Archives For poetry

Just a few quick notes to start off your Monday.

A History of Pagan Councils in the United States: In my recent examination of the Pagan label, I pointed to Chas Clifton’s “Her Hidden Children” while examining how “Pagan” became the default term for our interconnected movement. In that process I also mentioned the early Pagan councils of the 1960s and 1970s, which were largely failures, but did lay ground for future cooperation and the creation of a “Pagan community.” For more depth on the topic of early Pagan councils and similar initiatives, I would point you to Aidan Kelly’s blog at Patheos which has been running a series on those early councils, and how they eventually led to the creation of the Covenant of the Goddess (COG).

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

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

“The attempt to create an umbrella, church-like organization for Pagans was begun by Michael Kinghorn in Los Angeles in 1967. His work led to the creation of the Council of Themis, which, after being founded in 1969, acquired an international membership steadily until 1972. [...] Given the profound theological differences between these groups, it should not be surprising that their coalition was inherently unstable.”

I recommend tracking down all the posts in that series, and his other posts on the history of Wicca and Witchcraft in North America. I recognize that Kelly can be a controversial figure for some, but his work here is much-needed. If we are going to be having debates and discussions about the future of the Pagan label, we should understand the history that formed the current understandings and institutions that many of us now participate in.

Sabina Magliocco Clarifies What Her Pagan Studies Conference Keynote Says: There has been a lot of discussion stemming from The Wild Hunt’s coverage of the ninth annual Conference on Current Pagan Studies, specifically the lecture by Dr. Sabina Magliocco, Professor of Anthropology at California State University, Northridge, and author of “Witching Culture: Folklore and Neo-Paganism in America” entitled “The Rise of Pagan Fundamentalism.” In a comment on the original story on the orignal story by contributor Patrick Wolff, Magliocco clarifies an “unintentional misrepresentation” in Wolff’s reporting.

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

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

“I think there may have been an unintentional misrepresentation of what I actually said. My argument was that constructing a shared identity around belief is problematic, because belief is based on experience. If the gods choose to reveal themselves differently to different people, and if belief is changeable and emergent, as belief scholarship shows it to be, then shared identity needs to be based on something other than belief.

Let me also clarify that belief in and of itself is not “fundamentalist” ( a word I adopted polemically and with some reservations). It is the insistence that only one sort of belief is correct, and the demonization of those who disagree or whose experience is different, that can lead to a dogmatic rigidity that we might want to avoid.”

I have been in contact with Dr. Magliocco, and I’m hoping to showcase a longer essay from her regarding some of these issues very soon. As the editor of The Wild Hunt, I’d like to personally apologize for any misrepresentations, unintentional or not, that may have been spread regarding her work. We always strive to accurately report the positions of figures within our community that we report on, and are committed to correcting our account when mistakes happen.

The Green Man is a Green Terrorist: In a final, unrelated, note, English poet, actor, and playwright Heathcote Williams has released a new poem entitled “The Green Man is a Green Terrorist.” According to culture critic Jan Herman, it is “a rhymed marvel of CAT-scan clarity” that  “will be seen one day as a YouTube classic.”

Thanks to subversive stone masons in the Middle Ages
This green remnant of man’s pagan past
Finds its way onto church ceilings, corbels, and bosses
Along with Sheela na gigs mad with lust.

Williams is best known for his environmentally themed poems, most notably “Whale Nation.” What do you think? Classic? Or stuff that’s been done before, just not to a non-Pagan audience?

That’s all I have for the moment. Have a great day!

[While I like to keep something of a firewall between my work at The Wild Hunt, and my job at Mythic Events, the folks who put on Faerieworlds in Eugene, and the FaerieCons in Seattle and Baltimore, I felt that in this case an exception was in order. Faerieworlds, while not explicitly Pagan, is steeped in the same mythic, transformational, energy you'd find at any number of festivals marketed to our community. This year, we are immensely proud to have recent Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee Donovan headlining, and Robert Gould, a co-owner and Producer of Faerieworlds, has written an eloquent appreciation exploring why this artist fits so well into the ethos our event inhabits. I greatly enjoyed reading it, and I felt that many of you would as well.]

“Why Donovan?” is a question we have been asked since we announced his landmark appearance at our event in Eugene, OR on July 29th, several months ago.

A master of the poetic evocation of place, character and emotion, Donovan is, first and foremost a storyteller in the bardic tradition. Tales of love, longing loss, rapture, adventure, crisis, mystics, heroes, heroines and above all, devotion fill his songbook. Tactile and sensual, these stories have deep roots in mythic and folkloric tales of the Land and the cultural, often timeless challenges faced by humanity within our global community.

Like any great artist, Donovan sees and uses words and music as symbols for ideas and emotions; rarely are his expressions fixed or overtly literal. He seeks and showcases the inherent poetry within words and the syllabic rhythms they contain as best evidenced in “Wear You Love Like Heaven.” Melodies often flow over a drone of instrument or voice, serving as an inner mantra for the expression of the lyric. He has a respect for and appreciation of the importance of poignant, delicate and fragile musical moments that produce enormous emotional impact: within even in his most dramatic songs there is a heart of suspended stillness. Such moments become fixed in time and memory and produce instantaneous, visceral recall when heard even decades later.

His gentle, often whispered voice with its warm, Northern burr creates a seductive intimacy that quietly commands attention. The master of the sideways glance, Donovan rarely addresses any subject directly; all is liquid, evolving, emerging. His lyrics do not offer obvious observations or insights, they are as if observed in a mirror, tempered by a poetic symbol or provocative metaphor. His music is welcoming and seductive, accounting in part for the exceptional number of artists he has inspired or influenced. His unique finger style method alone has spawned a celebrated lineage of the finest guitar players of our time.

The most common and unifying quality of great art is ambiguity: it’s ability to be experienced and interpreted by people of any gender, age, culture or time. Donovan’s music shares this rare, open quality: it is most often simple in form and melody but at the same time elusive and ephemeral. He hangs his art in the air and subjects it to the harmonizing influence of the elements. Never dogmatic, he addresses social issues as a poet, not as a politician and avoids literal conversations about power within his art.

Since the beginning, Donovan’s spiritual practice has been at the heart of his physical, emotional and spiritual life. He joins George Harrison as a pioneer and champion of introducing and popularizing the philosophies and music of the East to the West during the 60s and 70s and his presence, influence and support lies at the foundation of much of what we call alternative culture today. His work has transcended being solely linked to two world-shifting decades because his music, poetry and the subjects of his art are timeless.

In a rampant consumer and celebrity obsessed culture that is addicted to the empty calories of entraining, metronomic beats and autotuned robo-voices, Donovan’s music reminds us of the transcendent power of a compelling melody and a poetically crafted lyric to touch the human heart and soul and bring Meaning, if only for a moment, to our all too temporal lives, To accomplish this, Donovan sources his art from something greater than himself. It is evident that his lifetime practice of meditation has produced an enormous bounty. For Donovan, life, art and music are a ceremony of innocence and a sacrament of devotion. He lives and creates today in joyful celebration of and in service to Spirit and Beauty, a wise and accomplished artist and poet humbled before the greatness and vastness of the Universe to which he knows he shall return.

Simply put: Donovan is an artist very much of our time and completely embodies the intention, heart and spirit of Faerieworlds. Donovan has always been and remains to this day, an artist for the ages.

[I'd like to thank Robert Gould for sharing this with us. Donovan performs at Faerieworlds, the music and arts festival in Eugene, OR, on July 29, 2012. For more information, visit: www.faerieworlds.com. Stay tuned, because I may soon have an exclusive interview with Donovan to share, one that I think many Pagans will find interesting.]

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 lets get started!

Solar Cross Temple Announces New Growth: Solar Cross Temple, a Pagan service organization co-founded by author and teacher T. Thorn Coyle, has announced the addition of priestess and professional counselor  Crystal Blanton, author of “Bridging the Gap,” to its board.

Crystal Blanton

Crystal Blanton

“We are pleased to announce a new board member, Crystal Blanton. Crystal is a leader with a strong emphasis on service and community building. It is our hope that she will offer guidance and inspiration to Solar Cross as we enter our new phase of growth.”

To learn more about Solar Cross Temple, its projects and goals, check out their newly relaunched website. Congratulations to Crystal, an amazing leader, teacher, and counselor who truly deserves the recognition.

Mandragora Unleashed: The follow-up to Scarlet Imprint’s poetry anthology Datura (discussed here at TWH), Mandragora, has just been released and is available for purchase.

Mandragora

Mandragora

“Yes, the poetry in Mandragora drives deep into the humus heart of experience – spellwork, praise, story, song. From the breathless brevity of haiku through the humming rhythm of the long meditation the thread of hidden history runs, telling in mosaic the story of the occultist, the witch, the worshipper, the scholar and the celebrant. Like Datura, this is a work of many voices from a rich diversity of practice, each burning the wick to illuminate a piece of the Great Work. Some voices will be familiar to those readers of the first anthology, some will be new, and all are testament to a continuing dedication to the sublime and challenging work of poetic and artistic craft in our communities.”

Featured poets include past Wild Hunt contributors Alison Leigh LillyP. Sufenas Virius LupusT.Thorn CoyleRuby Sara, and Erynn Rowan Laurie. If you know anything about Scarlet Imprint you know that their editions are works of art in of themselves, true collectors items. That said, a paperback edition is also available, and you’ll be able to buy a download of the collection in June.

A Conversation on The Wicker Tree: Patheos Pagan bloggers Star Foster and Peg Aloi recently did a Google+ hangout to discuss the film “The Wicker Tree,” recently released on DVD and Blu-Ray. What makes this especially notable is that during the two-hour conversation Alastair Gourlay, Executive Producer of the film, dropped in to participate.

For more, check out Peg Aloi’s review of the film, who classifies this “spiritual sequel” to 1973’s “The Wicker Man” as something of an interesting failure. A view that seems to be the broad consensus among critics. In any case, if you’ve been waiting to see it, you can now rent it on Amazon, or purchase a copy, and judge for yourself.

In Other Community News:

  • The 2012 Pagan Values blogging project is coming up! During the month of June you are encouraged to write (or podcast) about “the Ethics, the Virtues, and Values that Contemporary Paganism has taught you to cherish, to live, to bring with you in your every interaction with the world.” The Facebook page for the 2012 event can be found, here.
  • Aidan Kelly’s classic social history of the New Reformed Orthodox Order of the Golden Dawn (NROOGD), “Hippie Commie Beatnik Witches,” is now available as an Amazon Kindle ebook (for only $2.99). Essential reading for anyone studying the history of modern Paganism on the West Coast.
Shades of Faith contributors.

Shades of Faith contributors.

That’s all I have for now, happy World Goth Day!

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!

International Pagan Coming Out Day: May 2nd has been announced as the first International Pagan Coming Out Day, an initiative “to achieve greater acceptance and equity for Pagans at home, at work, and in every community.” Cara Schulz, executive chair of the sponsoring organization, has a post up at Pagan+Politics explaining the event’s purpose and rationale, while Diana Rajchel at PNC-Minnesota interviews her about the new annual event.

Our website offers resources (like the IPCOD’s Guide to Coming Out authored by Drake Spaeth, PsyD) and encouragement for Pagans who choose to come out. We give Pagans a place to make their voice heard as they recount their personal stories of coming out or as they relate the experience that caused them to decide that they were not able or willing to come out yet. Through these stories, by more Pagans coming out and being visible, and by showing Pagan allies how they can stand with us, we hope to reduce stigma by putting a human face on Paganism. Some of the ‘out’ stories featured on our site are: A Pagan mother faces a home visit by her child’s teachers. Telling your parents. And my story, coming out in a police station.

The IPCOD site has listed ways in which individuals can participate, or if you’d like to become an IPCOD organizer. In addition to Schulz, the IPCOD executive committee is comprised of CUUPS Board Member Emeritus Dave Burwasser, licensed clinical psychologist, and Earth Traditions co-founder, Drake Spaeth, Anne Newkirk Niven, editor of three magazines for Pagans and their allies: SageWoman, Witches&Pagans, and Crone, writer and blogger Laura M. LaVoie, webmaster David Dashifen Kees, Nick Ritter, a Theodsman, and old Frisian and archaic Anglo-Saxon language specialist, and your’s truly. I have joined with Cara on this project because I think a unified effort towards ‘coming out’ is a needed one, a complimentary movement to our already vibrant Pagan Pride days. I hope you’ll support IPCOD, and help spread the word.

PantheaCon 2011 is Coming! PantheaCon, the largest indoor gathering of modern Pagans in the United States, held every President’s day weekend in San Jose, California, has posted their official schedule of events. A veritable “who’s who” of modern Paganism, Pantheacon features a large number of prominent authors, teachers, ritualists, and scholars giving talks, making presentations, participating in panels, and holding rituals. In addition, PantheaCon also hosts musical entertainment, including this year, Lasher Keen, Pandemonaeon, Wendy Rule, Land of the Blind, Celia, and Ruth Barrett. As I’ve mentioned previously, this year’s Pantheacon will feature a special screening of Alex Mar’s documentary “American Mystic”, which will be followed by a Q&A led by me with the director, Morpheus Ravenna, and members of Stone City Pagan Sanctuary.

Finally, on a personal front, I will be presenting an introductory talk on the Pagan Newswire Collective, followed later that evening by a special PNC meet-and-greet a the COG/NROOGD/NWC Suite. In addition I’ll be leading a panel discussion entitled  “Exploring New Media: A Pagan Perspective” featuring Thorn Coyle (Did you know she has a Twitter feed now?), Brandi Palechek from Llewellyn, Star Foster of Patheos, and Christine Hoff Kraemer from Cherry Hill Seminary. I’ll also be participating in a panel led by Devin Hunter entitled “Pagans in the Media: A Panel on 21st Century Pagan Leadership”. So it should be a busy time! Representatives from several PNC bureaus will be there, and I expect this may be covered PantheaCon yet! If you’re going, drop by and say hi!

After Datura, Mandragora: After the success of their anthology Datura (discussed here at TWH), Scarlet Imprint is planning a second collection of esoteric poetry, to be titled Mandragora.

“We are currently fielding poetry submissions from the global occult, magical and pagan communities for this work. Continuing in the same luminous, bejeweled tradition of excellence found in Datura, this new anthology will likewise combine a sampling of the best poetic work available from contemporary practitioners, as well as additional essays about the practice/performance of poetry, the role of poetry in devotional and ritual work, and the artistic culture of magic.”

Deadline for submissions is October 31st, 2011. To submit work to this project, please send 3-5 pieces of your best work along with a cover letter via email to collection editor Ruby Sara. For more information, check out the full announcement.

Pagans at the United Religions Initiative: Over at the COG Interfaith Reports blog, Don Frew reports from the in-progress first meeting of the Regional Leadership Team (RLT) of the Multiregion of the United Religions Initiative (URI) in Tepoztlan, Mexico. A Covenant of the Goddess National Interfaith Representative, Frew was recently voted in for another term as an At-Large Trustee for the Global Council of the United Religions Initiative.

“One of the CCs I coordinate – Spirituality & the Earth – is a Multiregion CC and was one of the founding CCs of the URI.  I had also served two previous terms on the Global Council.  Apparently they felt this gave me sufficient experience and ongoing connection to be able to jump right in and get to work.  (And boy did they have work for me to do!  In addition to helping revitalize the Multiregion, I was also asked to serve in the creation of and on the new External Affairs Committee, which will be responsible for crafting the URI’s official response to world events like what’s going on right now in Tunis and Egypt.  But that’s another story…)

While in many ways the Multiregion embodies the highest aspirations of the URI – people of all religions, spiritual expressions, and indigenous traditions working together around the world “to promote enduring, daily interfaith cooperation, to end religiously motivated violence, and to create cultures of peace, justice, and healing for the Earth and all living beings” – it has always been sort-of the odd-man-out.  It’s been a lot easier to organize CCs who all live in one geographic area than it has been to organize something as far-flung as the Multiregion.  We have been VERY reliant on modern technology to create and maintain our network.  We had our very first face-to-face Regional Assembly only last March.  (See the reports in this blog in March 2010.)  That meeting generated a LOT of enthusiasm in the Multiregion and we really didn’t want to see this dissipate.”

You can read part one, here, and part two, here. COG as an organization has long been one of the trailblazers for Pagan involvement in the interfaith community. This work, while seemingly unexciting to the outside observer, creates huge dividends of good will and new networks with indigenous communities. To keep track of this meeting’s progress, be sure to subscribe to the COG Interfaith Reports blog.

Reporting on the Pagan Studies Conference: I’d like to close with a quick plug for the work of LA Pagan Examiner Joanne Elliott, who recently posted a two-part run-down of the recent Pagan Studies Conference at Claremont Graduate University.

“Pagan scholars discussed “Building Community” on Jan. 22 and 23 at the 7th Annual Conference of Current Pagan Studies in Claremont.  More than 70 Pagans gathered to hear the ideas and results of research by the 27 Pagan scholars, researchers and leaders who came from greater LA as well as from other areas of the country.

They gathered to discuss issues that relate to the Pagan community at large. It is important to that community’s health and growth to meet and learn from one another. It’s also important for all Pagans to be involved in the public arena and have their voices heard. With an estimate of over a million Americans now self-identified as Pagan, the Pagan religion is coming of age. And it is feeling, now more than ever, the need for trained leaders and clergy to build stronger Pagan communities that also see themselves as a part of a larger community.”

This event, sadly, wasn’t much covered, so I’m very happy that Joanne was there to keep us informed. Be sure and check it out!

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

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!

A Split in the Feri Tradition? In recent weeks there’s been quite a bit of activity online regarding a split within the Victor and Cora Anderson-founded Feri tradition, with several new web sites emerging that detail a separation on private/public lines. Author and teacher T. Thorn Coyle, perhaps one of the best-known modern Feri initiates, writes an essay for Patheos that explores her own thoughts and feelings on this developing situation.

“It is said of late that the Feri Tradition has been broken in two, being named by folks on one side of the divide as a split between the “Mystery tradition” (taking on the old spelling of Faery) and “public religion” (Feri). While there have been splits and factions for almost as long as the tradition has been active, while the spelling of the name changed over time, and scapegoating, shouting, and long silences have abounded, I never before felt such an energetic sundering. As I write this, I can feel the mighty gates closing on what was. What will emerge, I do not know. Perhaps nothing will change, and perhaps everything will. Such are the times we live in, and various are the pronouncements of our egos trying to figure things out.”

Coyle, who no longer publicly teaches Feri to students, feels that this split is “a reflection of the tension seen all over the world right now, which is the tension felt in ages of transition.” Faery/Feri has been a very influential tradition in the history of modern Paganism in the United States, and currently counts many charismatic and influential teachers among its initiates. I feel this split is an important moment in our shared history, and I am currently putting together a longer article exploring this split, interviewing several individuals from both sides of this seemingly widening gulf. Expect the hear more on this very soon, if not this week, then most certainly next.

D.C. Commits To Opening a Community Center: David Salisbury from the Washington D.C. PNC bureau reports on a historic meeting of regional leaders and organizers to finalize plans for a joint community center.

“Yesterday I was invited to attend the Open Hearth Foundation’s Pagan Leadership Summit which met to discuss and finalize plans for the upcoming Pagan Community Center, an 11 year goal for the organization and the DC Pagan community in general. This day-long summit of leaders from around the metropolitan area shared views on details such as the centers location, size, programming, funding and when it actually plans to open the doors.

It’s a rare occasion when this many Pagan leaders from our area can gather. Rarer still is the fact that the leaders met to give input on this area’s most important Pagan land space project ever, a Pagan Community Center. Becoming, Reflections Mystery School, Ecumenicon, Firefly, Spiral Grove, covens and more spent 5 hours in a thrilling high-energy debate.”

A seeming consensus has been formed to achieve this in one year, by Imbolc 2012. If they manage to achieve this, it could set a new standard for cooperation towards building communal infrastructure among different Pagan groups within a community. The Washington DC-PNC will no doubt keep up updated and informed as this process goes forward.

Pagans and the Health Care Reforms: Masery at the Patheos-hosted Staff of Asclepius blog examines the religious breakdown of a recent Associated Press/GfK poll regarding health care reform and decides to drill down into that pesky “other” category by creating a nearly identical survey aimed at the Pagan community.

The health care poll was conducted by the Associated Press and Gfk Roper Public Affairs Corporate Communications from January 5 – 10, 2011. By telephone they spoke to 1001 Americans ages 18+  Religious affiliation: Protestant 25%, Catholic 25%, Mormon 1%, Jewish 1%, Muslim 1%, Other 26%, No religious denomination 19%. Of the “Other” religion 87% were Christian and 13% were not. What do Pagans think? You can answer the same questions as the AP poll at www.surveymonkey.com/s/CZFX8TR

If you’d like to see what the Pagan community thinks about current health care reform laws, please spread the word to your own blogs and social networking sites, so that a significant sample size can be reached. I’ll be sure to share the results once they are available. Once again, the survey can be found, here. Also, while you’re there, do check out her interview with Kimberly Hedrick, PhD about the recent groundbreaking Pagan Health Survey (which I covered here at The Wild Hunt).

6th Annual Brigid Poetry Festival: An Internet tradition that began in the early days of the Pagan blogosphere continues!

It is that time of year again, when bloggers around the world post a favorite poem in honor of Brigid, the Irish goddess and patron saint of smithcraft, poetry, and healing. Brigid’s feast day is February 1st, so between now and then is the perfect time to publish a poem to celebrate. Last year many great poems were published all over the web. This year, I have set up a Community Facebook Page to help people easily view each other’s poems and to share them around as much as possible. If you post a poem on your blog, please share the link on the community page so we can all go there and read it. If you don’t have a blog or website of your own, go ahead and post your poem in its entirety to the community page.

I look forward to yet another year of poetry in honor of the goddess!

Final Note: If you haven’t been following along, do check out the Patheos Wicca series running through January. It features some interesting perspectives on what Wicca is, and where different individuals think its going.

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

Honoring My Ancestors

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  October 30, 2010 — 6 Comments

I’ll be away from the computer today in this Samhain season to participate in a small Month’s Mind for a beloved family member who recently crossed the veil. My wife’s mother, Nadine St. Louis, was a professor, a poet, and great woman of deep intelligence, compassion, and wit. She had been battling neuroendocrine cancer for nearly eight years, and I was honored to be one of the few to accompany and comfort her during the many visits to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

In her last published book of poetry, “Zebra”, she movingly expresses the feelings and uncertainties of her cancer diagnosis.

Nadine St. Louis

Nadine St. Louis

Heavy Metal and the Reciprocal Universe

Platinum and its analogues slip silent
precious poison through your veins,
and the taste of sour metal blooms.

Who can resist asking what gift
calls up this bane, resist thinking
the smiles of one god

will raise the wrath of another?
Take lone, emaciated Phineas:
Apollo endowed him with prophecy,

made him observer of worlds,
model builder, truth teller
who learned to hold life

at a new angle, disclose its secret
lights and shadows.

But Zeus, ever lord
of secrets, demanded tighter security,

sent harpies to foul the very bread
in the old man’s hands, stinking polluters
to remind him of a god’s might.

Is theirs the same vile breath swirling
at the back of your throat, cold echo
of the body’s rage smoldering deeper down?

It took the sons of Boreas, North Wind,
to drive away the harpies.
Phineas kept his voice. His rescue

bodes well; his endurance heartens.
Still, you can’t help wondering how long
it takes the wind to turn.

My wife and I, along with her youngest daughter, my step-daughter, will travel to her family’s ancestral farm in Oregon, sold years ago to loving caretakers, to drink, eat, observe, walk, and speak in her honor.

I hope that we will each take the time, in our own ways, to honor and acknowledge the loved ones who have passed over, to observe this liminal time and reach out, remember, and know that our ancestors celebrate this time with us.

Today at The Wild Hunt I’m featuring a guest-post from Ruby Sara.

Ruby Sara is the author of Pagan Godspell and the editor of the forthcoming collection Datura: An Anthology of Esoteric Poesis. She is also a member of the Chicago Pagan performance collective Terra Mysterium.

———–

Greetings, Pagani, from the wind-warm and lake-gorgeous streets of the urban Midwest!

I’m very excited to be guest blogging here at The Wild Hunt today – many thanks to Jason for the opportunity!

The rose bushes on my porch are giddy with the astonishing, blustery and honeyed weather. Walking through the neighborhood this week I saw approximately two zillion (I counted) crocuses, daffodils, and blue scilla flowers peppering the gardens of my fellow city-dwellers. April! Month of poetry and hyacinths. Wind and verse. April is National Poetry Month here in the US. Certainly a delightfully auspicious time for the release of Datura: An Anthology of Esoteric Poesis, published by Scarlet Imprint. It’s safe to say that I’m practically over the moon excited about this book. As readers over at Pagan Godspell can attest, I am something of a rabid fan of poetry. Indeed, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I believe that poetry is the language of magick. The language of the gods. A fire in the veins, with the smokelight prism, jewel and thunder of religion as its fuel.

Poetry’s role in the devotional and magical lives of the Pagani is manifold. It can be used in magical practice both in riddling (i.e. grokking a text for its deeper meaning), and in inducing trance (alliteration, rhyme, evocative word choice – all can assist the individual in Diving Deep and Surfacing). It can be used to communicate the ineffable in ways that are inaccessible through prose or didactic speech. It can bring people together in worship and in prayer. It can act as a channel between a people and their god. It can illuminate what was previously hidden, and make opaque things that require occultation. Poetry works the mind and the heart – it infiltrates the bones. Poetry works.

Poetry works both in the writing and the reading of it. The writing of poetry is an excellent medium for communion with the Holy. Last Sunday I had the privilege of attending the 2010 Milwaukee Ostara Festival in Wisconsin, where I presented a workshop on writing Pagan liturgical and devotional poetry. In answer to the question, “Why is poetry important in liturgical and devotional practice?,” one participant commented that the writing of a poem is an act of deepest respect, which was an excellent point. To write poetry is to engage with the subject in intimate detail, to devote to it your complete and undivided attention – to make the act of observation an offering. This is true also of poems with no ostensible spiritual element – to write an effective poem about a moment or an object requires Seeing it truly, with your whole body, via the lens with which you view the world. This is what makes poetry unique as well – the meeting of observer and the observed in the medium of language means that poems written about, say, plums by one poet will look very different than those written by another. To engage in an act of spiritual scrutiny with what is Holy then is to engage in authentic relationship. It’s not unlike, in my limited experience, the act of translation. I’m thinking for example of Normandi Ellis’ Awakening Osiris – a translation of the Egyptian Book of Coming Forth By Day not in its most literal expression, but in its spirit – Ellis’ deep grokking of the flower beneath the words and her transmission of its meaning via her unique perspective and the use of exquisite, embodied imagery has breathtaking results. “From the first cry to the last I chant the spell of living. In my belly I join the breath of life with the flame of becoming. I rise from the center of myself, fire on the wick, burning, tossing back shadows. Night drifts away like smoke.” (Ellis, 174). This kind of attention, this deepening, is inherent in the act of poetic expression.

Then, of course, there is the act of reading poetry, which is fundamentally important, especially for those who write themselves. I see a lot of poetry highlighted in the Pagan blogosphere (most especially around Imbolc with the annual Brigid Silent Poetry Reading), and this is because we recognize the significance of reading and sharing poetry that inspires. In working towards the continued cultivation of Pagan culture, I believe it is critical to support and share the work of poets and other literary artists who are dealing specifically with themes of devotion, esoterica, and magickal practice (via collections like Datura as well as opportunities such as the international poetry competition run by the Cambridge Centre for Western Esotericism). Art is the fruit of religion and spirituality, and in the spirit of knowing things by their fruits, the arts of Paganism and occultism function as evidence of the deep and challenging paths we walk on as worshipers and practitioners. My goal in creating Datura was to highlight a collection of poems that speak to the hidden and rapturous nature of our work as Pagans and occultists as well as essays that explore various aspects of poetry in our communities, and in doing so provide inspiration to those seeking an understanding of the paths we walk as practitioners, to those who practice themselves as they deepen their study, to other writers and poets in these communities as they undertake the Work inherent in the writing process, and to those who simply grok Beauty in its myriad forms. It’s especially thrilling to work with Peter and Alkistis at Scarlet Imprint, as their commitment to the exquisite art of fine bookbinding makes Datura art enfolded in art.

Friends, as National Poetry Month unfolds and the rosebushes grow, I wish you a season filled with the rapture of good words and the celebration of art! Why is April the season of poetry? Because poetry is the flower of human experience. May you count a zillion hyacinths and hear a thousand poems that move you.

Grok poetry, Pagani! Pray without ceasing.

McCollum Discusses His Case: We begin our Monday with a few quick notes, starting with the news that Pagan chaplain Patrick McCollum, currently embroiled in his challenge to California’s discriminatory “five faiths” policy, was interviewed by the Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, head of The Interfaith Alliance, on his radio show State of Belief.

“…a Wiccan clergyman fights discrimination in California’s prisons. Reverend Patrick McCollum joins host Welton Gaddy to discuss his challenge to California’s “Five Faiths” policy.  It says only Jewish, Protestant, Catholic, Muslim, and Native-American chaplains will be hired to minister to inmates.”

Here’s hoping this interviews continues to push this story into the mainstream, and keeps up the pressure on California officials hoping this will all disappear. You can subscribe to the podcast, listen on-line, or download the entire show, here. I also urge you to check out Patrick’s other recent radio/podcast interviews with Anne Hill and Ravencast. The important thing at this stage is to keep our community aware of this case as it goes forward, write to California officials, and spread the word when new information arises. This is a big story, and if we persevere, it will eventually get noticed by the mainstream media.

Spirits Enter the Drug War: As violence intensifies in Mexico’s drug war, police officers in Tijuana are increasingly turning to otherworldly aid as they face better-armed gangs of drug traffickers.

In secret meetings that draw on elements of Haitian Voodoo, Cuban Santeria and Mexican witchcraft, priests are slaughtering chickens on full moon nights on beaches, smearing police with the blood and using prayers to evoke spirits to guard them as drug cartels battle over smuggling routes into California. Other police in the city of Tijuana, across the border from San Diego, tattoo their bodies with Voodoo symbols, believing they can repel bullets. “Sometimes a man needs another type of faith,” said former Tijuana policeman Marcos, who left the city force a year ago after surviving a drug gang attack. “I was saved when they killed two of my mates. I know why I didn’t die.”

This isn’t just a war of bullets, it’s now a war of spirits, pitting the three-horned Bosou Koblamin against Jesus Malverde or Santa Muerte. It’s a practice quietly endorsed by police superiors, who know that the under-paid and out-gunned officers need any psychological reassurance they can get. I have the sinking feeling that the end of this struggle is in the hands of American lawmakers, that the decriminalization of marijuana could now save countless lives, as illegal trafficking is too profitable to ever want for replacements.

The Poetry of the Esoteric: Scarlet Imprint is releasing a new limited-edition collection of sacred poetry entitled “Datura”, that features work from T. Thorn Coyle, Erynn Rowan Laurie, P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, and several others. At the Scarlet Imprint site they interview editor (and fellow Pagan blogger) Ruby Sara about the project.

“…for me there truly is no difference on a metaphysical level between poetry and magick – they are the same movement, and you cannot have true magick without poetry (or true poetry without magick). poetry is the language of magick, it is magick given voice and form. on a practical level, the human voice is a critical instrument in various manner of spellcraft, as is language…history bears this out thoroughly i think…and in my experience, spellcraft is hugely enhanced by applying to it the music and rhythm and articulate beauty of invocative, resonant poetry.”

The book is scheduled to be released on April 16th, and is being printed in a hand-bound limited run of 500 copies, so get your order in today if you want to ensure you get a copy of what sounds like a truly momentous collection. Here is where our modern liturgy and inspiration are flowing freely, so don’t miss out!

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

Betty Sue Flowers, poet, mythology expert, Jungian, and consultant for “Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth”, is making headlines in Texas as she steps down from her position as director of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum to start a new life with her current partner, former Senator Bill Bradley.

“Sometime in July, Flowers — award-winning teacher of English and religion, expert in mythology, past director of Plan II, confidante of PBS journalist Bill Moyers, consultant to NASA and corporations around the world, author of three poetry volumes — will move away from her home in West Lake Hills to commence a personal and romantic adventure with Bill Bradley in New York City.”

In honour of her leaving, the Austin American-Statesman has reprinted a profile of Flowers from 2002, shortly after she was named as the new director of the LBJ Library. In it, Flowers recalls how the goddesses of ancient myth, specifically Demeter and Aphrodite, helped spur her forward into becoming a powerful woman, and sparked a lifelong love of myth.

“Sometime before the sixth grade, the Bookworm of Abilene happened upon the beauty of mythology. To her delight, Flowers discovered that the women in Greek myth were star players in moral drama. While not always virtuous, the Greek goddesses were spunky and brazen. They wielded power. They were the focus of stories. “The Greek myths were the only stories I could find, in fact, that involved powerful women,” says Flowers. “These goddesses: They throw their weight around! Demeter blasts the world! Zeus has to beg her to stop!” Flowers was so enthralled by the Greek myths that she carried a personal copy of Edith Hamilton’s “Mythology” back and forth to school with her throughout the sixth grade. But since this was West Texas, circa 1958, shy Betty Sue Marable covered her book of myths with aluminum foil — concealing the cover illustration of the naked Perseus, sword in hand, hoisting up the head of the slain Medusa.”

I encourage reading the entire profile, for while Flowers is no Pagan in the formal sense of the term, she lives a life that sings with the virtues of the ancient world. A powerful personal example that refutes the idea of Christianity or moral chaos. An individual who embodies some of the best qualities of the emerging post-Christian cultural reality.

Since the Yuletide season is fast approaching, I thought I would take some time this weekend to share some new book reviews in hopes that it might make your gift-giving preparations for Yule, Solstice, Saturnalia, or other Winter Festival, a bit easier.

Have you ever wondered why “The Exorcist” is scary? Why “The Wicker Man” managed to amass such a loyal following? Why even very bad horror films can sometimes affect us deeply? Then you need to read Douglas E. Cowan’s new book “Sacred Terror: Religion and Horror on the Silver Screen”.

“Sacred Terror examines the religious elements lurking in horror films. It answers a simple but profound question: When there are so many other scary things around, why is religion so often used to tell a scary story? In this lucid, provocative book, Douglas Cowan argues that horror films are opportune vehicles for externalizing the fears that lie inside our religious selves: of evil; of the flesh; of sacred places; of a change in the sacred order; of the supernatural gone out of control; of death, dying badly, or not remaining dead; of fanaticism; and of the power–and the powerlessness–of religion.”

Cowan has written an engrossing and deeply knowledgeable book analyzing the religious elements in horror films. Of particular interest to modern Pagan readers will be his exploration of the religious “other” in many of these films, particularly the way pre-Christian religion, Pagan revivals, and witchcraft (Satanic or otherwise) are treated in cinema, from “Rosemary’s Baby” to “The Craft”. An essential tome for anyone interested in the intersections between popular cinema and the sacred. A academic sequel of sorts to Stephen King’s more populist examination of horror: “Danse Macabre”. For more on this book, I highly recommend checking out the Theofantastique interviews with the author.

When I first approached Brendan Myers’ new book “A Pagan Testament: The Literary Heritage of the World’s Oldest New Religion” I thought it would be in the vein of “The Paganism Reader”, a collection of literary texts influential to the modern Pagan movement, and while that is indeed an element of the work, it takes far greater pains to contextualize and explain the philosophy behind the included sources. It also takes more time to explore the ever-evolving literary and oral traditions that have emerged from our modern festival circuit.

Originally entitled “A Wiccan Testament”, the book pays a great deal of attention to the literary history and influential texts of that religion. Which isn’t to say that non-Wiccan Pagans won’t find anything of value here, on the contrary, the book takes a sort of “Pan-Pagan” journey through history, from pre-history to the ancient Greeks, to an examination of Aleister Crowley’s influence on modern Paganism. A sequel of sorts to his thought-proving work “The Other Side of Virtue”, it envelops the more modern Pagan texts into a larger continuum of pagan thought. A map, an idea, of what modern Paganism can offer to the world.

“The contemporary pagan community, holding the Earth in such high regard as it does, is in a position to show the world what a spiritually aware, environmentally conscious, socially just, and artistically flourishing society looks like. The pagan community can create a social and cultural space where ancient noble ideas like ‘inspiration and honour’ are still preserved and
practiced.”

This is a bold and smart work. While Myers’ ideas may not resonate with everyone, he should be commended for being at the forefront of an effort to write better Pagan books. He, along with some other authors of note, are writing those “advanced” books we all keep saying we want (also, you might find my recent interview with Brendan Cathbad Myers to be of interest here).

The final work I’d like to discuss isn’t an academic tome, or a philosophic exploration of our Pagan beliefs, but a work of poetry and art. “The Phillupic Hymns” by P. Sufenas Virius Lupus is a collection of devotional poems and translations dedicated to the gods of Egypt, Greece, Rome, Gaul and Britain, with a special emphasis on Antinous, the deified lover of the Roman Emperor Hadrian. These poems explore the syncretism of the ancient world, the homo-erotic natures of many ancient gods and heroes, and the cultural tensions inherent when an imperial power interacts with those it has subjugated. These works seem accomplished, sincere, and passionate, but I’m no great judge of poetry, so instead of appearing foolish, let me instead share one of the shorter poems contained in this collection so you can judge for yourself.

Roma Aeterna
She was known across the continent,
in the east and in Greece
long before the pomerium was drawn
by Romulus and Remus.

The seven hills of Rome—
the Quirinal, Viminal, and Aventine,
Capitoline, Caelian, Palatine,
and Esquiline—mere Tiberian mud

when the lady first granted
her protection to mortals,
or guided Aeneas’ barque to
the shores of Latium.

She makes her home even now
in every stone of the Eternal City,
invited by Hadrian,
given a dwelling
as neighbor to Venus Felix—

the mirror of amor—
reflecting the sunrise of the east
so that Roma Aeterna
may shine across the west.

In my estimation this is a worthy addition to the growing collection of titles to be found at the Bibliotheca Alexandria. A vital entry into a growing field of devotional literature within the modern Pagan movement. We can only hope that works like “The Phillupic Hymns” are only the beginning of a greater trend towards a modern Pagan artistic tradition.