Pagan Community Notes: Midwest Heathen Leader in Trouble, Teo Bishop is Matt Morris, and More!

Pagan Community Notes is a series focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. Reinforcing the idea that what happens to and within our organizations, groups, and events is news, and news-worthy. My hope is that more individuals, especially those working within Pagan organizations, get into the habit of sharing their news with the world. So let’s get started!

Lightning Across the Plains Organizer Accused of Misappropriating Funds: PNC-Minnesota reports on the case of Mark Ludwig Stinson, Chieftain of Jotun’s Bane Kindred, which hosts Lightning Across the Plains, the Midwest’s largest Heathen gathering. Stinson is accused of misappropriating funds belonging to his mother, and has been suspended from his job as a police officer pending the outcome of the investigation. In addition to interviewing prominent Heathens for reaction to these allegations, PNC-Minnesota also spoke with a criminal defense attorney about the murky nature of caretaker misappropriation charges.

Mark Ludwig Stinson

Mark Ludwig Stinson

“[Criminal defense attorney Tony] Armandii says while the sums involved may seem like a large amount and the checks made out for cash appear damning, it could all be explained at the trial.  ”When you have someone in a care-taker role there are expenses to pay and many reasons why a person would write checks out to cash.  Was the defendant reimbursing himself for bills he took care of?  Did the mother tell him it was OK for him to use funds to repair his car since the car was used for running errands?  Other questions are what is the mental condition of the mother?  Are there family members with a vested interest in making accusations?”  Armandii was careful to note he was speaking generally about cases involving alleged abuse of power of attorney and not about this specific case.”

For the moment, the Heathen community seems to be withholding judgment until after the trial, with Troth Redesman David Carron noting that “these charges are particularly shocking and unsettling as we are supposed to be a family religion. [Stinson] himself has acknowledged this via his many words. It is my understanding that he has claimed his innocence, that the press has only seen one side and that this is a family squabble. I hope for his sake that he is correct.” PNC-Minnesota and The Wild Hunt will continue to follow this story as it develops.

The Tale of Teo Bishop and Matt Morris: Today, on his blog Bishop in the Grove, Teo Bishop revealed that he was known to the world by another name, Matt Morris. This isn’t so unusual, many Pagans use “Craft” names or pseudonyms when dealing with the public for a number of different reasons. What makes Teo’s revelation noteworthy is that Matt Morris is something of a well-known pop star, who has collaborated with Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguilera, and co-written songs that have been sung by Reba McEntire and Kelly Clarkson.

Teo/Matt on David Letterman

Teo/Matt on David Letterman

“At some point, we must all come out. We must all be honest about how we’ve compartmentalized to excess, how we’ve created new masks — either out of fear or in an attempt to approximate privacy in a increasingly non-private society. We must recognize when it is time to integrate all of our disparate parts (T. Thorn Coyle might say that it is always time to integrate). [...] my coming out is not simply an act of confession about another online identity. I’m choosing transparency at this time because I believe doing so may be the only way I can move forward in both my music and my writing. I was never two people — I was always, only one. There’s no sense in pretending otherwise. My nom de plum has become my legal name, and my given name a stage name, but the person beneath has remained throughout the process.”

I think this public integration by Teo of his two identities is wonderful, and very brave. I’ve had the pleasure of sitting down and chatting with Teo on a couple different occasions, and found him to be an intelligent, well-spoken, thoughtful, and caring human being who takes his faith and faith-journey very seriously. Anyone who reads his blog can tell that his involvement with modern Paganism, and Druidry in particular, is deep and well-considered, and he has earned his place as an up-and-coming voice for our movement. I wish him well, and know that this change will ultimately benefit both Teo Bishop and Matt Morris. As for those who feel dumb for not recognizing Teo sooner, I have the perfect defense: I’m a Goth.

Erynn Rowan Laurie in Ireland: Erynn Rowan Laurie, author of “A Circle of Stones” and “Ogam: Weaving Word Wisdom,” is currently in Ireland on a week-long spiritual pilgrimage sponsored by The Sisterhood of Avalon. At her blog, Searching For Imbas, Laurie talks a bit about what the trip will entail.

Erynn Rowan Laurie and some anonymous blogger.

Erynn Rowan Laurie and some anonymous blogger.

“From our opening ritual at Brigid’s Well to our closing ritual at the Hill of Uisneach, we will be immersed in the history and myth of Ireland. We’ll explore ourselves and our connections with the sacred through incubatory work and meditations, through rituals for Brigid and Airmed, and through hearing traditional storytellers telling the stories of place and of deities and heroes. Each day, we’ll explore new places and new themes, encountering sacred landscape and learning ways to connect ourselves not only to the land of Ireland, but to our own sacred landscapes in the places we live.”

You can read updates of her journey at her LiveJournal page, which will entail a European adventure after the Irish pilgrimage has finished.

In Other Community News:

That’s all I have for now! Are there blogs, podcasts, or other Pagan news sources you think I’m missing out on? Please leave links in the comments, and if there’s news in your community be sure to share it!

About Jason Pitzl-Waters
  • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

    You really overuse the vegan and Goth cards. For my birthday I want a pic of you in a pink shirt holding a slice of bacon.

  • RivaWitch

    BTW who is that handsome ” anonymous blogger” in the picture? ;-)

    • http://www.wildhunt.org/blog/ Jason Pitzl-Waters

      I’ll never tell!

      • http://www.openbuddha.com/ Al Jigong Billings

         Tell that hippie to cut his hair!

  • http://twitter.com/lofrothepirate Eric Scott

    I am shocked by the Mark Stinson story — while I’m not especially close to him, while I lived in Kansas City I met him several times, and I always wanted to look into doing things with Jotun’s Bane. (My work schedule always left me unavailable, alas.) I hope this turns out to be some kind of misunderstanding.

  • Daniel SnowKestral

    Being gay, two-spirited–I know how very hard it is to compartmentalize yourself to many different people in life.  It becomes a balancing act & there is so much time and energy put into having different masks for different groups of people, wondering if you gave yourself away to so and so.  It takes great courage to be able to be out and open; it takes just as much to be your authentic self in spite of bigotry.  Many congrats to Teo!  He is an inspiration and a very gifted individual.

  • Zan Fraser

    Egad! Of Course! Theo Bishop wears glasses, and Matt Morris doesn’t! As any comic-book fan knows- it’s impossible to recognize someone once they’ve taken off their glasses! It was the most brilliant of disguises: this man is some sort of Pagan Super-Genius dwelling amongst us.

    • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

      And different hats!  Don’t forget the different hats!  ;)

  • Dscarron

    “For the moment, the Heathen community seems to be withholding judgment until after the trial…”

    For the record, I never claimed to speak for the Heathen community, nor even the Troth of which I am on the Rede of.  Those were my words and I take sole responsibility of them.  I am too much a lawyer to jump to conclusions before hearing all sides of things and will neither praise nor damn him without such.  We have a legal system for just such a reason. 

    I do feel bad for his mother and believe that Mr. Stinson has some explaining to do and mostly to her.   

    • http://about.me/paganwebmaster Peter Beckley

       I, for one, figure you speak for yourselves unless you specifically note your doing so as Rede or Troth.

    • AQ

      I know you were only speaking for yourself, David–I’d like Cara to explain why she felt the need to bring up that you’re a Troth Redesperson, thus implying Troth involvement when the Troth isn’t even remotely involved.

      • http://www.wildhunt.org/blog/ Jason Pitzl-Waters

        I can’t speak directly for Cara, but I’ll speak for myself. I often list the title and organization of Pagans and Heathens I quote so that folks who’ve never heard of, say, David Carron, will understand why I think their opinion is worth reading. Also, I think speaking to someone from the Troth, which is North America’s largest Heathen organization (so far as I know), about a scandal that could potentially affect the Midwest’s largest Heathen event, is fair. I’m also fairly sure that Cara has been contacting other Heathens as well, and was in contact with Stinson himself, but those folks are keeping to themselves right now, for obvious reasons. 

  • http://about.me/paganwebmaster Peter Beckley

    RE: the Mark Stinson story, I feel a man should be judged by his actions, but not without the context of them. We don’t have near enough information on this issue, since all we’re getting is mostly media speculation based upon information, which, as noted in this article, could completely exonerate Mark of any alleged wrong-doing. I hope this isn’t true because while most of the strike would go to him and his family, JBK could have some problems of it’s own stemming from it.

  • Harmonyfb

    I’ve been seeing the Teo Bishop news all over the place – but you’re the only person who bothered to explain who ‘Matt Morris’ was. Thanks, Jason!

    Now, if any of you turn out to be John Lydon, Kate Pierson, Siouxsie, or Mark Mothersbaugh, I won’t have to ask. ;)

  • http://www.facebook.com/templeofthegreekgodspriest Chris Aldridge

    A Pagan getting a fair trail in this country is as likely as a red egg.

  • Mia

    LOL, last time it was “a really big tree”, now it’s “some anonymous blogger”. Are you making these captions on purpose?

    • http://www.wildhunt.org/blog/ Jason Pitzl-Waters

      Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain! ;)

  • AnantaAndroscoggin

    Re: the interviewed defense attorney’s statements about the possibility of the accusations being based in family differences, it’s hardly a surprise that the most vicious of disputes can be those within a family, especially when it comes to things like members being close-to/having-just died.

    Of as one of my own quotations would have it:

    “Blood may be thicker than water, but money is the Universal Solvent.”

    • Dscarron

       As a family attorney one of my sayings is: “There’s no blood like family.”

      • Guest

        ” Did the mother tell him it was OK for him to use funds to repair his car since the car was used for running errands?  ” Giving their offspring some money for a car repair is a mom kind of thing. This line makes it sound like it all could be petty.

  • Lēoht Sceadusawol

    Regarding TeoMatt (see what I did there?)… It seems a touch disturbing that it is easier to come out as homosexual than as Pagan. (In the States, at least.)

    Whilst I do not think that homosexuality should be subject to any form of stigma, it seems much more ‘high profile’ an issue than religious persuasion.

    • Zan Fraser

      Regarding “TheoMatt”: yes, very clever; regarding coming out as Gay vs. Pagan: Gays have been coming out since the ’70s; Pagans coming out is the more unprecedented thing, with Pagans arguably subject to greater stigma, ironically, for Paganism being the lesser-understood phenomenon, vulnerable to greater public misunderstanding.

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

         Fair comment, I just never really considered it as an issue before. (Locational differences, perhaps?)

        • Zan Fraser

          Locational differences, I daresay (I’m afraid I hit “Liked,” intending to press “Reply”): but I daresay, the courage exhibited by Mr. Bishop/ Morris will make more easy the path of the next Celeb Pagan to “come out”; so Props all the More to his bravery.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

             Without a doubt. Much props to the courage it takes to come out about something such as this.

            I imagine it must be harder for someone in the spotlight of not one, but two communities to do than the average Joe Public.

    • Guest

      Don’t like the dub. Why not call people by what they prefer?

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

         Because he goes by both Teo and Matt and, by combining the two, it sounds like ‘Tiamat’ if you say it aloud.

        It’s essentially harmless. When I figure out if he is going by either Teo or Matt (I am guessing that part of the coming out will be the merging of the two identities into one, here), I will use his preferred name.

        • Guest

          I guess that’s a little bit punny

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

             Not hugely funny, though. My humour tends to fail quite badly online. (In person, I’d like to say it is another matter, but I don’t see the point in lying…)

  • http://www.facebook.com/templeofthegreekgodspriest Chris Aldridge

    We all make mistakes, we have all done wrong, none of us are perfect. People who shoot off blame and shame usually have more crap on their slate than the person they’re blaming. I know I’m not a Heathen, but even if I were, I would not judge him so long as he improves himself (If he’s actually guilty).

  • http://twitter.com/IndigoCeleste Indigo Celeste

    In my heathen days, I was a repeat visitor of Mark Stinson’s/Jotun’s Bane website, so I may be a bit tad biased, but I do agree with withholding remark until some *legal* judgement has been handed down. That being said, I do hope that Ludwig fares well in this case, as he has always (to me) come off as an upstanding human, citizen, and heathen.  

  • Guest

    Some of TC’s public employment depends on people knowing hir Pagan name, and some publicity for webcasts and books depends on hir public presence as a Pagan, of course then potentially there’s practical benefit in promoting this public identity all the time.  I’m not saying that was hir only motivation.It’s not necessarily any evidence of being better “integrated” to drop one’s name that ties you to your family and ancestors. Frequently, new names attach you to other families – but I wouldn’t trust a group that says I couldn’t keep previous ties – ‘Using Isolation’ says controlling cult danger, of a group that does not have one’s best interests in mind. 


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