Pagan Voices: Joseph Merlin Nichter, T. Thorn Coyle, Crystal Blanton, and More!

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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.

Joseph Merlin Nichter (aka WitchDoctorJoe)

Joseph Merlin Nichter (aka WitchDoctorJoe)

“I first started volunteering at one particular prison because the Protestant chaplain called me and ask me too. He asked me to because the prison had put him in charge of facilitating religious accommodations for the Wiccans, Druids and Asatru (oh my!). And he could not, in good conscious, perform that task because it violated the doctrines of his faith. While I agree that it is a perverse conflict of interest to put him to such a task, I would argue stronger that he should resign his position as a “Chaplain” and return to being a “Priest.” Because there is a difference.  Being a priest is about being a servant of your religion, being a chaplain is about being a religious servant to others.” – Joseph Merlin Nichter, a Pagan prison chaplain, writing about “Spells for Cells” at PaganSquare.

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

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

“So, when somebody with some seniority and some knowledge in our community makes an assertion, states a clear if challenging opinion, what claim has that on anyone? None, except if the author is lucky, to make you think, perhaps to feel. You are still responsible for your own views, accepting or rejecting theirs. Likewise, we must be mindful of the power dynamics in such a statement. Does the person making the assertion have the power to enforce it, and the desire to? I was asked if I would be imposing a doctrinal test upon anyone who came into circle with me. Seriously? What makes you think I care what you think? Your beliefs and opinions, except to the extent you inform me, are inscrutable to me and a matter of your conscience. Likewise, so are mine to you, except that I’ve been doing some informing. If I don’t think someone is being a “proper Pagan,” why should they care? They have a right to their own opinion, just as I do.” – Sam Webster, author of “Tantric Thelema” and founder of the Open Source Order of the Golden Dawn, on the nature of Pagan authority.

Crystal Blanton

Crystal Blanton

“One moment that sticks out to me was the emotion that was evoked within me when speaking about my own privilege, a privilege that the kids I work with do not have. I think people automatically assume that those who talk about privilege are standing in a “victim” mentality role. I recognize that I am often the oppressed and the oppressor. I am humbled by a society that puts people in a position to be on both sides of the fence and awareness becomes the most important tool we can harness.” – Crystal Blanton, author of “Pain and Faith in a Wiccan World,” on the Pagans and Privelege panel held at PantheaCon 2013. For more on this, see T. Thorn Coyle’s reflections. You may also want to read Crystal’s pre-PantheaCon interview at PNC-Bay Area.

J. Rhett Aultman

J. Rhett Aultman

“Atheism has, over the past century or so, seen a very serious restriction in its definition.  There are many reasons for it, not the least of which are religious interests in America using politics to attempt to restrict science and science education.  In a broad historical perspective, though, there have been atheist philosophies within every religious tradition and several religious traditions that classify the cosmos in such a way that there’s simply no room for deities to exist.  Your atheist Pagan might take a highly psychological viewpoint on divinity, or may believe that divinity isn’t an entity and thus not subject to existence, or may think divinity is simply “the absolute,” or may simply not really feel concerned with questions about divinity.  Much as atheist philosophers have shaped the history of Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, and various aspects of Christianity, atheists in the Pagan community are there, keeping things from becoming ossified into some canonical form of religiosity.  Our lack of commitment to existential divinity is a feature, not a bug, and there’s a good chance that we were quite welcome to the discussion before we brought up that whole atheism thing.  Let us hang out.  Tell us if we’re telling you what your spiritual reality should be; let us have our spiritual reality and speak from it.  We’ll get along fabulously.  I promise.”  – J. Rhett Aultman on the care and feeding of the atheist Pagan.

“People are so afraid: How will I pay the rent? Will our daughter make it home from war? How will we get through this next crisis? Will the planet hold up under these climate shifts? Will my son make it home from school today? What if I die alone and unloved? What if the Gods aren’t real? Love is greater than our fears. All of them. Even the very real fears. Even the imagined fears. Love is greater.T. Thorn Coyle explaining how love is greater than fear. Thorn has a new book out tomorrow entitled “Make Magic of Your Life: Passion, Purpose, and the Power of Desire.”

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

“One of the matters which Thorn pointed out in the discussion is one that I’ve very much taken on board over the last twelve years: don’t make very much of the distinction between “the mundane” and “the spiritual” or “the otherworldly,” especially as it applies to events like PantheaCon. PantheaCon is just as much a part of the world as anything else is, and the world with all of its marvels and difficulties is just as much a part of PantheaCon as the gods, spirits, and magic are–and in fact, sometimes even more than we would expect! Thinking back over the PantheaCons I’ve attended since 2007 (i.e. all of them between then and now), I can remember each year just as accurately by what the sleeping arrangements were and how clean I and my fellow room-sharers kept the bathroom (or not) as I can by what events occurred that year or what sessions I offered. I know my memory can be unexpectedly prodigious for such details, even surprising myself on some occasions, but likewise, food varieties and availabilities and amount of rest and patterns of carpet and size of luggage and comfortability and sexiness of clothes and status of ongoing health situations–which, to some, would constitute “mundane matters”–are just as important to me in my memories of these events as the presence of the gods, the movements of spirits, the effects of magic, and the positive or negative influences of specific individuals have been on each occasion. The “mundane” often gives the basis from which we are able to access the “spiritual,” and to ignore this is to ignore one of the very most basic and important teachings of the wider pagan umbrella at present, I think.”P. Sufenas Virius Lupus on processing his post-PantheaCon experiences, and the false separation between the “mundane” and the “spiritual.”

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