Invocation of Being

Witchy Comments & Graphics

Invocation of Being

Long have we wandered and been apart from her shores.
Long have we flown on unseeing wings.

The eagle soars high on boundless feeling.
Long have we felt the groundless without root, or presence.
Long have we been valiant in the name of love.
Long have we allowed nameless fears to limit our possibilities.

The forest continues it’s endless cycle of ages.
Long have we felt alone in expectant solitude.
Long have we danced our own lives to the dream of wisdom
to the unbearable void of ourselves.

The tide washes evenly on deserted shores.
Forever we are one. Forever we ignite out being in the elemental fire of our spirit.

The golden age dweller.
The playful sprite.
The hooded wanderer.
The tortured seeker.

The power of being is ours to hold.
The beauty of now is here for the taking.
Forever and tonight,
we bathe in the majesty of wonder.

Author Unknown

Calendar of the Moon for October 11

Calendar of the Moon

11 Gort/Puanepsion

Thesmophoria Day 1: Anodos

Color: Brown
Element: Earth
Altar: Upon cloth of brown set the day’s meal in separate bags for each, with a book tucked into each one. They will be handed out after the invocation. A torch is lit in the center of the altar.
Offerings: Do some difficult thing that you have been putting off.
Daily Meal: Traveling lunch, to be eaten alone while reading or working.

Anodos Invocation

(After each line of the invocation, all call out: “We are ready to ascend!”)

We gather at the foot of the mountain.
The way forward is high and steep.
When we look up, we are intimidated.
We think about all the things that we would rather do.
Many of them seem sensible. Why should we be here?
There is work to be done, plenty of it.
There are tasks which have lingered on our shelves for months, or years.
There are people whose needs cry out to us.
There are places that we must go, must see to.
The world is such a great place, and the errors are many
We should be spending our time doing this.
That mountain path is so steep. It is a waste of time.
Our shoes are thin. They will be full of holes before we reach the top.
There are boulders that could fall. We could be killed.
Is it worth our lives to climb this thing?
Surely it will be here next year, in five years, in ten.
Surely there are better things to do.
Surely we can put it off for one more day.
After all, we have put it off this far, and no harm has come of it.
Look at that path. It forks and diverges. We might lose our way.
We might be lost there forever. Are we truly ready for this?
Are we truly ready for this? No, we are not.
But it does not matter. We must climb it anyway.
For there is a time for all things, and that time is now.
Take your nourishment, my sisters and brothers, and climb.
For the time has come to ascend.

Song: Going Up The Mountain
Song: Mountain God

[Pagan Book of Hours]

Pagan Points Of Interest – Buncombe County School Board Updates

Buncombe County School Board Updates

By , Guide

In early 2012, About Pagan/Wiccan followed the case of the Buncombe County School Board, in Asheville, NC, where there’s been a controversy brewing regarding the distribution of Bibles in public schools.

On December 23, 2011, we ran a story about Ginger Strivelli, a Pagan mom who complained after her son was handed a Bible in public school. School officials didn’t seem to understand what the problem is. Strivelli said her fifth-grade son and his classmates were invited to leave their classroom to go down to the school office and get a free Bible. The Bibles were donated by the Gideons.

When Strivelli complained to the principal, Jackie Byerly, about the sheer inappropriateness of this, Byerly told her that the Bibles were not just handed out, but that students were given a choice as to whether they took them or not.

Strivelli said her son’s teacher announced that students could leave go get a Bible from the school’s main office. She says that once everyone else left, her son did too – and after all, it was a chance to get out of class for a while. Strivelli said her complaint is not an attack on Christianity. “I would be just as angry if it had been Jewish, Hindu, Pagan or Muslim,” she said.

At that time, the school district said that their policy was inclusive, and that literature from any religion was welcome – however, when Strivelli went to drop off some Pagan books, the school quickly told her that the material would not be distributed, because the district was reviewing their policy on religious materials in schools.

In January, the district announced they would be considering restrictions on a number of religious activities in the schools – from chaplains leading prayer with football teams to choral groups singing Christian hymns at Christmas concerts. District officials said they recognized that including religious materials in a public school setting could open them up for a potential lawsuit.

At the school board meeting in February, 2012, Strivelli attended, along with Pagan blogger Angela Pippinger, and local priestess Byron Ballard. That’s when things got really heated – Pippinger, who live-blogged the entire meeting, said there were times she was concerned for her physical safety.

On March 1, the school board met again, and this time the numbers were a bit more balanced. Many members of a variety of faiths showed up in support of the board’s new policy of neutrality, and voices were heard from both sides. However, the majority of the room was clearly of a fundamentalist bent. Angela Pippinger and I were able to live blog the whole thing on Twitter and Facebook. Since many readers do not use either, I’ve consolidated my updates here:

  • (6:00 pm) So I’m here in Asheville NC, at the Buncombe County School Board offices, waiting for their meeting to begin. It’s starting to fill up. Should be some interesting stuff!
  • Holy guacamole! I’m in the Buncombe County offices, and can’t access my own website, because it’s labeled as “occult.” Oddly, you can get to all the other Religion Channel pages at Go figure. They did allow us to submit a request asking that it be unblocked, but it takes 24 hours for review.
  • Law enforcement is present tonight too. At least two police officers in the meeting room and may be more outside. Word is the Asheville PD is pretty good about keeping control. Nice to see you, guys! Been corrected, it’s not APD, but county sheriff. Big dudes.
  • (6:30 pm) Room is pretty much at capacity. Should be getting started any time. Thanks to everyone for all the support! I’m so impressed by the folks I’ve met so far in Asheville. Lots of people from different religions showing up.
  • Meeting begins with a moment of silence. Which isn’t really silent because there are lots of muttered prayers.
  • (6:45 pm) Board has made revisions on policy and tabling vote until next month. Discussion only tonight. They’re talking about regular curriculum and ed stuff right now, so that will go on for a while. Public commentary should open up in a little bit, so we’ll add more updates as that part of the meeting starts. Apparently they’re going to revise it and vote on the policy as a whole, rather than just voting on the changes.
  • (7:00 pm) Board is watching an absolutely fantastic video presentation on bullying – made by 3rd graders! Wondering if adults in the room are taking notes. “The power of courage grows when we work together and stand up for our friends.” ~random cute 3rd grader. How very appropriate.
  • Comments getting ready to start! Amethyst Strivelli will be second speaker. Her mom, Ginger, is sitting by me, and brought this whole issue to our attention. Right now a rep for “more than 50 pastors and churches” in the area is addressing board. Amethyst Strivelli speaking to board – HS student. Says many kids in school, many religions. “Minority has freedom of speech too. Claire, HS Student, raised Catholic: Schools should remain neutral towards any religion.
  • Sylvia, former teacher: encourage students/parents/staff to read Constitution, and not give up rights. Sylvia wants everyone to pray because the constitution says we’re allowed to. Bible enhances educational policy.
  • Marvin thinks bullying would go away if 10 Commandments were still hanging on the walls. He wants to know if we have freedom of religion, or whether gov is restricting freedom to practice. Marvin says Ginger didn’t go to the principal of school, went to news instead. Except, uh, she DID go to principal. Jerry says there’s “community support” for what he believes in. Christ will live forever. Lots of AMENS.
  • Patrick, a Heathen: speaking in favor of revised policy 652, not b/c it is pro- or anti-anything, but b/c it is pro-Constitution. Points out policy of “neutrality” is crucial. Patrick: responsibility of teaching religion belongs in homes and churches, not the public school system. “With liberty and justice for all,” right?
  • Rabbi Rob in support of policy: 1st Am is critical foundation for a truly democratic society. Contradiction between liberty for all and imposition upon the rights of others. Rabbi Rob: Schools are only free of bullying if it is a place that is safe for ALL, where students can live up to full potential.
  • Unknown gentleman speaker: Doesn’t like the idea of taking religion out of school. Mistakes made when prayer taken out of school. upset because students got assignment re Flying Spaghetti Monster. This is a religion and he doesn’t like it.
  • Ashley Carter points out he is indeed named Ashley and is a dude. Church/state sep is a 2way bridge. Officials protecting religion.
  • Karen says Christianity is our heritage. I’m not sure whose heritage, but she’d like Christians to have a chance to pass stuff out.
  • Pastor Rusty: size of crowd indicates this is important. Lots of AMENs. Reminds us of vote coming up in November. Says if you try to stop a coach from praying with students, you are infringing his right to practice as he sees fit. Unknown female commenter: many Christian students have faced discrimination because of fear. She says Christians are usually the ones whose rights get ignored in today’s society. Unknown gentleman: Thanks board for meeting with pastors to address concerns. Wants to protect students rights to do stuff like See You At the Pole.
  • Angela Pippinger addressing board: if another religion’s group had passed stuff out, people would have complained. She adds that school mission statement: helps to create a safe environment for ALL students. Think about all kids, not just one group.
  • Carol, an attorney who works with interfaith groups: with diversification of county, we now exp what it is to learn about others. Carol says new policy balances competing interests as reflected in 1st Am. Wants grandkids in a school respectful of many faiths.
  • Christina, HS student: believes in civil rights of all people, if policy supports neutrality, students appreciate that. Says kids get bullied for religion. Finds it ‘ludicrous’ that adults can be so disrespectful and petty and insulting others’ beliefs. Adds that it is not a teacher’s place to influence children with their own beliefs. “I go to school to better myself with education.”
  • Byron Ballard: supports new religious diversity policy. Points out that some adherents to majority religions think minorities are a threat. Byron says in culture where school bullying is on the upswing, kids need to be safe @ school.
  • Ginger Strivelli to board: parents of many faiths are supportive, but many afraid to stand up. Family is being tormented. Christians are not losing rights, they are losing special privileges. District money may end up paying for lawsuit.
  • Weston: religion has been very important in history. Never saw religion in his science classes. Teach it along with evolution.
  • Unidentified female speaker: it’s not a bad thing for kids to receive the word of God. But schools are not the place for it. Kids don’t know how to defend themselves if they’re not part of the majority. Will fight for your right to raise your kids any way you like, but don’t tell others how to raise their kids.
  • Unknown male speaker: kids need to learn how to fight and how to “give it back.” What does this policy say about the Bible? Now he says democracy and the majority crucified his Savior. That’s what a democracy is, and wants to know if people are gonna put up with that. This gentleman says Christians have been silent too long. Not sure if we’ve been attending the same meeting.
  • Board resumes meeting after ten minute recess. Most of the church crowd has left, room looks remarkably empty. Public commentary has ended for now.

The Buncombe County School Board will be meeting once again in April, and at that time the new policy will be voted on as a whole. Updates will be posted at that time.

Pagan and Agnostic: The Tale of the Doubting Witch

Pagan and Agnostic: The Tale of the Doubting Witch

Author: Jeffery Johnson

I’ve lived just over three decades on this planet, which I realize isn’t long. However, I’ve lived long enough to know that time changes people. It can change our personalities, our way of looking at the world, our beliefs on any number of things. As an awkward teenage boy I felt so certain of a divine being’s existence, namely the God of Abraham. Or did I? I remember having doubts at times. I was always quick to sweep them under the rug. I figured life couldn’t possibly have meaning without a higher power, and why bother living then?

When I made the break with Christianity in 2009, then in my late twenties, the old gods and goddesses romanced me. I fell in love with the Great Mother, personified by the shining moon and the earth. For me, she stood for beauty, sexuality, knowledge, empowerment, love and acceptance. She symbolized personal freedom and justice. As a gay man who’d spent the better part of his life repressed by the church’s threats of damnation, it doesn’t take a neurosurgeon to figure out why I’d be drawn to the Goddess.

And this begs the question—does the Goddess really exist? Are Ishtar, Isis, and Inanna really waiting to hear their devotees’ prayers and praises, eager to aid them and receive their offerings? Do Kernunnos and Pan dwell in the forests among the wild stags and is Green Man incarnate in shrubs and vines? Are they real, or are they symbols? I’ve been struggling with that question for some time.

Some people believe in one or more deities and would stake everything they hold dear on that conviction. Others, to the contrary, consider belief in Allah, Minerva, or any divine being or force to be the product of ignorant, childish, delusional minds and wishful thinking. I wish I could have such certainty one way or the other. However, as it turns out, faith or lack thereof isn’t always so cut and dry. I may feel to the depths of my being on any given day that the Goddess lives, and on another day I’ll feel quite agnostic, or even atheistic. At this point in my life, I’m very much a skeptic with regards to the divine.

Visions and near-death experiences, although I read of them with fascination, feel awfully subjective upon inspection. For example, in author Betty J. Eadie’s NDE (described in her book Embraced by the Light) , Christ plays a prominent role. In the NDE’s of others he is absent, along with any other godlike entity. For many, their experience of the other side is joyful; for some it’s frightening. Mystics, saints and ordinary people alike have claimed to visit realms both heavenly and hellish (hence popular Christian books such as 23 Minutes in Hell) . Certainly, these contradicting “visions” aren’t all accurate or valid, and surely some are outright hoaxes. Yet I’m in no position to judge the sincerity of those who really believe they’ve had such encounters. Are such visions and visitations the result of overactive imaginations or hallucinations? In the case of NDE’s, is a real spiritual experience taking place or is the phenomenon the brain’s response to physical trauma? I remain skeptical.

I want to believe I’ll survive the event of my bodily expiration. I want to know with certainty that I’ll see my loved ones again. Yet I doubt. I love to read ghost stories and have a sizeable collection of them. Time after time, I’ve seen fairly credible-looking people assert the reality of their run-ins with spirits of the dead. Plus, I have sane friends who have told me they’ve experienced ghosts and other eerie events that can’t be explained away. Additionally, I’ve read or heard of some fairly convincing accounts of reincarnation. As one example, the movie Yesterday’s Children, in which Jane Seymour’s character dreams of a former life in Ireland, is perhaps based on actual events. She eventually travels to Ireland to have every detail of her past memories confirmed. I want to believe, but my stubborn brain is always getting in the way of my heart. Logos versus pathos.

I admire nonbelievers—people like Mark Twain and Sinclair Lewis, whose novel Elmer Gantry depicts the evils of a power-hungry charlatan preacher. People like Madalyn Murray O’ Hair, once dubbed “the most hated woman in America, ” who challenged school prayer and made a career out of mocking religion at a time when doing so was extremely unpopular. I equally respect the “new atheist” crowd, especially the late Christopher Hitchens, who could reduce clergy and creationists to babbling puddles with his brilliant “hitchslaps.” Whether one loathes or loves antitheists, one can’t help but marvel at their fearlessness in bucking the status quo of mainstream piety, exposing the hypocrisy of many of God’s so-called followers. More often than not, I find their observations about religion to be right on.

Still, Neopaganism gives me a framework with which to celebrate life. Observing the cycle of seasonal sabbats and phases of the moon makes me feel more grounded in my connection to the web of life, of which I am a tiny part. I love the drama and beauty of ritual. I’m proud to be part of a faith, or rather a way of life, which claims among its ranks bold pioneers such as Laurie Cabot and Margot Adler. Pagans, Witches and Heathens, like atheists, humanists and freethinkers, are widely misunderstood and discriminated against, and both groups have fought and continue to fight hard battles to have their voices heard in a Christian-dominated society.

I know I’m not the only Pagan who doubts the existence of gods and life after death. Are we of the agnostic persuasion being disingenuous in continuing to call ourselves Wiccans, Pagans, Druids, etc.? Undoubtedly my atheist friends would tell me it’s time to throw away my tarot decks and Raymond Buckland books and without excuse embrace nonbelief in its entirety. “Quit pretending, ” they’d say. Surely the Flying Spaghetti Monster waits with noodly appendages wide open to embrace me as one of the Pastafarian fold.

The thing is, I’m not pretending. I’ve not sugarcoated my doubts, nor have I hidden the fact that I believe organized religion more often than not is a negative force on this planet. When I die, I may very well cease to exist, only to live on in people’s memories and through the good deeds I did while living. Or perhaps I’ll discover that really does go on in another form.

Either way, I want to keep my mind and heart open. Is imagination always a bad thing? If I take a walk in the forest and feel the Green Man’s presence, am I psychotic? According to some, probably so. But I’ll never go door to door asking folks if they’ve accepted Green Man into their hearts. No holy war has ever been fought, to my knowledge, in the Green Man’s name. Mine would be a harmless delusion, to be sure. So, at the risk of being considered insane by the atheists I so admire, I refuse to divest my existence of possibility. Maybe Green Man is real. Maybe he exists only in the minds of those who honor him. Does it matter? I’m not sure it does.

The Flying Spaghetti Monster is cool, to be sure, but I need to cut back on carbs. For now, my heart remains with the Old Ones, who continue to inspire me—real or not. As I stated earlier, time changes people. Maybe one day my faith will be reborn. So mote it be! RAmen!