Now for something completely different… Amateur Religious Ethnography Botched, Or the Pagan Interviews, Part 5

Chris Travers is a Master in the Rune Gild and have been a Heathen most of his life.

Skepoet:  What is your religious background and how did you come to it?

Chris Travers : I was raised in a Quaker family.  As I approached my teenage years, I became frustrated with the lack of structure of Quakerism.  It seemed to me at the time that history was not important to Quakers in the sense of a tradition of ideas and practice (a misunderstanding on my part because this is in fact a very well-kept secret in the Quaker community).  In retrospect I realize that it was a lack of formality that bothered me.

I began to meet people in the Quaker community who also identified as pagans and began to study various new-age approaches, from Neodruidry to Wicca.  I never really found what I was looking for until I picked up a cheap book called “A Practical Guide to the Runes” by Lisa
Peschel.  Immediately things worked for me and I became drawn into the Runic tradition further through Thorsson’s books and the like.

In 1995 I joined the Rune Gild and was accepted as a Learner.  My fellowship paper was a 10 page paper on Fehu, accepted in 1997.  My master project was accepted in 2000 and was slightly revised and substantially edited to produce my book (“The Serpent and the Eagle”).
Skepoet: What is your academic background?

Chris Travers: BA in general studies with an emphasis in history.  However, even out of college I read quite a bit and have averaged about a hundred books a year (usually academic books) for the last four years or so.  Topics of study have included ancient and medieval Europe, anthropology,cross-historical studies of ritual (for example “Readings in Ritual Studies” or “Deeply into the Bone: Re-Inventing Rites of Passage” by Ronald Grimes), as well as some contemporary thought regarding paganism, magic, etc.

Skepoet: How do you see these interacting with each other?

Chris Travers : My academic training has prepared me for the self-study my path requires of me.

Skepoet: Many Reconstructions have backgrounds in history and in a way this seems obvious, but sometimes seems to put Heathens and other Reconstructions at odds with Neo-Pagans.   What do you think about the discipline of history would cause this?

Chris Travers : I think these feed on each other.  People looking for history are more likely to be recons and more likely to study history.  The study of history tends to make one less tolerant of blatant historical errors.

I don’t consider myself a real recon though.  Reconstructionism (as I have pointed out on Facebook) is a methodology which must eventually collide with itself, and the very approach of reconstructionism is non-traditional and is incompatible with traditional ways of thinking.
I think it is very helpful to know how to be a reconstructionist sometimes though.

This isn’t to say anything goes either.  Like all things balance is important.
Skepoet: I have often wondered if any a total reconstruction of a pagan tradition is both possible and positive since so much of that mind-set is foreign to us for cultural and technological reasons.  Strangely, it seems like Neo-paganism has really sort of benefited from internet  technology.  Do you find this to be true and if so, why do think that is?

Chris Travers: As I say, reconstructionism eventually collides with itself.  It is an extremely useful toolkit but should be a toolkit, not a whole approach, IMO.  No, a total reconstruction is impossible and not just because of cultural and technological issues.  Additionally, a perfect
reconstruction is *fundamentally* impossible for the simple reason that we cannot reconstruct something without interpreting it through the eyes of an outsider.  Even in physics, Werner Heisenberg said that data does not imply theory, and that theory is as much a projection of
the theoretician as it is the data.  The same thing is true here as well.

As for the internet, like all tools, it is useful in many ways, and less helpful in others.  The fact that it can be helpful (and we have benefited from it) does not absolve us of the responsibility to use it wisely.

Skepoet: More than a few people I have interviewed have mentioned a increasing rigidity within the pagan movement mention a turn towards more rigidity in ritual over time.  Do you see this or you think this might be a misreading?

Chris Travers: I can’t speak about “the pagan movement” as that seems very broad.  I
will say I have seen more formalization but no more rigidity in groups I am directly involved with.

Skepoet:  The term is awfully broad.  Actually, I have a question about that:  why do you think paganism is often treated as one “movement” or a bunch of related religions but both insiders and outsiders given the differences between groups can be far more dramatic than between other linked religious belief systems.

Chris Travers: Pagan religions are similarly situated to society and so it makes sense for us to be lumped together.  There is also something of a common heritage and this also strengthens the case for us to be “a movement” in relation to general society.

We can also talk about a Free/Open Source Movement even though factions there disagree and constant holy wars between the Church of EMACS folks and the rest of us who accept VIM as the one true editor. Joking aside, though, even within free/open source software different
projects may strongly disagree with each other even to the point of being at each others’ throats.  It’s healthy and productive though. And like the pagan movement, the Free/Open Source movement is a movement aimed to some extent on rebelling from the systems of central
control in either industry or religion.

Skepoet:  Can you go into more detail about your work with the Rune Gild?
Chris Travers: First some background: The Rune Gild is an initiatory organization which bases our work on the Elder Futhark.  The members are divided into really three grades (with an outer court of associates who are not really members) along traditional lines:  learner, fellow, and master.  Some masters are recognized as having attained greater levels of self-initiation but
that’s pretty rare.

Learners spend their time trying to learn our tradition, studying the lore, and mastering as it exists in a somewhat rigid framework.  As learners become fellows, this opens up a lot and a lot more exploration is encouraged.  This exploration ranges from being somewhat structured to being rather free-form.  Eventually the fellow is supposed to demonstrate that they have made the tradition their own through a masterwork, and that they have achieved a certain level of
self-initiation in this process, and when this is accepted, they are recognized as a master.    Masters write, research, and teach. Learners, as well as mentor Fellows.  A certain amount of individualism is required of the mastery.  Consequently Masters range from fairly traditionalist to ones who attempt to combine our tradition with others.  Yet we share a common methodology and tradition.

I currently teach four learners, two of whom are in the process of researching fellowship projects.  I am also in the process of revising my book based on how my understanding has evolved.  Ritually I get together with some of the Rune-Gild folks from my state from time to
time and we engage in our own rituals.   Entry into the group is fairly carefully controlled both on a local and non-local level.    We do not see ourselves as trying to bring our group to the masses, but many of us are involved in trying to grow the larger Germanic Neopagan movement around us.

Does this answer your question?  Is there something more specific you’d like to know about us?

Skepoet: That is useful.  How has the Gild grown since your involvement and
have you seen any more changes.

Chris Travers: Yes, the Gild has grown dramatically since I have been involved.  New
Masters have been recognized.  And the fact that we now allow virtually anyone to associate with us means that there is now a stable pool of people to choose apprentices from.

The Gild has also changed in ways favoring decentralization.  While all training used to be centralized when we were much smaller, it is now the case that the Masters instruct Learners directly and offer apprenticeships.  The diversity of thought in the Mastery also allows
us to be more selective about our own apprentices.  If I think someone needs instruction that is less traditionalist, I can send them to one of the folks who, for example, integrates Chaos Magic ideas with their work.  I might do this if someone seems too traditionalist and needs a
counterbalance.  Similarly someone who needs a more strict traditionalist approach might get bounced to me.

Additionally, the growth has lead to more local activity.  In Washington State I now have three people I am actively working with, and two are fairly new to the Gild.

Skepoet: Oh you the Gild is definitely working across traditions?  Do you find that any Reconstructionists that take an exclusivist view about the legitimacy of Chaos magic or anything?

Chris Travers: No, you misunderstand. The Gild is specifically focused on Germanic and Scandinavian traditions, and the Elder Futhark is our focus.  We have a single common tradition.

This being said there are Masters who find other traditions more informative and tend to utilize cross-over references in their teaching and work more than others.    So within this, individuality
is expected.  Of someone wants to be inspired by something another tradition is doing and recreate it in our own one, that’s not only accepted but, if it is done well, encouraged.  For example, if you read my book, it’s very limited to Germanic and Indo-European cross-references.  Waldo Thompson’s book however approaches the questions from a very mathematical approach.

So we have a common tradition of practice and lore.  However what we*do* with that tradition is up to each Master.  In general, though I insist my Learners stick to the lore and practice for a while in a narrow focus and most Masters do the same.  However, after that point, how each of us approaches it depends on our own individual understanding of the tradition.  So a strict reconstructionist might get sent to someone who is definitely not one so as to help crack open the perspective.  On the other hand, I am inclined to take less grounded students in the hope that a more narrow focus will provide that grounding.

There have been a few people who have terminated apprenticeships because they felt that the Gild wasn’t reconstructionist enough. However, this has been rare.  Most of the time people end up seeing that reconstructionism has a place within the Gild and that the Gild can support reconstructionist work to a point.  The larger thing is that we aren’t limited by it, and so while Master such as myself explore the past relatively rigorously, some others apply our findings
in more contemporary ways.

Skepoet: That is an helpful and thanks for clearing that up.   Are there any trends in the Heathenry right now that you find particularly positive?

Chris Travers: I am following the greater acceptance of animal sacrifice with a lot of hope for the future.  I think that such rites done well help emphasize the relationship between life and death, and between what we eat and where it comes from.  I think it also fills a number of social
roles perhaps too numerous to list here.   Finally, eating together is the ultimate act of community so inviting the gods to a sacred meal of this sort is a reaffirmation of their place with us in a way that nothing else can take the place of it.

I have watched animal sacrifice go from something very controversial to something where there is little controversy and the obstacles are ones of competence, confidence, and logistics.  The fact that the controversy has largely fallen away and yet people are choosing to be cautious and responsible is a very positive thing, in my opinion.

Skepoet: Have you noticed any more or any less involvement with families? It seems like Heathenry in the US would be long standing enough to have multiple generations involved and people born into the tradition.

Chris Travers: I haven’t noticed a difference.  There have always been a minority group of heathens with kids in all groups I have been involved in.

Skepoet: Anything you’d like to say in closing?

Chris Travers; I’d like to address what I see as the great challenge ahead of the pagan traditions: economics.

Right now, we are seeing local groups become more widespread and stronger, but recapturing the solidarity of our tribal ancestors requires more than getting together for rituals.  It requires economic interdependence. One of the social functions the gatherings probably held in the past was as a venue for people to get together on a commercial as well as a religious basis, and enter into contracts, sell goods and services, etc.  For example the use of merchant booths
at the Allthing is well attested, and the Disthing may also have provided opportunities to trade materials etc, regarding the upcoming agricultural season.

We need to *do business with* other members of our local groups.  This need not be actual purchases.  It could be barter (I help you out with your house project and you help me out with something else), etc. Building these sorts of cooperative and economic interdependencies are
going to be important in ensuring stable, tightly knit pagan groups. Places and times to arrange these I think should be built into any get-together.  If we want to offer an alternative to going to
Christian Church, we should offer a real alternative, deeply tied to how we choose to live, not just a ritual club where members get together to worship.

By extension I think this also means cultivating a small business culture within our heathen and pagan groups.  These might not officially be small businesses because individuals may have employment contracts which forbid moonlighting.  But heathens should be encouraged to own their own means of production and to produce things for others in the community whether by barter or for fee.

There prior interviews in this series can be found here, here, here and here.  

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Now for something completely different… Amateur Religious Ethnography Botched, Or the Pagan Interviews, Part 9

Skepoet:  What is your religious background and how did you come to it?

Jennifer Lawrence: I was brought up Roman Catholic by a very strict Irish Catholic father and stepmother.  I knew I wasn’t comfortable from that faith from a fairly early age, and had neopagan leanings as early as second or third grade, including a deep love of mythology and a lot of time spent wandering in the woods.  I left home at the age of 18 in 1985 to attend college for the first time and left Catholicism behind at the same time, starting a slow and not always deliberate search for a religion that was a better match for me.  Without knowing much of anything about modern paganism at the time, I drifted to a sort of Greek mythology-influenced pantheism that laid heavy emphasis on certain gods — Hermes, Demeter, Artemis, Apollo, Athena, Dionysos, and Hestia — and the nymphs and nature spirits.  In 1994 or so, a former friend introduced me to Wicca; I hadn’t realized there was anyone out there that thought in similar lines.  I was living way out in the country on a farm in Wisconsin at the time, 30 miles from the nearest town, which made it hard to look for like-minded people. From there, with the help of the internet and the local Borders (and eventually, Amazon.com), I educated myself toward a more historically-accurate mostly-recon set of beliefs that honor the three pantheons that my ancestors (most of my family background comes from Ireland, Scotland, and England) would have honored: Irish Celtic (the Tuatha de Danann), Greek, and Norse (plenty of Greek and Roman pagans among the legions that conquered England, and then the Anglo-Saxon beliefs of the people from Germany and the northlands that came after them).

Skepoet:  What is your academic background?

Jennifer Lawrence: I have a Bachelor of Arts in English (concentration in Literature, with a specialization on Classical and Medieval European Literature), a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice, and some post-graduate coursework in Medieval Latin.  (All these come from a small Catholic liberal arts college in Indiana, Calumet College of St. Joseph, plus a few English classes from when I was 18, at Truman State University in Missouri, before I dropped out – no self-discipline at that age.)

Skepoet:  How do you see these interacting with each other?

Jennifer Lawrence: The English degree introduced me to stories, plays, and poetry from a time period spanning the works of the early Greeks all the way through the time of Shakespeare.  Plenty of books that form the core of several Recon faiths are encompassed by this time period: the Homeric Hymns, the Iliad and the Odyssey of ancient Greece; Beowulf and the sagas for the Norse; and the Tain, the Dindshenchas, and the Cath Maige Tuired of Ireland.

The Criminal Justice degree gave me a good footing in law (the combination of the two degrees was meant to be a Pre-Law basis, but I never went on to law school) and a better understanding of how society functions within the laws and what happens when they are ignored.

Ironically, it’s generally said that the druids in early England spent up to twenty years in training, and that the training included both ‘verses and oral literature’ and the laws of the tribes they belonged to, so without consciously realizing it, I chose an overall course of study that somewhat mimicked that.

I’d also add that college in general gave me a better understanding of research methods and critical thinking, both of which I use a lot in my day-to-day reading on pagan topics.

Skepoet:  The relationship between Wicca and the reconstructionist pagan groups can be complicated.   How did your introduction to Wicca affect your practice?

Jennifer Lawrence: Well, to be specific, what I was introduced to is the eclectic American Wicca that’s very popular these days, rather than any form of traditional Wicca (i.e. Gardnerian, Alexandrian, etc.)  It was reassuring to realize that there *were* people out there believing in similar lines to what I believed, but at the same time, even then it was becoming apparent that Gerald Gardner had created, rather than preserved, most of the teachings he spread.  I wanted something with a more historically accurate practice (I’ve always had a love for archaeology and ancient cultures, although I have no formal teaching in it, just a LOT of books).  Metaphorically, learning about Wicca, and that forms of modern paganism existed, was the warm-up before a race; learning about Recon paganism — and choosing to practice it — was the marathon itself.

I don’t disdain Wicca for what it is; it obviously works for a lot of people.  But it’s not for me.  Nonetheless, if I hadn’t found out about it, I might never have discovered the Recon paths, so in a sense, I’m grateful for it.

Skepoet:  How do you see the various Recon faiths interacting? What principles do you see guiding that interaction?

Jennifer Lawrence: Well, I can’t speak to anything officially, of course; but I do see the occasional bit of interfaith work between recon faiths.  The Celts and the Norse have a lot of similarities in certain customs and practices; likewise there are points where the Celts and the Romans interacted, historically, that provides a basis for interaction.  Most of my interaction with other recons comes solely online, unfortunately; I would love to see, and be able to attend, a large, Recon-oriented pagan festival some day.  I think Pantheacon is the closest to something of that sort currently, although it’s not specifically recon-oriented.

Some of the principles you see guiding this sort of interaction are a recognition of common custom similarities (hospitality, historical accuracy, honor, etc.); there is not just temporal overlap between faiths, but also areas in the world where the original historical faiths were practiced at the same time, or almost the same time.  That provides a sort of common stomping ground to consider during such interactions.

Skepoet:  What problem do you think recon faiths deal with with trying to balance traditional practices with the modern world?

Jennifer Lawrence: here are a number of problems that recons must deal with in balancing traditional practices in the modern world.

First and foremost is the situation that colors and affects all the rest:  the amount of information on traditional practices is definitely limited in varying degrees, depending on which pagan culture is being practiced, because so much information on those practices — writings, statues, temples, etc. — was destroyed by the adherents of the conquering monotheistic culture (the Christian Church) — as they came to a pagan culture and became the dominant faith there.  It happened first in Rome, thanks to Paul of Tarsus; Christians were persecuted for their failure to take part in government-supported activities (which is what the sacrifices to the ancient Roman gods were, a means for all citizen to support the Roman empire and do their bare minimum to bring about its continued success by pleasing the gods) until the Edict of Milan in C.E. 313 granted religious tolerance toward the Christians. Christianity slowly moved from a tolerated minority faith in the Roman Empire to the official state religion, and after Christianity became the official state religion of the Roman Empire, it spread outward to all the reaches of the Empire — Britain, the northern lands (what is today Norway and Denmark and Sweden), the lands of the Germanic tribes, and so on. Evan after Rome fell, Christianity continued to spread. In some cultures, almost all traces of the previous pagan faiths were utterly eradicated; in others, traces were preserved but Christianized by the invaders. In places where the previous culture had been a literate one, like Greece and Rome itself, a relatively large amount of information was preserved, enough to give a reasonably complete look at the beliefs and practices of the pagan culture; in other places, where everything was passed on orally (such as the Druidic practices of the British Isles), very little was preserved, and what is available is mostly reconstructed from fragments, and thus, subject to uncertainty about the interpretations provided.

Because the information on these older cultures that we have is incomplete and possibly (in some cases, definitely) tainted by the influence of monotheistic religious cultures, there will always be the question of whether the practices we are following are correct. The eternal question of whether we are reconstructing a practice, restoring it, or making it up in part or entirely is something that each pagan traditionalist has to consider and solve for him- or herself. Most of the recons I know are avid archaeology buffs because of this; every new find we locate from the past helps to clarify the cultures we are interested in, and may add significant new pieces formerly missing from that puzzle.

Most of the other problems regarding traditional practices in the modern world deal with moral issues. For example, it cannot be denied that pagans from older cultures kept slaves, treated women and children in a way that is generally considered wrong today, and practiced (in some, but not all cases) human sacrifices.

The evolution of our beliefs on these things today reflects a general evolution of human consciousness on moral matters in general, although there are still a number of very conservative non-pagan faiths that tend to treat women and children (and GLBT persons) as second-class citizens at best.  However, regarding human — and animal — sacrifice, which were practiced by many different pagan faiths (more of which sacrificed animals than people), all modern recons agree that human sacrifice is taboo, and most modern recons believe that the gods are just as satisfied with non-living sacrifices (incense, candles, grain, fruit, libations of wine, honey, etc.) as they were with animal sacrifices.  There is a very small minority of recon faiths that still practice animal sacrifice, although not often; there is also a small number of recon practitioners who will offer up sacrifices of commercially-acquired meat (steak, etc.) without sacrificing the animal themselves.  (This is most common, at least to my knowledge, with Hellenic Recons, although I know of a couple of Heathens who do it, also.)

In all the cases I can think of, recon pagans have adapted traditional practices that conflict with modern moral values to blend with the standards of our current time and culture, taking into account facts and principles that earlier pagan cultures would not have known or did not see in that light, given the practices of their times.

Skepoet:  Do you think one must separate between spiritual practices of paleo-cultures with say superstitious ones? For example, deciding if a practice was part of necessary cultus or was sort of pragmatically inclined but entirely pre-scientific. Many ancient medical practices around say Asclepius come to mind

Jennifer Lawrence: I suppose that depends on whether you’re giving the term “pre-scientific” negative or neutral connotations.

Skepoet: I wouldn’t say negative; however, I also wouldn’t say that going that, for example, we should adopt Galen’s medical practices because priests used them either.  The line seems hard to parse in some areas. You, however, may disagree.

Jennifer Lawrence: My impression is that there is a certain amount of separation going on, especially in dealing with things of a scientific or medical background.  In some cases, recon pagans such as myself with augment scientific practices with spiritual ones, as folk of most religions do; for example, making an offering to Apollo or Asclepius when dealing with medical troubles, but this would be done in *addition* to visiting a doctor, taking medicine, or having surgery, rather than *instead* of those things.  I think, in the end, there are very few “fundamentalist” pagans of any stripe who believe the myths of their faiths as literal truth.  I am a “hard” polytheist, in that I believe in the gods on a literal basis, not as metaphor meant to explain scientific truths that earlier cultures didn’t understand; however, I believe that the gods work within the boundaries of the universe.

I hope that answered the question; I’m not sure if I accurately understood your difference between spiritual practices and superstitious ones.  As I understand it, all spiritual practices are considered superstitious by some people; the rituals of pagans are considered superstitious by Jews and Christians, but the prayers of Jews and Christians are considered superstitious by atheists, so it’s all a matter of perspective.

Skepoet: Yes, I wanted to get your logic on the dividing line.   What do you think of soft polytheism within the Reconstructionist community?

Jennifer Lawrence: Well, I think it may happen, but not very often.  The whole point of being Reconstructionist is historical accuracy, and conflating deities with other deities isn’t much on historical accuracy.  Now, I see *syncretism* happening all the time, and that IS historically accurate — the Romans in particular “adopted” the gods of the lands they conquered, seeing them as their own gods under different names.  Greek, Celtic, Egyptian deities all were subsumed or brought into the Roman imperial religion, one way or another.  There are a lot of statuary fragments and inscriptions all over Britain with inscriptions to “Lugus-Mercury” or “Lugus-Mars”, “Sulis-Minerva”, etc.

I know a lot of recons (mostly online, not IRL, but…), and AFAIK, all of them are hard polytheist, not soft.  I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, I just tend to think that folks who are drawn to the recon form of polytheism aren’t likely to be soft polytheists in the first place.

Skepoet : Interestingly, actually, most Kemetic and a good deal of Hellenic are semi-soft polytheists pulling from Neo-Platonic and Hermetic thinking historically legitimately, but I also use the term semi-soft for reasons that are obvious as I don’t know anyone who would say Dionysus is also Tyr or something akin to it.  But I may understand “soft” polytheist differently than you.  How do you understand the terms?

Jennifer Lawrence:  y understanding of “soft” polytheism is that there are folks who are polytheist, but believe there are only one set of gods, and each culture had different names for them.  For example, Zeus, Thor, Taranis are all storm gods; a soft polytheist would see them all as the *same* god, just under different names.  The same for Aphrodite, Aife, and Freya (beauty/love), or Poseidon, Manannan, and Njörðr (ocean gods), to give a couple of examples.  I have generally seen this mostly among pagans who follow gods from European cultures, but I’ve heard of at least one person who extended it to cover all the gods in the world — Egyptian, Hindu, Aztec, Shinto, the orisha/loa, etc.

As a hard (really hard) polytheist, technically I even believe in the existences of Yahweh, Satan, and Jesus Christ.  They’re just not MY gods.

Skepoet : We are close to the same page.   I think that would be varying in commonality from culture to culture. Semi-Soft Polytheism would definitely be a descriptor.   Are there any pantheons that you think are un-reconstruct-able?

Jennifer Lawrence:  Honestly?  The ones that have left no (or next to no) historical traces behind whatsoever.  That doesn’t happen very often, and by definition, if cultures have vanished from history, we’re not going to know about them to reconstruct them.

I think that cultures with very little historical traces are definitely *harder* to reconstruct, and the people who wish to do so should probably take a hard look at how much effort will be involved and whether it’s worth the work…but it’s hard to tell the gods NO, and we have no real control over the ones who call us, do we?

I think there are aspects to certain religious rites that shouldn’t be reconstructed no matter how much historical evidence of; we were talking about human sacrifice awhile back, and that’s the primary example I can think of.  But that’s more or less a whole different ball of wax, I suppose.

Skepoet : What organizations do you think are doing a good job helping getting things established for Reconstructionists that you have worked either directly or indirectly?

Jennifer Lawrence:  Well, I’m affiliated with the Troth (Asatru); my husband, in fact, is their steward for Northern Illinois.  I’m also affiliated with Hellenion, and sit on the Boule for that org as of last September (the Boule is the advisory group to their Council).  There is also Neos Alexandria, a group devoted to Hellenic/Egyptian syncretism, whose aim is to be as historically accurate as possible; they’ve started publishing a line of devotional anthologies to the gods with their publishing line, Bibliotheca Alexandrina.  (Disclosure: I have poetry and/or stories published in a number of those works.)

Other orgs I’m part of are Ord Brigideach, a flametending group for Brigid, and Ár nDraíocht Féin, the Druid organization, but neither are specifically recon, although ADF does encourage rigorous academic pursuit by its members.

I also highly recommend the Celtic Recon group Imbas; they do excellent work and have a number of very stringent scholars amongst their ranks.  Unfortunately, last I checked, I think they were going through a period of reorganization, and may be closed to new members until such time as they finish.  I am hoping to join them when they re-open, but I haven’t checked if they’d re-opened in some time (at least a couple of months).

I hear good things about Ord na Darach Gile, the Druid Order of White Oak, but I haven’t had a chance to look into it much.  However, I know a couple recons I respect very highly are a part of it.

I’m less aware of other recon organizations, especially for those faiths that have smaller numbers: Babylonian/Sumerian/Assyrian faiths, Egyptian, Aztec/Mayan/Incan, etc.  There may be groups for those religions, but if there are, I’ve never heard of them.

Skepoet : Do you think the is need for larger local chapters to do festivals and rituals, or do you think that much of the communities involved are too geographically spread out?
Jennifer Lawrence:  Well, I’m largely unaware that this is an issue; then again, I live 15 minutes from downtown Chicago and about 3 hours from Indianapolis; there are plenty of festivals and the like in this area (Pagan Spirit Gathering and Pan-Pagan Gathering both recently, and then local Pagan Pride Days every year by plenty of local communities, even the small one for our Indiana county).  I can imagine that it’s a problem in very rural areas; then again, I don’t know if there is a large number of pagans in very rural areas.  When I was living in VERY rural southwestern Wisconsin, during my vaguely-Greek-themed animist/pantheist phase, before I discovered organized Wicca and then the Recon faiths, I didn’t know of any other pagans at all (granted, this was in the early 90s, before Hollywood started using Wiccans and pagans as characters or concepts).

Skepoet: Anything you’d like to say in closing?

Jennifer Lawrence:  .I really can’t think of anything.  I’m not much of one for grand, sweeping statements; I just hope what I said made sense and may turn out to be helpful, even for one person.  Thank you for letting me take part in this!