Your friendly neighborhood Pagan inkslinger was favored with an interview of Terence P Ward, Assistant Editor at The Wild Hunt. You know, that modest blog that turned into a premiere online publication and news agency that covers the Pagan world right now? So join in this honor of speaking with this true pioneer for Pagan journalists.
So, even though there is a strong doubt that the readers here would not know who you are, tell us about who you are.
I doubt there’s so much doubt. I meet people all the time who have never heard to The Wild Hunt, the premier site for Pagan news. I am the assistant editor there, and contribute at least one news story myself each week.
You are a writer, but that can mean a lot of things. What does that mean in your life when it comes to your path of actualization?
I get excited whenever I read fiction that moves me, and imagine myself creating like that, but it’s never quite turned out that way. Being a writer doesn’t always mean having something to say, and for me that means I have the opportunity to help others who don’t write so well share their stories.
Since I started writing news in 2010, I’ve never written more and I’ve never been happier with my work.
So many people see journalist, writer, and Pagan, but you are specifically a polytheist. When you are approaching issues and stories, what part does this other facet to your life and belief window play in how you frame your works?
To be clear, I’m the kind of polytheist that relates to the gods as individual beings, separate from each other and from myself. We’re called hard polytheists, or devotional polytheists, or in some circles, those curmudgeons muttering in the corner. I am quite grounded in that world view. On the other hand, Hellenic polytheism like mine warns against hubris, arrogance that leads to the belief that we are better than the gods. It would be hubris for me to presume that my understanding of the gods is the whole story.
Many, many Pagans use language that makes this error, whether they believe all gods are one god, there are no gods, the gods care what we think or they don’t; the truth is, none of us have the full picture. Since my viewpoint is a minority in our minority religious community, I use it as a reminder to work for more inclusive language in my reporting.
When you cover an assignment, do you sometimes find a bias in the communities toward soft polytheistic groups vs. true poly?
Heck, even calling them “true poly” is a bias, but not the most predominant one. Indeed, as I noted in the previous question, most people couch their opinions in language which assumes others agree with them. It’s ironic, since we’ve probably all faced that with some Christians, and railing against that kind of privilege is not at all uncommon. When I’m working, I try to place those quotes in the broader context as best I can.
Pagan, and Interfaith, awareness and activism stories seem to be something running through your work. W
So much of the modern Pagan movement has been about just letting us worship who and how we wish, but that’s definitely changing. More activists, more people engaged in interfaith work, and more pushes for Pagan infrastructure are all evidence that this movement is maturing. These have all been part of Paganism as long as it has had a modern identity, and they have been resisted by others in the community for just as long.
Andras Corban-Arthen was engaging in interfaith work in the 1970s, and Selena Fox was trying to secure land for Circle Sanctuary not long after. Some people feel that Paganism will lose its counterculture roots if these things happen, but the emergence of strong activist voices suggests otherwise. Pagan identity is transforming right before our eyes, and it’s impossible to say what it will look like on the other side.
What part do you believe those of nontraditional religions can play on the world stage of events right now that will create a positive impact? How can we take our seat at the table?
I’m going to borrow from the views of Andras Corban-Arthen, founder of Earthspirit Community, because his words resonate with me. Pagans are leaders in environmental activism, in the rights of women, and in acceptance of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities. Those are all important viewpoints to share. I also see us as particularly good at blending scientific and mystical perspectives, and recognizing that they are complementary, not competing. We take our seat at the table by not hiding who we are, and not letting others control the messages of Paganism.
What roles do writers play in this?
Writing endures. It generally lacks the intonation and nonverbal cues we rely upon for communication, but it lasts far longer than conversation, and spreads further. By putting forth our beliefs and practices in writing, we help shape history.
Do you feel a unique responsibility as a Pagan journalist?
Journalists like myself must serve as the mouthpieces of our community. I would love for other Pagan journalists to join The Wild Hunt or otherwise use their skills to tell Pagan stories.
As a journalist, it’s my job to “comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable,” in the words of Finley Peter Dunne.
That requires a dispassionate perspective, but dispassionate does not mean uninformed. Reporters find themselves having to become an expert in a new subject in a very short time, and coverage of Pagan news in mainstream media sources shows that it doesn’t always work well. Because I’m Pagan, I have a baseline knowledge which makes that learning curve a little less steep, and the end product a bit more accurate.
What role do you think that The Wild Hunt has played in the consciousness of cyber society?
We are working to make the wider world take our community seriously. That’s only possible because we stand on the shoulders of giants, the pioneers who took the first bold steps into being publicly Pagan and working out how to educate the world about us. We couldn’t exist without that work, and it is our responsibility to build upon it.
What ways would you like to see writers and media professionals expand the visibility of our issues? What is the next step?
The Wild Hunt started as a blog, updated daily for ten years by its tireless founder, Jason Pitzl-Waters. It is now being transformed into a full-fledged news agency. In order for that to continue, we need more Pagans to become comfortable with speaking to reporters, skilled at recognizing news stories, and fluent in articulating their beliefs and practices. The more Pagans emerge from the shadows, the more those of us who work in news can focus that light through a lens of accuracy and truth.
If you could choose a Delphic Maxim that you felt most accurately defined the body of your works, what would it be?
If you are a stranger, act like one. I strive never to assume I know more than I do, and to actually listen to my subjects rather than write the story before they’re finished telling it. I think of myself as a stranger visiting their homes for the first time.
For those who would love to follow your writings, where can they find them?
Is there anything you would like to tell us that we may not have covered up to this point?
My definition of Paganism is inclusive, but not blindly so. While I see similarities in groups such as Native Americans and practitioners of Shinto, I try not to force a label upon them that they would reject. Polytheists and Heathens sometimes, but not always, use Pagan to describe themselves, but not always. My way to honor that is to refer to these groups as being “in the shadow of the Pagan umbrella,” rather than under it; it’s an attempt to recognize that while some may see them as Pagan (or close enough), that they don’t always agree. There are similarities enough to pay attention to what they’re doing, and real overlap, but use of the term “Pagan” is as amorphous as definitions of the word itself.
Pagan Journalists, who could have seen these great days come to pass when, back in the 50’s, Paganism came out of the shadows and into public society? The faces of the new times are here, and they are writing our stories and keeping watch for us. We thank you, Terence, for taking up the pen and marking the records. For now there are scribes who exist among this generation of new Pagans, who report and challenge us, writing their stories from the spaces just out of the corner of our eyes.