“What are you thankful for?” is a common question many of us may be asked while we gather ’round the table with family and friends. In past years I have listed things like my family, my health, a new job, a house or a better apartment. This year I am thankful for the Dreamers in our religious community.
All those who don’t accept things as they are, imagine possibilities and then make them happen. There’s no way I could list all of the Dreamers I am thankful for, but allow me to list a few that have, in some way brought a dream to life that benefits our community. And I invite you to list the Dreamers that you know and are thankful for.
First, I am thankful for Jason Pitzl-Waters. One day he was pissing and moaning (heh, he’ll love that when he reads it!) about how there wasn’t a blog out there that compiled news interesting to Pagans with a bit of commentary thrown in. So he started one, called The Wild Hunt. We all are better informed today, and more connected, because of his dream 6 years ago. A dream he acted on. Not content with that, he started the Pagan Newswire Collective. This blog is but one project associated with PNC. Local, and soon national, news bureaus are another project that Jason has spear-headed. And managed to rope others into. I suspect it’s because he didn’t want to go insane alone. This thank you is far shorter than Jason deserves, but I hope I made up for that by mentioning him first. Thank you, Jason. Thank you for dreaming into existence a Pagan News Ecosystem. Because you’re right – it’s important.
I am thankful for H. Jeremiah Lewis, aka Sannion. One of his dreams was to create a group dedicated to writing and publishing high quality devotional books. He, and a few others, formed Neos Alexandria and on January 29th, 2008 Written in Wine – a devotional to Dionysos - was released. Thirty people contributed to that first book and it was amazing. Since then, the titles have kept coming. So far 9 books have been released, 3 more go to press in the next few months, 2 more are currently open for submissions, and 3 more are soon to open Calls for Submission. Sannion is no longer part of Neos Alexandria (he has started another press – Nysa Press) but his dream is still thriving, providing Pagans with quality devotional books containing essays, poetry, devotional material, original artwork, and short fiction focused on a particular divinity or group of divinities. I’d be remiss if I didn’t also express my thanks to the current editorial board of Neos Alexandria and everyone involved with these books. My spiritual life is more enriched because of you.
I’m thankful for Z. McAtee, President of Hellenion and Alexandra Bond, Secretary of Hellenion. These two women have the completely, totally, baffling dream that they can successfully herd cats Pagans. And they do. Day in and Day out they do the hard, tedious, and often thankless grunt work that comes with keeping a legally recognized church, with local congregations (Demos), running. They’ve kept the clergy program going and we now have a library Hellenion members can access. Oh yeah…and the Temenos has been updated, too. They accomplish this while the rest of us are bitching, asking them for the impossible, and having a fun time chatting on the Hellenion Yahoo groups. Their dream is to have functional and spiritually fulfilling congregations around the world so Hellenic Pagans can enjoy the fellowship that comes from group worship. Some of the Demos are really starting to click, drawing 50 or more participants in their public rituals. McAtee and Bond didn’t originate this dream, but they have picked up the torch when it was starting to sputter out and have done an incredible job. Because of you, there are fewer Hellenes struggling with religious isolation.
I am thankful for Andrew Jacob and the Twin Cities Old Belief Society for building a beautiful Celtic Temple. Especially for building it within a city so it is accessible to a larger number of people. His group dreamed of a physical temple, a permanent place to worship and honor their Gods. They pulled together and donated time, sweat, money, smashed thumbs, love. They put their hearts and souls into the temple and you can see it. Thank you. Thank you so much for proving to me that creating temples for our Gods is not some impossible task, never to be realized. Every time I look at photos of your temple, it fills me with hope and determination. Thank you for nourishing my own dream of building a temple for the Gods I honor.
I am thankful for Patrick McCollum. I could list all the smaller dreams he has brought into reality, but I really want to thank him for not being an asshole. You laugh, I know. But to see an Activist use grace, persuasion, kindness, thoughtfulness, and intelligence in place of ranting, violence, hatred, hyperbole, and aggression – and yet still make such strides in fighting for all of our rights - Patrick, I am in awe of you and I am properly shamed by your example. Patrick was one of the founding members of the Lady Liberty League and now he’s on a United Nations board. He’s fighting against the truly crappy ‘five faiths” policy - a case which has direct consequences for all of us even though it is a policy within the California prison system. He worked hard on ensuring that the VA would allow fallen Wiccan Vets to have the pentacle on their headstone. Thank you for being you, while working to secure my rights, even though I am an asshole. And thank you for wearing cowboy boots with your sarong wrap skirt at PSG – if you can pull off that look, and you did, you can do anything.
We should all be thankful for Star Foster, who manages the Pagan Portal at Patheos. It would be easy for Pagans to be dismissed, overlooked, or downplayed on a mainstream site that tries to be inclusive of all religions. *cough*beliefnet*cough* The power of her dream for the Pagan Portal (and the power of her magic pink hair) wouldn’t allow that. She cheerfully represents a Pagan POV and recruits others in our community to lend our voices to the interfaith conversation. Through her guidance the Pagan Portal draws enough traffic to give even the Evangelicals a run for their money. We are heard, we are not overlooked on Patheos. And I am very, very thankful that Patheos continues to support and promote the Pagan Portal, even though they have lost sponsors because we are there.
And last (for this blog post, I could thank many more Dreamers) I would like to thank Paul and Teisha Magee. Their dream enabled the entire Pagan Twin Cities, Minnesota community to fulfill its dream – a real Community Center. The only one currently in existance in the USA. Not a room in someone’s house, not rented room in a shop. A real, honest to goodness community center. Where we can have potlucks (it’s a Minnesota thing) and concerts and classes and meetings and family events. A place to honor our dead. It hasn’t been easy, this dream. There have been financial struggles and questions from the community about if something like this is viable. Paul, Teisha, and the rest of the Sacred Paths Center board never gave up. So I thank you for creating a spiritual home for all of us in Paganistan.
Note: an earlier version of this post accidentally omitted Star Foster. I plead technical difficulties while loading the post to wordpress. Star, forgive me!