Witch at Large: Ruminations from a Grey Perspective

Seeing Paganism in terms of being a movement, explorations of our history, societal context, comparisons to other religious movements, and general Pagan culture.

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Aline "Macha" O'Brien

Aline "Macha" O'Brien

Aline O’Brien (M. Macha NightMare), Witch at Large, has circled with people of diverse Pagan paths throughout the U.S., and in Canada and Brazil.  Author of Witchcraft and the Web (2001) and Pagan Pride (2004), and co-author, with Starhawk, of The Pagan Book of Living and Dying (1997), Macha has also contributed to anthologies, periodicals, textbooks, and encyclopedias.  A member of the American Academy of Religion, the Marin Interfaith Council, and the Nature Religion Scholars Network, Macha also serves as a national interfaith representative for the Covenant of the Goddess (CoG) and on the Advisory Board of the Sacred Dying Foundation.  Having spent the last eleven years developing and teaching at Cherry Hill Seminary, the first and only seminary serving the Neopagan community, Macha now serves on its Board of Directors. An all-round Pagan webweaver, she speaks on behalf of Paganism to news media and academic researchers, and lectures at colleges, universities and seminaries. www.machanightmare.com

An Example of Poor Group Process - Scapegoating

Here’s something I’ve observed that I think may be a common phenomenon within many groups of people working together.  It has to do with compatibility, honesty, and integrity.

Your group is open to anyone who wishes to join in your shared work.  There is no method by which individuals are vetted for membership.  They simply attend meetings.  Well, that’s mistake number one.  No filtering to avoid antagonists.

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Hit Piece in Sheep’s Clothing

One Saturday when I was chatting with the Native American chaplain who sponsors our Wiccan circle at San Quentin, he handed me a book.  He’d received it from the Jewish chaplain who’d been our previous sponsor.  Wicca’s Charm: Understanding the Spiritual Hunger Behind the Rise of Modern Witchcraft and Pagan Spirituality, by Catherine Edwards Sanders.  I said I was unfamiliar with the author and had not heard anything about it, although I generally keep half an eye open for newer Pagan publications.

He casually mentioned that according to this book, and according to the chaplain who gave it to him, ostensibly for the small library we keep in the Wiccan storage locker along with our ritual supplies, Wicca was for women and had little relevance here in an all-male prison.  Not that he thought that, but that the book made that case.  He gave it to me to take home.  Book sl-t that I am, I took it, thinking that with all the reading material stacked around my house awaiting my attention, it would be very low priority.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Brenda Caudill
    Brenda Caudill says #
    That book is so wrong that I felt sorry for the author.
  • Greybeard
    Greybeard says #
    Thanks for the warning. We used to say that the difference between Wicca and New Age was about one decimal place (in the price of
When Is Consensus Process Not Consensual?

Well, the answer, in my experience, is all too often.

The most common problem I’ve encountered is what I will indelicately term the ‘bully factor.’  It’s always deliberate, if perhaps unconscious.  It’s simply a fact of life that some voices carry more weight than others.  And it has nothing to do with volume.

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  • Greybeard
    Greybeard says #
    My experience with pagan "consensus" process amounts to driving out everyone who has a different opinion, and then those in charg
Creating Sacred Space with Pagan Prison Inmates – VI

Some More Ways in Which Inmate Circles Differ from Civilian Circles

In previous blogs I’ve mentioned various differences and restrictions that affect how we can work and what we can and cannot do. We can burn candles and incense, and we have created a temporary temple space.

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  • Joseph Merlin Nichter
    Joseph Merlin Nichter says #
    Another great post Macha! Those men appreciate you for every slice of your scissors and your presence alone makes all the differe
Creating Sacred Space with Pagan Prison Inmates – V

“Ministry”?

We Pagans, at least most of us, or at least most of us in our incipient forms, worked in small, intimate, closed circles.  We had no concept of ‘ministry’ as such.

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  • Aline "Macha" O'Brien
    Aline "Macha" O'Brien says #
    Perhaps, Sam, you are correct about your experience and your education. However, that has not been my experience from an entire c
  • Sam Webster
    Sam Webster says #
    "I think that term carries baggage from its use in the Christian context that implies that clergy people either know more, or are
Creating Sacred Space with Pagan Prison Inmates – IV

Altars

As I mentioned in a previous post, our altar went from a 24” square of white cloth with two pillar candles, a leather pentacle about 4” across, a stick of incense, a bowl and a shaker of salt to one with larger purple altar cloth bearing a Celtic design, an abalone shell, some feathers, and a chunk of amethyst crystal.

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Creating Sacred Space with Pagan Prison Inmates – III

Next Steps

Now that we have the banners, we await other supplies, primary among them being incense.

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