Monday, January 21, 2013

Faces and Places - Best of the West

Welcome to our next Face of Mid-Missouri!

Best of the West has been a staple of Mid-Missouri since 1998. It is owned and operated by Don Hart, a master silversmith. Don is an amazing man with a great deal of knowledge about Native American ways, healing, and let’s not forget about the silver! With 38 years of experience, Don knows more about the metal than just about anyone around. He repairs and creates custom pieces with the skill and heart of a true artisan.

But silver is not the only thing that Best of the West has to offer.  They also have the largest selection of authentic Native American jewelry and crafts in the Midwest. They have more stones and minerals in more sizes than any store in the Midwest as well. Need questions answered about stones and their properties? This is the place to go. Need a rare stone that no one else seems to have? They probably do. Obsidian, turquoise, jet, amber, amethyst, quartz — you name it they probably have it or know how to get it. They also sell many of the supplies needed for ceremony and ritual, as well as some Native influenced instruments, blankets, furniture, and much more.

Go check them out!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Clergy, Professionalism, and the Community

In the Pagan community, almost as soon as you say the word ‘professional’, the assumption is that the speaker is referring to someone who is paid to do something.  It’s a logical assumption.  We have medical professionals and legal professionals and professional athletes and professional dancers.  Some of those people make a lot of money with their skills.  But the minute someone says ‘professional clergy’ opinions range from “Never accept money for use of the Art!” to “But the [insert major religious designation of your choice here] have paid clergy! Why can’t we?!” to “According to so-and-so codex from this-and-that archaeological dig, functionaries of such-and-such a rank are entitled to x amount of compensation for their services, which translates to about y amount in today’s money.”

Let us be clear at the outset that the issue of payment is NOT the subject of this article.

Instead, we turn to the meaning of ‘professional’ in its purely denotative form, which refers to a standard of conduct, skill, knowledge, and aptitude.  A professional isn’t someone who is paid to do something.  A professional is someone who has studied and trained to perform a certain function, who abides by certain policies and procedures, and who has been tested by others within the profession to verify that they meet these qualifications and are thus fit to represent the profession to the outside world.  Clergy are held to a higher ethical standard by society, because of this expectation of “professional” behavior. By this definition, being a professional has nothing to do with money but instead how one interacts with the community.

In our tradition, ethical service to the community was drilled into us from an early stage in our training.  If we were not willing to adhere to the high standards that our elders had established, then the path would not welcome us — not because we weren’t liked personally but because the job was strenuous, underappreciated, and a guaranteed way to make enemies.  We were taught that it was not our job to build churches but rather to build community.  We were taught that a piece of land or a building or a corporate structure was nowhere near as important as the people who sought us out for counsel, circles, and interfacing with the non-Pagan public.  We were taught that being competent, reliable, and reputable didn’t pay in money or accolades and that more often than not we would be paying for our work-related expenses out of our own pockets.  But most of all, we were taught that the Pagan community deserved professional clergy because no one should have to leave their faith community in order to get the spiritual and social care they need.  We were taught that the First Temple of the Craft of WICA did not produce unprofessional clergy.

Whether we like it or not, whether it is fair or not, whether it pays or not, those who claim the title of clergy, high priest, high priestess, or any other mantle of leadership in the Pagan community — even if it’s just for one circle — are held to a higher standard than the average practitioner.  They are expected to have the answers or at least know where to go to find them.  They are expected to be role models.  They are expected to withstand a greater level of scrutiny in their private lives.  They are expected to know what they are doing.  These are societal expectations which are thrust upon the leader whether he or she is ready or willing to accept them or not.

All too often, people become leaders for the wrong reasons or don’t realize what they’re really getting into.  They see “clergy” as a natural progression of training. For some reason in the Pagan movement, everyone feels that they should become clergy, that all people have the skills needed to counsel and lead others and that if you do not aspire to be clergy then there is something wrong with your goals and ideals. But from a purely technical side of things, only a few people are cut out for this sort of work — just like only a few people are cut out for med school or college football.  It is not just a vocation, it is skilled profession.

So how can people recognize clergy in the community? First of all, they are stable. Their personal lives are not bound up in other people’s crises. Even if they aren’t wealthy, they support themselves. They do not advertise their need for money and ask for donations to pay for their needs. Second, they are not egotistical. They are knowledgeable, but they are also not afraid to not have all the answers and will tell you as much without being pressured. They will often refer you to other people who will have more information on a specific topic than they do. Third, they are morally trustworthy. They are respectful and can be relied upon to know what they believe, why they believe it, and act according to those ethics. They are often seen giving their time and effort to other people without asking for recognition.  For every priestess giving an impromptu interview with the news crew, there is at least one other clergyperson making sure that the props get hauled to their designated location and set up in time for scheduled events.

How do you know if you are cut out to be clergy? First, do you want to be recognized when you do something for someone else? Do you feel the need for people to know that you did the activity? If the answer to either of these questions is yes, then being clergy might not be the vocation for you. Do you like helping people when they have problems? Do you enjoy planning events for other people? Can you deal with death, birth, marriage, and all of the emotions that come with those concepts without getting wrapped up in it? If so, then you might be cut out to be clergy. Being a professional clergyperson is a self-sacrificing profession. You must be willing to place yourself last most of the time. You cannot feel resentful for the amount of time that your duty calls you. A successful clergyperson can and will set boundaries, but those boundaries will place faith and service at higher priorities than they might be if you remained a practitioner. Third, being a professional clergy person is not a popularity contest. Standing firm in your ethics will cost you friendships. It will mean remaining silent while events unfold because you are bound by confidentiality. It will mean making uncomfortable phone calls to state hotlines because you are legally required to report certain behaviors.  This path will not make you rich.  You will not be universally liked.  Your problems will not magically dissolve.

True clergy, those who are there to give and build for the community, who hold to the ethical ideals of service for the community, and who work long and hard are the backbone of the modern Pagan path. It is these people who teach, plan events, lead rituals, counsel, conduct divinations, and lend a helping hand — these people who allow the Pagan movement to have the localized form it enjoys. They are the ones who make the system work behind the scenes.  There are other people who have joined their ranks, who do much of the same work, but for different reasons.  Some have more noble intentions than others.  If you are new to Paganism — or even if you’ve been around for a while but find yourself wondering — then have a look at the Seeker’s Bill of Rights (scroll down to the appropriate heading) and the Advanced Bonewits' Cult Danger Evaluation Frame.  These well-known standards have been around for a while and as professionals, we have found them extremely valuable in empowering individual community members to select the clergy and the groups that are right for them.

Blessed be!

Victoria Chance & Amy Rhea
First Temple of the Craft of WICA

Monday, January 7, 2013

Faces and Places - Spiral Fae Accents

Welcome to Faces and Places!  Our very first ”Face” in our new blog series are the owners of Spiral Fae Accents.
Spiral Fae Accents is a small local business that makes custom leather pieces and stone jewelry. Amber and Mitch Shineman travel around the country selling their artistic, one-of-a-kind leatherwork and jewelry at Pagan, artistic, and other festivals.  Amber began the business on her own several years ago after managing a retail store in St. Louis for many years. Her passion has always been to work with art and gemstones, so jewelry creation came naturally to her.  Mitch joined her a few years later and began an amazing journey of molding leather into fantastic shapes. Their creativity is inspired by the people they meet as well as nature herself. They include many of the items they find on their journeys into their artwork, giving each piece a unique sense of memory and history.
Not only are they artistic in leather and jewelry, but they have a constant flare for the wild, the fun and the unique.  They travel with Brian the Zombie and Beezle and they regularly post pictures of their copilots’ exploits. When they aren’t traveling, they are holed up at home in Central Missouri working on creating some of the finest leather masks, body armor, book bindings, belts, bags, and so much more or creating stone jewelry to rival the best in the land.
If you are interested in their wares, you can contact them by email at or find them on Facebook at
Stay tuned for our next “face” in our community, coming to you in two short weeks!

Friday, January 4, 2013

One Small Step For Community

This blog is going to be used to spotlight Pagan and Pagan friendly artists, musicians, and authors in the Mid-Missouri area as well as a look into different aspects of Paganism. We will post a bi-weekly look at a local artist, musician, or author. We will also post a monthly article written by our local Pagan leaders of various paths. These articles can be about their religious path, about a topic close to their hearts, or about Paganism in general. We look forward to sharing the vast amount of knowledge the members of our community hold.