We welcome guest contributor, Heather Greene. Writer, singer, Pagan journalist, she is also the Editor of the Wild Hunt.
Into the Silence by Heather Greene, 2016
“Journalists go to the silence.” – Amy Goodman, Democracy Now‘s executive producer.
The Wild Hunt is a fourteen year old online entity that emerged from a need for a focused Pagan-driven news source. Necessity, as some say, is the mother of invention. Through those fourteen years, The Wild Hunt has evolved from a daily blog run by one person to a full-fledged nonprofit, independent news agency with a team of seventeen writers, editors, and administrators working to build a lasting institution whose mission it is to satisfy the very need that brought it into existence.
What is that need?
In recent years there has been an overall decline in mainstream religion-based news coverage outside of reporting on specific events or holidays. Regardless, the so-called “god-beat” has never, even in its strength, been Pagan or Heathen -friendly. Any coverage of minority religions and practices, specifically those falling into Pagan, Heathen, and polytheist realms, typically occur in October, or when a major news making event involves a pentacle, Thor’s Hammer, or some “witchy” element. For example, one such case happened this past summer when the international media picked up on the hex action launched in conjunction with a California sexual assault case.
Whether out of bigotry, disinterest, or just coverage scope, mainstream media rarely incorporate the Pagan perspective. Even when they try, there are understandable barriers preventing solid coverage with the level of nuance and even respect that interviewees expect, want and deserve. While some reporters do try, deadlines and quick turn-arounds often make it difficult for even the most well-meaning journalist to adequately capture news from a Pagan or Heathen perspective.
Additionally, mainstream outlets typically don’t share news specifically generated by these minority communities. Starhawk’s permaculture work and its relationship to her religious beliefs will not be shared widely beyond niche markets. Any reports on the tragic death of Kansas Pagan Tisha Gill will not include how vital she was to the building of her local Pagan community. And, the mainstream news won’t share how a new blog project is changing the way people discuss and share their polytheistic beliefs and practices.
That is where The Wild Hunt comes in.
Goodman said, “Journalists go to the silence.” Pagan, Heathen, and polytheist communities exist in that media silence. And, as such, so does The Wild Hunt.
In that respect, our work plays two roles. First and foremost, we serve our communities with daily, original writing and reporting. We share the events coming from our communities for our communities. Did you know that Heathen Matthew Orlando is running for Congress, or that there is a growing Wiccan community in Thailand? Did you know that the Pagan Federation International is co-hosting an online academic conference in November, or that Circle Sanctuary is now a membership-based organization?
These are all examples of news, stories, and issues that all come from a heart beating at the center of that silent space.
Our secondary function is to communicate without, or to break the silence, if you will. For better or worse, The Wild Hunt exists in a public space where anyone can visit and read. We welcome this role and are happy to be there. In 2016, The Wild Hunt was recognized by Google for the first time as a reputable news agency. When you search on Black Moon, for example, you’ll see the TWH article, along with that of the Washington Post, USA Today, and other major outlets that reported on that very hot topic.
Why does this matter? Sharing our voices publicly opens a window on the workings of our collective communities and also demonstrates how Pagans, Heathens, and polytheists are concerned about the many broad issues affecting our world. In September, our article on the Pagan Federation Disabilities Team was picked up by HuffPost Religion. As a result, non-Pagans worldwide got the opportunity to see how a group of UK Pagans were affecting positive change within their own religious community. In other cases, readers learned how Pagans participated in the interfaith Black Friday 14 protest in California, in the Climate Change protest in Illinois, or in the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Salt Lake City. “We are here!”
With that said, it is true that many Pagans and Heathens enjoy living in the media silence, going completely unnoticed by the public. Some even prefer it. While we certainly understand and honor that perspective, we also know that there are times when minority religious voices need to be heard, even if it is just to correct misinformation or weigh-in. Wild Hunt writers, for example, spoke with the Pensacola sheriff’s office in order to clarify facts after a Wiccan ritual was linked to a local homicide.
Due to the fact that TWH journalists do not sensationalize or objectify religious beliefs, lifestyles, and practices, readers of all kinds can come to TWH and witness who we are, as we are and where we are, without the framework of “otherness” and the colors of Halloween. Through this part of our work, The Wild Hunt defies the silence that is created by the mainstream culture.
Shall we make some noise?
But, in the end, even if our chatter results solely in serving our own communities, we are there and ready to do our job. And, we are not alone in any of that work. TWH is joined by many talented writers working at group and private blogging venues, by hosts of digital radio broadcasts, producers of print magazines, and more. All of the ventures that make up the fledgling Pagan media are equally as important, because together our voices are heard – both within and without.
At the risk of sounding completely ridiculous, I draw your attention to the Dr. Seuss children’s story Horton Hears a Who. The main character Horton the elephant is the only animal that can the hear a single voice on a plant seed. “A person’s a person, no matter how small,” explains Horton. But the others only hear the silence. By the end of the book, it takes the entire community of Whoville making noise to be heard. “We are here! We are here!” they shout.
While that is a very simplistic and idealistic presentation, it exists as an allegory for our communities in some ways. We are often not heard, even within our own spheres of influence. The continued publishing of Pagan voices, in whatever form that takes, can change that and, as a result, contribute to the internal health of our communities and our people. How do other Pagans handle depression or think about death within a religious context? Let’s talk about.
Within the spectrum of Pagan media outlets, The Wild Hunt’s focus is primarily news and news commentary. We speak the language of mainstream media and model ourselves using conventional news structures, such as the AP Style Guide. At the same time, we also are mindful of who we are, as a entity and as individuals. We will not compromise either. In fact, TWH actually has its own style guide that always supersedes AP rules, including the spelling and capitalization of certain religious terms ignored by most editors. We have policies in place that require the consideration of an interviewee’s religious identification and pronoun preferences. We honor Craft names and deeply understand privacy concerns.
The Wild Hunt rests comfortably and proudly in the overculture’s media silence, helping to amplify otherwise unheard voices for both ourselves and for the world.
But there is one more role that Wild Hunt journalists play. We seek out the silence found within our own communities. What Pagan voices still need to be heard? What actions are not being shared? What issues are not being discussed? We seek a deeper silence – one that is embedded within our collective spaces.
Our guest writers and columnists are often the best examples of our dedication to that part of our mission. We give the microphone, if you will, to new writers who provide unique perspectives rarely seen, helping them to say, “We are here.” In April, editor Kenya Coviak joined us to share her experiences growing up with Detroit Hoodoo. More recently, elder Katrina Messenger shared her thoughts on being a mystic in difficult times, and David Halpin reflected on the language the gods.
With that said, The Wild Hunt actually plays three very distinct and vital roles. On the one hand, we exist in the silence created by the over-culture. “We are here!” we say both within and without. Those are our two more obvious functions. But, on the other hand, it remains our duty as journalists to go to the silences that exist within ourselves. To help us know ourselves.
That is our mission and our service and our contribution. In providing a respectful, ethically-based, and professional space for noisemaking, we hope to offer a positive legacy for the growing population of Pagans, Heathens, and polytheists for years to come. We also hope that this legacy, one that grows day in and day out, tells the story of our communities and our people.
Each day, we go back into the silence.
“We are here!”
[The Wild Hunt is a nonprofit, independent media project. It does not accept advertising or paid content. Every article published is original and written by its own dedicated team of writers and guest writers. The Wild Hunt is currently running its Fall Fund drive. If you believe in the TWH mission, enjoy reading the daily content and want to keep the project going, consider donating today. Every dollar counts. This is your community; this is your Wild Hunt]