Archives For John Beckett

Diversity is one of those funny things. There never seems to be enough diversity in any community to reflect all the many different intersections within society. Ideas of diversity are often limited to race, ethnicity and gender in larger conversations, and yet there are so many more variations and flavors to the many different types of people, ideas, experiences and circumstances. It has become more of a buzz word in many spaces, such as the workplace, academic institutions and even spiritual spaces – an expectation instead of a reality in some circumstances. 

[Public Domain]

[Public Domain]

We know that diversity means variety and the representation of a range of differences. Do we have diversity within modern Paganism? Like with many different communities, Paganism has areas of great diversity and some areas that are seriously lacking. While areas of ethnic diversity are have been slow to expand, areas of diversity in sexual orientation, spiritual practice, gender variances, traditions, and socioeconomic status seem to be the opposite. There are a lot of different types of people in our circles, groves, houses, covens, groups and conventions that fall all along the different continuums.

The sheer nature of experiential spirituality allows for people’s differences to have a place within the community dialog, and when it doesn’t it is noticeable. I tend to crave diverse environments, and when there is a noticeable lack of diversity in a specific area, I notice it pretty quickly.

Diversity can be vital to the sustainability of any given community because it challenges our thoughts and stretches the boxes that we construct within our own limited exposures. Diversity supports growth. In The Benefits of Diversity, What the Research Tells us, authors D. Smith and N. Chonfeld talk about quantitative and qualitative research on the impact of diversity in higher education and within organizations. Data continues to point to the importance of diversity and the benefits that diversity has on the development of a community, and the individuals within it. “Our review reveals important links between experiences with diversity and increased commitment to civic engagement, democratic outcomes, and community participation”.

The ability for people to grow and learn through the experiences and connections with a myriad different types of people benefits our ability to think critically and have a larger world view.

So what does diversity look like in the Pagan community and how do Pagans feel about the layers of diversity that we do have? I spoke to four different types of Pagans and Polytheists to ask these questions. John Beckett, Niki Whiting, Sabrina Taylor and Lorrie Patrick; all different people from different flavors of practice with different backgrounds. Some of these people are writers, or college students, and have different socioeconomic statuses. All of them are connected to our Pagan and/or Polytheist communities.

I asked three questions of all three people interviewed:

1. What areas do you feel we are the most diverse in our communities?
2. What do you enjoy about the elements of diversity that the Pagan and Polytheist communities have?
3. What areas of diversity would you like to see our communities grow in?

The answers to these questions were quite diverse in themselves, and show a snapshot of how simple and yet how complex diversity can be.

John Beckett

John Beckett

We are most diverse in our religious and magical traditions. When I first began exploring Paganism in the early 1990s there was Wicca and Druidry and that was about it.  here were other traditions (Thelema, for example, is older than Wicca) but if you were new and didn’t know anybody, you didn’t have much of a chance of finding them.

Now there are more traditions than you can keep up with, and with the internet and especially with social media, a seeker can find pretty much exactly what they’re looking for. The problem now isn’t that there’s not enough diversity, it’s differentiating one group from another.

I like going to Pantheacon or Pagan Pride Day or just surfing the internet and learning something new and different about how to form and maintain relationships with the Gods, ancestors, and spirits of Nature. I like learning about religions and cultures that were thought to be dead that are being revived and reimagined here and now. And I especially like to see Gods that were forgotten being worshiped again, perhaps for the first time in thousands of years.

I’d like us to become more aware of the wide diversity that exists in the Pagan and Polytheist communities. We’re not all the same, and that’s OK.  I’d like to see a deeper appreciation of our diversity of beliefs and practices, not just to avoid cultural appropriation (although that’s certainly important) but to form and demonstrate respect for our differences.

And I’d like for us all to learn to listen better, so we can help seekers find the tradition that calls to them and not steer them toward a tradition we think they “should” follow based on their appearance, name, orientation, or other categorizations. The Gods call who They call. John Beckett

 

Niki Whiting

Niki Whiting

I don’t really know how to answer that question. I don’t think I’m capable or qualified to do so! My communities are relatively small and most active online, which skews my reality. What I see online, what I witness at PCon, and what I saw at Many Gods West are quite different!

The one thing I’ll say is that overall we do a good job of fostering and supporting LGB folk. Some communities are better than others about the T in that equation.

Overall, I love the spirit that is present in both communities. In my limited experience I think the polytheist communities are doing a better job of discussing a wide array of social, environmental, and economic justice issues, and also of listening to diverse voices.

I was pleased to see just how gender variant the attendees at MGW were. Attendees also came with a variety of social needs and several had mobility issues, and all were accommodated in a very organic way. If those people are in our wider communities I feel very hopeful for inclusion and continued diversity in both Paganism and polytheism.

Access and money for access. Many of the people involved in our communities are not wealthy. We make sacrifices to attend gatherings and groups, to tend our shrines and altars. But many people with more than one hurdle are often left out of such gatherings. How can we make these events and gatherings more accessible?

How can we reach out to communities that might otherwise be sympathetic but see Paganism as a white, hippie enclave? I think polytheism has a better “in” in this regard. There are many traditions that don’t consider themselves Pagan but are or can be approached from polytheism. Many of these traditions come from indigenous cultures or Afro-diasporic cultures – groups that are tremendously important to the United States’ history and culture, but often get left out (sometimes by their own choice!) in the overwhelming European milieu of modern American Paganism.”  Niki Whiting 

 

Lorrie Patrick

Lorrie Patrick

What I have noticed in my limited exposure is that we all seem to come from very different backgrounds particularly where and how we were raised. We seem to have a great deal of diversity among us not only in what part of the country or world we grew up in but varying socioeconomic status, religious backgrounds, how and by whom we were raised, and the life experiences that have brought us where we are today.

I enjoy this diversity because I feel we all come together due to a common thread but still have so many different things to offer one another which hopefully helps us to learn and grow.

My hope is that our communities continue to have open dialog about their differences. That we can recognize them, embrace them and use our shared knowledge to strengthen the community in  every way possible. – Lorrie Patrick

 

Sabrina Taylor

Sabrina Taylor

I believe that the Pagan communities are most diverse when it comes to online communities. I think many different factors play a part in this. Due to location (I live in Seattle) I rarely run into other Pagans of color except at festivals and larger community gatherings.

I enjoy the fact that many of us bring an element of social justice to our communities and spiritual backgrounds, either due to who we are as people or what we experienced growing up due to being a minority.

It would be great to see more diversity in pagan leadership organizations as well as within our community’s media. – Sabrina Taylor


When I think about the reasons I was initially drawn to the larger Pagan community I think about the different conversations, and vastly different types of people with whom I got to connect. While it is very apparent that diversity within some areas of our community are slow to develop, I still find that other areas of diversity have been just as important in the connection that I, and many others, have within modern Paganism or Polytheist communities. 
It is my personal opinion that any community should be made up of all different kinds of people. My ideal community would be made up of Black, White, Latino, Multi-Ethnic, female, male, transgendered, gender queer, heterosexual, bi-sexual, gay, meta-sexual peoples of all different socioeconomic statuses, from all different types of regions, from different age groups, different abilities, with the many different experiences and engaging in many different types of spiritual practices.

The more that our communities can identify, embrace and celebrate the various forms of diversity we have, the more culturally competent our communities become. Increased opportunity to break out of the mold of groupthink allows for innovation, enhanced understanding of cultural nuances, and cross-cultural interconnected relatability.

We need to continuously ask ourselves where we excel, where we need to improve, what faces are missing from our circles and how can we support diverse spaces that encourage health of our overall spiritual communities.

There was a section that stuck out to me in reading What Do Leaders Need To Understand About Diversity on the Yale School of Management website. “Here’s the key: If you want diversity of thought, you have to bring in people around you who have diverse experiences. Differences in race, gender, and socioeconomic background are three characteristics, but so are differences in learning style or differences in professional field. And I’m not suggesting that any one of those points of diversity is more potent than others.”

It is important to celebrate where we are great and examine where we need to improve, while fostering an environment that promotes healthy engagement in our myriad differences.

A Blessed Lughnasadh

Heather Greene —  July 31, 2015 — 2 Comments

This weekend, many modern Pagans, Polytheists and Heathens are observing the summer festival of Lughnasadh, also called Lammas, Lughnassa, and Harvest Home. Typically celebrated on August 1, Lughnasadh is one of the yearly fire festivals and marks the first of three harvest celebrations. It traditionally honors Lugh, the Celtic god of light and many talents, and his foster-mother, Tailtiu.

In addition, the weekend brings the Asatru festival of first fruits called Freyfaxi. Both celebrations are celebrated with feasting, songs, games, thanksgiving and the reaping of the first fruits and grains of the season.

[By Shree Krishna Dhital via Wikimedia Commons]

[By Shree Krishna Dhital via Wikimedia Commons]”

Tonight, Lammas Eve 2015, will bring the rare Blue Moon, or the second full moon in the month of July. According to sources, the last Blue Moon was in August 2012.

Here are a few quotes about the harvest celebration:

This is the traditional wheat harvest of England! Referenced several times in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, its name comes from the word Hlaefmaest, which means literally the “loaf-feast” … Celebrating this holiday would traditionally involve wheat and the products of wheat: flour and bread! Baking and offering bread or cakes to your Gods, spirits, and community is a fantastic way to get in the spirit of the holiday. – Molly Khan, “Heathen Ways to Celebrate Fall”

Harvest festivals have a long history in a huge variety of cultures. Having enough food is a good thing to celebrate, and it’s downright fun. Having enough to get through the next season and be able to make both beer and bread is even better, and definitely deserves a party. But in this day and age few of us harvest any kind of food with our own hands, and although gardens are growing in popularity, only a tiny proportion of us harvest the kind of bounty that provides security through the cold months. I think one result is that we tend to focus on the mystical meanings of bread and life while ignoring the seemingly mundane but fundamentally necessary part of the harvest: work. – Literata, “Lunasa – Sacred Work”

Lughnasadh is the first of the three harvest festivals. It’s the grain harvest, which led to the name Lammas – “loaf mass.” But before we can bake the loaf, the grain must be cut down … We live only because we consume other life – everything we eat was alive only a short time before we eat it. This is what every animal on the Earth does.  Some eat plants, some eat other animals, some eat both. All of Nature is sacred. But sacred or not, life feeds on life. Sacrifice is necessary. No matter what we offer to the Gods, our ceremonial sacrifices stand as a reminder that real, tangible sacrifices are necessary. Something has to die so we can eat.  – John Beckett, “Lammas Night”

The exchange of energy is an underlying principle of magick; another is as above so below. We honor the invisible realm of the Gods and in the material realm we sacrifice something by giving to others or to the planet. Thus is the sacrifice of Lammas made. – Vivianne Crowley, “Lammas, Season of Sacrifice”

The ancient Irish Festival of the First Harvest [is] a remembrance of a time when people lived their lives in preparation for that first harvest. This holy day must seem like a relic, in a time when every crop is available, year round, in the local grocery, and the land has become this thing we live on but never speak to.

We need a better harvest. We need a generation of people who will listen to the voices in the earth. We need to discover our purpose in the land. I need to discover its purpose in me. – Shaun Paul, “First Harvest”

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

Summerland

Another damaging summer storm has a hit major Pagan festival. This time it is Summerland Spirit Festival held in Turtle Lake, Wisconsin. The intense winds and rain arrived Sunday night around 10 p.m. on the festival’s first full day. According to reports, tents were damaged or completely lost, and parts of merchant row have been destroyed. During a race to get into the permanent shelters, several people sustained minor injuries such as scrapes and twisted ankles.

Fortunately, the intense storm was over in thirty minutes, and did not cause the local creek to rise. Those who did lose tents were able to find sleeping space within the lodge or in neighbors’ tents. While there has been property loss, the festival will continue on. As today’s sun dries out the campground, attendees and the organizing committee will spend the day cleaning up, looking for lost items and assessing damages. Beyond that, the organizers plan to continue on with Summerland programming as scheduled. While the weather reports do call for another possible summer thunderstorm today, the rest of the week looks promising.

*   *   *

pomegranate

Equinox Publishing will be launching a new peer reviewed journal in 2016. It is titled Body and Religion and will “provide a forum for the study of all manner of ancient and contemporary practices, concerns, ideals, and connections or disconnections between body and religion.” The editors are Shawn Arthur of Wake Forest University and Nikki Bado of Iowa State University. The book reviewer will be Kevin Schilbrack of Appalachian State University.

Body and Religion will be published twice annually and is currently seeking submissions. The editors write, “We welcome English-language submissions from scholars who use diverse methodologies and approaches, ranging from traditional to innovative, to explore issues of’“body’ as a fundamental analytical category in the study of religion.” They will “consider submissions from both established scholars and research students.” Equinox is also the publisher of Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies.

*   *   *

Havana, Cuba [© Jorge Royan via Wikimedia Commons]

Havana, Cuba [© Jorge Royan via Wikimedia Commons]

In the past, we have reported on the New Year divinatory tradition held by Cuba’s Santeria Priests. For more than 30 years, these Priests have offered recommendations and predictions for the coming year. Traditionally, these readings have been performed independently from each other. Last week, however, The Havana Times reported that this will change in 2016. The article reads, “The two main currents of Cuban Santeria that announce different “Letter of the Year” prophecies at the beginning of each January have finally decided to come together and make public a single version of the predictions by the popular oracle Ifa.”

The partnership between the two leading “currents,” led by Lazaro Cuesta and Jose Manuel Perez, is reportedly being seen as a “means of consolidating the community of Afro-Cuban religion practitioners” Rather than offering competing recommendations, the groups will offer a joint “Letter of the Year” for the first time in history.

The Havana Times article goes on to discuss the relationship between the Cuban practice and that of Miami’s Santeria Priests, who also offer their own Letter of the Year. As is written, “Perhaps the new winds of change blowing between Washington and Havana will end up bringing Ifa priests on both shores together in their dictates and recommendations for the year.”

In Other News:

  • Author Marla Hardee Milling, a native of Asheville, has published a new book called Only in Asheville: An Eclectic History. The book examines why Asheville, North Carolina is often labeled “America’s quirkiest town.” In it she explores aspects of the bohemian character of her home town, interviewing a number of local residents. One of the interviews is with local Priestess Byron Ballard, who has the distinguished title of local Village Witch.
  • Llewellyn has published a guest blog post written by Aaron Leitch, which examines whether the Bible outlaws magick. He writes, “The question of magick among these traditions arises every so often. Usually, it is asked by newcomers who feel a calling to practice the arts of magick, but have been raised with the belief that it is directly proscribed by their religion.Their fear is very real—they worry if delving into the arts will result in the loss of their immortal soul.” Leitch then goes on to examine various references to magick, Witchcraft and sorcery.
  • Circle Magazine is currently seeking submissions for its upcoming fall issue, which will be titled “Life’s End & Beyond.”  Editor Florence Edwards-Miller said that she is “hoping to cover a wide range of topics … including end-of-life planning and care, Pagan funerals, coping with loss of a human or animal companion, honoring ancestors, deities associated with the dead or dying, myths or beliefs about what comes after death, reincarnation, or other related subjects.” The issue will also cover the rituals, crafts and food associated with Samhain. Due to the PSG flooding, the submission deadline is now Aug. 7.
  • Over the past week, Patheos Pagan Channel writers have been debating the somewhat controversial subject of deity popularity. Channel manager Jason Mankey kicked off the conversation at Raise the Horns, which was then followed by several other reaction pieces.The latest post was written by John Beckett at Under the Ancient Oaks.
  • Another Pagan programming announcement has been made for the Parliament of the World’s Religions. Andras Corban-Arthen put together a proposal for a panel entitled “We Are the Earth: Pagans Respond to Pope Francis on the Environment.” It was accepted by the Council. The new panel, moderated by Sylvia Linton, will include Corban-Arthen, John Halstead and myself. Other Wild Hunt writers will also be in attendance at the Parliament, and we will be reporting directly from the October event.

That is it for now. Have a nice day!

VATICAN CITY — Many, if not most, Pagans consider the Earth to be sacred. This has been true for at least as long as Wicca and other modern Pagan religions have been in the public eye. For many in the mainstream media, this is considered an identifying characteristic of Paganism. Pope Francis of the Roman Catholic Church has finally released his long-awaited 180+ page encyclical on the environment, called Laudato Si. This one document has been in the news for some weeks and is the strongest message about the subject ever released by that Church.

[Courtesy NASA / Flickr]

[Courtesy NASA / Flickr]

The Pope’s statement that has been in the works for months, and has been called a “game changer” for the environmental movement. The Wild Hunt asked some members of the Pagan community to weigh in on the weighty document.

Given the diverse nature of Pagans — including those who are often lumped under the Pagan umbrella, whether they wish to be or not — It is not surprising that the responses ranged across a wide spectrum. Some common threads have emerged in these early reactions, but as this message and its ramifications are absorbed and digested, those threads could either strengthen or snap. The bulk of the reactions from those people, who were able to take the time to read and respond to the encyclical, is largely positive, with some important exceptions.

John Beckett

John Beckett

Druid John Beckett was quick to notice that “environment” seems to include much more than animals and trees. He said:

If you think Pope Francis’ encyclical is only about climate change, you need to read it for yourself. It’s about the inherent value of all living things, about a ‘throwaway culture’ that mistakenly seeks meaning in things, about the connections between humans and the rest of Nature, and about how the results of our environmental desecrations are borne predominantly by the poor.

‘Laudato Si’ is grounded in Christian scripture and tradition, but Pope Francis understands these are global problems requiring a global approach. Perhaps most importantly, he understands real, lasting change cannot come from technology, but through changes in culture and spirituality.

Pope Francis gets it.

John Halstead, who has been a driving force behind the Pagan Community Statement on the Environment, noted that it includes a number of elements with which a Pagan might identify. Halstead said:

John Halstead

John Halstead

Repeatedly throughout the statement, the Pope observes that everything is interconnected, which is an article of faith for many Pagans (¶¶ 16, 70, 117, 138). He also recognized that we are inherently part of the earth: “Nature cannot be regarded as something separate from ourselves or as a mere setting in which we live,” he says, “We are part of nature, included in it and thus in constant interaction with it.” (¶ 139) “[O]ur very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.” (¶ 2) In my mind, this echoes the Pagan environmental statement. In fact, something like these words might have been spoken at Pagan Spirit Gathering this year or at a CUUPS summer solstice ritual.

Pagan Environmental Coalition NYC member Courtney Weber was reassured that the Pope was placing environmentalism into a Christian context, but also felt that there are parts of Christian teaching which continue to fly in the face of stewardship. She said:

It is absolutely encouraging to see the Pope take such an unflinching, yet hopeful, stance on the future of our ecological revolution. He strikes down the all too destructive interpretation of Christian scripture and insists that we all have a part to play in turning this around, particularly for citizens of wealthier nations. This could not be more important or true. He misses the mark, however, when he says that controlling the population isn’t a major part of solving this crisis. To not include reproductive control as imperative to surviving the climate crisis speaks of antiquated and dangerous Catholic doctrine. Pagans, however, will probably enjoy section 241, which talks about Mother Mary as Queen of Creation.

Holli S. Emore

Holli S. Emore

Cherry Hill Seminary‘s Holli S. Emore struck a similar tone, saying:

Pope Francis has created a masterpiece, in my opinion, in the recent encyclical on the environment. Rather than lurking in the safety of official doctrine, he has expounded theologically on a solid grounding of science, economics and social justice. While I wish he had been able to go further in calling for population decrease, I agree with his assertion that blaming overpopulation for our ecological woes is disingenuous. The beauty of the encyclical is that, in addition to the many millions of Catholics around the world who respect the teachings of a pope, the document is crafted in language that people of virtually any faith can embrace. On my desk is a small vase of roses from my garden. They were only buds when I cut and brought them in, but they have gradually opened into blooms of great beauty and fragrance. I choose to see the Pope’s statement as a bud with the power to transform many as it opens and blooms, if only we will nurture the vision.

The Reverend Patrick McCollum released a statement while traveling, which welcomed the Catholic Church to the table of people fighting to protect the Earth. Rev. McCollum said:

I would like to offer praise and admiration on behalf of the Earth Based Spiritual Traditions for the Pope’s brave step forward to join us and others in dialogue about the care and future of our planet. Both we and our indigenous brothers and sisters share many of the same concerns and reverence for the sacredness of our earth that the Pontiff proclaims and we have long waited for a time when all peoples might set aside some of our differences in order to work together as a family toward our common humanity and the place we call home.

There is much work to be done and many challenges to be overcome as we move forward, but as a representative of many millions who treasure the sacredness of creation, I reach out my hand to accept the Pope’s gracious invitation and to share his powerful message worldwide.

The “sacredness” which McCollum referenced has surprised many Pagan observers. Attorney Robin Martinez, whose work against the Keystone XL Pipeline has been chronicled here, zeroed on its implications. He said:

Robin Wright

Robin Martinez

As someone with a Pagan world view, little did I think I’d ever be anticipating the release of a communication from the Pope. I starting realizing the significance of this work when barely into the introduction I read these words: “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs”.

Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment is one of the more powerful documents I’ve read in quite some time, and presents a major contribution to development of an underlying moral, ethical, and spiritual framework for our relationship with the Earth. In some respects, I balk at using the word “relationship” because it implies a separation of humanity from the Earth, but Pope Francis tackles that head-on in the introduction, where he writes that “[w]e have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth; our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.”

It also struck Peter Dybing, who said, in part:

After reading the complete document my personal understanding of the nature of Catholic Church is profoundly affected. Here, the institution most responsible for the spread of Patriarchy, colonial power, suppression of indigenous cultures, cultural and environmental genocide, takes an about face. This new Pope steps forward and establishes himself as a leader, not just of his church, but also of those seeking environmental, economic and social justice on a planetary scale.

As I was reading I was drawing parallels with some of the most forward progressive ideas being embraced by Pagan sites like Gods&Radicals. Frankly I am stunned. This may be a watershed document of our generation, establishing an urgency that the world has so far failed to muster for environmental action.

Sean Donahue is a writer for the aforementioned Gods&Radicals, and the import was not lost on him, either. He said:

“Pagan” and “Heathen” are words that originally referred to the unchurched and unlettered people of the countryside, and these were the people Francis of Assisi ministered to — a ministry marked not by conversion but by inclusion in an animist form of Christianity, which saw plants and animals and sun and rain and wind and stars as humanity’s kin. It is telling and significant that the saint’s namesake draws quite explicitly on that original Franciscan language, theology, and spirit in an encyclical addressed not to Catholics but to the world.

11054379_10153162378202556_4626968541996286261_o

Sean Donahue

Pope Francis calls the world to join him in adopting what he rightly describes as St. Francis’s radical stance — “refusal to turn reality into an object simply to be used and controlled.” In so doing, he challenges the fundamental tenets of capitalism, and calls for new political and economic approaches which value both human and non-human life. He explicitly condemns anthropocentrism and asserts that all species have inherent worth and a right to live — a far cry from his predecessor who condemned such views as rooted in “attitudes of neo-paganism or a new pantheism.” He also takes the position that Indigenous peoples are the best caretakers of their traditional homelands, and that they deserve to be allowed to honor an protect “a sacred space with which they need to interact if they are to maintain their identity and values.”

All of this marks a tremendous theological shift, a reversal of centuries of church doctrine. Pope Francis believes that there is one God (though he also speaks eloquently of Mary, who “grieves for the sufferings of the crucified poor and for the creatures of this world laid waste by human power.”) My path is one not of belief, but of relationship, and I am connected with many gods — the Feri gods and the gods of my Celtic ancestors. But that is about all that separates my perspective on the world and the perspective the Pope articulates in this encyclical. And that is deeply healing to my once Catholic heart.

Not everything in this dense document was entirely welcome, however. Halstead pointed out that he had two main concerns. Halstead said, “The first is his lingering anthropocentrism. Although he criticizes ‘distorted’ or ‘excessive’ anthropocentrism (¶¶ 69, 116), he nevertheless insists on humanity’s ‘pre-eminence’ (¶ 90) and ‘superiority’ (¶ 220). He argues that, in the absence of this belief, human beings will not feel responsible for the planet. (¶ 118) While I agree that human beings are ‘unique’ in many ways among the world’s fauna, and that we have special responsibilities as a result, I know from personal experience that undermining the belief in humanity’s ‘superiority’ can produce a greater sense of responsibility to the earth. And I know the reverse to be true as well: belief in our ‘pre-eminence’ can weaken our sense of ecological responsibility.”

Pope Francis [Photo Credit: Catholic Church England / Flickr]

Pope Francis [Photo Credit: Catholic Church England / Flickr]

Then, there’s the notion of the fragility of the earth. Halstead goes on to say, “In one place, the Pope says that ‘a divinization of the earth . . . would prevent us from . . . protecting it in its fragility.’ (¶ 90) . . . . The earth, nature, the biosphere is resilient. There is no sense in the Pope’s statement that human beings are facing an existential threat. And naturally, many Pagans know that the ‘divinization of the earth’ can, in fact, inspire us to protect it.”

Damon Leff, former director of the South African Pagan Rights Alliance (SAPRA) and editor-in-chief of Penton Independent Alternative Media, is also a longtime observer of the Church. He didn’t mince words with his response:

I personally believe, given the very long and painful history of criminal acts committed by the Catholic Church and its repeated denials of guilt and refusal to honestly atone for many of these sins, that this Church has no moral standing to pontificate on any subject at all, to anyone. An apparently liberal and certainly more affable Pope than his Nazi predecessor does not for one instant change the Church’s actual conservative and often hostilely prejudicial position on any number of subjects Francis may or may not have bantered on since he took office; LGBTI rights and marriage equality, Pagan minorities, witch-hunts, traditional religions in Africa and Europe, Women, poverty, racism, paedophilia and illegal child abduction by nuns in Ireland and elsewhere.

The modern Catholic Church has neither proven itself better nor more moral than its historic predecessor. As for Francis’ statement on the environment, it’s too little too late. The world according to that Church is a pile of sinful dirt. For me and countless others who are not of the opinion that matter is inherently sinful, She is a divine body in need of global rescue. Nothing Francis can say can rescue her. The real battle for Her survival is being waged daily by committed environmentalists against both governments and global corporations completely committed and determined to profit from Her demise at any cost. One only has to look at current issues around and affecting global warming, Monsanto and Roundup Ready GMOs, fracking and polluting industry self-regulation to see that, at best, what any of us ‘believe’ about anything is as useless, in the face of an army of capitalists determined to destroy life as we know it for every planetary species, as spitting curses against the wind.

To Dybing, those aspects which didn’t jibe with his theology are still opportunities for learning. He said, “There are some areas where my personal understanding of divinity and women’s rights are in clear opposition to principles put forth in the document. That fact, however, has me wondering if my personal opinions of the church lead me to seek areas of difference when in fact there is so much in this document that sets the stage for world wide intersections of purpose and action for people of faith.”

No matter these early reactions, Dybing’s recommendation to read it and form one’s own opinions may be well worth heeding. In time, history will judge whether Laudato Si is truly a game-changer, or simply a flash in the pan. If time shows that this document succeeded in getting the entire Roman Catholic Church pulling for the Earth, it will be significant indeed.

Barb MossThe Pagan Spirit Gathering (PSG) family is mourning the loss of one of its devoted members, Barb Moss (1969-2015). Barb was also a facilitator of the Daughters of the Dark Moon coven as well as a member of the Open Circle Unitarian Universalist congregation in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. In addition, she was a working artist, known for her enthusiasm and creativity. Last October, Barb were interviewed for a local paper’s bi-weekly feature: “The Artist Next Door.” According to the report, Barb had overcome many obstacles in her life including addiction, failed pregnancies, and divorce. Many of these struggles were featured in her paintings.

Barb’s latest struggle was with breast cancer. She was diagnosed in 2011. After various treatments, she went into remission. Then, this past summer, doctors discovered that Barb’s cancer had spread to her liver and bone. On May 11, she lost the fight. As her friend Cathy Fia Moritz shared, “My friend, Barb, squeezed the last bit of life out of that paint tube yesterday. Even though I only knew her for a short time, she touched my life greatly. Her creativity, welcoming attitude, and her unflagging optimism were just a few of the bright qualities that made her a wonderful woman.”

The Open Circle Unitarian Church held a fundraiser and memorial service this past weekend. Then on Sunday, there was a second service at her parents church – Salem United Methodist. PSG will be “honoring her … as part of [its] Circle of Remembrance on the opening Sunday, June 14.” In addition, since Barb was scheduled to co-lead this year’s Daughters of the Dark Moon ritual at PSG, coven members decided to include an honoring of her life as part of the rite. Rev. Selena Fox said, “She was beloved by many. [I am] glad to have connected with her as part of my life’s journey.”

*   *   *

Lapd sealOn Thursday, May 21, the West Valley Area, Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) is co-sponsoring a meet-and-greet with local Pagans. The focus of the event will be on how best to handle and report “Hate Crimes/Speech” against the Pagan community. As the flyer notes, “This is also an opportunity to get to know your local officers.”

The idea for this community meet-and-greet was born last year when Pagan Wendilyn Emrys, a local activist, attended the LAPD Hate Crimes Forum in Encino, California. She said, “I was attending in my capacity as a Pagan Priestess, and because I am a member of a number of political groups that often get attacked by right wing psychos. I wanted to know my rights...” After asking a few questions, an officer approached her and offered to meet with her and other Pagans.

Although the event took some time to coordinate, Emrys and the current facilitating officer Sergeant II Frank Avila were finally able to secure a date. Emrys is enthusiastic about the opportunity, saying “I think it is essential for Pagans to get to know their local Law Enforcement Professionals, and Governmental Representatives … It is also important for us to know what is and is not a Hate Crime, or Hate Speech, and how to get in touch with our local Law Enforcement should someone inflict such a crime or criminal speech against us.” She is hoping for good turnout. The meet-and-greet will be held at the West Valley Area Police Station at 7 p.m., the event is open to anyone interested in the subject matter. For more information, contact wendilynemrys@hotmail.com.

*   *   *

Earth

Courtesy: NASA / Goddard Space Flight Center

The Pagan Community Statement on the Environment has garnered 4,249 signatures in just one month’s time. The signatures hail from all over the world and from nearly every continent. There also now eight translations of the statement available, including Spanish, French, Italian, Hungarian, Russian, Polish, Lithuanian and Portuguese. More translations are currently in the works.

In a recent blog post, coordinator John Halstead wrote, “If you peruse the list of signatories of “A Pagan Community Statement on the Environment”, you will see a lot of names you may recognize…” but many you do not. Then he featured an interview with the person who signed directly before Starhawk.

Since that blog post, Halstead has noted that the group’s goal is to get 10,000 signatures by mid June. Why June? This is the scheduled time of Pope Francis’ publication of an encyclical on the environment. Halstead views this as “an ideal opportunity to share a Pagan vision of sustainability with the world.” Patheos blogger John Beckett agreed, saying, “If the leader of the world’s largest Christian denomination can issue a progressive statement on the environment, why can’t Pagans – most of whom hold Nature in much higher regard than do Christians – do at least as much?”  Halstead and the many people involved are now asking others to pass along the statement through social media and other sources. Where can it be found? The statement, its history and all the translations are available at Ecopagan.com.

In other news:

  • On May 25, the Pagan/Academic European Associates Network (PAEAN) will be holding its 3rd online academic conference. Held in cooperation with the Pagan Federation International, the PAEAN Conference will “focus on the different aspects of development of Contemporary Paganism and its challenges.” The online platform allows “scholars, lecturers and attendees to engage in meaningful discussions to “hopefully increase learning and understanding.” This year’s theme is “The Future of Contemporary Paganism.” and will include lectures by Mr. Stanislav Panin, Dr. Lila Moore, Mr. Shai Feraro, Ms. Martina Capuleti and Mr. Gwiddon Harveston. There will also be several group panels. Information can be found online.
  • T. Thorn Coyle has just released her first fiction novel, titled Like Water. Nayomi Munaweera, author of Island of a Thousand Mirrors, described the book“Like Water is a love letter to both the streets of Oakland and the youth who walk them. It tells of the city’s history as well as the conflagrations threatening to devour it. These are characters attempting to love through the fire.” Inspired by her social justice work, Coyle calls the book “visionary fiction.” It s now available in both paper or electronic forms from online and local bookshops.
  • The Norse Mythology Blog has begun its annual midsummer art competition. This year’s theme is based on “an excerpt from the Old Norse poem Sigrdrífumál (“Sayings of Sigrdrifa”) from the Poetic Edda.”  The specific except is posted on the site along with project suggestions. In addition, Dr. Karl E. H. Seigfried also wrote, “Throughout Northern Europe, there are local traditions that celebrate midsummer. Some of these practices preserve very old rituals. Your original piece of visual art should capture the midsummer spirit of Norse mythology.” Past winners and their art are posted in the blog’s archives. The submission deadline is midnight June 19.
  • On May 11, Molly Khan launched the Heathen at Heart blog on Patheos Pagan Channel. In her opening post, Khan wrote,”Hello, and welcome to Heathen at Heart!  Here I hope you will find a thoughtful commentary on Heathenry, polytheism, and Paganism in general; as well as practical information, prayers, and rituals.” Khan is member of a local Kindred as well as a Scribe for an ADF Grove. She is also a wife and mother of three, and a strong supporter of her local Pagan community.
  • The Wiccan group Silver Circle, founded in 1979, has commissioned a film on Witches in Holland or Heksen in Holland. The project is part of the group’s recent 35 year anniversary celebration. The organization has established a foundation that is “committed to expanding and evolving Wicca to an ever growing public.” To help fund the project organizers have launched an Indiegogo campaign.  However, they have already begun production with the help of a variety of volunteers

That’s it for now. Have a great day.

WASHINGTON – On Feb. 24, U.S. President Obama vetoed a bill that would have approved construction of the final phase of the Keystone XL pipeline. After installation, this pipeline system would carry 830,000 gallons of crude oil from oil sands in Alberta, Canada to refineries in the Gulf of Mexico. The current legislative battle is over the final phase of 1,179 miles of pipe that are part of the entire 3,200 mile project.

Installed Keystone Pipeline [Photo Credit: Public Citizen / Flickr, CC lic.]

Installed Keystone Pipeline [Photo Credit: Public Citizen / Flickr, CC lic.]

In January, Keystone proponents won three significant victories. Both the U.S. House and Senate approved the project. At the same time, Nebraska’s state Supreme Court removed the remaining blocks preventing the pipeline from being constructed in its state.

Then, in mid February, the approved federal bill was sent to President Obama, who promptly vetoed it, saying in a message to Congress:

The Presidential power to veto legislation is one I take seriously. But I also take seriously my responsibility to the American people.  And because this act of Congress conflicts with established executive branch procedures and cuts short thorough consideration of issues that could bear on our national interest — including our security, safety, and environment — it has earned my veto.

Experts do report that this veto may have dealt a fatal blow to the Keystone proposal, at least in its current form. Congress doesn’t appear to have the votes necessary to block the veto. In addition, legal battles have re-surfaced in Nebraska, which have halted Trans Canada’s acquisition of needed land. Does it mean an end to the project entirely or just delays?

For those unfamiliar with Keystone XL, CNN has published a short digest on the issues being debated. Briefly, proponents argue that the new lines will bring temporary and permanent jobs, boost the economy and make the U.S. less dependent on foreign oil. Opponents cite numerous environmental concerns, as well as the destruction of lands owned by Indigenous populations and the potential threats to those communities.

As has become quite commonplace, this battle pits economic stability and growth against environmental safety and community protection. It is an old struggle dressed in new clothes. However, as pointed out by Chris Mooney of The Washington Post, the conversation may be changing, which makes the veto particularly significant. As Mooney points out, past cultural debates have centered on finding ways to make production safer or cleaner. This may be the first time at this level of government that the conversation focuses on stopping production entirely. The message isn’t “do it cleaner;” but rather “don’t do it all.”

We talked to a number of Pagans who are, in some form, significantly engaged in environmental activism. As expected, they all were very pleased with the veto. Courtney Weber, co-founder of the Pagan Environmental Coaltion of NYC, said:

It’s certainly very exciting and encouraging for the environmental movement. This pipeline is never going to supply a large number of permanent jobs and its oil was never meant to support the American people–it’s been an export-only plan from day one! A few will get rich and many will run the serious risk of contaminated farmland and drinking water…

As a member of the Pagan Environmental Coalition of NYC, this news is very encouraging. Our work focuses on encouraging sustainable green infrastructure and opposing fossil fuel infrastructure. I hope that this will encourage Governors Cuomo and Christie to veto to the Port Ambrose LNG port, which would have the same dangerous impacts on the Tri-State coastline as Keystone would to middle America.

Macha NightMare (Aline O’Brien), Witch at Large and co-author of the CoG environmental policy, said:

I’m heartened by the President’s veto. After all, he has two daughters who will have to live in the world. I think he knows how serious our environmental problems have become and feels, as I do, that all the jobs in the world cannot justify the risk of such disastrous environmental degradation that Keystone could generate.

I fail to see how imperiling our lands with a pipeline does anyone any good. This proposed pipeline would be 36″ in diameter; the recent broken lines in the Northern Plains and elsewhere were only 4″ diameter. I shudder to think of the devastation a broken pipe could wreak. Not to mention the fact that plans call for it to traverse sovereign Native American lands. Furthermore, exploiting our Earth for petroleum-derived energy sources ignores the bigger problems.  Instead, we should be cultivating alternative energy sources.

I hope it’s the end, because I know the Congress doesn’t have the votes to overrule Obama’s veto. This allows more time to educate more people who’ve had their heads in the sand or who’ve been convinced otherwise about our environmental crisis.

O’Brien and Weber point to the typical concerns raised by pipeline construction, which include leaks, spills, the acquisition of “sovereign Native American lands,” exploitation of oil sands, the impact on coast lines and climate change. Blogger and Druid John Beckett said:

The Keystone XL Pipeline is troublesome on many counts. Much of the recent debate has focused on the risks to our water supply – the pipeline would run over the largest underground aquifer in North America and leaks are virtually inevitable. But there’s been little talk of the fact that the pipeline was designed to transfer oil from the Canadian tar sands. Tar sands extraction and refining are some of the dirtiest operations in the entire petroleum industry – some have called it “Canada’s Mordor.”

Beyond that, this project extracts additional fossil fuels to drive additional consumption, which will dump additional climate-changing carbon into the atmosphere. The entire tar sands project needs to be killed, not just the pipeline.

Beckett went on to say:

I have been critical of many of President Obama’s decisions and I want to acknowledge when he does the right thing. I’m very happy he vetoed the bill approving the construction of the pipeline. But I’m disappointed he didn’t use the occasion to emphasize the need to reduce carbon emissions and to encourage the Canadians to leave the tar sands in the ground.

Instead, his veto statement focused on procedural issues: “this act of Congress conflicts with established executive branch procedures and cuts short thorough consideration of issues that could bear on our national interest.” This leaves open the possibility that his administration or that of the next President could decide the pipeline is an acceptable risk. It is not.

His skepticism is justified, considering that Keystone proponents in Congress have pledged to overturn the veto or attach the proposal to other legislation. Beckett’s sentiments were echoed by others interviewed. Weber said:

This veto is not a coffin nail on tar sands oil. This veto doesn’t get rid of it, it only keeps it in limbo. It is likely to come back attached to another bill. In addition, that oil can still flow through numerous other pipelines being built or already built. But it’s an important symbolic action in which public health and environmental concerns are given consideration before profits of large companies. 

James Stovall, who was recently elected to the board of directors for the Jackson County Conservation District (JCCD), offered his personal opinion, saying:

I do think the veto was the right call, but sadly it is not the last of the issue. The President vetoed the Legislative attempt to pass the pipeline but could still approve it after State Department studies are completed. Be it by pipeline or rail we need to make environmental safety is paramount. Make sure to keep speaking to the White House on these matters.

Similarly, Wild Hunt columnist and activist Alley Valkyrie, who has extensively written about and researched oil sands and the transport of energy resources, said in reaction:

While I’m glad that Obama decided to veto Keystone XL, it’s definitely not a victory. This veto is far from the end of the Keystone XL fight, and I have no doubt that the current Congress will try again and again to revive Keystone, most likely in the form of attachments to other bills. And meanwhile, while everyone is focused on and distracted by this one pipeline and this one federal approval process, other pipelines are being built all over the country, literally in our own backyards. While stopping Keystone XL obviously has importance to both the environment as a whole and especially those who are individually affected by it, stopping this one pipeline will not halt nor reverse the consistent damage that industrial capitalism is wreaking upon the earth. It’s the entire destructive system that needs to be stopped.

I wish I could be more hopeful, but unless and until the industrialized nations of this planet collectively decide to radically alter how they produce and consume fossil fuels, and until the people decide that the ability to live on this planet is more important than engaging in a never-ending cycle of producing and consuming, all the effort put into stopping individual projects like Keystone XL will be in vain.

John Halstead, Managing Editor of HumanisticPaganism.com and organizing member of the working group for the Draft Pagan Community Statement on the Environment, wrote:

I applaud the President’s veto and the work done by groups like 350.org that have opposed the pipeline, recognizing that there is still work to be done to oppose the pipeline. But as important as this victory is, it is the tip of an iceberg, one which expands to include an unsustainable system of resource extraction and consumption, which is rapidly making the earth uninhabitable for human beings, as it has already been made uninhabitable for countless species. [This] expands further to include an economic model — global capitalism — which has failed in its promise to reflect the true value of that which is consumed, and expands still further (largely beneath the surface of our consciousness) to include a spiritual hegemony which alienates human beings from the material source of our being and from all life.  We must attack this iceberg at all of these levels; at the points of consumption, production and destruction (economics), the point of decision (politics), and the point of assumption (ideology/religion). 

Whether the veto stops construction completely or simply delays it, there are currently other pipelines in operation, as noted by Valkyrie and Beckett. This includes the other TransCanada lines that make the trip from Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico. In order to end oil sands operations entirely, there must be a collective shift in our relationship with energy use. In addition, there must be a simultaneous and significant economic shift to prevent a catastrophic structural social collapse. Our world economies are deeply tied to the current energy industry, its operations and its products. This is a complicated venture that will require far more than a single piece of legislation, as suggested by Halstead and others interviewed.

However, this presidential veto may be a sign that the global conversation is evolving from “do it, but do it cleaner” to “don’t do it at all.” As is often discussed, those people who follow environmentally-centered religious practices may now have unique place in helping to shift this conversation. Beckett said:

One of the core principles of modern Druidry is that the Earth is sacred. The value of the Earth does not come from the benefits it provides to humans. Rather, the Earth is a living thing and it has the same inherent value and worth as all other living things. Druids seek to live in a respectful and reverent relationship with the Earth.

Halstead echoed that sentiment:

It is in this last area that I believe Pagans have the most unique contribution to make to this fight. We can lead the way in effecting paradigm shift away from from a mode of consciousness which is linear, atomistic and disenchanted — which lies at the root of all of these failed systems — to one that is cyclical, interconnected and re-enchanted. We need to personally and collectively cultivate the spiritual and psychological resources to sustain us for a prolonged struggle on all of these fronts.

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:

10580267_10152436881229285_2188509621727164930_n

  • 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!