I’ve been handing out Hornie Awards (celebrating the best, and sometimes worst in Paganism) since 2013, but in 2018, I just couldn’t bring myself to to write up a list of winners (or perhaps losers). I’ll admit it, the Pagan Community had me majorly depressed. It felt like much of our community was yelling at and around one another, and as a result, getting NOTHING accomplished. We can have disagreements over a whole host of issues, but we won’t resolve those disagreements by insulting one another, we will only resolve them by talking to one another.
Talking to other people can be much harder than it looks. It involves letting people make an entire statement before responding. It also involves more than superficial understandings of a situation. Jumping onto the ten-Pagan-pileup on Facebook might seem like fun, but I’m not sure it does anything but create divisions and animosity. Don’t get me wrong, there are people who I refuse to listen to (racists, Nazis, transphobes, homophobes), and hope you’ll join me in that decision, but I feel like we often fight with the people who are our allies.
With all of that out of the way, I thought 2019 was much better, or perhaps I just got better at filtering out the noise (your experiences may vary). The earliest Hornie Awards were full of more snark than superlatives, but when people began taking these awards seriously I began to put more thought into them. That continues in this edition. I hope you enjoy! And now strike up the band and prepare for the red carpet, it’s the 2019 Hornie Awards!
WITCHES OF THE YEAR: TARA-LOVE MAGUIRE & CHRISTOPHER ORAPELLO
How does one become “Witch (or Witches) of the Year” at the Hornie Awards? Perhaps by doing good work and not being an asshole? Is it as simple as that? I think it might be! And no two people better express doing good work and being good people than Tara-Love Maguire and Christopher Orapello. Let’s start with the good work. Besom, Stang, and Sword is the Traditional Witchcraft book most of us have been waiting for. Written in an approachable and engaging style it’s the best doorway yet into that world.
There’s also their podcast, Down at the Crossroads, which is a “must listen” if you appreciate intelligent conversation and professional production values. There are a lot of other great podcasts out there too, and hopefully I’ll be sharing some of them in this space soon, but DatC has been one of the best for several years now.
And now the second reason they won this award in 2019, they aren’t dicks. There’s been a lot of animosity between “Traditional Witches” and “Wiccan Witches” over the last five or six years, but I don’t get that with Christopher and Tara. We’re all just Witches. Maybe we all do things a little bit differently, but that’s OK! I have far more in common with Traditional Witchcraft practitioners than most other Pagans and people in the magickal community, Witches should be lifting each other up, not tearing each other down because we don’t always do things the same way. Thanks my friends for helping to bridge the gap!
MAGICKAL PERSON OF THE YEAR: MICHAEL HUGHES
Despite someone thinking I’m three phone calls away from Donald Trump, I’m rather sure the Cheeto in Chief has never uttered my name out-loud or even knows that I exist (but in fairness, I’m not sure he knows much of anything!), but the same can’t be said for Michael Hughes. As one of the chief architects of the “Bind Donald Trump” movement, Michael’s name has most likely been on the tongues of “Prayer Warriors” for the last three years, and perhaps even that of the President himself.
The idea that the magickal (and Witch) communities are not (or should not be) political is laughable. Simply using magick is a political act. It’s a black-eye in the face of the establishment and a public decleration that we follow our own drum circle. You can disagree with Michael’s politics (though I’d argue you are wrong) but you can’t argue with the fact that he’s helped put magick back into the public conversation in a big way.
MARION BLONDE COMMUNITY SERVICE AWARD: SHARON STEWART (MOONFEATHER) & TISH OWEN
Marion Blonde was a High Priestess active in Northern California who served for nearly three decades as the treasurer of our local, eclectic, open circle. In other words, Lady Marion was one of those hardworking types necessary to maintain Pagan community that most people have never heard of. I’m here to change that because Marion deserves a slice of internet immortality, and most importantly we need more Marion’s in Pagandom. Our community doesn’t run on BNP (Big Name Pagans) or blogs or books, it runs on the hard work of people doing the everyday smaller things that are often missed.
Since this is the most important of all the awards in this list, I thought I’d double up this year to make up for last year’s failing, and make no mistake both Tish and Sharon are more than deserving of this award. Are they people I personally like? Absolutely, but they are also people who have made a real difference in the Pagan world.
I was at Circle’s Pagan Spirit Gathering this past Summer, and not surprisingly, it was raining buckets. I was in a dry space with Selena Fox discussing PSG’s main ritual when Sharon Stewart walked in, a grave look of concern on her face. There was just something about that moment, you could see her love for her community and the festival which she’s been managing since 2005. It was a crisis moment, and listening to Sharon update the situation and give instructions to her staff was one of those moments where I could truly see her greatness on display. Running festivals is one of the hardest jobs in Pagandom, especially outdoor ones where safety is a huge issue.
There are a lot of people who seem to suffer under the delusion that Paganism and Witchcraft do not exist in the American South. That’s always been a bunch of bullshit, and sometimes I swear that the Witch communities in that area are stronger than those in more liberal areas, perhaps because they so adeptly overcome adversity. Tish Owen has been running Pagan Unity Fest in Tennessee (just outside of Nashville) for over twenty years. Maybe you’ve never heard of PUF, but it’s a truly great festival that lives up to its mission to bring the local community together, and so much of that is Tish. And this past year, with a Nazi convention not far away, Tish’s skills dealing with local authorities and soothing worried minds was more on display than ever before.
Thank you both for your service, it’s appreciated, and noticed!
AWARDS HANDED OUT BEFORE AT AN EARLIER CEREMONY
Bro-mance of the Year: To put it simply, Mat Auryn is one of my rocks in the Pagan Community. When I think everything is going to shit, it’s Mat who talks me down off the ledge I’m preparing to jump off of. He’s become one of my closest confidants and favorite people. He brings people together, which is something I truly value in our community.
Store of the Year: When I’m traveling there are few things I enjoy more than visiting a town’s local Witch or metaphysical shop. The best one I visited this year was Aquarius in Kansas City Missouri. Barbara Criswell has been running Aquarius for over thirty years, and the day I visited it was bustling and full of life. Not only was impressed with the books on hand, but there was so much more. I think I left the store having spent all that I made selling my own books at Heartland Pagan Festival the day before. (I bought books, clothing, stones, and a statue! To get that all in one place is hard to do sometimes!)
Sharing space with Aquarius is Vulcan’s Forge, a fine jewelry retailer owned by Russell Criswell. Featuring excellent custom work, Vulcan’s Forge sits comfortably beside Aquarius to offer one of the best Pagan shopping experiences I’ve ever been a part of. Thank you Barbara and Russell for your excellent work, the Kansas City barbecue, and your fine hospitality!
Pagan Artist of the Year: Perhaps it’s because I’m a sucker for great fiddle playing, or maybe it was the song craft, or simply the inspiring personal journey of Alexander James Adams, and perhaps for all of those reasons, Alec is my Pagan artist of the year. I saw a lot of really talented musicians at Hexenfest in 2019, but Alec stood out for all the right reasons, and provided me with my favorite hour at that great event.
Podcast of the Year: Not only did I release two books in 2019, I was also on about a dozen podcasts. My favorite of those podcasts was 3 Pagans & a Cat, my Podcast of the Year winners! Gwyn, Ode, and Car, are so awesome that in addition to podcasting they now blog here at Patheos Pagan. Thanks for your friendships and your fine work!
THE BEST IN FESTIVALS
It’s hard to judge festivals, and I think I went to over ten in 2019. There are indoor festivals which are different from outdoor festivals, and outdoor festivals often have a whole host of elements (literally) that are out of their control. What should be “the best” might not be because of rain, or because Spirit Airlines is the worst airline in the world and kept Devin Hunter and Storm Faerywolf from showing up in Detroit. As I say, these things are hard to judge, but three stood out to me this year.
When your festival takes place in New Orlean’s French Quarter, you automatically have a magickal leg up on the competition. New Orleans is truly a magickal place, and the winner of best Magickal Festival in 2019 was Hexfest. What makes Hexfest a magickal event and not necessarily a Witch or Pagan one is the diversity on display. There are Voodoo Priestesses, Conjure Workers, Eclectic Witches, Ceremonial Magicians, and Initiatory Witches. If you are looking to dive deeper into magick, this is the festival.
And in some ways Hexfest is probably the future of festivals. It’s small, it’s in a destination area, and it’s going to appeal to a variety of people who fill their lives with magick and/or Witchcraft. It’s also top-notch when it comes to facilities and festivities. It’s a vacation, but a magickal vacation, right in the heart of one of America’s most magickal cities.
As a presenter I’m generally treated well wherever I go. Many festivals fly me to their event and take care of my room and board. One of the reasons Hexfest has a bigger sticker attached to it than most other festivals on this list is because they treat EVERY ONE of their presenters like gold. I shouldn’t have to spend 1000 dollars to work for a weekend, and I don’t at Hexfest.
When your festival flies in Damh the Bard, Cerri Lee, and Kristopher Hughes you’ve probably got a leg-up on the competition, which is why 2019’s Indoor Festival Award goes to Paganicon. But Paganicon is more than incredible guests, it’s a well run festival, it’s a fun festival, and it’s full of great people.
Speaking of great people, this year’s Life Changing Festival of the Year goes to Mystic South in Atlanta. Festivals, especially indoor ones, are often exhausting. There’s a lot of work to do, and energy to expend, and while that was true at Mystic South, I also found myself getting serious time to talk to other people, and to develop the relationships that make teaching in public so rewarding. Despite what some people think, Paganism is not a money making path, and while a lot of us work our asses off, there’s often nothing to show for it, which can be all sorts of depressing.
As a presenter type I tend to do the same workshops time and time again, but sometimes you just know that you’ve hit your presentation out of the park. When John Beckett praises your work , you know that feeling is justified. I think a lot of the reason that particular workshop John writes about did so well is because of the people at Mystic South. Workshops aren’t just about a presenter carrying on for ninety minutes, it’s about the give and take a presenter has with their audience. Kudos to Mystic South for your awesomeness. Something about Mystic South this year just made me feel better about myself, which can be life changing.
Rating outdoor festivals is the most difficult of all, because there’s so much that can go wrong at an outdoor festival. It’s never the fault of event organizers when it rains, but since these awards are based on what I experience . . . .well to be honest, I just experience less when it rains. Does Camp Gaea win my Campground Of the Year Award? Absolutely! I only wish I had been able to experience more of Heartland this past year (we will try again in 2020!).
The end result of all this is that Sirius Rising at Brushwood Folklore Center won the Outdoor Festival of the Year award. I usually associate Brushwood with rain, but instead of rain I got seven sun-soaked days spent drinking at Sassy’s Cafe, teaching workshops, and just having a grand old time. My Pagan Musical Performance of the Year also happened at Brushwood, where the Dragon Ritual Drummers put on a tour de force on the main stage.
BOOKS & BLOGS & THROWBACKS
Speaking of the Dragon Ritual Drummers, Utu Witchdoctor, the lead drummer for the DRD, had my Book of the Year for 2019, Conjuring Harriet “Mama Moses” Tubman and the Spirits of the Underground Railroad. I raved about it earlier in my Holiday Shopping Guide Post, but it’s worth mentioning again here, and besides, it’s awards season! Let it grab its reward!
Not many books get a “second edition,” but few are more worth of receiving such an honor than Professor Ronald Hutton’s Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft. Triumph won my Second Edition Better Than the First Award for providing the needed updates to keep Triumph as the best book of its kind. Hutton’s work will continue to have haters for it not saying what people want it to say, but it’s still the best over-view of early Modern Paganism in print.
There are two ways to blog, either part-time (once or twice a month-or less) or by going all in and blogging at least weekly. My favorite Part Time Blogger of 2019 was Brianne Raven Wolf, whose posts always bring out some sort of emotion with me. Bri, I love you, and thank you for choosing to share your stories and your wisdom here at Patheos Pagan. I’m glad that we are able to provide you with a large platform for your work.
My Co-Conspirator of the Year Award goes to Martha Kirby Capo, who became the editor of the Agora blog here at Patheos Pagan this past Spring. For several years I was running Agora, my own blog, and doing a lot of behind the scenes work at P Pagan too. Martha, after writing for us for a bit, came in and assumed editorial duties at the Agora and has been doing a bang-up job. She’s become a true friend as we’ve navigated the difficulties that are a part of the Pagan Blogosphere. Thank you Martha for all your hard work and giving new writers a place to shine.
Why do people write online? To be read? To perhaps get a book deal? To provoke thought? If it’s the latter, they are describing Cyndi Brannen at Keeping Her Keys. I do not agree with everything Cyndi writes, but what she writes always makes me thing about my practice, and the end result is usually better Witchcraft on my end. For that reason Keeping Her Keys wins my Blog of the Year award.
The band Ghost is a frequent winner at the Hornie Awards, and this year is no different. In 2019 I’m proud to give Ghost the award for Throwback Single of the Year. Kiss the Go-Goat is three minutes of 60’s Psychedelia wrapped pleas to kiss the go-goat, from the EP Seven Inches of Satanic Panic. “You’ve been playing around the magic that is black, but all the powerful magickal mysteries never gave a single thing back!” Gods I love their lyrics. Ghost is the best band of the last twenty years.
And with that, I end this year’s edition of the Hornie Awards. Thanks for a great 2019! We will hopefully see you here in this space next year!