Cross and Pentacle: Two religions at the crossroads

I was a Jesus Freak, a passionate theologian, and a Southern Baptist minister. I worked hard to convert pagans. The pagans won.

Discovering magic as a witch with an intimate knowledge of western christianity I explore the juxtaposition of these two faiths. Christianity and paganism alike are undergoing dramatic changes with parallel trends, conflicting challenges, and a growing concern for interfaith dialogue.

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The Return of the Pagan Festival in Berkeley

When I came home today I was in a hurry to wash off the smells of the Berkeley Pagan Festival. They were all over me, on my skin, my clothes, and especially in my hair. Incense and grass, sunscreen and lotions, overly scented deodorants, and the smells of so many people. Not that I mind, on the contrary, they are memories of embraces and kisses and good times shared and some of them I instinctively link to certain friends. But my overly active olfactory faculties told me it was high time to shower or else there would be headaches.


I have grown used to Pagan rituals in public parks, but there is a difference between a ritual in a reserved area of a large park, and a festival that takes up city block right in the center of town. This festival, hosted by The Pagan Alliance, was located next to the farmers market and it felt empowering to do ritual, to chant our songs, to pray and invoke, and do what we do right there in city. So much work has gone into bringing us to this place, a place where we can be ourselves in public and not fear for our safety. As I approached the park through the farmers market, I ran into the person who would be preaching at my Christian church the next day. She smiled and said she was wondering if she’d see me here. Needless to say I am grateful there are churches who believe that in God’s house there are many rooms, but no closets.


b2ap3_thumbnail_IMG_20150509_124331735_HDR.jpgI arrived just in time to hear Jason Mankey talk about how he found his way into Paganism, and heaven knows, I love hearing about people's faith journeys! His talk was followed by the main ritual, the Keeper of the Light ceremony, T.Thorn Coyle bestowing the honor on Crystal Blanton. The festival’s theme was “Spirituality through Service”. I loved Thorn’s circle casting, in which she simply but powerfully drew everyone’s attention to the fact that everything around us is sacred. Luna Pantera gave a heartbreaking invocation of Justice, calling out our desperate need, invoking that Lives Matter, Black Lives, Lives of People of Color, Lives of those oppressed, Lives of mothers who mourn their children this mother’s day, in the North, in the South, all around us. As Crystal Blanton put it, “service is a means to put our spirituality into action where it is most needed.” Or in the words of T.Thorn Coyle, “there is no separation between spiritual practice and the practice of service.” The focus on justice and service felt like defining of our edges, making us stronger together, and building a healthier community. 


After the ceremony Sharon Knight and Winter played a short but beautiful set of my favorite songs, followed by an afternoon full of music, bellydancers, and speakers. At the author’s circle I caught a glimpse of Morpheus Ravenna’s proof copy of her soon to be published Book of the Great Queen, heard Diana Paxson chat about her writing, and I finally obtained my own copy of the Bringing Race to the Table anthology.b2ap3_thumbnail_IMG_20150509_160931893.jpg


As I made my rounds through the vendor booths of handcrafted jewelry, clothing, and the offerings of various occult shops I was reminded of the vendor area at Pantheacon. For once there was time to check out all of the goods without feeling rushed in between rituals. Solar Cross Temple and Heathens United Against Racism shared a booth and my partner and I returned with a copy of Like Water, T.Thorn Coyle’s first fictional novel Like Water a week before the big book release party


But most of my time was spent lounging on the grass, and shedding layer after layer as the cold overcast morning turned into a sunny afternoon. We have a beautiful community. Pantheacon always feels like a large family reunion interrupted by far too many exciting rituals, workshops, and other events. The Pagan Festival provided an amazing opportunity to catch up with old friends, meet new ones, get to know that cool musician you’ve always liked or chat with your favorite author who is always too busy at other events.


Every so often I see faces at the local grocery store that I recognize from Pantheacon. The Bay Area is a busy place and most of us are so absorbed in the work of our own Tradition(s) that we rarely interact with other Traditions, except once a year in San Jose. The Pagan Festival was a great opportunity to meet our geographical neighbors, even if the distance between our Traditions has kept us from interacting before.

To me the festival was a celebration of the beauty of our community, a call to action, a promise of renewal, and a testimony to our city that we are here, we care, we invoke Justice and in service to this city, the Bay Area, and beyond. I am grateful for all of the work and volunteering that went into this event and I hope we are blessed with many more in coming years.

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Born and raised an evangelical Christian in Germany, I joined the Jesus Freak movement as a teenager and became a passionate evangelist and worship leader. No one was surprised when I went to the US at age 19 and came back a tattooed and pierced fundamentalist Christian, betrothed to a "Chrispie" (a Christian hippie, that is). I was a virgin the day we married. Five years later I graduated bible college with highest honors and post traumatic stress disorder. I deepened both my theology and trauma on the road by traveling the country in a big yellow school bus. For three years I lived as a nomad, playing music and leading bible studies, from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine. I learned that Christianity in America encompasses a wide range of beliefs and practices, from Amish groups casting demons out of school busses to Roman Catholic priests breaking into government buildings. I saw Jesus in the oddest places. And then everything changed and I ended up a polyamorous Witch in a Pagan community in California.


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