My Interview with Chrisopher Penczak: Award-Winning Wiccan/Spirituality Author
Christopher Penczak is a writer of Wiccan/spirituality books, a teacher of various spiritual practices, a Shamballa Reiki master. Christopher was born in Lawrence Massachusetts in 1973; in 2000 he was ordained a minister of the Universal Brotherhood Movement, Inc. His books have helped many people and inspired many-including the writer of this article-to become more proficient witches.
Some of his most well-known titles include; City Magick (Samuel Weiser, 2001), Spirit Allies (Samuel Weiser, 2002), The Inner Temple of Witchcraft (Llewellyn 2002), Gay Witchcraft: Empowering the Tribe (Weiser Books, 2003) and The Outer Temple of Witchcraft (Llewellyn 2004). Christopher Penczak practices eclectic magick, in that he mixes in many different elements into his study and practice. Christopher Penczak has won the Best Magick Book Award from the Convention of Visionary Retailers for both City Magick and The Inner Temple of Witchcraft.
I was lucky enough to be able to interview him recently and would like to share the results of that interview with the rest of you. I am sure most who have read his books will find it interesting and to those who haven't, don't worry there's still time to pick one up at your local book store!
Q1: How did you initially become involved in Wicca and what drew you to practice it as a religion?
I started as a skeptic. A family friend was involved in it and I thought she was crazy and I wanted to understand why she though she was a witch. Talking with her and having experiences with her proved to me something was going on and led me to studying and training as a witch. I began in a tradition that looked at witchcraft as a science, not a religion and really fought the religious side of it for a while, but the practice is spiritual, and it depends on how you define religion. As I took training to do ritual and learn more of the art of magick, that led me to becoming a priest in the Craft.
Q2: Who were the biggest spiritual influences during your life?
That's a tough question. I was raised Catholic and went to twelve years of Catholic School. Thirteen if you count kindergarten. So that was an influence, but one that I decided to move from. I studied some eastern spirituality when I started college and then led to my practice as a witch. I take a multicultural approach to my magick, so many people and traditions have been a huge influence on me. Laurie Cabot was one of my personal teachers, but would say that the biggest influence have managed to be five amazing women - Laurie for witchcraft, my herbal teacher Wendy, for nature and healing spirituality, Joanne my Reiki Master, Stephanie my yoga instructor and my mom, for everything else.
Q3: How long have you been studying Wicca/spirituality for?
Q4: What kind of challenges and difficulties have you faced being a public witch?
Not a whole lot at the moment. As an educator, I get the opportunity to dispel many of the myths surrounding witchcraft. I live in a fairly liberal portion of the country and haven't' had any major problems, knock on wood.
Q5: How do you usually respond to negative feedback to your religion?
I usually don't respond .I'm not try to convert anybody. If people want to hear about it and ask, or come to a workshop, then I am happy to share. If people don't want to hear about it, then it's not up for discussion. I've rarely had anybody seeking to save me or convince me I was wrong. I'm a live and let live kind of guy and generally expect, and get that, from others.
Q6: What has been your most profound spiritual experience?
That's a big question. I think I have a lot of profound experiences now regularly, but the ones that were catalysts were my first Moon ritual, the first spell I did and my first psychic healing. All of those opened me up to a new potential reality, and empowered me to learn more and do more with my own thought and intentions.
Q7: Where do you personally stand on the long standing 'Coven vs. Solitary' debate?
I don't really think it's a debate. They are two paths and both have validity to them. I do a lot of my practice solitary, but I'm also blessed to have a coven, as well as lead public rituals. I get something out of all these experiences.
Q8: Do you think the Wiccan religion has a definite future?
Nope. I think it's a fad and I can't believe people are wasting their time with it..... Kidding. Of course, or I don't think I'd be involved. I think paganism in general will play an important role in the world.
Q9: What do you consider the greatest asset to the Wiccanreligion?
Direct experience. Each practitioner, within a specific framework, has a direct and personal relationship with the divine.
Q10: What is the best advice you can offer to aspiring Wiccans/witches/Shamans?
Learn to meditate and do it regularly. It is a key to the deeper mysteries and gives you a valuable life skill to transform your perspective.
Q11: When and why did you decide to begin writing?
When I was about to get laid off from my office job, I had run a newsletter for fun before that, as an extension of my teaching work. Writing is a way to teach without being physically present. Then when I lost my job, I spent some of that time writing my first book, City Magick.
Q12: Do you consider any of the books you have written to be you're 'favorite'?
It used to be Inner Temple of Witchcraft, but now it's a toss up between it and The Temple of Shamanic Witchcraft.
Q13: Which authors do you personally enjoy reading?
Witchcraft authors... that's a toughie, as most of the classics I haven't reread in a while. I just finished Light from the Shadows by Gwyn and the Azoetia by Andrew Chumbley and enjoyed them both very much. I have admired the work of Laurie Cabot, Scott Cunningham, Dorothy Morrison, Kala Trobe, Lon DuQuette and quite a few others. That's just off the top of my head.
Q14: Do you have any friends in the community of Wicca/spiritual writing?
Yes we writers are a tight knit group and we all, for the most part, get along and trade info and support each other. I'm particularly close with Dorothy Morrison, Ellen Dugan, Kala Trobe, Raven Grimassi, Edain McCoy, Thorn Coyle, Michele Belanger and Orion Foxwood.
Q15: Your books have inspired many readers and touched many lives, how does this make you feel?
It's quite wonderful to know your work is having an effect and people are using it. Writing is not the easiest or most lucrative job, despite people's beliefs that we are all rich, so to know the work is being used and understood is immensely fulfilling.
Q16: Do you ever suffer from writers block? If so how do you overcome it?
Not really. I suffer from too many ideas and not enough time. I have outlines for about 20 books and I know that I will never get to do some. I'll just lose interest and get something new going.
Q17: Do your experiences with publishers usually go well or badly?
It can be hit or miss at times, but at the moment I have really good relationships with my both my publishers. I had a rocky start when I began, but now I am a little more business savvy and know how the process works and what to expect and what not to expect. I also make my requests and expectations very clear up front.
Q18: What has been the greatest inspiration in your career as a writer?
My husband. He is a professional writer and was doing it for several years before I took the plunge. He makes his living as a writer, while I have the mix of writing, teaching workshops and classes and doing readings.
Q19: What is the best advice you could give an aspiring author?
A music composition teacher gave me this advice, and I think it applies to writers too... He said get notes on paper every day. I say get words on paper every day. Professional writers are writing everyday. Even when I'm teaching or editing, I try to write a little something. It keeps the creative juices flowing. I also believe you should write the whole first draft of something before you start editing, or you'll get trapped in edits and never finish the project. I know a lot of people who have a great Chapter 1 that they rewrote twenty times, but lost the juice for the rest of the book.
Q20:Do you allow fans to send you books to be autographed?
Sure if they send me a shipping label or otherwise cover the shipping.