As most readers of this magazine are undoubtedly aware, we Pagans had a wee bit of media attention earlier this spring. A “Fox and Friends” segment in February characterized Wiccans as “compulsive Dungeons and Dragons players or middle-aged, twice-divorced older rural women working as midwives.” The reaction in the Pagan community was nothing short of explosive: within days, more than 40,000 of us signed petitions at change.org and causes.com demanding an apology. In less than a week, a chastened Fox pundit offered his “sincere [ahem] regrets.”
Another triumph for truth, justice, and the American way? Well, maybe. As soon as the brouhaha blew up I was struck by how much attention was being paid to Fox & Friends’ trollish shenanigans and how little to the good news that formed the actual foundation of the story. The decision by the University of Missouri to include Wiccan holidays in their inter-faith campus calendar is a concrete example of the increasingly respectful treatment that Pagan faiths are receiving these days, the fruit of decades of anti-defamation work by groups like the Lady Liberty League. But in spite of this genuinely excellent news, there was hardly a mention of this angle of the story in the coverage by Pagan pundits. With the notable exception of the Covenant of the Goddess — which made a thank-you to the University part of their press release — the buzz consisted almost entirely of righteous indignation.
An “Airhead” Comes to the Goddess
From the breath in our lungs to the towers of academe, Air affects us all.
The element of Air has a wide range of associations in modern neo-Pagan usage: it is the element of new beginnings, of flying/ feathered creatures, and of the mind. In my personal West-Coast eclectic practice, Air is also associated with the direction of the East. Above all, to me, Air represents the qualities of all things ordered and classified by the intellect. Its emblematic tool is the athame — the ceremonial black-handled, double-bladed, unsharpened ritual dagger of Wiccan regalia — which represents the “sharpness” of the well-disciplined mind.
As a native “Airhead” (my sun and Mars are both in Libra, with my moon in Gemini) religion has long been an intellectual obsession. Even as a child, my tendency to argue and joust over points of theology got me into trouble. (In fact, my first skirmish with fundamentalism happened in third grade, when I got my whole family bounced out of a church for arguing theology with my Sunday School teacher .)
This fascination with religion led me on a merry chase from middle-of-the-road Protestantism through C.S. Lewis-influenced Anglicism to the progressive wing of the United Methodist church. That was where the Goddess found me, deep in the bowels of the Graduate Theological Union library on “Holy Hill” in Berkeley in the fall of 1985.
Today’s Northern traditions represent an entirely different way of doing religion.
I’m writing this editorial the day after Thanksgiving, which seems to me an eminently appropriate occasion to address the conundrums of Northern/Heathen culture. Why? Because, like Thanksgiving Day, Heathen/ Northern traditions are centered in trying to promote the bonds of kinship and family tradition.
I’d like to begin by acknowledging that I have little first-hand experience with Heathen rituals and theology; I’m a thorough-going Neo-Pagan and my personal experience lies entirely within the rather porous boundaries of West Coast Paganism. But I’ve been fascinated for some time with what I’ve observed of Germanic-based reconstructionist religion, and thus the concept of this issue — our most detailed look at a specific tradition to date — was born.
Our treatment of Pagan prisoners and ex-cons is a litmus test of a sustainable Pagan culture.
This was supposed to have been the “Law & Chaos” issue of Witches & Pagans but it turned out more like the “Law & Order” issue. I always imagined that — like the dual-themed PanGaia #37 (“Good and Evil”) which turned out to simply be the “Evil” issue — that one side of this topic would overwhelm the other, but I never imagined that the forces of Law would prevail.
Once upon a Full Moon, not so very long ago, Paganism2 (at least on the West Coast) was all about “running nekkid through the woo-ids/drinking fermented fluids,”3 but everywhere I look today I see attempts to bring order to that juicy-but-hard-to-sustain chaotic culture. Whatever happened to Hippy-Dippy Paganism?
The battle for Pagan civil rights begins at home.
“We must hang together, gentlemen...else, we shall most assuredly hang separately.” — Benjamin Franklin
I took a call yesterday from a subscriber that got me thinking about the media, Pagan civil rights, and, eventually, Pagan self-respect.
My caller began by telling me how angry she was about the ridicule being heaped on Witches (and, by reference, on Paganism in general) in connection with the campaign of Christine O’Donnell.
O’Donnell — for those of you who turned off your media feeds during the mid-term campaign this fall and, honestly, who could blame you — was the Tea Party darling and Senate candidate from Delaware who “outed” herself as having “dabbled in witchcraft” as a teen.This admission didn’t work out so well; her first major TV ad focused on disavowing her past by declaring, “I am not a witch. I’m not anything you’ve heard ... I’m you.”
The future of the world is in plant magic.
“The best place to seek God is in a garden. You can dig for him there.” — George Bernard Shaw
In this issue we look at how we humans are working with the energy of plants to create a more sustainable, healthy environment. The green magic of plant life is truly the root, branch, and leaf of all life on earth: without chlorophyll — the green pigment at the center of the energy-transforming biochemistry of photosynthesis — life as we know it would simply not exist. (There is nonphososynthesis-dependent life dwelling at the bottom of the ocean, but it’s not much like us.1) So we begin at the beginning: with the green magic of plant life.
In the Jewish/Christian Bible it is called the Garden of Eden (Eden in Hebrew means “delight”) while in the Qur’an it is simply the Garden, thus implying that all gardens are places of ecstasy, joy, and abundance.2
That’s certainly the case for the subject of our featured interview, award-winning author, psychic-clairvoyant, and Garden Witch extraordinaire Ellen Dugan. Author of a dozen books on the magical intersection between botany and the Craft, Ellen takes us on a guided tour of her work (get a look at her real-life garden, too!) in her interview with Charlyn Walls.