Archive for the ‘paganism’ tag
Wiccan Priestess, NPR Journalist and Author Dies at 68
An interview on NPR’s Interfaith Voices with Phyllis Curott and historian Ronald Hutton about Margot Adler’s influence on contemporary Paganism will air Aug. 1-7 on NPR’s 74 stations across N. America; here’s the full list of when and where.
By Phyllis Curott
Parliament Trustee, Women’s Task Force Co-Chair
Margot Adler, one of America’s first public Wiccan Priestesses and author of the groundbreaking study of contemporary American Paganism, Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America Today” (1979), passed away at her home in Manhattan on Monday, July 28th. She was 68.
Margot was also a reporter for NPR, working since 1979 as a journalist, political and cultural correspondent, host of “Justice Talking,” and New York bureau chief. She preferred stories about everyday people and her series on life in New York after 9/11 was often cited for its compassionate and salutary effect on the city’s recovery. Central Park, where she spent countless hours as a “birder,” was a favorite subject for stories, and like all of her features, were imbued with warmth, intimacy and wise appreciation.
These qualities, and an impish sense of humor, also made Margot Adler one of modern Paganism’s most beloved figures, a welcoming presence to the thousands of newcomers who found the movement because of her thoughtful book or because of her early willingness to publicly identify herself as a Witch when that word still provoked distorted stereotypes of Satan worshippers or wacky spinsters. Her courage and capacious intellect challenged and helped transform these misconceptions, and the media and its audience reconsidered their biases when confronted by Margot’s sophisticated New York sensibility which integrated a bachelor’s degree in political science from Berkeley, a master’s from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and in 1982, a Nieman fellowship at Harvard, as well as a family background which included her grandfather, noted psychiatrist Alfred Adler.
Margot’s death is a great personal loss for those who knew and loved her as a friend, three of whom have served as Parliament Trustees – myself, Angie Buchanan and Andras Arthen.
Margot and I met 35 years ago, both members of what was then a small, hidden community of Wiccan practitioners in New York City. We shared similar educational and cultural backgrounds, an interest in the return of the Goddess and the role of women as spiritual leaders, which appealed to our feminism, and an appreciation for the ecstatic and joyful practices that revealed the Divine embodied in the natural world. We worked together over the years, in public and private, teaching and celebrating and I treasure every moment shared, every memory created. Most precious of all is Margot’s immortal enthusiasm which was so deeply rooted in the term’s Greek origin, entheos: “to be inspired or possessed by a god, to rapt, to be in ecstasy.”
Countless homages posted on numerous social media sites affirm her impact on the personal lives of fans and followers, and her unique contribution to modern Paganism as one of the fastest growing spiritual movements in the United States. Margot Adler played an essential role in the rebirth of ancestral religious traditions as a vital new spirituality and that inspiration will continue, for what we remember, and those whom we remember, live.
New Suffolk, NY July 30, 2014
Phyllis Curott is an attorney, author and Wiccan priestess. An interfaith activist and advocate of religious liberties for minority faiths in the courts and media, Jane Magazinehonored her as one of the Ten Gutsiest Women of the Year, New York Magazine described her as one of the “culture’s most intellectually cutting-edge thinkers,” and Beliefnet has featured her in their video series Preachers and Teachers. Curott is founder and president of the international Temple of Ara and president emerita of the Covenant of the Goddess.Phyllis Curott
by Teo Bishop
from the Huffington Post
This is not the first time that I’ve felt slighted by one of my parent’s lack of interest in the mystical. I may be the only member of my family who would rather talk about religion than football. Our holidays, even the religious ones, are uncomfortably secular to me. I’d almost prefer my family to be fundamentalist Christians, if for no other reason than they might be willing to talk about theology as though it really meant something.
Theology, or Polytheology, or Process Theology — these subjects are rich soil to me; good dirt for planting, and worth tending to. I’m pretty sure that my parents have different ideas about deity than I do, but I don’t know that because we’ve never actually had a conversation about it. I’ve done more heart-to-heart’ing about religion on my blog, Bishop In The Grove, with my readership of relative strangers than I ever have over dinner with my family.
You just don’t talk about those sorts of things.
…I’m the silent Pagan in the bunch. I’m the candle burning, incense igniting, ritual doing, tarot card reading Pagan, who would be perfectly happy to discuss why they choose pray to Jesus over someone else, or what prayer really is, or whether their worship of a transcendent God ever feels lonely, or what they think death might be like. I think about these things, but I don’t know how to bring them up without starting an argument.
Perhaps this is why interfaith dialogue is so difficult, too. If we don’t know how to begin a conversation about faith and practice with our own families, how are we supposed to talk across the greater religious divide? It’s much easier to remain silent, to avoid the awkward moments, to shore up our defenses in the event of a possible attack.
I get disappointed, though, when we avoid these conversations, because I have this deep desire to be known by the people in my life. When they don’t seek to understand me, when they don’t try to figure out what I mean when I say Pagan, or Druid, or any number of other tradition-specific terminology, I feel whitewashed into being simply The Son, or The Brother. I revert back to being all of the things I was by default, and none of the parts I chose for myself are brought into the light to be seen.
Solstice, or Litha means a stopping or standing still of the sun. It is the longest day of the year and the time when the sun is at its maximum elevation.
As the sun spirals its longest dance,
As nature shows bounty and fertility
Let all things live with loving intent
And to fulfill their truest destiny
Wiccan blessing for Summer
This date has had spiritual significance for thousands of years as humans have been amazed by the great power of the sun. The Celts celebrated with bonfires that would add to the sun’s energy, Christians placed the feast of St John the Baptist towards the end of June and it is also the festival of Li, the Chinese Goddess of light.
Like other religious groups, Pagans are in awe of the incredible strength of the sun and the divine powers that create life. For Pagans this spoke in the Wheel of the Year is a significant point. The Goddess took over the earth from the horned God at the beginning of spring and she is now at the height of her power and fertility. For some Pagans the Summer Solstice marks the marriage of the God and Goddess and see their union as the force that creates the harvest’s fruits.
This is a time to celebrate growth and life but for Pagans, who see balance in the world and are deeply aware of the ongoing shifting of the seasons it is also time to acknowledge that the sun will now begin to decline once more towards winter….
from the Huffington Post
by Grove Harris
Halloween, or Samhain, is celebrated in many ways, some religious, some spiritual and many secular. It is a religious holiday that has entered the general American cultural ethos and is celebrated with trick-or-treating and costume parties. The vivid orange and black colors associated with the day bring to mind the colors of bare trees silhouetted against the autumn sunset, and the turning of the season towards the coming winter’s darker and colder days. Jack-o-lanterns, carved from the fall’s pumpkin harvest, add their orange color as well as flickering candle light in the growing darkness.
It is not surprising that people are at least somewhat sensitive to this turning of the wheel of the year, and its evocation of the cyclic nature of life and the inescapable route towards death. The evening’s darkness comes earlier and earlier, and at least in New England, leaves fall and in years gone by were burned in local streets, adding the light of flames and the smell of smoke to the season. The pungent smell of sweet apples adds to the season’s treats.
In recent years, neighborhood trick-or-treating has moved indoors to school celebrations, partly out of safety concerns. For most this is a cultural, secular and safe celebration, although with the danger of tooth decay. For others, the sensitivity towards spiritual underpinnings of the cultural expression leads to concerns about participation. For example, some Muslims both dislike and respect this religiosity by choosing not to have their children involved. Objection and refusal to participate can be a form of respect.
From The Huffington Post
“My family is Jewish,” he said to me.
“My family is Protestant,” she added.
“But we’re pagan,” he continued, “and we want our wedding to have some pagan element.”
“Only we want it to be subtle,” she said. “We don’t want our families to feel uncomfortable.”
“That’s simple,” I answered. “We’ll honor the elements.” It’s a feature of most contemporary pagan rituals. “We all have to breathe. We all need light and warmth. We all stand on the earth that feeds and shelters us. We all need water to stay alive, whatever else we believe or don’t believe.”
The word pagan simply means country-dweller, although many contemporary neo-pagans are urban dwellers, as were many pagans in classical times. From the Judeo-Christian perspective, the designation came to describe anyone who was not a monotheist. Paganism isn’t really an “ism” at all. Pagan practices are specific to a time, place, and culture. Although Isis was at one time worshiped all over the Mediterranean world and the Rites of Demeter and Persephone at Eleusis drew pilgrims from everywhere, no pagan community or practice (to avoid the charged word “cult”) has ever been hailed as a world religion. Yet all so-called world religions have pagan roots and practices that vary from one region to another. All the world religions have splintered into sometimes violently opposing sects. They also continue to make war against each other, or their more extreme practitioners do.
From The Wild Hunt
August 26th in Italy sees the beginning of the 13th annual World Congress of Ethnic Religions. Formed in 1998 at the first gathering in Lithuania, the congress works to promote tolerance of ethnic indigenous religions and create networks of support among adherents of ethnic traditions across the world. There are member organizations from across Europe, and the Congress also welcomes delegations from India, Russia, and the United States. The theme this year is “Ethics in the Contemporary World”, and is being organized by the Italian organization Gentilitas.
“The Congress theme will be to compare the different ethical views of individual members of the religious associations within WCER to find a lowest common denominator or, more simply, to discuss ethical and religious views during the development of rings.” – Federazione Pagana, Italy
WCER President Jonas Trinkunas (Romuva), who recently attended the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Australia, was inspired by his experiences there to propose a change of name and focus for the organization.
“In 2009 Romuva (Association of Lithuanian traditional religion) was invited to the Parliament of World Religions held in Melbourne, Australia. Romuva was invited to participate and was an active participant in the section of the Associations of indigenous religions. During the conference I presented not only the religious activities of Romuva, but the activities of the WCER as well. The invaluable experience of having taken part in the Parliament of World Religions after ten years of WCER encouraged me to see again and define the vision and the area of our activities. That’s why I want to reassess and redefine the term which we refer to ourselves. I refer to WCER – World Congress of Ethnic Religions (World Congress of Ethnic Religions). There is a word that I propose to discuss: the change of the term ‘world’ with ‘European’. Hence the change of name to ECER – European Congress of Ethnic Religions (European Congress of Ethnic Religions).”
In addition to the various European delegations, at least two Pagans of note from the United States will be in attendance. Andras Corban Arthen of EarthSpirit (also one of the Parliament’s Board of Trustees), and Prudence Priest, a COG Elder and co-founder of the American Vinland Association. At the AVA blog, Priest has a post running down the schedule of events at the WCER, and talks about her role “promoting Heathenism” on her travels.
According to Patheos.com’s overview, Paganism represents “a wide variety of traditions that emphasize reverence for nature and a revival of ancient polytheistic religious practices.” The article notes, “some Pagan traditions include ritual magic, but this practice is not universal.” This diverse grassroots movement includes Wicca, Goddess Spirituality, and the Pagan Reconstructionist religions (Norse, Druidic, Egyptian, and Greek).
According to Margot Adler, author, NPR journalist, and Wiccan priestess, the Contemporary Pagan Movement has “come of age” in the last 15 years, with estimates of 1 million practicing Pagans. Pagans are being recognized in military cemeteries, hospitals, seminaries, and the Parliament of the World’s Religions. “In short,” Adler says, “Paganism has become a mainstream movement, which has mostly been a good thing.” She asks, however, whether the movement’s critique of monotheistic and patriarchal religions will become “lost or watered down” as it gains more respect in the mainstream.
Sarah Pike, author and professor of religious studies at California State University, discusses the evolving news coverage of Paganism in recent years. Twenty-five years ago, a story about local Pagans gathering in an Indiana state forest was characterized as “devil-worshippers in Yellowwood Forest,” sparking national controversy. This year, the news coverage of Summer Solstice 2010 and other Solstice celebrations was “overwhelmingly positive.”
By P. Sufenas Virius Lupus
In “Here, There, and Anywhere,” an essay by University of Chicago scholar Jonathan Z. Smith in Prayer, Magic, and the Stars in the Ancient and Late Antique World, many ancient religions (including Christianity and Judaism) were classified along the lines of their primary locus of activity.
“Here” religions are focused upon the domestic sphere and familial concerns (including ancestor worship, fertility, and health/healing). “There” religions are civic, regional, ethnic, or even national, and often are centered in temples and places of pilgrimage, and have established mores and laws associated with them, which can include exclusive membership or access (e.g., only people who were to some extent Greek-speakers could partake in the Eleusinian Mysteries; there was a Greek-specific and a Thracian-specific cult and celebration of the goddess Bendis present in Athens; etc.). “Anywhere” religions tend to be somewhat personal and yet universalizing and communal in their focus, and can be practiced regardless of one’s location or origin.
Both Christianity and the Mithraic religion, for example, began as “Anywhere” religions, the latter because its main adherents — soldiers and merchants — were often prevented from participating in “Here” and “There” religious activities due to their wide travel and often great distance from their individual domestic or ethnic spheres. As these religions developed, however, they became more and more “There” religions in their focus, with fixed places of worship, community memberships, and orthopraxic spiritual activities.
There is variation observable within these classifications, and a certain degree of crossover between categories within individual religions or discrete religious activities eventually becomes somewhat inevitable. Just as this model can be useful for looking at and understanding the differences between the religions of late European/Mediterranean antiquity, so too can this paradigm be applied to modern forms of Paganism.
Modern forms of Paganism tend to be both “Here” and “Anywhere” in their general orientations. Few Pagans, for example, can be said to take part regularly in large gatherings, and nearly all probably have little access to shared ritual spaces, public temples, or other such phenomena of “There” religions. However, nearly all are likely to have some sort of individual practice that takes place primarily in their own homes on a regular basis, which is often concerned with prosperity, health, well-being, and connecting to one’s local landscape, all of which are “Here” religion characteristics. Likewise, many Pagans have been trained in or consider themselves a part of a larger group, coven, theological movement, or tradition, most of which make themselves available to people wherever they might be located and no matter who they may be, thus pointing toward an “Anywhere” orientation.
Certain large groups and organizations (e.g., Circle Sanctuary, Covenant of the Goddess, Fellowship of Isis), national or international traditions (e.g., Feri, various Wiccan lineages, Asatru), as well as certain yearly festivals and activities (e.g., Pagan Spirit Gathering, PantheaCon, Aquarian Tabernacle Church’s Spring Mysteries) have many characteristics of “There” religious phenomena, but usually without the emphasis on “purity,” strict cultic rules, or ethical requirements (beyond simple ones involving not harming others), and certain other exclusivist tendencies within that variety of spiritual structure. But, what would the ideal balance between or among these religious styles be, particularly as it concerns modern Paganism and its foreseeable future?
It has often been said that Pagan religions are religions of practice and religions of experience, and not creedal religions — in other words, what one does is more important than what one believes. In such cases, orthopraxy is preferred to orthodoxy. And yet, the reality in most modern Paganism — and a great deal of ancient Paganism! — is that polypraxy (in the terminology of Erynn Rowan Laurie) is more the norm than orthopraxy. It is still more about what one does, and that one does do something, than it is about everyone doing the same thing, or even vaguely similar things.
From The Wild Hunt
The North American Interfaith Network (NAIN), one of North America’s oldest interfaith organizations, recently held their yearly gathering in Salt Lake City, Utah. At the meeting, Covenant of the Goddess member Rachael Watcher, a longtime interfaith activist, was elected to the Executive Board of NAIN. Watcher is the second Pagan to serve on the Board, she will be joining Grove Harris, a member of Reclaiming, who has served with the Pluralism Project and the Council For A Parliament of the World’s Religions. COG’s National Public Information Officer released this statement on the election.
“Our CoG National Interfaith Representative – Rachael Watcher attended that meeting, and was elected to a four year term on the NAIN Board of Directors. This is important news for Wiccans and Pagans everywhere. Once again we are represented on the board of one of the oldest and most well respected interfaith organizations in North America. This election of Rachael demonstrates that CoG’s collective support for interfaith is reaping rewards of respect and inclusion for the entire Pagan community.”
This is yet another advance for Pagans within the interfaith movement. In addition to NAIN’s two Pagan board members, there are currently three Pagans, Andras Corban-Arthen, Phyllis Curott, and Angie Buchanan, serving on the Board of Trustees of the Council For A Parliament of the World’s Religions. Also, it should be noted that the United Religions Initiative has seen active Pagan participation for the entirety of its ten-year history.
These remarkable achievements, along with the “in the trenches” interfaith outreach and activism by individual modern Pagans, has ushered the modern Pagan movement to a place of global attention and influence that’s nearly unprecedented considering where we were a generation ago. A lot has happened since Paganism “came out” to the global interfaith community in 1993, and we’ve since built bridges and new understandings at a remarkable pace. Whatever our future, these achievements ensure that the voices of modern Pagans continue to be heard by the world’s religions. Congratulations to Rachael Watcher on her election!
World Religions Get Down to Earth
by Trebbe Johnson
“Sensually, it was a panoply of colorful raiment, ceremonies, liturgies, and languages from around the world. Spiritually, the 2009 Parliament of the World’s Religions, held December 3-9 in Melbourne, Australia, had the feeling of a quest, or rather thousands of individual quests pursued by people who came together not just to espouse their own beliefs but to explore together how to solve some of the world’s most grievous problems. “Making a World of Difference: Hearing Each Other, Healing the Earth” was the theme of this gathering held in the soaring, light-filled Melbourne Convention Center on the bank of the Yarra River, int he ancestral homeland of the aboriginal Wurundjeri people. For a week, six thousand participants from eighty countries, representing religious and spiritual traditions old and new, shared one another’s worship services; attended 662 talks, panel discussions, and films; and exchanged ideas, prayers, and email addresses.
The first Parliament of World Religions took place in Chicago in 1893, the second not until one hundred years later, again in the Windy City. Cape Town, Barcelona, and now Melbourne have hosted subsequent gatherings. Since the beginning, the concept of what the parliament has to offer, and to whom, has changed radically.”
Trebbe Johnson is the founder and director of Radical Joy for Hard Times, a non-profit organization devoted to finding and making beauty in wounded places. She writes frequently on the relationship of myth, nature, and spirit and is the author of The World Is a Waiting Lover: Desire and the Quest for the Beloved. She lives in rural Pennsylvania.