Tag Archives: Paganism

It Was as if They Were Meant to Live on Earth

You can read my post about the murders in Santa Barbara over at Pagan Square.

Death, Community vs. Movement, and Pagan Legacy

One of the fascinating confluences of this year’s Sacred Space conference (still time to register on site for the weekend) has been, on the one hand, a set of workshops/rituals focused on aging, death, and dying and the workshops that, whatever their titles, wound up being about legacy, what happens to what Jason Pitzl-Waters called the Pagan Movement (a term that he prefers to Pagan Community and I think he’s likely right: good framing makes good neighbors) as many of us die (Byron Ballard said: Oh, just say “death.” Quit with the “passed away” and other euphemisms and I think she’s likely right, as well), or become too old to participate in the movement at our current levels.

One of the ideas humming around in my head is that there is actual research on how different generational cohorts (e.g., the Baby Boomers, GenX, GenY (I’m sorry, GenY; it’s true. I forgot you guys and had to come back and add you. So everything you think about how you don’t get the credit you deserve is true), the Millenials, etc.) process information, act in organizations, find fulfillment, etc. I’m also thinking about yesterday’s post about making people feel that their authentic selves are genuinely included (if you didn’t read Joe Gerstandt’s short and good post on this topic, you REALLY should). I’d love to see sessions at Pagan conferences that would actually present the research (so that, just for example, we “olds” as my friend Atrios calls us can quit getting mad at “the kids” for their short attention spans and so that the kids can stop being mad at the olds for their orientation to hierarchy and to earning your cred before you get responsibility) and then have a panel discussion with representatives from the different cohorts.

I’m going to be 58 tomorrow. It’s unlikely that anyone in my family will continue as Pagan once I’m dead, although that Pisces G/Son with the elvish blood, well, we’ll see. But I’d like to leave Paganism a living tradition. I’d like it to be easier for young women to come to the Goddess than it’s been for me. I’d like some future white-shoe law firm Pagan lawyer to not even have to consider being in the closet.

The only way that can happen is if we reach out and allow young people to be their authentic selves in an inclusive environment. (Now, seriously; I mean it. Go read Joe.)

Picture found here.

Diversity, Inclusion, and Authenticity in Paganism

The ever-interesting Joe Gerstandt is back after a blogging hiatus and I’m glad.

AFAIK, Mr. Gerstandt’s never even heard of Paganism, but sometimes his posts about workplace diversity, inclusion, and authenticity just seem to tap into issues that are roiling the Pagan community. His current post has me thinking about the whole, unfortunately-denominated “Wiccanate Privilege” issue, which is really about whether we make an effort to be inclusive and whether people can be authentic.

Mr. Gerstandt says that, “The first contribution you can make to a more inclusive culture where you live, work[,] and play is to make sure that you are being true to who you are.” It might sound contradictory at first. We Pagans can come with some rough edges; maybe in order to foster a more inclusive culture, we should all just tone in down a bit? But Mr. Gerstandt makes a persuasive argument against that notion:

Diversity and inclusion work is not simply a matter of being able to add people to the payroll [who] may look or live differently than you, we want them to bring their difference to work, we want them to be whole and authentic at work and we want that to be a positive experience for them.

As unique, one of a kind individuals, if you and I are authentic (if we are being true to ourselves), there is going to be difference (or diversity) between us. So diversity is rooted in authenticity, and inclusion is about the creation of spaces where individuals can be authentic and they can benefit individually and collectively from their shared difference and the creative tension that comes with it.

I don’t know about you, but I WANT different Pagan groups to bring their own, authentic practices to the Pagan table. I want to create a Paganism where, as Mr. Gerstandt says, we can benefit individually and collectively from our shared differences and from the creative tension that comes with it.

I think we’re big enough to do that. How do we do it?

Witchcraft, Pagan Horizontal Hostility, the Holocene Extinction, and the Wings of the Storm

The Wild Hunt recently posted about a lecture that Peter Grey, of Scarlet Imprint Press, gave from his book Apocalyptic Witchcraft. Mr. Grey uses some Biblical/Christian language (e.g., Babylon, apocalypse, Satan, The Whore) that I wouldn’t use, although I understand his reason for using it, and the curtain behind him is close decorative kin to the wallpaper that led Oscar Wilde to say, as his final words, “One of us has to go,” but his messages are, IMHO, spot on. The whole thing is worth a listen.

In particular, I think Mr. Grey has important things to say to the Pagans who are enjoying their attempts to fracture Paganism and to those of us who believe that Paganism has an important role to play in the politics of the Holocene Extinction.

We have the power to destroy the world and we are doing so. Witchcraft must respond, as it always has, to the events which unfold around it with the gifts we have been given and those which we have won the heath.

. . .

Yet now we see something interesting occurring: the manufacturing of a schism between a supposed traditional Craft and initiated Wicca. This is an attempt to separate the inseparable and to rewrite a history of shared protagonists. . . . We have an island of wildly diverse practices that we cannot simply neatly embroider into one overarching, gypsy myth. . . . But to define oneself in opposition to your closest allies in a battle for authenticity seems fatally flawed, especially when much of our shared history is chronicled by our enemies and further spans the shifting landscapes of literature, poetry, vision, and dream.

Furthermore, how exactly is a Cain/Lilith myth any more different or valid than a Diana/Lucifer myth? Who exactly enforces that Wiccans do no operative magic or ensures that traditional crafters have no religion and no mythic underpinnings? In fact what we see now is a supposedly traditional craft enthusiastically fashioning the kind of ritual Witchcraft that [for which] they decried the Gardnerians. A curious fix.

The reason is that both these seemingly competing streams of Witchcraft are part of a divided whole, which is not simply true of Witchcraft, but of our entire culture, which is in a schism and a denial of the complete Goddess, whom we know as “Babylon.”

This horizontal hostility between people who should share the same interests is exactly the tactic employed by COINTELPRO. It splinters; it dissipates; it prevents us engaging or recognizing the real enemy. There are more pressing issues than whether we work naked or whether we work robed. Enough. I say, “My enemy’s enemy is my friend When I say “Apocalyptic Witchcraft” I mean the destruction of the false divisions between Witchcrafts and between people.

I would argue that Gerald Gardener’s Witchcraft was not ultimately about the form, but was about the force. A culture was crawling out of the bombed cellars of London into a new world of pill and possibility. The Witchcraft of Jack Parsons was not about form. It was about the force of the bohemian sexual revolution and the newly found entheogenic drugs. Traditional Witchcraft is not about form. It’s about the loss of folklore, the loss of rural life, and, crucially, the loss of meaning in an increasingly urban and postmodern world. Apocalyptic Witchcraft is about [living in] a world at war with the last remnants of wild nature, the last remnants of humanity.

So today, I’m concentrating on conjuring that force, rather than entering into the trap of circumscribing it. Those who have read the Red Goddess will know that I am adamantly opposed to the imposition of orthodoxy. So when I say “Apocalyptic Witchcraft” I am describing a set of ideas that can be embodied in any Witchcraft approach. We should celebrate every form of emergent heresy. Our emails are, after all read by the same intelligence agencies. Our ritual sites are photographed by same military satellites. Our wells are poisoned by the same fertilizers, fracking, and pharmaceuticals.

We must never forget our enemy. . . . Without understanding the enemy or the shape of the battlefield, there is no answer that can be given [to the question of why “the enemy” became the figure of the Witch and why the Sabbat attained such prominence].

What is clear is that the creation of a purely malefic figure of the Witch, was an attack on women, though men, too, were burned. Women were attacked [as Witches] in this way for a reason: in order for the state to enclose the common land. Woman was attacked to remove her control of her womb. Woman was attacked to divide the sexes and to rend the social fabric. Woman was attacked to destroy all sense of the sacred in nature. We do not need to follow Marx; we simply need to follow the money. This process of demonization and destruction of the commons has continued because the enemy has inexhaustible greed and diminishing returns. It is not simply the commons, now, that are enclosed, but everything is being sold into the hands of the few. This inexorably means war and the war is upon us.

The Sabbat arose in such a landscape as a conspiracy to destroy the rotten edifice of church and state. It meet on the heath to avoid the gaze of authority, guised in anonymity, and foreboden. This revolutionized the nature of Witchcraft, regardless of the pre-existence of the Sabbat form. . . . We see these same attacks on freedom of assembly in the destruction of the free festivals, rave culture, the Occupy Movement. These [attacks] have been met by the masked and anonymous Anonymous, the faceless, blackbloc anarchists, the radical direct actions of the E.L.F. These are expressions of direct, popular Witchcraft and have been persecuted by the same inquisition that once came for us. Please note, I don’t say that any of these groups are examples of operative Witchcraft. I say that we, the people who are the Witchcraft, have a sacred duty to join this war. We need to celebrate the great Sabbats again and infuse them with our Witchblood, with our cunning.

So here’s my prophecy: Witchcraft is going to get both aroused and angrier. Nature will rise. We’re not only coming for your children. We are your children and all those who are about to inherit the ruins of the Earth. Welcome to the apocalypse. This is the year that we finally realize that the climate is broken. And it’s all blood and roses from here on in. As Witches, we should prepare to fly on the wings of the storm.

Meet the New Pope, Same as the Old Pope

Pope Francis

If you’ve ever been in, or even had a close friend who was in, an abusive relationship, you recognize the pattern.

The abuser has been acting like a complete shit for quite some time. Eventually, he realizes that he needs some good PR to balance it all out. So suddenly he does a few nice things — actually takes out the trash without a scene, throws the ball back and forth with the kids, or doesn’t hit you for a day or so. Or maybe he doesn’t really do anything different, but he starts to talk sweet. Yeah, maybe he will go with you to counseling; he’ll think about it. “Hey, Babe, you look decent today.” Or maybe it’s just that he speaks at all, instead of screaming or grunting. If any of this can happen in public, so much the better, as far as he’s concerned.

He doesn’t really relax any of his insane controls nor does he change any of his underlying behaviors. But the victim is so desperate for things to improve that she’ll grasp at almost anything as a sign of change.

Well, you can call me an ungrateful, cynical bitch (and, trust me, I’ve been called a lot worse, while dodging slaps and avoiding thrown crockery), but that’s what I see going on with Pagans and progressives who are falling all over themselves because the new Catholic pope has realized that the church — watching the number of “Nones” and Pagans increase, while the number of priests and nuns continues to shrink — could use some better PR.

None — zero, not one — of the underlying behaviors have changed. Women still are second-class humans who cannot be priests, cannot lead, should stay home and raise children. He has not discontinued Ratzi’s “investigation” of American nuns. Birth control is still verboten and abortion is still a sin. His American minions are still doing everything they can (with tax-free dollars) to keep the government from paying for or requiring insurance companies to cover birth control, abortion, or maternity care. They still sexually abuse children and they still use church money to cover it up. Homosexual acts are still sins and the church still opposes civil same-sex marriages. The Catholic church still hordes massive wealth (earned, inter alia, from South American slave mines, the Magdalene Laundries, and African “missionary” churches), and, via its policies concerning women and birth control, does much to keep large swaths of the population in miserable poverty. Its insane policies also discourage the use of condoms, thereby helping to spread HIV/AIDS and other sexually-transmitted diseases. NONE of that has changed.

But he talks pretty — well prettier than the previous abuser. He washes some feet at a very public ceremony. He complains about capitalism, while the church continues to profit off of, well, capitalism. He suggests that maybe beating up on gay people isn’t the entire purpose of the church. He makes vague noises about some “other” role for women, although he’s careful to make clear that they still belong at home, raising dozens of babies.

And like the battered victims that they have, for many years, been, Pagans and progressives perk up and grab at the PR crumbs that Francis strews. At least he’s not still hitting us! At least he took out the trash! At least he called me “Babe” again! It’s a sign! If we just show how grateful we are and how willing to we are to meet him at least halfway, why, next thing you know, he’ll be bringing home his whole paycheck and never smacking us, ever!

And, of course, it simply helps his PR effort that conservatives are now calling him socialist, too liberal, misguided, etc. It’s no different from when the abuser comes home on a Friday night and announces, as if it ought to earn him a free pass on his next several punches, that his buddies at the bar laughed at him for coming home early to you, Baby. Now get me a beer. Conservatives long ago mastered, in a way that Pagans and progressives have not, how to work the Overton Window. So they make sure to call Obama, whose policies are to the right of Eisenhower and Nixon, a “socialist.” So Ann Coulter is accepted as a serious commentator, and the new pope is some kind of hippy Liberation theologist.

I’ve said this of Obama and I’ll say it of the new pope: We know he can speechify. Get back to me when he can actify.

Until then, I’d appreciate it if more of us had the dignity not to slobber.

/Rant off.

Picture found here.

Could We Hear More About EDPs?


Just a short thought for tonight: I’ve been watching and thinking about the rise and fall of yet another BNP (big name Pagan), at least within the fever swamp of Paganistan’s blogosphere. Here’s my take-away.

I think that what we need are a whole lot fewer BNPs and more EDPs (Every-Day Pagans). It’s not too helpful to me to learn about people who have made selling Paganism their life. I’m glad there are some folks who do that, but I’m never going to do that and neither are the majority of us. And making those BNPs almost our entire focus does all of us a disservice. I get why it happens; it’s easier to write about a few BNPs than to dig up information and and write about a lot of EDPs. I’m guilty of that, too.

But, what’s really helpful to me — as a pretty average woman leading a pretty average life — is to learn about people who manage to simply Live While Pagan. You know, the woman who is a nurse at a big-city hospital, a wife, a mother, a PTA member, and a Witch; she even pins things to Pinterest. The teen who goes to high school, plays in the band, jogs with friends in the morning, takes Spanish, and plants trees with hir family’s Druid grove. The guy who works in IT all day and then feeds the homeless as part of his Asatru group’s focus on their local community. On Saturdays, he coaches a lacrosse team. The carpenter who finds her strength in Celtic Reconstructionism, the technical writer who prays each morning to Toth, the judge who never enters hir courtroom without silently invoking Ma’at.

I want to hear how those people live, and work, and worship.

Maybe we could quit constantly turning folks who obviously aren’t ready into BNPs and start to tell the stories of EDPs. I’d like that.

Picture found here.

Pagan PotPourri


* Now here’s something that you don’t see every day: Christian ministers debunking the idiotic notion that procedures that prevent fundie Xians from imposing their views on everyone else constitute a form of discrimination.

Let’s be clear: Christians in the military are not under threat of constant, widespread persecution. Existing military regulations are in place to deal with any problems. Many, if not all, of the cases that Perkins cites as attacks on religious freedom are in actuality the opposite — they are actions taken by the military to ensure the religious freedom of everyone.

If anything, they reflect the military’s appropriate and admirable respect for the diversity of the armed forces and by extension, the diversity of our nation.

To give just one example: Perkins complained about the removal of a painting with a Bible quote in the dining hall of Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho. That quote may hold meaning for some, but not all, of the airmen stationed there. Its presence in a chapel during worship would be wholly appropriate, but its placement in a public dining hall is an implicit endorsement of that religious perspective by the base’s military leadership. We doubt Perkins would have been similarly supportive if the base hung up a quotation from the Quran or a comment by a famous atheist.

The religious right has a skewed definition of religious freedom — and their interest lies only in preserving religious freedom for one very specific sectarian point of view. This is not what the Constitution calls for.

Religious freedom is our first freedom, the first clause of the First Amendment. Historically that freedom has been understood to protect an individual’s right to practice their faith freely up until the point where it interferes with someone else’s same right. It has meant that government should strive to stay out of matters of faith — and vice versa — for the better of both institutions.

The far right is making a concerted effort to redefine religious freedom as a catch-all concept that gives “authentic” Christians the right to do what they want, whenever they want, wherever they want. They seek to use positions of authority — including in the military — as platforms to proselytize their faith while seeking to limit the ability of people of other faiths to take a different perspective. When challenged, they present themselves as victims or martyrs and claim the mantle of religious freedom as the ultimate defense.

This is not what our Founding Fathers [Dear Ministers, “Founders” would be less sexist.] intended for civic life or for the military. Our government and our military must protect the rights of all members of the armed forces regardless of faith or belief. And they must be blind to the virtues of any one faith over another. All service members should feel comfortable practicing their faith — or not practicing any faith — as they protect our nation.

More. Like. This. Hat tip: @sarahposner

* My new guilty pleasure is Larkrise to Candelford. If you are as big a fan of late Victorian, early Edwardian fiction as I am, it’s great fun. One thing I’m enjoying is the matter-of-fact inclusion of Pagan cultural artifacts in the life of the villagers. Just one example: Queenie, the Larkrise wisewoman who keeps (and talks to) bees and who uses herbal remedies to heal sick children and help women hoping to conceive. In the second episode of the third season, Queenie leads a ritual to free the spirit of an ancient witch from an old local tree. Her invocation of the elements will be familiar to most modern Pagans. When the town god-botherer becomes upset about this display of “Paganism,” the postmistress, heroine of the series, explains to him that “Pagan” can simply mean a country-dweller.

* Speaking of “Pagan,” it may be time for me to repeat my regular rant about capitalization, especially as more and more Xians boost the signal on the use of “Pagan” as a slur. In English, we capitalize the names of umbrella religious groups and the names of specific religions. Thus, for example, we capitalize “Christianity” and we capitalize “Baptist,” “Methodist,” and “Lutheran.” We capitalize “Judaism,” and we capitalize “Reform,” “Orthodox,” and “Conservative.” We capitalize “Buddhism,” and we capitalize “Theravada” and “Mahayana.”

Thus, we capitalize “Paganism,” and we capitalize, for example, “Wicca,” “Asatru,” and “Kemetic.” As more and more of us are called to respond to media inquiries about the use of the word “Paganism,” it’s a great opportunity to educate members of the media. Paganism is an umbrella term that covers a variety of religions (not “faiths”) and it, and the individual religions under that umbrella, should be capitalized, just like other religions.

*Here’s Charles Loeffler‘s A Pagan Poem. Sit back, close your eyes, and enjoy. Listen for the trumpets; they’re the best part.

Picture found here.

On Paganism as a Religion, Not a Faith


You may have seen something of a debate going on over at Pagan Square and elsewhere in Pagan Blogistan between what are sometimes called “hard” vs. “soft” polytheists. One blog says that:

Soft polytheism encompasses views of the gods as figurative to some extent, whether that means they are metaphors for aspects of nature, or metaphors for some greater transcendent divine power (which may or may not go beyond what a naturalist usually considers “nature”) that is difficult to grasp except through human-created imagery. To that extent, different deities may be seen as aspects of one another.

In contrast, hard polytheism asserts [that] deities are distinct entities, usually as causal agents with their own independent wills and personalities.

I’ve avoided jumping in because, Sun in Pisces and Geminii rising, I’ve got both signs in the Zodiac specifically designed to see all sides of every situation. It makes me a good lawyer, but leaves me disinclined to proclaim the one, true, truth. My answer to these either/or questions is almost always an unqualified “Yes.”

Also, the whole “Someone is WRONG on the internet” thing just gets old after a while. If one person finds fulfillment in worshiping Isis as Isis, a real and true entity, that’s fine with me, and if someone else finds fulfillment in worshiping Isis as a thought-form related to all mother Goddesses, related to Gaia, related to Nature, that’s fine, too, as far as I can tell. I’m willing to bet you’d find similarly diverse notions about the specific nature of divinity in the membership of any Catholic church, Buddhist temple, or Jewish synagogue. And part of the appeal of Paganism, from my perspective, is the willingness to accept that your Goddesses and Gods can be yours without that requiring me to do or accept anything.

Christopher Penzack has a post up about this debate that says, and says well, some important things.

I would say I’m not a person of faith or belief. My religious experience is of a mystery tradition, of a more mystical nature than sheer belief. I believe in experience, and feel there are many ways to define the experience, but the experience in consciousness is what really attracts me to this path. I find the different ways of describing it interesting, but become concerned when those in Magickal, Pagan, Wiccan, Witchcraft, Heathen, Theosophical, and related paths adpot terminology and attitudes that remind me of my previous Christian experiences.

* * *

I tend to focus on technique, rather than decide theology and then seek experiences to support it. I’d rather have experiences, and see what ideas fit those profound moments. I think that is what most people do, at least initially on our path, regardless of where they fall in this debate. We simply have different experiences, and find different ideas to fit them.

While I whole heartedly believe the gods are as real and individual as you and I, I also don’t believe that we are all that real or individual. Much like the simple summations of quantum physics, there are times when it behaves as a particle, and time when it behaves as a wave. I think that philosophy applies not only to the subatomic world, but to gods and spirits, as well as people and all of nature.

Penzack’s point about not being a person of faith or belief, but rather a person who has experienced the mysteries, is one of the reasons why I’m always begging Pagans not to say “faith” when they mean “religion,” not to say “faith community” when they mean “religious community,” not to say “interfaith work” when they mean “inter-religious work.” Using “faith” when you mean “religion” adopts monotheism’s framing and encourages the notion that the only real religions are ones that are faith-based. Even the hard polytheists that I know have had mystery experiences of their Goddess and Gods; they don’t believe that they should have “faith” in Brigid or Apollo and that faith alone will “save” them.

Sometimes, the Goddesses with whom I work are very real, discrete, individual entities and sometimes they are so gigantic and overwhelming that it seems to me that for me to pretend to understand who and what they are would be like the mitochondria in my cells assuming they know all about who I am. I don’t need, or want, it to be any different — for me.

Picture found here.

Mansplaining, Pagan Style


For today’s blog post, we bring you Mansplaining, Pagan-style, with an extra-crunchy dab of “some of my best friends” white, male privilege for good measure.

Turns out that Pagan mansplaining is quite a bit like other kinds of mansplaining. It consists of a “helpful” suggestion (aka known as a threat) that women must adopt the man’s viewpoint (in this case, described as “evolve”) or “perish.”

Who knows what motivated this bout of Pagan mansplaining? The “controversy” being discussed is several years old. But there’s no need to let that come between a privileged white man and his patriarchy-given right to mansplain.

To pre-answer questions:

First, if I have to define what kind of Pagan I am, I say “Witch,” and if I have to say what kind of Witch, I say “mostly Dianic,” but what I really like is something that I once read attributed to Cora Anderson: “I believe in trees and being sensible.”

Second, I wrote about this topic when it was current and indicated that I can see more than one side to this (to coin a phrase) circle. As I said there, I honor Z Budapest as an elder and am grateful for her books and many of her teachings. She, like, well, a whole, whole, whole lot of other people, has also said some things with which I disagree and used some terms that offend me. As she’s gotten older and has come under more strident attacks, she appears to have gotten worse about it.

Which has exactly nothing to do with the right of Pagan groups everywhere to define themselves as they like, to practice as makes them most comfortable, and to evolve their practices as they — not some outsider wading in with his penis and his privilege — see fit.

Mansplaining. It seems to cross religious lines.

Picture found here.

This Conversation Is Happening Now

This entire article, by David Korten is well worth a read. (In fact, it’s well worth saving the link and printing out some paper copies to hand to those who have questions about what we believe.)

Here’s a little taste:

Step to Adult Responsibility

[R]ight or wrong, our choice of creation stories has real world consequences. If we choose to believe our fate lies with purely mechanistic forces beyond our control in denial of our own agency and responsibility, we then resign ourselves to the outcome of forces beyond our control. If we assume that a parental overseer—whether it be God, the market, a new technology, or compassionate space aliens—will save us from our foolish behavior, we likewise absolve ourselves of responsibility for our actions as we await divine intervention.

If we accept, however, that we are conscious, intelligent agents in a conscious, intelligent, self-organizing cosmos, it becomes evident that our future is in our hands and the well-being of all of Earth’s children depends on our acceptance of adult responsibility for our individual and collective choices and their consequences.

. . .

Whether specific details of our chosen story are right or wrong is less important than whether its overarching narrative awakens us spiritually; inspires cooperative, mutually beneficial relationships; supports a way of living that recognizes the wonder, beauty, goodness, ultimate meaning and value of life; and puts us on a path to a viable future. Most important at this moment in the human experience is that our chosen story calls us to accept adult responsibility for the consequences of our choices for ourselves, one another, and a living Earth.

. . .

A Story for Our Time

The turning we humans must navigate to a viable future depends on a profound awakening to our nature as spiritual beings and our responsibility as participants in creation’s epic journey of self-discovery. This awakening will be partly experiential—a joyful reunion with our true nature. It will be partly intellectual—a larger and more nuanced understanding of the nature and purpose of creation and our human role in its continued unfolding.

To accelerate this awakening and actualize its possibilities we need an open and self-critical public conversation about the foundational stories by which we understand our human nature and purpose. That conversation must go far beyond an unproductive debate between doctrinaire Distant Patriarch creationists and doctrinaire Grand Machine social Darwinist evolutionists.

Photo by the blogger; if you copy, please link back.