Tim Titus is a social science teacher from Orange County, California. He is a High Priest in the Temple of Witchcraft, where he serves as a Deputy Virgo Minister. His PaganSquare blog, Intersections, focuses on the crossroads that join pop culture, science, the arts, and the Craft. His work has appeared in the anthologies Ancestors of the Craft and Finding the Masculine in the Goddess’ Spiral.
Walking through a high school campus just before lunchtime, I noticed four crows busily searching for scraps of food lying in the grass. One lucky bird had found a particularly large morsel and was enjoying its meal bonanza. Then, one by one, the other three lifted off and vacated the grounds to perch on the nearby building, staring down at their feasting friend. At that moment, the lunch bell rang, and the final crow abandoned his jackpot without hesitation and joined his companions on the roof, moments before the students came streaming into the area, hungrily searching out their own meals. It is easy to write this off as coincidence and anthropomorphization.
PantheaCon will be held Feb. 16-18 in San Jose, California. Attracting the nearly 3,000 people every year, PantheaCon is the largest indoor conference for Pagans, Heathens, Polytheists, and related religious and magickal groups in the United States. Located at the San Jose Doubletree Hotel, the conference is a gigantic, rich, and varied event that includes over 200 classes, workshops, and rituals. It also features a vending area that expands over two large ballrooms, and spills out into the hallway outside.
As a minority community, many American Pagans met the beginning of 2017 with trepidation, with the inauguration of a new president who seemed hostile to values that many Pagans hold dear. Between the new president’s recorded admissions of sexual assault and misogyny, and the evangelical Christian movement had propelled him to power, there was fear that the new administration would roll back gains made in social issues such as women’s and LGBTQ+ rights, and freedom from religious persecution. In this environment, one day after the inauguration of President Trump, the Women’s March on Washington burst onto the international scene. In a well-coordinated protest effort, millions of women and men in iconic pink “pussy” hats flooded cities all over the world to stand up for what they saw is inalienable human rights that were under threat. The Washington, D.C. march famously attracted more attendees than the inauguration itself, and that pattern repeated itself in cities across the U.S. and, indeed, all over the world.
If you were to arrive at Iceland’s Keflavik International Airport during the month of December expecting cheerful holiday lights or a jolly fat man in a red suit, you would be in for a bit of a surprise. Instead of being welcomed into the country by the familiar and cheerful figure of Santa Claus, your first encounter would be with slightly menacing, unmistakably witch-like figure: Gryla. Although she has not always been associated with the Yuletide season, Gryla has evolved to become the center of Icelandic Yule and Christmas folklore. While she bears some of the clear markings of the stereotypical witch as a cauldron-stirring hag figure who owns a scary black cat, she is actually described as a troll or ogress in Iceland’s tour guidebooks and articles. Gryla is said to live in a cave hidden deep in the mountains, where she always keeps her cauldron boiling.
In many ways, practitioners of modern Pagan religions can be seen as renegades. They are often well-educated about, and in many cases raised within, one of the mainstream faiths and have found that faith to be unfulfilling, uninspiring, or otherwise wanting. Rather than giving up, they have sought their own path and found practices that speak to their own needs within their own contexts. Modern Pagans are those who have seen what mainstream society dictates and have rejected that prescription to follow their own path. However, renegades exist within even the mainstream religions.