Archives For Shauna Aura Knight

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Accountability is a critical aspect of leadership in any community. For Pagans, this is a special challenge because our structure and power dynamics are neither the norm, nor easily shaped to produce accountability.

Ordinarily, there is a strong dimension of economic and regulatory reciprocity in the relationship between leaders and the communities they serve.The CEO is hired by the board of directors. The minister is called by the congregation (in congregational polity) or placed by the hierarchy. The president is elected by the people. If a leader does not perform to expectation or to standard, he or she can be fired or replaced. In the case of the president, the standards for malfeasance are high, but so are the consequences: impeachment, removal from office, or simply not being reelected.

[Graphic by lumaxart - CC lic. via Wikimedia ]

[Graphic by lumaxart - CC lic. via Wikimedia ]

Pagan leaders are unusual in that they are often ‘self-called’ to their role. They decide to form a group and do so by collecting people around them. They are generally not paid, and often the group meets at the leader’s home. Generally, they are the principal teacher, and likewise, the sole initiator. This makes censuring or dismissing the leader very difficult. It usually disbands the group and, only sometimes, will a fraction of the group continue without the leader. The usual penalty of loss of pay simply does not apply.

Shauna Aura Knight recently wrote about the difficulty of holding leaders, or ‘elders’ in her frame, to account. In a previous and cited work on whistleblowers, Shauna describes the painful reality of individuals speaking out against the abuse of leaders and elders.They are regularly disbelieved and punished, while the accused is often powerfully defended. Many instead choose to remain silent.

The economic dimension of mutual control is only the most obvious lack in Pagan groups. When viewed per their power dynamics, most groups are (hopefully) benevolent and consensual autocracies. Besides being the founders of the group or the event, the leaders are the bottom line, and the one who maintains the commitment to making it all happen. Flakey and unreliable as many Pagans are, without firm leadership events fail and groups fade away.

Basic funding for them also tends to come out of the pockets of the leaders as well, bringing back the economic aspect, but without checks and balances. On the other end of the political spectrum, in consensus-based groups there can be a problem assigning accountability (not to say blame).  However, there can be an advantage in being accustomed to group decision-making, which provides its own kind of accountability. But when the consent breaks down, so do the groups.

There are alternatives but these require significant effort on the part of the group-members and real courage on the part of the leaders. In the Facebook thread on her page commenting on Shauna’s above mentioned post, Samuel Wagar (09122014) pointed to the way our society as a whole has worked out how to solve this problem:

I have created lasting groups (the festival now twenty years old, the church ten years), using democracy and congregationalism as the keys. And one such group fired a leader, and has disciplined others. It can be done, with a model that is not centered on the charismatic leader.

Here, democracy is the power structure, congregationalism is the social structure and ownership model, and not being centered on the charismatic or celebrity leader is crucial to long term success. Since groups of all kinds are most commonly started by charismatic leaders because they are the ones with the chutzpah to make it happen, we need to build models for migrating start-ups into long standing organizations. The leaders themselves need to take the lead in this transformation, and the members have to step up and take on the load.

[Photo Credit: Chris Beckett/Flickr]

[Photo Credit: Chris Beckett/Flickr]

This is not easy in a corporatocratic and consumer society. We don’t believe we have the power to govern the institutions in which we are embedded and, in many senses, we believe we should just be delivered good services without our having to work to make them good. This is reinforced by the belief that the ‘invisible hand of the market’ will just provide.

Experience does not support this notion. The iron law of oligarchy (Robert Michels, 1911) painfully shows that, without considerable will, power and authority accrue to the few or the one. The challenge is that leaders need to empower the membership and then give up power and authority to those they empower. Then the membership needs to not develop a new oligarchy. It’s not easy.

We can begin by building feedback-mechanisms. Starting with something as simple, if challenging, as setting up a council of advisers, leaders can begin to establish true two-way communication with committed members. Asking the difficult questions like, “What am I doing wrong?” and “What is the worst thing I have done?” are not fun to ask, hear, or even reply to. Doing this before crisis and developing a de-escalated methodology in a low emotional charge atmosphere can be a significant part of building an organization that learns, corrects its mistakes, and figures out what it is doing well so it can do more of that.

A powerful technique used in businesses committed to being learning organizations is to perform “Plus/Deltas” at the end of each meeting. It is often worthwhile for someone other than the meeting’s facilitator to run. A fresh facilitator steps up at the end of the meeting, draws a line down the middle of the note-taking surface (e.g., white board or easel pad) headed by a plus sign (+) on one side, and a triangle (∆) for the Greek letter Delta on the other. Then the facilitator asks the group what went well in the meeting (plusses) and what should be changed (deltas). Even simply taking down the list of these plusses and deltas  and seeing them on the page leads to improvement.

Building feedback and accountability into organizational structures is a serious challenge, but the laws of our country support a powerful means. This is the board of directors in a corporation. Corporate structure allows for the design of governance structures that can reflect the values of the community that creates the organization and give them the force of law. The community owns the corporation, selects the board of directors, who then empowers the executive officer(s) to run the operation.

[Photo Credit: rrafson CC-BY-SA-3.0  via Wikimedia Commons]

[Photo Credit: rrafson CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons]

How this is done is up to the community. The board can be elected with a limited term. The executives could have very specifically defined powers. The Unitarian Universalist Association and its member churches are built this way, and something like this structure is what Samuel Wager is referring to in his above comment. When started by a charismatic leader, the leader has the task of setting up the organizational structure on behalf of the future, designing in democracy, and then subordinating themselves to its authority. Incidentally, this is what the Founders of the United States of America did, and why they deserve the honor in which are held. They easily could have set up an oligarchy.

Besides having the right structures, when there is a (potential) problem or abuse, the right procedures have to be in place. There is a reason why we have developed the justice system that we have in the meta-society. Humans are awful at determining guilt. Due process, worked out over innumerable errors and injustices, has produced the body of jurisprudence that governs our courts. While we neither need nor want that level of complexity, we do need to learn from its wisdom. Besides the general idea of innocent until proven guilty, three specific items are critical:

  1. If someone is accused of malfeasance, the person bringing the accusation has to have ‘standing’“ the ability of a party to demonstrate to the court sufficient connection to and harm from the law or action challenged to support that party’s participation in the case.” This protects the system from frivolous suits and acts of power from outside of the community in which the offense occurred. This is where the whistleblowers are crucial; they alone have the standing to bring accusation. It also means they need to have access to proper representation and counsel.
  2. The body (court) to which the case is brought must have ‘jurisdiction,’ meaning “the practical authority granted to a formally constituted…body or to a…leader to deal with and make pronouncements on legal matters and, by implication, to administer justice within a defined area of responsibility.” They must have authority over the parties involved and the actions claimed to have been done. Otherwise, one organization is asked to rule over another organization’s problem, without explicit agreements that they can. Naturally, all parties may ask an otherwise outside group to adjudicate a matter but, in that case, they are intentionally submitting to that authority.
  3. A case must be presented. The accuser must produce a defined accusation, preferably in writing, which states that the accused did some specified action at a particular time and place. Without this, the accusation can be a vague claim of misbehavior or abuse which becomes impossible to prove or counter. What is left is a vague air of impropriety; the besmirching of a reputation. No resolution is possible without a specific and clear case.

Instituting structures and procedures like these, appropriately informed by our Pagan culture and values, is part of the long process of maturation that we are undergoing as a community. Our increasing diversity also signals the need to find ways of working out our differences as well as managing conflict and misbehavior. Building the right structures and procedures are foundational to justice and fairness. By Maat, Themis, and Forseti, justice must be duly applied or it becomes a vendetta when we bring accusations against anyone, leader, follower or whistleblower. With time, I pray we can find our way to suitable means in which we can live in justice, correct our errors, and find methods that helpfully support and hold our leaders to account.

Accountability is a mutual relationship. It is not automatic or assured except with effort. Organizations have to be designed with built-in accountability. All parties in the system must fulfill their roles with energy and diligence. The ad hoc approaches that we have used in our small-group religion are reaching their limits, and our community is showing the strain. Hopefully this brief exploration of the common means of accountability and adjudication can provide some guidance for advancing the quality of Pagan leadership.

Perspectives: Pagan Elders

Rynn Fox —  September 12, 2014 — 21 Comments

Perspectives is a monthly column dedicated toward presenting the wide variety of thought across the Pagan/Polytheist communities’ various Paganisms.

The Wild Hunt asked four members of the community their opinion on the subject of elders. These community members include Taylor Ellwood, managing non-fiction editor of Immanion Press and author of Magical Experiments; Cara Freyaswoman, Freya priestess, co-founder of the Vanic Conspiracy and blogger; Glenwaerd, a Commissioned Army Officer, witch, current board member of The Gathering for Life on Earth and former member and leader of The Order of Scathach; and Shauna Aura Knight, author, teacher and activist.

Do you use the term ‘Pagan elder’? Why or why not? And if so, what’s your personal criteria for defining a Pagan elder? If not, what’s your alternative and why?

Taylor Ellwood

Taylor Ellwood

“I have used the term Pagan elder before. I’ve used it because it is used by other people and is descriptive of certain people who might be considered “leaders” of the community. Though I also think the term is sometimes synonymous with “Big Name Pagans” as it seems that many of the Pagan elders are people who have published books or put together conventions. I’m not entirely convinced that this term should be connected to Big Name Pagans. For that I also don’t think the term should be applied to someone just because they have gray or white in their hair.

My personal criteria for defining a Pagan elder really comes down to service. How is this person serving their community? What activities is this person doing to actually help the community? How does this person balance their own self-interests with their desire to serve the community and what do they do to make sure they aren’t actually harming the community with their actions? I think of a Pagan elder as a leader, as someone who takes a service based approaches to leadership, recognizing that what they do is for the good the community as opposed to serving their own agenda.” — Taylor Ellwood, managing non-fiction editor of Immanion Press and author at Magical Experiments

“Though I’m a Heathen polytheist, I still consider myself an integral part of the larger Pagan community. As such I have heard the term ‘Pagan elder’ used, and I myself have used it on occasion, often when interacting with people from other spiritual traditions. Personally, though, the term does not resonate with me nearly as much as the term ‘Pagan leader.’ What ‘Pagan elder’ conveys to me is that a person has been active in their specific tradition (or in a multiplicity of traditions) for a significant amount of time. Time spent, however, does not necessarily equate with level of service a person has given to their community/communities, nor does it equate to the leadership skill or teaching ability a person has to offer. I’d prefer the use of the term ‘Pagan leader.’ To me this term contains within it service, experience and a willingness and ability to lead, which the generic term ‘Pagan elder’ doesn’t encapsulate. I know that recently the term ‘Pagan leader’ has come under attack—and understandably so—as many high profile Pagans are often considered to be ‘Pagan leaders’ whether or not they have the skills, ethics and experience to go along with leadership. Though problematic, I still prefer this term over ‘Pagan elders.’ When I think of the Pagans/Heathens/Polytheists/Wiccans/spirit workers that I respect the most, not all of them are ‘elders’ and not all ‘Pagan elders’ have my respect.”— Cara Freyaswoman, Freya priestess, co-founder of the Vanic Conspiracy and blogger

Glenwaerd

Glenwaerd

“I define a Pagan elder as being a recognized and accomplished member of their Pagan community. They are a spiritually powerful person in their own right, for whom the connection with deity is strong and vivid and present. For me to personally accept someone as an Elder in something more than a passing sense, it’s a case of seeing is believing. So there needs to be clear homage paid to that Elder by the surrounding community or alternately, the elder themselves must be convincing in that first moment of contact, that moment of truth, that they are someone who has a store of wisdom or experience that I can respect. You might call it a spark that they are willing to share. In this sense, a Pagan elder can be a solitary mystic uncomfortable with the mantle of leadership as easily as they can be a populist leader of a larger group. The key aspect for me is that the elder’s actions must support the notion of who and what they are. Saying you are something is easy, but only through deeds and the recognition of them by others does one actually earn such the mantle of elder.

The word elder of course implies that one is of an advanced age, but I don’t necessarily subscribe to the notion that one must have white hair and be using a walker to be honored with the title of elder. That level of respect can also be given to a person who has accomplished much within a few decades, but who may not be the eldest within a particular community. Perhaps they are even middle aged. It’s about the experiences that they have had, the things they have learned along the path and how they pass them on to future generations, not their physical years.

Because the label of Pagan elder is most often bestowed upon respected members of the community rather than assumed, the most important aspect of their subsequent position within the community is that a Pagan elder acts with integrity and avoids becoming the center, intentionally or not, of a personality or hero cult. Not that elders are supposed to be make no errors at all, but they should be wise and experienced enough to have seen that particular trap before and be willing to take steps to avoid it.”Glenwaerd, a Commissioned Army Officer, witch, current board member of The Gathering for Life on Earth and former member and leader of The Order of Scathach

Shauna Aura Knight

Shauna Aura Knight

“Most of the time I hear the word “elder” referred to in Pagan communities, it’s someone rolling their eyes in reference to something horrible a Pagan leader has done (again.) Or it’s an egomaniacal Pagan leader trying to enforce their title. Thus, I typically don’t use the word because of its poor connotation. But here’s the thing. I really value the idea of Pagan elders—older, experienced community leaders who have the experience to guide younger group members and other leaders. I wouldn’t be leading and teaching without the benefit of the mentorship of wiser and more educated leaders who guided me.

My personal criteria for an elder starts with wisdom, experience and integrity. It’s about actually serving community. It’s not enough to be older. It’s not enough to lead a group for 30 years–some of the worst things I’ve ever heard about Pagan leaders and misconduct or abuse are from long time leaders. It’s not enough to have a high-ranking degree in a tradition or even a Master’s or Ph.D. Sometimes contrast is useful; an elder is not abusive, bigoted, or known throughout the community as a stubborn jerk. Pagan leaders and elders don’t need to be perfect, but they should set the bar to help the next generation.

Alsohere’s an anecdote. Once I was doing leadership mentoring and workshops for Pagans in Milwaukee. Some local folks had come to me with a problemsome of their long time local group leaders were really causing some problems. They told me about a leader with thirty-some years under his belt who would sometimes engage new local leaders in what was referred to as an “Eldering Ceremony.” Apparently when a local leader had been around for a bit and seemed to generally agree with this guy, he’d clap them on the shoulder and say, “It’s time for us to make you an elder.” There was a ritual for this (in his tradition, of course) wherein the new “elder” was asked to swear fealty and kiss his ring. No joke. Any local leader who did things in a way he didn’t like was ostracized as much as he and his group could manage. Nowthere’s tons of additional context in thisbut I think it goes to show how some of these things start to become a problem.”Shauna Aura Knight, author, teacher and activist

Do you use the term elder in your practice? How is it used?

In the wake of recent discussions about security and safety at Pagan events, a new organization has formed to directly handle such issues. The Council of the Phoenix is a group of professional counselors, abuse survivors, and concerned individuals who are “motivated to keep the sex-positive community of Pagans safe through educations and guidelines.”

[Courtesy of Council of the Phoenix]

[Courtesy of Council of the Phoenix]

The Council of the Phoenix was initially created by Green Egg Magazine editor Ariel Monserrat. For 16 years, Ariel has worked as a professional psychotherapist for abuse survivors, pedophiles and families experiencing the harrowing affects of abusive situations. When news of Kenny Klein’s arrest was made public, Ariel began formulating a plan. For days she combed through articles and comments on the subject. She said:

I realized that the community as a whole was hurting and that we all needed to have a place to talk about this and to do something to protect our children in the future … [Since] I’ve worked with this a lot and I figured this was something I could do.

On April 2 Ariel posted an open letter to the Pagan community on Green Egg’s home page. In that letter she “put out a call for anyone wishing to participate.” The letter reads:

 I have chosen to spearhead a campaign to establish a central committee for reporting child sexual abuse in our Pagan community. I don’t have a complete plan yet, and I need the input from the Pagan community at large.

Now one month later the Council has “quite a few people on board” with more joining each day. Two of its earliest contributors were Green Egg Web Manager Sylveey Selu, and Klein’s ex-wife and the founding Priestess of Blue Star Tzipora Katz. Ariel considers them both council founders. Sylveey is responsible for much of the groundwork and logistics. Tzipora has contributed “valuable ideas from her own experience” to help with programming. Tzipora says:

[This is] something that I had wanted to see some 22 years ago. When Ariel reached out to me I was only too happy to add whatever support I could so that no one else ever had to feel the isolation and abandonment my own family experienced.

Shauna Aura Knight

Shauna Aura Knight [Photo Credit: S.A.Knight]

Shortly after the open letter was published, Shauna Aura Knight joined the Council in order to connect with others who are “looking for ways to help solve these problems.” As both a teacher and writer, Shauna is often confronted by stories of abuse. She says:

Sexual abuse in the Pagan community wasn’t news to me … Mostly I hear about egomaniacal, emotionally abusive leaders, but I also hear about group leaders and teachers pressuring people for sex, as well as rape, harassment and other abuse. Most of that gets swept under the carpet as “You’re starting a Witch War” or “It’s sour grapes,” or “That’s just he said/she said,” and so people keep quiet. Actually—I’ve been through it myself with an abusive ex who was also my co-teacher. Many times I’ve thought, “How do we change this?”

Casey's picture

Casey Whitworth [Photo Credit: C. Whitworth]

Other founding members include Blue Star Priestess Kristin Barton who has “training in community violence prevention, human services administration and domestic abuse advocacy;” author Tish Owen who has nearly two decades of experience operating a large alternative-religion festival; graphic designer Casey Whitworth who wants her experience as a survivor to help others.

Many of those involved were unable to give their names due to the sensitive nature of their professional work. Ariel says:

We have several people with professional experience who have been counselors or at a management level in social work, and who are familiar with domestic violence and molesting. We also have a [consulting] psychotherapist who has decades of experience in working with sex offenders … We also have several top notch researchers who can do background checks and the like on individuals in our community.

Along with these professionals, Council members also include survivors of domestic and sexual abuse. According to Ariel, these people are invaluable because “they know what is needed in order for healing to take place.” One of these survivors is Donald Bates. He says:

There are too many walking wounded out there … I want to be there for the walking wounded and the children. I have firsthand knowledge of being abused. I was sexually abused, by my uncle for nine years and I personally know how alone and ugly you can feel. The council will be able to open up these avenues for communication, so we can find and connect with the walking wounded and help those that are being abused. That is why I want to be part of the council.

[Courtesy of The Council of the Phoenix]

[Courtesy of The Council of the Phoenix]

While its currently only at the very beginning stages of development, the Council of the Phoenix will eventually offer both professional and peer counseling services as well as education and training for event coordinators and leaders; awareness building; assistance at events for maintaining safe space. Shauna adds that part of that education will be teaching “what consent means and what sex positive actually means.”

The founders are also developing “safe zone kits” that will assist festival organizers work “proactively against violence by promoting a consent culture and healthy relationships in the Pagan community.” A “safe zone” is a private location within the festival that is open to anyone needing to escape an uncomfortable or abusive situation. The zone ideally would be staffed by a counselor or other similar professional who has the training to handle sensitive situations with compassion and clarity.

In addition the Council also hopes to “act as an information clearinghouse” for suspicious behavior; a place to report problems. Ariel says:

We are not trying to start a witch hunt; this info will be kept within our council and only when we have sufficient evidence or very strong suspicion due to a number of reports, will we disseminate this info … We are still working out the details on this, as we all feel strongly that we never want to accuse anyone falsely.

Over the next few months the Council plans to contact festival leaders and organizations in hopes of working in tandem for a safer community. As the program develops and grows, the Council will update its new website and Facebook fan page. It has also set up a crowdsourcing campaign to help fund the project.

Ariel and the other founding Council members are excited about the Council’s huge potential to benefit so many people in so many places. Shauna adds, “I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I believe that some of the steps the Council is looking at are a place to start.”

Correction: The original article said that Tish Owen had been operating a festival for 10 years. The Pagan Unity Festival of Tennessee is now in its 17th year. 

As the immediate shock regarding the arrest of Pagan author and musician Kenny Klein on possession of child pornography wears off, a wider conversation in the Pagan community on event safety and sexual predators begins. Festival and convention organizers consider possible changes in policies while attendees ask for greater protection. Yet it’s unclear if this focus is a lasting trend or a short lived reaction. MerryMeet, a yearly convention hosted by different Covenant of the Goddess Chapters, and CONvergence, a science fiction and fantasy convention lauded internationally for their anti-harassment policies, offer best practices which aim to protect attendees while still allowing an open, diverse event.

Evolving conversation
Kenny Klein’s arrest on March 25th affected the Pagan community deeply due to his decades of traveling the Pagan convention and festival circuit, bringing him into contact with thousands of children and teens. Almost immediately conversations on social media sites and blogs moved from focusing on Klein to looking at how the Pagan community deals with sexual violence and harassment. “I’m far more concerned with, can we look at this as a wake up call for how to deal with sexual abuse, and other abuse, within the Pagan community? Can we call someone out for bad behavior without it turning into a witch war? Can we make it safer for victims to come forward? And at the same time, can we find ways so that Pagans are not wrongfully convicted in the court of public opinion by people who have made untrue allegations?” Shauna Aura Knight in a March 27th post on Facebook.

By April 1st the Pagan community had its first opportunity to deal with conflict between a festival and attendee over scheduled guests. Florida Pagan Gathering had, as they had done in the past, invited controversial Pagan elders Gavin and Yvonne Frost to speak at their festival. Attendees and Florida Pagans, once again, objected to the Frosts due to their book, “The Witches Bible”, which appears to advocate ritual sexual initiation of minors just entering puberty. An organized protest developed and called for the “removal of the Frosts as presenters at FPG and a ban on any distribution or vending of their materials. It’s past time that our beloved community take a stand against those who advocate abuse. Silence = complicity.” Also as in the past, the festival initially stood firm in keeping the Frosts as presenters, noting they expected to maintain high attendance numbers in spite of the controversy. All that changed and the FPG felt compelled to remove the Frosts from the line up after the venue was made aware of the situation and became involved.

Culture change or fleeting interest
Was the stronger, more organized and successful stance by Florida Pagans an outlier or a glimpse at a future trend?

That’s it! If a convention or a festival doesn’t have clear policies, that they actually follow, which protect women and men from creepers, I’m not going. They won’t get another dollar from me.” – Brenna Summer, a Midwest Pagan who says she attends at least one festival or convention per year.

Pagan festival and convention attendees have now spent weeks online discussing past instances where event organizers failed or succeeded in addressing attendee concerns about sexual predators. They’re talking about what worked, what didn’t, and suggestions for event organizers. “I’d like to see confidential feedback about predators made public. Festival goers have a right to know what has happened with other attendees and personnel as delivered in feedback from people who were witness to or on the receiving end,” says Tasha Rose, who attends events in Minnesota.

Other attendees have been on both sides of sexual predator allegations. OtterDancing said she witnessed a man harassing women at a local festival and the man was quietly asked to leave. Yet she’s also seen allegations handled poorly at the same festival. “Six men stormed into our campsite and accused my husband of harassing a 13 year old and verbally assaulted him with out proof. This greatly traumatized my husband and probably lead to his subsequent physical downward spiral. My husband was innocent. It turned out that it was another bald middle-aged fat man that had done this. Of course there were no apologies and I refused to ever go back to that particular gather again.”

As many cases of sexual harassment or sexual abuse happen without witnesses, how are organizers to balance keeping attendees safe without destroying the reputation of persons’ wrongly accused? What steps should workshop presenters take? They can look at best practices both within the Pagan community and outside of it.

Best practices for presenters
David Salisbury, whose books and workshops are often geared towards teens and young adults, says he is rethinking everything in relation to how he presents to minors. Although he feels he has a good system in place, he is making one important change, “I will not teach youth without one or more other adults present.” He also plans to spend more time explaining to adults why he does this so it becomes a more commonplace practice.

David Salisbury

David Salisbury

Salisbury says Pagans need to stop trusting anyone with a book or CD out and encourages parents to ask questions about who is spending time with their children. “If I’m giving a talk to teens, I hope that the adults of that event will ask me who I am, what material will be covered, and the extent of any communication, if any, that will happen beyond the event. Although I don’t want to see our youth cut off from resources out of a sense of paranoia, I think open communication is a must.”

In the world of science fiction and fantasy, over 500 presenters, artists, attendees, and vendors have joined best selling author John Scalzi in announcing they will not attend, present, or vend at conferences that do not have, or will not enforce, written harassment policies.

They require
1.  That the convention has a harassment policy, and that the harassment policy is clear on what is unacceptable behavior, as well as to whom those who feel harassed, or see others engaging in harassing behavior, can go for help and action.
2.  That the convention make this policy obvious by at least one and preferably more than one of the following: posting the policy on their website, placing it in their written and electronic programs, putting up flyers in the common areas, discussing the policy at opening ceremonies or at other well-attended common events.
3.   In cases when I am invited as a Guest of Honor, personal affirmation from the convention chair that a harassment policy exists, that it will be adequately publicized to conventiongoers, and that all harassment complaints will be dealt with promptly and fairly, with no excuses or rationalizations for delaying action when such becomes necessary.

Best practices at CONvergence
Science Fiction and Fantasy (SF/F) conventions have many of the same challenges as Pagan events face. They have a sex positive culture. Attendees may be naked or wearing very little clothing. Pagans may have sex magic, but SF/F conventions have Furries, Vampire: The Masquerade, and other sexual subcultures. Add in alcohol and the carnival like atmosphere of a convention and problems can arise.

CONvergence, a SF/F convention held in Minnesota, is considered something of a gold standard when it comes to safe space conventions. Unlike some other SF/F conventions, CONvergence has never had the reputation of a creeper’s paradise, where attendees are regularly groped and verbally harassed. Yet, while rare, there have been instances where attendees haven’t felt safe or were sexually harassed. When that happens, CONvergence attendees and staff know exactly what to do.

If people tell you “no” or to leave them alone, your business with them is done. – from CONvergence policy on harassment

The policy not only outlines what is unacceptable behavior in clear and simple terms, it outlines what attendees should do to report the behavior and what steps are taken if an individual “stalks, harasses, or attempts to assault you at the convention itself, you may report that individual to a member of Operations (they will report it to the hotel’s security staff who will get the police involved if necessary) or you may report it to hotel security directly, and the appropriate action will be taken. Conversely, any attempt to have an innocent person removed from the convention by falsely accusing him or her of threats will be itself treated as an act of harassment and will be dealt with appropriately.”

Brian Etchieson, a SubHead in Operations for CONvergence, says the con also has a constant patrol of Wandering Hosts throughout the hotel. These volunteers assist the con goers with questions, problems, and troubleshooting. They also have a team of First Advisers on hand who can assess any potential medical emergency and the con has an excellent relationship with the local police department.

Etchieson says they deal with allegations of harassment on a case by case basis. “If it is a case of that guy is looking at me funny, said guy may just get a ‘hey, what gives?’ talk from a Wandering Host. He won’t stop taking my picture is going to get him a walk to The Bridge and he’ll be asked to cease said behavior. Small infractions like this usually get The Talk. Repeat offenders, or Mr. He’s Clearly Hammered may have their badge taken away for the night, effectively banning them from the convention. Said badge only gets returned in the morning at the discretion of an Ops Head. In cases of physical assault, the perp will have their badge pulled immediately. The police will be summoned if necessary or if requested by the member who has been assaulted. The perp may be placed on the Permanent Ban list.”

costumes-are-not-consent-750x1024Along with a clear policy, CONvergence instituted a public awareness campaign, called “Costumes Are Not Consent.” Etchieson says,”The idea of putting on an ‘anti-creeper’ campaign has been bandied about for some time. Ishmael Williams, Director of [CONvergence] HOME Division, threw out the idea of putting out posters. The Ops crew held a brainstorming session and came up with the designs.” It was Etchieson who came up with the “Costumes Are Not Consent” concept.

Christin LeXi Davis, Communications Director for CONvergence, said the the reaction by con goers has been enormously positive. “They love it. We are blessed to have so many talented and creative individuals to help create catchy ways to get sensitive messages out that is positive and fun.”

It was so catchy and fun it went viral. Charmaine Parnell, CoHead of Hotel for CONvergence, said, “The reaction to the campaign has been stunning. When it went viral, we just couldn’t believe how fandom reacted to it. Exceeded all of our expectations. You don’t expect to see your work trending on Twitter or being mentioned at a convention in London during their closing ceremonies.” Parnell said she was also surprised at how it opened up a conversation about women harassing men at conventions by performing ‘kilt checks.’

The Costumes Are Not Consent campaign was targeted to three main groups, which Etchieson labeled as Socially Awkward Fans, Your Actual Scumbags, and I’m Creeped Out. The convention used posters, buttons, video, live performances, and word of mouth to get the campaign’s message out. Etchieson says the Socially Awkward Fans may not understand they are causing anyone discomfort. They need clear rules and a reminder to think about their social approach. Your Actual Scumbags are predators who think a convention is easy pickings. Etchieson says the convention is watching for them and they will take strong action against them.The third group, I’m Creeped Out, is the group that most concerns Etchieson. “We want to make sure our membership knows that it is not OK to let someone creeper on you and, if they do, the Con staff and the rest of the membership have your back. We will listen to you and fix the problem. Because it’s not your fault, and you shouldn’t have to put up with it.”

Best practices at Covenant of the Goddess’s MerryMeet 2014
So how does a Pagan conference compare to CONvergence’s example of best practices? Although the weekend conference MerryMeet is held in different locations and hosted by different Covenant of the Goddess chapters, they rely heavily on CoG’s bylaws for standards of conduct at events. While CoG‘s bylaws may not specifically address sexual abuse, the Merry Meet 2014 committee is considering adding such language to its own convention agreement.

For MerryMeet 2014, the convention committee is requiring each participant to sign an acknowledgement of the rules and regulations for both the event and the hotel. Similar to CONvergence, they are working to have clear and accessible rules of conduct.

Green-Faiths-3ALady Mehurt, Second Officer of Covenant of the Goddess and Registrar for MerryMeet 2014, says they also have a clear way to address onsite complaints. “The Merry Meet 2014 Committee has its own security team led by a professional law enforcement officer. In addition the hotel has its own security force. If any guest has concerns or complaints of any kind, our security team with the help of hotel security will address the situation immediately.”  Lady Mehurt also says they would not allow a speaker or attendee “…who has been formally accused, convicted or arrested of sexual abuse at our Merry Meet Atlanta event. The safety of our guests is of the utmost importance.”

Yet dealing with claims of sexual harassment or violence are very difficult for organizers because the acts are often committed in a private area, without witnesses. Lady Mehurt says there are additional difficulties. “The violations can bring shame to the abused or fear of retaliation. In addition, people have different expectations and definitions of ‘good touch’ and ‘bad touch.’ Those boundaries can change in altered states – either by alcohol, drugs or even spiritual practice.” She says that organizers need to address all accusations and situations carefully, slowly, and compassionately, “for all parties involved until the truth can be ascertained and the best course of action, legal or otherwise, be taken.”

 

Before beginning I’d like to express my enthusiasm for the future of The Wild Hunt. Writing for and about this extended community has been both challenging and invigorating. One of the perks of the job is in the education. Every time I write an article or retell someone’s story, I learn something new. That’s the gift that I receive in return for my time and effort. In addition, I am ever thankful to Jason for instilling his trust in me to help usher in a new decade for this amazing resource.

That brings me to the subject for the day: resources or, more specifically, archival resources. Over the past 10 years Jason has been cataloging Pagan news. The Wild Hunt has become an historical archive containing data on many past events. Each post is a point in time providing a snapshot of what’s going on – the good and the bad; the progressive and the not so progressive and the downright ugly. It catalogs our successes and our failings as well as capturing the whimsy in celebration and expansion.

Photo Credit: Flickr's timetrax23

Photo Credit: Flickr’s timetrax23

Archival research has always been essential to much of my work and that remains true to this day. As I child I was told to never make a statement without 3 supporting facts. My teacher would often say, “Prove it.” I took her advice to heart and will do an excruciating amount of digging before making any type of claim. Now I find something very exhilarating in the finding of the “tiny needle in a haystack” after hours digging through archival material.

However the preservation of historical data serves more than just research junkies like me. There is a higher purpose. The founders of The Adocentyn Research Library explain, “We are living in a period of growth, diversity and change akin to the first few hundred years of Christianity. Future scholars shouldn’t have to rely on the discovery of a future Nag Hammadi library in order to understand our diversity and our history.” This is a project whose time has come.

Here’s an example from my favorite subject: film history. At the turn of the 20th century, movies were considered lowbrow entertainment or sideshow novelties. Nobody thought much more about the filmed product. Technical innovators focused on production while producers focused on the building of a commercial venture. Nobody stopped to catalog or archive the footage being shown. Nobody considered or knew how highly flammable the early celluloid material would be. The American film Industry focused on the doing and not the archiving. Consequently most early films are lost in whole or in part. The historical data contained in those early film reels and in the production processes are completely gone. That’s nearly 40 years of lost material.

Photo Credit: Flickr's Sonear

Photo Credit: Flickr’s Sonear

The Pagan Movement, as it’s been called, is now well beyond the stories of Gerald Gardener, Aleister Crowley, Dion Fortune and the like.  Up to this point the focus has been more on the doing and not the archiving. No doubt much has already been lost. Regardless we still have many long trails of breadcrumbs through our cultural forest that can be captured. Sabina Magliocco, one of the founders of the Pagan History Project says:

It’s clear that we’re now one of the fastest-growing new religious movements in the world. The documentation of our early history is thus doubly important, especially as the movement is changing in important ways. The elders who were involved in the movement’s early days are now in the twilight of their lives; we have already lost a number just in the last year. Recording their histories and archiving documents from the beginning of the diffusion of modern Paganisms in the US will help preserve that history for future historians.

Just in the past two weeks, Judy Harrow’s crossing came as a surprise to many. Director Holli S. Emore says, “At Cherry Hill Seminary we are all too painfully aware of how the loss of someone like Judy Harrow inserts a sort of glottal stop in the narration of how we came to be where we are today. Anything we did not learn from Judy before last Friday is now gone forever.”

There are lessons to be learned from past experience at all levels of practice. What worked and what didn’t? Why did this group fold and this one last for 30 years?  Shauna Aura Knight is an author and presenter whose focus is on Pagan leadership skills. She says:

When I travel and teach Pagan leadership, what I see over and over is reinventing the wheel … I’ve seen local Pagan unity-type organizations–with actual not-for-profit status–folding because the leaders couldn’t sustain the organizations any longer. Thus those resources become lost, and any future group has to start again. 

Fortunately a number of projects have formed or are forming to fill this very need. Located in California’s Bay Area, The Adocentyn Research Library aims to preserve an expansive amount of material from a variety of religious communities “including indigenous, tribal, polytheistic, nature-based, and/or Earth-centered religions, spiritualities and cultures around the world and throughout human history.” They currently have cataloged more than 6,000 books and are working with the “Lost and Endangered Religions Project on conservation and storage of Pagan materials from India, Turkey and Guatemala.”

Similarly, in southern Delaware, the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel is raising money to finish the construction of the New Alexandrian Research Library (NAL). The “Library will be collecting materials from all religious traditions focusing on their mystical and the spiritual writings.” Founders hope that NAL will serve as both a functional community and research center as well as become a “cornerstone for the new magical Renaissance.”

Photo Credit:  Circle Sanctuary, Circle Magazine

Photo Credit: Circle Sanctuary, Circle Magazine

All archiving doesn’t need to be done by librarians and institutions. Several groups have digitized their own newsletters such as the Georgian Wicca Tradition and the Covenant of the Goddess. Back Issues of old print periodicals are available for purchase such as Circle Magazine whose offers issues dating back to 1980 when it was still called “Circle Network News.” The Founders of Adocentyn say “Archiving our history ourselves is important because we take our movement seriously, know how parts relate to one another, and understand it.”

Another recent development is the effort to capture individual stories. Shauna Aura Knight is co-editing a new anthology for Immanion Press has that very aim. She says, “I hope to start collecting the stories of what works and how leaders can use that, but also, what hasn’t worked. What are the mistakes we want to avoid in the future?”

The Pagan History Project has a similar objective. Sabina Magliocco explains:

The Pagan History Project is modeled after other oral history projects such as the American Folklife Center’s Veterans’ History Project. We rely on community members to record oral histories from other community members. These digital documents will be posted on a website and made available to other community members and scholars. … At this point, we are focusing on interviewing elders in our community who were involved with the inception of Paganisms in the US.

The Project seeks to create a “mythic history” that captures our humanity through the recording of voices. Currently organizers are looking for volunteers to go out into their communities and interview anyone willing. In this way future generations can benefit from the experiences of even those who have chosen to lead a quiet, non-public life. Holli S. Emore says,”For the many mystics among us, and most certainly for reconstructionists, an understanding of our historical roots has proven to be a vital part of our spiritual journey …  We are deeply enriched by learning the many layers and traces of Pagan history.”

The preservation of the past serves to not only enrich our present experience but to help build a stronger future. Together all these records will tell the greater story of a Movement or Movements with all the nuance and color one might expect. And, if nothing else, these archives will help future historians, research junkies and Wild Hunt journalists look back and say, “So that’s how it all came to be…”      

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 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.

Shauna Aura Knight

Shauna Aura Knight

“I completely reject the “myth” that Pagan leadership is like “herding cats.” Yes, sometime it comes to pass that Pagan leadership is frustrating. Why is it like that? Because we keep saying it is. We make that reality happen. You know–words have power. Words have a lot of power. Words shape reality. I actively encourage people to not use that particular phrase because it just reinforces the story that Pagans are hard to lead. In fact, it’s more accurate to say, people are hard to lead. Pagans are a subculture with unique difficulties and our leaders don’t have appropriate training in leadership, which exacerbates the problems we face. But this phrase does not serve us in moving forward. [...]  Herding cats roughly implies that Pagans are too individualistic to ever follow someone else, and trying to organize and lead such individualistic people is impossible. However, that hasn’t been my experience at all. Most Pagans I meet are desperate to find a group that is stable and healthy where they can get basic education.” – Shauna Aura Knight, on why she hates the phrase “herding cats” when describing the organizing of Pagans.

Prudence Priest

Prudence Priest

“The Trinkunas family welcomed me every time I visited the Baltics, and I often stayed with them and went with them to many events and sventes (festivals) . I was in the center of Vilnius with them when they recorded “The Rite of Fire”, and at the National Museum of Lithuania when they premiered “Hymns to Saule” (the Sun Goddess) . In between those CDs and before Lithuania joined the EU, they used to hold a heathen summer camp in various sites near Vilnius. They owned six pieces of property about 70 miles northeast of Vilnius and less than a mile from the Belarus border. Jonas called them belts; they were very narrow strips of land.  One summer visit, the drunken Russian who owned a “belt” between theirs wanted to sell and move to his Father’s place. It was complicated, but I bought the place, and now Romuva had seven contiguous properties and became a village. It was named Dvarciskes. I believe it was the same year Jonas won the Basanavicius prize for preserving the folklore and traditions of Lithuania in the face of communism. He has won many honors and degrees over the years and he and his entire family have been a dynamic force in preserving and practicing the indigenous religion of the Baltics. [...] It is so hard to believe that this wonderful, kind, man, priest, writer, fellow philologist, and friend is no longer with us, but his legacy is intact and Romuva will continue.” – Prudence Priest, writing a remembrance of her friend Jonas Trinkūnas, the krivis (supreme priest) and founder of Romuva (Wild Hunt obituary here).

David Salisbury

David Salisbury

“This is just a small sampling of the dozens of responses I got through both social media and email and encompasses a pretty visible range of the answers I received.  Can you guess my first observation? No spells! A terrible assumption by some older Pagans is that young Pagans are only interested in magickal paths for the instant glory that a spell can promise. Though out of all the responses, I honestly did not see a single one that mentioned “being able to cast spells.” This to me is proof that the young generation of Witches and Pagans is a lot deeper than many like to believe. This isn’t a new thing either. Starting as a teen myself, I can tell you that spells and magick was certainly something I thought was “cool” but was not the main attraction to me and those I practiced with. I’m tickled to know that this sentiment extends beyond my own experience. My other observation was the huge number of responses focused on finding and engaging with a community. This isn’t surprising considering that a formative trait of growing up is learning how to interact with different communities and finding what you consider to be your place within them. This is especially important for young Pagans who may feel ostracized for being of a minority religion, where social acceptance could be a little harder to come by.” – David Salisbury, on what young Pagans like.

Wes Isley

Wes Isley

“Magick, for me, is a walk in the woods and watching a flock of birds wheel over a lake, lifting my mood and thereby altering my direction for the remainder of the day. Magick is the ability to hear that still, small voice within that gently beckons, calling me toward a life that isn’t found on television or the Internet. Magick is finding connection and community in the most unlikely places and people. Magick is embracing profound experiences that cannot easily be explained. Is magick supernatural? I don’t know. I think it’s more commonplace than most of us realize, but we’re often too busy, our minds too cluttered to recognize it. I think magick is more subtle than our movie-fueled fantasies will admit, and I don’t believe magick is reserved for a chosen few. I believe magick is open to everyone. It’s also risky, because to practice magick requires us to go against the grain. It means seeing the world and people with a compassionate and hopeful perspective that stands in contrast to how we’re conditioned or expected to act and think. I don’t believe magick is about wielding power or getting what you want from some force that must obey your commands. Rather, practicing magick allows us to tap into a universal current that has always been and always will be. Life can be lived just fine without magick, but a truly magickal life, I believe, is much richer, multifaceted and original.” – Wes Isley, on what magic is, and why he wants to do it. 

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

Oberon Zell

“I am sharing the keynote with guest Deborah Lipp, and we are offering a talk on the legacy of the whole Neo-Pagan movement. The two of us will be bouncing back and forth about the emergence of the Neo-Pagan movement and what it has contributed that will be of lasting significance in the world. I think it is quite a lot. We will also talk about where we go from here as Paganism becomes more recognized as a mainstream religion. One of the puzzles we have all experienced is why don’t people don’t seem to know about us, because they ought to! There have been more books published by and about the Pagan movement that just about any other religion you could find. Vast numbers of people are involved, interviews, television shows are aired about us. People seem to have a much greater awareness about a few truly obscure and off the wall spiritual groups than us. [...] The theme of the conference is about Embracing the Elements, and now that we have just stepped over the threshold of the age of Aquarius, there is interest in knowing what all this will mean. I want to talk about this, as Aquarius is an Air sign, signifying communication, wisdom, and travel through the air and sky. The internet and how that will continue evolving in the years to come, and space travel and colonization, these are totally Aquarian types of issues. Then there is the spiritual, and Aquarius also involves the mind and consciousness. The “New Age” is very Aquarian in its entire vision. This is truly a time of global awakening, of our planetary being, of Gaea herself. Her awakening to full consciousness and the implications of that for us. I have been thinking about these things for decades and I think it will make a great subject to talk about. We are here!” – Oberon Zell, discussing his upcoming appearance at Paganicon in Minnesota.

Fritz Muntean

Fritz Muntean

“The organizers of Pagan political causes keep writing to me, asking (nay — demanding) that I lend my support to various environmental protests, demonstrations, and campaigns — on the grounds that we Pagans are supposed to be ‘stewards’ or ‘caretakers’ of Mother Earth — and, as such, we have a religious duty to ‘walk the talk’ and engage fully in ecological activism. Sez who? More to the point — who was the first to say so? And what was the process by which these beliefs (and demands) became the water in which today’s Pagans are swimming? IMO, and FWIW, the people who rallied, with me, around the ribbon-bedecked May Pole of modern Pagan Witchcraft in the early 1960s were primarily hedonists. Many of us, it’s true, were interested in ecology and environmentalism. But all were there, I believe, to fuel the fires of a religiosity that claimed ‘all acts of love and pleasure’ as its sacraments. Over the following 15-plus years, considerable thought went into the development of an ethical system in support of this effort. A new system, now called the Expressive Ethical Style, evolved to replace obedience or self-interest as the motivations for human behavior with an ethic of impulse (‘follow your feelings’), self-expression (‘let it all hang out’), and situational appropriateness (‘go with the flow’; ‘different strokes for different folks’). Replacing the goal of self-preservation with self-awareness, this new ethical style encouraged relaxed non-analytical attention to the present situation (‘be here now’), in order to meet the newly reified obligations of universal love and mutual non-injury.” – Fritz Muntean, posing the question of whether the modern Pagan movement can be classified as “nature” religion. 

Alyxander Folmer

Alyxander Folmer

The ongoing debate over Edward Snowden is still raging. Is the former NSA contractor-turned-whistle-blower a Hero or a Traitor? Should we decry his actions as a violation of trust, or extol them as a selfless attempt to fight injustice? As anÁsatrúar, I believe we are honor bound to speak out against perceived injustices when we come across them. Óðinn advised us to give our foes no “frið,” which is translated here as peace. Frið (or Frith) is a complex social ideal with many layers of meaning. It represents peace, loyalty, fealty, kinship;frið is the bond of honor that holds a family together. When Óðinn says “give your enemies no peace,” the statement implies that you should not offer loyalty or kinship with those who would do harm. If your brother were planning to commit some nefarious act, it would be your duty to stand in his way. When Snowden saw the NSA doing things like tracking the sexual preferences of suspected “Radicalizers” in order to damage their reputations, he decided that the abuse of power had to stop. He broke frið and brought the problem to the attention of the public. True to Óðinn’s advice, in the year following his announcement, he has given his enemies no peace.” – Alyxander Folmer, on Edward Snowden as the “honorable traitor.” 

John Beckett

John Beckett

“But trying to read moral lessons into American Horror Story: Coven misses the point.  It’s cool.  It’s sexy.  It’s fun even though it’s frustrating.  It’s dark fantasy about a type of witchcraft that has long been feared even though it doesn’t exist, at least not exactly like this.  It’s what we wish we could do, even though we wouldn’t… probably… maybe… Several observers of pop culture and the entertainment world have said “witches are the new vampires.”  Witches and witchcraft are popping up on television to an extent we haven’t seen in 15 years, if ever.  Most of the shows appear to be targeted to teenage girls, which means there’s not a chance in the Hell that doesn’t exist that I’ll be watching them. Most of their viewers will see witchcraft as a pleasant fantasy.  Most will see magic as “oh, if only I could…”  Most will watch a season or two and then move on to some other entertainment. But for a few, a new curiosity will be kindled.  Or perhaps a vague desire will be given a name.  Or a life-long interest will become urgent enough to finally pursue.  And because some of us have done like Cordelia at the end of Coven and gone public with our magic, those people will have resources to turn to.” – John Beckett, on the finale of American Horror Story: Coven

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

“The conception of Brigit that has come about in most modern CR practice, and pretty much all modern paganism that I’ve been able to discern, is one that is derived from academic (Christian and linguistics-based) sources, with no appreciation for how polytheism works. To most Christians, imagining more than one deity is hard enough, so “one deity with three parts” (which, to them, is still “One”) becomes a way to understand many deities that might be separate. That might work for Hekate Triformis, but it doesn’t automatically work for any other triplicity of deitiesjust because. And in the linguistics paradigm, there is a tendency to look at different reflexes of a given root in several different languages that are then either cognate or equivalent, and then to conclude “They’re all the same.” And that’s exactly what’s been done with Brigit. Compound this with Saint Brigit of Kildare, and many other saints called Brigit, Bríg, or Bríd (and various other cognates, by-forms, and so forth), all of whom very certainly derive from the popularity and importance of St. Brigit of Kildare (who not only has the earliest saints’-lives of any saint in Ireland, but has three of them that are early, one of which is quite different from the other two), and you get a recipe for disastrous polytheistic collapse. If all of these diverse Christian Brigits (and so forth) derive from one Brigit of Kildare, why then wouldn’t all pagan Brigits (and so forth) also derive from one Brigit, including the Christian Brigit’s derivation from that original pagan stock? The major difficulty there is that the coincidences between the pagan Brigits and the Christian Brigit are exactly that: coincidences based on an assumed unity (which itself is based on linguistics), rather than any actual events in what is known about the pagan Brigits and the Christian Brigits as far as symbolism or narrative event and mythic sharing.” – P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, on understanding the complexity of the goddess Brigid.

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.

Anne Johnson

Anne Johnson

“Do you have any free advice on how to save West Virginia? I sure do. Go there. The whole state doesn’t look like the picture above. Most of it is gorgeous. Do you love Gaia? Do you love the outdoors, the majesty of the land, the joy of exerting yourself on a hike, on a bike ride, on a raft? Would you love to spend an afternoon having a spa treatment at a mineral spring? Do you live in that great megalopolis on the East Coast, or in the Rust Belt? Take your tourist dollars and spend them in West Virginia [...] Pagans, if you want to help the Earth, West Virginia should be a pilgrimage destination. Every dollar you tip a waitress, every campground you reserve for a Ritual, every piece of original artwork or crafting you bring home, will help the state far more than a package of plastic water bottles, shipped and forgotten when the next disaster hits elsewhere.” - Anne Johnson, giving advice to Pagans on how to save West Virginia.

1012656_10202393224506209_922158815_n“Oberon asked that I tell all of your how overwhelmed and grateful he & MG are by the outpouring of support. He wishes he could respond to each and every message, but he simply can’t (at this time) – I assured him that none of us expected him to do that (silly wizard). Oberon asked that I let everyone know that our prayers and energy are making a difference. MG’s kidneys are responding to the IVs and they have not had to begin dialysis, she is awake and able to communicate. In her own unique fashion, our dear Priestess has been trying to control the medical process. We need to send her energy to please cooperate with the team of doctors and others who are trying to help her, and to regain her appetite and eat the food being prepared. (Which, at this hospital, is quite good). Again, thank you, everyone, so much for the love and support.” – Julie Epona, passing on word from Oberon Zell regarding the condition of Morning Glory Zell, who was hospitalized this past weekend due to kidney problems. Our best wishes and prayers go out to them both.

Sara Amis

Sara Amis

“There is magic there, in those mountains.  Inherent in the woods and hollows, tumbling down the mountain sides, rising up like mist, but also in the people:  their songs and stories and ways, their yarbs and praying rocks, their burn-talking, water-dowsing, blood-stopping charms.  Things get remembered there that other people forget, until one day somebody wonders where that Child ballad or old-timey cure went and comes looking to find it, kept safe in the memory of the mountain and its folk.  It is not a coincidence that Faery, the most well-known “home grown American strain of religious witchcraft” as Ronald Hutton called it, has its roots in Appalachia.  If you have any love of such things, know that the tributaries of your knowledge have springheads in those hills. The magic cannot be separated from the land.  You can put the knowledge in a book, perhaps, but that does not preserve it; once everything is gone but the dry pages, they only point to what is lost.  Magic is alive, as the mountains are alive, as we are alive. One of the most diverse ecosystems on Earth cloaks those mountains like a mantle woven from a million colors. Richness, true wealth, in the living breathing threads, wealth we barely comprehend because it seems so ordinary, precious beyond anything else we know or could tell.  Like the old ballads, we remain ignorant of its value, perhaps, until it is lost…except when a thing is finally gone from these mountains, the oldest in the world, it is gone forever.” – Sara Amis, on poison in the heart of the world.

Deborah "DJ" Hamouris

Deborah “DJ” Hamouris

“I consider myself a Dulcimer Missionary, preaching the gospel of joyful music-making on a simple, hand-crafted instrument, the Mountain Dulcimer. Having joined the congregation of dulcimer players back when they were sold at California Renaissance Faires, the dulcimer has been my constant companion. Playing it led me to composition, and teaching, and learning more about what this marvelously simple instrument can do. Finally, the dulcimer has led me to create the Berkeley Dulcimer Gathering, which is heading into its 2ndyear on 5/17/14. Along the way, I have met some wonderfully creative people. That includes Patricia Delich & Wayne Jiang, the filmmakers of “Hearts of the Dulcimer.” This one-of-a-kind documentary chronicles the west coast dulcimer phenomenon that started in the late 1960s. The people who made my first dulcimer are in there, and some of my early teachers.” - Deborah “DJ” Hamouris, explaining why she’s raising funds to bring the documentary film “Hearts of the Dulcimer” to the 2nd Berkeley Dulcimer Gathering.

Rev. Mother Cathryn Platine from the Maetreum of Cybele.

Rev. Mother Cathryn Platine from the Maetreum of Cybele.

“When we won our appellate level case for our property tax exemption we set a major precedent for equal treatment of Pagan and minority religions with the Abrahamic faiths. It was a BIG deal legally and the legal community saw it as such. Defending that win is not a hard task but an essential one. This is it, Catskill will have no where else to go after this is done. Please help us raise the money for this last part of a major win for Pagans everywhere. We have so much work to do after this is settled. We got our construction permit for a low powered FM community radio station, want to start up a non perishable food bank ASAP and do an entire summer of workshops on green energy, living, etc. in keeping with our goals. We need to not have our limited resources drained off at this point. Please help, any amount will help. Paypal direct to centralhouse@gallae.com and it is tax deductible.” - Cathryn Platine, giving notice that the Town of Catskill is filing an appeal of the Maetreum of Cybele’s win in the Appellate court, and asking for fiscal help one last time.

Steve Kenson

Steve Kenson

“A mystery is something that cannot be explained in mere words (although art often attempts to capture their essence). The mysteries must be experienced. In that regard, there are mysteries we all experience as human beings: birth, growth, aging, death, but there are also mysteries unique to certain peoples. As a cis-gendered male, I won’t experience the mystery of carrying or birthing a child, for example. By the same token, the coming out process—from the dawning sense of “otherness” through acceptance and public declaration of self—is a mystery heteronormative people don’t experience (although, interestingly, some witches do—after all, we call it “coming out of the broom closet” for a reason). [...] Often, the purpose of a rite of passage is both to allow for the full exploration and experience of a mystery and to honor that experience. Historically, rites of passage are based on transitions: birth, adulthood, handfasting, parenthood, elderhood, and so forth. In addition to including everyone in those rites common to all, we want to be able to honor the particular mysteries, including things like coming out, self-healing, mentorship, and elderhood (a growing issue for both the queer and pagan communities as our population ages).” - Steve Kenson, from the  Temple of Witchcraft, talking about Mysteries, and rites of initiation, at Patheos.

Shauna Aura Knight

Shauna Aura Knight

“I’ve been writing topics of Pagan leadership because I think they are crucial. For instance, this blog post now. Am I getting paid for the 3 or so hours it takes me to write one of these? Nope. I do it because I’m called. I think that’s the essence of any deep calling–we’d do it whether or not we’re being paid. I have done this work without pay for years. I’ve managed by living simply and other creative means. But it’s put me, financially, where I absolutely can no longer do this work without pay. What I charge is not enough. Here is the crux of the issue. Many Pagans whine about not having access to things that other faiths have, but there’s a core reason for it–they aren’t willing to pay for it. Pagans are starting to want access to leadership training, and I’m thrilled to offer that. However, taking my time to offer that–driving 4-8 hours–my time spent teaching–preparing for the workshop–it’s rather a lot of time. It’s a part-time job, full time if you add in writing articles, blog posts, answering leadership questions on email or skype. It’s work I love, but if I can’t make a living doing it, I can’t continue.” – Shauna Aura Knight, on Pagans and money.

Gus DiZerega

Gus DiZerega

“What my coven does is fulfilling to me and to us, and we do not much care what others are or are not doing on full moons or other sacred days. Of course, it feels good that many others are also celebrating the moon, but we never wonder whether they are doing it ‘right’.  Modern Paganism is primarily a religion of personal and small group communion with (and sometimes intimate contact with) our Gods. We are not a religion of big organizations and mega-congregations.  Large public celebrations do occur, usually on major Sabbats, but there is no effort by organizers of these gatherings to institutionalize them into a ‘Pagan’ church.  We gather, celebrate together, and disperse, rarely thinking about questions of identity. We are not a religion of dogma.  There is a Wiccan rede and doubtless similar things can be found within some other traditions, but there is no Pagan rede, and even the Wiccan rede reads differently from different sources.  When someone tells me she or he is a Pagan, I do not wonder whether they have the right beliefs. Are they pantheists or panentheists?  Are they the right kind of polytheist? Are their deities “aspects” of more encompassing deities, treated as entirely distinct, or perhaps thought of as Jungian archetypes?” – Gus diZerega, on what is Paganism.

Donald Michael Kraig

Donald Michael Kraig

“To all my friends, readers, and students: I apologize for not being able to write you directly, however the God and Goddess have given me new challenges to face. Upon hearing of all the support you are giving me, I am unimaginably grateful. I have no doubt that while there will be challenges to come, the God and Goddess will not be bringing me to the Summerland anytime soon. In perfect love and in perfect trust, Donald Michael Kraig” – Donald Michael Kraig, responding to an outpouring of support after word went out that he was battling stage 4 pancreatic cancer. You can read more about this, here.

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.

Nels Linde

Nels Linde

“Discussion of Paganism often centers around what a Pagan  is. Terms like “nature-centered” always come up, and occasionally reference to the spirituality of the countryside is spoken. I like to think of Pagans as people of the land. It is a vague term and many people can be considered people of the land without having any particular spiritual belief. I take some pride in the term Pagan. I am a Pagan connected to a piece of land. I realized recently what a rare relationship I have with land. I have lived on and had an intimate relationship with the same piece of land for thirty eight years. It is not so rare in rural areas where people often reside in the same location for generations. For people who associate their spiritual beliefs with the land, and for  Pagans, the opportunity to spend hundreds of hours in total solitude on an individual piece land is uncommon. I am not referring to the casual acts of living, work, and recreation, but time spent in meditation and direct observation of the land, its plants, and creatures.” – Nels Linde, on being ‘People of the Land.’

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

“I think it is probably a much better idea to make sure that everything in interfaith work is contextualized and specific, even to the point of repeatedly emphasizing “This is how it works for my tradition; others do differ, and often widely.” The more of this kind of specific, authentic, and contextualized interfaith work that occurs, the better the understanding of our diverse religious viewpoints there will be in the wider landscape of modern religious people of all varieties. Likewise, the more that pagan interfaith work ends up being a rehash of Wicca (or, at best, Wicca-like practices) to the detriment of any other possibility, and the more that individuals who have no intention of representing viewpoints other than their own, and who have no interest in nor even respect for such viewpoints, go about speaking on behalf of everyone and are not called out for doing so, the worse off we’ll all be for these supposed efforts that such individuals get praised for and have made their own brand-name. I find myself in the position of not finding it possible to praise the work, or the individuals responsible for it, when the work in question is actively marginalizing some groups (including my own) and is misinforming others. I therefore cannot approve of this type of “pagan interfaith” work unless it is done in an actual spirit of informed understanding and respect for the diversity within modern paganism (including polytheism!), rather than simply giving the thoughts of a majority for convenience’s sake and representing that majority as the only worthwhile viewpoint to take seriously in an interfaith context.” – P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, responding to  Don Frew’s article ‘The Rudiments of Neopagan Spiritual Practice,’ and stressing the need for better interfaith and intrafaith communication. 

Sable Aradia

Sable Aradia

“These books stressed a background in ritual and practice.  They came out of what was primarily, in the Western world, a Protestant Christian culture.  So much of their training (and mine) focused on breaking the conditioning of that culture.  We concentrated on releasing “either, or” thinking and learning “yes, and” thinking.  We fought long, hard battles with ourselves and others about whether or not Witchcraft was evil and wrong because the Bible objected to it.  We were products of our time, fighting for recognition, fighting over feminism, fighting over gender and issues of sexuality.  All of these were results of breaking our conditioning. Well guys, the battle is over.  Millennials did not grow up in a Protestant Christian culture.  Instead, many of them are lotus-eaters lulled by the Cult of Mammon, who are used to being acted upon rather than acting, often apathetic towards the issues that the previous generation fought so passionately about. The books that have informed their Craft were written by Christopher PenczakRaven Grimassi and T. Thorn Coyle, who are all about experience and transcendence.  They grew up with feminism, with Gay Pride, and with a sense of entitlement to all forms of equality.  They don’t need to break their “either, or” conditioning; they’ve already been raised to understand “yes, and.”  They are used to high-speed internet and instant gratification.  They are interested in direct, personal gnosis, and they don’t want to waste a lot of time to get it.” – Sable Aradia, on reaching a new generation of Witches, a response of sorts to the Sarah Lawless article on breaking tradition.

Gus DiZerega

Gus DiZerega

“The tolerant Christian views of men like John Locke gave moral energy to liberalism, but in the eyes of many, the science that liberalism generated wiped out those views’ biblical foundations. If those ethics were a kind of moral social capital, by now they have been largely used up, which is why liberals of all sorts seem so frustratingly passive when attacked by authoritarian nihilism. This is why Pagans engaging in interfaith work can contribute well beyond our numbers to the spiritual well-being of humanity. A transition to a world emphasizing sacred Immanence and the sacred Feminine holds open the promise of rooting modernity in spiritual traditions that are in harmony with such a society, rather than hostile to it. Ironically, such a shift is also in harmony with what scientists are discovering about thegenuinely moral behavior arising within the natural world: that the working out of logic itself in the long run advantages the good guys, and that cooperating in society is by far the most successful evolutionary strategy for success. But of course, that is what we would expect of Spirit if it were immanent.” – Gus diZerega, on why Pagans should work with other religions.

Lance Parkin

Lance Parkin

“When Moore says ‘magic’ he usually means something most people would call ‘creativity’, or a gift of expression, of art affecting the way we experience the world. He’s summed it up as saying that art does all the things magic spells are meant to – want someone to fall in love with you? Write them a love poem. Want to conjure up a million pounds? Write Watchmen. I find it very easy to gloss ‘magic’ as a strategy for Moore to shake up his writing techniques. Writing’s all about finding new ways to say things, or it should be, and it’s easy to fall into self-parody, to find yourself repeating yourself. Moore’s got a system to avoid that. At the same time, there’s clearly more to it. Like Philip K Dick and others before him, Moore’s had mystical experiences that he can’t get his mind around, least of all describe in words. There’s something deeply personal – unique – in his head, it’s clearly something he believes. He, more than anyone, appreciates how silly it sounds. I do not have the gift of telepathy, and I’m humble enough to admit that if Alan Moore can’t find the words, it would be a fool’s errand for me to try. My arch rationalist side looks at the stuff he’s produced under the influence, and concludes that whatever he’s on, it seems to be working. Promethea is gaudy, convoluted and based on a philosophy that seems to be the direct opposite of the way the real world functions to the point at times it insults reason? Well, yes, but if we’re counting so’s Captain America.” – Lance Parkin, author of a new biography of Alan Moore, on Moore’s belief in magic, and how he (as a staunch rationalist) approached that chapter of the book.

Shauna Aura Knight

Shauna Aura Knight

“Our brains are wired to run on the power of story, the power of myth. I could go on a big bender about Joseph Campbell and myth and the hero’s journey, but I’ll just sum up. Myth is powerful. Myths will tell you a lot about the culture that created them. And myths can change a culture too. Myths–stories–tell a culture what’s important, who’s in power, how we should act. The problem is, our popular myths these days are largely funded by corporate interests. Ultimately, the most pervasive stories out there are the stories like the American Dream, which gets bent and twisted into, “You are not successful until you have brand new shiny things.” It creates one of the primary dysfunctions of our dominant culture–the culture of want. I want, I want, I want. We are always wanting that “big shiny” that is just out of reach. We are being advertised to and marketed to to feel that we are “less than” if we don’t have the coolest (whatever it is). A new couch. A new car.” – Shauna Aura Knight, on media, myth, and mind control.

Niki Whiting

Niki Whiting

“I started this blog two and half years ago while living in Wales. At the time I was debating whether or not quit the PhD program I was enrolled in. I had a 3 year old and a 5 month old. I wanted to write outside of academia and I felt I needed some structure to help me focus. I ended up quitting my program and never looked back. My family moved back to the United States, and I am now pregnant with my third child (due in May). Through the explorations I started in my first year of blogging I found practices that spoke to my spirit and produced the kinds of results I had been hoping to find. A Witch’s Ashram runs with what worked: my continuing study and practice of Anderson Feri witchcraft and tantric Hinduism. I have teachers for the former tradition and am self-taught for the latter one, so far. I consider myself dually observant. You’ll find discussions of both practices here, as well as topics that relate to the wider Pagan community. I use my theological background and former experience as a Christian to explore topics and review books that tilt toward the Christian side of things. I often look at the intersection of being a mystic and Pagan and a parent.” - Niki Whiting, who gives a welcome from her new blog home at the Patheos Pagan Channel.

Anomalous Thracian

Anomalous Thracian

“My point is that, in my experience and observations, those who over-indulge in (the idea or even facade of) relativistic outlooks basically hide behind a sense of faux-tolerance, as if having judgments or opinions different from the mainstream would be earth-shattering. Similarly in my experience, it WOULD be earth-shattering for a great many people: unresolved personal issues and areas of self-ignorance would come to light, judgments that we cast upon ourselves and then disjointedly project outward at others would rise up and boil stinkily over into the fires of self-evaluation. But I’m all about uprisings and shaking the earth. What is the point of relationship if everything remains static? And that’s the thing about relativism as it is popularly practiced: its deployment seeks to establish a “static” (artificial) understanding of things. “Tolerance” is in this context and my estimation just another way of saying “Hey everybody, let’s try really hard not to rock the boat, because then we might have to actually do the real work of bringing about change and an increase in knowledge!”. Relativism is a toolset for suspending one’s own judgment in the pursuit of understanding others; it is a FIRST look, a FIRST step, not the whole damn process.” - Anomalous Thracian, on relativism, tolerance, and acceptance.

Macha

Aline “Macha” O’Brien

“Let’s face it: established religions such as Christianity in its many forms, were created and gained ascendency in other times and places.  There was no threat of nuclear annihilation, no looming environmental degradation, no water shortage, no organ transplants, no vaccinations against such diseases as smallpox and polio.  Those religions addressed the concerns of the peoples in other times and places.  Further, few of these religious institutions adapted to changing circumstances.  Nowadays some are trying to be more relevant, often by adopting practices, such as involving lay people in their rituals and dancing during worship. In the years since Paganism has become visible, particularly in academia and interfaith, we have gained credibility in the wider world, and although we remain a religious minority, we have not done much in the way of establishing lasting institutions. There was a time when I was still too close to that against which I was rebelling and too chafed by the institutions I was escaping that I resisted any talk of Pagan institutions.  Sam Webster has convinced me that by creating institutions, we will have a lasting legacy that will survive our individual lives.  The institution to which I’ve devoted the most time and energy for the last 12 years or so is Cherry Hill Seminary, for many reasons, not the least of which is that I find intellectual discernment to be in short supply, drowned out by the noises of UPG (unverified/unverifiable personal gnosis) woowoo.”- Aline “Macha” O’Brien, on building Pagan institutions.

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.

Shauna Aura Knight

Shauna Aura Knight

“I see a lot of Pagans pressuring Pagans to be more sexualized than they’re comfortable with, Pagan leaders preying on folks in their group to get them to have sex. ‘You’ll get used to it, once you ease up.’ I’ve had community leaders say that to me. The context was, I was indicating that I didn’t really want to have sex by the fire in front of everyone, or be naked dancing around the fire, that I preferred privacy for such things. And, that I really didn’t want to watch such things. I was told that I’d get over being such a prude. Sex positive does not mean I should be pressured to engage in experiences that I’m not comfortable with. In fact, that’s quite the opposite, that’s peer pressure and shaming. Being sex positive means, I support someone’s choice to not dress in a way that is sexy, not get naked, not have lots of sex. This is a multifold problem. There’s the leader engaging in the harassment…but then there’s the community that sweeps it under the rug. At a recent workshop, a Pagan woman said that she was experiencing unwelcome sexual advances from a noted leader in her local community, and she wanted to find ways to try and change that behavior without causing an interstellar war between herself and this man. Sadly, I know several group leaders in her area who fit that profile, one of whom has a consistent reputation of being “a lech.” “He’ll hit on any young, pretty woman,” men and women will say with a fond smile. That’s a problem.” – Shauna Aura Knight, on sex and ethics within modern Paganism.

Teo Bishop

Teo Bishop

“I didn’t plan on going to church last weekend. It sort of just happened. I hadn’t been in a very long time, and during my most recent visit I was only barely present. Participation in the service felt a bit like an act of treason. I’d read Pagan writers who said as much. And they must have made an impression on me, because I didn’t engage at all. I just sat and watched the Christians give themselves over to the liturgy, to the songs, and to God as though all of it was foreign to me; as though it wasn’t foundational to my spiritual identity. But it is. And when I went to church last weekend I didn’t try to pretend otherwise. I was all in. No reservations. It didn’t matter if I didn’t believe every aspect of church doctrine. It didn’t matter to me if I took issue with the gender language. It didn’t matter if I was the only Pagan in the pews. I chose not to focus on any of that. I surrendered myself to the moment … and it was beautiful. I’m not sure what changed in me that made me open to this experience. I just woke up and wanted to go. I wanted to see what it felt like, and whether it would mean anything to me. Would I — a man who’s been a very vocal Pagan in recent years, who’s tried (somewhat unsuccessfully) to adopt a polytheist theology, who’s worked to build community for other Pagans, to create a space for dialogue about Pagan issues — feel like a foreigner in church? Was there any part of me that would still feel at home in that environment?” – Teo Bishop, on inhabiting a theological “inbetween world.”

T. Thorn Coyle

T. Thorn Coyle

“As I stood on the capitol steps in Sacramento, I couldn’t help but feel a combination of deep sorrow, heart break, and anger. Too many memorial signs. Jeralynn Blueford, whom I’ve written of many times, spoke, just one out of fifty families gathered to speak for their dead fathers, brothers, sisters, and husbands. This gathering represented a fraction of those killed by police. Reports come in each month of unarmed citizens killed by tasers, guns, and beatings. The police are rapidly becoming more militarized, relying on violent force as the first line of intervention. Yet police culture dictates that those officers concerned by or opposed to use of excessive force and extrajudicial killings not speak for fear of ostracization. As we were marching in the state capitol, a thirteen year old boy was killed by sheriffs less than two hour’s drive away. He was playing in his yard with a toy gun. My latest book and much of the work I do with clients examines how desire helps us to step into our purpose, creating the lives – and the world – we want to manifest. I thought about that, while marching under the hot sun. I was in Sacramento not only to stand with and march with these families – mostly working class, mostly people of color – I was in Sacramento because: I want to manifest a world in which we don’t police one another to death. I want to manifest a world of mutual aid. I want to manifest a world where racism and class oppression don’t dictate who gets to live and who dies.” – T. Thorn Coyle, on manifesting a world where we recognize that Love is the Law and do our best to live accordingly.

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

“We are about to enter the most holy time of year in the Ekklesía Antínoou, the Sacred Nights of Antinous beginning on October 24th and running through November 1st, during which time Antinous died (we observe this on the 28th) and his holy city, his deification, and his cultus began on October 30th, which is Foundation Day, our most important ritual of the year. This year will be the twelfth time I’ve celebrated it, and the year that follows often takes its auspices from that ritual. My celebration last year was the most solitary, sedate, and under-done ritual I’ve ever had, due to some practical limitations I was facing at the time. This year, things will be much different, and I’ve decided it’s important enough to take the day off work entirely for the occasion. There is no more important date or event in my year than this, and it has been a part of my life long before my current job, or any other I’ll ever hold in the future. I owe my life to my gods, and this is one way that I can show it, and plan to for the foreseeable future. The mysteries of life and death, of love and deification, of devotion and dealing with tragedy, of deep and destructively sorrowful mourning…but also, the ecstasy of transformation, and the birth of hope amidst desolation and chaos, are all tied up with this coming set of festivals. A simple sentence of nouns and adjectives, or an entire cycle of epic poems so piercing in their imagery as to send shockwaves through the senses of anyone who reads or hears their verses, are equally inadequate to convey these matters effectively and vividly for consumption and understanding.” – P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, on the Sacred Nights of Antinous, and eir choice of silence during those nights.

Lon Milo DuQuette

Lon Milo DuQuette

“We were with the William Morris Agency who got us a one night gig backing Sammy Davis Jr. at the Coconut Grove of the Ambassador Hotel in LA. We told our agent we were an acid cowboy band and just did our own material and that we didn’t do stuff like that. He said, “They know that. It will be okay!” and we answered back that we’d do it, but that we could only do what we could do. We set up and played until Sammy showed up and started to talk to the crowd of invited celebrities: John Wayne, Nancy Sinatra, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Robert Wagner, Debbie Reynolds, and my favorite… a young George Carlin …. who was stoned and the only one to come up to the stage and tell us we were “Groovy”. Charley and I looked at each other when we realized that Sammy was starting to introduce the song Spinning Wheel. We quietly took off our guitars and crept off stage leaving Sammy all alone with only our drummer to back him on Spinning Wheel. Charley and I headed straight for the bar. We never worked with William Morris Agency again … neither did our ‘agent.’” - Lon Milo DuQuette, sharing a tale from his early years in the music business, from an interview with Jason Mankey.

Sarah Veale

Sarah Veale

“Now it’s unclear from the passage whether the Greeks used this reasoning when they devastated Euboea, or if this is Herodotus conjecturing after the fact. What is clear is that Herodotus draws a clear line between the slaughter of the sheep and the Euboeans refusal to carry out the commands of the oracle. As Herodotus says, “They brought disaster upon themselves…Since they learnt nothing from these words…misfortune was their teacher about what is really important” (8.20; translation Waterfield 495). Herodotus obviously is privileging divine order here, suggesting that humans are compelled to obey the will of the gods or suffer the consequences. Herodotus also doesn’t tell us too much about the Euboean’s part in this whole scenario.** We don’t know whether they flat-out refused the obey the oracle, or if they misinterpreted it. (Which is what happened to some unlucky Athenians with the aforementioned “wooden wall” message. Spoiler: they died.) All we know is that Herodotus interprets the events as being consonant with the oracle’s pronouncements. The brutal actions of the Greeks are justified, not just by circumstances of war, but by the Gods. This passage shows an interesting mix of politics, warfare and religion. While it’s particular to the ancient world, isn’t so far removed from modern-day claims of divine justice. That said, we can see how the oracle was important, not just in influencing Greek tactics on the ground, but also to the historians who recorded events for posterity. In this case, a little editorializing by Herodotus about the irreverence of the Euboeans shows the emphasis ancient Greek culture placed on obeying the gods—and how it could be used to justify otherwise questionable actions.” – Sarah Veale, on oracles and acts of war.

Frater Barrabbas Tiresius

Frater Barrabbas Tiresius

“Do I believe that someone can practice magic and still be a good Christian? Absolutely, and this is really an absurd question, since nearly all of the renaissance grimoires are Christian based. These books obviously were written by Christians and practiced by Christians, so that seems like a logical assumption to me. It is true that certain Christian church institutions have promoted an anti-magic and anti-occult bias, but then again, it is questionable as to how strictly such prohibitions are enforced today. Certainly any Catholic who admitted in the confessional to practicing rituals to invoke angels and demons would likely face some serious penance and have to prove contrition to their respective parish priest. Some other sects are also steadfastly against any form of occultism, divination or magic, but I would assume that such adherents wouldn’t bother practicing these kinds of rites anyway. I also believe that you don’t have to be a member of a church to be a Christian, and that forms of esoteric Christianity would not only allow but might even encourage certain kinds of religious based occult workings and research.” – Frater Barrabbas Tiresius, sharing some of his thoughts on Christianity.

Carlton Gebbia

Carlton Gebbia

“Yeah. Well, there’s a lot of debate about what I supposedly practice, because Wicca and other religions are covered under the umbrella of Paganism. I’m Celtic, which is my ancestry. And I practice witchcraft. My grandmother was a Pagan. There are so many branches of Paganism and there are also different ways to practice these faiths. There’s no one defined answer. Because I’m a sole practitioner, it’s more of what works for me personally and spiritually, and something that has been in my family since the day I was born. It’s not something I fell into, although it’s a fantastic faith. It’s incredibly positive. We believe that the spirit lies in everything around us and I believe that spiritual growth is related to the cycles of the earth. I believe in the moon phases as well. [...] I’ve said it before, any religion [my children] decide to follow I’ll be supportive of it. I’ve never, until I had to really explain what I believe in—which happened when I was in school—I just don’t define people by their religious beliefs. I don’t stand in judgment of anybody’s religion. It’s now been a repetitive cycle for me.  From school to now, it [has been] judged, unfortunately negatively.  But if people who have a genuine interest do the research, they’ll see that it is very, very positive.” - Carlton Gebbia, a Real Housewife of Beverly Hills, on her religion.

Gus DiZerega

Gus DiZerega

“There is a delicious irony captured in the old NeoPagan chant ‘We are an old people, we are a new people, we are the same people, stronger than before.’ Paganism and pantheism, considered broadly, comprise humanity’s oldest spiritual insights, existing in hunting and gathering cultures that lasted for millennia before the rise of agriculture. Over time agricultural societies became increasingly hierarchical and unequal, and as they did Spirit was increasingly kicked upstairs, out of direct reach to many and eventually to a purely transcendental realm. Life became something from which to seek salvation or escape. With the rise of democratic societies increasingly free from the authoritarian hierarchies that characterized agricultural civilizations, that original pantheistic insight is again finding fertile soil, but on a broader landscape.  Many of us are a new people seeking to bridge and combine the best of our past with the best of the new. Many indigenous people today recognize our common similarity. In interfaith meetings they call NeoPagans “brothers and sisters” and see us as an “indigenous religion but not an indigenous people.”  Given that many of them now live in cities far from the lands that are the foundation for their spirituality, they can relate with that status.  We are like them, only for a longer time, and are now rediscovering those primal insights.” – Gus DiZerega, on pantheism, Paganism, and the soul of democracy.

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