Archives For Michael Lloyd

Pagan Voices, like yesterday’s Pagan Community Notes, is a regular feature here at The Wild Hunt, one that seeks to highlight our voices, wisdom, debates, thought processes, and evolution in the public eye. If you enjoy this regular round-up, please consider donating to our Fall Funding Drive (and thank you to the over 80 supporters who have already donated). Now, onward…

LaSara Firefox Allen

LaSara Firefox Allen

“When I was 20 I was dancing naked or partially naked too. I was doing it at fire circle in the Pagan community. And you know what? I still got castigated. I was told the same things that Sinead is saying. I was also told, conversely, that if I wasn’t willing to put out I shouldn’t be such a tease. And all this by other women. Mostly women older than myself. I can recall so many times when these insults were hurled in my direction. Once a woman had been belly dancing at the fire circle, which was greeted with much laudation. And I, being the rabble-rouse I was, stripped down to my leather, thong underwear. Man, was there an uproar in the camp throughout the weekend. As women, most of us are maybe afraid of losing the pull of youth. Maybe any lashing out we are prone to has to do with some fear of losing the light that is shined on the young. Maybe we are sad and afraid about the loss of sexual power that most women experience as we age. Maybe much of our lashing out toward other women at any age, and of any age, is due to fear. Fear of loss. Fear of uncertainty. Fear of judgement. Fear of our own desires. Fear of the desires of others. Fear of physical danger. Fear of psychological danger. Emotional danger. These are tools of oppression. Weapons. And we use them on each other.” – LaSara Firefox Allen, on Miley Cyrus, women’s sexuality, and the many open letters opining on both.

T. Thorn Coyle

T. Thorn Coyle

“Saturday I heard the news the man had died. I also heard something that deepened my disturbance: across the country, in Houston, another man had doused himself with gasoline and prepared to set himself alight. People got to him before he could strike the fire. Two men. Different parts of the country. Doused in gasoline, ready to burn. Unrelated events, except all events are somehow related. There are threads that catch and join us, one to another. Those threads are everywhere. And so we burn. We feel the heat rising. We feel the heat rising from a confused young mother, driving into a barricade, surrounded by police, shot dead as her one year old baby sits in a car seat, watching. We feel the heat rising from the police who pulled the triggers. We feel the heat rising from Capitol Hill, from a government ground to a halt. We feel the heat rising from the houseless and the unemployed, wondering what they will eat. Sometimes I think we are all on fire. This is one of those times. The heat is rising. Sparks are catching, everywhere. I can only hope this fire will burn us clean, so we can plant anew. I can only hope that things we value are not too badly burned along with the dross that must be cleared.” – T. Thorn Coyle, sharing some thoughts of fire, and holding fast.

Susan Harper

Susan Harper

“This campaign is exactly what it sounds like. For 40 days, I am inviting Pagans of all paths to engage in whatever spellwork, ritual, or spiritual work they choose, with a focus on keeping abortion and reproductive health care safe and legal for all. You may work in groups or alone. You may choose to do the same ritual every night, or engage in different workings. You may do full-blown ritual, a simple candle spell, or dedicate your meditation practice to the cause of reproductive justice for the next 40 days. There is no wrong way to participate — the goal is to have as much energy flowing toward the goal of safe and legal access to abortion and other reproductive health care as possible. There’s no need to curse or work against those who are behind laws like Texas’ and Arkansas’, or to direct negativity at protestors, as tempting as that may sometimes be! Instead, our goal should be to offer protection for those seeking reproductive health care and protection of the right of access to that care more broadly. If you’d like to join in 40 Days of Ritual to Keep Abortion Legal, there’s nothing official you need to do — just engage in the work. I’d love it if you’d comment here telling me you’re in! You can also join our (very new) Facebook page – share pictures of your altars, descriptions of your rituals, and just connect with others to build the energy. 40 Days of Ritual to Keep Abortion Legal runs from October 7-November 16.” – Susan Harper, on conducting 40 days of ritual to keep abortion legal, a response to a similar Christian campaign to end the practice.

Kiya Nicoll

Kiya Nicoll

“Some friends and I recently built a story together: for a holiday called Opet, we told the story that for Opet, we do charitable works. We house the homeless, clothe the naked, emboaten the boatless. (And when we were joined by a few folks of a more Celtic persuasion, we also embovined the cowless.) This was a good story. And as part of telling that story, it was not just that we talked about how this would be a good thing to do; the story meant that we did this thing, we went out and we invested in charitable works, we put out resources into the world so that the story became a little more real. This is what stories do; they organize people around ideas, they make those ideas come a little closer to the surface. Yes, we could have gotten there from a more general story, such as, say, ‘I am a good person’; people tell those sorts of stories and motivate themselves to many kinds of things. But there’s a lot of other stories you can mean by ‘I am a good person’, and much like ‘I am doing the work of God/the gods’ as a story, it’s a dangerous one to hang too much on. A lot of things can creep in around the edges of a vague and poorly specified story, really. Narrative is an essential part of how people construct the world. Be careful with yours, all right?” - Kiya Nicoll, on narrative theology, and on being careful with the narratives you construct.

Carolyn Lee Boyd

Carolyn Lee Boyd

“Feminism is, to me, a dynamic political and social movement; but it is now also the healing spirit within all those who see and revere the sacred in all women. Thinking of Feminism’s healing aspect as a 21st century Goddess has brought Her power more fully into my life. As a Goddess, She would have two means to manifest in our world. One is the spiritual healing that women do for each other. The other is activism that changes society, a way of creating a healthy environment for all women to live in. Perhaps her sacred symbolic objects are a mirror to show each woman her own divine worth and a ballot to symbolize the activism needed to act on that. She would look like all women and speak all languages. She might wear a cloak of feathers to fly to all women in need of Her, flowers to represent the blossoming of spirit that is each woman’s birthright, and a seashell necklace as a reminder that our souls are as vast as the ocean. Her story might tell of a time of power, followed by millennia underground gaining the wisdom and strength that comes from sorrow and loss, with an arising in our present time to help us make our world one of equality, justice, and peace. May She shine brightly on you and through you.” - Carolyn Lee Boyd, on feminism manifested as Goddess.

Joanna van der Hoeven

Joanna van der Hoeven

“We relate to our environment though inspiration, and we are all related, as the Native American proverb says.  It isn’t simply communication with our environment, but a soul-deep sense of relativity – we are all related.  By being related, this instills within us a sense of responsibility, of caring for the environment, whichever one it may be.  If we see that we are related to the badgers living in the brown-land area soon to be re-developed, then we also see that we must take action to ensure that they are safe.  If we see that we are related to the food that we eat, we will ensure that we eat organically and, if possible, grow our own food as much as we can to develop that relationship even further. If we see that we are related to our neighbour next door, we are more likely to establish an honourable connection to them and the rest of the community. It creates a sense of caring for the environment and all within it, and it is no easy task. The challenge that faces the Druid is to see clearly these relationships, and to act honourably in all regards.  If this challenge is accepted, then the worldview is broadened considerably, as is the environment.  The web of life will shimmer with inspiration along every thread.  May it do so for you, all my relations.” - Joanna van der Hoeven, on Druidry and the environment.

Michael Lloyd

Michael Lloyd

“I had originally just planned on writing a short biographical paper on Eddie’s life. Early into the project, I realized that this approach would be woefully inadequate given the complexity of his story. It was several years into the project that I realized that, if I didn’t include a large measure of what was going on in NYC and in the US, Eddie’s story would simply lose all context, as readers today would be scratching their heads wondering why folks did what they did back then. It was my good friend Christopher Penczak who later suggested that I change the subtitle of the book to reflect this expanded scope. I love New York City. It’s such a whirling maelstrom of humanity. You will encounter a cross-section of the world there. And its place as a center of media, finance and culture was absolutely crucial to the blossoming of the occult/Pagan movement in the US in the late 20th Century. I could never live there – its simply too much for this former farm boy. But I was named an honorary resident of the city by the NYC Gay Men’s Open Pagan Circle in 2011 for my work on behalf of the city’s Pagan community, and I am very proud of that honor.” - Michael G. Lloyd, on New York, Edmund “Eddie” Buczynski, and his book Bull of Heaven: The Mythic Life of Eddie Buczynski and the Rise of the New York Pagan.

John Beckett

John Beckett

“I swim in the same currents as Peter Grey and I’m inspired by Apocalyptic Witchcraft.  Ultimately, though, I’m unwilling to go as far as he suggests.  I’m committed to Gordon White’s concept of a salvage mission to fund the rescue mission.  Beyond that, I know too many good Christians and Humanists and others who are doing the same thing – making a living within the system while learning to live outside the system.  I’m reluctant to antagonize them… and I know all too well that calls for total commitment are usually ignored. Besides, I’m already pledged to the Forest God and the Lady of the Waters.  I’m too uptight to be much use to trickster gods. Who should read Apocalyptic Witchcraft?  Not beginners, that’s for sure – you need a basic knowledge of historical witchcraft to understand this book.  And not anyone prone to literalism and pedantry – this is a book of dreams and poetry, of ritual and symbol.  Its power is in its ability to show what can be, not what is.  But for those who feel called to the sabbat, Apocalyptic Witchcraft shows how we can dance and fly, and perhaps, how we must.” – John Beckett, reviewing Peter Grey’s book Apocalyptic Witchcraft.

Damh the Bard

Damh the Bard

“Two weeks on the road and I am once again sitting here feeling blessed to be a part of a worldwide Pagan community. Some say that Paganism is so diverse that it cannot be a community. Some say we should all just call what we do something else entirely. Some say that Paganism is made up of so many paths, with so many points of view, that it is in danger of melt-down and fragmentation. But I am lucky enough to travel with my music and meet Pagans from all over the world, and everywhere I go I feel the same energy. From Wiccans to Druids to Heathens and Eclectics, there is a huge swathe of common ground that we all share. We might differ in the detail and our personal dogmas, but when we work from that space of common ground we create wonder, magic and worldwide community. And I feel honoured to be a part of that. Hurrah for all of us!” – Damh the Bard, on finding unity in our common ground.

That’s all I have for now, please remember to support The Wild Hunt during our Fall Funding Drive so that we can continue to spotlight intriguing, provocative, and informative voices from our interconnected communities!

Today the Supreme Court of the United States handed down rulings on United States v. Windsor, which challenged the constitutionality of DOMA, the federal Defense of Marriage Act, and Hollingsworth v. Perry, which centered on California’s Proposition 8, a state constitutional amendment that banned legal same-sex marriages. In short, both rulings are seen as victories for proponents of marriage equality, and for clergy who perform same-sex marriages. The first ruling this morning from the Supreme Court was on the matter of DOMA, and it was ruled unconstitutional in a 5-4 vote. Here’s SCOTUSblog’s “Plain English” take on the ruling.

Selena Fox and Washington DC Pagans performing a rite for freedom and justice in the DOMA decision back in March.

Selena Fox and Washington DC Pagans performing a rite for freedom and justice in the DOMA decision back in March of this year.

“The federal Defense of Marriage Act defines “marriage,” for purposes of over a thousand federal laws and programs, as a union between a man and a woman only. Today the Court ruled, by a vote of five to four, in an opinion by Justice Kennedy, that the law is unconstitutional. The Court explained that the states have long had the responsibility of regulating and defining marriage, and some states have opted to allow same-sex couples to marry to give them the protection and dignity associated with marriage. By denying recognition to same-sex couples who are legally married, federal law discriminates against them to express disapproval of state-sanctioned same-sex marriage. This decision means that same-sex couples who are legally married must now be treated the same under federal law as married opposite-sex couples.

The California Proposition 8 ruling was more complex, and hinges on issues of standing, but it is widely seen as clearing the way for legal same-sex marriages in the state.

“The court’s action, while not a sweeping ruling, sends the case back to California, where state and federal judges and the state’s top officials have said same-sex marriage is a matter of equal rights.”

As I’ve reported several times before at this site, this issue is both about the basic human rights of same sex couples, and the rights of clergy who officiate their unions. The banning of legal same-sex unions was seen by many as privileging the religious views of those opposed to legal recognition over those who supported it. Now, with this latest hurdle crossed, same sex unions performed in states where it is legal (soon to include California) will be federally recognized, and those couples will receive all the benefits currently granted to married couples by the government. Washington DC Pagan, and Human Rights Campaign employee David Salisbury, in reacting to the SCOTUS decisions, celebrated today as a “watershed moment.”

David Salisbury

David Salisbury

“Although we were hoping for a broader decision, this is still an incredible day to be working for equality and a watershed moment for this movement. I am so proud of my colleagues at the Human Rights Campaign for all the work we’ve done to encourage nationwide support and excitement around this issue. We still have a lot of work to do in this area and many others in the future, but we here in Washington DC will celebrate this momentous day at the Supreme Court with cheers from the rest of the nation behind us. It is also a proud time to be an American Pagan, which is a movement of people who have largely always supported equality for all.”

Kathryn Robinson Kyair, a Gythja in the Asatru faith who was legally married to her partner in California before Prop. 8 won passage in 2008, was initially in a state of shock over the news, but eventually realized the ramifications: “We are equal.”

“How long have we fought, tooth and nail, for this?  Every step along the way has been a fight.  And suddenly, this one makes our marriage equal.  WOW. Prop H8:  thrown back to CA.  Judge Walker’s ruling stands.  Prop H8 is unconstitutional…his words…and now marriage in CA can resume!  Wow! It all slowly sinks in.  It’s all good.  Yes, there are still details to fight, but, it’s good! Holy S***!  My wife, Jeani, and I are married!  REALLY married.  It DOES feel different.  It finally feels REAL!”

For decades, many within the modern Pagan movement have performed marriage rites for same sex couples, and welcomed them into their religious groups and communities. Ivo Dominguez, Jr., an Elder of the Assembly of The Sacred Wheel, noted the irony of being able to officiate federally recognized wedding without be able to obtain one himself.

Ivo Dominguez Jr.

Ivo Dominguez Jr.

“In the decades that I’ve been a Wiccan priest, I have officiated many federally recognized weddings. My lover and I will have been together 35 years next February. I have always noted the irony of being able to perform such a service without ever being able to be the recipient of the same. Today’s Supreme Court decision finally makes this possible, and we will soon be married. However I will remain vigilant because every step forward also brings out those who wish to drag us backwards. My religion views all love as sacred, but some other religions have different perspectives on this matter. Neither my religious views nor their religious views should matter in the eyes of the law. However my beliefs as a Wiccan will encourage me to make choices to defend my rights and the rights of others. I am overjoyed, and I am also prepared for this to be the beginning of yet more decades of work towards a nation that sees the intrinsic value of all love and all beings.”

Michael Lloyd, co-founder of the Between the Worlds Men’s Gathering and author of “Bull of Heaven: The Mythic Life of Eddie Buczynski and the Rise of the New York Pagan,” who has performed same-sex marriages as a Gay Pagan priest, noted the historic inequality between different religious views of same-sex relationships as this debate has evolved.

“As I look back on the debate that has surrounded the struggle for marriage equality in this country, I am struck by how much deference has been paid to the beliefs of religious institutions which have a long history of antipathy toward the gay community, while for the most part ignoring the beliefs – and the rights – of those institutions which have recognized the innate humanity of LGBT people who wish to form loving, supportive families. [...] Leaders of these religious organizations certainly bear a responsibility for their own dogma and how they manipulate it to maintain control over their own followers. However, they have no right to impose those beliefs upon society as a whole. In matters of faith, we are each the master of our own soul. And for that reason, I am joyful that the SCOTUS has seen fit to allow those who have lawfully taken this most public of private steps to be recognized by their government. May we all be so free within my lifetime. So mote it be.”

This is just a sample of the flood of positive reactions from Pagan leaders, clergy, and activists on these rulings. Covenant of the Goddess (COG), released a statement saying that “today we celebrate with all of our LGBT members, their friends, families and communities as they take a huge step forward in their struggle for acceptance and freedom under the law.” Author and Priestess Crystal Blanton said that today’s decision “brought us all one step closer to true spirituality,” while Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary exclaimed: “May our society continue to work toward having Equality, Liberty, and Justice for All!” David Shorey, GLBT Liaison for the House of Danu, looked to the future saying that he celebrates the rulings today but knows “that Love knows no borders. I know that one day Gay and Lesbian couples will be able to declare their commitment and love in all 50 states.” For many Pagan clergy, the sentiments of Lisa Morgenstern seem to hold true.

Lisa Cowley Morgenstern

Lisa Cowley Morgenstern

“As the former Public Information Officer for COG, back when the first CA court decision was rendered legalizing gay marriage,I am thrilled to see DOMA struck down, and Prop 8′s suit dismissed. COG clergy have been performing same gender marriages since the inception of the organization, in 1976, as their consciences permit.  As a member of The Troth who also performs Heathen weddings as well as Wiccan and Pagan ones, I believe that this step of legal recognition was long overdue. Right of survivorship is an important one, as well as the federal income tax benefit of filing jointly as a married couple. These benefits will apply to members of our military as well. The Troth does not discriminate against our gay members and never has. I have performed many same gender marriages and I look forward to resuming that joy in a legal capacity.”

Michele Morris, Distinctive Faith Group Leader for Fort Hood Open Circle, US Army Fort Hood, TX, noted how these decision will also affect same sex couples in a military setting, saying that for “most of the people that I work with it’s about the things that so many of us take for granted, like the right to be notified if your spouse is injured. To be able to be married in the faith and community of your choosing is something everyone should have access to and this decision will give pagan clergy the opportunity to grant that access to even more people.”

“Today’s Supreme Court rulings on DOMA and Proposition 8, while not as decisive and far-reaching as they could have been, are an important step in the decades-old movement to secure marriage rights for same-sex couples. Paganism has been at the forefront of that movement – many of us have performed religious marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples long before other religions started following suit. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but as of today, the writing on the wall is sharper and bolder than ever.”Andras Corban Arthen, The EarthSpirit Community

In the long run, what this is about, and why so many Pagans support marriage equality is simple. As Mage and Chiromancer Jim Barker puts it, “by allowing marriage between two people of the same gender, I can actually call my domestic partner “husband.”  When people ask if we are married, I can simply say, YES.  I don’t need all kinds of funny explanations.  And neither do my loved ones.  They can just say we’re married.” Our community embraces multiplicity, it embraces difference and all manifestations of love. “Our diversity is our wealth,” says Chris Moore, and he’s not wrong. 

There’s so much more to say here, and we’ll be doing follow-up posts. For now, I want to leave you with the words of Pagan author and activist Lydia M. N. Crabtree.

Lydia M. Crabtree

Lydia M. Crabtree

“I am struck at how yesterday the idea that there is discrimination against minority voters was scoffed at by the Supreme Court and today that same Court embraced the idea that the United States is discriminating against same sex marriage. It is almost as if we as a society do not have an ability to hold in our minds the prejudice of two groups at the same time. In both cases, these fights have been sent back to the state level – upholding the view that state rights is paramount. As a Southerner this disturbs me. I am all too familiar with what happens when States have control of making and governing minority groups. Things here in Georgia are unlikely to change for my friends who wish to marry whom they love regardless of gender. Just as I suspect that more voting laws will be attempted making voting more difficult for minority groups and redrawing district lines to keep Georgia a red state for as long as possible, given the fact that these practices of voter suppression have been on going. I do not think the United States people should breathe a sigh of relief. This Court clearly shows the great imbalance between the will of the people and the people who hold power. A clear reflection of the disparity of power between the will of the people and the Senate and Congress. Now isn’t the time to celebrate, it is the time to recognize two important thing. 1. Any minority discrimination is too much discrimination, whether the issue is around same-sex marriage or voting rights. 2. If the states retain the right to restrict minority groups indirectly, we should understand the dangerous precedent and remember the historic cost of state rights throughout history.”

Today we have a victory, but our collective work for justice continues. Let’s all keep standing for love.

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!

The Maetreum of Cybele Launches Crowdfunding Initiative: The Maetreum of Cybele, Magna Mater, has been in an ongoing tax battle with the Town of Catskill, New York, a battle centered on whether their building should be afforded a property tax exemption. The most recent round of this fight, before the New York State Supreme Court, did not go well for the Maetreum, though they feel their case for appeal is strong. However, to file that appeal, they need money, money they simply don’t have after years of legal challenges. So, the Maetreum has now launched an IndieGoGo campaign to raise $5000 to continue their fight.

“We are now in the process of filing an appeal and this matter will need to go up to the higher levels of New York’s court system.  Unfortunately, we have been unable to find a pro bono attorney to take the case and many of the legal advocacy organizations that we contacted were unable to help, either, thus forcing us to foot the legal bills ourselves.  These have now exceeded $30,000 over the years (and, mind you, we have never even taken in $30,000 in a year!).  According to our best estimates, the Town of Catskill has spent easily six figures of taxpayer money on our case:  more than they could ever get from either taxes on the property or proceed from a foreclosure sale!  The Town Supervisor even went on the record and told a reporter for the local paper, the Daily Mail, that the town considers us to be an “illegitimate religion”.  They have not done this to any other local religious group or church.”

In an exchange with Rev. Mother Cathryn Platine of the Maetreum, she stressed that time and resources were running out, quote, “our attorney wants the entire fee by the filing date which is Feb 4. We have an excellent chance of winning and have raised half the needed fees ourselves but the winter expenses along with the balance is making it difficult. Viktoria and I are selling off our antiques acquired over a lifetime to raise additional money.” So, if this is a case you care about, if you’d like to see the Maetreum continue its work, or are worried about the precedents established if they cannot continue to fight this case, spread the word and donate to their campaign. The Wild Hunt will be keeping track of the Maetreum’s tax battle as things progress.

ADF Marks the Passing of Former Preceptor Rev. George Lee:  Druid organization Ar nDraiocht Fein (ADF) announced on their official Facebook page yesterday that Rev. George Lee (aka Raven Mann) a liturgist, ritual leader, and former preceptor within the ADF, had passed away at the age of 49.

Rev. George Lee (Raven Mann)

Rev. George Lee (Raven Mann)

“Raven Mann was an effective priest and ritual leader, and also an accomplished liturgist. He served as the ADF Preceptor during the latter half of Rev. Skip Ellison’s term as Archdruid and made many contributions to the deliberations of the ADF Clergy Council. His passing will be a great loss to ADF.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife, Rev. Kelly Kingston (Carrion Mann) and their daughter Morrighan at this sad time. We also pray that he may pass quickly to the Otherworlds in the company of his Ancestors.”

For any that wish to make donations to Reverend Raven Mann’s family to help with funeral costs and things, 6th Night Grove, ADF has started a Raven Mann Memorial Fund. We here at The Wild Hunt offer our sincerest condolences, may Raven Mann rest with his gods and return to us again.

A History of New York Paganism: The New York Pagan podcast has posted audio of the first of four Pagan Way 40th Anniversary Lectures that took place in November. Presented by the New York Pagan Alliance, the First Unitarian Congregational Society of Brooklyn, New York, and the New York pagan community, the first lecture features Margot Adler, author of “Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America,” and Michael Lloyd, author of “Bull of Heaven: The Mythic Life of Eddie Buczynski and the Rise of the New York Pagan.”

Margot Adler, Michael Lloyd, at Anniversary Pagan Way Lecture Series; photo by Brian Brewer

Margot Adler, Michael Lloyd, at Anniversary Pagan Way Lecture Series; photo by Brian Brewer

“New York Pagan History: How We Got to Where We Are Today, the first in the series, featured author Michael Lloyd, whose painstaking efforts to chronicle the historic and cultural forces that influenced the establishment, rise, fall, and rebirth of the New York Pagan community have produced a treasure trove of well-documented insights into the earliest beginnings of the Pagan movement. [...] Margot, who provides the foreword to Bull of Heaven, shares in this talk how her earliest encounters with the Craft were deeply influenced by Eddie Buczynski and the emerging New York City Pagan community of the early 1970s.”

For more on this lecture series, see Zan Fraser’s write-up at The Juggler. To download the audio of the lecture, head over to the New York Pagan podcast site. I look forward to hearing the rest of this series, and I encourage my readers to subscribe to this podcast. For some more background on what The Pagan Way is, check out Aidan Kelly’s recent post on the subject.

In Other Community News:

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

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

Bull of Heaven publication party. (photo: Christopher Gregory/The New York Times)

Bull of Heaven publication party. (photo: Christopher Gregory/The New York Times)

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

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

New Alexandrian Library Lays Foundation: At the end of 2011 the New Alexandrian Library officially broke ground on their physical space in Delaware. A project that hopes to create “a library worthy of its namesake” focused on esoteric knowledge, mystical and the spiritual writings from many traditions, and the “ history of our magickal communities,” the NAL project has already started building an impressive collection, one that includes the recent acquisition of rare Dion Fortune paintings gifted by Dolores Ashcroft Nowicki. Now, the foundation for the dome structure has been recently completed, and PNC-Washington DC interviews Assembly of the Sacred Wheel (NAL’s sponsoring organization) Elder Michael Smith about the process.

New Alexandrian Library foundation.

New Alexandrian Library foundation.

“…sacred waters from around the world, sacred protective objects and crystals charged for this very purpose at our Between The Worlds gatherings’ main rituals in 2000, 2004, and 2007 are placed throughout the foundation. This work was designed to root all of the power and intention we have raised to support the Library over the years. Additional ritual and magickal work will be done at each step of the construction. The specific dome construction allows us to place objects and implant workings into each seam between the triangles – to help the project grow and prosper each step of the way.”

Smith says the project is on-schedule, and construction of the dome kit will begin soon. You can receive regular updates on the library’s progress at their Facebook page. As always, monetary donations, no matter how small, are needed to make this happen. One can donate through the NAL’s website or through the Causes campaign ‘Support the New Alexandrian Library.’ You can read all of The Wild Hunt’s coverage of the New Alexandrian Library project, here.

Circle Minister Joins Eagle Scout Protest: Due to an ongoing policy of the Boy Scouts of America “not granting membership to open or avowed homosexuals,” one recently affirmed by its leadership, a growing number of Eagle Scouts, the organization’s elite members, have been resigning their membership and sending back their badges and medals. One of that growing number is Bob Paxton, a Circle Sanctuary Minister, who was interviewed yesterday by Pagan Newswire Collective Managing Editor Cara Schulz about his decision.

“I can say that as a Pagan my experience as a Boy Scout directly lead to my choosing the Pagan spiritual path.  Experience that I had in the woods, experiences I had in summer camps, experiences I had in some of the ceremonial occasions very much led me in that direction [...] We are hoping to accomplish, not only by sending the letters but by publicly sending the letters a public shaming such that if nothing else it’s my hope that down in Irving, Texas as these letters and these medals come in with the mail delivery every day that somebody opens them up, puts them on a table, and takes a look at this and says, “You know, something’s wrong here. We have to do something else. People that we nurtured up to the verge of manhood are coming back to us now from 10, 20, 30, 50 years and saying no, you can’t be like this.”  If that doesn’t stand a chance of changing their hearts, I don’t know what will.”

As Paxton notes, his Pagan experience began as a Boy Scout, and no doubt many Pagans nurtured a reverence for nature in a scouting organization. Today, groups like the Spiral Scouts attempt to recreate the scouting experience from with a Pagan lens. Paxton says that as a Pagan minister, and an LGBT ally, he felt the national organization ratifying the exclusion of gay men allows a culture of bullying that could not go unanswered. No doubt other Pagan Eagle Scouts are considering the same steps that he has.

Nature Spirituality Podcast Interviews Former Sierra Club Director: Tomorrow, the Faith, Fern, and Compass podcast, hosted by Alison Leigh Lilly, and her husband Jeff Lilly, will post part one of an interview with Former National Director of the Sierra Club Melanie Griffin in a two-part special.

Melanie Griffin

Melanie Griffin

“After a wildly successful premiere season during which the new podcast hosted by Alison Leigh Lilly and her husband Jeff Lilly grew in leaps and bounds reaching listeners worldwide, Faith, Fern & Compass celebrates with a two-part special exploring the changing face of environmentalism and the growing interest in nature-centered spirituality. Former National Director of the Sierra Club Melanie Griffin has been a leader in the national environmental movement for more than 25 years; as an activist and lobbyist, she has been instrumental in the passing of ground-breaking legislation to protect the environment and regulate industry in the United States. In an exclusive interview with FF&C co-host Jeff Lilly, she shares personal reflections on her experiences working for the Sierra Club, exploring the ways that science, technology, the economy and social media has shaped the conversation about ecology and environmentalism over the past few decades, and how her own faith has played an important role in her commitment to the planet.”

Lilly has long been a champion of environmental concerns within the context of modern Paganism, and is the coordinator/editor of the Pagan Newswire Collective’s No Unsacred Place group blog, which explores the relationships between religion and science, nature and civilization from a diversity of modern Pagan perspectives. Griffin says she “sees the divine most strikingly in the natural world,” and this should be a must-listen program for anyone interested in how our faith, and environmental activism can intersect. You can subscribe to Faith, Fern, and Compass on iTunes, or download directly from their site.

In Other Community News:

That’s all I have for now! Speaking of Pagan community events, I’ll be at Faerieworlds this weekend, and hope to share with you the many Pagan elements of this wonderful event. So stay tuned! As always, if you have community news you’d like to share, please drop me a line.

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

“Covered in Light is a Sisterhood of Pagan/Polytheist self-identified women who have chosen, or are called, to cover their hair as part of their religious observance. In no way are we oppressed, objectified, suppressed, or made to feel like a second class citizen. The covering of our hair is a sacred act of devotion to our chosen Deities and therefore is approached with devotion and reverence. We welcome all women from all walks of life to join our Sisterhood if they feel led to do so. Trans-women and women of other faiths who are Pagan/Polytheist friendly and who embrace the Divine Mother are also welcome amongst us with open arms.”Cora Post, from Covered In Light. They are sponsoring the First Annual International Covered in Light Day on September 21st, 2012.

Michael Lloyd

Michael Lloyd

“It is important to recognize that most large gatherings which are billed as “national” events generally pull the bulk of their attendees from the region in which the event is being held. And there is anecdotal evidence to show that, when such a gathering is moved farther afield due to a necessary change in venue, the area from which attendees are drawn likewise tends to shift to focus on the new geographic center. When Julian Hill and I created the Between the Worlds Men’s Gathering in 2002, we initially foresaw it as a regional gathering for gay and bi men residing within a 500 mile radius of Columbus, Ohio. However, in the first year we had attracted someone from Texas, and inquiries from as far afield as Mexico and France. By the second year we had people attend from as far away as Washington State. After 10 years we’ve pulled people from Hawaii, as well as from Ontario and Manitoba, Canada. And yet the bulk of the attendees have remained within the 500 mile radius that we had initially targeted. This is due primarily to the economics and practicality of transporting camping gear, ritual accoutrements, and fabulous costumes cross-country. Therefore, I believe that most events–even those with large draws from farther afield–are already essentially regional in nature.” – Michael Lloyd, a co-founder and former co-facilitator (2002-2011) of the Between the Worlds Men’s Gathering, an annual spiritual retreat for men who love men. He’s author of the forthcoming book “Bull of Heaven: The Mythic Life and Times of Eddie Buczynski.” Lloyd was responding to a series on the Talking About Ritual Magick blog that asked if Pagan festivals are doomed to an inevitable decline.

Aidan Kelly in younger days.

Aidan Kelly in younger days.

“However, there is more to the Craft than just being a newly respectable religion for middle-class intellectuals. Tell me, you initiates, did you come to the Craft in order to supposedly work magic by reading a script? In order to take a politically correct attitude toward ecology and the environment? Or were you lured in by the Goddess, by the archetype of Aradia as the rebel against corruption and oppression? Or did you find the Craft because you were sick of being lied to by the established churches? If your primary allegiance is to searching out truth, as mine is, then you are a sixth type of Witch, for which there is not yet an established term.” – Aidan Kelly, exploring “What is a Witch?”

Frater Barrabbas (left) with fellow magician Tony Mierzwicki.

Frater Barrabbas (left) with fellow magician Tony Mierzwicki.

“Large regional festivals and conventions probably face a limited future, and will not be likely to persist in the decades ahead, what with the impact of limited resources and the necessity to adapt to changing times. Large gatherings may be more likely to occur once a decade, if at all. Local organizations and events are much more sustainable and these will likely persist and flourish in the future. Yet the most profound kind of gathering will be the intensive retreat, called Witch Camp by some, and perhaps spawning many variations in the future, each established for different regional areas and different traditions, practices and beliefs. It is my opinion that the future of our spiritual movement will be shaped not by social gatherings or even by individual groups or covens, but by intensive retreats that will give a level of spiritual authenticity to our beliefs and practices which normal activities and engagements fail to offer.” - Frater Barrabbas, “Are Pagan Festivals Dead? – Part 3″

“The [Witchcraft Suppression] Act makes possessing knowledge, or professing to possess knowledge of ‘witchcraft’ illegal, and by its title, seeks to suppress witchcraft. It also prohibits divination, a practice shared by both traditional healers who identify as iZangoma, and Pagans who identify as witches. [...]  Traditional beliefs do not assume that a witch may be innocent of such accusation because it is believed that such criminal acts are in keeping with the nature of the practice of Witchcraft. The alliance has advocated against witch hunts and accusations of witchcraft since 2007. Our annual campaign focuses on research, advocacy and education. We believe that accusations of witchcraft cannot be legislated away.” - Damon Leff, director of the South African Pagan Rights Alliances (SAPRA), speaking to The Citizen on South Africa’s Witchcraft Suppression Act.

Iris Firemoon with David Salisbury

Iris Firemoon with David Salisbury

“Obesity in the Pagan community is a part of the larger issue of health.  And health is not just about weight.  It is about treating our bodies as sacred.  It’s about what we put into our bodies and making sure that they are in the best condition possible for the long haul.  It’s about putting things into our bodies that were created by nature or the gods, not by putting synthetic replicas into our bodies as a substitute. It’s something that not only Pagans struggle with, but health is a consideration for all humans.  When we are at the height of our possible health (which is different for all of us because of genetics, injury, etc.), we improve the quality of our life.  We reduce disease.  We prolong life.  We feel better for longer.  I strongly believe that our bodies respond better to invasions and prevent disease when they are in optimal condition.  We are better vessls for divine work.  We are better able to serve.  We are better able to participate.”Iris Firemoon, responding to a conversation started by Peter Dybing on obesity within the modern Pagan movement.

Joseph Merlin Nichter (aka WitchDoctorJoe)

Joseph Merlin Nichter (aka WitchDoctorJoe)

“We have started the NPCCA [National Pagan Correctional Chaplains Association] as an affiliate program, a product of our existing organization, Mill Creek Seminary, and have just begun the first in a three phase development plan. Phase one will focus on membership development and organizational growth. We are proud to announce that the NPCCA is now accepting applications for membership from Pagans who actively engage in prison ministry, provide some form of religious service within the field of corrections, or have a strong religious organizations which have a prison ministry program  or who are interested in participating, contributing or supporting Pagan chaplaincy.”Joseph Merlin Nichter (aka WitchDoctorJoe), on the formation of the National Pagan Correctional Chaplains Association.

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

[Michael Lloyd is an engineer and writer. He is a co-founder and former co-facilitator (2002-2011) of the Between the Worlds Men’s Gathering, an annual spiritual retreat for men who love men. Michael has written for Circle magazine, Outlook magazine, and The Witches Voice, and was the author of Chapter 2 - “The History of Oils” - of Lady Rhea’s Enchanted Formulary (Citadel, 2007). His first book, Bull of Heaven: The Mythic Life of Eddie Buczynski and the Rise of the New York Pagan, will be published later this year. He was interviewed on the subject of gay Paganism by Margot Adler for her latest revision of Drawing Down the Moon (Penguin Books, 2007). A long-time resident of Columbus, Ohio, Michael was named in the 2011 Who’s Who of GLBT Columbus. He has an author page on Facebook, and can be reached at Buczynski.project@gmail.com.]

“The loss of history is always of particular concern in minority subcultures, where change is often rapid and the accurate preservation of historical details is of secondary interest to merely living life and getting by.” - Michael Lloyd, Bull of Heaven, from the Proemium

Many thanks to Jason for his great work here at Wild Hunt and for allowing me the opportunity to address his readership during his absence. As mentioned above, I have completed and am readying for publication the biography of Eddie Buczynski, a Craft elder from New York City who passed away in 1989 from complications associated with AIDS. Buczynski was the founder of three different living Witchcraft traditions in the U.S., including one that is near and dear to my own heart – the Minoan Tradition. Working on the life story of a Craft elder, and reconstructing the history of that portion of the Neo-Pagan movement pertaining to him, has been a personally satisfying experience. It has enabled me to meet fascinating people from all over the world and from many varied backgrounds – artists, playwrights, archaeologists, actors, writers, musicians – in addition to many elders in the Neo-Pagan community. I’ve made some great friends over the nine years that I have worked on this project. However, I am sobered by the realization that, during this process, I have also watched as eight of the more than seventy people I interviewed have passed over to the Summerlands. Several others who survived their battles continue to have serious health issues, many associated with the mundane ravages of time. It is a grim thought that, had I waited even a few short years to begin this project, the effort might have been gutted at the outset.

This brings me to the point of this blog post – we are simply not doing enough to preserve our history. We are steadily losing the elders of the past generation of Witches, Pagans, Ceremonial Magickians, Shamans and the like. Those who were adults in the 1960s and 1970s when they founded traditions, fought for equality, or wrote the texts that shaped and influenced our various spiritual paths are now fast approaching (or have reached) their golden years. That, in itself, is not a cause for alarm for, as we all know, the cycle of life and death is both natural and inexorable. What is alarming, however, is the utter hash we have been making of documenting the history of specific traditions and their founders/leaders. We can thank several dedicated writers and historians for doing a decent job of capturing the general history of the movement, through the auspices of people both within the community (e.g., Margot Adler, Chas Clifton) and outside of it (e.g., Ronald Hutton). But when it comes to preserving the memories or the papers of important historical figures within the Neo-Pagan movement, we are failing, and failing miserably. And future generations will look unkindly upon us for this.

Eddie Buczynski has only been gone for 23 years, so many of his friends and family members are, fortunately, still with us. And while many of the papers which were in his possession when he passed were scrapped long ago, I did manage to locate a surprising amount of material squirreled away in various places throughout the country. What this really means is that I got lucky. But not everyone who ventures down this path with other deceased elders can count on this good fortune, which leads me to address you elders who may be reading this. I appeal to your sense of community and sense of history. If you wish to have some assurance that your legacy will be preserved after you are gone, do a favor for yourself and for those around you – indeed, do us all a favor – and formulate a transition plan that makes arrangements to handle your papers, photos, and other community-related ephemera. And why wait until your will is probated? Consider approaching an archive or university library that might be willing to catalogue and preserve your collection of papers and other materials while you are still alive and before poor health or death makes such arrangements difficult or impossible to carry out.

Even if you do not want to allow others to go through your papers before you pass, do so yourself. I have gone through some absolutely atrocious collections over the years, with papers, photos and books jumbled, folded, thrown into boxes, or exposed to sunlight, vermin and the elements, destroyed by mildew, stained with cigarette smoke, and damaged by spills or floods. If you do not have the money to preserve your papers to archival standards (e.g., acid free boxes and envelopes, mylar sleeves), you can at least organize them neatly in folders and boxes and store them in a manner that keeps them from harm. Do not underestimate the value of your papers to a future historian or writer! Cards, letters, fliers, press releases, interviews, articles, notes, handouts, diaries, datebooks, rough drafts of manuscripts, vouches and other organizational records – and now emails – are all extremely valuable sources of information. Photos are a particular concern, for their lack of preservation is a problem that I have encountered many times over the years. It’s preferable to keep photos in their original paper envelope than it is to place them in a photo album. With the latter, the chemicals in the plastic backing and sleeve eventually react with the photos and glue them into place both front and back. If you can do so, consider digitizing your photographs using a high-density scanner, and then burning them to disc or backing them up in a couple of different places so that they are preserved for posterity. Email is also a preservation priority, with so many people relying on it these days over postal letters. Routinely placing electronic records into pdf format and archiving them someplace safe is probably the best way to ensure that future generations will be able to access them.

In conjunction with Eddie Buczynski’s biography, several years ago I interviewed Harold Moss, co-founder of the Church of the Eternal Source. At some point during our correspondence, Harold lamented that no one would probably bother to write his biography (Moss passed away in 2010). If any other elders out there have a similar concern, then I would like to tell you what I told Harold at the time – consider writing your autobiography, or at least setting down your memoirs on paper. They don’t have to be published, but it is vitally important that your oral history be recorded in some manner, even if in audio/video recordings or a simple draft manuscript. Oral histories (lore) are fine for the campfire, but they are generally unreliable sources of history, as anyone who has played the game of telephone can understand. If your words are recorded, then at least they will be preserved when you are no longer able, or present, to answer questions.

And here is where I make my second plea of this article. If you do go to the trouble of recording your story, please be honest in its telling. Shading the truth (or manufacturing it out of whole cloth) may preserve your dignity and the party line while you are alive, but in the long run you’re only fooling yourself. It’s a safe bet that some future historian, researcher, or writer will eventually come along, dig out the facts, and point out the glaring inconsistencies (or worse, misrepresentations) in your story. So it’s best just to be honest. One should also try to be as accurate as possible. Memories fail us; it’s a fact of life. And we are notoriously bad at recalling dates. But details and dates matter in history and what is a biography/autobiography, if not the history of a person? If you can’t remember or reconstruct a believable timeline for your story, then your efforts will be of limited interest or use (or veracity) to others. So do the best that you can on this score.

I understand that writing one’s life story can be a daunting task. And not everyone is up to it. That is where an independent biographer may come into the picture. Speaking from personal experience, writing the biography of another person is a long, tedious and financially unrewarding process. But from the community’s viewpoint it is a necessary one, and on a personal level it can be highly satisfying intellectually. If you are an aspiring writer who is thinking of tackling the biography of a Neo-Pagan leader, I urge you to think carefully about the task that lay ahead of you. Do it only because a particular story calls to you, not because you hope to become famous or rich at the end of the process – the reality is that neither is likely to happen. It is that passion that will sustain you when nothing else does, believe me.

Approach your subject and the task at hand with humility, patience, perseverance, and gratitude. Unless you’ve been hired to write the book, you must be prepared to pay your own way, whether it’s copying and postage fees, travel expenses, long-distance phone calls, the purchase of reference materials, or any of the multitudes of miscellaneous expenses that may appear along the way. Remember that no one owes you anything, and that you will oft-times be relying on the kindness of strangers. Be respectful and fair to all, but mindful that you are beholden to history, as well as to the future generations who will be relying upon you for the truth (or as close as you can get to it). A story that unquestioningly and unrealistically praises its subject is called a hagiography, not a biography. It is the mirror image of a smear and, in my personal opinion, both are the product of hacks. Be better than that. As one of my interviewees demanded of me early in my own project – “Do a good job!”