How Pagans Got Their News Before the Internet

How Pagans Got Their News Before the Internet June 3, 2012

Recently, the magazine Witches & Pagans, a print periodical that has served the Pagan community for many years (albeit under a different name), added the feed for this site (with my permission) to their website. I see this as somewhat momentous, as it cements, at least in my mind, the new normal of Pagan-oriented media in the 21st century. There will always be a place for print magazines and journals in our community, see newer efforts like Modern Witch Magazine or Abraxas as proof, but of-the-moment breaking news and updates on developing stories has moved to the Internet. This isn’t a criticism of magazines, simply a statement that our strengths lie in different directions. Today, a large percentage of Pagans find out about what’s happening regarding their co-religionists online, either from blogs like mine, or on email lists and social networking sites.

This rapid change in the way we get our news has happened in less than a decade. When I started The Wild Hunt in 2004 there were only a handful of Pagan blogs, and most of them were more personal journals than news sources. While message boards and e-mail lists had been a growing source of news-sharing for years (not to mention the amazing Witches’ Voice), periodicals still acted as the official “record” of our community, a hold-over from a earlier time when that form of media was truly the only way Pagans in California could find out what was happening in New York (and vice versa). While a lot of attention has been paid to the magazine Green Egg’s important role in our community, it should be noted that they didn’t exist in a vacuum. It was preceded by small newsletters like The Pentagram and The Waxing Moon (publicized in magazines like Fate), and by the 1970s, Green Egg co-existed with Llewellyn’s Gnostica and Herman Slater’s Earth Religion News.

Earth Religion News (1974)

For a blast from the past, you can read the entirety of volume 1, issue 4 of Earth Religion News, here. In it are articles like “Wither Witchcraft? Spiritual Leadership or Oblivion,” “My Satanic Adventures” (by Isaac Bonewits), a report on the (short-lived) California Pagan Council (an anti-sexual discrimination stand was on the agenda), and book reviews (because all Pagan magazines are contractually required to include a book review section). It’s the next best thing to time-travel in finding out what Pagans were thinking, fighting over, and planning a generation ago, without the filter of hindsight or revisionism.

While I think that Pagan media has only gotten better and better, creating a culture of news, interview, and commentary that is surprisingly mature for a community that is still as (relatively) small as we are, we must also ensure that this treasure-trove of knowledge, this archive of our own history, is not lost. There should be a digital indexed archive of these periodicals, one easily accessible to scholars, historians, and curious members of the Pagan community. We’re lucky in that magazines like PanGaia (the precursor to Witches & Pagans) have made digital versions of their entire run available for purchase, but there are huge gaps with the older magazines. As the creators of these magazines age, and pass on, it becomes harder and harder to create such an archive.

I’m hoping that as initiatives like the New Alexandrian Library Project and the OHF Pagan Library mature, perhaps a joint initiative between Pagan organizations and learning institutions can be created to make real headway on this before the task becomes insurmountable. Likewise, I think that those of us creating news and media now should look to how will will archive and make accessible our own work for future generations. There should be an agreed-on standard for how we’ll do this, and how we’ll make it available to researchers. Things are moving pretty fast, and what form our media will take in 20 years may be radically different from how we consume it now. These proposals may seem like huge tasks, but the longer we wait, the more we risk losing. How Pagans get their news, and what news they feel is important is a vital window into how a community, a movement, functions. As Pagans, we know that preserving our history is important, let’s not lose sight of that.

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