Archives For No Unsacred Place

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

Arana Fireheart

Arana Fireheart

“I went into this with a lot of preconceived notions about how we would be treated by reality TV producers and so far, I am glad to say that I was wrong. Trust your gut. If it feels like you are dealing with honorable, respectful people and you are clear about their intentions (and yours!). Then go for it. I really feel that it about time we stopped hiding, if we take the risk to be ‘out’ more, it will help all of us to live in peace.”Arana Fireheart, husband of Karina Fireheart, part of a Pagan family that participated in a recent episode of the reality television series “Wife Swap.” You can now watch the entire episode online.

Annika Mongan

Annika Mongan

“Did my broken marriage drive me away from Christianity? Was it disappointment in God? Theological doubts? Yes and no. Many experiences and questions gnawed at my faith, but none had the power to destroy it. They pushed at a door that was waiting to fling open. They prepared me to step into a world that had been calling me home all along.” – Annika Mongan, a Southern Baptist Minister turned Pagan, and new contributor to PaganSquare at Witches & Pagans.

Vivianne Crowley

Vivianne Crowley

“We can value ourselves better if we remember that we are more than our bodies and that the body is a gift – a perishable gift with an expiry date. We have very little time to experience life in it.  Human life spans are tiny in the context of the time spans of the universe around us, so let us enjoy the gift and honor the Goddess by caring for it both inwardly and outwardly, but without being fixated by it.” – Vivianne Crowley, author of “Wicca: A Comprehensive Guide to the Old Religion in the Modern World,” a Jungian psychologist, and faculty at Cherry Hill Seminary.

Nick Farrell

Nick Farrell

“Magic is not a easy path, so joining an occult group should not be easy either. Real magical groups see people as things they have to train and a long term project. They generally should not be too concerned about getting extra people if they have enough to do their work projects. If a group seems too keen for you to join, say by paying for you to come and be initiated, you should avoid them. This means that they are desperate to boost their membership. An esoteric group should always be looking for quality over quantity. You might think that the reason a group wants you is because you are a wonderful esoteric candidate with heaps of knowledge. However to a real magical group lots of experience and pre-knowledge is a hindrance. You have to learn from scratch in any order you join so any intellectual baggage you might be carrying will have to be dropped before you join.” – Nick Farrell, Golden Dawn magician and writer, on how to avoid bad magical groups.

Lupa

Lupa

“Earth Day isn’t just for protests and your boss organizing an office-wide recycling drive for good P.R. It’s about reminding us of that connection to the very real, physical world we are a part of, especially the wild, disorganized, non-human parts that we too often take for granted. And it’s the sort of thing that you can carry with you all year; think of today as your yearly recharge.” – Lupa, at the No Unsacred Place blog, on this week’s Earth Day.

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

A somewhat lazy Sunday today, exacerbated by the fact that I have a lingering upper respiratory infection. So I thought I’d do a quick round-up and check in with my colleagues at the Patheos Pagan Portal and the Pagan Newswire Collective.

  • To start off, Gus diZerega’s latest column for Patheos expands on the distinctions between “cultural” and “religious” Paganism, using Lithuanian Romuva as an example. Quote: “For my present purposes, what is most important is that for many Lithuanians cultural and political values were the major motivation for their interest in her Pagan past. Religious and spiritual values were not so important. Lithuanian Paganism was for them a kind of “identity politics.” A ritual was more a political and cultural statement than a religious one. It seeks to build solidarity within the community, not better connections with the Sacred.”
  • Meanwhile, fellow Patheos columnist P. Sufenas Virius Lupus talks about the importance of indexing, and wonders what would be revealed if we indexed our own day-to-day speech. Quote: “Would this kind of indexing look different if it were a workday for you as opposed to a day off? Would this type of indexing’s results depend on who you’re around, or what your activities of the day end up entailing? Would the “chapters” of your life in which you’re at a big pagan gathering feature certain words more frequently, as opposed to the days in your life that are more “mundane” and not inclusive of specific spiritual events? Would this indexing vary more if it involved a tabulation of the words of your thoughts as opposed to the words of your speech? And if there are large patterns discernible within each of these possibilities, and they are patterns that you find unexpected, uncomfortable, or upsetting, what can you do to change them and bring them more into line with what you would hope they would be rather than what they are at present?”
  • At the Pagan Newswire Collective’s culture blog The Juggler, Tim Titus takes notice of the “Wicca Club” on the popular television show “Glee”. Quote:  “What, if anything, will the show do with a Wicca Club?  The season has hit the middle of sweeps and there is a constant need to find new controversy to fuel the plots.  One of the show’s challenges is to remain light and funny while tackling some important issues like homophobia, bullying, and physical/mental disability. Could Wicca be next?”
  • The Bay Area bureau of the Pagan Newswire Collective has had some excellent event coverage recently: the 32nd annual Spiral Dance (more here), the 16th Annual Festival of the Bones, and the Answering the Call; Battle Goddesses in Times of Change weekend intensive. Here’s what T. Thorn Coyle told the PNC about that intensive: “This event feels important for many reasons. One, people around the world are obviously sensing a need to gather together and better learn how to support each other. We see this in the rise of community gardens, in the relearning of the skills of our grandparents, in the “Occupy” movements, Arab Spring, and in the outpouring of creativity with which people have met times that feel really hard for many. These times of difficulty are also times when a lot of energy is rising, and it feels right to take some of that energy and channel it toward our personal training and effectiveness. We can become stronger, more capable, and more kind. We can rise up for what we love.”
  • Finally, the PNC’s nature and environment blog, No Unsacred Place, continues its quality run of essays and explorations of how modern Pagans engage with the world around us. Meical abAwen writes about the “hand of man” in nature,  Crystal Tice discusses the importance of walking outside, and Juniper Jeni follows the trail of the Lord of Animals. Quote: “Margaret Murray read Breuil’s work and combined with her other studies, and with her desire for a revival of Pagan practices, she built upon Breuil’s theories. In her work “The God of the Witches” she called The Dancing Sorcerer “…the earliest known representation of a deity”.  An idea that became so poplar even Breuil himself adopted it. So did many others, including Gerald Gardner.”

There is, of course, much more to be found at the Patheos Pagan Portal and Pagan Newswire Collective websites. So be sure to check in often! As for me, I’ve got some great stories coming up this week, and I’ll also be heading off to cover the American Academy of Religion’s annual meeting, so lets all take a breath before we dive back in! Have a great day!

Just a few quick news notes for you on this Saturday.

Hinduism in Africa: The Times of India reports on the rapid growth of Hinduism in Ghana and neighboring Togo, exploding from just small group in the 1970s to between 2000 and 3000 families today. How did Hinduism grow in Ghana, which is 70% Christian? Through example.

“We have not achieved this through the winning of souls as other religions do, but have attracted people into the practice of Hinduism simply by the lives we lead,” [Kwesi Anamoah] said, adding: “Our lives shine in the community to attract people.” […] “We do not evangelise like other faiths do, but we have attracted people because they see how we live our lives as Hindus and come to make enquiries and then find their way into our folds.”

One has to wonder if this is something we’ll see more and more of in the future. In Indonesia the ancestor-worshipping religion of Borneo’s indigenous forest people, the Dayak, is being cannily re-branded as Hinduism in order to stave off Christian missionaries and cultural eradication. Could African forms of Hinduism be providing a similar umbrella to indigenous forms of religion and spirituality in Ghana and Togo as well? What new religious hybrids will emerge from the intersections of Hinduism and indigenous beliefs? As India grows as a world power could we see Hinduism became a new alternative for those seeking to escape missionary efforts from the dominant monotheisms? We should keep an eye on this trend.

Michigan’s Bullying Law: An increasing amount of attention has been paid recently to Michigan’s proposed anti-bullying law, which recently passed through the Senate, due to the “moral” and “religious” exemptions inserted into the language. These exemptions, critics argue, make the law a meaningless piece of paper, giving bullies a loophole they can easily exploit.

“The Senate Republicans took an already ineffective bill and made it an abusive bill that justifies bullying against our students. While the national spotlight is on the neglectful actions of the Senate Republicans, House Republicans can pass the strong, comprehensive, enumerated bill Governor Snyder references when he recommends Michigan legislators model this legislation after the State Board of Education policy. Oregon wasted ten years following a policy that accomplished almost nothing before it took responsibility for Oregon kids and passed the effective enumerated language Michigan advocates are requesting. Michigan has the data and case studies to do what is right for our students the first time. The nation is watching.”

These exemptions bring the case of Tempest Smith immediately to mind, a 12-year-old girl who committed suicide after being repeatedly bullied for her interest in Wicca, and manner of dress. The Michigan law, as it stands, would simply allow religiously-motivated harassment of kids like Tempest, you can almost see the scenario of ineffectual school officials saying they can do nothing. All students should have 1st Amendment freedoms, but a bullying law that exempts “moral” bullying under the guise of free speech is worthless. One can only hope that the language is refined to close off loopholes, and becomes something truly useful in empowering teachers and officials to stop bullying in their schools.

Keystone XL Pipeline: On Thursday the State Department announced that it was postponing construction of a new pipeline that would move tar sands oil from Canada to Texas refineries. The pipeline, known as Keystone XL, was hugely controversial among environmentalists and American Indian groups due to its proposed path through sensitive areas and reservation land. Now, with the pipeline postponed for further study, Native American activists are voicing cautious optimism at the development.

“I have come here to be part of this peaceful circle of people to shine a light on President Obama to be visionary and deny a corporate plan whose promise of destruction of our lands is certain,” Lakota activist Debra White Plume said in a speech at the protest. “President Obama will be an Earth Warrior, standing in the way of something bad coming toward the people, or he will step aside for TransCanada to foul our water, land, and health for generations to come.”

The Pagan Newswire Collective’s nature and environment blog, No Unsacred Place, has been covering the pipeline and its environmental ramifications, with contributor John Beckett noting that “it’s hard to look at the photos of tar sands extraction and not think it’s bad. It’s hard to calculate the risk to the Ogallala Aquifer and not think it’s bad. It’s hard to think about exacerbating climate change and not think it’s bad.” Here’s hoping that this delay will result in a compromise that’s acceptable to all parties interested in this issue.

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

Tomorrow I’ll be on a flight to Maryland for the 2011 FaerieCon event, at which I’ll be conducting interviews, taking pictures, and moderating panel discussions (in addition to seeing Qntal in concert).

Since I’m not sure I’ll have enough time to blog properly while also covering the event, I’ve arranged a variety of guest-posters during my absence to keep the lights on here at The Wild Hunt. Tomorrow we’ll be featuring a guest-post from Patheos columnist and Killing the Buddha Contributing Editor Eric Scott, and we have several other wonderful Pagan voices lined in the days to follow. Patheos Pagan Portal manager Star Foster will be behind the scenes making sure the trains run on time. I’ll return on Tuesday, and should have some great coverage to share when I get back!

In the meantime, before I go, here are some news stories I’d like to share with you.

That’s all I have for now, enjoy the guest-posts, see you on Tuesday!

Pagan Community Notes is a companion to my usual Pagan News of Note series, more focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. I want to reinforce 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 lets get started!

Drew Jacob’s Heroic Path: PNC-Minnesota reports that Drew Jacob, former head of the now-defunct Temple of the River, Patheos columnist, and author of “Walk Like A God,” will embark on an over 3000-mile walk from Minnesota to Brazil in South America, a trip that Jacob sees as a spiritual calling.

PNC-MN Editor Cara Schulz, Drew Jacob, & PNC Contributor Diana Rajchel

“I decided to live the Heroic Life after many years of telling the myths of the ancient heroes. One day I realized that although their stories are fun to read or hear, they would be more fun to live. So I’ve begun to change my entire life to be able to travel and do great things.  To live the Heroic Life means taking action, living for high ideals, charging fearlessly into new and grand plans, building a name around your art or skill, and using your life to change the way the world works.”

Jacob will begin the walk in the Spring after months of training, including a martial arts intensive in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He said that “I believe in a life of travel, traveling freely and finding your purpose in life.  I believe in doing amazing things.” Drew Jacob will be blogging his trip and experiences, here.

A New Abraxas Appears: Abraxas: The International Journal of Esoteric Studies has released its second volume.

“Treadwells and Fulgur are delighted to announce the second issue of the esoteric journal ABRAXAS is now available to pre-order. As with our first issue, writers and artists have kindly submitted material from across the globe: Argentina, Australia, the United States, Mexico, Finland, Poland and the United Kingdom are all represented. Substantially larger than the previous issue, Abraxas 2 offers over 210 pages of essays, poetry, interviews and art, much of it published for the first time. Uniquely produced in a large high quality format, printed on a variety of papers, richly illustrated in colour and monochrome, and offering our first free audio supplement, we hope this issue of Abraxas will provoke and inspire.”

You can find a full list of contributors, here. The new volume of Abraxas will also be available at Seattle’s Esoteric Book Conference being held on September 10th and 11th.

Starhawk Says Thank You: As I mentioned previously the planned movie adaptation of Starhawk’s novel “The Fifth Sacred Thing” has reached its first fundraising goal. Over $75,000 dollars was pledged towards making a professional pitch video to the major film studios. Starhawk, along with producers Paradox Pollack and Philip ‘Mouse’ Wood, have made a special thank-you video to mark the end of this first phase.

Pollack also recently appeared on the Paradigms radio show to talk about the film and the campaign. Future updates on this project can be found at their Facebook page, or the official project website.

More Community Notes:

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

Top Story: The Religion News Service is featuring a story (alternate link) on the 50th anniversary of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), and whether the shrinking (162,800 members, down 1,400 from last year) creedless denomination can endure for another fifty years.

“For 50 years the UUA has conducted a virtually unprecedented experiment: advancing a religion without doctrine, hoping that welcoming communities and shared political causes, not creeds, will draw people to their pews. Leaders say its no-religious-questions-asked style positions the UUA to capitalize on liberalizing trends in American religion. But as the UUA turns 50 this year, some members argue that a “midlife” identity crisis is hampering outreach and hindering growth. In trying to be all things to everyone, they say, the association risks becoming nothing to anybody.”

Modern Pagans are a vibrant part of the modern UUA, and the article by Daniel Burke starts off the piece with a Pagan member of the First Unitarian Church of Baltimore leading a service.

“A recent Sunday service at the First Unitarian Church of Baltimore ended with an apology. Laurel Mendes explained that religious doctrine had been duly scrubbed from the hymns in the congregation’s Sunday program. But Mendes, a neo-pagan lay member who led the service, feared that a reference to God in “Once to Every Soul and Nation” might upset the humanists in the pews.”

While I’m pleased to see UU Pagans get noticed, I’m less happy with the fact that Burke seems to use this moment to underscore how far the UUA has drifted from its Christian roots. As for the future of the UUA, Burke cites an internal document from 2005 that says the denomination needs to create boundaries, to overcome its “reluctance to proclaim religious tenets.” Current UUA president Rev. Peter Morales sees “amazing opportunity” in the growing number of “nones,” people who don’t claim adherence to any particular faith, the “spiritual but not religious” demographic, but can outreach of this sort compensate for reports that the UUA is losing 85% of its children?

For many years the UUA has served as a haven and home for Pagans, especially in towns and cities that lack an established Pagan community. Many Pagans have fond feelings towards the UUA despite some institutional bumps in the road recently, with some prominent Pagans, like Margot Adler and Isaac Bonewits, having played significant roles within the Unitarian-Universalist sphere. But if those predicting the disappearance of the UUA are correct, if the next 50 years will see their slow fade-out from American life, then modern Pagans invested in the benefits of this denominational body will have to tackle the question of what the UUA provides us, whether we can replicate it independently of the UUA if need be, and what role groups like CUUPs and independent UU Pagans will play in the near future.

In Other 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.

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.

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.

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.

Earth Day

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  April 22, 2011 — 7 Comments

“Most people are on the world, not in it—have no conscious sympathy or relationship to anything about them—undiffused, separate, and rigidly alone like marbles of polished stone, touching but separate.” — John Muir

“Mother Earth is the living dynamic system comprised of the inter-related, interdependent and complementary indivisible community of all life systems and living beings that share a common destiny. Mother Earth is considered to be sacred, as per the cosmologies of the nations of rural indigenous peoples.”The Law of Mother Earth, Bolivia

Today is Earth Day (and International Mother Earth Day). Originally spearheaded in 1970 by Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson as a national“teach-in” on urgent environmental issues, it has since become an internationally recognized holiday in192 countries. Earth Day is partially credited with jump-starting the modern environmentalist movement, and helping to pass legislation like the Clean Air and Clean Water acts. Earth Day also had a profound affect on modern Paganism in the United States.

“The spirit of Earth Day 1970 did not just happen; its roots could include the gradual stirring of environmental consciousness that accelerated in the 1960s, but that stirring itself had deeper roots in an American consciousness of a special relationship with the land, even if that relationship was often abusive. Still, if there was a year when Wicca (in the broad sense) became “nature religion,” as opposed to the “mystery religion” or “metaphorical fertility religion” labels that it had brought from England, that year was 1970.” – Chas Clifton, Her Hidden Children: The Rise of Wicca and Paganism in America

Modern Pagan and Heathen faiths, whether they identify as “nature religions” or not, have a special sacral relationship with the natural world. Our gods and goddesses can be found in oceans, rivers, forests, and mountains (indeed, in many cultures, Earth is the primal mother of most acknowledged gods and powers), some pre-Christian cultures envision a World Tree that binds reality together. Our rites often mark the changing seasons, and once tracked the progress of crops essential to our survival. Deity is not merely a transcendent force separate from creation, deity is everywhere and within every thing. Each of us holds the potential to be like the gods, and we acknowledge that the gods and powers walk and exist among us still. So it isn’t surprising that many Pagans feel a special urging to advocate for the environment and the protection of the natural world.

The Pagan notion of a sacred and interconnected Earth still persists today, and continues to make some people, both Christian and secular, uncomfortable. Despite these qualms, elements of immanence, pantheism, and various indigenous perspectives have become increasingly popular and “mainstream” in our modern culture. Bron Taylor, author of “Dark Green Religion: Nature Spirituality and the Planetary Future”, notes that this development is as “American as apple pie.”

“The remarkable language in the Ecuadorian constitution and in Boliva’s new Mother Earth law did not, however, result from indigenous Andean spirituality alone. They were also influenced by a generation of thinking and debate around the world about human responsibilities toward nature. In the U.S., much of this has taken place among philosophers and legal theorists, including in the landmark argument by Christopher Stone, Should Trees Have Standing?: Law, Morality, and the Environment, which was first published in theSouthern California Law Review in 1972. Indeed, I contend that the recent developments in Ecuador, Bolivia, and within the United Nations are as American as apple pie: they are to some extent in the spirit of a diverse range of American voices that led to the pioneering Endangered Species Act of 1973 signed into law by Richard Nixon. Yet today, those who call themselves conservative are generally hostile to environmentalists, often considering them to be politically or spiritually dangerous socialists or pagans.”

As the effects of climate change start to seriously endanger the lives and lively-hood of people in countries like Bolivia, an ethos of “wild law” is being formalized in hopes that “a new relationship between man and nature” can occur. As “green living” stops being an ethical lifestyle choice and starts becoming a fiscal and environmental necessity, I think ideas of immanence and interconnectedness will naturally develop alongside them. We require a positive narrative for the changes we make in our culture and lives, even if they are changes made because we have run out of other options. As this gradual shift happens, modern Pagans can become the philosophical, spiritual, and ethical leaders we have often supposed we could (or should) be. I’m very pleased that the Pagan Newswire Collective was able to host and launch a new nature and environmental-focused group blog in the weeks leading up to Earth Day, so that the conversations our family of faiths should be having are sparked and facilitated.

“When faced with natural disasters that wreak havoc on human communities, we often respond valiantly by pledging our time, money, energy and support. Are we as willing and able to do the same when confronted with man-made disasters that put ecosystems, landscapes and other nonhuman communities at risk? Do we engage in the difficult, daily work of establishing the cultural infrastructures and social organizations necessary to respond to environmental crises with swiftness and efficacy? Do we act on and live out our love for the earth that creates and sustains us through advocacy and engagement? Or do we continue to treat nature as a luxury? A regrettable loss, perhaps, but not worth the uproar or the effort?”

Today, with immense environmental challenges facing us, from climate change and the destruction of natural ecosystems to the impending fresh water shortages, the ideals and message of Earth Day are more vital than they have ever been.

Watch the full episode. See more American Experience.

Want to get active? Find out where you’re at, reduce your carbon footprint (and your water footprint), support small farms and eat ethically, teach on global climate change as a moral issue, invest green, vote green, and go green.

“I will sing of well-founded Earth, mother of all, eldest of all beings. She feeds all creatures that are in the world, all that go upon the goodly land, and all that are in the paths of the seas, and all that fly: all these are fed of her store.” – Homer

Let’s make every day Earth Day.

For those interested in Bolivia’s “The Law of Mother Earth,” reported on yesterday here at The Wild Hunt, there’s some special analysis and follow-up at the PNC’s “No Unsacred Place” blog. First off, geologist and environmental scientist Meical abAwen has provided a translation of the full document.

“Article 3. (Mother Earth) Mother Earth is the living dynamic system comprised of the inter-related, interdependent and complementary indivisible community of all life systems and living beings that share a common destiny. Mother Earth is considered to be sacred, as per the cosmologies of the nations of rural indigenous peoples.”

In addition, John Beckett and Alison Leigh Lilly provide some initial thoughts and commentary. Beckett, an engineer and OBOD Druid, notes that this law aligns well with indigenous, Pagan, and scientific worldviews.

“This law fits well within an indigenous worldview, and it is no coincidence that Bolivia’s Evo Morales is South America’s first indigenous president.  Despite our tendency to romanticize them, indigenous cultures are not perfect.  But people who live close to the land understand that the Earth is alive and that it must be respected.  Some of that respect comes from gratitude, from the “blessings” (as this law describes natural resources) the Earth provides.  Some of it comes from observing the power of the Earth – volcanoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, wild animals.  When you understand that you aren’t the most powerful thing in the universe, you start to understand that the Earth should be respected and valued, and that it has rights of its own.

This law also fits well within a Pagan worldview.  The Charge of the Goddess speaks of “I, who am the beauty of the green Earth and the white Moon among the Stars and the mysteries of the Waters” – many Pagans see the Earth as the body of the Goddess.  Others acknowledge nature spirits and the Spirits of Nature.  Still others worship Gaia or other goddesses specifically associated with the Earth.  The common thread through all these beliefs and practices is the idea that the Earth is divine and sacred.  And if the Earth is divine and sacred, then it has inherent value and rights.

Perhaps most importantly, this law fits well within a scientific worldview.  Not a materialistic worldview, but a scientific worldview based on facts and observations of things as they really are.  Science has shown that we weren’t placed on the Earth, we grew out of the Earth.  We share the vast majority of our DNA with chimpanzees and bonobos, large amounts with other primates, much with other animals, and some with insects and plants.  We may be the most intelligent and most industrious creatures in this world (whether we are the wisest is another question), but the differences between humans and other creatures is one of degree, not one of kind.  They are – quite literally – our relatives, and we are all dependent on the Earth to sustain our lives.  If we have inherent value and rights then so do they.”

Both commentaries are worth reading, and I’m told that more are on the way. This is an excellent opportunity to engage on this topic, and to get to know the participants of “No Unsacred Place.”