Archives For Yvonne Aburrow

In recent years, there has been growing public discourse surrounding something called ‘consent culture.’ It has led to the institution of laws and policies, the creation of workshops and launching of public actions in mainstream communities around the world. The prime objective is to confront and end the near passive acceptance of what is termed ‘rape culture’ and to replace it with the promotion and enforcement of positive personal interactions initiated through mutual consent.

[From the Institution for Women]

[From the Institution for Women]

For example, The University of Georgia’s Heath Center joined the “Consent is Sexy” college advocacy campaign. Their website includes a clear definition of what is and isn’t consent. In 2015, the Scottish Police launched a “We Can Stop It” (#wecanstopit) public awareness campaign that featured billboards, press packets, and a clear reminder of the 2009 Sexual Offences Act. In 2013, a number of American advocacy groups launched the “No More” campaign, which gained notoriety when a number of NFL and College football players appeared in a #nomore television commercial.The No More organization,which speaks out about domestic and sexual violence, also sponsored a public service announcement that aired during the XLIX Super Bowl in 2015.

These are only three very visible mainstream examples of a much bigger movement; one that has touched all facets of society, both small and large. And, the collective Pagan, Heathen and Polytheist communities are not exempt from the conversation, becoming increasingly vocal on the topic in recent years.

This past last week, co-editors Christine Hoff Kraemer and Yvonne Aburrow released their anthology Pagan Consent Culture: Building Communities of Empathy and Autonomy. Published by Asphodel Press, Pagan Consent Culture contains 503 pages of essays, personal stories, and resources on the topic of ‘consent culture.’

Kraemer has a Ph.D. in Religious and Theological Studies from Boston University. She is an instructor in theology at Cherry Hill Seminary, a licensed massage therapist and the former editor of Patheos Pagan Channel. Kraemer has authored several books, including Seeking the Mystery: An Introduction to Pagan Theologies and Eros and Touch from a Pagan Perspective: Divided for Love’s Sake. Kraemer believes that the editing of this book was a natural flow out of her previous work.

Aburrow holds a master’s degree in Contemporary Religions and Spiritualities from Bath Spa University. She is a poet, and the author of a number of Pagan books, including All Acts of Love and Pleasure: inclusive Wicca. Aburrow felt that “it was time to do something to promote consent culture.”

PaganConsentCultureAnthologyCover_MediumWe caught up with both women to talk about the book, its place within the global conversation and why it was “time to do something.”

Kraemer said, “Pagans are no different from our wider society when it comes to our struggle to honor each other’s boundaries and treat each other as whole people rather than as objects.” Aburrow added, “​Pagan communities often feel they are immune from the ills that beset the overculture, and we congratulate ourselves on being enlightened about sex and sexuality, but just as much sex-pressuring, slut-shaming, prude-shaming, and gaslighting goes on among Pagans as it does anywhere else.”

Kraemer first stressed the need for creating clear definitions of the various “emotionally loaded” terms used within these conversations.The book’s introduction makes this effort. Kraemer summed it up, saying,”‘Rape culture’ is a culture in which we consider widespread sexual violence to be inevitable. It’s also one in which we dismiss many smaller, daily boundary violations as a normal part of social life.” She added:

Consent culture is all about the practice of respecting others’ autonomy — their ability to make choices for themselves — as well as claiming the right to make one’s own choices. It’s about respecting “yes” as well as “no,” and it’s about far more than just sexuality. Consent culture is about helping a community develop a more robust concept of personhood, and about normalizing behaviors that protect that personhood. It’s about celebrating individual sovereignty, while also exploring how to balance individual sovereignty with community, and honoring each others’ needs.

Pagan Consent Culture is broken up into three sections that contain a total of 33 essays written by an impressive diversity of writers. Aburrow said, “Most of the writers involved had a pretty clear idea of what consent culture is and ​why it is important – after all, a human being is a human being with the same needs for autonomy and respect. What was really interesting was how the contributors relate consent to their own religious, spiritual, mythological, and professional backgrounds and experiences.”

Kraemer agreed, saying, “I think our writers are so acutely aware of differences in expectations based on background and religious tradition that we all advocate for explicit verbal negotiation when it comes to establishing boundaries, especially around touch.”

After an introductory chapter, the first section, titled “Developing Pagan Philosophies of Consent,” leads with essays discussing “Pagan philosophies of consent and tackling complex issues.” The writers contributing to this section include John Beckett, Brandi Williams, Yeshe Rabbit, Helix, Sophia Sheree Martinez, Julian Betkowski, Theo Wildcroft, Raven Kaldera, Grove Harris, A. Acland, Thenea Pantera and Sebastian Lokason.

In the second section titled “Responding to Abuse and Assault,” writers share “personal narratives of abuse and healing.” The contributors include Sarah Twichell Rosehill, Cat Chapin-Bishop, Jason Thomas Pitzl, Shauna Aura Knight, Katessa S. Harkey, Kim and Tracey Dent-Brown, Lydia M. N. Crabtree, Lasara Firefox Allen and Diana Rajchel.

The final section is titled “Building Communities of Autonomy and Empathy.” Along with the included appendix, it provides “resources for teaching and practicing consent culture.” The writers offering insight here are Staśa Morgan-Appel, Tom Swiss, Nadirah Adeye, Zabrine Gray, Sarah Whedon, B.B. Blank, Sable Aradia, Raven Kaldera and Jo Anderson.

[Photo Credit:]

[Photo Credit:]

Aburrow said, “Consent is much the same in the different cultures, but how it plays out in Heathen, Druid​, Wiccan, and Polytheist settings will have different challenges and issues due to the different custom and practice in these traditions.” When asked if, in the editing process, they found any culturally-based differences between themselves, with Aburrow being from the U.K. and Kraemer, from the U.S., Aburrow said yes and she described the nuance:

The UK has a different relationship with Christianity ​(less than 10 percent of the population attends church, though about 70 percent regard themselves as “C of E” according to the census). Since much of Western culture’s attitude to sex is strongly influenced by the Christian obsession with it, I think the U.K.’s attitude to things like nudity, polyamory, kink, and casual sex is very likely to be different from that in the U.S.. The legal framework is rather different too.

As she noted, the U.S.’ age of consent does vary between 16-18. Like the U.K., Canada and Australia both hold 16 to be the age of consent. Even with that distinction made, Aburrow added, “We have Pagan camps and events in the U.K., and it would be great if they took a more robust approach to promoting and supporting consent culture.”

She did go on to say that she was pleased that the Pagan Symposium,”an umbrella group of all the different Pagan organisations in the UK,” endorses a Code of Conduct that supports ‘consent culture.’ Similarly, in recent years, many U.S.-based groups, such as Covenant of the Goddess and Coru Cathudbodua, have instituted organizational consent policies. And conferences and festivals, such as PantheaCon, are tackling the issue as well. That trend is only increasing.

However, the ‘Consent Culture’ movement and the campaigns have been criticized, even by advocates. For example, some feel that, in their simplicity, the mainstream campaigns fail to recognize the complicated entanglements of moral and social constructions that have given rise to ‘rape culture.’ Such campaigns, as illustrated above, are focused specifically on sexual interaction and are gendered, assuming a male attacker and a female victim.

Kraemer remarked that ‘consent culture’ is not only about sexuality. She said, “[It] is about helping a community develop a more robust concept of personhood, and about normalizing behaviors that protect that personhood. It’s about celebrating individual sovereignty, while also exploring how to balance individual sovereignty with community, and honoring each others’ needs.” She added:

For women and minorities, simply being out in the “wrong place” in public can be seen as violating social norms. Violence and the threat of violence are used to try to keep social hierarchy in place. These inequalities can make it very difficult to secure enthusiastic consent to many kinds of interactions.

The issue, or its solution, is more complex than simply “yes” and “no.” And, through the diversity of experiences and religious backgrounds of the included writers, Aburrow and Kraemer attempted to capture the many nuances embedded in the broader and very complicated discussion. Aburrow said:

There are a unique set of issues confronting Paganism – because we are both different from the mainstream, but we arose out the mainstream, and sometimes we are reacting to it, and sometimes we are just echoing it. We need to create communities that don’t replicate or perpetuate the abusive patterns of the overculture. We also have survivors of abuse coming into Paganism from elsewhere who needing healing and welcoming.

When asked if it was difficult to edit a book that handled such a personal and emotionally charged topic, they both emphatically said no. Kraemer said, “I find working with this material to be very heart-opening. We don’t look away from the stories of abuse — we have included some personal narratives, as well as some excellent articles from professional therapists and counselors about how communities can help guard against abuse.” Aburrow agreed, saying, “​It actually felt really great to be doing something positive and worthwhile about this issue.” ​

Pagan Consent Culture is primarily aimed at “Pagans in positions of leadership” but can be useful, as Aburrow noted, to “anyone who is interested in consent​ culture, and in grounding consent culture in a set of ethics and stories.” Kraemer also said, “I hope the book will also be eye-opening for leaders in other religious traditions, who may want to understand more about Pagan ethics in general and Pagan sexual ethics in particular.”

Right now, there is no follow-up book planned. However, Aburrow and Kraemer will, on occasion, expand the material for those “individuals and groups who want to delve more deeply into the topic.” They are also developing a list of “Pagan consent culture consultants — educators who are willing to make themselves available to anyone who needs support around these issues, or who wants to arrange a consent culture training in their area.”

In addition to the text itself, Aburrow and Kraemer have provided a companion study guide. Both the guide and the book are available in digital and paper format through their website and

11169720_10153214795797427_1682418998575965254_oOver this past weekend, Pagans, Heathens and Polytheists from around the country met in Detroit, Michigan for ConVocation. Held annually since 1995, the conference was reportedly once again a huge success. ConVocation is run by the Michigan-based Magical Education Council (MEC), who also sponsors a June Pagan picnic and the “Beyond the Veil” event in October.

Along with its usual merchants room, art show, drum circle and guest speakers, the 2016 event included a number of unique workshops and talks. For example, author and publisher Taylor Ellwood “co-facilitated the Pagan leadership workshop with Annika Mongan and Shauna Aura Knight.” This workshop was inspired by the new Pagan Leadership Anthology edited by Ellwood and Knight, and published by Immanion Press.

Rev. Kirk Thomas and John Drum were both in attendance, offering two different ADF rituals. Circle Sanctuary’s Selena Fox presented her Brigid Healing Ritual, including a special part dedicated to those communities affected by the water crisis in Flint. Similarly, Witchdoctor Utu of the Dragon Ritual Drummers created a sacred altar “to honour and bring forth the spirit of Doctor John Montanee” and led a “Voodoo Rite” for healing and purification. These are only a few of the many diverse offerings at ConVocation.

In retrospect, Utu said, “It can be easy to become jaded among some of the pagan events, especially if you travel to so many of them, but every once and a while we again see a community that is doing it all right and for all the right reasons. I can’t say enough about the staff and support crew of Convocation, for its size it’s a very well put together and organized event. They also find ways to makes sure the event brings all the attendees together, and keeps it cohesive as opposed to scattered, which makes its a lot of fun on top of everything else they provide.”

   *   *   *


This past month, a new group was formed called the Polytheist Death Guild. Its purpose is to open a “broad conversation in polytheist communities about death, dying, and the specific issues they present for polytheists.” Organizers said that they “intend also to provide resources for death preparation and funeral planning, and a library of articles and rituals for polytheists of many traditions.”

The Polytheist Death Guild was founded by Rebecca Lynn Scott, author of A Litany to the Many DeadScott lives in Seattle and has been helping to write “death rituals for the Hellenic Orphic Bacchic tradition known as the Starry Bull.” On the new website, she explains,”Preparing for the deaths of ourselves and our loved ones, mourning, and assuring that our deaths and funerals are what we want them to be: these are important issues that need to be addressed within our communities of faith.”

As of now, the Polytheist Death Guild has a website with a blog, which also includes contact information. The Guild can also be followed on Twitter @polytheistdeath. For those interested in this work, Scott said that they “plan to hold open chats on the first Tuesday and third Friday of the month, starting in March.” Contact the group directly for more information.

   *   *   *


Asphodel Press has just released a new anthology titled Pagan Consent Culture: Building Communities of Empathy & Autonomy. Edited by Yvonne Aburrow and Christine Hoff Kraemer, the book is broken into three parts and offers essays from over thirty different writers.

Aburrow and Kraemer said, “Although many Pagans see the body and sexuality as sacred, Pagan communities still struggle with the reality of assault and abuse. To build consent culture, good consent practices must be embraced by communities, not just by individuals—and consent is about much more than sexuality.” In part one, “writers develop specifically Pagan philosophies of consent, tackling complex issues.” In part two, the writers offer “personal narratives of abuse and healing,” including ways to prevent such cases. Finally, part three “provides resources for teaching and practicing consent culture.”

Pagan Consent Culture is now available in electronic formats or paperback directly from Asphodel Press via

In Other News:

    • While the Feast of Lights, ConVocation and PantheaCon are now over, there are still other conferences just over the horizon. Sacred Space is the next big event. It will be held Mar 10-13, at the Hunt Valley Inn in Hunt Valley, Maryland. Its featured presenters include: Ian Corrigan, Ivo Dominguez Jr. and Ellen Lorenzi-Prince. For up to the minute information on conference details, follow the conference on Facebook.
    • Heathens United Against Racism (HUAR) has announced a May Day event to take place “worldwide.” This event is called “Light the Beacons” and follows the tradition of fire-lighting in order to bring people together. Organizers explain, “On this coming May Day we call on all Heathens around the world who stand for inclusive, tolerant, and diverse practice to light a beacon in solidarity with all other Heathens who stand for these values in our spirituality.” They are asking people around the world to light a candle or even a bonfire on May 1 at any time during that day. After the event is through, they welcome photos of these lights on the event page.
    • After news was announced of John Belham-Payne’s death, the Centre for Pagan Studies and the Doreen Valiente Foundation were overwhelmed with an outpouring of community support. Since The Wild Hunt memorial tribute was published, the trustees of both organizations have set up a special John Belham-Payne Memorial Facebook Page to act as a gathering place for people to share photos and stories. And, in the wake of all those memories, John’s legacy has definitely proven that it will live on. This weekend saw the official launch of the book Doreen Valiente – WITCH.
    • Witch School International has announced that it is now offering “the Correllian First Degree in Spanish.” The course material was translated by Rev. Harwe Tuileva Primavera and uploaded to the school’s site. CEO Charlynn said, “In the coming months we will also be adding other new course materials.”
    • The Dragon Ritual Drummers has announced the release of a new single called The Riders of la Santa Muerte. Witchdoctor Utu said, “With one of our members Flint, being diagnosed with terminal cancer last year, we immersed ourselves in the mysteries of death, with her impending visit soon to arrive, we began to record most of our upcoming CD Dancing with the Dead which haled shortly before his passing.” Utu noted that they have now returned to that music project and decided to release the single in advance. He added that several members do personally venerate Santa Muerte, and often the group will dedicate a piece of music to a “spiritual or tangible force as an offering.” The Dragon Ritual Drummers can be found at Reverbnation.



[Courtesy CPS]

[Courtesy Centre for Pagan Studies]

It was announced on Monday that High Priest, Elder and Witch John Belham-Payne had died from kidney disease. John was Doreen Valiente’s last priest, the co-founder of the Centre for Pagan Studies, and the founder of The Doreen Valiente Foundation. He was a fixture in the UK Pagan community and dedicated to the mission of upholding the values of his teachings and sharing his magical inheritance and all he had learned with others.

John was born Jan. 5, 1952 in Dudley. He showed an early interest in music and the arts, which gave him the foundation that inspired his early career choices. After studying photography in college, John moved to Italy and worked both as a professional musician and bartender. John then returned to the UK and, after a brief stint working at a local zoo, he returned to music, “playing with a number of prominent [bands] as a drummer, and as a professional session player.” His career thrived. He worked both in the UK and in Hollywood, and befriended some of the industry’s biggest notables, such Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham. According to some accounts, John was once asked to join that band, but declined.

by 1980, John had settled back in the UK, and began playing with the Brighton punk band called The Piranhas. However, in 1982, his music career ended abruptly after a serious car accident. Although the incident was career-altering, it opened the doorway for new journeys, one of which was the full exploration of his spirituality.

John had long since giving up going to any church. In the early 1970s, he began to study alternative religions, which led him to Witchcraft. His first formal studies were with traditional Welsh Witches Patricia and John Edwards, who initiated him into the Craft in 1973. After moving away and practicing solitary for years, John found Audrey and Ralph Harvey, who ran the Order and Coven of Artemis, a group founded in 1959. Through their teaching, John returned to group study and was eventually initiated into their coven.

Over time John began to recognize the need for a central and credible educational space for “those wishing to learn for themselves […] about the ancient religions of the world.” He himself had struggled to find good teachers and safe places to practice. With that in mind, he, along with his wife Julie, established the Centre for Pagan Studies (CPS) in 1995, setting up shop in the 18th-century barn that rested on their property in Sussex. Over the next five years, prominent speakers and teachers from across England visited CPS to share their practice and pass on quality information to new seekers. The centre also offered a private space for ritual and celebrations.


At the Gerald Gardner Blue Plaque Ceremony 2014 [Courtesy Yvonne Aburrow]

It was during this time that John met Doreen Valiente. She was invited to a Samhain celebration at the centre and became an immediate fan of its work. After some time, John began to study with Doreen, who eventually initiated him to his 3rd degree and made him her High Priest. But then in 1999, Doreen became ill. Before she died, John learned that he was to inherit her entire Witchcraft and magical collection, including books, manuscripts, artifacts and even items of Gerald Gardner’s.

According to sources close to John, Doreen told him, “You can do anything you want with it, you can sell it, you can give it away, you can set fire to it, but one thing I know is that when the time comes you will do the right thing.” When the time came, John performed her funeral rites and said, “goodbye.” But, he could not forget her words and, therefore, he made a new life commitment. In doing so, his journey would change again.

In 2000, he and Julie moved to Spain and opened a design business called Pueblo Interiors. They began to sort through and restore Doreen’s enormous collection. In addition, the Centre for Pagan Studies, which had lost its physical space in the move, continued to press forward with its own educational mission. John’s life became dedicated not only to the sharing of accurate Craft information but also to the protecting and preserving of its past.

In 2011, John helped to establish the Doreen Valiente Foundation, “as a charitable trust.” Shortly after, it took legal possession of Doreen’s collection and, ever since, its trustees have been working on a number of projects to preserve and share Doreen’s legacy, as was John’s mission. To date, that work has included the publishing of stories, books, poetry, her biography and more.

John was passionate about this work. In recent months, his time was dedicated to the upcoming book release of Doreen Valiente: Witch and the two formal Witchcraft exhibitions that will open in Brighton in 2016. Unfortunately, John would not live to see all of these dreams fully realized. His illness caught up with him and ended his life before a single ribbon cutting on even the very first of the two exhibitions. John died at home peacefully, surrounded by family.

Here are some words shared by friends who were close to him. Ashley Mortimer, a Trustee of the Doreen Valiente Foundation said:

[John] and I connected when we first met, I think he writes somewhere that it was one of those meetings where we both knew something would come out of it – I’m ashamed to admit I didn’t share his insight at the time. But through our friendship he changed me; he helped me to find my way to being able to recognise the magic at work in those moments of chance. […] John, in his amiable, gentle, kindly and really really strong and firm way helped me to see how others could be helped too – those looking, seeking for a path who don’t need to be placed or pushed onto it, but shown how to find it for themselves. So I’ll keep all my promises to him, I’ll pick up whatever mantle he wanted to give me and I’ll promise to try to wear it lightly as he always did. I can’t do anything else.

Mike Stygal, President of the Pagan Federation, said:

John was a lovely, dedicated, determined, passionate, compassionate man. John was a good friend to Paganism and Wicca and John was also my friend. Death has been cruel in snatching him away before he could get to see the opening of the exhibition that was such a major part of what he’d been working towards since Doreen Valiente died in 1999. But his vision will be realised, and will be a tribute to his work in preserving the memory of Doreen Valiente.

 Yvonne Aburrow, author and blogger, said:

I am very sad to hear of John’s passing. He was a really nice man who worked incredibly hard to get the blue plaques on Doreen Valiente’s block of flats and Gerald Gardner’s house, and ensure that Doreen’s priceless collection of Wiccan artefacts are safe for posterity. I saw him at Witchfest and we had a hug. He was always kind and welcoming. He was so excited about the upcoming exhibitions about Doreen in Brighton that he worked so hard to get off the ground. He will be sorely missed. My heart goes out to his wife Julie (also a lovely kind human being), his family, and all who knew him. May he rest well in the Summerlands and be reborn among us.

From the Doreen Valiente Collection [Courtesy D. Romero]

From Doreen Valiente Collection [Photo Credit: D. Exposito Romero]

John’s reach traveled far beyond the borders of the UK Pagan community. Daniel Expósito Romero, Pagan Federation International, wrote:

I first met John, together with Julie, in 2011, when they both attended the pagan conference I organised in Madrid. From the very beginning the both struck me as genuine and committed people. They drove all the way from Benalmádena to Madrid, carrying some of the renowned artifacts from Doreen Valiente just to offer the attendees a unique chance to see them, and to hear some of John’s stories. […] Later on, I was honored to be able to translate ‘Where Witchcraft Lives’, Doreen’s first book, to Spanish. This project, together with my work in PFI (of which John was a great supporter) allowed me to get to know him a bit more.

John was very kind person, who not only helped other people, but also acknowledged their effort. He truly valued and appreciated them, and was always willing to show it. He always talked about Doreen with great enthusiasm, like some he profoundly admired and who inspired him. With his stories, he had the ability to bring her back to life. During his last years, and since Doreen’s passing, he committed himself to the titanic task of setting up the foundation and taking good care of her legacy. Some may feel that he didn’t get to finish this (and I’m sure that, wherever he is, he feels the same way); but this is the work of a lifetime! And, in fact, he has already accomplished many things with the foundation and the centre. I’m sure others will now take over and continue his work. I’m also sure that he will be back with his loved ones, to remember, and love them again. Blessed Be!

Link, the National Coordinator for the Pagan Federation International – U.S., said:

I met John in 2014 when he and his wife Julie came to Florida to give a presentation about Doreen’s life. They visited my home the night before, and it was an excellent opportunity to learn about important pieces of Craft history. John had a way of telling a story with such charisma that the entire audience was completely engaged…The world lost a great person today, but it is times like these that try our personal beliefs about what life, death and rebirth really are.  While it is natural to mourn John’s death, hopefully we will celebrate his life.

In the Pagan world and beyond, John was admired and loved, as a teacher, musician, friend, husband, father, Witch and priest. His spiritual work began as a typical personal journey, just as many do, but ended with the legacy of a lifetime. He walked a religious path that led him into a legend, whose challenge he took up with grace, integrity and passion. John will be missed by the many people he personally touched over the years. But he and his work will live on through the organizations that he supported and through the realization of his dreams. Just as Doreen passed a light to him to share with the world, he has passed that same light to others who will now carry his vision far into the future.

To the very end, he “did the right thing.” What is remembered, lives. 

 *   *   *

Note: All words of condolences can be sent to the Centre for Pagan Studies or Doreen Valiente Foundation, through their Facebook pages or email. The family has also set up an memorial fund and ask that, in lieu of flowers, people donate to this fund to support the continuation of John’s work. All money donated will be used to help finance the upcoming Brighton exhibitions and others in the future.

shawnus2We were recently informed that Lord Shawnus, High Priest of Pennsylvania’s Coven of the Catta has passed away. Born in 1951, Lord Shawnus, also known as Gary Lee Hoke, was an initiate of Lady Phoebe Athene Nimue. He met her in 1981 and, through her teachings, pursued his degrees within that tradition. After seven years, he earned his third and stayed on with Lady Phoebe. He eventually took over the role of High Priest.

In 2011, Lord Shawnus appeared on Animal Planet’s original show “The Haunted.” The show features a couple who moved into the house previously owned by Coven of the Catta founder Dr. Santee. In his interviews, Lord Shawnus attempts to “set the record straight” about his coven’s founder and the practice of Witchcraft.

In 2012, Lord Shawnus began blogging regularly at both of his own site and the coven’s. He also created two pdf documents detailing the long history of his coven. In early 2014, Lord Shawnus also recorded his own struggle to clarify Pennsylvania’s marriage laws, in terms of a Wiccan clergy’s right to officiate. After contacting several Pagan organizations for advice, including Covenant of the Goddess and Lady Liberty League, Lord Shawnus found a lawyer who helped work through the definitions and restrictions. His effort not only clarified the laws for his own coven and practice, but also for the local county courthouse who had been unclear as well.

Lord Shawnus was a dedicated Wiccan practitioner and Priest of the Craft. He will be missed by his students and fellow clergy. What is remembered, lives.

*   *   *

Bell Book Candle

Another metaphysical store, Bell, Book and Candle, announced that it would be closing its doors. The owners explain, “We have been losing money for quite some time and cannot afford to stay open.”

Located in Dover Delaware, Bell, Book and Candle was first opened in 2001, and was imagined as “an old-style general store in that [they] carry a bit of everything and are willing to order or to track down unusual items.” As the owners note, the store is owned by witches who “know what they are doing.”

However, times have changed, and the store will be closing permanently on June 24. Starting today, the store is offering deep discounts, and after July 11, it will accept only cash purchases. In addition, the owners will be selling the building itself.

However, they were quick to note that the popular Delmarva Pagan Festival will happen as planned. And, the book signing with author Courtney Weber, scheduled for July 25, will also be held, but at a new location.

*   *   *


Aline “Macha” O’Brien

Over the weekend, it was reported that Aline ‘Macha’ O’Brien had a stroke and had been rushed to Marin General Hospital. The stroke occurred Friday night, while O’Brien was home. She was quickly transported to the closest hospital, where she was treated. O’Brien has since been moved to Kaiser Terra Linda in San Rafael for further treatment and therapy.

O’Brien is a longtime witch, Priestess, ritualist and member of the Bay Area Pagan community. She is one of the original members of the Reclaiming Tradition, founded in the 1970s. Currently,O’Brien is an active member of Covenant of the Goddess, a regular presenter at PantheaCon, a representative of Cherry Hill Seminary, and a participant in the Marin Interfaith Council. And, that just scratches the surface of her work. O’Brien is also a speaker and writer. She blogs regularly about her journeys at The Broomstrick Chronicles.

O’Brien’s family is reporting that she is doing well and that the stroke was minor. She is now in recovery and in good spirits. She is thankful for all the healing prayers and has plans to return to her work as soon as possible.

In Other News

  • Another Parliament announcement occurred this week. P. Sufenas Virius Lupus had one of three proposals accepted by the Council and will be presenting “Religion, Youth, and Gender/Sexuality: Towards Collaborative Solutions to a Simple Problem.” In a blog post, Lupus explains, “This program is primarily concerned with one aspect of the “Wars, terrorism, and hate speech” subtheme, since hate speech–often of a religious nature–is frequently employed against people of LGBTQIA+ identities, and is a mainstay of the language used to bully and harass young people.” In addition, e has launched a crowdfunding campaign to help offset the cost of travel to the global October event.
  • On Patheos’ Sermons from the Mound, Yvonne Aburrow offers an overview of the recent debates that have hit or meandered through the collective Pagan, Heathen and Polytheist communities over the past few years. In a post called “Paganism for Beginners: Controversies,” Aburrow writes, “These controversies and discussions raise important questions of who we are, how we relate to each other as a community and individually, what we hold sacred, and how we relate to deities and the world around us.”
  • In a rare event, a group of the Patheos Pagan Channel writers came together to talk about deity on June 17. The long conversation was then edited and published in an article titled, “Atheism, Polytheism and Pagans: A Discussion.” The bloggers included Niki Whiting, Jason Mankey, Molly Khan, John Halstead, Rua Lupa, Shauna Aura Knight, Dana Corby, and Lilith Dorsey. As explained by Mankey, the channel’s managing editor, “In the blogosphere we often talk at each other and never seem to talk with each other enough. This discussion was an attempt to rectify that.

Lifting the Veil

  • Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone’s latest book, Lifting the Veil: a Witches Guide to Trance-Prophesy, Drawing Down the Moon, and Ecstatic Ritual, was originally slated to be published in May. However, that date was pushed back. In a Facebook post, the authors explained, “There has been a lot of tweeking done on it to get it perfect.” They are currently working on “sorting out illustrations and endorsements.” At this time, the book’s Amazon listing displays an August 17 availability date, but Farrar and Bone are saying September. Either way, for those eagerly awaiting the new book, it should be available by early fall.
  • The 12th Conference on Current Pagan Studies has announced its 2016 theme and call for papers. Next year’s subject is “Social Justice.” Organizers say, “We face issues of social justice everywhere we look, from something as overwhelming as #blacklivesmatter to the seeming trivial Wiccanate privilege. Like the innumerable heads of the Lernaean Hydra, it seems that every time we manage to quell an issue involving racism, sexism, or privilege, two more such issues appear.” The 2016 conference will focus on this topic, “encompassing issues concerning racism, feminism, womanism, eco-justice, food security, gender justice, classism, neo-colonialism, etc. seen through the eyes of our scholars/activists.” Abstracts are due by September 20. The Conference itself will be held January 23-24 2016, in Claremont, California.

That’s it for now. Have a great day!

yvonne burrowReview: All Acts of Love and Pleasure: Inclusive Wicca. Written by Yvonne Aburrow (Avalonia Press, 276 Pages)

Early in my studies I spent a lot of time pouring over books to learn how to be a witch, and those introductory books were plentiful. I absorbed so much information about the elements, circle casting, the deities, and magic during that time, then relearned most of it when I later entered formal studies.

The “New Age” section of the bookstore has since lost its appeal. Most of the books sitting there are more additions to the Wicca 101 genre, with one recipe after another for invocations and spells. While some of these books offer beautiful and inspiring poetry and ritual ideas, few of them inspire critical thinking and practice examination. However, this is exactly what I found in Yvonne Aburrow’s All Acts of Love and Pleasure: Inclusive Wicca.

Aburrow begins by stating “[t]he aim of the book is to act as a guide to existing initiatory covens who want to make their practice more inclusive.” She says that inclusive Wicca is not a specific tradition but is “about including all participants regardless of sexual orientation, disability, or other differences, not by erasing or ignoring the distinctions, but by working with them.”

Why would Pagans need to read a book like this? The assumption is that we’re so accepting. We’re so open-minded. We’re so progressive and enlightened and… well, cool. Compared to other unnamed religions, absolutely. However, there is always room for improvement, though, and awareness is the first step.

Early in the book, Aburrow tackles the issue of sexuality and gender. To illustrate her point that Wicca tends toward heterocentrism and genderism, she explores the duotheistic belief that “all Goddesses are one Goddess and all Gods are one God.” She writes:

As the divine couple are then understood to be lovers, this again excludes LGBT practitioners. It is also a problem for those people of either gender who do not particularly identify with or relate to the predominant archetypes associated with the divine couple.

Aburrow goes on to say “the gender binary is the notion that cisgender heterosexual pairs are the norm and that everything in the universe resembles a cisgender heterosexual couple. We need to expand the model to include different genders and sexual orientations.” It is common, in my experience, for people to encourage practitioners to think of this as the union of “masculine” and “feminine” energies, but regardless of metaphysical semantics, it can still feel exclusive especially since “masculine” and “feminine” are so often used interchangeably with “male” and “female.”

Polarity, however, is such a foundation in Wiccan practice – how could we displace the sexual union of the Divine Couple to be more inclusive and still function? Aburrow suggests a focus instead on the dance of light and dark as seen in the seasons or making the primary polarity the “interaction between self and other, lover and beloved (rather than as male and female),” or even primordial ocean and lightning bolt. I found myself wondering how much rituals, especially at Beltane, would change if groups wholeheartedly embraced “[t]he ultimate polarity is not male and female – it transcends gender.”

While the entire book could have been written on LGBT inclusiveness (indeed, there are several), Aburrow ventures into the idea of inclusiveness on a number of other topics as well. One that stands out is the chapter called “The Nature of Truth.” In this section, Aburrow explores the meaning of truth, scientific truths, mythological truth, and absolute truth, leading up to the conclusion that truth is uncertain. She writes:

Because we are not certain about the existence or the nature of deities, it is good to allow for a diversity of views, including atheism, agnosticism, monism, pantheism, duotheism, polytheism, polymorphism, and so on. Many Wiccans hold more than one of those beliefs at the same time, or change their minds about the nature of deities…  Wicca is primarily an existential religion, so there is no real imperative for everyone to agree on theology.

I sat with this idea for a while. A long while. I had never considered that some Wiccans could be duotheistic while others were polytheistic or monistic. I (perhaps wrongly) assumed that all Wiccans were pantheistic or at least animistic. After reading this chapter, I found myself wondering if we could still consider Wicca a religion if we had no generally agreed upon idea of what deity was, and especially if deity even existed. I realized at that point that it had been nearly two decades since I had my head buried in my Sociology of Religion text books, and that perhaps I needed to refresh my memory on the current working definition of “religion.”

The Oxford Dictionary defines religion as “the belief and worship of a superhuman controlling power.” That seemed too limiting and rigid, and does not really apply to Wicca. Merriam-Webster defined it as “the belief in a god or in a group of gods, an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or group of gods, or an interest, a belief, or an activity that is very important to a person or group.” This seemed too broad. I really love spinning yarn, and I particularly love doing so in a group of other spinners, but that does not make it a religion.

Then I came across this page of definitions on Religious, and remembered why I disliked sociology with all of its rambling academic ponderings. I ultimately gave up on my quest for an operationalized definition. But I still wondered, what would I do as a teacher and coven-leader if someone who identified as an atheist wanted to be initiated into Wicca?

As open as I am to students having their own idea of deity and of their idea being different from my own, and as open as I am to the idea that a person can be Pagan and atheist, I don’t yet know how open I would be to initiating a person into Wicca who felt certain there is no Goddess or God. At what point can we draw the line in the sand and say “This is what it means to be a Wiccan?” Then I recalled a New York Times article about the decline of Christianity being partially due to changes occurring in the some of the more liberal branches. Writer Ross Douthat argues:

…the leaders of the Episcopal Church and similar bodies often don’t seem to be offering anything you can’t already get from a purely secular liberalism. Which suggests that perhaps they should pause, amid their frantic renovations, and consider not just what they would change about historic Christianity, but what they would defend and offer uncompromisingly to the world. Absent such a reconsideration, their fate is nearly certain: they will change, and change, and die.

I wondered if this could be the fate of Wicca should our quest for inclusiveness leave us without a central and uncompromising set of beliefs?

I don’t have the answer, just a whole lot of questions. This, however, was my favorite aspect of Aburrow’s book: it inspires critical thinking about my own beliefs and practices as a Wiccan and a teacher. And, my comfort with the uncertainty it evokes is a compliment to the sociology major I so despised.

Yvonne Aburrow is the author of eight published works, of which All Acts of Love & Pleasure: Inclusive Wicca is the most recent. The book is published through Avalonia press and is available on their website,, and through major online retailers.


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. Our 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!

Doreen Valiente Foundation

On Thursday, Nov. 20, the Doreen Valiente Foundation (DVF) made a statement regarding the local showing of a horror film called The Wicca Man.” The Liverpool Echo described the film, directed by Jacqueline Kirkham, as being “inspired by notorious Blundellsands-born satanist Gerald Gardner” and, as reported, is about a filmmaker who “[infiltrates] a witches’ coven with disastrous consequences.”

After the article was published, the Foundation became inundated with requests to respond to the film and subsequent media coverage. However, DVF opted to issue a statement to its community and supporters instead. The message read, in part, “We don’t encourage public displays of outrage on behalf of Witches or Pagans in relation to this movie specifically. We believe that a low-budget, local movie  for which even the local paper story could only attract 3 comments, mostly criticising the film for being poorly made, doesn’t deserve such attention and is best left to be ignored … That’s NOT to say that we don’t believe in standing up for the rights of Witches and Pagans not to be defamed! We just think that it is a long war to fight and picking the battlefields is the strategic key to success.” To read the full statement and reasoning, go to the Foundation’s site.

 *   *   *

michigan_council_of_covens_solitaires_gift_box-re9f68ce3c3b84d1fabcf66bb8b6f8a0c_aglbn_8byvr_324The Michigan Council of Covens & Solitaires (MCCS) has launched its Yuletide/Christmas “Adopt A Family” program. Organizers explain, “Every year there are children in the U.S. that go without presents for Christmas. There are children right here in Michigan that wonder where their next meal is coming from. DHS doesn’t cover everything, that’s where other organizations like MCCS step in.”

MCCS is holding a food and toy drive through Dec. 13 at The Smokey Crystal in Woodhaven, Michigan. Monetary gifts are also being accepted and will be used to purchase needed items that were not donated directly. The website also contains a link to the form used to nominate a family that may be in need of help this holiday season.

*   *   *

{0b895c50-c9a2-db11-a735-000c2903e717}Over the past weekend, the American Academy of Religions held its annual meeting in San Diego. There were many Pagans in attendance including Sabina Magliocco Ph.D., M. Macha Nightmare, Jeffrey Albaugh, Chas Clifton, Amy Hale, Wendy Griffin, Rev. Patrick McCollum and others. The organization itself, as well as attendees, live tweeted with the hashtag #sblaar14 and #aar.

This year’s AAR meeting included discussions on climate change. During the event, AAR, in conjunction with the Public Religion Research Institute, released a report titled: “Believers, Sympathizers, and Skeptics: Why Americans are Conflicted about Climate Change, Environmental Policy, and Science.” The report was compiled from the “findings from the PRRI/AAR Religion, Values, and Climate Change Survey.” We will be reporting more on the AAR Pagan experience in the near future.


In Other News:

  • Yvonne Aburrow announced the release of her book All Acts of Love & Pleasure: Inclusive Wicca. Published by Avalonia Press, the book “is a companion guide to inclusive Wicca, which includes all participants regardless of sexual orientation, disability, age, or other differences, not by erasing or ignoring the distinctions, but by working with them creatively within initiatory Craft.” It is currently available for pre-order.
  • Photographer Daragh McDonagh left his adopted city of New York to return to his Irish homeland and “reconnect with the natural world.” After some time, he turned parts of his experience into a series of photographs that explore Irish Shamanism. The resulting collection is called: Daragh McDonagh: The Modern Pagan. McConagh told The British Journal of Photography that, in the photographs, he attempted to capture “a compelling presence that in some way reflects the inner spirituality of each sitter.” Some of his striking photos can be seen on the magazine’s website.
  • “Lithuania Romuva elected a new guide, Inija Trinkūnienė,” as announced by ECER. Trinkūnienė has the distinction of being the first woman ever elected to this position of Kriva (supreme priestess). According to ECER, her election was part of broader discussions on “looking forward” into the religion’s future.
  • Chas Clifton announced the release of a new anthology called Sexuality and New Religious Movements published by Palgrave Macmillan. According to a blurb on Amazon, “Issues relating to sexuality, eroticism and gender are often connected to religious beliefs and practices, but also to prejudices against and fear of religious groups that adopt alternative approaches to sexuality.” The book explores the subject through a number of different religions. Clifton is one of the essayists, and the co-editor is Henry Bogdan of The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies and Aries: Journal for the Study of Western Esotericism.
  • On Nov. 20, Mythicworlds announced that “Einar Selvik, founder of the acclaimed Nordic band, WARDRUNA and a composer for the hit series, VIKINGS, on the History Channel will make his premiere appearance at Mythicworlds in Seattle on February 20-22.” He will be doing three workshops and talking about his involvement on Vikings.

That is all for now. Enjoy your 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!

pageHeaderTitleImageThe Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies, has just published a special double-sized edition, catching the publication up after a delay. Quote: “Welcome to a double issue of The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies. We regret that our publication has fallen behind schedule, but this 2013 double issue will help bring it more in synch with the calendar. Thanks to guest editors [Manon Hedenborg-White] and Inga Bårdsen Tollefsen, both of the University of Tromsø, Norway, this issue includes a section of interesting papers on gender issues within several varieties of contemporary Paganism and occultism, ranging from Canada to Russia.” Also covered are articles responding to a 2012 critique of Pagan Studies. There are also a number of interesting (and free to download) book reviews. 

The Druid NetworkThe Druid Network performed a global ritual in honor of peace on August 10th. Quote: “Last night, on 10 August 2014 members of the international organisation, The Druid Network, performed a ritual all across the globe in honour of peace. Crises of war are happening all over the globe, and members of TDN gathered together on the member-only social network site to discuss matters. What evolved was the creation of a ritual for peace, that could be enacted by anyone, anywhere, at this August Supermoon. Over 300 people responded to the Facebook event, and even more Pagans from all over the globe performed either this version or their own with the intention of creating peace.” The press release includes the ritual format shared amongst the participants, and they intend to perform the ritual at every following full moon.

Kraemer-Eros-Touch-coverEditors Christine Hoff Kraemer and Yvonne Aburrow have announced a call for entires in a new anthology concerning Pagan consent culture. Quote: “This collection will define Pagan consent culture; articulate widely-held Pagan theologies of the body; examine theological resources in various Pagan traditions for building consent culture; explore strategies for making seeking consent to touch a normal community practice; give recommendations for safeguarding policies at events for children and adults; provide procedures for communities to use when responding to accusations of sexual abuse; consider the role of unequal power dynamics in relationships in Pagan communities; and examine the ethics of sexual initiation, erotic healing, and other Pagan religious practices involving the ritual use of touch.” The deadline for first full drafts is Feb 1, 2015.

Janie Felix

Janie Felix

We had previously reported on the case of Janie Felix and Buford Coone, members of the Order of the Cauldron of the Sage, who had challenged a 10 Commandments monument being erected on government property in New Mexico. Well, on August 7th, a federal judge ruled that the monument was unconstitutional. We reached out to Janie Felix, who sent us the following statement: “We are delighted (the many people I represented) with the court’s decision.  It feels that the law was upheld and that the court reflected the Founding Father’s plan for our country.  This is an important victory for all the non-Christian folks here in New Mexico and around the country … I, personally, hope that the monument will be removed to a prominent spot on the grounds of the largest local church where it can be admired and not impinge on the lawful rights of the non-Christian community here in Bloomfield.  It saddens me that the local comments in dissent to the ruling reflect the prejudices of the folks in favor of the monument staying where it is rather than understanding the reasons for the suit in the first place. Comments were made, i.e. ‘if she doesn’t like it, she doesn’t have to look at it’ … ‘she can just move’ … ‘she is ruining our country.’   We, the plaintiffs, have always expressed that this was impinging on our rights as citizens and was not opposition to the commandments per se.  By staying out of all matters of faith and spirituality, the government gives all religions an equal chance to thrive in our country.  Indeed, that was the purpose of the religious liberty causes in the 1st amendment.” 

open_halls_squareLast week we reported on the news of the Air Force adding “Asatru” and “Heathen” to their religious preferences list. For more on the background of this story, check out The Norse Mythology Blog’s interview with Master Sergeant Matt Walters, who worked with the Open Halls Project to make it happen. Quote: “I got a notification that it would be shortly that the approval would go through, and on a whim I decided to check. Apparently only hours before I checked, the personnel office had made the inclusion of the two requested denominations, and I was able to officially be recognized as a heathen. Now any airman can identify themselves as Ásatrú or Heathen in their military records, if they wish.”

Victor_WellesleyVictor Kazanjian, the Executive Director of the United Religions Initiative (URI), was hosted at a reception held by the Northern California Local Council of the Covenant of the Goddess (COG). Quote: “This was an opportunity for him to meet the Pagan community of the San Francisco Bay Area and for us to meet him.  A reasonable sample of the many groups of the Bay Area attended.  The Fellowship of the Spiral Path graciously donated their monthly time-slot at the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists (BFUU) hall as a welcoming space to hold the reception. […] I have the highest of hopes for Victor, and the URI, and for the growing relationship between the URI and the Pagan community of the Bay Area and the world.  I will give everyone a chance to introduce their groups soon, but first it is both a pleasure and a privilege to welcome Victor Kazanjian.” Be sure to also check out COG Interfaith Reports blog for their summary report on the Global Indigenous Initiative meeting

Book-Fault-Lines-Gus-DizeregaThe results for the 2014 Independent Book Awards have been released, and Gus diZerega’s “Fault Lines: The Sixties, the Cultural War, and the Return of the Divine Feminine” won the Silver prize in the New Age/Mind-Body-Spirit category. DiZerega’s book was tied for Silver with “Garden of Bliss: Cultivating the Inner Landscape for Self-Discovery” by Debra Moffitt, which was published by Llewellyn Worldwide. Quote from the book’s blurb: “The United States is suffering its greatest upheaval since the Civil War—politically, economically, socially and religiously. In Fault Lines: The Sixties, the Culture War, and the Return of the Divine Feminine, author Gus diZerega explores the complex causes leading us to this point, comparing them to giant fault lines that, when they erupt, create enormous disturbance and in time new landscapes.”

Pantheon FoundationWith the Pantheon Foundation’s funding campaign for The Diotima Prize successful, the process to award the prize has begun. A selection committee has been announced, as well as an essay contest to decide the winner. Quote: “The Pantheon Foundation, dedicated to building 21st century infrastructure for Pagans, calls for you to apply to receive the Diotima Prize. By the power of the Pagan community’s generosity $1,000 has been crowd-funded to support your studies this year. Send us a 1,000 word essay on the nature of Paganism and Pagan ministry, and the author of the best, selected by our committee, will be awarded this year’s prize.” Deadline for essays is September 1st. Applicants must be currently in an accredited seminary program.

Patrick McCollum in IndiaA crowd-funding campaign is has been launched to help fund Pagan activist and chaplain Patrick McCollum’s participation in several world peace-oriented Fall events. Quote: “While Patrick’s service and presence at these powerful events is clearly of high value, the organizers of the events do not have the financial means to provide for his airfare. Our desire is not only to get him there, but to insure his safe travels and maximize the outreach of the important messages he has to share. We are aiming to raise $6,000 for this trip. What this would afford us are the round-trip tickets to India for Patrick and to have some money for other travel expenses. It will also be used to support the youth. If we receive more than our funding needs, the extra money will go towards the foundation and to supporting the various work that Patrick is a part of.” McCollum’s efforts were recently mentioned in the LA Times.

10541858_10152353140474755_4646233186467081917_nDebbie Chapnick, owner of Datura Press, has released a new book that melds tarot and food entitled: “The Journey of the Food, Snacking your way through the Tarot.” Quote: “In a deep sleep a voice said to me ‘The eight of swords… that’s a Mississippi mud cake’. The phrase repeated over and over again. When I finally woke up in the morning I was exhausted, but I knew what I had to do… write a cookbook! That’s where it began, ‘The Journey of the Food.’ I cook for my friends all of the time and get hired to do desserts for the occasional party. It was the perfect for me. The two things I love doing the most all together.” You can order yours by emailing Chapnick at:

David Oliver Kling

David Oliver Kling

Pagan learning institution Cherry Hill Seminary has announced that that faculty member David Kling, M.Div., will serve as the new Chair of the Department of Ministry, Advocacy & Leadership. Quote: “I started the long journey to become a chaplain after my mother and I made the decision to take my father off life support. During the seven months he was in critical care not once did we see a chaplain. His death was particularly difficult for me and every death I experience since transforms me. It is my intention to be of service to others who are suffering physically, emotionally, or spiritually. It is a wonderful yet often very emotionally painful career path, I cannot imagine doing anything else. I may not have had a chaplain when I needed one, but I hope I can be there for others when they need one. […] It is my hope that I can assist current and incoming students navigate through their programs successfully and graduate and settle into various ministry and leadership roles that will be as fulfilling for them as mine is for me.”

1980427_666404363420110_559223200_oCamilla Laurentine has issued a call for submissions for a new devotional anthology dedicated to the Beloved Dead. Quote: “Calling for submissions for Crossing the River: A Devotional to Our Beloved Dead, edited by Camilla Laurentine (and possibly others to sign on at a later date). Submissions open August 7th, 2014 and close February 28th, 2015. The intention of this devotional is to build a source book of modern meditations, hymns, prayers, and other resources for death workers working in our greater community. All Pagan and Polytheist traditions are welcome and encouraged to submit to this project. Submissions should fall into one of three categories: Vigil of the Dying, For the Recently Deceased, and Funerary Tools. They may include, but are not limited to meditations, poems, hymns, prayers, original retellings of myths, rituals, and scholarly articles with a focus on historical practices within one’s tradition. Artwork is also welcome and encouraged with a preference for pieces that are easily reproduced in black and white.”

a3269500119_2Sharon Knight and Winter have announced a collaboration with urban fantasy author author Ellie Di Julio, a collection of songs based on the work  “The Transmigration of Cora Riley.” Quote: “Sharon Knight and Winter, have teamed up with author Ellie Di Julio to produce original songs inspired by her urban fantasy novel, “The Transmigration of Cora Riley.” This album tells three different character stories – Cora’s, Jack’s, and the Mistress’ – through their own eyes, echoing the book’s themes of change and desire. The sound ranges from light-hearted pop to driving metal to haunting folksong, giving each character their own flavor and adding new layers of meaning to the original text.”

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.

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.

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

Oberon Zell

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

Chas Clifton

Chas Clifton

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

Sarah Anne Lawless

Sarah Anne Lawless

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

Yvonne Aburrow

Yvonne Aburrow

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

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

Anomalous Thracian

Anomalous Thracian

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

T. Thorn Coyle

T. Thorn Coyle

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

Glen Gordon

Glen Gordon

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

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

Sam Webster

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

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

This week a law was passed that will make same-sex marriage legal in England and Wales. The landmark legislation, approved by Queen Elizabeth II, clears the way for legal marriages to start in 2014. The way the new law is structured, religious organizations must “opt in” in order to perform a legally binding ceremony. This historic move follows recent advances for same-sex marriage in parts of the United States and for all of France. Just as I collected reactions from modern Pagans in America following the DOMA/Prop 8 Supreme Court decisions, so too did I want to see how Pagans in England and Wales felt about this development.


Mike Stygal, President of the Pagan Federation, celebrated the “wonderful development,” though pointed out that inequalities remained.

Mike Stygal

Mike Stygal

“Finally the Marriage Act (same sex) has made it through all the hoops our political system presents. This wonderful development is the result of many, many years of persistent effort to secure equality for the LGBT community. There are still inequalities towards LGBT that will need to be challenged and that will require persistent effort to overcome. There are still inequalities with regard to spirituality and faith too. The Pagan Federation is no stranger to persistent effort to challenge and change inequalities and we know just how hard it is to achieve success. Congratulations to all those people who kept at the cause of legal same sex marriage, and to all those who challenge inequality, take heart that inequality can be beaten.”

Yvonne Aburrow, a Pagan from Oxford who also writes for the Patheos blog Sermons From The Mound, noted that Pagans in England and Wales cannot perform legal wedding ceremonies of any kind (which became a point of contention in the lead-up to this law being passed), though was still “delighted” over this advance for marriage equality in the UK.

Yvonne Aburrow

Yvonne Aburrow

“I am delighted that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people can now marry someone of the same sex in England and Wales, and that some religious groups will be able to marry same-sex couples in their places of worship. Unitarians, Quakers, and Liberal Jews campaigned particularly hard on this, and Derek McAuley, Unitarian Chief Officer, Paul Parker (Recording Clerk, Quaker Yearly Meeting), and Rabbi Danny Rich, should be applauded for their lobbying efforts. It is a shame that Pagans in England and Wales are unable to marry either opposite-sex or same-sex couples in a legal ceremony, but it looks as if the House of Lords have left open the possibility of humanist weddings, and weddings for other religions too.”

Aburrow added that her optimism was “cautious” and that “tomorrow, we keep fighting for LGBT rights around the world, and for human rights generally. Until it is safe everywhere to be Black, disabled, LGBT, a woman, or a member of a religious minority, then our work is not yet done.”

Like Aburrow and Stygal, Sophia Catherine of the Divine Community podcast brought up the fact that Pagan weddings can still only be symbolic in nature, and not legally binding, but also raised true gender equality as a primary concern.

“My one sadness about this Act is that, initially, it was to be called the Equal Marriage Act, but the name was changed to make it clear that ‘same-sex’ marriage was involved. There are more than two genders, and that the Act upholds the gender binary that society is obsessed with. However, this Act does take a step forward, in that regard, Under the Gender Recognition Act 2004, for mixed-sex married couples where one member changed their legal sex, the couple had to divorce and obtain a civil partnership. Now that marriage is available to all regardless of sex/gender, this will no longer be the case. It is a shame that couples who were forced to go through this process will not automatically regain their marriages, but they will be able to ‘convert’ these civil partnerships back into marriages. Of course, this does not make up for the indignity of what they had to go through, but in the future, this won’t happen to any more couples where one changes their legal sex.”

Vivianne Crowley, author, Jungian psychologist, and faculty at Cherry Hill Seminary, is currently in Paris, and gave a broad perspective informed by France’s recent legalization of same-sex marriages.

Vivianne Crowley

Vivianne Crowley

“The last three centuries have seen in western culture a shift towards recognition of the autonomy of the individual and the right to freedom of self-expression. It is a tide that dictators and others have sought to suppress. It has been subverted – sometimes the tide has turned; but slowly consciousness has undergone a shift.

Major social changes occur when almost unconsciously the greater mass of people sense that an idea is self-evidently right. At first, such evolutions of thought are the preoccupation of a few who are ahead of the zeitgeist. In the late eighteenth century and nineteenth centuries, recognition of the unique value of each individual led inevitably to the abolition of slavery in Europe and the United States. The political impetus that overthrew absolute monarchs led to democracy and the recognition that every adult male should have the right to vote for who should rule his country. In the twentieth century, an inexorable tide saw that right extend to women. Now the west is ready for a new right – the right of individuals to choose to marry their life partner regardless of gender and to make a public commitment that is recognized and honored by the state.

The Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada and South Africa, among others, set the trend. Now the United Kingdom and France have followed almost simultaneously and other European countries will do the same.

Here, in France, Catholics marched against same-sex marriage, but the law has been swiftly passed. July 14th is Bastille Day, France’s equivalent of the 4th of July – a celebration of revolution past and national identity present. There are major celebrations in all French towns, and particularly of course in Paris. This July 14th the iconic Eiffel Tower was lit up with rainbow colors and songs filled the Paris night sky, celebrating equal marriage rights for all.

Where Canada and Europe can go, other nations can go too. But in the meantime, Vive la France –liberté, égalité, fraternité! And well done, Britain!”

Perhaps the most succinct response that encapsulates many of the recurring themes heard from UK Pagans on marriage equality is from Cat Treadwell, a Trustee of The Druid Network, and ordained Awenydd (Priest) of The Anglesey Druid Order.

“Consenting adults have loved each other for centuries, with or without permission, and will no doubt continue to do so; the law slowly moves forward to accommodate this. We can only hope that as society becomes more accepting, Pagan unions will also be recognised in our own lifetimes.”

Let us hope that society continues to move forward on accepting the simple reality of consenting adults loving each other, and that the desire for modern Pagan clergy in England and Wales to perform legally recognized unions within that tapestry of love is soon realized.