Thursday, September 16, 2010
An interview with Kenny Klein by Bernadette Montana
An interview with Kenny Klein!
We now continue with on with our series of interviews with influential pagan authors, teachers, musicians and leaders.
Kenny Klein has been a part of our pagan community for many years now. He gives lectures, sings, plays the fiddle, a great photographer, an author, and a writer. I have had the pleasure of meeting and seeing Kenny perform a few times at the Starwood festival. It's always a pleasure to talk to Kenny and to hear what he has to say!
Kenny, congratulations on your new book "Through The Faerie Glass", can you tell me a bit of what it's about?
Well, in a nutshell, it's an examination of how Faeries are viewed in traditional folklore, especially ages old songs from Britain and other parts of Europe. Our modern culture tends to view "fairies" as Tinker Bell, cute little flitting creatures who dance on flowers. But folklore paints a very different story. These are nasty, creepy, sexual creatures whose dealings with humans often goes very badly for the human!
It's a much "darker" aspect of fairies. What inspired you to write this book?
In general I've been singing the traditional songs and telling the stories all my life. I've known the presence of Faeries all that time as well. I grew up in mid-state New York, which is a very enchanted area. Washington Irving and Poe both wrote about the magic of that area, along the Hudson River and in the Palisades. It's a creepy, eerie, spooky environment dripping with very tangible enchantment, and I do not use the word enchantment in the Disney sense!
In specific, i was at a Pagan festival in Canada a few years ago, and as part of my schedule at that festival I did a workshop on Faerie lore. A young woman approached me and said "I've studied Faeries all my life, and you know more than anyone I've ever met! You have to write a book." I'd thought many times about writing a book, but somehow this woman saying that was the catalyst. Just a few months later I ran into Elysia Gallo from Llewellyn, and mentioned that I'd been writing this book, and she got very excited. It was the right book at the right time for the right publisher, one of those magical things that just happens.
Can you tell us about "The Flowering Rod"?
The Flowering Rod is as book about the role of men in Paganism, and especially in Wicca. I wrote the book in the early '90s, when there were many books written about women in Paganism and magick, but few to none about men. Unfortunately the publisher went out of business about a minute after the book came out, so it was out of print for years. It's finally back in print, and available on Amazon and a few other sites.
One thing I loved about writing The Flowering Rod was that I could write rituals for groups of men or groups of men and women to perform. I've since seen several groups use my material in their rituals. It's very rewarding.
What projects do you have coming up?
Right now I'm finishing up a tour that has already taken me to ten or twelve states (of the United States---there have been many more states of mind during the tour than just that). I have about a month to go, then I head home for a while, though I plan to move to a completely different home in the next few months, so the move may be a huge project for me. I will spend the winter working on collectible dolls, recording a new CD, and continuing to write a novel based on the Faerie lore in my books. I'm also finishing my next book for Llewellyn, which is a similar treatment to Faerie Glass, but focuses on the Grimms fairy Tales. There will be a ritual or a spell for each of the tales the books looks at. That book is slated to be out in May of 2011. I'm pretty excited about it.
You have contributed much to our pagan community. Can you tell us what you think of the state of our pagan community today? What differences to you see as compared to what is was in the 1980's?
Oh gosh what a loaded question!!! Well certainly the Internet has had a huge impact on the Pagan community. We're seeing two extremes because of technology: people finding it much easier to locate other Pagans than thirty years ago (in the '80s you had to skulk around metaphysical bookstores hoping someone would notice you and invite you to join a group); and paradoxically, many more Pagans practicing "solitary." I think there are pros and cons to both. While there are many very excellent groups out there, there are as many charlatans pretending to teach the craft as an excuse to promote their own agenda (manipulation, sex, control). So for many people joining a group is a challenge, despite the technology that makes finding groups so much easier. On the other hand, when one learns and practices alone, there is no one to fill in gaps, push one to strive for greater learning and experience, or steer one in the right direction. Self taught Pagans often have huge gaps in their knowledge of the religion and its traditions.
As a community, we have not yet arrived at anything like a happy medium. I will say that I encourage all Pagans to attend Pagan festivals (days long and week long camping events, like PSG, Free Spirit Gathering, Rites of Spring, Starwood, Sirius Rising and Wisteria Summer Solstice, all as opposed to one day events like a Pagan Pride day). these festivals expose Pagans to experienced teachers, various traditions, a wealth of ritual styles, and the sheer hedonistic joy of bonfire dancing, drumming, concerts and Pagan community and companionship. Many web sites list a multitude of Pagan festivals. they are worth investigating.
I have been doing a lot of research lately into The Blue Star Tradition. Can you tell us a bit about Blue Star? Why do you think it it appealed to so many people? How has it evolved over the years? Do you still teach?
Blue Star is, I think, the oldest American born Wiccan tradition. Meaning, most of our traditional Wicca was born in England. Blue Star was created in Philadelphia.
Blue Star is a very traditional Wiccan path, with set rituals that vary very little from time to time (other than the specific work of that time of the year or the moon); we worship the old Gods/Goddesses of Europe (I am very staid in the notion that Wicca is European Paganism only, and if one is worshiping Egyptian, Chinese, American Indian or African deities, while it is powerful Paganism, it is not Wicca); we have a very set syllabus of teaching that involves experiential learning as well as reading and classes (most of what we teach is transmitted orally; very few books contain what we teach).
It's serious, but fun too. We eat a lot!!!!
Where do you see our pagan community going these days, as compared to when you first started?
Another loaded question... I think the Pagan music scene is in amazing shape compared to when I entered it. In the '80s most Pagan music was being made by hobby musicians, who loved the Craft but had limited musical skills. Now I see bands like the Gypsy Nomads, Lunar Fore and Incus who are skilled professional musicians, and who tour the Pagan festival circuit (as I have done for three decades now...wow, I hate saying that!). Unfortunately I think these amazing Pagan musicians are under-appreciated by the community in general. Few Pagans seem to realize that there are "out" Pagans playing Pagan music for Pagans; many still refer to Stevie Nicks and Loreena McKennitt as Pagan music---both superb musicians and performers, but not "out" pagans playing music for a targeted Pagan audience.
In terms of knowledge, I think we are seeing a generation of experienced teachers fading away (we just lost a great teacher and scholar, Isaac Bonewits), and very few younger teachers of their caliber stepping into their shoes. Jason Mankey is a rising star, and a few others stand out, but there will be a sad vacuum in a few years. This concerns me deeply.
I hope to see more Pagans taking advantage of Pagan festivals and gatherings. They are great ways to connect to knowledge, experience and community. We now have several facilities that host various week-long Pagan events: the best of them are Wisteria, Brushwood, Diana's Grove and Camp Gaia.
Can you tell me more about your work with "Blythe" dolls? What attracted you to them and how do you customize them?
Blythe dolls are collectible dolls that first appeared as children's toys in 1972, and through the efforts of a woman named Gina Garan became an iconic collectible doll (www.thisisblythe.com). I fell in love with Blythe in 2000 when I saw Gina's photographs of her in a gallery in Los Angeles. In the last year I've gotten involved with the art project of creating unique customized Blythe dolls (www.kennyklein.net/dolls.html). I take commissions for custom work. I also love my girls and talk to them. I'm a little weird I guess.
Music has and always will change. You had roots in the punk scene (just like I did!)-did this influence you in the music that you do today? What do you listen too? What can we expect from Kenny Klein in the future?
In my most active Punk years I was very excited about the British New Romantics movement, and listened to bands like Bow Wow Wow, Adam and the Ants, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and ska bands like Madness and the Specials. I still listen to these bands. I also bonded with my friends in the East Village: the Bad Brains (who lived in my kitchen for a while), the Cro Mags, the Undead, Agnostic Front, the Lunachicks, the Beastie Boys and Luscious Jackson. I still see some of these people from time to time.
Some of that music made its way into my playing and recording, most notably on my CD The Fairy Queen, which has a good deal of Dark Wave music on it (I did that CD with singing partner Lori Watley, who has a great Siouxsie-esque voice). But I'm also influenced by British Folk, Americana, Delta Blues and contemporary singer-songwriters like Tori Amos, Poe, Richard Thompson, Rasputina's Melora Creager and the Ditty Bops to name a tiny few. My next recorded music project will be a follow up to my CD "Meet Me In The Shade Of The Maple Tree," which is the world's first CD of Pagan Bluegrass music: it will be the world's first CD of Pagan Delta Blues and Jugband music.
The following was written by Kenny Klein for a memorial to Isaac Bonewits, in Orange County, NY.
Verses for Isaac
Kenny Klein, 8/25/10
Many see the stars above us
Few the sparkle there
Inscrib'd wi' the spear and torc
Of mighty Gods, and fair
Those that stand to light the way
Bright lanterns in the mire
Let them be immortalized
Though time may still their fire
Here now lieth such a one
A pilgrim of the path
Whose flame that lit the mighty cliff
did many seek to grasp
Let all imbued with true desire
To know the Gods of old
Hallow he interr'd here
A heart of faith, and gold
The Gypsy Nomads