Santa Cruz County History - Religion & Spirituality

Santa Cruz Spirituality: Nature Reverence
(Nature Reverence Family)

by Paul Tutwiler


  1. Shamanism
  2. Neo-Pagan and Wiccan

Ancient beyond history and broad as humankind is Animism, the notion that all the world, or at least all the beings which surround us humans, are alive, like us. It has been expressed in varied ways, such as: there is a spirit in everything, or everything has a soul. We humans, or at least some of us, are in contact with the vitality or spirit of things and are affected by it.

One must be careful not to see too much in Animism: not to think of it as a religion, because, rather than that, it is a philosophy, an attempt to understand what makes the world we see work. To think that all religion derives from Animism is a crude interpretation of human mental progress, the truth being far more complex than that.

Nevertheless, the worldview of Animism has lent itself as the basis for many forms of spirituality, both ancient and modern. A pertinent list of such forms is:

Nature Reverence, which includes Wiccan and Pagan and Neo-Pagan religions as well as the spirituality of Deep Ecology. Wiccan and Neo-Pagan spiritualities are abundantly represented in Santa Cruz. A spirituality of Deep Ecology, I have been told, existed several decades ago among members of the University of California at Santa Cruz, but I have not been able to verify this.

Magick, a term the Encyclopedia uses to describe religious rites which center on controlling spirits or the world. Page 131 of the Encyclopedia has, "Inherent in the magical world-view is the notion of control and manipulation: Forces manipulate man, victimizing him until he becomes the controlling agent." The Encyclopedia extends the sense of Magick to include Wiccan and Neo-Paganism in the same family. I have renamed the family Nature Reverence in the present study so that it can include Pantheism and Shamanism, which are not treated in the Encyclopedia. Furthermore, I am not aware that any Santa Cruz group has confined its spirituality to the narrow definition of Magick.

Pantheism, which identifies the whole world with God. Close to Pantheism in an obvious way, but really quite different is Panentheism, which holds that God is in everything. It does not appear that there are or have been Pantheistic organizations in Santa Cruz, but it has also been pointed out that by its very nature Pantheism is not conducive to organizational structure.

Shamanism, which is not a religion in itself, but is a practice of communicating with the spirits of a world that is seen to be animistic. There are active Shamans in Santa Cruz.


In Chapter 5 Particulars, "Meaning of the term spirituality," I observed that shamans "are sure that they directly contact the world of spirits." Shamans had a distinct and important role in the traditional religion of North Central Asia. This religion, with its shamans, fanned out in the course of millennia in an arc over northern Eurasia and North America, extending as far as Australia and South America. Briefly stated, the religion in question is built on a "cosmic animism," in which the whole universe, and not just the earth, is alive, and the universe is structured in layers, the middle of which is inhabited by living humans. Giving a satisfactory name to this religion, which, of course, has many local variants, eludes Western categories. It is true, nevertheless, that the cosmic animism involved is far more sophisticated than the mere personification of natural forces, with which it can be confused.

None of the layers is purely bodily or purely spiritual, although the spiritual predominates in the upper layer. It is widely believed in this religion that long ago, in a golden age, all humans had spiritual powers that enabled them to ascend or descend the Tree of Life, a central stem which connects the levels. Now, however, the religion recognizes the limits of the powers of the masses and sees the shaman as the only human person capable of traveling spiritually up and down the Tree of Life and going to all parts of the universe.

Having been pointed out by some special sign, or having decided to become a shaman, the initiate — male or female — undergoes a rigorous training that involves such elements as fasts, deprivations, and visions. The full-fledged shaman, then, is the ascetic, the mystic, the most spiritual person of the religion. This role of the shaman contrasts with the roles of other figures found in some way or another in all religions. The shaman, that is to say, is not the priest or minister who conducts the worship of the people, nor is he or she the administrator or organizer of local religious groups, nor is he or she the theologian or teacher of the beliefs.

A prime reference for shamanism and its place in spirituality is Mircea Eliade, Shamanism; archaic techniques of ecstasy, London: Routledge & Kegan, 1964 (English translation).

» Dance of the Deer Foundation Center for Shamanic Studies. School, Capitola, 1981-2010.

The center conducts informative and experiential programs on the spirituality of the Huichol Indians of Central Mexico. Its head, Shaman Brant Secunda, has been a shaman since 1979. ( 2010) In 1979 he started the Dance of the Deer Foundation, and he brought it to Soquel in 1981. (SC Sentinel, Dec. 1, 2005) Its address is 4401 Capitola Rd., Capitola 95010, tel. 475-0960 or 475-9560. (2010 White Pages)

» Sanctuary of Illumination. Conf center, Aptos, 2004-2008.

Native Hawaiian spirituality was offered by the Rev. 'Iolani Negrin. "Rev. 'Iolani offers personal healing sessions, group ceremonies, classes and intensive trainings internationally." ( 2005) In 2005 the website gave the address 3120 Trout Gulch Road, Aptos 95003, tel. 722-5404, in 2006 it had only a telephone number, 345-6613, in 2007 it merely indicated that Rev. 'Iolani maintained a presence in Santa Cruz; in 2008 it stated that it is "based in Santa Cruz, CA and on South Whidbey Island (near Seattle) in WA State," tel. 877-LIFE-899; and in 2010 the website is not operative.

» Marshall Creek Center. Conf center, Ben Lomond, 2007-2010.

This center for instruction in Shamanism and for Shamanic practices, including "Sacred Sundays," was at 150 Hubbard Gulch Road, tel.336-2159. ( in 2007 and 2008) In 2010 this website redirects to, which is conducted at the Quaker center in Ben Lomond.

Neo-Pagan and Wiccan

Looking at Paganism from a point of view that is free from the common Christian misrepresentation of it as idol worship or devil worship, one sees it to be an earth religion, a worship of the ultimate powers through rituals of union with nature. Its best known contemporary form in the United States is Wicca, which was especially promulgated by the Englishman, Gerald Brosseau Gardner, who died in 1964. Neo-paganism tends to emphasize the Goddess, the female principle of life, who, to some, is Gaia, the earth, and it often personifies the forces of nature as a way of communicating with them.

» Sacred Grove. Service org, Santa Cruz, 2000-2010.

Established in 2000 as a resource store for the understanding and practice of Wicca and other forms of earth religion, the Sacred Grove also offers classes and activities, including meetings of "'Linking Circles,' a networking/organizing event for Pagans to meet each other in a safe, comfortable environment." (2005 personal communication from one of its founders. Other useful sources of information about the Sacred Grove are "Witchcraft 101: Store, school offers resources for the community," SC Sentinel, Sep. 13, 2003 and 2010. The store is at 924 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz, 95062, tel. 423-1949. (2010 White Pages)

Sacred Grove
Sacred Grove
Image courtesy of P. Tutwiler.

» Firedance. Conf center, Santa Cruz County, 2001-2006.

A sort of floating conference center, Firedance is an event, which was held in 2001 and 2002 in Veterans' Hall, Santa Cruz. ( 2008, Online Archive, 2005) It moved to a location near Big Basin in 2003 with about 500 participants. (SC Sentinel, Aug. 9, 2003) According to the website in 2004, it had about the same number of participants in 2004 and was held in "Scout Camp," near Big Basin Park. Apparently it was not held in 2005, but in 2006 it was held at the Red, White and Blue Beach, six miles north of Santa Cruz. The website ( in 2006 furnished details about the magic, Wiccan and family orientation of the latest event as well as information about the group as such. In December, 2007, however, the website is not operative.

» Thirteen. Service org, Santa Cruz, 2000-2003.

This store appeared in 2000 and lasted until 2003. (White Pages) In 2005 one of the founders of The Sacred Grove told me that Thirteen had been an earth religion resource. It was at 911 Cedar St.

» Community Seed. Santa Cruz, 2005-2010.

According to the website 2010, the "Open Circle," Community Seed's worship ceremony, meets at 225 Rooney St. (Quaker Center) each month, although it had another address in 2005. The website states, "Our Mission is to provide the local Pagan community with opportunities to create closer bonds of love and understanding with one another, through community service, publications, events, and ritual celebrations." The website also gives the contact address, 849 Almar STE C, PMB 217, Santa Cruz, tel. 469-0336.

» Air and Fire. Service org, Boulder Creek, 2004-2010.

In 2005 one of the founders of The Sacred Grove told me that Air and Fire, too, is a resource store for the practice of earth religion. Its address was 13124 Highway 9, Boulder Creek 95006, tel. 338-7567. (2004-2010 White Pages)

» Serpent's Kiss. Service org, Santa Cruz, 2005-2010.

In 2005 one of the founders of The Sacred Grove told me that the Serpent's Kiss, too, is an earth religion store. I first observed its presence in early 2005; its address as of July, 2008, as I observed, is 2017 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, tel. 423-5477. (2010 White Pages)

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