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Value

You Are What You Believe

Or

You Are What You Do.

 

We fall somewhere on the spectrum between these two statements.

 

We are either driven by our beliefs, or we allow our beliefs to be informed by our practices.

In this regard, there is a distinction to be made.

Many Pagans have a spiritual practice that starts from the ground up (quite literally). For them, the lived experienced and the wisdom gained from their engagement with the earth, the land, or with their own sense of self is paramount.

Many polytheists (particularly non-Pagan identifying polytheists) have a religious practice that is deity-centric. For them, the relationship with their Gods, informed as it is by the precepts of their tradition, is of greatest importance.

But some of us float in between. Some of us are not so certain of how comfortable we are with either of the extremes. Some of us are in a process of unpacking our beliefs in order to inform our practices, and close-examining our practices in order to articulate belief.

We are not simple creatures, human beings, and there is no need to try and simplify the complexities of our spiritual lives in order to have dialogue with one another.

We can remain complicated and still have community.

I am not seeking to begin a new debate, nor am I interested in hashing out an old one. This post, and the by-products of this post, will be an attempt at sparking more intra/inter-faith dialogue within and around our communities.

Plain and simple:

I want to know what your values are.

When I asked you to crowdsource Pagan theologies, you came out in droves. You represented yourselves in ways that, in my opinion, demonstrated a healthy approach to interfaith dialogue. You started with your individual perspective, and you offered it up to the community. In turn, the community responded with respect. We listened. We took in the meaning. We saw the contradictions, but we did not rush to criticize. In my view, this was a healthy and successful activity.

Now, as we approach the 5th annual Pagan Values Event that begins on June 1st, we have the opportunity to try out this approach another time.

See, I think our community gets a bad rap. There’s a story that’s told about how we’re unwilling to communicate with each other, or that we’re so hell-bent on seeing the world through our own perspective that we can’t meet others with differing views where they stand. I think some of us are willing to perpetuate that narrative because it’s familiar. It feels easy. It keeps us from holding one another accountable, and holding ourselves accountable. Respectful dialogue, especially on the Internet, requires patience and intention. The story goes that people in our community don’t have a whole lot of that.

I don’t believe that story.

My experience in community is that we are a direct product of the stories we tell about ourselves. We are the thing we describe ourselves to be, and if we decide to describe ourselves as a conflicted people, one who will not or cannot be in community with each other, then we will have that experience.

But, likewise, if we begin to work with the narrative that we are a people of respect and honor, who listen patiently and who resist the impulse to lash out at one another, then that is the people we will be.

The Pagan Values Event is a month-long event which encourages people of all traditions to share, through whatever media is available to them, what their values look like. It is, as with the crowdsourcing theology exercise, an opportunity for people to bear witness to their own inner-experience.

These are some things to ask yourself as you consider participating in this crowdsourced event:

  • If you are a person who structures your religious life around a devotional practice to your Gods, how is that informed by your values? Or, how does your practice inform your values?
  • If you do not see yourself as religious, but rather as a spiritual Pagan, what informs your sense of personal values? How are your values lived out in your spiritual life?
  • If your tradition is being grouped in with “Pagan,” but you do not feel that comfortable identifying with that term (and all of what is associated with it), how would you define the values of your tradition? Do they line up with your values? If they are divergent, how do you reconcile the inconsistencies?

 

Write about these and other thoughts on your blog, or speak about it on your podcast. Once you’ve penned your contribution share a link at the Pagan Values site, on the Pagan Values Page on Facebook, or tweet @PaganValues with the URL and hashtag #PVE2013. Be sure to tag your blog post with “Pagan Values Event 2013″ or “PVE2013″. This will make it easier for your post to be curated on the site.

As you’ll see in the PVE archive, the process of curation is extensive. There is a record of dozens upon dozens of individuals sharing their values with the world, saying in effect:

This is who I am. This is why I do what I do. This is what gives my religious or spiritual life meaning.

I believe that at the heart of all of our divergent traditions is a quest for some greater meaning. We may be reaching for something meaningful in different ways, using different tools and technologies to uncover that meaning. Our vernacular may be divergent, and our viewpoints may be irreconcilable. But this desire for a meaningful life may just be a commonality that is worth greater consideration.

For more information about the event, visit the Pagan Values website, or read this post from 2011.

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

Happy World Tarot Day!

Happy World Tarot Day!

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

Just a few quick notes for you on this Saturday afternoon.

Bjork’s Biophilia: Way back in 2007 I covered the very Pagan inclinations of Iceland’s favorite musical export, Björk, as she released her then-new album “Volta.” Now Bjork’s back with an ambitious new interactive album project entitled “Biophilia,” and she talks to The Quietus about politics, the sacredness of nature, and why she’s against the “Christian idea” of how music should be constructed.

“So for me, how I hear music, is kind of more related to nature, it’s not related to some Christian idea, these German guys, Bach and Beethoven. I don’t mean that in a bad way, I totally respect Christians and Germans, it’s just monopoly is never a good idea, there should be versatility.”

You can read more about the app-based project, expansive tour plans, and the actual album, here. I’ve long been a fan of Bjork, and I’m very much looking forward to this new and ambitious project.

Why the San Francisco Peaks are Sacred: Censored News showcases a Dine’ youth film that explores why the San Francisco Peaks in Arizona are sacred to the Dine’ (Navajo) people.

It’s a short film that’s well worth watching, and gives a clear idea of why the peaks are so important. The issue of development on the peaks in defiance of protests from 13 different indigenous groups and Tribal Nations has seen renewed interest recently, including direct nonviolent action to stop construction of a water pipeline that would pump treated wastewater snow onto the mountain. You can find out more about activist efforts, here.

Pagan Podcast News: I wanted to quickly mention some news from the world of Pagan podcasting. First, Alison (of No Unsacred Place fame) and Jeff Lilly (a contributor to Pagan+Politics) have launched Dining With Druids, a podcast that’s actually pretty self-explanatory.

Dining with Druids is your opportunity to sit in once a week and eavesdrop on the wild and rambling dinner conversation of two Druids as they discuss the news of the day and other interesting tidbits, informed by their backgrounds in political philosophy, linguistics, religious studies, history, science and modern-day spirituality.

Don’t be fooled by the name — this is no cooking show! It’s a chance for you to unwind with some friendly table talk about the intersection of religion, politics, community and spirituality in an ever-changing, multicultural world. Enjoy conversation about diverse issues with hosts who know a little bit of everything, or at least enough to be curious, confused and endlessly amused. If there’s one thing you can say about dining with Druids, it’s that they always serve up plenty of food for thought!

Sounds interesting! There are already episodes up to check out. Meanwhile, there are some new episodes up from some of my favorite podcasts that you should check out: Thorn Coyle interviews Starhawk at Elemental Castings, The CUUPS Podcast interviews Rev. Christa Landon and Phaedra Bonewits about the founding of Panthea Pagan Temple, and Ravencast interviews Jon Cyr, the founder of the Young Vikings Club. Finally, I’ll soon be on The Modern Witch Podcast, details soon.

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

Top Story: Two Nebraska State Penitentiary inmates have won a lawsuit against the state’s Department of Correctional Services over the issue of religious accommodation. The issue? Acknowledgement that Theodism isn’t Asatru, and deserving of separate considerations.

“In court documents, [Wolfgang] Rust and [Bobby] Conn alleged the prison had put a substantial burden on their exercise of religion by setting specific guidelines to develop and conduct religious practices and violated their right to congregate and practice their faith by refusing to provide an outdoor space for a worship site to create an altar and by denying them certain organic foods to be sacrificed to the gods. They also asked the court to require the prison to recognize the Theodish belief as separate from Asatru and to allow them to have personal and communal religious property to practice their religion. After months of negotiations, both sides reached an agreement approved by U.S. District Judge Laurie Smith Camp in December. The prison agreed to schedule separate worship services and educational instruction and to allow Theodish belief practitioners to buy and eat organic food during the feast days so long as the food doesn’t require special handling procedures and is available from a commercial source by mail order or delivery.”

The settlement will also allow Theodish prisoners to purchase a variety of communal items for the purposes of holding religious rites. While this may not seem like a big deal to some, the formal acknowledgement that modern Paganism is simply an umbrella term, and that different Pagan faiths, even very similar ones, deserve separate accommodations is a huge leap forward. Remember, discrimination against religious minorities is endemic, and in some prisons Pagans have no access to any sort of rites, or are lumped together regardless of tradition or path. Lets hope this is the beginning of a larger change in the way our family of faiths is dealt with in U.S. prisons.

Druid Involved in Hate Crime: Last month four  individuals in Edmonton were involved in a racially motivated attack, the culmination of a night of verbal abuse against several individuals while passing out flyers for a rally by neo-Nazi organization Blood and Honour. Now the Edmonton Journal, digging into the perpetrators, has discovered that one claims to be a Pagan and Druid.

“One of the accused, Keith Virgil Decu, claims to be a druid on a metaphysical chat group and lists German neo-pagan spirituality and cooking as interests and activities on his Facebook page.”

One of the other accused has tried to mitigate the events by marking them as a “horrible night” of “drunken stupidity.” But no amount of drink can wash away the sickness that made them think passing out racist flyers, hurling abuse, and attacking people is a decent night-on-the-town. That one claims to be an artist, and another a Druid, shames both titles. One can only hope that the moral vacuum of their souls is soon filled with something other than fashionable nihilism and racist stupidity.

COG Local Council Helps Found New Interfaith Group: The Campbell Reporter/Mercury News reports on the formation of the Silicon Valley Interreligious Council (SiVIC), a South Bay organization that includes the Northern CA Local Council of Covenant of the Goddess as an inaugural Congregational Affiliate.

So why would Silicon Valley, which hosts many interfaith groups, need another one? ”We don’t have a real sense of focus or centeredness,” said the Rev. Bruce Bramlett, an Episcopalian, who also was involved in the creation of the group. A three-year study by the Knight Foundation released in 2010, “The Soul of the Community,” found that two-thirds of respondents in the valley felt disconnected. SiVIC’s enthusiastic members hope to help remedy that. ”We want to help create the glue to connect various communities,” said Mari Ellen Reynolds Loijens of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.

One of SiVIC’s first public activities will be to participate in CROP Walk 2011, an event to raise awareness and funds to combat hunger. Congratulations to the NCLC of COG for being a part of this new interfaith endeavor.

At What Cost Fame: So now that the Christian Day/Charlie Sheen “warlock” issue seems to finally be simmering down, will it ultimately benefit anyone? The press seems to have successfully made this about how Sheen is wacky, instead of focusing on the fact that he’s a serial abuser of women, and Day’s ritual certainly gained attention, but perhaps not in the context he’d like.

“The posse of witches and warlocks that gathered March 6 at a witchcraft store in Salem — and might have been at home on the Ward family couch in “The Fighter” — were wicked pissed at “Chahlie” for associating warlocks with violence. In a five-minute “magical intervention,” coven members summoned the archangels of the four corners of the world, along with a skull they’d named Robert, in a bid to bind Sheen from harming himself and others (well, actually, “hahming”).”

The old saw about there being no such thing as bad publicity only holds true if the subject(s) gain from the experience. In Day’s case, I assume that would mean increased sales for his upcoming book from Weiser. Or perhaps more television deals? I’m not sure where that particular metric should be lain. Oh, and to Bill Edelstein of Variety, it’s certainly your prerogative to mock Day’s ritual, but making fun of someone’s Boston/New England accent? That’s cheap.  The alpha and omega of my take on this whole thing can be found, here.

New Star-Studded Pagan Podcast Launches: In a final note, I just wanted to point out the launch of a new Pagan podcast, the Pagan Pathfinders Podcast. The show features an ever-shifting panel of notable Pagans, with Canadian Witch Sable Aradia acting as the host.

“Picture, if you will, a virtual campfire in the astral plane, and around this campfire, a heartbeat drum calls to the elders and leaders of the worldwide Pagan community. They are organizers, facilitators, authors, musicians, scholars, artists, advocates, and community-builders. They practice almost every conceivable Pagan faith and span time zones from the Pacific Coast of North America to New South Wales, Australia. Some of them are famous, some not-so-famous, and some only famous in their own communities. But wherever they are, whoever they are, they are those who find the paths for the rest of us.”

You can download the first episode, featuring Lord Alexian, Hawk, Ellen Evert Hopman, Edain McCoy, Nisaba Merrieweather, Brendan Myers, Myranda O’Byrne, Ali Ravenwood, Natalie Reed, and Sam Wagar now. I wish them good luck!

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

While I generally keep my music podcast A Darker Shade of Pagan from getting entangled in the daily workings of The Wild Hunt, every once in awhile I like to alert my readership of some great Pagan and Pagan-friendly music that I come across. Since I just posted my ADSOP top ten of 2010 show, I thought I would share what I thought were some of the best albums that speak to the Pagan soul from the past year. Consider it a gift-giving guide to the Pagan in your life dissatisfied by what usually passes for “Pagan music”.

ADSOP’s Top Ten Albums of 2010

10. Various Artists – “We Are All One in the Sun: Tribute to Robbie Basho” [Purchase: CDMP3]

A tribute to the seminal composer and guitarist Robbie Basho, this collection gathers several modern-day psych-folk (and folk-folk) luminaries to interpret his work, including Arborea, Fern Knight, and Meg Baird. While none of the artists may approach Basho’s mastery of the guitar, they do succeed in channeling his expansive and esoteric spirit. Highlights include Arborea’s haunting cover of “Blue Crystal Fire”, Fern Knight’s rendition of “Song For the Queen”, and Helena Espvall’s take on “Travessa Do Cabral”. A worthy collection that serves as a nice introduction to Basho’s work and the contributing artists.

09. Woodland - “Seasons In Elfland: Shadows” [Purchase: CD, MP3]

An American contemporary of such Europeans artists as Faun (who contributed to this album) and Omnia, Woodland seems to have reached a new level of maturity and consistency with this latest release. While their debut release, “Twilight”, never really resonated with me, “Shadows” proved that I had missed something the first time around. Both childlike and dark, the band takes a trip though the Unseelie and its darker mysteries, buoyed by the almost-whispered secret-spilling vocals of Kelly Miller-Lopez. A well known commodity within the Faerie subculture, Woodland is a band ready to break out to a larger audience.

08. Dyonisis – “Intoxicated” [Purchase: CDMP3]

This ethereal-rock band returns after three years with the surprisingly strong “Intoxicated”. Weaving layered, almost choral, vocals, and tackling subjects that are both mythic and personal, Dyonisis manages to breath new life into the genre. The pinnacle of the album may be the 7-plus minute long “Eve’s Song”, a roaring epic defense of the first woman who “wants to know things”. A statement of reclaiming power, choice, and sexuality from a patriarchal world. Other stand-outs include “We Are”, “Arachne’s Song”, and “Lunatic”. Truly a band that deserves more exposure outside the goth/darkwave underground.

07. Noblesse Oblige – “Malady” [Purchase: CDMP3]

How can you not enjoy an occult concept album that takes it cues from Aleister Crowley, Kenneth Anger, and Christina “Goblin Market” Rossetti? Using tarot, ghost stories, and Vodou as signposts along the way, Noblesse Oblige mixes world music, folk, and electronics to create a sinfully appealing sound. Something of a left-field release for the usually EBM/Industrial-heavy Metropolis Records, “Malady” is fascinating album that rewards serious listening, but works just as well as backdrop to whatever decadence you have planned. Check out their video for “The Great Electrifier” for a taste of the sound and aesthetic.

06. Sharron Kraus – “The Woody Nightshade” [Purchase: CDMP3]

Sharrond Kraus’ grabbed the top spot in 2008 with her masterful album “The Fox’s Wedding”, and returns in 2010 with “The Woody Nightshade”, an album that is just as intimate and personal but almost stripped of the mythic overtones of her previous work. Not to say it isn’t there at all, as songs like “Evergreen Sisters” and “The Woody Nightshade” prove, but this seems like an album born of love’s endings, a theme that repeats throughout. The sound is almost stripped bare, emphasizing sounds of fingers on guitar-strings and a lone lamenting voice. This is a record that wants to convey the singer sitting in the room with you, playing her heart out.

05. Íon – “Immaculada” [Purchase: CD, MP3]

A album for mystics that mixes the sounds of Greece, Ireland, and Portugal, “Immaculada” soars between folk and haunting darkwave soundscapes with ease. Masterminded by Duncan Patterson (Anathema, Antimatter), and featuring an array of heavenly guest vocals, it truly encapsulates a spiritual journey. Starting with an (immaculate?) conception, traveling through love and loss, and ending with a “Return to Spirit”. This is an album that grows more complex and enriching as you listen to it. Romance, loss, religion, spirituality, it’s all there, wrapped into this package.

04. Brendan Perry – “Ark” [Purchase: CDMP3]

We’ve waited over a decade, but we finally have a new Brendan Perry solo album, and I’m pleased to say it’s as strong and captivating as anything he’s ever done. Half of the hugely influential Dead Can Dance, Perry has been the quieter member of late, with former partner Lisa Gerrard releasing several soundtracks and solo albums in the past ten years. On “Ark”, Perry makes up for lost time, temporarily casting aside his preferred folk instrumentation to work with electronic backings, hearkening at times back to Dead Can Dance’s very early goth-inflected work. But this is no nostalgia trip, “Ark” is very current, dealing with war, the Middle East, and the environment, while also touching on personal themes. With so many following in his footsteps, it’s good to have the originator back amongst us once more.

03. Rajna – “Offering” [Purchase: CD, MP3]

For those of you who like Brendan Perry and Lisa Gerrard’s solo work, but miss the dynamic energy and interplay of Dead Can Dance, Rajna may be the closest you’ll ever get to a sonic reunion. Inspired by the band, this French duo have released what I consider their strongest album yet. “Offering” has a strong focus on the Mediterranean and is, in the words of the band, “an experience in time, back to hidden and forgotten worlds of the Antique, like a pathway to Eleusis and its sacred temples and mysteries.” I must have listened to the album at least a hundred times since receiving it and I still find myself surprised and drawn in by some sound or nuance I missed before. Essential for any DCD fan.

02. Fern Knight – “Castings” [Purchase: CDMP3]

I’ve been a fan of Fern Knight for years, so I was truly excited to hear that there was a new album on the way, and that the album was going to be a concept record focusing on the tarot. Traveling from “Zero to Infinity”, the band’s pleasing mixture of psych-folk and progressive-rock sounds are a perfect vehicle for the “well-worn archetypes” they encounter on their sonic journey. Fern Knight shows how to take elements and themes that could drag down a lesser band into pretentiousness and instead provide us something enthralling. One of the best albums to explore the occult made in recent memory. Check out their video for “The Poisoner” for a taste.

01. Pandemonaeon – “Dangerous Beauty” [Purchase: CDMP3]

If one band that operated within a modern Pagan context stood out among all the others this year, it would have to be Pandemonaeon. There is a tendency within our communities to judge our bands and artists lightly, graded on a curve created from our desire for music and art created “for us”. Thankfully there is no need to do that here, not only is “Dangerous Beauty” a great “Pagan” album, it’s a great album period. A powerful melding of metal, folk, goth, and Pagan-fueled chant Pandemonaeon successfully raise the bar for “Pagan music” with a collection of songs that truly rock, truly move you. There were many talented Pagan artists who released albums this year, but only Pandemonaeon managed to stretch the boundaries and create something lasting. Please read my interview with Sharon Knight of Pandemonaeon for more insight into “Dangerous Beauty” and this band.

You can download my latest podcast, featuring songs from all these albums, here. I hope you’ll explore these releases, and perhaps find some new music to love. As always, apologies to all the other artists who released great albums this year, I only have room for ten.

Pagan Community Notes is a companion to my usual Pagan News of Note, a series more focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. I want to reinforce 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 lets get started!

On Faith Adds Another Pagan Voice: I’m pleased to announce that The Washington Post’s On Faith site has added me to their panel of religious specialists and generalists. My first response, on the issue of religion within debates over homosexuality, is up now.

“It’s no secret that religion shapes our lives, our morality, our politics, and our society, so it should surprise no one that religion also shapes our reactions to homosexuality. How could it be denied? When we talk about the “traditional family” or “traditional marriage” we are, at the end of the day, talking about specific religious ideas about those topics. Indeed, when we talk about opposition to same-sex marriage, or ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, or the culture of bullying that has sparked so many high-profile suicides, the arguments come down to the perceived moral “correctness” of same-sex love and attraction.”

I join fellow Pagan panelist Starhawk, doubling the Pagan presence at that site.  I look forward to weighing in at On Faith, and being able to share a Pagan perspective with the readers there. I’ll try to be mindful of the voice and reach this gives me, and do my best to represent our diverse views while also sharing my personal opinions. I hope you’ll follow my posts there, and show WaPo that there’s an engaged modern Paganism that wants to see its voice(s) heard.

PCP Launches Pagan People: The popular Pagan podcast PCP (Pagan Centered Podcast) has launched a new series entitled “Pagan People” that aims to become the “CSPAN of Paganism”.

“Pagan Centered Podcast has launched its forth podcast series: Pagan People.  Pagan People is a podcast to document and broadcast the history of contemporary Paganism as it happens.  No commentary beyond what is necessary to understand the clip, it’s intended to be the CSPAN of Paganism.  Who knows, it may become an unbiased CNN of sorts for breaking Pagan news that has audio content.”

Their first installment is the oral arguments from Patrick McCollum’s 9th Circuit Court of Appeals appearance. PCP: Pagan People, as a member of the Pagan Newswire Collective’s partner organization Proud Pagan Podcasters, hopes to be medium “for ensuring the awesome audio content recorded by the PNC is properly attributed to the PNC and distributed to a wide audience.” You can subscribe to Pagan People via iTunes, or reach them at PaganPeople.info.

Prison System Turns to Pagan Chaplain: The newly-launched Patrick McCollum Foundation (Facebook) reports that the Washington Department of Corrections has turned to Pagan chaplain Patrick McCollum for feedback on Pagan practices.

“The Washington department of Corrections contacted Patrick for clarification of what the normal religious practices are for Wiccans and Pagans. After talking with Patrick they will be expanding accommodations for the inmates and the ability to practice their religion!”

The Washington Department of Corrections made headlines back in 2008 for altering its policy regarding a prisoner’s adherence to multiple faiths. That move caused some controversy, but was ultimately seen as a positive step for the lives of prisoners. The prison system in Washington actually has a large Pagan population, so it’s nice to see them reaching out and trying to meet the needs of Pagan prisoners.

More Pagan Surveys: Chas Clifton reminds me that Aline O’Brien (aka Macha NightMare), president of the Cherry Hill Seminary board of directors, has released a new survey “exploring the concept of eldership in contemporary Paganism.”

“I have prepared a brief 10-question informal survey for a paper I’m writing exploring the concept of eldership in contemporary Paganism. I invite you to help in my research by participating in the survey. Use of the word “elder” in this survey means elder in the sense of a formal role within a group, organization or religious community. Feel free to circulate this request to your communities. Responses will be collected until January 15, 2011. Thanks to all who help by responding.”

This survey joins the political surveys by Maelstrom from The Political Pagan, and the Pagan Health Survey conducted by Kimberly Hedrick of the TriWinds Institute. Here’s hoping all this data collection ultimately benefits our community! Also, while I’m on the subject of surveys and data collection, let’s not forget that the American Academy of Religion conference starts October 30th in Atlanta, Georgia. A whole host of Pagan Studies folks will be there, and I’m hoping to bring you some coverage and reflections from that event.

Capture the Flag? In a final note, COG First Officer-elect Peter Dybing, writing as a private citizen, and not as a representative of COG, wonders if Pagan organizations are too invested in playing “capture the flag” in our quest for Pagan rights.

“So here is the question; are we as a community even half as effectively organized to gain or defend rights for Pagans? It is tempting to provide a long list of organizations and individuals doing great work for Pagan rights in response to this question. Each of these deserves our respect for all they have accomplished. Instead, lets address if this plethora of activities is keeping us from acting with unanimity? Is our approach analogous to a group of organizations playing Capture the Flag, where there are wins, but only by small groups and not the community as a whole? Does our duplication of effort squander resources and reflect that Paganism still needs to mature into an effective movement?”

Dybing calls for “a discussion on how to unify our approach to Pagan rights.” Is this a preview of what’s to come when his term starts as First Officer of the Covenant of the Goddess? Will we see more coordination, or at least more discussion about coordination, when it comes to Pagan organizations working towards the same goal? I invite you to weigh in on this subject. What would better coordination look like? How would it be managed without compromising the autonomy of each group?

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

Pagan Podcasts: There are some recent Pagan and occult podcasts of note that I’d like to share with you, starting with the latest episode of Elemental Castings from T. Thorn Coyle, featuring a recording of a panel discussion on Pagan leadership at Pagan Spirit Gathering.

“Special podcast on Pagan Leadership: Thorn and Jason Pitzl-Waters organized a panel at the Pagan Spirit Gathering in Missouri. Panelists were Thorn, Selena Fox, Patrick McCollum, Cynthea Jones and River Higginbotham.”

I was honored to moderate this panel, and I think it provides some excellent starting points in which to hold conversations about leadership within your own communities. I’m very glad we could record it and now share these voices of leadership with you. You can download it directly, here. You can also subscribe to the podcast via iTunes.

Meanwhile, at the OBOD Druidcast, hosted by Damh the Bard, there’s a show of interviews and music culled from his own experiences at PSG. Starting with an interview with me, and culminating in an interview with Pagan singer-songwriter Arthur Hinds of Emerald Rose fame. I think it’s one of my better interviews, but you should check it out for the music. You can download the show directly, here. You can subscribe, here.

Finally, for a podcast that doesn’t feature me in some manner, please check out the latest episode of Thelema Now!, featuring an interview with Faith & The Muse vocalist Monica Richards.

“Musican/artist Monica Richards from Faith & the Muse discusses Permaculture, being an old punk rocker, and different ways to express creativity.”

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Richards, and I’m glad to see her being interviewed in this context. You can download the podcast directly, here. Subscribe via iTunes, here.

Meet Me At Merrymeet: The annual gathering and business meeting of the Covenant of the Goddess, Merrymeet, is arriving in less than a month. I’m honored to say that I’ll be speaking at this event.

“I am happy to announce that I and other members of NCLC h?ave arranged to have Jason as a guest at this year’s Merrymeet to discuss Pagans and the media. I believe his presentation will be extremely important and is not to be missed.”

For more information on this year’s Merrymeet, and a list of presenters and workshops, click here. If you’re a reader of this blog who’s attending Merrymeet, please feel free to drop a line in the comments. I’m very much looking forward to the experience!

Top Story: The issue of sectarian prayers before government meetings may be heading to the courts again, this time in Lancaster, California. After the ACLU of Southern California demanded that the Lancaster City Council stop having sectarian prayers before meetings, a local ballot initiative was overwhelmingly passed in support of the prayers.

More than 75 percent of voters in the Antelope Valley city gave their OK Tuesday to Measure I, which sought public approval for officials to select clergy of different faiths to open meetings with invocations “without restricting the content based on their beliefs, including references to Jesus Christ.”

But something being popular doesn’t make it constitutional, and even though the invocation process is supposed to be random, a legal fig-leaf to ward off lawsuits, the overwhelmingly Christian population of Lancaster has meant that most of the prayers have been to Jesus Christ. On top of this, recently re-elected Lancaster mayor Mayor R. Rex Parris made it abundandtly clear what sort of community he feels he is leading.

“We’re growing a Christian community, and don’t let anybody shy away from that,”

Those comments came in the wake of Lancaster City Councilwoman Sherry Marquez saying that beheadings were “what the Muslim religion is all about”. So to say that things are tense in Lancaster, religiously speaking, would be fair. In an opinion piece published today by the Los Angeles Times editorial board, they discusses the inevitability of a lawsuit, the current tangle of legal precedent regarding religion in the public sphere, and why the Lancaster invocation program is unconstitutional despite its randomness.

“People of varying religious beliefs should be able to attend council meetings, or any other legislative sessions, without feeling marginalized … given the dominance of Christian congregations in almost all corners of the country, a rotating guest list is going to result more often than not in Christian prayer … Though a nondenominational prayer might satisfy the vast majority of Americans, aren’t atheists, agnostics, members of polytheistic religions and, for example, Buddhists — whose faith does not include a belief in a supernatural-related God — entitled to feel equally comfortable at these sessions? … there is no getting around the fact that what the courts call nonsectarian prayer is actually polysectarian monotheistic prayer. To someone who isn’t from one of those faiths — primarily Christianity, Judaism and Islam — this sure looks like establishment of a particular religious belief.”

I applaud the LA Times for actually acknowledging the existence of polytheists when pondering sectarian invocations and various permutations of ceremonial deism. You can bet that I’ll be keeping track of this (inevitable) case as it works its way through the courts. As for the Lancaster City Council, they are supposedly going to begin a series of discussions to promote “greater intercultural understanding”, but I’m not going to hold my breath for any major changes in the attitudes of local politicians.

Millennials and Post-Christianity: USA Today reports on a rather explosive survey conducted by LifeWay Christian Resources that suggests most young adults, even Christian-identified young adults, aren’t really interested in Christianity or its religious institutions.

Most young adults today don’t pray, don’t worship and don’t read the Bible, a major survey by a Christian research firm shows. If the trends continue, “the Millennial generation will see churches closing as quickly as GM dealerships,” says Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources. In the group’s survey of 1,200 18- to 29-year-olds, 72% say they’re “really more spiritual than religious.

Only around 15% are “deeply committed” to Christianity, around 8% belong to “non-Christian” faiths, and most young Christians just aren’t interested in proselytizing. This data, if it holds true, could mean that post-Christian future I keep talking about may be here a lot sooner than we imagined, making the legal maneuvers by conservative Christians to enshrine Christianity in the public square nothing more than a desperate rearguard action.

That Bones Episode About Witches: Remember how I mentioned that forensics/cop dramedy Bones would be airing a special Kathy Reichs-penned episode, “The Witch in the Wardrobe”, that will air on May 6th? Well, here’s the teaser video.

Leaving aside for the moment Booth’s crack about people you don’t want to see naked, and the various stereotypes that will surely be dragged out, I am cautiously optimistic about this episode since Reichs has sympathetically tackled Wicca before in her novels. So I’ll be tuning in, and will let you know what I thought of it.

Livingston Parish Still Doesn’t Like Pagans: Remember Livingston Parish in Louisiana? You know, the place that passed an obviously religiously-motivated ban on fortune-telling, were taken to court by a local Wiccan, defended the law against the advice of their lawyer, and then lost? Well it looks like Perry Rushing, chief of operations for the Sheriff’s Office, is on the same page as the Parish Council.

“A scheduled pagan festival is under the scrutiny of the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office. “Obviously, we don’t like this type of activity, but if they are following all of the laws to the letter of the law, then we can’t do anything about it,” Perry Rushing, chief of operations for the Sheriff’s Office, said Thursday. “We vehemently oppose this type of activity in Livingston Parish.” The pagan festival is scheduled to be held the last four days in May at Gryphon’s Nest Campground Inc. at 19306 Bull Run Road in southeastern Livingston Parish.”

Here’s a tip to the Sheriff’s Office, you better make sure that festival isn’t harassed, either by you, or by trouble-makers who think your comments mean you won’t be on the job. You see, you’re now on the record as being “vehemently opposed” to the event, opening up your performance to outside scrutiny. I’d keep in mind what idealogical rigidity did for the Parish Council and act accordingly.

What’s Wrong With a Black Heimdall? Some folks are up in arms over the decision to cast a black actor, Idris Elba, in the role of Heimdall in the Thor movie. You see, Nordic gods are supposed to be all white (except Hel, of course, who’s literally half-black)!

At the beginning of the month he told a media conference that he saw his casting as an encouraging step. His view was not shared among the more vehement of fans. ”This PC crap has gone too far!” wailed one. ”Norse deities are not of an African ethnicity! … It’s the principle of the matter. It’s about respecting the integrity of the source material, both comics and Norse mythologies.” Fellow fans were quick to nod their horn-helmeted heads. ”At the risk of sounding like a bigot, I think this is nuts!” said another …  Elba, who shot to fame as the erudite and thoughtful gangster Stringer Bell in the critically acclaimed television series The Wire, has addressed such concerns in recent interviews. ”There has been a big debate about it: can a black man play a Nordic character?” he told the British magazine TV Times. ”Hang about, Thor’s mythical, right? Thor has a hammer that flies to him when he clicks his fingers. That’s OK, but the colour of my skin is wrong?”

It should be pointed out that this is an adaptation of a comic book, and not, say, an adaptation of the Eddas. Not to get all nerdy here, but to echo someone else’s point, the Marvel comics gods are extra-dimensional alien beings, they aren’t “Nordic” in any cultural sense. Further, the comic books have strayed from the “lore” so many times that anyone trying to make an argument about fidelity to a cultural pantheon in the real world is seriously barking up the wrong tree. Besides, I always thought the gods could appear in any form they wished, even “white” Nordic gods.

Thorn’s Podcast Pledge Drive: In a quick final note, author and ritualist T. Thorn Coyle is holding a pledge drive in support of her excellent podcast Elemental Castings (full disclosure, I’ve been interviewed for it), which she has professionally produced at a recording studio.

“The quality that so many of you have remarked upon comes partially because the podcasts are recorded by professionals in a studio, rather than on my computer at home. This costs money. Inspired by the Wild Hunt’s Winter Pledge Drive, my hope is that if you enjoy the podcasts, you will make a Beltane pledge to donate $1-2 per episode so that we can keep providing these amazing conversations to the magickal community for purposes of education and enjoyment.”

All the details you need to donate can be found, here.

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

While I generally keep my music podcast A Darker Shade of Pagan from getting entangled in the daily workings of The Wild Hunt, every once in awhile I like to alert my readership of some great Pagan and Pagan-friendly music that I come across. Since I just posted my ADSOP top ten of 2009 show, I thought I would share what I thought were some of the best albums that speak to the Pagan soul from the past year. Consider it a gift-giving guide to the Pagan in your life dissatisfied by what usually passes for “Pagan music”.

ADSOP’s Top Ten Albums of 2009

10. Soriah with Ashkelon Sain“Atlan” [Purchase: CD, MP3]

atlan2 What do you get when you mix a shamanisitic throat-singer with the mystic sound-scapes of former Trance to the Sun guitarist Ashkelon Sain? You get an intense and world-bending album of darkly meditative compositions that explores an Aztec worldview (the album is sung in Nahuatl).  Many albums promise to bring you on a ritualistic journey, but few bring the goods. “Atlan” does, but be warned, this isn’t some breezy guided meditation, but an intense full-immersion into Soriah’s explorations into his own ethnicity and heritage. Harsh yet gentle, at times both hypnotic and jarring, this is a unique album. One that wonderfully inhabits a sound  that is both dark and “pagan” in scope. Well worth checking out.

09. The Hare and the Moon“The Hare and the Moon” [Purchase: CD]

hareandmooncd I like to go on and on about The Wicker Man soundtrack, it’s one of the touchstones for A Darker Shade of Pagan, a way to explain the aesthetic and mood I often try to evoke. Many bands have taken inspiration from this film, but few make me take notice, or use that as a jumping-off point into even stranger and darker places. The Hare and the Moon is one of those bands. An unsigned UK band, they utilize traditional folk songs, but marry them to spooky soundscapes, almost militaristic drumming, odd and esoteric sound samples, and understated female vocals. The result is a wyrd marriage that references Coil almost as much as it does The Wicker Man. Why these folks haven’t been scooped up by a proper record label yet baffles me. Get clued in now so you can say you knew them when.

08. Various Artists“Leaves of Life” [Purchase: CD, MP3]

leavesoflifeSome of my favorite artists from 2008, like Fern Knight and Silver Summit, didn’t release new albums this year, but thanks to the folks from the band Arborea we have this benefit compilation to tide us over till 2010. Featuring tracks from the aforementioned bands, along with other ADSOP-friendly artists like Mariee Sioux, Marissa Nadler, and Alela Diane (among others). It not only serves as a nice overview of the current Indie-folk scene, but it also supports a great cause, as proceeds from the sales of Leaves of Life will go towards the World Food Program. So you not only get an album of great music, but you also get to see your dollars going to charity, a sure win-win! Oh, and the music is top-notch as well.

07. Eluveitie“Evocation I: The Arcane Dimension” [Purchase: CD, MP3]

Eluveitie-Evocation1 I’m not the biggest fan of metal, but the burgeoning genre of Pagan folk-metal has been slowly growing on me. The best of the pack this year, so far as my tastes are concerned, has to be the Swiss band Eluveitie’s  “Evocation I: The Arcane Dimension”. Picture if Faun or Omnia started out as metal-heads and you get an idea of the sound (which they call “Celtic Helvetian pagan metal and folkmusic”). Dual female vocals mixed with gruff metal-guy vocals that places a bit more emphasis on the “folk” than on the “metal” for this record. Oh, and the Pagan side of things? Pretty darn solid, as you can see from the lead singer dressed as Cernunnos  on the cover. If, like me, you are curious about folk-metal, but don’t know where to start, this album may be a great place.  Why not start with watching the video for their first single “Omnos”.

06. Lisa Hammer“Dakini” [Purchase: CD, MP3]

lisahammer_dakini There is a lot I could say about Lisa Hammer’s (from the band Mors Syphilitica)  wonderful new solo album “Dakini”, but perhaps the following quote from the artist really says it all. “The intention behind this cd was to create music for ritual, meditation and sex. Ideally, all 3 at once. It was designed to carry the listener away from the manifest world and into a deeper space. The Indian ragas correspond with times of the day, so the CD represents a condensed 24 hours, which is perfect for ritual, or any emotional and spiritual trip. The medieval songs are matched with Indian ragas and tribal drums, Appalachian folk music, Middle-Eastern drones and opera to bring the four directions together, North South East and West. It’s a cultural and spiritual mix, all blending together in one CD. Each of the songs has its own meditational/trance-inducing quality, regardless of its origin.” I honestly don’t know what I could add to that, other than to say she’s right, and the album is excellent work.

05. The Moon & The Nightspirit“Osforras” [Purchase: CD]

b7825df70922c1d763a9cfe1390 I’ve been following the Hungarian Pagan band The Moon & The Nightspirit since their first album, and they just seem to go from strength to strength. After the musical quantum leap of their last album  “Rego Rejtem” (which means “I conjure magic” in Hungarian) Agnes Toth and Mihaly Szabo’s fruitful exploration of their homeland’s music and folklore continues to deepen and mature with this release. This is no place-holder, but an expansion of a strong and ever-confident musical voice. This is one of the most talented openly Pagan bands operating today, and they deserve a much wider audience among Pagan music lovers. I can’t wait to see what they do with their next album.

04. Bat For Lashes“Two Suns” [Purchase: CD, MP3]

sfw-bat-for-lashes-two-suns I doubt I’ll have to work hard to convince you that Bat For Lashes (the musical outlet of singer-songwriter Natasha Khan) is worth checking out. Her album “Two Suns” was shortlisted for this year’s Mercury Prize, and she appeared on David Letterman, garnering her plenty of mainstream attention. She’ll no doubt be on plenty of year-end lists of popular taste-makers everywhere. So let’s talk instead of how Khan mixes indie-rock, New Age tropes, Kate Bush-isms, and drum-machines to craft a meditation on how we live in two worlds at once, the spiritual and the material, and how that conflict creates the tension necessary for great art. It is, as Khan puts it, “the philosophy of the self and duality, examining the need for both chaos and balance, for both love and pain, in addition to touching on metaphysical ideas concerning the connections between all existence.”

03. Faith & The Muse“Ankoku Butoh” [Purchase: CD]

faith_muse_ab

After 2007′s excellent “InfraWarrior”, Monica Richards first solo outing, which explored themes of eco-spirituality, female empowerment, and myth, I wondered where her main project, the darkwave band Faith & The Muse would go. The answer it seems is “East”, and “Ankoku Butoh” is an immersion in Shinto, drums, and a “sonic atavisms for the warrior within”. This is a powerful and driving record that displays a band reinvigorated and at their creative peak. My only lament is that this came out so late in the year (October 31st) so I haven’t had the time to live with and explore it as I’d like. But still, this is a quality album, and should rightly be in the collection of any goth-Pagan fan worth their salt. Oh, and the album isn’t just an album, but a CD-DVD-Book set that is a work of art in itself.

02. Unto Ashes“The Blood of My Lady” [Purchase: CD, MP3]

untoashes5 It could have been a disaster. Two long-standing members of Unto Ashes left the band, and songwriter-singer Michael Laird was left pretty much on his own to decide if the project was going to continue. Isolated, he went on to craft what may be the project’s strongest outing in years. Drawing deeply on strains of Neofolk and dark ambient, “The Blood of My Lady” is a darkly meditative work that careens from hushed ballads to stomping militarism and back again. Alone, Laird  has pursued the ultimate work, union with the goddess, she who is “everywhere and nowhere”, an album of “thirteen spells conjured for The Lady”. If you listen closely, you can sense that She has heard his call.

01. Fever Ray“Fever Ray” [Purchase: CD, MP3]

fever-ray-cover_medium-360x360 To call this solo project by Karin Dreijer Andersson (one half of the amazing Swedish electronic music duo The Knife) “dark”, or “mythic” makes it sound too small. Just another musician dabbling with sound-scapes and Jungian tropes. It would be better to say this is a primal heartbeat from our inner core. A place where we lose the ability to quantify a thing or expression and instead we fumble along with made-up terms like “synth-druid” or “tribal electro weirdness” to express how synthesizer-created music can touch places usually reserved for drummed fire-trances or high-ritual. Fever Ray is Karin, and Karin is inhabiting the mythic core of humanity on this album. It is holy, pedestrian, lonely, loving,  and dark. The darkness of sadness and loss, but also the dark of potentiality, of the coming birth. This my favorite “pagan” album of 2009, though I doubt she would classify herself so, such labels lose meaning when you travel deep enough.

You can download my latest podcast, featuring songs from all these albums, here. I hope you’ll explore these releases, and perhaps find some new music to love. As always, apologies to all the other artists who released great albums this year, I only have room for ten.

Anyone who has read my blog knows that I’m concerned with the health of Pagan-run/owned media and the state of journalism within our communities. For some time I’ve wanted to take what I’ve been doing with The Wild Hunt, observing and reporting on the news affecting our communities, to the “next level,” whatever that might mean. With the recent merger of newWitch and PanGaia into Witches & Pagans, the decision of Thorn Magazine to go online-only after their next issue, and the folding of Modern Witch Magazine, I decided I couldn’t wait any longer. While blogs and podcasts seem ever more popular in our communities, perhaps unsurprising considering our penchant for individualism, print periodicals seem to be in drastic contraction. Meanwhile, Internet-only Pagan publications don’t seem to be doing much better, often suffering from a lack of regular high-quality content, virtually nonexistent revenue streams, and an all-volunteer staff juggling their jobs and lives with the demands of editing content and putting out quality products on a regular schedule.

This isn’t to say that Pagan-run media is uniquely in trouble. Our microcosm mirrors the painful changes the mainstream media is going through as they try to navigate a severe recession and a shift towards making new media journalism pay. However, our (relatively) small size does allow us some opportunities to collaborate and evolve into this changing market. I’d like to introduce a new venture that I hope will not only spark a renaissance in Pagan journalism, but also create the needed synergy to allow existing and forthcoming Pagan media outlets to thrive in an emerging world of hyperlocal news and “hyperdistribution”.

The Pagan Newswire Collective is an open collective of Pagan journalists, newsmakers, media liaisons, and writers who are interested in sharing and promoting primary-source reporting from within our interconnected communities. The idea is simple: a pool of journalists and writers within the collective share sources and collaborate on dynamic and timely stories of interest to the Pagan community; media liaisons from various Pagan organizations pass along news and current events for possible coverage; editors, bloggers, podcasters, and other media outlets can call for submissions, collaborate with the collective, and negotiate with individual writer(s) to distribute finished product. All work created from within the collective remains the property of those who produced it, and it can be distributed in any number of ways, from Creative Commons to more traditional arrangements with various periodicals.

The variety of possible coverage models are endless, from syndicated multimedia packages for large events, to local beat-reporting when “hot” stories emerge in local Pagan communities, to “evergreen” human interest stories suitable for periodicals that publish infrequently. In short, we hope to become the “Pagan Reuters”, as Yvonne Aburrow put it.

Since we are brand new, we are looking for Pagans and like-minded allies, especially those with writing or journalism experience, to join our collective. If you use Facebook, you can join our official Facebook group, or join our mailing list at Google Groups. Here’s to building a better Pagan media.