Archives For John Michael Greer

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

6a00d83454ed4169e201901ee8f344970b-500wiThe Occult Humanities Conference: Contemporary Art and Scholarship on the Esoteric Traditions will be taking place October 18th-20th in New York City, hosted by Hosted by Phantasmaphile, Observatory and the NYU Steinhardt Department of Art and Art Professions. Quote:  “The conference will present a wide array of voices active in the cultural landscape who are specifically addressing the occult tradition through research, scholarship and artistic practice [...] The presenters at the OHC represent a rich and expanding community of international artists and academics from multiple disciplines across the humanities who share an exuberance and excitement for how the occult traditions interface with their fields of study as well as the culture at large. The small scale of this conference (approximately 100 attendees) will give ticket holders an intimate look at the presenters and their views.” Participants include Robert Ansell of Fulgur Esoterica, Pam Grossman of Phantasmaphile fameIthell Colquhoun expert Dr. Amy Hale, and author Gary Lachman, among others. If I had the budget for it, I’d be there in a heartbeat! If you’re in New York, you should check it out!

wp27cover1bIssue of #27 of Witches & Pagans Magazine is scheduled to be released on October 15th, and features an interview with Teo Bishop, conducted by T. Thorn Coyle. Quote: “This issue guest-stars a triplet of fascinating Pagan notables. Paranormal and detective novelist Alex Bledsoe sold his first magickal “Lady Firefly” story to PanGaia in 1998. Catch up with his journey in this conversation with Deborah Blake; then listen in as the inimitable T. Thorn Coyle talks with Pagan blogger, mystic, Druid and musician (aka Matt Morris) Teo Bishop; and visit with Renaissance woman, writer, and community leader Tish Owen.” Meanwhile, the rest of the issue is water-themed. Quote: “What would it be like to experience water viscerally? Susan Harper teaches us to become conscious of the sacral nature of this ubiquitous element in her article ‘Sensing Water.’ Loremaster P. Sufenas Virius Lupus writes about the ability of water ­ and even of drowning ­ to assist in the apotheosis of humans in his fascinating look at classical Greek and Roman paganism ‘Deification by Drowning.’ Leni Hester introduces us to the Lady of Fresh Water, Ochun, in ‘No One is an Enemy to Water.'” You can pre-order the issue, here.

The Warrior's CallLast week I reported on an upcoming Pagan-led public ritual in the UK to protect the land near Glastonbury Tor from the practice of “fracking” (hydraulic fracturing to extract oil an gas from the earth). Since then, more Pagan leaders have stepped forward to weigh in on the topic. Author and activist Starhawk said it was “almost unbelievable” that the UK government “would threaten the purity of Chalice Well in Glastonbury, a site sacred to both Pagans and Christians!” So far, over 1000 people have committed to attending the ritual, with many more promising energetic work in solidarity. In addition, Druid leader John Michael Greer writes at length about the false promise, and dangerous effect of the practice. Quote: “The increasingly frantic cheerleading being devoted to the fracking industry these days is simply one more delay in the process of coming to grips with the real crisis of our time—the need to decouple as much as possible of industrial society from its current dependence on fossil fuels.” Could fracking become a new rallying point for Pagans drawn to environmental activism? We’ll keep you posted as this issue develops.

In Other Pagan Community News: 

  • “Tales of Albion,” an 8-part web-based film series follow-up to the Pagan film “The Spirit of Albion,” has posted several production pictures taken over the Summer. Quote: “We are now scheduling like crazy for the next few shoots which will see us tackle a legendary outlaw and the once and future king. We will travel to an 11th Century monastery, the Bronze Age and even Neolithic caves. We will see two world wars, the 95thRifles and a priest with writer’s block! It’s going to be quite a ride…”
  • The Open Hearth Foundation in Washington DC has a library. Here it is in six seconds.
  • October 11-14th will be Twilight Covening, a yearly event held by the EarthSpirit Community. Quote: “Twilight Covening is a three-day institute of Earth spirituality held within a continual three-day ritual. It is a time for exploring ways to deepen Earth-centered spiritual practice and a time to develop our collective wisdom in a shared sacred space as we move into the dark time of the year.”
  • Friday, September 20th will see the launch party for Abraxas Issue Four, at Treadwells in London. Quote: “A night of partying,  40 minute session of speeches, short presentations and a few words from each of the contributors who can join us.  When you’ve finished looking at the art on the walls we will serenade you wtih three short readings. Think of it as a salon for magic and the imagination. Join us, meet the contributors, and revel in the delight of magic and the imagination.”
  • The Delmarva Pagan Pride Festival in Delaware happened yesterday. They had symphonic gothic metal band Cassandra Syndrome play, which you have to admit is pretty hard-core for a Pagan Pride Day event.

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

When I met Cher, I was surprised at the narrowness of her face. It’s a strange observation to make, I suppose. She was tall, with a very small frame. Clearly there was something dynamic about her, but it’s difficult to discern whether or not I was observing an echo of observations I’d made about the Cher I’d seen on television, in videos, or in movies. Standing before someone who for all of my life has been a celebrity icon, I couldn’t help but notice the trace of something completely unlike what had been displayed in media; something quite ordinary. For a brief moment, peering out at me from beneath the vivacious wig and extravagant outfit, was a simple, 67 year old woman. That person was not someone I’d ever seen before, and someone that few people ever have the chance to meet or know.

She was the person who created Cher.

Cher and I on the runway - TWH

Celebrity is a series of illusions.

I know this, firsthand, to be true.

In my professional life as a musician and songwriter I’ve had occasion to work with or for a number of high profile people in the entertainment industry. I’ve written for Cher, Kelly Clarkson, Christina Aguilera, Justin Timberlake, and a host of others. I’ve seen some of them in the most unglamorous of situations, and I’ve been reminded again and again that the thing that people see is not necessarily the thing that is.

These illusions are necessary and functional. To talk about the illusion so overtly is, in a way, a betrayal of code (the industry may not be pagan by nature, but there is plenty of oath-bound information being passed back and forth). But I think that there are a growing number of people who find little to no function in upholding the illusion of celebrity, or the consumer culture which feeds upon it.

One need only look to voices within our own community to see this perspective being articulated. John Michael Greer, Grand Archdruid of the Ancient Order of Druids in America writes in The Druidry Handbook,

“Many people in the modern industrial world go through life with their bodies surrounded by a cocoon of technology and their minds flooded with perpetual chatter from the media. Living and working in climate-controlled buildings, with artificial lighting to see by, commercial music to hear, synthetic scents to smell, chemically flavored foods to taste, and a completely manufactured environment to touch, it’s no wonder so many modern people are deluded into thinking of nature as an unnecessary luxury, and fail to notice that their glittering artificial world depends, moment by moment, on vast inputs of materials and energy wrenched from their places in the cycles of the living Earth.”

[emphasis mine]

While Greer may not be talking specifically about celebrities, he is speaking about the manufactured experiences of comfort, enjoyment, and sensory pleasures which the illusion of celebrity helps to facilitate. The products and by-products of the entertainment industry are, in many cases, tools of distraction. We might seek out entertainment to distract us from our jobs, our relationships, or our living situations, and the entertainment we consume may also lead us to a disconnection from the “grown” or “birthed” world around us (as apposed to the “designed” and “produced” world of consumer culture).

Celebrity culture is to authentic human experience what silk flowers are to spring. The beauty you see is constructed, and only an approximation of the real.

But we like looking at pretty things. Silk arrangements can be breathtaking. So can celebrities. The point isn’t that there is no aesthetic value in what is produced by celebrity culture, but rather that there is good reason to be mindful that what you are seeing was something constructed for you to see — deliberately, calculatively, and for profit.

The images, narratives, and creative works of celebrity culture can be functional in other ways besides surface-level entertainment. The people we lift up can serve as role models, examples of right (or sometimes very wrong) behavior, and most often they are blank canvases on which we quite liberally project our own biases, insecurities, hopes, prejudices, and desires. Celebrity culture produces a series of high-profile mirrors, each of which offers you a reflection of some aspect of yourself. Whether or not you choose to gaze into the looking glass as it hangs on your (Facebook) wall, you cannot deny the influence of this machinery.

What then are we to think about Pagan celebrity?

Do the mechanics of illusion function in the same way in our sub-culture?

media-thorn-5-lg

T Thorn Coyle captivated me from the moment I first saw her. She has that thing that celebrities have. When she looks at you, you feel as though she is really seeing you. She is very much in her body, too, which is something else she has in common with many of the celebrities I’ve met. She understands her flesh, and she isn’t bashful about it. She owns her space. She commands attention. She has presence.

Thorn was one of the first Pagan celebrities I met face-to-face. She was also one of the first Pagan celebrities who connected with the less public side of my life, offering me insight, advice, and direction during a time when I needed it. In that moment, it was the real connecting with the real. The currency of celebrity did not matter.

I don’t know why Thorn started out as a celebrity figure for me. I can’t quite place it. I was inoculated for celebrity at a very young age, but somehow I got the Thorn bug. Maybe it’s the way that she speaks so clearly about harnessing one’s will, or using one’s own power to affect change in their life. She’s a self-professed magic worker, and that sense of sovereignty is so attractive to me. Self-possession and self-direction have always been challenges for me. Thorn displays through her own example (or at least the example that she offers us to see) some aspect of myself that I would like to develop.

Then that’s it — that’s why. Thorn served, at first, as a Pagan celebrity who demonstrated how one person could be embodied, aware, relentless, compassionate and thoughtful. She demonstrated behaviors that I wished to emulate. She was a person I could imagine modeling myself after.

That is a function of celebrity.

Do the celebrities of Pagan culture serve that function in a different way than celebrities of the mainstream entertainment culture? Do we hold up people for the same reason, or for different ones? Are the expectations we might place on — say — the members of One Direction, a teen boy band, different than ones we would place on Ivo Dominguez Jr.?

What is the standard of realness for Pagan celebrities, and how does that differ from entertainment celebrities? Are we more permissive of the artificial when we consume the products of mainstream consumer culture than when we buy the books of our Pagan authors? Do we expect Pagan celebrities to be more real, or more authentic than other celebrities?

What is the function of Pagan celebrity?

This year Pagan Spirit Gathering (PSG), a Midwest Pagan festival that’s been running for more than 30 years, broke attendance records, drawing over 1000 people to the week-long event. The West Coast Pagan convention PantheaCon, held each February in San Jose, California, has gotten so popular that they’ve introduced a new reservations system to prevent individuals from gaming the system. Pagan-friendly fantasy-oriented events like Faerieworlds are anticipating record-breaking numbers this Summer, and even brand-new Pagan events like Paganicon in Minnesota are growing at a healthy rate. It seems like Pagan festivals and conventions, at least in the United States, are doing great, but are the days of the large Pagan event that draws a national or even international audience numbered? That’s what Frater Barrabbas Tiresius at the Talking About Ritual Magick blog argues.

Solstice Fire at Pagan Spirit Gathering

Solstice Fire at Pagan Spirit Gathering

“There are many factors that are shaping the future in which we will live and they will probably have a profound impact on Pagans and Wiccans being able to assemble in large groups, unless of course, those groups are local and sustainable in the long term [...] times are indeed changing and the need for such large gatherings may have achieved the upper limit in terms of both usefulness and sustainability. By usefulness I am saying that merely getting together for what would seem to be mostly a social gathering with sprinkling of some workshops, presentations, rituals, live music and the selling of obscure books and goods may not represent what is really needed or relevant for our growing population of practitioners and followers. By sustainability, I am thinking of the availability of resources to gather together in large regional or even international groups. Traveling by car or plane does impact the environment with pollutants and it also uses up precious resources, namely fossil fuels. These resources will probably become a lot more expensive in the decades ahead.”

In short, if I’m reading Frater Barrabbas’ argument correctly, the looming reality of peak oil, the effects of global warming, along with other factors, will eventually make the larger gatherings too expensive for anyone outside the immediate area to attend. That right now we are witnessing the upper limit of the Pagan festival phenomenon, one that might continue for several more years, but will eventually crumble. Is this prediction accurate? We are certainly seeing hotter summers each year, and scientists predict this will be the norm, with some areas seeing “the permanent emergence of unprecedented summer heat” in the next 20 years. Already, the record-breaking heatwaves being experienced in many parts of the United States are causing disruptions in all aspects of our transportation grid, a situation that could worsen as average summer temperatures increase. If long-range transportation becomes unreliable during the summer months, that would certainly keep many people close to home.

Airplane stuck on melted tarmac.

Airplane stuck on melted tarmac.

Environmental shifts changing the way we live our lives was recently discussed here at The Wild Hunt in a review of John Michael Greer’s new book “The Blood of the Earth.” Greer reminds us, and has been reminding us for years, that things will eventually change. That we cannot be forever insulated from the reality many parts of the world already face, resource shortages, and ever-inflating prices for the kind of travel we once took for granted. That we as Pagans, many of whom claim a special connection to the natural world, need to be ready to experience and live in this shift. This is echoed by Barrabbas, who advocates that Pagans start acting like those days are already here, and plan their events accordingly.

“As followers of earth-based spirituality, we should not only be aware of these facts, but actually embrace them and start planning and acting as if those times were already here.”

Barrabbas’ post is just the first in a series, one that I look forward to reading, especially his conclusions and recommendations, but I can take a few guesses of my own at where this line of thinking will go. Primarily, face-to-face Pagan events will become either regional or hyper-local affairs, and that national and international figures in the Pagan community will increasingly have to “attend” such events virtually. That “Pagan community” will increasingly lean on the powers of social networking to bind itself together. This reality is, in many respects, already here. Sociologist Helen A. Berger, in a revisitation of her Pagan Census project from the late 1990’s, noted that we are becoming increasingly solitary and eclectic, and that a majority of us already depend on the Internet as our main interaction with co-religionists and adherents of other Pagan faiths.

How often do we communicate with other Pagans?

How often do we communicate with other Pagans?

“Solitary practice and training outside of groups, most likely through books and the Internet, appears to be the future of the religion.”Helen A. Berger

Noted figures in our community, like T. Thorn Coyle, have already begun embracing a model that integrates virtual communication into their teaching. Producing a subscription web-series that students can use, including a private forum, giving access to Thorn and her teachings, without the need for her to travel constantly. The next step would seem to be virtual panels and virtual presentations at Pagan conventions and events that couldn’t afford to fly in a “big-name” Pagan. This would not only be “greener” but will ultimately be the only practical way to host such an event on a limited budget.

I think the age of the virtual and the hyper-local are upon us, and the quicker we accept that and learn to adapt, the better. Larger Pagan events can prepare now by investing in the infrastructure necessary to have a virtual component to all indoor events that used to welcome several noted teachers or religious leaders (projection screens, audio equipment, computers). We should set a goal so that in the next ten years, we will be ready for when these shifts in lifestyle become mandatory, rather than a lifestyle option. As Pagans, we can set an example for how to keep our communities close-knit and vibrant while dealing with the ramifications of our society’s choices. In a way, our heavy reliance on social networking, on virtual communication, to bind us together gives us a necessary head start. One we should exploit to make our events as environmentally sustainable as possible.

For more on this subject, stay tuned to the Talking About Ritual Magick blog, and I hope to revisit this topic after his series is completed, talking with some festival and convention organizers about what they think will be sustainable in the coming decades.

[The following is a guest review by Paracelsian of John Michael Greer's new book The Blood of the Earth (Scarlet Imprint, 2012). Paracelsian is the pseudonym of a UK based Pagan whose practice explores engaged & embodied relationship with the spirits of the land. He is fascinated by the stories that we (as both Pagans and more generally as Humans) tell about ourselves and to give meaning to the world around us, and consequently is involved in interfaith work.]

I’ve never been a great fan of “futurists” (in the sense of those who professionally predict the future), but if you can get past Greer’s self-identification in this category, The Blood of the Earth is a richly rewarding work; provoking, intelligent, timely, and ultimately – in spite of its rather gloomy subject matter – both optimistic and inspiring.

The Blood of the Earth is a valuable contribution towards encouraging people to think about facing what Professor Kerri Facer describes as “the 21st Century Canyon”. This is the period covering the next fifty or so years when the global issues about which so many have warned us for so long (over-population, climate change, exhaustion of water supplies, and the end of cheap energy – all the usual humvee-drivers of the apocalypse) will all begin to simultaneously and profoundly affect the world in which we live.

John Michael Greer

John Michael Greer

Unlike many other writers in the genre, Greer does not devote his work to reheating the scientific narrative of peak oil (though he does point those who remain unconvinced in the right direction). The particular contribution of The Blood of the Earth is that Greer posits a unique narrative framework to analyse the way that we approach these issues: that of Magic, or at least, a Magical approach to thinking. This use of this term might immediately put some readers off, but fear not; this is neither the magic of Dennis Wheatley nor that of Harry Potter (nor, indeed that of Silver Ravenwolf), but Magical thinking as an alternative meta-narrative to that of modernist consumerism; a different way of thinking. Some of the book is spent effectively justifying this usage, and Greer accomplishes this task with elegance and erudition.

Magic, for Greer, is just a different meta-narrative, an alternative way of talking about what is going on in our world. He argues that by adapting this meta-narrative (and thus by dumping more conventional paradigms), we are free to break out of the ruts of thought that constrain our normative approach to the world, and in particular our societies’ addiction to endless consumption. Simply put, by accepting that there are other ways of thinking, we will be able to see things in a different light. Ultimately this is a valuable insight into the current ecological situation; Greer argues that if our conventional ways of thinking are not working, then we need to be using other ways of thinking that will actually have an impact.

Greer uses the neoplatonist distinction between thaumaturgy (magic as wonderworking) and theurgy (magic that transforms consciousness) as a useful method to separate the ways that one can use magical thinking as a way of interpreting our understanding of both the individual and of society in general. He suggests that one can consider industrial capitalist society as a thaumaturgical one – where the masses are governed and controlled by the conscious manipulation of symbols. If you think that this is unlikely, merely reflect for a moment upon the sigils and priesthood of that powerful of spirits: “the Market” – that invisible, uncontrollable power whose unstoppable “forces” control even the destiny of governments, whose priesthood chant the barbarous names of Friedman and Keynes, and to whom is sacrificed the jobs and happiness of so many. Of course, what Greer is suggesting here is that by stepping out of our normal modes of thought the blinkers fall from our eyes and we can see that the Emperor indeed has no clothes. In The Blood of the Earth, Greer uses the magical concept of incantation as an example of the dangers of this way of thinking, which have convinced so many that all one has to do to extract more oil from the ground is to keep on drilling more wells;

The Sarah Palin supporters who turned Drill, baby, drill into their mantra… believe with all their heart hat all we have to do is drill enough wells and we can have all the petroleum we want, and they are willing to do whatever it takes to get those wells drilled. (p.66)

Greer expands upon this by warning about the attraction of the emergence of what he refers to (using Wallace’s terminology) as revitalization movement; that is popular movements that spring up as people attempt to deal with, and get control of, radical changes in society; in this case the end of cheap energy. While these will be attractive, and promise much, he argues that they will, in the end, be as much use as the Ghost Dance societies were for those Indigenous American tribes who adopted it as a way of dealing with the European Invasion.

Set against this thaumaturgical approach is that of theurgy (magic that is about the transformation of consciousness). This the approach which Greer argues is much more useful in facing up to the crisis of Peak Oil, but this is a theurgy that at its heart is about freeing ourselves from the dominant narrative, and taking personal responsibility for our own thinking. Greer quotes Péladan; “fear the example of another, think for yourself… this precept of Pythagoras contains all of magic, which is nothing other than the power of selfhood” (p.102) He stresses that this is not merely jumping out of the dominant discourse of society into that of a convenient subculture, but genuinely trying to find one’s own individual way forward. This simplicity is itself the true magic in Greer’s work, and those who come to it in expectation of powerful rituals to restore the natural world, or accounts of entheogen-fuelled adventures on astral planes, will be bitterly disappointed (and possibly extremely challenged) by the genuinely powerful suggestions for action which Greer puts forward – the real magic here is to get rid of your TV and read some good books, try to live more simply, get rid of your car and use public transport or walk more, learn and practice new skills.

The Blood of the Earth is a well-polished and elegant book. It may be read easily, but it is not an easy read – it contains big challenges and a profound message, made all the more profound by its simplicity and “down-to-earth-ness”, which makes its message more scary than all those screeds that exhort us to go and hole up in the remote forest with all the ammunition and tinned goods we can afford. Greer is gently reminding us that things are going to change (and one would be a fool not to think that this is the case – even the Buddha knew that!), and that it is better to do something to prepare ourselves personally for that change, than to ignore it and hope that it is going to go away (or that scientists, the goddess, the rapture, the ascended masters, the ancient wisdom or anything else is going to save us from the consequences of our societies’ folly).

Greer is, as well as being well known in Peak Oil circles, also Grand Arch Druid of the Ancient Order of Druids in America. I think that this is a particularly significant point to note, as when thinking about contemporary Paganism in all its diversity, it is clear that there is a substantial mismatch between the story that Paganism tells about itself (a narrative where nature / Nature figures all too highly), and the level of engagement that most self-identified Pagans have with these issues in practice. Now I’m not suggesting that individual Pagans are never involved with environmental activism, but I am convinced that this is not a priority for the vast majority of individuals who would identify as being Pagan. Greer’s work (and that of other authors who seek to engage contemporary Pagans with these issues: Emma Restall Orr, for example) should at least be encouraging members of the Pagan community to be asking some questions about what it means, in practice, to espouse a nature-based spirituality. This discussion is long overdue, and needed now more than ever, or Paganism will be never be any more than the “virtual religion” critiqued by Andy Letcher. How many self-identified Pagans can honestly live up to Chas Clifton’s challenge to “live so that someone ignorant about Paganism would know from watching your life or visiting your home that you followed an ‘earth religion”. It seems obvious to me that thinking about these questions is imperative if Paganism is not only going to survive, but also to make a positive contribution to the way that humanity relates to Nature in the future (and I’m not suggestion for a moment here some kind of “Starhawk-ian Paganatopia” – but rather an general attitudinal shift, from cut-throat exploitation to acknowledged inter-relation). Simply put this is a book that everyone should read, but particularly so if you are a Pagan. I suspect that the questions that it asks should make many Pagans particularly uncomfortable, and challenge them even more than other readers.

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

Preliminary Australian Census numbers. (PaganDash)

Preliminary Australian Census numbers. (PaganDash)

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

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

Pagan Japan Relief Project Reaches Finish Line: The initiative started by Peter Dybing for the Pagan community to raise 30,000 dollars for Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières has almost reached its conclusion! As of this writing, there is less than 1,400 dollars left to raise, and the hope is that this goal will be reached by the end of the weekend.

“When disaster strikes, it means that the Earth is finding Her own balance. But it is our job to feel compassion, lend aid, and support our fellow creatures that they may survive this terrible time and regain wholeness. And while we do this, let us also remember that it is this life that matters – the next will take care of itself. So as we come to the aid of our fellow beings on Mother Earth, let us live as though each day is our last, and let every day be a blessing.” – Rev. Kirk Thomas ADF Archdruid

Today, there is a joint Patheos and Pagan Newswire Collective (via PNC-Minnesota) article up interviewing various Pagan leaders about the initiative, and why the success of this project is so important. If you haven’t donated yet, and wish to show that serious fundraising for worthy causes can happen among our interconnected communities, please head to the Pagan Japan Relief project FirstGiving page. I’m hoping that before Monday I’ll be able to post about our collective success in meeting our fundraising goal!

Paganicon Opens Today: The first ever Paganicon conference near Minneapolis, Minnesota starts today, and PNC-Minnesota has interviewed Elysia Gallo from Llewellyn Worldwide, one of the sponsors of the event, and Guest of Honor John Michael Greer.

“There are two ways you can take a talk about Paganism and the future. One is what is going to be the future of Paganism, the other is how is Paganism going to deal with the broader future, that is breathing down our necks at this point. I will be talking about both. We are moving into a future that a lot of people are going to find very challenging, especially if they have bought into the attitude, that “Our ancestors were stupid. We are smart, and we are going to go zooming off to the stars.   We know the truth, and no one else has ever done so.”

Stay tuned to PNC-Minnesota for more updates from the conference.

Independent Pagan Film Shooting: Morrighan Films in Canada is shooting a new film “99% made by Pagans” entitled “Our Pagan Heart.” After a small article ran in a local paper about one of the actors, film producer Laurie Stewart contacted me with a short synopsis and some stills from the production in progress.

Still from the film.

“Our Pagan Heart is an independent film, being shot over the course of a year.   It follows a village outside of time (neither truly Norse nor quite Mad Max) over the nine sabbats followed by my Druid group.  We added the ritual for Fallen Warriors at Remebrance Day (Veterans Day) because so many of us are military, ex-military or base rats.  Each 10-12 minute episode not only tries to show the reason for the sabbat, but also to explore one of the nine virtues of Celtic-Norse tradition.

As the villagers face challenges ranging from the death of their only healer, to a radical change in leadership and the resulting change in priorities, we see the heart of our faith.  What does it mean to live these virtues, these beliefs, the result of believing in ever-present, personally committed Gods who touch every aspect of your life.  There are real struggles for meaning, real questioning of their faith in the face of devastating loss.”

You can find more film stills and information, here. Between “Our Pagan Heart,” “Dark of Moon,” “Tarology,” and other independent film productions with Pagan and occult themes, it almost seems like a small grass-roots industry is emerging. It could be a trend worth exploring as it develops.

In Solidarity with Madison: Pagan singer-songwriter Sharon Knight, a member of the excellent band Pandemonaeon, recently participated in a gathering of Oakland, California musicians to record a song showing solidarity with the Madison, Wisconsin labor protesters.

“This week I joined a group of my fellow musicians to create a music video in support of the protesters in Madison, Wisconsin. The song, “Madison”, was written by my friend Mark Vickness of Glass House, and spoken word artist PC Munoz. It was produced start to finish at EMB Studios, the studio Winter and I share with Paul Nordin. I was proud and honored to be a part of this project and thought I’d share it with you all here. Enjoy and may it bring you hope and good cheer!”

Thanks to Sharon for sharing this with the Pagan community. For more on Pagan participation in the Wisconsin labor protests, click here.

Health Updates: I have an update on the condition of Pagan chaplain Patrick McCollum, who underwent surgery on Wednesday. I spoke with him on the phone yesterday, and while he’s (understandably) experiencing some pain, is mobile, alert, and active. He says that there won’t be word on test results regarding what was eating the tissue in his jaw until early April. He also expressed his thanks to everyone who has been sending prayers and energy his way. Meanwhile, Selena Fox has an update on Circle member Ed Francis, who recently suffered a stroke.

“Ed Francis is doing better & has begun speech, physical, and occupational rehabilitation at a hospital in St. Louis. Please continue to send healing to him & support to his partner Linda & other caregivers. Share words of encouragement for his rehab at this Healing page. Thanks much!”

Circle has also set up a healing page for Patrick McCollum as well. Please continue to send both your healing thoughts and prayers for their swift recoveries.

Theologies of Justice: In a quick final note, I’d like to point my readers to an essay just posted by T. Thorn Coyle about developing and acting on “(poly)theologies of justice and connection.”

“If everything is holy – imbued with divine power – how do we relate to that holiness? We pay attention. We find connection. We give back. One definition of sacred is “set apart and dedicated to a deity.” How do Heathens act in ways that are dedicated to Thor or Ing? How do Thelemites act in concert with the energy of Nuit? How do Celtic Reconstructionists honor the ever abundant cauldron of the Dagda? I could go on, but the implications of these questions should be clear: we bring everything in our lives into alignment with our worship and our practice. We can give food to the hungry as an act of devotion to the Dagda. We can offer protection to the weak, in Thor’s honor. And we can remember: Nuit is everywhere, the circumference of all that lives.”

There’s a lot there, so I hope you’ll read the entire essay, and use it to spark discussions on your blogs, social networks, and within your communities. As modern Pagans start to act within the world in an increasingly prominent and public manner, how our theologies drive and inspire our actions is something that we’ll need to hold close to our thoughts.

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

Top Story: Circle Cemetery, located at Circle Sanctuary Nature Preserve, just north of Barneveld, Wisconsin, has become America’s first National Pagan natural burial ground and contemporary Green cemetery to be platted and recorded in Wisconsin.


Selena Fox at a memorial for Marion Weinstein.

“For its first fifteen years, Circle Cemetery took the form of an area on a ridge top where cremains were placed and Green funerals were conducted.  In 2005, Selena, along with her husband Dr. Dennis Carpenter, Circle Sanctuary church attorney Chip Brown and others in the Circle Sanctuary Community began the legal process of permitting body burials and expanding the size of the cemetery to 20 acres.  Circle Sanctuary minister Rev. Nora Cedarwind Young of Washington State assisted with Green cemetery platting research. In Spring of 2010, Selena, Dennis, and Chip took the expanded cemetery proposal before local government officials through a series of meetings.  Circle Cemetery zoning was approved by the Town of Brigham Zoning Committee on April 20, by the Brigham Town Board on May 4, and the Iowa County Zoning and Planning Committee on May 26.  On June 15, Circle Cemetery’s plat was approved by the Iowa County Board, and the following day the remaining official signatures were added to the plat and the plat was recorded, completing the process.”

While there are other Pagan sites that allow for cremains, this is the first Pagan-run cemetery in the United States that will also allow for full (non-cremated) body burials. Circle Cemetery currently  holds the cremains of seventeen Pagans. Celebrations for this development are planned at this year’s Pagan Spirit Gathering Summer Solstice festivities in Missouri and at the Solstice Full Moon evening at Circle Sanctuary Nature Preserve in Wisconsin.

If you are interested in supporting Circle Cemetery fiscally, you can donate here. For inquires relating to arrangements for cremains placement, body burials, and memorial markers, you can contact Selena Fox.

A Pagan Buddha Killer: The long-running religion e-zine Killing the Buddha features an essay by Eric Scott about growing up in a Pagan family, and gathering the children of his parent’s coven years later to celebrate Lughnasadh.

“We sat in the den of the house in the suburbs, chewing on scalloped potatoes and roast beef, and wondered what to do. We longed for the mystery we felt when we were young. We longed for the magic that turned TV rooms into temples. We longed to feel something again at the moment the scimitar carved the mystical from the mundane. We talked, and we frowned, and we decided that next year, we would take the festival of Lughnasadh.”

An excellent look at growing up Pagan in a Pagan family; I recommend reading the entire thing. Also worth checking out is his piece Hrafspa, which also appears at Patheos.com.

Andrew and the Archdruid: Andrew Sullivan at The Atlantic references a recent essay by John Michael Greer (Archdruid of the Ancient Order of Druids in America) that talks about peak oil (a favorite topic of Greer’s) and the revitalization movements that will emerge as the reality of peak oil sinks in.

“The optional features [of revitalization movements] range all over the map from the harmless to the horrific. A focus on purification, for example, is one common optional feature, but purification can mean a great many things. In the Native American revitalization movements of the twentieth century, for example, it usually meant abstaining from alcohol and other toxic products of white culture, and did a great deal to help First Nations communities begin to recover from the ghastly experiences of the previous century. In the European revitalization movements that sprang up in the wake of the Black Death, by contrast, it usually meant getting rid of Jews and other social outsiders who were blamed for spreading the plague, and helped lay the foundation for the witch hunting mania of the following centuries.

It seems uncomfortably likely to me that such movements could be set in motion by the emergence of peak oil as a publicly acknowledged crisis. Tendencies in that direction are already welded firmly in place in popular culture across the industrial world. The Sarah Palin supporters who turned “Drill, baby, drill” into their mantra du jour are engaging in incantation, to be sure, but there’s more to the slogan than a comfortable thoughtstopper; a great many of the people who mouth it believe with all their heart that all we have to do is drill enough wells and we can have all the petroleum we want, and they are willing to do whatever it takes to get those wells drilled. That plan of action can’t deliver the goods; they might as well be out there with the cargo cults, building mock airfields on isolated Pacific islands hoping to bring back the DC-3s full of K-rations and cheap trade goods that landed on a hundred archipelagoes during the Second World War. Still, that’s not something they are likely to grasp any time soon; mere reason has essentially no power against a nascent revitalization movement.”

In a follow-up essay, Greer discusses ritual and magical thinking within revitalization movements, and drives home the point that the time of brighter futures is rapidly drawing to a close (you may also want to look at his essay explaining why magic won’t solve our problems).

URI at 10: Don Frew at the Covenant of the Goddess (COG) Interfaith Reports blog discusses the United Religions Initiative, COG’s history of participation in the interfaith organization, and its upcoming tenth anniversary on June 26th. Frew makes a request for a the Pagan community to take part in a joint working of protection for the URI so that its work can continue.

“Every year, my coven celebrates Samhain.  Our ceremony usually includes a trance journey to the island of the Dead to speak with the ancestors.  I often encounter recently passed interfaith friends on the shore.  A few years ago, right after his death, I encountered Gary Smith [an NA/Oneida URI representative] on the shore.  He was intent upon impressing upon me that that the protective work we did at the founding of the URI wasn’t a one-time thing; that such work needed to be done on a regular basis, especially on the anniversary of the URI’s founding: June 26.

I have tried to live up to this, and have shared Gary’s message with those folks in interfaith who wouldn’t be too taken aback by messages from the dead about magical protection rituals.  On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the URI’s founding, I feel moved to share Gary’s message with the wider Neopagan / Pagan / Indigenous community who might read this blog and invite you to share – in whatever way your path does so – in the magical / spiritual protection of the URI, that its work “to promote enduring interfaith cooperation, to end religiously motivated violence, and to create cultures of peace, justice, and healing for the Earth and all living beings” might continue to grow and prosper.  So mote it be!”

The United Religions Initiative is one of few modern interfaith organizations that had modern Pagans involved from the very start, and has done a lot to spread awareness of our faiths, and to build bridges with indigenous groups around the world. So protecting it for another ten years seems like an excellent idea. For information about the official 10th anniversary celebration in Amman, Jordan, click here.

Pagans on Godspeed: The Progressive Radio Network show Godspeed has had a run of Pagan guests recently. On 05/30 they interviewed Galina Krasskova, on 06/06 they interviewed Phyllis Curott, and this week they’ve interviewed Pagan scholar Sabina Magliocco author of “Witching Culture: Folklore and Neo-Paganism in America”.

“In this hour, topics include: Italy and regional folklore; ‘Strega Nona’ or Grandmother Witch; religious festivals in Europe as economic and political opportunities; how they changed when the economy changed; how the role of women also changed; the “old religion” and old ways of healing; a brief history of Wicca in England; the rise of Wicca in Europe and the U.S.; core beliefs of Wicca; alignment with the natural world and cycles; conflict with Roman Catholic clergy; Neo-pagans in America; Harry Potter – reaching out to reconnect with our magical, mystical being; individual and group worship; holidays and festivals; the importance of folklore — why is it a continuing inspiration and guide.”

All the shows seem available for download, so load up your mp3-player and enjoy!

That’s all I have for now, I’ll be leaving for PSG tomorrow, so stay tuned for the coming week’s line-up of guest-posters!

Top Story: Outed Pagan political candidate Alice Richmond has closed down her local-issues blog, Page County Watch, and is seemingly retiring from the public eye.

“Last week the voice of the Page County Watch Blog went silent as Alice Richmond, the resident who started the blog, decided to move on. “I’m moving on to other things,” said Richmond. “I don’t want anyone to Google my name anymore.” The site gained attention most recently in September when on a local radio show, Richmond was questioned about her religion and the author known as “Lady Raya.” Richmond later admitted she was using the name Lady Raya as a pseudonym to write books on Wiccan practices.”

Richmond’s race for a seat on Page County Virginia’s Board of Supervisors seemed to get hostile from the start, with the staged ambush-outing of her “Lady Raya” pen-name by political opponents on a local talk show shrouding her candidacy with sensationalism. After a losing the election by a wide margin, a palpably disappointed Richmond inferred that the county was suffering from “Stockholm Syndrome”, noting that the vote wasn’t close. Considering the emotional wringer she’s been through, I don’t blame her for wanting to withdraw from public, though I do mourn the loss of a Pagan willing to enter into the political fray.  I fear that her campaign, and Dan Halloran’s, proves that out (or outed) Pagan candidates will have to deal with ugly smears from opponents (even if the tactic backfires) unafraid to exploit religious fears.

In Other News: Kathy Nance at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch brings us a local angle to the “Pagans at the Parliament” story by focusing on the ceremonial rattles created by local artist Julee Higginbotham for the interfaith event.

“On this first full day of the Parliament of World Religions (PWR) in Melbourne, Australia, a group of Pagans met to give blessings to four rattles created by St. Louis artist Julee Higginbotham. The rattles, called “Bridge to the Meeting Place,” were created to symbolize the coming together of religions and people from around our planet. Julee has blended Aboriginal and Neo-Pagan symbols into a clay prayer for understanding. They will be given to Pagans from North America and Australia, and to two PWR delegates. She got the idea from Pagan delegate and PWR board member Angie Buchanan.”

You can read more about these rattles at the Pagans at the Parliament blog, where you can see daily updates about the Pagan presence at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Melbourne.

Are you a Pagan metal-head? If so, this is your lucky day, because two documentaries that touch on Pagan/Heathen religion within different metal subcultures are being released. “Pagan Metal:  A Documentary”, and “Until the Light Takes Us”, which focuses on the controversial Norwegian black metal scene.

“In addition to exploring the origins and ideology of black metal, Aites and Ewell examine black metal as what Norwegian visual artist Bjarne Melgaard calls “Norway’s only culturally relevant phenomenon.” Melgaard, who recontextualizes black metal aesthetics in his art, explores the striking parallel between the emotional extremes of Norwegian painter Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” and the album cover of Darkthrone’s “Transilvanian Hunger.” “Until the Light Takes Us” succeeds because it neither idolizes nor patronizes the artists involved.”

Considering the fact that a movie is being made about one of black metal’s most controversial figures, a less sensationalist documentary, academic in tone, certainly seems welcome at this point. As for “Pagan Metal: A Documentary”, it’s more informal, and had a reviewer comment that “you will feel like you have made new friends”. Both seem welcome assets for those wanting to explore Pagan and Heathen spirituality in underground subcultures.

The Good Blog gives props to Archdruid (and blogger) John Michael Greer for a piece he wrote on adopting a new model of “energy productivity” instead of the per-worker-hour standard.

“This isn’t the first time our common economic metrics have been challenged. GDP gets criticized all the time (and for good reason). But Greer makes a great point about the need for resource efficiency—especially energy efficiency—to be incorporated into the statistics we use to measure our country’s economic success. After all, we live in a world of limited resources. Acknowledging that in our numbers isn’t just about giving environmentally-friendly countries a pat on the back. It’s a real indication of how well-prepared a country is to deal with costly constraints. Apparently these days it takes a druid and Tarot grandmaster to point that out to all the Ivy League B-school grads on Wall Street. Strange times.”

Indeed it does sometimes take a different view-point to actually think “outside the box”, and who better than a (wise) Druid to address issues of resource efficiency and economics as we approach the end our the industrial age? For more on Greer’s religious activities, check out the Ancient Order of Druids in America (AODA) web site.

In a final note, I think the University of Iowa may have the coolest name ever for their Pagan student organization.

“The mention of the term “pagan” often connotes thoughts of the dark arts, ritual sacrifices, and any number of Goth stereotypes. But for UI senior Kirk Cheyney, it’s not about any such thing. It’s more about nature and a deep personal spirituality that he can share with his family. Cheyney serves as the president of the Society of Pagans Invested in Reviving Ancient Lifestyles, which bills itself as the UI’s pagan student union.”

I think we could use more creative acronyms in modern Paganism, especially for college students! Congrats to S.P.I.R.A.L. for making it happen (all you other campus groups better step up).

That’s all I have for now, don’t forget to check the Pagans at the Parliament blog for the latest updates and links from Melbourne. We have a new post now up from Selena Fox, and Thorn Coyle has just sent in another dispatch as well. You can also stay on top of things with the Pagans at the Parliament Twitter feed and Facebook page. Have a great day!

The House of Danu in California, an alliance of OBOD (the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids) groves and seed groups is hosting a historic Gorsedd for the Festival of Lughnasadh featuring some noted figures in modern Pagan Druidry.

“This is an unprecedented gathering of numerous Druid organizations in the West, and anyone interested in exploring the California Druid experience is invited to attend. This is a rare opportunity to acquire knowledge from the most celebrated scholars of Druidry.  The Chosen Chief of the Order of Bards Ovates and Druids (OBOD), Philip Carr-Gomm is traveling from Sussex to help ground participants in Druid culture.  The Grand Archdruid of the Ancient Order of Druids in America (AODA), John Michael Greer, is coming down from Oregon to share his extraordinary knowledge of Druid history and magic. Archdruid Emeritus and founder of Ar nDraiocht Fein (ADF), Isaac Bonewits, is coming from New York to do assist in our discussion of Druid rites and ritual.  The Gorsedd will be a festival of learning, drumming, storytelling, games, initiations; Bardic evenings around the campfire, a magnificent Eisteddfod of our best performing artists, and a grand procession for the sacred ritual of Lughnasadh that you can help create.”

One has to wonder, with such a esteemed assmblege present (and no doubt several other prominent Druids will be attending in addition to the three “headliners”) if we will hear any pronouncements or plans for the future of Druidry in America. Movement on getting the Awen approved for military headstones and markers? Perhaps some statement on American environmental policy under the Obama administration? Maybe plans for greater cooperation and resource sharing between the different Druid groups in America? The speculation, and possibilities, are endless. Whatever happens, this is a rare confluence of influential individuals, and the results should be noteworthy to say the least. The Gorsedd will run July 31 to August 3, in the coastal redwoods above Watsonville, between Santa Cruz and Monterey, at the Buddhist retreat center Pema Osel Ling, in California. You can register now online.