The Wild Hunt for Justice: At the Intersection of Ritual and Protest

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”

Why Worldview Matters: A Response to Kimberly Kirner

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[1] of the world. Continue reading “Why Worldview Matters: A Response to Kimberly Kirner”

Forget Samhain: Halloween as a Pagan Holy Day

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”

The Spirituality of Protest

“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”

Spirituality Without Politics Is Lame

“No one ever told us we had to study our lives,
make of our lives a study, as if learning natural history
or music, that we should begin
with the simple exercises first
and slowly go on trying
the hard ones, practicing till strength
and accuracy became one with the daring
to leap into transcendence …
– And in fact we can’t live like that: we take on
everything at once before we’ve even begun
to read or mark time, we’re forced to begin
in 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.

TO READ THE REST OF THIS ARTCLE CLICK HERE.

“You’re Not Fucking Gandalf”: 12 Movies to Remind You That Pagans Need to Grow Up

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”

Why I’m Boycotting Lughnasadh Again

I remember when I was in high school and Indiana changed its license plate to include the phrase “Amber Waves of Grain”.  It pissed people off.  I mean, really pissed people off.  Because in Indiana, we grow corn and soybeans, not wheat.  While technically corn is a grain, it’s not amber.  While the phrase was poetic, it just did not speak of “home” to the people of the Hoosier State.  That’s kind of how I feel about Lughnasadh. Continue reading “Why I’m Boycotting Lughnasadh Again”

10 Books that Shaped My Spiritual Journey (Paganism and Beyond)

I love books.  I probably feel more at home bookstores and libraries than I do in my own house.  Books have had a profound influence on my spiritual evolution.  In fact, I can mark certain spiritual transitions by the books I was reading.

This is the second of two posts about the books that have served as markers on the path of my spiritual journey.  The first part consisted of the books that influenced me before I was Pagan.  This list begins with my discovery of Paganism.  There’s actually only a couple of books that are Pagan, per se, and one of them is a history book, which probably says something about my Paganism.

Note, this is not a list of my favorite books, but books that changed the course of my religious life.  The dates below are the dates I read the books (to the best of my recollection), not the dates of publication. Continue reading “10 Books that Shaped My Spiritual Journey (Paganism and Beyond)”

How a Hobbit Would Celebrate the Summer Solstice

Midsummer in the Shire

This year, the summer solstice falls on June 20 or June 21, depending on your time zone. The summer solstice is the longest day of the year and the apogee of the light. In the Neo-Pagan religious tradition, the summer solstice is called “Litha”.  It is one of eight holidays on the Neo-Pagan Wheel of the Year.

The name “Litha” is first found in the writings of the the 8th century monk, the Venerable Bede, who recorded that “Litha” was Anglo-Saxon name for the intercalendary time between June and July.  But the reason why Neo-Pagans use the word “Litha” has less to do with an 8th century monk, and more to do with Hobbits.

Yes, Hobbits.

To read the rest of the article at the Huffington Post, click here.

The Foundations of Modern Paganism, Part 1: Was Gerald Gardner a Jungian?

Jason Mankey and I are both amateur Pagan history nerds.  One thing we often disagree about is the importance of Gerald Gardner in the history of contemporary Paganism.  In a recent post entitled, “Magick & Deity are Two of the Foundations of Modern Paganism“, Jason Mankey argues that “almost all early Modern Paganisms contained two rather noticeable traits: belief in magick and/or deity.”  I would agree, with this caveat: that the term “deity” is undefined.  If you’re going to claim that a belief in deity is one of the foundations of modern Paganism, then it’s important to be clear what you mean by “deity”. Continue reading “The Foundations of Modern Paganism, Part 1: Was Gerald Gardner a Jungian?”

How Wonder Woman Both Perpetuates and Challenges Christian Dualism

I went to see Wonder Woman last night … for the second time.  It’s not what I would call a “great movie”, but it is great fun.  (And I have a bit of a crush on Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman.)  If you want to a read a good review of the film from a Pagan perspective, check out Heather Greene’s article at The Wild Hunt, “Of gods and love: a discussion of DC’s new film Wonder Woman.”

Christian Revisionism in Wonder Woman

I have very few criticisms of the film, but one thing that jumped out at me was the characterization of the villain, Ares, the god of war.  Ares’ backstory comes near the beginning of the film.  We are told that Zeus created mankind righteous and good. But Ares, the God of War, grew envious of his father’s new creation and “poisoned their hearts with jealousy and suspicion,” encouraging them to war. That’s when Zeus created the Amazon women to influence men’s hearts with love and restore peace on earth. It worked, but only for a time, and Ares waged a war against the gods, killing them one by one, until Zeus used the last of his power to defeat Ares.

This might not be obvious to someone who is still steeped in a Christian paradigm, but to a Pagan like me, this is obviously a Christianization of Greek myth, with Zeus taking the role of the Christian God and Ares taking the role of Satan — making Wonder Woman a female Jesus.  Similar Christian revisionism can be seen in the movie Clash of the Titans and the animated movie Hercules, in which Zeus and Hades (god of the underworld) take on parallel roles. Continue reading “How Wonder Woman Both Perpetuates and Challenges Christian Dualism”

3 Reasons to Seek Out Profound Religious Experiences

In a recent post entitled, “What American Gods Tells Us About the Need for Religious Ecstasy“, I speculated that one of the reasons Neo-Paganism seems to be on the decline and Devotional Polytheism on the rise, is that the former no longer offers the experience of ecstasy or transcendence to many people, while the latter does.  In response, Rua Lupa argued that “the search for transcendence or ecstasy in order to have a ‘deep religious experience’ is frankly hedonistic.”

I am sympathetic to the argument that pursuing “peak experiences” for their own sake can be problematic.  At its most benign, “blissing out” may be “purely aesthetic”, but at worst, it can resemble drug seeking behavior.  Nevertheless, I believe there are real benefits to seeking out mystical or ecstatic states. Continue reading “3 Reasons to Seek Out Profound Religious Experiences”

I am an atheist when the wind is north-northwest.

I am an atheist north by northwest.

But when the wind is southerly, I know a deity from a deist.

If you were to tell me your god is a person like you, I would tell you I am an atheist.

But if you tell me you believe in no god, I will testify the world is full of them.

If you were to tell me there is only one true god, I would tell you I contain multitudes.

But if you tell me your gods are many, I will tell you I have faith in an unseen unity.

If you were to tell me my gods are just in my head, I would point to the earth and say, “Praise!”

But if you tell me your gods are real, I will point to your head and say, “Behold!”

If you were to tell me your god is good, I would offer to sell you some more.

But if you tell me your gods are dark, I will remind you of the words of the oracle: “Know thyself.”

If you were to tell me you don’t know about the gods, I would call you wise.

But if you tell me you don’t care about the gods, I will not call you at all.

Worshiping the Dark at the Summer Solstice

“Light though thou be, thou leapest out of darkness; but I am darkness leaping out of light, leaping out of thee!”

— Moby Dick, Herman Melville

The Summer Solstice occurs at almost midnight on June 20th in the Northern Hemisphere this year.  It is the longest day of the year and the shortest night.  Summer finally begins here in the Midwest, both meteorologically—with the warming of the air and the increasing occurrence of sunny days—and socially—with the end of the school year.  This is why I don’t call the day “Midsummer.”  For me, “Midsummer” falls on Lughnasadh in early August. Continue reading “Worshiping the Dark at the Summer Solstice”

What American Gods Tells Us About the Need for Religious Ecstasy

American Gods is a novel by Neil Gaiman, which has now been made into a (really good) TV series on Starz.  The premise of American Gods is that the people who came to the American continent–including conquerors, slaves, and immigrants–brought with them their gods … literally.  The gods now walk around disguised as human beings.  But the old gods have weakened as belief in them disappeared, and they now battle with new gods, gods of the internet and credit cards and super highways. Continue reading “What American Gods Tells Us About the Need for Religious Ecstasy”

Literal Minded Atheism

Yeah, we do it too.

Yesterday, I posted an essay about literal-minded polytheism.  It’s likely to upset some polytheists (especially those who don’t read beyond the title), because they will read it as an attack on their belief.  Actually, what I had intended in the article was to bracket the question of whether or not the gods are “real” and talk about the criteria we use to call something “real.”  My thesis was that some polytheists (not all, by any means) have a very “disenchanted” way of talking about reality.  By “disenchanted,” I mean they define what is real in terms of it’s level of disconnection from everything else.

But of course, the same could–and should–be said about many atheists as well.  Disenchanted discourse is not limited to theists.  In the same way that theists insist that their gods are “really, really real,” atheists insist that the gods are “really, really not real.”  And what both sides seem to have in mind is a very objective–and hence, disenchanted–definition of reality.  The assumption that both theists and atheists make in these arguments is that objective reality–reality in which the observer is separated from the observed–is somehow more real than subjective reality.

Continue reading “Literal Minded Atheism”

Literal Gods Are for the Literal Minded: Re-Enchanting the Gods

“Really, really real”

Here and there in the tiny echo chamber that is the Pagan blog-o-sphere, I am once again hearing repeated the false dichotomy of archetypes vs. “real gods.”  As in, “My gods aren’t just archetypes. They are real…literal, distinct, independent gods.”

With the recent premiere of the series American Gods (which is awesome, by the way), I anticipate we’re going to be hearing a lot more talk like this–especially considering the influence the publication of the book American Gods had on the growth of Pagan polytheism.

Continue reading “Literal Gods Are for the Literal Minded: Re-Enchanting the Gods”

The Shame of Being a “Non-Practicing Pagan”

I remember when I left the Mormon church, I didn’t want to admit to anyone that I had been a less than perfect Mormon.  You see, when you leave the LDS Church, the people who stay start looking for all kinds of reasons why you left, reasons which have to do with your own moral failings.  They can’t admit that anything might be wrong with the Church, so something has to be wrong with you.

But I was a less than ideal Mormon.  I didn’t obey all the rules, I didn’t pray as often as I was supposed to, and so on.  Now I have the perspective and wisdom to recognize that nobody obeyed all the rules or prayed as much as they were supposed to.  Well, maybe somebody did.  But those people are scary.  And they’re also a very small minority.

The same is true of Pagans, I think.  I suspect that very few of us are practicing with as much consistency as we claim to.  And that’s okay. Continue reading “The Shame of Being a “Non-Practicing Pagan””

The Problem and the Promise of Paganism, and Why One Looks a Lot Like the Other

The Problem of Paganism

The question why I am “still” a Pagan implies that there might be reasons why I would not want to identify as Pagan any longer.  And there are.  I believe that Paganism has the potential to transform our relationship with the earth, with each other, and with our deeper selves—but a lot of the time, I cannot relate to other Pagans.

Continue reading “The Problem and the Promise of Paganism, and Why One Looks a Lot Like the Other”

Nothing to see here folks. Paganism is fine, really, just fine.

Paganism is not dying.  Paganism is NOT dying.  PAGANISM IS NOT DYING!

Why don’t you believe me?

People who are telling you otherwise (like He Who Shall Not Be Named at Patheos) just want attention.  Attention whores!

Believe me, Paganism is fine.  It’s just fine.  I mean, it’s okay.  Really. Continue reading “Nothing to see here folks. Paganism is fine, really, just fine.”

Announcing NaturalPagans.com

Today is the official launch of NaturalPagans.com!

Contributors are Pagans from a variety of backgrounds, but all of whom have adopted a naturalistic approach to our spirituality. We celebrate the natural world, cultivate personal relationships to the land, and follow to the scientific method. We embrace explanations of the world that rely on natural causes rather than supernatural ones, and we practice a healthy skepticism towards such topics as deities, spirits, and magic.

While we may differ from many other Pagans in our attitude toward the supernatural, we are another one of the many varied and vibrant Pagan paths under the Pagan umbrella. We invite all Pagans to join us in our efforts to use evidence-based solutions to create a just, healthy and sustainable world for future generations.
Continue reading “Announcing NaturalPagans.com”

Why Contemporary Paganism Deserves to Die

Does Paganism Deserve to Survive?

I don’t know whether contemporary Paganism is dying or not.  But it’s definitely changing.

Contemporary Paganism is being squeezed by the same social, economic, and technological pressures that all other contemporary religions are struggling with.  Generational differences with Millennials.  Economic inequality. The internet.

Which got me thinking, why are we bothering to struggle?  Why not just let entropy take its course? Continue reading “Why Contemporary Paganism Deserves to Die”

Pagan Reflections on Another Easter Passed

In spite of having left Christianity behind 17 years ago, I found myself at another Easter service this year.

I’ve been Pagan for about 15 years, but in recent years I have been drawn back to Easter and Christmas services … but not for the reasons you might think. It not because many of my friends and family are Christian.  And it’s not because of any residual or resurgent Christianity on my part.

It’s because of the Pagan-ness of these holidays.
Continue reading “Pagan Reflections on Another Easter Passed”

It’s been 50 years. And what have Pagans accomplished?

(Image courtesy of Mike Mason,  Pagan Pride UK, Nottingham, 2012.)

Happy Birthday Paganism!

Contemporary Paganism, as it exists today, began with the Counterculture movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Religious studies scholar, Sarah Pike dates the origins of contemporary Paganism to 1967, the year that Frederick Adams incorporated Feraferia and the New Reformed Order of the Golden Dawn was founded. That same year, the Church of All Worlds filed for incorporation as a the first Pagan “church”.

Which means that this year, 2017, is the 50th anniversary of contemporary Paganism! So let’s look back at what we have accomplished over the past five decades. Continue reading “It’s been 50 years. And what have Pagans accomplished?”

Eight Ways Pagans Can Celebrate Earth Day

For many contemporary Pagans, Paganism takes the form of a nature religion or earth-centered spirituality. According to Religious Studies scholar, Michael York, a nature religion is one that has “a this-worldly focus and deep reverence for the earth as something sacred and something to be cherished.” Not surprisingly then, Earth Day (April 22 this year) is a holy day for many Pagans. Here are some ways that we Pagans can celebrate Earth Day. Continue reading “Eight Ways Pagans Can Celebrate Earth Day”

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