The Ohio State University

Pagan Student Association


An Interview with Author Isaac Bonewits

Isaac Bonewits is North America's leading expert on ancient and modern Druidism, Witchcraft and the rapidly growing Earth Religions movement. A practicing practicing Neopagan priest, scholar, teacher, bard and polytheologian for over thirty years, he has coined much of the vocabulary and articulated many of the issues that have shaped the 300,000 strong Neopagan community in the United States and Canada, with opinions both playful and controversial. He now runs the website www.neopagan.net. He was interviewed by SilverPeace via email.

Where did you go to school?

     University of California, Berkeley. In 1970 I received a B.A. in Magic & Thaumaturgy after finishing an Individual Group Major program.

Were you a member of a Pagan Student Association?

     There weren't any back then, as far as I know. However, I did belong to the Whoremongers & Fornicators Local 666, which was a club we organized to heckle the Christian Evangelizers on campus.

What issues do you consider at the forefront of the Pagan Community and where do you stand on those issues?

     I see organizational and public relations methods as being at least two of the major issues that will confront the Neopagan community over the next twenty years, as we grow into a major religious movement of millions.

(A) How can we continue to grow our own organizations and instutions, of all sizes, without repeating the mistakes of the mainstream religions? (B) Related to that, how can we overcome the dualism and win/lose models that dominate nearly every aspect of Western culture? (C) How do we effectively reach the masses with accurate and attractive information about who we really are and what we really practice?

     (A) I believe the study of religious history, including that written by heretics and outside critics, as well as books on healthy organizational methods and those used in Paleopagan cultures, will give us the knowledge and wisdom to keep what works for us and discard what doesn't.

     (B) By remembering and emphasizing Neopaganism's inherent pluralism and win/win approach, we can deal effectively with complex issues instead of jumping to conclusions or rejecting wholesale every organizational method that even vaguely resembles something mainstream religions use (the old baby and bath water problem).

     (C) Educating the public requires Neopagans to use a wide variety of sensible and effective methods and to accept that other Neopagans using different ones are just siblings who happen to be working in other ecological niches to repair the global religious environment.

What would you consider your chosen Pagan Path?

     "I am a Druid, and seldom rue it..."

Why?

     Because that's the path that has appealed to me from the first time I encountered it, probably because it is a path that emphasizes reason, art, and mysticism in equal parts.

Do you have any advice for Student Pagans?

     Neopagans of all ages should grow up and dump the "oogabooga factor" by not deliberately acting or appearing in ways that we *know* will be strongly offensive or frightening to outsiders, when we are presenting ourselves as Pagans to the public -- regardless of theoretical niceties. This decade, for example, black leather, piercings, and slogans about "reclaiming the dark" are all very fashionable -- but they are neither necessary to prove ones Paganhood, nor productive when trying to convince others that Pagans are just another religious path, entitled to the same courtesy as all other ones.

     We old fogies learned this lesson back when being a hippy or a punk required us to prove our individuality by all wearing the same uniform. "Compromise" is not an obscene term, at least not about trivialities such as generational fashions.

     In contrast, doing volunteer work *as Pagans* is one of the best recruitment and public relations/education methods available. Wear your Pagan tshirts or large pentagrams when cleaning up a park or roadway, or donating blood en mass, or working in a soup kitchen, or visiting shut ins. While we'll never convince the 10-20% of folks out there who hate and fear us, by showing that we are a contributing part of the larger community, we can reach all those other folks who still have open minds. (The same approach would work for convincing the public that Goths are harmless, but they don't usually *want* to be seen as harmless!)

     I also strongly recommend that student Pagans make use of the enormous resources available to them now, both in terms of research materials about Paleopaganism and the large blocks of time they *won't* have once they graduate. If people skipped just one beer and pizza night per week, they could learn lots of useful information, which they could then share with the larger Pagan community.


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