Introducing Sam Wagar

Introducing Sam Wagar April 27, 2018

Dear readers,

This is my self-introduction. I became tired of having my writing only be read by a few dozen people, so, in mid-February, I applied to start a column here at Patheos. I’m hoping to interest a few thousand regular readers, including you. The topics that I’m strongest in, where I will concentrate, are practical: Wiccan temple-planting, organizing groups, mentorship, religious education, training public clergy, building accountability. I also make mead, read interesting books, write ritual, work with students, run a coven, and go to religious retreats, so I’m bound to mention these things as well.

Spring Berries
Spring has come, even here in Edmonton.

I’m a writer. I started out as a science fiction fan contributing regularly to APA50 in the late 1970s then PaganAPA in the 80s and 90s. I published my own ‘zines for a while. I  was a member of the editorial collective of the anarchist arts and politics magazine Kick It Over in the early ‘80s. I established and published a more-or-less quarterly Pagan pacifist journal Pagans for Peace from 1982-2002. I have thirteen or fourteen academic publications in different journals, at least a hundred articles in small Pagan magazines (mostly defunct with the decline of paper, alas), four self-published books, chapters in two others.

I’m an activist and community organizer. In rough chronological order I have established a Pagan pacifist network, several covens, a Tradition of Wicca, two religious retreats, a community school, a national church and its British Columbia branch, two Temples in the church (also ran its BC clergy training program and assisted in the establishment of the Alberta and Saskatchewan branches), and the baby Edmonton Wiccan Seminary. My secular activism includes a stint involved with the New Democratic Party, including a short-lived candidacy, and then with the Green Party of BC (on the provincial board, as a candidate, and as a campaign manager).

I’m a Wiccan Priest. I became involved in the Craft in 1982 and was Initiated in 1985 by a Reclaiming/Feri Priestess. I quite rapidly moved from a more-or-less Reclaiming style of practice to a more-or-less British Traditional Wicca style (don’t have the puppy papers).  In 1991 when there were three Third Degree High Priestesses descended from me we all got together and declared that what we were doing was “Pagans for Peace Tradition of Wicca”. I held out for a much cooler name but was outvoted. Over the course of the past thirty-odd years I have moved from a coven-only stance to a focus on public Temple work and service to the broader community of Pagans. I continue to work in coven – the Mysteries must remain the centre of Wicca.

I’m a public Witch. Since 1987, when I organized a picket of the film The Witches of Eastwick and was featured in the Toronto Star’s Religion section, I have been a prominent Canadian spokesperson for Wicca. I have appeared on television and in the press numerous times.  The most intense burst of publicity happened in 1994 when I was a candidate in a by-election for the New Democratic Party of BC, the governing party of the province at that time, and they religiously discriminated against me. I am presently the Wiccan chaplain to the University of Alberta and chair of the Interfaith Chaplains Association there.

U of A autumn
University of Alberta in the fall.

And, I know my stuff theologically. I am currently a doctoral candidate in the Doctor of Ministry program at St. Stephen’s College, a liberal more-or-less Christian theology school (established 1908) in Edmonton. My doctoral work is centred on developing ecclesiology in Wiccan temple groups. I see our spirituality as growing out of, and vice versa, our organizational choices and praxis. I expect to finish my research this year and complete the dissertation by early 2020. I also had the tremendous pleasure (and really hard work) of developing and teaching a three-credit 4th year course in Wiccan Theology jointly through University of Alberta and Saint Stephen’s College last fall, and I hope to do it again.

I hope that you will find my work interesting and useful to you. I’m planning to have my first column each week have a bit of this and that, and to use the others for extended series of articles on aspects of organization, ritual and theology.

I’m going to begin, on the 2nd, a series on lore – what it is, how we decide what things to include, how we change it when it no longer serves us very well.

 

About Samuel Wagar
I've been doing this Witch thing for a long time (since 1982) but I'm still having fun. Now that I'm an old fart, my focus has switched from doing a lot of things to mentoring, teaching, and writing. I'm a chaplain at University of Alberta, in charge of the Congregationalist Wiccan Assembly of Alberta's clergy training program, and the dean of the baby Edmonton Wiccan Seminary. You can read more about the author here.
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  • Herweirdness

    Brilliant! I look forward to your posts! 🙂

  • Ashta

    Greetings from a fellow pagan mead maker! If you have any thoughts on connecting mead and mead brewing to paganism or to your personal practices, I’d love to read about that!

  • Sam Wagar

    There’s a couple of ways. I dedicate each batch of mead to a goddess or god and choose the ingredients to suit (Mr. Wednesday’s Mead is a straight mead with saffron, Freyja’s Fancy is a rhodomel, Loki’s Laughter has demiana, wormwood and mugwort). I do mead-making workshops pretty regularly as an outreach and (minor) fund-raising activity for the temple. I also supply the sacramental beverage for the temple and my coven. And, of course, when I offer libation, I always have something on hand.

  • Allanah Walker

    Sam, how wonderful to get to know some more about you! I had no idea that the expert mead-maker I met at Gaia Gathering had such an interesting background. I look forward to reading your blog!

  • Blue Zinnia

    Folks, listen up: If you want the real goods on how Wiccan ministry and scholarship are done and trained, you can’t do better than listen to Sam. He’s the real deal.
    .
    Congratulations, Sam, I’m glad you’re finally doing this!

  • I’m looking forward to reading your posts. The idea of Wiccan ecclesiology is an interesting on. On the one hand a certain organizational logic (for legally established church groups) is strongly implied if not mandated by the legal requirements of the certifying governmental agencies. On the other hand (and with an emphasis on non-legal entity temple bodies), I do think there is a wealth of material to study, particularly if one is looking at how the various strains of Wicca have approached the subject (BTW/TCW, Feri, Modern Eclectic, ETC).