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The Author's Corner


Ellen Evert Hopman

April 1999

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A New Pagan Speaks Out:
TWPT Talks to Ellen Evert Hopman


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 spirituality?

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 went.

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 in.

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 were.

 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 Druids.

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 practices.

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 life.

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. <laugh>

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 started?

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 bag.

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 do not?

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 resistance?

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 out.

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 buttons.

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 Paganism?

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 us.

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 behaves.

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 project.

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 ancient&ldots; whatever.

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 animals?

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 ministering to.

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 guy.

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 sense.

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 since.

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 conclusion?

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 pine trees.

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 Homeopath.

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 medicine.

TWPT: Is this system regulated?

EEH: Yes, it is fully approved by the FDA.

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 that.

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 case.

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<>

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 beliefs?

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 months.

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 movement?

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 the woods.

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 require.

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 yet.

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!