Archives For Druidry

[Pagan Voices is a spotlight on recent quotations from figures within the Pagan community. These voices may appear in the burgeoning Pagan media or a mainstream outlet, but all showcase our wisdom, thought processes, and evolution in the public eye. If you like this feature and would like to continue to see it every month, consider donating to The Wild Hunt. Each and every day, you will receive original content, news and commentary, with a focus on Pagans, Heathens and polytheists worldwide. Your support makes it happen. Donate today and share our link!]

As the equinox has recently passed, making many Pagans, polytheists and Heathens mindful of how light is divided from darkness, we begin with a cartoon by Jude Magaro about a more whimsical divide in our communities.

country-city-pagans


“To me the Noumenia is a time of new beginnings, of renewal. Each month we are given a chance to start over, to get it right. Living in this fast-paced, hectic world with endless distractions, frustrations, and demands on our time and attention, it is easy to lose our way, to forget the things that are important to us and sometimes we may even become estranged from our gods. We may have set out to maintain a regular religious routine or to make important life changes like eating better, exercising more, watching less television and the like, only to have life get in the way. It is easy to feel discouraged, to see all the missed opportunities and our life slipping away from us . . . . It is a time to clear away the old and outmoded, all the things that are cluttering our lives and holding us back, so that we can make room for new and wonderful blessings to enter them. –Sannion, writing about the monthly household festival in Hellenic tradition.


“When the gods come knocking, we don’t have to answer. We are allowed to simply say ‘hello’ followed immediately by ‘goodbye.’ We are allowed to agree to testing the waters, but to also not make any commitments. With each of these particular goddesses, I went a minimum of one year before agreeing to anything even temporary. . . . I am also dedicated to a goddess that I barely talked to in the year leading up to my dedication, but who I knew was a perfect fit. — the Peacock Witch on deities who arrive unannounced.


“The gods-without call and the gods-within respond. These are not anthropomorizations. I do not project the Lightbringer onto the sun. The sun is still the sun, an unimaginably large flaming ball of hydrogen a hundred million miles away whose light is filtered through 10 miles of atmosphere. But when I face the sun in the morning and raise my arms and recite an invocation inspired by the Rig Veda, I am speaking to that sun in the sky and to the Sun/Son within me.

“Let others say their polytheism is more authentic. Let others say my gods aren’t real enough or distinct enough. Let others say that I’m afraid to answer the call of their gods. Let others say my gods are limited or safe. I know better.” — John Halstead, “My Polytheism: Gods Within/Gods Without.”


“If all of those people back in college needed to get stoned in order to have certain discussions with me, that should have been a sign to me that whatever mind-expanding potentials of this substance might be are probably already redundant in my case. Based on such an observational prediction, I’d have to concur, as I didn’t have anything particularly mind-expanding as a result. I did notice some odd paranoid moments, but I have those myself without any drugs, so was quite easily reminded that this might not be anything real.” — P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, writing about eir first experience with medical marijuana.


“Getting drunk tends to amplify things. If we think we’re powerful sorcerers and mighty Druids and we get rat-arsed, the odds are that we will feel that even more keenly. The drink may be talking, but the voice of spirits we’re hearing may not be the spirits we were thinking of connecting with. To be pissed as a newt is not to be in deep connection with your newty spirit guide. It is easy to feel that we need intoxicants to take us out of our normal, banal headspaces, but going this route creates a crutch, and may not be in our interests.” Nimue Brown on the limits of intoxication in ritual.


“While there are plenty of Pagan tales of sacrifice, the general sense among Pagans is that outright martyrdom is unnecessary. Martyrs, whether physical or metaphorical, experience an erasure of self. This is at odds with the idea that the self is sacred. In our daily lives, we do not typically need to make the sort of sacrifice play that, for example, our armed forced do. There are other options available to us.” — Melissa ra Karit, “One Pagan’s Ethics and Self-Care.”


“I’m no defender of Gavin Frost (as I think this article suggests) but he’s also never to my knowledge been charged or convicted of a crime. I’m hesitant to yell, “Pedophile!” at the top of my lungs when encountering a book passage I vehemently disagree with. Wrong? Perverse? Disgusting? Not Wicca! All of those things and more, and I’m not forgiving the passage, but I also don’t know enough about Gavin to call him something as reprehensible as a pedophile. — Jason Mankey on the life of Gavin Frost.


“My first take on bhakti was viewing the goddess as a sort of invisible girlfriend. ‘Divine lover,’ I probably would have said then, but essentially, ‘invisible girlfriend.’ Some lofty ideal of femininity that I could use to fluff up my ego. To be honest, I didn’t have much success. But also, I didn’t really know what I was doing. I’m thankful that I took time away from the path of devotion in order to grow as a person. I regularly gave offerings to Ganesh but I didn’t quite view it in the same way. . . . I have a great life, a job I like, a place to live in that I love, an amazing girlfriend whom I love very much, and, most importantly, I love who I am.” — R.M. McGrath, “From Lover to Mother

That’s it for now. Is there a Pagan voice or artist you’d like to see highlighted? Contact us with a link to the story, post, audio, or image.

King Arthur Uther Pendragon has been fighting for the rights of British Pagans since the 1980s, and his main battleground has been Stonehenge. His main foe? English Heritage, the charity that manages the ancient monument in the county of Wiltshire.

Stonehenge [Photo Credit: garethwiscombe/Flickr]

Stonehenge [Photo Credit: garethwiscombe/Flickr]

Arthur shot to prominence when he led a campaign to remove an exclusion zone around the inner circle of the monument, so that the solstices and equinoxes could be celebrated properly there.

His fight took him all the way to the European Court of Human Rights, and English Heritage finally dropped the exclusion zone for the quarter days in 2000.

Arthur was born John Timothy Rothwell and was head of a biker gang called the Gravediggers before finding the Druidic path and, as he explained, coming to a realisation that he was King Arthur reincarnated.

He decided to change his name accordingly, but had to wait for updates to English and Welsh Law that allowed it. As a hangover from centuries of being a Christian nation, people could not change their “Christian name” until 1986.

In an interview with The Wild Hunt, Arthur said, “I’ve been on this quest as King Arthur for 30 years. It was the Queen’s birthday on June 11th, 1986 that I officially changed my name. I couldn’t have done it before that.”

Arthur is backed by his Loyal Arthurian Warband, a Druidic order that describes itself as the warrior/political arm of the modern Druidic movement. According to Professor Ronald Hutton of Bristol University, a world authority on Paganism, Arthur has “the biggest Druidic order in the world.”

[Courtesy Photo]

King Arthur Urther Pendragon [Courtesy Photo]

The latest battle in his ongoing quest is against English Heritage’s introduction of a car park charge of £15 (roughly 21 USD) at the summer solstice. The site is open all year except for Christmas Day, and then the quarter days – when only Pagan communities are given access.

Arthur has been holding pop-up protests against the levy, blocking access routes to the site for tourists.

“This is a pay to pray charge,” he said. “English Heritage make money off Stonehenge for 360 days a year. They receive 1.3 million visitors per year and charge them approximately £20 each per entry. They have a car park capacity of 600 vehicles per hour, soon to be extended to 900.”

To Arthur, this ruling is partly about a clash of cultures and a lack of understanding about the importance of Stonehenge as a pilgrimage site to modern Pagans worldwide. Access, after all these years, is still a key issue.

Arthur said, “An order has been put in for around the site to restrict parking on the roads in and out of Stonehenge, so they would have a monopoly on the car parking.

“Stonehenge has always been a gathering place for like-minded spirits. It’s a Sun temple and is a sacred clock that comes alive at the solstices and equinoxes. It helped us to transition from hunter-gatherer to agriculture, as through it we knew which time was the right time to plant (crops), otherwise their whole community would have been wiped out. So it was very important to study the stars and know our place in the heavens.”

Summer Solstice at Stonehenge [Courtesy English Heritage]

Summer Solstice at Stonehenge [Courtesy English Heritage]

When we contacted English Heritage it did not address Arthur’s campaign directly but stressed its role as steward of the site and insisted that the charges were a response to booming visitor numbers.

In a statement, the body said, “In recent years there has been huge growth in people and cars coming to the World Heritage Site for summer solstice. To protect Stonehenge and to keep solstice special, English Heritage has introduced two new changes this year, intended to make the occasion cleaner, greener and more enjoyable for everyone.”

Kate Davies, general manager of Stonehenge at English Heritage, added, “As guardians of Stonehenge, it is our job to look after the monument. We ask all attending summer solstice to respect the stones and the people around you.”

As usual, Arthur will be at Stonehenge this year. But he has decided to use his usual time of celebration to protest the charge.

He said, “I’m not going to pay their charges. I’m going to be stood in the car park encouraging everybody not to pay.”

Another bone of contention is the alcohol ban on the site. English Heritage states that “by making solstice alcohol-free and encouraging more people to travel by public transport, we believe people will be able to enjoy Stonehenge and the solstice here”.

But Arthur points out: “Paganism is not a sombre, po-faced religion. We are there to celebrate the rising of the Sun. How we choose to celebrate in our belief structure is no concern to English Heritage.”

Some have raised concerns about the celebrations held at Stonehenge to mark summer solstice not being spiritual enough and Arthur concedes: “It is akin to a secular event for some, something you’d have on your bucket list, like Trafalgar Square on New Year’s Eve.”

However, he went on to say, “To all the Druids and Pagans who complain it’s not spiritual enough, I say it’s because you’re not going that it’s not spiritual enough. Put your robe on, get there, and start teaching people about the spirituality of it. Then it will be spiritual enough for you.”

Arthur makes a point. Summer solstice is an opportunity for Pagans of all stripes to engage the public, yet many shy away from this. Arthur uses the annual gathering to inform people about the occasion. He said, “I’m there, robed up, talking to people all night about the spirituality.’

[Courtesy Photo]

[Courtesy Photo]

Summer solstice at Stonehenge is such a big event compared with the other quarter days because the warmer weather and lighter evenings attract a huge crowd. Last year, some 40,000 people turned up.

Another campaign running in tandem with the one on car parking fees concerns the ancient bodies, which had been found buried around Stonehenge. Arthur would like them to be returned to their original resting places at the site.

In his podcast The King’s Speech, Arthur begins outlining what this campaign is about by saying: “As Druids, we believe in honouring the ancestors. We believe that those who were buried around Stonehenge were instrumental in developing the culture there that went before us.”

This re-interment campaign is of its time, as it has paralleled a similar one spearheaded by British Druid Emma Restall Orr called Honouring the Ancient Dead. But Arthur’s campaign is primarily focused on Stonehenge.

He said, “For too long, us Pagans and Druids have been silent on this matter. We cannot see the wishes of our forefathers swept aside in the name of science and technology. We believe our ancient dead have a much right to be left in peace as our recent dead and that their cultural belief structure is as valid as any belief structure to this day.

“They’ve got a skeleton on display in the gift shop. With modern science and technology, they don’t need to do this. Those people were buried there as guardians of Stonehenge and I want them put back. It is disrespectful to take our ancient dead out of the ground and put them on display in such a fashion.”

For this solstice though, Arthur’s focus will be on the car park charges at Stonehenge.

He stresses: “For us it’s a spiritual pilgrimage, we should not be charged to pray, we should not be told how we can and can’t celebrate. We go with a wild Pagan heart and that’s how it’s going to stay.”

AMHERST, Mass. — Ellen Evert Hopman first collected the interviews in her new book, A Legacy of Druids, in 1996. She did so using methods that might seem antiquated in today’s fast-paced world: by having conversations in person, and by asking questions by mail. The fact that it took twenty years to publish the results of her work echoes the words of the late Isaac Bonewits, “as fast as a speeding oak.” Some things simply should not be rushed.

A Legacy of Druids coverBonewits, who founded Ár nDraíocht Féin in 1983, is one of the people that Hopman spoke with to create this book. Because he and others interviewed, including Lady Olivia Robertson, have since passed away served as an impetus to get this book published, Hopman told The Wild Hunt. “I had a sense that it was historically important,” she explained.

However, the technical hurdles were not insignificant. Much of the original work was saved on floppy disks that were inaccessible because it’s all but impossible to find that kind of drive anymore. Hopman had to resort to scanning transcriptions of the interviews, which she had originally done on a typewriter. This created other issues. As can happen when text is scanned, it “was full of weird symbols, it was just a terrible mess,” she recalled. The entire document had to be carefully reconstructed to make to readable again.

But reconstruction, in another form, is something quite familiar to Hopman. Her approach to Druidry is Celtic reconstructionism, which seeks to build upon the oldest written sources to learn about Druidic ritual, belief, and philosophy. Since that tradition was oral, the best sources available are the writings of Christian monks who recounted the stories of the Druids in the seventh century.”It’s honoring what the ancients did,” she said, but it’s not the only way to follow the path. A Legacy of Druids shows that such diversity is as much in evidence a generation ago as it is today.

Phillip Carr-Gomm, longtime leader of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids (OBOD), weaves together the many perspectives in his foreword:

. . . when I read the interviews Ellen has collected here, I realised that they articulate most of the issues contemporary Druidry is still concerned with today, and the insights they offer are as valid now as they were twenty years ago. This in itself would be sufficient justification for publication, but in addition I found I could engage with the material in another way. In reading the interviews, I had the benefit of hindsight – twenty years on I could see what ambitions had been realised, and whether any fears had proved justified. In addition, I could imagine how a similar collection gathered today might differ, and I could start to get some sense of what legacy modern Druidry might be leaving the world.

Many of the Druids interviewed for the book are from Britain, which is why Hopman opted to go with a British publisher, Moon Books, at Carr-Gomm’s suggestion. “They accepted it in 24 hours,” she said, and that interest seems to be reflected in the fact that Amazon is showing it as a bestseller, even though it’s not due to be released until April 29. According to Moon Books’ Nimue Brown, “I can only think that’s people pre-ordering copies – and to a degree that we just don’t normally see this far ahead of a book’s release. And of course rankings are all relative – if five people all bought Ellen’s book in a short time frame when no one else was picking up Druid titles, it would put her high on the list for a while.”

That’s something Hopman finds gratifying. One of her other dozen books, Being a Pagan: Druids, Wiccans, and Witches Today, was included on a Huffington Post list entitled “27 Essential Texts About Paganism For Your Bookshelf.” However, she hasn’t seen that translate into sales. That text is the intellectual ancestor of A Legacy of Druids as it follows the same interview model, one that Hopman decided to use for her own Druidic path as it matured and grew. As Hopman wrote in her introduction:

As Druidism slowly gained recognition, I saw that a forum was needed where Druids too could express themselves so that the public would come to know us more fully. At this time in history Druids are still a small sub-set of the current Neo-Pagan revival, with many different flavors and beliefs within each sect. . . . The one thing we all have in common is our reverence for nature and a passionate desire to protect our Mother Earth.

Hopman told The Wild Hunt that she was never trained as a writer, and that she sometimes feels like her projects are directed by a divine force. That sense was especially strong when writing the first of her Iron Age Druidic fiction trilogy Priestess of the Forest. As she explained, “Writing it felt like watching a movie; I was just the scribe.” That might be an apt description, because a screenplay is currently being written based on that book, with Elyse Poppers already having been cast to play the female lead. “That’s new ground for me,” Hopman said. “I’m just lunging ahead.”

While the official release of A Legacy of Druids is April 29 to coincide with Beltane, Hopman does have signed copies available through her web site right now.

[Today we welcome Liz Cruse, a poet , passionate environmentalist and Druid in the Order of Bards Ovates and Druids. Cruse has worked as a nurse, health educator and trainer and has a profound interest in plants for healing, magic and food. She has Degrees in History and English and a Masters in Art History. Cruse facilitates workshops in the areas of Druidry and protection of the land. Recently she participated in the Generation Hex: Paganism and Politics at Cambridge University Department of Anthropology.]

I am standing in a field holding the northern gateway in a ceremony. Due to recent relentless rain, the centre of the circle is marked by a pool of water. Wind blows into my face and low December sun blinds my eyes. It is December 20, 2015 at the OBOD ritual of Alban Arthan.  The Mabon has been reborn and progresses around a circle of some forty people bearing her lantern of hope. She allows every individual to light a candle from her flame. The small lights blow out quickly but nevertheless the sun has been reborn.

So far, it’s predictable. Variations of this would have been enacted throughout Britain and in all countries where Druidry is practiced, in groves and gardens, in stone circle, and even in sitting rooms.

Upton Winter Solstice ritual 2015 [Courtesy Photo]

Upton Winter Solstice ritual 2015 [Courtesy Photo]

But this ritual was taking place near Chester, in the field where dedicated individuals have maintained a camp to prevent iGas from carrying out an exploratory drilling aimed at fracking the area for shale gas. The pool of the water at the centre of the ritual marked the point where the drill would penetrate the earth if the testing went forward.

Paul Beer, a member of Order of Bards Ovates and Druids (OBOD) and one of the founding members of the Frack Free Dee Coalition, is a untiring supporter of the camp. Beer organised this ritual to add to the magical protection surrounding the camp. But also, in line with a point that he makes in a recent Touchstone article, Beer wanted, as a Druid, to be visible and to be seen as active in expressing his spirituality in support of the struggle to prevent this technology from being used here.

To support the cause, some of us who are part of The Warriors’ Call had come from across Britain to stand and be counted in the fight against unconventional gas extraction. There were also many people present in that circle who were not members of OBOD and who did not identify as Pagan. They were there simply to express solidarity with the protection camp. And that particular opportunity would not have existed without the ritual.

As Druids we claim to love the land and many of us relate to deities we find in the landscape. We gain insight from the woods and ancient monuments of Albion, or our local environment. Surely then, we should make our presence visible when the integrity of our environment is threatened? Why is the Druid and Pagan voice so muffled? We say the Druid prayer, and ask for the knowledge and love of justice. Climate change and other environmental threats are creating and founded upon injustice. What are we doing about it? What are you doing?

This was the concern voiced by Jonathan Woolley recently in an account of his attendance as a researcher at the COP21 climate change talks in Paris. Describing the visibility of Christians, Muslims and other faith groups in the civil-society focused “Green Zone,” Woolley recounts how he tried to find other Pagan activists in the Green Zone but could not.

This was also my experience when I attended the Climate Change Lobby of Parliament at Westminster in August 2015. CAFOD and other Christian organisations were very evident, but there was no Pagan presence. Woolley summarises, “Our [Pagan] organisations have shown a puzzling lack of initiative; failing to capitalise upon the almost unique relevance of our philosophies to climate change.”

Returning to the Winter Solstice ritual at Upton, as the Mabon lit the lights and before the Oak and Mistletoe bearers spoke, I walked around the circle giving everyone a button badge bearing the Warrior’s Call protective sigil. I explained its function, asking people to meditate on it when they re-lit their candles at home. One individual is weak but together, acting in the world, we can be strong.

The Warriors Call sigil. Image courtesy of TWC.

The Warriors Call sigil.

In his article on the OBOD website titled “Done fracking,” Beer wrote, “Being Pagan or Druid should not be about what you do in retreat or hidden away from the world. It should be about what you do in the world.”  As one of the founders of The Warrior’s Call and one who took part in what Philip Carr-Gomm called “The Biggest Magical Operation on Earth” (the 2013 public ritual to protect Albion against fracking in Glastonbury), I need no convincing of this. While some might argue that it is our role to throw pure spiritual and magical intent secretly into the mix as Dion Fortune did in the Magical Battle of Britain, I would argue, as did Woolley, that this is not enough. As Druids we are in a unique position to show moral leadership in the struggle to protect the environment and slow down Global Warming.

When speaking of my resolution to stand up and be counted with a non-Pagan friend, he retorted,  “Who’s counting?” For one, the people of Upton are counting. The Solstice Ritual was reported in the local press. Secondly, iGas is counting. Though eviction has been imminent since Dec. 4 2015, the camp remained in its field surrounded by venerable oak trees through Jan. 8.

Upton J16 Rally [Courtesy Photo]

Upton J16 Rally [Courtesy Photo]

Then, on Jan. 12 the camp was evicted by bailiffs with some three hundred police from Cheshire, Manchester and Wales Constabularies in attendance. But four days later, on Jan. 16,  hundreds of people, including Druids following The Warrior’s Call,  attended the J16 Solidarity Day at Upton.  A rally was held outside the ruined camp to reassert community opposition to fracking at Upton and everywhere.

To paraphrase the words that we often use to close our rituals: The camp has gone from the apparent world, but our memories retain what our eyes and our ears have gained. The fight goes on; Pagan participation goes on. And, I, for one, feel that Druid and general Pagan involvement should become more visible in all areas where our lands are threatened.

   *    *    *

This column was made possible by the generous underwriting donation from Hecate Demeter, writer, ecofeminist, witch and Priestess of the Great Mother Earth.

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

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

Brendan Myers

Brendan Myers [Courtesy Photo]

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

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

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

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

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

Joanna van der Hoeven

Joanna van der Hoeven [Courtesy Photo]

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

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

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

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

[Twitter/Druid College UK]

[Twitter/Druid College UK]

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

  *   *   *

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

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!

Donald Michael Kraig and Holly Allender Kraig. Photo: Elysia Gallo.

Donald Michael Kraig and Holly Allender Kraig. Photo: Elysia Gallo.

Yesterday, I shared the sad news that author and magician Donald Michael Kraig had passed away after battling pancreatic cancer. Today, I wanted to showcase a tribute to Kraig by his longtime employer and publisher Llewellyn Worldwide. Quote: “Don has been an important part of Llewellyn for over 40 years, and has been a tremendous colleague, teacher, mentor, and inspiration to many. Don first started his journey with Llewellyn as an author, when he submitted Modern Magick with encouragement from his then roommate Scott Cunningham. Shortly after he was hired as a writer and moved to St. Paul to work at Llewellyn headquarters.  He eventually became the editor of FATE magazine as well.  Later, he moved back to California but continued on as a writer and editor of New Worlds magazine and as an acquiring editor, where he continued using and sharing his extensive subject-matter knowledge. Don has touched so many lives and will be dearly missed. We are grateful to his life lived, and for his teachings and words that will continue to live on through his many books. Our thoughts go out to Holly and their friends and families.” Updates on a memorial service, and a place to leave donations to help with expenses, can be found here.

OBOD founder Ross Nichols.

OBOD founder Ross Nichols.

Modern Druid group The Order of Bards Ovates & Druids turns 50 this year, and a special golden anniversary grove is being planned to honor the occasion. Quote: “2014 is the 50th year of The Order of Bards Ovates & Druids. We have asked ‘Trees for Life’ in Scotland to plant a sacred grove to commemorate this anniversary, and have started the project with a donation of 98 trees. We’re calling it ‘Nuinn’s Grove’ after the Druid name of our founder, Ross Nichols. Have a look at the special web-page for this grove here. You’ll see that you can donate a tree for just £5 and ask for a dedication to be read out at its planting. The Order has 17,000 members, a mailing list of 10,000 newsletter susbscribers, and 16,000 listeners to our podcast every month – if every one donated a tree we could plant a whole forest with many sacred groves in it! Wouldn’t that be wonderful?!  Do help make this vision a reality, if you can, by gifting at least one tree now and spreading the news! Trees for Life have made the process incredibly simple!” 

logo-bsfGede Parma, author of “Ecstatic Witchcraft: Magick, Philosophy & Trance in the Shamanic Craft,” will be presenting this week at BaliSpirit Festival on the Indonesian archipelago of Bali. According to Parma, ze is the first Witch to present at this high-profile yoga/dance/music festival. You can see Parma’s listing on the official web site, here. Quote: “Gede spends his time actively promoting conscious engagement with Place and the Planet, teaching and writing about Witchcraft and Magic, and deepening connection with the Many Bright and Cunning Spirits that people this Cosmos. Ze is also a Reclaiming Witch, a modern tradition of the Craft co-founded by several individuals in California, most famously Starhawk, author of The Spiral Dance. Reclaiming does the work of (re)uniting politics with spirituality and is an activist and ecofeminist expression of Witchcraft and Paganism.” Parma recently relocated to Bali, and is half Balinese. The festival runs from March 19th through the 23rd.

In Other Pagan Community News:

  • The always-interesting Norse Mythology Blog, run by Dr. Karl E.H. Seigfried, is once again up for a religion-category Bloggie in the fourteenth annual Weblog Awards. If the blog wins this year it will, according to Seigfried, “be the first religion blog (on any religion) to be installed in the Weblog Awards Hall of Fame.” Voting is open through Sunday.
  • The 2014 Ostara issue of ACTION, the official newsletter of AREN, is now available. As always, it is chock-full of interesting interviews (plain text version). Featured interviews this time out include Cairril Adaire, Laura Perry, Rufus Brock Maychild, and P. Sufenas Virius Lupus (who talks about Wiccanate privilege, and if it’s a problem). ACTION, as I’ve said many times before, is a quiet gem of a resource, don’t miss out on reading it.
  • Open Hearth Foundation in Washington DC, which recently announced that it would be closing its community center space, has made announcements regarding plans for new initiatives moving forward, and the election of new officers to guide the foundation. Quote: “The Open Hearth Foundation Board of Governors has decided to focus the organization’s efforts on building community support and funding for its mission, with the goal of reopening a Pagan lending library within the next two years.”
  • The Temple of Witchcraft in Salem, New Hampshire will be holding a Spring Open House on April 6th. Quote: “On Sunday, April 6, 2014, The Temple of Witchcraft will be opening its doors to the public for our Spring Open House in Salem, New Hampshire. Join us in sharing the magick with coffee, tea, refreshments, and lively company. Curious? Have your questions answered by our knowledgable ministers and learn the facts and fantasy about modern Witches and Witchcraft. Come learn about our various ministries, including our work in Healing, Art, Women’s Spirituality, Grief Support, Prison Ministry, and Rites of Passage.”
  • A Pennsylvania coven fighting to perform legal handfastings, whom I’ve mention before here, has won their struggle to navigate the red tape. I’m glad this has been resolved for them.
  • Cosette writes about an unrepentant Australian Pagan predator in the community. Quote: “In my quest to discover the movers and shakers of the Pagan community in Australia, it was bound to happen that I would eventually stumble upon him. He is a man that everyone talks about through cautious whispers and shameful glances. Nobody says his name. I didn’t know his name until the internet magically revealed it. He’s the Voldemort of Victoria, but worse because he is real. His name is Robin Fletcher.”
  • Challenges for Pagan youth, in their own words. Quote: “I don’t think there is a catch-all solution for providing youth with more resources. Everyone has a different need, style of communication, and a learning pace that we just can’t issue a panacea for. I think the first step is acknowledging that young people are still coming to Paganism and polytheism in droves and that it’s up to us to help meet that demand in whatever ways we can.”
  • Panegyria, the newsletter of the Aquarian Tabernacle Church, turns 30 this month. Quote: “For thirty years, Panegyria has aimed at connecting the Pagan communities and individuals in the greater Seattle area. During the early 80’s the scene was filled with a disjointed community consisting of small groups, and scantily published newsletters. Pete “Pathfinder” Davis saw a need for a more comprehensive publication to showcase and bring together the voice of the Seattle-area Pagan community.”

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

Awen

It begins like this.

You arrive. You sit down in front of this stranger, and you smile. You ask them how their drive was, and whether traffic was bad. You’re likely to talk about which freeway is crammed, which route they took. This is the ice-break talk.

At some point you look at them and say,

“Ok. Shall we start?”

And you do. It’s a subtle shift. An internal shift. It’s as though your tool of outward listening is inverted; a phase button flipped on the board, and suddenly you’re listening to the wordless sound of your intuition, your heart.

“What do you want to write about?”

This is a simple question, but it’s often overlooked. People make a habit of singing their way into a song, especially those with exceptional voices. Great singers have the hardest time writing good songs, because everything they sing sounds like quality even if it isn’t.

You ask this person what she wants to write, and a small crisis occurs.

Who am I? her expression says.

With as many status updates posted informing the masses of our preferences you’d think we’d each have a better grasp of who we were. But ask this question — What do you want to write about? — during a songwriting session, and you’ll find that the stuff of self-knowing is a mystery to most of us. Even those (perhaps especially those) in search of fame.

Often it is only through your collaborator talking freely about the ordinary aspects of life that you are able to understand who she is, what she’s interested in, what kind of language she uses. She might say something like,

“I never thought much about God.”

Or,

“Heaven is a lie, but I believed it.”

Or,

“I didn’t think twice. I just told him it was over.”

During this first conversation, which might take you and your collaborator fifteen minutes or an hour depending on her openness, your patience, and the presence of Awen between you, you establish a base for your song. The first words form a kind of topographical map, and your work then becomes the walking of invisible trails and the describing of what you see.

“You never thought much about God. Why? Were you angry at God?”

“No. I just had better things to do.”

And just like that, the song explodes in a new direction.

It isn’t a planned demolition; it’s more a trip wire on the dance floor. The bomb goes off and the walls come down, and everything she’d built to protect herself from the truth disappears in an instant. In a vulnerable moment she became honest with you, and her honesty allowed you to get a glimpse of the Awen. The song, then, becomes the vehicle for communicating the truth as it presents itself in her life.

A song is little more than a conversation between the songwriter and the listener. The more honest the songwriter can be about her truth, the more deeply the words will connect with the listener. A song can be a testimonial, a sermon, a proclamation, a confession, or a plea, but a song is never a monologue. There is always the listener, and though the listener may not be able to communicate directly with the songwriter she is processing what she hears; translating it, transmuting it, absorbing it, becoming it or rejecting it. As the songwriter has undergone a personal transformation in the process of writing the song, so, too, will the listener undergo a similar process when she hears the final work. The more raw the former, the more impactful the latter.

The writing of a song may take hours or it may take no time at all. There is no formula (in spite of what Cerridwen’s myths may say). As mentioned above, Awen plays an essential role in the process, and it is best that at least one of the collaborators is attentive to its subtle movement should you wish to get at something true and lasting in your work.

500px-Awen_symbol_final.svgAwen — a Welsh word for “poetic inspiration” and a fundamental component of many forms of Druidry — is real. It is the creative force that moves through a writer, a bard, a singer, or a poet. It is ever-present, though often undetected. It is beyond the reach of the impatient, and unknown to those who are resistant to stillness and quiet. The work of the bard is to create the space within herself through which the Awen can move, and then, when it does, to move with it as gracefully as she can.

This process of writing is not calculated, or drafted, or hammered out in some laborious process. The words are received. One writes through the Awen. It flows and caresses its way into being, and in its becoming — through the magic of its unfolding — the writer experiences a sensation that is a little bit like love.

Love envelops. Love soothes. Love is relentless in its honesty.

The same can be said for the Awen.

The truth is not often pleasant, but it is always beautiful in its symmetry and form. The making of music, not unlike the fashioning of ritual (or its performance for that matter) is an open invitation into a relationship with that beauty. It is a movement toward mystery, but in the most humble of ways. There is no need for theater, for regalia, for posturing and pretending. All that is needed is honesty, and a willingness to sit with the discomfort that honesty can sometimes bring.

Your ritual with this stranger may have begun with discussion about the traffic on the 405 — a necessary introduction to the ordinary — but it turned into something altogether different. It became a kind of communion with the holy through a deep, inner connection to the Awen within.

You needn’t be a Druid to reach for the spirit of creativity, but doing so might bring you closer to the spirit of Druidry. Or Wicca. Or it may have nothing to do with a particular Pagan tradition. But reaching for the Awen, listening for the Awen, creating a space inside for the movement of the Creative Spirit, will add profound dimension to your life. You may come to understand the act of writing as a process which teaches you about the art of being human. Or you may write a hit song. Or you may do both.

But the point is not to create some specific thing. The outcome is always secondary to the process, for it is within the process of creation that you come to better understand yourself and your purpose. It is through the act of creation that you expand into greater fullness as a human being.

So you say goodbye to your writing partner, both of you changed in unexpected ways, and you head toward your rental car. You turn on the radio to check the traffic, and you leave behind the heavy work of creation.

At some point down the road it will begin again.

 

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To read more about my thoughts on songwriting, creativity, and Druidry, pre-order your copy of the upcoming Witches and Pagans magazine, in which I’m interviewed by T. Thorn Coyle.

A quote:

“Spirituality and religion can become dominated by all kinds of rules and restrictions, and so can music for that matter. But the breath and the voice can operate independently of those rules. To sing can be to abide by one’s own rules, to re-write them, or to abandon structure altogether.”

Get your copy here.

Photo by Simon Webster

With the landmark Supreme Court hearings this week on the issue of marriage equality, cases that could potentially make sweeping sweeping changes regarding the legal recognition of same-sex marriage, national Pagan organizations are stepping forward to reiterate their ongoing support. We’ve already seen the active involvement of Selena Fox, founder and co-executive director of Circle Sanctuary, and now two more organizations, Covenant of the Goddess and Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship, have expressed their solidarity and wish for equal rights (and rites).

Covenant of the Goddess (COG), one of the oldest and largest Wiccan/Witchcraft advocacy organizations in the United States, posted a short media statement to their National Public Information Officer’s blog.

The newly elected COG national board for 2013.

The newly elected COG national board for 2013.

“The Covenant of the Goddess, a 38-year old Witch and Wiccan advocacy organization, extends its support to the entire LGBT community in its struggle for marriage equality within our country. We respect the diversity of religious thought even when it’s divergent from our own. As such, we support the legalization of civil marriages with all the associated civil benefits. Religious ceremony and choice should remain a private matter. While this issue is debated in our country’s highest court, we will continue to hold space with our own LGBT members and their families.”

Ar nDraiocht Fein: A Druid Fellowship (ADF), the largest Pagan Druid organization in the United States, also released a statement yesterday noting their historical support for inclusiveness and equal rights.

Current and former ArchDruids of ADF at a Clergy Retreat.

Current and former ArchDruids of ADF at a Clergy Retreat.

“Since our founding, Ar nDraiocht Fein: A Druid Fellowship (ADF) has championed inclusiveness in our rituals and in our church. Our Constitution has long forbidden discrimination on the basis of race, ancestry, color, physical disability, age, gender, or affectional orientation. And we all stand together in affirming this basic principle.

As such we support not only our LGBTQ members, but all of our members, in knowing that they stand equally before the Gods and Spirits, in fellowship with each other and in equal reciprocity with us all.

We pray that the  Justices of the US Supreme Court will be granted the wisdom and understanding that they will need to perform their duties.  ADF also calls upon all its members to live by our virtues in opposing discrimination, and to do what is right to effect positive change in our lives.”

In addition to those organization’s official statements, prominent Pagans within our community have been stepping forward to make their own views heard. Church of All Worlds (CAW) co-founder Oberon Zell in a statement sent out to supporters via email said that, quote, “I am a member of a religion (Pagan) which strongly feels that people should be able to love and marry whomsoever they choose.” Zell went on to say that “it should be evident to all (as it is to opponents of marriage equality) that laws governing the structure of marriage are in fact, RELIGIOUS laws intended to establish the predominance of a particular faith, and “prohibit the free exercise” of other faiths. And therefore any such laws are ipso facto unconstitutional.”

T. Thorn Coyle, author, teacher, and co-founder of Solar Cross Temple, at her personal blog, advocates for societal changes far more sweeping than same-sex marriage.

T. Thorn Coyle

T. Thorn Coyle

“I stand for love, yet haven’t joined in very active support of what some people call “gay marriage” or others call equal rights because the struggle feels much, much larger. Fighting for the rights of my gay and lesbian friends to marry is on one hand a wonderful thing. I am for people making commitments and sacred bonds to one another. I am for all citizens of a country actually having equal rights under the law. To give one set of citizens rights denied to another set is illegal and unjust. However, for me, allowing two men or two women to marry one another just isn’t enough. It isn’t the sort of equality I really want. I’m more queer than that, and more of an anarchist, of course.  I desire equity far more pluralistic than the simple replication of a state sanctioned nuclear family.

What right does government have to tell us what sorts of relationships are important to us, or what sorts of families we can build and grow together? We cannot build the society I want for us all – a society of comrades and friends, who care for one another’s children, who wipe away the tears of a friend we’ve had for 30 years, who share food and housing when times are tough or when times are very good – we cannot build this when we are intent upon saying that love is only important, and only has rights, when shared between two people.

Love is greater than that. We are greater than that. I firmly trust that we can work out how to love and whom to commit to on our own. If we want to write up contracts saying that the children of our best friend of 40 years can inherit our home when we die, we should have the right to do so. If we want our girlfriend at our bedside in ICU, that should also be allowed.”

This is, I anticipate, just the beginning of Pagan expressions on this issue as we await the rulings on DOMA and Prop. 8 in June. For my own views, and a wrap-up of coverage to date, see yesterday’s post. We here at The Wild Hunt will be highlighting special coverage and voices on this issue as we head towards the Summer.

I’d like to introduce you to Duncan Lawrence, a five-year old Georgia native and son of a well-respected local Druid elder. In 2007 Duncan was born 16 weeks premature at 1 lb. 7 oz. and 12.25 inches. The doctors told his parents, Tom and Amanda Lawrence, that Duncan would most likely be blind, tube-fed, wheel-chair bound and uncommunicative. Over the past five years, Duncan has proven them all wrong. Today he is walking with assistance, reading and attending kindergarten. Due to his enormous success and personal drive, Duncan has been chosen to be the North Georgia March of Dimes’ Regional Ambassador for 2013.

Duncan and Tom Lawrence, February 2013

Duncan and Tom Lawrence, February 2013

Over time Tom and Amanda have learned to adapt to a life with a special-needs child. According to the CDC “nearly half a million babies in the United States” each year are born prematurely or before 37 weeks of gestation. That number calculates to about 1 in every 9. The earlier the baby is born, the more severe the potential for permanent damage. Duncan is affected with severe visual impairment, hydrocephalus, and spastic quadriplegia cerebral palsy.

Sometimes when we are faced with seemingly insurmountable odds, we find a deeper understanding or develop a new connection to our spirituality. Since Duncan’s birth, Tom has done just this.  He is a Druid Elder of Old Stone Grove practicing the Keltoi Tradition and also the co-founder of Misty Mountain Grove. In order to strengthen himself and help his son achieve, Tom regularly draws from the wisdom found within these Druidic teachings. He said:

Druidism places a tremendous amount of emphasis on personal responsibility and carries the old Celtic belief that everyone is better than his or her birth. In other words, not only can you improve yourself, but you are obligated to; so some of the first lessons we are taught are “be, do not become” and “do, do not try.”  Our teaching methods are not methodical, but instead they are experiential. Rather than tell [students] “here is how you do this thing and here is what it means,” we will give [them] a tool or a concept, point them in a general direction, and tell them to see what they can do. Then we help [the students] process what they experience. In this way students teach themselves through a path of self-discovery. 

How does this particular world view apply to Duncan?  In short, he can do anything he wants if we give him the tools to do it, and therefore he should. Nothing is impossible if we keep providing him… opportunities to self-discover, learn, and grow. 

With his parents’ dedication, Duncan has grown into a bright and energetic child with a dynamic sense of humor. He loves dinosaurs, reading, the mountains, and the beach.  He is fond of world music, particularly the sounds of the didgeridoo. For fun and therapy, Duncan rides horses and hopes to become a cowboy when he grows up.

But for now he’ll have to be satisfied with leading the Walk for Babies on April 12th through the North Georgia Mountains as the March of Dimes’ Regional Ambassador. Tom said,

Since Duncan’s survival was due in large part to advances and research by the March of Dimes, [we have] participated in the annual March for Babies since Duncan’s first birthday. Each year Team Duncan gets a little bigger and does a little better…Team Duncan is doing its best to make as big a noise a possible

Over the past four years, Team Duncan has raised about $13,000 for the organization. To help with this year’s fundraising drive, Tom tried something new.  He created a Team Duncan training video for their March for Babies pledge page.  “I just figured [that my friends] would get a kick out of it and maybe a few would contribute,” he said.

Tom decided to post Duncan’s video to the forums on the North American Scottish Games Athletics (NASGA) website. He is an amateur competitor who frequents the site to engage with other athletes.  Completely unexpectedly, Tom’s video went viral.  Highland Athlete Duncan McCallum  has uploaded his own video call-to-action:

In addition, the North Texas Kick-Off Games professional and amateur athletes created and posted their own support video:

Tom remarked, “The Highland Athletics community is extraordinarily supportive and friendly.  We’re all family men and women and everyone wants everyone else to do well.  It’s a small enough niche sport that the sense of tribe outweighs the sense of competitive rivalry.”

Thus far little Duncan Lawrence has achieved so much; overcoming more obstacles in his five years than many do in fifty.  Although he may not understand the Druid notion that we are “better than our birth,” Duncan truly embodies it. He is very lucky to have parents who nurture his success in whatever form it might take. Tom said:

The Druid world view … teaches great patience. My peers joke that I move at “tree speed”, but it pays off. It took Duncan almost a year to lift his head, but he did it. He was four before he learned to walk with an apparatus, but he did it… He’s going through a natural process to get there. It just takes time and hard work. We believe that he has a right to live and to succeed and that all he needs are the opportunities and the tools. Strong trees don’t grow overnight.

The Team Duncan video is now making its way around the Pagan community warming hearts and lifting spirits as it goes. Watching a child succeed beyond expectation can engulf the spirit in pure and trans-formative joy.  It is the gift  he gives to us. That begs the question: who really is the lucky one?  Duncan or us?

Duncan and Tom Lawrence

Duncan and Tom Lawrence

As we reach the close of 2012, it is time to stop for a moment and take stock of the previous year. When you look at (and for) news stories regarding modern Paganism (and related topics) every day of the year, you can sometimes lose focus on the larger picture. So it can be a helpful thing to look at the broad strokes, the bigger themes, the events and developments that will have lasting impact on the modern Pagan movement. What follows are my picks for the top ten stories from this past year involving or affecting modern Pagans.

10. The John Friend Scandal: Since the beginning of 2012 I’ve been keeping a close eye on the fall of John Friend, founder of the Anusara yoga school, since allegations emerged of sexual, legal, and fiscal improprieties. Of those improprieties was the allegation that Friend ran a Wiccan coven, named the “Blazing Solar Flames,” as a pretext for sexual liaisons with Anusara students.

Anusara Yoga founder John Friend.

Anusara Yoga founder John Friend.

John wanted us to do the ritual in sexy underwear and kiss each other on the mouth, tongue-y kissing,” said ‘Melissa,’ a former member of the coven who asked that her real name not be used. […]  Friend suggested to the other coven members that sexually charged rituals would heighten everyone’s senses and therefore raise more energy, according to Melissa. “It was certainly never the way that I had experienced Wicca,” Melissa told The Daily Beast, but she was initially open to the experience, in part because of her intimate relationship with Friend and because of her confidence in him as a leader and teacher. “A teacher’s voice is so deeply engrained in your brain, and you implicitly trust them because that’s what helps you do great things in your practice,” she said.

Friend would go on to assert that he takes Wicca “really seriously,” and that he has “taken Wiccan oaths over the years where death is actually the consequence of telling the truth.”  This scandal is important for our communities not only because Friend claims Anusara yoga is “a philosophy and practice that is totally aligned with Wicca on every level,” but because this scandal should be a wake-up call for national Wiccan organizations, an opportunity to engage with myths versus the reality of how our traditions work. As other, more noxious cases of abuse done in the name of Paganism emerge, the need for a more proactive approach to these incidents seems clear.

09. Transgender Inclusion In Modern Paganism: For two years running, the issue of gender, and transgender inclusion in designated women-only spaces, has sparked debate, protest, and remarkable shifts within the Pagan community. The events at this year’s PantheaCon, where debate, protest, and controversy emerged around a scheduled “genetic women only” ritual led by Dianic elder Z. Budapest in part led to one Dianic group removing themselves from Budapest’s lineage, and PantheaCon changing its policy regarding limited-access events. However, this issue was not isolated to events at PantheaCon in San Jose, California, as transgender inclusion became a hot topic at Pagan Spirit Gathering in Illinois as well. That instance led to a historic press conference where prominent Dianic High Priestess Ruth Barrett acknowledged the womanhood of  transgendered activist Melissa Murry.

barrett murray

“Both women said the transgender community is trying to find their voice, similar to the feminist movement in the 60′s and 70′s.   Like the feminist movement, they speak of suffering, pain, and violence.  Murry and Barrett also spoke of the value in claiming mysteries and rituals specific to their sacred journey as women.  “Within my Tradition, which is about the female body and the journey of being born female and the journey through the bloods and birth and menopause,” said Barrett.  “That is a different journey for transgendered women who come to womanhood through a different path.”

What we are witnessing, in real-time, is change happening. A realignment and reconsideration of gender both within and outside a Dianic context that seemed almost unthinkable a decade ago. No doubt there will be further debate and analysis related to this issue, but I think the shifts seen in 2012 are a predictor for future changes in how modern Paganism thinks about, and engages with, gender identity.

08. Cherry Hill Seminary and CHS Graduate Achieve Major Milestones: While there are many Pagan learning institutions Cherry Hill Seminary is reaching farther than most, working towards accreditation as a seminary for Pagan clergy. This year two important milestones in their journey were accomplished: the awarding of its first Master of Divinity in Pagan Pastoral Counseling, and graduate, Sandra Lee Harris having her credentials examined and accepted by the Board of Chaplaincy Certification, Inc., the credentials-examining body for the Association of Professional Chaplains. This not only frees Harris to her to complete the process of becoming a board-certified chaplain but, in the words of David Oringderff, Ph.D., Harris’s department chair and adviser at Cherry Hill Seminary, “the precedent set by the BCCI/APC decision, which could strengthen the case for future acceptance of Cherry Hill Seminary degrees by other institutions, the U.S. Department of Defense, for example.”

Sandra L. Harris, M.Div., Pagan Pastoral Counseling

Sandra L. Harris, M.Div., Pagan Pastoral Counseling

“The courses credited toward the first Master of Divinity in Pagan Pastoral Counseling from Cherry Hill Seminary are shown to parallel those of degrees from two accredited seminaries, Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary and Tyndale Seminary, when religion-specific requirements for Bible and Christian history studies are replaced by Pagan studies and personal spiritual formation is based on the stated mission values of Cherry Hill Seminary rather than the teachings of Jesus. Further analysis, given similar accommodation, suggests that the Cherry Hill Seminary curriculum in Pagan Pastoral Counseling could satisfy the accreditation requirements of the Association of Theological Schools.” – Sandra L. Harris, M.Div., Pagan Pastoral Counseling

As the Wild Hunt’s Heather Greene noted, “these advancements indicate a shift in society towards genuine respect for alternative religions within the professional world.” Meanwhile, 2013 is shaping up to be a notable year for CHS as well, with their upcoming partnership with The University of South Carolina  for the “Sacred Lands and and Spiritual Landscapes” symposium.

07. Druid liturgy in Paralympics Closing: One unexpected highlight of 2012 was the inclusion of Druid liturgy in the London 2012 Paralympic Games closing ceremony.  Alongside performances by Jay-Z, Rihanna and Coldplay artistic director Kim Gavin, Music Director David Arnold and Designer Misty Buckley showcased a seasonal theme which “took the audience on a journey through Autumn, Winter, Spring and Summer.” Part of the seasonal-themed closing ceremony, spoken by Rory Mackenzie, a representative from Help For Heroes, was in fact written by Druids from the British Druid Order (BDO).

Lance Corporal Rory Mackenzie at the Paralympics closing ceremony.

Lance Corporal Rory Mackenzie at the Paralympics closing ceremony.

“We were sworn to secrecy beforehand, but Emma Restall Orr and I [Greywolf] were approached by the organisers of the 2012 Paralympics closing ceremony with a surprising request. They wanted our permission to use parts of the gorsedd ritual we wrote in 1997. So, about 20 minutes into the ceremony, these words went out to 750 million people around the world,”

Philip Shallcrass (aka Greywolf), Chief of the British Druid Order, says that the original ritual was written to bring people from different backgrounds and faiths together, so “its use in the Paralympics closing ceremony seems perfectly in keeping with this original intention.” While the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony featured brief hints of Britain’s pre-Christian past, it featured no explicit contribution from the vital Pagan threads that exist in the United Kingdom, a nation that has played a huge role in the revival of Pagan religions. So it seems fitting that the last closing ceremony in London, for the Paralympic games, would explicitly reference modern Pagan contributions to British culture.

06. A Major Setback For The Maetreum of Cybele:  Earlier this yeear I reported on how Maetreum of Cybele, Magna Mater, in an ongoing tax battle with the Town of Catskill, New York, lost their exemption battle before the New York State Supreme Court. Catskill’s lawyer intimated to a local paper that he “does not expect much protest from pro-pagan groups now that a judge has carefully analyzed the evidence.” That lawyer may have spoken too quickly, as the Maetreum seems fighting mad, not cowed, though Pagan attorney Dana D. Eilers (author of “Pagans and the Law: Understand Your Rights”doesn’t seem convinced that the Maetreum would be able to turn this decision around on appeal.

The Maetreum of Cybele's building.

The Maetreum of Cybele’s building.

“We are now at risk of losing our property to back taxes under a corrupt local system that does not allow for payment plans, installment payments or anything other than immediate payment in full. We are a poor order and spent all our money fighting the Town of Catskill in court. Currently four women live at the Maetreum who would be homeless otherwise. We need to take the battle to Federal court at this point and we need help in doing so. We need to raise the back taxes just to hold on to our property and continue our work.” – The Maetreum of Cybele

The Maetreum is about to launch an IndieGoGo crowdfunding campaign to raise funds to save their building, and hopefully further pursue their legal case against the town of Catskill. We will keep you posted as this story continues to develop in 2013. I personally don’t think this fight is over as the Maetreum feels that the judge analyzed the evidence through a lens that delegitimized practices he didn’t understand. Quote: “Charity is not charity, prayer, meditation and spiritual activities are not religious, duties of clergy clearly spelled out are not spelled out, activities every week and formal ones every two weeks are “irregular”, some mythical standard of number of regular congregants was not met.  We are a “legitimate” religion but actually exist to wrangle a tax exemption (not legitimate)  I am personally a liar with no actual evidence provided to justify saying that.”

Tomorrow I will post the top five Pagan stories for 2012. In the meantime, I invite you to check out the top religion stories from some different perspectives. The Religion Newswriters Association top 10 religion stories of 2012, HuffPo Religion’s top 10 religion stories of 2012, and 13 religion stories that went missing in 2012 from  Religion Dispatches.