Archives For Jason Mankey

Many modern Pagans and Heathens shy away from — or are downright horrified by — the idea of animal sacrifice. Arguments against the practice generally come from a place of concern for the animals involved, or a fear that it would result in an “othering” by mainstream society. On the other hand, the sacrificial priests say that the practice is rooted in compassion and community, and that criticisms of their work reveal a fundamental disconnect with the food system, and perhaps a smoldering of racism as well.

In recent weeks, a debate has heated up around this topic. It is clear that the very idea of killing animals in a sacred ritual evokes strong emotions among proponents and opponents alike, which can obscure the arguments and factual details as well as the religious reasons for carrying it out. Today we take a closer look at this difficult topic.

Technical details of sacrifice

Anomalous Thracian

Anomalous Thracian

. . . under optimum (e.g. correct, humane) circumstances of animal sacrifice, the animal has been raised in small farming set-ups (rather than industrial meat factories), handled by people it is familiar with interpersonally who regard them with respect and dignity from the start, and in the time leading up to the ritual, treated as living kings. A distressed animal, which is the standard state of industrial slaughter, is literally unfit for most sacrificial rites: the calmness and comfort of the animals is the primary logistical concern. — Anomalous Thracian

Trained as a sacrificial priest, Thracian argues that modern standards of sacrifice demand specialists who understand how to end life without suffering. As in the Kosher method of animal slaughter, the throat must be cut with a single stoke that slices through the arteries, veins, esophagus and trachea, but leaves the spinal cord intact. The reason for this precision was explained by another sacrificial priest, Tēlemakhos Night. He said:

A single cut is made at the neck, severing all vitals instantly, without compromising the central-nervous-system (the spine and neck bones). By leaving the CNS intact, the animal’s natural and biologically programmed response kicks in, which settles the animal into a state of euphoria and death, rather than agitation or panic. (Severing the CNS prevents necessary full-body signals, including hormonal release signals, from being delivered.)

Such exactness in the act was also stressed by Galina Krasskova, a Heathen priestess trained in sacrifice, who said:

Galina Krasskova

 . . . the animal is carefully chosen. It is cared for, pampered, fed well, and on the day of the sacrifice decorated, soothed, and kept calm. When the sacrifice is made, it is done with a scalpel-sharp blade and a clean, quick cut. Compassion is not what I look for in a sacrificial priest. I look for training and skill. Having the proper skill guarantees that the animal will not suffer, whereas if one approaches the act of sacrifice awash in strong emotion there’s actually a greater likelihood that a mistake will be made, the priest will hesitate, and as a result the animal will have pain.

The idea that an animal that has suffered physically or psychically is unsuitable for sacrifice may be a modern convention. Did the ancient practice of drowning horses as a sacrifice to Poseidon take into consideration the feelings of the animal? Did those people have the same 21st-century understanding of anatomy?

While a portion of the animal itself is often part of the offering, usually the bulk of the meat is consumed, a tradition which is described by Australian Hellenic polytheist Markos Gage:

In Greece when these sacrifices happened people would had been used to life and death. As a community they raised the beasts themselves, they saw them born, they fed them, treated them when ill, they killed them, they ate them. There was an intimacy that only livestock farmers know today. We live in a time of decadence where our guilt for killing an animal is non-existent because the creatures are slaughtered somewhere else and we see their meat as nothing but a product.

Many who support sacrifice see the disconnect from where our meat comes as being the driving force in the pushback against the practice this rite. Conor O’Bryan Warren, in a column on Polytheist.com, speaks of growing up in an agricultural family, and how his view of the killing of animals differed greatly from many of his college classmates:

Most of the people in the class are inculturated with a Western Protestant worldview which sees the exploitation and torture of animals for profit (and thus a cog in the machine of Corporate Capitalism) as being completely acceptable but which views their sacrifice for religious purposes as being terribly barbaric and backwards.

Rev. Kirk Thomas

Rev. Kirk Thomas

The Druid organization Ár nDríaocht Féin does not permit any form of blood sacrifice in public rituals. Archdruid Kirk Thomas said that it’s fraught with problems for the inexperienced practitioner and from a public relations standpoint.

The reasons are many. One is it would be bad public relations — most people are more than happy to eat meat slaughtered in abattoirs in inhumane ways as long as it’s cheap and they don’t have to witness the killings. But to kill an animal in front of them would bring the horror of violent death far too close for comfort. Also, none of us are trained in the art of killing an animal in a painless and humane way. In the end we’d probably end up with a bloody mess.

However, we don’t regulate non-public rites. We actively discourage animal sacrifice but should some member own a farm and be trained in the slaughter of his or her own herds, then who are we to stop them from praying over their animals before dispatching them? Personally, I’d rather the poor creatures be commended to the Gods before their deaths than not, with forgiveness asked and, hopefully, given.

While it was often a public event in antiquity, modern sacrifice is largely a private affair, noted Night in his explanation of the mechanics of sacrifice.

Ritual context

The traditions which include sacrifice vary widely, crossing racial, ethnic, and religious lines. While there are sacrificial practices in all of the three major branches of Abrahamic religion, discussing them could distract from understanding the Pagan context. That includes sacrifice as it is understood in polytheist and African traditional religions, both of which categories have some participants who identify as Pagan. Confining the discussion in this way still results in a huge diversity of sacred practices, but clear similarities emerge.

Consent seems to be universal among these religions, and it must be obtained from the participants, the deities, and the animals involved. No one should participate in animal sacrifice if it makes them uncomfortable or violates taboos. This act is also not performed simply to do it; divination is generally used to confirm that a particular deity wants such an offering in the first place. Divination is also one of the ways that the consent of the animal is established. Although, an experienced priest may also observe the animal’s body language and ascertain the emotional state of the creature.

Lilith Dorsey

Lilith Dorsey

While sacrificed animals are often offered in part (or, in some cases, entirely) to the god or gods in question, that is not the only reason these rites are performed. This is a detail touched on by Lilith Dorsey, author of the blog Voodoo Universe, when she spoke to us for this story:

I understand that this is a very difficult topic for many, and is obviously one that I could speak about for volumes. Let me start by saying I am an anthropologist, filmmaker and author in addition to being an initiated practitioner of Haitian Vodou and La Regla Lucumi (more mistakenly known as Santeria), both of which include animal sacrifice as part of their rites.

Sacrifice is performed for annual feasts and also to heal individual issues.The way I explain it to people is that if you went to a medical doctor and was told that in order to save the life of a loved one you needed to give them medicine that came from a chicken gizzard, would you do it? If you would offer up the human life refusing on moral grounds, then my hat is off to you.There are several African Traditional Religious houses you can join that do not practice sacrifice of animals. Most people would choose their daughter, their father, or their true love over a chicken, and then the issue really comes to light, which is one of faith.This is a spiritual prescription, you can choose to take it or not. People put much more faith in modern medicine than they do in “scary” (meaning unknown and stereotyped) magicks that may, in reality, be much more effective.This is just one reason we perform these sacrifices, to heal. Another reason is for feasts where the ritual animals are very often eaten, which seems to quell a lot of peoples’ fears. For practitioners, myself included, the animals for ceremony are just what the Orisha or Loa (divine forces) eat. The same way lions are fed steak, the energies call for this type of offering.This is substantiated by time, tradition, divination, and success rate. People who perform these sacrifices are also highly trained, both in the spiritual art and practical design of carrying out these sacred rites.The implementation in most cases is much more humane than your friendly neighborhood slaughterhouse.

While the ADF does not advocate for the practice, Archdruid Thomas is familiar with its place in religious observance:

If we look at the ancients, we see that the sacrifice was seen in a variety of ways, such as the shared meal and as a form of reciprocity. In the shared meal we are sharing our food with the Gods, and this brings about the sense of community. And for animal sacrifices then, it was the chance for a great barbecue. According to Walter Burkert, in ancient Greece the only animal protein available for most people was from the meat of the sacrifice. Even today we often refer to our holidays as ‘feasts’. This is where that comes from.

Jason Mankey

Jason Mankey

But even as some find the practice of sacrifice life-affirming, it’s a clear violation of what other Pagans feel is expected of them by their gods. That’s where Jason Mankey is on the issue.

As a Wiccan I do not practice animal sacrifice, nor would I ever consider such a thing. In the Charge of the Goddess, it’s all spelled out pretty clearly: ‘Nor do I demand sacrifice, for behold I am the Mother of All Living, and my love is poured out upon the earth.’ If the Lady demanded sacrifice She would have said so, instead she said it was not required. If it was good enough for Gerald and Doreen then it’s good enough for me.

In addition to my Wiccan practice, I also participate in Hellenic Ritual from time to time.The Ancient Greeks sacrificed animals, like most ancient pagans, and they did so with reverence towards the gods and with a sense of practicality. People often sacrificed to the Greek gods in order to get a good meat dinner, and it was also rare (the practice, not how they cooked the meat). People were far more likely to leave the god Pan honey cakes and wine than they were to sacrifice a goat in his honor.

Should people be free to practice animal sacrifice in 2014? Of course. Eating and hunting are both legal practices, and there is a long tradition of animal sacrifice within many different pagan traditions. As long as the animals in question are being slaughtered humanely and their meat is being eaten, I don’t personally have a problem with it. In addition, if people are sacrificing animals, I hope it’s from a real place of devotion and not simply to ‘prove a point.’ If everyone’s intentions are honorable, I don’t think it’s my place to tell people what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong.’ To some degree we’ve all got to figure that out for ourselves.

Legal and cultural context

In the United States, the Supreme Court ruled that animal sacrifice is legal in the landmark decision of Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah, in which decision Justice Anthony Kennedy stated that “religious beliefs need not be acceptable, logical, consistent or comprehensible to others in order to merit First Amendment protection.”

That said, many Pagans, such as David Salisbury, object to the practice on moral grounds, or because it may lead to connecting these religions with “Satanic panic”-style hysteria associated with the abduction and unwilling sacrifice of house pets. Others maintain that all life is sacred, and that taking any life is never acceptable. In his recent blog post, Salisbury concluded:

Animal sacrifice boils down to ego. Our human egos want us to think that taking a life in our own hands will impress our gods and show them that we’re willing to do big things to appease them. But we must get over ourselves. Animal sacrifice serves only to tell our minds that we’re more important than the majority of other living beings who we share this planet with.

Sannion

Sannion

Sannion is a Hellenic polytheist who, while is does not perform these rites himself, is an outspoken champion of the practice. He questions the notion that animal sacrifice is less ethical than consuming supermarket meat, or even a vegan lifestyle:

Unless you get all of your meat from local-sourced, free-range, organic farms who practice ethical slaughter you’ve got no room to object. Animals are tortured, raised in filth and never permitted to move about, pumped full of dangerous chemicals and antibiotics, shipped ridiculously long distances so that their meat can end up at your neighborhood supermarket or fast food chain. How is that preferable to what we’re doing? And if you’re a vegetarian or vegan, you do realize that you’re still responsible for the taking of life, right? Life that science is increasingly coming to recognize as sentient and capable of suffering. All you’re doing is prioritizing one form of life over another — a form of life, by the way, that unlike all other forms of life derives its nutrients from sun, soil and water, and therefore causes no harm to other living creatures. If you’re strictly approaching this from an ethical position, plants are the most innocent things on this planet and so should be spared from predation.

Anomalous Thracian was willing to tackle the question of perception in the overculture:

Whether a person supports or is uncomfortable with animal sacrifice, none of us wants to see the evangelical right come with pitchforks. I guarantee that in the list of ways to strategical prevent this, coming after our own with pitchforks is not a suitable answer.

If anyone on any side of this issue is serious about wanting to see peaceful, progressive, enlightened resolution take place, the issue needs to be framed as it is: a topic of prejudice against certain lawful and protected practices, which is definable as religious intolerance and discrimination. It is never acceptable to attempt to pathologize people whose cultures or religions call for the ethical slaughter and sanctification of animals. Instead we should as a movement be examining the pathology of intolerance, prejudice, and panic.

Thracian also raises the thorny question of racism as it has manifested in dialogue around animal sacrifice, a subject which River Devora addressed in her own piece on Polytheist.com about the practice:

I have heard the argument made that reconstructionist Polytheists who engage in ritual animal sacrifice are problematic, while those who are part of African Diasporic or Derived Traditions and African Traditional Religions get a ‘pass,’ as though somehow letting us ‘off the hook’ for our practice of animal sacrifice makes the speaker ‘enlightened’ or more ‘understanding’ of traditional religions.These kinds of arguments are racist and offensive. It is as though you are saying to us,’European traditions, and the (mostly) white people who practice them, should know better –- Europeans are supposed to be more enlightened.Traditions primarily being practiced by African, African American, and Latino folks can get a pass because we already know those folks are unenlightened savages.’ This is far more offensive than if you simply condemned the practice of animal sacrifice across the board.This may not be what you mean, but this is what we hear when you say it.

While animal sacrifice is legal and, in modern America, generally more humane than industrial slaughter, it evokes strong reactions in many Pagans and Heathens. We may never agree on whether or not animal sacrifice has a place in religious practice. However, the dialogue is opening up, as individuals carefully examine their own feelings toward sacrifice within their own belief structures and within their relationships with the gods.

Pagan Community Notes is a series focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. Reinforcing the idea that what happens to and within our organizations, groups, and events is news, and news-worthy. Our hope is that more individuals, especially those working within Pagan organizations, get into the habit of sharing their news with the world. So let’s get started! 

WH2014_BIG

We’ll start off Pagan Community Notes with a big thank you to all those people and organizations who supported our 2014 Fall Fund Drive. You helped us meet and exceed our goal, and for that we are very grateful. Over the next month, we will be contacting those people who requested perks. Columnist Eric Scott is already hard at work on those Panda drawings.  Again thank you from all of us at The Wild Hunt.  Now on to the news….

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margot-adlerOn Oct 31, Margot Adler’s closet friends and family gathered in a private memorial service to honor her life. The event was held at the All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church in New York City. Andras Corban-Arthen was in attendance and has posted several photos on his public Facebook page. In her will, Margot had requested that EarthSpirit’s ritual singing group, Mother Tongue, perform at her service. Corban-Arthen said, “We were all very glad and honored to perform a few pieces in her memory.”

Starhawk has published the words she wrote for the memorial service on her blog. She ended the piece saying, “As [Margot] takes her place among the Mighty Dead of the Craft, she becomes even more fully what she has always been: an ally, a friend, a wise guide, a challenger and a refuge.”

On Oct 30, Rev. Selena Fox, another longtime friend of Margot’s, announced that Circle Sanctuary was “dedicating a memorial stone for Margot and placing it at [it’s] green cemetery, Circle Cemetery, a place that Margot visited and loved.” The stone includes the words, “Drawing Down the Moon, Inspiring Pagan Voice.”

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time-logo-ogOn Oct 28, TIme Magazine online published an article entitled, “Why Witches on TV Spell Trouble in Real Life.”  The article has generated a storm of controversy that has led to a petition on Change.org and numerous other mainstream articles outlining Pagan response. Blogger Jason Mankey wrote, “I don’t think Ms. Latson’s article was intentionally insulting. She was simply trying to rationalize the explosion of Witch-themed shows on cable television. Fair enough, that’s the kind of article we all expect this time of year, but her execution was exceedingly poor.” We will be following up on this story later in the week.

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Cara Schulz

Tomorrow is election day in the U.S. As we have already reported, Wild Hunt staff writer Cara Schulz is running for Burnsville City Council. In recent weeks, she ran into some conflict over her religion. Although Schulz hasn’t hidden her beliefs, a local resident only recently discovered that she was Pagan, and sent a concerned letter to the editor. After it was published, Schulz responded by saying “The letter wasn’t explicitly degrading towards Pagan religions, but it’s clear the motive was to induce fear and sensationalism about my religious beliefs and encourage people to vote for my opponents specifically because they aren’t Pagans.” She called the situation laughable, adding, “Religion is irrelevant to a person’s fitness for public office and is private.” Schulz has called on her opponents to denounce the letter’s intent. However, that has yet to happen.

In Other News:

  • The organizers of Paganicon have announced that Lupa will be the 2015 Guest of Honor. They wrote, “We at Twin Cities Pagan Pride are extremely excited and honored to have Lupa join us.” They added that she’s a “perfect fit” to help explore the conference’s theme: Primal Mysteries. Paganicon 2015 will be held March 13-15 at the Double Tree in Saint Louis Park.
  • As announced by the Polytheist Leadership Conference, the New York Regional Diviners Conference is coming up this month.  As written on the site, “For one day in November, diviners from a plethora of traditions will gather in Fishkill, NY to discuss their art, network, exchange knowledge, and learn new techniques.” The conference is held on Nov 29 at the Quality Inn in Fishkill.
  • Treadwell’s Bookshop owner and Wild Hunt UK Columnist Christina Oakley Harrington was interviewed for a short film called “Witches and Wicked Bodies: A ZCZ Films Halloween Special.” The 9 minute film focuses on the British Museum‘s current exhibition of “Witches and Wicked Bodies.” Toward the end of the program, the host visits Treadwell’s and talks to Christina about modern day Witchcraft and Pagan practice.
  • Cherry Hill Seminary announced the start of a new class called, “Indigenous Traditions of the Sacred.” The class is being taught by Leta Houle, who “is Plains Cree from the Sturgeon Lake First Nation in Saskatchewan.” The program’s goal is to introduce students to the “meaning of what is sacred to Indigenous peoples, including the issue of cultural appropriation.”
  • This October the Northern Illinois University Pagan Alliance decided to try something entirely new. They ran a Pagan Spirit Week from Oct 27-31. President Sara Barlow explains that the purpose was “to raise awareness of and celebrate the presence of Pagan students at Northern Illinois University. We invited others on campus to learn more about aspects of our culture through activities such as meditation, anti-stress charms, divination, runic magic, and our open Samhain ritual.”  Barlow said the response was excellent and that they even picked up a few new members. Now the group hopes to make Spirit Week a yearly tradition.

That is all for now.  Have a great day.

A Blessed Lughnasadh

Heather Greene —  August 3, 2014 — 1 Comment

This week, many modern Pagans are observing the summer festival of Lughnasadh, also called Lammas or Lughnassa. One of the yearly fire festivals, Lughnasadh marks the first of three harvest celebrations and, traditionally, honors Lugh, the Celtic god of light and many talents, and his foster-mother, Tailtiu. The day is often celebrated with feasting, songs, games, thanksgiving and the reaping of the first fruits or grains of the season.

wheat

[Photo Credit: Sybarite48, Flickr/CC]

This Friday night when I break bread with my coven and give thanks to the Earth and the gods for Summer’s first fruits I won’t be dwelling on whether or not the celebration of Loaf-mass is a Christian or a Pagan one. I will be reflecting on the chain of beliefs that links me to my nominally Christian ancestors in the Middle Ages and my pagan ancestors before them. Over the last two thousand years some have tried to break that chain but the sabbats have always been far too strong for that. – Jason Mankey, “First Fruits: A Sorta Christian Feast,” From Raise the Horns.

In Druidry, Lughnasadh is a time for the community to come together in celebration and playful competition, to take a moment to rest from the labor of the summer’s work in the fields and enjoy the first fruits of that labor, to show off the skills and talents that we’ve been cultivating all year. The gods know, we spend enough time in this society with our noses to the grindstone! Even when that work is joyful and fulfilling… it’s still work. So this holy day is a time for playfulness and relaxation, a moment to pause during what is for many the peak of summer’s heat — to seek the relief of cool shade, sweet mead, strong beer and the cheer of good company. – Alison Leigh Lilly, “Lughnashadh, Honoring the Harvest Through Grief and Gratitude,” From her blog.

The long days of Summer are beginning to draw in as we make our way towards Autumn. The first harvest is being collected as the golden fields give up their gift of abundance and John Barcleycorn is cut down at the knee. I always have mixed emotions at Lughnasadh. On one hand this festival is really the culmination of what it’s all about. On the other hand for me this marks the height of Summer, between Lughnasadh and the Autumn Equinox the temperature drops, Autumn begins, and the nights start to get noticeably longer. I’m a child of Summer, and you won’t hear me complaining about the heat we’ve been enjoying, so lengthening nights are never something I look forward to. But let’s stay in the moment and honour the gifts of the Earth, honour the falling corn … -Damh, the Bard, “A Tale For Lughnasadh

Owl Grove performing Lughnasadh Ritual [Photo Still: Sacred Sites Ireland]

Owl Grove performing Lughnasadh Ritual [Photo Still: Sacred Sites Ireland]

In many ways what Lugnasadh marks is the start of harvest season – soft fruit will come in over the end of summer, apples and nuts come later in the year through to the final, bloody harvest of Samhain when livestock were traditionally slaughtered. The exact process of your harvesting will vary depending on landscape, climate, that year’s weather, traditions and so forth. It is in many ways the unpredictable nature of harvest that underpins the earth based religions. We do not know what we will get from one year to the next and can only hope the gods will be kind to us. – Nimue Brown, “The Grain Harvest,” Pagan Square.

The Waters and the Wild is the title of the night-time parade on Sunday 3rd August. Inspired by the famous Yeats poem The Stolen Child and the feast of Lughnasadh, the spectacle will see the ancient Celtic deity Lugh return to lure people away from their normal and structured present to a time and place of wild abandonment. To The Waters and The Wild will feature hundreds of costumed performers, nature-themed floats, special-effects and live music. The parade is expected to attract 30,000 spectators to Waterford’s medieval streets and is the result of three months of design and construction. – Waterford Today, “Tribute To Yeats At The Centre Of Ireland’s Biggest Street Parade” (The Waterford Spraoi International Street Arts Festival, 1st-3rd August)

It is harvest time. The fog has rolled in, a heavy blanket from the San Francisco Bay. It does this every year around this time. I give thanks for the harvest, for the fog, for Margot [Adler’s] life. My heart and mind are quiet. Waiting. I feel curious about what things are yet to come. May your harvest match in sweetness whatever may feel bitter. The scythe cuts all things down. But new things grow. – T. Thorn Coyle, “Sickle: Harvesting Life” From her blog Know Thyself

Happy Lughnasadh to all those celebrating this season.  And, to all of our friends in the Southern Hemisphere, a very happy Imbolc.

This past week ­ several pieces hit the internet that focused attention on Paganism and gathered a response from Pagans. Fr. Dwight Longenecker, a Catholic priest and blogger on Patheos, wrote two pieces discussing views about Paganism and judgments about those who follow the path. Many Pagans interpreted Longenecker’s writing to be an attempt to poke fun at Paganism, which has led to the discussions, comments and angst often seen when misinformation is published about the community.  The Huffington Post also posted an article this week about Pagans; it was a small piece about Pat Robinson’s most recent blaming of Witchcraft, or the Occult, for a child’s painful stomach pains on a recent episode of the 700 Club.

kick computer

courtesy of pixabay.com

The internet has a way of broadcasting many different types of drama far and wide. Anyone’s opinion can become the talk of a community, an “expert opinion,” and it sometimes travels far beyond the boundaries it was originally intending to reach. The internet has it’s perks; it has greatly increased access to information. Yet it has also contributed greatly to spreading misinformation as well. The Pagan community is no stranger to being on the receiving end of misinformation, and the challenges of being a minority religious group can be exacerbated as a result.

While the content of articles like those mentioned are not really the focus of my discussion, the effect that they have on the tone of the Pagan community are. Fr. Dwight Longenecker’s blog, Standing On My Head, received in excess of 150 comments between the two posts on Paganism, and many of them exhibited what we see happen when this type of issue arises on the interwebs. Posts and incidents like these are not new for the Pagan community; yet they gather the same level of intensity in response repeatedly. What happens for marginalized communities when they feel disrespected, misrepresented, undervalued or intentionally called out? Are the responses we see coming from a place of anger, worry, fear, anxiety, or even hyper-vigilance?

The functioning of the internet can act much like a vacuum, making it hard to conceptualize the range of responses and feelings that are triggered when all we can see is what is on the screen. In light of this understanding, the responses and chaos generated on the internet may not be the only response but it is often the predominant one in the community for those who choose to engage.  It appears that a large majority of those who do respond to these types of posts come from a position of frustration. It is important to explore how feelings of marginalization challenge healthy and productive relationships that further connectivity within greater society, and how it impacts community sustainability.

There were many responses on the recent blog posts at Standing on My Head that appeared more informational than emotional in nature, but a large majority of the comments were what we often see during these types of triggering events. Here are some examples of the range of responses posted on one of the pieces.

This post is unworthy of someone who calls himself a priest. That a religion doesn’t look like yours doesn’t mean it isn’t deserving of respect and protection for its followers. – John Beckett

Your mistake is that you assume you understand the motivation of a pagan, and you are sure it can’t be an actual spiritual belief. It must be attention-seeking behavior. This is just ignorance on your part. Ignorance CAN be fixed, if you’re willing. – Michael Hardy

I am disappointed in the tone of this article, its lack of tolerance, and its complete lack of research and fact-checking. hardly a great contribution to interfaith dialogue. – Yewtree

It seems that you are under some misconceptions regarding Neo-Paganism. Neo-Paganism (Or just plain Paganism, if you will) is not something practiced by those “looking for attention”. In fact, what we do, we do simply because it seems right to us – in very much the same way that going to confession once seemed normal to a Catholic. – Deirdre Hebert

How do these types of attention-arousing incidents harm the overall tone of the Pagan community and why do we feel that they garner so much momentum on the web? David Dashifen Kees was one of the bloggers from the Patheos Pagan channel who engaged in the comment sections of the post. He took a different approach to the dialog. I reached out and asked David some questions on why he was inspired to approach the discussion the way he did.

Crystal Blanton:  It appeared from your comment on the recent Catholic blog that you chose to take the educational route with the blogger. Is this your normal approach when responding to inaccurate information published on the web?

David Dashifen Kees: Inaccurate information is just that:  inaccurate.  The people who believe it are simply wrong.  Further, inaccuracies can, and should, be corrected and so my response is always to reach toward education before denigration.  This is actually why I like the Patheos model of allowing posts like the ones in the past week that caused such a stir; they create a teachable moment and every visitor to those articles, and others like them, might learn from it.  The key is to try and identify when a person is deliberately, willfully choosing to remain misinformed. In these cases, I’ve found that there’s little you accomplish via direct, verbal communication and appeals to reason.  Instead, experiential education — what the Interfaith Youth Corps calls common action for the common good — usually works better but obviously the Internet cannot facilitate that sort of thing.

CB:  Why do you feel that the Pagan community often reacts to such information with anger? Do you think this is similar to the way that other marginalized groups respond within greater society?

DDK: This is a harder question for me to answer because, other than my religious community, I’m not really a part of a marginalized group in society.  I guess, back when nerds weren’t cool, that was a thing, but these days even my profession and hobbies have a certain cachet.  That being said, I think that it’s perfectly natural to react defensively, with anger or not, when facing intolerant or objectionable behavior.  In fact, I think to stand up against such behavior is at least as important as trying to educate those who are performing it.  My only worry related to this sort of interaction is that it might simply dissolve into a series of ad hominem declarations rather than focusing on the situation at hand.

CB: What do you often want to see when responding to pieces that give out misinformation about Paganism? Do you have an objective in mind that informs your response tactics?

DDK: My objective, whenever I try to engage someone else a topic I care deeply about — religious or otherwise, is simply to be able to state my case.  I can’t really control whether or not they believe me or find my points compelling, though I do spend a lot of time online crafting my responses to try and make them as appealing as possible.  Especially in situations like the ones that arose from the Patheos Catholic channel in the last week, I know that my comments are going to be attached to that article for as long as that content remains online.  They, therefore, stand as a testimony not just to my points, but all the moments when Pagan and others stood up to the not just the author of the posts, but also the others who, frankly, said far worse things in the comments about non-Catholic religious communities than even the author.

courtesy of www.flickr.com/photos/wavyday/4557938166/

courtesy of www.flickr.com/photos/wavyday/4557938166/

David gives interesting insight into what motivates many people when facing broadcasted inaccuracies: a chance to tell the story. It is quite common for marginalized groups to have a collective response to triggering things, and a shared experience of being “othered,” stripping the chance to feel heard and a part of the actual conversations that need to happen. Is this the same type of hyper-vigilance and response that we see in populations of people who have a history of marginalization, oppression and engagement in protective measures as a part of their cultural experience? It is quite possible that the pattern of responding to intolerance within the Pagan community correlates with many other groups that find themselves in similar positions within the greater societal framework.

The Pagan community goes through periods of recycling the many different ways that collective harm has been perpetuated onto its members from the overculture of society and from within the Pagan community itself. Yet, we do not often look collectively at how patterns and cultures are developed, in part, by being continuously subjected to environmental factors. In social work we refer to what is called “PIE”, Person In Environment, illustrating how behavior, response, thought process, beliefs and culture are co-created by the environment in which people live. It is much like a pressure cooker, and the internet has the ability to create concentrated environments that perpetuate hostility and can be quite triggering.

Jason Mankey, author of Raise the Horns on the Patheos, wrote a rebuttal to the Catholic blogger’s article, and this is not unheard of in the pattern of community response when said incidents occur. In his piece he stated:

Catholicism is not my faith, but I don’t feel any animosity towards it. People should be feel free to choose whatever faith works for them as long as it it’s not harmful to anyone around them. I’d love to live in a world where everyone respected the choices of others, and barring that I’d be happy just to be left alone. Right now I mostly feel sorry for Mr. Longenecker, who knows what sort of wonderful things he’s missing out on by making unwarranted judgments?

While many Pagans express wanting to be left alone, we see behavior within our community that might suggest something altogether different. Validation, respect, acceptance and inclusivity are something that our collective behavior shows we are willing to engage in with others to obtain, and even fight for among ourselves. Yet we struggle in stopping to ask the very questions that might be the most important.

What do we want and why? And who are we willing to fight to get it? When do things become a part of the pathology of a certain culture? Is it a part of the collective Pagan pathology to ride the momentum of reaction to support something we feel is done unjustly to us? What does our behavior suggest?

In Mr. Longenecker assessment of our behavior, he states:

There’s the same kind of ‘Look at me. What are you staring at??’ double think within not only the neo pagans, but also among all the radical, revolutionary types.  They love to be revolutionary, challenge the status quo, shock people, scandalize ordinary folks and do crazy stuff, then they turn around and blame everyone else for marginalizing them, making them feel persecuted and not granting them equal rights. Like a petulant teenager they do everything they can to be weird, then when normal people raise eyebrows they get all surprised like a house dropped on them or something.

Maybe it is time to ask ourselves how much of this quite unfair assessment is laced with big pieces of truth.

Pagan Community Notes is a series focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. Reinforcing 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 let’s get started!

pantheacon 2014We may be in the midst of Summer outdoor festival season, but the engine that drives West Coast Pagan mega-convention PantheaCon churns ever forward towards February 2015 as it announces that they are now accepting programming proposals. Quote: The PantheaCon Programming team would like to inform you that the online programming form for PantheaCon 2015 is available on our website!  We invite anyone interested in presenting at PantheaCon 2015 to go to https://pantheacon.com/wordpress and click on one of the links to Submit a Presentation Idea or Resources for Presenters.  Our theme this year is Pagan Visions of the Future. […] Our Round 1 deadline is September 1, 2014.  Submitting your ideas by September 1 increases your chances of being scheduled and may result in some helpful feedback!  After our Round 1 review, we will ask some presenters to revise their submissions for consideration in Round 2.  In addition, presentations not scheduled during Round 1 will be considered during Round 2.” So get your best on-theme ideas ready, and perhaps you be the giving the talk to see this coming February.

Lupa

Lupa

Artist, author, and shamanic practitioner Lupa Greenwolf has announced that she will be trying out the artist support service Patreon, where individuals commit to a monthly donation in exchange for exclusive perks. Quote: “What do I get out of this? Not just money. I get stability and more of an ability to budget from month to month. And that’s a huge benefit. Knowing that I am guaranteed to get a certain amount of money coming in from my patrons, regardless of whatever other sales and income I get, helps reduce the stress of chasing after dollars. Moreover, it tells me that those who choose to become my patrons really want to see me keep making creative things. I love making art and writing for myself, don’t get me wrong, but it takes other people loving my art and writing enough to compensate me for it that allows me to keep creating at the rate that I do. And at the end of the day, it feels really, really good that enough people like what I do to enable me to be a full-time creative sort. It’s a great motivator to keep making cool things happen.” She’s already reached over $100 dollars per month from 8 patrons, and it looks like it might be an interesting way for several creative people in our community to help make ends meet.

Morpheus Ravenna

Morpheus Ravenna

I’ve written a fair bit about the massive success that has been Morpheus Ravenna’s IndieGoGo campaign for her book-writing project “The Book of The Great Queen,” which has now raised more than double its $7,500 goal. In response, Ravenna has proposed a book tour that will grow as further stretch goals are reached. Quote: “The good news is that as of today, we’ve already raised enough to do two cities and just on the verge of a third. That means the book tour is already happening! You, my readers, still get to decide how extensive it will be and where I travel. I’ll be planning my tour sites based on where there seems to be the most active interest, so if you want me to visit your city, drop me a line to let me know! So far I’ve heard from folks in Seattle, Atlanta, Houston, Madison, and upstate New York. Where would you like to see me travel to? I’d also love to hear from people as to good venues in your area for a workshop and booksigning, or if there are events such as festivals or conventions you’d like to suggest as part of the tour. You can email me your suggestions.”  I suspect that several Pagan authors might start taking notes on what Morpheus Ravenna did right in this endeavor.

In Other Pagan Community News: 

  • This past weekend was the Polytheist Leadership Conference, and we’re looking forward to our own Rhyd Wildermuth’s report, but we hope to do a round-up of news and reflections from the event soon. Until then, Rhyd has been posting updates to his personal blog. You may also want to keep an eye on Anomalous Thracian, and his blog (that’s good advice in general, really).
  • Druid leader Philip Carr-Gomm has a launched a new spiffy-looking website.
  • Our fiscal sponsor, The Pantheon Foundation, was successful in raising slightly over $1000 dollars for their Diotima Prize, which will benefit a Pagan seminarian. Quote: “The Pantheon Foundation announces The Diotima Prize to support the educational goals of one Pagan student who is currently in at least their second year at an accredited seminary program.” Congrats!
  • Over at the Patheos Pagan Channel we find out the burning question: Who’s reading John Halstead’s blog? Quote: “Over of [half] you identify primarily as Pagan/Neo-Pagan (35%) or Wiccan/Witch (17%). This was not surprising, considering the makeup of the larger Pagan community. There is also the fact that I identify as Neo-Pagan and my practice and my thought is sometimes Wiccanesque, so it’s not surprising that my readers would be reflective of this. Eleven percent (11%) of you identify primarily as polytheist.” You gotta respect someone who does a survey.

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

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. This week, we have a post-PantheaCon theme running through all our selections, so enjoy!

PGPT_TThornCoyle_bio“A prayer that is dear to me may have alienated some of the people packed into the ballroom. Why am I writing about this? I didn’t follow my intuition and make the prayer more inclusive. Why am I writing about this? In that moment, as moderator of a panel I had convened, I was in a temporary position of power. This wasn’t one of my classes or rituals. This was a more “public” coming together. Most people, in those moments, choose not to pray. That is a valid option. However, for me, at a convention like Pantheacon, to not pray is to secularize. We are at the convention for sacred purposes. In the coming and going, in the rush from thing to thing, it can be easy to forget. I choose to ask us to pause. To breathe. To center. I also choose to pray. What I want to think about in future, however, is how inclusive that prayer is. For me, as a non-dualist and a polytheist, that prayer includes the cosmos. It includes every human, tree, and star. It includes myriad Gods and Goddesses. It includes the wights and fey beings. It includes the ancestors and descendants. It may not sound that way to everyone. What will I do in the future? I’m not yet sure. I want to ponder the gift this woman offered me: a chance to re-think. A chance to not assume. A chance to reach out, to touch Mystery. A chance to fail. A chance to try again.” – T. Thorn Coyle, on prayer and privilege at PantheaCon 2014.

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

“Meeting people makes all the difference. Jason Mankey, John Beckett, Niki Whiting, and John Halstead and his wife had Mega-Patheos Pagan Breakfast the other day, and the world didn’t explode…and, three of the five people named in that previous clause came to my Beard Blessing Ritual this morning, and two of them weren’t Jason Mankey or Niki Whiting, and they all had a great time! (As did several other well-known BNPs, including Don Frew and Margot Adler!) For a 9 AM session on Monday, that was pretty feckin’ good…and, we had more people attend that event than any other I held/was personally responsible for all weekend. […] The most moving thing of the weekend was the sanctification ritual for Lady Olivia and Hyperion, which many notables who had met Lady Olivia attended, not to mention a huge number of The Unnamed Path practitioners, and Hyperion’s bereaved partner, and his mother (who was awesome!–she said, “I’ll always remember Eddy as the kid I helped learn to tie his shoes…and now he’s a saint, and I’m the mother of a saint!”). It was beautiful, and well-auspiced by a variety of birds that arrived and departed at significant points in the ritual, and was probably the most important event during the whole weekend as far as actual spiritual work was concerned.” – P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, giving an initial run-down of experiences and reflections from PantheaCon 2014.

John Beckett

John Beckett

“The hospitality suites were the highlight of the convention for me.  I spent time in the suites of Coru Cathubodua, Hexenfest, ADF, FoDLA, Open Source Order of the Golden Dawn, and (briefly) Solar Cross Temple, plus some informal hospitality from Jason Mankey.  The suites are part miniature meeting rooms, part quiet place to escape the convention buzz, part public relations venues, and part discussion salons.  If you don’t know anyone, a convention – any convention – can be a lonely place.  The hospitality suites are a place to find the one-on-one and small group conversations that form and strengthen relationships. And what happens in the hospitality suites stays in the hospitality suites.  Right, Anomalous Thracian?  Right???  Somehow I think not… The most powerful experience of the weekend was the ritual to open the Temple of the Morrígan.  The Coru Cathubodua put some serious work into creating a living temple, one whole room “for reverence of the Morrígan and the family of Celtic Gods and heroes.”  The temple deserves its own blog post – I’ll have it done late this week or early next week. The hardest thing I had to do all weekend was leave the Coru suite at midnight.  Fine conversation was still in full swing – some theological, some practical, and some just fun – but my body was still on Texas time and I was drained.  Thanks to all the folks there:  Morpheus Ravenna, Rynn Fox, Brennos, Amelia Hogan, Corvus Cardia, Grant Guindon, Anomalous Thracian, and everyone else I’m either overlooking or whose names I didn’t get.  Your hospitality and friendship are awesome!” – John Beckett, extolling the virtues of the hospitality suites at PantheaCon, specifically the Coru suite.

Tim Titus

Tim Titus

“It really is more than one convention. With up to 13 sessions running roughly six times a day for three days, the variety is endless.  While we all intersect at times, everyone experiences their own convention.  There are people I see walking the halls that I never see anywhere else.  PantheaCon has multiple incarnations. This really hit home for me when I attended a session outside my normal rounds.  Suddenly I was in a room with nobody I recognized, people who probably attend every year but just never cross paths with me.  I had stumbled upon the Thelemite incarnation of PantheaCon. OK, so it wasn’t really a stumble.  The session was called “Stars in the Company of Stars: Thelema-Individuality-Connection,” and its presenter was prominent Bay Area Thelemite, James A. Eshelman.  I knew what I was getting myself into. Using Thelemic terms, Eshelman probably delivered the most important take home message of the convention for me: Yes, as Aleister Crowley wrote, we are all stars.  But we are not isolated.  Stars exist in galaxies of other stars.  They are independent bodies, yet constantly interacting with each other. That’s exactly my experience of PantheaCon: we are all stars in the company of stars.” – Tim Titus, on being stars in the company of stars.

Connie Anne McEntee

Connie Anne McEntee

“It could easily be said that the main highlight for me was my first degree initiation. But the second greatest highlight was on Sunday morning, when I attended a ritual called “Yes They Are!” This ritual, put on by the Circle of Dionysos, was about deities for queer persons from various traditions, and various members of the Circle portrayed these gods and goddesses. The one who’s lesson touched most deeply was the Morrighan, when she castigated all present for not doing enough for trans persons. I burst into tears during her part, and I had not cried like that in a long time (probably since P-con 2013, in fact) and it was a gift to be able to feel that much emotion. I made a mental note to find and thank her after the ritual. But I didn’t need to seek her out. My crying was noticed by more than those persons sitting near me. When Aphrodite gave her lesson, walking around the circle talking about the different ways in which people love, she paused before me to stroke my cheek telling the assembled that some people love with their tears. Antinuous, who spoke immediately after the Morrighan and before Aphrodite injecting a lot of humor that was lost on me at that point, came to me later. At the end of the ritual when the majority of people got up to dance joyously, I sat and wept again. Soon I felt hands on both of my shoulders. When I could bring myself to open my eyes, there was a woman seated on either side of me stroking my back and three men kneeling in front of me, one of whom was Antinuous. Eventually, the woman who portrayed the Morrighan approached me saying, “I feel like this is my fault.” I assured her that was not the case, bowing to her and thanking her. She knelt in front of me no longer as a priestess, but as the Morrighan again, offering me fierce comfort and I sobbed into her shoulder. As I left, Eris approached me to be sure I was alright. This goddess was portrayed by the same witch who’d portrayed Pancrates at the “Trans Deities for All” ritual at PantheaCon 2013. Eris reminded me that I was beautiful and if I heard any voice in my heart that said otherwise that said voice was not mine.” – Connie Anne McEntee, on the ‘Yes They Are!’ ritual, and experiences at PantheaCon.

Lord Lugh

Lord Lugh

“During lunch with Richard and Matt, another Kemetic brother, I had insisted on the need for Kemetics and other Reconstructionists to show up at Interfaith meetings. I was referring to an article by CoG’s Don Frew on Interfaith. I do show up for Interfaith work and I have some public speaking scheduled in Palm Spring next month, but I wear many hats, and usually people see me as a Wiccan priest only, missing the rest of my practices. Matt grabbed the ball by the horns, and after leaving Tony Mierzwicki’s presentation, and the socializing and networking that ensued, I found myself introducing Matt to Don Frew, instead of leaving the hotel and grounding myself from this overextended weekend. The event was Engaging “Wicanate Privilege” a discussion about the latest articles in The Wild Hunt and other Pagan blogs questioning if Pagans were cohesive enough to be described as a movement at all. I had stayed out of these divisive debates, since being both a Wiccan and a Reconstructionist, I find them very upsetting. We had some good results from this meeting, I will not report on it since I know Don will do a much better job of it than I ever could. I’ll just wait for his blogging on this, but I have to say that it was intense. It was a great honor to be in the same room with so many Elders.” – Lord Lugh, on interfaith and Wiccanate privilege at PantheaCon.

John Halstead

John Halstead

“Ruth and I went to the Woodland concert, and they were even better live than their recording.  They played one of my favorites, “Shadows”, which made me super happy.  And then we went to Pomba Gira, a dance/ritual put on by the American Magic Umbanda House.  Everyone wore sexy red and black and we danced to heavy drums and rhythmic, chant-like, overtly sexual lyrics.  It was a sexually charged event and I was glad to have my wife there.  That was Valentine’s night.  Nuf said. The Old Time Good Spell Feri Pagan Tent Revival was also lots of fun.  It was a cross between a Christian tent revival and a Pagan Feri ritual.  Last time I was at Pantheacon, I attended the ritual next door to the Feri Pagan Tent Revival and I knew from the sound that leaked through the walls and out into the hallway that I had missed out on something great.  I vowed that this year I would not missed it.  And I was not disappointed. Ruth and I also attended a workshop by LaSara Firefox Allen and her husband Robert Allen entitled “Mystical Love: Encountering the Divine Other”.  It was kind of an introduction to a kind of Bhakti yoga.  They spoke about the experience of a transcendent “divine love”, and we practiced some “eye gazing” with our partners.  At least as interesting as what they said was how they said it and how they interacted with each other and the attendees.  I would really like to have the chance to attend a longer seminar with them in the future.” – John Halstead, giving an initial run-down of his PantheaCon experiences.

Tonja Vernazza

Tonja Vernazza

“The next phenomenon I observed was in Daily Practice Sucks: Moving Daily Spirituality Forward by Lisa Spiral. The session was popular, I counted almost 100 people in attendance. What was shocking to me was that when asked about a daily practice, only about 5% of the room raised their hand. Several years ago, I read the results of a Gallup poll on the religious behavior of Americans. The overwhelming majority of the people polled said that they attend church or temple, not necessarily for an experience of the divine, but for the fellowship with their community. Spiritual experience takes a backseat to the potlucks and other social events their religious community offers. It occurs to me that there is a division of intention in the Pagan community. On one side, you have the Pagans, Witches, Heathens and others who want to develop themselves spiritually, who want to experience communion with the divine, who are excited about coming into relationship with their Gods, ancestors and spirits. On the other side, you have Pagans who are like the majority of church-going Americans – they come to festivals, rituals and other events for the camaraderie with like-minded friends.” – Tonja Vernazza, giving some impressions of PantheaCon.

Jason Mankey

Jason Mankey

“My workshops are generally a combination of humor and information. People go in expecting to laugh at a few jokes, I didn’t want people entering 1899 with the expectation of laughter. I glower at the assembled crowd as the file in, most of them continue to chat. On the spur of the moment I change the opening of the ritual and end up walking around the circle attempting to put the crowd into a more serious mood. I’m not sure that I’m successful, though everyone does stop giggling. We get back to the ritual’s script and those who have chosen to help me are near flawless. Quarters are called, the circle is cast, threats are hurled at the audience, and I go off script once more. A short segment focused on the sharing of signs and gods is turned into a much longer piece as I prance and scowl and end up telling a few jokes. My priestesses do a lovely job of letting me go off-script and come in exactly when needed to.” – Jason Mankey, providing a timeline of a ritual he conducted at PantheaCon.

Stifyn Emrys

Stifyn Emrys

“Complaining is all about making one’s feelings known – specifically, feelings of dissatisfaction. Sometimes, it’s necessary, and some complaints can certainly be legitimate. But listening and learning are all about gathering information, and (barring an emergency), it’s best to do as much of this as possible before complaining. Often, complaints turn out to be misplaced simply because we haven’t taken the time to learn more about what’s causing our dissatisfaction. Panel discussions can be great forums for analyzing that dissatisfaction and identifying the source of it. At Pantheacon, the Pagans and Privilege panel was particularly effective in this regard, because it exposed a large group of attendees to a variety of perspectives within the community. The more we seek to learn about one another, the less time there is for complaints and, often, the less basis there is for them. The diversity within the umbrella Pagan community means opportunities for learning and listening abound, and never more so than at a convention of this scope. I’d like to personally thank the organizers for giving us a space to get to know one another a little better. I know some of my complaints were resolved before they were even uttered, just because I took the time to listen to others’ perspectives.” – Stifyn Emrys, on the PantheaCon spirit.

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

Pagan Community Notes is a series focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. Reinforcing 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 let’s get started!

Modrzyk MemoriesOn February 5th, it was reported that Stanley Modrzyk (1945 – 2014), founder & High Priest of the first Temple of the Craft of W.I.C.A., had passed away. Modrzyk was the author of two books on Wiccan practice, and was one of the founding members of the Midwest Pagan Council and of the Pan Pagan Festival, one of the first and oldest running festivals in the Midwest United States from which Pagan Spirit Gathering and Chrysalis Moon got their start. A longtime activist for his faith in the Midwest, Stanley made many media appearances, and organized to stop faux-witch-burnings during Halloween celebrations in the Chicago area. A wake will be held on Feb. 14th from 2-8pm at Joseph Nosek and Sons Funeral Home, 6716 W. 16th Street in Berwyn, IL. In lieu of flowers, the family is asking that people donate to JDRF -Junior Diabetic Research Fund or The Chicago Lighthouse. The family is asking those that cannot make the wake to light a candle for him on Friday, Feb. 14th at 7pm. Stanley Modrzyk is survived by his wife, Dorothy, and daughter, Lizzy, who are both active within the Craft. Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary and Pagan Spirit Gathering said that she is “thankful for his many positive contributions to the Craft & Paganism.” What is remembered, lives.

1484086_253554558146286_1250339820_nA new Pagan organization has formed, one dedicated to supporting infrastructure and developing small Pagan institutions. Quote: “Announcing the Pantheon Foundation: building 21st Century Pagan infrastructure. We are a California non-profit religious corporation applying for 501(c)(3) status with the IRS. Our mission is to provide IRS group exemptions for Pagan organizations through fiscal sponsorship, develop Pagan ministry, study the history, promote the culture, and advance the social welfare of Pagans and the Pagan community.” Pantheon Foundation will be holding a reception at PantheaCon 2014 this weekend, Saturday, 9pm, in Suite 1060. One of its main functions, providing fiscal sponsorship, will directly benefit The Wild Hunt, and once final paperwork is done, donations to this site will be tax-deductible. Co-founder Sam Webster says that, quote, “we have finally built a Pagan religious non-profit organization to serve the many needs of our community and provide legal coverage for our small organizations.” More announcements will be forthcoming, for those who can’t be at PantheaCon.

polytheist leadership conferenceLast week I mentioned that a proposed Polytheist Leadership Conference was moving forward, now, co-organizer Galina Krasskova elaborates further on plans at the Witches & Pagans Magazine site. Quote: “The Polytheist Leadership Conference will take place Friday, July 11th through Sunday, July 13th – though we’ve made arrangements so that you can get the block room rate if you want to come in earlier on Thursday. We’ll begin on Friday at 3:00pm with an opening prayer to our collective dead and polytheist predecessors and then have a lecture and roundtable discussion with the rest of the evening devoted to socializing and networking. We’ll start at 10:00am on Saturday with a full day of workshops, lectures and roundtable discussions ending at 8:00pm. There’ll be half hour breaks between each session and an extended lunch and dinner. Sunday begins at 10:00am and has two sessions with a social lunch and then a closing ceremony at 3:00pm.” An official website is now up so attendees can register. You can also find further details there about the conference.

In Other Pagan Community News:

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

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.

Starhawk at Occupy Santa Cruz. Photo by Matt Fitt, Santa Cruz IMC.

Starhawk

“Permaculture, spirit, and activism – three very potent tools to regenerate our world […] I started Earth Activist Training because I wanted a program that could combine them all.  Permaculture is a holistic ecological design system that includes powerful tools that can help us heal damaged land, rebuild communities, and create truly sustainable abundance.  We teach it with a grounding in spirit—personal regeneration–and a focus on organizing and activism.  In our permaculture design course, students learn how to heal damaged soil, grow food organically, bioremediate toxins, harvest water and re-use graywater, build low-cost, low-carbon housing, and so many other skills.  And most of all, they learn how all the aspects of sustainability can fit together so that we can meet our human needs while caring for the natural systems around us. Permaculture offers solutions to some of our most grave ecological problems. The communities that most need these tools are those who are on the front lines of environmental and social struggles – our depressed inner cities, indigenous reserves where jobs and resources are scarce, desertifying drylands and war-torn lands in the developing world.  To share this knowledge, we need to train people who come from those communities.  They are the best ambassadors and most effective teachers!” – Starhawk, introducing her new IndieGoGo campaign to fund diversity scholarships for Earth Activist Trainings.

Sharon Knight

Sharon Knight

“Feri was my first introduction to magic, and I experienced first hand how powerful it can be to open to magical realms. From what I understand, not all traditions deal with the pure electric currents of magic, some are more liturgical. But in Feri, it is desirable to awaken what we call the Feri fire, a subtle electricity akin to kundalini, and which, when ignited, enhances perception greatly. You could say to ignite the Feri fire is to awaken the Ichor – the blood of the Gods – in our own blood, thus greatly enhancing our ability to touch and taste the realms of the Gods. Rituals that don’t open these gates feel flat to me. So, I have this precedent that I strive for as a musician as well. I want to kindle these fires in others with music, to stir and awaken an experience of magic in the listeners. It is every musician’s ideal to be able to captivate their audience and hold them in thrall, and my Feri training has definitely given me tools which enhance my ability to do this.” – Sharon Knight, on how Feri has influenced her career as a musician, in an interview with John Beckett.

Seb the Shaman

Seb the Shaman

“Be stubborn, don’t expect the universe to explode with happiness and gifts when you start on a professional spiritual path. Make a budget. Make sure you are still giving to your community, and sit down and figure out WHY you want to be a professional with a spiritual practice. If you cannot face the fact that it is a partly selfish endeavor then get out of the running. Be practical. Realize that sleep, making buckets of money, and being able to do what you want to when you want too – these should be on the list of things you are willing to sacrifice for a while. Give yourself five to ten years to get going. And ultimately, be proud to take the hard road. Humility is overrated, but don’t be an asshole as the pagan community usually does a good job keeping assholes in check and word spreads fast. Remember that you are in service to the people who pay you for your time, energy, objects, or whatever it may be. Do not over service people, and don’t take any bullshit. Do not complain about what you choose. And always do your taxes.” – Seb the Shaman, a participant in the Pagan Bundle project, on advice for those who want to make a living doing spiritual work.

Ivo Dominguez Jr.

Ivo Dominguez Jr.

“I read a lot of blogs, go to a lot of conferences and festivals, teach a lot of workshops, and have lively discussions with friends related to all things Pagan and Magickal. Although I can say that ease of access to ideas through the internet, bookstores, and Pagan and Magickal events has increased awareness of many social issues, ideologies, religious and theological perspectives, and the vast amount of minutia related Pagan culture and fads, there is an increasing percentage of the Pagan community that is magickally illiterate and innumerate.  I’m not saying that people are less serious, less devoted, or less committed to their path. Nor am I saying that the level of discourse has dropped, in fact in many ways it is much more sophisticated in exploring the development of Pagan culture. What I have noticed is that the technical end of things, magick theory, sacred sciences, and the like, are less well known. I’ve also noticed a trend towards focusing more exclusively on the lore and mythology of a specific people or a specific time at the expense of a generalized understanding of how magickal paths manifest in a variety of cultures and communities.” – Ivo Dominguez Jr., on magickal literacy, and the lack thereof, in today’s Pagan community.

Melissa Harrington

Melissa Harrington

“Davidsen’s critique of Pagan Studies is of a nascent field that has been evident since the late 1980s. Thus it has necessarily been going through a period of demarcation and description, which Davidsen criticises as a loyalist attempt at defining a “pure” Paganism. He also criticises the fact that a greater proportion of work so far has been done by “insider” researchers. In an economic climate where many academic jobs are being cut, with no faculty, department or undergraduate degree in Pagan Studies, it would seem obvious that only those with a deep personal interest would risk devoting time and funds to such studies. But that goes for any field of interest or employment and is not unique to Paganism. Nor does this preclude non Pagans from studying Paganism; it is a very varied area with much scope for development. Scholars of Paganism welcome input from any area of the academy, including from the critical study of religion, to work on developing understanding of religion in all its aspects and manifestations via Pagan Studies, and in increasing knowledge of Paganism itself. However “What is wrong with Pagan Studies?” launches an attack on scholars rather than scholarship. Davidsen uses the foundation built by Michael York and Graham Harvey to dismiss the vantage from which he speaks in few critical sentences. He declares scholars of Paganism en masse to be emic religionists who need to be educated in critical theory, sheltering a cohort of essentialists who are consciously misusing academia as part of a clandestine intra-Pagan power struggle.” – Melissa Harrington, responding to a critique of Pagan Studies by Markus Davidsen (you can read the critique here).

Sam Webster (with Herm), photo by Tony Mierzwicki.

Sam Webster

“There is much that Pagans can do in the world, but it will require leadership to do it and leadership is a relationship. Leadership is a two way street. Those who lead only do so because of those they serve. Mind, I did not say ‘follow’. Leadership is inalienably about service, or it is tyranny. Leadership is also risky. For Pagans this danger is acute. Besides putting oneself out in public which inevitably makes one a target, compounded by the isolation the role also produces, Pagans all too often operate by the ‘penguin’ mode of leadership. Penguins, it is said, follow their leaders down to the waterfront and stop before going in. The leaders, at the front of the pack, scan the waters for orca, leopard seals, and the like, which prey on penguins. But the waters are dark and the dangers, invisible. So, the pack pushes the leader in. If they come back up, they all jump in. If only blood comes to the surface, they go swimming elsewhere. Leadership is often about taking risks, but it must be matched by the loyalty of those the leaders serve for it to succeed. Both must be worthy.” – Sam Webster, on how leadership is relationship.

Donald Michael Kraig

Donald Michael Kraig

“I remember when cell phones first hit the market. They were supposed to free you up and give you more time. Now, they’re so “smart,” they take away time, allowing addicts to stare at their messages and email in the desperate hope that something important will flash on its screen. I realized that I’d been to festivals and conventions where people had their heads buried in their phones. You could be talking with them while they look and then say, “One second; I just have to answer this message…” If you’re a doctor, that conceivably could be true. Otherwise, you do not own that smart phone…it owns you. Consider this: if your battery had run down, or if the phone hadn’t signaled you with a sound or vibration, and the result was that you didn’t answer that message or email RIGHT NOW, how would your life or the life of the person sending you that note, be different? What if the message to you were delayed by 15 minutes? What about a half hour? Instead, people walk down the street, staring at their phones, missing the world around them; missing out on the world around them.” – Donald Michael Kraig, hits out against smart phones as “Magick destroyers.”

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

“The mention of a very specific goddess: Isis. And that goddess, I have no doubt, is in mourning at present, not for Osiris, but for a human woman who over the last nearly seventy years did more to spread the religious devotion to Isis than anyone has since, very likely, Apuleius in late antiquity: Lady Olivia Durdin-Robertson, the principal foundress of the Fellowship of Isis. Lady Olivia was born on April 13, 1917, and recently died on November 14, 2013. She was, truly, one of the most important individual pagans, I think, of the 20th and early 21st centuries, and I think that Isis most certainly inspired and came through her to many others. Sadly, I never was able to meet her, or to get to Clonegal Castle while I was in Ireland; however, a friend of mine did, and spoke very highly of Lady Olivia and of her experiences there in general. May Isis enfold her wings around Lady Olivia, and may she be guided swiftly into the west, with a thousand ushabtis of turquoise to carry out her works for her!” – P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, on Olivia Robertson, co-founder of the Fellowship of Isis, who passed away last week. While at the site, do check out this wonderful tribute and sanctification.

Jason Mankey

Jason Mankey

“It’s true that the Pilgrims did celebrate some sort of Thanksgiving back in 1621, and it did come with Native Americans, pumpkin, and probably wild turkey. Unfortunately it wasn’t necessarily a holiday about “coming together” so much as it was about showing off English muskets. In recent years much of the Pilgrim myth has been stripped away. Most Americans are now aware that the Puritans of Plymouth Rock weren’t really the nicest folks. I’m respectful of their dedication to hard work and devotion to their faith, but they weren’t necessarily pioneers of religious freedom. Sure they were interested in their religious freedom, but these were the same people who were burning witches just seventy years later. The myth has always been better than the reality, but I still find value in it. When people reflect on the Pilgrims and the Patuxet it’s a reflection not of what actually was, but what we wish to be. Most of us do dream of a country where everyone can come together to share a meal without caring about race, creed, or gender. Maybe that’s why Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It speaks to the best of what we can be. It’s certainly about food and family, but it’s also about coming together despite our differences. I’ll eat a good pound of turkey next Thursday, hug my wife, call my Dad, and watch about ten hours of football, but I’ll also stop to remember what it means to be truly thankful for the blessings in my life, and to reflect on the things that bring us together instead of drive us apart. Happy Thanksgiving.” – Jason Mankey, on why he likes Thanksgiving.

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

Pagan Community Notes is a series focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. Reinforcing 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 let’s get started!

TFST_Guilds_1-300x300The team behind getting Starhawk’s novel “The Fifth Sacred Thing” turned into a feature film have announced that they are seeking volunteers to become a part of their new guild production system (one that takes its inspiration from the book). Quote: “Here at TFST, we’ve been very busy creating legal, financial and creative infrastructure for the development of the film. This includes concept art, original music, perfecting the screenplay, fostering connections with green businesses, pitching the film, and creating our promotional video (watch it here). We’ve designed the foundations of a green, sustainable film project from the ground up, building important alliances and this includes you. The outpouring of support was so profound we decided to create Guilds (yes, like the novel!) to activate participants. Each Guild will operate like a team, with a Leader who will oversee tasks and report to the producers for effective communication.” Those interested are pointed to a contact form on the film project’s website. In 2011, Starhawk raised over $75,000 dollars through Kickstarter to help fund a pitch-reel in order get a feature film based on her post-apocalyptic 1993 book made. You can read all of my coverage of this project, here.

b26b6501f8c7ce428e52cf912ba6aeeeThe historic Pagan periodical Green Egg, which re-launched 2007 as a digital-only publication, has announced that they have signed on with a print-on-demand magazine self-service platform so that their content can be made available in print, and at stores, once again. Quote: “Green Egg, the famous Pagan magazine which was first published in 1968, proudly announces that it is now back in print. The popular Pagan journal was founded by Oberon Zell-Ravenheart and has featured articles by such luminaries as Jacques Vallee, Robert Anton Wilson, Starhawk, Joanna Macy and many articles by Oberon himself, as well as articles and poems by his wife, Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart […] The new print version will also be available in i-Pad version for 2.00. The print version is available for purchase for $8.00. Both versions include a digital version.” You can find the new issue in this new venue, here. As announced previously, Green Egg continues to work behind the scenes to digitize their extensive back-catalog, which they now estimate will be done come the Summer. For a best-of retrospective of the magazine, check out “Green Egg Omelete.”

TShirt_black_Coven_Oldenwilde_lo-resThe Asheville, North Carolina-based Witch/Wiccan organization Coven Oldenwilde announced that they have signed a contract with a reality television production company. Quote: “We’ve signed an agreement with a reputable California production company that has previously filmed series for the History channel and the Discovery channel, etc., to be filmed for a TV series showing how we teach magical apprentices, and exploring what attracts Seekers to Wicca, as well as their experiences while aspiring to the Priest/esshood. No contest, sensationalism, or monetary compensation involved; rather, this is an opportunity to present the Craft well to a national and international audience, and to show viewers how folks from all walks of life can master magic. The series will likely be filmed in our Covenstead in West Asheville, NC, and if it gets the go-ahead for production, the filming could commence anywhere from 4 to 6 months or so from now. We would teach apprentice/cast-members material from Coven Oldenwilde’s upcoming online School of Witchcraft courses.” I’ve made my feelings about Paganism and reality television rather clear, so I will simply wish them the best of luck, and hope that the program is as positive as they portray.

In Other Pagan Community News:

http://www.gbgcalendar.com

http://www.gbgcalendar.com

  • The 2014 Gerald B. Gardner “year and a day” calendar is now available for order. Quote: “Since 2010, this unique calendar project has shared photos, news clippings and quotes from Gerald Gardner, Doreen Valiente, Patricia Crowther, Eleanor Bone, Monique Wilson and Lois Bourne, covering five decades of Craft history.” If you’re of the Wiccan persuasion, it makes a neat gift. I’ve embedded a sample image above. For each calendar sold, a donation will be made to the Doreen Valiente Foundation, and England’s Museum of Witchcraft.
  • I recently pointed to photos of Guatemalan Mayan elder Apolinario Chile Pixtun’s visit to California, where he interacted with several local Pagans. Now, COG Interfaith Reports features a write-up from Don Frew and Rachael Watcher about the visit. Quote: “This first ceremony was for Tata to introduce himself to the spirits of this place – my home, the Bay Area, California – and to the spirits of the people who have lived here, especially of the various native tribes.  This was to be polite and make sure that there would be no resistance to the work he would be doing.” 
  • Congratulations to Wiccan author and musician Kenny Klein on starting his own blog at the Huffington Post. Quote: “I plan to do a lot of speaking on this venue about life in New Orleans: our celebrations, our lifestyles, and the hardships we still suffer in the wake of Katrina, eight years later. But as a professional musician, I tour frequently, and speak about the things I see on the road.”
  • Pagan writer Jason Mankey is raising some money on IndieGoGo to fund his expenses for when he goes on the road this Spring. Quote: “Maybe you want to donate some cash because you enjoy Raise the Horns or like my workshops.  Perhaps you want to support one of the hardest working guys in all of the Pagan Blogosphere (that would be me).  I’ve been giving my all to greater Pagandom for the last several years and I want to be able to continue to do that without worrying about bouncing a check.” He’s raised $420 dollars of his $600 dollar goal so far. So if you appreciate his writing/speaking, send a few bucks his way.
  • The annual Reclaiming Spiral Dance was held this past Saturday in San Francisco. Reclaiming co-founder Starhawk noted after the event that it was “another beautiful Spiral Dance! Thanks, everyone, for the hard work, the creativity and the inspiration–dancers, musicians, altar builders, organizers, trance leaders, invocations, and of course, the indispensable cleanup crew!”

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

Peter Dybing

Peter Dybing

“While I have great respect for printed publications,  I am also an information addict. Within our community we have witnessed the emergence of a professional, consistent and ethical Pagan media. Part of my daily ritual has become checking in with The Wild Hunt, a media outlet at the forefront of providing information to our community. […] As a Pagan Activist there is no more valuable resource than this site. How about you? How often do you read the Wild Hunt? Would you feel informed about the Pagan community in its’ absence?  Do you think, as I do, that it weaves the web of our community together? It is my sincere hope that all Pagans will never have to suffer from the lack of information, both present and background, that past generations have. We as a community need to support this outstanding organization. Obviously, all this does not happen in a vacuum. It takes funds and committed people to make it happen. I urge you to support the Wild Hunt and its’ staff of professional writers. They represent the best of what our community is manifesting.” – Peter Dybing, on gratitude and his information addiction.

Today is the beginning of the second week of our Fall Funding Drive. This is the annual event in which this site raises the money it needs to pay its contributors, hosting fees, and other costs associated with keeping this site up and running for another year. I’m happy to say that in the first week we have nearly reached 60% of our $10,000 goal! Thank you!

funding_larger

The money raised so far, nearly $6000 dollars, came from just 162 amazing donors. Imagine what we can do if just a tiny percentage of our regular readers gave just a little. So I’m sending out a proposal to long-time readers who may be shy about donating, or who think they need to be able to afford a big-dollar donation to make a difference. If 1000 readers, and I know we have many more than that, gave just $5 (which would qualify them for our new “pack” perk) we would not only reach our goal, but surpass it. I’m calling it “5 FOR 1000,” and I hope you’ll be a part of it. Throughout the rest of the drive, I’ll be sending out special shout-outs to new donors, and I encourage everyone to help us spread the word so we can hit our goal! Here’s the IndieGoGo campaign link again: http://igg.me/at/2013-fall-funding-drive/x/497880

Now, here are some more Pagan Voices to round out this Monday morning post.

Jason Mankey

Jason Mankey

“It often feels as if we Pagans are far more likely to share an article that undermines Christianity than we are to share something written by Pagans for Pagans. That bothers me as a Pagan writer of course, but it also bothers me as a Pagan because I feel as if it hurts Pagandom long term […] What bothers me the most about a Pagnadom far more interested in talking about Christianity than Paganism is that I feel we are losing a big opportunity. We’re losing a chance to better understand each other. Since the conversation is more about ‘why they are wrong’ instead of ‘why this is right for me,’ I’m missing the chance to hear my sisters and brothers talking about how they experience ritual and the gods. Think of all the new traditions and rites that we might come up with if we were more focused on us instead of them! When I’m around the campfire I desperately want to talk about Pagan things! I want to discuss The Long Lost Friend, magick, Gerald Gardner, Aphrodite, and a whole host of other topics far removed from Christianity.” – Jason Mankey, encouraging Pagans to talk about Paganism, and not the latest Christian controversy.

Taylor Ellwood

Taylor Ellwood

“Cultural appropriation is the wholesale stealing of a given culture’s practices. The reason people do it may be a result of feeling disconnected from the culture they are in or identifying spirituality as only residing in the cultural practices of the culture they are appropriating from. Regardless of what the reason is, such appropriation ultimately creates a mockery of the original practices, because while the person might steal away the practices, s/he can never truly know the culture. S/he is always interpreting the other culture through the lens of his/her own culture. One of the grey areas in this kind of discussions involves the choice to study a given culture’s practices. I likely fit into that gray area. I study Tibetan and Taoist meditation practices. I am not of the cultures where those practices originated and I don’t try to be. I study those practices to learn from them and implement them in my life, without trying to identify with the culture. It’s a grey area, because I’m not trying to appropriate the overall culture and pretend to be something I’m not, but I am learning and practicing from that culture’s spiritual practices. However, I think that such learning can fit into cultural exchange if it is done respectfully and with an intention to respect the original culture without trying to become part of it.” – Taylor Ellwood, on cultural exchange vs. cultural appropriation.

Donald Michael Kraig

Donald Michael Kraig

“Although I agree with Mr. Ellwood’s conclusions, we have some disagreements over the details that get there. He states that ‘[c]ultural appropriation is the wholesale stealing of a given culture’s practices.’ I respectfully disagree. For example, if someone who was not of a particular culture immersed himself or herself into the practices of that culture, and then authentically brought the entire thing, ‘wholesale,’ to a wider audience, I would respect that. In fact, I would think that most people brought up in that culture would love to see an authentic presentation of the beliefs and practices of their culture brought with integrity to a larger audience. The problem with cultural appropriation is that it specifically doesn’t bring a culture’s practices to a wider audience in a wholesale and authentic way. Instead, cultural appropriation steals sections of culture’s beliefs and practices, often blending them with practices foreign to that culture, and presents it as being the totality of that culture’s system. In my opinion, what makes cultural appropriation a horrible thing is not that it exposes the traditions of a different culture, but that it tries to blend in a bit of that culture with other concepts and presents it to the public as an authentic representation of the original culture. Some people put on buckskin, go to a Native American Pow-Wow, pray to the ‘Great Spirit,’ and think they’re following ‘the’ Native American path.” – Donald Michael Kraig, responding to Taylor Ellwood on the subject of cultural appropriation.

Sam Webster (with Herm), photo by Tony Mierzwicki.

Sam Webster

“For me, those who empower or inspire from the past are just that, the past. At the beginning of every ritual I ‘Take Refuge’ as the Buddhists call it, invoking the causal influence and beneficent intent of all those who have gone before me to bless and empower the work to come. It is a very powerful way to start a ritual and at times I even consciously include my ancestors as ‘those from whom I have learned’. But, most of the time, they are just part of the Divine Host that I call upon for aid and support. Likewise, when working a spell or blessing, I attune to the causal stream of everything that has lead to the moment of the working, essentially all of the Past, feel it as a wavefront building up ‘behind’ me and then bring it to bear on the intent being worked. I guess my ancestors are part of all that but I’m usually just concentrating on the time-stream and using my lived-moment like a lens to focus the past into the present to make an effective now and thereby change the future. Why wouldn’t I focus all the the past, animate and inanimate, material and immaterial, not just that part that is my ancestors? You might say that I’m working with my ancestors, but from within the frame of a much larger set of ‘resources’.” – Sam Webster, on ancestor worship and dealing with the dead.

Anomalous Thracian

Anomalous Thracian

“Mediumship, possession, divination, oracular trance, are all examples of forms of communication with the other-than-human external forces of creation and otherwise. But even the most mechanical of these (e.g. those which utilize the manipulation and interpretation of physical tools or items to divine the messages of the divine) carry the risk of our own unexamined “crap” coming up into the lenses through which we view these messages. For all the people who espouse faux-Jungian terminology around “shadow work” and doing their “inner work”, very few actually seem to have done so in measured, field-tested form. Who amongst us can confidently answer questions about the contents of our own hearts? Not peace-loving fluffy, comfortable ideas, or Eastern-appropriated ideas of disentanglement from the material considerations of the world, but real and genuine expressions of our own needs, desires, fears, limitations, values, edges, or motives? This is work that is never done, never complete, because we ourselves are never done and never complete and instead are constantly upon and within a grand and damned spectrum and continuum of change, growth, relapse, regression, failure, fault, and fear and forgiveness for all of it, pitted against guilt-shame-denial-repression-borne compensatory-reactions against ourselves and anything and everyone that would dare to come between us and that which we refuse to see within ourselves. And yet our gods are here to guide us toward traditions and techniques and processes of illumination.” – Anomalous Thracian, on the importance of listening and responding.

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

Don’t forget to donate and spread the work for our Fall Funding Drive: http://igg.me/at/2013-fall-funding-drive/x/497880