There’s something comforting about nostalgic things coming back into style. Yesterday I saw wooden telephone toys and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in the aisles of Target, and Kroger had retro chip designs on their bags again. The same thing is happening in Paganism, too: it used to be “cool” to hate on Silver Ravenwolf, but we’re finally recognizing her for the amazing gateway and figure she’s been for our people. Modern versions of chatroom covens and message board magic-users have sprung up again, doubtless because of the self-isolating we’ve all had to do as a result of covid. But as someone who has never really been able to drive hours to a “local” Pagan meetup, I’ve enjoyed this resurgence of the online Pagan world. We don’t have AIM chats anymore, but we’ve got Discord, we’ve got TikTok, and thanks to Brenndon, we also have an app: Hiero.
Formed in September of 2020, the goal of Hiero was to provide a place where Pagans could come together to safely and respectfully engage in detailed, in-depth conversations about their spirituality and practice. Brenndon, the founder, is a gay black man, so as you can imagine, Hiero is a welcoming community for LGBTQIA+ and marginalized identities. “Hiero is an actively anti-racist environment and we do not tolerate bigotry of any kind. It’s stated clearly in our community guidelines and in the first post you see when joining,” he says.
Hiero is hosted through the Mighty Networks app and is currently free to use and easy to maneuver around in. Like an old chatroom or messenger board, Hiero functions as a series of rooms and article boards. Members can choose their preferred areas of interest to follow/engage in, called “Topics”; participate in online events (including Zoom meetings); even join one of many online covens the group hosts. The group is active, with both established “Hosts” and newer members posting a few things every hour. Not so busy as to be overwhelming, but more than enough to keep you occupied if (like me) you like to snatch glances at your phone throughout the day. At 1,079 members as of the time this is being written (the group recently hit their Founding Thousand) mark, odds are good there is someone on here you “know” in the online Pagan world, or people you’re going to want to know. In the time since I’ve joined, I’ve quietly been having a blast (I’m a “dip my toes in” kinda gal before I hit the deep end), and Hiero is perfectly welcoming, whether you’re introverted like me, or one for lengthy chats. It feels safe, welcoming, and something I could see myself happily “belonging” to.
Full disclosure, though: this was almost a very different article. Like so many things in life, I first became aware of Hiero because of something (someone) terrible. Paganism as a whole doesn’t like to talk about it, but we’re just as susceptible to bad people worming their way into positions of power as any other group. Like so many internet-things, it was a moderator (known as a “Host” on Hiero) who was the culprit, using his position of power to attempt to sexually prey on others. Unlike so many other instances online, however, the predator (who goes by the name of Wade) was investigated, dismissed from his Host status, and removed from the group. The Hiero staff has been upfront about this without disclosing the names of the victims (something we won’t do, either), and has posted a notice on their Twitter account regarding it. Refreshingly, they also list what they plan to do to prevent similar occurrences from happening again, namely “meeting with Hosts who have had experiences with Wade, writing a code of conduct, creating a precedent for future disciplinary action, and partnering with a mediator.” That this wasn’t quietly swept under the rug or, worse, blamed on the victims, speaks well of this new organization.
Hiero is a new group, but it’s already taken some amazing first steps and looks to be growing steadily. With the loss of Witchvox, I’m glad to see new Pagan organizations stepping in to fill the gap in the online Pagan world. All things old are new again.
Join Hiero through your app store, and follow them on Twitter @its_hiero.
[Written by Ashley Nicole Hunter.]