I recently attended a pagan gathering. It was held on private property, deep in farm country, in a secluded wood. During parts of the gathering, especially the rituals, many of those gathered, both male and female, were in various stages of undress, from wearing revealing clothing to being topless to being fully nude. Continue reading “Dancing Naked in the Woods: Pagan Nudity and Christian Shame Culture”
The website fomerly known as Neo-Paganism.com is now ProgressivePaganism.com. I decided to stop paying for the domain name, so the site has reverted to its original name. Continue reading “Neo-Paganism.com is now ProgressivePaganism.com”
“Religious morals, in a healthy society, are best enforced by drums, moonlight, f[e]asting, masks, flowers, divine possession.”
— Robert Graves, “Food for Centaurs”
I’ve been to my share of public Pagan rituals in the last decade or so. The vast majority have ranged from disappointing to excruciating affairs. (See “Gods Save Us from Bad Pagan Rituals: 10 Signs You’re Half-Assing Your Mabon Ritual” and “Lowered Expectations Is Not the Answer to Bad Pagan Rituals”.)
I have been fortunate to have participated in some notable exceptions. I think Reclaiming rituals tend to be on the better end of the spectrum. I would attend any ritual led by Thorn Coyle or Shauna Aura Knight. The Kali Puja which Chandra Alexandre and Sharanya led at Pantheacon is truly exceptional.
But the absolute best pagan ritualist I have ever met is Steven Posch. So, I was very excited to receive Steven’s invitation to the Grand Sabbat held at Sweetwood Temenos in Southwest Wisconsin this past weekend. It was not a festival, at least not like others I have attended. There were no workshops, for example. Rather, it was tribal gathering, a gathering of the Tribe of Witches. Continue reading “The Real Pagan Deal”
Over the years that I have been writing online, I have been accused many times of retaining some elements of Mormonism, my religion of origin. Some of my meaner critics like to call me “Mormon”, as a way of refusing to recognize my claim to be pagan. Those criticisms never made sense to me, but there is one way that my former faith has continued to influence me: the idea that the world needs to be change and that we human beings have the power to make that change happen. This is one of the ideas which has frequently brought me into conflict with other Pagans. Continue reading “7 Types of Religions (or Why I Was Never Going Make a Good Pagan)”
Recently, on the Naturalistic Paganism Yahoo discussion group, a new member asked what to make of a Pagan author who claimed to have traveled to Faerie. His question was basically this: Should we assume this author is speaking poetically? Or should we conclude he is insane?* This question can be applied to just about any religion, from Pagan fairies to Christian angels to indigenous ancestral spirits. Continue reading “Are People Who See Fairies Insane?”
Note: What follows arose out of a discussion in the comments to a recent post entitled, Religious Leave-Taking as Asking Different Questions, in which I described my growing disinterest in most Pagan discussions and the change in the questions that most concern me now. One of the commenters, Phil Anderson, challenged me to continue to be “a purveyor of sense and reason in the paganosphere”. His comment prompted a long response from me, which I have edited and reproduced here. Where important for context, I have reproduced parts of Anderson’s comment here.
For a long time, I believed that a naturalistic* version of Paganism was the most genuine expression of contemporary Paganism. When I came to Neo-Paganism, I thought it was naturalistic at its core, and I thought the supernaturalism I saw was aberrant. It seemed to me to be an unfortunate consequence of a historical accident, the infiltration of occultism into the neopagan revival via Gerald Gardner’s Wicca. And there are several academics whose work support this notion, including Robert Ellwood & Harry Partin, Joanne Pearson, and Wouter Hanegraaff. I thought these strands–the occultist and the neo-pagan–could be separated, and so I set about trying to unwind them. Continue reading “Paganism Needs a Prophet (but it ain’t me)”
I have had an altar for several years now. I’m sure that seems strange to most non-pagans. And if a guest in my home, who knew nothing of my religion, wandered into my bedroom and saw my altar, they would probably be very curious (or weirded out). Continue reading “Rebooting My Altar”
What naturalistic pagan books have been an inspiration to you?
I love bookstores and libraries. Honestly, I feel more at home surrounded by books than I do surrounded by people. But since becoming a Naturalistic Pagan, my trips to the bookstore have become a lot more complicated.
Every time I go into a bookstore, I visit the Paganism section, or rather, the Metaphysical/Occult section that Paganism is grouped with. I don’t know why I still do it. Hope springs eternal, I guess.
Each time I approach the Metaphysical with the hopeful expectation that this time I will find something that speaks to me. I stand there for a while, feeling embarrassed, afraid someone might see me. I look for an escape route. The Philosophy section is close by. The Psychology section even closer. Once I establish that I have plausible deniability, I relax a little and quickly peruse the books. Inevitably, though, I discover that I have once again wasted…
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Last week, I unsubscribed from my weekly Patheos Pagan channel updates. It had been quite a while since any of the posts in the email blast had interested me enough to merit a click. It was the latest step in distancing myself from what goes for mainstream Paganism today.
But last week, a couple of friends shared links to reports that a writer at the Patheos evangelical channel, Warren Throckmorton, had had his blog taken down. Throckmorton has been described as an “evangelical whistleblower” and an “evangelical watchdog”. He had previously written about the scandals involving Mark Driscoll, Mars Hill Church, K.P. Yohannan, and Gospel for Asia. Driscoll and Yohannan both have blogs at Patheos, which continue to be hosted there. Vistors to Throckmorton’s Patheos URL, however, will now see an error message. Continue reading “Then they came for an evangelical whistleblower and the Patheos Pagan writers said nothing …”
I am pleased to announce that PrayWithYourFeet.org now has two new contributors, Jason Espada and Yvonne Aburrow. If you would like to be a contributor to PrayWithYourFeet.org, send an email to me by clicking on this link. Continue reading “Become a Contributor to PrayWithYourFeet.org”
When I left the Mormon church in 2000, I had to figure out a short way to explain to people why I left. I knew nobody wanted to hear my Mormon version of Luther’s 95 Theses. I think the most succinct (if not the most satisfactory) explanation I came up with was this:
I started asking different questions. Continue reading “Religious Leave-Taking as Asking Different Questions”
“The Reluctant Radical” is excellent visual storytelling. There were lighthearted funny moments, poignant sad moments, exuberant triumphant moments, and tragic despairing moments. Through it all, I felt Ken Ward’s internal struggle with how to act in the face of seemingly insurmountable indifference. Even if I didn’t already acutely feel the same way, I would have loved this film, for its portrayal of one man’s attempt to live moral life … no matter the cost.
This past Earth Day, two of the activist organizations I am a part of sponsored a screening of “The Reluctant Radical”, a documentary about Ken Ward, by Lindsey Grayzel.
Ken Ward is one of the “valve turners” who was arrested and prosecuted for closing the emergency valve on oil sands pipelines in October 2016. He argued in court that the urgency of climate change compelled him to act. “The Reluctant Radical” follows Ken as he struggles to find an effective way to combat the fossil fuel industry. Director Lindsey Grayzel was also arrested and charged for her role filming Ken’s actions.
Following the movie, we had a Q&A with Ken Ward himself and director Lindsey Grayzel over Zoom, which was a special treat.
First let me say that Ken and his fellow valve turners are my heroes. Michael Foster, 53, a family therapist and longtime environmentalist from Seattle, shut…
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Reposted from PrayWithYourFeet.org
Each day of the month of April leading up to Earth Day (April 22), I will be offering a suggestion for how we can really honor the Earth this year. This list will go beyond the usual suggestions to change your light bulbs and take shorter showers. Instead, the focus is on collective action working toward radical social change.
My last bit of advice is to beware of lists, including this one, but especially those premised on an individualistic value system and those that sound suspiciously like advertising.
Most of these kinds of lists–“Things You Can Do to Save The Earth”–focus on changing your consumer habits, and therefore leave the underlying structure of capitalist society unexamined.
There are good reasons to change our individual consumption habits. I look at these as a kind of spiritual practice. Changing how I consume is one way of transforming my relationship with the earth. So I included a few of these kinds of things on my list:
But remember, our task is not to try to navigate destructive social systems with personal integrity, but to help change those systems. And we will never change those system until we stop thinking about change as something that individuals do.
The most radical thing we can do in a capitalist system is to build community. Capitalism alienates us from each other and nature. Any action which connects us to the wider human and other-than-human community is a form of resistance. Several items on my list address this:
And of course, we cannot forget about more familiar forms of political action:
Because this site is focused on the intersection of spirituality and political action, I included some ideas for spiritual transformation as well:
I hope you find something in this list that helps you honor the Earth in a new way. Happy Earth Day!
“Environmental law is failing. And it will continue to fail because it comes from the same paradigm that created the problem.” — Mumta Ito
Being a blogger is a nasty business, I’ve learned.
I started writing this blog for myself, as a kind of spiritual journal. But it quickly drew attention of others.
And then I started to notice that the negative things I wrote drew a lot more attention than the positive things. So I wrote more negative pieces. And that drew more attention. And that trend has continued. Continue reading “No really, I’m done.”
“A Single Garment of Destiny”
In his penultimate sermon, delivered on March 31, 1968, at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke of our interconnectedness:
“Through our scientific and technological genius, we have made of this world a neighborhood and yet we have not had the ethical commitment to make of it a brotherhood. But somehow, and in some way, we have got to do this. We must all learn to live together as brothers or we will all perish together as fools. We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the way God’s universe is made; this is the way it is structured.”
The author observes that “Wiccans can have a difficult time being taken seriously by mainstream culture.” That does seem to be true generally of Wiccans and other Pagans. (The author seems to conflate Wicca with contemporary Paganism.) Though, it should be said, I don’t think being mocked by Fox News is necessarily a bad thing. Continue reading “Why Wiccans Get Made Fun Of”
Here’s a song for the first full day of spring.
“Spring” by Bill Callahan
Today is the Spring Equinox (in the northern hemisphere). Many Neo-Pagans celebrate this day as “Ostara”. Although we like to pretend it has ancient origins, it’s little more than a bastardized version of the Christian Easter.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Continue reading “An Unorthodox Eostur: The Mesopotamian Origins of Ostara?”
You too can join the Patheos family and support the NRA. It’s just 3 easy steps!
About 5 years ago I had a dream. I’ve been thinking about it again recently as I consider the relationship of my spirituality and my activism to contemporary Paganism. Continue reading “A Prescient Dream?”
Recently, the management of the popular Pagan blogging platform, Patheos Pagan, bowed to corporate pressure again.
… and in other non-news, Donald Trump is still President of the United States. Continue reading “Patheos Pagan Caves to Cereal Company”
There are vigils being held around the country right now for the victims of the latest school shooting. I think these vigils are important: They bring home the tragedy of what has happened. Without these rituals, there is the risk that these terrible events will just sweep by us in the 24-hour news cycle, leaving us unchanged.
But vigils and prayers are not enough. Continue reading ““Pray Working” at PrayWithYourFeet.org”
I have a pattern of burning bridges when I am moving beyond something.
It’s probably connected to how I look at the past–mostly a repository of mistakes I wish I could have avoided. Continue reading “Burning Bridges”
Patheos-apologist John Beckett has written a 1-year anniversary retrospective about the exodus of about two dozen Pagan writers from the Patheos blogging platform, which just highlights again why Beckett still doesn’t get it.
If you need some background to the Pagan exodus from Patheos (or “Pexit” as those who like to be dismissive have been calling it), then check out this summary at Huffington Post or this one at Gods & Radicals.
Now back to why Beckett is a tool … Continue reading “6 Reason Why John Beckett is a Tool: Reflections on the Pagan Exodus from Patheos”
1. It’s not like in the books.
Like a lot of other Pagans, I read a lot of books about Pagans before I ever actually met another Pagan in the flesh. My first sources for my image of the contemporary Pagan came from Ronald Hutton’s Triumph of the Moon (1999), Margot Adler’s Drawing Down the Moon (1979, 1986, 1996, 2006), and Starhawk’s The Spiral Dance (1979, 1989, 1999). The first was academic, the second journalistic, and the third rhapsodic. As a result, my pre-formed image of Pagans was somewhat idealized. (I once heard Margot Adler admit in an interview that the Paganism she and Starthawk described in their respective books as more of an ideal than a reality.) I have since learned that the best way to learn about a religion is not by reading a book about it, but by going and seeing the real thing. Continue reading “Nine Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Became Pagan”
I recently met someone who described himself as “Pagan-adjacent”, which I thought was an interesting self-designation. He was a (self-described) “angry atheist” who followed atheism to its logical end and was left wanting. He intuited that there was something else–something bigger and/or deeper–but no one seemed to be writing or talking about it. Then he discovered David Abram’s Spell of the Sensuous, which he experienced as revolutionary.
He told me that he knows “in his bones” that “the sacred is in the soil and the wind,” but he is turned off by a lot of what he sees in the Pagan community. By way of example, he told me about an encounter with a Pagan group where he heard one person talking about how great the divination app on her phone was. I know what he is talking about. What has a divination app to do with the sacred soil?
I’ve felt pretty much the same way for 15 years, for as long as I have been calling myself “Pagan” in fact. I came to the Pagan community because I thought here was where I would find that something bigger and deeper. But almost everywhere I look, I see the small and shallow. Almost everywhere I look, I see Pagans reproducing the disenchantment of the mainstream culture. Continue reading “Pagan with a small “p””
“Once upon a time Gods and heroes walked the Earth. People encountered dragons and faeries often enough that no one would think of questioning their existence. Most importantly, magic was a part of everyday life. The world was enchanted.”
So begins John Beckett’s recently review of The Myth of Disenchantment: Magic, Modernity and the Birth of the Human Sciences by Jason Josephson-Storm. Josephson-Storm’s thesis is that “Disenchantment is a myth. The majority of people in the heartland of disenchantment believe in magic or spirits today, and it appears that they did so at the high point of modernity. Education does not directly result in disenchantment.”
In his review, Beckett briefly discusses belief in the supernatural among icons of modernity like Freud and concludes that, rather than “reenchanting the world”, we need “to maintain our commitment to the enchanted lives we already have”, by which he seems to mean: Keep on believing in magic … and apparently fairies and dragons too. Continue reading “The Fairies Have Left the Building: Enchantment is an Experience, Not a Belief”
Holding vigil at First Unitarian Church
This past Sunday, I stood in front of my Unitarian church in Hobart, Indiana, and held a “Black Lives Matter” sign.
I did this during regular church services in lieu of participating in the services. My congregation has been discussing placing a Black Lives Matter sign in front of the church for about two years now. We have displayed the sign as we participated in the community’s Fourth of July parade, but we haven’t displayed the sign on the church property yet. Recently, it occurred to me that, even if the congregation does not want to put up a sign, I can be a sign: I can hold a Black Lives Matter sign on the public sidewalk in front of the church.
1. Yule is NOT a minor sabbat.
Whenever I hear a Pagan say that the winter solstice is a “minor Sabbat”, I can’t help but roll my eyes. What exactly makes it “minor”? Because Margaret Murray only listed the cross-quarters as witches’ sabbats? Because Gerald Gardner only added the quarter days as an afterthought and his followers like the way the druids did it?
There are 8 stations on the Neo-Pagan Wheel of the Year. Why would one spoke of a wheel be minor and another major, especially in a tradition that emphasizes balance? And if one is going to be minor, why the winter solstice of all days? After all, it’s the day the light begins to return, the day most of Western civilization is praising the birth of the Son/Sun. Continue reading “7 Reasons This Pagan Celebrates Christmas”
A recent article by Mark Morrison-Reed in UU World, the Unitarian Universalist Association magazine, about the “black hole” in UU history, got me thinking about the connection between UU worship and race. According to Morriso-Reed, for all our proclaimed progressiveness, it seems we UUs have not really ever taken the lead in the fight against racism–internally or externally. I’ve been thinking about this history a lot lately, as my own UU congregation is discussing whether to display a “Black Lives Matter” sign on the church property. One part of Morrison-Reed’s article in particular jumped out at me: Continue reading “Is UU Atheism a Form of White Privilege?”
Paganism is at a turning point. It’s been 50 years since contemporary Paganism got its start. It’s time for Paganism to grow up.
Stages of Faith
Note that I didn’t say that it’s time for Pagans to grow up. Different people are at different point in their life’s journey. Childhood and adolescence are important stages of development. There are stages in a person’s religious or spiritual development as well. And, as much as most of us would have liked to skip adolescence, it’s not possible to skip stages. The same is true of spiritual adolescence. Continue reading “5 Ways Paganism Needs to Grow Up”
I write this letter to the man I met this past Sunday in front of my Unitarian church while I was holding a homemade sign which read “Black Lives Matter”.
Continue reading “To the Man Who Spit on My Black Lives Matter Sign Sunday”
To polytheists, the gods are sacred. But atheist Pagans don’t believe in gods. What is sacred to an atheist Pagans? Some polytheists mistakenly assume that an absence of gods must mean an absence of sacrality.
I’ve had polytheists come right out and say that, because I don’t believe in gods, then nothing is sacred or holy to me. Implied in that statement is the belief that there is nothing sacred or holy in the world except the gods. I would have a hard time imaging a less “pagan” statement than that.
Now, as far as I am concerned, you can be Pagan and a polytheist, or a duotheist, or a Goddess-worshipping monotheist, or a pantheist, or an animist, or a non-theist, or an atheist—if you want to call yourself one. I’m not interested in trying to push anybody out of the Big Tent of Paganism. But I do not understand a Paganism which cannot find the holy or the sacred in the earth or our bodies or in our relationships.
I was recently invited to the New Orleans Pagan Pride Day this year to lead the opening ritual. I also led a couple workshops on activism and non-theistic Paganism and joined Bart Everson, Nicole Youngman, and Emily Snyder in a panel discussion on the same topics.
I wanted to share the opening ritual here. I’ve written before how protest marches can be like Pagan ritual. Here, I tried bring together elements of Pagan ritual with elements of political protest. I tried to bring together the myth of the Wild Hunt with social action, blurring the line between a religious procession and a protest march. Rather than standing in a circle with our backs to the world, I wanted the ritual to be focused outward. And I wanted to raise energy without dispersing it cathartically, so as to motivate social activism. I also wanted to tie the ritual to the place where the ritual was held, so references were made to environmental devastation, and racial and LGBT violence perpetrated in or near New Orleans. Continue reading “The Wild Hunt for Justice: At the Intersection of Ritual and Protest”
Kimberly Kirner has written a thoughtful response to my essay at Gods & Radicals, “Escaping the Otherworld: The Reenchantment of Paganism.” Kirner specifically took issue with the my assumption “that worldview is important because it drives actionable outcomes in the world” and that some worldviews lead to a disenchantment of the world. Continue reading “Why Worldview Matters: A Response to Kimberly Kirner”
I’m no stranger to conflict in Pagan circles. Over the years, I have noticed similar themes arise when I come into conflict with other Pagans. These themes can be summarized as five lies that Pagans tell themselves.
Continue reading “These Things Aren’t True: Five Falsehoods in the Pagan Community”
I’ve always loved Halloween. I come by it naturally, as it’s also my mother’s favorite holiday. She used to make our costumes herself — and not just one but usually three, for each of us — one for school, one for church, and one for trick-or-treating. And we almost always won the costume contests. I love the costumes, the trick-or-treating, the whole scary-but-fun atmosphere. And then there’s the fact that it’s the only time of the year a straight guy can be flamboyant without apology in this homophobic American culture.
So when I became Pagan, I was ready to embrace Halloween as a Pagan holy day. I was disappointed to learn that most Pagans celebrate Samhain as a kind of Pagan Day of the Dead or All Souls Day, with little to no connection to the secular celebration of Halloween. Continue reading “Forget Samhain: Halloween as a Pagan Holy Day”
“There is another world and it is this one.”
Aside from the fact that no one seems certain how to pronounce it, the name “Mabon” is a poor choice for the holy day. As with “Lughnasadh”, the “Mabon” is only tenuously related to the season or the Neo-Pagan mythos relating to the season. Of all eight holidays, Mabon has the worst name of all of them. Continue reading “The Worst Named Pagan Holiday”
“It is time for spiritual people to get active and the activist people to get spiritual. I think we need both now. In order to build the alternatives to our collapsing system which is built on structural violence we need to have a total revolution of the human spirit. We need to combine the inner revolution with the outer revolution.” — Pancho Ramos-Stierele, age 26, arrested at Occupy Oakland while mediating
The first time I walked into a Unitarian church, I was looking for spiritual sanctuary. I was still recovering from my faith transition away from the religion of my birth. Unitarian Universalism offered a community of people, many of whom also had rejected traditional Christianity for one reason or another, but like me still believed in the power of religion to effect personal and social transformation. Many of the people I met in the Unitarian church were also seeking sanctuary from a Christian-dominated culture. Others were looking for an activist community which would support their work for racial, economic, and environmental justice, women’s rights, and LGBT equality. Some people were looking for both.
Over the years, I heard some of the more activist-oriented people say that they found their spirituality in activism. Being more sanctuary-oriented at the time, I would think to myself: “Clearly you don’t know what spirituality is.” Spirituality, for me, was very inwardly focused. It had more to do with personal development than social change. It turns out, it was I that didn’t know what activism was. Over the last few years, as I have become more and more involved in activism, I have made a discovery: I have discovered a kind of spirituality in activism. Continue reading “The Spirituality of Protest”
Yesterday, I watched the news about Republicans condemning Trump (not all of them), and I felt a combination of relief and exasperation.
“So this is what it takes for the conservative guardians of the status quo to take a stand against racism,” I thought. Nazis! Honest-to-god Nazis. Nazis and a dead woman. Well, Nazis and a dead white woman.
My recent post “’You’re Not Fucking Gandalf’: 12 Movies to Remind You That Pagans Need to Grow Up” just hit the high mark of the most read post ever here on AllergicPagan.com. This prompted me to go back and pull out an old post about the fraught relationship between blogging and sensationalism which I wrote last year.
So I’m watching Rachel Maddow tonight–something about threats to fire special investigator Bob Mueller–and I hear a name: Jay Sekelow. He’s Trump’s lawyer. Where have I heard that name before?
Oh, yeah. In connection with the Patheos Pagan controversy! Continue reading “What Does Trump’s Lawyer Have to Do With the Patheos Pagan Channel?”
“No one ever told us we had to study our lives,make of our lives a study, as if learning natural historyor music, that we should beginwith the simple exercises firstand slowly go on tryingthe hard ones, practicing till strengthand accuracy became one with the daringto leap into transcendence …– And in fact we can’t live like that: we take oneverything at once before we’ve even begunto read or mark time, we’re forced to beginin the midst of the hardest movement,the one already sounding as we are born.”— Adrienne Rich, “Transcendental Etude”
In light of the hate and violence seen this past weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, I feel it’s important to raise again an issue which is frequently debated both in Pagan and Religious Naturalist circles: the relationship between religion and politics or between spirituality and activism.
This past weekend, my teenaged daughter and I joined hundreds of protesters on the streets of Lincoln, Nebraska to protest the KXL pipeline. To get there, we took a bus from Chicago with other activists. As we rode the bus 12 hours, I was conscious of the fact that we were using fossil fuel to go to a protest of the fossil fuel industry. I chose to take the bus instead of driving (which would have been shorter and would have spared by knees) in part because it was the more environmentally responsible choice, i.e., the cumulative impact of taking the bus was less than everyone driving individually. But I’ve driven to other protests before. Continue reading “Yes, I Drove My SUV to the Environmental Protest”
I’ve been slowly coming around to the idea that “magic” is a word that intelligent people can use in a meaningful (albeit nuanced) way. But then I come across listicles like John Beckett’s recent “12 Movies to Inspire Your Magic” and I go back to square one.
I swear, I tried not to write this post. I put in on the back burner. I slept on it. But Beckett’s post keeps popping up in my FB feed (probably because his listicle-loving editor, Jason Mankey, keeps promoting it). So here goes …. Continue reading ““You’re Not Fucking Gandalf”: 12 Movies to Remind You That Pagans Need to Grow Up”
The Pagan Wheel of the Year bugs me. The timing of the cross-quarters bugs me. The meaning attached of several of the eight stations bugs me. And the names of most of the days bugs me. Right, now I’m just going to focus on Lughnasadh, though, since it’s right around the corner. Continue reading “Lughna-say-what? What to Call This Pagan Holiday”