Archives For Gus diZerega

Pagan voices is a 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.

I’m going to start off this week’s edition of Pagan Voices with the short documentary “Britain’s Wicca Man,” where you can hear the very Pagan voices of Gerald Gardner, Philip Heselton, Christina Oakley Harrington, and others. Sadly, this version has been heavily edited from it’s original hour-long running time, leaving a scant 27 minutes to cover over 50 years of history.

Here’s hoping the full version is released on DVD, or on a streaming service. You can read more about this documentary, here. Now on to the rest of this week’s Pagan Voices…

Janet Farrar & Gavin Bone

Janet Farrar & Gavin Bone

“Something interesting is going on, as Pagans we have been waking the gods since the 1950′s. Voudon and the Caribbean traditions has a few hundred years on us! When you go to a Voudon Bembe, with its ecstatic drumming and dancing,  they come through really strong, riding (possessing) the participants. We are now reaching the point where this beginning to happen now in modern neo-paganism, even though it has only been fifty years.  This is because we have been waking the gods up. We have noticed something interesting as we have done the work. We are forming a Neo-Pagan pantheon. We only have a finite amount of energy to give the gods as spirits as they wake up.  You see the same gods and goddess coming up all the time in our community. Hecate, Brid, Isis, Morrigan, Freja, Odin, Diana etc.  Because there is only this finite amount of energy for them, they are congregating and forming a  new pantheon.  All awakened gods from different cultures forming a pantheon, and redefining roles.” – Gavin Bone, exploring the “waking” of ancient gods within a modern Pagan context, from a joint interview with Janet Farrar at PNC-Minnesota.

Teo Bishop

Teo Bishop

“The thing is, this is my life. This is me, right here, trying to be human. And I think my biggest challenge in being a part of ADF was that I didn’t feel like there was anyone really speaking to the challenges of being human. In a devotional religion, the emphasis is placed over there, not in here. The things that cut deeply for me, that are real and sometimes really difficult for me — things like compassion, despair, forgiveness, hope, kindness, patience, honesty — I don’t feel like we spend any time talking about these things. I think we experience these things, but they always feel secondary to “right relationship.” Frankly, I don’t care about right relationship. Or right action, for that matter. I think those concepts are distraction from the messy, mucky, complicated, beautiful acts of being human that have nothing to do with how virtuous or pious we are. I didn’t think I could earn my way into Heaven when I was a Christian, and I don’t think I can, through my own actions, earn my way into good standing with the Gods.” – Teo Bishop, explaining why he is leaving Ár nDraíocht Féin (ADF) and the Solitary Druid Fellowship he started, at his Bishop in the Grove site.

Beth Owl's Daughter

Beth Owl’s Daughter

“Our many ways of worshiping the Old Ones, or the Earth, or the Goddess, have truly begun to gel into traditions and teachings that are being handed down to new generations.  Although we are still facing massive, well-organized bigotry and misunderstanding, a slow dawning of credibility has begun. That’s why it is vital that we begin taking ourselves, and each other, as seriously as we would ask the wider culture to. Frankly, I am mighty tired of hearing my fellow Pagans squabble over their fears of becoming too “churchy,” or our leaders actually being trained and disciplined (the horror!), or whether this or that school has received state accreditation (because, while this would be ideal andwill happen someday, what is the CV of Lady TwinkleWolf, who iscurrently managing your local coven?). Meantime, the needs of our people are real, complex, and urgent. Our ill, our dying, our soldiers, our incarcerated members, our folks in legal turmoil, our groups in the media crosshairs — can usually only receive second-rate assistance, if any at all, from (usually, but not always!) well-meaning, make-it-up-as-you-go-along priestesses and priests.” – Beth Owl’s Daughter, on the journey from “faking it to making it” for modern Pagan clergy, at her Owl’s Wings blog.

Beth Lynch spinning.

Beth Lynch spinning.

“I think physical offerings are important, since we live in a material realm and we are incarnated at least partially to learn from both the freedoms and restrictions of the material world. Offering something tangible to the gods—whether a drink, some of one’s own blood, or a painting—gifts Them with something that we, as humans, are in a unique position to offer Them, since most of Them cannot directly access physical things without the aid of a horse (a human who willingly serves as a vehicle for Them to interact with and manipulate the material world). Some gifts—such as a poem or a dance—bridge the gap between physical and energetic offerings. The Havamal (the section of the Poetic Edda attributed to Odin) is often quoted as stating that it is better to not give at all than to give too much; I myself take issue with this. In my own practice, I share everything I do and everything I have with Odin, but for beginners to heathen practice, or new Odin devotees, I would say give what you are able to give; and by this I mean, what you are honestly able to give, not what you think you can get away with giving. I have faith in the ability of the gods to let us know when/if this is too much, or more than They want to receive from us, but in general I think it is not possible to give Them too much, when weighed against all the gifts They lavish upon us.” – Beth Lynch, explaining some basics for those just starting out on the Heathen path, at the Witches & Pagans’ PaganSquare.

Gus diZerega

Gus diZerega

“Over these past few weeks I have been moving. On Earth Day I built an outdoor altar in my new place and made my first offerings to the spirits of the place. I know from experience it will take some time to revive the energy of a place towards its human inhabitants. But with attention and good will, the revival will happen. The place will speak to me. Earth Day 2013 is symbolically a good day to start, but any day is better than none at all. I suggest those who are interested do likewise. For this to work well at enlivening your connection with the earth, make offerings at least weekly. You are building a relationship. And be patient. Ideally build your altar next to a part of the yard you do not do much with to bring under your control. At the very least do not spray poisons there. It is a place for other powers to prevail with as little interference as possible. This area does not have to be large. […]  As you make your offerings, ask for better connections between yourself and the spirits of your place. Thank them for the good things about where you live. Show sincere gratitude. Ask for their blessings. And again, be patient. Our culture has spent over 2000 years separating itself from awareness with the spirits of place and we can begin taking some important steps to reconnect.” – Gus diZerega, explaining how to reconnect yourself with the spirits of a place, in the June issue of The Interfaith Observer.

Chas Clifton

Chas Clifton

“The real St. Francis of Assisi was anything but serene. He was more like “Occupy Rome”  AD 1204 — an upper middle class young man angry at the establishment, demanding radical change in the Roman Catholic Church. But history has turned him into a bird bath — and perhaps that metamorphosis was inevitable. Growing up as a Forest Service brat, with an agnostic father and a devoutly Christian mother, I noticed that Christianity seemed to end at the edge of town. Relations with the other-than-human world were not discussed in church. The Episcopal Church’s Book of Common Prayer contained a prayer for rain, as I recall, and that was about all. For the rest, I was offered the secular gospel of conservation: scientific forestry, soil and water conservation, state-regulated hunting. At least that was better than what had gone before: cut-and-run timber cutting, market-hunting that wiped out species, the Dust Bowl… […] We could see Bird Bath Francis as an attempt to bridge these traditions, to consecrate a safe, protected, and  cultivated nature — if not the self-organizing wolf-ridden wilderness. Followers of what Bron Taylor calls “dark green religion,” which may not be at all theistic, might not be so easily persuaded by the monk of Assisi, were they to meet him on the path.” – Pagan scholar Chas Clifton, on St. Francis as an eco-saint, his current popular role as a birdbath ornament, and the development of eco-conscious religion in the modern era.

Lady Yeshe Rabbit. Photo: Greg Harder.

Lady Yeshe Rabbit

“Many of us have had the experience of walking into a tea house, cafe, or festival, locking eyes with a reader, and knowing it was time for a spontaneous divination. These in-the-moment adventures in mantic arts can be some of the best one-reading stands of one’s life. I’ll never forget the time I was 13 years old, on vacation with my family in Rockport, ME, when I had my first reading in a neon-palm store. The reader was spectacularly eccentric, dressed the part, and drew in a lively crowd of tourists. But she was also very accurate, mentioning pieces of information about my immediate social life and future experiences that have all come true: that I would not marry young, but would travel instead (I’d say moving cross-country and now engaged at 39 qualifies), that I would be a “healer but not a doctor or nurse” (in fact, I am both an herbalist and have served as a Public Health Educator), and – most importantly- that “You could do what I am doing if you wanted to” (and here I am!)  In no way am I discounting these awesome, perfect, synergistic moments when life throws you a diviner’s bone and says, “Now!” But for most of us, we find ourselves needing guidance at other times, when we might be raw or sensitive, or when Fate does not seem to be serving us up the perfect spontaneous moment out of the blue. Then we have to take matters into our own hands. The little guide I have written below is based on my experiences observing my clients, and will help you get the most out of a reading you might schedule with a professional.” – Yeshe Rabbit, founding High Priestess of CAYA Coven, from an essay on making the most of getting a reading.

Philip Carr-Gomm

Philip Carr-Gomm

“I have always been fascinated by Thoreau’s approach to living simply. His little hut in the woods at Walden Pond was an exercise in bringing life back to the basics as a way of understanding what is truly important. This act feels very Druidic in spirit. […]  There is something deeply liberating about shedding the trappings of consumerist living. Not everyone could function in this tiny hut but the beauty and simplicity of the design and the quest to become more aware of the excess and unnecessary accumulation that our society encourages, is something that could be embraced by any of us, regardless of where we live. The pertinent question to ask is what do we need to have a happy, comfortable life? The answer might be different for each of us but I suspect that we might agree that many of the things we gather about us serve only to weigh us down. The burden of so much stuff can be like wearing a heavy coat on a hot day; ah, the relief when we slip it off and feel the cooling air on our skin, the freedom to move without hinderance.” – Philip Carr-Gomm, founder of the Order of Bards Ovates & Druids, writing about living simply, prompted by a video about tiny homes.

Murtagh A. anDoile

Murtagh A. anDoile

“Every year, we are seeing the deaths of more Pagan Elders and Tradition Founders, community activists and spokespeople. As the Pagan community ages, we are getting further way from our origins. We find a greater need for a mythic history to fills in the blanks. […] We are calling for a historical narrative for the 50 plus years of American Paganism before it’s to late. [C]alled “The Pagan History Project”, we would create detailed histories of every area of the United States using historical verifiable data taken from a multitude of sources, as interviews and print media. It would include information from all historical perspectives, the actual and the mythic, even though controversial and contradictory, to create a cohesive narrative. The giving of credence to “Craft” myths is a valid means to show how such histories give validity to groups in a given area, and helps to define the community identity in said area. Myth gives communities a template for life and living, it introduces both spiritual and poetic truth. “The Pagan History Project” would be an interdisciplinary study to answer the need for more education and information for the growing pagan populace, scholars, the press, law enforcement, prison and military chaplains and anyone truly interested in the history of religion. […] Only by looking at our roots and antecedents in all forms will we be able to continue to craft community and identity as we go into the future.” – Murtagh A. anDoile, from a paper presented at the 8th Conference on Current Pagan Studies, which lead to the recently launched Pagan History Project (more on that here).

Valerie Herron

Valerie Herron

“Stepping back, this appears to be a very bleak series. I think is very important to point out is that the potential for redemption is in every one of this pieces. The key to the redemption in these pieces is choice. The characters in this series have the choice to act differently. Even in areas where no choice is for individual characters is present, the choice for societal intervention is always present. I don’t want this series to appear as a portrayal of a dire reality or an inescapable cycle of victimization, but more of a mirror for examination, why these things needs to change, and where the potential for change lies. Before the onslaught of hate mail arrives, I would like to point out that I acknowledge that am neither a sociologist nor a political scientist. I certainly do not claim to have any answers to these monumental problems. These pieces reflect my experiences as a working class US citizen, a female, and one who falls into many categories of being “other.” I claim no real authority or expertise in the massive social issues that I bring up in this series. My goal for this artwork is to contribute a different perspective to the dialogue already in place around these subjects.” – Valerie Herron, discussing her senior thesis project The Allegories of Subjugation. Valerie also happens to be the artist who did the current masthead for The Wild Hunt.

T. Thorn Coyle at the conference. Photo: Greg Harder.

T. Thorn Coyle

“Seek out that which kindles desire in you. Is it this song? That painting? People on the street? This nightclub? That forest? Is it the way you dance in the evening, when no one is around? Is it the photos of people rising up around the world? What is it? Cultivate desire. Follow beauty. Find that which touches you. Let it move you, let yourself act. We have a world to re-align toward love. We can’t do this if we do not desire. What is it? What does your heart want? What does your soul need? What makes you burst with compassion? What makes you feel angry, or fills you with sorrow? What helps you fall in love? What do you desire?” – T. Thorn Coyle, praising desire at her Know Thyself blog.

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

 

In his book “Her Hidden Children: The Rise of Wicca and Paganism in America” Pagan scholar Chas Clifton notes that the environmental awakening of 1970, the year of the first Earth Day, “was a year when Wicca (in the broad sense) became “nature religion,” as opposed to the “mystery religion” or “metaphorical fertility religion” labels that it had brought from England.” Since then, modern Pagans of many stripes, particularly Wiccans and Druids, have placed a special emphasis on being religions that care for, and have concern about, our natural environment. A who’s who of Pagans, both high-profile and not, have told the press, and the world, that we give special concern to problems facing our natural world, and further, that our faiths represent a positive shift away from abuse and towards sustainability.

“I think only spiritualities of sacred immanence are capable of doing earth justice, and I think that we, as Pagans, have a responsibility to act and speak in defense of this planet that has blessed us into existence.  If anyone can it is we who can argue for and sometimes introduce others to a direct experience of the sacrality of the earth. […]  Far from being anti-human, we need only enlarge that part of us which may be most unique, our hearts, to embrace what [Aldo Leopold] terms a “land ethic.” Such an ethic: ‘simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land.’” - Gus diZerega, Patheos.com

As Pagan chaplain and activist Patrick McCollum continues his historic visit to the Kumbh Mela in India, one of his primary messages to our Hindu cousins has been ecological awareness and restoration. From mucking trash in the Ganges river, to leading and blessing a march of Indian school children who are pledging to preserve the planet.

Patrick McCollum leads a march in India for preserving the Ganges and the planet.

Patrick McCollum leads a march in India for preserving the Ganges and the planet.

“Today I led a march of 5,000 school children along the banks of the Ganges to both clean up the sacred river, but also to call for world peace and the preservation of our environment generally. All of these things have been quite spontaneous, and our single act of mucking trash in front of all of the pilgrims has gone viral across the world.  There were TV stations from many countries and newspaper reporters everywhere.  The Governor and Minister and many other officials have joined with us, and banners and such are literally being created in the moment.  One TV station said this is the most significant event toward saving our planet in modern history. Swamiji got this idea to have the kids take a pledge to clean and preserve the planet, and it turned into a huge gathering.  I sat up in front with 5,000 children behind me and we all took the pledge together.”

Bron Taylor, author of “Dark Green Religion: Nature Spirituality and the Planetary Future”, believes that religions which embrace an ethos of environmentalism, or ecological sustainability, will thrive as our world’s climate troubles worsen.

“The forms I document in Dark Green Religion are much more likely to survive than longstanding religions, which involved beliefs in invisible, non-material beings. This is because most contemporary nature spiritualities are sensory (based on what we perceive with our senses, sometimes enhanced by clever gadgets), and thus sensible. They also tend to promote ecologically adaptive behaviors, which enhances the survival prospects of their carriers, and thus their own long-term survival prospects.”

But how far are Pagans, collectively, willing to go in defense of an Earth they call sacred? In a guest review of John Michael Greer’s new book “The Blood of the Earth” (Scarlet Imprint, 2012) from last year, UK Pagan Paracelsian wonders how deep our commitment to being “nature religions” actually goes.

“I’m not suggesting that individual Pagans are never involved with environmental activism, but I am convinced that this is not a priority for the vast majority of individuals who would identify as being Pagan. Greer’s work (and that of other authors who seek to engage contemporary Pagans with these issues: Emma Restall Orr, for example) should at least be encouraging members of the Pagan community to be asking some questions about what it means, in practice, to espouse a nature-based spirituality. This discussion is long overdue, and needed now more than ever, or Paganism will be never be any more than the “virtual religion” critiqued by Andy Letcher. How many self-identified Pagans can honestly live up to Chas Clifton’s challenge to “live so that someone ignorant about Paganism would know from watching your life or visiting your home that you followed an ‘earth religion”. It seems obvious to me that thinking about these questions is imperative if Paganism is not only going to survive, but also to make a positive contribution to the way that humanity relates to Nature in the future.”

It is from this lens that I think we should view the news that the Sierra Club, America’s oldest and largest environmental organization, founded by famed conservationist John Muir, has for the first time advocated civil disobedience to its membership.

Sierra Club Executive Director Mike Brune

Sierra Club Executive Director Mike Brune

“For civil disobedience to be justified, something must be so wrong that it compels the strongest defensible protest. Such a protest, if rendered thoughtfully and peacefully, is in fact a profound act of patriotism. For Thoreau, the wrongs were slavery and the invasion of Mexico. For Martin Luther King, Jr., it was the brutal, institutionalized racism of the Jim Crow South. For us, it is the possibility that the United States might surrender any hope of stabilizing our planet’s climate.” 

The first test of this new call for civil disobedience will be at a Washington DC rally this February in opposition to the expansion of the Keystone XL pipeline. However, even if no arrests are made at this rally, it marks a major shift for the Sierra Club, which has preferred lobbying, deal-making, and advocacy over the more direct methods of groups like Greenpeace or Friends of the Earth. It erodes the idea that mere advocacy, or being ideologically behind better environmental policy, is sufficient in the current environment. It means that support for the Sierra Club implicitly means supporting civil disobedience for the environment.

This is a moment of challenge for those Pagans who espouse an eco-spirituality, who want to practice an Earth or nature religion. If the “safe” moderate environmental group says it’s now time for civil disobedience, do we follow suit? Do our leaders also say “enough” and call for civil disobedience? For direct action in the face of climate crisis? Such calls have usually come from “activist” Pagans like Starhawk, and her critics have often accused her of politicizing Paganism, but are we now at a different moment? Is this the moment where we move beyond recycling and buying the Sierra Club calendar, into advocating for direct action? Not just prayers and spells, but our bodies on the front lines? I don’t know the answers to these questions, but perhaps it’s time we had a renewed discussion about what, exactly, Wiccans, Druids, and other Pagan faiths that espouse the natural world as sacred and alive, should do in the face of a now impossible to ignore climate crisis. The Sierra Club has made a decision, and perhaps that should press us to collectively make one too.

Pagans are a part of the web and weave of everyday culture. We’ve emerged from being a largely subcultural religious phenomenon and have steadily gained increasing attention, most notably from the mainstream media. For example, The Huffington Post’s new HuffPost Live initiative held a group interview on Halloween with Teo BishopAmy BlackthornGus DiZeregaMorgan Copeland and Patrick McCollum. As expected, they covered some basics, talked about Samhain, and shared their personal perspectives on modern Paganism.

HuffPo Screenshot

You can watch the entire interview, here. In addition, Teo Bishop shares some of the conversation that happened after the formal interview ended.

“Perhaps the most exciting part of the experience for me was what happened after the Google Hangout ended. The panelists stayed on the call and talked for a good 30 minutes more, sharing perspectives about a whole variety of topics. We re-addressed some of what happened while we were on the air, and there are a few things that stuck out that I’d like to get your take on.”

A shame the follow-up conversation wasn’t recorded! In any case, this was a nice Pagan-centered exploration of our interconnected faiths, and I’m glad that HuffPost Live garnered such an impressive lineup! Congratulations!

On a less serious note – Pagans also got a bit of inadvertent mainstream attention from late-night talk show host Conan O’Brien when he showcased a number of magazines that will outlive Newsweek’s print edition. Among the titles picked? Why our own Witches & Pagans Magazine, featuring M. Macha NightMare on the cover!

conan macha

You can get a closer shot of Conan holding the magazine, here. You can watch the entire video segment, here. Now W&P editor Anne Newkirk Niven (and Macha) can add “as seen on Conan” to her publications resume! For those worried about if this was a negative portrayal, don’t worry, Conan’s show is on TBS.

On a more serious note, while it’s fun to see ourselves on HuffPost Live, or even on Conan, it’s good to remember that we’re more than what appears on popular media outlets. That many Pagans are dedicated to service, healing, and responding to those in need. Pagan elder Peter Dybing, a first responder who has served in earthquake-ravaged Haiti, the Gulf Coast during the Deepwater Horizon disaster, and several larger forest/brush fires, reports from an East Coast ravaged by Hurricane Sandy.

121031085525 30 sandy damage 1031 horizontal gallery

An overview of the fire damage in Queens, New York, following Hurricane Sandy.

“As new missions evolve and priorities change the mission of my team keeps changing. Primarily we are clearing roads of downed trees so relief supplies and emergency vehicles can get through. The devastation is complete along the shore on Long Island. Thousands of cars along with hundreds of homes lie buried in the sand. Most heart breaking of all is the evacuee’s staying in the same place as the disaster teams. Their stories of hardship and loss have brought me to tears on multiple occasions. Hardest of all is remaining focused on our mission and not assisting the evacuees with issues outside our assignment.  My heart breaks for these families.” 

For some Pagan efforts to raise money for those affected by Hurricane Sandy, see my Community Notes post from Thursday. Our prayers go with Peter and all the other first responders working in the aftermath to help those affected rebuild. Our prayers also go out to those still struggling without power, without resources, or without a home.

Taken together, these impression complicate the picture some try to paint of our faiths, our movement. It reminds the world that we share their common humanity, and that we are a part of a larger community, even as we are a part of our own.

While you enjoy your brunch, why not peruse some interesting articles and essays to be found at our Pagan channel?

  • “A Typology of Pagan Groups” by Aidan Kelly: “Given the commonality of the basic Gardnerian liturgical pattern, it is useful to propose a typology based on how closely the various Pagan groups resemble the Gardnerians, resemblances created because it was the “Gardnerian magnet, as Chas Clifton labeled it, that set off the Pagan Renaissance in the 1960s.”
  • “Encountering Pagan Deities” by Gus diZerega: “One important respect among several where NeoPagan practice differs from mainstream American religion is our relation to our deities. We consider the sacred as immanent in the world, whether or not we also include a transcendent dimension as well. (I do.) The sacred is around us, all the time, if we but have the eyes to see it, ears to hear it, and heart to feel it.”
  • “The Indigeny Debate” by P. Sufenas Virius Lupus: “The present column’s subject at this juncture is likely to be one that many people vehemently disagree with me on. And many of those who disagree will be people whose work I enjoy, whose views I respect, and whose beings I love, and who (needless to say) I know personally. I don’t mean this to be offensive toward them in any manner; I am merely seeking to nuance a certain term’s usage, and to inject what I think is a needed critical note into a usage that doesn’t get as much attention or questioning as I think it deserves.”
  • “Paganism Beyond the Warm and Fuzzy” by Teo Bishop: “All things have their place, and there is certainly a place for the warm and fuzzy in Paganism. But I think it’s also necessary to remember that there are parts of nature, and aspects of the Kindred we worship, that can be violently cold, fiercely wild, and terribly awe inspiring.”
  • “Best Man” by Eric Scott: “This is not the first wedding where I have been part of the bridal party; for that matter, it isn’t the first Catholic wedding I’ve been a part of, either. I like being in the wedding, and I am genuinely honored to be asked to play such a role for my friends. But it leaves me uneasy, too. I have never managed to enter a church without someone making a perfunctory joke about me bursting into flames the moment I enter the nave. The jokes may be in fun, but there’s a nugget of truth in them: there’s something genuinely incongruous about my presence here. However lovely the building, I don’t belong in it.”

BONUS: Remember all the fuss back in 2010 over  Christine O’Donnell‘s candidacy? The infamous “I’m not a Witch” ad?  O’Donnell completely dominated the election news cycle that year thanks to comments made over ten years ago that she had “dabbled” with “witchcraft”. The abundance of mean-spirited mockery had some in our community questioning why “dabbling” in a minority religion is such a deal-breaker for political office.

Now, talk show host Bill Maher, who released the “witch” comments from an old show, apologized personally to O’Donnell this past Friday, saying that “I don’t agree with your ideas but it shouldn’t have hung on that stupid witch thing.” O’Donnell, for her part, admitted that some of the damage was self-inflicted, and that she may run for office again in the future.

That’s it for now, have a great day! Looking for something to listen to while you read? Why not check out my A Darker Shade of Pagan podcast?

Happy Monday! It’s a bit of a slow news day, must be a festival-season thing, so let’s check out some of the great content available here at the Patheos Pagan portal.

Herne the Hunter. Illustration by Alan E. Cober (1973).

Herne the Hunter. Illustration by Alan E. Cober (1973).

  • At his new Patheos blog Raise the Horns, Jason Mankey wonders how the Celtic god Cernunnos became the dominant Horned God figure within modern Wicca and related Pagan faiths, when it was Pan who enjoyed tremendous popularity in the poetic and artistic fore-bearers to Wicca. Quote: “However, while Pan is the proto-type for our modern image of the Horned God, another god, the Celtic Cernunnos, has superseded him. If you look at most modern images of the Horned God, he tends to look far more Cernunnosy than Pan-like. It’s more likely the Horned God will be sporting antlers than goat horns. His face tends to be more “man-like” and less goat influenced, and he usually has human legs instead of goaty ones.” Check out the responses, they’re top-notch! [For the record, I’m team Herne the Hunter.]
  • Sarah Whedon, founding editor of the Pagan Families site, who recently released a new ebook through Patheos Press entitled “Birth on the Labyrinth Path: Sacred Embodiment in the Childbearing Year,” shares why she wrote the book. Quote: “I was nevertheless newly saddened when, during my pregnancy with my first child, I searched and searched for a book that would offer Pagan guidance on this huge life transition, and found nothing. My bookshelves reveal my hopeless bibliophilia. I had books about fertility awareness, pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, the postpartum period, and midwifery. A few of them are especially Pagan friendly, but none of them is really Pagan.”
  • Patheos columnist P. Sufenas Virius Lupus lets you know that he’s your worst nightmare! Quote: “As someone who is a “full-blown Pagan” in every respect—not godless by any stretch of the imagination, but “gods-ful” to an extent most monotheists couldn’t even fathom—as well as having a practice based in devotion to Antinous, a god who received a great deal of censure from the early Christian fathers not only because it was “idolatrous” in their opinion but because he was a deified mortal who was once the lover of the Emperor Hadrian, and as someone who is a “full-blown queer” as well in terms of sexual orientation and gender identity, I look at myself in the mirror and I realize that even at my lowest, I epitomize the fears of many of these people who use such scare-tactics to suggest that legal approval of same-sex marriage is wrong.”
  • Meanwhile, fellow Patheos columnist Gus diZerega provides a different candidate for worst nightmare: The New Apostolic Reformation. Quote: “Christian dominionists seeking to impose theocratic rule on others are powerful beyond their numbers, and Pagans should keep a sharp eye on them. Their power comes from two factors:  First, they manipulate our system to influence high levels of government.  Second, and more importantly, they take advantage of a flaw that I hope will not be fatal to how American elections are conducted.” I’ve written a ton about these guys, and they are indeed pretty scary.
  • At his Including Paganism blog, Aidan Kelly reminds us that all religions start out as new religions. Quote: “All religions have at least one foundational myth as well as an actual history. The myth is not historically true, but instead transmits some of the spiritual values on which the religion is based. The history is true in fact, but, as history, cannot convey values.” Kelly’s recent post on why Wicca is a major world religion is also worth checking out.

There’s obviously much, much, more to be found here, but I’ll leave you with those selections. For even more Pagan blogging goodness, check out recent posts from the Pagan Newswire Collective blogs, and the PaganSquare blogs at the Witches & Pagans site (now with added Byron Ballard and Hecate Demeter). Have a great day!

[The following is a guest post from Paul Louis Metzger and John W. Morehead. Paul Louis Metzger, Ph.D. is Professor of Christian Theology and Theology of Culture at Multnomah Biblical Seminary/Multnomah University; Charter Member, Evangelical Chapter of the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy. John W. Morehead is Director, Western Institute for Intercultural Studies; Director, Evangelical Chapter of the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy.]

Rob Kerby, Senior Editor at beliefnet, wrote a recent article titled “What can the Third World teach us about witchcraft?.” This has resulted in the concern of and critique by Pagans, but it should also interest those in other religious communities. We are practicing Evangelical Christians, and we are very interested in what Christians and Pagans have to say about one another in hopes of light being shed on our respective spiritual pathways. Unfortunately, misunderstanding, misrepresentation, and hostility have been characteristic traits of our exchanges throughout history. In our minds, Kerby’s article only intensified this problem.

After reading the Kerby article, we are left wondering what the piece teaches us about witchcraft. While we did not necessarily learn anything about witchcraft from his essay, we did learn that he believes witchcraft in all its forms does great damage to civilization in the “Third World” and elsewhere, and that strong measures should be taken to eradicate it from the West. In addition to other problematic features, we were deeply concerned that Kerby claims that witchcraft is a capital offense in Saudi Arabia, punishable by beheading. Why did he make this claim? Is this something the “Third World” can teach us about witchcraft, or is this one of many sensational claims by Kerby?

Those in Pagan circles have responded strongly to the piece, and with good reason. Kerby provides no solid substantiation for his claims, demonstrates a lack of familiarity with the spiritual practices and beliefs he critiques, and as a result, the piece creates fear and suspicion of witchcraft (and broader Paganism as well). While Christians have often accused Paganism of superstition, the irony is that the Christian community has often approached Paganism superstitiously. Kerby’s piece only adds to the superstition and suspicion, made worse by the stereotypes and fears that often underlie such representations.

What we learned from reading Kerby’s essay and the responses to it from Pagans is that we have a long way to go in pursuit of charity and sound argumentation in our post-Christendom and pluralistic public square. We are charter members of the Evangelical Chapter of the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy. Our chapter aims to develop interreligious relationships and conversations in civility and without compromise with those of other religious and spiritual traditions. Our work in the chapter represents a new movement in Evangelicalism. The chapter seeks accuracy and fairness in understanding, and embodies a relational and dialogical approach, while addressing substantial differences in practice and belief between various religious and spiritual communities. Two examples of this approach are the books Beyond the Burning Times: A Pagan and Christian in Dialogue (written by Philip Johnson and Gus diZerega, and edited by John Morehead; published by Lion, UK, April 2009), and Connecting Christ: How to Discuss Jesus in a World of Diverse Paths (Paul Louis Metzger; Thomas Nelson, May 2012—this work includes an article on Paganism and a response by Gus diZerega). We have been very grateful for our charitable and constructive engagements in reasoned argumentation with Dr. diZerega (who mentioned our exchanges in his beliefnet post on Kerby’s article). We welcome other opportunities for such collaboration. We also encourage Evangelicals to get involved in our FRD chapter and for Pagans to form their own FRD chapter so as to have a place at the table with other religions and spiritual paths. Over time, such collaboration may help mitigate against depictions like Kerby’s.

In our post-Christendom, pluralistic public square, Christians must learn to show respect for other belief and praxis systems by substantiating our claims and criticisms and arguing for the cogency of our own convictions on level ground also occupied by others. We must also seek to demonstrate that our Christian convictions promote the common good and pursue conversations with others from varying viewpoints who would do the same. One person self-identified as “unap” wrote in a comment posted in response to the Kerby article: “Crimes against humanity – death, torture, sacrifice, grave robbing and mutilation – are crimes pretty much everywhere. They need no special pleading for more punishment because you think those crimes are belief based.” Solid argument on level ground in civility.

We encourage both Evangelicals and Pagans to enter into sustained dialogue, with the former through our chapter, and the latter through the formation of a FRD chapter. The only way we will move beyond witch hunts and superstition is if we enter into public square discourse with level heads in search of charity and sound arguments.

“No dogma taught by the present civilization seems to form so insuperable an obstacle in a way of a right understanding of the relations which culture sustains as to wilderness, as that which declares that the world was made especially for the uses of men. Every animal, plant, and crystal controverts it in the plainest terms. Yet it is taught from century to century as something ever new and precious, and in the resulting darkness the enormous conceit is allowed to go unchallenged.”John Muir

Despite the fact that it has been co-opted for all sorts of bizarre and cynical purposes over the years, as a Pagan I still find Earth Day a worthy, and historically important, day. Originally a teach-in on environmental issues, it has since become a global moment where we collectively stop and take stock of how we are treating our home. Since before the very first Earth Day in 1970, many modern Pagans have embraced and incorporated the idea of being Nature Religions, in addition to religions of fertility or mystery.

Pagan activist Patrick McCollum holding the Earth flag.

Pagan activist Patrick McCollum holding the Earth flag.

“The spirit of Earth Day 1970 did not just happen; its roots could include the gradual stirring of environmental consciousness that accelerated in the 1960s, but that stirring itself had deeper roots in an American consciousness of a special relationship with the land, even if that relationship was often abusive. Still, if there was a year when Wicca (in the broad sense) became “nature religion,” as opposed to the “mystery religion” or “metaphorical fertility religion” labels that it had brought from England, that year was 1970.” – Chas Clifton, Her Hidden Children: The Rise of Wicca and Paganism in America

Modern Pagan and Heathen faiths, whether they identify as “nature religions” or not, have a special sacral relationship with the natural world. Our gods and goddesses can be found in oceans, rivers, forests, and mountains (indeed, in many cultures, Earth is the primal mother of most acknowledged gods and powers), some pre-Christian cultures envision a World Tree that binds reality together. Our rites often mark the changing seasons, and once tracked the progress of crops essential to our survival. Deity is not merely a transcendent force separate from creation, deity is everywhere and within every thing. Each of us holds the potential to be like the gods, and we acknowledge that the gods and powers walk and exist among us still. So it isn’t surprising that many Pagans feel a special urging to advocate for the environment and the protection of the natural world.

To Pagan elder and political scientist Gus diZerega, our faiths have a special role within the environmental movement.

“I think only spiritualities of sacred immanence are capable of doing earth justice, and I think that we, as Pagans, have a responsibility to act and speak in defense of this planet that has blessed us into existence.  If anyone can it is we who can argue for and sometimes introduce others to a direct experience of the sacrality of the earth. […]  Far from being anti-human, we need only enlarge that part of us which may be most unique, our hearts, to embrace what [Aldo Leopold] terms a “land ethic.” Such an ethic: ‘simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land.'”

However, a sacred care for the Earth need not be solely a Pagan practice, no matter what some reactionary individuals believe, just look at the example of Sister Virginia (Ginny) Jones.

“In 1990 […] Sister Ginny’s own love of Nature took a new turn: she established the Eco-Spirituality Center at the Transformations Spirituality Center on the Nazareth campus. The Eco-Spirituality Center offers programs designed to increase environmental awareness and teach people to live in harmony with Nature. […]  One of the outgrowths of this work is Sister Ginny’s latest and most ambitious project: the Manitou Arbor Ecovillage. “We are forming a community of people who want to demonstrate how to live with the natural environment,” said Sister Ginny. […] “I would really like to see Earth Day become the kind of consciousness that focuses on our relationship to the natural world and to this Earth that we all live on,” she said.”

As the effects of climate change start to seriously endanger the lives and lively-hood of people in countries like Bolivia, an ethos of “wild law” is being formalized in hopes that “a new relationship between man and nature” can occur. As “green living” stops being an ethical lifestyle choice and starts becoming a fiscal and environmental necessity, I think ideas of immanence and interconnectedness will naturally develop alongside them. We require a positive narrative for the changes we make in our culture and lives, even if they are changes made because we have run out of other options. As this gradual shift happens, modern Pagans can become the philosophical, spiritual, and ethical leaders we have often supposed we could (or should) be.

“Pagans should be at the forefront of the environmental movement. We should put into practice the green living techniques learned over the last decades and show the world we take seriously what we preach: Earth is our Mother and we will honor Her by becoming green beacons for others to gravitate to.”

Today, with immense environmental challenges facing us, from climate change and the destruction of natural ecosystems to the impending fresh water shortages, the ideals and message of Earth Day are more vital than they have ever been.

Watch Earth Days on PBS. See more from American Experience.

Want to get active? Find out where you’re at, reduce your carbon footprint (and your water footprint), support small farms and eat ethically, teach on global climate change as a moral issue, invest green, vote green, and go green.

“I will sing of well-founded Earth, mother of all, eldest of all beings. She feeds all creatures that are in the world, all that go upon the goodly land, and all that are in the paths of the seas, and all that fly: all these are fed of her store.” – Homer

Let’s make every day Earth Day.

Top Story: Indian Country Today reports on a new documentary, “Holy Man: The USA vs. Douglas White,” that looks at the case of a Lakota medicine man who was accused of abusing his two grandchildren. Jennifer Jessum and Simon Joseph, a husband and wife duo who produced and directed the film, knew White through a member of his family, and were shocked to hear about the charges made against him. After White was convicted and sentenced to prison, they investigated the matter and uncovered several “holes” in the prosecution, and eventually, saw one of the grandchildren recant his testimony.

[Roy Helper Jr.] met the film crew at a hotel in Rapid City, and he confessed on film that he had lied about the alleged abuse. He said that he and his brother, Lloyd, were under tremendous pressure from lawyers, judges and “people in suits,” and he said the experience was frightening. He also indicated that they were coaxed to say certain things. In return, they were told they would get money, toys, even a horse. (They received none of those things.) “We were just little, dumb, stupid Indian kids, being tossed around,” Helper says in Holy Man, his voice choked with emotion. “Eventually it’s going to come out. Like today.”

Despite a cascading series of events that proved White’s innocence, the U.S. Attorney’s office engaged in stalling and delaying tactics, and White died in prison in 2009 before he could be exonerated. There is now a petition to have President Obama posthumously exonerate Douglas White, apologize for his wrongful conviction, make reparations to White’s family, and initiate an investigation into the agents who pursued the case against White. The filmmakers are now working on issues of Tribal sovereignty, and the epidemic of teen suicide in Indian country. DVDs of the film are expected to be available this Summer.

In Other News:

  • Actress Lynn Collins, one of the stars of the new Disney film “John Carter,” tells an Irish reporter that she studied “mysticism, paganism, everything” and that ultimately “they’re all the same thing.”
  • Pagan and political scientist Gus diZerega has a new article published in The Independent Review entitled “Spontaneous Order and Liberalism’s Complex Relation to Democracy.” Here’s the abstract: “American and European liberalism began to take different paths in the nineteenth century, particularly with respect to their views on democracy. This divergence stems in part from the fact that liberal principles give rise to different types of spontaneous order, each of which generates unique patterns of social coordination.” You can download the article for free. For diZerega’s Pagan work, check out his column at Patheos, and his blog at Beliefnet.
  • Archaeologists in Norway have apparently uncovered a “unique” and “unparalleled” pre-Christian temple site. It is believed the temple was built around 400AD and that “the last people who used it over 1,000 years ago did their utmost to hide the entire system with an unusually thick layer of soil.” Despite the historic nature of the site, the land is scheduled to be cleared for a housing development. Applications are currently being made to have the site preserved.
  • Rev. G. Jude Geiger, a Unitarian Universalist minister, writes about the concept of religious freedom in our highly polarized political atmosphere. Quote: “By requiring citizens to follow the religious teachings of certain faith traditions, we in essence are asking our country to follow and abide by those particular traditions.”
  • The Supreme Court of the United States has refused to hear an appeal to a 9th Circuit Court decision that upheld a California state universities policy requiring all student groups, including religious groups, to not discriminate in membership on the basis of religion or sexual orientation. More on this, here. You’ll be hearing a LOT about this decision in the coming weeks, and I expect I’ll put in my two cents sooner rather than later.

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

In a continuing effort to keep my readers up to date on the ongoing conversations centered around the 2012 PantheaCon in San Jose, where debate, protest, and controversy emerged around a scheduled “genetic women only” ritual led by Dianic elder Z. Budapest, I have rounded up another round of statements and meditations on the subject. For those just coming to this discussion, I advise you start with my February 21st post, then move on to my first discussion round-up, before engaging with this latest round of entries.

That’s all I have for now. Let me remind everyone who takes part in conversation here at The Wild Hunt, to keep comments civil, and avoid personal attacks. Let us all bring more light to this process. I want this to be a space where all voices can come to be heard, in hopes of encouraging productive dialog and working towards understandings that collectively enrich us.

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than I can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.

That’s it for now! Feel free to discuss any of these links in the comments, some of these I may expand into longer posts as needed.