Archives For John Beckett

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!

CPWR Logo.

CPWR Logo.

In a Tuesday news conference, the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions announced the site for the long-awaited 2015 Parliament. The first U.S. Parliament in 22 years will be held in Salt Lake City, Utah, October 15-19 2015. The announcement was delivered from the Salt Palace Convention Center where the event will take place.

Salt Lake City was chosen for a variety of reasons, one of which is its natural beauty. The organization’s press release describes the terrain as “stunning the eye and moving the heart of all to protect the only earth we have.”

The mountain town certainly provides a majestic backdrop to a world interfaith event. However natural beauty wasn’t the only reason for the selection. Board trustee Andras Corban-Arthen is the chair of the site-selection committee. He explains,

Our site-selection criteria had to be pretty flexible and, more than anything, pragmatic. Since we lost Brussels (our previously designated host city) as a result of the European economic downturn a couple of years ago, we’ve been searching for another city that would provide us with the opportunity to organize the next Parliament as quickly as possible  … while still enabling us to maintain the level of autonomy, as well as the quality of organization and programming … When Salt Lake City contacted us, we felt it was a good fit for us to meet a lot of our main objectives. While it’s very true that Utah is the Mormon stronghold, Salt Lake City itself has a much more diverse population.

That diversity includes interfaith groups as well as individual practitioners of a variety of minority religions. He adds, “Bringing the Parliament to Salt Lake City will encourage the further development of interreligious dialogue in the city. It should also provide a much more pluralistic outlook on important, controversial topics such as same-sex marriage and the ordination of women to the priesthood within a context that won’t be dominated by the dogma of any one religion.”

The Council has not yet decided on a main theme or focus for the 2015 Parliament. However, Corban-Arthen says, in general, the event will reflect contemporary concerns including “environmental destruction; poverty and economic disparity; violence; the erosion of human rights; racism; gender and sexual discrimination; the destruction of indigenous cultures.”

Tuesday’s announcement was made by a number of speakers, including Chair Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid; Executive Director Dr. Mary Nelson; Arun Ghandi, Parliament trustee and grandson of Ghandi; Andres Himes, Executive Director for the Charter for Compassion and Sande Hart, North American Chair for the United Religions Initiative. Present at the ceremony were two local Salt Lake Pagan religious leaders.

Corban-Arthen says, ” I would love to see a large pagan turnout in Salt Lake City. The Parliament has been very good to us: it was the first major interfaith organization to not only open its doors to us, but also to actually invite us to sit at the table.” He encourages Pagans and Heathens of any and all traditions to attend.

MotherTongque, EarthSpirit's Ritual Performance Troupe, at 2004 Parliament in Barcelona [Courtesy of A. Corban-Arthen]

MotherTongque, EarthSpirit’s Ritual Performance Troupe, at 2004 Parliament in Barcelona [Courtesy of A. Corban-Arthen]

CoG Interfaith Representative Aline “Macha NightMare” O’Brien is hoping to attend. After hearing the announcement she said, “Having been involved in the interfaith arena for some years, mostly locally and regionally, I’m thrilled that the Parliament will be convening on this continent…Until now, I’ve watch international interfaith mostly from afar, so I’m eager that there’s now a possibility for me to experience it up close and personal.”

Corban-Arthen encourages Pagans and Heathens to attend, not just those engaged in interfaith work, and he advises for all “to go with open hearts and minds, and to listen and to engage.” He says:

There’s an awful lot any of us can learn at a Parliament, not just about the teachings of other religions but, maybe more importantly, about living our spirituality and manifesting it in the world, about finding common ground, about confronting and transcending prejudices, theirs as well as ours. Many of us have found that the Parliament has been a life-changing experience; I certainly have.

Registration is now open and programming information will be available over the next year.

In Other Pagan Community News:

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  • The Toronto, Ontario Pagan community has been gripped with grief over the discovery of remains that may belong to a missing member of their community. Quote: “In an interview last week on CBC’s Metro Morning, Currie’s older sister, Jennifer, said she suspects her sister may be in a state of emotional distress. She also said her sisters suffers from paranoia. She is an avid cyclist and a member of Toronto’s Wiccan community.” A positive identification has yet to be made. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the friends, family, and community members of Kit Currie.
  • The Pantheon Foundation has undertaken the creation of a Pagan events calendar for the Bay Area of California (and beyond). Quote: “At the recent All Pagans Organizing meeting held August 16 in the East Bay (other locations coming soon!) the Pantheon Foundation volunteered to take on the responsibility for establishing and maintaining a calendar of events for Bay Area Pagans, and anyone else who wishes to have their Pagan (broadly construed) events listed. The primary maintainer of the Calendar is Molly Blue Dawn, who will be converting her regular event list email into this new tool and moderating the submissions so we are not flooded with spam.” You can find this new resource, here.
  • Covenant of the Unitarian Universalist Pagans have announced the launch of a revisioning process, which will include internal discussions, analysis, and public surveys. The organization says that its goal is to create a “mission and vision” for the next ten years. John Beckett is heading up the revisioning team and writes,”Our goal is to produce a mission and vision statement that will set the high-level direction for CUUPS and for building a shared sense of identity and purpose. We want to include all our stakeholders: CUUPS members, UU-friendly Pagans, and Pagan-friendly UUs – if you have an opinion on what CUUPS is and what it should be, we want to hear from you. The first public survey is online here.

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

[Correction: Andras Corban-Arthen and Phyllis Curott were not in attendance at the PWR ceremony on Tuesday. However, two local Pagans representatives were there among the other local religious leaders.]

Last month The Wild Hunt asked five members of the community — Thracian polytheanimist Anomalous Thracian of the blog Thracian Exodus; Mambo Chita Tann of Sosyete Fos Fe Yo We; priestess, author, blogger, and Solar Cross Temple board member Crystal Blanton; OBOD Druid and Under the Ancient Oaks blogger John Beckett; and Ár nDraíocht Féin (ADF) Druid Rev. Sean W. Harbaugh — for their thoughts on sacrifice. The following continues the conversation with part two of that interview.

How is sacrifice separate from blood sacrifice? Does blood sacrifice include personal blood offerings or is it limited to animal sacrifice?

Anomalous Thracian

Anomalous Thracian

“Blood sacrifice is not a term that I use and I would argue it as vague and somewhat useless. Ritual bloodletting would be more appropriate in this context, if I am reading the question correctly, as it is general enough to include many things, such as: ritual cutting of one’s own flesh to create a bond or pact with a spirit; ritual cutting of a sexual partner’s flesh in a ritual or ceremony; ritual cutting of an animal (not for the purpose of killing, but for producing the essence of a specific animal’s life force); “marking” a person with your own essence under certain ritual circumstances, whether for positive (protective, warding) or negative (hostile, magically infectious) reasons. Similarly cutting one’s self to feed one’s own blood to a specific deity — exactly as you might use, say, a goat, but without an immediate death — could be considered a sacrifice, and is still generally categorizable as “bloodletting.” I would hesitate to call anything that does not involve intentional death a sacrifice, in personal use of the term, but I would consider “the feeding or offering of blood, without death, to a deity or spirit” to be a form of sacrifice when circumstances call for it. Note: In many traditions, there are HEAVY restrictions upon forms of bloodletting of this sort, as the spirits and deities in question will take this as indication that the person being bled is “food,” and they will be regarded as such.” — Anomalous Thracian, Thracian Exodus

Mambo Chita Tann

Mambo Chita Tann

“We do not ever offer human blood in Haitian Vodou, despite stereotypes to the contrary. Blood can be offered in the rituals around making animal offerings, which almost always become food for ritual participants, once the spirits have taken their share. It is possible to consider sacrifice in the sense of other offerings of great worth that are given to the spirits, such as the great amount of effort, money, resources, and time an entire Vodou sosyete will dedicate to initiation ceremonies or annual observances of special ritual, but we still do not place these offerings as being more precious or higher than the ultimate sacrifice of an animal’s life to provide protection, blessing, and sustenance for that sosyete and its members.” — Mambo Chita Tann, Sosyete Fos Fe Yo We, Haitian Vodou

Crystal Blanton

Crystal Blanton

“There are many different types of sacrifice, and it is not limited to blood sacrifice. Different traditions access this differently. I personally do not practice blood sacrifice, but I have made personal blood offerings. I honor the life force of the individual, and the power of the divine within me, adding magic in the process.” — Crystal Blanton, Daughters of Eve

 

John Beckett

John Beckett

“Blood sacrifice is a subset of sacrifice, a particular form of sacrifice. It can include personal blood offerings or it can include animal sacrifice.” — John Beckett, Under the Ancient Oaks

Rev. Sean W. Harbaugh

Rev. Sean W. Harbaugh

“Sacrifice often is confused with “blood offerings.” Blood sacrifice really doesn’t have a place in a modern Neopagan context, yet there are established cultures that still perform blood sacrifices. In a modern Druid context, sacrifices are often things such as whiskey, grains, flowers, prayers, poems, songs, and anything else that is a tangible item used to give to the gods. There are instances where Neopagans will sacrifice some of their own blood as a form of blood oath, but that is a rare instance. Killing of a live animal is another form of archaic sacrifice or offering that really is not something that is all that common in a Neopagan context. Most of us purchase our meat already slaughtered for consumption, but there are ways to offer a portion of that meat as a sacrifice in the form of the shared meal.” — Rev. Sean W. Harbaugh, Druid, Ár nDraíocht Féin (ADF)

Do modern Paganisms stand to gain anything positive from giving offerings and sacrifice to the Gods? What about blood sacrifice?

“As a Polytheist who does not really identify as a Pagan, I can’t speak for “modern Pagans.” I believe that authentic religious traditions — rather than psychological models drawing from religious terms or structures, or social movements similarly using the aesthetic of religion for artistic, activist, or community-centered reasons, etcetera — should have trained specialists who handle the navigation of sacrifices to the respective gods of said group, assuming that said gods request, require, or even accept sacrifices. Not all gods like bloodshed or death. As for “blood sacrifice,” I will take this to mean “ritual bloodletting” (as indicated above), and again say, that while I cannot speak for Modern Paganisms, I can state that magically and religiously there is great potency in these technologies which can be certainly used for ‘gaining something positive.’” — Anomalous Thracian

“Giving offerings to the gods cannot possibly be a bad thing. Like prayer and interaction with one’s religious community, I tend toward the belief that you can’t get enough of it. Giving special offerings that take effort, non-blood sacrifices, are just more of the same. I do not believe that Pagans need to give blood sacrifice unless and until they understand the context of that act, have trained personnel who can perform it for them, and have a distinct need to do it: either because they need to share ritual food, they are in a place where they need to butcher their own meat and they choose to sacralize that act by offering their food animals to the gods, or their gods demand it of them and no other options are satisfactory. Even in the last case, I still believe it is imperative and necessary for context and training to occur first. As I stated in the PantheaCon panel, I expect that most modern Pagans, living in countries where they do not have to butcher their own meat and practicing religions that have lost their connection to customs where blood sacrifice was practiced, will never need to do this, and their deities would not ask it of them as a result.” — Mambo Chita Tann

“Our relationships with the Gods dictate the value of sacrifice within a particular context. Much of what we would gain would be within the relationship itself, and that would depend on the practitioner and the God(s) in question. To make a broad, sweeping statement here about gain or loss would be devaluing to the individual and cultural relationships of varying practitioners of the craft.” — Crystal Blanton

“I have mixed feelings about blood sacrifice. On one hand, it would do us all good to get a first-hand understanding of where our food comes from and a first-hand understanding that what we are eating was itself alive only a short time ago. On the other hand, butchering animals requires skills you just don’t learn unless you grow up on a working farm and the only thing worse than not sacrificing is sacrificing clumsily – the animal should not suffer needlessly. Beyond that, I look at the community and legal problems blood sacrifice brings to some of the Afro-Caribbean religions – that’s not a battle I care to fight. But when you move beyond the issue of blood sacrifice, there is unquestionable benefit from sacrificing to the Gods. It brings us into closer relationships with Them, and it forces us to consider our relationships with food and with the non-food offerings we may be asked to give.” — John Beckett

“Absolutely, yes. We gain their blessings and we build our relationships with them through sacrifice. As far as blood sacrifice goes, in my years as a pagan and decade plus in ADF I have rarely heard it mentioned. I think we as Neopagans should focus on how we can use practical items to sacrifice in ritual, rather than trying to focus on something that is uncommon.” — Rev. Sean W. Harbaugh

Where does volition and willingness come into sacrifice?

“Pretty much everywhere. Consent is sacred at every step; consent of the person performing or contemplating the sacrifice, consent of the sacrifice itself, consent of the one who raised or produced the sacrifice, consent also of the spirit or deity in question.” — Anomalous Thracian

“Constantly. If a thing is done against one’s will, it cannot be a sacrifice, period. If a person is forced to make an offering, that is no sacrifice, it is compulsion, and no good spirit or deity accepts that as sacrifice. In Haitian Vodou and in all the other traditions I know of where animal sacrifices are performed, no one would ever offer an animal without that animal’s permission; again, to do so without it would be compulsion and would not be a proper sacrifice. Even in halal and kosher ritual, from Islam and Judaism respectively, the animal must be awake and willing to be sacrificed; it cannot be knocked out before the knife is used. This is causing some issues with animal rights activists, most recently in Denmark, for example; but the alternative, to knock an animal unconscious and then kill it, would be completely wrong in that sacrificial tradition — while it may appear to the untrained eye of an animal lover looking at a video to be “kinder” to do this, an unconscious animal is unable to give consent and thus it is both cruel and, from a sacrificial standpoint, unholy/wrong. Those who understand butchery know that there are techniques to kill an animal without pain, and all who perform halal and kosher rituals must be certified as trained.” — Mambo Chita Tann

“Volition means the act of making a decision, and willingness simply means being prepared to do something. As in all rituals, we have to properly prepare ourselves. In many traditions it means putting on special ritual clothing, setting up an altar, smudging ourselves, ritual bathing, and other things to prepare us for the act of ritual. In ritual, we decide who we are going to sacrifice to and why. We always need to enter ritual with a purpose, and we should always have a reason for sacrifice—even if it is just to build a better relationship with our gods. A ritual without a purpose is a waste of everybody’s time.” — Rev. Sean W. Harbaugh

Does volition come into play in animal sacrifice, does it matter, and if so, how is it obtained?

“Yes. There are various methods for this, from speaking with the animal directly and observing its behavior (or hearing back, if the asker can communicate with animals directly), and so forth. The ritual structure being employed should provide the structures for ascertaining this. If they do not, they should maybe be reevaluated in order to ensure that they are completely understood and trained.” — Anomalous Thracian

“In terms of how we obtain it: In Haitian Vodou, animals are raised explicitly for the purpose of food and for ritual-related food or ritual purposes where the animal cannot be eaten afterward. These animals are raised by hand, by the community that will sacrifice them. Before they are sacrificed, they are washed, decorated, and prepared by the community. They will be led into the peristyle (the Vodou temple), and presented with a number of various foods. One of these foods is chosen ahead of time as being the official sacrificial food. The animal is told what will happen, and that if it is willing to be sacrificed, that it should eat the official food to signify this. Only if the animal eats the special food will it be presented to the spirits for sacrifice. If it eats anything else first, it must be let free because it is not willing to do the work. It has been my experience that the willing animals not only go immediately to the official food, they will eat all of it, and not even touch the other food (which will be the same: for example, three identical piles of corn for a chicken). They also act like they know what is happening, and they do not fight when they are picked up by the butcher, etcetera. It is a profound experience that is observed with the greatest amount of kindness and dignity. The animal has one life, and is being willing to give it up for us — how could we be less than respectful of that?” — Mambo Chita Tann

“It would have to come into play. A person has to choose to sacrifice an animal, and that is the very definition of volition. In a Neopagan context, I find the notion of animal sacrifice not necessary except for rare exceptions.” — Rev. Sean W. Harbaugh

Should animal sacrifice have a place in modern Paganisms, reconstructionisms, and Witchcraft?

“As I am none of these things, I do not feel that it is my place to answer for them. That said I believe that animal sacrifice should have a place in any authentically lived religious tradition which has spirits or gods which request or traditionally receive such things.” — Anomalous Thracian

“Until and unless those practices have a stated need for animal sacrifice – and I believe that most of them never will – I would say no. Should that become necessary, for logistical reasons (i.e., not living in a land with easy access to food animals, refrigeration, etc.), or should the gods require it, then I would believe that those same gods would provide access to the proper context, training, and ability to do so. Vodouisants themselves have this situation. Very, very few individual Vodouisants perform animal sacrifices, and even those who do, do not do it on a daily or regular basis. In the cases where that is a necessary event, there are trained personnel that one can go to, who will perform it on your behalf. I rarely perform that act in the United States; it is simply less necessary here, given our modern conveniences when it comes to food. Even in Haiti, I do not perform it often, and in all cases, I have access to trained personnel who can help me with the sacrifices I am not trained to perform myself. Everything is community-based. Modern Paganisms would have to define the same sorts of communities before they would even know if that was something they were going to need to do. If it ever happens, I believe it would be a long time in the future.” — Mambo Chita Tann

“In general, it could have a very important place, but unless it can be done right it shouldn’t be done at all.” — John Beckett

“In most instances I do not think animal sacrifice really has a place in modern Neopaganism. I do know of a heathen farmer who raises his own pigs and ritually sacrifices one, but this is a rare situation. In a modern context, there simply are alternatives to sacrifice that are every bit as effective.” — Rev. Sean W. Harbaugh

What is the nature of sacrifice in terms of transactions between spirits, Gods, and other entities?

“Sometimes sacrifices are a form of payment. Other times they are a form of celebration. Sometimes it is a transaction, sometimes it is praise; always it is reverent.” — Anomalous Thracian

“Depending on the context and the nature of the sacrifice, the sacrifice can reinforce connections by being a thanksgiving for help that has been given; it can be made as a promise for future action; it can be given as a substitute for someone else’s life (as I mentioned above). Sacrifice can represent a total offering of the self to the deities or spirits, or it can be a payment for an expected reciprocal benefit. There is no general meaning that applies to all sacrifices from all people to all spirits or gods – each one, like its nature as a unique and special thing, has a unique and special meaning.” — Mambo Chita Tann

“The nature of sacrifice is that which defines our relationship with the gods (and Kindreds). There are many reasons for sacrifice, and that defines what exactly is being asked or expected in the transaction. Here are few types of sacrifices as our Arch Druid Kirk Thomas has discussed in his various works:

1. Transactional sacrifice is the most common form of sacrifice where the sacred object is offered, and in the nature of hospitality, a gift is given in return. The basis of ADF’s Return Flow portion of ritual is “a gift calls for a gift.” The best one can offer is given, and the blessing and gratitude from the gods is given in return. 2. Piacular Sacrifice was a common Roman offering given during ritual to ask for recompense in case the offerings given weren’t enough or good enough. It is based on the fact that humans are inherently flawed, and the offering is given to acknowledge that. This type of sacrifice is still seen in the Roman Catholic Church. 3. The appeasement sacrifice is a type of offering given to a being or god to leave you alone. It is literally the “take this and leave” offering. Generally, this type of offering is given to beings not aligned with the ritual being worked, and they are given an offering out of respect to acknowledge they exist, but they are not part of the work being performed. 4. The shared meal is a type of sacrifice where a portion of the cooked food is offered to the gods. This is a very common ancient and Neopagan practice. 5. Chaos mitigates cosmos is a type of sacrifice that uses a series of offerings to recreate the cosmos in a ritual setting. This type of sacrifice goes back into the pan Indo-European creation story of Man and Twin. Man kills Twin and Twin is dismembered to create the world and cosmos. The chaos is the unknown or Otherworld, and Man takes his place as king of the Otherworld. This type of offering is meant to recreate this, but without any actual bloodshed.” — Rev. Sean W. Harbaugh

What about relationship; how does it play into the idea of sacrifice?

“I cannot imagine giving a sacrifice without having a relationship both with the being receiving the sacrifice and the community that would benefit from it; either in the form of food/reversion of the offerings, in the benefits gained from the sacrifice, or both. One might give a random gift to a stranger, for example, but it would be unlikely that one would give a random stranger the most expensive, most wonderful thing one owned. Sacrifice is a special event in the already-existing relationship between beings.” — Mambo Chita Tann

“Sacrifice strengthens relationships: between worshipers and their Gods, and among members of a religious community.” — John Beckett

“Sacrifice is as much about building relationships with the gods as any other reason. It is an act of hospitality. When we open sacred space, we invite the Kindreds into the ritual as family and kin. That relationship is built on sharing and trust. We sacrifice to solidify our relationships and make them stronger. Sacrifice allows the gods to give us their blessings and strengthens their bond with us.” — Rev. Sean W. Harbaugh

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.

Chic and Sandra Tabatha Cicero

Chic and Sandra Tabatha Cicero

“For thousands of years, healing the sick has been one of the main goals of magic. In ancient times, disease was believed to be caused by harmful spirits that entered the body. Ancient shamans and priests dressed in the skins of lions and other powerful totem-animals in order to cure illness and exorcise the offending spirits. Magic was an important part of medical treatment and the sick were brought to the temples to be healed either by incantations and exorcism, and drugs and herbal remedies. Priest-magicians often used a combination of physical as well as psychical therapeutics. Of course advances in modern medicine have greatly increased our understanding of the human body and the various causes of disease. One should always consult a doctor whenever a health issue is involved. And yet, more and more doctors are beginning to appreciate the benefits of what has been called ‘energy psychology’ or ‘noetic therapy,’ such as the healing effects of music, imagery, touch therapy, and prayer. These techniques are nothing new­—Albert Szent-Györgyi, the 1937 Nobel Laureate in medicine, stated that that, ‘In every culture and in every medical tradition before ours, healing was accomplished by moving energy.’” - Chic and Sandra Tabatha Cicero, on using magic to heal the sick.

Gus DiZerega

Gus DiZerega

“The so-called ‘free market’ advocates put the values of capital ahead of human values such as seeking to preserve the earth’s environment for future generations. They were advocates of an inhuman system best served by the most sociopathic of human beings. Because we Pagans include the world within the network of our ethical relations the conflict with Pagan spirituality runs even deeper than capitalism’s conflict with more purely human-centered religious traditions. All genuine spiritual traditions value human beings, but ours also honors the earth. This is our chief, perhaps our only, real conflict with the modern world, and on this issue we are on the side of humanity as a whole as well.  But last time we Pagans confronted the issue, we were not. [...] The challenge for men and women of good will, a challenge I believe affects Pagans particularly deeply, is to find humane alternatives to capitalist amorality by perfecting the insights that gave us the best of the modern world.  Looking backwards has proven a mistake.  The Mondragon workers cooperatives and smaller but very successful American businesses organized in the same way, like the Alvarado Street Bakery, show us a way forward.” – Gus DiZerega, on Paganism and the crisis of Capitalism.

Deborah Lipp

Deborah Lipp

“I have been a festival participant quite literally from the beginning. I went to my first festival, well, right before I was initiated at age 21. Before my son was born, I went to 3-4 Pagan festivals a year. After his birth it was more difficult and I have slowed down, but I have been going to festivals for more than 30 years. Festivals were something that my high priestess, as a young witch, was very adamant about. Going to festivals was a way of meeting people, of exchanging ideas, of learning cool new chants to use in ritual. It was important. This is a part of Pagan history, too. As a young Pagan entering the community and you may not value festivals because they are corny, people dress funny, and you have to sleep in a tent. They don’t understand that the existence of the festival movement, which began in the eighties and didn’t really take off for another five years, transformed the face of the Pagan community. It is one of the most significant contributions to the Pagan community of the last thirty years. Before there was an internet, there was a Pagan festival movement.” – Deborah Lipp, on the importance of Pagan festivals.

Rhyd Wildermuth

Rhyd Wildermuth

“What fascinates me particularly about the untethering of Privilege from its context is that many of the complaints are quite valid, but fail to acknowledge a simpler category because it’s generally verboten in American discourse:Class.  Much of the systematic oppression which Privilege is used to address fits squarely within the traditional description of Bourgeoisie, even within Pagan contexts.  The discussions of Wiccanate Privilege, for instance, might have been better served by pointing out that the context in which many (white, middle class–that is, bourgeois) people organize gatherings for Pagans and speak on behalf of other Pagans is a place of assumption of normality, a defining characteristic of the Bourgeoisie.  Many of the Naturalist vs. Polytheist debates likewise could be better described as such, as it is a uniquely bourgeois insistence that the secular modalities which sustain Capitalism (and their position of power) must be the truth by which all other truths are measured.  Anything apparently anti-thetical to the continuation of the bourgeoisie, then, must be fought off, silenced or belittled, depending on the apparent threat.” – Rhyd Wildermuth, on meaning, class, and belief.

John Beckett

John Beckett

“Building the Pagan world of 2064 requires thinking beyond what we see in front of us today. Vibrant, growing religions are vibrant and growing because they respond to the needs and desires of people where and when they are. So part of the problem in figuring out what to build for 2064 is figuring out what the world as a whole will look like in 2064. In 1964 the future was supposed to be flying cars, cities on the moon, and 20 hour work weeks. Instead, we got the internet, smart phones, and Wal-Mart. Can we do any better at predicting the future? The driving forces in today’s world are globalization, population dynamics (falling birthrates in the West, exploding populations in the global South), climate change and peak oil. Will 2064 in the West look just like 2014, only with worse weather and higher energy prices? Or will we see dense, compact cities for the rich, decaying suburbs for the poor, and exurbs returned to farmland? Or something else only some random futurist is even contemplating?” – John Beckett, sharing a vision of Paganism in 2064.

Morpheus Ravenna

Morpheus Ravenna

“I have been for some time slowly gathering material for a book. The book that I have long wished someone would write: an in-depth, well-researched, comprehensive book on the Morrígan: Her history, lore, and cult of worship; incorporating contributions from historic, folkloric, archaeological, and modern sources, and guidance for devotional practice with Her in a Pagan/polytheist framework. The book that would bridge the gaping chasm that currently exists between the quality of information available about Her from academia on the one hand, and popular Pagan literature on the other. The book I constantly wish I could refer people to when they ask me what they should read to learn about the Morrígan. This project has been slow-cooking on my hearth for about a year, but since I am kept busy working for a living at my art business, tattoo apprenticeship, and a third part-time job to make ends meet, I have not been able to prioritize it. Yet. That’s where things are changing. Two days after I got home fromPantheaCon, I got marching orders. In my daily devotional meditations, the Great Queen laid a binding on me that morning: a nóinden (ninefold counting of time). A nóinden is usually read as a period of nine days or nights; in this case, nine months. Nine months to get the draft written. This is what I’ve been given to do. It is a priority now.” – Morpheus Ravenna, on writing a book about the Morrígan, for the Morrígan.

Yvonne Aburrow

Yvonne Aburrow

“Some Wiccans seem to have misread or misheard “Wiccanate” as “Wiccan”. As I understand it, the problem as stated is that the Pagan book market is flooded with “Wicca 101″ books, which means that a lot of Pagan discourse is couched in the language of Wicca 101 books, and there’s a set of assumptions out there in the public domain about what Pagans do, based on these books – that all Pagans celebrate the festivals of the Wheel of the Year, that all Pagans think the deities are archetypes and expressions of a single underlying divine energy, that all Pagans do magic, and so on. And the complaint is that workshops at events are also based on these assumptions. Whilst it is true that the market is flooded with these books, and that many people assume that Paganism means Wicca-lite, some of these assumptions are also problematic for Wiccans, especially Wiccans who don’t conform to general expectations and assumptions of what Wicca is about.” – Yvonne Aburrow, on polytheistic, Traditional Witches, and Wiccanate privilege.

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

Sam Webster

“What Aquinas was doing with his definition of the supernatural was finding a way of separating the Divine, in his case meaning Yahweh, called ‘God’, from the World. The ruler must be external and above the ruled, in other words, above the world, and then Aquinas built the logic and authority of his theology on this basis. I have to firmly reject this approach to theology as destructive. It results in a frame that alienates the Divine from us, especially typified by theologian Rudolf Otto’s concept of the Divine as ‘wholly other’. This for me is one of the most blasphemous things that could ever be taught: that we somehow could be separated from the source of Being. Or in other language, that we could ever be parted from God/ess. We might feel that way at times, but neither do I see it as necessary or even possible, and I also find the idea to be cruel. In the very least it is cruel because it makes you dependent on something else, like the Christian understanding of the mediating role of the Priest, to work out your ‘salvation’. You can imagine the abuse of power that would come, and in fact came with this. Super- (above) and -Natural (derived from natal=born) gives us ‘above the born’, or as the magickians these days say, the Bornless. That which is supernatural is neither born nor dies. The laws of physics fits in this category, co-existing with the universe, changing only as it does, but we usually attribute all things physical to nature, regardless of being ‘born’ or dying.” – Sam Webster, on the (not really) supernatural.

Shauna Aura Knight

Shauna Aura Knight

“Authenticity is not turning into a self-centered jerk who only does what pleases them. But nor is authenticity bending over backwards to please everyone else in your life at the expense of yourself. Authenticity is looking at what you want in a particular moment, and looking at what you want for your life, your goals and dreams, for your larger/deeper self, and determining if that momentary desire is in alignment with your life’s desire. In our society, we don’t develop very good boundaries. That is to say, we often have a vague idea of self. Typical parenting extends identity from the parent onto the child–meaning, a parent has expectations for their child. That child either is “good” and lives up to those expectations, or is “bad” because they rebel against them. Good boundaries means you have to know who you are. And that might sound simple–and it’s really, really not. Most of us have utterly terrible boundaries. We’re a mess of the expectations placed on us by our parents, expectations from the school system, expectations from the dominant culture, and expectations from our friends, partners, and others in our lives.” – Shauna Aura Knight, on authenticity, boundaries, and shadows (she has an IndieGoGo campaign underway, check it out).

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.

Peter J. Carroll

Peter J. Carroll

“At the risk of causing uproar I’d classify most British Neo-Pagans as basically atheists or pantheists, they believe in their gods in a mytho-centric rather than a logo-centric way. By this I mean that they believe in them as archetypes which exist primarily in our own heads but which grow stronger and more useful and which can have real effects upon the world and on us if we choose to believe in them. They do not in the main believe that such gods and goddesses have some sort of objective existence as ‘gaseous vertebrates’, or that their myths have literal truth as historical events. Rather the myths represent teaching stories about the human condition. I feel at home with most Neo- Pagan traditions in the UK and have participated at many varied rituals and meetings. I currently attend a Druid Grove regularly. Of course they all know that Druidry consists of an almost entirely modern synthetic and syncretic ‘tradition’, but that doesn’t inhibit them at all.” – Peter J. Carroll, on his relationship with Modern Paganism.

John Beckett

John Beckett

“Many of us in the Pagan community are heavily influenced by Campbell, even if we’ve never read or seen his work.  If you aren’t a devotional polytheist or if you haven’t had experiences of individual deities, his ideas of monomyth and of “God as Force” are intuitively attractive.  The reverence in which Campbell is held within liberal religious circles only adds to his authority.  That makes it very easy for intelligent and well-meaning Pagans to interpret polytheistic experiences (of others or even their own) through monotheistic and non-theistic lenses. Is that wrong?  I’m not going to tell anyone how to interpret their religious experiences.  If Joseph Campbell’s ideas are meaningful and helpful to you, so be it – you could do far worse.  But if you tell me my experience of Danu can only be seen as an aspect of a universal Goddess or as an archetype or that it must be an expression of a universal myth, we’re going to have issues.” – John Beckett, taking issue with the effect(s) Joseph Campbell has had on the Pagan community.

Rhyd Wildermuth

Rhyd Wildermuth

“I am still traveling. I am not where I came from, nor where I am going. I am in-between, a third place betwixt here and there. When I went on pilgrimage last year, I was for five weeks in each place but also not in those places, nor where I had belonged, nor where I was going. Something about this liminality, though, is quite familiar and even comforting. Ungrounded from place, unrooted from the worlds of meaning, the families and friendships, the beds and teacups–I’m reminded that I carry my hearth with me, even as I yet have no hearth to call mine. A tent in France pulled from an over-stuffed rucksack, a crossroads in a cornfield on a druid mountain, a couch in a 500 year-old Alsatian apartment, a loft in a 200 year old Berlin commune, a room between the rooms of my nephews in Florida, a warm corner in the attic of some friends in Seattle, a shared bed with another in Portland—these are the spaces in-between where I dwell. They are places that are not mine but in which I have inhabited, where the hearth I carry with me settles for a time amongst others. I am myself when I am in-between, more so now that I have understood what else inhabits such places.” – Rhyd Wildermuth, on liminality and gods in-between.

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

“I am very happy to be friends with nearly anyone (as long as they’re, at the very least, not racist, sexist, homophobic or transphobic, or anti-Pagan, and they’re working or willing to work on improving in whatever other areas they might lack awareness or sensitivity), and it’s great to have friends of a diverse variety. However, if I am to be colleagues with someone in my religious community, or they are considered colleagues within my greater religious umbrella, then more is required. No matter how well I get along with someone and how much I value them as a friend, if I have not been in ritual with them and cannot work with them, there’s less of a draw to get closer to them. I’ll still try to be as friendly and respectful toward them as I can be and as is appropriate to our contexts, but there will be a distancing on some matters that will inevitably occur. If it isn’t an important enough subject to talk about with someone, then likely the variety of relationship involved won’t be as important to either of us as well.” – P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, on small-talk, religious community, and what’s required to become religious community. 

Courtney Weber

Courtney Weber

“Yes, I’m prone to exaggeration. But I’m *not* exaggerating here. It was the worst ritual ever and I wanted to go home and throw my Craft books out the window onto 10th street for the cabs to run over and the drunks to puke upon. The most soulful moment I had that night was explaining the concept of a doughnut hole to a British tourist in attendance, who blushed because he thought I was talking kinky. What a waste of time! Except for that British guy, nothing moving whatsoever. But did that ritual warrant my critique? No. Yes, I’m entitled to an opinion. But the High Priestess didn’t ask me what I thought. Even though I thought her ritual was lousy, she was still the one who donated her time to put it together. It would have been rude and unkind of me to run my mouth all over it. It’s even possible that someone in that room got something out of flicking their fingers in the air and if so, the ritual was worth it. I was right then, and I am right now–the ritual was not effective by any means in comparison to the incredible rites I’ve attended since then. But it was not my place to criticize.” - Courtney Weber, on ritual critique, and when to engage in it.

Donald Tyson

Donald Tyson

“If you consider these symbols, you will see that they fall into two categories: symbols of general use in magic, and symbols considered to be chaotic or Satanic. There is no attempt by entertainers to differentiate between these two categories. Many people regard any symbol connected with the occult to be inherently evil. Those of us who study magic know that this is incorrect. Just the opposite is true: no symbol is inherently evil—but the general audience for these entertainers does not know it. To them, occult symbols are mysterious, intriguing, powerful, and dangerous—everything likely to fascinate the mind of a teenager. Popular singers have turned to occult symbols for shock value because they have exhausted the possibilities of sex. They can go no further with sexual suggestiveness unless they have actual sex on stage. They most look elsewhere for something that will spark controversy, and they find it in the occult. This is unfortunate, since that occult symbols have a more profound meaning that is debased by their exploitation. But no one should assume that the entertainers who abuse these symbols know what they are doing, or that these individuals belong to the Illuminati or any other serious occult current.” – Donald Tyson, on occult symbols being used in pop music.

Steven Posch

Steven Posch

“Firstly, a word of thanks and appreciation for your work over the years, and in particular for Did God Have A Wife? To speak only for myself, the book has shaped my own thought and understanding of my ancestral traditions, and for this you have my deep and lasting gratitude. Anent Wife, though, I would like to point out to you an irony which I suspect has heretofore escaped your attention. To this not-altogether-objective reader, it is striking how closely your denunciations of the excesses of contemporary Goddess worship and feminist spirituality—which is, in fact, modern folk religion—resemble the Deuteronomic and Priestly hostility toward the folk religion of their own time. I find it curious that, from the position of your own academic orthodoxy, your sympathy for folk—and in particular, women’s—religion apparently extends to ancient women, but not to your contemporaries. Plus ça change….” – Steven Posch, penning an open letter to William G. Dever.

Chas Clifton

Chas Clifton

“Now John C.. Sulak, who co-wrote Modern Pagans (2001) for RE/Search Press, has brought us  The Wizard and the Witch: An Oral History of Oberon Zell & Morning Glory. It is not just the history of a significant slice of  American Paganism from the 1960s until now, but also the love story of a couple married for forty years. Yet Morning Glory, priestess of Aphrodite, invented the term “polyamory” (but not the concept)  and they embraced it. Paradoxes abound. Sulak tells the story of Otter and MG through multiple voices, more like a radio documentary — there is even a voice labeled “Narrator.” I thought that was a little weird at first, but I got used to it. Sometimes the Zells may seem like Pagan rock stars, but then you see them in screaming fights, or admitting that they made mistakes in who they trusted or dealt with their families of birth or how they raised their kids  (Those children, now grown, are also heard from.) Highs and lows, gains and losses, feasts and famines — it’s all here. Reading it, you can see how the Church of All Worlds, founded by Tim Zell and his close friend Lance Christie, started out as what we now would call “spiritual but not religious,” and changed as it encountered other overly Pagan groups (such as Feraferia) as well as various Witchcraft groups.” – Chas Clifton, reviewing “The Wizard and the Witch.”

Mambo Chita Tann

Mambo Chita Tann

“Lent, from an early Germanic word for “spring” itself, is a liturgical observation. In the Catholic Church, it is an obligation for all adults, and begins with Mass on “Ash Wednesday,” so named for the practice of having one’s forehead marked with the sign of the Cross in the ashes of palm fronds from the previous year’s Palm Sunday. For Orthodox Christians, Lent begins on “Clean Monday,” with ritual baths to wash the body and home, in addition to special rituals to offer and gain forgiveness for wrongs done in the previous year. Regardless of which day is designated as its beginning, Lent includes forty days of practices, including fasting or abstaining from certain foods or actions, church attendance, charitable service, and prayer and meditation. Officially, Lent ends on Holy Thursday, the night of Holy Week when, according to tradition, Jesus Christ spent His last supper with His disciples. According to Catholic.org, “The goal of every Christian is to leave Lent a stronger and more vital person of faith than when we entered.” Sounds like something any person of any faith could get behind! In Haitian Vodou (as the vast majority of Vodouisants are Catholic by birth and tradition) we observe Lent. It may seem strange that we honor a liturgical observation from the religion of conquerors and slave owners, especially since the Roman Catholic Church was expelled from Haiti shortly after its independence in 1804, and did not return for a generation. But Lent is a special, quiet time in ourperistyles (Vodou temples). It is a time we use for spiritual rest and relaxation, and the techniques Vodouisants use to celebrate Lent can be adapted to any religious practice; after all, Vodou is as much Catholicism as it is indigenous African, Caribbean, and European traditions.” – Mambo Chita Tann, on Lent and Vodou.

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.

We start this week with a special video entry to Pagan Voices, a lecture by author and publisher Peter Grey on Apocalyptic Witchcraft, from Sitting Now TV. Quote: “Peter Grey, head honcho of esoteric publishers Scarlet Imprint, returns to SittingNow TV with a lecture on Apocalyptic Witchcraft!”

Enjoy! Don’t forget to check out the book from which the talk is based.

Crystal Blanton

Crystal Blanton

“This community is not the same as the one I entered a little over 11 years ago. This community is not the same as the one I was a part of even five years ago, or two years ago. The Pagan community is growing to include some of the very intricate differences among its practitioners. This makes me hopeful, hopeful in ways that I never really thought I would be able to see for the future of this community. It is not just about the acceptance of Black people that is on my mind when I talk about acceptance. It is the very beautiful rainbow of differences that we as a society represent, it is the colors of our skin to the context of our love. It is the plethora of ethnicities, genders, sizes, disabilities, capabilities, expressions of love, and hair types that I am talking about. The inclusivity of children and family specific programming, and a Pagans of color hospitality suite, show a measure of growth in our ability to acknowledge the specific needs of some of our more marginalized groups under the Pagan umbrella.” – Crystal Blanton, on the journey to redefine the Pagan umbrella.

Morpheus Ravenna

Morpheus Ravenna

“A worshiper comes in, genuflects, turns to the largest shrine, catches her breath, reaches her knees. Her friend stops and stands, hand pulled to his heart. I sit in stillness, eyes half-lidded, one heartbeat here in this Temple, one heartbeat in its counterpart in the Otherworld, watching in both. Visitors come and go. A woman whispers urgently on her knees before the Great Queen. Another worshiper stands with the gaze of rapture, smiles, pours out whiskey. Another weeps achingly. I begin to sing. This was the Coru Temple at PantheaCon last weekend. On Friday afternoon, we began building the Temple as soon as we arrived at the convention, first purifications in a nearly-empty room before building the altars. All afternoon and into the evening the priests gathered, swirling about the space, raising the shrines, laying out the regalia, preparing the offerings. That night with a room full of worshipers, we consecrated the Temple of the Morrígan and the Tuatha. We invoked the Gods, heroes, ancestors. Opened the Gates to the cities of the Otherworld. Poured out offerings, chanted, prayed.” – Morpheus Ravenna, on the foundations of the Coru Temple at PantheaCon 2014.

John Beckett

John Beckett

“The Temple of the Morrigan was an experience that couldn’t be found anywhere else at Pantheacon – not in rituals, not in workshops, not even next door talking with the Coru priests. Several participants said something along the lines of “I wish other groups would do this.”  Some traditions already have guidelines and rubrics for temples – it would be good to see and experience them.  Other traditions – particularly the newer Pagan traditions – have grown up in living rooms and back yards and public parks.  For those traditions, a temple at a gathering would be a chance to experiment with both structures and liturgies, to see what works well and what sounds good but really isn’t. Because some day we will have permanent temples. My gratitude to the Coru Cathubodua for their hard work in setting up the Temple of the Morrigan and for their hospitality.  Keeping the temple open meant someone had to be there all day (and not off playing at the con): answering questions, emptying offering bowls (there’s a tree beside the Doubletree hotel that should be feeling really really good for quite some time!) and making sure fresh bottles were available when needed. And my highest gratitude to the Gods, heroes and ancestors who filled the temple with their presence and who were there for me and for so many others. Thank you all.” – John Beckett, on his experiences of the Coru Temple.

Anomalous Thracian

Anomalous Thracian

“I don’t know what the conversations between the Coru priests and members were, as they planned for their Temple. I don’t know what their intentions were, from the start, nor if what they wound up with at the conference was indeed what they had set out to call into being. What I do know, however, is that every single fucking person who stepped into that space — shoes removed, body washed in sacred waters, knees bent in reverence as they entered — was graced with something entirely fucking different than the rest of the weekend could offer, and in most cases I would wager entirely fucking different than what could be brought into being in their own homes and shrine-rooms. There is a difference between a Temple and a shrine-room, between a “dedicated space” and a living, sentient and responsive Temple, which was big enough to contain all of the gods named and a thousand thousand left unnamed and all of the blessed and elevated dead and not a few wandering, misplaced souls (both of the corporeal variety and otherwise), which reverberated from inside with fucking majesty and authentic, lived and experienced divine grace. Others have described the Temple in more detail than I will, here, because I don’t really do descriptions. What I can do, however, is a humble, completely unworthy acknowledgement: what was done with that Temple, by the priests whose care and crafting brought it from possibility to awesome reality and by the gods and spirits who guided and guarded the process, was important.” – Anomalous Thracian, on the Coru Temple at PantheaCon 2014 (it seemed fitting to give three perspectives).

Rhyd Wildermuth

Rhyd Wildermuth

“One of the more common definitions of Paganism includes the notion that it is an “earth-based” or “nature-derived” spirituality.  Though this definition is sometimes problematic, it fits many of the traditions within Paganism quite well, particularly the one to which I’m most aligned: Druidry.  And as such, any arrangement of human activity which damages the earth should be critiqued by Paganism (I’d actually say “opposed”), and this leads to one of the reasons why I’d be writing it specifically from a Pagan perspective.  Paganism, whether or not it intends to be, functions as a political critique of society in the same way many indigenous religions do.  And that critique is largely anti-Capitalist, even when unstated or acknowledged. As such, we’ve got more in common with Queer- and Liberation- theologians, First Nations resistance movements, Anarchists, Socialists, and many other “leftist” movements than we’re always aware of, even if any particular person within Paganism might identify instead with pro-Capitalist economic stances (I’ve noted that a visible minority of ADF-aligned Druids, CR folks and Heathens identify as Libertarians, or “Anarcho-Capitalists,” at least on-line).” – Rhyd Wildermuth, on his intention to write a book about Capitalism (for Pagans).

Dr. Carole M. Cusack

Dr. Carole M. Cusack

“I first heard about Discordianism, for example, through students. Guy McCulloch did a presentation in an undergraduate unit on religious experience on the Principia Discordia, which I immediately purchased a copy of. After my marriage ended in 1992 I was involved for some time with Michael Usher, who had studied Crowleyan occultism for a time and presented me with a House of the Apostles of Eris ‘Pope’ card (that was the first direct contact I had with Australian Discordians). The interest I felt would have gone nowhere except for the help and support I received from Alex Norman (then a research assistant and PhD student). He and I have worked together for so long it’s hard to imagine that our two brains weren’t forever conjoined, and he convinced me to keep at it, to make it happen, to find methodological models that would enable sense to be made of such anarchic and irreverent materials, and I did. His impressive collective of Flying Spaghetti Monster t-shirts may have assisted, though that’s not certain! I’m proud and happy that Invented Religions has received eighteen published reviews, all of which are positive. I understand that some people, both ‘insiders’ of certain of the traditions examined (mostly Discordianism and the Church of the SubGenius) but also some esoterically-inclined scholars, have objected to my etic, outsider approach to these groups, but I can only riposte that a scholarly conversation can only occur when the preliminary documentation of the phenomena has been accomplished, and that’s what I was doing. I still love the book; it’s been the easiest thing I’ve ever written. And the funnest (and yes, I know that’s not a word).” - Dr. Carole M. Cusack, on Discordianism, the Church of the SubGenius, and other “invented” religions (which she wrote a scholarly examination of).

Taylor Ellwood

Taylor Ellwood

“I recently attended Convocation for the first time. I was having dinner one night at the restaurant and I talked with my waiter for a bit about the convention. She asked me if I thought that she and her co-worker would be accepted if they visited the vendor room to look around and I told her that I thought it would be fine (The vendor room was open to the public as far as I knew). I thought about that conversation later on and how in that moment I was a public face for Paganism. And how at any convention that is hosted in a space such as a hotel, all of us are public faces of Paganism, even if we don’t realize we are. The public space we are in is not solely a Pagan space. It is shared space and the impressions we make on the hotel staff and other guests matter. When I’m at an event or anywhere really, I behave the way I’d want other people to behave toward me. I’m courteous to the staff, acknowledge the work they are doing and do my best to be mindful of my behavior and how others might perceive it. Now it’s true that I’m at a convention to have fun, but  I also want to make a good impression because the staff and guests will come away from those experiences with their own perceptions about Pagans. And likely they’ll already have some assumptions and beliefs about us based on their own spiritual beliefs, etc. However I think that how we act in public is important.” – Taylor Ellwood, on how you are the public face of Paganism at conventions and public events.

Vivianne Crowley

Vivianne Crowley

“Beginning in 1979, over the next twenty years many books were written by a third generation that broadened the Craft in new directions. Starhawk’s feminist and earth-centered vision in The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Great Goddess inspired eco-activists and feminist witches. Scott Cunningham’sWicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner was an inspiration for those who could not or did not want to belong to a group. My book Wicca drew on my background in Jungian psychology to show how initiatory Wicca could be a path of spiritual growth and personal transformation. Phyllis Currot’s Book of Shadows, A Modern Woman’s Journey into the Wisdom of Witchcraft and the Magic of the Goddess inspired thousands of women to find spiritual fulfillment in contemporary witchcraft. Each generation has built on the next, evolving from the contributions of our predecessors on the path. When I wrote Wicca, I had been in Wicca for 15 years. What I had seen in that time was how Wicca had the potential to transform people. Many of the processes that I had seen occurring as people worked their way through the initiatory systems were those that manifest through the inner journey of growth that Carl Gustav Jung called ‘individuation’. By exposing our inner world to the Gods and to those who share the spiritual journey with us, we are transformed. This is not the matter of a few years, but a lifelong process, which initiatory Wicca at its best can nurture, support and foster. The purpose of such a journey is that of the Great Work – the transformation of self as a starting point for the transformation of humankind; for if individuals do not change, then societies cannot evolve. Our aim is to grow nearer the Gods, to move from our egocentric engagement with the world for our own ends, to a re-centering that detaches us from our own preoccupations and allows us the see the world from a wider, deeper, and longer-term perspective.” – Vivianne Crowley, on the “third generation” of books on Wicca, and her book, “Wicca: A Comprehensive Guide to the Old Religion in the Modern World” (now 25 years old).

That’s all I have for right 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 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.

Graham Harvey

Graham Harvey

“As I mentioned before my research among Pagans began serendipitously because I half-jokingly offered a session about Druids to a course on “contemporary religions” that was being developed. I think its true to say that my interest in Paganism began then. While I’d been at Stonehenge Free Festival from 1976 onwards, and while I joined in many efforts (by many means) to regain open access to Stonehenge in the 1980s, I didn’t have much to do with its religious or ritual activities. Even my first close encounters with Druids took place in their efforts to help people (like myself) being threatened by police hostility rather than in actual celebrations of midsummer sunrise, for instance. However, like many people, when I did become involved with Pagans (initially purely for research purposes) I found that much of what was going on had parallels with my previous interests. Perhaps this is obvious from the fact that I’d been hanging out as a young hippy (albeit one who thought he was a Christian) at Stonehenge Festival. To be clear, the festival was attractive as a place where all sorts of ideas and obsessions were shared, debated, experimented with. I found this to be part of what the first Pagans I spent significant time with were committed to. In addition to interests in more communal andanarchist ways of life than Thatcherism encouraged, I had also developed commitments to environmentalist and feminist perspectives and practices. So, again, finding that these themes played vital roles in the evolution of Paganism increased my interest both as a researcher and then as a newly self-identified Pagan.” - Graham Harvey, on how he started researching Pagans.

John Beckett

John Beckett

“For Pagans, talk of the Summerlands or Tir n’an Og or the Cauldron of Rebirth may be no comfort for someone who only knows their loved one is no longer with them. Instead, focus on what we know.  Someone was born, they lived, they loved, and they have died.  Death is not the opposite of life, death is part of life.  Birth is the transition from where ever we were before to this life; death is the transition from this life to whatever comes next.  We don’t have to debate what that before and nextare to recognize death as a natural transition. Death tells us to remember.  The mainstream culture is constantly telling us to forget, to move on to whatever is new and bright and shiny.  But when we remember the deceased, when we tell their stories and revisit the past, we honor them and we realize there are things worth preserving. That which is remembered lives.” – John Beckett, sharing some thoughts on death.

Sarah Veale

Sarah Veale

“The nature of magic in antiquity is a much varied thing. Not only do different practices get called magic, but the varying terminology for these activities makes it even harder to put such practices in a box. Furthermore, many practices get labelled such, not by those who practice them, but by other—often more powerful—observers who use such terms pejoratively. This is a point elaborated by Kimberly B. Stratton in an essay titled Magic Discourse in the Ancient World, which is included in the book Defining Magic: A Reader. (You can read the paper here at Academia.edu). Stratton disagrees with the view that there is a single magic in antiquity, especially when one takes into consideration the power-structures that define what constitutes magic. By trying to pin magic down to a single phenomenon, she argues, we ignore the social landscape that produced the so-called magical act in the first place.” – Sarah Veale, on the arbitrary appellation of magic in antiquity.

Damh the Bard

Damh the Bard

“There was a time in my life when I drew a card every single day. I drew the card to help me understand the flow of my day ahead – what was pulling in one direction, and maybe what was pushing toward another. At the time I was going through complete emotional turmoil, and this daily routine helped for quite a while. But then I found I was becoming more reliant on the reading, and also, maybe due to my psychological and emotional state at the time, I put too much onto the result each day. If my card was negative it would place me in an even worse mental state. I began to wonder if the mere act of drawing a card each day had such an effect on my own mood that it began to influence how I responded and acted during the day. So I stopped. I decided to take the power back and be in complete control of my day. If there were rocky waters ahead I would deal with them when my ship inadvertently sailed into them. It worked for me. By accepting, and by not knowing, I found my life actually became easier. I lived in the moment.” – Damh the Bard, sharing some thoughts on divination.

Deidre Hebert

Deidre Hebert

“So what sort of action is necessary for recovery? I think the first place we need to look at is what it is that we were using our substances and behaviors for. Almost all of us have some sort of reasons that kept us drinking or eating, or not eating, or using drugs or sex or whatever other behavior we may have used. We used these things to avoid feeling, to cover up those things that trouble us deeply. And in covering up our feelings, in continuously relying on something external, either chemical or behavioral, we give up something even more important – our wills. When we are controlled by our addictions, we don’t have the ability to choose not to use. Some of us give up the basic choices of whether or not to eat, or sleep or work. Some of us engage in things that most people in the world cannot understand – we become self-destructive; some of us engage in self-injury, some of us become suicidal. All of this is a loss of our own wills.” – Deidre Hebert, on addiction recovery as an active endeavor. 

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

“Whether knowingly or not, the Olympic Games were re-founded in a legacy that not only honored the gods and heroes of the ancient world, but also one of the mythological first homoerotic relationships, and one of the most tragically conflicted heroic families of classical myth as well. Perhaps we should not be surprised that such controversies occur under the name of an event so tied to these figures that were heavy with bloodguilt. Of course, the Greeks never would have imagined any of the “Winter Olympics” events as even being possible or desirable, for gymnastics—the name itself indicating nudity—were done nude, whereas that would be impossible (or at least quite uncomfortable) for most of the events that will be showcased over the next few weeks. Athleticism and competition are certainly laudable in a variety of ways, and for all sorts of reasons that should appeal to many Pagans and polytheists. But, I’m sure Pelops and Poseidon are both equally amused and annoyed at the legacy of their actions as they play out on the international stage in Putin’s Russia in 2014. If it isn’t queer and polytheistic, it hardly deserves the name of ‘Olympic Games.’” – P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, on the queer and polytheist legacies of the Olympic games. 

Beth Lynch spinning.

Beth Lynch spinning.

“All day yesterday, we heard the sound of freezing rain striking the already-extant coating of ice, alternating with the steady drip drip drip of the ice melting.  I heard and saw a tree shift under the weight of the melting ice its needles were sloughing off. Today, there is the constant drip, drip, drip of ice melting—a good thing!  Our street is closed to traffic due to downed power lines, and our own power line still hangs suspended, halfway down; the electrician never came.  But we still have power—knock on wood.  I have no idea what tomorrow will bring, but at least we have bread and cheese, popcorn and toilet paper—and a pan of brownies.  Not to mention a dye pot filled with goodies—1k yards of yarn!–that I hand painted last night. If I try to visualize the season as a person, I see the Snow Queen, all jagged edges and robed in ice: Dame Holda in the Northern traditions, shaking her quilt to make the snow fall. And yet, with the latent scent of spring in the air She is more like Gerda, the frost giantess who melts in the embrace of Freyr, god of fertility and the harvest. There is the quiet, but also an undercurrent of anticipation, of waiting. One word for the strange season we’re experiencing right now? I pick cocoon: we are swathed in snow like white silk; yet, hidden beneath the surface, things are happening, developing, incubating.  And before long, the season will shift, and we will burst free.” – Beth Lynch, on Spring, interrupted.

Ivo Dominguez, Jr.

Ivo Dominguez, Jr.

“Aside from the technical difficulty related to the mechanics of the subtle bodies, there are many other reasons why important initiations and rituals work better with people gathered together. Our emotions and our physical senses have an important role to play in the effectiveness and integration of initiations and rituals. The impact of being supported and challenged by people who have taken the time to be present for a ritual is enormous. There is also a great deal of community building and weaving of connections that can only come when we can hear the intake of each other’s breaths and feel each other’s touch. I don’t think that I need to elaborate on why a few downloaded PDFs are no substitute for real training to prepare for an initiation. There are a multitude of spiritual and magickal workings that can be done from a distance that include but are not limited to: healings, spell work, cooperative efforts of separate individuals or groups, rituals held on the astral, etc. In fact, most of the covens in my Tradition have astral temples that among other things are used to do rituals when the members can’t physically gather together. Every full moon, I have at least two physical rituals that I take part in, as well as an ongoing working with teachers from other Traditions the takes place at a specified time in an astral temple. By the way, the ongoing working takes place in an astral temple that was first constructed when all of us could gather together physically.  Clearly I’m not opposed to astral ritual or workings at a distance, but I think it is important to consider the limitations before proceeding.” – Ivo Dominguez Jr., on doing rituals and initiations from a distance.

Morpheus Ravenna

Morpheus Ravenna

“I think Macha’s mythology can serve to remind us that all mythologies are collected images and stories, from traditions that necessarily contain huge amounts of variation, diversity, and that evolved over time. This is especially true of tribal-oriented societies like the ancient Celts, for whom national identity as ‘Irish’ or even ‘Celtic’ was probably far secondary to tribal identity, and we have to imagine that the attributes and stories of the Gods varied from tuath to tuath. We should never expect to be able to fit tribal Gods into consistent pantheons, with rational and consistent attributes, without overlap and blurring of functions and domains, or without theological paradox. Her story also forces us to contemplate the sources of our theological lore, and to explore all those questions about how we evaluate those sources: If we have lore purporting to describe mid-Iron age heroic sagas, written down by 8th-10th century Christians, how do we measure that against apparently conflicting lore about early Iron Age mythological literature, written down by 12th-13th century Christians? Against data from folk-stories about the history of the land? From early medieval annals of kings?” – Morpheus Ravenna, on mythology, lore, and how to encompass conflicting accounts.

Rhyd Wildermuth

Rhyd Wildermuth

“Looking at our relationship to place is a great way to see how the Progress Narrative affect our worldings.  I’ve mentioned this before, and I will say it again (and again)—those of us who live in the United States, if we are not of First Nation’s blood, are living on stolen land. This statement, when taken from a “modern,” disenchanted viewpoint, means only that the land we were living on was once stolen from others.  If we lean left in our political views, we might be inclined to attempt to mitigate that earlier crime or maybe experience a twinge of guilt about it all. But consider: just because the land was once stolen doesn’t mean it isn’t still stolen.  That theft is still with us, and not merely in a psychological or moral sense.  In the same way we wouldn’t expect a thief to claim that stolen property now belongs to her merely because she stole it last year, America’s founding crime continues without end.  The theft hasn’t ended–it’s continuous as long as the land hasn’t been returned, nor the victims given up their claim. Believing that the present isn’t continuous with the past, asserting that the present ismore advanced, more evolved and less primitive – that is, “exceptional” — functions as a way of disowning the acts we continuously participate in.” - Rhyd Wildermuth, on the past being a place we still inhabit. 

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.

Shauna Aura Knight

Shauna Aura Knight

“I completely reject the “myth” that Pagan leadership is like “herding cats.” Yes, sometime it comes to pass that Pagan leadership is frustrating. Why is it like that? Because we keep saying it is. We make that reality happen. You know–words have power. Words have a lot of power. Words shape reality. I actively encourage people to not use that particular phrase because it just reinforces the story that Pagans are hard to lead. In fact, it’s more accurate to say, people are hard to lead. Pagans are a subculture with unique difficulties and our leaders don’t have appropriate training in leadership, which exacerbates the problems we face. But this phrase does not serve us in moving forward. [...]  Herding cats roughly implies that Pagans are too individualistic to ever follow someone else, and trying to organize and lead such individualistic people is impossible. However, that hasn’t been my experience at all. Most Pagans I meet are desperate to find a group that is stable and healthy where they can get basic education.” – Shauna Aura Knight, on why she hates the phrase “herding cats” when describing the organizing of Pagans.

Prudence Priest

Prudence Priest

“The Trinkunas family welcomed me every time I visited the Baltics, and I often stayed with them and went with them to many events and sventes (festivals) . I was in the center of Vilnius with them when they recorded “The Rite of Fire”, and at the National Museum of Lithuania when they premiered “Hymns to Saule” (the Sun Goddess) . In between those CDs and before Lithuania joined the EU, they used to hold a heathen summer camp in various sites near Vilnius. They owned six pieces of property about 70 miles northeast of Vilnius and less than a mile from the Belarus border. Jonas called them belts; they were very narrow strips of land.  One summer visit, the drunken Russian who owned a “belt” between theirs wanted to sell and move to his Father’s place. It was complicated, but I bought the place, and now Romuva had seven contiguous properties and became a village. It was named Dvarciskes. I believe it was the same year Jonas won the Basanavicius prize for preserving the folklore and traditions of Lithuania in the face of communism. He has won many honors and degrees over the years and he and his entire family have been a dynamic force in preserving and practicing the indigenous religion of the Baltics. [...] It is so hard to believe that this wonderful, kind, man, priest, writer, fellow philologist, and friend is no longer with us, but his legacy is intact and Romuva will continue.” – Prudence Priest, writing a remembrance of her friend Jonas Trinkūnas, the krivis (supreme priest) and founder of Romuva (Wild Hunt obituary here).

David Salisbury

David Salisbury

“This is just a small sampling of the dozens of responses I got through both social media and email and encompasses a pretty visible range of the answers I received.  Can you guess my first observation? No spells! A terrible assumption by some older Pagans is that young Pagans are only interested in magickal paths for the instant glory that a spell can promise. Though out of all the responses, I honestly did not see a single one that mentioned “being able to cast spells.” This to me is proof that the young generation of Witches and Pagans is a lot deeper than many like to believe. This isn’t a new thing either. Starting as a teen myself, I can tell you that spells and magick was certainly something I thought was “cool” but was not the main attraction to me and those I practiced with. I’m tickled to know that this sentiment extends beyond my own experience. My other observation was the huge number of responses focused on finding and engaging with a community. This isn’t surprising considering that a formative trait of growing up is learning how to interact with different communities and finding what you consider to be your place within them. This is especially important for young Pagans who may feel ostracized for being of a minority religion, where social acceptance could be a little harder to come by.” – David Salisbury, on what young Pagans like.

Wes Isley

Wes Isley

“Magick, for me, is a walk in the woods and watching a flock of birds wheel over a lake, lifting my mood and thereby altering my direction for the remainder of the day. Magick is the ability to hear that still, small voice within that gently beckons, calling me toward a life that isn’t found on television or the Internet. Magick is finding connection and community in the most unlikely places and people. Magick is embracing profound experiences that cannot easily be explained. Is magick supernatural? I don’t know. I think it’s more commonplace than most of us realize, but we’re often too busy, our minds too cluttered to recognize it. I think magick is more subtle than our movie-fueled fantasies will admit, and I don’t believe magick is reserved for a chosen few. I believe magick is open to everyone. It’s also risky, because to practice magick requires us to go against the grain. It means seeing the world and people with a compassionate and hopeful perspective that stands in contrast to how we’re conditioned or expected to act and think. I don’t believe magick is about wielding power or getting what you want from some force that must obey your commands. Rather, practicing magick allows us to tap into a universal current that has always been and always will be. Life can be lived just fine without magick, but a truly magickal life, I believe, is much richer, multifaceted and original.” – Wes Isley, on what magic is, and why he wants to do it. 

Oberon (Tim) Zell, an important figure in the early Pagan councils.

Oberon Zell

“I am sharing the keynote with guest Deborah Lipp, and we are offering a talk on the legacy of the whole Neo-Pagan movement. The two of us will be bouncing back and forth about the emergence of the Neo-Pagan movement and what it has contributed that will be of lasting significance in the world. I think it is quite a lot. We will also talk about where we go from here as Paganism becomes more recognized as a mainstream religion. One of the puzzles we have all experienced is why don’t people don’t seem to know about us, because they ought to! There have been more books published by and about the Pagan movement that just about any other religion you could find. Vast numbers of people are involved, interviews, television shows are aired about us. People seem to have a much greater awareness about a few truly obscure and off the wall spiritual groups than us. [...] The theme of the conference is about Embracing the Elements, and now that we have just stepped over the threshold of the age of Aquarius, there is interest in knowing what all this will mean. I want to talk about this, as Aquarius is an Air sign, signifying communication, wisdom, and travel through the air and sky. The internet and how that will continue evolving in the years to come, and space travel and colonization, these are totally Aquarian types of issues. Then there is the spiritual, and Aquarius also involves the mind and consciousness. The “New Age” is very Aquarian in its entire vision. This is truly a time of global awakening, of our planetary being, of Gaea herself. Her awakening to full consciousness and the implications of that for us. I have been thinking about these things for decades and I think it will make a great subject to talk about. We are here!” – Oberon Zell, discussing his upcoming appearance at Paganicon in Minnesota.

Fritz Muntean

Fritz Muntean

“The organizers of Pagan political causes keep writing to me, asking (nay — demanding) that I lend my support to various environmental protests, demonstrations, and campaigns — on the grounds that we Pagans are supposed to be ‘stewards’ or ‘caretakers’ of Mother Earth — and, as such, we have a religious duty to ‘walk the talk’ and engage fully in ecological activism. Sez who? More to the point — who was the first to say so? And what was the process by which these beliefs (and demands) became the water in which today’s Pagans are swimming? IMO, and FWIW, the people who rallied, with me, around the ribbon-bedecked May Pole of modern Pagan Witchcraft in the early 1960s were primarily hedonists. Many of us, it’s true, were interested in ecology and environmentalism. But all were there, I believe, to fuel the fires of a religiosity that claimed ‘all acts of love and pleasure’ as its sacraments. Over the following 15-plus years, considerable thought went into the development of an ethical system in support of this effort. A new system, now called the Expressive Ethical Style, evolved to replace obedience or self-interest as the motivations for human behavior with an ethic of impulse (‘follow your feelings’), self-expression (‘let it all hang out’), and situational appropriateness (‘go with the flow’; ‘different strokes for different folks’). Replacing the goal of self-preservation with self-awareness, this new ethical style encouraged relaxed non-analytical attention to the present situation (‘be here now’), in order to meet the newly reified obligations of universal love and mutual non-injury.” – Fritz Muntean, posing the question of whether the modern Pagan movement can be classified as “nature” religion. 

Alyxander Folmer

Alyxander Folmer

The ongoing debate over Edward Snowden is still raging. Is the former NSA contractor-turned-whistle-blower a Hero or a Traitor? Should we decry his actions as a violation of trust, or extol them as a selfless attempt to fight injustice? As anÁsatrúar, I believe we are honor bound to speak out against perceived injustices when we come across them. Óðinn advised us to give our foes no “frið,” which is translated here as peace. Frið (or Frith) is a complex social ideal with many layers of meaning. It represents peace, loyalty, fealty, kinship;frið is the bond of honor that holds a family together. When Óðinn says “give your enemies no peace,” the statement implies that you should not offer loyalty or kinship with those who would do harm. If your brother were planning to commit some nefarious act, it would be your duty to stand in his way. When Snowden saw the NSA doing things like tracking the sexual preferences of suspected “Radicalizers” in order to damage their reputations, he decided that the abuse of power had to stop. He broke frið and brought the problem to the attention of the public. True to Óðinn’s advice, in the year following his announcement, he has given his enemies no peace.” – Alyxander Folmer, on Edward Snowden as the “honorable traitor.” 

John Beckett

John Beckett

“But trying to read moral lessons into American Horror Story: Coven misses the point.  It’s cool.  It’s sexy.  It’s fun even though it’s frustrating.  It’s dark fantasy about a type of witchcraft that has long been feared even though it doesn’t exist, at least not exactly like this.  It’s what we wish we could do, even though we wouldn’t… probably… maybe… Several observers of pop culture and the entertainment world have said “witches are the new vampires.”  Witches and witchcraft are popping up on television to an extent we haven’t seen in 15 years, if ever.  Most of the shows appear to be targeted to teenage girls, which means there’s not a chance in the Hell that doesn’t exist that I’ll be watching them. Most of their viewers will see witchcraft as a pleasant fantasy.  Most will see magic as “oh, if only I could…”  Most will watch a season or two and then move on to some other entertainment. But for a few, a new curiosity will be kindled.  Or perhaps a vague desire will be given a name.  Or a life-long interest will become urgent enough to finally pursue.  And because some of us have done like Cordelia at the end of Coven and gone public with our magic, those people will have resources to turn to.” – John Beckett, on the finale of American Horror Story: Coven

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

“The conception of Brigit that has come about in most modern CR practice, and pretty much all modern paganism that I’ve been able to discern, is one that is derived from academic (Christian and linguistics-based) sources, with no appreciation for how polytheism works. To most Christians, imagining more than one deity is hard enough, so “one deity with three parts” (which, to them, is still “One”) becomes a way to understand many deities that might be separate. That might work for Hekate Triformis, but it doesn’t automatically work for any other triplicity of deitiesjust because. And in the linguistics paradigm, there is a tendency to look at different reflexes of a given root in several different languages that are then either cognate or equivalent, and then to conclude “They’re all the same.” And that’s exactly what’s been done with Brigit. Compound this with Saint Brigit of Kildare, and many other saints called Brigit, Bríg, or Bríd (and various other cognates, by-forms, and so forth), all of whom very certainly derive from the popularity and importance of St. Brigit of Kildare (who not only has the earliest saints’-lives of any saint in Ireland, but has three of them that are early, one of which is quite different from the other two), and you get a recipe for disastrous polytheistic collapse. If all of these diverse Christian Brigits (and so forth) derive from one Brigit of Kildare, why then wouldn’t all pagan Brigits (and so forth) also derive from one Brigit, including the Christian Brigit’s derivation from that original pagan stock? The major difficulty there is that the coincidences between the pagan Brigits and the Christian Brigit are exactly that: coincidences based on an assumed unity (which itself is based on linguistics), rather than any actual events in what is known about the pagan Brigits and the Christian Brigits as far as symbolism or narrative event and mythic sharing.” – P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, on understanding the complexity of the goddess Brigid.

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.

T. Thorn Coyle

T. Thorn Coyle

“I am pro-abortion. I am pro-abortion early term. I am pro-abortion in the middle of a pregnancy. I am pro-abortion late term. Those people who think a woman in late term pregnancy wants to terminate for any but the most serious reasons? They have to be deluded. Abortion is not a walk in the park, even early term. It costs. For many of us, it just costs less than carrying a pregnancy full term. I am pro-abortion because a parent’s life is worth more to me than the life of a zygote or a fetus. I am pro-abortion because, in my religion, death and life walk hand in hand, as part of one great cycle. Death and life are inextricably intertwined. To deny a woman’s power over the workings of her own body is to deny her right to foster life itself. Fostering life comes in many forms. We are not chattel. We are not property. We are humans who are willing to face the hard choices of adulthood. Rites of passage. Sometimes the patch of carrots must be thinned for other things to grow strong and healthy. Sometimes the fire moves through the forest, so the pines can release seeds.” – T. Thorn Coyle, on why she isn’t just “pro-choice.”

Sarah Veale

Sarah Veale

“Even Greek gods and Goddesses aren’t immune to physical passions. Duh. We all know about Zeus’ exploits with mortal women. As a god. As a swan. As a bull. Dude gets around. (And has a funny way of luring the ladies, but let’s not get into that. Keep it consensual, people!). But today I want to talk about Aphrodite, the queen bee of love. In the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite, the goddess is a bit of a trickster who compels the gods to mingle with mortals. To get even, Zeus gives her a taste of her own medicine, making her fall for the carefree, guitar-playing Anchises, a cattle herder in Troy. To make a long story short, there’s lust, and subterfuge, and an awkward day after. So what’s so interesting about all this? Two things: One, in order to snag Anchises, Aphrodite has to hide her goddess-ness. Two: Sleeping with a goddess can get you into some real trouble.” – Sarah Veale, on the misfortunes that befall men who sleep with goddesses.

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

“I’m going to call myself a “devotional polytheist” from now on. I hate the term “hard polytheist,” and have never really liked it nor adopted it for myself; there’s all kinds of sexist and phallocentric aspects of the terminology that I find resentful and distasteful. I’ve preferred “polytheist” all on its own, because I think it is simple and relatively easy-to-understand and does exactly what it says on the tin, i.e. indicates the acknowledgement of many gods, which is the best understanding of my own theological position that I have ever come up with for the last twenty years of my practice. (“Polytheanimist” is also not bad, to highlight the animist aspects of my practice…but anyway.) However, I am willing to concede at this point that because there is so much misunderstanding about “polytheism” generally, and that some who have polytheistic aspects of their theology may not weight it as heavily as I do, that a more specific term that is qualified by another term would be more useful to future discussion. I have never resented or been put off by the term “devotional polytheist,” and I do use it from time to time; now I’m going to have to be more assiduous about using it all the time. I still think that “polytheist” should be able to carry the weight of my entire theological and practical outlook, but apparently it can’t, because some people who use the term don’t think that the recognition of the reality of multiple deities is either the most important descriptor of their outlook, or that devotion to the deities is important and essential. I concede that on the latter point in particular, “polytheism” alone has probably never been sufficient to indicate that such a focus for one’s practices is as high a priority as it is for those of us in the modern world who identify in this fashion.” – P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, on polytheism, devotional polytheism, definitions, and labels.

Alyxander Folmer

Alyxander Folmer

“The subject of interfaith dialog and interaction is both massive and complicated. My every day life is an exercise in cross cultural communication, and living in that kind of environment will force you to learn not only about your peer’s belief’s, but your own as well. Being the only member of the house from a Non-Abrahamic tradition has its difficulties; being solitary doesn’t help either. As Heathens/Pagans we often don’t have an organized collective to cite, or definitive texts to fall back on. If we want to participate in religious conversations with those outside of our community, we have to leave that “Pagan Bubble” and stand on our own. Many interfaith organizations tend to focus on the religious “Common Ground”, treating their differences as the unspoken elephant in the room. Even in overwhelmingly Abrahamic interfaith organizations, it’s difficult enough to coordinate between paths with a common origin, how then are we ever supposed to integrate traditions which are founded on fundamentally opposing worldviews? The more inclusive you try to make the conversation, the smaller that common ground is going to get, and the less you’re going to accomplish without stumbling into that elephant.” - Alyxander Folmer, on the Pagan elephant.

Vivianne Crowley

Vivianne Crowley

“The natural world is essential for human well-being – physical, psychological and spiritual. Newer sciences such as ecopsychology recognize what Paganism has long accepted – that our psyches are deeply connected to and affected by the world of nature. This is true in many obvious ways. Our moods are affected by the amount of daylight. In winter, we can succumb to seasonal affective disorder (SAD). When it is sunny and our muscles are warm and relaxed, we feel happier. But the psychological impact of the environment is important in other ways too. Our minds, hearts and spirits crave the beauty of the natural world. We thirst for it and feel consciously or unconsciously deprived when we are separated from it.  When we are hemmed in by concrete and buildings, we react by feeling alienated, depressed, unhappy. Human alienation is strongest when we are furthest away from the natural environment in which our species developed. [...] Few of us can turn our backs on urban life to live off the land, but we can all find ways to engage with the natural world, through gardening, conservation work, or hiking. Most urban areas will have projects and groups that work to green the city, plant trees, create gardens and parks, and clean up rivers. Trees and greenery make an enormous impact on the human psyche; as well as providing clean air that enables us to breathe better, to have greater energy and improved thinking capacity.  Tree planting and other environmental work enable us to green the city and green our spirits at the same time. We can all engage with the earth, even if we are house-bound and not fully mobile. Bees can be kept in urban settings and food can be grown indoors – tomato plants, for example, will grow on a window ledge. Growing something to eat for the sabbat is a simple way of engaging with nature.” – Vivianne Crowley, on the importance of nature, and our connection to it. 

John Beckett

John Beckett

“Religion is a set of practices shown to be useful in facilitatingreligious experiences.  Religion is a set of rituals and customs shown to be meaningful to individuals and communities.  Religion is a set of values shown to be helpful in living a good life in a good community. Religion is the collective experience of our ancestors.  We don’t have to reinvent the proverbial wheel – we can use the wheels our ancestors left us to travel further down the paths to which we’ve been called, build on what they left us, and leave better wheels for those who come after us. Our pre-Christian ancestors didn’t put much emphasis on faith.  What was important was living virtuously and honoring the gods.  Your beliefs about the gods were far less important, and the idea of blindly assenting to a creed, to a formal “this I believe” would have been meaningless.  Rejecting the primacy of faith is part of the Pagan restoration. But there is a place for faith in modern Paganism.” – John Beckett, on faith and Paganism.

Cat Chapin-Bishop

Cat Chapin-Bishop

“It turns out that a lot of what we humans “know” about bears is not true of black bears, the species that I share my woods (and my lettuce) with.  A black bear mother, for instance, is much more likely to flee from a human than defend her cubs.  All black bears are more likely to flee from humans than confront us; their evolutionary history is entirely different from that of the grizzly bear, the source of many of the things we falsely believe to be true.  And while I am not actually fool enough to want to enter a confrontation with a bear of any size, in point of fact, the black bears of New England don’t want a piece of this action, either. Even when I’m not enraged and waving a kitchen knife. I know this because I finally got motivated to research black bears.  My initial response had been fear, and anger, but it turns out that if you follow the science and not the legend, there’s no more reason for the one than the other.” – Cat Chapin-Bishop, on bears, lettuce, and what humans think they know.

Rev. Philipp J. Kessler

Rev. Philipp J. Kessler

“I wear a pentacle every day, it is a ring on my left hand. I wear two rainbow wrist bands every day, one on each wrist. When people meet me, if they see the bling, they might know that I am Pagan and that I am gay. These are two very simple ways that I go about my daily routine as an open Pagan and an open gay man. Not everyone can do this. Those who can in some small way show their Paganness and non-heteroness are champions for both communities. When I am asked about either the ring or the wrist bands I always answer openly and honestly. Sometimes that leads to an uncomfortable silence. More often it leads to a smile and a nod or a “good for you!” comment from those who ask. Rarely, but it does happen, does my response lead to an adverse reaction. When it does, I move along (when at work) or I try to counter their reaction with rational and compassionate thought. More to the point of this discussion, how do we deal with homophobia, biphobia, transphobia within the Pagan community? Some traditions are going to be more conservative. Some paths are apparently opposed to non-heterosexuality. We cannot change the minds and hearts of those who strongly believe that being gay or bi or trans is against their religious or spiritual beliefs. We can show them, however, that gays, bis, trans people are not all that different from them. We are all children of the Gods (or the Goddess, or the One, or whatever Divine title). Many Pagans profess to worship or work with Gods of ancient cultures, from different pantheons. Almost without exception these ancient cultures acknowledged, even embraced, their non-straight members. As LesBiCris reminded me the other night, most aboriginal cultures paid special honor to their “two-spirit” members. Sometimes elevating them to a higher or spiritual status above those who were ‘normal’.” - Rev. Philipp J. Kessler, on homophobia in Paganism.

Dr. Karl E. H. Seigfried

Dr. Karl E. H. Seigfried

“In 2012, I suggested that there was one law for minority faith groups like the Native American Church and another for large, monied religious organizations like the Catholic Church. In 2014, business owners with ties to Evangelical Christianity are brazenly asserting that their personal religious beliefs trump federal law and that the decision against the Native American Church doesn’t apply to them. I hope that the Supreme Court will remain consistent and give the same answer to Evangelical Christians that it gave to members of the Native American Church. If it finds in favor of Hobby Lobby, it will be broadcasting a clear confirmation that majority faiths have more rights and privileges than minority religions. That would be a dark day for everyone, but especially for those of us who belong to minority faiths.” – Karl E. H. Seigfried, on Thor, the Pope, and Hobby Lobby.

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