Morgan Daimer asked on FB: Who are the three most influential people (dead or living) for your current spiritual practice? (She does this- collects information for her writing using social media. i think that’s cool.)
In one response she said she was looking for ‘interwoven influences’, and predictably I got longwinded. When done, I thought it might make a blog entry.
I am very inner and experience directed, mostly my pagan thinking has been influenced from authors- early ones being Mary Renault in King must Die, and Bach with Jonathan Livingston Seagull.
But the only people I interacted with face to face that I can clearly point to changing my spiritual practice are the ones who treated me rudely when I reached out to them, and thus turning me in other directions. I actively looked for contacts for witches and pagans in the 60s and 70s, even writing addresses from the backs of books and magazines. I subscribed to Green Egg, Circle, and a lot of xeroxed and even mimeographed newsletters. Before there was the internet, I corresponded with Leo Martello (Witches Against Religious Discrimination) and Olivia Robertson (Fellowship of Isis) because that’s the only way you could find people in those days. I still didn’t get very involved because they were too far away. I looked for locals, but they always seemed too self involved (like I wasn’t?). I found most Wiccan’s silly, and couldn’t bring myself to claim “perfect love and perfect trust’. One example of what I considered rude was in 1975, my husband and I went to visit one woman from a public contact, and when I mentioned that it was the full moon (thinking we might join her in some activity), she excused her self, and left us sitting for an hour and a half (while she did some private devotion). Too many of the Heathens I’ve met have been reactionary (and misogynistic) which turned me off their traditions. I could go on, but I’ve never actually found a group where I didn’t like many or most of the individuals, but each group as a whole irritated me. At the same time, I’ve always wanted to join almost every organization I read about; ADF, CAW, the Troth, IONS, ARE, ASD, AMORC, etc. because of the good things about them! Such ambivalence!
I think the biggest influence on my later life was one woman (one of Laurie Cabot’s “daughters”) who had a magic shop in Milford, NH briefly, and dismissively told me that it was impossible that Kate and Frank Dalton had assembled the guests they advertised for Craftwise (in I think 2000- on a Xeroxed sheet a witch friend shared with me). Contrarian that I am, that got my back up and I went to the con- discovering the whole world of pagan conferences. I met and chatted with Isaac Bonewits, Gavin & Yvonna Frost, Oberon & Morning Glory Zell, Janet & Stewart Ferrar & Gavin Bone, Lori Bruno, and the others. Luckily, I’ve never felt that “celebrities” were anything but people who happened to have had their reputation precede them, so I’ve always felt comfortable chatting with “big names”, when I encountered them. After years of conferences, I have comfortable acquaintance with many authors and speakers, and worry that I seem to be name dropping, but the big reason I’m comfortable approaching someone is that as a (small scale) writer I often wonder if what I sent out into the big world ever actually gets read, so when I meet another writer, I want to assure them that their words have reached someone, and thank them… and I often also want to discuss some point with them.
Can I name some individuals? I really admire “Auntie Shema” and what she’s doing at A Sacred Place, and what she’s doing, but it bothers me that she needs help I can’t give. I love and admire Raven Kaldera, who has taught me a lot about shamanism- and reassured me that I am not called to be one this lifetime. I enjoyed studying Huna with Serge Kahili King in Kuai’i, but I probably got more from reading all his books. I love the folk at Earth Spirit, but am not into ritual as they are. It was at Rites of Spring I met Kirk White, Orion Foxwood, and Margot Adler, who encouraged me to write the book (I have yet to finish doing the research on), which led me to spend years studying the development of the neo-pagan movement. Charles Butler who ran Ecumenicon, and Tom and Debby Sheeley who ran Etheracon became friends and taught me a lot about running cons as well as introducing me to lots of the other folks I know now.
I also think it’s worth mentioning something Elliot Shorter said back in the 80s, …that there were only 200 people in the world because you could go to the SCA, or a Science Fiction conference, or a pagan gathering and you’d run into the same people. So true! I’ve often known people through the SCA for years before I found out they were also pagans, or SF authors (Arwen/ Jane Sibley for example, Raven Kaldera, or Kami Landi who started ConVocation- I had no clue). If I hadn’t gone to Convocation, I wouldn’t have met Rod Cox and taught RúnValdr all over the East Coast.
I think that when you read a book someone has written, you begin to feel as if you know them, possibly more than you really do. That may contribute to my ease in approaching authors. At the same time, the same confidence that I know what I’ve experienced that gave me the confidence to recognize the reality of psychic experience and other-world entities helps me approach what they’ve written as not infallible. Extensive reading (especially academic) includes watching a groundbreaking new theory become discounted- or built upon.
In all honesty, I still remember being told when I was five that the deja vu I’d just experienced was not possible and I was imagining it. I remember noticing how often when I concentrated on something I wanted that it happened. I remember watching mental television on a blank wall (about the same age), and I don’t remember, but am told I shocked my aunt-to-be on her first date with my uncle with the announcement she was going to marry him. Perhaps this is why I remember having confidence that what I experienced was real. Later I remember reading in a SF book about people being able to control their body temperature, and practicing until I could do it. I remember reading about OOBs and when I managed it, being embarrassed that I could be caught “undressed” (without my body on) and slamming back into it (I also remember catching my mother’s double in the kitchen once, but being more worried about being caught out of bed than seeing through her). Did people influence me? Yes, but mostly by motivating me to go my own way, because I already trusted myself, and I was a contrary little kid.