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Weekly Update: 4/9/2001

Author: Witchvox Central
Posted: April 9th. 2001
Times Viewed: 5,101

Damned if you do... and Damned if you don't

Greetings Witches, Wiccans and Pagans,

After reading The New Romantics this past week, a lot of things came to mind. While most of them are unprintable on a family-friendly site, some musings may be worth a few moments of reflection. The Southern Poverty Law Center's Spring 2001 'Intelligence Report" features a somewhat garbled interview with author and Professor of Religious History, Mattias Gardell. In this interview, "which focused heavily on the rise of neo-Paganism on the radical right", the terms 'Pagan' and 'Neo-Pagan' are used throughout the article. Unfortunately, either because of bad research or bias (on the part of the author-update:see note below) or bad editing or misquotes (on the part of the SPLC), these terms are also used so broadly that a reading of this article would lead the otherwise uninformed person to think that ALL Pagans and Neo-Pagans are racist, prone to violent anti-social and anti-establishment behavior, are radical environmentalists, and in fact, that as far as Pagans go, 'everyone supports the Unabomber'. While many far right Christian Identity movements also happen to be anti-government, we doubt that a paragraph such as, " So christians tend to be radically anti-government. Everybody supports Tim McVeigh." would get by the editors or (if it did) that it would remain there long after the public outcry that would surely follow.

The Southern Poverty Law Center knows better. We know that SPLC has received many letters on this subject over the past few days-and yet the article remains as it is. So now we have to ask ourselves why. If SPLC doesn't want to mess with the author's words, a short disclaimer at the beginning of the article should certainly not be out of the realm of possible solutions. A simple suggestion might read: Editor's Note- "The terms, 'Pagan' and 'Neo-Pagan' where they appear in this article refer only to the target group, "several hundred white American racist activists, " who self-identify as members of Asatru or Odinism in its most radical form. Most of the adherents of Asatru and Odinism do not consider themselves 'Pagans" but rather use the terms 'Heathen' or "Folk'. The vast majority of those who do identify themselves as Neo-Pagans and Pagans practice earth-based religions/belief systems which are inherently non-violent, non-racist and tolerant of other religions and practices."

{Wren Note: TWV was just cc'd in on an email from Mattias Gardell. In it, he states: ('I was NOT talking about the whole neo-pagan community in the United States. The interview focused on the racist interpretation of Asatrœ often referred to as Odinism. I also tried to make clear the distinction between the racist and ethnic positions as these two very different interpretations of Norse traditions often are confused. (The wider non-racial non-folkish pan-pagan milieu was hardly mentioned at all. There is a growing body of studies concerning the wider pagan revival but that was not the topic of the interview and will not be the focus of my forthcoming study. However, I will make the distinctions clear.) The line 'everybody supports the Unambomber' is somewhat taken out of context. It should have been made much clearer that I here talked about the radical environmentalist subsection of racist Odinism where one does find considerable support for the Unabomber. The word 'everybody' was a casual metaphor that I would never use in writing. It came in the course of a 4 hours and something transatlantic interview over the phone and I am sorry for having made that slip.)} So the ball is now squarely in SPLC's court on this one.

Correct terminology does matter and in this case, it matters more than a simple letter to the editor might in another venue. The 'Intelligence Report' goes out to law enforcement agencies, schools, government security watchdogs and to many others that are in a position to make public policy decisions. The erroneous impression of all Pagans that may emerge from this careless use of language could have serious and potentially dangerous results for the Pagan communities. We are not 'white-lighters' here. We do not deny that- as occurs in all religions- there are factions that lay claim to the name 'Pagan' or 'Neo-Pagan' that the majority of adherents may disavow as being representative of the religion(s) and the message of that religion. The fact that no effort was expended by SPLC to clearly denote the differences between 'Pagans' and the target group of the author's study ("several hundred white American racist activists") consistently throughout the article makes the entire report suspect. The credibility of the SPLC is clearly in danger here.

However, this article did bring another issue to mind and here is where we get into the 'damned if we do, damned if we don't' position. Pagans have been roundly criticized for 'not believing in much of anything and willing to believe in anything' in some recent scholarly works and press reports. Yet here we find ourselves attacked from the opposite direction. Because some- and not just a few- Pagan traditions (such as Reconstructionists, Celtic Spirituality, Family Traditions, Strega and the Northern groups) are adopting a cultural/ethnic base of myths, stories or elements of regional history in the formulation of their group practices, the charge of 'racist' or 'elitist' is now rearing its ugly head. If we don't clearly define ourselves, it seems that we're damned to frivolous role-playing and if we do attempt to define ourselves, we are damned to be the precursors of another Neo-Nazi regime.

The problem as we see it here is two-fold. The first is that modern Paganism is a very complex religious and social movement. It cannot be summed up in twenty-five words or less and still encompass the vast and diverse sets of beliefs held by all those who identify themselves as Pagan. This spells trouble for news reporters and some scholars who are not writing a book, but simply trying to get out a human interest story of fifteen hundred words for the Sunday edition or academic magazine. Here at TWV, we have heard many times that reporters and writers have had to extend their deadlines because they just 'had no idea how complicated the Pagan communities and beliefs were'. Some of them have done better than others at communicating the richness that indeed flows through Paganism. Many have simply surrendered to the deadline and whipped up another fluff piece on a Pagan holiday celebration. Too bad. They missed the real story.

The second problem is that we are struggling with the same issues ourselves. This used to bother us until we began looking beyond the Pagan communities into the other religions of the world. We discovered that Pagans are not that much different in our search for identity than any other religious group. It is just perceived that way because we are the new kids on the spiritual block. For example, if a newspaper article on Christianity happens to have a quote from a Catholic priest speaking of some of the beliefs of that religion, do the Protestants, Jehovah's Witnesses and Latter Day Saints always agree that the Catholic priest's statement is reflective of all of Christianity? Probably not. Indeed, these groups may not even believe that some of the other groups are really 'Christian'. Sound familiar?

But do the reporters of that story then go around writing that 'Christians just can't get it together! What they say that they believe differs so much from group to group as to make the entire religion seem one of just individual convenience"? Not hardly.

Differences of dogma, doctrine, religious practice and belief are the NORM in religious group identities, not the exception. It's just that most outsiders see Paganism as some sort of aberration and not for what it is: A new set of religions that, for now, all fall under the umbrella phrase known as "Paganism".

If we could make one thing perfectly clear to all of our detractors who would like to dismiss us, are wont to criticize us or will further attempt to categorize us in some convenient AP Stylebook manner, it would be this:

We uphold our right to define ourselves. The power to determine who we are and what we will become is in our hands, not yours. We will not stand idle waiting for you to decide who we really are. We have too much to do, too much for reach for, too much to determine and claim for ourselves. And if someone-whether it be a reporter, scholar, religious detractor or hate-monger- is bound and determined to try to make us stumble along the way, we believe that it is better that it come because we are marching forward rather than because we are dragging our feet waiting for you to catch up.

Wren Walker
Sunday, April 8, 2001

You Call it May Day, We call it Beltane
by Peg Aloi

"Somewhere, I must have learned about May Baskets. I think my favorite third grade teacher mentioned them briefly in Social Studies class (she often talked about holidays and their origins), and then I wanted to find out more about this wacky custom. I was a precocious reader as a kid so it may have been almost anywhere: the Encyclopedia Britannica, Woman's Day magazine, maybe even Playboy. I don't recall where, but I know once I learned about the custom of giving them to someone special, I was determined to make one and leave it in secret for my favorite third-grade teacher, Miss V".

"I took a small box (about half the size of a shoebox) and glued lavender construction paper to it. I also fashioned a handle out of the same paper, gluing it to both sides. I cut out flower petals shapes in different colors and glued those on, too. Very tasteful, I thought. I cut some daffodils and lilacs from the yard, and put them inside. I had already asked my aunt if she could drive me over to her house, having cleverly looked up her address in the phone book earlier. (Now, these days we would call such behavior something less innocent than childlike admiration; we might call it, oh, stalking). As we drove up with the basket to my teacher's house, at around 6 pm, I found myself thinking, "Gee, what if she sees me?" I got out of the car, ran on tiptoe (as if that would make me less visible) and put it on her porch. As I turned, the front door opened".

"As luck would have it, I was busted: by Miss V. herself! She saw me, then the basket, and figured it out. She smiled and thanked me and said it was very sweet of me. I was mortified that she found me out. But then the next day in school, she made me a card with flowers on it. The front said "Thank you" and the inside said "for delighting my day with a May Basket." So I got to put that card on my desk like a little teacher's pet. Of course, I did not think that at the time; at the time I was simply very proud. And realized if I had not gotten "busted" she might never know who brought the May Basket, and I'd have my secret, but only that. This way, maybe the other kids would think of making May Baskets for someone: a teacher, a parent or grandparent. Of course, all I knew was I made something cool and gave it to someone special". (Full Article)

Peddling our Wares..

Pagan auction sites are a growing e-business venture that seems to be taking off in a big way. The very successful e-Witch site boasts 2500 listings for Pagan goods and services. Featuring everything from a 'pentacle hour glass' to a 'golden sphinx incense holder' to a 'dragon birdbath', this site is great for browsing for gifts for your friends, covenmates or just for yourself! Those who always dreamed of starting up a little Pagan cottage business might consider offering some items for sale to test the waters. You never know... someone else's 'don't want it, don't need it or need to sell it' is another person's 'just gotta have it!'

This past week Avatar Search opened up an occult community auction section. Like everything else designed by Tina ("The brainiac from Smartron"), the format is sleek, elegant and easy to navigate. While the browsings are still few at this point, keep an eye on this site for some good buys in the future. And if you are a Pagan seller, you may have just found another opportunity in which to offer your goods to the Pagan/occult crowd.

Other Pagan/Occult sites that feature auctions include: Spiritualitea, New Age Auction, The Reinactors Auction, WitchCrawler.com, gothicauctions.com, Whispered Prayers, and, of course, the non-Pagan but hugely successful, e-Bay.

Tradition Profiles at Witchvox
(Viewed 32,043 Times)

A Powerful Resource Gets Stronger

This week, we are blessed to share two well written and interesting new Pagan trad profiles with the community. This week also marks the first time that we have another profile for a trad previously outlined.

Roebuck Tradition: "The Roebuck tradition, as practiced by the Ancient Keltic Church, is a religious organization dedicated to the rediscovery and revival of the pagan mystery faith of the ancient Celtic peoples, and the incorporation of this ancient faith into modern 20th century America. It was founded in 1976 by Ann and David Finnin as an experimental group called The Roebuck, which was made up of members of many different magical systems devoted to the exploration of a British mystery tradition made public in Britain during the 1950's and introduced into the United States during the years 1964-1966 through the writings of Robert Cochrane. Cochrane died in 1966. However, with the aid of the Cochrane writings and material contributed by other British traditionalists, the members of the Roebuck attempted to recreate this tradition and, through trial and error, forged a mystery school designed to teach its students the various methods of personal magical development". (Full Profile)

Prytani Tradition (v2): "The Prytani were the iron age occupants of what is now referred to as the northeast coast of Ireland and the northwest coast of Scotland. It is the name that was given to them in the writings of the early seafaring peoples of the fertile crescent. The earliest known documentation of the Prytani (Prydani, Pretani, Pratani) was from Ptolemy who used the name assigned by the Greeks some centuries earlier. They sailed north and found two types of people that they wrote about in their journals. They found the Blue People of the peninsula now known as Scotland and they found the White People on the island now known as Ireland. It is believed that the blue that is referred to is the blue woad they wore during their battles, rituals (or possibly their tattoos) and celebrations and that the white referred to a chalk or ash mixture, used for the same purposes.". (Full Profile)

If you work within an established tradition, please consider writing something for us about it. We will accept more than one essay per tradition, so feel free to send us your own view, even if there are already others posted on your tradition. Please read the Editorial Guidelines page as well as the introduction on the Traditions page before sending your essay to Diotima.

"We Can Create New Ways of Being In The World."

This month's Wiccan/Pagan Times features an interview with M. Macha NightMare, Priestess and Witch, who "has chosen to develop her skills as a collaborative ritualist and author as her contribution to our emerging Pagan culture. Early in her journey, Macha joined in the formation of Reclaiming Collective, to teach Craft and to perform public sabbats in San Francisco. The collective evolved into a Craft tradition, and eventually dissolved itself in 1997, to re-emerged as a much larger and more inclusive entity. She co-created, with Starhawk, The Pagan Book of Living and Dying: Practical Rituals, Prayers, Blessings, and Meditations on Crossing Over. Her writing has appeared in many periodicals, and she has spoken on behalf of the Craft to electronic and print media." Macha talks about her experiences in the early days of "Reclaiming" as well as what she finds exciting about the present --and some of her hopes for the future.

(Interview excerpt): TWPT: As you look to your future what do you see yourself doing a few years from now, same as now or are there other goals that you would like to see manifested in your life?

MN: We are potentially a powerful force for positive change in the world, if we can learn to trust one another and rejoice in our diversity. Fostering the development of that trust, and learning and teaching about our diversity, give me pleasure and a sense of contributing something of value to my world.

Macha is currently working on her latest book -'Witchcraft and The Web: Weaving Pagan Traditions Online' - which is due out in November 2001 from ECW Press in Montreal. As she explains it: "It's a cultural look, from the perspective of a long-time practitioner trained in more conventional settings, i.e., in person, in a physical place together, in real time, at the effects the Internet has had on our ancient/future spirituality." (If you missed any of the previous issues of Wiccan/Pagan Times, you can 'catch up' by visiting The Authors Corner for the best online collection of modern Pagan author interviews available anywhere. The TWPT has lots and lots of other good stuff, too!)


March Profiles and a Week of Countless Enhancements at TWV

Greetings Witches, Wiccans and Pagans,

Wow... What a week it has been at this end. Witchvox.com/net saw hundreds of tweaks, polishes and many new features/sections were added. In this weeks edition of "notes from a Webmaster, " I will attempt to remember/note some of these many changes.

Record Submissions for WOTW: March 2001 rendered a record number of actual submissions to our networking pages. New/Modified submissions clocked in at 9, 590. My observation is that new submissions run at about 60% of the number. So, DO check out YOUR area page for new and updated data. NOTE: We faithfully update the WOTW pages every 48 hours.

Record Page Views at WOTW: As noted last week, the Witchvox networking pages were viewed or searched 1, 132, 837 times this past month. This past week, we profiled the results and noted some surprises. The number one adult contact page was England. The Brits also held the number one slots for our Teen groups and Regional listing pages. The top Military contacts page was Oklahoma. The top "Freedom Fighters" page was Texas. California was the overall leader followed by Florida, Texas, New York and Ohio.

New Expanded Footer Index: This week we updated all the footers of all 3, 300 of our pages to both reflect additions and to better describe the chapters/info areas. When in doubt, simply scroll to the bottom of the page.

BIG NEWS: TWO New Modules added to WOTW: Balancing the server load time and the maddening desire to expand our "Witches' of the World Pages" we have made the decision to add two new and important modules. The Submission forms are up and we plan to activate the new sections in YOUR area sometime next week. Details are as follows...
    Announcements & Celebrations Hear Ye, Hear Ye! Finally we can offer a section for local announcements. If you are looking for a ride to a festival, want to announce your initiation, tell folks about what your group is doing for the community or post a press release, THIS is the place. This new mod makes a wonderful "catch all" for listings that just don't seem to fit in our other sections. Announcements will be posted for one moon cycle (28 days) and then expire naturally. Post YOUR proclamation via our Local Announcements Form.

    Professional Skills & Services: Are you a Butcher? a Baker? a Candlestick Maker? As promised last year, it is our desire to list specific skills of those in the community. This new section is designed to do just that. Can YOU perform legal handfastings? Do massage? Teach? Offer legal/medical aid? Do web design? If so... List your skill or service, your experience and your rates via our Local Services Form.

Easier Submission Forms: This week we also spent some time polishing and tweaking all of our submission forms, detailing problem areas and making it easier for you to submit your info.

40% Speed increase for Pagan Perspectives: On Friday night, we rewrote the engine that drives "Pagan Perspectives". We have discovered that using the "encodebreak" command to render your paragraph returns really does hurt load time. The fix was similar to what we do at Wren's Nest; we script/hard code the breaks at time of submission. Much to our joy, this section now flies... NOTE: During heavy traffic times, all pages at Witchvox.net can be slow. This is directly related to the money that we can put into this section.

The future of the back end of Witches of the World lies with the new Mac Operating system called OS-X. This new OS is quite remarkable and is poised for some serious development. Apple has scrapped their OS of 16 years in favor of OS-X which gains its power and stability via a UNIX foundation. What you get is basically the rock solid foundation of Unix with a gorgeous new interface (something NEW for M$ to copy). At present, we are projecting for mySQL as the future back end for Witchvox. This coupled with lasso middleware and most likely Webstar V as the Web server promises to kick some serious buttski. We may go the Apache route but we'd rather wait and see if Webstar V delivers what they claim. Pagan trad Folk singer and good guy Darragh Nagle, not only lives near us, but is a Unix God as well. We look forward to summoning up Darragh's wisdom for our future moves at Witchvox.net.

In closing, allow me to thank all of you who have helped to make the Witchvox networking section an incredible resource for us all. Most importantly, I am honored, once again to thank the Witchvox Sponsors for helping to defray the cost of software and connection charges here at TWV. Without their unselfish support, and actually putting their money where their mouth is, the Witches' Voice on the Web would have died years ago. Bless YOU big time.


Webcrafter - The Witches' Voice
(April 9th., 2001)

Photo credit: The image to your upper right of yours truly was taken at PhoenixPhyre Festival two weeks ago by WitchVox staff Photographer Don "Two Eagles" Waterhawk (web: waterhawkcreations.com). Thanks Unky Don.



Teenage
Pagans

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April Teenage Pagan Essays Now UP!
As we enter the 21st. century, one thing is clear, Pagan Youth will lead the way. They are embracing this spiritual path with a passion and conviction like we have never seen before. We are honored to feature the wonderful Teen Essays written by our Young Pagans.

  • Tools: (April 2001)This month we asked what tools you use, why you use them, and what their appropriate use is. You replied with good advice and magical happenings...read all about it here: Page 1 - 2 - 3 - 4

  • Paganism and the Environment: We also asked for your thoughts on where Paganism and the environmental movement intersect. Two of you responded with passionate pleas for Pagans to pay more attention to the state of the environment. Read these essays here: Page 1 - 2

  • Traditions: Also, we thought we didn't get any teen essays last month, but it turns out there was one that had gotten lost in cyberspace (or possibly in Dio's computer!). So we belatedly present (with thanks to Rhea Foxfyre for her patience and understanding) this essay on Traditions
Other Young Pagan Resources at TWV: WitchVox Teen Essays MAIN Index - Young Pagans in YOUR Town (6, 758 listed) - Young Pagan Covens and Groups (307 listed) - F.A.Q.'s of the WitchVox Teen Section - Teen Article Submission Topics! Make YOUR Voice Heard! - Teen Pagan Web Sites (267 sites listed!) - Click HERE to submit YOUR Teen Pagan Site.



NEW this Week!
Cats of WitchCraft - Page 22 Now Up
In an effort to dispel one of the many myths about the craft, we began featuring pictures of Witch Cats back in '97 when we went online. Of late, we have been barraged with submissions... A plea for help last year resulted in some fine volunteer work by some fine Pagans. Out of that group came Daven who has faithfully and in a timely manner coordinated our last 8 Cats pages. Thank YOU Daven for treating us all with the latest... To gush over this new batch of cuties Click HERE.

Note: Last year our Cats of Witchcraft section was one of the most popular here at TWV. These pages average over 800 views a day.

Pagan Perspectives
WitchVox Question of the Week!

Last week, we asked, What do you like/dislike to experience when you visit a Pagan website? - Likes: 'Original material' came in first by a long shot. (We hope that Pagan site owners were listening!) Other 'original' likes were for graphics and well thought out design elements, such as good navigation and interesting designs that actually worked. Dislikes: Copies of copies of copies. Favorite quote of the week: " If I see the 13 goals of a Witch one more time..." Banner ads generally got a thumbs down. Pop-up banner ads and Popout windows received the majority of votes for "The Most Likely to Get Hexed' award. View the Responses.

This week, we ask the question:

Should the United States Apologize to China Over The Spy Plane Incident? - Hopefully, the tense situation between China and the U.S. will be resolved soon and the flight crew will come home. Should the United States apologize to help make that happen? Both sides state that the other side is at fault. Is it national pride, administration politics or just plain stubbornness at work here? Both countries came out early with the saber rattling. Did they both say too much, too soon and now must 'save face' and not back away from that position? How do Pagans in other countries view this incident? Does pride really cometh before a fall? Is principle or practicality more important in certain situations? If you were running things, what would YOU do? - Post YOUR Opinion or view the Responses of others.



In Closing...

"Here we live in a country that has a fabulous constitution and all these guarantees, a contract between the citizens and the government-nobody knows what's in it. It's one of the best-kept secrets. And so, if you don't know what your rights are, how can you stand up for them? And furthermore, if you don't know what is in the document, how can you care if someone is shredding it?" - (Frank Zappa... , Interview in 'Spin' magazine, July 1991).

We love you Frank and we will never forget your magick...

In Your Service,

 

The Witches' Voice Inc.
Monday, April 9th., 2001






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