Pagan Temples Revisited

My post on Pagan temples had quite a response. I’m going to try to process some of the discussion and address some of the issues that were brought up. It’s a good bit to take in, so I may not get everything in today.

First, there seems to be an idea that I’m either unaware or misinformed about CUUPS. If you are a Unitarian-Universalist congregation and organized under their banner then you must be inclusive and accommodating of any Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, or atheist that adhere to the UU principles. So if your organization is under the aegis of what is still nominally a Christian body, and you must accommodate the spiritual needs of UU members of other faiths, then no, you are not an independent autonomous Pagan temple. Pagan temples should not be required to hold services for the purpose of Christian worship. If you cannot deny another UU member a Christian, Jewish or Muslim service, then you are not a Pagan temple but a UU congregation. There is a big difference there. I think it’s great that CUUPS exists, but it’s not at all the same thing as having our own temples.

There seems to be confusion about what a public temple actually is. A public temple would have stated and reliable hours when the temple/sanctuary space would be open to the general public. Anyone should be able to walk in off the street, light incense, and meditate, pray or knit. This means at least one person needs to be present to answer questions, keep an eye on the premises, deal with any issues that arise and lock up when they leave. It should also have regular religious services that are completely open to the public, but that doesn’t mean the services are some sort of show-and-tell, or bland, diluted, rituals that non-Pagans will understand. This isn’t a pageant to put on before a Christian audience, but there should be plenty of people who can answer questions. A public temple does not mean that any religious group can use it for rituals, sermons or events.

You cannot embark on a local project that would at a minimum involve tens of thousands of dollars without everyone involved being of the same religious, ethical and cultural vision. This principle is played out in the PantheaCon controversy, where they committed to being for all Pagans, and now are having to revise their initial inclusivity and define some sort of pan-Pagan orthodoxy in which they will include those who adhere to their stated values, and exclude all that falls outside of it.

So, no, you can’t build a temple for everyone or it will be torn apart by the tyranny of the masses. What you can do is create a temple dedicated to a specific religious, ethical and cultural vision, which can also provide space to other Pagan groups as its circumstances see fit. A Heathen group might transform an abandoned Lutheran church into a feasting hall, and allow local Wiccan and Druid groups to use their fellowship hall. Maybe host a Pagan Pride Day celebration. But to raise the funds, execute the project and create something worth sustaining they must keep the temple firmly in line with their own values.

You can’t please everyone, and the moment you try to make something for everyone, people want to start excluding. Tolerance preaching Witches will get their hackles raised over EpiscoPagans, and vegan Druids will be aghast at Vodou. Plus, when you try to make something for everyone, it gives others license to elbow their way in and royally screw up your project. I don’t think any of my readers are so naive as to not realize we have a real problem with people who want to be critical and obstructive without contributing anything in our community.

To say that Pagans have an issue with money is an understatement. I think a lot of it is because we think we have to make something for everyone. We have to include everyone. When I envision a temple like this, I imagine the bulk of the use and benefits of this temple will got to the members, and the members will be comprised solely of people who contribute and invest themselves in the temple.

Projects like this work because people find them important enough to commit to a significant investment in time and money. Maybe some people invest more time, and others more money, but regardless, this isn’t a humanitarian project for the masses. I’ve been told that the massive Hindu temple in Minnesota began when 5 families took out second mortgages on their homes to fund it. I’m fairly certain they did so because they had a clear, shared vision and faith, not because they wanted to open a center where hippies could meditate and play the sitar.

There is a stark difference between making space available to the rest of the Pagan community, and catering to the rest of the Pagan community. The former is sustainable, the latter is not.

If you’re a solitary or staunchly against organized religion, then you don’t have to participate. It’s really that simple.

In my last post I commented that when you try to meditate or pray in the great outdoors, and particularly parks, there are noises and distractions. There are even people who will disturb you to make sure you’re alive if you sit in motionless meditation. Meditating in a temple has the advantage that you’re unlikely to have a dog steal your sandwich or a child’s soccer ball hit you in the head. That concept got me branded anti-child by someone who proudly declared their children “run loose.” So I think it should go without saying that this would be a building where your children would be expected to be quietly behaved at times.

Most groups who have the cohesiveness of shared vision to create such a project would likely also be interested in religious education for children, and they would also be very pro-family. Most reconstructionist religions are very much family-based, so I imagine including children would be a high priority, as would expecting parents to make sure their children behave appropriately to the occasion.

Among all the costs and planning such a project would entail, legal counsel is a must. You’ve seen the hoops mosques have to jump through and churches rarely have the same issues. Making sure you have every bit of paperwork in proper order will make encountering problems with the neighborhood and local government easier. Buying a property already zoned for religious use makes this so much simpler.

One thing that most people don’t realize is that starting this isn’t the hard part. Raising the funds to buy property, file all the necessary paperwork, make modifications and opening the temple to the public is easy. Maintaining the funds and staff to keep it going is difficult. People committing to donating a significant amount of money each month for years is the difficult part. People willing to give up their Saturday once a month to sit quietly while the temple is open to the public is the difficult part. People who can agree what religious observances and what religious programs such a temple should offer is the difficult part.

The kind of people who will keep such a temple going will be rooted in the local community, completely committed to the religious, ethical and cultural vision of the temple, and have a stake in seeing the temple serve multiple generations. They will have a deep desire to create a home for the Gods they honor to last beyond their own brief life.

That is why this is difficult to accomplish.

But if you can find this, then our Hindu cousins would likely tell us, if you build it they will come.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. – Margaret Mead


About Star Foster

Polytheistic Wiccan initiated into the Ravenwood tradition, she has many opinions. Some of them are actually useful.

  • Jay Allen

    Agreed re: CUUPS. That was my initial response to their comment when they shared your post on Facebook. It’s just another example of a Pagan organization being housed in someone else’s space, as opposed to having a space dedicated to a specific Pagan practice.

    Love your writing, by the way. Very clear, very direct.

  • MrsBs Confessions

    This sounds like an awesome undertaking – both in the “huge” and “totally cool” definitions of the word, lol.

    I’d make one suggestion on the child-friendly score, though – perhaps have child-friendly hours, where kids aren’t expected to act “appropriately”.  Not only are many younger  kids generally squirmy and loud (even some of the best behaved), but kids with some types of disabilities have different forms of “appropriate” than some adults might enjoy.  

    A time when families can come and relax and not worry about interrupting others too much if their child isn’t perfectly behaved is can mean a lot – and knowing when it’s a little more rambunctious in the temple can let others be aware of what times are best for quiet.

    Just my 2¢.  =)

    • Star Foster

       Kids squirming is different from kids running through the temple while people are trying to meditate. And if you have an outdoor space, then there is plenty of room for kids to be rambunctious.

      I’ve circled with kids who behaved as kids. They squirmed, hopped, whispered and did all the things kids can be expected to do. But they also moved in the correct direction around the circle, participated in the ritual when it was their turn and weren’t loud or disruptive.

      • MrsBs Confessions

        I totally agree, and have shared plenty of space with kids (mine and other’s), don’t get me wrong.  

        My suggestion is just that there be a time, inside the temple, for families to come in off the street and meditate, pray or knit and feel comfortable that if they do, they won’t be bothering anyone else, and that if their kid does act up, they won’t get the stink eye.

        As a parent with a child with autism who also wears hearing aids and has ADHD, I can tell you that it’s a huge relief to me when I know there’s a time when I can go *anyplace* and they have special times carved out where we can be free to be who we are without worrying about the judgement of others.

        There is a local, neighborhood restaurant that has “spectrum” days, where everyone knows if you go on those days, it’s going to be a bit louder than usual, and if someone is up walking around, or stimming, no one is going to judge your “weird” kid (one of the nicer things my son has been called in public).  Being able to go there and relax and know I won’t be judged is an amazing feeling.  I’d love to be able to have that same feeling in a temple. 

        • Star Foster

          Fantastic idea.

  • Pythia Theocritos

    You know me Star, I’m a huge fan of child-free spaces so when I read that portion of your post I didn’t bat an eyelash. It WOULD be nice to go to a space where one is free of children; heck even my local library can’t remain quiet for long due to someone’s child squalling like a banshee while the parent expects others to just endure it.

    That said last night, high on your words, I started perusing properties out in the boonies and found a beautiful, wood house, on a plot of land for about $200k. My mind whirred with how I could convince my husband to allow me to put a portion of my income towards such a purpose. It wouldn’t be a “pagan space”; but a temple dedicated to the Greco-Roman pantheons. 

    But once again, logistics came into play. While it seems a mere pipe-dream at the moment; who knows? I am friends with a few Classicists in the region and I could imagine they would be overjoyed at the prospect of a place of live worship; if only so they could share their love of philosophy, Greek/Latin language, culture, etc- with the modern world, through the worshipers of the old gods.

    Maybe THAT’S how we should consider approaching it; looking to build a bridge within the academic community as well as the religious one.

    • Star Foster

       Very good point! The sample building I used was near Agnes Scott College, which has a vibrant classics dept.

    • Faofeng

       Actually, I have to wonder now if there are any like minded Kemetics or perhaps Greek practitioners around here (I’ve honestly been quite open to the thought of exploring the Greek Pantheon). I hate to sound silly, but how does one find such people? I must assume PPDs and like events, but anyone have any pointers? I wouldn’t mind starting up a group with this idea in the long term, if only I could find like minded people nearby.

      • Cara

        Generally speaking, you won’t find many Kemetics, Hellenics, etc at Pagan events.  I suggest you look at Neos Alexandria.   They have a yahoo group.  Or you can look at Hellenion, a 501c3 ‘church’ that focuses on connecting Hellenic Polytheists so they can engage in face to face worship.  Depending on where you are, there may be an active demos.

  • John Beckett

    I could nitpick, but I think you’ve done a good job of listing the benefits of a modern Pagan temple and what it will take to make one a reality.  And you’re pretty much dead-on as to what it takes to maintain such a temple: 

    “people who will keep such a temple going will be rooted in the local
    community, completely committed to the religious, ethical and cultural
    vision of the temple, and have a stake in seeing the temple serve
    multiple generations”

    So the most important question for us is “how do we find and nurture such people?”

    Or perhaps, how do we become them?

    • Star Foster

       That sounds like a post or two in and of itself!

      • John Beckett

        Here’s my cut at answering those questions:

        We need a deep commitment to our religion, to our religious communities, and to their long-term success.  And we need a more mature relationship with money and with what it takes to earn money.

        • Aine Llewellyn

           “…more mature relationship with money…”


        • Star Foster

           Blogspot is an incredibly frustrating format for me to comment on, but the Parthenon in Nashville is used as a shrine by Pagans of various stripes, and the museum staff have come to turn a blind eye to offerings left to Athena. Not a full temple, but pretty darn spiffy all the same.

        • John Beckett

          I just turned off captcha, hopefully that will help.

          As for the Parthenon, how could you not use it as a shrine if you lived there?  Athena wasn’t there when my 8th grade history class visited about a hundred years ago, but I made a special trip to see her in 2010… wow. 

      • Allec

        If you give me a place to live, I’m willing to volunteer!

        • Star Foster

           I doubt any project like this would be executed in the next five years, but glad you find my post inspiring.

  • Kirk Thomas

    Well done, Star. You’ve outlined the issues very well. This is what I’m trying to do up here in Trout Lake.

  • Crystal Kendrick

    I enjoyed this post.  This is the very thing I dream of, and it would be very do-able in my neck of the woods. Good property is abundant and zoning laws are virtually nonexistent.  This is the first thing I will do once I win the lottery ; )

  • Napoleon Nikolai Zivkovic

    Do you know of any eclectic, “all-purpose” pagan temple(s) in the New York City metro area?  ~  Thanks, Napoleon Nikolai Zivkovic, Cultural Historian & Editor 

    • Vermillion

      I actually don’t think there are any. We have groups that rent out spaces, the ADF grove holds rituals in Central Park and another group holds full moon celebrations in Battery park and I believe the OTO has a group but all-purpose stuff I think there is none.

      Come to think of it for being such a metropolitan place NYC is sorely lacking in a lot of areas. I chalk it up to the astronomical rent here.

      • Athallia

        The OTO has a permanent, private temple space. It’s in the basement of a building and I don’t think it’s very official as they meet attendants on a park bench and bring them in small groups so that the tenants don’t see a lot of foot traffic from people that obviously don’t live in the building.

  • Aine Llewellyn

     One of my dreams since I first began seriously studying various Pagan paths has been to have a temple to go to for worship, meditation, relaxation, and just a safe space.  A meeting place for Pagans.  I agree that the temple would have to have a main religion/cultural focus – the values are clear, not muddled by having ‘everyone’, and you (hopefully) have a main group that will always use the temple.  A few of the local Pagans here believe that starting a temple is just impossible and so they won’t even try, won’t even think about it.  (Though people here also fought against ‘passing the hat’ to collect necessary funds to keep the networking group running!)

    Still, it’s a dream I would like to see realized, and I do my best to donate to our local groups, including the ADF grove that has a fund specifically for buying land.  Though I don’t make much money at all, extra always goes to local Pagan authors and events and causes.  (And, yes, towards books…what can I say, I’m a book hoarder.)  I also put a small portion of my paycheck into a savings account I made specifically for raising money for setting up a temple later in my life (when I’ve settled in a specific area). 

    I agree with so much you have written, and I look forward to seeing and taking part in the building of Pagan temples!

  • Juniper Jeni

    There are Pagan temples and Pagan land … there is (or was, I’m not sure) a couple in Winnipeg who gave over the use of a house they owned to use as a temple, meeeting space and guest house.
    There  are a couple of places in the big citites in Canada where folks have leased or bought commercial space and rent it out cheap to local Pagan and Heathen groups (such as in Montreal).
    There are places like Raven’s Knoll, found outside Ottawa, that are Pagan owned and host festivals and retreats and such.

    Aren’t there any in the USA???????

    • Star Foster

       Plenty of Pagans own retreats in rural areas that are used for infrequent festivals, far from where most Pagans actually live, and they aren’t open to the public.

      • Juniper Jeni

         Raven’s Knoll is open to the public (technically, it’s a campground) though you have to pay a $11 camping fee.

        These things are being built, perhaps just not as fast or in such a way that pleases you.

        Not much seems to please you though, judging from your blog.

        • Star Foster

           It seems every time I get to the point that I think you’re a really awesome person, you pull this snarky mean girl stuff. I will have to remember this about you.

          • Juniper Jeni

             I care what your opinion of me is?  *shrug*

          • Star Foster

             If you can’t stick to the issues, please don’t comment.

            Your rural, private Pagan spaces (private means you need permission to enter) still have nothing to do with the neighborhood centers featuring handicap access and modern plumbing I have been writing about.

    • Anna Korn

      There is Annwfn in N. CA, with which I used to be concerned with its care and support. Not a job I’d want to go back to.

      • Star Foster

        That place is off-grid. How is that even comparable to what are discussing?

  • Juniper Jeni

     Doesn’t Circle Sanctuary count?

    (totally agree that we need more of this stuff)

    • Star Foster

       It’s land in a rural area that is not open to the general public.

    • kenneth

      I would say it’s wonderful for what it is. I go there once or twice a year, as I live about three hours away. It’s not the kind of place anyone can wander into at any time, but it’s great for seasonal festivals, and if you live close enough, there’s pretty frequent programming. If you become a core volunteer, and live close enough, you can get out on that land fairly often. It’s not the greatest for handicapped access (or even able-bodied access during some of the year)! Still, I love the place.

  • Anna Korn

    I’m in agreement with most of what you said, but that isn’t wha thappened at PantheaCon.

    It also looks like this will open the whole can of worms about paid clergy

    • Star Foster

       How am I wrong?

      Paying people for their time and service is part and parcel of most ancient Pagan value systems. Modern Pagans take issue with it because they don’t see the need for clergy period.

      • Faofeng

        Actually, I think it’s a mix of people thinking it’s not necessary, people wishing they could get that occupation (I would do ANYTHING to be a priestess even just PARTtime), and people who are afraid that the clergy will abuse its power (or people will become clergy because they’re too lazy for a real job, or that people will use their authority to influence others, etc. etc. just stuff people are unusually but commonly worried about).
        To be honest, and I do have a bit of a bias, but I like the clergical system of Kemetic Orthodoxy. Priests don’t really have any authority over regular members, but they are respected greatly because they have a lot more responsibility than regular members. In a sense, even though they’re full time priests, they don’t have to be priests 24/7. Maybe we could have part time and mostly full time priests? Idk, I suppose it’s all still a dream as of yet. Here’s to hoping it becomes reality!

        • Star Foster

           Most Pagan priests didn’t have authority over individuals. That’s a monotheistic idea, and has been abused by Pagan clergy who act as though they need to save your soul.

      • Dydan Waters

        I just love how people crow about not needing clergy.  Right up until they need us for something.  

        And the notion that they don’t need clergy, IMNSHO, is a grave mistake. As HPS to a small coven, I probably spend at least 2-3 nights a week working on coven things.  That’s either spent in preparing rituals, working on coven business, counseling one of the members, or the actual gatherings themselves.  All this done outside the hours of my day job.  I would like nothing more than to be a Priestess full time, but the sad reality is that I cannot afford to do this full time.  Trying to work the Priestess gig in around my full time job means there are times when I am needed and I am not able to serve in that capacity.  Deep in my core, I feel this is wrong.  As clergy, if someone needs me to minister because they are in the hospital, I should be free to drop everything and tend to that person.  I hate that circumstances do not allow me to truly honor the divine calling I have to minister.  Why shouldn’t our clergy be paid?  Other ministers in other religions are able to earn a modest living, why can’t we?  

        We really need to get over this dysfunctional attitude we have about money and compensating people for the services they provide us.  I cannot wrap my brain around people who won’t bat an eyelash at spending untold amounts of money on trinkets like drums and any other frivolous shiny toy, but when you mention paying clergy they act like you are asking them to perform some horrific act.  

        • kenneth

          How are the economics of that going to work for a normal size coven? Unless your members have several thousand EACH to fork up each year, how do you propose to survive by being full time clergy? 
             I have no problem with paying people for the work they do as counselors or chaplains or something, but I have no interest in creating nor supporting a full time separate clergy caste. I don’t need it. There is no laity in my tradition. 
             I think this is the core difference between what seems to be the great majority of us and those who yearn to have all the same things and perhaps the same suburban respectability as “regular churches.” 
              This may well vary across traditions and may change in time, but my sense is that as of now, most of us aren’t much interested in these things. We’re not just congregational Christians who happen to worship different gods and goddesses. We have a radically different understanding of how we relate to deity and the nature of revelation etc. 

        • Marienne Hartwood

           As an initiate who is not a priestess, I currently spend 2 mornings/evenings per week and every other Sunday with coven business (outside of things like, you know, rites), and know that the majority of the members in the coven I’m with do about the same amount of work time-wise. It is part of what is required to be an initiate within a coven. Although I’m not opposed to paid clergy in principle, I’m not sure how the logistics are going to work in the real world. At least locally, the typical coven runs about 5-6 members, and that would include both the HP and HPS. Assuming that both genders would need to be paid for their clergy work, and assuming they are members of the organization within which they participate, that means that you’d have 3-4 members able to pay in. A “livable salary” in this area would run about $50K/year/person. In other words, those 3-4 people would need to come up with $25,000 or more each to support their clergy’s need for a livable salary. Even though I could provide that amount without batting an eyelash, when pay for service comes about, it becomes a consumer-driven system…and I would want to know what I’d get for my $25K investment. That being said, I have no problem handing over sums of money (and have done so) when I have clergy (and even non-clergy) that provides a service above and beyond assembling together for rites.

          (To give actual numbers, for the coven I’m with, we’ve got approximately 20 members, 6 of which are adjunct clergy and 2 of which are full clergy. If we say $50K per full clergy (full-time work) and $25K per adjunct (part-time work), then that means the coven of 20 people would need to come up with $250,000/year to be paid by the remaining 12 members–which works out to $20,000 per year per member, so even having larger numbers doesn’t automatically make the numbers crunch better.)

          I’ve known individuals who are able to scrape by with just the role of “full-time priest(ess)”, but it is mostly done by being a jack of all trades–they do in-person readings (for pay), they work in chaplaincy roles (for pay), they write and publish books, teach workshops for pay, provide spiritual counseling for pay, run a store, do phone tarot readings, perform ritual services (handfastings, baby blessings, funerals, etc.) for pay. It can be done, but like any other business, it takes a large client base that is willing to pay posted prices.

          The only other method, if you want to be paid clergy for the support you provide to your group, is to start charging. Maybe a cover charge to attend rituals–say $20 for an esbat or $50 for a sabbat, and explain that you’re starting this so you can move to provide them with better quality service. In my gut, I don’t think it would fly with any folks I know, but you know your people better than anyone else. Is that something they’d be cool with so that you could provide them with better service?

          • kenneth

            In my first coven, they charged $5 a month per member and $5 a class. Nominal sums, really but over time, they had a 20-ish members and taught a lot of beginner classes, and most of us took the classes two or three times just to see how things evolved. Depending on the assumptions one used, the priestess was pulling $600 to $1,000-ish a year. 
               Not a living by any means, of course, and some of that money was for supplies, but there’s no way we burned up most of that money in tea lights or nag champa. So that wasn’t the same as professional clergy by any means, but no one was getting ill-used as far as I’m concerned. If you have a group that is large and active enough that it becomes a matter of some daily work for a leader, build in something for “expenses” to make sure they’re not out of pocket and have a few extra bucks at the end of it all. 

          • Star Foster

             Coveners have to pee, so there is toilet paper to consider. Did she provide picnic ware for feasts? Did she print out class materials? Did she provide materials for robes, cords, incense, etc? Did she furnish outdoor circle space that had to be mowed, weeded and maintained? Did she she provide indoor circle space that had to be heated? Did she provide the cakes and ale for each ritual?

            There’s more to it generally than just a few tea lights. I doubt she “made a profit.”

          • kenneth

            I wouldn’t call it a “profit” either, but nobody got hosed either. It was run out of her home and really didn’t incur any big costs beyond living there. For cakes and ale and coven dinners etc we did it on a potluck basis or chipped in one way or another.
                In truth I don’t know exactly how the finances tallied up, because it was never published with the sort of transparency one would see in a regular not-for-profit. It’s hard for me to see how she didn’t end up with a bit extra, and I didn’t begrudge that at all. I’ve have paid double or triple if it meant that much to her. I don’t think anyone should be put out for running a coven and people shouldn’t be sponging off anyone. 
               That said, its a very different thing to talk about supporting a caste of clergy who do that as their only job. That isn’t going to happen in a coven-based framework because the economics of it simply don’t work, and most of us just simply don’t want such a thing on theological grounds anyway. If Kemetics or Hellenic folk or someone else does evolve into a temple/congregational based model, then paid clergy probably makes more sense.

          • Star Foster

             I don’t know how all this jumped to paid clergy. My point was people generally underestimate what teachers spend. I’ve known ublic school, preschool and Craft teachers. They all tend to spend more on their classes than people expect.

            I’m also confused as to how temples imply paid clergy. Temples require staff perhaps, but not necessarily clergy.

          • kenneth

            All of these issues have arisen at one point or another here, and they are only related in that they all pertain to how paganism is evolving and what model(s) will work.  I agree, people need to get realistic about the actual costs of things and carry their share.
               Paid clergy and temples are not inextricably linked, but they are both part of this debate on models of practice. Those who want to “regularize” paganism often (certainly not always) tend to favor temples and paid clergy. They want the accessibility and perhaps respectability of their Judeo-Christian contemporaries. One can of course have paid clergy without a temple or vice versa, or even paid people in pastoral positions who are not clergy in the usual sense of a priesthood, ie rabbis. 
               There are a lot of models to consider, and I would be very surprised if some totally new ones did not emerge. The fact that paganism is in a position to wrestle with such options is a good sign. 

    • LezlieKinyon

       What did happen at P-con? I have rumors, stories, the on-going vitriol, and one one or two actual rational conversations to date. (Please contact me off this site. I think you have my info already through mutual friends.)  This issue has the potential to be explosive in a couple different groups I am associated with and hurtful, wicked things have already been said. In public.

  • LezlieKinyon

    “To say that Pagans have an issue with money is an understatement.” It’s a potluck-come-as-you-are, your sacred place is where you stand movement. That’s both a good thing, and a frustrating thing.

    It’s a wonder that places like Annwn, circle Farm and the like exist at all.  It seems that the one that have lasted had one person who had the vision and *resources* to make them happen in the first place.

    I am one of those who don’t see the need for a formal clergy.  Or a doctrine.  Or guilt. that’s for all those other religions, let’s create something better.

    • Aine Llewellyn

      Why do you see formal clergy equating to guilt?

  • LezlieKinyon

    There is a park in the Oakland Hills of California. It’s open to the public  (and the public uses it).  Inside are several labyrinths that are used by many different Pagans and non-Pagan groups and individuals of all beliefs.  Volunteers care for the labyrinths. I’m not going to share the exact location, because it could get over-used really fast.

    It’s the only truly public space I know about where this happens.

  • Anna Korn

    Check out 
    Interfaith Sacred Space Design Competition is an Interfaith project that Don Frew started in 2003. It had become obvious to us that rehabbing old churches, with their linear layout did not work so well for all faiths, including Pagans who tend to meet in circles. There are very interesting designs and questions about architecture’s crossing with spirituality here. 

    • Star Foster

       Seems to me recycling perfectly sound, handicap accessible buildings is greener and more Pagan.

  • William

    This and the previous post are two of my favorites of yours. Couldn’t agree with you more.

  • PhaedraHPS

    I have very much enjoyed both these posts and agree with you on many, many points.

    With all due respect, though, let me address the CUUPS question:

    “First, there seems to be an idea that I’m either unaware or misinformed
    about CUUPS. If you are a Unitarian-Universalist congregation and
    organized under their banner then you must be inclusive and
    accommodating of any Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, or atheist that adhere
    to the UU principles. So if your organization is under the aegis of
    what is still nominally a Christian body, and you must accommodate the
    spiritual needs of UU members of other faiths, then no, you are not an
    independent autonomous Pagan temple. Pagan temples should not be
    required to hold services for the purpose of Christian worship. If you
    cannot deny another UU member a Christian, Jewish or Muslim service,
    then you are not a Pagan temple but a UU congregation. There is a big
    difference there. I think it’s great that CUUPS exists, but it’s not at
    all the same thing as having our own temples.”

    CUUPS itself is not a church, congregation or temple. It is a national membership organization dedicated to promoting and supporting Pagans and Paganism wit in the UUA.

    CUUPS has chapters, which by design must be affiliated with a UU congregation. Some of these chapters do rituals. Some do not. Some present Sunday services. Some do not. There is no requirement that CUUPS groups do any particular thing, only that what they do be open to everyone. Note, that doesn’t mean what they do needs to be *about* everyone, simply open. A CUUPS group should not be limiting attendance at its events to just Pagans, or just women, or even just UUs, although I suppose I could imagine a scenario where  it could limit attendance to members and friends of its hosting congregation without including the public at large. Simply not advertising would accomplish that.

    There are a couple of UU congregations who identify primarily as Pagan, have a strong CUUPS presence and are active with CUUPS nationally. This is not quite the same thing as it being a CUUPS church or temple, however. Naturally, there are quite a few more congregations that identify as Christian, but you will also find quite a few atheist/humanist fellowships where one is unlikely to ever hear the word “god,” much less “gods.” As long as a congregation/fellowship/society states that it is in harmony with the UUA principles and purposes, it is eligible to become a member of the association.

    The UUA is non-creedal. A member organization (the full name is Unitarian Universalist Association *of Congregations*, btw, essentially bottom up, rather than top down) cannot require creedal adherence to become a member. In other words, you don’t have to formally espouse Paganism to formally join a Pagan-focused member congregation, nor do you have to disavow it to join a Humanist society.

    “If you cannot deny another UU member a Christian, Jewish or Muslim service…” This is not so, and I’m not sure where the idea comes from. You cannot deny membership to someone who identifies as Christian, Jewish or Muslim, if they otherwise meet the requirements of membership (which usually include some statement to the effect that the aspiring member is “in harmony” with the general principles of the congregation). However, the member congregations is under no obligation create worship services that cater to everyone’s personal theology. Thus, a Pagan may not feel at home in an atheist society which eschews fancy ritual or mention of deity, while an atheist may not feel terribly supported at an old-line Christian society (there are fewer and fewer of those left).

    • Star Foster

       This makes no sense. As a UU member I can expect to be a second-class citizen if my local church has a particular religious bent?

      • PhaedraHPS


        In areas where there are quite a few congregations to choose from, you are very  likely to find strong and distinct congregational personalities. You can literally shop around for a good fit.

        But also in my experience, where there is only one or few congregations, they work a little harder at inclusiveness.

        The UU ideal is that we will support each other on our path to finding truth. But that’s the ideal. You’re never going to get a committed atheist comfortable calling quarters much less the Gods. So whose sensibilities get fed and who gets trampled? It’s a dance.

        • Star Foster

           Essentially the UU is ULC with buildings. What a useless organization. I used to have a high opinion of it, but these discussions regarding CUUPS has completely changed my mind.

          • PhaedraHPS

             The UUA does what it does. It isn’t possible for any organization to be everything to everyone. But I’ve been associated with the UUA on and off for 25 years. I wouldn’t waste my time with it if it were “useless.” There are many thoughtful, spiritual and brilliant people I’ve met and worked with through the UUA.

            What I really like about the UUA is that it is continually striving to meet its ideals. Way too often it falls flat on its face — its made up of fallible humans, after all — but it always picks itself up and keeps on striving.

            I like to remind myself, too, that ideals *are* something to which we strive. That’s why they are ideals, not norms.

          • Star Foster

             I’m just stunned by the idea that a UU member could be a second-class citizen within their own organization. If you move to a new town, you can expect the Methodists to be Methodists, and Episcopalians to be Episcopalians. The idea that you can’t expect a UU org to be as open, inclusive and diverse as they have gained a rep for being boggles my mind. No wonder Pagans in the UU have become controversial if they are erecting their own fiefdoms.

          • Shoquoquon

            Do not forget that there are also active UU Christian, UU Buddhist, UU Humanist, and UU Jewish groups as well. Such is the nature of the UUA.  It may not be perfect, but for many it’s the only game in town if you want something more than your coven (which may or may not have blown up recently from a personality conflict).

          • kenneth

            I don’t have a lot of direct experience with UU, but I think it may be more of a human problem than an organizational one. It’s possible of course that pagans could be getting shabby treatment because they’re minorities in UU or because the organization culture doesn’t avidly protect their interests enough. On the other hand, I’ve been a “second class citizen” as a First Degree witch in the coven that initiated me because of ugly politics, power trips by the HP, what have you. 

          • Star Foster

             The Wild Hunt had a story about Pagans becoming the majority in the UU, and how that was causing some issues.

          • kenneth

            UU is an interesting phenomenon for pagans. Most of the pagan folk I know who attend those do so either because they have no other accessible regular ritual groups or because they consider themselves more “spiritual than religious” – more in tune with nature or goddess belief than with specific pagan trads or even the pagan label itself. 

          • PhaedraHPS

            Majority??? Pagans are a long, long way away from being a majority in the UUA. There was a survey where something like 19% chose “earth-centered” as representative of their theological bent, but that’s a wiggly term that might mean “I like acknowledging seasonal changes” as much as anything else.

    • Kit Peters

       For the record, this holds true for Gaia Community as well, even though we are not a CUUPs group per se. 

  • PhaedraHPS

    Back in 1986, I helped found Panthea Pagan Temple in Chicago, which in
    1990 became the very first Pagan-identified UU congregation. (Though many
    of our members were CUUPS members, Panthea had no CUUPS chapter. We
    thought it would be redundant.)

    Panthea had its own storefront for a while. It was a wonderful
    experience, but not sustainable for all of the reasons other folks have
    mentioned above. Yet we saw many other  tiny groups of Christians who managed to not only support a storefront but pay a minister, too. And these were in poor neighborhoods. What do they know (or do) that we do not? One thing is that they think it is important and put their money where their interests lie.

    • Cara

       One thing is that they think it is important and put their money where their interests lie.”

      EXACTLY!  My mother told me that people will reveal what’s really important to them by what they do, not by what they say.

  • PhaedraHPS

    Finally, a useful perspective from a feminist theologian, Rosemary Radford Ruther, from her work _The Women-Church Movement in Contemporary Christianity._

    “A religious community needs enablers in at least five areas: (1) liturgical creators – poets, artists, musicians, choreographers, who can help the community bring forth in creative expression its symbolic life; (2) teachers who know the history of religious thought systems and their relation to social systems and can help the community reflect on and reconstruct its inherited symbols; (3) administrators, organizers, in some cases a lawyer, who can oversee the material resources of the community; ((4) social justice experts who can critically analyze different structures of social oppression, the interface of poverty, sexism, racism, and militarism, and help the community focus its energies and resources on some particular areas of action; (5) spiritual counselors who have a wisdom in the inner life and its relation to life in community and can be guides in this journey of psychic-spiritual development.”

  • Aine Llewellyn

    Just wanted to share some of my thoughts on Pagan temples, hopefully it contributes something to the conversation!

    • Star Foster

       I had you pegged for much older, which I hope you’ll take as a compliment! Great post!

      • Aine Llewellyn

        Thank you! I’ll be bubbly for the rest of the night~

  • Fern Miller

    I suppose I’m spoiled – on top of the center that Open Hearth is opening in DC, one of my old ADF groves has a place in Baltimore  .

    Part of the way it’s paid for is that some pagans have rented the apartments over the sanctuary, their rent helps pay the expenses.

  • Allec

    I really, really want to talk to you about this idea! I am soon (in six months or so) going to be looking to figure out what I want to do with my life. To be short: I want to offer potential services of this temple! If it’s even a little bit feasible, email me?

  • Dydan Waters

    If you really want to see a lesson where a Pagan group “does it right” with their own space, then check out Ozark Avalon in mid-Missouri.  They have 150 acres of land and are one of the few legally recognized Wiccan churches I know of with 501(c)(3) status.  

    • kenneth

      There are a number of cool facilities like that, and Circle Sanctuary, and Our Haven in Indiana etc. Beautiful outdoor spaces to work on the land, do a Beltane etc. But unless you happen to live near one, it’s sort of an annual or semi-annual pilgrimage for most of us. I think what Star has in mind is to be able to have a regular church like building, probably indeed a former church, in a major metro downtown area or your average Elm-shaded street in suburbia. That sort of thing we don’t have, or have next to none of. 

      • Star Foster

         And if you’re in a wheelchair? Use a walker? Have a disabled child? Or are on medication that prevent you from sweating, so all summer outdoor rituals are a problem?

  • Marienne Hartwood

    Hey Star:

    After giving some more thought to this, and being reminded of a yard in a city in Virginia that became home to some incredibly large Buddhist statues a few years back, I wonder if a first step towards dedicated temple spaces like what is being suggested is a combination of geocaching and the Goddess2000 project.  What if individuals were to set up private shrines either in a portion of their home (say a front or back porch or a dedicated out building) or in their yards that were kept as “personal temples” that were accessible to the public and listed on some sort of geocache-like registry? Public spaces that were not strictly “personal temples” (i.e., public labyrinths, statues or monuments of deity on public land, etc.) could also be listed. Would that be a realistic and reasonable first step towards your dream goal of the megatemple setting? If so, would you be able to coordinate the logistics and the tech aspects of it or find folks willing to take it on? (I’m thinking having an iPhone/Droid app would be a must, plus a dedicated web site, and that’s tech stuff I don’t have the skill to create.) Then, once the greater Pagan community proves they can handle the care of a goldfish, maybe move on a cat that requires more care…and then maybe someday they would be responsible enough to birth a child (to use a really cheezy pre-morning-tea metaphor)?

    And yeah, I realize that still means cost for the individual in setting up and maintaining a space, and I realize that there may be zoning issues to address…but is it something worth considering, or is the megatemple idea an all-or-nothing proposition?

    • Star Foster

      I had forgotten about the Goddess2000 project…

      Here’s the thing: are you going to be comfortable walking up in a strangers front yard, lighting incense and meditating at a shrine on private property? How does this benefit people who are physically disabled and already find Pagan outdoor spaces challenging? How does this grant a person privacy when you’ve got cars, dogs, and neighborhood kids all moving about close to the the shrine?

      It’s not a bad idea. It’s a great idea, but it’s apples and oranges. It’s simply not the same thing.

      • Marienne Hartwood

        I would feel no more or less comfortable going to a small public shrine on private property in someone’s yard then I would be about going to a megatemple on private property in a commercially zoned area or doing ritual at a local park or even going to a meetup at the local coffee shop. I know people of all stripes who have fears of combinations of all of those, however…so there is no solution to the idea of making a place where everyone would feel comfortable going. There might even be some folks who would feel more comfortable about going to a semi-private location than having their car parked out front of the local pagan temple where someone driving by might see them (in the same way that people might get twitchy about parking in front of some other types of businesses).

        The reason I think the geocaching-type model might work is because a database could be set up so that a person knows exactly what the space will be like before they go and know how accessible it is, what facilities are available, what rites are allowed (for instance, if it is in a suburban location, burning offerings might be a no-no due to fire codes), and so on. Case in point…there are two public labyrinths in the next county over from where I’m at–one is accessible for folks in wheelchairs and the other really isn’t. Both are on private property but open to the public from dawn to dusk.

        Many of the issues of cars, dogs, neighborhood kids, etc. would be issues that one would face with the ownership of a private building–emergency vehicles would still be going by with sirens, the neighborhood kids would still be using parking lot areas for skating bike rides, yadda yadda.

        Instead of apples and oranges, I see it as baby steps towards a larger goal. Very sorry this doesn’t fit in with your model, however, and hope that you find the resources you need for your goal.

        • Star Foster

           I think the same people who feel comfortable shopping at Pagan businesses would feel comfortable at Pagan temples. If you’re that deeply in the closet then you’re not likely comfortable visiting any publicly visible shrine.

          I don’t see how a siren passing outside of an insulated building could be the same as a neighborhood dog knocking over your candle/incense (has happened to me). The noise level inside a building would be far less, and the chance a baseball would come crashing through a temple window by accident in a commercial area is also far less.

          • Marienne Hartwood

             Yipes…if there were dogs roaming freely in the neighborhood where I lived, I’d have animal control on speed dial. I’m sorry you have to deal with such horrific conditions down there. Then again, I suppose it is a matter of each person having different tolerance and triggers. I could tolerate the sounds of joyfulness from children playing down the street, but a siren passing by for 5 seconds is enough to irk me when I’m in ritual space. I enjoy both going to the public sites and to semi-private spaces for ritual experiences. I know there’s a lot of places that unless you’re in the know, you won’t know they are there that can be very sacred spots with varying levels of public exposure and accessibility. In my view, it both would be a wonderful stopgap measure moving towards big facilities to have people make use of those and also a nice long-term project to have people made aware and use those facilities that are already there (as well as grow new ones over time). I can respect your all-or-nothing position as well, even though I don’t share it. I hope that you can also find some respect for my view of “plant apple seeds to grow apples” model for small successes can build large achievements, even if it isn’t one you share.

            Have a wonderful Snake Day tomorrow. ;)

          • Star Foster

             It was my dog in his yard. Hardly horrific. I enjoy the neighborhood dogs and kids. I’m sorry that 5 seconds of muted siren ruins your day.

            I’m sorry you feel the need to paint me as the rigid black and white obstructor to your reasonableness, but you seem to be unable to realize we are talking about very different things.

            Let me know when you come up with a reasonable plan that includes a handicap restroom.

          • Marienne Hartwood

            Ah, when you mentioned a roaming neighborhood dog, I didn’t think you meant your own pet. Sorry about the confusion.

            As far as a reasonable plan that includes a handicap restroom, I already mentioned it above and, more importantly, how to inform people that those places are there. If the big hangup is handicap accessible restrooms, not all churches have them–keep in mind, church buildings are exempt from ADA requirements, and so most church facilities that you’d buy “off the rack” don’t have the costly upgrades to be ADA compliant. If that’s a key point to your plan, that would need to be budgeted for and taken into consideration when purchasing a property.

          • Star Foster

             You mean like the sample church I used? Most churches of any size are ADA in compliant in my region.

            I’m done responding to you. You only ever comment to be contrary, and I have more productive things to do.

          • Marienne Hartwood

             My apologies if I come across as contrary. I see that you’re very passionate about this topic, and wish you all the best with it.

        • kenneth

          It need not be an either or or a progression from baby steps to big temple. What you described is a damn interesting idea. The fact that it may not work everywhere doesn’t mean it won’t be the perfect solution for some people in some locale.
             I think the next couple of decades are going to be ones of tremendous experimentation for pagan communities, and really, for religions in general. There’s a saying about not being able to solve problems with the same thinking that created them. I don’t think ultimately we’ll find much success just stepping into the old Christian congregational model because we’re not them, and because that model isn’t even working well for its creators anymore. Nor will the coven/solitary binary model created in the 60s through the 90s answer all our needs going forward. 

          • Marienne Hartwood

            Hey Kenneth,

            If you ever decide to pick up this ball and run with it or hear of someone who is, that would be awesome. I don’t have the tech skills to make it a reality, but I’d love to be involved in whatever way I can in line with my skill set. Feel free to drop me a note (my e-mail is my first name.last name at I agree that there is no single solution for all people and places and needs, but like any great BlueSky plan, it’s all about putting as many ideas into the hopper so that something succeeds in the long run. And like any issue, everyone coming to the table on this can only speak from where they sit, which I think brings strength through diversity.

  • Athallia

    THANK YOU for writing these posts regarding this subject which is so dear to my heart. Unfortunately, there’s only one other Hellenic Pagan that I know of near me so I’ve just been sitting on my dream waiting until our community gets bigger. Either that or enough individuals from the wider Pagan community want to have some sort of pan-Pagan temple. (The latter is the backup dream, not true north).

    But thanks to your posts and people’s comments I plan on making the wait shorter. I don’t have money, but I teach yoga, Zumba and belly dance (which I also perform). I can start raising funds for a temple in and outside the pagan community right now. Yes, it will take years, but I’m following Goethe in this one and believing in the power of action.

    BTW, I’m NYC if anybody cares to find me.