Archives For Pagan Studies

 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!

Elk_River_WV_mapSince I’ve started tracking Pagan responses to the West Virginia water contamination crisis, the fundraiser set up by Solar Cross Temple to aid locals has raised over $1100 dollars. Quote: “Since the 15th, Solar Cross has received $1165 in donations for this cause. We will be sending money to West Virginia tomorrow. We give thanks to everyone who spread the word, and to Crow, Ellen, Kristina, Shannon, Christine, Jenya, Samara, Marian, Laura, Helene, Mary, Fortuna, Jody, James, Tony, Sean, Joan, Lily, Karen, Denise, Rebecca, Rosalind, Kimberly, Elizabeth, Jason, Gerald, Lezlie, Kimberly, Justyna, Christine, Rhiannon, Jennifer and Misha.” In addition, organizers of the CUUPs ritual in West Virginia, which drew support from Pagan leaders like Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary, said that “the energy surge we felt came from folks all over the U.S., as well as Italy, France, & Australia.” Events and actions in West Virginia, and other affected areas is ongoing. Recent commentary highlighted here from Anne Johnson and Sara Amis give some much-needed perspective as this story progresses. We will keep you updated.

Oberon (Tim) Zell, an important figure in the early Pagan councils.

Oberon Zell.

Back in December, I spotlighted efforts by Oberon Zell and a coalition of Pagan scholars who are advocating capitalization of the word “Pagan” by journalists when referring to the religious movement. Now, Zell and his coalition have sent out a new press release, and are promoting a Change.org petition, which they hope will garner 500 signatures. Quote: “To address this issue, a coalition has been formed of academic scholars in the field of religious studies, who have done research into contemporary Paganism, and written books on the subject. Their purpose was to create a simple petition to the Associated Press and Chicago Stylebooks to capitalize “Pagan” and “Paganism” when speaking of the modern faiths and their adherents in future editions. The petitions were mailed off to the Stylebook editors on Monday, Dec. 2, with 60 extremely impressive signatures. Many people concerned with religious equality subsequently asked to sign the petition, so to facilitate further signatories, the coalition has created an online master version in Change.org.” You can see the original appeal and signatories, here.

Christine Hoff Kraemer

Christine Kraemer

Christine Kraemer, a scholar and Managing Editor of the Pagan Channel at Patheos.com, has launched a new initiative for, quote, “building Pagan intellectual culture face-to-face.” The concept is simple enough, an organized book club with a local face-to-face component. Quote: “Each month, we read a book: popular fiction (dystopian and utopian novels are a favorite genre); literary fiction, like Candide; modern social or historical commentary, like Neil Postman’s Technopoly; or classics of philosophy, like The Symposium (which we actually repeat once a year). Next, we gather in person with a set start and end time – no Pagan Standard Time here. Once gathered, we sit around a table so everyone can see each other, books in hand, pitchers of water in the center, and glasses for each of us. Alcohol consumption and snacks are put off until the formal discussion is finished. To open the seminar, a participant offers an opening question (usually a different person each meeting). And then we’re off!” You can read more about the initiative, and how to participate, here.

In Other Pagan Community News: 

 

PSG 2014 Logo White Small for Web

  • Hey Pagan Spirit Gathering fans, the popular Pagan festival has unveiled its official artwork for 2014. Quote: “While we have been holding Pagan Spirit Gatherings for over thirty years, each year’s gathering has its own unique character and energy,” said Selena Fox, Executive Director of Circle Sanctuary. “To help guide that energy we give each year has a theme that explores different aspects of the celebration and our community. This year’s theme is ‘Heart and Harmony’ and I’m thrilled our beautiful new logo that so perfectly captures the spirit of that idea.”
  • As mentioned in our latest Pagan Voices, Morning Glory Zell is currently in the hospital due to kidney problems, with doctors re-starting chemo treatments. A new update on her status (which seems to be improving) and a suggested visualization for those wanting to do healing work has been posted on Facebook. Quote: “Please visualize a huge IV bag, larger than the hospital, hanging above the hospital. It is filled with pulsating, rainbow, glittering, swirling vortices of energy. A silver tube runs from the bag to MG’s left arm, where it joins the IV. MG is using this visualization – and is feeling the energy coming from ALL OF YOUR PRAYERS, CANDLES AND RITUALS. MG has asked that I thank everyone who is working on her behalf. She knows you are there.” May her recovery be swift and complete.
  • Just a reminder that the Maetreum of Cybele is still trying to raise funds to fight an appeal of their win in the Appellate court. Quote: “The well pump for the Maetreum died last Sunday and we are still trying to raise the 3000 needed for the last legal fees of our battle. Please contribute if you can via paypal to centralhouse@gallae.com. The contributions stopped over the weekend.”
  • Phantasmaphile has news of an upcoming London exhibition of channelled artworks by Ethel le Rossignol. Quote: “Huge kudos to Mark Pilkington and his Strange Attractor for putting together an astounding-sounding show of Ethel le Rossignol’s channeled paintings.  A spirit medium in the early 20th century, she and her teeming, mystical visions fall into vibratory lockstep with the Hilma af Klints, Wassily Kandinskys, and Emma Kunzes of the era – though hers appear to be decidedly more figurative.”
  • Pagan chaplain and activist Patrick McCollum will be speaking at the “Life, Death, Near Death and Beyond: An Exploration” event in March. Quote: “Together we will look at the issues of life, death, near death and beyond. All at a gorgeous eco-retreat center and certified organic farm on Maui.” The event headliner is Ram Dass. You can see a promotional video, here.

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

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

Elk_River_WV_mapLast week, a massive chemical spill in West Virginia contaminated the local water supply, leaving hundreds of thousands of residents without safe tap water. While de-contamination is ongoing, and some areas are starting have water restored, the crisis is far from over. The CUUPs chapter at the Unitarian Fellowship of Huntington is planning a water ritual for this Friday, and that participant’s “intent should be one of justice and bringing an end to these destructive practices.” Crystal Kendrick, Co-Vice President of the Unitarian Fellowship of Huntington, said that the ritual will help compliment activism and community meetings already happening in the area. Quote: “There are other community meetings planned, letter writing campaigns, and pushes to contact representatives; but as a magical person, my instinctual reaction is to couple This World Action with magic and ritual. I met up with a few other local CUUPs members who were also mad as hell and it was decided that a magical working was needed but to fight our polluting Goliaths and the legislators who support them, we’d need help and support from the outside.” CUUPs chapter member Antinoodorus Atellus added that “the way we live, what we focus on, must change or we will not fare well as the future becomes the present.”

Raven Radio

Raven Radio

After nearly four years Heathen talk radio program Raven Radio has decided to shut down this week, with founder Chuck Hudson saying it is “time now to let the young folks step up and take a swing at this.” Quote: “Well after long thought and taking back and forth. This Sunday will be the last live episode of Raven Radio. We’ve been on nearly 4 years, at least twice as long as anyone else. We did a lot of first for Asatru podcasting. And I am damn proud of it. We were the first live Heathen show on a regular schedule. We have talked with heathens from all over this planet.We have broken ground and brought conflicting points of view about Asatru to the table to at least talk. I have made friends through this station that I would have never been able to meet and they have become life long friends. [...] What can I say. We had a great run. [...] I want to thank each and every one of you, our listeners for making us the group we are. Also thank you all for lettings us have an hour of your time each week.” You can listen to the last episode here.

Aaron Leitch

Aaron Leitch

The best kind of fundraising story is one where the goal is met and surpassed before you even have a chance to write about it. That’s what happened with the medical fundraiser for Aaron Leitch, a scholar and member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, who has written on several topics of interest to modern Pagans and occultists. In a matter of days, the $5500 goal was met, and is now nearly $2000 dollars over. Quote: “Thanks to a tremendous outpouring of support, sufficient funding for Aaron’s surgery was obtained within 48 hours of the first public announcement.  My thanks and gratitide, as well as Aaron’s, are due to you all!” I shared an excerpt from Leitch’s response to his community coming out in support at this week’s Pagan Voices, but I encourage you to go and read the whole thing. Quote: “Any donations beyond the costs of the surgery and associated expenses (like meds) will go directly to the Himalayan Cataract Project.  Steve researched them, and they are top-of-the-line where it comes to your donations actually getting to the people who need help.  So we’re going to make sure that several people get their eyesight back from this. [...] It’s damn hard to have faith in this world, as I’m sure you know.  But I’ll tell you one thing – I’ve got an unshakable faith in our particular corner of it.  If this is who we really are, then I’ve chosen the right life path.” Here’s to a bit of heartwarming community news!

 In Other Pagan Community News: 

  • The Temple of Witchcraft fundraiser anthology “Ancestors of the Craft” is now available on Amazon.com. All profits from the sale of the book go to support the Temple. Quote: “Modern pagans are heirs to a rich confluence of traditions from numerous pioneers in the realms of Spirit who have passed beyond the Veil. Ancestors of the Craft honors these ancestors, some widely known, others obscure, but no less deserving.”
  • Also, the Temple of Witchcraft is looking for subjects in a healing case study. Quote: “Would you or a friend like to receive distance healing as an adjunct to your other healing treatment? The Healing Case Study Group of the Temple of Witchcraft is looking for volunteer subjects who have a physical condition or disease to receive this distance healing from its members. For one month, you can bask in the healing light sent to you by the group. For further information, please send a one-sentence description of your ailments to Tim Titus or Stevie Grant.”
  • Paganicon 2014, held March 14-16 in Minneapolis-St. Paul, has announced that High Priestess and author Deborah Lipp will join Oberon Zell as a Guest of Honor, along with featured guest Ivo Dominguez, Jr. Quote: “Our new Guest of Honor is High Priestess and author Deborah Lipp. Deborah became a Gardnerian Witch in 1982 and a High Priestess in 1986, and has been teaching Wicca and running Pagan circles ever since. Since Deborah wrote The Elements of Ritual, The Way of Four, and The Way of Four Spellbook, she’s a natural fit for this year’s Paganicon theme of the elements.”
  • The new edition of The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies, has been released. Don’t let the 2012 date fool you, they’re just running a bit behind, something that editor Chas Clifton promises will be remedied soon. This issue’s focus is on “Paganism, Initiation, and Ritual.” Quote: “Arguably, initiation and ritual are in many ways central for the understanding of most of the currents studied under the umbrella term Paganism—one need only mention the importance placed on rituals of initiation in the modern Witchcraft movement from the 1950s onwards, or the rituals performed in connection with the seasonal festivals of the year encountered in most forms of Paganism.”
  • Pagan chaplain and activist Patrick McCollum has an editorial up at The Shift Network on “changing the narrative.” Quote: “My mission is to promote a new sacred planetary vision through a new narrative that better fits the truth that we have come to know.”

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

The Spring 2014 courses are starting soon at Cherry Hill Seminary, a learning institution dedicated to “practical training in leadership, ministry, and personal growth in Pagan and Nature-Based spiritualities.” Over the past couple years, Cherry Hill Seminary has made leaps and bounds towards its goal of becoming an accredited institution, and part of that is thanks to the growing number of prominent Pagan Scholars who have joined to teach courses and work on its board or administrative body. Joining that number this year is Dr. Jenny Blain, who recently retired from Sheffield Hallam University, and will be teaching “Heathenry: Altered States and Non-Human People” at CHS starting this month. Dr. Blain is author of “Nine Worlds of Seid-Magic: Ecstasy and Neo-Shamanism in North European Paganism,” and co-editor of “Researching Paganisms” in the Pagan Studies Series.

In this short interview, we discuss her decision to teach at Cherry Hill Seminary, her work on the topic of sacred landscapes, Heathenry and the practice of seidr, and more.

Dr. Jenny Blain

Dr. Jenny Blain

As someone who has been very involved with the development of Pagan Studies, particularly through the book “Researching Paganisms,” what drew you to work with Cherry Hill Seminary? Do you think that more Pagan scholars will follow your example as CHS grows in size and prominence?

I’d met Wendy on various occasions, and of course she was a contributor to Researching Paganisms, where we were attempting to bring together the different ways that people had found themselves drawn into Pagan Studies and the particular approaches that they were using. And so, a couple of years ago, Wendy asked if I’d be interested to contribute a course to Cherry Hill – but because of my work for a university in England it had to wait until retirement! I’m glad to keep a foothold in teaching, and particularly in distance learning, and of course also to help display aspects of Heathenry to people who may have some preconceptions about this religion that don’t actually chime with the way many Heathens practice.

Cherry Hill gives that opportunity and I’m excited to see how the course will develop and indeed how the Seminary can serve needs of a very diverse range of Paganisms. So, yes, there is scope for Pagan scholars to contribute to CH. I do feel it’s important that the diversity is recognised and particularly that people who are engaging in various sorts of Pagan ‘Ministry’ understand the very different approaches to sacredness and the divine which are possible and present – and of course also how these relate to other religious expressions. On which point it’s time to move to that reburial issue and some of the diversities there.

Touching briefly on your body of work, which has dealt quite a bit with the issue of ancient remains, modern Pagans, and the political issue of reburial (or display/study), what do you make of the current protests headed by Arthur Pendragon at Stonehenge over the remains at the visitor’s center? Is this an issue that you believe more Pagans should be paying attention to? Does it tie into larger issues for modern Pagans?

The issue of ancient remains is, for me, part of a much wider issue about people’s relationship with landscape and place, and with the other-than-human people that surround us. These include – but are definitely not restricted to – ‘ancestors’ in the widest sense, people who lived on the land, worked with the land, developed cultural understanding of place and self and community. To give an example, the people buried at Cairnholy in Galloway are quite probably not ‘ancestral’ to me in the sense of DNA or something like that, but they are ‘ancestral’ in terms of having lived on and with the earth and sea and rivers that my Blain ancestors, much much more recently, farmed and fished. We don’t know what these very far past ancestors thought about death, but we do know that they, some of them at least, were placed into the burial cairns with care and deliberation, into a particular set of relationships with the other beings within the landscape, whether beetles, grasses or other ‘ancestors’. In removing ‘remains’ from their context we are disrupting that relationship.

Now, sometimes that disruption can’t be helped, and many remains unearthed today are discovered during works for new buildings or new roads, with the result that the work stops and archaeologists carefully remove the remains, usually for reburial as close as possible to the site where they were found. Archaeologists do care about these things! But that leaves us with the issue of remains which have been deliberately excavated and stored for research purposes and museum display, which is mostly what Arthur and other campaigners are on about. The whole legal situation is a rather tangled mess, and there are differences between Scotland and other parts of the UK, as in Scotland the dead one has the ‘right of sepulchre’, the right to be left undisturbed unless for very good reason, whereas in England the rights pertain to descendants. The Avebury Reburial Consultation a few years ago showed how difficult it was to make a claim without being able to demonstrate ‘descent’ in the sense of either direct family line or direct cultural transmission.

The Stonehenge protests – well, Stonehenge is the best known prehistoric site in Britain, so it is an obvious target, especially with the new visitor centre developing its displays after the much-promoted recent excavations. There is a related issue about what promises were made before the excavations started, when reburial of possible new finds was discussed (the three sets of remains on display are not from the recent excavations however). I do think that this issue has to be sorted out but there may be less confrontational ways to do this! Groups such as Honouring the Ancient Dead (HAD) have been working in association with archaeologists and museum curators for quite some time, but positions seem suddenly to have become much more rigid. It’s worth reading what HAD has to say about the visitor centre exhibits – and indeed I plan to be raising some of the issues of ‘ancestors’ in the course for Cherry Hill Seminary.

041525650X.01.LZZZZZZZMoving on to your Spring 2014 class at CHS, “Heathenry: Altered states and non-human people,” it seems like the class is centered in your study of oracular seidr. Could you talk a little bit about the class, and why seidr is important to explore within modern Heathenry? What purpose does this reconstructed practice serve today?

Well, first, it isn’t so much centred on seidr as using the development of seidr to explore worldview, cosmology and culture. These various things that I said above, issues of ancestors, other-than-human people, and so forth, will all be part of the course. It’s a matter of what is central to Heathenry; so, the world tree Yggdrasil, the various being (and worlds) that are on or under the Tree or which it connects, and the possibility of knowing about this cosmology through spiritual practice. And this starts with the connections and relationships that we’re part of, relationships with other-than-human people as well as with human friends and relatives.

Many Heathens don’t make seidr, and those that do don’t necessarily do the ‘oracular’ kind or follow the various ritual forms that have been developed. To me and to other Heathens to whom I’ve spoken, seidr is a way of effecting some kind of change – for instance in health, in knowledge, little tweaks if you like to the strands of Wyrd which connect us.

So, seidr and how Heathens today do this will be part of the course but not its totality. And, the purpose isn’t to develop students as seid-workers, but to equip them with an understanding of the connections that make seidr possible, and communities in which it’s being developed. Seidr is important for Heathen communities because it shows the importance of these relationships – we can ‘know’ things or ‘change’ things through respectful interaction with other wights, that is, with the other beings with whom we share space and time. Most Heathens aren’t seidworkers; those that are, are valued within their communities – just as a musician, an artist, a craft-worker, a gardener are valued.

More broadly, there have been noticeable points of difference, and even tension, between modern Heathenry, and modern Paganism. What do you think the two camps have to learn form each other? What is our common ground?

I think that there is a lot of misunderstanding about Heathenry, and that there is indeed much to be learned and shared. A few weeks ago I was giving a talk to the Pagan moot in Dundee, the city where I now live, and the talk was basically an overview of the material that will be addressed in much more depth in the Cherry Hill course. The people there were quite fascinated and much of what I said was very new to them – the basis in the Eddas and Sagas, the concept of Yggdrasil as the connection within and between worlds, the ideas of an Animist approach to landscape and to these wights, connections with Siberian shamanic practice and so on. And there were quite a few points of connection, particularly with how the concept of Wyrd gave a focus on taking responsibility for one’s actions, developing self-knowledge in order to create better relationship with others.

Finally, to return to Cherry Hill Seminary, moving forward, what do you see as your role within that learning institution? What does working with CHS bring you that a more traditional secular institution cannot? What are your feelings on building institutions like CHS within a Pagan context?

First, institutions such as Cherry Hill Seminary have different roles in different part of the world – the British context is very different to Cherry Hill Seminarythat in the US, or in Canada where I lived for a good while, and in the UK there is much less focus among Pagans (and particularly Heathens) on formal organisations. But having said that, I do see the importance of building places (virtual or physical) where Pagans can share and develop their understandings. I hope that I will be able to share some of my knowledge and at the same time learn more about ways other Paganisms are developing. In particular, though, I’d like to keep coming back to the ideas of place and landscape and time, ‘where people are’ and how this creates spiritual practice.

And what does CHS bring me – it enables an overt exploration of spirituality within a critical practitioner context. In a traditional secular organisation explorations get done in other ways, and in teaching there’s still the ‘methodological agnosticism’ that comes in when talking about religion. Of course, some anthropological theory has strongly critiqued this and some research foregrounds practitioners ways of knowing – Researching Paganisms is a contribution to this literature, and so is my book Nine Worlds of Seid-Magic. But for the CHS teaching my purpose is to help students develop their appreciations of Heathenry, landscapes, wights and worldviews, and so I can get into areas that would be difficult in a secular organisation.

Final note – there’s a book that came out in 2011, The Wanton Green, edited by Gordon MacLellan and Susan Cross, in which various Pagans discuss landscape, place and meanings. One chapter is mine – and the book is a demonstration, I think, of what can be shared and what we as practitioners of different spiritualities today can learn from each other.

I’d like to thank Dr. Blain for taking the time to answer my questions. She will be teaching “Heathenry: Altered States and Non-Human People” at CHS starting this month. Registration is still open, but will close on January 8th, so sign up now if you want to participate.

[The following is a guest post from Dr. Kimberly Kirner. Dr. Kirner is a cultural anthropologist specializing in applied cognitive anthropology, working on issues in political ecology and ethnoecology, medical anthropology, and the anthropology of religion. She is interested in understanding the relationships between cognition, emotion, and decision-making; the construction of identity, place, and community; and the way cultural knowledge systems interact with policy and large-scale systems to impact human behavior. Her research has focused on the political ecology of the American West and the medical anthropology of minority religious traditions in the United States. In addition to Dr. Kirner's academic work, she has worked as an applied anthropologist in program design, evaluation, and fund development.]

Some of you know me as the cultural anthropologist who began the Pagan Health Survey Project, which collected responses a large dataset from Pagans across the United States in 2010 and 2012. I’d like to take this opportunity to update you all on the Pagan Health Survey project and a new study that I’d love you to participate in: the Pagan Practice Project.

Kimberly Kirner (photo by Tony Mierzwicki)

Kimberly Kirner (photo by Tony Mierzwicki)

 The Pagan Practice Project: Pagan Identity, Spiritual Practice, and Sustainability

As an environmental and medical anthropologist, I became interested in potential connections between Pagan traditions and sustainable actions people may take. There is a body of literature on indigenous animist traditions (the traditions of Native peoples that believe the natural world is full of spirits) that suggests that nature-centered or earth-based spiritual traditions better motivate people to act sustainably – consuming less, considering the local ecosystem when making decisions, being interested in learning about one’s local environment, and so forth. At the same time as I’ve been contemplating these theories about links between spirituality and sustainability, there have been many discussions in the Pagan blogosphere this year about what it means to be Pagan. Are Pagan traditions deity-focused, earth-based, nature-centered, something else, or some combination of these? How do people understand their identity as a Pagan (or Heathen, or other related group)? What is the focus of various traditions’ beliefs and practices, both in solitary and group settings, and how significant is a focus on the natural world and non-human beings like animals, trees, and elementals?

I felt that collecting a large amount of survey data on these topics may help to illuminate these issues and help us better understand trends in individual traditions and Paganism as a whole. To this end, I would love you to participate in the Pagan Practice Survey at www.surveymonkey.com/s/paganpractice. It’s a chance for your voice to enter the conversation, even if you don’t blog about it! While this survey doesn’t have any implications for gaining us more rights and understanding from the mainstream cultural world, it may help us better understand ourselves, our identities, and how much Pagan traditions are focused on sustainability – and that can contribute in a unique way to the conversation our community is having about what Paganism is. It will also result in papers that could be used to help us explain to the non-Pagan world who we are, what we believe, and what we do.

Update on the Pagan Health Survey Project

The Pagan Health Survey went wonderfully this year – we collected over 1800 responses and are now in the midst of analyzing and writing! I have received a small grant from California State University Northridge to have a graduate student intern help me analyze the remaining data and compile a public-friendly report on both datasets that should be released in December (I’ll provide a link through the Wild Hunt). I anticipate three academic articles being released in the next year based on the project, which I hope will be of use to both Pagan Studies scholars and to the health care community.

conference-logo-transparent-background1The 2010 results were presented at the American Public Health Association meeting in 2010, the Current Conference on Pagan Studies in 2011 and 2012, and the Society for Anthropological Sciences meeting in 2012. Some initial results from the 2013 survey were presented at the Current Conference on Pagan Studies 2013. Copies of these papers and PowerPoint slides (with graphs of the data) are available by request. A recently graduated Master’s student at CSUN, Charlotte Turvey, has also used the data in her thesis on creative adjustments Pagans make in 12-step programs (which are Christian-focused), which was also presented at the Current Conference on Pagan Studies 2013. Pagan Studies scholars can, by request, query the datasets for their own research. Finally, as a result of the project, the Association of Pagan Therapists was founded by Los Angeles area Pagan therapists (of course!), which provides Pagan-friendly referrals and allows Pagan therapists to discuss relevant topics. There has also been discussion of the formation of an association or group for health care practitioners and biomedical researchers. I’m so pleased that this project has garnered support from both the Pagan community and my university, and is beginning to deliver results!

If you have any inquiries, you can contact me via email.

Thanks to everyone who has participated – I hope the new Pagan Practice Project also proves fruitful to Pagan Studies and the Pagan community.

Bright Blessings,

Kimberly Kirner, PhD
California State University, Northridge
Department of Anthropology

With all apologies to Charles de Lint for borrowing his column’s title, here are some recently released and upcoming books that I think readers of The Wild Hunt will be interested in checking out.

out_for_blood_adler“Out For Blood” by Margot Adler: In a Kindle Single released on June 10th,  Margot Adler, author of “Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America,” takes a look at the vampire, and how the monster has changed over the years to  suit our needs. Quote: “Starting as a meditation on mortality after the illness and death of her husband, Margot Adler read more than 260 vampire novels, from teen to adult, from gothic to modern, from detective to comic. She began wonder why vampires have such appeal in our society now? Why is Hollywood spending billions on vampire films and television series every year? It led her to explore issues of power, politics, morality, identity, and even the fate of the planet.“Every society creates the vampire it needs,” wrote the scholar Nina Auerbach. Dracula was written in 19th century England when there was fear of outsiders and of disease coming in through England’s large ports. Dracula – An Eastern European monster bringing direct from a foreign land – was the perfect vehicle for those fears. But who are the vampires we need now?” At only $1.99 this essay is certainly more than worth the price, and catches you up with what one of our most celebrated journalists has been working on.

livesoftheapostates“The Lives of the Apostates” by Eric Scott: Hey, look! It’s The Wild Hunt’s very own columnist Eric Scott with his debut novella (out June 28th), a story about friendship, religion, tragedy and coming-of-age. Quote: “In a Midwest college town, a Wiccan student named Lou finds himself forced into taking a History of Christian Thought class from a religion professor who spends his weekends preaching at the local Baptist church. Between shifts as a caretaker for mentally handicapped men Lou calls “the boys,” he confronts his professor’s story of Christian triumph with increasing anger. As tensions escalate, he turns to his roommate, a fellow Pagan with the unfortunate nickname of Grimey, and his coven-mate and crush, Lucy, for support. But Grimey is dealing with his own problems hiding his faith from his mother. In the course of a single night, the world collapses for Grimey and one of Lou’s boys, and Lou finds himself standing up for himself and his beliefs.” When asked to provide an endorsement, I said it was “a tone poem of rage and grief at growing up in a world where your very beliefs place you in opposition to the way most of the world is run, to the blunt instruments of religious power and privilege [...] a barbaric yawp from the Pagan soul.” However, I may be biased. So instead, listen to celebrated novelist and essayist Peter Manseau: “Finally, something new under the sun: a midwestern pagan coming of age story that is at once a poignant evocation of young love and a searing meditation on the ancient conflict between faiths. As sharp as a ritual blade, as full as a chalice, The Lives of the Apostates is a great surprise, and Eric Scott a writer to watch.” Eric has only started his career as a writer, and I’m proud that we’ve had a hand in nurturing it. 

america_betwitched“America Bewitched: Witchcraft After Salem” by Owen Davies: I knew about this book, released in March of 2013, but I haven’t had a chance to pay much attention to it (sometimes you lose track of things in my line of work). In any case, Owen Davies, author of such fine books as “Grimoires: A History of Magic Books” and “Paganism: A Very Short Introduction” (see my interview with Owen Davies regarding that book) digs through the archives of America to debunk the popular notion that we stopped killing and persecuting “witches” after 1692, and shows that belief in witchcraft persisted throughout this country into the 20th century (and beyond). Quote: “Witchcraft after Salem was not just a story of fire-side tales, legends, and superstitions: it continued to be a matter of life and death, souring the American dream for many. We know of more people killed as witches between 1692 and the 1950s than were executed before it. Witches were part of the story of the decimation of the Native Americans, the experience of slavery and emancipation, and the immigrant experience; they were embedded in the religious and social history of the country. Yet the history of American witchcraft between the eighteenth and the twentieth century also tells a less traumatic story, one that shows how different cultures interacted and shaped each other’s languages and beliefs. This is therefore much more than the tale of one persecuted community: it opens a fascinating window on the fears, prejudices, hopes, and dreams of the American people as their country rose from colony to superpower.” I think this book will be powerful and necessary reading for anyone interested in how our attitudes about witchcraft have been shaped. Here’s a video of Owen Davies discussing the book.

pagan_family_values“Pagan Family Values: Childhood and the Religious Imagination in Contemporary American Paganism” by S. Zohreh Kermani: How are Pagan families passing their beliefs on to their children? This is a central question explored by S. Zohreh Kermani, a Harvard PhD who teaches religious studies part time at Youngstown State University. Quote: “The first ethnographic study of the everyday lives of contemporary Pagan families, this volume brings their experiences into conversation with contemporary issues in American religion. Through formal interviews with Pagan families, participant observation at various pagan events, and data collected via online surveys, Kermani traces the ways in which Pagan parents transmit their religious values to their children. Rather than seeking to pass along specific religious beliefs, Pagan parents tend to seek to instill values, such as religious tolerance and spiritual independence, that will remain with their children throughout their lives, regardless of these children’s ultimate religious identifications.” Sarah Pike, author of author of “Earthly Bodies, Magical Selves: Contemporary Pagans and the Search for Community,” says the book is “one of the best and most nuanced ethnographic studies of contemporary Paganism to come along. Kermani takes us into the deeply conflicted religious lives of Pagan families, yet as she so deftly reveals, Pagans are not unique in their ambivalent desires for their children.” This sounds like a must-read for anyone interested in how we raise our children, and understanding how children experience growing up Pagan. Out July 29th, 2013.

pop-pagans-paganism-and-popular-music“Pop Pagans: Paganism and Popular Music” edited by Donna Weston and Andy Bennett: I briefly mentioned this title earlier, but I thought it deserved a more robust mention here, not because of my involvement, but because I think there’s some very important scholarship regarding the intersections of Paganism and popular music that I think many will find enlightening and useful.  Boasting contributions from Andy Letcher, author of “Shroom: A Cultural History of the Magic Mushroom,” and Douglas Ezzy, co-author of “Teenage Witches: Magical Youth and the Search for the Self,” among several others talented individuals, this book covers a lot of ground. Quote: “Paganism is rapidly becoming a religious, creative, and political force internationally. It has found one of its most public expressions in popular music, where it is voiced by singers and musicians across rock, folk, techno, goth, metal, Celtic, world, and pop music. With essays ranging across the US, UK, continental Europe, Australia and Asia, Pop Pagans assesses the histories, genres, performances, and communities of pagan popular music.” This book has been long overdue, and one that I hope will finally open the door for a proper history of self-consciously Pagan contemporary music.

Do you know of some recently released or upcoming books that should be spotlighted here? Leave a comment or drop us a line and it may be featured in a future edition of this series. Happy reading!

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!

Lady Liberty League Forms Task Force, Prevents Protest in Florida: Last week many Pagans were outraged after a story about Christian clergy opposition to a Pagan festival in Pahokee, Florida emerged. In response the Lady Liberty League, a religious freedom support organization for Wiccans, Pagans, and other Nature religion practitioners worldwide, formed a task force to address the concerns raised by this situation.

“‘This is an opportunity not only to bring about better public understanding about Paganism, but for Pagans of many paths to work together,’ said Rev. Selena Fox, Executive Director of Circle Sanctuary and the Lady Liberty League (LLL). 

On Saturday, the Lady Liberty League sent an update that task-force member Peter Dybing attended a meeting of local Christian clergy, explained modern Pagan faiths to those assembled, and received a pledge that they would not protest the Summer Solstice festival.

Peter Dybing and Selena Fox of the Lady Liberty League.

Peter Dybing and Selena Fox of the Lady Liberty League.

“‘What I am here asking is not for your support, or your approval, but your tolerance for our right to engage in religious activity. If anyone were to protest the activities of your church, our community, would, if asked, come to your defense. We ask only the same, please don’t protest our event’. After Rev. Dybing’s statements, the pastor who organized the meeting declared to all present that there would be ‘No Protest.’ He and Peter Dybing shook hands; a significant gesture in heated times. Rev. Dybing stated that if members of their community wanted to pray for our community, we would welcome such prayers as we see all prayer as a good thing. It was clear that LLL’s approach of outreach at this meeting had had a profound effect on the proceedings.”

Further, a representative of the local Chamber of Commerce said the organization fully supports the festival and local business owners will be open for business and looking forward to the festival.” More on these developments, including contact information for the Christian pastor who reached out to Peter Dybing to make this possible, can be found here. This is very good news for the Pagans of Florida, and I think it’s important to reiterate what the LLL said in their previous press release: that people “avoid independent actions that have the potential to complicate efforts,” and to contact them first by emailing liberty@circlesanctuary.org if you have any questions, concerns, or ideas regarding this issue. The Wild Hunt will keep you updated on further developments.

Cherry Hill Seminary Receives Generous Challenge Gift: Online Pagan learning institution Cherry Hill Seminary announced on Monday that a donor was willing to match up to $10,000 dollars in donations for a new scholarship endowment that would help students nearing completion of their Master of Divinity, to assist them with the expense of attending their required second intensive. This is another significant step forward for Cherry Hill Seminary, which recently presented its first academic symposium in partnership with the University of South Carolina.

Ronald Hutton (center) with symposium presenters and CHS staff.

Sacred Lands and Spiritual Landscapes symposium. L to R, Carl Evans, Emeritus Chair of Dept. of Religious Studies, University of South Carolina; Holli Emore, Executive Director, Cherry Hill Seminary; Ronald Hutton, Professor of History, Bristol University; Chas Clifton, Editor The Pomegranate; Candace Kant, Dean of Students, Cherry Hill Seminary; Wendy Griffin, Academic Dean, Cherry Hill Seminary.

Executive Director Holli Emore noted that the donor was inspired to give by the recent Sacred Lands and Spiritual Landscapes held in collaboration with the University of South Carolina. “We have worked so hard for the past several years to shape our program into one with strong academic integrity as well as meaningful impact for the community of Pagan and nature-based spiritualities,” said Emore. This endowment is both an affirmation of that hard work, and a signal to others who might be ready to join the effort.”

Nearly $5,000 in gifts to the endowment have already been received; Cherry Hill Seminary has until July 1, 2013 to raise the full $10,000 match. You can find out more about the gift, including reactions from students and staff, here.  Those who wish to make a gift may do so online, or you can make a pledge of support. For further options, you can send a message to CHS@cherryhillseminary.org. All donors will be acknowledged online unless they request otherwise. Congratulations to Cherry Hill Seminary on this step forward!

 Solar Cross Temple “Love In Action” Update: On May 25th I reported on how the pan-Pagan/Magickal organization Solar Cross Temple, in partnership with a local Pagan and a consortium of activist organizations, were working to raise money for those affected by the massive and deadly tornado that struck Oklahoma recently. On May 30th, T. Thorn Coyle posted a new update on that effort

Debris covers the ground in Moore, Oklahoma. Photograph by Brett Deering/Getty.

Debris covers the ground in Moore, Oklahoma. Photograph by Brett Deering/Getty.

“6 wheel barrows and 4 heavy duty transfer shovels were sent to Oklahoma on May 29th! Thanks to everyone who has donated so far! Including donations from Solar Cross, people have contributed $1061 toward the two shipments of much needed goods. These are all going to the harder hit rural areas of Oklahoma that aren’t getting as much help. In addition to that total, another $150 was collected from our Solar Cross Devotional on Sunday and will take up collections at Troth Moot this weekend. This will enable us to send another shipment!”

For those wanting to join this initiative  please donate via PayPal to solarcrosstemple@gmail.com. Please note that it is for Tornado Relief so they can assign the money properly. As T. Thorn Coyle says in her initial post: “I want to create a world of mutual aid, where we help one another in times of need, and celebrate together in times of joy.” May all those affected find safety, shelter, and the means to rebuild.

Congratulations to Erynn Rowan Laurie: Erynn Rowan Laurie, author of “A Circle of Stones,” and a finalist in the poetry category of the Bi Writers Association Bi Book Awards, won in the poetry category this past Sunday for her collection “Fireflies at Absolute Zero.”

"Guess who is now an award-winning poet?" - Erynn Rowan Laurie

“Guess who is now an award-winning poet?” – Erynn Rowan Laurie

“Erynn Rowan Laurie’s  Fireflies at Absolute Zero is a call to poetic arms, written with the ferocity and pas­sion of the Earth war­rior — “my poems burn like stars/​ they fall like spears from the oil-​​black sky.” It is a hymn of praise to the old gods, written in the long tra­di­tion of poets as dreamers of new worlds, and re-​​memberers of old ones. Indeed, Laurie’s poetry reminds us all that humanity cannot face its strug­gles with either mushy plat­i­tudes or mil­i­tarist cliché; we require the nuance of the poet who dances coura­geously on the edges, between the struggle and the embrace.”Theodore Richards, author of Cosmosophia and The Crucifixion

I think this is a wonderful achievement, not only for Erynn, but for creative writings by modern Pagans.  Congratulations! In the meantime, for those who are curious, you can read a preview of the poetry collection, here.

In Other Pagan Community News:

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

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

Selena Fox's healing altar for the victims of the Boston attack.

Selena Fox’s healing altar for the victims of the Boston attack.

I’d like to begin by sending out my thoughts to all those who were affected by yesterday’s bombing at the Boston Marathon. There have been many Pagan responses to this still-unresolved tragedy, but I think Ár nDraíocht Féin Archdruid Rev. Kirk Thomas’ statement may be the best:

“We in ADF participate in a public religion. The gatherings of the folk are important for our communal worship of the Kindreds. Terrorists, such as those who bombed the Boston Marathon today, are counting on the fear of the people to disrupt our sense of community, that we may be isolated from each other, and thus lose our way. I believe that it is our duty as civilized people to resist this impulse, to find our courage, and so defy these enemies of Good, that our relationships with the Kindreds and with each other will continue to thrive.”

May the perpetrators be caught, may justice be done, may the wounded find care, and may the grieved find comfort.

Babugeri, Bansko, Bulgaria, 2010–2011 Charles Fréger, courtesy of Yossi Milo Gallery, New York

Babugeri, Bansko, Bulgaria, 2010–2011
Charles Fréger, courtesy of Yossi Milo Gallery, New York

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

[The following is a guest post from Patrick Wolff. Wolff is a professor of religious studies and holds a PhD in the history of religious thought. His interests include studying religion and Romanticism, playing Classical and Celtic music, and reading science fiction/fantasy literature. Spiritually he's either openly eclectic or hopelessly muddled, depending on who you ask.]

The ninth annual Conference on Current Pagan Studies met at Claremont Graduate University in the city of Claremont, California on January 26-27. This is a unique academic conference, not only for its topical focus on Pagan Studies, but for its inclusion of both academic and non-academic Pagans as presenters. Both the conference theme and the selection of keynote speakers exemplified the desire to, as the tagline of the conference website puts it, bring “Academia and Community Together.” The conference theme, “Pagan Sensibilities in Action,” covered not only ritual and spiritual practice but history, art, social justice, environmental concerns, psychology, politics, and other topics. The theme reflected a concern that is current in many religions, a desire to explore the implications of one’s theology (or thealogy, or theoilogy, as the case may be) in all aspects of life.

The two keynote speakers embodied this theme, one a recognized scholar in the fields of folklore and anthropology and the other an activist with experience fighting for social justice as well as service through disaster relief and emergency care. Dr. Sabina Magliocco, Professor of Anthropology at California State University, Northridge, and author of numerous books including Witching Culture: Folklore and Neo-Paganism in America and Neo-Pagan Sacred Art and Altars: Making Things Whole, presented a lecture titled “The Rise of Pagan Fundamentalism.” Joking that she hoped to avoid being tarred and feathered, Magliocco identified two tendencies of Pagan Fundamentalism, both of which centered on the concept of belief. As a broad religious phenomenon, fundamentalists in all religions insist on a literalist interpretation of foundational texts, and demand conformity of belief as the primary marker of a genuine religious identity. Those who do not share these essential beliefs are viewed with suspicion, or rejected as imposters.

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

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

The first belief is in the literal historicity of the foundational narrative of paganism as an unbroken stream flowing from the ancient past to the present. This “received” view of Pagan (particularly Wiccan) history, shaped by Margaret Murray and Gerald Gardner, holds that the Old Religion persisted throughout the centuries amidst persecution, passed down as a closely guarded secret to initiates into the present day. However, when subjected to the scrutiny of critical historical scholarship, the foundational myth of pure Paganism transmitted through the ages was revealed to be lacking in solid historical evidence. Revisionists, most notably English historian Ronald Hutton, author of Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft, contended that Wicca was better understood as a new religious movement than as a preserved ancient one. Counter-revisionists, such as Ben Whitmore, author of Trials of the Moon: Reopening the Case for Historical Witchcraft, have objected that Hutton overstated his case, ignoring or minimizing evidence for continuity in the transmission of Wicca (to which Hutton has replied in his article “Revisionism and Counter-Revisionism in Pagan History” in the most recent issue of Pomegranate). The claims of revisionist historians can come as quite a shock to Pagans who never had reason to question the received myth of Pagan origins, and while many were open to the new perspective, others experienced a crisis of cognitive dissonance which was countered by an uncritical insistence on the literal truth of the myth of pagan origins and a dismissal of, or attack on, revisionist arguments. Since the revisionist perspective presented Wicca as an eclectic, creative religious movement influenced by other forms of occultism and Romanticism, those most opposed to it were often those whose Paganism was heavily invested in the claim of possessing secret knowledge passed through carefully guarded secret initiations. This debate over Pagan origins is not merely an ivory tower discussion, since how Pagans view their past will shape their future.

The second tendency that has emerged in Pagan Fundamentalism is a belief in gods and goddesses as literal spiritual persons, formulated as a reaction against the emergence of humanistic paganism and panentheistic or archetypal interpretations of the divine. However, Magliocco argued, historically Wiccans have varied greatly in their theology, and found unity not in right belief, but in common practice. Against this non-dogmatic tradition of finding shared identity through ritual, Pagan Fundamentalists seek to exclude those who do not hold to their “orthodox” pagan belief in the nature of the gods. This is problematic, Magliocco argued, because it imported a criteria from the dominant Abrahamic faiths that was ill-suited to the ritual-focused nature of Paganism.

Why has belief emerged as a critical identity marker now, when it did not function this way in the past? Magliocco pointed to several reasons, such as a desire legitimate Paganism as a “real religion” in the eyes of adherents of other religions (which comes as a result of the growth in size and influence of Paganism), and a quest for certainty in a tumultuous marketplace of religious ideas (a motivating factor in the fundamentalist strand of all religions). But her third reason pointed to what would become a theme throughout much of the rest of the conference: the role of the Internet, and particularly comments on blogs, that dank and murky lair of trolls, where insults fly freely and rational reflection is beaten down by bombast. The Internet tends to encourage “enclaves of idiosyncratic views,” unchallenged by real-world interaction with those holding differing views, and provides a veil of anonymity that allows abusive behavior that would not be tolerated in face to face interactions. After her presentation, one questioner raised the intriguing possibility that the Internet actually encourages fundamentalism, since online (particularly in blogs and blog comments) individuals are easily reduced to text-based persons.

The second keynote address, “Stirring the Cauldron of Pagan Sensibilities,” was presented by  Peter Dybing, a national disaster team Section Chief with experience as a firefighter and EMT as well as serving on the board member 100% for Haiti and a former National First Officer of Covenant of the Goddess. Stressing is non-academic identity, Dybing challenged attendees to “suspend your academic approach, and access your emotions,” issuing a call to action rather than offering intellectual reflection. His first two points called for a new look at the questions of Pagan leadership and the role of elders. While acknowledging the strengths found in Traditional (hierarchical, individual-focused) and Organic (communal and local) models of leadership, as well as the dangers of what he termed Fantasy Leadership (the self-appointed blogger harassing his or her enemies online, “liked” by clique of online admirers ), Dybing drew from his experience in disaster relief to formulate a Transformative model of leadership, one that is mission-based and organizationally-focused. Leadership should not be limited to the Priest or Priestess as representatives of the God or Goddess, but should be shared based on recognition of diverse skills and expertise. On the related topic of Pagan elders, Dybing stressed the importance of honoring the body of work left by an elder without venerating the person. Elders, even after death, must be remembered as human beings, not saints.

Peter Dybing (Photo: Tony Mierzwicki)

Peter Dybing at the Conference on Current Pagan Studies (Photo: Tony Mierzwicki)

Though the first part of presentation took up the majority of his time, it was in the second part that Dybing most fully revealed his own heart through a call to service as an expression of Pagan spirituality. It was in offering direct aid for the good of others, whether in international aid or in community service, that Dybing said he most fully felt the presence of the Goddess. In a time of environmental degradation, Dybing warned, we must expect a future of natural disasters on an unprecedented scale, and Pagans are uniquely qualified to respond to these challenges. While Magliocco made the case that Paganism should continue to value ritual action over belief, Dybing called on Pagans to pursue active service as a practice of Pagan spirituality.

The other twenty-five presentations were too varied and rich to be adequately summarized here, with topics ranging from theology to psychology, good pedagogy in the classroom to creating masks (and even the pedagogy of making masks), environmentalism, politics, and mysticism. One particularly exciting project described was the Pagan History Project, which will record oral histories of Pagans, similar to the oral history project being conducted by many universities of World War II veterans. Several times a desire was expressed to continue discussion after the conference ended, either on the conference website or Facebook page. This does not seem to have happened yet, but it would be another way to bring Pagan scholarship into conversation with the broader Pagan community. In addition to the thoughtful nature of the presentations, two other aspects of the conference are worth noting. First, there was an ethos of dialogue and conversation among the approximately fifty attendees, so much so that interaction between the presenter and audience sometimes broke out in the middle of a presentation, a rare occurrence in a typical academic conference. Second, the atmosphere of the conference could be described as convivial, with a great deal of laughter and good spirits. In this way, the conference itself was a manifestation of Pagan sensibility.

Pagan Studies has come under recent criticism by some for a lack of necessary critical distance from its subject (see, for example,, Markus Altena Davidsen, “What is Wrong with Pagan Studies?” in Method and Theory in the Study of Religion, available online). This criticism is not without merit. The calling of a scholar of religion is not to support the religion being studied, but to understand it, and the conclusions that come from scholarly inquiry are not always welcome to those being studied (hence Magliocco’s “tar and feathering” comment). Further, too much of an “insider” atmosphere can create an us-and-them dichotomy which distances or even excludes outsiders. The “them” could be non-insider scholars or practitioners of other religions, viewed as outsiders who can never really “get” those on the inside (some of this could be seen by the dramatic eye-rolling and snarky asides from one presenter whenever he made mention of Christian beliefs, something that would not be tolerated in other academic conferences). One Pagan Reconstructionist presenter admitted she had felt nervous about attending a conference of Wiccans and Neopagans, and while she was warmly welcomed, her initial misgivings say something about how the conference could be perceived by outsiders.

The lines of insider and outsider in scholarship are not always clear cut, however, and if there is a danger in insider scholarship designed to offer the benefits of scholarly insight to contribute to the flourishing of one’s own religious community, the opposite danger is scholarship for the sake of no one, except perhaps the expansion of the scholar’s own reputation (and ego). Granted that much of what academics call risky seems rather dreary to most people, the conference organizer, Dorothea Kahena Viale, should be commended for taking the risk of envisioning a conference that seeks to connect scholars with practitioners and intellectuals with activists. There must be a place for scholarship for the good of the community, and for Pagans, one place this can be found is the Conference on Current Pagan Studies.

ADDENDUM: For another perspective of the 2013 Conference on Current Pagan Studies, see Donald Michael Kraig’s blog at Llewellyn.com.

ADDENDUM II: I’d just like to note that this piece is an effort on Patrick Wolff’s part to convey the messages of the two keynote speakers, and of the general tone of this conference. The views expressed are not necessarily those of Mr. Wolff or any other Wild Hunt contributor. Our goal, as always, is to inform our readership about events that could impact the broader Pagan community. I (Jason) hope to weigh in soon with an editorial touching on some of the issues raised here.

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!

Pagan Studies Journal The Pomegranate Releases New Issue: At his blog, editor Chas Clifton announces that issue 13.2 of The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies is now available online. There are number of interesting pieces, including two free review articles, one from Tamara Ingels on shamanic artist Joska Soos, and one from historian Ronald Hutton entitled: “Revisionism and Counter-Revisionism in Pagan History.”

Good Hutton Pic

Ronald Hutton

“During the past few years, a series of heated arguments have broken out among Pagans across the Western world, but much more particularly in North America and Australia, about the historical context of modern Paganism. This has been provoked by extensive scholarly revision of the traditional portrait of that context, which has caused dismay and anger among some Pagans. Their reactions have in turn produced similar emotions among some of their co-religionists and professional scholars (the two groups often overlapping). This review essay is intended to clarify the issues that are being debated; to examine the potential for Pagans to write their own history; to look at points at which the arguments may have provided useful historical insights; and to suggest a likely outcome for the controversy.”

I can already hear the partisans regarding Hutton preparing their talking points, but I do hope everyone reads the article first, as Hutton attempts to explore the recent trends of revisionism and counter-revisionism in Pagan history, notes places where he has changed his thinking, and suggests a way forward for all parties. He also, if I may indulge my ego for a moment, name-drops The Wild Hunt.

For those not terribly invested in the ongoing debates regarding Hutton’s work, let me urge you to subscribe to The Pomegranate, as subscribers also get access to fascinating articles like: “Robert Cochrane and the Gardnerian Craft: Feuds, Secrets and Mysteries in Contemporary British Witchcraft” by Ethan Doyle White,  “The Heart of Thelema: Morality, Amorality, and Immorality in Aleister Crowley’s Thelemic Cult” by Mogg Morgan, and more. This is the beating heart of Pagan Studies, and we should treasure the work they do.

Witch School International Welcomes New Leadership: Popular online learning hub Witch School International has named a new leadership team. The new team includes  Lindsay Irvin, Director of Operations, David Moore, President of Tarot College, and Chief Technician Mike Ferrell will become Witch School’s new CEO. Outgoing CEO Ed Hubbard praised Ferrell’s skills, and said that “he has a deep understanding of how the Internet works, as well as working with global members. He will also be able to implement the move into other forms of interface such as tablet and mobile. WSI, Inc. is facing a wonderful future; Michael is the individual who will lead that effort.” In addition, Rev. Don Lewis announced that he was stepping down as Chancellor  of Witch School, though he will still take an active role in developing content for Witch School in the years ahead.

Witch School circa 2007, Rev. Don Lewis is in the center, and incoming WSI CEO is second from the right.

Witch School circa 2007, Rev. Don Lewis is in the center, and incoming WSI CEO Mike Ferrell is second from the right.

“Some people are asking if I will still be Chancellor of Witch School. The answer to this is no. This last year has necessitated many changes, and I have found that I cannot effectively be Chancellor of both Witch School and Chancellor of the Correllian Tradition. Witch School is independent of the Tradition with widely different duties best handled by Michael and Lindsay. I will however continue to be highly involved with Witch School. I will be continuing to provide content for Witch School, Tarot College, and Magick TV, and I am very happy in that role. In particular I have spent much of the last year working on the long-anticipated Correllian video lessons which will be making their debut soon, and which I feel will be a revolutionary development in their way. I am also working on a variety of other instructional materials for the future.”

As for Hubbard, who with the Rev. Don Lewis helped shape Witch School, he will, quote, “act as a support consultant, to ease the changeover to new leadership.” He will also remain active in the Pagans Tonight Radio Network. We wish them the best of luck during this time of change and transition.

Pictures from Patrick McCollum’s India Trip: For those of you who enjoyed my article about Pagan chaplain and activist Patrick McCollum participating in the Kumbh Mela, the Patrick McCollum Foundation has started to post photos of his experiences there.

Patrick McCollum participates in a blessing at the Sangam.

Patrick McCollum participates in a blessing at the Sangam.

Patrick McCollum and H. H. Puja Swami Saraswati set an example on how to restore the beauty of the sacred Ganges River by personally mucking trash.

Patrick McCollum and H. H. Puja Swami Saraswati set an example on how to restore the beauty of the sacred Ganges River by personally mucking trash.

“We must be the example of what we want to see.  If we want our brothers and sisters to honor our planet, we cannot walk on flower petals and drink milk and honey.  We must instead choose the filthiest example of what we want to change and get down in the mud and clean it up.”Patrick McCollum, in a statement to Indian press about mucking trash in the Ganges River.

For more updates stay tuned to the Patrick McCollum Foundation blog and Facebook page.

In Other Community News: 

  • Coru Cathubodua Priesthood and Solar Cross Temple are hosting a devotional blood drive at this year’s PantheaCon in San Jose. Quote: “Every three seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood. The Coru Priesthood and Solar Cross are hosting this blood drive as an act of kinship, hospitality and devotion to our community and to the Morrigan, Celtic Goddess of sovereignty, prophecy, and battle. We encourage all people to donate the gift of life, whether in the name of your own deities, the Morrigan or without devotional intent.” Interested parties should register, here, and use the sponsor code “PCon.” More here.
  • The excellent Invocatio blog announces that the Network for the Study of Esotericism in Antiquity (NSEA) has launched their new website, AncientEsotericism.org. Quote: “The website is designed as a one-stop resource for pretty much every thing you might want to study in antiquity. (Seriously, the amount of things we have collected in one place is massive!) Even more, it is hoped that through the contributions of others working in the field the website will continue to grow.”
  • CAORANN, Celts Against Oppression, Racism, and Neo-Nazism, have issued an official statement of solidarity with the Idle No More movement. They also counsel non-Native/Indigenous/First Nations peoples against appropriation or hijacking the movement from its primary focus. Quote: “We urge our members and supporters of CAORANN to support Idle No More if their conscience leads them to do so. But we ask that non-Natives attend Idle No More events to support the Indigenous people, and to follow their guidance – to be there in solidarity, not to try to lead, and to listen more than they speak. We stress that this is a movement led by Indigenous women, and we are committed to making sure that remains the case.”
  • Ethan Doyle White at Albion Calling has posted the most recent interview with Pagan Studies scholars, this time with Caroline Tully. Quote: “Most Pagan Studies scholars seem to be in disciplines such as anthropology, sociology, religious studies, theology, history and archaeology. I didn’t go to university in order to be a Pagan Studies scholar specifically, but to study ancient pagan religions and to compare them with modern Paganism.”

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

[This is the second post on my trip to the American Academy of Religion's Annual Meeting in Chicago, for yesterday's post, click here.]

My first session on Sunday covered material that I was pretty familiar with, the Pew Forum’s Religion in Prisons survey, a groundbreaking work that gave some key data points concerning minority religions in prison that before we had only speculated on. You can read my initial analysis of that data, here, and Pagan chaplain Patrick McCollum’s views on the survey, here. This special topics forum featured two researchers who worked on the Pew survey, and chaplains with direct experience either in prison chaplaincy, or working with minority religions.

Special Topics Forum: Pew Forum's Survey on Religion in Prisons.

Special Topics Forum: Pew Forum’s Survey on Religion in Prisons.

Patrick McCollum’s initial comments seemed to set the tone for much of the panel, and the questions that followed, when he talked about the “dominant religion lens” that Christians view minority religions, particularly in prison. Many working prison chaplains had some very critical things to say about how the data might be skewed by the opinions of a predominantly conservative and Christian chaplaincy body. From what I’ve heard, Pew is very interested in doing a follow-up study on religion in prisons, something I welcome. The role of a Pagan, McCollum, in shaping this discussion shows just how vital we’ve become in this process.

After that forum, I attended the second Contemporary Pagan Studies panel entitled “Sex, Metaphor, and Sacrifice in Contemporary Paganism,” which featured very diverse papers from Jone Salomonsen on the religious writings of Oslo mass-murderer Anders Breivik, which fused Christian and Pagan elements, Jefferson Calico, on how the Heathen mead hall operates as a central metaphor for interaction between the gods and humanity, and most interesting, Jason Winslade’s “When Pan Met Babalon: Challenging Sex Roles at a Thelemic/Pagan Festival.”

Jason Winslade presenting his paper.

Jason Winslade presenting his paper.

“Concentrating on ritual performances around the bonfire at Babalon Rising, a yearly festival in Indiana whose attendees follow a mix of Paganism and Thelema, the teachings of Victorian magician Aleister Crowley, this paper will demonstrate how participants grapple with challenging sexual roles, manifested in their dances and their ritual play as deities from Crowley’s mythos. Chief among these is his version of the Pagan god Pan who, at Babalon Rising, engages with participants, intentionally pushing boundaries, and creating a setting for festival goers to more freely explore these issues. What results is a messy mix of progressive and regressive attitudes towards sexuality as a metaphor and a vehicle for transformation that potentially challenges essentialist notions of gender and sex in contemporary magickal practice.”

Winslade gave an engaging and interesting presentation, and while this panel seemed not a thematically cohesive as advertised, all the subjects covered were certainly important and fascinating.

The final Contemporary Pagan Studies session I attended was on Monday morning, and it was, by far, the most important and exciting of the weekend. Held as a joint session with the Indigenous Religious Traditions Group, “Contested Categories: Indigenous, Pagan, Authentic, and Legitimate” struck right at the heart of the some of the most vital questions modern Pagans face collectively. All the papers presented, from Koenraad Elst’s exploration of The Gathering of Elders in India, to Sabina Magliocco’s (author of “Witching Culture”) examination of authenticity within modern Paganism (read by Chas Clifton since Sabina couldn’t make it) pointed out the very real hurdles we’ll collectively face as we decide how we’ll define ourselves in the years to come. However, my two favorite paper presentations were Mary Hamner’s “Middle-Class Vodou: Spirit Possession and Marginality in the United States,” and Thad Horrell’s “Becoming Indigenous in a Reconstructed Ancestral Tradition.”

Thad Horrell and Mary Hamner at the Pagan Studies and Indigenous Religious Traditions joint session.

Thad Horrell and Mary Hamner at the Pagan Studies and Indigenous Religious Traditions joint session.

“This paper will investigate the contemporary Heathen project to create an indigenous identification accessible to White Americans, asking to what degree this project escapes the critiques leveled against other attempts to develop White indigenous identifications. Being rooted in European indigenousness rather than an appropriated American Indian indigenousness, does Heathenry escape the usual post/anti-colonial critiques commonly leveled at such projects? How are “indigenous Europeans” in the United States different from White “wannabe Indians?” What, if any, commonalities do they share? Are the differences sufficient to overcome the usual criticisms, to produce a more healthy and respectful cognitive relation between White Americans and American Indians? Or, do contemporary Heathen claims of indigenous identity continue to reify White racial conceptions of dominance over the racially-other Indian?”

I felt both of these papers were so compelling that I spoke with Mr. Horrell and Ms. Hamner after the session about presenting their research here at The Wild Hunt. Both seemed open to the idea, and I hope that this will not only expand the coverage of Contemporary Pagan Studies at the AAR Annual Meeting, but introduce productive dialog on issues that have provoked a lot of debate among modern Pagans.  So stay tuned!

Once I get home later today I hope to start a longer rumination about the important conversations that happen between the panels and presentations, how the AAR Annual Meeting provides fertile soil for future collaboration and helps sustain Contemporary Pagan Studies. Conferences are often about who you meet, who you connect with, as much as the paper you present. As I said before, Pagan scholars are like a microcosm of the Pagan community as a whole: diverse thoughts, theories, and ideas debating, interacting, and spinning off into new directions. Interactions that could provide a road-map for the larger community to move forward. I feel lucky to have been a small part of these discussions, and to have attended these sessions.

I’d like to thank everyone who contributed to the campaign to send me to AAR, including the underwriters who joined us during that time: A Modern DruidAssembly of the Sacred Wheel,Brotherhood of the PhoenixEgregoresIx Chel WellnessMill Creek SeminarySolar Cross Temple,Stone City Pagan SanctuaryTeo BishopThe SummerlandsUrania’s Well, and Wiccanwoman. Thank you. You make this possible.