Thursday, November 30, 2006

High-Flying Witch

I'm constantly amazed at the talent in this world, and especially the talent among my Pagan friends. Laura Wyrd is an old colleague from my active days in Reclaiming Collective who now distinguishes herself as an aerialist, among other things. I don't know her well, but we always appreciated one another and we renewed our friendship at the Spiral Dance this past Samhain, where she invoked the element of Air from the high in the air. Here's a video of her recent work. Enjoy!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Statement re: Ethics & Boundaries

Some of my colleagues in Reclaiming and myself have come up with this statement which we now make public:

As a group of Witches who have all been active in Reclaiming for 10-25 years, we want to voice our concern at the new consensus reached which says that all Reclaiming Witch Camps are autonomous and can make their own decisions regarding drug and alcohol use, or sex between students and teachers.

We will not move to alter the consensus, but want to go on record as being against this new policy. We are not opposed to alcohol and drug use in private or non-ritual events, but we are against it in open rituals and Witch Camps. Reclaiming events often include transformative work in which people are already significantly altered, and it can be disruptive, even dangerous to add drugs and alcohol to the mix.

While we are certainly sex positive, we do not think it is wise for teachers and students to have sex at Witch Camps. Both parties have power, but there is also present a spiritual and psychological openness that can be easily manipulated by the person who has taken on the role of guide. We are against polices that allow for this possibility. Magic is not safe, but certain safeguards are still a good idea.

Anne Hill, Dawn Isidora, Deborah Oak Cooper, Fern Feto Spring, M. Macha NightMare, Medusa, T. Thorn Coyle
I signed this post not because I have any connection with Witch Camps, but rather because these stated policies are consistent with my feelings and belief. I choose not to involve myself in public Reclaiming activities, or in Reclaiming teaching, where these policies are not expressly agreed to ahead of time.

Sunday, November 26, 2006


I cannot be the only person who's sick to death of defining and redefining and going over the same stuff over and over and over and over again. This comes up particularly in the environment of Reclaiming (and CoG as well, for that matter), when topics have been discussed to death and then beaten some more, something more or less suitable has been written to memorialize the discussions, and then, lo! six months later that same topic comes up again like it's brand new, like no one ever thought of if before. Aargh!

This bears, to some extent, on what my friend Katrina claims is a lack of respect for elders, in the sense that elders carry the history. It also arises from people not bothering to learn their history or to care about whence they sprung. If you don't respect your ancestors and your heritage, and pay them the courtesy of learning something of their experiences and what they know, then what kind of movment are you?

WTF is Reclaiming? I don't know what Reclaiming is but I do know who I am, and that I practice a form of Craft that I clearly see as Reclaiming tradition, at least the trad as I learned it, helped to create it, and continue to practice it. Which is not to say that trads, or any other living thing, don't evolve, and that Reclaiming hasn't evolved or isn't evolving. But one might think that a good working description (as opposed to definition) might work in a general way, at least for a few years. Sheesh!

I'm just running this off the top of my head right now because of recent posts in various communities that have been irritating me. Obviously this is not a considered essay of any sort.

Am I just a crotchety old fart, or do you, dear reader, appreciate similar experiences?

Second question: why would I care? Why would anyone care?

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Love Blooms in Cyberspace

I can't help crowing about this lovely turn of events. These two fine Pagans found each other in a class called "Call of the Dark Mother: Working with the Dying, Death, and Grieving," originally created and taught by me at Cherry Hill Seminary. Among many other things, they went on to found the Washington-Baltimore Pagan Clergy Association. They recently married. Long live love!

Angela Roberts and Michael Reeder

FAWR Launch

The official launch of the Foundation for the Advancement of Women in Religion took place tonight at the Grand Hyatt Washington Hotel. Lots of folks came and all appeared to enjoy themselves. The Pagan contingent was noticeably strong. It makes me happy to see Pagans supporting each other and supporting important projects. Please consider going to the website linked above and joining. It's not expensive and the potential for good work in the world is great.

Below is a photo of the Board members who were able to be there.

Ben Hamlin, Assoc. Exec. Dir.; Cyra Choudhury, Founder and Exec. Dir.; Jan Willis, and yours truly. Photo by Leslie M. Ortiz

AAR - Contemporary Pagan Studies Consultation

Note this is not the Conference on Contemporary Pagan Studies which precedes the AAR Annual Meeting. It the Contemporary Pagan Studies Consultation, an offical designation of the AAR, sponsored by the AAR and listed in the program.

More photos cuz it's 1:45 am and I plan to attend the New Religions Movements Group at 9 am. "Group" is the AAR's term for a more established area of study, while "section" is the big heavy.

Above, Murph Pizza reading her paper “The Fourfold Goddess and the Undying God: Anatomies of Minnesotan Bootstrap Witchcraft Traditions.” I might add that it was the folks of Paganistan (Minneapolis-St. Paul) who paid for Murph to get to the AAR so her papers could be heard. So huzzah for Paganistani Pagans for supporting their local anthopologist!!!!!

Laura Wildman-Hanlon on “Children of Converts: Generational Retention in the Neo-Pagan New Religions Movement.”

Friday, November 17, 2006

Conference on Contemporary Pagan Studies

I know I said I wasn't gonna post photos often, but I feeling proud and going by the old saw that a picture is worth 1000 words, so here's a photo taken today here in Washington, DC of our Cherry Hill Seminary presence at the second ever CCPS preceding the AAR Annual Meeting:

l-r, Michael York, Judy Harrow, Patrick McCollum, Macha NightMare, Laura Wildman, Murph Pizza, and Marion Mason. Photo by Sarah Whedon

Murph (Univ. of Wisconsin-Milwaukee) gave a paper called “Sharkey’s End: Paganism’s Public Challenge and the Limitations of Legitimacy in the Minnesota Twin Cities,” and Judy Harrow presented an utterly brilliant panel discussion with Amanda Wolfe of Georgia State Univ. on Paganism and the psychological establishment.

Reclaiming also had a strong presence, both among the attendees and within the context of papers read. Laura Zwissler, Univ. of Toronto, referenced Reclaiming in her paper, “Public Spirituality, Personal Religion: Pagan Activists and Political Community,” and SpiralHeart's Pam Turtle Detrixhe, Temple Univ., spoke on “Performing ‘Religion’ in Public: The Pagan Cluster at the Interfaith,” in which she spoke of Katrina Messenger.

Besides Macha (CA) and Pam (PA), other Reclaiming folks in attendance were Katrina (DC), Ishtar (NY), Endora (VT), Yarrow (VA), Grove (MA), Jone (Norway), Sarah Whedon (CA) and whoever else I may be missing.

My thanks to Cat McEachern for organizing the conference, and to everyone there for joining in this ground-breaking work.

I’m having so much fun!!!!!

Monday, November 13, 2006

How To Die

Friday night Patrick and I managed to meet to conduct some CHS business, socialize as friends are wont to do, and catch a theater piece together.

The theater piece was How To Die, by and with Keith Hennessey, Jules Beckman and Seth Eisen. How to Die is the second on a three-part series called MANIfesti-VAL, Dance Brigade's Festival for Social Change at Dance Mission Theater in San Francisco's Mission District.

I've been a fan, and distant friend, of Keith for many years. He's frequently, sometimes with friends, invoked God at Reclaiming's Spiral Dances as well as taught workshops to folks in the wider community and at WitchCamps. I admire his Circo Zero, and especially loved a production called Spell, which really was a spell, a pre-election spell in 2004, in which he collaborated with Krissy Keefer and The Dance Brigade, the fabulous Copper Wimmin, and the goddess Hekate.

I warned Patrick this performance would be edgy, and indeed it was. Inspiration for the piece arose from the endemic phenomena in the cities of this country of homelessness, so shameful in a society of abundance; AIDS; suicide; and tweakers.* Among the unusual amalgam of media used were photos of homeless men in the immediate neighborhood passed among the audience; recorded statistics about suicide, suicide by train decapitation in particular; helium voices and condoms; digital self-photos taken and then slide-showed on an iBook; strings of shiny CDs; dance and costume.

The intimacy of the Mission Dance Theater performance space lessened the separation between performers and audience, which I assume was what the creators desired and which is something I prefer.

Perhaps three techniques were most unique. The first was a bathing in a galvanized tub, using tattered underwear as washcloth, followed by the character standing on head and hands in the washwater for a seemingly interminable amount of time. I can say that throughout this performance, as disturbing as it was at time -- as it was intended to be -- the performers held every audience member captive.

Second, and perhaps strongest, was having the primary character literally strung out with a string across the entire width of the performance space through his septum.

Keith is known for pushing boundaries, going beyond 'normal' limits. Tweakedness, dancing, glitzy over-the-top costumes and mock intercourse were not unexpected, but I must say that I could have done without the many spotlighted displays of Keith's asshole. That's the third.

I know to expect strong statements and kick-ass displays. Keith's tendency towards exhibitionism is one of his greatest strengths as well as one of his weaknesses. Yes, it certainly commands people's attention, but is also tends to undercut his message somehow. I haven't quite figured out why that is.

No surprise, I saw a few Reclaiming folks in the audience, and Patrick encountered some people he knows from St. Mary's College. I spied Erik Davis in an upper row as we were filing out of the bleachers and wanted to speak to him, perhaps remind him that we'd met before at the launch of Modern Pagans at the SF Art Institute when I bought his Techgnosis and asked him to autograph it, not that he'd have any reason to remember me. Anyway, for whatever reason, I passed on that. I eventually got around to reading Techgnosis and loved it, and at SheShamans this past June I bought his most recent book, Visionary State (with photographer Michael Rauner). I've browsed the photos and read bits and pieces of it, but have not yet gotten into it with both feet (or eyes, I guess).

If the reader finds oneself in San Francisco at a time when Keith is performing, one would find attending a performance stimulating, thought-provoking, perhaps disturbing, certainly promoting of reflection, and hopefully well worth the effort.

(More of the promised SD postmortem anon.)

* From the program: "The following drugs are somewhat or very tweakish, i.e., chemical assistants to speed and multi-tasking: caffeine, sugar, Ritalin, prednisone, crystal meth, ecstasy (mdma is almost always cut with meth), mda, OxyContin, Wellbutrin, Prozac, Ephedra, Sudafed and anything contgaining ephedrrin/pseudoephedrine, Vicoden, Lorcet, Sustiva, Red Bull, and the many herbal speeds that are so comon now including ginseng, maté."

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Colored Poppies & Election Celebration

I don't intend for this blog to be a photo album, but sometimes you just can't help it if you have something visual you want to document or show off. Today it's the latter. My left arm is just about completed; it may only get some minor touch-ups.

This first photo shows both arms, one with only the outline, as shown in a previous entry.

The second one shows the color, except that my skin is still traumatized and a bit swollen because it was only completed hours ago. At it heals, the shadings will become more distinct.

For the next little while, I'll be posting mostly words.

On a different matter, I'm really happy about the election results. Most of the candidates and propositions I voted for won. That's a novel experience for me, since usually my vote is the kiss of death. The Dems have the House; the Dems have the Senate. Nancy Pelosi is the first woman Speaker of the House and third in line for the Presidency. (Does that give you any ideas?) Now if the Dems would only show some spine. We need more than the few like Barbara Lee and Lynn Woolsey to speak for constituents of my sentiments.

More, we have the first Socialist Senator in many, many years. Of course, you've read all this a zillion other places, but I wanted to join the rejoicing.

Now it's time for the Greens, my party of choice, to elect people to fill local and regional offices, and work their way up the way the religious right did. We cannot afford the luxury of not being organized and well-funded.

Here's to universal health care, living wages, good educational opportunities for all, improved public transportation and other infrastructure, fewer jails and inmates, a more equitable division of wealth, clean water, clean oceans, clean air, sacrosanct wilderness, alternative energy sources, nutritious food for all (preferably locally grown and organic), and peace, blessed peace.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Vote Clean Sweep

Michael Moore urges voters to bring a broom and sweep 'em out of office. I did my part.

Photo taken at San Rafael, California by Corby Lawton.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

From Peak to Pits

Honoring the Dead:

My day started out high from last night, when about 30 of us met on the hill to dance with the ancestors. It turned out to be a beautiful night, cold with a bright gibbous moon and wisps of clouds.

Starting with kEATH being an excellent gatekeeper, to Prudence’s witchy challenges and admonition to keep solemn silence, to the exquisite magic of those witchy voices (Corby, Pasha, Patti, Denise, Nicole, Maenam and whoever else I may be forgetting), the the purifications done so carefully by Juliana and Karen, to the partially lighted broken steps, courtesy of Kirk and Tansy -- no one had any accidents, thank the gods! -- to the welcoming and everything that came afterwards.

I loved the way people came together with salt and water in the absence of tools and supplies: plastic cup from someone, green tea, and flakes of salt and pretzel from a snack bag of pretzels.

I love the silent walk through the dark tunnel. I love the opportunity to sit in silence at the top of the hill while all, living and dead, gather.

This was the first time I heard every single name. I found myself leaning forward and listening intently to every soul Victoria called. The widdershins walk and chanting “what is remembered lives” fostered a trancelike state of mind.

I loved the silence while we communed with the dead before we danced the spiral beneath Moon and the swirling spiral of clouds.

The energy of that spiral dance Denise led, for me, was a sweet as they come. Utterly lovely, and loving.

I like seeing who actually turns up. If they don’t want to make the effort, they miss the magic.

This was the first year without Vibra; we missed her. I also missed due to last-minute crises in their prison ministries, Patrick and Barbara, for whom this is the only ritual of the year they have no responsibility for and can simply surrender to.

Surprise Package:

So when the doorbell rang today and the UPS man delivered a surprise package, I was in a good mood to receive whatever it was. It turned out to be a five-volume series of religious studies textbooks called Introduction to New and Alternative Religions in America, edited by Eugene V. Gallagher and W. Michael Ashcroft. British scholar and eco-Pagan Adrian Harris and I co-wrote a piece called "New and Alternative Religions in the United States: Ritual and Neopaganism" in the volume entitled Metaphysical, New Age, and Neopagan Movements." I note that several other colleagues from the Nature Religions Scholars Network have also contributed. I must say it's a heady feeling to be in a textbook. This is my first text contribution, other than encyclopedia entries. I'm working on another for a high school textbook now.

Perhaps I'll finally meet Professors Gallagher and Ashcroft at the upcoming American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting later this month. I know I'll finally meet Adrian face to face.

Ending in Sorrow:

Yesterday in my fit of Hallows posts, I scanned a photo of my paternal grandparents. I also emailed it to several family members, including my cousin Gerry Gregorio. Gerry and I had recently renewed our close childhood friendship -- there was never any falling out, just poor correspondents and life getting in the way. She still lives in the same town where our grandparents and fathers lived all their lives, Moorestown, NJ, across the Delaware River from Philadelphia. Last November her husband Joe brought her to Philadelphia for a brief visit at the hotel when I was there for the AAR. She had been suffering from colon cancer. She put on a brave face, but I could tell that the visit was taxing her. It was clear that Joe was devoted to her. We had fun catching up, we took some photos, and then I lost my camera later that night. That was the last time I saw her.

This evening I received an email from Gerry's daugher, Nicole, telling me that Geraldine Frances O'Brien Gregorio had passed away on September 17th. In the confusion of grieving and making arrangements, the family had forgotten to notify the few of us here on the West Coast. Here's a photo of her taken last May with daughter Nicole and grandson Chaz at the latter's confirmation.

I'm very, very sad she's gone. I didn't have her name to call last night. I'll dance with her next year.

What is remembered lives.