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