Pagan Studies

The seminary adventures of a spell-casting, space-clearing, chakra-balancing, tarot-reading, midnight-whispering, walking, talking, priestess of the Goddess.

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Login
    Login Login form

Activist Clergy: Protesting from the Sidelines

I wrote this piece to the discordant music of police helicopters circling above.  Monday night my friends and colleagues marched through the streets of Berkeley, CA, protesting the killing of unarmed black men in the United States.  While many of them went home after awhile, some stayed to shut down Interstate 80 for a time.  Those dozen or so folks were part of a group that were cordoned off, surrounded by the police.  While they awaited arrest, the chaplains and ministers I spend my days with here at the Pacific School of Religion led the two hundred or so activists in Christmas carols, pop songs, and hymns.  Our Professor of Worship served a communion of almonds and tea to anyone who wanted to partake.  The group sang to the police for hours and the peaceful presence of the religious leaders kept things calm on both sides. It is the kind of work that I think religious leaders are well suited for.  I was with them many hours before, offering energy-based activist training and my loving support as they prepared for this action.  I've shed many tears this last week, filled with anguish for the injustice I see happening in my country and frustrated with my body's inability to march in the streets.

b2ap3_thumbnail_102.jpgMore than ten years ago it wasn't like this.  Back then, I walked with Pagan Cluster and learned about the power of ritual and magick in the realm of street activism. We gathered together - witches, activists, environmentalists - and taught one another.  I remember Starhawk's teachings again and again, moving energy theory into embodiment, grounding as we walked and letting our awareness deepen.  We marched through the bay area and farther inland, against the war, against the WTO, against greed and injustice.  Back then I could march, but my body wasn't up for aggressive arrests and cold jail floors.  So I learned to do jail support.  We'd call DAs and Mayors, push to get people out of jail, and argued against police brutality and military style responses.  As the years passed my disease worsened and I returned to college.  My activism shifted to teaching and educating as I left the world of civil disobedience behind me.

b2ap3_thumbnail_103.jpgRecently the killing of Michael Brown has reignited my heart.  When Rev. Michael McBride visited our Leadership class, he told us about his visits to Ferguson and the climate there.  Spending time with activist clergy, I'm learning a whole new kind of activism.  These people use the power of their faith and the role they play in the world as a force for good.  After several conversations about my years of street activism, I found myself talking about the energy work that Starhawk taught us.  I was asked to join the group for the pre-march planning and encouraged to offer myself as a trainer.  I was overjoyed to offer a successful little training for some pagan and pagan-adjacent folks.  While I was there, I learned that there was no formal plan for jail support if they were arrested and I offered my support if the situation came up.  As they left, I did some strong protection magick for the group - especially for our transwomen of color - and held them as they headed down the hill.  Several hours after I returned home, I was contacted by one of the organizers when they realized that our people were about to be arrested and asked to offer jail support.  I spent the following ten hours coordinating rides and establishing a list of people willing to make phone calls.  We called the DA and the Mayor, local senators and congress people to talk about the conduct of the Berkeley Police and to ask for their help in getting our people released.  We kept tabs of our people through twitter feeds and random texts to eventually discover which jail they were being taken to.  They were kept overnight as I and a few other folks held a vigil, awaiting any news of their release.  Around 8am things began to stir - which may or may not have something to do with elected officials coming into an office swamped with messages about ministers being hit with batons and put in jail overnight.  In the next few hours, as half a dozen cars sped to the Santa Rita jailhouse in Dublin to carry our people home, I went to bed.

b2ap3_thumbnail_101.jpgStanding - metaphorically - shoulder to shoulder in a racially and ethnically diverse group of Christians of all flavors, Jewish leaders, Unitarian Universalists, Buddhists, and other Earth Based Spiritualists against these injustices continues to be a powerful and transformative experience.  We've had a lot of deep discussions about the state of racism in the United States and the nature of these protests.  We've talked about the effectiveness of this kind of civil disobedience, the ways that white allies can and must be aware of their privilege, and the theological stances that underlie the actions we take.  These powerful interfaith movements have been happening for a long time and most have happened without a Pagan presence.  It is time for more of us to take our place within these communities of responsible clergy.  It is time for more of us to join in and work with mainstream religious leaders to transform our world.  It is time for more of us to come out of the night and join in conversation and fellowship with these good people of faith.  There are gifts, guidance, and perspectives that only we as witches can offer.  It is time for us to leap headlong into the fray, for when we do I'd wager that we will be far more welcome than we could have ever dreamed possible.

Rev. Cindy Pincus gets Attacked by Berkeley Police
Pacific School of Religion article about Student Protests
Reflections on the Protests by Dr. Fennema, PSR Director of Worship Life

Last modified on
Trained in Anthropology and Feminist Studies, Kai Koumatos is a Pagan Priestess and a practicing Zen Buddhist. Kai is currently working towards a Master's of Divinity at the Pacific School of Religion, an ecumenical Christian seminary which prides itself on a strong liberal leadership, a queer-positive community, and a wonderful interfaith dialogue. Through this interfaith education, Kai has developed a priestessing and spiritual direction practice which is currently accepting both local and long-distance clients.


  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham Friday, 12 December 2014

    Thank you for all the work you did readying the group and supporting in the long hours that followed.

  • Kai Koumatos
    Kai Koumatos Friday, 12 December 2014

    THANK YOU, Lizann, for your gentle invitations and unwavering support. You are a gem.

  • Anne Newkirk Niven
    Anne Newkirk Niven Sunday, 14 December 2014

    This brings back memories of my past protesting at Lawrence Livermore Lab when I, too, was a student at PSR. Though it's been decades since I was either a student or a Christian, those are *good* memories. Thanks for reminding me of those days -- and for taking a stand for justice and peace. #BlackLivesMatter #TranslivesMatter (I'd say #AllLivesMatter, too but am aware that this particular hashtag has been co-opted by those who'd like to derail this movement. Nonetheless *all* lives do matter and police culture can, and must, be reformed.)

  • Please login first in order for you to submit comments

Additional information