Archives For The Wild Hunt

On Saturday, The Wild Hunt will have been running continuously for ten years. On March 29th, 2004 I decided to re-launch a Pagan-themed blog I had already started (called “Pagan Thoughts,” itself a re-launch of an even earlier blog called “MythWorks”) with a new mission: prove that a daily Pagan news blog could work. To say that my early posts were somewhat rough around the edges would be kind, I literally learned how to write in public. Indeed, at the time I didn’t even consider myself a writer, as my ambition was geared more towards visual art and graphic design. Inspired by already-existing services like Wren’s Nest, PagaNet News, and Tuan Today, I wanted to show that a daily news site could be done, thinking my efforts would inspire nebulous “professionals” out there to take up the task in a more robust manner.

The Wild Hunt, circa 2004.

The Wild Hunt, circa 2004.

When I started, Pagan media on the Internet was very different. Most online Pagans communicated on bulletin boards or via a vast number of e-mail lists. None of the existing print Pagan magazines had a robust online presence, though to be fair neither did a large number of mainstream periodicals. As for blogs, they were still largely a curiosity for many, and extensive searches at that time only turned up a handful of Pagan-themed blogs, at best. Little did I know that huge changes were in store for mainstream media, and for the new media powered by blogging platforms.

The Wild Hunt, circa 2007.

The Wild Hunt, circa 2007.

As for The Wild Hunt, I had the luxury of incubating in relative obscurity, developing a voice as my audience slowly grew. I think the turning point in terms of influence and audience came in 2006 when I interviewed Margot Adler, and started doing more original reporting from within our interconnected communities (instead of simply linking to and commenting on mainstream news stories). As more and more people turned to the Internet to find news, more and more people seemed to find The Wild Hunt and enjoy the service it was providing. In the intervening years, I have strived as best I could to make The Wild Hunt a useful service for as many people as possible. Now, as we pass this landmark anniversary, I want The Wild Hunt, and Pagan media as whole to continue maturing, growing, and providing a vital connection for individuals within our interconnected religious movement.

The Wild Hunt, circa 2011.

The Wild Hunt, circa 2011.

Between now and October, The Wild Hunt will be instituting the following changes that I think will better prepare us for the future, and hopefully create one model for sustainable Pagan media. 

  • The Wild Hunt will receive fiscal oversight from the Pantheon Foundation, relieving us from the stress of handling our increasingly complex fiscal realities, allowing our editors, staff, and columnists to focus on creating the best reporting, commentary, and content we can. As part of our agreement with the Pantheon Foundation, an appointed member of the Wild Hunt team will always have a seat on the PF board so we can have a voice in how the organization is run. The service they are providing is important, and I think being overseen by a religious non-profit will allow us to fundraise more effectively. I (Jason Pitzl-Waters) will be serving as the initial founding board member for The Wild Hunt, though this can change as things progress.
  • Staff writer Heather Greene will become the new Managing Editor of The Wild Hunt. For those who have been following Heather’s work for The Wild Hunt, you’ll know that she’s an amazing writer and reporter, and truly “gets” our mission here. Heather has an impressive media background, and has worked for a number of Pagan organizations. She has the contacts, and skills, to step into this role. As we move towards October, she will be taking on a larger workload, and eventually will be overseeing all contributing writers and columnists at the site. I will become the Founding Editor, and start to focus more on “big picture” issues relating to The Wild Hunt, and Pagan media in general. I’m also hoping to use my additional free time to finally work on some Wild Hunt-related book projects.
  • We will be increasing the number of writers and columnists who work for The Wild Hunt. We have ambitious plans for the way we’re going to be doing things at this site, and that includes making our collective voice as diverse as possible. Whenever I added a new writer to our staff I asked the question: will this individual bring a perspective I can’t? Having a team who simply echoes the editor would be boring, and run counter to what our diverse religious movement is about. Weekends at The Wild Hunt will eventually be populated with a selection of columnists who bring unique perspectives and ideas to the table, joining our already impressive lineup of Rynn Fox, Crystal Blanton, Eric Scott, and Alley Valkyrie. We will also be looking for interns and staff writers to help us produce reporting and news during the week. Think you could be a part our team in the future? Drop us a line.
  • Finally, as things get set up with the Pantheon Foundation, will be making improvements to the site that will make it easier to support us, and submit news to us. We will be rolling out a number of donation and underwriting options, including monthly donations, which several people have inquired about during our yearly pledge drives. All donations, once this is active, will be tax-deductible. Secondly, will be working to develop a new service, Pagan Press Releases, that will make it easy to not only send us your news, but send other Pagan media outlets your news as well.

As for me, while I’ll be cumulatively writing less as times goes on, I will still be completely enmeshed in The Wild Hunt, and in the larger world of Pagan media. I will be working to make sure we are fiscally stable, that we continue to grow and thrive, and also work to expand what can do. With Heather stepping in as Managing Editor, I’ll be able to focus more on the “meta” issues of what we do, and also do more consulting work with Pagan organizations seeking to improve their own media footprint. Because we need a robust media ecosystem if we are going to achieve the ambitious plans many of us have laid out for our collective future.

I want to thank all of you for making The Wild Hunt the success it is today. I am eternally humbled by what you have collectively given me as I’ve done this work over the past decade. I am richer in friendships and connections than I could have ever anticipated, and I feel optimistic for what the next ten years will bring. I hope you’ll continue with us as we journey into what I hope will be a future of positive change and growth. Thank you, and here’s to the next ten years!

It’s rare that I use the forum of The Wild Hunt to engage in columnist-style musings, but I felt called to do it in the wake of recent events, posts, and comments that have swirled around this site. I’m used to flare-ups of controversy, issues that are divisive among different populations within our larger movement sparking heated comment, it comes as part of running a journalistic outlet. Through it all, I have tried to stay true to my inner convictions, because, frankly, the editorial buck has to stop somewhere. As a result I’ve grown a pretty thick skin, and learned to largely stay out of Internet debates, even when folks started becoming downright conspiratorial about my motivations. So today, I thought I’d speak on my motivations, and why I do The Wild Hunt, why I’m a Pagan, and why I care about a larger religious movement that some call “modern Paganism.”

Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary leading a Lammas bonfire ritual.

Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary leading a Lammas bonfire ritual.

I became a Pagan, or more precisely, a self-dedicated Wiccan at the age of 17. I sat in a damp copse of trees, lit a candle, and used a dedication ritual written by Scott Cunningham. It was hardly a dramatic or theatrical affair, but I do confess to feeling different afterwards, as if I had finally made a choice in a choose-your-own-adventure novel, and took my thumb out that was holding my place in case I did the wrong thing (admit it, you all did that with those books). I went right to the local gift shop in the mall, bought a large-ish pewter pentacle, and I never looked back. Over the intervening years I’ve worked with a variety of groups, some formal, some not, had a couple initiations, and weathered some dark corners within our community that few like to talk about. I never lost sight of what Paganism offered me, what the promise of these emerging religions were.

For me, the offer of Paganism was no less than an entirely different lens through which to see the world. To literally re-enchant the world, to see a place that was full of gods, powers, myth, and yes, magic. To offer a paradigm that was very much at odds with the midwestern baseline protestantism that was a part of everything growing up in Nebraska in the 1980s. Even in my younger (and rather naive) days, I sensed the revolutionary potential of Paganism, that it if allowed to grow would literally change the way we think. Now, I had no grudge against Christianity, I do not have a horror story of my younger days of mistreatment, persecution, or alienation, so this wasn’t a personal matter, I simply found Pagan religions more alluring to my sensibilities. A childhood entranced by fantasy, mythology, and art. Here, I thought, was a place where difference, and different ideas, would be embraced.

I think I should also make clear that I saw Paganism through a lens of an aspiring artist. For the bulk of my younger life, my main aspiration was to create a life in which I could paint and draw in some professional capacity. I was entranced by romantic ideas of large studios, and block-white gallery cubes hosting swanky parties while featuring my work. I thrilled during my 20s to the melodrama of the Abstract Expressionists of the 50s, or the Neo-Expressionists of the 80s, thinking that someday I too would find a creative tribe to break through with. The gods, of course, often have other plans. Instead of the swanky galleries, I did a run of smaller local shows, tried to organize some smaller initiatives, and slowly drifted into a variety of graphic design jobs in my late 20s. So for me, Paganism was as much an aesthetic choice as it was a religious choice. Despite the great Christian-themed art of the past, I felt in my heart that Paganism offered me the spiritual freedom to really work. To imbue what I was doing with the numinous.

Pagans at Stonehenge.

Pagans at Stonehenge.

Given this, I thought what I had to offer Paganism in return for what Paganism had offered me was my creative work. That my art would help shape a fine-art aesthetic within my religious community, one that was still very much enchanted by fantasy-style illustration (not that there’s anything wrong with that, mind you). That, however, was not what Paganism, the gods, the powers that be, wanted me to offer them it seemed. They wanted me to write, to do this. Something I would have never anticipated, especially since I never considered myself a gifted writer. Certainly not someone who could serve as a journalistic mouthpiece for a movement. Yet, something I started on a lark, as an experiment that I hoped would garner the attention of the “professionals” out there in the nebulous distance, became a phenomenon a couple short years into its existence.  Suddenly “The Wild Hunt” was not a repository for my art and varied musings on culture, a host to a variety of mini-sites that I had created out of boredom or new enthusiasms in the wild, wild, West days of the Internet, no, The Wild Hunt was now the adolescent version of what you read here.

March, 2014, will mark ten years of doing this, nearly every day. In that time I believe I’ve become a somewhat better writer. I’ve been honored to meet, talk to, and interview a variety of people I had once only read about. Better still, I was able to approach them as peers. In many ways this project has grown to a level I could never have conceived of when I started it. That I would be able to raise a budget, pay contributors, and grow to size that is impressive for an independent site like this is remarkable to me. Naturally, when you grow in size you also become a bigger target. Few people cared what I said or thought back in 2005, but in 2013 what I publish here is given a weight that can be daunting at times. I would be lying if I said that the strain of expectation wasn’t sometimes more than I feel I can bear, and for the last several years I have wrestled with intermittent bouts of burn-out. No matter how excellent you strive to be, there will always be someone who is unhappy with the way things are done. The main accusation made against my person is that I’m some sort of sell-out, that I’m secretly batting for some faction, religion, or viewpoint. The truth is far more mundane, and far less exciting.

jason

The simple truth is that I’m a simple Pagan. I still think of Paganism as a lens that I choose to see the world through, I still do my best to honor that point of view, while allowing the people who write for me to be true to their lens. No one is more consistently aware of my imperfections than me, and certainly no criticism I’ve received has completely surprised me. Part of that is because no matter how total my Pagan worldview, real life is messy, and imperfect, and sometimes doesn’t hew to a rational or logical party/theological line. However imperfectly, I have tried to report on modern Paganism with the messiness intact, because I think what those cracks say reveals important things about our own process. I fight the urge to defend myself, for the most part, because I hope that my legacy as a whole will speak for itself in the longer run. That the number of articles about our triumphs, our advances, our struggles, will always outnumber the articles that stop for a moment and question the messiness of our life on the ground. Naturally I will endeavor to always improve, and I hope to make some announcements soon that will make The Wild Hunt even better.

What will the next ten years hold? I cannot say. But this is part of what Paganism has offered me, and what I offered Paganism in return. How has this exchange manifested in your lives?

Today, at the Patheos Pagan Channel, Christine Kraemer interviews Anne Newkirk Niven, editor and publisher of Witches & Pagans Magazine, about the current state of Pagan media (among other things). During the interview, Niven expounds on blogs within the umbrella of Pagan media, and the role they serve.

Anne Newkirk Niven

Anne Newkirk Niven

Today, blogs fill a specific niche: real-time, fast-paced information. No print media can keep up with the blogosphere; on the other hoof, even the most super-heated debate in the legendary Green Egg forum (letters to the editor) never got as crazily divisive as what happens in the comment-rich, disinhibited atmosphere of the Web.

Pagans are an information-hungry group of people; reading led many, if not most, of us onto our paths. (Most of our magazine readers are solitaries, which I suspect is true of Pagan culture as a whole.) The purpose of a magazine is to gather together a group of collated, vetted, and edited articles in a way that makes sense as a set and which forms a non-evolving collection of knowledge; blogs, on the other hoof, are radically individualized by their nature and are constantly evolving. I see these two modalities as fundamentally complementary—what one does well, the other does poorly. I hope we can see the continuance of literary paper-based culture even as the digital culture continues to grow, which is why I publish magazines (both in digital and paper formats) as well as hosting a rapidly-growing Pagan blogosphere.

XKCD comic by Randall Munroe

XKCD comic by Randall Munroe

When I started The Wild Hunt nearly 10 years ago, there wasn’t really a “blogosphere” to speak of. Most Pagan content on the Internet existed in the form of bulletin boards, static (sporadically updated) sites, and e-lists. There were literally only a handful of Pagan blogs when I started this site, and many folks used the new technology at places like LiveJournal for personal journaling, not a soapbox per-se. I was a fairly early adopter of blogging technology when it emerged, and was fascinated by the possibilities of the medium. Like many others, I quickly recognized that the “blog” had capabilities far beyond listing updates to a large website, or writing short personal entires. While some feared the disruptive nature of blogging technology, I realized that it could be used to prove a point. I could use it to prove that people wanted to read about Pagan news every day, and that there was enough news to write about something every day.

Ten years later, The Wild Hunt has more than enough to write about. More, in fact, than our small team can conceivably do justice to. We’ve grown from a one-person personal project into a media outlet that employes several columnists, and one staff writer. We have a yearly budget, one that we raise from donations, and our traffic continues to grow at a steady rate each year. So I see Niven’s generalizations as not only limiting, but subtly insulting. A blog, at its heart, is simply a technology, like the printing press. When you say you read “a blog” that today says almost nothing about what you’ll get (it’s like someone saying they read “books” and nothing more). The biggest media empires use blogging technology on their sites, and the content can range from celebrity gossip to ultra-professional, edited, and vetted, content. Meanwhile, picking up a magazine gives you zero guarantee that you’ll receive “collated, vetted, and edited articles in a way that makes sense as a set and which forms a non-evolving collection of knowledge.” 

A medium is a medium, not the content within it. Mediums can be stretched, changed, challenged, and redefined over the course of different generations. A “real” magazine can be experimental and radical, produced on a shoestring budget, or it can be a well-funded venture that engages in the current norms of editorial and news gathering. Anyone who grew up during the ‘zine revolution of the 1990s knows well enough that mediums aren’t limited by the dominant culture’s standards. Likewise, while many tried to pigeonhole blogs in the early years as the tool of the lone opinionated crank (usually writing about politics), the reality is that many different people used the technology for many different things. Is Talking Points Memo a mere “blog,” or is it a news and political commentary site? If we call it a blog, does that mean it isn’t collated, vetted, and subject to editorial oversight? Is The Wild Hunt still a blog? Are we a part of a blogosphere? We use blogging technology, certainly, but I also think we’ve grown outside the expectations that seem to inform the Patheos interview.

Finally, let me talk briefly about the Pagan magazine. Another reason I started The Wild Hunt was because I was hungry for news about my community, and couldn’t find any in Pagan magazines. They had interviews, and columns, and short stories, and poetry, and recipes, and a letters column, but they rarely tackled actual events happening in and around our lives. When they did, it was often long after the dust had settled. It created the sense that modern Paganism should be handled by the professional Pagans, the “Big Name Pagans,” and that the rest of us should simply give our support. It didn’t have to be that way, even a quarterly magazine can write about big issues, can at least inform their readership of all the things that happened in the last few months, but a reliance on “evergreen” content, and a hesitance to embrace these new technologies left the door wide open for The Wild Hunt’s success. When people ask me why my blog got so big, I tell them the truth: no one else wanted to do what I was doing. At least not on the daily schedule I maintained.

Blogging may have been disruptive, but it also empowered all sorts of people to speak up, to insert themselves into the process of how our community is defined and presented. It rejected the old “club” mentality that had held sway from the 1980s, and demanded a more responsive, more inclusive, community. If things are so “divisive” now, perhaps that is simply because there’s 20 years of frustration built up from having no voice at all in national and international Pagan affairs. Now, we can’t be shut up, because our news isn’t centralized into a handful of vetted and edited publications. If someone doesn’t like something in The Wild Hunt (or any media outlet), they can (and do) publish about it. They can rally their own corner of our community, they can create alternatives, they can have the public discussions they want to have. I sometimes bemoan how uncivil things can get sometimes, but I would never, ever, roll us back to some simpler time before this technology existed. We are collectively better for it.

Digital Pagan media is the dominant format today, and I don’t think anyone could convincingly argue otherwise. The separations between a published print magazine, and, say, The Wild Hunt, is only in the format. I would certainly place may content on the same plain of quality as anything in print, perhaps even better (though I may be biased). It is no longer acceptable to generalize about the “blog” without providing a list of caveats that make the comparisons almost meaningless. The larger Pagan blogosphere is many things, and has many manifestations, but it is no longer some ascendent disruptive format, it has become a ubiquitous tool used by every manifestation of the content we consume. From commerce to hard news. We are the media now. 

We did it. On Friday morning, I awoke to the emails that told me that our Fall Funding Drive had raised its goal, and even surpassed it a little bit. That means this site is funded for another year, and we can pay our columnists and contributors in the process. It’s a principle that I think is very important in our community, one that I feel is necessary if we’re going to build professional-level media organizations within our diverse and broad-based movement. My ultimate hope is that our success here points towards others replicating it. Though it may seem counter-intuitive, I crave the emergence of a real Pagan news ecosystem, because it is only within such an ecosystem that a larger ethos of journalism and commentary can emerge.

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Sites like Pam Grossman’s Phantasmaphile, Sarah Veale’s Invocatio, Carl Neal’s Pent O’clock News, and the eponymous A Bad Witch’s Blog in the UK, along with seasoned journalistic campaigners like PNC-Minnesota, show that there are many topics and areas of focus that need coverage, that explore areas I can only skim the surface of. Commentary and debate, especially within a religious movement, is easy to come by, but for those conversations to progress, for us to move ourselves forward on any number of important (and contentious) issues requires basic informational reporting. Journalism is the launchpad of discourse, bother internally, and externally. Which is why other religions have devoted a lot of time and resources to journalistic vehicles that serve their own communities. To put it simply, journalism shapes how we interact with the world, and ultimately, how the world interacts with us.

So again, my deepest thanks to the individuals and groups who donated to make this happen. Not knowing how long it would take us to raise the needed money, I gave our site the full allotted amount of time, 45 days, which means the campaign will remain open for nearly a month to come. I’ll won’t plug the campaign any longer, but I will leave the links and side-banner up so that folks who haven’t had a chance to donate can still participate if they wish. Once the campaign officially ends I will enact all the “perks,” including the links. I will also remove all the links and underwriters who didn’t renew (once their year is up). So again, if you want to be a part of this campaign, please do so during this window so we can work on an orderly schedule. We will, of course, be open to organizational ads and underwriters throughout the year, and we thank the amazing groups and companies who have pledged their support in previous months.

Before I close out this post, I want to touch quickly on raising money within the Pagan community. Over the past few years, as the rise of crowdfunding sites made the process of raising money easier, many Pagan individuals and organizations have tried their hand at raising funds. Everything from libraries, to plays, to albums, to tarot decks. Some have been wildly successful, and others not so much so. Under the aegis of The Wild Hunt, I have run several funding campaigns now, and I’d like to share some brief “tips” that perhaps go outside the general advice given to those embarking on a crowdfunding campaign.

Hell Money, the kind burned at The Ghost Festival. Photo: randomwire (Creative Commons).

Money! Photo: randomwire (Creative Commons).

  • Expect a very small percentage of your followers/readers/members to donate. The Wild Hunt has a lot of readers, and a lot of traffic. Since leaving Patheos, my traffic has grown to a point where I’ve had to upgrade our hosting package, or else risk overage fees. On Facebook, we have over 16,000 “likes.” You would think, with a huge profile like that, raising $10,000 dollars would be a day’s work. A small amount from a tiny fraction of my readers. However, our campaign was successful because fewer than 300 groups and individuals decided to donate. Many of those donors gave above lower perk levels, and the last 10-15% came predominately from bigger donors. This is not to say that the $5 donations weren’t appreciated, they were, but they weren’t coming in large enough numbers to ensure a successful campaign. So when you plan a campaign, ask yourself, would it succeed if less than 10% of your readership/membership donated? If you are going to rely on small-dollar donations, will you have the stamina, donor perks, and engagement to reach them?
  • Utilize social media. Practically everyone is using social media these days, and you need to have an active social footprint if you’re going to engage with your broader readership. If you haven’t already, start building a Facebook page, and an official Twitter account. Use them, grow them, and once you do, stay engaged with them. You may not like Facebook, but ignoring it severely limits your ability to do outreach with millions of people. Also,  plan to spend money to make money. Social media these days is tweaked to make you pay to reach your full potential audience. Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and more, all have pay options that will bring you more “eyeballs” to your campaign pitch. If you’re looking to raise a lot of money, you need to reach past your core engaged readership, and to the folks who maybe only check in with you on a weekly or monthly basis.
  • Stay positive, always. I know that other campaign advice sites will tell you this, but I need to reiterate. Never, ever, ever, go negative on your readers. Don’t guilt them, don’t make them feel bad, don’t get snarky, or start to make asides about how folks are enjoying your product/content but aren’t supporting you. Don’t decide to publish your rant about Pagans who buy expensive wands but won’t support infrastructure/teachers/charity projects during your campaign. Take an attitude of gratitude. People are giving you money, their money, that they earned. Even if you only raise ten bucks, you thank whoever it was who gave it to you, stay positive, and redouble your efforts. Focus on what you do, focus on the positive impact that their money will bring. Again, don’t guilt people, because it doesn’t work. Running a campaign can be very stressful, and very tiring, you’re going to be tempted to complain. Don’t. Not ever.
  • Consistently announce your campaign, don’t feel guilty to ask for money. Many subcultural groups, and many religious communities, have some complex attitudes towards asking for money. As a consequence, many Pagans get bashful, they undersell their campaign, they feel weird about asking for money. Don’t. If you are providing a resource, or a service, there is no shame in asking for people to support it. You aren’t forcing them to donate, and if they support your project, they won’t mind if you ask. In fact, many of my donors thanked me for reminding them, as they hadn’t seen the previous announcements. People have stuff going on their lives, and sometimes it doesn’t revolve around what you’re doing. So don’t be afraid to be consistent. Mention it every day, pitch it on your social networks. Do you think people stop listening to NPR because they have pledge drives? Most individuals understand that this is part and parcel of “free’ resources. The money has to come from somewhere.
  • Respect the power of your supporters, and ask them for their help. Fundraising is the art of causing change in conformity with your Will, or is that magick? Fundraising is a spell. One that you don’t cast alone. You mobilize the spell of fundraising by making it a group effort. By asking people you know to be your supporters to help you. Asking for help is powerful magic, and you can never tell what it will bring you. I have been blessed in the people and groups who have chosen to help me, and I try to pay that back by sharing and supporting other fundraising drives. In fact, while this fundraising drive was going on, I donated to two others. That reciprocity is important, because it builds community, and it is through community that you will find enough people to help you in your goal.
  • Finally, be reasonable in your expectations and your ask. The Wild Hunt asked for $10,000 dollars because that’s how much we really needed. I broke that number down, and told people directly what I was going to spend it on. When people give, they know they are paying our columnists, our hosting bill, and yes, they are putting a little bit of that into my pocket. I would not ask for $50,000 at this point, as I know the Internet is not a magic wishing machine, and the magic of fundraising only works if you’ve built the network to sustain that kind of ask. Conversely, don’t ask for too little, or else people won’t think it’s a big deal. There won’t be a sense of urgency in what you’re doing. Ask for enough, and think hard about what that means.

That’s it, and I hope that advice helps some folks considering a fundraiser in our community out. My deepest thanks to everyone who has donated, and to everyone who might still donate. I truly appreciate it, and I hope that this success will continue my goal to build The Wild Hunt into a media entity that perseveres, even beyond my own participation.

As I’ve been reminding folks here near-daily, The Wild Hunt’s Fall Funding Drive is currently underway. I’m very happy with the way things have gone so far, and thanks to 245 funders we’ve raised $8,888 dollars of our $10,000 dollar goal. That means we are very, very, close to hitting our official goal, and funding this site for another year. I have every confidence that we’ll hit our goal, and one Pagan media site, Humanistic Paganism, has even launched their own fund-drive so that they can donate enough to become an advertiser. However, you don’t have to raise a lot of money to help us finish this campaign, at this point all it will take is a small number of regular readers to just give a little to push us past the finish line. For $5 dollars you can join our new exclusive content e-list, and for $15 dollars you will receive an exclusive blogroll link. Once the campaign is finished the old links will come down on their one-year anniversary, and the new year’s donor’s links will go up, so don’t miss out on your chance to show your support (and possibly get some link-traffic).

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I also want to note that this money isn’t simply lining our coffers, we pay our columnists and contributors, and we’ve already spent a significant chunk of the money raised so far to pay for web hosting (as our traffic continues to grow, so to does the money needed to keep our site running smoothly, our current traffic load would crash a typical shared server setup). When we hit October of this year, our account was bare, because all the money went back into making sure The Wild Hunt was running. This is as it should be, but I’m hoping we can continue to grow, and establish The Wild Hunt as a media institution that lives beyond the tenure of any writer or editor, becoming a flagship publication for our interconnected movement. So my deepest thanks to everyone who has donated so far, and I hope it will be my privilege to thank even more of you. I think 2014 will be an important year in our growth, and only your support can make that possible, no matter what level that support may be.

Now, since I know that reading Funding Drive pitches probably aren’t everyone’s idea of a great time, here are some recent news links of note that I’ve come across this week. Thanks again, and please help this site reach its goal! Now then… UNLEASH THE HOUNDS!

  • Boing Boing profiles Mitch Horowitz’s forthcoming book, “One Simple Idea: How Positive Thinking Reshaped Modern Life,” detailing the history of “positive thinking.” Quote: “The roots and impact of ‘Positive Thinking,’ from its 19th century occult core all the way to Dale Carnegie’s confidence building books and Nike’s “Just Do It” campaign, will surprise you.”
  • Sometimes, there are practices from our past that we don’t want to revive, like necropants. Quote: “In the 17th Century, Icelandic mystics believed an endless supply of money could be had by flaying a corpse from the waist down and wearing its skin like pants. They called the skin-slacks nábrók, or ‘necropants.’” Look, I don’t need to raise money that bad.
  • Palo Mayombe practitioner Angel Silva, whose story I’ve linked to before, has lost the case over whether he needed a vendor’s license to sell crystals in Union Square. Quote: “Judge Diana Boyar ruled Silva was guilty of a single count of acting as an unlicensed vendor. The verdict came within minutes of hearing final arguments and she did not explain her finding but sentenced Silva to the time her served while being processed during his arrest. Another judge previously ruled Silva’s goods are akin to selling jewelry under the law. Both would require vendor’s licenses.” An appeal has been promised.
  • So, sometimes when you find a tool shed with bones in it, a local media outlet will call an ‘expert’ to give their take. Sadly, most occult experts have some rather prejudicial views about people who engage in occult practices. Quote: “‘Usually somebody will turn to that when they are an outcast from society – that they already don’t fit in – maybe they’re actively trying to not fit in, so they’re trying to do something shocking to push other people away,’ Dr. Wachtel said. ‘Other times, maybe in their childhood – they’ve been pushed away, and this is their way of reconciling that in their mind.’ Dr. Wachtel says believers in the occult often have a background of abuse, ranging from verbal to physical, to neglect.” Perhaps they should note that Dr. Wachtel’s specialty is forensic psychology.
  • Religion Clause has news regarding a case involving religious minorities in Washington state. Quote: “The Washington state Supreme Court yesterday heard oral arguments (summary and video of full arguments) in Kumar v. Gate Gourmet, Inc. At issue is whether the Washington Law Against Discrimination requires employers to accommodate employees’ religious practices. The suit was brought by four employees of a company that prepares meals for airline passengers. Plaintiffs, including a Hindu, Muslim and Orthodox Christian, claim that the lunch options served to them violate their religious beliefs because the company sometimes puts meat products in the vegetarian dish or pork in the meat dish offered to workers.  Employees for security reasons cannot bring their own lunches or go off-site for food.”
  • The (infamous) Warrens are still at it. Quote: “A long, narrow passageway connects the basement of Lorraine Warren’s home to a small room filled with dozens of occult items said to be evil in nature. ‘This is perhaps the most haunted place, I would say in the United States, because of all the objects that are housed here,’ said Tony Spera, director of New England Center for Psychic Research (NESPR). ‘These [objects] are the opposite of holy and blessed.’” More on the Warrens, here. I’ve since seen “The Conjuring,” and while a well-constructed thriller-chiller, it’s obvious when the clunky demon-haunted belief system of the Warrens is being inserted into the narrative.

That’s all I have for now, don’t forget to make a donation to our Fall Funding Drive so The Wild Hunt can run for another year!

Peter Dybing

Peter Dybing

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

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

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

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

Jason Mankey

Jason Mankey

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

Taylor Ellwood

Taylor Ellwood

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

Donald Michael Kraig

Donald Michael Kraig

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

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

Sam Webster

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

Anomalous Thracian

Anomalous Thracian

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

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

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

“There are few resources I feel benefits all in the Pagan umbrella. The Wild Hunt is on the top of that short list for me.” – David Salisbury, author of The Deep Heart of Witchcraft: Expanding the Core of Magickal Practice

Approximately one year ago, I decided to make The Wild Hunt, a Pagan news site which I’ve been running continuously since 2004, an independent entity again after a year of being hosted by an outside media company. It wasn’t an easy decision, and it came with fiscal, logistical, and technical headaches, but I believe, and still believe, that The Wild Hunt’s mission to provide news, information, context, and unique perspectives about our interconnected religious communities needed to grow and exist as something outside the confines of its previous host.

In taking that step, I also did something unprecedented in my history running this site: I brought on staff writers and columnists, and decided to pay them for their high-quality contributions. I wanted The Wild Hunt to stop simply being about me and my perspectives, for it to become a true Pagan news magazine and daily destination for Pagans, Heathens, polytheists, pantheists, and the many other branches of our ever-expanding religious communities. One year later, I think we have made important steps down that road, and I’m incredibly proud of the work we’ve done. Now, as we get ready to start another year, we need our community, our readership, more than ever if The Wild Hunt is going to thrive and continue its mission.

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Today is the beginning of a new Fall Funding Drive, and we’re asking for a base budget of $10,000 dollars to run for another year, and we’re hoping that you will help us not only meet this goal, but surpass it and allow us to do even more. The more we raise, the more we can do. Want to see more regular columnists? Want to see more staff writers? Would you like to see that I actually receive a salary from The Wild Hunt in 2013? Then I would love to see us push well past that base goal in the coming month. I know that there are many thousands of readers out there, and I know it would only take a fraction donating to not only fund us, but help us greatly expanding the coming year.

What We Need & What You Get

Here’s what $10,000 dollars will do:

  • $2,490 – Professional-level hosting with WP Engine.
  • $3,600 – Annual Budget for Current Staff (1) & Columnists (4)
  • $700 – IndieGogo Percentage (assuming full funding)
  • $110 – Estimated Credit Card Processing Fees
  • $2,700 – Paying the editor and primary contributor (Jason), guest columnists, and other fees associated with running the site.

What I’d like to do if we surpass the goal:

  • Pay myself a base salary of $5000 per year (an additional $2000).
  • Double staff editor/contributor Heather Greene’s salary (and additional 1,200)
  • Add more columnists, and another weekly news writer (additional 2,400)

We could do all that if we raise 5,900 over our goal. The more we raise, the more we can do. The level of support you, our community, collectively gives, will dictate our next year. 

This year, for perks, we’re expanding! More advertising options, and everyone who donates at least $5 will get enrolled into an exclusive email list where I and the other staff members will send updates, pictures from events, early announcements, and other special exclusive goodies!

The Impact

The Wild Hunt has a proven track record that stretches over nearly 10 years, and over those years we’ve become an essential news source and inspired many to create their own media. We’ve interviewed big-name Pagans like Margot Adler and Starhawk, reported on controversies and inspirational moments that have affected our community deeply, and acted as a watchdog when the mainstream media reports on modern Pagans and other minority faith traditions. However, the commitment, time, and energy needed to make this sustainable can only happen if you are willing to step forward and help us fund it.

Over the years many have said our community has a hard time supporting institutions and services that benefit them. I don’t believe that. I think we can come together if something is worthwhile, and goes to the trouble to ask. I believe The Wild Hunt is giving something unique to our community, and I am asking you, please help us expand and grow into an independent institution that can serve your daily news and information needs. Our success won’t just be for us, it will be for you, and for those who follow us.

Other Ways You Can Help

If you can’t contribute now, you can still help! Just share this campaign on Facebook, on Twitter, on Tumblr, on your favorite Pagan email list, and let them know why this is important to you. The more people speak out, the better we can do!

The IndieGogo address is:

http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-wild-hunt-2013-fall-funding-drive/

You can donate via credit card or through Paypal at the IndieGoGo campaign site.

Meeting the Pagans

Stacey Lawless —  February 14, 2013 — 8 Comments

Yesterday I had lunch with a friend whom I hadn’t seen in four years. She moved up north for a while and we fell out of touch, so when she moved back we had some catching up to do. The last time we’d seen each other, I was calling myself Heathen and thought that I might become a Freyrswoman. Needless to say, I had to explain that my spiritual journey had covered some ground since then. The strange thing was, as we talked, I realized that it felt like far longer than four years since I last lifted a horn in blót – even though I never lost contact with my local Heathens, and attended a blót as a guest only a few months ago. I also told my friend about getting ready for PantheaCon, and the contrast between how I felt about PCON and how I felt about my own Pagan past gave me some food for thought.

The road to PantheaCon opened for me in December, just a few weeks after my rayamiento. My Tata (Palo godfather) announced that he was going to be on a panel about minority religions and the media (“Setting the Record Straight: Pagans and the Press”), and checking the schedule, I saw that Jason Pitzl-Waters was also on that panel. I wound up getting into an online conversation with Jason about PCON that left me thinking I just had to try to go. Crowds aren’t my favorite, but I was thrilled about the Giant Pagan Event, plus I had the sense that here was a door that I had to try to get through. When my boyfriend agreed that yes, we should go, I was stunned (he’s so much more of a hermit than I am). We bought the various necessary tickets and made the plans and I’ve been thoroughly excited since . . .

But the funny thing is, I can’t quite figure out why I’m excited. I mean, it’s great to be stepping out, finally, into the wider world of Pagandom, meeting people, experiencing different traditions, and delighting in the gathering of the tribes. I find it very ironic, though, that I’m entering this world not as a Pagan, but as a Palera. For whatever reasons of destiny or personal quirks, I never found an expression of Paganism that resonated well with me, or provided a good vessel for my hopes, fears, personal growth or spiritual yearnings. I confess I got rather frustrated with the search, too, and there were more than a few times when I was tempted to write the whole thing off. And apparently the process left a few scars, because I realized the other day that although my identity is still oriented towards Paganism, in a general way, I think of you guys as “you guys” and not “us.”

This is an uncomfortable thing to write, not least because I’m writing it here on The Wild Hunt. The flip side, though, is that I am writing about it on The Wild Hunt, at the same time I’m talking about heading out to PantheaCon. Clearly, those scars don’t run all that deep. And I suppose this could mean that I’m going to PCON to find out why I’m going to PCON – that this is the part of my journey where I get to discover what Pagan things are like outside of my little corner of the Southeast.

There are definitely worse quests to undertake. And I do have some concrete goals and desires for PantheaCon which will keep me busy. There’s the glorious opportunity for networking, for example. I think Pagans and the African Traditional Religions are, or at least should be, natural allies in the contentious religious environment of the U.S., and I hope I can accomplish a little work to that end, even if it’s just swapping a few email addresses. Given that I’m going to meet the redoubtable Wild Hunt-ers in person, I anticipate this will be pretty fun and effective.

I want to see how the other ATR practitioners on the schedule present our religions. And, speaking of events on the schedule, I’m hoping to learn more about how different Pagan groups are doing Ancestor veneration and spirit-work. (Healing the dead, and healing with the aid of the dead, are old interests of mine that I now have the tools to pursue in earnest – and I may be on the verge of becoming something of an evangelist for Ancestor veneration. But that is definitely a topic for another post.) The Circle of Bones ritual, in particular, looks intriguing.

I’m completely stoked about the fact that I’m finally going to be able to meet friends in person who I’ve only ever known online. Also, this is the big opportunity to introduce my boyfriend to my Tata and some of the other folks in my Palo community, which is a small triumph considering we can’t afford to travel to the West Coast very often. And, of course, there’s that  one panel I simply must attend . . .

Roads opening, doors to walk through, quests to undertake. That does sound kind of Pagan, doesn’t it? I’ll be making notes on the journey, and will no doubt write about the adventures when I return. If you’re going to be at PantheaCon too, look for me – my hair’s not blue anymore but is still spiky, and you can’t miss the spiral tattoo on my neck. Come on over and tell me your story. I’m here for the gathering of tribes, after all, and I do want to meet you.

 

I wanted to give a quick update, and say thank you to everyone who has already donated to The Wild Hunt’s inaugural Fall Fund Drive. Thanks to all of you, we’ve raised 25% of our $6000 goal in one day! This makes me very optimistic about not only reaching our goal before the deadline, but surpassing it. Thanks to everyone who has unleashed a link, become a Fall Funder, or decided to become an underwriter of The Wild Hunt, your commitment to Pagan news is what make this possible. If you’ve already donated, please spread the word on to your social networks, and lets end this drive early!

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http://www.indiegogo.com/the-wild-hunt-fall-funding

If you haven’t donated yet, don’t worry, we’ll be here tomorrow! Thanks again, you keep my faith in the idea of Pagan community alive.

Though I’ve written thousands of posts for The Wild Hunt, I couldn’t help but feel a certain sense of excitement writing today’s. Not just because I’ve been away for over a week, but because this is the first post of a newly independent Wild Hunt. A Wild Hunt that, while maintaining many of the things you’ve grown to love about our site, will also see a number of changes. The first will be that The Wild Hunt is no longer a solo venture. I am proud to welcome two new writer/reporters who will be making regular contributions each month here at this site: Rynn Fox and Heather Greene (Miraselena). Both have excellent resumes and backgrounds, and I’m excited about not only for what they’ll bring to you as readers, but also what they’ll allow me to do: spend more time writing and researching original journalism for the Pagan community.

In addition, The Wild Hunt is standing on principle, and will not only be paying our two new reporters, but will also be paying all contributors to the site from this point forward. I’ve seen a troubling trend within our culture to expect content and excellent reporting to happen without support from the community the writers are serving. While there is amazing free content out there, and many, many, talented writers who are doing this for the love of it, I feel there needs to be a space where this work is nurtured, supported, and paid for. From guest posts by top-notch writers like Eric Scott, a contributing editor at Killing The Buddha, to the contemplative writings of Teo Bishop, or the latest breaking story from a Pagan Newswire Collective bureau. So with my first post of the newly independent Wild Hunt, let me announce our annual Fall Funding Drive.

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http://www.indiegogo.com/the-wild-hunt-fall-funding

Over the next month I’m hoping to raise $6000 to not only cover costs here, but to use that money to turn The Wild Hunt into an enterprise that pushes this site to a different level, one that sustains, trains, and propagates excellence in Pagan journalism, analysis, and commentary. Head over to the official IndieGoGo site for a full explanation of what the money will be used for, the various perks of becoming a Wild Hunt funder, and why your donation is so important. So spread the word, and if can, please contribute!

Now, having said all that, it’s been a while since we’ve unleashed those hounds, hasn’t it? Let’s take a look at some stories that have been percolating while I’ve been away.

That’s all I have for now, but expect much more in the days and weeks (and hopefully years) to come! Thanks to all of you for your support, and I hope you’ll spread the word about our Fall Funding Drive and consider donating to help us achieve our goals!

Thanks to Valerie Herron for allowing me the use of her lovely “Cernunnos” illustration for The Wild Hunt.