Month: March 2016

OK, you can stop messaging me about Marc de Pascale

It’s getting creepy.

Every so often I am getting notes on this book review I wrote in 2010. It was about a spell book  titled Book of Spells that I picked up from Powell’s books.. Since it’s an old school occult book it did not have the “proofs of legitimacy” that modern spellbooks do – i.e. some background about the author, bibliography, etc. Since the author claimed that multiple spells were of Romany origin – almost as popular a claim among American fringe types as claiming Native American heritage – I am obligated by the standards of my day to see if I can verify this. I have been unable to.

Once in awhile, I have been getting emails informing me that he was an astrologer (I knew that… it said that on his books. But was he a FULL TIME astrologer or did he, like most magic workers from now and forever have to work a different job in an additional field for steadier income?) and a recent one stating that he was murdered in 1980.

These tidbits are NOT in any way actually helpful.  Why? You are not giving me anything I can verify through a third party that we both trust. A personal friend also commented that she knew exactly who this guy was – that he was a famous psychic several decades ago.  I can find books on Amazon, Alibris, and so on – but I can’t find any of this once common knowledge about the author. Without that third party verification, it’s not even possible to write a Wikipedia article about this guy.

I am trying to run a responsible blog here. Yes, it’s mostly opinion – but I am still a journalist at heart and in practice. Even those guys are held liable for distributing bad information. (I have often had “opinion” writers argue with me that this isn’t true. This usually happened after they’d done something unconscionable…which, to their surprise, always was legally actionable..)  I can’t just take random email notes at their word. I am much too old to accept any kind of authority blindly.

If there are people who genuinely knew and loved Pascal, who might want his memory preserved and have the news clippings etc. to substantiate his story, that would be wonderful.

My interest in de Pascale is strictly a means of checking the veracity of what he wrote in his spell book. By this time I have used a few of his spells … and I’m satisfied that they are constructed in a sound symbolic system and they do work, even if I am unsure of what culture really originated that system.

So far the most verifiable information I’ve got is that he was murdered in 1980. And I actually can’t do anything with that.

Here’s why:

1)I do not know if Marc de Pascale was this author’s real name. If there is a public record of his death, as there would be in the case of a homicide, I would definitely need that name. I am told by a personal friend that it happened in the Phillipines which may be part of the problem.

2)It has been intimated but not confirmed that he lived in New York City. OK, are there any well known occultists around now that knew him in the day that could confirm this? Someone I could seek out on my own to say “Hey, did you know this author/astrologer?”

3)1980 is not enough data to verify a homicide. Where did this happen? What was the exact date? Without those two data points plus a real name I have no way of checking that information.

Since most data has come from unsolicited emails, I am leery of responding to any.  If you really want me to track this down, please tell me when he was born, who knew him that I might be to speak with directly, the when and the where. I am a stranger to you and you to me – these bits of verification are how we build a bridge.

Please note: this has no relationship to my profound irritation with the “prove you’re initiated enough” crap circulating many Wiccan communities these days. For starters, what I speak of above is verifiable facts – not password encoded human opinion.

Gender, like opinions, needs to be a little fluid

People like great things – cars, rivers, cities – like they’re female. That’s OK. Lots of people blindly think mothers are the absolute best, plus we live in a culture of female objectification, ergo object plus motherhood = presumed female gender of an ostensibly inanimate object. Works great on cars, all bodies of water, and even cities.

That’s fine if that’s how you see the world. But for people like me – people who experienced “mother” as an untrustworthy, vicious being to duck at every opportunity – are unlikely to apply the female gender to inanimate things we like or love. It’s not about partriachy, or if it is,  it’s not conscious. It’s jus that some things often referred to as female just seem… I dunno, male, to me.

Most Pagans: the Mother Mississippi

Me: Old Man River, the Mississippi.  (on the same page with Mark Twain)

Most Pagans and former San Franciscans: She’s a harsh mistress

Me: Handsy motherfuckin’ priest

Most Chicagoans: City of broad shoulders, an old workman

Me: That is one raging, PMS-ridden city

Most People: Oh, my car, she’s a good ol’ jalopy

Me: Who you callin’ she? All my cars are boys. Except the Ford Escort. Ford Escorts always thought of themselves as mares.

cats and dogs image

This could rapidly devolve:

“Well I think it’s female and there’s no point arguing…” Who was arguing? I wasn’t arguing, but clearly someone thinks something as arbitrary as gender – and yes, gender is arbitrary, a set of social choices and assignments unfairly extrapolated from genitals without any legitimate corroboration – needs defense. Because if we don’t know what inanimate objects are male and female, cats and dogs sleeping together! Chaos!

“But why do we need labels???” Often, we don’t, but we need time to reset our styles of communication since our brains get wrinkled in specific patterns by all that gendered acculturation.

“You hate trans people!” One or two, possibly, but I assure you it has less to do with their transitive state and more to do with actual urine in my Fiber One.

-pic by Diana Rajchel Theo investigates my work
-pic by Diana Rajchel
Theo investigates my work

Gender began as a metaphor among magical people for projective and receptive polarities. Somehow certain groups ((*cough* old-school Wicca *cough*)) somehow began interpreting this as everything having to be boy-girl-boy-girl. If you’re only intent involves a satisfyingly sex-driven fertility cult with lots and lots of babies as the product, this makes sense. However, if you are less literal minded  – or say, want to make stuff besides babies and gigantic crops – a non-gendered or variety gendered way works better. Everyone can take a turn being a vessel or being what fills the vessel (and thus you end up feeling a bit like a vessel at the end of it – sort of like passing fluid back and forth, which may explain why some people are kind of stuck on the mechanical sexual imagery, come to think of it…) Like being right or left handed, some people may be better at one than the other – but most people really do have capacity for both. ((Don’t you dare relate this to bisexuality. Not. the. same. godsdamned. thing.))

Now, for people who were like me at the beginning, let’s answer this:

OK, so gender fluidity is just a metaphor to explain being projective or receptive when working with magical energies. Great, so what do I do with it?

Mostly you look at your personal practices and figure out which you’re doing – are you projecting an energy into the universe – or are you receiving an energy from the universe? Your genitalia has little relevance in these operations unless the working involves factual physical fertility.

For example, a protection spell,  a glamor, and an attraction spell all act as projectors. They would be classed as “male” energy even though the last two often fall into what culture assigns to the female identified.

On the other hand, an abundance spell, divination, meditation, and at least self-healing all quality as “receiving” practices. You must be in a passive/receptive state for these things to arrive.

Gender… it’s fluid. It also sometimes referred to as fluid. But really it’s all just a metaphor.

Gentrification is Coming: a backpost #throwbackthursday

Note: this post was drafted while I still lived in Northeast Minneapolis. At the time I was embroiled in my move to the Bay and in the completion of the Mabon and Samhain Sabbat essentials books, so consequently this post got tabled. I post it now as a base of comparison – I now live in San Francisco, at the furthest edge, and I watch and wait for the spread of gentrification to reach me, or what I suspect is really a second wave of gentrification.

photo Minneapolis 2013 - taken by Diana Rajchel
photo Minneapolis 2013 – taken by Diana Rajchel

A freshly opened cafe somehow managed to wrest a liquor license away from the halal meats powerhouse of the Twin Cities metro. Two shops in direct view of this new, liquor-serving cafe’s plate glass windows feature a soon-to-be florist/candy shop and a Tae Kwon Do school that will replace the Mercado where I used to buy entire bags of avocados. In between remain faded store fronts of still functioning businesses, most geared toward the non-English speakers that bus or drive down Central Ave on their way to and from Brooklyn Park. Brooklyn Park is the poor suburb, the one people go to to get started or to take a step up from what looks to outsiders like relentless violence in North.

We all knew it was coming. The gentrification began in 2002, the year I moved into the Creamette Lofts under Section 42, fresh from divorce and abandoned graduate school. It wasn’t the renovated warehouse, but the new construction, aimed at young professionals like myself, barely affordable to me and not at all affordable to the original residents. At the time I could see artist homes at the edge of parking lots and near basements, weird hangers on from days of rent control or out of some sort of landlord kindness or absenteeism.I was part of the second push, the one that drove out the artists.

Before the artists it was warehouses, derelict, neglected in a wave of suburban popularity from the 1970s. When the flour mills burned down, a fire likely started by a homeless person unaware of the explosive power of residual flour, no one had worked in the building for decades. There was no dent to be made on the economy. Some boy going through some nihilist punk rock phase took me on a date to see the ruins when I moved to the state around 1996. I remember, vaguely, steel girders and blackened ruins.

Then people moved back – first the punks, then the artists, then me.

I have been here about a decade – a decade since real estate developers and the housing bubble drove all the artists from the Warehouse district to Nordeast, and then to Near North, and now a little bit to the dreaded and spoken of if in hushed tones North Minneapolis. It’s been a  decade since I have been handed flyers for funky gallery openings and showings above the Imperial Room by mussy-haired boys, many of whom also carried a guitar for no clear reason.

They took over the buildings in Northeast. Studios, unsuitable for living conditions, sprouted up in ramshackle railway stations, in buildings once used to make coffins; sturdy widgets all outsourced to China have given way to paints and clay, acrylics and jewelry – supplies,all too often, still ordered from China.

The Korean restaurant on the corner of Central and 22nd got a make over and now nestles almost primly next to a Mayan Cuisine place and an Indian grocery store. On a corner, in direct view of the 2nd precinct station, sits Central Bath and Sauna. The windows are dirty, the shades pulled and yellowed. Today a big sign reads “Open.” Supposedly, it’s a house of ill repute aimed at men of very specific orientations and tastes. A combination of police corruption and outright homophobia is what keeps it open. No one is harmed, really – and no one really wants to know. I have thought of walking in, all 300 pound woman of me, just to see what they do. What if I just want to install a spa? What if I just want a massage, the only happy ending being a paycheck for the masseuse? I don’t care for the business but I don’t object to it either – it’s all adults, and what gives people a way to keep roofs over their heads is okay as long as no one gets physically hurt. The sensibilities or those offended by prostitution for the most part need some injury, or humbling, or a sharp experience with how they themselves have made prostitution necessary.

This is Minneapolis. There will be no moral argument.

I am watching for them to go. When this naughty little bathhouse goes, it’s all over. Gentrification will be here. It will mean something for the Islamic cultural center and the liquor store right next to it, perhaps a cease-fire as they both fight for their fates. I doubt it, though. The Muslims are pretty offended by liquor. The liquor store owner is pretty offended by Muslims.

Eventually that light rail, friendly to the suit-wearing expensive-phone flashers will speed down Central, displacing the bus and connecting the people of Brooklyn Park to the Mall of America with at most minimal time spent in the city itself. The loss of flavor is inevitable, the temptation of convenience, one more piece of life eased, irresistible.

Is this a bad thing? A good thing? Right now Northeast Minneapolis teeters on that very delicate balance of mostly good. The rents are manageable. Families can actually buy property there. People of color mix – although the racist police of Minneapolis are just as much of a problem as are the kids that steal mail looking for gift cards and social security checks. Do I want to lose the affordability and great food? No. Do I want to keep the damn Edison students that start fights in front of the library, circuiting riotously out into the street and oncoming traffic, thinking of their lives as the only show worth watching, their obstacles as the only trials worth removing? No. Do I love the teenagers that litter in front of my townhouse? Hell no. But gentrifying generally doesn’t change the teenager problems – it just brings in more asshole teenagers, but might bring in parents that are Hummer-driver level assholes themselves.

Should I move back to Minneapolis anytime soon, I wonder what I’ll find. Will the mosque still be there, forever interlocked in the mutual struggle of self-importance it dances with the aggressively Christian liquor store owner next door? Will the expanded East Side Coop put some many wealthy hippies on so many damn lawns it’s impossible to sort them out from their chickens? Lowrey is already something of a dividing line, and as  the progress continues, how much more will it divide?

And where do I fall in this, as a white member of the gentry, married well but also an artist who pretty much had to?

I love my neighborhood. I love my happy little townhouse, new, but shared with old-timers, tech workers, hippies, artists, the elderly. I laugh at the chicken coops that spill out in the street, at the weird art pieces that crop up on lawns after every Art-a-Whirl, and god help me, I love the reasons snow gives us to complain even as I am secretly relieved of the burden of seeing anyone as long as it litters the ground. I am what drives out flavor and character, I am what makes it harder for others to have homes, because it’s all about market value and the economic game rather than simple recognition of a need to live. It’s hopelessly complicated, even as I run into cultural conflicts that are less than friendly, less than welcoming, less than safe to me. There is no simple conclusion here – just love for my home and love for those who love it.


Why I dress like a muggle

Pagans as a group are social separatists. Like lots of counter culture and subculture people they like to have their own shops, wear a specific style of clothing and a lot only socialize with each other.

Me, all muggled up
Me, all muggled up

Some of this is a tough call: it is far easier to talk about Pagan spirituality and the consequent lifestyle with other Pagans. “Give me a minute, I have to check on some candles burning I’ve left in the tub,” or “Can’t go out tonight– it’s Ostara,” are things you can really only say to other Pagans without a long explanation having to follow.

Yet there’s a price to too much engagement with the Pagan community: the inability to communicate outside of it. Really it’s not a unique problem – too long with any in-group of any variety and you reduce your ability to connect to anyone outside of it.

My wake-up call happened about 10 years ago. At the time the whole of my social life consisted of Pagans and people I knew from work. I had a very hard time talking to the people from work.

After attending 2-3 parties in a year with heavy non-Pagan presences I found myself unable to talk about things besides witchcraft and RPGs. This embarrassed me. It also made me think – really think – about the role and purpose of my own practices. I had excluded myself from real friendships. Sure, I could have copped the attitude that they were a bunch of squares, stiff necked about the spirituality of others. But to do so is sheer narcissism. These people were plenty interested in me and really, I them. They just weren’t interested in the Pagan part of me.

It is possible to accept a person’s spiritual life without wanting to know more about it. It’s actually rather important to do so. It’s the best way to avoid sinking into the mentality that  the only true way a person can understand a religion is by converting to it. I’ve seen it said by certain rather controlling religious groups, Pagans among them. It’s a crock. It is possible to genuinely understand a religion and not convert to it. That is not, alas, what most people do – thus the weird religious bigotry issues we have that end in Highlander “there can be only one” spiritual warfare.

As it was, I realized I had to cultivate some interests outside of magic and Paganism. I was already running into the situation that very few of my Pagan peers had any interest in magic in the same way that I am interested in it. So I spent a few years frustrated by that, and then I moved to San Francisco where actual magical practice is common.

I also started cultivating friends outside of Paganism. Those not as close to me have no idea I’m a witch. It’s not something we really need to talk about – because it’s not the only thing I am. Others that might know I’m witchy may not know I am a Doctor Who fan, or that I write poetry or that I have an interest in vegetarian cooking even though I am not vegetarian. I’m a bit useless on politics – even the much celebrated DOMA strikedown looks like a manipulation and distraction to me (although it backfired in a most gratifying way.) Mostly I sidestep it – far too many people keep presenting their opinions to me as facts and it’s the political version of the religious situation I referred to above.

I have done so much to cultivate my outer resources that I have  very few people left in the Pagan pocket of my life. Of those close to me, none are Wiccan. This is in part because the way Wicca was practiced in the Twin Cities felt itchy and wrong to me- and I am not in any position to lead a coven and do it my way. I have gone to the Coffee Cauldrons and meetups, to the public festivals and rituals – and left dissatisfied. It isn’t that those rituals are bad or wrong. They are just wrong for me. I’ve been told by others many times that they have no interest in what I wish to pursue. I am fine with that. But then I get pressured to pursue spirituality in a way that others want me to – and that’s seriously not OK.

I would rather just have my Pagan pocket be empty of spiritual brethren than feel like I have to conform my spiritual practice to what makes someone else comfortable.  I’ll be thrilled if I do meet someone on the same page with me.

You don’t need everyone for everything

Here’s the thing about community: for it to function, you don’t need everyone. This is especially true in the case of organizing functions.All you need are the right people to work with you – and by right that means willing, able, and from a cooperative mindset.

Especially among Pagans, that’s not everyone. That’s just the right ones, for the right things, at the right times. And that is totally okay.

There’s a whole bunch of values around participation across Pagan religious groupings – just as there are a bunch around, say, voting and active citizenship. But the US carries (or limps, depending your views of the day) on with its mere 40 – 60% of voter participation. The same is true of the Pagan community, along with the carry on/limp on perspective. Because it’s still small-ish – but not that small, or we wouldn’t be able to depersonalize our celebrities to the degree that we do – we also see more burnout and breakdowns than we might if we did have full participation and more people that continuously embraced new organizational methods and checked their goal alignment on a regular basis.

Right now there’s a division mentality – polytheists versus Wiccans (who are mono, duo, and poly sometimes when you ask the same one), solitaries versus group members, LGBTQ versus the straight, cisgender, etc.  As you set your filters to progressively more narrow types, you also can develop some tunnel vision about what is really possible – and who you actually need to do it. People are very busy looking

For example, a few years ago I pointed out that more Pagans are around who have completely dissociated with the counter-culture aspect of the movement. The natural consequence of this is a desire for infrastructure. While its growth has slowed in recent decades, Pagan paths remain a strong choice, so much so that there is some sort of representation in any major city, best assessed by the presence of an occult shop. Occult shops either stick around for decades or are unstable, delicate things – and the Pagan community, as it grows, has more situations where a real infrastructure is necessary.

By infrastructure, I don’t mean churches. Pagans don’t do churches and don’t need to start – sure, temples here and there are fine, as long as they’re honest with themselves about the unavoidable cult aspects of the whole thing. When I say infrastructure I mean other, larger, more stabilizing entities – such as colleges (Cherry Hill Seminary is a good start), nursing homes, hospitals, cemeteries, crisis shelters – and in order to make these things happen, charitable foundations. Yes, those ridiculous muffy fundraisers where someone auctions off a buttcheek for charity actually have a societal purpose. I have, more than once, advocated the start of a charitable foundation – and someone else clearly had the same idea, since San Francisco Bay Area has the Pantheon Foundation, a collective of Pagan traditions that actually collects funds for all-Pagan interests such as protecting people from religious bullying in school (via the Tara Webster Foundation) and the Diotima Prize, a scholarship for one Pagan student to pursue a degree related to studies of benefit to Pagan causes (usually history/folklore these days.)

When I have proposed this idea, however, I generally recieved near-panic, followed by “it will never happen! All people will do is shoot their mouths off!” when I mentioned the idea to Pagans who at the time garnered a lot of attention and even made partial livelihoods from bemoaning the state of Paganism.  I understood in that moment that all the person who said that would do is shoot her mouth of, telling me not to invite her into any such projects in the future.  She also tried to frame such a concept according to the idea that absolutely all Pagans, everywhere, had to be in support of such an idea or it would never work.

Now that is a load of crap. I can’t think of any one project or activity that all Pagans everywhere fully support – and yet stuff still happens. Universal approval isn’t necessary to make things work. The idea that you need permission, especially when you are NOT part of a coven or group that might have a say in what you do, is a manipulation, a form of group oppression.

That’s fine. I can mark – and ignore – the people that think I need their permission.

You don’t need everyone to make things happen.

You just need the right ones.

Minneapolis Folks – my Paganicon Schedule!

This month looks to be as hectic as last month – I’ve been prepping workshops, practicing, and trying to squeeze writing in around all of it in between tarot readings and baby steps towards having a life out here in the Bay.

All the same, for four days or so I’ll be coming back to my home base of Minneapolis on St. Patrick’s Day, both for teaching a workshop at Eye of Horus and then on to the Doubletree in St. Louis Park for all my Paganicon official activities!

So while this may be subject to change (or overlap) here is my schedule. If you wish to schedule a private reading at a time I am not explicitly scheduled please contact me!

Thursday, March 17
Divorce and Handparting: a Self Care Workshop
7 pm at the Eye of Horus, admission is $25
Register here

Friday, March 18
Magic as a Creative Path: Corralling Crazymakers – 4:00 pm
For folks registered at Paganicon, learn about handling people forever giving you reasons not to move forward in spiritual and magical practice.

Saturday, March 19
Magic to Get on with Your Life – 9:00 am

Stuck? Oversensitive? Obsessed? Use these spellcasting basics and a few (dozen) mental tricks to move forward, whether you’re short of time, patience, or cope.

Book Signing11:00 am – 11:45 am
Stop by with your copy of Divorcing a Real Witch or one of your Sabbat Essentials series and I’ll sign it. Ask all the questions you like. I have no guarantee of straight answers, but you can certainly ask them.

Tarot Readings 12:00- 2:00 pm
Stop by the divination room and get a reading and/or coaching session from me at a special weekend rate.

Sunday, March 20
Numerological Spellwriting
Learn to use numbers for better spell construction and chants. Experiential, with a demo followed by a heavy focus on writing.

There is even more to come – workshops, projects, tarot, and more. Sign up for my newsletter to be kept up to date!

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Holes in the Pagan Tapestry: Errata in our interweavings

*note: I swear a lot. Some of this will be hard for some readers not to take personally, and some will think I have a lower IQ than I actually do because honesty tends to give me a foul mouth.


Most of you don’t know me. It’s not that I haven’t been part of the Pagan community – I have, very much so. I have done it strictly on my own terms, and my terms have involved flying under the collective radar until very recently. I don’t do the campouts. Until recent years I haven’t had the funds for workshops and cons. I will go to roughly one public ritual a year, and often I choose going to a movie or any other social event possible instead. Why? Public ritual of late feels a little too much like hookup culture – a lot of you want me to get spiritually naked with you before we’re on a middle-name basis. You demand to know who trained me, as though dropping names makes a difference. You insist that nothing I learned on my own can have merit.

I can’t imagine dating in a Tinder world, and yet I often feel like that’s what I’m doing in the Pagan world every time I venture into community.

OK, you think, so why are you claiming to be a part of the community when you do zero things I personally define as community? You don’t participate. You haven’t dropped any names of people that have trained you. *I* don’t know who you are.

To this, I smile politely, but you can see the Go fuck yourself  in my eyes.

We are at odds now, because I consider YOU to be what’s wrong with the Pagan community these days.

I generally don’t present my spiritual biography to people because it comes out pretty fast over a short time anyway. I tell stories. I reference myself. I am US-American, it’s what we do. This time I need to show all the goods up front so you understand why I’m saying what I’m saying, where it comes from, and exactly why I not only think the “drop a name and vouch for me” system is bullshit, it is actually a means of endangering the Pagan community. If I’m going to write a series on resolving the smaller and larger leadership problems in the Pagan community, it’s best you know what experiences prompt me to see and sense these things.

Who am I, how dare I, and why?

Who I am

My name only means something to a few of you, those that have worked with me, for the most part. Since at least one of 3rd degree initiations was from an oath bound group – and oath bound usually eliminates the ritual of ultimately meaningless name-dropping – I’ll throw this up: I am a 3rd degree Wiccan priestess in the Shadowmoon tradition. For some of you, that just means “Wiccan, and could run a coven if so desired.” To the more self-important of you that have confused your religious experience with Vatican-level authority, at this point you’re too busy having a tantrum because I am not Gardnerian or Alexandrian, will flip you the bird if you use the insulting “NeoWicca” on me, and then will return to a tantrum questioning my character and legitimacy because apparently my actions mean far less to you than the names available to me to drop. If it will shut you up enough to actually think, I now have a lineage to Janet Farrar through equally unpopular means.

My personal philosophy of interaction

  1. The one is not the all. No one person or one experience represents the whole of anything else.
  2. Courtesy and sincere curiosity matter.
  3. The Pagan tendency towards celebrity worship is a disease that’s only getting worse.
  4. Do not expend energy on useless debates. Save it for debates that actually serve a purpose and are constructed so that people are bringing out information others need to know. Such debates are rare, and really only happen for the greater good in small, personal groups rather than in larger communities.
  5. What you do matters far more than what you write. Bloggers aren’t the great deciders of what Paganism is and isn’t, no matter how many followers invest in them.

My resume

This is the real meat of sussing a person out. The smart among us don’t give a shit what initiations you have or what famous person conferred it. We care what you actually do. That adage about past behavior being the best indicator of future actions – it’s very true. So we watch for it.

Here are a few highlights of my past behaviors/interactions with the Pagan community that should speak for themselves as to why I’m writing this series:

The Authorial Angle

Since publishing is, unfortunately, the standard of “importance” in Paganism, over and above actual hands on contribution:

  • I have written for Llewellyn Annuals since 1999. While many are with reason critical of Llewellyn, the annuals have held up pretty well and changed alongside the community. Also there is a reform movement afoot at that publisher, which is good since they’re still the main publisher of topics for occult practice in the world.
  • I have published one book on Paganism and divorce – that was met with suspicion and scrutiny during the research phase by the collective Pagan public, revealing that a)we have some messed up taboos around divorce and b)people are right to be cautious but are using all the wrong measures to enact caution.
  • I have two books coming out with Llewellyn in 2015 or 2016, on Mabon and Samhain respectively. There will be people that read them, and people that are unable to recognize that publishers change with more ease than people.
  • I’ve been a book reviewer for fellow Pagan author Lisa McSherry’s site FacingNorth for many years. Before that I reviewed for the Beltane Papers. She and I have a friendship going back almost two decades now. Look – a name drop!

The Direct Involvement Angle

  • In 1997 I co-founded the MSUPagan society. Except for a brief period in 1999 when I graduated/married my first husband I ran it continuously until 2002. For that time we were often the only consistent welcoming source to area Pagans of all ages and experiences. There are festival movement folks that live or lived around Mankato, Minnesota who can attest to my involvement.
    • This included running one of the first Pagan Pride events, and yes, going on television. It also involved giving the TV producers at the Mankato station hell when they cut pieces of the Craft into the report.
    • Over the years, I granted interviews, developed intro FAQ material for reporters (my journalism degree helped me to know what they were really looking for and to take a non-combative approach to the media) and acted as a source of welcome to those who wanted to investigate Paganism.
    • Yes, I taught some classes, usually at a tiny metaphysical shop in Mankato downtown. Alas, divorce swept that away fast.
  • I had my first third degree conferred in 2000. I was 25.
    • I am aware these days that is considered a “very young age,” for a third degree and my high priestess at the time said she decided elevate me solely because I was already doing the community work. Others since have pointed out that Gardner and Alexander both elevated young women in their 20s. I was perhaps at that age less nubile, but just as capable if not as poetic as the likes of Valiente and Crowther.
  • In 2002, divorce led me to a relocation, and that led me to working with the University Pagan Society at the University of Minnesota. I was not a student and did not assume a leadership role, though I frequently stepped in as a presenter and advisor when stuff might have otherwise fallen apart. As happens in non-ritual Pagan groups, it ended up being a de facto service for the entire Pagan community since the only other choices required direct ritual commitment. I worked with them until 2006; at that point not enough students were involved to allow for group continuity and it died. (I am told that the president at the time of its demise blames me for its death. No one credible seems to support her contention.)
  • From 2004-2006 I served as the Twin Cities Pagan Pride Volunteer Coordinator. At that time, the festival was the largest of its kind in the world. In the first year, the board members were shocked that I got people to show up. I was shocked that was all it took to appear impressive. The second year, I got 100 Pagans to show up for their volunteer posts. I quit in 2006 because the ambition and scope for what the organization wanted to do exceeded what my health could handle, and because an ugly subtext of “bringing me under control” had started appearing with a few of the people I worked with.
  • In 2010, after a few years away from much community madness, I began working with the Pagan Newswire Collective, Minnesota. It gave me an opportunity to work with someone who understood the tenets of good journalism (Cara Schulz) and to blow some dust off my mass communications degree. In 2011, I was named Executive Editor to the international Pagan Newswire Collective, before Jason Pitzl dissolved the central grouping last year. The project was ambitious in scope and some independent PNC bureaus still exist. I did not have the time I wanted to to commit to training people in citizen journalism. I hope that I might again someday.
  • I have taught workshops at Paganicon (Minneapolis/Saint Paul) on the Artist’s Way for Pagans, managing the Inner Critic, and using the Cult Danger Evaluation Frame. There are many other workshops I’ve taught at Pagan Prides and at UPS and MSUPagan on so many things that I only remember them when I flip through old notebooks and find the original outlines.

What I haven’t done? Run a coven. Run a circle. Created one ritual event after another. Whatever I’m doing, it’s about connecting spiritual people in concrete ways.

The Overculture Experience

My Pagan life is not separate from the rest of my life. When I say I am urban and integrated, I mean just that. These experiences that I list here are not my entire resume – they are the ones that have most informed and still most inform what I am doing in the Pagan community.

In 1994, working on the campus newspaper at a tiny private college was a condition of a writer’s scholarship. It was a total revamp. Not only did I have to learn old-school journalistic tenets (something that previous editions of that paper had none of), I had to learn how to integrate old styles of thinking with new modes of expression as computers became more and more important. My understanding of what the media has to deal with has long since come in handy when dealing with both the Pagan and the media sides of reporting. I can say from knowing both sides that Pagans shoot themselves in the foot a lot more than they realize, all because they mentally create an adversarial system far more often than they are greeted by one.

In 1996, I rooted myself out from the original school, one of the more heartbreaking things I have ever had to do, and transplanted to Minnesota with bright-eyed thoughts of finding the other Pagans. Instead I found people my own age who were just as confused as I was. I also found myself confronted by a rather cold, difficult culture: I’d been unwelcome before, but Minnesota Unwelcome is what Minnesota Nice actually is. As I became part of the campus and did find friends, I also encountered people that felt Pagan but didn’t know Pagan, despite Mankato State having the most impressive occult collection of any library I’ve seen, including where I am in San Francisco. During that time I worked for a campus radio station, learned the ins and outs of research and rhetoric, and came to know what was available in Mankato better than most of the natives.

In 1998 I also began working as an advocate in a battered women’s shelter. It gave me an up-front understanding of how violence starts (not with hitting, or even with yelling, but in a much more insidious way that looks like opinion but isn’t), and it made me unavoidably aware of things I’d been living with in my own family. Again, I learned more about resources, the system, and where destructive ideologies begin and how they replicate. The ability to recognize abuse has been a skill that has stayed with me.

In 2001 I took on a graduate assistantship where I served international students at my graduate school. My charges were mainly Muslim and Hindu. Take a look at the year – you know what happened. Everything. I took away from this job a unique understanding of how universal ethnocentrism actually is, and an ability to recognize it among Pagans. I also came to understand how divisive and untrue our beliefs about Islam actually are – and how much absolute, hateful, untrue crap Muslim and Hindu people believe about the States (a lot.)

In late 2002, I took a job with a nonprofit that centered on training volunteer managers. One of the perks of my job was that I got to attend all their workshops and see all their research for free. I came away filled to the brim with best practices that combined well with my multi-cultural knowledge. The first place I tried this information out was on Twin Cities Pagan Pride, and holy shit…it worked.

In 2005, I became a floor manager. I learned how to get people to work for me and work for themselves. This carried over into my last corporate job right after this, which was a company that focused on “improving” the employees of other companies. It was just as insane and obstructive as you might think. It also gave me a good way of knowing how unethical things come to be normalized, over and above what I learned about abuse and abuse tactics when I worked as a battered women’ advocate.

In 2007 I started the Twin Cities Doctor Who meetup. Before you dismiss it as a little science fiction club, let me give you a few highlights: we started at 30 members, 3 active. By the time I left in August 2014, we had grown to 959 members, roughly 400 of whom were active at any given time. This included a 50th anniversary party with around 500 attendees. I was the main organizer and decision maker for this entire period of time – organization is now in the hands of my board members. This group met monthly. That’s a lot of hands-on work for a volunteer gig. When I left, it had 50% women members, and an age range from late teens to late eighties. To my knowledge it was also the only woman-run science fiction meetup in the Twin Cities.

So what’s going on now?

I’ve been forcibly relocated to San Francisco, thanks to my partner.  It is not the place it used to be, and not the place many of my friends remember. Too many goat sacrifices on the altar of NIMBY have led to this mess. The San Francisco Bay area also happens to have the largest Pagan population in the United States. Since I am through no doing of my own once again new in town, I am again trying to appreciate the big picture – at least they’re active – with the small holes I suffer from directly as the new witch in town.

This series is triggered by my experiences with the SF Bay area. But what I’m learning – and what I recommend as remedies – all comes from my experiences elsewhere. So now you know who I am and who I think I am to be talking about such things.

So how dare I?

Pretty easily. I’ve had some practice figuring out how to make groups small and large sustainable – and practice doing it wrong and right.

Fine, then why?

Because I do favor a stronger Pagan infrastructure. There are tenets of counter-culture Paganism that aren’t working, either because the culture no longer supports them or because those ideas have been proven by time to be less than effective. In maturity I’ve learned to trust my personal sense of ethics and not confuse refusal to adapt with morality; that right there a far more insidious problem than many people realize and it is key factor in why more Pagans haven’t learned or adapted leadership skills in their community-creation efforts.

Also, the reason anyone does what I’m doing: for myself. I’m in the place US Paganism took the deepest root, and I am seeing massive disconnects between what’s available, what needs to be done, and above all to who has access to it. It runs deeper than social justice issues although that’s a significant part of it, too. Everyone Pagan should have a place to go for simple fellowship – and not only is ritual is not “simple” even in cases where it does offer fellowship, often it’s far less welcoming than its hosts actually realize.

This is why I’m here – to point out what’s right, to mention what I felt was wrong, and to suggest small changes that will make Pagan life easier for everyone. Most of these changes are indeed small, even if the change they make don’t feel that insignificant.

Gods that championed the poor

When the person formerly known as Teo Bishop felt his spiritual calling pulling him away from Paganism and towards Christianity, he wrote a beautiful essay (that I can’t find for the life of me here in 2016) on what  made Jesus stand apart from Pagan gods and why that was important to him. His especial trait was that he championed the poor, and this set him apart  from other gods in other pantheons. This is a wonderful feature of Jesus, one entirely too overlooked by modern political candidates claiming to be Christians and those members of certain churches that think their positions of privilege are some cosmic reward for being so good that they no longer have to try.

But it is not true that he is the only deified figure to actually fight for the poor. Some of this is a matter of timing: most Pagan gods popularly worshiped did come from agrarian cults. They didn’t come from worlds of rich and poor – they came from worlds of survive/die. What affected the harvest affected everyone. Only after cities and land ownership became concepts did poverty and wealth become concepts, and concepts as we know them has changed drastically in the last 200 years.

Rather than poor or rich, ancient Pagan gods that were beneficial served who we would now define as poor: the enslaved, women, and the conquered.

Aradia, the legendary daughter of a more recent goddess Diana, also fought for the poor. While mentioned in the Charge of the Goddess, I’ve never been involved in a ritual that invoked her((though I may have done it and forgotten during my early experimental years.)) But in the history(?) left us by Leland, she also stood as a figure of salvation and a champion to the oppressed – and like Jesus, she had the anointed qualities required of a Christ.

From Aradia, Gospel of the Witches:

I wish we knew more about her.

Dionysus was ultimately a god of the disenfranchised. His cult – including maenads, who I believe to be real people and not fictional characters, included slaves, women, and the extreme poor. While the methods of the cult did not necessarily alleviate poverty, the orgiastic rites were a form of relief. Enough so that I look at modern BDSM culture and wonder if there is a Bacchanalian/Dionysian difference in the menu selection of activities and intent within the subculture.

The entire Orisha pantheon is a source of strength under the oppression of slavery and its modern police abuse equivalents.  They are the living preservation of ancestral memory, of who their descendants were before they were kidnapped and forced to come to the Americas.

Perhaps most famous of all of these is Prometheus, daring to give humanity fire and thus their first step out of enslavement to the vagaries of night and day, cold and raw:

With digging there are likely many other gods across other pantheons; I gravitate to Greece and Rome because that’s who I know and feel comfortable calling upon.