Friday, April 24, 2015

Change Starts Right Here, In Our CUPPS Groups

Over the years I became very frustrated with my Wiccan path.  I loved the people, yet our ritual structures had become static with dogma induced scripted formats that ignored advancements in social awareness.  This frustration eventually led me to leave the Wiccan fold and develop a more inclusive practice.

Specifically my frustration surrounded the continual use of gender beaneries in ritual practice. Circle members would all acknowledge and support the developing culture of gender fluidity and at the same time all their rituals continued to follow binary outlines.

Last night at our local CUUPS planning meeting for our Beltane event a ritual script was presented that reflected a traditional Wiccan approach.  Quarters, God, Goddess and the Great Rite; briefly I suggested we add a simple acknowledgement of gender variations prior to the Great Rite part of the ritual.  It was a simple suggestion that was readily accepted by the group. It read something like this.

“While we acknowledge the divine value of all expressions of gender identity today we celebrate the Grate Rite”

It is as simple as that; acknowledgement goes a long way in sending a message of sacred regard to those who would otherwise see our ritual as exclusive.  There was no need to erase the ritual as written, only a simple and honest statement of acceptance.

This ability to bring social justice to the spiritual table is one of the things I love about CUUPS.  In my experience we seek first to adjust our own relationship within the context of the intersectional relationship between divinity and social justice.

So my fellow CUUPS members, is there a place in your local CUPPS group to stand for diversity?  Do you also experience the ability to influence unconscious habits towards greater inclusion?  I would really like to believe that my experience reflects a collective ethic in CUUPS and not a singular experience. Let me know, I really am interested in your opinions.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Accessing Compassion via Social Media Negativity- An Activists’ Lament

Wow it has been an intense year. My Face Book feed has been filled with disgusting images of violence, injustice and environmental degradation.  Many of my friends have expressed a growing sense that these images are harmful, promoting an ever-expanding morass of negative experiences and feelings driven by social media.

It is worth considering, however, that these very images trigger our internal access to compassion in a world where it is sorely needed. Yes, I get enraged at all the digital chaos, yet it is true that my compassion is triggered; my desire to act in a meaningful way is manifested into corporeal action.

It is human nature to avoid things that make us uncomfortable. There are times when I need to disconnect, go dark and care for my self.  These times nurture my ability to re engage and bring a small touch of divinity to our collective discourse. It is in fact these objectionable mental pictures that create an upwelling of compassion.  They nudge me into a place where the status quo is unacceptable; where by being a member of the human race I am propelled to take action.

While many, understandably turn away; activists experience a very positive emotional reaction, the urge to change the world.  Collectively these individuals believe that the world is malleable and can be positively impacted by the hands of compassion.  In seeing the image of the starving child or the bloody face of a person of color assaulted by the police we tend to look beyond our revulsion and perceive the injustice as personal, affecting our collective responsibility to act, activists believe that silence is consent.

So the next time negative images trigger disgust, access this emotion to empower you to act on the side of compassion, return again to the youthful and optimistic belief that you can do something to nurture change. Negative images have a place in our world; they water the seeds of an ever-expanding garden of social justice that blooms with ever more diversity as time passes.

Friday, April 17, 2015

CUUPS is Pagan Lite, So Untrue!

Profound spiritual experiences nourish my ability to connect with divinity.  Over the years as a Pagan I have belonged to many organizations, identified with multiple traditions and participated with a diverse group of Pagans.  Generally my spiritual cup has been overflowing over the years.

Recently as I have engaged as a “new” CUUPS member my expectations have been exceeded.  Many have pontificated on CUUPS as “Pagan lite”, with no central belief system or required degree system they see CUUPS as a place for the less serious.

My experience has been exactly the opposite.  Within my CUPPS chapter there are people following multiple paths, our rituals together reflect a silent tenant of CUPPS, that all paths have value in seeking divinity. 

It is this ethic that demonstrates the beauty of the CUPPS organization. Individuals are able to dig deeper, explore more and experience divinity without the fear of running into one of the various walls of dogma constructed over the years by various Pagan belief systems.

It is this sacred regard for all paths that allows CUUPS members to transcend disagreement over belief and focus energy on divinity in all its’ blessed manifestations.

Becoming a CUUPS member has enabled this long time Pagan to refocus on the sacred within all paths, to see divinity in the footprints of those who travel paths very unlike my own.  To release the age-old issues around what we collectively believe and engage my spirit in what we do!

I am grateful for these deeper insights and value dearly the intensely deep experiences that have come my way since joining CUUPS!

In Her Service,

Peter Dybing

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Parliament of the World's Religions, LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN!

Over the past few days I have been working on my proposed presentation for the Parliament of the Worlds Religions titled “Sacred Regard, Confronting Hate with Love, Compassion and Education”.  This process has driven me to consider what it is that the Parliament stands for and how I can contribute to these organizational values and ethics.

Simply stated my goal is to LISTEN!  This event provides a profound opportunity to engage with people of other faiths in respectful and compassion centered dialogue.  There can be no greater contribution to world peace than developing a deep and abiding understanding of other cultures and belief systems. 

This focus has led me to revise my proposed presentation many times with the goal of giving voice to participants experiences and view points. As challenging as manifesting a presentation which features interactive components can be, the revisions are well worth the effort.  It is my task to surrender control of the direction the presentation precedes and embrace the unique opportunity to engage with viewpoints arising from cultural contexts with which I have little experience.

In the end my goal for the presentation mirrors my hopes for the entire event. Seeking mutual understanding and respect for the incredibility diverse expressions of divinity around the world. I am committed to not huddling with others Pagans during the Parliament, but instead engaging in a sacred process of learning about and embracing divinity in a plethora of manifestations.

In short, I intend to listen!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

No Guide Book For Pagan Elders

With much discourse occurring in the community about ageism, Elders and young Pagan Leaders conversations can be divisive.  It is important to consider that our Elders are the first generation manifesting an “Elder ethic” in our community.  As a group they are expected to know when to transition to the status of “Wise Elder” and leave community leadership to a younger generation.

These highly respected individuals are blazing a new trail, as the first generation to face these issues, en-mass; there are no reference points for them to follow in achieving these transitions.  They are protective of the organizations they have built and concerned that new Pagan leaders do not have the institutional background to fully embrace what is needed to insure the survival of what has been manifested by their generation.

Complicating matters is a new generation of what can be seen as ‘Generational Pagans, raised on the very ethics these Elders established, this generation is on fire.  New leaders are well educated and burning with a desire to manifest changes that will allow our community to embrace change in a way that make sure the community thrives well into the future.

Instead of establishing a dialectic, lets support our Elders and New Leaders in their struggle to transition leadership in our community. Respect Elders for their wisdom and at the same time expect that they will engage in a succession planning process that ensures that emerging leaders are allowed to drive discourse in our community towards advancements in tolerance, compassion and social changes that will benefit all of us.

If I say pro youth and you hear anti elder, examine your reaction!

If I express support for Elders and you see it as resistance to change, examine your reaction!

All generations have so much to offer; instead of a struggle for the heart of Pagondom, lets manifest a future together in mutual respect!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Rethinking Our Choices, The Prison Industrial Complex

Much has been written about the school to prison pipeline.  Incarceration rates in our nation establish America as one of least free nations in the world.  When crime happens people have to decide to call the police or not.  The question I wish to pose here is; should there not be other options?  Must we support a system that is destructive to our collective culture in order to respond to individuals breaking social norms?

Story after story posted online over the past few months make it clear that calling the police can result in un-necessary escalation and can place even the caller at risk of being the victim of police excess. Individuals in the Trans Gendered community know well the fear that calling the police manifests. When they do so, they place themselves at risk of being arrested or beaten.

What would happen if communities manifested other options?  Collective community action to hold accountable perpetrators, engaging their families, friends and employers in plans to hold them accountable for their actions.

What would happen if communities established response teams for victims that would hold them safe from further violence, provide emotional support and help them receive emotional and financial compensation from those who victimized them?

What would happen if communities created programs that focused on restorative justice instead of punitive punishment?  Establishing a framework of community involvement that discards the ethic of “mind your own business?

It is clear that by only having a choice to call the police or not we are not serving our communities well, only supporting the perpetuation of a system that oppresses members of our community, victims and perpetrators alike.

So lets consider community based options, real solutions that manifest change beyond the destructive roles of the helpless victim and the demonized offender.

Lets have real choices that go beyond activating a system that is oppressive in its’ very nature!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

An Open Letter To The CEO Of Starbucks


As men of privilege confronting racism can be difficult, our attempts tend to be awkward, we perceive a wrong in the world and want to address it; yet our own experiences cloud our judgment as how to do so. Our President calls for a national conversation on race, yet when we attempt to participate we face criticism from both racists and progressive activists who perceive our actions as expressions of privilege.

When such events occur it is tempting to withdraw, return to a place of comfort and chalk up our effort as a learning experience: I urge you not to do so. This conversation needs to be national, embracing all voices, yes, even our voices of privileged experience. I urge you to listen to the voices of activists criticizing your recent attempt at participating in this national dialogue.

 Instead of experiencing their strong statements as a rebuke we have the opportunity to learn about the views of People of Color and their experiences of oppression. We can re-craft our own participation in the light of what we learn and become even more capable of addressing injustice in our world.

I have participated in corporate management over the years and know well that the reactions of the activist community could well be viewed by executives across the country as reason to steer clear of these conversations seeing them as a no win situation.  That is exactly the reaction that those who oppose movements like #Black Lives Matter wish to see. I urge you to stay the course, learn from your experiences and continue to be the company that embraces hard conversations because it is the right thing to do.

The voices of those calling for justice by necessity are loud, confrontive and direct. Defeating racism is not something that can be accomplished with respectful and sensitive language; yet as a movement we need to develop better judgment on when to directly confront privilege and when to call in our allies to a deeper understanding of social justice work.

There are many avenues leading to change. One of them is people who hold power recognizing their social responsibility to be the change they wish to see in the world.  Starbucks deserves a huge dose of appreciation for their attempts that embrace this ethic.  Let not the voices of criticism change your course, let them instead inform your views and help you craft your message into one that is more effective in the world.

With deep respect for your efforts,

Peter Dybing

Friday, March 6, 2015

On Being Kind To The Invisible, Seeing The Homeless

Yesterday I dropped by a donut shop and bought donuts for the staff I work with, no big deal, just being part of the group. Having time on my hands before work I also stopped to shop for a pair of boots for the coming season. As I got out of my car I noticed a group of 15 or so homeless individuals sitting under a shelter in a near by park.

In the moment, I decided to take the donuts over to them, surly they would appreciate them more than my co-workers. Let me state I work in a Detox unit during the winter, so the idea of noticing these individuals is no great surprise for me. The thing is, I sat and spent about fifteen minutes enjoying conversation and eating donuts. I was enriched and amazed that they kept saying how people drop by “stuff” all the time but never stay and interact, never really want to know who they are.

Therein lies the rub, the homeless are invisible. Sure well meaning progressive people provide gestures of support in an effort to sooth their place of privilege in the world, but it is striking how rarely such actions lead to real meaningful interactions with the homeless population.

It is natural of course, for our brains to not want to wallow in the unfortunate, to really see the suffering that surrounds us, to attempt to screen out that which makes us uncomfortable. Yet such a process devalues human beings that are as much an expression of the divine as the friends I so cherish.

Imagine, if you will, being so marginalized by society that the only real interaction you have with broader society is expressions of pity and or charity. Sit for a moment in the place of the individual that society treats as if they have nothing to offer; experience being reduced to a sad statistic. Now consider how profoundly such a situation could affect your ability to move forward in life, how being invisible in public discourse could led you to doubt yourself in every way.

So today my call is for the homeless. Not for feeding them, not for housing them, not for providing resources, but for something more profound, providing human kindness.  Let’s open our eyes, make friends, and really get to know those among us that our culture considers invisible. Lets take a seat in the park and discuss, laugh, encourage, and recognize the divinity and self worth of those most in need of the compassion that our beliefs encourage us to express.

So today I issue a challenge with a simple question: Do you even know the name of a homeless person in your community?  If you don't, maybe it is time you do! 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Rejecting The Culture of Respectability, New Pagan Leadership

It has been a tumultuous few weeks in the evolution of our collective Pagan community, discussions about multiple uncomfortable issues have been processed both online and in local face to face conversations.  What strikes me most profoundly about these conversations is the incredible eloquence, insight and collective clarity of vision of what many have been calling “Young Pagans” 

Let me just briefly mention that this label of “Young Pagans” is, in my opinion, a misnomer.  Clearly when we are discussing these individuals it is our Elder centric culture that labels everyone under 45 as “young leaders”.  

Over and over I have witnessed “Elders” explain the realities of a diverse group of Pagan micro communities to these “Young Pagans” seeking change.  Essentially, the impression I get is of an established community defending what they have built and seeking to stave off the reality that it is these new Pagan Leaders that are manifesting real change that will ensure the flourishing of our collective communities.

These “new leaders” speak their truth directly; they have little concern for what Jason Thomas Pitzl, calls the “Culture of Respectability” that has manifested in our community. Their actions reflect the fact that a static community will enter a period of entropy if it does not continue to manifest positive social change, a sense of collective community and direct honest confrontation of the issues that infect our collective tribes.

Frankly, I am impressed with their passion, their willingness to proclaim an enlightened viewpoint with out regard to who it might offend.  These so-called “Young Pagans” are the Pagan movement; they have transcended the accomplishments and structures built by the proceeding generation.

 Our communities' Eders laid the foundations of their work, something they all deserve respect for.  Today however, these same Elders seem unable to embrace the reality that they carry many attitudes and ideas that if allowed to prevail will begin to eat away at the very community they so cherish.

Simply stated, the views, ideas and actions that I most respect in our community are all coming from this new generation of Pagans who will not tolerate a community which bases its’ actions on a culture of respectability. The widespread ethic of “play nice” that resulted from the “witch wars” that occurred during the formative years of our community has become an insidious barrier to real discussion and the evolution of our community.

While I am always cautious to engage the word “leaders”, I do believe that the current people who I respect  the most for their leadership abilities are from these emerging generations.  It seems to me that it is time for established Elders to pass the responsibility of leadership to these individuals and stop framing them as “young leaders”.  They are the best of us, willing and able to take our community into a future that is more inclusive and reflective of our Pagan values.

We need our Elders for their wisdom, knowledge and temperance. They command our respect, yet the time comes when actively steering our community into the future should be left to those who have a clearer view of the future rather than the past.

It is my intent to focus what limited voice I have on ensuring that these passionate, focused and effective Pagans are encouraged to continue steering our community forward in the direction of their collective vision of a healthy, dynamic and inclusive community

Wednesday, February 25, 2015


Over the past few weeks I have witnessed the demonization of Covenant of the Goddess as a result of the epic fail of the National Board’s response the the #BlackLivesMatter movement.  The discourse has degenerated into the use of a broad brush painting the organization as racist, I am saddened and disgusted that our community seems unable to hold accountable those who failed in their leadership rolls while painting the many great members of CoG with the same broad brush.

Let me be clear, I am a huge supporter of many of the Local Councils of CoG. Over the years,  I have developed a deep respect for the work the Local Councils and their members do.  The idea that they are responsible for the insensitive and hurtful statements of the National Board is unreasonable and toxic to our community.

Admittedly, the National Boards actions in engaging in censorship and attacking their critics contributed to this problem.  When they chose to paint the criticisms as an attack on the entire covenant many bought their position and framed the issue as having to do with the entire membership.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  I urge the community to examine their response to this situation and continue to support the work of the local councils; their efforts in interfaith, feeding the hungry and fighting for social justice deserve our respect, not a broad brush stroke coating them with the stain of the actions of others.

The very idea that half a dozen members of the National Board of this revered organization could be so clueless as to the state of social justice in our nation that they could make such a statement is alarming.  The National First Officer and the Public Information Officer are the voices of the national board, they failed, they are responsible and they should resign.  Lets hold those accountable as having a responsibility to take the consequences for there actions.

I would like to believe that Pagans have the insight to see the nuances of this situation.  The craft is about personal responsibility, not burning entire organizations at the stake due to the actions of the few.

As a national solitary,  I recently let my membership in CoG expire, the National Board is responsible for representing me as a member of CoG and I did not feel their actions reflected my values.  Had I been a member of a Local Council, where all the great work of the covenant takes place,  I would have remained a member of  CoG.

For years many respected Elders of CoG have explained to me that they do not become involved in national CoG due to the political infighting and back room deals that take place. I myself, over the past four years adhered to this ethic, it was my personal moral failing that I did so.  If I am a member of an organization I have a responsibility to attempt to change things, I did not and I regret it, as I am sure other Elders in the community do also.

Here is wishing that collectively the great group of Local Councils of CoG have the courage to retake the leadership of this storied Pagan organization, I wish them luck in their endeavor.

#Black Lives Matter

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Ten Thousand Pagan Voices Confronting Racism

Where does one start when reviewing a month long chapter of their life that was intensely painful, personal and enlightening?  My experience of our community over the last few weeks is heartbreaking.  In seeking social justice there is often a price to pay, this I knew, but I was floored by how our blessed community can react to subjects that call us to look at ourselves.

In calling out adverse racism where I saw it, I took the only course of action that would allow me to sleep with the knowledge that I was acting as the Goddess leads me.  I have been threatened, called names, harassed via email and the telephone, painted as a heretic and generally demonized by members of my own community.  Long-standing friendships have been lost; organizations I fully supported for years have deemed me a destructive force.  Yes, I am wounded, saddened, and have shed many tears.

I knew going in that those who dare to even speak a measure of truth to power are subject to being attacked, branded as a whistle blower and made the focus of efforts to distract people from the issues raised.  I have watched governments; organizations and societies do this over and over.  Yet deep inside of me I was hopeful that our blessed community is beyond such actions, quietly I suspected that while such a response would come it would not have support among Pagans. I was wrong, I am disappointed.

Here is the thing, I WOULD DO IT AGAIN!, yes that was a shout. Recent events within our collective community reflect the state of affairs within Pagandom; racism is alive and well, it exists in ourselves, in those who stand next to us in circle, at our conventions and within our ritual practices. 

It has been fifty years since the march in Selma and yet here we still are struggling with even making Pagan spaces safe for people of color. We have a responsibility to support our brothers and sisters of color in our community; indeed we have no community unless we rise to this challenge.

Can I promise that if you speak up there will be no price to pay, clearly not, yet to abdicate our responsibility to stand for what is right would be to drive a stake in the heart of our communities’ values.

Today I ask my fellow Pagans of privilege, join together; manifest 10,000 voices calling for our community to listen to the experiences of Pagans of Color.  If we must pay a price for our stand, so be it, our hurts, pains and losses will add up to little in comparison to the experiences of our brothers and sisters of color.

10,000 voices speaking up, not over, calling our community to hear the pain, the sadness and the fears of our brothers and sisters can manifest real change that will allow us to proceed as a community committed to walking our talk, living our values and setting an example for future generations that we are more than the sum of our collective traditions.

Here is my name, who will join me in manifesting 10,000 voices by adding theirs and sharing this call to action!

Peter Dybing

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Pagan Consensus And The Tyranny Of The Minority

Recent events within the Pagan community have driven me to examine the structure of Pagan organizations and how these configurations tend to affect the ability of those participating to embrace social justice in the wider community.

It has been a general principle in our community that organizations embracing the governing model of consensus are seeking to hear the voices of everyone, honoring their views and finding a way to move forward with the approval of all involved.

In the case of small organizations or groups that have the ability for everyone to meet face-to-face the model works well and expresses our collective desire to honor each participants individual relationship with the divine.

In the case of large organizations, however, the process can be usurped by small groups of people seeking control and undo influence.  Organizational leaders are left with the reality that the views of fringe groups within the membership are able to derail progress and leave the organization Mora bound, unable to represent the views of the vast majority of the membership.

Peace at all costs becomes the mantra of these organizations.  Servant leaders of these groups are left to defend organizational lack of action as an “acceptable” consequence of the consensus process.  Even more, individuals who have the resources to attend national meetings develop undue influence over the group, while hiding under the cover of representing those not present via a paperwork process that pretends that all have a voice.

Individuals with years of investment in the organizational culture use past consensus decisions as powerful weapons to bludgeon those seeking change with.  They somehow have come to believe that past decisions, during a time of different circumstances, are sacrosanct statements reflecting some divine insight.

The position that all behavior, all lack of action is somehow justified by institutional history and past consensus becomes toxic to the organizations ability to move forward. Essentially, a TYRANNY OF THE MINORITY is established.

As we move forward as a community, it is my hope that organizations will examine these issues.  There is a place for consensus, in small regional groups that have the ability to truly discuss issues with everyone present.  Yet, as a community we must be willing to examine what is not working and manifest a process that does not embolden those expressing adverse discrimination to take hold of our cherished institutions.

There are many great people doing great work in our national organizations. The call here is not to trash our systems of organization but be willing to examine where they are broken in the light of day, with transparency and compassion.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Selma’s LBJ, A Metaphor For You And Me

The recent uproar over the portrayal of Lyndon Johnson in the movie Selma is quite enlightening.  Staffers at the LBK Presidential Library are defending the former presidents reputation as a hero of civil rights.  Their objection surrounds the movie painting LBJ as a reluctant ally at best.

If we really examine the man and his motivations we can see that he possessed great insight and vast blind spots in terms of racial justice.  He stood as the leader of this nation reflecting the values that white Americans held at the time. 

It is in this honest assessment that we can see our selves; as white Americans we have accomplished much in recognizing the abhorrent affects of racism.  Yet, this is not where we started.  Just as in this most recent portrayal, we have gradually evolved in our understanding of how insidious prejudice can be.

As we move forward we embrace an ever-expanding concept of social justice, spurred on by our exposure to the inequities in our world.  For those of us over forty, for example, can we honestly say that our views and understanding of transgender rights have remained static over the last 20 years?  For most, the answer is clearly NO. We have moved from ignorance of the issue, to acknowledgement and beyond to embracing social change via activism.

The real issue with the LBJ portrayal is that unconsciously we desire to believe the myth that a white man was a hero of the civil rights movement.  Was he? well kind of, but he did not start as a hero, he had to be confronted, informed and challenged.  There in is the rub; all of us need to be willing to confront our attitudes, ideas and actions if we are to manifest social justice in our time.

Those seeking a white wash of LBJ into an instigator of the civil rights movement are unconsciously expressing a desire to reframe history into a box that white privilege fits into.   I admire LBJ for his ability to evolve his views and take action once he understood the magnitude of the situation.  He evolved, may we all follow his example and continue to do so also.   The attempted reframing of the discussion of the movie to be about the actions of a white President instead of the bravery of the people of Selma and MKL is distasteful at best. Yet there are lessons about our own privilege to be gleaned from the conversation.

Friday, January 2, 2015

#LivesMatter, JUST STOP!

So what do we do when activists usurp an incredibly effective social justice action in order to promote their own worthy causes.   How do we call out those we agree with in principle on their un intended devaluation and destruction of a historic social justice movement?

These are the questions I have been pondering over the past few days as I have observed hash tags that read:

#translivesmatter, #redlivesmatter, #alllivesmatter, #girlslivesmatter, and on and on.

There is no doubt that all the tags manifested above are intended to support great causes. Each author unaware that by appropriating the “lives matter” narrative they are contributing to diluting the important message of the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

In essence this situation is manifesting competition for attention, national focus and political support.  As an activist I know well the temptation to copy an effective action in support of the causes I work for.  Yet I recognize that any attempt to start a #PaganLivesMatter statement would just be an expression of my privilege and result in further marginalizing the Black Lives Matter movement.

So my fellow progressives who have usurped the Black Lives Matter movement with your own statements, PLEASE JUST STOP!

Stop now, withdraw your posts, support real change, don’t be part of the effort to white wash this historic opportunity for real change.  Yes I agree with your causes, however your actions are eroding the possibility for real change. Please, I say again JUST STOP IT!