Archives For P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

The English language is in the midst of a gender revolution – one that began the first time someone questioned why the default state of every noun and pronoun was masculine. Since that point, “humankind” has gradually replaced “mankind,” and the male-centric generic “his” has given way to “hers or his” or (the still grammatically incorrect) “theirs.” Gradually, the language has moved toward treating both genders equitably.

Wordle: Pronouns

However, the preceding statement presumes that there are only two genders, and highlights a very real gender gap remaining in the language: the presumption that gender has only two variants, and thus requires two, or perhaps three, pronouns to reflect reality. Like the generic “he,” the use of these gendered pronouns is so commonplace that it’s all but invisible, except to the people who don’t fit either one and their allies. These people have chosen a more suitable set of pronouns, either based on existing words or new ones that have been invented for the purpose.

Perhaps it makes more sense to call it an evolution than a revolution, since it has been in-progress for decades and isn’t likely to be settled in the near future. To get a sense of what the language might look like once the question of pronoun use is settled, The Wild Hunt asked a number of Pagans and polytheists about their own use of, and attitudes about, pronouns in English. Because the Polytheist and Pagan communities are generally more supportive of transgender people, than what is seen in the overculture, it is possible to speak to a selection of people who have, at least, a passing familiarity with the issues involved.

Generally, it’s considered polite to ask a trans* person what pronoun e prefers. E, em, and eir comprise one set, the old Spivak pronouns, which have the advantage of sounding similar to common English pronouns, unlike zie and hir, which are also deemed too feminine-sounding by some. On the other end of the spectrum is the use of the word “one” to denote a person without referencing gender. While this has been argued as perfectly practical, no one interviewed for this article uses that form. There are those who use “they,” despite the fact that it sounds incorrect to many a grammarian’s ear, and others think “it” is the most appropriate descriptor.

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

While seemingly inconsequential to the cisgendered, binary-gender pronouns have a very real impact on those who don’t identify as one, or the other. P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, a metagender person, said that the simple act of filling out an online form can be incredibly frustrating. E explained:

[A]ny online form that forces me to choose either male/man or female/woman for a gender, and does not allow me to proceed without making that choice, isn’t something I can fill out … I do not mark them on forms at doctor’s offices and such any longer, either.  Any online forum, survey, or anything else which requires it isn’t something I can participate in. This is what kept me from joining the Polytheism Without Borders project last year when it started; when I raised this point with the creator of the group, I was told, ‘Can’t you just pick one for convenience?’ Nope.

To take this trend to its natural conclusion, the expectation would be that all people have the right to choose the pronouns that are most suitable, and the assumption that the preference is “he” or “she” unless otherwise stated would have to fall away. Is that a realistic or practical outcome?

Melissa ra Karit, a genderqueer priest/ess in CAYA Coven’s Wildflower tradition, said:

Personally, I would love to see preferred pronouns becoming an automatic part of introductions. ‘Hi, I’m Mary, I use she/her pronouns,’ and, ‘I’m John, I use e/eir pronouns’ seem simple enough to add. I don’t actually think remembering someone’s pronouns would be much if a stretch once we got beyond the assumption that someone who appears female uses female pronouns and someone who appears male uses male pronouns. (What do we mean by “appears female/male” anyway?) We routinely remember all sorts of information about people, such as jobs, their families, their food allergies, their birthdays, and so on. For those who tend to forget such details, I imagine they would use the same sorts of memory aids, such a cell phones and calendar reminders, that they do for everything else. (Can you imagine if your phone popped up a message that said ‘John, e/eir, is texting you?’ I can!)

While zir may feel that learning preferred pronouns is simple, not everyone agrees. Autumn Pulstar, who identifies as a cisgender woman, admits, “I find it hard to use the nonstandard pronouns, even when referring to someone who prefers them. Being in my 50s, old habits die hard. I’m not trying to be disrespectful, but it is something that does not come naturally … and the awkward pause is often more unsettling than saying what comes natural. Fortunately, I have very cool friends.”

Shauna Aura Knight

Shauna Aura Knight

Speaker and ritualist Shauna Aura Knight, a ciswoman, also admitted that she finds the various pronouns confusing. She added, “One piece of advice I was given by a genderqueer activist was to just use people’s names.” That advice is helpful, but Knight has other limitations that reduce its usefulness: she’s not terribly good remembering names. And while she didn’t say so, avoiding all pronouns in lieu of a person’s name can lead to speech or writing that feels clunky or contrived.

Lupus recalled a relationship that went south over eir desire to use Spivak pronouns to describe emself. It was a surprising case, e said, involving “a trans*woman, who was also not going to go through with any surgical interventions or procedures, who said that I confused her and that the mental gymnastics required to conceptualize my gender as non-binary were not of enough interest to her to do to make any effort toward, and therefore she’d just consider me however she wanted to despite my asking otherwise.”

Diane Verocchi, a cisgender woman, does make sure she uses pronouns of choice, although some of them feel more awkward to her than others. “I don’t know if ‘hir’ would stand out less to me if it were in common use,” she wrote. “I encounter zie/zir online a lot, so they don’t particularly jump out at me. Hir looks like a typo for either him or her and sounds closer to her, so I find it puzzling that some prefer it, but if I know that is their preference, that is what I’ll use.”

Familiarity breeds comfort to ciswoman and writer Jolene Poseidonae, who acknowledges that she doesn’t have much occasion to become familiar with alternative pronouns. She said:

If they were more widely used, I certainly believe that gender-neutral pronouns would be easier for me to see and use and not feel like I’m making up words. If they were something that were more widely used just in my own life, it would be easier — but again, it’s not a huge issue. I won’t say that most of my friends are cisgendered, but those who are not have expressed the desire to be referred to by one of the two gender specific pronouns. That very well may be because those are what’s available, but I couldn’t say for sure.

Jaina Bee, a metagender priest/ess of the CAYA Wildflower tradition, added, “If we really care about each other, we will pay attention to the things that matter to each individual, whether it be a religious observation, a dietary restriction, a differently-abled physical or mental condition, or a set of pronouns. This is not inconvenience, this is common courtesy.”

Wordle: pronouns

An alternative to personalizing pronoun choice is to adopt a more inclusive set, one that either ignores or more fully embraces gender variation. Given that the spectrum of gender includes metagender, intersex, feminine cismales and masculine cisfemales, androgynes, genderqueers, and gender-fluid people, among others, a theoretical group of pronouns that acknowledged all possible genders may be too large to be manageable. Pronouns that do not acknowledge gender at all can also be used if the gender of the person is not known or is irrelevant, but that doesn’t mean there is anything like a consensus to adopt that particular standard. And which ones should become the norm?

“When I look at myself in the mirror and think of what I’d most like to be, I don’t see ‘he’ or ‘she,'” said Lupus, “nor do I see ‘ze/sie,’ I see ‘e.'” Others, however, “prefer the plural-as-singular, which actually has Victorian precedents. Still others I know prefer to be called ‘it,’ since that is a de facto neutral pronoun.”

Hearthstone, a ciswoman writer, remarked, “You’d think it would be possible to adopt a neutral pronoun since English uses natural gender rather than grammatical gender.” She added that she would be fine with being addressed using a neutral pronoun, “if it was a pronoun understood to mean a human being. I would feel dehumanized if someone called me ‘it,’ but that’s because “it” is so strongly contextualized as non-human.” Pulstar also said she would be offended if someone were to call her “it.”

Poseidonae was mindful that, as part of the cisgendered majority, she has choices others do not. She said:

In theory, I’m not sure that I would care if someone referred to me with a gender-neutral pronoun. As much as I’m cisgendered, it is mostly something I’m not overly attached to — which I understand is part and parcel of the privilege of being cisgendered. I wouldn’t hate for us to be more gender neutral when talking about people we don’t know well, but that’s me wanting more of a clear delineation between the public and private realms in our lives than what society currently tolerates.

Verocchi said that her reaction would “depend entirely on situation and context.”  She said:

If they didn’t know which pronouns I prefer, then it I think it would be no different than correcting the pronunciation of my last name (something I do all the time) to respond to that, if I even felt it was worth doing so.  If they knew that I am a cisgender female who prefers feminine pronouns and were using neutral pronouns with the intent of misgendering me, I’d be annoyed or possibly offended.  In either case, I don’t think I’d be as offended” as transgender people have told her they feel when others misgender them, out of disinterest or malice, “probably because I don’t experience it on a regular basis.

A cisgender woman who identified herself as Juni also didn’t want to be misgendered, saying, “I would be fine with it if someone used [a neutral pronoun] to refer to me, though it would probably feel a little odd; I think the only pronoun that would actually make me uncomfortable would be he/his. I would be perfectly comfortable with gender-free pronouns as a general rule.”

Knight agreed that context is important in accepting someone’s use of a gender-free pronoun for herself. She said:

For instance, when I’ve gone to a store or answered the phone and been referred to as ‘sir,’ I’ve been offended. I don’t think I particularly look male, but I’m pretty tall and I have a deeper voice. In retrospect, I’m aware that that has much more to do with my body image issues around weight/attractiveness to men. It was a hit to my self esteem since it told me, in a nutshell, that I was obviously not attractive (as a woman) to these men.

If I were at a Pagan, spiritual, or activist event and I were referred to by gender-free pronouns, I probably wouldn’t necessarily have any negative feelings around it, since it doesn’t really impact my identity in that context. I grew up in a gender binary environment so using the gender-free pronouns might itch a little. That’s the best word I can use to describe it.  It’s not me being offended so much as me not being used to something.  It’s like moving into a new house and I’m not sure where things are and I have to think about everything more.

Knight also said that she wrestles with how to incorporate gendered language into ritual. “There’s a general axiom that multi-syllable words that come from a Latin root tend to have a more clinical sound than the more onomatopoetic words that come from the Germanic,” she explained. “The problem is that Latin has better gender neutral words.” The Germanic words are more primal, and help participants get out of “thinky headspace” but are less inclusive. She cited examples such as “parent” instead of “mother” or “father,” and “siblings” as a more clinical but also more inclusive substitute for “brothers and sisters.”

CAYA Coven Wildflower initiate Verity Blue said:

I would love to see us collectively move to a inclusive/neutral set of pronouns. I think the hard part would be changing habits, but we aren’t really getting any useful info out of she/he her/him. Gender is not the physical sex of a person, it is not the chromosomal sex of a person, it is a complexly layered part of identity that is often beyond describing. Basically our current system is ones and zeros when what we need is more a robust, elegant language. Personally, I enjoy what I call ‘zednouns.’ Zie walked down the street singing zir favorite song quietly to zirself. In my understanding it is the evolution of creating pronouns that start with xy, like the human sex chromosomes. Zie is the collective of all gender expression.

Others are not so sure that separating gender from pronouns is preferable, much less possible. “As for moving the language toward an all-inclusive, neutral-gender pronoun system, there are many considerations that lead me to think this goal is not only improbable, it is also undesirable for many reasons,” said Bee.  “As we’ve seen in recent public discussions of racial issues … [there has been] essentially a denial of the distinctions between people, their diverse concerns and needs, and tends, in practice, to lead to a default that erases those who don’t fit into the conventional definition.”

Ruadhán J McElroy

Ruadhán J McElroy

Trans*man Ruadhán J McElroy also isn’t sold on divorcing gender from pronouns.

Every language [that] I have some familiarity with acknowledges gender, and most societies pre-Christianity, in some way, recognise more than two genders. Ergo, it really upsets me when I see others, especially my fellow trans people, talk about abolishing gender from society. While different cultures recognise a different range of non-cis genders, and hold different standards for all genders recognised, one thing is clear: human beings are a gendered species …

Furthermore, it strikes me as highly dismissive of the issues faced by people based on gender, and the suggestion to ‘abolish gender’ as little more than a cop-out to justify doing nothing; it’s ridiculous and potentially evidence of deep internalised transphobia coming from other trans and non-binary people, and infuriating coming from cis people — the former people are saying that gender for non-cis people only makes life harder, potentially to the point that giving up on a central aspect of a person seems preferable to the headache it causes, but the latter group is basically saying that the former group’s concerns aren’t worth addressing in any way, much less a productive one.

Like the use of preferred pronouns, adopting a set that does not take gender into consideration would require buy-in from the cisgendered majority to gain traction. Hearthstone pointed out, “There needs first to be willingness on the part of cis-folks to use nongendered pronouns and so forth for ourselves, I think, rather than only using them for non-binary folks. Otherwise, it’s still exclusionary.”

Karit agreed, saying that even zir idea of introductions that include pronoun preference that ze imagines needs a generic option. “I see the second part of such a system as moving to a gender-neutral set of pronouns to describe anyone whose pronouns we don’t know. That, I think, would take a big cultural shift. I think anything like that is a ways off in the future.”

Knight looks to altering the entrenched rules of accepted sentence construction. She said:

I think that one part is doing whatever is necessary to change the rules of grammar that say that his/her is appropriate and ‘their’ is not. Going further, if we’re going to use gender neutral pronouns, I really feel that there needs to be a consensus on which ones.  I see ‘hir’ with some frequency, probably because it’s the most [common], but that doesn’t bear up in speech because hir and her are virtually indistinguishable. I kind of like the old Spivak ones because they sound like ‘their,’ but without the consonant. Speaking as a language nerd, the lack of initial consonant makes it a little more difficult for English speakers, or more specifically, it’ll sound like we’re mispronouncing him/her, etc. However, to my eye they look and sound good.

High-school English teacher and ciswoman Robin Ward resists the idea that “their” can or should be used as a singular pronoun, but pointed out the important role teachers play in any change in the language. “People didn’t start accepting ‘his or her’ in place of ‘his’ until teachers started expecting it,” she said. “I’ve thought about introducing my students to alternative pronouns, but to be honest I’m worried about pushback from the parents.”

Changing language changes how the speakers of that language think. Whether those thoughts are guided by an implicit assumption that individuals get to control what pronouns are associated with em, a widespread agreement to adopt one set of pronouns over all others, or a combination of these approaches, it seems apparent that such change will only occur when the cisgendered majority adopts it with intent. So long as these alternatives are only utilized by transgender people and a few allies when referring to those trans* people, it will not be a movement, but the quirk of a small subculture.

PACO 2014 logoThis past weekend, more than fourscore Pagans attended the first Pagan Activism Conference Online, or PACO. The event was sponsored by the Pantheon Foundation, which also serves as fiscal sponsor for The Wild Hunt, and included a total of nine sessions on how activism fits into Pagan lives. Having been given a press pass to the conference and experiencing some of the sessions firsthand, I’ve elected to depart from my usual style of journalistic third person, and write about what I learned at the conference, as well as pull together reactions from other people.

On a technical level, the conference was a success. The minor hiccups that did occur, such as presenters unable to log in to the software on time, some people being harder to hear than others, were no more distracting than similar challenges faced during any in-person workshops. Yeshe Rabbit, one of two event organizers, worked hard to find the right platform for the job. She said:

PACO exceeded my technical expectations. I have been using the conference software Zoom for over a year for my personal readings, CAYA Coven meetings, and the Tea & Chanting sangha, so I have a pretty decent familiarity with it. I know it’s easy to learn, user-friendly, and generally reliable. I researched 4 different conference software programs before choosing this one for its clean, simple interface and how it had performed in my other projects.

The software was indeed easy to use, and allowed participants to see each other and the presenters, as well as chat with each other individually or as a group — something which Rabbit gently discouraged at the beginning of each session by asking attendees to show restraint until the floor was opened to questions. Zoom also allowed attendance by phone only, or by watching online and listening via phone. That’s the combination I chose during one session, because I could watch the action and move around my kitchen. But the convenience for me paled in comparison to the simple access it granted to others who normally wouldn’t be able to participate in an event like this. Rabbit said:

Online conferences, in my opinion, are one of the best ways to host a really inclusive conversation about ideas, data, and strategy. They are: widely accessible, Earth friendly, economical, and they allow people from all over the nation to connect meaningfully when they might not otherwise be able to. We had attendees at PACO who cannot attend other Pagan events due to disability, financial reasons, and chemical sensitivity. That level of inclusion felt like a big win. While not a replacement for street activism or the connections we create at in-person events, this conference showed me that we can take our online activism a step further. Beyond just sharing posts that outrage us, or commiserating in the comments sections of blogs, PACO showed me that we are able to use this medium to learn, trade tools, connect, plan, and strategize for actual change.

That strategizing for change came through in a number of different panel discussions. Some sessions addressed using existing tools (e.g., the media) or models (e.g., building infrastructure) to amplify the voice of Pagan activists. Another session focused on the nuts and bolts of the “Care and Feeding of Pagan Activists.” In the spirit of keeping our own house in order, one session was entitled “Consenting Adults: Sexual Ethics in the Pagan Community,” while another focused on Pagan religious rights and how to defend them. The opening panel for the conference, called “Earth Activism,” addressed an area of concern near and dear to Pagans of many paths, while two other sessions focused on Pagans who may often feel silenced, those of color and the LGBTQI community, and how to ensure that their voices are heard.  In the keynote address, T. Thorn Coyle spoke to the how that silencing can happen. She pointed out that white people feel that they must contribute to the conversation, and that is usually done by talking and not listening. As a white man who has worked very hard on speaking out rather than giving into shyness, I found that Coyle got more than too close for comfort with that observation.

Organizers Yeshe Rabbit and Xochiquetzal Duti Odinsdottir made sure to take advantage of the online nature of this conference. The hashtags #PACO and #RITEaction were promoted as tools to talk about the event on social media, along with individual hashtags for each session: #PACOECO, #PACOMedia, #PACOPOC, #PACOGender, #PACOCare, #PACOBuild, #PACORights, and #PACOConsent. While these hashtags can reveal of wealth of commentary about the conference, I found that #PACO has many other uses on Twitter, so it’s more difficult to sift through to the good stuff using that hashtag alone.

Each of the sessions was also recorded, and I’m eagerly awaiting the chance to see sessions that I didn’t attend.


One theme that I noticed cropping up, and Rabbit remarked upon as well, was hospitality:

The focus for this year’s PACO was, ‘Human Rights & Relations.’ We were looking primarily in this conference at how humans oppress one another, how we can support one another instead, how we think about the issues on the table, who is at the table for the discussion, and how we can safeguard that everyone has a voice at that table. From there, the biggest theme that emerged, and it emerged brilliantly through our speakers, was that at its foundation, activism for human rights sits most effectively on a commitment to hospitality. Learning the art of welcoming people to the table, making room for those we might otherwise ignore from our positions of privilege, treating one another’s needs and preferences as worthy and sacred, and creating an atmosphere of celebration of our differences rather than competition are all aspects of the hospitality our speakers called for this weekend. “If I had to sum it up briefly, I’d say that I came away from this conference with the clear message: ‘We are all guests on this Earth. Let’s host one another while we are here with great care.’ And then we learned lots of different ways to care for one another well.

Could hospitality be one of those elusive shared values among the many Pagan, Polytheist, and Indigenous religious communities? I won’t say for sure that it is, but as someone who is always seeking to articulate the common thread among our traditions, it certainly appeals. Hospitality is implicit in being able to talk with, and ultimately work with, people of widely different viewpoints by setting those aside long enough to find common goals. While it’s possible to suppress or ignore differences among people working together, it’s a lot harder to vilify someone of a different color, political affiliation, or socioeconomic class if you know them to be a human being, too.

What’s next for Pagan activism? That remains to be seen. Any conference, online or in person, can create more light than heat if the passion felt by participants doesn’t translate into action. I’m hopeful that, in the coming weeks and months, the hashtags used during the conference will be able to track #RITEaction that follows, but only time will tell.

What’s next for PACO? Yeshe Rabbit pronounced it a success, and is already planning for the next one, tentatively scheduled for November of 2015. “One change we are looking to make for next year is to have an American Sign Language interpreter in a separate, high-resolution window so that D/deaf folks can follow along more readily if they don’t have closed captioning for this sort of software on their own computers,” she reported. “We also intend next year to leave the chat windows open for 15 minutes after the sessions have closed, to allow for the kind of mingling and informational exchange that would happen if one attended an in-person event.”

The conference has also inspired two related projects for the Pantheon Foundation. One is a weekly roundup of Pagan activism links (submissions for which can be submitted via email to pantheonfoundation@gmail.com), and the other is an annual Journal of Pagan Activism Studies to be edited by Rion Roberts.

“It is clear that Pagan elders need to listen to the young and new, or the young and new will bring change regardless.” – Jeff Mach, Rutgers University alumnus.

In the final article of our series “Pagans on Campus 2014,” we discuss the challenges and hurdles that lay before young Pagans as they reach out beyond campus life and beyond the comforts of the Pagan Student Association. If backlash is not the biggest problem, what is? The students also share their thoughts on the future of Paganism as a whole. What would they like to see as they continue their religious journey over next twenty years?

[Photo Credit: Visha Angelova/ Flickr]

[Photo Credit: Visha Angelova/ Flickr]

What is the biggest obstacle facing young Pagans as they explore their chosen spiritual paths?

Mary Hudson

Mary Hudson

Syracuse University Chaplain Mary Hudson says, “Being young and not finding teachers or mentors that are willing to work with them. Students are hungry for learning and they are full of energy. I have heard many young Pagans talk about being frustrated for not be treated well.”

Hudson’s comment was echoed by other advisers who regularly interact with college Pagans. Jeff Mach, a Rutgers University graduate, says, “It is incredibly hard to get taken seriously while you’re young and everyone in a position of power tends to assume you don’t have enough life experience to know what you’re doing.”

Interestingly, Pagan students did not cite this as an issue at all. The biggest obstacle for most of the them was the attaining of valid religious and spiritual information. Nick Nelson, president of Ball State University’s Society for Earth-based Religions (SER), said, “Young pagans need access to quality and accurate information on Paganism. That means more than just books.” He believes that young Pagans have limited opportunities to experience ritual or interact with other Pagans outside the small campus sphere. He adds, “The leaders of Pagan [organizations] have to be creative in how they are getting information out there for younger members.”

Sarah Morgan, UGA [Photo credit: S. Morgan]

Sarah Morgan, UGA [Photo credit: S. Morgan]

Sarah Morgan, a Druid at the University of Georgia (UGA), wishes there was more available information on non-Wiccan practices. She says, “I think the biggest obstacle for young Pagans is for them to find a Path that truly fits them … You don’t have to follow a specific path word for word. You don’t always have to be Wiccan.” Morgan says that most authors who write specifically for young people are Wiccan. She adds, “We need more options out there.”

It may seem surprising that in a so-called information age it is the information itself that is the biggest obstacle. Several Pagan students specifically said that the Internet is as much of an hurdle as it is an asset. Jackson Elfin, a Heathen studying at BSU, explains “The Internet can breed things that are erroneous and dangerous, and teens have a risk of finding things that are unsafe/untrue … a big need in Pagan education is learning how to sort out the good stuff from the bad.”

Sabine Green, adviser of New Mexico State University (NMSU) Pagan Student Association, notes, “Students are at a pivotal point in their spiritual journey … it is so important to find valid teachers and traditions. It is vital that [elders] help steer the up-and-coming generation to explore and stay safe.” Green feels that guidance is absolutely essential because one of the biggest dangers for young Pagans is exploitation.

Looking at the greater Pagan experience, what would you like to see happen over the next 20 years?

Suretha Thacker [Photo Credit: S. Thacker]

Suretha Thacker [Photo Credit: S. Thacker]

Several of the students would simply like to see global acceptance of the various religious practices that fall under the Pagan umbrella. Wiccan student, Suretha Thacker, says, “I would like to be able to say, ‘I’m off to celebrate Lughnasadh,’ and have no one give me a puzzled look.” Heather Sky Cybele, a recent Purdue graduate, has a similar dream saying, “I would love to see Pagans be open about their religion, just as Christians and Jews are, without being considered crazy.”

Morgan adds, “Many Pagans are becoming a lot more comfortable with coming out … this allows young Pagans to not only feel accepted but also lets them have the resources to grow on their Paths.”

Jackson Elfin [Photo Credit: J. Elfin]

Jackson Elfin [Photo Credit: J. Elfin]

Elfin would also liked to see greater acceptance. He adds, “The establishment of spaces for Pagans is important … I know that gaining land is a way to survival because no matter how much we talk about legislation or representation, the religion game is ultimately landocratic.” Looking into the future, Elfin sees Pagans gaining more prominence by owning more land on which to practice and celebrate.

With land ownership and event sponsorship come structure and organization. Most of the young Pagans interviewed want to see cohesion and community-building in the coming years. Nelson says, “It will be much easier for a united Pagan community to gain public acceptance rather than every denomination working individually.”

UGA student Angela Riverio adds, “I feel that part of the reason that we hide so much is because we are divided and that makes us more vulnerable. Separation of practices is perfectly fine, but when a group is being pressured by an outside force, making allies really helps.”

Nick Nelson [Photo credit: N. Nelson]

Nick Nelson [Photo credit: N. Nelson]

Many of these students, like those at UGA or BSU, are coming from a campus environment that supports a well-structured, supported Pagan association that thrives within a cultural microcosm. Such a level of community organization may be difficult to find or replicate beyond campus life. However, with the growing development and interest in campus Pagan groups, this next generation of Pagans might be “growing up” with an entirely different understanding of community-building, including the benefits and downfalls of such work.

Caity Wallace, president of Drexel University’s Pagan Association (DUPA), says, “Pagans tend to be a decentralized, somewhat religiously anarchist lot, which is great for a lot of things, but it doesn’t lend itself to helping a new cohort enter the community.” She would like to see more strides in community organization that assist new seekers, both young and old.  Wallace adds, “Right now I’m seeing the community splintering a bit … However I’ve also been seeing the community be more aggressive about policing itself … and that gives me hope. So in the next 20 years, I see us becoming a much more diverse group, with more accountability.”

Paul Blessing [Photo Credit: P. Blessing]

Paul Blessing [Photo Credit: P. Blessing]

Paul Blessing, former president of Rutgers University Pagan Association, says:

Honestly Paganism appears to be simmering down … It’s becoming more of an accepted form of religion, and with that comes a sense of mundanity. This could be good or bad. On the good side, it will allow more people to explore Paganism without fear of negative social and familial consequences … On the other hand, I have to admit, I’m kinda afraid of Paganism getting “old and fat” like the rest of mainstream religions.

There were several other wishes for the future, including the embracing of technology and the building of community centers. Two students turned a critical eye on their own generation in expressing the hope that more young Pagans develop an interest in learning. Veloblom Vigjaldrsdottir, an Asatru student at Nazareth College, explains, “The more you understand your faith and beliefs, the more you understand yourself … Sadly younger Pagans that I meet don’t tend to share that ideology.” She finds that trait primarily in “elderly adults” who convert to Paganism. Vigjaldrsdottir hopes to see a strengthening of the bridge between the various generations so that “we can learn collectively.”

As the African proverb goes, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Dr. P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, adviser to the Pagan Student Union at Skagit Valley College, Whidby Island Campus, says:

To anyone who considers advising such a group … never underestimate what might be possible if you simply ask. We have been able to secure funding [from the school] for attendance of some of our students [to] the Polytheist Leadership Conference … It has been an excellent opportunity to … do something of lasting importance and meaning for members of our community.

Chaplain Mary Hudson adds, “The young Pagans are the future and what we teach is what we will harvest. The students are smart, they are informed in ways that we never dreamed and they are eager to be full, productive members of Pagan communities. Accept their enthusiasm and be honest with them (not brutal) and enjoy the ride.”

 

To read the previous two articles:

Pagans on Campus 2014, Part 1: Community and Pagan Student Organizations

Pagans on Campus 2014, Part 2: Practice and Resources 

 

To remember what it was like to be young and questioning and full of excitement. I think that is one of the greatest things we can learn – Chaplain Mary Hudson, Syracuse University.

In Part 1 of “Pagans on Campus 2014,” we looked very generally at the Pagan student experience on American college campuses, as well as the role played by Pagan student associations. While opportunities for positive community building are increasing, students do not attend college to simply engage in religious seeking. Campus life revolves around scholarly pursuits, most of which are very demanding on a student’s time.Today we look at how students balance or integrate their spiritual work into their busy academic careers, and where they find guidance and resources.

[Photo Credit: University of Saskatchewan/Flickr]

[Photo Credit: University of Saskatchewan/Flickr]

Do you feel your chosen spiritual path is an integral part of your academic studies, or is it entirely separate?

The answer to this question varies greatly and is dependent, in part, on a student’s course of study. For example, Caity Wallace, a math major at Drexel University says, “I don’t find [that my major] integrates well with my religious life. That combined with my fear of losing respect for my faith (or having faith – STEM fields tend to favor Atheism in my experience) means I take care to keep those parts of my life distinct.”

On the other hand, Angela Riveiro, a Horticulture major at the University of Georgia (UGA), says, “While I did not intend it, my … major does fit into my focus on Nature. Learning to be a steward of the land and how to grow plants fits nicely with my spiritual beliefs.”

Jackson Elfin [Photo Credit: J. Elfin]

Jackson Elfin [Photo Credit: J. Elfin]

Similarly, fellow UGA student Sarah Morgan sees a definite connection between her education and her Pagan practice. Morgan says, “Psychology is really making strides in the more holistic ways of healing. We are learning a lot about meditation, visualization and… their benefits to mental health.”

Several of the interviewed students acknowledged only “tangential” connections between their spiritual beliefs and their studies. Jackson Elfin, for example, is a creative writing major at Ball State University (BSU). He notes that his Heathen practice is “handy for providing subject matter,” and that he often “prays to Bragi, Lord of the Poets” while writing.

Rachel Tyburski, president of Penn State’s Silver Circle, says, ” I do not try to keep my studies and faith separate, though they often seem to be … I let faith and school fall in place where they decide.”

Finally, for some students the boundaries between religious life and academics don’t exist exist at all. Jessica Dinsmore, a biochemistry and molecular biology major at UGA, says, “I’ve never seen my religion and my studies as two separate entities, because both are an important part of who I am.”

Nick Nelson [Photo credit: N. Nelson]

Nick Nelson [Photo credit: N. Nelson]

Nick Nelson, a double major in Religion and Anthropology at BSU agrees, saying, “Religion is one of my passions.During class, I study religion as a cultural phenomenon; privately I explore religion in a more spiritual sense. It fascinates me from each angle.”

Veloblom Vigjaldrsdottir, a graduate student at Nazareth College says:

I would say faith is incorporated into every way you walk. I may not directly relate each piece of paper I write on or each lecture I sit through as word from the gods. However, I believe that the Asatru path … is one where you are meant to be the best you can in everything you do and honor the ancestors that have fallen before you by continuing the tradition of determination and strength. That is how I carry my faith and that is how I honor my gods and ancestors.

When you do find time to practice or study your religion, what is your focus? To whom or what do you turn?

Dr. P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, a Polytheist, blogger and adjunct history instructor, acts as adviser to the Pagan Student Union at Skagit Valley College, Whidby Island Campus. Lupus observes:

Given the demands of college life, and of community colleges in particular … there is often neither as much time nor opportunity to engage in some of what [students] would like to with Paganism as they might wish. As a result, this creates an intensification of some experiences when they can happen … [It] causes the occasions to be “more special” because of their much-appreciated rarity.

Suretha Thacker [Photo Credit: S. Thacker]

Suretha Thacker [Photo Credit: S. Thacker]

All of the interviewed students did admit to either having limited time to practice or limited access to resources. Suretha Thacker, a Wiccan practitioner at Georgia Gwinnett College, says, “I have an altar and make an effort to celebrate Sabbats. I would like to be more involved, but I don’t have the time yet.” Dinsmore, who is exploring Shamanism, admitted that she often askes “ancestral spirits for guidance and teachings” because she doesn’t have access to relevant books, and has “yet to find a Shaman on a similar path.”

Despite any imposed limitations, most students are, in fact, engaging in some form of religious work. Wallace says, “I’m almost always studying my path. That’s one of my hobbies, … I get most of my teachings from books, the Internet and podcasts. I just downloaded 30 episodes of Selena Fox’ Circle Cast.”

In many cases, the campus-based Pagan student organizations are able to assist with resources and spiritual education. For example, UGA’s Pagan Student Association (PSA) holds weekly workshops that explore different Pagan paths and practices. In the past, subjects have included herbs, crystals, energy healing, shielding, Magick 101 and holiday lore. PSA has also invited practitioners from other religions to promote interfaith education and tolerance.

Paul Blessing [Photo Credit: P. Blessing]

Paul Blessing [Photo Credit: P. Blessing]

In doing this work, a Pagan student organization becomes more than a community center. It can be an informal coven or religious study group. Like UGA, the Rutgers University Pagan Student Association (RUPSA) holds a variety of events to enhance Pagan student practice. Recent graduate Paul Blessing found his path, Omnimancy, through an RUPSA forum event. Blessing is now an active practitioner and attends weekly meetings with a local Omnimancy group in New Jersey.

While Blessing eventually found and chose a structured Pagan tradition, most of the students said that they were more or less self-taught. Elfin, a practicing Heathen, finds his best resources online, saying “[On the Internet] there are people with similar faiths that I can learn a bit from, pick up tips or ideas for liturgy.”

Due to its near universal availability, the Internet is filling gaps when local resources and connectivity are lacking, or when free time is scarce. Students can download podcasts, read blogs or communicate over social media at any time and across space. Heather Sky Cybele, a Purdue University graduate, believes the Internet is “the biggest asset” for young Pagan students today.

What role does the Internet play in your religious education and spiritual growth?

Sarah Morgan, UGA [Photo credit: S. Morgan]

Sarah Morgan, UGA [Photo credit: S. Morgan]

Without a doubt, Facebook is the single biggest player in helping young Pagans stay up-to-date and connected to other students and friends. Morgan says, “Social media … keeps me informed about upcoming meetings, lets me meet new people and also allows me to learn a lot more than I ever could have on my own.”

Outside of Facebook, the most common sites used were Tumblr, Twitter, Yahoo Groups, Meetup.com and YouTube. Blessing says that YouTube “provided a tone of informative videos on practically every topic under the sun.”  Wallace called Meetup.com a “low-investment way to meet local Pagans” when she was visiting Maryland.

Students also look to religion-specific sites for information and connectivity. Vigjaldrsdottir visits Slavorum.com in order to stay in touch with “some of the Slavic faith individuals so that [she] can compare traditions and see the evolution of [her] own.” Similarly, Sky Cybele uses the popular Pagan information site, Witchvox.com, to connect with Pagans around the country, specifically when traveling.

What about traditional media resources? All of the students said that they do not read print magazines, for enrichment or entertainment. Wallace explains, “The cost coupled with the frequency of moving makes reading them difficult.”

Heather Sky Cybele [Photo Credit: H. Sky Cybele]

Heather Sky Cybele [Photo Credit: H. Sky Cybele]

In place of print magazines, young Pagans are turning to blogs and other digital publications for their Pagan or religious reading material. Sky Cybele regularly reads the blogs on the Pagan Channel at Patheos. Elfin says that he also enjoys reading blogs like Raise the Horns, but he doesn’t have as much time as he would like.

Riveira currently follows over 10 different Pagan blogs and websites, adding, “It was through various websites that I found my local groups and information … Young people can learn about their chosen paths without having to put themselves at risk or at a disadvantage of those around them.”

What disadvange? Is it one of age or experience? Do young Pagans feel lost in the greater community or ignored by older generations? In the third and final part of this series, we will examine the relationship between elders and this younger generation. We will also look forward into tomorrow to see how they envision the future.

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!

Publicity still from "Britain's Wicca Man".

Gerald Gardner

Last year a commemorative blue plaque was erected in England to honor the life and work of Doreen Valiente, considered by many to be the mother of modern religious Witchcraft. Now, this June, Gerald Gardner, who first introduced Wicca to the wider world, will receive the same honor. Quote: “Friday 13 might be considered unlucky for some, but Friday 13 June 2014 promises instead to be an especially auspicious day for Wiccans, because it is when the blue plaque for Gerald Gardner, the Father of Modern Wicca, is being unveiled at his former home in Highcliffe, Dorset. The day was picked because it is the anniversary of his birthday – Gerald Brosseau Gardner was born on June 13, 1884. The Doreen Valiente Foundation and the Centre for Pagan Studies, in collaboration with Children of Artemis, have organised the historic occasion when a commemorative blue plaque for Gerald Gardner will be unveiled at the house in which he lived.” You can find out more about the event, here. You can learn more about the UK’s blue heritage plaques, here.

GBGplaqueevent

10302236_4128042894802_6817282739509919849_nOn May 17th the Lancaster Intelligencer Journal published a fairly general “meet the Pagans” type puff piece. But then, the piece was pulled from their online edition after it came to light that Rev. Kim Cabot Consoli had an arrest record. The paper published a long Mea Culpa that not only listed that arrest record, but also that they “did not put witchcraft into a larger context of the faith and values of our community.” Enter Get Religion, who does a credible dissection of what we know, and what might have happened behind the scenes. Quote: “It’s such an ancient pitch: Step on stories that might offend some readers, and you’ll keep them happy. The trouble is that it ends up offending other readers who don’t like newspapers stepping on stories. In trying to avoid one controversy, you create another. Why not simply report the additional news?” So, lots of important questions are raised here in the realms where journalism and modern Paganism intersect. Does a criminal record mean you shouldn’t be written up for religion at some later point? Was her arrest merely a cover for the fact that they wanted to kill the story? Whatever the case, the Lancaster Intelligencer Journal hasn’t bathed itself in glory here (but good job giving Gawker something to write about).

18799_253556621440675_939061554_nHeathens United Against Racism has raised over $4000 dollars to benefit the victims of the April hate-motived shootings in Kansas City that claimed the lives of three people. The alleged shooter was tied to Norse Pagan beliefs, specifically Odinism, during the initial rush of news reports. The fundraiser was a way of HUAR underlining the fringe nature of the shooter’s racist ideology, and that Asatru, and related faiths, are not based on racial hate or prejudice. Quote: “We are not a religion of hatred and refuse to tolerate the perversion of our faith to justify senseless acts of bigotry. On behalf of the Heathen community, we vehemently denounce Cross and all his ilk. Accordingly, we also extend our deepest condolences to everyone affected by this tragedy. As Heathens we value deeds over words. Please help us to raise funds to give to the families affected and to the communities targeted. We can never undo what has been done or return those who have been lost, but together we can foster unity and denounce the hatred that catalyzed this atrocity.” You can read official announcements regarding this fundraiser at HUAR’s Facebook page.

In Other Pagan Community Notes:

  • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus takes leave of Patheos.com, and discusses the reasons why in a farewell column. Quote: “I would, thus, like to close my words at Patheos by thanking everyone who has made my presence here possible, and who has contributed to the conversations held here in diverse ways. I will end with an echo of how I began this column, as the shadow of where I stood here fades and moves elsewhere: Queer I Stood—by the gods, I can do no other. And by the gods, for I can do no other, I shall still Queerly Stand elsewhere in the future.” More here.
  • The 6th Annual Pagan Values Event, which takes place each June, has begun. Quote: “Each June Bloggers, Podcasters, and other content creators from across the many faiths and philosophies of Contemporary Paganism are encouraged to post, broadcast, tweet, or otherwise speak out on the concept of Pagan Values. By naming and exploring the values, virtues, and ethics, we have found on our many pagan paths we are not trying to claim that they are ours exclusively, we simply wish to let the world know that we have them. Our goal is to inspire, to stir conversation, and to explore what it is that the good man or woman will teach their children of body and spirit.”
  • Neo-Paganism.org is seeking help for its timeline of Neo-Pagan history. Quote: “The timeline runs more or less from through the late 19th century to the present. Your help is needed! Corrections as to dates or details are welcome. As are recommendations for additional entries. The 1990′s and 21st century are especially sparse on entries, I think, so your help there is especially welcome.”
  • Dear lovers of Glycon the snake-puppet-god, writer Alan Moore had heard your cries for more information! Quote: “As people become disillusioned by the returned gods, the noticeably unreturned god Glycon piques curiosity and hope in a few would-be-followers, drawing Moore into their desperate plea for a priest and an encounter with Glycon himself.”

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

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

Rhyd Wildermuth

Rhyd Wildermuth

“Strings and wires and cords bind me and embrace me and restrain me, but they are not mine alone. There are other filaments, unseen but always felt, invisible but ever-present.  Some tie you to me, thoughts and dreams, laughter and hatred, what is shared and what is feared.  I meet you and we are tethered, sometimes anchored, sometimes set aloft like connected balloons slipping from the hands of children into the endlessness of sky.  Some tie me to you, affection or dislike, duty or admiration, care or casualty, love or loss.  Some are like chains which weigh upon the soul, but many others like long stitches which keep us together. Not just in present, either.  There are the threads of fate woven into my form and existence at birth and from even before, the tugging strong rope of destiny unfolding, and all the myriad unfollowed threads of stories and sorrows, possibilities and failures still loose. I’ve heard existence spoken of as a web, but I have never quite felt this true.  Webs are spun to constrict and trap, to bind and kill.  A broken strand does not destroy it.  Its patterns can be predicted, its geometry assured. No. Rather, then, a tapestry, woven from time and the self, of threads countless and coloured, and each strand is you, and you, and you, and some of them are me.” Rhyd Wildermuth, on strings, and the tapestry of existence.

Julian Betkowski

Julian Betkowski

“Part of the process of community building is realizing that community will be composed of others potentially quite unlike ourselves. We must be willing to release our preconceptions and allow others to speak for themselves. Others are not simply mirrors, dully reflecting our own images back to us, they possess a depth and mystery all their own. When we interpret the speech of others as metaphor, we strip them of their depth, of the richness of their experience, and refuse to acknowledge any unique substance in them. Simply, others are reduced to pale imitations of ourselves, and can only be understood as phantom extensions of our own being. This is a subtle form of solipsism. The strategy of reinterpretation becomes even more troublesome when the speech of others becomes so unique, so different from our own expectations, that it naturally resists all attempts to be read as metaphor. We will encounter others with whom we share so little in common that descriptions of their own experiences will find little to no resonance among our own store of memory. In such situations we are forced to either employ extreme hermeneutical maneuvers in order to apologize their speech with our experience or disregard it as nonsense. Alternatively, we could, most simply, just accept it as it is presented to us.” – Julian Betkowski, on resisting the urge towards metaphor in our interactions with others.

Carol Kirk

Carol Kirk

“Even to use the word “community” when speaking of Pagans would seem to be a misnomer.  There is no Pagan community where I live.  There is just a small group of Pagans who get together over coffee every two weeks and then go their own way. They have no interest in working together on community projects or in working with those of non-Pagan religions. They don’t have any interest in creating any sort of Pagan community so why care about reaching out to the rest of the interfaith community at all?  It seems to me we have become as judgmental and as intolerant of each other as those other religions we complain of when they do the same. Perhaps our interfaith work as Pagans needs to begin with ourselves.  If we cannot find tolerance and an ability to work together between the various forms of Paganism, what chance do we have of finding it in the outside world? Something to remember about interfaith work is that it isn’t all about talking about your beliefs and practices with others; although, education to end misinformation is certainly part of what we in interfaith hope to accomplish.  Rather successful interfaith is about gathering those of many faiths who have an interest in programs to benefit their community, to promote social justice, and to work to the good of all.  It is through working side by side on such programs that we come to acknowledge that we are all human and that we can and do care for each other.  Maybe this is where the various Pagan religions need to start.” – Carol Kirk (aka Lark), on interfaith within the Pagan movement.

Ivo Dominguez Jr.

Ivo Dominguez Jr.

“What matters to me is that we leave behind a viable culture and a real infrastructure as Pagans. Infrastructure  is the single most important next step. Things that are tangible and real in the physical world are infrastructure. It could be a building, be land, be a library or a shrine or temple. A large event like Pantheacon is infrastructure too. It takes a large number of individuals, money, time, and energy to create this Brigadoon type of event that lasts only a few days. Three thousand people intersect in a great Pagan crossroads, like a Pagan United Nations session. This is also fragile, it takes very little to destroy an event. It take a lot to maintain, and requires cohesiveness of a group to continue. How we hope to maintain things like this is by this example. We put on an event every few years called Between the Worlds. In 2015 it conflicts with a smaller annual event in the Mid-Atlantic area the Sacred Space conference. We could just go forth and divide the teachers and participants between the two events. The smaller group would probably suffer financially and possibly become less viable. Our two boards met and decided to hold a joint conference. Both events will take place in the same hotel and admission to one gets you admission to the other. We have worked it out to be fair and keep both events, the infrastructure viable.  Cooperation is possible, it is not easy. It is messy, but it can be done.” – Ivo Dominguez Jr., on what Paganism needs to accomplish in the next 20 years. 

Sable Aradia

Sable Aradia

“Here was a great book; a practical step-by-step guide,  with detailed tables and illustrations, that explained magick in a direct, matter-of-fact manner which encouraged scientific thinking and observation of empirical evidence.  Sometimes I am a little obsessive about things, and I threw myself into the Work.  I did the year-long course delineated in Mr. Kraig’s excellent textbook in six months. This is not something I recommend, by the way.  My life went promptly to hell for the next two years, grounded in personal magickal transformation and teenage angst.  But I emerged from that period as a very strong person, with a lifelong appreciation for and love of magick and the Craft. I credit Modern Magick with significantly improving my magickal technique; because the training was excellent, and because I did it at such a young age.  I have seen this book since listed among recommendations for “Advanced” material that long-time Witches, bored with the basic how-to books, could go to in order to take their practice to the next step.” – Sable Aradia, on how Donald Michael Kraig impacted her life and religious practice.

Lon Milo DuQuette. Photo by Charles Elliott.

Lon Milo DuQuette

“I bet you’ve always felt special, haven’t you? Be honest with yourself. I’d wager that even as a child you you were haunted by the uneasy feeling that you were different from everyone else around you. You probably felt (and still feel) profoundly alone with a host of naughty feelings, secret fears, disturbing dreams, curious passions, and desires that are uniquely yours and yours alone. Compared to everyone else, you might consider yourself quietly odd, different, perhaps even defective or incomplete. Nevertheless, even though all of us to one degree or another secretly believe ourselves to be profoundly and fundamentally flawed, we simultaneously believe we are the most special, most interesting, most fascinating person in the universe—the super-star of our own movie, the protagonist of our own novel, the most important actor in the great drama of existence. Am I right? Don’t worry if your answer is “yes.” You’re probably not too crazy. And you’re certainly not alone in your megalomania. Everyone feels that way—and for good reason. Because it’s true!” – Lon Milo DuQuette, on finding the Muse.

David Oliver Kling

David Oliver Kling

“Recently, I found myself feeling like I was running through a gauntlet within a local Facebook group by a few members of the group who had a serious problem with Christopaganism.  Their problem was centered on their understanding of, “the Bible says this…”  What transpired was a litany of Bible passages they felt that condemned Paganism.  I responded that I didn’t feel it necessary to “proof text” with them and volley back with other Bible passages.  I responded that I didn’t feel the Bible was “inerrant” and that I believed it was written by people struggling to make meaning out of their world.  I mentioned that what was important was the hermeneutic one used to interpret the entire text and not taking various texts out of context to use as a “theological weapon” against another. What does it mean for Pagans if we become what we say we are not?  One does not need to embrace Christopaganism to dialogue about it for understanding.  What does it say if we become the type of community that expects tolerance from others without practicing tolerance?  This is the heart of the dilemma I presented. This same treatment I’m advocating towards Christopaganism should be offered towards other forms of Paganism different from one’s own.   As a community, Paganism is starting to mature.  We’re starting to “come of age,” and with that comes responsibility.  In life it is often common to give youth or adolescence a “pass” from time to time with the explanation of, “Well they’re young…” As a community we’re reaching a point where we can no longer be given a pass.  We need to practice the tolerance that we covet for ourselves and when we fall short of this, and we will, we need to acknowledge our shortcomings and keep trying.” – David Oliver Kling, on practicing what you preach.

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

“Do you know that thing which happens to some performers, who are great in a performance in front of thousands of people, but then they falter when they know that their mother is in the audience? This kind of feels like that: I’ve done rituals halfway across the world, and in many other parts of the U.S. (including not far from here, in Anacortes and Seattle and Bellingham), in front of large groups of people, but this is different. Two people who will be there have only done/been at one other ritual, ever (this one!), and while I’d like it to be good for them, at the same time, I know that pretty much anything will be good as far as they’re concerned…And, I know the main Diva who will be receiving our praises appreciates anything and everything that people are able to do for her, and should be pleased with this (which may be the largest group I’ve ever had for a ritual to her–the next-largest being myself and two others, including Erynn Rowan Laurie, in 2009 at her house, and likewise one in 2005 in Ireland with two others, including Sharynne MacLeod Nic Mhacha at my house there), nonetheless, there’s another audience that we don’t often take as much into account as we ought to, even as scrupulous, self-conscious, and (most importantly!) other-aware polytheists and animists, which is the place of place itself and those places that are particular to us and know us and in which we have lived, but which may not be “used to” certain sorts of activities by us in those locations.” – P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, on a strange form of homecoming.

T. Thorn Coyle

T. Thorn Coyle

“There is nothing in our lives that is not sacred. Our laughter. Our excretions. Our hopes and dreams. Our fear. The way we love. The way we cry. The way we fight. What we eat. How we learn. There is nothing in our lives that is not sacred because life itself is a holy and blessed thing. Every flower, animated. Every rock, an ancient pattern. Each song, an expression of humanity in relationship to all things. We are star stuff, it is said, and this is true. We are made of the same iron that gives off distant, dying light. We are made of the same iron that anchors us to this earth. Sometimes we remember. Sometimes we forget. Every day presents this offering: Try again.” – T. Thorn Coyle, on living sacred

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

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

Peter J. Carroll

Peter J. Carroll

“At the risk of causing uproar I’d classify most British Neo-Pagans as basically atheists or pantheists, they believe in their gods in a mytho-centric rather than a logo-centric way. By this I mean that they believe in them as archetypes which exist primarily in our own heads but which grow stronger and more useful and which can have real effects upon the world and on us if we choose to believe in them. They do not in the main believe that such gods and goddesses have some sort of objective existence as ‘gaseous vertebrates’, or that their myths have literal truth as historical events. Rather the myths represent teaching stories about the human condition. I feel at home with most Neo- Pagan traditions in the UK and have participated at many varied rituals and meetings. I currently attend a Druid Grove regularly. Of course they all know that Druidry consists of an almost entirely modern synthetic and syncretic ‘tradition’, but that doesn’t inhibit them at all.” – Peter J. Carroll, on his relationship with Modern Paganism.

John Beckett

John Beckett

“Many of us in the Pagan community are heavily influenced by Campbell, even if we’ve never read or seen his work.  If you aren’t a devotional polytheist or if you haven’t had experiences of individual deities, his ideas of monomyth and of “God as Force” are intuitively attractive.  The reverence in which Campbell is held within liberal religious circles only adds to his authority.  That makes it very easy for intelligent and well-meaning Pagans to interpret polytheistic experiences (of others or even their own) through monotheistic and non-theistic lenses. Is that wrong?  I’m not going to tell anyone how to interpret their religious experiences.  If Joseph Campbell’s ideas are meaningful and helpful to you, so be it – you could do far worse.  But if you tell me my experience of Danu can only be seen as an aspect of a universal Goddess or as an archetype or that it must be an expression of a universal myth, we’re going to have issues.” – John Beckett, taking issue with the effect(s) Joseph Campbell has had on the Pagan community.

Rhyd Wildermuth

Rhyd Wildermuth

“I am still traveling. I am not where I came from, nor where I am going. I am in-between, a third place betwixt here and there. When I went on pilgrimage last year, I was for five weeks in each place but also not in those places, nor where I had belonged, nor where I was going. Something about this liminality, though, is quite familiar and even comforting. Ungrounded from place, unrooted from the worlds of meaning, the families and friendships, the beds and teacups–I’m reminded that I carry my hearth with me, even as I yet have no hearth to call mine. A tent in France pulled from an over-stuffed rucksack, a crossroads in a cornfield on a druid mountain, a couch in a 500 year-old Alsatian apartment, a loft in a 200 year old Berlin commune, a room between the rooms of my nephews in Florida, a warm corner in the attic of some friends in Seattle, a shared bed with another in Portland—these are the spaces in-between where I dwell. They are places that are not mine but in which I have inhabited, where the hearth I carry with me settles for a time amongst others. I am myself when I am in-between, more so now that I have understood what else inhabits such places.” – Rhyd Wildermuth, on liminality and gods in-between.

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

“I am very happy to be friends with nearly anyone (as long as they’re, at the very least, not racist, sexist, homophobic or transphobic, or anti-Pagan, and they’re working or willing to work on improving in whatever other areas they might lack awareness or sensitivity), and it’s great to have friends of a diverse variety. However, if I am to be colleagues with someone in my religious community, or they are considered colleagues within my greater religious umbrella, then more is required. No matter how well I get along with someone and how much I value them as a friend, if I have not been in ritual with them and cannot work with them, there’s less of a draw to get closer to them. I’ll still try to be as friendly and respectful toward them as I can be and as is appropriate to our contexts, but there will be a distancing on some matters that will inevitably occur. If it isn’t an important enough subject to talk about with someone, then likely the variety of relationship involved won’t be as important to either of us as well.” – P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, on small-talk, religious community, and what’s required to become religious community. 

Courtney Weber

Courtney Weber

“Yes, I’m prone to exaggeration. But I’m *not* exaggerating here. It was the worst ritual ever and I wanted to go home and throw my Craft books out the window onto 10th street for the cabs to run over and the drunks to puke upon. The most soulful moment I had that night was explaining the concept of a doughnut hole to a British tourist in attendance, who blushed because he thought I was talking kinky. What a waste of time! Except for that British guy, nothing moving whatsoever. But did that ritual warrant my critique? No. Yes, I’m entitled to an opinion. But the High Priestess didn’t ask me what I thought. Even though I thought her ritual was lousy, she was still the one who donated her time to put it together. It would have been rude and unkind of me to run my mouth all over it. It’s even possible that someone in that room got something out of flicking their fingers in the air and if so, the ritual was worth it. I was right then, and I am right now–the ritual was not effective by any means in comparison to the incredible rites I’ve attended since then. But it was not my place to criticize.” – Courtney Weber, on ritual critique, and when to engage in it.

Donald Tyson

Donald Tyson

“If you consider these symbols, you will see that they fall into two categories: symbols of general use in magic, and symbols considered to be chaotic or Satanic. There is no attempt by entertainers to differentiate between these two categories. Many people regard any symbol connected with the occult to be inherently evil. Those of us who study magic know that this is incorrect. Just the opposite is true: no symbol is inherently evil—but the general audience for these entertainers does not know it. To them, occult symbols are mysterious, intriguing, powerful, and dangerous—everything likely to fascinate the mind of a teenager. Popular singers have turned to occult symbols for shock value because they have exhausted the possibilities of sex. They can go no further with sexual suggestiveness unless they have actual sex on stage. They most look elsewhere for something that will spark controversy, and they find it in the occult. This is unfortunate, since that occult symbols have a more profound meaning that is debased by their exploitation. But no one should assume that the entertainers who abuse these symbols know what they are doing, or that these individuals belong to the Illuminati or any other serious occult current.” – Donald Tyson, on occult symbols being used in pop music.

Steven Posch

Steven Posch

“Firstly, a word of thanks and appreciation for your work over the years, and in particular for Did God Have A Wife? To speak only for myself, the book has shaped my own thought and understanding of my ancestral traditions, and for this you have my deep and lasting gratitude. Anent Wife, though, I would like to point out to you an irony which I suspect has heretofore escaped your attention. To this not-altogether-objective reader, it is striking how closely your denunciations of the excesses of contemporary Goddess worship and feminist spirituality—which is, in fact, modern folk religion—resemble the Deuteronomic and Priestly hostility toward the folk religion of their own time. I find it curious that, from the position of your own academic orthodoxy, your sympathy for folk—and in particular, women’s—religion apparently extends to ancient women, but not to your contemporaries. Plus ça change….” – Steven Posch, penning an open letter to William G. Dever.

Chas Clifton

Chas Clifton

“Now John C.. Sulak, who co-wrote Modern Pagans (2001) for RE/Search Press, has brought us  The Wizard and the Witch: An Oral History of Oberon Zell & Morning Glory. It is not just the history of a significant slice of  American Paganism from the 1960s until now, but also the love story of a couple married for forty years. Yet Morning Glory, priestess of Aphrodite, invented the term “polyamory” (but not the concept)  and they embraced it. Paradoxes abound. Sulak tells the story of Otter and MG through multiple voices, more like a radio documentary — there is even a voice labeled “Narrator.” I thought that was a little weird at first, but I got used to it. Sometimes the Zells may seem like Pagan rock stars, but then you see them in screaming fights, or admitting that they made mistakes in who they trusted or dealt with their families of birth or how they raised their kids  (Those children, now grown, are also heard from.) Highs and lows, gains and losses, feasts and famines — it’s all here. Reading it, you can see how the Church of All Worlds, founded by Tim Zell and his close friend Lance Christie, started out as what we now would call “spiritual but not religious,” and changed as it encountered other overly Pagan groups (such as Feraferia) as well as various Witchcraft groups.” – Chas Clifton, reviewing “The Wizard and the Witch.”

Mambo Chita Tann

Mambo Chita Tann

“Lent, from an early Germanic word for “spring” itself, is a liturgical observation. In the Catholic Church, it is an obligation for all adults, and begins with Mass on “Ash Wednesday,” so named for the practice of having one’s forehead marked with the sign of the Cross in the ashes of palm fronds from the previous year’s Palm Sunday. For Orthodox Christians, Lent begins on “Clean Monday,” with ritual baths to wash the body and home, in addition to special rituals to offer and gain forgiveness for wrongs done in the previous year. Regardless of which day is designated as its beginning, Lent includes forty days of practices, including fasting or abstaining from certain foods or actions, church attendance, charitable service, and prayer and meditation. Officially, Lent ends on Holy Thursday, the night of Holy Week when, according to tradition, Jesus Christ spent His last supper with His disciples. According to Catholic.org, “The goal of every Christian is to leave Lent a stronger and more vital person of faith than when we entered.” Sounds like something any person of any faith could get behind! In Haitian Vodou (as the vast majority of Vodouisants are Catholic by birth and tradition) we observe Lent. It may seem strange that we honor a liturgical observation from the religion of conquerors and slave owners, especially since the Roman Catholic Church was expelled from Haiti shortly after its independence in 1804, and did not return for a generation. But Lent is a special, quiet time in ourperistyles (Vodou temples). It is a time we use for spiritual rest and relaxation, and the techniques Vodouisants use to celebrate Lent can be adapted to any religious practice; after all, Vodou is as much Catholicism as it is indigenous African, Caribbean, and European traditions.” – Mambo Chita Tann, on Lent and Vodou.

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

This year at PantheaCon, the CoG/NWC/NROOGD suite hosted a Sunday afternoon discussion called “Engaging ‘Wiccanate’ Privilege.” This meeting was a follow-up to an on-going debate centering mostly on “the way in which aspects of Wiccan … theology [are] assumed to be normative for Paganism as a whole.” Moderated by Jeffrey “Shade Fane” Albaugh, program manager for the Conference on Current Pagan Studies, the PantheaCon meeting attracted a diverse, standing-room only crowd lasting a full two hours.

Don Frew

Don Frew

It all began three months earlier when The Interfaith Observer (TIO) published Don Frew’s article “The Rudiments of Neo Pagan Spiritual Practice.” A link to the article was posted here at The Wild Hunt after which an intense debate ensued. Non-Wiccan practitioners took serious issue with the article’s language and assumptions. The conversation then spilled over into other blog environments including Patheos’ Pointedly Pagan, Aedicula Antinoi: A Small Shrine of Antinous and Of Thespiae.

Recognizing that “a number of people were feeling left out of the conversation,” Don asked the CoG/NWC/NROOGD suite to host a talk. He said,“On the Internet we argue with an argument; not a person. It is important to keep the human element involved … We needed to meet.” Don wanted as many voices at the meeting as possible. “I invited P. Sufenas Virius Lupus because I knew e comes to PantheaCon.”*

Lupus accepted the invitation saying:

I accepted Don’s invitation to the talk because, in my opinion, we had a very productive discussion in the comments section of my blog post on some of the initial objections I raised to his article… I hoped that some basic understandings would emerge from this discussion, on what makes more strict, literal, devotional (or, though I don’t like the term, “hard”) polytheists different from Wiccans, Wiccanate Pagans, and more general eclectic Pagans would emerge.

After working out logistics, moderator Jeffrey Albaugh handed the floor to Don and Lupus. Don explained that the TIO article was only a portion of a longer response piece and that he had no input in its editing or titling. Next Lupus spoke thanking Don and other interfaith representatives for their ongoing work. Then Lupus went on to say, “Everyone has privilege because we are here. It is not a bad thing to be privileged. [But] there is a hierarchy of privilege in our community.”

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

After these introductory words, Albaugh started the conversation by asking Lupus to define Polytheist. Lupus said simply, “Many Gods.” Several attendees then defined the term in relation to their own practice. Many present consider themselves polytheists in some form. In response, Lupus said, “Nobody owns the word.”

After this terminology discussion, the conversation moved on to concerns over the use of prayer in mixed-faith environments. Several speakers referenced T. Thorn Coyle’s prayer during Saturday’s Pagans and Privilege Panel. According to reports, Thorn’s prayer had alienated some panel attendees. In a post-PantheaCon blog post, Thorn herself considers this very issue. Her words mirror much of what was said in the Wiccan Privilege discussion. She wrote “I almost said, ‘I would like to start us with a prayer from my tradition … and invite you all to meditate or pray to whomever you feel called.’ Almost.” She counts this as both a failure and an opportunity to “try again.”

Don stressed the importance of saying “from my tradition” in mixed-faith situations. These words clarify both expectations and the relationship between speaker and audience. As Don suggested, ecumenical prayers are nice but they teach us nothing about each other’s beliefs. Lupus then asked the group, “If I did a panel would you be offended by my prayer?” The response was a unanimous “no.”

Present at the meeting were both Margot Adler and Starhawk who offered an historical perspective. Margot noted that in the 1970s “Wicca” was all that was available to most people including herself. Many attendees agreed. Starhawk added “Wicca has come to mean something different. [Being] Wiccan has a different connotation now.” Times have changed affecting language, availability of education and visibility of practice.

Rayna Templebee

Rayna Templebee

The conversation went on to acknowledge the relational power structures within the greater Pagan and Heathen communities. Several people stressed the importance in examining the oppressions that affect us and in staying aware of the points of privilege from which we speak. Who is given automatic authority by virtue of the established, dominant power structure – by virtue of age, position, accomplishments or religious tradition? Rayna Tempebee noted that people communicate from a position informed by who they are. Mistakes are often made unintentionally. But is still important for each of us to “be as clear and precise as possible” in our communication.

Don and Lupus remained attentive and quiet for most of the talk as Jeffrey Albaugh negotiated a complex discussion in a crowded room of participants. Eventually the conversation did return to Don who brought up the idea of “inside and outside voices.” The language used to define and explain “Paganism” within greater society is very different from the language used to define ourselves to ourselves. One remains broad while the other can be and should be much more detailed and specific.

Jeff Albaugh

Jeff Albaugh

Then several people shared their own feelings of alienation due to unique religious practices. At least three attendees said they identify as both Jewish and Witch or Pagan. Taylor Ellwood noted that his pop culture magical practice often raises eyebrows. Another woman emotionally expressed her feelings of isolation caused by her spiritual affiliation to Guadalupe, the Virgin Mother. She then said, “The paradigm is shifting.” We are no longer a “melting pot. We are a salad bowl.” We must learn to “tolerate diversity.”

As the session came to a close, Don said “we are headed for a big wake-up call. Paganism(s) will look very different.” He was referring to the growing number of indigenous groups who are finding their voice in the global interfaith conversation. Wicca and “Wiccante” practices will not be the dominant Pagan faith tradition forever. Russia’s PFI coordinator Gwiddon Harvester corroborated this point when noting that Russia’s dominant Pagan/Heathen practice is Slavic Reconstructionalism; not Wicca.

At this point Minos Lugh of the Minoan Brotherhood and a Kemetic Priest called upon the community to “show up” for conversations such as this one. He also emphatically said, “Do not put down another Pagan.” This sentiment received an applause.  Earlier in the discussion, Starhawk also emphasized this point when lamenting “how little time [we have] to discuss the Earth” and those larger issues affecting all of us. She said in that bigger context “we should have each others’ backs where it really counts.”

Lord Lugh

Lord Lugh

The entire session was not without controversy and frustration. There was a give-and-take that at times became quite heated. Overall the meeting seemed to be a solid beginning where important issues were placed on a table for open examination.

In the final moments of the meeting, Lupus challenged the attendees to attend one of eir PantheaCon events. The yearly convention provides an excellent opportunity to learn about other faith traditions and practices. The very next morning Don attended Lupus’ Beard Blessing and has since made future plans to continue that education. In retrospect, Lupus says:

I have never been in a situation with so many Pagans of various stripes telling me exactly what I believe, or what my group stands for, or who is included and excluded in my group, than on that occasion.  In every case, all of them were wrong, misinformed, and have not availed themselves of the resources out there on my tradition … [However] I think it was an encouraging event, and one that demonstrates to me that some people are trying to make an effort and want to come to a better understanding of these matters.  I also think it illustrated how far we have to go, and how good intentions can’t accomplish much of this work…

Looking back Don says “I hope everyone came away with a better understanding of each other and each other’s position.” He adds that people were able to express “how they felt” but the meeting did little in the way of education on faith traditions and practices.That would have to come later.

This article only highlights the key points raised at the Wiccan Privilege meeting. It only grazes the surface. Many people spoke from many perspectives. The conversation will undoubtedly continue in live-format and over the blogosphere. Several attendees have already published posts on the subject including Lupus and John Halstead. Look for more in the days and months to come.

 

*Note on Pronouns: Lupus prefers to use Old Spivak pronouns. For more details, see here.

 

 

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. This week, we have a post-PantheaCon theme running through all our selections, so enjoy!

PGPT_TThornCoyle_bio“A prayer that is dear to me may have alienated some of the people packed into the ballroom. Why am I writing about this? I didn’t follow my intuition and make the prayer more inclusive. Why am I writing about this? In that moment, as moderator of a panel I had convened, I was in a temporary position of power. This wasn’t one of my classes or rituals. This was a more “public” coming together. Most people, in those moments, choose not to pray. That is a valid option. However, for me, at a convention like Pantheacon, to not pray is to secularize. We are at the convention for sacred purposes. In the coming and going, in the rush from thing to thing, it can be easy to forget. I choose to ask us to pause. To breathe. To center. I also choose to pray. What I want to think about in future, however, is how inclusive that prayer is. For me, as a non-dualist and a polytheist, that prayer includes the cosmos. It includes every human, tree, and star. It includes myriad Gods and Goddesses. It includes the wights and fey beings. It includes the ancestors and descendants. It may not sound that way to everyone. What will I do in the future? I’m not yet sure. I want to ponder the gift this woman offered me: a chance to re-think. A chance to not assume. A chance to reach out, to touch Mystery. A chance to fail. A chance to try again.” – T. Thorn Coyle, on prayer and privilege at PantheaCon 2014.

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

“Meeting people makes all the difference. Jason Mankey, John Beckett, Niki Whiting, and John Halstead and his wife had Mega-Patheos Pagan Breakfast the other day, and the world didn’t explode…and, three of the five people named in that previous clause came to my Beard Blessing Ritual this morning, and two of them weren’t Jason Mankey or Niki Whiting, and they all had a great time! (As did several other well-known BNPs, including Don Frew and Margot Adler!) For a 9 AM session on Monday, that was pretty feckin’ good…and, we had more people attend that event than any other I held/was personally responsible for all weekend. […] The most moving thing of the weekend was the sanctification ritual for Lady Olivia and Hyperion, which many notables who had met Lady Olivia attended, not to mention a huge number of The Unnamed Path practitioners, and Hyperion’s bereaved partner, and his mother (who was awesome!–she said, “I’ll always remember Eddy as the kid I helped learn to tie his shoes…and now he’s a saint, and I’m the mother of a saint!”). It was beautiful, and well-auspiced by a variety of birds that arrived and departed at significant points in the ritual, and was probably the most important event during the whole weekend as far as actual spiritual work was concerned.” – P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, giving an initial run-down of experiences and reflections from PantheaCon 2014.

John Beckett

John Beckett

“The hospitality suites were the highlight of the convention for me.  I spent time in the suites of Coru Cathubodua, Hexenfest, ADF, FoDLA, Open Source Order of the Golden Dawn, and (briefly) Solar Cross Temple, plus some informal hospitality from Jason Mankey.  The suites are part miniature meeting rooms, part quiet place to escape the convention buzz, part public relations venues, and part discussion salons.  If you don’t know anyone, a convention – any convention – can be a lonely place.  The hospitality suites are a place to find the one-on-one and small group conversations that form and strengthen relationships. And what happens in the hospitality suites stays in the hospitality suites.  Right, Anomalous Thracian?  Right???  Somehow I think not… The most powerful experience of the weekend was the ritual to open the Temple of the Morrígan.  The Coru Cathubodua put some serious work into creating a living temple, one whole room “for reverence of the Morrígan and the family of Celtic Gods and heroes.”  The temple deserves its own blog post – I’ll have it done late this week or early next week. The hardest thing I had to do all weekend was leave the Coru suite at midnight.  Fine conversation was still in full swing – some theological, some practical, and some just fun – but my body was still on Texas time and I was drained.  Thanks to all the folks there:  Morpheus Ravenna, Rynn Fox, Brennos, Amelia Hogan, Corvus Cardia, Grant Guindon, Anomalous Thracian, and everyone else I’m either overlooking or whose names I didn’t get.  Your hospitality and friendship are awesome!” – John Beckett, extolling the virtues of the hospitality suites at PantheaCon, specifically the Coru suite.

Tim Titus

Tim Titus

“It really is more than one convention. With up to 13 sessions running roughly six times a day for three days, the variety is endless.  While we all intersect at times, everyone experiences their own convention.  There are people I see walking the halls that I never see anywhere else.  PantheaCon has multiple incarnations. This really hit home for me when I attended a session outside my normal rounds.  Suddenly I was in a room with nobody I recognized, people who probably attend every year but just never cross paths with me.  I had stumbled upon the Thelemite incarnation of PantheaCon. OK, so it wasn’t really a stumble.  The session was called “Stars in the Company of Stars: Thelema-Individuality-Connection,” and its presenter was prominent Bay Area Thelemite, James A. Eshelman.  I knew what I was getting myself into. Using Thelemic terms, Eshelman probably delivered the most important take home message of the convention for me: Yes, as Aleister Crowley wrote, we are all stars.  But we are not isolated.  Stars exist in galaxies of other stars.  They are independent bodies, yet constantly interacting with each other. That’s exactly my experience of PantheaCon: we are all stars in the company of stars.” – Tim Titus, on being stars in the company of stars.

Connie Anne McEntee

Connie Anne McEntee

“It could easily be said that the main highlight for me was my first degree initiation. But the second greatest highlight was on Sunday morning, when I attended a ritual called “Yes They Are!” This ritual, put on by the Circle of Dionysos, was about deities for queer persons from various traditions, and various members of the Circle portrayed these gods and goddesses. The one who’s lesson touched most deeply was the Morrighan, when she castigated all present for not doing enough for trans persons. I burst into tears during her part, and I had not cried like that in a long time (probably since P-con 2013, in fact) and it was a gift to be able to feel that much emotion. I made a mental note to find and thank her after the ritual. But I didn’t need to seek her out. My crying was noticed by more than those persons sitting near me. When Aphrodite gave her lesson, walking around the circle talking about the different ways in which people love, she paused before me to stroke my cheek telling the assembled that some people love with their tears. Antinuous, who spoke immediately after the Morrighan and before Aphrodite injecting a lot of humor that was lost on me at that point, came to me later. At the end of the ritual when the majority of people got up to dance joyously, I sat and wept again. Soon I felt hands on both of my shoulders. When I could bring myself to open my eyes, there was a woman seated on either side of me stroking my back and three men kneeling in front of me, one of whom was Antinuous. Eventually, the woman who portrayed the Morrighan approached me saying, “I feel like this is my fault.” I assured her that was not the case, bowing to her and thanking her. She knelt in front of me no longer as a priestess, but as the Morrighan again, offering me fierce comfort and I sobbed into her shoulder. As I left, Eris approached me to be sure I was alright. This goddess was portrayed by the same witch who’d portrayed Pancrates at the “Trans Deities for All” ritual at PantheaCon 2013. Eris reminded me that I was beautiful and if I heard any voice in my heart that said otherwise that said voice was not mine.” – Connie Anne McEntee, on the ‘Yes They Are!’ ritual, and experiences at PantheaCon.

Lord Lugh

Lord Lugh

“During lunch with Richard and Matt, another Kemetic brother, I had insisted on the need for Kemetics and other Reconstructionists to show up at Interfaith meetings. I was referring to an article by CoG’s Don Frew on Interfaith. I do show up for Interfaith work and I have some public speaking scheduled in Palm Spring next month, but I wear many hats, and usually people see me as a Wiccan priest only, missing the rest of my practices. Matt grabbed the ball by the horns, and after leaving Tony Mierzwicki’s presentation, and the socializing and networking that ensued, I found myself introducing Matt to Don Frew, instead of leaving the hotel and grounding myself from this overextended weekend. The event was Engaging “Wicanate Privilege” a discussion about the latest articles in The Wild Hunt and other Pagan blogs questioning if Pagans were cohesive enough to be described as a movement at all. I had stayed out of these divisive debates, since being both a Wiccan and a Reconstructionist, I find them very upsetting. We had some good results from this meeting, I will not report on it since I know Don will do a much better job of it than I ever could. I’ll just wait for his blogging on this, but I have to say that it was intense. It was a great honor to be in the same room with so many Elders.” – Lord Lugh, on interfaith and Wiccanate privilege at PantheaCon.

John Halstead

John Halstead

“Ruth and I went to the Woodland concert, and they were even better live than their recording.  They played one of my favorites, “Shadows”, which made me super happy.  And then we went to Pomba Gira, a dance/ritual put on by the American Magic Umbanda House.  Everyone wore sexy red and black and we danced to heavy drums and rhythmic, chant-like, overtly sexual lyrics.  It was a sexually charged event and I was glad to have my wife there.  That was Valentine’s night.  Nuf said. The Old Time Good Spell Feri Pagan Tent Revival was also lots of fun.  It was a cross between a Christian tent revival and a Pagan Feri ritual.  Last time I was at Pantheacon, I attended the ritual next door to the Feri Pagan Tent Revival and I knew from the sound that leaked through the walls and out into the hallway that I had missed out on something great.  I vowed that this year I would not missed it.  And I was not disappointed. Ruth and I also attended a workshop by LaSara Firefox Allen and her husband Robert Allen entitled “Mystical Love: Encountering the Divine Other”.  It was kind of an introduction to a kind of Bhakti yoga.  They spoke about the experience of a transcendent “divine love”, and we practiced some “eye gazing” with our partners.  At least as interesting as what they said was how they said it and how they interacted with each other and the attendees.  I would really like to have the chance to attend a longer seminar with them in the future.” – John Halstead, giving an initial run-down of his PantheaCon experiences.

Tonja Vernazza

Tonja Vernazza

“The next phenomenon I observed was in Daily Practice Sucks: Moving Daily Spirituality Forward by Lisa Spiral. The session was popular, I counted almost 100 people in attendance. What was shocking to me was that when asked about a daily practice, only about 5% of the room raised their hand. Several years ago, I read the results of a Gallup poll on the religious behavior of Americans. The overwhelming majority of the people polled said that they attend church or temple, not necessarily for an experience of the divine, but for the fellowship with their community. Spiritual experience takes a backseat to the potlucks and other social events their religious community offers. It occurs to me that there is a division of intention in the Pagan community. On one side, you have the Pagans, Witches, Heathens and others who want to develop themselves spiritually, who want to experience communion with the divine, who are excited about coming into relationship with their Gods, ancestors and spirits. On the other side, you have Pagans who are like the majority of church-going Americans – they come to festivals, rituals and other events for the camaraderie with like-minded friends.” – Tonja Vernazza, giving some impressions of PantheaCon.

Jason Mankey

Jason Mankey

“My workshops are generally a combination of humor and information. People go in expecting to laugh at a few jokes, I didn’t want people entering 1899 with the expectation of laughter. I glower at the assembled crowd as the file in, most of them continue to chat. On the spur of the moment I change the opening of the ritual and end up walking around the circle attempting to put the crowd into a more serious mood. I’m not sure that I’m successful, though everyone does stop giggling. We get back to the ritual’s script and those who have chosen to help me are near flawless. Quarters are called, the circle is cast, threats are hurled at the audience, and I go off script once more. A short segment focused on the sharing of signs and gods is turned into a much longer piece as I prance and scowl and end up telling a few jokes. My priestesses do a lovely job of letting me go off-script and come in exactly when needed to.” – Jason Mankey, providing a timeline of a ritual he conducted at PantheaCon.

Stifyn Emrys

Stifyn Emrys

“Complaining is all about making one’s feelings known – specifically, feelings of dissatisfaction. Sometimes, it’s necessary, and some complaints can certainly be legitimate. But listening and learning are all about gathering information, and (barring an emergency), it’s best to do as much of this as possible before complaining. Often, complaints turn out to be misplaced simply because we haven’t taken the time to learn more about what’s causing our dissatisfaction. Panel discussions can be great forums for analyzing that dissatisfaction and identifying the source of it. At Pantheacon, the Pagans and Privilege panel was particularly effective in this regard, because it exposed a large group of attendees to a variety of perspectives within the community. The more we seek to learn about one another, the less time there is for complaints and, often, the less basis there is for them. The diversity within the umbrella Pagan community means opportunities for learning and listening abound, and never more so than at a convention of this scope. I’d like to personally thank the organizers for giving us a space to get to know one another a little better. I know some of my complaints were resolved before they were even uttered, just because I took the time to listen to others’ perspectives.” – Stifyn Emrys, on the PantheaCon spirit.

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

Today is the festival of Lupercalia, the ancient Roman observance of fertility and the coming spring. Not to be confused with a certain commercialized martyr’s celebration held yesterday, Lupercalia is a holiday sacred to the god Faunus, and the mythical she-wolf who reared Romulus and Remus the semi-mythical founders of Rome. It was considered an important holiday of religious observance and purification.

“Lupercalia ” by Domenico Beccafumi

“Lupercalia ” by Domenico Beccafumi

There are many lurid accounts of what goes on during Lupercalia, some make it seem like an excuse for copulation and frivolity. One of the best descriptions I have found on the web comes from W. J. Kowalski’s excellent Roman Calendar page.

“The rites of this day included the sacrifice of a goat or a dog at the cave-grotto known as the Lupercal. With the sacrificial blood wiped across their foreheads, the youth partaking in this ceremony would then run the circumference of the Palatine hill, perhaps about 5K, tracing the traditional route of the city boundary traced by Romulus the day he founded Rome. In the process, girls who approached the runners would be brushed or splattered with the februa, thongs of sacrificial goatskin, presumably bloody, symbolically blessing them with fertility. Red is the color of the day as it is with Valentine’s Day, the day invented to replace the Lupercalia. Fertility and sexuality were likewise replaced with the puritanical pipedream of sexless Love.”

Most (non-Pagan) people wouldn’t even know about Lupercalia if it were not for the constant stream of Valentine’s Day articles in the press. The favorite trend amongst news-writers and editorial columnists seems to be talking about the ancient pagan influences of a particular holiday. While this has increased awareness of Lupercalia, P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, a modern expert on the festival and its celebration, is quick to point out the two holidays actually have little in common.

“The fertility here involved is not necessarily sexual fertility in women, though it was often thought to be such when the origins of the festival were eventually forgotten.  It was fertility represented by the goat skin itself, a fertility of an agricultural and livestock sort.  The young men running the race were symbolically committing themselves to the protection of their communities, thus their race around its boundaries which indicated their area of influence and the “home territory” they were protecting.  The young men who were Luperci underwent a part of the ritual earlier in which the blood from the sacrificed goat and dog were mixed together, dabbed on their foreheads with a knife, and then wiped off subsequently with wool dipped in milk, signifying their transition from a lawless, wild state into a settled and civilized mode of life.  The founders of Rome, the twin brothers Romulus and Remus, were raised by the Lupa (“she-wolf”) in the cave where this ritual took place, and in their lives after this, they were lawless hunter/raider warriors until their eventual foundation of the city.  This ritual commemorates this entire situation.  The success by speed and martial prowess that used to come to Romulus and Remus when they were hunter-warriors in taking anyone and everyone’s livestock–including goats!–while in that phase of their existence becomes the success of those same skills and abilities being put toward the protection of their community in their settled state.  The fertility of the community’s resources, through this protection, is what is being celebrated, not necessarily (nor exclusively) the fertility of humans in reproduction.”

The distinctions between Valentine’s Day and Lupercalia are also touched on by scholar Leonhard Schmitz.

“Modern attempts to relate the Lupercalia to Valentine’s Day because of the mere (approximate) date are at best very suspect. That the two occasionally get equated seems rather to be an indication of late 20c mentality, according to which a lovers’ festival must necessarily derive from the titillations of ancient fertility and flagellation by goats. More to the point, there is not the slightest shred of historical evidence for the connection.”

As for modern celebrations, Ekklesia Antinoou will be holding a public Lupercalia celebration today at PantheaCon in San Jose. A very blessed and fertile Lupercalia to you all!