Archives For David Salisbury

As the immediate shock regarding the arrest of Pagan author and musician Kenny Klein on possession of child pornography wears off, a wider conversation in the Pagan community on event safety and sexual predators begins. Festival and convention organizers consider possible changes in policies while attendees ask for greater protection. Yet it’s unclear if this focus is a lasting trend or a short lived reaction. MerryMeet, a yearly convention hosted by different Covenant of the Goddess Chapters, and CONvergence, a science fiction and fantasy convention lauded internationally for their anti-harassment policies, offer best practices which aim to protect attendees while still allowing an open, diverse event.

Evolving conversation
Kenny Klein’s arrest on March 25th affected the Pagan community deeply due to his decades of traveling the Pagan convention and festival circuit, bringing him into contact with thousands of children and teens. Almost immediately conversations on social media sites and blogs moved from focusing on Klein to looking at how the Pagan community deals with sexual violence and harassment. ”I’m far more concerned with, can we look at this as a wake up call for how to deal with sexual abuse, and other abuse, within the Pagan community? Can we call someone out for bad behavior without it turning into a witch war? Can we make it safer for victims to come forward? And at the same time, can we find ways so that Pagans are not wrongfully convicted in the court of public opinion by people who have made untrue allegations?” Shauna Aura Knight in a March 27th post on Facebook.

By April 1st the Pagan community had its first opportunity to deal with conflict between a festival and attendee over scheduled guests. Florida Pagan Gathering had, as they had done in the past, invited controversial Pagan elders Gavin and Yvonne Frost to speak at their festival. Attendees and Florida Pagans, once again, objected to the Frosts due to their book, “The Witches Bible”, which appears to advocate ritual sexual initiation of minors just entering puberty. An organized protest developed and called for the “removal of the Frosts as presenters at FPG and a ban on any distribution or vending of their materials. It’s past time that our beloved community take a stand against those who advocate abuse. Silence = complicity.” Also as in the past, the festival initially stood firm in keeping the Frosts as presenters, noting they expected to maintain high attendance numbers in spite of the controversy. All that changed and the FPG felt compelled to remove the Frosts from the line up after the venue was made aware of the situation and became involved.

Culture change or fleeting interest
Was the stronger, more organized and successful stance by Florida Pagans an outlier or a glimpse at a future trend?

That’s it! If a convention or a festival doesn’t have clear policies, that they actually follow, which protect women and men from creepers, I’m not going. They won’t get another dollar from me.” – Brenna Summer, a Midwest Pagan who says she attends at least one festival or convention per year.

Pagan festival and convention attendees have now spent weeks online discussing past instances where event organizers failed or succeeded in addressing attendee concerns about sexual predators. They’re talking about what worked, what didn’t, and suggestions for event organizers. “I’d like to see confidential feedback about predators made public. Festival goers have a right to know what has happened with other attendees and personnel as delivered in feedback from people who were witness to or on the receiving end,” says Tasha Rose, who attends events in Minnesota.

Other attendees have been on both sides of sexual predator allegations. OtterDancing said she witnessed a man harassing women at a local festival and the man was quietly asked to leave. Yet she’s also seen allegations handled poorly at the same festival. “Six men stormed into our campsite and accused my husband of harassing a 13 year old and verbally assaulted him with out proof. This greatly traumatized my husband and probably lead to his subsequent physical downward spiral. My husband was innocent. It turned out that it was another bald middle-aged fat man that had done this. Of course there were no apologies and I refused to ever go back to that particular gather again.”

As many cases of sexual harassment or sexual abuse happen without witnesses, how are organizers to balance keeping attendees safe without destroying the reputation of persons’ wrongly accused? What steps should workshop presenters take? They can look at best practices both within the Pagan community and outside of it.

Best practices for presenters
David Salisbury, whose books and workshops are often geared towards teens and young adults, says he is rethinking everything in relation to how he presents to minors. Although he feels he has a good system in place, he is making one important change, “I will not teach youth without one or more other adults present.” He also plans to spend more time explaining to adults why he does this so it becomes a more commonplace practice.

David Salisbury

David Salisbury

Salisbury says Pagans need to stop trusting anyone with a book or CD out and encourages parents to ask questions about who is spending time with their children. “If I’m giving a talk to teens, I hope that the adults of that event will ask me who I am, what material will be covered, and the extent of any communication, if any, that will happen beyond the event. Although I don’t want to see our youth cut off from resources out of a sense of paranoia, I think open communication is a must.”

In the world of science fiction and fantasy, over 500 presenters, artists, attendees, and vendors have joined best selling author John Scalzi in announcing they will not attend, present, or vend at conferences that do not have, or will not enforce, written harassment policies.

They require
1.  That the convention has a harassment policy, and that the harassment policy is clear on what is unacceptable behavior, as well as to whom those who feel harassed, or see others engaging in harassing behavior, can go for help and action.
2.  That the convention make this policy obvious by at least one and preferably more than one of the following: posting the policy on their website, placing it in their written and electronic programs, putting up flyers in the common areas, discussing the policy at opening ceremonies or at other well-attended common events.
3.   In cases when I am invited as a Guest of Honor, personal affirmation from the convention chair that a harassment policy exists, that it will be adequately publicized to conventiongoers, and that all harassment complaints will be dealt with promptly and fairly, with no excuses or rationalizations for delaying action when such becomes necessary.

Best practices at CONvergence
Science Fiction and Fantasy (SF/F) conventions have many of the same challenges as Pagan events face. They have a sex positive culture. Attendees may be naked or wearing very little clothing. Pagans may have sex magic, but SF/F conventions have Furries, Vampire: The Masquerade, and other sexual subcultures. Add in alcohol and the carnival like atmosphere of a convention and problems can arise.

CONvergence, a SF/F convention held in Minnesota, is considered something of a gold standard when it comes to safe space conventions. Unlike some other SF/F conventions, CONvergence has never had the reputation of a creeper’s paradise, where attendees are regularly groped and verbally harassed. Yet, while rare, there have been instances where attendees haven’t felt safe or were sexually harassed. When that happens, CONvergence attendees and staff know exactly what to do.

If people tell you “no” or to leave them alone, your business with them is done. – from CONvergence policy on harassment

The policy not only outlines what is unacceptable behavior in clear and simple terms, it outlines what attendees should do to report the behavior and what steps are taken if an individual “stalks, harasses, or attempts to assault you at the convention itself, you may report that individual to a member of Operations (they will report it to the hotel’s security staff who will get the police involved if necessary) or you may report it to hotel security directly, and the appropriate action will be taken. Conversely, any attempt to have an innocent person removed from the convention by falsely accusing him or her of threats will be itself treated as an act of harassment and will be dealt with appropriately.”

Brian Etchieson, a SubHead in Operations for CONvergence, says the con also has a constant patrol of Wandering Hosts throughout the hotel. These volunteers assist the con goers with questions, problems, and troubleshooting. They also have a team of First Advisers on hand who can assess any potential medical emergency and the con has an excellent relationship with the local police department.

Etchieson says they deal with allegations of harassment on a case by case basis. “If it is a case of that guy is looking at me funny, said guy may just get a ‘hey, what gives?’ talk from a Wandering Host. He won’t stop taking my picture is going to get him a walk to The Bridge and he’ll be asked to cease said behavior. Small infractions like this usually get The Talk. Repeat offenders, or Mr. He’s Clearly Hammered may have their badge taken away for the night, effectively banning them from the convention. Said badge only gets returned in the morning at the discretion of an Ops Head. In cases of physical assault, the perp will have their badge pulled immediately. The police will be summoned if necessary or if requested by the member who has been assaulted. The perp may be placed on the Permanent Ban list.”

costumes-are-not-consent-750x1024Along with a clear policy, CONvergence instituted a public awareness campaign, called “Costumes Are Not Consent.” Etchieson says,”The idea of putting on an ‘anti-creeper’ campaign has been bandied about for some time. Ishmael Williams, Director of [CONvergence] HOME Division, threw out the idea of putting out posters. The Ops crew held a brainstorming session and came up with the designs.” It was Etchieson who came up with the “Costumes Are Not Consent” concept.

Christin LeXi Davis, Communications Director for CONvergence, said the the reaction by con goers has been enormously positive. “They love it. We are blessed to have so many talented and creative individuals to help create catchy ways to get sensitive messages out that is positive and fun.”

It was so catchy and fun it went viral. Charmaine Parnell, CoHead of Hotel for CONvergence, said, “The reaction to the campaign has been stunning. When it went viral, we just couldn’t believe how fandom reacted to it. Exceeded all of our expectations. You don’t expect to see your work trending on Twitter or being mentioned at a convention in London during their closing ceremonies.” Parnell said she was also surprised at how it opened up a conversation about women harassing men at conventions by performing ‘kilt checks.’

The Costumes Are Not Consent campaign was targeted to three main groups, which Etchieson labeled as Socially Awkward Fans, Your Actual Scumbags, and I’m Creeped Out. The convention used posters, buttons, video, live performances, and word of mouth to get the campaign’s message out. Etchieson says the Socially Awkward Fans may not understand they are causing anyone discomfort. They need clear rules and a reminder to think about their social approach. Your Actual Scumbags are predators who think a convention is easy pickings. Etchieson says the convention is watching for them and they will take strong action against them.The third group, I’m Creeped Out, is the group that most concerns Etchieson. ”We want to make sure our membership knows that it is not OK to let someone creeper on you and, if they do, the Con staff and the rest of the membership have your back. We will listen to you and fix the problem. Because it’s not your fault, and you shouldn’t have to put up with it.”

Best practices at Covenant of the Goddess’s MerryMeet 2014
So how does a Pagan conference compare to CONvergence’s example of best practices? Although the weekend conference MerryMeet is held in different locations and hosted by different Covenant of the Goddess chapters, they rely heavily on CoG’s bylaws for standards of conduct at events. While CoG‘s bylaws may not specifically address sexual abuse, the Merry Meet 2014 committee is considering adding such language to its own convention agreement.

For MerryMeet 2014, the convention committee is requiring each participant to sign an acknowledgement of the rules and regulations for both the event and the hotel. Similar to CONvergence, they are working to have clear and accessible rules of conduct.

Green-Faiths-3ALady Mehurt, Second Officer of Covenant of the Goddess and Registrar for MerryMeet 2014, says they also have a clear way to address onsite complaints. “The Merry Meet 2014 Committee has its own security team led by a professional law enforcement officer. In addition the hotel has its own security force. If any guest has concerns or complaints of any kind, our security team with the help of hotel security will address the situation immediately.”  Lady Mehurt also says they would not allow a speaker or attendee “…who has been formally accused, convicted or arrested of sexual abuse at our Merry Meet Atlanta event. The safety of our guests is of the utmost importance.”

Yet dealing with claims of sexual harassment or violence are very difficult for organizers because the acts are often committed in a private area, without witnesses. Lady Mehurt says there are additional difficulties. “The violations can bring shame to the abused or fear of retaliation. In addition, people have different expectations and definitions of ‘good touch’ and ‘bad touch.’ Those boundaries can change in altered states – either by alcohol, drugs or even spiritual practice.” She says that organizers need to address all accusations and situations carefully, slowly, and compassionately, “for all parties involved until the truth can be ascertained and the best course of action, legal or otherwise, be taken.”

 

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.

Shauna Aura Knight

Shauna Aura Knight

“I completely reject the “myth” that Pagan leadership is like “herding cats.” Yes, sometime it comes to pass that Pagan leadership is frustrating. Why is it like that? Because we keep saying it is. We make that reality happen. You know–words have power. Words have a lot of power. Words shape reality. I actively encourage people to not use that particular phrase because it just reinforces the story that Pagans are hard to lead. In fact, it’s more accurate to say, people are hard to lead. Pagans are a subculture with unique difficulties and our leaders don’t have appropriate training in leadership, which exacerbates the problems we face. But this phrase does not serve us in moving forward. [...]  Herding cats roughly implies that Pagans are too individualistic to ever follow someone else, and trying to organize and lead such individualistic people is impossible. However, that hasn’t been my experience at all. Most Pagans I meet are desperate to find a group that is stable and healthy where they can get basic education.” – Shauna Aura Knight, on why she hates the phrase “herding cats” when describing the organizing of Pagans.

Prudence Priest

Prudence Priest

“The Trinkunas family welcomed me every time I visited the Baltics, and I often stayed with them and went with them to many events and sventes (festivals) . I was in the center of Vilnius with them when they recorded “The Rite of Fire”, and at the National Museum of Lithuania when they premiered “Hymns to Saule” (the Sun Goddess) . In between those CDs and before Lithuania joined the EU, they used to hold a heathen summer camp in various sites near Vilnius. They owned six pieces of property about 70 miles northeast of Vilnius and less than a mile from the Belarus border. Jonas called them belts; they were very narrow strips of land.  One summer visit, the drunken Russian who owned a “belt” between theirs wanted to sell and move to his Father’s place. It was complicated, but I bought the place, and now Romuva had seven contiguous properties and became a village. It was named Dvarciskes. I believe it was the same year Jonas won the Basanavicius prize for preserving the folklore and traditions of Lithuania in the face of communism. He has won many honors and degrees over the years and he and his entire family have been a dynamic force in preserving and practicing the indigenous religion of the Baltics. [...] It is so hard to believe that this wonderful, kind, man, priest, writer, fellow philologist, and friend is no longer with us, but his legacy is intact and Romuva will continue.” – Prudence Priest, writing a remembrance of her friend Jonas Trinkūnas, the krivis (supreme priest) and founder of Romuva (Wild Hunt obituary here).

David Salisbury

David Salisbury

“This is just a small sampling of the dozens of responses I got through both social media and email and encompasses a pretty visible range of the answers I received.  Can you guess my first observation? No spells! A terrible assumption by some older Pagans is that young Pagans are only interested in magickal paths for the instant glory that a spell can promise. Though out of all the responses, I honestly did not see a single one that mentioned “being able to cast spells.” This to me is proof that the young generation of Witches and Pagans is a lot deeper than many like to believe. This isn’t a new thing either. Starting as a teen myself, I can tell you that spells and magick was certainly something I thought was “cool” but was not the main attraction to me and those I practiced with. I’m tickled to know that this sentiment extends beyond my own experience. My other observation was the huge number of responses focused on finding and engaging with a community. This isn’t surprising considering that a formative trait of growing up is learning how to interact with different communities and finding what you consider to be your place within them. This is especially important for young Pagans who may feel ostracized for being of a minority religion, where social acceptance could be a little harder to come by.” – David Salisbury, on what young Pagans like.

Wes Isley

Wes Isley

“Magick, for me, is a walk in the woods and watching a flock of birds wheel over a lake, lifting my mood and thereby altering my direction for the remainder of the day. Magick is the ability to hear that still, small voice within that gently beckons, calling me toward a life that isn’t found on television or the Internet. Magick is finding connection and community in the most unlikely places and people. Magick is embracing profound experiences that cannot easily be explained. Is magick supernatural? I don’t know. I think it’s more commonplace than most of us realize, but we’re often too busy, our minds too cluttered to recognize it. I think magick is more subtle than our movie-fueled fantasies will admit, and I don’t believe magick is reserved for a chosen few. I believe magick is open to everyone. It’s also risky, because to practice magick requires us to go against the grain. It means seeing the world and people with a compassionate and hopeful perspective that stands in contrast to how we’re conditioned or expected to act and think. I don’t believe magick is about wielding power or getting what you want from some force that must obey your commands. Rather, practicing magick allows us to tap into a universal current that has always been and always will be. Life can be lived just fine without magick, but a truly magickal life, I believe, is much richer, multifaceted and original.” – Wes Isley, on what magic is, and why he wants to do it. 

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

Oberon Zell

“I am sharing the keynote with guest Deborah Lipp, and we are offering a talk on the legacy of the whole Neo-Pagan movement. The two of us will be bouncing back and forth about the emergence of the Neo-Pagan movement and what it has contributed that will be of lasting significance in the world. I think it is quite a lot. We will also talk about where we go from here as Paganism becomes more recognized as a mainstream religion. One of the puzzles we have all experienced is why don’t people don’t seem to know about us, because they ought to! There have been more books published by and about the Pagan movement that just about any other religion you could find. Vast numbers of people are involved, interviews, television shows are aired about us. People seem to have a much greater awareness about a few truly obscure and off the wall spiritual groups than us. [...] The theme of the conference is about Embracing the Elements, and now that we have just stepped over the threshold of the age of Aquarius, there is interest in knowing what all this will mean. I want to talk about this, as Aquarius is an Air sign, signifying communication, wisdom, and travel through the air and sky. The internet and how that will continue evolving in the years to come, and space travel and colonization, these are totally Aquarian types of issues. Then there is the spiritual, and Aquarius also involves the mind and consciousness. The “New Age” is very Aquarian in its entire vision. This is truly a time of global awakening, of our planetary being, of Gaea herself. Her awakening to full consciousness and the implications of that for us. I have been thinking about these things for decades and I think it will make a great subject to talk about. We are here!” – Oberon Zell, discussing his upcoming appearance at Paganicon in Minnesota.

Fritz Muntean

Fritz Muntean

“The organizers of Pagan political causes keep writing to me, asking (nay — demanding) that I lend my support to various environmental protests, demonstrations, and campaigns — on the grounds that we Pagans are supposed to be ‘stewards’ or ‘caretakers’ of Mother Earth — and, as such, we have a religious duty to ‘walk the talk’ and engage fully in ecological activism. Sez who? More to the point — who was the first to say so? And what was the process by which these beliefs (and demands) became the water in which today’s Pagans are swimming? IMO, and FWIW, 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. Over the following 15-plus years, considerable thought went into the development of an ethical system in support of this effort. A new system, now called the Expressive Ethical Style, evolved to replace obedience or self-interest as the motivations for human behavior with an ethic of impulse (‘follow your feelings’), self-expression (‘let it all hang out’), and situational appropriateness (‘go with the flow’; ‘different strokes for different folks’). Replacing the goal of self-preservation with self-awareness, this new ethical style encouraged relaxed non-analytical attention to the present situation (‘be here now’), in order to meet the newly reified obligations of universal love and mutual non-injury.” – Fritz Muntean, posing the question of whether the modern Pagan movement can be classified as “nature” religion. 

Alyxander Folmer

Alyxander Folmer

The ongoing debate over Edward Snowden is still raging. Is the former NSA contractor-turned-whistle-blower a Hero or a Traitor? Should we decry his actions as a violation of trust, or extol them as a selfless attempt to fight injustice? As anÁsatrúar, I believe we are honor bound to speak out against perceived injustices when we come across them. Óðinn advised us to give our foes no “frið,” which is translated here as peace. Frið (or Frith) is a complex social ideal with many layers of meaning. It represents peace, loyalty, fealty, kinship;frið is the bond of honor that holds a family together. When Óðinn says “give your enemies no peace,” the statement implies that you should not offer loyalty or kinship with those who would do harm. If your brother were planning to commit some nefarious act, it would be your duty to stand in his way. When Snowden saw the NSA doing things like tracking the sexual preferences of suspected “Radicalizers” in order to damage their reputations, he decided that the abuse of power had to stop. He broke frið and brought the problem to the attention of the public. True to Óðinn’s advice, in the year following his announcement, he has given his enemies no peace.” – Alyxander Folmer, on Edward Snowden as the “honorable traitor.” 

John Beckett

John Beckett

“But trying to read moral lessons into American Horror Story: Coven misses the point.  It’s cool.  It’s sexy.  It’s fun even though it’s frustrating.  It’s dark fantasy about a type of witchcraft that has long been feared even though it doesn’t exist, at least not exactly like this.  It’s what we wish we could do, even though we wouldn’t… probably… maybe… Several observers of pop culture and the entertainment world have said “witches are the new vampires.”  Witches and witchcraft are popping up on television to an extent we haven’t seen in 15 years, if ever.  Most of the shows appear to be targeted to teenage girls, which means there’s not a chance in the Hell that doesn’t exist that I’ll be watching them. Most of their viewers will see witchcraft as a pleasant fantasy.  Most will see magic as “oh, if only I could…”  Most will watch a season or two and then move on to some other entertainment. But for a few, a new curiosity will be kindled.  Or perhaps a vague desire will be given a name.  Or a life-long interest will become urgent enough to finally pursue.  And because some of us have done like Cordelia at the end of Coven and gone public with our magic, those people will have resources to turn to.” – John Beckett, on the finale of American Horror Story: Coven

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

“The conception of Brigit that has come about in most modern CR practice, and pretty much all modern paganism that I’ve been able to discern, is one that is derived from academic (Christian and linguistics-based) sources, with no appreciation for how polytheism works. To most Christians, imagining more than one deity is hard enough, so “one deity with three parts” (which, to them, is still “One”) becomes a way to understand many deities that might be separate. That might work for Hekate Triformis, but it doesn’t automatically work for any other triplicity of deitiesjust because. And in the linguistics paradigm, there is a tendency to look at different reflexes of a given root in several different languages that are then either cognate or equivalent, and then to conclude “They’re all the same.” And that’s exactly what’s been done with Brigit. Compound this with Saint Brigit of Kildare, and many other saints called Brigit, Bríg, or Bríd (and various other cognates, by-forms, and so forth), all of whom very certainly derive from the popularity and importance of St. Brigit of Kildare (who not only has the earliest saints’-lives of any saint in Ireland, but has three of them that are early, one of which is quite different from the other two), and you get a recipe for disastrous polytheistic collapse. If all of these diverse Christian Brigits (and so forth) derive from one Brigit of Kildare, why then wouldn’t all pagan Brigits (and so forth) also derive from one Brigit, including the Christian Brigit’s derivation from that original pagan stock? The major difficulty there is that the coincidences between the pagan Brigits and the Christian Brigit are exactly that: coincidences based on an assumed unity (which itself is based on linguistics), rather than any actual events in what is known about the pagan Brigits and the Christian Brigits as far as symbolism or narrative event and mythic sharing.” – P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, on understanding the complexity of the goddess Brigid.

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

Interfaith has been a path that Pagans have become accustomed to hearing in our community, and very comfortable with the role that Interfaith plays in connecting our community of practitioners to the greater religious society. Covenant of the Goddess and Circle Sanctuary are examples of some of the prominent Pagan organizations that have invested time, money, and effort into developing trained Interfaith representatives.

While Pagans in the Interfaith community continue to work toward religious tolerance, integration, and networking, we are hearing more about the work of social justice in the community. Is social justice becoming the new interfaith?

University of Berkeley’s Social Justice Symposium defined social justice as “a process, not an outcome, which (1) seeks fair (re)distribution of resources, opportunities, and responsibilities; (2) challenges the roots of oppression and injustice; (3) empowers all people to exercise self-determination and realize their full potential; (4) and builds social solidarity and community capacity for collaborative action.”

Increased attention, advocacy and education have been seen within the themes of festivals, workshop offerings, Pagan blogs, and first-hand involvement in social justice activities. From the Occupy movement, forums addressing discrimination, prison work to peaceful protests, we are seeing some of our fellow Pagans being active in the theme of social equality.

starhawk 5 19 04

Starhawk

As the Pagan community is a microcosm of the larger macro society, how does working in social justice correlate with the paths of those Pagans who are active in the work? Starhawk made a recent statement on her Facebook fan page reflecting on the Martin/Zimmerman verdict, “I advocate nonviolence. But nonviolence is not passivity. It calls us to actively acknowledge that racism and patriarchy are deep, inherent, endemic forms of perpetual violence that infuse our society deeply, and will take much thought and work and courage to transform.

And for those of you who have said, ‘I love your Pagan, spiritual stuff but I’m not sure I’m with you on this’ – this IS my spiritual stuff. The Goddess I embrace is both love and rage, is She who inspires our passion for justice, and sustains us through the long hard work to bring it about.”

Environmental activism has long been associated with goddess worship and Paganism, but this type of social commentary has not always been something considered a spiritual staple in the overarching beliefs of the community. Yet we are seeing more opportunities for social activism, and an increased amount of voices and actions working towards topics of justice.

Joseph Nichter, author and Wiccan Prison Chaplain, took the opportunity to talk about his role of social justice work in the Prison system, and as a Veteran. In referencing the “other” listed on his dogtags in the military, Nichter talked about equal access to rights as a Pagan.

Joseph Merlin Nichter (aka WitchDoctorJoe)

Joseph Merlin Nichter (aka WitchDoctorJoe)

“Those tags were merely precursor to the religious discrimination I experienced while serving my country.  Although my military service has long since come to an end, those experiences left a lasting impression and social justice has come to play a significant role in my spiritual path as a Wiccan Prison Chaplain. I’ve come to believe with every fiber of my being that social justice is of critical importance to health and welfare Paganism, and that Paganism is of critical importance to the health and welfare of our future civilization.” – Joseph Nichter, author, Prison Chaplain.

Pagan activists are becoming more involved in some of the social causes, needs of the greater community, and more vocal about being involved. I reached out to several other Pagans who have done some recent work around issues of social justice advocacy concerning rights for prisoners, LBGTQ, military, the Occupy movement, and systemic injustice.

David Salisbury

David Salisbury

“Social justice is crucial in my spiritual life to the point of being my spiritual life. I cannot separate the two. Any time I’m able to contribute to the movements I’m involved in, I do so as an offering to my gods and the spirit of the world. It’s a holy act for me.

I was originally taught that Paganism is all about relationships — to people, the gods, and the land we inhabit. I think social justice is important to our many traditions because it’s about healing and strengthening the relationships between the three. In my animistic worldview, I can’t help but act because I can so easily see my gods in the face of every suffering person and animal.” – David Salisbury, author, Activist.

T. Thorn Coyle

T. Thorn Coyle

“Social justice has always been very close to my heart. As someone who experiences the sacred in all things, it is incumbent upon me to honor that to the best of my ability. Injustice causes a rift in the fabric of being. It is part of my work as a spiritual person to try to mend that rift, to help reweave the fabric of love. Nothing is devoid of spirit: not the stove or pots at my local soup kitchen; not the ancient forests that require protection; not the family whose teen was killed for little reason other than he was black. I feel a connection to all of these. I must help to right the world.”  - T. Thorn Coyle, author and activist.

Glenn Turner (Photo: OaklandNorth)

Glenn Turner (Photo: OaklandNorth)

“Pagans have a holistic view of the world that I believe polytheism fosters. The joy of a diversity of gods, gives us joy and tolerance of diversity. Through diversity we gain strength and resilience in adversity.

Social Justice is basic to a democracy that believes in equality and liberty for all. Our country was founded on these tenants. People have mostly come here to escape injustice; for slaves brought here against their will, their progeny deserve to find liberty and equality. The nurturing of the poor and disadvantaged can only strengthen our community and environment. Mutual support is a key to group magic and we are all in this world together.” – Glenn Turner, Founder of Pantheacon, Activist

Where Interfaith work has often had a focus on networking Pagans into the greater religious community, social justice work appears to be focused on greater societal issues that are not specifically focused on Paganism. This greater community work is a calling, just as interfaith work, and it is playing a large role in the momentum of how Pagans are investing energy in today’s social issues. While social justice does not replace the role of interfaith, they might just be closely related cousins that will continue to work in tandem with an agenda of spiritual accountability, inclusivity, equal access to religious resources, and social equality.

T. Thorn Coyle best summarized these thoughts in a final statement about the intersection of action, spiritual work and justice:

“We forget. We forget we are connected. We think our states of disconnection are the only reality, but the deeper reality exists in remembering that we are all alive together. When I scrub pots at the soup kitchen, or stand for people in Oakland who have been killed by police, or talk about the importance of the Voting Rights Act, or help send supplies to tornado victims, or organize a blood drive, or write about racism , I do all of this as a reminder to my soul: “You are part of this whole world, and it is of you.”

For full quotes, please see links below.

Glenn Turner

T. Thorn Coyle

Joseph Nichter

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.

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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

 

Today the Supreme Court of the United States handed down rulings on United States v. Windsor, which challenged the constitutionality of DOMA, the federal Defense of Marriage Act, and Hollingsworth v. Perry, which centered on California’s Proposition 8, a state constitutional amendment that banned legal same-sex marriages. In short, both rulings are seen as victories for proponents of marriage equality, and for clergy who perform same-sex marriages. The first ruling this morning from the Supreme Court was on the matter of DOMA, and it was ruled unconstitutional in a 5-4 vote. Here’s SCOTUSblog’s “Plain English” take on the ruling.

Selena Fox and Washington DC Pagans performing a rite for freedom and justice in the DOMA decision back in March.

Selena Fox and Washington DC Pagans performing a rite for freedom and justice in the DOMA decision back in March of this year.

“The federal Defense of Marriage Act defines “marriage,” for purposes of over a thousand federal laws and programs, as a union between a man and a woman only. Today the Court ruled, by a vote of five to four, in an opinion by Justice Kennedy, that the law is unconstitutional. The Court explained that the states have long had the responsibility of regulating and defining marriage, and some states have opted to allow same-sex couples to marry to give them the protection and dignity associated with marriage. By denying recognition to same-sex couples who are legally married, federal law discriminates against them to express disapproval of state-sanctioned same-sex marriage. This decision means that same-sex couples who are legally married must now be treated the same under federal law as married opposite-sex couples.

The California Proposition 8 ruling was more complex, and hinges on issues of standing, but it is widely seen as clearing the way for legal same-sex marriages in the state.

“The court’s action, while not a sweeping ruling, sends the case back to California, where state and federal judges and the state’s top officials have said same-sex marriage is a matter of equal rights.”

As I’ve reported several times before at this site, this issue is both about the basic human rights of same sex couples, and the rights of clergy who officiate their unions. The banning of legal same-sex unions was seen by many as privileging the religious views of those opposed to legal recognition over those who supported it. Now, with this latest hurdle crossed, same sex unions performed in states where it is legal (soon to include California) will be federally recognized, and those couples will receive all the benefits currently granted to married couples by the government. Washington DC Pagan, and Human Rights Campaign employee David Salisbury, in reacting to the SCOTUS decisions, celebrated today as a “watershed moment.”

David Salisbury

David Salisbury

“Although we were hoping for a broader decision, this is still an incredible day to be working for equality and a watershed moment for this movement. I am so proud of my colleagues at the Human Rights Campaign for all the work we’ve done to encourage nationwide support and excitement around this issue. We still have a lot of work to do in this area and many others in the future, but we here in Washington DC will celebrate this momentous day at the Supreme Court with cheers from the rest of the nation behind us. It is also a proud time to be an American Pagan, which is a movement of people who have largely always supported equality for all.”

Kathryn Robinson Kyair, a Gythja in the Asatru faith who was legally married to her partner in California before Prop. 8 won passage in 2008, was initially in a state of shock over the news, but eventually realized the ramifications: “We are equal.”

“How long have we fought, tooth and nail, for this?  Every step along the way has been a fight.  And suddenly, this one makes our marriage equal.  WOW. Prop H8:  thrown back to CA.  Judge Walker’s ruling stands.  Prop H8 is unconstitutional…his words…and now marriage in CA can resume!  Wow! It all slowly sinks in.  It’s all good.  Yes, there are still details to fight, but, it’s good! Holy S***!  My wife, Jeani, and I are married!  REALLY married.  It DOES feel different.  It finally feels REAL!”

For decades, many within the modern Pagan movement have performed marriage rites for same sex couples, and welcomed them into their religious groups and communities. Ivo Dominguez, Jr., an Elder of the Assembly of The Sacred Wheel, noted the irony of being able to officiate federally recognized wedding without be able to obtain one himself.

Ivo Dominguez Jr.

Ivo Dominguez Jr.

“In the decades that I’ve been a Wiccan priest, I have officiated many federally recognized weddings. My lover and I will have been together 35 years next February. I have always noted the irony of being able to perform such a service without ever being able to be the recipient of the same. Today’s Supreme Court decision finally makes this possible, and we will soon be married. However I will remain vigilant because every step forward also brings out those who wish to drag us backwards. My religion views all love as sacred, but some other religions have different perspectives on this matter. Neither my religious views nor their religious views should matter in the eyes of the law. However my beliefs as a Wiccan will encourage me to make choices to defend my rights and the rights of others. I am overjoyed, and I am also prepared for this to be the beginning of yet more decades of work towards a nation that sees the intrinsic value of all love and all beings.”

Michael Lloyd, co-founder of the Between the Worlds Men’s Gathering and author of “Bull of Heaven: The Mythic Life of Eddie Buczynski and the Rise of the New York Pagan,” who has performed same-sex marriages as a Gay Pagan priest, noted the historic inequality between different religious views of same-sex relationships as this debate has evolved.

“As I look back on the debate that has surrounded the struggle for marriage equality in this country, I am struck by how much deference has been paid to the beliefs of religious institutions which have a long history of antipathy toward the gay community, while for the most part ignoring the beliefs – and the rights – of those institutions which have recognized the innate humanity of LGBT people who wish to form loving, supportive families. [...] Leaders of these religious organizations certainly bear a responsibility for their own dogma and how they manipulate it to maintain control over their own followers. However, they have no right to impose those beliefs upon society as a whole. In matters of faith, we are each the master of our own soul. And for that reason, I am joyful that the SCOTUS has seen fit to allow those who have lawfully taken this most public of private steps to be recognized by their government. May we all be so free within my lifetime. So mote it be.”

This is just a sample of the flood of positive reactions from Pagan leaders, clergy, and activists on these rulings. Covenant of the Goddess (COG), released a statement saying that “today we celebrate with all of our LGBT members, their friends, families and communities as they take a huge step forward in their struggle for acceptance and freedom under the law.” Author and Priestess Crystal Blanton said that today’s decision “brought us all one step closer to true spirituality,” while Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary exclaimed: “May our society continue to work toward having Equality, Liberty, and Justice for All!” David Shorey, GLBT Liaison for the House of Danu, looked to the future saying that he celebrates the rulings today but knows “that Love knows no borders. I know that one day Gay and Lesbian couples will be able to declare their commitment and love in all 50 states.” For many Pagan clergy, the sentiments of Lisa Morgenstern seem to hold true.

Lisa Cowley Morgenstern

Lisa Cowley Morgenstern

“As the former Public Information Officer for COG, back when the first CA court decision was rendered legalizing gay marriage,I am thrilled to see DOMA struck down, and Prop 8′s suit dismissed. COG clergy have been performing same gender marriages since the inception of the organization, in 1976, as their consciences permit.  As a member of The Troth who also performs Heathen weddings as well as Wiccan and Pagan ones, I believe that this step of legal recognition was long overdue. Right of survivorship is an important one, as well as the federal income tax benefit of filing jointly as a married couple. These benefits will apply to members of our military as well. The Troth does not discriminate against our gay members and never has. I have performed many same gender marriages and I look forward to resuming that joy in a legal capacity.”

Michele Morris, Distinctive Faith Group Leader for Fort Hood Open Circle, US Army Fort Hood, TX, noted how these decision will also affect same sex couples in a military setting, saying that for “most of the people that I work with it’s about the things that so many of us take for granted, like the right to be notified if your spouse is injured. To be able to be married in the faith and community of your choosing is something everyone should have access to and this decision will give pagan clergy the opportunity to grant that access to even more people.”

“Today’s Supreme Court rulings on DOMA and Proposition 8, while not as decisive and far-reaching as they could have been, are an important step in the decades-old movement to secure marriage rights for same-sex couples. Paganism has been at the forefront of that movement – many of us have performed religious marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples long before other religions started following suit. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but as of today, the writing on the wall is sharper and bolder than ever.”Andras Corban Arthen, The EarthSpirit Community

In the long run, what this is about, and why so many Pagans support marriage equality is simple. As Mage and Chiromancer Jim Barker puts it, “by allowing marriage between two people of the same gender, I can actually call my domestic partner “husband.”  When people ask if we are married, I can simply say, YES.  I don’t need all kinds of funny explanations.  And neither do my loved ones.  They can just say we’re married.” Our community embraces multiplicity, it embraces difference and all manifestations of love. “Our diversity is our wealth,” says Chris Moore, and he’s not wrong. 

There’s so much more to say here, and we’ll be doing follow-up posts. For now, I want to leave you with the words of Pagan author and activist Lydia M. N. Crabtree.

Lydia M. Crabtree

Lydia M. Crabtree

“I am struck at how yesterday the idea that there is discrimination against minority voters was scoffed at by the Supreme Court and today that same Court embraced the idea that the United States is discriminating against same sex marriage. It is almost as if we as a society do not have an ability to hold in our minds the prejudice of two groups at the same time. In both cases, these fights have been sent back to the state level – upholding the view that state rights is paramount. As a Southerner this disturbs me. I am all too familiar with what happens when States have control of making and governing minority groups. Things here in Georgia are unlikely to change for my friends who wish to marry whom they love regardless of gender. Just as I suspect that more voting laws will be attempted making voting more difficult for minority groups and redrawing district lines to keep Georgia a red state for as long as possible, given the fact that these practices of voter suppression have been on going. I do not think the United States people should breathe a sigh of relief. This Court clearly shows the great imbalance between the will of the people and the people who hold power. A clear reflection of the disparity of power between the will of the people and the Senate and Congress. Now isn’t the time to celebrate, it is the time to recognize two important thing. 1. Any minority discrimination is too much discrimination, whether the issue is around same-sex marriage or voting rights. 2. If the states retain the right to restrict minority groups indirectly, we should understand the dangerous precedent and remember the historic cost of state rights throughout history.”

Today we have a victory, but our collective work for justice continues. Let’s all keep standing for love.

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.

Chas Clifton

Chas Clifton

“[Jone Salomonsen] and I have felt from the beginning that Pagan studies is not so much about this group or that, but about Paganism as a way of being religious. For example, we have had presentations that focused on the treatment of images in a Pagan setting and in Mediterranean Catholic settings, which leads to joking about ‘the i-word’ (idolatry) and to discussions of whether it is useful and usable in a scholarly setting or whether one would do better to adopt some term like ‘sacred materiality.’”Chas Clifton, from an interview conducted by Ethan Doyle White.

“The workshops varied in scope and I found myself torn at every single time slot trying to determine which workshop to attend. Attendee’s had 40 workshops to choose from, varying in scope from Shamanic Body Posture to Strategic Sorcery to Secret Societies and more. This feel of the workshops at this event was unlike anything I’ve experienced at past Pagan conferences and conventions. With a target audience of advanced practitioners, the instructors clearly felt comfortable with skipping past cursory introductions to topics and dove right into the depths of the topic at hand. With the many options available in each time slot, classes stayed at respectable sizes small enough for questions from participants and responses from the instructors. Nothing I attended felt rushed or impersonal. Of course, there were presentations by world-renown occultist Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki which filled an entire ballroom of people, but other workshops tended to stay at around thirty people or less.”David Salisbury, from his overview of the recent Between the Worlds 2012 conference.

“Some people read the myths, whether our Scandinavian/Germanic ones or those from somewhere else, and find that the old stories just won’t leave them alone. And, while we have very few instructions from a thousand years ago on how to practice Ásatrú, there is broad agreement on how those stories advise conducting one’s life. Hairsplitting theological discussions aren’t necessary. For a lot of people, this thing, this practice, just works. Over all those centuries, how many de facto Heathens spent their lives hiding out in their own minds? Now that we don’t have to hide anymore, at least in much of the world, how many more are still hiding out just because they think they are alone in their feelings?”Steven T. Abell, discussing proselytizing from a Heathen standpoint.

jonathan korman

Jonathan Korman

“If we cannot describe pagan-ness, we end up with an unarticulated sense that Pagan means “Wicca and things like it”, which should satisfy no one. To sneak up on the problem, I want to resist questions as grandiose as Who Pagans Are or What Pagans Do or What Pagans Believe. (Indeed, that last is particularly pernicious; defining a religion in terms of what onebelieves is a distinctively Protestant move; let’s not go there.) Rather, I want to talk about what I call the “pagan sensibility” — note the deliberate use of the lower-case p. Not a statement of the True Pagan Nature or an explanation of the Pagan community, but a description of what kind of thought and action makes things pagan flavored. I think that one can describe that briefly and clearly, including everything one wants while excluding everything one doesn’t.”Jonathan Korman, laying out his case for a “pagan sensibility.”

“Polytheists like to claim that the multiplicity of gods breeds a kind of pluralism that makes intolerance and acts of religious violence less likely. But as an earth-centered and Self-centered Pagan, I see more similarities than dissimilarities between polytheism and the monotheisms. And I wonder if what really distinguishes Paganism from the Abrahamic faiths is not the number of gods, but the belief that in some sense we are God. A polytheist would call this hubris and a monotheist would call it heretical. (At least an orthodox monotheist would. There have always been mystical strains within the monotheistic traditions which sought union with God.) But for many Pagans, the hubris of the statement, “Thou art God/dess”, is an article of, well, faith.”John Halstead, on the role of faith and hubris in Paganism.

Morpheus Ravenna with Chrigel Glanzmann of Eluveitie.

Morpheus Ravenna with Chrigel Glanzmann of Eluveitie.

“Come the night, when the crowd roared and Eluveitie took the stage. When the mad, fierce, raging joy poured out of the musicians and swept through the crowd, churning the sea of people into a frenzy of violent celebration in the mosh pit. When the impassioned, screaming songs were sung out in the ancient language. Songs full of raw, deep emotion, telling the story of the Gallic wars and the nation that was, with joy, with pride, with rage, with anguish, with heart, the sounds of Celtic instruments swelling on a thunderous tide of metal. Songs of all that was lost, yet I could not help feeling how alive we were, how full of pride, how the flame of the Celtic spirit blazed in us in answer to the power in that music. Come the night, I felt the lost nation of Gaul singing through her descendants on the stage, echoing back from the ecstatic crowd. Everything lost is found again.”Morpheus Ravenna, describing her meeting with Chrigel Glanzmann, the lead singer and lyric-writer of the band Eluveitie.

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!

Support in the Wake of Sandy: Pagan author and teacher T. Thorn Coyle and Solar Cross Temple have started a FirstGiving page to support Miriam’s Kitchen in Washington DC. The money for the campaign will help Miriam’s Kitchen buy sleeping bags, warm clothes, hypothermia kits and other necessities, along with feeding people, as they do all year long, but which is especially important in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

storm fundraiser

Solar Cross Temple will be coordinating locally with David Salisbury of Firefly House, who volunteers at Miriam’s Kitchen. If this campaign is successful, and raises its goal in a week, Solar Cross Temple will start another campaign to help food banks and/or first responders in New Jersey and NYC next week. They have currently raised 25% of their goal, and this could be an excellent joint statement from the Pagan community in response to the hardships and tragedies many on the East Coast are currently facing.

Cherry Hill Seminary Spring Symposium Features Historian Ronald Hutton: Online Pagan learning institution Cherry Hill Seminary has announced that they will be partnering with the University of South Carolina to co-host a symposium featuring scholar Ronald Hutton, author of “The Triumph of the Moon:A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft,” as their keynote speaker.

Good Hutton Pic

Ronald Hutton

“Sacred Lands and Spiritual Landscapes will take place on the USC campus in this old southern capital.  The agenda includes presentations by Hutton, CHS’ own Wendy Griffin, and Jonathan Leader, chair of the USC Dept. of Archaeology, and South Carolina’s State Archaeologist. This is an unprecedented opportunity to meet and engage in discussion with an international figure such as Hutton, an English historian who specializes in the study of Early Modern Britain, British folklore, pre-Christian religion and contemporary Paganism.”

The symposium will take place April 13, 2013, on the USC campus in Columbia, South Carolina. Scholars wishing to participate have until January 1st, 2013 to submit papers. More information will be posted to the Cherry Hill Seminary website in the near future. We’re hoping that a Wild Hunt reporter will be able to attend and report on the symposium.

Faith, Fern & Compass Raise Awareness & Funds for Hunger and Homelessness: The podcast Faith, Fern, & Compass, which focuses on nature spirituality, ecology, art, and other topics, and is hosted by Alison Leigh Lilly and Jeff Lilly, announced that they will be donating half of the first month’s subscription fee for all new Pro Members to the National Coalition for the Homeless through November 18th.

FFC 215 580x181

“On this week’s Halloween/Samhain Special podcast episode, Jeff and I explore the disturbing and tragic stories that homeless children in Miami pass along among themselves about the war between angels and demons, and the role of Bloody Mary as the fearsome, heartless murderer of children, who causes even trusted adults to betray them. We hope to help bring some awareness to the problem of homelessness in this country, especially in the wake of Hurricane Sandy which, like most natural disasters, impacts the disenfranchised and impoverished hardest of all.

For everyone who signs up to become a Pro Member between Oct. 31 (today) and Nov. 18, FF&C will donate half of their first month’s subscription to the National Coalition for the Homeless, to help spread awareness and support those who work for the cause of social justice. We’re also encouraging our current listeners to donate to National Homeless or another homelessness or disaster relief charity of their choice.”

More information can be found at the Faith, Fern, & Compass site.

In Other Community News:  

  • Patrick McCleary of the blog Pagandad is launching a new series of ebooks entitled “Voices from the Grain” that is “devoted to the idea of getting the voices of Pagan men out there.” Their first edition is scheduled to be released in December with the topic being Yule.
  • The Heathen Anarchist collective Circle Ansuz Bay Area Leidang has issued a press release about their recent leafleting and postering near Counter-Currents Publishing, a white supremacist publisher. Quote: “As Heathens, San Franciscans, and human beings we are outraged by the presence of this mouthpiece for backward, bigoted beliefs in the city.”
  • The 5th Israeli Conference for the Study of Contemporary Religion and Spirituality, organized by the Program in Religious Studies at Tel Aviv University, has announced its call for papers. The conference will take place May 28th and 29th, 2013.  Featured Keynote Lectures will include Prof. Ronald Hutton (University of Bristol, UK), Prof. Jeffrey J. Kripal (Rice University, US) and Prof. James R. Lewis (University of Tromso, Norway). Deadline for proposals is December 15 2012 (email link for proposals).

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

Pagan voices is a new 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.

David Salisbury

David Salisbury

“Celebrating Pagan youth doesn’t mean we have to shun our elders. Instead, we can recognize the value of both ends of the age spectrum and what each has to offer. There’s still a strange view in some Pagan communities that our youth are temporary expendables. That we’re only interested in the surface fad of an “alternative lifestyle” or are coming from a shallow, uninformed space. Looking at blogs about the recent news that MTV would like to profile occultists 25 or younger reveals a pessimistic view of young Pagans. “The under-25 age limit ensures this will be a disaster” is a frequent comment going around. My young coreligionists frustrated with this type of dialog have a wish for our communities. We want to let the Pagan world know that we’d like an equal seat at the table. If you give us a chance, you might be surprised by what we can accomplish.”David Salisbury, from his new PaganSquare blog NextGen Pagan: Paganism for the Next Generation, advocating for younger Pagans to have a seat at the table.

Ocean from Deaf Pagan Crossroads

Ocean from Deaf Pagan Crossroads

“Somehow I’m just not sure how much confidence I can have in a diversity officer who seems to allow the teachings of her church to influence her in engaging in actions that might be counterproductive to the role she is expected to carry out on the campus. Don’t get me wrong – it doesn’t bother me that Dr. McCaskill is a Christian. I just hope it doesn’t bother her that I happen to be a Pagan. Or that it bothers the Office of Diversity and Inclusion should a group of Gallaudet students show up with a letter requesting to perform Full Moon Esbats on the campus, or asking to invite yours truly to lead a Dreaming the Dark ritual during the Sabbat of Samhain.” – Ocean at Deaf Pagan Crossroads commenting on the controversy involving Dr. Angela McCaskill, Chief Diversity Officer for Gallaudet University, a federally chartered university for the deaf and hard of hearing located in Washington, DC. McCaskill was put on administrative leave after signing a petition opposing same sex marriage, a move that some believe put her at odds with her position as a diversity officer.

Starhawk at Occupy Santa Cruz. Photo by Matt Fitt, Santa Cruz IMC.

Starhawk at Occupy Santa Cruz. Photo by Matt Fitt, Santa Cruz IMC.

“Here in California, there’s only two more days to register to vote.  And if you haven’t, I urge you to do so.  Now, I have to say my circles of friends and acquaintances include few if any potential Romney voters.  But they do include people who are so disaffected, or feel so frustrated, angry and disempowered by the political system, that even the sheer raw theater of it doesn’t move them to participate.  And others who enjoy saying, “Don’t vote, it only encourages them,” which is funny but patently untrue in an election year when the far right is working so hard to discourage people from voting.  If they’re going to such lengths to keep people from the polls, there must be something there that we want! [...] Elections are not the arena where I express my ideals–I do that in the garden, and in my writing, and in the streets.   Elections are where I get pragmatic, because they do matter, and the differences between the candidates can mean life or death to folks like Shawna and to me.” – Pagan author and activist Starhawk, at her Dirt Worship blog, endorsing Barack Obama for President, and explaining why voting is important, even if you’re disillusioned.

Teo Bishop

Teo Bishop

“But we just created an out there by casting this circle. We closed them off from us, shut them out, but only symbolically because they could see and hear all of what we were doing. Play it like we’re the victims, but we just created — through ritual — the same kind of alienation that we feel in relation to the greater society. We just became The Church.” – Teo Bishop, at his newly independent Bishop In The Grove blog, explaining his discomfort at a recent Pagan Pride Day in Colorado. You can read a follow up, here. Also – be sure to stay tuned for a special column from Teo here at The Wild Hunt exploring these topics further.

Jason Mankey

Jason Mankey

“I just don’t think the gods, any gods, care at all about politics. I don’t care if that god lives near the star Kolob, once resided in the Holy of Holies, or was worshipped on the Acropolis in the Parthenon of Ancient Athens. I just can’t see gods, divine beings with memories that span millennia, getting all worked up over things that would feel like seconds to them. I think my gods care about me (and that your gods care about you), but I can’t picture Cernunnos reading the latest misleading headline over on The Huffington Post or spending his morning watching Fox and Friends. It’s not that the gods aren’t worried about this world, it’s just that some decisions are made by people, and some things are controlled by higher powers, voting is not one of those things.” – Jason Mankey, at his Raise the Horns blog, opining that perhaps the gods don’t care all that much about politics.

T. Thorn Coyle

T. Thorn Coyle

“We cannot control our lives. What we can do – by noticing, engaging, and releasing –  is stay in active engagement with our lives and the process we are in. We can adjust attitudes, habits, actions, thoughts. We can come into right relationship with emotions. We can learn how to better be a part of community. We can of better service. Control can be a useful concept, but more often than not it becomes a stand in for what actually helps. Think of muscle control. An athlete wants this. But really, what the athlete wants is to engage heart, breath, attention and muscles all at once, so as to move precisely, with strength and flexibility, in the moment. Eventually, this becomes a state of pure presence, the athlete is one with herself and the water, the track, the grass, the mat. We can call that control. I would rather call it engagement. Relationship. Presence. Why? Simply because the concept of control can turn into rigidity of form and attempts to force an outcome.” – T. Thorn Coyle, explaining how “Liberation is a Process.”

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

[The following story is reprinted from the Pagan Newswire Collective's Washington D.C. bureau (aka Capital Witch) and was reported/written by David Salisbury and Maria Aquila.]

More than 60 people gathered in Georgetown, Delaware yesterday, as the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel hosted a Ground Breaking Ceremony for the New Alexandrian Library. This historic project aims to build a modern, state of the art library, physical structure to house a research and reference library.

NAL Groundbreaking Ceremony (PNC-Washington DC)

NAL Groundbreaking Ceremony (PNC-Washington DC)

All the materials have been acquired and permits issued. Construction is planned to begin on Monday morning.

The event began with host, Michael Smith, an Elder in the ASW, welcoming participants to the event and explained a brief history of the project stating that the library is “is dream whose time has come now!”

Smith also explained the grand vision for the library that will be a structure that endures and grows through the generations.

He then introduced ASW Elder, Ivo Dominguez Jr. who talked more about the project and how it is more than just collecting and preserving books, special collections, and artifacts. It is also about the Pagan community’s need for roots and infrastructure.

“As much as I and many of you like the internet, or their kindle or their iPad, there is no substitute for having rooted in the physical plane storage, special materials and more importantly, a catalyst for interaction,” stated Dominguez. “Where there have been great libraries, and libraries are as much the center for creation and presentation of culture, you have a crossroads where you have interaction between different people doing scholarly work. There is a place to point at and say, in this place we actually have the maturity and perseverance as a community to make something happen that stays.”

There is no Kindle, no electronic version that will ever be the same as actually being in the precsence of a book that was owned by a particular author. Each of these books is like a Book of Shadows. Each is filled with the essence and the energy of the people who have worked with it. So there is something that can only be held in the physical realm.”

Next, NAL Program Manager Jim Dickensen talked about the actual physical construction of the structure that will be a concrete encased dome that will help ensure the security of the by providing a structure that will withstand time, the weather, including hurricanes. Using AI Domes, the building will be sealed with layers of concrete and shaped in the way that accounts for the aerodynamic flow of wind that passes around it.

“This structure is the beginning, we foresee adding Dome 2, and Dome 3, and Dome 4, as time goes on and adding additional facilities as lecture halls that can be linked to universities and other learning institutions…This building will be constructed in a magickal way, with magickal objects, offerings, and implements.”

Participants were then lead to the construction site where Smith lead an invocation with others, calling upon the spirits of the land to bless the site.

“We who stand here today, we who are manifest and walk in the world call upon the spirits of this land; the ancestors and the fey, the spirits of the depths, the spirits of the heights. Be present in this space, be present with these people and this community. The tools of manifestation, the offerings of our selves, the offerings of the manifestations of creation. Bless this work, bless this library, bless this land and all who come here.”

Other attendees approached the space and delivered a series of blessings from various traditions. As the cold air sang through the trees of Seelie Court, it was easy to envision the site that the space will become; a home for esoteric and magickal lore both new and old.

More information on the project, and how you can contribute, can be found at sacredwheel.org/nal

[For a selection of photos from the groundbreaking, please see PNC-Washington D.C.. You can read all of The Wild Hunt's coverage of the New Alexandrian Library Project, here.]

Yesterday the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals published their ruling upholding a California district court’s decision to deny Pagan chaplain Patrick McCollum standing in his case against the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. McCollum’s case centers on the State of California’s “five faiths” policy. This policy limits the hiring of paid chaplains to Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, and Native American adherents. While the state of California and the judge’s rulings made so far argue that McCollum doesn’t have standing to bring this case to court, that assertion is challenged by a number of legal advocacy groups and faith organizations. One of those groups, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, who filed a joint amicus brief in support of McCollum, sent me this statement regarding the Ninth Circuit’s decision.

“We are deeply disappointed by the court’s ruling.  Based on procedural technicalities, the court has allowed the California prison system to continue rank discrimination against Wiccan prisoners and chaplains.  The Constitution requires all persons to be treated equally regardless of what their religion is.  California’s practice of only paying chaplains of certain faiths, while requiring chaplains of other faiths to work for free, is religious discrimination that plainly violates the Constitution.” - Alex Luchenitser, Senior Litigation Counsel, Americans United for Separation of Church and State

In addition to Americans United, a number of prominent Pagan individuals and organizations have been weighing in on this latest development. Reclaiming co-founder, author, and activist Starhawk was one of the first to respond, making plain her deep disappointment in the ruling.

“I am deeply disappointed in the 9th Circuit Court’s ruling.  This is terrible setback for the rights of Pagans and of all prisoners to religious freedom.  I have personally experienced just a taste of the harrassment and obstacles placed in the way of those who would serve Pagans in the California prisons.  (See my account of a visit) Patrick McCollum has been tirelessly fighting for their rights for many years now, and I know he’ll continue, but more than ever he needs our support.  You can contribute at the Patrick McCollum Foundation web site.”

Patheos Pagan Portal Manager Star Foster said she was  “disheartened by the decision” but firmly believes “that the CA Dept. of Corrections policies are unconstitutional and will be changed.” Foster further noted that “this fight isn’t just about Wicca, and it doesn’t stop here.” Archdruid Kirk Thomas, speaking on behalf of Ár nDríaocht Féin, said they could “only express one reaction to this news – profound disappointment.” Thomas and the ADF say they “pray that equal treatment for all California prison inmates, regardless of religion, will eventually win the day.” California-based Pagan chaplain Joseph Nichter was “saddened and angered” by the news, and emphasized that Patrick McCollum “needs your help and support.”

Two groups that have worked very closely with Patrick McCollum over the yars, the Lady Liberty League and Cherry Hill Seminary also spoke out yesterday. Jerrie Hildebrand, Special Issues Coordinator and PR Coordinator for Lady Liberty League joined others in expressing disappointment in this ruling, and vowed that “the quest for religious freedom and equality will continue.” Holli Emore, Executive Director of Cherry Hill Seminary, released the following personal statement on the matter.

“In my tradition we hold sacred the balance of Ma’at, the principle which governed every aspect of ancient Egypt, and the goddess who stood by the scales at the weighing of each person’s heart after passing from this life. Patrick McCollum has spent so many years of his life seeking maat for all of us, including teaching for Cherry Hill Seminary, which supports Patrick’s fight for justice.  What does it take for the scales to return to a balance for Patrick and the Pagan inmates he has served these many years?  Only a week ago I wrote about my own decision to push back against those who would have marginalized my religion.  My situation is barely significant in comparison to Patrick’s long-running court case, but the lesson is clear: if we do not stand for our rights, with integrity, we will lose them.”

We still await word from Patrick McCollum on the matter, though he is outside the country right now and hard to access. I’m in contact with the Patrick McCollum Foundation and once I receive any formal statement, I will post it here. For now, what path McCollum and his lawyers might pursue remains an open question, though some think a Supreme Court appeal may happen. The Firefly House clergyperson David Salisbury, based in Washington DC, said his organization is ready to rally to McCollum’s side should a SCOTUS appeal go forward.

“Living in the nation’s capital, we are all too familiar with the legislative and political obsticles that have slowed the progress of equality for all. We were disappointed to learn of the 9th Circuit ruling and hope that McCollum’s legal team will press on. Should this matter be brought to the Supreme Court here in DC, our community will be ready to support this fight in the district.”

It’s clear that Patrick McCollum’s tireless work on behalf of Pagan rights has won him the support and admiration of a large cross-section of the Pagan community. The question now is how Pagans can best leverage that support towards ending California’s discriminatory policy, and fulfilling the constitutional promise of equal treatment under the law. As more reactions come in, you’ll be able to find them here at The Wild Hunt.

ADDENDUM: Statement from T. Thorn Coyle and Solar Cross on the ruling.