Saturday, March 5, 2011

Lily Shahar Kunning

Hello and Happy Saturday!

I wish to thank SJ for sharing his faith journey with us. An excellent read, thank you so much SJ!

Today we have a new post so please welcome Lily Shahar Kunning. Lily is a student of Feri Witchcraft and I know you will enjoy her interview as well!

Here Is Lily Shahar Kunning's Introduction:

Lily Shahar Kunning is a mom, blogger, grad student, Feri student, partner, friend, priestess, and organizer. Not necessarily in that order on any given day. Her blog Witch Mom is about parenting a witchlet, being a priestess in the greater pagan community, navigating the world as a religious minority, and educating myself and others (including my own son) about this Path.

Witch Mom blog:

1) What religion do you practice?
Feri Witchcraft. It's an American religious Witchcraft tradition that, like the United States, has elements of all kinds of immigrant populations and their traditions: Voudou, Santeria, Appalachian folk craft, Brujeria, and Hawaiian traditions, all blending with British Traditional Craft.

2) Did you convert or were you born into this religion? If you converted, what did you need to do to convert? And what did you practice prior to converting?
I converted in 2006. I have been studying the tradition since then with the hopes of being initiated into the tradition. As a initiatory mystery religion, once initiated, you are a priest of the religion. Until initiation, you are a student, like me.

3) Would you consider yourself a moderate, conservative or other.
I'm assuming you mean in terms of movements within my religion, not politically. (Like Orthodox, or Conservative Judaism, yes?) I find that most of my opinions are somewhat conservative (but not extreme orthodox) within Feri itself. Outside of my religion, I find that I am radical (to the left) in the extreme.

4) In your opinion, what makes you moderate/conservative/other?
In an oral tradition like mine, I think that a conservative wishes to preserve tradition and values kin, community and honor. Moderates would be situationalist, and liberals would throw that all out the window in favor of individual gain (As radical protest singer Phil Ochs once said, "A liberal is 10 degrees to the left of center in good times and 10 degrees to the right of center when it affects them personally.").

5) In your opinion, what makes someone conservative? What makes someone moderate?
Conservatives value what traditions we have and wish to preserve them. They value community and tribe (the group) over the individual. Moderates seek to make changes at times, sometimes going for what is best for the group, sometimes going for what is best for the individual.

6) What's your heaven/paradise like?
Feri Witches don't believe in a heaven the way that Christians do. We believe in reincarnation of sorts. Heaven, if there is such a place, can exist right here on earth. We just have to make it so. We can also make it hell. There is no need for transcendence and rewards after death in an embodied, imminent theology like Feri.

7) In your opinion, does everyone make it into heaven/paradise? If they do not, why?
People can believe what they wish. I personally find it sad when other religions use their theology to condemn and oppress others, though. That is not the role of religion.

8) What makes your religion a good fit for you?
It believes that the body and its natural functions (including sex) are sacred and holy. I believe in social justice, and Feri is a religion that walks its talk in terms of equality for people- women and men are religious leaders and work together. It is pro-queer, not merely tolerant of non-heterosexual sexualities.

9) What are your holy days and what do you do to celebrate them?
We celebrate the eight sabbats on the wheel of the year:

Samhain: November 1st
Yule- Winter Solstice

Imbolc: Feb 1st
Oestara- Vernal Equinox

Beltaine: May 1st
Midsummer- Summer Solstice

Lughnassadh: August 1st

Mabon- Autumnal Equinox

My faves are Samhain and Beltaine. For Beltaine, I take my family up to Wolf Creek, a Radical Faerie Sanctuary in Oregon where we observe Beltaine the way it was meant to be observed: sexy, ecstatic and with kin. At Samhain, I help to plan a Feri ritual here at home where we can commune with our dead (both the mighty dead of our tradition and our individual beloved dead).

I also like Mabon as a witches' Thanksgiving (yummy feast with kin and tribe!) and Yule for all the fun Christmas memories it brings up for me from childhood.

10) Do you consider people of other faiths to be your friends?
Absolutely! I also go to a UU seminary, where I am getting my M.Div and break bread and learn from others who are Muslim, Jewish, Christian, and Buddhist.

11) Would you ever join people of another faith to celebrate one of their holy days? Please explain why?
Yes, and already have. The last one being a Sufi Zikr. I believe to understand a person, you must first understand their beliefs. If you cannot stand side-by-side with someone in love and understanding, how will you expect them to do that for you?

12) What are your thoughts on the burka, and Shariah Law?
If they are freely chosen, there is nothing wrong with them. People have a right to live their faith how they see fit. As long as everyone is given the genuine opportunity to say yes or no, what others do is fine by me.

13) What are your thoughts on women not being allowed to become priests?
You mean in Catholicism? Because in my religion, women are priests already! I feel that the Vatican is really burning a lot of bridges with their stances on women in the Church, homosexuality, birth control, and abortion. They have lost so many members here in the US because of their unwillingness to change and grow.

14) Does your place of worship segregate? If yes, how does this make you feel?
No, Feri does not segregate.

15) How much does your religion affect your daily life and how much thought do you give it when making a decision? Does it affect in any way your decision on abortion, gay marriage, etc?
Feri affects everything in my life and is fully integrated into how I see the world. I cannot help but make my decisions with a Feri frame of reference. That said, It does not have prescribed dogma regarding what others can do with their bodies (abortion, sex, etc.). And we gladly marry anyone, regardless of gender.

16) How would you react/feel if your child wished to marry outside your religion?
It is likely that he would do so, as there are so few Feri Witches to begin with. My child will be raised to make his own well-informed decisions. I look forward to seeing who he falls in love with and supporting him every step of the way.

17) In your opinion, if someone is not of your faith, will they go to hell?
Hell is for religions that try and instill fear to gain societal control. I do not believe in hell- except as it appears here on earth when people make war and such.

19) Have you ever been the target of a hate crime? Please explain.
Yes, I was walking down the street, hand in hand with my lover and was gay bashed. They split my lip open and rendered me unconscious for a minute or so.

20) Do you ever feel like your religion devalues you?
No. Never.

21) Does your religion give you peace of mind?
Yes. Being connected to everyone and everything is amazing.

22) Do you believe in reincarnation? Why or why not?
Yes. Because it makes sense, and I can remember some things myself. Victor Anderson, former Grandmaster of the Feri tradition said, "perceive first, believe later". I agree with that. Joseph Campbell said similarly, "I don't need faith, I have experience." I agree with that also.

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