Where our Magic Comes From?

Shilo Shiv Suleman in her Ted Talk laments how magic has been replaced by technology. Yet, as I reflected upon this idea, I began to think about a song by Dar Williams entitled “The Christians and the Pagans.” The question is where does our magic come from? This question is important to how we view the world.

Nature, science, and technology all can be enchanting. The wonder of the trees may be just as magical as flying across the sky in an airplane. We expect technology to be sterile…just a machine. What if technology could be magical?

Steve Jobs seems to create technology infused with magic. I think because he looked how to create the magic he wanted and then use technology to make it so.

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The Judgement Card as Epiphany

Last weekend I attended the annual Pantheacon conference in San Jose, California. It was a wonderful weekend filled with knowledge, kinship and connection. I enjoyed attending many classes, rituals and workshops. One of the classes I attended was Mary Greer’s, “Who are you in the Tarot?” In the class, she lined out how to find your own personal cards through a numerology approach and process which she lines out in her new book, Who Are You in the Tarot? Who are you in the Tarot I found out that I had 3 cards. One of them was the Judgement card. We then broke up into groups with people that had the same numbers and cards to discuss personality traits we had in common. While in group, I had difficulty connecting with the Judgement card. Beyond the fact that I felt that I could sometimes be judgmental, I couldn’t see how it related to me. The class was a wonderful enriching experience, and I always enjoy Mary Greer’s very knowledgeable presentations, and I came away knowing that I had a little work to do. Little did I know that the work would come to me!  The next day I was standing in line for coffee and a woman turned around to speak with me. She seemed a bit socially awkward. I was polite, but did not really want to engage her. She told me she had books coming out and I congratulated her, and when my friend walked by, my entire focus shifted. I politely wished her a good day and took my coffee and left. Later, I saw her in the shopping area signing her book. Being a bit surprised, I asked, “Is that your book?” She replied that it was and offered me a bookmark. I thanked her and wished her luck. I had felt a little badly that I had not taken her seriously before, while in line for coffee. And walking away, the Judgement card suddenly began to make sense. Later, I looked up the meaning. Some of the traditional meanings include: awakening, intelligence, opinion, determination of a matter and atonement. In her book, Tarot Reversals, Mary Greer gives some possible definitions as, “…you may find yourself at a crossroads where you have an epiphany or revelation that creates deep significant change. …Perhaps you receive a wake up call from your own conscience, giving you the chance to atone for past sins or errors in judgement. You may do a personal inventory or self-evaluation….Alternatively,  you might be cultivating good judgement by using all your faculties in a mature, integrated manor.”

That weekend, I made a deep connection with the Judgement card. I know that sometimes we can be judgmental. That is not always a bad thing. If you have a job that requires you to make quick decisions that effect others, you need to be able to make judgement calls. Judgement is also needed in situations where you need to keep safe. Its  knowing when to turn it off that can be tricky. I did not have to engage with the woman in line with me for coffee. But it probably would have been a better experience for both of us if I had.

Now I think of the Judgement card as epiphany. Is there something I need to see or wake up to in a situation. Is there something I am missing because I am letting my opinion or belief get in the way? And how can I make the best choices in a situation so there won’t be anything to atone for? Maybe I need to make a judgement call. Maybe the safety of others depends on it. But whatever I am looking at, I know that I am responsible for putting that trumpet up to my lips and making that call, or knowing when to answer it when heard.

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Conference on Current Pagan Studies 2012

This weekend is the Conference on Current Pagan Studies at Claremont University. This year our key note speakers are Z Budapest and Hyperion. You still join us and register at the door for two days of interesting topics, great key note speakers, and engaging in current Pagan studies.

For a PDF copy of this flyer see Current Pagan Studies Conference flyer 2012

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PantheaCon 2012 Straw Art Classes

The Woven Circle will be teaching two traditional wheat weaving classes at the 2012 PantheaCon. The Woven Circle is made up of talented artists who travel to San Jose each year to share their enjoyment of straw art with the Pagan community at PantheaCon.

Bridget's CrossHarvest Knot

There will be a beginning class “Introduction to Wheat Weaving” on Saturday. This class focuses on beginning weavings techniques along with straw preparation and sources on books, materials, and local groups. In this class, each student will make at least two weavings: a Bridget’s Cross and Harvest Knot to bring home. All materials and supplies are provided.

Welsh Harp

We will be teaching an intermediate class “Intermediate Wheat Weaving” on Sunday for those of you who have taken wheat weaving classes or are advanced hand crafters. This class focuses on intermediate weaving techniques. In this class, each student will make a Welsh Harp using a locking technique. All materials and supplies are provided.

The Woven Circle (Angela, Carol and William) is dedicated to teaching arts and crafts as part of our service to the community. Angela is an eclectic Pagan writer and has taught crafts for 20 years. Carol is a bead and fiber artist, who has taught for crafts guilds, both local and regional. William (author of A Pagan Humanist blog) has been part of the Pagan community for over 30 years and has been teaching wheat weaving for over 15 years.

Resources for Straw Art You can buy straw from Black Beard in North Dakota (from Dennis and Sharon Hanson). Also, you can find wheat at Frank’s Cane & Rush Supply(7252 Heil Ave. Huntington Beach, CA 92647 – (714) 847-0707). Both are good places, and good people, to buy from. We recommend two books (yes there are more books but this should start you out just fine):

  • The Book of Wheat Weaving and Straw Craft: from simple plaits to exquisite designs. Morgyn Geoffry Owens-Celli. 1997
  • Wheat Weaving Plaits & Projects: A Beginner’s Book. Edited by Nan Rohan. Published by The California Wheat Weavers Guild

The American Museum of Straw Art hosts a spectacular collection of straw art from the US and around the world. Also, there is Wheat Goddesses, which is Cora’s web site with her show schedule. Her work is amazing and if you get a chance, please stop by one of her shows to see all the straw art.

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Foibles and Follies of Being Human

Foibles and Follies of Being Human

Being human means being flawed; that is, being filled with follies and foibles. Notice that all this is about being. Of course Martin Heidegger’s Dasein comes to mind. To follow Heidegger is a long, and often fruitful road; however, here I would like to speak to the problems of just living in the world and ethics.

What I mean by humans are flawed is that we are imperfect, or more perhaps more along the lines of being limited in our knowledge and self-reflection. Knowledge is limited because of biological restrains on memory and perspective. With the advent of technologies (writing and data storage), memory may be of lesser concern. Perspective is what I think as a deep concern. Biological beings may not have the wider perspective to understand everything including ourselves. There is no truly objective view. Science, philosophy, and other disciplines do try to get us closer. Science in general seem very good at this but still the limit is how to step out side of being a biological being in order to find some objective understanding.

What does this mean for ethics? If we are all flawed and perhaps unable to find an objective view of ethics, how then do we live. Some find ethics in revealed truths or in authority. Although these may not always be bad choices, I think a quick look at history will show incidents where they have fallen short (perhaps I understated this a little). Ethics from nature present other concerns. I often turn towards philosophy for my own ethical understanding but there is the problem of which philosophical system to choose.

However, let me return to the idea of being flawed. Many ethical system have standards that most of us do fall short of. Yet, to be human is to understand that being flawed is not an excuse, only a reality that we struggle with. Also, I think that when we take a single path towards ethics, the shortcomings of the path become more apparent. Any single system, no matter how robust can, and often do, leave out or is unable to touch on all the complexities of being human. Am I then suggesting that we act inconsistent. Well, the short answer for now, is yes. Human are filled with follies and foibles but perhaps we should find strength in our flaws. In being able to inconsistent but for the right reasons. Perhaps Kant is right that we should never lie but then again I think there are times we should…to save a life for example.

Over the next year, I will try in my own inconsistent and flawed way take up this theme. Have a great New Year.

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Science at a conference about Religion

My first day at the 2011 America Academy of Religion was filled with science. The America Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) organized some workshops and reception.

20111119-070228.jpg This is part of the AAAS Science and Theological Education Project, which is an joint initiative with the Association of Theological Schools (ATS). Science and technology is and important part of modern society. As such, how can seminaries incorporate new topics into an already full curricula. These are the questions being explored here this weekend.

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American Academy of Religion


This weekend, I am attending the American Academy of Religion’s 2011 meeting.

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Tarot Musings

As human beings, we love to create meaning out of things. I can remember days spent, as a child, studying the patterns in the sidewalk, the cracks in the ceiling, and the pictures in the clouds. As a teenager, I loved fairy tales and literature and looked for ways they entered into my daily life. And when I went to college, I discovered the tarot. What a wonderful tool! My first deck was given to me at 18. I loved the images, the stories the cards were telling, and the art. I loved exploring the different spreads and trying, through art and story, to make meaning out of things. I have read many books and articles, taken classes, and bought many beautiful decks. I have a series of art projects I have completed that use the tarot. I have been playing with the tarot for over 25 years and I still feel like a novice. I currently have over a dozen decks and only really connect with a few of them. I love the familiarity of the Rider Waite and always seem to return to it. This morning I was reading an article by Barbara Moore on the Llewellen site. In it, she talked about all the ways one could engage with the cards. I especially liked the part where she suggested to get to know the cards one at a time. You could choose to explore a card a day, a card a week, or a card a month. I find it funny that no matter how much time you spend with the cards, you are always a student of the tarot. So I decided I would study a card a week and record my musings. A card a day seemed to little time for exploration, a card a month seemed like overkill. But, a card a week seems like just enough time to look at meaning, story, symbolism. Plus, it gives me time to do some sketching of the cards. First, I need to decide which components to include into my study. I plan to take another look at Mary K. Greer’s “21 Ways to Read a Tarot Card” to help me decide on my format. I love the way she breaks down reading each individual card into so many insightful techniques. I also plan to keep a journal. I hope that by engaging in this process, I can make more connections with the cards and everything in my life.

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Creating art and being human

I spent the weekend in San Luis Obispo creating art with my family. As part of the weekend art experience, we view an exhibit of book art where my aunt had one of her altered book on display; however, she did not feel it was worthy of being with the work of ‘real’ artists. I worry anytime when I hear someone say ‘I am not a real artist. As if there is a certification board for ‘real’ artist. What makes your art real is does it move you, friends, other humans, or fulfill your purpose for the art.


However this leaves open the possibility that art is so vague that anything anyone makes can be claimed as art. I think that there is a difference between this broad, and vague, sense of art and what is may be seen as popular and cultural art. However, the question of what is art is complex and depended on the reason, need, and disciple of the categorization. My question today is why do people doubt themselves as artist?

Even more so, many artist still after becoming “successful” doubt themselves as artist. Seeking validation seems to be a very human need. I have my own doubts but I do not create art for validation. I enjoy the validation and even seek it out but my goal for creating art is different. Art is a media for me to build relationships. Some time this is only a relationship with myself but often it is about community and connection to nature. In this sense, art becomes broad and powerful. In fact, I think that most people engage in art more often than they may see and thus much more of an artist. Perhaps all humans are artist; some make money with art but all of us make connections.

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Philosophers and Social Media

Social Media is about building an intentional community… real communities…where you can engage with those topics and people that are important to you. 

There are four parts of social media: connectionconsumptioncuration, and creation. Social media sites and systems can be one, some, or all these such as Facebook where you can follow and comment on what your friends are doing, read and watch what is being shared, share your own interesting finds, or create your own material. Let look at each of these categories in turn with a focus on some of the social media that works best for each of them and see how social media can be used by philosophers.


Social media is about being connected. The social media sites that I discuss all have a connection component but I will focus on three that seem pertinent to philosophers (LinkedIn, Academia.edu, and Google+). 


First, the largest and perhaps best site, for professional connection is LinkedInLinkedIn is primarily use for making professional connections, having discussions within specifically industries (groups), asking and answering questions, and job searches (both looking for jobs and finding people). Overall LinkedIn is mostly for business connections; yet, as LinkedIn grows there is the possibility that more members of academia will join and make use of this site. A simple overview one how LinkedIn can be used by academia is give by Digital 3.0 101: LinkedIn for Academia. Also, see William Morris’ blog about how having academics on LinkedIn can be helpful for finding experts

With such groups as The Philosophy NetworkHistory and Philosophy of Science, and Philosophy Majors, a philosopher may engage others in discussions, ask questions, and connecting with other philosophers. A quick review of academic type of groups showed that by searching for “philosophy” that there were over 900 groups. Now philosophy is a board category in common usage but some results include: Erasmus University Rotterdam (an exclusive group for alumni, professors, students, researches, and staff); The Philosophy Network (with over 2,700 members); and Philosophy Majors. 

However, the majority of groups are not engage in academic discussion of philosophy and those few groups that do tend to have members outside the academic setting. Seeing that LinkedIn is the premiere professional site for creating and maintaining connection, I see academia using it; however, there is already one professional site for this: Academia.edu. 


Academia.edu is self describe as “a platform for academics to share and follow research. Academics upload their papers to share them with other academics in over 100,000 research areas. They can also follow other academics, and see new papers and other research updates from those academics in their News Feeds.” I have seen Academia.edu described at The LinkedIn for Academics (see http://gautamghosh.net/2009/03/04/academiaedu-the-linkedin-for-academics/). Academia.edu provide a means for making connections and following the work of other scholars. 


What is Google+…well that is the question that many people are asking and I think that, in general, Google+ is a social media for connecting in a naturalist way with the different social groups such as friends, colleagues, or even students. What is special about Google+ is that being Google, I think, they will continue to integrate their products and services. Also, Google+ offers what they call “Sparks,” which is a means of searching for post and websites on relative topics. Often this search is too broad; yet, I find these searches useful at times. 


Living in the U.S., and thus part of a consumer culture, social media has made it easy to consume information, news, and entertainment. Although it is easy to spend many unproductive hours looking for Lego recreations of Henrik Ibsen’s plays on Youtube, there are many productive means of consumption for philosophers.

Goggle Reader

With a plethora of websites and blogs that contain good philosophical writings and discussions, it can be a daunting task to bookmart and visit each of your favorite sites. However, those days are over because there is a simple way of reading all these by having them delivered to you through the magic of RSS through Goggle Reader. See CommonCraft presentation on RSS in Plain English for help. Basically, sign up for an RSS readers such as Goggle Reader and then subscribe to those blogs that you want to read. When a new blog is posted it will be available in your Goggle Reader. 


You can also use an aggregator for your news and social networks. For those of you using an iPad, which is great for consumption, Flipboard works well. There are many services and the point here is to use social media to make is faster and easier to have the information your want on hand. 


Curation is the process where a person makes choices on what is interesting and useful to a community. Museums are seen as places where examples of what is best in art and culture are put on display. In social media, what is being curated is information in the form of blogs, websites, and other media. See Is Content Curation the New Community Builder by Eric Brown for more on this topic. Sites such as Philosophy News Services bring together article on philosophy. This differs from aggregation because a person makes choices on which articles are to be include not an automatic search with a logical statements such as “find any tweet that contains the word philosophy.” Find the right group of people who share the kind of content you want to read to save you time looking or if you really like doing the searches, then become a curator yourself and have people follow what you think is useful or interesting. 


People who create by writing blogs, posting photos, making e-books, white papers, and even commenting are the springs from which all the other parts of social media often flows. Lets look at two ways to create content with Twitter and Blogging. 


Twitter is just a micro-blog of a 140 characters per post that started off with a simple question “what are you doing?” See Common Crafts’ Twitter in Plain English. It has grown into a social media tool for marketing, sharing ideas and photos, following events, and still remains a place for people to say what they had for lunch. There are philosophers, publishing houses, and aggregators all on Twitter. You may want to follow @Routledge_Phil or @Philosophy_Talk to begin with but there are many more.   


If you need more than 140 characters at a time for blogging, and lets face it most philosophers do, then setting up your own blog may be the answer. However, before taking on this venture think about what you want from your blog. Do you want to express your thoughts, engage others, build up your reputation, or even be able to write more? All these reason are fine but some take more time. It can be a little hard when you have written a brilliant blog, set back and wait for all the comments and engagement only to find that no one has looked at it. There are lots of blogs with lots of shinning objects pulling at our attention. If you want to be successful, you will need to market your blog. Well, that is, unless all you really want is just to write more and do not care about readers.  

Connection, Consumption, Curation, and Creation

Social media permits all levels of engagement from commenting on what your friends have to say to writing content each day for others to read. I have always through that philosophers should engage at many levels with our communities. Social media is a powerful tool for this engagement. 

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