Archives For Peter Dybing

Before we start this week’s edition of Pagan Voices, I wanted to note that today is Veterans Day, and we here at The Wild Hunt would like to give our thanks to all military personnel and their families for their service and sacrifices. Today is also an excellent time to think of the modern Pagans and Heathens currently serving in the military and offer them our support. A great way to do that is to support to organizations that offer services to Pagan military members. Now then, on to our spotlight on recent quotations from figures within the Pagan community.

Cadet Chapel Falcon Circle at the Air Force Academy

Cadet Chapel Falcon Circle at the Air Force Academy. Photo by: Jerilee Bennett / The Gazette

“I think as Pagans, it is especially important that we engage in this practice of remembrance.  Whatever your view on war (some traditions strongly respecting the warrior path, such as the Asatru; some being adamantly opposed to war, such as Reclaiming Witches), our empathy for the experience of it is a valuable service we can contribute to our culture and the world.  The many reasons connect to the uniquely Pagan experience of our spirituality.  Now granted, these are all generalizations; and as such, not everyone will fit these moulds.  But we seem to have these commonalities that make remembrance, especially of powerful and terrible events such as war, much more immediate and intense.” – Sable Aradia, on Veterans Day / Remembrance Day.

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

“Yes, I think there are many truths, but “many” does not automatically mean every or any; and it certainly doesn’t mean that all things are truly equal, and thus there is no “real truth.” And, I suspect, this is where a huge number of modern Pagans and polytheists over-read pluralism, and think it means “anything goes,” or the all-too-common maxim “nothing is true, all is permissible” (paraphrased slightly from Vladimir Bartol’s Alamut). […] As a polytheist and a pluralist who thinks that there are many possible truths, I am obliged to respect people who hold these viewpoints and not do them physical harm, nor deprive them of their bodily integrity or security of person and possessions. But, I can debate them to my heart’s content, I can disagree with them, I can resist their efforts to restrain my own freedoms or to demoralize me, and I can even repudiate them and execrate them if they think it is their right and obligation to harm or intimidate me or other queer people. (And, I have and I do, regularly!) […] There is, then, the question of polytheism itself, and whether or not it can tolerate monotheism or monism as other potential “truths.” I would argue that it cannot and it need not, because both of those viewpoints invalidate the basis of polytheism, and thus the experiential core that almost every polytheist upholds and responds to in their theological position as a polytheist. Monotheism and monism cannot be given equal credence as “truths” (or “truth,” as they’d probably prefer it!) because they do not allow for pluralism of divine experiences, or for the diversity of approach and ways of life necessary to nature as we understand it to exist at present.” – P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, on how polytheism is not relativism.

Annika Mongan

Annika Mongan

“Many Pagans are former Christians. Those of us who converted from Christianity generally have Christian friends and family praying that we will “repent” and “come back.” We’re seen as prodigals on the wrong path who will realize our error and return to the Christian church. Sometimes the pressure is tremendous, especially where family is involved. We find strength in our Pagan community. We sometimes deal with the pressure by feeding our own us-vs-them mentality. We tell each other how much better our new path is and how glad we are to be done with Christianity. And then one of our own leaves our ranks and does exactly what we vowed we’d never do: “coming back” to Christianity. […] As a Pagan I value pluralism. I value diversity. I believe that divinity is expressed in many forms and that we all understand Spirit differently. We have hard polytheists, monists, pantheists, syncretists, and atheists in our midst. We have endless debates on who is a “real” Pagan and who isn’t, and in the end we still find ourselves under the same umbrella. The Christo-Pagan debate has been getting old for a while now and yet the movement continues to grow. Are we really afraid of Christianity or are we worried about exclusivity? Are we so worried about exclusivity that we exclude Christians from the interfaith table because we fear they might be exclusive? Do we recognize irony when it slaps us in the face?” – Annika Mongan, penning an open letter to Teo Bishop concerning his recent re-engagement with the figure of Jesus.

Peter Dybing

Peter Dybing

“Peace, it’s a word that has been redefined over the centuries to meet the needs of the cultures that seek it. Peace through strength, peace through protest, peace through conquest, and peace through the struggle to compromise have each had multiple turns upon the world stage. Inner peace has been sought through retreat, meditation, visualization, the quest for insight and service. All worthy pursuits that add to the totality of the human experience. Peace in our time, however, depends on an inner journey that confronts the closely held beliefs, privilege and prejudices that permeate the human condition. Directly stated, peace depends upon the individual human potential to abolish the concept of “the other” from our daily lives. Until the day comes, for each of us, that there is no individual beyond deserving respect, human dignity and a voice in their own destiny there will be no peace in our hearts, in our society or upon the face of Gaia herself. Sounds like a simple process to achieve such a lofty goal doesn’t it? Not really, for each of us there are those beyond being acceptable in our society. What I am referring to is not simply the political, religious and socio economic divides that separate us but something deeper. It is confronting the idea of “the other” in the most extreme ways. Coming to a place where the most heinous of criminals, terrorists, religious fanatics and bigots are seen as a part of the greater whole, fully human, deserving of human dignity and engagement in social discourse.” – Peter Dybing, on peace and abolishing the ‘other’.

John Beckett

John Beckett

“What can Pagans offer the world? Not Paganism the religion(s) but all of us who call ourselves Pagans. What can we offer individually? What can we offer in our covens and groves and other groups? As an individual blogger this is an easy question. I write what the Awen brings to me, I write what interests me, and I write what I’m doing. If you like something I write, great – enjoy reading it. Hopefully you’ll walk away better informed and maybe better inspired. If you really like it, maybe you’ll leave a comment and we’ll explore the matter in greater depth. If you don’t like it, maybe you’ll like my next post… and ultimately, there are plenty of other bloggers to read. The question gets more complicated with a group. Now you’re not just dealing with one person’s thoughts and needs and desires, you’re dealing with several. If the group is public, you’re also dealing with the needs of people who aren’t even in the room. What does your group offer? Who do you offer it to? […]  I encourage you to have an intentional conversation about what you can offer.  What is part of your group’s core identity – what do you feel like you must do?  What are the needs of your members – both what they need to receive and what they need to give?  What are the needs of your community and how can you help meet them?  What are the goddesses and gods you follow calling you to do? Then figure out what your capacity is – how much of this can you actually do?” – John Beckett, on what Pagans can offer the world.

Aidan Kelly in younger days.

Aidan Kelly in younger days.

“A viable balance between politics and religion is as difficult to achieve and maintain as is such a balance between the partners in a marriage. Neither too close nor too distant will work in the long run. Here I will argue that Paganism and Socialism are compatible partners, by means of a commentary on the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence, to show that we are socialist, and on the Bill of Rights, to show that, in the broadest sense, we are Pagan. One logistical problem here is that the term ”socialism” has been poisoned by the lies of the rich and powerful, just as the actual teachings of Christian faith have been. The classic socialism of the Enlightenment period was simply the concept that a society should be governed for the benefit of all the people who make it up, not for the benefit of any minority, as Lincoln emphasized at Gettysburg. That concept, which Jefferson derived from John Locke’s Second Treatise on Government, is the foundation of our political system. We have been socialists since 1776. Our social philosophy is embodied not in the Constitution, but in the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence, which declared our independence not only from the British Empire, but also from the “dead hand” of all previous religious, philosophical, and political beliefs. Ours was not merely a political revolution. The colonists did not want to govern themselves in the way that England had governed them. Rather, ours was a social and cultural revolution, changing even the way people spoke and still speak: everyone would now be addressed with the respectful ‘you,’ not the familial ‘thou.'” – Aidan Kelly, on the Pagan and socialist nature of the Untied States of America.

T. Thorn Coyle

T. Thorn Coyle

“The corporate world – when it bothers to pay attention – speaks of “life/work balance.” As if life and work were two separate and opposing forces. They are not. Just the phrase is a problem. We do it with many things: “sacred and mundane”. “Magical life and real life.” We speak in these binaries as though magical life cannot be real, or as though work is not a healthy part of life. We are tearing ourselves apart for no reason. What sort of life would you like to lead? What sort of life would remind you that every part of life is important, magical, and sacred? What things can you let go? For me, my life includes rest, reading, exercise, clients, writing, students, activism, good food, work, music, sitting under trees, bicycling, sex, friends, spiritual practice…Every day includes a healthy measure of most, and every week includes the remainder. All the parts of my self need to be fed. All the parts of myself need reminders that they are important facets of the whole. Exercise is just as important as spiritual practice is just as important as meeting with spiritual direction clients. I spend different amounts of time on each of these, but they all weave into the whole. It took me a long time and some reframing to get here. I still work a lot, but there is a more useful sense of flow among all the aspects of my life, less of a sense of separation. What feels important to you? What would feel healthy and nourishing to include? What would it feel liberating to let go of? What sort of life do you lead and what life are you hoping to craft? Stop thinking of life balance and start pondering life integration. Manifestation will follow.” – T. Thorn Coyle, on the life/work balance, and integration.

Eric Scott

Eric Scott

“In THE DARK WORLD, after a little bit of naked exposition (obviously reminiscent of the prologue to Peter Jackson’s Fellowship of the Ring), we are able to get right into it: the Nine Worlds exist, and we get to visit quite a few of them. (There’s even a scene in Vanaheim, which is traditionally the most boringest plane of existence in Marvel Asgard.) There’s very little apologizing for the fantastic elements in this film; there’s no self-consciousness in the Asgard scenes. Design-wise, this film embraces the “science fantasy” aesthetic even more than previous installments have: I can see a lot of STAR WARS in this film. And this completely works! While easily lampooned as Vikings… in… spaaaaaaace!, I found the design of both Asgard and the Dark Elves’ weaponry, armor, and space ships to be delightfully imaginative. They have flying longships, folks, complete with shields hanging off the sides. The settings are equally impressive: Svartalfheim (simply called “The Dark World” in the film because, well, Svartalfheim doesn’t quite roll off the tongue) is a sepia-skied waste of black sand, Vanaheim is a rugged wilderness, and Asgard continues in its golden glory We get a much better picture of the relationships between Thor and his companions, only sometimes filtered through a surrogate like Jane Foster. This leads to some great scenes, particularly between Thor and Heimdall; Idris Elba doesn’t spend an enormous amount of time on-screen, but he adds considerable depth to his character. Really, all of the Asgardians get moments to shine, especially Rene Russo’s Frigga. (And of course, Tom Hiddleston steals the show as Loki, but that was to be expected at this point.) Christopher Eccleston’s villain, Malekith, remains at a distance – he’s good enough for the story, but his scenes won’t leave you with the kind of attachment you might have felt for Loki at the end of the first film.” – Eric Scott, giving his initial impressions of the film “Thor: The Dark World.”

Holli S. Emore

Holli S. Emore

“The military as an example of daily interfaith relations? Never having been a soldier, it had not occurred to me, but that’s one of the things I heard at a remarkable meeting this week at the U.S. Armed Forces Chaplains School and Center, here in Columbia, S.C., at Fort Jackson. The Chaplains School was hosting the annual meeting of Interfaith Partners of S.C., and “host” would be an  understatement for the outstanding experience they provided. From the time I parked my car across the street I was greeted by chaplain-soldiers about every 100 yards who made sure I found my way to the meeting hall. Inside they had put up a lovely display of religious materials and mementos of various military interfaith gatherings around the world, plus, beautifully-presented refreshments. While the Navy chaplains had a conflict and could not join us that day, the room was full of Army and Air Force chaplains, many of them instructors at the school, who bustled around making us feel welcome as we arrived. The welcome included name tags and nice table tents, two official photographers, and a local television news camera in the corner. […] Cherry Hill Seminary received several favorable and public mentions, which bodes well for potential future engagement with the Chaplain School. Since CHS is beginning to work on an application to the Department of Defense to have our Master of Divinity recognized as equivalent to that of other accredited schools, it is very helpful for me to learn more about the culture of military chaplaincy and its educational requirements. Also gratifying was to hear several chaplains share their encounters with Pagans in uniform. It was a great day to be out of the broom closet, because Paganism was most certainly not invisible in this crowd, and received equal respect with all the other religions.” – Holli Emore, on interfaith and the U.S. Armed Forces.

That’s all I have for now, my best wishes to you all on this Veterans Day.

Pagan Voices is a regular feature here at The Wild Hunt, one that seeks to highlight our voices, wisdom, debates, thought processes, and evolution in the public eye. If you enjoy this regular round-up, please consider donating to our Fall Funding Drive (and thank you to the over 200 supporters who have already donated). Now, onward…

Vivianne Crowley

Vivianne Crowley

“Why does consciousness awareness bring such pain? As a species we have become god-like in our ability to create the world in which we live and to be aware of our own existence. We have become as the gods; but we do not become gods. Unlike gods, we have frail physical bodies. We have the self-awareness of the divine, but the fragility of a beautiful flower that blooms for only a short time before it is blown away on the wind. We may incarnate again but the ‘I’ that exists now, formed by genetic inheritance and the experiences of this current lifetime, is transitory. Our consciousness and sense of self are dependent on the physical brain and one day that brain will no longer function. This knowledge can cause us anguish and despair – it is difficult to let go of the self that we have always known – or we can acknowledge and accept our destiny and value this incarnation all the more because it is so short. Time passes, youth fades, illness and ageing come. This is the fate of all us, a shared human ending. Even the richest of us like Steve Jobs cannot escape the inevitability of death.” – Vivianne Crowley, on death, and beyond, from a Pagan context.

Peter Dybing

Peter Dybing

“Many individuals in our community seek to expand their practice and network of contacts by sticking exclusively to theological pursuits ignoring the connections our beliefs have with the environmental, political and social issues of the day. Such an approach, while minimizing the potential for discord, leads to a ‘Pagan light’ approach to daily practice. For an activist, the spiritual is political, personal and weaved fully into our understanding of our path. If this is so, how do we avoid the many conflicts that arise from our activities? The simple answer is we don’t. If our beliefs and actions lead to strife among our co-religionists, it is a reflection of our effectiveness in pursuing our deity inspired concepts of social justice. At the center of this divergence is the ability to hold those within our circles with whom we disagree in what I term ‘Sacred Regard’ as teachers, clarifiers of our path and respected seekers on their own journey.” – Peter Dybing, on activism, acceptance, and approval within the Pagan community.

Chas Clifton

Chas Clifton

“Most people do not fight over theology anyway. Theology is often just a group marker, “us versus them.” The theological claims themselves are secondary. People fight for their group more than “for the gods,” perhaps. People will change religion for a variety of reasons—to get along with a spouse’s family, to gain or to retain their social status (the Roman senatorial class), or to avoid having their heads chopped off… An “organic” Pagan society is the dream of many, but as Things Fall Apart illustrates, such a society can be transformed within one generation.  I do, of course, consider both the traditional Igbo and the fourth-century Romans to be Pagan, using the term as we now define it. There is no other choice when “traditional religion goes global” either, as the recent New York Times piece about a West African traditional priest working in New York City described. When geographical and cultural boundaries are crossed, we need a “global” descriptor. Can we construct a theology — or is it part of Pagan theology today — to say that the gods fight their own battles?” – Chas Clifton, on why the Pagans did not fight for their gods, and some reflections on that idea.

Cat Chapin-Bishop

Cat Chapin-Bishop

“I read the part describing the admission fee–$30 per person–and I thought, No.  This is just not right. I’ve been trying to put my finger on why that is.  It feels important to me to find words for this. It’s not disrespect for Penczak.  It’s not that I think it’s an unreasonable fee–there are travel costs, and the guy deserves to earn money for his time. It’s not an objection to teachers being paid–heaven knows, as a public school teacher, I’m in favor paychecks going to those who skillfully communicate knowledge.  I think it’s that what I would be looking for, in meeting Penczak, would not be knowledge, but rather, that deeper thing: an exchange of wisdom.  It is my experience that there are kinds of spiritual wisdom that cannot be had in any way other than an exchange, and an exchange between equals between peers.  And not only is is potentially charged for me to assert that I am the peer of someone whose work is widely known, I think it’s also true that the relationship of one peer to another, outside of the closed and narrow world of individual covens or traditions, is one that nothing in the Pagan world is set up to foster. […] My point is something about the Pagan movement as a whole: we don’t do peer relationships well.” – Cat Chapin-Bishop, on peer relationships, and the lack thereof, within the Pagan community.

Sam Webster (with Herm), photo by Tony Mierzwicki.

Sam Webster

“It is vitally important that we rebuild the cults of the Gods. These become the pillars supporting all we build thereafter. (Re-)Establishing and cultivating our connections to the Gods with regular offerings and feasts brings Their powers and presences deeply into our lives. This is what was taken away from our forebears by Christianity and Islam, and with the same urgency as they were destroyed, we need to restore the ancient practice. Places consecrated to the Gods and activated through offerings radiate Their blessings into the world about about them and into the lives of those who worship. Our culture’s lack of alignment with the Gods is a fundamental dimension to our self-destruction. Without cultivating pluralism, without honoring the Many and the Particular, we will continue our descent into barbarity. Mostly I would expect Pagans to come and worship in the restored cults, although if open enough others—not Pagan, or not yet Pagan—will come join us to eat and drink with the Gods. But we need a more outward-facing strategy: we need to rebuild the Mysteries.” – Sam Webster, on how a Pagan restoration can save the world.

T. Thorn Coyle

T. Thorn Coyle

“When the paramedics came, they asked her a few questions. She requested that she be able to take her food to go. I quickly packed up some bread and salad, but couldn’t find an extra jar for soup. Some other guests at her table helped. When I returned with the food, the paramedics were getting her up, one on each side. This next part is what killed me, and is the reason I’m writing this down: She immediately put her hands behind her back, wrist over wrist, awaiting handcuffs. One of the paramedics said, “You don’t have to do that. We’re not the cops. We’re paramedics.” I followed behind, with her food bag, talking with one of the women holding a clipboard. I explained about the HIV and meds. I gave her name. The entire time I walked behind her, she held her hands in that handcuffed position. She had asked for help the only way she knew how – by laying across the food counter. She had wanted the paramedics to come. Yet part of her knew, just knew, she was being arrested. Hands behind her back. Wrist over wrist. It felt like a tragedy to me. What sort of life has she lived so far that even in asking for and receiving help, she expected punishment? And how do we do this to ourselves? What boxes are we living in? What shadows? What do our bodies know that we can’t even speak of? What punishment, or rejection, or pain waits coiled inside? How can we help ourselves heal?” – T. Thorn Coyle, on tragedy and healing.

Carol P. Christ

Carol P. Christ

“According to retired anthropological archaeologist Dean Snow, the handprints made by Paleolithic ancestors 40,000-20,000 years ago may have been made primarily by women. Snow spent a decade gathering and analyzing photographs of the handprints left in caves. The scientific fact that women’s first and ring fingers are generally of the same length, while men’s ring fingers are generally longer their index fingers, led him to the conclusion that ¾ of the handprints in the caves were made by women! If women were painting their hands on the caves in larger numbers than men, then isn’t likely that they were also painting the images of the great beasts on the walls of the caves? This is Snow’s conclusion.  The article states that Snow’s findings contradict the widely held theory that male hunters were the sole creators of the cave paintings of the Paleolithic caves such as Lascaux and Chauvet. Feminist interpreters of the cave paintings have long noted that pregnant animals which no hunter would ever kill are also portrayed on the walls of the caves. This suggests a wider purpose for cave rituals than hunting magic. Still, comfortable assumptions that support widely held gender stereotypes are not easily dislodged. ‘Man the hunter’ remains the popular image of ‘cave man,’ while the image of ‘cave woman’ being pulled by her hair by ‘cave man’ sticks in the mind. Despite decades of feminist theorizing about caves as the womb of the Great Mother, Snow refused to speculate about the meanings ‘cave women’ might have given to the images within the caves. Could it be that he had never even encountered the idea that the cave symbolizes the womb of Mother Earth? Did this idea simply not ‘make sense’ to him? Is the idea of expressing gratitude to the Source of Life alien to him?  Or did he have difficulty imagining that the Source of Life is located in the earth–not in heaven?” – Carol P. Christ, on women artists and ritualists in great caves.

Alyxander Folmer

Alyxander Folmer

“I find the practice of Apologetic argument execrable. Apologetics don’t lead to conversation, and they don’t facilitate respectful exchange. Instead, they make a declaration and then reject anything that may contradict that statement. This is the opposite of everything modern logical thought and scientific practice has taught us. The scientific method teaches us to observe, gather as much relevant information as possible, and form a conclusion based on that evidence. In the case of the debate in question, this means finding a common definition of the term “Christian” and then speaking with Mormons to determine if they do or do not fit that definition. In the method of Apologetics, one chooses a conclusion and then finds sources that support it. In this case, the predetermined conclusion was “NO!”, which the writer supported by quoting authors and ideologues that agreed with them, while also refusing to listen to any details that might disprove their preferred answer.” – Alyxander Folmer, making his feelings plain on apologetic arguments.

That’s all I have for now, please remember to support The Wild Hunt during our Fall Funding Drive so that we can continue to spotlight intriguing, provocative, and informative voices from our interconnected communities!

Peter Dybing

Peter Dybing

“While I have great respect for printed publications,  I am also an information addict. Within our community we have witnessed the emergence of a professional, consistent and ethical Pagan media. Part of my daily ritual has become checking in with The Wild Hunt, a media outlet at the forefront of providing information to our community. […] As a Pagan Activist there is no more valuable resource than this site. How about you? How often do you read the Wild Hunt? Would you feel informed about the Pagan community in its’ absence?  Do you think, as I do, that it weaves the web of our community together? It is my sincere hope that all Pagans will never have to suffer from the lack of information, both present and background, that past generations have. We as a community need to support this outstanding organization. Obviously, all this does not happen in a vacuum. It takes funds and committed people to make it happen. I urge you to support the Wild Hunt and its’ staff of professional writers. They represent the best of what our community is manifesting.” – Peter Dybing, on gratitude and his information addiction.

Today is the beginning of the second week of our Fall Funding Drive. This is the annual event in which this site raises the money it needs to pay its contributors, hosting fees, and other costs associated with keeping this site up and running for another year. I’m happy to say that in the first week we have nearly reached 60% of our $10,000 goal! Thank you!

funding_larger

The money raised so far, nearly $6000 dollars, came from just 162 amazing donors. Imagine what we can do if just a tiny percentage of our regular readers gave just a little. So I’m sending out a proposal to long-time readers who may be shy about donating, or who think they need to be able to afford a big-dollar donation to make a difference. If 1000 readers, and I know we have many more than that, gave just $5 (which would qualify them for our new “pack” perk) we would not only reach our goal, but surpass it. I’m calling it “5 FOR 1000,” and I hope you’ll be a part of it. Throughout the rest of the drive, I’ll be sending out special shout-outs to new donors, and I encourage everyone to help us spread the word so we can hit our goal! Here’s the IndieGoGo campaign link again: http://igg.me/at/2013-fall-funding-drive/x/497880

Now, here are some more Pagan Voices to round out this Monday morning post.

Jason Mankey

Jason Mankey

“It often feels as if we Pagans are far more likely to share an article that undermines Christianity than we are to share something written by Pagans for Pagans. That bothers me as a Pagan writer of course, but it also bothers me as a Pagan because I feel as if it hurts Pagandom long term […] What bothers me the most about a Pagnadom far more interested in talking about Christianity than Paganism is that I feel we are losing a big opportunity. We’re losing a chance to better understand each other. Since the conversation is more about ‘why they are wrong’ instead of ‘why this is right for me,’ I’m missing the chance to hear my sisters and brothers talking about how they experience ritual and the gods. Think of all the new traditions and rites that we might come up with if we were more focused on us instead of them! When I’m around the campfire I desperately want to talk about Pagan things! I want to discuss The Long Lost Friend, magick, Gerald Gardner, Aphrodite, and a whole host of other topics far removed from Christianity.” – Jason Mankey, encouraging Pagans to talk about Paganism, and not the latest Christian controversy.

Taylor Ellwood

Taylor Ellwood

“Cultural appropriation is the wholesale stealing of a given culture’s practices. The reason people do it may be a result of feeling disconnected from the culture they are in or identifying spirituality as only residing in the cultural practices of the culture they are appropriating from. Regardless of what the reason is, such appropriation ultimately creates a mockery of the original practices, because while the person might steal away the practices, s/he can never truly know the culture. S/he is always interpreting the other culture through the lens of his/her own culture. One of the grey areas in this kind of discussions involves the choice to study a given culture’s practices. I likely fit into that gray area. I study Tibetan and Taoist meditation practices. I am not of the cultures where those practices originated and I don’t try to be. I study those practices to learn from them and implement them in my life, without trying to identify with the culture. It’s a grey area, because I’m not trying to appropriate the overall culture and pretend to be something I’m not, but I am learning and practicing from that culture’s spiritual practices. However, I think that such learning can fit into cultural exchange if it is done respectfully and with an intention to respect the original culture without trying to become part of it.” – Taylor Ellwood, on cultural exchange vs. cultural appropriation.

Donald Michael Kraig

Donald Michael Kraig

“Although I agree with Mr. Ellwood’s conclusions, we have some disagreements over the details that get there. He states that ‘[c]ultural appropriation is the wholesale stealing of a given culture’s practices.’ I respectfully disagree. For example, if someone who was not of a particular culture immersed himself or herself into the practices of that culture, and then authentically brought the entire thing, ‘wholesale,’ to a wider audience, I would respect that. In fact, I would think that most people brought up in that culture would love to see an authentic presentation of the beliefs and practices of their culture brought with integrity to a larger audience. The problem with cultural appropriation is that it specifically doesn’t bring a culture’s practices to a wider audience in a wholesale and authentic way. Instead, cultural appropriation steals sections of culture’s beliefs and practices, often blending them with practices foreign to that culture, and presents it as being the totality of that culture’s system. In my opinion, what makes cultural appropriation a horrible thing is not that it exposes the traditions of a different culture, but that it tries to blend in a bit of that culture with other concepts and presents it to the public as an authentic representation of the original culture. Some people put on buckskin, go to a Native American Pow-Wow, pray to the ‘Great Spirit,’ and think they’re following ‘the’ Native American path.” – Donald Michael Kraig, responding to Taylor Ellwood on the subject of cultural appropriation.

Sam Webster (with Herm), photo by Tony Mierzwicki.

Sam Webster

“For me, those who empower or inspire from the past are just that, the past. At the beginning of every ritual I ‘Take Refuge’ as the Buddhists call it, invoking the causal influence and beneficent intent of all those who have gone before me to bless and empower the work to come. It is a very powerful way to start a ritual and at times I even consciously include my ancestors as ‘those from whom I have learned’. But, most of the time, they are just part of the Divine Host that I call upon for aid and support. Likewise, when working a spell or blessing, I attune to the causal stream of everything that has lead to the moment of the working, essentially all of the Past, feel it as a wavefront building up ‘behind’ me and then bring it to bear on the intent being worked. I guess my ancestors are part of all that but I’m usually just concentrating on the time-stream and using my lived-moment like a lens to focus the past into the present to make an effective now and thereby change the future. Why wouldn’t I focus all the the past, animate and inanimate, material and immaterial, not just that part that is my ancestors? You might say that I’m working with my ancestors, but from within the frame of a much larger set of ‘resources’.” – Sam Webster, on ancestor worship and dealing with the dead.

Anomalous Thracian

Anomalous Thracian

“Mediumship, possession, divination, oracular trance, are all examples of forms of communication with the other-than-human external forces of creation and otherwise. But even the most mechanical of these (e.g. those which utilize the manipulation and interpretation of physical tools or items to divine the messages of the divine) carry the risk of our own unexamined “crap” coming up into the lenses through which we view these messages. For all the people who espouse faux-Jungian terminology around “shadow work” and doing their “inner work”, very few actually seem to have done so in measured, field-tested form. Who amongst us can confidently answer questions about the contents of our own hearts? Not peace-loving fluffy, comfortable ideas, or Eastern-appropriated ideas of disentanglement from the material considerations of the world, but real and genuine expressions of our own needs, desires, fears, limitations, values, edges, or motives? This is work that is never done, never complete, because we ourselves are never done and never complete and instead are constantly upon and within a grand and damned spectrum and continuum of change, growth, relapse, regression, failure, fault, and fear and forgiveness for all of it, pitted against guilt-shame-denial-repression-borne compensatory-reactions against ourselves and anything and everyone that would dare to come between us and that which we refuse to see within ourselves. And yet our gods are here to guide us toward traditions and techniques and processes of illumination.” – Anomalous Thracian, on the importance of listening and responding.

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

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

Patrick McCollum with Jane Goodall.

Patrick McCollum with Jane Goodall.

“Jane Goodall and I had the rare opportunity to steal away from the cameras and people … literally retreating into a stairwell with security blocking the doorway so we could have a moment alone. We talked about our common work and made plans and commitments to work together and support one another going forward. Like me, Jane travels so much that it is just not possible for either of us to cover the whole world, and since my work is really growing in India, I agreed to share her message along with mine when I speak there as I am there more often than her. We also discussed my traveling to Africa and connecting with her projects there also, which dovetails well with other requests for me to share my work globally. The bottom line for both of us is our mutual recognition that there will not be peace in the world until we as humans recognize our interconnectedness with all sentient and non-sentient beings, and take responsibility to promote equality not only between races and cultures, but also between species. It is a huge job, but as I’ve always said, and Jane concurs; It starts by putting one foot in front of another and simply stepping up to the task at hand. The rest will be up to forces and responses beyond our control … and perhaps even beyond our comprehension. Yet like her, I fully believe peace is possible, and so together, we continue to take the first step.”Patrick McCollum, describing a moment he shared with famous British anthropologist and peace activist Jane Goodall at the UN’s International Day of Peace ceremony.

Sam Webster (with Herm), photo by Tony Mierzwicki.

Sam Webster

“Magic-users know that every problem invokes its own solution. I submit that we Pagans were invoked into existence by the crisis humanity is undergoing right now. We are especially suited as the catalyst that will reify a successful future for humanity. […] There is a secret power in us that make us especially unique to this culture and this time. While we are a new florescence of religious life, we have reclaimed and built ourselves of the rejected, forgotten, suppressed and oppressed parts of Western culture. We have even taken as ours an ancient name of calumny: Pagan. This tells me that we are the Shadow of Western Civilization.  It is to the Shadow that we must turn, when all of our conscious and socially acceptable modes of behavior have failed. In the Shadow is what we need. From the Shadow comes renewal. We, Pagan folk, are the children of the Shadow. And this is why they, the Established ones, fear us, and they rightly do: for I assert that we have the power to bring about the end of the unjust and unsustainable ways of our global civilization, and those who are invested in defending those injustices know in their hearts we can. Will we step up?” – Sam Webster, on why Pagans can save the world.

Peter Dybing

Peter Dybing

“Stated plainly, in the Goddess I find kindness, sympathy, caring, concern and charity. In my choice to worship her I have chosen to worship that which I believe can manifest the type of world I want to live in. Imagine with me for a moment a world where international conflicts were settled with peace, compassion, communication and a deep understanding that we are all some mothers’ children. Further, conceive if you can a professional world where competition, politics, conflict and profit were set aside in favor of the grater good for employees, customers, or co-workers. For me it is beyond reason that such a world could manifest being lead by masculine principles. For century’s we have had our chance, the result has been suffering, war, poverty and oppression. Am I proud to be a man? Yes I am proud to be a man who understands that the feminine traits buried within me need to be nurtured, expressed and held as an example of being a responsible citizen of this world. While I incorporate male Gods into the pantheon I worship, make no mistake, it is the Goddess and all she represents as the sacred feminine that sits atop of my personal concept of deity.” – Peter Dybing, on men and the Goddess.

Morpheus Ravenna

Morpheus Ravenna

“Today I re-started my daily practice. I have to do this all the time, because I’m actually terrible at it. I love ritual, and I do it often, but I’m terrible at keeping to a daily, disciplined practice routine. Readers who don’t know me well might imagine that as a fighter, a spiritual teacher and a dedicated priestess of the Morrígan, I must have a thorough and disciplined daily practice that I never miss. Yes, I do have a daily practice, but I have to work as hard as anybody at actually doing it every day. I think this is true for a lot of people: daily practice is kind of like balancing on a rope. You’re almost never standing in perfect grace; instead, you’re constantly correcting back toward center from the myriad of forces that constantly push and sway you off balance. Maybe sometimes you fall off the rope altogether and have to take a break. If you do it for long enough, the corrections you have to make come smaller and easier, and maybe you aren’t falling off any more.” – Morpheus Ravenna, on starting again at day one in a daily spiritual practice.

Good Hutton Pic

Ronald Hutton

“It suddenly holds my attention, sometimes because I read a critical text or attend a critical event, and sometimes by more of a process of accretion. An example of the first: I read through Mary Stewart’s Merlin novels in hospital in 2004 when undergoing surgery and starting to recover from it, and those inspired me to look closely at paganism in modern Arthurian fiction, on which I published an article a few years later. An example of the second: my girlfriend held a residential weekend in 2009 dedicated to fairy lore, and my reading up on that interested me in research from which I have just written an article. An example of the third: when I was fourteen, my class at school all had to write a project on the English Civil War, at about the same time at which I read a popular biography of the Cavalier hero Prince Rupert, and that summer I went on holiday in South Wales and began to notice that the castles which I visited had all played parts in the war. That got me hooked, and ten years later I wrote up my PhD thesis on the Cavaliers in Wales and the West Midlands, which became my first book and launched my career.” – Historian Ronald Hutton, on what inspires him to take on a subject.

Carl Llewellyn Weschcke with author John Michael Greer

Carl Llewellyn Weschcke

“We are all Spirit Communicators—all the time unconsciously broadcasting all kinds of “messages” to the Universe, and all the time unconsciously receiving messages from the Universe that is everything and everybody, including you and me. It’s not just the visible “out there” Sun and Moon and distant Stars, nor the invisible spirits in higher dimensions; we too are spirit. Inner and Outer, we all are made of the same stuff, at the foundation of which is Spirit, the universal “subtle element” that is the source of all the other elements manifesting in both visible and invisible dimensions and both inner and outer levels.  We, and everything physical and non-physical, all possess “spiritual” qualities and are, in fact, mostly composites of physical/ethericastralmentalcausal; and spiritual substance, spiritual energy, and spiritual consciousness. Each living person incarnates Body, Mind, and Spirit, and Feeling, Will, and Purpose within a single multi-level vehicle. Each person is a “power house” of near infinite potential, but, most people are barely “awake” at the physical level of conscious awareness, and have little control over the non-physical levels of feeling, thought, and will. Our bodies are alive at the deepest and most minutequanta levels, where we are constantly broadcasting messages from and between body cells and organs, and radiating it all from inner selves to all selves everywhere.” – Carl Llewellyn Weschcke, proclaiming that we are all spirit communicators, all the time.

Ruadhán J McElroy

Ruadhán J McElroy

“Racism is the gigantic elephant in the room for traditional polytheism — too many use their religious practices as an excuse for racism and vice-versa.  While, true, Heathenry has the biggest reputation for racism, here’s the thing:  There is not a single recon religion without its racist baggage in some form.  I’ve met Neonazi Celtic Recons passing out literature at the Celtic Festival in Saline, Michigan, back when I was in high school.  In more recent years, I’ve seen Hellenists in North America describe Hellenismos as ‘kinda like Asatru, but for the Greek pantheon and, best of all — no Nazis! ^_^’ and then ten minutes later encounter Hellenic polytheists from all over the globe say some of the most appallingly racist filth.  Hell, at least the LaVeyans and Boyd Rice fanboys I used to hang with during my misspent youth had the decency to try and hide it. This is an issue that is a HUGE deal to me, for lots of reasons. […] I’m a Mod and Ska DJ, and I’ve been involved with a couple S.H.A.R.P. protests — no-one calls out racism like a skinhead, le me tell you (no, really, follow that link), and we called it out. That’s the ideology I’ve maintained, even when i couldn’t do much else:  When bad things happen, call it out.  Call it out repeatedly, if you need to.  If you did it, learn and change.  If some-one you care about does it, help them to learn and change.” – Ruadhán J McElroy, on calling out racism within reconstructionist polytheism.

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

“Too many reviewers and potential readers have been or might be put off by some of Grey’s ideas because they are radical in their condemnation of many of the excesses of modern (and particularly industrialized, technologized, and commercialized and consumerist) life, and may get stuck with those difficulties while ignoring or missing the more interesting and potentially revolutionary aspects of Grey’s work as a result.  I invite anyone who does read ‘Apocalyptic Witchcraft’ to put those concerns as far aside as possible while they consider his manifesto — indeed, his work reads that way at points, in a passionate and poetic fashion, and pages 14 to 17 are a thirty-three point ‘Manifesto of Apocalyptic Witchcraft.’ To use a hackneyed phrase, Peter Grey is interested in restoring the cultus and practice of witchcraft in the modern world as a practice of ‘sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll’; the only difference is that by ‘rock ‘n’ roll,’ Grey’s book tends to mean ‘poetry,’ but otherwise, ‘sex’ and ‘drugs’ should be brought back, brought forward, and brought out far more than they have been or should have been in more recent decades.  Further, the cleaning-up of the public image of witchcraft and the distancing of itself from some of these things which the overculture has considered unpalatable should be avoided at all costs, and an unapologetic approach should be taken to these matters wherever they might arise.  I think this is a laudable goal, and one that I can agree with on most points (and where I differ does not matter for the purposes of this review).” – P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, reviewing Peter Grey’s “Apocalyptic Witchcraft.”

T. Thorn Coyle

T. Thorn Coyle

“People are starving. People need education. People are being killed on the streets and in their homes. People are being killed by drones, from the sky. People need clean water. People need beauty. The world is out of balance, the Divine Twins of generosity and greed are both present, but too often these days, the Twin of greed seems to be holding sway. “…despite recent turbulent economic times, demand for super yachts has remained steady” reports Luxury Society. We know the other stories, too: the cost of celebrity weddings, money which could provide clean drinking water for a million children. The U.S. Government selling arms to dictatorships all over the world, making a profit from oppression. 500 prisoners in California having spent 10 years in solitary confinement. War veterans getting their food stamps taken away… And yet, last week when I asked people to share the ways in which they engage in mutual aid, all sorts of answers came in: donating to food banks, working in a mental health clinic, offering emotional support to friends, setting up barter economy, growing and sharing food, volunteering at domestic violence shelters, doing drug counseling, offering showers and meals to young people in their neighborhood.” – T. Thorn Coyle, on building hope.

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

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

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

“If atheists now begin targeting practice as the problematic element in religion generally speaking, rather than belief and the insistence upon it and intolerance of variations within it, then we are really going to get into an “uh oh” situation for pagans, as well as people of many other religions (e.g. Shinto, Hinduism) very quickly. We’ve been able to fly under the radar for a while because we are a minority religion. The U.S. is probably one of the great bastions of atheism, apart from perhaps the U.K., Australia, Canada, and perhaps France and a few Northern European countries, despite what some atheists in those countries complain about in terms of being an oppressed or suppressed minority. Paganism and these other religions have generally not been as much in the spotlight in popular culture in the U.S., and thus are not taken as “seriously” even as religions at all in comparison to the “big three” monotheistic religions. Does increased visibility for our religions also run the risk of therefore increased critique? (Of course it does, that’s obvious…but, this particular variety of critique is a relatively new thing, to my knowledge.) So, what do you think? Is this something to legitimately worry about and be cautious of, or do you think that due to the tendency of all religion–by the non-religious, atheists, and religious people alike in the U.S.–to be understood strictly as creedal in basis and being discussed and phrased in those terms most often, will end up deflecting and downplaying this particular study’s impact and the opinions drawn from it? Will the context of Middle Eastern monotheistic religions make it less likely that people will then generalize those findings to other non-creedal religions? Will the nature of paganism and polytheism as decentralized religions, where “preaching” and such do not play a role in most public rituals and communal gatherings, give us a rare exception in which some other religions of practice may still find difficulties?” – P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, reacting to an atheist’s essay on Patheos that targets ritual and practice, rather than orthodoxy and belief, as the problem of/with religion.

Sunweaver

Sunweaver

“I’m going to make a comparison here that might be a little unusual, but bear with me. Gerald Gardner had something in common with Mary Baker Eddy in that both understood the strength, power, and magick a woman can hold. Our Christian Science friends would not refer to what they do as magick, but healing through prayer translates as such to me. At any rate, Wicca specifically, Paganisms generally, and the Church of Christ, Science have, at their core, this idea of the power of women and that continues to be reflected in the leadership of those respective faiths today. But in the past fifteen or so years, I have seen a shift in the gender balance of the clergy. In short, at least in my own small community, more males have been called to serve as clergy. While females still vastly outnumber males and those outside the gender binary are very small in number, it seems to me that there are more priests than there used to be. We’re also gravitating toward being mainstream. We’re not there yet, but being Wiccan isn’t nearly as big of a deal as it was even twenty years ago, though other Paganisms are still widely unknown or misunderstood. I would love to see a good balance of priests and priestesses as Paganisms grow, but are we going to move from a vastly woman-led movement to established male-dominated religions? I really don’t think that’s going to happen and I really don’t think more men in leadership roles is necessarily a bad thing.” – Sunweaver, Pagan interfaith clergyperson, on what Gerald Gardner and Mary Baker Eddy have in common.

Rodney Orpheus

Rodney Orpheus

“So what differentiates a Serious Thelemite from all us other non-serious Thelemites? I think most Serious Thelemites would say that it is that they take a very orthodox, fundamentalist position on Thelema, by appealing directly to the writings of Aleister Crowley; and the strong rejection of anything contradictory to that, especially viewpoints of other, earlier religions. I have even seen Serious Thelemites argue that other Thelemites can not be accepted as “proper” Thelemites within the community unless they make a specific public declaration of repudiating “slave religions”. Ironically of course, this mechanism of using social and community pressure to force people to either “convert” or be ostracized is precisely the same mechanism used by those fundamentalists of the slave religions themselves; and I think it no coincidence that these modern-day Thelemic fundamentalists appear to share the same pathology. And also appear possess a similar inability to sense irony. Serious Thelemites thus attempt to set up an “In group” (those that agree with their supposedly “orthodox” interpretation and methodology), and an “Out group” of Others not like them (who are by implication inferior) – yes, just like High School. I don’t think it takes Sigmund Freud to figure out that this kind of “Othering” basically springs from an attempt on the part of the perpetrator to claim they they are somehow “better” or “more dedicated” than those who do not hold the coveted Serious Thelemite title; and that thus the holder of such a title gains more prestige and social capital than those who are not Serious.” – Rodney Orpheus, on Thelemic Orthodoxy, and “serious” Thelemites.

Jason Mankey

Jason Mankey

“I’m not sure we have true religious choice in America. Even people in the entertainment industry (a notoriously liberal institution) are hesitant to come out as belonging to an alternative faith. (That’s why actors who seem “Pagan” never admit to it, and why Will Smith has been mum about Scientology.) There are all sorts of factors that negate religious choice in the United States, and even more variables that make admitting to things outside the mainstream problematic. Perhaps one of the reasons we don’t teach “comparative religion” in our public schools is because it would expose young people to ideas that might challenge the status quo. One religion has a near monopoly when it comes to controlling religious discourse, and a lot of those folks are not the type to share and play nicely with others. Can you even imagine a truly post-Christian United States? A nation full of people with an understanding of faith traditions outside of their own, with temples, mosques, groves, and churches dotting the downtowns of Main Street, Anytown USA. Religious programs about Pagans outside of Halloween and mentions of Islam outside the contexts of terrorism and Middle East policy. Perhaps one day we’d even live in a land that understood that Sikhs aren’t Muslims or Hindus.” – Jason Mankey, pondering if we truly have religious choice in the United States.

T. Thorn Coyle

T. Thorn Coyle

“More powerful than thought. More powerful than war. More powerful than shame, or hatred, or ambition. More powerful than gravity. Love draws me toward you, always. Even in anger, love opens me up and draws me near. Love will not forsake us. Ever. Do you feel unloved? Do you feel unworthy? There is love enough for you, too. I swear. Even in your abandonment, there is someone out there that loves you still. I do. Whether I have met you or not, whether I even like you or not, whether we agree or disagree, there is still love. I feel it. This isn’t hyperbole. This isn’t a sham or an exercise in theory. This is a  ground shaking reality. Too much for you? That I cannot help. Take a breath with me. Allow your exhalation to soften you just enough to let the smallest thread of love enter. Let it snake up from your sex into your chest. Let it crawl down from the top of your head and down to your fingertips. I love you. She loves you. He loves you. They love you. The stars sing of your beauty. You move to unheard music. You are alive in the flow of love. You are. Let yourself be, just for this moment.” – T. Thorn Coyle, on there being enough love, the most powerful force in the universe.

Peter Dybing

Peter Dybing

“For most, this path is one of love and compassion in the face of overwhelming work loads that there is scant opportunity to be trained for in the community. Each of us does the best we can in our efforts to live a divine life. Each also, from time to time, stumble upon our path as we attempt to apply divine principle to logistics, public information, finance, event planning or mental health issues within our community. Possibly it is time to abandon our resistance to the word leadership, remove it from the expectations we have of our Priestesses and Priests and allow a group of well-trained individuals to take the task of leadership in specific areas of subject matter expertise. Over the years it has become very apparent that our organizational structure within Paganism has caused many an active Priestess/Priest to burn out. In their role of religious guides they excel, yet we expect so much more from them. These expectations are overwhelming. It is time to stop placing the burden of “leadership” on these individuals and allow them to do what they do best.  Such an approach means developing a core group of leaders in specific disciplines.  From Cherry Hill to Ardentain courses are offered to develop these skills, its time to take advantage of these opportunities, grow skills and each of us take part as a collective of leaders in building our tribe.” – Peter Dybing, on burn-out and the burden of leadership.

Joanna van der Hoeven

Joanna van der Hoeven

“How far back the tradition of personal relationship with deity goes is, to me, of no consequence.  It’s nice to have historical authenticity, but it does not a spirituality make.  It is within the personal relationship with whatever it is that you are communing with, and which changes you, inspires you or moves you that is really what matters in this life.  Whether you pray using a prayer that is a thousand years old, or one that you made up on the spot, it is in the feeling and intent behind it that matters most, not in the words themselves.  It must connect you with what it is you are trying to reach, else what is the point? So, to all those out there who are making it up as they go along, who find spiritual validity in what they do, I give a hearty hail!  To those whose find the words of others resonate deeply within their soul, and blend their historic traditions with personal experience, again I give a hearty hail!  Life is too short to follow a path simply because others have trodden it – we can learn from that path, but ultimately it is we who are doing the walking, no one else, and in that is our own validity and personal experience found and blessing us along the way.” – Joanna van der Hoeven, on authenticity vs. validity.

Barbara Moore

Barbara Moore

“Although I know that different readers had different ideas about shuffling, I didn’t realize that some thought their particular belief would be considered controversial. Specifically, some people felt that their practice of not having the querent shuffle the cards would be seen as outside the normal or proper practice. I have seen a fair number of books or articles that say that the querent must shuffle the cards in order to put their energy into the reading, but I didn’t know that this was considered normal or most appropriate by the general tarot reading community. This has ramifications for phone/Skype and email readings. What is your position on this? Do you think there is a commonly accepted method amongst the tarot community? Do you think there is a right and a wrong way? How did you come up with your own method? As for me, when I write books about tarot, I try to include all the possibilities (reader and querent shuffle, querent only, reader only, reader shuffle and querent cut, etc). When I do readings in person, I always shuffle and never offer the cards to the querent. For me, it has nothing to do with energy and everything to do with wanting to help the querent feel relaxed.” – Barbara Moore, on controversial topics in tarot.

Erick DuPree

Erick DuPree

“It is true, that I encounter many Pagans for whom they find Zen to be too austere and cold for them, where as the Tibetan lineages are far more ceremonial and ‘magical’. There is a direct connection to deity in those traditions, and a sense of something greater. Some argue that Zen Buddhists just sit zazen and that magic is a direct action. Zen as a practice is about releasing, aligning, and returning to center and in Goddess traditions, I find myself most magical when I release expectation, align with intention, and return to center. Regardless of tradition, lineage or school; dharma provides a structure that at times can be lost in contemporary Paganism. In Zen and in Goddess, I have found a complimentary wisdom in a simplicity that works for my everyday life. Everyday I can return to the breath, to Goddess and to right intentions of my practice. I need nothing more than my breath to connect me to Goddess, and maybe a mala. I do love a mala. From that surrender into our divine selfhood, that I call Goddess as immanent divinity, we empower a new way of thinking. It is from this place there is dharma and where love and service align for justice and peace and magic happens.” – Erick DuPree, on being a Dharma Pagan.

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

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

Witchesmustdie001jpg-2568309_p9Last week, several Pagans became aware of a Facebook page entitled “Witches Must Die By Fire,” and a group called “Those Witches And Wizards Must Die By Fire By Force.”  While hate speech complaints seemed to initially work, the page is back up, and Facebook is sending back an automated message saying it doesn’t violate hate speech guidelines. A number of Pagan responses have emerged from the controversy as growing numbers of our interconnected community discover the page and group. These responses include a petition, a group on Facebook dedicated to removing hate pages and groups, a call to involve Interpol, and an overview of the issue from South African Pagan Damon Leff, who notes that rhetoric about burning witches shouldn’t be taken lightly.  Quote: Throughout Africa women, men and children frequently become targets for witch-hunters. Incitement to burn Witches anywhere in Africa must be taken deadly seriously and response to such credible threats of violence against Witches on Facebook aught to be immediate and decisive.” As an Atlantic Magazine article published yesterday about Saudi Arabia’s ongoing and deadly hunt for witches and sorcerers illustrates, the global problem of witch-hunts and witch-killings are not merely idle talk, and rhetoric underlying these actions should not be simply dismissed. The Wild Hunt is currently in contact with several Pagan organizations about further responses and constructive paths forward.

The Warrior's CallA call has gone out to Pagans in the United Kingdom to participate in a public ritual at Glastonbury Tor designed to “protect Albion from Fracking.” Quote: “Albion is in peril. Her sacred sites threatened like never before. Chalice Well and the Goddess Sulis (Bath’s geothermal springs) are in danger of becoming toxic. The Great Mother’s flesh is to be cracked open and drained dry, uncaring for consequence to bird and beast, land and life. All those of good intent are summoned hither – regardless of age or gender, color or Creed – to gather at noon on Saturday the 28th of September atop Glastonbury Tor. There, we are to engage in group magickal working for the betterment and protection of this sacred landscape.” One of the co-sponsors of the ritual is Wiccan Marina Pepper, a politician and environmental activist, who has made the issue of fracking a key concern. Pepper’s concern seems well founded, as Heritage Daily has also sounded the alarm over potential damage to the famous wells of Aquae Sulis by hydraulic fracturing. As I mentioned last week, prominent UK Pagans like Damh the Bard and Philip Carr-Gomm have already been protesting fracking operations, and it seems like concern over this issue is only intensifying as Britain’s natural landscape is threatened by this process.

Peter Dybing

Peter Dybing

This past week Pagan activist Peter Dybing, a logistics specialist who works in disaster management, has been in Idaho helping to fight the wildfires raging through Sun Valley, the biggest fire in 25 years. Wildfires are currently spreading throughout the Northwest region of the United States, which has been plagued by drought and dry weather. In a missive posted to his blog, Dybing noted how his Pagan faith, and his work fighting these fires intertwine. Quote: “Today I am back from a fire, in Boise, resting, planning and preparing to respond again. As I reflect on my actions it is clear that the most profound influence my beliefs have had on me are my instinctive actions in crisis. When direct decisions are necessary NOW, they are laced with compassion, internal tears for the destruction Gaia faces in this firestorm and the need to be of service. The most profound expression of my Pagan beliefs and practice shine through most brightly when I have little time for piety.” Our prayers go out to Dybing, and all the brave first responders fighting these fires. May the rains return soon.

In Other Pagan Community News:

  • Modern Witch Magazine is now accepting submission for its fifth volume, entitled “Veils and Visions.” Quote: “The theme is centered on working with the other side, ancestors, energy work, and psychic development.” Deadline is September 25th, you can find guidelines and more information, here.
  • Water, the quarterly newsletter of the Pagan Educational Network, has just released its Lughnasadh edition. The publication is for members only, but you can get a membership subscription on a sliding scale.
  • September 27th through the 29th in Salem, Massachusetts will see the debut of “OCCULT,”“weekend long Esoteric Salon honoring, exploring and celebrating the intertwining vines which feed both Magick and Creative Art.” Co-produced by Aepril Schaile and Sarah “Jezebel” Wood the event promises to “recognize that, especially together, both Magick and Art are greater than the sum of their parts, and each in dwells the other; they are rooted together…To raise consciousness, challenging false perceptions of separation between these so-imagined opposed sorceries. With OCCULT, we seek to challenge old beliefs through the juxtaposition of beauty and magick, of art and ritual, blending the ingredients to make an event of highest harmony, a conjunctio of non-opposites.” You can see a lineup of OCCULT workshops and events, here. Artist line-up, here. Presenter bios, here. There will also be a masque.
  • This Saturday, August 24th, Friends of the Gualala River are starting a public action campaign to convince a winery to spare 154 acres of Gualala River’s redwood forest in California. Pagan author and activist Starhawk will be on hand to do a ritual that will (hopefully) turn “wine back into water.” Quote: “I’ve been working with Friends of the Gualala River and representatives from the Kashaya Pomo to help build a campaign to save an important Kashaya heritage site from being clearcut for vineyards.  Artesa, a Spanish company and the third largest wine corporation in the world, is planning this conversion.  It’s the last redwood-to-vineyard conversion planned in California, after the defeat of the huge Preservation Ranch proposal, which thankfully was defeated.”
  • Medusa Coils reports that the Lammas issue of Seasonal Salon, the online publication of the Re-formed Congregation of the Goddess International, has been released.
  • On September 22nd, the Stella Natura festival, held in Sierra Nevada’s Tahoe National Forest Desolation Wilderness will begin, and will include the Norwegian experimental runic band Wardruna in an exclusive American performance. Meanwhile, Circle Ansuz, a Heathen Anarchist collective, has begun a series of posts digging into the beliefs and past of influential Heathen Stephen McNallen, whose Asatru Folk Assembly is acting as co-sponsor for Stella Natura. I will be following this story in the coming weeks, and will update you on any responses or new information.
  • As I noted previously, the Gerald Gardner documentary “Britain’s Wicca Man,” renamed “A Very British Witchcraft,” was finally aired in the UK after being shown in a truncated version in Australia. You can see the 46-minute version of the documentary on Youtube, here (for as long as it lasts). Enjoy!

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

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

Courtney Weber

Courtney Weber

Learn from rituals, but don’t nit-pick them. Trust me, my Coven of media specialists, writers, musicians, and copy-editors is wont to pull our shit apart and play the “pick out the not-perfect” bits. But we’ve finally learned that rituals should not be discussed for at least a few weeks after something is done. We file away moment of imperfections, suggestions for improvements, other ways to get to be even better at rituals into our mental rolodexes and take them back out when the time to plan our next ritual arises. We give respect to the experiences of those in the space, and the Spirit for attending. All other quirks can be worked out at another time. I can’t lie…I’ve been to some rituals that made me cringe. But I have to respect the fact that other people might be affected negatively by my piss-poor perfectionist attitude. I have to respect the fact that the energy of the ritual is still going after the fact. I can learn from the mistakes of others–and the mistakes I myself make–but if it’s a serious mistake that I will want to avoid next time, I’ll remember it.” – Courtney Weber, a Wiccan High Priestess, on learning to not “wine and cheese your rites.”

Gus DiZerega

Gus DiZerega

“The biggest and most divisive ethical issues of our time involve abortion and the environment. Does a zygote or fetus have sufficient moral standing to put its interests above those of the pregnant woman carrying it? If so, how much? Does the other-than-human world have any moral standing able to override human interests? If so, how much? Significantly, of those most opposing abortion, few have interest in or recognition of the other-than-human world’s moral standing.  On the other hand, most supporting a woman’s right to choose will be sympathetic to and sometimes deeply committed to environmental concerns. Individuals in both camps are usually ethically motivated, but they live in different ethical worlds. These contrasting moral visions reflect a schism going to the center of contemporary America, a genuine clash of cultures capable of tearing the country apart. One is ultimately rooted in an agricultural order, the other in our industrial one.” – Gus DiZerega, on how conflict over abortion and environmentalism are related, and what modern Paganism’s role is in these struggles.

Literata

Literata

“My religion encourages oral sex. Ken Cuccinelli, candidate for governor, wants to outlaw it. Why am I not the new face of the brave fight for religious liberty? Seriously, though: Ken Cuccinelli, the current attorney general of Virginia and Republican candidate for governor has just launched a new website as part of his campaign that argues in favor of a law which criminalizes oral and anal sex between consenting adults in private. […]  quite frankly, my understanding of Wicca really does validate all kinds of consensual sex. It’s right there in the Charge of the Goddess: ‘All acts of love and pleasure are my rituals.’ The idea of ‘acts of love and pleasure’ is a very potent way of expressing my feminist ethic of consent to sex. I’m not going to consent to something that’s not pleasurable to me. If I can’t consent – if I can’t engage in love and pleasure – then whatever’s happening isn’t sex; it’s sexual assault, abuse, battery, or rape.” – Literata Hurley, a Wiccan and resident of Virginia, on Ken Cuccinelli’s campaign to reinstate Virginia’s unconstitutional Crimes Against Nature law.

Jason Mankey

Jason Mankey

“One of the things that Evangelicals don’t seem to understand is that people are tired of obstacles separating them from other faith communities. I’m not a Buddhist, but I want to walk a religious path that validates the choices of my Buddhist friends. I don’t walk with Jesus, but I’m fine with those that walk hand in hand with the hippy from the Galilee. People are tired of hearing how their friends are wrong, Paganism takes that antiquated rhetoric away. I’m not saying that everyone should roll the religion dice each morning (today I’m an Atheist Hellenic Thelemite!), but Paganism has never shut out wisdom, no matter where it comes from. […]  like every generation we long to touch the sacred. For centuries touching the sacred was limited to Jesus and his Dad, but those days are over with, and people are waking up to the many and varied sacred currents that are around us all. Some find that connection to the sacred within the Earth and the change of the seasons. Some of us find it in more personal deities, gods and goddesses that come to us without centuries of misguided close mindedness. (Give me Pan rutting around in the woods over a god that would kill an entire country’s firstborn.) There will always be people who long for Jesus, and many good things (and some very bad) have been done in his name, but it’s getting harder and harder to lock out the Divine Feminine. Jesus might be calling, but I think She is too.” – Jason Mankey, on why Millennials love Paganism, and in answer to Christian writer Rachel Held Evan’s piece about why Millennials are leaving Christian churches.

Lupa

Lupa

“So many of our decisions have been made in ignorance of the effects of our actions. While the internet, antibiotics, and central heating have their definite uses, the most popular technologies used to create them have been developed with only our benefit–and the profit margin–in mind. It is plausible that many of the things we’ve created that have improved our species’ average quality of life could have been made in such a way that they didn’t negatively affect the lives of other beings (and some humans). Instead, we stand at a point in time where we’re watching thousands of species of animal, plant, and fungus die out every year, accelerated by our activities, and we still refuse as a whole to explore the depth of the connections we’ve been severing with each local, regional or complete extinction. Why don’t we emphasize to our children that the mycelial mat is at least as important as Thomas Edison’s inventions? In part, it’s due to selfishness. We don’t want to think about anything other than our own advancement and comfort. We want that plastic grocery bag to carry three small items in, dammit, and who cares about the oil it was made from, or the fact that it won’t break down for thousands of years? This doesn’t mean we should feel guilty for the things that have made our lives longer and healthier as a whole. We can explore whether a particular item is necessary, and whether its manufacture is as sustainable as it could be, without sacrificing our quality of life. It just means that we need to make more effort on the behalf of beings besides ourselves.” – Lupa, on recognizing that we are a part of something larger than ourselves.

Cat Chapin-Bishop

Cat Chapin-Bishop

“If I have no business turning you into a scapegoat for all the generations past who have ever harmed anyone in the name of Jesus, I also think you have no business turning me into a mascot for your tolerance and good intentions. I don’t want to be a symbol of your goodness; I don’t want to be anything more or less than what you probably want to be: a human being among other human beings. Along those lines, I ask you not to abuse your newfound (or longstanding) empathy for me and mine by rushing to speak for me. Specifically, I would ask that, as an advocate, you not speak to my concerns before you allow me a chance to speak them for myself. This is harder than it sounds, I know. Quakers love to set injustices right. We work hard to empathize with oppressed peoples. We want to be advocates. We want to be the good guys, and we want to speak out for people who have been marginalized, because it feels so good to be the voice of righteousness. However, it is tiresome to the person whose cause you’re espousing, to be spoken for when we’d rather speak for ourselves.  Certainly, we’d rather not be shut out of discussions of our needs by the voices of eager advocates.” – Cat Chapin-Bishop, from the second part of a letter sent to her Quaker Christian Friends (part one is here), on owning Christian privilege, and how to act once you have.

King Arthur Pendragon

King Arthur Pendragon

“As Druids, we believe that the Ancestors should be left to Rest in Peace and that the Sacredness of the site should not be desecrated in such a way, especially when there are many alternatives to this desecration. We have never been against Science or Education. We are however against the removal and display of our ancestors in such a manner. Whilst ‘Picketing’ at Stonehenge we gained support from peoples from each and every continent of many and of no faiths with the simple message “ Let those we Lay to Rest-Stay to Rest” and we challenged the Ministry of Justice’s decision to extend the ‘licence’ for study. That challenge will continue if ‘The Guardians’ are not returned and re-interred by August 2015. In the meanwhile we will ‘oppose’ English Heritage’s plans to display ‘our’ collective Ancestors, once buried at our most Sacred Site. This opposition will take many forms and we will call on the assistance of other like-minded Groups throughout the World if necessary, for let us not forget Stonehenge is designated as a World Heritage site. Like the ‘Guardians’ campaign, we will call for support from Any, All, and No faiths, who like us believe that the Dead should be left in peace. If English Heritage believe that they can ‘open’ their new visitors centre to a ‘fan-fare’ of common assent and complementary reports on the World stage, whilst planning to display our Guardians in such a macabre manner, they had better think again.”  – Activist and Druid leader King Arthur Pendragon, who is currently in a struggle to stop the display of human remains at Stonehenge’s new visitor’s center, calling it a desecration.

Holli S. Emore

Holli S. Emore

“Monday [August 5th] is the one-year anniversary of the shooting at the Oak Creek Sikh gurdwara in Wisconsin.  I was contacted for comment this morning by a reporter from our local news station.  Valarie Kaur, a Sikh activist and founder of Groundswell, notes that a full year later, everyone knows about Aurora and other tragedies, but most never understood what happened at Oak Creek and have already forgotten.  The anniversary is a good reminder to those of us in another misunderstood minority religion of the importance of interfaith relations. The reporter who contacted me at first said she was doing a story about religious tolerance.  The first thing I said to her was that I look forward to the day we can stop thinking about tolerance and begin appreciating our religious differences.  This includes Pagan appreciation of the religions whose members have often persecuted or despised us, whether we like the idea or not. […] While organizations like Groundswell and interfaith groups all over have done much to make our communities safer, the work is hardly begun, the weeping probably not over. Our heartfelt prayers and intentions go to our Sikh friends and to all in this world who suffer because their spirituality is misunderstood.” – Holli Emore, Director of Cherry Hill Seminary, on interfaith work, tolerance, and the anniversary of the Oak Creek Sikh temple shooting in Wisconsin.

Peter Dybing

Peter Dybing

“That’s right, I strongly disagree with your interpretation of divinity, the Gods, worship or piety. So what am I going to do about it? Maybe un-friend you on Face Book, write a post tearing you a metaphorical ‘new one’ or demonstrate my need to be right by encouraging others to give no credibility to your views? Instead I think I will choose to celebrate our differences. Harvest. if you will, what has value in our discourse, demonstrate that respect for others views of divinity is a basic value of my Pagan beliefs.  Your actions and views help me to clarify my own beliefs about my path. It is in discussion and debate that we grow, are challenged to develop new insights into both self and the nature of the Divine. Each of us has a unique perception of divinity and spiritual practice. In learning about your perceptions I grow, consider what is new or uncomfortable, stretch my mind and heart to embrace the bountiful tapestry that is the diverse cloth of Pagan belief. Today I hold you, with your heretical beliefs, in Sacred Regard, as some of my most insightful teachers. Our discussions have planted the seeds of new insight, growth and compassion.  Today I celebrate the harvest of these efforts. Tending this garden of dissention is an honorable and meaningful investment of my time.” – Peter Dybing, on what he plans to do with people he disagrees with theologically.

Trey Capnerhurst / Treasach

Trey Capnerhurst / Treasach

“I used to have repeated arguments with others in the pagan community on this topic, though in the past few years, curiosity and hope are beginning to replace the sneering. “Why should WE need an abbey?”, some said with a snort. “There are plenty of Buddhist and Taoist monasteries around..” Well, we are neither Buddhist nor Taoist, although most of us get along quite nicely with them, of course. For a religion to be more formalized, to grow and permeate more areas of a culture or a group, it needs full time members who are dedicated to practising, refining, writing, recording, studying and teaching. Though we do have quite a few of those, they usually have day jobs, rather than being a full time professional community. We have a great many of what could be termed lay sisters and brothers; those who are devoted and dedicated to living their lives in the Way, but we have no priest ‘class’, as it were. So, though we do have a professional priesthood of sorts, we have not yet created spaces to support them full time, or train and hone them, or even facilitate professional community environments of librarians, educators and other academics. It is vital to our religion to establish these communities, and not just as teaching venues, but as places where we can totally immerse ourselves in our religion, and not only for short retreats. But for years. They are already becoming a reality. I was in contact with an abbess of the Cybeline abbey in New York for some time. They already have a large community of nuns with hospitality, retreat centres and libraries. Though there is room for dedicating to one Goddess in particular, like mine, because that’s just for me, a similar kind of non-deity specific community can appeal to far more people under the auspices of Pagan Humanism, where everyone can hear the call in their own way, yet we can work under one banner. Conserves resources and coalesces talent, doncha know.” – Treasach (aka Trey Capnerhurst), a Pagan Abbess, on why establishing Pagan abbeys are a practical solution to several ongoing problems within our communities.

Damh the Bard

Damh the Bard

“Yesterday was a glorious day to hold a Lughnasadh ceremony. Although not in full flow the grain harvest has begun, and John Barleycorn is falling in the fields. I started the ceremony by asking if there were any News of the World reporters at the ceremony, and then remembered that there were no such things any more… So changing that to The Daily Mail I pointed out that this ceremony might reinforce the odd stereotype, with its theme of sacrifice. A falling Corn King, sickles and scythes, all good sensationaistic fodder for the ignorant. But this is a festival of thanksgiving, a spiritual honouring that within its very language understands that for some things to continue to live, other things have to die. It’s all around on our supermarket shelves, we just don’t have to see the blood any more, but that doesn’t mean that we cannot honour the life that has been given, and this thanksgiving also includes the grain harvest, and the falling of the Corn King.” – Damh the Bard, on celebrating Lughnasadh at the Long Man of Wilmington in Sussex.

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

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

Crystal Blanton

Crystal Blanton

“And so I sit here, reconciling my fear of the reality that they are living today…. And acknowledging the guilt that I feel for this. I struggle to hold faith and hope for change in a world that invests in technology before human lives, and I wonder the plan of the Gods in a world that is so broken. So I take this primal rage inside of me, and I send that energy to the universe for the Martin family and for our collective grieving communities; for a mother without her child, a father grieving the loss of his legacy, and an entire community without justice. What I have come to truly understand is that there is no separation between my spiritual self, my ancestral culture and the path the Gods have put me on. My spirituality is deeply embedded within a framework that includes the divine sacredness of all beings, equally as important as the others. And so this type of injustice is sacrilegious to my belief system, and irreversibly detrimental to the Black community. Tonight I offer prayers and hold energy for a deeply wounded family, and a hurting community.” – Crystal Blanton, sharing her thoughts regarding the verdict in the Trayvon Martin trial.

T. Thorn Coyle

T. Thorn Coyle

“We are tearing ourselves asunder. The cost is high. Systemic racism means that every 36 hours an African American is killed by police or private security forces. Systemic racism means that when a black woman fires a warning shot into the air in an attempt to scare off her violent husband, she gets 20 years, despite the same Stand Your Ground Laws at play in the Zimmerman trial. Systemic racism means that every black and brown man in New York City has been stopped and frisked multiple times for no cause. Systemic racism means that African Americans are four times as likely to be arrested and jailed for marijuana possession than whites. Systemic racism means that more African Americans are in prison than were ever held as slaves. […] This is a spiritual issue. This is all a spiritual issue. Matter is not fallen. The material world is sacred. That includes all of us. And yet we forget. We say that this portion does not deserve the light of the sun. We forget that even things that live in darkness can be beautiful and true. We say we have no power. We say it’s not our problem. We forget: we too are sacred. We are touched with divine fire. We forget that we co-create the cosmos with the Gods. We forget that every moment of every day, we get to choose: this magic, or that magic? We forget the flow of love. We forget that for love to flow freely, becoming the great connector, we must be open to it. We must open to love. In opening to it, love flows through us. Love flows on. This is a time for prayer. This is also a time for action. This is a time to open the floodgates of love. This is a time to act for justice.” – T. Thorn Coyle, asserting that “confronting racism is spiritual work.”

Donald Michael Kraig

Donald Michael Kraig

“I know, some people reading this will say, “But I can’t find a group” or “I can’t afford the travel, the costs, the time off from work, etc.” These are all good, legitimate reasons for choosing the easier, AI-2 type of initiation. I would like to point out, however, that there is another word that means “reasons.” It’s “excuses.” You can come up with all the reasons/excuses you want. But let me ask you this: If I were to say to you, “If you will travel across the country and come to my home, I’ll give you ten million dollars. It will change your life forever,” would you be willing to figure at a way to earn or borrow some extra money and get some time off in order to reach my house? I would say 999 out of 1,000 people would absolutely do this. Suddenly, those reasons/excuses given in the previous paragraph just vanish—if you really want the experience that will change your life. Similarly, you are more likely to receive a life-altering AI-1 experience by taking part in a physical initiation. I would say it’s worth it, wouldn’t you?” – Donald Michael Kraig, opining on the types and efficacy of astral initiations at the Llewellyn Worldwide blog.

Byron Ballard

Byron Ballard

“Thought I’d check in and let you all know we’re grounding, centering, focusing our wills down here in the sinking ship that is North Carolina. We know the country is watching us, wondering how much farther we can fall. Much farther, I’m afraid.  Some of you are aware of my conceit called “Tower Time.” It is my theory and experience that we are living in the time of the fall of empire (ours), in fact, I see it as the crash of several ancient toxic systems that are coming to the end of their time. Death to the patriarchy! Down with Oppression! Sic semper tyrannis! What that means in our Pagan communities is that we have some handy tools that can help us in the chaos of our General Assembly and its general assholery. The tools and techniques that many of us use in our daily practice are admirably suited to help us during this Tower Time. We have grounding and shielding and setting wards. We have Divines for healing and vengeance, and justice.” – Byron Ballard, a North Carolina resident, discussing “Tower Time” and recent political happenings in her state, at the PaganSquare.

Sam Webster (with Herm), photo by Tony Mierzwicki.

Sam Webster

“The only point in saying that a person has had a UPG, an Unsubstantiated (sometimes Unverified) Personal Gnosis, is to be dismissive and demeaning to them, and on examination the claim or criticism of UPG has no worthy intellectual basis. […] Experience is the center of all spiritual and religious life. Text is at best derivative. By creating and using such a term as UPG, “Unsubstantiated Personal Gnosis” we privilege text over experience. (This is a rather Christian move, and those who have been following my writing know how I feel about that. . .) Even more damagingly, by framing someone’s experience as a UPG we dissociate ourselves from the primary data of spirituality. We can then bracket and set aside the immediate real, and go back to our books. In the process we may have damaged both the knowledge we could have shared in, but also possibly the recipient of that knowledge, who could have been another culture bringer, but instead was told their experience was of diminished value, or of no value at all, simply because we can’t substantiate their insight in a book.” – Sam Webster, on why he doesn’t like the term “UPG” (Unverified Personal Gnosis).

Chas Clifton

Chas Clifton

“Within the academy — and here I speak mainly of the American Academy of Religion, the largest body for such study on this continent (it includes many Canadians too) — even the study of new religious movements was way off to the side. Those scholars themselves were relative newcomers to the AAR, which had its origins in the study of Christianity and which devoted most of its program sessions to textual matters. York not only situated Paganism  as “a religion, a behavior, and a theology,” he argued that Pagan elements were found in other “world religions” too — not just “Pagan survivals” but behaviors, primarily. I don’t mean to suggest cause and effect — one book did not do that  — but it was at about the same time that the AAR’s leadership, which had rejected a proposed Pagan Studies program unit — a permanent slot, in other words — in 1997,  relented in 2004 and granted it. So York helped to forge a sort of non-sectarian (not Wiccan, not Asatru, not Roman reconstructionist, etc.) definition that would change people’s minds to where they no longer thought that the P-word meant “having no religion” or “follower of an obsolete religion from long ago.” Instead, it would be a type of religion or a way of being religious. Paganism (academic definition) was everywhere.” – Chas Clifton, on the the influence and importance of Michael York’s definition of Paganism.

Morpheus Ravenna

Morpheus Ravenna

“We know that it was a common practice among the warrior traditions of the Gaulish Celts to offer dedications to their war Gods prior to a battle, and we know that human and animal sacrifices were among those offerings. It stands to reason, and I think has been shown, that these Gods (or at the very least our Goddess) still expect some kind of blood sacrifice. Modern Pagans love to talk about how the Gods evolve with us, and how forms of offerings can be different in modern times. I agree – but I think the important thing that has shifted isn’t whether or not living sacrifice is needed or useful. What has shifted is the importance of the individual soul and the idea of consent, the willing sacrifice. Everyone whose blood went into that cup offered it of their own volition. Similarly, when we organized the blood donation drive at PantheaCon last year, that was a form of sacrifice which was purely volitional. That focus on volition with regard to human offerings is reflective of how sacrifice can evolve in a modern context – a religious practice now shaped by modern values on individual liberty, but still preserving the core function of the act, which is the offering of vital life.” – Morpheus Ravenna, on blood sacrifice, and whether certain gods still want/need/desire it.

Erick DuPree

Erick DuPree

“Refuge in the Goddess however meant that I had to cast aside that I might be seen as less than magical, less than “witch” or less than what media labels “Pagan author” simply because I do not follow the traditional year in a day to initiation mold. I had to give myself permission to dare, because the one thing I am not ashamed about or worried about the world knowing is this… I was raped. I was raped over and over again and the only reason I am alive is because of Goddess.  Goddess from above and Goddess from within. That is not a feeling, or a belief, that is a documented clinical fact. On more than one occasion, trauma therapists have noted that ‘something’ kept me from a darkness. They call it “inner light” and my mother might call it Jesus, but we witches know it is Goddess […] Many people who have been Sexually Assaulted ask themselves, “Why me?” I too, asked that very question. I too, asked, will another man ever touch me? I too, asked why Goddess?” – Erick DuPree, Dharma Pagan, on why, as a survivor of sexual abuse, he contributed to the forthcoming anthology “Rooted in the Body, Seeking the Soul: Magic Practitioners Living with Disabilities, Addiction, and Illness.”

Peter Dybing

Peter Dybing

“It has been pointed out that these references do not refer to us “big P Pagans” but rather to the march towards a post Christian society. This line of reasoning urges us not to perceive these statements as a direct confrontation of our collective religious identity. Meanwhile the public is being bombarded with the demonization of the word Pagan with out any information to dispel these statements. Our community cannot afford to jeopardize the progress we have made by choosing to not confront those whose intent is perceived as “not talking about us”.  Such a course of action will only result in more misplaced distrust and discrimination. This attempt by the religious right to frame the conversation in a way that replicates the “satanic panic” of past decades provides a perilous framework for future discourse. […] To the general public, the intellectual exercise of differentiating between big P and little p Pagans does not exist. In defense of all we have collectively accomplished we must respond if we wish to avoid being marginalized by a reframing of the debate that has the potential to diminish our community’s voice.” – Peter Dybing, on why Pagans need to formulate a response to the increasing use of the term “pagan” as a slur by conservative Christians towards their cultural and political opponents.

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

“The entirety, however, is billed (both in the book and in the beginning of the film) as “a story that will make you believe in God.” Let’s read that sentence again: a story that will make you believe in God. That’s sort of a bold statement for any religion, and for any story. So, did it succeed? Well, for me, no, and not just because I already have particular religious commitments. Without entirely ruining the film, the end of it comes down to a choice: “which story do you prefer?” Does one prefer horrific humanistic (in the sense of “strictly human,” not “friendly atheist” or “Italian intellectual rediscovery of Greek culture”) realism and Darwinian disaster, or religion and myth and allegory that is ultimately escapist fantasy? It doesn’t really amount to “making” one “believe in God,” then: it means “does one accept the world as it is,” or “does one retreat to imagination?” And, the latter option, which seems to be the preferred one of the characters in the film, is essentially to “believe in God,” according to this film. Can you see how problematic this is, even on the surface, for anyone who actually has a religion that puts them in touch with how things actually are, even independent of the presence of the gods in such a world?” – P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, on why he was not overly fond of the film “Life of Pi” and its “slippery” theology.

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

Today, July 4th, is Independence Day in the United States, the nationally celebrated mark of freedom in this country from the Kingdom of Great Britain. On this day in 1776, the Declaration of Independence was adopted and we begun a history of celebration of freedom, an ideal of freedom. Recent Supreme Court rulings bring many questions to the forefront about that ideal of freedom, and the idea that the United States has a history of writing social policy that does not actually equate to freedom for the ethnic minorities within this country. Slavery was still a legal institution here while we simultaneously adopted the declaration and celebrated freedom for Americans. Since the Declaration of Independence, and other such policies, did not give freedoms and rights to African Americans, what social and government policies did? And how important are those today?

Johnson and Civil rights leaders for Voter's Rights Act.

Johnson and Civil rights leaders for Voter’s Rights Act.

On June 25th, 2013, the Supreme Court made a landmark, and unexpected, decision to dismantle Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) that was signed into law on August 6th, 1965. President Johnson signed the Voters Rights Act into law in the presence of prominent civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks; it was a historic moment for the civil rights movement and for the movement of equality within this country.

Section 4 of the VRA identified those states and counties that would receive the oversight of Section 5, restricting any changes to qualifications or prerequisites for voters in their coverage area without the approval from the Federal Government. Why? Post Emancipation Proclamation, Jim Crow laws and racism in this country continued to become systematic, affecting African Americans’ access to their citizen-given voting rights. Common tactics employed to restrict categories of voters included everything from literacy tests, to voting poll taxes, to classic voter intimidation, to even death. Civil rights leaders fought to make sure that African Americans had the same access to their voting rights as others in this country.

Then, on June 25th, the Supreme Court removed this section of the VRA, citing it as unconstitutional, referencing that problems of racism or prejudice were no longer prevalent in today’s society. Within 48 hours of this ruling, numerous states that were restricted under Section 4 of the VRA moved to make changes to their voting requirements, redistricting and other modifications that would have formally required approvals, some of which were already denied. It is important to note that the areas that were still covered under this section of the VRA were not previously able to prove 10 years of fair voting practices within their state or area, and other areas had already been removed from the VRA when they had petitioned and proven fair practices.

After the changes in the Voter’s Rights Act, the following day the repeal of DOMA and ruling on Proposition 8 overshadowed the SCOTUS ruling and little discussion has been generated in greater society, and especially within the Pagan community.

And so why is this important to Pagans?

In order to answer this question for Pagans at large, we should consider the varying reasons that equality, access to fair treatment under the law, and the intersectionality of privilege plays a role in the perception of liberty. As Pagans, we can often relate to the challenging and temperamental balance of rights within United States society, even with freedom of religion as one of our constitutional rights. How often do we have to fight for our freedom of belief as minorities in faith practice? Within the last few days, several Pagans have commented on their belief of the importance of this in society, and within Paganism.

Lydia M. Crabtree

Lydia M. Crabtree

“As a Pagan the mixed messages of the Supreme Court this week has left my heart heavy and shaken my belief in the country and laws that I love and respect. With state’s rights the battle cry, this war is likely to be as emotionally scarring and traumatizing as the Civil War. This New Civil War is one that is utilizing cold war tactics to pit us against each other. Even as the courts proclaim we are equal in the law it is simultaneously saying individual states have the right to restrict and disenfranchise people based on their opinion, color, and sexual orientation. It has created a world where living in one state over another will mean different freedoms for different people. So many seem to be cheering around me without completely understanding the full weight of the coming fights ahead. The Supreme Court itself has tried to deflect responsibility to the state level only to guarantee that these fights will reappear before them. It isn’t just voting and marriage I worry about. It is the right to have a body without government imposed restrictions. It is the right to worship without fear of losing a job, house or state benefits. It is the right to have a congressional and state governing body that accurately reflects the opinions and will of the people regardless of how varied they are.

In this New Civil War it is crucial that we win the fight of exposing “state’s rights” as a euphemism for “power to the powerful” or “right to restrict individuals in the name of sovereign government.” The principle of our country was not that individual states have rights superseding the rights of individuals. The Declaration of Independence said “We the people…” have rights and no authority can willfully, maliciously and methodically destroy the rights of us, the people. Not England. Not the United States Government. Not an individual state or city.

These are real issues and it seems to me that now more than every minority persons should stand together. This is why being closeted in any minority matter is dangerous. If we are quiet, uneducated and unmoved by the trials and tribulations of other minorities then we are easily picked off.” – Lydia M. Crabtree – Pagan author.

Rhiannon Theurer

Rhiannon Theurer

“I don’t know that I have anything particularly deep to say as a Pagan, but I will say that as someone who believes we are all expressions of the Divine I am saddened and angered by the decisions of the Supreme Court that reinforce inequity and hierarchy. The decisions this week attacking Native sovereignty and the VRA show us yet again how some voices are privileged over others, and that these are structural problems that require us all to speak up for equality and justice. In addition, these decisions are an important reminder for the Pagan community that as minorities we can never take legal rights for granted. I hope that all Pagans can stand together with all the people directly affected by these rulings, both within and without the Pagan community, and continue to work for justice and the liberation of all beings.” – Rhiannon Theurer – Pagan, Therapist.

T. Thorn Coyle

T. Thorn Coyle

“The Voting Rights Act offers a chance of full participation in government. Its passage ensured that states with a history of voter suppression could not change voting laws without checking with the federal government. The VRA is an attempt at establishing equity.

This article by Paul Shepard states: “with 13,000 separate voting districts around the country, there are 13,000 different ways that elections are conducted, opening the doors to discriminatory practices to disenfranchise minority voters.” Disenfranchisement in the US is real and present. If a high percentage of poor people don’t have IDs and my state decides to pass a Voter ID act, then poor people have less of a chance of true representation. The power of their voice decreases. If district elections help Latinos get governmental representation, then district elections support the process of equitable government.

“One person, one vote” is a good policy, but is not sufficient to build systems that foster fair treatment, health, and happiness for all. As long as we are living within cascading systems of racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, and religious intolerance, we are hard pressed to build an equitable society. Systemic racism is a consistent force of disenfranchisement. So is classism, which often goes hand in hand with racism. This racism isn’t the ugly face of the screaming bigot, but rather is embedded in the interlocking systems that uphold the status quo.” –  T. Thorn Coyle – Activist, Pagan author,

Seba O'Kiley

Seba O’Kiley

“Assuming that there is no longer any need for Section Four (and by proxy Section Five) of the VRA (specifically for the Deep South) is like throwing a tarp over invasive weeds for a while then assuming that, simply because the plant rots over the surface, there is no longer a live root.  The question is not why keep what 1965 America sought to put into place, but why disarm those defensive measures against such an invasive, deeply-rooted monster.  As pagans, we are under the awesome responsibility of caring for our Universe, being the watchdogs for inequities and calling out injustices.  We are not called to “look away,” but to shine light into dark places–even if those places are our own hearts.  As a life-long Alabamian and a pagan, I know and love my home all too well to assume that it no longer needs such a light.  As a former Housing Authority Councilwoman, I have seen redistricting along racial lines as they pertain to our city schools in only the last ten years.  Leaving racial justice in the hands of the state without some parameters, checks and balances is naive disconcern at best–veiled racism, at worst. Neither are acceptable for a pagan sensibility of interconnected beings.” – Seba O’Kiley, Beloved Woman/Priestess, Gangani Tribe of Alabama.

Erick DuPree

Erick DuPree

“To me this ruling is first about privilege, and through the lens of privilege SCOTUS’ VRA verdict breaks down the fabric of democracy. I feel as Pagans we lift up the right to self determination as a sacred rite, one where we hold our self accountable first.  As Pagans we give privilege a name, and the actively choose to disengage, and break down the walls of oppression, destruction that living within privilege bring. The ruling has potentially taken that right (and rite) away from millions of US citizens.” – Erick DuPree, Dharma Pagan and blogger.

“I’d love to contribute if I can; right now my head is swirling with conflicting mix – relieved & delighted that my marriage wasn’t taken away by the state, dismayed at gutting the VRA, paranoid that dismantling oversight on elections opens the door to all sorts of voting fraud along not only racist lines but anti- immigrant, anti-women, anti-what calls itself Christian in politics lines. They’re all tied together – white privilege is what allows most Pagans to assume their differences will be accepted, but as a white bisexual who passes as straight, i know that’s not true – my marriage has been in limbo, held hostage for 5 years.  What-calls-itself-Christian-in-politics is deeply, inherently racist & anti- sexual freedom; I fully expect neo pagans to be openly targeted next.” – Lise M. Dyckman

And in later dialog:

“Many, if not most, US neo pagans accept as tenets certain ideas that are hotly contested in the political arena. Responsibility for the health of our planet, allowing value to non- human life forms, honoring the female divine,  & sexual self-determination are woven into a lot of neopagan belief. They’re also frequently contested by lawmakers, policy makers, regulation enforcers. If our beliefs are explained away as merely left-wing attitudes, we’re at risk of losing the ability to practice our religion (just ask First Nations / Native American folks how quick & easy that can be).

But we mostly-white, mostly-middle class, mostly-educated neo pagans don’t really think that could happen to us. And we’re wrong. That’s why gutting the Voting Rights Act matters to even privileged, comfortable pagans. The Act was crafted with the intent to force proven racist communities to “play fair” in elections, and to take corrective measures when they had been caught at fraud. There isn’t anything else like it in the US, that has such teeth & such oversight powers. Without it, there’s no real mechanism to keep special interests from meddling in elections. And we all know how likely that is.

[Neo]paganism is one of the fastest growing religions in the US, according to a recent Pew Survey. Particularly among younger, educated, and generally left-leaning adults. You can bet those special interests are looking at us, and at how we vote. And they’re lumping us together with Blacks, women, & immigrants as voters-to-be-suppressed. I fully expect to see more attacks on the voting rights of all these groups in the near future – and without a mechanism like the VRA to ensure franchisement, we’re gonna be silenced. This isn’t (just) paranoia; the voting record of districts under VRA corrective oversight is consistently more liberal than comparable districts without it. Wendy Davis’ district in Fort Worth , for example.” – Lise Dykeman

Peter Dybing

Peter Dybing

“The Supreme Court has gutted the voting rights act. Taking the position that progress has been made the court essentially withdrew the very protections that have created the change they cited. My heart is heavy with thoughts of what this change will mean. Conservative legislators across the south are already engaged in manifesting laws that will cause the voices of minority Americans to be even further marginalized. For those, like myself, who are interested in freedom and justice for people of color it is a sad day in America.

These feelings are complicated by our communities urge to celebrate recent victories around LGBT rights; yet all of our civil rights are bound together in the fabric of social justice. The courts recent gutting of the VRA has begun the process of unraveling the very fabric we are celebrating having weaved new threads into.” – Peter Dybing – Activist, Pagan blogger.

Yeshe Rabbit

Yeshe Rabbit

“The dismantling of VRA protections opens the way to great potential abuse of state and local power. It allows for further possible institutionalization of overt and subtle racism by authorities representing and protecting the highest-paying or most privileged voices in any given landscape. This may end up leaving many voiceless. It represents the very real threat that the picture of racial politics and racial justice in our nation might slip backwards into a state more closely resembling the Civil War era than any of us cares to envision.

Racism has its roots in an untrue, unfair, illusory, ill-informed story that caucasian people have been collectively, blatantly, and insidiously telling ourselves as a means to justify our cruelty to people of color for a very long time, despite ample evidence that the story is wrong. As Pagans and Polytheists, many of us understand the power of myth and story to shape reality. It is our responsibility to each question our own stories about race, to discuss them, to peel them apart and investigate them, to critique them heavily, and to help write new stories of equality, dignity, reparation/rectification, and access for all the distinct races as well as the many diverse combinations of races we see growing in our population. This has the possibility of being an amazing magical wave of change, a gift of collective growth from our community to the nation, if we each choose to take it up with a full heart and willingness to really learn and grow, to refine ourselves, to commit to improvements for ourselves and for our future descendants who will still be working on this issue for many generations.” – Yeshe Rabbit, CAYA High Priestess and blogger.

“If we do not defend the rights of others, there will be no one left to help us defend ours. It is one of the principles of our belonging to the “Pagan” label. Strength in numbers. But if we do not use that strength to fight for what is right, what is this community of “Paganism” for?” – Jelen VanderYacht, Pagan

In my personal beliefs as an African American practitioner of the Craft, I have been quite dismayed at the lack of attention that this subject has gotten from mainstream Paganism. Regardless of differing opinions on the method to ensure freedoms, the idea that reversal of the VRA has an impact on the African American sense of place is very important to consider. The very Eurocentric construct that exists within Paganism often leads to perceptions of reality that are based in theory that does not apply to all of today’s Pagan practitioners. The Pagan community often sees this when it comes to the rights of Pagans as a religion, the rights of other oppressed groups that are highly connected to our Pagan community, but not when it comes to those things that are related to race. It leads me to wonder whether the Pagan community is afraid of race relations, thereby creating a larger challenge to the idea that Pagansim indeed encompasses more than just the notion that race does not matter in our spirituality. For the Pagan of color, it indeed does.

 Author, Lydia M. Crabtree, summed up this thought for me on her most recent blog post:

“So pagans fight for rights when they infringe upon our direct religious rights and when they directly infringe upon our strongly held spiritual beliefs (the Earth is sacred and should be protected).

Yet when presented with knowledge that an apartheid like atmosphere is being created in our own country, pagans are silent.  This silence is in essence turning away from another principle of earth-centric religion. Thou art God. Thou art Goddess.

Our silence says, “Thou art God, if you are white or if your issues reflect a direct impact upon my spirituality.”

“Thou art Goddess, only if your problems directly infringe upon my religious freedom.”

And in this division, apartheid legislation will become a norm unchallenged. It is the classic deflection and deferral, “I am pagan and I am not black, so these laws will not affect me.” This line of thinking lacks a foresight and vision that I feel is another spiritual cornerstone of earth-centric spirituality: We are one.”

When we are considering the impact of any limitation of rights towards oppressed and minority groups, we should consider how the limiting of rights to one minority could encourage or connect to our own Pagan freedoms. When policies are created to protect the rights of an underprivileged or oppressed population, it is important to think about the varying levels of “freedom” that are or are not experienced by others. To assume that we are all entitled to the same liberties and freedoms under the law, is to assume that we as Pagans are due liberties that are not guaranteed either.

What freedom will you celebrate on this Fourth of July?

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

Peter Dybing

Peter Dybing

“My heartbreaks, tears flow and these words are my attempt to find solace.  Nineteen members of a Hotshot Firefighting crew are dead in Arizona.  For the last few years I was on a Southwest Area Incident Management Team. These are men I know, have eaten meals with, showered with, shared conversation with. My job at fires as a Logistics Section chief is, at its heart, keeping the firefighters safe: feeding them, providing for their needs, rest, equipment, medical attention, communication, transportation, sleeping arrangements etc. This is intensely personal for me. Tears hover in my eyes, the loss is profound.  Each of us in the firefighting community understands the risks, yet when a tragedy of this magnitude occurs we are devastated. We are a family, each of us with a special knowledge of what being a wild land firefighter really means. Today we grieve, wonder what went wrong and think about their families’. These are men whose lives I have protected, who take the risks that most would shy away from to keep people, homes and communities safe. They are also faces I know, each with a story, a community, and a dream for the future.  Their loss reminds all of us of the fragility of life.” – Peter Dybing, a Pagan first responder, reacting to the news of 19 firemen dying while fighting a fast-moving wildfire in Arizona.

T. Thorn Coyle

T. Thorn Coyle

“These are times in need of beauty. These are times in need of depth. These are times in need of study. These are times in need of rallying cries and manifestos, of art scrawled upon pavement and wild dancing in the streets. Fortunately for us, these things are happening. Peter Grey writes: “Love is the war to end all wars, and the war is upon us.” This is a bold statement by the author of The Red Goddess, from the titular essay of his latest book: Apocalyptic Witchcraft. Grey writes of a Craft that is filled with power and the lust for life. He writes of a Craft that breaks down the crumbling social orders of oppression, greed, and fear in order to raise a society of freedom. Peter Grey wants us working in the shadows and full sunlight. He doesn’t want us to back down. He wants us to be born again, a danger to the forces that wreak havoc on our beloved earth, and on us. […] Yes, sometimes the writing in Apocalyptic Witchcraft verges on melodramatic. Sometimes I vehemently disagree with what is written, and other times I want to cheer. Not every essay in each issue of Abraxas moves me, but all of them make me think. This is for the good. We need allies to pit ourselves against, and to stand with, not people who keep us comfortable. There is too much complacency in the world. If love is a battle, we need comrades that test us. Peter Grey, Christine Oakley Harrington, Alkistis Dimech, and Robert Ansell are these comrades. They incite us to magic. They incite us to art. They incite us to philosophy. They incite us to live.” – T. Thorn Coyle, writing an appreciation of Peter Grey, Scarlet Imprint, and a growing movement within the British esoteric community that incites a “love to end all wars.”

Christine Hoff Kraemer

Christine Hoff Kraemer

“Hard polytheism is the view that the gods are objectively existing, independent personalities with whom human beings can have relationships. This theological position is somewhat unique in contemporary Paganism because it is the only belief around which groups of Pagans have strongly rallied. Interestingly, although conversations around hard polytheism are often framed in terms of belief, hard polytheists’ objections to soft polytheism are primarily about the way belief informs practice. For hard polytheists, soft polytheist practice—especially practice that approaches the gods as interchangeable archetypes—is both less effective and potentially disrespectful. Pagans will sometimes speak of rituals where the gods do not “show up”—no energy moves, no sense of connection or presence is felt, and the participants return home in much the same mental and emotional state in which they arrived. Hard polytheists believe that this undesirable state of affairs occurs because Pagans do not recognize the nature of the gods. Hard polytheists usually experience the gods as powerful presences with distinctive desires and behaviors, as well as historical ties to particular traditions, cultures, and lands. In order to connect with a goddess or a god and form relationship with them, hard polytheists will look at rituals from the deity’s native culture for guidance. When they ask a goddess or god to be present, they see themselves as calling someone very specific. Some use the metaphor of dialing a phone number to reach a friend: the ritual objects and the proper names and prayers are ways of ensuring one has the right number. Once a deity has been contacted, an ongoing relationship can be formed through prayer and ritual. This experiential relationship allows the practitioner to move beyond attempting to reconstruct an ancient religion using historical texts, and instead to create a practice that is oriented to the present.”An excerpt from Christine Hoff Kraemer’s book “Seeking the Mystery: An Introduction to Pagan Theologies” on sale today at the Amazon.com Kindle store for only $0.99, and available at a reduced price of $2.99 for about a week thereafter. You can read the table of contents, introduction, and glossary here, reviews here.

Carl Neal

Carl Neal

“Those of us who choose a Solitary path can be a difficult group with which to work. When we speak of the trouble in organizing Pagans as “herding cats” it’s never truer than when dealing with the dedicated Solitary. Many of us are proud of our independence and may stubbornly cling to it beyond the bounds of logic. Those who are forced to be Solitary by geography (or other factors) may not always possess the same type of fierce independence. They may be seeking out the companionship, guidance, and structure of a coven or group – things studiously avoided by some who are Solitary By Choice. There are a few rare individuals who straddle this line and both belong to a coven and walk a Solitary path at the same time. For most of us, the Solitary nature of our practices simply demands that we walk our paths alone. Those of us who practice this way see it as a type of freedom, although we have to recognize that there are things that can be easily accomplished with group practice that are difficult or impossible for the Circle of One. This doesn’t mean that we never work with others. Like all Pagans, we tend to share and learn from one another. Sometimes we gather, stand in circle together, and may work very intimate magick. At other times, some Solitaries may participate in public rituals with dozens of people they barely know. Being “Solitary”doesn’t mean being “alone” or “isolated”. It’s the path that is Solitary, not the person. In fact, some Solitaries tend to do all ritual work with others, although they are not all on the same path. Until they find a coven or other appropriate group, many who are Solitary By Circumstance will use this same approach.”Carl Neal, a dedicated “Solitary By Choice,” on why being “solitary” does not mean being isolated.

Cara Schulz

Cara Schulz

“Finding a suitable partner is difficult enough for anyone. With more Pagans saying finding a partner who shares their values, if not their religion, the search for a match is even more difficult. How to overcome that challenge? Attend one of the large gatherings of Pagans at festivals such as Pagan Spirit Gathering (PSG). At this year’s PSG attendees were invited to a single’s meet and greet, attend the wedding of a couple who met at last year’s PSG, and wish Circle Sanctuary‘s Rev. Selena Fox and Dr. Dennis Carpenter, who met and later married at PSG, a happy 27th wedding anniversary. Rev. Fox says that from the very beginning of PSG, straight and same sex couples have met, and married or handfasted, at the festival. “I think the courting dimensions of attending festivals is something quite old and never goes out of style. I’m happy for all the good relations that have come out of PSG,” said Rev. Fox. What is changing are the increasing numbers of Pagans who attend festivals with the express purpose of finding Pagan, and not just Pagan friendly, mate. Yet just like in the mundane world, sometimes love finds you when you aren’t looking for it.”Cara Schulz at PNC-Minnesota writing about looking for, and finding, love at Pagan festivals.

Rev. Kirk Thomas

Rev. Kirk Thomas

“ADF has always championed the civil rights of all people. Our priests have performed same-sex weddings where legal and handfastings where they are not. And we are delighted to see that US Federal benefits will now be available to same-sex couples who may now legally wed, and to see that marriage rights have been extended to California. But this still leaves a large number of people without such rights.  In the USA only 30% of people live in states where same-sex marriage is legal, and while the momentum is there, we fear that many of our members in less liberal areas of the country won’t see such rights for a long time indeed. We have members all over the world, but outside of the USA only Canada offers full marriage rights, though our members in New Zealand will have full rights starting in August.. The United Kingdom may have full rights soon, but Australia only recognizes same-sex marriage where one partner has had gender reassignment therapy. So while we are delighted that this step has finally been taken in the United States, we are also aware of how much more there is to be done. We pray that through hard work and strong intention the Gods will support all of us in achieving marriage equality for all people.” – Rev. Kirk Thomas, Archdruid of Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship (ADF), releasing an official ADF statement in the wake of the Supreme Court’s rulings on DOMA and Prop 8.

Lupa, author of "Skin Spirits," at her shop.

Lupa, author of “Skin Spirits,” at her shop.

“What I had thought I wanted was more structure and piety, sharing nature through an evangelism of orthopraxy. What I needed, in fact, was to toss the entire artifice away and simply immerse myself in the world of awe and wonder I’d rediscovered. As for the spirits? I no longer needed to try to keep convincing myself that their presence was a literal reality despite all my doubts and inconsistencies. I didn’t need “belief”, I didn’t need to use speculation and pseudoscience to “prove” that the spirits are “real”, and I ceased caring whether they even existed outside of my own deeply rooted imagination or not, because I only needed them to be important to me. I had the twin flames of science and creativity, the one creating a structure of general objective understanding, and the other adding wholly personal, subjective color that didn’t have to be “true” for anyone but me. And that is where I am today. I still honor my totems and other spirits, but as a personal pantheon carried inside of me. They are what gives added vitality to the world around me; they embody my wonder and awe, my imagination and creativity, the things that I as a human being bring to the relationships I have to everything else in this world. Science is important in that it tells me how the moon was formed, what the dust on it is made of, and how it affects the tides, but there is a spirit inside of me that loves the beautiful silver of the moonlight and all the stories we’ve told about Mama Luna. In balance and complement, science and spirits both become my animism today.” – Lupa, on how she lost her religion and gained the world.

Jason Mankey

Jason Mankey

“The heroes of American Religion are constantly being co-opted and misinterpreted for political gain. The deism of Thomas Jefferson has been overlooked by many who have attempted to insert an Evangelical Jesus into places where that messiah did not exist. Similarly, the Hellfire Club’s Benjamin Franklin has been romanticized to the point of caricature. Many of America’s deified heroes are now more myth than man; their failings ignored by a general populace that refuses to believe any of our “Founding Fathers” were capable of making mistakes. […] While having a great deal of respect and admiration for many of our national leaders and the documents and speeches that make up American Civil Religion, I am no fan of the institution. I love the symbolism of figures like Justice and Liberty, but the deification of words and men leads to a false sense of infallibility. America remains a great nation, but we also remain a nation capable of mistakes and a rigidness of thinking. The men who wrote the Constitution never thought that their words would be taken as holy writ. They were politicians and not prophets; men with flaws and limitations just like the rest of us. I think their humanity makes them more compelling and is worth remembering.”Jason Mankey on American civil religion, and its shortcomings.

That’s all I have for now, have a great day! Oh, and if you’d like to hear me spout off on various topics, Inciting A Riot has a podcast interview with me up now.