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PaganNewsBeagle: Watery Wednesday Community News July 27

In this installment of the PaganNewsBeagle (Watery Wednesday Community News) we have an interview with the Patheos Pagan blogmistress, musings on that most British Pagan institution: the pub moot; an interview with Hellenic polytheist author Tony Mierzwicki; and news on changes at Paganesque festival "FaerieWorld."

Meet Patheos Pagan blogmistress Christine Hoff Kraemer!

Explore that venerable (but waning?) institution the Pagan pub moot.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

b2ap3_thumbnail_Morning-Star.jpg

This is next divinity from the Atheist’s graveyard (#20) is one that I really was not looking forward to researching, more less writing.  Add in my long and repeated bouts of insomnia just to make things more…interesting.  Lucifer.  The word means ‘bearer of light’, a Latin translation of the Hebrew and Greek words for ‘morning star’, otherwise known as the planet Venus.  He is the Devil of the Christians, a god of Venus to the Greeks and Romans and a deity of enlightenment to the Luciferians to only name a few.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Culture of the Imagination, Part 3

Last month, I wrote about the psychological dynamics behind the sacred spaces we create together and the ways we might utilize the power of sacred space to create a better world. This month, I'll be writing about what happens when the people to whom we have given power abuse it, and in doing so weaken both the internal and external cultures of the imagination we've worked so hard to build. Specifically, I'll be writing about the work of Marion Zimmer Bradley (MZB), its influence upon a generation of Pagan women and the destructive effects of the recent pedophilia allegations against her.

The younger Pagans among you might not recognize the name, but if you're a Pagan woman of a certain age, you'll remember that MZB is the author of a much-beloved novel called The Mists of Avalon. This novel tells the Arthurian story from the point of view of its women and follows the life of Morgaine, otherwise known as Morgan le Fay. It was released in 1983, just a few years before I left an abusive family of Jehovah's Witnesses to live with my grandmother, who was also a Christian conservative. An avid reader, I found the novel in 1986, and it changed my life in ways that echo even now. It was the world I wanted to live in; a place where women existed in community with one another, where they wielded the ancient power of the divine feminine, where the sacred was protected from the mundane. Because of that book, I was drawn to Western European Paganism, and then to Celtic Pagan spirituality, and then to a degree in Celtic Studies, and then to Cape Breton. In a very real sense, The Mists of Avalon shaped my own culture of the imagination and helped make me the woman I am now.

Many women of my generation came to Paganism with The Mists of Avalon in one hand and The Spiral Dance in the other, so many the experience might well be called a cliché. Separately, these books showed us how a community that valued the feminine divine might look and how it might operate in the world. Together, they were a heady recipe for transformation and empowerment. I certainly cannot imagine what my life might have been like without their influence, and while I have fallen out of touch with all of the young women with whom I shared The Mists of Avalon in particular, I do recall that one of the young men from our crew read the novel to his daughters in the years that followed. So for me and many other Pagan women my age, it was no mere novel. It was the foundational landscape of our internal Avalons, and as I've previously written, those internal landscapes help to shape the cultures of the imagination we create together as Pagan communities.

So it was especially devastating to me, and I'm sure to many other Pagans, to learn the author of that imaginary Avalon wasn't the woman I hoped she had been.

Early in June, Tor.com posted a birthday tribute to the late MZB. Shortly thereafter, the post was removed because it neglected to mention her husband Walter Breen's trial and conviction for child molestation. In the fallout from this incident, I learned for the first time that an author whose work I loved had been married to a man well-known in the speculative fiction community as a pedophile. Worse, she had equivocated during his trial with a string of what appeared to be carefully-rehearsed "I don't recall's". Then on June 10th, Deirdre Saoirse Moen posted a blog entry containing Moira Greyland's allegation that MZB had physically and sexually assaulted her and other children for many years. Moira Greyland is MZB's daughter. With permission, Moen posted two poems Greyland wrote about her mother, and they are the stuff of nightmares.

MZB has been dead for nearly fifteen years, so she isn't here any longer to defend herself. However, there is ample record of her self-defense in the way of court testimony online, and it is important to remember that MZB's children and the adult survivors of Walter Breen's abuse have the right to speak about their own experiences and be viewed as credible reporters of their own lives. But while I am linking to the relevant information at the end of this post and have drawn my own conclusions about the matter, it isn't my intention to discuss the facts of the case here. Rather, I want to address with you what happens to us when the people who help to shape our internal and external sacred landscapes fall so far from grace.

It can be perspective-shattering, but the first step toward integration of the experience might be to acknowledge that we are the people most responsible for our internal and external lives. The Mists of Avalon was MZB's novel, but I was the author of its place in my heart, and so it is with every book. Once they leave the hands of their creators, they belong to the people who read them. The same could be said for any powerful work that shapes our lives, so it's important to claim and hold sacred the pieces of that shaping which belong only to us. From there, we can negotiate the place a flawed person's work comes to occupy in our lives. I'm not a great fan of the 'separate the artist from the art' advice, but your mileage may vary, and from time to time I do still read the work of authors whose personal lives and opinions I find distasteful. Finally, as a result of this integration, our internal and external cultures of the imagination can begin to heal so that we continue to be nourished by them and to nourish others with them.

Having said this, there are things that can stand in the way of this process of acknowledgement, integration and healing. Dishonesty with ourselves about the nature of the people in question can lead us to justify or excuse their behaviors in order to protect the influence they had on our lives, but that instinct for self-preservation often comes at too high a cost. Conversely, self-honesty doesn't require that we publicly condemn the people we once admired; it only requires that we tell the truth to ourselves and to others, when asked. In my case, I don't have to defend MZB on the grounds that she cannot defend herself, I don't have to malign her daughter's testimony and I don't have to engage in other evasion techniques in order to preserve the Avalon her work helped to create in my spiritual consciousness. I only need to look at the evidence, make an honest evaluation and move forward, however painful the movement might be. With time and care, my Avalon will remain intact, and my commitment to the creation of communities that honor the feminine divine will remain strong, since both of these things are part of me no matter how MZB behaved during her life.

Why is this so important? Because Marion Zimmer Bradley isn't alone. There are many people more directly associated with the wider Pagan community whose leadership we valued and who fell from grace. In some cases, that fall has indeed been an arrest on pedophilia charges, but in other cases the flawed behavior has been less egregious and gone unchallenged for years, even decades. This means these people are shaping the internal landscapes of others, which in turn shape the cultures of the imagination those others help to create in the Pagan community, where they might do harm along the way. And so the cycle repeats. This is why we must treat our Pagan leaders and writers honestly, just as I have endeavored to treat the allegations against MZB honestly. Without that honesty and the courage of our convictions, we cannot nurture a healthy internal landscape, nor can we cultivate a healthy community.

I hope you've enjoyed my three-part discussion of the culture of the imagination; its place in our hearts, the way it empowers Pagan communities and the challenges it can face. Merry Lughnasa! May you reap a bountiful harvest.

*Jim Hines' Blog Entry
*Marion Zimmer Bradley: It’s Worse Than I Knew
*Marion Zimmer Bradley Gave Us New Perspectives, All Right
*CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE
*TIMELINE OF EVENTS
*Marion Zimmer Bradley was a child abuser – says her own daughter
*Tor.com Yanks MZB Birthday Tribute

And finally...

*Thoughts on Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley

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Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs
Joy Challenge: Day Three

This is day three of an ongoing week-long challenge to seek joy. The beginning can be found here. I am sharing day three here because it involves a very simple, often overlooked, type of magic. All you need are Tarot cards, paper, pen, a magnet and a fridge.

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PaganNewsBeagle Margot Adler Special Edition July 30

As we announced on Monday, journalist and Pagan priestess Margot Adler died on Monday.

In this special edition of the PaganNewsBeagle, we've gathered up a few of the remembrances and tributes to Ms. Adler, especially from Pagans who knew her personally.

All hail the goer -- we will miss you, Margot. May your journey be blessed!

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Meet the Minoans: Dionysos

In the interest of giving equal time to both sides of the Minoan pantheon, I’m going to alternate between goddesses and gods in the Meet the Minoans series. Up this time: Dionysos, god of passion and parties. At least, that’s how most modern folks see him, but he’s actually far more complicated than that. Let’s take a look.

First of all, the symbols usually associated with Dionysos tend to be, shall we say, less than civilized. He is often depicted dressed in leopard skins (or panther skins, the panther being the melanistic or black leopard), accompanied by leopards or riding in a chariot pulled by them. His staff is the thyrsos, a fennel stalk wound round with ivy and topped with a pine cone. If he’s not in the mood to wrap the ivy around the handle of the thyrsos, he wears it on his head as a crown. He hangs out in the wild woods and caves with satyrs and maenads who like to have wild sex and tear baby animals apart with their bare hands so they can eat them raw. Not exactly a city boy, if you see what I mean.

Vineyards may be fairly civilized enterprises, but the grape harvest and winemaking are ancient sacred activities with a wild side. And wine brings on that most Dionysiac of states, drunkenness and uncontrolled passion, both joy and rage. In a ritual setting this amounts to sacred madness and ecstasy. A couple of interesting tidbits: Dionysos is the original miracle-worker who turned water into wine. And wine was used to represent his blood in Dionysiac ceremonies.

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Modern Witch interview with Courtney Weber

 

Author, tarot creator, and pagan leader Courtney Weber joined me on the latest episode of The Modern Witch Podcast. Our conversation was such a blast that I had to send her a few more questions. For the full interview head on over to The Modern Witch PodCast.

DH: The New York pagan scene has been exploding over the past few years. As a pagan Leader within that community what would you say are some of the major reasons for this renaissance?

CW: It seems to go in cycles, with a resurgence happening every twenty years or so. One of my teachers says that's pretty typical of the entire Pagan movement, as a whole. Other writers have connected the interest in Paganism and Witchcraft to environmental damage. When we notice the planet it injured, we cherish it even more. My gut sense is that this recent resurgence is an unconscious reaction to 9/11. I moved to New York in 2003, when the city was still in the very early stages of healing. There wasn't much of a cohesive community. I kept meeting people who, like me, were looking for the community but couldn't find it. It started coming together slowly, but then quickly and one day just exploded in number. I suspect other local congregations may have experienced something similar with their own numbers. Consciously or not, people are trying to find meaning and comfort in a world that became sharply terrifying on one single day. I believe I can trace my own embrace of Paganism to the aftermath the tragedy. Everywhere, but especially in New York, the collective soul needs nurture. Green faith (as the interfaith community calls it) is dynamically restorative. I think there is a pulse beneath the concrete that suffering souls can feel. We know the Mother is a Healing one, and this draw is what I believe stirred this recent renaissance. 

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