Archives For Elders

I hope you’ll forgive me while I briefly chat about some media I’ve been appearing in lately. First, I was interviewed by Steve McManus for his Forbidden America podcast, you can listen to that, here. I then appeared on the Witchtalk Conjure podcast/videocast, hosted by Karagan and Indigo Astrea. Both of those interviews were inspired in part by the ongoing initiative to get me on The Daily Show (something I didn’t initiate, but am flattered by). You can find the latest push in that effort, here. For my part, I suggested that folks interested in making minority religious voices heard turn that energy towards mobilizing the current campaign into a media watchdog organization. That has happened, and All Faiths Created Equal was born.

“This page is dedicated to spreading awareness of minority faiths, non-faith, religions, and practices. This page also aims to hold the media accountable for poor portrayal of minority faiths, and general spread of misinformation of these faiths and individual members/practitioners.”

They are just getting started up, so if you’re on Facebook, why not join them and help in their endeavour to give outrage and frustration with how the media handles minority faiths a productive outlet.

Former Get Religion contributor and religion journalist Elizabeth Eisenstadt Evans has posted the second part in her series on New Age and Pagan religions for the Lancaster Intelligencer Journal (part one is here). I am again quoted in the column.

Paganism is a still-vital spirituality, one whose influence is difficult to calibrate. Modern paganism, a relative newcomer on the American scene, is an umbrella term for several distinct religions, pagan journalist Jason Pitzl-Waters said in a telephone interview. “While surveys suggest roughly a million pagan practitioners in America,” he said, “if you count people who have unorthodox religious views, then there are many millions of people.” […]  When pagan thought was imported from Great Britain in the 1960s, in large part thanks to the work of British writer and Wiccan Gerald Gardner, it found a temporary home  in the New Age arena, Pitzl-Waters said. “There was enough overlap between our spirituality that when modern paganism appeared on the scene, it found a safe haven,” he said. But paganism has features that distinguish it from New Age spiritualities, Pitzl-Waters said. One example: “Paganism is very much a here-and-now theology,” he said.

It’s a nice column, though I would have expanded on the differences between New Age spirituality and modern Pagan religions. I’d also like to quibble and state that Raymond Buckland deserves mention as a force that brought Wicca to America. I’ve opined before on how many Pagans found safe haven and resources at New Age shops and events during the years when we were far more isolated and dependent on friendly fellow travelers. I came of age as that alliance was crumbling, and modern Pagans were becoming increasingly uncomfortable with being lumped in with New Age practitioners, taking pains to point out our different theologies and histories.

But enough about me! Before I go I wanted to quickly share a few links that I wasn’t able to round up yesterday.

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

Pagan Community Notes is a companion to my usual Pagan News of Note, a series more focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. I want to reinforce 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 lets get started!

On Faith Adds Another Pagan Voice: I’m pleased to announce that The Washington Post’s On Faith site has added me to their panel of religious specialists and generalists. My first response, on the issue of religion within debates over homosexuality, is up now.

“It’s no secret that religion shapes our lives, our morality, our politics, and our society, so it should surprise no one that religion also shapes our reactions to homosexuality. How could it be denied? When we talk about the “traditional family” or “traditional marriage” we are, at the end of the day, talking about specific religious ideas about those topics. Indeed, when we talk about opposition to same-sex marriage, or ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, or the culture of bullying that has sparked so many high-profile suicides, the arguments come down to the perceived moral “correctness” of same-sex love and attraction.”

I join fellow Pagan panelist Starhawk, doubling the Pagan presence at that site.  I look forward to weighing in at On Faith, and being able to share a Pagan perspective with the readers there. I’ll try to be mindful of the voice and reach this gives me, and do my best to represent our diverse views while also sharing my personal opinions. I hope you’ll follow my posts there, and show WaPo that there’s an engaged modern Paganism that wants to see its voice(s) heard.

PCP Launches Pagan People: The popular Pagan podcast PCP (Pagan Centered Podcast) has launched a new series entitled “Pagan People” that aims to become the “CSPAN of Paganism”.

“Pagan Centered Podcast has launched its forth podcast series: Pagan People.  Pagan People is a podcast to document and broadcast the history of contemporary Paganism as it happens.  No commentary beyond what is necessary to understand the clip, it’s intended to be the CSPAN of Paganism.  Who knows, it may become an unbiased CNN of sorts for breaking Pagan news that has audio content.”

Their first installment is the oral arguments from Patrick McCollum’s 9th Circuit Court of Appeals appearance. PCP: Pagan People, as a member of the Pagan Newswire Collective’s partner organization Proud Pagan Podcasters, hopes to be medium “for ensuring the awesome audio content recorded by the PNC is properly attributed to the PNC and distributed to a wide audience.” You can subscribe to Pagan People via iTunes, or reach them at PaganPeople.info.

Prison System Turns to Pagan Chaplain: The newly-launched Patrick McCollum Foundation (Facebook) reports that the Washington Department of Corrections has turned to Pagan chaplain Patrick McCollum for feedback on Pagan practices.

“The Washington department of Corrections contacted Patrick for clarification of what the normal religious practices are for Wiccans and Pagans. After talking with Patrick they will be expanding accommodations for the inmates and the ability to practice their religion!”

The Washington Department of Corrections made headlines back in 2008 for altering its policy regarding a prisoner’s adherence to multiple faiths. That move caused some controversy, but was ultimately seen as a positive step for the lives of prisoners. The prison system in Washington actually has a large Pagan population, so it’s nice to see them reaching out and trying to meet the needs of Pagan prisoners.

More Pagan Surveys: Chas Clifton reminds me that Aline O’Brien (aka Macha NightMare), president of the Cherry Hill Seminary board of directors, has released a new survey “exploring the concept of eldership in contemporary Paganism.”

“I have prepared a brief 10-question informal survey for a paper I’m writing exploring the concept of eldership in contemporary Paganism. I invite you to help in my research by participating in the survey. Use of the word “elder” in this survey means elder in the sense of a formal role within a group, organization or religious community. Feel free to circulate this request to your communities. Responses will be collected until January 15, 2011. Thanks to all who help by responding.”

This survey joins the political surveys by Maelstrom from The Political Pagan, and the Pagan Health Survey conducted by Kimberly Hedrick of the TriWinds Institute. Here’s hoping all this data collection ultimately benefits our community! Also, while I’m on the subject of surveys and data collection, let’s not forget that the American Academy of Religion conference starts October 30th in Atlanta, Georgia. A whole host of Pagan Studies folks will be there, and I’m hoping to bring you some coverage and reflections from that event.

Capture the Flag? In a final note, COG First Officer-elect Peter Dybing, writing as a private citizen, and not as a representative of COG, wonders if Pagan organizations are too invested in playing “capture the flag” in our quest for Pagan rights.

“So here is the question; are we as a community even half as effectively organized to gain or defend rights for Pagans? It is tempting to provide a long list of organizations and individuals doing great work for Pagan rights in response to this question. Each of these deserves our respect for all they have accomplished. Instead, lets address if this plethora of activities is keeping us from acting with unanimity? Is our approach analogous to a group of organizations playing Capture the Flag, where there are wins, but only by small groups and not the community as a whole? Does our duplication of effort squander resources and reflect that Paganism still needs to mature into an effective movement?”

Dybing calls for “a discussion on how to unify our approach to Pagan rights.” Is this a preview of what’s to come when his term starts as First Officer of the Covenant of the Goddess? Will we see more coordination, or at least more discussion about coordination, when it comes to Pagan organizations working towards the same goal? I invite you to weigh in on this subject. What would better coordination look like? How would it be managed without compromising the autonomy of each group?

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

(by Brendan Myers)

In the last few years I’ve started to hear more and more about Elders in the Pagan community. The people who first joined the movement back in the 60’s are in their 60’s now (in terms of age, if not a decade!) and many of them have done so much work for the movement in that time – running a festival, writing books, managing a shop, teaching new people – that the word Elder is more frequently being attached to them.

In the spring and summer of 2006 I worked as a contract researcher for the branch of the government of Canada responsible for peacekeeping and policing in the First Nations. During this job, I came into contact with 50 traditional indigenous Elders from all across Canada. I think that as the Pagan community begins to acknowledge Elders of its own, it would benefit from a look at the way Aboriginal people understand their Elders. Here’s a short account of my own experiences.

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