Holiday Gift Ideas for Naturalistic Pagans, 2018

Just in time for Winter Solstice/Yule, here are some gift ideas to give or ask for!  Of the items here, many will help your spiritual practice, enriching your daily life.  Others will help you be understood by loved ones, or help you open a child’s eyes to our glorious Universe.  I’ve listed items for adults, then books/DVDs for adults, followed by the same two categories for parents/kids.  This is the updated list, with new gifts ideas at the top, and classic gifts below that.   Oh, on a side note – many of us have relatives who assume that excluding us by using an evangelical Thanksgiving grace is OK.  Here’s a video and inclusive grace resource that can be useful to check before that comes up at Thanksgiving dinner.

New items:

The War on Science by Shawn Otto.   What can we do to get back to a society that respects truth?  Alongside “Fantasyland”, below, I rank this book as second only to Pinker’s “Better Angels” and “Cosmos” (both below) in importance.  This book exposes the well funded, well organized Anti-Science movement in America, and most importantly, what we can do about it.  Chapter 8 details the inner workings of the “all beliefs are equally true” falsehood we often hear in the wider Pagan community.  Also available on MP3 audio, for listening during your commute, workout, walk, or whatever.

Stardust Explores the Solar System Like the Stardust book below, this new book was written by a child, bringing the wonder of science to children everywhere!  Because engaging the next generations with joy and awe is the key to a just, healthy, and sustainable world, this book is an incredible blessing to us all.  If you have people in your life with kids or grandkids, you just found a great gift for them!

Plush Organs for Kids has a new addition, a vulva+vagina!  This will help them learn about healthy sexuality, while the other organs help them learn about our bodies in a fun and cuddly way!  Heart, spleen, liver, brain and more are available.  These are especially useful when coupled with an anatomy diagram to show what the organ is, where it is, and what it does – and also to help kids deal with medical issues.  I’m recovering from hernia surgery, and the testicle plush will help me explain the evolutionary reason for hernias to my kids.

Wheel of the Year Tapestry Transforms any wall into our beautiful Wheel of the Year.  I have one of these for the background behind my home Altar or Focus.  The traditional elements are shown in the corners – a reminder of our long road to understand our world – they also can represent the four states of matter (solid, liquid, gas, plasma).

 Nicola Tesla Statue This one is much better than others I’ve seen (with Tesla actually looking down).  The statues one chooses for one’s Altar or Focus are of course very personal.  Tesla could represent scientific innovation, caring for others, and persistence.  Yes, that’s a model of Wardenclyffe he’s holding.

The Sacred Universe is a 44 page 12 x 12 soft-cover book, a compendium of breathtaking images of our Universe.  These images are taken from Sacred Universe calendars, which map our history onto the year, from the Big Bang in January to the present at the end of the year.

Of course, an important part of Naturalistic Paganism is thinking about the future of our world.  That means recognizing that gift-giving can often result in too much “stuff” – especially plastic toys that don’t teach a sustainable, reality-based worldview, and just add both pollution and clutter to our world and your life.  So consider “de-gifting”  your holy days – or just reducing gifts.  Just a hug, or a conversation, can mean a lot more, especially for older loved ones.  Not sure about something?  Maybe just ask the loved one openly?  They might be dreading the game of acting happy when they really don’t need more stuff.  For others, consider practical gifts – a gas card, a homemade meal, or other things that will make their lives easier while not adding to clutter.

Classics:
Items for Adults:

Lupa Greenwolf’s natural Pagan crafts (some make great ritual tools).  Also includes ritual wearables, artwork, and divination tools (yes, Naturalistic Pagans can use divination as a way to get a better idea of our own inner thoughts).  A great Tarot deck for Naturalist Pagans is also available, with Lupa’s The Tarot of Bones .

Pagaian Meditation CDs

These deeply moving meditations (with ritual instructions) can be an important part of  your spiritual practice.  Though Goddess based, they can be used by men also.

A Cosmala is a set of sacred Pagan beads which tell the story of our history, from the Big Bang until today.  My set includes many of my Ancestors, and is my most powerful ritual tool.  Though not available commercially, the instructions for making one are here – an especially good choice for those who prefer to hand-make the gifts they give.

Big History Car Decal!  These colorful decals show our history from the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago until today.  Will we build a just, healthy and sustainable world for future generations?  Join me in helping everyone see both our deep past as well as the choices before us by getting this decal for your car too (Video description).  But you can’t see your car when you are in your kitchen, right?  You can also get these same images as inexpensive refrigerator magnets – sharing our past and hope for the future with your family.  The magnets allow our history to be arranged as you like on your refrigerator.  Images by Liza Littlefield.

DNA Card Game  

This game looks like a fun way to learn about DNA.  Has anyone tried this game?  It’s one of the few things on this list that I haven’t tested out myself in my family.

Replicas

We are so lucky to live at a time when we know more than our Ancestors could have imagined about our world and our history.  I revel in this knowledge, and can get replicas of so many sacred objects (I try to get ones that are the actual size when possible, too).  here are a few of the ones that others or myself have.  In addition to often being effective ritual tools, can help our kids learn our family culture. Many of us have an altar or Focus – a perfect place for their presence.  What deity do you, a loved one, or your family feel especially connected to?  Prometheus, the Triple Goddess, the Green Man, and others come to my mind.  If you don’t see her or him here, check Sacred Source, Ebay, Amazon, and Google.  I try to buy from Sacred Source or other small shops before the others when I can.

Kernunnos, God of the wild wood. Timeless, tireless guardian of all living things, the Horned One.   The Celtic Father of Animals, with his companion Stag and Boar, is an archetype of mature masculine energy in balance with the natural world. Taken from the Gundestrup cauldron, this image shows the forest god in his typical yogic pose of meditative entrancement with nature.

Venus of Willendorf (25,000 – 28,000 BC)
This figurine was found in the Austrian village of Willendorf in 1908 and dates back to the Paleolithic period of prehistoric times.. The voluptuous female figurine is cut from oolith (limestone), a type of stone which originally was not found in this area. “Goddess figurines” is a collective term for prehistoric female figurines found throughout Europe and elsewhere.   The original meaning or meanings of the Goddess figurines is unknown. It is likely that, in the hunter and gatherer society of those days, their corpulence stood for prosperity and fertility.

Wheel of the Year (also look for others)

Honor the Solstices, Equinoxes, Thermstices and Equitherms of our sacred year with this seasonal pictorial wall plaque- and you don’t even have to show any math! Rich symbolism in loving detail.   We have four Wheels of the Year in various places around the house.

Nebra Sky Disk  

The worlds oldest star map – an exact, full-sized replica of the 3,500 year old disc recently discovered within a Neolithic woodhenge observatory near Nebra, Germany. The original, bronze with gold plated stars, shows several constellations, including The Pleiades.  If you have Asian, African or European Ancestors, then your Ancestors made, revered, and used this.  

This fossil of Archeopteryx is probably the most important and famous fossil ever discovered.  Found when the controversy over Darwin’s Origin of Species was raging – before evolution was settled science, it is a perfect example of the transitional fossils predicted by Darwin.  The skeleton is that of a theropod dinosaur, and possesses teeth, a long bony tail, abdominal ribs and three digits on each hand – characters absent in birds. It also shows bird characteristics such as a furcula (wishbone) and a retroverted pubis (characteristics also shared with some d
inosaurs) and an opposable hallux (big toe) for perching.  The most spectacular feature is the distinct impression of feathers around the forelimbs and tail.   I have a replica like this on my living room wall.

   Everything we touch is made of these elements – this starstuff!  Here is a rich Periodic Table of the Elements, showing both the elements as well as their place on the table.  We have one of these, in a 3′ X 5′ frame, on our living room wall, between the archeopteryx.

Acheulean hand axe  To hold one of these ancient artifacts in your hand, to know that it was made hundreds of thousands of years ago by an earlier human – likely one of your Ancestors – to aid in daily survival, is truly a humbling experience and a direct connection to our far distant past.  Useful both as a ritual tool and on one’s Altar or Focus.

23andme DNA test!  It’s incredible to imagine that we can tap into the information in our DNA, opening a window to our Ancestors both recent and ancient.  For me, reading my own DNA has been a spiritual practice, one that you can share in.  Here is an article and video about it.  The “Ancestry only” version costs half as much as the full test

Books & DVDs for Adults

While many Pagans today believe in literal gods, there are a growing number of Pagans who are “godless.” Today, the diverse assemblage of spiritual paths known as Paganism includes atheist Pagans or Atheopagans, Human- istic and Naturalistic Pagans, Buddho-Pagans, animists, pantheists, Gaians, and other non-theistic Pagans. Here for the first time, their voices are gathered together to share.  Available as paperback and ebook.

Lupa Greenwolf’s Books   Lupa explains: Nature-based spirituality has been a conscious part of my life since 1996, though nature has always been sacred to me to one degree or another, ever since I was very young. I especially gravitated toward animals, so it was no surprise that animal totems and other such beings have been central to my practice. My first book, Fang and Fur, Blood and Bone: A Primal Guide to Animal Magic, was published in 2006, and I’ve had several titles published since then.  The newest book is the The Tarot of Bones .

Carl Sagan’s Cosmos (available on DVD) Carl Sagan’s Cosmos is my #1 recommendation to families for giving children the priceless gift of our Universe, which they will carry with them into adulthood.  It’s essential inspiration for me, as an adult, too.  Nearly all of the original version is still wonderful and relevant today.  The original and new versions have a lot of different content – I highly recommend owning both, and sharing them with your kids.

In his gripping book, New York Times bestselling author Steven Pinker shows that despite the ceaseless news about war, crime, and terrorism, violence has actually been in decline over human history. Exploding myths about humankind’s inherent nature, this ambitious provides a remarkable picture of an increasingly enlightened world.  editor’s note:  This book helps show a Humanistic worldview more than any book I know.  It changed my view of history, and I consider it essential reading for all Pagans, naturalistic and otherwise.   Available in both book and audio form.  The audio is especially useful because it’s not a short book, and so listening on workouts or commutes works well.  I personally rank this as my #1 book (well, tied with the original Cosmos DVD) all people should read.  It literally changes your worldview.

Colors of this Hungry Sky This collection of 20 poems, new and old, celebrates the magic of the everyday and the wild. In the age of the Druids, poetry, storytelling, ritual, and wise counsel were inseparable from prophecy, trance, and divinatory practice.

Fantasyland, by Kurt Andersen.   Especially important for all naturalists (not just Naturalistic Pagans) this is essential reading for all Americans, and I rank it as tied with “War on Science” as being second only to Pinker’s “Better Angels” and “Cosmos” (both below) in importance.  It traces the history of why delusional thinking is so prevalent in America, from the 1600’s to today.  By showing that (and the reason why we have President Trump), it makes so much of our culture – both on the right and on the left – understandable, if not excusable.  Also available on MP3 audio, for listening during your commute, workout, walk, or whatever.  This is not a kid’s book.

My Name is Stardust What a wonderful book to introduce our origins to our kids!  This book combines the wonder and awe we feel for our Universe with the awesome reality of our stardust nature.  Written by a 10 year old, this make s a great complement to both the original and the updated Cosmos DVDs.  Because engaging the next generations with joy and awe is the key to a just, healthy, and sustainable world, this book is an incredible blessing to us all.  If you have people in your life with kids or grandkids, you just found a great gift for them!

Spinning in Place  The book describes a cycle of eight seasonal celebrations which humans have observed for thousands of years in various ways. These are the equinoxes and the solstices as well as the so-called cross-quarter days.  Here is an interview of the author.

 

Equally comedic and insightful, Letting Go of God is Sweeney’s brilliant one-woman show about her struggle with her faith. While faced with door-knocking Mormons and wise-cracking priests, Sweeney takes listeners on her very personal journey from God to “not-God”.  For me, this has been a helpful door key, making it easier to come out of the Atheist closet to Christian family and friends.  It’s non-threatening, using comedy to safety open discussions of Atheism.

The Ancestors Tale takes us modern humans back through four billion years of evolution on our planet. As the pilgrimage progresses, we join with other organisms at the forty “rendezvous points” where we find a common ancestor. The band of pilgrims swells into a vast crowd as we join first with other primates, then with other mammals, and so on back to the first primordial organism, meeting our Ancestors that many of us don’t yet know.  Here Dawkins shows us how remarkable we are, how astonishing our history, and how intimate our relationship with the rest of the living world.  The audio version is especially good, being read by Dr. Dawkins himself, who is so cool that he autographed my Darwin Cosmala bead in 2017.

Pagaian Cosmology  brings together a religious practice of seasonal ritual based in a contemporary scientific sense of the cosmos and female imagery for the Sacred.  This book is well referenced academically and emphasizes the Goddess naturalistically.  An excerpt is here.

Bible Stories YPNTY   There exists in the world today a nearly universal presumption that the Holy Bible is a “good” book. Bible versus are etched into the walls of our national monuments. Churches operate tax exempt. Even the President of the United States takes his oath of office with one hand planted firmly on a copy of the Bible.  But actually reading a Bible, we
see story after story of looting, murder, genocide, torture, slavery approved by this god.  For people who have ready a Bible cover to cover (as I have), this is redundant – but for others, it is an eye-opener that saves many hours of readying boring lists of begats.

My spirituality if future-focused.  It is future generations who will determine the fate of humanity and the rest of our family of life on Earth.  We have the opportunity to help give them some tools for that task.  Or we can leave it to popular culture to fill their minds.  It’s our choice.  Here are first, items, then book/DVD, holiday gifts for parents & kids.

Items for Parents & Kids

 Evolution board game  As with so many other topics, kids learn best while playing a game.  Though I haven’t personally played this one, it looks like a game the whole family can enjoy, and is more affordable than the game we have here at our house (Evo).  Our Evo game has been played so many times that it’s pretty worn out, and has several odd items being used as substitutes for missing pieces.

A glimpse of life half a billion years ago! The first ancestors of many animal groups appeared over 500 million years ago.  This set includes five scientifically accurate toys, and each toy comes with a tag explaining the animal’s phylum, class, actual size, modern relatives, and more.  Our Ancestor, pikaia, is included.

Similar (and more affordable) toys are available in Toobs, (though the Cambrian Life Toob doesn’t include pikaia).  Many other Toobs are very educational, including mammal skulls, Powhatan Native Americans, venomous animals, and more.  Parental discretion is needed, as there are also Toobs of things that aren’t real.

Timespirals enable you to grasp the enormity of the 13.8 billion year story of the universe, allowing you to comprehend the awesome scope of the events and processes necessary for you to be on planet Earth at this time.

DVDs and books for Parents & Kids

Carl Sagan’s Cosmos (available on DVD) Carl Sagan’s Cosmos is my #1 recommendation to families for giving children the priceless gift of our Universe, which they will carry with them into adulthood.  It’s essential inspiration for me, as an adult, too.  Nearly all of the original version is still wonderful and relevant today.  The original and new versions have a lot of different content – I recommend owning both.

Essential Books for all Families:
Understanding how we got here gives a child roots – a foundation on which to build a life.  For the youngest kids, aged 3 to 7, “Grandmother Fish” is the best introduction to evolution out there.  “Our Family Tree” by Lisa Peters is also very good. Next, for ages 5 to 10, is the “Born with a Bang” trilogy by Jennifer Morgan. After that the child can read on their own, so Richard Dawkins book, “The Magic of Reality” is a good choice for kids over 11.

Both Grandmother Fish and Mira & the Big Story (video trailer here) are great for young kids, and especially for kids’ story time, such as at UU churches.  Mira helps kids understand that there are mythical creation stories out there, and that those stories can cause divisions among people.  Another evolution book for kids is here – it looks good.  It’s brand new & the only one I don’t yet personally own and read to my kids – it just came out.

My name is Medusa – A kid’s introduction to Goddess Spirituality  by Glenys Livingstone  “A wonderful introduction to and re-framing of the myth of the wise, powerful, fabulously snaky-haired Medusa. The magical pages of this gorgeous book teach children love for the Earth and for all of Her creatures.” Review by Miriam Robbins Dexter, author of Whence the Goddesses.  Also available – the Girl God Calendar.

Elemental Birthdays lets anyone celebrate birthdays while having fun with science. All the elements of the universe have an atomic number (Z). Elemental Birthdays matches that number with a birthday. The book uses this simple idea to incorporate the elements into fun, easy party themes, and it provides a step-by-step guide to games and activities. The result: a party where kids and adults have fun learning science!

The BBC “Walking with” series is excellent – especially “Monsters”, “Cavemen”, and “Beasts”.  Many people think of the dinosaurs as the first inhabitants of the earth, but this prequel to Walking With Dinosaurs puts viewers in the midst of a host of strange creatures that inhabited the earth millions of years before the dinosaurs ever existed. With the help of complex computer animation and the research of hundreds of paleontologists, the BBC presents an extremely realistic picture of the earth’s earliest, most primitive aquatic inhabitants and chronicles their evolution to the precursors of man himself and the mighty dinosaurs.

For younger kids, the need for evidence is shown by: ”Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!: The Complete First and Second Seasons (1969)”.  Many of us Gen-Xer’s learned critical thinking and the need to look for rational explanations for supernatural claims from this lovable dog.  The best thing is that kids love it – asking to see episode after episode.  To me, this is the “real” Scooby – after these two seasons, the series declined, losing some critical thought and becoming a mediocre, regular, (and, shall we say…) “scrappy” kids cartoon.  

 

 

This is the yearly Gift List Post.  Did I miss a great gift?  Put it in the comments section! 

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Let Us Give Thanks

In the United States, this is the week of the annual secular holiday Thanksgiving, coming up on Thursday the 22nd.

Originating with the Michaelmas harvest celebrations of England, the American Thanksgiving is rooted in the mythologizing of a harvest feast shared by colonizing “Pilgrims” in the New England region and Native people following a successful harvest in 1621. 

Of course, within a short time, said colonists were massacring their Native neighbors, and the North American genocide was underway.

Given that capitalism turns everything it touches into something grotesque, the American holiday has become more of a celebration of gluttony and an often-problematic convening of family members who may not actually get along.

But if we dispense with that and contemplate the real meaning of the holiday, we come to Atheopagan Principle 3: Gratitude.

Through countless nearly random interactions, we are here. living this life in this marvelous, problematic world. We are alive! And too often, be it due to circumstances or culture or disposition, we do not embrace the gloriousness of this, of the simple fact that we are given the opportunity to live this precious life.

So whether or not you are celebrating this week, I hope you will take a moment to reflect on the reasons you have for gratitude, and allow yourself to feel the warm glow of happiness that comes when we do so. 

We all have challenges, true. It’s easy to focus all of our attention on them. But we mustn’t. We are alive, and blessed to be so. So take a little time for gratitude this week. It’s always a good idea.

So I’m a Witch Again………. by Natalie Kirk

Well, here I go again.

I used to be a pagan, back in my teens up until I was about 22. I was a true believer. I fully believed in gods and goddesses, and that I could summon magic to create change in the universe.

Well, I say “fully,” but there was always a seed of a doubt in my head that the supernatural was just fake. It had always been there, even when I was being indoctrinated as a Christian in childhood. Perhaps it helped that my sister never believed in any of it, and wasn’t afraid to say so.

That seed sprouted and bloomed during my twenties. As I matured, and started working, thoughts of witchcraft and deities became just abstract concepts in my mind, and then I came upon the YouTube skeptic community. At the time, it wasn’t the absolute cesspool it became in the last 5 years, and I found it very enlightening. I realised that there was no reason to believe in anything that I couldn’t find convincing evidence of. I learned to think critically, and to see religion and new age woo as lies to control the masses and make money.

I was quite a big fan of Matt Dillahunty, who, on The Atheist Experience, would push back on any spiritual belief and ritual as harmful to both individuals and to society.

But the allure of the Atheist movement on YouTube fell away as they turned away from criticising Christianity to outright bashing on feminism, social justice, transgender, and of course Islam. To even tolerate the existence of Islam was unacceptable, and if you were a feminist, well, basically you were Hitler.

Originally posted by crazor24

Of course, Matt Dillahunty didn’t participate in this shitlordery, but the mystique around him did eventually break for me, when he said some pretty rubbish things about the issue of another atheist celebrity being accused of sexual harassment. Now, I view him as an okay atheist community leader, all things considered, but I’m not fawning over the guy.

And then the Trump presidency happened, and Nazis started multiplying all over the internet. Some of them were religious, some of them were not. Their white supremacy and fashy thought was the new enemy.

Originally posted by genderbolshevism

So, I was a moderate atheist, who was happy to coexist with leftists, regardless of their religion – right wingers being way more toxic to society than any sufficiently liberal religious person. I realised that while religion certainly plays a factor in oppression, it’s conservatism and fascism that are the true problems in society, and religion is just the excuse a lot of people use to take away rights of people they don’t like and keep society at a point where they’re on top, looking down on everyone else.

Fighting for justice and activism kept me busy, but I was desperately empty inside.

Battling depression for years and seeing countries all over the world being pulled in by hard right nationalism left me in a terrible state.

At the same time, the new reboots of Charmed and Sabrinaappeared on the small screen. I watched The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and after digesting the series, started feeling a great longing.

Originally posted by billie-lourd

While the series leaves a bit to be desired in their representation of witchcraft, the aesthetics and the rituals depicted reminded me of how amazing I used to feel when working magic. Whether magic was real or not didn’t matter to the effect it had on me. Feelings of connection to nature, having energy surging through me, the feeling of being able to do something about things I had no real way of changing.

Compare that with the hopelessness I felt, wishing every day that an asteroid would just smash into the earth and wipe out humanity like it did the dinosaurs. No karma to punish bad people, no ability to change the horrible things that were happening except desperate tweets and barely watched YouTube videos.

Finally, I started googling things like “atheist witchcraft” and “doing witchcraft even though you don’t believe in it.”

Originally posted by justalittletumblweed

I came across Humanistic Paganism, a movement that seems to be exactly what I was looking for. And furthermore, it links up so well with the way my psychologist described my anxiety disorder, i.e. the primitive, irrational brain taking over in times of panic, and having many detrimental effects on the body.

Magic changes my mindset; my mindset changes my probabilities of successfully manifesting my will in my life. It works by reconciling the rational and the irrational parts of myself.Take a protection charm for instance. A braid of garlic, a bag of herbs or a piece of metal, in and of itself, doesn’t protect me from anything. But if I use it as a protection charm, it reminds my rational brain to be vigilant, which helps me avoid avoidable danger. But it also appeases my irrational side by acting as if the piece of metal or bag of herbs will protect me from unavoidable danger. My irrational side is an heirloom from some hairy caveman who screeched and ran when he heard the “angry” thunderstorm. That irrational side is where uncontrollable emotional breakdowns come from. With magic, I gave that irrational side a more productive job to do so that I don’t have to simply repress it. That way all of me can work towards the same goal.

From <https://humanisticpaganism.com/2014/05/14/an-atheists-magical-practice-in-detail-by-atheistwitch/>

As soon as I read it, I knew it was time to break out the pentacle again.

Originally posted by luciela-marche

So, now I’m an atheist witch that doesn’t believe in magic, but I do believe in the therapeutic power of witchcraft. And so, I’m going to practice witchcraft as if I believe it, all the while knowing that its primary purpose is satiating that part of my mind that hungers for meaning and miracles.

Already, I am feeling a renewed sense of purpose and control of my destiny. It doesn’t matter if it comes from a fake place, as long as it keeps the depressive nihilism away.

Original Site 

Natalie Kirk is qualified and experienced in animation, design and 3D art.  She’s spent almost her entire adult life studying to acquire skills in digital media, learning and creating as she goes.

She’s also an intersex spokesperson and activist, having appeared in the media for this purpose over the past ten years.  She’s passionate about human rights and social justice.

Forging Paths of Integrity

There has been a lot of talk online lately about the Pagan (or neopagan, if you prefer) community* and integrity, or lack thereof.

Stuff about “fakelore” traditions and lineages: pretense of ancient roots that aren’t, and people using this pretense to dangle “ancient secrets” before naive seekers to leverage sexual favors .  Stuff about lousy sexual boundaries, harassment and assault**; particularly, the usage of status and power (such as the power to approve or disapprove elevation to higher “degrees of initiation”) to extort sex, money or power.

I’ve written about some of these issues before. They are real. They go to the origins of modern witchcraft’s practices and culture with some decidedly kinky Brits, and their flourishing in the self-indulgent counterculture of the 1960s.

And the Pagan community struggles with them. More, I think, than the atheist community does, because of the Pagan community’s early roots in the Sixties counterculture, but the atheists have their problems too.

As someone who came into the Pagan community through the Church of All Worlds, which has historically had a culture very much in keeping with that unboundaried Sixties-style sexual free-for-all, I have seen this close up, and I’m guilty of having played along at times, thinking at the time that this was “normal” in that context. I have seen and experienced creepy and predatory behavior (by both men and women) in that community, and have heard reports of much worse. This figured heavily in why I left CAW in the late 1990s***.

I think every community that allows people to become the objects of cults of personality is destined to experience abuses of power. That’s why Atheopaganism as we are creating it has no priesthood, no hierarchy of degrees. It’s not a guarantee that there will be no abuse, but it’s a hedge against it. Atheopaganism is a collaborative venture: we’re doing it together. We have no priest/esses, no “teachers”.

It’s also helpful, I think, that we make no claim that what we are doing is a centuries-old (or even decades-old) tradition. Ours is a new path, a modern way based in current understanding of science and age-old ritual and religious techniques . We borrow from no particular culture, but from the accumulated tool kit of humanity itself. We kicked off in 2009. So: no “ancient secrets” that can be “revealed” by a self-styled “teacher”.

Just because something is old doesn’t make it valid. And just because something is young doesn’t make it inconsequential.

I think it’s a bit silly that people claim long histories for their traditions when they are instead products of the 20th century. But there’s not a tremendous amount of harm there except insofar as they use such claims to assert “authority” or “superiority” over others, or use the prospect of learning “ancient lore” as bait to leverage sex, money or obedience.

On the other hand, I think the broader Pagan community has some serious soul-searching to do around sexual behavior and culture.

I have many dear friends in the Pagan community. There are lovely, amazing people there. But I have also seen people in that community—generally, high-status people with power and influence—abuse their standing in myriad ways. It seems that being a big fish in a small pond just creates too much temptation on the part of many…particularly if they can rationalize their behavior with supernatural explanations. And the tone that is set by the common belief that Pagans are up for a sexual free-for-all means that countless instances of inappropriate behavior ranging from annoyance to harassment to outright assault happen in the community. It makes us a magnet and a hunting ground for predators and creeps.

It is my hope that this is reducing as awareness of consent issues and the #MeToo movement gain traction, but frankly, predators aren’t going to change. We need to root them out.

We have to work at this; it won’t just happen on its own.

I hope that is happening now. Certainly there are some newer voices that are much more sane than those of prior generations, and much more aware of issues of respect, integrity, and boundaries.

But I think there are some key recommendations we can derive from the problems we have inherited from the past:

The Pagan community needs a broadly adopted Community Statement on Sexual Abuse, Etiquette and Ethics. There was an attempt to create one a few years ago, and it fell apart when some who like things as they are now protested. It is long past time for those complaints to be rejected as apologetics for a culture that indulges abuse. No one likes “rules”, but we need some. The statement could be endorsed not only by organizations, covens, and paths, but by festivals and conferences.
We must end sexual initiation, and festivals should disinvite those leaders who won’t. Just stop it. It’s unnecessary and it leads to many abuses. It doesn’t matter if it’s part of a “tradition”. So was strangling people and sinking them in peat bogs.
We must desexualize Pagan events. That means keeping sexual behavior (other than symbolic actions, like planting a Maypole in the ground) out of open rituals and ensuring that any sexually explicit or skyclad activities are private, adult, and by invitation only. That’s the only way to keep creepers out and only allow consenting participants in. Say it with me: privacy is not the same thing as shame.
We must teach consent culture and boundaries at every event, have written conduct standards prominently provided to participants, and require in practice that they be followed by everyone, no matter how revered. To their credit, some events like Pantheacon are already doing this.****
We must teach our communities about leadership. People who understand leadership know unleaderlike behavior when they see it. Real leadership doesn’t exploit, doesn’t extort. Real leadership is transparent about money and decision making, and admits when it makes mistakes. And it doesn’t demand, cajole or bargain for sex for any reason.

And why, after all, should we do these things? When confronted with these issues, why not just quit, practice as a solitary (as so many do) or seek (as I have done) to find a corner of the community with a more conscious culture?

Well, I’ll tell you why. Because as frustrating as the Pagan community can be, it can also be wonderful. It can be amazing. Much of it stands for reverence for the Earth, which the world desperately needs now. And by and large, it is made up of people seeking to be the best people they can be. It is a tragedy and a travesty that such abuses take place among people who are so worthy. 

I’m sure there are other lessons I’m missing. But if we were to adopt these, things would get a lot cleaner and safer in Pagandom.

May it be so.

*Setting aside the question of terminology and what that “community” really means in detail, as it is a aggregation of many different paths, perspectives and practices.

** This is long, but well worth taking the time to read in its entirety.

*** I understand there is now an initiative to transform that subculture, and I applaud the effort.

****For an example of such policies, see the Atheopagan Event Planning Guide.

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS for the Atheopagan Blog

Atheopaganism is a collaborative enterprise: a constellation of individual practices that share certain things in common, like a naturalistic cosmology, a set of values and principles, and ritual practices that enact, invoke and embody our celebration of the world and of living. We all do it a little differently, and that’s a part of its beauty: it is intended not as a template that all participating must follow, but as a landscape of possibilities, through which each of us can choose our way in the manner which best serves us.

Your Atheopaganism is not my Atheopaganism, exactly, and that is precisely as it should be.

I am the publisher of the Atheopaganism blog, and I write most of what is published here. But we have so many more voices! I would love to host writing by you on subjects such as (but not limited to):

My Atheopagan practiceHow I celebrate (X) SabbathHow my practice dovetails with my local ecosystem and/or climateHow I’m raising kids in an Atheopagan householdMy rite of passage ritual (naming, wedding, passage to adulthood, funeral, etc.)Thoughts on Atheopagan philosophyMy daily (or weekly, or every lunar cycle) ritualHow I made my ritual toolMy cool Atheopagan craft project or piece of artMy pilgrimage hike 

Please send submissions to atheopagan (at) comcast.net.

I look forward to reading your work!