Forwarding the Pagan Agenda

If you’re not a follower of The Wild Hunt (what!! you should be!) you might not have heard of a guy named David Barton. I’ve been talking about him on Facebook, and Twitter, but not yet here. This is a character who needs to have a harsh, harsh spotlight shown upon him.

David Barton is the most visible of a group of religious conservatives who are trying to spread the meme that the Founding Fathers * meant religious freedom to mean merely the freedom to pick your version of Christianity.

This is patently false. But Barton is getting a lot of national attention right now as the Conservative Republicans’ pet historian ** (attention such as a front page story in the New York Times, followed by a Daily Show appearance) so this particular meme is gonna get credibility creep. In other words, if Joe Schmo said it, the media would ignore it, but Barton is getting accepted in the media world as Someone to Pay Attention to. (Someone To Whom They Should Pay Attention? Grammar is your friend … but I digress.)

At this point, the “Christians only” meme has not surfaced in too many places. Which is good news and bad news. The good news is, we don’t want it out there. The bad news is, he’s not being challenged for this belief when he gets media face time with people such as Jon Stewart ***

Star Foster, over on Patheos, put forth the idea that we need an articulate, media savvy Pagan spokesman go on the Daily Show to talk about the questions that no one, including Stewart, has been asking Barton. Jason Pitzl-Waters, who has been relentlessly covering Barton on the Wild Hunt, was the one she thought of. This idea has turned into a real campaign, and is getting legs with a Facebook page, a stream of posts on the Daily Show forum and a letter-writing campaign to Comedy Central.

Back in 2004, Jon Stewart joked, “Dude, Pagans don’t have an agenda. They’re Pagans. Organizational skills, eh, not their strong suit.

To which we could answer, maybe yes, maybe no. We don’t have a conversion agenda, but we do have a religious liberty agenda. Aquarian Anti-Defamation League ButtonIsaac’s Aquarian Anti-Defamation Defense League, organized in 1973, was perhaps the first Neopagan rights group. Circle Sanctuary’s Lady Liberty League recently celebrated its 25th year. The Hindu American Federation (HAF) gave Patrick McCullom the Mahatma Gandhi Award for Religious Pluralism last year for his work in the California prisons, because he exemplifies what so many of us Neopagans understand: freedom of religion means freedom for all religions.

Isaac was clearly committed to this ideal for his entire career. David Barton clearly is not. I know Barton would have made Isaac’s blood boil.

When I had my occult shop, Explorations, in Peoria oh-so-many years ago, I had a regular customer who would bring her lady friends by to get supplies such as John the Conqueror floor wash or Block-Buster mojo candles. She’d tell me, “I keep tellin’ ’em, you can’t just pray about it, you gotta do something!”

It’s our future as stake. So let’s get out there and do something.

* I have no evidence of mothers being quoted in this fight.

** He is an amateur historian, with a BA in Christian Education from Oral Roberts University. As an amateur scholar myself I throw stones reluctantly; however, I am very aware that amateur scholars seldom experience peer review, and I’m not presenting my conclusions as the basis for public policy.

*** Some folks have asked why we should care about a “fake news” show (though it is actually a satirical news analysis show) on Comedy Central. We should because mainstream media pays attention to it. And because more people between the ages of 18-35 get their news from Comedy Central than from CNN.

**** Frankly, I don’t think a FB page ever accomplishes anything except–and this is a big except–the page brings an issue to people’s attention. If all you do is “like” a page, you have done nothing. I will repeat that. If all you do is “like” a page, you have done nothing but make yourself feel better. Let that page give you ideas of what you can actually do. Such as write a letter to Comedy Central suggesting Jason as a guest. Or blog about it.

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Florida Pagan Gathering – Beltane Recap

Had an amazing time in Florida at the FPG-Beltane last weekend. My thanks to the organizers and attendees.

I have to say, the facilities there are impressive. I’m not a great camper any more, between the lingering effects of my long-ago back injury and my cranky hip joints. The FPG folks provided me with not just a real bed (which all the headliners get) but some extra padding, too. It’s that thoughtfulness that makes the difference.

I was privileged to share the presenter’s cabin with several terrific folks. One was old friend Kirk Thomas, current ArchDruid of ADF. Kirk is an great guy, and provided real spiritual comfort for Isaac and I during Isaac’s last months. Two local ADF groups, Osprey Suncoast Protogrove and Dark Waters Protogrove, presented the opening and main rituals, with Kirk playing a big part in both. He is one impressive ritualist. I had a small part in the main ritual myself, and was honored to be asked to mention Isaac’s name in the calling to the Ancestors. Even if you’re not sure if Druidism is your path, if there is an ADF grove in your vicinity, check them out. ADF folks are fine ritualists and present public worship for all the holidays.

Although this was my first trip to a Florida Pagan Gathering, Isaac had been to FPG a number of times. People had such good memories of him, it really made me proud. They renamed one of their workshop spaces in his honor, too: “Isaac’s Isle.” It was a very touching dedication. I cried. It’s good to know he will be remembered in so many places.

Also headlining was Patrick McCollum, who I had met many years ago but haven’t ever really had a chance to hang out with before. The journey this guy has been on for the past several years is unbelievable. Imagine things like hanging out with the Dalai Lama, giving a speech on world peace that was broadcast to the International Space Station, and being given the Buddhist name, in Thailand, of Sheida Garypo, the King of Peace. Patrick has spent decades dedicated to service to our community with projects like the Pentacle Quest and Pagan prison ministry, and now the world is noticing. When the world notices, it’s like a snowball rolling. Next he’s headed to Nepal, and then Siberia, all in the name of religious diversity and world peace. And a nicer, more down-to-earth, humble guy you could not find. If the Gods present him with these opportunities, he’s gonna take ’em. I like that. Oh, of course, punctuating all these mega events are “little” ones like FPG and PSG. ‘Cause he’s one of ours, folks.

Also sharing our digs was Aaron Leitch. I hadn’t been familiar with his work before, but am delighted to be so now. His specialty is grimoire magic. Those of you who have known me for a long time know my initial background was as a magician, not a Witch or Druid. There are some in the community who would discount occultism as irrelevant to modern Neopagans (is that redundant?), but friends, we would not be where we are today without the foundation of the Western magical tradition. Plus Aaron did some danged fine workshops. (I will admit I am hesitant to look over his material on the proper pronunciation of Enochian, lest I find I’ve been bungling it all these years. That would be painful to know. For now I’ll stick to ignorant bliss.)

I presented three workshops, Ritual Participation Skills, Real Energy, and a new one on the use of Sound in Magic. The Real Energy workshop on Friday was very well attended and well received. If you missed it (of course most of you did) I am doing it later this month, Saturday, May 21, at Truely Unique in Wilson, NC. (If you want me to present it at your event, I can be had :-)

In one of those wonderful, synchronistic events that can happen at festivals, I was also able to connect up with an old friend.

Earrings by Enchanted Chains

Enchanted Chains jewelry from my personal collection, the earring on the left from 2011, the one on the right from 1994.

Back in the 1990s, I ran Explorations, an occult shop in Peoria, IL, right around the corner from Bradley University. I met many lovely people there, including one young Bradley student who made chain mail jewelry we used to sell in the shop. After Melissa graduated and moved to Kansas City, we visited back and forth. I worked a Ren Faire booth with her more than once. But as life happens, we lost touch. Still, every time I’d see chain mail, I’d tell folks about this nice chain mail artist I used to know. Imagine how I felt when I wandered into the Enchanted Chains booth and saw Melissa standing there! We were both thrilled. (She hadn’t been entirely sure if the “Phaedra Bonewits” in the program was her Phaedra :-) Who knows, maybe I’ll wind up in costume again somewhere.

Each of the beautiful Florida nights was capped off with a fine bonfire and drum circle. I’ve been going to bonfires for many a year, but since I hurt my back in ’98, I’ve seldom done more than a token circuit or three around the perimeter. Now my back’s a bit better, but I have felt all too aware of being older, grayer, and heavier than I was the first time I danced a fire. But at Patrick’s urging, I gave it a go once again. What the heck, it’s Beltane, right? And you know, it felt pretty darn good. Besides, if us old-timers don’t set the example, what can we expect from them young ‘uns?

Did I mention I had a lot of great mead?

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Beltane Meditation

This is my first Beltane without him.

When I talked to my mother about being a widow (dad died in 2005 at the age of 83) she said the firsts of anything were the hardest. The first birthday, the first Yule, the first New Year’s Eve, our wedding anniversary, that first, awful Samhain, yeah, they were hard. But this is my first Beltane as a widow.

I’ve been single on Beltane before. Then, Beltane was joyful and free and full of possibilities. Then, I was younger. And thinner and not so grey. And there was Isaac, somewhere on the edges of possibility (Isaac was a “could it be possible?” for me from almost the time I understood Beltane.)

Now, I am acutely aware of being single, very single. I am a polyamorous woman later in life with no one in my life. I have friends, and old friends, and even old lovers, but no one as a part of my life right now. And that’s ok, most of the time. But this is Beltane, and I am for once acutely aware of it.

Over the last almost-nine months since he died (I had to count to be sure; perhaps it’s a good sign that I no longer automatically know how many months it’s been) I’ve talked with a lot of widows and widowers. It’s a club, I call it, the Widow(er)s Club. It’s like having been in a war zone; someone else can understand widowhood intellectually, but only someone who’s been there really gets it like you do. It’s a club of which I hope, dear reader, you never find yourself a member.

But I learn stuff from other members of the widow’s club. I learn I can keep going. I learn my partner has died, but I have not. I dream of an invitation to Yoko Ono’s birthday party, and I wake to remember that she has kept going for more than thirty years (thirty years!) since she lost the great love of her live. I can make it through Beltane. Yesterday, I finished reading Patti Smith’s memoir of Robert Mapplethorpe, Just Kids. She lost her first great love, and her second, Fred “Sonic” Smith. But she keeps going. I can make it through this Beltane. I made it through Samhain, I made it through New Year’s, I made it through Valentine’s Day, I can make it through Beltane. It’s hard, but I can make it.

Beltane is the start of summer in my half of the planet, and may it be a full, rich, fecund summer. May babies be strong and crops be abundant and happy couplings begin and ripen. May maypoles be wrapped with joyous wishes and may the dancers find what they desire. May what needs to begin, begin and grow stronger. May what needs to end, slip away with dignity. May the bonfires be bright, and life go on with all its vigor.

The Gods took his life, but left me mine. May I have the strength to live it to the fullest.

Blessed Summer to you all.

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Tall Tales of Texas

April is almost over but I’ve yet to write about the Great Texas Trip. I wouldn’t want any of the terrific people I met out west to think this reflects poorly on them; it’s simply a reflection of the distractions I found when I got home.

The saga starts in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, where I was the guest of Sacred Journey Fellowship. My old friend David Pollard, who was once on the CUUPS board with me and is currently president of CUUPS, is active with this Unitarian Universalist congregation. The Fellowship has been around for many years, and has been known by many names, but in its current incarnation in Garland, Texas, it is unabashedly Earth-centered. I almost wrote unabashedly Pagan, but you know, they say Earth-centered and far be it from me to redefine someone else.

Saturday I presented a daylong workshop that I like to call Propping Up the Magic, all about the use of magical tools. The space was great, and the participants enthusiastic. I’ve done this workshop in much more limited time frames, an hour or two, but it was wonderful doing it over a whole day, much more like what I’d envisioned. It’s intense work.

On the next morning I did the “sermon” at Sacred Journey’s Sunday Service. This one was hard. I talked about Isaac and his legacy. We used a recording of his Hymn to Bridget as an intro; terribly appropriate since Bridget was Isaac’s patroness and is the Fellowship’s patroness for this year. However, hearing him sing is hard for me. I never know quite how I’ll react. This time, as I am wont to do, I cried. Not a great way to start a speech, but I muddled through. Dave P. recorded the talk and put it on the CUUPS podcast.

I had a couple of days off after that, but had to spend part of that time fussing at the hotel chain where I was ensconced. I didn’t travel with my antique, weighty laptop, so was happy to find public computers in the hotel’s business center. One little problem, though; they were running blocking software on it. I tried to access the site for Chrysalis Moon, where I’ll be speaking in July, and found it blocked as an “Alternative Spirituality/Occult” site. Displeased. Tried to access my blog. Blocked: “Alternative Spirituality/Occult”. Very displeased. (I could, however, get into the Council of Magickal Arts website — go figure. Heads up, CMA, apparently you are neither “alternative” nor “occult”. Who knew?)

I immediately shot off a nasty gram to their customer service department, pointing out that “Alternative Spirituality/Occult” people travel for business, too. I have not yet gotten a satisfactory reply, as the local franchisee is trying very hard to weasel out of a “religious discrimination” charge by saying the sites might have been “Social Networking,” which they block (Why, I can’t imagine. If you want to keep your employees off FB, that’s your privilege, but travelers?). However, I do not intend to let the matter drop. “No one else has ever complained,” they said. Well, dear ones, someone is complaining now.

(No, I’m not going to rat out the chain or hotel here, at least not while we’re still in dialog. I will, however, tell all if I can’t get this resolved to my satisfaction.)

That said, the time was otherwise restful. I had a comfy room with a big TV, which was a novelty since I haven’t had television since I left New York state last November. Although after half a year, one thing had not changed — 57 channels and nothing on.

From DFW, I headed down to San Antonio on Tuesday for my workshop Internal Tarot, sponsored by the San Antonio Pagan Alliance. Another one of my favorite workshops, this one looks in detail at the iconography of the Major Arcana, with meditations to develop a relationship with the cards. Again I was gifted with a nice long time slot, and a great roomy space in the community room at Heimdall’s Bridge. Support your local metaphysical shops, folks. They’re a rare breed and you will miss them when they’re gone.

I had time on Wednesday to hang out with Lyssa, my San Antonio host, and to have dinner with Dydan from the SAPA. Had great vegetarian food downtown at Green. They have a garden in the front yard, so I felt right at home. The zucchini tamales were amazing and I don’t remember ever having refried black beans that tasty.

On Thursday, Lyssa drove me down to the last leg of my trip, The Council on Magickal Arts’ Beltane campout. The Hill country was lovely on the drive, even though they are in deep drought. That cast a bit of a pall on the event, since that part of Texas is under a serious burn ban — no candles, no tiki torches, no campfires, no bonfire. But the spirit of the participants more than made up the difference.

I presented my Ritual Participation Skills workshop and managed to coerce seduce a number of helpers for my Saturday night ritual. I had to do some serious rethinking on it, as it was originally going to be a lead-in to the lighting of the Revel Fire bonfire. Couldn’t do that. So instead, I filked Isaac’s song “Avalon is Rising” to “We’re the Fire Rising” and we became our own celebratory bonfires. It worked, thanks to the many singers, especially the lovely Darwin Prophet and her guitar, who volunteered their talents. I used a lot of Isaac’s music; I hope I did him proud.

And then home.

But I might be back in Texas before too long. Spirit Haven, the CMA land, needs a serious upgrade to their wastewater handling systems (as in, “or else” from county government). CMA stalwarts in Houston are in the early stages of planning a fundraiser for later this year, and I might be on the guest list. Here’s hoping.

But before that, you can catch me at my next stop, the Florida Pagan Gathering Beltane, May 5-8,

For a full list of my travels, check out the Events tag right here on my blog. And If you want me at your event, remember, I can be had.

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International Pagan Coming Out Day, May 2, 2011

As we prepare to celebrate the festival of Beltane, a newer celebration is coming hard on its heels. This year, May 2nd has been designated International Pagan Coming Out Day. Coming right after Beltane, it’s a love fest in its own right, for by coming out, we are affirming our right to love ourselves for what we are.

In honor of the day, a lot of people are sharing stories about their own coming out, but that’s hard for me to do. I’ve never been in the closet, and to be honest, I don’t really get the “in the closet” thing at all. Call me naive, clueless, or bold, but being in the closet about anything never really made sense to me. (Maybe it’s having Mercury in Sagittarius; my normal communication mode is to blurt stuff out.)

But I know my path is not everyone’s. Many people have found their Pagan hearts long before they were willing to share that discovery with anyone else. And many Pagans, just as GBLT folk and other minorities, have lost jobs or children or friends or family just because they were honest about who they were.

Still, in my own heart, I do not believe that living a lie is any nobler than speaking one. A deception is just that. Secrets are seldom safe, and living in fear of discovery is its own kind of hell. I couldn’t do it. If you can, if it’s your choice, well, I’m not going to condemn you for it. It’s your life, your shoes, and your choice. But I couldn’t do it.

When I talk about being out, so many people have said to me, “Well, it must be different where you live. I couldn’t do it here.” “Where I live” covers a lot of territory. I’ve been an out Pagan in Chicago, in Ashland, OR, in Granville (pop. 1500) a rural Illinois town, Greensboro, Kernersville, Durham and Pittsboro, all in central NC, in the suburban upstate NY towns of Nyack and Valley Cottage, and a few other places I’m sure I’m forgetting. I’ve worn pentagram jewelry, had pentagram stained glass in my windows, even got written up in the newspapers and interviewed on radio and TV in all of those places. Oh, yeah, I ran an occult shop Peoria, Illinois. Yep, Peoria.

No one ran me out of any of those towns.

As far as I know, I’ve never lost a job because I was Pagan. (The economy — plus Amazon, Borders and Barnes & Noble– did in the occult shop, not public opinion.) I didn’t have kids in school, although lots of Pagan friends of mine did. All those kids survived. (Isaac’s son, my stepson, went to school wearing a pentagram and a “I’m Pagan–you got a problem with that?” attitude. He survived.)

I do have some family members, specifically some cousins who don’t wish to associate with me because of my “lifestyle.” That makes me sad. I don’t approve of their lifestyle, a rigid Christianity, but I never tried to disassociate myself from them because of it. Heck, I even tried to friend them on Facebook. They declined. I have to think it is their loss.

Friends and lovers I wouldn’t accept if they didn’t accept me as Pagan. What would be the point? A gal once told me she would come out only if she knew that none of her friends would disapprove. What kind of friends are they, I asked her, if they do not want to know the real you? She couldn’t answer. I couldn’t have that kind of “friend.”

What I have gained by being “out” (and in my case about as out as you could be) is so far ahead of what little I might preserve by keeping secrets, I simply cannot imagine having lived any other way.

And I gain not just for myself, but for others. Walking point isn’t easy, but it is necessary. Every time someone comes out, they make it a little bit easier for the person after them. Every time someone lives out, they help making living out commonplace and unremarkable.

You, dear reader, have to make your own decisions. But if you have at all considered the power you would gain by being who and what you are, then I encourage you participate in Pagan Coming Out Day.

You know that thing they say about the Internet, “Information wants to be free”? Our hearts want to be free, too.

Pagan Coming Out Day logoJust do it.

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Me, talking

Logo for Bo on the GoHere’s a fun podcast I did with Bo on the Go (aka Sam Thompson) a week or so before I left for Texas. Part Two should be next month.

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On Henna Hands and True Will

Over the weekend, I went to the Shakori Hlls Grassroots Festival to hang out with my friend Lisa F., one of the dear of folks who at great inconvenience to herself helped me pack up and move house from New York to North Carolina. She does facepainting at events, so I was able to hang out at her booth, people watching and listening to some great music.
Henna tattoo on Phaedra's hand

On Saturday morning, Sam, the henna artist working with Lisa, did a henna tattoo for me. I chose the design and the placement on my right hand as a magical act to help me focus on some project that need completion. I won’t be able to look down at my right hand without remembering I have the power to create.

As Sam worked, I told him I could never do henna art because my hands aren’t that steady. He looked at me for a long moment. “My hands aren’t steady,” he said. “You just have to understand your shake.”


Just last week as I was commenting on T. Thorn Coyle’s blog post about desire and will, I was musing on the idea of True Will. True Will, as I was taught and have grown to understand, is knowing not just what you want, but the tools that are at your disposal that would enable you to get it.

I have to understand not just what I desire, but what talents and abilities–and limitiations–I have to bring to the realization of that desire. For example, I could desire to become a prima ballerina, not with some neighborhood storefront, but with a world-class company with which I would be able to dance feature roles with amazing partners. It’s a nice dream. However, I’m fifty-nine years old, and have no background in dance, much less ballet. Thus, no amount of application and practice, no matter how much sheer will I bring to the effort, is going to make that happen.

But let’s say, by some freakish stroke of fortune, I discover that in spite of years of ignorant neglect, I have a true ability to dance. And I find with application of will and lots of hard work, I am approaching a prima ballerina level of artistry. I’d still have to face that I will never be a prima ballerina. Why? ‘Cause there’s not a dance company on the planet that’s gonna hire and feature a ballerina in her sixities. Ain’t gonna happen.

In order to be acting in accordance with my True Will, my goals should take in my talents, my limitations, and the world in which I live. In that world, 60ish-year-old ballerinas are gracefully retiring from Prima roles, not beginning to dance them.

Does this mean I should not try to dance, or to become the best dancer I could be? Not necessarily. If I love it, and can do it (the latter in my case being questionable) I could profitably pursue it. But my final goal should be more realistic than Prima Ballerina.

I gotta understand my shake. Then I’m doing my True Will.

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Druidism Book is Back!

book cover for Bonewits's Essential Guide to Druidism

Amazon has stock right now of Isaac’s hard-to-find but indispensable Bonewits’s Essential Guide to Druidism, which has been out of stock (although never officially out of print) for a couple of years, now. I don’t even have any extra copies.

Get ’em while you can!

And while you’re at it, send a thank you to publisher Kensington/Citadel (, who have been nagged by many fans (some even started a Facebook page) who wanted this available again.

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