Ghostvillage.com Author Interview
Barbara Ardinger is a Witch with a fine sense of humor and a scholar’s mind! She is the author of Finding New Goddesses, Quicksilver Moon, Goddess Meditations, Practicing the Presence of the Goddess, and the new book Pagan Every Day. She lives in Long Beach, California with her two cats, Schroedinger and Heisenberg. She has a Ph.D. in English Renaissance literature. It is a pleasure to meet with her, and interview her.
Barbara, what was the hardest part about writing Pagan Every Day?
Barbara Ardinger: Actually doing the writing. Anyone who says writing is easy is lying. Even though I write easily, I also write very carefully. (I’m a major fuss-budget.) Because I support myself as a freelance book editor for beginning writers (most of whom go to on-demand presses) who don’t want to embarrass themselves in public, I couldn’t just quit editing and write a book. So for six months, I edited in the mornings, wrote in the afternoons, and did research (both in books and on the Web) at night. I wrote a month of pages every two weeks. At the end of the six months, I went through the whole thing with my computer’s spell-checker (which now has lots of god and goddess names in it) (hah!), then printed it out and mailed it to RedWheel/Weiser. Then I just sort of rolled off my chair.
What type of Witch do you consider yourself to be and what path or paths do you follow?
I’m an extremely grounded witch. Although I’m an initiated Dianic, I have led and done rituals with men. I’ve studied several paths (and several nonpagan religions) and have never been satisfied to follow just one. What I do would probably be described as eccentric at best. My home rituals are extremely brief, but I can stir up some useful energy.
Who are some of your favorite Witch or Pagan authors?
Elizabeth Cunningham (The Passion of Mary Magdalen and other novels) is the best Goddess novelist living on the planet today; we’ve been friends since before either of us had a computer. I also admire the on-going work of Patricia Monaghan, Timothy Roderick, Grey Cat, Z. Budapest, Carol P. Christ, Judith Laura, and Vicki Noble. I’m happy to know these authors on a personal level as well as through their books. Marija Gimbutas was also a great influence on my thinking about prehistory. (I’m sure there are others whose names aren’t coming to me right now.) One of my favorite non-pagan writers is Terry Pratchett. His witches and wizards and small gods are spot on, lots more like us than anyone at Hogwarts.
Do you believe there should be more vocalization from the Witch and Pagan community in defending their rights to practice religion as they see fit?
I think everyone should be able to practice their religion. That includes people following the standard-brand religions and people who follow Eastern religions. The people who bother me are the fundamentalists, and we also have pagan fundies. Yes, we should speak up, but we should remember to extend courtesy to others if we expect to receive it from them.
In writing, what inspires you and what starts your imagination button?
Ideas tend to sleet through my mind. I’ll see something on TV, read a sentence in a book, overhear a conversation in the grocery store, read a post on a list…and I’m off. My feelings is that anything is grist for the writing mill.
Do you see more acceptance of the Witch, Wiccan, and Pagan now?
Yes, except in some communities where people haven’t even reached the 18th century yet. My novel, Quicksilver Moon, is about a far-right extremist preacher who declares war on the witches of Orange County, CA. When he preaches a hate-filled sermon outside the house of one of them, their neighbors defend them and they receive a chapter full of phone and email messages of support. I spent ten years doing temp office work, much of it in arch-conservative Orange Co. I was out of the broomcloset the whole time, and I was never persecuted for being a witch. That’s because I displayed some common sense. I spoke about religion only at appropriate times…like not while I was supposed to be working. Pagans are like everybody else — we have house payments, car payments, credit card payments. We fix supper and raise our kids and buy gas. Many people in the larger community are coming to recognize these facts about us — that we are just like them in so many ways. Ordinary people.
Is there more demand and acceptance for books by such authors?
Yes. I occasionally edit Wicca 101 books for New Age/mainstream publishers who are jumping on the Goddess bandwagon. When I go to bookstores, it seems to me that our shelves are fuller and more extensive. But it’s not that we’re going mainstream; it’s that with global warming and concern for the environment and feminism and politics being what they are…well, the mainstream seems to be coming closer to us.
What audience do you hope to reach with your well-written Pagan Every Day?
Pagans who are weary of Wicca 101 books and want something more substantial to chew on. People of other religions who want to know what we’re about. I have always written for intelligent readers who are curious about the world and have a sense of humor (which is how Finding New Goddesses came into being). In what I hope is a humorous way, I take a serious look in Pagan Every Day at pop culture (Harry Potter, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Bewitched, etc), movies, and history and relate them to paganism. (If your mind is finely enough tuned, you can derive profound metaphysical meaning from anything.) This is why I declare Barbie and Wonder Woman and Miss Piggy to be American goddesses.
When was your first spiritual experience that led you to accept the Wiccan way of life?
Back in the mid-80s, I was studying the Aramaic origins of the Bible with Dr. Rocco Errico, who is possibly the most charismatic teacher I’ve ever met. When we came to the biblical prophets, however, I became extremely annoyed by their misogynism, which even Rocco could not justify to me. I had been reading Dion Fortune’s novels (Sea Priestess and Moon Magic), which are quasi-pagan. I can’t put my finger on precisely what happened, but I had insights and started putting things together…well, actually the Goddess slapped me upside the head and say, “Pay attention.” How could I not obey?
Were there early influences such as individuals, or particular writers who influenced you in accepting the Wiccan way of life?
One major influence is Marsha Smith Tomlinson, a 3rd degree Gardnerian and good friend. She showed me back in the early ’80s that witches can be normal people. Reading the early Goddess books — Starhawk, Margot Adler, Merlin Stone, Miriam Robbins Dexter (another friend), Gloria Orenstein — also inspired me. So did the books of Scott Cunningham, whom I met several times. Please remember that I grew up Calvinist in St. Louis, Mo. Early in Pagan Every Day, I talk about “back there” and “here now.” St. Louis is “back there.” Once I found out who pagans were, here and now, I couldn’t resist joining them.
What connections do you see with the goddess worship of Ancient India and contemporary Wiccan goddess worship?
Goddesses are still worshipped in India, at least in the villages, if not in the big cities. We need to keep in mind, however, that in the 20th century, when the “old religion” was just being invented, the inventors were searching far and wide for “ancient roots.” They wanted to make Wicca respectable, give it a lineage and a history like the standard-brand religions have. What they found were bits of this and bits of that. While I think Gimbutas is largely correct, we have yet to find any artifacts with signs next to them that say (in English) “This is a Goddess relic” or “This is a Wiccan relic.” What a lot of writers did was put 2 and 2 together and come up with 7. That is, they created a lot of foundational myths, which we needed 10 or 15 years ago but no longer need. I discuss this several times in Pagan Every Day. One example is the “ancient Greek salamander festival.” (I’ll let our readers look this up for themselves and get a good laugh.)
Are you aware that one of the major theories concerning the Old Religion, aka Witchcraft, is that it has historical roots in Ancient India? What are your thoughts on this?
Phooey. If we dig deep enough, we can find roots everywhere. That doesn’t mean those roots actually sprouted and grew and were trained on Wiccan trellises and bore sweet-tasting Wiccan fruit. Some of our foundational myths are little more than psychological projections.
What advice could you share with the readers contemplating a positive, earth-based religion found in the various forms of Wicca?
Read my books. Read books by the authors I named above. Do NOT read the famous “teen-witch” books or derivative books by authors who think they’re writing gospels. Next, make an effort to meet some pagans. Go to a meet-up or a public ritual or a CoG public meeting. Make friends with real pagans and see if what they’re doing makes sense to you. Become more concerned about the state of the world. Remember that we are all kin. Every human, furry, finny, feathery, leafy, and crystalline being is a child of the Goddess. Play nice.
If you had it to do again, would you follow the same spiritual path you have chosen?
Mostly. Though I think I’d turn to the Goddess earlier in my life.
I came through mainstream Protestantism, Unitarianism, and mainstream metaphysics. I learned a lot in all those places, and what I learned makes me smarter today. It’s useful to have a good education and a broad background of general knowledge, especially in literature and history.
Would you share your Web site with the readers so they can learn more about your writings?
www.barbaraardinger.com – We’ve got some photos of me and my cats, plus things that have little to do with paganism, including my curriculum vitae. Which I have recently pruned.
What are your plans for after Pagan Every Day?
I’m thinking a nap would be nice. Then I’ll rearrange my Netflix queue.
What other comments or insights could you share with the readers about Pagan Every Day?
I’d like my readers to talk back to me, write in the book, send emails to me. I think it’s beneficial when people talk to each other.
Do your cats help you in the writing process?
You betcha. I have two rescued Maine Coon cats, Schroedinger (Miss Glamour Cat) and Heisenberg (Mr. Puppy Cat). They’re very large cats. It’s enormous fun to try to type with a large cat on your lap. It’s also fun to try to stay on the home row. I adore my cats and I pet them and they purr and that keeps my blood pressure under control.
Barbara, it has been a pleasure interviewing you. Is there anything else you wish to add in closing, something special to share with the readers at Ghostvillage.com?
Here’s a page from the book:
You think watching this movie isn’t a spiritual experience? Just ask the members of the Patrick Swayze Fan Club. Ask the thousands of women who regularly visit Dirty Dancing web sites. Some of them say they’ve seen the movie a hundred times; like Rocky Horror fans, they can recite the liturgy … uh … the lines along with the characters. When you watch Johnny Castle and Baby Houseman’s midnight dance in Johnny’s “great room,” then, omigod, you’ll have a Majorly Spiritual Experience. (Some women say it’s orgasmic. The first time my friend Sandra, whose birthday is today, saw the movie, she gasped, “That’s foreplay.”)
Hey, we’re pagans. When the Goddess says, “All acts of love and pleasure are My rituals,” we believe her. If we’re pantheists, we find god or goddess in all things. If we’re panentheists, we believe that all is god or goddess. “All” can include movies, right? If we’re chiliasts—I’ve just learned this Gnostic term, which means we come into a new spiritual reality full of light (and what is a movie if not light?) after the end of the world—then maybe we can find a new reality at Kellerman’s.
We worship the ground we walk on. In the classical Greek theater where drama was invented, the dance floor (the orchestra, where the chorus danced) was holy ground. Maybe we should worship the ground we (dirty) dance on. Maybe we should worship the dancer and the dance, which are identical, and dance with the Lord of the Dance, who in the movie happens to be a kind-hearted young man from the wrong side of the tracks.
Dirty Dancing was released into theaters on August 25, 1987. Some people like movies with messages. Other people like film noir. Just let me take dancing lessons from Johnny Castle.
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