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In an article posted May 31, Kari Paul at the Broadly channel on Vice pitted Wiccans and professional tarot card readers against popular smartphone apps that purport to offer divination to any user at the tap of an icon. To Paul’s credit, her piece was not the sort of exploitation piece you often see when mainstream journalists cross paths with Witchcraft and Paganism. Her tone comes off as that of a sincere investigator trying to discuss a real tension between two different types of people.

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The Wildwood Tarot Application by Fool’s Dog [Photo Credit: H. Greene]

At the same time, Paul presents a relatively black and white world where the battle lines are clearly drawn: Witches have a bone (or a card, or a rune) to pick with programmers who think they can mathematically create the randomness and relationships necessary for accurate divination to occur. For example, she quotes one professional reader named Tea Cake who calls divination apps “extremely gimmicky and next to useless.” Tea Cake goes on to question the tarot skills of app programmers, stating that their unknown credentials make it “difficult to sort out what is bullshit.”

Another Witch in the article, Maria Palma-Drexler, tells Paul that “technology has its place in witchcraft, but only as an aide,” while another, known as Blue June, states emphatically that “practices like divination are better carried out the way they have been traditionally: by humans, not apps.” She stresses that “there is no need to add technology.” While Paul does quote author Mary K. Greer in support of apps toward the end of her piece, the overall picture is one of Witches and readers distrusting the skills and sincerity of software developers. It is right there in the headline: “Covens vs. Coders.”

Is that picture correct? Pagans are often less black and white in their thinking than other people and, much like the rest of the industrialized world, most have embraced the digital culture we live in today. Smartphones and the apps that go with them are just another part of that culture. According to some professional and experienced readers, there may actually be a much more complicated relationship between them and the new experience of divining by tapping an icon.

Fiona Benjamin [Courtesy photo]

Fiona Benjamin [Courtesy photo]

Fiona Benjamin, who reads tarot and bones professionally at modernfortuneteller.com, believes the apps can be used for divination, especially in public situations. “Sometimes you need to pull your cards out in a location where you can’t shuffle your cards,” said Benjamin. “I don’t see it as an ‘evolution’ of the physical cards so much as a welcome alternative.” As a parent of young children, she also notes the convenience of being able to answer a question for herself “without fear of ripped cards in the hands of babies.”

Lupa, a professional reader, blogger and author, believes these apps are useful for answering a querent’s needs. “I don’t see them as less effective than paper cards or carved runestones,” she said. “After a certain amount of experience the exact tool you use is kind of like Dumbo’s feather—it’s just a way to trick your mind into getting in the right place for divination.”

While some professional readers are on board with smartphone divination, others are not so certain about it. Yet their criticism does not come from the “extremely gimmicky” place mentioned by Paul. Their concerns are little more nuanced.

Lupa [Courtesy photo]

Lupa [Courtesy photo]

“I would love to say these apps are completely useless, but I don’t think that’s necessarily true,” states Mat Auryn, who reads tarot at shops throughout New England as well as on his own website. “Do they work for divination?” asked Auryn. “Yes and no.”

Basing his theory of the tarot on Carl Jung’s ideas of synchronicity and the collective unconscious, he said that, “The collective unconscious is always trying to communicate psychic information to us via symbolism.” He stressed that, “the cards that are drawn are the cards meant to be seen.” Divination, by that theory, is admittedly possible.

The trouble, according to Auryn, comes both with how the software is developed and how it is used. The apps rely “on computer generated algorithms instead of randomly shuffling,” a weakness which harms the random nature of card pulls. “Both are random,” he explained, “but one is based on preset coding, which will eventually repeat.”

A further concern, according to Auryn, is that “most of the meanings are set and short,” which means that, “without a deep understanding of the cards, the answer is totally out of alignment with the question and the position in the spread.” The cards, then, may be providing the correct message, but the finite number of keywords available to the user may not be able to accurately convey the intended message. The implication here is that one must already be experienced in the tarot in order to accurately interpret the messages on the screen. Of course, an appreciable number of users do not have that expertise.

Mat Auryn [Courtesy photo]

Mat Auryn [Courtesy photo]

Auryn concluded that, while the apps are not useless, they need to be used wisely. “A legit psychic is tapped into the collective unconscious,” says Auryn. “The professional reader is an expert in their field.”

“The difference,” he said, “is the same as going to the doctor and having a WebMD app.”

In Paul’s original Vice article, the lack of person-to-person energy was a major concern. “Each client comes in with their own energy,” Blue June was quoted as saying. “The problem with an algorithm is that it’s just random—it has nothing to do with intuition.”

Auryn only partially agreed with that statement. “It is important to feel the energy of a client,” he admitted, “but that doesn’t have to be in person.” Since we are all connected by the collective unconscious, in his view, “distance has no bearing on a reading.”

Mary Paliechesky, who has been reading tarot for over 30 years, agreed. She said that, “I used to agree that you needed to feel the energy of the person that you are reading. However, I think that was an artifact of my skill level and training. The energy is all around us. You can connect to a person across space as long as you know their energy.”

Mary Paliechesky [Courtesy photo]

Lupa said that she does prefer to check in with clients during a reading. “Any reader, no matter how good,” said Lupa, “is by necessity projecting some of their own biases into the reading, and it’s important to make sure that they match up with the client’s experiences.” The ability to check in with a client, a capability that is difficult to obtain through an app, helps to eliminate a reader’s bias.

In her professional life as a reader, Benjamin is more concerned with communication than with energy. “I can feel the energy all day long,” she explained, “but if I am failing to meet the needs of the client or if I don’t communicate the message in a way that is clear, the reading will not be useful.”

To be fair, the Golden Thread Tarot app, which is featured in Paul’s article, does contain some emotional interfacing to address this concern, but it allows only a limited number of emotional responses from the user, leading back to the criticism of being finite. It’s not useless, and some professionals even say they use this app regularly, but as experts it is much easier for them than it would be for a typical client. In the end, perhaps unsurprisingly, the relationship of professional readers and experienced Witches to electronic divination is a much more complicated picture than Paul seems to paint. While there are some reservations in the community, there is not an attitude of wholesale rejection, and there is a definite strain of recognizing their value.

Auryn cautioned that, “It is important to remember that you always get what you pay for. There is no app that can ever replace a talented psychic or an advanced student of the tarot.” Others, however, are much more positive. “Divination apps are genius,” concluded Benjamin. “A tarot reader’s skills will never be diminished because of technological aid.” In the same camp, Paliechesky put it simply: “Times change and energy is all around us. If it works for you, it works.”

Minneapolis, Minn – For the past six years, Twin Cities Pagan Pride (TCPP) has hosted Paganicon, a three day indoor conference featuring the opportunities to learn, network and celebrate. Pagans and Heathens from across the U.S. are joined by Canadian visitors and the occasional overseas guest to partake of Minnesotan hospitality.

PaganiconMinneapolis is a large and dynamic city that is cut by the mighty Mississippi River and sits alongside the city of St. Paul. Together they are known as the Twin Cities. Urban sprawl has engulfed smaller surrounding communities creating a metro area made up of more than three million people. The city is also a place with an uncommonly large Pagan population and has been dubbed “Paganistan”.

This affectionate moniker was coined by local poet, priest and “Man in Black” Steven Posch. In his 2005 essay “Witch City, Pagan Nation,” he tells the story of this naming. Adding to Minneapolis’s reputation as a Pagan mecca is the presence of the world’s largest independent publisher of metaphysical books, Llewellyn Worldwide. Founded in 1901 in Portland, Oregon, the company moved to Los Angeles in 1920. When St. Paul native Carl L. Weschcke purchased the company in 1961, he brought operations home to the Twin Cities.

In recent years, helping to build this reputation and the community through news sharing is the  Pagan Newswire Collective-Minnesota Bureau edited by Nels Linde. Is it any wonder that Pagans and Heathens would be drawn to a place that boasts a Witches Hat shaped water tower on the highest point of land in the region?

[Photo Credit: Marumari / Wikimedia Commons]

[Photo Credit: Marumari / Wikimedia Commons]

TCPP is an independent entity, incorporated in 2008 as a non-profit, tax exempt organization. The original intention of the group was to run an annual Pagan Pride event in conjunction with the national Pagan Pride Project, on the first Saturday after Labor Day. With such a huge population of Pagans in the Twin Cities, this event led to the need for another big opportunity for the community to gather. This need gave birth of Paganicon

Since its inception in 2011, Paganicon has grown by leaps and bounds. The first year featured 40 events and one guest of honour. This year’s conference featured 115 events, three guests of honour , three featured guests, one featured ritualist and 55 additional presenters.

The attendance reflects this growth as well. According to TCPP President, Wendy Seidl “Every year we break a record, it just gets bigger and bigger. This year we were hoping to break 500, and we did by Saturday morning.”

Guests of Honour T.Thorn Coyle and Ivo Dominguez Jr. (photo by Dodie Graham McKay)

Guests of Honour T.Thorn Coyle and Ivo Dominguez Jr. [Photo Credit: D. Graham McKay]

Hospitality is the first thing that strikes you as you enter the hotel, a Double Tree by Hilton located in the St. Louis Park area. The hotel staff seem to really like having a colourful bunch of Pagans in their midst. Special menu options, including vegan and gluten free selections are available, and the hotel bar brings in local cider and mead specifically for the conference delegates. The first TPCC volunteers you meet are at the registration desk, and they are equally warm and welcoming, despite being swarmed by people wanting to register for the weekend, buy merchandise or ask questions.

It is here that anyone can become a member of the “Flying Monkey Squad,” the team of volunteers who look after everything from badge checking to decorating and clean up. Not only is this a great way to meet new people, but you can also get a rebate on your registration for taking shifts. This atmosphere was appreciated by writer and Paganicon workshop presenter, Jason Mankey:

Paganicon compares nicely to other indoor Pagan events like ConVocation and PantheaCon. The vibe was welcoming and laid back, and the hotel that hosted the event was perfect. (Having the right type of rooms for presentations makes a big difference). One of the things I like about smaller events is that they often have a more “group community” feel to them and I felt that way at Paganicon. The organizers were on top of everything and everything was set up nicely.

Guest of Honor, Ivo Dominguez Jr. summed it up by saying:

This year it was a much larger conference and remarkably it still managed to be just as warm and cohesive as it was at my first visit. I was especially pleased by the variety and the diversity of the presenters, the topics, and the respect shown to them.

This years theme was “Sacred Traditions: Global Visions and Voices.” The influence of this could be felt throughout the weekend, from the workshops, lectures and rituals to the Equinox Ball on Saturday night and the party suites. The Wild Hunt was a presence this year, treating conference delegates to a party room that featured fancy martinis and a mashed potato bar, which is apparently a “Minnesota thing.” On Saturday morning,the TWH team, consisting of managing editor Heather Greene, assistant editor Terence P. Ward and writers Cara Schulz, Crystal Blanton, Manny Tejeda-Moreno and myself, presented a panel discussion on the history of the site and its service to the greater Pagan communities.

One of the most unique features of this conference is the inclusion of The Third Offering Gallery, an art show, comprised of Pagan artists, most of whom are from the Twin Cities area. Sixty six pieces of original art by more than 30 creators were showcased. New to the art show this year was a print room, where featured artists could sell reproductions of their work, as well as smaller pieces. The originals works were up for sale as well, with several beautiful pieces being snapped up by the time the gallery closed on Sunday at noon. This gallery, as well as the vending area were open to not only conference delegates, but to the general public as well.

Other programming highlights from the weekend included multiple and sometimes back to back offerings from the three high-profile Guests of Honor – T.Thorn Coyle, Ivo Dominguez Jr. and Mambo Chita Tann. The opening ritual, which was led by Australian guest Jane Meredith, featured the Guests of Honor, and the large conference room it was being held in was packed to the point that it could not accommodate everyone who tried to get in. Mambo Chita Tann not only presented lecture on Haitian Voodoo, but on Saturday night hosted a ceremony as well. Artist, author and certified ecopsychologist ,Lupa, brought mental health and the natural world to her workshop “Ecopsychology for Pagans”. TWH’s own Cara Schultz brought us to ancient Greece for her “Omens & Curses” lecture.

Tribute space placed at the center of the Restorative Justice circle by Crystal Blanton and T. Thorn Coyle. [Photo Credit: H. Greene]

Tribute space placed at the center of the Restorative Justice circle by Crystal Blanton and T. Thorn Coyle. [Photo Credit: H. Greene]

The blending of the serious content and the fun atmosphere was one standout feature of this conference. Even the hardworking presenters had a chance to kick back and enjoy. Ivo Dominguez Jr., who presented seven events and helped present the opening ritual, observed:

I was impressed by the balance of serious work and good fun. I really can’t choose just one of the many things that I enjoyed. Perhaps the best thing is that the attendees and the staff seem to strive to make things work out for the best outcome available in the moment. Paganicon is one of the few events that I attend that truly attempts to include the full gamut of things that add up to the building of culture and connections in our various spiritual communities.

Jason Mankey found time to have fun between his lectures, reflected:

For me something like Paganicon is work so I have to balance work highlights with personal ones but there are a few that stand out. I had an amazing class at my “Drawing Down the Moon” workshop, and it was literally so full that I think a few people turned away because they couldn’t find a seat. That was gratifying and I loved it. The social aspects of the conference were great too. I got to reconnect with some of my favorite people from around the country and hang out with some new folks. I ended up spending Friday and Saturday evening in the company of some great Winnipagans, which was not something I expected going into the event, that was a highlight.

Next year Paganicon promises to break records once again. During the opening ceremony address, programming coordinator Becky Munson broke the news that for the first time, Paganicon will be raising the registration fee by $10. She then proceeded to deliver the good news that a Friday night concert will be added to the already busy and diverse schedule. In a later interview Munson went on to say:

Each year it gets a little bit better, things get a little tighter, we learn a little more and can dial in on what people want and makes good sense and what we can do logistically in all those things. We look at every single feedback form – the whole board does. We do a post mortem and have a whole board session to just go through the forms. Every suggestion is tabulated. We pick all of our next year’s stuff based on those forms. Paganicon is a community driven event. It takes everyone being here, everyone buying tickets, everyone presenting programming and everyone engaging each other in order for this to be a thing.

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Paganicon 2016 makes the local paper [Photo Credit: H. Greene]

12795549_10207087385915921_6600200379585657996_nIt was announced yesterday that Senior Druid A.J. Gooch had died suddenly upon arriving at Sunday’s Winterstar Ball, a yearly fundraising event to honor the legacy of Jeff Rosenbaum. A.J. was a longtime member of the Rosenbaum’s Starwood Community, as well as the Barony of the Cleftlands, the Cuyahoga County, Ohio chapter of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA). A.J. was also member of Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship (ADF) and the Ohio-based Stone Creed Grove. He regularly attended Cleveland Pagan Pride.

Along with his many community roles, A.J. devoted much time to his position as “the Senior Druid of Stone Creed Grove, and was serving as the Assistant Senior Druid at the time of his death.” Friends and family have been posting photos and stories on his Facebook page to commemorate his life and share the ways in which A.J. touched the community. Cleveland Pagan Pride organizers posted, “Our positive thoughts are with his wife and children in this time of mourning. Journey well our brother to your ancestors that await you in the Summerland. Blessed Be!”

Stone Creed Grove (SCG) is planning a memorial service and will post more details on its own website as plans are finalized. SCG Officers added that if anyone would like to offer assistance to A.J.’s family, contact them directly. They wrote, “We know that AJ touched many lives in the many groups he was involved in. He will be remembered with honor as he joins the Mighty Dead in the summerlands.” What is Remembered, Lives!

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Falcon CircleOver the past week, a number of conservative media outlets have been replicating a story originally posted by Judicial Watch, entitled, “Air Force Academy Uses Chapel Tithes and Offering Fund to Pay for Cadets’ Attendance at Festivals Celebrating Witchcraft, Faery Magick, and Voodoo.” The original report criticizes the Academy for using donated funds to send cadets to Pagan religious events, citing both Beltania and the Denver Witches’ Ball. Judicial Watch based its article on a number of receipts and documents obtained directly from the academy.

Since Judicial Watch published its initial report, it has attracted the attention of mainstream media sites as well as smaller conservative outlets. Additionally, a number of concerned Pagan organizations have gotten involved and are speaking out in defense of the Air Force Academy and the local Denver Pagan community. Rev. Joy Burton and Jo Butler, directors of Living Earth Church, published a statement on their website in response to Judicial Watch. In that statement, they said that nobody from Judicial Watch ever contacted them about these concerns. Living Earth Church hosts the annual Beltania retreat cited in the story. Rev. Burton told The Wild Hunt, “Living Earth has respect for all faiths and appreciates those who answer the inflammatory words with calm, reasoned responses.”

In addition, Lady Liberty League has gotten involved. Rev. Selena Fox stated that the organization “supports fair and equal treatment of those of the many religions, spiritualities, and philosophies serving in all branches of the US Military. We are thankful that the Air Force Academy supports the rights of its members to practice their religion or no religion at all.” Members of LLL’s Military Affairs Task Force have been working with Living Earth Church, the Sacred Well Congregation, and the Pagan Circle at the Air Force Academy, and others who have been or may be directly affected by the Judicial Watch article.

To thank Lady Liberty League for its support in Denver and elsewhere, Living Earth Church board members voted last night to donate “5% of Beltania Festival 2016 proceeds” to the LLL. Rev Burton said, “May these unkind and dismissive attacks never dissuade us from building bridges of understanding. May the ignorance and negativity only remind us of the need for greater learning and love. Beltania 2016 will be our most open-hearted and welcoming festival ever, and we invite all to join us this coming May to show support for our cadets and help build community.”

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Taylor Ellwood

Taylor Ellwood

Publisher and author Taylor Ellwood posted a third “Open Letter to Pagan Convention Organizers and to Pagan Presenters” on his blog. The post, dated Feb. 24, opens with: “Back in December of 2015 I wrote 2 open letters to Pagan Convention Organizers. In the first letter I explained that I no longer wanted to present at events where I was expected to pay to present and no compensation was offered for my efforts. In the second letter, I called for transparency on how guests of honor and featured presenters are selected.”

Ellwood went on to share several bloggers’ responses to his initial calls to action.Then he thanked convention organizers, renewed his request for transparency, and clarified his position. He wrote, “I’m not [selling out] … I’m just accepting that there are certain realities to putting an event together that involves a lot of expense and moving parts. I get that […] but I want what I have to offer acknowledged and valued.”

Finally, Ellwood announced his plans to host a virtual conference. He said, “It’s going to take a while for me to do it, but I will do it […] More importantly, I promise that you will have the potential to make money.”

In Other News: 

  • Artist and Author Lupa will be launching her second Tarot of the Bones crowdfunding campaign. The original IndieGoGo campaign was started last spring and ultimately raised $10,148 dollars toward the deck’s production This next campaign will cover “printing costs for the completed deck and book set.” The campaign will launch March 1 and will run for 60 days. Lupa said, “Campaign backers will be able to choose from a variety of perks, ranging from The Tarot of Bones deck and book set to original assemblage pieces used for the card art. Previous campaign backers and new supporters alike will be able to choose standalone perks like prints and limited-edition bone jewelry, as well as perk packages including The Tarot of Bones deck and book.” More information is on the Tarot of the Bones official website.
  • Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPS) has posted details about their upcoming summer event. The CUUPS board said, “We are very excited to announce that the Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans will host its Convocation on August 26-28, 2016. All CUUPS members, UU’s and those interested in UU Paganism, Earth and Nature Centered Spirituality are invited to register and attend.” It will be held at the “First Church UU in Salem has roots dating back to the Salem Witch Trials of 1692.” This year’s speakers include, John Beckett, Byron Ballard, Silver Branch, Gypsy Ravish, and Rev. Shirley Ranck. More details on the event and the registration process are located on the CUUPS Patheos blog site.
  • The Wild Hunt is proud to announce the addition of a new columnist. Karl E. H. Seigfried will be joining the TWH monthly writing team. Seigfried is known for his dedicated work at the Norse Mythology Blog, which has been recognized as one of the top blogs on the topic. He will be joining us to share his expertise in Norse Mythology, comparative religion and media. His first Wild Hunt article will be published at the end of March.
  • Looking for some new music? Sencha the Vate has released an album called Mists on the Mountain. It is described as featuring “soothing Native American flute and guitar compositions.” Details are available on Sencha’s new website.

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In 2014, an estimated 300,000 people marched through the streets of New York City and another 40,000 in London in the biggest protest to draw attention to global climate change. The protesters came from all walks of life to stand together to raise awareness and demand action. The landmark event demonstrated, if nothing else, the universality of the concern and the growing acceptance that climate change must be addressed now.

PEC members hold an impromptu ritual during the march. (Credit:  Groundswell Movement)

PEC members hold an impromptu ritual during the march. (Credit: Groundswell Movement)

However, for the average person, affecting real change can become overwhelming and discouraging. Where do I begin? What can I do?  Will recycling a newspaper or using cloth grocery bags actually help? In a past Wild Hunt article on fracking, activist Courtney Weber, co-founder of Pagan Environmental Coalition – New York City, said, “I can’t fight for bees, deforestation and the black rhino. Philosophically I can. But practically I can’t.” She recommended that people, ‘Pick what’s local. Pick what makes you mad.”

Unfortunately, even at a local level, there seems to be an overwhelming number of causes that can make “you mad” from polluted waters and the KXL pipeline to deforestation of rainforests, such as in Tasmania, and the near extinction of species, such as the Black Rhino. Where does a single person begin to affect real change? Not everyone can be a full-time activist.

In recent article for AEON magazine, writer Stewart Brand makes an interesting observation, which may help to answer this question. Brand claims that “the idea that we are edging up to a mass extinction is not just wrong – it’s a recipe for panic and paralysis.” He argues that many people focus on a single extinction or threat, and fail to see the bigger picture. He wrote:

No end of specific wildlife problems remain to be solved, but describing them too often as extinction crises has led to a general panic that nature is extremely fragile or already hopelessly broken. That is not remotely the case. Nature as a whole is exactly as robust as it ever was – maybe more so, with humans around to head off ice ages and killer asteroids. Working with that robustness is how conservation’s goals get reached.

Brand’s concept can be applied well-beyond species protection, in that he compares environmental conservation to human medical care. While one scratch or bruise must be treated properly, these smaller ills are either isolated issues, or indicative of a far larger health problem. Like human wellness, conservation work should focus its resources on identifying and solving the larger problem, and on the general, sustainable health of the entire system – in this case, the ecosystem.

In other words, Brand argues that conversation science and environmental activism should look to repairing and balancing our world’s ecosystems, rather than only focusing on small fixes. And, according to the article, this thinking seems to be trending. He wrote, “As the new science of conservation biology came into its own in the 1980s and ’90s, focus shifted away from concern about the fate of individual species and toward the general health of whole ecosystems.”

With this shift to holistic Earth health, humanity’s role as protector changes. Within that perspective, we become a functioning part of the system, from the micro to the macro. As such, it becomes easier to locate a working role in conservation efforts, both from a practical and religious perspective. John Halstead, editor of Humanistic Paganism.com, said:

Part of my morning devotional is to take a moment on my way to my car to squat down and touch the earth.  I reach my fingers through the grass or leaves or snow until I feel the dirt under my fingers, and then I recite a paraphrase of a poem by Mary Oliver: ‘The god of dirt came up to me and said ‘now’ and ‘now’ and ‘now’, and never once mentioned forever.’  This helps make my Paganism feel real. The feeling of wet or cold or just the “dirt-ness” reminds me not to romanticize nature.  It reminds me that my deity is not the Goddess of the Earth, but the Goddess that is the Earth, the Earth that this very real dirt is a part of.  And it reminds me that that my Paganism needs to mean something for the health of the very dirt under my fingers and everything it is connected to. 

Similarly, Pagan artist Lupa said, “My path is Earth Stewardship. Not in the sense of chaining myself to giant redwoods or yelling at people online because their environmental choices are not my environmental choices. Mine is a quieter revolution based on trying to model better behaviors, ones that I’ve come to through many hours of considering the choices before me. I try to live as though everything is sacred, because to me everything is nature and nature is what I consider sacred.”

Blue Ridge Mountains

[Photo Credit: JSmith / Flickr]

In an opinion piece for The Guardian, George Marshall wrote, “Our understanding of climate change is built on scientific evidence, not faith. The faith displayed in the churches, mosques, and temples on every street is built on a deep understanding of human drives and emotions. Only when we put these different parts of our psyche together can we achieve change; to say to anyone who will listen: “I’ve heard the science, I’ve weighed up the evidence. Now I’m convinced. Join me.”

When referencing “faith,” Marshall is speaking of monotheistic religious practices. He does not address Paganism, Polytheism or Heathenry, many of which already exist at his coveted intersection. As demonstrated by Lupa and Halstead, many of these traditions function with a crossover between the understanding of human spirituality (drive and emotions) and the literal and scientific understanding of place (nature). Editor of Polytheist.com Anomalous Thracian wrote:

“Place” is a concept that gets talked about a lot in Polytheist religion, especially in discussions about regional cultus. In my practice, discussions of “place” are not abstract, but direct and literal, referring to both the specific spirits and deities of that specific place, as well as the physical expressions of that place. Groves of trees, formations of stone and earth, flowing currents of water, are not mere aesthetic assemblage to assist in the desperate grabbing and reaching after mental balance or sense of inner meaninglessness, but instead are — in their vibrantly material presence — the cornerstones of it all, where belief and practice converge.

The personhood-of-place, and its hierarchical placement in literal consideration, realized relational configurations and intentional interaction within the dynamics of hospitality and recognized role, are how it all starts. The places within the natural elemental world are the places where the gods reach through first to touch our lives in raw and visceral fashion, and it is these selfsame places that must be guarded not as holiest of relics but as holiest of relations. The actively and directly engaged protecting of this world, as a collective whole and in its individual places, is paramount to the authentic and embodied expression of any Polytheist endeavor and identity, for without the humility to know one’s place in the natural world one can never hope to hold true piety at the feet of the blessed gods.

Similarly Rev. Selena Fox, who worked closely with Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson, founder of Earth Day, on the very first celebrations, sees no distinction between her religious and environmental work. She said, “Environmental conservation and green living are essential parts of my life and work as a Nature religion priestess. In addition to tending shrines and ceremonial areas at Pagan sacred land, Circle Sanctuary Nature Preserve, I am part of ecological restoration, research and conservation endeavors there. Our national Pagan cemetery, Circle Cemetery, is one of the first Green cemeteries in the USA —  …  Ecological activism is sacred work.”

Although Thracian and Fox practice very different religions, their personal sense of place within the greater natural system, and the health of that system are paramount to both of their beliefs and their daily work. One cannot exist without the other.

Lou Florez, rootworker and witch, also agreed, saying, “I collect trash from rivers and ocean beaches, specifically from the areas where I give offerings and do rituals. I’m also cultivating a small medicine garden to engage a more sustainable relationship. When we talk about Earth-based traditions we are talking about being in connection, investing ourselves in the health and well-being of the land that sustains us.”

The sense of place within the ecosystem, in some form, appears to exist within the religious and spiritual practices of many Pagan, Heathen and Polythiest communities, whether or not the practice itself is considered Earth-based from an environmental perspective. This correlates to Brand’s notion of affecting change through holistic Earth health. As such, Pagans, Polytheists, Heathens may be helping to bridge that perceived gap between religion and environmentalism, as noted by Marshall.

Within the interfaith movement, that already seems to be the case. As mentioned in an earlier Wild Hunt article, Covenant of the Goddess’ Interfaith Representative Don Frew “relayed a story on how the 1990s global focus on the environment led to a greater interest or support for Nature-centered religions within the international interfaith world. Unfortunately, interest waned after 9/11.” Frew added that this is once again shifting.

Co-writer of CoG’s Environmental Statement and Interfaith Representative Aline (Macha) O’Brien said, “My way of expressing devotion, to Earth, to Mother Nature, to different deities, is to chant or sing.” O’Brien relayed a story in which she led a spiral dance at an interfaith wedding using “The Pleiades Chant.”* She said, “Shortly after the wedding, at MIC’s annual interfaith prayer breakfast, my friend Sister Marion of the Dominican Sisters of San Rafael came up to me and asked, ‘Now, how did that chant go?’ She said it had been running through her head and she’d really loved it and wanted a refresher on the wording. ”

Much of the work described, such as chanting, rituals and devotionals, are indicators of a spiritual connectivity between religion and place, from within the global ecosystem, rather than independent from it. While those actions alone will not heal the environment or balance the system, they do demonstrate a profound shift in thought. Courtney Weber said:

Turning this tide is tough work. Whether it’s denial, greed, or being overwhelmed by the problem’s size, somehow, the mere truth that we need to change our ways in order to preserve our species is not enough incentive to get enough people on board. Religion can hurt the environmental movement—particularly religions, which believe that a better life in a different world awaits humanity, or a desperately optimistic belief that “everything will work out as God/ess intended.” But religion can benefit the movement by instilling a moral imperative into its practitioners that preserving and improving our environment is a mark of grace and therefore, something that cannot wait.

Brand is optimistic saying, “The trends are favourable. Conservation efforts often appear in the media like a series of defeats and retreats, but as soon as you look up from the crisis-of-the-month, you realise that, in aggregate, conservation is winning.” The diversity and size of the attendance at the climate march is also sign of that favorable trend, as is the support for the “Pagan Community Statement on the Environment.” Awareness is a beginning.

Earth

Courtesy: NASA / Goddard Space Flight Center

Lupa agreed, saying “I want to invite others to retake their place amid the rest of nature, not as conquerors or guilt-ridden relatives or throwbacks to some dark age, but as members of a community. We’ve had plenty of doom and gloom about what will happen if we continue what we’re doing; I want to show people the benefits and joys of living closer to the land, whether that’s on a remote farm or (like me) in an urban apartment.”

Going back to the original question, “How can I help?” The big picture of environmental health can begin in very small ways, with the tiny ecosystems in our backyards, farms, empty city lots, terrace gardens or even public parks. If all these areas were regularly maintained as balanced, healthy ecosystems, they would, over time, eventually meet up, covering the world-over and, thereby, creating one big healthy, sustainable Earth.

 

* Author’s Note: “The Pleiades Chant” (via Aline ‘Macha’ O’Brien) “There’s a part of the Sun in an apple; There’s the part of the Moon in a rose; A part of the flaming Pleiades; In every leaf that grows.”

Cultural appropriation is not a new issue and definitely not new within Paganism. The story of American capitalism has created a strong foundation for what has continued to be one of the most important, and yet challenging, discussions underlying the modern Pagan experience. Conversations of cultural appropriation reach outside of the boundaries of this spiritual world and intersect with various other aspects of our everyday society, leaving a complex web to untangle.

For example, the New Age sector’s use of various aspects of Native American* cultures, as well as the selling or misappropriating of that culture, has continued to drum up controversy. Indian Country Today Media Network recently published an article called Selling the Sacred, exploring the objectifying of Native religious and cultural “secrets” in New Age arenas. The article highlights several places that claim to certify people as Shamans or even award a Masters Degree in Native American Shamanism.

[Photo Credit: Media123 CC lic. via Wikimedia Commons]

[Photo Credit: Media123 CC lic. via Wikimedia Commons]

Native Americans are not the only marginalized culture to be openly appropriated in the United States by New Age practitioners and even Pagan communities. Hindu deities and traditions have become more popular among some people, along with aspects of African heritage as well. It is just as common to find djembe drums in a Pagan fire circle as it is to find candles in a ritual. The line between appropriation and cultural exchange can be a very fine one. It is not only about the intersection of capitalism, but also colonialism enters into the equation.

There are many things to consider. When does exchange become more about honoring another culture rather than just adopting it while leaving its roots behind?

The growing eclecticism of Pagan practitioners make these distinctions more challenging to unravel. How do we determine the boundaries of respectful cultural exchange within modern Paganism when individual understandings of this concept are so vast and varied?

The complexity of exploring the nuances of cultural appropriation versus exchange are not easily defined by one set of criteria. Sabina Magliocco, Professor of Anthropology at California State University – Northridge, answered questions about the layered intricacies of the often controversial concepts of appropriation and exchange.

Sabina Magliocco at the Conference on Current Pagan Studies. (Photo: Tony Mierzwicki)

Sabina Magliocco at the Conference on Current Pagan Studies. (Photo Credit Tony Mierzwicki)

… while on paper one can try to distinguish appropriation from exchange, in practice, it’s much more complicated. Cultures come into contact with one another in many different ways, and some of those involve violence. Nonetheless, cultural exchanges do emerge from those contacts — all the time. Think of cultural exchange as a crossroads. In folklore, the crossroads is a liminal place of magic, but it’s also a dangerous place, a place where death and destruction can happen. Crossroads deities are tricky (Eshu, Loki, Odin) and fierce (Hekate). Yet from that destruction and trickery, new life arises. It’s kind of the same with cultural contact and exchange.

Usually, when defining cultural exchange, the premise is that the two cultures entering into the exchange are on equal terms: neither is more powerful than the other. Cultural material — narratives, verbal lore, music, material culture, foodways, magical techniques — are shared as part of the process of intercultural contact. Thus, for example, when the Irish settled in New York City after fleeing the potato famine in 1848, they found that all the storekeepers in the neighborhoods where they could afford to live were Jewish. They didn’t have any lamb or pork, but they did carry Kosher corned beef. Thus, corned beef substituted the kinds of meats they had eaten in their homeland. That’s the reason we think of corned beef and cabbage as “Irish” food today — it’s really Irish American food, born of that cultural exchange.

Appropriation happens when one culture conquers another, destroys or damages their culture and substitutes its own as the dominant culture, then borrows elements of the subjugated culture, re-contextualizing them for their symbolic value.

So, for example, the destruction of Native American cultures by European Americans, followed by the use of decontextualized elements from those cultures (feather headdresses, sweat lodges, jewelry, fringed clothing, architecture styles, concepts such as “spirit animal”) as icons of authenticity or spirituality is an example of appropriation.

All this is easy on paper, but more challenging on the ground, because in reality, cultures are seldom on equal footing in terms of power. Moreover, cultural borrowing and exchange happens constantly. We are moved to adopt elements we find attractive or advantageous through a process called “mimesis” (imitation).

Attempting to keep your own culture “pure” and free of any appropriated or borrowed elements is just as noxious as free-wheeling appropriation: it leads to a kind of cultural fascism, like what we see now developing among certain kinds of right-wing, nationalist Paganisms in Eastern Europe and Russia.

Basically, avoiding blatant cultural appropriation is about respecting the feelings and rights of other cultures with which you co-exist. It’s about recognizing when there’s a history of power-over, exploitation, and cultural destruction, and being mindful of that … It’s about power dynamics — and those are frequently subtle.

In light of the complicated, interwoven and challenging prospect of analyzing what might be culturally appropriative and what might be considered respectful exchange, several other people have shared their thoughts to this complex topic. The personal insights of these practitioners show a myriad different angles and ideals that mirror such diversity in thought and practice.

Lupa Greenwolf is an author and artist that has worked with shamanic aspects in her personal practice. She is the editor of the 2012 anthology Talking About the Elephant: An Anthology of Neopagan Perspectives on Cultural Appropriation published by Immanion/Megalithica Press. Lou Florez is a Rootdoctor and Orisha Priest in the San Francisco Bay Area. His spiritual work focuses on the liberation of the body, and he works as a southern-style Tarot and Dillogun reader at a metaphysical shop in Oakland, California. Kenn Day is the author of several books on post-tribal shamanism, including Post-Tribal Shamanism: A New Look at the Old Ways published in 2014 by Moon Books. Janet Callahan is an author of several published works and is an enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux (Lakota) Tribe.

Lupa

Lupa

The problem in a more practical sense is that, in the U.S. at least, there is no established shamanic path in the dominant culture, and so people who come from that culture (like me) have to choose either to try to shoehorn ourselves into an indigenous culture that we may not be welcome in let alone be trained in, or research cultures of our genetic ancestors and find that we are no more *culturally* German, or Slavic, or Russian than we are Cherokee or Dine’. Or we take a third road, which is to try to piece together from scratch some tradition that carries the same basic function as a shamanic practice in another culture, but which is informed by our own experiences growing up in the culture we happened to be born into.

As to how to realistically avoid appropriation to the best of your ability, while also honoring your own need for spirituality and the spirits/community you serve? A lot of it is a matter of educating yourself on where you’re coming from versus the origins of the traditions you may be inspired by, and how your own cultural experiences inform your own practice of similar-but-not-the-same traditions. One of the problems I have with core shamanism is that it claims to be “culturally neutral”, or at least a lot of the practitioners thereof claim it is. And that’s basically impossible. Your culture ALWAYS affects how you approach everything, from spirituality to communication to food. So try to be a shaman of your own culture, not of someone else’s (unless specifically invited).

I think the biggest problem is when non-indigenous people wholesale take indigenous practices, and then claim to be indigenous themselves. That’s part of what makes it tougher for people who are genuinely trying to create a practice for themselves while remaining as culturally sensitive as possible, because we get lumped in with those who outright lie about who they are. So you need to be honest and clear about where your practices come from and what inspired them, what’s your own creation and what came from others.

I’ve had people tell me everything from “You shouldn’t use the word ‘shaman'” to “You shouldn’t use a drum with a real hide head” to “You shouldn’t work with hides and bones at all”, all because I’m a European mutt. For a while I kept backing up and backing up and acquiescing to whoever criticized me–and then I realized that if I gave in to every criticism, I’d have no practice left at all. So I very carefully reviewed what my practice entailed, did my best to claim that which I created myself while also being honest about how other cultures’ practices inspired me, and that’s where I drew my line, where I would back up no farther. I don’t consider myself a neoshaman any more, mostly because I don’t use specifically “shamanic” practices like journeying, and use the term “naturalist pagan” for what I currently practice, but I still work with hides and bones, I still have my totemic practice, all in ways that I have developed for myself over the years. – Lupa Greenwolf, Author

Lou Florez

Lou Florez [Courtesy Photo]

Experiences of appropriation have left me alienated and displaced in community. At its core appropriation is a form of violence and aggression against brown bodies and brown communities. It is a minstreling, a racist caricature that tells more about the frame of mind of the performer [appropriation is a performative act] then it does about the original practice or cultural significance. Not only does it cause harm through this mimicking of symbols and actions, but it further creates difficulties for seeing real images of brown people and our gods on community altars due to the fear of appropriation.I think that honesty is of utmost importance in these matters because there is a difference between a ritual inspired by a different culture versus one that claims a lineage in that specific tradition. My litmus test is this question, have you been given license to do ceremony and teach from these communities? Just as I would never read a book and pretend to be an authority in Gardenarian Wicca, you can’t read one book and think that you are a rootworker, conjure doctor, or a First Nation “shaman.” – Lou Florez, Rootdoctor and Orisha priest

Kenn Day

Kenn Day [Courtesy Photo]

Cultural appropriation is damaging both to the culture that is being taken from as well as the one who is taking pieces without context. The loss to the culture appropriated is obvious. The damage to the one doing the taking is more subtle.Back in the late 80’s I coined the term “post-tribal shamanism” to differentiate between the teachings I received and those of tribal cultures. However, many people make the assumption that, if you are practicing ceremony with ancestor spirits, then you have taken your practice from a native tradition. This is no more true than it is to assume that only tribal people have ancestors. The call to practice shamanism is found in every culture. Just like everything else, it appears differently in each culture, yet it is still recognizable.The most important difference I see between the shamanism practiced in tribal cultures and what I teach and practice is that the tribal practices are focused on supporting, healing and maintaining the most import unit of that culture: the tribe itself. Our situation is dramatically different, in that the most important unit of our culture is the individual. This is where our practices need to be directed. Too many traditional practices are simply not appropriate for use with individuals, just as what I do would not be appropriate for tribal people. – Kenn Day, Author and Professional Shaman

Janet Callahan

Janet Callahan

The history of cultural appropriation makes me more cautious when I encounter a new group or teacher or situation. I ask more questions about what is planned, look more at the history of who they’ve learned from, and so on. I want to make sure I’m not walking into a situation I can’t ethically support.

I think people really need to do their homework. They need to understand not just the physical aspects of a practice, but the bigger picture in terms of culture and language and what is really going on (and to do that, frequently you realize it’s not actually possible to take it out of context).

My immediate family is not “Traditional” (which is generally used to mean those who follow tribal ways rather than being Christian and otherwise following white ways), but portions of my extended family are. And what I understand now, that I think is lost outside of the culture, is that religion/spirituality and culture are woven together. They are not separate entities. And that means that taking something out of context loses much of the value of it. – Janet Callahan, Author

As the framework of culture continue to evolve and change, so does the black and white definition of what constitutes appropriation. The context of how something is regarded, shared, explored or used may vary within different cultures and different time frames. This means there is not a clear definition of what is and is not an acceptable with regards to the use of elements from another culture. Context is everything.

Instead we are left with a list of considerations that should be given to cultures, people and histories that are not our own, and a level of awareness that reminds us that everything is not open property just because we wish it to be so. Releasing the conditioning of post-colonialism in America reminds us that everything is not ours to take, everything is not ours to sell and everything is not free. What prices are paid when cultural treasures are taken from a people?

Kenn Day spoke to the complexity of learning to navigate our relationships with living cultures. He said, “These living cultures can be dealt with respectfully in much the same way as many modern seekers have approached native traditions of shamanism, by approaching them with humility and asking to learn from the lore keepers of that people. This means recognizing that their traditions are not yours to take. They can be gifted, but even then they remain within the territory of that people. It is demeaning to have elements of your culture taken out of context and displayed for the entertainment of those outside your community.”

How do we as modern Pagans respectfully exchange with other spiritual cultures? What are we giving in exchange for the knowledge that we gain and using for our own spiritual experiences? How can we respect the context, culture, history and people of the cultures we are exchanging with? All of these are questions that should be evaluated on an ongoing basis within any spiritual community that is growing and evolving.

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*Author’s note: I am very aware that many of the different names and labels, which are commonly used to refer to the indigenous of this land, come with traces of colonialism. Since there is no universally-respected term that can possibly fit all native indigenous/Native American/American Indians/First Peoples, I want to acknowledge this fact and communicate my sincere desire to be respectful.

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

WH2014_BIG

We’ll start off Pagan Community Notes with a big thank you to all those people and organizations who supported our 2014 Fall Fund Drive. You helped us meet and exceed our goal, and for that we are very grateful. Over the next month, we will be contacting those people who requested perks. Columnist Eric Scott is already hard at work on those Panda drawings.  Again thank you from all of us at The Wild Hunt.  Now on to the news….

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margot-adlerOn Oct 31, Margot Adler’s closet friends and family gathered in a private memorial service to honor her life. The event was held at the All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church in New York City. Andras Corban-Arthen was in attendance and has posted several photos on his public Facebook page. In her will, Margot had requested that EarthSpirit’s ritual singing group, Mother Tongue, perform at her service. Corban-Arthen said, “We were all very glad and honored to perform a few pieces in her memory.”

Starhawk has published the words she wrote for the memorial service on her blog. She ended the piece saying, “As [Margot] takes her place among the Mighty Dead of the Craft, she becomes even more fully what she has always been: an ally, a friend, a wise guide, a challenger and a refuge.”

On Oct 30, Rev. Selena Fox, another longtime friend of Margot’s, announced that Circle Sanctuary was “dedicating a memorial stone for Margot and placing it at [it’s] green cemetery, Circle Cemetery, a place that Margot visited and loved.” The stone includes the words, “Drawing Down the Moon, Inspiring Pagan Voice.”

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time-logo-ogOn Oct 28, TIme Magazine online published an article entitled, “Why Witches on TV Spell Trouble in Real Life.”  The article has generated a storm of controversy that has led to a petition on Change.org and numerous other mainstream articles outlining Pagan response. Blogger Jason Mankey wrote, “I don’t think Ms. Latson’s article was intentionally insulting. She was simply trying to rationalize the explosion of Witch-themed shows on cable television. Fair enough, that’s the kind of article we all expect this time of year, but her execution was exceedingly poor.” We will be following up on this story later in the week.

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Cara Schulz

Tomorrow is election day in the U.S. As we have already reported, Wild Hunt staff writer Cara Schulz is running for Burnsville City Council. In recent weeks, she ran into some conflict over her religion. Although Schulz hasn’t hidden her beliefs, a local resident only recently discovered that she was Pagan, and sent a concerned letter to the editor. After it was published, Schulz responded by saying “The letter wasn’t explicitly degrading towards Pagan religions, but it’s clear the motive was to induce fear and sensationalism about my religious beliefs and encourage people to vote for my opponents specifically because they aren’t Pagans.” She called the situation laughable, adding, “Religion is irrelevant to a person’s fitness for public office and is private.” Schulz has called on her opponents to denounce the letter’s intent. However, that has yet to happen.

In Other News:

  • The organizers of Paganicon have announced that Lupa will be the 2015 Guest of Honor. They wrote, “We at Twin Cities Pagan Pride are extremely excited and honored to have Lupa join us.” They added that she’s a “perfect fit” to help explore the conference’s theme: Primal Mysteries. Paganicon 2015 will be held March 13-15 at the Double Tree in Saint Louis Park.
  • As announced by the Polytheist Leadership Conference, the New York Regional Diviners Conference is coming up this month.  As written on the site, “For one day in November, diviners from a plethora of traditions will gather in Fishkill, NY to discuss their art, network, exchange knowledge, and learn new techniques.” The conference is held on Nov 29 at the Quality Inn in Fishkill.
  • Treadwell’s Bookshop owner and Wild Hunt UK Columnist Christina Oakley Harrington was interviewed for a short film called “Witches and Wicked Bodies: A ZCZ Films Halloween Special.” The 9 minute film focuses on the British Museum‘s current exhibition of “Witches and Wicked Bodies.” Toward the end of the program, the host visits Treadwell’s and talks to Christina about modern day Witchcraft and Pagan practice.
  • Cherry Hill Seminary announced the start of a new class called, “Indigenous Traditions of the Sacred.” The class is being taught by Leta Houle, who “is Plains Cree from the Sturgeon Lake First Nation in Saskatchewan.” The program’s goal is to introduce students to the “meaning of what is sacred to Indigenous peoples, including the issue of cultural appropriation.”
  • This October the Northern Illinois University Pagan Alliance decided to try something entirely new. They ran a Pagan Spirit Week from Oct 27-31. President Sara Barlow explains that the purpose was “to raise awareness of and celebrate the presence of Pagan students at Northern Illinois University. We invited others on campus to learn more about aspects of our culture through activities such as meditation, anti-stress charms, divination, runic magic, and our open Samhain ritual.”  Barlow said the response was excellent and that they even picked up a few new members. Now the group hopes to make Spirit Week a yearly tradition.

That is all 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!

pantheacon 2014We may be in the midst of Summer outdoor festival season, but the engine that drives West Coast Pagan mega-convention PantheaCon churns ever forward towards February 2015 as it announces that they are now accepting programming proposals. Quote: The PantheaCon Programming team would like to inform you that the online programming form for PantheaCon 2015 is available on our website!  We invite anyone interested in presenting at PantheaCon 2015 to go to https://pantheacon.com/wordpress and click on one of the links to Submit a Presentation Idea or Resources for Presenters.  Our theme this year is Pagan Visions of the Future. […] Our Round 1 deadline is September 1, 2014.  Submitting your ideas by September 1 increases your chances of being scheduled and may result in some helpful feedback!  After our Round 1 review, we will ask some presenters to revise their submissions for consideration in Round 2.  In addition, presentations not scheduled during Round 1 will be considered during Round 2.” So get your best on-theme ideas ready, and perhaps you be the giving the talk to see this coming February.

Lupa

Lupa

Artist, author, and shamanic practitioner Lupa Greenwolf has announced that she will be trying out the artist support service Patreon, where individuals commit to a monthly donation in exchange for exclusive perks. Quote: “What do I get out of this? Not just money. I get stability and more of an ability to budget from month to month. And that’s a huge benefit. Knowing that I am guaranteed to get a certain amount of money coming in from my patrons, regardless of whatever other sales and income I get, helps reduce the stress of chasing after dollars. Moreover, it tells me that those who choose to become my patrons really want to see me keep making creative things. I love making art and writing for myself, don’t get me wrong, but it takes other people loving my art and writing enough to compensate me for it that allows me to keep creating at the rate that I do. And at the end of the day, it feels really, really good that enough people like what I do to enable me to be a full-time creative sort. It’s a great motivator to keep making cool things happen.” She’s already reached over $100 dollars per month from 8 patrons, and it looks like it might be an interesting way for several creative people in our community to help make ends meet.

Morpheus Ravenna

Morpheus Ravenna

I’ve written a fair bit about the massive success that has been Morpheus Ravenna’s IndieGoGo campaign for her book-writing project “The Book of The Great Queen,” which has now raised more than double its $7,500 goal. In response, Ravenna has proposed a book tour that will grow as further stretch goals are reached. Quote: “The good news is that as of today, we’ve already raised enough to do two cities and just on the verge of a third. That means the book tour is already happening! You, my readers, still get to decide how extensive it will be and where I travel. I’ll be planning my tour sites based on where there seems to be the most active interest, so if you want me to visit your city, drop me a line to let me know! So far I’ve heard from folks in Seattle, Atlanta, Houston, Madison, and upstate New York. Where would you like to see me travel to? I’d also love to hear from people as to good venues in your area for a workshop and booksigning, or if there are events such as festivals or conventions you’d like to suggest as part of the tour. You can email me your suggestions.”  I suspect that several Pagan authors might start taking notes on what Morpheus Ravenna did right in this endeavor.

In Other Pagan Community News: 

  • This past weekend was the Polytheist Leadership Conference, and we’re looking forward to our own Rhyd Wildermuth’s report, but we hope to do a round-up of news and reflections from the event soon. Until then, Rhyd has been posting updates to his personal blog. You may also want to keep an eye on Anomalous Thracian, and his blog (that’s good advice in general, really).
  • Druid leader Philip Carr-Gomm has a launched a new spiffy-looking website.
  • Our fiscal sponsor, The Pantheon Foundation, was successful in raising slightly over $1000 dollars for their Diotima Prize, which will benefit a Pagan seminarian. Quote: “The Pantheon Foundation announces The Diotima Prize to support the educational goals of one Pagan student who is currently in at least their second year at an accredited seminary program.” Congrats!
  • Over at the Patheos Pagan Channel we find out the burning question: Who’s reading John Halstead’s blog? Quote: “Over of [half] you identify primarily as Pagan/Neo-Pagan (35%) or Wiccan/Witch (17%). This was not surprising, considering the makeup of the larger Pagan community. There is also the fact that I identify as Neo-Pagan and my practice and my thought is sometimes Wiccanesque, so it’s not surprising that my readers would be reflective of this. Eleven percent (11%) of you identify primarily as polytheist.” You gotta respect someone who does a survey.

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

Pagan Voices is a spotlight on recent quotations from figures within the Pagan community. These voices may appear in the burgeoning Pagan media, or from a mainstream outlet, but all showcase our wisdom, thought processes, and evolution in the public eye. Is there a Pagan voice you’d like to see highlighted? Drop me a line with a link to the story, post, or audio.

Dr. Jenny Butler

Dr. Jenny Butler

“I think there are many similarities between Irish Paganism and the Paganism of other nations, but also many differences. In a general sense, the distinctions between Irish Paganism and that found in Britain rest on the use of cultural resources. In Irish Paganism, there is much emphasis on the landscape, mythology, language, and pre-Christian heritage of Ireland. Obviously, for British Pagans, these kinds of cultural factors would be very significant too, but in Ireland there are cultural dynamics at play in relation to identity, history and colonisation that make the expression of Pagan spirituality unique to this context. I should add that I haven’t done any comparative research as yet between Irish Paganism and British Paganism, or Paganism elsewhere, but from my reading of the work of Jenny BlainSusan GreenwoodGraham Harvey and others, the points I mentioned above seem to be the most apparent differences I can see between Paganism in both regions. Much work is being done on the interconnections between Pagan identities, ethnicity and politics, such as Kathryn Rountree’s forthcoming edited collection fromBerghahn Books titled Modern Pagan and Native Faith Movements in Europe: Colonial and Nationalist Impulses. In my chapter in this collection, I analyse the creation of Irish Pagan identities with regard to the kinds of cultural resources that are drawn upon as well as the socio-cultural impulses, such as romantic nationalism, that inform the movement as it exists in Ireland. This is in marked contrast to the form Paganism takes in some other nations and regional settings, particularly Eastern European ones, where it can be quite militant, overtly political and nationalistic.” – Dr. Jenny Butler, on Paganism in Ireland.

Aaron Leitch

Aaron Leitch

“I believe the first donation came in around noon the following day.  Then – ye Gods! – I think the entire global occult community responded!  I believe I now know what it’s like to “go viral” – because I was suddenly all over Facebook, Twitter, emails, phone calls, etc, etc.  Even Chic Cicero was getting calls.  Many of you, quite rightly, wanted to make sure this was not a hoax or scam before you committed yourselves. But, once you knew it was real, you all got together and showed such incredible, mind-blowing support.  The full goal of the fund-raiser was reached in less than a day!  I have also been reading the comments you’ve posted to the YouCaring page as well as Facebook, and I have been deeply moved and humbled by the expressions of love, caring, support and well-wishes I have seen there.  I wish I could respond to each and every one of you personally, to express even a small portion of my gratitude for all you have done. All too often, you guys are going to read about how awful we occultists are.  You’ll be told we are all ego and no compassion.  You’ll hear that we would rather fight and belittle one another than give the time of day.  You’ll even see it said, emphatically, that there is something wrong with occultists that just makes us horrible people. And every time you encounter that nonsense, I want you to come back here and read this post.  (Or, even better, read the comments made by the Supporters at the YouCaring page.)  In the past two days, I have seen every wall crumble.  Every hatchet set aside.  Every hard feeling forgotten.  And I have seen Thelemites, Golden Dawners, Pagans, Voodoo and Hoodoo practitioners, Wiccans, Jews, Christians, Muslims, Atheists and more all come together with one single proclamation:  ‘We take care of our own!'” – Aaron Leitch, responding to overwhelming community support, when hit with a large bill to fix his endangered eyesight. More on this in tomorrow’s Pagan Community Notes.

John Beckett

John Beckett

“Part of the universal (or very nearly so) religious impulse is the desire to be a part of something greater than ourselves.  We know that when we die our bodies will return to the elements and we can’t be sure there even is such a thing as a soul (I’m convinced there is, but we can’t be sure).  But even if I don’t live on after death, my Druidry will.  The individual dies but the tribe lives on.  By creating and maintaining multi-generational institutions, we can achieve immortality. One of the problems with institutions is that they are inherently conservative.  Not in the political sense of the word, but in the sense that their mission is to conserve – to preserve, to maintain – its values and traditions.  That’s mostly a good thing – by the time a movement starts to think and act institutionally, it usually has worked out what values and traditions are helpful and thus worth conserving. But does the third or fourth or tenth generation realize that the compromises made by the founding generation were trade-offs born of necessity and not some perfect way things were done back in a golden age?  Does the institution remain a living, growing, changing entity?  Or does it become a plastic replica of the reasons it was founded?” – John Beckett, responding to my Saturday essay here at The Wild Hunt.

Lilith Dorsey

Lilith Dorsey

“The portrayal of Papa Legba in this week’s episode of American Horror Story: Coven left a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths, or should I say, up their noses. May I state now unequivocally as both an anthropologist and a Voodoo priestess that there is no association between Legba and drugs that I have ever come across in my over twenty years of practice and study. This week’s episode, in addition to having this ancient honored deity disrespectfully portrayed as a drug sniffing control freak, also shows him as a baby stealing, soul sucking devil. I wrote a few weeks ago that I predictedbad things for the introduction of this character, but this is beyond everyone’s lowest expectations.  The buzz I have been seeing online is that people are done, that this is beyond offensive. It’s also just plain wrong. The show, in addition to falsely equating Legba with the Devil, seems to have collapsed his character with that of the Voodoo Lwa Baron Samedi, traditionally depicted with a Top Hat and images of the dead, as he is the ruler of the cemetery. The reality is that Legba is the wise teacher, the communicator between the worlds. I like to call him the gentle guiding paternal influence we all wish we had.” – Lilith Dorsey, on the portrayal of Papa Legba in the television show American Horror Story: Coven

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

“In so many recent discussions (which are often debates, and more often still mutual tirades, debacles, and fracases of the most poisonous variety) within and with those outside of the modern polytheist communities, there is a sense that many of us have “given up” on ever finding common ground with some individuals in other sections within modern Paganism. Even some friendships across theological and ideological lines have been damaged, if not entirely lost, as a result of these internet disagreements, and this is something to be lamented deeply. People, far too often, are faster in writing off their apparent opponents than they are in giving them second chances. Often, I think this isn’t an unwise tactic, as repeat offenders certainly exist and often never change despite saying they have or they can. But, one can be surprised occasionally, and this incident with Glenn Beck makes me think that the old queer-activist maxim of ‘don’t assume anything!’ needs to be remembered and re-deployed far more often than it has been amongst our various communities and in our many endeavors, whether they be activism, spiritual communities, or theological discussions.” – P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, on unlikely allies, assumptions, and the end of homophobia.

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

Sam Webster

“Part of knowing is not knowing, what I’m calling here the ‘black box’. This is the realm of ignorance, of the data we don’t possess, of the questions we can formulate but not answer, of that which we don’t even know how to ask, of mystery. Needless to say, this is the biggest box of all as most of the world lies outside the small circle of firelight we humans live within. It is also the easiest to ‘shrink’ as learning, reason, and experience all reduce the amount of our individual and collective ignorance. There is another big bin in the black box that we hide under a word that I wish to redeem: stupidity. It is often conflated with ignorance in the sense of the non-possession of data. What I am discussing is different. Stupidity is the inability to process, understand, and apply knowledge. It happens to us when we are in a stupor, from which the word is derived. In the Buddhadharma, stupidity is the first and most fundamental poison, although it is usually translated incorrectly as ignorance. I want to redeem the word because often our problems are not from a lack of data, but from the inability to process it correctly due to the dullness or distractions of our minds. I am rather knowledgable, but under the wrong conditions, I can be frightfully stupid. I need a term like stupidity to explain how those who are otherwise intelligent can look at the data of, for example anthropogenic climate change, and deny it. I need a way to understand how when presented with reason, people fail to choose the rational response.” – Sam Webster, on kinds of knowledge.

Rhyd Wildermuth

Rhyd Wildermuth

“I dislike the internet, by the way, and particularly dislike that I rely upon it so much.  Yeah, I’m a writer who puts his stuff out on the internet by choice, so this sound hypocritical perhaps, except nuanced criticisms are the language of complex thought.   My reliance upon the internet and my dislike of internet communication co-exist, helping remind myself that disembodied communication is inadequate for many things.  You don’t know what I look like in the rain, I don’t know what your face looks like when you experience my words–there are things we don’t know about each other that are necessary to social knowledge.  It’s horribly easy to forget this, which is why so many internet arguments on Paganism (or, like every other topic on earth) devolve to endless frustrated attempts to communicate. I think, in “internet” writing, we forget that the written word has a very specific place and very specific modality of expression, and then attempt to add other modes of expression into it (and thus our reliance on emoticons, as in “this is what my face might look like when I say this).  The written word actually cannot embody so much inhabited meaning–as it attempts to become more than it is, it becomes poetry, which is useless for everyday communication as it requires a lifetime to fully understand a poem.” – Rhyd Wildermuth, on why he dislikes the Internet, and what doesn’t fit in a rucksack.

Mambo Chita Tann

Mambo Chita Tann

“Life goes on, somehow, like it always does, and suddenly it’s been four years. In the country I live in, most of the scars left by such an event would be tended to in some manner. The dead would be found and buried; ruined buildings would be demolished, and many great speeches about how everything would be rebuilt to be better than before would happen, and then everybody would get to work and right the wrong and fix things. Happy ending to a tragedy, proof of the true grit of the poor people who went through a sad time, right? Like Hurricane Katrina‘s aftermath, and like the aftermath for some of the harder-hit areas from Hurricane Sandy…the answer is no. No, it doesn’t get a happy ending, not yet, and maybe not ever. The palace ruins were finally taken down after two years (Can you imagine if Congress sat in ruins for two years?), but the cathedral ruins haven’t moved. Many people, including some of our family, left Port-au-Prince for the most part or entirely, and may not return. Promised aid trickles in, or it never arrived, or it was  eaten up by corruption and mismanagement. MINUSTAH (the UN sanctioned “peacekeeping” force remaining in Haiti, despite the fact that Haiti isn’t at war) brought “help” after the earthquake in the form of anirresponsible platoon of soldiers who dumped sewage into a river and started a major cholera epidemic. Four years later, we can’t even get the UN to admit responsibility. There are still so many things that need to be done. How many more years will it take? I don’t know. I hate that I have no answer. I hate it as much as I did four years ago today.” – Mambo Chita Tann, on Haiti, four years after the massive earthquake that started a chain reaction of tragedy for that country.

Lupa

Lupa

“As a child, I fancied myself to be such an explorer, though of a much smaller territory, and with far fewer resources and training at my disposal. Yet as I got older, and as I watched beloved wild places being torn down for development, I lost that curiosity and wonder for a while. My turn to paganism in the 1990s was, in large part, an attempt to reclaim that connection to nature, but it wasn’t until I divested myself of many of the abstract and symbolic trappings, and embraced a more naturalistic paganism, that I managed to regain that closeness. That’s why my path has increasingly become one informed by joy and curiosity, rather than ecstatic trances and formal rituals. And I’ve delighted in reading about Douglas’ exploits because they sound so familiar. Here is a man, close to my age, bounding about in the wilderness with the glee of a child, enduring hardships with a light heart because WOW LOOK AT THAT TREE ISN’T IT AN AWESOME TREE? Sure, there were plenty of other people, mostly indigenous, who were well acquainted with that particular species, but to him it was a new thing, and better yet, he got to share it with a whole slew of people on another continent who had never known such a thing existed. When I was a kid, some of my best days were the ones where I found a garter snake or box turtle or particularly large grasshopper, especially if it was some critter I had never seen before. It didn’t matter that other people knew about them; I was the one having these natural revelations.” – Lupa, on nature, David Douglas, and Paganism.

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

Pagan Voices is a spotlight on recent quotations from figures within the Pagan community. These voices may appear in the burgeoning Pagan media, or from a mainstream outlet, but all showcase our wisdom, thought processes, and evolution in the public eye. Is there a Pagan voice you’d like to see highlighted? Drop me a line with a link to the story, post, or audio.

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

Sam Webster

“Religion, group spiritual engagement, is an aspect of culture, the way a group of people does things. It is learned from those you are with. In today’s world we are exposed to many ‘ways’ and have the opportunity to choose how we will live our lives from among them, even religiously. In the ancient world, while visiting or living in a different culture, one makes offerings to the Gods of the host culture. It is simply polite. If one adopted or was adopted by a culture, one could fully participate in that religious life: if you spoke Greek, you could participate in the Eleusinian mysteries, no matter where you were from. Some today are taking a recent notion of nationhood, one developed only since the mid-1700s, and reifying it into a false concept of ‘race’. Then they assign who should worship which pantheon. Normally I would not care. There are only a few behaviors in our fairly antinomian subculture that are unacceptable. Violence and abuse are among them. So is racism, itself a kind of abuse.  Taking one’s genome as determinant of who one should worship is simply another form of racism. It is a way of creating division amongst humans unfounded on any facts, on any reality, other than a misconstrued notion of what makes a people, what makes a culture. Culture, and religion, is found in what you do, not your bloodline. Those who use the idea of culture or religion as tied to one’s genetic inheritance are attempting to sneak racism into Paganism, and this must not be tolerated. It must be spotted, called out and banished. Not in Our House.” – Sam Webster, asserting that religious biological determinism is racism.

Morpheus Ravenna

Morpheus Ravenna

“This is a follow up to my last post, “Whose Ancestors?“, published on 8/29/2013. The post was also published at my PaganSquare blog, The Spear That Cries Out, hosted by Witches & Pagans online. It was subsequently deleted by the site’s editor, Anne Newkirk Niven, specifically in order to censor its content, because she objected to my calling the AFA a racist organization. The following is my response to that censorship, and I’ve also posted it on the PaganSquare site. Since it too is likely to be deleted, I am publishing it here as well. I wanted to let readers know what happened with that post, and what you can expect in the future. The post in question, “Whose Ancestors?”, was one in which I challenged the doctrine of racial separatism in religion espoused by some European polytheist traditions, primarily Heathens of the ‘folkish’ variety. In it, I called the AFA an unashamedly racist organization. I firmly believe this to be true, and when Anne Newkirk Niven, the editor of this site, asked me to remove the language in which I called the AFA racist, I refused to do so. Instead, I provided her with evidence as to the facts showing that the AFA is a racist organization. Since I would not edit the post to remove that language, Anne has deleted my post in order to censor it. You can read the original post here, where it is still hosted on my own blog site.” – Morpheus Ravenna, following up on her “Whose Ancestors?” piece, which I quoted in a previous edition of Pagan Voices.

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

“I do know one thing very deeply: my gods aren’t racists, even when the cultures they came from have been racist. I can’t say for certain who among my ancestors were racists (though I know several of the recent ones definitely were), or if whole cultures of my ancestors were racists (and some of them certainly were, in overt as well as covert ways), but I am very certain that the gods generally don’t care, and likely never have, about who worships them, nor do they have ideas about who “is fit to” or who “should” worship them based on genetic or even cultural heritage. For all of the faults of the various ancient cultures that I spiritually descend from, one thing we can say for certain is that they were not racist about their gods […]  No, none of these cultures had a perfect record when it came to dealing with other cultures; certainly, there were ideas of superiority, there were cases of cultural appropriation, there was slavery and imperialism and lots of other horrible things involved in many of these cases. But, at least the gods and their approaches to them tended to be relatively unconcerned with matters of race, or appropriateness of different races worshipping different gods…at least in many cases. While I find the notion of saying that people should only worship the gods and follow the spiritual paths of their genetic ancestors very problematic, likewise I find the notion that for reconstructionist-methodology-using polytheists, there should be “no contamination” from other cultural traditions or gods going on…well, laughable. It doesn’t take much looking at the actual sources and what has come down from the medieval and ancient worlds to see that such cultural exclusivism wasn’t going on at all, whether in the polytheistic periods or in the Christian periods of the cultures concerned.” – P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, noting that gods aren’t racists.

Soli

Soli

“Do you really think it’s wise to put up works illegally by people who have written material about how to properly curse and hex? If you can’t afford books, fine. Go to the library. Borrow from your friends. Use a free ebook app and get legal material to read? (Hint: not only are there a lot of free books available regularly for the Kindle, but there are also those great public domain titles as well as academic institutions who have material freely available. Don’t believe me? Go look up the Oriental Institute and their publications.) And I will note this, if you can afford a smartphone and the monthly plan, I am sure you can find some room in your budget for a $15 text. In short, stop stealing. Give credit where it is due. Ask permission. You are reading this on the internet right now. Most every author has some sort of Web presence. They might have material available or know where to get it below cost if it is really a matter of finances for you. Or search online for used copies. Which is, incidentally, acceptable under copyright. And if you messed up and did something stupid, admit to it. If you are hosting a web site or Facebook group filled with illegal pdfs, DELETE THEM. And don’t go whining when you get called out, or ban people right and left for pointing out the fact that you are breaking the law. Support your community. We’re still a minority. We still have to fight for rights because of our religious and spiritual practices. Breaking the law does not do a thing to help us.” – Soli / Shezatwepwawet, on why stealing/pirating Pagan books on the Internet is a bad idea.

Lupa, author of "Skin Spirits," at her shop.

Lupa

“Not too long ago, I watched a brief video created by our local public broadcasting station featuring footage of the Bull Run watershed. Nestled in the lower slopes of Mt. Hood and surrounding regions, this watershed provides Portland and other local communities with our superbly clean tap water. It’s closed to the public to protect the land and water from pollution, so few people have actually seen what’s in this vast, fenced-off area. Oregon Public Broadcasting got a rare opportunity to film parts of it to show the rest of us what we’re missing out on. The video showed some unexpected sights, to include a couple of abandoned stone fountains, but the part that impressed me the most was the river itself. Clear and beautiful, it splashes through an idyllic northwest conifer forest. I also didn’t realize just how small it was, at least where it was filmed. Of course, it gets bigger as more streams feed into it further on. But I was struck by the vulnerability of our water source, fed from rain and snow melt, and it made me review my own use of this limited commodity. See, we take water for granted all too often. We assume there’s enough for everything from drinking to watering golf courses in the desert to agriculture in the former Dust Bowl. But the Colorado River no longer reaches its terminus in the Sea of Cortez, the water table that feeds the Midwest has been severely depleted in less than a century, and yet we keep using fresh water like it’ll never run dry. Some people talk about desalinating ocean water, but this doesn’t address the ecosystems where the fresh water has been so depleted that they’re permanently damaged; we only think of ourselves.” – Lupa, on saving our water.

T. Thorn Coyle

T. Thorn Coyle

“We hide so much. We lie so much. We fear so much. This keeps us away from love. If we can come to be honest about our heartbreak, about our terror, about the ways in which failure dogs us, or hope makes us feel insecure, if we can come to be honest about our need to feel desired, our quest for recognition, the ways in which we have been hurting, and have hurt others, the ways in which we found laughter and joy, or worked through some pain…we can come to better know ourselves. We can come to better know one another. We can develop true compassion. We can know the world. We can imagine something better than ambition for money or power over others. We can imagine a place where we truly meet one another, truly see one another, where we stop playing status games: baring our necks or lording it over one another. In doing this, we open more fully to the flow of love. We heal. There have been many things planted in the soil of my life, things that have grown into a person, an adult, a human still figuring out how to more fully love the world.” – T. Thorn Coyle, on being naked and unashamed.

Lilith Dorsey

Lilith Dorsey

“I have been lecturing on Voodoo and Santeria for over fifteen years, and believe me I get a lot of weird questions. Many people wish to connect with the energies of the religion but are not initiated or under the proper guidance of their spiritual godparents. I had one woman after I became distracted after the end of my workshop come over dip her finger in the liquified candle wax from my Oshun candle and anoint her dog. I thought I saw something out of the corner of my eye but I let it go. Some time later I saw her again at one of my lectures and she listened intensely as I spoke of Oshun, the goddess of love and fertility. When the class was over, she came up to me and confessed the deed. I ask her what the dog was like now, she said it ate all her underwear. Obviously I don’t recommend this as a method of connecting with spirit, although it was quite amusing. There are several ways in Voodoo and Santeria to connect by performing ritual cleansings of your space. Some of the simplest involve the sprinkling of Florida Water and black salt in the corners of the home during the waning moon, this can be done in conjunction with the burning of white and/or black candles.” – Lilith Dorsey, on the importance of proper training, and proper ritual cleansing. 

John Beckett

John Beckett

“My belief we’re here for a purpose doesn’t flow from my Pagan religion.  It comes from something before that, from some deep intuition.  It’s part of that “core being” I wrote about in the last post.  It’s the same core intuition that told me the fundamentalist religion of my childhood couldn’t be right.  It’s the same core intuition that clicked when someone first explained modern Paganism and clicked again when I discovered Druidry.  It whispers “there’s more” – more to Life than the apparent world. I can hear the Religious Naturalists sighing – I’m sure to them I sound like the kid who opens his 27th Yule present and then cries “is that all?”  The natural world is beautiful and powerful and life-affirming and we are lucky to be here.  It is enough and more isn’t necessary. But that core intuition keeps whispering “there’s more” – something more than what is measurable.   And part of that more is a reason for being here, a purpose for my life.” – John Beckett, on purpose and will.

Finally, here’s a video interview with Karagan Griffith, discussing the documentary film “With Love from Salem” (which I reviewed here).

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

Pagan Voices is a spotlight on recent quotations from figures within the Pagan community. These voices may appear in the burgeoning Pagan media, or from a mainstream outlet, but all showcase our wisdom, thought processes, and evolution in the public eye. Is there a Pagan voice you’d like to see highlighted? Drop me a line with a link to the story, post, or audio.

Courtney Weber

Courtney Weber

Learn from rituals, but don’t nit-pick them. Trust me, my Coven of media specialists, writers, musicians, and copy-editors is wont to pull our shit apart and play the “pick out the not-perfect” bits. But we’ve finally learned that rituals should not be discussed for at least a few weeks after something is done. We file away moment of imperfections, suggestions for improvements, other ways to get to be even better at rituals into our mental rolodexes and take them back out when the time to plan our next ritual arises. We give respect to the experiences of those in the space, and the Spirit for attending. All other quirks can be worked out at another time. I can’t lie…I’ve been to some rituals that made me cringe. But I have to respect the fact that other people might be affected negatively by my piss-poor perfectionist attitude. I have to respect the fact that the energy of the ritual is still going after the fact. I can learn from the mistakes of others–and the mistakes I myself make–but if it’s a serious mistake that I will want to avoid next time, I’ll remember it.” – Courtney Weber, a Wiccan High Priestess, on learning to not “wine and cheese your rites.”

Gus DiZerega

Gus DiZerega

“The biggest and most divisive ethical issues of our time involve abortion and the environment. Does a zygote or fetus have sufficient moral standing to put its interests above those of the pregnant woman carrying it? If so, how much? Does the other-than-human world have any moral standing able to override human interests? If so, how much? Significantly, of those most opposing abortion, few have interest in or recognition of the other-than-human world’s moral standing.  On the other hand, most supporting a woman’s right to choose will be sympathetic to and sometimes deeply committed to environmental concerns. Individuals in both camps are usually ethically motivated, but they live in different ethical worlds. These contrasting moral visions reflect a schism going to the center of contemporary America, a genuine clash of cultures capable of tearing the country apart. One is ultimately rooted in an agricultural order, the other in our industrial one.” – Gus DiZerega, on how conflict over abortion and environmentalism are related, and what modern Paganism’s role is in these struggles.

Literata

Literata

“My religion encourages oral sex. Ken Cuccinelli, candidate for governor, wants to outlaw it. Why am I not the new face of the brave fight for religious liberty? Seriously, though: Ken Cuccinelli, the current attorney general of Virginia and Republican candidate for governor has just launched a new website as part of his campaign that argues in favor of a law which criminalizes oral and anal sex between consenting adults in private. […]  quite frankly, my understanding of Wicca really does validate all kinds of consensual sex. It’s right there in the Charge of the Goddess: ‘All acts of love and pleasure are my rituals.’ The idea of ‘acts of love and pleasure’ is a very potent way of expressing my feminist ethic of consent to sex. I’m not going to consent to something that’s not pleasurable to me. If I can’t consent – if I can’t engage in love and pleasure – then whatever’s happening isn’t sex; it’s sexual assault, abuse, battery, or rape.” – Literata Hurley, a Wiccan and resident of Virginia, on Ken Cuccinelli’s campaign to reinstate Virginia’s unconstitutional Crimes Against Nature law.

Jason Mankey

Jason Mankey

“One of the things that Evangelicals don’t seem to understand is that people are tired of obstacles separating them from other faith communities. I’m not a Buddhist, but I want to walk a religious path that validates the choices of my Buddhist friends. I don’t walk with Jesus, but I’m fine with those that walk hand in hand with the hippy from the Galilee. People are tired of hearing how their friends are wrong, Paganism takes that antiquated rhetoric away. I’m not saying that everyone should roll the religion dice each morning (today I’m an Atheist Hellenic Thelemite!), but Paganism has never shut out wisdom, no matter where it comes from. […]  like every generation we long to touch the sacred. For centuries touching the sacred was limited to Jesus and his Dad, but those days are over with, and people are waking up to the many and varied sacred currents that are around us all. Some find that connection to the sacred within the Earth and the change of the seasons. Some of us find it in more personal deities, gods and goddesses that come to us without centuries of misguided close mindedness. (Give me Pan rutting around in the woods over a god that would kill an entire country’s firstborn.) There will always be people who long for Jesus, and many good things (and some very bad) have been done in his name, but it’s getting harder and harder to lock out the Divine Feminine. Jesus might be calling, but I think She is too.” – Jason Mankey, on why Millennials love Paganism, and in answer to Christian writer Rachel Held Evan’s piece about why Millennials are leaving Christian churches.

Lupa

Lupa

“So many of our decisions have been made in ignorance of the effects of our actions. While the internet, antibiotics, and central heating have their definite uses, the most popular technologies used to create them have been developed with only our benefit–and the profit margin–in mind. It is plausible that many of the things we’ve created that have improved our species’ average quality of life could have been made in such a way that they didn’t negatively affect the lives of other beings (and some humans). Instead, we stand at a point in time where we’re watching thousands of species of animal, plant, and fungus die out every year, accelerated by our activities, and we still refuse as a whole to explore the depth of the connections we’ve been severing with each local, regional or complete extinction. Why don’t we emphasize to our children that the mycelial mat is at least as important as Thomas Edison’s inventions? In part, it’s due to selfishness. We don’t want to think about anything other than our own advancement and comfort. We want that plastic grocery bag to carry three small items in, dammit, and who cares about the oil it was made from, or the fact that it won’t break down for thousands of years? This doesn’t mean we should feel guilty for the things that have made our lives longer and healthier as a whole. We can explore whether a particular item is necessary, and whether its manufacture is as sustainable as it could be, without sacrificing our quality of life. It just means that we need to make more effort on the behalf of beings besides ourselves.” – Lupa, on recognizing that we are a part of something larger than ourselves.

Cat Chapin-Bishop

Cat Chapin-Bishop

“If I have no business turning you into a scapegoat for all the generations past who have ever harmed anyone in the name of Jesus, I also think you have no business turning me into a mascot for your tolerance and good intentions. I don’t want to be a symbol of your goodness; I don’t want to be anything more or less than what you probably want to be: a human being among other human beings. Along those lines, I ask you not to abuse your newfound (or longstanding) empathy for me and mine by rushing to speak for me. Specifically, I would ask that, as an advocate, you not speak to my concerns before you allow me a chance to speak them for myself. This is harder than it sounds, I know. Quakers love to set injustices right. We work hard to empathize with oppressed peoples. We want to be advocates. We want to be the good guys, and we want to speak out for people who have been marginalized, because it feels so good to be the voice of righteousness. However, it is tiresome to the person whose cause you’re espousing, to be spoken for when we’d rather speak for ourselves.  Certainly, we’d rather not be shut out of discussions of our needs by the voices of eager advocates.” – Cat Chapin-Bishop, from the second part of a letter sent to her Quaker Christian Friends (part one is here), on owning Christian privilege, and how to act once you have.

King Arthur Pendragon

King Arthur Pendragon

“As Druids, we believe that the Ancestors should be left to Rest in Peace and that the Sacredness of the site should not be desecrated in such a way, especially when there are many alternatives to this desecration. We have never been against Science or Education. We are however against the removal and display of our ancestors in such a manner. Whilst ‘Picketing’ at Stonehenge we gained support from peoples from each and every continent of many and of no faiths with the simple message “ Let those we Lay to Rest-Stay to Rest” and we challenged the Ministry of Justice’s decision to extend the ‘licence’ for study. That challenge will continue if ‘The Guardians’ are not returned and re-interred by August 2015. In the meanwhile we will ‘oppose’ English Heritage’s plans to display ‘our’ collective Ancestors, once buried at our most Sacred Site. This opposition will take many forms and we will call on the assistance of other like-minded Groups throughout the World if necessary, for let us not forget Stonehenge is designated as a World Heritage site. Like the ‘Guardians’ campaign, we will call for support from Any, All, and No faiths, who like us believe that the Dead should be left in peace. If English Heritage believe that they can ‘open’ their new visitors centre to a ‘fan-fare’ of common assent and complementary reports on the World stage, whilst planning to display our Guardians in such a macabre manner, they had better think again.”  – Activist and Druid leader King Arthur Pendragon, who is currently in a struggle to stop the display of human remains at Stonehenge’s new visitor’s center, calling it a desecration.

Holli S. Emore

Holli S. Emore

“Monday [August 5th] is the one-year anniversary of the shooting at the Oak Creek Sikh gurdwara in Wisconsin.  I was contacted for comment this morning by a reporter from our local news station.  Valarie Kaur, a Sikh activist and founder of Groundswell, notes that a full year later, everyone knows about Aurora and other tragedies, but most never understood what happened at Oak Creek and have already forgotten.  The anniversary is a good reminder to those of us in another misunderstood minority religion of the importance of interfaith relations. The reporter who contacted me at first said she was doing a story about religious tolerance.  The first thing I said to her was that I look forward to the day we can stop thinking about tolerance and begin appreciating our religious differences.  This includes Pagan appreciation of the religions whose members have often persecuted or despised us, whether we like the idea or not. […] While organizations like Groundswell and interfaith groups all over have done much to make our communities safer, the work is hardly begun, the weeping probably not over. Our heartfelt prayers and intentions go to our Sikh friends and to all in this world who suffer because their spirituality is misunderstood.” – Holli Emore, Director of Cherry Hill Seminary, on interfaith work, tolerance, and the anniversary of the Oak Creek Sikh temple shooting in Wisconsin.

Peter Dybing

Peter Dybing

“That’s right, I strongly disagree with your interpretation of divinity, the Gods, worship or piety. So what am I going to do about it? Maybe un-friend you on Face Book, write a post tearing you a metaphorical ‘new one’ or demonstrate my need to be right by encouraging others to give no credibility to your views? Instead I think I will choose to celebrate our differences. Harvest. if you will, what has value in our discourse, demonstrate that respect for others views of divinity is a basic value of my Pagan beliefs.  Your actions and views help me to clarify my own beliefs about my path. It is in discussion and debate that we grow, are challenged to develop new insights into both self and the nature of the Divine. Each of us has a unique perception of divinity and spiritual practice. In learning about your perceptions I grow, consider what is new or uncomfortable, stretch my mind and heart to embrace the bountiful tapestry that is the diverse cloth of Pagan belief. Today I hold you, with your heretical beliefs, in Sacred Regard, as some of my most insightful teachers. Our discussions have planted the seeds of new insight, growth and compassion.  Today I celebrate the harvest of these efforts. Tending this garden of dissention is an honorable and meaningful investment of my time.” – Peter Dybing, on what he plans to do with people he disagrees with theologically.

Trey Capnerhurst / Treasach

Trey Capnerhurst / Treasach

“I used to have repeated arguments with others in the pagan community on this topic, though in the past few years, curiosity and hope are beginning to replace the sneering. “Why should WE need an abbey?”, some said with a snort. “There are plenty of Buddhist and Taoist monasteries around..” Well, we are neither Buddhist nor Taoist, although most of us get along quite nicely with them, of course. For a religion to be more formalized, to grow and permeate more areas of a culture or a group, it needs full time members who are dedicated to practising, refining, writing, recording, studying and teaching. Though we do have quite a few of those, they usually have day jobs, rather than being a full time professional community. We have a great many of what could be termed lay sisters and brothers; those who are devoted and dedicated to living their lives in the Way, but we have no priest ‘class’, as it were. So, though we do have a professional priesthood of sorts, we have not yet created spaces to support them full time, or train and hone them, or even facilitate professional community environments of librarians, educators and other academics. It is vital to our religion to establish these communities, and not just as teaching venues, but as places where we can totally immerse ourselves in our religion, and not only for short retreats. But for years. They are already becoming a reality. I was in contact with an abbess of the Cybeline abbey in New York for some time. They already have a large community of nuns with hospitality, retreat centres and libraries. Though there is room for dedicating to one Goddess in particular, like mine, because that’s just for me, a similar kind of non-deity specific community can appeal to far more people under the auspices of Pagan Humanism, where everyone can hear the call in their own way, yet we can work under one banner. Conserves resources and coalesces talent, doncha know.” – Treasach (aka Trey Capnerhurst), a Pagan Abbess, on why establishing Pagan abbeys are a practical solution to several ongoing problems within our communities.

Damh the Bard

Damh the Bard

“Yesterday was a glorious day to hold a Lughnasadh ceremony. Although not in full flow the grain harvest has begun, and John Barleycorn is falling in the fields. I started the ceremony by asking if there were any News of the World reporters at the ceremony, and then remembered that there were no such things any more… So changing that to The Daily Mail I pointed out that this ceremony might reinforce the odd stereotype, with its theme of sacrifice. A falling Corn King, sickles and scythes, all good sensationaistic fodder for the ignorant. But this is a festival of thanksgiving, a spiritual honouring that within its very language understands that for some things to continue to live, other things have to die. It’s all around on our supermarket shelves, we just don’t have to see the blood any more, but that doesn’t mean that we cannot honour the life that has been given, and this thanksgiving also includes the grain harvest, and the falling of the Corn King.” – Damh the Bard, on celebrating Lughnasadh at the Long Man of Wilmington in Sussex.

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