September 12, 2002
© M. Macha NightMare
We’ve come here today to celebrate Pagan Pride. We’ve come to rejoice in our uniqueness and our diversity. We don’t all worship the same deities, nor do we perform the same rites. What we all hold in common, though, is the fact that we are in America. Most of us are citizens of this country. All of us walk this jumbled Franciscan complex, breath this marine air, and drink water from Hetch Hetchy Dam.
This year, a year after we all were plunged into mourning, we come to honor Lady Liberty, the goddess of the USA. She stands in New York Harbor, beckoning people from across the Atlantic Ocean and protecting us. Today She stands here in Golden Gate Park, in this coastal city facing the Pacific warding us on the West.
I want to tell you about a few current developments in American Pagandom.
In the world of academe, more funding is being allocated to Pagan research. More study, analysis and synthesis is taking place. Books are being written by and about Pagans ‹ in sociology, anthropology, folklore, music, arts, and religious studies.
The music world is filled with the sounds of Pagan-themed music. Some of this music is familiar, some less so, and some is strange and exotic. Some is ancient, some nostalgic, some contemporary and some futuristic. Pagan music is soft, soothing, contemplative; Pagan music is lively and danceable; or Pagan music is raucous and wild. Pagan musicians revive ancient songs. Pagan musicians compose new music, create new forms, and invent new instruments to make the sounds they want to put out into the world. Pagan musicians form bands, tour and record. They play in clubs, in parks, at parties, and in hospitals to soothe the dying. You¹ll hear some of the best of it from this stage today.
Pagan producers get this music recorded and distributed. Pagans broadcasters play Pagan music on radio and Internet.
Pagan broadcasters also interview other Pagans who are out doing things in the world, and they do all sorts of programming.
There now is a Pagan Bar Association, a Military Pagan Network, Pagan Nurses Association, a Pagan Presenters Guild, a Pagan Teachers Association, and an organization of Pagans in Law Enforcement.
Just last week saw the formation of the National Association of Pagan Schools and Seminaries (NAPSS), comprised at this point of two Pagan seminaries ‹ The Ardantane Witch College and Pagan Learning Center in New Mexico and Cherry Hill Seminary in Vermont. These schools preparing us to be more competent, knowledgeable, sensitive “clergy,” to minister to each other and to others who request us.
In addition to festivals which have been around for more than 20 years, Pagans are gathering in retreat for more specialized pursuits such as deepening magic, family gatherings and children¹s camps. Pagans are teaching in the schools and home-schooling our children.
At least two states, Wisconsin and California, have Pagan prison chaplains. Our own, the Wiccan Chaplain for the State of California Department of Corrections, Patrick McCollum, is with us here today. (Although he’s called a Wiccan chaplain, he serves about 700 Pagans throughout the state who are behind bars.)
Pagans are serving as hospital chaplains and as hospice workers. Pagans counsel other Pagans ‹ and the general public ‹ on financial planning, wills, career, child development and in many other specialized areas.
Many outstanding books are being published, books that go way beyond the basic primers that have been the stock in trade of most publishers of Pagan titles. To name three: Deepening Witchcraft, by Grey Cat, a elder Witch in rural Tennessee; Wiccan Meditations (about crafting effective guided meditations), by Laura Wildman, a priestess in Western Massachusetts; and Spiritual Mentoring, by Judy Harrow, a native of The Big Apple. Sometime Bay Area resident Gus diZerega has recently published Pagans & Christians: The Personal Spiritual Experience, an excellent book for those concerned with having good communication and mutual respect between Pagans and the mainstream monotheisms.
Pagans are a strong presence in interfaith ‹ international, national, regional and local. But Don Frew will tell you more about that.
No where is the presence of Paganism more in evidence than on the World Wide Web. Witchvox alone, which despite its name serves all of Pagandom, has had over 61 million pages requested, and currently generates 11 thousand hits per day. Its supporters are numerous enough to have garnered a Webbie (Oscars of the Internet) award in the spirituality category for The Witches Voice strictly on a write-in vote!
Hollywood and the TV industry turn out Pagan-themed entertainment almost weekly. They like demographics, and current demographics indicate that there are an estimated one to three million Pagans in the United States. So it¹s obvious that we¹re here, and I think we’re here to stay.
Now I want to tell you about some of my hopes for the Paganism of our grandchildren.
I see personal altars in work spaces ‹ in offices, studios, workshops, garages, restaurants, even cockpits. I see non-Pagans appreciating us. I see them taking heart from our passion and commitment and creativity.
I see us finding a better word than “clergy” to indicate those who choose to broaden their service to community. I know we are capable of creating new forms and new terminology that reflects who we are.
I see us nurturing our youth with school programs, camps, clubs, study groups, theater troupes, and dance troupes.
I see us caring for our sick and infirm in homes, clinics and hospitals. I see us caring for our aged. I see us gently allowing the dying to cross over. I see Pagan midwives.
I see Pagan children sitting with elders listening to lore. I see an old blind piper out in the wetlands with his students, cutting the proper reeds, then crafting them into reeds for bagpipes and woodwinds.
I see Pagans doing habitat restoration with our neighbors, cleaning creeks, planting native trees and grasses, restoring places for wild animals and birds.
I see May poles in the parks at Beltane. I see unions and guilds, books and paintings, sculpture and operas and all kinds of music-making. I see dancing in the streets.
And to our Lady here, I say Praise Be!