Dec 282012
 

Well, they said that 2012 was going to be the year of radical shifts in consciousness.  This year’s top Pagan quotes all seem to reflect that notion.  These are not the words of happy, comfortable New Agers seeking light and love.  Each one of these quotes challenges the existing paradigm and seeks to light a transformative fire under our collective rear ends.

Star Foster starts off the list by emphatically rejecting the perception that Pagans are simply a strange sect of alternative Christians, explaining in no uncertain terms how we are different from any sect of Christianity.  Crystal Blanton and Michael York both challenged us to go beyond the tempting polarity of Us vs. Them and find a new way of being the inclusive we claim to be, effectively challenging us to put up or shut up.

Dr. Brendan Myers advanced the argument that a previously under-recognized brand of Paganism was coming into its own, stirring up a lot of discomfort for the more theistic element of our community.  Teo Bishop made such a huge splash this year that he appears twice.  First, he underwent a very public coming out process as he wrestled with two public identities. Then he set fire to his own blog by questioning an element of Pagan ritual that many people see as downright foundational.

Add to that elders publicly leaving their traditions of origin, a call for male allies in the national fight for women’s rights, and a little poke at certain Mormon politician, and you end up with a year of Pagan quotes that broke self-imposed molds and stimulated entire new ways of thinking.  Our community is better for it.

As always, these quotes must have been said by people who are known to be Pagans.  Words stated by non-Pagans, even if they were about us, don’t qualify, even if Conan O’Brien brings one of our most revered publications to national television.  Also as usual, these are just what I found.  If I missed something you really liked this year, please feel free to leave the quote in a comment.

With those disclaimers out of the way, let’s get on with the Top 10 Pagan Quotes of 2012:

10. “I reject Jesus Christ. I reject Jesus Christ. I reject Jesus Christ.

There. I’ve said it three times. We’re officially divorced.” – Star Foster, August 2

9. “We judge one another in order to define who is Black enough, spiritual enough, Pagan enough or oppressed enough and we miss the mark on the true gift of our community.  The best gift that we can give is to love more, understand more, empathize more, show more, give more, listen more, connect more and even identify more with those who have experienced this here journey called life.” – Crystal Blanton, February 23

8. “Before I was a blogger named Teo Bishop, I was an artist named Matt Morris. I’ve been doing music since I was a little kid, been a pro since I was a teenager, and up until the last year or two, I’ve done little else.’ – Teo Bishop, July 12

7. “But it is to our shame that we fight among ourselves, drench ourselves in petty jealousies and reflect our worldwide human comrades more than the mother’s sanctity itself.” – Michael York, May 6

6. “I just don’t think the gods, any gods, care at all about politics. I don’t care if that god lives near the star Kolob, once resided in the Holy of Holies, or was worshipped on the Acropolis in the Parthenon of Ancient Athens.” – Jason Mankey, October 18

5. “Humanist Paganism seems to be an emerging option for those who want to be part of the Pagan community, but who want to be a little more intellectual about their practices, and they really don’t care about the “woo” anymore.” – Brendan Myers, August 18

4. “This past weekend I felt ashamed at Pagan Pride on account of a circle.” – Teo Bishop, October 22

3. “I, M. Macha NightMare, Priestess & Witch, aka Aline O’Brien, withdraw from the organization known as Reclaiming Tradition Witchcraft and hereby dissociate myself from further involvement with the tradition.” – M. Macha NightMare, August 4

2. “Don’t worry about the economy so much: as the majority labor force in this country, and the majority in colleges and universities at this time, women will be able to figure things out with the economy once we are able to stop wasting our time on, you know, worrying about being raped or forced to have children who are products of rape.” – Lady Yeshe Rabbit, August 23

1.  “I stand against rape, in person and at the polls.” Pagan men’s response to Lady Yeshe Rabbit’s call for their support against misogynistic election year discourse.

Dec 162012
 

Damh the Bard is a pretty amazing guy.  Aside from holding an important post within the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids, Damh is the host of Druidcast, the most consistent and intellectually stimulating Pagan podcast I know of.  As if that weren’t enough, Damh the Bard is one of the foremost Pagan musicians of recent years.  His music reflects his love for myth, the spiritual power of his native Britain, and beautifully honest homage for the gods of nature.  A good dose of Damh’s music will enhance the spirituality of any Pagan household, regardless of its Pagan tradition.

Last month, Damh released his newest album, Antlered Crown and Standing Stone.  More than any of his other work, this album is devotional.  Playing it feels more like an act of worship than of passive listening, and each song expresses an inspirational spiritual love for the gods and the land and the mythologies that bind us all together.

The title track may well be the most impassioned love song to the Horned God that anyone has released yet.  While Damh has released many pieces that honor various incarnations of the Green Man/Cernunnos/Herne/Horned God (check out his wonderful Green and Grey), this one really comes from a place of pure love.  It is a heartfelt hymn to nature, life, and the God’s walk with us through this life:

I am lover, I am father,

I am Horned God and King,

I’m the life in all of Nature,

That is reborn every Spring,

Call of stag and cry of eagle,

I am Child of Barleycorn,

And I am the Antlered Crown and Standing Stone!

Under a Beltane Sun is an unexpected tune for our most rollicking Sabbat.  Instead of going with the obvious high energy, sexual themes, Damh opts for a poetic homage to the opening beauty of nature that bursts forth every May.  The music is melodic and peaceful, once again emphasizing awe and worship of the cycles of life and the inspiration available in every small piece of the natural world.

Then, the album takes a turn toward the artist’s true love for his homeland.  Brighid honors the three aspects of the Celtic healing and forge goddess.  Branwen’s Lament is a love letter between Branwen and her brother Bran after the god has sacrificed himself to save his beloved sister.  This song does not merely retell the myth.  In fact, it doesn’t retell anything.  Instead, it focuses on the power inherent in the familial bond between the divine siblings as Bran sacrifices his life and kingship to save his sister disgrace:

 

Sister I heard you calling to me,

O’er the Irish sea,

I brought a war to those foreign shores,

For to set you free,

Now I feel I’m dying poison in my veins,

But for you my dear Sister I’d do it again.

Sons and Daughters (of Robin Hood) continues the themes on impassioned love for Damh’s land and his people.  This may be his most overtly political song.  It pointedly accuses Great Britain’s politicians of being power hungry, corrupt, and really not very different from each other despite party affiliations (sound familiar in this election year, fellow Americans?).  Yet, the chorus calls the people of Britain to action, reminding them of their ancestral connection to the world’s most beloved outlaw.  This is an understated call for revolution, and Parliament appears to be the modern version of the Sherriff of Nottingham.

Other songs of note include The January Man, in which Damh follows one man through the course of a year, creating his own mythology of the land as it cycles through a turn of the Wheel.  The Dreaming changes gears a bit, altering the focus to Australia, a land where Damh has travelled as a musician many times.  In The Dreaming, Damh honors the local Land, Sea, and Sky of the Land Down Under.

Here where the land still is king,

Beneath red sand the Ancestors are dreaming,

And a Mother knows which song will be sung,

When a new life has begun.

A serpent made a path across the land,

Formed the rivers and mountains where they stand,

These songs are in the kookaburra’s call,

But she’s laughing at us all.

And the Southern Cross shines down on where I stand,

And I hear the voices from the Singing Land.

Finally, Damh turns back to the core of his Druid roots with the powerful Cerridwen and Taliesin.  The trials and transformation of Taliesin are familiar to any regular listener to Damh’s podcast and anyone who has some background in Celtic mythology, but this song takes a different perspective on a familiar myth.  The core of the myth, the archetypal chase of Gwion by the angry mother Cerridwen, is only one section of this retelling.

The song actually begins with a description of Cerridwen’s suffering at the ugliness of her own son, and the desperate lengths she is willing to go to in order to give him some form of solace for his suffering.  So this time, when Gwion licks his thumb and absorbs the Awen that was brewed out of love for her son; we feel her pain, anger and suffering.  When we finally get to the chase, a part of us roots for Cerridwen as she promises to transform into whatever it takes to “tear you from your skin.”  This version of the myth portrays Cerridwen more as a grieving mother than a fearsome hag.

Damh the Bard never fails to come out with new, fresh, excellent Pagan music.  Antlered Crown and Standing Stone is Damh’s version of pure devotion, offering passionate reverence to the spiritual forces within the Earth, within the gods, and within each of us.  If you are looking for the perfect Yuletide gift for a Pagan on your list, I highly recommend this beautiful new album.

Incidentally, Damh the Bard is in the process of trying to organize a Pagan music concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London.  Royal Albert is the Carnegie Hall of the UK, one of the most prestigious venues in the world. A Pagan concert there would represent an incredible new step for alternative spirituality.  If you’d like to support Damh in this effort, check out his webpage and Like the project on Facebook.

 

Dec 022012
 

David Banach, host of the Magick Jukebox podcast, always comes through.  Every one of his shows is a sensuous delight for Pagan ears, showcasing independent Pagan artists who range across all genres and time periods.  He picks great themes, and the musical selections of each episode always go well beyond the standard artists we all seem to know.

This year’s Yule episode is a fantastic accompaniment to your hectic December.  It starts with a few songs that have become Pagan standards – “Yule carols” – of a sort: Damh the Bard’s On Midwinter’s Day and The Christians and the Pagans by Dar Williams.  After that, a wide range of seasonal, spiritual, and fun selections turn the rest of the show into the perfect companion for this season.

Where else can you get Egg Nog No. 5 mixed in with Lord of the Dance, Sesame Street, and Ave Maria?  Even Ding a Ling the Christmas Bell makes an appearance.

Download the show and enjoy it all season!

Sep 152012
 

Ancient Rome is one of the most powerful and influential pagan civilizations in history.  Other pagan societies brought us many things, but Rome seems to have been a nexus for many of the European cultures.  Rome folded the gods of the Greek pantheon into its own religion, but the Greeks had already folded many Egyptian ideas into its own practices.

Of course, Rome and Egypt had a trade relationship which further resulted in cross-pollination of ideas, and Roman soldiers were certain to have brought back any number of practices from their wars with German and Celtic people.  Even military enemies influence each other’s cultures.

For hundreds of years, Rome was the center of the western world both geographically and politically, and it wove large swaths of religious and secular practices from enemies and trade partners alike into the fabric of its own civilization.  Even today, Rome is the center of one of the world’s major religions, the basilicas of which are surrounded by the ruins of one of the most powerful pagan societies in history.  Rome is, in many ways, the historical point around which the western world turns.

Now take this society that was so influential in world history and add the unique take of “history fan” Dan Carlin, whose podcast Hardcore History is riveting and provocative, just the way you wish history had been taught to you in high school.  Carlin describes his own take on history as “Martian” and “outside the box,” yet his show rigorously includes both modern sources and those from the time period he discusses.  It’s a volatile combination, and when Carlin turned his uncompromising eye to the fall of the Roman Republic, the result is a sprawling tale of greed, ambition, sexual intrigue, and bloodshed that puts even the violent HBO series to shame.  Truth is stranger than fiction.

“Death Throes of the Roman Republic” is a panoramic, six-part epic that clocks in at roughly 14 hours long.  It begins with the central theme of “ambition,” normally a good thing to have.  Ambition drives us to succeed, but Carlin describes ambition as the central value of the Roman aristocracy – well above money, fame, or faith.  All of those things are great, but according to Carlin the upper echelons only used them as tools, stepping stones to power and position in the bloody race to outshine your ancestors.

It’s a tale of goals gone wild as each generation’s upper class vies for superiority.  Along the way they pull out as many tools as they can.  Generals risk debt and death to hire their own personal armies to fight unnecessary wars.  Bluebloods with no concept of the average Roman’s life take their case to the people, who somehow back their cause.  Cross-dressing sex scandals threaten to take down the most august names in the republic.  All to achieve notoriety. It’s a tabloid magazine drenched in Roman blood.

Part I introduces the Roman ancestor room, a room in every noble Roman’s house that was filled with sculptures of every ancestor.  These were death masks cast on each corpse’s face just as the lives of the ancestor ended.  The purpose was not so much to venerate ancestors as to remember their accomplishments so future generations could supersede them.  From there, we learn about how Rome’s great war machine both lifted the city-state to preeminent status and planted the seeds for its downfall.

Parts II, III, and IV take the story the generations of political and military intrigue.  From the progressive reforms attempted by brothers Gaius Tiberius and Gracchus to the military exploits of the rivals Marius and Sulla, we begin to see a tapestry sewn with gunpowder.  As Sulla enters Rome with his army and becomes the first dictator, he opens the door to the widespread slaughter of Romans and introduces the idea of dictatorship to a land that prides itself on shared power.

In Part V we begin to hear about the names we know so well: Pompey, Cicero, Cato, and, of course, Julius Caesar.  By this time, ambition is totally out of control and restraint has been destroyed by Sulla’s violent takeover a generation before.  The Roman aristocracy is on hyper drive to succeed and all moral boundaries have already been crossed.  It becomes a game of chicken.

Part VI is an epic by itself.  In a nearly 5 ½ hour episode, Carlin tracks the machinations leading to Caesar’s dictatorship in spellbinding detail.  He brings in ancient sources to describe each and every step of the way while offering modern commentary and historical theory to bring perspective.  In a way the only Carlin can, each character is given life as we come to understand the full color version of their struggles, motivations, triumphs, and tragedies.  Each person’s death, usually violent, is discussed in a beautifully meaningful way that puts their life, work, and contributions into perspective.  Cato’s suicide, for example, is excruciating in its painful detail, yet fully supported by our understanding of the man’s unfailing dedication to his country and his cause.

All of it – all of the deaths, scandals, threats, and destruction – are then brought back to the original theme: ambition.  Carlin suggests that ambition drove the Republic into the mud just as much as it elevated to a world power.  He draws parallels to our society and asks the question: Is our political system fueled more by ambition than by service?  Carlin makes a compelling case, based on historical sources, that we may be heading for the same fate as Pompey, Cato, and Caesar.  One was betrayed, one committed suicide, and one was assassinated.  Are we doing the same?  Carlin leaves it for us to decide.

Dan Carlin defines history as “the autobiography of a madman.”  This amazing series of podcasts certainly backs up his view.  More importantly, it reminds us that history is a living thing, seemingly meaningless when it is lived but with our mistakes glaringly open to hindsight thousands of years down the road.  Carlin’s greatest achievement may be that he helps his listeners feel history instead of just understand it.  What we know with our heads, he helps us touch with our hearts, allowing us to see our own emotions in every step.  In this way, Hardcore History’s “Death Throes of the Roman Republic” connects the hearts of Rome with the hearts of the 21st century world.

 

 

Sep 082012
 

On September 11 from 9:00-10:00 pm EDT, Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary, in conjunction with the Garden State Pagan Alliance, will host a special Internet radio a special program highlighting the Pagan experience of 9/11.  Described as a “special program of remembrance and healing,” the radio show will feature the voices of Pagans who were killed or injured in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks as well as those who lost loved ones, and those who helped with search and rescue, memorials, and healing in the aftermath.

“We are doing this show to aid the remembrance, healing, and renewal process, and to document some of the memories and perspectives of Wiccans, Druids, Heathens, and other Pagans impacted by 9/11,” says Fox. She will be joined during the show by U.S. Navy veterans David and Jeanet Ewing of Potomac Circle Ministries in Virginia.

The producers are still looking for Pagans to share their stories of that fateful day.  If you are a Pagan survivor, rescue worker, or healer with a story to share, they would love to her your story.  You can do this in one of three ways:

(1) * Email written accounts and/or photos to: circle@circlesanctuary.org
(2) * Post story and/or photos: www.facebook.com/PagansHealingSeptember11
(3) * Call in to the Pagan Voices of 9/11 Show on Tuesday night: (347) 308-8222.

 

For more information or to share this special show with someone you know, visit the project’s website.

Click here to listen to the show on September 11, 2012 from 9:00-10:00 pm EDT

 

 

Jul 112012
 

Sadly, news has come today that Dave Grega, co-host of the Pagan Centered Podcast, has passed away at the way too early age of 27.

PCP is one of the most prolific podcasts in the Pagan genre, offering a young and intelligently critical view of our religious movement.  It seems that Dave’s co-hosts plan to release a memorial episode in the near future.  I look forward to hearing it.

Please join me in offering Dave, his family, and his fellow hosts blessings as he continues his journey.

 

May 272012
 

Last week, Mojo and Sparrow at The Wigglian Way Pagan Podcast released their 100th episode.  This is a huge milestone in the land of podcasting, as very few shows are able to make it to 100 episodes.  Beyond that, The Wigglian Way has remained interesting, topical, timely, and entertaining the whole time, another rare achievement over a span of so many installments.  The show retains a five-star rating on iTunes, yet another testament to its quality and durability.

But there is even more to this achievement than the obvious accolades that Mojo and Sparrow deserve for their accomplishment.   The 100th episode of The Wigglian Way is full of recorded messages from all around the Pagan community.  These well-wishes cross traditions, borders, beliefs, and experience levels.  They come from fellow Wiccans, Heathens, ceremonial magicians, and seekers.  They come from the Wigglian backyard of British Columbia, Canada and range as far as Texas, New Jersey, California, Georgia, and Scotland.  Messages of congratulations even come in from other Pagan podcasters, people who, in some genres, would be viewed as competitors.

And that’s the greater point of this milestone.  From the very beginning, The Wigglian Way has been “all about the love.”  In a minority faith, it is so easy to use the platform of a popular podcast to rail against the oppressions of the majority faith.  In a community plagued by witch wars, it can be so tempting to use your public persona to undermine whatever side you disagree with.  But the Wigglians avoid those temptations.  Instead, they broadcast love and inclusion, and the messages they received from all across the Pagan world clearly demonstrate that their love has returned to them more than threefold.

In Epsiode 100 of The Wigglian Way, we clearly see the results of striving toward our ideals.  We are part of a complicated web of faith traditions, and sometimes the differences between us can be difficult to navigate.  Mojo and Sparrow, however, bridge all the gaps among us effortlessly, keeping us moving toward the highest expression of what we are as a community.  In this way, their podcast is more than a show.  It is a service to the Goddess, part of Her Charge, and it stands as a testament to Her presence in this world.  Congratulations Mojo and Sparrow!

May 142012
 

First off, thanks to Juggler Pagan Puff Pieces for giving us the heads-up on this: artist and graphic novelist Alex Alice is preparing the release of  his graphic novel Siegfried- based upon the Wagner opera and the Nordic hero. (So first thing, Pagan Fans, keep your eye out for this beautiful work of Art and Heathen Mythology, in bookstores this summer.) Second: there is an amazing four-minute animation of the work, ravishingly gorgeous and accompanied by Mr. Wagner’s magnificent music, available at YouTube; it’s absolutely stupendous (love those long, slow horns that open it). According to PPP, this animation was a conception-piece intended to publicize the novel; yet (so PPP tells us) is such an impressive work, it is now slated to become expanded into a feature presentation. Based upon the marvelous quality of the short, such a film would be fantastic indeed, undoubtedly a Pagan Classic (don’t know that anyone has tried an animated version of Wagnerian opera before; definitely be a first). Please check it out at YouTube (I’m sure you’ll love it) and thanks so much, Pagan Puff Pieces; please keep sending us stuff that we should know about!

Feb 192012
 

The Elf Knight and the Faerie Queen A very fun thing here at the Juggler is to have talented writers, musicians, or in this case, animators, introduce themselves and their work to us. Celestial Elf apparently is very skilled at creating interesting Pagan-themed animations; above you will find the link to CE’s latest YouTube creation, a gently delightful medieval rendition of Scarborough Fair. As was Scott’s perception before, Celestial Elf’s work is too good to languish in the comments section of the Juggler, to which CE submits CE’s work; unlike Scott, I am not smart enough to figure out how to post a video-clip to the Juggler (once Jason gets back from PantheaCon, I’m going to have to ask him how one does that, because it’s a skill yet unknown to me). Anyway, follow the link above for a really enjoyable medieval vision from Celestial Elf, quickly becoming the Juggler’s official animator, and then check out Celestial Elf’s blog discussing Scarborough Fair in terms of Spenser’s monumental Elizabethan epic The Faerie Queene; it’s very intelligent work, and extremely beautifully illustrated. (Although, Celestial Elf, I regret that I note one small error: Elizabeth became queen in 1558 following the death of her sister, Henry VIII’s older daughter Mary Tudor, known as “Bloody Mary” for her persecution of Protestants. Mary, Queen of Scots, was of the Scottish Stuart line, Elizabeth’s cousin- through Henry VIII’s older sister, who married the Scots king James- executed by Elizabeth in 1587; I’m afraid you have Mary Tudor- Bloody Mary- mixed up a bit with Mary Stuart- the Queen of Scots). A mere caveat- I love your animation instincts; this is excellent work.