Friday, February 24, 2012

Distinctive Identities

Hedgewitch...Druid...Shaman...Theosophist... Heathen... Celtic Reconstructionist... Warlock... Chaos Magickian... Thelemist... Dianic... Wiccan... Root Worker...Ceremonial Magickian... Witch...These are but some of the distinctive identities found within the Pagan Community.

Identity is how we define ourselves, the form of individuality and characteristics we claim. For ourselves, it is disambiguation; for the public, it is how we are recognized. In some instances the identification is distinctive and clear-cut. For others, not so much so. There are variations within a specific  practice and the line blurs within the same individual so that it is possible for a Spiritualist to also be a Rootworker, a Lightworker, or a herbalist...or all three. Wiccans are Witches, but not all Witches are Wiccan, and not all Witches claim a religious or spiritual practice. Some Witches follow the tenets of Buddhism, while others worship Diana-or any other deity in myriad  pantheons. Some male Witches prefer to be called Wizard and there is a small movement afoot to reclaim and restore the term 'Warlock' from it's negative nomenclature.

It's all good with me. Call yourself what you will, worship who and what you want, in whatever way the spirit moves you and the Universal Source of Mystery provides. Inspiration comes from infinite places. Far be it for me to try to persuade you otherwise. In return, and out of mutual respect, I expect to be given the same latitude. I will not guarantee that I will not scoff in private ( "Excuse me, do you really worship anime characters?") but as long as you aren't stomping the daylights out of  anyone else's chosen form of theological expression or threatening their right to life, you'll escape my wrath.

I think it's pretty safe to say that we are all Occultists due to the nature of the Art. Many of our traditions and practices are hidden out of fear of reprisal and rejection, and so they remain in the shadows. For others, it's a matter of the Art being the right of initiation. However it is, there is a resurgence of just as many forms of Paganism which have been thrust willingly into the theological arena. Taking all the various forms of non-Abrahamic worship  into consideration, and the result is that Paganism is the fastest growing religion of the past century. Although there are those who will beg to differ and argue, this has been conclusively proven by the distinguished Pew Research Center, a division of the Pew Charitable Trusts. But you need go no further than the local mall to find pentagrams and other occult symbols on prominent display in mainstream stores. This is also a measure of proof because in retail, stores only carry items they sell-it's the Rule of Supply and Demand.

Mystery Traditions, by their very nature, are not high profile and this is why we aren't certain about their membership or numbers-and some Occultists tend to be initiates in several traditions (which skews the numbers a bit, I believe). Some of us don't even like the term Pagan or community but until we come up with a more inclusive umbrella term, that's what I'm sticking with. It's hard to tell how many of us there really are in any given place because not too many of us are standing on street corners proclaiming our faith. ( However, some of us do regularly visit the crossroads at night, ha ha...) I am 'out of the broom closet' as they say. I am fortunate enough to not have to hide my faith of choice when others are still afraid- and rightly so. That being said, you will not find me tromping through the streets downtown in black robes and a pointy hat anytime soon...not because I am afraid, and not because I am critical of those who do, but because I feel your choice and manner of worship is a private affair. It's just keeps it that much more intimately sacred for me. I felt the same way about it when I was a Christian; I seldom wore a cross-even with my clericals.

I will be the first to tell you that I don't know everything there is about other Pagan traditions. I can recognize many by their characteristics and have at least a simple one sentence definition for myself of quite a few. Every once in while I am surprised by someone who worships a deity or has a practice I had no earthly idea even had adherents, like the Mysterious Secret Inner Grove of  Haas Avocado Enthusiasts. Whom, I assume, eat the fruit at every meal or paint themselves green with it. Maybe they wear breastplates made of avocado husks. As far as I'm concerned, those types of little surprises are what keeps our community fresh and interesting . Viva la difference....and may you be blessed in your Journey.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Mardi Gras King Cake with Cream Cheese and Apple Filling

Mardi Gras King Cake with Cream Cheese and Apple Filling

Total time: 1 hour, 45 minutes, plus rising times

This just about the best recipe for a traditional Mardi Gras King Cake I have ever found! I love that this one has the addition of apples and cream cheese filling because it makes it more interesting. Personally, I'm a little leery of putting the tiny plastic baby inside the cake because of it being a choking hazard: put the baby on top as a decoration and substitute  a whole pecan inside the cake to preserve the tradition. Colored sugars and plastic king cake babies are generally available in the baking supply area of Michael's or AC Moore stores. You can also try the Dollar Tree. For better flavor, rehydrate the raisins in a small saucepan, covered with spiced rum, over low heat just until plump and tender. It is best served when it is slightly warm or room temperature.

Great with Creole Coffee, which is black coffee with a spoonful of  good quality molasses stirred into it (omit the sugar or sweetener). Let the good times roll!

Apple filling
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 large tart apples, such as Granny Smith, peeled, cored, quartered and sliced crosswise into ¼-inch slices
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup raisins
  • ½ cup toasted pecan pieces

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Stir in the apple slices, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt, and cook, stirring frequently, just until the apple starts to soften, 3 to 4 minutes (the slices should still be crisp). Remove from heat and stir in the raisins and toasted pecans. Spread the apple mixture onto a baking sheet to stop the cooking process and allow the apples to cool quickly, then cover and refrigerate until needed.

Cream cheese filling
  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese
  • ¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons sugar
  • ½ beaten egg (save the other half to make the egg wash for the cake)

In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a large bowl using a hand mixer, beat together the cream cheese with the vanilla, salt and sugar. Add the beaten egg to the cream cheese mixture and beat until thoroughly combined. Cover and refrigerate until needed.
Cream cheese glaze
  • 2 ounces (1/4 of an 8-ounce package) cream cheese
  • ¼ cup (1/2 stick) butter, at room temperature
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup powdered sugar, sifted

In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a medium bowl using a hand mixer, whisk together the cream cheese, butter, vanilla and salt until completely combined. With the mixer running, add the sifted powdered sugar, one spoonful at a time, until fully incorporated.
Brioche dough and assembly
  • ¾ cup milk, divided
  • 1 package (2 ½ teaspoons) active dry yeast
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar, divided
  • 2 eggs, plus ½ beaten egg (use the remaining half egg leftover from the cream cheese filling), divided
  • 10 tablespoons (1 stick plus 2 tablespoons) butter, at room temperature
  • 3 ½ cups (15.75 ounces) bread flour, plus more for dusting
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Apple filling
  • Cream cheese filling
  • Cream cheese glaze
  • Purple, green and yellow colored sugars for decorating
  • Plastic baby, if desired

1. In a small pan, heat one-half cup plus 2 tablespoons of milk over medium heat just until warmed. Remove from heat and pour the milk into a small bowl or measuring cup. Stir in the yeast and 1 teaspoon of sugar, then set aside until the milk is foamy and the yeast is activated, about 10 minutes.
2. Whisk the 2 eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer using the whisk attachment (or in a large bowl with a hand mixer) until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Stir in the yeast mixture and remaining one-third cup of sugar until fully incorporated.
3. If using a stand mixer, switch to the paddle attachment. With the mixer running, add the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, until incorporated.
4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. With the mixer running, add the flour mixture, one spoonful at a time, until fully incorporated.
5. Remove the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead until it is soft and somewhat silky (it’s a rich dough and won’t be entirely smooth), 5 to 7 minutes. Place the dough in a large, oiled bowl and lightly cover with plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 to 1 ½ hours.
6. Meanwhile, make an egg wash: Combine the remaining beaten half egg with the remaining 2 tablespoons of milk.
7. When the dough is doubled, punch it down (it will be very smooth and elastic) and roll it out onto a lightly floured surface into a 10-by-28-inch rectangle. Lightly score the dough lengthwise to divide the dough into 2 equal halves.
8. Spoon the apple filling down the length of one side, leaving a 1 ½-inch border on the top, bottom and sides. Repeat with the cream cheese filling down the other side of the dough, leaving a 1 ½-inch border on the top, bottom and each side. Lightly brush the edges and center of the dough (along the score) with the egg wash to moisten. Gently and carefully pull the dough over the cream cheese filling, sealing the edge of the dough along the score mark. Repeat with the apple filling. Press the sealed edges, making sure they are secure (otherwise the fillings could spill out while the cake bakes).
9. Gently twist the length of the dough to form a braid-like shape. Wrap the dough so it forms an oval wreath and gently press the edges together. Carefully transfer the wreath to a parchment-lined baking sheet.
10. Brush the top of the wreath lightly with egg wash and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise until almost doubled in volume, 45 minutes to an hour, or loosely cover and refrigerate the dough overnight, removing it from the refrigerator about 1 hour before baking for the dough to come to room temperature.
11. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly brush the wreath with any remaining egg wash and place the sheet in the oven.
12. Bake the cake until golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (the toothpick will remain moist if it hits the cream cheese filling, but there should be no crumbs sticking to it), about 30 minutes. Rotate the pan halfway through baking for even color.
13. Allow the cake to cool slightly before it is frosted (if it’s too hot, the glaze will run off the cake and not adhere). Drizzle the glaze evenly over the cake, then lightly sprinkle on the colored sugars. If using the plastic baby, hide it somewhere in the cake (press the baby in through the bottom of the cake so as not to disturb the top or sides of the cake). Serve the cake warm or at room temperature.

Courtesy: The Los Angeles Times. 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Despacho Medicine Bundles

Want to learn how to make a Despacho? It's a type of medicine bundle used in the Andes Mountains and contains items that signify a specific intention wrapped in a paper bundle...very cool.

What it takes:

A sheet of fancy paper large enough to wrap up the other items. Handmade paper is a nice touch and adds a bit more power if you make it yourself. It has to be large enough to fold into thirds and refolded until you have 9 squares-the items will go in the middle square. If you just fold it letter style into thirds, you will place the items in the middle flat, refold it like a letter, then fold in the sides from the left and right.

Bay leaves ( the original uses cocoa leaves which are illegal most places) At least three of uniform size and shape. Up to twelve groups of three, the number of mountain spirits in the Andes.
The design will be a madela of sorts.

Prayers, wishes, etc, written on small slips of thin paper. It can be a single word or a photograph of the item. I'd photocopy any personal photo because the bundle is going to be 'released' (destroyed) later.

Trinkets like small seashells, beads, seeds, feathers, etc. that are meaningful and apply to the intention.

Herbs, flower petals, powdered incense, a splash of essential oil or perfume of your choosing.

** The Ritual
Light a candle ans smudge the area where you will be working; focus on your intention or prayer offering to set the power in the items. Lay the items out in a pleasing manner,arranging them in anyway you desire. Fold up the paper around the items, making a neat package and seal it by tying with string, making a paper band, or using a wax seal. Decorate it as you wish, maybe using a sprig of rosemary or sage, a feather, or a few pieces of pretty string. Hold the package and imbue it with a final bit of energy. You must now decide how to 'release' it- by burning, burying it in the earth, leaving it for the elements, placing it in water, etc. It doesn't matter what method you use, as long as you also release any expectation about how the prayer will be answered. The Universe, Spirit, God/dess, etc. will answer in the most appropriate manner in the correct time period for the request.

The Despacho can contain as little or as much as you wish, and be of any size. They can be small and thin enough to send to a friend in a card, or carried in your pocket, or as large a greeting's up to you.

In the Andes, Despacho practitioners receive special training in this ritual and are set apart for the task.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Life, Interrupted

Whitney Houston was one of several musical artists who brought a great deal of much needed attention to the decaying inner cities of New Jersey at a time when the state was undergoing a Renaissance. Her position in pop culture lent a justified feeling of pride in the poor and especially black communities in and around Newark. At that time, Whitney Houston's voice was one of pure joy and the power of the Spirit. There was a certain light within her that as bright as the sun. When she sang, you could not help being engulfed in that light.

I am not a fan, but I enjoyed her talent both as a singer and an actress. Her meteoric rise to fame was an inspiration to many young people and watching her self-destruct was a painful lesson in what happens when personal demons are not dealt with in a positive, life affirming manner by the individual and those around them.

Everyone of us, at one time or another, has dreamed of the celebrity lifestyle. Admit it. We've all daydreamed about what we would do with the wealth, designer wardrobe, fabulous cars and the public adulation. We've imagined how happy it would make us and how life would be so much better that the one we're living now if we were a celebrity.

Undoubtedly, having that kind of money might make our lives less stressful and more carefree. The trappings of fancy might just make us momentarily happy  before we get bored by the presence and clutter of  'things'. It depends on your perspective and the choices you make with such as wealth and material possessions. Celebrity will not heal you. It will not affect those things that eat away inside you in the middle of the night or in your weakest moment. It will not in and of itself make any difference at all without the self-examination and inner work needed to successfully integrate into a healthy, whole person.
The public lays many different forms of expectation on celebrities, one of which is that we expect them to transcend all the things that make us human-they're supposed to somehow be better than we are ourselves. They are expected to exude the perfection we ourselves do not have: we in effect make gods out of them. But they are merely humans. When people like you and I screw up, our failure is relatively private and doesn't go any further...but when a celebrity screws up it's in front of the entire world and everyone see's your shortcomings. All of your faults and failures are right out there on TMZ or the front page of the National Enquirer, and the we the public just love to see that because secretly, they're breathing a collective sigh of relief that it some other poor soul and not us. It's a very human tendency toward meanness that none of us want to admit we have.

Whitney Houston's life -and death- is  a reminder of the fragility of the body and spirit and what happens when we push the envelope too far beyond our human capacity.

Death is the Ultimate Healing, and I hope that Whitney found the peace she so desperately desired and was denied in life when she crossed the Veil.

( This blog was cross-posted from my general spirituality blog, Feast of Days)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Clothes Make the Pagan?

Yours Truly with my favorite circlet.
I'm going to admit this at the beginning and get it out of the way: I like dressing for the part. It doesn't matter what the part is, we all don multiple hats because nothing in our lives is one dimensional. You can see the importance of appearance by the example I just used-our language is peppered with references! We "wear many hats", "dress to kill", "dress for the occasion" and "put on the Ritz"( For those of you not acquainted with that specific phrase, it's a 1930's reference to the fussy, pretentious attire folks put on to attend classy formal affairs at the Ritz Hotel in New York City I may be showing my age, but personally, when I call the police, I want the person who shows up at my door to look like a cop-blue uniform, badge, gun, the whole nine yards. ( "The whole nine yards" is another clothing/appearance reference originating from  the belief that tailors often used nine yards of fabric in making a quality men's suit.) I'd much rather see my car mechanic  wearing greasy coveralls than a three-piece assemble because, well...I'd probably be more confident of his ability to fix my car.

It's the visual image thing we humans have that links appearance with trust and credibility. Our brain at it's most basic nature tells us to trust what we see because vision is more readily perceived to be reliable than our other senses. And while that may not necessarily pan out to be true in our modern era, when our ancestors were within striking distance of a lion, it usually mean you were about to become dinner for the pride.  Seeing a lion hunkered down and fixated on you while licking it's chops was the visual cue to fight or flee. There was no mistake in the message.

Although our world has changed, some visual cues remain strong.  Human beings are psychologically wire through early visual imprinting, and it's exactly why public relations firms rely so heavily on "branding": expectations triggered by the appearance of an individual or product. The appearance morphs into a characteristic of the image. The bottom line is identification and recognition. There need be no actual proof behind this because belief is hinging on perception.

Fact: Many Pagans love to dress up. 

This is not just an assumption on my part, it's a fact verified by attendance at any place we gather, whether it be a conference, Pagan Pride Day Festival, or open circle. Turn in any direction and you'll likely see someone wearing a long robe, a cape, or some sort of Renaissance mash-up including a poet's shirt and knee boots, or a bustier and skirt. Clothing usually runs the gambit of "I'm a little bit Pagan" (sung to the tune of Donny and Marie Osmond's "I'm A Little Bit Country")... a peasant blouse, jeans and silver occult inspired "Look at me, I'm Aleister Crowley" ( To the tune of "Look at me, I'm Sandra Dee"), which includes full occult robes with mystical sigils and a pointy hat. I have seen some wonderful things from Holy Clothing and the Pyramid Collection and custom-tailored vestments in amazing silks and gold embroidery. The variety is limitless and the quality of taste seems to run from subdued to outrageous. It's a matter of personal style and what kind of image you'd like to project. Some folks just go for a simple black turtleneck and black pants, and that's okay. Last year at our local PPD, I saw a guy wearing a full rack of antlers from a seven-point buck and  a tooled leather vest with a Royal Stewart hunting kilt and a fox tail hanging down the back and a pair of studded Chuck Taylors. Not joking. You know what? Because he was comfortable in his own skin, he looked perfectly normal in that particular setting. Okay, maybe not normal....but he blended in.

Notice I said 'that particular setting', because I do believe that there are inappropriate places and situations in which to wear our most Pagan of garb. Flamboyant ritual robes are not street wear. The gods love him ( and I certainly do), but I once saw an article in the Daily Mail featuring Oberon Zell- Ravenheart out grocery shopping in full wizard's robes... and it made me cringe more than a little. I use public transit a lot, and the times I use it to get to the place we're having a circle, I pack my ritual garb in a bag. I would never think of wearing even my circlet on the bus-not because I know I'm going to get stares and questions, but because there is a time and a place. ( I do, however, wear my pentagram in public. That's different. It's a statement of faith, not a bid for attention. The phrase "When in Rome..." is sage advice."

The folks in my home circle only dress up for special occasions, like Sabbats. I personally like the all black ensemble idea-black blouse or turtleneck and pants. It's simple, and if we go out to dinner afterwards, I don't have to change. Sometimes I do bring along my grey wool cape to keep warm. If you invest in one piece of  "magickal" clothing, I'd recommend getting a cape because it's versatile. It can be used to cover mundane clothing, or for warmth. Last year I made a full circle cape that can be used over a coat because we've had some unusually cold weather. The cape adds an extra layer of warmth and blends into the setting. It can be worn as street wear in a pinch, and because I made it myself I could control the cost. Capes are an investment because they cost a bit more than a single item of clothing. As it happens, I can sew fairly well. I make a lot of clothing, so a cape-made without a pattern-was not a huge problem. The fabric I chose is a wool/polyester blend heavy felt in charcoal gray. The material was inexpensive and durable. Adding in the price of the button and matching thread, the whole thing came to around $25. The only part  that was a little tricky was gathering the hood to fit the neckline, and making the buttonhole on the sewing machine. The entire project from start to finish took a little over 2 hours, and I have a lovely cape. ( If you really need a pattern, there's one here:
[C-1,Pagan Blog Project 2012]

If you are even moderately handy, you can make a basic long T-robe much the same way. Religious communities refer to this as a Tau robe, or an alb. The simplest version of this particular robe has a slit for the head . It can be made with a V-neck, or the neckline can be gathered in a purse-closure effect. The weight and color of the fabric is up to you and will determine the final cost of the project. Want something fancier? Here you go:
My recommendation for both garments is to purchase something you can wash at home Be sure to wash all fabric used in projects before cutting the item so any sizing can be removed and the fabric be allowed to shrink (and it will). The sleeves and hem of the robe can be decorated any way you choose, or left plain. While we're on the subject of garment making, I think it's fair to discuss sleeves. Yes, know that we love robes with those impossible elongated pointed sleeves because, well, they look cool. I have seen some robes with those very sleeves that are absolutely stunning...and I have also seen them go up in flames...while being worn by a priest during a church service. There is nothing that add more excitement or a high note of hilarity to a solemn mass that watching a priest dancing around beating out the flaming sleeves of his garment, or being chased down and doused with water by a gaggle of teenaged acolytes. Seriously, though, those sleeves aren't very practical during a ritual, and you can be injured if you step upon, or snag one during an incantation or accidentally drag it near an open flame. A better answer is to decrease the width and length of the sleeve more  to 3/4 length, or at least be able to roll them up if necessary so you can work. ( I have sewn a thin tab inside the sleeve at the elbow and sewn a matching button inconspicuously to the outside so the look it creates holds up the sleeve. It also gives it a nice drapery effect.)

Last year I wrote a piece about Pagan clergy vestment which can be found here:, so I don't feel compelled to say much about it in this current post, except to remind you that if you are officially ordained clergy, you are indeed entitled to wear clerical garb, including a white collar. A word on this: the collars are uncomfortable and expensive. A traditional minister's collar is needed for most clerical shirts and will require two tiny, expensive metal buttons which are easily lost, or a tab insert. Both the insert and the collar are made of stiff plastic and will dig into your throat no matter how large you buy them ( a too large collar will not fit the shirt properly). Linen collars are available but are custom tailored and require starching to keep them in shape. The advantage of having clericals is that they allow you to look acceptably professional making hospital calls-especially in an emergency. Traditional clericals are black shirt, trousers or skirt, and a dress jacket. My favorite clerical shirt happens to be moss green, which I personally think resonates with being Pagan. This is one of the few places where there are more alternatives for women than men. If you are a woman, and seriously interested in clericals, this is my suggestion on where to get them:

Do clothes make you Pagan? Yes and no. You can certainly be a practicing Pagan in what ever tradition you choose without the fancy trappings and robes (or just go "skyclad"). Personally, I suspect the gods don't care what you do and do not wear when you are in communion with them. However, I do think it's nice to put on the robes now and then, especially when you need a little extra boost to be put in the mood, or when you want to make that switch from the everyday mundane...or when you want to express the Divine within.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Church Formation and Organization

This is the  "C-1" installment of my participation in the Pagan Blog Project 2012.... By way of introduction, I'd like to express my personal thanks to Rowan Pendragon for founding and coordinating the project-no easy task under any circumstances, but the mere fact that she has managed to do this within the general Pagan community is outstanding. The descriptive that "...organizing Pagans is like herding cats!" is honestly earned, if not just a tad on the embarrassing side. We bury our non-conformity in endearments like Pagan Standard Time and the previous statemented so that our corporate tendency and lack of willful organization  becomes a charming endearment- and we need to stop it, right now. Let's stop pretending that we don't need to be taken seriously by the rest of society and grow up! The badge of hippie-dippy, anti-establishment non-conformity is now gilded and old; the new reality is that is if we are going to earn our  place of dignity  in society and stop living on the fringe, we need to to drop the pretension. We will be 'The Other' forever because we are the ones responsible for our own marginalization. This project is a step in the right direction...Thank You, Rowan!

And now we come to the real blog for this week: the formation and organization of Pagan churches. More specifically, I'd like to talk about how Pagan groups can become churches through the use of a widely sucessful model. This is something I believe I am uniquely qualified to speak to because I have been in the pulpit of a number of churches in several faith traditions, first as a church officer, and now as an ordained minister. This in no way means I think I am an expert on the subject, but I have been an interim minister, and usually one of the tasks of that position is building and in some cases, regenerating community.

Thankfully, none of these!
As Pagans we know that words have power, and therefore we should choose them wisely...So let's begin by defining the word church. I am sensitive to the connotation attached to the word for some who are still dealing with wounds from their former association with other faith traditions and particular individuals in them . I also realize that many Pagans are not just wounded but hemorrhaging emotionally.While I deeply empathize, the reality is that church is just a word.

The descriptive, universally accepted definition of  the word is this: A church is an organized body of religious believers. It is the people within that body of believers and not just the building they meet in. Some groups prefer other names such as congregation, circle, assembly or fellowship, but in the common vernacular and for legal purposes they are known as churches. Pagans often tend to shy away from the word because many of us have negative, bad memories of the faith tradition we grew up in: for a fairly large segment of that group that generically means Christianity. We associate The Church as a proper noun for  Christianity and specifically for some that is the Roman Catholic Church, but in reality there are many, many groups of believers of  differing faiths who consider themselves a church. It is simply a benign word- what we otherwise chose to associate with it is how we give it power, for humans empower words. If the word church has a negative connotation for you, it's because you are projecting your personal junk on to it- and that's not me being judgmental, it's basic analytical psychology speaking. No matter how hurt and damaged you may be from the past, there is a point where healthy individuals choose to heal. Only you can do that, and if you find you can't, then I suggest speaking to a professional to assist you. The word church is no more owned by any particular religious group than the words clergy, theology, liturgy, ritual or rite.

I feel our Pagan identity as a legitimate religious entity, e.g., as a church, is imperative for recognition and enforcement of our Constitutional Rights. This is not an original idea on my part, and is indeed exactly why religious communities such as Circle Sanctuary, Church of All Worlds, Sanctuary of the Beloved and the Aquarian Tabernacle Church exist. It is why the Lady Liberty League and the Covenant of the Goddess continue to serve clientele legally, and why individuals like Selena Fox, Peter Dybing, Phyllis Currott, Laurie Cabot, and many others are politically and socially active representing Paganism. Let's take a clue from the example of the world's indigenous peoples, numerous tribes who- in order to retain their spiritual heritage- have found it necessary to organize and brand themselves as religions and churches.

Becoming a church takes a bit of work, but it is a rather straightforward process. I highly recommend jumping through the legal hoops if your group has been meeting for a time and has accumulated goods shared by the community such as ritual items, a reference library, or real estate,and particularly if your leadership wishes to have their clerical credentials recognized by the state in order to perform legal marriages. The integrity of the group will be less likely to be questioned publicly, and it may help stave off a visit from the IRS down the road if your group incorporates and seeks charitable organization status. This will also give much needed credibility to your religious leadership and establish you in the community and with the general public.Usually the names of the minister and those of two church officers such as the  secretary and treasurer are required. You are able to both incorporate (which is relatively inexpensive; many large corporations have taken advantage of the simplicity of filing in the State of Delaware) and file for 501 status with the IRS (takes a bit more effort because the paperwork is a bit tricky) and retain your group's independence, although it might help things along if it were an affiliate of a larger umbrella organization, such as the Covenant of the Goddess( or the interfaith Universal Life Church( The ULC Seminary site has a clear and concise section  about forming an individual church on it's website K also included examples of these forms in  her book Covencraft: Witchcraft for Three or More (, which is an excellent resource.

Any group of faith believers may form a church. This is guaranteed by the Right to Freedom of Religion under the First Amendment of the Constitution and subsequent legal rulings ( Every state has it's own code which governs the recognition of churches, but this mostly pertains to issuing clerical credentials and marriage licenses. In some states this falls under the jurisdiction of the Justice of the Peace or the Office of the Recorder of Deeds. Sometimes a letter of good standing is required from the church, but this can easily be obtained from the umbrella organization or written by the Board of Directors or what ever you choose to call the governing committee of your church. For the sake of avoiding a hassle, I recommend that clergy filling out the forms for credentials write the word 'interfaith' in the box under 'denomination'. (While it is actually none of his or her business what religion you represent, a savvy clerk will be on the lookout for those attempting to circumvent taxation by the creation of a bogus church- yes, it still happens. Some folks are under the mistaken belief that clergy do not pay taxes and proclaim themselves ministers for just that reason; nothing can be farther from the truth.) Trust me, it will save a lot of bother and frustration if you happen to live in the Bible Belt or a fundamentalist stronghold where you could possibly get into a heated debate with a clerk and subsequently be denied approval. I'm by no means encouraging dishonesty, but sometimes it's more prudent to fly low on the radar in these matters. As an illustration, in  North Carolina, where I live, the language in the State Code ( Article 51-1) has just recently been changed. The former language described a legitimate member of the clergy as a minister of the Gospel, and while I'm fairly certain no one made a fuss when a Rabbi, Buddhist or Hindu pastor signed off on a marriage license, the potential for denial was still there. [ If you're interested, I blogged about Pagan clergy in an earlier post, the link to that archived piece is here:]

Call your group what you like. Choose a name that is descriptive and meaningful- but not too long. The Church of the Golden Chalice Under the Silver Moon on a Cloudless Night may sound cool, but no one is going to remember who you are if the name is too long.  You risk becoming that group in the common vernacular, which is, in my humble opinion, far worse than being ignored .Our group is known as the Church of the Earth-COTE for short. We follow the tenets of earth-centered spirituality and are intra-faith. The name tells others who we are in just four little words. There is no need for further embellishment. We have written by-laws and a statement of faith, specific committees for things such as grounds upkeep and liturgy ( among others), a website, a Facebook page and use Meet-Up online for general announcements. We also have a senior minister, several associates, and a Board of Directors;  we are incorporated and have 501-c status with the IRS. It's all pretty straight forward.We don't think we're " all that" because we're organized and identify as a church. Far from it- we are just as Pagan as the next group. We use  a corporate model that is followed by many other religious institutions and it doesn't diminish our standing in the Pagan community. It's just another tool. It does, however, give us a source of identity and positive enforcement in the mundane world. We are active in the local community, attend city council meetings and are not viewed as a bunch of kooks who are airy-fairy dirt worshipers when we do. Having this kind of positive community identity has allowed us to participate in outreach in the prison system and local hospitals. We have been asked to sponsor a circle at one of the nearby military bases. There have been a lot of positives using the corporate model-so what if " the Christians use it"? So do a lot of other groups-because it works.