TAG | Pagans at the Parliament
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.
Office of Secretary
Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions
While the 2009 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Melbourne, Australia, has now ended, we can still expect more from this group-blog! I’m hoping we’ll see some posts from Pagan participants that were too busy during the event to share their thoughts once the dust has settled a bit. We may also have some more audio and video to share in the days ahead. I’d also like to remind everyone reading this of the other great Pagan blogs that have been covering this Parliament.
- Circle Interfaith News
- COG Interfaith Reports
- EarthSpirit Voices
- Spiritual Resources
- The Wild Hunt
- T. Thorn Coyle’s Musings
- Women at the Parliament
Be sure to keep an eye on them all for post-Parliament updates and reports. Thanks to all the great folks who took time from their busy Parliament schedule to share their experiences with the world, and special thanks to Ed Hubbard for being our press contact on the ground in Melbourne. I think this project has been a great success, and really pushed our media presence forward in exciting new ways.
By Ed Hubbard
(PNC, Melbourne Australia) On December 8, 2009, The Obama Administration officials from the Justice and Faith-Based Initiative offices, met with select members of the Parliament of the World’s Religions. It was a small meeting of approx. 50 members from various faiths. Patrick McCollum, of Circle Sanctuary and one of the principal advocates of Pagan based ministry, was invited to partake and speak during this meeting. He was among religious and spiritual leaders from multiple faiths including Native American, Australian Aboriginals, as well as contingents from Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhists communities.
According to Rev. McCollum, the meeting was about how the Obama Administration can advance Interfaith relations in the United States. After McCollum’s discussion, officials from the White House sought him out, to have him meet top officials of the administration to discuss how to limit discrimination and promote Interfaith education in the United States as well as internationally. Upon his return to the states, Patrick McCollum may be able to meet with members with the Justice department as well as the Offices of Faith Based Initiatives to discuss the many outstanding situations that are currently within the American court system.
This has been an advance forward for the Interfaith cause and for Pagans everywhere.
I’m very pleased to present, as part of my coverage of the Pagan presence at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Melbourne, Australia, an interview with Pagan scholar Michael York. Michael York is Professor of Cultural Astronomy and Astrology at Bath Spa University College, UK, an instructor at Cherry Hill Seminary, and author of “Pagan Theology: Paganism as a World Religion”. We discussed the evolving place of modern Paganism at the Parliament, the importance of the Pagan voice in interfaith interactions, and how polytheism promotes democracy.
If you are a Pagan podcaster, or host a Pagan-friendly radio show, you are welcome to download this file to play on your program. Be sure to credit the Pagan Newswire Collective as the audio source. For more Parliament-related audio, check out my discussion with Ed Hubbard, a PNC correspondent, as well as host of MagickTV and Pagans Tonight. There are more scheduled Parliament interviews, so stay tuned to the Pagans at the Parliament blog for the latest news.
I’ve posted a short audio interview with Ed Hubbard, a PNC correspondent, as well as host of MagickTV and Pagans Tonight, from Melbourne, Australia. We discuss some of the emerging themes regarding Pagans at the Parliament, Pagans and indigenous religions, Pagan ritual at the Parliament, and other topics.
If you are a Pagan podcaster, or host a Pagan-friendly radio show, you are welcome to download this file to play on your program. Be sure to credit the Pagan Newswire Collective as the audio source.
I’m a Hermetic magickian from San Francisco at the Parliament, blogging the event from my own site miniver.blogspot.com — I’ve managed to do three posts so far, and hoping to find time for more …
While Saturday is just beginning for us in America, it is already finished in Australia, and a large influx of updates and reports from the Pagan delegations at the Parliament of the World’s Religions have appeared. Let’s start with Dave Linton of Circle Sanctuary’s report of Patrick McCollum’s Saturday-morning ritual at the Parliament.
“Today started with the Solstice Sites and Celebrations program and ritual, which was held outdoors at 8:00 am under a sparkling blue sky, next to the Yarra river, and outside the massive glass walls of the Melbourne Convention Center. Patrick McCollum started the session with a discussion of the combined Northern Hemisphere Winter Solstice and Southern Hemisphere Summer Solstice celebration. This led to how Solstices have been celebrated through the ages, and sacred places where these celebrations have been held historically, and are today.”
But that wasn’t the only Pagan observance happening at Parliament, EarthSpirit’s blog brings us an account of Friday afternoon’s “Peace at the Heart of the World” ritual, co-facilitated by Deirdre Pulgram Arthen, Andras Corban Arthen and Angie Buchanan.
Peace ritual procession. Photo by Moira Ashleigh.
“In the ritual many Pagan presenters offered a spoken piece including T Thorn Coyle, River Higginbotham, Drake Spaeth, Anna Korn, Don Frew, Patrick McCollum, Sue Curewitz Arthen, Kaye Hughes Kittredge, Chris LaFond, Moira Ashleigh and several of the Queensland Pagans. The sacred waters of the worlds were brought to bless everyone as well as the sacred symbolic rattles by Julee Higginbotham. MotherTongue led several chants and closed with a Gaelic Blessing.”
Meanwhile, Don Frew from COG gives us a behind-the-scenes look at the chaos sometimes involved in putting such a ritual together. In fact, the COG Interfaith Reports blog has been refreshingly candid about the frustrations and hectic-paced nature of an event of this magnitude. I’m amazed at how often they’ve been able to update. According to a communication I’ve had from author and Cherry Hill Seminary teacher Michael York, there’s barely time to breath, let alone eat, due to the oft-times frenzied pace. Perhaps that’s why Thorn Coyle wisely decided to share short vignettes in her latest update, rather than even attempt a longer narrative.
“Saami in embroidered clothing. Orange robes. Grey robes. Business suits. Saris. Brown robes. Golden robes. Celtic patterns. Jeans. Turbans. Hijab. Bare heads. Skin of many hues and hair of many textures. Many, many smiles.”
As for local Pagans, they shared their hospitality at Friday’s Parliament Local Community Night, where the Melbourne Reclaiming group organized a ritual and local Pagan rock-star Wendy Rule (among others) performed. There hasn’t been much written about it (yet), but I’ve heard nothing but good things from the folks who’ve been in contact with me.
Turning briefly to mainstream coverage of the Parliament, Pagans haven’t been mentioned all that much, save for a brief aside in an article about the items for sale in the exhibitor’s hall.
“The sceptics are the only ones missing in action. But the pagans have set up shop with a contingent of about 50 from the United States. At their stall they sell celebratory music for the winter solstice – a bargain at $20.”
I suppose our lack of impression on the global media (so far) is understandable considering the many religious (and political) heavy-hitters presenting and giving talks at the Parliament. This state of being lost in a sea of religious voices only underscores why it’s important for Pagan organizations and journalists to work together in getting the word out, something that I think is starting to happen with events like this.
As always, stay tuned to the Pagans at the Parliament blog for more updates, I expect we’ll be hearing from more folks as the paces starts to slow down a bit, and attendees have a moment to collect their thoughts and report in. I’m still arranging audio interviews, so more on that as it happens.
“Friday Evening was the Communities night, in which the local Melbourne communities hosted visiting Parliament attendees of their various paths. We were guests of the Melbourne Pagan community, which has a very vibrant and active group of people, from at least three separate traditions that I could determine. Ritual was interesting – you have to get used to the Sun being in the North, and that South represents Earth. The circles are cast in the counterclockwise direction, because that is the way the sun goes through the sky here.”
“In the early afternoon Chris tuned and played the harp in the registration hall, Kaye and Kate sang and Moira danced to Old Woman. The group attracted the attention of a Parliament journalist who had them do a sound byte of music and some video where Moira announced the Tuesday morning observance by MotherTongue, all done on the journalist’s iphone, which he called old technology.”
In a final note, Don Frew from C.O.G. shares the text of the Waters of the World ceremony that he and Anna Korn performed as part of a Peace ritual at the Parliament.
“In some traditions, water represents the life force; in others it symbolizes the Divine Spirit. We ourselves are 98% water. If two people from warring nations come together, they may be in conflict. But if they pour water from their homelands into a bowl… One water does not try to be higher than the other – they find a common level. One water does not try to stay separate from the other and keep only to its side of the bowl – they mix together and become one. And so, the mixing of waters has come to symbolize our desire for peace and unity.”
Click on the links to read the full reports, and stay tuned for posts from our blog-participants.
“76 people of a variety of faiths ended up joining in, which was far too large a number for the stuffy room. It was a joy to reach our arms to the vault of blue, and to open to each other as we danced the qualities of air, fire, water, earth and spirit. Jews, Christians, New Thought practitioners, Pagans and Hindus all danced together, happily, culminating in a joyous spiral dance. A Lutheran minister from India was so excited, he asked if we would be doing this every morning, and when I told him no, proffered his card, saying I must come to visit India. I was asked several times throughout the day if we would be dancing again. Perhaps next Parliament.”
You can read her first update, here. Thorn has posting access to this blog now, so we’ll hopefully be hearing more from her directly for future updates.