Archives For Sam Webster

Today there are engineered foods designed to not trigger leptin, the hormone that tells us we are full, so we eat the whole bag. Planned obsolescence has us throwing away rather than repairing appliances and other consumer goods, so they go to landfills and scrap yards. Advertising is intended to cause desire and dissatisfaction, so we buy things we don’t need and don’t even want.

We are told that economic growth is the way for all of us to financially succeed. Yet the growth since the 2008 crisis has been entirely to the benefit of the ownership class; this tide floats only the yachts. The exemplars of things that grow uncontrollably are cancer and algae blooms. The first kills its body; the second drowns itself in its waste. How can we believe in an economic doctrine that contradicts how we know Nature works?

The Pagan way of walking lightly on the earth is a value, even if often only an aspiration. It is a way of expressing the experienced sanctity of this world in which we live; a way of positively valuing the natural and the sustainable. It is rooted in our experience of ourselves in integration with the world, especially the natural world around us. This spirituality (spiritual knowing) leads to ethical decisions and policies regarding our patterns of consumption, intended to reduce their negative effects.

The alternative to this are the zombies. The current form of this trope is the deceased, and the newly so, become mindless consumers…of consumers: us. In this image, ‘we’ are the prey-food. But we also represent all consumer goods, and the zombies are the ultimate consumers. They have no limits to their consumption, nor any apparent goal, save to consume, and perhaps to make more consumers; that is zombies.

Zombies from "Night of the Living Dead" (Public Domain)

Zombies from “Night of the Living Dead” (Public Domain)

Zombies are also lacking one other critical component: interiority. They are mindless and unfeeling, relentless and untiring. There is “no one home” in the mass-consumer zombie. From this comes the zombie hunter’s ethic: zombies can be killed without qualm. Humans have long had classes of beings that can be thoughtlessly killed: slaves, infidels, foreigners, never mind the animals, even plants, ecologies and so many more. Their otherness makes them easy to slay. The zombies are aggressive, which makes it ethically easier.

Where does this lack of interiority in the zombie trope come from? There is a place in life where we meet humans that appear to have no interiority. They are silent until their stop comes. Then they all move without any apparent cognizance of each other. These are the people on the street, on the bus, the train, even in the other commuting cars on the road ways. Deep down inside, with the flickering of the subway lights, do the fellow riders look pale and bloodshot, ready to rise up and eat you? Consumers, consuming all in their path. It is the image of our society.

This image is a failure of spirituality. It is a failure of the lived experience of the interiority of the Other. Most folks can barely conceive of the feelings and thoughts of others; not naturally, of course. The dulling of their lives on the treadmill of indentured servitude servicing debt narrows the horizon of the ‘cared for’ to their families, if they are fortunate, or only to themselves. Arms stretched out to clutch at the desired, never to be satisfied, yet consuming all. What else is there to do?

Trees and sun in Oregon. Photo: Jason Thomas Pitzl

Trees and sun in Oregon. Photo: Jason Thomas Pitzl

Pagans recognize that an animistic perspective is a profound contradiction to this horror show. While it takes many forms throughout the world, animism is fundamentally the intuition of interiority and subjectivity in all entities about us, whether humans, animals, plants singular or in collectives, ecologies, even machinery, buildings, natural features, nations and so forth.

For some at the beginning, this is the mere knowledge that the Other has interiority. But with development comes the taste and touch of other minds and presences. Over time these presences become relationships, friendships, even kinship. Many Pagans have this experience; mature Pagans live in it. Here the subway lights steady, warm to flesh from their pale florescence, and we perceive the inner lives, joys, suffering, and purpose in those who sit beside us. We feel with them and share in those subjective realities. We feel their fears of the zombie apocalypse, the revelation that everyone else is out to eat them. But, we catch an eye, share a smile that spreads and warms the entire car. We see the person, not the consumer.

Our society in its current, raging pathology does not support seeing our neighbors as ourselves. We are isolated in our competition for the few and the rare, even when the shop shelves are full. Even in the pews, they all sit in rows staring up at the man with the book, not seeing each other alongside themselves. The zombies are a pale, aggressive reflection of our consumer, consuming culture. Yet when the light shifts, the color to their faces return, their feelings within become visible. When they are animate, ensouled and living beings, we see them as none other than ourselves.

In the animistic view, we meet the domestic cat and dog, the wild bird and squirrel, the creek, the mountain, and the sea all as living entities, to talk with, cry with, to support and be supported by, just as we do with the rest of our two-legged neighbors.

Can we see in the zombies flesh-eating dissatisfaction, in their out-reaching arms the desire to connect with other? Is there anybody out there? Would they sit beside us ungrasping if they were fed and satisfied? If the food filled, if the goods were reparable, if the media did not dangle forlorn carrots of unobtainable delights to sell laundry detergent, would the zombies stop?

In the sixth century BCE the Buddha taught that in all experience is dukkha, unsatisfactoriness, and that the way to end this is to not grasp after the transitory. Our overculture makes insatiable zombies of us all, trapped in profound suffering, creators of suffering. Yet the nectar of subjectivity recognized in all, the profound insight of animism, cures the zombie plague. Then we meet our neighbors, human and not, and know we are not alone.

Perspectives: Gods of Place

Rynn —  May 10, 2014 — 20 Comments

Perspectives is a monthly column with the goal of showing the wide variety of thought across the Pagan community’s various Paganisms.

The US is a nation comprised of native and immigrant cultures, customs and Deities. Each immigrant wave brought not only customs and cultures to this land, but Deities as well. The Wild Hunt asked five members of the community—Henry Buchy, Witch; Fritz Muntean, co-founder of New Reformed Orthodox Order of the Golden Dawn (NROOGD) and Editor Emeritus for Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies; author, activist and founder of Tashlin Clan, Wintersong Tashlin; and Sam Webster, President and Executive Director of the Pantheon Foundation and publisher at Concrescent Press—for their thoughts on this topic.

How does your tradition, lineage, or cultus handle the subject of “place” as a specific entity? How does this intersect with the deities with whom you have built devotional relationships?

I’d have to rephrase that as “spirits of a specific place.” In some cases there may be a more concrete feel of a specific spirit in regards to certain land features. There are also other spirits in relationship to that place.The way we handle it is to go out and find out who’s who and what’s what, and try to be as direct and open/objective as possible, and work from there. I don’t really have a devotional relationship with “gods.” I have mutually beneficial relationships with “spirits/entities/beings.” — Henry Buchy, Witch

The traditions I practice (NROOGD, plus a kind of genteel non-lineage Alexandrian) do not especially focus on ‘deities of place.’” — Fritz Muntean, Pomegranate

“For starters, it’s useful to know that in my tradition we draw a distinction between the presence of spirits or entities that may be bound to or identify with a particular “place,” and a place having an agency or spirit all its own. That distinction is a bit hard to elucidate, but here’s my best shot: A spirit or deity of a place takes on some of its characteristics and vice versa. From the human interaction side, one is experiencing a separate Power and consciousness through the lens, or perhaps even the medium, of the place in which they dwell.

So for instance take a hypothetical naval ship (I know I’m stretching the definition of “place”). In the course of its voyages, a spirit or Power of some sort, an ocean sprite let’s say, could come to take residence in the body of the ship, becoming joined with its physical form. The granting of a soul or astral self if you will, connected to and perhaps even dependent on the form. Alternatively, when a place develops a Power and Will all of its own, there isn’t a separation between the spirit and the place itself. They are one and the same. In the context of our hypothetical ship, this would be if rather than gaining a sense of self through joining with an outside power, over the course of its construction and/or through the energies it’s exposed over the course of its travels, the ship was to develop some form of awareness, agency, or will by virtue of what it was.

As to how we “handle” those entities and situations, our approach begins and ends in most cases with respect. When we encounter a place with a distinct spiritual presence or power, we engage in the most limited way we can at the outset. The energetic equivalent of hold out a closed hand for a strange dog to sniff. The truth is that not every spirit or power has the slightest interest in people, or perhaps just in specific people.

In those situations, we don’t engage in devotional, ritual, or outward magical acts unless we’ve been given some form of consent. To do otherwise feels too much like not only barging into someone else’ living room, but holding the door open for a bunch of friends to come in too.

The vast majority of place spirits we have worked with are rudimentary in their interactions and care not one whit what we do as long as we don’t engage in harmful behavior. If we plan on doing a great deal of devotional work, such as setting up formal altars and making formal offerings to our gods, we make periodic offerings of one form or another in thanks and to maintain good will.” — Wintersong Tashlin

“Whether with respect to the Golden Dawn, Thelema, Witchcraft, or the kind of Paganism I find myself in, we have the capacity to make sacred space, and so where ever we are called to worship or practice, we create a place to meet our Deities. When we get to stay in one place long enough, such as our homes, we tend to build altars and shrines to give the Divine Ones a ‘seat’ and settle their presence. We then render our worship or practice before these constructed divine loci.” — Sam Webster, Pantheon Foundation

In the views of your tradition, lineage or cultus, are Gods inherently present in all places, or do they express through specific places? How does place of manifestation change the nature of theistic expression?

“I’d have to rephrase that [question] to are ‘spirits/entities/beings’ present in all places? To that I would say, in my experiences, yes. Do they express through specific places? Certain ones, yes. Specific places have a more concrete feel of a specific being. For other types of spirits, they have the same feel regardless of place in the sense of type, if that is what you mean by theistic expression. In other words, there are types of spirits that inhabit general types of terrain, i.e. woods, fields,swamp, etcetera, that are recognizable by a shared general nature.” — Henry Buchy

“The gods we work with are substantially immanent and universal — as archetypal forces in the collective human unconscious. So they are, generally speaking, present in all of us, wherever we are gathered. Still, our deities are defined by the sacred texts and compelling narratives of the ancient world (ie, through myths). So local landscapes often remind us of the settings that occur in these myths. This is especially helpful in designing the ritual dramas that form such an important part of Mystery Traditions.” — Fritz Muntean

“The answer to this question is again a bit nuanced. The short answer is that no, we do not traditionally view gods as present in all places, that is, not omnipresent. However, for the most part neither are they restricted to only specific places, although there may be some exceptions. While we do believe that our gods can manifest in multiple places simultaneously, we nonetheless see them as having some limitations. And nor are they present or aware of places where they are not making the deliberate choice to be present. That said, we do believe that some places are more conducive to their expression. Those places may have characteristics that are associated with certain gods, or with devotional acts to said gods. We most definitely believe that repeated use of a place for devotional acts “attunes” a place to the gods the devotion is directed to.” — Wintersong Tashlin

“In short, yes to both. The Gods, being Gods, are the structures of existence, much like the laws of physics, chemistry, and biology, They pervade the Cosmos, and indeed They are those laws and so much more. Yet, at some point in time, some one had a specific experience of one or more Deities in a location and set up a place of worship there. Usually, the tale is of a specific manifestation of the Deity giving it a characteristic or locative epithet. Thus while the Deity is in all places active and available, at this place, in a manifestation specific to the place, the Deity most especially in that form, is particularly available.” — Sam Webster

When a Deity begins expressing themselves through or in a place not historically or traditionally associated with Them, do you consider that Deity to be expressing through that place in a unique way?

“I’m not sure what you’re asking on this question as far as ‘place’. However, I’d say yes it would be unique simply by virtue of their being somewhere they usually aren’t. that would bring up a lot questions for me, and bear investigation.” — Henry Buchy

“Depends on to whom these deities are expressing themselves. The evaluation of UPGs forms a very important part of the administration of religious traditions of all sorts, and most especially in this regard.” — Fritz Muntean

“No, not really. Perhaps because being a North American who doesn’t work within traditions native to this land, most of the deities I interact with regularly are already outside of their native geographical context. I suspect that some of those deities do express themselves differently than in places associated with them and their historical worship. Unfortunately, I’m not widely enough traveled to have that a frame of reference. It would be fascinated to experience interacting with some of the deities I consider myself closest to in their places of origin in terms of traditional mythos and cultural relevance.” — Wintersong Tashlin

“Any way at any time a Deity expresses themselves is it always unique. If it happens to be a new way, then we are especially blessed to have that experience. It also lets us know that the Gods Live Still, and arise to us in ways meaningful to our lives.” — Sam Webster

What about Gods of exodus, diaspora, nomadism or other human movement? Is there a difference in your tradition or lineage between Gods who come through a new place versus Gods who are carried with Their people?

“Not sure what you mean by “gods who come through a new place.” If you mean the ‘discovery’ of spirits or beings connected to the new place, to me there is no difference, spirits/entities/beings—’’gods’ if you wish, are gods. However, this is a pretty complex question that really depends on the ‘people’ mentioned, and their theology/cosmology, as to whether they incorporate the new, syncretize them with one of their own, or dispossess it.” — Henry Buchy

“Speaking for myself, as well as those downstream of me and my teachings, we are very careful not to engage in mis-appropriation of the spiritual and mytho-poetic traditions of diasporan or nomadic people. On the other hand, most of the specific deities we work with had their origins (or had the details of their narratives reshaped) during the Hellenistic period, when local deities were syncretized over the course of a few short centuries to serve the needs of a population on the move (throughout the Mediterranean and beyond) and becoming cosmopolitan.” — Fritz Muntean

“Overwhelmingly we approach the gods through the lens of diaspora and nomadism, which we see as two separate things. Gods of diaspora came with people from one place to another, where they then settled, and in some cases stayed even as their people spread further.

Gods of nomadism on the other hand are carried with their people wherever they may go, and have no geographical anchor, or have traveled so far afield from said anchor as to render it virtually irrelevant. All that matters is the people, who could be thought of as the gods’ anchor in the mortal world. They may express or manifest in a particular place, but only because that is where their people happen to be at that moment.

In the gray area between diaspora and nomadism you find gods who travel with their people, but only have notable presence once altars or other dedicated space is set up for them in a new place.” — Wintersong Tashlin

“I live in America and am not Indigenous/Native American, so all of my ‘Old World’ deities are being worshiped in a new place.” — Sam Webster

How does movement to, or new expression through, a different place impact the relationships between the Gods and their people? How are these impacts accounted for in ritual and technological expression? How are changes or “new” things dealt with?

“Historically, as mentioned above, incorporation, syncretization or dispossession.” — Henry Buchy

“Again, our own examples are found in the Hellenistic age. Watch Hecate, or Thoth, or (especially) Isis undergo transformations and syncretizations during this period for examples of how we might best proceed. Clearly (from history) this is not a process left up to individual expressions or agenda.” — Fritz Muntean

“In our tradition, people are expected to adapt to our environments, and in doing so hold space for our gods to connect to our world. How we adapt energetically and ritually to new places plays a large role in how we interact with our gods. As we adapt, so does how we interact with our gods, and in some ways, how the gods express themselves in our lives and our world.

So for instance, when my family made its home in relatively rural areas in the New Hampshire and Maine interior, our devotion and the cycle of rituals was tied to the flow of the seasons, and we interacted with our patron in different aspects of Herself in accordance with where in the course of the year we were.

However, since moving to the seacoast our interactions and devotional have come to be oriented around two dominant cycles: that of the moon/tides, and that of the ebb and flow of people and energy in and out of a popular resort town through the course of the year.

She is colored by the energies of the place in which we connect to Her, but how much of that is due to Her act of expression in this place, and how much is a reflection of our own energetic and mental patterns when we are interacting with Her is totally up for debate.” — Wintersong Tashlin

“Once I was given a vision of Tahuti, Lord of Scribes, Lord of Information, and saw Him with a book in His hand. Noting my question, He replied that my ancestors would have seen a scroll, my descendants will see a screen. The Gods are eternal, how we experience Them changes as we do.” — Sam Webster

When “new” Gods arrive in a place (if indeed any God can be considered new), how does Their arrival impact the local Gods and spirits of that place, if at all? How does your tradition, lineage or cultus view these relationships, if at all?

“The same as when a new group of people arrive in a place already occupied, and the same approach of incorporation, syncretization or dispossession.

Nowadays, it’s a fine line between ideas about “colonialism” and “appropriation.” Personally for me, the “God(s)” of my people (family/ancestry) is the Christian God. I’d have to go pretty far back to hit pagan ancestry. Part of my ancestry has been here on this land for three hundred years or so. There is the question of dispossession ancestrally. There’s not much I can do about that past, but to break with it by making my own peace with the land. Though I may be of European descent, I am not European, and I am not in Europe. I’m in this land. My body, bones and blood are of the earth and water of this land, I breathe the air of this land, and so I owe, to an extent, myself to this land. It’s spirits call to me, not in the voice of my European heritage, but in its own voice and so I answer in the best way I can, and approach the elder spirits here with no pretense about my heritage. To them I am still “foreigner,” but yet of the substance of this land, but I listen and learn their ways. I learn their names. I accept them as they come and they do like wise. I respect their domains and privacy. I honor them in the ways of the elder people, who are far and few between now. I do so with no pretense, and they know heart. Some folks say this is appropriation, and it is, though it’s the land that has appropriated me. We learn from each other. I explain to them the ‘gods’ of my heritage, and they explain to me the ‘gods’ of this land, and so there is peace between us.” — Henry Buchy

“In our worldview, the gods (as archetypes) are always present, wherever people dwell and (especially) engage in their devotional activities. The stories of gods, however, can and frequently are adapted to local landscapes. You’ll notice that I’m using ‘landscape’ instead of ‘place’ — to imply a dramatic sense, rather than one of cultural/geographic/political import.” — Fritz Muntean

“For starters, within the cosmology and belief system of our tradition, gods can be both “new” in terms of new to a place, and in terms of literally being new(er) deities. We believe that new gods can come into being and forgotten ones sometimes fade into the shadows.

 The arrival of “new” gods can displace or cause conflict with the existing spirits or even gods of a place if their intrinsic nature differs greatly from that of the native (or at least present) gods and spirits that preceded them. But in truth, that hardly seems to be a common occurrence in our experience.

As to how our tradition sees those situations, we generally come from the belief that the burden to integrate smoothly and without conflict lies with the spirits, energies, or gods that are “new.” If the newcomer is a deity we have a relationship with, for instance if we have moved and are beginning to offer devotion to our gods in a new place, we can do our part to smooth the way through offerings and courtesy to the powers already present.” — Wintersong Tashlin

“When we humans, in my lineage, arrive in a new place, we make offering to the Locals first. It just seems polite. Then we work our way up the chain of being back up to the non-local High Gods we generally work with. Thereafter, we include the Locals in our offerings.” — Sam Webster

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

Chic and Sandra Tabatha Cicero

Chic and Sandra Tabatha Cicero

“For thousands of years, healing the sick has been one of the main goals of magic. In ancient times, disease was believed to be caused by harmful spirits that entered the body. Ancient shamans and priests dressed in the skins of lions and other powerful totem-animals in order to cure illness and exorcise the offending spirits. Magic was an important part of medical treatment and the sick were brought to the temples to be healed either by incantations and exorcism, and drugs and herbal remedies. Priest-magicians often used a combination of physical as well as psychical therapeutics. Of course advances in modern medicine have greatly increased our understanding of the human body and the various causes of disease. One should always consult a doctor whenever a health issue is involved. And yet, more and more doctors are beginning to appreciate the benefits of what has been called ‘energy psychology’ or ‘noetic therapy,’ such as the healing effects of music, imagery, touch therapy, and prayer. These techniques are nothing new­—Albert Szent-Györgyi, the 1937 Nobel Laureate in medicine, stated that that, ‘In every culture and in every medical tradition before ours, healing was accomplished by moving energy.’” - Chic and Sandra Tabatha Cicero, on using magic to heal the sick.

Gus DiZerega

Gus DiZerega

“The so-called ‘free market’ advocates put the values of capital ahead of human values such as seeking to preserve the earth’s environment for future generations. They were advocates of an inhuman system best served by the most sociopathic of human beings. Because we Pagans include the world within the network of our ethical relations the conflict with Pagan spirituality runs even deeper than capitalism’s conflict with more purely human-centered religious traditions. All genuine spiritual traditions value human beings, but ours also honors the earth. This is our chief, perhaps our only, real conflict with the modern world, and on this issue we are on the side of humanity as a whole as well.  But last time we Pagans confronted the issue, we were not. [...] The challenge for men and women of good will, a challenge I believe affects Pagans particularly deeply, is to find humane alternatives to capitalist amorality by perfecting the insights that gave us the best of the modern world.  Looking backwards has proven a mistake.  The Mondragon workers cooperatives and smaller but very successful American businesses organized in the same way, like the Alvarado Street Bakery, show us a way forward.” – Gus DiZerega, on Paganism and the crisis of Capitalism.

Deborah Lipp

Deborah Lipp

“I have been a festival participant quite literally from the beginning. I went to my first festival, well, right before I was initiated at age 21. Before my son was born, I went to 3-4 Pagan festivals a year. After his birth it was more difficult and I have slowed down, but I have been going to festivals for more than 30 years. Festivals were something that my high priestess, as a young witch, was very adamant about. Going to festivals was a way of meeting people, of exchanging ideas, of learning cool new chants to use in ritual. It was important. This is a part of Pagan history, too. As a young Pagan entering the community and you may not value festivals because they are corny, people dress funny, and you have to sleep in a tent. They don’t understand that the existence of the festival movement, which began in the eighties and didn’t really take off for another five years, transformed the face of the Pagan community. It is one of the most significant contributions to the Pagan community of the last thirty years. Before there was an internet, there was a Pagan festival movement.” – Deborah Lipp, on the importance of Pagan festivals.

Rhyd Wildermuth

Rhyd Wildermuth

“What fascinates me particularly about the untethering of Privilege from its context is that many of the complaints are quite valid, but fail to acknowledge a simpler category because it’s generally verboten in American discourse:Class.  Much of the systematic oppression which Privilege is used to address fits squarely within the traditional description of Bourgeoisie, even within Pagan contexts.  The discussions of Wiccanate Privilege, for instance, might have been better served by pointing out that the context in which many (white, middle class–that is, bourgeois) people organize gatherings for Pagans and speak on behalf of other Pagans is a place of assumption of normality, a defining characteristic of the Bourgeoisie.  Many of the Naturalist vs. Polytheist debates likewise could be better described as such, as it is a uniquely bourgeois insistence that the secular modalities which sustain Capitalism (and their position of power) must be the truth by which all other truths are measured.  Anything apparently anti-thetical to the continuation of the bourgeoisie, then, must be fought off, silenced or belittled, depending on the apparent threat.” – Rhyd Wildermuth, on meaning, class, and belief.

John Beckett

John Beckett

“Building the Pagan world of 2064 requires thinking beyond what we see in front of us today. Vibrant, growing religions are vibrant and growing because they respond to the needs and desires of people where and when they are. So part of the problem in figuring out what to build for 2064 is figuring out what the world as a whole will look like in 2064. In 1964 the future was supposed to be flying cars, cities on the moon, and 20 hour work weeks. Instead, we got the internet, smart phones, and Wal-Mart. Can we do any better at predicting the future? The driving forces in today’s world are globalization, population dynamics (falling birthrates in the West, exploding populations in the global South), climate change and peak oil. Will 2064 in the West look just like 2014, only with worse weather and higher energy prices? Or will we see dense, compact cities for the rich, decaying suburbs for the poor, and exurbs returned to farmland? Or something else only some random futurist is even contemplating?” – John Beckett, sharing a vision of Paganism in 2064.

Morpheus Ravenna

Morpheus Ravenna

“I have been for some time slowly gathering material for a book. The book that I have long wished someone would write: an in-depth, well-researched, comprehensive book on the Morrígan: Her history, lore, and cult of worship; incorporating contributions from historic, folkloric, archaeological, and modern sources, and guidance for devotional practice with Her in a Pagan/polytheist framework. The book that would bridge the gaping chasm that currently exists between the quality of information available about Her from academia on the one hand, and popular Pagan literature on the other. The book I constantly wish I could refer people to when they ask me what they should read to learn about the Morrígan. This project has been slow-cooking on my hearth for about a year, but since I am kept busy working for a living at my art business, tattoo apprenticeship, and a third part-time job to make ends meet, I have not been able to prioritize it. Yet. That’s where things are changing. Two days after I got home fromPantheaCon, I got marching orders. In my daily devotional meditations, the Great Queen laid a binding on me that morning: a nóinden (ninefold counting of time). A nóinden is usually read as a period of nine days or nights; in this case, nine months. Nine months to get the draft written. This is what I’ve been given to do. It is a priority now.” – Morpheus Ravenna, on writing a book about the Morrígan, for the Morrígan.

Yvonne Aburrow

Yvonne Aburrow

“Some Wiccans seem to have misread or misheard “Wiccanate” as “Wiccan”. As I understand it, the problem as stated is that the Pagan book market is flooded with “Wicca 101″ books, which means that a lot of Pagan discourse is couched in the language of Wicca 101 books, and there’s a set of assumptions out there in the public domain about what Pagans do, based on these books – that all Pagans celebrate the festivals of the Wheel of the Year, that all Pagans think the deities are archetypes and expressions of a single underlying divine energy, that all Pagans do magic, and so on. And the complaint is that workshops at events are also based on these assumptions. Whilst it is true that the market is flooded with these books, and that many people assume that Paganism means Wicca-lite, some of these assumptions are also problematic for Wiccans, especially Wiccans who don’t conform to general expectations and assumptions of what Wicca is about.” – Yvonne Aburrow, on polytheistic, Traditional Witches, and Wiccanate privilege.

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

Sam Webster

“What Aquinas was doing with his definition of the supernatural was finding a way of separating the Divine, in his case meaning Yahweh, called ‘God’, from the World. The ruler must be external and above the ruled, in other words, above the world, and then Aquinas built the logic and authority of his theology on this basis. I have to firmly reject this approach to theology as destructive. It results in a frame that alienates the Divine from us, especially typified by theologian Rudolf Otto’s concept of the Divine as ‘wholly other’. This for me is one of the most blasphemous things that could ever be taught: that we somehow could be separated from the source of Being. Or in other language, that we could ever be parted from God/ess. We might feel that way at times, but neither do I see it as necessary or even possible, and I also find the idea to be cruel. In the very least it is cruel because it makes you dependent on something else, like the Christian understanding of the mediating role of the Priest, to work out your ‘salvation’. You can imagine the abuse of power that would come, and in fact came with this. Super- (above) and -Natural (derived from natal=born) gives us ‘above the born’, or as the magickians these days say, the Bornless. That which is supernatural is neither born nor dies. The laws of physics fits in this category, co-existing with the universe, changing only as it does, but we usually attribute all things physical to nature, regardless of being ‘born’ or dying.” – Sam Webster, on the (not really) supernatural.

Shauna Aura Knight

Shauna Aura Knight

“Authenticity is not turning into a self-centered jerk who only does what pleases them. But nor is authenticity bending over backwards to please everyone else in your life at the expense of yourself. Authenticity is looking at what you want in a particular moment, and looking at what you want for your life, your goals and dreams, for your larger/deeper self, and determining if that momentary desire is in alignment with your life’s desire. In our society, we don’t develop very good boundaries. That is to say, we often have a vague idea of self. Typical parenting extends identity from the parent onto the child–meaning, a parent has expectations for their child. That child either is “good” and lives up to those expectations, or is “bad” because they rebel against them. Good boundaries means you have to know who you are. And that might sound simple–and it’s really, really not. Most of us have utterly terrible boundaries. We’re a mess of the expectations placed on us by our parents, expectations from the school system, expectations from the dominant culture, and expectations from our friends, partners, and others in our lives.” – Shauna Aura Knight, on authenticity, boundaries, and shadows (she has an IndieGoGo campaign underway, check it out).

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

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

Modrzyk MemoriesOn February 5th, it was reported that Stanley Modrzyk (1945 – 2014), founder & High Priest of the first Temple of the Craft of W.I.C.A., had passed away. Modrzyk was the author of two books on Wiccan practice, and was one of the founding members of the Midwest Pagan Council and of the Pan Pagan Festival, one of the first and oldest running festivals in the Midwest United States from which Pagan Spirit Gathering and Chrysalis Moon got their start. A longtime activist for his faith in the Midwest, Stanley made many media appearances, and organized to stop faux-witch-burnings during Halloween celebrations in the Chicago area. A wake will be held on Feb. 14th from 2-8pm at Joseph Nosek and Sons Funeral Home, 6716 W. 16th Street in Berwyn, IL. In lieu of flowers, the family is asking that people donate to JDRF -Junior Diabetic Research Fund or The Chicago Lighthouse. The family is asking those that cannot make the wake to light a candle for him on Friday, Feb. 14th at 7pm. Stanley Modrzyk is survived by his wife, Dorothy, and daughter, Lizzy, who are both active within the Craft. Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary and Pagan Spirit Gathering said that she is “thankful for his many positive contributions to the Craft & Paganism.” What is remembered, lives.

1484086_253554558146286_1250339820_nA new Pagan organization has formed, one dedicated to supporting infrastructure and developing small Pagan institutions. Quote: “Announcing the Pantheon Foundation: building 21st Century Pagan infrastructure. We are a California non-profit religious corporation applying for 501(c)(3) status with the IRS. Our mission is to provide IRS group exemptions for Pagan organizations through fiscal sponsorship, develop Pagan ministry, study the history, promote the culture, and advance the social welfare of Pagans and the Pagan community.” Pantheon Foundation will be holding a reception at PantheaCon 2014 this weekend, Saturday, 9pm, in Suite 1060. One of its main functions, providing fiscal sponsorship, will directly benefit The Wild Hunt, and once final paperwork is done, donations to this site will be tax-deductible. Co-founder Sam Webster says that, quote, “we have finally built a Pagan religious non-profit organization to serve the many needs of our community and provide legal coverage for our small organizations.” More announcements will be forthcoming, for those who can’t be at PantheaCon.

polytheist leadership conferenceLast week I mentioned that a proposed Polytheist Leadership Conference was moving forward, now, co-organizer Galina Krasskova elaborates further on plans at the Witches & Pagans Magazine site. Quote: “The Polytheist Leadership Conference will take place Friday, July 11th through Sunday, July 13th – though we’ve made arrangements so that you can get the block room rate if you want to come in earlier on Thursday. We’ll begin on Friday at 3:00pm with an opening prayer to our collective dead and polytheist predecessors and then have a lecture and roundtable discussion with the rest of the evening devoted to socializing and networking. We’ll start at 10:00am on Saturday with a full day of workshops, lectures and roundtable discussions ending at 8:00pm. There’ll be half hour breaks between each session and an extended lunch and dinner. Sunday begins at 10:00am and has two sessions with a social lunch and then a closing ceremony at 3:00pm.” An official website is now up so attendees can register. You can also find further details there about the conference.

In Other Pagan Community News:

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

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

Dr. Jenny Butler

Dr. Jenny Butler

“I think there are many similarities between Irish Paganism and the Paganism of other nations, but also many differences. In a general sense, the distinctions between Irish Paganism and that found in Britain rest on the use of cultural resources. In Irish Paganism, there is much emphasis on the landscape, mythology, language, and pre-Christian heritage of Ireland. Obviously, for British Pagans, these kinds of cultural factors would be very significant too, but in Ireland there are cultural dynamics at play in relation to identity, history and colonisation that make the expression of Pagan spirituality unique to this context. I should add that I haven’t done any comparative research as yet between Irish Paganism and British Paganism, or Paganism elsewhere, but from my reading of the work of Jenny BlainSusan GreenwoodGraham Harvey and others, the points I mentioned above seem to be the most apparent differences I can see between Paganism in both regions. Much work is being done on the interconnections between Pagan identities, ethnicity and politics, such as Kathryn Rountree’s forthcoming edited collection fromBerghahn Books titled Modern Pagan and Native Faith Movements in Europe: Colonial and Nationalist Impulses. In my chapter in this collection, I analyse the creation of Irish Pagan identities with regard to the kinds of cultural resources that are drawn upon as well as the socio-cultural impulses, such as romantic nationalism, that inform the movement as it exists in Ireland. This is in marked contrast to the form Paganism takes in some other nations and regional settings, particularly Eastern European ones, where it can be quite militant, overtly political and nationalistic.” - Dr. Jenny Butler, on Paganism in Ireland.

Aaron Leitch

Aaron Leitch

“I believe the first donation came in around noon the following day.  Then – ye Gods! – I think the entire global occult community responded!  I believe I now know what it’s like to “go viral” – because I was suddenly all over Facebook, Twitter, emails, phone calls, etc, etc.  Even Chic Cicero was getting calls.  Many of you, quite rightly, wanted to make sure this was not a hoax or scam before you committed yourselves. But, once you knew it was real, you all got together and showed such incredible, mind-blowing support.  The full goal of the fund-raiser was reached in less than a day!  I have also been reading the comments you’ve posted to the YouCaring page as well as Facebook, and I have been deeply moved and humbled by the expressions of love, caring, support and well-wishes I have seen there.  I wish I could respond to each and every one of you personally, to express even a small portion of my gratitude for all you have done. All too often, you guys are going to read about how awful we occultists are.  You’ll be told we are all ego and no compassion.  You’ll hear that we would rather fight and belittle one another than give the time of day.  You’ll even see it said, emphatically, that there is something wrong with occultists that just makes us horrible people. And every time you encounter that nonsense, I want you to come back here and read this post.  (Or, even better, read the comments made by the Supporters at the YouCaring page.)  In the past two days, I have seen every wall crumble.  Every hatchet set aside.  Every hard feeling forgotten.  And I have seen Thelemites, Golden Dawners, Pagans, Voodoo and Hoodoo practitioners, Wiccans, Jews, Christians, Muslims, Atheists and more all come together with one single proclamation:  ‘We take care of our own!’” - Aaron Leitch, responding to overwhelming community support, when hit with a large bill to fix his endangered eyesight. More on this in tomorrow’s Pagan Community Notes.

John Beckett

John Beckett

“Part of the universal (or very nearly so) religious impulse is the desire to be a part of something greater than ourselves.  We know that when we die our bodies will return to the elements and we can’t be sure there even is such a thing as a soul (I’m convinced there is, but we can’t be sure).  But even if I don’t live on after death, my Druidry will.  The individual dies but the tribe lives on.  By creating and maintaining multi-generational institutions, we can achieve immortality. One of the problems with institutions is that they are inherently conservative.  Not in the political sense of the word, but in the sense that their mission is to conserve – to preserve, to maintain – its values and traditions.  That’s mostly a good thing – by the time a movement starts to think and act institutionally, it usually has worked out what values and traditions are helpful and thus worth conserving. But does the third or fourth or tenth generation realize that the compromises made by the founding generation were trade-offs born of necessity and not some perfect way things were done back in a golden age?  Does the institution remain a living, growing, changing entity?  Or does it become a plastic replica of the reasons it was founded?” – John Beckett, responding to my Saturday essay here at The Wild Hunt.

Lilith Dorsey

Lilith Dorsey

“The portrayal of Papa Legba in this week’s episode of American Horror Story: Coven left a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths, or should I say, up their noses. May I state now unequivocally as both an anthropologist and a Voodoo priestess that there is no association between Legba and drugs that I have ever come across in my over twenty years of practice and study. This week’s episode, in addition to having this ancient honored deity disrespectfully portrayed as a drug sniffing control freak, also shows him as a baby stealing, soul sucking devil. I wrote a few weeks ago that I predictedbad things for the introduction of this character, but this is beyond everyone’s lowest expectations.  The buzz I have been seeing online is that people are done, that this is beyond offensive. It’s also just plain wrong. The show, in addition to falsely equating Legba with the Devil, seems to have collapsed his character with that of the Voodoo Lwa Baron Samedi, traditionally depicted with a Top Hat and images of the dead, as he is the ruler of the cemetery. The reality is that Legba is the wise teacher, the communicator between the worlds. I like to call him the gentle guiding paternal influence we all wish we had.” – Lilith Dorsey, on the portrayal of Papa Legba in the television show American Horror Story: Coven

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

“In so many recent discussions (which are often debates, and more often still mutual tirades, debacles, and fracases of the most poisonous variety) within and with those outside of the modern polytheist communities, there is a sense that many of us have “given up” on ever finding common ground with some individuals in other sections within modern Paganism. Even some friendships across theological and ideological lines have been damaged, if not entirely lost, as a result of these internet disagreements, and this is something to be lamented deeply. People, far too often, are faster in writing off their apparent opponents than they are in giving them second chances. Often, I think this isn’t an unwise tactic, as repeat offenders certainly exist and often never change despite saying they have or they can. But, one can be surprised occasionally, and this incident with Glenn Beck makes me think that the old queer-activist maxim of ‘don’t assume anything!’ needs to be remembered and re-deployed far more often than it has been amongst our various communities and in our many endeavors, whether they be activism, spiritual communities, or theological discussions.” – P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, on unlikely allies, assumptions, and the end of homophobia.

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

Sam Webster

“Part of knowing is not knowing, what I’m calling here the ‘black box’. This is the realm of ignorance, of the data we don’t possess, of the questions we can formulate but not answer, of that which we don’t even know how to ask, of mystery. Needless to say, this is the biggest box of all as most of the world lies outside the small circle of firelight we humans live within. It is also the easiest to ‘shrink’ as learning, reason, and experience all reduce the amount of our individual and collective ignorance. There is another big bin in the black box that we hide under a word that I wish to redeem: stupidity. It is often conflated with ignorance in the sense of the non-possession of data. What I am discussing is different. Stupidity is the inability to process, understand, and apply knowledge. It happens to us when we are in a stupor, from which the word is derived. In the Buddhadharma, stupidity is the first and most fundamental poison, although it is usually translated incorrectly as ignorance. I want to redeem the word because often our problems are not from a lack of data, but from the inability to process it correctly due to the dullness or distractions of our minds. I am rather knowledgable, but under the wrong conditions, I can be frightfully stupid. I need a term like stupidity to explain how those who are otherwise intelligent can look at the data of, for example anthropogenic climate change, and deny it. I need a way to understand how when presented with reason, people fail to choose the rational response.” – Sam Webster, on kinds of knowledge.

Rhyd Wildermuth

Rhyd Wildermuth

“I dislike the internet, by the way, and particularly dislike that I rely upon it so much.  Yeah, I’m a writer who puts his stuff out on the internet by choice, so this sound hypocritical perhaps, except nuanced criticisms are the language of complex thought.   My reliance upon the internet and my dislike of internet communication co-exist, helping remind myself that disembodied communication is inadequate for many things.  You don’t know what I look like in the rain, I don’t know what your face looks like when you experience my words–there are things we don’t know about each other that are necessary to social knowledge.  It’s horribly easy to forget this, which is why so many internet arguments on Paganism (or, like every other topic on earth) devolve to endless frustrated attempts to communicate. I think, in “internet” writing, we forget that the written word has a very specific place and very specific modality of expression, and then attempt to add other modes of expression into it (and thus our reliance on emoticons, as in “this is what my face might look like when I say this).  The written word actually cannot embody so much inhabited meaning–as it attempts to become more than it is, it becomes poetry, which is useless for everyday communication as it requires a lifetime to fully understand a poem.” - Rhyd Wildermuth, on why he dislikes the Internet, and what doesn’t fit in a rucksack.

Mambo Chita Tann

Mambo Chita Tann

“Life goes on, somehow, like it always does, and suddenly it’s been four years. In the country I live in, most of the scars left by such an event would be tended to in some manner. The dead would be found and buried; ruined buildings would be demolished, and many great speeches about how everything would be rebuilt to be better than before would happen, and then everybody would get to work and right the wrong and fix things. Happy ending to a tragedy, proof of the true grit of the poor people who went through a sad time, right? Like Hurricane Katrina‘s aftermath, and like the aftermath for some of the harder-hit areas from Hurricane Sandy…the answer is no. No, it doesn’t get a happy ending, not yet, and maybe not ever. The palace ruins were finally taken down after two years (Can you imagine if Congress sat in ruins for two years?), but the cathedral ruins haven’t moved. Many people, including some of our family, left Port-au-Prince for the most part or entirely, and may not return. Promised aid trickles in, or it never arrived, or it was  eaten up by corruption and mismanagement. MINUSTAH (the UN sanctioned “peacekeeping” force remaining in Haiti, despite the fact that Haiti isn’t at war) brought “help” after the earthquake in the form of anirresponsible platoon of soldiers who dumped sewage into a river and started a major cholera epidemic. Four years later, we can’t even get the UN to admit responsibility. There are still so many things that need to be done. How many more years will it take? I don’t know. I hate that I have no answer. I hate it as much as I did four years ago today.” – Mambo Chita Tann, on Haiti, four years after the massive earthquake that started a chain reaction of tragedy for that country.

Lupa

Lupa

“As a child, I fancied myself to be such an explorer, though of a much smaller territory, and with far fewer resources and training at my disposal. Yet as I got older, and as I watched beloved wild places being torn down for development, I lost that curiosity and wonder for a while. My turn to paganism in the 1990s was, in large part, an attempt to reclaim that connection to nature, but it wasn’t until I divested myself of many of the abstract and symbolic trappings, and embraced a more naturalistic paganism, that I managed to regain that closeness. That’s why my path has increasingly become one informed by joy and curiosity, rather than ecstatic trances and formal rituals. And I’ve delighted in reading about Douglas’ exploits because they sound so familiar. Here is a man, close to my age, bounding about in the wilderness with the glee of a child, enduring hardships with a light heart because WOW LOOK AT THAT TREE ISN’T IT AN AWESOME TREE? Sure, there were plenty of other people, mostly indigenous, who were well acquainted with that particular species, but to him it was a new thing, and better yet, he got to share it with a whole slew of people on another continent who had never known such a thing existed. When I was a kid, some of my best days were the ones where I found a garter snake or box turtle or particularly large grasshopper, especially if it was some critter I had never seen before. It didn’t matter that other people knew about them; I was the one having these natural revelations.” – Lupa, on nature, David Douglas, and Paganism.

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

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

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

Oberon Zell

“We the undersigned are a coalition of academic scholars and authors in the field of religious studies, who have done research into contemporary Paganism, and written books on the subject. Pagan studies represents a growing field in academy and the American Academy of Religion has had “Contemporary Pagan Studies” as part of its programming for more than a decade. We are approaching you with a common concern. The word “Pagan” derives from pagus, the local unit of government in the Latin-speaking Roman Empire, and thus pagan referred to the traditional “Old Religion” of the countryside, as opposed to Christianity, the new religion with universal aspirations. Paganism, therefore, was by definition pre-Christian religion. Over time, with the expansion of the Roman Church, “pagan” became a common pejorative by Christians toward any non-Judeo-Christian religion. In the 19th century, the terms pagan and paganism were adopted by anthropologists to designate the indigenous folk religions of various cultures, and by Classical scholars and romantic poets to refer to the religions of the great ancient pre-Christian civilizations of the Mediterranean region (as in the phrase, “pagan splendor,” often used in reference to Classical Greece). Today, the terms Pagan and Paganism (capitalized) refer to alternative nature-based religions, whose adherents claim their identity as Pagan. Pagans seek attunement with nature and view humanity as a functional organ within the greater organism of Mother Earth (Gaea). Contemporary Pagans hearken to traditional and ancient pagan cultures, myths, and customs for inspiration and wisdom.” – Oberon Zell, and a coalition of Pagan scholars, from a petition sent to the editors of the Associated Press Stylebook and the Chicago Manual of Style advocating capitalization of the word “Pagan” when referring to the religious movement.

Chas Clifton

Chas Clifton

“One thing I did at the recent American Academy of Religion annual meeting was stop by the University of Chicago Press booth and get the name of the managing editor of the press’s Manual of Style, which is the holy book, all 1,028 pages of it, for editors of academic books and journals—plus many publishers of serious nonfiction. A petition has been sent to her by Oberon Zell of the Church of All Worlds, etc., as well as to the editors of the Associated Press Stylebook, the holy book of American journalists, about the capitalization of the word “Pagan.” Oberon has lined up forty-some writers and academics in support of the petition [...] So far, the University of Chicago Press has acknowledged receiving it and plans to forward it to its Reference Committee. This is a worthwhile cause, I think, and it is a battle that I have fought since the early 1990s (at least) when I was writing The Encyclopedia of Heresies and Heretics for the reference book publishers ABC-Clio. (A friend working there at the time commissioned it.) I won the battle on Pagan — even for ancient polytheists — but lost on BCE/CE versus BC/AD.  As editor of The Pomegranate, I have continued to insist on capital P’s except in direct quotations. This has put me in gentle conflict sometimes with British and other European contributors who favor “pagan” or at most use “Pagan” for self-conscious contemporary new religions and “pagan” for pre-Christian practices. I think that bouncing back and forth is confusing for the reader’s eye.” - Chas Clifton, talking about his support for the capitalization campaign, and his own efforts on that initiative’s behalf. 

Sarah Anne Lawless

Sarah Anne Lawless

“Modern witchcraft is changing its stripes. I need only to talk to elders and attend long-standing events to see this clearly. The young people are upsetting and delighting the older generations with their newly evolved beliefs and practices. One old-timer is horrified by an ecstatic ritual at a festival full of nudity, body paint, drumming, trance, possession, and ecstatic dance. They complain loudly to everyone and try to get nudity banned at an event that’s been clothing optional for twenty years because they don’t know how else to deal with their extremely uncomfortable reaction to the ritual itself. Another elder’s eyes shine with joy to see young people hosting a ritual the likes of which they haven’t participated in since they were taking amanita caps in the woods with their friends from college in the 1960s. They clap loudly in glee and ask for more. [...] The big name initiatory traditions are no longer the be all end all of witchcraft. Younger generations of witches are putting less and less importance on lineage and formal initiation choosing personal gnosis, mysticism, direct ecstatic experience, and spirit initiation over the customs of previous generations.  Many of them would rather follow a personalized spiritual practice than follow the dogma of a set tradition. Many of them do not agree with the hierarchical structure of witchcraft covens and the many interpersonal problems it can create. Many consider strict traditions to be as divisory to witchcraft and Paganism as the different sects of the Church are to Christianity (i.e. witch wars). Others don’t like the polytheistic restriction or the inexplicable focus of only the ancient Celtic and Greek cultures within traditions. They want more options, more flexibility, and a more involved, hands-on style to their craft.” – Sarah Anne Lawless, on how the death of modern Witchcraft is a myth.

Yvonne Aburrow

Yvonne Aburrow

“It is a little known fact many of the early pioneers of the Pagan revival in England were gay: Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson, who came up with the idea of the League of Nations, was a gay man. Back in the late 19th century, he advocated the revival of the Greek view of life, including Paganism and same-sex love. Edward Carpenter, a gay Pagan vegetarian socialist poet around at the same time, also advocated a return to nature and wildness. [...]  Those of us who are LGBT and Pagan, together with our allies, are working to recover the ancient pagan traditions of the gender-variant shaman Divine Androgyne, deities of same-sex love, and to discover or invent new symbols for the diversity of LGBT experience. The Pagan community also supports marriage equality, and we see the struggle for LGBT equality and the recovery of LGBT stories, mythology, and ritual as complementary efforts. [...]  If we look back into the Pagan past, we can see many queer deities, such as Odin, Vertumnus, Pan, Artemis, the Pales, and so on. There is a tradition of the Divine Androgyne in Wicca. It is not difficult to tweak the rituals slightly to make them more LGBTQ-inclusive, and this is also great for heterosexuals who find the gender binary paradigm rather tedious. In Heathenry, there is the practice of seiðr, a shamanic practice which can involve gender-bending and same-sex love, and many LGBTQ people are attracted to Heathenry as a result.” – Yvonne Aburrow, on the LGBT experience within modern Paganism, the deep history of LGBT people within Paganism, and the current state of same-sex marriage within the UK.

iao131“The fundamental Law of Thelema is “Do what thou wilt” which is a radical exhortation for each individual to explore and express their true nature, whatever that may be. Fundamentally, we as Thelemites uphold everyone’s right to be who they are. This involves a revolutionary form of tolerance or acceptance of diversity. Thelema itself is partially the result of a syncretism of many religions and philosophies. It says in The Book of the Law, “Aum! All words are sacred and all prophets true; save only that they understand a little.” We can also find reference to Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Egyptian, Greek, Hermetic, Buddhist, and Hindu ideas within The Book of the Law itself, let alone the other Holy Books and writings by Aleister Crowley. This speaks to Thelema’s ability to appreciate the truths that are held by the various ideologies across the globe and throughout history. Our eclectic syncretism is not arbitrary though insofar as everything revolves around the core of “Do what thou wilt”: threads are gathered from all corners of human existence to be woven together through the harmony expressed in the word of the Law that is Thelema. The tolerant acceptance of different points-of-view is what distinguishes Thelema from virtually every other religion that has come about in human history. This can be seen very explicitly in the declaration of the rights of man in “Liber OZ,” wherein it is written, “Man has the right to live by his own law—to live in the way that he wills to do.” We are radical in our acceptance of others as they are, however they may think, speak, or act, yet we also take up arms against dogmatism, prejudice, and superstition that impede the full expression of humanity’s liberty.” – Frater IAO131, on why Thelema kicks ass.

Anomalous Thracian

Anomalous Thracian

“Whether we draw our strength and comfort at an identity level from our absolute service to the divinities and spirits we serve and piously praise, or in our gods-spurred service to community, I think that it is important also to recognize the value in the things which make us uncomfortable, to own that discomfort (rather than to blame others for drawing it up within us), and in that way learn to either build upon resources and skills we did not previously find place for within ourselves, or else value them in others (whose participation and proliferation in those pursuits frees us to do that which we are doing). We are not all meant to be the same, or engaged in identical jobs or tasks or even modes of relation, but we are all meant to engage in the same space and occasionally come up against each other conflictually, and in so doing find new ways of pioneering the continued development of our social and spiritual and devotional topographies. Unlike chimps and bonobos, humans have the capability or at least the potential to choose to correct impulse which is at its source purely chemical and an archaic throwback to the glory days of gatherer-hunter society, before iPhones and IKEA and internet forum trolling. When these conflicts in our communities come up, I comment again and again at the value to be found in them. The key piece is not where you fall on a given issue (although, please, find out where you do, at least for your own benefit and that of your religious and social engagements in order to be more authentically and fully realized a form of yourself!) but rather that it is that these very differentiated stances actually bring authenticity and integrity to our religious movements. These discourses (gnosis and mysticism versus social engagement and advocacy, etc) are not new, in the realm of theological and religious debate; they are tried, true, and unending in terms of “resolution” or “rightness”. They are to religious debate as “nurture versus nature” is to psychological debate! The fact that we are having them demonstrates once more that we have achieved that which we have sought to achieve: status in practice (rather than mere theory!) as a religious social entity and set of movements! Our theologies and social theories and institutional (gasp!) structures have reached such a place of firmness (or fluidity..?) that they can come into competition with one another in a way that actually constructively pushes, propels, and encourages further discourse and growth, rather than theological “shut-downs” and “walk-outs”.” - Anomalous Thracian, on the subject of dissonant comfort.

T. Thorn Coyle

T. Thorn Coyle

“The Goddess Athena came to the door in disguise. Telemachus welcomed her in. Today at the soup kitchen, I saw two people I haven’t seen in over a decade. One is an old school leftist with a bright smile, a man who struggles with clinical depression. The other is a woman for whom I used to offer hot compresses to soothe the abscesses up and down her arms, drawing the pus and poison from the pinpricks on her body. I looked at her today and thought, “How is she still alive?” How is she alive after years of chronic drug use and living on the streets? The grinding of that day to day would be too much for me. Yet here she was. Then came in the well dressed, well spoken man with work steady enough to pay his rent but not feed him until the rest of the month. His shoes were shined, as usual. Then the guy taking classes at City College who was also short on cash. On and on people came, sat, laughed, ate. 125 gallons of fresh soup, and equivalent amounts of salad and bread. Everyone who walks through the gate – guest or volunteer – has a story we don’t know. Everyone gets fed. Who is a stranger? What is the unknown? Whom do we choose to welcome? Whom do we choose to spurn?” – T. Thorn Coyle, on welcoming the stranger.

Glen Gordon

Glen Gordon

“Amidst my panic and dread that I killed the deer, a flash of imagery and sensation overcome me and I pulled off to the side of the road several yards from where I hit the deer. There was no exit or other way to cross the lane and head back to the site. My mind filled with a vision of seeing the world as a deer, feeling the world as deer, smelling the world as deer (there is no other way to describe it). I felt the impulse of four legs darting underneath me, and saw another deer ahead of me. Then an unsuspected blur streaked in front and I felt the pain of impact. I was myself again and sitting on the ground next to the passenger side door which has a deer-sized imprint. To this day, I can’t look at that door without thinking of that flash of being a deer. I was shaken, as tears swelled in my eyes and I felt the fur that stuck in the crack between the door and rest of the car’s body. (In some places the fur stayed for a year.) I  trembled as I touched the bristly fur, and an unexpected sound came from my mouth. A simple string of vowel sounds in different combinations. My voice trembled as the sounds grew stronger in my abdomen and moved through my throat and escaped my mouth. The singing intensified as I got into my car and continued driving. It felt important to me that I not stop the song.  It weaved in and out in different arrangements of the same sounds. The tempo would speed up and slow down at intervals and filled up the space of the car. I sang for at least 3 hours before entering the nearest town on the route. My eyes watered and my body was moved by these sounds that moved through me but came from outside of me.” - Glen Gordon, on the “death song” he learned to sing.

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

Sam Webster

“Love is oft touted as the solution to all ills. I’m not seeing it. Without love, life is not worthwhile. It is gray, dismal, lonely and harsh. Love, mercy, compassion, care, kindness give value and joy to all we do. But is not a solution to our problems. Our problems are from bad choices, from promoting the stupidity of selfishness over general wellbeing. What love is here is too narrow a love, just for self or those closest. Wide enough love can be the spark that leads to action, but it is not the solution. For love, alone, is used as a palliative: Don’t worry, just love each other and all will be well. At worst is it the mere sentiment, the subjective feeling of love, that we are enjoined cultivate, having no impact on anyone except ourselves, and we feel so good about it. Yet the object of our love gets nothing of our sentiment except maybe words, perhaps flowers. Love at its best is the will for another’s happiness, and this at least has the virtue of being motivating, to someone. Yet, in and of itself love is not a solution. Wisdom is the ability to make the right choices, even without sufficient data, because it is founded on data, which when contextualized is knowledge, and when the pattern in the knowledge is then understood and recognized time and again such that general principals of the ways of the world can be intuited. This is wisdom and takes hard work to get there. So hard is it that the most direct discipline to acquiring it is called the Love of Wisdom: Philosophy. To forestall the hubris of claiming to be wise, we only claim to aspire to wisdom through the love of it.” – Sam Webster, on love and wisdom.

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

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

Starhawk at Occupy Santa Cruz. Photo by Matt Fitt, Santa Cruz IMC.

Starhawk

“Permaculture, spirit, and activism – three very potent tools to regenerate our world [...] I started Earth Activist Training because I wanted a program that could combine them all.  Permaculture is a holistic ecological design system that includes powerful tools that can help us heal damaged land, rebuild communities, and create truly sustainable abundance.  We teach it with a grounding in spirit—personal regeneration–and a focus on organizing and activism.  In our permaculture design course, students learn how to heal damaged soil, grow food organically, bioremediate toxins, harvest water and re-use graywater, build low-cost, low-carbon housing, and so many other skills.  And most of all, they learn how all the aspects of sustainability can fit together so that we can meet our human needs while caring for the natural systems around us. Permaculture offers solutions to some of our most grave ecological problems. The communities that most need these tools are those who are on the front lines of environmental and social struggles – our depressed inner cities, indigenous reserves where jobs and resources are scarce, desertifying drylands and war-torn lands in the developing world.  To share this knowledge, we need to train people who come from those communities.  They are the best ambassadors and most effective teachers!” – Starhawk, introducing her new IndieGoGo campaign to fund diversity scholarships for Earth Activist Trainings.

Sharon Knight

Sharon Knight

“Feri was my first introduction to magic, and I experienced first hand how powerful it can be to open to magical realms. From what I understand, not all traditions deal with the pure electric currents of magic, some are more liturgical. But in Feri, it is desirable to awaken what we call the Feri fire, a subtle electricity akin to kundalini, and which, when ignited, enhances perception greatly. You could say to ignite the Feri fire is to awaken the Ichor – the blood of the Gods – in our own blood, thus greatly enhancing our ability to touch and taste the realms of the Gods. Rituals that don’t open these gates feel flat to me. So, I have this precedent that I strive for as a musician as well. I want to kindle these fires in others with music, to stir and awaken an experience of magic in the listeners. It is every musician’s ideal to be able to captivate their audience and hold them in thrall, and my Feri training has definitely given me tools which enhance my ability to do this.” – Sharon Knight, on how Feri has influenced her career as a musician, in an interview with John Beckett.

Seb the Shaman

Seb the Shaman

“Be stubborn, don’t expect the universe to explode with happiness and gifts when you start on a professional spiritual path. Make a budget. Make sure you are still giving to your community, and sit down and figure out WHY you want to be a professional with a spiritual practice. If you cannot face the fact that it is a partly selfish endeavor then get out of the running. Be practical. Realize that sleep, making buckets of money, and being able to do what you want to when you want too – these should be on the list of things you are willing to sacrifice for a while. Give yourself five to ten years to get going. And ultimately, be proud to take the hard road. Humility is overrated, but don’t be an asshole as the pagan community usually does a good job keeping assholes in check and word spreads fast. Remember that you are in service to the people who pay you for your time, energy, objects, or whatever it may be. Do not over service people, and don’t take any bullshit. Do not complain about what you choose. And always do your taxes.” – Seb the Shaman, a participant in the Pagan Bundle project, on advice for those who want to make a living doing spiritual work.

Ivo Dominguez Jr.

Ivo Dominguez Jr.

“I read a lot of blogs, go to a lot of conferences and festivals, teach a lot of workshops, and have lively discussions with friends related to all things Pagan and Magickal. Although I can say that ease of access to ideas through the internet, bookstores, and Pagan and Magickal events has increased awareness of many social issues, ideologies, religious and theological perspectives, and the vast amount of minutia related Pagan culture and fads, there is an increasing percentage of the Pagan community that is magickally illiterate and innumerate.  I’m not saying that people are less serious, less devoted, or less committed to their path. Nor am I saying that the level of discourse has dropped, in fact in many ways it is much more sophisticated in exploring the development of Pagan culture. What I have noticed is that the technical end of things, magick theory, sacred sciences, and the like, are less well known. I’ve also noticed a trend towards focusing more exclusively on the lore and mythology of a specific people or a specific time at the expense of a generalized understanding of how magickal paths manifest in a variety of cultures and communities.” - Ivo Dominguez Jr., on magickal literacy, and the lack thereof, in today’s Pagan community.

Melissa Harrington

Melissa Harrington

“Davidsen’s critique of Pagan Studies is of a nascent field that has been evident since the late 1980s. Thus it has necessarily been going through a period of demarcation and description, which Davidsen criticises as a loyalist attempt at defining a “pure” Paganism. He also criticises the fact that a greater proportion of work so far has been done by “insider” researchers. In an economic climate where many academic jobs are being cut, with no faculty, department or undergraduate degree in Pagan Studies, it would seem obvious that only those with a deep personal interest would risk devoting time and funds to such studies. But that goes for any field of interest or employment and is not unique to Paganism. Nor does this preclude non Pagans from studying Paganism; it is a very varied area with much scope for development. Scholars of Paganism welcome input from any area of the academy, including from the critical study of religion, to work on developing understanding of religion in all its aspects and manifestations via Pagan Studies, and in increasing knowledge of Paganism itself. However “What is wrong with Pagan Studies?” launches an attack on scholars rather than scholarship. Davidsen uses the foundation built by Michael York and Graham Harvey to dismiss the vantage from which he speaks in few critical sentences. He declares scholars of Paganism en masse to be emic religionists who need to be educated in critical theory, sheltering a cohort of essentialists who are consciously misusing academia as part of a clandestine intra-Pagan power struggle.” - Melissa Harrington, responding to a critique of Pagan Studies by Markus Davidsen (you can read the critique here).

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

Sam Webster

“There is much that Pagans can do in the world, but it will require leadership to do it and leadership is a relationship. Leadership is a two way street. Those who lead only do so because of those they serve. Mind, I did not say ‘follow’. Leadership is inalienably about service, or it is tyranny. Leadership is also risky. For Pagans this danger is acute. Besides putting oneself out in public which inevitably makes one a target, compounded by the isolation the role also produces, Pagans all too often operate by the ‘penguin’ mode of leadership. Penguins, it is said, follow their leaders down to the waterfront and stop before going in. The leaders, at the front of the pack, scan the waters for orca, leopard seals, and the like, which prey on penguins. But the waters are dark and the dangers, invisible. So, the pack pushes the leader in. If they come back up, they all jump in. If only blood comes to the surface, they go swimming elsewhere. Leadership is often about taking risks, but it must be matched by the loyalty of those the leaders serve for it to succeed. Both must be worthy.” – Sam Webster, on how leadership is relationship.

Donald Michael Kraig

Donald Michael Kraig

“I remember when cell phones first hit the market. They were supposed to free you up and give you more time. Now, they’re so “smart,” they take away time, allowing addicts to stare at their messages and email in the desperate hope that something important will flash on its screen. I realized that I’d been to festivals and conventions where people had their heads buried in their phones. You could be talking with them while they look and then say, “One second; I just have to answer this message…” If you’re a doctor, that conceivably could be true. Otherwise, you do not own that smart phone…it owns you. Consider this: if your battery had run down, or if the phone hadn’t signaled you with a sound or vibration, and the result was that you didn’t answer that message or email RIGHT NOW, how would your life or the life of the person sending you that note, be different? What if the message to you were delayed by 15 minutes? What about a half hour? Instead, people walk down the street, staring at their phones, missing the world around them; missing out on the world around them.” – Donald Michael Kraig, hits out against smart phones as “Magick destroyers.”

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

“The mention of a very specific goddess: Isis. And that goddess, I have no doubt, is in mourning at present, not for Osiris, but for a human woman who over the last nearly seventy years did more to spread the religious devotion to Isis than anyone has since, very likely, Apuleius in late antiquity: Lady Olivia Durdin-Robertson, the principal foundress of the Fellowship of Isis. Lady Olivia was born on April 13, 1917, and recently died on November 14, 2013. She was, truly, one of the most important individual pagans, I think, of the 20th and early 21st centuries, and I think that Isis most certainly inspired and came through her to many others. Sadly, I never was able to meet her, or to get to Clonegal Castle while I was in Ireland; however, a friend of mine did, and spoke very highly of Lady Olivia and of her experiences there in general. May Isis enfold her wings around Lady Olivia, and may she be guided swiftly into the west, with a thousand ushabtis of turquoise to carry out her works for her!” – P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, on Olivia Robertson, co-founder of the Fellowship of Isis, who passed away last week. While at the site, do check out this wonderful tribute and sanctification.

Jason Mankey

Jason Mankey

“It’s true that the Pilgrims did celebrate some sort of Thanksgiving back in 1621, and it did come with Native Americans, pumpkin, and probably wild turkey. Unfortunately it wasn’t necessarily a holiday about “coming together” so much as it was about showing off English muskets. In recent years much of the Pilgrim myth has been stripped away. Most Americans are now aware that the Puritans of Plymouth Rock weren’t really the nicest folks. I’m respectful of their dedication to hard work and devotion to their faith, but they weren’t necessarily pioneers of religious freedom. Sure they were interested in their religious freedom, but these were the same people who were burning witches just seventy years later. The myth has always been better than the reality, but I still find value in it. When people reflect on the Pilgrims and the Patuxet it’s a reflection not of what actually was, but what we wish to be. Most of us do dream of a country where everyone can come together to share a meal without caring about race, creed, or gender. Maybe that’s why Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It speaks to the best of what we can be. It’s certainly about food and family, but it’s also about coming together despite our differences. I’ll eat a good pound of turkey next Thursday, hug my wife, call my Dad, and watch about ten hours of football, but I’ll also stop to remember what it means to be truly thankful for the blessings in my life, and to reflect on the things that bring us together instead of drive us apart. Happy Thanksgiving.” – Jason Mankey, on why he likes Thanksgiving.

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

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

Vivianne Crowley

Vivianne Crowley

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

Peter Dybing

Peter Dybing

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

Chas Clifton

Chas Clifton

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

Cat Chapin-Bishop

Cat Chapin-Bishop

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

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

Sam Webster

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

T. Thorn Coyle

T. Thorn Coyle

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

Carol P. Christ

Carol P. Christ

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

Alyxander Folmer

Alyxander Folmer

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

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

Peter Dybing

Peter Dybing

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

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

funding_larger

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

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

Jason Mankey

Jason Mankey

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

Taylor Ellwood

Taylor Ellwood

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

Donald Michael Kraig

Donald Michael Kraig

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

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

Sam Webster

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

Anomalous Thracian

Anomalous Thracian

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

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

Don’t forget to donate and spread the work for our Fall Funding Drive: http://igg.me/at/2013-fall-funding-drive/x/497880

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

Patrick McCollum with Jane Goodall.

Patrick McCollum with Jane Goodall.

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

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

Sam Webster

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

Peter Dybing

Peter Dybing

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

Morpheus Ravenna

Morpheus Ravenna

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

Good Hutton Pic

Ronald Hutton

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

Carl Llewellyn Weschcke with author John Michael Greer

Carl Llewellyn Weschcke

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

Ruadhán J McElroy

Ruadhán J McElroy

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

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

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

T. Thorn Coyle

T. Thorn Coyle

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

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