Welcome to the first online issue of The Holy Oak Journal, the news, information, and opinion site of the members of the Holy Oak Church of All Worlds, an independent congregation of the Church of All Worlds. This site does not represent CAW or any other Neo-Pagan, Pagan, or Wiccan group or individual - only the authors. Some of what you read here may be controversial, but just remember that once slavery was so hotly debated that it contributed to a civil war. Also remember that as a religious body Pagans are much different from Christians, and that Christianity has so dominated our culture that many of our assumptions about what is right and wrong are based on it's value system. One of the functions of this Journal is to explore uncharted ideas and beliefs. It is also about one small group of people in one small religion in a small college town in Florida. But sometimes big things start small. These are our thoughts and dreams, poems and articles, activities and plans. And none of them are small.
Email your correspondences and contributions to firstname.lastname@example.org
This year's Bardic Circle was different and controversial because the Bard was getting bored with the same songs and stories, and decided to dedicate the Circle to the god Bizarro and, it being the Samhain season, the Dark. First, I invited Cat (daughter of the site owner) and four of her Goth buds to be a part of Circle. Then I borrowed a boombox and, about 30 minutes before time to start, put in a CD of Pagan music. But not the usual mellow stuff. This was a Pagan band that played dark metal, and it was cranked. Elsbeth came up to me, obviously upset, and said she didn't like the music, that it was too loud, and that she couldn't come to Circle. I explained that it was dark Pagan music, that she shouldn't bale out just yet, and to try and accept that this was Pagan music, just not what she was used to. To her credit, she later came to me and said that eventhough she still didn't like dark rock, it had been an enlightening experience in mutual toleration.
I asked Cat and company to come in full Goth garb and perform. And they did, beautifully, weaving a spidery dance around the fire. I can tell you they were all nervous as hell. Then Cat spoke about her Satanism, and though I hadn't planned it, it was a good test of our vaulted Pagan tolerance of diversity. Then the Circle went on as usual, with stuff that isn't, and never has been, to my personal taste, but so what? I'm there to share different talents and performances, from whatever tradition. It was the time between Samhain and Yule, the only time we as a community acknowledge and honor the Dark Side.
The next morning at Council, it seemed like a full hour of folks talking about that Circle. I wished to present a challenge to our assumptions and comfortable routine, and evidently that happened. People spoke of their fears, discomforts, even bad dreams, about the Dark at Bardic. They seemed to be reciting in their hearts and minds the archaic notion that light is always good, and therefore dark must be bad, evil, threatening. And threatening I think it is, but only to the way even Pagans view it. The darkness brought to that Circle had nothing to do with harm, violence, or spiritual choas. It was the other side of day, the polar opposite of cute little faeiries, bless them, dancing happily on daisies. And I know that if I try to hide from the Dark, it will only fester and wound me. I also have to say that because the music was not only dark but rock (and obviosly powerful), I noticed a distinct generational thang going on: almost everyone who hated the music and the message was older, and almost everyone who had a great time was younger. It's too bad. But I suspect that it will be Xers and Yers that will revel in that powerful dark, as well as the powerful light, with music unique to the next century, not just 1960's folk or ancient styles preserved from the past, but pounding, joyful, angry, determined electric riffs, growling bass, and haunting melodies - from right now.
Just about everyone I know has been going through significant changes in their inner and outer lives. For me it's been a time of inner confusion and uncertainty, but, as a friend of mine pointed out, that's what changes, even good changes, sometime feel like. This was not a very satisfying reminder, but it is true. Moon Goddess has opened, people are changing their jobs, moving (or not moving), and growing. Such wonderful chaos! Tiring, but ultimately good. So let me throw a little more stuff into the swirling brew: those of you who are active in the Branch need to take a first or closer look at CAW as a church. CAW was the first "Earth Religion" in the U.S. to attain a 501(c)(3) federal recognition, just like any other church. We are currently 32 years old; not bad for a galloping grok flock of die-hard individualists and powerful leaders! The most amazing people I know are involved in CAW in some way: the futurists, the movers and shakers, the organizers of Paganism as an out-of-the-broomcloset religious movement of the 21st century. The question is: are you one of us?
There are two aspects of CAW which many people who are otherwise attracted to us find daunting. One, we have dues: $52 a year...or $1 a week. Money is green energy, and since so much of what we do requires this medium of exchange, we seek to generate it and use it wisely. Why not use capitalism itself to change capitalism and the world? If you cannot afford $52 a year, we will find a way around it. Money is not the master; everyone is included in our church regardless of income. Two, there are papers to write. Yes, papers, as in research papers. CAW is an intellectually dynamic church, and we know that to push the future in our direction we need all the tools we can accumulate, including an firm educational background and the ability think and reason, and to be able to communicate these thoughts effectively to others. If you have trouble with this, see the Minister. But I encourage all of you to investigate CAW, and those of you already in the church, please find out what Circle you are in and begin working on moving inward. CAW is one of the ways that we can walk our talk, that we can contribute to the changes in the culture that we hope to manifest. It isn't difficult; hell, if I can do it, anybody can. But it does require a spiritual and religious committment to what we believe and who we are. Make It So!
I record the following members of the Branch as follows. Please email me with additions or corrections.
When I first began teaching my particular brand of Paganism (what I believed was the direction to go into the next millennium) I wasn't sure what to call it. I finally settled on "Radical" Paganism, eventhough that word wasn't completely satisfying either, because I felt that the word in its original meaning, that of "root," accurately described what I was doing: creating a "grassroots" movement and going to the roots of many deep assumptions that even Pagans make about what's right and wrong and how we should live our lives. So let me explain two basic principles of Radical Paganism, the roots of my philosophy from which all else springs.
First, I believe in the ultimate manifestation of The Rede. Remember the Rede states that "If It Harm None, Do As You Will." Now what would it be like if a group built a small community on an island in the Bahamas based on Radical Pagan principles? Well, all behavior would be accepted so long as it didn't harm anyone. Harm being a little vague, its meaning would be pinned down as involuntary physical injury or any kind of violence. Violence is unacceptable in all its forms. But besides these, do as you wish. Now this sounds okay at first, but think a moment: suppose a 13 year old boy crawls into a crone's tent and wants to have sex? Suppose she takes it upon herself to teach him sexual skills? If both parties desire it, then its acceptable. Period. No squabbling over morals or personal opinions; it becomes the exclusive business of the people involved in the activity, and no one else (up to the point where there is involuntary physical injury or violence - and then it becomes everyone's business). Notice it's "physical" injury, not getting your feelings hurt. Psychological trauma, such as being taught, as I was, to be in constant fear of damnation, is not included. Even a parent who constantly berates and criticizes his child has the right to do so because they may feel it's good to "toughen them up" or some other justification. We may not like it; we may as neighbors go over and try to spend time with the young person, but ultimately its not our right to impose our belief system on the parent. Much as I personally hate this caviat, much as I might like to go over there and say "Hey, you're hurting you kid's soul, Stupid!" (and I might even do it one day), I still could not make a law which said you couldn't psychologically abuse your offspring because my idea of "abuse" may not be someone elses. Again, the line would be if the young person were being physically injured or if there was violence going on. Then we should step in. This is what's meant by the ultimate manifestation of The Rede.
Second, I believe we ought to be activists in defense of our religion. It's an old tradition in this country that everybody except the original (1776) power base, land-owning caucasian men, has to work for equal rights, and I don't think Pagans are going to be any different. We must stand up in increasing number, stepping out of the broomcloset, so that we are known as Pagans as well as good neighbors, friends, family members, and coworkers. If there comes an instance of religious descrimination to you, your group, or the community in your region, stand up against it, speak up, write articles and letters, help organize as much as possible to counter the descrimination with information and activities aimed at letting the general public know who we are, that we're a legally recognized religion, and that though we have major differences, we aren't dangerous (except, perhaps, to those who feel only one moral system should be permitted). APA once had a Parade on Religious Freedom Day, and APA itself is an example of our community reaching out to cowens. Action is what it sometimes takes, because words often only go so far. Fortunately, the Constitution is usually behind us, and expect there to be much struggle between the First Amendment and the politicized Christian majority. With such issues as having sacred substances like cannibus or mushrooms in circle, being skyclad, top-free rights, sexual freedom being championed by Pagans, look for a colorful, though peaceful, transition period as the old guard loses its iron grip on America.