Archives For Denver

To start off my first column for the newly independent The Wild Hunt, I’d like to thank Jason Pitzl-Waters for letting me be a part of this valuable, community-supported news source. I believe in the work being done here, and it’s an honor to be blogging beside so many talented, thoughtful writers. I look forward to bringing the spirit of dialogue present on my blog, Bishop In The Grove, to my columns here at TWH.

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When I wrote “I Felt Ashamed At Pagan Pride,” I had no idea it would elicit the response that it did. With over 100 comments, several thousand page views, and shares galore on Facebook, Twitter and Google+, this subjective account of my experience at Denver’s 2012 Pagan Pride Day event made waves through the community.

The dialogue generated around this post offered me new perspectives on the meaning of casting circle, the challenges of public ritual, and the possibility of a mythology of victimhood within the Pagan community. But there was one perspective missing: that of the person leading the PPD ritual, Joy Burton.

joyburton

Joy Burton, eclectic Wiccan priestess and founder and president of Living Earth, a Neo-Pagan open circle and church in the south Denver area.

I interviewed Joy via email with the intent to allow her the chance to voice her perspective without revision. Below is the full interview, unedited.

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Thank you for your willingness to speak with me, Joy. Could you tell us a little about yourself, and about the Living Earth Center?

I’ve been an eclectic Wiccan priestess for about 20 years, with strong Reclaiming influences. I helped start Pagan Picnic in St. Louis, and have been advocating for and active in the Pagan community ever since.  I’m part of an open circle in the south metro area of Denver called Living Earth. We started in 2006 and now we have about 700 members of varying Pagan traditions. We offer a national-scale Pagan festival and musicfest called Beltania every May, hold regular Sabbats and Esbats, and this winter we’ll be celebrating our one-year anniversary at Living Earth Center.

The Center is our small but much-loved church facility and community center at Holly and Evans in Denver, hosting about 20 rituals, classes, workshops, drum circles, and other events per month. Other groups and individuals are welcomed at Living Earth Center to hold their own events and rituals too.

Community service has always been important to us, and since we’ve had our own facility, our outreach activities (called the Hand2Hand Project) have expanded to include more charitable giving, a food bank, and helping our elders and those with disabilities. We have a winter clothing drive going on now. We even have our own church bowling league raising funds for the food bank.

How would you describe Denver’s Pagan community?

Living Earth

The people I have met through Living Earth have been some of the kindest, most generous and caring people I have ever met. These are people with some really big hearts, great ideas, and are movers and shakers who have accomplished so much. They don’t just talk about creating community, they do it. There’s a willingness I see now to try new things, and connect outside their comfort zones in meaningful ways. I think Denver has reached a “critical mass” of people who want not only to be Pagan but also to create connections, develop infrastructure, and offer their gifts, time, and talents to the community.

The Denver Pagan community is growing exponentially, with more families and children now being raised Pagan than ever before. The Denver community has a high number of veterans, I’ve noticed. It’s also an aging community, with a greater need for community services and support for our elders. I worry about the disconnect in parts of our community between the older generations and newcomers.

We have a lot more people willing to be open now about being Pagan, and more mainstream acceptance of Paganism than ever before. You’re just as likely to see a khakis-wearing math teacher as a silver jewelry-bedecked hippie type in a cloak. So in that sense we are more diverse than ever. I’m seeing more people wanting to lend a hand and help their neighbors.

And like any other faith community, the Denver Pagan community is full of very human people. We are striving, like any other group, to more fully manifest our ideals of compassion, wisdom, honor, love, and so much more.

“I Felt Ashamed At Pagan Pride,” received a huge response. My post was a one-sided account, and completely subjective. Could you offer your account of what the Pagan Pride Day ritual was like?

Well at this point I think there’s been enough subjective accounting of the ritual. I just don’t see the benefit to it. I have no interest in negating anyone’s experience. If there were any less-than-ideal circumstances at that time, I would not use this forum to criticize the Pagan Pride Day organizers who so graciously invited us to lead the ritual.

I honor your experience and your right to share that experience in the forum of your choosing. I honor the homeless person who could not contain their verbal remarks which came across as heckling, and the several other homeless folks we were blessed to meet and also offer some food and water that day too. I honor the people walking through and skateboarding in the park, the man who wanted a cigarette, and their right to be there. I honor the Pagans who boldly stepped into the center that day to choose to participate in a ritual for all to see, and also those who chose not to participate.  I honor the learning experience so many of us are having as a result of Pagan Pride and the conversations afterward.

I can’t remember any ritual, public or private, where there was a consensus in critiquing it. Where one person is turned off, another is deeply moved. Where one person is uncomfortable with casting a circle, another would think it necessary and important. That’s why we are so blessed to have such a diversity of faith traditions, groups, and practices here in Denver throughout the year and at Pagan Pride Day’s multitude of workshops, booths, and rituals.

On occasion, as I move through our community, I find myself in a ritual that isn’t comfortable for me or I sense something isn’t quite going as planned.  In any case, I consider it my responsibility as a priestess and guest to prepare myself with centering and grounding, create my own connection to Spirit, and hold myself in a state of grace as an example for others. I also make a point of send positive energies to assist in a productive fashion. All of this can be done without saying a word. When we purposefully act in support of each other, it becomes not just the leaders’ ritual but everyone’s ritual, and our community is strengthened.

I really appreciate your emphasis on being a positive force within the community. How would you encourage people to serve in that capacity in their individual cities? How does one begin? 

Diana's GroveI would encourage anyone wanting a more positive community to read Diana’s Grove Cornerstones of Community by Cynthea Jones.  I didn’t discover the Cornerstones of Community until recent years, but they so accurately capture what I had to learn the hard way and what I’ve observed in those who make a difference in this world.

The five cornerstones include Choice, Thinking Well of the Group, Thinking Well of Yourself, Stewardship of the Self, and The Sacred Wound. We can make the choice to be the change we want to see in the world…or not.  Our very presence in this community is a choice. Thinking Well of the Group invites us to choose a new default attitude and behavior towards people that honors and respects them rather than assuming the worst and demonizing them when things aren’t as we expect or desire.  And if we don’t think well of ourselves, it’s difficult to think well of others and be a positive influence in the community. When we are stewards over our lives, we have a responsibility and obligation to fully manifest what we are called to do.  And lastly, we need to make our wounds sacred.  There isn’t a single one of us who isn’t wounded from our past experiences.  We can allow our wounds to be our teachers and agents of growth instead of allowing them to paralyze us.

A positive, healthy, open, giving community starts inside of each person.

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Many thanks to Joy for this interview. She’s been nothing but kind to me.

I ask you, TWH readers:

If you were a part of that first conversation on BITG, does knowing Joy’s perspective change the way you read that post? Did her answers leave you with new questions?

What do you think about the “Cornerstones of Community?”

[Teo Bishop is a Druid hailing from Denver, CO. You can find his blog at Bishop in the Grove.]

As a long-time follower of the Wild Hunt, I’ve found it encouraging to read posts about the different ways Pagans across the country are gathering, celebrating, and organizing. The Pagan community, from my experience, is a charitable one. We have a real desire to take care of our own, but we’re also willing to reach out to others who may not share our world view or religious tradition.

So, in the spirit of Pagan Community Notes, a regular feature on The Wild Hunt, my guest post will showcase some of the important charity work taking place in the Pagan community of my hometown, Denver, Colorado.

Hand to Hand Project

As we move closer to the Winter holiday season, and our hearts and minds open to the spirit of giving, Pagans in the Denver Metro area are taking part in the Hand to Hand Project, and intra-faith Pagan community service project designed to provide assistance to the community’s elders. Services provided by the group include painting, minor plumbing repairs (fixing a leaky faucet), minor roof repairs (replacing a missing shingle or two), weeding, mowing, organizing, weatherizing around windows and doors, and hauling away trash.

Former Hand to Hand Project Coordinator, Mari Cowel, explained her perspective on why Hand to Hand is a valuable service to the Pagan Community in Denver:

“It’s hard for people to ask for help when for their whole lives they’ve probably been extremely independent. And when we age, we get frustrated when we can’t do what we did twenty years ago. And it hurts. It hurts to admit we need help with something as intimate as cleaning our house, or moving things in our garage, or cutting our grass.”

The project is currently headed by Joy Phelan, local coordinator of Front Range Pagan Pride (an event which I blogged about here), who also founded the Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans chapter (CUUPS) at Jefferson Unitarian Church in Golden, Colorado in 2006. According to Hand to Hand’s Yahoo Page, anyone from the Pagan community can participate, and those who need community service can have their hours logged.

For more details, and to find out how you can donate your time and resources, click here.

ISIS Books sponsors Readings For A Reason

The Denver metaphysical bookstore, Isis Books and Gifts, owned by Weiser Books author, Karin Harrison, whose most recent book, The Herbal Alchemist’s Handbook,received publicity in Denver’s widely distributed free paper, The Westword, frequently opens its doors to the Pagan community, offering classes in Wicca, Qigong, and Money Magick, to name a but a few. In December, continuing the spirit of holiday giving, Isis is hosting a local psychic, Sean Michael Morris, for his series, “Readings For A Reason.”

According to the Isis website:

“In this special group reading session, Sean Michael Morris will contact your guides, tell you about past lives, reveal sacred contracts, and more. He’ll be picking from everyone present to offer free mini-readings throughout the hour. As well, he’ll be available for any questions you have about being psychic, spirit guides, reincarnation, etc. This class is on a donation-only basis, and all proceeds will go to a local Denver charity.”

The local charity set to receive the donations for December’s “Readings For A Reason” isMetro CareRing, a non-profit food pantry initiated in 1974 by five downtown Denver churches (First Baptist Church, Central Presbyterian Church, St Paul Lutheran, St. Paul United Methodist Church, and Trinity United Methodist Church). According to the organization’s website:

“Last year, Metro CareRing provided 131,698 hunger relief and self-sufficiency services to low-income and homeless individuals, offering food, nutriton and healthy living education, utility and transportation assistance, employment readiness programs, and identification documents.”

While Metro CareRing was formed from within the Christian community, the organization has been nothing receptive to working with Morris, who said about the group,

“They don’t care what you believe – that isn’t what they’re about. They just want to feed people, and help them get through whatever hard times they may be going through.”

Earth Haven – A Pagan Retreat in the Rocky Mountains

Pagans long for safe places to gather, to do ritual, and to express their religious identity with a sense of freedom and protection. In response to that desire, Living Earth, an open circle of individuals and families in the Highlands Ranch/South Denver area, who present the annual Pagan festival, Beltania, organized under the name, Earth Haven Alliance, and purchased 2.09 acres of land in the Rocky Mountains. They designated the land as sacred space for Pagans of any and all traditions.

“If you seek a commitment ceremony, a rite of passage, a retreat into nature, a place to work your magicks, to unfold your mysteries, Initiations or to hold outdoor workshops and classes, Earth Haven is intended to provide that place for you.

Our whole plan will eventually include a Temple, an amphitheatre with gazebo, sweat lodge and underground kiva, meandering walkways, plenty of camping spaces and more. There are already two permenant fire pits on site, and plans to have a waste management system and driveway with parking spaces by the end of 2011.”

For more photos of the project, visit Earth Haven’s Facebook page. Tax deductible donations can be made directly through the group’s website. I’m sure they’d appreciate your support.

The Pagan community in Denver is vibrant, giving and full of amazing people. I’m grateful to be a part, and I’m honored to be able to share a small bit of news about my home with The Wild Hunt readership.

Bright blessings to you!