Tony Mierzwicki, Guest at Sacred Harvest Festival – Interview

Tony Mierzwicki

Tony Mierzwicki is one of three national guests appearing at Sacred Harvest Festival (SHF)  beginning Monday, August 4th near Albert Lea, MN.  Tony is the author of “Graeco-Egyptian Magick: Everyday Empowerment” and was also a guest of  SHF in 2008.

Tony is from Austalia but spends much of his time writing and lecturing in Southern California. I talked to him by phone.

Your expertise is in Greek Religion, what have you been up to lately?

I have a book coming out in December called , “Hellenismos: Practicing Greek Polytheism Today” . It is a book that reconstructs the practice of Greek religion and updates it to the current day. It is the first book to come out from a main stream publishing company. Every other book has either come out as an academic text or has been self published. This will be a practical text published with Llewellyn. I am a student of Greek religion and I am trying to make it more accessible for those people who are interested. There does seem to be a fair amount of interest in Greek religion at the moment. There are all sorts of Hollywood movies coming out, like Herakles and about other figures of Greek mythology. There would be people out there wondering how the Greeks venerated their Gods. This book will allow people to venerate the gods in a spirit of how the ancient Greek went about the process. There are a number of things that the Greeks did that we cannot do. We are not going to bring back public animal sacrifice, or slavery, or the subjugation of women. Every religion modifies and changes as time goes on. What I am trying to do is look at ancient Greek religion and come up with my best guess of what it would look like today if it had continued since ancient times. That is the spirit behind the book.

This is based on my own experience, but I also lurk on many Greek based electronic forums to see how other people practice Greek religion, and the issues they are having. There are a number of misconceptions that people have, and I have tried to address those issues. The book is heavily based on source texts, with over 400 footnotes that people can refer to as my primary and secondary sources. I look at the book as “factual” but different folks looking at the same data and material will look to other directions or disagree with the practice outline.

Is Greek  reconstruction a growing part of the Pagan movement?

It is a slowly growing part of the Pagan community . People who are drawn to the Greek religion tend to be very scholarly. They tend to consult original texts and get very passionate in their interpretations. There are many intelligent people practicing Greek polytheism. There are some people who believe you go through the motions, performing rituals perfectly, but do not expect any personal interaction with the gods. Others believe you it is all about a personal interaction with the gods. That is my belief. Unless you can feel the presence of the gods you are not really getting the most out of your practice.

The Greeks did not have a word for religion. In this day and age we tend to think of religion and secular life as two separate things. We go about our daily lives and may get involved in some religious practice occasionally. Christians may go to church on Sunday, but the rest of the week they are indistinguishable from the rest of the community. Pagans may venerate their gods on certain days, full moons or the eight Sabbats, depending on what they are into. For the Greeks, venerating the gods was something they did everyday. They would not think of beginning any venture unless they called on the gods first. The practice of Greek religion was integrated seamlessly into everyday life. We think of religion as being separate, but then it was considered a crime to disbelieve in the gods, or be an atheist. Everyone went to temples constantly and engaged in various sacrifices. There were particular rituals that took place on a city level. Household performed their own rituals, Guilds and trade groups performed their rituals. They were all varied and different. The principles remained the same but the nuts and bolts of how they did ritual varied.

The description of how Greeks practiced religion in all aspects of life sounds a lot like much indigenous practice?

One of the early theories of how religion developed is that it started off as a shamanic practice that became more institutionalized and then turned into religion. If you look at many indigenous tribes their gods have a very real presence. The gods are around them constantly and interact with them frequently. The tribes depend on the gods for everything that is good in their lives. The gods provide sunshine and rain and produce a bountiful harvest for them. They are constantly working with the gods, there is no idea of separation from the divine. This is something you also see with the Greeks.

What are you bringing to Sacred Harvest Festival next week?

The heart of my presentation is a series of three workshops that begins with The Practice of Ancient Greek Religion Today.

The second is on Greek Nature Deities and Gaia Consciousness .  It is about the interconnectedness of us and everything around us. I wanted to bring in the idea of Gaia consciousnessbecause it is a thoroughly modern concept that talks about how everything is interconnected and integrated.

The third workshop pushes that further and talks about how all of this impacts our health. The things we do in everyday life have an impact on ourselves and everything around us. One of the problems in modern society is that many see themselves as separate from the world. They think they can exploit the riches of the world and not suffer the consequences. I will be pushing the idea of working in harmony with the world, working with sustainable faming practices, sustainable energy and the like. I will talk about how this then also impacts on our health. The workshops form a cohesive series together and I am very grateful to be able to offer these three workshops as a series.

Will this be of interest to those of many different paths?

Absolutely, I will try to talk in generalities about these topics, but when it comes down to it one of the things that most Pagans have in common is a deep connection with the planet, the world around them. Regardless of the gods that they may feel closest to, most of us realize that we are integrally connected with the planet and that our decisions effect everything that happens around us – the butterfly effect.  This proposes that every little thing that we do, can wind up having a much larger effect around us. The more people become responsible in how they act, the better things will turn out in the long term for us. A precipice is approaching where we start running out of fossil fuels, and pollution is so bad we can’t breathe the air or drink the water.

My fourth workshop will be about ancient curses and bindings. This will be an overview from an academic sort of viewpoint. It will give people an idea about what kind of activities took place so they can see the darker underbelly of our community from the vantage point of the past.

The last workshop will be about the god Set. For a lot of people Set is thought of as an evil god, a prototype of the Christian devil. He has been demonized over the years. When one people conquers another they demonize the gods of the other. In this case Set was a very significant god in ancient times. There are various texts which talk about his importance and describe him as a benevolent deity. Once the worship of Osiris came to the ascendancy, Set was demonized. I hope to present some balance and provide another way of looking at him. He is a powerful god, but not really evil. I want to share what I have found in my research about him.

When were you last a guest at Sacred Harvest Festival?

This was in 2008 and had a fantastic time! I was made to feel very welcome. One of the things I really liked was there wer activities for all ages. There were many children and there wer activities for kids, teens, and adults. There was a strong family environment for people who attended with their kids. It was nice to have a festival where you could actually sleep!. Many stayed up late but it was around campfires, singing, enjoying stories and a drink or two together. The whole event had a very family kind of feel to it and I felt blessed to be there. I feel blessed to be coming out yet again!

I firmly believe that whatever path you choose has to be the path that resonates with you, the path that feels right for you. Unless you have found a specific path you absolutely don’t want to deviate from, it is always good to see what other people are doing and perhaps learn little things that you can integrate into your own practice from them. I am simply bringing things I have learned in the past couple of decades in the hopes that attendees can get something out of them to integrate into their own practice. There may be people interested enough in what I am doing to engage in the practice of Greek polytheism or perhaps Graeco-Egyptian magick – the subject of my previous book. What I have found from running workshops based on my first book is that very few people will choose to practice exactly as it is presented in the book. People tend to pick out bits and pieces from it and integrate it into what they are already doing. That is fine because it is all about finding things which resonate with you. When I was starting out I was trying to learn everything I could from those around me. There were things that would just feel right, and others that didn’t quite feel right. This approach ensures that eventually you end up navigating your own path.

There are so many gifted speakers this year sharing their experiences and knowledge. That is what it is all about, learning from each other and sharing our experiences. We can then all pass what we have learned and pay it forward. I can’t help those who helped me in the past but I can help those who come after me, and I encourage others to do the same.

Tony will join Yeshe Rabbit and Crystal Blanton  for a week of workshops and rituals at Sacred Harvest Festival, August 4-10th near Albert Lea, Mn.  Advance registration closes this Thursday, July 31st, but is available for a week, weekend, or day pass at the festival gate.

 

Nels Linde

~ Nels is a council member of Harmony Tribe, sponsor of Sacred Harvest Festival

Teo Bishop appearance at Sacred Harvest Festival – Interview

Teo Bishop

Teo Bishop

Teo Bishop is pretty unique in the Pagan world. If you know of him, you probably know more about his spiritual ponderings and quest, than about who he is!  He is a  blogger,  bard, and  contemplative Pagan, the  author of Bishop In The Grove, a  regular contributor to  HuffPost Religion, and Columnist at The Wild Hunt. He is also one excellent musician and song writer.

Read a bit of Teo’s  history here

I talked by phone to Teo Bishop in Los Angeles about his upcoming appearance beginning next Monday at Sacred Harvest Festival, Aug 5-11th.

Have you ever been to Minnesota before?
Teo; I have been to the Twin Cities once before on a promotional tour. I think the theater was in St. Paul. This is the first time I’ve been during the “warm” part of the year!

And you are out in Los  Angeles now?
Teo; Yes. Most of the time when not at home in Colorado I am doing some kind of work in the music industry. Music is my primary work. Mainly I write songs for artists. You could think of it as applying my bardic skills in the pop music world.

In addition to songwriting, do you plan on resuming a musical performance career?
Teo; I’m not really focused on performance right now. I spent the majority of time between 2008 and 2011 working to cultivate a career as a performer and recording artist. My focus right now is on songwriting, and more behind the scenes work.

From Letterman appearance as Matt Morris

It is an exciting time, though, because the last few weeks have been exceptionally creative. In the past eight days I have written eight new songs. It’s a vibrant time, and I’m excited to take that creativity and bring it to Sacred Harvest Festival!

You recently announce leaving the Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship (ADF).  Was that difficult? Are you still a Druid?

Teo; I still very much feel like I am on a Druidic path. I don’t think you can ever truly disassociate yourself from traditions you have been a part of, and ADF has been very influential on me. So leaving ADF was a difficult decision to make, yes. But I decided to leave because it just felt, in all of my parts, like the right thing for me to do at this point in my own spiritual evolution.

My leaving made a splash only because I am fairly public with aspects of my spirituality and my process. I’ve also been in a role of leadership within ADF, and I feel very happy about how things have been progressing in my absence, particularly with the Solitary Druid Fellowship.

I think it’s important to understand that this is not some big dramatic event, but that my own process has led me to leave. I’m not on a crusade against ADF. There are many wonderful people in ADF who have genuinely been kind to me — both before and after this decision.

Are you headed down a different path now?
Teo:   I’m not sure exactly what path I’m on at the moment. I feel like my “ordinary”, non-religious life has a great number of spiritual teachings to offer me. I am still tremendously influenced by the teachings of ADF Druidry, in the same way that before that, before being a Pagan, I was influenced by Episcopalian Christianity. It is all part of a continuum for me. The creative work I am doing — the work that happens apart from any one spiritual path or tradition — feels like the best thing to focus on at this point.

Teo Bishop

Teo Bishop

This is your first appearance as a guest at a Pagan event, what are you looking forward to?
Teo:  I’m looking forward to meeting so many people that I’ve only engaged with online. I think it’s important for internet-entered Pagans to get out there, in the dirt, and get to know each other. I’m looking forward to that. I’m also looking forward to offering up my experiences and insights into the creative process to the community. I’d like to find ways to conceive of our creativity and our spirituality as synonymous aspects of our lives.

You are offering both a kids workshop and a ritual, is this new for you?
Teo: Actually, I have done some work with kids outside of a festival context. My mom is a teacher and I have worked with kids to help them develop their creativity and use their own creative voice. This is comfortable territory for me, and I think the young people at the festival will have a lot to offer.

I’m also excited about leading ritual. I’ll be incorporating some aspects of ADF Druidry, as well as seeking to use movement and voice as a catalyst within the ritual to enliven us and revitalize our own sense of creativity. We’ll make a good noise!!

I think the festival will be a really great time. Everyone involved has been extremely kind, generous and hospitable with me, and I’m looking forward to giving the “Tribe” a big old hug when I get out there!

Teo Bishop  is a featured National Guest at Sacred Harvest Festival   located at Harmony Park in  S. Minnesota near Albert Lea , Aug. 5-11th.  Teo is offering several workshops, a ritual, and a performance –  Workshop Schedule

Discount advance registration for Sacred Harvest Festival  ends Thursday Aug 1st,  Gate Registration is also available at event.

Nels Linde is a Council Member of Harmony Tribe which sponsors Sacred Harvest Festival.

Kenny Klein returns to Minnesota – Interview

Kenny Klein is  an author, musician, and an elder and a High Priest in the Blue Star tradition of Wicca.  He will be appearing Aug. 2-4th at Eye of Horus, and at Sacred Harvest Festival Aug 5-11th. I spoke to him by phone from Brushwood in New York state.

You are touring now, but how long have you been a New Orleans Resident?
Kenny :   Before Katrina I would winter there every year, as a lot of musicians do in December- Feb, and then go out on tour. When Katrina hit I was in California. About four years ago I felt the call to go back, and have been there ever since. This is the first time, since 2010 that I actually have a leased apartment in New Orleans! I usually leave in May and don’t return until September. This year I toured in April and May, Came back for an appearance at the “Gryphon’s Nest” a Pagan camp ground outside of New Orleans. Fishbird played there in June, then flew up to a pagan festival outside Wasilla , Alaska, where Sarah Palin is from.  I came back to new Orleans, and then took off for New york in July and will be on tour until September.

You are into your second week at Brushwood?
Kenny : Yes, arrived a week ago today. I come to Brushwood every year as both a presenter and a performer.  Each year i offer about six workshops and a couple concerts. This year we did the kickstarter campaign in order to bring the full band, Fishbird  along to here.  This is the first year we have the full band up here. We are doing something most Pagans have never seen me do. Solo I play acoustic guitar and fiddle and sing. In this band I play electric jam dark Celtic rock .I do this down in New Orleans and now with this live recording Pagans will be able to listen to it wherever they are.

Is this what you enjoy playing?
Kenny : I love it, I have a sensational band. The bass player in the New Orleans band didn’t want to come on the trip, so at first I was bummed, but my life long friend Carl Smith, who used to play bass with “Kenny and Tzipora” back in the eighties  was able to come up from Tennessee and play.  We have our drummer and Rachel Maxann my singer from New Orleans are both up here and we doing some awesome shows here. We have complete one of our main stage shows here and will be doing another one  Thursday. There is a small cafe at Brushwood and we have an independent contract to play at their cafe every day.  People are getting a short mini concert each day, and then the two main stage concerts.

How is the recording going?
Kenny : My newest CD, which I should have at Sacred Harvest Festival, is my concert from last year here, recorded live from the stage. That gave me the confidence to bring Fishbird up here to record for a CD.  Except for the “Griffin’s Nest” a Pagan camp ground performance this spring, this is the first time ever that Fishbird has performed for a Pagan audience.

Then you are leaving the end of the week and headed to Minnesota?
Kenny : That’s right, I have three days of performance and workshops at Eye of Horus (event info at bottom), and then right after the weekend I travel down to Sacred Harvest Festival for the week Aug 5-11th.  There I’ll be offering five workshops and a concert on Friday Night.  At my last appearance ar SHF I connected with some local musicians at the festival, and hope to again.

Tell me about your new book .

Lauren Devoe, my girlfriend, and I just finished a new book for Llewellyn. It is a follow up to Fairy Tale Rituals, called Fairy Tale Magic. The previous book looked at Grimm’s fairy tales and elements that could be culled from them and used to create ritual. This book is looking at non-Grimm fairy tales .  We explore Russian tales like Baba Yaga, Briton  and English tales, like Jack in the Beanstalk and Goldilocks.  We look at the elements of magical theory that are contained in these tales. We touch on Qabala and Tora Magic .  We explore Wicca, Pagan, and Ceremonial magic and how the elements of all these different magical forms can be found in these fairy tales. Lauren, who is an academic librarian at Tulane University did a lot of the research through the university to contribute information and obscure tales that we may not have otherwise found. It will be out next spring  from Llewellyn.

Kenny Klein and Lauren Devoe

Kenny Klein and Lauren Devoe

Do you still practice Blue Star Wicca?
Yes, Iron and Cypress, is our coven in New Orleans. We just elevated to neophyte two students into our coven. This took place, here at Brushwood.  I will also be guest priesting an open Blue Star ritual hosted by Hearth Stone coven of Minneapolis on Wednesday night at Sacred Harvest Festival.

Kenny Klein at Eye of Horus:
Friday August 2nd at 7:30 – Kenny Klein, Live in Concert Tickets $17

Saturday August 3rd
2-3:30pm – Book Signing/Meet & Greet Free Event
4-5:30pm – Grimms Fairy Tales: What Your Mother Didn’t Tell You (mature content) Class $20
6-7:30pm – Lost Secrets of Wicca with Kenny Klein – Class $20

Sunday August 4th 2-5pm: Mojo and Magic in Blues & New Orleans Music – combined double-workshop – Just $30

Kenny Klein at Sacred Harvest Festival Aug. 5-11th  – Workshop Schedule

Nels Linde is a Council Member of Harmony Tribe which sponsors Sacred Harvest Festival, and an initiate of the Blue Star Tradition.

Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone – Interview Part 3 The Future

Part two of this interview series with Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone ,  guests at Heartland Spirit Festival , this continues from the second portion of our interview. This section of the interview focuses on life in Ireland and a look into where deity work is moving Neo-Paganism in the future.

 

Janet and Gavin

Janet and Gavin

Nels (N) : What happens when Pagan culture get truly in touch with their deities?

Janet (J) : This is the manifestation in Ireland, which is truly wonderful the resurgence of many of the old faith festivals. I am one of only five legal pagans in all of Ireland allowed to legally marry people. A legal solemnizer. I am on the health board as a hospital visitor. Ireland is a tiny island, but this is a major break through. Around 1982 Stewart  and I won the first witchcraft case in Ireland and changed the law which had made witchcraft illegal. It went to the high court in Dublin, and was given compensation because when “Eight Sabbats’ (A Witches Bible) came out a journalist called it devil worshiping, porn blasphemy. We won the entire case and were taken out be all the high court judges for a champagne reception.

Gavin (G): This really explains what has been going on in Ireland at the moment. One of the effects of working the way we have is that now the deities don’t care whether you are Pagan or not. They want to come through, they want to speak, and they want the connection to develop. This happened in Ireland because as the Catholic church began to lose control from the early 2000’s the people of Ireland still wanted that connection to their spirituality.  Initially they sought it through the Catholic church, but now  we now find ourselves involved in ceremonies with the general public, particularly one at Samhain every year in County Meath at the Hill of Ward, also known as Tlachta.

J:  Tlachta is the only witch goddess in the whole of Ireland that the church fathers, the monks, tried to write out of the history. But they ultimately failed.

Hill of Tlachta

G: Brid is not technically a witchcraft goddess, although some people say she is. Tlachta is the only goddess where the word witchcraft is actually associated with her. Every year there is a procession up the hill and the witches group, along with the Druids, are the ones that lead it.  When we get to the top we tell the old story  of her, and the traditional Samhain fire is lit. The majority of the people behind are not Pagan. They are good Catholics who are probably off to church on Sunday.

J: Half way up the hill is the well of Tlachta. We have a woman cloaked doing trance work and beside her we have a Knight in full armor, so if anyone hassles her, he is there.  All the witches and Druids pass with their flaming torches and behind them come all the villagers singing, “Tlachta Lady, goddess fair, light your night on moonlit air…..” . They sing a chant to this goddess as we light our fires. These Catholics are singing to a Pagan goddess. When they have all passed the parents bring their children to the lady of the well, Tlachta herself, to prophesize for them. To put her hands on them, and bless them.

Video from Tlachta Samhain Ritual

Continue reading

Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone – Interview

I had the opportunity to interview Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone  who were guests at Heartland Spirit Festival near Kansas City this past Memorial Day Weekend. They took several hours out of their hectic schedule to simply hang out in our merchant booth and chat about a wide range of subjects, for which I am extremely grateful!

There are few people left who directly experienced many of the legendary figures of the rise of Neo-Pagan spirituality. Janet has a wealth of knowledge and stories from this era, and vivid descriptions of what they have experience.  Gavin articulates where their practice has led them  since he became part of the most famous Pagan triad, and the subsequent passage of Stuart Farrar. Together they represent a vision of an evolving practice of deity centered witchcraft.

This interview is about 9000 words long, but to me it is just too interesting to edit much content out.  It will appear in three parts over the coming weeks. First some history and an overview of their current work, then more details about their current practice, and finally a look into the future.

Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone

Nels (N): You’re back in the states. How long has it been since you have been in the states?

Gavin (G) : Nine months.

Janet (J) : Yeah, nine months. We actually travel here a lot.

G: We’re generally in the states every year. The last time we were in the Midwest was about 2002-2003.  We did INATS (International New Age Trade Show) the big trade fair in Colorado promoting Progressive Witchcraft. Before that we were in Wisconsin, so we haven’t done much in the Midwest for a while. But there’s been a lot more interest. We’ve been invited out towards Ohio August/September next year. Generally we spend a lot more time on the East Coast: New York, Connecticut, Florida. Those areas, mainly because we have connections there.

J: We are actually linked to a group of covens in these places.  We don’t actually call them “our covens,” they are covens in their own right, but they are all linked together through us.

G: Because they are covens that all follow the same philosophy.

N: What is your philosophy for ritual, coven work, and magic now?

Doreen Valiente 1922-1999

J:  Ok, well let’s start at the beginning. Thanks to knowing, long before Gavin ever met her, Doreen Valiente, I had a totally different perspective on Witchcraft. Even if you look at that book, The Witches Bible. When we started off, Stewart and myself, we started off with Alex Sanders. After that basic training, we were running an Alexandrian coven. Far too short, to be honest, to have real experience. We winged it, as they say, but we learned as we went along. And when Stewart and I moved to Ireland in 1976, Stewart took a look through our Book of Shadows and said “There’s no meat on the bones of this. Let us start by investigating old Irish folk customs, and from that comes a great rise in Celtic mythology, and a lot of people are becoming fashionably Celtic.

We lived, for the most part, in the most beautiful Celtic land, and a lot of those old festivals are sadly dying out now. We actually started resurrecting them ourselves, village folk festivals. We used to go along to them, and we used to experience them, and from 1976 to 1981 we traveled in various places across Ireland renting property to learn about what the locals still kept alive. Including the Midsummer bonfires, the Lughnasadh/Lammas festival, and we would glean knowledge. We would talk to the local people, the older people who remembered “ back in the days of my youth we did this, that, and the other.”

We put all that into the first book we wrote, before it became The Witches Bible it was Eight Sabbats For Witches. And with Doreen Valiente’s permission, I hasten to add, because a lot of the original Book of Shadows was her work. She took one look at the work we were doing, because we got to know her, and we said “Look, do you approve of this?” And she said “Well, there’s a bit more to it than that. A lot of this is my material, the Charge and etc… You have my permission to print it and be damned!” We said, “Well, fine if we’ve got your permission it goes into the book.” Continue reading