Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Speaking of Witch

Immediately after posting the previous entry about the history of persecution Witches have endured, thinking that was all in the past, I heard about a recent incident of Witch-bashing on Fox News. The clergy of my coven composed this official response. Witnessing the collaborative and respectful process of creating this public statement inspired and deeply moved me. I love my coven!

Come As You Are Coven Responds to Prejudicial Comments on Fox Network
The Clergy of Come As You Are Coven, an Interfaith Pagan community in Northern California, take exception to the statements about Pagans and Wiccans made by Fox Network commentators Anna Kooiman, Clayton Morris, Tucker Carlson, and Tammy Bruce on-air Feb 17, 2013.  The inaccurate and slanted reporting and commentary permitted by the Fox Network on the topic of the recognition of Pagan and Wiccan holy days by the University of Missouri was an incident of egregious misinformation, lack of research, blatant sexism, religious prejudice, and personal invective.

The remarks made by these Fox Network hosts were especially irresponsible in light of the increasing diversity of religious tradition in America, where members of minority religions still struggle to establish equality and fair treatment in their schools, local governments, civic organizations, and communities.

Given the current politically divided climate, it is crucial for the media to hold a high standard of integrity and commitment to reporting fairly about the diverse cultures in this country and the countries with which the United States interacts. This is achieved through unbiased reporting, sensitive yet unemotional delivery of factual material, and thorough research to establish the verity of assertions made by reporters and commentators. The media has a responsibility to act with conscience and accountability in the selection and appropriate preparation of the individuals who are professionally tasked with informing large portions of the population.

In this case, accurate factual information about Pagan and Wiccan holidays is widely and readily available online, in libraries, in government
documents such as the US Army Chaplain’s Handbook, and in a number of state and district court cases where Wicca was specifically recognized as a religion protected under the First Amendment. There is no sufficient excuse for the gross misrepresentations allowed by Fox Network on Feb 17.

We request that this issue be addressed by Fox News Network via an immediate, prominent, on-air apology; significant on-air retraction of specific comments with factual corrections; visible dialogue with practicing Wiccans and Pagans conducted in a respectful manner; and appropriate commitment by the Network to providing the individuals responsible with a mandatory professional course of diversity training in religious and sex/gender sensitivity.

As an Interfaith Pagan organization that recognizes Wicca as a major influence, and that also recognizes the First Amendment right of each individual to choose a personally meaningful spiritual path, we denounce any efforts to undermine the sacred nature of any religion/practice, holy day, and/or celebration, especially but not limited to those growing, emerging, and/or marginalized religions/practices.

We applaud the University of Missouri’s sensitivity to the needs of its Pagan and Wiccan community members via recognition of their holy celebrations, and encourage other academic, government, and business institutions to include similar awareness of these holy days in their own administration and planning.

We support the varied and diverse efforts of the concerned individuals and groups who are bringing this issue to public attention and mobilizing Pagans and Wiccans to demand public accountability and fair resolution.


The Clergy of CAYA Coven are each going to be sending this statement to the Fox Network and the FCC at the following addresses:

News Corporation
1211 Avenue of Americas, 8th Floor,NY, NY 10036

Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20554

If you like this language and it expresses your feelings well, feel free to adjust and use this for your personal or group purposes.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Beginner's Mind

One of my favorite parts of learning is books. Acquiring them, reading them, marking them up. I am at least a third-generation marginaliaist. My mother's books looked like ravished parade floats when she tossed them aside for the next. Always the next. Well, there's that story about Joseph Campbell underlining books as meditation, and if that doesn't unfurrow your brow, I've done all I can.

The first book on my required-reading pile is Coven Craft by Amber K. According to my teacher, it's a somewhat dry and very practical book. We'll be reading and discussing three chapters for every monthly class. Even though our first class isn't until March 24, I dipped into it up to the end of chapter 3.

The preface and introduction simply outline the history of Witchcraft and explain what it is what it isn't, what it has been for the author, what it might be for the reader, what is a coven… I laughed as I caught myself trying to skim through quickly.

Yes, I've read some books on the subject. Yes, I think I know this already. AND…Yes, I want to cultivate that wide wonder of beginner's mind.

So I slowed down and read it. Wow, was Pope Innocent III a terror. The Inquisition never fails to turn my stomach. Maybe I do want to skip ahead. All I can do is say a prayer for tolerance and compassion. And thank the powers that be for my birth into the freedom I've enjoyed in this life.

Chapter One; "To Be a Witch," is for folks who skipped the preface and introduction. OK, it does elaborate on ethics, and that's a very fine place to start, though not as glamorous as the tools and trappings of Witchcraft. Which reminds me of a photography teacher I had as I began college, back in the 1980s. He asked the class, "What do you want to learn?" Us freshmen called out all the fancy tricks of filters and lenses and printing papers until he stopped us with, "How about learning to take a decent photo?" Oh, yeah.

Ethics, as I understand it, is basically about aligning yourself on all levels—thought, word, deed, spirit. Robin Wood's When, Why …If  decribes it as being personally accountable for your own choices and actions. Amber K agrees that it's up to each individual, and yes, it's a lot of work. It all comes back to Know Thyself. For me, that's a part of Daily Practice.

Chapter Two; "A Short History of the Coven," tells how the folk religions were forced into secrecy by the Roman Church's violent repressions and supplantations. Small groups, such as immediate families or very close friends, gathered in privacy to practice their beliefs, possibly attending the socially-approved churches in public. I am always fascinated by the clever techniques people used to disguise their ritual objects, such as a broom that is a magic staff or a pentacle made of wax that can be thrown into the fire.

Fairy tales, superstitions and other relics of folk life may be traces of the old religion. Or maybe they were created to ridicule the practice into the world of fantasy. Probably a bit of both, with a few odd bits from other sources. If I've learned anything, it's that life is constant mutation, which is why I always take any history with a dash of tamari.

Chapter Three; "The Gods and the Universe," addresses the varied cosmologies and pantheans of witchcraft, due to the fact that there is no central authority. I've heard if you ask three pagans to define paganism you'll get seven answers. Yep. The only general agreement I have found so far is that reality is much bigger than any one person can wrap their perceptions around. Each individual or group works with whatever fragments feel meaningful to their own practice. And other than some petty bickering, Witches usually keep it respectful and peaceful. We aren't trying to conquer or convert anyone.

Beginner's Mind helps me stay in the present, paying attention to the radiant resonance of the here and now that is the best guidance I can ever receive.

Bee here now.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Humility and Intention

I had an entirely different post halfway-written before I deleted it and changed the subject.

It is a challenge to find my voice in blogland. With such a personal and delicate subject as my spiritual practice, I'm keen to discern the line between "sharing interesting observations" and "trying to make an impression." (It took me several tries to craft that sentence, and I hope it makes sense.) One of the demons on any path of leadership is an inflated sense of self-importance. I hope to nip that in the bud by addressing it as I take my first steps in this direction.

It might help if I clarify my intention for this blog of shadows and reflections. As I am currently on a path of training to serve in public rituals, I desire to present my explorations and experiments out in the open. By keeping mindful of my public presence, I hope to cultivate the grace and dignity I would look for in any priestess.

So look for prayers here, and ideas. Look for research and questions and discussions of the books, songs, movies and adventures that nurture my growth. Look for stories and dreams and memories and hungry demons and  unexpected allies. I'd like to include helpful links for those curious to know more. I'd like to share generously without TMI. I heartily welcome all respectful comments, questions, and suggestions.

Looking at what I've just written, it seems so serious and cautious. Maybe I've avoided pursuing a leadership role because I was afraid to lose my sense of play? Maybe I should check out some playful role models, like His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Let my journey be dappled by sparkling light and dancing shadows.