Question of the week: Cultural Innovators.

A recent article on asked, “Where have all the Gardners and Crowleys gone?” (Full article here, and author Juniper’s home page here.) The more general question that the author was asking, it seems to me, was: Where are all the innovators, the trailblazers, the elders? Why do we no longer have people of the intellectual and imaginative calibre of the pagan ‘big names’ of the early to mid 20th century?

Her answer to that question was twofold. For one, she claimed that pagans treat their elders and innovators rather badly; and two, the innovators themselves quickly become jaded as the fruits of their life-long labour goes disrespected or forgotten. A third answer was also implied in this sentence: “Because we buy white-lighter, easy-to-read, fluffy little books when we should be buying the books Chapters and Barnes and Noble refuse to sell.“. Well, as a writer of books that are certainly not fluff and white light, you can imagine this caught my attention right away.

So my question for this week concerns the innovators in our movement, and how we treat them. Is Juniper correct when she says that the community itself, because of a predisposition to exploit and disrespect such people, tends to prevent them from emerging? Or, in your experience is there an emerging culture which recognises, benefits from, and respects such people? Who do you turn to when you need advice, or help, or information about your path, or even just a kind word once in a while? What qualities do they embody which makes you want to turn to those people, and not others?

Are there people today who are doing the kind of trail-blazing, innovative work that people like Gardner and Crowley once did? Another way to put this question, as my friend Susan Hurrell put it, “what living pagan author would you pay $100+ to hear lecture for 2 hours?”* For that matter, what living author of any spiritual tradition would you pay $100 to hear?

I will post my own list in a few days.

*You don’t have to include me on your list. I already know that I’m still a small time writer, and much of what I write about these days is only tangentially related to paganism anyway.

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53 Responses to Question of the week: Cultural Innovators.

  1. iclysdale says:

    Here’s sort of a counter-question and sort of the same question:

    Especially in the case of Gardner, how many people in the 1950s would have paid $100+ to hear him lecture for 2 hours?

    • valgarth says:


      Awesome insight.

    • admin says:

      Well, lots of people paid to tour his museum.

      But I’m sure they didn’t pay £100. Point taken. 🙂

    • pombagira says:

      odly, or not so odly, the socio-economic of the then burgeoning (sp?) modern pagans was in the realm of independently wealthy, thus mostly upper class, so … $100 pounds or dollars? to here a lecture for 2 hours….while doable and i am guessing some would of as Old Gerald was quite charismatic character and noteworthy person, i have a feeling that there was amongst some people of that time an unspoken truth, that Gardners history was a tad fanciful, .. thus they wouldn’t have… so i guess that all points to how the pagans where not that different from todays pagans, some where more taken with Gardner than others, some would of paid 100 pounds and or dollars to here him talk for two hours. (or they might of it it was a equivalent thingo given inflation and time passed etc etc) Others would not of, and some of those others would of gone of and started their own tradition.. errr… *grins*

      so short answer yes and no… *smiles*

      umm.. i liked your question a lot, so i had to answer it.. hope that is ok.. *smiles*…

  2. valgarth says:

    Well, I may be biased…

    …but I think that a couple of people who created a public pagan ministry in the face of heavy opposition from both internal and external sources, in order that more people could have access to pagan ways of worship might have been blazing a bit of a trail. In fact, I might, though I know others will disagree, go so far as to say that if said couple hadn’t blazed that trail 30+ years ago, very few of Canada’s modern pagans would be calling themselves that today. I may be wrong. Maybe there would have come along others to do the same task, but the fact is that these two did it and while I certainly do not claim that there would be no pagans in Canada without them, I have to say that public access to the way that we worship would be very, very different today if not for them.

    Would I pay $100+ to hear them lecture, well, no. But that’s because I’m lucky enough to be able to go to their house for lunch.

  3. marytek says:

    It goes to the heart of how the “community” functions. The idea of monetary compensation is an anethma to most pagans. I’ve been asked numerous times to do people’s taxes, and when the topic of compensation comes up I get these shocked expressions that I would dare to mention money. And yet, for those services which people have to pay tend to be valued more highly than those that they get gratis.

    You get covens and teaching circles where individuals are taught that whatever teaching they get or give should be free as money taints the spiritual transaction. And yet I personally don’t believe that, there is valuable services being offered by pagans are not willing to compensate their Elders or professionals.

    I’ve met way too many individuals who have a hard time making their rent, but they can easily find the money for the latest bling/athame.

    Where are the trailblazers? They are tired and broke.

    But in other parts of the world there is much trailblazing going on, just not within the North American/Western European context.

  4. alfrecht says:

    I wouldn’t pay $100+ to hear anyone lecture for two hours!

    The first thing I think when I hear rates like that is “So, the Church of Scientology is trying to move in here, is it?” Anyone who thinks they deserve that much money for a two hour lecture should have multiple academic degrees (not initiatory ones), probably a Nobel prize or two, and also be providing a banquet for that price.

    The only exception to something like this which I’d conceivably make to this is if somehow, in all seriousness, some enterprising group found a way to bring someone like Socrates forward in time (or Alexander the Great, or Hadrian, or Hypatia…!), and had them simultaneously translated into English, and able to take questions afterwards. Then, I’d consider it.

    For a full weekend workshop (of 8+ hours a day) of someone that I was a really huge admirer of, I might pay that much, but for two hours? You’d have to be fucking joking.

    I’m only answering the latter part of your question, because as far as innovators go, and the people to whom I turn for advice in my tradition?–I look no further than the mirror (or, perhaps more appropriately, my own library), to be honest…I am the innovator as far as the Ekklesía Antínoou is concerned (though I am hoping that will change soon as others take more responsibility for this path), and for Celtic Recon matters, aspects of practice are things I like to discuss with others, but for information, it would be a waste of time going elsewhere in most cases. I don’t claim to know all or to be infallible or to have the most respectable or authoritative opinion on these matters, by any means, but it would be disingenuous to suggest that I’m not anything but eminently qualified to have a useful thing to say or two in relation to these subjects.

    • Anonymous says:

      See, that’s the problem. Nobody trusts, nobody respects, and people think that writers and speakers and ‘innovators’ should work for free. Or for very little. There are a few pagan innovators out there who i’d be willing to pay $100 to hear. If some speaker or writer really is doing good things for the community, then we are stingy selfish buggers if we don’t reward them.

      Surprising that Bren didn’t mention it, since i’m sure he knows this, but when Native elders do things for their people, they get paid. An elder who does an afternoon sweatlodge, or teaching, or work in a justice circle, or whatever, gets his/her traditional gift of tobacco at the beginning, and at the end he gets a thank-you card with $250 cash. Or whatever the person is able to pay. His/her food is provided too. Why can’t we do that?

      • alfrecht says:

        If a community gets the money together to fund something like that, of course there’s no problem, and I wouldn’t object to it. Having someone do something for a group of people and then getting paid $250 for it is one thing; charging every person who attends $100 (especially if they’re not going to get individual attention in that two-hour session) is ridiculous in the extreme.

        However, for myself, I cannot afford anything that is $100 or more for an hour or two in my current economic situation. It would have to be something truly stellar, that I knew would be worth that much, to even consider it. If the non-early-registration rate at a four day extravaganza like PantheaCon is $75, then asking for more than that for two hours would really have to be something impressive beyond belief.

        Furthermore, I have enough difficulty getting people to pay $5 for a two-hour lecture/presentation on a local level. (I’m a credentialed academic, with many academic publications and a book due out soon, and a number of spirituality-based publications as well; I’m nowhere near as well-known as , but he’s been publishing longer than I have!) Some people who have attended events like that I’ve put on have asked for discounts due to under-employment, and while I’d like to make what I do accessible to people regardless of their financial status, I’m not even under-employed at the moment.

        It must be possible to strike a balance between prohibitive costliness and accessibility…

      • abbadie says:

        Native elders get paid? Wish this weren’t an anonymous comment; if you drop by, please give me some references for this. We are currently having a debate on the subject of charging for things directly or indirectly related to spirituality, on a Mexican list. There are some radicals who refuse to hear about charging even for naturist recipes! There is particularly a member who is into indigenous spirituality and he is the mist adamant enemy of having “commerce with the sacred”, and he keeps quoting native elders, both Mexican and Lakota, who deride the concept of charging for anything from a sweatlodge to a healing.

        This whole thing reminded me of a teacher from mexico City who charges almost 200 dlls. a month to her students for teaching them her own brand of Wicca. I’m told that she charges 8,000 dlls. for a healing or other workings! And yes, her clients -mostly politicians- do pay.

  5. mythworker says:

    I take issue with the opinion that there aren’t any innovators/trailblazers around right now. I see plenty, but they aren’t going to spend time e-mailing essayists on Witchvox to announce their awesomeness (they are too busy doing the work). In fact, I tend to ignore the essays at Witchvox because there’s an awful lot of “soapboxing” coming from people who would be better served by chopping more wood and carrying some more water.

    • admin says:

      Regarding most essayists on Witchvox: I’m inclined to agree.

      Still, the matter which I was hoping to emphasise with this week’s question was not so much whether innovators and trailblazers exist at all. Rather, I wanted to emphasise the matter of what qualities or talents innovators embody, so we will be better able to identify them, benefit from them, and respect them; and also become less susseptable to the kind of situation Juniper described.

  6. darakat_ewr says:

    I think this goes along with the “newbie” ethos that is happening right now, a few years ago when I was starting out it took about two or three goes to find a book which didn’t say that “Wicca is a path in which you can just be self initiated in” (and from memory that was Gardeners republished book). And of course there as those such as Fiona Horne who start out good and turn to… well publishing pretty much whatever Lewellyn or her latest publisher tells her to. Its mostly to do with the fact that any niche market such as Pagans are easily influenced into buying things they don’t need, easily persuaded into beliefs that we don’t have to have, and easily convinced that this is entirely normal. Because anyone whose new to paganism doesn’t know better.
    This ethos comes from the fact that we are a new religion as well as an old one, what one person writes or says, can easily be taken as gospel. Even well after she has been debunked as a pretty much useless author Silver Ravenfluff still gets sold by the dozen. Because a new person to paganism doesn’t know better and its not till you meet or talk to real pagans that you actually get to know this sort of stuff.
    Respect is missing in our community because when a old pagan meets a new pagan often the first lesson is “Don’t belive silver ravenwolf, read these three books and come back and well talk”. Often because this happens again and again, and soon we become jaded and this becomes a grumpier and more angry “Read this, come back”. Because we get sick and tired of the same old silly beliefs happening because someone didn’t spend more than five minutes on Google. Thus the newer pagans often don’t like this attitude (because they haven’t been pagan for long enough to experience true fluff) and we get the cycle of “no one writes good books anymore” thank to the fact that now the older pagans can’t be arssed.

    • not an attack – an honest question

      In Montreal, one serious problem I’ve observed is that too many of those who might otherwise be our Elders treat the newcomers with contempt and impatience rather than understanding and wisdom.

      For this reason, I would ask you to please clarify what you mean by “real” pagan.

      Thank you.

      • darakat_ewr says:

        Re: not an attack – an honest question

        I am sorry if I seemed a bit short changed with my language. I didn’t mean to be insulting.
        By ‘real’ I meant in real life as opposed to someone who says “I’m a pagan” on the internet (as we know how many we have online does not meet the number we have say in the census).
        As you said, its often because of the fact that the ‘elders’ get so many stupid questions that it can take quite a while for them to treat a newcomer with any sort of respect. Of course any newcomer isn’t going to treat a ‘elder’ with respect if all they ever get is contempt and pragmatism.

        • Re: not an attack – an honest question

          Yeah, it’s a vicious cycle, because as soon as one “side” is disrespectful, the other side responds in kind, it self-perpetuates, and everybody loses.

          Thanks for the clarification. Much appreciated.

          Have you ever met Silver, btw? Astonishing woman, not at all what one would expect from her books. I had the privilege once of telling her how much I disliked “Broomstick;” she laughed and told me – with zero defensiveness and as though it were obvious – that she didn’t write it for me. How’s *that* for a response that makes you think?


          • darakat_ewr says:

            Re: not an attack – an honest question

            Is ok, I didn’t expect my comment to go unnoticed. I thought it better that I clear up what I meant rather than leave it and have no argument by leaving it.

            No I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Silver, mostly as I live in Australia. I really had not respect for her anyway so it doesn’t change my opinion.

  7. erynn999 says:

    We’re certainly out here, we’re just not necessarily publishing for Llewellyn. I do what I do and don’t worry too much about the larger Pagan community, and I go to folks like and and others for intellectual conversation in CR. At this point I do stuff for free in some places but there are folks who are willing to pay my travel costs to bring me down to talk or come to a festival/con. It doesn’t happen all that often, but it does happen. Thankfully, I’m not trying to make a living at it by any means. I’d die of starvation in a week.

    I’d argue that, rather than having a lack of innovators and elders in the Pagan communities, we’re just not necessarily on the radar of the folks who haunt B&N. We tend to be quietly active in our communities or on select online spots. History is what determines who the genuine innovators are, in the long run. SRW may be immensely popular, but will she be respected 50 years from now when the community has moved on, or will she be viewed as a gateway drug to be tried and discarded for more satisfying fare?

  8. There certainly are figures today doing trailblazing work. I’d point to those working in forward-looking areas that others are often hesitant to touch, like theology (e.g. John Michael Greer), Pagan-Christian relations (e.g. Gus diZerega), and ethics (e.g. um… you!). I wouldn’t pay $100 to hear them, but then I wouldn’t pay that to hear Crowley or Gardner either.

    I think much of the so-called “disrespect” may be more of a pagan counterpart to “civil disobedience.” Our modern religion is growing and maturing largely within democratic societies, where we are encouraged and indeed exhorted to question authority. This skeptical duty spills over into religious behavior as well. It gets ugly sometimes, just as in politics, but nevertheless there is something worthwhile there (I hope).

    What I dislike is when this democratic disobedience devolves into mere anarchism, mistrust of any authority for any reason. There’s plenty of that in the pagan community too.

    The only religious leader I can think of that I’d pay $100 to hear is the Dalai Lama.

  9. lupabitch says:

    One thing to keep in mind: Gardner and Crowley got attention in part because they didn’t have much competition. Look at how many authors in the general occult genre there are now compared to in their times. So there are a lot more innovators because there are a lot more pagans and occultists in general, but it’s tougher to stand out. Not that this is a bad thing–variety equals health as far as community goes.

    • abbadie says:

      Maybe it’s just me, but I would have paid to hear Crowley in a workshop. The guy may have been crazy, and a cheap self-promoter, but I’m currently reading his Book of Lies for about the fortieth time, and I keep finding stuff there! (of course, I’ve said myself that when I started making sense of his channeled works, my sanity was hopelessly lost…)

      Still, if anybody came up with that “secret chiefs” nonsense nowadays, only newagers would flock to them -it would sound just like the ascended masters and Pleiadian emmisars and stuff.

  10. greycat_uk says:

    With regard to the publishing/Llewelyn issue:

    http://www.druidnetwork org – Reviews pages

    I’ve just taken over coordinating these (blatant plug by a volunteer, sorry!), and am actually tremendously buoyed up by the friendly and helpful attitude of a lot of new and smaller publishers wanting their authors marketed – but by word of mouth within the community (presumably because if the customers ASK for the books, Borders et al will have to stock them). Amazon’s ‘forthcoming’ list also yields promising results.

    I think we’ll see in future years which ‘elders’ are still being read, as opposed to those who are immediately popular due to shiny covers (Titania Harding etc), but then sink to the shelves of charity shops. Word of mouth IS worth so much more, and that’s what keeps the knowledge alive.

  11. ecstaticlght says:

    What living pagan author would I lay $100 down to hear speak? I’ve done it for 2 Feri Initiates and I’ll do it again (although it was more like 8 hours, not 2). I’m finding that people like Thorn Coyle are striving to lead us to that next level of innovators or better yet to become those innovators ourselves.

    Here is a question I have to ask myself..if one of the innovators does come to the fore, how do I draw a line between cult leader and true leader? How do I trust, after history has proven us to make bad choices, when looking for the innovators? How do I learn to set aside the fear like Gardner or Crowley or Anderson did and take that step into the most intense of working? We have to let go of the daily routine to do that and that which frightens most.

    Edit: After seeing your reply up there *points up*. I think I’ll emphasize the ability to show no fear. To not let the world squash the creative energy and will to share that energy. To look at what is and what can be and bring the two points together. I agree there are innovators out there, but they’ve given up on the public as a whole. Thorn Coyle is hoping to give them that safe place to go with her Solar Cross work and I’m excited to see what she’s able to establish. As far as authors, we have to learn to quit short changing (literally) those that are attempting to survive. Working the Work is a full time job. We expect to get paid for our daily work, then why not the Workers? In the past they were given housing, food, medical care etc. Now we don’t barter in goods, so when did it become acceptable to NOT pay for our Workers to be able to continue and enrich our lives and minds?

  12. suhurrell says:

    Putting the $100 in Context

    to recap a bit from my original blogpost to put the original question in its original context – (

    we were discussing the comparative high cost of creating events or attending events with “notable teachers” or “great entertainers” – and what the market will bear in other areas of our life – from The Power Within ($$$)to your average big name Rock Concert ($$$).

    Would people have paid $100 to hear Gardner? About 200 of us paid $25 each in 1993 dollars for a couple hours of Starhawk’s time. It was a lot of money then. It still is, though it buys less today. How much would that be now? There are lots of examples where we spend the money almost without thinking. Fly out for Gaia Gathering in Halifax? sure… it’s all about priorities. Simple enough.

    But to tie it in to this new context that Brendan has instigated – “we” often won’t pay local teachers – but we pay teachers who write books, or put out cds without thinking – because we get something tangible – that is the perceived value. Mostly, local teachers offer us the intangible – their years of experience and assimilated learning – and an expectation that we will listen to the answers we have asked for, even if we don’t agree with what they say. A teacher is without honor in their own city, or so I’ve read.

    Maybe local teachers get caught in community love/hate relationships and get burned out due to the caustic mix of brutal criticism and blind adoration – when all they want may be honest feedback and students who follow through on their commitments. They end up out of pocket, and serve as unpaid marriage counselors, mediators, ghost-busters, psychologists, social conveners, erstwhile matchmakers, and whatever else, depending on the strength of their boundaries – all the while supposedly being “pastoral” and “clergylike” without the benefit of seminary training or the desire for sainthood – or martydom. A local saying is “don’t put your elders on a pedestal, when you push them off they’ll break their hip, and maybe their heart.”

    Who are the innovators? Certainly some authors, and some musicians, there are scads of pagan bloggers and podcasters out there – it will take time to see what sticks in the new global arena. When local politics diminish a regional innovator, they may be able to develop a constituency “online” – now that “we” don’t need a book publisher or music company or sanctioned broadcast medium to get “the message” out there. What has value will endure. what does not will podfade or blogfade away – if no one listens/reads, or the host does not continue to produce quality work. The wisdom of crowds is far more powerful than ever before – and the interconnectedness of the Web democratizes the platform immensely.

    Maybe everyone is an innovator – for 15 minutes, or 3 podcasts, or 8 blogposts. Stranger things have happened.

  13. I don’t think I’d pay money to see any of my favourite author’s speak, but I do buy books and related things for these kinds of figures in the community – not only to show my support, but also (and probably more importantly) because I value and enjoy their work.

    I just found your journal, we’ve met in person once or twice at Toronto related events – I think you know my wife a little better though. Feel free to add me back if you want to read my journal.

  14. Anonymous says:

    “I’m teaching as fast as I can”

    Azzerac, here.
    When you couldn’t afford a teacher, but your rose-colored glasses weren’t red enough to hide the inadequacies of Pop-Pulp Paganism, where were you to turn for guidance?

    We’re trying to give what we needed then, ourselves. We’re trying to teach the ones who want to learn and know and do.
    We do it for free.
    It’s not easy, but we do it anyway.
    Rent gets paid on time, and I cut the free classes to every-other week, but it’s not impossible.

    As with all things in life, one has to ask:
    “What do I need?”
    “What can I live without?”

    …and find dynamic equilibrium between those poles.

    Lodestone & Lady’s Mantle

  15. pombagira says:

    oh and umm.. Hi, i found your journal through a podcast elemental castings, i think.. *ponders this*.. anyhoo i have friended you *smiles*.. cause … just cause really


    Hi i’m Polly, cause you really needed to know that right?


  16. witchchild says:

    Here via Wild Hunt.

    First, gotta wonder about the original essayist and how much she’s contributed. I don’t know who she is, but she may do a lot for her local community.

    To the question of the Garner/Crowley/Valiente of now, well, maybe they’re around and quiet? Maybe they’re in the community. I see people like Thorn Coyle and Lon Milo DuQuette as heading for that “league,” but they’ve also been doing their practices for decades. The essay seems like asking for something on a platter and forgetting all the prep time to get that beautiful thing there.

    Though what said about the mirror rings true. I focus on my own Work. Sometimes it seems to inspire others. That’s just fine with me.

  17. snowcalla says:

    My thought is – the more things change the more they stay the same. Meaning – I think Crowley and Gardner were treated well and respected by some and were treated poorly/with disrespect by others. Which is the same as Pagan elders and innovators are treated today.

    People, as a herd, don’t change much in how they interact.

    Gardner and Crowley are extremely well-known and influencial. That kind of innovator shouldn’t come around too often. In a movement, you’ll have a time of innovators. These are the pioneers, blazing a new trail and uncovering beautiful sights and new dangers. After the innovators/pioneers you have the homesteaders. There are the people who build something concrete along the trail. They are the ones who map out the details, adapt to the new territory. And, importantly, they make the homebase for a new generation of innovators to strike out even further.

    This cycle is repeated over and over if a movement is to last. If you have innovator after innovator and the homesteaders never can catch up or are confused as to what trailblazer to follow – then a movement burns itself out.

  18. dop4 says:

    For those of you who are say “I wouldn’t pay $100 to hear anybody talk.”
    Do you ever get your car fixed, or see a doctor when ill?
    I’m sure you’re paying over $50/hr of those services.
    Or is your religious life not as important as your car or a check-up? It’s all a matter of priorities.

    • harmonyfb says:

      Or is your religious life not as important as your car or a check-up? It’s all a matter of priorities.

      Yep, my priorities are in order – I don’t prostitute out my belief system for a dollar. I don’t expect any recompense for my priestess work (and have turned down recompense in the past). The thought of taking cash for such ministerial work makes me ill.

      On top of that is the knowledge that my faith depends solely on the Gods themselves and my experiences of them. I didn’t need a $100 speaker for the Antlered God to find me in the forest when I was 8, and I certainly don’t need one to teach me how to worship my Gods now.

  19. Anonymous says:

    I know I am willing to pay that much for a skill I don’t have. Earlier this week I called my husband, hoping we would have enough money for me to attend a $40.00 poetry workshop. (we didn’t :(.

    I would attend a pagan/witchcraft workshop for $100.00, if: I had read the material by the author, and still had lots of questions. If they were teaching a skill (ie how to make incense, or ritual masks, or hedgeriding).

    For example, juniper brought up flying ointment–I keep hearing that you shouldn’t try flying ointment and hedgeriding without an experienced witch guiding you through it the first time. I would pay an experienced witch to guide me through it, even if it meant saving my pennies until I had $100.00 bucks.

    Right now I am dirt poor and unemployed, but I am sowing the seeds to make money to educate myself.

    I also wonder, did Gardner and Crowleys and so on have huge followings? OR did they start by having a dozen folks meeting in a spare room at their house, or in a rented room at a community space, or in a park? Because I do meet with magicians I respect in that manner, and I think that they are the elders of today:

    Taylor Elwood
    Erynn Rowan Laurie

    Now all of the above are relatively young, none of them are over 50. Elder doesn’t have to mean old, or well paid.

    And furthermore, on a quieter local level, Portland OR has tons of leaders like that, Jay Greenman, Frodo Okulum, and many more. My local pagan shop, Wishing Well, is owned and operated by a very wise elder named Sage, who I have paid to learn about Runes from, her classes fill up and go from 25-100 dollars to attend. She isn’t all light and fluff, in fact I knew I had got my moneys worth when she told us how to mark your rune set with blood.

    I think leaders of today include folks like Starhawk and Jason Pitzl-Waters who keep us aprised of important issues and are advocates for change and freedom. I think we have our elders and that for the most part we do respect them.

    I know who my elders are, and I also know I will find myself being one someday as well–if I keep on keeping it real.

  20. ai731 says:

    When I read your question, the first two names that occurred to me were Starhawk and Silver Ravenwolf. And therein lies the problem: too large a segment of ‘the pagan community’ hate both of them (with or without reason). As a result, they can’t count among ‘The Greats.” The problem of finding “modern pagan luminaries” is how disparate our community is. No matter who you propose as someone worthy, there will be a faction ready to tear them down.

    And it’s not just the hostility that some have towards those they disagree with. Speaking for myself, I’m trying to grow on my path, and so spending time (and money) on something that is only a 50% fit to that path gets frustrating after a while. Though I’m sure I would get *something* out of a two hour lecture from a Druid, or a Wiccan High Priestess or a Ceremonial Magician, none of them are speaking to my path, and that makes the decision to spend a considerable amount of money to hear them speak a loaded one. There are no luminaries on my path. There is one ‘Big Name’ (Ann Moura) whose books I don’t find useful. The two most important books to my path were written by Terry Pratchett (A Hat Full of Sky), whom I have paid to hear speak on more than one occasion – though not about paganism, and Arin Murphy-Hiscock (The Way of the Green Witch), who would probably refuse to take money from me…

    I did recently pay $50 to attend a day’s worth of workshops about organic farming, and that’s probably as close as I’m going to get to a gathering of Green Witches 😉 (There were 400 people there, so chances are I wasn’t the only Pagan, but of course I had no way to find them. We need a secret handshake or something!) I would quite happily pay twice that to attend the same event again next year, because I know I will spend the day being spiritually fulfilled.

    • > Arin Murphy-Hiscock (The Way of the Green Witch), who would probably refuse to take money from me…

      Yeah, but you generally bribe her with Bowmore and Back 40.

      Actually, this is part of why I won’t pay $100 for spiritual uplift and mind-changing thought – I am surrounded by friends who provide it.


      • silly_imp says:

        I hear you on already being surrounded by friends who provide it.

        But what about supporting those whose work we believe in?

        • You know I believe in supporting the people/acts I believe in, so that’s a tough question, but I think the short answer is –

          I have to remember that *I* am someone whose work I believe in, too.

          So I have to balance requested support with my own financial needs, and also evaluate cost vs personal benefit.

          I have several unread books on my shelves which I bought after reading a borrowed copy, because I wanted to offer support, and also because they might be read again. Buying a book is support, and has the advantage over a lecture in terms of me being able to refer to it later. Also, I can purchase it any time – meaning (pragmatic) I don’t have to work my schedule around a lecture’s day/time, and (esoteric) I can receive what it has to offer *when I am ready for it.*

          The comparison mentioned elsewhere to a doctor or mechanic is not analagous to a speaker because of the matter of individual attention. You pay more for individual music lessons than you do for group lessons. A book is a form of individual attention, albeit impersonal. A lecture is not individual, and it may be more personal, but not much, because the speaker will be tailoring the presentation for everybody in the room. I go to TPC for the people as well as the presentations; I would only attend a fan convention if there were some chance of swapping writing talk with a writer in the pub afterward. Note that in the pub he’s not being paid for his time, but he’s also getting the benefit of *my* insight.

          Generally speaking, I guess I’m just not big on lectures. Maybe I’m dividing a person’s works into different media, and there are some I support less.


  21. harmonyfb says:

    Hmm. The only person I would pay $100 to hear lecture would be…well…Edgar All Poe, if they brought him back from the dead to do a book reading. I’d shell out big time for that one.

    Live religious author? Um, no thanks. I can read their book for less than $30 (if bought) or for nothing if I can find it in the library, and find out what they think without having to take out a second mortgage to do it.

    There are lots of folks doing ‘trailblazing’ Pagan stuff, but while I admire their writing, I’m not high on the notion of hero worship or marketing frenzies.

  22. silly_imp says:

    Really interesting question, although for me the question of today’s innovators may not necessarily match my list of who I might be willing to pay $100 for a two-hour lecture.

    Addressing just living innovators and trail blazers in our Pagan communities, I think Juniper has one thing bang-on in her article. The practices of Gardner, possibly Crowley, and probably many other influential contemporaries of their time up until the perhaps the late 70s (such as Anderson, Adams, Kelly, Zell) would by today’s standards probably be considered eclectic. ‘Eclectic’ is not exactly a good label among many Pagan crowds these days; however their eclecticism, or perhaps more accurately the synchretic nature of their material/practices, is one of the ingredients that made them innovators. The other ingredient, at least for the more notorious, was their media savvy or apparent love of the limelight. I think we also have to remember that the times we live in now are not their times.

    So who are our modern trail-blazers or big names? Who are the ones to watch? Thorn Coyle comes to mind. I think a lot of her work shares the same syncretism, power, and understanding of earlier trail-blazers. Starhawk is another person who I feel is leaving quite a legacy to modern Paganism, as is Silver RavenWolf and probably Christopher Penczak, simply by the sheer volume and variety of their work. Judy Harrow and Macha Nightmare come to mind as folks who have really tackled the needs of Pagan communities, such as training, rites of passage, death etc. In Canada, folks like Gina Ellis and Richard James and others fall into the same category for their work in pastroal outreach in prisons etc (but Canadian contributions are a whole other discussion). Ron Hutton certainly stands out in terms of his academic contributions, even if he is a bit muddy about his actual religious affiliation. Chas Clifton? Alan Moore anyone?

    My own observation is that in the larger ‘community’ setting, the innovators, trailblazers, (and dare I say, leaders) get very little support and are judged very harshly for their efforts, especially by their local communities. But that’s not really a surprise, look how we treat local non-pagan community leaders, politicians, and ‘vedettes’ (sorry, don’t know what the English equivalent would be…. pop stars? ). It seems like we just wait for them to screw up, and in the meantime forget the good work or talent that got them there in the first place. Or maybe these folks are just taken for granted, I don’t know.

    What qualities do I look for in my own teachers, mentor and elders? Compassion, integrity, wisdom, understanding, knowledge, self-confidence, self-possession, determination, discretion, knowledge of their own boundaries and aptitudes, evidence of having ‘done the work,’ fearlessness, willingness to admit mistakes and failure, willingness to take pride in their own work, the ability to change opinion when new evidence or experience are presented to them, selflessness and selfishness, thoughtfulness in speech and care in the use of words, a healthy respect for both tradition and change, ouside interests, intuitive knowledge of when to press on and when to back off…. But these are also generally things that I look for in my own friends and strive for myself.

    Of course anyone having all these qualities might just be a saint, or perhaps Barbie, and most are qualities that aren’t really evident until you’ve met someone, in person, a few times; and probably not until you’ve seen them at their worst… Although I do find that there is a certain ‘gut instinct’ to picking them out of a crowd. And it’s not as if we chose our teachers, elders and mentors after the first date, or via the Internet, now is it?

    For the $100 question,I’ll have to get back to you. The only person who springs to mind for me is Wade Davis, but he’s not exactly Pagan.

  23. Grant Morrison, Phil hine, Alan Moore (Double it if you could get him to lecture on magic) and possibly Christopher Penczak.

    As much as the soap box was well and truly stood on I really do get what she’s saying. I’m the first to question a supposed elder popping up on teh internet, mostly because the vast majority I’ve come across need to be hung, drawn and quartered before they manage to develop a following. Mostly because the self proclaimed elders popping up on the internet are either white lighters or arrogant little shits the vast majority of the time.

    I don’t ahve much communication with fellow pagans offline. Work, uni adn life get in the way.

    Teh one thing I thoroughly agree with that was said above I believe is that it’s not a lack of innovators nor bright starts challenging the old ways and carving their own path that is the problem. They’re there, I can think of 5 names of people I know who would fit the description, but they’re not “out there”. It’s easier to keep their practices out fo the public eye because it turns into a massive circus the minute they try to get out there and do new things in the public eye.

    I found my way here via The Wild hunt. I hope you don’t mind me adding you as a friend. I’ve had a read through the other posts and quite enjoyed your writing.

    • Alan Moore, absolutely.

      I might not go triple-digit on lectures, but for one of his *workings* – definitely.

      You’ve heard Snakes & Ladders?


    • Oh, drat, I missed your other excellent point: the circus.

      These days, compared to most of the last century, the circus is practically instantaneous. Makes it harder to remember who you were before you became the property of the public, also makes it harder for those outside to find you through all the noise and other voices.


      • *nods* It really does, and it makes you not want to be out amongst it if you’re an even remotely sensible person. It requires too much energy to sift through the BS before you can be useful to anyone.

        Also please excuse my terrible typing.

  24. dmiley says:

    Its not the money that counts (necessarily) but the respect of which money might be a token. My own list

    Emma Restall Orr – goddess bless her searingly honest soul
    Thorn Coyle – is there anyone potentially more significant?
    Erynn Rowan Laurie – but I’d rather just chat again over dinner
    RJ Stewart – given travel costs I’ve already passed this test

  25. Anonymous says:

    Who would I pay $100 dollars to go see?
    No one, my way in the craft forbids charging for training.

    I throw in $5 month/semi monthly for coven supplies, and I pay my way in buying food I bring to feast, and share with everyone else.

    As for trailblazers, we’ve got em, oh boy do we got em: people like Rev. Kendra Vaughan Hovey of the First Church of Wicca in Duxbury MA have been trailblazers

    / snark

  26. Anonymous says:

    a response to the question…..

    hi there. Here is my response on my blog to Juniper’s article.

    Enjoy. I also attempt to answer your questions in another blog post, which will be coming up in about a week.


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