Archives For Pagan Blogs

Today, at the Patheos Pagan Channel, Christine Kraemer interviews Anne Newkirk Niven, editor and publisher of Witches & Pagans Magazine, about the current state of Pagan media (among other things). During the interview, Niven expounds on blogs within the umbrella of Pagan media, and the role they serve.

Anne Newkirk Niven

Anne Newkirk Niven

Today, blogs fill a specific niche: real-time, fast-paced information. No print media can keep up with the blogosphere; on the other hoof, even the most super-heated debate in the legendary Green Egg forum (letters to the editor) never got as crazily divisive as what happens in the comment-rich, disinhibited atmosphere of the Web.

Pagans are an information-hungry group of people; reading led many, if not most, of us onto our paths. (Most of our magazine readers are solitaries, which I suspect is true of Pagan culture as a whole.) The purpose of a magazine is to gather together a group of collated, vetted, and edited articles in a way that makes sense as a set and which forms a non-evolving collection of knowledge; blogs, on the other hoof, are radically individualized by their nature and are constantly evolving. I see these two modalities as fundamentally complementary—what one does well, the other does poorly. I hope we can see the continuance of literary paper-based culture even as the digital culture continues to grow, which is why I publish magazines (both in digital and paper formats) as well as hosting a rapidly-growing Pagan blogosphere.

XKCD comic by Randall Munroe

XKCD comic by Randall Munroe

When I started The Wild Hunt nearly 10 years ago, there wasn’t really a “blogosphere” to speak of. Most Pagan content on the Internet existed in the form of bulletin boards, static (sporadically updated) sites, and e-lists. There were literally only a handful of Pagan blogs when I started this site, and many folks used the new technology at places like LiveJournal for personal journaling, not a soapbox per-se. I was a fairly early adopter of blogging technology when it emerged, and was fascinated by the possibilities of the medium. Like many others, I quickly recognized that the “blog” had capabilities far beyond listing updates to a large website, or writing short personal entires. While some feared the disruptive nature of blogging technology, I realized that it could be used to prove a point. I could use it to prove that people wanted to read about Pagan news every day, and that there was enough news to write about something every day.

Ten years later, The Wild Hunt has more than enough to write about. More, in fact, than our small team can conceivably do justice to. We’ve grown from a one-person personal project into a media outlet that employes several columnists, and one staff writer. We have a yearly budget, one that we raise from donations, and our traffic continues to grow at a steady rate each year. So I see Niven’s generalizations as not only limiting, but subtly insulting. A blog, at its heart, is simply a technology, like the printing press. When you say you read “a blog” that today says almost nothing about what you’ll get (it’s like someone saying they read “books” and nothing more). The biggest media empires use blogging technology on their sites, and the content can range from celebrity gossip to ultra-professional, edited, and vetted, content. Meanwhile, picking up a magazine gives you zero guarantee that you’ll receive “collated, vetted, and edited articles in a way that makes sense as a set and which forms a non-evolving collection of knowledge.” 

A medium is a medium, not the content within it. Mediums can be stretched, changed, challenged, and redefined over the course of different generations. A “real” magazine can be experimental and radical, produced on a shoestring budget, or it can be a well-funded venture that engages in the current norms of editorial and news gathering. Anyone who grew up during the ‘zine revolution of the 1990s knows well enough that mediums aren’t limited by the dominant culture’s standards. Likewise, while many tried to pigeonhole blogs in the early years as the tool of the lone opinionated crank (usually writing about politics), the reality is that many different people used the technology for many different things. Is Talking Points Memo a mere “blog,” or is it a news and political commentary site? If we call it a blog, does that mean it isn’t collated, vetted, and subject to editorial oversight? Is The Wild Hunt still a blog? Are we a part of a blogosphere? We use blogging technology, certainly, but I also think we’ve grown outside the expectations that seem to inform the Patheos interview.

Finally, let me talk briefly about the Pagan magazine. Another reason I started The Wild Hunt was because I was hungry for news about my community, and couldn’t find any in Pagan magazines. They had interviews, and columns, and short stories, and poetry, and recipes, and a letters column, but they rarely tackled actual events happening in and around our lives. When they did, it was often long after the dust had settled. It created the sense that modern Paganism should be handled by the professional Pagans, the “Big Name Pagans,” and that the rest of us should simply give our support. It didn’t have to be that way, even a quarterly magazine can write about big issues, can at least inform their readership of all the things that happened in the last few months, but a reliance on “evergreen” content, and a hesitance to embrace these new technologies left the door wide open for The Wild Hunt’s success. When people ask me why my blog got so big, I tell them the truth: no one else wanted to do what I was doing. At least not on the daily schedule I maintained.

Blogging may have been disruptive, but it also empowered all sorts of people to speak up, to insert themselves into the process of how our community is defined and presented. It rejected the old “club” mentality that had held sway from the 1980s, and demanded a more responsive, more inclusive, community. If things are so “divisive” now, perhaps that is simply because there’s 20 years of frustration built up from having no voice at all in national and international Pagan affairs. Now, we can’t be shut up, because our news isn’t centralized into a handful of vetted and edited publications. If someone doesn’t like something in The Wild Hunt (or any media outlet), they can (and do) publish about it. They can rally their own corner of our community, they can create alternatives, they can have the public discussions they want to have. I sometimes bemoan how uncivil things can get sometimes, but I would never, ever, roll us back to some simpler time before this technology existed. We are collectively better for it.

Digital Pagan media is the dominant format today, and I don’t think anyone could convincingly argue otherwise. The separations between a published print magazine, and, say, The Wild Hunt, is only in the format. I would certainly place may content on the same plain of quality as anything in print, perhaps even better (though I may be biased). It is no longer acceptable to generalize about the “blog” without providing a list of caveats that make the comparisons almost meaningless. The larger Pagan blogosphere is many things, and has many manifestations, but it is no longer some ascendent disruptive format, it has become a ubiquitous tool used by every manifestation of the content we consume. From commerce to hard news. We are the media now. 

In honor of Labor Day Weekend, The Wild Hunt is taking off until Tuesday. Expect some “best of The Wild Hunt” reprints on Sunday and Monday. For today, here are some posts from across the Pagan blogosphere that you should check out.

  • “Mantras, Malas and the Witch’s Ladder” by Christopher Penczak. Quote: “If you keep any kind of regular spiritual practice over a long period of time, you’ll find that you can hit a wall. The tried and true technique just doesn’t do it for you like it once did. In my experience its not so much that the technique is at fault, or that you are at fault, as you’ve been sincerely using it as a part of your practice with regular frequency, but that you’ve hit a plateau or even made a permanent shift.”
  • “Where are the Missing Gods?” by Drew Jacob. Quote: “Even if you believe all the gods are totally individual beings – not faces of a single force – it still makes sense that, for example, the soul of the sun is going to appear quite different to people in the Sahara than to people in the Yukon. Much of divine personage is human trappings, or trappings used to communicate with humans. If a tribe never once has to worry about lack of rainfall, it makes sense that they won’t make a big deal out of the rain spirit. But I usually think of the plurality of gods (and their cultural adornment) as different perspectives on an essentially equivalent set of beings.”
  • “Pagans Among Wild Geese” by Teo Bishop. Quote: “Progressive Christian and Pagan communities have very different identities, and very different positions in relationship to mainstream culture. That said, I think it is useful for us to make note that these conversations are taking place at Wild Goose.”
  • Rites of Community” by Ivo Dominguez Jr. Quote: “To return to my statement that rites of passage are an important part of the maintenance of lasting organizations and communities, well conducted rites of passage create weighty collective emotional memory. By definition, rites of passage are held to celebrate and to anchor pivotal times in the lives of individuals. And though Pagans are prone to emphasizing the individual at all costs, rites of passage are as much about the community as they are about the individual.”
  • “Stirring the Cauldron” by M. Macha NightMare. Quote: “I think the stirrer of the cauldron performs an important, even vital, role.  Someone, preferably more than one, in every community should step up to the cauldron and stir it now and then, especially when the fire beneath the cauldron gets too hot.”
  • “Book review: Lord of Mountains” by Cara Schulz. Quote: “Every time I introduce a Pagan to the Emberverse series by SM Stirling, they curse my name. This is not an unusual reaction and it’s one shared by non-Pagans, too.  I’ve lost seven copies of the first book in the series, Dies the Fire, because the persons who borrowed them from me lent them out to others.  And so on.  Then they all curse my name for turning them on to such an addictive series.  The series is addictive to Pagans because it spells out one of our fantasies – what would it be like if our religions were dominate in the community we live in?  Or at least one of the dominate religions? If our rituals, our ethics, our Gods were unabashedly the norm and seen as positive and vibrant and diverse.”

That’s it for now, have a great weekend everyone!

Happy Monday! It’s a bit of a slow news day, must be a festival-season thing, so let’s check out some of the great content available here at the Patheos Pagan portal.

Herne the Hunter. Illustration by Alan E. Cober (1973).

Herne the Hunter. Illustration by Alan E. Cober (1973).

  • At his new Patheos blog Raise the Horns, Jason Mankey wonders how the Celtic god Cernunnos became the dominant Horned God figure within modern Wicca and related Pagan faiths, when it was Pan who enjoyed tremendous popularity in the poetic and artistic fore-bearers to Wicca. Quote: “However, while Pan is the proto-type for our modern image of the Horned God, another god, the Celtic Cernunnos, has superseded him. If you look at most modern images of the Horned God, he tends to look far more Cernunnosy than Pan-like. It’s more likely the Horned God will be sporting antlers than goat horns. His face tends to be more “man-like” and less goat influenced, and he usually has human legs instead of goaty ones.” Check out the responses, they’re top-notch! [For the record, I’m team Herne the Hunter.]
  • Sarah Whedon, founding editor of the Pagan Families site, who recently released a new ebook through Patheos Press entitled “Birth on the Labyrinth Path: Sacred Embodiment in the Childbearing Year,” shares why she wrote the book. Quote: “I was nevertheless newly saddened when, during my pregnancy with my first child, I searched and searched for a book that would offer Pagan guidance on this huge life transition, and found nothing. My bookshelves reveal my hopeless bibliophilia. I had books about fertility awareness, pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, the postpartum period, and midwifery. A few of them are especially Pagan friendly, but none of them is really Pagan.”
  • Patheos columnist P. Sufenas Virius Lupus lets you know that he’s your worst nightmare! Quote: “As someone who is a “full-blown Pagan” in every respect—not godless by any stretch of the imagination, but “gods-ful” to an extent most monotheists couldn’t even fathom—as well as having a practice based in devotion to Antinous, a god who received a great deal of censure from the early Christian fathers not only because it was “idolatrous” in their opinion but because he was a deified mortal who was once the lover of the Emperor Hadrian, and as someone who is a “full-blown queer” as well in terms of sexual orientation and gender identity, I look at myself in the mirror and I realize that even at my lowest, I epitomize the fears of many of these people who use such scare-tactics to suggest that legal approval of same-sex marriage is wrong.”
  • Meanwhile, fellow Patheos columnist Gus diZerega provides a different candidate for worst nightmare: The New Apostolic Reformation. Quote: “Christian dominionists seeking to impose theocratic rule on others are powerful beyond their numbers, and Pagans should keep a sharp eye on them. Their power comes from two factors:  First, they manipulate our system to influence high levels of government.  Second, and more importantly, they take advantage of a flaw that I hope will not be fatal to how American elections are conducted.” I’ve written a ton about these guys, and they are indeed pretty scary.
  • At his Including Paganism blog, Aidan Kelly reminds us that all religions start out as new religions. Quote: “All religions have at least one foundational myth as well as an actual history. The myth is not historically true, but instead transmits some of the spiritual values on which the religion is based. The history is true in fact, but, as history, cannot convey values.” Kelly’s recent post on why Wicca is a major world religion is also worth checking out.

There’s obviously much, much, more to be found here, but I’ll leave you with those selections. For even more Pagan blogging goodness, check out recent posts from the Pagan Newswire Collective blogs, and the PaganSquare blogs at the Witches & Pagans site (now with added Byron Ballard and Hecate Demeter). Have a great day!

First of May! First of May! A round up of Pagan musings concerning the Beltane/May Day/Walpurgis Night holiday starts today!

T. Thorn Coyle, “Walpurgisnacht Manifesto 2011.”

Today, I stand for beauty.
I stand for music to lighten the soul.
I stand for healing balms to comfort wounds.
I stand for kind words in the tempest,
And a scrap of bright cloth in the mud of war.

Erynn Rowan Laurie, “Bringing In the May.”

“The ritual itself went off quite well tonight, I thought. We seemed quite a bit more organized than usual, the fire did what it was supposed to, we made our rowan crosses, and tied ribbons on our May bush (the indoor ficus). Feasting was had, and lovely harp music, along with a traditional Irish Beltaine song. I was very happy with everything […] And so I wish you all a blessed Beltaine (or if you’re in the southern hemisphere, a blessed Samhain) and may all your Gods be with you.”

Cat Chapin-Bishop, “Cat, It’s Beltane.”

“I did get up, and made it to the meeting, and no one minded even that I took the time to pour myself a cup of deep, strong black coffee before we began, or that I took the time to greet my friends, to savor the sun, and to kiss my new love under the new green leaves before we pulled out our notepads and took notes.  For it was Beltane, and it was understood, that there are things more vital than efficiency, and obligations deeper than the ones we can put in words.”

Frater Barrabbas, “Coming Attractions and Other News.”

“I want to spend some time in my garden, continue building up my grove and perform some new ritual workings in it during the balmy summer months. I would like to do some hiking, swimming, camping and kayaking, as well as getting out more and going into town to meet with friends, socialize and eat some exotic foods. I have been stuck in my house most of the winter and I have become a bit stir crazy, so now that the summer is coming, I want to be outside a lot more. I really missed not being able to be outdoors, so I intend to make up for missed opportunities. After all, pagans belong in nature, and nature is anywhere outside of the house! As the summer comes gently sliding into our lives, may you find great pleasure in the wondrous outdoors and the blessings of the gods and goddesses of the land, waters, sky and even below the earth.”

Phaedra Bonewits, “Beltane Meditation.”

“Beltane is the start of summer in my half of the planet, and may it be a full, rich, fecund summer. May babies be strong and crops be abundant and happy couplings begin and ripen. May maypoles be wrapped with joyous wishes and may the dancers find what they desire. May what needs to begin, begin and grow stronger. May what needs to end, slip away with dignity. May the bonfires be bright, and life go on with all its vigor.”

Wes Isley, “May Day: Rekindling the Heart of Beltane.”

“So what does inspire me about Beltane? Running throughout all of these May Day traditions is a sense of unbridled joy, of youth sprinting across a flower-covered meadow beneath the warmth of the sun, with a mischievous and happy gleam in his (or her) eye. It speaks not of planting or consummating or doing anything — but of simply being alive in that moment, with a hint of bright tomorrows to come. Can I bottle that feeling and hold it forever? That’s what I want from Beltane this year, and I don’t think you can manufacture that spirit out of anything organized.”

Grove Harris, “May Day Delights: The Pagan Celebration of Beltane.”

“The dance around the maypole is a communal one, with dancers holding the long colored ribbons and weaving them over and under other ribbons. Around and around, carrying intention into the larger weaving of many strands of community. In some rituals, women and men dance in opposite directions, weaving the gender differences into the larger union. Other dances are more free form, playful and even chaotic. There’s coherence in the pattern, with the inclusion of imperfections and fun, with areas of systematic weave and areas of unique design. Dancers old and young engage, often sharing ribbons and turns around the pole. Around and around, over and under, sometimes in step and sometimes out of phase, how like life. We may not see the overall pattern until the dance is over, so the main thing is to participate, and to do so as fully as possible.”

Donna Hennes, “May Day: A Bawdy Festival of Fertility.”

“May Day is an old European spring fertility and copulation festival held in honor of the trees and their mistresses, the virgin vegetation goddesses. Celebrated as Floralia by the Romans, Walpurgisnacht by the Teutons, Whitsuntide by the Dutch, and Beltane by the Celts, it centered on romantic devotions to the nubile goddesses of spring, Flora, Walpurga and Maia, for whom this month is named. Maia can be traced back to Maya, the pre-Vedic mistress of perceptual reality who was the virgin mother of the Buddha. The Greek goddess, Maia was the virgin mother of Hermes. Her descendant, Mary, the Blessed Virgin Mother of God, is patroness of the month of May, which the early church dedicated to Her.”

Gus diZerega, “Dancing up the Sun at May Day.”

“The first time I saw Berkeley Morris I was new to Paganism.  As I joined the large group forming the circle within which the dancers were performing, something indescribably ancient seemed to pervade the place.  Here were people celebrating the triumph of life and fertility as they had in one way or another for thousands of years.  Rather than being on the leading edge of “progress” we were deeply immersed in a place of timeless meaning.  It was very magickal, and I have never forgotten it.”

No matter what your tradition, faith, or custom, may this day bring you blessings.

Let’s check in on what’s happening around the Pagan blogosphere!

The Fate of Fate: Chas Clifton at Letter From Hardscrabble Creek comments on the grim prospects of the classic metaphysical/Fortean magazine Fate. Once owned by Llewellyn Worldwide, and then sold to former employee, the magazine has gone from being a monthly, to bi-monthy, and now, it seems, PDF download only.

“The magazine death pool is so close you can smell the fetid waters. Fate’s blog keeps putting up new entries, but discussion of the magazine’s own fate is oddly missing. The economics must be rough. Perhaps this is a case of flat advertising revenues versus rising printing and mailing costs. PDF files are not the answer, and a Web version of the magazine would have to be re-thought from the ground up.”

I first commented on Fate’s fate back in 2008, and didn’t find much cause for optimism. The new, younger, audience they were hoping to attract hasn’t seemed to materialize, and very few magazines return from Internet-only to print. This just isn’t a good time for niche magazines, and I agree with Chas that PDF files aren’t the answer. It remains to be seen if a new web-only version of Fate can blossom before the whole enterprise goes under.

A Pagan Looks at Rand Paul’s Libertarianism: Beliefnet Pagan blogger and political scientist Gus diZerega gives a Pagan perspective of libertarianism, civil rights, and Rand Paul’s Senate candidacy in Kentucky.

“In all honesty I think it is even harder to be a hard-core libertarian Pagan than a libertarian in general, though I have known some and they were often nice people.  In Paganism as I understand it and have experienced it the non-human world is also sentient and alive to a degree denied by mainstream society.  This means that issues of appropriate and inappropriate relationships penetrate even more deeply into our interactions with the world than they do for the average Christian or secularist.  For Pagans issues of appropriate relationship include plants, animals, and for some, myself included, the earth itself.  The libertarian assumption that my property is what I own and control appears as morally immature and even childish.”

As for Rand Paul, this week, despite his primary victory in Kentucky, has been very bad for him. Meanwhile, many have been questioning if Paul really is a libertarian considering some of his political stances, and arguing over where he is or isn’t a racist. Not exactly the narrative a recent primary winner wants swirling around him going into an election.

Paganism, Feminism, and Abortion: Over at the On Faith site, they toss out the question to their panelists of whether you can be feminist and oppose all forms of abortion, or a religious person and support some forms of it. You just knew that author and Pagan panelist Starhawk would have something to say on the subject.

“I don’t accept that frame. The core issue, for me for the pro-choice movement, is this: Who gets to decide what goes on inside a woman’s body? My answer as a feminist is: The woman herself must have the right to make that decision, to wrestle with her own conscious, to encounter for herself those great issues of life and death that all of us must face in this mortal world. Those decisions are never cut and dried, and no one makes choices in a vacuum. The opinions of others, of partners and doctors and friends and respected mentors of faith all come into play. So do the rights of others. But ultimately, the right to self determination begins with the right to make basic decisions about one’s physical self.”

I too reject the frame that On Faith worded their question to panelists, as it removes the pregnant woman’s agency from the center of the issue, and instead, once again, turns the issue into a political football. You can read my own views, and the views of other Pagans regarding abortion, here, and here.

A Pagan Perspective on the Stolen (Secular) Cross Memorial: Over at the Patheos Pagan portal Cara Schulz (who also blogs at Pagan+Politics) shares the history behind the now-controversial Mojave WWI Christian cross memorial, and criticizes those within the Pagan community who have lauded or defended its recent vandalism.

“Chances are, no one in our community was responsible for this criminal act of theft. We didn’t do this. But what some in our community are doing is celebrating the desecration of the memorial. They are joyful it happened and supportive of the person(s) who did it. Justifying the act with claims of how it was a laudable example of civil disobedience. No. Civil disobedience is done in the light of day by brave and principled persons willing to take responsibility for their actions. If you want a Hellenic example of civil disobedience, read up on the life of Socrates. His crime was to make the youth of Athens think for themselves and his punishment, which he did nothing to avoid, was death. If you want a celebrated American example, read up on the life of Rosa Parks. Her crime was to sit in a seat reserved for whites, her punishment was being arrested and fined. The criminal(s) who stole the WWI Memorial was no Socrates or Rosa parks.”

You can read my full coverage of the Mojave cross memorial saga, here. Be sure to also check out the ever-expanding amount of Pagan content at the Patheos Pagan portal, including recent interviews with Erynn Rowan Laurie, Lon Milo DuQuette, and yours truly.

A Quick Look at the PNC Blog Family: Finally, I want to remind everyone of the great content that is coming from the Pagan Newswire Collective’s blog family. Pagan+Politics, Warriors & Kin, and The Juggler. Over at Pagan+Poltics you can read about food criminals, the political nomination process, the importance of voting, and the right to openly carry a firearm. At The Juggler they’ve covered Paganism “coming out” on television, Wicca in the movies, the new Robin Hood film, and mixing art with ritual. Lastly, at Warriors & Kin they’ve explored homecomings, digging up details regarding OPSEC rules, invocations in the military, and an in-depth review of War and the Soul: Healing Our Nation’s Veterans from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder”.

Tick postulates the problem of PTSD as a failed warrior initiation. This failure is not entirely the fault of the veteran but, he says, of society as a whole. It is the fault of the technological changes in warfare that have stripped war of its mythologized meanings and resonances. In treating PTSD as the potential result of a warrior initiation, he specifically positions it as the result of a male adulthood rite gone wrong. Of course, this framing ignores women’s service entirely. In framing PTSD as a “failure” he, perhaps inadvertently, places blame on men and women who are already struggling with issues of responsibility, reintegration, and physical and emotional traumas.

I hope you’ll check out all three blogs, subscribe to their feeds, follow them on Twitter, or “like” them on Facebook.

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

The Pagan Newswire Collective, an open collective of Pagan journalists and writers who are interested in sharing and promoting primary-source reporting from within our interconnected communities, is proud to announce the launch of two new group blog projects. These new blog projects will join the already launched Pagan+Politics site, and provide more topic-focused coverage and opinion on subjects of special interest to modern Pagan readers.

Warriors & Kin: A Blog of Military Pagan Voices

The first new group blog project, Warriors & Kin, will give a voice to Pagan men and women who are serving, or who have served, in the United States military. Military Pagans have often been at the front lines of many Pagan rights issues, and their honorable service has endured prejudice and misunderstanding from politicians, government agencies, and even the Pagan communities they call home. We are hoping that this project will not only shine a light into the struggles of both Pagan veterans and active duty personnel, but serve as a tool to build bridges within our faiths between those who have served and those who have not.

In addition, the blog will also see contributions from military spouses, family, and supporters, including a Pagan mother whose son is entering the armed forces, a military spouse who wrote an award-winning book concerning Pagans in the military, and a volunteer with Soldier’s Angels, a nonprofit personal support group for deployed troops overseas.

Participants of note include Tech. Sgt. Brandon Longcrier, a teacher at the Air Force Academy who helped create a Pagan worship area for cadets, gaining national attention in the process, Lorie “Sunfell” Johnson, an Air Force veteran who was one of the first active-duty Pagans to be open about her faith back in the 1980s, and author Erynn Rowan Laurie, a Cold War era disabled Navy veteran who is a speaker on Military Sexual Trauma and women’s issues in the military. They join active duty personnel in the Marines and National Guard for this project.

http://military.pagannewswirecollective.com
Facebook page, Twitter feed, RSS feed

The Juggler: Arts, Culture, and Pop-Culture from a Pagan Perspective

The second new group blog project, The Juggler, will explore the arts from a Pagan perspective. While modern Paganism has waged high-profile campaigns for equal treatment in the military, in our schools, in the public square, and even in our prisons, it is often within the arts and popular culture that we have gained the most attention. Not all of these depiction have been fair or balanced, but few can deny that television, movies, novels, theater, the visual arts, and even fashion have been inundated with pagan themes, both ancient and modern, in recent years. In a world where “The Wicker Man” and “The Craft” get name-checked on a regular basis by those commenting on modern Pagan religions, where sexy vampire dramas invoke Maenads, and a critically acclaimed science fiction series portrays conflicts between polytheists and monotheists, a sustained critical engagement with the arts is increasingly vital.

This site will provide reviews, editorials, analysis, and coverage, both local and abroad, of the wide and varied world of the arts. No medium or format will be off-limits, everything from reality television to gallery exhibitions will be within the scope and reach of this project, providing a steady stream of up-to-date and gloves-off Pagan perspectives.

Participants of note include Peg Aloi, Media Coordinator for The Witches’ Voice website, and long-time film critic who has written for The Boston Phoenix, Art New England, and Cinefantastique online, Sara Adrian, a fine artist and illustrator who holds bardic grade in OBOD, Lauren Bernauer, a PhD candidate at the University of Sydney, Australia, who specializes in the portrayal of pre-Christian and minority religions in Popular Culture, and New York Shakespearean actor Zan Fraser, author of “A Briefe Historie of Wytches”, a review of the Elizabethan/Jacobean Witch-Plays. They join several other talented writers and journalists with a background in arts coverage.

http://culture.pagannewswirecollective.com
Facebook page, Twitter feed, RSS feed

I hope you’ll support both of these projects by subscribing to their feeds, commenting on their posts, and spreading the word to your friends, family, and co-religionists. These topic-focused group blogs are a vital first step in the PNC’s larger goal of building a primary-source journalism collective for the modern Pagan movement. Please warmly welcome all the participants as they start this exciting new endeavor.

I’ll spare all of you the seemingly obligatory April Fools’ Day post, where I pretend I’ve converted to Christianity (or atheism), or run some clearly farcical story where a famous Pagan does something out-of-character. It isn’t that I don’t enjoy a well-done joke, it’s just that I like to leave such things to the professionals. Besides, April 1st is not only my lovely wife’s birthday, but our wedding anniversary as well. So I’ll be out for most of today properly celebrating both occasions. So before I head off, let’s do a very quick round-up of some (real) Pagan news.

The Assassination of a Lebanese Citizen, and the Pagans in Lebanon: I’ve written before about Saudi Arabia’s plan to murder a Lebanese citizen, and former television host, for the “crime” of sorcery. After seemingly exhausting all legal appeals to his death sentence, alarming reports went out that Ali Sabat would be executed within a matter of days. Now, the AFP reports that Lebanon’s ambassador to Riyadh says that the execution is not imminent, though Sibat is still on death-row with a pardon being the only thing that could save him.

“Lebanon’s ambassador to Riyadh said Thursday that he had not been informed by the Saudi authorities of the imminent execution of a Lebanese man found guilty of sorcery, as his lawyer has warned. “Until now, the embassy has not been informed” that former TV presenter Ali Sabat has been condemned to death, Ambassador Marwan Zein told AFP by telephone. Sabat’s case is “still being considered by the court,” Zein said.”

Here’s hoping the two nations are doing some diplomatic behind-the-scenes efforts to save Sibat’s life. Sibat’s looming death is troubling, not only for the barbarity of executing innocent men and women for “sorcery” and “witchcraft”, but also because it endangers anyone traveling through the Middle East who doesn’t meet the arbitrary and exacting specifications of the local religious police, including modern Pagans. What’s that? There are no modern Pagans in the Middle East? Well, it seems that there are indeed Pagans in Lebanon. Lebanese blogger Hanibaael explores the phenomenon (in an Arabic-only post, here’s a rough Google translation).

“Pagans didn’t fade away. They are here among us, living by their beliefs in the shadows despite 2000 years of persecution. Here in Lebanon, despite the lack of official legal recognition of anyone who’s not affiliated with the three main religions (Christianity, Islam, Judaism), they are young people who have taken alternative spiritual paths different from the dominant currents rooted in the general education. They converted to the esoteric and pagan beliefs, on their own, without being preached of it by anyone” (Thanks to Lebanese Pagan Adonis for the improved translation.)

The next head on the chopping block could be a Lebanese Wiccan traveling with her family through Saudi Arabia for The Hajj, just as Ali Sibat once did. Never suspecting he would be arrested for the predictions he made on television. Stopping these witch-hunts around the world isn’t just a humanitarian issue, it also increasingly endangers our faith traditions as modern Paganism emerges as a truly global movement.

Hey You Kids! Get Off My Lawn Sacred Well! It seems that both local Christians and Pagans are concerned about groups of younger Pagans frequenting the famous St. Anthony’s Well in Gloucestershire. What horrible things are these inexperienced Pagans doing? Well, they are apparently making pentagrams from leaves, arranging sticks in patterns, leaving flowers, and making small altars with natural materials!

[High priest Tim] Oakes says it is also among the top 20 pagan water sites in the country and added: “St Anthony’s Well has become a target for what I can only describe as amateur pagans. It is a beautiful sacred place and we deplore any attempts to redecorate it. Our view is that these things should not be there, you should not have these symbols in the middle of a glade. There are a series of books aimed at encouraging teen witches but no reputable coven will accept anybody under 18 so they have nowhere to go. They read these books and go down there armed with a little bit of knowledge to try to get involved.”

How dare these “amateur pagans”! Don’t they know they should wait until they are 18, join a proper coven, and receive training before they ever dare leave flowers at a holy well?!? I’m sorry, but while I can understand the local Christian clergy getting bent out of shape because young Pagans are trouncing about the well, Mr. Oakes sounds like someone who’s peeved because the kids aren’t all bowing to his superior wisdom. If this was some sort of vandalism, the kind that can’t be removed with a broom, I’d be worried, but this is much ado over very little indeed.

Native American Names? Reality television stars Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt have decided to give themselves the “Native American” names of White Wolf and Running Bear, and Native American organizations aren’t amused.

TMZ spoke with a rep from the Rosebud Sioux Tribe of South Dakota, who told us, “Continued stereotyping such as this by people ignorant of our traditional ways is very disrespectful and only hurts our efforts to curtail these stereotypes.” The rep claims they’re especially upset because “the names they have given themselves are legitimate names in our tribe.” And they’re not the only ones pissed at the MTV couple … The National Indian Education Association tells us, “they have taken an inaccurate stereotypical approach to enhance their public image which is offensive to our diverse American Indian cultures.”

If Heidi and Spencer White Wolf and Running Bear had decided to take magick Wiccan/Pagan names instead, they could have avoided most of this negative backlash over the issue of cultural appropriation, though it wouldn’t have saved them from rounds of mockery. Though I suppose that generating attention was what this move was all about, so, mission accomplished?

Call For Writers: In a final note, the The Pagan Newswire Collective is seeking writers for two new topic-focused group-blog projects. Just as the PNC’s new Pagan+Politics site aims to give a Pagan voice to our  political discourse, so too will these new projects help provide a vital Pagan perspective in their respective subject areas.

Pagans in the Military Group-Blog Project:

The PNC is looking for 7-10 Pagans interested in joining a group blog concerning Pagans in the military. We are hoping to encompass a wide range of news, opinions, and perspectives, and we want to not only include active-duty military personnel and military veterans, but  military spouses and activists involved in working to advance the equal treatment of Pagans in the armed forces. All political perspectives welcome.

Requirements: We prefer all participants be able to contribute at least one post per week. However, we are willing to make exceptions for active-duty military personnel who are stationed overseas. Writing and journalism experience is a plus, but we are also willing to take on dedicated beginners who can demonstrate they know their way around a sentence.

Pagan Pop-Culture/Arts Group-Blog Project:

The PNC is looking for 7-10 Pagans interested in joining a group blog concerning Pagan opinions on pop-culture and the arts, both mainstream and Pagan-created. Movies, books, comics, art, games, music, theater, and dance, we want to cover it all!

Requirements: Participants should be able to contribute at least one post per week (more is even better). A history of writing arts-oriented reviews is a big plus, as is demonstrating a breadth of knowledge about pop-culture and the arts.  Having a specialty is fine, and even encouraged! Remember we are looking for specifically Pagan reactions to, and analysis of, these creative fields.

To apply for either project send an e-mail with your name, contact information, location, and writing samples to projects at pagannewswirecollective dot com.

That’s all I have for now, have a great (April Fools’) day.

No Wiccan Altars for Halferty: A few quick notes for you this Saturday, starting with an update on the Iowa industrial arts teacher, Dale Halferty, who was temporarily suspended for prohibiting a student from building a Wiccan altar in shop class. It seems that Halferty, who was supposed to return to work on Monday, isn’t backing down from his discriminatory views concerning a student’s right to religious expression, and is now on indefinite unpaid leave.

“Guthrie Center Superintendent Steve Smith met with Industrial Arts teacher Dale Halferty Tuesday morning. At the end of the meeting, Halferty remained on unpaid leave from the high school for an indefinite period. Superintendent Smith told the Times that all parties are attempting to resolve the conflict. Asked for specifics, Smith declined to comment. Smith did say the resolution process is ongoing and that no specific time has been set for the next meeting between Halferty and himself.”

It looks like both parties are waiting to see who’ll blink first in this “resolution process”. Kudos to Guthrie Center Superintendent Steve Smith for not backing down in protecting the Wiccan student’s constitutional rights. In the meantime, one hopes the Wiccan student isn’t being bullied and harassed by the young mob of 70 students who signed a petition stating they didn’t want witchcraft at their school. This issue is already generating interest among far-right Christians, so it’s only a matter of time now before Halferty is proclaimed a victim of religious “persecution” for misunderstanding and misapplying the notion of separation of Church and State.

Halloran The Pagan Tea Partier: Ben Smith at Politico has taken notice of Tea Party support for New York City Councilman Dan Halloran, noting that he is one of the movement’s first electoral success stories.

“…on the theme of the Tea Parties and the Christian Right, that one notable success of the new conservative grassroots came in New York, where a prominent figure in local Tea Party circles was elected as a rare Republican on the New York City Council. The Councilman, Dan Halloran, is also a pagan king, something that doesn’t seem to have bothered the local Republican Party, his conservative supporters, or voters.”

This issue of whether the Tea Party is or isn’t being co-opted by the Christian right’s social agenda is currently being debated within the media, with no clear unified narrative emerging yet. What is clear is that many moderate-to-conservative Pagans are interested in the Tea Party, and have found a place there. For ongoing coverage, be sure to check out Cara Schulz at Pagan+Politics for insider reporting on the movement.

London’s Oldest Occult Bookstore Saved: It looks like Watkins Books in Cecil Court, a shop that can brag it had Aleister Crowley and W.B. Yeats as customers, recently in danger of being liquidated, has been saved from permanent closure by an American investor.

American entrepreneur, Etan Ilfeld is purchasing the business in its entirety for an undisclosed sum.  Ilfeld … is keen to preserve Cecil Court’s heritage. Ilfeld said: “It’s not everyday that you have the opportunity to save a century old business. I don’t believe that spirituality in London is dead and will do my best to ensure that Watkins Books will be sustainable and survive the 21st century.”

A bit of good news for the metaphysical book trade, which could use some good news as the economy continues to be uncertain, and with high profile stores, like the Bodhi Tree in Los Angeles, and Shaman Drum in Michigan, closing their doors.

That’s all I have for now, but before I go, I’d just like to note that Pagan scholar Chas Clifton’s blog, Letter From Hardscrabble Creek, has moved to a new address. You can now find the blog at:

http://blog.chasclifton.com/

So please update your links and RSS subscriptions!

Have a great day!

Top Story: New York City Councilman (and out Pagan) Dan Halloran, despite attending a Tea Party event looking for challengers to Congressman Gary Ackerman in November, and gaining some vocal grass-roots support, has decided to not run a new campaign so soon after gaining political office.

“I’m flattered and grateful they think I’m that caliber of a candidate,” Halloran said. “But right now I’m worried about running the district. I just came off a cycle in a bitter election, so I’m not ready to run another race.”

Of course, like any good politician, he did leave the door of opportunity open just a crack, in case the situation changes.

“I’ll sit down and talk to [local party leaders], but I’m not inclined to run … I haven’t ruled it out, but Gary Ackerman has tremendous financial and political resources. My big picture right now is the state of the city and that our district gets its fair share of money.”

So if Ackerman should experience a scandal, or a big drop in popularity, he might change his mind (but then, so might a lot of other people). In the meantime, I think it’s smart of Halloran to demure from attempting to jump from City Councilman to Congressman so quickly, it shows that he’s thinking about the long-term future, and his constituents.

In Other News:

Mambo Racine on Max Beauvoir: Vodou “supreme chief” Max Beauvoir has been getting the lion’s share of press attention as the voice of Vodou in post-earthquake Haiti. That’s certainly been true here, as much as anywhere else, due to the lack of press attention to divergent opinions and groups inside Haiti (with the occasional exception). Now Mambo Racine, from the Roots Without End Society, gives her take on the enigmatic leader that has captivated the press.

“Max Beauvoir is a Houngan. He is the head of a secular organization of Vodouisats called KNVA, of which most Vodouisants are NOT members. He keeps making these power grabs, he thinks if he proclaims himself the “head of Vodou” enough times, people might believe him. He is a sexual predator. He takes money from people with AIDS, when he knows he can’t cure them. I don’t think highly of him … It is courageous of him to speak out against violence against Vodouisants, even though it was cowardly of him to threaten Haitian President Rene Preval with “death wanga” a year or so ago when Max was not given the post on the Electoral Council that he wanted. And it is idiotic and inflammatory for him to call for “open war”, instead of “self-defense”. He’s a real mixed bag, and I think we need to recognize that he is a man like any other man, not a god, not the “Pope of Vodou”, not the head of all Vodouisants in Haiti, but a man.”

So if his power base is so small, as Mambo Racine hints, why does he get so much attention? Partially it comes from his willingness to seek out reporters and talk to them, but it also come from the status accorded to him by the New York Times, who dubbed him “Vodou’s Pope” and the “supreme master” of Haitian Vodou. There’s nothing a busy reporter likes more than a centralized leader who can speak for a whole faith or class of people. Interestingly, both Racine and Beauvoir, in their own ways, are outsiders who converted to Haitian Vodou and now hold positions of authority. Their non-Vodou pasts, willingness to self-promote, and familiarity with Western media, may go a long way towards explaining how they became two of the most well-known Vodou practitioners in North America.

A Pagan Military Wife: Alison Buckholtz writes an appreciation of military wife blogs for Slate.com, including Just Another Snarky Navy Wife, a blog written by a Pagan.

“My favorite blogger, Just Another Snarky Navy Wife, is based in Monterey, Calif. After bitching about TriCare, the military insurance system, which “sucks the balls of hairiness” because it declined to pay for her anesthesia during a gum graft, she writes about the difficulty of living a double life. “It’s hard being a liberal Pagan milspouse,” she confesses. Like many of these bloggers, she prefers to stay anonymous for her husband’s sake: In this case, “He’s shouldering enough just being a liberal service member with a penchant for logical thought in socio-political discussions.” But her problem, in a nutshell, is that members of the nondenominational, otherwise open-minded church she joined to find community off the base are giving her the stink eye for being married to the military. She wants to tell the hippies who founded the church that she has more in common with them than they think, but she’s furious with them for judging her harshly based on the fact that her husband is a service member.”

I can imagine it’s hard to be a “liberal Pagan milspouse”, especially when it comes to finding community, so let’s give her some appreciation and love. Add her to your blogroll, subscribe to her feed, and leave some supportive comments. You may also want to thank Alison Buckholtz and Slate.com for including a Pagan military voice in their article.

In Defense of that Wiccan Altar in Shop Class: The DesMoines Register features a guest editorial by college student Kat Fatland that chastises the closed mind of Dale Halferty, industrial arts teacher at Guthrie Center High School, who’s been suspended for refusing to allow a Wiccan student to build an altar table.

“If Dale Halferty, the Guthrie Center teacher who banned his student from creating a Wiccan altar in shop class, actually believes his own words, that “this witchcraft stuff… is terrible for our kids. It takes kids away from what they know, and leads them to a dark and violent life,” then Halferty should not be a teacher.”

I can only agree, and Fatland’s editorial may be prophetic if Halferty decides to turn this issue into a stand-off.

More on Repent Amarillo: Since my spotlight article Wednesday on the anti-Pagan militant group Repent Amarillo, the word has continued to spread throughout the blogosphere. This Christian cult is so extreme that Little Green Footballs calls them the “Texas Taliban”. Meanwhile, local citizens are starting to organize against them as the hate-organization picks a new target.

“They showed up at Cheetahs, a local strip club, to tell people they were going to hell … They told the manager, who is a mother of 3 that she is going to hell and they used their PA system and mega-phone to tell people going into the business. The Amarillo cops were called, but they did nothing.”

Such brave Christian soldiers. You have to wonder how many of them were, or are, patrons of that same establishment when they aren’t busy protesting it. I wish the locals every bit of luck in fighting this disturbing group, and will continue to monitor their activities here at this blog.

That’s all I have for now, but before you head out, let me second Chas Clifton’s recommendation that you check out the Pagans for Archaeology interview with Australian Pagan scholar David Waldron, author of “Shock! The Black Dog of Bungay: A Study in Local Folklore. Lot’s of great insight into folklore, pagan survivals, and dogs.

Have a great day!

The Social Science Research Council has released a study titled “The New Landscape of the Religion Blogosphere.” A snapshot of some of the most influential religion blogs, its primary goal seems to be getting the religion-blog “A-List” to communicate and collaborate with one-another.

“The purpose at hand is to foster a more self-reflective, collaborative, and mutually-aware religion blogosphere. Ideally, this report will spark discussion among religion bloggers that will take their work further, while also inviting new voices from outside existing networks to join in and take part.”

Yes, The Wild Hunt is included in the study as “leading” blog on modern Paganism, I’m one of the few minority faith blogs included (along with a smattering of Buddhist and Humanist/atheist sites). It’s certainly flattering to be included, and I hope my inclusion will open some new eyes to the existence of a thriving Pagan blogging and podcasting community. Particularly to academics and the religion sites that are primarily journalism-oriented, as I feel our perspectives can often be overlooked on issues that concern us. Beyond that? I’m certainly willing to enter into discourse with the largely monotheist-dominated religious blogosphere, but I fear direct collaboration will be somewhat limited (on both sides) due to some sticky theological differences. In any case, it’s very nice to see religion blogs get some attention, and I urge folks to download the entire report.