Archives For Steven T. Abell

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

starhawk 5 19 04

Starhawk

“When faced with the need for change, we humans tend to resist.  We cling to what is familiar, what is immediately profitable or distracting.  We dispute the facts and deny the reports.  And so we seem by default to be tumbling onto the path of destruction. Let this Solstice be a time to instead embrace change.  As the sun sets at last on the longest day, take some time to consider how everything must eventually reach its peak, and transform.  The sun’s decline triggers the grain to set seed, the apples to swell, the squash and tomatoes and corn to ripen.  We must be willing to let go of the blossom and in order to harvest the fruit.  When we stop clutching our fears and our limiting assumptions, we can open our hands and receive inspiration and hope. May this Solstice be a time of opening to the possibility that we can find a new way to live, in harmony with nature and with one another, in justice, in balance, in love.” – Starhawk, reflecting on the crisis of climate change, and the Summer Solstice as a time to embrace change, at the Washington Post’s On Faith section.

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

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

“Like in ancient times, contemporary Pagan religious activity is structured around worship (as interpreted in the broad sense). The Gods Themselves constitute the structure, the very scaffold around which our religion and culture are formed. The Gods are the bones of the body Pagan. This is true for us whether we are hard polytheists, humanists, naturists, or operating from a non-dual frame. In each case there are the Divinities, and irrespective of Their being interpreted as completely separate, aspects of our psyches, human generated stories, manifestations of, simply Nature herself, or in any other theological frame, They abide. They, however framed, are what we gather around to remember, to honor, to affirm their value, or in other words, to worship. Regardless of our understanding of what it means, when we gather in worship we all come together as a community. This is the place where we all meet. In essence, Priesthood is about setting the table, both for the Gods and the worshipers.” – Sam Webster, at the Patheos Pagan Channel, on the importance of a Pagan priesthood, and why the worship of divinities (no matter your underlying theology) is central to modern Pagan religion.

Teo Bishop & Cher

Teo Bishop & Cher

“Forgiving myself allowed me to forgive her. Once forgiveness starts, it spreads. Now I’m no longer angry at bazooms22. I don’t feel affected anymore. I remember where my center is. Then, unexpectedly, a feeling of gratitude starts bubbling up. I’m kind of glad this person was an asshole. I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to respond like a child, because it reminded me of the ways in which I am still very much a child. The fear, insecurity, and shame that exists in me is the same that exists in her, too. She held up a mirror and said, this is what fear looks like. I felt the fear, then I let it move me to action, initiating a series of events which led me back around to around center. It was a gift, really. Sometimes we get lifted up and celebrated, and I don’t think those are the times when we are offered the greatest lessons. It’s when we’re humbled by the world that we are reminded of the things that really matter: Our own capacity to forgive. The meaning of fortitude of spirit. The continued relevance of compassion.” – Teo Bishop, at his Bishop In The Grove blog, on Internet trolls, fear, insecurity, and the importance of compassion.

Morpheus Ravenna

Morpheus Ravenna

“All people can only act from the experiences that they have. We polytheists cannot expect anyone who has not experienced the reality of the Gods to act from true knowledge of their presence. We can, of course, expect our practices and our theology to be treated with respect. There’s something more I want to say about the Gods, and about polytheism. That is, while it is important for us to trust the evidence of our senses, it is also important to recognize the limits of our sensory frame of reference. This is a matter of fine discernment: the key is to recognize that our sensory experiences of the Gods are not the Gods themselves, because they are inherently greater than our capacity to experience them. Thus, the Gods as we know them are in fact processes of encounter, more than fixed shapes. To quote my friend Jonathan again, “The gods are what happen when the forces of the cosmos interact with human consciousness.” That is to say, what we experience is always a mask or form of the God shaped in such a way as to translate into our consciousness and frame of reference.” – Morpheus Ravenna, on the nature of polytheism, at her Banshee Arts blog.

Zan Fraser (Second row, far left) at NYC's Pride Parade.

Zan Fraser (Second row, far left) at NYC’s Pride Parade.

“New York City Witches have an extensive (and sometimes complicated) relationship with the “O Fortuna”movement from Carl Orff’s choral adaptation of a number of medieval poems, Carmina Burana. As revealed by Michael Lloyd in Bull of Heaven: the Mythic Life of Eddie Buczynski and the Rise of the New York Pagan, early New York Witch Scenester Eddie Buczynski was fond of playing the piece of music on a phonograph during rituals, and so many NYC Witches carry special memories of the work (I recall it from Halloween Witches’ Balls since the early ’90s, and it was described as “apocalyptic” by a New York Times journalist after  Eddie Buczynski’s memorial rite last summer). Witches have pointed out that it is actually a very dire composition, detailing how Fortune (conceptualized in the Classical sense as the Goddess Fortuna, called Imperatrix Mundi, “Empress of the World”) will rise and fall with little warning or feeling for the impacted in Her vicissitudes. The fickle nature of Dame Fortune is symbolized by the emblematic Wheel of Fortune, or “Rota Fortunae” (also a popular TV game-show). It is amusing to contemplate that a very American version of “O Fortuna” is the gamblers’ anthem “Luck Be a Lady Tonight”  from the witty Broadway musical Guys and Dolls.” – Zan Fraser, at The Juggler, contemplating Carl Orff’s “O Fortuna” and how “Luck Be a Lady” can be interpreted as a Pagan prayer to Fortuna.

Steven Abell

Steven Abell

“An expatriate friend from the former East Germany recently said, “Already been through this once. Not having it again.” Let us respect and follow the voice of experience here. If you want to know who the bad guys are, it is anyone, especially in the U.S. government, who tries to tell you that this is really all okay. No, it isn’t. Tell them so, and make sure they hear you. Back in the 9th century, some people in Norway who were accustomed to living their own lives suddenly had a king to contend with. Some of them submitted. Others stayed and fought and died. Others still lit out for the territories, as Huck Finn would say a thousand years later. At the time, “the territories” meant Iceland. They constructed a lawful republic, which had no king, and no subjects. There they lived freely, and for themselves. These people were Heathens. I think it is interesting that Iceland is once again a place where people talk about going to live, and for much the same reason. For most of us, however, there are no territories to light out for. We are going to have to deal with this, right here and now.” – Steven Thor Abell, a Steersman of the High Rede of The Troth, on Edward Snowden, government surveillance, and ‘who the bad guys are.’

Vivianne Crowley

Vivianne Crowley

“It is easy to think when we are busy immersed in everyday life that our individuality as it is now is something that is enduring and unchanging. It is true that there is deep within us an enduring core and seed that we can call ‘the self’ or ‘True Self’; but it is a seed that can flourish in many shapes and forms. What may feel like enduring characteristics – our gender, race, sexual orientation – are part of the vehicle; but they are not the self. The chariot is not the charioteer. Much of our spiritual growth is about letting go of the images that we have created and had thrust upon us by others. Spiritual growth is an unveiling, a stripping away of all the outer layers of conditioning that family and society have laid upon us to become the essence of ourselves; that which we are when we can be transparent and clear, without pretension or pretense, spiritually naked.” – Vivianne Crowley, author of “Wicca: A Comprehensive Guide to the Old Religion in the Modern World,” musing on individuality in a post on tarot and the Summer Solstice at Patheos.

Lupa

Lupa

“And just as black mold has been shaped by our effects on the planet, so it reminds me that we are still affected by the other beings we share that planet with. We sometimes fool ourselves into thinking we’ve defeated all the problems nature has to throw at us–disease, inadequate shelter, starvation, and so forth. And yet, even in the most comfortable home, Black Mold and its children can creep in, shattering that illusion. (Never mind that in many less comfortable homes, disease, exposure and starvation are very real problems.) Black Mold helps to keep me humble, and reminds me of the privileges I enjoy, however temporarily. Finally, Black Mold is a somber reminder of that temporary condition. We cannot continue the current rate of resource consumption that has made our lives more comfortable. Either we have to reduce our consumption, or find more sustainable ways to maintain our current standard of living. So while black mold is mainly a threat to the drywall, I also find it to be an incentive to find more eco-friendly options for food, water, shelter, and other resources.” – Lupa, at her Therioshamanism blog, on working with black mold as a fungus totem.

Margot Adler

Margot Adler

“Well, what are our vampires about? What do we need in this society that we are creating a particular kind of vampire? And so one day, I’m just, like, putting all the most popular vampires on a sheet of paper. So I’m going oh, the Collins and Spike and Angel and Buffy and Mick St. John, and you know, in “Moonlight,” and, you know, “The Vampire Diaries,” Stefan. I make this huge list. And I say, OK, these are all the vampires that have been popular over the last 15 years. And a light bulb went off because I realized they were all, unlike the vampires before, were all conflicted. They were all desperately struggling to be moral despite being predators, even though they were often failing. And that’s exactly who we were, except maybe – this is a weird thing to say – maybe oil is our blood. Maybe, you know, we’re sucking the lifeblood out of the planet, and we can’t stop.” – Margot Adler, on NPR’s “Talk of the Nation,” discussing her new Kindle Single  “Out For Blood.”

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

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

Pagan Living TV Launches: Pagan Living TV, a non-profit media organization that seeks to create a world “where Pagan spirituality and philosophy is an influential voice in mainstream culture,” has launched their weekly video news program “The Pagan Voice.”

“Pagan Living TV is a charitable non-profit organization that produces a weekly news program that discusses the issues of today from a Pagan perspective.  This is the first professionally produced broadcast program that is produced in a multi-camera television studio, and is distributed on both the internet and on local cable channels in some major cities.”

As you can tell from watching the video, the production values are considerably higher than previous Pagan video-news efforts (no insult to those worthy efforts, merely an observation) showcasing Pagan Living TV’s ambition in raising the bar. As Pagan scholar Chas Clifton notes: “Although it’s still just talking heads in the studio at this point. At least there is a studio, not a sheet tacked to the wall.” I’ll be watching the growth of Pagan Living TV, The Pagan Voice, and future shows with interest.

Pagan Involvement With ‘Idle No More': Last month I posed the question of whether modern Pagans should involve themselves with the growing indigenous/Native activist movement known as Idle No More. Since then, some high-profile figures within modern Paganism have visited the camp where where Chief Theresa Spence, of the Attawapiskat First Nation, is holding a hunger strike, or gotten involved with Idle No More actions. First, Pagan philosopher Brendan Myers, who lives near Victoria Island in Canada visits Chief Theresa Spence’s camp and share’s his observations.

Chief Theresa Spence's Camp

Chief Theresa Spence’s Camp

“Of all the many social groups which comprise Canada’s social fabric, the First Nations, the Metis and the Inuit have a special place in our identity.They gave to “us”, the visitors on this land and their descendants, a gift so precious and so valuable it’s likely that nothing we could give them in return could possibly compensate them. That gift was the land on which this country was built. Without one or two other ethnic groups in our history, we would have a different country, for better or worse; without the First Nations, we would have no country at all. Therefore, Canada has special responsibility, it seems to me, partly arising from the various treaties which the Crown signed with the First Nations, but also arising from the ‘economy of honour’ that surrounds gifts of that magnitude. Canada’s moral obligation, at minimum, to ensure that the living standards of First Nations people are at least as good as that of the average middle-class non-native Canadian person – and that’s not impossible, and that’s perhaps only the least of what Canada should do.”

In addition to Brendan Myer’s impressions, Shelley TSivia Rabinovitch, co-author of “An’ Ye Harm None: Magical Morality And Modern Ethics,” and co-editor of the “Encyclopedia Of Modern Witchcraft And Neo-Paganism,” has also been visiting Chief Spence’s camp and attending Idle No More actions urging Pagan solidarity with this movement: “I feel wonderful. And I will do it again. And again. AND UNTIL STEPHEN HARPER HEARS that he cannot sell out this country.” Also of note, author and teacher T. Thorn Coyle attended an Idle No More solidarity action in Oakland, California and shares her thoughts:

“On Saturday, I joined a couple hundred people in solidarity with Idle No More. Chief Theresa Spence has been on hunger strike for more than 25 days now, challenging the Prime Minister of Canada to a meeting regarding the sanctity of the earth and indigenous sovereignty. Idle No More is standing up – singing, drumming, dancing, and blockading – for the rights of free waterways, and land unpolluted by dangerous fracking. I want to support this challenge, this attempt to afflict the closely held privilege of the short sighted governments and corporations that are only seeing the immediate need for profit or even more insidious: an upholding of a level of comfort that we’ve come to think of as a need. We don’t need to use as much fossil fuel or natural gas as we currently do. We could instead adjust our lives to use less, or more wisely. But most often we don’t, because we – as a society – like our comforts. Idle No More has the ability to challenge, not only the governments and corporations, but to challenge our own assumptions about what it is we need. They are doing the job of comforting the afflicted of the land and the people and creatures on the land, and afflicting the comfortable – the prime minister and those of us who want to consume all the things we are used to.”

For the latest updates on Idle No More, check out their website. I will continue to monitor Pagan responses to, and solidarity actions with, this movement.

In Other Community News:

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

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

Chas Clifton

Chas Clifton

“[Jone Salomonsen] and I have felt from the beginning that Pagan studies is not so much about this group or that, but about Paganism as a way of being religious. For example, we have had presentations that focused on the treatment of images in a Pagan setting and in Mediterranean Catholic settings, which leads to joking about ‘the i-word’ (idolatry) and to discussions of whether it is useful and usable in a scholarly setting or whether one would do better to adopt some term like ‘sacred materiality.'”Chas Clifton, from an interview conducted by Ethan Doyle White.

“The workshops varied in scope and I found myself torn at every single time slot trying to determine which workshop to attend. Attendee’s had 40 workshops to choose from, varying in scope from Shamanic Body Posture to Strategic Sorcery to Secret Societies and more. This feel of the workshops at this event was unlike anything I’ve experienced at past Pagan conferences and conventions. With a target audience of advanced practitioners, the instructors clearly felt comfortable with skipping past cursory introductions to topics and dove right into the depths of the topic at hand. With the many options available in each time slot, classes stayed at respectable sizes small enough for questions from participants and responses from the instructors. Nothing I attended felt rushed or impersonal. Of course, there were presentations by world-renown occultist Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki which filled an entire ballroom of people, but other workshops tended to stay at around thirty people or less.”David Salisbury, from his overview of the recent Between the Worlds 2012 conference.

“Some people read the myths, whether our Scandinavian/Germanic ones or those from somewhere else, and find that the old stories just won’t leave them alone. And, while we have very few instructions from a thousand years ago on how to practice Ásatrú, there is broad agreement on how those stories advise conducting one’s life. Hairsplitting theological discussions aren’t necessary. For a lot of people, this thing, this practice, just works. Over all those centuries, how many de facto Heathens spent their lives hiding out in their own minds? Now that we don’t have to hide anymore, at least in much of the world, how many more are still hiding out just because they think they are alone in their feelings?”Steven T. Abell, discussing proselytizing from a Heathen standpoint.

jonathan korman

Jonathan Korman

“If we cannot describe pagan-ness, we end up with an unarticulated sense that Pagan means “Wicca and things like it”, which should satisfy no one. To sneak up on the problem, I want to resist questions as grandiose as Who Pagans Are or What Pagans Do or What Pagans Believe. (Indeed, that last is particularly pernicious; defining a religion in terms of what onebelieves is a distinctively Protestant move; let’s not go there.) Rather, I want to talk about what I call the “pagan sensibility” — note the deliberate use of the lower-case p. Not a statement of the True Pagan Nature or an explanation of the Pagan community, but a description of what kind of thought and action makes things pagan flavored. I think that one can describe that briefly and clearly, including everything one wants while excluding everything one doesn’t.”Jonathan Korman, laying out his case for a “pagan sensibility.”

“Polytheists like to claim that the multiplicity of gods breeds a kind of pluralism that makes intolerance and acts of religious violence less likely. But as an earth-centered and Self-centered Pagan, I see more similarities than dissimilarities between polytheism and the monotheisms. And I wonder if what really distinguishes Paganism from the Abrahamic faiths is not the number of gods, but the belief that in some sense we are God. A polytheist would call this hubris and a monotheist would call it heretical. (At least an orthodox monotheist would. There have always been mystical strains within the monotheistic traditions which sought union with God.) But for many Pagans, the hubris of the statement, “Thou art God/dess”, is an article of, well, faith.”John Halstead, on the role of faith and hubris in Paganism.

Morpheus Ravenna with Chrigel Glanzmann of Eluveitie.

Morpheus Ravenna with Chrigel Glanzmann of Eluveitie.

“Come the night, when the crowd roared and Eluveitie took the stage. When the mad, fierce, raging joy poured out of the musicians and swept through the crowd, churning the sea of people into a frenzy of violent celebration in the mosh pit. When the impassioned, screaming songs were sung out in the ancient language. Songs full of raw, deep emotion, telling the story of the Gallic wars and the nation that was, with joy, with pride, with rage, with anguish, with heart, the sounds of Celtic instruments swelling on a thunderous tide of metal. Songs of all that was lost, yet I could not help feeling how alive we were, how full of pride, how the flame of the Celtic spirit blazed in us in answer to the power in that music. Come the night, I felt the lost nation of Gaul singing through her descendants on the stage, echoing back from the ecstatic crowd. Everything lost is found again.”Morpheus Ravenna, describing her meeting with Chrigel Glanzmann, the lead singer and lyric-writer of the band Eluveitie.

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

Welcome to The Wild Hunt’s semi-regular round-up of news and opinion, unleash the hounds. As you read this I’ll be on my way to San Francisco, California to attend the American Academy of Religion’s Annual Meeting. The AAR is the world’s largest association of academics who research or teach topics related to religion, and their annual meeting has become a vital place to hear about the latest scholarship in the field of Pagan Studies (and just about every other religious and philosophical tradition as well). This year will feature an abundance of Pagan-friendly events, including the Contemporary Pagan Studies Group’s stellar-looking line-up of presentations. I’ll be attending as many Pagan-oriented presentations as I can, and will report back with some initial thoughts, photos, and hopefully some interviews.

In the meantime, here’s some links of note to tide you over!

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