Archives For Polyamory

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

ll prep at NAL.The New Alexandrian Library, a project of the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel which hopes to create an institution that will become “one of the cornerstones of a new magickal renaissance,” has launched a new crowdfunding venture to help pay for the final phase of construction. Quote: We are building a library focused on the mystical and esoteric teachings of all religions with an emphasis on Paganism in all its forms. We are also collecting artifacts, art, ritual objects, etc. for the museum component of the New Alexandrian Library. The first building is in progress and we need your help to finish construction [...] We already have several important collections of books in storage including the entire library from the Theosophical Society of Washington, DC. Judy Harrow, of blessed memory, just left us her library as well.” It’s been a long journey, but this ambitious project is finally reaching the finish line on their first structure. You can read all of our coverage of NAL, here.

Morning Glory Zell

Morning Glory Zell

The special commemorative edition of Green Egg Magazine dedicated to the life and work of Morning Glory Zell, a Pagan elder and teacher who passed away this past May, is now available. Quote: “Contained herein is the official Green Egg Morning Glory Memorial issue. We are departing from our usual format in order to include all of the photographs, memories, biographies and videos that people have sent to us from all over the world to honor Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart. It was put together with much blood, sweat, and tears and was the most difficult issue we’ve ever done. Morning Glory was our good friend and she considered my husband Tom to be her best friend. We cried and mourned her passing a lot as we wrote our articles, poured through photos of her and had too many memories of her stirred up to write about here; indeed if we had included all of our memories, we would still be writing and would have run into literally hundreds of pages.” A free PDF version is also available, here.  Contributors include LaSara Firefox Allen, Selena Fox, Oberon Zell, and many more.

Ronald Hutton

Ronald Hutton

Ethan Doyle White continues his interview series at Albion Calling with Professor Ronald Hutton, author of “Pagan Britain,” “The Triumph of the Moon,” and other works.  Here’s Professor Hutton speaking about his future plans: “I have a big one on the go at present, funded by the Leverhulme Trust, of a comprehensive study of the concept of the witch, in a global, ancient and folkloric setting, to understand more fully the context of the early modern witch trials. This is of course inspired by the work of Continental historians and folklorists such as Carlo Ginzburg, Éva Pócs, Wolfgang Behringer and Gustav Henningsen, and as such is an approach which has been much less favoured by English-speaking counterparts. It will, however, inevitably have some differences from the work of these Continental colleagues, in making a more comprehensive survey of the evidence, emphasising regional differences much more heavily, and relying less on modern folklore collections to plug gaps in earlier evidence. I have six people on my team, the others consisting of a distinguished Classicist, Dr Genevieve Liveley, a medievalist, Dr Louise Wilson, and three research students, working respectively on Italy, male witches and the animal familiar. Together we should produce three books, mine being the largest and the broadest in its scope, and three doctoral theses with resulting spin-off publications, in three to four years.” 

Covenant of the Goddess

Covenant of the Goddess

Covenant of the Goddess (COG) national interfaith representatives Don Frew and Rachael Watcher have been posting updates from the United Religions Initiative’s 2014 Global Council and the subsequent Global Indigenous Initiative. Quote: “We talked about how sacred items are treated as ‘art’. His people were part of the Nok civilization, which produced amazing terra cotta figures. Elisha said that when sacred images are recovered by the Nigerian government from foreign museums, they go into museums in Nigeria when they should go back to the people they came from, to take their proper, traditional place in religious ceremonies and sacred sites. Why does plundering a sacred site suddenly turn sacred images into ‘art’? We talked about how the same ideas I mentioned above could be applied to create collaboration between national museums and local stewards of sacred artifacts.” There’s a lot more at the link, including a line-up of who’s attending the indigenous initiative. Fascinating accounts from boots-on-the-ground interfaith work.

In Other Pagan Community News: 

An album released by Lux Eterna Records.

An album released by Lux Eterna Records.

9780415674195

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

On Tuesday it was announced on her official Facebook page that Morning Glory Zell (aka Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart) had passed away after a long struggle with cancer and other complications.

Morning Glory Zell

Morning Glory Zell

“Blessings upon our High Priestess of the Goddess Morning Glory Zell who embarked upon her silver ship to the Summerlands this evening, Tuesday May 13th, 2014 at 5:42 p.m.”

With her long-time husband and companion Oberon Zell, Morning Glory was a pivotal figure in the history of contemporary Paganism in America. She formed the early core of the Church of All Worlds (CAW), helped create and edit Green Egg Magazine, one of the most influential publications in modern Paganism’s history, founded The Mythic Images Collection, and grew to become a highly respected source on goddess lore who toured the country speaking and teaching.

“My beloved has passed beyond the veil. She drew her final breath at 5:42 yesterday afternoon. Her handmaidens, students and priestesses prepared her body and dressed her in her beautiful Sea Priestess robes. She is now lying in grace in the Temple for a few days until we take her body to its final resting place in the Earth. It’s been an incredible week–grief and joy intermixing like a lava lamp. So many beautiful loving people gathered around, taking care of everything. That’s all I can really say right now…I can barely see to type.”Oberon Zell

In addition to her work within the context of modern Paganism, Morning Glory Zell was a strong advocate for non-monogamy and open relationship structures. She is widely credited with coining the term “polyamory” in 1990 to describe multiple loving committed relationships (in contrast to the notion of “swinging”). In a new (2010) introduction to that essay, Morning Glory said “this whole polyamorous lifestyle is the avante-garde of the 21st century. Expanded families will become a pattern with wider acceptance as the monogamous nuclear family system breaks apart under the impact of serial divorces.” With Oberon Zell, Morning Glory formed the Ravenheart family, a blended multi-partner polyamorous family that was profiled in the RE/SEARCH title “Modern Pagans.” John C. Sulak, who co-wrote “Modern Pagans,” would go on to write the story of Oberon and Morning Glory’s life in  “The Wizard and the Witch: Seven Decades of Counterculture, Magick & Paganism.” 

9780738714820_p0_v1_s260x420“This is the stranger-than-fiction story of two soul mates who rejected the status quo and embraced higher ideals . . . and had a whole lot of fun while they were at it. Reclaiming Pagan as a spiritual identity—and living in an open marriage for over four decades—Oberon and Morning Glory Zell truly embody the freedom to think, to love, and to live.

Telling the stories of their singular lives in this unique oral history, Oberon and Morning Glory—together with a colorful tribe of friends, lovers, musicians, homesteaders, researchers, and ritualists—reveal how they established the Church of All Worlds, revitalized Goddess worship, discovered the Gaea Thesis, raised real Unicorns, connected a worldwide community through Green Egg magazine, searched for mermaids in the South Pacific, and founded the influential Grey School of Wizardry.”

Llewellyn Worldwide, the publisher of that title, released this statement on Morning Glory’s passing.

“We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Morning Glory Zell. Morning Glory and Oberon Zell have been leaders in the Pagan community since meeting at one of the Gnosticons in the 1970s. She will be greatly missed. Blessings on your journey, MG. Love, light and heartfelt sympathies go out to Oberon Zell and his family from everyone at Llewellyn.”

As Morning Glory’s health deteriorated, an initiative was put forward to record as much of her accumulated wisdom through audio recordings as possible. To preserve the decades of insights and experiences from a life lived in service to her goddesses.

“There are people whose lives make an indelible mark on the tapestry of life. Morning Glory Zell was such a person. As Priestess, Wife, Teacher and Friend; she devoted her life to providing a contemporary throne to our ancient Goddess. We thank you! We celebrate you! We will miss your physical presence. But we will carry forth your work and we will honor you as a Sacred Ancestress, Morning Glory. The death of your body is but the expansion of your spirit. May our lady guide and guard you in your journey, great lady. And, may the love of so many of us be a source of strength and healing for Oberon. As a Pagan and Witch tribe We stand with you. I love you both dearly. My Gods love you.”Orion Foxwood

“She brought a lot of light into the worlds of all those around her. In love may she return again.”Aline O’Brien (M. Macha Nightmare)

Green Egg Magazine has announced that they will be publishing a special free tribute issue in honor of Morning Glory.

“We will be publishing our next issue of Green Egg in about 2 weeks. This will be a special tribute to Morning Glory. We are collecting stories about her so if you’d like to submit a story re: M.G. send it in – even if only a paragraph, that’s OK. We just want to get as many stories about her as possible. You can send your stories in to: greeneggzine@gmail.com if you have pictures you think are unique, please send those along as well.  THIS ISSUE WILL BE FREE!!!”

May she rest in the arms of her Goddess, and may her spirit return to us again. What is remembered, lives.

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.

Akhenaten's daughter (Tutankhamun's sister). from Mallawi Museum in Mallawi town.

Akhenaten’s daughter (Tutankhamun’s sister). from Mallawi Museum in Mallawi town.

  • One ongoing issue relating to the political tumult within Egypt (which is ongoing) has been the fate of art and antiquities looted during these times of crisis. So, it’s a small ray of light that French officials are returning five pieces that were spotted by Egyptian officials at auction. Quote: “Five antiquities looted and removed from Egypt after the Arab Spring uprising in 2011 have been returned by the French government to the Egyptian authorities. “Egyptian officials in charge of monitoring antiquities sales abroad spotted five Ptolemaic dynasty objects [323BC-30BC] for sale online, including two that were posted by a Toulouse-based auction house,” Ali Ahmed, an official at the Egyptian Antiquities Ministry, told the French newspaper Le Figaro. A head, torso and arm, which were part of a glass sculpture of a man, were among the stolen items.” Egypt’s vast and rich archeological heritage has been an engine of it’s once-booming tourism industry (currently hobbled by the chaos), and the preservation of this legacy a key component of recovery. For now, it’s a hunt to restore priceless treasures of one of the ancient world’s greatest civilizations.
  • If you wanted to know more about the painting of famous Voodoo/Vodou Queen Marie Laveau’s tomb in New Orleans being painting pink, The Art of Conjure has a very good round-up of the story. Quote: “Whether it is vandalism or devotion is not the issue here, however. Rather, according to Morrison, it is the fact that it was apparently done without Mam’zelle’s consent. At least, that’s what Morrison expressed after being there in person and informing Mam’zelle that her tomb had been painted pink. Traditionally in New Orleans Voudou, Marie Laveaux is associated with the color blue, perhaps because of her association with water.” On Thursday I featured Lilith Dorsey’s views on this incident.
  • NPR has a deeper look at the recent controversy over the auction of Hopi sacred artifacts, and the struggles in general of preserving Native/indigenous sacred lands, places, and objects. Quote: “‘Indians in Arizona and elsewhere continue to be guided by religious traditions that have been handed down by the Creator,’ said James Riding In, a member of the Pawnee Nation and Indian Studies professor at Arizona State University. He adds it’s difficult for those who are not Indian to understand the spiritual connection many tribes have with their land and with items such as the Hopi sacred objects.” A nice summary of several stories that I’ve touch on over the years here at The Wild Hunt.
  • The New York Times profiles Kumar Natarajanaidu, a Hindu priest who set up a temple in the back of a retail space in Queens. Quote: “To pay the rent, Mr. Natarajanaidu uses the front portion of his temple to frame pictures and sell videos, flowers and religious apparel. But beyond the DVD counter, the temple begins, pieced together by his untrained hand. It is a hodgepodge of cleverly rigged curtains and shrines made from stray planks, tape, string and ornate wall coverings. The carpet segments are duct-taped together, and overhead is a water-stained drop ceiling. But as if by divine intervention, it all comes together as a glowing, opulent holy place, with a seductive mélange of colors and a flood of fragrant incense.”
  • Here’s BBC coverage of the Druid leader Arthur Pendragon-led protest against the display of human remains at the new Stonehenge visitor center. Quote: “Mr Pendragon said that until the bones were taken off display and reburied, he would continue a campaign that will cost English Heritage money and turn the public against them. He has claimed the bones discovered in 2008 are the remains of members of the royal line and wants them reinterred. ‘Today was just a shot across the bows – it was just a taster,’ he said.” For another perspective, I spotlighted a review of the new center, here. Here’s an excerpt from his announcement to protest.
The reality television family at the center of the Utah polygamy decision.

The reality television family at the center of the Utah polygamy decision.

  • The (much-reported) decision in Brown v. Buhman may not have legalized polygamy, but it is a victory for polyamory (and privacy). Quote: “The problems with this statutory language under the right to privacy most recently re-established in Lawrence v. Texas should be obvious. On its face, the law would prohibit not only informal consensual polyamorous relationships—problematic in itself—but any kind of intimate cohabitation between unmarried partners. Based onLawrence’s recognition of the fundamental right consenting adults have to engage in same-sex relations, it is very hard to argue that this section of the Utah statute doesn’t violate the right to privacy guaranteed by the 14th Amendment.” Is this the beginning of the end of morality laws?
  • Would you like to know what author Dan “The Da Vinci Code” Brown’s superpowers are? Quote: “Given the powers of ‘Inferno’, showing a glimpse of hell with every three line poem he writes, that reflects the future in 33 minutes.”
  • You know you’ve arrived as a minority religion when conservative Christians call you out. Yes, it’s from the Duck Dynasty dude. Quote: “All you have to do is look at any society where there is no Jesus. I’ll give you four: Nazis, no Jesus. Look at their record. Uh, Shintos? They started this thing in Pearl Harbor. Any Jesus among them? None. Communists? None. Islamists? Zero,” Robertson explained. “That’s eighty years of ideologies that have popped up where no Jesus was allowed among those four groups. Just look at the records as far as murder goes among those four groups.” Charming, isn’t he? He should get his own TV show! Oh… wait…
  • Here’s the backstory on how the Annenberg Foundation saved those Hopi and Apache sacred items at a French auction.
  • Here’s the complete “American Gods” soundtrack, if you’re into that sort of thing.
  • Actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt and “The Dark Knight” screenwriter David S. Goyer are producing an adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s “The Sandman” at Warner Bros. What could possibly go wrong? For the record, Gordon-Levitt was brilliant in “Brick.”

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.

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.

Indonesian politician Permadi, photo by Edi Wiyono.

Indonesian politician Permadi, photo by Edi Wiyono.

William Blake, The Whore of Babylon, 1809, Pen and black ink and water colours, 266 x 223 mm, © The Trustees of the British Museum

William Blake, The Whore of Babylon, 1809, Pen and black ink and water colours, 266 x 223 mm, © The Trustees of the British Museum

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

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.

Damien Echols, showing off his Theban tattoo.

Damien Echols, showing off his Theban tattoo.

  • South Korea, one of the most Christian countries in Asia, is witnessing a revival of interest in its indigenous shamanistic practices, with local mudangs (priests or priestesses) being consulted by politicians and featuring on popular television shows. Sociology professor Shin Kwang-yeong thinks the popularity is due to Koreans dealing with the “strong uncertainties” of their modern existence, with many crediting shamanism with bringing healing and piece of mind to their lives. Quote:  “I felt something from my heart. This ritual has everything in there – happiness, sadness, anger and fun [...] Sometimes tears pour out from my heart. Sometimes it’s just fun when everyone is dancing and bowing. And, it’s healing.”
  • Father Thomas Euteneuer, a star in the Catholic pro-life activist ranks, and vehement anti-Pagan exorcist, admitted to having inappropriate sexual relations with at least one woman back in 2011. Now, a Jane Doe is filing suit against Euteneuer, alleging that the priest sexually abused and assaulted her, using his position as an exorcist as a means to force sexual contact. This spiritual/physical rape of the Jane Doe has caused the Catholic church to recall him for counselling and remove his “priestly faculties,” meaning he can no longer perform mass or other sacred rites.
  • There’s a deep connection between synthesizer music and the occult, Klint Finley explores it for Boing Boing. Quote: “You can find traces of the occult throughout the history of electronic music. The occult obsessed Italian Futurist Luigi Russolo built his own mechanical instruments around 1917. The famous Moog synthesizer made an early appearance in Mick Jagger’s soundtrack to Kenneth Anger’s occult film Invocation of My Demon Brother in 1969. And in the late 1970s Throbbing Gristle built their own electronic instruments for their occult sound experiments, setting the stage for many of the occult themed industrial bands who followed. The witch house genre keeps this tradition alive today.”
  • The Border House looks at the controversy surrounding the upcoming game SMITE, and the protests from Hindu activist Rajan Zed over the depiction and ability to control their gods and goddesses, most notably Kali, in the game. The Border House also calls out the “pornification” of Kali. Quote: “This is truly disgusting. Not only is a faith appropriated, but it is done so in a way which turns a widely revered deity into a male sexual fantasy. A goddess in non-sexual nudity is somehow less preferable to a caricature in which she is put in a costume for the male gaze. Whether you agree with Rajan Zed or not about controlling Hindu deities as combat tools is not the issue. The cultural imperialistic mindset which allows a westerner to pornify symbols of Hinduism and yet think he has the right to lecture a Hindu about the religion, this is the issue.”
  • Associated Press reporter Christopher Torchia says that ancient Greek myths lend valuable context to the country’s current fiscal and political crisis. Quote: “Greek mythology is full of examples of how mortals should find the middle way in order to live a happy life, or as it said on the walls of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, ‘Nothing in Excess,’” Peter Meineck, associate professor of classics at New York University, wrote in an email. He noted that, according to the Greek poet Hesiod, “the first divine agent that caused creation was Eros — the spirit of erotic drive or the impulse to create anything.”
  • Tammy Trotter-Bazzle, a Pagan priestess living in South Carolina, shares her experience advising the pastoral staff at AnMed Health after a Pagan patience was admitted. Quote: “I feel blessed and honored to have had that opportunity. At the end of a day, good was done for the greater good. Pagan patients will be better understood at AnMed. And that was, after all, the reason for this class; to help the patient. I, along with many of the local Pagan community, are happy to see this step forward.”
  • A majority percentage of Jews, Catholics, Mainline Protestants, non-Christian faiths, and unaffiliated religious believers favor same-sex marriage rights. Yet we are told that we must “protect” the conservative Christian viewpoint on marriage by denying all other faiths and traditions the ability to perform legal same-sex rites. How is this about religious freedom again?
  • Is polyamory ready for its close-up? A Showtime reality program is on its way, featuring neo-tantra practitioner and “bliss coach” Kamala Devi. Will Paganism make an appearance? Are we ready for the questions if and when it does?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

On Wednesday the Supreme Court of British Columbia upheld Canada’s law banning the practice of polygamy (multiple-partner marriages). This legal battle was somewhat unique in that a legal alliance of fundamentalist Mormons and a polyamory advocacy group (the CPAA) stood together to challenge the law. In addition, Pagan families and clergy in Canada have filed affidavits of support in the decriminalization case there. The reason for this somewhat unlikely fellowship was made clear during the trial when the B.C. Attorney General’s office made very clear that polyamorous families would be treated like polygamous families in the eyes of the law.

When multi-partner, conjugal relationships are like “duplicative marriages,” Jones said they are criminal regardless of whether the individuals are heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered.Although he said ‘duplicative marriage’ need not be “exhaustively defined in advance,” Jones said all conjugal relationships involving more than two people are criminal if they go beyond “mere cohabitation” and have some form of imposed consequences related to entering or remaining in the relationship.”

However, while Chief Justice Robert Bauman upheld the law, he did seem to carve out exceptions for informal multiple-partner couplings, and provided a “road-map” for future challenges.

Robert Wickett, the lawyer for the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the polygamous community in Bountiful, said the B.C. Supreme Court decision actually offers a “road map” for would-be polygamists on how to avoid prosecution. [...]  “[Judge Bauman] lays out for prosecutors and defendants what is lawful and not lawful,” Mr. Wickett said. “He has not said that three people living together is unlawful, but only [that] three people living together in a form of ‘marriage’ that had a sanctioning event or a religious ceremony. And so people looking at that definition, then, you could imagine how they [could] structure their affairs to stay within his definition.”

The Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association says it is “relieved” at the exceptions in the ruling, but points out that polyamorous couples who have had a “sanctioning event or religious ceremony” could still be targeted by the polygamy law.

“Many polyamorous women, as well as men, have multiple partners, and polyamorists think men and women have equal freedom to define their relationships. The CPAA says the decision will relieve most polyamorists but, alarmingly, will harm those who make certain formal commitments. “The decision still criminalizes a segment of the polyamorous community if they have a marriage ceremony,” said Zoe Duff, a CPAA director and spokesperson. Duff also represents one of the five polyamorous families who provided evidence to the court. The decision clarifies that she is living legally with her two male partners.”

Considering how many Canadian Pagan polyamorous families have had public marriage/handfasting ceremonies this interpretation of the law places them on the same legal footing as a polygamous Mormon (or Muslim) household. This, in essence, forces consensual multi-partner arrangements to stay in the closet, and avoid anything that might be interpreted by a “sanctioning” event within their community. Thus, monogamy as a relationship structure is privileged above all others, even though the judge in this case acknowledges that this arrangement limits personal autonomy and religious freedom. As Jonathan Korman told me in my last piece on Paganism and polyamory, consensual multiple-partner arrangements present a fundamental challenge to the status quo that isn’t so easily swept under the rug.

“Polyamory constitutes a direct confrontation with questions about how we define our relationships. It says that we should not accept that our loving relationships must conform to a single standard. From that rejection of the cookie-cutter relationship standard follows hard personal and cultural questions about how we want relationships to work. Cultural conservatives find these questions frightening; without the standards they know and recognize, they fear that we would have no ethical standards at all. But many other people feel that the conception of marriage offered to them does not serve their needs but cannot imagine alternatives. Perhaps same-sex marriage has opened the door to more people thinking about these questions, creating an opportunity for a broader cultural conversation about the cultural and legal implications of polyamorous families. We may see a growing fascination with poly families coming, as people respond to them as a way to talk about the questions they encounter in their own relationships.”

This ruling seems to be something of a punt by Chief Justice Robert Bauman, all but acknowledging that this won’t be the end of the matter in his decision, while trying his best to create an understanding of the polygamy law that will only affect “harmful” manifestations of the practice. But his reliance on ceremony as a threshold for illegality creates more problems than it does solutions, and I have little doubt that we will see this issue back in the courts once again sometime soon.

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.

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.

Our modern society is both fascinated and repulsed by the practice of polygamy (multiple-partner marriages), particularly the practices of fundamentalist Mormons, who allow polygyny (one husband, many wives), and who have been given both sympathetic (Big Love, Sister Wives) and critical (any number of documentaries and news reports) treatment by mainstream media. While the custom of monogamy has been called “ridiculous” by some, and perhaps even unnatural by others, non-monogamous relationships have been generally been portrayed as either lurid fantasy, inherently abusive, or yet another step on a slippery slope towards cultural ruin (particularly within the context of the same-sex marriage debate). Recently, Mormon polygamists have been fighting to decriminalize what they see as a consensual relationship model, arguing that allegations of abuse within these structures should be dealt with separately from the issue of multiple-marriage. In Canada a high-profile decriminalization case is currently before the British Columbia Supreme Court, and now the multiple-partner family behind  Sister Wives has filed suit to challenge Utah’s law against bigamy.

“Attorney Jonathan Turley told the Associated Press that he believes the family’s case represents the strongest challenge to the criminalization of polygamy ever filed in federal courts. It builds on a 2003 case in which the Supreme Court struck down Texas’ sodomy laws as a violation of privacy. “We only wish to live our private lives according to our beliefs,” Brown said in the attorney’s statement.”

As this issue over polygamy, and whether or not it should be decriminalized, heats up, some Pagans are wondering how these developments will affect our interconnected communities, and whether our general acceptance of non-monogamous relationship models will cause reverberations we can’t predict. While polygamy is not a common practice within contemporary Pagan religions, polyamorous groups can often be found. Polyamory is a consensual multiple-partner relationship model that rejects the patriarchal, and sometimes abusive, forms of traditional polygamy that most people envision (polyamory widely values transparency and honesty, along with what’s known as “compersion”). Several prominent Pagans are polyamorous, including Oberon and Morning Glory ZellRaven Kaldera (author of “Pagan Polyamory”), Phaedra Bonewits, and her late husband, the author Isaac Bonewits. Around 30% of poly families identify as Pagan according to one survey conducted in 2002. So as polyamory gets drawn into the polygamy decriminalization battles, it seems likely that poly Pagans will play a role, whether chosen or not. Already, Pagan families and clergy in Canada have filed affidavits of support in the decriminalization case there, and Craig Jones, lead attorney for the B.C. Attorney General’s office, made very clear that polyamorous families would be treated like polygamous families in the eyes of the law.

When multi-partner, conjugal relationships are like “duplicative marriages,” Jones said they are criminal regardless of whether the individuals are heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered. Although he said ‘duplicative marriage’ need not be “exhaustively defined in advance,” Jones said all conjugal relationships involving more than two people are criminal if they go beyond “mere cohabitation” and have some form of imposed consequences related to entering or remaining in the relationship.”

In talking with several polyamorous Pagan individuals for this article I found some apprehension and mixed emotions about being seen as allied with polygamous Mormon groups. While some, like Natalie Smith, think that if “people on the ‘outside’ were to see two opposite groups like Mormons and Pagans working side-by-side towards a common goal, it is more likely to help someone think.” Others, like Jonathan Korman, feel conflicted about making common cause with polygamists.

“I can conceive of legal efforts which serve both groups’ interests, but I have difficulty imagining it politically. The movements have different cultural aims and have different relationships with the society at large. People in each movement tend to find the practices of the other distasteful, making any alliance fraught. Both groups would hesitate to focus only on tactics which support both groups. Both groups may fear that it will compromise their efforts if the public foresees benefits to the other group.”

That said, all the polyamorous Pagans I talked to supported decriminalization, and were in favor of creating a legal framework for legal multiple-partner marriages. Storm Faerywolf, an initiate of the Feri tradition of Witchcraft, noted that “adult individuals should have the right to enter into whatever contracts they choose,” while Pagan podcaster and metaphysical shop manager Devin Hunter emphasized that “in a perfect world this would not even be a question. The rights of a minority group should never be in the hands of the majority. Plural marriages should absolutely be legal within the system, and at the very least it should become decriminalized.” While none of the individuals I talked to held much credence with the slippery slope arguments put forward by figures like Archbishop Timothy Dolan, one respondent, David Shorey, did point out that the “dominant paradigm still revolves around a polar perspective,” and “those who have adopted the polar perspective will see two men or two women fitting into that.” In short, any relationship that exceeds two partners breaks the mold many are comfortable with.

Shorey’s musings on the “polar perspective” seems to tie into some further comments made by Korman, who broached the question of if this issue of multiple-partner marriages touches on a much larger question of the current legal limitations in defining relationship models outside what some may be accustomed to.

“The law currently supports a very limited vocabulary of personal relationships with enforced rights and obligations. We have legal rules for blood relations, for adoptive parents, and for married couples, but almost no other legal support for personal relationships. I believe that many people sense that this gives us too limited a vocabulary for dealing with the complexity of people’s lives but lack a framework for thinking about it. Many people who reach for same-sex civil unions as a compromise may feel open to more sophisticated ways of thinking about how the law addresses our relationships.

Polyamory constitutes a direct confrontation with questions about how we define our relationships. It says that we should not accept that our loving relationships must conform to a single standard. From that rejection of the cookie-cutter relationship standard follows hard personal and cultural questions about how we want relationships to work. Cultural conservatives find these questions frightening; without the standards they know and recognize, they fear that we would have no ethical standards at all. But many other people feel that the conception of marriage offered to them does not serve their needs but cannot imagine alternatives. Perhaps same-sex marriage has opened the door to more people thinking about these questions, creating an opportunity for a broader cultural conversation about the cultural and legal implications of polyamorous families. We may see a growing fascination with poly families coming, as people respond to them as a way to talk about the questions they encounter in their own relationships.”

As this conversation moves forward, can polyamorous Pagans bring more complexity, nuance, and new ideas to the table? So far, the lion’s share of attention has been on contrasting monogamy with abusive forms of polygamy, but shouldn’t there be room to consider that there are other models of multiple-partner families, and that blanket laws against polygamy also impact their lives as well? In defining polyamory, the poly Pagans I talked to described it as “the admission that honesty is more important than monogamy, “ that “each individual member among the relationship shares in responsibility equally,” and is “focused on the individual and their ability to have mutiple loving relationships.” This seems a far cry from the abusive compound narrative often presented when talk of decriminalizing polygamy comes up, and should not be ignored as this debate continues to gain attention.

Whether Pagans wish it or not, the coming polygamy decriminalization fight will have ramifications that will need to be addressed. Many Pagan clergy members bless multiple-partner marriages, many polyamorous families are Pagan, and in Canada, it has been made clear that distinctions between polygamy and polyamory won’t be recognized should the relationships evolve beyond mere “cohabitation.” While the Utah “Sister Wives” case may be something that Pagan communities in the United States can largely avoid, that is no promise the issue will remain dormant, especially if the Canada legal case ends up in the Canadian Supreme Court and results in polygamy being decriminalized. Many of the polyamorous Pagans I talked to said that the time for more vocal activism on this issue was now, for Devin Hunter “the time has come to become even more vocal, “ while Natalie Smith, when asked about being vocal, said that “the road to equality lies through the fields of visibility.” The question is whether Pagan leaders, clergy, and organizations will be willing or able to join them on that road.