This issue, we sit down for a quick interview with William McGillis. An eclectic Pagan Buddhist, McGillis here discusses the importance of his hybrid practice and his work editing the forth-coming Return of the Gods. Yes, he is still accepting submissions.
Eternal Haunted Summer: How do you define your spiritual path?
William McGillis: Wow, I could go on and on about that in so many different ways. Let me try to do so without sounding too pretentious!
Definitions don’t work so well for me, but if I had to, I suppose I could be considered an eclectic Pagan Buddhist. My childhood was steeped in Roman Catholicism, and while I don’t follow that tradition now, it continues to be part of me in ways both enriching and frustrating. I define myself as Pagan because I honor the Earth, the Gods, and the sacred imagination. I also define myself as Buddhist because I feel that practicing the dharma helps me to cultivate a clear mind and open heart. I am interested in so many things: trance, daily honoring of the spirits, meditation, and connecting with the natural world. I want to live a life in accordance with my true nature and serve life and the Gods. To me, polytheistic perspectives are key, because they acknowledge that the sacred and divine is multiple, with diverse faces and aspects that can’t all be stuffed into a straitjacket of one concept or word or way.
EHS: You are currently editing the anthology Return of the Gods. Why that title?
WM: The Romantic in me likes the idea of the Gods coming back to remedy the imbalance caused by the domination of monotheistic modes of understanding, ways of thought I often find limiting and frightening. I, like most Pagans, loved mythology when I was younger (and teach it to this day) and the idea of the Gods being real is still exciting to me. I think it was the great archetypal psychologist James Hillman who suggested that while, to some, God (or at least medieval notions of the monotheistic God) might be dead, the Gods are very much alive.
EHS: Why an anthology on modern Pagan experiences?
WM: Well, if the Gods are real, I am immensely curious to hear how people experience them. To me, this is one of the greatest stories of our time, how, despite the literalistic (both religious and scientific) perspectives espoused by dominant culture, people are still somehow interacting with mysterious eternal forces who are beyond our ken yet somehow connected to us. This is a story you will not find on television or in Time magazine, but it’s an important story that suggests the resacralization of nature, the world, and our deep psyches.
EHS: Is the anthology open to submissions? If so, what are you looking for?
WM: I’m seeking thoughtful, original, and previously unpublished non-fiction essays (maximum 5,000 words) recounting first-hand encounters and experiences with Gods, ancestors, spirits, disembodied intelligences, and sacred presences in nature.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at williammcgillis [at] gmail [dot] com with the subject line: Return of the Gods.
EHS: Are you accepting art as well, or only prose pieces?
WM: Right now I am only accepting prose pieces, but if the book ends up being put online, I will be able to include art as well. So if someone wants to send me some kind of visual image for consideration, that would be fine.
EHS: When will the book be available, and where will curious readers be able to find it?
WM: I hope that the book will be published in summer of 2013. The plan is that curious readers will be able to find it at their local metaphysical store as well as online.
EHS: Can you give us some hint as to what the anthology will contain? Pieces you have already accepted for the collection?
WM: The anthology will contain many diverse accounts of how individuals have experienced Gods. Some pieces already accepted for the collection include an account of a man who was possessed by Pan during a group rite, a vision a U.S. soldier had of Odin in the midst of a hellish training exercise, the story of a woman who “drew down the moon”, and an overview of someone’s long-term relationship with the Egyptian God Set.
EHS: Have you been surprised by any of the submissions? Startled or elated or even frightened by any of the experiences being related?
WM: I’ve only received a few submissions so far, so don’t have too much to say about this question quite yet. But I will say that I’m amazed that revelation is an ongoing thing, that the Gods are still showing themselves to us in particular, affecting ways.
EHS: What other projects are you working on?
WM: I’m working on making my small urban plot as edible as possible. I’m growing vegetables in my front yard and lovingly tending my grapes vines as well as my apple, pear, cherry, and plum trees. I’m also trying to spend more time in the woods and learn more about my Upper Great Lakes Bioregion.
EHS: Which book fairs, conventions, or other events will you be attending in the foreseeable future?
WM: I attended the Paganicon event in Minneapolis [in March]. I hope to attend Starwood Festival this summer as well.