Q & A on paganism of the last 30 years
1, How long have you been a pagan, wiccan, etc?
I’ve been part of modern paganism since 1984 when I met Merrie Foerster and started studying with her group but I was part of a family tradition of folk ways from when I was little.
2. What’s changed in that time?
So much. A lot of the elders I met in the 80’s are gone, Marion Weinstein, Marija Gimbutas, Isaac Bonewits, Monica Sjoo, Scott Cunningham and others are gone now.
When I first entered the community it was mostly female and very few people called themselves pagan. Everybody but CES and the small Asatru group in LA was Wiccan. Dianics were among the biggest active groups in LA and there were several out and active groups of women. There were some 1749 Wicca groups and a few Gardnerians but most people seemed to be solitary that came to Harvest Moon and later to Long Beach Womenspirit events. Now there are a lot more straight men which I’m not always sure is a good thing because I see women sometimes reflexively defer to the men and that didn’t used to happen as much. The big names in LA were women and now that isn’t necessarily true.
The community has diversified as to tradition. There are more types of Wicca and more types of paganism and more territorialism than there used to be and more tendency to say they have the one, true and only way and to have blinders to other people’s practices. The only place you used to see that was among the different Dianic groups.
There used to be a lot more newsletters now the only one I know that is still around is the Rowan Tree Church’s “the Unicorn.” The rest are gone and who knows where the archives of those publications are. A lot of knowledge has been lost and from not that long ago.
There are fewer gatherings now too. There used to be more public ritual than there seems to be now out here because the community has gotten so splintered. It used to be you could go to a FERAL event which were about once a month for a concert or dance and see most of the community, BNP and everyone else. There was Harvest Moon in fall and Pacific Circle in May and numerous other small gatherings.
Now there is Pagan Pride and Long Beach Womenspirit and that’s about it.
Is the tech different?
Everything used to come out by newsletter or if you were a techno pagan there were bulletin boards on line and later chat rooms that were free for alls. Now everything is Facebook. No more chats and no more BBNs
How is the community now?
It’s younger, at least the visible AKA the internet community is younger. It’s not as well read sometimes as the students I used to have. They are more influenced by the media than most of us were. The media was mostly negative pre Charmed, Practical Magic and Harry Potter. Positive media was mostly Marion Zimmer Bradley, Bewitched, D&D and maybe, the Wizard of Oz.
How has your personal practice evolved?
I’m more of a Druid than a Wiccan anymore. Still have a Dianic outlook many times. I can only stand straight male energy in circle in small doses. I no longer feel the need to practice by the phases of the moon. My moon bloods are long gone and there is no lunar pull at all. I don’t feel the need to use ritual tools when I’m practicing by myself. I’ll use my hands for any tool I need. Tools are highly overrated. Even when I was in my 30’s I tended more to Granny Weatherwax than Magrat. I’d rather use headology. (see Terry Pratchett) Unlike a lot of Dianics, I have a sense of humour that can get me in trouble. I still tend to be practice in the Emperor’s New Clothes Coven, membership of 1 as well as being a member of COMMA and TOILA, Http//:www.mothermountain.org & http//:www.toila.org.
I think some recons take it to the land of silly. Our world is not the world of the ancients. Trying to replicate it exactly is not going to happen because no matter how much we’d like it we can’t bring it back. I spent a very long time without hot water and flush toilets working at summer camps and it ain’t that much fun. Do you really want to live pre-vaccines for polio, and small pox? I don’t! The lack of the measles vaccine was why I was born blind. I like fabric softener. I like allergy medications that save my life. I like living past the age of 40. I like underwear with elastic. I like having a cup of camellia sinensis tea available to me and not coming by camel over spice route when it would have been way beyond my price range. I find it funny how many recons put themselves in the wealthy classes and not the slave or peasant class which would have had much less free time or money to pursue their spirituality and more concerned with having enough to eat. So while I pursue family traditions and a lot of Gaelic spiritual traditions you will not find me wearing urine cured tweed like my ancestors even in the mid 20th century did. I remember stinky imported Harris tweed. Not fun to wear in the rain at all. You smell like pee and sheep.
I’m not a vegan or a vegetarian because plants are sentient at least to some extent and I have more empathy with plants that with many animals. I only eat meat I would feel comfortable killing and trust me I’ve been around a lot of mean chickens and would have no trouble snapping one’s neck. I have no problem with killing a turkey or with fishing. I couldn’t kill a deer having come face to face with one. And having had to run from a homicidal pig, I could probably do it. Cows are just too damn big and they kick too damn hard.
I tend to the practical first. I do what works. If it doesn’t I won’t do it. I’ll excuse myself if your ritual bores me or trips the foolishness button. If something seems stupid, life is too short not to say so or leave. I’ll be 60 years old next year and I don’t have the time to put up with newage crap.
Anyway, This was the only Q I could come up with this week.