Monday, July 31, 2006

Besom Brigade on the Web

Victoria found this on the Web. We have no idea who made it, but if you watch it till the end, you can see a little clip of our WOW (Witches Opposing War) Besom Brigade at an interfaith Pagan parade and festival in Berkeley a few years ago. You can see Diane Darling, Prudence Priest and Annie Weller and a bit of me (far left) making the pentacle.

I love it that Pagans and Witches have such a great sense of humor that they can parody themselves. No sacred cows for us, no siree!

Dancing with Gaia

Corby, Victoria and I attended a preview screening of Jo Carson's new movie, Dancing with Gaia, last night. About 10 people shared a potluck, viewed the film, and gave feedback. It's coming together, needs more polish and more editing. It contains extensive footage of Fred Adams of Feraferia and some precious footage of the late Monica Sjöo. In fact, she spent three entire days and nights with Monica in the early '90s, filming all the while; I think that footing in itself could make a fine stand-alone film.

Jo has also make a file called A Dance for the Goddess, showing the seasons in Southern California and each ritual with which Feraferia celebrates the turning of the Wheel of the Year. This film was shown in 1990 at a screening and panel I organized in Berkeley and, most recently, in January 2006 at "Visions of the Past and Memories of the Future: NeoPaganism in California," co-sponsored by the Pagan Alliance and Pacific School of Religion. A set of DVDs of those panel discussions, plus others from 1992 and 1993, will be available by this coming Samhain. Keep your eye out for them.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Pagans in Prisons and & Press

A few weeks ago I was contacted by referral by a reporter for Associated Press, Kristen Gelineau, who was writing a story about an Asatru man on Virginia's death row who evidently killed another man as part of an Asatru ritual in prison and claimed his religion as part of his defense. I found Kristen to be a thoughtful listener who asked intelligent questions. I referred her to both Patrick McCollum and Prudence Priest; she'd already interviewed Patrick about it. I felt reasonably confident -- well, as confident as one can in such undertakings, given the editorial process, etc. -- that she'd present us fairly.

The story hit the wires this week. Shortened versions of it were published in the NY Times and elsewhere to which some Pagans took offense.

Here is the full story, in which both Patrick and I are quoted. I'm not among those who took offense; I think it's fair.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Change, Growth & Consensus Process

I've been working at consensus process decision-making since my days in the SF Women's Studies Collective back in the 1970s. A few years later when Reclaiming Collective was formed, I found myself working with people with as strong a commitment to the process, except that experience and writings about it had proliferated in the meantime. When my then-coven, Holy Terrors, first joined the Covenant of the Goddess, its members were also committed to consensus process. So it's clear that this is my preferred method of collaboration.

Now that things -- Reclaiming (no longer a collective, per se), CoG and other groups -- have expanded, I'm wondering how effective consensus process can be. Can we still operate that way? It will be a challenge for the recently birthed BIRCH (Broader Intra-Reclaiming Council of Hubs). BIRCH folks have the advantage of having had good training and consistent experience with the process. It seems that in CoG in particular some matters, such as the annual choosing of National Board officers, have devolved into voting. I don't like it. It fosters a competitive spirit that threatens to erode the trust and solitarity so carefully and lovingly nourished over a period of many years. Is there a better, more satisfying way to accomplish these necessary organizational business matters? I keep hoping there is.

I’ve thought about this a lot over the last year or two. I’m not sure I have any answers. I do know, however, that I was tremendously favorably impressed by how well folks at the Dandelion Gathering in May used consensus process so effectively.

On the plane to Starwood — a Really Fabulous experiment in temporary counter-culture community, BTW (more about Starwood anon) — I read a book called Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, by Malcolm Gladwell. I was inspired to read it based on an interview with him I found on the Charlie Rose show while channel-surfing late one night.

On the strength of Blink, I plan to read his earlier book, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. Although TTP is not about consensus process, I'm hoping that Gladwell's thinking will inform and inspire me to feel better about the future of consensus on a larger scale.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Women, Spirituality & Politics

Corby and I attended a presentation last night by independent scholar Max Dashu. Using the theme of Female Shamans in Indigenous Resistance Movements: Women Spiritual Leaders Confront Empire, Max showed slides and spoke of women whose stories we seldom, if ever, hear:
Priestesses, diviners, healers, and holy women stand out as leaders of aboriginal liberation movements against empire. Spiritual spheres of power have always been a crucial staging area for women's political leadership and for challenging systems of domination on many levels. This new show looks at how indigenous women draw on their cultural traditions to resist colonization and how, by virtue of who they are and where they stand in the social order, their personal access to direct, transformative power makes the spiritual political.

Including: Veleda of Bructerii (Netherlands) * Dahia al-Kahena (Tunisia) * the Kumari of Taleju (Nepal) * Juana Icha (Peru) * Kimba Vita (Congo) * Maria Candelaria (Chiapas) * Queen Nanny of the Maroons (Jamaica) * Toypurina (Tongva Nation) * Wanankhucha (Somali Bantu) * Lozen (Apache Nation) * Nehanda Nyakasikana (Zimbabwe) * Teresa Urrea (Sonora) * and more...

Plus: Black South Asia. The most ancient peoples of Indonesia, Malay peninsula, Philippines, the Andaman Islands, and south India...
The founder of the Suppressed History Archives, Max, who is incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about her subject, has over 90 of slide talks, the one we saw last night being one of the newest, plus her own artwork. If you or your groups wish to sponsor one or more of her talks, contact her through her website.

Fortunately for me, we live near enough to be able to keep up with Max's work; I've been attending her shows off and on since the early 1980s, and she was on the panel I produced at PSR in January, "Visions of the Past and Memories of the Future" (available on DVD by Samhain). Luckily for those who cannot attend these lectures due to location or for whatever reasons, she has plans to release DVDs of her talks in the future. Also in the works, a book, The Secret History of the Witches.

These stories must be told and heard.

Saturday, July 15, 2006


Well, I finally heeded the advice of friends and went to Kaiser to have my arm checked out and X-rayed. The internist didn't see a break, but the radiologist, more skilled in reading the complexities of elbow construction, found a small fracture just below the elbow. It's been nearly a month since I fell. I've been doing all the right things: icing, supporting, Ibuprofen, favoring it. But often I just have to use it too much and it really, really hurts. I still cannot straighten my arm out all the way or bend it all the way up or rotate it. That makes doing things like turning on the car ignition and putting it into gear, unscrewing bottle caps, and turning keys in locks hard. I can get some pressure from the left arm to turn doorknobs and keys, but the car ignition is on the right. I can't write, turn my hand up to lift food to my mouth with my right hand, or get much action in brushing my teeth. I'm nowhere near as dextrous with my left hand, though I try hard. But then 'dexter' means right anyway, right? I'm gonna get one of those battery-operated toothbrushes before I go to Starwood next week.

As soon as I get back I have an appointment with an orthopedist. In the meantime, I'll sweetly ask for help dealing with my carry-ons on the plane and at the festival.

More than you needed to know. Oh, well...

Paganism Hits the Booklist

Huzzah! I received Chas Clifton's book, Her Hidden Children: The Rise of Wicca and Paganism in America, in the mail. The cover is great and the contents look fascinating, although I can tell at a thumb-through there's much here that we've discussed over the years. The few photos of individuals in the book were taken years ago in a pre-digital age, I guess, because they're obviously not in a resolution we've come to expect nowadays. That's not a big deal, though; I feel we're lucky to have any photos at all. This was a years-long labor of love, resulting in the clearest-eyed and best, so far, book on the growth of our movement in the U.S. It's right up there with Hutton's The Triumph of the Moon, Magliocco's Witching Culture, and Adler's Drawing Down the Moon, an updated version of which is due out in September. For anyone who wants to know about us, including ourselves, this is an essential foundational read. Not only that, but I note one of my pieces, "The W Word, or Why We Call Ourselves Witches," referenced in the bibliography. Yippie!

More book recommendations coming soon.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Courting the Lady

After many years of work, my friend Patrick McCollum has finally published Courting the Lady, the first of an anticipated three-book series of his autobiography. Provoked by a mystical encounter with the White Lady he experienced during a near-death experience after a horrendous motorcycle accident he suffered in his teens, Patrick began a quest. He takes the reader along on his first couple of years of training with a mentor and a coven. Most of this training takes place out in the woods, mountains and canyons of Southern California and involves such things as gathering barks, roots, leaves, and herbs for ritual drinks and incenses, learning to make willow charcoal, finding and making the right tools (even finding a piece of meteorite in the desert to forge into the blade of his athame), learning and using a language and alphabet and symbols. Patrick details a very unusual course of training for its time (beginning in 1966) and place in the overall history of the magic, the occult, and alternative religions. Essential reading for the well-informed NeoPagan.

Another Autobiography

I recently read Loreon Vigné's autobiography, The Goddess Bade Me Do It! Not only is Loreon an accomplished artist in many media, but she's also a Priestess of Isis and a breeder of wild cats (especially ocelots which are very difficult to breed in captivity) and collector of an amazing menagerie that lives at Isis Oasis Sanctuary, a former Bahai retreat that she bought, restored, and has made available for gatherings in Geyserville, California. It's worth a trip to Isis Oasis to see the Temple of Isis, the peacocks and swans, Loreon's stained glass creations that adorn temples and other spaces. In fact, the temple is featured in another excellent recent book, A Visionary State: A Journey Through California's Spiritual Landscape, by Erik Davis with photographs by Michael Rauner.

Loreon is one of those people who marches to her own drummer. She seems always to have been open to inspiration and opportunity, to have intuitively attuned herself to the songs of her goddess and the universe. A genuine original! I'm so glad that some of our Pagan elders are telling us of their lives.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Morning Glory

What a great surprise to see Morning Glory at Farida and Conly's Summer garden party in Santa Rosa yesterday! She came with Oberon, her caretaker Artemesia and Artemesia's partner, and Julie. Not only did she and I have a nice visit, but it seemed that the party did as much as anything could to lift her spirits and renew her. I managed to get a couple of good shots of her in the garden, wearing a lovely bright floral dress and elegant hot pink hat; here's one. See that old sparkle?

You Owe It to the Future

Please, please, please go see Al Gore's movie An Inconvenient Truth, if you haven't already seen it. It's not too late to change the course of planetary evolution from catastrophe to viability. I hate the doomsayer stuff, and one could expect the experience of viewing this film to be a real bummer, but in fact it's hopeful. Go to the bargain matinée if you have to. Pay the senior admission if you're eligible. But SEE IT!

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Got My mtDNA Results!

For my birthday in February my mother gave me a gift of participation in The Genographic Project. This is a landmark study in the human journey being conducted by the National Geographic Society, with funding from other foundations and under the direction of the very attractive (to me) anthropologist and geneticist, Dr. Spencer Wells.

In addition to swabs and vials for you to collect and submit your DNA, the kit comes with a fascinating DVD called The Journey of Man telling about the project and the completed parts of it that have been funded.

I belong to Haplogroup H. From “Eve” in what’s now Ethiopia 150,000 years ago, my ancestors went to the Middle East, to just east of the Black Sea, then from the Black Sea to Western Europe. None passed through Asia, Australia or the Americas (till now).