Archives For Isaac Bonewits

TWH – This month, the Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship membership voted on a new board of directors. Included in that process was the election of a new Archdruid. This position serves as the president of the ADF board and is considered to be both the organization’s administrative and spiritual leader. This year, members chose Rev. Jean Pagano, also known as Drum, to take the organizational reins from outgoing Archdruid Rev. Kirk Thomas.

[Courtesy Sean Harbaugh]

Rev. Jean Pagano, also known as Drum [Photo Credit: S. Harbaugh]

In a press release, Drum said, “I am touched and honored that people have chosen me to be their Archdruid – it is not a challenge that I take lightly and I promise to be Archdruid to all members.” He thanked the membership, the other candidates, the officers of the Mother Grove as well as the “Earth Mother, the Kindreds, and all of the people who have made ADF what it is today.”

Who is Drum? What is his background, and what does he envision for the future of ADF? In August 2015, fellow druid, ADF board member and priest, Sean Harbaugh interviewed Drum specifically about the organization’s work and his role as the Vice Archdruid. In the wake of the recent election, we caught up Drum to learn more about the man who will now be leading ADF for the next three years.

Raised in Chicago by French parents, Drum is both an American and French citizen. He went to a Catholic high school and then to the University of Illinois, where he received an undergraduate degree in philosophy. In time, he also earned both a master’s and Ph.D. in the same field. Drum said, “I was a young child of the ’60s, and I think a lot of the things that were happening at the time had an effect on me. I remember seeing lots of people in Grant Park in Chicago doing tai chi together, moving as one. I have never forgotten the image of a diverse group of people moving as one.”

Drum was raised Roman Catholic, and attended mass until he left for college. He said that this religion did not “resonate with [him] in the least” and that he wanted to find something “closer to his western European roots.” Drum explained, “I […] was attracted to stories of the ancient Gods and Druids. I believed that Paganism was still alive and well.”

Drum went on to say, “I was told in grade 8 that the Gods and Goddesses were no longer alive. I did not believe it.” Then, as a freshman in high school, he performed his first magical, Pagan working in the Hellenic tradition  He said, “I never turned back.”

Drum continued to practice his newly-adopted beliefs. However, at that time, he had no name for what he was doing or what he was. He had no general term to use for any of it. Then, he read John Mitchell’s book The View over Atlantis. Drum said, “[Mitchell] called what I was ‘paganism.’ Finally, I had a name for what I was. I read Drawing Down the Moon by Margot Adler and further understood who I was and what I believed.”

Around 1982, Drum reached out to Isaac Bonewits about the New Reformed Druids of North America. Drum recalled, “[Isaac] told me about a new group he was starting called ADF or Ár nDraíocht Féin. I joined ADF on March 10, 1984 and have been a member ever since.”

[Courtesy photo]

Drum [Courtesy photo]

Drum is also a third order Druid of the Reformed Druids of North America (RDNA), a Druid Order member of OBOD, a second circle member of AODA, and an elder in various other organizations. When asked what drew him specifically to Druidry, Drum said, “I was drawn to [it] because of the connection to the Earth, to the Earth Mother, and to the Gods and Goddesses of the Indo-Europeans. I believed (and still do) in Isaac’s vision.”

Drum remained solitary for nearly 20 years of his time with ADF. However, he eventually decided to join a group. Over the past 12 years, he has been a member of Michigan-based Shining Lakes Grove and Cedarsong Grove. He said, “I have visited many groves in ADF. I like grove practice, but I also understand what has to be done as a solitary.”

Although his practice has been largely solitary, Drum has been an active and very busy member of ADF and the many other organizations in which he has been involved. For the past eight years, Drum has been ADF’s “List Master.” Additionally, he has served as the Upper Midwest Regional Druid, the Chief of the Council of Regional Druids, and the Vice Archdruid. Drum said that he has also been “the Chief of the Liturgist Guild, the Preceptor of the Naturalist Guild, the Registrar of the Seers Guild, the clergy adviser for the Order of Bardic Alchemy, the Preceptor for the Order of Manannan, the Treasurer for the Bardic Guild, the Coordinator for the Morrigan SIG.”

Drum is also an ADF master bard, an initiate, and a senior priest. He said, “I wear many hats because there are many hats to wear and not always enough people to fill those spots.”

During his service as Vice Archdruid, Drum carefully watched Rev. Kirk Thomas in order to learn. Drum said, “I wanted to be Archdruid after he left and when the opportunity presented itself, I stepped up to work for the position. […] I am one of the original members and I have seen ADF through the many years, in good times and bad, and I want to use that experience to help move us forward, keeping to Isaac’s Vision, which is vitally important.”

When asked about his interpretation of that vision going forward, Drum said, “I will try to lead the ADF Clergy Council and the Folk to continue to do the work and to help refine not only our message and our purpose, but to further Isaac’s Vision and let the world see what ADF is all about by letting them see what we do.” He explained further:

ADF is orthopraxic and not orthordoxic. We will talk about what you do – as far as ritual is concerned – and not tell you what to believe in. This is one of our great strengths. If you do these 18 steps known as the Core Order of Ritual then you have done an ADF ritual. We have certain parameters, such as no blood sacrifices, no Lord and Lady, no calling quarters or watchtowers, and Indo-European pantheons for High Day rites. Our rituals are broad and inclusive enough to fit the bill for many neo-pagans. Our High Day rites are open to the public because we want people to see what we do and be welcome. Our concept of hospitality requires that we be good hosts and good guests. I would like to believe that all of our members like to be good hosts and good guests.

Drum added that he would like to see ADF specifically focus on “hospitality.” He said, “I think we need to be open to people and able to welcome differing viewpoint[s] without devolving into bad behavior, whether it is on social media or around the campfire. Hospitality is the greatest of virtues because it requires others. Others might describe this as Right Action.”

Those positive works and “right actions” can come in many different forms. As this is Earth Day weekend, we asked if he felt that Druids have a unique role to play in the modern environmental movement, addressing topics such as climate change. Drum said, “I think that Druids -– of all stripes -– have a part to play […] and it is a positive one: first, we must work our magics to support the Earth Mother, helping to heal her and helping to fix the damage that has been inflicted upon her. Secondly, we must do what we can to exhibit and express nature awareness. We can help green by being green.” Drum then returned back to the notion of “hospitality,” saying “Being a good guest and host extends past our own doorways into the natural world beyond.”

AdflogoWhen asked if he has observed significant changes in Paganism or the Druidry since he joined the newly formed ADF many years ago, he said “yes,” adding, “I am pleased at what I have seen. Druidry and Paganism have grown away from the acquisition and manipulation of personal power to the use of ritual and magical activities to work for positive changes in the world and for the protection of the Earth, which we call our Earth Mother. I realise that there is great diversity in the many different pagan and neo-pagan groups, but there is also a great commonality as well. ”

Drum will become ADF’s sixth Archruid since its founding in 1983. Outgoing Archdruid Rev. Kirk Thomas expressed his support for Drum, saying “I pray that the Gods and Spirits bless our new Archdruid and all his endeavors so that ADF will continue to grow and thrive in the future. And I give my blessing to him and to all the members of our church.”

On April 16, Rev. Thomas performed his final “official festival ritual as Archdruid at Trillium.” He has served as Archdruid for six years, or two terms. Although ADF bylaws allow for someone to serve for three terms, Rev. Thomas opted to not to run again, saying that “it is time to move on.”

KirkIsPresented

Rev. Kirk Thomas [Courtesy Photo]

While he still has a few more rituals to oversee in May and other duties to perform, Rev. Thomas’ time will soon be freed up to devote more energy to other commitments and pursue new projects. When asked what we might find him doing in the near future, he said, “I plan to continue my prison ministry and I have a couple more books in me waiting to get out. I also plan to spend more time working on my White Mountain Druid Sanctuary here in Trout Lake. I will also be attending festivals and giving workshops as I deepen my personal spiritual work.”

Rev. Thomas added, “I’m not going away!”

As for Drum, he is looking forward to the upcoming challenge. He noted how smooth the entire transitional process has been to date. going back to the beginning of the organization. He said, “We are able to transition power respectfully and properly – through the ballot box and not necessarily by fiat. We were able to transition from a charismatic leader like Isaac to Ian to Fox to Skip to Kirk and now to myself. After myself, I expect the transition will be a smooth one.”

Drum also added, “I envision a female Archdruid will follow me.”

Leading the large, international Druid organization will undoubtedly take up much of Drum’s free time over the next three years, or longer. When asked what we might find him doing when he’s not working at his day job as a systems administrator or tending to his ADF duties, Drum said, “My hobbies are reading about history and working on liturgy. I love creating small altars in many places in my world and working with them. Heraclitus said the gods love to hide and I like building altars where they might be. I enjoy travelling and attending festivals to not only talk about my Druidry, but to learn about other people’s practices. I try to find magic in the world and to appreciate the amazing beauty and power of the Earth (Mother) around us.”

Thinking about the future of ADF, Drum said, “I would love to see Neopaganism become a choice for people when choosing a religion. I believe that we must lead and attract people by example. People are drawn to Nature and the Earth Mother – perhaps by different names – and I want them to know that there is a choice when you come to choose a religious organisation.”

Drum takes office May 1, 2016 and will hold the position for a term of three years.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Today we welcome our newest columnist, Mary Shoup. Mary lives in Washington State, where she volunteers for the Aquarian Tabernacle Church. She recently graduated from Western Washington University’s Huxley College with a degree in Environmental Studies/Journalism and currently works full-time as an editor. Her monthly column #Pagan will focus on the youngest sectors of our collective communities, with articles that highlight their work and discuss their concerns. Welcome, Mary.]

Millennials have grown up in a constant state of change. With the seemingly never-ending release of the newest and biggest gadget, and the steady influx of information, we have become accustomed to changes that appear to come out of nowhere.

Having grown up in that near-constant flux, we have learned that it’s not hard to push for change one way or another. It only takes a few people standing up and saying “This isn’t the way it should be” to get others moving in a new direction. Through our history books, we saw this happen with Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X – cases in which a few strong voices motivated a nation into action.

[Photo Credit: Kyle Mooney, Jess Debski / Flickr]

[Photo Credit: Kyle Mooney, Jess Debski / Flickr]

As a generation, Millennials have started to address issues of money in politics, empowering the homeless, and much more. We’ve been vocal in the big issues and not backed down, demanding change in response to tragic events, such as the events currently in Ferguson, Hong Kong and Mexico.

Change has become an integral part of the millennial generation through embracing it, much like how Wicca, as I learned it, embraces change as a core tenant.

With the recent deaths of Margot Adler and Pete Pathfinder Davis, many Pagan communities have been forced to see the changes that they have gone through over the past few decades. We are no longer made up of the same groups of people that were once fighting for the right to exist. We exist. We are, in many ways, recognized. Now we need to look forward into the future, and see what more we can do.

And that’s where we are headed. The newest generation of postulants and dedicants are Millennials, those who have embraced the ever-changing nature of our world and have tried to fill whatever needs are seen. My own college group Western Washington University Pagans holds quarterly fundraisers, donating half of what is raised such as, Planned Parenthood or the Whatcom Humane Society. The group also has representatives sitting on the WWU interfaith panel, Ask Us Anything. We saw a need to reach out, to donate and to have more representation, and we fulfilled it.

At the same, Millennials have never known many of the early leaders in their prime. People exploring, dedicating or beginning clergy-training now will never have known Isaac Bonewits or Morning Glory Zell-Ravenhart, or if they have met them, it wasn’t quite in their glory days.

I met Pete Davis a handful of times before his death. And, from all accounts, I never really met him. By the time I did, he no longer had the energy to talk for hours on the phone with community leaders. I will always be left saying, yes, I knew him, but not as well as I would have liked.

However, these elders and leaders of the past have left behind a legacy, one that will write their history. Millennials will learn from that history, through the rose-colored glasses of their students. While we’ll never know exactly what they would have said in response to current events, we can speculate. And, the generation in between, our current leaders, can be both our greatest ally in this or one of our biggest hurdles. Hopefully they will bridge the gap and enable Millennials to make their dreams possible.

It’s a daunting prospect, to be moving forward not quite knowing if the direction we’re taking is the direction that those early leaders intended.

Circle Sanctuary. Photo: Paula Jean West

Circle Sanctuary. [Photo: Paula Jean West]

But that’s okay.

Because while we should never forget what those early leaders struggled through to get us to where we are today, there is a time to move forward. Millennials will bring the concept of change, one that we’ve grown up with, into our spiritual practices. We will form our own ideas, and voice our own opinions with regards to the present. When we’ve done that, we will grow and expand beyond our founders’ and leaders’ wildest dreams.

Belladonna Laveau, the archpriestess of the ATC, has a saying, “When you see a need, it’s the Goddess’ way of saying it’s your duty to fill that need.” Millennials, as a generation, have already internalized this. We’ve come to realize that change is possible, and that if we want it to happen, we need to step up and fill that need.

So what needs do Millennials see? There are so many, varied and determined by the community around us. We will find the needs specific to our own areas, like WWU Pagans did. We will be that change we wish to see in the world. And we should never forget – it’s our world, our religion, now.

What do Druidry, the Steampunk Movement, Nikola Tesla, Isaac Bonewits and Staten Island all have in common?

Answer:  Jeff Mach

Jeff Mach

Jeff Mach

Jeff Mach is a modern Druid and founder of New Jersey-based Widdershins, LLC (a.k.a. Jeff Mach Events), the production company behind the popular Steampunk World’s Fair, Wicked Faire and other similarly-themed events.  More recently, he began producing The Geek Creation Show, a fundraising event to benefit the Tesla Museum at Wardenclyffe on Staten Island. The Museum will be a science learning center at the reconstructed laboratory of famed-scientist, Nikola Tesla.  By raising these funds, Mach is able to give something back to the local community. However, he also has an entirely unexpected motivation – one deriving from his spirituality.

Mach discovered Paganism while attending college at Rutgers University.  In 1994 he helped to organize the Rutgers University Pagan Students Association, now the oldest continuously operating pagan student organization in the country. With time, Mach found his calling in modern Druidry and became a member of Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship (ADF.)  He says:

I identify with the idea … that there’s something powerful [in] not simply in trying to see or be what Druids were, but in the strength of taking an ancient name and concept and using its connotations in the modern world. I identify with the idea that being a Druid doesn’t simply mean that some of my worship is, say, modeled after the ancient Celts – it also means that I identify with the things that “Druid” implies to the modern world.

Identifying the power of the historical within modern life is a theme that carries over from Mach’s spiritual practice to his mundane work.  One of his more popular events is the Steampunk World’s Fair, one of the biggest events of its kind in the world.  Through this event and others like it, Mach attempts to capture “what was” within the spectacle of modern day.  Mach explains:

In the rise of Steampunk, I see a chance to open a gate to an impossible place, and to play and maybe even, to some extent, live in that impossible place.  I think that may be part of why our Steampunk event, The Steampunk World’s Fair, became the largest; we weren’t looking to study Steampunk or to make a more immersive imaginary place (though both of those are perfectly fine pursuits) – we were looking to try to summon the feeling, the whimsy, the curious world of Steampunk into this world for a weekend.

Acknowledging a definitive link between his adoration for Steampunk, the event’s coordination, and his spirituality, he says:

I’m interested in liminal spaces, in places between what we think of as “this world”, and other worlds, and I’m absolutely fascinated by Renaissance Faires, Rocky Horror – any place that we change by changing will and perception.  The standard ADF liturgy takes a symbolic fire, well, and tree, and says, “Now, lord of ways, join your magic with mine and let the fire open as a gate, let the well open as a gate, let the tree be the crossroads of all worlds. Open as a road to our voices and to the spirits.”  And then we open the gates. As a Pagan, I consider this holy, sacred, and real.  I wouldn’t say I’d call Renaissance Faires, Rocky, or Steampunk holy or sacred in the same way – but entering each of them is an act of Magick, and I consider that world-change to be real.

Through the building of these worlds, Mach has found a way to express what he experiences through religious practice.  In addition, there is a marked underlying theme.  All of his events, to one degree or another showcase technology or science, from the glorification of the steam age to a workshop on bio-luminescence. As such it is not surprising that Mach decided to create another “Geeky” event to raise money for the the Tesla Museum.

Tesla_circa_1890.jpegNikola Tesla was a Serbian scientist and engineer who lived from 1856-1943. When he first arrived in the United States, Tesla worked alongside Thomas Edison. Eventually Tesla went solo, producing an enormous number of patents and technological advances.  He is best known for the alternating-current.  Unfortunately Tesla never gained financial backing equal to that of his contemporary, Edison.  His enigmatic methodologies and personal eccentricities attracted attention but not in the way of consistent support.  Regardless, his name has become synonymous with progressive thinking and innovation.

Mach calls Tesla a “visionary” and explains:

Nikola Tesla… might as well have been the archetype for Clarke’s Law: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”  What if part of our fascination with Tesla, with his ability to conceptualize energy sources in his head, with his uniquely intuitive leaps about where the physical world might go, is because there’s something very much akin to “magick” in the science of Tesla?  A magick which is completely grounded in what we think of as “modern science”, but which doesn’t deny room for gaps in knowledge, for possibility, and for, as Crowley put it “change in accordance with Will”?

Preserving Tesla’s legacy is yet another natural extension of Mach’s spiritual beliefs.  In the 1937 article “A Machine to End War,” Tesla himself says, “There is no conflict between the ideal of religion and the ideal of science…To me, the universe is simply a great machine which never came into being and never will end.” Mach agrees and, to further explain, fondly recalls several inspiring conversations with ADF Founder Isaac Bonewits, who also saw the interconnectedness between science and religion.

One of the last things [Isaac] and I talked about was education – particularly about the modern concept of education wherein religion and science were in two very different paths, and you either had education which ignored religion altogether…or which bent science for religion… One of the messages that I took from [Isaac] was the idea that if Paganism were to think of itself as having a mission, perhaps that might not be evangelism… nor separatism…but education. Let’s see if we can examine the way people look at the material, emotional, and spiritual worlds, and see if there might be more intermingling than we’d thought.

Isaac Bonewits

Isaac Bonewits

Influenced by Randall Styers book Making Magic: Religion Magic Science in the Modern World, Bonewits contemplated the “intermingling” of the disciplines.  In his own essay entitled “Scientism on Competing Faiths,” Bonewits wrote:

…. although it’s true that the hard sciences don’t really support conservative monotheistic doctrines anymore, ever since Einstein all the sciences have tended more and more towards multi-model, pluralistic theories [rather than dualistic] that fit very well indeed with polytheism and traditional concepts of non-monotheistic occultism. This makes it sad that even people who have consciously rejected conservative monotheism are reluctant to let go of certain Scientistic prejudices, especially those concerning materialism and the nature of reality….

In an unpublished essay, Bonewits very clearly illustrates how the three “spheres of comprehension” (art, science, religion) have been progressively pulled apart by an evolving dualistic human culture.

Copyright 2007 by Isaac Bonewits. From an unfinished essay published here with permission from Phaedra Bonewits.

Copyright 2007 by Isaac Bonewits. From an unfinished essay published with permission from Phaedra Bonewits.

The Venn diagram above is labeled “modernist” meaning the contemporary worldview. As shown, science and religion do not touch at all.  At the intersection of the spheres, Bonewits places magic(k) which is at its most powerful when all three intersect.  However, as Bonewits laments, there is a measurable loss of powerful magic within our current dualistic world-view in which the expansion of one sphere happens at the expense of the other.

Bonewits was an inspiration to Mach and  that spirit has continued fueled his work. Raising money for the Tesla museum through the creation of a “world outside of space and time” is an extension of that inspiration.  It is more than just a “nice thing to do for the community.”  He says:

I’m fascinated with what a Tesla museum might be, and with what it might mean for a Pagan world to acknowledge the intuitive, the leaping, and the intangible sides of the world of science – not just the purely material.

The next Tesla fundraising event will be held in November in Piscataway, New Jersey.  Interest in the Geek Creation Show is, as Mach says, “picking up steam” and he hopes to be making a sizable donation to the Museum in the near future.

North side of Tesla's Wardenclyffe lab and future Tesla Museum

North side of Tesla’s Wardenclyffe lab and future Tesla Museum

 

The late 1980s through the mid-1990s was a commercial high-point for the genre of music known as Contemporary Christian Music (CCM). Bands like DC Talk, Jars of Clay, and Amy Grant were garnering breakthrough success outside of traditional genre boundaries, often selling millions of albums. It was during this era that the singer known as Carman was a Christian superstar. Between 1985 and 1997 six of his albums were certified Gold, and one, 1993’s “The Standard,” went Platinum. He was nominated for two Grammys, and won several Dove Awards (essentially the Christian Grammys). I think it’s important to give you this information, because when we talk about things that happened twenty, thirty, or forty years ago, it’s easy to lose context. So knowing that Carman was reaching hundreds of thousands (perhaps millions) of listeners during this period, is how you should view the single “A Witch’s Invitation” from the 1989 album “Revival In The Land.”

By today’s lights it’s pure cheese, a G-rated version of Goodfellas meets Rosemary’s Baby. But at the time it was no laughing matter. America was still deep in the “Satanic Panic” that was destroying lives, and implying that Witches and Druids worshipped Satan and cursed people with AIDS could (and did) have damaging ramifications on people’s lives. Certainly Druid leader Isaac Bonewits, who was obviously the inspiration for “Isaac Horowitz” in the song, and by all accounts felt personally slandered, was not amused. Perhaps that’s why he wrote an epic Jeremiad concerning Christian fundamentalism in 1990.

Isaac Bonewits

Isaac Bonewits

“It’s the Christian Fundamentalists, however, in whom we inspire the greatest anger, hatred, and fear. They routinely denounce Buddhism, Taoism, the New Age, and all other competing belief systems, just as they have always done, but seem to save their greatest vituperation for occultists in general and Neopagans (especially Witches) in particular. As most Neopagans know, Christian Fundamentalists are constantly publishing and broadcasting blasphemies against our deities, slanders against our members, and half-truths and outright lies about our beliefs and practices. Over and over, they strive to convince the general public, the media, and the civil governments that we are devil worshiping murderers, rapists, child abusers, and even cannibals. Their kids beat up our kids in school, their adults vandalize our stores and temples, shoot bullets through our windows, and manipulate the courts to remove our children from us. Why? What is it about Neopaganism that makes some Christian Fundamentalists so desperate that they will repeatedly violate most of their own Ten Commandments to try and stop us?”

I dig up this history for two reasons, first, Carman, who was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer, is making news for his recent comeback via a Kickstarter campaign that has raised over $300,000 dollars for a new album.

“Carman said he knows that after a dozen years away from the big stage, his new material “has to be current; it has to sound like it belongs in 2013.” At the same time, he said, his fans expect to hear timeless biblical stories and a gospel message in his music. From 1982 to 1992, Carman’s albums regularly sold more than a million copies each, and he topped the Christian singles charts with songs such as “Satan, Bite the Dust,” “Revival in the Land,” “The Champion,” and “Witches Invitation.” He was one of the first contemporary Christian artists to incorporate the kind of elaborate — and expensive—lighting, staging and entertainment that fans expected from top-level secular artists. Legions of screaming teenage fans would call him the “Italian Stallion” as Carman developed a niche for high-drama emotional ballads that featured demons, witches, spiritual warfare and always, a victorious Christ.”

Notice that his brand is still identified with “A Witch’s Invitation” and spiritual warfare against Witches. A brand that the “Carman” generation, Christian music fans now in their 40s and 50s, are willing to pay to see return. Which brings me to the second reason I’m writing about a Christian pop-star’s comeback album: the next generation of Christians and how they will see modern Pagans. In October of last year I was invited to speak at Multnomah University, a Bible college and Biblical seminary in Portland, Oregon, to talk about modern Paganism with several Christian seminary students. While everyone was very gracious and nice, there were moments where I could tell that some student’s information about Pagan religions had come through a distorted Christian media lens.

Now, I’ve been invited back to Multnomah this June to talk to a new batch of students in Paul Louis Metzger‘s class on world religions. I wonder how many of them, or their parents, were influenced by someone like Carman when they think of modern Paganism? Do some of them secretly think I’m diabolical? That I’m working malefic spells for money in league with demons? It’s easy to laugh at the notion sometimes, until you read about Christian clergy opposition to a Pagan festival in Pahokee, Florida, where some very basic interfaith outreach had to be done to avoid a protest. I think Carman and his “funny” little song about a Witch are quite indicative of how many Christians still see us. Which is why, despite the (often justifiable) distrust many Pagans feel about interactions with Christians, I appreciate Professor Metzger’s earnest efforts to more accurately understand us.

“We Christians need to be on guard in our understanding of such movements as contemporary Paganism. We tend to lump all of modern Paganism into one general and distorted category. We often fail to account for the vast complexity within the movement and articulate Paganism accurately. For all our concern about pagan idolatry, we may be guilty at times of making their idols for them. We need to develop the practice of respect for understanding their practices, rituals, and beliefs.”

Christian churches and denominations centered on evangelizing, on missions of conversion, will never stop their efforts. But I think our goals shouldn’t be to make them stop trying, it is to make them acknowledge our humanity, and to accurately understand who they are speaking to. If they start to understand us, if they see us as practicing valid religious traditions (as opposed to demonic underground cults) alongside all the other world’s religions, then the chances of a new moral panic decreases, and the ability to have real discourse grows. That discourse will be vitally important as our faiths continue to grow, and as tensions created by an increasingly post-Christian West become more pronounced.

We need to put the old slurs to rest if we are to evolve our understandings of one another, and this requires Christians to properly contextualize the books and records that have profited by slander against us. I have no wish to heap abuse on Carman as he mounts his comeback, but “A Witch’s Invitation” should be seen as the embarrassment to Christianity that it is, and our community is long overdue for an apology for the slander it perpetuated. Moving forward, all of us engaged in interfaith work need to constantly ask: where are my perceptions of this person, this religion, this tradition, coming from? Do they come from a place of knowledge and discernment, from first-hand experience, or from propaganda and distortion? I am hoping, by my presence at Multnomah, to replace fear and distortion with knowledge and experience. To ensure that we are speaking to each other instead of about each other.

Over at Llewellyn Wordlwide’s official blogElysia Gallo, Senior Acquisitions Editor for Witchcraft, Wicca, Pagan, and magickal books, lists seven ways in which you can support Pagan community. I heartily agree with all her recommendations.

“So now, as we pull into the harvest season, let’s start thinking about ways to give back to our vibrant and wide-reaching community. I have a few brilliant ideas (as usual!), some of which will hit you up for cash, others of which only take some time and mindfulness.”

Among her suggestions, Elysia lists supporting the New Alexandrian Library’s fundraising effort (more on that here), helping to send Patrick McCollum to the Awakened World Conference in Italy, and supporting a brand new Pagan Living TV initiative.

Almost all of her suggestions, including volunteering at Pagan Pride, throwing a party for Cherry Hill Seminary, and shopping at Pagan-owned businesses, are about building Pagan infrastructure. It’s about putting our resources back into that which we say we value. Too often our responses to needs within modern Paganism are ad hoc and reactive. This is not to say there aren’t visionaries among us who envision a different way of doing things, but these efforts aren’t well-funded, and are often overwhelmed by the needs they encounter. We are still at a point where simply having physical locations is somewhat novel.

“A Memphis Wiccan group now has a building for worship, becoming one of the first Wiccan groups in the country to do so. The Temple of the Sacred Gift is a local chapter of the Aquarian Tabernacle Church, based out of the state of Washington. They have official non-profit status with the IRS, making them just like any church in Memphis. […] The temple holds worship every other week and often puts on festivals. About 40 people attend each worship, while hundreds can show up at some of the festivals. Participants include local policemen, lawyers, and business owners.”

Infrastructure, physical spaces, institutions, social services, it’s all about taking care of our own. If we are to be able to cross the threshold into being a movement that can support itself, grow into having the land, temples, libraries, and advocacy organizations many of us dream about, we need to re-think how our interconnected communities work. A problem that the late, great, Isaac Bonewits wrestled with in the years before his death.

“Establishing Pagan charities, or even just creating a culture of generosity inside Pagandom, requires us to face all our individual and group attitudes towards money and fund-raising. Being a Pagan shouldn’t be about just taking the goodies that others have to give, but also about returning our gifts to others, thus passing the good karma along. Among the ancient tribal peoples so many of us seek to emulate, “hosting” and “guesting” involved giving and receiving in complex systems of reciprocal relationships. In fact, those words come from the same Proto-Indo-European root, ghosti, which is also the root of the word “ghost,” referring to a family spirit who must be shown proper respect and be fed with offerings.

Yet the Christian Dualism that saturates our mainstream culture, combined with left-over anti-money ideals of the 1960s counterculture, leads many to assume that money is “profane,” that spiritual people “don’t need” money, and that anyone asking for money in a religious context is “just like” the televangelists (whom we view as dishonest and greedy) or whatever mainstream religion we were brought up in. In an “us vs. them” worldview, remember, anyone who has something about them that resembles anything about someone else we consider evil, is of course, just as evil–or at least comfortably ignorable. These attitudes, of course, justify hanging on to our money rather than sharing it with those in need. Indeed, it usually takes a major disaster to shake us out of our complacency.”

These issues seem more present to me now because I believe we are at the threshold of a great shift. I think we are ready to do things differently, to move in directions we didn’t think were possible. I think we are capable of claiming the very things we say we long for, to shed our sub-cultural cocoon and emerge as a religious movement to be reckoned with. Until then, our activists, clergy, and leaders continue to do the work. For example, while Patrick McCollum is trying to raise money to take part in a global interfaith initiative, he’s also meeting with local politicians to end religious discrimination against minority faiths in the California prison system.

Patrick McCollum with California State Senator Mark DeSaulnier and aide (08/25/12)

Patrick McCollum with California State Senator Mark DeSaulnier and aide (08/25/12)

“Rev. Patrick McCollum met this week with California State Senator, Mark DeSaulnier to discuss religious discrimination issues and policies directed toward minority faiths within California’s state institutions.  The institutions discussed included the Department of Mental Health, the Department of Developmental Services, the Department of Social Services, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

The meeting went well and Senator DeSaulnier, who is known for government reform, has agreed to investigate further into the policies and issues affecting our community and others.  Reverend McCollum will have follow up meetings with the Senator, and has agreed to provide additional documentation.”

Every day, in ways we don’t see or notice, there are Pagans working to build our future. If we want to see that future become a reality we need to support them in their work, and show that we’re collectively ready to build the movement many of us say we want.  That support doesn’t have to break your bank, but it can mean working to make sure your local community is thriving, to make sure your elders aren’t in danger, to make sure the people who serve you can do so without the wolf at their door. Support is simple, and it allows visionaries the room to help collectively build our Pagan future.

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.

Pagan Community Notes is a companion to my usual Pagan News of Note series, more focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. I want to reinforce the idea that what happens to and within our organizations, groups, and events is news, and news-worthy. My hope is that more individuals, especially those working within Pagan organizations, get into the habit of sharing their news with the world. So lets get started!

Isaac Bonewits Memorial DVD Controversy: Back in August of 2010 Ár nDraíocht Féin (ADF) held a special memorial service at the Summerland Gathering in Ohio for their founding Archdruid Isaac Bonewits who passed away on August 12th. The memorial service was captured on video, and placed on Youtube so those who couldn’t be there could see it. Since then, the ADF has made a DVD of that video footage available for purchase, a move that has upset Bonewit’s ex-wife Deborah Lipp and their child Arthur.

“You can say, Isaac wanted to give money to ADF and therefore it’s acceptable, or you can say, Isaac placed what was right and proper and honorable before profit, always, and therefore it’s utterly unacceptable. I knew him very well, and I can hear him saying “tacky” quite clearly in my ear, but I recognize the subjectivity of that. In the end, I can only speak to what I feel is right, and respectful, and kind. To commodify the death of a great man is not respectful. To do so at an event where he was being honored is not right. To do so when his only son was at that event was not kind.”

The ADF responded by saying that they are only charging for the DVD “to recoup a fraction of the costs associated with their creation,” and that the DVD was only made so that those without broadband Internet access could see the footage. Lipp responded by calling the production of a DVD “tasteless, disrespectful, undignified, and uncompassionate to those for whom this loss is personal.” Shortly after Lipp’s open letter started circulating Phaedra Bonewits, Isaac’s widow, posted her own thoughts on the matter, her opinions veered sharply from the idea that the ADF were “uncompassionate” in their move to sell a DVD.

“Bottom line, I do not want anyone to think that the opinions of Ms. Lipp, Isaac’s ex wife, represent my feelings, or the sentiments of any other member of Isaac’s family other than those of her son, Arthur Lipp-Bonewits. They are entitled to feel what they feel, but their feelings are not representative of the rest of us. I can’t presume to speak for Isaac, not really. But he did put his legacy in my hands because he loved and trusted me, as I loved and trusted him. Thus, I want to state unequivocally that I do not find the videotaping of the memorial, nor the distribution of the DVDs at nominal cost to be in any way disrespectful or exploitative of his memory. I completely support ADF in this situation, as do his siblings and his own mother.

This is obviously an emotionally intense subject, and I’m only reporting on this now because all parties involved have decided to make public their positions in the matter. I know from firsthand experience that the loss of a loved one is never easy, and the initial months, even years, after their passing can be fraught with unknown obstacles and a unique liminality brought on by grief. To lose someone who was a beloved public figure, who many people feel a sense of connection to, is no doubt even more complex and trying an experience. To paraphrase our nation’s president, I think it’s above my pay-grade to make a judgment call on this situation. It is what it is, a difference of opinion regarding what actions were proper and respectful. I wish all involved every blessing, and would guess that Isaac himself would relish engaging in the question at hand, though we are now all bereft of his direct insight in the matter.

Temple of the River in Minnesota Closes its Doors: Yesterday PNC-Minnesota reported that Temple of the River, an Irish Cottage Temple in NE Minneapolis, was closing its doors and that the religious community sponsoring it, The Old Belief Society, is disbanding. Temple of the River’s priest, Drew Jacob, made waves across the Pagan community recently with an article titled “Why I’m not Pagan.” Cara Schulz of PNC-Minnesota conducted an exclusive interview with Jacob about the move, and what the future holds for its priest.

“To put it simply, it’s not helping enough people change their lives. We have a large community and terrific events, but the Temple isn’t making the impact I want to see it make. As a priest, I’ve witnessed a significant shift in people’s spiritual needs. The needs that Temple of the River was designed to fulfill—a place for community, and accurate knowledge about historic practices—simply aren’t as badly needed now as they were ten years ago.

Instead I see people searching for a way to take charge of their lives. That has to be the priority, because the world is changing, and people feel lost, or stuck. The economy, technology and culture are all shifting. 20th century strategies for life don’t work well anymore, so there are a lot of people out there who aren’t happy with their lives. What I want to teach people is how to change that. How to live boldly and lead a life of victory. I want to empower people.”

Jacob now says he’ll devote his time to the Heroic Life, “a new spirituality for the 21st century” that’s “based on bravery and adventure.” Temple of the River will hold one last event on Midsummer’s Eve, and a final meditation session the week before.

Hutton Responds to Whitmore, Explains His Process: Chas Clifton reports that the The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies has posted a freely accessible article by British historian Ronald Hutton (author of “The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft”) entitled “Writing the History of Witchcraft: A Personal View.” In the piece Hutton discusses the course his work has taken, situates it within a larger body of scholarly work, and proposes three possible futures for the writing and reception of Pagan history by “practitioners outside the academy.” He also directly addresses the book-length critique of his work, “Trials of the Moon: Reopening the Case for Historical Witchcraft,” written by Ben Whitmore.

“It [Trials of the Moon] is devoted entirely to my own work. Although he allows that I have some virtues, at the opening and the end, these concessions seem very hollow in view of everything in between. He sums up the message of Triumph as being that modern Pagan witch-craft is “entirely a new invention, cobbled together by a few eccentrics,” with no link to any earlier form of “Pagan spirituality.” This is of course a travesty of its intended message. The whole purpose of his own bookis to destroy my reputation as an authority upon the history of Paganism and witchcraft, at least among Pagans, and especially belief in the argu-ments of Triumph. He has carried out very little research into primary source material. What he employs instead is a number of secondary texts of varying quality and drawn from a wide span of time. Whenever he finds a passage in these which apparently contradicts me, he proclaims that I am proved wrong. He also examines some of the works from which I have quoted myself and claims that I have misrepresented them. Nobody who believes his assertions can be left with anything other than the impression that I am an unscrupulous and deceitful individual motivated by a concealed hostility to Paganism. Most of the use that I make of source material is passed over in silence: only the apparent faults are highlighted. Where I address properly in later publications matters that he accuses me of neglecting in Triumph, this is taken as confirmation of my earlier guilt rather than a negation of it. By the same tactic, aspects of earlier work of mine to which he takes exception, and which are differently handled in Triumph, are still made to stand as examples of my turpitude. He criticises me for not defining terms like “witchcraft” with absolute precision, but then makes no attempt to do so himself, keeping them as fluid as possible so that they can fit a range of different meanings. He likewise makes no attempt to construct an alternative history of witchcraft and Paganism to my own: his whole purpose is simply to undermine confidence in me, so that—presumably—Pagan witches can go back to believing whatever they did before I wrote. Most of the points on which he tries to fault me are of detail, often trivial, and his hope is clearly that if he can put enough small cuts into my reputation for reliability, then faith in it will leak away.”

There’s much more, so those interested in this debate should download and read the whole thing. I must say that I share Hutton’s dream of a consensual picture of Pagan history based on primary sources, made in conjunction with Pagan writers and outside scholars, rather than “a number of mutually hostile sects, with different versions of history centered on rival writers,” or generational-based “acrimonious division.” Here’s hoping that our future is one of cooperation and collaboration instead of deepening divisions or impassible generational shibboleths. For even more on this topic, The Pomegranate also features a formal review of Whitemore’s book by Peg Aloi, and  Chas Clifton tackles yet another “grandmother story.” For all of my coverage of Whitmore’s work, click here.

Other Community Notes:

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

As we reach the close of 2010, it is time to stop for a moment and take stock of the previous year. When you look at (and for) news stories regarding modern Paganism (and related topics) every day of the year, you can sometimes lose focus on the larger picture. So it can be a helpful thing to look at the broad strokes, the bigger themes, the events and developments that will have lasting impact on the modern Pagan movement. What follows are my picks for the top ten stories from this past year involving or affecting modern Pagans.

10. The Crackdown on Minority Religions in Russia: A woefully underreported story in the mainstream media, but one that could have vast ramifications for modern Pagans, is the slow-moving oppression of minority faiths in Russia. As the government, in seemingly increasing collusion with the Russian Orthodox Church, use laws against extremism and “cults” to intimidate and oppress competing faiths, the future of indigenous and neopagan faiths in Russia seems endangered.

In response to an appeal by the local state prosecutor, Yoshkar-Ola Municipal Court found Vitaly Tanakov guilty of religious and ethnic hatred in 2006, sentencing him to 120 hours’ forced labour. In 2009, Mari El Supreme Court ruled that his leaflet – “A Priest Speaks” – contained religious and other extremism. It is now banned throughout Russia.

Peoples influenced by the Bible and Koran “have lost harmony between the individual and the people,” argues Tanakov, in what is actually one of only a few references to other faiths in his leaflet. “Morality has gone to seed, there is no pity, charity, mutual aid; everyone and everything are infected by falsehood.” By contrast, he boasts, the Mari traditional faith will be “in demand by the whole world for many millennia.”

These laws were originally written to address “doomsday cults” in Russia, but are increasingly being used on largely benign faiths, like Jehovah’s Witnesses and the the Mari people. These developments should concern anyone who values freedom of religion, and especially those concerned with the growth and preservation of Paganism across the globe. It should also act as a warning to those who would start writing and supporting laws that would oversee the free expression of faith.

09. Psychic Services & The Law: I’ve been reporting on run-ins between local governments and those who provide various psychic/fortune telling services for a long time, but this year the topic seemed to garner wider press attention. Both Time Magazine and the BBC looked at a growing trend of stricter regulations against psychics being enforced by local governments, and in response to this attention I interviewed professional psychics and tarot readers like Christian Day, Mary K. Greer and Rachel Pollack.

“I don’t believe in specific laws and regulations for fortune tellers that go beyond the standard business laws of any community. It has been found that laws prohibiting fraud cover most cases of abuse perfectly adequately and far better than regulations that discriminate unfairly against this particular profession, especially when they assume criminal behavior where none has been shown by the individual. It has been proved over and over again that discriminatory regulations are created by special interest groups and that they are unfair and almost always unconstitutional.”Mary K. Greer

Spurred by a variety of impulses, some religious, some not, towns and cities created subcultural “red light districts”, stood by total bans, and argued over whether psychic services could be classified as “spiritual counseling”, while in Canada, obscure laws against “witchcraft” were used to pursue fraud cases. We also saw a big win as the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled that fortunetelling and other psychic services are protected speech, setting a precedent that could affect laws across the country. Expect this issue to continue to make news, and involve members of our community in 2011.

08. The James Arthur Ray Sweat Lodge Death Controversy: While the tragic events that took three lives happened at the end of 2009, 2010 saw the arrest and ongoing drama unfold in the case of New Age guru James Arthur Ray, who is accused of negligent homicide after a sweat lodge ceremony went horribly wrong.

This event has had repercussion through many different communities, some Native American activists and commentators are concerned their beliefs are going to be put on trial to exonerate Ray, and in one instance have even considered regulating Native practices to prevent such occurrences from repeating. In the New Age hub of Sedona, business is down, and some are blaming the “negative energy” of the sweat lodge deaths, though few think practices will dramatically alter in the long term. Meanwhile, Ray and his lawyers continue to try to suppress damaging evidence as the trial looms ever closer. What the longterm ramifications of this event will be for Ray, Native Americans, the New Age market, and the modern Pagans who cross-pollinate with these affected communities remains to be seen.

07. WM3 and the ghosts of Satanic Panic: While the horrors of the mid-1980s moral panic over “Satanic” cults, a phenomenon that imprisoned dozens and ruined the lives of hundreds more, has most devolved into “did that really happen” gallows humor, 2010 reminded us that there’s a lot of unfinished business from that era. The most high-profile instance is the case of the West Memphis Three (Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jesse Misskelley Jr.), long considered by many to be victims of panic-fueled miscarriage of justice, the three men recently won the right to new evidentiary hearings, providing them their best chance yet of overturning their convictions.

“The court also pointed out Thursday that Circuit Judge David Burnett erred repeatedly in the case, including dismissing requests to consider DNA and other exculpatory evidence without a hearing. Burnett has been the focus of activists’ campaigns because of his pro-prosecution stances. He will not hear the new case because he was recently elected to the state legislature. Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel has also fought against a new hearing.”

This case has long drawn the attention of modern Pagans since prosecutors used Echols’ interest in the occult and Wicca to help convince a jury, with no physical evidence and a coerced confession from the mentally challenged Misskelley, that they were to blame for the murder of three boys. As a society, we are still dealing with the fallout of “Satanic Ritual Abuse” panic, and many of those who participated enjoy high-profile careers to this day.We need to not only right the wrongs of yesterday, but remain vigilant that such a panic doesn’t emerge again.

06. The Passing of Isaac Bonewits: 2010 was a heavy year for deaths within the Pagan community, but the passage of seminal Pagan leader Isaac Bonewits in August shook our communities, and brought forward an unique communal outpouring of grief and tribute rarely seen.


Isaac Bonewits, photo by Ava Francesca, from the ADF website.

A true Pagan polymath, Bonewits seemed to drink deeply of modern Paganism in all its myriad forms.He’s been an initiate into Santeria, religious Witchcraft (both orthodox and heterodox), various magic(k)al traditions, and fraternal Druidism. A man of letters, he wrote many celebrated books, andmany more influential essays. Many of the phrases and terminology we now use on a regular basis had their genesis with Isaac Bonewits. His Advanced Bonewits’ Cult Danger Evaluation Frame (ABCDEF)has been used by Federal law enforcement and foreign governments to evaluate religious minorities, and he’s been a visionary in predicting the growing pains our movement would encounter.

Perhaps his greatest gift and legacy to the Pagan movement will be the founding of Ár nDraíocht Féin (ADF), a Druid fellowship that from the outset anticipated the ramifications of our growing numbers, and the strove to meet the challenges that would bring. […] His role in founding the ADF alone has earned him a place in history.

Bonewits was a giant among us, and his passing has left us without one of our most intelligent and forward-looking leaders just as many of his visions for the future were coming to fruition. We can only hope that his legacy and example will endure.

Tomorrow I will post the top five Pagan stories for 2010. In the meantime, I invite you to check out the top religion stories from some different perspectives. Here are the Religion Newswriters Association’s picks, Terry Mattingly’s (of Get Religion fame) picks, the top spiritual trends according to Charisma Magazine, the top picks from Christianity Today, and Time Magazine’s top religion story picks.

  • Reminder: We are in the midst of our second annual Winter Pledge Drive! If you value this blog, its mission, and its content, please consider making a donation to keep The Wild Hunt open, ad-free, and updated daily. Spread the word, and thanks to all who have donated so far!

Pagan Community Notes is a companion to my usual Pagan News of Note, a series more focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. I want to reinforce the idea that what happens to and within our organizations, groups, and events is news, and news-worthy. My hope is that more individuals, especially those working within Pagan organizations, get into the habit of sharing their news with the world. So lets get started!

Women and the Changing Face of Paganism: Thorn Coyle’s Elemental Castings podcast has a new installment posted that brings us audio from a panel at the recent Florida Pagan Gathering. Entitled “Women and the Changing Face of Paganism”, the panel brought together Thorn, Margot Adler, Diana Paxson, and Grandmother Elspeth.

“Thorn Coyle hosts a panel on Women and the Changing Face of Paganism at Florida Pagan Gathering. Guests include Margot Adler, Diana Paxson, and Grandmother Elspeth. Topics include the evolution of the Feminist movement, the importance of preserving our history, activism and politics from a Pagan worldview, and gender roles.”

You can download the podcast, here. You can also subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or RSS. The panel is very much worth a listen, especially considering the concentration of wisdom and experience on hand. While you’re there, you may also want to check out the recording Thorn made of the Pagan Leadership Panel at this year’s Pagan Spirit Gathering (which I moderated).

A Discussion on Pagan Health: While I’m on the topic of Pagan podcasts, be sure to check out the Pagan Centered Podcast this Friday where their guest will be Dr. Kimberly Hedrick of the TriWinds Institute. Dr. Hedrick recently completed a Pagan health survey, the results of which were presented at the annual meeting of The American Public Health Association (APHA) in November.

“The results of the Pagan Health Survey indicated that there are significant differences between Pagan views of physical and mental health, health care treatment options, and health care practitioners and the tenets of biomedicine and treatments available. This is particularly apparent in mental health, where substantial discrepancies in views of mental wellness combined with non-mainstream spiritual practices can lead to patients feeing misunderstood. The overarching holistic worldview, which sees health as an integrative endeavor (both in unifying body, mind, and spirit and in unifying environmental and personal health), can cause dissatisfaction with standard health care options and public health policies and lead to seeking alternative treatments and practitioners.”

Listener interaction is encouraged for this program. You can find instructions on participation, here. You can also e-mail Dave at PCP directly with any questions you’d like to see asked during the show. This work by Dr. Hedrick could really provide data that helps our communities in the long-term, and I’m enthused to see PCP tackling this story.

Mount Franklin Milestone: While several American and UK-organized Pagan events have hit the milestone of operating for 30+ years, Pagan Spirit Gathering in 2010 for instance, Australia is also starting to see its gatherings grow up along with their community. In 2011 the Mount Franklin Annual Pagan Gathering (in central Victoria) hits its 30th anniversary, and they’ve put up a special blog to collect tributes and remembrances in honor of the upcoming occasion.

“For overseas readers Mt Franklin is a small but perfect dormant volcano, with a crater that is totally intact except for a small gap where the entrance road is sited. Inside the crater is a flat area of about five acres, planted out with a variety of native and northern hemisphere trees, including a couple of young but thriving California Redwoods. The whole area has been declared an Arboretum, and the combination of Australian natives and trees from Europe and America serve to make Western Pagans feel right at home.

October is Spring in this part of Australia, and because we enjoy a four season climate here many of our traditional northern plants are heralding the onset of Beltane. At the base of the mountain wild Eglantine Roses are blooming, planted by who knows which homesick settler. On the slopes of the mountain itself a huge and lovely Hawthorn is covered in its white blossom. The bush all around us is filled with blooming eucalypts and masses of brilliant yellow wattles (Acacia to you northern types). Mt Franklin itself is in central Victoria, the most Southerly mainland state in Australia. We have hot, dry summers, cold wet winters and glorious springs and autumns.”

Australia has a diverse and thriving Pagan community, and their role in hosting Pagans from around the world at the recent Parliament of the World’s Religions in 2009, helped remind Pagans that “down under” has a lot to teach and share with us in the Northern Hemisphere. While there are some efforts at outreach, I’d love to see more community-generated journalism from places like Australia and New Zealand in the years to come. Congratulations to Mount Franklin Annual Pagan Gathering on their upcoming milestone.

Reconsidering Hutton: At his Talking About Ritual Magick blog, Frater Barrabbas notes an ongoing debate over the issue of historian Ronald Hutton’s theories concerning historical veracity within modern Witchcraft and Paganism. In the process he discovers Ben Whitmore’s recently self-published critique of Hutton’s history of Wicca, “Triumph of the Moon”, entitled “Trials of the Moon: Reopening the Case for Historical Witchcraft”.

“The ‘creation myths’ of modern witchcraft and Paganism were decisively toppled at the turn of this century in Ronald Hutton’s celebrated book, Triumph of the Moon. But did Hutton topple more than just myths? Are some truths also hidden in the rubble? Did paganism really die out centuries ago? Was witchcraft really no more than a fantasy? Were the Gods of Wicca really born out of the Romantic movement? Did Gerald Gardner lie about his initiation into witchcraft? Ben Whitmore has retraced many of Hutton’s steps, critically evaluating the evidence, and he now suggests that the truth may be quite different and even more fascinating. Drawing on a wealth of scholarly material, Whitmore demonstrates that the field of Pagan history is anything but barren ground — it is rich and fertile, and we have barely begun to cultivate it.”

The result of reading Whitmore’s work has put Frater Barrabbas’ ideas on the matter “in flux”, and he seems convinced that “the case for a historical witchcraft and paganism is anything but closed.” You can read an extremely long excerpt, nearly the entire book, for free, as a pdf download. It should be very interesting to see what comes from this, and what Hutton’s response to Whitmore’s criticisms might be. Will a larger-scale reevaluation of Hutton’s works within modern Paganism happen?

Isaac’s Legacy: In a final note, William Seligman, with the blessings of the family, is engaging in a research project regarding the influence of the recently passed Pagan leader Isaac Bonewits.

“I am working on a research project and I could use your help. I’ve often read that Isaac Bonewits was an important influence on the Neopagan, Druid, and Wiccan communities. I agree with that statement, but exactly how did he affect them? In pursuit of that answer, I’d like to ask those who feel they were influenced by Isaac to send me their stories.”

If you have stories about Isaac and his influence, please share them with Seligman for this project. Contact and format information can be found at the link.

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