Pagans & Politics: The Power of Pagan Activism

Examine your feelings about political activism, from the smallest to the scariest steps, and find what you feel most comfortable with. Get in touch with your powers of manifestation as you move beyond self-directed concerns and integrate with your community, whether that be local, regional, national, or international. Feel your power to change the status quo and build solidarity with others who share your values, regardless of spiritual path. Power up!

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Pagans and Politics: Let’s Get Acquainted

Greetings, friends! Thanks to Anne for inviting me to share my views on the intersection between Paganism and politics in this blog. First, let’s get acquainted.

I am a feminist atheist solitary Pagan Witch. I am primarily of Western and Central European ancestry, with some North African thrown in. I am pansexual, cisgender, and celibate and single by choice. I work primarily with Celtic goddesses (Welsh and Irish) plus lots of fictional characters like Princess Leia and Lao Ma and others from Xena: Warrior Princess. I also call on archetypes from the Robin Wood tarot deck and the Celtic Book of the Dead by Caitlín Matthews.

I grow less and less enchanted with the Maiden-Mother-Crone triumvirate and look to break out of the “biology equals destiny” box. I’m currently trying out “Child-Young Woman-Mature Woman-Wise Woman” plus some sort of “meta-Woman” but I’m not sure that’s it. I’m intrigued by the archetypes put forth in Jailbreaking the Goddess by Lasara Firefox Allen (a flawed but exciting step towards a more relevant Paganism) and may try that next. In my view, we need new goddesses and gods to speak to our contemporary needs while still maintaining our ties with the Old Ones if we feel so Called.

I was born after the Summer of Love, at the end of 1967 and the beginning of flaming political turmoil across the United States. One might say I was born in fire, baptized by politics.

I have never understood why many Pagans treat “politics” like a dirty word. It’s there, it’s real, and it’s how decisions are made about air and Earth, and about our poor, our sick, and our religious freedom.

I have been politically active since I was 14, mobilizing support to ameliorate famine in Ethiopia. But my bona fides in Pagan organizing start in 1993, when I founded the Pagan Educational Network, which was dedicated to “educating the public about Paganism and building community.” Our members worked in the grassroots sphere in whatever way they felt comfortable to reach these goals and I, as National Coordinator, worked in the national sphere to reach common goals across the movement. My founding of the Pagan Leaders email list was an early attempt to get leaders of national Pagan organizations to start talking with one another, but it failed in part because of my inability to manage “Witch wars.”

After trying that approach, I started taking things piecemeal, working on smaller projects with key leaders across the country. As we saw success, we were able to widen the circle. I led the national effort to get the Associated Press to include Paganism and Witchcraft in their style guide (the bible of journalists throughout the English-speaking world), only to find that they take their cues from dictionaries. Thus began the Dictionary Project, a huge undertaking with about 30 leaders of national organizations who collaborated on definitions of “Paganism” and “Witchcraft” and organized reams of documentation demonstrating their use in contemporary culture. That was a real challenge. There were some rough times but I’d matured and was able to work through conflicts with personal emails, stated and enforced ground rules, and a few direct phone calls to give people a chance to vent. The result, I am proud to say, is more inclusive definitions in all the major dictionaries. Our next challenge (one which in the last couple years was revived by Oberon Zell) is to convince outlets to capitalize our religions’ names just as they would any other. That’s proving a tougher nut to crack.

Our successes in these areas and in several others (including the infamous “Bob Barr” episode where he tried to strip Pagan religions of protections in the military) led to my taking the step of organizing a summit of leaders of national organizations in March 2001. People were very wary at first, but Isaac Bonewits wrote a personal letter declaring his belief in the cause, his willingness to take a leap of faith, and calling others to join him. His support broke the dam and soon we had an event on our hands (thank you, Isaac, in whatever realm you are!).

People outside our group got pissed that I dared to call it a summit but, as a longtime activist and political junkie, that’s what was appropriate. It wasn’t a festival or a conference – it was about rolling our sleeves up and diving into what the technical and logistical logjams there were in running a national organization and how we could overcome that. I made it invitation-only because I was working largely by myself and also because I wanted to keep it limited to people who’d worked together successfully before so we could build on success. Man, did I get clobbered for that. I had a few tearful phone calls with Selena Fox and Jerrie Hildebrand (thank you!) and stuck to my beliefs.

The result was an outstanding success. We broke into three groups to explore these logjams and discovered that everybody was facing basically the same issues: funding, infrastructure development, succession planning, membership mobilization, volunteer recruitment, etc. Note: We did not come up with a manifesto or speak for all Pagans. We were speaking to each other for the first time face-to-face as peers and leaders of national organizations with specific needs. We came up with game plans and volunteered for working groups and left the Summit on a high. We started making good progress and then three planes were hijacked by 19 terrorists and everybody switched to interfaith networking instead. That was necessary, but sometimes I wonder how the movement would have changed if we had been able to maintain our focus and momentum. Regardless, the Summit made a profound impact on several of the individuals who attended and spun off regional summits for at least the next decade.

After the Summit we kept in touch via the email list and, again holding my breath, I proposed we formalize our association. Thus was born Our Freedom: A Pagan Civil Rights Organization. It’s an application-only organization of leaders of national Pagan groups along with some individuals who reach a national audience. It is not by any means comprehensive and I don’t misrepresent it in that way. While Facebook and blogging have taken the place of email for many members, we still do an occasional project (such as a recent one which the late (fireball) Dana Eilers and I co-authored) protesting President Trump’s promise to overturn the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits tax-exempt religious organizations from advocating political views. But mostly OFC is a hotline for these leaders. When we hear of a case of discrimination, we post the information to the list and start coordinating resources. This is much more effective than the old days when nobody knew what anyone else was doing and there were either too many cooks in the kitchen or, worse, no help at all for the person under siege. Because OFC is a closed group, we are able to be more frank in our discussions and know that the information will be kept confidential.

So that’s some information about my background. What’s next? You and I! My goal with this column is to help deepen your connection with your personal power, your power within your communities, and your power with Spirit as you experience it. That’s what political work does. Like The Magician card in the tarot, we draw on universal powers and put them to use in the practical realm. Political work is deeply spiritual because it’s all about manifesting the world we want to live in. And there are many, many ways to get involved.

My secular mantra about politics comes from Depeche Mode’s Princess Di Is Wearing A New Dress:

You can't change the world

But you can change the facts

And when you change the facts

You change points of view

If you change points of view

You may change a vote

And when you change a vote

You may change the world

And from a sacred persepective, we have my adaptation of Gosedd Prayer by Dillwyn Miles:

Grant, o Goddess, thy protection,

And in protection, strength,

And in strength, understanding,

And in understanding, perception of justice,

And in perception of justice, the love of it,

And in the love of it, the love of all life,

And in all life, to love Gaia,

Gaia and all goodness.

What is your perception of justice? How does it manifest in the world? What steps do you take, small and large, to enlarge it, bringing more people under its protection? Who is your Goddess or God of justice? Do they bring you to a greater love and understanding of the world and the strength to make changes? We will make this journey together.

Start by listening to the world around you and discovering what pulls at your heart. In what direction do you feel Called? That is the beginning. In future columns, we’ll explore what to do with that feeling.

A better world is possible.

Cairril Adaire is a solitary Celtic Witch and lapsed Discordian. She is the founder of Our Freedom: A Coalition for Pagan Civil Rights. She is an entrepreneur and also a professional musician with the world music ensemble Kaia. She blogs at


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Cairril Adaire is a solitary Celtic Witch and lapsed Discordian. She is the founder of Our Freedom: A Coalition for Pagan Civil Rights. She is an entrepreneur and also a professional musician with the world music ensemble Kaia. She blogs at  


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