Paganistan: Notes from the Secret Commonwealth
In Which One Midwest Man-in-Black Confers, Converses & Otherwise Hob-Nobs with his Fellow Hob-Men (& -Women) Concerning the Sundry Ways of the Famed but Ill-Starred Tribe of Witches.
Paradise Now: The Visionary World of Feraferia's Frederick Adams
Few individuals can have been as important in the shaping of the modern pagan vision as artist and visionary Frederick McLaren Adams, founder of Feraferia.
I first encountered his work and thought in the early 70s. His vision of a culture in which art, daily life, religion, work, play, and wilderness together form a single, unified whole inspired me deeply and still does: the nostalgic and necessary dream of a holistic, integral culture.
And his art: swirling, surreal, eros-charged icons in which Pagan Past and Pagan Future met and kissed in a passionate Maiden embrace. To gaze into the eyes of his Apple Kore on the jacket of Hans Holzer's New Pagans (1972) was, for me, to fall willingly, irretrievably, head over heels in love.
Film-maker Jo Carson first met Fred Adams in 1970 and was initiated into Feraferia shortly thereafter. Her scintillating new book Celebrate Wildness: Magic, Mirth and Love on the Feraferia Path offers the single most comprehensive and accessible study of Adams' thought and—just as importantly—his artwork, to date.
Jo, what would a Feraferian future look like?
Peaceful paradisal sanctuaries would be the main form of human domain. Picture large gardens with fruit trees, play areas, creative living spaces, friendly animals, art forms and open-air temples, all surrounded by wilderness. There would be way less of our extended cities with their techo-industrial blights on the landscape—maybe none. There would be much more wild nature everywhere. We would all live much closer to nature, working and playing together while celebrating Nature and her seasons. "Kore" or the figure of the Maiden Goddess would be the main, but not only, divinity—with her innocent sensuality, her caring and her talent for play, she would inspire humanity to live in happy harmony with each other and the planet. The worst of modern technology would be a thing of the past, such as nuclear arms, fast food, GMOs, mass media advertising, clear-cutting, drilling and fracking earth's beautiful crust. Not to mention the whole military-industrial-prison complex. It would be much more of a "hand made" human culture, with art everywhere and love and peace being our highest values. And of course sex would be considered both sacred and a gift of the gods; as Francesca DeGrandis said, "because the Gods want us to be happy."
Adams' concept of “temple palaces” has always intrigued me; they're clearly based on the—well, temple-palaces—of Minoan Crete. Could you say more?
Fred suggested that the paradisal sanctuaries could have large temple-palaces where groups of people would live. They would be beautiful, creative spaces where many things would take place—celebrations, dance, rituals, workshops, community halls, food storage, eating, and all the arts would have a place. He was inspired by the similar function of the palace temples of ancient Crete, which flourished for a very long time—from around 2500 to 1500 BC. There, the palaces were hives of activity for the community. I saw a number of them on a trip to Crete in 1991. These structures were huge and multifunctional, with large open-air plazas for festivals and games, extensive grain, oil and wine storage areas, and oddly small rooms which lent themselves to meetings of governing and religious leaders. Knossos, the most extensively rebuilt of these places, had only a small, high-backed chair on one side of a decorated room to indicate that this might be the throne of a queen, priestess, or other leader.
Almost none of Crete's ancient art shows war or heroic males, much less gods or kings; much of their rich, buoyant art does show large-breasted goddesses or priestesses being honored by people of both genders. Having had female leaders would support the likelihood that that era was matrilineal, which is a property system where property is handed down through the female line. This system does not require marriage or monogamy, as patriarchy does, to ensure a peaceful hand-over of land and goods to the next generation.
The Mosuo of Southwest China are a more contemporary example of this system, but Heidi Goettner-Abendroth's book, Societies of Peace—Matriarchies Past, Present and Future reveals that there are many such cultures in the world even now. Divorce is a non-issue when the primary family form is the mother and her children with the support of brothers and other males in her family, who have the functions we expect of a father. So eros is freed up, and love is the only criteria for when people come together. Fred called humanity of the future "Anthropos Paneros," to indicate that it would be such a significant change for us when we finally get over the guilt, shame and control issues our culture has around sex. We don't handle it well. And it is really hard on children to live through divorce and broken families, which are a common result of the disappointed expectations of monogamy. Children are so precious, they are the future; we need to really centralize around them. Feraferia looks forward to a time when people are not so isolated in their little boxes, but can help each other by sharing important things like child care and education, in a living environment that is designed to support this. That is why the palace-temple form was so appealing to Fred.
One of the last issues of Korythalia actually laid out a timeline for the implementation/actualization of the Feraferian Paradisal vision. By 2014, we were to have seen the rising of Atlantis, the first wave of temple-palaces, and the coming of Celestial Girl World Teachers. Did Adams read this literally or figuratively?
That time line was created by Feraferia member Akis, who was quite an excellent astrologer. With astrology I think you always have to take the interpretations of the star and planet positions with a grain of salt, since it so subjective. I know Fred was excited about changes in our culture which seemed to be moving us toward a better future, and Akis' predictions were right in line with that. Fred did not live in a fantasy land, but he did see things more positively than some. We haven't got temple palaces, but my understanding is that over 300 eco-villages have been built around the world by followers of Anastasia, a Kore-type teacher who lives wild in the Siberian forests. She teaches about living a vegetarian lifestyle close to nature, visualizing the positive future we want, and building "spaces of love" which sound very much like our paradisal sanctuaries. There are a lot of "Celestial Girl World Teachers" if you include the thousands of Goddess activists and authors who are offering guidance today.
How did Adams react to a future different from what he had envisioned?
Fred never gave up his vision or his hope. He encouraged Feraferia member Peter Tromp in Amsterdam to spread his writings freely to the world. He gave me his blessing to spread the Feraferia vision as far as possible. There are unique things Feraferia offers that I think the world needs, such as a real liturgy of wilderness religion, and hope for eternal life for our individual selves; not the void of nirvana or white light, not the heaven/hell dichotomy, not the wheel of relentless karma, but conscious awareness of all as we merge into "death", and the chance for those who desire it of returning for another life without losing our own inner essence. And for those who are ready, a chance to become biomic (as in biome) earth spirits, faeries, or to join the celestial Fay. I think Fred was convinced that when people heard about this they would gravitate to it. It is a much nicer future, I think. Although not everyone understands the role that the Fay or faerie folk play, so they dismiss that part of it. But for almost 2,000 years people were initiated at Eleusis into the belief and certainty of their own ever-renewing life. Feraferia is here to bring that awareness back into the world now.
Although Adams' thought and art have been immensely influential among the new Pagani, by and large the pagan community has not embraced Adams' vision of pacifism, fruitarianism, and paradisal land-sanctuaries. Was he—like so many—a disappointed visionary?
He had moments of disappointment that things weren't moving along as fast as he hoped, and I think he was surprised at times that Feraferia hasn't gotten credit for so much that it was the first to envision. Feraferia became a legally incorporated church in August, 1967. It was the first pagan group in modern times to do this, after The Church of Aphrodite in the '40s on the East Coast. And Fred was teaching about what is now called permaculture in the early '60s. Not to mention the whole concept of the Divine Feminine, which almost nobody else was talking about back in the fifties and sixties. I think that Goddess awareness basically had to wait until a little later in our cultural zeitgeist to really blossom.
In an era of militant Islam, ISIL, and rising intercommunal violence worldwide, is Adams' paradisal vision of radical pacifism possible?
Actually violence is not rising. What is rising is our awareness of it, since with the internet and cell phone videos our news media has instant access to almost every instance of violence, which certainly helps them "sell papers," or I suppose more commonly now, sell ad space in various news outlets. They play violence up because it raises peoples' alarm response so they pay attention. In reality, there has been a long term world-wide trend downward in violence; this was clearly laid out in Harvard professor Steven Pinker's recent book The Better Angels of our Nature. But can people consciously move toward a peaceful future? Absolutely. It is what gives people hope. Yes, there is still a lot of fear out there, and the media feeds it for their own purposes. The question is, how do we get people to reject the consumer-mindset they get from advertising and the media's focus on conflict, and to connect with each other in a positive way? I think the only way is to put out a different, very clear, well worked-out message that rings true. Positive future visions, I call it.
How do we get there from here?
It starts with each person doing what they can right now. If a person has some resources, then they might buy a ruined acre of land on the edge of town and replant it with native plants and fruit trees, making it the basis for a new paradisal sanctuary. Or someone might just buy a fruit tree in a pot and care for it in their own yard. Or plant it from seed, although that takes longer. One of the best ways to connect with the land is to set up a faery-ring henge. This is a tool that helps you to reach out to the spirit of the land around you, and also focus your energy and awareness. It is simply a circle formed by eight directional markers. Aligned with the directions on earth, it's ability to both connect you to where you are and help you reach out, is phenomenal. It's good to go there regularly, so set it up in your own back yard if you have one. Or you can use a spot in a local park - some people set up incognito markers that blend right in. Start by identifying the center you want to use for it, and mark the directions from there, starting with North. The markers for the directions can be stones, trees, or even something you bring with you each time—a portable henge. There are directions on how to set up and use a henge on our website, feraferia.org and also in our new book, Celebrate Wildness—Magic, Mirth and Love on the Feraferia Path. The henge becomes your own center of the universe, with links to everything. They are a great place for magic, for rituals and trance work, for personal rites like marriages, and of course, seasonal celebrations.
A henge is a really good place to start. And there are also simple rituals, like our Thursday night Butterfly Assembly, and the Friday night Gaia Cthon Blessing, that anyone can do where ever they are. Sometimes a person wants to celebrate the seasons with others but they are not sure how to start a group. You can always offer a feast or pot-luck with a theme, such as watching or "singing up" the sunrise on Winter Solstice followed by hot food and cider, or sunset on a beach at Summer Solstice, and then feasting around a bonfire.
Encouraging folks to hold hands or do a group hug right after the sunrise or sunset sets a nice tone for the coming season. You might find people this way who can go deeper into doing actual faery magic with you. Our feraferia.org site has over 100 articles on it and they are a great resource for daily, weekly, monthly and seasonal magic. The idea is to expand through the power of attraction until the whole world is restored to beauty and everyone is dancing. As the Greek Callimachus said with a smile, "Let not one avoid the dance!"
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