Archives For Glenn Turner

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

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

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

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

starhawk 5 19 04

Starhawk

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

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

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

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

Joseph Merlin Nichter (aka WitchDoctorJoe)

Joseph Merlin Nichter (aka WitchDoctorJoe)

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

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

David Salisbury

David Salisbury

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

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

T. Thorn Coyle

T. Thorn Coyle

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

Glenn Turner (Photo: OaklandNorth)

Glenn Turner (Photo: OaklandNorth)

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

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

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

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

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

For full quotes, please see links below.

Glenn Turner

T. Thorn Coyle

Joseph Nichter

Pagan voices is a new spotlight on recent quotations from figures within the Pagan community. These voices may appear in the burgeoning Pagan media, or from a mainstream outlet, but all showcase our wisdom, thought processes, and evolution  in the public eye. Is there a Pagan voice you’d like to see highlighted? Drop me a line with a link to the story, post, or audio.

Ruth Barrett and Melissa Murry at PSG (Photo: PNC-MN)

Ruth Barrett and Melissa Murry at PSG (Photo: PNC-MN)

“Out of this conversation, Ruth and I parted ways but I feel that a great shift had begun. I was looking at where she was coming from and understand her perspective in a way that I had not been even considered before. I felt Ruth had come away with new insight from my workshop and our discussion also. She changed her language and spoke of “both/and” instead of “us/them”. That time was instrumental as we were able to connect before PSG’s media event. And my perspectives prior to this conversation had changed as well. While the ritual was hurtful in its exclusion, I acknowledged that the need for this space was necessary, as well as space for all people who share common experiences together. I believe when trans-men and women have space to connect, heal, and emerge that the conversation might change. And we can share a space together in main ritual events!” – Melissa Murry, from a statement sent to PNC-Minnesota in the wake of a press conference held at Pagan Spirit Gathering on Saturday, featuring Rev. Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary, Dianic High Priestess Ruth Barrett, and Murry, a transgendered activist.

Kenny Klein

Kenny Klein

“I think that number one, the Pagan Festival phenomenon is not well known. People who identify as Pagans don’t even realize that festivals exist. I don’t know if that’s because the festivals don’t advertise, or if people aren’t utilizing avenues like Witchvox, but for some reason people don’t know about Pagan Festivals. Secondly I think that when people visit Pagan Festivals they have unreasonable expectations. There are two extremes I’ve personally seen. The one extreme involves people who seem to think that the Pagan Festival experience should be the same experience as a Renaissance Faire or SCA event. The other extreme has people, and I think you and I talked about this, who say that if they go to a Pagan Festival three states away they’ll be outed at work and fired. That’s a very unrealistic expectation about who is there and what type of people run festivals. To answer your original question, I think that a large number of Pagan authors don’t know that these festivals exist.”Kenny Klein, musician and author of “Through The Faerie Glass: A Look at the Realm of Unseen and Enchanted Beings,” on why only a small percentage of Pagans attend Pagan festivals.

Shauna Aura Knight

Shauna Aura Knight

“I find myself as an unlikely ambassador in Chicago for the inclusion of transgendered people. Many ask me, “Why do you say, ‘all genders’ , isn’t there only two?” That is what I thought a few years ago and after  I have met, worked with, and lived with several transgendered people, my views have changed. I know I don’t always understand or connect with all the issues a transgendered person may encounter.  I do understand, as a heavily built woman, sometimes not liking my own body or feeling betrayed by my body. There is where I can find compassion. What we really need is more education, particularly in the Midwest, surrounding these issues.”Shauna Aura Knight, teacher and ritual leader, discussing her support for Melissa Murry at Pagan Spirit Gathering.

Crystal Blanton
Crystal Blanton

“How exciting of a time we live with the evolution of human kind and within a Pagan community that allows for such reflections of diversity in opinion, ethnicity, practice, beliefs, socio-economic statues and even varying contributions. Blessed Be the chances to grow and evolve. I am happy to be on this journey with those who choose and if you don’t, for whatever reason, may you find what you need. If you are looking for an avenue to express your spiritual self without multicultural faces like mine, may you find that too but you won’t find it here.”Crystal Blanton, author of “Bridging the Gap: Working Within the Dynamics of Pagan Groups and Society,” on diversity and acceptance within the Pagan community.

Glenn Turner (Photo: OaklandNorth)

Glenn Turner (Photo: OaklandNorth)

“One of the things we do is we provide hope for people, and very personalized customer service. When people come in here, frequently they want a candle that will bring money or love to them. We help them focus and understand how to focus their intent to bring these things into their lives. [...] I don’t know if it’s been scientifically proven that this kind of thing works, but in my mind, it’s been proven. [...]  I think because so many of us have scientific backgrounds and education, people seek out something spiritual, but they’re not really wanting a list of ‘thou-shall-not’s. They want something that connects them back to the Earth.” - Glenn Turner, owner of Ancient Ways in Oakland, California, and founder of PantheaCon in San Jose.

Sannion (Photo: Dver)

Sannion (Photo: Dver)

“We erected the shrine on a tree trunk that extended out over the river. We made a ring of flowers, jewelry and candles, set up a little bowl and a pretty card, stabbed sticks of incense into the moist earth beside it and then hung strips of cloth and the little head I’d decorated on nearby trees. Then Dver sang to the nymphs, we poured out libations of mead, offered them fresh honeycomb and the other things we’d brought, I recited my hymn to the Willamette, and Dver released the floating candles lit into the river and drowned the rusalka doll. Then we spent some time privately communing with the spirits of the place.”Sannion (H. Jeremiah Lewis), a contributor to “Written In Wine: A Devotional Anthology For Dionysos,” on the celebration of the Naiad Nymphaia in Eugene, Oregon.

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

This past Saturday in Berkeley, California was the one-day conference TheurgiCon, an intensive that focuses on the practice of theurgy, the use of magic and ritual to invoke (or evoke) the gods. This year’s line-up included Tony Mierzwicki, Brandy Williams, Don Frew, Diana Young, and Sam Webster. COG (now on Facebook) members Rachael Watcher and Greg Harder were there on behalf of the Pagan Newswire Collective to cover the event. First, here’s an interview with TheurgiCon founder and organizer Glenn Turner (who also founded PantheaCon).

Here’s their report on TheurgiCon.

It was a room full of mostly older folks dressed in varying ideas of LL Bean casual, coffee in hand, milling about prior to settling down to work for the day; your usual run of the mill business meeting with the usual number of computers, reference books and notated materials. However, with the opening statements of the first speaker, it became obvious that this was not your parent’s kind of business.

Welcome to Theurgicon 2010, held on August 28, in Berkeley California. The brain child of Glenn Turner, long time Witch and veteran Convention organizer, it was a one day symposium, the goal of which was to cover all you ever wanted to know about Theurgy but were afraid to ask; and believe me, you had better be paying attention because the information that proceeded from the day’s speakers was dense, deep, and fast paced. It was, in this attendee’s opinion a masterpiece in organization. Five speakers were arranged in such order as to present basic historical information first, with each speaker building upon the work of his or her predecessor. Each succeeding speaker moving forward in time, followed the thread of theurgy as it developed from its most ancient roots to its present day practice in such organizations as the Open Source Order of The Golden Dawn and British Traditional Wica.

Tony Mierzwicki started the morning followed by Brandy Williams, and Don Frew. They took us from the root and branch of Hermeticism through the development of theugy and the Chaldean Oracles, Platonic cosmology and theurgic practice, to Neo-Platonic cosmology, praxis and its part in Western Occult magical traditions today. They shared elements of ritual practice simple tools and technique. Whew! It reminded me of nothing less than those college lectures where you were afraid to take notes in fear that you would miss something vital. Mr. Mierzwicki and Ms. Williams are accomplished writers and Mr. Frew felt obliged to joke that being a Gardnerian had put a real crimp in his ability to publish though it should be said that he is a historian of note in British Traditional Wica.

By the time time lunch happened our brains were full. I needed the break to digest what had already transpired and I am no new comer to any of the material presented. Lunch was followed by a presentation from Diana Young on The Nexus of Mystic and Magus, and Sam Webster finished up with a discussion of the future of theurgy. He called for altars in public places, the establishment of temples, and clergy to serve the developing laity. He encouraged us to sample deeply, collecting “whole sets” creating synergy, to develop our own interpretations, to think of ways to make our presence more known. I suggested that perhaps we should take a page from the x-geners and practice flash rituals [a reference to "flash mobs" - ed]. Apparently that struck a nerve because many came up to me after the conference to ask if I were serious and when would we start. Let me encourage you who have the knowledge and industry to go forth and flash and may the Gods be with you.

The day of academic pursuit was followed by equally deep and thoughtful conversations in the Hospitality suite accompanied by wine and food. I wandered about seeking impressions of the day from participants. Gus diZerega, author and teacher commented, “I think it was a great presentation. It far exceeded my hopes. The quality of the presentations was wonderful, the variety of perspectives fascinating …” Barbara Cormack, head of the Open Source Golden Dawn, “I came because I feel that my tradition is one of the modern flowerings and an inheritor of theugric practice. I was curious to see what the speakers would do with that topic and I wasn’t disappointed…” Nathan Bjorge, presenter at PantheaCon on Neo Platonic practice “I think that this was a wonderful opportunity for different traditions to come together and explore this history, this context for our modern pagan traditions…” Everyone agreed that it was a great success, worth the money and stated that they looked forward to next year’s presentations with interest as well as curiosity as to how, as a concept, this symposium would develop.

Glenn Turner promises a published presentation of the papers presented, and I look forward to that. I’m also delighted that this is only an annual event. It will take me that long to digest what transpired here today.

I’d like to thank Rachael and Greg for covering the event, and allowing me to share it with you here at The Wild Hunt. I’m hoping this kind of local coverage inspires the formation of a PNC news bureau for the Bay Area of California. As one of the most populous Pagan hot-spots in the country I’m sure there’s no end to the news and events to be covered.

Speaking of California-based Pagan coverage, I’d like to quickly point you to Joanne Elliott, the LA Pagan Examiner, who’s been doing a lot of great local-based coverage. Notably, the plight of Pagan elder Ed Fitch, who’s been fighting to keep his home. That is exactly the kind of stuff that a robust Pagan journalism should be looking into (that, and thousands of other things).

ADDENDUM: Here’s presenter Tony Mierzwicki’s experiences of TheurgiCon.