The Great Oregon Road Trip Crowdsourcing Experiement

For the last few months on the social media sites I’ve been hinting around about my impending move. It’s getting close now, maybe four to six weeks before I’m on the road.

I’ve been planning – for years actually, but things like the death of my spouse got in the way – to move to Ashland, Oregon. I lived there for half a year back in 1989, and wished at the time I could have stayed. All these years later it still feels like of all the places I’ve lived the place to which I want to return. Admittedly I expected to get there before what are essentially my retirement years, but there you are. Life happens.

However, I do need to crowdsource some of the move. Crowdsourcing is the social networking Internet way of doing what we used to call rattling the network or pulling in some favors. I like the idea. I have found the world is full of an astounding number of interesting people I never would have stumbled across but for things like blogging, FB and Twitter.

So here’s what I need in a nutshell from you, my wonderful crowd: company on the road and somewhere to stay when I get there.

Here are the details.

The Trip Itself

I’ll be leaving from central North Carolina sometime soon after Saturday, April 21. Can’t leave before then, because I have a workshop to teach that day, but I want to be on the road before mid-May.

I’m gonna load myself and the three “c”s—cat, clothes, and computer—into my old Volvo station wagon. (The rest of my stuff goes into storage to be shipped later.)

I’ll drive from Pittsboro to Chicago. I usually take two days to do that. I’ll then stay a few days in Chicago to visit with my family, and maybe see old friends, too. Depends on the time. From Chicago I head west on I-80 for a long, leisurely drive through much flat land, stopping at scenic wonders and roadside attractions as the impulse occurs. Then I detour to northern California so I can leave Isaac’s ashes in Yosemite, and maybe visit some folks who live in that part of the world. From there I head up I-5 to Ashland, where I intend to stay put for a good, long while.

I’m estimating the whole trip start to finish will last anywhere from two to four weeks, depending upon how long I stay in Chicago, and how many people I visit along the way.

Though I’ve done my share of cross-country driving, I’m not thrilled at going that long and that far alone. My son had hoped to accompany me, but it turns out he can’t get the time off of work until much later in the summer. I can’t travel with a cat in the car in high summer, not to mention I’d rather be out of the South by then myself. And I don’t like driving after dark much, anymore, which seriously shortens my driving day if I’m alone.

Who I’m Looking For

So I am looking for a traveling companion—a substitute son, if you will—with a few weeks to spare who can leave with me from North Carolina, or join me from Chicago onward. This person will have a valid driver’s license, a clean driving record, a bit of a sense of adventure, more than a bit of a sense of humor, and feel perfectly capable of helping me who cope with delays or mechanical difficulties (which will give me serious anxiety attacks).

In exchange, this someone gets a free trip to California and southern Oregon. I’ll pay gas, food, lodging and other reasonable expenses (such as admission to National Parks) plus a plane ticket back to the person’s point of origin. In other words, if you can get to Chicago or NC on your own, I’ll fly you back to your home (from the airport at Medford OR to wherever in the lower 48) as part of the deal. Plus, of course, you get to pick my brains or listen to my stories or put up with my old codger taste in music for a couple of weeks, and maybe meet some interesting people, too.

Interested? E-mail me at phaedra.bonewits (at) gmail (dot) com, or message me on FB. If I don’t know you already, be prepared to provide some references.

What I Need in Oregon

When I get to Ashland, I’ll need somewhere to stay temporarily. I hope to find a room to rent (I like living with other people) or a modest studio. I will have a cat with me, in a crate. If you can put me and the cat up temporarily anywhere in the Ashland area (Talent, Medford, etc.), or know someone who might be able to, contact me at the same email: phaedra.bonewits (at) gmail (dot) com, or message me on FB.

Exactly when I leave will depend on the availability of the traveling companion (wow, sounds Dr. Who-ish, doesn’t it?) and arrangements at the other end, but I really need to get going before the weather gets too warm.

So, my peeps and FB friends and Twitterers and blog followers, let’s take this social experiment to another level, shall we? Oregon, Ho!

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The Great Isaac Bonewits Online Estate Sale, Part the First

I arrived in North Carolina to crash with friends at their farm one year and two weeks ago. It’s time I take my future more firmly in hand. I’m clear in my mind now that I will move out to Oregon. More on when and where later, but I’ll wait till late spring or early summer, as I have no desire to cross the Rockies in the winter.

In the meantime, I’ll be in the process of simplifying my life even further than I already have done. My winter project is to go through the storage locker and to be very, very cold about what I have that’s really worth taking cross country. More stuff to sort, more stuff to get rid of.

That does mean going through a lot of Isaac’s stuff, too. I kept so much of his, both because I wasn’t ready to part with it for myself, and because I thought other people might like to have something that once belonged to him. I have boxes and boxes of magical memorabilia, as well as boxes and boxes of books and music. And boxes and boxes yet unsorted. My winter will be busy.

His papers, as many of you know already, are being sent to the Davidson Library at the University of California, Santa Barbara. UCSB has a special collection for American religions, and now they have the Isaac Bonewits Papers as part of that collection. They’ll be there for scholars and researchers for generations to come, instead of rotting in a storage locker somewhere. Which makes me very happy.

As for his other possessions, those I’m not keeping, beginning today (yesterday, actually) they will start appearing on eBay. It’ll be the Great Isaac Bonewits Online Estate Sale. I think he’d like that.

First items to appear are vintage audio cassette tapes. These aren’t tapes of him, they are tapes he collected for his own listening pleasure. Some are Pagan, some are Celtic or folk, and some are pretty obscure. So if you are interested, please take a look. They’re available in lots of two to six tapes, with bidding starting at a mere 99 cents.

As I get more stuff available, I’ll announce it here, and on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Posted in Personal Happenings, Products | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

On Occupy

I, like so many others, have been following the Occupy movement these weeks and months, but I’ve written very little about it. I’m in sympathy at a general level–I have a low opinion of banks–but I’ve been unclear about how Occupy Wall Street would cause actual change. I was no clearer after visiting Occupy Boston on my way home from Salem, although I admired the community spirit.

Today I got some insight into both the movement and the reaction against it from an unexpected source, a mid-twentieth century book on cultural communication, The Silent Language by anthropologist Edward T. Hall. As a passing remark to illustrate a discussion of explicit and implicit cultural markers, the former being as obvious as laws and the latter being the givens that no one knows they know, he states: “The discovery that one of the implicit assumptions of American life is that hard work will be rewarded may explain a good deal about behavior in this country…” (p. 65)

Indeed. Let’s look at Occupy from that perspective.

  • I worked really hard (and spent a lot of money) to get my college degree, and now you tell me there’s no job for me?
  • The kids in the street are bums. If they worked hard, they’d do all right.
  • The suits got lots of money without really working for it. They are manipulators of a system, not creators of wealth.
  • If you don’t have a job, it’s because you haven’t tried hard enough (or in the right way) to find one.
  • If you are rich, you damn well better have worked hard to get that way.
  • If I am rich, I must have worked damned hard to be rewarded this well.
  • The system (work hard and get rewarded) doesn’t work for me. The system is broken.
  • The system (work hard and get rewarded) works just fine for me. There is nothing wrong with the system.
  • How tents in public squares will fix any of this is beyond me. But I do believe that most of us (the 99.5%) are playing with a stacked deck.

    The culture says that a college degree will get you in the door, but the jobs that are being created by our trickle-down system are for food service and landscaping. The culture says spend whatever you have to spend to get a good education. Parents start saving for college when their kids are born. Kids accumulate tens of thousands of dollars in debt on the gamble of good employment later. The parents are left with not enough funds for a decent retirement, and the unemployed and underemployed kids despair when see what little they have left after the banks and the loan companies take their share.

    Yet both sides of that decimal point think they’ve gotten a raw deal. “I worked hard, and now I have to spend my money to support you bums?” “I worked hard, but now what I did is meaningless?”

    I’ve heard it said that it was the educated kids in the 1960s who ruined it for everyone, with all their social turmoil and political actions. Education, they say, was dumbed down after that to help preserve the status quo. It’s an interesting theory. Certainly there has been a weird shift where now a college degree qualifies you for positions where a high school degree used to suffice. It is interesting to note that a high school diploma is essentially free to all, where a college degree requires money–sometimes a lot of money. Hmmm…

    I also haven’t seen a lot of mention lately of the fact that much of the upheaval in the Arab Spring was fueled not just by political dissatisfaction but by the dissatisfaction a generation (or two or more) of well-educated college graduates who could not find jobs. They took down the political system (or tried to, things are not yet fully resolved). Our over-educated and underemployed are trying to take down the financial system. I wonder which is the more entrenched? I’m guessin’ money.

    At any rate, I got no easy answers here, people. If you expect that, move along. I still don’t know what tents in the park will accomplish, but then, no one knew where the Free Speech Movement was going to lead, either.

    Can’t help but wonder what Isaac would have though of it all.

    Posted in Current Events, Political/Cultural | Tagged , | 2 Comments

    A Young Witch looks at Isaac

    Alfred McCarthy, one of the charming Young Witches of Salem with whom I had the pleasure to work when I was at the World of Witches Museum last month, has posted a vlog about Isaac. I hope you enjoy it.

    Posted in Druidic/Celtic, Pagan Stuff | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on A Young Witch looks at Isaac

    Random Musings from Salem, MA

    I’ve been in Salem, Massachusetts, for a week now, reading cards at the World of Witches Museum and hanging out with my old friends from Chicago, Ed Hubbard and Don Lewis (the Witch School co-conspirators).

    World of Witches Museum logo
    Random impressions of Salem:

    I should have packed more black. This is a town where over-the-top witchyness is good for business, and I am here, after all, on a business trip.

    This is the second year in a row I’ve been in the Salem Haunted Happenings Grand Parade. Not something I would have expected to find on my resume, but fun nonetheless. I’ll see if I can find pictures.

    I will enjoy putting on my resume that I am a licensed psychic in the city of Salem, Mass. Of course, all that means is that I passed a criminal background check, but hey, not everyone can pass one, right?

    I like the parts of Salem I’ve seen, which is admittedly the tourist area. I have no idea what the rest of the town is like. I don’t have a car while I’m here, so my exploring is limited to what I can reach on foot. But I like that. So far, everything I need has been close enough that I can walk to it. If you are coming as a tourist to Salem, you can pretty much park your car and wander around to everywhere you want to visit. Wear comfy shoes. If it’s October, expect that finding parking will be an adventure.

    I might take the train into Boston while I’m here and do a little touristing there myself. Although I visited Cambridge one afternoon a dozen years ago, I haven’t seen any of the museums or other attractions in Boston since I briefly lived and worked there more than forty years ago. I shall presume a few things have changed.

    If you think there are witch wars where you live, they’ve got nothing on Salem. I hasten to say I like most folks I’ve met here, but the touch of drama in the air can carry over to interpersonal relationships. And inter-business relationships. Witchcraft is how people (our people, anyway) make there living here, and turf wars do erupt.

    Weird things you notice, especially after they’ve been pointed out to you: if a tourist stops outside and reads the “Psychic Readings” sign out loud, even if they come into the shop, they will not get a psychic reading. Hasn’t happened yet. I’m sure someone will do so today, just to prove me wrong.

    Pointy hats in Salem are like berets in Paris. Of course, I packed a beret. At least it’s black. And it has the advantage of staying put when the wind kicks up.

    As those of you who know me well can attest, I usually wear a ball cap. I brought two with me. One I bought here last year; it’s bright orange embroidered with a black silhouette of a witch above the name of the town. The other one I got at the New York City Pagan Pride Day a few years ago. It’s black (yay!) with an embroidered witch. First time I wore it, Don said I might be mistaken for a police officer. ‘Cause in Salem, even the police patches have witches on them.

    Young Witches of Salem logoThe kids who are involved in the web reality show The Young Witches of Salem are really a nice bunch. I wish we had a camera going for all the great conversations we have in the lobby of the museum.

    That’s all for now. If you’re in the Northeast, why not road trip to Salem and pay me a visit? World of Witches Museum, 57 Wharf St, Salem MA 01970. I’m there most days, on and off from late morning until 8 or 9 at night.

    Posted in Fun, Pagan Stuff, Personal Appearances | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment


    I haven’t blogged much this summer. More accurately, not at all.

    It’s been a stormy time for me. Part of it has been a heavy travel schedule. I was gone most of July and and almost another week in August.

    Part of it has been emotional. I kept remembering year-ago milestones. This was the date of his first emergency surgery. That was the second. This was the day he went into hospice. That was the date we told his family to expect the worst. This was the date he died, one year ago, August 12, 2010. Will I ever be casual about that date?

    I’m sitting here now looking out the window at the far edges of Hurricane Irene. It’s grey and windy and raining on and off. Much as how I’ve felt the last months.

    Bits of sunshine when I’ve been out and with the Pagan community at various events and venues. I enjoyed being with CUUPS at GA in Charlotte. Chrysalis Moon in Indiana was a very nice intimate event where I met some great people. Spent all-to-little time with Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone at The Occult Bookstore. Saw old friends at The Bristol Renaissance Faire up by the Wisconsin border, including Melissa who used to hang out at my store in Peoria almost twenty years ago. (Visit the Faire Labor Day weekend and say hello to my sister who will be helping out at Melissa and Jesse’s Enchanted Chains booth.)

    Bits of sunshine when I saw my family up in Chicago in July. My son flew up to be with us for a week, and it is always a treat to see him. My eighty-eight year old mother is still a pistol. My sisters are looking good. My nieces and nephew are doing well. (Valerie, I hope you will be safe through the storm in your new home in New Haven!)

    Bits of sunshine, a hot, hot time, in Houston at a CMA fundraiser and with appearances at The Magickal Cauldron and at Galveston’s The Witchery. Saw old friends and made new friends.

    And then I was home, with nowhere to go until the end of September. The cat was unhappy with me. The death anniversary was looming. I crashed and burned. Got sick and spent a week in bed. Moped around and played computer games until my mouse hand got stiff.

    Somehow, today, with the anniversary past and the hurricane outside, I’m more awake. I’m writing. This is good. Maybe it helped that I actually got myself to a doctor a couple of weeks ago. Maybe it’s the long talks with friends, like the one we had driving through bits of outlying hurricane last night. Maybe it’s Mercury going direct. Maybe it’s that pot of good, strong coffee instead of my morning tea. Whatever. I’ll take it.

    May those of you in the path of the storm be safe. May those of you in the midst of your personal storms stay safe.

    Hope to see more of all of you.

    Posted in Personal Appearances, Personal Happenings | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

    When Worlds of Grief Collide – Why I Support ADF’s Memorial DVD

    There are few things more difficult than dealing with grief. Each of us has to process our grief in our own way and in our own time.

    Losing Isaac was easily one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to deal with. We were friends for twenty-one years. We lived under the same roof for the last seven years of his life. We had plans, as we used to say to the oncologist. We had planned to go to Oregon, to write more books, to plant gardens, to grow old together. It was not to be.

    He left me in charge of his estate. In his final months (I almost wrote year, but it was less than a year from his diagnosis to his death) we had endless conversations about his legacy, his papers, and his possessions. We even discussed what to do with his ashes. I hope you never have to have these conversations. I hope you and your loved ones all go together, and you are not left with spending twenty or thirty or forty more years without them. Such is not my lot.

    Isaac was famous, in his way (he called himself a “micro-celebrity,” or sometimes more wryly he would say, “I used to be famous”). He had a lot of acquaintances, a lot of friends, more than a few lovers, one son, and four ex-wives. And me, the last one, the widow.

    Every one of us has to process our grief in our own way.

    Unfortunately, sometimes those ways clash. Maybe it’s differences in culture, or temperament or something else, I don’t know. But I do know there is a clash going on right now.

    Back last August, within days of Isaac’s passing, ADF held a beautiful memorial service for Isaac at their Summerland festival in Ohio. You can see excerpts on ADF’s YouTube channel. I wasn’t able to be there, and it meant a lot to me to see what I could of it on YouTube.

    I say “what I could of it” because as many of you know, I live in a very rural area right now with no broadband access. It can take me ten minutes to download a one minute video. (I’ve had trouble getting this blog post up today.) So I was delighted to know that I would be able to get a DVD with the entire memorial service on it.

    Those DVDs are now available. And now the kerfuffle begins.

    A member of ADF paid out of pocket $3000 to have the memorial service professionally videographed and edited. Then ADF paid to have one hundred DVDs made. Members of Isaac’s family have been given DVDs. To ADF members and the general public, they being made available for ten dollars apiece.

    One of Isaac’s ex-wives, the mother of his son, Arthur Lipp-Bonewits, is objecting to this. She wrote a letter to ADF telling them that they were exploiting Isaac’s memory to make money, and that if they did not cease and desist, she would write an open letter denouncing them. Then ADF contacted me. Then I contacted Isaac’s siblings. We were all OK with the DVDs being sold. (Do the math; $10×100-nfamily giveaways is not anywhere near the cost of the videography. It’s not going to “make money” for anyone.) In fact, we in the family are delighted to be able to have copies of it.

    You can read Deborah Lipp’s post here.

    I need to state publicly that I profoundly disagree with her post. Ms. Lipp must process her grief in her own way, as I must process mine. But I cannot stay silent on this issue.

    On her blog, I commented thusly:

    As someone to whom his loss is intensely personal, I am appalled at your misrepresentation of the situation. I am in contact with other members of his family and we are all fine with both the DVD having been made and with it being sold at a nominal price. His mother is looking forward to seeing it, and so am I, as I do not have a good enough broadband connection to watch it on YouTube. The $3000 videographer’s fee came out of someone’s personal pocket as a donation to his memory, not ADF funds. The nominal price of the disc is to defray manufacturing costs.

    You also misrepresent his wishes concerning his library. As both his wife and the executor of his estate, I had many, many, many conversations with him as to disposition of his library and other personal effects. None sounded like what you recount. I was with him every day for the last seven years of his life. You were not. Please do not presume you fully understood his wishes.

    As I reread it, I can say, yes, I sound angry. I am angry, and very, very sad.

    ADF has been a huge help to me in processing my own grief. Kirk Thomas, ADF’s current ArchDruid was at our home doing healing rituals for Isaac as late as June of last year. We (Kirk, Isaac and I) had many discussions about Isaac’s legacy and his estate. It pains me greatly to see ADF and Kirk maligned. I imagine it would pain Isaac, too. ADF was so very dear to him, as was he to them.

    Ms. Lipp included ADF’s reply to her, which ADF had shared with me yesterday:

    On August 12, 2010, P. E. Isaac Bonewits, the founder of ADF, passed to the next world. Many of our members were unable to attend the memorial service, and many struggled with their own feelings of loss and grief following Isaac’s death.

    We were able to release selected videos of the memorial on our web site to aid in this struggle with grief and loss, but many of our members do not have access to broadband internet, and they asked for complete videos, knowing that even though they could not be there, they would be able to release some of the pain and remember again the love they had for our founder.

    So we are selling a limited release of the DVD’s created. ADF spent well over $3,000 on memorializing Isaac. We have purchased a limited run of DVD’s for re-sale at $10 each. We are not seeking to recoup the full cost of the memorial: we consider the funds spent on the memorial an offering of love and honor to the spirit of our Founder. In charging for the DVD, we only seek to recoup a fraction of the costs associated with their creation.

    Ten dollars? You can spend ten dollars at Starbucks without half trying. Ten dollars for a DVD to which you can go back again and again is nothing. Ten dollars so the non-profit organization that had it manufactured can make back a mere fraction of the cost of producing it is more reasonable than spending it on that muffin and latte you’ll forget about tomorrow.

    Bottom line, I do not want anyone to think that the opinions of Ms. Lipp, Isaac’s ex wife, represent my feelings, or the sentiments of any other member of Isaac’s family other than those of her son, Arthur Lipp-Bonewits. They are entitled to feel what they feel, but their feelings are not representative of the rest of us.

    I can’t presume to speak for Isaac, not really. But he did put his legacy in my hands because he loved and trusted me, as I loved and trusted him. Thus, I want to state unequivocally that I do not find the videotaping of the memorial, nor the distribution of the DVDs at nominal cost to be in any way disrespectful or exploitative of his memory. I completely support ADF in this situation, as do his siblings and his own mother.

    Now excuse me while I go off with a Guinness and a box of tissue (about ten dollars worth) and have a good long cry while I try to get “Hymn to Bridget” to download off of YouTube. It breaks my freaking heart that I’ll never hear Isaac himself sing it again.

    We all deal with grief in our own way.

    Posted in Druidic/Celtic, Personal Happenings | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

    Be (Neo)Pagan Once Again

    Another day, another tempest in our corner of the blogosphere.

    Any of you old timers remember the debates in the letters columns of Pagan magazines? One letter would spark a reply in the next issue, and the next. Our best and brightest writers would carefully craft replies and the editors would weigh in as the issues of our emerging community were hashed out. The Legendary Green Egg Forum was arguably more anticipated than the rest of the magazine.

    These were rarely monthly, more likely quarterly or eightly (I just made that up) magazines, so a good controversy could go for the better part of a year, or sometimes even more. Now, that timeline has sped up just a bit.

    Put up blog post. Tweet that you put up blog post. Followers read post, tweet their reactions. Comments get posted. Reply-to blog posts get posted and tweeted. Comments get posted to those blogs. Facebook updates get commented, and more blogs ping back. And on the end of the First Day, the Internet rests, until the next dawning when Jason over at the Wild Hunt includes it in a link round-up and it starts all over again. By day three-four, everyone is kinda exhausted. If you were away for the weekend, you might never know it happened.

    I haven’t been away, but I have had a Legendary Head Cold, the kind that keeps you out of your brain and present in your body as only the constant friction of Kleenex on schnozz skin can do. So although I tweeted some at the beginning of this one, I’ve kept to the sidelines as it grew. Which is good, because it’s let me do some of the crafting that our elders (OK, maybe your elders but mostly my contemporaries) used to do before shooting off letters to GE.

    Our topic today is the word Pagan, or, more accurately, the category Pagan. As in, who’s Pagan and who’s not? Drew Jacobs over at Rogue Priest started it up with an explanation of why he is a polytheist but not a pagan, followed by a slew of blogs going pro and con.

    Drew’s point, and that of a few others, is that the designation Pagan has been, willy-nilly, co-opted by Wiccan-style practitioners, that presenting ritual or teachings that do not include casting circles or calling quarters is not received well in nominally “Pagan” venues, and that restricting activities (and recruitment) to “Pagan” environments has proven, for them, to be limiting and unproductive.

    This is an argument I personally first heard from the Egyptian revivalists, Kemetic Orthodoxy, nearly twenty years ago, and one that those who call themselves Heathen and Asatru have also been expressing for if not that long, nearly that long. Plenty others have spoken to the same frustrations, including those following Hellenic, Caanan, Rom, Celtic Reconstructionist and Druid paths. Heck, the main ritual at the Florida Pagan Gathering I attended earlier this month included a little skit written by the presenting Druid grove where they were embraced despite the fact that their ritual was not going to look like a typical post-Gardnerian Neopagan rite. And at least one influential blogger spoke to the fact that such pre-judgments were as much based in the startling success of Wicca and its clones as to any deliberate plot to crowd other players out of the tent.

    In addition, possibly more sad and troubling, was the assertion that the Pagan-named community was just too flaky to associate with.

    Neopagan has also been discarded by many of these players. For some, the word is still too linked to “Pagan.” And I’ve heard many folk tell me, including many for whom have the greatest respect, that their is nothing “neo-” about what they are doing.

    I doubt if anything I can say here will get any of these people to change their minds. But I think it’s important to state why I will continue to use Pagan, and especially Neopagan.

    There have been lots of dictionary definitions tossed around in the debate. It doesn’t feel useful to add to that. But as a rough working definition of the “Pagan,” as it exists in my head and my working vocabulary, I’d probably go with something like thist:

      – not Christian, Jewish, or Islamic;
      – having historical roots in its cultures preceding the arrival of the above- mentioned monothestic religions
      – if not polytheistic, at least henotheistic
      – meets at least two of the three points above

    This is not rigid. As I typed, I realized I had to throw in the last point to account for religions like Church of All Worlds, because CAW doesn’t have roots older than Stranger in a Strange Land. And some practitioners of Ifa will tell you they are really monotheistic; all those Orisa are really more like the Catholic saints than they are gods. Oh, but the Jehovah’s Witnesses say it’s all those saints that make Catholics pagans…and my head hurts.

    Let me try again.

      – not Christian, Jewish, or Islamic;
      – may have historical roots in its culture preceding the arrival of the above- mentioned monothestic religions
      – appears to be if not polytheistic, at least henotheistic
      – looks like a duck, walks like a duck, sounds like a duck
      – meets at least two of the three points above

    (Which reminds me that I have in a crate in my living room an injured duck who was almost pecked to death by a Jersey Giant hen who apparently thought he was looking a little too ducky to be hanging out with the chickens. All barnyard fowl do not flock together, as do not, apparently, Pagans.)

    As for Neopagan, I gotta go with my late husband Isaac’s definitions. After all, he was instrumental in popularizing it, so if you are dictionary-definition fixated, here are some definitions by a pioneering neoligist himself:

    Pagan, Paganism:
    Originally from the Latin “paganus,” meaning “villager,” “country dweller,” or “hick.” The Roman army used it to refer to civilians. Early Roman Christians used “pagan” to refer to everyone who preferred to worship pre-Christian divinities and who were unwilling to enroll in “the Army of the Lord.” Eventually, “pagan” became simply an insult, with the connotation of “a false religion and its followers.” By the beginning of the twentieth century, the word’s primary meanings became a blend of “atheist,” “agnostic,” “hedonist,” “religionless,” etc., (when referring to an educated, white, male, heterosexual, non-Celtic European) and “ignorant savage and/or pervert” (when referring to everyone else on the planet). “Paganism” is now a general term for polytheistic, nature-centered religions, old and new, with “Pagan” used as the adjective as well as the membership term. It should always be capitalized just as other religious noun/adjective combinations are, such as “Buddhist,” “Hindu,” “Christian,” etc.

    Paleopaganism or Paleo-Paganism:
    A general term for the original polytheistic, nature-centered faiths of tribal Europe, Africa, Asia, the Americas, Oceania and Australia, when they were (or in some rare cases, still are) practiced as intact belief systems. Of the so-called “Great Religions of the World,” Hinduism (prior to the influx of Islam into India), Taoism and Shinto, for example, fall under this category, though many members of these faiths might be reluctant to use the term. Some Paleopagan belief systems may be racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. There are billions of Paleopagans living and worshiping their deities today.

    Mesopaganism or Meso-Paganism:
    A general term for a variety of movements both organized and nonorganized, started as attempts to recreate, revive or continue what their founders thought were the best aspects of the Paleopagan ways of their ancestors (or predecessors), but which were heavily influenced (accidentally, deliberately and/or involuntarily) by concepts and practices from the monotheistic, dualistic, or nontheistic worldviews of Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, or early Buddhism. Examples of Mesopagan belief systems would include Freemasonry, Rosicrucianism, Theosophy, Spiritualism, etc., as well as those forms of Druidism influenced by those movements, the many Afro-Diasporatic faiths (such as Voudoun, Santeria, Candomble, etc.), Sikhism, several sects of Hinduism that have been influenced by Islam and Christianity, Mahayana Buddhism, Aleister Crowley’s religion/philosophy of Thelema, Odinism (most Norse Paganism), most “Family Traditions” of Witchcraft (those that aren’t completely fake), and most orthodox (aka “British Traditionalist”) denominations of Wicca. Some Mesopagan belief systems may be racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. There are at least a billion Mesopagans living and worshiping their deities today.

    Neopaganism or Neo-Paganism:
    A general term for a variety of movements both organized and (usually) nonorganized, started since 1960 c.e. or so (though they had literary roots going back to the mid-1800’s), as attempts to recreate, revive or continue what their founders thought were the best aspects of the Paleopagan ways of their ancestors (or predecessors), blended with modern humanistic, pluralist and inclusionary ideals, while consciously striving to eliminate as much as possible of the traditional Western monotheism, dualism, and puritanism. The core Neopagan beliefs include a multiplicity of deities of all genders, a perception of those deities as both immanent and transcendent, a commitment to environmental awareness, and a willingness to perform magical as well as spiritual rituals to help both ourselves and others. Examples of Neopaganism would include the Church of All Worlds, most heterodox Wiccan traditions, Druidism as practiced by Ár nDraíocht Féin and the Henge of Keltria, some Norse Paganism, and some modern forms of Buddhism whose members refer to themselves as “Buddheo-Pagans.” Neopagan belief systems are not racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. There are hundreds of thousands of Neopagans living and worshiping their deities today. As “Neo-Paganism,” this term was popularized in the 1960’s and 1970’s by Oberon Zell, a founder of the Church of All Worlds.

    These three prefixed terms do not delineate clear-cut categories. Historically, there is often a period, whether of decades or centuries, when Paleopaganism is blending into Mesopaganism, or Mesopaganism into Neopaganism. Furthermore, the founders and members of Mesopagan and Neopagan groups frequently prefer to believe (or at least declare) that they are genuinely Paleopagan in beliefs and practices. This “myth of continuity” is in keeping with the habits of most creators and members of new religions throughout human existence, and should not be taken too seriously.

    Now, if you really can’t see yourself in any of those definitions, just don’t go there. I’m not going to worry about it too much. I may, if I hear quacking, call out “duck!” but you don’t need to if you don’t want to.

    But somehow I keep being reminded of that poor, bloody-headed duck out in the living room. The chickens and ducks are expert at finding the fine differences between one another, but from the fox’s perspective, they’re all barnyard birds and they’re all lunch. Maybe we ought to give that metaphor some thought.

    (If you don’t get the joke in the post title, see this.)

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