Fairy Tale Magic

It’s official! In May of 2014, the book that Kenny Klein and I have written together about magical theory in fairy tales will be published by Llewellyn!

The title will be Fairy Tale Magic: Unearth & Reclaim the Potent Enchantment of Old World Folk Tales. I am so excited to see the cover, which will be just as beautiful as Kenny’s last books!

In the book we look at magical theory and the basis of ritual in stories such as: The Buried Moon, Brother and Sister, Vasilisa the Beautiful, Little White Thorn, Jack and the Beanstalk, Goldilocks and several more.

Keep your eyes peeled for later updates!

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Right and Wrong in the Pagan Community

My partner just wrote a blog for Pagan Square (which you can find here) about the history of the phrase “in perfect love and perfect trust”.

On Facebook, when Witches and Pagans posted the article, someone commented:

I found this comment to be more than a little ridiculous because the whole article is explaining the context of  how the phrase “in perfect love and perfect trust” was originally used and why it might be inappropriate when taken out of its original context. There was no militant Wiccan laws or judgements…just a “hey, this phrase isn’t talking about what you think its talking about, you might want to think about what you’re really asking about when you use it”, especially when you are interacting with people of many different Pagan backgrounds who will take it in many different ways.

But it also brought up a few things that I’ve been thinking about lately.

In the Pagan community, there is a blanket understanding that no one’s particular beliefs are “wrong”. And this in and of itself is great.

But this idea of no belief is wrong tends to lead to the idea that you can’t be wrong about anything. That if you tell someone that they are “wrong”, you become a negative and hateful person. People ask you why can’t you just live and let live? When you tell someone they’re wrong you become a rigid fundamentalist who is trying to force your way on everyone around you. I’ve seen this thrown at a great many respected priests and priestesses over the last few weeks.

I am baffled by this idea. Would you stand up in your college physics class and tell your professor that he knows nothing and how dare he try to tell you that for every action, there is not an equal and opposite reaction? Or argue with a math teacher that 2 + 2 does not = 4? Or would you go out, get your degree, go and find some practical experience and then come up with valid and logical theory that you then continue to experiment with for why these things are not actually the case?

I know, I know…religion is not science or math. Religious practice does not usually have the same straightforward sort of answers.

Or does it...?

Or does it…?

But sometimes there are some pretty straightforward answers. Not everything in the Craft is a great mystery of the Goddess or God that everyone needs to find a different path to. The example of what a Pentacle is from my last blog is a good example of this.

There are a great many people in the Pagan community who are trained and experienced priests and priestesses in all the many and varied traditions and groups that make up the Pagan umbrella. There are basic ideas and practices that have a “right” and “wrong” way of being done that these people usually spend countless amounts of time learning and then perfecting. It might vary by group or tradition, but you can actually be a Pagan and do something the wrong way!

I know, take a minute, sit down, deep breath…process that idea. I know, I know…it’s upsetting.

While you’re “refusing to be restricted by some rigid doctrine”, you’re also refusing to take the time to sit down and learn the history and background of what you’re doing. In my tradition, while you’re being taught and guided through the various initiatory levels, we talk a lot about how certain things are done within the tradition. When you get your initiation and hive off (3rd degree for hiving in my tradition), you then have the choice to change things, because it’s understood that in gaining that degree you have the proper background, instruction and understanding of how things have been done, to change them if you choose. Essentially, your learning is recognized as being enough to help these practices evolve into something new and possibly better. You’ve been given a diploma and told to go do your own experiments.

Just because your beliefs are personal, does not mean that everything else gets to be a free for all.

I’ve seen this a lot lately in comments on my own blog…the “Oh, don’t judge, live and let live, we’re all different and special“. Ummmm….actually, sometimes you are wrong. And it’s one thing to just be wrong about one thing or idea, but it becomes a whole ‘nother ball of wax when your lack of background, history and experience shoves you over into being unethical with overall ideas. In my last blog I wrote about a group who is claiming to teach Wicca and who are charging for their teaching. This is a pretty standard taboo across the board. I know of a few Wiccan groups who charge, but they will sit you down and explain to you why. While I don’t agree with them, they are upfront about what they are doing. This is the sort of area where “live and let live” gets people into trouble and sets up the possibility of abuse. I see charging students over a thousand dollars for initiation as a scam. These people are not learning Wicca, they are being fleeced.

I also think this gets to the heart of the current polytheist and humanist Pagan debate that has been raging through the Pagan blogosphere lately. As soon as someone with initiations and real training starts talking about why things have been done a certain way, people have started throwing around the term “fundamentalist”. When you start calling a group “rigid” and start throwing around the word “fundamentalist” at people who have gone through many long hours, days, and years of study on mythology, ritual, practice and interacting with a gods because they tell you that you’re doing something incorrectly, there’s a much larger issue going on. It’s one thing to say, “hey, I disagree with you, here’s why” and to start a discussion, it’s something completely different to instead say “you’re a fundamentalist and everything that is wrong with the world today” instead. This is not constructive debate.

For those who are all about the Paganism that is learned from a book…think of it like this. When you read a book and the author makes a claim, you check that the author has cited a source for why this claim is valid. These sources are the previous arguments that the current argument is built around. When you’re writing a book or paper, you, as the author, have the responsibility to prove that your ideas have a basis in other, proven, ideas. (And trust me, as someone who is currently publishing a book, editors are sticklers for these sorts of details even if you forget them!) Our trained priests and priestesses are our sources. Think about it, when you come across someone who is claiming they are a priest and priestess, but can’t give you any reasons why they are a priest and priestess other than that they decided to claim that title, do you respect their “wisdom” in teaching you what they don’t know?

Just because Paganism becomes an umbrella term and you may say, “well…I’m not Wiccan” or “I’m not a polytheist”, it doesn’t negate Craft teaching by people who are and have a great deal more training and experience in all areas of the Craft. Paganism does not mean whatever we want it to mean; there are actually some definitions out there that are relevant and important to anyone who is using them. If you want to go out and find real training and then debate the merit of these terms and ideas, have at, but quit reverting to name calling when someone points out the fact that you’re incorrect. While you may not like it, name calling only proves that you’ve already lost the argument.

Good Press, Bad Press

Sometimes I am torn between keeping silent, and speaking my mind. I have decided in this case to speak out.

The last few days have seen an article called Lessons in Modern Witchcraft, Minus the Broom circulating around the Internet, touted as an example of good press for Wicca. (Let us put the emphasis on the fact that this school is claiming in the article to teach Wicca and not Neo-Paganism or any other Pagan path).

When I first started blogging I wrote another blog about this same school of witchcraft in New York. Now, after studying Wicca for over a year and earning my own initiation, I would like to reiterate my thoughts.

I find the idea of charging money to students whom you plan to eventually initiate absolutely abhorrent. I feel even more strongly about this than I did a year ago.

Teaching a basic Wicca 101 class at a festival, Pagan store or public event? Then yes, the teacher has every right to charge for the teaching. In this scenario, someone is performing a one time service, sort of like performing a wedding or a funeral, and (one assumes) no secret teachings will be shared. This is not a case where you are connected to the teacher, or they are charged with teaching you the mysteries of the Crafts. They have made no promises to you and you have made no promises to them. In this scenario, buyer beware.

Does the teacher need to rent space for the class or need materials? Then yes, again, it is appropriate to ask students to help chip in the money for these things. But there should be honest disclosure about those costs in the very beginning. When you first start talking to a teacher, these costs should immediately be a part of the conversation. There is no stigma to charging an honest, proportionate fee for rental of a space. (My partner and I teach out of our home. We invite students into our private space to avoid expenses like this).

But asking for money for the teaching itself? Charging students that you will be escorting through the mysteries of the various degrees of a tradition? No.

A lot of people like to argue that paying for teaching Wicca is like paying for a college class, as this article does. This is not like going to college, this is not like buying a service. This is someone who is going to bring you through the veil; this person should not be doing this based on a financial transaction. This student/teacher exchange has nothing to do with money.

In traditional Wicca, teachers do not charge to teach the Craft. Oaths are taken about this.

Anyone who is charging to teach traditional Wicca is selling something other than Wicca. And I think that this article proves some of this.

“Let’s begin,” said Arlene Fried, another instructor, who sat behind a folding table that had been transformed into an altar, complete with candles, a chalice, a black-handled knife and a tiny caldron.

“Which of you can tell me what that star around your neck is called?” Ms. Fried said.

“A pentacle,” Ms. Collins replied.

“And what is it for?” Ms. Fried asked.

“It gives us protection against anything negative or evil; it’s kind of like a cross for Christians,” Ms. Monzon said, staring into her notebook as she spoke. “The top of the star represents the spirit. Each of the other points represent an element: earth, air, fire and water.”

My pentacle has nothing to do with the Christian cross. My pentacle has nothing to do with negative or “evil” energy. The very idea of evil is not a Wiccan one. Why would I ever compare my pentacle to a Christian cross?

I am horrified all over again by this school.

According to their website, they even charge an annual fee and a monthly tithe once you belong to their “temple”.

I am slightly relieved after digging further into their website (which on the Home page is covered in the word Wicca), to find that they are not actually traditional Wiccans. They say that the temple, “at its core, teaches a practice based upon many traditions. This core tradition has been conceived by two eclectic witches, by harmonizing and synergistically blending time honored tradition(s) into practical modern based witchcraft.” But most of their web page (and the article) cries that they are teaching Wicca. I see this as false advertising and feel bad for anyone who is seeking actual Wicca.

If you are seeking a traditional Wiccan initiation, do your research. Talk to the teacher in question. Seek other members of your Pagan community out and ask about the teacher’s reputation. Once you are initiated, the person who initiated you is your reference, they are your lineage, they are your proof of having done the work and gone through the training. At that point, anyone may call them and ask them to vouch for your initiation. Any traditional Wiccan teacher will immediately tell you (if you are discussing becoming their student), who initiated them, and they will not charge to teach you the Craft. This also goes for sexual or other “favors”. Any teacher who wants something so mundane for passing the Craft on is someone should be avoided like the plague. While a great deal of the Pagan community these days does not see the value of initiation, this is an example of where that lineage is necessary.

I hate that “schools” like this are becoming the proof that Wiccans are mainstream. Teachers like this are unethical. And as a traditional Wiccan, I hate the idea of people associating me with a group like this.

May the Gods preserve the Craft. The true, oath-bound, difficult to earn Craft.

Support Indie Pagan Music!

I feel like I’ve been doing a lot of service announcements lately, but these last two months have been extraordinarily busy. We will return to our regularly scheduled blogging after I get back from Brushwood’s Sirius Rising in July.

But until then, help support Pagan Indie Music! My partner’s new project is trying to get themselves up to Brushwood for festival and to put a new CD together. Kenny of course is a long time Pagan musician and his new singer, Rachel Maxann was the lead singer for the band Elemental Groove Theory, which regularly played at the Wisteria campground in Ohio.

Rachel Maxann is an amazingly talented musician and hooper. She and Kenny are going to do some really cool things together!

Kenny has posted a Kickstarter project. Go and support Pagan musicians and get some pretty awesome things (more than just the music!) in return!

Quick News Update

This weekend I will be visiting the Gryphon’s Nest campground for their Spring Gathering! Come on by for a wonderful campground experience, a gracious host, good music and some good workshops. It’s going to be a fun little festival for all ages.

The last few weeks have been extremely busy as my partner and I finalize the first draft of our book. We submitted it today to Llewellyn and will hopefully have it approved for publication within the next few weeks!

In the meantime…

Tonight my partner and I will be discussing fairy tales on the Pagan Warrior Radio & Wyrd Ways Live/Pagan Music Project! Chime in at 9 PM Eastern time to hear the show!

You can hear the show by clicking HERE!!!

Or you can check out the Pagans Tonight Radio Network.