Pagan Freedom Day – 27 April 2015

 

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April 16 is Margot Adler Day

April 16 – Margot Adler Day

In Memoriam: Margot Susanna Adler (April 16, 1946 – July 28, 2014)

This interview was first published in ACTION on Ostara 2009.

Margot Adler is an American author, journalist, lecturer, Wiccan priestess, radio journalist and correspondent for National Public Radio. When I first started out in Wicca, one of the first two books I read was Drawing Down the Moon by Margot Adler, and much later I knew of her being on National Public Radio. We come to categorize people and put them in boxes, but if we really look a bit at them we find that we know very little. As I started to research Margot, I found there was a lot I didn’t know about her and was in a quandary over how to interview her.

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Christopher: Your life seems to be a major order of self discovery. I was struck by something you said when you were studying Greek goddesses in 1957. You said you decided you didn’t want to worship them , you wanted to be them. Have you always been driven  to be a doer in life?
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Margot Adler

Margot: Not really. I just found that the images of women in the 1950’s were so cardboard, so stereotyped, that the goddesses seemed deeper, more vibrant, more powerful, and I wanted to access whatever that was in my own journey to become whoever I was going to become. I don’t know if I am a doer, I am often someone who reflects, who like ideas, who wants to see how various ideas synthesize, so I am not really sure I see myself as a doer particularly. It is true that during the 1960’s I spent a lot of time in activism, so I suppose that was “doing”, but I have never thought of myself as a “doer”, it was a new thought for me, when you asked it.

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Christopher: You have recently had a book published, Heretic’s Heart: A Journey Spirit and Revolution. I think there were about as many experiences of the 60’s as there were people. What were the 60’s to you?
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Margot: What were the sixties to me? It was a time when everything was on the table. Nothing had hardened into concrete. So one was free to imagine society and one’s own life as malleable. There were infinite ways to create society, to create communities, to love, to share, etc. One could re-imagine how work should be, what kind of relationships people could be in. In other words, many of the alternate worlds that science fiction writers imagine, we could imagine as possible in the here and now. That is why there were attempts at communes, at group love, at anarchist forms of community. Some of these experiments were silly, even stupid. But the fact was, everything was open and that was incredibly exciting… it was a world filled with ecstasy and possibility.
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Christopher: What were the movements that grabbed your attention?
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Margot: Primarily the civil rights movement first, then the anti-war movement, and probably I would have to admit I was fascinated by and looked at with yearning, but did not really participate in, the more intense revolutionary movements that were all around me.
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Christopher: In 1968, you were just getting into radio. Why radio and why have you have stuck with it?
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Margot: Total fluke. I had not had a real good experience with journalism. I had spent three disastrous weeks on the college newspaper, hated it, and was terrible at it. I took one journalism course in college. But one morning when I had no idea what to do with my life, in the middle of senior year, I turned on the radio and heard the news director of KPFA, the Pacifica station in Berkeley, talk about his philosophy of news. He was reading George Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language” and it was a pretty profound essay about the uses and abuses of language. And after he was done, he talked about his philosophy of news. He said he believed in calling things by their real names. It was “the Chinese,” not “the Red Chinese.” And so forth. He didn’t believe in propagandistic language. I was fascinated. With my heart in my throat I called him up and became a news volunteer, for one day a week. By the time I graduated in June I had a tape of myself reading the news on the air for seven minutes.
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When I got to New York, I got a junky job, and eventually got up my nerve to go into the Pacifica station in New York, WBAI. WBAI was wild in the sixties: I started as a volunteer, finally got a job in the news department for $85 a week, and after a little while decided I really had no experience and got myself a master’s degree in journalism at Columbia. After that I covered political trials; I spent six months at the Black Panther bomb conspiracy trial in New York. And later, was at the Pentagon Papers trial. And then, after a couple years found my love, free-form radio. Free-form radio was magic. I had a show at 5 am, and total freedom on Pacifica. Sometimes my audience created the show. I would just say into the ether that half the people I knew were underemployed, not doing what they really wanted or were capable of, and then I would open the phone lines. One day I went on the air and said, “I don’t know if I ever want to have a child. I am afraid I would become a Stepford Wife”. Women called for weeks with their stories and decisions. Funny thing, I now have an 18-year-old, but I was in my late 20s at the time. We created a vibrant community of listeners who talked about real life and real issues. Not the crazy, shouting type of talk shows you hear today. Tony Schwartz, the late brilliant ad man once said, “The thing about radio is people were born without ear lids.”  Think about it, in radio, like books, you make the pictures, it is the medium of ideas, dreams and the imagination, and you can create real community, and we at WBAI did that.
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Christopher: You started with National Public Radio in 1979. Why NPR, what made it the place to be for your career?
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Margot: Again, pure fluke. A bunch of us were thrown off Pacifica, after some very weird decisions were made, and we took over the station, occupied the building, etc., had our FCC licenses suspended. It was the end of an era. A year later, after living on a tiny bit of unemployment, getting a little help from my boyfriend, later to be my husband, and writing Drawing Down the Moon, I went down one day to help the old station fundraising.  I sat next to an old colleague who was a producer at NPR and later we went out for a beer.  He asked me to come and freelance… which I did. I ended up getting hired a year later. It has never had the depth and the community for me of those old radio shows, but it is a place that still, after 30 years, allows me and many others to do real, creative work and talk about real issues.
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Christopher: You are a serious journalist. You have done many special broadcasts. Which were some of the ones that you are the proudest of? What do you look for in a story?
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Margot: I like to turn the world upside down. I like to do stories which sort of say, ha, you thought that, but it is really complex and often exactly the opposite. Stories I am proud of. Here are three. One of the first stories on Aids counselors in San Francisco in the early 80’s. Another was a story on adoption of the disabled that actually had an effect on changing the law, making adoption of disabled children easier. And I was the American who discovered J.K Rowling for the media here in the states, did the first radio interview and there is a book out that says my stories had an impact on the phenomenon. Who knows if it is true?
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Christopher: National Public Radio has been under political attack for many years by the political conservatives. Yet it is still with us. What has kept it going when so much else has gone under?
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Margot: Radio creates community; you know the phrase, “driveway moments.” It is also not as liberal as all that. It is way more conservative than I am, and I think it has become more so. And I am not nearly as radical as I was, so everything has moved to the right. It’s just that there was so much of a move to the right by the country that NPR moved less to the right than everything else… but NPR endures because the people on it make real connections to people out there… they are people you know and can trust. And again, radio is the medium of dreams, ideas and the imagination.
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Christopher: As I  mentioned, Drawing Down the Moon was one of the first books I read. How did it come to be and how did you learn as much as you did Pagan communities? Wasn’t it the first attempt to study the new movement?
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Margot: Yes, the first attempt to really study it seriously; there had been other books, but they were more pop. I was involved in Wicca, had been since the fall of ‘71, and was in a group, starting in the winter of ‘72. And I would get these two magazines, Nemeton and the Green Egg, and the discussions in those magazines were so much deeper than what I was experiencing in my little group. So I was really determined to find out where this deeper Pagan reality was. Again, fluke, I met an agent introduced to me by a boyfriend, and I had never thought of a book. When I told her about Wicca and the Pagan movement she suggested I write a book. Through a series of very lucky circumstances, she had just left an agency, and was actually looking for clients. So she showed me how to write a proposal, and it went around and got rejected and almost accepted, and rejected, etc, until it got accepted by Viking press and I got half of a $7500 advance to do it. So then I sat in the library for six months and read all the books I felt I should read before writing, and then I wrote all the interesting people in Green Egg and asked to meet them, and used the money to travel around the country. That’s how it happened.
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Christopher: You are well known in our community as an author, lecturer, and as one who gives workshops on various subjects. How does your religion affect your life in general? How long have you been open about your religion?
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Margot: I have always been open about my religion. Because I worked for alternative Pacifica at the time I got the contract, I didn’t feel I had to hide it. When I went to NPR and got hired in ‘79, the book was about to come out; it was too late to go back in the closet. I have a crazy life, family, work, and so only get a chance to do ritual once in a while these days. I go to public festivals, open rituals, and lead workshops in singing and chanting, which is my own pathway to the sacred. I do my personal rituals as well. I am living too much of a mundane life at the moment, and hope, once my son goes to college, to have a bit more time for my spiritual life.
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Christopher: As I said you are a doer. You are not one to sit on the sidelines in anything  you think important. Any advice for our readers on how they might find out what they can take part in and what they have to offer?
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Margot: The real difference now from when I started is the internet. Witchvox.com has many articles and you can read up on some 70 pagan traditions there. There are open Pagan circles in many communities. If they live in a very conservative community, often the Unitarian Universalist church is a good doorway to meet people involved in earth spirituality.
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Christopher: Where can people learn more about you, your books, beliefs and ideas?
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Margot: I have a fan page on Facebook where you can click on a dozen columns I wrote for Beliefnet. Or you can go to Beliefnet and read them. You can hear all my mundane pieces on npr.org; just put in my name or the subject, such as Harry Potter. My books: Drawing Down the Moon and Heretic’s Heart are available in all the obvious places like Amazon and you can order them from your local bookstore.
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Christopher: Anything else you would like our readers to know?
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Margot: Just remember, if you go far enough back, all our relatives were Pagans – that is, they were part of religions based on seasonal ceremonies, rituals of doing as opposed to believing. The Pagan project, so to speak, is an attempt to create a new/old revived recreated religion that combines ritual and ecstasy with intellectual integrity. It doesn’t take itself literally, has no literal scripture and is therefore at home with change, with modern science and more. It doesn’t proselytize, but if it’s what you always believed, you will find it.

Interview with Amythyst Raine-Hatayama

by Nimue Brown

Amythyst Raine- Hatayama is the author of The Gray Witch’s Grimoire. She’s an American witch following her own path. Interviewer Nimue Brown is a British Druid.

Nimue: What led you to decide that ‘gray’ was the word for your witchcraft?

Amythyst Raine- Hatayama

Amythyst: Why the term “gray magick”? When magick is discussed, it’s often talked about in terms of “white” and “black”. One type (white) being spiritual and fluffy, delightfully angelic, and pure of intention, harming no one and nothing in any way, shape, or form. It’s practitioners are looked upon as sweet and saintly, pure of heart, and pillars of the Pagan community. The other type (black) is booed at and hissed upon, considered evil and foreboding, dark of intention, and harmful to body, mind, and soul. It’s practitioners are often shunned from what would be considered the main-stream Pagan community.

The truth is that very few magickal practitioners are completely white, or completely black. Most of us fall in the middle; where we practice magick in Shades of Gray. Nothing in life is either black or white, nothing, whether we’re talking about the mundane everyday world, or the practice of magick.

The witch has to decide where she falls in this valley of morals and ethics. How gray is she? What’s acceptable to her? What does she view as right or wrong? How is she going to develop her magickal practices, by what moral compass? How is she going to expand her spiritual connections? How is she going to find the path best suited to her, one she feels confident in, one that sits peacefully with her conscience?

Everyone’s path is a path built upon individual opinions and ideas. Everyone’s spirituality is a personal journey. The world seen in shades of gray is really quite beautiful, sometimes painfully human, always wondrous…and infinitely magickal.

Nimue: What helps you find your moral bearings?

Amythyst: Our moral bearings, this was a hard/easy question. For most human beings, I think it’s naturally ingrained; it’s just a small percentage of the human race who’s “center” is off, or who’s center is “off” just enough that it can be easily influenced by outside circumstances and people. You would think that what’s right or wrong would be so for everyone, a universal thing, but this just isn’t the case, especially considering societal and spiritual differences throughout all the cultures of the world.

What helps me stay connected to my moral bearings is a mixture of all the people, experiences, and spiritual explorations that have added to my life experiences. At this point, upon this journey, it is the Mother Goddess who guides me, keeps me balanced, measures my reactions to people, circumstances, and injustice. The Goddess keeps me centered. She illuminates the world through a filter of black and white, including all the shades of gray; and in the process helps me to traverse this magickal journey called Life.

Nimue: What do you prioritise?

Amythyst: A woman’s life is so full of priorities (no matter what the stage) as to be mind-boggling. And it’s so funny, while tripping through one insanely busy bustling stage of life, we always are so sure the next stage will be more simple; it never is.
Prioritizing depends upon whether you are a Maiden, Mother, or Crone. The priorities for each stage will differ greatly. I can only speak from my own experiences:

The Maiden: for me it was education and employment. It was the idea of forging gallantly ahead to get a degree in order to earn a good living and be able to take care of myself. It was a “me first” sort of stage, actually readying myself for the Big Wide World to come.

The Mother: I have seven children, the last six were born about 2-3 years apart. My world at this stage was all about the physical care of these little individuals. I was a stay-at-home Mom and my priorities were focused on babies and toddlers, cooking, cleaning, and laundry (lots of it!). At this stage you are definitely not putting yourself first; your needs are last on the list to be met. I realize on looking back that my priorities encompassed what would be a relatively brief section of overwhelming Life, but at the time I didn’t realize what a temporary setting this was.

The Crone: You are emerging from the full blunt force of life like a diver just breaking the surface of the water. You can take a deep breath, reassess your health, your circumstances, relationships, family, finances, desires and goals. My priorities, as I enter this last stage of womanhood, tend to center around goals set long ago, ambitions birthed at youth, lost dreams and a bucket-list of Things-To-Do while I still am able. You’ve actually come full circle when you enter this stage, you’re back at the “me first” point. Priorities are all about perspective.

Nimue: I notice there are a lot of versions of feminism that seem really opposed to women taking traditional female roles with smaller families or no children at all being seen as more liberating. I know you’ve done a lot of work on feminist spirituality, so I’m guessing this is something you have strong opinions about?

Amythyst: I have strong feelings about this topic in that I feel every women must make decisions about her role(s) in life based on how she feels, what she wants. No woman should have children because other people think she should, or because she feels it’s somehow expected of her, when in fact she has no desire to experience motherhood; just as the flip side is true; if a woman wants a brood of babies, that’s her choice and no one has the right to scrutinize and criticize her decision.

When I write, I write from my own experience, so the Mother stage of the female cycle for me is dominated by babies and toddlers and everything that goes with a stay-at-home-mother, because that’s what I was. It’s what I can relate to, it’s what has shaped me into the woman I am today. Everything that I’ve experienced in my past defines me and will most certainly affect my future.

Nimue: Like you I’m very wary of any kind of feminism that tries to dictate, especially versions that want us to effectively become more like men. Are there any tools or approaches you think would help a woman develop that awareness of being the makers of their own destiny? And what about women stuck in countries, or cultures, or family settings that deny them their own power? What can be done to help there?

Amythyst: The most important thing woman today have to be aware of is that they are in charge of their destiny.

First, tools and approaches. For me, spiritual practices help in this department, as far as empowering me and reminding me that I am in charge of “Me”;no one else but my own self. It’s an amazing revelation, knowledge of and awareness of the Goddess, knowing that there is a magickal Feminine Energy swirling through the universe that connects specifically with my femaleness. This is powerful stuff. I can see why men got sucked into the patriarchal system. It’s pretty heady to be able to identify personally with the Divine.

As far as approaches, I think it helps to integrate your spiritual practices naturally into your everyday life. When I get up in the morning, or when I have a sudden thought about a specific circumstance, or when somebody needs some sort of magickal energy, or just because it feels good and makes me all warm and fuzzy inside I’ll light a candle, or a bunch of candles to the Goddess; sometimes I throw in some incense too, just for some extra energy and space cleansing, or just because it smells good.

Not every moment with the Divine has to be a great big supernatural aha moment. The quiet little snatches of time spent in mediation, aware of the universe and all it’s magick and power, are just as uplifting and necessary.

About all the women in the world who are living with cultures or families that do not acknowledge the wonders and magick and power of the feminine, or the Feminine Divine, I want to say “Don’t give up!” The magick is there, the power is there; people living on this Earth are all aware of these plights now. You’d have to be living in the Dark Ages not to know that there are places in the world where women are stoned to death under the guise of morality; doused with acid for rejecting suitors, or even lesser reasons, denied human rights that should be basic for human beings no matter what gender or ethnicity.

Don’t give up, I say, because the world knows…and so does the Goddess. Change is in the air.

Interview with Rev. Dr. Karen Tate

We live in troubled times of great environ­mental damage, endless war, economic problems with widening gap between the rich and poor, social unrest with racism, bigotry, and sexism. Could there be anoth­er way of doing things that would be more cooperative, nurturing and sustainable? Karen Tate, Seeker, Scholar, Author, Radio Host and Activist, believes that there is a way and working towards making it happen has become a goal of her own life.

Christopher: What kind of background did you grow up in?

Karen: No one is more surprised than I that Goddess spirituality has been the spark guiding my path for the last 25 years because, you see, I was born in the southern region of the United States, in what they call the Bible Belt. I never met anyone who wasn’t a Catholic or Baptist until I was almost 30 years old. And trust me, you didn’t hear about Goddess in that conservative Christian bubble. No one encouraged critical thinking. No one ques­tioned religious or male authority.

I was fortunate though, Christianity never really got it’s hooks into me and my family was not overly religious, so when there was no money to continue to send me to Catholic school, I eventually got to wig­gle out of Sunday School too. I just never resonated with the dogma, suffering and sacrifice. I probably couldn’t language it then, but I felt there was more to life.

I was able to free my intellectual curiosity without resistance. So I delved into meta­physics and ancient cultures. I found my­self particularly drawn to Egypt and while most people I knew willingly and without thought seemed to live and die within a 50 mile radius of their hometown, I wanted to see the world, particularly ancient sites. I yearned for a time machine!

Christopher: What led you to change paths? What opened up to you a new way to see things in our world?

Karen: As I reflect back, I am so grateful I moved to California, where I could free my blossoming awareness of the world. I think if I had stayed in New Orleans where I was born, I might never have traveled, written books, had my own radio show or know everything I know now about patri­archy, dominator cultures and feminism. I probably would have just accepted every­thing as normal and the way it’s always been and I certainly would not know what questions to ask to challenge the status quo.

Fortunately though, moving out of the Christian bubble shook me awake. I found the work of Merlin Stone, When God Was a Woman and Riane Eisler, The Chalice and the Blade. I rejoiced in the Mysts of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley (we didn’t know about her controversial life then) gifting her readers with ideas of how things might have been seen from the female perspective in Camelot. I started to go beyond Wicca 101 and realized this is really about sex, power, religion and poli­tics.

So with that back-story for a bit of context, my interest in Goddess spirituality was probably seeded in my Grandma’s wor­ship of Mary with her many altars to Jesus’ mother in her home and yard, then I took a class on Goddess in California and it was a slippery slope. The pieces started to fall into place.

My desire to travel was given focus by my interest in sacred sites and the books I read as a youth about Egypt. Imagine my first really big trip out of the country was a visit to Egypt! It was very interesting how this Southern girl, transplanted in Califor­nia, actually felt as if Egypt was familiar and somehow a lost part of me. I became drawn to Isis, Sekhmet and that famous British woman, Om Sety. I joined the Fel­lowship of Isis, started an Iseum and be­gan leading and organizing ancient rituals in a modern context on public beaches in Los Angeles through the non-profit I founded, The Isis Ancient Cultures Soci­ety. Over the years, however, the journey to Goddess spirituality evolved.

It went from being a focus for my travel, to nourishing me as a woman discovering there was a feminine face of god and all the empower­ment that comes with that, to understand­ing that the ideals of Goddess spirituality are what’s missing from our world. It’s why there is so much suffering, oppression and exploitation. It’s why the planet is being poisoned and women are devalued. So I started teaching about Goddess as dei­ty, archetype and ideal. Everyone is at a different point in their spiritual journey so seeing the many facets of what Goddess spiritualty actually are, I feel it provides something for everyone, even agnostics and atheists with a conscious for social justice.

Christopher: Where you solitary or did you find groups to work with?

Karen: I found that old truth, “when the student is ready, the teacher appears” happened in my life. I found a group of women interested in Isis, which led to me joining the international Fellowship of Isis (FOI). The late Lady Olivia Robertson, one of the FOI founders, saw something in me I guess, so when she learned my husband and I were traveling to Ireland, she invited me to Clonegal Castle to be ordained.

That was the catalyst it seemed for a tsu­nami of creativity and inspiration. I started my own Iseum within the FOI, the Iseum of Isidis Navigium, and we began to do Isis-oriented rituals throughout the year, facilitating the annual ritual that became rather famous around town, held each March, the Isidis Navigium. We used as much information we could gather about the old ritual of Isis and re-constructed it for contemporary psyches and culture. All the participants launched colored ice-boats on the waves of the Pacific Ocean commemorating the ship of Isis that was launched in Her honor in ancient times.

Later my husband and I started the not-for-profit Isis Ancient Cultures Society, and expanded on the work of the Iseum; putting out a newsletter, holding personal development salons, monthly moon cir­cles to highlight different traditions, and of course we still did the Isidis Navigium for a decade, as well as the annual Isis Birth­day Salon and Tea each July.

About ten years into all this, I got the opportunity to write my first book, Sacred Places of Goddess: 108 Destinations and I knew I could not continue to spear­-head the not-for-profit, work full time as I had been and write a book. I asked my Board if they wanted to continue the not-for-profit while I took a hiatus but no one wanted the responsibility, so the organiza­tion went dormant while I started my first book and now, 9 years later, I’ve just had my third and fourth books published in 2014.

Christopher: When did you become a speaker and teacher on the Sacred Femi­nine?

Karen: While I taught some classes early on, such as the Use and Making of the Sistrum, it wasn’t until I had to go out and promote my first book on sacred places that I found I had to begin standing in front of the room. It was hard at first, but I soon found my deep knowledge of the subject and passion carried me beyond the fear.

In hindsight, I can see now your question prompts me to realize each book pushed me out there teaching about another fac­et of the Sacred Feminine. Walking An Ancient Path: Rebirthing Goddess on Planet Earth had me teaching and speak­ing about subjects related to incorporating Goddess into one’s life as the devotee or practitioner and all that might entail from being inspired by Goddess, magickal and mystical experiences I’d had, accounts of sacred pilgrimages, to the politics of com­munity.

Then as I realized I wanted to speak about Goddess more as archetype and ideal that might change the world, I started my radio show, Voices of the Sacred Fem­inine. Simultaneously, I was giving talks and teaching Sacred Sunday services, and that all culminated in book three, Goddess Calling: Inspirational Mes­sages and Meditations of Sacred Femi­nine Liberation Thealogy and book four, the anthology I’ve edited of radio show guests, Voices of the Sacred Feminine: Conversations to ReShape Our World. The latter two out in 2014.

Christopher: Is the message useful to men as well?

Karen: Most definitely! Men have been damaged in this patriarchal society just as women have. They need to learn in­corporating the Sacred Feminine within their lives, as deity, archetype and ideal is essential. Just as women must empower themselves and become more comfort­able with archetypes and attributes we might label masculine, men have to be­come acquainted and embrace attributes society labels as feminine.

While I learned about Goddess among Dianic women and did some of my early work with them, my Iseum and not-for-profit organization were for both genders, including transgenders.

I learned the pain of discrimination early on working with women who might not have realized they were practicing patri­archy in a skirt no matter how much they railed against the mainstream patriarchy. I never wanted to perpetuate that pain on another and have come to realize the necessity of plurality, tolerance and bal­ance. So I can thank them today for be­ing good teachers, teaching me not only important things I needed to learn about Her-story, but also about what ideals and values I want to perpetuate in the world as a leader and teacher.

Christopher: Do you have a schedule of future talks, or workshops?

Karen: Yes. I do my radio show, Voices of the Sacred Feminine, every Wednes­day on Blog Talk Radio which can be listened to live or from the archives. I’m leading a tour to Turkey in May 2015 with a good friend and brilliant scholar and archaeologist, Dr. James Rietveld. We could have called it “Come to Turkey with the Social Justice Activist/Priestess and the Scholar!”

I’m out there giving talks pretty regularly related to the Sacred Feminine as deity, archetype and ideal, though it’s random and not like every second Sunday. I’m hoping to get a speaking spot at the Coun­cil for the Parliament of World Religions in October in Salt Lake City, UT, be chosen for a Ted Talk and get more of this infor­mation out into the mainstream world by way of an internet or television series.

Christopher: When did your research lead to your writing?

Karen: Well, I’d either organized, taken or led sacred tours to Goddess sites across about 5 continents for several years, so when the publisher of my first book asked me to write Sacred Places of Goddess I guess that started my writing in earnest. But before that, I must mention the op­portunity Selena Fox at Circle News gave me. After these many journeys, I’d usually write up an account of what transpired and Circle would publish it. So from writing a lot for an assortment of Pagan maga­zines, it was a natural step to accept the aforementioned book contract. Then once you’re published once, it seems the sec­ond book is easier.

Christopher: What kind of writing have you done?

Karen: In between the books, I’ve been writing for blogs on matters in the head­lines that are related to rebirthing God­dess as deity and archetype, and on rec­onciling our spirituality and politics, ideals of the sacred feminine and issues of dis­crimination, justice and women’s equality.

I write scripts for my radio show, particu­larly a What’s the Buzz segment when I share with listeners things going on out in the world where Goddess ideals are either becoming mainstream or being trampled upon. I write inspirational messages to deliver at the Goddess Temple of Orange County when I’m invited to guest priestess and I still write rituals and meditations.

I’m most interested these days in writing as a social justice activist, showing how values of the Sacred Feminine can lead to a more sustainable, egalitarian and just future and I encourage Pagans to get involved and be on the front lines advocat­ing and peacefully resisting for change so more of us have a better quality of life.

Christopher: Where can people find your published books?

Karen: My website http://www.karentate. com is the best portal to all my work, in­cluding my books. One can go there and get links to a lot of interviews I’ve done talking about all this, watch some classes and talks I’ve given that got uploaded to You tube, learn more about my radio show and access it on Blog Talk Radio from my website.

Christopher: Do your beliefs require that you take action? Is that just in your own life or does it include community social action and more?

Karen: I remember reading how the late Margot Adler, a respected elder in our community, former NPR journalist and accomplished scholar, lamented the fact that more Pagans are not on the front lines trying to support environmentalism, hu­man rights and social justice. I agree. But I didn’t realize this when I started this path. At first it was about myself. Defining me. Defining deity.

Then I learned how it affected the com­munity, and only later still did I see the big picture of how this can change the world. There’s a reason it’s been sup­pressed! This would change the world from a dominator culture to an egalitarian or partnership culture and there are a lot of rich and powerful people and organi­zations who would become obsolete, or will become obsolete, when we reach that tipping point, that 100th Monkey, that paradigm shift and demand change. But again, I realize we are all in a different place along our journey. It took me awhile to get here and I struggle for patience as I wait for others to evolve and catch up. I run into Pagans everyday who are in this for the aspect of rebellion, to be en­tertained at rituals, or those who are still most worried about what color candle to put on their altar. There is so much more to all this than any of that.

Christopher: Does the sacred feminine provide a possible map of how to chang­es things and solve many of the problems that we face?

Karen: Yes, I’ve touched on that a bit, but to get more specific, I guess I’d first like to credit Riane Eisler, author of Chalice and the Blade, for awakening me to this domi­nator vs. partnership paradigm. Her book, along with Merlin Stone’s When God Was a Woman are must reads. I honestly think when the Dalai Lama said it would be western women who would save the world, I think he really meant it would be ideals of the Sacred Feminine that would save the world.

Here are some ideas I’ll share to give you some jumping off points to get my meaning excerpted from an article I wrote, Goddess Spirituality as Liberation Thealogy :

1) We find under the broad umbrella of Goddess, many faces across continents and cultures, with no mandate that we worship one name, one face. Instead we see a metaphor for plurality, diversity and inclusion in the loving and life-affirming Sacred Feminine, rather than the jealous, One Way, androcentric and exclusionary god of patriarchy keen on asking men to sacrifice their sons to prove their loyalty and a holy book filled with violence. Those embracing Goddess might easily see embracing peace, tolerance, gender equality and peoples of all walks of life; gay, straight, people of all skin colors and religions or no religion at all, as being in alignment with Her diversity, resulting in a more just, equal, balanced and sustain­able world and society.

2) Consider the mythology of the Inuit Goddess Sedna. She is the gatekeeper between humankind and the sea crea­tures of the regions near icy waters which people depend for their livelihood. If man­kind becomes too greedy and exploits the creatures of the sea, Sedna cuts humanity off until he takes only what he needs. Greed and excess are taboo as we are all inter-dependent upon each oth­er. As our environmental Goddess, Sedna, teaches us to be wise stewards of Mother Earth and Her creatures.

This is a rejection of excess and exploita­tion and She calls us to environmentalism and to be Her spokespeople protecting habitats across the globe. We might be called to be at the forefront fighting against fracking, poisoning our water and air, and depleting our natural resources. We would deplore exploitation of any kind, including wage discrimination, worker exploitation or multi-national corporations decimating local economies and indig­enous peoples. We certainly would use our vote to support those who fight for the 99% and allies who would protect Mother Earth and Sedna’s creatures.

3) The Egyptian Goddess Isis bestowed upon pharaohs their right to rule and they were to rule their kingdoms governing un­der the laws of the Goddess Maat, namely truth, balance, order, and justice. Similarly, we see the Hindu Goddess Kali standing atop her consort, Shiva, whose powers must be activated by Her. Clearly this suggests patriarchy, or rule of the father resulting in rule by the male gender, has not always been the way of the world, nor would be the way of the world with God­dess restored to center.

Neither would we want patriarchy in a skirt as absolute power corrupts absolute­ly. Even a cursory glimpse here shows a call for female leadership and a respect for women’s power, both of which are sorely lacking in our world as academia, corporate America, religious institutions and politics has less than 20% represen­tation by women in the United States. We must support women who embrace Goddess ideals and support their leader­ship in these bastions of male control. Isis instructing pharaoh she is granting him the right to rule, but only if he employs the Laws of the Goddess Maat, can be seen in support for civil rights, voter rights, worker and immigrant rights and con­sumer protection from powers that might mis-use and exploit the individual or the planet.

4) In the thealogy of the Sacred Femi­nine, Goddess affirms women’s bodies and sexuality. Priestesses of pharmacolo­gy, mid-wives and women hold the power over their own bodies and life and death is in their hands.

Today the patriarchy dictates to women the parameters of beauty and women fall victims to their standards spending mil­lions with plastic surgeons to live up to some impossible ideal. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, 13.1 million cosmetic procedures were performed in 2010, up 5% from 2009.

Beyond physical beauty, the patriarchy wants to control all aspects of women’s sexuality and reproduction. Known in the United States as Big Pharma, pharmaceu­tical companies now hold the power over women’s bodies as they encourage wom­en to disconnect from their menses, that monthly inconvenience, that curse. They say “here, take our pill and see your sa­cred blood magically disappear.” Discon­nect from one of the very things that em­powers you as a woman!

In a not so veiled culture war, one politi­cal party has declared war on women by attempting to de-fund Planned Parent­hood, thwarting access to contraception, trying to pass laws to make divorces hard­er to obtain, trying to legalize the mur­der of abortion providers, and by having miscarriages investigated and abortions abolished. Women’s bodies and lives are the terrain on which this current extremist conservative movement is taking a stand.

If we had a feminine face of god at the center of society, or Her ideals affirming female authority and leadership, men and their institutions would not control or dictate to women. Equal is equal. Wom­en would understand their sexuality and bodies are sacred and in their own hands and would not be complicit in their own oppression or exploitation.

5) Goddess thealogy affirms female pow­er. Where Goddess was worshiped, her temples were the centers of wisdom, culture, and financial power and were often presided over by women. Research­ers such as Merlin Stone and Heide Goettner-Abendroth, in her book Societ­ies of Peace: Matriarchies Past, Present and Future, point to matriarchal societies where Goddess was venerated and ma­ternal values practiced, women and chil­dren were protected and had a spot at the center of the culture, reaping the benefit of that positioning at the center.

We must once again turn to the attributes of the Feminine, such as caring, sharing, nurtur­ing, negotiation, collaboration, solidarity, partnership and peace; all of which have been marginalized or demonized under patriarchy, and embrace these values so that quality of life is restored for the most of us.

In conclusion, these are but a few ideas showing how Sacred Feminine mythology might be reclaimed and reinterpreted to provide a roadmap toward a more sustain­able future. We have in the feminine imag­es of divinity deities, archetypes and ide­als to show us the way. It is up to us if we want to embrace them as our role models and heed their advice.

Christopher: How did your pod radio show The Sacred Feminine start and what do you try to accomplish on it? Where can people find it?

Karen: Well, that’s interesting. I reveal in my last book Voices of the Sacred Femi­nine, the anthology I edited based on my radio show of the same name, that I used to be in radio many years ago. I was the Public Service Director of a local radio sta­tion, way before the internet was ever an inspiration is anyone’s mind. And it seems appropriate that I went back to my roots, if you will.

The short story is, I believed with main­stream media being controlled by conser­vative corporations who are not looking out for the needs of the 99%, we needed platforms to be talking about alternatives to capitalism, patriarchy, and this callous culture we live in that seems to care less and less for the average citizen or the commons.

Everything is leading toward privatization, workers becoming slave wagers, without benefits or education. We have Fox News in the United States fostering hate, sepa­ration, disconnection and the most mis-in­formed people aligning themselves to vote against their economic interests. Right now it feels as if the least educated, the racists, sexists, anti-science, anti-gay and anti-immigrant factions are winning. They are certainly the most vocal and seem the most engaged, perhaps because they feel the ground shaking beneath their feet. I hope so anyway.

I guess I just couldn’t sit back and do nothing when we needed to have a con­versation. People needed to see that there are alternatives to how things are being done or have been done. When they real­ize that, they’ll be more secure and likely to promote change. Until they see a way forward, I think it’s human nature to stay with the thing you know, even if it’s the devil. It reminds me of women caught in abusive marriages. They hate it. They get beat up and bloodied, but until they see there’s a safe alternative or a way out, they stick with the abuser.

People can find my radio show here at Blogtalk Radio – Voices of the Sacred Femininewww.blogtalkradio.com/voicesofthe­sacredfeminine, and I invite them to listen to the trea­sure trove of wisdom in the archives.

Christopher: Have you worked with any other media?

Karen: Besides my You Tube Channel which I hope to develop this year, it has been my honor to be in the courageous and important documentary Femme: Women Healing the World, produced by actress Sharon Stone and Emmanuel Itier of Wonderland Entertainment. It coura­geously starts at the beginning, with God­dess, explaining how our culture for a time was about the “We and the Us” until things got turned upside down and it became about the “I and the Me.” It gets into the damage of patriarchal religions, how it set women up to be marginalized, devalued and it offers solutions what’s so important.

We can change this world, if we work together. If we begin to value partnership, love, caring, sharing rather than this sur­vival of the fittest mentality. I’m in the film, right there along so many of my mentors and I truly believe this should be required viewing in every living room, religious in­stitution and classroom.

I remember, living in that Christian bubble, some of this is really new information to so many people. Remember, you have people who think the world is 6,000 years old, that women should suffer because of Eve’s sin, that women don’t have rights to their own bodies or are on this Earth to serve men, that the poor are being pun­ished by God. They’ve never heard any­thing else! They’re probably afraid to hear anything else because they’re so afraid of burning in Hell.

We really have to be about education for these people and ourselves. We need to build bridges to them and reach out with compassion and tenacity. We need to take responsibility for our own education and not rely on what we’re fed from the family dinner table, Fox News or the church pul­pit to be what truly serves humanity. We need to stop being complicit in our own oppression We need to truly begin acting in solidarity because there are more of us than the oppressors.

Vision it for a minute. If all the women be­ing devalued and marginalized stop volun­teering, if workers went on strike and de­manded living wages and benefits, if men and women refused to go to war to serve some corporation, if gays, immigrants, minorities, and women stuck together, about the social safety net, environmental exploitation, wages and benefits, peace, campaign finance reform, breaking up the banks, protecting the commons and the socialist institutions that serve us so well – I could go on and on – I think you get my drift. If we got off our couches and banned together, peacefully resisted with courage, strength and tenacity, then I believe we would win this battle for a better world for the most of us and not just the few hun­dred richest people on the planet putting the screws to the rest of us – and their handmaidens benefitting from supporting the status quo and betraying their gender and class.

Christopher: So what projects are in the plans and where can people find out more?

Karen: In May I’m leading the sacred tour to Turkey I mentioned. I think it’s going to be pretty fabulous. Anyone interested should check out my website. I’m hoping to develop my You Tube channel in 2015 where I do some vignettes talking about how Goddess ideals and values offer a more sustainable future so people begin to connect the dots between social, cultur­al, political issues and ideals of the Sacred Feminine. I’ll continue my radio show, because it is my guilty pleasure having the reins to ask the questions I want an­swered of these wise and gifted people.

There’s maybe another book or two in me. I’d like to write more about Goddess and social justice and perhaps a book with tips on having a good relationship with one’s partner. I’d co-write it with my husband of 30 years, Roy, who I describe as the wind beneath my wings and I’ve dedicated a few of my books to.

Christopher: What else would you like our readers to know?

Karen: I would like to dispel the dis-in­formation out there that what I’ve been talking about, which might be called sacred feminine liberation thealogy, or eco-feminist spirituality, or goddess spiri­tuality, is only for women. Feminists simply want equality and a culture that cares, shares and where we have freedom to live a life of equality and partnership, and not be dominated, marginalized or exploited.

We are not man-haters or femi-nazis and many, many men are within our ranks because they realize patriarchy, rule by a male dominated father, revering solely a male god, has not served the most of us.

Too many of us have been denied the chance to reach our fullest potential. Too many of us continue to be exploited, in­cluding Mother Earth. Even former Presi­dent Jimmy Carter left his church because he believed sexism is a sin. We are our brother’s keeper. Greed once was and still is a deadly sin, if you don’t mind me har­kening back to my Catholic roots. I think the early Christians got some of it right, particularly those who revered a feminine face of God, didn’t think sex was taboo and those who realized Jesus probably intended Mary Magdalene and women to be leaders in the church. I think we ac­tually have a lot in common with Chris­tians, Jews and Muslims, if we go back far enough, before patriarchy poisoned the well.

Christopher Blackwell Interviews
This article first appeared in ACTION Imbolc 2015
www.aren.org/newsletter/2015-imbolc/index.html

Nimue Brown Interviews witchcraft author David Salisbury

I first got to know David Salisbury through Facebook and his contributions to the Moon Books blog http://moon-books.net/blogs/moonbooks/ritual-animal-slaughter/ I find his passion and dedication tremendously inspiring. David is an American witch, I’m an English Druid so we have very different understandings of many things. I found, in talking to him, that his passion and integrity transcended all issues of path and practice for me.

Nimue: I know activism is a significant part of your life. How does that relate to your paganism?

David: Paganism is what began me on my journey as an activist. When I started training in Wicca in 1999, I started to look into what was happening to nature, animals, and oppressed communities. I soon discovered that the world is actually a very unjust place. As a magick-worker, I quickly realized that if I want change to occur in conformity with my will, I have to help change the environment I live in. I was taught early that paganism is “of the world”. In my paganism, I cannot ignore the troubles of the world because it is my responsibility as a nature-based faith member to help make the world a better place. Its the rent I pay to live on this planet. To me, a paganism without activism would feel hollow and disingenuous. Although I accept that not everyone will feel called to lead protests or lobby the government, I insist that we can all do something to contribute to justice and equality every day. Whether its learning about privilege, listening to oppressed communities, or volunteering. The Earth and her people demand that we do something. If nature-based faiths don’t respond, who else can we depend on?

Nimue: Is it your experience that Pagans step up well to these challenges, or are we largely swimming in the mainstream and not ‘paying our rent’? (I love that way of relating to it)

David: That’s sort of a mixed bag, really. Some of the most hardworking and inspiring activists I’ve ever met in my life are Pagans. Entire traditions within the pagan umbrella, like Reclaiming, were founded with a strong advocacy ethic attached to them. But on the other hand, I’ve seen our movement really struggle with the difference between being a strong individual and working to create change that affects everybody. I believe that we can be both, but not everyone agrees with that. Recent civil unrest in the United States spurred by our epidemic of police murders motivated by race have shown that we have a lot of work to do in this community. It has shown me that Pagans are just as capable of unchecked privilege and downright racism as anyone else. I think that we have a huge potential to be change-makers in the faith world if we’d only get out of our own heads, step out into the world, and listen to each other.

Nimue: Who inspires you?

David: That’s a tough one! I like to surround myself with inspiring people so I have quite a large pool to pick from. Right now I draw so much inspiration from Crystal Blanton, an author, priestess, and activist in the Bay Area of California. She runs a phenomenal blog called Daughters of Eve and has been such a powerful leader for Pagans in the U.S. working to create change. I’ve learned so much from her both about advocacy and the spirituality of change as a witch.

Nimue: If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?

David: Wow, what a question! Would “complete and total equality for all people and animals” be too much to ask? ;)

Nimue: I’m very much a believer in thinking big, and while I’m not sure that counts as one thing, it’s too awesome to quibble over. Trees could use a good deal more care and respect as well. Are there any animals that you feel a particular affinity with, or affection for?

David: Ah yes, let’s not forget the trees! Having worked at the largest animal rights organization in the world for a while, there are so many animals that are close to my heart. Chickens, being one of the most bullied animals in the world, are particularly important to me. Chickens are seen as stupid, dirty, and mean. Nothing could be further from the truth! Chickens are quite intelligent and establish strong familial and social bonds with each other. That’s why it’s such a shame that they’re so widely abused. The spirit medicine of chicken is compassionate, protective, and healing. Of all the animals who deserve more credit in the spiritual and physical realms, chickens take center stage.

Nimue: They’ve an uncomfortable history as a sacrificial creature, too…

David: They most certainly do, even today. It’s amazing, the creative ways people think up to be cruel.

Nimue: One of the big puzzles for me is how to reach out to people who seem to have no compassion and get them to think differently, without resorting to some kind of force or psychological violence. Is this something you have any ways of approaching?

David: I find that living your life making kind choices openly is the best way to encourage others to do the same. I’m also a big fan of always trying to have conversations and bringing compassionate choice to the table whenever possible (figuratively and literally). Beyond that, I’m not above bringing something to light quickly and directly if someone is doing something horrible. The other day I saw a friend post online about possibly buying a ticket to the circus! One video link showing how elephants are routines beaten and chained to the ground at circuses was enough to turn that decision around. I think most of the time people just don’t know what’s going on. I know I always appreciate it when someone enlightens me to an abusive system or condition.

Nimue: ‘The spirituality of change’ is a tantalising line… could you expand on what that means to you?

David: Since I believe that everything that exists in this world and beyond has a spirit-presence to it, then surely our movements for justice and change do as well. When I approach advocacy from a spiritually-rooted place, its easier to stay energized and healthy. Justice work is very draining and it’s so easy to burn out. Whenever I get to the point of burning out, I can always go to my gods and say “hey, I need help.” I believe that the gods want to see us succeed as a people.

David Salisbury http://www.moon-books.net/authors/david-salisbury is the author of ‘The Deep Heart of Witchcraft,’ http://www.moon-books.net/books/deep-heart-witchcraft published by Moon Books, and ‘Teen Spirit Wicca’, http://www.soulrocks-books.com/books/teen-spirit-wicca Published by Soul Rocks.

Nimue Brown is the author of a number of Druid and Pagan titles also published by Moon Books. http://www.moon-books.net/books.html