A New Pagan Speaks Out:
TWPT Talks to Ellen Evert
TWPT: For those who
have not read your book, would you give me a capsule view of who you are
spiritually right now?
EEH: Boy, you know, that's such a small
question. <laughs> My spirituality is my everyday life. There is no
separation between who I am from the minute I wake up to the time that I go to
sleep. In other words, I try to be conscious about the earth, about the beings
of the earth with every part of my life. For example, I have a compost pile out
back and I compost all my garbage. I don't use poisonous pesticides on the
earth. I try to buy things in recyclable containers. I recycle just about
everything, glass, plastic, cans, bottles, cardboard, paper. I keep that in my
consciousness and in my awareness. I try to have a lot of respect for the earth.
I try to have respect for the humans, and I can't always say that I succeed at
that all the time. I get pissed off sometimes, but at least what I do is I
monitor myself and I do notice when I've gotten pissed off. If I haven't been
totally respectful of another human being's opinion, then I will review what I
did and what happened and why I did it. Basically, I'm trying to be conscious of
everything that I do from the minute I wake up till I go to sleep. Of course, I
mess up allot because I'm only human, but that really is my spiritual path,
aside from all the ritual stuff, high ceremonial ritual stuff on holy days and
so on. That's really the core of the spirituality.
TWPT: Has becoming
popular as a writer changed your ability to do that on a daily basis? Or has it
cramped your style as to the amount of time that you would like to spend on
EEH: I don't think anything could cramp my
style as far as spirituality because it's my every waking moment. But just this
last week I've had a major epiphany. I finally managed to get off a bunch of
mailing lists that I had subscribed to on the Internet.
TWPT: I just signed on
to a few myself. I wanted to get the flavor of what is out there right now. I
don't stay on them very long but I do like to see what is being said.
EEH: Well, I've been doing that pretty
dedicatedly for the last five years and it finally got to the point where I have
things that I need to write that are not getting written and I have books to
read that are not getting read. I'm not spending as much time out in nature as I
would like to and I was trying to figure out what's going to go and that's what
TWPT: So, in some
ways, just trying to keep up with everything a person could actually hinder
themselves as far as what they can do in their own lives.
EEH: Yes, I think it's a really good idea get
onto the lists, get out into the web, get on to the net and see what's out
there. There's just a fabulous array of stuff but it can certainly suck you
TWPT: You've only got
so much time in a day and after awhile it just takes on a less than natural
quality that drains the life out of you...
EEH: It's very draining. Actually, I think
that Pagans have a tendency to get lost in talking, conversation and in
intellectualizing about things. I shouldn't say lost in it, it is just something
we love to do. That is how we have constructed our religion, by talking about
it. A friend of mine, who is a graduate of Harvard University, said that
Paganism is a conversational religion. He coined the term and I agree. We go to
festivals, and we sit around and talk and talk and talk. But there's a time for
that and then there's a time to actually put aside the talking and commune with
nature, directly with the elements, with the water, the birds, the trees and the
plants. You have to do that or, in my opinion, you lose the whole core of what
it is to be a Pagan.
TWPT: I was noticing
in the preface from your book "The People of the Earth", you give us a glimpse
of many different spiritual paths that brought you to where you are now. Why is
it that the Druidic beliefs are where you stopped and made your home?
EEH: I've told this story before but I was
born in Salzburg, Austria, which is arguably the birth place of Celtic culture.
I grew up with my mother always telling stories about the Celts. She was very
excited about the digs going on in that area, the Hallstatt Celtic culture. When
I was a very little girl, and I'm talking about from age one to eight years old,
she would talk about the iron work, the jewelry, and she would always talk about
the Celts, so that was something that was in the back of my subconscious mind. I
went through various spiritual paths and transformations and I finally wound up
with the Native Americans. I studied with them for five years. During that
process, one of them said to me, "It's great you are honoring our ancestors, but
you really need to honor your own." I had no clue as to what that meant. I had
not met one set of my grandparents who were dead by the time I was born and the
other set I only met once and that was it. I didn't know who my ancestors
I was working as an herbalist in Philadelphia and one of
my clients was actually the seamstress for the Flying Karamazov Brothers. She
happened to mention that she had met Isaac Bonewits at a festival. I had never
been to a Pagan Gathering and I didn't even know that they existed. She said
that he was a Druid and that he was the most intelligent person she had met at
any of the festivals. He was the only one that she really respected. As soon as
I heard that word, Druid, something really resonated. I had never really thought
about the word Druid. I had always heard about the Celts when I was growing up.
It felt like something that was a part of me that I had never thought about
before. I started looking into it, and I actually became one of the first
members of ADF, one of the original batch of people as a result of that, and the
rest is history. From ADF I went to Keltria and White Oak.
TWPT: Is it uncommon
for Women to be in the Druidic Orders?
EEH: No, it's not now and it wasn't in
ancient times either. I think the reason that people have this misconception
about Druids being men is because of the Meso-Pagan Druid revival that happened
in Britain in the 1700's. Actually, it started in France and Germany first,
although the English really don't like to say that and then it went to England.
The founders of the "Druidic Order" in England were Masons and the Masons, of
course, were all men. In ancient times the Druids were women and men. Currently
in the Neo-Pagan Druid groups there are as many women as men, or maybe even
more, I don't know the demographics but women have always been
TWPT: Is there a way
to give us a brief introduction to the belief systems of the Druids?
EEH: Well, it varies from Order to Order.
Each Order has a slightly different way of looking at things. In general, the
English Druidic Orders tend to not particularly care about scholarship. They are
more into having a direct relationship with nature and they don't think that
scholarship, particularly Celtic scholarship, is relevant. They have a hard time
understanding why American Druids are so caught up in the whole scholarship
issue. They really think it's pointless.
The Irish Druid Orders call themselves "Forest Druids" and
that is what I actually call myself now. I live in the woods, I write about
trees, I teach about trees, I am a Forest Druid. They are very preoccupied with
recovering the mysticism of the trees, the woodcraft skills, the medicinal
skills and the magical skills that the Druids used to have in Ireland. Ireland
was covered with oak trees, until the Elizabethan era, when the English came in
and cut the trees down.
Then you have the American Druids, who are very preoccupied
with the Celtic Scholarship and who tend to be very competitive especially the
Celtic Reconstructionist types. Druids don't really do magical battles so much
with each other as they do intellectual battles <laugh>, really,
especially on the Internet <more laughing>.
So that characterizes the American Druid, if you can quote
the right books and the right author, you will be highly respected regardless if
you have any connection to the earth or not. And even within the American
Orders, it varies. ADF is very Indo-European in their focus, Keltria is strictly
Celtic and White Oak is Celtic.
TWPT: Is there a
common thread that runs through the various paths that you have practiced over
the years? I noticed you were into Tai Chi, Yoga, Sufism and Native American
EEH: There is a Sacred quality that you
experience in any tradition and it doesn't matter if you are in a Hindu temple
or in a Muslim mosque or a Native American Fire Ceremony or a Sufi dance with
the Whirling Dervishes. There is an odor of sanctity and that's what I was
always looking for. I'm also trying to find that within Paganism, which is hard
but it is there. I've met a very few people, a handful of people, within the
Pagan community with whom I've experienced that.
TWPT: I know what you
mean, I come from a long time spent in the Charismatic and Pentecostal Churches
and it gave me glimpses of that sacred quality.
EEH: I actually lived in a Franciscan
Community in Assisi for a while.
TWPT: I think in a lot
of ways it helps you. It introduced me to the spiritual realm of my
EEH: Yes, it is quality of devotion. The
genuine quality of devotion and you can find it within every tradition. It's
what I try to foster on the White Oak list, and in the White Oak Order and of
course I am a Human Being, so I fail miserably from time to time. I get into
fights with my people, as we all do on the Internet, you know, its lovely.
There is one person in particular that I consider to be the
Spiritual Father of White Oak even as I consider myself to be the Spiritual
Mother. His name is Cathbad, which is an old name for a Druid from the Iron Age.
He and I conceived the White Oak Order. When we met we talked about a monastic
Druid Order, that would focus on people really doing inner work, very different
from ADF. For example, if you become a Druid in ADF, you are expected to do
public services. You are expected to advertise them to the public, which of
course, is a valuable thing for the community. People can find places to do
ceremony all over the United States. That's their mission.
Keltria has a slightly different mission. In Keltria, of
which I was the Vice President for nine years, the mission there is more to form
a Grove in your area and work privately with your Druid Grove. With White Oak,
the focus is on the individual. We have a few groups that meet, but really the
emphasis is on solitary work. What we did was to spend years, literally, digging
up ancient Celtic manuscripts that talked about ethics, about what the ancient
Celts valued, and the kind of qualities they aspired to. We created oaths for
ourselves and practices that would reflect that and the only thing that matters
is the individual living up to that oath to the best of their ability. So it's
really a very different focus.
TWPT: What are the
common traits that run through Wicca/Paganism/Druidism - Is it basically the
nature part that ties them?
EEH: You would think that, but I have to tell
you that I've been kicking around the Pagan Path since 1984 and I am always
surprised. I do meet Pagans who really are not connected to nature and it always
blows me away. They do ceremony in their living room, they live in the city.
I've been to rituals where everybody was dressed in polyester robes and they
were eating dinner out of Tupperware containers with plastic everywhere. One
particularly horrible example that sticks out in my mind: I got invited to a
Wiccan Ritual and it was one of those very beautiful days where you want be
outside and the sky was perfectly clear and the sun was shining.
It was the fall and they had their ritual indoors, in a
hall with no windows and linoleum floors. They were dressed in polyester, they
had plastic athames (I kid you not) and crepe paper around their altar and they
were eating out of Tupperware containers and I was just exploding because I
wanted to be outside. I looked at it and I said wow that is just not the same
universe that I live in. It's not my idea of Paganism. I would rather have just
sat outside in the sun and that would have been it. They were reading from
books. That is one thing we don't have in common. They would like to think they
are nature worshipers, but not everyone is apparently.
TWPT: Do you think the
lack of nature awareness on the part of Pagans is a growing trend?
EEH: I think there are an awful lot of Pagans
who don't think about it. They are more involved in the ceremonial aspect,
reading from the book. They are drinking their Coca-Cola and eating their
hot-dogs, and smoking their cigarettes. This is what I see at the festivals.
There's this "not thinking about it" attitude.
What we do have in common I suppose, though the Dianic's
don't really fit into this, is that we are Polytheistic. Wicca is Duotheistic, A
Goddess and A God. Druids are true Polytheists, we work with entire Pantheons.
We would never say The Goddess and The God. That makes no sense to a Druid. To
us, all the Gods and Goddesses are distinct and individual beings who are
addressed as individuals.
TWPT: When you were
doing the research and the interviews for "People of the Earth" you had many
opportunities to talk to a variety people within the Pagan Community. Did the
conversations surprise you in any way? Were they what you expected when you
EEH: I really did not know what to expect and
that's why I wrote the book. I wanted to see where the Pagan movement was headed
at the time, if I was going to be part of their religion. And I do think of it
as a religion. There are people who will argue with that and say it's just a
loose collection of practices from different cultures. I really feel that it's a
religion in the same way that Christianity encompasses everything from Lutherans
to Pentecostals, Orthodox Christians and Catholics. I feel that Paganism is a
religion. So, I felt like it was my religion, I knew it was my religion. But I
didn't have a grasp of the whole.
So I wanted to talk to the people that were the movers and
shakers within Paganism and find out what motivated them. I figured that they
were going to determine where the whole movement was going in the next 20 years.
I guess the thing that surprised me the most was realizing how different I felt
from the "generic Pagan". Part of the problem I think is that I did go to allot
of the festivals. When you are at the festivals, there are certain types of
people who attend. And there are certain types of people who absolutely will not
go to the festivals, especially some of the bigger festivals, where the people
who go there are there to party and cruise around. That's just a big part of it
and that's not my focus of Paganism. Again, my focus came from a sense of
reverence of nature, a deep, deep passionate love for nature. You don't always
find that. That is just one aspect of Paganism that did surprise me.
TWPT: So what you
ended up with, as a perception of Paganism, is that it's a very mixed
EEH: Yes, it's a mixed bag
TWPT: Do you think
that there are more Wiccans/Pagans who have this sense of nature than those who
EEH: How can I answer that? You would have to
do a study to determine that. But I guess I would say I am personally more drawn
to people who look for real depth. I am an intellectual, so I do enjoy people
who are well read and have a sense of scholarship. There are common Pagan
mythologies and misconceptions that are floating around via the good old oral
traditions. One of these being that "9 million Witches were burned during the
Inquisition". These are Pagan myths that are passed around. I enjoy hanging out
with people who have really spent the time to learn the history and who have
some depth in their studies and who also think about the earth in a very deep
and very serious way, who feel connected to the earth.
TWPT: Were most of the
people you interviewed for the book fairly open with you? Was there much
EEH: No, there was no resistance
<laughs>. People were thrilled to be interviewed. In fact, there were only
one or two people who said no, and it was almost a shock when someone said no.
People said yes and were so nice about it. They were very, very open.
TWPT: I assume that a
certain amount of that was PR, wanting to get the correct information
EEH: That and the fact that I was approaching
the leaders. These were people who had an organization, who had a vested
interest in getting their work out, what ever that might be.
TWPT: Do you feel that
there is a loose leadership in the Pagan Community that offers direction and
guidance behind the scenes?
EEH: People don't like it when I say this,
but yes, there is. When I wrote the first two books "Tree Medicine, Tree Magic"
and "A Druids Herbal for the Sacred Earth Year", I got nothing but positive
reviews. People were gushing, saying these are great books. Everybody was very
nice. It wasn't until "People of the Earth" that I started to get attacked. I
had a mentor at the time, Ted Mills, who is dead now (he's in the book), and he
said to me "Ellen, if you are getting attacked, that means you are doing
something. You haven't really arrived until you've gotten attacked". I knew I
had pushed some
Some people were quite upset, they thought it was rather
elitist to write a book about leaders because that implied that the regular
folks out there weren't important. It's not that they are not important but the
fact is that these people are the founders of the large organizations and who
are instrumental in making the decisions that shape the publications, the rules,
the by-laws of these organizations, and the direction these organizations are
heading. Yes, these people are going to be influencing the minds of the people
in their groups, whether people like it or not. In fact, as you know from that
library list that I sent you, there is a group of people on line. We have
national contacts, and we do talk to each other and we do try to decide what to
do about different things. Someone in the group will bring up a problem and then
we discuss a plan of action.
We had a situation recently where a high school girl was
not allowed to wear a pentagram in school because the school district had
decided that pentagrams meant that you were a Satanist. It was also equated with
hanging out in gangs and they lumped Wicca in with gangs, violence and Satanism.
So a lot of educating has to go on. At first the school board wouldn't even take
it seriously when the parents complained and said "Wait a minute, our daughter
is a Wiccan. It's a religion. Kids can wear a Star of David, they can wear a
cross around their necks. She wears a pentagram." And the school board at first
simply ignored what everyone was saying. They thought it was a joke. A lawsuit
was threatened. It took quite a bit of education to get them to the point where
they finally understood that this was her religion.
So there is much PR work that needs to be done and those
who are in a position to talk to the media should do so. For example, I did an
interview on NPR and then I did a TV show recently on A&E. When people have
a choice, they should be willing to be interviewed by newspapers or be in the
public eye. Allot of education is going to have to be done before the general
public is aware that this is a religion and it is not just a bunch of rebellious
teenagers running around with an excuse for a gang.
TWPT: Do you think
over the next ten years there will be more of an acceptance of
EEH: Well, it all depends on what we do. If
we can act responsibly and put on a good public face, if we look like normal
people and we don't run around in heavy eye makeup, tons of jewelry and big
black robes, scaring the heck out of everybody, if we are respectful of other
religions, and we don't go around trying to bash Christians, if people know us
as nice, responsible, hardworking people, good parents, and people with
mortgages, if they get to know us like that, and then we reveal we are Pagans
perhaps we will receive the acceptance that we desire. When we have a chance to
talk to the media, if we are articulate and intelligent and respectful and we
are not trying to act crazy, just to be rebellious then they will respect
For a lot of the young Pagans, the teenagers, it's a
rebellion thing and that's just a phase that we have to get beyond. If we can be
just normal folks, and have respect for other religions, the way we want them to
respect us, then, yes, we will gradually be accepted. We will become part of the
fabric of the diversity of religious cultures that exist in America. On the
other hand, if we look weird, and try to have very outrageous life styles that
other people find annoying and try to push that in other peoples faces, then its
going to back fire.
TWPT: On the other
hand, do you think there is a danger in becoming too mainstream where everything
is out in the open and there is no more secrecy?
EEH: What you do in private is not what you
do in public. What you show to the public is very important. You can do things
in your home or your own backyard in private. The teachings can be passed down;
rituals can be done. It is part of being in a tribe. This is something I learned
hanging out with Native Americans. One of them told me twenty years ago,
"Everywhere I go, as soon as people know I am Native American, they are going to
judge my entire tribe based on what I say, what I do and what I look like." And
when he's in public, he carries that awareness, that reputation of his
grandparents, his aunts and uncles, his parents, his friends, his
elders&ldots; everybody's reputation is going to be based on the way he
We as Pagans need to carry that awareness as well. We are a
tribal religion, we honor our European tribal ancestry. We really need to
understand that when we are in public we represent the tribe and once your
neighbors know you are Pagan, everything that you do or say is going to reflect
on their opinion of Paganism. It's a big responsibility.
TWPT: We were having a
discussion on an article I had linked to on the Wiccan/Pagan Times called "The
Witches of New England", a photo essay on the Witches in the New England area.
The photos showed some of the Witches dressed just the way stereotypical Witches
would be,completely in black with heavy make-up and lots of jewelry. I received
a couple of responses from people telling me that this is the way Witches should
be with no regards as to what the public would think. A few responses said no,
that's not the way to represent us. You should remember that you want people to
know who you really are and not just the flambuoyant outward image you
EEH: The other thing people have to remember
is that these Witches have been running businesses for a long time. So the image
was very much part of promoting the business. It is all tied in, it was very
effective and worked very well.
TWPT: What do you
think of group teachings as opposed to someone picking up a book off the shelf
and trying to self teach? Is there some value to being taught by Elders who have
lived the Tradition, the Religion, for some time?
EEH: Absolutely. The problem is Elders are
very hard to find. The Neo-Pagan movement is exploding so quickly that there
aren't that many Elders around. If you can find a genuine Elder who has been
involved with Paganism 30 years or more, latch onto that person and show them
every respect. Learn from them.
It's very important to work with other people because you
need a reality check. There are many books out there. There's a lot of
misinformation and garbage, which is written purely for the mass market. It's
written not because its going to be of value to people or that it's the truth
but because that's what people want to buy. When you start out it's very hard to
know which books reflect any depth and which ones are just the fantasies of the
author. There is nothing wrong with an author having a fantasy. They should just
label it as a fantasy. Unfortunately, there is a tendency to call it
So you do need to connect with other Pagans who have been
around for a while, just as a reality check, to get a sense of what books are
good, what practices might have a little more validity to them. I don't think
you can read a book and then be a Witch. I don't think you can read a book and
be a Druid.
If you understand ancient culture, which we are supposedly
attempting to recreate, you would know that you could not be a Witch or a Druid
outside of the context of the community. The Witch was the person who served the
community as the veterinarian, the counselor and/or the herbalist. She couldn't
really exist in a vacuum. She was the wise woman. He was the cunning man. He
took care of the people and the animals. How can you claim to be following in
that Tradition if you are not taking care of the people and the
You absolutely could not be a Druid without a tribal
context because the Druid was the history keeper, political advisor, the poet,
the wisdom keeper, the doctor, the lawyer, the genealogist, and the philosopher
for the tribe. Without a tribe, you aren't a Druid. You have to have a tribe to
minister to. If you are really going to be following these traditions and call
yourself a Witch or a Druid then you better have a group that you are
TWPT: Tell me a little
about your interest in the study of herbalism. Is that something that was a
natural outgrowth of your Pagan roots, or was that something you had an affinity
for before you became a Pagan.
EEH: That was something that was a part of me
long before I knew I was a Pagan. I think that is what I brought to the Pagan
Community by teaching, by writing the books, by lecturing. I didn't get it from
the Pagan Community.
In fact, I can tell you I had this mystical experience when
I was living in the Franciscan Community in Assisi, in Italy. At that time I was
an art history major at Temple University, and they had sent me over to Italy to
write a thesis. My thesis was going to be dolphins on baptismal fonts. I was
interested in Neo Platonism, the idea of death and rebirth via water and
dolphins. I was writing my thesis and doing research and I went to Assisi to
look at the frescos by Giotto. I was looking at pictures of St. Francis and the
cathedral was pretty fancy. I knew that St. Francis wasn't a very fancy
I walked up to this little monk and said, "These frescos
are pretty impressive and this is a beautiful cathedral, but where can I find
out more about how St. Francis really lived?' He looked at me and he said, "Go
to San Maseo. It's down the road, turn right, don't ask any questions." I said
"OK" and I walked down the road and there was an old sign that said San Maseo,
and a little dirt path that went through the bushes. There were all these people
lounging on the grass and they looked at me and asked, "Have you come here to
live?" I said I don't know. I asked what is this place? They said it is a
Franciscan Community, and I could stay if I wished.
I stayed for a few days, went back to Rome, got my things
and returned. I stayed for a few weeks. It was actually across the street from
San Damiano, which is the community St. Francis built for St. Clair. There was a
little Romanesque chapel in the community, which St. Francis had actually worked
on. He had rebuilt the walls of the Chapel. This was a genuine Franciscan
Community. We slept in stone sheepfolds, men in one and women in the other,
there was no hot water, only cold water for bathing. The mattresses were made
out of straw and it was communal dining. The ducks and chickens would walk
through the dining hall. The animals had absolute freedom to roam all through
the place. The way they made their money, aside from donations from guests and
pilgrims, was they had wool which some of the women would spin and knit mittens
and things. It was a very authentic Franciscan community. They would not accept
money for their labor but you could donate money.
We would get up before dawn and go to mass, work in the
morning, mass again in the afternoon and mass again in the evenings for Vespers.
Wednesday from midday on and all day Sundays we would fast.
One Sunday I was fasting and we were supposed to walk into
the desert. You were to go into the wilderness with no preconception of who you
were going to meet or what was going to happen. You were just to go out and see
what happens, like a Vision Quest. I walked up a mountain, which is the mountain
where St. Francis used to go, and went to the top of the mountain. It was
October, and all of a sudden there was thunder and lightening and there was a
snowstorm. The snow and hail was coming down and it was so thick it actually
caked on my shoulder. I was scared because of the lightening and the only living
thing on the top of that mountain was this little pine tree, as it was above the
treeline. I curled myself around that tree, which was probably the dumbest thing
I ever could have done, but it was the only living thing and I wanted to be with
it. When the storm was over,
I unwrapped myself from the tree and came down the
mountain. I remember I was so exhilarated from the lightening that I was singing
at the top of my lungs in Italian, with snow caked on my shoulders. I walked all
the way back to San Maseo, and went into the Romanesque chapel. There were no
stained glass windows, as this chapel was built before the Gothic period, so it
was very dark in there. I was sitting in the darkness and I heard a voice. It
said that everything I was doing at that time, being a graduate student and
studying art history was all done for the status and the intellect. I was doing
it to please my parents. This was not what I was born to do. I was supposed to
be working with plants. This was news to me but it made perfect
When that happened, I told some of the people in the
community. They said I should go to Findhorn in Scotland. Everybody there is
just like you. I went back to the States and sold everything. I had been
recently divorced, and I had a house and furniture. I sold everything, which
really upset my parents. I dropped the school program at Temple. I was almost
ready to graduate, I had everything but my comps done for my art history degree.
I told them this was not my path, not what I was supposed to be doing, and they
were furious. Everyone was mad at me. I took everything I had and went to
Findhorn and started studying healing. I learned different healing techniques,
some of them involving plants. I came back to the States and found a teacher in
New York, William Lesassier, with whom I apprenticed. The next thing I knew I
was teaching and practicing herbalism. I have been doing it ever
TWPT: So did "Tree
Medicine Tree Magic" come out of your involvement with the Druidic Order or was
that an extension of the herbalism just taken to its logical
EEH: I moved to New England from
Philadelphia. I came up to Massachusetts. In Philadelphia, the growing season is
from March to November. When I came up here I was shocked because you couldn't
put anything in the ground until after Memorial Day and the first frost could
come the second week of September. That's only three months out of the year when
you can actually grow anything. I was trying to visualize how the Native
Americans and the settlers who lived up here could have survived on nothing
green for nine months out of the year. And then I realized it was the trees,
because that's what we have here&ldots; trees. I thought, "I bet they were
eating the trees because the trees were available year round, especially the
I started to look into it. I wanted to find a book on the
subject but couldn't find one. There weren't any. There were little bits and
pieces about trees that you could pull out of different herbal books. I finally
realized there were no books like that on the market. I decided I should write a
book. As far as I know, it's the only book on the market that specifically talks
about the medicinal uses of common North American trees you have in your back
yard. And, because of my mystical background, when I write about plants I always
put in the spiritual aspects as well. There are quite a few tree books on the
market now talking about the Ogham alphabet and the spiritual traditions around
trees, but those books came later. The only book that was out about trees before
mine was the "Celtic Tree Oracle" by Liz and Colin Murray. My book was next and
all the other books came after that.
TWPT: Would you
explain what Homeopathy is, as your book refers to you as a practicing
EEH: Homeopathy is a system of medicine. The
idea has been around since Hypocrites and probably earlier than that, but it
wasn't actually turned into a system until the early 1800's by Hahnemann. It's a
completely different system of medicine from the one that main stream doctors
use today, or even the herbalists use because it is based on the principal of
"Like Cures Like". Similia Similibus Curentur. What that means is if you take a
substance, it could be an herb, a mineral, snake venom, or even an animal part.
There are over 2,000 of these substances. If you give that substance to a
healthy person repeatedly, it will eventually produce symptoms. Those symptoms
will include mental, emotional and physical aspects.
Take 10 people and give them all repeated doses of say,
sulfur. None of the people in this group are to know what the other people are
getting, as in a blind test. If you then interviewed them separately, you would
find that they would all have similar dreams, similar pain, similar skin
conditions, similar fears and similar cravings. It's called the Symptom Picture.
If you then encounter a sick person who is dreaming the same dreams, and craving
the same foods as the people from the sulfur group, and this person had all the
same symptoms as the sulfur group, the same Symptom Picture, then that substance
will cure them. So that what it causes, it cures. The other aspect of it is that
it works with very extreme dilution. So you can work with toxic substances
safely because it is very, very dilute. It is a very complex but well thought
out system of medicine, which is barely understood by regular
TWPT: Is this system
EEH: Yes, it is fully approved by the
TWPT: Is there any
licensing involved for the person who is a practicing homeopath?
EEH: No, according to the Law you are
supposed to be a Doctor, an MD in order to practice Homeopathy. But the irony
here is that most homeopaths are not MD's. Most are probably lay practitioners,
and lay practitioners can often be better practitioners than MD's. Simply
because you have an MD after your name, you can take a one or two weekend
classes in homeopathy. Whereas the lay person is often much better trained, in
my humble experience.
TWPT: Tell me a little
about the Pagan Leaders List and the Library Project.
EEH: The Pagan Leaders List on the Internet
looks for national projects. It started the Dictionary Project and The Pagan
Education Network originally sponsored that. We started as a group on-line. We
were discussing if we were to have "Pagan" and "Witch" in the dictionary, how
would we want those words defined. In a lot of dictionaries when you look up the
word Witch it says "an evil ugly woman, a hag" and of course that's not the way
we saw it. We came up with a definition as a group, by consensus, and no one
person had any more influence than anyone else did. There were Witches and
Druids and other Pagans involved in the discussion. Our definition for Neo-Pagan
is "A collection of diverse contemporary religions, rooted in indigenous
traditions or deriving inspiration therefrom. Characterized by a belief in the
interconnection of all life, personal autonomy, and immanent divinities, often
nature centered and supportive of gender equity". It took us weeks to get
Then we came up with a definition of Witchcraft. "A
Neo-Pagan religion loosely organized in autonomous traditions, honoring
masculine and/or feminine divinities and practicing magic and folk traditions
for benevolent ends, such as healing, and the mystical development of the self.
Wicca" - as in "See Wicca". Then we had associated terms: Craft (see
Witchcraft), Neo-Pagan, Pagan (see Neo-Pagan), Wicca (see Witchcraft), Witch
(Practitioner of Witchcraft). We had notes on capitalization: terms such as
Pagan and Witch, when used to denote Neo-Pagan spirituality, should always be
capitalized, just as Christian, Jew or Hindu are. Media representatives rarely
capitalize the terms, however, because dictionaries show the word as lower
By including a separate definition for Neo-Paganism and
Witchcraft, where words are capitalized, one can make an easy distinction in
usage. The use of witchcraft (in lower case) denotes the inherited use while
Witchcraft (in upper case) denotes the Neo-Pagan usage. We then came up with the
etymologies for the words Pagan and Witch, the Indo-European root words and so
on. Then we put together a packet to show evidence that Witchcraft was a
religion. We had excerpts from the writings of various Witches and Unitarian
Universalists on Witchcraft and by Starhawk, representatives from Circle
Sanctuary and the American Council of Witches. It's a rather thick compilation.
We had some newspaper articles in the back about Witches, showing that it is a
religion. We sent this out to various dictionary companies and one dictionary
company did actually take us up on it. < For further information on the
Dictionary Project write to< PEN@bloomington.in.us.>
This group later became the Pagan Leaders List. From there
we started adding more people to the List and looking for more projects to work
on. The Library Book project was one of the projects of that group. All we
wanted to do was to counter some of the misconceptions, such as if you wear a
pentagram, you are a Satanist and running around with a gang, or skinheads. The
best way to do that, say as a guerrilla tactic, stealth technology, was to
create a library list to get it out to as many libraries as we possibly could.
Then if anybody was remotely interested in the topic, they could go to their
local library and there would be books on Witchcraft as a religion.
TWPT: And these books
would be accurate representations of Witchcraft, Wicca, Paganism or Druid
EEH: These books would at least represent the
Neo-Pagan concept of Witchcraft and Druidism as religions. We can't claim to be
accurately talking about anything ancient relating to Witches because I don't
think anyone really can. And that applies to Druidism as well. There is almost
nothing contemporary written about Druids. There is material written by Romans,
there is nothing written by Druids. So all we can presume to do is to represent
Neo-Pagan notions of a Druid or Witch or Pagan. We can't claim to be accurately
representing the ancient anything.
TWPT: I take it you
are into computers and the web. Are you a person who embraces new technology as
a way of getting the information into the hands of those who need it?
EEH: As I told you at the beginning of this
conversation, I'm finally getting to the point, after 5 years, where I think I
need to back off. I have been very heavily involved with the web now for 5 years
and founded a mailing list of my own. I still log-on twice a day. Especially if
you are a writer, that's how everyone communicates. When you are talking to
publishers, if you send an email, you get an answer. If you write someone a
letter, you may or may not hear from them for
TWPT: Do you feel the
web presents some fairly accurate information to those new people searching or
do they find something else?
EEH: They could find anything. It's all out
there. And that's the problem. It goes back to people needing to work with
groups. You need to have a reality check. You really need to talk to other
people and use your discrimination because there is just some unbelievable,
really loony stuff out there.
TWPT: Do you think the
web has the potential to give some sort of cohesiveness to the Wiccan/Pagan
EEP: Yes and no. I think, at least the way
things are now, it is a little bit of an illusion. Those of us who go online a
lot tend to think we are the world and we represent the world. But really, only
20-25% of households in the U.S. has a PC. So at best, all we can ever really
represent is 20 to 25% and of that, how many are Pagans? I think we are trapped
in a little universe. We think we are more important that we really are. The
danger is that just as people can pick up a few books and think they are a Witch
or a Druid, there is also a danger in getting on a few mailing lists, having a
few deep discussions and some arguments with a few people and then deciding that
you know everything. There is a big difference between logging on and actually
spending time out in nature, fasting, making offerings to the Fire, making
offerings to the Water, staying up all night doing Rituals with other people,
doing Ceremonies, working magic, it's a big difference. I think people have to
be careful not to get caught in this little cyberworld. It's one of many worlds
but it's just a slice of what's out there. I want people to keep that in mind.
At some point you have to tear yourself away from the computer and go out into
TWPT: Do you have any
ideas on what you would like to see happen in the Pagan/Wiccan community in the
next few years?
EEH: I think that in the early days (60's,
70's, early 80's) we might have gotten off on the wrong foot a little. That is,
certain publications emphasized sensationalized aspects of things,
sensationalized certain lifestyles, like Polyamory. The majority of Pagans are
monogamous, they are not Polyamorist. They have jobs, they have ordinary lives
and that whole aspect has not been glorified in the media. I think that has
fueled some of the fears people have. I would like to see it become more
mainstream. We must have respect for other religions if we want them to respect
us. We need to come across as intelligent, thoughtful people who care about the
earth and who care about humanitarian causes.
When the Kosovo action started, I immediately began posting
on my list places to send money. That act of asking or suggesting to people that
they send money to help refugees caused a whirlwind because there is such a
taboo in Paganism about sending money anywhere. People immediately jumped in and
said don't be hasty, don't throw your money away. I feel the refugees are
desperate, and they need help. There is this knee-jerk reaction in the Pagan
Community: that you don't give money to anyone.
TWPT: Since many
Wiccans/Pagans have Christian backgrounds perhaps it's a hold over from the 10%
tithe they were expected to give back then. Christian churches
EEH: They are rebelling against being in
church, being told you had to put something in the collection box. I think we
have to get past that rebellion phase a little bit. We have to take
responsibility for the world.
TWPT:Any new writing
projects that we should be looking for?
EEH: Yes, in the spring of 2000, I have a
book coming out from Inner Traditions. It's a children's herbal and it has a
very Pagan orientation. It's projects that parents and teachers can do with
children. Things they can eat and things they can make with herbs.
ADF is publishing a follow-up to "People of the Earth"
which is called "Druids Today", and it's the same idea as "People of the Earth"
but focusing on Druids in Europe and the United States.
There is a Video coming out called "Pagans" which we've
been working on for 7 years. It's almost done. It represents the 8 festivals of
the Pagan year. It's designed as a teaching tool to be used in Unitarian
Churches, Colleges and schools as a way to educate the general public about
Pagans and it shows us as very friendly, warm and fuzzy people, nothing too
scary. It does have Druids and it has eclectic Pagans. It also has the
obligatory Witches in their black robes, because you have to include some of
that. There is another video about Holistic Nursing coming out soon.
I already have one herb video out which most people are not
aware of called "Gifts of the Healing Earth", which has been used in holistic
healing schools as a training video. It teaches you how to make poultices and
salves and teaches hands on healing methods.( Available from EFP SERVICES 21
Kettle Hill Road, Amherst, MA 01002)
For the new one that is being made now I went out in the
field and worked with a number of Holistic Nurses and we talked about Holistic
Nursing as well as herbalism and therapeutic touch and different concerns nurses
have. It's going to be used to help train Holistic Nurses.
Those are the ones that are coming out right or available
now. There are a couple of other things I've written that don't have homes
TWPT: We would like to
thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk to the
Wiccan/Pagan Times and we wish you the greatest of success with your upcoming
projects and in your spiritual journey. It has certainly been an insightful chat
and perhaps when your new projects come out you might come back and talk to us
about them. Thanks again.
EEH: Thank you for inviting me to participate
and many blessings on your work!