Archives For music

When David Bowie died in January, there was a mass outpouring of emotion. Fans around the world shared memories, re-watched his movies, and listened to their favorite Bowie songs. The international media machine dug up stories about his life and influence. Bowie was, and still is, an icon representing a form of transgressive pop culture. Through that work, he pushed boundaries into the fantastic and was fully embraced for his oddity. In January, The Hollywood Reporter called him a “genre- and gender-bending British music icon whose persistent innovations and personal reinventions transformed him into a larger-than-life rock star.”

Three months later when Prince died, there was a similar collective outpouring of emotion. Once again, fans shared memories, cried, held vigils and shared their favorite songs. Cities and monuments were bathed in purple light; The New Yorker released an issue with a cover image of rain drops dripping down an all-purple background. Like Bowie, Prince challenged social boundaries, becoming an icon of transgressive pop culture, and he was also embraced for this oddity. In April, The New York Times wrote, “[…] his catalog of songs addressed social issues and delved into mysticism and science fiction. [Prince] made himself a unifier of dualities – racial, sexual, musical, cultural – teasing them in songs like ‘Controversy’ and transcending them in his career.”

For most people the two celebrities were only known through their work and fame. When each of them died, fans were essentially mourning someone they had never met. This single human being, who was neither in their immediate family nor in their larger circle of friends, was held in deep regard. After watching this tremendous public reaction, I began to wonder why and how people can mourn a perfect stranger with such a depth of feeling from a point of real truth. How is that possible?

I believe the answer is in the music.

[Photo Credit: H. Greene]

[Photo Credit: H. Greene]

Shortly after Prince died, a friend relayed a story to me about how the film Purple Rain was playing repeatedly on the television system in the hospital where her ailing mother had been admitted. Over a period of days, she sat by her mother’s bedside repeatedly watching this movie. Many years later, after hearing the news of Prince’s untimely death, deep emotions stirred within her. The song Purple Rain evoked powerful memories of her mother – both of the many joyful times and the difficulties in an untimely death that happened not long after that very hospital stay.

For my friend and others, the song Purple Rain had become an unbreakable thread that tied the past to the present. And that scenario is not uncommon. Music does just that. It can touch us in places of deep privacy where nobody else can go, and remain there as an indestructible bond, a seductive path, and a powerful trigger. Music can move us into experience, not unlike meditation, trance work and magic.

And, through that emotional constant, we can develop deeply felt connections to the creator of the source. We feel personally connected to Prince or Bowie or whomever.  Music creates a sacred internal bond and, in doing so, it turns its creator into a friend and confidant, a lover, a teacher, or a even a god. Someone who really knows us.

” Flames – they licked the walls. Tenderly they turned to dust all that I adore” – Bastille

Growing up, I was surrounded by music. Some of my oldest memories are of my neighbor playing piano as his daughter and I danced to silly songs. “Put your right foot in and right foot out,” we would sing. I eventually was enveloped by music, through piano lessons, chorus, dance and musical theater. Music was everywhere I was and it still is. Every day begins with an overture, and every person has a theme song. I look for rhythm in my writing and in my magic.

Whether or not you live to the beat of music so obsessively as I do, music has been scientifically proven to have many positive effects on the brain. It can create pathways into places we might not readily be able to easily access ourselves, such as past memories, inner drives, and difficult community connections. These are three examples of  the way music works its magic.

“Once upon a time, once when you were mine; I remember skies, reflected in your eyes” – Moody Blues

First, music acts as a time machine. It creates powerful, lasting memory connections that can “transport us” to another time and place. According to scientists, music impacts what is called implicit memory, or the type that is tied to emotion and absorbed outside of direct consciousness. It is described as being “robust,” unlike conscious, or “explicit,” memory, which can be more fleeting and easily damaged. Diseases like Alzheimer’s or accidents affecting the brain can limit access to explicit memory, but not affect the more robust implicit memory, which includes music memory. Therefore therapy using sound can be very effective in reawakening lost memories in many patients.

Because of its ability to trigger memory through emotion, music has been used as a therapeutic tool, mnemonic device, calming activity, mood changer, and also a magical time machine returning us to times long gone.

When my grandmother died, I asked my grandfather to write down the story of his childhood. I didn’t know much about his early life growing up as an immigrant in Chicago, and I didn’t want to lose that part of our family history. He agreed, and after two weeks, he sent me a five-page handwritten essay, not about his childhood but about his life with my grandmother. He had probably never wrote anything in his life. But he wrote this – a cathartic tribute to the woman with whom he had spent his entire life.

[Pixabay / Public Domain]

[Pixabay / Public Domain]

My grandfather opened is story with, “The organ played ‘Because You’re Mine,” just one of the many songs which became a part of their lives. “Only You,” “You Belong to My Heart,” “You Made Me Love You,” “Didn’t We.” In the myriad of songs and lyrics encountered over the years, there was always constant reminder of the commitment.” Alongside each handwritten paragraph, he had scratched in the margins the name of a song. Listening to the songs as I read his story helped to transport me deeper into his memories, which began in Depression-era Chicago and went through his family life in Santa Monica to retirement in Carson City.

This is part of its magic. It transports you, if you let it.

Music attaches itself to our experience and remains dormant there until we hear the song again. Then, it acts like a trigger, taking us back in time.  And, frankly, sometimes you have no choice. As noted earlier, it affects our implicit memory; it seeps into our brains often without us consciously knowing. Ever start singing a song that you don’t like? I spent many years going to sleep listening to Air Supply. The walls of my parents’ apartment were thin and my neighbor was a big fan.  To this day, I know the lyrics to “I’m all out of love.”

Even when the song is not attached to a memory, music can reach deep into our souls, opening up doorways of perception that allow us to relax into ourselves. In magical circles, chanting and other sound-based rituals often help open the senses for deeper workings. But this type of connection is not relegated to spiritual work. For example, primary school teachers will use calming music in the class to settle young students and create a more effective learning environment.

This illustrates the second way in which music works its magic. Through our emotional connection to music, we can derive personal empowerment and the expression of our own deepest longings, thoughts, pains, struggles and ideas.  Artists with a musical gift help us to tap our inner world. The songs in my grandfather’s story helped illustrate his emotions better than his own written words.

“Strumming my pain with his fingers, Singing my life with his words” – Roberta Flack

Music reminds; it informs; it empowers. It makes us want to act and sometimes it even explains why. Music is magical in the way it dances through our lives, enticing us to join along. In doing so, it asks us to not be afraid of what it is, who we are, and what it evokes within our spirit. Just as music triggers memories, it triggers creativity. Just as it can transport us back in time; it can transport us to places of personal secrecy. Music can make us cry when we can’t, and dance when we are too tired.

“And now we got a revolution, Cause i see the face of things to come” – Nina Simone

Music can also help with magic. The very first magical working that I did was long before I ever picked up a Witchcraft book. This was long before I knew another Pagan. I was a secular atheist with no interest in religion, but I knew about magic, and I knew it worked. How? Because as long as I could remember, I felt the magic in the music. From a very young age, it transported me through its sound, and I was lost in its beauty. Therefore, it was a natural progression go from music being magic, to magic being music.

For that very first working, which I did as a preteen, I used the music of Madonna, which brings me to my next point. Whether music is rock, pop, classical, folk, alternative, punk, mystical or Pagan, it doesn’t matter. Whether it’s comprised of drum beats, flutes or an entire orchestra, it doesn’t matter. Rhythm, sound, instruments, vibrations, voices and words…. If in any combination, the resulting product opens a doorway into your personal being-ness, then it can serve the purpose and be your magic carpet into the past or an altered magical state.

“I sing the Body Electric. I glory in the glow rebirth, creating my own tomorrow, when I shall embody the Earth.” – Fame

Now to return to the original question of why we mourn pop music icons, such as David Bowie or Prince, we must look to the ways in which music affects our lives. These two artists, like many others, are the ones who, in essence, wove that “magic carpet.” They are the ones who were able to create the experience of music, which in turn allowed us to connect to ourselves, to our past, to our history, to our ancestors, to our gods, and to our magic.

A Psychology Today article accounts for the mourning saying that “When artists with decades-long careers like Bowie, [Whitney] Houston, or Michael Jackson die, they take a little piece of our pasts with them.” This applies to non-musical artists as well, such as Robin Williams or Alan Rickman. If a deep part of them can touch a deep part of us, we mourn their deaths just as we would our intimate friends, family and lovers.

In that same article, the writer also points to the third way in which music works magic. It bonds us together through a language that transcends the spoken word, even when there are lyrics. Music can unite us in a sort of social harmony, unlike anything else, because it does so through our sense of universal humanity. Psychology Today writes, “Discovering a shared fondness for a particular film or song brings us closer to others, because our cultural tastes often reflect our values and worldviews.” And when the artist dies we find ourselves in a “collective mourning [that] reminds us that we’re part of a [something] and helps us to celebrate the cultural touchstones that define us.”

Both David Bowie and Prince will live on through their music and their art. Their sound will continue to transport us, empower us, and connect us to others worldwide. Their music will continue to work its magic.  As we say, what is remembered, lives.

That is the magic of music.

[We welcome back guest journalist Zora Burden. She is a poet, and a journalist for the San Francisco Herald. She has written two interview books, “Women of the Underground,” featuring female musicians and artists. Burden’s autobiographical writing narrates Goeff Cordner’s feature-length film “Portraits from the Fringes,” a segment of which became the award-winning “Hotel Hopscotch.” In all her work, she likes to focus on feminism, radical outcasts, surrealist art, social activism and the esoteric. Today we present side A of her interview with author Patricia Kennealy-Morrison.The second segment, side B, will be presented next Sunday.] 

Patricia Kennealy-Morrison was one of the first female rock critics and journalists, having begun her career in the 1960s. She was the editor-in-chief of Jazz & Pop Magazine and, later, an award-winning copywriter and director for RCA and CBS Records. In her book Rock Chick: A Girl and Her Music- The Jazz and Pop Writings, 1968 to 1971, Patricia recalls her time as a rock journalist in a collection of articles, reviews, essays and interviews with the most notable musicians of the era and on festivals like Woodstock and Altamont

1020234Along with her own work, Patricia was also the wife of the rock legend Jim Morrison. Her bestselling memoir Strange Days: My Life With and Without Jim Morrison commemorates their life together and love for one another, and is one of the most candid and definitive books on Jim Morrison. She was portrayed in Oliver Stone’s movie The Doors (1991) by actress Kathleen Quinlan. She served as a consultant to the film and had a cameo, performing her own wedding ceremony, between Quinlan as herself and Val Kilmer as Jim Morrison.

Her prolific writing continues with the murder series The Rock & Roll Murders: The Rennie Stride Mysteries, the latest of which is set for release at the end of 2015. She is also the author of a series of Celtic-based science fiction novels, The Keltiad.

After her work was published by such companies as NAL, Signet, ROC, and HarperCollins, she founded her own publishing company, Lizard Queen Press, in 2007.

In 1990, Patricia was knighted as a Dame Templar at Rosslyn Chapel, an initiate of the Supremus Militaris Templi Hierosolymitani. She is a historian and archivist of Celtic traditions, as well as a High Priestess. She was one of the first women in the U.S. to boldly and publicly acknowledge that she practiced Witchcraft, during a time when feminism was barely in its second wave. When she married Morrison on June 24, 1970, they used a Celtic Pagan handfasting ceremony officiated by a Presbyterian minister licensed to perform weddings in New York City.

A pioneer in her work and life, Patricia continues to be a role model for women, especially those practicing Witchcraft and other forms of Paganism.

 *   *   *

Zora Burden: What was your childhood like? Where did you grow up and what were the traditions of Witchcraft you learned as a child or in your formative years?

Patricia Kennealy-Morrison: I was born in Park Slope, Brooklyn in 1946, the first year of the baby boom, which makes me a dowager boomer. We moved to Queens for a few years, then out to Long Island in the great wave of G.I. Bill-financed mortgages and pleasant homes with trees and yards and stuff. I lived there with my parents and three siblings until it was time to go away to college at age seventeen.

I wanted journalism and mountains, a really rural area, and the only place in New York State that had both was St. Bonaventure University, a Franciscan school in the Allegheny mountains of southwestern New York State. The Catholicism was pervasive, but I managed to avoid the worst of it, and I truly loved my courses and the area. But two years was enough, and I transferred to Harpur College as it then was, it’s Binghamton University now. I majored in English Lit. and graduated in 1967, having just turned 21.

Both places taught me a lot about Paganism: many, many books, and I spent prodigious amounts of time in the stacks, learning. But I didn’t find a group to join until I was living in New York City after graduation, a Scottish traditional coven, which I was still in when I met Jim and later when we got married.

ZB: What magical gifts and talents or inclinations did you have growing up, and how were those encouraged?

PKM: They weren’t encouraged at all! My family was very strict Irish Roman Catholic, though the little gifts like Sight did sneak through, from both sides of the family tree. But we never discussed it.

One gift I could do without: precognition of deaths. I had a vision of Jim the night before he died: he was standing by my bed, so real that I could smell his indefinable scent; he bent over to kiss me and was gone. A few years later, I woke up screaming from a nightmare of my sister being killed in a car crash; the next day, my mom called to tell me that my sister’s fiancé had been killed in a car crash. I had a vision of my beautiful Irish wolfhound jumping on the bed as she used to do, again so real the bed sagged under her; the friends who had her called the next day to tell me she’d peacefully died. And of course there’s the earthquake precog … It never tells me anything nice, like winning lottery numbers, and I kind of wish it would stop. Being warned isn’t much fun.

ZB: What is the focus of your belief system? Did you learn mostly from oral tradition? 

PKM: I consider myself a Celtic Pagan. That is the chief pantheon I worship and the traditions I follow. I learned from both books and personal teachings.

ZB:  How have your spiritual or magical beliefs expanded throughout your life?

PKM: After [Jim] died, I didn’t want to be in the group on my own. I found the Pagan Way Outer Court group that Margot Adler ran, and met with them for a while, though it was mostly social rituals, not workings; then a Welsh Traditional group of only four people, but that was mostly Gardnerian. By then I was tired and disillusioned, so went solitary, and have been so ever since.

I had guests from time to time for rituals at home, including musician and actress friends, and once in a while I joined Phyllis Curott’s Temple of Ara for big public celebrations like Yule, which was nice. But that’s it really. I don’t feel the need at this late date to belong to a group. My Facebook private page serves the purpose nicely. If they all lived in New York I would definitely have them over for circles. Alas, they do not.

ZB: What specific lore, festivals, rites or rituals have the most meaning to you? How do you incorporate this into your daily life? 

PKM: It is so ingrained in me that I seldom think about it. The wards and protections and permanently cast circle are just always there. Samhain is my favorite festival, and I always do some sort of ritual to welcome the guests who come to visit from the other side: food, drink, flowers, pumpkins. I spend it very quietly, as a rule, though once in a while, as I said, I’ll have an actual physical guest, which is also nice. I don’t like to talk too specifically about it, as there have been incidents. But there are also precautions.

ZB: Who was most inspirational to you with regard to your practice?

PKM: No one, really. I just read and studied on my own, then later found groups to join. Unfortunately, the groups were more social than scholarly in nature, one of the reasons why I unjoined eventually.

ZB: What early magical experiences did you have that are most memorable?

[Photo Credit L. D. Bright]

Patricia Kennealy-Morrison [Photo Credit L. D. Bright]

PKM: I remember once at about age nine, lying in the yard in summer and seeing someone in a white robe walking along the top of a big puffy cumulus cloud. And down along the edge of the deep woods by our house I would frequently see large, iridescent clear-gold bubbles drifting slowly by, changing direction and speed, while down in the really deep blueberry woods I would sometimes see a small hooded figure that would disappear as soon as I looked at it. It wasn’t Blake and a treeful of angels, but hey, what is?

I could also do weather magic, a little: I rained out a high-school graduation (not mine) because I was an usher and I wanted to be inside so I could see friends graduate, but if the ceremony was held outside I would be stuck far away in the parking lot and wouldn’t see a thing. So I made it rain, despite a forecast of bright, hot and sunny and not a cloud in the sky.

But the thing that really turned me completely was a vision I had when I was sixteen. I was awake in the middle of the full-moon night and was sitting at the window of my room. A huge willow tree grew in the yard, and I was contemplating it when all of a sudden a woman appeared in it. She was beautiful, dressed in robes, barefoot, holding a tambourine sort of thing, which I later learned was called a sistrum.

She didn’t say anything, just looked at me and I looked back at her, completely unafraid. She was totally real: she stayed a full minute or two, then just smiled and vanished. Next day I went to the library and found a book I’d never seen before, a book called The White Goddess. And then some more books. There weren’t many resources in those days, the early 60s, but it all got started there.

 ZB: Which gods or goddesses are most important to you? Which were Jim drawn to?

PKM: So many! Though my main devotions are to the Goddess and the God in all their varying forms, I would have to say that my chief devotion is to Gwyn ap Nudd and Gwydion, Welsh gods of the Wild Hunt (Gwyn) and writing (Gwydion), and to Dionysus, in his aspect as psychopomp and healer.

On the Goddess side, Ariadne, mortal wife of Dionysus, I really relate to her and the Mórrígan, Irish war goddess.

I couldn’t say where Jim’s divine side led him: Dionysus, certainly, as has been well documented. I tried to show him the god’s other side, not the mad ecstatic libertine but the grave, bearded priest and guide of souls. We bought a book at the Strand, well several books actually about this topic, which I still have, along with Jim’s notes.

ZB: What sacred sites are you drawn to? 

PKM: I am drawn to, and have visited, wonderful sites in Ireland and Britain. The first sacred place I went to was Stonehenge, for the winter solstice in 1972. It was staggering: you could walk among the stones back then, not like now where it’s all fenced off. I had a cab drive me out there before dawn and told the driver to come back in four hours. So I snuck in, so easy to do, and walked around saying hello, and then sat down with my back to the Hele Stone and waited for the sun.

I could feel it coming in like a rushing tide. There was no one there: just me, the stones and the rooks and ravens. And the Unconquered Sun, Sol Invictus. That, I have always felt since, was my real and true spiritual awakening, a baptism of power, if you will. Later, when the place opened up for business, I snuck back out and entered lawfully with a ticket, still with no one around for hours. But it was an immense experience, and I will never forget it.

That same trip, my first to England, I also went to Glastonbury for Christmas, which was awesome in its own way. I didn’t climb the Tor, though: not ready for it, or it for me. Four years ago, I was back in Glastonbury, having attended summer school at Christ Church, University of Oxford, and went to the Chalice Well; still no Tor climb, though that was because I’d torn my Achilles tendon and couldn’t walk very well. I drank the well water and walked through a sort of large sluice where the sacred water rushes through, very healing. Next time, the Tor.

There were other trips to Ireland and England and Scotland and Wales, alone or with friends, and I’d steer them to sacred places like the Merry Maidens or Logan Rock or the Rollright Stones. There’s still quite a few places I’d like to get to, though.

I’ve also been to Hawai’i, the Big Island, and I paid respects to Madam Pele in her house at Kilauea. You can’t help but feel her presence there, with the lava bubbling up (at a safe distance) and the steam and all. I felt so safe with her and so at home: I sat on the edge of the firepit Halema’uma’u and made her an offering of food and drink. It was amazing. The Heart of the World, beating beneath me.

ZB: What orders do you belong to?

PKM: I am a Dame Templar in the Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem, invested in 1990 for services to Celtdom through my books. The investiture took place at Rosslyn Chapel, the one at the end of The Da Vinci Code. Spectacularly beautiful, and the power nearly took the roof off. There were 19 North Americans being invested, and supposedly there are 19 Templars buried in the deep crypts.  It was incredible: I received the full accolade, with a historic sword called the Deuchars sword, a cloak and a breast star, which last I have worn since on formal occasions, and was wearing Dress Morrison tartan for the ceremony.

Author Katherine Kurtz and her husband Scott MacMillan sponsored me to the order, and were there along with two other friends. Anyway, after the ceremony I went over and meditated with my hand on the Apprentice Pillar, about which there are all sorts of tales. Quite a day. One of the greatest spiritual experiences of my life.

As a bishop of the Antioch Rite church, Katherine also founded the Order of Saint Michael, a third-order kind of thing, in which Pagans and Jews and Christians all were welcome. It was based on the warrior order called the Michaelines that she wrote about in her Deryni books, but it was a genuine serious religious order, not some silly fannish thing. I was a founding member, and had a blue habit with a red cord and a Celtic cross. But after a while it began to feel less welcoming for me as a Pagan, even though there were plenty of other Pagans in the group, and so I fell away.

I have never had any problem reconciling my Paganism with my purely cultural Catholicism, Catholicism being so very Pagan anyway. When I worked in midtown at CBS Records, I would often stop off after work at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and visit the Lady Chapel to say hi to the Goddess. If people on either side have a problem with it, they are cordially invited to bite me. I’m quite comfortable with it. But I would never in a million years go back to being a Catholic, or any other kind of Christian. It would be very wrong for me and of me to do so.

[Photo Credit: Hu Totya / Wikipedia]

St. Patrick’s Cathedral, NYC [Photo Credit: Hu Totya / Wikipedia]

ZBBeing that Celtic Paganism is earth-based, how hard is it to practice while living in an urban environment?

PKM: The earth is the earth no matter what. It would be a very poor Witch indeed who couldn’t reach down through a bit of concrete to touch it, or out through walls to find the winds and the stars.

ZB: Can you talk about the location for your initiation and what tradition are you a priestess in? 

PKM: It was nothing special, just someone’s loft, and the tradition was more Scottish and Irish than anything else.

ZB: Do you prefer solitary work, with a partner like Jim or in a coven?

PKM: Jim and I would certainly have been magical partners, had he lived to come back to me from Paris. I doubt we would have had a coven, though; we were both much too private for that.

ZB: What aids do you use in ritual? What is the primary focus of your craft?

PKM: At this late date, having been a practitioner for almost fifty years, I really don’t need any “aids.” I’m not a horse! Generally I don’t even bother with props, though they’re quite nice to have and I own some lovely and extremely powerful ones. These days I generally just do things for the people I care about: some Tarot or rune readings, protective/defensive spells and the like. I’m fairly fierce about it.

ZB: What is your opinion of drug use in spellwork in relation to  shamanism or your own practices?

PKM: I have no opinion. I know shamans and shamanesses have used drugs, traditionally. I wouldn’t use drugs myself for magical practice, and apart from trivial recreational pot or coke, in the 60s and 70s, I never used drugs at all. I haven’t used anything stronger than Advil since 1974. Just walked away.

ZB: Will you talk about your journey to becoming a high priestess?

PKM: I became the high priestess of my group only because I was the most logical person, at that time, to take over. I was really  too young for it, and I stepped down rather soon thereafter. It wasn’t for me, and except for that one brief interlude in a “Welsh Traditionalist” (heavy on the Gardnerian/Valientean) coven, I haven’t been formally with a group since, so there’s very little else to say.

ZB: You’ve mentioned your dismay with what you call fluffy bunny syndrome. Will you talk about this and the importance of embracing both the dark and light aspects of Witchcraft? 

PKM: Fluffybunnies! are the bouncy little teenies! (or older) who seem to think Witchcraft is just so adorkably cute! and squealy! They’ve read a book! (maybe), or seen TV shows or movies! And now they think they are these cool badass practitioners! Wrong, kiddiewinks. So very, very wrong.

I don’t consider magic to have a dark and a light side. The magic is the same power, regardless of the use you put it to, like electricity. And sometimes it’s a little too real for the fluffies, and they get all oooh scary stuff! and run away. Twits. As Terry Pratchett’s hilarious Witch Nanny Ogg says in Witches Abroad, “Witchcraft. Up at the sharp end.” There are times when you need that sharp end. So you’d better be prepared for it and you’d better be ready to use it, because when that situation comes along, giggles and bounces aren’t going to help you.

If you’re going to embrace the Light, you have to embrace the Shadow as well. Because the stronger the light you stand in, the blacker and sharper the shadow you cast. Never think you don’t have a Shadow. We all have them, even the purest among us. Maybe especially the purest. So when you can’t see where your Shadow is, look out, because it’s right behind you. And it’s reaching for your throat.

ZB: You have been described as extremely knowledgeable in the many traditions and practices of Witchcraft in history throughout Europe. Which fascinates you the most and why?

PKM: I’m well conversant really only with the traditions of the Celtic Nations and England. That is the tradition I’ve followed all my life, and the one I know best. I’ve read and studied a bit about other Ways, though: perhaps the one I feel most kinship to is the Nordic, and I’ve been known to say a word of thanks to Thor and Odin and Freyja now and again—I have Norse gods and goddesses on my altars, and hold great respect for them.

In fact, the book I’m working on now is about the big Viking raids on England in the late ninth century, and the faceoff between Paganism and Christianity there. I’m on the Pagan side, naturally. Greek and Roman gods, too, though not as much: my particular patrons there are Dionysus and Ariadne, obviously, for whom I have a great devotion.

But I don’t get my nose in a sling about Christian deities: I see Mary, Mother of God as everyone’s Mother Goddess. Jesus, not so much: a powerful avatar and a great teacher, but I don’t feel a connection. St. Michael the warrior archangel, and St. Joan, the warrior maiden Frenchwoman, are also very important to me. As I said, I have no problem with it.  Except for St. Patrick, who I think is the worst thing that ever happened to Ireland.

ZB: What legends and mythologies interest you the most and how do they affect your religious practices?

PKM: Oh, Celtic, of course. Though I think of them not as mythologies or legends, but as truths. I wrote a trilogy in my Keltiad series based on Arthur, King in the Light, and his court. But this was one Round Table that did not fall. I’m very proud of those three books: The Hawk’s Gray Feather, The Oak Above the Kings, and The Hedge of Mist.

517E0T4AWNL._AC_UL320_SR204,320_I’m adding a bit of Norse tradition as I write my Viking book, Son of the Northern Star. I occasionally wear a small silver hammer of Thor, in a Celtic style, with a wolf’s head, as a nod to my own roots. The name Kennealy, originally Cennfaeladh, means “wolf’s head”, and tribal shamans were said to wear a wolf’s head upon their own in ritual..

As for my practices, I’ve tailored them over the years. There is a permanent Circle in my house, warded and secure; you can tell a Witch lives here! I like statues, so I have quite a number of them, on three different altars, including a fragmentary Irish sixth-century Kernunnos bronze torso, a terra-cotta head of Zeus from Magna Graecia and a first-century Roman bronze head of Dionysus. On the Goddess altar, a 4,000-year-old statue of Tanith-Astarte, recovered from a Mediterranean shipwreck, and a little bronze Celto-Roman goddess figure from probably the second or third century, found in an English field. And a whole bunch more.

I respect all other traditions, and I have consulted practitioners of those Ways whenever I’ve felt that I could use some help from a different quarter. Sometimes you need to come at a problem from a new slant: I’ve asked help from Madam Pele, from Dionysus, from Artemis or Diana, from one or two orishas. Always making sure beforehand that the Powers don’t mind and approaching in a respectful way traditional to them.

ZB: You were incredibly bold for coming out as a Witch and Pagan when feminism was still in its early stages. Did you experience setbacks for doing this?

PKM: I don’t know as I would call it “bold.” I think it was more out of sheer fury, or just general pissed-offedness, that I wanted to throw it at people’s heads. I just wanted to be able to be honest. Nobody ever said anything to my face, perhaps because they feared I’d hex their faces off if they did. And perhaps I would have. But I really didn’t have to: I found early on that people will do that sort of thing to themselves quite efficiently if you just give them the idea and a bit of a nudge. Contrary to public opinion, I’ve never cursed anyone outright: it’s way too much trouble, and I’m a very lazy Witch. I just hang up the karma mirror and let them catch the reflection. With perhaps a little extra kick, just so they learn the lesson. But basically I don’t have to lift a finger.

ZB: How do you think views have changed today towards women Witches in society?

PKM: I think that TV and books and magazines have done a lot to alter the perception of the Witch: yeah, now we’re all expected to look like the “Charmed” sisters, or Angelica Houston, but that has to be an improvement. And we’re perceived as powerful, not like that twinkie Samantha, twitching her nose like a rabbit, but more like a lioness. So maybe not the best perception, but at least an improvement. Surely that’s something, right?

 ZB: With Witchcraft becoming such a part of popular culture today, and women taking back their power from the patriarchy of the church, how do you see this progressing?

PKM: I don’t think that we will see female priests in the Catholic Church in our lifetimes, or at least in mine. Other sects of the Christian cult are far more welcoming, and that‘s great, but we need to get women priests back into the Church to counteract, if nothing else, the vile tendency toward pederasty and child rape that male priests are neck-deep in. I hope they rot in the hell they don’t seem to believe in. There actually were female priests back in the early centuries of the Church, until the guys got their hands on the wheel and started driving straight to hell. It will happen, and either the Catholic church will change  or it will die. Either way, good outcome.

ZBWhat are the best book references, essays etc. on Paganism or Celtic traditions for people to study? Will you be writing any books on the subject?

PKM: There is so much complete trifling drivel out there, written by uneducated Witchlets or money-grubbing hacks,  that I hesitate to recommend anything. The only books I can recommend wholeheartedly are Caitlin Matthews’ works, and her husband John Matthews’ as well. They’re dear friends, full disclosure, but they know Celticness inside and out, and are careful scholars and trustworthy Pathfinders. Read anything of theirs.

As for reference books: I was lucky enough to be able to find some amazing books, back in the day. I’d start with P.W. Joyce’s Social History of Ancient Ireland, happily available in reprint, though I have a first edition and another early one; well, anything by him is helpful and good. Just go rummage around. The good books will present themselves to you and the crap ones will fall away.

And no, I will not be publishing any books on the subject myself, even though I did write one some years back (The Crystal Ship: The Shaman and the Priestess, a spiritual memoir of Jim and me, with prayers and rituals and practices). I have too much else to write, and people like Caitlin write in the field far better.

*   *   *

Next Sunday, the conversation continues. Patricia shares more about her own work as an editor and author, and more about her life with Jim Morrison … (Stay Tuned for side B)

Kari Tauring.

Kari Tauring [Courtesy Photo]

MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA –The time around the winter solstice is, in the far northern parts of the northern hemisphere, a period of deep darkness. Many northern-based spiritual traditions, including forms of modern Heathenry and similar paths, have rich traditions, which involve dealing with this darkness in the physical world, as well as on emotional and spiritual levels.

Artist Kari Tauring, who has been exploring these concepts for some time, created a show called Winter Solstice in the Northlands, which she had been staging annually from 1999 to 2006. This December, after an eight year hiatus, she brought the show back to life.

We were able to catch up with Tauring in between her performances to ask her about the production and her background.

For the past twenty years I have worked as a musician and ritual artist, helping others create ceremony around transitional times. I don’t work with any one specific group. I was ordained through the Church of Spiritual Humanism in order to complete ceremonial paperwork [for weddings and other rites of passage]. Most people know me as a Nordic roots musician, story teller, and staff carrier or völva.

Since I grew up in an ethnic enclave of Norwegian Americans, it was natural to begin digging down the root of my folk tradition to find the sources in the very ancient material. I began studying the runes in 1989. Beginning in 2003, I began working with staff and stick (stav and tein) for rhythm, breath, alignment with the world tree, journey and rune song, a spiritual method called ‘volva stav.’ I served Heathenry in the Midwest formally as völva from 2010 until 2014, elected by the council at Midwest Thing held in Kansas. I also serve the Lutheran community as educator and spiritual facilitator. Everyone wants to know what their roots are and see how they connect.”

In December, Tauring told the MinnPost that unlike many solstice and holiday performances, this is not a “family-friendly” show. It is instead designed to be an intense exploration of the darkness. “We’re just told, ‘Everything’s going to be fine, and if you feel empty, just buy more stuff and if you don’t feel good after the holidays it’s because you have to shop better next year,’ ” said Tauring. “But this time of year is an opportunity to, from an ancient Nordic mindset, explore the origins of your own darkness.”

For this production, that means, “It’s not going to be all doom and gloom, but it also helps people to say, ‘It’s okay if you’re not happy at this time of year because this is the height of seasonal effective [sic] disorder; this is the height of not being in a happy place, and it’s okay and here are some tools.'”

Why resurrect the show now, after all this time? For years Tauring also produced family-friendly solstice shows with singing and puppets. She told the MinnPost that her kids are now grown and that she “wanted to shift … from the community-building to something more intense, because it’s been a really intense year with a lot of darkness in it.”

Not surprisingly, some of the tools Tauring uses in the show are runes. She explained a bit about how the tool is incorporated. “Ice and Fire are the first elements of creation in Norse mythology. One of the pieces in this production dealt primarily with the elements of creation and the process of creation and destruction. The runes for ice and fire play an obvious role here. One piece, Avalanche Runedance, was based on a rune stone from Hogganvik, Norway. The alphabet magic/prayers on this stone are really beautiful. I have been working at performing this stone for a few years and in this production I use my musical performance as a sound track for an interpretive dance.”

[Courtesy Photo]

Tauring teaching [Courtesy Photo]

In contrast to surrounding oneself with as much light as possible, as is typical in the United States for many cultural and religious paths, Tauring explained:

The Northern way of dealing with cold and dark is not to fight it. We embrace the sadness. We leave room to feel it. The juletide is a season, not a singular event. It lasted for twenty days in the not so olden times. In modern Scandinavia they still take at least two weeks off to ‘deal’ with the darkness. Another important thing is the lack of future tense . . . Old Norse and Finnish . . . don’t have a future tense, so the way the mind works is different. The names for the ‘fates’ are Is, Becoming, and Should. I am offering an ancient way of ’embracing the void’ and being present in the ‘becoming’ and creating of the past. And a way to be in relationship with the darkness.

Central to the performance, as Taurig presents, is the Norse concept of öorlog, which she defines on her own website as, “the summation of an individual human inheritance (physical, spiritual, ancestral, environmental and cultural).” It carries the experiences, behaviors, traumas, and traditions of our ancestors, and is the basis for the importance of ancestor work in these northern traditions.

She is fond of using a spindle to explain öorlog, writing, “Each of us is born with a spindle of thread spun by parents, grandparents, great-grandparents ad infinitum. This thread is our öorlog. We can not un-spin it, but we can look into it, review it, learn about it, and have memories that surface to help explain why some of the spin is strong and some is thin, lumpy, or even broken and tied back in. We can also choose to spin our strand differently.”

51LV400IMDL._SS280As this year’s production of Winter Solstice in the Northlands has a more intense focus than in the past, Tauring was able to use it to premiere some of her newest work. For those unable to see the show live, she promised that portions will be available for viewing online in the coming weeks. In addition, her next project, a fourth Nordic roots recording, will include the soundtrack for “Avalanche Runedance.” A Kickstarter campaign to fund that album will be launched in March.

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!

10585339_10152348396531365_1555763864_nYesterday was the funeral for slain teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Throughout the country, vigils were held in solidarity with Brown’s family. Among them was #HandsUpDC in Washington DC. Quote: Join us for a candlelight vigil as Michael Brown’s family lays him to peaceful rest. We’d like to stand in solidarity with #Ferguson and demand the de-escalation of the police and military.” A group of local Pagans took part in the event, carrying signs that said “Justice for the beloved dead.” Pagan author and activist David Salisbury, who lives and works in Washington DC, also organized an informal ritual at the vigil which “will invoke the justice goddesses: Libertas, Justica, Columbia, and Themis.” For more on Pagan responses to Ferguson, please see Crystal Blanton’s Wild Hunt post from this past Sunday


ice-bucket-challenge-fb-user-profile-1There’s been a huge viral outpouring of support on the Internet for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, in which participants in the challenge are doused with ice water to help raise money and awareness for those living with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a progressive neurodegenerative disease. At this point in the campaign an immense assortment of prominent individuals (including an assortment of non-human individuals) have participated, so it stands to reason that there have been Pagan who’ve accepted the challenge as well. Notable Pagans who’ve taken part include author and Pagan Unity Festival co-founder Tish Owen, Pagan children’s book author Kyrja Withers, Llewellyn Worldwide authors Deborah Blake and Melanie Marquis, and ADF Archdruid Rev. Kirk Thomas. Those are just the ones I could easily produce links for, I know there are more out there, so feel free to share them in the comments. As for myself, I prefer Patrick Stewart’s utterly sensible response. I’ve embedded the video featuring Archdruid Kirk Thomas below.

Covenant of the GoddessThis past weekend in Atlanta, Georgia, the Covenant of the Goddess (COG) one of the largest Witchcraft and Wiccan organizations in the United States, held their annual business meeting, known as the Grand Council. Our own Heather Greene will have more about the Grand Council and the accompanying public event Merry Meet on Wednesday, but I can report on one piece of news today: the organization has adopted a formal policy on environmental issues. Quote: “The CoG environmental statement was originally proposed and developed by longtime member and national CoG interfaith representative M. Macha NightMare (Aline O’Brien.) She said, ‘It gives me a great sense of accomplishment that we, the Witches of the Covenant of the Goddess, have crafted a statement about our beloved Mother Earth that reflects our shared values and expresses our mutual concern for our planet, as well as our responsibilities for its current state and our hope for the future. Having this official statement on behalf of the entire membership will be immensely helpful to those of us who work in interfaith arenas. I am proud to have it to share.'” You can read the entire policy statement, which includes a section on climate change, here.

In Other Pagan Community News:

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

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

Cara Schulz

Cara Schulz

Earlier this month I gave an overview of Cara Schulz’s candidacy for a city council seat in Burnsville, Minnesota. Schulz, a Hellenic Polytheist and staff writer for this publication, has long been active in politics. As a candidate for this non-partisan seat she has endorsed a “Socially Accepting and Fiscally Responsible” platform, and it looks like enough voters in Burnsville liked what they saw. Quote from her Facebook campaign page: “THANK YOU to everyone who volunteered, told their friends about me, and are heading to the polls today to vote. If you think people are selfish, not involved, or lazy … run for office – you will be disabused of those erroneous notions. I’ve been offered help before I could even ask and volunteers helped an insane number of hours. I’ve made some great friends and learned from kind mentors. I’ve met some incredible people from all over Burnsville. […] The final tally is in! Thank you to everyone who volunteered, sent me messages cheering me on, told others about me, and took the time to vote in the primary.” Schulz will now advance to the general election in November, where the top-two vote getters will fill the two vacant seats on the city council. Our congratulations go out to Cara! 

10557341_10203741099061740_6626525900185221594_nAuthor and Dianic Witchcraft Elder Zsuzsanna Budapest sent out a press release last week announcing that she had bestowed a blessing on Claudiney Prieto, part of Brazil’s Nemorensis Dianic Tradition, for his work on behalf of the goddess Isis. Quote: “I was greatly impressed by Claudiney Prieto in Brazil, who has successfully nurtured an Isis revival. I have blessed him to be a Priest of Isis, which he already is. I saw what he has done and I think he serves the Goddess with his personal leadership. Everybody loves the man. He is dynamite in circle. Such a man with ten years of experience richly deserves the blessing. Both sexes are part of the rituals and sacred plays and always have been. This fits us well. I connect with this because I am also a play write. The original Isis plays have all been translated. It will be great fun creating a religious experience within the medium of theater for this community.” Budapest went on to clearly state that this blessing was not a shift in her beliefs concerning gender and her tradition’s Dianic rituals. Quote: “Although there was some initial confusion about the blessing, it was clarified that he was awarded by her as an honoring of his work with the Goddess […]  Budapest honored Prieto and bound him as a priest to the Goddess within the constructs of Prieto’s own Nemorensis Dianic Tradition and not her own Dianic Tradition, which is women-born only.” The stated “confusion” and subsequent clarification is most likely related to the fact that Budapest’s form of Dianic Witchcraft is open to cisgender women only, and this blessing could have been interpreted as a move away from that ethos. Such a shift would have been dramatic news indeed, as Budapest has received criticism from within the Pagan community in the recent past for holding “genetic women only” rituals that exclude not just men, but also transgender women, at Pagan events that are open to the public.

green-faiths-3atransThe Covenant of the Goddess (COG), one of the largest Wiccan and Witchcraft-focused organizations in the United States, is holding their annual business meeting, the Grand Council, this week in Atlanta, Georgia. Grand Council, which is held in conjunction with an open-to-the-public event called Merry Meet, is where the sprawling consensus-based organization elects its board and decides on policy. I’ve personally held forth on why I think COG could have a vital role in Wicca and religious Witchcraft’s future, and The Wild Hunt has covered these meetings for the past three years. This year, Merry Meet will feature Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary as a special keynote speaker. Quote: “We are very excited to have Selena Fox as our Guest of Honor for Merry Meet 2014 and as our Friday Night Keynote Speaker. Selena has been a leader and mover in Interfaith for many years and has worked, and continues to work, tirelessly within the Interfaith Community. Join us for what is sure to be a lovely evening of good food, camaraderie, and our shared passion for ‘Standing on Common Ground’!” Stay tuned for a report on the event from Managing Editor Heather Greene in the near future.

In Other Pagan Community News:

  • Polytheist and spirit-worker Sarah Kate Istra Winter has announced the publication of a short booklet on working with animal bones. Quote: “Working with Animal Bones introduces the reader to the biological processes which form bone; gives advice on how to find bones in a natural setting, and subsequently identify and thoroughly clean them; discusses the types of crafts that can be made with bones; and explores the history and modern practices involving the sacred use of animal bones, including divination. An annotated bibliography and list of online resources for collectors are also included.” The book can be purchased at Etsy, or on


  • Over at the Patheos Pagan channel, The Staff of Asclepius blog has welcomed two new contributors: Nornoriel Lokason and CJ Blackwood. Quote: “Nornoriel Lokason is a thirtysomething Norse pagan and demonolater living in the Portland metropolitan area with spirits and a cat […] Nornoriel is a disability and LGBT rights advocate and in his spare time he enjoys thrifting, communing with nature, reading, and being an armchair historian. […] CJ Blackwood graduated from Illinois State University with a Bachelor’s in journalism and a minor in English […] She’s been a practing witch and Pagan for eight years. Her path began with eclectic Wicca, but has now taken her to dusky realms of warrior goddesses, creative goddesses, and crones.”
  • Hungarian Pagan band The Moon and the Nightspirit have released a new album entitled “Holdrejtek.” Quote: “Just like its predecessor ‘Mohalepte’, ‘Holdrejtek’ is much influenced by a deep veneration for and love of nature as far as its concept is concerned, while this time, mastermind Mihaly Szabo approaches the subject in a less romantic and more intellectual way. The lyrics are rife with the philosophical idea of simultaneous oneness and duality of micro- and macrocosm, which is attributed to Hermes Trismegistos and his screed ‘Tabula Smaragdina’.” You can purchase the album digitally on iTunes and at

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

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

Seekers TempleThis past week we reported extensively on the case of the Seekers Temple in Beebe, Arkansas, where allegations of a religiously biased local government exercising its power against a Pagan family have reverberated through our interconnected community. Now, it seems that a City Council meeting scheduled today in Beebe might mark the next flashpoint in this increasingly tense situation. Quote: We have been notified by a brave young Pagan girl that her mom is involved with a group of Christians who feel they must save Beebe, AR. from the Devil.  This group is planning to be at City Hall on Monday, June 23 at 6:30pm to combat us with our attempt to be recognized by the City Counsel. We would like to invite everyone to attend this meeting in the hopes that such a presents will keep things from getting out of hand.  We pray that the Christians AND Pagans will be Civil and polite and that our numbers alone will encourage the Mayor to rethink his position against Pagans.” We will keep you updated on this story as it continues to develop. 

Covenant of the Goddess

Covenant of the Goddess

Wiccan/Witchcraft credentialing and advocacy organization Covenant of the Goddess (COG) has launched a national survey to get feedback for a revisitation of their mission. Quote: “We are including a link to our national survey addressing our current Covenant of the Goddess Mission.  The Covenant of the Goddess(CoG) was founded in 1975.  Almost 40 years later, we would like to revisit our mission. To that end, we are surveying our membership and the Pagan/Wiccan community at large to determine whether these goals have been achieved, or should remain and/or whether others should be added. The survey is completely anonymous and should only take a few moments of your time.  Your input is really needed!  We will provide a report of the outcome (summary) data at the next CoG annual meeting in August 2014. Deadline for submission of this survey is July 20thPlease feel free to share the link to this survey to others in the Pagan/Wiccan community at large. We need feedback from all of you!!” The link for the survey is right here.

[Photo Credit: Damh the Bard]

[Photo: Damh the Bard]

On June 14th we reported on the installation of a commemorative Blue Plaque for “father of modern Witchcraft” Gerald Gardner. That article ended with a questions, which English figure would next receive that honor? Well Asheley Mortimer, trustee of the Doreen Valiente Foundation, does have some ideas on that front. Quote: “A Blue Plaque is a marker for an historic moment, at the Centre For Pagan Studies we see it as a duty to ensure that as individuals like Doreen Valiente and Gerald Gardner pass, inevitably, from persons of living memory to figures of history the place they take in history is their rightful one, the blue plaques add to the positive wider public perception of Pagans and demonstrate that their achievements are every bit as life-changing and important to the world as historic figures from the mainstream […] As for who is next . . . it doesn’t have to be a witch at all, we are thinking about other figures from the Pagan community such as the druid Ross Nichols, and the like . . . , Alex Sanders and Aliester Crowley have also been mentioned as has Stewart Farrar . . . . basically we’re very open to suggestions . . . “ Do you have a suggestion? You can contact the Centre For Pagan Studies here.

In Other Pagan Community News:

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

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

  • I hope everyone had a good Summer Solstice (or Winter Solstice if you live ’round Australia), here’s how the Patheos Pagan Channel marked the holiday.
  • Hungarian Pagan band The Moon and The Nightspirit have a new album coming out! Quote: “We are happy to announce that our new album, “Holdrejtek” will be released on August 15th on Auerbach Tontraeger/Prophecy Productions. In tandem with “Holdrejtek”, our early albums, “Of Dreams Forgotten and Fables Untold” (2005), “Regő Rejtem” (2007), and “Mohalepte” (2011) will be re-issued in digipack format with revised layouts.” Here’s the label website.
  • The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions have announced the open bidding process for the next parliament. Quote: “We are pleased to announce the opening of the bid process for a city to host the 2017 Parliament of the World’s Religions. A Parliament event showcases ways in which religions shape positive action to address the challenges of our times, and seeks to develop new tools for implementing those actions in the years to come.” As The Wild Hunt has noted on several occasions, modern Pagans are deeply involved with the council and the parliament, and we will be keeping an eye on this process as it moves forward.
  • So, after your crowdfunding project gets everything it has asked for, what do you do next (aside from fulfill the funded project itself)? Morpheus Ravenna ponders the question. Quote: “I’m contemplating other ways to give back to the community out of the funds that are continuing to come in. I would love to hear from you. What else would you like to see as a next stretch project?”
  • Struggles between the Town of Catskill in New York and the Maetreum of Cybele continue. Quote: “This time the Town of Catskill is bringing suit against us for refusing a fire and safety inspection. (To clarify: this is actually a separate – though related – issue from the ongoing property tax case). Cathryn represented us and she did an excellent job. There was a different attorney representing the town this time (NOT Daniel Vincelette), this one was just as much of an obnoxious bully, though. He was accusing us of running an illegal Inn, pointing his finger at Cathryn and making aggressive gestures.” You can read our full coverage of the Maetreum’s tax battles with the town, here.

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

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

Sociologist Helen Berger discussing new Pagan census data (more on that soon).A follow-up to the Pagan Census Revisited is now up and asking for Pagan participation. Here’s a quote from sociologist Helen A. Berger, who is overseeing this project along with James R. Lewis: “The PCR II is a follow up to the Pagan Census Revisited, which itself is a follow up the Pagan Census. You don’t need to have responded to either of those to participate in this survey. This survey is short, they contain some of the question we wished we had asked in the PCR. For those of you who don’t know about the PC it was the first large scale survey of US Pagans. I published a book on it Voices from the Pagan Census and all the results are online at the Murray Institute at Harvard University for any and all to view. The more information we have about contemporary Pagans the better for understanding the religion, its participants and how it might be changing. Thanks to those of you who have taken the time to complete the former surveys and those of you who complete this one.” I encourage wide participation in this survey, as it shapes research into our communities, and gives insight to those of us inside of the movement. The 2009 revisitation data was a big eye-opener for many, and it will be important to know how we are changing over the years. Click here to take the survey (

Morning Glory Zell

Morning Glory Zell

As has been reported here recently, Pagan elder Morning Glory Zell has been in and out of the hospital due to kidney issues and other complications. Her condition is serious enough that a celebration of her life is being planned for April 19th. Quote: “Celebration of Life for Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart. Our intention is to give her the energy to stay with us as long as possible. Come celebrate Morning Glory’s life while she is still here to enjoy your stories: How did you first meet Morning Glory? How has she touched your life? We are working with a few people on plans to video-tape your stories, poetry, song – whatever you bring to share.” Morning Glory’s partner, Oberon Zell, adds that “Morning Glory remains at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital; however, she is rallying against the pneumonia.” Today, April 14th, is Oberon and Morning Glory’s 40th wedding anniversary, and our congratulations go out to them on this milestone. “The Wizard and the Witch: Seven Decades of Counterculture, Magick & Paganism,” which focuses on the lives of Oberon and Morning Glory Zell, was recently released by Llewellyn Worldwide.

9931d7a41cff52affc54a1c0f3082178_largePagan singer-songwriter Arthur Hinds, a member of the band Emerald Rose, recently launched a Kickstarter to fund a new CD entitled “Dance In The Fire.” Quote: “So let’s talk about this new CD, which I’m already at work recording in the Kitchen Studio. It’s called Dance in the Fire, and you can expect a lot of energy and beats that are going to want to make you move. You’ll also hear soulful love songs, chants that honor the seasons and our connections to Spirit, rousing rock anthems that you won’t be able to stop singing along with (so my Lovely Wife tells me), and more. But to get all of this out into the world, I need your help.” Happily, the Kickstarter has already reached and surpassed its modest goal of $2,500, and is now working on stretch goals. Quote: “If we reach 3500, I will be able to produce my next solo collection, tentatively called, Words of Mystery, and anyone who pledged forty or more will also get a copy of these bardic tales when it becomes available in the fall. So spread the word and lets bump this up. To be clear, if we hit 3500, everyone who has pledged forty dollars or more will get Dance in the Fire, a t-shirt, a tattoo,  Words of Mystery and I will throw in a copy of Poetry of Wonder for good measure. Thanks!!!!!” Congratulations to Arthur Hinds!

In Other Pagan Community News:

  • While I’m on the subject of Kickstarters, Pagan scholar and author Brendan Myers is looking to fund his fantasy series “Fellwater.” Quote: “It’s a series of novels about factions of ancient demigods and the everyday people caught in the conflict. Secret societies vie for control of the last corners of the Earth where the Mythic Age survives. It’s a world of alliances and betrayals, cults and politics, friendship and power. It’s what happens when you make a wish, and the horror of it coming true.” Sound interesting? Check out the campaign.
Character portraits from Brendan Myers' "Fellwater" series.

Character portraits from Brendan Myers’ “Fellwater” series.

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

[The following is a guest post from Michelle Mueller. Michelle Mueller is a doctoral student researching polyamory in Pagan communities. She has integrated women’s and gender studies throughout her study of religion, and thinks it’s never a bad idea to think about representations of women in the media, as well as messages about queer culture and Pagans.]

As many of us in the Bay Area (and beyond) reintegrate into the “mundane world” after PantheaCon, it feels timely to turn an eye towards images of Witchcraft in pop culture. Some Wiccans were upset about Katy Perry’s performance of “Dark Horse” at the Grammys three weeks ago, during which she invoked theatrical imagery to refer to “the Burning Times.” In her grand finale, she attached herself to a broom (basically stripper pole style); the pyrotechnics produced a blazing fire around her, a reference to witch-burning.

I missed the Grammys but my good friend, Assembly of the Sacred Wheel member, Shelly Graves brought the performance to my attention with a Facebook post the next morning, “Did anyone just see that performance by katy perry? Wtf was that? Not cool with the whole witch burning imagery at the end” (Jan. 26, 2014).

I watched the video and caught up on aggravated comments from Wiccans and critics. Intrigued by the strong response, I asked my other Facebook friends what they thought.

Selina Rifkin, Executive Assistant to the Director for Cherry Hill Seminary also enrolled in its masters program, offered:

“I think it depends on how sacred you hold the symbolism she was using. The color black, graveyards, broomsticks, some flames, however we hold these images, they are also part of the broader (yes largely Christian) cultural view of what is dark and dangerous. We aren’t going to change the fact that we are a minority religion, and it’s not reasonable to expect that someone like Katy Perry is going to be interested in anything but addressing the largest audience possible. She has no reason what so ever to accommodate a minority religion, assuming she even knows Wiccans -or any other Pagans – exist.

That being said, Wiccans in particular are working to reclaim some of that “negative” imagery and I don’t think it[’]s a big surprise that a pop star used it to suit herself. After all, if it’s “art,” pretty much anything goes.” (Facebook, Jan. 26, 2014)

Shelly clarified her criticism, “I think that her performance tarnished the message of unity the Grammy’s were trying to present. I was really surpr[i]sed that Katy Perry would do that. I guess people really can be clueless and not understand that The Burning Times were as horrible as any of the genocides that have taken place. People were killed for no good cause.”

For me, Perry’s performance of “Dark Horse” in the Grammys was refreshing compared to other things I’ve seen her do, which I will describe shortly. I didn’t mind the references to witch-burning because it seemed she was identifying with the motif of the martyr or the persecuted witch. I am in good company. Abel R. Gómez, graduate student at the University of Missouri and past contributor to the Wild Hunt, commented, “I liked it. I think it’s possible to read into it more, but to me, it’s just a performance.” Of course, others find the performance offensive because Perry may have been making light of atrocities towards women and healers.

I liked Katy Perry when she first debuted. I’m a Hello Kitty and Sailor Moon aficionado. I liked Katy Perry’s girly style, lollipops, and teenage dream.
I became concerned over lyrics of “Last Friday Night,” which glorify blacking out as meaning a terrific night, especially because of the number of girls listening to her music and the impact this message could have on them. I pivotally lost respect for Katy Perry when I saw this video of a live performance (Sydney, Australia, October 2013) in which she jumps rope in platform heels for 17 seconds before the finale of “Roar,” the song whose lyrics unmistakably refer to the women’s liberation movement: I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter, dancing through the fire/’Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar.

I love instances of women affirming their sexuality, but I do not like women being reduced to boobs, which is what I felt this performance did. Her fans loved it. You can hear them singing Roar along wildly in the video. As with the Grammys performance, we will disagree about the intentions of an artist and the quality of their art.

In an interview, Perry herself said, “I hate working out, but I love jumping rope. I think it’s because it’s like dancing; there’s a rhythm….I’m a really good rope jumper. I can double jump, I can cross, I can do all of it. I look like Rocky when I jump rope!’” (Mail Online, Oct. 28, 2013) Somewhere some women may have found her message empowering, an example of choice, free expression, or fitness. I did not.

Two years ago, Katy Perry’s “Ur so gay” made it on the radio, which Elena Rose of Starr King Unitarian Universalist seminary brought my attention to. See link for Katy’s explanation and performance on MTV Unplugged (June 2012). Somehow this song had skipped my radar. Maybe others were offended and the radio stations and DJ’s held back from playing it with the strength of other Katy Perry singles. It’s one thing to be disappointed that your crush likes the opposite gender and not you, but these lyrics are downright hateful to gender non-conforming people:

“I hope you hang yourself with your H&M scarf
While jacking off listening to Mozart
You bitch and moan about LA
Wishing you were in the rain reading Hemingway
You don’t eat meat
And drive electrical cars
You’re so indie rock it’s almost an art
You need SPF 45 just to stay alive

“You’re so gay and you don’t even like boys
No you don’t even like
No you don’t even like
No you don’t even like boys
You’re so gay and you don’t even like boys
No you don’t even like
No you don’t even like
No you don’t even like…

“You’re so sad maybe you should buy a happy meal
You’re so skinny you should really Super Size the deal
Secretly you’re so amused
That nobody understands you
I’m so mean cause I cannot get you outta your head
I’m so angry cause you’d rather MySpace instead
I can’t believe I fell in love with someone that wears more makeup than…”

In conclusion, many Witches are upset about “Dark Horse” at the Grammys. I find other things by Katy Perry more offensive. I found her Grammys performance creative while others found it triggering of genocidal history. I observe with patience and curiosity what in the next year will emerge from behind Katy Perry’s curtain. I hope to Goddess she develops into a more mature performer because I really would like to see her succeed as an artist. I had high hopes when she emerged (though I always felt “I Kissed a Girl” was a rip-off of Jill Sobule without credit.) I believe Perry can use her power and fame more constructively than with lyrics like “Ur so gay,” and I pray she chooses to.

Many have said Katy was tipping her hat to the wildly popular series American Horror Story: Coven. I hope to hear at a future date from Crystal Blanton about this series, as I know she has been following!

Occasionally, I get such a flood of Pagan-related music news, that I’m obligated to round them all up in a special music-themed post! So open your ears, and let’s get to it!

IGG-MainIcon-D1-SQUAREPagan-friendly Canadian songstress Heather Dale has launched a new IndieGoGo campaign to fund an Arthurian-themed touring show, DVD, and educational youth program. Quote: “The CELTIC AVALON touring show. A big, gorgeous stage show that musically tells the legend of King Arthur… a story about finding hope & love in tough times. […] As we tour CELTIC AVALON from city to city, I want to offer a special YOUTH EDUCATIONAL PROGRAM to teachers & schools. Our show’s cast members perform a special youth-oriented concert (either in-school or in-theatre), and talk with students aged 9-14 about inner strength, anti-bullying, using your unique talents & skills, embracing differences, and defending others positively. We give teachers a printed resource kit that ties our concert to various curriculum goals.” The goal is an ambitious $40,000 dollars. The campaign launched on Monday, and as of this writing she’s raised over $1000 dollars of her goal. You can watch the pitch-video here.

a2799640720_2Anilah, a solo project from Canadian vocalist and composer Dréa Drury, has released its debut album “Warrior.” Quote: “She combines the shamanic and esoteric with modern elements, weaving a soundscape that is ethereal and yet solid with rhythmic pulse. For fans of Lisa Gerrard, Dead Can Dance, Wardruna, and Tool.” Her work is inspired by “traditional shamanic sound practices, invocation, and prayer,” and that’s apparent on the four tracks found here, many of which are long, expansive sound-and-voices-scapes that are meditative in nature. In a review, Wyldwood Radio says that the album “is something that will take you on a journey not only to another world, but deep within yourself. It is perfect for relaxing to, for meditating to, for anything spiritual. I am very much looking forward to hearing more from Anilah.” As the promotional blurb says, fans of Wardruna will like this, as will, I think, fans of Soriah’s work with Ashkelon Sain.

news_1114European Pagan-folk band Omnia has just finished recording their new album “Earth Warrior,” set to be released this Spring. Extensive photo updates, lyrics, and random thoughts on the album-making process can be found at their official Facebook page. Quote: “We are very happy with all the musick for the new album, we are sure that you will love it too. Last night, Stenny listened to half of the songs before going to bed, and couldn’t sleep for another 3 hours afterwards because of the energy it gave us. Yay! I can tell you, it’s going to a very interesting album, with many styles (as you are used to by now), some songs you might already know from live concerts last year, some completely never-played-live-before pieces, which we hope you’ll come to love just as much as we do, and some “oldschool-Omnia” pieces never released to our satisfaction, re-arranged ad re-recorded. You will find a few traditional melodies in there, but for the rest everything has been written by Steve and Jenny, arranged together with Rob and Daphyd. I am sorry you still have to wait for a while, but trust me, it’s going to be worth it.” For those who want to get their hands on the new album, and see the band perform live in the United States, they will be returning to the Faerieworlds Festival in Eugene, Oregon this coming July.

In Other Pagan Music News: 

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

I want to acknowledge the passing of legendary folk musician and activist Pete Seeger, who died on Monday at the age of 94 of natural causes.

Mr. Seeger’s career carried him from singing at labor rallies to the Top 10, from college auditoriums to folk festivals, and from a conviction for contempt of Congress (after defying the House Un-American Activities Committee in the 1950s) to performing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at an inaugural concert for Barack Obama. For Mr. Seeger, folk music and a sense of community were inseparable, and where he saw a community, he saw the possibility of political action.”

While not a Pagan, Seeger did briefly belong to a Unitarian-Universalist church, and ascribed to himself a kind of pantheistic view of religion

“I feel most spiritual when I’m out in the woods. I feel part of nature. Or looking up at the stars. [I used to say] I was an atheist. Now I say, it’s all according to your definition of God. According to my definition of God, I’m not an atheist. Because I think God is everything. Whenever I open my eyes I’m looking at God. Whenever I’m listening to something I’m listening to God.”

Throughout his life, Seeger was an actively and unapologetically left-wing in his politics, which led to him being blacklisted by the entertainment industry for decades after his appearance at the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1955.

“I feel that in my whole life I have never done anything of any conspiratorial nature and I resent very much and very deeply the implication of being called before this Committee that in some way because my opinions may be different from yours, or yours, Mr. Willis, or yours, Mr. Scherer, that I am any less of an American than anybody else. I love my country very deeply, sir.”

There are many, many, places out there paying tribute to Seeger, for his politics, for his environmental activism, for his role in (at least) two folk-music revivals, but I want to leave this short tribute on a more whimsical note. You see, Seeger had a hand in popularizing the filk-music classic “That (Real) Old Time Religion,” which became something of a classic amongst certain portions of our community.

In the end, Seeger was someone who wanted everyone to sing along, to be engaged, and for that alone, he should be remembered and honored.

“He was a person who believed deeply that people should sing, in groups, with harmony, in public — and not just in church. He was a passionate director of probably thousands of pickup choirs, formed at the beginnings of performances and disbanded when they were over. That became even more true as he got older and his voice weakened, but it was true all along.”

Rest well Pete, thanks for everything.