Cat Chapin-Bishop

Cat Chapin-Bishop

“I read the part describing the admission fee–$30 per person–and I thought, No.  This is just not right. I’ve been trying to put my finger on why that is.  It feels important to me to find words for this. It’s not disrespect for Penczak.  It’s not that I think it’s an unreasonable fee–there are travel costs, and the guy deserves to earn money for his time. It’s not an objection to teachers being paid–heaven knows, as a public school teacher, I’m in favor paychecks going to those who skillfully communicate knowledge.  I think it’s that what I would be looking for, in meeting Penczak, would not be knowledge, but rather, that deeper thing: an exchange of wisdom.  It is my experience that there are kinds of spiritual wisdom that cannot be had in any way other than an exchange, and an exchange between equals between peers.  And not only is is potentially charged for me to assert that I am the peer of someone whose work is widely known, I think it’s also true that the relationship of one peer to another, outside of the closed and narrow world of individual covens or traditions, is one that nothing in the Pagan world is set up to foster. [...] My point is something about the Pagan movement as a whole: we don’t do peer relationships well.” – Cat Chapin-Bishop, on peer relationships, and the lack thereof, within the Pagan community.

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

Sam Webster

“It is vitally important that we rebuild the cults of the Gods. These become the pillars supporting all we build thereafter. (Re-)Establishing and cultivating our connections to the Gods with regular offerings and feasts brings Their powers and presences deeply into our lives. This is what was taken away from our forebears by Christianity and Islam, and with the same urgency as they were destroyed, we need to restore the ancient practice. Places consecrated to the Gods and activated through offerings radiate Their blessings into the world about about them and into the lives of those who worship. Our culture’s lack of alignment with the Gods is a fundamental dimension to our self-destruction. Without cultivating pluralism, without honoring the Many and the Particular, we will continue our descent into barbarity. Mostly I would expect Pagans to come and worship in the restored cults, although if open enough others—not Pagan, or not yet Pagan—will come join us to eat and drink with the Gods. But we need a more outward-facing strategy: we need to rebuild the Mysteries.” – Sam Webster, on how a Pagan restoration can save the world.

T. Thorn Coyle

T. Thorn Coyle

“When the paramedics came, they asked her a few questions. She requested that she be able to take her food to go. I quickly packed up some bread and salad, but couldn’t find an extra jar for soup. Some other guests at her table helped. When I returned with the food, the paramedics were getting her up, one on each side. This next part is what killed me, and is the reason I’m writing this down: She immediately put her hands behind her back, wrist over wrist, awaiting handcuffs. One of the paramedics said, “You don’t have to do that. We’re not the cops. We’re paramedics.” I followed behind, with her food bag, talking with one of the women holding a clipboard. I explained about the HIV and meds. I gave her name. The entire time I walked behind her, she held her hands in that handcuffed position. She had asked for help the only way she knew how – by laying across the food counter. She had wanted the paramedics to come. Yet part of her knew, just knew, she was being arrested. Hands behind her back. Wrist over wrist. It felt like a tragedy to me. What sort of life has she lived so far that even in asking for and receiving help, she expected punishment? And how do we do this to ourselves? What boxes are we living in? What shadows? What do our bodies know that we can’t even speak of? What punishment, or rejection, or pain waits coiled inside? How can we help ourselves heal?” – T. Thorn Coyle, on tragedy and healing.

Carol P. Christ

Carol P. Christ

“According to retired anthropological archaeologist Dean Snow, the handprints made by Paleolithic ancestors 40,000-20,000 years ago may have been made primarily by women. Snow spent a decade gathering and analyzing photographs of the handprints left in caves. The scientific fact that women’s first and ring fingers are generally of the same length, while men’s ring fingers are generally longer their index fingers, led him to the conclusion that ¾ of the handprints in the caves were made by women! If women were painting their hands on the caves in larger numbers than men, then isn’t likely that they were also painting the images of the great beasts on the walls of the caves? This is Snow’s conclusion.  The article states that Snow’s findings contradict the widely held theory that male hunters were the sole creators of the cave paintings of the Paleolithic caves such as Lascaux and Chauvet. Feminist interpreters of the cave paintings have long noted that pregnant animals which no hunter would ever kill are also portrayed on the walls of the caves. This suggests a wider purpose for cave rituals than hunting magic. Still, comfortable assumptions that support widely held gender stereotypes are not easily dislodged. ‘Man the hunter’ remains the popular image of ‘cave man,’ while the image of ‘cave woman’ being pulled by her hair by ‘cave man’ sticks in the mind. Despite decades of feminist theorizing about caves as the womb of the Great Mother, Snow refused to speculate about the meanings ‘cave women’ might have given to the images within the caves. Could it be that he had never even encountered the idea that the cave symbolizes the womb of Mother Earth? Did this idea simply not ‘make sense’ to him? Is the idea of expressing gratitude to the Source of Life alien to him?  Or did he have difficulty imagining that the Source of Life is located in the earth–not in heaven?” – Carol P. Christ, on women artists and ritualists in great caves.

Alyxander Folmer

Alyxander Folmer

“I find the practice of Apologetic argument execrable. Apologetics don’t lead to conversation, and they don’t facilitate respectful exchange. Instead, they make a declaration and then reject anything that may contradict that statement. This is the opposite of everything modern logical thought and scientific practice has taught us. The scientific method teaches us to observe, gather as much relevant information as possible, and form a conclusion based on that evidence. In the case of the debate in question, this means finding a common definition of the term “Christian” and then speaking with Mormons to determine if they do or do not fit that definition. In the method of Apologetics, one chooses a conclusion and then finds sources that support it. In this case, the predetermined conclusion was “NO!”, which the writer supported by quoting authors and ideologues that agreed with them, while also refusing to listen to any details that might disprove their preferred answer.” - Alyxander Folmer, making his feelings plain on apologetic arguments.

That’s all I have for now, please remember to support The Wild Hunt during our Fall Funding Drive so that we can continue to spotlight intriguing, provocative, and informative voices from our interconnected communities!

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

Janet Farrar & Gavin Bone

Janet Farrar & Gavin Bone

“I would call myself a priestess above all else, even before calling myself a witch. My life is about service to the divine, dedicated to the gods, to serving spirit and to healing others – I trained with quite an eminent psychologist apart from my witchcraft training. A lot of people come to Gavin and myself for healings and readings, and, within our group we do healing circles. It’s not ‘spellcraft’ as such, but more a form of controlled distance healing that any spiritualist would recognise. A spell is really a way of focusing psychic energy in a ritualised way. All ethical magic for us is about healing. We don’t do love spells, and we’re more likely to do a spell for physical healing or to help someone get a job or new home, rather than one for money. [...] I feel fulfilled in what I do, and know my life has a greater purpose. I also have no fear of tomorrow; I know that the universe always unfolds as it should, and by serving spirit I will always be looked after by the powers that be.” – Wiccan Priestess Janet Farrar, in an interview with the Irish Independent.

Vivianne Crowley

Vivianne Crowley

“We are entering the astrological sign of Virgo, the sign of Our Lady of the Harvest. The Harvest Goddess is an important deity for everyone. Whether we live in the centre of a city or in the countryside, we are dependent on the crop cycle for food and life. Here in Brittany, the Celtic north-west of rural France, the grain in the fields around us has been reaped and threshed. The ears are ready to be transformed into flour and then bread; the stalks will provide animal food and bedding. The reality of humankind’s dependence on the natural world is all around us. The end of the grain harvest is a natural time for us to celebrate and to honor the harvest Goddess. It was a time when people could take a brief break from back-breaking work. Knowing that the grain was safely harvested, our ancestors could celebrate that there was food for the winter to come. The Harvest Goddess is the dark-skinned Goddess, who survived into the Christian era as the Black Madonna. She is the Goddess of those who farm and garden, who spend long hours outdoors and are burned by the sun. She is the Goddess of the ripened corn, Lady of the golden sun-kissed fields. She reminds us that life in the body and the natural world are as important as the world of spirit.” – Vivianne Crowley, on Our Lady of the Harvest.

Chas Clifton

Chas Clifton

“As I came out of the dry juniper and oak brush into the lusher creekside vegetation hawk flew low over me — an accipter, probably a sharp-shinned hawk. Its head turned, and it looked at me. It felt like a welcome, I thought. ‘Bullshit,’ I told myself, ‘it’s just cruising the riparian zone looking for lunch. I happened to be here, so it checked me out.’ Maybe the flip side of the New Animism — the focus on relationships between yourself and the other-than-human world — is that you cannot think that these encounters are All About You. The wild birds are always watching, and they do talk to you. And they talk about you. Several times I have had crows and Steller’s jayvs tell me something when I was hunting deer or elk — but it is up to me to act correctly on their information. Apparently our relationship is not yet perfectly harmonious. But if they would help me more, they would have something to eat. Isn’t that fair? What gets under my skin is when someone says something like, “My totem is Hawk,” because I want to know which hawk? There is a boatload of difference between a Cooper’s hawk and a Mississippi kite, for instance. (Oh well, they probably meant red-tailed hawk anyway, the pickup truck of buteos — large, useful, and ubiquitous.)” – Chas Clifton, on looking at, and listening to, birds.

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

Sam Webster

“To understand our importance to the world, we need to realize that we are something new. We are building a new religious way of life that is embodied, life affirming, and in harmony with the natural, non-human, World. Building a new religion is far more creative and revolutionary than merely resuscitating a survival of ancient days. That a religion can be at all created in modern times is a profound threat to the established authoritarian faiths around us. (Not so much to the ‘Foreigns’ and the Indigenous, with whom we have significant common cause.) Every effort to assimilate us to their culture, that of the ‘faiths’, will be made, including ignoring the simple truth of what we are. We Pagan folk practice a new religion, founded on the old, the foreign, and the indigenous. We combine all of the World’s spiritual inheritance into a open, inclusive mode of personal spirituality and communal worship that finds the Sacred in the non-human World as well as in ourselves. Our historical relationship with science, as with other cultures, places us in a unique position to help our species survive its greatest challenge ever: becoming adult. We who do this, we are Pagan.” – Sam Webster, on who’s Pagan.

T. Thorn Coyle

T. Thorn Coyle

“As I was thinking about the cycles of the year, I noticed that in seeing all the ways my work for justice felt ineffective and not enough, I hadn’t been taking time to reflect on what my harvest actually was for the past year. I had not allowed myself to take stock. My harvest is great. It includes: having a new book published, organizing a monthly vigil for those killed by police violence, spearheading discussions on racism and privilege in my community, making sure monthly devotionals happen, teaching, offering spiritual direction, increasing my level of health, scrubbing pots at the soup kitchen, enjoying our garden, spending time with friends… I’ve done a lot this year, and have even taken more time to inquire after what my heart and soul want. That latter, that deep contemplation and listening, are part of what is causing great dis-ease around the news that fills my twitter stream daily. My heart and soul are not satisfied. I want to be more effective in the help I offer.” – T. Thorn Coyle, on rethinking the harvest.

Rain Webster

Rain Webster

“Mine is an American Path. It is the path of a mutt who does not feel closely aligned to any particular ancestral experience other than my own unique American experience. I am mostly of European descent. I do have a bit of Irish in me, but I am also English, French, German, and Dutch, with a bit of Native American and who knows what else thrown into the mix. My family has never observed any traditions that could be identified as belonging to any particular ethnic group.  [...] The point is, I value my American experience. It is part of who I am. I may have European ancestors, but my family has been in the U.S. for as long as anyone can remember. Our ancestors have mingled to the point where any ethnic identity we might have retained from the Old World (s?) has been lost. Why cling to Old World religions when my personal identity is in no way connected to the Old World?  Maybe it is just a matter of semantics. You call it Samhain; I call it Halloween. You celebrate Yule, while I light candles for the Winter Solstice. I make my planting and harvesting decisions based on the geographic zone in which I currently live. Those dates have differed, as I have moved from southern Illinois to Texas to Hawaii to North Dakota, and finally to Wisconsin where I now reside. I celebrate the Earth and Mother Nature when I turn the soil, plant the seed, pull the weed, and harvest the fruits of my labor.  I will continue to call things by the names that I have always called them. To do otherwise would be inauthentic to my personal experience. The only difference is, I now do these things with a distinct purpose in mind.” – Rain Webster, on forging a distinctly American Pagan path.

Donald Michael Kraig

Donald Michael Kraig

“I have seen various versions of “improved” versions of the Golden Dawn rituals and teachings. Ignoring the changes that are made for political reasons to try and give extra power to individuals, most (but not all) of the changes I’ve seen have one thing in common: they were created by people based on personal philosophical beliefs rather than an inner understanding of the teachings. One of my favorite examples of this is that some groups have changed the use of the word “Lord” in Golden Dawn rituals to “Lord and Lady” or “Deity.” On a superficial level I fully understand this. At the time the GD was founded, even though the Order was amazingly non-sexist in practice, the members still used a language that, following the practices of the time, was sexist. I am in favor of eliminating sexism. However, this change deconstructs the rituals, changing life-altering mystical symbolism into an English-only ritualized drama and, for that section, nothing more.” – Donald Michael Kraig, on why change is (and isn’t) good for magick.

Deborah Oak

Deborah Oak

“I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the core tenets of my practice as a Pagan psychotherapist.  Buddhism is currently in fashion in my profession,  mindfulness turning out to be just as useful (if even more) in creating emotional well-being as analyzing family dynamics.   Are there particular things that we earth-worshippers do that inform my profession?  Psychotherapy truly is more art than science, and it figures that many of us who are in the Craft have something to teach other healing artists of hearts and minds. This week one of my core tenets has me laughing. I believe, and try to transmit to my clients, that the world wants to be in meaningful conversation with us.  Once we accept this as true, and cock our ear towards it, the world will not shut up.  Under great distress, of course, it’s hard to listen to anything or anyone. Anxiety and fear can operate as mighty misfiring car alarms, drowning out any truth of the real threat or danger. The Buddhist gift of  mindfullness  is a damn fine tool for re-calibrating the human car alarm. But then what? That’s where I think we Pagans have something to offer. We know how to carry on mytho-poetic conversations with the world, and any rich conversation like that makes human life a hell of a lot more meaningful, if not more interesting.” – Deborah Oak, on listening, and receiving the message.

Sarah Veale

Sarah Veale

“When we think of magic in the ancient world, we tend to think that what we today consider magic was, back then, simply religion. Certainly this holds true for things like worshiping many gods, divining the future, or other such activities. But there definitely was a subset of ancient practice that was considered to be against the grain. Those engaging in such practices go by many names:  magoi (a term used to refer to ‘Eastern’ holy men), pharmakeis (those skilled with drugs and potions), goetes (spiritual practitioners who engaged the dead), and epodoi (singers of incantations). But all had one thing in common: they were perceived as working against nature, and thus society in general. According to Matthew Dickie, this is the dividing line between religion and magic in the ancient world. One appeases the Gods in a socially sanctioned manner, the latter employs a special skill to bend the natural forces out of alignment [...] Working with this model, it should come as no surprise that allegations of magic—i.e. engaging in socially deviant behaviour—were often targeted at those most marginalized in society. In fact, it was within these dis-enfranchised sectors where magic appeared to flourished most. Women, in particular prostitutes, were seen as experts in the magical arts.” – Sarah Veale, on love spells, prostitutes, and poison.

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

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

Pagan Radio Network

Pagan Radio Network

After 13 years of operation The Pagan Radio Network, one of the most prominent outlets for Pagan and Pagan-friendly music, shut down suddenly on July 21st. Owner Lew Wirt gave the following explanation for the sudden closure: “Not enough time, money, or energy to keep it up. I won’t bore you with a long-winded explanation, except to say that I attend college and raise a special-needs child. This leaves very little time or money to devote to my hobby of Internet broadcasting (as enjoyable as it was). Thank you for tuning in for nearly 13 years.” While there are other worthy streaming Pagan-oriented stations, few rivaled PRN’s size and scope, showcasing an amazing breadth of music. Currently, the domain names and IP are being auctioned off, and Wirt is recommending alternatives (plus new stations are popping up). As someone who had a show hosted on PRN, I’m saddened to see this essential resource go, and I wish Lew all the best in his future endeavors. Whether this is an isolated and personal development, or something that augurs a larger discussion on money and support within our communities is, I think, something that is still up in the air.

Dan Halloran

Dan Halloran

PaganSquare, the blogging portal hosted by Witches & Pagans Magazine, has added a new writer: Dan Halloran (who is going by Dan O’Halloran). Halloran, currently serving on the New York City Council, has been indicted in a massive political bribery scandal, and is facing trial sometime in 2014. While the matter of his guilt or innocence awaits due process, Halloran seems to be publicly re-embracing his Heathen beliefs (and the wider Pagan/Heathen community) by writing about Germanic polytheism. Quote: “Now it’s my turn to kick back in life after politics and discuss the things that matter to me from an academic and philosophical perspective. It may stir up some controversy… but that’s half the battle of ordeal, the crucible process of Wyrd. I’m looking forward to the journey….” I questioned editor Anne Newkirk Niven about bringing Halloran on board and she said that she was aware of his history, and was not looking to make any political statement by having him write for PaganSquare. That Halloran “just seemed to fill a gap in our PaganStudies section.” It should be interesting to see how Halloran’s new engagement with the Pagan community is received. You can read all of The Wild Hunt’s coverage of Dan Halloran, here.

Omnia performing at Faerieworlds.

Omnia performing at Faerieworlds.

This past weekend was the Faerieworlds Festival in Eugene, Oregon. As I said in my post this past Friday, it is a very Pagan and mythic event, and also boasted the first American performance for the Pagan-folk Netherlands band Omnia. On their official Facebook page, the band said they are “so very happy that the AMAZING audience here has such a strong reaction to our pure PaganFolk musick, seeing as it’s our first time here in the USA.” Meanwhile, featured workshop presenter T. Thorn Coyle said that she “had a grand time. Blessings of magic, mirth, and music to you.” Standout performances this year (aside from Omnia) included the mythic Pagan neo-folk of The Wicker Men, ethereal singer-songwriter Mariee Sioux, the transcendent world fusion of Stellamara, and a brief Kan’nal reunion featuring guitarist Tierro and singer Kurt Baumann. Also of note was the fact that American Pagan band Woodland officially released their new album “Secrets Told” and closed out the event on Sunday night. There’s a lot more to tell, and many more Pagans of note who participated (S.J. Tucker, for example, who, as always, was universally beloved), but suffice to say that this is an event that more Pagans should discover. Here’s the opening spiral dance for a small taste. Tons of photos at the official Faerieworlds page. [In the interest of full disclosure, I work for Faerieworlds, but I thought the festival was awesome even before I did.]

In Other Pagan Community News:

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

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

Crystal Blanton

Crystal Blanton

“And so I sit here, reconciling my fear of the reality that they are living today…. And acknowledging the guilt that I feel for this. I struggle to hold faith and hope for change in a world that invests in technology before human lives, and I wonder the plan of the Gods in a world that is so broken. So I take this primal rage inside of me, and I send that energy to the universe for the Martin family and for our collective grieving communities; for a mother without her child, a father grieving the loss of his legacy, and an entire community without justice. What I have come to truly understand is that there is no separation between my spiritual self, my ancestral culture and the path the Gods have put me on. My spirituality is deeply embedded within a framework that includes the divine sacredness of all beings, equally as important as the others. And so this type of injustice is sacrilegious to my belief system, and irreversibly detrimental to the Black community. Tonight I offer prayers and hold energy for a deeply wounded family, and a hurting community.” – Crystal Blanton, sharing her thoughts regarding the verdict in the Trayvon Martin trial.

T. Thorn Coyle

T. Thorn Coyle

“We are tearing ourselves asunder. The cost is high. Systemic racism means that every 36 hours an African American is killed by police or private security forces. Systemic racism means that when a black woman fires a warning shot into the air in an attempt to scare off her violent husband, she gets 20 years, despite the same Stand Your Ground Laws at play in the Zimmerman trial. Systemic racism means that every black and brown man in New York City has been stopped and frisked multiple times for no cause. Systemic racism means that African Americans are four times as likely to be arrested and jailed for marijuana possession than whites. Systemic racism means that more African Americans are in prison than were ever held as slaves. [...] This is a spiritual issue. This is all a spiritual issue. Matter is not fallen. The material world is sacred. That includes all of us. And yet we forget. We say that this portion does not deserve the light of the sun. We forget that even things that live in darkness can be beautiful and true. We say we have no power. We say it’s not our problem. We forget: we too are sacred. We are touched with divine fire. We forget that we co-create the cosmos with the Gods. We forget that every moment of every day, we get to choose: this magic, or that magic? We forget the flow of love. We forget that for love to flow freely, becoming the great connector, we must be open to it. We must open to love. In opening to it, love flows through us. Love flows on. This is a time for prayer. This is also a time for action. This is a time to open the floodgates of love. This is a time to act for justice.” – T. Thorn Coyle, asserting that “confronting racism is spiritual work.”

Donald Michael Kraig

Donald Michael Kraig

“I know, some people reading this will say, “But I can’t find a group” or “I can’t afford the travel, the costs, the time off from work, etc.” These are all good, legitimate reasons for choosing the easier, AI-2 type of initiation. I would like to point out, however, that there is another word that means “reasons.” It’s “excuses.” You can come up with all the reasons/excuses you want. But let me ask you this: If I were to say to you, “If you will travel across the country and come to my home, I’ll give you ten million dollars. It will change your life forever,” would you be willing to figure at a way to earn or borrow some extra money and get some time off in order to reach my house? I would say 999 out of 1,000 people would absolutely do this. Suddenly, those reasons/excuses given in the previous paragraph just vanish—if you really want the experience that will change your life. Similarly, you are more likely to receive a life-altering AI-1 experience by taking part in a physical initiation. I would say it’s worth it, wouldn’t you?” – Donald Michael Kraig, opining on the types and efficacy of astral initiations at the Llewellyn Worldwide blog.

Byron Ballard

Byron Ballard

“Thought I’d check in and let you all know we’re grounding, centering, focusing our wills down here in the sinking ship that is North Carolina. We know the country is watching us, wondering how much farther we can fall. Much farther, I’m afraid.  Some of you are aware of my conceit called “Tower Time.” It is my theory and experience that we are living in the time of the fall of empire (ours), in fact, I see it as the crash of several ancient toxic systems that are coming to the end of their time. Death to the patriarchy! Down with Oppression! Sic semper tyrannis! What that means in our Pagan communities is that we have some handy tools that can help us in the chaos of our General Assembly and its general assholery. The tools and techniques that many of us use in our daily practice are admirably suited to help us during this Tower Time. We have grounding and shielding and setting wards. We have Divines for healing and vengeance, and justice.” – Byron Ballard, a North Carolina resident, discussing “Tower Time” and recent political happenings in her state, at the PaganSquare.

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

Sam Webster

“The only point in saying that a person has had a UPG, an Unsubstantiated (sometimes Unverified) Personal Gnosis, is to be dismissive and demeaning to them, and on examination the claim or criticism of UPG has no worthy intellectual basis. [...] Experience is the center of all spiritual and religious life. Text is at best derivative. By creating and using such a term as UPG, “Unsubstantiated Personal Gnosis” we privilege text over experience. (This is a rather Christian move, and those who have been following my writing know how I feel about that. . .) Even more damagingly, by framing someone’s experience as a UPG we dissociate ourselves from the primary data of spirituality. We can then bracket and set aside the immediate real, and go back to our books. In the process we may have damaged both the knowledge we could have shared in, but also possibly the recipient of that knowledge, who could have been another culture bringer, but instead was told their experience was of diminished value, or of no value at all, simply because we can’t substantiate their insight in a book.” – Sam Webster, on why he doesn’t like the term “UPG” (Unverified Personal Gnosis).

Chas Clifton

Chas Clifton

“Within the academy — and here I speak mainly of the American Academy of Religion, the largest body for such study on this continent (it includes many Canadians too) — even the study of new religious movements was way off to the side. Those scholars themselves were relative newcomers to the AAR, which had its origins in the study of Christianity and which devoted most of its program sessions to textual matters. York not only situated Paganism  as “a religion, a behavior, and a theology,” he argued that Pagan elements were found in other “world religions” too — not just “Pagan survivals” but behaviors, primarily. I don’t mean to suggest cause and effect — one book did not do that  — but it was at about the same time that the AAR’s leadership, which had rejected a proposed Pagan Studies program unit — a permanent slot, in other words — in 1997,  relented in 2004 and granted it. So York helped to forge a sort of non-sectarian (not Wiccan, not Asatru, not Roman reconstructionist, etc.) definition that would change people’s minds to where they no longer thought that the P-word meant “having no religion” or “follower of an obsolete religion from long ago.” Instead, it would be a type of religion or a way of being religious. Paganism (academic definition) was everywhere.” – Chas Clifton, on the the influence and importance of Michael York’s definition of Paganism.

Morpheus Ravenna

Morpheus Ravenna

“We know that it was a common practice among the warrior traditions of the Gaulish Celts to offer dedications to their war Gods prior to a battle, and we know that human and animal sacrifices were among those offerings. It stands to reason, and I think has been shown, that these Gods (or at the very least our Goddess) still expect some kind of blood sacrifice. Modern Pagans love to talk about how the Gods evolve with us, and how forms of offerings can be different in modern times. I agree – but I think the important thing that has shifted isn’t whether or not living sacrifice is needed or useful. What has shifted is the importance of the individual soul and the idea of consent, the willing sacrifice. Everyone whose blood went into that cup offered it of their own volition. Similarly, when we organized the blood donation drive at PantheaCon last year, that was a form of sacrifice which was purely volitional. That focus on volition with regard to human offerings is reflective of how sacrifice can evolve in a modern context – a religious practice now shaped by modern values on individual liberty, but still preserving the core function of the act, which is the offering of vital life.” – Morpheus Ravenna, on blood sacrifice, and whether certain gods still want/need/desire it.

Erick DuPree

Erick DuPree

“Refuge in the Goddess however meant that I had to cast aside that I might be seen as less than magical, less than “witch” or less than what media labels “Pagan author” simply because I do not follow the traditional year in a day to initiation mold. I had to give myself permission to dare, because the one thing I am not ashamed about or worried about the world knowing is this… I was raped. I was raped over and over again and the only reason I am alive is because of Goddess.  Goddess from above and Goddess from within. That is not a feeling, or a belief, that is a documented clinical fact. On more than one occasion, trauma therapists have noted that ‘something’ kept me from a darkness. They call it “inner light” and my mother might call it Jesus, but we witches know it is Goddess [...] Many people who have been Sexually Assaulted ask themselves, “Why me?” I too, asked that very question. I too, asked, will another man ever touch me? I too, asked why Goddess?” - Erick DuPree, Dharma Pagan, on why, as a survivor of sexual abuse, he contributed to the forthcoming anthology “Rooted in the Body, Seeking the Soul: Magic Practitioners Living with Disabilities, Addiction, and Illness.”

Peter Dybing

Peter Dybing

“It has been pointed out that these references do not refer to us “big P Pagans” but rather to the march towards a post Christian society. This line of reasoning urges us not to perceive these statements as a direct confrontation of our collective religious identity. Meanwhile the public is being bombarded with the demonization of the word Pagan with out any information to dispel these statements. Our community cannot afford to jeopardize the progress we have made by choosing to not confront those whose intent is perceived as “not talking about us”.  Such a course of action will only result in more misplaced distrust and discrimination. This attempt by the religious right to frame the conversation in a way that replicates the “satanic panic” of past decades provides a perilous framework for future discourse. [...] To the general public, the intellectual exercise of differentiating between big P and little p Pagans does not exist. In defense of all we have collectively accomplished we must respond if we wish to avoid being marginalized by a reframing of the debate that has the potential to diminish our community’s voice.” – Peter Dybing, on why Pagans need to formulate a response to the increasing use of the term “pagan” as a slur by conservative Christians towards their cultural and political opponents.

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

“The entirety, however, is billed (both in the book and in the beginning of the film) as “a story that will make you believe in God.” Let’s read that sentence again: a story that will make you believe in God. That’s sort of a bold statement for any religion, and for any story. So, did it succeed? Well, for me, no, and not just because I already have particular religious commitments. Without entirely ruining the film, the end of it comes down to a choice: “which story do you prefer?” Does one prefer horrific humanistic (in the sense of “strictly human,” not “friendly atheist” or “Italian intellectual rediscovery of Greek culture”) realism and Darwinian disaster, or religion and myth and allegory that is ultimately escapist fantasy? It doesn’t really amount to “making” one “believe in God,” then: it means “does one accept the world as it is,” or “does one retreat to imagination?” And, the latter option, which seems to be the preferred one of the characters in the film, is essentially to “believe in God,” according to this film. Can you see how problematic this is, even on the surface, for anyone who actually has a religion that puts them in touch with how things actually are, even independent of the presence of the gods in such a world?” – P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, on why he was not overly fond of the film “Life of Pi” and its “slippery” theology.

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