Pagans at the Parliament

Highlights from the “Global and Interreligious Education Through Peer-to-Peer and Online Learning” panel, featuring Witch School’s Ed Hubbard, at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Melbourne, Australia

This concludes Magick TV coverage of the Fifth Parliament of the World’s Religions, held in Melbourne, Australia 2009. Our complete archive, with much more video from shared resources, you can view it at Parliament Pages at Witch School.

This project for the Pagan Community and in cooperation with the Pagan Newswire Collective was financed by Witch School Membership and the Correllian Tradition.

A brief look at the “Dancing the Seven Sacred Directions” workshop by T. Thorn Coyle at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Melbourne Australia. Very brief.

“Peace Pole Dedication Ceremony -For Reconciliation Among Religions and Peace Among Nations” From the Parliament of the World’s Religions, Melbourne, Australia.

This was all the flags of the people of the World who attended the event.

This was the last interview we did at the Parliament, as this was moments before the closing Plenary. This was with Gavin Andrew, and it was quite enjoyable but all too short.

This is part 2 of They Call Us Pagans: The European Indigenous Panel

To See Part 1: Click Here


I’ll begin with this quoted directly from the press package widely distributed by Andras, Phyllis and myself to the media at the Parliament event.

“The following is a very brief introduction to the various practices that are collectively known as Paganism, based on some of the most common questions that we are often asked about them. Paganism encompasses quite a wide chronological, geographic and cultural scope, so it is important to bear in mind that this concise and generalized overview cannot do justice to the breadth and complexity of its various traditions.”

Let me first say that my work at the Parliament and in other Interfaith arenas is not to represent “The Pagan Community” in the way it is being inferred here on this thread because that “Community” by its own hand, does not exist. My role is to make room for the many voices Pagan and otherwise that will eventually come to participate in the dialogs on global, social issues.

I have been involved in the interfaith forums for most of my adult life and having been associated with the Parliament since 1992, I was elected to its Board of Trustees in 2002. I am there because I believe that as a Pagan, what I have to say in that forum has value to the larger issues of Peace on Earth, and a Sustainable Planet.

Those who know me or who have heard me speak about my position on Paganism, and its involvement in the Interfaith Movement, have supported my efforts and my voice with their time, their prayers and their money. What was said at the Parliament is no different than what has been said in their presence. If I am there to represent anyone it is them however; the message is already in place – and their support is one of response — not solicitation.

In my personal participation and my observation of what happened at the Parliament, there was no attempt to “legitimize” anything, nor was there an effort to ostracize anything. There were many very successful attempts to explain concepts, terms and belief structures in ways and using vocabulary understood by those either unfamiliar with or frightened by our practices — by providing them with a frame of reference.

If we wish to be able to continue to enjoy the rights, privileges and respect that we deserve as a world religion, that other religions take for granted, to be welcomed to participate in the dialogs and problem solving of issues that affect the whole of humanity and the planet, no matter how you worship, we have to find a way to communicate in those forums. That is what we have done for the communities and individuals who have given us their votes of confidence; we have found a way to communicate and the doors that have been slammed in our faces in the past are slowly opening to us now.

We cannot forget that many of the global issues up for discussion in the interfaith forums ARE our spiritual path — revering the Earth as sacred and protecting Her resources; clean water and air, fair food distribution. These concepts were once the object of scorn by governments and mainstream religions and now, suddenly they are vogue. Suddenly the Divine Feminine is rising within the patriarchal structures when for 2500 years She has been shoved into the closet, ignored, and attempts have been made to erase Her from religious texts as well as the history books.

We have been at this place before, where our practices are absorbed by more financially powerful paradigms and twisted into something almost unrecognizable. We must find a way to work with others on these important issues while still maintaining guardianship of them, or risk losing them again when perhaps they go out of style.

To reduce what happened at the Parliament event in Australia to an argument about defining Paganism is to miss the entire point of the Parliament itself, and the Interfaith Movement in general.

~Angie Buchanan
Office of Secretary
Executive Board
Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions

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A friend tells a story about people cleaning the kitchen in a monastery. One admonishes the dishwashers, “Remember, these are the Buddha’s bowls!” The sensei, walking by at that moment retorts, “They are not the Buddha’s bowls! They are the Buddha’s flesh!” This speaks volumes about our relationship to what we consider to be “objects” and to the parts of Pagan theology that say the Divine is immanent and that everything is sacred.

I’ve used this story in teaching as a way to illustrate how we treat our “stuff” and why it is that we value a hand thrown plate more than a factory made plate. Our animal soul responds to the amount of life force, care and intention we can sense in the hand-crafted object. We tend to devalue the factory made object because we have a harder time relating to it energetically. Yet both are of similar substances and both hold the pattern of the Immanent Divine. However, a sense of distance from the sacredness of some objects makes it easier to have a “throw away” culture in which the inexpensive is considered to be disposable – less sacred – than the expensive. Sometimes expense reflects the amount of labor that went into the manufacturing, and other times it is product of some strange status attached to a particular brand. In any case, the landfill grows, resources dwindle, and we keep on buying more, rather than relating more thoroughly with what we already have. These days it is difficult to even get anything repaired. It’s cheaper to get a new one. And in some cases, the technology shifts so quickly, the thing needing repair is already outdated. So what do we do with that part of God Herself? We send it back to China where elderly women and children salvage the various metals, often at great cost to their health.

This is a part of Pagan theology – and truly any theology that wishes a right relationship with Nature in all its forms – that I would like to ponder further. It feels important to the consistency of our “beliefs”: “Everything is sacred.” or “We are all part of the web of life.” or “Thou art Goddess.” What do these things really mean when lived? And are we living them?

Two things at the Parliament of the World Religions gathering stood out for me as helpful additions to this topic:

Ainu elder Tsugio Kuzuno spoke of the damage Japan has done to the earth and people by investing so heavily in “growth culture”. In the midst of his ideas on this, one thing stood out sharply:…spirits accumulate also in man-made objects. When you make something, you are responsible for what you have made. There is a dark side and a light side to every product. You should not make something that cannot be reabsorbed into nature.

That statement orients us clearly in the sacred, does it not? It implicates our current practices directly in the rending of human relations with the kamui of Mother Earth and gives a clear directive for repair this rupture. The mending begins within, with human attitudes and human ethics. Are we in relationship with the material world or not? As Pagans, I think our answer would be a resounding “yes”. So what does that mean for all of our choices and actions? Theology includes practice.

The second idea that feels germane to this discussion came during the presentation, “The Revival of the European Pagan Traditions.” Andras Corban Arthen said that in Gaelic there are two different ways of using the possessive tense, each with it’s own word. One, which translates as “mine” only represents something that made you or that you made. For example: “my ancestors” or “my child” or “my boat” (if you fashioned the boat) or “my book” (if you wrote the book).

The other possessive form translates as “I am with” to show that you are in relationship with the house or land, or with your partner or colleagues. There is no word for “owning” something that you have not directly made.

This seems like a very helpful distinction. In US terms, I might say that we are in closer relationship with a house that “we own” than one “we rent” because our responsibility to it is greater. But closer relationship still does not connote actual ownership. We can tie this back to Kuzuno’s thoughts on responsibility for things we have made – if Dell or Apple computers says “these are our computers” in the first possessive usage, they are taking responsibility along with ownership. Not only can they claim credit for the benefits that their computers give, they can claim responsibility for the toxic waste that is the end product, and by extension the health of those workers affected by the salvage.

Ainu leader Ryoko Foose told us that in their language, the name given to Mother Earth reflected the relationship between her and humans. If true relationship to the sacred in all things was consistently recognized, how might the talks at Copenhagen be going differently? Would Wal-mart even be in business, were there not a flood of inexpensive (cheap in labor cost, but high in cost to humans and environment) and highly disposable goods available?

I look around at my rented home filled with stuff. Most of it consists of books and hand-made art, things that are pleasing to my soul. Yet I also acknowledge that if I had fewer of these beautiful objects, my relationships to each might feel more intimate. I might come to know them better.

They are all the Buddha’s flesh. They, and we, are all God Herself.

I pray that each day, we try to remember the sacred, and to come into closer and more healthy relationship with everything: animate or inanimate, animal, vegetable, mineral, water, fire, soil, or flesh, paint, ceramic, petroleum, or plastic, chemical or quark.

Blessed be.

- T. Thorn Coyle

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This was the single most popular Panel in which a Pagan participated in. The room was stacked with over 400 people, in a room designed for 250 people.

This is the Divine Feminine panel from the Parliament of the World’s Religions held in Melbourne Australia. Speakers include Phyllis Curott, Ven. Karma Lekshe Tsomo, Mother Maya, Sr. Joan Chittister, and moderator Mary-Faeth Chenery.

Men Who Love the Goddess
Drake Spaeth, Patrick McCollum, Michael York. River Higginbotham, Don Lewis


Panel Discussion
Notable among contemporary Pagan traditions is the reawakening and re-emergence of the Goddess as a feminine manifestation of the divine. While Pagan women have undeniably been instrumental in bringing the Goddess back into common awareness and spiritual practice within contemporary western cultures, Pagan men have a unique perspective on the divine feminine, as well as a variety of ways of connecting with Her as She manifests to them. The panellists, all Pagan men of different traditions,
will discuss their experiences, ideas, perspectives, and practices with regard to the Goddess and will respond to questions and facilitate discussion among audience attendees. This panel presentation welcomes audience members of all faith traditions.

Drake Spaeth, PsyD is program faculty in the MA Clinical Psychology Department, Counseling Specialization at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. He is also an ordained minister of Circle Sanctuary and is affiliated with Gaia’s Womb and Earth Traditions. His interests encompass contemporary Paganism, shamanism, mysticism, Western esotericism, Jungian psychology, Humanistic-Existential psychology and Transpersonal psychology. He is intrigued by the places where psychology, religion and spirituality converge.

Patrick McCollum is the Director and Chair of the National Correctional Chaplaincy Directors Association and statewide Wiccan chaplain for the California Department of Corrections. McCollum has taught Pagan Chaplaincy Training at the Leadership Institute, part of Circle Sanctuary’s annual Pagan Spirit Gathering. He is the National Coordinator of the Lady Liberty League Prison Ministries Program and a member of the National Advisory Council of Americans United for the Separation of Church and

Michael York is a Professor of Cultural Astronomy and Astrology with the Bath Spa University’s Sophia Centre. He directs the New Age and Pagan Studies Programme for the College’s Department for the Study of Religions. He co-ordinates the Bath Archive for Contemporary Religious Affairs, directs the Amsterdam Center for Eurindic Studies, and codirects the London-based Academy for Cultural and Educational Studies. He has authored several books.

River Higginbotham is active in teaching, networking, and promoting Paganism and other earth-centred religions, on a local and national level. He is a founding member of the Council for Alternative Spiritual Traditions. River is an Eclectic Pagan and has been involved in spiritual exploration and earth-centred religions for the past fifteen years. He is a mechanical engineer with a dual degree in solar engineering. His interests include travel, history, aviation and community building.

Rev Donald Lewis-Highcorrell is First Priest and Paramount High Priest of the Correllian Tradition. Don received his training from Rev Krystel High-Correll, Chief Priestess of the Correll Mother Temple. Don also received training from the blv Lady LaVeda, the blv Lady Gloria, and Lady Bitterwind, Elders of the Correllian Tradition. In addition Don has studied both formally and informally with a variety of teachers from many Traditions.

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Ed. Note: It opens with a nearly 9 minute blessing that is very powerful and unusual.

“Indigenous Peoples’ Statement to the World” at the Parliament of the World’s Religions 11:30am – 1:00pm Wednesday, December 9th.

The document will be brought after the Parliament to all of your communities to raise consciousness and increase support for the issues of Indigenous Peoples. Bring your friends and colleagues!
Kind regards,
The International Indigenous Task Force Committee
and The Aboriginal Planning Committee of Melbourne
This is part of the Audio/Video Pagans at the Parliament created on behalf of Magick TV and Pagan Newswire Collective, exclusively funded by Witch School and the Correllian Tradition.

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