Preserving Pagan Papers


One of the themes at this year’s Sacred Space conference turned out to be legacy. We are now losing many of our Pagan elders at a rapid pace. A new generation of cradle Pagans and of Pagans who came to these religions, not through secret initiations or the occasional book found in some long-since-closed occult book store, but through the internet, tv, or their out Pagan friends are coming into their own.

What will our elders leave behind for this new generation?

Several years ago, at another Sacred Space conference, John Michael Greer talked about his work to preserve the (often) typewritten and/or mimeographed papers of 1950s, ’60s, and 70s Pagan groups: boxes left to moulder in someone’s basement, files saved at the last minute from non-Pagan relatives who had no idea that they were about to throw out, for example, the last remaining set of instructions for a dwindling order of Druids, an important Book of Shadows, or the minutes of the meetings of an important esoteric society. Getting those documents online and onto CDs is part of the work, but, as Greer explained, in a post-peak-oil world, information stored online or on disks may or may not be preserved, readable, recognized. And so acid-free paper copies, stored somewhere safe, become important, too. Greer noted that much of the work of recent decades (and this is certainly true of his work) has been about re-discovering how to do magic that earlier cultures had already figured out. It would be good if post-peak-oil Pagans didn’t have to re-re-re-invent the wheel.

At this year’s Sacred Space conference, Jason Pitzl-Waters (of The Wild Hunt) and Michael G. Smith (who is involved in the construction of the New Alexandrian Library) discussed the need to preserve the libraries and papers of our Pagan elders. This can be a difficult “talk” to have with people, but, as Mr. Smith emphasized, a necessary one.

I’ll go farther and say that all Pagans “d’un certain age” should have a will, and, depending upon their state of residence, an advance medical directive and a power of attorney. (Large Pagan conferences and festivals could even sponsor speakers/workshops/vendor table on these topics.) There are resources within each state for those with low incomes to create such documents. Invoke Hecate, Kali, Vulture, Ereshkigal, Hades, or Anubis and vow to get it done before Samhein this year. Why leave your family or friends to wonder? Why force your non-Pagan relatives to figure out what should happen to your athame, Book of Shadows, wand? You can spell all of that out in your will (e.g., Burn my journals, unread. Give all of my papers to my graduate school. Let my friend, X, go through my library and figure out which autographed books deserve to go to a Pagan Library or community center and which paperbacks can go to the local library. Give my G/Son my athame. Burn my ritual robes in my funeral pyre.)

Being in control of these decisions can give you a great feeling of peace.

I’ll add one final note: For many of us, a huge part of our written oeuvre is online. Most sites that host blogs, etc. have a policy that essentially says that X number of months/years after any activity, they can delete the blog or website. Does someone have the password to your site so that they can preserve your online writings, artwork, and photographs?

Picture found here.

13 responses to “Preserving Pagan Papers

  1. I was certain that my family knew exactly what I would want without me having to spell it out…until I read this article and jokingly asked them. Imagine my shock when I heard the words “local preacher” and “casket”, two things I would NEVER want involved in my last rites.

    Some people think their 20’s are too early to worry about such things, but death cares nothing for age, as any graveyard’s stones can attest to.

  2. Haloveir, Twenty is not too young to make a will. You can always revise it if you choose!

  3. This is certainly one compelling argument for a centralized Pagan university system, complete with archives.

  4. About that ‘last note’ … I copy all my blog posts to a document just as a backup record. Never trust one source, or media, to keep your words safe.

  5. Anne, excellent point. Maybe someday Cherry Hill? Widdershins, excellent reminder!

  6. Reblogged this on Butch Trans Blues and commented:
    I am a solitary witch so if there were more covens being inclusive or at least progressive, then perhaps more would be preserved?
    Who knows.

  7. HealingStewartsofScotland

    I’.ve started compiling knowledge passed down from Scotland/Ireland. I’ve decided much of what I’ve been taught isn’t ready for anyone in my family. The few people I’ve met that wanted to learn, never put the effort to understand the consequences of what I was taught if misused. I’ve decided to place everything in a “time capsule” and bury it in a forest I know will not be developed, or not for many years. I will seal it with protections that only one truly worthy find my papers. I will let the Gods of the Forest protect my knowledge unless someone finally comes to actually understand what true balance is and the consequences of what you do may affect other things.

  8. my family owns a pagan store and have had several batches of “can you take this wierd stuff, we don;t know what to do with it and it might be important” boxes from families. Sorting can be heart wrenching. We have found evertyhing fro personal BOS/journals to artwork to papers from mail order witch “classes” from the 60’s. We have tried to take care of the the best we could, modern books donated to libarys/pagan study programs. Some personal items ritually burned at hallows, old class papers copied and sent to historical groups.etc. But what do you do with personal art work??
    We also wonder how many people just throw away “all this stuff I don’t understand”…..such a loss.

  9. I sincerely hope your blog will stay online for decades to come as there is so much of value here! Thank you for the reminder. I have the legal documents in place, but need to think about the ritual items, etc. I’ve said to donate all to Circle Sanctuary to be used as they need, but I need to put that in writing as well.

  10. My friend and I failed at getting our papers together. We suck. We had been to a wonderful class at Convocation in Michigan 2 years ago and said we would get it done. Oops. I just heard a heart wrenching call to get this stuff done from one of my favorite NPR commentators, her mom is an intensive burn unit and they can’t get anything done because no one has power of attorney to move any of her money, to pay bills or anything.
    Friday night I made a simple document for my friend to come take my dogs if something happens while my husband and I are out of the house.
    I could not imagine them being left alone for days if we were in some kind of accident or worse. This included putting her number in my phone as an ICE..(in case of emergency). Cops or EMT’s will look at your phone for that.

  11. Reblogged this on musings of a kitchen witch and commented:
    A wonderful and thoughtful post.
    Its never too early to start thinking about these things, and HecateDemeter brings up some points that even those of us that might have preparations in place (a must when you have kids) might not have thought of…

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