Pagan Community Notes: Witch School and Reality TV, Goddess Across Borders, Modern Witch Magazine, and More!

Pagan Community Notes: Witch School and Reality TV, Goddess Across Borders, Modern Witch Magazine, and More! July 3, 2012

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!

Witch School Ends the Reality Television Gravy Train: Yesterday Witch School International, the largest online learning institution for Wicca and magical studies, announced that it would no longer offer its services to reality television production companies for free, listing a number of deficits in the approach and methodology of such initiatives. Witch School CEO Ed Hubbard closed the statement by blasting companies that are “unwilling to place resources in our community’s hands, which would allow us to help win over the Networks. Instead we are treated like a free resource, as prop toys to be put away and abandoned when they are done with their failed presentations.”

Witch School CEO Ed Hubbard.

As of today, Witch School International and CEO Ed Hubbard will no longer accept inquiries from Television and Movie Production companies. While Witch School has been involved with reality shows in the past, they are no longer interested in pursuing or being involved in any form of reality show. According to Ed Hubbard, “We will no longer be a free resource, which is how we have been used continuously by production companies in the past. We have provided everything from simple answers to detailed development packages, including the casting of sizzle reels. In all those requests, we absorbed whatever costs were incurred, and at no point were we offered remuneration or consideration for our cooperation. When a project died, we were never informed. This level of disrespect for us as a community has become too much to bear. Witch School will no longer be offering these services freely to any production companies.”

Since 2006, Hubbard estimates that Witch School has participated in “22 production company inquiries, 14 pre-development projects, considered 6 different holding agreements, and participated in 3 sizzle reels.” None of these resulted in an aired series or special. Hubbard also points out that many hold a misconception of Salem being the “Witch capital” of the world, when in reality it is the “Halloween capital,” with no “Witch Lifestyle Community present in any way.” As for the future? I would point out that the release said they would no longer consult or work for free. So there’s still the possibility of a Witch School-based reality show, but only if production companies are willing to pay for the privilege.

Goddess Without Borders Coming This Samhain: Lady Yeshe Rabbit, head of the Bloodroot Honey Tribe, has annoucned a new initiative called “Goddess Without Borders” that seeks to build an inclusive Pan-Dianic community by creating a joint resource in honor of the Goddess.

Lady Yeshe Rabbit. Photo: Greg Harder.

So, our Pan-Dianic elves (very fashionable elves, by the way) have been working away in our secret lair, fomenting revolution. Our crack team of cis-and trans- witches have been building a body of work that we are going to be making available, completely free of charge, in an online forum as of this coming Samhain. Our mission in this work is to provide a free website where individuals of all backgrounds may submit and publish their own, uniquely-designed altar workings, experience-specific rites of passage, general ritual outlines, spells, and other magical expressions in honor of the Great Goddess (who is whole and complete unto Herself). I am glad to say that Melissa Murry, our shero from PSG, has also been introduced to our team of ritual writers this week.

The “Goddess Without Borders,” project will be located at by Samhain. In planning this project it was crucial to us that we make everything on the site completely free of charge. We are well aware that many pagan men and women, both cis- and trans-, struggle to gain access to the financial resources required to attend large festivals and conferences. By posting our rites online, allowing others to share their own, and making it all free, we intend to ensure that everyone has access to these documents. There is also the matter of transparency and representation. Much trust has been lost in this period of conflict. In order to establish good faith, we are committed that no single individual or group becomes “the voice” of this movement. So much around this issue has to do with language, words, and personal expression. We feel it crucial to maintain a forum where all are completely free to bring their own voices.

A call for participation, including guidelines, will be sent out in August. Then, a full launch during PantheaCon 2013, where a number of workshops and presentations based around the initiative are planned.

Modern Witch Magazine Releases Second Issue: The second issue of Modern Witch Magazine, produced by Devin Hunter and Rowan Pendragon, was released in print-on-demand format on June 21st. You can also obtain a digital download. This volume contains contributions from David Salisbury, Storm Faerywolf, Tim Titus, and Lady Yeshe Rabbit.

“After the release of volume one readers from all over the world let us know that Modern Witch Magazine was not only invited into their homes but their circles and temples as well.  We knew that we had done something good and from the sound of it our readers did too! The creation of volume one was without a doubt a birthing for us and as we began to unfold the concepts behind Modern Witch Magazine Volume 2 we knew one thing was for certain, this magazine would continue to be more than just another magazine.”

You can read more about this issue’s contents, here. Print-on-demand and digital publications seem to be the direction periodicals like this are increasingly traveling. Largely labors of love that operate on a shoestring budget, catering to specific niche audiences. With the rise of the iPad, Kindle Fire, Nexus 7, and other tablets, will we see a new blooming of (Pagan) magazine culture? One dominated by digital product, with physical copies a collector’s luxury?

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!

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42 responses to “Pagan Community Notes: Witch School and Reality TV, Goddess Across Borders, Modern Witch Magazine, and More!”

  1. It’s wonderful that something positive and concrete and accessible has come out of the Pantheacon mess.

  2.  Actually I was there for six years. Salem is The Witch City but it is not the capital of Witchdom. I have studied Salem and is friends with many Salem people, who have agreed with me.

  3. In offering a answer to Jason claim, I would consider a serious series if it provided the community with needed resources. I am not afraid of commercial operations nor think of them as bad. After all, Wild Hunt is on Patheos, a commercial site, that accepts advertising and ads around content. But in this case a free resource is not about money, but about access. That is key.

    Thank you for posting this, and the response was exactly as expected.

  4. I don’t think there IS a “capital of witchdom” because the phenomenon is much too diverse for such a thing even within the Wicca/witchcraft spectrum, to say nothing of the much wider pagan community these days. There are many regional centers and vibrant scenes throughout the country, but there is no “ground zero” of modern witchcraft in this country that’s akin to, say, the Castro for the gay world. Salem’s claim to fame is that it found a neat way to capitalize on its history and dovetail that with contemporary paganism, and really, just New Age in general. If I had to pick one place with a deep, organic connection to witchcraft (vs Wicca), I would pick New Orleans, hands down. 

    All that aside, I don’t blame you for telling the reality show industry to go pound. It offers no real prospects as a vehicle for serious public awareness or education. It’s a parasite industry, basically. It makes its bones on getting people to play the freak out of desperation for attention or token rewards. Reality television is to the documentary world what “Bum Fights” are to entertainment. They’re not worth five minutes of your viewership, let alone free consulting services. Instead, keep your feelers out for serious documentary film makers. Somewhere there is an aspiring young film student who’s the real deal. Those people, if we can find them, are worth helping. 

  5. Having apartments and Witch shops in both Salem and New Orleans, I would definitely say there are more public, practicing Wiccans, Pagans, and Witches of various stripes in Salem than in New Orleans. Those who are practicing in New Orleans are far more clandestine and behind the scenes from what I can see. The Afro-Caribbean traditions seem to be far more prominent in New Orleans, not surprisingly. Still, my percentage of practitioners in New Orleans is a little bit higher but that is partly because I’m in a slightly less touristy area of the French Quarter and HEX Salem is right on the tourist front lines, but both shops get a good number of serious practitioners. 

  6. Ed,

    I think you’re definitely on the right track with asking these reality show companies to stop looking at us as toys to be picked up and put away, but I do disagree on the one point of Salem only being focussed on Halloween. Frankly, most of the powers that be here would rather do away with it and promote it only begrudgingly. Nobody knows that battle better than me as I nearly singlehandedly rejuvenated Halloween in Salem. When Shawn Poirier and I founded Festival of the Dead in 2003, Salem’s “Haunted Happenings” had been reduced to what Shawn referred to as, “nothing more than corn husks and dog shows.” The only people truly wanting to keep Halloween, or magic year-round alive in Salem are the Witches. There are quite a substantial number of actual Wiccan and Witchcraft traditions in Salem, and at least three hold public rituals year round, including the Cabot-Kent Hermetic Temple, The Witches’ Education League, and The Temple of Nine Wells. And those are just the public ones. So there are very much Witch lifestyle communities here, but they aren’t always what reality shows want. I only do one public ritual a year but my media appearances is probably what keeps all these production companies calling me. But, the reality is, (pun intended) is that we’ve been picked up and put away so many times, not because of a lack of respect on the part of the production companies; they’re actually pretty enthusiastic every time they reach out to us. No, I think the real problem is that said production companies have not evaluated the true task before them, assuming instead that anyone that watches a ghost show would watch Witches. This is dead wrong (again, pun intended). A large portion of those shows’ audiences are Jesus people that don’t understand the theology of their own religions regarding the issues of ghosts, but in no way will such tolerance translate to Witchcraft-based shows. The network that finally takes this on is going to do so because they *want* advertiser controversy and Jesus-jockey backlash, and such a choice by a network is extremely rare. I think that you, Fiona Horne, Laurie Cabot and I have gone so far (and I think I’m at 20+ inquiries and eleven or twelve pre-production efforts so I feel your pain) is a tribute to both how determined we are and how interesting we are that such companies continue to approach us. Personally, I’m not interested in showing the Pagan lifestyle so much as I am showing real people doing real magic and helping the world to know that magic is available to all as a tool for transformation. That, I think, will be a very hard thing to get past the reticence of networks to approach this topic because I’m wanting to do the thing the Jesus people fear most. 

  7. Russian TV documentary in English about “Europe’s last Pagans” in the Mari-El Republic in the Central Volga region of Russia: … according to a survey, around 15% of the inhabitants of the Mari-El Republic (which means around 1/3 of the Mari people there) are adherents of the ‘Mari Traditional Religion’

  8. Yeah, why doesn’t (anyone) work for free anymore to people who’ll treat their efforts badly?
    If someone was feeling cynical, they could think half the world resents it if one charges them anything and suggests that’s unspiritual or wrong in Wicca, the other half sees anything they get free as worthless. 

  9.  there are some more interesting documentaries produced by this TV station (which has also the reputation to produce slightly dodgy pro-government propaganda)

    – ‘Minority peoples of Russia: Tubalars and Chelkan’:

    – ‘Ancient spirit and might preserved by indigenous people of Altay’:
    – ‘Amur River peoples keep ancient legends and traditions alive’:

  10. The article on Hutton was a good read and I think from now on any time Hutton is brought up this article should be posted. I’m surprised that certain individuals have not made their appearance in the comments section decrying the article as part of a Christian/academic/secularist plot against Paganism.

  11. It is amazing that this lengthy article fails to even mention the abrupt about-face that Hutton did when he published “Witches, Druids and King Arthur”, in which Hutton admits that all of his previous work (including “Triumph of the Moon”, which had been published only four years earlier) had “ignored the existence of certain types of ancient religion which far more closely resembled Paganism, had certainly influenced it, and had certain linear connections with it.”

  12. In my experience (as a life-long academic, now retired), scholars very often rethink their positions, as Hutton has done, and publish revisions.  This is one of the marks of a genuine scholar, as it also is of a genuine scientist.  Everything a real scholar ever claims in any publication is (ontologically speaking) just a hypothesis, which could in principle be falsified in the course of further work by the same scholar or others.  —  Contrariwise, it seems to be the mark of a non-scholar, however well read and thoughtful, to expect scholars to articulate absolute, unshakable Truth.  A scholar may approach absolute Truth more closely than those who came before him or her, but that is the best any scholar can ever hope to do.

  13. There is a difference between a revision and a retraction. Up to and including “Triumph of the Moon”, Hutton promoted an extreme position that denied any religious continuity between ancient and modern Paganism, while insisting that the religious roots of modern Paganism go back no further than the 18th century. But in “Witches, Druids and King Arthur” Hutton admitted that the religious roots of modern Paganism can be traced back at least to late antiquity (nearly two millennia), and he even made a point of acknowledging the “linear connections” between late-antique Paganism and modern Paganism.

    If Hutton had bothered to read Gerald Gardner’s writings with anything approaching an open mind, he would have been led directly to investigating late-antique Paganism in the first place, rather than being forced to come around to it rather late in the game. Gardner made frequent references to Greek, Roman and Egyptian mystery religions, and he specifically singled out the late-antique Pagan author Sallustius whose “On the Gods and the Cosmos” is praised rather extravagantly by Gardner. This also raises another major flaw at the core of Hutton’s work that Hutton has stubbornly refused to address: his misreadings and mischaracterizations of Gardner.

  14.  I don’t thnk it’s much of a change at all. It’s the Plessy v. Ferguson solution.

    “Separate but equal.”

    That always works out SO well.

    Meanwhile, the same logic is being used to defend this:

    “Christian Identity Ministries & William Collier Defend Whites Only Pastors Conference”

    “The Rev. William Collier, the apparent organizer, doubled down on the “whites only” event, saying, according to WBRC-TV, ‘We don’t have the facilities to accommodate other people.’ But his commentary went well beyond that. ‘We haven’t got any invitations to black Muslim events. Of course, we are not invited to Jewish events and stuff,’ he added.”

    The festivities include the ever popular “Sacred Christian Cross Lighting Ceremony.” (No kidding.)

    That’s some great company you’ve decided to keep, Dianics. Stay classy.

  15. A.P.: “Up to and including “Triumph of the Moon”, Hutton promoted an extreme position that denied any religious continuity between ancient and modern Paganism,”


  16. You raise an interesting parallel but fail to dig down all the way:

    Why do Pagans have separate women’s and men’s events at all?

    All of my comments take those events as given, and evaluate from there. If you want to really do a “Plessy v Ferguson” evaluation of separate women’s and men’s Pagan groups (and are not just trolling) by all means let’s have it!

  17. “Why do Pagans have separate women’s and men’s events at all?”
    Fertility rites, coming of age rites, the kind of things that are suspected to have occurred through the ages.
    Of course, historically, those rites would have been less ‘confused’ about the issue of gender.

  18. I basically agree with you. I was challenging Joseph to comment consistently with his citation of Plessey v Ferguson on the Pantheacon matter.

    If he’d’ve made your reply I’d’ve said, You’re appealing to nature and tradition, the kind of argument that supported PvF; don’t evade it, apply it.

  19.  The comparison is valid. Both exclusionary positions are based on the same two fundamental premises.

    One, that particular cultural identities are pre-determined by the circumstances of birth. In one, it is biological birth-gender, in the other it is genetic racial characteristics. Corollary to this is that such characteristics are permanent and immutable, and form a definitive identity of that person, regardless of that person’s own beliefs. “Biology is destiny.”

    Second, that the cultural traditions built around these distinctions are inherently valuable, so valuable and in need of preservation that they override all other considerations of justice, compassion, fairness, comity, and any cultural evolution of social constructs. Again, permanent and immutable.

    These premises are extrapolated to provide justification for exclusivity, and for declaring persons not covered by these premises to be “outsiders” that must be barred from any identification or participation with the cultural group in question.

    The fact that one group includes many people in the Pagan community that we find ourselves sympathetic towards, and the other group we perceive as disgusting, ignorant, spiteful, hate-filled bigots, is irrelevant to the underlying foundations upon which both groups exclusionary attitudes are based.

  20.  More than just ‘applying it’, I would say apply it fully and fairly.

    If a transgender individual is excluded from a fertility rite, for being infertile, then should not any other infertile individual be excluded, also?

    Can’t have a menopausal woman in a fertility situation, can you? or a man who has had a vasectomy…

  21. A.P.: That’s not an answer. I’m not saying that Hutton doesn’t discount many of the beliefs of other people in “religious continuity”, he certainly does. But it’s the characterization as “extreme” and “denied ANY” that I take issue with.
    So I’m asking if you have any direct quotes from Hutton that display what you characterize as a clearly unsympathetic, extremist, denialist attitude.

    My impression of Hutton (I read that book over five years ago, and honestly skipped over some of the essays) is that he is sympathetic and did point out cultural links between ancient and modern Paganism. He simply says there is no “paper trail” (including artifacts, not just “paper” ones) and he’s right. And paper trails are what historians deal with. Documents, artifacts or it didn’t happen. That’s the nature of his discipline. You may as well call a chemist “extremist” for only working with physical chemical reactions and ignoring ancient alchemy.

  22.  Oh, I should have gone on to say that the parallel to Plessey is obvious: “separate but equal”. That is the solution being proposed to the inherent unfairness of the situation. It’s being wrapped up in a pretty package with all kinds of sympathetic words, but it is still a defense of maintaining the status quo.

    One of the telling clues was, and for me something that set me off again on this, was the oh-so-deliberate parsing of what constitutes inclusion: “A Dianic Women’s Ritual for the summer solstice” specifically for “women who bleed, will bleed or have bled our sacred bloods,” slicing the definition finely so as to counter arguments citing pre-pubescent, hysterectomized  or menopausal cis-women.

    I’m sure this won’t go over well with many Dianics, but I’ve always found the fetishization of menstrual blood to be disconcerting. It’s a body fluid produced by a natural biological process. If *all* is sacred and divine, than one body fluid is no more sacred and divine than any other, is it?

  23.  “A Dianic Women’s Ritual for the summer solstice” specifically for “women who bleed, will bleed or have bled our sacred bloods,”
    That’s just silly. Summer is, traditionally, the time of the mother (from the female aspect). As such, bleeding (or not) is not so important as having carried a child, surely?

  24. Joseph, so why do you scorn the solution that Pagan Spirit Gathering developed? It’s inclusive and seems to satisfy all the stakeholders.

    Dianics are embedded in a time when menstrual blood was especially despised, and broke theological ground when they said, No, it’s sacred. This evidently has deep meaning for enough cis-women that it persists as a meme.

    I’m in favors of trans-specific ritual because I feel that trans people have had unique experiences that can be just as deep as menstruation and deserve spiritualization. Whether, once composed and performed, they persist is future history.

  25.  Reply to LeohtSceadusawol: Indeed, Summer Solstice is not really a “natural” holy day for celebrating Dianic Wiccan blood-mysteries. Kind of the opposite, actually. Which emphasizes even more the point that was being made by doing it:  to maintain their bigotry-tinged exclusivity and keep rubbing it in the faces of trans-women, and they don’t care what anyone thinks about it. I do actually believe there is a place for such mysteries: as a one-time ritual celebration of a young person attaining fertility. Or possibly as a ritual catharsis for a particular person in need of it due to life circumstances. IOW, as a *personal* ritual of *personal* transformation. Not as a closed, not-so-public group ritual conducted by adults for adults “celebrating” their exclusivity.

  26. @ Baruch Dreamstalker: Because I don’t think it’s a solution at all, it’s a perpetuation of the status quo. It hasn’t changed anything. It’s “separate but equal.” Separate but equal is NEVER equal.

    Judging by at least one comment made by a “stakeholder”, it’s not satisfactory at all. I quote from the linked article:
    “Sisters, Brothers, Tribe,

    Today I rise as a woman and ask you to bear
    witness to my pain. As a tribe any wound, is
    inflicted on all of us. My pain today is caused
    by my exclusion from the main woman’s
    ritual; it flows from an event occurring in the
    very community where we all expect to find
    acceptance, love and understanding.

    Yesterday I stood invisible, excluded and in

    tears as a result of this exclusion.”Is this person not a “stakeholder” in this issue? Or should she just shut the hell up and stop harshing everyone’s mellow?Look, such exclusivity and bigotry is wrong. “Seperate but equal” is wrong. It just is. It’s on the wrong side of history, just like racial segregation. I don’t care how sincerely held a racial segregationist’s beliefs might be, they are still WRONG. And as time goes on, they will be considered more and more wrong, and these transsexual segregationists are going to end up being regarded with the same fear and loathing as the racial segregationists are after 50 years of modern enlightenment. If their stubborn persistence in their exclusivity is worth it, I pity them.

  27.  @f8949b81170097930c8d7e04ace68dd2:disqus “Dianics are embedded in a time when menstrual blood was especially
    despised, and broke theological ground when they said, No, it’s sacred.
    This evidently has deep meaning for enough cis-women that it persists as
    a meme.”

    That was then. This is now. Now we have mainstream TV adverts with happy, nice-looking women touting menstrual products without the slightest trace of “despite”.

    Good, mission accomplished! They won the theological debate. The culture of the enlightened West doesn’t think of menstruation as “dirty” anymore. How many years do they need to keep beating a horse that’s as dead as hamburger now?

    Now they are just HURTING PEOPLE. And this is not worth them selfishly re-living their past oppression over and over again.

  28. Joseph, the problem with PvS is that separate was inherently unequal relative to race. You haven’t established that in this case.

  29. Joseph Max: “He simply says there is no “paper trail” (including artifacts, not just
    “paper” ones) and he’s right. And paper trails are what historians deal

    In fact, Hutton now takes the position that there is, in his words, “a direct line of transmission” connecting modern Paganism to ancient Egyptian religion, and that this transmission constitutes “a demonstrable continuity, text to text and person to person, across the centuries.”


    As to your earlier request for a “citation”, you should re-read the Introduction to “Witches, Druids and King Arthur” and also the opening pages of Chapter Four of that book, “The New Old Paganism” (more details here).

  30. Yes, advertisements show women thrilled to be wearing tight white stretch pants while presumably wearing feminine products because that’s realistic.  And the “have a happy period” kind of advertisements go over super well with women today. These advertising things make women feel like they’re empowered and women’s equality in health care and the rest of society been achieved and all is fantastic.  Those who’ve passed as men can feel reassured that feminism is dated nonsense.

  31. “But if Wicca and its successors are viewed as a form of ritual magic, then they have a distinguished and very long pedigree, stretching back through Ordo Templi Orenetis and the Golden Dawn  to Levi, the New Templars, the Rosicrucians and the Freemasons, and so beyond these to early modern and medieval texts which derived by many stages from those of Hellenistic Egypt. (Ronald Hutton in ‘The Pagan religions of the Ancient British Isles’, 1991, p. 337) Triumph of the Moon was published 1999. Yes, clearly Hutton has always denied Wicca having had any ancient connections.

  32.  Wicca, as a form of ritual magic, can be traced back through a series of ceremonial traditional evolutions as he says.

    However, it is Wicca, as a religion, that can’t.

  33. LeohtSceadusawol: “However, it is Wicca, as a religion, that can’t.”

    This is precisely the point on which Hutton has recanted. In “Witches, Druids and King Arthur” he explicitly acknowledged that his earlier [in “Triumph” and so forth] denial of a religious continuity between ancient and modern Paganism was in error due to his having “ignored the existence of certain types of ancient religion which far more closely resembled Paganism, had certainly influenced it, and had certain linear connections with it.” [WD&KA p. 87, emphases added]

  34.  Wicca does not equal all of modern Paganism.

    It is indisputable that historical forms of ‘paganism’ have had a significant influence on some forms of modern ‘Paganism’. That is the entire premise of reconstructionism, after all.

    I’ve yet to hear of a verifiable historical record showing an unbroken lineage from pre-Christian times to Gardnerian Wicca.

    However, there can be shown that some elements of folklore and natural healing have remained constant throughout the centuries, often incorporated into Christian tradition. (It is commonly believed that the 9 herbs charm and the charm for unfruitful land are merely Christianised versions of older charms.)

    I think it is important to note the difference between surviving fragments and extant religions, though.

    Even the line you quotes acknowledges this:

    “…had certain linear connections with it.”

    We could, if we wanted, create a brand new religion right now that could have certain linear connections with any other religion, simply by inclusion.