Archives For Christine Hoff Kraemer

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!

cup-bearer-tea-time-300x215The Pagan Tea Time initiative spearheaded by Patheos Pagan channel editor Christine Kraemer, meant to encourage face-to-face discussions in a Pagan & polytheist blogosphere that has, at times, grown decidedly combative, is now well under way. According to Kraemer, there have already been some remarkable conversations taking place. Quote: “So far, I’ve seen some great reports of Tea Times involving Rhyd WildermuthConor O’Bryan Warren, and a three-way chat between John Halstead, Sannion, and Galina Krasskova (wow!). I haven’t had any tea times with people I haven’t already met yet — one of the blessings of being managing editor here is that getting together with writers via video chat happens semi-routinely, as does attending conferences, so I’ve met many of you already. (Yay!) I did get to do a nice catch-up with Niki Whiting, though, and I have a few more dates set for next month.” The project runs through the month of February, when established Pagan conventions like PantheaCon and ConVocation take place, providing more chances for interaction. Here’s to civility!

amaundex3Pagan learning institution Cherry Hill Seminary has announced that Lauren Raine will be their artist-in-residence for 2014-2016. CHS President Jeffrey Albaugh, in a public statement, said “it is my pleasure to announce our new Artist in Residence, Lauren Raine. Lauren is a visionary painter, mixed media sculptor, and choreographer, although I know her best from her beautiful and moving theatrical and ritual masks.” Raine, a painter and mixed-media sculpter, is perhaps best known within the Pagan community for her “The Masks of the Goddess” series. Quote: “I’ve always been fascinated with masks as sacred tools – as what Carl Jung called ‘vessels for the archetypal powers’. In 1998 I began a collection of masks of Goddesses from spiritual traditions around the world, first worn at the 20th Annual SPIRAL DANCE in San Francisco.” For the terms of the residency, you can read them at the CHS website.

shawnus2In Pennsylvania, a local coven documents their struggle to attain the right to perform legally binding wedding ceremonies. Quote: “So i started at my County level and had voice and email exchanges for three days with a very nice, helpful and informative lady there in the right department. There is a notice posted on the Courthouse door, and i tried to paste it in here and then save this draft and WV completely wiped my post off their server. So i will just say it said, to quote, that legal marriages could be performed by Justices of the Peace or Judges or Ministers “of a regularly established church or congregation” which means from those three Religions of the Book. There is a license for Amish, Mennonites and Quakers, but i am not one of them. I am a Witch and we Do have Our Religion!” The Wiccan Priest struggling through this process is Shawnus Merlin Belarion, and he is seeking assistance from outside Pagan organizations in navigating this issue. You can find contact information here.

In Other Pagan Community News:

  • Sannion has announced that a proposed Polytheist Leadership Conference will indeed take place this Summer. Quote: “The Polytheist Leadership Conference will take place Friday, July 11th through Sunday, July 13th – though we’ve made arrangements so that you can get the block room rate if you want to come in earlier on Thursday.” Please note: “This conference will be open only to people who affirm the autonomy and diversity of the divinities, people who recognize that there are differing types of divine beings (such as Gods, Spirits and Ancestors) and that they all require different forms of cultus, people who are actively engaged in cultus, people who have respect for traditional ways and yet remain open to innovation when it’s called for and people who do not find magic (when properly distinguished from religion), mysticism and direct engagement with the holy powers to be problematic. Racists, sexists and queer- and transphobic need not apply either.”  All inquiries should be sent to sannion@gmail.com.

  • Pagan band Tuatha Dea is crowdfunding a new collection of songs based on the work of author Alex Bledsoe. Quote: “We were INSPIRED and though we had no intention of working on a new CD this soon we simply couldn’t help ourselves! So with Alex’s blessing we began writing music based on his amazing trilogy! One song for each novel, “The Hum and the Shiver”, “Wisp of a Thing” and the anticipated yet to be released “Long Black Curl” (yes we have the skinny but you’ll have to wait and read!) The project..An album called “Tufa Tales- Appalachian Fae”.a musical tribute, backdrop and celebration of these wonderful works and the world within their pages! But that won’t be all…as Tufa’s ourselves we have some other personal bits and pieces to add to the CD!”
  • The current issue of Sage Woman Magazine (#85) has been mailed to subscribers and is available to order online. Quote: “Celebrate the amazing world of women’s herbalism with this special issue. Stories of healers, visionaries, and pioneers fill us with inspiration. Discover new goddesses, old remedies, and learn how close our own healing powers are in our homes and the natural world all around us.”
  • The Imbolc edition of AREN’s ACTION newsletter is now out, featuring its usual treasure-trove of interviews. This time: Oberon Zell, Ellen Evert Hopman, PC Andrew of the UK Pagan Police Association, and much more!
  • Medusa Coils has information on the 2014 Glastonbury Goddess Conference. Quote: “The 19th annual Glastonbury Goddess Conference will begin July 29 and run through August 3, with fringe events beginning July 26, Kathy Jones, conference organizer, announced. The theme of this year’s conference is “Celebrating the Crone Goddess: The Cauldron & the Loom.” The conference is held in Glastonbury, England, aka Avalon, also the location of the Glastonbury Goddess Temple.”
  • Paganicon in Minnesota (held in March) has announced two new featured guests: Taylor Ellwood and Steven Posch. Quote: “We are increasingly excited about this year’s ever-expanding line-up including Oberon Zell, Deborah Lipp, Ivo Dominguez, Jr., and now Taylor Ellwood and Steven Posch. We hope you sign up right away! Remember if you wait too long you’ll have to pay extra, so get the good rate while you can!”

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!

Elk_River_WV_mapSince I’ve started tracking Pagan responses to the West Virginia water contamination crisis, the fundraiser set up by Solar Cross Temple to aid locals has raised over $1100 dollars. Quote: “Since the 15th, Solar Cross has received $1165 in donations for this cause. We will be sending money to West Virginia tomorrow. We give thanks to everyone who spread the word, and to Crow, Ellen, Kristina, Shannon, Christine, Jenya, Samara, Marian, Laura, Helene, Mary, Fortuna, Jody, James, Tony, Sean, Joan, Lily, Karen, Denise, Rebecca, Rosalind, Kimberly, Elizabeth, Jason, Gerald, Lezlie, Kimberly, Justyna, Christine, Rhiannon, Jennifer and Misha.” In addition, organizers of the CUUPs ritual in West Virginia, which drew support from Pagan leaders like Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary, said that “the energy surge we felt came from folks all over the U.S., as well as Italy, France, & Australia.” Events and actions in West Virginia, and other affected areas is ongoing. Recent commentary highlighted here from Anne Johnson and Sara Amis give some much-needed perspective as this story progresses. We will keep you updated.

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

Oberon Zell.

Back in December, I spotlighted efforts by Oberon Zell and a coalition of Pagan scholars who are advocating capitalization of the word “Pagan” by journalists when referring to the religious movement. Now, Zell and his coalition have sent out a new press release, and are promoting a Change.org petition, which they hope will garner 500 signatures. Quote: “To address this issue, a coalition has been formed of academic scholars in the field of religious studies, who have done research into contemporary Paganism, and written books on the subject. Their purpose was to create a simple petition to the Associated Press and Chicago Stylebooks to capitalize “Pagan” and “Paganism” when speaking of the modern faiths and their adherents in future editions. The petitions were mailed off to the Stylebook editors on Monday, Dec. 2, with 60 extremely impressive signatures. Many people concerned with religious equality subsequently asked to sign the petition, so to facilitate further signatories, the coalition has created an online master version in Change.org.” You can see the original appeal and signatories, here.

Christine Hoff Kraemer

Christine Kraemer

Christine Kraemer, a scholar and Managing Editor of the Pagan Channel at Patheos.com, has launched a new initiative for, quote, “building Pagan intellectual culture face-to-face.” The concept is simple enough, an organized book club with a local face-to-face component. Quote: “Each month, we read a book: popular fiction (dystopian and utopian novels are a favorite genre); literary fiction, like Candide; modern social or historical commentary, like Neil Postman’s Technopoly; or classics of philosophy, like The Symposium (which we actually repeat once a year). Next, we gather in person with a set start and end time – no Pagan Standard Time here. Once gathered, we sit around a table so everyone can see each other, books in hand, pitchers of water in the center, and glasses for each of us. Alcohol consumption and snacks are put off until the formal discussion is finished. To open the seminar, a participant offers an opening question (usually a different person each meeting). And then we’re off!” You can read more about the initiative, and how to participate, here.

In Other Pagan Community News: 

 

PSG 2014 Logo White Small for Web

  • Hey Pagan Spirit Gathering fans, the popular Pagan festival has unveiled its official artwork for 2014. Quote: “While we have been holding Pagan Spirit Gatherings for over thirty years, each year’s gathering has its own unique character and energy,” said Selena Fox, Executive Director of Circle Sanctuary. “To help guide that energy we give each year has a theme that explores different aspects of the celebration and our community. This year’s theme is ‘Heart and Harmony’ and I’m thrilled our beautiful new logo that so perfectly captures the spirit of that idea.”
  • As mentioned in our latest Pagan Voices, Morning Glory Zell is currently in the hospital due to kidney problems, with doctors re-starting chemo treatments. A new update on her status (which seems to be improving) and a suggested visualization for those wanting to do healing work has been posted on Facebook. Quote: “Please visualize a huge IV bag, larger than the hospital, hanging above the hospital. It is filled with pulsating, rainbow, glittering, swirling vortices of energy. A silver tube runs from the bag to MG’s left arm, where it joins the IV. MG is using this visualization – and is feeling the energy coming from ALL OF YOUR PRAYERS, CANDLES AND RITUALS. MG has asked that I thank everyone who is working on her behalf. She knows you are there.” May her recovery be swift and complete.
  • Just a reminder that the Maetreum of Cybele is still trying to raise funds to fight an appeal of their win in the Appellate court. Quote: “The well pump for the Maetreum died last Sunday and we are still trying to raise the 3000 needed for the last legal fees of our battle. Please contribute if you can via paypal to centralhouse@gallae.com. The contributions stopped over the weekend.”
  • Phantasmaphile has news of an upcoming London exhibition of channelled artworks by Ethel le Rossignol. Quote: “Huge kudos to Mark Pilkington and his Strange Attractor for putting together an astounding-sounding show of Ethel le Rossignol’s channeled paintings.  A spirit medium in the early 20th century, she and her teeming, mystical visions fall into vibratory lockstep with the Hilma af Klints, Wassily Kandinskys, and Emma Kunzes of the era – though hers appear to be decidedly more figurative.”
  • Pagan chaplain and activist Patrick McCollum will be speaking at the “Life, Death, Near Death and Beyond: An Exploration” event in March. Quote: “Together we will look at the issues of life, death, near death and beyond. All at a gorgeous eco-retreat center and certified organic farm on Maui.” The event headliner is Ram Dass. You can see a promotional video, here.

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

With all apologies to Charles de Lint for borrowing his column’s title, here are some recently released and upcoming books that I think readers of The Wild Hunt will be interested in checking out.

facing_the_darkness“Facing the Darkness” by Cat Treadwell: We all face times of crisis and depression in our lives, and Druid Priest Cat Treadwell shares her strategies for supporting Pagans (and others) on their healing path(s). Quote: “Facing the Darkness aims to support those going through times of crisis and depression – primarily Pagan, but accessible to all. Utilizing Pagan spiritual imagery, skills and perspectives, a combination of inspirational text and easy exercises work with images and stories to distract and encourage for short-term relief and long-term healing. From the apparent hopelessness of deep night through to the inevitable return of sunrise, Nature imagery, tales of mythology and Deity combine in accessible meditations, activities and anecdotes to remind the reader that they are not alone on their path through the darkness. Cat Treadwell acts as a guide through the forest, working with the Druid skills of Bardic tales and Ovatic land/spirit connection. Darkness and despair can lead to peace and inspiration…through the simple bravery of stepping forward.” There aren’t many books aimed at Pagans that tackle the issue of depression, so this seems like it would be a much needed addition to many Pagan bookshelves, particularly clergy. “Facing the Darkness” will be released on October 7th, 2013.

The Life of Margaret Alice Murray A Woman’s Work in Archaeology “The Life of Margaret Alice Murray: A Woman’s Work in Archaeology” by Kathleen L. Sheppard: Released the beginning of August, Sheppard’s biography of Margaret Murry, an accomplished Egyptologist-turned-folklorist who helped develop and popularize the “Witch-Cult Hypothesis,” is the first of its kind.  Quote: “This book analyzes the life and career of Margaret Alice Murray as a teacher, excavator, scholar, and popularizer of Egyptology, archaeology, anthropology, linguistics, and more. Sheppard also analyzes areas outside of Murray’s archaeology career, including her involvement in the suffrage movement, her work in folklore and witchcraft studies, and her life after her official retirement from University College London (UCL).” Sadly, the book doesn’t seem to give too much attention to Murray’s work on the Witch-Cult Hypothesis (a scant 30 pages), and titles the chapter “The Witch-Cult Hypothesis and Other Adventures on theLunatic Fringe, 1911–1935,” so you have some idea of where Sheppard stands on the subject.  That’s too bad, as Murray’s work, while largely discredited, and now seen as an embarrassment by many British folklorists, did have a large effect on the early development of modern Paganism and religious Witchcraft. Still, this might be a good book to read for a deeper understanding of Murray’s life and work, and will no doubt be valuable to scholars digging into how her work shaped the imagination of her generation. It’s pricey, so a library request might be the way to go on this one. Out now.

jhp51efa580a1aaf“The Earth, The Gods and The Soul – A History of Pagan Philosophy: From the Iron Age to the 21st Century” by Brendan Myers: Pagan author and professor of philosophy Brendan Myers has written several well-regarded books on topics ranging from virtue to loneliness, greatly enriching the depth of Pagan-oriented literature. Now, he returns with a history of Pagan philosophy. Quote: “Philosophy was invented by pagans. Yet this fact is almost always ignored by those who write the history of ideas. This book tells the history of the pagan philosophers, and the various places where their ideas appeared, from ancient times to the 21st century. The Pagan philosophers are a surprisingly diverse group: from kings of great empires to exiled lonely wanderers, from devout religious teachers to con artists, drug addicts, and social radicals. Three traditions of thought emerge from their work: Pantheism, NeoPlatonism, and Humanism, corresponding to the immensities of the Earth, the Gods, and the Soul. From ancient schools like the Stoics and the Druids, to modern feminists and deep ecologists, the pagan philosophers examined these three immensities with systematic critical reason, and sometimes with poetry and mystical vision. This book tells their story for the first time in one volume, and invites you to examine the immensities with them.” The book has already earned advance praise from thinkers like Gus DiZerega, Ronald Hutton, and Phillip Carr Gomm, and I’m very much looking forward to reading it myself. Out November 7th, 2013.

Kraemer-Eros-Touch-cover“Eros and Touch from a Pagan Perspective: Divided for Love’s Sake” by Christine Hoff Kraemer: Scholar, Patheos Pagan Channel manager, and author of the quickly becoming essential introductory text “Seeking the Mystery: An Introduction to Pagan Theologies,” Christine Hoff Kraemer returns with an academic exploration of “the sacredness of the body and of touch.” Quote: “Within the past twenty years, contemporary Pagan leaders, progressive Christian and Goddess theologians, advocates for queer and BDSM communities, and therapeutic bodyworkers have all begun to speak forcefully about the sacredness of the body and of touch. Many assert that the erotic is a divinely transformative force, both for personal development and for social change. Although “the erotic” includes sexuality, it is not limited to it; access to connected nonsexual touch is as profound a need as that for sexual freedom and health. In this book, Christine Hoff Kraemer brings together an academic background in religious studies and theology with lived experience as a professional bodyworker and contemporary Pagan practitioner. Arguing that the erotic is a powerful moral force that can ground a system of ethics, Kraemer integrates approaches from queer theology, therapeutic bodywork, and sexual minority advocacy into a contemporary Pagan religious framework. Addressing itself to liberal religious people of many faiths, Eros and Touch from a Pagan Perspective approaches the right to pleasure as a social justice issue and proposes a sacramental practice of mindful, consensual touch.” The hardcover for the book is out October 21st, 2013, but sadly at an institutional price-point that will make it too expensive for most casual readers. However, I spoke with Kraemer, and she said that if the hardcover does well enough, a cheaper paperback edition will be released. Lets hope that happens!

9781578635436“Horns of Honor: Regaining the Spirit of the Pagan Horned God” by Fredrick Thomas Elworthy (Author) and Raven Grimassi (Editor): “Horns of Honor” is not a new book, indeed, it was first published in 1900 (and in the public domain). However, this classic text on the folklore of horns has found many Pagan fans over the years and noted Pagan author Raven Grimassi steps forward to re-contextualize it for a new generation of readers. Quote: “For the modern Pagan and Witchcraft community, horns play a major role as a symbol of fertility, power, and protection and yet there are few books that discuss the significance in a way that makes sense to a practicing Pagan. In Horns of Honor, neo-pagan scholar and award-winning author Raven Grimassi updates one of the few classic texts on horns, Frederick Thomas Elworthy’s classic 1900 text, Horns of Honor. Grimassi has added a new introduction, footnotes, and commentary to make this extensive overview of animal horns in cultures across time, accessible to the Pagan community. Horns of Honor examines the religious and ritualistic significanc of horns in many cultures, the ancient reverence for horned gods, and the horn as a positive symbol. This revived classic is sure to be welcomed by all in the Pagan community.” This book will be released on October 1st, 2013.

Do you know of some recently released or upcoming books that should be spotlighted here? Leave a comment or drop us a line and it may be featured in a future edition of this series. You can find previous installments of this series, here. Happy reading!

IMG_0570This past weekend I traveled to the historic town of Salem, Massachusetts for Covenant of the Goddess’ (CoG) yearly Merry Meet Convention. This multi-faceted four-day event includes rituals, leadership training, social activities, shopping and the ever important annual business meeting called Grand Council. This year’s Merry Meet was artfully hosted by CoG’s New England-based local council – the Weavers.

Before I recount the experience, I want to make one thing very clear. I am a proud CoG member and have been for years. Currently, I am serving as its National Public Information Officer and will continue to do so for the upcoming year 2013-14. Often when I speak publicly about CoG, it is in an official capacity. What I share below is my own personal reflections from Salem.

This year’s Merry Meet contained a unique and symbolic presence. Salem alone is an interesting city without us even being there. The city is marinating in all things “witchy.” There are pentacles in shop windows and metaphysical shops on every block.  If a store clerk notices your pentagram necklace, he or she kindly adds “Blessed Be” while handing you change.

Being a Witch in Salem offers an interesting dichotomy of experience. It allows for a certain freedom of practice while simultaneously putting you in a spotlight. I recall an earlier summer trip to Pennsylvania’s Amish country.  While there I wondered how the Amish people felt about being a tourist attraction. How did it feel to live like a Disneyland character?  While I was in Salem, I very briefly experienced what that might be like.

With all of those oddities, Salem serves as an excellent backdrop for a Witch convention. Even the producers of Bewitched thought so. In the 1970s Salem Saga episodes, Samantha, Darrin and Endora arrive in the city for their own annual witch convention called Convocation. In the show, the characters actually stay at the Hawthorne Hotel – the very same hotel that CoG used.

Courtesy of Flickr's jimmywayne

Courtesy of Flickr’s jimmywayne

Throughout those four days, I found a deep sense of connectivity through the coming together of all things “witch.” Before us lay the rich history of Salem and the tragic deaths of those who were accused of Witchcraft. Layered upon that was the popular culture image of the witch, Samantha, who is now immortalized in a bronze statue on Essex Street.  As one tour guide said, the show saved the town. Then there is the presence of real Witchcraft, real Witches and real magic as seen in some of the shops and local practitioners who make Salem their home.

Priestess Sandra Wright

Priestess Sandra Wright

One of these local Witches is Sandra Mariah Wright, the High Priestess of Elphame Coven and CoG’s Merry Meet event coordinator. Standing outside in the Salem Commons, she spoke these opening words:

It is my distinct honor and privilege to welcome you to Salem. It’s my hometown, and I suspect like every hometown it looks much different from the outside looking in. For so many people who visit Salem, it is a pilgrimage that ends up feeling more like a homecoming. I hope it will be that way for all of you….We are standing on Salem Common, the site of the militia’s first muster and the birthplace of the National Guard, and it seems only right – because we are warriors for change. … That is the energy we are tapping into here, weaving this web of unity.

There in the Commons stood more than 70 Witches and Wiccans from across the country representing many generations and traditions all weaving a web of unity. This added yet another layer of meaning to the experience of Merry Meet.

As the work of the Covenant progressed through Friday and Saturday, there was a decidedly clear consensus that the organization needed to modify its processes and adapt to a rapidly evolving world. Much of the work was centered on the notion of looking towards tomorrow. How does CoG, as an organization, successfully implement new technology and what are the best practices for social media?  How do we adjust our long standing policies to accommodate or reflect any new trends in Wiccan practice? How do we stay relevant for younger generations whose needs and expectations are different than those of the CoG founders?

Accommodating new technology, such as virtual meeting access, blogs and social media marketing, is the easy part. In fact, today CoG has a very successful Facebook page with well over 15,000 likes. However, negotiating social trends is far more complicated whether that be the increase in solitary practitioners, an aging population or something else entirely.

Priestess Kathy Lezon

Priestess Kathy Lezon

The incoming First Officer, High Priestess Kathy Lezon of Circle of the Moonlit Sea, is excited to explore the possibilities of moving CoG forward into the evolved future as a strong and relevant organization. She says:

We need to do a whole lot more talking [publicly] about us as an organization…demonstrate what we already do. How nationally can we talk more about what is happening locally with the CoG face on it. [We also need to ] think about the needs of the younger population…solitaries who want some sort of affiliation or people who don’t see the value in a connection with a local organization. There’s a shift happening.

Over the past year, Kasha and members of CoG’s Everglades Moon Local Council (EMLC) have dedicated themselves to experimenting with new ways of increasing CoG’s visibility in Florida. In doing so, they hope to demonstrate its relevancy within contemporary Wiccan life. One of their most progressive projects was their podcast series.

Northern Dawn Local Council's Gary Lingen and Lorelei

Northern Dawn Local Council’s Gary Lingen and Lorelei

However, the Covenant of the Goddess is not entirely about revolutionary change. While locating its position in this post-Christian world, the organization is also very interested in preserving its own history and that of all Witches. During the meeting, many of its older members provided a much needed grounding point. Anna Korn and Don Frew of Northern California Local Council, often acted as a needed reference point on the history of policies and actions. Several evenings, I had pleasure of talking to another longtime member, Gary Linden of Northern Dawn Local Council, who shared some wonderful stories of Merry Meets gone-by.

Even more profound was the connectivity that we all had to a darker and older history. On Friday morning, the membership unanimously agreed to participate in a service in honor of those colonists who suffered at the hands of Salem Witch Trials in 1692. On Saturday at 1pm, the entire group of 70 plus witches walked to Salem’s Witch Memorial for the tribute. Rayna of EMLC and Jennifer Bennett of Weavers led the observance.  I was honored to be able to read aloud a specially written prayer.  It stated:

We, the Covenant of the Goddess, a national organization of Wiccans and Witches, in honor of the innocents in Salem who were accused and those who died in 1692, wish to express our sympathy and sorrow over the pain and suffering they experienced. It is our wish that all people will be free to worship the divine presence in their own way in peace. To that end, we have laid a white rose on the marker of each of the aforementioned innocents where that place is known, or here, with these flowers to honor all the rest who suffered alongside them.

IMG_0577While we spoke the words, sang a ritual song and laid the flowers, many tourists stopped to listen and take photos.  Some even joined in. Laura Spellweaver, one of the Weavers event planners, stated “It was a lovely and moving moment.”

After this, we got back to business and back to the consensus process. As always this unusual process is simultaneously frustrating and awe-inspiring.  A visitor in our midsts, Patheos Pagan Portal’s Managing Editor, Christine Hoff-Kraemer commented:

I was impressed and excited to see an organization where consensus process appears to be working. The meeting was skillfully facilitated, with the moderator working to keep the group’s attention on the specific proposal in front of them. Contentious issues that could be resolved in a relatively short time were sent back to committee for revision and then re-presented after a break and approved. Issues that were more powerfully contentious were tabled for additional discussion and re-consideration in the next year.

Consensus worked its own magic and the business got done. Along with everything else, the Covenant elected its new 2013-14 Board which includes from Left to Right:  myself, Garth Garrett, Kathy Lezon, Jack Prewett, Lady Emrys, Lady Mehurt, Jennifer Bennett, and Lady Bridget.

Covenant of the Goddess' National Board 2013-14

Covenant of the Goddess’ National Board 2013-14

The Weavers ended the weekend with another outdoor ritual. Priestess Sandra Wright spoke these words:

In thirty years, COG has never held a Grand Council in Salem….We have accomplished much here together, and will continue to carry this energy through the coming year as we look to more growth and prosperity for COG. Weavers Local Council has enjoyed hosting you so much, we don’t want to let you leave! And so we say stay if you will, go if you must, return when you wish, hail and farewell! Safe journey, and blessed be!

As always the experience of Merry Meet is invigorating and inspiring. This particular Merry Meet held a unique significance as it brought together a slice of Witchcraft history together with a slice of Witchcraft modernity and, beneath that umbrella let us, the members of CoG, examine our own role in Witchcraft’s future.

Next year’s Merry Meet will be hosted by Dogwood Local Council in Atlanta, Georgia, August 21-24.

 

Covenant of the Goddess

Covenant of the Goddess

 

 

In yesterday’s post, I discussed the state of the publishing industry with respect to Barnes & Noble’s recent unimpressive fiscal announcements. How would the disappearance of the last remaining large-scale, traditional bookstore affect the metaphysical book industry? After speaking with two industry experts, the answer seems conclusive. A Barnes & Noble collapse, while not at all preferable, would not permanently damage either company. Llewellyn and the Phoenix & Dragon Bookstore both maintain flexible, diverse, customer-driven business structures that are adaptable in this evolving marketplace.

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Photo Courtesy of Elysia Gallo, Llewellyn

Will Barnes & Noble go the same way as Borders? Only time will tell. The industry is still changing and evolving. To date, there are many factors that have contributed to the upheaval including increased competition, changing consumer behavior, and the diversification of the product. There are paper books, audio books and eBooks in multiple formats. There are books published by the “big six,” by independent publishers, and most recently, by the authors themselves.

Self-publishing has become one of the hottest trends in the marketplace. Several weeks ago I interviewed New York Times best-selling author John Matthews, who had just announced the launch of his new self-publishing venture Mythwood Books. After years of negotiating the traditional publishing world, Matthews has chosen to “go it alone” in order to earn a greater percentage of the revenue and to maintain creative integrity over his work. 

As I reported in that article, approximately 43% (or 148,424) of all published books in 2011 were self-published. Bowker Books in Print reports the 2012 figure to be well-over 235,000 titles.The number continues to grow.

DSC06408

Cara Schultz

First-time author Cara Schultz chose to self-publish after an uncomfortable encounter with a traditional publisher. She explains:

The security, expertise, and wider distribution offered by publishers were attractive, but in the end the loss of control over my content and brand weighed too heavily… The publisher wanted to add and subtract products featured in my book based on advertising and marketing partnerships with companies.  I wanted to only feature products I own, use and recommend based on performance. 

Ginger Wood

Virginia Chandler

Virginia Chandler, author of fantasy fiction novels, and Christine Hoff Kraemer, Patheos Pagan Channel’s managing editor, also made a similar choice. Chandler’s first two books were published by Double Dragon Publishing, who she describes as “very supportive.”  However, she “craved more control” over her end product and has now turned to Amazon’s Create Space. Kraemer published her first books through a traditional academic publisher but turned to the more progressive Patheos Press for her most recent work, Seeking the Mysteries: A Introduction to Pagan Theologies. “The royalty percentage [is] much higher,” she says.

In response to the Matthews interview, author Donald Michael Kraig posed a poignant question to those who do choose to self-publish:

Self-publishing replaces everything the publisher did, including promotion, advertising, marketing, etc. Publishers have distributors and can get their books into bookstores and chains. How will you, the self-publisher, accomplish this?

Christine Hoff Kraemer

Christine Hoff Kraemer

All three of authors had the same response. Shultz said, “Publishing houses say they will help market your book, but … they really won’t.” Chandler agreed saying, “Unless you are JK Rowling, Dan Brown, or a guaranteed million dollar selling author, you are going to be doing all of the promotional legwork.” Kraemer added, “Some publishers still do limited marketing for you, although this is becoming more rare.”

So how does their choice to “go it alone” affect the traditional book industry players? EBooks nearly eliminate the need for a publisher, distributor and brick-and-mortar store. Everything is done digitally. Phoenix & Dragon had already lost 15% of its sales to Amazon even before the popularity of eBooks. Self-publishing only exacerbates the problem.

Many self-published authors, like Kraemer, have turned to print-on-demand publishing services. These companies, such as Lulu.com, bridge the gap between a traditional publisher and full self-publishing. With print-on-demand, the author can offer a tangible product which broadens the potential readership and increases the likelihood of seeing their work on a store shelf.

However, it is not quite that simple. When I asked Candace Apple about the growth in self-publishing, she simple stated, “It makes life crazy.”  Phoenix & Dragon employs a full-time book buyer who evaluates every book sold. This screening process becomes more strenuous with self-published products. In such cases, Apple can’t rely on a publisher’s reputation in order to pre-qualify a book’s content.  Her buyer must carefully screen every self-published book. That takes time.

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In addition, the cost is prohibitive.  As Apple explains, self-published authors do not offer wholesale discounts and large inventories. Apple must pay the full cover price plus shipping for every book purchased.

With that said, Apple believes in supporting community and will showcase local self-published authors. “I enjoy finding the gems,” she told me. Fortunately for the self-published Pagan author, the independently-owned metaphysical bookstores have that flexibility. The big chains, like Barnes & Noble, don’t. Going forward, Apple hopes that Amazon’s new distribution processes will alleviate some of the headaches associated with selling the self-published book.

What about Llewellyn? How is it handling the increase in self-published material? Bill Krause said:

There is no denying it has never been easier to self-publish and would-be authors may choose this path rather than submitting a manuscript to a traditional publisher for consideration. We can’t change this, so we have to figure out how to work with it. We have picked up some authors who were originally self-published and sold them to the trade quite successfully. In some cases we had them write new books, in other cases we had them rework their original. In all cases, it’s based on the content of the work.

He continued on to say:

The number of self-published books that find success is extremely small. Unless the author has some industry knowledge and also happens to be a tireless marketer/promoter while also being a strong writer, editor and designer (or willing to pay for this assistance), it’s very difficult to find success. 

David Salisbury

David Salisbury

Author David Salisbury echoed this sentiment saying:

My books so far have all gone through the traditional publishing process. It made the most sense for me to go that route for all the practical reasons. I love writing but hate doing everything else that goes along with putting a book out (editing, marketing, pitching etc.). I felt better handing my work over to professionals who I trust more than myself to complete a nice polished product

Crystal Blanton

Crystal Blanton

Crystal Blanton, author and Wild Hunt Columnist, also chose the traditional route. She said:

All three of my books are published through Immanion/Megalithic Press….I was looking for a partner in the process of working on my book. I chose to publish with a small press because I wanted the support of a publisher yet the creative freedom that a smaller press like Immanion could provide.

But what about that great promise of 70% revenue on every self-published book sold versus the 10-15% from a traditional publisher?  Krause said, “70% of what? To be another face in the crowd with no marketing budget.” He reiterated the importance of the relationship that Llewellyn forms with its authors.  This relationship along with its professional services can be invaluable over the long run – making up for that 55-60% revenue difference.

By Jorghex (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) via Wikimedia Commons

By Jorghex (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons

For the author there are certainly pros and cons to both forms of publishing. For both Llewellyn and metaphysical shops, like Phoenix & Dragon, the self-publishing boom has created complications – ones that now must be taken seriously.

As for the mega book seller, don’t count Barnes & Noble out just yet. According to some analysts, Barnes & Noble is now in a golden position to thrive in one specific area –book selling.  It has the brand name, the resources, the real estate and industry clout. The only question is: can it adapt to the changing climate, find a way to work with the growing population of self-published authors and compete with Amazon? If it does, it will only be good news for Llewellyn, specialty stores like Phoenix & Dragon and many others.  If it doesn’t, we can all reminisce about our glory days getting lost in a book superstore.

 

Full Unedited Comments from authors:

Cara Schultz
Virginia Chandler
Christine Hoff Kraemer
Crystal Blanton

 

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

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

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

Angie Buchanan with partner Drake Spaeth.

Angie Buchanan with partner Drake Spaeth.

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

 In Other Pagan Community News: 

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

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

Peter Dybing

Peter Dybing

“My heartbreaks, tears flow and these words are my attempt to find solace.  Nineteen members of a Hotshot Firefighting crew are dead in Arizona.  For the last few years I was on a Southwest Area Incident Management Team. These are men I know, have eaten meals with, showered with, shared conversation with. My job at fires as a Logistics Section chief is, at its heart, keeping the firefighters safe: feeding them, providing for their needs, rest, equipment, medical attention, communication, transportation, sleeping arrangements etc. This is intensely personal for me. Tears hover in my eyes, the loss is profound.  Each of us in the firefighting community understands the risks, yet when a tragedy of this magnitude occurs we are devastated. We are a family, each of us with a special knowledge of what being a wild land firefighter really means. Today we grieve, wonder what went wrong and think about their families’. These are men whose lives I have protected, who take the risks that most would shy away from to keep people, homes and communities safe. They are also faces I know, each with a story, a community, and a dream for the future.  Their loss reminds all of us of the fragility of life.” – Peter Dybing, a Pagan first responder, reacting to the news of 19 firemen dying while fighting a fast-moving wildfire in Arizona.

T. Thorn Coyle

T. Thorn Coyle

“These are times in need of beauty. These are times in need of depth. These are times in need of study. These are times in need of rallying cries and manifestos, of art scrawled upon pavement and wild dancing in the streets. Fortunately for us, these things are happening. Peter Grey writes: ”Love is the war to end all wars, and the war is upon us.” This is a bold statement by the author of The Red Goddess, from the titular essay of his latest book: Apocalyptic Witchcraft. Grey writes of a Craft that is filled with power and the lust for life. He writes of a Craft that breaks down the crumbling social orders of oppression, greed, and fear in order to raise a society of freedom. Peter Grey wants us working in the shadows and full sunlight. He doesn’t want us to back down. He wants us to be born again, a danger to the forces that wreak havoc on our beloved earth, and on us. [...] Yes, sometimes the writing in Apocalyptic Witchcraft verges on melodramatic. Sometimes I vehemently disagree with what is written, and other times I want to cheer. Not every essay in each issue of Abraxas moves me, but all of them make me think. This is for the good. We need allies to pit ourselves against, and to stand with, not people who keep us comfortable. There is too much complacency in the world. If love is a battle, we need comrades that test us. Peter Grey, Christine Oakley Harrington, Alkistis Dimech, and Robert Ansell are these comrades. They incite us to magic. They incite us to art. They incite us to philosophy. They incite us to live.” – T. Thorn Coyle, writing an appreciation of Peter Grey, Scarlet Imprint, and a growing movement within the British esoteric community that incites a “love to end all wars.”

Christine Hoff Kraemer

Christine Hoff Kraemer

“Hard polytheism is the view that the gods are objectively existing, independent personalities with whom human beings can have relationships. This theological position is somewhat unique in contemporary Paganism because it is the only belief around which groups of Pagans have strongly rallied. Interestingly, although conversations around hard polytheism are often framed in terms of belief, hard polytheists’ objections to soft polytheism are primarily about the way belief informs practice. For hard polytheists, soft polytheist practice—especially practice that approaches the gods as interchangeable archetypes—is both less effective and potentially disrespectful. Pagans will sometimes speak of rituals where the gods do not “show up”—no energy moves, no sense of connection or presence is felt, and the participants return home in much the same mental and emotional state in which they arrived. Hard polytheists believe that this undesirable state of affairs occurs because Pagans do not recognize the nature of the gods. Hard polytheists usually experience the gods as powerful presences with distinctive desires and behaviors, as well as historical ties to particular traditions, cultures, and lands. In order to connect with a goddess or a god and form relationship with them, hard polytheists will look at rituals from the deity’s native culture for guidance. When they ask a goddess or god to be present, they see themselves as calling someone very specific. Some use the metaphor of dialing a phone number to reach a friend: the ritual objects and the proper names and prayers are ways of ensuring one has the right number. Once a deity has been contacted, an ongoing relationship can be formed through prayer and ritual. This experiential relationship allows the practitioner to move beyond attempting to reconstruct an ancient religion using historical texts, and instead to create a practice that is oriented to the present.”An excerpt from Christine Hoff Kraemer’s book “Seeking the Mystery: An Introduction to Pagan Theologies” on sale today at the Amazon.com Kindle store for only $0.99, and available at a reduced price of $2.99 for about a week thereafter. You can read the table of contents, introduction, and glossary here, reviews here.

Carl Neal

Carl Neal

“Those of us who choose a Solitary path can be a difficult group with which to work. When we speak of the trouble in organizing Pagans as “herding cats” it’s never truer than when dealing with the dedicated Solitary. Many of us are proud of our independence and may stubbornly cling to it beyond the bounds of logic. Those who are forced to be Solitary by geography (or other factors) may not always possess the same type of fierce independence. They may be seeking out the companionship, guidance, and structure of a coven or group – things studiously avoided by some who are Solitary By Choice. There are a few rare individuals who straddle this line and both belong to a coven and walk a Solitary path at the same time. For most of us, the Solitary nature of our practices simply demands that we walk our paths alone. Those of us who practice this way see it as a type of freedom, although we have to recognize that there are things that can be easily accomplished with group practice that are difficult or impossible for the Circle of One. This doesn’t mean that we never work with others. Like all Pagans, we tend to share and learn from one another. Sometimes we gather, stand in circle together, and may work very intimate magick. At other times, some Solitaries may participate in public rituals with dozens of people they barely know. Being “Solitary”doesn’t mean being “alone” or “isolated”. It’s the path that is Solitary, not the person. In fact, some Solitaries tend to do all ritual work with others, although they are not all on the same path. Until they find a coven or other appropriate group, many who are Solitary By Circumstance will use this same approach.”Carl Neal, a dedicated “Solitary By Choice,” on why being “solitary” does not mean being isolated.

Cara Schulz

Cara Schulz

“Finding a suitable partner is difficult enough for anyone. With more Pagans saying finding a partner who shares their values, if not their religion, the search for a match is even more difficult. How to overcome that challenge? Attend one of the large gatherings of Pagans at festivals such as Pagan Spirit Gathering (PSG). At this year’s PSG attendees were invited to a single’s meet and greet, attend the wedding of a couple who met at last year’s PSG, and wish Circle Sanctuary‘s Rev. Selena Fox and Dr. Dennis Carpenter, who met and later married at PSG, a happy 27th wedding anniversary. Rev. Fox says that from the very beginning of PSG, straight and same sex couples have met, and married or handfasted, at the festival. “I think the courting dimensions of attending festivals is something quite old and never goes out of style. I’m happy for all the good relations that have come out of PSG,” said Rev. Fox. What is changing are the increasing numbers of Pagans who attend festivals with the express purpose of finding Pagan, and not just Pagan friendly, mate. Yet just like in the mundane world, sometimes love finds you when you aren’t looking for it.”Cara Schulz at PNC-Minnesota writing about looking for, and finding, love at Pagan festivals.

Rev. Kirk Thomas

Rev. Kirk Thomas

“ADF has always championed the civil rights of all people. Our priests have performed same-sex weddings where legal and handfastings where they are not. And we are delighted to see that US Federal benefits will now be available to same-sex couples who may now legally wed, and to see that marriage rights have been extended to California. But this still leaves a large number of people without such rights.  In the USA only 30% of people live in states where same-sex marriage is legal, and while the momentum is there, we fear that many of our members in less liberal areas of the country won’t see such rights for a long time indeed. We have members all over the world, but outside of the USA only Canada offers full marriage rights, though our members in New Zealand will have full rights starting in August.. The United Kingdom may have full rights soon, but Australia only recognizes same-sex marriage where one partner has had gender reassignment therapy. So while we are delighted that this step has finally been taken in the United States, we are also aware of how much more there is to be done. We pray that through hard work and strong intention the Gods will support all of us in achieving marriage equality for all people.” - Rev. Kirk Thomas, Archdruid of Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship (ADF), releasing an official ADF statement in the wake of the Supreme Court’s rulings on DOMA and Prop 8.

Lupa, author of "Skin Spirits," at her shop.

Lupa, author of “Skin Spirits,” at her shop.

“What I had thought I wanted was more structure and piety, sharing nature through an evangelism of orthopraxy. What I needed, in fact, was to toss the entire artifice away and simply immerse myself in the world of awe and wonder I’d rediscovered. As for the spirits? I no longer needed to try to keep convincing myself that their presence was a literal reality despite all my doubts and inconsistencies. I didn’t need “belief”, I didn’t need to use speculation and pseudoscience to “prove” that the spirits are “real”, and I ceased caring whether they even existed outside of my own deeply rooted imagination or not, because I only needed them to be important to me. I had the twin flames of science and creativity, the one creating a structure of general objective understanding, and the other adding wholly personal, subjective color that didn’t have to be “true” for anyone but me. And that is where I am today. I still honor my totems and other spirits, but as a personal pantheon carried inside of me. They are what gives added vitality to the world around me; they embody my wonder and awe, my imagination and creativity, the things that I as a human being bring to the relationships I have to everything else in this world. Science is important in that it tells me how the moon was formed, what the dust on it is made of, and how it affects the tides, but there is a spirit inside of me that loves the beautiful silver of the moonlight and all the stories we’ve told about Mama Luna. In balance and complement, science and spirits both become my animism today.” – Lupa, on how she lost her religion and gained the world.

Jason Mankey

Jason Mankey

“The heroes of American Religion are constantly being co-opted and misinterpreted for political gain. The deism of Thomas Jefferson has been overlooked by many who have attempted to insert an Evangelical Jesus into places where that messiah did not exist. Similarly, the Hellfire Club’s Benjamin Franklin has been romanticized to the point of caricature. Many of America’s deified heroes are now more myth than man; their failings ignored by a general populace that refuses to believe any of our “Founding Fathers” were capable of making mistakes. [...] While having a great deal of respect and admiration for many of our national leaders and the documents and speeches that make up American Civil Religion, I am no fan of the institution. I love the symbolism of figures like Justice and Liberty, but the deification of words and men leads to a false sense of infallibility. America remains a great nation, but we also remain a nation capable of mistakes and a rigidness of thinking. The men who wrote the Constitution never thought that their words would be taken as holy writ. They were politicians and not prophets; men with flaws and limitations just like the rest of us. I think their humanity makes them more compelling and is worth remembering.”Jason Mankey on American civil religion, and its shortcomings.

That’s all I have for now, have a great day! Oh, and if you’d like to hear me spout off on various topics, Inciting A Riot has a podcast interview with me up now.

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

Selena Fox's healing altar for the victims of the Boston attack.

Selena Fox’s healing altar for the victims of the Boston attack.

I’d like to begin by sending out my thoughts to all those who were affected by yesterday’s bombing at the Boston Marathon. There have been many Pagan responses to this still-unresolved tragedy, but I think Ár nDraíocht Féin Archdruid Rev. Kirk Thomas’ statement may be the best:

“We in ADF participate in a public religion. The gatherings of the folk are important for our communal worship of the Kindreds. Terrorists, such as those who bombed the Boston Marathon today, are counting on the fear of the people to disrupt our sense of community, that we may be isolated from each other, and thus lose our way. I believe that it is our duty as civilized people to resist this impulse, to find our courage, and so defy these enemies of Good, that our relationships with the Kindreds and with each other will continue to thrive.”

May the perpetrators be caught, may justice be done, may the wounded find care, and may the grieved find comfort.

Babugeri, Bansko, Bulgaria, 2010–2011 Charles Fréger, courtesy of Yossi Milo Gallery, New York

Babugeri, Bansko, Bulgaria, 2010–2011
Charles Fréger, courtesy of Yossi Milo Gallery, New York

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

The Weekend Of

Eric O. Scott —  February 23, 2013 — 5 Comments

Sometimes it’s hard to tell if things that happened to you in your life only happened to you or if they happened to everyone. -Chuck Klosterman, Eating the Dinosaur

Patheos Pagan Portal contributors after their thought-provoking panel on intrafaith efforts within our community.

Starting at the bottom center: Crystal Blanton, Christine Hoff Kraemer, Jason Mankey, Steven Abell, P. Sufenas Virius Lups, Sarah Twichell, and some bearded doof.

I am sitting in a boardroom on the second floor of the Doubletree Hotel. It’s the first day of Pantheacon; I have actually only been off the plane to San Jose for a little over two hours. At the head of the table are six people whom I only know from photographs: others who, like me, write for the Patheos Pagan Portal. We are there for a panel discussion on Pagan Intrafaith work: that is, to discuss the possibility of using the techniques other religious groups use for interfaith connections in relation to the various religions that fall under the umbrella of Paganism.

The panel lasts for about an hour and a half. In that time, I reach three conclusions:

  1. I should have prepared more for this discussion. (If you listen to the audio, I basically stopped talking halfway through, mainly because I wanted to marvel at how brilliant everyone else sounded.)
  2. I genuinely liked everyone else who was in the room. Not just that I enjoyed their blogs, or respected them as thinkers – though yes, that too – but I liked them, as people. I looked forward to running into them over and over again throughout the weekend.
  3. These folks were almost nothing like me. And that, oddly enough, made me all the more fond of them.

In my pre-Pantheacon column, I mentioned that being a second-generation Pagan comes with certain non-obvious consequences. The one I focused on there was my lack of interaction with the “greater Pagan community” until only a few years ago – until I began writing about my experiences, really.

Another one of those non-obvious consequences is this: I’ve never gone through a phase where I cast about for a methodology that called to me. I’ve never gone to public rituals, hoping to chance on a group that did things in a way that appealed to me, or combed through dozens of books in search of a tradition. I simply learned how to do things the way my family did them. And, as a result, I suppose I never worried much about the differences that might exist between our ways and everyone else’s.

I attended 11 rituals during the four days of Pantheacon – a number that feels a bit unreal, by the way. That’s close to the number of rituals I participated in during the entire preceding year. None of those rituals were much like what I do when I’m at home, either in content or in structure. I could see the relationship between my Wicca and the CAYA Coven’s Rite of 1,000 Crowns: in both, we cast a circle, we called the elements, we stated a purpose, and we went about achieving that purpose through song and motion. But still, they were very different. The organization of CAYA’s ritual was completely different from anything I’d seen before: multiple priests and priestesses, no communion (at least not of food and drink), no Great Rite. (I only saw one Great Rite all weekend, during a Body Acceptance Ritual on the last day of the convention. Even that was modified into a “full spectrum” Great Rite that included non-heteronormative pairings: scepter to scepter, cup to cup, and scepter to cup as well.)

Those were the only two Wiccan-ish rituals I went to – everything else was much farther afield from my “ritual comfort zone.” I spent one night in a ceremony led by P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, which he called the Antinoan Dream Incubation Ritual. It involved calling upon a deity with whom I had never interacted and asking him to visit my dreams; the structure had no similarity to any ritual I’d done before, with long stretches of untranslated Greek and readings of the deified Antinou’s obelisk that included the lacunae caused by vandals or weather. It was a fascinating ritual, mind-expanding. It was nothing like what I would do at home, and nothing that I was likely to repeat as part of my own personal practice.

Indeed, that was what I found valuable about it.

I’m hardly an expert on inter/intrafaith work – again, I ran out of things to say during our panel on the subject! – but if I can take anything away from Pantheacon, it’s this: there is tremendous value in simply seeing what other people are doing, even if, especially if, their practice differs greatly from our own. It’s so easy to slip into these ironclad descriptions of ourselves: “I’m a traditional initiated witch,” “I’m a Celtic reconstructionist,” “I’m a Radical Faerie.” Or, for that matter, “I’m a second-generation Wiccan.” Those labels can all too quickly slip from being descriptions to being shackles, ways of isolating ourselves from experiences outside of the area we have claimed for ourselves.

I’ll be honest: wandering around that hotel, I often felt like a hayseed taking his first steps into the big city. Things out in San Jose were bigger and weirder than I had prepared for. But within only a few hours, I had adjusted myself to the possibilities. I talked to people who I would usually never talk to, worshiped in ways I would have never thought to worship. Will any of that change the way I do things now that I’m back at home? Hard to say; probably not in any way that would leave my practice visibly changed from what it is already.

But in seeing what Paganism means to others, the vast area that term covers, I have come to appreciate the umbrella of our faith all the more. At Pantheacon, I discovered that I had indeed lived a different sort of life than most people in the Pagan community; but then again, so had everyone else.

Last week I presented the question of Pagan solidarity. Does it exist? Should it exist? What is the impact and evolution of such a concept? Generally speaking, it is widely accepted that Pagan solidarity, in some form, is vital for both the protection and continued growth of the non-traditional religions that fall under the Pagan umbrella. Additionally, solidarity can offer a sense of community and comfort over a host of social networks supporting both Pagan groups and solitary practitioners.

In December of 2011, Lady Liberty League mobilized a Task Force to protect a Southern Pagan family’s religious liberty within a public school system. The Task Force, of which I was a member, was comprised of professional individuals representing different Pagan organizations and Pagan spiritual traditions. Together, in solidarity, we worked for three weeks and, in the end, achieved quite a victory.

After that case was settled, the Task Force itself disbanded. However, Lady Liberty League still operates; watching and waiting. Since 1985, the organization has been ever on the “ready” with the ability to mobilize Pagan resources as needed. When active solidarity becomes a regular occurrence an organization is born.

Let’s turn now to a network of Pagan voices to hear their thoughts on the growth and importance of the Pagan organization.

Chas Clifton

Chas Clifton (center)

Our desire to be seen as a legitimate religion by government entities has forced us to change to fit their definitions, which, in the United States at least, were designed for Protestant Christians…We have been dealing with this issue since the mid-1970s, when the Covenant of the Goddess was created. – Chas Clifton, editor of The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies and a practitioner of American Eclectic Craft

Jonathon S. Lowe

Jonathon S. Lowe

One of the most basic principles of Paganism is that we are all interconnected to everyone and everything around us. Solidarity helps us to solidify those connections… Organizations are merely facilitators helping to make these connections possible.”  – Rev. Jonathon S. Lowe, Interfaith Minister, Founder Midnight Star School of Witchcraft, Coordinator of The Atlanta Pagan Marketplace of Ideas 

Lady Charissa

Lady Charissa
North Georgia Solitaries

I am a member of several worthy organizations that…have members with diverse beliefs and yet all of these organizations work every day to help build community by concentrating on the task at hand and respecting each other’s differences. Lady Charissa, founder of North Georgia Solitaries, coordinator of the Pagan Assistance Fund, High Priestess of Silver Pine Grove 

Before we go any further, we need to deal in semantics. Most responders made no distinction between an institution and an organization. Are they same thing?  Covenant of the Goddess representatives, Rachael Watcher and Ginger Wood say no.

On the Fears and Dangers of Institutionalization:

Certainly some individuals and small groups might come together for the sake of mutual interest and form an organization, but would that constitute an institution? … Those who are drawn to think outside the box in expressions of spiritual freedom are not generally going to be ready to discard that freedom of thought for yet another set of doctrinal mandates. – Rachael Watcher, National Interfaith Representative for Covenant of the Goddess 

Ginger Wood

Ginger Wood

We do have organizations that have worked hard some for over 30 years, to give Pagans a flag to unite under. [But] I will not accept [institutionalization] as ”must” and I pray to the Goddess that none of us are forced to institutionalize in order to be heard.  – Ginger Wood, National First Officer of Covenant of the Goddess, Priestess of Gryphon Song Clan and Pagan novelist

Both Rachael and Ginger are using the accepted sociological definition of institution which is explained at length in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Very briefly, an organization is less complex or rigid in structure, scope or activity than an institution.   

Christine Hoff Kraemer

Christine Hoff Kraemer

We need to think deeply about what kinds of organizational structures best support our values…guard against rigidity in power structures and in belief systems. – Christine Hoff Kraemer, Managing Editor at Patheos Pagan Channel, Cherry Hill Seminary Instructor

Institutionalization is a big issue for me, always has been. It’s something I’ve resisted…  In more recent years my attitude has softened. Years ago my friend Sam Webster insisted that we needed to establish institutions because institutions are the only thing that lasts.  Individual humans pass on.  M. Macha Nightmare, Priestess, witch, teacher, ritualist and author.

M Macha Nightmare

M Macha Nightmare

Macha makes an excellent point. Humans do pass on. Organizations or institutions can be passed down. Can we create viable Pagan institutions that serve solidarity without sacrificing spiritual freedom and, at the same time, last for decades to come?

On the Building of Pagan Institutions:

Holli S. Emore

Holli S. Emore

“Pagans are perfectly capable of having healthy institutions which serve our needs and goals, indeed, we participate in such institutions every day in our real-world lives…Why wouldn’t we want to enjoy the benefits of stronger infrastructure, better accountability and healthy leadership?” – Holli S. Emore, executive director of Cherry Hill Seminary, Priestess of Temple Osireion 

Peter Dybing

Peter Dybing

A wide diversity of Pagan institutions are necessary as the glue that will bind us in our common effort to defend the rights of all belief systems. Peter Dybing, Pagan Service Advocate, Chief Officer, Federal Incident Management Team, 100% for Haiti Board member

Crystal Blanton

Crystal Blanton

We need some of the power that institutions bring to any community or movement… Togetherness commands attention …The key is finding a way to use the concepts of community solidarity in balance with some of the undesirable things that come with community dynamics – Crystal Blanton, High Priestess with Solitaries of the Second, Pagan author.

So how do we create that balance? How do we create and maintain healthy organizations and fluid institutions that promote solidarity and allow for that community dynamic?

Building trust person-to-person, which tends to spread to friends of those people who begin learning who each other is, how they think, what their concerns are, how they express their spirituality.… I think one of our greatest assets as Pagans is our diversity.  M. Macha Nightmare, Priestess, witch, teacher, ritualist and author. 

I think we should do our best to make strength out of diversity. If you have twelve Pagans together, they normally represent at least thirteen religions. [But] It is natural for people to seek agreement…I recommend we conform to one standard: mutual respect and intolerance only of intolerance. – Freeman Presson, Namen of Temple Zagduku & Fr. Ophis, Church of Hermetic Sciences. 

Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary

Selena Fox

Like a delicious multi-ingredient salad, when Pagans unite, we can bring our individual flavors and textures as we join together — and we can maintain this diversity in our collaboration. Our diversity can enrich our solidarity.Rev. Selena Fox, Senior Minister at Circle Sanctuary 

Our diversity is our strength. Our diversity is our asset. Our diversity is our core.  So, with that essential ingredient, can we venture to build uniquely-structured institutions that respect and serve the expansive Pagan world view for generations to come?  If so, these institutions must conform to the rigid expectations of mainstream society; thereby ensuring our legal protection and promoting social awareness. And, as the wheel turns, this increased awareness will eventually lead to a broader and a healthier social acceptance of the diversity that began it all.

Thank you to all the contributors for their valued opinions and to the readers for opening the doorway to this conversation and continuing the process into the future.

Full Comments: (listed alphabetically)

Crystal Blanton
Chas Clifton
Peter Dybing
Holli S. Emore
Rev. Selena Fox
Christine Hoff Kraemer
Lady Charissa
Rev. Jonathon S. Lowe
M. Macha Nightmare
Freeman Presson
Rachael Watcher