Archives For Kerr Cuhulain

For many pagans, books are the gateway to knowledge. They are our first teachers of magic and offer a new world of esoteric lore and knowledge. If you enter the home of just about any modern pagan you will no doubt find a bookshelf (or many bookshelves!) piled high with books written by English authors such as Gerald Gardner, Doreen Valiente or the Farrars. There will no doubt be more than a few by high profile American writers, names like Margot Adler, Isaac Bonewits and Scott Cunningham or maybe the more contemporary Orion Foxwood or Christopher Penczack. Both Britain and the United States both have successful and high profile publishers of pagan books, Minnesota based Llewellyn Worldwide LTD. being easily one of the most prominent. But north of the border, up in Canada, a growing number of writers are finding their way into print and injecting a Canadian influence into the pagan publishing world. But does being from Canada influence pagan writing?

Kerr Cuhulain, Grand Master and founder of a Wiccan order of Knighthood called the Order of Paladins and author of several books including “Pagan Religions, a Diversity Training Guide “and “Full Contact Magick” had this to say about being Canadian:

Kerr Cuhulain

Kerr Cuhulain 

“I think that it’s given me the opportunity to stand outside of the US and UK Pagan communities and observe what they do. I’ve always been more interested in doing what works than doing what is traditional.”

Lady Sable Aradia, author of the newly published “The Witches Eight Paths to Power: A Complete Course in Magick & Witchcraft adds:

“I’m very proudly Canadian. We are products of our culture and environment, and I think that our particular style of understatement and ability to laugh at ourselves is one of my strengths as a writer. Being Canadian also puts me outside of a lot of the politics of North American Paganism, which allows me the luxury to comment on them from the position of an observer in many ways.”

But are Canadians really different from our American neighbours? Aside from spelling some words differently (yes, we spell it neighbours.) and pronouncing the last letter of the alphabet as zed, not zee, Canadians are culturally different as well.

Brendan Myers, a prolific pagan Canadian writer, with more books under his belt than many people read in a year, had this to say about cultural differences between Canada and the US:

Dr. Brendan Myers

Dr. Brendan Myers

“… Canada is really a fringe country. We may be a rich, developed, industrialized nation, with the world’s second-biggest playground, but we’re not very populous, nor especially influential in world affairs. Standing in the shadow of our larger neighbour to the south, we are easily overlooked, or assumed to be culturally the same as that larger neighbour. Our history is not that of a conquering empire-builder, except perhaps by proxy of two of our founding nations, England and France. What is more, Canada arguably has no national mythology. One can easily point to other countries with big stories like “The American Dream”, or “The French Revolution”; these stories might be objectionable, they might have dark sides, and they may even be illusions, but they are definitely glamorous. We Canadians have no equivalent. A transcontinental railroad, a national public health care service, “peace, order, and good government”, and other “Canadian dreams” we’ve had over the centuries, don’t really deliver the same glamour. Ours is a wholesome but boring national brand. (Mind you, that might be okay.)

In that respect, as a Canadian writer, I find myself pulled in two directions. In one way, I want to write something that shows I come from a truly independent and unique nation, a distinct society (know what I mean?), and that we’re not just Americans with funny woolen hats. But in the other way, I want to write something that non-Canadians might still find interesting, and I worry that painting my stuff in red Maple leaves will turn people off.”

One of the biggest challenges for Canadian writers trying to get published is the lack of a big name publisher of pagan books in our own country. So how do these books make it to bookstore shelves? Response to this was varied between these three authors and all answers revolve around our close proximity of our neighbours to the south. Carving out our own distinct Canadian paganism is a tough one when so much of our culture, both pagan and mainstream, is overshadowed by the United States. So, is it hard to get published?

Sable:

“I would have to say not in my experience, actually. At least, not as long as you’re willing to deal with American publishers. The truth is that with such a big market just south of us, it’s very difficult for an independent Canadian arts scene to develop, and I would say that the Pagan market is more difficult still since it’s so small.”

Brendan:

“There are very few Canadian publishers who will carry a book about paganism in their catalogue. All the publishers I’ve ever worked with have been based in England or the USA. Publishers outside Canada often assume that no one outside of Canada will be interested in a Canadian perspective. I may be wrong about this, but it seems to me that writers in countries with larger populations, richer economies, and empires in their history, don’t need to worry about that. They benefit from a macro-economic and geo-political privilege, and a glamorous national mythology, which allows them to reach an international audience with a lot less effort.”

Kerr:

“I do not find it to be a problem at all. I’ve a large audience in the US, so it is pretty easy to find publishers for my works.”

As a former police officer/dispatcher and former Preceptor General of Officers of Avalon, an organization representing Neo-Pagan professionals in the emergency services (police, firefighters, emergency medical technicians), Kerr’s books reflect a Warrior spirit so often perceived from the outside of United States paganism through the work of groups like Circle Sanctuary’s Lady Liberty League or Order of the Pentacle.

Brendan’s books come from his academic background. Dr. Brendan Meyers earned his Ph.D in philosophy at the National University of Ireland, and now serves as professor of philosophy at Heritage College, in Gatineau, Quebec. His philosophy background informs his pagan writing. This theme of academia is also reflected by other Canadian writer/academics such as Shelley Rabinovich Ph.D (The Encyclopedia of Modern Witchcraft and Neo-Paganism (with James Lewis, and ‘An Ye Harm None': Magical Ethics and Modern Morality (with Meredith Macdonald), and Sian Reid Ph.D (Between the Worlds: Readings in Contemporary Paganism)

What resources exist to promote sales and expose writers to new readers? Canada is a huge country; 9,984,670 square kilometers (3,855,101 square miles) stretching from the Pacific Ocean in the west to the Atlantic Ocean in the east, yet the population is just over 35 million, less than the state of California. Our pagan population is thinly and widely scattered. In this dispersion is a sense of camaraderie and support that is essential for our combined success:

Brendan:

“I get excellent support from the Canadian public, and I’m very grateful for it. I’ve attended pagan events to promote my work in seven out of ten provinces now. The administration of the college where I work has supported my publishing efforts: even the Director General, my most senior manager, read Loneliness and Revelation.” 

Kerr:

“Most of the members of my Order of Paladins are Canadian. I just got back from teaching at PanFest in Edmonton. The support is there, I’m happy to say.”

Sable:

Sable Aradia

Sable Aradia

“Well, my local community has certainly been supportive! And the shop owners I’ve contacted through Western Canada have generally welcomed me with open arms. There’s a strong East/West divide so I don’t think many people have heard of me on the other side of the country yet, but I think there’s a general “us Canucks gotta stick together” sentiment, and I know that the friends I made at the Canadian National Pagan Conference in Montreal in 2010 have been making a great effort to spread the word. So, I would have to say that I feel very supported!”

Taking advantage of this support, Sable Aradia is about to embark on a book tour of western Canada. The tour will span four provinces, no small feat as it can take six to twelve hours to get from one city to another. Packed in her van will also be musical equipment as Sable is an accomplished singer and musician. She will also be doing house concerts to help supplement her travels. Her adventures started off close to home so far and she had this to say about how it is going:

“It’s off to a good start! I started in my hometown of Vernon, BC for the book launch and I sold out. The following weekend I went to Nelson, Castlegar, Enderby and Kelowna for World Goddess Day. This weekend I was at a Kelowna bookstore and a metaphysical store in Penticton (all towns in the province of British Columbia). Then at the end of the month I’m heading eastward.”

T. Scarlet Jory

T. Scarlet Jory

For books with very distinct regional flare, T.Scarlet Jory has released “Magical Blend: Book of Secrets (BOS)” and “Magical Blend: Book of Spells & Rituals (BOS) (Volume 2)”. These books celebrate landmark Le Melange Magique/The Magical Blend, a pagan shop in Montreal Quebec. This shop, which sadly has closed its doors, served customers in both of Canada’s official languages, English and French. It was known for its selection of in-house made teas, bath salts, incense and more.

Scarlet reminisces: “When the store’s physical location closed and the reference books of shadows developed by all the staff suddenly were no longer available to the public, I felt it was important to compile them and print them. That way everyone can access them again. The knowledge is a collection of gems from dozens of experienced staff members who helped the community.”

One curious book, written in 1989 by Kevin Marron, a reporter from The Globe and Mail, a national newspaper, “Witches, Pagans & Magic in the New Age” was the story of the people he met while investigating allegations of Satanic ritual abuse (remember the Satanic Panic folks? It happened in Canada as well!). While not a pagan himself, Marron provides a rare and sympathetic peek at the Canadian Pagan scene in the late 1980’s.

Many other voices have contributed to recording the story of Canadian Paganism. Some of the books may be harder to find, and unlikely to show up in foreign book or occult shops, but have value and interest to Pagans everywhere. The rise of e-readers and online shopping may put a Canadian book in your own collection soon.

Officers of Avalon, a non-profit benevolent association for Pagan and Wiccan law enforcement, firefighting and emergency medical personnel and their families, has elected Peter Dybing as its new president starting on October 1st. On hearing the news, Dybing commented that “for me this is a great oppertunity to build on and add to the successes of this trusted Pagan organization.” The outgoing president, Kimberley “Windwalker” Long-Ewing, wished Dybing and the rest of the incoming governing board the best, and thanked all Officers of Avalon members “for the opportunity to serve”. Past OoA Presidents, also called Preceptor Generals, have included individuals like Kerr Cuhulain, author of “Pagan Religions: A Handbook for Diversity Training”, and a longtime debunker of Satanic Panic “occult experts.”

Peter Dybing

While a long-time participant in the modern Pagan community, Dybing, a trained EMT and volunteer firefighter, first gained widespread public attention for his efforts on-the-ground in earthquake-ravaged Haiti, giving us a Pagan perspective of what was going on there. He would go on to volunteer in the Gulf during the Deepwater Horizon disaster, and in August of 2010 was elected First Officer of Covenant of The Goddess for 2011.

“I wanted to serve the Covenant, they do some really wonderful things in terms of interfaith work, public information work, and people doing work in prisons. There’s some great things [COG does] I want to support. I think it’s really important because we’ve made so many inroads over the years that those things continue to get our support.”

Dybing’s tenure as First Officer was marked by its expansive outreach to, and engagement with, the Pagan community. During that year he publicly commented on a variety of hot-button issues, and led an initiative that raised $30,000 dollars for Japan earthquake assistance.

“This project also represents an important moment in Pagan history. Working together across intrafaith boundaries this community has demonstrated the maturation that has occurred over the past few decades. We have established that we are an effective and unified religious community that can respond to world events, take action when necessary and work together in support of achievable goals. Gone is the quietly whispered sentiment that Pagans do not work together or that Pagans do not give to charity.”

It seems certain that Dybing will bring his style of hands-on engagement to Officers of Avalon, an organization of first responders who will no doubt appreciate his “act now” activist impulses. One can also hope this signals a new era of growth and engagement for this organization. My congratulations to Dybing, and to the other board members that were elected.

Back in November I wrote a post about the remaining “occult crime experts” that still travel the country informing local law enforcement, parents, and community leaders about the “evil” that lurks within their neighborhoods. That particular post singled out retired police officer (and occult “expert”) Don Rimer. Rimer was singled out in the past by Kerr Cuhulain (himself a former police officer) as someone with a decidedly mixed track record of being fair and accurate.


Don Rimer

“I believe that Rimer is sincere … I think that he is making some effort to properly define Wicca to selected audiences. I think that he is doing this because he knows that people like me are watching and he is concerned about liability. I don’t believe for a minute that he knows the difference between Neo-Pagan religions and Satanism. Rimer has said that he is willing to listen and learn and I will endeavor to educate him.”

After my post Rimer appeared to defend his reputation in the comments section.

“I teach parents the warning signs. If that is fear, yes I teach fear … I teach law enforcement about the rituals. If that is fear, yes I teach fear … I will continue to teach, consult, and investigate Ritual Crime as long as those crimes are committed. I provide that service to local, state, and federal agencies across the United States and Canada.”

Since then he has popped up now and then to take issue with how I report on a story.

“You have written about me before, accusing me of hating Wiccans. Wrong, wrong, wrong.”

Well here we go again. WAVY in Virginia reports on the “vampires” in our midst, and guess who pops up as an “expert” in all things evil and vampiric? You guessed it!

“With the advent of Twilight and TrueBlood, we’re seeing people, not just children, not just teenagers, but people are starting to take on that kind of a lifestyle,” says [Don] Rimer. “Very reminiscent of what people did when Ann Rice wrote Interview with a Vampire . Now people are playing games.  New games are coming out. There’s new merchandising that is associated with this and as long as they play their games and conduct their behavior lawfully, no one has a problem with that, but we’re having crimes associated with it.”

The text really doesn’t do justice to the sensationalistic television segment, complete with strange camera angles, spooky lighting, fog, and sound effects. Rimer goes on to depict a couple high-profile crimes as connected to the vampire craze, and inserts only the barest whisp of a disclaimer regarding the millions of people who enjoy vampire-themed media or participate in the vampire subculture/lifestyle and don’t commit horrendous crimes.

“Like in any society, we have good and evil. There are people involved in that that have no intention of committing crimes and then those who do.”

After that CYA (cover your assets) moment, he quickly veers back into how dangerous the vampire life is.

“There are people in that culture (who) believe they have the right to take human blood by whatever means necessary.  Then others are just playing a game. It’s just a game. It’s a movie, it’s a book and we just want to look that way. We’re just going to go to a club, but there’s all kinds and children getting involved in that don’t know the difference.”

Oh, and like all occult “experts”, Rimer gives the vague checklist of “warning signs”. Wearing black, writing backwards, strange new friends, “dark” make-up, and the number “7” (which he claims is the vampiric number). The kind of list that gives parents the excuse they need to ship their children off to boarding schools, and not face that the problem could be with them, not their kids. I’m not saying that the occasional occultist loon-bat doesn’t occasionally pop a gasket and do something horrible, but these “trends” of occultic crimes are all correlation without causation (and very often have very mundane motivations behind them). In fact, many “occult” crimes could have just as easily been “crazy Christian” crimes if the troubled souls in question had picked up a Bible instead of “Twilight”. Yet you don’t see retired police officers traveling the country informing people of the hazardous effects of improper Bible-reading, giving lists of Christian “warning signs” (prays a lot, starts quoting the Bible randomly, sees demons), and intoning darkly about the dangers of unsupervised Bible study.

By linking troubled teens and isolated crimes with any vague occult angle they cand find, ritual crime experts create a comforting fantasy world of a pervasive directed evil that can be fought. It is a narrative that says “if only we can prevent our children from reading/watching media concerning vampires/werewolves/the occult then we will be safe”. But like all fantasies it isn’t true. Horrible things still happen. They happen even when you remove all troubling literature and occult-laced media from the public eye. It is a fact that the remaining “ritual crime experts” fear to engage with, because they’d be out of a job if all of this was believed to be truly random and had more to do with isolated cases of mental illness than with what movies these people watch. No doubt Don Rimer will be along in the comments shortly to tell me how wrong I am…

A surviving remnant of the bad-ol’ “Satanic Panic” days are the “occult crime experts” who travel the country speaking in various small towns to law enforcement groups, school boards, and various churches. Spreading misinformation, sowing unwarranted fear of teen subcultures, and presenting isolated “ritual” crimes as part of a larger evil occult underground. A paper in Danville, Illinois gives unquestioning press-release coverage of just such an “expert”.

“Teenagers who like techno-rock music may sometimes be confused with teens fully into the “goth” look and music, Don Rimer pointed out to a group of 90 people who attended his “Ritual Crime & the Occult” seminar Wednesday in Danville … Rimer, an internationally recognized authority on the expanding youth sub-culture that embraces the occult, is a retired Virginia Beach police officer who now consults with agencies faced with bizarre ritual crimes. He also speaks to schools, churches, civic groups and professional organizations around the country, pointing out dangers teenagers face when they begin to dabble in the occult. Rimer told the group there are many signs teens display that can warn parents their child is feeling disassociated from his or her peers and ripe for recruitment by an array of predators who call themselves vampires, Satanists or any number of other occult followers.”

Gods forbid your child slides down the slippery slope from “techno-rock” (a term I have never heard a young person use) into “goth”! He or she would be a sitting duck for occult vampire Satanic predators! Rimer claims that kids who aren’t involved in “sports teams, church groups and other organizations” are especially endangered (I’m truly surprised the vampires didn’t get me). As for Rimer, it just so happens that he has had an initially good, but increasingly chilly and hostile relationship with modern Pagans. Kerr Cuhulain, a former police officer, who has spent a lot of time highlighting these “experts”, spoke with several Pagans unhappy with Rimer’s presentations.

“I have heard him speak and he does not, repeat does not like Wiccans. He thinks everything that is not Christian is Satanic and he does not like being corrected. I’ve tried to correct him in several talks that he had given locally and he does not appreciate being corrected, because he finds Satanism in everything that he does, including pentacles. He thinks pentacles are the work of Satan, and if you wear one, you are a Satanist. He is considered an ‘expert’ around here on occultism and the powers that be around here like calling him in to identify items found at crime scenes or in teen’s bedrooms as Satanic. He is almost becoming a one trick pony in that he finds what he seeks.”

The problem with these “experts” is that their misinformation can help create the very chaos they claim to want to prevent. A parent who once tolerated their son or daughter’s exploration of non-Christian faiths could quickly turn hostile once they are convinced that such activities are part of some sort of occult criminal conspiracy (not to mention the danger of local out Pagans being branded as “predators”). When joined with school officials and local law enforcement who believe the same thing, you soon have a self-fulfilling prophecy of alienation and suicidal thoughts. Rimer, in his obsession with all things “Satanic”, carries an infectious plague of intolerance and fear wherever he goes.