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A book and film that were first intended as a snapshot of the pagan religious movement today became, equally, a memoir of my own spiritual seeking. Sat 29 Oct O n a Sunday night in , some people were packed, barefoot, into the darkened corporate ballroom of the Double Tree hotel near the San Jose airport, listening to the sounds of heavy drumming.

The hotel was flooded with about 2, American witches, as it is one weekend a year, and nearly a quarter of them — from teenagers to septuagenarians — were immersed in a ceremony led by Morpheus Ravenna, a rising pagan priestess. They had been called, with ceremonial daggers and invocations, to form a consecrated circle. The ritual was a devotional to the Morrigan, the heavyweight Celtic goddess of war, prophecy and self-transformation.

In the center of the circle, surrounded by her ritual crew, stood Morpheus, with all eyes on her. Dressed in black, in a leather corset and a long skirt slit up each side, she wore her hair in elaborate, heavy braids that hung to her waist. Her slender body doubled over, as if suddenly heavy, and began bobbing up and down as if something was bubbling up inside her.

After what felt like a long time, she raised her head up and in a growling voice not her own, announced that she was Morrigu! The roomful of witches circled closer, tightening around her, and a fellow priestess lifted a heavy sword above our heads: As Morpheus or the goddess she was channeling continued heaving, breathing hard, hundreds of people crowded in, taking turns to raise their hand up and touch the tip of the blade.

It all started three years earlier, when I set out to make a documentary about a handful of fringe religious communities around the country. The idea stemmed from a longtime fascination with how and why people rally around belief systems, and the ceremonies that hold those systems in place. It was also more personal than that. I was born and raised in New York City, but my roots are more exotic: The elaborate clerical robes, the incense and tiers of prayer candles, the stories of the martyrs cut into stained glass, the barely decipherable chants — as a child, these were embedded in my brain.

To this day, despite my liberal feminist politics, I still imagine the world as overseen by a handsome, bearded young white man. At the same time, however, I was haunted by the memory of high mass, the sense that there are mysteries in the universe.

When I learned that there was a living, growing American witchcraft movement — one that is radically inclusive, that views women as equals to men, and in which God is just as likely to be female — I was instantly curious. During the six years of immersion that ensued, I made a documentary about modern witchcraft, and eventually dove even deeper to write a book, Witches of America.

In the process, I would come to understand a lot more about the American witchcraft movement. In the past, it may have been tempting to dismiss this community as Earth-loving crystal collectors or velvet-wearing goths.

In fact, the dozens of esoteric but related traditions share a spiritual core: Pagans believe that the divine can be found all around us and that we can communicate regularly with the dead and the gods without a go-between. Pagan traditions, however alien on the surface, contain elements that are universal: Major pagan holidays have already bled into popular culture: Beltane, the fertility celebration, is known as May Day; Samhain, the time of literal communion with the dead, as Halloween.

At the same time, some typical pagan practices are in line — at least on the surface — with what Hollywood has taught us about witchcraft: In casting the documentary, I traveled the country for months, from Tennessee to Montana to the Bay Area.

There are practicing pagans in every state, in cities and suburbs and small towns, ranging from schoolteachers to tech entrepreneurs to the cashier at your local Whole Foods. On one of these dizzying trips, I met Morpheus: But she had another life: Ceremonies inside the circle, attended over the years by hundreds of pagans, had involved daggers and cloaks and torches, and California academics and carpenters and nuclear physicists chanting to the moon or perhaps speaking in tongues, invoking some god or goddess until, when it became too late to drive home, the worshippers gathered around a fire, drank whiskey, and wandered off to their tents.

I saw that henge for the first time after dinner with Morpheus and her husband in their double-wide trailer: Over the course of several months, my tiny crew and I stayed at Stone City many times — for Beltane, or Samhain, or just to get a sense of the rhythm of their intensely untraditional lives — and my relationship with Morpheus began to feel more like a friendship.

She could be intimidating to witness in ritual, but in her everyday existence, maybe frying an egg in the kitchen or running an errand for her teenage stepdaughter, she was laid-back, quick to laugh, wholly unpretentious. By coincidence, we were the same age both recently turned 30 , and she was easy to talk to, perfectly comfortable with my own skepticism and my probing questions.

Morpheus had found her religion as a nature-loving child of open-minded west coast parents: And I think Morpheus was aware of how personal my own interest in witchcraft was becoming. Once filming was over, that was just what I knew I had to confront: I returned to California — this time with a new excuse: I had a book to write. Witches of America was first intended as a snapshot of the pagan movement today — but it quickly became, equally, a memoir of my own spiritual seeking.

Throughout my life, most of my friends have been fashionable atheists of the creative classes, but it was becoming clearer to me that this does not exempt anyone from the very human need for meaning.

It seems like a tremendous relief, to be able to wake up everyday with a shared sense of purpose versus the low-level existential pain of living without something to believe in, a religious tradition to guide and ground you. Within months of starting my research, I made a decision: I would study the Craft myself. For me, Morpheus recommended a priestess in Massachusetts of the same specific witchcraft tradition in which she had trained — a smaller, particularly intense and ecstatic branch of the Craft known as Feri.

Understanding that most students of Feri train for about five years before being initiated if they last that long , I began studying with my teacher long-distance from New York, through phone calls and long emails. My life was becoming headier, populated by Americans who believe in the practice of magic. When the next Samhain arrived, I was finally able to circle with the coven — in, of all places, a castle in New Hampshire. There, for three days and nights, about 30 of us took part in barely-lit rituals to commune with the dead.

I thought we had an encounter, somewhere in that dark place, across who knows how many centuries, but I knew I would never have proof of it. Within the pagan community, the reaction to Witches of America has been deeply divided. I have been called a lot of names online, threatened with hexes, and more.

My mother, last fall: At the same time, I also received many messages, from readers of a range of beliefs — pagans, Catholics, atheists — who were excited to see contemporary witchcraft practice depicted for a larger audience.

Many found relief in seeing that very human amalgam of curiosity and confusion mapped out on the page. The Oprah-friendly tale of self-transformation- through-revelation is easily one of the most popular forms of memoir in American literature, and that can be deeply alienating to those of us who live in a constant state of searching, uncertain if we will ever find a label for the system that helps us get by. But during my time within the pagan community I learned this: It can lead you far away from the familiar, and from familiar truths.

But each of us has the right to traverse that distance. A book and film that were first intended as a snapshot of the pagan religious movement today became, equally, a memoir of my own spiritual seeking by Alex Mar. Rob Dobi Sat 29 Oct I was one of them. Order by newest oldest recommendations.

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What Men Want: Initial Thoughts on the Male Goddess Movement - Wikisource, the free online library

They had been called, with ceremonial daggers and invocations, to form a consecrated circle. The ritual was a devotional to the Morrigan, the heavyweight Celtic goddess of war, prophecy and self-transformation.

In the center of the circle, surrounded by her ritual crew, stood Morpheus, with all eyes on her. Dressed in black, in a leather corset and a long skirt slit up each side, she wore her hair in elaborate, heavy braids that hung to her waist. Her slender body doubled over, as if suddenly heavy, and began bobbing up and down as if something was bubbling up inside her. After what felt like a long time, she raised her head up and in a growling voice not her own, announced that she was Morrigu!

The roomful of witches circled closer, tightening around her, and a fellow priestess lifted a heavy sword above our heads: As Morpheus or the goddess she was channeling continued heaving, breathing hard, hundreds of people crowded in, taking turns to raise their hand up and touch the tip of the blade.

It all started three years earlier, when I set out to make a documentary about a handful of fringe religious communities around the country.

The idea stemmed from a longtime fascination with how and why people rally around belief systems, and the ceremonies that hold those systems in place.

It was also more personal than that. I was born and raised in New York City, but my roots are more exotic: The elaborate clerical robes, the incense and tiers of prayer candles, the stories of the martyrs cut into stained glass, the barely decipherable chants — as a child, these were embedded in my brain. To this day, despite my liberal feminist politics, I still imagine the world as overseen by a handsome, bearded young white man. At the same time, however, I was haunted by the memory of high mass, the sense that there are mysteries in the universe.

When I learned that there was a living, growing American witchcraft movement — one that is radically inclusive, that views women as equals to men, and in which God is just as likely to be female — I was instantly curious. During the six years of immersion that ensued, I made a documentary about modern witchcraft, and eventually dove even deeper to write a book, Witches of America. In the process, I would come to understand a lot more about the American witchcraft movement.

In the past, it may have been tempting to dismiss this community as Earth-loving crystal collectors or velvet-wearing goths.

In fact, the dozens of esoteric but related traditions share a spiritual core: Pagans believe that the divine can be found all around us and that we can communicate regularly with the dead and the gods without a go-between. Pagan traditions, however alien on the surface, contain elements that are universal: Major pagan holidays have already bled into popular culture: Beltane, the fertility celebration, is known as May Day; Samhain, the time of literal communion with the dead, as Halloween.

At the same time, some typical pagan practices are in line — at least on the surface — with what Hollywood has taught us about witchcraft: In casting the documentary, I traveled the country for months, from Tennessee to Montana to the Bay Area. There are practicing pagans in every state, in cities and suburbs and small towns, ranging from schoolteachers to tech entrepreneurs to the cashier at your local Whole Foods.

On one of these dizzying trips, I met Morpheus: But she had another life: Ceremonies inside the circle, attended over the years by hundreds of pagans, had involved daggers and cloaks and torches, and California academics and carpenters and nuclear physicists chanting to the moon or perhaps speaking in tongues, invoking some god or goddess until, when it became too late to drive home, the worshippers gathered around a fire, drank whiskey, and wandered off to their tents.

I saw that henge for the first time after dinner with Morpheus and her husband in their double-wide trailer: Over the course of several months, my tiny crew and I stayed at Stone City many times — for Beltane, or Samhain, or just to get a sense of the rhythm of their intensely untraditional lives — and my relationship with Morpheus began to feel more like a friendship.

She could be intimidating to witness in ritual, but in her everyday existence, maybe frying an egg in the kitchen or running an errand for her teenage stepdaughter, she was laid-back, quick to laugh, wholly unpretentious. By coincidence, we were the same age both recently turned 30 , and she was easy to talk to, perfectly comfortable with my own skepticism and my probing questions.

Morpheus had found her religion as a nature-loving child of open-minded west coast parents: Paganism, a nature-worshipping religion, has gained traction with some people in the Rockford area. The term covers a host of different traditions, including Wicca, Druidism and heathenry — many of which have ancient roots that have been adapted by modern-day followers.

Most pagans honor the spirits of the Earth and their ancestors, and many worship various gods and goddesses. Pagans make up about 0. The primary pagan group in Rockford is a Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans chapter, which was chartered last summer by Rockford's Unitarian Universalist Church.

The group includes about 15 members who meet one Sunday a month to worship with blessings, songs, discussion and food. About 50 members are active in the group's online community. Betsy Urbik, the group's facilitator, became a practicing pagan after deciding to explore religions outside Christianity.

A Machesney Park resident, Urbik eventually became a pagan agnostic, which she found to be a nice balance between paganism and Unitarianism. Both are nontheistic, more nature-based, politically active organizations. Urbik's brand of paganism doesn't worship any gods, but she seeks connection with the spirits of the Earth. She also believes in the natural passage of time — in seasons more than societal calendars. Urbik said she enjoys being a pagan because there are no real rules or ways to define the tradition.

Cara Hoglund, a Rockford resident and member of Urbik's group, has been a practicing heathen for 16 years.

Pagan and paganism were pejorative terms for the same polytheistic group, implying its inferiority. Paganism has broadly connoted the "religion of the peasantry", [4] and for much of its history was a derogatory term. [5]. Woman Seeking A Man ( Miles Away) 39 year old single pagen woman that cherishes the earth and her surroundings is seeking her other half. Empath, intuitive and tarot card reader and RN of 19 years. The civilized world was then most emphatically Pagan in both spirit and forms. Religion as a controlling influence was dead. and beautiful to attract Caesar - a man of 50, temperate, ambitious, refined, brilliant, loaded down with cares of government and bent on new conquests. "not one Athenian woman ever attained to the slightest.