Lessons Learned: Ten Years at Patheos Pagan

Lessons Learned: Ten Years at Patheos Pagan May 24, 2022

Anniversaries are like assholes, everyone has one. The term anniversary is most associated with marriage, but there are all sorts of other anniversaries, for example, today I’m writing about (celebrating?) my ten years at Patheos Pagan. It’s a pretty meaningless anniversary in the scheme of things, but in many ways my ten years here have been a profoundly life changing experience, complete with the highest of highs and the lowest of lows . . . . .

That’s me on the right, back when I first started this blog.

And now random thoughts from ten years at Patheos Pagan . . . . .

Before we go any further I need to take you back to 2012, an era when abortion was still legal, Obama was President, and people still cared about long-form writing. I’ve always hated the word “blog” but in 2012 blogs were still a pretty big deal. In the Pagan world, there were few online things bigger than writing at Patheos Pagan, and for good reason.

DISCERNMENT

When I started here Patheos hosted the Wild Hunt, then the most read blog in Pagandom. It was also home to then superstar Teo Bishop (Matt Morris) who had been on the Mickey Mouse Club when he was younger, and had written songs for a variety of big-name musical artists. I think T Thorn Coyle was here then too, and Viviane Crowley, two of the most lyrical and thoughtful writers in the history of Witchcraft. It was a heady time, and I was a part of it.

Of course it didn’t last long. The Wild Hunt soon resumed being an independent media space, and Teo Bishop didn’t just leave Patheos, he left Paganism (though on good terms). Bishop’s departure from Paganism resulted in a lot of handwringing amongst many Pagans, and I’m not sure we as a community ever learned the right lessons from the experience.

It was always pretty clear that Bishop was a seeker in his writing and new to Paganism. His prose was so uplifting though that many people forgot the seeking part. Seekers are not settled practitioners, and they are often still feeling things out, and doing so in public. People like what’s shiny and new but they always forget to read the “contains small parts” warning on the box. It shouldn’t be a surprise when someone new to our path chooses to go somewhere else, just like it shouldn’t be a shock when someone barely out of high school disappoints you on social media. The word discernment gets tossed around a lot in magickal spaces, but the truth of the matter is that we often aren’t very discerning.

(And for the record, I still think Matt is great; I have an award he made for me hanging in my office.)

BEST OF INTENTIONS (OR ANGER IS HARD TO HOLD ONTO)

There’s a link to an article about Bishop leaving Paganism in that above paragraph, and rereading the comments on that article brought both a smile to my face and a bit of melancholy. One of the comments on the article was quite laudatory and began with “great insights.” The person who wrote it no longer talks to me, and has published articles on their website that basically feel like character assassination (directed at me). Wanna hear something weird? Despite the rather personal nature of a few articles, I feel the individual in question most likely has the best of intentions. It takes so much energy to hold onto anger, and I’m just not very good at it. Case in point . . . . .

From about 2013 to late 2016 (and it seems so very silly to write now) I thought that John Beckett, John Halstead, and I were engaged in a very real “debate on the Pagan umbrella” here at Patheos Pagan. Not all of our posts were related back then, but various ideas seemed to easily bounce back and forth and we often took inspiration from one another. It was fun because we each had very different perspectives, but there was a thread of connection there . . .

If you are actively involved in “the Pagan blogosphere” you know that Halstead and I’s current relationship is non-existent, but I still have very positive feelings about the days when he was an active part of this online space. It still saddens me that our friendship came to an end, and the give and take of ideas with it. Hold still while I engage in a series of cliches, but I’m sure the bridges that were burned were destroyed with the absolute best of intentions, but I guess I’ll never understand the why of it. (And John Beckett and I are fine, we have a Cernunnos anthology we edited together coming out this Summer-hopefully!)

I often find myself lamenting the friendships I’ve lost as a result of this platform, but I’ve gained so many more than I’ve lost. It’s hard to imagine a world without Laura Tempest Zakroff, Phoenix LeFae, Thorn Mooney, Gwion Raven, Martha Kirby Capo, Vincent Higginbotham, and Astrea Taylor in my DM’s. I also write books as a direct result of my exploits here. Patheos Pagan and this blog have given me a lot of gifts.

IS THERE A FUTURE FOR LONG-FORM WRITING?

My time on this platform has taken a major backseat to book writing, but my lack of “blogging output” is also directly related to a changing online media environment. I think long-form writing is valuable, but now we live in a bubble of TikTok, Instagram Stories, and provocative Tweets. I don’t think any of those three things are inherently bad, but it saddens me that they dominate the media landscape to the exclusion of expressions with more nuance. If it feels like I’m just shouting in an empty house I’m going to be less likely to write with frequency. Do I think “blogs” are dead? Not at all, but I do feel like they are getting lost in the shuffle.

Pagans have done a pretty awful job of preserving the more immediate past. There should be an online archive of Pagan magazines from the 1970’s through the mid-90’s; nothing close to that exists. Who knows how much we’ve lost? What happens when the media platforms close up their blogging sites? Will our debates on the “nature of the Pagan umbrella” be preserved? Since 2009 Patheos Pagan has documented the growing pains of the magickal community in real time, I hope that document will exist in perpetuity.

In retrospect, this might be the worst cover in Llewellyn’s history. Still was pretty excited to hold this in my hands!

Anyways, it’s been a great and frustrating ten years. I’m eternally indebted to Star Foster and Christine Hoff Kraemer who were the original channel managers of Patheos Pagan (and Star especially, she brought me in and named this here blog). Thanks to everyone who has written at Patheos Pagan during my time here, and I’m especially thankful for the friends I’ve made while in this space and all the comments (yay and nay) over the years on the blog.

Here’s to another ten years.

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