Nothing to see here


Drama is a savory thing which feeds the human spirit.  That’s evident in the fact that my last post referencing the Wild Hunt received more than 15 times the traffic of anything I write about honoring gods and other spirits, about journalism or theology or politics or even whatnot.  I do appreciate the attention, but I hope that those who stop by, popcorn in hand, are willing to hang out a bit and learn something.

Drama-icon

I’m encouraging my readers to actually consider my contributions to Pagan thought and action, because there’s nothing to see in terms of the Wild Hunt.  While the process of my leaving was awkward rather than graceful, my support for Pagan journalism — including specifically the largely thankless work provided by the journalists who publish at the Wild Hunt Sunday through Thursday — is full-throated and unabated.

Somehow the extra time which opened up by not writing that extra news article every week, and editing three more, has not translated into an expanded blogging presence.  Instead, I’ve been developing an ancestral dream incubation ritual to be enacted this month, creating tools for political magic, sharpening my divination skills, creating a product line for my languishing Etsy store, and finalizing two book proposals.

Those of you who know me personally — and especially those who have expressed public dissatisfaction with my work while declining to engage with me directly — are invited to consider your understanding of how hospitality works.  I’m happy to speak about my experiences and what I’ve learned with individuals, but neither Facebook nor any other mass-broadcast online platform is suitable for that exchange of ideas.

Supporting Pagan journalism includes spending money on it, as well as educating oneself about journalism in general.  I wholeheartedly encourage my co-religionists and all who identify themselves as Pagan, polytheist, or Heathen to do both.  We have the voice we deserve.

Clarification


I’d hoped never to comment on this nonsense again, but as there is at least one Wild Hunt columnist who clearly believes he (who by his own admission is not a journalist) has the facts straight about my resignation, and his column remains despite my specific request that it be retracted, I do have something more to say.

The blogger who has been allowed to publish “a public apology from the Wild Hunt” demonstrates that he is, indeed, not a journalist.  After praising a retraction (which, after the last time she pulled an article due to pressure, the managing editor swore to me would never happen again; she regretted the clear hit to the agency’s credibility and her clear claims of support for freedom of the press), the blogger writes this:  “The Wild Hunt is also working on internal changes to ensure that journalistic standards are more consistently maintained and has said that they will report back on that aspect sometime next week.”

The use of the word additionally shows a clear intent to imply that there is causality between the two events; I presume the writer sincerely believed this to be the case when it was written.  I was not asked if this was the case, and to the best of my knowledge no one else was, either.  The post was not changed even after the sad little acknowledgement of that fact was posted as an afterthought.

I’ve been told that as he is an independent contractor there is no way to control his actions, but I am surprised that position was taken in light of the fact that his post title deigns to speak for the organization.  That is inconsistent with the fierce brand protection I myself observed during my four years there.

The following comment was posted on Facebook, but as I have no control over whether it remains I repeat it here:

The decision to resign emerged over weeks, if not months. I was asked flat-out if I intended to do so the day the article was published; at the time I was unaware it was going to be pulled, and would not have resigned under those circumstances. Further, in the interest of a smoother transition I offered to stay on for an unspecified amount of time, but the managing editor (who asked if I was resigning) opted to make the decision effective immediately. According to her bio on the site, the managing editor “has taught public relations techniques at Cherry Hill Seminary.” Readers are welcome to draw their own conclusions about the timing of the resignation, and what message it may have been intended to convey.

My life is already blossoming with new possibilities to work in robust, professional environments that will likely get me paid far more than the $25 per article which is all Pagan support of the Wild Hunt will allow.  On that note, I leave my own readers with this thought:

uonujggp91c1lezmlbkn
support Pagan journalism. I leave the determination of whether this journalist was supported, and otherwise how that support might manifest, to the reader.

On the Wild Hunt


A few hours ago, I ended my time at the Wild Hunt after a number of months of reflection on, worship over, and seeking guidance about what nourishes me and serves my highest purpose.  While it might have appeared sudden to most people, as it’s none of their business, it was anything but.

However, complete strangers have since approached me, asking if I “lost my job” over the last article I wrote.  I did not.

For one thing, no one can be fired from the Wild Hunt, and anyone who claims to have ever been fired is either ignorant or a liar.  This is independent contractor work, not a job.

I did not participate in an editorial decision to replace that news article with an apology.  I was not told my services were no longer needed, and I was not asked to resign.  I am simply in need of change.

While I mourn the change, I also know it will open for me new possibilities.  I wish those who carry forth the valuable tradition of truth-speaking all the blessings of Hermes in their work, and the knowledge that bright Helios watches them.

Remember the offender


Yesterday, I had the opportunity to be part of some team reporting, which gives me a taste of what it must have been like back when newspapers had big budgets. After Cara Schulz detailed the challenges faced in one Wiccan community when complaints of sexual misconduct were brought forth, I followed up with some best practices for handling sex-abuse cases in Pagan groups.

Team reporting makes me better at this job, but it can become frantic.  I regret leaving out a point which probably is as controversial as it is important: abandoning abusers isn’t a solution.  When we banish, ostracize, or push out offenders, we hand the problem off to strangers and miss the opportunity to fix things.

While the high recidivism rate for sex offenders is a common topic of conversation, I learned through my interviews that treatment actually works.  While pushing someone out of one’s group might solve the immediate problem, without the tools to deal with the problem it’s pretty likely that there will be other victims at some point.  Is kicking the can down the road an ethical response?

Some sex offenders are ready to admit they have a problem, I now understand.  Among them, there’s a fear of reprisal and consequence for coming clean; being able to accept that fact is part of treatment.  Are there ways to continue to include a known offender without putting people at risk?  Of course, but it’s going to take work, and it’s going to take compassion for someone who may well have done some terrible things.  There’s also the question of potential offenders, who would prefer not to harm anyone but are afraid to admit they have a problem due to rejection.  Isolation does not help that work, which is all but impossible to do without help.

In Pagan and polytheist communities, we are moving toward a better understanding of how to support victims.  That includes believing them, and encouraging them to talk to the police.  We are not there yet, and it’s been a painful process to get even this far.  Finding ways to support offenders as well as victims is going to be a lot more painful, but I think it’s work we need to do if we are actually interested in healing.

When words matter


The article I wrote about Pagan copyright violations was complicated.  For one, the laws themselves are complicated.  For another, many people (Pagan and not) believe they understand those laws, when mostly all they understand is what other people have told them.  That can lead to people with good intentions violating laws or harming other people.  Yuck.

What I cannot understand is the way people dig in, and really fight for the right to make infinite copies of works others created, even after authors patiently explain how these actions bring harm.  That’s why I felt it was important to capture some of those sentiments.  This is not evidence that Paganism is fracturing and falling apart (if it ever was together), because this is not a Pagan issue at all.  21st-century people seem to feel thoroughly entitled to get it all for free, and when the legitimate channels of free information bore them, they will go to incredible lengths to justify this theft.

Wiccan and, I am certain, other Pagan ethics are quickly tossed aside in favor of having another book for free.  I’m not claiming the moral high ground here; I downloaded some music before the turn of the century that I shouldn’t have, and I do understand the allure, but the magnitude of the problem is mind-blowing.  The cognitive disconnect is such that I am sure someone is downloading Pagan Ethics as you read this.  Considering that the group owner was not only unapologetic, but openly admitting he’d put the content someplace where it again could be illegally downloaded, is evidence of a problem which isn’t just him, or that one group, or people who follow a Pagan or polytheist religion.  It’s all of us, and something has to change or art itself may be relegated to something people only do as a hobby.

There are some who believe they are sticking it to the man, or believe that all information should be free, or down with government.  I get that, I really do.  I wonder how many female/gay/trans/minority/disabled authors feels empowered by their actions?  Is it possible that theft is simply theft, and shouldn’t be used as a form of activism any more than rioting should, because it’s impossible to predict who will be harmed?

Perhaps we need to find a way to return to patronage of the arts.  I know that Patreon is out there, but I’ve avoided it simply because it carries with it an expectation to perform like a circus animal, generating content to keep the patrons happy.  That’s not how art is created, and I don’t think it’s how patronage works best.  I’ve been researching a book on Pagans and money for five years and it could be another five before I get it written.  It would be far longer if I had to stop to provide proof-of-life content; I’d have to work on posts and fresh content instead of reading and taking notes on what I’d like to say.  It seems to work for some folks, but I am not sure it’s for me.

Cultivating sources


Rev._Paul_Beyerl

Paul Beyerl [Wikimedia Commons].

When I asked to interview Paul Beyerl for this week, it was because I strongly believe in preserving the wisdom of our elders.  Now in his seventies, Beyerl was easy to talk to in part because he’s not put off by the idea that he’s an elder.  What I wasn’t expecting from the conversation was news that his church’s center would be uprooted and moved in the near future, after 24 years establishing a botanical garden in the suburbs of Seattle.

That’s the joy of journalism: discovering interesting information that the people holding it don’t necessarily think is newsworthy.  It takes good questions, intuition, luck, and often a lot of time to get those answers.

Earlier in the week, The Wild Hunt posted an update about the Druid Daniel Scott Holbrook, based on a court transcript in which the prosecutor asserted in closing arguments that Holbrook had not downloaded hundreds of images accidentally, as he’s claimed.  There were people who had that information when I wrote the original article, but for various reasons didn’t believe it to be newsworthy, ergo I didn’t find out until I saw the transcript, and only then did I start asking questions.

The occasional detractor of the news site for which I write will complain about a lack of investigative journalism.  I have to wonder if such people understand what that kind of work requires.  While it’s not technically difficult, conducting investigations takes quite a bit of time.  Back when newspapers were the go-to source for news, there were reporters who spent weeks or months on a single story, talking to people and sifting through documents in search of the truth.

I would love to throw myself into that kind of work, but if I spent 40 hours a week on chasing down mysteries in the Pagan community, I wouldn’t have time for any other writing.  I contribute to several other news sites and publications, all of which pay me a flat write per story, stories which take time to research and write.  The Wild Hunt is no different in that regard.  My family couldn’t afford to give up those other sources of income, and The Wild Hunt treasury isn’t big enough to pay me what I would need to do that full time.

What’s required for deeper, more thorough investigations?  Money.  Lots and lots of money.  To turn just one reporter into an investigative machine would require more than doubling how much money is donated during the annual fund drive.  I base that on my own situation, which is unusual because I’m not the primary earner.  Replacing my lost income, plus adding a new reporter to the weekly rotation (because I likely wouldn’t have a finished story every week, and the ten-year-plus tradition of new content daily could not be broken) would run about $20,000.

I stand ready to do more for the Pagan communities.  Are Pagans and polytheists willing to step up and make that possible?

Difficult work


I volunteered to take on the Kenny Klein coverage for The Wild Hunt, which until this week was just a matter of checking a court docket from time to time.  That changed when Klein was convicted.  When witnesses finally testified, what came out of their mouths was horrifying to me.  It’s the first time I have ever felt the need to take a purifying bath after writing.

One thought remains with me:  I hope Klein will have access to ministers of his faith while imprisoned.  I believe everyone deserves that opportunity.