Monthly Archives: October 2012

Samhain Prayer

 

In this night

where veils are thinnest

and the cries of our Beloved Dead

can be heard across waves of time,

think upon the past,

see where your feet have trodden,

and learn from the landmarks and trail blazes you left behind.

 

In this night

when Harvest is over,

abundance is gathered and cold awaits,

look to the future,

plan and ponder,

but lose not yourself in the dreaming that is so tempting on these long nights.

 

In this night

where past and present linger

and beings open up to the worlds beyond,

pay homage, do honor,

and count your blessings,

for the waves of time roll on with or without us as we pilot our own boats on this sea of life.

 

Samhain

 

Today is Blessed Samhain,

And harvest-time is done.

The leaves and fruits have fallen;

Less warmly shines the sun.

The days are crisp and windy,

The nighttime brisk and clear.

Full bellies and full larders –

We slumber without fear.

 

We light the sacred fires

To celebrate this time

And drum the Earth’s own heartbeat

With songs and chants in rhyme.

We sing the Mother’s praises

And send Her off to sleep

And speak of our ancestors

Safely in Her keep.

 

The Reaper does his duty,

His sharpened sickle bright,

His bony charger treading

The quiet streets this night.

The souls of dear departed

The Summerland to find –

And Death collects them, one and all,

So none are left behind.

 

Cry welcome to the spirits

Of our Beloved Dead –

We share with them sweet water

And break the new-made bread.

We share as well the stories,

The memories and tales

That make our dead ones live again

With love that never fails.

 

This last day of the old year

To neither time belongs,

And in a place that’s not a place

We chant the sacred songs.

And in the holy Circle,

From first light unto last,

With laughter and remembrance,

We speak of times gone past.

 

So come ye now to Samhain,

Elder, youth, and bairn.

With loving thoughts and kindness,

Set a stone upon the cairn.

Then clasp the hand beside you,

For soon we shall depart,

And keep the days of Autumn

Full deep within your hearts.

 

Freedom in the Darkness

In many pagan traditions, Samhain is the New Year. In my own tradition of Druidry, this is not the case. As Druidry is a religion of Nature, all our holidays are but a time to gather to honor its tides, and the flow of the seasons. And our holidays reflect what is happening in the landscape. They are designed to bring us into a more conscious awareness of the cycles of change that are happening all around us in Nature.

For the druid, the new cycle of growth begins at Yule with the return sun at the Winter Solstice. The days begin to lengthen and we are infused with hope for a new cycle of growth. The long darkness begins to abate. Yes a long Winter is still ahead but after the tides appear to stand still, a tiny shift happens and we can begin to see a new current flowing in the landscape, each day bringing a little more light.

In the Druid tradition, Samhain is viewed as a tide. I often refer to this as the Samhain tide instead of just Samhain, as it denotes a period of time instead of just a moment. Nature isn’t beholden to our human calendar. While we may celebrate Samhain on October 31st, that isn’t usually the case for the druid. The Samhain tide begins when Natural death comes to the landscape. It begins when the first killing frost hits. While at Alban Elfed (Welsh/Brythonic pronounced elved, it is the autumn equinox, meaning “light of autumn,” the celebration of the harvest), we consciously kill as we harvest the food we have planted, slaughter the animals we have raised for food, or gather wild mushrooms in the forest. This killing is a choice. At Samhain, Nature does the killing. The growth cycle has ended for the year – no matter if we would have it be otherwise. It is done.

Yet as Nature brings death to the year of growth, a new cycle has decidedly not started. Nature doesn’t work that way where one moment it is one way, then the next it is another. Nature moves in tides. The returning of the sun isn’t for another few months. Yet the days are still growing darker. The power of darkness so prevalent in these Northern climates becomes palpable. It is the strongest force of Nature moving through the landscape – ignore it at your own risk. And it continues to gather strength until we begin to doubt the days will ever grow longer. We feed the fire and ride out this time of unknowing. The time of growth ended, yet no new cycle has started. In Druidry, the Samhain tide is viewed as a time of chaos.

Chaos is powerful energy. At the edge of chaos is where we find the most complexity in Nature. This is a scientific observation. And I also see this within my own soul – at the edges of it are all the complexities of relationship. Diving into the processes of my own psyche and into the processes of my own soul during the Samhain tide is so freeing. As I dream in the darkness, not needing to worry about beginning anything, simply mirroring Nature and what is going on in the landscape, I frequently discover much that was hidden. I don’t dream small. I dare to dream without limits. I can completely let go of preconceptions of what is possible in life. This is the gift of the Samhain tide. This is the gift of chaos.

We dive headlong into Cerridwen’s cauldron of transformation and we are transformed. We let go of the past. Like a serpent sheds its skin, we shed our outdated images of who we are. We let go of the preconceptions we have in our relationships as well, letting others be free from the boxes we try to hold them in. The Samhain tide is an opportunity to go back to source and come out the other side freed from chains of our own creation. Samhain is death. And death is the source of all that is. Metaphorically speaking, the Samhain tide is our chance to walk willing into death and free ourselves of the constraints of all the fixed patterns of our life. Samhain, more than any other of our holidays, is about freedom.

We are often like leaves shaking in the wind, holding on to all that is known. During this Samhain tide, I invite you all to let go. Nature will force us to anyway, but there is power in choice. So my pagan brothers and sisters, let’s flow with Nature, let’s stop fighting the currents, let’s dive headlong into the darkness and embrace this time of change. Let’s swim in the liquid Awen held within her cauldron. Let’s dream without limits and let go of the need to ‘know.’ Now is a time of chaos and unknowing. Let’s dance with forces of death. Let’s be free.

Blessings of transformation,
Snowhawke /|\

Faerie Tidings: A Feast for the Faerie Kin

The rain sounds like a thousand footsteps, all around the edges of the clearing. Fog drifts through and among the standing stones. We can feel the tangible presence of our ancestors. Finishing our rites, we carefully pack up our baskets and satchels; there will be no stargazing this Samhain Eve. It’s cold, wet, and windy, and our cozy cottage beckons us back down the hill.

We spy some moistened mushrooms at the edge of the path, gleaming in our lantern light.

During our meditative communion with our ancestors, we were inspired to create a delectable feast for them. As we crunch our way back to the cottage, we eagerly imagine all the delicious dishes and desserts we’ll be making tonight to honor our faerie kin.

We spy some moistened mushrooms at the edge of the path, gleaming in our lantern light. We harvest a few as accents for the feast, leaving a shiny silver coin as an offering. Nearer the stream, we find patches of fresh greens still poking their heads out amongst the copper pine needles and brown oak leaves. As we near the cottage, we gently pluck bronze pears from one of our favorite trees, thanking it for the pie we’ll soon create.

The three cats are huddled in the barn door, mostly out of the rain, awaiting our return. We share a pear with Maude the donkey, making sure she’s all settled in for the night. Then we open the cottage door for the rain-bespeckled cats, who twine happily around our feet in greeting, wiping their damp fur on our legs. We give thanks that we remembered our water-resistant cloaks, as we shake them off and set them by the newly-rekindled fire to dry.

We put on hot water for steaming mugs of vanilla tea, and then begin to take an inventory of the pantry, preparing for our marathon in the kitchen. We nibble a few roasted nuts as we merrily discuss our plans. We have apples and honey for pie, and plenty of squash, potatoes, carrots, turnips, parsnips, and beets. It sounds like a root stew is in order! We’ll also bake some bread, as we know our ancestors love to break it with us. And we’ll crack open the new wheel of cheese that Farmer Brown brought us yesterday, cutting through its beeswax shell.

We start chopping the veggies and sliding them off the wooden cutting board into a big black cauldron. Flour flies as we prepare the crusts for the apple and pear pies. A stray rolling pin slips off the table and makes its way across the floor, startling the orange cat into licking his paws in surprise. The greens and mushrooms we found will be sautéed into a wilted salad and dressed with our own apple cider vinegar and dried chives, fennel, and walnut.

Our bellies rumble, so we slice off a wedge of the cheese to share. As the dough rises and the pies bake and the stew bubbles, we prepare our dining space. We pull our best table linens from a nearby trunk and shake them out. One of the black cats finds a comfy spot inside the trunk, so we decide to leave the lid open for now.

Placing the tablecloth on our long table, we add place settings, napkins, and our centerpiece – Great-Aunt Eleanor’s crystal ball. Next, we add an arrangement of colorful candles and a garland of yellow mums. We put out our best fluted glasses, to be filled with some honey mead we saved for just such an occasion.

Soon, as if by magick, the fantastic feast is ready to eat! We serve out generous helpings onto each plate and pour the mead. There are no lively musicians and excited neighbors joining us this time; this feast is to share with our ancestors beyond the veil. As we sit down at our places, we can hear a distant haunting melody as if coming from the hills around the cottage.

We propose a toast to the ancestors and offer them their places at this Samhain feast. With blessings said, we quietly enjoy our own portion of the delicious meal we’ve prepared. The cats are all asleep by the fire, and we too soon begin to drowse. Dimming the candles, we make our way upstairs to bed and say a fond goodnight to our faerie kin. We leave their plates full, to be enjoyed at their leisure.

As morning dawns, we hear noises from downstairs. The cats are all snuggled up with us, sleeping soundly. Deciding to investigate, we tiptoe down the stairs. All the plates on the table are empty now, and sparkling clean. Noticing a gleam on one of them, we discover a bright shiny silver coin. We laugh in delight – the faerie ancestors have enjoyed their Samhain feast!

Samhain

 

The season of death and of endings is here

And with it comes doubtfulness, worries and fear.

But trust in the Lady and trust in the Lord

As we all move toward Samhain with a single accord.

The pumpkins we carved, now all glowing and orange,

The grand, creepy sound of an old creaking door hinge.

Slithering shadows and sneaky black cats,

Whispering breezes and high-swooping bats;

Fairies and monsters with wings on their backs,

Ghosties and goblins are running in packs.

Kids all in costumes who run door to door –

Pagans, we know what this night’s really for!

Do divination and play party games,

Knowing that folks ‘round the world do the same.

Visiting ancestors’ gravesites and mounds,

Blessing the Earth and Her soon-sleeping grounds.

On Pagan Politics: Weaving Together Our Communities, Lifestyles, and History

Here in the US, we are nearing election day. Many of my friends in the Maine Pagan community are working tirelessly in various campaigns they believe in – some are supporting the “Gay Marriage” initiative on the ballot, others are supporting candidates they believe have the best chance to give them the future they envision, and a few are even running for office themselves.

But this is not the “pagan politics” I wish to address in this article. Rather, I wish to begin with an image. It comes from an extraordinary gathering, a recent event called The Weaving, which was to be a visioning for the Maine Pagan community, in how we come together as a tribe.

Photo by Aracos, www.bardtographer.com

This photo shows the fire from the event, and will serve as a metaphor for this discussion. By the time this photo had been taken, it had been burning for hours and hadn’t required anyone to tend it. This style of self-feeding fire is called an upside-down fire (I’ve also heard it called a pyramid fire and a council fire). Once it is built with the proper structure and the tinder is ignited, the fire will burn unattended for several hours. In an upside-down fire, the largest logs are at the bottom, with the next largest logs laid perpendicular on top of the bottom layer, and so on, all the way to the top which contains twigs of kindling and then the tinder bundle at the very top. The key to an upside-down fire is structure; the logs must come together in the right way, leaning on one another. When this structure is accomplished, and with a good tinder bundle to get the fire going, the fire becomes self-sustaining and will burn for a long time – several hours – without requiring maintenance.

I beg your indulgence at this clumsy extended metaphor – but I see the pagan community in the same light. If we come together with the right structure where we lean on one another, the smallest spark of inspiration will ignite the community and allow it to provide warmth and light with very little additional labor.

How a society is structured – even a disparate, “herding cats” society such as the Maine pagans – is the most fundamental question of politics. But I shall take this a step further and say that “paganism” is inherently political; indeed the very name “pagan” was created, and came into widespread use, as a result of politics.

I take great delight in the phrase: “Pagan” is Latin for “Redneck.” The humor in this expression is both a resonant, truthful image, and a great icebreaker for those “oh, so you’re a pagan… what’s that?” conversations. The Latin paganus means “country-dweller” – the term was created and came into widespread use during the Roman Empire, to describe those alienated from civilization and the great city of Rome. “Country-dweller” means more than just one who lives in the country. It also involves “dwelling,” which is a certain way-of-being, an attentiveness-to and attunement-with one’s natural environment; the meaning is much deeper than just where your primary shelter happens to be. There is a connection between one’s daily existence and the location; the land, with all its rhythms and cycles, becomes a sacred place within which to dwell. In urban environments, attunement-with the land and its natural rhythms is the most fundamentally pagan way-of-being to disappear. Nature began to be systematically abstracted within the new urban Rome. The term “pagan” began to describe other people, who had either already been, or would be conquered next.1

For more than a thousand years, use of the term grew, laying the groundwork for systemic oppression for the pagans, the witches, and the savages. We became Other, and suspicion and fear of pagans was rewarded in the dominant monoculture.

Labeling and persecuting those connected to Nature culminated in The Burning Times, which were also a monumental time of transition at the very birth of present-day Western culture:

In this “century of geniuses”—Bacon, Kepler, Galileo, Shakespeare, Pascal, Descartes—a century that saw the triumph of the Copernican Revolution, the birth of modern science, and the development of philosophical and scientific rationalism, witchcraft became one of the favorite subjects of debate for the European intellectual elites. Judges, lawyers, statesmen, philosophers, scientists, theologians all became preoccupied with the “problem,” wrote pamphlets and demonologies, agreed that this was the most nefarious crime, and called for its punishment.2

The Witch hunts. Wholesale slaughter of entire populations, mostly women, put to horrible deaths and suffering. Why? What was behind the witch hunts? Why was it so important for the Establishment power structures to cultivate a deep, cultural, and popular fear of the witch—much like the “terrorist” of today? At the same time that the prevailing worldview was turning to those core values we hold so dear today—the scientific revolution, the Enlightenment, the Reformation, and the rise of capitalism—there were also some of the most brutal examples of oppression and genocide ever witnessed, a fact that remains the paradox of our age.

In addition, the witch hunts were one of the first examples of a globalized assertion of power greater than the nation-state, as they occurred all over Europe in a time of great national division and antipathy:

“both Catholic and Protestant nations, at war against each other in every other respect, joined arms and shared arguments to persecute witches. Thus, it is no exaggeration to claim that the witch-hunt was the first unifying terrain in the politics of the new European nation-states, the first example, after the schism brought about by the Reformation, of a European unification. For, crossing all boundaries, the witch-hunt spread from France and Italy to Germany, Switzerland, England, Scotland, and Sweden.”3

Together, these shifts in thinking, along with the accompanying violence and oppression justified by the new thinking, banished the pagans from their sacred lands, and forced them into urban domesticity and wageslavery. Since the witch hunts, to be pagan is, by definition, to be political, in the sense that we have resisted – and must continue to resist – the centuries-old history of genocide, oppression, torture, displacement, enclosure, slavery, and coercion that has been imposed by force. The smell of smoke lingers even today from this extraordinary turning point in our history.

It was not the theology or the “faith” of the pagans that were targeted in these systematic repressions. Indeed, evidence of pagan traditions and beliefs are too numerously extant for this to be the case, from Easter-egg hunts to Christmas trees to Yule logs to maypole dancing to Halloween to Groundhog’s Day. No, the target of these attacks were the very structure of society, the pagan values and ethos that people had lived under for centuries. Most of the countless “witches” burned at the stake4 were single women, who owned land and practiced the old ways of healing, spiritual mentorship, public counsel, in competition with the clergy of the church and the aristocracy. After their burning, with the acrid smoke fresh in the air, their lands and property were seized, and over time their practices were wiped out as allopathic medicine and capitalist modes of production became dominant.

In 2012, we pagans are more than ever a conquered people. Our “paganism” has been reduced to a pale reflection of the old ways in the form of rituals, most of which were re-imagined in the 20th century, with a handful of competing claims of unbroken lineages of pagan groups or families. For many of us, once the romantic appeal of these forgotten rites wore off, we began to see that they have a certain air of antiquatedness to them. It’s not that the rites are not historically valid (I will leave it to others to continue this debate), but today we live in a very different context than did our ancestors, the pagans of old. Nearly all modern pagans are domesticated urbanites, who would struggle to survive without the conveniences of civilization. The old ways are, for us, an abstraction, something we must apply our skills of imagination and visualization to bear on if we wish to engage them. Yet when we manage to listen to our inner voices and relate authentically with our ecosystem, we hear the same consistent, steady whisper: get closer to nature. Something is wrong. You have forgotten something very important. Not only do the power structures of civilization dominate all facets of our being, but they are destroying the planet to sustain themselves.

The fact that relationship-with-Nature is fundamental to our metaphysics, ethics, and theologies demands that we “dirty our hands” with politics, even if we ignore our history and reject the understanding that we as pagans are a conquered people. We pagans have known for centuries that the dominant paradigm is not sustainable, is irreverent and careless with the gifts of nature, seeing her as something to exploit rather than to be in relationship-with.

Political dialogue and practice in America is broken, at least to the extent that it all-too-quickly decays into partisan bickering and name-calling. While politicians on the Left and the Right blame one another, the system marches on, and 200 more species on the planet go extinct each day.5 Paganism offers a bottom-up politic that will, if we lead the way, offer a path forward to restore the pagan values that have been lost and suppressed for 500 years, stop the assault on our planet so that our ecosystems can begin to heal, and have a prayer of restoring balance to the world.

Whatever forms pagan ways-of-being will take in 2012 and beyond, they must begin and end with relationship. The existing top-down political system does not serve us, and will not be there for us as things continue to deteriorate. We pagans will need each other, and this need will only be foregrounded as more and more people are left with fewer answers and less support from the infrastructures of civilization. We pagans are suited toward bottom-up community building, and this sort of Pagan politics, where people lean on one another to sustain themselves like a long-burning fire, can be a beacon of hope to the wider world.

Notes

1   I am acutely aware of the complex relationship between modern pagans – especially white pagans who are part of the dominant culture – and indigenous people. In many ways, I don’t differentiate much between the two groups, because despite the history of brutal oppression the indigenous people have suffered, I believe our goals now are complementary at the very least. My broad conception of paganism – those who seek honorable relationship with nature – welcomes anyone for whom this is the case, no matter their racial heritage, personal history, etc. I will leave deeper analysis to others; it is beyond the scope of this article.

2   Silvia Federici, Caliban & The Witch, (New York: Autonomedia, 2004) p. 168.

3   Federici, 169.

4   Burning at the stake was both an unimaginably horrible way to die as well as a public spectacle, designed to incite fear about what happened to people who practiced the old ways.

5   This theme of mass extinction is explored in detail in Aric McBay, Lierre Keith, & Derrick Jensen, Deep Green Resistance (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2011).

The Reaper

 

Autumn has come in all of its glory;

The evening shadows grow deeper.

Bounty is won, and low sinks the sun

As everything waits for the Reaper.

 

Turkey and pheasant and duck on the wing

Never know when Archer’s arrows will sing.

Deer in the field stand ready to run,

Waiting the sound of the Huntsman’s gun.

 

The sun starts His yearly descent into death

As Earth turns from giver to keeper.

Like a child at the breast, we start into our rest —

And everything waits for the Reaper.

 

Apples stand waiting in bushel and sack

To someday be applesauce, cider and jack.

Wheat turns to flour and barley to beer –

The Green Man has done all His growing this year.

 

Cellars and larders are bursting with bounty —

Nothing on branch, root, or creeper.

Growing is done; the harvest begun —

Now everything waits for the Reaper.

Samhaintide

 

Ring the bell and light the fire –

It’s Samhain once again.

Gather in the harvest hall

With family and friends.

Crops are in and trees are bare

And fox soon seeks his den –

With cooler days and longer nights

We’re now at Summer’s end.

 

Call the quarters, hail the gods,

The gentle and the bold;

Hail the passing of the sun

Whose light is dimmed by cold.

Hail the bounty of the earth,

A wonder to behold.

Pass the bread and share the mead

And bless all, young and old.

 

Lanterns cast a golden glow

As Circle Is trod ‘round.

Every voice is lifted high

In joyous sacred sound.

Veggies added one by one,

A growing gorgeous mound,

As we bless the wondrous food

That came from out the ground.

 

Now we sing in praise of those

Who’ve passed from life before;

The veil is thin and we can see

Beloved Dead once more.

Share the tales and memories

And songs from days of yore.

Refresh the love and thoughts of those

That we love and adore.

 

We thank those things that held our space,

The north, south, west and east.

We counted things that bless our lives,

The greatest and the least.

The Magick’s done for health and wealth,

Our fortunes all increased.

So now is time for Circle’s end

And then to start the feast.

 

Local meats and veggies, breads,

And apple crisps and pies

Load the feasting tables full

And cause contented sighs.

And later still, the harvest ball –

We wear our best disguise –

And dance we all in merriment,

The young ones and the wise.

 

We celebrate the season

In an ancient Pagan way,

With ritual and honest thanks

And Rede which we obey,

And of course forgiveness

When we sometimes go astray.

And at this time, may I wish you

A blessed Samhain day.

The Power of Community

I recently completed a week-long course in timber framing at the Fox Maple School of Traditional Building in Brownfield, Maine. It was a very demanding and intense six days of learning and hard work. Although it was exhausting, I am so pleased I took it. The inspiration I have from participating in such an event is remarkable.

The idea of natural building methods and traditional timber framing construction has always appealed to me as it expresses a sense of ethics that fits perfectly into my spiritual practices and ideals. Our lives must become more local. Our work, our home materials, and our food need to come from where we live. Extracting resources from far-away places, shipping them around the globe and buying them from people who don’t live in our community presents a real ethical dilemma. If our existence is based on our engagement with our local environment, then we will find a balance where we live with concern for our ecosystem, and from that concern we won’t cause unnecessary harm. When we extract resources from an abstraction (that place far away where things come from and we don’t see the damage), we will use resources without having to deal with the immediate consequences. This allows excess. This way of being has to end. Local living is the only viable path. How do I know this? All of Nature lives locally. Yes, some animals migrate. But their passing is part of a known pattern of Nature that is life-enhancing rather than life-negating. We have to mimic Nature in order to live a sustainable, viable life. Any problem we have, Nature has already solved.

So anyway, this timber framing course has sparked an idea and a passion in me. I recall being in England where I saw a sign on an old stone and timber frame building. It said something to the effect of “England’s oldest continuous inn. Established 981.″ So this building has been an inn for over 1100 years. The original frame, foundation and walls are still standing. And I thought, why don’t we build everything to last? Why isn’t our work a gift to the next generation? A house I build will be passed on to someone who won’t have to spend time or use resources to build a house – or be a slave to a job to pay for it. It will be free. If I build something that will last, build it with materials that are local, crafted with a sense of permanence and beauty, it will be respected. And if it is respected, it will endure. Our ancestors did it with crude tools and no electricity. And these buildings are still in use today, hundreds of generations later. We can do the same. It is a matter of choice.

The other part of this course perfectly illustrated something I have been, for lack of a better word, preaching about for a long while now, the power of community. Twenty-two of us showed up for this course. No one had timber framing experience. Most of us were not builders or carpenters (I was in this category). And yet, in a few days we went from a stack of timbers and pile of ignorance to framing and erecting a two-bent saltbox with a great room with a beautiful hammerbeam bent. This frame will eventually stand on someone’s property for many hundreds of years.

Now imagine if we as a community were already skilled and that we joined together to help each other build lasting, efficient and beautiful homes all built from local natural materials. What a difference we would make in each other’s lives – a small or zero mortgage, living in environmentally friendly houses that will last, to be passed onto the next generation. Imagine if we had inherited such a thing, growing up knowing that we have a home and the only cost is that we respect, care and maintain it. Imagine if we had shared skills for all aspects of our lives: food, shelter, creativity, learning and religious practices. What if we as a community dedicated eight weekends a year to helping others build homes or put in gardens or create community events to support our local artisans? Can you imagine such a way of life? I can and I do and I am dedicating my life to building it.

As a side note, the word mortgage comes from Latin and is built from roots that mean, “death obligation.” In other words, it is an obligation that you carry until you die. When it comes to our homes we need to shift the meaning from “working a job for thirty years to pay a bank twice the value of a home” to “while we live in this home we are obligated to care for and maintain this remarkable gift of our ancestors who built this beautiful lasting structure with craftsmanship, vision and love. And for as long as we do, we have a home.”

I am skilling myself and I am ready to pitch in and rebuild my local community, one lasting green building, one edible forest garden, one annual celebration at a time. Any volunteers to join in?

Blessings of honor and beauty,
Snowhawke /|\

Naughty Pagans Year 3

On Saturday, September 15, the Naughty Pagan Project unveiled the latest in their collection of sexy, serious, and silly photos of local Pagans. This year’s themes included feminist re-imaginings of fairy-tales, tongue-in-cheek stagings of famous photos, deities, animal totems, and (as always!) men in kilts.

The project, spanning three years and including nearly 100 Pagans of all shapes and sizes, started out as a tongue-in-cheek fundraiser for Eastern Maine Pagan Pride Association. “We wanted to do something like Calendar Girls, y’know – pinups with a sense of humor – but with a Pagan perspective. As far as we know nothing like this has ever been done before,” says EMPPA VP Teresa Cassinelli. It soon became clear that the Project was heading in a different direction than simple fundraising. Says EMPPA Secretary Michele Littlefield, “We started hearing from people about how being in the photo shoots and seeing their photos at the release party was a life-changing experience. They started to reevaluate their self-image and see themselves the way the rest of us see them; gorgeous!” EMPPA Treasurer Merlin Littlefield agrees, “It definitely changed the way I see myself. There’s nothing quite like a room full of beautiful women cat-calling you to help you really believe you’re sexy!”

Promoting healthy self-image and appreciation for beauty in all creatures is part of the Naughty Pagan Project mission statement:

We believe that all life is beautiful. We challenge the notion that gorgeousness must be thin and young; that attractive only comes in a suit or heels or with makeup. The pagans found within these photos are vibrant, sexy, real-life examples of the vast array of shapes and sizes in which beauty can be found. Our models are not professionals; we seek out ways to help every person not only feel sexy, but show that sexiness to the world through the use of creative photographic expression. We purposefully do not use photo-shop techniques on our models. What you see is what you get – and what you get is amazing, natural, magickal photos of real people.

Originally published as a yearly collection of calendars, this year the Naughty Pagan Project has changed formats to full-color coffee-table books. EMPPA President Keri Alley comments on the change to book form: “The calendars were nice, but I don’t think any of us actually used the calendar portion; we just wanted to have copies of the photos. Having it in book form eliminates the date restrictions of a calendar and allows us to include more photos than we were able to publish before. Moving away from calendars allows us to explore other projects, too. We’re working on a Naughty Pagan Tarot deck, and on using photographs as illustrations to Pagan-themed stories.”

If you’re interested in seeing more, or in joining the Project at their next photo shoot, visit their Facebook page: Naughty Pagan Photo Project for upcoming events and links to purchase the books and other merchandise.