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Posted by on in Culture Blogs


Family HugLike many other Pagans, I was the black sheep of my family.  My family were hard-working blue collar folk, with some low-level white collar aspirations here and there.  They believed in the ethic of hard work.  They were not at all religious, having had negative experiences with the Anglican church of their youth.  They didn’t understand the mystical bend that shaped my life and experience from the earliest time I can remember.  When I went to my best friend’s Mormon church for the first time, they sat me down to talk to me about it in the same manner that I later would experience when they sat me down to discuss drinking, drugs, and sex.

But I suppose the foundation of my Paganism was laid by the way in which I was raised.  Though my parents shunned the Anglican Church they embraced a lot of Anglican values, and I’m convinced that Wicca is what happens when you expose an Anglican countercultural folklorist to Hinduism.  I was a Brownie and then a Girl Guide, and as Ronald Hutton pointed out, the woodcraft movement was a powerful influence on the development of modern Wicca.  Through my father’s imagination, I learned a sense of wonder; through my mother’s love of the natural world, I learned to find the sacred more keenly in nature than in any human building.

I had some pretty intense mystical experiences – events I would later recognize as higher states of consciousness and satori moments – from a very young age.  I was ten, and in the beginning stages of puberty, when the world of the spirit opened up to me.  I communed with the goddess of the moon Diana whom I’d discovered from school lessons in mythology.  I talked to trees and urged the weather to change according to my mood.  I spent hours communing with the lake near to where I grew up.  I saw visions in the clouds, had dreams that came true, and wrote a poem about a moment of mystical communion with the Sun King that was the Baby Jesus at a nativity scene in a snowfall on the Winter Solstice; a poem my grade six teacher kept.

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  • Annika Mongan
    Annika Mongan says #
    Thank you for telling this story. Coming out to your family can be so hard and it is great to hear of of the positive connections

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

I'm so out of touch with the greater Pagan community--especially the American one--that I might as well have been living under a rock the past few months. Every now and again, however, news seeps down to me, and yesterday I was suddenly confronted with the news of Kenny Klein's arrest on multiple counts of possessing child pornography.

I don't know Klein; I've read some of his posts on PaganSquare, and I've heard others talk about him, but I have never exchanged words with him, not even written ones. I can make no statement to his character beyond his now-tainted image. I don't know anything about Kenny Klein, and yet the news of his arrest and the charges for which he will be brought to court have hit me harder than I would have expected it to.

The Wild Hunt has a relatively complete account of the circumstances, so for anyone wishing to know more about this situation, I would kindly ask you to read up there as I feel no need to repeat Jason's hard work. As of this moment, Klein is not convicted of anything, so I won't comment on his guilt--one way or another--but I do want to comment on the greater ramifications of a Pagan Elder being charged with not only possession of child pornography, but also facing multiple testimonies of people who have felt intimidated and unsafe in his presence during festivals. If you read the article, you will see accounts of many people uncomfortable by his push for physical contact despite being told 'no', and one person even testified to keeping an eye on any kids around Klein long before this turn of events on Wednesday.

This is the part where I warn you about triggers for abuse, rape, rape culture and (male) privilege.

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  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor says #
    Yes, it is a great piece. And it applies to people of all faiths. Years ago I was a member of a New Thought Church in which "hug
  • Courtney Weber
    Courtney Weber says #
    This is a great piece--thank you for sharing this. I really resonate with the "entitlement" aspect that comes in touchy-huggy Circ
  • Tabitha
    Tabitha says #
    Excellently said!!!

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
PantheaCon upon Reflection

Thursday Night thru Saturday Afternoon

To avoid the hassle of driving busy Bay Area freeways during the day, and because I’m not an early riser, I drove down to San Jose late Thursday evening.  I anticipated that this would allow me a few more leisurely visits with other early arrivers, especially those from afar, before the Con got nuts.  I was right.

I had printed out schedules of the events I was most drawn to ahead of time, together with some hospitality suite schedules and meal dates made in the previous weeks.  Over the years I’ve relaxed my schedule by not applying to do a presentation of any kind, rather only sitting on panels now and then when asked, or performing a ritual role when invited to do so.  I try to get to the most appealing presentations, but some of them are too crowded.  I know that some of them I can see at other venues.  If I happen to get involved in a compelling discussion or a tête-à-tête and miss something I wanted to attend, I can follow where I’m drawn, or I can break away if I absolutely have to be somewhere.  This year I played it loose.

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  • Stifyn Emrys
    Stifyn Emrys says #
    I'm sorry I missed Sabina's presentation. I've been a fan of her "Witching Culture" for some time. I chose a different event at th

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Interfaith Dialogue in a Polarized World

At PantheaCon, I ran into someone with whom I'd had a disagreement online. This point of contention was a hot-button issue for me, and my reaction to it had been too quick and strident. When I met the person in question, our meeting was cordial, and I don't even think he recognized me. I left things alone, but when we crossed paths a second time, I confronted the situation directly and apologized for being too blunt. Because my "hot button" had been pressed - inadvertently - I had barreled ahead without finding out more about his take on the situation.

After a 10- or 15-minute conversation, we parted ways, having interacted cordially, but not having addressed the issue upon which we disagreed. He mentioned that we should do so at some point, and I agreed. In honesty, I doubt either of us will change the other's mind, but do we really need to? It's fine to be open to learning about another person's perspective without feeling obligated to embrace it as our own.

Polarization

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  • Aline "Macha" O'Brien
    Aline "Macha" O'Brien says #
    Thanks for this helpful piece, Stifyn. Would you had been at the discussion in the CoG suite of "Wiccanate privilege" in interfai
In God We Trust, but only as a secular symbol

On this day of remembrance of those fallen in war, it seems appropriate to ponder one of the ways in which war has impacted our money, the addition of the motto, "In God We Trust."  The phrase was first included on US coins in 1864, perhaps to show that God sided with the North in the Civil War.  Paper currency was given the message in 1957, after Congress made it the official motto of the country, to set us apart from godless Communism.

In short, the motto was born of, and fed by, war.

What's perhaps more interesting are the battles which have been fought over the phrase since.  These have been in the courts of law and public opinion, and put followers of this deity in a peculiar position:  to keep God on money, God must be secular.

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  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Mr. Ward, I agree in principle with the substance of your argument. It's probably for the best, though, if Pagan fingerprints wer
  • Terence P Ward
    Terence P Ward says #
    We certainly don't want Pagans to be the poster children, which is why I think a coalition is best. Atheists are more numerous, m
  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Mr. Ward, You're right. Thoughtful Christians in positions of power are probably quite aware that secularizing the word 'God', or

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Dear Christians, can you see me?

I was married five years ago. Now I am not. My divorce was awful (surprise). My ex-husband was abusive. I had a bad experience in bible college. I was hurt by the church.

When I talk to Christians, I inevitably face a myriad of questions about these experiences, followed by condolences and apologies and reflections of how sad and hard it must have all been. It was sad and hard. And in the years that followed I have healed, I have learned, I have grown, I have fallen in love, with wonderful people, with my life, with my community, with Spirit, and with myself. I am happier now than ever before. My life is not a collection of knee-jerk reactions to pain.

So I had an awful divorce (ever heard of a pleasant one?) but that is not the reason I am polyamorous. After my divorce I spent a year of self-imposed celibacy. I worked through painful memories, learning forgiveness. I released much anger, sadness, disappointment, and fear. After a while I felt excited at the prospect of once again meeting a man to whom I would make a life-long commitment of marriage. But instead I met someone with whom I chose to explore polyamory. It was with much trepidation that I stepped outside of the familiar framework of monogamy. To my surprise I felt an instant resonance with polyamory. It was like a missing piece of my life snapped into its proper place. Last week I celebrated my 2 year anniversary with one partner and am looking forward to celebrating 3 year with another one soon. Yet in the eyes of my Christian friends, these relationships are reduced to a pathological response to a divorce that happened half a decade ago.

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  • Jeanine Byers
    Jeanine Byers says #
    I was drawing down the moon before I knew what that was, too!! And I am SO glad I have found your blog. Everything you've said in
  • Camille
    Camille says #
    I joined this site just so I could follow your excellent and thought-provoking blog. I want to read more!
  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham says #
    Thank you for sharing your story Annika. I was lucky in that the Christian denomination I became part of in middle school is very

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
A Pagan in Bible College

Alumni visit their colleges to re-connect with old friends and relive memories of the good old days. Unless, of course, they graduated from Bible College and then left the faith. In that case, visiting the college feels more like being a stranger in a strange land.

Eight years after earning a BA in theology and biblical languages I returned to Multnomah University as a Pagan. After leaving my Christian faith, I lamented that my theological education was a "waste of time". But with my embrace of Paganism my perspective changed. It didn't take long for me to discover that my theological education was an invaluable asset for interfaith dialogue between Christians and Pagans.

So I went to Multnomah University to meet with Dr. Paul Louis Metzger, founder and director of New Wine, New Wineskins, author of Connecting Christ, and a Patheos blogger deeply engaged in interfaith dialogue. I had been following the growing dialogue between Pagans and Christians on Jason Pitzl-Water's blog The Wild Hunt and was excited to meet with Paul. 

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  • gary c. e.
    gary c. e. says #
    i read your short blog - thank you for sharing it here. i must say i was confused at first when you said; "I miss being a Witch"
  • Suzy Jacobson Cherry
    Suzy Jacobson Cherry says #
    Excellent piece. We end up sharing our experiences because experience is, I think, one of the most defining aspects of our spirit
  • Annika Mongan
    Annika Mongan says #
    John, thank you for your comment. While there have always been voices calling for a greater emphasis on practice, ritual, and disc

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
In death we meet

I had never been present with anyone dying. It's not that I've been afraid of death, I haven't. But if I had been, I would have lost all fear after Arwen's passage through the veil. 

Growing up I sometimes had premonitions and dreamed the future, but as I grew older, I suppressed my intuition. When I chose a pagan path, I figured my prescience would come back and at Samhain it did. During a ritual I slammed with the knowledge that a season of grace was ending and I would be experiencing the death of loved ones during this turn of the wheel.

So it didn't come as a complete shock when my beloved feline companion and familiar Arwen was diagnosed with a terminal illness. In her final weeks we connected more deeply than ever before. Arwen was with me through an abusive marriage, traumatic experiences, she was my constant support in dealing with PTSD, my intervention when I was suicidal, my most faithful comforter. In dreams she represented my soul, my most deeply held hopes and desires. I couldn't imagine living without her. 

And yet I found grace in the midst of this bittersweet journey. I deepened my relationship with the Divine which sustains me and gives me hope. I connected with a community of witches, made new friends, found fantastic new housemates, and saw a compassionate community form around me. All of my circumstances fell into place to give me the most supportive environment I could have asked for. 

In early June Arwen's condition worsened and I knew the time had come. On the day she died, we lay on my bed together and I pet her and hummed to her and held her. She grew weaker and weaker and I laid her on my chest with her tiny head buried into my neck. I felt each of her heartbeats race through my body, we breathed each breath together. She cried out twice and my heart tore. Then she became peaceful and melted into my body. I felt like I was breathing with her, for her. I couldn't tell where her spirit ended and mine began, in those moments we breathed and lived as one. 

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  • Kyndyl
    Kyndyl says #
    thank you for posting this. I just had to make the decision to let my puppy go across the bridge into the summerlands after almost
  • gary c. e.
    gary c. e. says #
    Hi again a poem not exactly on topic of animal friends - nevertheless;... On The Death Of Friends In Childhood by Donald Justic
Interfaith, Multifaith, Interreligious, Intrafaith, Spiritual/Spirituality – What?

For some years now I’ve been active in organizations and projects that are called “interfaith.”  For instance, my own local group is called Marin Interfaith Council, and is comprised of individuals from a wide variety of religious persuasions, as well as people in social service and social justice organizations, such as hospice, advocates for the homeless, LGBT activists, “soup kitchens” and the like.

I’ve represented the Covenant of the Goddess in most interfaith situations, including as a representative in the academic world by virtue of my membership and participation in the American Academy of Religion.[1]  This is my favorite.

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  • Patrick
    Patrick says #
    Thanks for the pointer here from the morass of WH comments. I've done some of what has been labeled interfaith work, mostly relat
  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor says #
    Dear Aline, Chas, Ian and Joseph - Some of us are syncretists who see human spirituality as an ever-evolving experience which can
  • Joseph Bloch
    Joseph Bloch says #
    Ted, I disagree that the presence of syncretic or eclectic faiths in any way invalidates my point. Indeed, as with Ian's point ab
Why Pagans Need a "Passover Seder" of Our Own

You know by now that I do (and advocate you doing) interfaith work. It isn't easy and sometimes it isn't even rewarding but it's important for people like me to be at the table with other religious folk for any number of reasons.  But this post isn't about that.

Because I do the aforementioned interfaith work, a rabbi buddy of mine invited me to his family Passover seder a couple of years ago. When I asked what I should bring, he suggested flowers or kosher wine. I had never heard of kosher wine but there's rather a lot of choices out there. I brought both.

A Passover seder, if you have never experienced one, is an ordeal by food and wine.  It lasted six hours and my head was spinning by the end, mostly from kosher wine and trying to speak Hebrew.

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  • Byron Ballard
    Byron Ballard says #
    I'm considering writing a Pagan Hagaddah. Kate Laity is, too. Who knows? I think it would be very good for us.
  • Joseph Merlin Nichter
    Joseph Merlin Nichter says #
    I love this post. We have our own "Seder" within our tradition, but we need one for the whole of Paganism. Now more than ever.

Indonesia to criminalize witchcraft and other un-Islamic activities (AsiaNews.it)

"A 500-page reform proposal would upgrade the 1918 Code, revised in 1958. Adulterers and practitioners of black magic would get up to five years in prison. ... Currently, the Code lacks provisions against witchcraft or black magic but under its revised version, those found guilty of using black magic would face up to five years in jail or up to 300 million rupiah (US$ 30,000) in fines. Out of respect for tribal traditions and customs, "white", i.e. good magic would remain legal."

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Before I begin this, which will be my very first blogpost for Pagan Square, I wish to thank Anne Newkirk Niven for inviting me to be part of this wonderful online community. I count it as a great honour and privilege to be able to share my thoughts and experiences here and hopefully have many fruitful dialogues and discussions with those who log on. I do not see myself as a teacher, but a fellow traveller on the spiritual path who has much to learn from other pilgrims. I spent almost two decades of my life as an Anglican (Episcopal) seminarian/ priest and, through it all, never considered Christianity as ‘the’ way, but merely one spiritual path among the many thousands on offer around our enchanted globe. However, this open and eclectic attitude made me as many enemies as friends, and I did not last. I will thus begin my new monthly Blog with an introductory piece so you can see where I’m coming from.

Many blessings, Mark Townsend

Eclectic Pilgrim / Disgruntled Priest

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  • Anne Newkirk Niven
    Anne Newkirk Niven says #
    In order to post or read comments, you need to log in. We are trying to make it possible to read without logging in, but the posti
  • Mark Townsend
    Mark Townsend says #
    NOTE to all potential readers who wish to COMMENT here. For some reason it says "Comments disabled by the author." I'm not sure wh
  • Trine
    Trine says #
    As far as I can tell, this message disappears once you have logged in as a user. I suppose it's to avoid anonymous posters/trolls.

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Sacred Words

 


I am back to writing my blog after taking a break to take care of myself and the many lovely people in my life. My blog should be back on a weekly schedule, barring times when the priorities of my life are more pressing than an online presence. My heartfelt thanks to those that reached out to me and also to those who gave me space. I was also away at PantheaCon and will write about how it touched me next week.


 

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs

Yesterday, I got a wonderful e-mail from a reader of Baring the Aegis, who came here through the Pagan Blog Project. Many who participate in the project are some form of Wiccan or witch--the writer herself included. The writer told me about reading this blog with only a Wiccan mindset to rely upon, and asked me the following question:

"How does Hellenistic worship work in a group? Is it more like a circle with equal participants sharing tasks, or is it more like a congregational model we know from most Christian churches with one or a few priests in front performing the rites and the rest of the participants witnessing without performing tasks of their own? Or is it completely different?"


Because I write with Hellenists in mind, I realize I don't often make comparissons between Hellenismos and other religions or Traditions. Her questions are therefor absolutely logical. For those of you who also came here from a non-Hellenistic, or non-Recon path, I wanted to share my answer to her with you, just to see if I can clear up some confusion.

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Posted by on in Studies Blogs
The Blessed Place

 

 

I was recently asked by a Christian friend about the Pagan version of Paradise. This question was posed in the context of an ongoing series of conversations and questions as a genuine effort on their part to understand my path. I joked with my friend that often their questions are hard to answer because they are so far afield from my sense of being Pagan, and I told them that this question was a prime example of this difficulty. 

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  • Jae Sea
    Jae Sea says #
    I'd be interested in hearing more about your comment "the place where force-evolves-a-form-that-becomes-a-function" and would you

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
A Cup Of Kindness

Earlier this month the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel hosted the Between The Worlds Conference in Wilmington, Delaware. It was a tremendous amount of hard work on the part of many and was successful in all the ways that we had hoped. I am thankful and grateful for all those things that were planned and achieved, but I'm particularly grateful for something that was not planned but simply emerged from our stay at the hotel. Literally dozens of the staff members of the hotel thanked me and the other organizers for the kindness of our attendees. The staff was personable, professional, and cooperative with all our requests. All the conference organizers made an effort to thank the staff and several of us have written letters thanking individual staff members. And I will repeat it again, the staff went out of the way to say what a wonderful group we were. These words were not simply the words of courtesy offered as a matter of good business practice.

 

As a piece of background information, I should explain that the DoubleTree in downtown Wilmington is in the legal district and primarily caters to lawyers and bankers and various corporate sorts that are there on business. Staff turnover in the hotel industry is swift, so very few people were still working at the hotel that remembered us from our previous conferences because it is not an annual event. Those that did remember us had vouched to the rest of the staff that we were a good group. They had of course been warned that we were a wee bit eccentric but good people.

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  • Jae Sea
    Jae Sea says #
    Having competent energy workers to handle the inevitable fluctuations is definitely a necessity with any group working and especia

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

It's funny when I think about it. Each of those days always begins the same, I spend the whole morning in hesitant anticipation. I often consider creating a scheduling conflict or just "oversleeping." Anything to postpone the appointment. But I always seem to arrive on time, often taking my seat in the waiting room only seconds before he turns the corner and calls me back to his office.

He's quite frank with his questions, gentle but direct, he frames them in a way that require explanations to be answered. He noticed when I became uncomfortable with where the conversation was going, it's always obvious because I rub my silver pendant with my thumb. So he shifted gears and asked about my spirituality, if and how that played a role in my experiences in Iraq. Did my experiences there cause me to question my beliefs? Did I have a crisis of faith?

"No, but I knew someone who did."

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This weekend was an interesting working weekend for me. My colleague U. came down and we both presented at a local interfaith seminary. I taught on polytheism, ancestor work, and indigeny in the morning, and he gave an afternoon full of deep meditation and trance work focusing on honoring the earth and connecting with animal and elemental spirits. We come from two different traditions: mine Norse and his Dagara and seeing us working together and reinforcing each other's teaching was, I think, very enlightening for the students.  It really highlighted certain commonalities found across the board in indigenous traditions (like honoring the ancestors). The students themselves were amazing: they were engaged, enthusiastic and very brave given how ready they were to join in the work we were doing never having met either one of us before. I was honored and humbled to be amongst them. Obviously though, since I’m writing this article, something went awry during the course of the day and as my title suggests, that something had to do with ritual protocol. Actually, I think it had to do with common respect or lack thereof, but I'll get to that in a bit.

 

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  • Tim Schneider
    Tim Schneider says #
    An interruption is rude regardless of source, especially with a sign posted. There are some rituals which should not, for sake of
  • Sophie Gale
    Sophie Gale says #
    The first of November I had the privilege of hearing Rev. Dirk Ficca, former director of the World Parliament of Religions speak a
  • Galina Krasskova
    Galina Krasskova says #
    Those are beautiful principles and if that was what actually happened in interfaith communities, I'd be exhilarated. it's not thou

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Watching The Flow

Thanks to all of you who checked in with me during and after the hurricane that in our house came to be called Sandy Claws as a tip of the hat to Nightmare Before Christmas. No damage of any consequence came to our home or our shop, just a bit of cleanup to do. We are grateful.

 

This is part two of a two part post on getting the most out of the experience of ritual. I’ll continue thoughts from last week, bring in a few more notions, and I’ll make some observations about the special circumstances involved in participating in rituals that are not part of your path. If you have not read the first part of this blog, please do.

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  • Gwendolyn Reece
    Gwendolyn Reece says #
    I have been thinking about these past two posts a lot. Thank you for the contemplative fodder, Ivo! Working on the theory that al

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