An Overview of the PantheaCon Wiccan Privilege Discussion

This year at PantheaCon, the CoG/NWC/NROOGD suite hosted a Sunday afternoon discussion called “Engaging ‘Wiccanate’ Privilege.” This meeting was a follow-up to an on-going debate centering mostly on “the way in which aspects of Wiccan … theology [are] assumed to be normative for Paganism as a whole.” Moderated by Jeffrey “Shade Fane” Albaugh, program manager for the Conference on Current Pagan Studies, the PantheaCon meeting attracted a diverse, standing-room only crowd lasting a full two hours.

Don Frew

Don Frew

It all began three months earlier when The Interfaith Observer (TIO) published Don Frew’s article “The Rudiments of Neo Pagan Spiritual Practice.” A link to the article was posted here at The Wild Hunt after which an intense debate ensued. Non-Wiccan practitioners took serious issue with the article’s language and assumptions. The conversation then spilled over into other blog environments including Patheos’ Pointedly Pagan, Aedicula Antinoi: A Small Shrine of Antinous and Of Thespiae.

Recognizing that “a number of people were feeling left out of the conversation,” Don asked the CoG/NWC/NROOGD suite to host a talk. He said,“On the Internet we argue with an argument; not a person. It is important to keep the human element involved … We needed to meet.” Don wanted as many voices at the meeting as possible. “I invited P. Sufenas Virius Lupus because I knew e comes to PantheaCon.”*

Lupus accepted the invitation saying:

I accepted Don’s invitation to the talk because, in my opinion, we had a very productive discussion in the comments section of my blog post on some of the initial objections I raised to his article… I hoped that some basic understandings would emerge from this discussion, on what makes more strict, literal, devotional (or, though I don’t like the term, “hard”) polytheists different from Wiccans, Wiccanate Pagans, and more general eclectic Pagans would emerge.

After working out logistics, moderator Jeffrey Albaugh handed the floor to Don and Lupus. Don explained that the TIO article was only a portion of a longer response piece and that he had no input in its editing or titling. Next Lupus spoke thanking Don and other interfaith representatives for their ongoing work. Then Lupus went on to say, “Everyone has privilege because we are here. It is not a bad thing to be privileged. [But] there is a hierarchy of privilege in our community.”

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

After these introductory words, Albaugh started the conversation by asking Lupus to define Polytheist. Lupus said simply, “Many Gods.” Several attendees then defined the term in relation to their own practice. Many present consider themselves polytheists in some form. In response, Lupus said, “Nobody owns the word.”

After this terminology discussion, the conversation moved on to concerns over the use of prayer in mixed-faith environments. Several speakers referenced T. Thorn Coyle’s prayer during Saturday’s Pagans and Privilege Panel. According to reports, Thorn’s prayer had alienated some panel attendees. In a post-PantheaCon blog post, Thorn herself considers this very issue. Her words mirror much of what was said in the Wiccan Privilege discussion. She wrote “I almost said, ‘I would like to start us with a prayer from my tradition … and invite you all to meditate or pray to whomever you feel called.’ Almost.” She counts this as both a failure and an opportunity to “try again.”

Don stressed the importance of saying “from my tradition” in mixed-faith situations. These words clarify both expectations and the relationship between speaker and audience. As Don suggested, ecumenical prayers are nice but they teach us nothing about each other’s beliefs. Lupus then asked the group, “If I did a panel would you be offended by my prayer?” The response was a unanimous “no.”

Present at the meeting were both Margot Adler and Starhawk who offered an historical perspective. Margot noted that in the 1970s “Wicca” was all that was available to most people including herself. Many attendees agreed. Starhawk added “Wicca has come to mean something different. [Being] Wiccan has a different connotation now.” Times have changed affecting language, availability of education and visibility of practice.

Rayna Templebee

Rayna Templebee

The conversation went on to acknowledge the relational power structures within the greater Pagan and Heathen communities. Several people stressed the importance in examining the oppressions that affect us and in staying aware of the points of privilege from which we speak. Who is given automatic authority by virtue of the established, dominant power structure – by virtue of age, position, accomplishments or religious tradition? Rayna Tempebee noted that people communicate from a position informed by who they are. Mistakes are often made unintentionally. But is still important for each of us to “be as clear and precise as possible” in our communication.

Don and Lupus remained attentive and quiet for most of the talk as Jeffrey Albaugh negotiated a complex discussion in a crowded room of participants. Eventually the conversation did return to Don who brought up the idea of “inside and outside voices.” The language used to define and explain “Paganism” within greater society is very different from the language used to define ourselves to ourselves. One remains broad while the other can be and should be much more detailed and specific.

Jeff Albaugh

Jeff Albaugh

Then several people shared their own feelings of alienation due to unique religious practices. At least three attendees said they identify as both Jewish and Witch or Pagan. Taylor Ellwood noted that his pop culture magical practice often raises eyebrows. Another woman emotionally expressed her feelings of isolation caused by her spiritual affiliation to Guadalupe, the Virgin Mother. She then said, “The paradigm is shifting.” We are no longer a “melting pot. We are a salad bowl.” We must learn to “tolerate diversity.”

As the session came to a close, Don said “we are headed for a big wake-up call. Paganism(s) will look very different.” He was referring to the growing number of indigenous groups who are finding their voice in the global interfaith conversation. Wicca and “Wiccante” practices will not be the dominant Pagan faith tradition forever. Russia’s PFI coordinator Gwiddon Harvester corroborated this point when noting that Russia’s dominant Pagan/Heathen practice is Slavic Reconstructionalism; not Wicca.

At this point Minos Lugh of the Minoan Brotherhood and a Kemetic Priest called upon the community to “show up” for conversations such as this one. He also emphatically said, “Do not put down another Pagan.” This sentiment received an applause.  Earlier in the discussion, Starhawk also emphasized this point when lamenting “how little time [we have] to discuss the Earth” and those larger issues affecting all of us. She said in that bigger context “we should have each others’ backs where it really counts.”

Lord Lugh

Lord Lugh

The entire session was not without controversy and frustration. There was a give-and-take that at times became quite heated. Overall the meeting seemed to be a solid beginning where important issues were placed on a table for open examination.

In the final moments of the meeting, Lupus challenged the attendees to attend one of eir PantheaCon events. The yearly convention provides an excellent opportunity to learn about other faith traditions and practices. The very next morning Don attended Lupus’ Beard Blessing and has since made future plans to continue that education. In retrospect, Lupus says:

I have never been in a situation with so many Pagans of various stripes telling me exactly what I believe, or what my group stands for, or who is included and excluded in my group, than on that occasion.  In every case, all of them were wrong, misinformed, and have not availed themselves of the resources out there on my tradition … [However] I think it was an encouraging event, and one that demonstrates to me that some people are trying to make an effort and want to come to a better understanding of these matters.  I also think it illustrated how far we have to go, and how good intentions can’t accomplish much of this work…

Looking back Don says “I hope everyone came away with a better understanding of each other and each other’s position.” He adds that people were able to express “how they felt” but the meeting did little in the way of education on faith traditions and practices.That would have to come later.

This article only highlights the key points raised at the Wiccan Privilege meeting. It only grazes the surface. Many people spoke from many perspectives. The conversation will undoubtedly continue in live-format and over the blogosphere. Several attendees have already published posts on the subject including Lupus and John Halstead. Look for more in the days and months to come.


*Note on Pronouns: Lupus prefers to use Old Spivak pronouns. For more details, see here.



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299 thoughts on “An Overview of the PantheaCon Wiccan Privilege Discussion

  1. Well, I suppose this conversation needed to happen sooner or later; if nothing else, then to demonstrate the power of self-marginalization through identity politics.

    And the wheel keeps turning…

    • “Self-marginalization through identity politics.” Are people not supposed to have identities? Should we not be concerned when an overarching majority of a large and diverse community assumes it is normative when it is actually not? Should we not be concerned when we are misrepresented?

      Letting it all go means nothing ever changes. Not speaking up means nobody knows when they are making erroneous assumptions, and the behavior can never be dealt with. Blaming the victims of marginalization by calling it “self-marginalization through identity politics” helps no one, particularly when people being marginalized are simply trying to call attention to this fact and to rectify the situation.

    • Well, I suppose this conversation needed to happen sooner or later; if
      nothing else, then to demonstrate the power of self-marginalization
      through identity politics.

      And just when I think I’ve seen it all, I read this and my jaw goes to the floor. That kind of sentiment suggests that people who practise something entirely different from the mainstream should have no right to a) identify that practise as something different or b) get upset when others assume they practise something they do not.

      As I’ve said over and over again in these discussions, I see a lot of what people say (typically, but not limited to, the Wiccanate mainstream), mirroring what I’ve heard others in “mainstream”, feminist, and GBLT/GSRM circles, and this is no exception.

    • You’re entirely mistaking identification, which individuals do for themselves, with marginalization, which is what majority and privileged populations do to those who self-identify in ways with which they are not comfortable. It happens to queer people, to trans* people, to people of color, and to many other varieties of people when they no longer feel comfortable trying to play the role of the quiet assimilationist. If you’re really saying what you seem to be here, then you’re also implying that trans* people bring their discrimination on themselves, as do any variety of other non-privileged populations.

      If you can’t realize that statements like this, and actions like the ones that have lead to the necessity for discussions like this one, are as much a result of your own beliefs and actions as they are a result of people realizing there are differences and suggesting they should be regarded, then you have much larger problems than being rather privileged and arrogantly thinking that no one in your position can have possibly done anything that someone else might object to.

      The wheel you’re talking about is one that is used to torture people. If you’re not doing something to stop it from turning, then YOU ARE THE PROBLEM.

  2. Just a few things:

    – I want to know why the points of “Paganism” that Michael York brings up in his book (Pagan Theology as a World Religion) aren’t suitable as a defining factor, and leave it at that? There’s no “Pagan” practice in the sense that there’s a discernible, identifying series of traditions or steps that people follow, rites, or rituals. I understand this is outside the scope of the argument of “Wican Privilege”, but I bring it up because Wicca has been conflated as the de facto Paganism for so long.

    – Why was the term “polytheist” initially questioned? What purpose does it serve to do so? I’m really interested in why this happened.

    I’m sure I’ll have others, frankly. I have a wicked case of tachycardia and it’s making me distracted.

    • I’ve read the book, though I don’t have it with me (my library is currently in transit overseas), but when I read it, I saw that quite a bit of his definition doesn’t apply to me or my practices, nor did it really apply to a fair few of the various reconstructionist Pagans I know. York’s definition, as a singular definition of “Pagan” for all of our communities, is flawed. For the people whom it describes, the fact that it feels like it should describe everyone else as well is a part of what has been being discussed in this whole lengthy dialogue about privilege.

      • So barest fundamentals, such as “Praxis instead of Doxy” and “Immanence instead of Transcendence” don’t apply?

        Edit: Oh, and the whole “Euro-Mediterranean cultural basin” regional modifier.

          • He admittedly jumps all over the place. He also states that one would be hard pressed to draw up a list of necessary characteristics to label a particular tradition as “pagan”. But in reading through the opening of his “Paganism as Religion” chapter, one can extract a significant simplicity from his statements, which I feel can be applied (in part, perhaps) as an umbrella term for the whole:

            -Performative, not Dogmatic.
            -Pluralistic concept of divinity.
            -Immanence instead of Transcendence (physical along with spiritual, instead of simply spiritual)

            He also focuses his study on Euro-Mediterranean cultures given their historic value to pre-Christian and pre-Islam religious societies. Since no one culture generally exists in a vacuum (save for significantly isolated tribes), there had always been a pretty sizable amount of information transfer from the various regions. So, ideally, I would add a modifier that, as a modern Pagan movement, influence has to be from that area in the world. This also helps people freak out less when they assume that they are being lumped in with Contemporary Paganism (As members of Hindu, Shinto, and Buddhism often do).

            The term is too inclusive at the present. It’s applied too liberally and too wide, leading to discontent and cries of privilege when it doesn’t quite fit so well. There’s absolutely no reason why a dualist Pagan should feel more (or less) privileged than a polytheist Pagan, especially given that those two are fundamental theological concepts and NOT traditions or religious practices.

            Also, note, when I speak of Paganism as a proper noun I speak of Contemporary Paganism as it has been created in the past fifty years, which includes reconstructionist practices. And, I find, that Paganism is applied when the religious practices of an individual do not have a known-traditional history. Wicca is a religion, with traditions, practices, and a history. Asatru is a religion. Hellenismos is a religion. Paganism isn’t a religion in that same way. It’s a family (or community, for those of us who are too ornery to agree with each other) of religious traditions.

            The problem is defining what the boundaries of that community is.

          • I wish I had my library because I would quote the section I am thinking of when I’m talking about his definition of “Pagan.” Sadly, it won’t arrive until mid-March.

          • My personal interest in all of this is the fact that I don’t have, nor can I identify, any basic affiliation with an established religion or religious tradition. I long ago adopted the label of “chaos mage” on the advice of friends who both loved me and delighted in teasing me. I trusted both motivations as well as their (at the time) much greater breadth of knowledge of such things.

            And anyone wondering if there were intentional puns around the “chaos” part, you can bet the house on it. 😀

            In the end, the only label I can confidently use is “Pagan”, and the only short cut I have around the established traditions most rubes will have encountered is to use “modern Pagan”… at which point I often spend a few hundred words explaining why I am not a New Ager. Shrug.

          • Well, in my opinion, “Pagan” with a capitalized P refers to the contemporary religious movement. Lowercase refers to academic paganisms in various writings. Neo-Pagan/any iteration thereof is redundant.

            I think you bring up a good point that there is a very significant distinction between being a “New Ager” and, even, an ‘Eclectic Pagan’. Unfortunately, thirty years of interchangeable usage has made it a difficult task of reclaiming any legitimacy in titles.

          • Well, that’s my contribution to the semantics battle: I don’t have anything else, I consider my belief system a religion, and upper-case “P” Pagan is my choice for a precise label.

            And don’t get me started on the semantic morass around “shamanic”. As Rodney Dangerfield put it, “I can’t get no respect.” 😀

          • Except that those principles aren’t held by all who identify or have been identified as “pagans”. Even the book they first appear in, Paganism: An Introduction to Earth- Centered Religion by River and Joyce Higginbotham (making it “Higginbothams’ Principles…”, by the by), erroneously describes in its own title that pagan religions are necessarily “Earth-centred”.

            While the first three are generally unobjectionable (at least by my own experiences and what I have generally gathered from other polytheists), after that, we have “Everything contains a spark of intelligence” –this is essentially forcing animistic, and/or panentheistic beliefs into paganisms, regardless of whether that is a part of a religion’s cosmologies or not. At best, it is presumptuous, and at worst it excludes many people who either self-identify or who are commonly identified as “pagans” from being “pagan”.

            “Everything is sacred”, again, this does not necessarily apply to every religion that practitioners identify or are often identified as “pagan”. In the traditional polytheisms of the Mediterranean, hell, the Roman world is where we get the term “sacrifice” meaning “make sacred” –implying the idem for sacrifice was previously unsacred. In Hellenismos, there is a concept of “miasma” — “spiritual pollution”– and when one carries it, one is not allowed to approach sacred spaces until the miasma is washed away (and different miasmas require different procedures); this is not a religion where “Everything is sacred”, but it’s a religion commonly identified as “pagan” by others.

            “Each part of the universe can communicate with each other part, and these these parts often cooperate for specific ends.” That’s a really nice idea, but it relies on the belief in omnipotent and/or omniscient concept of deity, which is not at all a common belief among traditional polytheists. While the explanation of that principle seems to make it a little more palatable by giving a “widest net” definition of magic, we then have many polytheists who insist that their gods, or at least some of their gods, don’t work that way. PSVL has said several times in these discussions on his own and other blogs about this topic, that eir primary deity, Antinous, does not work that way, even stating that when e’s explained this to Wiccanate pagans, people have said to em that e should find a “better” deity who can communicate the way they think a deity ought to. This principle clearly excludes people who are having this discussion.

            And lastly “consciousness survives death” –not always. In the ancient Mediterranean, and therefore in reconstructed/revived forms of those religions, it’s a fairly common belief that most people just die, and it is the exceptional (usually only the good, but on occasion the especially bad) who are prepared for an afterlife and/or given an opportunity for reincarnation. The book even then explains that not all pagans believe in an afterlife, but only after performing the necessary mental gymnastics to equate “consciousness” with organic matter simply returning to the earth. Again, nice idea, but prone to be exclusionary.

          • The fact that you accept the first three principles without argument is extraordinary and at least shows the value of the Higginbothams’ “principle” approach. The last three principles wander more into the “belief” territory than that of “principles”.

            Their six principles were the result of research at numerous Pagan festivals through the USA. I imagine the few folks who do not accept the last three principles are also those who usually do not attend such festivals, and would not be part of the “festival community” of Paganism.

            On the other hand, since the Higginbotthams wrote “Paganism”, it may be that more of these other folks are actually becoming more of the festival community.

          • I never said I accepted their first three principles without argument –I said I found them generally unobjectionable based on experiences and information previously gained via interactions with others. There’s a fine, but telling difference –I could certainly argue some f the finer points, especially as my own religion incorporates a school of philosophy (Cyrenaic Hedonism) that endorses a sceptical approach to knowledge. I don’t object to these first three principles (1- “You are responsible for the beliefs you choose to adopt”, 2- “You are responsible for your own actions and your spiritual and personal development”, and 3- “You are responsible for deciding who or what Deity is for you, and forming a relationship with that Deity”, especially with the further explanations), but there are certainly finer points within that I could argue with or against. I instead chose to phrase this apparent “acceptance” as simply finding them unobjectionable because they do seem like something gathered from a good-faith effort to pinpoint some of the guiding principles and wisdom prevalent in most non-Abrahamic religions, and any argument I could find would be about how the explanations of these three principles relate to specific religions –as these first three principles don’t appear to exclude certain religions commonly identified as “pagan”, I see no reason to object to them as points that can be used to define paganism.

          • Although to me those 3 principles sound so general as to be applicable to religious people generally. Well, except maybe #3.

          • Erynn, My copy of York is easily reached. Here’s York’s definition:

            “We would be hard-pressed,
            however, to draw up a definitive list of necessary characteristics for any
            given practice to be assessed as pagan. At best, we can determine a range of
            possibilities that we might expect to find in any bonafide pagan example.
            These include polytheism, animism, idolatry, corpospirituality, local emphasis,
            recognitions of geosacred concentrations, perceptions of soul duality, and either
            nature worship or nature as a chief metaphorical register expressive of the
            divine.” He goes on to find the following common features, though they may not
            all be there in any one: 1) a number of male and female deities, 2) magical
            practice, defined broadly, 3) emphasis on ritual efficacy, 4) corpospirituality
            and 5) an understanding of gods and human as codependent and related.
            “Individual pagan religions furnish frameworks and techniques with experiential
            encounters with the godhead for both improving ones welfare in this world and
            exploring the otherworld for spiritual renewal. In other words, they provide
            hermeneutical tools for interpreting the world and the supernatural and
            humanity’s relationship to both.”

            Also: “Among the features that
            emerge as noticeable are those of animism, pantheism, polytheism, immanentism,
            humanism, nature worship, numinousness, magic, organicism, fetishism, and
            idolatry. There is, however, no complete list of characteristics that can
            identify any specific practice as pagan. Most of the identities that we are
            permitted to recognize as pagan share in this pool, subscribing to some of its
            ingredients but not necessarily all of them.”

            Seems pretty encompassing of reconstructionist polytheisms to me (especially considering all factors don’t have to be there), with the exception of very neoplatonic ones.

          • I may be mistaken in my memory of his arguments and definitions. I think there was yet a further list that went into more (contradictory) detail but at this point I can’t be certain. I find it really frustrating not to have my library close to hand. Next month!

    • As a clarification: In my piece back in November that a lot of people seem to reference in these discussions, the term i used was “Wiccanate privilege”. “Wiccanate” ≠ “Wicca”. The suffix “-ate” means “similar to or resembling”, and so “Wiccanate paganism” is a very broad category that, yes, includes Wicca, but includes many other paths that share more traits with Wicca than they share with other paganisms. If it’s a common thing in the tradition to call on the cardinal directions, and reference a distinctly modern understanding of the classical elements, and make use of the Wheel of the Year, then it’s “Wiccanate”, as I can’t think of a single traditional polytheism that does any of those things all together, if any of them at all.

      The closest thing I can think of in Hellenismos to the cardinal directions is the Anemoi, the Winds, and Their associations with seasons, which didn’t seem to have much ritual associated with them in the major cities, and so at best we can assume many pastoral people of ancient Hellas had their own, purely seasonal customs with regard to each individual Anemos –they weren’t “called on” in each and every ritual. The Classical elements as used in Wiccanate religions may be rooted in the Aristolean understanding, but bears only the vaguest resemblance to the Empedoclean understanding, which is an older school of philosophy, and a distinctly pluralist school (unlike that of Aristotle or Plato). The “Wheel of the Year” is regarded by leading academics and scholars to be a largely modern invention that, at most, is composed of Celtic and Germanic elements.

      As those elements only became common with the rise of “Outer Court Wicca” in the 1970s and ’80s, reaching a critical mass of market saturation as “Wicca” in the ’90s, it’s fair to say that any pagan religion that makes use of all three is therefore “Wiccanate”, even before bringing theologies into the discussion. It’s also easily arguable that even if just making use of the cardinal directions and / or the wheel of the year makes one’s religion more “Wiccanate” than not.

      • Yeah, I read that after, when I read PSVL’s article. I apologize for the mix-up, ignorant as it was.

      • Ruadhan, I do not like the term “Wiccanate”, not only because its meaning is easily misunderstood, but because using one religion’s name to describe a condition of privilege tends to lay the blame upon that one religion. What is actually going on is a syncretism, with not only Wiccan elements, but also Celtic, Native American, New Age, Christianity and Unamit (ie, “you-name-it”).

        The sliding into Syncretism is the real culprit. This is driven by natural forces (including ignorance and disrespect), but not necessarily by Wicca itself. Wiccan is easy to blame because it is the biggest target; but it is the Syncretist nature of the religious human animal that is really to blame.

        I see the same thing in Interfaith worship. An interfaith service is planned by a Catholic, two Protestants and a Jewish rabbi. They all agree it is ok to call God “father”. But when the Imam from the local Muslim hajid attends the service, he is startled because Muslims believe God is not begotten, not begots. The point is, there is an assumed Interfaith syncretistic milieu which is not as inclusive as the worship planners assumed.

        The only cure is during the planning stage there needs to be full participation by all involved. So instead of complaining about a “Wiccanate”, the solution is to reduce Syncretism by sending invitations to and then participation of all who want to belong.

        • Ruadhan, I do not like the term “Wiccanate”, not only because its meaning is easily misunderstood, but because using one religion’s name to describe a condition of privilege tends to lay the blame upon that one religion. What is actually going on is a syncretism, with not only Wiccan elements, but also Celtic, Native American, New Age, Christianity and Unamit (ie, “you-name-it”).

          So what? First off, the fact remains that “American Eclectism” has more practises in common with the Outer Court Wicca pushed by Oberon Zell in the 1970s and ’80s than it really has with most of the other things you list off. Secondly, this amagalmation has been identified as some form of “Wicca” or “Wicca-influenced Neopaganism” for so long that “Wiccanate paganism” is practically a concession to let Traditional Wicca remain Wicca, and everything else that bears a passing resemblance is now “Wiccanate paganism”.

          Furthermore, while the “syncretism” in Interfairh can be problematic, the “syncretism” of American Eclectic Wiccanate paganism that you seem to be railing against is not a problem in an of itself. The problem is the assumption that this is a “default” in paganism, that it’s everyone’s starting point, language, and rituals, when that has never been the case.

          And so what if you disapprove of the word Wiccanate? From what I can gather, “Wiccanate” doesn’t even apply to you, personally, you’re just nervous about what others might think, so you’ve decided that you’re going to try and silence it by accusing people who use it as making a pejorative statement against Wicca. Sounds like your problem more than anyone else’s.

  3. There is a rarely-mentioned force in our society(ies, but I can only speak first-hand for the US) that I strongly suggest needs to be kept at the forefront of our awareness. It is often an unconscious impulse. I catch myself at it rather often, despite knowing how to identify it.

    We are conditioned from a variety of sources to automatically expect agreement to follow from understanding.

    The obvious example of this is the fear we receive from the mainstream religions — mostly Christianity — who don’t want knowledge of our beliefs to “corrupt” their children.

    Our intra-faith arguments do not include fear of each other. They do include at least by connotation that we are in competition with each other. The intensity of our tensions and conflicts follow a much different path than one defined with fear, but I believe the understanding-agreement fallacy is just as relevant to us.

    • Discussions between members of different pagan or polytheist religions are not intrafaith, but definitionally interfaith. The claim that all kinds of paganism are really just one faith is core to the phenomenon that Lupus and others are calling out as excluding them. Paganism is not a single faith, it’s a group of faiths bound together by an actually rather tenuous common thread — and indeed you can find examples of “pagans” who have basically no beliefs in common at all. The Abrahamic religions are vastly different, and still have more in common with one another than some pagan religions. When you ignore the differences between pagan religions, you exclude those who most differ from what your idea of “pagan” is, while insisting that they are still part of the group. You erase their actual beliefs.

      • The claim that all kinds of paganism are really just one faith is core to the phenomenon that Lupus and others are calling out as excluding them.Thank you. I’ve been frankly baffled by the whole Wiccanate privilege discussion because my usual praxis — looking at things from the POV of the aggrieved to discern why they are complaining — wasn’t working. This is something I can work with. Again, thank you.

    • We are conditioned from a variety of sources to automatically expect agreement to follow from understanding.

      Dear gods, yes. I have too often heard people tell me “oh, you don’t understand…” No, I do understand, and very well, thanks. You’ve presented it with some internally consistent logic, at the least. I just don’t agree; understanding you and agreeing with you are not the same thing.

      Our intra-faith arguments do not…

      Stop. I absolutely disagree with charactising the pagan community and events such as Pantheacon as “intrafaith”, when it’s clear that there are several different religions, some of which have no truly shared elements. That fact alone makes the pagan community an “interfaith” community.

      • If these different religions share no elements, then why are they being discussed, and why are they, themselves, discussing issues on a Pagan channel?

        The fact that we’re all standing in the same room proves there are some commonalities. At least enough to stand under the umbrella of Paganism. Of course, if anyone wants to step out from under even that umbrella, they are welcome to do so…

        • The problem lies within defining what those commonalities are, fundamentally, that won’t somehow translate as “privilege over another group” or incense another person who might not agree.

          Of course, I’m also one of those people who is quite willing to draw a line in the sand and adhere to it, too.

        • Because many of us were written under the label in the past, and have yet to “escape”. Some disagree over whether we should remain or not.

          As for being welcome, that is certainly not true. Even if we try we continue to be discussed as if we were part, and for some groups we continue to have our beliefs misrepresented by “pagans”. So leaving isn’t something that is so easy.

          There is next to no commonality between me as a Gaelic Polytheist and an eclectic Wiccan heavily influenced by New Age/Romanticist philosophies.

        • If these different religions share no elements, then why are they being discussed, and why are they, themselves, discussing issues on a Pagan channel?

          Because, according to the dictionary, “pagan” means simply “not a Christian, Jew, or Muslim”, and in common use, there’s a sentiment of “..and also not of a Dharmic religion nor an atheist” often tacked on. That’s still a very broad collection of religions, many of which are not really related in the way that Abrahamic religions or Dharmic religions are related.

          The fact that we’re all standing in the same room proves there are some commonalities.

          The fact that we’re standing in the same room just means that there was a reason for us all to be here —it does not in any way mean we have things in common. Some are in “the pagan room” for social reasons, others for political reasons, and still there are others who are only here cos that’s where others said they belong.

          My own religion bares no real resemblance to the Wiccanate mainstream of the pagan community, unless you want to stretch “resemblance” so thin as to say “well, you both use incense, so you’ve got plenty of common ground!”

    • Franklin Evans wrote:

      “We are conditioned from a variety of sources to automatically expect agreement to follow from understanding.”

      Thank you for this. It is the clearest and simplest statement I have ever seen of something that has intensely bothered me about our modern culture even since the ’50s. I will be quoting it verbatim when the occasion warrants.

      • It’s been bothering me since the heady days of bbs and Usenet groups. I’ve participated in exactly one such forum — alt.callahans — where it was both explicit and a part of the culture. It had a second expression: “Silence means exactly that, silence. No one wins an argument when no further responses are to be seen.”

        • I remember it (= understanding necessarily leads to agreement) as being widely said and believed back in the ’50s, in my ‘teens. It was (IIRC) a hopeful response to the fears people had during the Cold War. but it never seemed plausible to me.

          Also: Callahan’s Cross-Time Saloon! A nice memory of a good book, and a fun e-list . . .

    • While I agree with what you’ve said on the expectation of agreement following from understanding (and have had that exact same conversation on numerous occasions over the last 12 years, one such conversation of which resulted in my schism from an earlier group in 2007), that wasn’t at all an expectation here, at least on the part of those of us present who were of a polytheist perspective.

      As for the “intra-faith” ness of this discussion, or anything else: you should read John Halstead’s piece as well as mine. There were people there who objected to me characterizing the occasion as an interfaith one, and by doing so, they were erasing the very large differences between my practices and their own and forcing an identification which would automatically favor their larger and more prevalent population and practices over mine and those of others who come from diverse polytheistic viewpoints.

  4. As someone who did not attend PantheaCon – thank you Heather for posting this recap of that particular panel. I have read Thorn Coyle’s perspective of what occurred – and seeing this discussion continued in a different vein in another panel, allows those of us who did not attend a window into what occurred, as well as provides us with some information to chew on while cultivating our own voices on the topic. –Tommy /|

  5. You know I’m so tired of people with Christian beliefs wanting to be part of the Pagan scene. Pagan folk don’t show up at Christian churches or Jewish synagogues and demand they let us invoke our gods and goddesses. It would be rude and incredibly offensive and disrespectful. And yet some how people with Jesus beliefs or Virgin Mary beliefs think nothing of invoking their god and saints in a Pagan context and then per usual cry about being oppressed and marginalized. Give me a break. There is a huge majority in America of Jesus believing people or Mary loving Catholics for you to celebrate with. Leave us to our gods and ways since many of us left the flock to get away from that god and his ways and followers.

    • While I understand that perspective, I can no longer agree with it. “Christo-Paganism” is an ancient thing. Jesus was once set alongside Platonic philosophers, and the allegations of Orphism and Dionysos being a major influence on Christianity and the mythology of Jesus, thus offering ample room for syncretism, is compelling. Furthermore, what would you say to those following Santeria and who also *want* to participate in the pagan community –would you tell them that they can’t, because they follow a path that is syncretic with Christianity, even though they clearly have more in common with traditional polytheist and indigenous “pagan” practises than with Christianity?

      Believe me, I understand the desire to have a clear line that separates Christianity from the Pagan community –not only are neatly compartmentalised spiritual paths easier for many people to understand, but there’s no lingering fear that so-and-so is just making stuff up in order to try and covertly “convert” pagans to mainstream Christianity. When I realised that, I also realised that was my problem to let go of. That said, yeah, I’ll agree that sometimes there are clear lines that separate Paganisms from Christianity, but just because those lines are clear doesn’t mean all lines necessarily are clear, nor do they necessarily exist at all. There are blurry lines, dashed and dotted lines, and even places where lines don’t seem to exist at all –maybe they’re invisible, and it’s something ineffable that separates Christianity from Paganism, or maybe no line exists there at all.

    • Honestly, I don’t really care if an Eclectic/Syncretic Pagan wants to include Jesus (or his dad) in their custom pantheon. I just dislike The perceived need to label it “Christo-“.

      That’d be like having Belenos in their god-list and calling themselves Beleno-Pagans.

      • Agree. Also, it makes one a bad “Christian”, but that’s an entirely different argument.

    • Certain Pagan traditions have elements of Christianity deeply incorporated into them, my own tradition included. And there are plenty of legitimately oppressed and marginalized groups who pray to Christian saints. Your statement excluded those who practice syncretic faiths and folk religion, who have much more in common with us than mainstream Christians.

      • “Much more in common with us”….if “us” is defined in a certain way, then yes. It all depends on your definition of “us”.

        • “Us” meaning anyone on the “many gods” spectrum, from hard polytheism to Jungian.

          • We can.

            But my point of responding to this is while you below ask to be separated from Wiccanate privilege, here you use the same words and terms and show the same assumptions as them.

            It is a contradiction from my position.

          • I don’t see how comparing people who have polytheism in common, especially those who are practicing syncretic Christian polytheism, as making assumptions based on Wiccanate privilege.

          • Your definition of “us”. The way you define polytheism. Those show your underlying assumptions are far closer to Wiccanate than they are to any Recons I know.

          • I both agree and disagree with this.

            A literal polytheist and an archetypal polytheist both agree that there are many gods. They just disagree as to the nature of “godhood”.

          • And while I understand why you feel this way and you define it as such, I do not agree with it.

  6. I have to admit that I take the attitude of -“If you want to control the discourse, you have to actually show up to the panel” on this subject.

    5 people in a room of 75 simply do not get to set the agenda. Those 5 deserve to have their voices heard in any ensuing conversation; but in a “big tent” community such as Paganism, it would be highly unreasonable for those 5 to demand that everyone else alter the subject-at-hand to specifically suit their predilections.

    • That’s a nice way of reiterating the privilege under discussion here.

      There were not 75 people in the room; it was more like 35, and there were at least 5 non-Wiccanate polytheists in the room. Sure, it was still not a lot, but given that this panel wasn’t on the main schedule, and the room could only hold so many people, it was still a significant showing.

      And, there was no demand for the “big tent” of paganism to alter anything; it was only a matter of asking Wiccanate pagans to actually realize that some of us are different, and that it would be nice if they actually found out about what we do and who we are before making huge assumptions about us that are incorrect, or assuming that we are just like them in all sorts of ways.

      • I agree with Lupus’ estimate of the size of the group. The room was packed, but it wasn’t a large room. I think the number of non-Wiccanate polytheists was closer to ten than five, but perhaps I am including a few speakers in that category that Lupus would not.

        My main reason for being there was to hear what those non-Wiccanate polytheists have to say, since most of my day to day interactions in the community are with Wiccans.

        Speaking of making assumptions, there is a certain amount of that going in the other direction too. I think Ruadhan’s definition of “Wiccanate” is useful. However, the popularized, entirely public kinds of religiosity derived from Wicca (which are what most people come in contact with since it’s so public) have had several decades to develop in their own way. They now have major differences in belief and practice from earlier kinds of Wicca that are taught face to face and practiced mostly in small groups. From the outside we may look alike but we aren’t.

        • The word “Wiccanate” is pejorative against Wiccans and makes Wiccans look like they have an agenda to assimilate Pagans into their liturgical agenda. Please stop using it.

          • I wouldn’t personally say that Wiccans have an agenda; it’s more like Wiccans are a zombie horde on The Walking Dead out to eat all of our brains.

          • “Borg” is the traditional comparison. 😉 Also, people will stop putting names on the problem when there stops being a problem. Though personally I think everyone is hitting the limits of Paganism and should just come to terms with it by dropping the “Pagan Community” altogether instead of continuing the same argument that’s been going on for nearly 20 years.. But hey, I’m biased.

          • I mean I’m usually pretty sensitive, but that’s clearly 100% an outrageous comparison meant to be a joke.

          • It is not pejorative.

            Considering how often various Wicca inspired groups (not necessarily Wiccan proper) have taken and “assimilated” other traditions and misrepresented them, I find your comment somewhat ironic.

          • I really understand your argument, there. If any religious movement has made a greater effort to Borgify all the world’s other traditional and indigenous religions, it’s American Wiccanate Eclectism. Seriously, half the dot_pagan_snark LiveJournal community archives were about people playing mix-n-match with their cultural appropriation under the guise of “Eclectic Wicca”.

          • So, if some Wiccans do it, then you’re saying it is OK to slur the whole Wiccan movement. Call it syncretism, instead of Wiccanate, then. Stop the blaming. Start looking at the problem and how to address it. That’s what I am saying.

          • Wow, somebody’s spent too much time on Tumblr and is just looking for any reason to feel some Self-Righteous White Boy Persecution in hopes of earning some SJW stripes, eh?

            * No-one, here or in any other blog that has been adressing this topic, is aiming to “slur” Wicca, especially not traditional Wicca.
            * American Eclecticism is not syncretism. You really ought to brush up on what religious syncretism, a form of acculturation, actually is, and how it differentiates from eclectic appropriation of other cultures.

            * No-one is blaming anything or anyone. Stop looking for things to fill your need for Self-Righteous White Boy Persecution and start actually paying attention to what people are saying, especially as you appear to be of the group that benefits from our erasure and silence in pagan spaces.

          • I don’t think its pejorative on its face, but I do think that it can easily be used in a pejorative manner, and I’m already seeing issues with it being applied to folks who don’t agree with the label. Applying labels to people who have an issue with that label and do not agree with the definition is quite problematic, especially if they aren’t given an adequate opportunity to explain their issues with that label.

          • Please also relate this to the folks who keep insisting others are “Pagan” after those others have explained their rejection of the label.

          • I do relate that, and I go out of my way to respect it myself. I had discussions with many folks about why they reject the term “Pagan”, and in many cases I don’t just respect it but I completely understand and agree. Which is why I would like to see the same courtesy extended back towards me. I won’t tell you what you believe and I won’t use any labels that you don’t agree with, and I expect the same in return.

          • “Which is why I would like to see the same courtesy extended back towards me.”

            Is this in response to a specific instance of that courtesty not being reciprocated? As for me personally, I consistently point out that some in my religion identify as Pagan even though I do not. So it looks like we’re in agreement, then.

          • I don’t feel courtesy is really being reciprocated in this instance, not by you personally but with this discussion in general.

          • Oh, in the specific conversation about the term “Wiccanate”? Do you think there is a more accurate term that can be suggested to take its place?

          • I think it’s an accurate term and does have its place, although obviously there are others here who do not agree. I just don’t like it being applied wholesale to traditions that may not fit under the “Wiccanate” umbrella as much as others outside that umbrella might think they do.

            Again, overall, on this issue I completely agree with the polytheist camp. I just think that there are nuances to this that are being overlooked.

          • Unfortunately issues like this where people have really emotional, negative experiences involved tend to turn unproductive pretty quickly. Though, to be fair, I feel a lot of the polytheists get that way because we start out trying to talk constructively but the backlash of anger, dismissal, and denial we tend to get from many in the Pagan community on this issue just makes us respond with our own anger and more entrenched positions.

          • And I do understand that, and I’m not trying to throw a bunch of denial at you. Im trying to have a constructive discussion on a certain aspect of this which I find problematic, and again overall I agree with your stance.

          • Oh I wasn’t mentioning that as a specific reference to you in the discussion, just a general observation. 🙂

          • I understand being sensitive to that…but this is a classification label. That’s like saying “some people choose not to identify as human and we should respect that”.

            At a certain point allowing people to “vote themselves out” of privilege becomes very problematic. I not sure where you can draw the line without worsening the problem.

          • No, it’s not like saying “some people choose not to identify as human and we should respect that”. That’s a ridiculous comparison. As opposed to a label like “human”, which does apply to all of us, “Wiccanate” is a very specific term that you’re trying to apply to me that I’m telling you does not apply, and you don’t seem to be respecting that. And in you not respecting that, or at least not wanting to listen to why some may feel that does not apply, you are doing the exact same thing that Polytheists accuse Pagans of doing to them: you are telling me what I believe, what my practices are, and y are sticking me with a label based on your assumption that. I do not accept or agree with.

          • Wiccanate is a term that loosely defines a continuum of beliefs, practices, worldviews, and a position held within the pagan community. It is probably ill-fitting for nearly everyone. The utility in the term, providing a better understanding of connections, far outweighs the negatives in being ill-fitting.

            I do not know enough about your personal practice to say whether the term is fitting to you. I have not applied it to you in particular.

            What I find problematic is the idea that you can vote yourself out of privilege by claiming the term does not apply to you. If everyone can say “I do not accept this” then everyone gets a free pass? Why?

            No, I am categorizing someone’s practices on a spectrum. “Wiccanate” is no different than the term “Reconstructionist”, except that privilege has been identified for Wiccanate. Both of them are broadly descriptive terms designed to classify better than “Pagan” does.

          • I’m not voting myself out of privilege, I’m telling you that I don’t experience this privilege in the way that you (or others) seem to think I do. When I see my tradition referred to people who are neither Feri or Wiccan as “Wiccanate”, I feel the same way that I know polytheists feel when people insist they are Pagan.

          • So you are saying your tradition does not share significant commonalities that fit within the term “Wiccanate”?

            I am completely open to you explaining why, but what I know about Feri disagrees with your assertion.

            I am sorry, but what you’re doing here very much feels to me like trying to vote yourself out of privilege and claim the same mantle we have. The reason I do not experience Wiccanate privilege is because of the wide differences between my theology and practice and those that fit the Wiccanate spectrum.

            If you wish to remove yourself from it, and that is certainly a reasonable request, you need to show why such a classification is wrong, not simply that you dislike it.

          • What you know about Feri is most likely based on the public face of Feri, which appears as and is arguably somewhat Wiccanate. This is not the case for Feri as a whole, however. My practice is most likely no more Wiccanate than yours. I am a “hard” polytheist, although I dislike the term. I do not call “directions” or “elements”. I do not follow the Wiccan “wheel of the year”. My practice is much more closely related to Hoodoo, Santeria, and Folk Catholicism than it is to anything Wiccan. Again, I understand why the assumption is made, but we all have to be very careful in our assumptions.

          • Yet you will still accrue privilege based on the “public face” of Feri. I gain benefits for being white whether or not I have all the “positives” or traits associated with being white.

            Your practice would probably still leave you far closer to Wiccanate paganism than me based on the description you give and the eclectic nature of Feri, but that’s not really relevant. This isn’t a “who’s closer” discussion.

            I can’t help the feeling that your comment here is essentially asking me to remove you because you don’t like it, despite elsewhere you making the same style of comments and showing similar privilege to others. I just cannot do so. It feels like you are trying to appropriate the experiences of others to distance yourself from privilege, though I do not believe you do so out of any sort of malice.

          • You receive privilege for being white. And yet there are surely other places in your life where you are not privileged. To say that you never experience oppression because you are white would be a stupid assumption on my part. There are many places where privilege and oppression intersect – that’s called “intersectionality” in sociological terms. I think we need to be looking at this Wiccanate privilege article in terms of intersectionality. Yes, I receive a certain amount of privilege that you do not due to the public face of Feri. I also don’t like being associated with that public face, and I find it problematic to be lumped in with that.

            I’m not at all trying to appropriate the experience of others. What I’m telling you is that I’ve experienced these things myself. When I go to Pagan Pride day, and there’s a circle with calling directions and invoking “the god” and “the goddess”, I feel really really out of place. I find it quite alienating. It does not reflect my practice or my experience. I know what to do in that circle, but only because I’ve been showing up to Pagan Pride for well over a decade and I am a quick study.

          • Yes. But we are discussing specifically one privilege, not intersectionality (though that is a good discussion to have). Are you suggesting that in the Pagan sphere you are both privileged and marginalized at the same time? Because I think that might require a little more unpacking.

            I tire of being associated with New Age charlatans claiming to be “Celtic”. There have been a few within Feri, who have committed the same appropriation of Celtic practices that Wiccanate paganisms did. That is why I find cannot agree with your categorization. Feri, in its beginnings, shares many similarities with Wicca in how it took from other practices. I find similarities in many Feri practitioners I’ve interacted with. I am not qualified to police the boundaries of that term, as it is not my own, so I can only relate what I see.

            The fact that you even enter that circle then confuses me.

          • “Are you suggesting that in the Pagan sphere you are both privileged and marginalized at the same time? Because I think that might require a little more unpacking. ”
            By pagan sphere I take it you mean wiccanate pagan sphere? I think part of the misunderstanding here is the application of a label and thus the privilege that is seen with the label based on the public face of feri, when it may not apply. I say this because I do not know whether you are familiar with the ‘schism’ that occurred within the order of feri witchcraft about 3 or so years ago. It wasn’t something that happened overnight but was simmering and flaring many years prior, even before I entered the order. Some of the things you relate above are exactly why some of us feri distanced ourselves from the ‘public face’.
            Some of us feri also tire of being associated with “a few within feri” as well as being associated with the “wiccanate” due to a ‘few within feri.” Just as some of us have distanced ourselves from the public face of our order, some few of us have also distanced our selves from public paganism. In both cases we’ve also distanced ourselves from the ‘privilege’ that goes with them, and far before privilege became the issue, in modern/contemporary paganism, it is now.
            One way of viewing privilege is that it’s not so much a possession as it is something bestowed or extended, albeit mainly due to superficial reasons. Being a public figure invites all these privileges to be bestowed especially in this case.
            As far as appropriation goes, I can’t say whether it is appropriation or syncretism without knowing these ‘few feri’ you speak of. I say this because part of feri relates to one’s ancestral affinities and immersion into it, not because I doubt your assessment. It’s one of the ways Victor passed along the principles, although it is often seen as appropriations or inconsistencies it really wasn’t. It’s often said Victor taught different things to different people. That’s a misunderstanding. Victor taught the same things to different people in a context according to their respective ancestry or ancestral affinity. I have to say many feri do seek out ‘bona fide’ representatives of the cultures, they have an affinity with, and learn from them directly.
            In regards to feri ‘practitioners’, I have to ask are you speaking of initiates or are you speaking of the mass of folks who practice feri based on what they’ve gleaned by and from the public offerings? if the latter, then I can relate to what you’ve expressed in regards to ‘association’. I think that’s what Alley is trying to convey to you. There’s a lot of folks who claim feri practice based on a few websites, books or workshops, who combine all manner of other practices and really bear no resemblances to what she or I or many other initiates practice.
            In regard to the ‘beginnings of feri’, I’d be interested in hearing your take on the story.

          • Feri has a long history of the same sort of problematic appropriation as Wicca, going back to the founders of the movement. How that affects individual practices, I cannot speak to. But the historic practices are there, including “Celtic” and Gaelic practices which are the area I am most concerned with. You can look not only to Victor Anderson’s “Pictish Shamanism” but also to his “spiritual foster-sons” widespread misuse of Romanticist “Celtic” customs.

            I am aware of the schism, yes, in broad terms.

            I don’t believe there is any “Paganism” other than Wiccanate paganism. Even those who do not hold such beliefs and navigate the community work within that milieu.

          • Pictish Shamanism? hmmm you have a reference for that one? or are you referring to other folks conclusions?

            I can’t say, as familiar as I am with the little Victor spoke/wrote about in public he ever claimed other practices as feri, but was always careful to indicate the origin and that there were similarities only. Victor was a syncretist, He didn’t just appropriate without care or respect. I would say he had more in common with reconstructionists, than with romanticism. One teaching he stressed was that the gods are real, not metaphors or personifcations, and the biggest problem of religion today was the tendency to psychologize it.I cannot say the same for what other feri’s did with the material. Again I am not doubting your observations of appropriations, just disagreeing with their origin. Again, I have to return to the ‘Public face’, and a desire by some to make of feri a ‘public’ religion, and not all feri’s have supported that. So yes there is a degree of appropriation to that end, even to appropriation from wicca. You really also don’t know the historic practices, only those that are in the public eye, and from those feri who work within the idea of public religion.
            I’d agree with your categorization of modern/contemporary paganism as ‘wiccanate’, and some do work within that milieu, and I’d agree that privilege is extended to them in that respect. My own experiences bear this out, but I have to say, as soon as a discussion develops between myself and wiccans, the privilege is immediately withdrawn, heh

          • Victor Anderson’s own writings are my reference. He frequently used the term, despite the fact that it has absolutely no meaning and is a New Age misuse. Putting it into Google I’ve found a number of references on sites that say they are Feri, as well as a link to a published piece by Anderson himself.

            He claimed a direct descent from the Picts, which he also claimed were a small dark-skinned people.

            He appropriated MASSIVELY and without care. If you suggest otherwise, you must not be too knowledgeable about Celtic practices. A reconstructionist he was NOT. Every bit of his writing and everything I have seen is Romanticist to it’s utter core.

            I am sorry, but your position here is completely and utterly without value. I will not stand by while you claim an appropriator was like a reconstructionist. That is utterly offensive to me. His misuse and theories share more with New Age concepts than any actual Celtic traditions, particularly Pictish (which were very close to Gaelic despite all the misinformation in popular culture).

          • I’m pretty familiar with his writings, and I’ll not deny that he claimed the descent you mention. He claimed a lot of things in regards to his ancestry. I’ve gone through the writings of his I have, and haven’t seen one reference to “Pictish Shamanism”. I’ve also googled the term, Pictish shamanism, and came up with no article authored by him, even when I combined it with his name. A link to it would be appreciated.
            I apologize for offending you. what I meant to imply was he did research his subjects, using what was available at the time. Whether it is accurate as of today or not, I can’t say. If you view him as an appropriator there isn’t much I can say to refute it except that from what I do know of celtic practices, none of what I have been passed, attributed to him, has any resemblance to celtic practices. it’s evident he wrote a lot of comparisons in regards to the celts and picts and other cultures. He wrote and spoke about a lot of cultures besides celtic in comparison to feri practice, due to practices being similar but not the same. Does comparison equate to appropriation? or is it a matter of passing inaccurate information?

          • There is no link I can see. I found a citation to a writing in a journal by the name of Gnostica. The term “PIctish Shamanism” was used elsewhere, but his use of “Some PIctish Views of the Old Religion” is only slightly more accurate, even if the “shamanism” title was added later (considering some of the other practices he claimed, as well as the widespread misuse of the term “shamanism” in that time period, it’s hard to say).

            Far better information was available at the time than that. Translations of many of the fundamental Gaelic texts were done between 1890 and 1910. By the 70s most of the works of Binchy, MacNeill, and Meyer were available. That’s just dealing with Ireland, but Welsh traditions (from later sources) were also available, if less extensively. As for the Picts, despite the fanciful theories of far too many people, there is no reason to consider them anything other than a Q-Celtic speaking people. But they became a popular “mysterious people” writers could project their desires onto. They still are outside of Celtic studies.

            Further his “spiritual son” (as I’ve seen him described) did even more widespread appropriation than Anderson himself, despite having access to more and better scholarly work (the Corpus Iuris Hibernici wasn’t published until 78 for example). Worse, I’ve seen him declared a “student” of Celtic history and lore, despite falling for the most basic Romanticist fabrications.

            First, many of those comparisons are false, including most of the “Celtic” ones, based on what I’ve seen of Feri tradition. They are not comparable systems. Second, the misuse of practices and imagery is common when “comparisons” are made, and quite a few branches of Feri have followed that path (as have Wiccans and some others).

          • [intended in a friendly tone]

            Well, not me. I’ve always worked energy — indeed, I don’t use the term magic in any of its spellings — without a net. The Wiccan beliefs tend to be about (or imply) enclosure. My religion is about exposure. The only circle I acknowledge gives us tornados and hurricanes. 😀

            I’m a smoke-fire sort of person. I can’t believe I’m the only Pagan who disproves your “Wiccanate paganism” assertion.

          • I’m not sure you disprove it. I think we disagree on the borders of the classification.

            But your input is appreciated.

          • Yes, I would say that in my experience, I often experience privilege and marginalization at the same time. Ruadhan made a very good analogy about the Feri experience in Wiccan-centric paganism being somewhat similar to the way that bisexuals and pansexuals fit into GLBT communities.

            I am not a New Age charlatan. Nothing I do is “Celtic” by any stretch of the imagination, and I wouldn’t dare try to stretch it there. Please do not hold your other experience with Feri folk against me. Feri is an extremely diverse tradition. Many lines had big doses of Wicca, others had little to none. As I said above, I would consider Reclaiming folks to be “Wiccanate”, and foks from certain Feri lines also have a definite Wiccan flavor. Believe it or not, you can put three Feri initiates from different lines in the same room, and they’ll often find that their practices are often completely foreign to one another.

          • The New Age comment was not directed at you. My point was, from my position, I’ve seem similar appropriation by those using the Feri label. Including some rather important individuals who could be counted among the founders (I mentioned Pictish Shamanism in another post, which quite frankly, is utter New Age bullshit). Your practice in particular though, I cannot know here. Perhaps the lack of boundary maintenance is in and of itself a problem; so many people seem afraid of the very concept.

            For both Wicca, Feri, and others, until that appropriation is dealt with, I quite frankly see little utility in dealing with “Paganism” as a culture. I know I am not the only one. I do not police others beliefs. What they find value in is none of my business. But I will absolutely police the misattribution and misuse of Gaelic tradition. My ancestors demand no less.

          • And I’m sorry if you’ve seen appropriation, but I ask that you not automatically assume that of all of us. I’ve also never used the term “Pictish Shamanism”. Please don’t hold your grudges towards a few against an entire tradition.

          • The founder of your tradition used the term. His “handpicked heir” did far worse. That is not something you can simply wave off, even if you were not personally involved. Just as the racist tendencies of some Recons is an issue (often) brought up by other pagans that must be addressed and combated by ALL Recons, appropriation is such an issue for paths like Wicca and Feri and those numerous paths that are not either but are similar.

            I assume it until I see evidence otherwise. Far too many people are completely unwilling to even address the issue. Ignoring it is asking me to ignore the issue entirely.

          • I’m not asking you to “wave it off”. But there’s a place between waving something off and holding blanket grudges and assumptions.

            Personally, I’ve addressed these issues in my own practice. I self-identify as a spirit-worker, not a shaman. I appreciate the lore of the Picts but its not a part of my practice or belief structure. I don’t use lore or concepts that have been appropriated. I am very willing to address this issue. But as has been the theme today, I ask that you not make broad assumptions.

          • But the community you belong to HAS NOT addressed it.

            No matter how many individual recons fight racism in our communities, institutional pagans still hang that over our heads, calling us folkish or racist. I am gladdened that you have dealt with the issue. But if you continue to identify with a group that continues to do it, the job is not finished.

            Another person downthread has explicitly denied appropriation. This issue is not settled. I am sorry, but when you identify with a term, you explicitly link yourself to that term. It is not an overly broad assumption on my part. It is using the term you provide.

          • Gwydion Pendderwen.

            I mean for the God’s sake he called himself a “Celtic Bard” (a term with no meaning) and then wrote songs about “the Old Religion” and the sabbats (another term with absolutely no meaning in a Celtic context). I still see people calling him a scholar.

          • FWIW, Victor had a succession of “hand-picked heirs.” Not to defend Gwydion, but scholarship about such things as “Celtica,” for want of a better word, has advanced considerably since Gwydion’s time.

            I think Gwydion did contribute useful things to an emerging religion. I do not see any kind of Craft as being really old; rather, I see Craft as drawing from and finding inspiration in our personal and collective [mostly] European heritages.

          • He had access to many of the same fundamental writings in the field that a modern scholar does, including translations of manuscripts that were available far earlier. His reliance on New Age and Romanticist nonsense cannot be laid at the feet of lack of available scholarship.

            “Drawing from” to you is appropriation and misuse to others. Appropriation no one in your Craft has ever bothered to address.

          • Gwydion was serious enough about Celtic culture to take Welsh lessons and change his name.

            He was one of the first people to write original neopagan songs, rather than putting new words to existing ones. He was one of the first people in America to buy rural land and make it available for pagan community rituals and festivals. He organized a volunteer project to reforest the land. He was one of the founders of the Covenant of the Goddess. I don’t think his friends and colleagues thought of Gwydion as a scholar.

            Gwydion died fairly young. The year when he quit his mainstream job, changed his name to Gwydion Pendderwen, and became a full time pagan artist, writer and activist, there were perhaps fifty pagans of any sort in Northern California (a territory half the size of France). When Gwydion died, there were a few hundred pagans in Northern California, most of whom knew him.

            There was no Internet. There were a few occult bookstores and semipublic rituals. People communicated by mail or face to face. We hung together despite different interests and approaches because the rest of the world didn’t know, didn’t care, or didn’t like the things we cared about. There weren’t enough of us to support a lot of specialists. IIRC the only Celtic-identified pagan group in Northern California then was the Reformed Druids of North America. Isaac Bonewits later left RDNA to form ADF because of his dissatisfaction with RDNA’s attitude toward scholarship.

            Gwydion’s time and circumstances were utterly different from your situation.

          • You are whitewashing, making excuses, not actually dealing with the issue.

            This is why so many people consider these discussions useless. There is always a reason someone will come up with. Always a way to shift away from the issue into reasons why it’s not a problem.

            For the record, since I am actually familiar with the general trends in Celtic studies, there was far more available than you or any of his other defenders seem to think. If he was the “scholar” he claimed to be, there is no excuse.

            Why do I care how much he did to grow a movement based on appropriation? To write songs about Wiccan holidays and claim to be a bard? His dedication is not in question, whether or not that led to any positives from the perspective of actual Celtic polytheists is. I would argue, and others have, that his did more damage than nearly anyone else in modern neopaganism in regards to the misuse of Celtic tradition. You act as if I should praise him for this harm simply because he did things you consider worthwhile!

            You need to stop assuming others share your assumptions. I see no reason to praise a man who single handedly caused so much misinformation.

          • As someone who opposes the watering down and misuse of Gaelic custom, I well and truly feel your pain with such things.

            The question of initial appropriation before the schism remains unexamined however.

          • That’s something that really confuses me.

            If their practices (and beliefs, I am presuming) are completely foreign, what defines them as Feri?

          • There’s a few beliefs and practices that (I think) we all share, a wider set of beliefs and practices that most of us share, and there are practices that most of have in common, but some lineages definitely have specific practices that other lines do not share or know of. Some take a very simple approach while others might be considered more “high church” in their practices. Feri unites around a shared approach/philosophy and shared understandings and beliefs around power and ethics much more so than a shared liturgy. As for “what defines them as Feri”, that’s tough to answer in a sentence or even several. Feri is not what you do as much as it is what you are, again back to the idea of a shared philosophy instead of a shared liturgy. Many initiates have incorporated other practices and rituals that they learned outside Feri into their Feri practice. The practice of a Feri initiate also influenced by Buddhism most likely looks quite different than the the practice of one who has a background in the OTO.

          • I favour terms that can be broadly described in a simple paragraph. When a term requires a dissertation to define, I often wonder its value.

            Labels, after all, are a means of communicating ideas to others who may not have encountered them before.

            I am not criticising anything here, to clarify, merely explaining my confusion.

          • I would also add that you can’t really discuss privilege without also discussing intersectionality. Intersectionality is how we can understand the dynamics that are at play within privilege and oppression, as opposed to seeing things as strictly this or that.

          • I think when discussing one specific instance, like religious privilege, it is possible that intersectionality can muddy, rather than clear, the waters.

            But in a broader sense I absolutely agree.

          • When I see my tradition referred to people who are neither Feri or Wiccan as “Wiccanate”, I feel the same way that I know polytheists feel when people insist they are Pagan.

            No, I really don’t think that you do. Cos while the term “pagan” is not one of my favourites for myself, I do situationally identify with it –for some reason, a majority of people outside the pagan community have a better understanding of “pagan’ as a synonym for “polytheist” than they have the ability to figure out what “poly-” meaning “many”, paired with “-theist”, meaning “belier in god”, is supposed to mean. While the average “Paganism 101” book largely doesn’t apply to my religion, or even acknowledge it in its obligatory chapter giving a brief summary of “pagan religions” (I’m a Hellenist), there is still a fair amount of use i can get from a lot of books on Paganism. I have also benefited socially for eventually involving myself in the Pagan community.

            I’m not voting myself out of privilege, I’m telling you that I don’t experience this privilege in the way that you (or others) seem to think I do.

            I’m going to go back to analogising “wiccanate” with “cisgender” now, because an overwhelming majority of people who experience “cisgender priivilege” don’t feel they experience it. Because “privilege” is something that is very seldom consciously experienced before one is made aware of it –it’s something that is most often just taken for granted rather than consciously “experienced”. You don’t have to be aware of a privilege to benefit from it, most people aren’t aware of it at all and yet constantly benefit from various privileges.

            If a white person goes out for the same job as an equally-qualified person of colour, that person is likely to have benefitted from white privilege.

            If a woman and a man are literally giving the same response to a question (like “what is the time?” –and yes, this is an example i’ve seen in action) but the man is taken more seriously, he has benefitted from male privilege.

            It is unlikely that the white person or the man are even aware of how they are benefitting in this way, but they still get that benefit.

            In the subculture of the pagan community, there are idiosyncratic hierarchies of privilege that develop, putting Wiccanate practises on the most-visible tier, which leads many people to believe that it is the assumed default for paganism. The majority of books on “Paganism” are more often about specifically Wiccanate practises and theologies, and often barely pay lip-service to the fact that there are at least two dozen or so recognised religions within the pagan community. Because of that market saturation, most “Pan-Pagan Events”, like Pantheacon or local Pagan pride Days, are set up to cater to people who practise Wiccanate paganism, often at the expense of representing other religions and groups fairly.

          • I must respectfully take issue with your blanket rejection of Alley’s description of her reactions and feelings. It implies at best a default distrust, at worst a conscious contempt.

            What is your standard of proof that a person can honestly have a feeling of sympathy, even just commiseration, with you or others?

          • She did not describe feeling sympathy. She tried to allege that all polytheists who refer to the dominant class of ZWiccanate pagans in pagan spaces uniformly reject the term “pagan” in the way she tries to reject the term ‘Wiccanate”. That is not the case. She doesn’t know the feelings of polytheists, but she attempts to speak for us. That’s a pretty busted move.

          • I’m sorry, but her consistent use of the first-person personal pronoun just doesn’t translate as how you took it.

            Before this gets personal — I truly don’t mean it to be — I’m asking you to assume good will. As I see it, I’m already treading on the prying question line, so I’ll leave you to take the last word or let it lie, as you wish.

          • I did not try to allege that “all” Polytheists uniformly reject the term “Pagan”. If that’s what you took from what I said, I’ll try to be clearer in the future. But I know many who do, and I understand why they do so. That’s all I was trying to say.

          • Please don’t lecture me on privilege. I understand these topics just as well as you do. I know I benefit from cisgender privilege, etc. You and I are more on the same side with this issue than you seem to understand. What I’m saying is that there are nuances to the “Wiccanate Privilege” label and that its not black-and-white. I would consider what Reclaiming does to be “Wiccanate”, and I can see how many would confuse my training and practice with that of Reclaiming. But I am saying no, wait, there are diffences, and those differences need to be heard and respected. Do I benefit from Wiccanate privilege to the extent that people assume I’m one of them and accept my practice based on what they know of public Feri? Yes. But that does not mean that I dont often experience the same discomforts and alienating moments that many others do. and to automatically confer it upon people who you think

          • OK, I guess I’ve just been trying to understand your apparent objections, as they’ve mixed with the timing of cernowain greenman’s objections, and he’s definitely the one who started in with all of this “Wiccanate is a pejorative slur!!!” nonsense.

            Would you say that it’s fair to compare Feri to, say, bi-/pansexual in relation to Gays and Lesbians, or non-transitioning people in the TS/TG community (as I’ve been in both places –I was non-transitioning for years before I finally started), or, dare i say, a bi-racial person, perhaps especially one who may be able to pass for “white”, amongst people of colour? In other words, you’re basically saying that Feri is in this sort of borderline came, where you do benefit from some privileges of being assumed part of a Wiccanate majority, but there are asterisks and what-not that can complicate the matter for Feri, in specific?

            I admit, my knowledge of Feri is limited to its public face, which has largely been filtered through T Thorn Coyle.

          • Yes, please do not conflate my issues with cernowain’s. I do not consider the term to be a slur. I actually agree with your essay and what others have said to a large degree.

            I think it’s extremely accurate to compare Feri to bi/pansexual folks within the context of your comparison. Its very borderline. I “pass” as Wiccanate but there are huge asterisks.

            I also completely understand how the misunderstanding can be made based on the public face of Feri. Thats why I spoke up.

          • And i do thank you for doing so and taking the time to explain things to be better. I have a couple friends who are interested in Feri –one who i’m not very close to and who identifies her lineage as only three initiate generations from the Andersons, and one who I am very close to, but has been unable to really take her learning any further beyond the “public face” stuff (though this may have changed, since she emigrated from Australia to Ireland).

            Yes, I understood previously that there are some aspects to Feri that are “similar to Wicca, but not” –but the same can be said of Reclaiming and certain schools of Neodruidry, when the reality is often that they are more Wiccanate than not.

          • And again, I’m not going to argue that certain flavors of Feri aren’t Wiccanate. There are people within Feri who also openly identify as Wiccan, there are Wiccans who are studying Feri and publicly identify as both, and as has been pointed out here several times now, “public” Feri seems similar to Wicca. I get how and why its confusing, trust me.

          • What I find problematic is the idea that you can vote yourself out of privilege by claiming the term does not apply to you. If everyone can say “I do not accept this” then everyone gets a free pass? Why?

            Exactly. This derailment to cast the term “Wiccanate paganism” as a “slur” or “pejorative” is seriously reminding me of the shock and horror many cisgender women were experiencing over the then-new-to-them term “cisgender” during the “Dianics vs Trans women” brou-ha-ha of 2011/12. It all seems to stem from an unwillingness to accept a particular layer or privilege that applies to oneself.

          • If your religion, as you practise it, resembles Outer Court Wicca more than it does any other religion or religious grouping under the Big Pagan Tent, then your religion is Wiccanate. If your religion genuinely shares nothing in common with Outer Court Wicca, then it is not.

            Many cisgender women were very angry two-three years ago to learn that there was a term, “cis[gender] women”, that applied to them. Many insisted that it did not apply, that they were “just women”, failing to realise (or at least see anything wrong with the fact) that this tipped the field in their favour, giving them an easier way to “normal” than it gave to transgender women. The same principles apply to “Wiccanate paganism”.

          • Ok. I’m applying your definition to my reality now. My religion does NOT resemble Outer Court Wicca more than it does anything else under the “Big Tent”. My religion as I practice it resembles Hoodoo and Appalachian Folk Magic and/or Folk Catholicism MUCH MORE than it does any sort of Wicca. Trying to explain what I do to the average Wiccan-type Pagan usually results in anything from simple misunderstanding to outright condemnation on their part. My Gods are as real as you and I are. They are specific, they have names, and even when they are addressed as “Holy Mother”, that is in reference to a specific deity, not “The Goddess”. Would I say that my practice has absolutely nothing on common with outer court Wicca? No. There are certain commonalities still, but those commonalities are not nearly as significant as the differences.

          • As someone from Appalachia, I’m rather interested in what “Appalachian Folk Magic” is.

          • I mean I’m sure there are a number of folk traditions I’m unaware of. But that sounds like something more like a large system. Considering “Pictish shamanism” was also supposedly an influence on Feri, I would like some clarification, because clearly terms are being used in a way I do not understand.

          • I wouldn’t call it a formal system, but more of an umbrella term for the various folk practices that are found within that region. Cora Anderson grew up in Appalachia with a father who was a herbal healer, and a lot of what she learned in her childhood and teen years ended up in Feri. I’m typing on my phone and would rather not go into great detail right here, but I’d be happy to elaborate on this more tonight when I am in front of an actual computer.

          • Fair enough. When someone claims “Pictish shamanism” I am somewhat obviously skeptical of further claims.

            Though I am still somewhat skeptical, since I see things labelled “Appalachian” erroneously about as often as “Celtic”.

          • Sounds like you are just as much a victim of Wiccanate privilege as others are. If not more so.

          • I don’t see myself as a “victim” of anything, but perhaps that’s a matter of perspective more than anything else. As I said above, I experience a bit of both. It doesn’t offend me and I don’t feel victimized, but that’s not to say that others don’t feel victimized by these things or that their feelings are not legitimate.

          • Exactly, it’s a classification label. This is really starting to feel no different from the whole debacle after Pantheacon two or three years ago, when Budapest and her Dianic hoardes decided that they objected to us trannies classifying the most common variety of woman as “cisgender” or “cis women” as a manner to differentiate them from “trans women” that didn’t implicitly elevate those who were not trans women to a status of “normal” or “superior”, but did so in a manner where women were women –some were cisgender, some were transgender. Cos at the end of the day, just about all of them identified themselves as simply “women”, but because there are some instances where it can be beneficial to differentiate (such as when seeking medical care, or menstrual cycle rituals, etc…) now there are two distinct categories that are ostensibly on a more-equal playing field than they were when it was “women” and “trans women”.

          • You know what other words can be used in a pejorative manner? Transgender, black, Latino/a, gay, woman…. I could go on.

            Applying labels to people who have an issue with that label and do not agree with the definition is quite problematic, especially if they aren’t given an adequate opportunity to explain their issues with that label.

            And my mind goes right back to 2012 and Zsuzsanna Budapest and her transphobic cabal objecting to “cisgender” cos guess why? They never approved of the label! They said “it’s a slur!” Even Budapest herself decided to prove how badly she failed Latin and tried to claim us trannies were calling “women-born women” “cyst” or “cystgender”.

            While personal identity is all well and good, there’s a point where a majority population is clearly using the argument of self-identity to further marginalise a minority population by insisting that all these special words are great for the minorities (special words usually created by people who are not one of us and that we often only took on begrudgingly) but not for the majority –because the majority is the “default” or “normal”, and as soon as a fancy-schmancy new word comes out to put the majority on a level playing field with us weirdos who need the special words, then all of a sudden it’ “pejorative” and “slurs” and “YOU DON’T GET TO DEFINE ME!!”

            Cos if we in the minorities did leave it up to the majority to define themselves, you’d all be “normal” or “default” and the rest of us would get the special identifiers and the special language.

      • So, when those differences are noted, and our assumptions are checked, then what? Do we all live happily ever after?

        It seems to me that this is an issue that will never go away. People will always lose sight of their privilege (it’s in the very nature of the beast) on some level. If anyone is looking for a windmill to til against, or to have a flag to carry ever-forward, you could do a lot worse than this.

        • Then we have conversations laced with respect instead of assumptions. It’s not “happily ever after” but it is an improvement. Nothing at all wrong with an increase of informed discussion and respect in the world.

          • > “Then we have conversations laced with respect instead of assumptions.”

            I think the level of discourse here strives mightily to be free of assumptions and is very respectful. Your milage may vary, I guess…

          • I think one only has to look at the very first comment on this post to see that respect isn’t exactly the only thing happening. Blaming the marginalized for their marginalization isn’t respectful by any stretch of the imagination.

          • I’m not sure what about A.) admitting one’s own shortcomings, B.) acknowledging that the voices of the minority should certainly be heard, but C.) insisting upon an idea of majority rules/quorum is being disrespectful.

            It’s an opinion, and it’s one that others have thoughtfully disagreed with and have given me food for thought about. And although I am not about to change my opinion overnight because of this, I was certainly not being disrespectful, and I was most certainly not blaming anyone for anything.

          • I believe Erynn was referring to the very first comment, by someone with the user-name “ltrotsky”.

          • Yes, Nick is correct. I wasn’t referring to our thread but to the very first post in the entire discussion.

          • “The majority rules” covers a lot of ground, some of it very nasty ground indeed. Majority rule that respects minority viewpoints and compromises with them is one thing. Majority rule that says “our way or the highway” is quite another thing, and a bad thing indeed. Tyranny of the majority exists. In my own experience of life, it is more common than respectful compromise.

          • There’s always the Transmetropolitan/Spider Jerusalem analogy:

            Democracy is like being in a room with twenty sewer mutants. You want to watch your show, but the mutants all want to kick your arse. Since it’s “majority rules” guess what you’re doing tonight.

            There is a time and place for “majority rules”, and like you said, when that majority works toward inclusion and respect, it’s great, but when that majority cares only for its on needs and desires, then it’s not good at all.

          • This (majority rules) is something that I, as a Pagan of the Witchen persuasion who participates in lots of interfaith activities, have strived to overcome in organizations that are overwhelming Abrahamic in composition and assumptions. At this point, at least in my local, relatively old as interfaith groups go, and very active, council, members are much more likely to check their assumptions and give ear to other perspectives now that they’ve known and worked with (on mainly secular social problems of mutual concern) a real live Pagan. I am careful to make clear that I am only one of the more numerous Witchen (I am not a Wiccan, per se, tho I do indeed consort with Wiccans) population of a diverse Pagan demographic. I consider that I’ve made great strides for people of all minority religious, regardless of whether they accept refuge from inclement religious weather under the overall Pagan umbrella.

            I remind participants here that this discussion originated specifically around “Wiccanate privilege” in interfaith activities. And I was grateful for a chance for face-to-face discussion among disagreeing parties at PantheaCon.

            The interfaith movement is not about theology or arguing any particular religious perspective. It is cooperative in spirit and outward-directed towards addressing problems of common concern (environment, peace, homelessness, teen suicide, returning veterans, etc.)

            I also remind folks not to confuse the panel on privilege, which I think was convened by Thorn Coyle and which was an official offering at the Con, with the open-ended discussion arranged at the last minute after Don Frew’s guest post generated so much heated discussion held in the CoG/NROOGD/NWC hospitality suite. What Heather has reported on here is the latter.

            Also, since it seems that terminology is a big thing here, I don’t think “interfaith” is the best term for what I consider to be more a question of religious identification and practice than one of faith, per se. I do, however, use the term because it’s the one we have, the one that others who join in such efforts understand. I think that this subtopic, if it’s of interest, might best be discussed on another, less encumbered commentary.

          • Actually, the discussion of Wiccanate privilege didn’t begin with Frew’s post about Interfaith activity. The discussion on that blog may have directly inspired his discussion at Pantheacon, but it’s been a topic discussed in polytheist circles of the pagan blogosphere for at last the last six months to year. This didn’t begin with Frew’s post last month, it didn’t even begin with my Pagan Blog Project post about “Wiccanate Privilege” back in November. It began when people whose practices, much less beliefs, that sit so far from the Wiccanate mainstream noticed, over and over again, that what we do are so underrepresented and even silenced and erased from supposedly “all-inclusive” pagan gatherings, and we started communicating that with each-other.

            I find that your ignorance of this –which I don’t really blame you for or judge you poorly on– is just another symptom of the privileged hierarchy at play here. That is not a bad thing, in and of itself, but it’s something that really ought to be addressed. I know that I’m not the first person to point out that this subject pre-dates Frew’s post.

        • Then what? Then I go back to my experiences as a Baby Pagan in his late forties twenty-five years ago and sort through what role Wiccanate privilege played for me without my being aware at the time, and seeing what unfolds from that. I’ve done this before as a white person, a man, a straight person and a cismale. It can be stressful and even disorienting, but it’s impossible for me to evade and continue spiritual growth.

      • I consider myself corrected regarding the “5 of 75” example I used. That was supposed to be a hypothetical example, but it clearly missed the mark.

    • Here’s an allegory:

      You have ten friends over for a game night. You all decide to order pizza, but Dale is lactose intolerant and Chris is allergic to wheat, necessitating a gluten-free option, Terry is vegan, and Gerry and Max are vegetarian. In theory, if everyone pitches in five dollars, that’s more than enough money to get at four or five pizzas and give the driver a healthy tip. You have three choices:

      1) Order from Jet’s, which does not offer gluten-free or cheeseless pizzas.
      2) Order from Cottage Inn, which has gluten-free and cheeseless options.
      3) The “normal people &vegetarians” add a little extra cash to the pool and get four pizzas from Jet’s, leaving the other three to order one pizza with what little money they have left from Cottage Inn that the three of them can eat (and they can’t afford a tip for this driver).

      Only one of those choices will make everyone at the game night feel welcome. One of those choices will create an unfair power dynamic, where three people feel underfed and the other seven have more than enough. One of those choices will leave three people feeling especially unwelcome to game night.

      Basically, it feels like you’re saying those ten people should order from Jet’s, and the other three should have eaten before they showed up.

      The thing about creating an inclusive community, which the pagan community has most certainly insisted it is for literally decades, is that you have to make sure everyone gets what they need. Some pagan religions need to be properly identified as something with its own history, identity, and even language, separate from the Wiccanate mainstream if the pagan community –just like some of your friends at game night need a special pizza that they can actually eat.

      • Let me change this a little and ask your opinion. Please indulge me in this, as I’m really not getting what you’re saying 100% here.

        In your pizza allegory, what if:
        1. “Jet’s Pizza” is widely regarded as the best pizza in town, and price-wise it’s also great deal.
        2. “Cottage Inn”, which has gluten-free and cheeseless options -but is generally considered to be mediocre at best (although some swear by it…), and it is very pricey on top of that.
        3. Remains the same.

        In a situation where cost and quality are an issue, it would seem to me that the dynamics of the story change pretty dramatically.

        • This is not a situation where “cost and quality” are the issue, though –this is a matter where actually including people is the issue. Don’t “what if” this, that’s a derailment, and quite an obvious one, at that.

          I really don’t know how I can make that any more clear to you. The issue is that Inclusive Community is not being as inclusive as it thinks it is and people are saying “hey, include us, we’ve been here the whole time, here is how you can include us” –and your response seems to be little more than “well, sorry, no can do! Majority rules –tra-la-la! [skips off into the wildflowers]”

          If this were a matter of whether to paint the community centre’s main room Turquoise or Teal, then yes, cost, quality, and majority vote would be more important than making sure everyone gets what they need. This issue, on the other hand, is about the lack of “inclusiveness” in a community that practically defines itself as being “inclusive” and how the majority can stop silencing people and actually include them.

          …and just as an aside, NOBODY in SE Michigan would say that Jet’s is “widely regarded as the best pizza in town”. Cheap? Yes. Good? Eh, only compared to some of the other places I could’ve named. Cottage Inn is gourmet.

          • Well it bloody well wasn’t obvious to me. I was genuinely trying to understand your position. I wasn’t trying to “derail” jack-shit.
            I think I’m just about done here, anyhow. So it’s just as well…

            Also, I have no clue as to what Midwesterners call pizza. I was just continuing with your narrative.

          • I believe Gaddy was doing exactly that, and trying to follow your logic in the asking. With respect, “what if” is also a way of saying “this is how I understood it, and here are the parts as I saw them” as a way of asking for clarification and correction.

          • Considering that I *immediately* followed the “three options for pizza” with the following:

            Only one of those choices will make everyone at the game night feel welcome. One of those choices will create an unfair power dynamic, where three people feel underfed and the other seven have more than enough. One of those choices will leave three people feeling especially unwelcome to game night.

            I think it’s only proper that I call “bulldada” on the notion that Gaddy wasn’t clear on anything I had said. Instead, he either ignored that or simply stopped reading before that so he could derail with “what ifs” that could support his ‘majority rules” statements.

      • But what about the person with the allergy to Solanacea plant matter? yes, I do have a friend for whom pizza embodies pretty much all of the things that can send her to the ER.

  7. Fascinating article and discussion. I will once again note that to use the word “faith” as a synonym for “religion” buys into the framing of the world’s 3 dominant monotheisms. Whatever else we Pagans have in common with each other and on whatever matters we differ, few of us consider our religions to so profoundly based upon “faith” as to make that a synonym for our religion. Discussing “religions” and “inter-religious” work, or avoids buying into framing that suggests that our religions are less-than.

    • But if you think about it, Hecate, Paganism is INHERENTLY framed by the three most dominant monotheisms. We need to get past that part, too.

      But a different battle for a different time, I guess.

  8. I wonder how much the problem of self-selection makes work like this…less effective? The people attending such events are already “institutional” in that they choose to navigate the corridors of Wiccanate paganism and (from what I’ve seen) are sometimes eclectic leaning even if they follow hard and or devotional polytheist paths(this isn’t directed at anyone in the post in particular). Quite frankly, there are still many communities where eclectic is a bad word.

    Until the issues of appropriation are dealt with, I’m not sure you can convince some of the communities that have walked away from the pagan festival scene to come back in. The issue won’t be solved until you reach those communities; what’s happening here is a well meaning discussion between people who have self-selected for the discussion.

    I don’t think some people who frequent these events and are part of pagan “institutions” really understand how much resistance there is in some of the smaller Recon communities. Our issues aren’t being addressed. It’s nice we’re having the conversation, but at the risk of being rude, there is a tendency to do interfaith for the sake of doing interfaith, rather than actually tackling the hard issues. All the discussions over privilege and terminology are useful, but I just don’t think it’s enough.

    I have no interest in events like PantheaCon because I know there is nothing for me there. Worse, my positions would likely be treated with hostility by many who carry significantly more weight in the pagan community than me. I don’t see that changing.

    I suppose I simply lack optimism. The gaps are far larger than they appear. The more I try to keep track of things on sites like this or on the Patheos blogs, the more I realize how far my community is from that.

    • This is where the communities formerly known as “Pagan” need to build their own infrastructures.

      It’s hard work and requires dedication, but if it is important enough, people will step up.

      The first step is to say “We are not Pagan!” Otherwise, others will continue to force unsuitable definitions.

      • In the past I have not wanted to abandon the label, as I self-identified by it for too long. But I am beginning to change my mind.

        I spend more time in smaller communities and less on “pagan” sites, because it has become clear to me that the direction of paganism is one that excludes me. These conversations are a well meaning attempt to slow that break, but I think the break will still occur.

        It still saddens me though.

        • On a personal note, I’m in the same. Except I’m fighting for realistic inclusiveness within the Pagan label. I also think it’s problematic to capitalize “Polytheist” as if it were a religion, and not a theological construct. But again, different arguments tangentially related to this whole matter.

          • I think I’ve given up. I tire of seeing New Age hippies in modern clothing with fake Celtic knots claiming to be Druids, or telling me about “Celtic” beliefs that are nothing but Romanticist era fantasy. That is the norm under the pagan label that I have experienced.

            I am diametrically opposed to such people. Their path and mine are not compatible; they must erase me to continue.

            I only capitalize polytheist when saying Gaelic Polytheist, since that’s a specific path. I agree otherwise.

          • I live near Stonehenge (23 miles), Avebury (21 miles) and Glastonbury (29 miles). I know exactly what you mean.

          • I couldn’t do it. The Gaelic Polytheist community I am actively part of (online unfortunately) has about 1% tolerance for New Age misuse and that is it. I split off from the ADF practices I had followed due to such issues. They claimed to be Druids, yet ignored attested customs in favor of Romanticist era fabrications.

          • I’ve lived in South West England my entire life. Having these places around is something generally taken for granted. As are all the hippies, New Agers and tourists.

        • Why does it sadden you?

          if done maturely, the break will be largely academic. They are only words, after all.

          • I once found value in the label. I find it provides less and less. But the passing of any such period in one’s life is worth reflection, and it saddens me to watch a label I once embraced move far past me.

          • Few labels are kept for life, I find. As such I tend to avoid over-sentimentalising them.

    • Decades ago, a well known pagan, maybe it was Oberon Zell, said, “If you don’t like it, you can’t have any.” People need to feel both that they are safe and that they have something in common with others for any gathering of this sort to be a positive experience.

      Pantheacon is not Walmart or Microsoft. It did not become the largest pagan-themed hotel con in North America by squeezing out smaller competitors. The financial and social success of Pantheacon excludes no one from creating a different event for a different community. Pantheacon got big because Glenn, the proprietor, is respected, she built on the experience and good will of running a smaller festival, she is open to new people as presenters and new topics and activities so it isn’t all the same thing every year, she has a loyal staff, and most of the presenters and registrants feel their time was well spent and want to come back. Not all–you can’t make everybody happy.

      To put it another way, Glenn takes care of the important stuff without being a control freak. I have watched Pantheacon get larger and more diverse in content year by year as it developed from a regional to a national event with some international patronage.

      If you think it is fatally flawed, the most effective way to demonstrate that is by showing people a better example.

      • While I respect your opinion, saying “if you come and play it will be better” is utterly false. People have. People I know have. They have tried to explain and been rebuffed. They’ve been rebuffed by people writing for this very blog.

        I have no desire to wade through a sea of New Age appropriation to make a tiny presentation that will put a drop in a pool and nothing more. Mainstream paganism is not ready to deal with the wholesale appropriation of European traditions. We’ve gotten to the point of doing it for Native Americans and others, to a certain degree, but no further.

        I’m bloody well tired of watching this Romanticist individualist nonsense where people justify appropriation and misuse with “that’s how I feel”. But that’s the only bloody answer I ever get. What you’re telling me, is that if I come by and say something about it, it’ll change? It’s been raised by many people and it is NOT being addressed.

        So please, while I know your comment was a well meaning attempt at inclusion, I’d prefer you not talk down as if none of us have tried the path you suggest before. People much smarter than me, with far more knowledge of Gaelic traditions, have tried and failed.

        • How about this? It’s none of yours or anyone else’s business what people believe or practice in their own spirituality. It’s not your place to dictate to others what’s ok to believe or how they’re going to express their spiritual feelings or what they may talk about when they gather.

          No one is an authority over anyone else just because they don’t fit in with a slightly larger minority group who are a tiny fraction under fire in the greater world beyond Paganism. You don’t own European Paganism and aren’t entitled to tell others what to think, feel and how to follow their path. Someone claiming to be a “real” this or that is talking shite anyhow as most European traditions have been lost to history and archeologists are only now starting to discover more. Frankly most people investigating European traditions and roots ARE white people (European ancestry) and have every right to do as their heart commands concerning that and to take their ancestry and make it work for them in the 21st century in the way that speaks to them. And if it’s dark skinned people you’re complaining about who are investigating European practices, well then- you might just be a racist.

          Wiccan “privilege” is the most laughable thing I’ve ever heard of. This is the height of first world problems and obsessive self absorption and self reflection. And before you respond- I’m not Wiccan, nor am I hard polytheist. And I think this argument is ridiculous. The monstrous creation of politics and academia where the liberty of heart and spirit should be!
          Don’t bother responding to me… I won’t be back to the Wild Hunt. The dog has caught it’s own tail and I have no interest in watching the bloody mess that will ensue.

          • No, Anne Noyed (nice handle!), just no! Feelings and viewpoints can be understood and acknowledged, but taken *by themselves* they are pretty worthless, trashy things. There is nothing sacred about them. Truth, to the extent that it has been discovered, always and everywhere trumps each and every mere feeling and viewpoint.

          • And this, right here, is the reason why we have problems. Ultra-inclusivity has created a behemoth concept which doesn’t work.

          • If you appropriate Gaelic custom and Gaelic terms and misuse them out of ignorance of simply because you buy into the “it’s all about how you feel man” hippy nonsense, then yes, it is my business. How can I watch the traditions I care about, that my identity is based around, by misused like that?

            What you’ve done is a paean to appropriation based on nothing more than some notion of “individual good”. Personally, I find it utterly immoral to justify bad practices with “that’s how I feel”. If you do not want to use accurate Gaelic practices, fine, don’t claim to and do not represent yourself as one. I don’t give a f*** how your “heart” feels if it means disrespecting and distorting a REAL AND LIVING culture. The Gaels are not dead, despite what people like you think.

            Don’t bother responding? You insult me, trash the article, then flee like a coward? You show your argument’s lack of worth with your actions. If your positions are so solid, you should not flee, you should defend them. But this sort of behavior is what usually happens when this issue is brought up.

        • How you can attribute to me the opinion “if you come and play it will be better” since that is the exact opposite of what I wrote? I don’t beat my head against a wall I can walk around; nor need you unless you relish it.

          I said (second sentence) that if you had bad experiences in the past and expect no better in the future, you have no good reason to come back to Pantheacon. As you say, a single voice is hard to hear in a crowd.

          Your energies might be better spent organizing the kind of gathering you prefer, working with people whose views and tastes are compatible with yours. Both because then you get to go to it, and because if you offer people a good experience, they are more likely to listen to what you say, and maybe renounce old habits of thought and behavior.

          • If we’re left to organize our own events and communities along the lines of our own traditions (which is a notion I agree with), then Pagans have to stop using our traditions to pad their numbers or as rhetorical devices. It’s always funny to me that mainline Pagans are more than happy to include religions like Taghd’s, Rhuadan’s, etc. when they want to list how diverse their community is, but the second those communities have complaints or even just suggestions, suddenly it’s, “go do your own thing.” Sorry, Pagans, you can’t have it both ways. Either you want people like us in your community or you do not. Personally I’d prefer we agreed on the latter, but pushing people out and then continuing to include their religions in your talk of “Paganism” and speaking on their behalf is *not* an option.

          • I think the situation is still in flux. Some Celtic polytheists do not reject the “pagan” label. Some Heathen organizations have a visible presence at Pantheacon. Some adherents of Reconstructionist religions also choose to participate in some variety of syncretic or Wiccanate or Thelemic religion.

            As groups and as individuals, people are responding to this issue in various ways. If a majority of the leading organizations representing a particular path were to say publicly that they reject the Pagan label and do not wish to be counted as members of the Pagan community, the Pagan spokespeople whom I regard as responsible and well informed would acknowledge and respect that decision. We are not at that point now.

            This religious movement or set of movements is less than a hundred years old. It is normal and healthy for such a movement to change as it grows and to have recurring crises of self-definition and boundary setting. It took more than eighty years for the followers of Jesus to separate out from the Jews.

            I do not perceive that you are being pushed out. I would rather you stay. If that isn’t possible, good luck to you.

          • “I do not perceive that you are being pushed out. I would rather you stay. If that isn’t possible, good luck to you.”

            Oh, no no, I myself am not being pushed out. You can’t be pushed out of something you were never in. That part was more in reference to those people who are in the Pagan community. I’ve stayed out of the Pagan community since my very beginning and am coming from a bit of a different perspective. But thank you for the well wishes, I’ve been having great luck with it so far.

            Also, I disagree that it needs to be a majority of religious organizations in a religion denying inclusion before Pagans begin respecting the diverse opinions on this topic among the various religions. Whether the Troth, AFA, and Odinic Rite repudiate the label Pagan or not is irrelevant to whether Pagans respect the issue of parts of the Heathen community being Pagans and parts of it not.

            This is the reality, and Pagans continuing to blanket include all Heathens in their label just because some arbitrary standard of “a majority” rejecting the term hasn’t been met is not reasonable, it’s willfully ignoring the truth for one’s own comfort.

          • Okay, I think that’s a fair observation.

            However, as Don Frew has pointed out, when talking to outsiders, sometimes one isn’t allotted time to go into much detail. In that situation, any definition of paganism or description of who is included in the Pagan community is necessarily going to contain general statements that have unmentioned exceptions.

          • I’m willing to say “fair enough” and be understanding when that happens. Though I would suggest just giving a definition of “Paganism” and leaving out the part about who it includes if one is really that strapped for time. In addition, what I specifically criticize is when I see Pagans leave out the important exceptions in venues where they *do* very much have time and space to include them, such as articles.

          • Speaking as one single Pagan interfaith activist, I have frequently stated that some Heathens consider themselves to be Pagan and others do not. Is there a more accurate way to convey that fact?

          • Nope, that’s perfectly accurate and I appreciate your effort to do so. Now if all, or at least most, Pagans would do so, we’d be set.

          • We could simply differentiate between Heathenry and Germanic (Neo)Paganism.

          • Because after that you spent a significant amount of time talking up the experience and individuals involved. There is certainly a hint of an unspoken challenge in your comment.

          • My intended implication was that Pantheacon currently has both deep and broad community support, which limits the influence that direct criticism by any single group or person can have. If you are frustrated with this, and clearly you are, there are other courses of action open to you.

            You are correct about the challenge. What I suggested has worked for me. I was involved in a community in which all the public gatherings seemed to be celebrity oriented and somewhat commercial. I didn’t like that for several reasons, so I organized a gathering that ran more on stone-soup principles. It attracted support and is being held today under the leadership of the successors of my successors. That didn’t stop people from patronizing the other type of event, but it gave folks a choice.

          • I am frustrated with the entire CULTURE of “Paganism”.

            If I created a new festival, it would either be utterly irrelevant (most likely) or taken over and appropriated by the same group of people who appropriate now (there is strangely large group of people who claim to be CRs but are in reality heavily eclectic). That is all assuming that I have the time or money, which I don’t. I am not blessed enough to be able to travel to these events, let alone plan one.

            Your position is based on a large number of assumptions that use your experience as the norm. What I’m trying to say is those assumptions on their own are problematic, before even getting into the details.

  9. Not sure about the”According to reports” phrase about Thorn’s prayer. I was a person at the Wiccanate Privilege discussion who stated I felt a bit excluded by that prayer as a polytheist (since it was an interfaith panel, and that it was given without a preface), and that some other polytheists attending had experienced something similar. What ensued was a lot of Feri/Reclaiming people upset that I referred to it as a Wiccan prayer (I had not, using the accurate term Wiccanate) and disclaiming Feri/Reclaiming traditions having anything to do with Wicca. There was a lot of derailing of polytheist concerns by some, though not all. The resulting denial of privilege by Wiccan/Feri/Reclaiming practitioners (and even claiming the simple descriptor Wiccanate is pejorative) goes to show how deeply entrenched this privilege is.

    • I wasn’t in the room, but I would have had similar objections to the Feri folks if I had been. I will acknowledge that many Feri folks have some degree of Wiccanate privilege as opposed to some other Polytheist traditions, but the Wiccan influence on Feri varies GREATLY amongst different Feri lineages, and those whose practices are way on the non-Wiccan end of the spectrum have a right to feel a bit ruffled. Its not simply a “denial of privilege”. One of the reasons I do identify and agree with those making the Wiccanate Privilege argument in the first place is because I’ve experienced these very things as a Feri initiate in a Wiccan-centric community. So to put us all in the “privileged” category when some of us ourselves have experienced the exact things you speak of us quite unfair. Perhaps this is where we need to start looking at intersectionality in terms of Wiccanate privilege.

      The “Holy Mother” prayer is NOT a Wiccanate prayer as far as I’m concerned. As I was taught it, that prayer refers to a very specific deity. I can completely see how Wiccans would think that it was referring to Wiccan theeologican concepts, as I can also see how those who have nothing to do with Wicca would assume such as well. I also agree with Thorn’s reflections after the matter that the prayer should have been prefaced by a statement. But for the record, the “Mother” referenced in that prayer is a very specific, very real deity, trust me.

      • Why must our (‘hard’ polytheists/recons) experiences be erased by arguments about whether the prayer is Wiccan or not? It’s well known that Thorn is Feri.

        I see a kind of Alice in Wonderland quality emerging in the electronic conversations about this event. At least half the people there were Feri or Reclaiming (there was an actual show of hands on this). Feri/Reclaiming seems to be the dominant neopagan presence in this area (and I’m quite familiar with Reclaiming). Furthermore, most of the disrespect toward actual polytheists was coming from *some* of this contingent. So it seems there’s a ‘no we’re not Wiccanate, but yes, we are’ coming from many. It may not be the best term (I’ve seen your comments about public face Feri being quite different from some hidden faces), perhaps we should use Witchanate instead.

        Still the important point is that polytheists are being made to feel excluded or second class in these pan-pagan fora. We are being told our distinct religions are a variety of Wicca or Feri, etc. It was really a pretty awful experience to sit and listen to people deny my/our experience and in some cases insult me, and distort what I actually said.

        The gist of some comments was were were tiny minorities and should get over it; that there are much more important things to deal with.

        • First off, I wasn’t there, so please don’t dump me in with the folks you have issues with. I wouldn’t ever have tried to make the argument that what you do is similar to Wicca or Feri. I’m not trying to minimize or deny your experience, but what I am saying is that you are doing the EXACT SAME THING when lumping Feri in with “Wiccanate” practice that you complain people are doing to you.

          Look at your words right here. You distinguish Feri from “actual polytheists”. I am an actual polytheist. My Gods are just as real as yours. Your distinction is downright insulting.

          • Point of clarification here. You’ve repeatedly claimed your tradition is most similar to other traditions that practice monism and henotheism (in general terms) but then use hard polytheism to describe yourself.

            There is a disconnect there to me. I’d just like clarification. Your other comments have certainly seemed to suggest you belong to a monist path, and I’m sure you’re aware many “hard” polytheists do not consider monism to be a branch of polytheism, rather than a distinct group.

          • No, I’ve said that my own personal religious practice as a member of that tradition is most similar to a few other religious practices, and yes those traditions are monistic or henotheistic. But there are much more to those practices than deity, for some of them deity is not necessarily required at all, and I did say that my practice “resembles” those, not were those. My experiences with the Gods are just as real as my experiences with people. I’ve been experiencing the Gods as real long before I ever knew what monism, henotheism, polytheism, or Feri even were. There’s definitely no disconnect in my reality. I hope this clarifies it for you.

          • I mean that there is an understandable confusion when you describe yourself as similar to such practices but then draw a distinct line. That is what I was hinting at.

        • Finnchuill, I was there for the whole thing, and I don’t remember what you remember. I remember the moderator Jeffrey Albaugh asking for some shows of hands. My recollection is that he asked how many of the people in the room were Wiccans and how many were [something else]. I raised my hand for Wiccans. I would not have raised my hand for a question about Feri or Reclaiming, since I have never practiced either.

          I don’t recall the mod asking anything about Feri or Reclaiming at any point. There is no reason why he would have asked such a question. The announced topic of discussion was Wiccanate privilege. Neither Don Frew nor PSVL has an affiliation with Feri or Reclaiming. The three organizations that operate the hospitality suite where the discussion was held are not affiliated with Feri or Reclaiming beyond the fact that NCLC includes Witches who belong to those traditions (and many others who do not). If I had to guess which flavor of Wicca had the most representatives in the room, I would say British Traditional Wicca (Gardnerian and Central Valley Wicca). I recognized at least a dozen BTW initiates.

          To the best of my recollection, the first time Feri tradition was mentioned was when we discussed Thorn’s prayer of the previous day.

          I hope some other eyewitnesses have the patience to read down this far and will confirm either your memory or mine, because we can’t both be right. If I’ve made an honest mistake, I’ll apologize to you. Trusting that I’m not having a senior moment, the fact that you conjured a supposed Feri/Reclaiming majority in that room makes me wonder what mental filters you brought to the discussion.

          • Oh, the Feri question was most definitely asked, I think it was after the upset about me saying Thorn’s prayer felt exclusive. I looked at Starhawk and noted she gave the kind of hand wiggle. I was interested because I know Feri is a Reclaiming root and was interested in how she would respond. Just off the top of my head I can think of half a dozen Feri or Reclaiming background people in that room. I’m sure there were considerably more.

            I’m aware Don Frew is not Feri/Reclaiming.
            As for Lupus, well, I should be in a mental facility if I thought e were. Whether you agree with me or not on relative proportion of Witch/Wicca traditions in the room, there is no reason to try to demean my mental capacity.

            In the devotional polytheist/recon communities Wiccanate is used to refer to Feri and Reclaiming practices as well as Wicca itself. Obviously, as this has all set clear many members of those communities don’t agree with the terminology.

          • Okay, I was recalling something near the beginning of the meeting and you are remembering something later that apparently slipped past me. I withdraw my assertion that we can’t both be right.

            I agree that there were a number of Feri and/or Reclaiming folk in the room. If you have a perception that they dominated the discussion or were the crowd favorites in some way, that is not my perception.

            I did not intend to be offensive in any of my remarks and regret if I caused you offense.

            As to who is with whom, the meanings of all the terms shift every fifteen years or so, as do the players, which does lead to folks talking past each other.

          • Fair enough. Points well taken. It’s a case where people came into that hospitality room with their own histories, language, and had different experiences. Kind of Rashomon, really.

        • I would like to reframe what I said previously: Please enlighten me as to what distinguishes “actual polytheists” from Feri in your view.

          I will be honest – out of all the dialogue here, that comment is the only one that has truly rubbed me the wrong way. And the fact that you uttered it in the same sentence where you’re complaining about people disrespecting you is just mind-boggling.

          • Ok, there was a lot of talk there about polytheisms. Those of us who are reconstructionists/devotional polytheists are in a different position from many who said they were polythiests, but also monists, and so on. You can find much explication of this at the Aedicula Antinoi blog. We use the primary meaning of the word–that the Gods we worship are autonomous Beings. One thing there was much disagreement about in the discussion was the term polytheism itself. So I will use the term ‘hard’ here, if that clarifies (even though I don’t really like that identifier). And it sounds like you may be also–but I don’t know you and you were not there. My remarks are about those there and what happened. I’ve also been to a number of Feri rites in the past and they did have the Wiccanate elements of circle casting, etc, and people said they were soft polytheists. If your point is to educate that there are major differences in Feri practice and very different sets of practices, taking this personally isn’t helping. I feel like you’re trying to escalate this into personal argument, but no thanks.

          • I’m not trying to escalate it into personal argument at all, but as I said, it did rub me the wrong way. Thank you for your explanation though, it does help me understand where you are coming from. You and I have the same understanding of the Gods. I can’t speak for the folks in the room the other day, nor whoever was holding the rites you attended. But many of us are quite serious and dedicated “actual” polytheists. I’m sorry if your concerns were derailed at the discussion the other day. I agree with many of your concerns. But I have concerns as well, and I don’t like them to be derailed either.

          • It’s useful to know that there’s a much greater range of Feri than I had realized/previously encountered. I will keep that in mind in future.

        • Speaking only to the matter of inclusion under the term Pagan in interfaith arenas, please be assured that whenever I’m given the opportunity, I emphatically state that Witches are only the largest demographic of a lot of non-Abrahamic religions, and that it includes some Heathens, reconstructionists — that in itself takes some effort to explain when the word itself brings the immediate question, what is a reconstructionist? — some African diaspora religions (those who identify with us), some Native Americans, and many Hindus.

          I don’t try to explain much about recons, instead I offer to provide them with some resources or put them in contact with someone who practices whichever recon they want to know about. I do not feel qualified or knowledgeable enough to speak for any recon trad.

          I myself, and I believe my Witchen colleagues in interfaith as well, do our best to represent Pagan people as honorably and accurately as we can. I feel that I’m privileged to serve in that arena and it’s my duty, if I’m gonna say I’m the token Pagan in the group, to make it clear that I’m only one of many different faces of Paganism.

          I’m sorry if you feel marginalized. I sincerely do my best to avoid that.

          [OMGs, after reading pages and pages and thinking I’m nearly caught up, I see there’s even more to read. That’s not likely today. :-(]

    • With respect, Finnchuill, I was also in the room and each of us experiences things a bit differently. I have roots in both Feri (actually pre-spelling change Faery) and Reclaiming, and, although they have contributed greatly to who I am now, I am entirely and completely unaffiliated with either trad. (I remain oathbound on some things and I maintain some treasured friendships.) I preface my remark with this info because I’m familiar with a huge number of people on both paths. I saw almost no Reclaiming folks there, except Starhawk (who arrived late and quietly took a seat, only spoke when recognized by the facilitator, and didn’t “take over” as has been insinuated here — and as she often does) and a few Feri folks. The show of hands you mention was broad in the sense that, IIRC, the question was if anyone had Feri or Rec. connections, not necessarily if they were actively engaged in a practice. I’m not exactly sure how it was worded, but I know that I raised my hand because of my background, not my current position.

      The point I wanted to make here is that what I saw was one single individual who claimed she “knew” because she’d been studying to Thorn Coyle for a whole entire year [gasp!] essentially derail the discussion by making a big deal on the origins of one particular prayer — about which she was mistaken anyway. Fortunately, it was pulled back on track.

      I agree that both Feri and Reclaiming fall under the overall term Witch (if not technically Wiccan) and enjoy any privileges and/or discrimination that that term gets them.

      I see there are many more comments responsive to this below, so maybe what I’m saying here has already been said. I shall continue to read.

      Oops, again, folks, be reminded that herein two different events, a panel and a discussion, are sometimes being conflated.

  10. I apologize for not offering specific replies, especially to those who responded to my post. Lupus, MadGastronomer, Ruadhán, I’m grateful for your posts.

    I want to make a general observation of something I find ironic: we get stuck on semantics, where as a group we demonstrate an unusually strong scholarship around our paths and the beliefs of others.

    I’m a problem solver. It’s my day job, and an aspect of my personality (that can also get me into trouble, it must be disclosed). It can paint me as patronizing. I suggest that those we label as being privileged deserve a basic “free pass” when they attempt to solve the problems we put upon them, and try to let the patronizing aspect slide. I don’t condone it any more than anyone else, but I can offer to understand it from both sides.

    I must also note, by way of a general complaint, that I am rightly known as being egregiously longwinded in online exchanges, and when I try to be brief I get slammed for not being precise. At some point, I would like to see a forum — best in-person, I opine — that sets ground rules along these lines:

    Assume good will. Beliefnet has it in its terms of use, The World Table makes it prominent, but neither are the originators of it. It’s a fundamental component of consensus.

    Leave your passions at the door. This is not a call to silence or suppress. It’s a warning that civil debate cannot take place when the only result is the airing of grievances and the emotional responses to (or against) them.

    Speak from the heart. Your passions get full rein in that without being taken as combative.

    Be ready to do the difficult work. Resolution by majority is easy… well, in relative terms. Resolution by consensus is much more difficult. The differences may seem subtle to some, but they are strong enough to make consensus more satisfying in the end.

    Perhaps as the needed first step: Set the vocabulary, give the intended meanings the power to overstep the pejorative connotations, and use it as the starting point for precision in expressing our ideas and opinions. I actually don’t like this very much, it looks too much like political correctness setting the agenda, but I do place the highest priority on voices being heard and understood.

    And Ruadhán: their first mistake was in thinking that getting pizza was a good idea. When the complexities of it cropped up, they might have looked to a more diverse menu like Chinese, or Thai. Just sayin’ 😀

    More in other posts, this one being too long already. 😉

    • I suggest that those we label as being privileged deserve a basic “free pass” when they attempt to solve the problems we put upon them, and try to let the patronizing aspect slide. I don’t condone it any more than anyone else, but I can offer to understand it from both sides.

      Unfortunately, that cannot work, as that’s often part of the problem.

      • That’s the part that frustrates me. I invite you to expand on your “part of the problem” position, but my position, based on some personal experience, reacts thus at this point:

        If the privileged make a sincere attempt to at least have an open discussion about the problem, and everyone simply chastises them for being privileged, then the binary all-or-nothing implication is that they should simply remove themselves and let everyone else fill the vacuum as they wish or can.

        I’ve been told, not in exactly the same circumstances, to be quiet or go away. Of what value, I ask plaintively, is having the same or new voices relent on that, by sincerely inviting me to speak, getting the same dismissal from me?

        • patronise: (often as adjective patronising) treat with an apparent kindness which betrays a feeling of superiority:

          By “[letting] the patronising aspect slide”, those who are marginalised, suppressed, and silenced by the Wiccanate are basically conceding to the Wiccanate sense of superiority. By failing to address it when it happens, we become complicit in our own erasure, at worst, and at best, we seem as if we don’t mind sacrificing time and space to superior Wiccan minds and endeavours. By allowing those tones from the Wiccanate majority, we are not asking they see polytheists as equals, if not in numbers but in devotion and dedication to the movement, but as decorative lap-dogs they can show off when they want to seem more inclusive. That patronising aspect you want to let slide is a big part of the problem, and ignoring it won’t make it go away.

          Making a sincere effort means being willing to sit down and listen more than it means to take charge of the discussion. If one is being “chastised for their privilege”, especially if this happens again and again, then one would be better off examining why; maybe that problem can be solved by simply doing the opposite of what one has been doing the whole time.

  11. This really makes me think of the Pagan Picnic in St. Louis. I went to it for the first time last year (2013) and, while I enjoyed myself, it really was basically just a Wiccanate gathering. I found maybe three booths dealing with anything Asatru or Heathen, and even those were just selling T-shirts and the like. Everything else was either Wiccanate or just capitalizing on interest in New Agey things. It was really frustrating.

    • It isn’t easy being a minority. If you don’t want to be frustrated, then you can always just go to Asatru events. Or, start your own Asatru oriented shop and then vend yourself. Another idea is that you could do prison ministry, as Asatru usually outnumber the Wiccans there.

      • This is exactly what many in our community have done, and continue to do. There are many more Asatruar and Heathens today who have never been involved in Paganism than there were when I started out. Personally I agree with you that Paganism should be left to those comfortable with it as it stands and the rest of us should do our own work to build ourselves up independently and autonomously.

        The reality is that the concerns of these “polytheists” are not going to be addressed and the “Pagan Community” is not going to change adequately to satisfy them. I don’t want to play online shrink here, but I think it has more to do with fear of striking out on their own and not having Pagan infrastructure (such as it is) to rely on anymore than any real practical benefits they’re getting from being “Pagan.” This debate would end if the dissatisfied would just come do their own thing…of course then the debate over Pagans *letting us go* starts up. *sigh*

        • I sympathize with all of it, but I cannot share your pessimism. I’ve not (perhaps yet) gotten to the diminishing returns point.

          • Hey, I don’t expect anyone to agree with me or make the same choices as me and my folk, perhaps that was a bit strongly worded. But after 15 years of this and watching the positive benefits of staying independent, I can’t help but sincerely feel that this is the best, most positive solution for everyone.

            I think it would be much easier and more likely for both groups to “make up” and stay friends and allies if both were secure in their own communities. That’s what it boils down to (I believe): insecurity, on both sides.

          • Unfortunately, splintering off can also be argued as an “ignore the problem and hope it goes away” type of fallacy. It seems I encounter more and more Heathens every month or so who not only were never a part of the pagan community, but who are largely ignorant of what the pagan blogosphere is going on about –and yet I still see dozens more pagans daring to speak for Heathens (sometimes very incorrectly) and assume Heathens are still generally a part of the pagan community cos some guy they knew from ADF said so.

            The problem of Wicanate neopagans daring to speak for religions that they are not a part of, like Heathenry, still goes on, even after that religion has excused itself from the pagan table. Basically, you’re saying “Heathens decided to take our lunch out into the hallway, and now the other kids don’t bother us”, and after you left, the popular kids decided to talk all sorts of nonsense about the Heathen kids –and cos the Heathen kids take on a “don’t know, don’t care” attitude, it’s like a free reign to let the Wiccanate try and speak for you.

            It may be easier for many Heathens to deal with, this whole “out of sight, out of mind” approach you advocate, but it’s not really helping anything.

          • I think I’ve communicated the wrong thing here. I’m not saying that the problem should be ignored, that Heathens (or anyone else) should just stay away, having no contact and letting the very problematic things you’ve pointed out happen.

            What I’m arguing against is framing the discussion in terms of, “we want to be included and want the Pagan community to work with us toward that end.” Aside from the modern community problems, the term is problematic in and of itself. It’s also never going to adequately represent the community it describes as long as that community insists on including fundamentally different religions within it.

            Therefore, the solution I propose is for Heathens (and Hellenists, CRs, other polytheists) to interact with the Pagan community as (hopefully) respectful outsiders, rather than coming at it from a standpoint of aggrieved insiders. I do not propose ignoring the problem and letting the Pagan community get away with misrepresentation and miseducation and such.

          • Well, that certainly makes a lot more sense. But then there’s the issue of personal identity: While I, myself, consider myself a Hellenist long before I might willingly consider myself a Pagan of any sort, for some reason there’s a fairly large number of “outsiders”, ostensibly Christians or at least people who were raised as such, who will understand “pagan” as basically a synonym for “polytheist” than they’ll understand the word “polytheist” –I’ve tried, many times, to describe my religion to people without using the word “Pagan” and at some point, I usually have to refer back to it. I clearly have a reluctant relationship with the word and lack a strong identity with it.

            Then there are those like PSVL, who have not given up on or conceded the term to Wiccanate Neopagans, as many others have. E’s personally fond of the word and considers it a part of eir identity, even though e’s also a polytheist practising a new path based largely on (from what I could gather from eir blog) historical Greco-Roman/Celtic syncretism.

            Most of the time, I do consider myself an “outsider” to the broader Pagan Community –unlike most people my age, I was never into anything Wiccanate or ADF, I’m a former member of Anton LaVey’s Church of Satan, and I came to Hellenism in a very idiosyncratic way after feeling like it was something laid out on my path many times since the age of six or seven, just waiting for me to pick it up. I only started “showing up” on the blogs with great relictance, after beinging involved with the Hellenic community.

            But other Hellenists, Greco-Roman, Greco-Egyptian, etc…, polytheists, CRs, and so on still have a personal attachment to the community, even if more and more are coming to feel that attachment is more “sentimental” than anything, lately. While I generally agree that having stronger communities for individual religions is certainly a good thing, and that these smaller communities can certainly benefit from having a relationship with the larger pagan community, I’m not about to pressure people too hard to break their own attachments to the pagan community –I’m just not a big fan of telling people how I feel they “ought to” identify themselves over what they feel their guts might be telling them. I can advise them to weigh the pros and cons, practise discernment to judge whether or not their attachment is really “worth it” to them, but as soon as others are ready to set up the Hellenist Tent well outside the Pagan Big Tent, I’ll be here to do what I can.

          • You’re absolutely right, and really good post. I’m getting to where I sound a bit more forceful and “ought to” than I probably intend, because it frustrates me to watch people I respect (even if I don’t really “know” them) and whom I find similarities with get all of this crap from the Pagan community. The thought that you guys could be dealing with this headache for *another* 15-20 years is even worse.

            I’ll keep putting my standpoint out there, but I do sincerely wish Pagan polytheists the best in trying to resolve their contention with their community. I’m skeptical, but I support your efforts.

          • Hmmm, my reply didn’t seem to post? Let me try to remember it…basically I agreed with you and said “great post.” Then I explained that I’m probably sounding more forceful and “ought to” than I intend, because I’m getting frustrated these days with the crap that people I respect are getting from the Pagan community every time this issue comes up.

            Also, I support anyone’s efforts to make a place for themselves in Paganism, even if it isn’t my choice. I’m sketpical, but I wish your efforts well.

          • That is how I see myself – as an interested (if not always respectful) outsider.

            I feel that Heathenry and the various Paganisms have certain shared interests, and am more than happy to work together on them. But I also feel very strongly that it is about time Heathenry had its own seat at the interfaith table.

  12. Thank you Heather for the article. I would like to post as the unnamed Kemetic Priest in the room. (Temple of Ra, San Francisco). Due to my job and the weekend’s social obligations, I have not been able to follow every thread comment in detail or read the other blog coverage, so I will try to just make a few observations and stick to ‘my own truth’ as Franklin Evans says somewhere in this thread’s comments.
    Since Kemetics are a small group, and some at least are polytheist as I understand the term, I suppose I am in a minority a Pantheacon, so will speak a bit here. This year was my second Pantheacon, and I have had no personal sense of being left out or marginalized at the con. (But see below). Our group(s) are small, but this year there was some great interfaith discussion between Kemetics within earshot of where I was standing, and that is good enough for me.
    At the Panel discussion, there was a lot of evident pain and frustration, I remained silent and listened and yes, cried a little at some of the comments, too. I do believe it is important for us in minority religious groups to be present for these conversations, and I also believe that positive action is another key to bridging the evident gaps people are feeling and experiencing.
    That, for me, has already started, by working with Macha Nightmare on supporting her work with the San Quentin pagan circle. And it is interfaith work too – A Kemetic working with a Witch, to support a group that itself is somewhat eclecticly ‘wiccanate’. The work has been rewarding already!
    But there is another way to be present that I believe in. If our smaller voices are to have impact, I think we need to speak, to work, to be visible to the larger community. And to that end, I’ll be speaking out to Don Frew to see how it might be possible to interact with Interfaith work, writ-large in this case, itself. Why? Because I hope that work might actually eventually make a difference and promote the dream that worship of the Old Gods (all of them!) in Egypt return to its homeland, and that there be no more Pagan deaths in the middle east, just for being outed as Pagan.
    Finally I do have to acknowledge my own naivete as a newcomer in the causes of the frustration so many polytheistic folks feel. When Lupus asked who was involved in Ecclesia Antinoou, and then asked who had attended an EA Pantheacon event, I was a bit shocked to see that only 2(?) additional people raised their hands (I was one). I heartily encourage attending some. Lupercalia is fun, chaotic, and moving all at the same time.

    • I wrote a lot in this thread, perhaps overmuch, and I don’t recall using that phrase “stick to ‘my own truth'”, but I’ll take your word on it. I might have written some things that amount to it.

      I have used “represent yourself with integrity” in a mediation context. Mostly, it’s a reminder that how you hear or see what others are saying may not accurately fit what they think they said.

      I admire your commitment to the general issue.

      • Sorry I misquoted you! Now I can’t find the post I was referring to. Apologies. I guess it is a danger of too quick a read.. I do want to thank you for your thoughts on this thread and elsewhere – they seem to always provide interesting takes and angles on the discussion.

  13. It seems as if, every year, the most visible of the fruits of PanTheaCon for me, is the traditional post-PanTheaCon bile fest inspired by this year’s controversy. I’m sure there are those who see this as some kind of healthy thing: “wrestling with an issue.”

    All I see is people being unpleasant to one another with the excuse of religion. Have we gotten to the point where there’s so much sweetness and light beamed at the Pagan community that we now need to turn one one another, just for the exercise?

    I doubt it will matter to those who are turning me off from this event, but the more I read comments like these, the less I want to have anything to do with the gathering that spawned them. I’ve got too much work to do building things up to want anything to do with an event that triggers so much tearing one another down.

        • I still wouldn’t be able to pick Starhawk out of a line-up. Seriously, if I were at that Wiccanate Privilege discussion at Pcon, and she not only came in late, but started her derailment without identifying herself, my hand would’ve shot straight up with “Who are you to show up late, miss some really important points, and then show your privilege with this clear derailment? I’m sure you’re some-one’s elder, but as I have no idea who you are, I know you aren’t mine.”

          Seriously now. I mean, I know who she is, I know she’s a “Big Name Pagan” writer and ecofeminist activist, but that’s all I know about her. I wasn’t even sure she was a woman until some time in 2013.

          • Yeah, I’ve seen pictures of her before but I’m not sure I would have recognized her either. I’m also surprised that no one did exactly what you just said.

          • Three aren’t very many people as bold as I am in those situations. I’m not that surprised that of an estimate of less-than-forty people, no-one called that out, due to a misguided sense of etiquette. I say misguided, because it’s pretty ill-mannered, and not to mention presumptuous, to assume oneself to be so famous and important that one can not only wander in late and be forgiven by everyone, but that one needs no introduction. While it sounds like almost no-one introduced themselves, Starhawk’s antics during that discussion really stand out as someone so uncouth that it would be less-wrong to call her out right then and there, if only to be made an example of by putting a spotlight on the privilege at play. Those who showed up on time, and really showed an effort to at least try not to derail, that shows a willingness to learn, it would be more-wrong to try and make an example of them.

            Etiquette is less about basic manners (though that is certainly a part of it) and more about the proper actions at the proper times and places; sometimes it’s proper to do the less-wrong thing when someone makes such a wild breach of the basics as Starhawk did.

          • Introducing oneself and one’s tradition(s) was stated as a requirement by the moderator at the beginning. All of the polytheists/recons did so. Some of the Feri/Reclaiming/Wiccans only introduced themselves by name. Starhawk was one of very few, maybe the only, to do neither.

          • My reaction was something like Ruadhan’s, though Starhawk’s comment didn’t derail the discussion because it was winding up on account of time constraints. (Probably a good thing, because we were getting tired and civility might not have prevailed much longer.)

            Earlier in the meeting I would have challenged a comment like that, and anyone who knows me can vouch that I’ll take on anybody. But it was clear that I was going to have at most a brief opportunity to speak on one subject. I chose to use my one moment to respond to something else.

          • I see. If it was that late in the panel and things were wrapping up when she showed, she probably should’ve just not sat on the panel. Meh, food for thought on the next one of these that is held.

          • You might be conflating the panel on Privilege in the Pagan Community, which was a a formal panel discussion on the regular con program in a big hall, and the discussion on Wiccanate privilege, which took place the following day in the back room of the CoG/NWC/NROOGD hospitality suite.

            The discussion in the suite is where I recall Starhawk remarking, late in the game, that we were wasting time on issues that are unimportant in the larger picture, or words to that effect. She got nods from several people.

            It was a round the room discussion, not a panel, although Frew and Lupus opened the discussion and were afforded more opportunities to speak than anyone else. The moderator was dragooned into his role at the last minute on the basis that he was perceived as a neutral party and had some experience at moderating. IMO he did a decent job. Most though not all the people present got at least one chance to speak and many POVs were aired.

            The object of the discussion as I understood it was simply to hear each others’ views, not to achieve consensus. I think we made a start.

          • Ah, you’re right I am mixing them up, thank you. Though even so, I still think it’s pretty tacky and rude to show up to a discussion just to say how silly and unimportant you think it is.

            I hope it was a good start and leads to some positive outcomes as the topic is dealt with more.

    • This is amazingly patronizing. How DARE any of us care about issues if it messes with the “good vibes”.

    • Cat – you’ve given people a pass to ‘be unpleasant’ when they’re your friends, so I’m not really sure what you’re complaining about here.

      Discussion =/= tearing each other down. Dealing with the pain in our community and trying to figure out how to handle it (which includes struggling to do that!) =/= tearing each other down.

  14. Thank you so much for writing this summary. I was bummed I couldn’t make it to the discussion at Pantheacon, so it’s awesome to get caught up on it this way!

  15. Several people who self-identify as non-Wiccan have made comments to the effect that Wiccans brush off complaints about Wiccanate privilege and that the Pantheacon-going community as a whole doesn’t care about complaints from polytheists.

    A few facts:

    1. A Gardnerian Witch (Don Frew) decided that Pantheacon was a good place for a discussion on Wiccanate privilege, and did the work to arrange it.

    2. The hospitality suite which hosted the discussion is paid for and staffed by three organizations of Witches. I’m active in two of those organizations, and there was absolutely no controversy that we wanted this discussion to happen and that our suite would be made available for it.

    3. A number of non-Wiccan polytheists trusted us enough to attend the discussion, speak out in it, and stay until the end.

    4. At least half the discussion participants were Wiccans or Wiccanate Pagans who cared enough to pass up twelve regular con programs that were scheduled in the same time slot.

  16. Sometimes a bit of history helps. Back in the early days of Wicca, in the ’50s,’60s and early ’70s, there was a wide-spread notion that (in pre-Christian times) Witches were the priesthood for a laity that consisted of the general Pagan population. To the extent that this notion was accepted, it implied that Wiccans held (or should hold) a position of privilege over other Pagans.

    Wiccan or Wiccanate privilege surely owed a lot to this notion, and not *just* to the preponderance of Wicca and Wiccanate forms of Witchcraft within the wider Pagan sphere.

    I don’t know whether the “Witches = priesthood, laity = Pagans” notion is *still* widely held, whether put into words or not. Others in this discussion will be better informed about the current state of affairs. In any case, it was and is a bit of false history, or fake-lore. I dare say that it should be seen as unhistorical, and rejected on that basis.

    • Good call.

      My impression is that the terminology Pagan=laity is long gone. At any rate, I haven’t come across it in books written by Witches in the last twenty years, but I don’t keep up with all the literature. For sure it doesn’t correspond to contemporary reality.

      There actually is a laity today composed of people who attend Wiccanate public rituals, have no aspirations ever to be witches or priests, and are not deeply involved in any other organized religion. Some Wiccans have an interest in providing services to them and and some do not. The Wiccanate laity, if I may call it that, is too amorphous to amount to a congregation, but it is one component of the larger Pagan community.

      As to Witches’ unspoken assumptions, I don’t know.

  17. Are you serious? Are pagan communities now trying to teach their followers to be ashamed of their birthrights?

    Sorry toots, but you’re going to find a lot of “power structures”, “privilege” and “inequality” in a nature religion, because that’s the way nature works. Leftism does not collide well with tradition, and it is because the former is false.

    • Amazing how people can turn this into a ‘left-right’ issue, when really it’s just about giving people the basic levels of respect that any of us should expect to receive.

    • This comment is a joke right?

      If you consider appropriation, misuse, and speaking for others your “birthright” that is a serious problem.

  18. It was an honour to participate in this discussion at the Pantheacon. I certainly cannot compete with Heather Greene in her eloquent summary of the debate, which followed at the workshop, however, I can repeat and build on something, which I feel should be an important part of the discussion. In my position as a national coordinator of PFI Russia, I cannot help but provide an international perspective to the discussion on wiccan privillege.

    As some of you may know, wicca is not considered the default pagan tradition in Russia by any means. As a matter of fact, the recent on-line poll conducted by PFI Russia, which already attracted more than 1800 participants nation-wide, consistently provides a number of practitioners, who identify themselves as “wiccans”, to be only 15% of the total number of participants. Voting is still far from being over, and yet, the 15% spread for wicca has been constant after the first two hundred votes or so. To put matters into perspective, twice as many pagans identified themselves as following a Slavic pagan tradition, for example. Wicca in Russia is a relative newcomer, arriving via few translated books by Scott Canningham and Silver Ravenwolf in the late 1990’s, therefore the poll results are not surprizing in the least.

    Therefore, the whole point of wiccans being somehow privilleged is really lost for Russia. Self-identified wiccans are in the minority here among other pagan traditions. PFI Russia team also reflects that variety, being initially a cooperation between wiccans and Slavic pagans, with an Asatru member coming on board in 2011. Now we have grown by a member following a Hermetic path, and members who don’t feel that any specific path can accurately describe what they are practicing. From time to time we are challenged by members of local pagan communities, who often question the very need for pagans of various paths to cooperate. Although the times are changing, occassionally we still see a debate on the internet here and there, that other pagan paths may not be “true or authentic”. This sort of rhetoric is precisely what keeps many would-be activists from participating in pagan interfaith, for the lack of a better world.

    And yet, in the midst of mutual distrust and occassional bickering, we find ourselves in the situation, where members of each pagan group or individual pagans, regardless of their affiliation or self-identification, are extremely vulnerable in Russia to discrimination from both the state authorities and the society at large. Many people are afraid to come out of their pagan closet, many even hide their religious beliefs from their closest friends and relatives. It is not uncommon for people to be concerned over issues of employment or child custody, if their religious affiliations were to become known. In the face of active discrimination against other religious minorities in Russia (such as the Society of Krishna or Jehovah’s Witnesses or the Salvation Army) many Russian pagans simply don’t want anyone to even know they exist, for the fear of attracting negative attention to themselves. The internet provides a safer, more anonymous place for people to express their views, and yet many are still reluctant to voice their opinions anywhere else, where their privacy may be at risk. Therefore, the circle of silence stays strong.

    This situation, I believe, is not very different from what people in England and the US experienced not so long ago. And yet through cooperation and in no small part, I am sure, courage of individual activists, slowly but surely, pagans went from being actively discriminated against to a position where pagans participate in venues, such as the United Religions Initiative, the Parliament of World Religions, etc. Although I am certain that there is still a long way to go to full acceptance even in these countries, the longest journey still begins with the first step. This is true of England and the US, and it is also true for Russia.

    It is vital to recognize each other as fellow spiritual travellers within the realm of pagan spirituality. It is crucial to acknowledge our common pagan philosophy of life, which sets us apart from other world religions of our age. It is time to look past our religious differences and agree that cooperation for the benefit of all pagans is better than drawing lines in the sand. Through cooperation we may have a chance of achieving the same level of dignity and recognition for all pagan traditions, which are currently only allowed in Russia for the main four “traditional” paths under the Law (Orthodox Christian, Muslim, Judaic and Buddhist). And if we stay entrenched in our mutual distrust, there will be absolutely no way for the public to recognize that pagan voices deserve to be heard and acknowledged.

    I, personally, try to drive this message at every chance I get, mainly via our internet forums, and the PFI pubmoot in Moscow. My heart was touched last spring, when members of three diverse pagan paths met in a Moscow park and each offered their ritual contribution to honour the Earth, our Mother, and everyone worshipped together, respected each other and shared freely. For that brief moment, I realized that there is hope for the future of a shared pagan community in Russia. It is important to note as well, that this small ritual was entirely spontaneous, and it came from the heart of everyone there on that chilly April afternoon. We went on to clean the park from garbage and waste, which was a good physical way to adhere to our pledge to our common Mother, our land, together united by what we believe in.

    Best regards,
    Co-NC of PFI Russia

    • Wow, Gwiddon…thank you so much for sharing your perspective! As a woman who has Russian ancestry, I am so happy to know that Russian Pagans exist and are practicing….and coming together to give energy to the Earth and to each other. I love what you said:

      “It is time to look past our religious differences and agree that
      cooperation for the benefit of all pagans is better than drawing lines
      in the sand. Through cooperation we may have a chance of achieving the
      same level of dignity and recognition for all pagan traditions..”

      As someone who has been actively doing educational work about Pagans for over 40 years, I know that we can do that, together. We ARE doing it.

      Let’s not let our differences cut us apart. And, as Minos Lugh said in the meeting, “Do not put down another Pagan.” The Planet is calling a Meeting all the time!

    • If I were a polytheist, I’d pointedly and publicly decline attending this “conference”, it being promoted with what I see as thinly-veiled hostility and vengefullness above. I’m already fed up with that energy found within every broadly-defined belief system, and I’d rather focus my energy on my loved ones and friends whose evidence of abuse at the hands of “believers” is quite visible.

      Is there no one else who sees a lesson in the many ex-Christains amongst us and the emotional and sometimes physical violence they’ve received before coming to our family of beliefs for healing?

      Maybe I’m being hyperbolic in this comparison. I truly hope this so-called “treated like second-class citizens” has not caused a similar harm. The Wiccans I know would not perpetrate such abuse, especially when many of them are the ex-Christians I mention.

      Or maybe I’m getting the linked page wrong as well, because “everyone” sure looks like “everyone who can prove he or she is a polytheist”.

      [walks away in disgust]

      • Yup. This conference has a strong but very minimal theological requirement because we see every day the futility of debating belief online. The point of this conference is to find common ground and tangible goals we can work towards – not more of the same. Besides, considering how the Wiccanate majority has been treating us – I think it’s well past time we started looking out for our own.

      • And this illustrated just another reason why I tend not to get on that well with the Wiccanate pagan majority: When I needed psychological healing from the Catholic Church and my father who used it as a weapon, I went to a therapist –I scrimped and saved when I had the money, and I sought out free options (community centres, helplines, etc…) when I did not.

        While true that religion can be theraputic, that’s not its primary purpose. Food can be theraputic, drugs and alcohol can be theraputic, hell, violence can be cathartic in its therapeutic qualities, but I think we can all agree that none of those should replace real, genuine psychological therapy. Religion serves the purpose of spiritual growth, and shouldn’t be a replacement for psychological therapies –I would even wager that spiritual growth is inhibited by failing to seek proper psychological therapies rom a specialist in hThe field, and using religion as a substitute for proper psychology will do more harm than good.

          • I’m just glad someone who reads this blog agrees. I’m not in any way saying that one’s religion, especially in community, cannot be healing on some level, but it can’t do what real psychology does –just like psychology can’t replace religion. I’m just tired of people, thoughts lousy with new age fluff, coming to the pagan community for what they should see a psychologist over.

            If you wouldn’t go to your butcher to fix a hole in your roof, don’t go to religion for problems better addressed by a psychologist.

          • I saw a festival nearly ruined by expectations of some participants that its purpose be therapeutic. Fortunately the problem was identified and dealt with. Covens can get in trouble from this too.

            Doing satisfying work in the company of people who respect each other is healing for me, but that is a welcome side effect, not my goal.

        • Some Craft traditions employ a coven structure in part to provide a sheltered and familiar environment for getting into and out of altered states of consciousness regularly, that being the basis for both magic and worship. In a coven of this type, the coven leaders need to size up the mental health of prospective members, and some even require prospects to undergo professional psychotherapy before joining the coven.

        • You make good points, as do others in this sub-thread… but I’d like to see acknowledgment that my post in no way STATED that I believe or require any religion to take the place of bona fide professional healing.

          Maybe my intention was not clear. I can readily concede that. But the specificity of your response really leaves me wondering if I (or some others) can post and be read at face value on any topic.

          I also was crystal clear that I was speaking from a personal point of view. With respect, any allusions to something I did not actually state is rather the same as putting words in my mouth (or from my fingers, I guess).

          For the record: I’ve been in therapy — 13 months continuous — I’ve trained in and applied crisis intervention skills under the supervision of professionals and I know from personal witness the danger of belief assumptions trumping empirical evidence, and I’ve spent uncounted hours in personal healing with people struggling with emotional scars from abuse, often at the hands of their own families.

          I pretend nothing. I claim nothing. I’ve never offered healing before insisting that the person get professional care. At some point there is a corner to be turned, and trust is one of the prerequisites. If you (general) are unwilling to offer trust at even the most minimal level of taking people at their word, it would save a lot of time if you (general) just disclosed that openly.

          On that note: TadhgMor and I have butted heads here, very heatedly at times. But I’m under no illusions about TadhgMor’s personal positions, and I value our exchanges on every level. I perceive that minimal trust. Let that be the illustration of my point here.

      • Uh – people are saying ‘yes i am hurt by this behavior’, so harm has been caused. (Not to mention the erasure of other religions. Kinda…harmful, I’d say.) And, I know this is really hard for people to grasp across the board, but people are not automatically incapable of hurting others because they have been hurt in the past.

        • To clarify: If there can be no agreement that harm has degrees of intensity and variations in outcomes, then it cannot ever be used as a valid discussion point. I believe I could not have been clearer about the harm some people have received and the source of it. I cannot condone equating that to the experiences of off-mainstream believers at a public conference. Just the glaring differences in the power dynamics should make that comparison ridiculous.

          At no point am I denigrating anyone’s experience. At every point will I oppose the attempt to make harm the first and only criterion for a topic like this one.

          Personal note: the scars I have and seen in others are not being used to bully this discussion. I will insist on objective evidence that being dissed at a conference is a valid comparison to them.

        • I’m really surprised by how this situation has been handled by mainstream pagans. Instead of listening to what people are saying and the experiences of marginalization they’ve shared and then making a good faith effort to find workable solutions* they’ve just snapped, “No you’re not! Why are you making trouble? If you don’t like the way things are, go somewhere else!” And then when people respond “Ok!” they accuse them of being angry schismatics and worse. Even if polytheists and traditionalists didn’t have a problem before, a lot of us do now. Of course this is usually how people in positions of power respond, when maintaining that power becomes more important than anything else – but it is in stark contrast to the liberal rhetoric of tolerance and inclusion these pagans normally espouse. The best judge of a group’s character is how it treats those who are vulnerable and on the fringes – and in this regard they have come up short.
          * While the organizers of this panel should be applauded for their efforts to address the issue at Pantheacon their behavior elsewhere, particularly in exchanges at Patheos, must be considered as well.

          • I don’t offer excuses here. I stand by the points I’ve attempted to make. Please also see my reply to Robert M.

            I apologize for giving the impression that I’m willing to stomp on your grievances. I’m as outside the mainstream as one can be and still be comprehensible to them. I have my own grievances, with little apparent overlap with yours. Indeed, I want more people like you to “make trouble” if that’s the only way to break the logjam and move forward.

            I just don’t want to see the “trouble” become a replacement for the original causes of the problem. In my experience, the sqeaky wheel gets the oil so it can be ignored.

            All that said, one of the discussions I really want to see is an examination of the power dynamic. I like to believe that most residents of the “Wiccanate privilege” ground are potential allies in addressing the effects of privilege and the abuses of the power… but I also believe they are much less likely to listen to snark and hostility.

          • Then I would like for the snark and hostility to stop on their side, as well. It’s common for one group (usually the one pointing out problems) to be called ‘hostile’ while the other (usually the one with more power, or power over) is able to be hostile without reprimand.

          • Yes. This is the perennial problem, and even when taking a mediation role by explicit invitation and agreement from the parties involved, it presents the toughest obstacle to overcome. I’ve been in a room with people for whom I have the utmost respect, catching myself wanting to take them outside and verbally slap them around for a few minutes. It’s not a pleasant feeling.

            I come back to the concept and role of the ombudsman: an insider whose job is to ethically take the role of “devil’s advocate” against his own employer (group, organization, etc.) and Make It Matter. I don’t concede the entire connotations of “Wiccanate privilege” but I will suggest that they are very much in need of such a person.

        • Not directed at Aine or meant to challenge her statements; just a further thought in response to her good words:

          There is, I think, a difference in principle between hurt and harm, between feeling hurt in oneself and actually having been harmed. Hurt, like pain, is a thing that an outsider cannot directly perceive, only the person suffering the hurt or pain. Harm is usually more objective and can be verified to some extent by an outsider.

          Even deliberate harm can convey collateral benefits, like a cloud and its silver lining. And this is even more strongly and frequently the case with hurt. Sometimes “scars are just tattoos with better stories,” or they can become that. As an old man, I have learned a lot (with the passing of time) from the various harms done to me, and also from the hurts I felt. Could I live my life over again, I would not wish to avoid either harm or hurt.

          • Sometimes “scars are just tattoos with better stories,” or they can become that.

            Eh, maybe sometimes, or most of the times, but as a somewhat personal example, my father died not telling anyone who “Jackie”, the name on his left arm underneath a practically unrecognisable rendition of Krazy Kat, was. I know there’s one hell of a story behind that, and unless I somehow run into Jackie (who’d be at least in their late sixties, now), I’m never going to know it.

          • Yes, that’s frustrating. My father’s stepfather had a rather puzzling sailor’s tattoo on his forearm, which he dismissed with a story that I eventually figured out had to be false. The true story, whatever it was, he never shared even with his wife (my grandmother). I’d like to know the true story, of course; but I suppose it was his business not to pass it on to anyone.

            Memory of one’s own past can sometimes be an almost intolerable burden. For myself, this is why I would find any gift of immortality, or even centuries-long life, to be a really malignant curse that I wouldn’t wish on my very worst enemy, let alone on any friend.

          • Thank you, Robert. You remind me to use some cold water on my own passions before posting.

          • I definitely want to avoid the harm of erasing entire religious traditions or losing them, as well as possibly losing the benefits that we will gain if we are able to make room for the people /who should be already included/. Yes, it’s definitely harm. We’re pointing out, again and again and again, that we are being pushed to the sides – we are being pushed out of communities that tout tolerance and inclusion.

            I really don’t want to accept that sort of thing as just part of life or ~growing up~. I’d rather challenge it.

          • I wish to acknowledge this. I must honestly add that I still don’t quite understand it — I’d be grateful for you to explain, but this is not a comfortable forum for that sort of thing — and I’ll keep an open mind and heart for finding that understanding.

  19. Thank you for a solid summary of a very complicated discussion. One can only really get a glimpse of this event from reading multiple perspectives on it, so I’m grateful you provided links to other blog posts on the topic.

    I agree with many points made by Lupus in his blog on this conversation but I want to mention one here. When Starhawk urged us to put aside our differences because our real work is to heal the earth, she perpetuated her position of privilege in a very subtle way. It is tempting to look away from groups claiming they are marginalized in the name of saving the earth. But eco-spirituality is not a universal aspect of modern paganism and to claim that it is, in effect silences the conversation that was in play, about members who feel marginalized. I agree with Starhawk that more attention should be focused on environmental issues at Pcon, but that is just my personal opinion. I thought her comment urging us to spend more time on matters she assumed were universal to the Pagan community rather than discuss Wiccanate privilege undermined a very important effort to be inclusive.

    • Hear, hear, and thank you, Rayna! Starhawk seems to me to be an activist above all else, and she tries to coöpt Paganism into her activism. I;m not buying it.

      • I’m not one to defend Starhawk in any way, but I can say that she has very specifically stated, several years ago, that her focus was thenceforward to be on activism, not on anything Witchen or Pagan. Just sayin’…

    • Here’s what went through my mind at the time. I believe the damage human beings are doing to the ecosystem is a life and death matter. This particular group of humans chose to get together in order to discuss a different subject. Thanks to our moderator and lots of self-discipline, we managed to stick to our agreed-on topic for two solid hours.

      We could have been exchanging mead recipes or rating our favorite live-action roleplaying games or something else of earthshaking insignificance.. We paid our registrations and we damned well had a right to assemble and talk about what interested us, without being scolded for it.

      When I got back home and thought about it some more, it reminded me of a time around 1969 when young female activists started bailing out of the New Left in favor of getting involved in the brand new Women’s Liberation Movement. Robin Morgan and others wrote that their former comrades called them selfish for putting their trivial concerns about housework, sexual objectification and who gets to address the meeting ahead of really important matters like anti-imperialism and class struggle.

      Granted there are plenty of self-absorbed whiners around. Granted the world doesn’t revolve around me. That does not change the fact that telling a room full of people that the subject they have gathered to discuss isn’t important and they ought to be talking about something else is a show of privilege, and also bad manners.

      • The culture of Reclaiming encourages bad manners. It’s also quite exclusionary, which is why you don’t see so many Rec. folks in general discussions like the one on privilege in interfaith. They don’t do interfaith. Oops, off topic, I know! Just couldn’t help myself. (I don’t mean you, Baruch, or anyone who has chimed in here.)

    • Imagine Pagans spent as much time talking about theology as they do politics.

  20. Although my own practice is vibrant and my relationship with Deity is good, every time I read “The Wild Hunt,” I want to crawl as far away as possible from the so-called “Pagan” community. Those who claim to be victims of intolerance seem to becoming the perpetrators of it. I’m glad I was not at Pantheacon and I will make plans never to attend that event, nor any like it.

    • When victimised for long enough, it is a natural reaction to fight back.

      That is what is happening now.

    • All this was really only a small slice of Pantheacon, and something I’d guess the majority of attendees were unaware of.