Archives For Freemasonry

During last year’s holiday season, “Jorge L. Aladro, Grand Master of Florida’s Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons issued a ruling stating that Paganism, Wicca, Odinism and Gnosticism were not compatible with Freemasonry,” as Jason Pitzl-Waters reported here at the Wild Hunt. Several months later, word spread of the violence directed at Pagan childrens’ author Kyrja Withers  in Port Richey, Florida. Just as that issue was resolved, Florida was back in the news again when a group of conservative Christian ministers from Pahokee Florida spoke out against a new Pagan Summer Solstice Festival at Lake Okeechobee.  What was going on in Florida this year?

State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/69590

State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/69590

Fortunately all three of these news-making stories ended positively in support of religious diversity and freedom. The Florida Masons overturned their ruling. Kyrja Withers received consultation and protection. The Pahokee Summer Solstice Festival went on without any further incident. None of this could have happened without the help of the local Florida Pagan community.

Looking back on this tumultuous year, I turned to Kathy Lezon, long-time Florida-resident, Wiccan High Priestess and the newly elected First Officer for Covenant of the Goddess (CoG).  As well as being the High Priestess of Circle of the Moonlit Sea, Kathy spent this past year serving as First Officer of Florida’s Everglades Moon Local Council of CoG and attending many events around the state.  As such she was intimately involved in the outreach needed to resolve all three of these situations.

Heather:  Before we talk about the dynamics of the year, please share with us your personal spiritual path.

Priestess Kathy Lezon

Priestess Kathy Lezon

Kathy: I was raised Roman Catholic and religion was very much a part of our family, from the holidays we celebrated to where we went to school.  As I grew older, I began to feel like I didn’t really belong there. In middle school I wrote to the Cardinal asking to be considered for an altar boy position and wasn’t satisfied with his description of the limited roles of women within the church.  As a young critical care nurse, I frequently dealt with disability and death. I began to search for answers outside of the paradigm I was familiar with and spent some years thinking of myself as spiritual rather than religious. I discovered Wicca through reading a book and shortly after that began to study with a coven not far from home… I see my path as an opportunity and a responsibility to have a reciprocal relationship with Spirit, in the form of deity, ancestor, place, nature- that web in which we live.

H: You’ve lived in Florida for nearly 30 years. Where does Florida generally fall in the socio-political spectrum?

K:  Florida is full of paradox.  We have south Florida with its diversity, arts, tourism, and hip international flair. We have north Florida which is very much a part of the Southern US and all of its [conservative] values.  And we have a whole lot of space and variety in between.

H:   Let’s talk about the year’s headlines.  Florida was in the Pagan news quite a bit.  In June, I can recall thinking, “Not Florida again.”  What happened? What has changed?

K: It’s funny that you ask this. Last year was certainly quite a ride and I’ve been thinking lately about what is so different now, compared to five years ago.  In a [short] period of time, we had several tense situations, most rooted in intolerance or misinformation that basically involved Pagans just doing what we do.  What’s different may be people’s comfort level with showing who they are.  What we saw was the public reaction to it.

There have been Pagan Masons, Witches doing [community] work, and Pagan festivals for years now. What happened last year? A Mason didn’t keep his religion secret.  A Witch on Florida’s west coast publicly asked for help when she [became the] victim of a crime.  A group of people decided to gather Pagans for a Summer Solstice celebration in a part of the state that is dense with fundamentalist Christian values. These folks were just a little more open than others previously had been….This openness got a reaction and shined a light on the amount of fear that still exists, and also created space for dialogue that will perhaps make it easier for the next one who wants to be public about his or her path.

H: You worked on some of these cases personally.  What was your role?

K:  As First Officer for Florida’s Everglades Moon Local Council (EMLC) of CoG, I was the contact person for the Council.  When the Kyrja Withers incidents were occurring, EMLC wanted to reach out to Kyrja to offer encouragement and support.] I contacted Kyrja…  After that things went from 0-100 mph in an instant! The next day I was on the phone with Selena Fox from Lady Liberty League, and learned what kind of networking help was needed on the local level.  I was able to contact EMLC members in order to have resources with special skills on standby. We also helped advertise her crowd funding campaign to obtain [security] equipment.

Kryja Withers reading to Peter Dybing at her home.

Kryja Withers reading to Peter Dybing at her home.

I was stunned at how quickly things happened, how organized the response seemed to be, and I was so impressed at how many people wanted to help.  I was also involved in a similar way when the ministers of Pahokee wanted to protest the Summer Solstice Festival. EMLC assisted by providing volunteers and support before and at the festival.  In both instances, my most striking impressions were the power of fear, how dangerous intolerance can be, and the power of people when they come together to work for a common goal.  I also learned that there is no hotter place in Florida than in the center of the state on the longest day of the year! Boy that was a sweaty festival!

H: During any of this time, did you personally get attacked?

K: I didn’t experience any kind of personal attack. However one thought kept crossing my mind as I dealt with the Kyrja Withers issue: “This could be me.”  First the thought frightened me, then it angered me. When someone else’s struggle could be yours, you sort of own it. I live in a small, conservative town.  It wouldn’t take much for someone who noticed a piece of jewelry or overheard a conversation to follow me home and vandalize the place that I feel safest.  So despite the fact that I haven’t been personally touched by religious discrimination and intolerance in a significant way, I feel like it’s a responsibility to work so that I-and anybody else-never have to.

H: Has there been any new concerns crop up since June?

Nothing has happened since Pahokee. The Florida Pagan gathering moved to a new site further south in conservative central Florida at Samhain. There were no problems, except one inebriated local man who stumbled onto site, found the fire circle on Saturday evening and yelled at the drummers for all of the noise. He didn’t stay long.

H: What has this year of adversity done for the Florida Pagan community in general?

K:  For a long time, Florida’s Pagan community has lived in regional pockets. We have those acres of cow pasture and orange grove between our coasts, big cities and towns! Over the past year, I’ve seen friendships forged across those acres – people who, prior to the conflict, wouldn’t have been in the same room. It’s my hope that more connections continue to be made as we realize that all that separates us is a few miles.

Kathy Lezon, NFO Covenant of the Goddess at Pahokee Festival June 2013

Kathy Lezon, NFO Covenant of the Goddess at Pahokee Festival June 2013

H:  Adding to the Florida Pagan news, you were elected as First Officer of CoG for 2013-2014. In fact there are now two Florida Pagans serving on CoG’s national Board. What perspective do you bring to this National organization?

K: We are blessed with an amazing National Board this year, and I’m thrilled to have another Floridian there with me.  I think [our presence] is representative of the culture of [EMLC], of how willing we are to be involved..  EMLC is full of people that have been CoG members for a long time and with that comes the wisdom of how organizations like this work.  More than that it’s a group that is able to define a value, set a goal, and get something done. EMLC demonstrates that much can be accomplished through collaboration, creativity, and mutual respect, and that you can successfully combine deep Spirituality, love for each other, and lots of fun. This is what I would like to bring with me in all of my work with CoG.

H:  With that said, what are your goals for CoG at a National level this year?

K: This year, I want as many people as possible to see CoG as the living, vibrant organization that it is. I want them to hear what our Local Councils are doing and about the talented people that are doing this work. I’d like to help make and strengthen relationships, connections, within our organization and between CoG and our communities. I want us to be sure that the work that we are doing is what our communities need from us, and I want those that want to join us in these endeavors to jump aboard.

Yoga Class at EMLC Turning of the Tides Festival

Yoga Class at EMLC Turning of the Tides Festival

H:  Moving into the future, where do you see Paganism, in general, ten years from now?  What do we need to get there?

K: Ten years from now, it would be nice if being a Pagan, of any kind, was not any bigger deal to society than any other path and that we could focus our energies from being understood and dispelling fears to the work that we really are here to do. Whether that work is caring for our environment, collaborating with other people of faith for social change, healing and teaching, or just celebrating our connectedness to all things, doing that without fear of harm or discrimination or the barrier of intolerance would be just fabulous.

To get there, we need to just keep taking baby steps, keep having conversations with those that don’t understand us and keep joining hands with those that do. We need to continue our inter- and intra-faith work, speak up about who we are, correct misconceptions whenever we find them, and realize that someone’s negative response to us is probably based in fear.

We also need to support each other in our own diversity and not be afraid of our differences. We need to listen to our elders and our youngsters and realize that the right way is often a blending of the two points of view.  And we need to remember that we are connected; all of us, to everything. It really simplifies a lot of situations when you look at them that way.

H: You mention Intra-faith and supporting “our own diversity.” How do you see that as beneficial to your work either with CoG or your Florida Community?

K: By intrafaith work I mean dialogue, collaboration, bridge building between the diverse groups within Paganism locally. Competition and judgment do not serve us well.  I find it ironic that we expect tolerance and acceptance in society when we are not always so tolerant and accepting of each other. If we don’t have some kind of unity among our local Pagan population, we don’t have a foundation to ground us in the difficult times and we don’t even begin to develop the skills to have the interfaith conversations.

In Miami this is easier than in other parts of the states.  At one of our EMLC Turning the Tide festivals, we had workshops by clergy from Lucumi, Druid, Wiccan, Hellenic reconstructionist paths. It’s a small sample, but it was a small gathering and everyone could sit around to appreciate others’ point of view. We saw something similar in Pahokee as we gathered on the banks of Lake Okeechobee to celebrate Summer Solstice in a ceremony led by Druids and attended by Heathens, Native Americans, Wiccans, eclectic Pagans and folks following a variety of other paths. The point of being together was not to celebrate a particular path, but to celebrate that we had come together to make this event happen on this very special day.

I’m hoping to be involved in more of of this kind of happening – one sparked by the mere desire to know each other rather than rallying against a common “enemy”. I’ll bet we have a lot to learn from each other.

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H:  Your hopes may come true sooner rather than later.  You are in the middle of creating a new festival – one that is pan-Pagan and part of the Pagan Pride circuit.  Before we say goodbye, tell us about that venture.

K: I’m finishing up the approval to become the Pagan Pride Day Local Coordinator for Florida’s Treasure and Space Coast. Although there are 5 or 6 Pagan Pride events in Florida each year, we are a big state and the closest Pagan Pride event is about two hours in either direction from here.  There’s a void.

The objective of these events is to encourage interaction between Pagans and non Pagans in local communities as well as being inclusive pan-Pagan events. This is an opportunity to combine the kinds of activities you and I have been talking about- let our neighbors see and know who Pagans are and get a feel for what we’re all about.  And get local Pagan groups and solitary folks together, talking to each other and working on something together. I’ve put an informal call out to the people that I know to see who wants to be involved, and I’m really excited about the level of interest.  We will start planning in January for a Fall 2014 event.

H: Thank you very much Kathy for you insight and retrospective.  On a personal note, I look forward to working with you on the CoG Board and watching all of your other work develop in Florida.

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Here are some updates on previously reported stories here at The Wild Hunt.

Florida Freemasons Reverse Anti-Pagan Edict: On November 28th, 2012, Jorge L. Aladro, Grand Master of Florida’s Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons, issued a ruling stating that Paganism, Wicca, Odinism, and Gnosticism were not compatible with Freemasonry. Further, any Freemason who “professes to be a member of one of the groups mentioned above shall tender his resignation or suffer himself to a Trial Commission whose final outcome will be expulsion since there is no provision to allow anything contrary to the Ancient Landmarks.” This ruling caused quite a bit of consternation among both Pagans and Freemasons, two communities that have long and interlocking histories. Now, Christopher L. Hodapp at the Freemasons For Dummies blog reports that the edict has been overturned.

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“The passed resolution reverses the Ruling in its entirety, and concludes by affirming ‘that Florida Masonry hereby declares its eternal devotion to the religious toleration that is one of the immovable and Ancient Landmarks of Freemasonry, never to be changed by any man or group of men.’ The Jurisprudence Committee had recommended rejection.”

As one commenter aptly put it: “I am very proud of my brethren in Florida for defending religious tolerance and having the courage to undo a mistake that did damage to our fraternity.” This is very good news for Freemasons, Pagans, and Pagan Freemasons, and I hope it will signal a new beginning for all involved (more from PNC-Florida). For more information on how this whole mess got started in the first place, check out this editorial from PNC-Florida.

Progress, Study, and Introspection in the Matter of Papua New Guinea Witch-Killings: The world was shocked to attention earlier this year at the torture and burning of a woman in Papua New Guinea over charges of sorcery and witchcraft. While the case of Kepari Leniata was sadly not unique, that fact that it was so well documented via cell phone pictures gave it a visceral immediacy that is often absent in these cases. Now, the country’s Sorcery Act has been repealed, and capital punishment re-instated in an effort to quell these murders.

Papua New Guinea Prime Minster Peter O'Neill

Papua New Guinea Prime Minster Peter O’Neill

“The Parliament of Papua New Guinea has voted to repeal the country’s Sorcery Act and to reinstate the death penalty in certain cases to help stem an increase in violence against people accused of practicing black magic. Such violence is endemic in the South Pacific island nation, and a rise in the number of public killings in the past year has prompted international condemnation and embarrassed the government of Prime Minister Peter O’Neill. [...] Amnesty International, which has campaigned loudly against sorcery-related violence in Papua New Guinea, praised the repeal of the Sorcery Act but assailed the reintroduction of the death penalty. Isabelle Arradon, a spokeswoman, said that represented ‘several giant steps back.'”

Meanwhile, a conference entitled “Sorcery and Witchcraft-Related Killings in Melanesia: Culture, Law and Human Rights Perspectives” is taking place this week in Australia that focuses on possible solutions to this horror, including whether legislative solutions can have any effect on witch-killings in the Melanesia subregion. Quote: “Belief in sorcery and witchcraft is so deeply embedded in Papua New Guinea that the problem will not be solved so easily as repealing a piece of legislation.” Still, at least there are signs that forces both within and without Papua New Guinea are struggling to find solutions. Let us hope that this terror can be abated for the sake of the victims, and the humanity of the perpetrators.

Famous Bengali Film Director a Member of India’s Wiccan Brigade: The world mourned this week on hearing that internationally known and celebrated film director Rituparno Ghosh died at the age of 49 after suffering a massive heart attack. As tributes and remembrances have emerged, Ipsita Roy Chakraverti, India’s most famous Wiccan adherent, claims that Ghosh was a student of her teachings, and a part of her “Wiccan Brigade.”

Rituparno Ghosh

Rituparno Ghosh

“For master storyteller Rituparno Ghosh, who died on May 30, the craft of Wicca — a modern pagan and witchcraft religion was a “great draw” as it appealed to his intellectual side. The filmmaker also exhibited a pronounced curiosity about “life after death”, says renowned Wiccan exponent Ipsita Roy Chakraverti. Ghosh was Chakraverti’s first student from the film fraternity [...] “He was always a part of our programmes… As a speaker, as a participant. (He was) always very interested in learning the craft. In fact, he was my first student from the film fraternity,” said Chakraverti.”

As I’ve reported here previously, Chakraverti’s Wiccan Brigade has worked to combat violence against women in the form of witch killings and persecutions, and believes that the religion could empower women in the face of a “national problem” of rape. Knowing that Ghosh was a part of Chakraverti’s group adds an extra dimension to his character, part of a life dedicated towards equal treatment for all individuals in his home country. What is remembered, lives.

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

Yesterday I highlighted a ruling from Jorge L. Aladro, Grand Master of Florida’s Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons, which barred membership to Pagans, Gnostics, and agnostics, and made it plain that any current Pagan members would be evicted from the order.

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“Therefore, as Grand Master, it is my Ruling and Decision that none of the above mentioned beliefs and/or practices [Paganism, Wiccan and Odinism, and secondarily Agnosticism and Gnosticism] are compatible with Freemasonry since they do not believe or practice one or more of the prerequisites to be a candidate for Masonry listed above.  Further, any member of the Craft that professes to be a member of one of the groups mentioned above shall tender his resignation or suffer himself to a Trial Commission whose final outcome will be expulsion since there is no provision to allow anything contrary to the Ancient Landmarks.”

Since then, many Freemasons, Pagans, and Pagan Freemasons have spoken out about this ruling, with most decrying the move as against the principles of their order. Most notably, one of the Florida Pagans at the center of this controversy, Corey Bryson, has had his story published at the Freemason Information blog, and at the Florida bureau of the Pagan Newswire Collective.

Jorge L. Aladro

Jorge L. Aladro,

“A few weeks later, I received an email stating that I was to appear before the vigilance committee of my lodge by order of the Grand Master. I appeared before the committee with the assistance of a PM of my lodge who volunteered to assist me. I was asked again the questions relating to 32:16 of the Florida Masonic Digest, and again honestly answered the questions, in agreement with the Digest. I was asked if I was a Pagan, and explained that I used that term to describe my religious practices, but not my belief. Paganism is not Orthodox, and has no set doctrines. It is merely a blanket term for non-Abrahamic faiths. In definition of my beliefs, I stated that I was primarily a Deist. I was further asked if I could uphold Masonic Morality, as exemplified by the Golden Rule and the 10 commandments. I explained that the Golden Rule was a value to aspire to. Concerning the 10 Commandments, I had to educate the committee on the fact that the first 5 commandments were religious commandments that only really apply to Jews, but that the second 5 were values to aspire to as well.

The Committee concluded that there was no reason for further action in my case. Apparently the Grand Master was not satisfied with this decision, and proceeded to issue his Ruling.

After reading the ruling, I felt that I had no choice per my Master Mason Obligation other than to resign as a Mason. This morning, I went to my lodge and submitted my letter of resignation to the Secretary, along with my dues card.”

The Freemason who posted Bryson’s testimony, Frederic Milliken, went on to comment that “we are told as Masons to avoid all sectarian religious discussion yet that is exactly what the Mainstream Grand Master of Florida Has done,” and noted the irony of making this move so near the holiday of Christmas.

“Soon we will celebrate Christmas, a holiday with Pagan roots, incorporating pre Christian festivals that were celebrated around the winter solstice, why don’t we all send Grand Master Jorge L. Aladro, a little mind and a happy Pagan day card? You can send him one, care of the Grand Lodge at 220 North Ocean Street, Jacksonville, FL 32202.”

In addition, the Everglades Moon Local Council of the Covenant of the Goddess has released an official statement on this matter, saying they were “saddened and disappointed” in Grand Master Aladro’s edict.

“Everglades Moon Local Council, Florida Chapter of Covenant of the Goddess, a national organization of Wiccans, is saddened and disappointed to learn that The Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Florida has stated all Pagans, and specifically Wiccans, must resign their membership. We respect the right of groups such as the Freemasons to make choices regarding their membership, and pray that Wiccan Masons can find a way to continue their contributions towards making good men better.”

Meanwhile, other Masons, like Cliff Porter at The Relevant Mason and Erik Arneson at The Oblong Square have spoken out against what they see as religious intolerance masquerading as Freemasonry.

“This wave of younger Masons interested in alternative spirituality and religion must be vexing for some of the so-called “old guard” of the Fraternity. It has been made clear repeatedly that there are members of grand lodges across the country who, in spite of the obligations they made before God, view Freemasonry as just another vehicle to practice religious discrimination. They view the Craft as strictly Christian and try to limit its vital message. And they are wrong.

“Freemasonry is a progressive science,” we are taught in its ritual. Centuries ago, we were at the edge of social progressiveness, but over generations we fell behind. For a long time, the specters of bigotry and intolerance have overshadowed the vision of the fraternity, and only in the past few decades has this begun to be reversed. Sometimes intolerance will continue to rear its ugly head as it has in Florida, but those of us who believe in the messages of virtue and tolerance at the heart of Freemasonry need to remain strong and continue to act with patience, prudence and fortitude. If we can do so, we will see Freemasonry return to the forefront of progressive thought where it once stood.”

In addition, several Pagan Freemasons have made their views known here at The Wild Hunt. Michael Eric Bérubé, who’s been a Pagan since the 1980s, and a Freemason since 1994, said he was “saddened” by this ruling, and pointed to his lodge in Maine, where religious tolerance and inclusion are the norm. Kirk White, a Pagan and former Grand High Priest of the Royal Arch Masons of Vermont, noted that some of the religious tensions are due to younger Pagan members threatening the status quo.

“In many cases, the influx of Pagan men have saved lodges that were about to die out. And in these cases, these younger, active Pagan men are threatening the status quo. Most of the old guys don’t want spirituality – much less esotericism – in their Freemasonry. For them, it is just a social and charitable organization. This rebirth of esotericism scares them and they blame it on the Pagans (although most esoteric Masons I know are not Pagan).

The Grand Master of Florida is the final say in Florida through his term (which is 1-3 years depending on jurisdiction). His successor may keep it, repeal it, or usually they just forget about such decrees and never enforce them. In the meanwhile, many more liberal jurisdictions (including Vermont) are discussing how to handle this. We’ll see how it turns out. In the end, though, time is on our side. The old guard pass away and the new, more spiritually open guys take their place. There are big changes coming in Masonry in the next 10 years. It is pretty exciting.”

I agree with Kirk White in that the changes happening within Freemasonry right now are exciting, and point to a new phase in the fraternity’s existence, one that make it especially suited to thrive in a post-Christian and pluralistic society where diversity is the norm. What I think Grand Master Aladro’s ruling has done is bring to the surface a conversation and debate that’s been quietly happening behind the scenes about the future of Freemasonry (and the role of Paganism and other non-Christian faiths in it). Even if the Florida Grand Lodge keeps its discriminatory stance against non-Christian faiths, this ruling has created reverberations that may bring about shifts Aladro and other like him could not have suspected.

As always, we’ll keep you posted as this story continues to develop.

On November 28th Jorge L. Aladro, Grand Master of Florida’s Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons, issued a ruling stating that Paganism, Wicca, Odinism, and Gnosticism were not compatible with Freemasonry. Further, any Freemason who “professes to be a member of one of the groups mentioned above shall tender his resignation or suffer himself to a Trial Commission whose final outcome will be expulsion since there is no provision to allow anything contrary to the Ancient Landmarks.”

freemasons dont like pagans

What’s remarkable about this ruling and resulting document is that modern Paganism, along with several strains of ritual magical practice, have been a part of modern Freemasonry for generations, a situation that has only become more pronounced as a new flood of younger people have become interested in the “establishment mysticism” that alienated many in their parent’s generation. Indeed, many prominent Freemasons, like Christopher L. Hodapp, author of “Freemasons For Dummies,”  seem to find the concept of Pagan Masons completely uncontroversial.

“A question that pops up from time to time on Masonic forums and in lodge has to do with the requirement of a petitioner to believe in a “supreme being” and whether Wicca qualifies as such a belief. Undoubtedly, part of the trepidation by some Masons to accept Wicca as a religion has to do with seeing inverted pentacles drawn on floors by hooded devil-worshippers in too many old Night Gallery reruns. Curiously, these same brethren generally have no problem with the inverted pentacle of the Order of the Eastern Star.”

As you might imagine, this ruling has reverberated across social media, surprising and angering many Pagan Masons. Comments range from “If they banned paganism, they’d have to shut down every lodge in the country,” to “this is absolutely insane and goes against everything that I, as a Freemason, believe in.” Lon Milo DuQuette, author of “Angels, Demons & Gods of the New Millennium: Musings on Modern Magick” (and a Freemason), who alerted many on Facebook to this ruling, is calling for concerned Freemasons to write to the Grand Master of Florida.

“Perhaps frank, yet respectful, letters should be sent to Florida’s Grant Master of Masons, Jorge L. Aladro, pointing out our feelings on this matter. I believe his publically published email address is: gm@floridamason.org”

A commenter on that post elaborated that letters from active Freemasons “should also be directed to your own state’s grand lodge. This violates the criteria to be considered Masonic and states need to suspend recognition of Florida masons and their grand lodge until they become regular again.” Whether this pressure will sway the Florida Grand Master, who seems motivated by a religious bias, remains to be seen.

If you are a Pagan, magician, and a Freemason, what do you think of the Florida Grand Lodge’s ruling? If you are a Florida Freemason what are your thoughts, and what actions will you take in an administration that seems dedicated to drumming the Pagans out? We’ll keep you updated on this situation as it develops.

I’m sure you haven’t heard, but there is a new book coming out tomorrow by author Dan Brown entitled “The Lost Symbol”. Brown’s last book, “The Da Vinci Code”, sold, like, a gazillion copies, made various Catholics and conservative Christians pop a gasket, and spawned a mega-grossing movie (not to mention a successful prequel/sequel) starring Tom Hanks. In anticipation of this assured best-seller James Kaplan from Parade Magazine sits down with Brown to talk about his work, whether he believes in the conspiracy theories he writes about, and why he was inspired to write about the divine feminine.

“Part of it was my mom–she is strong in her convictions and yet absolutely open to embracing a change in them. Part of it was falling in love and also looking at other religions, especially older ones, paganism, the Mother Earth concept. And some of it came from looking at the destructive force of man and saying, “Look at what we’re doing. If we spent half the intellect and money we spend on killing each other on solving problems, wouldn’t that be great?” I kind of equate that with testosterone. You say, “What if God were a woman? What if we embraced our feminine side–the more creative, passive, loving side?” It’s a gross generalization, but all those things added up to my celebrating the Sacred Feminine.”

I’ve long believed that it was Brown tapping into a deep yearning to re-connect with the feminine aspect(s) of the divine that made his rather slight novel a super-mega hit.

“It isn’t that Jesus had sex, it isn’t the mysterious gnostic sects, it isn’t about hatred of the Catholic Church, and it certainly isn’t due to Dan Brown’s skill as a writer, it’s the goddess, stupid.”

As for what Brown personally believes he remains a bit evasive, saying he’s strayed far from the Episcopalian upbringing of his youth, but that he come “full circle” and sees a “spiritual aspect” to science. It also seems that he may be done exploring the feminine divine and has moved into the realms of Freemasonry and noetic science for his latest page-turner. Still, with Brown back in the news you can expect that the heresy-hunters will be straining for a piece of the spotlight.

Inaugural fever is heating up in Washington DC, and millions of people are expected to be on hand for Barack Obama’s inauguration. Since all those people won’t fit into (or weren’t invited to) the 10 official balls the Obamas will be attending, several lobbies, special interest groups, and private citizens are throwing their own bashes (with varying degrees of fabulousness).  Unsurprisingly, Pagans, who overwhelmingly supported Obama in the election, are getting in on the action. The day before the inauguration, a group of Pagans and magical/spiritual progressives will be gathering at the Jefferson Memorial to do some cleansing spell-work (and since these are Pagans, have a drum-jam).

The Washington, D.C. community of magical and spiritual progressives will join together on Monday afternoon, January 19th, at the Jefferson Memorial Plaza to sweep the town clean and welcome President-elect Obama and his administration to the White House. The Ritual of Unity and Blessing is organized by a triumvirate of native Washingtonians, one of whom is the great-granddaughter of slaves, one the great-granddaughter of slave owners, and one the daughter of a populist New Deal Congressman.  The ceremony will begin promptly at 2pm with a Witches’ Broom Dance, intended to cleanse Washington of the malfeasance, deceit and partisanship of the last eight years.

The main organizers of the event are Pagan activist Caroline Kenner (who organized the Veterens’ Pentacle win rally), Wiccan Priestess Katrina Messenger, founder of Connect DC, and Caroline W. Casey, founder of Coyote Network News. The main ritual will culminate in the charging of an obelisk-shaped crystal (like the Washington Monument) that will be dropped into (“sacrificed to”) the Tidal Basin so that its energies can “broadcast” over the festivities on the 20th. For more details check, here, after January 9th.

Speaking of the Washington Monument, obelisks, and broadcasting energies, some of you might be interested to learn that there will be an official Masonic Inagural Ball (the first ever, or at least the first one ever publicly announced) taking place on January 20th.

While other inauguration balls are costing $125-$500 or more per ticket, we’ve arranged for an evening with some amazing food, a great DJ, and brotherhood, all for $65 per ticket, we’ve also included an incentive to help pay the baby sitter, couples may go for just $120 a piece. All proceeds from this event will be donated to the Masonic Foundation of the District of Columbia.

I know there has been something of a mini-renaissance of younger people (and sometimes esotericly-inclined practitioners) joining up with the Freemasons in recent years, so this might be a good way to attend a ball and do some networking (cash bar though, pity). I’m surprised this hasn’t happened before considering the rich history of Masonic US Presidents.

If you have any information of any other Pagan, esoteric, occult, or magical events taking place over the inaugural weekend, feel free to plug them in the comments.

A couple of interesting book-related articles to check out this morning, the first comes from the San Francisco Gate, who interviews Pagan author Waverly Fitzgerald concerning her new book “Slow Time: Recovering the Natural Rhythm of Life”.

“Spiritual teacher and author Waverly Fitzgerald believes we’d all benefit by changing our ideas and relationships with time. In her new book, “Slow Time,” Fitzgerald, who has written for Beliefnet and Sage Woman magazine, provides exercises and ideas intended to inspire people to align themselves with nature’s natural rhythms – night and day, the monthly lunar cycle and the yearly solar round – rather than living their lives to the frenzied beat of industrial time.”

For Fitzgerald, connecting religiously with the changing seasons is one way to “slow” your conception of time from the “frenetic” pace of our industrialized world.

“Most of the major religions have a seasonal liturgy, even though it may be sort of buried. If you look at Christianity, with the Easter cycle and the Christmas birth, there is this lovely use of the seasons to tell a story, and the same is true in the Jewish religion. And, of course, the pagan religion really works with this notion of the seasons and the cycle. So there is a very deep connection between this notion of cyclical time and spirituality. And there is a message of hope that things will come around again, that we may feel despair but spring will come again. It is a pretty profound metaphor that is embedded in our lives.”

Meanwhile, over at Salon.com, Laura Miller rips apart Mark Booth’s uneven examination of the history of the world through the eyes of esoteric secret societies.

“…you might conclude that “The Secret History of the World” is a truckload of drivel, and you would be right. It is a mess of a book, disjointed and rambling, rife with puzzling non sequiturs that are obviously meant to be suggestive or evocative but that more often read like the symptoms of an advanced case of Attention Deficit Disorder … Booth is forever intimating that he’s about to explain something important to the reader and then abruptly dropping the subject. He has all the smoke and cymbals of the Great and Terrible Oz, but can rarely muster even the fake disembodied head as a crescendo … Furthermore, much of the “information” Booth chooses to supply is either incorrect or, frankly, untrue. Some of these errors seem to be the result of simple ignorance.”

So if you are looking for the inside scoop on the importance of secret societies, and what they believed, “The Secret History of the World: As Laid Down by the Secret Societies” may not be the book for you. You might be better off with a work like “Hidden Wisdom”, by former Gnosis editors Richard Smoley and Jay Kinney, if you want to understand what contributions esoteric secret societies have made to our culture.

New Books of Note

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  November 14, 2007 — 2 Comments

There are some new books of interest to Pagans, Heathens, and occultists of many stripes that I would like to spotlight today. The first is “Fire Child”, the long-awaited autobiography of English “Witch Queen” Maxine Sanders. Sanders is well-known in Witchcraft circles as a co-founder of Alexandrian Wicca, and for the many striking photographs taken of her performing rituals with Alex Sanders and their coven in the 1960s.

According to Sanders, the book is a way of answering the many questions she encountered from Witches about the history and development of the Craft.

“Last year I met American witches from different traditions of modern Craft who asked good questions and were not afraid to ask the sensitive ones. They made me see the impact Alex and I have had on the Craft. They had the right to ask and I felt obliged to answer. Writing ‘Fire Child’ was the perfect opportunity.”

This release should be a unique treasure, autobiographies from Pagan elders are rare, especially from figures who had as large a role to play as Sanders. The book will be released on November 23rd from Mandrake of Oxford Press.

On a similar Witchcraft-related note, a new book takes a deeper look at the history of initiation rituals within the Western esoteric traditions. “Western Esotericism and Rituals of Initiation” by Henrik Bogdan, a Religious Studies and Theology professor at Goteborg University in Sweden, explores the ties and similarities between Freemasonry, and later esoteric initiatory paths, including modern Witchcraft.

“For more than three hundred years the practice of Masonic rituals of initiation has been part of Western culture, spreading far beyond the boundaries of traditional Freemasonry. Henrik Bogdan explores the historical development of these rituals and their relationship with Western esotericism. Beginning with the Craft degrees of Freemasonry – the blueprints, as it were, of all later Masonic rituals of initiation – Bogdan examines the development of the Masonic High Degrees, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn – the most influential of all nineteenth-century occultist initiatory societies – and Gerald Gardner’s Witchcraft movement of the 1950s, one of the first large-scale Western esoteric New Religions Movements.”

The book seems like a must-read for anyone wanting a deeper understanding of where some ritual elements found within religious Witchcraft, and in turn many modern Pagan traditions, originated. You can preview the first chapter at the SUNY Press site.

Finally, we come to a book that has made it onto my Yule list, “Our Gods Wear Spandex: The Secret History of Comic Book Heroes” by Chris Knowles (with illustrations by Joseph Michael Linsner). Knowles delves deep into comic-book history to explore the mythic, occult, and religious backgrounds for many of the crime-fighting icons we know and love.

“Was Superman’s arch nemesis Lex Luthor based on Aleister Crowley? Can Captain Marvel be linked to the Sun gods on antiquity? In Our Gods Wear Spandex, Christopher Knowles answers these questions and brings to light many other intriguing links between superheroes and the enchanted world of estoerica. Occult students and comic-book fans alike will discover countless fascinating connections, from little known facts such as that DC Comics editor Julius Schwartz started his career as H.P. Lovecraft’s agent, to the tantalizingly extensive influence of Madame Blavatsky’s Theosophy on the birth of comics, to the mystic roots of Superman. The book also traces the rise of the comic superheroes and how they relate to several cultural trends in the late 19th century, specifically the occult explosion in Western Europe and America. Knowles reveals the four basic superhero archetypes–the Messiah, the Golem, the Amazon, and the Brotherhood–and shows how the occult Bohemian underground of the early 20th century provided the inspiration for the modern comic book hero.”

Anyone who has spent time dissecting “The Invisibles” or “Promethea” should definitely give this a look. As a longtime comic-book fan with an interest in the esoteric, this looks like a treasure-trove of information. You can listen to a podcast interview with the author, here.

NPR has a story about the changing face of Freemasonry. While much smaller than in its glory days (membership is around 1.8 million down from 4 million in the 1940s and 50s), the society with secrets is attracting a younger demographic interested not only in the fraternal aspects, but in reviving its esoteric rites.

“…the current renewed interest in Freemasonry has brought in men who take a more serious approach to the ritual than older generations did, and who want to tighten initiation standards and raise dues. But he says the fraternity must watch out for men who sign up because of misguided theories linking Freemasonry to ‘divine secrets.'”

This is tied to a larger push to revive the organization and attract new members.

“The lodge also hired a public relations firm to spread the word about its 225th anniversary, which was last month. And the Masons have run advertisements in movie theaters and run one-day classes to award the first three Masonic degrees in a single session. Until then, would-be Masons had to spend months learning what they needed to know to rise from Entered Apprentice to Fellowcraft to Master Mason.”

It would be interesting to see how the Masons navigate a middle ground between a more open membership and recruitment while pleasing newer members who want to return Freemasonry to a more ritualistic society with stringent entrance requirements.

Of course the history of Freemasonry is deeply entwined with the history of modern Pagan Witchcraft. According to several Pagan historians and scholars, including Ronald Hutton author of “The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft”, many terms and ritual aspects found in religious Witchcraft (and in the occult societies that preceded the emergence of Wicca) can be traced back to Freemasonry. One wonders if a renewed interest among younger people in Freemasonry will in turn spark a renaissance of occult societies and magical orders? Will our generation see a new Samuel “MacGregor” Mathers or William Westcott?