Leadership & the Laws of Magick: Bring Back Public Shunning

I was really surprised about the popularity of my latest blog Money, Magick, & Bullshit: Do the F**king Work! This had led me to think about leadership and the Laws of Magick.

I often refer to Bonewits when I discuss the Laws of Magick because he was the first person I ever read on the topic and, in truth, the only author I knew who reviewed and discussed them in such length.

One of the arguments that seems to have rankled many around pagan leadership is the term Elder. These arguments have come around a discussion of a person who teaches at Cherry Hill Seminary and this persons stance against transwomen, stating blatantly that transwomen aren’t really “women,” but men attempting to use some ruse to steal power from women. (Wild Hunt; June 12, 2016)

I do not support this particular person’s claim to eldership, leadership or, even priestess-hood. The exclusion of transwomen in women’s mysteries and rites is simply unacceptable and contrary to paganism as I practice and teach. I would call such an exclusion an “act unbecoming,” negative behavior that I find to be outside the boundaries of spiritual calling and rooted in ego and unresolved personal issues.

What is curious to me is how the Laws of Magick get twisted and used to support acts unbecoming and those who teach them. The most common law is The Law of Names.

The Law of Names

Turning once again to Bonewits, we receive this information:

This works because a name is a definition (yes, even “Harold,” “Marie,” “Xunte,” and “Jasmine” were at one time) as well as a contagion link. Perhaps more importantly, it works because knowing the complete and “true” name of something or someone means that you have achieved a complete understanding of its or his [or her] nature. This is why, in most pre-industrial cultures, people are given “secret names” as well as “public names,” and why the sharing of a secret name is such an act of trust – because the secret name is consider to be very close to, if not identical with, the person’s true name.

The generation before mine was and can still be very stuck upon names like High Priestess and High Priest and Elder. These names were more than a title, following the Laws of Magick, they were an admission of a definition. At the heart of this definition is the suggestion of knowledge, power and correctness or rightness. If we defer to someone as an “elder” or a “high priest” or a “high priestess” we are in essence feeding into the energy that suggests, according to the laws of magick, that a person is literally powerful, correct and knowledgeable.

There are two inherent errors with this type of thinking, one on the part of those who wield the terms for themselves and one on the part of those who use these terms for others.

Not My Elder

Courtney Weber, author and pagan journalist, wrote a rebuttal against transphobic elders called Not My ElderAt the time, even I cringed, at the thought. Here in the South, titles have a distinct cultural significance that goes well beyond how someone acts and speaks and is related to Southern hospitality. Elder, in the South is any person of an older age, who by virtue of their age alone, has earned the right to a little respect. It is the antithesis of being mean to someone who is old just because they are old and pass their “prime.”

However, when we move into magickal circles, the term Elder becomes something more and those of us who were indoctrinated to have manners first and think it through later, have to pull ourselves up short and look critically at our conditioning.

About Religion has an excellent article on a definition of Pagan Elder that is worth a read; however, it too is linked to age. The Elder title that someone like Weber talks about isn’t necessarily linked to age, it is linked to perceived and real contributions to paganism in some form.  When researching the person above, I expected the person to have many actual degrees. In actuality, the person only holds one in Folk History from 1976. The person is also a founding member of a significant pagan tradition that is feminist based and has a long history of artistic work and writings around feminism and spirituality. The term “elder” has been applied to her based upon this body work.


Here is the thing. Elder in the pagan community is based upon the idea that the person has given a significant contribution to the pagan community. The person reference above has. Agree with the person or not, you cannot deny that contribution.

And, yet, pagan elderalso implies power and right and correctness. It is this implication of rightness and correctness that Weber is addressing.

Weber brings us to an understanding that the power the term Elder can have when applied to the above person, can be diminished by public outcry. The verbal denial of that type of speech is an active magickal act.  The person above may be accepted by many feminist pagans as an elder, and as Weber so eloquently states, this doesn’t make that person Weber’s Elder. Weber is using the Laws of Magick to fight trans-phobic speech that has no place of acceptance in the paganism Weber practices. Weber is actively fighting the idea that the person in question has any power, right, or correctness.

But The Person is an ELDER!  Presidency v Ladyship

Let’s break this down some. Titles can be honorific or denote a sacred office. I agreed with nothing President George W. Bush ever said on foreign policy. I actively demonstrated against what I saw as illegal military action by the United States in direct defiance and disagreement with the Command In Chief. However, if I had met or ever met President Bush, I would not say, “Yo, George, you are an f**cking asshole personally responsible for the loss of American military personnel and innocent people in an unjustified military conflict that you actively lied to the American people about, you f**cking dickhead.”

I would still address him with good manners and by the title President because the American people voted for him, their bad judgement not withstanding, and the office of President has also been held by past and living persons whom I admire and respect. It isn’t because I like President Bush that I refer to him as President Bush. It is because I respect the office of the Presidency and what it magickally represents for the republic of America.

When dealing with pagan elders, high priests and high priestess, we should remember the totality of what the title means. The Law of Names tells us that by giving someone a title we are energetically imbuing them with the power of that office as we perceive it. We are saying that someone is demonstrating holy spiritual knowledge, power and correctness on behalf of our religious representation. This is how Act Unbecoming came to be.

Acts UnBecoming

There is no central body that puts out pagan elders and verifies that they are actual qualified to do jack. Given that, the titles adopted by pagan leaders are honorary and only have the power we ascribe. However, most of us have met people we would gladly give the title Lord or Lady or Elder to.

It is because these people, for each of us individually, represent what a person would behave like if they had been ordained by Divinity as we understand Divinity. This also means that there will be plenty of leaders of all types that we do not recognize as being worthy that other people will. I reject evangelical teachings and find that most of what they teach is dangerous and divisive; however, this doesn’t negate that evangelical leaders have a falling that far surpasses mine mostly because they are followed by people or spiritually and politically agree with them. Still not my reverend.

This is the beautiful, complicated and difficult part bound up in freedom of religion and speech.

Mistake of Pagan “Elders” “High Priests” “High Priestesses” or “Clergy”

There is a belief among some pagan leadership that the title makes the person.

The title doesn’t make you.

An emphasis on legitimacy in The Craft through the ordination or recognition by outside human sources has lead to a clamoring of persons demanding to be recognized as an “elder,” “high priest,” or “high priestess.” It has also lead to those who have the suggested “legitimacy” of elevation by a Wiccan or witchcraft tradition or sect, demanding everyone honor their title and elevations.

Because these human sources are often NOT regulated at all and vary wildly from group to group, what one person did to earn the title “high priestess” is NOT going to comparable to what someone else did to earn the same title. The general pagan population knows this.

Further, even if you have a masters or doctorate in some specialty, it isn’t your knowledge that people are worried about, it is your presentation.

How you behave. How you handle conflict. How you deal with people who disagree with you adamantly. How you process and empower people who are under educated about the topic you teach.

Paganism values inclusivity. What today’s pagan leaders are trying to wrangle is how we can remain inclusive while paganism as a culture defines acceptable and unacceptable behavior. This means, the general pagan population is not going to wowed and ahhed by the enforcement of titles, degrees or education unless the above are wielded with a deft hand.

“The athame should be use like a scalpel,” a former high priestess told me, “When too often it is used just to maim.”

The athame represents a leaders knowledge, power, and righteousness given to them by the gods and goddesses they serve. Too often, our pagan leaders look to conquer through the force of their words and their divisive and demeaning rhetoric. All this type of behavior does is suggest the pagan leader is unbecoming any title they claim.

I would assert, and many pagan leaders do, that no title should be necessary. If a pagan is an elder, high priest or high priestess there is no need for them to announce it. Their very life will do that for them. The Law of Knowledge, Power, and Self Knowledge will be all the magickal confirmation they will ever need of their title.

Still Not My Elder: Bringing Back Public Shunning

You read this whole blog and are thinking, “Okay, Dia, I agree with you and I still don’t like that woman you mentioned above and can think of several other pagans whose behavior I abhor. What do I do?”

There are for me personally, a couple of leaders who fall into a category of “beyond redemption.” Their acts unbecoming are so heinous that their association with The Craft is dangerous to the craft and to pagans. I have a little list going in my head. I personally, have decided that not only will I not feed their power by agreeing they are an elder, high priest, or high priestess, I will literally deny them any energy at all.

If I were to ever see these people, I will simply behave as if they do not exist. I won’t speak their names unless I am absolutely forced to for the safety of others. I will not acknowledge their existence except in relationship to discussing other more important issues. I will not name them.

I will send them private letters with my concerns and give a list of things I think the person should do in order to find my acceptance in the future. I will not engage in public open bashing of them as a human being or person.

Now, really, who cares what I do? I am just one person in Georgia.

Imagine a speech given by the person I fail to mention by name in this article. People show up, stand in mass and literally give their back to the speaker while putting on head phones. An act of civil disobedience that actively works against transphobia while silently holding signs of support for our trans-sisters and trans-brothers?

Imagine a seminar at your favorite gathering where a well known and married couple are forced to deal with persons in headphones, holding signs exposing the dangers of a pagan consent culture and demanding pagan leadership that teach responsibility when it comes to sexuality and paganism.

Imagine picketing a Red Tent that is trans-exclusive. Silent protesters with head phones filled with chants to the Goddess and signs that say exclusivity should be behavior, not gender based.

Imagine civil disobedience that doesn’t rely on trolling but is active and real and impactful. Civil disobedience where your voice and place in shaping pagan values is assured while allowing groups to continue to hold great festivals and not be penalized by the teachings of gatherings’ poor seminar choices?

At each of these places and times, a clear list of how to end the shunning is displayed. For the person above it might read: “Stop your transphobic speech and saying that that hate speech is holy and spiritual and feminist.”

The married couple might be asked to “Admit past teachings have had a real detrimental  effect on sexual consent in paganism and on individuals who have been assaulted in the name of The Craft. Freely admit that you do not have any training in sexuality as it pertains to assault victims and are not qualified to teach sexuality due to your lack of psychological understanding and training.”

Real Pagans Consent

To Asatru groups who exclude specefic races it might read: “Stop spreading racism in the name of paganism and saying that racism is holy and sacred.”

Real Pagans Racism

Imagine memes that take over your social media feeds that say:

“Real Pagans Are Not Racist.”

“Real Goddess Worshipers Worship with Transwomen.”

“Real Pagans do not condone or teach rape.”

“Real Pagans say, “If you cannot dance in the circle – we will push you or give you a chair and drum!”


One More Thing

Real pagans also create communities where trans acceptance is an actual communal out put. Communities where many races and cultures are represented. Communities where sexuality is taught in healthy and psychological sound ways. Communities where protecting the community is the top priority and making room for those who come in love and trust and honor is also a priority.

As we wrangle with this difficult time in Paganism where pagan values as a culture are identified and refined, we must also be focused on community creation.

If we aren’t tending to the inclusiveness of pagan communities there is no energy powerful enough to counteract the useless jesters our empty words become.




Orlando and Grief

We all grieve differently.

Make some room to grieve.

Laid down the arguments about guns, rightness, wrongness, religious beliefs and motivations and the horrible discrimination against the LGBT community.

Light a candle.

Light 49.

Light another.

Light 53.

Don’t take to twitter in anger demanding why someone isn’t posting like you think or supporting your belief.

Breathe a moment and don’t speak.

When you open your mouth, let it be filled with the names of the dead or wounded. Let the words reflect the horror and sadness that drives you to lash out in anger. Let it be filled with the reflection of grief within yourself.

When the dead are buried or burned to ash, then –  then –  we can argue about policy and the sanctioned discrimination turned against our fellow humans.

But when those discussions are begun – later after the dead have been buried or burned – let the names of the dead and injured remain

as prepositions



in our discussion…..



“Mass shootings are horrible things. Edward Sotomayor Jr. right Stanley Almodovar III own guns is protected by Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo Second Amendment. Luis S. Vielma Juan Ramon Guerrero right Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera love Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz marry whomever we choose. Our brothers Kimberly Morris sisters who are transgender are Mercedez Marisol Flores being targeted. When will Deonka Deidra Drayton policies Eddie Jamoldroy Justice discussions move Enrique Rios stop Anthony Luis Laureanodisla hate speech Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega end Cory James Connell deaths Mercedez Marisol Flores beloved Americans?

How can Miguel Angel Honorato as Jason Benjamin Josaphat nation continue Darryl Roman Burt II permit such record violence Alejandro Barrios Martinez occur? Jean Carlos Mendez Perez 2016, there have been 179 number Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez mass shootings Amanda Alvear 287 people Martin Benitez Torres dead because Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon them. Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado what about Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez hate speech Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez has been propagated Oscar A Aracena-Montero some Americans? Javier Jorge-Reyes idea that because Joel Rayon Paniagua don’t like someone’s life style Juan P. Rivera Velazquez their sexual orientation Luis Daniel Conde their gender orientation Shane Evan Tomlinson somehow devalues them as Juan Chevez-Martinez human being? Jerald Arthur Wright Americans Leroy Valentin Fernandez pursuit Tevin Eugene Crosby happiness is guarantee, Jean C. Nives Rodriguez yet, some Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala our society continue Brenda Lee Marquez McCool persist with Yilmary Rodriguez Sulivan idea Christopher Andrew Leinonen only Angel L. Candelario-Padro definition Frank Hernandez happiness is allowed. Why is that? We call Paul Terrell Henry less government Edward Sotomayor Jr. then worry about Stanley Almodovar III someone marries Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo how someone chooses Luis S. Vielma identify. Juan Ramon Guerrero these things make right Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera American happy Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz in Kimberly Morris pursuit Mercedez Marisol Flores their Deonka Deidra Drayton happiness Deonka Deidra Drayton is cause no harm, then why do we allow politicians Eddie Jamoldroy Justice pundits Enrique Rios even comment?

And what about us, each one of us? What can we do?

Anthony Luis Laureanodisla can watch what Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega say Mercedez Marisol Flores how Miguel Angel Honorato think.

Jason Benjamin Josaphat basis Darryl Roman Burt II all acts Alejandro Barrios Martinez violence begin Jean Carlos Mendez Perez words exchanged Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez ideas promoted Amanda Alvear better Martin Benitez Torres more right than others. Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon when Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado express some deeply held opinion Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez belief, we may need speech Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez ask ourselves Oscar A Aracena-Montero what we are saying is promoting violence Javier Jorge-Reyes some unwitting person dancing Joel Rayon Paniagua Juan P. Rivera Velazquez night club? Are our words small micro aggressions perpetrated Luis Daniel Conde some need Shane Evan Tomlinson make ourselves feel holier Shane Evan Tomlinson more righteous? When Juan Chevez-Martinez speak is our words directing Luis Daniel Conde tolerance Shane Evan Tomlinson love that is reflected Juan Chevez-Martinez all of Jerald Arthur Wright world’s major Leroy Valentin Fernandez minor religions? Do our words harbor some secret hope Tevin Eugene Crosby others will die Jean C. Nives Rodriguez a mass shooting like what just happened Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala Orlando?

Instead Brenda Lee Marquez McCool praying for Yilmary Rodriguez Sulivan dead, could we be promoting on Christopher Andrew Leinonen daily basis Angel L. Candelario-Padro idea that what may be happiness Frank Hernandez others may not be happiness Paul Terrell Henry ourselves but the pursuit Edward Sotomayor Jr. happiness is not exclusive. Our happiness Stanley Almodovar III other people’s happiness are not reliant upon each other. Others can find peace Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo happiness without violence even if what makes Luis S. Vielma happy is not what makes Juan Ramon Guerrero happy.”

*Numbers provided by Mass Shooting Tracker


Don’t Ask Me To Hate

This week I had someone I like fairly well private post me about the dangers of the Islamic faith and allowing Muslims into the United States. It started with the horrible story posted in the Wild Hunt in 2013 about an online pagan who had allegedly been beaten, raped and killed by a mob in Syria for being pagan and continued with information about how the Middle Eastern World deals with gays, lesbians and transgender persons. Then the poster suggested that people who are “left leaning” need to wake up and realize the danger Muslims present here in the United States and how we must be vigilant and work against Shari Law in the United States. The poster sent links from the Wild Hunt, to the Pew Research Institute and more reputable media agencies to prove their point.


If you are doing nothing wrong – BE OPEN

If you really believe this way and you find within your heart and consciousness nothing wrong with what you are saying – then publically post your opinions. Don’t private message me in some misguided attempt to sway my opinion. I will not respond to you personally. You have an opinion and you obviously suspect I will not agree or you wouldn’t have bothered to send me the post in the first place.

I am public about what I think and feel and believe because I want to be challenged. I want someone to further my personal knowledge and give me links and help me flesh out what I feel and think. Those who hide in the shadows to stir discontent against a group of people based upon the actions of a few remind me of what Christians and Politicians have done for ages. Try to stir up feeling to override common sense. Pick a group to ostracize in righteousness so that you can personally feel better about yourself and the groups you belong to. Use information as a weapon, bending it and forging it until it fits your personal narrative.

Stop with the Western Superiority

It is Western Superiority that has destroyed most tribal cultures throughout the world. I don’t agree with the laws or beliefs of most Muslim countries. However, when I come in as a white former Christian and start saying to them how things should be all I do is fuel hatred for the Western World within the Muslim community. I am not Muslim. It is not my place to fight for equality there. It is the place and right of those in the Muslim community to do this. I couldn’t possibly understand the steep history of tribal culture and Islamic belief that runs in that community and to suppose that I did is beyond arrogant.

Point the Finger Back on Paganism

When people go on and on about Muslims or even the Transgender People in paganism, I think about the eldest member of Willow Dragonstone Community & Coven (WDSC). She and her mate have been together for 40 years. Her original high priestess back when they first got together told her that it wasn’t “good and right” for the energies of two women to mate for life and refused to handfast them. This High Priestess refused to recognize the sacredness of their love before the gods and their community because it wasn’t “good and right.”

Pagans today can’t imagine that there would ever be a coven who would do this. We think of ourselves as being on the cutting edge of acceptance. Start suggesting that transgender women be allowed in a red tent – now that isn’t “right and good.” Does anyone see history repeating itself?

The fact is that paganism is dealing with the same prejudices that the greater community does and we keep coming up short. In dealing with race, in dealing with cultural appropriation, in dealing with patriarchy, in dealing with gender, in dealing with the acceptance of other religious beliefs, Pagans come up short all the time.

Why do Pagans Come Up Short?

Because most pagans haven’t dealt with their own issues yet. The fear you feel in your heart around Muslims is rooted in some past fear that you haven’t dealt with. Your feelings of disgust around transgender people is a feeling rooted in your own hatred of men or women and the issues you have around gender definition. When pagans Christian bash at events, this is rooted in your unresolved feelings around your own past in Christianity.

Paganism isn’t a sudden get out of your issues path. Those issues you had before paganism will haunt you in paganism unless you deal with them. Whatever problems you had when you were Christian are the problems you are going to have as a Pagan. No doubt the manifestation of that problem is going to be slightly different but the root issues will ultimately be the same. There is no escape from your racism, your sexism, your problems with organized religion. You are going to deal with those issues until you DEAL with those issues.

And just because most pagans have learned to be quiet about their issues by private posting or by only associating with pagans who agree with them or by being careful to not demonstrate bigoted behavior in public does not mean pagans have dealt with their issues. It simply means pagans have gotten better at putting on the face of civility to hide the hatred that really drives them.

We Need Someone To Hate

I recently watched a horrendous video on the “Laws of Pagan Leadership.” It was so psychologically unsound and the suggestions potentially harmful, I refuse to reference the link.

One of the laws was, “Cultivate an Us versus THEM mentality, preferably against Christians. Only bad pagan groups choose another pagan group to do this with.”

Other than being completely and utterly applaud and knowing that this is not a good way to create group mind, I knew that this is rooted in a western mentality that has haunted western culture since the first gunshots of the revolution in America against the British.

After fighting the British we turned the THEM into American Indians. Then the THEM was chattel slaves and eventually in the Southern US it was all Blacks. In my lifetime the THEM has been blacks, Hispanics, Catholics, Jews, Non-Christians, Pagans, Satanists, Gays, Lesbians, Transgender people, and Muslims.

In absolutely truth, I was taught to play this game called Underground Church where the world was trying kill off all Christians and we had to hide and pray in groups and not get caught for an entire day at Bible Camp. The last group who didn’t get caught was the winner.

Sounds absurd right? So what about that is any different that an attitude about Islam taking over the Western World? I have enough faith in the United States and the laws here, especially when more right-leaning conservatives control congress, that Muslims are not going to pass Sharia Law in the US. Mostly because Jews weren’t able to pass Kosher law and implement it against unsuspecting Christian people and that was exactly what I was taught would happen as a child. If I am going to fight for something, it is going to be a continued push to keep the separation of church and state. That keeps me safe from any religious group – even paganism – that thinks their religious laws should trump a society built upon a law that benefits all not one group over another based upon religious views.

Here is the thing, when someone says, “Look over there and hate and fear them,” what they are really doing is making sure you are distracted. In this way they can do whatever they want, in the name of protecting you from the very thing they have taught you to hate and fear. Look at the civil liberties that have been lost in the name of fighting terrorists, specifically Islamic Terrorists. That is the real end game.

A house divided cannot stand, Abraham Lincoln said, and yet the government, politicians, and religious leaders want us to be divided because division keeps us occupied and focused on something other than what our government, politicians, and religious leaders are doing.

Do some Muslims do horrible things in the name of their religion? Yes. So do some pagans, Christians, Jews, Buddhist, Catholic Priests, High Priests, High Priestesses, Hindus. There are radical elements in every micro group you can think of and they do not define that group. When you buy into the idea that the outlier defines the mean and allow fear to grow, hate always follows.

As a pagan and Wiccan who is open, I suffer whenever someone does something stupid and violent and wrong in the name of paganism. I suffer whenever someone leaves a pentacle at a crime scene. I have to fight for equality that much harder when someone is killed because of some misguided belief that magick and the death of a person equals power. I have to fight today all the misinformation published in 1486 in the Malleus Maleficarum.

Is it so hard to believe that some Muslim woman watches the news with this same type of fear and trepidation that I do?

Stop private posting me. You can’t make me hate. I have and continue to deal with my issues around racism and fear, sexism and fear, religiosity and fear. You can’t hold up to me some sacrificial Muslim in the name of creating group mind in Paganism or in the left leaning political sphere. That is not the way to create group mind and move society forward.

I wouldn’t allow society to use paganism and Wicca as that lamb, and I can’t allow anyone to use Islam as the new lamb any more than I can allow pagans to use the transgender people in that way.

Fear. Anger. Hate. These are the paths to the dark side. – Yoda