Archives For Peter Dybing

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.

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!

Patrick McCollum and members of HAF with the resolution.

Patrick McCollum and members of HAF with the resolution.

On Monday in California a resolution introduced by Senate Majority Leader Ellen M. Corbett was unanimously adopted by the State Senate. SCR-32 designates October as Hindu American Awareness and Appreciation Month, and was backed by the Hindu American Foundation. Pagan chaplain and activist Patrick McCollum, who was honored by HAF in 2009 due to his work on behalf of minority religions, was invited to be a part of this moment, one that he called “historic.” McCollum added that “Pagans and Hindus have supported one another for equal rights and recognition and we stand together for a better world.” This is the first such resolution to honor American Hindus, and one of very few resolutions to honor a non-Christian minority faith in the United States. As State Senator Corbett says in her official statement, quote, “I am honored to represent constituents from many diverse backgrounds, including a significant number of Hindu Americans, California is home to a thriving community of over 370,000 Hindu Americans that enrich our state’s diversity and professional assets in fields as diverse as academia, science, technology, business, arts and literature.” You can see a picture of Rev. Patrick McCollum with Senate Majority Leader Corbett, here. Congratulations to our Hindu cousins!

COVR Award

COVR Award

The International New Age Trade Show (INATS) was held this past weekend, and the annual COVR (Coalition of Visionary Retailers) awards were handed out. Pagan and metaphysical publisher Llewellyn Worldwide took home four COVR awards, including a First Runner Up award (Wicca/Paganism category) for Rev. Mark Townsend’s “Jesus Through Pagan Eyes” (reviewed here). The big Pagan winner of the weekend was author Christopher Penczak, who took home First Place awards for “Buddha, Christ, Merlin: Three Wise Men for Our Age” and “The Gates of Witchcraft,” a Runner Up prize for “Feast of the Morrighan,” and two awards for his spell coins. Penczak said he was “humbled and grateful” for the recognition he received. You can read more about this year’s COVR nominees and winners here, here, and here. For an insiders perspective of INATS, and the future of the occult/metaphysical market, I found this blog post very interesting.  Congratulations to all the winners!

Adocentyn Research Library

Adocentyn Research Library

The Adocentyn Research Library in the San Francisco Bay Area of California, in the process of building what they hope will be “the premier Pagan research center in the Western US,” have reached a new milestone. According to Adocentyn board member and co-founder Donald H. Frew, their online catalogue has surpassed 4,500 volumes, with far more volumes on-site and in the process of being catalogued. Quote: “There are over 6000 volumes currently on-site (plus hundreds of periodicals) with another 5000+ coming (plus ephemera such as correspondence, notebooks, etc.). Cataloguing takes time, but we have 19 volunteers helping us move things along. We will be opening soon.” This is exciting progress for the library, and you can keep up with the latest announcements at their official Facebook page. As I’ve reported previously, Adocentyn is in preliminary talks with the New Alexandrian Library Project (currently under construction) and other institutions in forming a Pagan Libraries Organization so that they can share information, and offer inter-library loans.

Blue plaque ceremony.

Blue plaque ceremony.

Last week’s Summer Solstice saw the dedication of a commemorative blue plaque at the Brighton, UK home of Dorren Valiente, called by many the mother of modern religious Witchcraft (you can read my previous coverage of the plaque here). Druid leader Philip Carr-Gomm, who attended the ceremony, said that this was a historic moment for more than one reason. Quote: “This is a first for Wicca and Paganism but this was also a historic moment for another reason – it is apparently the first blue plaque to appear on a council block.” The Centre for Pagan Studies has posted a video of the unveiling which I’ve embedded below. You can see additional coverage of the event at The Argus, which has also posted a video from the ceremony. John Belham-Payne, who inherited the bulk of Valiente’s Pagan-oriented estate, says he plans to open a museum in Brighton. Quote: “I’ve been contacted by museum owners in Salem but Brighton is the only place for the collection.”

In Other Pagan Community News:

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.

Wendy Griffin

Wendy Griffin

“To me, whether or not to have professional ministry is the wrong question. We have one even if we don’t call it that. The real question is do we want an educated ministry? Do we want Pagans who will serve in these ministerial situations who have been trained in things like ethics and boundaries, family dynamics, substance abuse, social justice issues, interfaith dealings, counseling techniques – all from a Pagan perspective? As Paganism continues to grow and more Pagans feel safe to practice their religion openly, I don’t think we can afford not to have a professional priesthood, and by that, I mean men and women who have been systematically educated to minister to Pagans in need. I believe we owe that to ourselves and to our gods.” – Wendy Griffin, Academic Dean at Cherry Hill Seminary, on the subject of a professional priesthood within modern Paganism.

T. Thorn Coyle

T. Thorn Coyle

“When I say I am not a believer, it doesn’t mean I believe nothing. It is that belief is not central to my religious and spiritual life. As a matter of fact, belief holds little importance to me at all. Belief doesn’t structure my experience; my experience structures what few beliefs I might have. My spiritual life consists of praxis first, theoria second. Any theories I hold are simply there to explain — or give context to — experience. Sometimes gnosis enters on a flash of synaptic lighting, but the pathway is usually opened by practice first. The times when this process is reversed, it is still practice that shows me whether or not the flash of insight was an aberration. Like the scientific jolt that happens in the bathtub or while stepping on a city bus: after the big event, we return to the processes that test and compare.” – T. Thorn Coyle, at the Huffington Post, explaining why she isn’t a believer.

Michael York

Michael York

“At the Pagan Federation Conference in London yesterday, we got to see *The Spirit of Albion* and loved it. The dialogue may present a bit to be desired for, and Richard considered the film to be an English pagan *Umbrellas of Cherbourg*, but the viewer is drawn in all the same. The film is an astounding collaboration of volunteers and a low-budget enterprise, but it presents ‘what is always there’ beneath and behind the ‘illusion of modernity’. A wonderful work for explaining paganism to the wider community. Patrick and Barbara, it has already been used most helpfully in prison work and with prison authorities. All the music has been composed by Damh the Bard, and the movement between the worlds is fascinating. I strongly recommend Gary Andrews production.” – Michael York, author of “Pagan Theology: Paganism As A World Religion,” on the Pagan film “The Spirit of Albion.”

Hope M.

Hope M.

“It is only when I fully accept what I am powerless over that I can take my rightful place of power in the center of the pentacle and access the powers of spirit, earth, air, fire and water. At that moment, I finally understand myself in right perspective to the things that are around me. A witch cannot shape reality until she understands it. Admitting that there are things in the world, in nature, that she is powerless over is acknowledging that she is part of the tremendous web of life in which all things are connected. Humans, no matter how impressive our cognition, cannot set ourselves above or apart from the forces of nature. We are all bound by the laws of physics. We are all touched by death. To admit we are powerless over things is to claim our birthright as people of this Earth. It is to lay our heart out open and say “Yes, I am vulnerable. See how strong my heart beats” And yet, In their efforts to rewrite the Twelve steps for a more Pagan-friendly model, many authors have written the concept of powerless out of the first step.” – Hope M. of the 12 Step Witch blog writing about the importance of understanding powerlessness at PaganSquare.

John Beckett

John Beckett

“The liberal religions (which include virtually all forms of Paganism) are not proselytizing religions – we have no desire to convert the whole world to our ways. But there are plenty of folks who need what we have. They feel the call of the old gods and goddesses. They feel the call of Nature and the spirits of Nature. They feel the call of magic, of the alchemy that refines not base metals but human souls. Do we welcome them? Do we have a place for them? Do we help them find their way to Druidry or Heathenry or Humanistic Paganism or whatever flavor they’re best suited for? Or do we close ourselves off in our box pews and let them fend for themselves?” – John Beckett, discussing box pews, both physical and metaphorical, at the Patheos Pagan Portal.

Thom Swanson

Thom Swanson

“Our original (pieces are) heavily Pagan oriented.  Because a lot of them – at least, mine – have come from either when I’m invoked, or through trances, or at drum circles . . . they just pop in.  To help bridge that gap, we throw in some traditional Irish songs, as well as traditional English ones.  And that sort of helps at our concerts  . . . it makes sort of welcome listening for everyone.  That’s the way I see it should be.  Whether it’s Pagan music or mainstream music, it should be able to appeal to the masses.  Because that’s what music is: a voice, and an entity that wants to be heard, that needs to be heard, and especially with today’s society, the music needs to be heard by as many people as possible.” -Thom Swanson, of the Celtic folk-rock band Raven’s Call, in an interview with Diane Morrison at PaganSquare.

Fire Lyte

Fire Lyte

“I believe modern Pagan thinking, Wiccan-influenced Paganism especially, could take a tip from the evolution of the Muses in Classical Greek mythology. There are nine classical muses that represent all sorts of areas of interest, ranging from science to literature to music and theatre. We could, and should, recognize that people walk all sorts of different paths, and that our instinct is to relate to gods that resemble those paths. As was said before, we like gods that look like us, but the flip-side is that we find it hard to relate to – at least when it comes to worship and having a personal relationship with – gods and goddesses that look nothing like us, whose domain of influence is alien to our personal worldview. Anthropotheism says that we made the gods look and act like us, but the confusion here is that we think that’s where it stopped. That we created archetypes and deities and gave them names and faces and associations and carved it in stone somewhere and said THIS IS HOW THINGS ARE AND HAVE TO BE. Good news! You can continue to evolve your concept of the divine just as much as the divine continues to help you grow and change. We work together, us and the divine, because we are part of it, of them. As above, so below, right? If you need the Goddess to wear different mantels, then so be it.” – Fire Lyte, of Inciting A Riot fame, discusses the triple goddess at The Witches’ Voice.

Cherry Hill Seminary's Holli Emore

Holli Emore
Executive Director, Cherry Hill Seminary

“Wild Garden will explore and report on Pagans in the growing – yes, like a garden – interfaith landscape. I’ll be posting, as well as hosting a number of other Pagan bloggers who are out there somewhere in the blackberry patch. Wild Garden will place a particular emphasis on the local and regional grassroots movements happening around the country. By sharing our experiences, we hope to inspire readers to put on a sunhat, grab some gloves and come on out into the sunshine. Some of you have read my past accounts on Palimpsest, about months of my religion being listed as “Other,” about the minister who made an apology to me and all Pagans the subject of his Sunday sermon, about my role on the board of directors of Interfaith Partners of South Carolina. I’ll continue to share those stories here at Wild Garden, along with my observations and the personal lessons I learn. Maybe you have a story to tell? We at Wild Garden will be all ears to your comments here at the blog. We want to hear what you are doing, what has worked for you, scared you off, intrigued you and inspired you.” – Holli Emore, introducing the new group Pagan interfaith blog “Wild Garden,” at the Patheos Pagan Portal.

Alan Moore

Alan Moore

“I think that the current interest in occult and magical activities among musicians and artists is kind of to be welcomed, and in some ways perhaps predictable and inevitable. I think that our culture has gone about as far as it can in having no content or meaning to its art, and I think that an attempt to invest meaning in our culture and in our art by imbuing it with a sensibility of magic is probably necessary, and, like I said, probably inevitable, and certainly long overdue. I salute it considerably.” – Alan Moore, writer and magician, in an interview with The Believer magazine.

 

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!

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

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

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

Peter Dybing and Selena Fox of the Lady Liberty League.

Peter Dybing and Selena Fox of the Lady Liberty League.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Other Pagan Community News:

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

Almost a week has gone by since the Marathon bombings – another terrorist act that has rocked the foundations of America’s comfort and security. If that wasn’t enough, the event was followed by a plant explosion in Texas with more injuries and loss of life. I really haven’t found a good way to express my sadness over either tragedy. I am on the outskirts of both situations. My sadness is purely communal.

Sports Illustrated Cover Image

Sports Illustrated Cover Image

So, instead of focusing on the broken pieces of grief, I’ve decided to shine a light on the people who lift us up during these extreme moments. I’m talking about the first responders who, in times of crisis, demonstrate the true power of the human spirit. They rush towards horror – not away. They normalize a situation, save lives and secure the community. They don’t consider themselves heroes but the rest of us often do.

On April 22, Sports Illustrated will feature John Tlumack’s iconic photo of three Boston Police Officers springing into action. This shot captures the instantaneous response of the officers – a moment in time. I am always transfixed by such photos. They leave me with a deep sense of awe that dredges up powerful tears of respect. I couldn’t do what they do. In emergency situations, I’m best locked in a padded room until danger passes.

On Tuesday, Rabbi Shai Held posted an article in The Tablet, a Jewish online magazine, which contemplates the first responders’ dedication to serve. Speaking through his faith, he writes:

In Jewish theology, the highest human ideal is to “walk in God’s ways.” A well-known Talmudic text puts it this way: “Just as God clothes the naked, so should you; just as God visited the sick, so should you; just as God comforted the mourners, so should you; and just as God buried the dead, so should you” (Sotah 14a). To walk in God’s ways, in other words, is to act in the ways that the Torah describes God as acting. Just as God is present when people are vulnerable and suffering, so should we be.   

Generally speaking, Christians have a similar theological ethic. I spoke with John Morehead, custodian for the Evangelical Chapter of the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy. He explained:

In the Christian tradition, [there are] ethical teachings of putting others ahead of yourself, and this is done in light of the overarching New Testament teaching of the death and resurrection of Christ as God using…human evil as a form of transformative justice where the giving of innocent life out of love overcomes evil …

Christians use Biblical verse to support their charitable work and commitment to community. For example, Peter 4:10 reads “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others.”

What is the role of Pagan theology in the mindset of the first responder? We don’t have referential texts to guide our sense of transformative justice or “Godliness” as it were. Is there any religiously-based ethic that drives Pagan first responders?

Peter Dybing

Peter Dybing

I contacted ten different first responders. Unfortunately, most of them could not participate in the discussion. The demands, sensitivity and climate of their jobs prevent them from being publicly Pagan.

Fortunately, Peter Dybing was able to offer some insight. Peter is the Logistics Section Chief at National All Risk Incident Management Team, a Wild land Firefighter, an EMT and an IFSTA Fire Service Instructor. For Peter, becoming a first responder was part of his own spiritual transformation. He had what some may term “a calling” that coaxed him from the buttoned-up corporate lifestyle into one of service and Goddess spirituality. He said:

As my relationship with the Goddess blossomed I understood compassion as being central to my chosen path. The desire was strong to engage in service to my community as part of my goal to grow in my relationship with divinity… Believing that all contains the spark of the divine drives me to be in service to the entire world …

This commitment continues to drive Peter’s work. He added:

In service to those in crisis I feel the presence of divinity in a more powerful way than I ever have at any ritual. Often I am overwhelmed with the sense that I am walking my path “with” the Goddess.

Sandra L. Harris, M.Div., Pagan Pastoral Counseling

Sandra L. Harris, M.Div., Pagan Pastoral Counseling

Pagan Chaplain Sandra Harris, M.Div expressed a similar connection with the Goddess in her work.* Since we last spoke, Sandra has completed her training as a community chaplain first responder. She is also a trained crisis chaplain acting as the on-call chaplain for a Level 1 Trauma Center and a hospital.

Sandra’s Pagan faith and interest in religious plurality lead to her work as a hospital chaplain. However, her underlying need to serve was born much earlier, during her Girl Scout years. She said:

I now recognize my own Brownie initiation as my first Craft initiation. The magic embedded the ethic deeply in me, and that ethic includes being prepared and helping other people…That magic is a very potent driving force, reinforced through life and practice…

Although Sandra’s and Peter’s work are very different, they both use their spirituality while on the job. Peter explains:

I always silently call the directions, invoke divinity and ask for guidance. At large disasters this process is more formal.  At smaller more immediate events this process is often completed in a shortened version before I even step from my vehicle… On two occasions, I was asked what I was doing. I stated that it is a private matter. There is an unwritten rule that we do not discuss issues like politics and religion with each other on scene.

As a chaplain, Sandra’s spiritual connection goes beyond personal practice. She said:

On the job, I am the hands and voice of the Goddess, as She chooses to work and speak through me.  I give myself over to this when I arrive on scene, then proceed to do what needs done trusting that I will know what to do…The scene, whatever it is, is Sacred Space. On entering Sacred Space, I ground and center, then invoke Her Presence…  Then I do, whatever – knowing and aware.  When stepping out of this Sacred Space, I ground and center again, thank Her, and leave the rest in Her hands…. This is the only way I know to remain sane in the face of the outrageous, the horrible, the traumatic, and the anguish.

A retired police officer confided in me that, like Sandra, his Pagan faith has also helped him through many difficult situations. However, he also emphatically stated that his work really has no theologically-based ethic. He explained, “[Officers] enjoy doing their job and working to help the public.”  Peter, Sandra and John Morehead all echoed this sentiment.

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Vietnam Women’s Memorial
Courtesy of Flickr’s lindseywb

I believe that to be true. Time and time again, we have all witnessed the average person become a “first responder.” Although they are normally fire fighters, police officers, EMT and military personnel, they can also be flight attendants, pilots, medical professionals, passengers on a doomed flight and even a teacher willing to take a bullet to save her children. In that respect, there is a first responder instinct deep within all of us. It begins with an ethic that is born of our humanness and rises, when needed, through our personal world views, religious or not.

While we each might have the capability, some people have a gift, similar to that of artist, that pushes them into a life of service as a professional first responder. May we never forget to thank those individuals who risk personal sacrifice for the good of us all. They are the ones that stand ready to hold the light when and if the danger comes.

* Note: Here are some additional thoughts on Crisis Chaplaincy by Sandra Harris. The entirety of her statement did not fit in the article but these words were too insightful not to share.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peter Dybing (Photo: Tony Mierzwicki)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Last week I presented the question of Pagan solidarity. Does it exist? Should it exist? What is the impact and evolution of such a concept? Generally speaking, it is widely accepted that Pagan solidarity, in some form, is vital for both the protection and continued growth of the non-traditional religions that fall under the Pagan umbrella. Additionally, solidarity can offer a sense of community and comfort over a host of social networks supporting both Pagan groups and solitary practitioners.

In December of 2011, Lady Liberty League mobilized a Task Force to protect a Southern Pagan family’s religious liberty within a public school system. The Task Force, of which I was a member, was comprised of professional individuals representing different Pagan organizations and Pagan spiritual traditions. Together, in solidarity, we worked for three weeks and, in the end, achieved quite a victory.

After that case was settled, the Task Force itself disbanded. However, Lady Liberty League still operates; watching and waiting. Since 1985, the organization has been ever on the “ready” with the ability to mobilize Pagan resources as needed. When active solidarity becomes a regular occurrence an organization is born.

Let’s turn now to a network of Pagan voices to hear their thoughts on the growth and importance of the Pagan organization.

Chas Clifton

Chas Clifton (center)

Our desire to be seen as a legitimate religion by government entities has forced us to change to fit their definitions, which, in the United States at least, were designed for Protestant Christians…We have been dealing with this issue since the mid-1970s, when the Covenant of the Goddess was created. – Chas Clifton, editor of The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies and a practitioner of American Eclectic Craft

Jonathon S. Lowe

Jonathon S. Lowe

One of the most basic principles of Paganism is that we are all interconnected to everyone and everything around us. Solidarity helps us to solidify those connections… Organizations are merely facilitators helping to make these connections possible.”  – Rev. Jonathon S. Lowe, Interfaith Minister, Founder Midnight Star School of Witchcraft, Coordinator of The Atlanta Pagan Marketplace of Ideas 

Lady Charissa

Lady Charissa
North Georgia Solitaries

I am a member of several worthy organizations that…have members with diverse beliefs and yet all of these organizations work every day to help build community by concentrating on the task at hand and respecting each other’s differences. Lady Charissa, founder of North Georgia Solitaries, coordinator of the Pagan Assistance Fund, High Priestess of Silver Pine Grove 

Before we go any further, we need to deal in semantics. Most responders made no distinction between an institution and an organization. Are they same thing?  Covenant of the Goddess representatives, Rachael Watcher and Ginger Wood say no.

On the Fears and Dangers of Institutionalization:

Certainly some individuals and small groups might come together for the sake of mutual interest and form an organization, but would that constitute an institution? … Those who are drawn to think outside the box in expressions of spiritual freedom are not generally going to be ready to discard that freedom of thought for yet another set of doctrinal mandates. – Rachael Watcher, National Interfaith Representative for Covenant of the Goddess 

Ginger Wood

Ginger Wood

We do have organizations that have worked hard some for over 30 years, to give Pagans a flag to unite under. [But] I will not accept [institutionalization] as “must” and I pray to the Goddess that none of us are forced to institutionalize in order to be heard.  – Ginger Wood, National First Officer of Covenant of the Goddess, Priestess of Gryphon Song Clan and Pagan novelist

Both Rachael and Ginger are using the accepted sociological definition of institution which is explained at length in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Very briefly, an organization is less complex or rigid in structure, scope or activity than an institution.   

Christine Hoff Kraemer

Christine Hoff Kraemer

We need to think deeply about what kinds of organizational structures best support our values…guard against rigidity in power structures and in belief systems. – Christine Hoff Kraemer, Managing Editor at Patheos Pagan Channel, Cherry Hill Seminary Instructor

Institutionalization is a big issue for me, always has been. It’s something I’ve resisted…  In more recent years my attitude has softened. Years ago my friend Sam Webster insisted that we needed to establish institutions because institutions are the only thing that lasts.  Individual humans pass on.  M. Macha Nightmare, Priestess, witch, teacher, ritualist and author.

M Macha Nightmare

M Macha Nightmare

Macha makes an excellent point. Humans do pass on. Organizations or institutions can be passed down. Can we create viable Pagan institutions that serve solidarity without sacrificing spiritual freedom and, at the same time, last for decades to come?

On the Building of Pagan Institutions:

Holli S. Emore

Holli S. Emore

“Pagans are perfectly capable of having healthy institutions which serve our needs and goals, indeed, we participate in such institutions every day in our real-world lives…Why wouldn’t we want to enjoy the benefits of stronger infrastructure, better accountability and healthy leadership?” – Holli S. Emore, executive director of Cherry Hill Seminary, Priestess of Temple Osireion 

Peter Dybing

Peter Dybing

A wide diversity of Pagan institutions are necessary as the glue that will bind us in our common effort to defend the rights of all belief systems. Peter Dybing, Pagan Service Advocate, Chief Officer, Federal Incident Management Team, 100% for Haiti Board member

Crystal Blanton

Crystal Blanton

We need some of the power that institutions bring to any community or movement… Togetherness commands attention …The key is finding a way to use the concepts of community solidarity in balance with some of the undesirable things that come with community dynamics – Crystal Blanton, High Priestess with Solitaries of the Second, Pagan author.

So how do we create that balance? How do we create and maintain healthy organizations and fluid institutions that promote solidarity and allow for that community dynamic?

Building trust person-to-person, which tends to spread to friends of those people who begin learning who each other is, how they think, what their concerns are, how they express their spirituality.… I think one of our greatest assets as Pagans is our diversity.  M. Macha Nightmare, Priestess, witch, teacher, ritualist and author. 

I think we should do our best to make strength out of diversity. If you have twelve Pagans together, they normally represent at least thirteen religions. [But] It is natural for people to seek agreement…I recommend we conform to one standard: mutual respect and intolerance only of intolerance. – Freeman Presson, Namen of Temple Zagduku & Fr. Ophis, Church of Hermetic Sciences. 

Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary

Selena Fox

Like a delicious multi-ingredient salad, when Pagans unite, we can bring our individual flavors and textures as we join together — and we can maintain this diversity in our collaboration. Our diversity can enrich our solidarity.Rev. Selena Fox, Senior Minister at Circle Sanctuary 

Our diversity is our strength. Our diversity is our asset. Our diversity is our core.  So, with that essential ingredient, can we venture to build uniquely-structured institutions that respect and serve the expansive Pagan world view for generations to come?  If so, these institutions must conform to the rigid expectations of mainstream society; thereby ensuring our legal protection and promoting social awareness. And, as the wheel turns, this increased awareness will eventually lead to a broader and a healthier social acceptance of the diversity that began it all.

Thank you to all the contributors for their valued opinions and to the readers for opening the doorway to this conversation and continuing the process into the future.

Full Comments: (listed alphabetically)

Crystal Blanton
Chas Clifton
Peter Dybing
Holli S. Emore
Rev. Selena Fox
Christine Hoff Kraemer
Lady Charissa
Rev. Jonathon S. Lowe
M. Macha Nightmare
Freeman Presson
Rachael Watcher

 

Pagans are a part of the web and weave of everyday culture. We’ve emerged from being a largely subcultural religious phenomenon and have steadily gained increasing attention, most notably from the mainstream media. For example, The Huffington Post’s new HuffPost Live initiative held a group interview on Halloween with Teo BishopAmy BlackthornGus DiZeregaMorgan Copeland and Patrick McCollum. As expected, they covered some basics, talked about Samhain, and shared their personal perspectives on modern Paganism.

HuffPo Screenshot

You can watch the entire interview, here. In addition, Teo Bishop shares some of the conversation that happened after the formal interview ended.

“Perhaps the most exciting part of the experience for me was what happened after the Google Hangout ended. The panelists stayed on the call and talked for a good 30 minutes more, sharing perspectives about a whole variety of topics. We re-addressed some of what happened while we were on the air, and there are a few things that stuck out that I’d like to get your take on.”

A shame the follow-up conversation wasn’t recorded! In any case, this was a nice Pagan-centered exploration of our interconnected faiths, and I’m glad that HuffPost Live garnered such an impressive lineup! Congratulations!

On a less serious note – Pagans also got a bit of inadvertent mainstream attention from late-night talk show host Conan O’Brien when he showcased a number of magazines that will outlive Newsweek’s print edition. Among the titles picked? Why our own Witches & Pagans Magazine, featuring M. Macha NightMare on the cover!

conan macha

You can get a closer shot of Conan holding the magazine, here. You can watch the entire video segment, here. Now W&P editor Anne Newkirk Niven (and Macha) can add “as seen on Conan” to her publications resume! For those worried about if this was a negative portrayal, don’t worry, Conan’s show is on TBS.

On a more serious note, while it’s fun to see ourselves on HuffPost Live, or even on Conan, it’s good to remember that we’re more than what appears on popular media outlets. That many Pagans are dedicated to service, healing, and responding to those in need. Pagan elder Peter Dybing, a first responder who has served in earthquake-ravaged Haiti, the Gulf Coast during the Deepwater Horizon disaster, and several larger forest/brush fires, reports from an East Coast ravaged by Hurricane Sandy.

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An overview of the fire damage in Queens, New York, following Hurricane Sandy.

“As new missions evolve and priorities change the mission of my team keeps changing. Primarily we are clearing roads of downed trees so relief supplies and emergency vehicles can get through. The devastation is complete along the shore on Long Island. Thousands of cars along with hundreds of homes lie buried in the sand. Most heart breaking of all is the evacuee’s staying in the same place as the disaster teams. Their stories of hardship and loss have brought me to tears on multiple occasions. Hardest of all is remaining focused on our mission and not assisting the evacuees with issues outside our assignment.  My heart breaks for these families.” 

For some Pagan efforts to raise money for those affected by Hurricane Sandy, see my Community Notes post from Thursday. Our prayers go with Peter and all the other first responders working in the aftermath to help those affected rebuild. Our prayers also go out to those still struggling without power, without resources, or without a home.

Taken together, these impression complicate the picture some try to paint of our faiths, our movement. It reminds the world that we share their common humanity, and that we are a part of a larger community, even as we are a part of our own.