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Image by Rhea: 1988


Part One -
An Interview with Ravenhawk

This section is written in two parts - Part One being an interview with Ravenhawk, who was visiting Truthseeker here in Seattle. They both spent a very pleasant evening chatting to Rhea and Raven. This is his second trip to the U.S. - he attended Pagan festivals in the midwest area on his previous trip some years ago. We liked him a lot and hope that he comes back for another visit. Part Two is a rambling article by Truthseeker, acquainting us with her impressions, memories and experiences of Paganism in Germany, where she lived for a number of years before returning to the U.S. She now lives in Seattle (lucky us!) so we get to see her (and her pink reeboks) almost as often as we'd like.

S = Shadowplay  T = Truthseeker R = Ravenhawk

S: Just how similar are the German and American Pagan Communities?

T: In Germany there are as many personalities and prejudices as we have here in America.

S: The same kind of prejudices? For instance, here there's a distinct gulf between most Wiccans and most Ceremonialists.

R: In Germany, it's more the Trad people and the eclectic people who make a gulf. But it's not that hard - they write each other letters and write to each other's newsletters.

S: But they don't mix socially as a community?

R: I don't think connections in Germany can be called a Community. There's groups you've heard of, like the Chaos coven, very free and eclectic, who use parts of Traditional ritual, but reject real Traditional stuff. They're very open; they do a newsletter called the Hexenzeit Shrift. The connection is through newsletters and networking, unless there is a Traditional link, say towards England and a group there. The Pan European Wiccan Conference is more Traditionally oriented, with people from England, Norway, Germany. The people I know who go to that are mostly Alexandrian.

T: One of the sad things I found was that very often as an American I would get unfavourable responses, because "American Craft isn't real".

R: But that's more because of England. People from there will develop an attitude towards American upstarts.

S: So, how do people usually, from your experience, get into Paganism?

R: There are no books. Only Starhawk and Z Budapest in the women's sections of bookshops and a lot of German books on Witchcraft which are like Hollywood and cheap Victorian material translated into German. So the only thing most people get inspired with are novels like Mists of Avalon and try to get in touch through New Age shops.

S: How about Esoteric Fairs?

R: A few years ago the New Age Fairs were full of everything, but lately it's getting really small. And it's mostly Tarot and pendulums and New Age Christians - universal life - dressing in white and drinking sacred water ... an old lady as trance medium for Jesus ...

S: Like Elizabeth K Prophet? Did you make much contact this way?

R: I left my address at a New Age store and wrote to magazines. It took some time but I finally got in touch with people who lived close by, some of whom were part of a German/American military contact group run by people who were originally from the U.S., and basically Gardnerian in orientation, with some eclectic leanings. I joined them during a period of retreat. The coven I contacted was Waxing Oak, and two of their people and I formed the nucleus of another coven with myself as a trainee. Over a period of time other people joined and we got together with others from Waxing Oak for festivals and celebrations.

The two people who trained me have now been initiated Alexandrian by Vivienne Crowley, and she seems to do most contact between German and English groups.

S: Do many people come into Paganism through feminism or alternative politics?

R: I wouldn't say you come to it from there; it's just that through living that way you meet other people and may find a Tradition. Lots of times people in the Craft are also in those kind of areas.

T: The only people who I know who are very activist are contacts for Pagans for Peace.

R: The Fellowship of Isis has a lot of members in Germany too.

S: Do you have contact with Ceremonial groups?

R: The only contacts I have are through Hexenzeit Schrift. I read their articles but it's not really my thing.

T: They have their own magazines - Baphomet for example.

S: The Ceremonial things you did read - what are they like?

R: I get goosebumps about them.

S: Is there an element of Nazi magic there?

R: Only by rumour. And it's just a rumour, no evidence. And I don't like gossip. It's a way of calling people names and giving them a bad reputation.

T: People use sites because of their power and sometimes neo-Nazi types show up, especially for public midsummer celebrations. But they're not part of the magical groups and are a nuisance.

S: I'm hearing that it would be hard to go back to Pre-Christian Paganism because of the Nazi appropriations of mythology. Is this a problem in German Craft?

R: I don't think people relate old German things to Nazi things. I got lots of films in school so as to make sure this generation didn't get taken in by that kind of thing. The people in the Nazi movement were just using magical runes, etc, as a way of trying to claim power. In general, people don't relate the Nazi thing to religion. So, people won't call you a Nazi because you are researching with runes. That would be different.

S: Ravenhawk, the military played a part in your involvement with Paganism?

R: My way into the path was through army groups and covens. The people I trained with were in the army. And then I met more Americans from Augsburg in an army coven with Germans. I'm not in the military myself but got in contact with them and worked with them. There were people in the army (advertising in Stars and Stripes), lots of people into the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) as well. There were a lot of Pagans in the military there.

S: Did they have any problems becuase of their religion?

R: They used to have problems, but once the army chaplains' manual came out with reference to Wiccans and Pagans, there weren't such a lot of problems.

S: What were some of the fun things you got up to over there - festivals and things?

R: Public rituals have mostly happened in Berlin; we're not that public. I think the P.E.W.C. people are planning to do a public Beltaine some time in the future.

S: So things are mainly by invitation?

R: Yes, you can bring a friend if you're responsible for them, and you know you are responsible. Only advertising in a magazine, with a contact number for people to call if they want to come. The only gathering where lots of people gather is at midsummer at the Externsteine. Not organised or advertised, like Stonehenge in Britain. Lots of groups, not all of them people I'd want to know.

S: Sounds very familiar somehow. Finally, you mentioned magazines before - what's the most popular equivalent to the U.S. and Oz magazines?

R: Hexenzeit Schrift - it's not as big as Circle, but is a place to swap information. It's changed over a period of time - started off handwritten and now is a professional style magazine.

Ravenhawk returned to Germany only a week after this interview where he continues to live, work and walk his own particular Way.

PartTwo - Pagan Ramblings by Truthseeker

Walpurgisnacht in the Hartz mountains. The May fires are burning in the villages, and people are dancing on mountain paths, in the meadows and on the streets.

Midsummer at the Externsteine in the Teutoburg Forest. A coven of German Witches go to greet the rising sun, walking up to the "gravestone" where one sits to be blessed by the sun@#146;s rays, a blessing that can only occur at Midsummer. They consider themselves the guardians of the stones.

Fasching, a German carnival. Men dressed as Witches, fools, and harlequins chase the demon winter spirits away. In the Black Forest and Schwabian hills, the Pagan element in town festivals is still very strong.

Worms, town of the original Niebelungen legend. A group of Witches meet on the shores of the Rhine. They create a spiral dance, chanting songs learned from a translated copy of The Spiral Dance. They raise energy to clean Father Rhine of pollutants.

In a Frankfurt suburb, people are meditating on runic sounds and syllables. Their workshop is being sponsored by Yggdrasil E.V., a Nordic/Celtic social club.

They are everywhere. You can find them as part of the feminist political movement, the Green movement, or at psychic fairs selling crystals and reading Tarot. They are at medieval festivals, hawking drinking horns and amulets, they walk down the street as Celtic warriors, or work at BASF as engineers. Young, old, radical, conservative, open or secretive, there is indeed a Pagan renaissance in Germany.

I had the unique opportunity of being an Army wife living in Germany who spoke the language like a native. The people I worked with were both American soldiers and German locals.

I grew up on Wagner and the Ring Cycle. Imagine how thrilling it was to be walking up the steps of the Bascilica, where Brunhilde and Krenhilde fought for Siegfried@#146;s heart, touching walls where Gothic stonemasons had carved runes to protect the structure of the church. It seems that every German town has its own Roman road, Celtic column or sacred well to one of the local deities.

It was here in Worms that I met Peter and his family. Peter is a high priest of the Light of Pentacle Coven, Thane of the Warriors of Caitilin ni Houlihan, a Celtic warrior band, and an initiate of Alex Sanders himself.

Peter is proud to be an anarchist. In the early 80s, Peter and some friends published Mephisto, a Pagan magazine. Tragically, it has since folded. The warriors put on live steel fighter demos, a good show where the evil cleric ends up being thrown into the fire. Lions 1, Christians 0. Peter@#146;s house was a safe haven (a large one at that @#151; four kids, two iguanas, a cat, a ferret, and a very active house spirit). Occasionally, we would do ritual outside at an old Roman quarry.

When Darkstar, a friend of mine, and student of my spouse, married a German and moved to Frankfurt, they started having an open house once a month, and these eventually turned into a loose-knit coven consisting mostly of young Germans. It was interesting to watch a rather generic traditionalist coven evolve into a living, breathing entity. The coven opened avenues of discussion and dialogue between the imported American traditionalism and the German passion for individualism. These people became my family and though at that time I was living two hours away in Schwabia, the connections remained close. We networked with other Heathens across the country, until my circle stretched from Augsberg to Berlin. These were the people I did most of my rituals with. Our friend@#146;s wife was a friend of the editor of the German Pagan magazine called The Hain.

One of our rituals was done in Augsburg by a Military coven, where some German and American military Pagans gathered together for Beltaine. Brother Bob, the high priest, talked to one of the local farmers who owned some forest land, and the farmer thought that fertilizing the fields was a great idea. We gathered together and romped and ran through the woods, evoking the God energy. We climbed trees, rolled in leaves, shouted, and yodelled until we were ready for the ritual. Ravenhawk and I went into our tents to prepare for our deity contact. I was attended by the women at the camp, as he was by the men. We were led into circle as deity. Ravenhawk was skyclad, with antlered mask and a brown silk cloak. Once in circle, we were Other. Language was transcended. I felt a very deep connection to the land.

It was cold in May so I did my Goddess work in pink Reeboks. I may have been skyclad, but I didn@#146;t want my feet to get cold. Doing a fivefold kiss in pink Reeboks is... a spiritual experience.

When the Darkstar Coven dissolved, Ravenhawk and I started looking for German Pagans. We found the Chaos Coven at a psychic fair. These people are responsible for another German language Pagan magazine, the Hexenzeit Schrift. This is a marvellous, irreverant Pagan magazine. They truly believe in spontaneous ritual, with no hierarchy. These are also the first German Pagans I met who spoke only German. Reinventing Pagan language, a la Mary Daly, started to get interesting. One of the odd things is that most German Pagans I met are more comfortable claiming to be a Witch than a Hexe.

When I started using German to talk about ritual and magick, my personal magickal vocabulary changed. My emotions turned toward the local land and the German country and I began to relate to the German mindset. Ravenhawk and I found a place close to my house, where the wood spirits talked and the faeries danced. It was on a cliff, and we threw offerings into the brier patch.

Close to Stuttgart, I have friends who are members of the Green Party and the Fellowship of Isis, as well as being the German contacts for Pagans for Peace. Ulrich inherited some land and is building a sacred Grove and stone circle, something he is quite qualified for as he is a landscape technician. The ley lines are strong, and they also have a gate to faerie close by, into which one can walk and lose many, many hours. He is also a dancer in the Schaeferlauf (Shepherd@#146;s Run), a tradition that has Pagan fertility roots. One dances for the possession of a drunken rooster, symbol of the Sun God. When Ulli finally won, he dedicated the rooster to the God and it now lives very happily on a biofarm. No chicken soup for him.

The culmination of the Pagan renaissance is seen in the Pan-Pagan conference, a week long festival, only for Europeans created by PEWC (the Pan-European Wiccan Council). It started out with about 40 people in Berlin some three years ago, with folks sleeping on living room floors, and has blossomed into an event with approximately 200 attendants. People come from as far away as Norway. English elders dance with Norwegian drummers, there is chanting and firewalking, and a good time is had by all. Paganism is definitely blooming in Germany.

Contact Truthseeker in Seattle for a referral through Shadowplay.

Published in Australia  1984 - 1990
In Seattle & Sydney 1990-1994 - and Sydney/Seattle Webzine 1999
Copyright Shadoplay 2000. All rights reserved. 
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