The latest Anthology has been released!
The Pagan Leadership Anthology edited by Shauna Aura Knight and Taylor Ellwood published by Immanion Press.
This book is filled with essays written by authors from the Pagan community. Many of them I know and respect both as writers and leaders.
This may seem like a “niche” market book, but I think it has a lot to offer outside the Pagan community as well.
The leadership models in Paganism tend to be more collaborative than hierarchical. The community as a whole is already “outside the norm” and so its members are practiced at stepping away from systems they don’t like. We often tease that leading Pagans is like herding cats!
We demand a great deal from our leadership and vote with our feet. Sure there is hierarchy and there are occasionally cults of personality. Sometimes personal issues and interpersonal dynamics interfere with the effectiveness of a leader in a larger group. But these kinds of issues also play out in corporate and other community settings.
I am proud to be a contributor to this anthology. Although the examples are clearly Pagan, the principles are applicable in any leadership situation.
A Pagan festival is a unique thing. Although there is certainly a sense of costume and play, unlike a Renaissance Fair the players are not acting a part. It is an experiment in tribal living, in being in the world the way we would like the world to be. It is a place where there is no need to hide, or explain, or be afraid of beliefs and practices often misunderstood in the working world.
Teo Bishop was one of the National Guests at this year’s Sacred Harvest Festival. His blog about this experience is posted on The Wild Hunt. We also had music and workshops from Kenny Klein whose views on Faerie, quite different from our whitewashed Disney, were well received. His books on the topic will greatly help the Pagans who work with these tricksy creatures. David Salisbury is another Pagan author and activist visiting the festival from the DC area.
I have known Kenny for over 20 years, but it was really nice to meet in person some of the people I’ve only known through their blogs. Does that count as meeting blogging buddies? It seems different somehow, both because of the nature of a festival and also because the Pagan blogging community is so much smaller than the blog-o-sphere in general. I already know I have more in common with these folks than just enjoying their writing. We’ve friends in common, whether or not we can point to them. There are always fewer than 6 degrees of separation among Pagans.
I wish I had a photo of Teo and Orion. Star Foster (developed the Pagan channel on Patheos and who I’ve known personally for a year) organized an early morning sing. Orion is a morning person and he loves to sing. Me, not so much – at least in the morning. So I made an arrangement with Star to get Orion to her workshop. She sent Teo. Apparently Teo and Orion had a grand time together sharing songs. Orion pulled out his German camp repertoire and serenaded the group with Der Vuglbeerbaam, lyrics adjusted for camp.
Orion and I also had the privilege of picking up Szmerelda when she came in from Chicago. Szmerelda is featured in Crystal Blanton’s anthology Shades of Faith. She is a visual artist and ritualist in the Chicago area. She is also delightful. When I found my tent filled with water the first time it was Szmerelda who jumped in and bailed me out. I had met Szmerelda briefly at Pantheacon in February so it was nice to get a chance to actually spend some time getting to know her.
Sacred Harvest Festival is all about the people. It’s sharing time and space under the beautiful oak trees. It’s talking about our beliefs and practices and plans. I presented a few (three) workshops and that was fun. It was the first time for all three and I find Sacred Harvest Festival a nice venue to try out new things. Got some great feedback too!
In spite of the rain in the tent and the back problems I’m glad we went. It’s revitalizing to make heart connections with people who share a love of nature and spirituality. It’s always a joy to see Orion having a grand time. My campmates and I made good food. I got treated like a queen visiting Cara’s camp at happy hour. (Her book is Martinis and Marshmallows: A Guide to Luxury Tent Camping.) And you know from last week I got packed up and sent off without a fuss. Now the back is slowly healing and the memories are only fond.
The idea of the fool is an old one. In modern times the word implies a lot of things, most frequently including a lack of common sense. But the concept of the fool is an old one. The court jesters and mythic tricksters were also considered to be fools.
Very often these characters were foolish simply to disguise their intelligence. The court jesters were also often spys as people would say things in front of them assuming someone so “foolish” was also to stupid to understand the conversation. This misperception was enhanced by the fact that many courtly fools also had some manner of disability or disfigurement that added to their “outsider” lack of status.
The other role of the courtly fool was to play up the absurdity of the actions of the nobility. Satire and wit were their weapons. Our most notable modern day fool is probably Stephen Colbert. He plays a likable character who embodies the viewpoint he most frequently pokes fun at. His sense of wit, timing and both self aggrandizement and self depreciation make him seem harmless and somewhat “foolish”. But there are indications that most young people get their news, not from the news stations but from Comedy Central’s Daily Show and from the Colbert Report.
There is a turn of phrase in English “too smart for your own good.” This phrase is the epitome of the mythic trickster. Reynard the fox in European mythology has associations both for intelligence and foolishness. The Tlingit Raven embodies similar qualities. Coyote, the most familiar trickster in the Americas, is very smart, but not very wise. Still the tricksters, like Stephen Colbert, are often teachers.
The bumbling professor is another modern archetype of the fool. Fred MacMurray in The Absentminded Professor is the classic example of this. In recent times Dumbledore of the Harry Potter series appears to cultivate that silly absent-mindedness and he is underestimated because of it. He is seen as a fool in spite of his fame and historical feats in the wizardly world.
There is a great deal of discussion in the Pagan blogosphere about the term BNP (big name Pagan). It seems that several folks who are coming into the title are pushing back against the idea of their own popularity or fame within the community. (Peter Dybing “Killing Big Name Pagans”, Crystal Blanton “Sensationalizing Pagan Leaders: The damaging social structure behind BNP status”)
Crystal and Peter make some good points. Being labeled as a BNP decreases their ability to be “one of the people.” This impacts their effectiveness at serving a community since they all share a viewpoint that everyone’s contribution is valuable and necessary.
On the other hand, having some notoriety allows someone to share their knowledge more broadly. Bloggers have something to share and they look for more readers. Likewise authors aren’t always as interested in sales for profit as they are for sharing their work broadly. Becoming a big name often requires a serious effort of underlying self promotion.
Dumbledore isn’t the head of Hogwarts because of the way he hides his abilities. Stephen Colbert isn’t as popular as he is because he doesn’t have anything worth listening to. Raven, Coyote, and Reynard the fox often get their fellow mythological creatures invested in their grand schemes because, on some level, they make sense. They are also accessible.
Bill Nye the Science Guy, and classic fool, is easier to understand and accept than the pompous academic scientist who uses jargon and expects the students to keep up. Part of Alton Brown‘s charm is his foolishness, but his culinary science and depth of knowledge isn’t foolish at all, just accessible. Ultimately, true fools are teachers. Teachers need an audience and that, especially in the modern world, requires some level of fame. It’s a conundrum. It’s a balancing act between credibility and accessibility.
In courtly circles, and in modern times, a physical disability often provides the balance. Someone with Cerebral Palsy, or Tourette’s, or dwarfism doesn’t need to work to hide their intelligence. The disability does a sufficient job of that. Those people work hard to get past the imposed perception of foolishness to be taken seriously. Another balancing factor that people fight hard against is age. There comes a point where age both demands we be heard and also allows us to be dismissed as “foolish”.
We revere our successful fools and celebrate them this day. But wouldn’t it be nice to be simply accepted. All of us have our foolishness. All of us have our faults and failings to be made fun of or to remind us we are human. All of us have something to offer, to teach.
How do we as leaders, as teachers, as writers reach our audience without becoming a “big name”? I don’t know that we can. I do think we can remember the balance. We can allow ourselves to be foolish and therefore not revered quite as highly. By embracing our foolishness we remain human, members of our community, and therefore even more effective communicators and teachers.
Orion and I spent the weekend in a hotel room. We were there as volunteers to keep things tidy, put out food, answer questions and talk to folks. Actually we didn’t even stay at the hotel, just spend long hours hosting the hospitality suite – the actual con suite -for Paganicon.
Our local Pagan Pride event has been going on for years in the Twin Cities (Paganistan) area. They’ve held events that were like weekend psychic fairs or community meet and greets. They’ve had Big rituals and small workshops.
A couple of years ago it became clear that Pagan Pride needed to serve two purposes. First to be “out loud and proud” in the larger community. That’s kind of tough when your event is holed up in an odd community building off the beaten path. The second purpose was to provide an opportunity for those who’ve been long time members of the community to network and expand their own knowledge base. To become an event that went beyond 101.
In 2009 Pagan Pride started doing a fall event with vendors, music and public rituals in an outdoor setting. Pride at Minnehaha Falls is an event that the general public can see and participate (or not) along with the existing and exploring Pagan community. It’s a great idea and a pleasant historical venue. The “meeting place of waters” is appropriate for expanding awareness and acceptance.
In 2010 Pagan Pride held its first Paganicon. A hotel based convention loosely modeled on Pantheacon. This is still a small convention but it has good buzz. I haven’t gone in years past because of scheduling and money issues but I’ve certainly heard about it from the community at large. The convention/fair model seems like an excellent expansion of Pagan Pride for this community.
I don’t know if I would have made it to the convention this year either. Money is tight since I came back from California. Orion is not too keen on sitting through the workshops I’m interested in, and he’s not quite independent enough to manage a convention on his own. We come as a pair most of the time and for a weekend long event I certainly couldn’t afford to get away. At the last minute the Pagan Pride committee discovered their regular “Suite Goddess” was swamped at work and were scrambling for someone to take her place. It sounded like the perfect solution to my predicament so I signed us up.
Someone asked me how I managed to deal with “missing” all the workshops and stuff. Essentially ‘why would you do so much work when you don’t even get to go to the convention?’ My feeling was pretty much that the convention came to us. Sometime during the weekend almost everyone attending made their way through the hospitality suite for a cup of coffee, or a snack or to sit for a minute and chat.
It’s not like we were all alone. The roving volunteer crew – the “Flying Monkey Squad” – were available if we needed help lifting heavy things (like coffee urns). Often they sat “on call” in our suite knowing that when they were needed this was where people would look. If nothing else they swung by to get those fabulous capes to wear during their shift.
There were several times during the weekend when we were “standing room only.” People would come in crowds talking about the workshop they’d just attended. Or they’d sit for a minute before the vendor room or the ball opened up. I did manage to stick my head into the vendor room (and immediately left lest I be tempted.) I also got to wander through the art exhibition which was a new and delightful addition to this year’s convention.
Yet another opportunity for me to explore community and my relationship to it. Again I got to meet new people and visit with old friends. It was nice to have an opportunity to be of service to something I support and still reap the benefits of the social support of community. I’m pretty sure Orion had a great time too. Win/Win.
I was on Pagan’s Tonight Blog Talk Radio, The Priestess Show last Friday and we were talking about spells. Somewhere doing the interview I promised to write more about spell work on my Monday blog. So here goes.
One of the most interesting things that I got out of talking with Stephanie Neal was the idea that we are the spell. That everything we do has an effect, an impact. That all of our words, our thoughts and our actions move out into the world and interact with it for good or ill. This idea is not new to me, but thinking of it as a spell is.
We are the spell we put into the world. What we send out grows like a seed. What comes back are the fruits of our spell. We are the spell we put into the world. – It ought to be some kind of a chant, don’t you think?
That reminder, that focus of our intention is the core of spell work for me. I know that when I focus my intention and truly put my desires out I have seen miracles. I also know that the thing most likely to interfere with that process is me. I am extraordinarily talented at getting in my own way, I think most of us are on occasion.
I talked about that in the interview as well. That I find spells useful, as a recipe to get out of my own way. Doing a spell sort of bypasses that whole debate about whether or not I’m worthy of what I ask for. Following a recipe avoids that annoying little judgmental voice in my head. “You’re just being greedy.” “What would you do with that if you got it anyway?” “Don’t you think you’re getting ahead of yourself?” “Why should you get that? You don’t deserve it. You haven’t worked enough for it.”
If my core belief is that love is pure energy; That it is abundant and ever renewing; That love is something that grows when it is used; there is no call for that kind of judgment. There is so much out there bigger than I am. There is so much out there with a wider vision, a broader perspective on the arc of my life that I have. What do I know about what I might and might not be able to achieve if I plant that seed of desire? We are the spell we put into the world…..
We touched a little bit in the interview on timing. We talked about the people who consult the astrology charts and have to do their workings in the proper timeframe with the exact ingredients with all the right associations. Not to dismiss that process because all those things do help. The more meaning built into what we are doing the more likely we are to succeed. Doesn’t that apply to everything?
What we didn’t talk about is that space before taking an action. That space where we do a divination or sit in meditation to find if doing a spell is what we really need. When I said sometimes the best spell is a shot of scotch and stepping up to the plate I really did mean sometimes just sucking it up and taking direct action is better that crafting a spell. Think about it this way. If you are looking for a job you can do a spell to make a job fall into your lap. Or you can get your resume together and start stopping in at businesses and making phone calls. Which is more effective? Asking the Universe for a job or asking a potential employer?
But sometimes we need both. Sometimes doing the spell is what we need to step into that interview process with the confidence that you deserve a job. Sometimes doing the spell is what allows us to look “outside the box”, potentially applying in a different field or asking for the promotion to a different department. But it doesn’t work the other way around. Just doing the spell and not doing the legwork isn’t getting us anywhere. The best spell is sometimes BEING the spell we put out into the world.
I want to be a successful author. I want to promote and sell my book, Manifest Divinity. So when I crafted the prosperity spell I performed on the air I took a look at all of those things. How do I get in my own way? I need to allow my passion to be seen rather than “hiding my light under a bushel.” I need to take the opportunities I’m given to speak about my work. I want to make sure that what I am putting into the world is growing energy, benefiting others as it benefits me. I looked at what would it take for me to believe in that kind of abundance as it applied to my own prosperity.
Here is the text of the spell I did on the air:
Spirits of the North I call to you and ask your aid in increasing my prosperity. May there be increase in sales of my book as a symbol of increased prosperity.
Spirits of the East I call to you and ask your aid in increasing my prosperity. May there be increase in my ability to promote myself and my work, especially my book.
Spirits of the South I call to you and ask your aid in increasing my prosperity. May there be increase in my efforts to share my passion for the book I’ve written.
Spirits of the West I call to you and ask your aid in increasing my prosperity. May there be increase in the flow and exchange that what prospers me prospers others.
Spirits of the North I call to you and ask your aid in increasing my prosperity. May there be increase in sales of my book as a symbol of increased prosperity.
I place this dime within the circle of elements. As like attracts like so may I see more money coming into my accounts.
I ask the blessing of the Lord and Lady upon my work and upon this working.
As I will
So Mote It Be
We did the show on Friday night. Sunday I got an email from my publisher (Immanion Press) with the contract for a poem I wrote to be included in an upcoming anthology on Pagans and Disability. This is a piece I submitted almost a year ago. Go figure.
We are the spell we put into the world.
So here I’ve been in sunny San Jose. The weather has been delightful all weekend. Today there is a slight chill in the air. It’s 45 this morning. The natives are reaching for their winter coats. I’ve put on a sweater and am happy to be outside. It’s all relative. I understand back home the high is predicted at 32 with snow and winds gusting to 40 mph. How could I complain?
I’ve been attending Pantheacon. This is a large convention (2300 ish) of Pagans (definition still to be determined) from mostly the Bay area, but actually from all over the country. I’ve visited with people from New Hampshire, DC, New Orleans, Portland and Wisconsin. Even those coming from California come all the way up and down the coast. It’s quite the event.
The thing about Pantheacon is that it really is a convention. Sure there are vendors and hospitality suites but it is really go – go – go to attend the workshops and other events. There are at least 10 choices in any given session and inevitably more than one of them is appealing. There isn’t a lot of time to just hang out and talk and get to know folks. Even the post session schmooze is limited as the crew doesn’t have much time to clean up and set up between events.
This makes things a little hard for my midwestern sensibilities. Anyone who’s heard of the “Minnesota goodbye” understands that it takes us awhile to move from one thing to the next. When you add my physical challenges to the mix I’m probably skipping as many sessions as I’m attending. Oh Well. I’ve been doing this long enough to understand that I have to take care of myself first.
I have managed to do quite a bit. I’m talking about my book Manifest Divinity. I even got to finally meet my publisher face to face!
I’ve been talking to the Pagan News Collective about journalism and contributing to their work. I’ve talked with a lot of other authors both those working with publishers and those who are self published.
There is a great deal of diversity at this convention. I think they work hard to achieve it. There was a panel on privilege. There was a session called Women of Color Caucus. Some of the women who contributed to the anthology Shades of Faith conspired to put on a ritual that included elements from each of their diverse practices.
It was beautiful and affirming, and you can see these are amazing and powerful women!
I’m always eager to learn new things and meet new people. This has been a great trip to recharge and inspire me. I promised my publisher I’d get him a proposal for my next book SOON. I have a list of several books I want to get from the authors I’ve meet. (I just didn’t want to try and pack them home on the plane!) My next reviews on LisaSpiral Reads will probably include a few of those author’s works.
In the meantime I’ll enjoy the sunshine and try to figure out how I can get on the plane in sandals and off in a winter coat. Especially since I didn’t pack one!
Since I missed last week I thought I’d reprint an editorial I wrote. It’s currently published at The Pagan Newswire Collective
Most Pagans are aware that the eight sabbats of Wicca are an artificial construction. They combine festivals of hunter/gatherer peoples with festivals of agriculture and animal husbandry. When you add to that an international following and crazy modern scheduling you have a practice of worship that is truly Neo-Pagan.
Our quarter celebrations, the solstices and equinoxes, come to us from people’s who understood astronomy. These are real and measurable events in time and space. The tools and precision of measuring when these sabbats occur have changed over time. The events that they celebrate are fixed.
The cross quarters, however, are seasonal celebrations. They mark events of weather and harvest that happen when they happen in the local area. We know from the names we call them by: Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnasad, and Samhein that these are sabbats from more northern climates. These are celebrations of a people who were dependent on an unpredictable weather.
They may have marked migration cycles. They may have marked the end of a harvest season. They may have marked blooming plants. They may have marked fertility of farm animals. But these kind of events occur at different times in different places in different years.
Our calendars come to us from the Romans and the Roman Catholic Church. When these local festivals were assigned patron saints and attributed to saints days on the calendar they became more fixed in time. Of course the church calendar has changed once or twice over the last several thousand years and saints come and go.
We come around again to Candlemas, or Brigid’s Mass. This festival on our calendar at the beginning of February was not always marked by a specific date. Even in our modern age there are those who count the days between each of the quarter events and would mark the cross quarters at exactly the halfway point. They argue that this celebration should occur on February 1, or 2 or 3 or even January 31 depending on when the Solstice fell.
In our modern world we think of the coldest days as having been the hardest for our fore bearers. The return of the light and the warming of the climate is celebrated for a reprieve from hardship. The reality is that in colder climates this can be the hardest season. Nothing is growing yet and won’t be for at least a month. The animals are all thin from their own winter struggles and those that aren’t are pregnant. The stores are limited with no hope of renewal for the rest of the winter and there is no telling how long that will be.
Back in the days before electric lighting cows and chickens did not produce year round. In those earlier times there has been no milk or eggs since before the solstice. It turns out that egg and milk production is primarily based on how much light is available. Modern farming uses electricity to keep cows and hens producing year round. In those earlier times it was the lengthening of daylight that made all the difference.
So this cross-quarter may have originated as a simple family feast. The holiday fare of a cake, or a quiche when finally there is a cup of milk and an egg to be had. This is a sabbat of promise. Times may be lean. The weather may be cold. Food may be inconsistent and hard to come by. But there is a beginning of hope that as the days continue to lengthen there will be more.
As we celebrate our sabbat, as we honor Brigid or make up our new candles let’s consider our bounty. Let’s take a moment to think about those who struggle to find enough to get them through. Surely we can find a way to share with those who’s hens have yet to lay an egg and who’s cows are too old to produce another year of milk.