Archives For Lady Yeshe Rabbit

As was widely reported yesterday, the Supreme Court handed down decisions in cases affecting DOMA, the federal Defense of Marriage Act, and California’s Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriages in that state. Both rulings were broadly seen as victories for marriage equality (with the caveat that there is more still to do, and legal hurdles remain). In the immediate wake of the decisions being released I spotlighted several Pagan reactions to the rulings, but I received and read far more than that. So I would like to do another post today highlighting further reactions to these landmark decisions.

Yeshe Rabbit

Yeshe Rabbit

“The past 24 hours have been huge for personal sovereignty in America. Wendy Davis and the women of Texas took a stand and told the GOP, “Hands off my uterus,” and SCOTUS declared DOMA unconstitutional. I am rejoicing in these outcomes, along with many of my Pagan sisters and brothers, because these outcomes represent the triumph of free will in two highly-charged matters: women’s freedom of choice and marriage equality. I celebrate both of these decisions. And yet, it still troubles me that both of these high-level governmental decisions revolved around what takes place in the most private areas of our lives: our sexuality and reproduction. As if it is OK that these things are regulated in the first place. As if we should feel content to have won the right to determine what choices we make about our bodies at a fundamental level. As if we were not free and sovereign in our sexuality all along. As if the law could ever regulate the way one’s heart sings when one looks upon a beloved. May the wheels of change, now with greater momentum, spin faster toward a future of profound sovereignty in our sexual bodies, in our heart’s loving desires, beyond even what this moment of celebration can provide.”Lady Yeshe Rabbit, CAYA Coven

Cherry Hill Seminary's Holli Emore

Holli Emore, Executive Director, Cherry Hill Seminary

“A long twilight of injustice finally sees the light of reason and clear conscience!  That I lived to see this day, after well over 25 years of marching, speaking, contributing, showing up at rallies and challenging narrow minds – this is a day to celebrate and remember and tell to the generations to come.  To those who are cynical or anti-government – this is the American way at its finest, the beauty of justice, the possibility of admitting wrong and making it right.”  – Holli Emore, Executive Director of Cherry Hill Seminary

Diana Paxson

Diana Paxson

“In the Germanic countries in pre-Christian times, although the gods would be asked to bless the union (as they did every other rite of passage), marriage was a social contract between two individuals or more properly, between their families, that changed their status and relationship to the community as well as to each other. Since same-sex couples are as capable of forming long-term relationships, raising children, and functioning as a household in a community as hetero-sexual couples are, they ought to have the same legal status and protections. The Troth has always supported equality, and our clergy have officiated at many same-sex weddings (where legal), and hand-fastings (where not legal yet).” – Diana L. Paxson, Elder, Clergy Coordinator, The Troth

Lord Blackcat

Lord Blackcat

“Today’s Supreme Court ruling striking down DOMA is an important victory on the expansion of freedom for all people and pagans in particular. Since the 1990’s, there has been a well documented effort by certain conservative Christian groups to shape American law in accordance with their philosophical and religious views. Opponents of marriage equality repeatedly cite Judeo-Christian reference as a basis for the legal definition of marriage. As pagans, most of us have long recognized our deities as transcending culturally based gender roles.  Most pagans have similarly embraced all aspects of consensual adult love as inherent rights.  Today’s recognition that diverse members of society are Constitutionally entitled to equal access under the law sets an important precedent.  Mob-mentally, majority rule does not trump individual liberty.  It is this individual liberty that allows for minority religions, such as make up most pagan practice, to openly exist.  Whatever one’s politics, religion, or sexual orientation, everyone should celebrate this recognition that religious views of a majority cannot and should not be permitted to squash the diversity which is the basis of life,liberty and the pursuit of happiness, guaranteed by our US Constitution.” – Lord Blackcat, HP, Sylvan Grove, Seattle WA

Rev. Philipp J. Kessler

Rev. Philipp J. Kessler

“As a Pagan I am thrilled by both rulings. “All acts of love and pleasure” are the rituals of the Gods. I personally feel that the government should have no say in whether legal consenting adults get married, regardless of their sex or sexual identity. Marriage in this context is a religious institution. How politicos view marriage is as a legal contract. If you are going to view marriage as a legal contract, then any two consenting adults should be able to enter into such a contract. I am a legally ordained and recognized minister in the state of Nebraska, and many other states that recognize my ordination. I have been asked many times to do weddings and handfastings. I’ve not had the joy or the privilege to perform a same-sex ceremony. I have been asked, but things changed in the lives of the couples and the unions did not take place. If I were asked today to go to one of the 12 (soon to be 13) states that have legal same-sex marriage (and the District of Columbia) to perform such a glorious union, I would gladly do so. If I were asked today to do a same-sex handfasting or other such ceremony in any of the 50 states or anywhere else in the world, I would gladly do so. I am now and always have been of the firm opinion that all adults have the right to love who they want and how they want as long as it does not infringe on the rights of others or place themselves or others at risk of undue harm. There is still a long uphill battle in the United States for marriage equality. The provision of DOMA that allows states without same-sex marriage to ignore the validity of a same-sex marriage from a state that does still stands. SCOTUS declared Section 3 of DOMA to be unconstitutional. The rest of DOMA still stands, which means that each state still has the right to define marriage according to its voters or law makers.” – Rev. Philipp J. Kessler, Co-founder and Nebraska Facilitator of the Pagan Alliance Network

Fire Lyte

Fire Lyte

“We’re hoping that our federal government will get a majority of its House and Senate to enact a federal law giving sweeping marriage equality nationwide. DOMA doesn’t give us that. Prop 8 doesn’t give us that. And there isn’t anything in the United States Constitution to challenge in a judicial setting. It is possible that the President could give an Executive Order attempting to force the issue, but this would likely get overturned in Congress, since it’s been found in the past that an Executive Order cannot be used to create law, but rather to clarify or enforce current law. Though, in this Rioter’s opinion, if an Executive Order can be used to go to war, it should be able to be used to give equal marriage rights. But, it’s not like the President doesn’t have enough on his plate right now. And that’s where we stand, folks. There is a lot to celebrate today, but the war is nowhere close to over. And, for folks like me in states where gay marriage still isn’t recognized, today is just another day. I can’t rush out and marry my Partner. I can’t file my 2013 tax return jointly. I can’t receive one of the over 1000 legal rights only married couples receive. I’m just Partner’s roommate for most legal purposes. Bittersweet, definition of.”Fire Lyte, Inciting A Riot podcast

T. Thorn Coyle

T. Thorn Coyle

“This morning, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down both the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8. To me, this time, the legal system stood for love and justice. I’ve said before that we ought not to give one set of citizens rights that another set does not have. If we are to have laws, they must be equitable. That said, I think government should get out of the marriage business. I also recognize that my own relationships are much larger and more fluid than this sort of marriage can encompass. Yes, I came out about this last time we were discussing DOMA.  Today the Supreme Court decided in favor of equity and love. Yesterday, the Supreme Court did the opposite. Yesterday, the Supreme Court gutted the Voters Rights Act, an action which threatens to disenfranchise many people who still need the support of things like district elections in order to give themselves a proper voice in a political system stacked toward the privileged. That does not sound like justice. Nor does it sound like love. It sounds like a further separation of us from one another.”T. Thorn Coyle, Solar Cross Temple

Teo Bishop

Teo Bishop

“When I say that this is a small step toward equal treatment under the law, I’m not just talking about us queers here. I’m also talking about moving toward a place of greater gender equality, too. Our society is built within a binary gender paradigm which favors one gender over the other. In many ways, the LGBT rights movement threatens that very paradigm, because jumping on board the gay train requires you to suspend all of your “normal” assumptions about gender roles in relationship. Do that, and you start seeing imbalance and injustice nearly every place you look. LGBT rights are like a gateway drug in that way. Start supporting the homos, and before long you’ll end up a complete social justice activist. (I’ve seen it happen.) It’s good to remind people who may think of LGBT rights as a “fringe issue” that today’s ruling fits into a much larger discussion about personal liberty and equality — two principles which can, with enough political firepower, be jeopardized for even the most mainstream among us. Even hetero-normative folks need to be on the lookout. But not today. Today is a day worth celebrating. I believe that equality is a Pagan value, and equality was upheld today.”Teo Bishop, Bishop In The Grove

I have no doubt there are even more thoughts and responses out there that I have missed. Have you weighed in? Please let me know in the comments. The DOMA and Prop 8 rulings were just one of several major rulings made this term, and I’m also hoping to explore the changes to the Voting Rights Act from a Pagan perspective soon. For now, I’m content to celebrate this step forward for equality. 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.

I’m going to start off this week’s edition of Pagan Voices with the short documentary “Britain’s Wicca Man,” where you can hear the very Pagan voices of Gerald Gardner, Philip Heselton, Christina Oakley Harrington, and others. Sadly, this version has been heavily edited from it’s original hour-long running time, leaving a scant 27 minutes to cover over 50 years of history.

Here’s hoping the full version is released on DVD, or on a streaming service. You can read more about this documentary, here. Now on to the rest of this week’s Pagan Voices…

Janet Farrar & Gavin Bone

Janet Farrar & Gavin Bone

“Something interesting is going on, as Pagans we have been waking the gods since the 1950′s. Voudon and the Caribbean traditions has a few hundred years on us! When you go to a Voudon Bembe, with its ecstatic drumming and dancing,  they come through really strong, riding (possessing) the participants. We are now reaching the point where this beginning to happen now in modern neo-paganism, even though it has only been fifty years.  This is because we have been waking the gods up. We have noticed something interesting as we have done the work. We are forming a Neo-Pagan pantheon. We only have a finite amount of energy to give the gods as spirits as they wake up.  You see the same gods and goddess coming up all the time in our community. Hecate, Brid, Isis, Morrigan, Freja, Odin, Diana etc.  Because there is only this finite amount of energy for them, they are congregating and forming a  new pantheon.  All awakened gods from different cultures forming a pantheon, and redefining roles.” – Gavin Bone, exploring the “waking” of ancient gods within a modern Pagan context, from a joint interview with Janet Farrar at PNC-Minnesota.

Teo Bishop

Teo Bishop

“The thing is, this is my life. This is me, right here, trying to be human. And I think my biggest challenge in being a part of ADF was that I didn’t feel like there was anyone really speaking to the challenges of being human. In a devotional religion, the emphasis is placed over there, not in here. The things that cut deeply for me, that are real and sometimes really difficult for me — things like compassion, despair, forgiveness, hope, kindness, patience, honesty — I don’t feel like we spend any time talking about these things. I think we experience these things, but they always feel secondary to “right relationship.” Frankly, I don’t care about right relationship. Or right action, for that matter. I think those concepts are distraction from the messy, mucky, complicated, beautiful acts of being human that have nothing to do with how virtuous or pious we are. I didn’t think I could earn my way into Heaven when I was a Christian, and I don’t think I can, through my own actions, earn my way into good standing with the Gods.” – Teo Bishop, explaining why he is leaving Ár nDraíocht Féin (ADF) and the Solitary Druid Fellowship he started, at his Bishop in the Grove site.

Beth Owl's Daughter

Beth Owl’s Daughter

“Our many ways of worshiping the Old Ones, or the Earth, or the Goddess, have truly begun to gel into traditions and teachings that are being handed down to new generations.  Although we are still facing massive, well-organized bigotry and misunderstanding, a slow dawning of credibility has begun. That’s why it is vital that we begin taking ourselves, and each other, as seriously as we would ask the wider culture to. Frankly, I am mighty tired of hearing my fellow Pagans squabble over their fears of becoming too “churchy,” or our leaders actually being trained and disciplined (the horror!), or whether this or that school has received state accreditation (because, while this would be ideal andwill happen someday, what is the CV of Lady TwinkleWolf, who iscurrently managing your local coven?). Meantime, the needs of our people are real, complex, and urgent. Our ill, our dying, our soldiers, our incarcerated members, our folks in legal turmoil, our groups in the media crosshairs — can usually only receive second-rate assistance, if any at all, from (usually, but not always!) well-meaning, make-it-up-as-you-go-along priestesses and priests.” – Beth Owl’s Daughter, on the journey from “faking it to making it” for modern Pagan clergy, at her Owl’s Wings blog.

Beth Lynch spinning.

Beth Lynch spinning.

“I think physical offerings are important, since we live in a material realm and we are incarnated at least partially to learn from both the freedoms and restrictions of the material world. Offering something tangible to the gods—whether a drink, some of one’s own blood, or a painting—gifts Them with something that we, as humans, are in a unique position to offer Them, since most of Them cannot directly access physical things without the aid of a horse (a human who willingly serves as a vehicle for Them to interact with and manipulate the material world). Some gifts—such as a poem or a dance—bridge the gap between physical and energetic offerings. The Havamal (the section of the Poetic Edda attributed to Odin) is often quoted as stating that it is better to not give at all than to give too much; I myself take issue with this. In my own practice, I share everything I do and everything I have with Odin, but for beginners to heathen practice, or new Odin devotees, I would say give what you are able to give; and by this I mean, what you are honestly able to give, not what you think you can get away with giving. I have faith in the ability of the gods to let us know when/if this is too much, or more than They want to receive from us, but in general I think it is not possible to give Them too much, when weighed against all the gifts They lavish upon us.” – Beth Lynch, explaining some basics for those just starting out on the Heathen path, at the Witches & Pagans’ PaganSquare.

Gus diZerega

Gus diZerega

“Over these past few weeks I have been moving. On Earth Day I built an outdoor altar in my new place and made my first offerings to the spirits of the place. I know from experience it will take some time to revive the energy of a place towards its human inhabitants. But with attention and good will, the revival will happen. The place will speak to me. Earth Day 2013 is symbolically a good day to start, but any day is better than none at all. I suggest those who are interested do likewise. For this to work well at enlivening your connection with the earth, make offerings at least weekly. You are building a relationship. And be patient. Ideally build your altar next to a part of the yard you do not do much with to bring under your control. At the very least do not spray poisons there. It is a place for other powers to prevail with as little interference as possible. This area does not have to be large. [...]  As you make your offerings, ask for better connections between yourself and the spirits of your place. Thank them for the good things about where you live. Show sincere gratitude. Ask for their blessings. And again, be patient. Our culture has spent over 2000 years separating itself from awareness with the spirits of place and we can begin taking some important steps to reconnect.” – Gus diZerega, explaining how to reconnect yourself with the spirits of a place, in the June issue of The Interfaith Observer.

Chas Clifton

Chas Clifton

“The real St. Francis of Assisi was anything but serene. He was more like “Occupy Rome”  AD 1204 — an upper middle class young man angry at the establishment, demanding radical change in the Roman Catholic Church. But history has turned him into a bird bath — and perhaps that metamorphosis was inevitable. Growing up as a Forest Service brat, with an agnostic father and a devoutly Christian mother, I noticed that Christianity seemed to end at the edge of town. Relations with the other-than-human world were not discussed in church. The Episcopal Church’s Book of Common Prayer contained a prayer for rain, as I recall, and that was about all. For the rest, I was offered the secular gospel of conservation: scientific forestry, soil and water conservation, state-regulated hunting. At least that was better than what had gone before: cut-and-run timber cutting, market-hunting that wiped out species, the Dust Bowl… [...] We could see Bird Bath Francis as an attempt to bridge these traditions, to consecrate a safe, protected, and  cultivated nature — if not the self-organizing wolf-ridden wilderness. Followers of what Bron Taylor calls “dark green religion,” which may not be at all theistic, might not be so easily persuaded by the monk of Assisi, were they to meet him on the path.” – Pagan scholar Chas Clifton, on St. Francis as an eco-saint, his current popular role as a birdbath ornament, and the development of eco-conscious religion in the modern era.

Lady Yeshe Rabbit. Photo: Greg Harder.

Lady Yeshe Rabbit

“Many of us have had the experience of walking into a tea house, cafe, or festival, locking eyes with a reader, and knowing it was time for a spontaneous divination. These in-the-moment adventures in mantic arts can be some of the best one-reading stands of one’s life. I’ll never forget the time I was 13 years old, on vacation with my family in Rockport, ME, when I had my first reading in a neon-palm store. The reader was spectacularly eccentric, dressed the part, and drew in a lively crowd of tourists. But she was also very accurate, mentioning pieces of information about my immediate social life and future experiences that have all come true: that I would not marry young, but would travel instead (I’d say moving cross-country and now engaged at 39 qualifies), that I would be a “healer but not a doctor or nurse” (in fact, I am both an herbalist and have served as a Public Health Educator), and – most importantly- that “You could do what I am doing if you wanted to” (and here I am!)  In no way am I discounting these awesome, perfect, synergistic moments when life throws you a diviner’s bone and says, “Now!” But for most of us, we find ourselves needing guidance at other times, when we might be raw or sensitive, or when Fate does not seem to be serving us up the perfect spontaneous moment out of the blue. Then we have to take matters into our own hands. The little guide I have written below is based on my experiences observing my clients, and will help you get the most out of a reading you might schedule with a professional.” – Yeshe Rabbit, founding High Priestess of CAYA Coven, from an essay on making the most of getting a reading.

Philip Carr-Gomm

Philip Carr-Gomm

“I have always been fascinated by Thoreau’s approach to living simply. His little hut in the woods at Walden Pond was an exercise in bringing life back to the basics as a way of understanding what is truly important. This act feels very Druidic in spirit. [...]  There is something deeply liberating about shedding the trappings of consumerist living. Not everyone could function in this tiny hut but the beauty and simplicity of the design and the quest to become more aware of the excess and unnecessary accumulation that our society encourages, is something that could be embraced by any of us, regardless of where we live. The pertinent question to ask is what do we need to have a happy, comfortable life? The answer might be different for each of us but I suspect that we might agree that many of the things we gather about us serve only to weigh us down. The burden of so much stuff can be like wearing a heavy coat on a hot day; ah, the relief when we slip it off and feel the cooling air on our skin, the freedom to move without hinderance.” – Philip Carr-Gomm, founder of the Order of Bards Ovates & Druids, writing about living simply, prompted by a video about tiny homes.

Murtagh A. anDoile

Murtagh A. anDoile

“Every year, we are seeing the deaths of more Pagan Elders and Tradition Founders, community activists and spokespeople. As the Pagan community ages, we are getting further way from our origins. We find a greater need for a mythic history to fills in the blanks. [...] We are calling for a historical narrative for the 50 plus years of American Paganism before it’s to late. [C]alled “The Pagan History Project”, we would create detailed histories of every area of the United States using historical verifiable data taken from a multitude of sources, as interviews and print media. It would include information from all historical perspectives, the actual and the mythic, even though controversial and contradictory, to create a cohesive narrative. The giving of credence to “Craft” myths is a valid means to show how such histories give validity to groups in a given area, and helps to define the community identity in said area. Myth gives communities a template for life and living, it introduces both spiritual and poetic truth. “The Pagan History Project” would be an interdisciplinary study to answer the need for more education and information for the growing pagan populace, scholars, the press, law enforcement, prison and military chaplains and anyone truly interested in the history of religion. [...] Only by looking at our roots and antecedents in all forms will we be able to continue to craft community and identity as we go into the future.” – Murtagh A. anDoile, from a paper presented at the 8th Conference on Current Pagan Studies, which lead to the recently launched Pagan History Project (more on that here).

Valerie Herron

Valerie Herron

“Stepping back, this appears to be a very bleak series. I think is very important to point out is that the potential for redemption is in every one of this pieces. The key to the redemption in these pieces is choice. The characters in this series have the choice to act differently. Even in areas where no choice is for individual characters is present, the choice for societal intervention is always present. I don’t want this series to appear as a portrayal of a dire reality or an inescapable cycle of victimization, but more of a mirror for examination, why these things needs to change, and where the potential for change lies. Before the onslaught of hate mail arrives, I would like to point out that I acknowledge that am neither a sociologist nor a political scientist. I certainly do not claim to have any answers to these monumental problems. These pieces reflect my experiences as a working class US citizen, a female, and one who falls into many categories of being “other.” I claim no real authority or expertise in the massive social issues that I bring up in this series. My goal for this artwork is to contribute a different perspective to the dialogue already in place around these subjects.” – Valerie Herron, discussing her senior thesis project The Allegories of Subjugation. Valerie also happens to be the artist who did the current masthead for The Wild Hunt.

T. Thorn Coyle at the conference. Photo: Greg Harder.

T. Thorn Coyle

“Seek out that which kindles desire in you. Is it this song? That painting? People on the street? This nightclub? That forest? Is it the way you dance in the evening, when no one is around? Is it the photos of people rising up around the world? What is it? Cultivate desire. Follow beauty. Find that which touches you. Let it move you, let yourself act. We have a world to re-align toward love. We can’t do this if we do not desire. What is it? What does your heart want? What does your soul need? What makes you burst with compassion? What makes you feel angry, or fills you with sorrow? What helps you fall in love? What do you desire?” – T. Thorn Coyle, praising desire at her Know Thyself blog.

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

 

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

In Memoriam: Dennis Presser (1958-2013): Circle Sanctuary has announced that longtime Circle and Pagan Spirit Gathering community member Dennis Presser passed away last week from natural causes. In a memorial posted to their site, Circle Sanctuary said of Presser that they “honor his Nature-loving spirit, his devotion to sacred Rhythm, and the friendships he made so easily and widely.  What is remembered lives.”

Dennis Presser in 2009.

Dennis Presser in 2009.

“Thank you, Dennis, for friendship over the years.  Thanks for your environmental education and preservation work, your community drumming and celebrations, and for your wisdom, humor, and support.  Condolences, love and support to Laurie, Hunter, and Allegra, and to all of us mourning his death.  May we take comfort in knowing that this world is a better and greener place because of Dennis.”Selena Fox, Circle Sanctuary

Friends and acquaintances are encouraged to post their own memorial remembrance at the Circle Sanctuary site. You can read his official obituary, here. You can read an editorial from PNC-Minnesota, here. What is remembered, lives.

S.J. Tucker Readies New Album: Singer-songwriter (and Pagan) S.J. Tucker has announced that she’ll be digitally releasing an album of new material on March 5th, with physical copies to follow. The songs were developed for the soundtrack of “micro-budget” fantasy/action film “Ember Days,” also being released on March 5th.

S.J. Tucker

S.J. Tucker

“I got you all a Valentine’s Day present.  It’s still cooking, but it’s on its way to being fully formed and tasty.  I have been a good little songwriter/producer this month.  Early in February, I went to work in my Pixie House and finished up the first project of this year.  Last week, on St. Valentine’s Day, I put that project into the hands of my mastering engineer, Mr. Mark Yoshida.  He’s working on it now.  When I get it back from him, and when Mr. Wiley and I settle on the album design, it will all go to printing and replication.  When that’s done, I’ll have it in my hands…and soon after that, I hope, so will you!”

According to Tucker this material will be a departure from her normal style, mining “goth/industrial or dubstep-influenced” sounds. Once released, you’ll be able to buy the album on the music page of her website. In the meantime, you can catch S.J. Tucker performing this weekend with Tricky Pixie at FaerieCon West in Seattle.

More Pagan Responses to Fox News Wicca Comments: The Pagan community is still responding to insulting comments made about Wicca on the Fox News channel by Tucker Carlson and others. While Carlson has issued an apology on Twitter and on FishbowlDC, many are still urging an on-air apology from the network itself. In a statement released this past Wednesday, the Clergy of Come As You Are Coven, an Interfaith Pagan community in Northern California, requested “that this issue be addressed by Fox News Network via an immediate, prominent, on-air apology.”

Lady Yeshe Rabbit. Photo: Greg Harder.

Lady Yeshe Rabbit of CAYA Coven. Photo: Greg Harder.

“We request that this issue be addressed by Fox News Network via an immediate, prominent, on-air apology; significant on-air retraction of specific comments with factual corrections; visible dialogue with practicing Wiccans and Pagans conducted in a respectful manner; and appropriate commitment by the Network to providing the individuals responsible with a mandatory professional course of diversity training in religious and sex/gender sensitivity.”

In addition, prominent Salem, Massachusetts Witches Laurie Cabot, Lorelei, Christian Day and Leanne Marrama issued a press release this past Tuesday on the matter. Day, who owns the Salem shops “Hex” and “Omen” said that “America is a bubbling cauldron of different peoples and faiths and it is to our credit that our nation goes out of its way to respect those days that are sacred to us. Witches believe in respect for all faiths and Carlson’s divisive rhetoric is out of step with American values.” Whether these, and other efforts, results in an on-air apology from Fox remains to be seen.

In Other Pagan Community News:

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

Pagans and Obamacare

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  September 3, 2012 — 18 Comments

[The following is a post from The Wild Hunt archivesThe Wild Hunt is on hiatus through Labor Day weekend and will return with new posts on Tuesday, September 4th.]

Last week, the Supreme Court of the United States upheld the constitutionality of the Obama Administration’s Affordable Care Act, a law that overhauls America’s health care system over the next decade, and includes a controversial health insurance mandate. While universal coverage is the norm in the majority of industrialized countries, here, we’ve created a hodge-podge predominantly market-driven system that all-too-often places profits and savings above the health of its citizens. Consequently, while access to health care is often an assumed given in countries like Britain, France, or Canada, here, it has become a decades-long moral and ethical struggle. Like all moral and ethical struggles, religious leaders and groups have taken various stands on access to health care, and on this law in particular. Once the decision came down that the law would survive, at least for now, Catholics, Evangelicals, Protestants, Jews, and large religious coalitions, all weighed in with their opinion. But what about our faith community, does our diverse movement speak with one voice on this issue? What do Pagans think about access to health care, and health care reform, in the United States?

President Obama signs the Affordable Care Act into law.

President Obama signs the Affordable Care Act into law.

Many of the leaders and prominent individuals within the modern Pagan movement I surveyed were happy that the Affordable Care Act was upheld, often with the caveat that they would prefer a single-payer system, as found in many European nations. Starhawk, co-founder of Reclaiming, and author of “The Empowerment Manual,” expressed that the ACA “is definitely an improvement over the callous and greed-ridden system we’ve got.” T. Thorn Coyle, co-founder of Solar Cross Temple, noted that “we currently live with such extreme social inequity that something like ACA does not go far enough. As long as the richest 10% of U.S. citizens control two-thirds of the wealth in the country, universal healthcare is a far better answer.” Perhaps the most succinct expression of this line of thought came from Phaedra Bonewits, a former board member of the Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans, and widow of the popular Druid author and thinker Isaac Bonewits, who said that although she was happy with the decision, “I still wish it wasn’t about health insurance. I don’t believe we need universal health insurance, I believe we need universal health care.”

“Healthcare delivery in the USA needs to be simplified, more holistic, and more user friendly. More mental health services need to be covered as well as effective alternative therapies. There needs to be good quality, affordable healthcare for all. I hope the Affordable Care Act will help move the reform process forward but realize that it is not a panacea.”Selena Fox, Circle Sanctuary

Digging deeper, what do modern Pagan faiths believe their religions teach them about heath care, and enshrining an affordable right to it? Often, there’s been a lazy slur that pre-Christian faiths, and their modern counterparts, have no conception of charity, or larger sense of obligation to their community. The most famous expression of this erroneous belief in recent history perhaps came from Jim Towey, director of the White House Office of Faith-Based & Community Initiatives under President Bush, who intimated disbelief that there was a Pagan group that cared for the poor, and that only “loving hearts” were drawn to such causes. Towey later walked back those comments, but they were emblematic of a belief that Judeo-Christian traditions were somehow unique in their concern for the less fortunate. The truth is that a significant number of Pagans I polled couched their support for the ACA within the context of their spiritual beliefs. For example, Cat Chapin-Bishop, a Pagan who also participates in Quaker spirituality, sees “a dense and complicated web of obligations and services” inherent in many forms of Paganism, and that “gods favor the generous. And a just society, in Pagan terms, absolutely does have the right to require us to be generous. To an observant Pagan, hospitality is mandatory, not optional.” Turning to Starhawk, she notes that Witchcraft traditions, which are centered in the belief of wise women and cunning men, healers, should “have a special interest in assuring access to health care for all.”

 

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

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

“I believe the core value in Pagan ethics is the understanding that we are interconnected and interdependent. On that basis, health care is an important right and everyone should have access to it. My personal health is not separate from your well-being. Health is partly a matter of personal responsibility, but all of us are subject to forces beyond our control. If we suffer illness or injury or sheer bad luck, we shouldn’t be left alone to suffer the consequences unaided. We live in a more and more toxic environment, and the constant assaults on our health from pollutants and radiation and the degradation of our food supply are our collective responsibility. No one should be left alone to bear the consequences of our collective failure to protect the life-support systems around us. Rather, it is to all of our benefit to share a public responsibility for our mutual well being, because every single one of us, at some point in life, will need that help. No one gets through life unscathed, and in the end we die. If we truly accept death as part of life, with its attendant break-downs of the body and the many sorts of mischance that befall us along the way, then we do well to offer one another solidarity and succor.”Starhawk

Further, T. Thorn Coyle shared that “as a Pagan, compassion, generosity, and honor are very important to me. I want to build culture that strengthens us, but acknowledge that we need a minimum level of care built in to our social structures so that each person can contribute her best.” Christopher Penczak, co-founder of the Temple of Witchcraft, while acknowledging that there is no singular Pagan viewpoint on this issue, seemed to support this ethos of obligation and support laid out by the others, noting that his temple “looked into the possibility of purchasing a group health insurance plan for various members of the Temple of Witchcraft who expressed need.”

While a number of Pagans are vocally supportive of the ACA, there are voices of concern and dissent from this view. Since Paganism is a movement, an umbrella term for a number of distinct faiths, there is no total consensus on this issue. Some, like Lady Yeshe Rabbit, head of the Bloodroot Honey Tribe, expressed support for the aid the new law will give to the underserved, while admitting she remains “wary of anything that potentially gives the federal government more authority over my physical body, especially with the current alarming trend toward limitation of information and quality care around reproductive freedom for women that we are seeing at state and local levels.” Lady Miraselena, a Wiccan Priestess within the Temple of the Rising Phoenix in Atlanta, also supported some of the law’s provisions, while rejecting the individual mandate as a “very dangerous precedent.”

“The more power we give to one institution, the government or otherwise, the more we sacrifice our own freedom. Pagan spirituality is about journeying along a difficult personal path with both triumphs and failures. Pagan spirituality removes that single dogmatic entity; freeing us from the shackles that seek to confine us with the promise of protection. Pagan spirituality gives us the right to soar as high as we are willing to work and to fall as low as we might. Without that spiritual incentive, we are just plodding through life without really living; without the creativity of existence. For me, this wisdom informs everything.”Lady Miraselena

Perhaps most the notable Pagan opposition to the Affordable Care Acts comes from Republican congressional candidate and New York City Councilman Dan Halloran, a Theodish Heathen, who blasted the ruling saying it has given the government “the last thing they need – encouragement to add more laws, taxes and rules that make health care so expensive in the first place.”

One source I spoke to for this piece, Dr. Barbara A. McGraw, a lawyer and academic scholar who writes on the American founding, disputes the idea that the ACA and the mandate in particular is oppressive or anti-liberty, asserting that “making healthcare available to everyone, even with a supposedly freedom-limiting insurance mandate, is more conducive to the American founders’ ideal of liberty for all than a health care system run by an unrestrained insurance industry in a Darwinian “free-for-all” healthcare market that results in domination by a few at the expense of the many and people dying because of lack of care.” Still, even with those Pagans who had reservations, or idealogical/theological problems with the new law, their opposition was for the most part distinctly qualified. Their opposition mainly couched within a libertarian “high-choice” ethos, rather than from a standard partisan position, often supporting some of the most popular sections of the new law.

Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary

Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary

Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary, striking a balance between the different positions on this new law, says that “regardless of what one’s viewpoints are on the Affordable Care Act, it is my hope that we all can find ways to innovate, communicate, and collaborate on bringing about a better healthcare system in this country.” All of the Pagans I spoke to expressed a desire for a better health care system, though there may have been disagreement on how exactly to bring that about. It is asking the question posed to us by Thorn Coyle: “What do we really value and how are these values reflected in the society we have built?” It’s clear that a great number of Pagans value a system where health care is accessible and affordable, and that we care not only about our fellow Pagans, but about the health of our fellow human beings, and the interconnected web of life on this planet. It is also clear that Pagans have a voice in the larger debates over health care, a unique and important perspective that should not be lost when society or the mainstream media searches for religious perspectives.

Source material used for this article:

Pagan voices is a new 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.

Ivo Dominguez Jr. of The Assembly of the Sacred Wheel participating in Rabbit's "I Stand Against Rape" campaign.

Ivo Dominguez Jr. of The Assembly of the Sacred Wheel participating in Rabbit’s “I Stand Against Rape” campaign.

“Live that truth. Speak up about rape. Take risks and say things out loud. Make sure you vote for those who respect the rights of women. Don’t worry about the economy so much: as the majority labor force in this country, and the majority in colleges and universities at this time, women will be able to figure things out with the economy once we are able to stop wasting our time on, you know, worrying about being raped or forced to have children who are products of rape. It is amazing how resourceful and smart we are about things like money, medicine, and astrophysics when we don’t have to trouble our pretty little heads about this other crap.” – Yeshe Rabbit, speaking about the “I Stand Against Rape” campaign, which invites men to make a public declaration against rape and share it with the world. You can see a selection of the participants, including my entry, at Rabbit’s Pintrest page.

T. Thorn Coyle

T. Thorn Coyle

“Patrick has offered service to the larger Pagan community at great expense to himself for many years, working in the US and on the international stage. It is a powerful thing to have a Pagan in such a high profile position at events like Awakened World. I feel grateful for his willingness to do this work, and will lend my support. Patrick, you’ve worked long and hard for us, and it is time for us to do some work to support you.”T.Thorn Coyle of Solar Cross Temple and Morningstar Mystery School writing in support of Patrick McCollum’s fundraising effort to send him to the Awakened World 2012 gathering in Italy.

Sam Webster (far right) with Chic and Sandra Tabatha Cicero, and Lon Milo DuQuette at a PantheaCon gathering.

Sam Webster (far right) with Chic and Sandra Tabatha Cicero, and Lon Milo DuQuette at a OSOGD PantheaCon gathering.

“As Socrates said (in the Apology), “the unexamined life is not worth living.” These kinds of questions are how humans have examined their lives by challenging themselves in their insight, or in their despair, to answer them. Or fail to. Here are the deep dark waters of the human experience. The record of humanity, especially the religious record, is the record of all the many ways we have attempted to answer them, as far back as writing goes, and arguably even farther. Long have we plumbed those depth and weighed those answers.”Sam Webster, founder of the Open Source Order of the Golden Dawn (OSOGD), and author of “Tantric Thelema,” on the topic of religion and spirituality.

Star Foster

Star Foster

“When you look at other religious cultures who have survived over the millennia, including polytheistic cultures, you find that the process of creating, expanding and strengthening family was extremely important. Like anything else, these traditional processes could be, and sometimes still are, used to abuse and harm. Just as with a knife that can both slice bread and cut flesh, we don’t simply abandon traditional things because they have the potential to be used to harm. We already work positively with elements that could be used to harm in the wrong hands: divination, initiation, magic, etc…” – Patheos Pagan Portal editor Star Foster, asking if arranged marriages would work for the Pagan community.

Frater Barrabbas (left) with fellow magician Tony Mierzwicki.

Frater Barrabbas (left) with fellow magician Tony Mierzwicki.

“I guess you could say that I prefer my current employment environment where my technical expertise is easily determined by tangible results that I produce every day. A professional magician would function more like a clinical psychologist, often with only some subjective testimonials indicating that the magick worked for this person or that it greatly helped them. As for me, my professional skill-set is constantly being challenged and measured, even certified by an official testing regimen. Since there is nothing like that in the occult world, then claims of self-mastery and teaching accolades would have to be verified by the subjective opinions of various individuals. For myself, I would find this too intangible and tenuous. There is also the problem that if I initiate and teach someone, any fees that I might apply to that teaching would have to be done on a purely “quid pro quo” basis. I could never charge another initiate anything more than what would cover my out of pocket expenses, if even that.” – Frater Barrabbas, on why he won’t become a Professional Pagan Magus.

Book cover for "Manifest Divinity".

Book cover for “Manifest Divinity”.

“I don’t believe just because you choose not to do something that you are a bad person.  I think you made a different choice.  You have to live in our society so you get to decide what you will do and won’t do.  Society is differnet for different people.  We know people in the Pagan community who are very closeted, whose family doesn’t know what their actual spiritual practice is.  And we know people who just can’t understand why you can’t be spiritual every minute of the day and out there and open and loud and proud.  The culture you are living in is not necessarily as uniform as we’d like to believe.” – Lisa Spiral Besnett, author of “Manifest Divinity,” responding to a question from PNC Minnesota about personal boundaries and choosing not to do what a deity has told you to do.

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

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.

Design by Jeff Leiboff.

Design by Jeff Leiboff.

Actors portraying Angela Sanford and Joel Levya.

Actors portraying Angela Sanford and Joel Levya.

  • Angela Sanford, a Wiccan who killed Joel Leyva in what some media described as a ritualistic sacrifice, has had a request for a reduced sentence denied. Sanford has been sentenced to 20 years under a plea agreement, her story was recently dramatized on the show Fatal Encounters.
  • The Pagan community has been in the process of having a debate/discussion over the issue of obesity. It started with a post by Peter Dybing, and has been raging ever since. Notable responses have come from Star Foster,  Iris Firemoon, and  Kitsune Yokai at the Fat Pagan blog, with Margot Adler, Crystal Blanton, and Shauna Aura adding their voices in the comments of Peter’s blog. The most recent commentary on the question of health and obesity comes from T. Thorn Coyle: “There is some real dialogue, some hurt feelings, some anger, and some derision. Bottom line is this: we all have ways in which we do not walk our talk. Bottom line is this: we cannot know what another’s life looks like on the inside, by observing it from the outside.” As this conversation  no doubt continues, I hope we can steer clear of judging bodies, and instead focus on building a more supportive community for everyone.
  • At The Revealer, Alex Thurston writes about syncretism in Islam within the context of Mali and the destruction of Sufi shrines. Quote: “The alternative – and the greatest challenge to Ansar al Din’s program – is not to assert Islamists’ hidden love for the things they say they hate, but to assert the reality, the desirability, and the possibility that there is more than one way to be a real Muslim. Timbuktu in 2012 is not Mecca in 630. African Muslims are Muslims, full stop. And the loss of shrines in Timbuktu is a loss not only for world civilization and for locals, but also for Islam.”
  • PNC-Minnesota recently published two interviews, one with M. Macha NightMare, and one with Lady Yeshe Rabbit, who will be appearing at Sacred Harvest Fest. Quote: “I am bringing an open mind. I am interested in learning and sampling from you all the regional flavors of your community. I am bringing my own classes and rituals that I will be leading. One is a project that has been dear to my consciousness, called American Sabbats. It is looking at the secular, bank holidays of this country and their history, and the amount of energy that is generated within them. How the energy of those holidays, which many of us celebrate in addition to our Pagan holidays,  might be channeled toward the greater good of our country. There are many changes needed in our country in order to be healthy. I am curious to go and sample what the opinions and thoughts are of all of you who have a unique experience of America from your vantage point in the Midwest.”
  •  The US Dept. of Justice is supporting Native American inmates in their quest to have a South Dakota ban on using tobacco in religious ceremonies lifted. You can read the DOJ’s supporting brief, here.
  • Nicholas Campion, author of “Astrology and Cosmology in the World’s Religions,” shares an excerpt of his book at HuffPo’s religion section. Quote: “The ancient zodiac signs survive in the modern West because, uniquely, in an age of aggressive consumerism, media-overload and scientific materialism, they encourage people to reflect on themselves and their inner worlds; their hopes, fears and secret motivations. In mass culture, astrology replaces the remote scientific language of relativity and light-years with stories of love and luck. In an era when we are now aware that we live on an insignificant planet on the edge of a minor galaxy, astrology restores each individual to the center of their own cosmos. According to its practitioners it provides a sense of personal meaning and purpose and, sometimes, a guide to action. Both astrology’s advocates and its critics find rare agreement on this point. This has nothing to do with the truth of astrology’s claims, but it does explain its survival in the 21st century.”

That’s it for now! Feel free to discuss any of these links in the comments, some of these I may expand into longer posts as needed.

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!

Witch School Ends the Reality Television Gravy Train: Yesterday Witch School International, the largest online learning institution for Wicca and magical studies, announced that it would no longer offer its services to reality television production companies for free, listing a number of deficits in the approach and methodology of such initiatives. Witch School CEO Ed Hubbard closed the statement by blasting companies that are “unwilling to place resources in our community’s hands, which would allow us to help win over the Networks. Instead we are treated like a free resource, as prop toys to be put away and abandoned when they are done with their failed presentations.”

Witch School CEO Ed Hubbard.

Witch School CEO Ed Hubbard.

As of today, Witch School International and CEO Ed Hubbard will no longer accept inquiries from Television and Movie Production companies. While Witch School has been involved with reality shows in the past, they are no longer interested in pursuing or being involved in any form of reality show. According to Ed Hubbard, “We will no longer be a free resource, which is how we have been used continuously by production companies in the past. We have provided everything from simple answers to detailed development packages, including the casting of sizzle reels. In all those requests, we absorbed whatever costs were incurred, and at no point were we offered remuneration or consideration for our cooperation. When a project died, we were never informed. This level of disrespect for us as a community has become too much to bear. Witch School will no longer be offering these services freely to any production companies.”

Since 2006, Hubbard estimates that Witch School has participated in “22 production company inquiries, 14 pre-development projects, considered 6 different holding agreements, and participated in 3 sizzle reels.” None of these resulted in an aired series or special. Hubbard also points out that many hold a misconception of Salem being the “Witch capital” of the world, when in reality it is the “Halloween capital,” with no “Witch Lifestyle Community present in any way.” As for the future? I would point out that the release said they would no longer consult or work for free. So there’s still the possibility of a Witch School-based reality show, but only if production companies are willing to pay for the privilege.

Goddess Without Borders Coming This Samhain: Lady Yeshe Rabbit, head of the Bloodroot Honey Tribe, has annoucned a new initiative called “Goddess Without Borders” that seeks to build an inclusive Pan-Dianic community by creating a joint resource in honor of the Goddess.

Lady Yeshe Rabbit. Photo: Greg Harder.

Lady Yeshe Rabbit. Photo: Greg Harder.

So, our Pan-Dianic elves (very fashionable elves, by the way) have been working away in our secret lair, fomenting revolution. Our crack team of cis-and trans- witches have been building a body of work that we are going to be making available, completely free of charge, in an online forum as of this coming Samhain. Our mission in this work is to provide a free website where individuals of all backgrounds may submit and publish their own, uniquely-designed altar workings, experience-specific rites of passage, general ritual outlines, spells, and other magical expressions in honor of the Great Goddess (who is whole and complete unto Herself). I am glad to say that Melissa Murry, our shero from PSG, has also been introduced to our team of ritual writers this week.

The “Goddess Without Borders,” project will be located at PanDianic.org by Samhain. In planning this project it was crucial to us that we make everything on the site completely free of charge. We are well aware that many pagan men and women, both cis- and trans-, struggle to gain access to the financial resources required to attend large festivals and conferences. By posting our rites online, allowing others to share their own, and making it all free, we intend to ensure that everyone has access to these documents. There is also the matter of transparency and representation. Much trust has been lost in this period of conflict. In order to establish good faith, we are committed that no single individual or group becomes “the voice” of this movement. So much around this issue has to do with language, words, and personal expression. We feel it crucial to maintain a forum where all are completely free to bring their own voices.

A call for participation, including guidelines, will be sent out in August. Then, a full launch during PantheaCon 2013, where a number of workshops and presentations based around the initiative are planned.

Modern Witch Magazine Releases Second Issue: The second issue of Modern Witch Magazine, produced by Devin Hunter and Rowan Pendragon, was released in print-on-demand format on June 21st. You can also obtain a digital download. This volume contains contributions from David Salisbury, Storm Faerywolf, Tim Titus, and Lady Yeshe Rabbit.

“After the release of volume one readers from all over the world let us know that Modern Witch Magazine was not only invited into their homes but their circles and temples as well.  We knew that we had done something good and from the sound of it our readers did too! The creation of volume one was without a doubt a birthing for us and as we began to unfold the concepts behind Modern Witch Magazine Volume 2 we knew one thing was for certain, this magazine would continue to be more than just another magazine.”

You can read more about this issue’s contents, here. Print-on-demand and digital publications seem to be the direction periodicals like this are increasingly traveling. Largely labors of love that operate on a shoestring budget, catering to specific niche audiences. With the rise of the iPad, Kindle Fire, Nexus 7, and other tablets, will we see a new blooming of (Pagan) magazine culture? One dominated by digital product, with physical copies a collector’s luxury?

In Other Community News:

That’s all I have for now! Are there blogs, podcasts, or other Pagan news sources you think I’m missing out on? Please leave links in the comments, and if there’s news in your community be sure to share it!

Last week, the Supreme Court of the United States upheld the constitutionality of the Obama Administration’s Affordable Care Act, a law that overhauls America’s health care system over the next decade, and includes a controversial health insurance mandate. While universal coverage is the norm in the majority of industrialized countries, here, we’ve created a hodge-podge predominantly market-driven system that all-too-often places profits and savings above the health of its citizens. Consequently, while access to health care is often an assumed given in countries like Britain, France, or Canada, here, it has become a decades-long moral and ethical struggle. Like all moral and ethical struggles, religious leaders and groups have taken various stands on access to health care, and on this law in particular. Once the decision came down that the law would survive, at least for now, Catholics, Evangelicals, Protestants, Jews, and large religious coalitions, all weighed in with their opinion. But what about our faith community, does our diverse movement speak with one voice on this issue? What do Pagans think about access to health care, and health care reform, in the United States?

President Obama signs the Affordable Care Act into law.

President Obama signs the Affordable Care Act into law.

Many of the leaders and prominent individuals within the modern Pagan movement I surveyed were happy that the Affordable Care Act was upheld, often with the caveat that they would prefer a single-payer system, as found in many European nations. Starhawk, co-founder of Reclaiming, and author of “The Empowerment Manual,” expressed that the ACA “is definitely an improvement over the callous and greed-ridden system we’ve got.” T. Thorn Coyle, co-founder of Solar Cross Temple, noted that “we currently live with such extreme social inequity that something like ACA does not go far enough. As long as the richest 10% of U.S. citizens control two-thirds of the wealth in the country, universal healthcare is a far better answer.” Perhaps the most succinct expression of this line of thought came from Phaedra Bonewits, a former board member of the Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans, and widow of the popular Druid author and thinker Isaac Bonewits, who said that although she was happy with the decision, “I still wish it wasn’t about health insurance. I don’t believe we need universal health insurance, I believe we need universal health care.”

“Healthcare delivery in the USA needs to be simplified, more holistic, and more user friendly. More mental health services need to be covered as well as effective alternative therapies. There needs to be good quality, affordable healthcare for all. I hope the Affordable Care Act will help move the reform process forward but realize that it is not a panacea.”Selena Fox, Circle Sanctuary

Digging deeper, what do modern Pagan faiths believe their religions teach them about heath care, and enshrining an affordable right to it? Often, there’s been a lazy slur that pre-Christian faiths, and their modern counterparts, have no conception of charity, or larger sense of obligation to their community. The most famous expression of this erroneous belief in recent history perhaps came from Jim Towey, director of the White House Office of Faith-Based & Community Initiatives under President Bush, who intimated disbelief that there was a Pagan group that cared for the poor, and that only “loving hearts” were drawn to such causes. Towey later walked back those comments, but they were emblematic of a belief that Judeo-Christian traditions were somehow unique in their concern for the less fortunate. The truth is that a significant number of Pagans I polled couched their support for the ACA within the context of their spiritual beliefs. For example, Cat Chapin-Bishop, a Pagan who also participates in Quaker spirituality, sees “a dense and complicated web of obligations and services” inherent in many forms of Paganism, and that “gods favor the generous. And a just society, in Pagan terms, absolutely does have the right to require us to be generous. To an observant Pagan, hospitality is mandatory, not optional.” Turning to Starhawk, she notes that Witchcraft traditions, which are centered in the belief of wise women and cunning men, healers, should “have a special interest in assuring access to health care for all.”

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

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

“I believe the core value in Pagan ethics is the understanding that we are interconnected and interdependent. On that basis, health care is an important right and everyone should have access to it. My personal health is not separate from your well-being. Health is partly a matter of personal responsibility, but all of us are subject to forces beyond our control. If we suffer illness or injury or sheer bad luck, we shouldn’t be left alone to suffer the consequences unaided. We live in a more and more toxic environment, and the constant assaults on our health from pollutants and radiation and the degradation of our food supply are our collective responsibility. No one should be left alone to bear the consequences of our collective failure to protect the life-support systems around us. Rather, it is to all of our benefit to share a public responsibility for our mutual well being, because every single one of us, at some point in life, will need that help. No one gets through life unscathed, and in the end we die. If we truly accept death as part of life, with its attendant break-downs of the body and the many sorts of mischance that befall us along the way, then we do well to offer one another solidarity and succor.”Starhawk

Further, T. Thorn Coyle shared that “as a Pagan, compassion, generosity, and honor are very important to me. I want to build culture that strengthens us, but acknowledge that we need a minimum level of care built in to our social structures so that each person can contribute her best.” Christopher Penczak, co-founder of the Temple of Witchcraft, while acknowledging that there is no singular Pagan viewpoint on this issue, seemed to support this ethos of obligation and support laid out by the others, noting that his temple “looked into the possibility of purchasing a group health insurance plan for various members of the Temple of Witchcraft who expressed need.”

While a number of Pagans are vocally supportive of the ACA, there are voices of concern and dissent from this view. Since Paganism is a movement, an umbrella term for a number of distinct faiths, there is no total consensus on this issue. Some, like Lady Yeshe Rabbit, head of the Bloodroot Honey Tribe, expressed support for the aid the new law will give to the underserved, while admitting she remains “wary of anything that potentially gives the federal government more authority over my physical body, especially with the current alarming trend toward limitation of information and quality care around reproductive freedom for women that we are seeing at state and local levels.” Lady Miraselena, a Wiccan Priestess within the Temple of the Rising Phoenix in Atlanta, also supported some of the law’s provisions, while rejecting the individual mandate as a “very dangerous precedent.”

“The more power we give to one institution, the government or otherwise, the more we sacrifice our own freedom. Pagan spirituality is about journeying along a difficult personal path with both triumphs and failures. Pagan spirituality removes that single dogmatic entity; freeing us from the shackles that seek to confine us with the promise of protection. Pagan spirituality gives us the right to soar as high as we are willing to work and to fall as low as we might. Without that spiritual incentive, we are just plodding through life without really living; without the creativity of existence. For me, this wisdom informs everything.”Lady Miraselena

Perhaps most the notable Pagan opposition to the Affordable Care Acts comes from Republican congressional candidate and New York City Councilman Dan Halloran, a Theodish Heathen, who blasted the ruling saying it has given the government “the last thing they need – encouragement to add more laws, taxes and rules that make health care so expensive in the first place.”

One source I spoke to for this piece, Dr. Barbara A. McGraw, a lawyer and academic scholar who writes on the American founding, disputes the idea that the ACA and the mandate in particular is oppressive or anti-liberty, asserting that “making healthcare available to everyone, even with a supposedly freedom-limiting insurance mandate, is more conducive to the American founders’ ideal of liberty for all than a health care system run by an unrestrained insurance industry in a Darwinian “free-for-all” healthcare market that results in domination by a few at the expense of the many and people dying because of lack of care.” Still, even with those Pagans who had reservations, or idealogical/theological problems with the new law, their opposition was for the most part distinctly qualified. Their opposition mainly couched within a libertarian “high-choice” ethos, rather than from a standard partisan position, often supporting some of the most popular sections of the new law.

Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary

Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary

Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary, striking a balance between the different positions on this new law, says that “regardless of what one’s viewpoints are on the Affordable Care Act, it is my hope that we all can find ways to innovate, communicate, and collaborate on bringing about a better healthcare system in this country.” All of the Pagans I spoke to expressed a desire for a better health care system, though there may have been disagreement on how exactly to bring that about. It is asking the question posed to us by Thorn Coyle: “What do we really value and how are these values reflected in the society we have built?” It’s clear that a great number of Pagans value a system where health care is accessible and affordable, and that we care not only about our fellow Pagans, but about the health of our fellow human beings, and the interconnected web of life on this planet. It is also clear that Pagans have a voice in the larger debates over health care, a unique and important perspective that should not be lost when society or the mainstream media searches for religious perspectives.

Source material used for this article:

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.

Happy World Tarot Day!

Happy World Tarot Day!

That’s it for now! Feel free to discuss any of these links in the comments, some of these I may expand into longer posts as needed.

Modern Paganism is a movement, an umbrella term for a variety of individual faith groups that share common practices, goals, outlooks, and theologies. In this, modern Paganism is more like Hinduism, than, say, Catholicism. There is no Pagan “Pope” or acknowledged leader that can label one group heretical, or cast individuals out. There is no singular statement of belief, or religious rule, that binds us all. So when schisms happen, when new groups form, our “umbrella” simply expands to encompass them too. That said, changes, evolution, and yes, schism, can signal a sea change within the larger whole (think of Buckland and Cunningham ushering in the self-initiatory “solitary” paradigm). A barometer to measure changes in our community’s weather. It is within this context, I feel, that we should view the press release just sent out by Lady Yeshe Rabbit and the Amazon Priestess Tribe.

Lady Yeshe Rabbit. Photo: Greg Harder.

Lady Yeshe Rabbit. Photo: Greg Harder.

“With gratitude for a wonderful learning experience and warm memories of sisterhood over the past 5 years, Yeshe Rabbit and the Amazon Priestess Tribe announce that as of today, March 8, International Women’s Day 2012, we are retiring from the Z Budapest lineage of Dianic Wicca in favor of forming an independent lineage that reflects our particular approaches and views regarding Goddess-centered practice.

We offer our reverent thanks for the wit, writings, and wisdom Z Budapest has offered us and the world, while acknowledging that we nonetheless find ourselves at thealogical and ethical crossroads with some core practices of her lineage.

Namely, we cannot support a policy of universal exclusion based upon gender at our Goddess-centered rites, nor can we condone disregard or insensitivity in communications regarding the topic of gender inclusion and Goddess-centered practice. We feel it inappropriate to remain members of a lineage where our views and practices diverge significantly from those of the primary lineage holder.”

Yeshe Rabbit was ordained by Dianic Elder Z. Budapest in 2007, and founded the Amazon Priestess Tribe soon after. Rabbit is also co-founder of CAYA Coven, a popular religious organization that provides public rituals in the Bay Area of California, of which the Amazon Priestess Tribe is a part. This break is quite significant, as it comes after over a year of controversy and dialog over the issue of transgender inclusion within women-only rituals. An issue that was sparked at the 2011 PantheaCon in San Jose after an Amazon Priestess Tribe ritual turned away transwomen and acted as a catalyst for a long-overdue conversation about the role of gender, and transgender individuals, within modern Paganism. That ongoing dialog was complicated, some would say damaged, by events at this year’s PantheaCon.

“Z. Budapest is part of our beloved community. I honor the work she and our foremothers have done to enable the rest of us to worship as we will. Sometimes we need to gently tell members of our beloved community that we feel they are in error. There are many ways to do this. Last year, we tried dialogue. Much was written and discussed on the issue of trans inclusion or exclusion. A whole conference was organized to help further this. An anthology was just published to continue the conversation. Steps were taken by CAYA, around whom much of last year’s controversy centered, to rectify the situation, including the planning of two rituals this year: one for self-identified women and one pan-Dianic rite for all genders.

The only words attributed to Z as part of the conversation of anger, exploration and healing last year felt ugly, hateful, and inflammatory to me, and this year, her one offering to our collective included the words “genetic women only.” After all the work so many put in last year, my heart could not let this stand unmarked. So I decided to engage in another form of dialogue: sitting in silence. Z has the right to perform her ritual. I have a right to sit outside in silence and prayer.”T. Thorn Coyle

Initially, it seemed that Yeshe Rabbit was trying to pursue a middle path between Z. Budapest and those sitting in silent protest, proposing a path of conflict resolution on the issue. Holding sacred space between the two positions. While that desire for conflict resolution may remain, it seems obvious that it was decided it could not happen while they are still formally affiliated with Z’s lineage. In today’s press release, the Amazon Priestess Tribe, along with Lady Rosmarinus Stehlik, and Devin Hunter’s Living Temple of Diana will henceforth refer to themselves as “Pan-Dianic” to differentiate themselves from the Dianic Tradition of Budapest. What does that mean? According to the statement, it means a formal realignment on issues of gender.

“We support, for those who wish it, ritually gathering around specific experiences with appropriately- and respectfully-invited attendees rather than biological determinism as a matter of universal exclusion. For example, we believe it is every 11-year-old Maiden’s right to determine who will be present at her First Moon ceremony. We equally support gatherings that are open to all self-identified women for exploration of the varieties of women’s experiences. We equally support groups of gay men gathering to honor their own Goddess natures. We support the right of trans-women to create rituals specific to their experiences, and to share these with other trans-women and cis-women as they see fit. We support the idea of cis-gender, cissexual, heterosexual men gathering to explore the Goddess as daughter, friend, universal love, mother, queen, self. And so forth, into infinite beautiful variety.

We hold for clarity, compassion, and linguistic sensitivity in delineating intentional sacred space, and mindfulness toward how we communicate around the topics of privilege, healing, and spirituality. Our discourse shapes the universe. Words are breath, power, actualization. We hold our use of language as a significant magical responsibility.

We hold a commitment to elevation of all women’s rights at the center of our vision. We believe that elevation of cis-women’s and trans-women’s rights to a position of honored equality will open humanity as a whole toward a more balanced and healthy approach to life, the planet, and consciousness.”

In addition, the Amazon Priestess Tribe has decided to stop using the term “Amazon,” and have renamed themselves the Bloodroot Honey Priestess Tribe. Part of the rationale for dropping the term was its link “with those whose approach to Goddess worship is predicated upon gender exclusivity.” You can see all the signatories to this statement, here.

One year ago, I said that the emergence of this debate, this dialog, was historic. That it would change us in ways we couldn’t envision within the moment. That our movement, our community, was readily adapted to accept the changes and challenges ahead in ways that other religious communities aren’t.

“If you look at how quickly modern Paganism has grown in the span of a single generation, particularly in the United States, it shouldn’t surprise anyone. When Margot Adler’s “Drawing Down the Moon” was initially published in 1979, gay and lesbian Pagans were just emerging from decades of silence and marginalization within our interconnected communities, now, 32 years later, we’re having serious discussions about “Gay Paganism’s Second Wave.” In such an atmosphere, the issue of how we treat, respect, and integrate transgendered individuals was destined to stop being a fringe topic dealt with only in passing, or in isolated corners, and demand a wider discussion.”

What we are witnessing, in real-time, is change happening. A realignment and reconsideration of gender within a Dianic context that seemed almost unthinkable a decade ago. No doubt there will be debate and analysis of this statement, and what it exactly means in practice, and what its true significance is, but I think that all might agree that this “retirement” can be, and should be, seen as a predictor for future changes in how modern Paganism thinks about, and engages with, gender identity.

ADDENDUM: Lady Rosmarinus Stehlik asked that the following clarifying statement be added to this post.

Please let it be known, to whom it may concern, that I have personally not retired from the Z Budapest Tradition. I Love, Honour and cherish the Dianic Tradition as I stand upon the Precipice of Personal Introspection and Reflection. My Inner Dianic Vision is evolving beyond my present experience. In the unfolding of Pan-Dianic Self Determination, I was present for a decision that engaged a Deep Current yearning to expand, and I agreed to embrace this nomenclature as one part of the Whole that I am. This does not negate my position as Dianic Heritage Keeper; as a matter of fact, it is Deep Devotion to Dianic Witchcraft that has motivated my actions. I Hold the Dianic Tradition as the Sanctum Sanctorum of Personal Autonomy, with a desire to Honour Understanding and Growth in All callings of the Goddess Diana from a point of Relation, moving forward. There is no either/ or in my logic, but a “this and that” thinking. All is One. In this Spirit, I stand as friend of Pan-Dianic Intent as a Dianic Priestess and Witch in search of understanding for All Walks of Life. I envision a Future in which the Dianic Community takes part of Future conciliatory realms of respect within an extended Dianic Reality; where It’s voice remains within Pan-Dianic Dialogue. Where it comes forth to speak of ItsTruth and Radiance. I feel called to facilitate dialogue in this quest; to build bridges of relation and to ensure a fostering of a common ground of Solidarity in the Name of Diana within the Greater Pagan Community.

With Love I support The Bloodroot Honey Priestess Tribe in facilitating possibilities for dialogue in this unfolding. To support the fostering of bridges of Peace, and Conciliation.

I am moving forward as a Dianic Priestess and Witch in the Spirit of bridge-building with the Pan-Dianic Paradigm- in celebrating the Beauty of Our Collective Diversity. I stand as bridge to All Dianic Worlds moving forward in Unity!

In Cosmick Sovereignty.
Lady RO